Sunday, March 31, 2013

Never Too Old For An Easter Basket

The Princess loves getting her goodies! Even at 18, she still loves the idea of seeing what the Easter Bunny brought! And, I'm happy to oblige.

Back in February of 2012, The Princess went with her Dad to Disney World. I took that time to do some serious shoveling out of her bedroom. When I went to clean out her desk, I found a stash of almost year old, uneaten and unopened candy from Easter 2011. Ew. Right then and there, I decided I was NOT going to spend money on crap that wasn't her absolute favorite just so I could make the Easter Basket "cute". I was a tad bit peeved that I was throwing that stuff out.

So, last year, I just put stuff in her Easter Basket that I KNEW she loved. Doesn't give much variety, but I knew that I wouldn't be throwing half of it away. This year I repeated that exercise, and what you see above is the result --- 2 bags of Starburst Jelly Beans, 2 bags of Dove Promises Caramel Filled Chocolates, 2 packs Dentyne Ice Gum, 4 Big Canisters of Mentos Gum, and one $15 iTunes card. Thanks to coupons, BOGOs and ECBs, the grand total for the basket came in at under $25 -- and none of it will end up in the trash!

(Happy Environmental Note: The basket above was mine when I was a little girl, handmade by local craftsmen --- we skip Easter Grass, after Thing 1 ate some years back --- that was NOT a joyful experience for any of us -- I use a bright colored flowered bandana and a small pillow underneath to give it some oomph)

Hope you all had a joyous and blessed Easter with baskets filled with your hearts' delight!

A New Target In My Neighborhood

I love it when stores have "Grand Openings" in my area. They send out lots of special deals and offers to get you in the door to check them out. Such is the case with the new Target that opened super close to me. This is supposed to be a new style Target "P Fresh" -- not regular Target and not a Super Target -- but somewhere in between. More groceries than a regular Target, but far less than a Super Target. Although in general I simply adore Target Stores, I've never been a huge fan of their grocery sections -- mainly because I feel I can get better prices at Aldi and Publix Sales, in general. But, since they mailed me a nice little booklet of Target coupons, I decided to give them a try! These were coupons for $1 off vegetables, $1 off fresh meat, $1 off bread.... etc., etc.... So, I thought I'd give it a shot. Based on my experience, this likely will not be a "grocery destination" for me, but I'll likely try and take advantage of some of the deals along the way.

Here is what I got:

1 Market Pantry Honey Nut Oat Cereal (Cheerios)
1 Ore Ida Sweet Potato Fries
1 lb. Ground Chuck
1 Avocado
1 36 ct. Up&Up Tampons
1 Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice
1 Hormel Compleats
1 Pepperidge Farm Honey Wheat Whole Grain Bread

Spent: $13.57
Saved: $11.38 (including my 5% Red Card (debit) Savings)

It was a bit confusing trying to figure out what to get since I wasn't familiar with their layout or their

Friday, March 29, 2013

Aldi Deals This Week

It is difficult to go shopping without a real plan. At checkout, you realize you basically will be eating like crap for the next week... but oh well...... Such was the case at Aldi this week. We were low on pasta stuff. Honestly, that's the Princess's "go to" stuff when she has to cook herself. Given that I had the conference this week, I knew I'd be doing very little cooking.... and I was right. So, I picked up more carbs than two people people should be allowed at Aldi.

Here is what I got:

2 Dog Treats
4 Boxes Penne Rigate
1 Wet Jet Floor Cloths
1 Kettle Chips
1 Cheese & Craker Minis
2 Alfredo Sauce
1 Spaghetti Souce
2 Shells & Ceese
2 Frozen Ravioli
1 Pasta & Meatballs
1 Baby Carrots
1 Turkey Lunch Meat
1 Bananas
1 French Onion Dip
2 Peach Yogurt
1 Double Stuffed Sandwich Cookies

Spent: $37.19

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Conferences Schmonferences

I spent the better part of this week at a regional industry conference. While it was great to get out of the office for a few days, I don't like the added commute (and therefore addition to my gas bill), that the conference added. My office is a quick 10 minute drive away --- if I hit all of the lights. The conference was a good 30 minutes away. Sheesh. I filled up my tank this past weekend and it is now more than half gone! I can usually stretch a tank of gas for almost two weeks! THAT won't be happening this week!

