Sunday, May 31, 2009

Frugal Finds - Grocery Stores & Target

This week, I found a few good deals at several stores.

First, at Dillon's, I used a store coupon for a free box of Cheerios (received in the mail from Dillon's), two cans of vegetable soup that were marked down to $0.69 each, and a Kraft dressing for $0.69 (priced $1.69, used $1 coupon). Next, I grabbed up 10 packets of Kool-Aid just in time for the kids' lemonade stands for $0.05 each (on sale 10/$1, used $0.50 off 10 coupon here). Finally, at Target I scored 2 Bliss candybars and a Kraft mayo, all for free (Bliss were priced $1 each, used two $1 off coupons here; Mayo was priced $1.99, used $1 off Target coupon here & $1 off coupon).

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Scream, You Scream

We all scream for ice cream! And when it's free - even better. If you're out and about in the next few days, be sure to stop in to nab your free ice cream at one (or both) of these places.

Walmart - Try a free ice cream sample from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 30th

Sonic - Get a free 10 oz. rootbeer float on Wednesday, June 3rd from 8 p.m. to midnight

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On the Sugar Trail

Ants, ants, and more ants! Every year, we battle the invading hordes as they come in search of crumbs, trails, and leftover kibbles. Most of the time, we put out some ant bait on the back of the counter when we spot the first scout and a couple days later, they're gone. Well, not this year. We've put it out four, that's right F-O-U-R times and they're still coming back. After doing a little internet research, my husband declared that we have to move the battle outside to prevent them from coming in. Easy right? There are tons of products on the market to sprinkle around the outside of our house.

Except we can't use most of them. Did I mention that we also have a goat masquerading as a beagle? Sophie will eat anything not actually food - grass, sticks, socks, rocks, you name it. So I'm pretty sure if we put out anything poisonous, she'd have her nose to the trail before we finished sprinkling.

Fortunately, we've hit on a solution: cinnamon. Apparently ants hate cinnamon. Of course, being a devotee of Myth Busters, my husband first had to test the theory by sprinkling a circle of cinnamon around an ant on the counter. It actually worked too! The poor little guy frantically searched for a way out without getting too close to the cinnamon. As soon as my husband made an escape route though, that little booger sped out of that circle. Now I'm off to construct a perimeter shield made entirely of sprinkled cinnamon. It's frugal and fragrant. Who can beat that?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Organizing Family Schedules

Free family calendar

Like many busy families, we're busy shuttling between doctor's appointments, kids' activities, and work obligations. Keeping track of who needs to be where when can be a real challenge. A few months ago, I stumbled on a great free tool to help manage our various schedules: Cozi. If you use a smart phone, this would be even better because you could access schedules, photos, and lists anytime, anywhere. But even without mobile access, it's a nice tool. You can even set it up so that it'll send email reminders or text reminders to your cell phone. Very cool.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Menu - May 25th

Visiting the Inlaws - No cooking for me!

Meatball Subs

Chicken Caesar Salad
Mandarin Oranges

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Homemade Pizza

General Tso's Chicken
Fried Rice
Steamed Broccoli

Pot Roast w/Red Potatoes, Carrots, & Onions
Crusty French Bread

For even more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Frugal Finds - CVS

Here's what I picked up at CVS today

2 Post Trail Mix Crunch Cereals - $4.79 ea., Buy 1/Get 1 Free, used 2 $2 coupons here FINAL COST: $0.40 ea.

Hello Kitty Bandaids - $2.99, used $1 coupon, got $2 ECB FINAL COST: FREE
Colgate Total - $2.99 used $1 coupon here, got $2 ECB FINAL COST: FREE
Revlon Nail Polish - $3.99, got $3 ECB FINAL COST: $0.99
Igloo Cooler - $9.99, used $4 off $20 CVS email coupon FINAL COST: $5.99

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer Reading Programs

It’s that time of year again, when school is winding down and the summer stretches endlessly in front of us. For those of us with children, it’s also time to start thinking about encouraging summer reading. In that spirit, I thought I’d pass along some links for several summer reading programs. Whether they have great prizes or are just great fun, the one thing they all have in common is the ability to spark our children’s interest and imagination.

Your Local Library!

Of course, the best summer reading programs are often found at your local library. Ours not only offers the typical read so many books and get a prize incentive, but also has a specifically designed teen reading program complete with designated reading selections, book discussion groups, movies, crafts, and more. And the prizes are usually pretty cool too! Last year, my oldest received a nice t-shirt and a host of coupons from local businesses good for everything from a free ice cream cone to a free game of bowling. Be sure to check to see if your library has scheduled a kick-off event to start the program. Our event includes live music, dancing, collaborative chalk mural, and free snow-cones and popcorn. The kids and I are all looking forward to the fun!

