Friday, May 30, 2008

Baked Beans - A Crowd-Pleasing Bargain Side Dish (And a Family Tradition)

Lately, I've been finding some great bargains on Van Camps Pork & Beans thanks to some great sales and coupons at Rite Aid and Walgreens.

So, I thought I'd share my Grandma Joyner's recipe for baked beans. These are always a crowd pleaser at a cookout or a family gathering (or as a dinner side dish on Wednesday night, as we enjoyed them this week.)

Better still, a pot of baked beans is a cheap homemade side dish (especially if you find beans, bacon, mustard and ketchup on sale.) And a batch of beans will last through several meals of leftovers.

They're not low-cal or low-fat, however, so be warned.

I suppose you could use any kinds of beans in this recipe, but my Grandma Joyner swore you had to use Van Camps Pork & Beans. Out of respect for family traditions and her memory, I've never tried anything else. (If you do, I don't want to hear about it! :) )

Grandma Joyner's Baked Beans*

1 can Van Camps Pork & Beans
1 small onion
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
4 slices bacon
1/2 teaspoon mustard

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Fry bacon in pan. Remove bacon and simmer onions in bacon drippings.

Crumble bacon and mix remaining ingredients together in a casserole dish.

Bake uncovered at 300 degrees for 60 minutes.

* I always double this recipe, and I've been known to triple and quadruple it when cooking for a crowd. If you prefer, you can reduce the amount of bacon when making larger batches.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Belly-Busting Frugal Outing

A little self promotion here, so please forgive me.

If you live in North Carolina, please pick up a copy of the June issue of Our State magazine, which features an article I wrote about the North Carolina Barbecue Society.

For those of you who aren't aware, North Carolina is the cradle of 'cue -- no place on the planet serves better pork barbecue than my home state. Yes, those are fighting words, I know, but truer works have never been spoken or written.

I interviewed Jim Early for the article on the North Carolina Barbecue Society, a group dedicated to preserving the history and traditions of slow-cooked pork barbecue. In researching the story, I had the opportunity to scarf down quite a few plates of barbecue and the accompanying fixins'.

Barbecue is good eating -- and pretty thrifty too. Most barbecue restaurants are mom-and-pop joints that serve great food at great prices.

If you're looking for some cheap but downright tasty food and an inexpensive roadtrip, visit a few spots on the North Carolina Barbecue Trail, the 25 tastiest barbecue restaurants in North Carolina, according to the Barbecue Society.

You can also hear me talking about the article and the North Carolina Barbecue Society in this interview from 1360 WCHL in Chapel Hill, N.C. Check out the replay of the May 22 show. I appear in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the broadcast.

Free Hamburger Helper Sample

I'm not sure that I've ever eaten Hamburger Helper, but I figured I'd give it a try because it's free.

Betty Crocker is giving away a free sample of Hamburger Helper Microwave Singles when you sign up for the Dining Made Easy Email Newsletter. (The signup link is at the bottom of the page.)

I bet my son Jackson, who is crazy for noo-noos would like this, so we'll give it a try.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Goo Goo Giveaway Vintage Charm Bracelet Winner

Well, you made it very hard for me to pick a winner for the vintage charm bracelet.

I loved everyone's comments, and I think this contest was a great way for me to get to know some readers and other thrifty bloggers out there -- both near and far.

Several of you made me smile wide and even laugh out of loud with your comments:

Nana, I have to give a shout out to any woman who calls herself "vintage"

And Mannequin, I love that you're living like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. You're definitely my kind of lady (I write as I'm sitting here barefoot, wearing no makeup, hair pulled back in a disgraceful ponytail and headband. And did I mention that my shirt is stained with whatever my son ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner? I'm the epitome of grace and glamour tonight.)

ShaunJoy, what a secure and confident person you must be to be so comfortable with the clutter comprises life. We should all be so at ease and remember to not stress out when we're a mess or the house is. I'm going to remember that the next time someone knocks and my house is in disarray -- as it often is with an inquisitive toddler living here. I'll swing the door wide and invite my visitor in, making no apology for my hectic, imperfect life.

While I hate to disappoint anyone who took the time to comment on my blog and share their charming anecdotes, I think that one person above all really deserves the charm bracelet.

So, the winner of the first Goo Goo Giveaway is...

Candace, who wrote:

The charm bracelet is just beautiful! I was secretly hoping for a charm
bracelet for Mother's Day (I got a frying pan!)

Candace, the bracelet is yours. Be sure to wear it the next time you're frying up bacon for breakfast. Or better yet, have your husband take the family out for breakfast this weekend. He owes you as repentance for that gift!

Please keep your eyes posted for another great Goo Goo Giveaway. I hope to post another one sometime next week, time permitting. In the meantime, I hope you'll visit Goo Goo Buy Buy Often and join in the discussion.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Make Your Own Orange Julius at Home

I've got to give credit to Amy at MomAdvice for posting this great recipe for Orange Julius.

It's a pretty good imposter and the perfect drink/treat to enjoy at your Memorial Day cookout.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Trouble with Walgreens Coupons

I must be spoiled by CVS.

It seems that every time I go to Walgreens, there's some question about a coupon I've used.

The cash registers at the Walgreens in my town often don't recognize the store's own coupons. So, the cashiers have to check my bags to confirm that I did make the purchase. It's getting annoying.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised -- one of our local Walgreens was recently fined by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Standards Division for excessive price-scanning errors.