Then, in addition to that --- my inbox got SLAMMED while I was out. I came back to the office this afternoon with an overflowing box. Sigh. Looks to be a super fun Friday tomorrow!!!!

How has your week been?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Handing It Down

We moved into this house in 2006. The Princess was about to turn 12, and we did her room up in true almost teenager fashion. Purple and green paint, purple curtains --- furniture painted with polka dots. It was adorable. Over the years, the walls became adorned with various twilight posters and other teenage girl stuff. Now the Princess is older, and more mature, and as such is wanting a bit more mature look to her room. We started talking about it in the fall. Over Christmas, I found the perfect bedding at a STEAL at Steinmart. Our "Plan" was to take a weekend in January and clear out her room and paint, and start updating everything else as the budget and such allowed. That plan got sidelined though with my Mom's car accident. My weekends were taken up helping her and just trying to maintain some sort of order around here.

We have decided to try and get started on her room now. When my brother got married in October, he gave me a new niece -- a fabulous 9 year old girl, sweet, smart and oh so pretty. And the perfect age to start handing some of this girlier stuff down to! Problem is, they live in Tampa! Not exactly easy to drop stuff off! However, my Dad was meeting up with my brother this weekend --- that got the whole family motivated to send a bunch of stuff down. My sister was sending down a baby bed and other types of baby stuff because they are expecting a new arrival in September. My Mom sent a bunch of stuff that she'd had stored for my brother. As for me, I sent the very purple curtains, a throw rug and a tweenish jewelry box from the Princess's room. Handing stuff down instead of just getting rid of it. (And yes, I checked with my sis-in-law first to be sure the stuff might be useful!)

So, that left me with needing to go ahead and get new curtains for the Princess's room STAT. Without curtains, her room is WAY brighter than she wants it in the mornings! So, I checked at Target, I still had a balance on a gift card from Christmas, and a couple of coupons, but nothing they had worked, and without sales, those were still more than I wanted to spend even after using the gift card....

So, I decided to expand my search, and I lucked out! There was a "yes" pass out good for 15% off your total purchase at Kohl's. And I got there and the curtains were 50% off. AND they had the right color! So, I got the curtains (4 panels for 2 window) and went to check out. My total was $50.08 before tax --- and with each $50 purchase, I qualified for $10 of Kohl's Cash to be used at a later date! Woo hoo!!!!! I was excited!!! We will see if I find something else I need down the line, but I won't be spending it to JUST buy something --- it will be a gift need or a something that will work well in the Princess's redesigned room.

Anyway, it was a good deal, and I'm glad I was able to hand the other curtains down!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Crock Pot Cooking

I really love my Crock Pot. I really do. I love the concept of throwing a bunch of ingredients into one pot, and letting it do its thing, and at the end having an easy breezy meal, ready to serve. Such was the case this afternoon.

The Princess tends to work on Sunday evenings starting at five o'clock. That means, that generally we do dinner pretty early so we can enjoy a decent meal and so she isn't STARVING by the time she gets home from work. Since I do NOT work on Sundays, I prefer to have a real meal -- and not something of the heat & eat variety.

Thanks to a sale at the local Piggly Wiggly, I picked up pork tenderloin and asparagus yesterday. Threw the tenderloin in the Crock Pot this morning and with about 30 minutes of TOTAL prep time for everything you see above, we had an easy and fabulous dinner, albeit an early one!

That got me thinking though --- I really should use my Crock Pot more. I hear people rave about doing just what I did, but before work and having a tasty dinner waiting when they get home in the evenings. However, I just tend to use mine on weekends. Mainly because most recipes I come across call for 6-7 hours of cooking time -- I leave the house around 7:45 in the morning and get home around 5:15. That's 9.5 hours away from the house -- and my office is SUPER close.