Half Price Books
Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program

This is a great one! From June 1 – July 31, kids 12 and under can earn a $3 shopping card for each week they read at least 15 minutes per day. If your kids are anything like mine, they can make $3 go a long way at Half Price Books.

Barnes and Noble
2009 Summer Reading Program

Between May 26th and September 7, kids in grades 1-6 can earn a free book by reading 8 books over the summer. Download the Reading Journal here. Once your child has read the 8 books, take the completed journal to any Barnes and Noble store to select your free book.

Reading Challenge!

Children 12 and under can read 8 books to earn a coupon for 50% off selected items. For more details and to download the form, go here.

Reading Warriors
2009 Challenge

Kids aged 8 or older can take a summer reading journey inspired by the Warrior series by Erin Hunter. To participate, kids read at least 10 books over the course of the summer. Although there isn’t a guaranteed free book waiting at the end of the journey (there is a sweepstakes entry available after completing the reading challenge), what I love about this program is the fun. The website is great and should serve to get kids into the program. And in the words of the site itself, “Reading Warriors find their own rewards in the fun they have reading and the enjoyment of sharing books with others.” Who can argue with that?

Summer Challenge

Kids can score points by logging the minutes read each day and can earn bonus points by taking games, quizzes, and polls. Kids can also win prizes and sweepstakes along the way. What makes this program truly special though is that the winning team gets to vote on which charity receives a special donation from Scholastic at the end of the summer!

Kansas Talking Books
Be Creative @ Your Library

There is an awesome program through the State Library of Kansas’ Talking Books division for Kansas children who have trouble participating in a traditional summer reading program because of visual or physical impairments. Prizes include gift certificates for first and second place based on the number of books read between June 1 and July 31. For more info, go here.

Do you know of a summer reading program I left out? If so, be sure to comment and share the details.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Save on Books

If there's one thing I love, it's books. But as any book lover knows, getting that paperback fix can get quite expensive. The library, of course, is a great aid for us cost-conscious readers. Sometimes, though, you want a keeper. That's why Half Price Books is one of my favorite stores in all the world. Our local store has a constantly evolving inventory, great regular prices, and fantastic clearance prices and selection. I have picked up many $1 books and movies there over the years.

From now through Monday, you can score some even better deals through their Memorial Day weekend sale. During that time, everything is an extra 20% off! That's 20% off my armfuls of $1-$2 books and movies. Guess who'll be heading to the bookstore right after work today?

Coupon Organizer

It began with a handful of crumpled coupons stuffed in my back pocket, transitioned into categorized envelopes floating in my purse, and finally graduated to this grownup coupon organizer.

When combing the web for various coupon organizing strategies, I found the binder option appealing for a few reasons. First, it was important to me to have all my coupons visible. The binder method, using baseball card holders found at Target or Walmart, makes it so that I can see each coupon (I do stack multiples of the same product in one card sleeve) without shuffling through envelopes. Another plus of this system for me is that it allows me to take the whole binder with me when grocery shopping without sorting out the coupons I think I'll use, only to have to refile them later when I don't use them or scrounge for a coupon for an item not on my list. Finally, this system looks attractive. Shallow, yes. But I'm not above it when it comes to my coupons!

So here's what I did. I repurposed a zippered three-ring binder I had used once-upon-a-time for a portfolio. It works perfect for coupons because it has pull-out handles for easy carrying, and maybe more importantly, a zipper to keep any stray coupons corralled. It also has spaces for a pen and small scissors (for those sheets of coupons I stuff in the back because I'm too lazy that week to cut them all out) and for store cards, gift cards, etc. There are pockets to stash my grocery lists as well. After I found my binder, I needed category dividers. Using old manilla file folders, I cut them in half, then covered them with scrapbook paper to pretty them up.

Here are the categories I used:
  • Fresh Foods
  • Canned
  • Cereal/Snack
  • Bread/Baking
  • Frozen
Each major cateogory is also subdivided into smaller categories. For example, under "Fresh Foods," I have the categories "Dairy," "Meat," and "Produce." To mark these subcategories, I used one of my son's trading cards as a guide and made cards using matching scrapbook paper. I then put those labeled cards in the top right sleeves of individual sheets. For those subcategories needing more than one sheet, I simply place blank sheets behind the labeled one. Yet another advantage of this system is that you can customize and change the number of sheets allocated to a specific category based on your current needs.

You'll notice that I don't have any household categories in my binder. This is because most household goods including pet food, cleaners, and beauty/health products get purchased at Walgreens, CVS, or Target. Rather than having one giant binder, I choose to divide my coupons according to where I use them. That way, I can take my big binder with me when grocery shopping (a planned, specific outing complete with large cart to perch it on) and use a much smaller coupon organizer that fits in my purse for household purchases. An added advantage of having a purse-size organizer is that it will always be on me when I make those spur of the moment stops at Walgreens or CVS.