Update - Goo Goo Buy Buy Vintage Charm Bracelet Giveaway

Hi all:

I'm excited about the response I've gotten to my post about the free vintage charm bracelet giveaway, the first Goo Goo Giveaway.

This contest has really opened up the dialogue on this blog, and I'm really enjoying reading your comments and getting to know you better.

Please don't forget to enter the contest by the end of the day Tuesday.

I'm charmed by all your responses and kind words. Thank you for reading; I'll keep writing.

I'll be back blogging after the holiday weekend -- and I'll be annoucing the bracelet winner on Wednesday. I can't wait.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Jackson Dances To "Snacktime" at snacktime

Others have posted about the new Barenaked Ladies children's album, Snacktime. The band is offering a free download of the catchy tune, "789" at its Web site or you can stream it and listen whenever you need a snack fix.

I had to share this adorable video of Jackson, who is almost 2, dancing along to the song. We were sititng at the kitchen table last week having a snack, and I decided to play the song for him. I recorded the reaction on my Webcam, and I think it's pretty adorable.

I can't figure out why the video is playing at double speed. Something happened when I uploaded the monster file to YouTube. But I think it's kind of funny watching Jackson dance at warp speed.

100 Books To Read Before Kindergarten

A blogger I know stumbled upon a great list of the 100 Books Every Child Should Read Before Kindergarten.

Jackson loves to read -- or re, re, re as he says every five minutes -- so this is a great reference for us. I skimmed the list and we've read nine of the hundred books so far. So, we'll be busy these next three or four years.

I was happy to see some of our favorites on the list: Corduroy 40th Anniversary Edition, Where the Wild Things Are and The Little Red Hen (Little Golden Book).

But some others that I love were missing:

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (Sandpiper Books)
Inside, Outside, Upside Down (Bright & Early Board Books(TM)) (the first book I ever read, thanks to my Grandma Mills)
Little Golden Treasury: Scuffy the Tugboat, The Poky Little Puppy, Tawny Scrawny Lion, The Saggy Baggy Elephant

I guess everyone has their favorite children's books, whether they're a child or an adult. I can honestly say that some of my favorite books of all time are children's books It's hard to forget a story that made an impression on you as a child. And many of my favorite books are liked to fond memories, like learning to read with my grandmother.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Spring/Summer Shopping Alert

Stein Mart has a printable coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase through May 26. I don't go to Stein Mart that often, but they always have some great outfits in bright, spring colors.

This weekend at Christopher & Banks and C.J. Banks everything in the store is buy one, get one 50 percent off. The sale lasts until May 26, and it applies to purchases made in the store and online, as well.

If I hadn't bought lots of spring and summer clothes when they had their last sale, I'd probably be camping out there this weekend.

Happy shopping and saving.

Seeking Roundup of Tax Stimulus Offers

My friend and former coworker, Mike, who writes the Bargain Blog for the local newspaper, has asked for a roundup of stores that are offering incentives to customers who cash or use their tax stimulus checks there.

Does anyone know of a comprehensive list?

Or do you know of individual retailers that are offering these deals? If so, post them here.

Mike is probably most interested in national retailers and those in the Southeast, but feel free to post any tips here.

Unless I was planning a big project, I probably wouldn't trade my stimulus check for a store gift card. It seems to me that you could make that money work better for you by putting it in an interest bearing account or another investment until you're ready to spend it. Or if you had debt, it probably make sense to use the money to pay that down.

We filed an extension of our taxes, so we don't have our tax stimulus check yet.

Because I"m self employed, we pay our taxes quarterly and I've gotten behind on my record-keeping. So, we mailed money to to IRS on April 15, but we haven't filed our return. This also buys us time to invest in our SEP IRAs for the year.

When we do get our tax stimulus check, we plan to use it to pay the next round of quarterly taxes or to get new floors.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Extra Care Drama At CVS

I had to make an unexpected stop at CVS today to pick up a prescription for Jackson, who has a fever and an ear infection. (My poor baby.)

The silver lining in this cloud is that his is the second prescription I've filled at CVS in a few weeks. And you know what that means: ExtraCare Bucks.

But things didn't go exactly as expected.

The cash register jammed while my receipt was printing out so everything, including the ExtraCare bucks and register tape coupons, was scrambled. No reading any bar code or telling how many ExtraCare bucks I have to redeem.

When I asked the cashier about it, she kind of stared at me blankly, seemingly surprised that anyone would ask about missing ECBs. Finally, after a little prodding from me, she told me that I should see the store manager. He was ultimately helpful after some more pointed, but polite questions from me.

He ended up calling the ExtraCare hotline and told them what happened. My ExtraCare bucks are being reloaded on my card and should print out when I make my next purchase at CVS. But I have to wait until next Wednesday because this process takes two business days and since Monday is a holiday, they won't be loaded until Wednesday.

You better believe that I'll be confirming this next week. And if they're not there, I'll be calling CVS to set things right.

ExtraCare bucks are as good as cash. If the ATM mangled my bills, I wouldn't just walk away. Why would I walk away from ExtraCare bucks?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Free Giveaway - Vintage Charm Bracelet

Charm bracelets are one of my favorite all-time favorite accessories because they're so versatile and so personal.

What other piece of jewelry can be fun, funky, beautiful and sentimental all at the same time?

A charm bracelet can tell the story of your life, memorialize a loved one, commemorate a special event such as a wedding or serve as a permanent reminder of the best trip of your life.

To celebrate these enduring accessories (and as a blatant attempt to drive traffic to my blog), Goo Goo Buy Buy is giving away a great vintage charm bracelet from Etsy:

Isn't it gorgeous? To find out how to win, you'll have to read on...