If I left something cooking for that length of time, either it would be hockey pucks by the time I got back OR the house would likely be burned down. I've talked to some of my friends -- the Stay At Home Moms and the Full Time Work Outside The House Moms --- and it seems the SAHMs tend to use their Crock Pots the most. They adore them! The FTWOTHMs, well, they tend to do what I do, use it some on the weekends, but never during the week!

So what about you? Do you use your Crock Pot a ton? If so, which category do you fall in? Sometimes, or ALL THE TIME? And if you have any recipes that work great for super extended hours, I'd LOVE for you to share them!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Free Night Out That Wasn't

I had free tickets to see Elton John last night!!!!! A sweet friend had scored free tickets and invited me to go along with her. I was so excited and had looked forward to the night out all week. I knew what I was going to wear and was totally pumped about it.

Then, at around 3 o'clock or so, I was scrolling my fb feed on my phone. And there it was... another friend had posted that the concert had been cancelled due to "medical reasons". I was so bummed out, but quickly started searching the internet for verification. Yep, it had been cancelled. Awwwwww.

We started talking about what else we could do, but never really hit on anything. This friend tends to be more of "nothing fun starts til 10" type, while I'm a "10 o'clock is past my bedtime" type. If I don't head out early, I'm no good for the rest of the evening.  By the time an idea was thought up, I was in my pjs.

We have plans, and (again) free tickets to see Maroon 5 on the 26th! I'm really hoping that night out happens --- love that band and have never seen them live (and the Princess is quite jealous, I might add!).

So, any fun plans for you this weekend? I hope they work out better than mine did!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Aldi This Week

This week at Aldi included a couple of splurges -- and some basics too. It was a pretty quick trip, but I'm still always astounded at how much more affordable Aldi is when compared to other grocery stores. This is what I picked up this week:

2 Shells & Cheese
1 White Vinegar
1 Lucky Charms Breakfast Bars
1 Hidden Veggie Pata
1 Flat Leaf Spinach
1 Shredded Mozzarella
1 Shredded Cheddar
2 Margarine
2 Cheese Ravioli
1 Yolk Free Noodles
1 2pk Pizza Crust With Sauce
4 Crescent Rolls
2 Dog Biscuits
1 Blue Cheese Crumbles
1 Alfredo Sauce
1 Starburst Jelly Beans
1 Light Sour Cream
1 Onion Powder

Spent: $46.98

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Publix -- Groceries & Gas

Publi ran another groceries & gas deal this past week (Buy $50 worth in groceries, get $10 off a $50 gas card). This wasn't the easiest week to get to a $50 before coupon price, but a coupon for a free 12pack of Coke products combined with a Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale helped. It also helped that the Princess's favored makeup removing wipes were on sale 30% off AND I had 3 $2 off coupons.I might have bought a bit more junk than normal --- that's sometimes a hazard of going to the store after a LONG day of work. Anyway, here's what I got:

1 Mayfield Ice Cream
1 Hormel Mashed Potatoes
1 Digorno Stuffed Crust Pizza
3 Simple Makeup Cleaning Wipes
1 Gorton's Frish Sticks
1 Juicy Juice Fruitfuls 8 pack
2 Pasta Roni Shells and White Cheddar
1 Arnold Health Nut Bread
1 Keebler Cheesecake Middle Cookies
1 Nabisco Grahamful Cookies
4 Crystal Light
3 12 Packs Coke Products

Spent: $41.96
Saved: $48.36 or 54%

PLUS got a $50 gas card for just $40!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Keeping Up With Pup Rx

Pups get sick sometimes just like people do. It can get quite expensive. And when you have two pups, it can get really expensive if they both have "issues" close together. Or when one of them is especially prone to eating stuff she's not supposed to, or clumsily injuring herself.... Talk about a budget buster!