So there you have it, my new and improved coupon organizer!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Free Kids' Workshops at Home Depot

Did you know that Home Depot offers free "How-to" workshops for kids on the first Saturday of each month, from 9 a.m. to noon? I had no idea myself until I noticed a flyer the last time we were in the store. The workshops are for kids aged 5-12. In addition to the project, kids receive a free kid-sized Home Depot apron and an achievement pin. Upcoming projects include a Hardware Sorter on June 6th and a Picnic Caddy on July 4th. We'll definitely be checking out the next one! For more details, check out the website.


I'm going to jump on the Menu Plan Monday bandwagon (admittedly on Tuesday, but I AM a rebel). Here's this week's dinner menu:

Grilled Chicken
Fettuchini Alfredo

Oven Roasted Red Potatoes with Olive Oil & Thyme
Corn on the Cob

Tator Tot Casserole
Fresh Fruit Salad

Grilled Veggie Salad, inspiration here
Baked Potatoes

"Someone Else is Cooking" Date Night

Spaghetti & Meatballs
Garlic Bread

Blogging Schedule

At our house, summer means more time for family, fun, and hopefully more consistent blog postings as I only work part-time during the next three months. The last couple of months have seen this blog severely neglected, something I hope to remedy starting this week! What better way to kick off the summer than by spending an hour creating a rigid posting schedule that I will undoubtedly abandon before the week is out? You see, I am one of those compulsive list-makers who takes more joy from making said lists than actually following them. So in that spirit, here's my maybe-this-time-I'll-actually-follow-it schedule for the summer:

Mondays - Food (recipes, menus, etc.)
Tuesdays - Creativity Central (anything I can make, repurpose, or recreate)
Wednesdays - Organization (ideas and projects for organizing our busy lives)
Thursdays - Money Saving Ideas (tips and tricks for saving)
Fridays - Fun (family activities, date night ideas, etc.)
Weekends - Frugal Finds (my week's best freebies and deals)

Tune in tonight for installments 1 and 2 because, of course, I'm already a day behind!

Friday, May 15, 2009


Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. A week ago, I was thrilled that we had actually managed to line up a real live babysitter. For the first time in 7 years, I had visions of nice restaurants with real tablecloths and soft lighting. Fast forward to this week when the babysitter, inevitably, had to cancel. I admit it, I was pretty bummed at first. There would be no uninterrupted eye-gazing, which, in all fairness, usually makes me ask my husband if I have something stuck in my teeth anyway. But I was looking forward to trying. And that sexy skirt and lowcut shirt won't get to come out to play for fear our dinner conversation will become something like this:

5-year-old daughter, "You should pull your shirt up mom. We can see your breasts."
12-year-old son, covering ears because she said the B word, "MOM!!!! Make her stop!"
5-year-old daughter, laughing, "What? They're funny. You should see them!"

At which point, the romance will be officially dead at the table. (No conjecture here, by the way. Slight adaptation of a real conversation.)

So it's on to Plan B for us. After some thought, we decided to keep the dinner plans but move it to a nice Mexican restaurant that has great food but still is kid-friendly. After that, my husband is going to demonstrate his deep and abiding love for me by doing something he would never do for anything less than love: scrapbooking. Yup! I STILL, seven years later, have an unfinished scrapbook I started making of our wedding photos. So tonight we're going to come home, drag out the scissors and glue, and revisit our memories together. Granted, my husband will probably be more company than crafter, but what more could a woman ask for than the good company of a great man while she's knee-deep in pretty paper and flashy stickers? And as a bonus, instead of just watching mom and dad go out, our kids will be part of celebrating our marriage.

Besides, eventually they'll go to bed, and I can break out the sexy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Send Mom a FREE Card

The good news? Thanks to Frugal & Fabulous, I've got another great freebie to pass on to you. If you go to Hallmark, they'll send a Mother's Day card for you absolutely FREE, stamp and all. Just type in promo code "CARD4MOM" at checkout. If you hurry, it might just get out in time for Mother's Day.

The bad news? Both my mother-in-law and stepmother occasionally read my blog so they'll now have certifiable proof of my cheapness, ahem, I mean frugality, when they get their free Mother's Day goodies. But it IS the thought that counts, right? Besides, I could hardly resist passing along such a nice freebie to you all.

Make Some Free Crafts for Mom

Today we stopped into Michael's to pick up some cheap painting supplies (around here, we have to keep our 5-year-old in supplies and ceramic canvases or risk serious withdrawals). One of the highlights of a trip to Michael's on Saturday is the opportunity for the little one to do an in-store craft.

Today's craft was a free keepsake plate for Mother's Day. Here's a picture of my budding Picasso's work.
We still have to put a picture in the center before it's ready to be shipped to Grandma's. Pretty cute for a free craft!

And better yet? They've got free workshops all week long. Here's the lineup of what you can make each day. So if you've got a Michael's near you, stop in and make a gift for one of the mamas in your life.