Charm bracelets make great gifts because they're so personal. When you buy someone a charm (or a whole bracelet), you're really making a statement about your relationship. It's one of the most thoughtful gifts you can give someone because you have to really think about what the recipient likes and what defines her when you're choosing charms for a bracelet.

If you have a sister or a daughter or a mother or a best friend, think about giving her a charm bracelet for the next holiday or special occasion. Give just one charm initially with the promise that you'll add to the bracelet every birthday, anniversary, Christmas or whenever the gift-giving mood strikes. I promise that your loved one will cherish that charm bracelet forever. And she'll love opening your gifts!

Tracey Zabar, a jewelry designer who designs charm bracelets for Kate Spade, has written a great book on her favorite accessory and mine. Charmed Bracelets showcases some great charm bracelets, and Zabar also dishes about the history of charmed bracelets. Finally, she offers some great ideas for putting together your own charm bracelet by focusing on a particular theme.

If you're really crafty, check out Charmed by Gabriella Sellors. She shows you how to make 50 different pieces of "charming" jewelry.

Inspired by Zabar's book, NPR commentator Jacki Lyden reported on her own love affair with charm bracelets in "History on a Wrist." Have a listen.

If you look in my jewelry box, you'll find an array of charm bracelets that tell the story of my life and my likes.

I have a silver charm bracelet that I bought when my son, Jackson, was born. There's a tiny diaper charm, a heart engraved with "Mom," a baby bottle, a silver cup, a shoe and a framed photo of newborn Jackson. When you look at this bracelet, you can tell that I love being a mother, even though it can be messy. best of all, they make noise.

Another silver bracelet has charms that I've picked up on memorable vacations to Hawaii for my brother's wedding (a hulu girl and a lei), to the North Carolina coast with friends (a lighthouse), and to Florida with my husband (a gull and a sand bucket.) We're planning a road trip to the Amish country and Hershey, Pennsylvania, this summer, and I think I'll add some charms to commemorate it. Maybe a Hershey's Kiss and a horse-drawn carriage?

I'm slowly building a new gold charm bracelet to replace the one I started in high school. (The charms are sill in great condition, but the bracelet has gotten crimped in the nearly 20 years -- gulp -- since I graduated from high school.) So far, I've added a lobster in a trap (commemorating our babymoon in Maine), a key-to-my heart charm (in honor of Jackson and Bruce) and an enamel cupcake (because I love delicious desserts.)

I love creating my own charm bracelets, but I'm also a sucker for ready-made ones, as well. I've got a beautiful charm bracelet that I bought during my honeymoon that features different types of fruit, each made from a different type of gemstone or bead.

I even have a charm bracelet watch from Anne Klein (bought on sale, of course, after Christmas one year.)

I have a fun enamel charm bracelet that I picked up from a thrift store. It has a frog and flowers hanging from it. Another time, I picked up a vintage doggie charm bracelet for $10 from the same thrift store, Design Archives.

My mom passed along a charm bracelet she had in high school, and it's a hoot. (There's a refrigerator charm that says "Friend or Foe.") That bracelet has also opened my eyes to the person my mom was in high school, and it's fun to ask her why she chose each charm.

That's part of the allure of wearing charm bracelets that once belonged to someone else. You get to know them in a special way. As Tracey Zabar writes in Charmed Bracelets:

If you get to wear your grandma's charm bracelet, you get to know your grandma during an earlier time in her life. That's nice.

One of my favorite charm bracelets is made from vintage clip earrings and other vintage costume jewelry. I was so enamored of the idea that made three more bracelets from vintage earrings I bought at thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales.

For a great selection of vintage charm bracelets and charms, check out eBay, where the offerings are always changing. Another great place to look is Etsy, where I found the charm bracelet that I'm giving away. You'll find both handmade and vintage jewelry there and lots of other neat, handcrafted stuff.

Enough about my love of charm bracelets. Here's what you really want to know. How can you win a vintage charm bracelet?

Easy. To enter the contest, just leave a comment and tell me something charming about yourself. Be sure to include your email address, so I can contact you if you're the winner.

I'll be accepting entries through Tuesday, May 27. I'll be annoucing the winner shortly thereafter.

And please visit Goo Goo Buy Buy often because I'm going to have regular giveaways of great freebies.

Coming up soon:

  • Free baby food, baby cereal and other great items from Gerber
  • An at-home spa getaway kit for mom
  • A great bag from Swoozies that will help you keep your cool
  • Something "hot" for Dad for father's day
  • A travel bag with toiletries from CVS, Walgreens, Target and other cool stores

Keep reading Goo Goo Buy Buy. You never know when you'll find another Goo Goo Giveaway.

Using Negotiation to Get What You Want and Save Money

I've been shopping at yard sales and flea markets with my mom for most of my 35 years. Not so long ago, I was embarassed at her attempts to wheel and deal.

Why, oh why, can't she just pay the sticker price? I'd ask myself, while rolling my eyes and turning my head in shame.

But my Mama isn't embarassed to ask for a better deal and because of that she's pocketed a lot of savings throughout the years.

These days, I'm not afraid to bargain because I've learned that prices are often negotiable. And not just at yard sales and flea markets.

But you'll never know unless you ask that all important question: "Will you take less?"

I've even tried that strategy at big box stores like Target. I once found a knick-knack on the shelf that had some minor (but very easily fixable) damage. It was the only one left on the shelf, so I boldly asked the manager if he could do better and the price.

Guess what he said? "Yes."