One thing that used to drive me crazy was that when we got meds from the vet, the label wouldn't tell you what it was for. If it was one of those take until symptoms go away drugs, then you'd be looking at it 6 months later, trying to figure out what it was for! So, I learned pretty quickly to start writing on the bottle (in sharpie) what it was used to treat. That has probably saved me some recurring vet bills over the years.

Anyway, case in point.... yesterday, I noticed that Thing 2 had developed a "hot spot" on her back, just a bit above her tail. She had obviously just chewed herself raw. First thing I did was clean the area, and admonished her to not mess with it (she always listens REALLY well....not). She was very still while I cleaned it and was a really good girl. And actually kept her mouth off of it for a while. Then, I decided to hop in the shower since I'd spent the better part of the day working in the yard. I got out, and she met me at the bathroom door with her head hanging...... she had chewed herself up again while I wasn't paying attention.

So, I cleaned it again. Then I remembered that she had a hot spot a while back and I'd taken her to the vet for it, and we had meds for it. So I rummaged through the pet meds and found it! With "Hot Spot" written in black sharpie on the side (and yes, I checked the expiration date). I applied the med then, and once again at bedtime, then again this morning. So far she's left the spot alone and it looks SO much better today.

Honestly, had I not thought to write what it was for on the side, I likely would have had to take her to the vet, because nowhere on that bottle did it say what it was for otherwise. So, just by taking 5 seconds to write the ailment on the med, I saved myself a vet bill AND another RX cost.

Its those little things that add up. How do you save on your pet bills?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Big Dog = Big Food

I love my pups. Thing 1 and Thing 2 (pictured above) are my furry kids that have an affinity for digging in the trash. Love, love, love my pups. Balancing the budget to take care of a pup was easy when we had just Thing 1. He's a little guy, has been pretty healthy and doesn't eat a whole lot. Then we got Thing 2.... a.k.a, my MillionDollarDog. She's 75 pounds of snugglepup and trouble. If there's something to get into, she'll find it. Plus she eats a TON.

So, her food bills can get pretty hefty. I counteract that particular strain on the budget by shopping wisely. Most of the time her food comes from Sam's --- the warehouse store closest to me. I know exactly how much per pound her food costs there, and generally that is the cheapest. I buy a 52 pound bag, and that lasts quite a while. It gets stored in a clean trashcan, and then overflow is stored in those large Glad Plastic Storage containers. I really need to get a larger can to hold the entire bag -- but they are SO expensive, so I just make do with what I have.

Anyway, generally the food comes from Sam's --- but ever so often, Publix will run a really good deal where I can combine a coupon with a sale on a smaller size bag of her food and get a better price per pound. I really like when those happen -- because a 30something pound bag is a lot easier for me to carry in from the car!

This is where knowing your unit prices for items comes in handy. I know without a doubt when I am getting a TRUE deal on the pup food, instead of mindlessly hefting a bag of dog food into my cart and thinking I'm getting a deal when I'm not.

Do you keep track of your unit prices? Does it help you manage your grocery bills better?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dinner Is Served

Goodness, I really love Pinterest. I am such a dork, but really I do. I can spend hours browsing the recipes. Sighing over fabulously decorated homes --- wishing I had the talent and confidence to attempt some of the DIY projects (because I do NOT have the budget for a high end kitchen remodel or to turn my teensy bathroom into a luxurious spa!) But I CAN tackle some of the recipes! And I have SO much fun trying them out. I've also created a separate board where I put the recipes I've tried and really liked so I don't have to sort through hundreds to find "the one".

After a couple days on the couch, I've pinned a LOT of recipes this week. I've gotten to where I try not to pin stuff with a lot of specialty ingredients -- because I'll never get around to making it. So, today, I decided to make a chicken that was titled OMG Chicken. While OMG might be a bit of an exaggeration --- it was really good -- and so simple -- I had everything on hand. And best of all --- the Princess really liked it! Immediately told me I needed to make that a "regular" thing.