So, the next time you're shopping and see a shirt with a missing button or a book with a wrinkled cover, ask, "Will you take less?" You may be surprised by the answer.

You can use negotiation to save on lots of things, especially if you can convince the seller that you'll both benefit from the transaction.

  • Let's say your babysitter's hourly rates are a little pricier than you'd like to pay. Ask her (or him) if she'll charge less if you can guarantee a certain number of hours every week.
  • A car dealership may give you a price break if you pay cash for your vehicle. (Try this trick with small merchants, as well. Credit-card processing and check processing are huge expenses for retailers and many may offer a discount to customers who pay cash.)
  • If you buy multiple items from the same eBay seller, ask for a shipping discount. Many sellers will oblige if you ask, but they may not automatically offer shipping discounts on multiple purchases.
  • If you're at a store like Old Navy that often has Buy 2 for $20 deals (or purchase one at the regular priced) ask for a price adjustment if the store is sold out of the size or color you need. The manager may have the authority to give you the discount anyway. But you'll never know if you don't ask.
  • If you think something is overpriced at your local farmer's market, tell the vendor that you wanted to spend less. I did that a few weeks ago with some sugar-glazed pecans. I thought the original asking price was too high and said I didn't want to buy them for that. The vendor gave them to me for less (probably because I was buying a lot of other items.)

Sometimes, people are going to say no when you ask for a price break. But I don't believe there's any harm in asking.

We're hoping to replace some carpeting in our home with high-quality laminate flooring, and I just got an estimate yesterday that was higher than I want to pay. Other companies have given me lower quotes, but I really want the higher-priced company to do the work because I have the most confidence in their abilties. So, I'm going to show them my other estimates and ask them if they can meet the price or at least come close. I have a feeling that the answer will be "Yes."

Please don't feel that you're insulting someone by asking if they'll charge you less than the sticker price for their product or service. If you make a fair offer -- not a lowball one -- most people will consider it. Depending on their own expenses and overhead, they may not be able to give you a price break, but I've rarely met anyone who got angry because I asked.

And I'll tell you that I've even offered discounts to people who have asked me for one. I'm a writer and public relations professional by trade, and my rate for services varies greatly, depending on the scale of the project and the client. I just recently wrapped up a writing job in which my client asked me if I could cut my rate to meet his budget. I did because I wanted the work and his rate seemed reasonable.

I'm preparing to start on another such project for a longterm client who wanted to switch from a retainer payment to an hourly arrangement because he was lookiing to take tighter control of costs. I value this client and know that he'll give me a lot of work in the future (and he pays very fast), so I discounted my hourly rate by 15 percent. He's getting a deal, but I'll be getting more work from him.

It's a great deal for both of us, and it's all because someone had the courage to ask, "Will you take less."

Share Your Story about the Pet Who Changed Your Life

I'm working with my editor at Literary Productions on a new series of books about the animals who have changed their owners' lives.

I'll be writing several profiles about celebrities and their beloved cats, dogs and horses. But we're also opening up storytelling to any pet owner who has a compelling, true story about a wonderful animal and the bond that developed.

We want inspirational, true, well-written stories focusing on a single
four-legged friend you rescued that had an indelible impact on your life. Perhaps the animal got you through some challenging times, accomplished some incredible feats, or even literally saved your life.

Above all, we want readers to be captivated and touched by every story. By the end of each chapter, readers should feel connected to you and your pet and be left with both a smile and a tear.

We’re looking for a wide variety of stories. Some will no doubt be sad, others funny, and most somewhere in-between. All must be true and personal, filled with both drama and emotion, and have a complete beginning, middle, and end.

The most effective writing uses vivid imagery and touches all five senses, so readers feel as if they are right there with you in midst of the story.

A portion of the proceeds from the books will benefit Best Friends Animal Society, a great group that rescues animals and finds loving, safe homes for them. Writers whose stories are chosen will receive a small stipend.

If you have a story to share, read the Writing Guidelines and send your story through the Web site. A panel of professional editors will review all stories and chose the best, most heartwarming ones for publication. Stories should be between 2,000 and 8,000 words and should be written in first person because of the personal nature of these books.

Free 411- Never Pay for Directory Assistance Again

I admit that I waste a lot of money dialing directory assistance on my cell phone because I've just gotta have a number.

Well, no more, thanks to Google.

Just dial Dial 800-GOOG-411 and ask for your listing. The computer will connect you directly and send you a text message with details of the listing. (If your wireless company charges for text messages, you may have to pay a fee.)

You don't need a computer, an Internet connection, or even the keypad on
your phone or mobile device. GOOG-411 is voice-activated, so you can access it
from any phone (mobile or land line), in any location, at any time. For free.

Dial (1-800) GOOG-411. Say where. Say what you're looking for. GOOG-411
will connect you with the business you choose.

If you are calling from a mobile device, GOOG-411 can even send you a text
message with more details and a map. Simply say "Text message" or "Map

Google 411 offers fancy features like Text Message and Map It to mobile callers, but you can dial 1-800-GOOG-411 FOR FREE from any phone. Now that's a great deal.

Unfortunately, the directory doesn't include residential listings at this time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Case of the Star-Crossed Meat Loaf

As I posted previously (in a comment), we had planned to have a meatloaf that my hubby's mom made for dinner. But come dinnertime, it still needed to cook some. So, we had to run and and get a replacement main dish -- a burger for him, chicken for me.

The plan was to have the meatloaf tonight.

But when I opened the fridge with plans of reheating it, I couldn't find it.

Aha moment, and I open the oven door. There's last night's meatloaf still sitting there, looking putrefied and unappetizing.

So again we're faced with the dilemma of what to have for dinner. I don't have any other meat frozen, and we don't have any leftovers or frozen pizzas or any other quick-cook foods. So, it looks like we'll be going out or ordering in.

What do you do when your dinner plans fall apart at the last minute?

I'd love for you to share your quick and delicious recipes for dinners when you don't have any meat thawed and time is short.

By the way, we're never having meatloaf again.

The other half speaks

Hello, bargain hunters! I'm Bruce Buchanan, Amy's husband. She has invited me to post here from time to time, perhaps to give the guy's perspective on bargain hunting and frugal shopping.

My wonderful wife has far too many outstanding qualities to list here: She's a former award-winning journalist, the author of five books, a small business owner, a gourmet cook, a style maven, a pop culture junkie and the best mommy that Jackson Robert Buchanan could ever hope to have.

But in the first few years of our marriage, I never would have said frugality was among her strong suits. She was - and is - a shopaholic. However, once she tries something, she usually jumps in with both feet -- and that was the case with bargain hunting. Since then, she has amazed me with the good deals she's able to find.

I've found that saving money actually can be fun. Going to the store is sort of like a treasure hunt, if you go prepared.

Also, I've learned that you shouldn't always deny yourself when trying to save money. If you try to live a Spartan lifestyle, that can get old pretty quickly. So it's okay to buy something for yourself - just do so in moderation.

For example, it's fine to go out to dinner once in a while. But try to plan when you go. Make it something you look forward to, not something you have to do because it's dinner time and you don't have any food in the house. I've known people who eat out at least 10 meals a week simply because they don't plan in advance. But that's an easy way to spend a lot of money without getting much in return.

Anyway, thanks for visiting Goo Goo Buy Buy. I'll be checking back in regularly, so I hope to see you around.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Delicious Breakfast Casserole Recipe Using Stockpiled Groceries

Now that I've been clipping coupons, shopping sales and playing the Grocery Game, we have a pantry full of quick-cook rice and pasta. They make good, quick sides and a great lunch for a picky toddler, but I do like to mix things up every now and again.

I've found that variety is key to making eating at home preferable to eating out.

Jackson, my almost 2-year-old, helped me find a recipe that used up two boxes of rice and provided us breakfast (and lunch) for several days. Nope, our little Jackaroni isn't some culinary protege. But he does like to do what toddlers do -- get into everything.

This weekend, he was pulling cookbooks off the shelf and a recipe I'd clipped ages ago tumbled out. I decided to cook up a batch of Ham & Asparagus Brunch Bake for our Sunday breakfast. The recipe came from Uncle Ben's but I tweaked it a bit. My notes are at the end of the recipe, marked with asterisks.

This recipe was a hit with my family because unlike so many breakfast casseroles, it doesn't include eggs. (We don't eat eggs; just don't like 'em)

Ham & Asparagus Brunch Bake

2 packages Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild Rice Original*
1 lb asparagus, cut into pieces
2 cups ham, chopped**
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup cheese, shredded***

1. In large saucepan, prepare rice mixes according to package directions, adding the asparagus to the rice mixture during the last five minutes of cooking.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 11 X 7 1/2" baking dish.
3. When the rice has cooked, remove saucepan from heat
4. Add ham, bell pepper and onion. Mix well.
5. Place mixture in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese.
6. Bake 25-30 minutes or until mixtures is heated through.

* I only had one box of Long Grain & Wild Original Recipe Rice, so for my second box, I used Uncle Ben's Country Inn Broccoli Rice Au Gratin. These two rice dishes have different cooking times -- 25 minutes and 10 minutes -- so I had to cook them in separate pans. I mixed them together in the casserole, and I really like the creaminess that the au gratin rice gave the dish.

** I think this would be delicious to make if you have leftover ham, but we didn't. But I did have some thick-sliced deli Virginia baked ham. I cut that up in cubes and added it to the dish. I think bacon or country ham would also work nicely. Really, any meat that you prefer.

*** I combined mozarella and freshly grated parmesan cheese and baked it until it was slightly browned.

The meal was delicious, and we had a lot of leftovers, enough for all three of us to have it again for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

Grocery Challenge - Cutting My Grocery Bill to $50 a Week

After reading the Associated Press story about food stamp recipients struggling to get by on their $300 monthly food allotment and reading about the thrifty exploits of others, I decided to issue myself a money-saving challenge.

Could I cut my grocery bill to $50 a week?

At first, I considered trying to emulate the Money Saving Mom, who spends just $40 a week on groceries. Mind you, she used to spend just $35 a week on groceries before prices went up. That's impressive, and she's been doing this frugal thing a whole lot longer than I have, so I decided to give myself a little wiggle room.

$50 seemed reasonable and do-able if I shopped smartly, combined coupons with rock-bottom sales, leveraged my CVS ExtraCare bucks and Walgreens Register Rewards and planned.

Planning is key to saving money.

I can't emphasize that point enough. If you want to slash your grocery bill, you have to make a list and stick to it. You have to keep track of what you already have in your refrigerator and cupboards, so you're not forced to buy staples and other nonperishable food at full price. You have to take time to clip coupons and to organize them.

Stockpile things you find at a good price.

I've learned from the money-saving masters that savvy shoppers don't wait to buy things when they need them. If they see something at a good price, they'll buy it now in bulk and stockpile it for later. That saves you from having to dash out to buy full-price toilet paper because you've just gone through the last roll.