So, have you tried anything from Pinterest that you've just loved?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Weather Woes

I really shouldn't complain. I mean as far as really severe weather goes, its been pretty quiet around here (knock on wood). But, Saturday it snowed. Yesterday morning, it was COLD. Yesterday afternoon, I was outside in short sleeves. This morning, relatively comfy outside. Then it rained. And it is now teeth chattering again.

All this combined means I've got the cruds. Sore throat, sinus congestion and all the ick that goes along with it. I stayed home from work today.... hoping to go back tomorrow, but I'm really not feeling it at the moment. Gonna go pop some vitamin c now.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cutting The Cable

I recently got notice that my "promotional rate" for cable was ending. That meant my cable/internet bill was going to increase by $77. Lovely. I knew I had to make some changes. Then, Friday I got a letter in the mail saying they were going to discount that increase by $52. That mean I would still be paying $25 more for the same services. Honestly.... most of what we watch is on the "basic" or "expanded basic" line so we don't need all the bells and whistles. And honestly, we just had those so we could pay less this past year than we would have for the more basic lineup.

So, Princess Penelope and I had a little chat about what our real viewing habits were. I realized that in most instances, TV was mainly background noise for other things we were doing, and we could totally get rid of the cable, as long as we kept internet. A converter box thing would get us broadcast services like news and some of the network shows we watch. And there seem to be a lot of internet streaming options.

I picked up the phone and called the cable company. We went 10 years without cable, so if they couldn't work a deal that would make it worth my while to keep it, I was fully prepared to ditch the cable. Good thing, because the deal they offered me for basic and expanded basic was "only" $5 MORE than I'm paying now for TONS of bells and whistles. Yeah, no thanks... so I ditched the cable, kept the internet and went on about my day. My cable cutoff date isn't until the 10th, so I've got a little time to explore the options.

I posted a question on my facebook page yesterday, asking my friends what cable alternatives they had experience with and to get their thoughts -- the good the bad and the ugly. I got a LOT of responses. People are LOVING some Hulu, Netflix, Roku, Amazon Prime.... all that stuff. There are a TON of options out there. So, I'm a bit confused -- I don't really understand the channels thing on the Roku --- probably because I've never heard of them! They say its like cable, but I'm not sure exactly how that translates......

Anyway, I'd like your thoughts...... I'm not a big movie buff, but the Princess is. I tend more towards sitcoms, news and the occasional drama.... and of course college football in the fall.

Anyone have any perspective -- fabulous? Horrible? Otherwise?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It's Snowing!!!!

Today is March 2. And it is snowing. In Alabama. This is just too weird. I really don't expect that it will snow much, or even THINK about sticking to anything, but it is kind of cool to stand on my back porch with coffee in hand and watch the pups romp around with the flakes swirling.

I was getting the giggles yesterday when I passed by the grocery store on my way home. It was packed out!!! People filling their carts with milk and bread for the snow!!!! Of course the weather guys were saying we'd get a dusting at the maximum..... but here in Alabama.... just the utterance of the "S" word means everyone clears the grocery shelves, and then promptly drives their car into a ditch!!!!

Oh well, I think I'll pour myself another cup and watch the somewhat rare sight of snow flakes falling. Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Went to Publix.. but.....

So I went to Publix this week, but honestly, I have no clue what I did with my receipt. The only thing I am sure of is that my savings were below 50% this time, not a ton below, but still...... Mainly because I did a stockup on toilet paper. That always skews my percentages! Anyway, this is what I picked up:

2 Quaker Oatmeal
2 College Inn Chicken Broth
2 Farm Rich Appetizers (used a raincheck from earlier in the month)
3 Kraft Homestyle Mac & Cheese
3 Hamburger Helper
1 Clairol Nice & Easy (clearanced priced plus $2 coupon made it $2.50 to indulge my vanity!)
4 Yoplait Greek Yogurt
1 Publix Syrup (penny item!)
3 12pack Double Rolls of Angel Soft Bath Tissue

Spent: $38.60