I have a stash of toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, diapers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors and razor blades, soap, shampoo and other sundries that I purchased for next to nothing. (In some cases, these items were free after coupons, rebates and CVS Extra Bucks.) So, when I run out of toilet paper, I won't have to buy it at the store. I can pull a pack from my garage and know that I've saved tons of money.

This same principle can work for food. We have an extra refrigerator in our garage (thank you, Grandma, but I'd rather have you around than your refrigerator) and I store frozen meat, pizzas, extra drinks, juice, cheese and other items with a long shelf life in there. I also keep a stockpile of rice, macaroni, cereal and snacks, but we have to be clever about storing those items because we've had a few mice get into our garage!

Shop around.

I'm as time-strapped as anyone. I'm married with a toddler, and I'm self-employed as a freelance writer/public relations professional. (I have a full-time workload, but I squeeze it in during naptime, the two days a week that my son is at mother's morning out, during nana babysitting hours and whatever other free time I can spare.)

I'm telling you all this because I know that the idea of grocery shopping at more than one store probably seems like a colassal time-sucker. But it doesn't have to be. I hit five stores on Sunday in probably less than 90 minutes. And I didn't waste gas either because I've chosen stores that are in a circuit near my house.

I find that I'm more efficient when I shop stores that I know because I don't waste time looking for items.

How do I save time?

I make a list for each store, using the Grocery Game, and parcel out my coupons for each store ahead of time. I take that store's coupon envelope inside and buy only what's on my list. I'm very organized, so I'm in and out quickly. (I do usually check the clearance endcaps to see if there are any deals that are too good to pass up, and I try to pair them with coupons that I already have. Here's another tip: Always take your coupons with you because you never know when you're going to stumble upon a deal.)

Yesterday, I hit five stores, and I spent $43.20. Not bad, though I did make a few mistakes, which I'll outline below. Also, I didn't have to buy much meat or produce because we had a stockpile of fresh and frozen from previous shopping trips.

I'd still like to go to CVS at some point this week, and I'll probably hit the farmer's market on Wednesday or Saturday to buy some tomatoes and other local produce. If I happen to be near another Lowes Foods or Food Lion, I'll probably make a quick stop to pick up a few things that were sold out at my normal stores. Can I do that and still hit my $50 weekly target? Stay tuned...

Meantime, here's what I bought and spent out of pocket at each store.

Food Lion
1.17 pounds ground beef
Glad Simply Steam bags
1 bag frozen shrimp
sour cream (I needed this for a recipe, so I didn't really get it for the best price
Total spent: $14.01

3 boxes of kitchen trash bags
2 bottles liquid fabric softener
2 cans Lysol disinfectant (with free bonus small bottle)
2 Lyol toilet cleaner
1 box dishwasher detergent
1 package Windex wipes
Total spent: $2.38 (I was able to use $20 in Register Rewards and combine coupons to maximize my savings)

Rite Aid
3 bags Chex mix
1 pack Mentos gum
2 boxes Ziploc bags
1 bottle Organix conditioner (Will be free after a mail-in-rebate)
got2B Hair Gel (Will be free after Rite Aid single-check rebate)
got2B mousse (Will be free after Rite Aid single-check rebate)
Adidas body spray (Will be free after Rite Aid single-check rebate)
Total spent: $6.19

Lowes Foods
cilantro (I needed this for a recipe, so I didn't really get it for the best price)
Michelob Ultra lime and cactus beer (couldn't resist because we were having spicy food on Sunday)
2 boxes Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn
2 limes
4-count Hero rolls
2 Knorr side dishes
1 box Suddenly Salad
1 Peroxicare toothpaste
Total spent: $11.86 (I used a bunch of coupons, which doubled, and also had a $2 off your order coupon that I'd saved from a previous shopping trip)

white rice
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 blocks cheese
Total spent: $8.76

Grand Total: $43.20

Great Shrimp & Rice Recipe -- And a Great Price

I cooked up a delicious and nutritious meal last night, thanks to my bargain shopping and a recipe I clipped from the Sunday newspaper. (You'll find it in the coupon insert -- don't remember if it was RedPlum or SmartSource, though.)

My hubby Bruce, proclaimed: "We're going to have to make this again"
This was our menu:

Garlic & Lime Shrimp (using shrimp I bought half-price at Food Lion a few weeks ago and froze)
Spanish Rice (Knorr Fiesta Sides, purchased on sale and stockpiled)
Corn on the Cob (Purchased on sale at Harris Teeter for 25 cents an ear)

Not counting some staples we had on hand -- olive oil, garlic, butter and hot sauce -- I'd say our entire meal cost about $10. And we had leftovers, though knowing Bruce they might not last through the night. (When he has a snack, it's usually a plateful of whatever we had for dinner.)

Here's the recipe for Garlic & Lime Shrimp with Spanish Rice, thanks to the folks at Knorr.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Feeding The Family As Grocery Prices Increase

Our local newspaper ran an Associated Press story this weekend about how food stamp recipients are feeling pinched by the rising price of groceries.

I certainly feel their pain because I think we're all struggling with how to stay within a budget when prices for essentials like groceries and gas keep rising. But I have to take issue with the notion that it's impossible to feed a family of three for under $281 a month (or $312 a month, as was the case with one single mother interviewed for the story):

As prices rise, the number of Americans relying on food stamps has also
climbed by 6.1 percent in the past year, increasing from 26.1 million in
February 2007 to 27.7 million in February this year. The sputtering economy,
persistent unemployment and the mortgage crisis have all contributed to the
increase. The Agriculture Department expects the overall number of participants
to reach 28 million next year.

For Lynda Wheeler, who receives $281 in food stamps each month, the rhythm
of life has been one of shopping for food, running out of food and then turning
to churches, food pantries and friends for help. And all the while, she is doing
things like cutting milk with water to make it last a bit longer.

"You get it on the first and it runs out by the 14th and 15th," said
Wheeler, a single mom who brought her 14-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter
shopping at midnight with the Link card, the Illinois version of food stamps.

It's terrible to think that people have to live like this. I can't imagine what it would be like to run out of food halfway through the month.

Before I started watching what I was spending on food and other homemaking essentials, I could have blown through $300 in just two trips to the grocery store.

But now that I've started The Grocery Game and taking advantage of the specials at CVS and Walgreens, I know that it's possible to stretch my budget much further and feed my family delicious and nutritious meals. I haven't tallied my totals from my grocery and drugstore shopping today, but I know that I spent less than $50.

Of course, when you mention eating cheaply, a lot of people assume your only options are macaroni and beans and rice. I know that I once thought that, too. And that kind of eating didn't appeal to me at all. But by shopping at Aldi, shopping the sales and using coupons wisely, we're saving money and eating better at the same time.

Thrifty shoppers are proving that it is possible to feed your family cheaply. The Money Saving Mom spends just $40 a week, and this week over at Green Stew, the recession-challenged blogger has vowed to spend just $25 a week on groceries. How's that for budgeting?

I do understand that many low-income people may not have ready access to transportation, so they may be forced to shop at certain stores. Sometimes the grocery stores in poor neighborhoods have notoriously high prices. So, many poor people and food stamp recipients may not be able to achieve the same savings that people like me, a bargain shopper by choice whose mobility is only limited by my toddler's patience, can achieve.

But I have to believe that it's still possible for food stamp recipients to buy their groceries and other necessities with their monthly allotment if they stockpile bargains when they find them, clip coupons, shop the sales and cook from scratch, instead of relying on convenience foods.

What's your take on this issue? Could you feed and supply essentials (toilet paper, diapers, etc.) for a family of three four on a budget of $300 a month? What tips do you have for people who are struggling to stretch their food stamps or their grocery budget?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Free Tickets to Sex and the City Movie

I scored some free tickets to the Sex and the City movie today while shopping at Ulta.

OK, some of you may not think this really qualifies as a freebie because I had to purchase a gift set of Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely to get the free movie tickets. But I was looking to reward myself with a special treat, and I couldn't pass up this offer because I love Lovely and I love SJP and I love "Sex and the City."

Boy, do I miss that show. And I'm so psyched about the Sex and the City movie premiere. I'm already planning to take the day off from work -- the joys of being self-employed -- and go see it with some girlfriends. We might even try to smuggle in some Cosmos in stylish oversized handbags. (One does have to wonder what the ladies will be wearing and sipping in the movie.)

Anyway, more details on my deal:

Thanks to Hollywood Movie Money, I've got two vouchers (worth $12 each) to see Sex and the City. I think I'll have to see it at the Carmike in Greensboro. Not my first choice theather, but it is just minutes away from my house and they do have the flavored movie popcorn salt that I love so much.

I also got a free umbrella with my perfume purchase at Ulta. Bonus!

What more could a girl ask for?

Sex (and the City), Cosmos, a girls-only outing, free movie tickets and great popcorn. I can't wait for May 30.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Triple Coupons at Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter is tripling coupons today through Saturday.

I went earlier today and saved about $41 on my order. Spent just over $15 and bought things we need now and later for our stockpile. I may make another trip later in the week because I maxed out the 20 coupons you're allowed to double.

I'll post some of the details of my shopping spree later, including freebies (and almost) that I found thanks to the Grocery Game and my own coupon sleuthing.

Target Diaper Deal Update

In my posting on cheap diapers, I forgot to account for the $1 rebate I'll get back on each pack of diapers from the Caregivers Marketplace.

And upon closer inspection of my reciept, I see that Target takes the 10 percent discount off the price BEFORE coupons. (In my original post, I'd calculated the discount on the price after coupons.)

That brings my total cost for 6 packs of diapers down to $12.04. My cost is just 6 cents to 10 cents per diaper. Now that's a deal if I've ever heard of one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Money Back on Diamonds?

I'm sure there's no such thing as a bargain diamond. But if you've purchased any rocks in the 11 years leading up to 2006, you may be eligible for a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed against the De Beers company.

The De Beers diamond lawsuit covers diamonds purchased from ANY retailer between January 1, 1994 and March 31, 2006. De Beers is accused of fraudulently inflating prices by controlling the world supply of diamonds, making them seem more rare, and therefore more valuable, than they really were:

De Beers is the largest supplier of rough diamonds in the world. Beginning in
2001, Plaintiffs in several states filed lawsuits against De Beers in state and
federal courts alleging that De Beers unlawfully monopolized the supply of
diamonds, conspired to fix, raise, and control diamond prices, and issued false
and misleading advertising. De Beers denies it violated the law or did anything

If you think you have a claim, you can submit one online or by mail. But please note that all claims must be submitted by May 19, 2008. Mailed claims must be postmarked by May 19, 2008, as well.

Until all claims have been submitted, there's no way to know how much each person will receive in the lawsuit. But here are the details of the settlement:

The Settlement Agreement provides that $22.5 Million be distributed to the
Direct Purchaser Class [those who purchased a diamond directly from De Beers, and that $272.5 Million will be distributed to the Indirect Purchaser Class [those who purchased a diamond elsewhere]. De Beers also agrees to refrain from engaging in
certain conduct that violates federal and state antitrust laws and submit to the
jurisdiction of the Court to enforce the Settlement.

Awesome Deals on Diapers at Target - Really Cheap Diapers

We were at Target tonight to pick up some of the great deals discovered by Money Saving Mom and her readers when I found some bargains of my own on the diaper aisle.

I'd left most of my coupons at home. Thankfully, we live just around the corner, so I dashed back to get them and filled my cart up.

I found Huggies Overnights diapers (in my son's size) and Huggies Pull Ups (perfect for when we start potty training) clearance priced at $4.98-$5.24. I was able to use coupons on each package, valued at $1 to $2, so I made out like a bandit, getting diapers for 9 cents to 12 cents each. I did notice, however, that the Pull Ups all had princesses on them. Let's hope my already opinionated toddler won't have a problem with that!

In addition, I bought 2 packs of KanDoo wipes (also on clearance) and used a $2 off 2 coupon. The wipes were marked $2.08 (plastic container) and $1.88 (refill pack), but they ran up for $1.18 and $1.88 each. So with my coupon, I got two packs of wipes for the grand total of... 95 cents.

And did I mention that I had a 10 percent off my total purchase coupon that I used? So I saved even more.

Here's a rundown of my savings:

You'll find the clearance priced diapers on the endcaps in the babycare/pharmacy department at Target. I found the clearance-priced diapers in two different places. It also wouldn't hurt to check out the aisles to see if any of the clearance-priced packs have migrated there. My store had diapers in nearly every size clearance priced, from preemie to Size 5. So there's something to fit every baby bottom!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Great Girlie Getaway

A weekend in Nantucket may not qualify as a bargain. But a relaxing (and creative) getaway may be just the sort of thing we're saving our money for.

And you may not even have to get away to enjoy the experience.

I just read an article in Country Living about Fashion Camp for grownups hosted every weekend from May through October at the Nantucket Stock Exchange, a different kind of vintage store.

Owner Cheryl Fudge got her start transforming vintage Gucci and Chanel scarves into sexy halters. Now, she sells a complete line of embellished vintage fashions.

But it was her Fashion Camp that intrigued me. Campers create one-of-a-kind bags using vintage fabrics, embellishments and ribbons that Fudge provides.

Sounds like a lot of fun. And an easy experience to replicate at home for your friends. I might have to hit some yard sales or secondhand stores to find some cool vintage fabrics, buttons, rickrack and whatnot. This is a craft where anything goes.

Fudge spreads her table with fabrics, old patches and trims, lace, buttons, bows and whatever else she can find and lets her customers create their own souvenir from Fashion Camp. And who wouldn't want to take home such a personal and creative keepsake? Sure beats a macaroni necklace.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Free $25 Gift Card - Help Me Choose

My bank has a rewards program that allows you to accumulate points every time you use your debit card. And I use mine almost exclusively.

I've amassed enough points to get a $25 gift card, but I can't decide which merchant to choose. So, I'm asking for advice.

Should I get a $25 gift card from:

Barnes & Noble
Old Navy
Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc.)
Chili's, Macaroni Grill
Bath & Body Works

Help me decide.

And by the way, if you bank with Wachovia and have a debit card, you can sign up for rewards through Wachovia Possibilities.

Ouch at the CVS Pharmacy

So, I went to see my eye doctor this morning -- Dr. Hottie, we call him -- because my contacts have been bothering me for the last few days.

I thought I might have an eye infection and wanted to deal with that as quickly as possible. No eye infection, but the good doc prescribed a steroid drop because he thinks my eyes may be drying out because my contacts don't breathe well.

Well, OK. He put a few drops in my eye in the office, and my eyes did seem to feel better.

So, I headed to CVS to get the RX filled, but boy was I surprised when I got the bill. $46 for a itty bitty bottle of eye drops. Ouch. A bit pricey, but my eyes and healthcare in general is not something I want to cheap out on.

However, I have learned a few lessons, which I hope will help me save money in the future:

  • I'm going to be more diligent about taking my contacts out early every night to give my eyes some room to breathe
  • Next time I need new contacts, the doc and I are going to try to find a lens in my prescription that allows more oxygen to get to my eye. (Note to the pharm cos - start making breathable lenses in plus-power toric, please. This far-sighted astigmatic chick would be very grateful.)
  • I'm going to start using OTC wetting drops (at the doc's suggestion) to keep my eyes moist throughout the day. And I have a freebie to try out.

One bonus of all this. I used my CVS ExtraCare card when paying for my prescription, so I should be earning some ECB as a result.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Free 8X10 at Walgreens

Don't forget to stop by Walgreens today for your free 8X10 photo reprint.

You'll need a coupon from the store's weekly ad. Or if you're ordering online enter code 4Mom.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Diapers and Snacks, Oh My -- A Super CVS Shopping Trip

Thanks to the Grocery Game and fellow bloggers like Money Saving Mom and Be Thirfty Like Us, I found some great bargains and freebies at CVS this week. Used my coupons, took advantage of sales and rolled my ExtraCare bucks and spent just under $9 out of pocket for a trunkload of stuff. (Granted, my trunk is loaded down with a stroller, a bin of essential baby gear and my reusable grocery bags. But I still got a lot of stuff.)

Here's the breakdown of what I bought at two different stores, using two different ExtraCare cards in three different transactions.

Store 1, Transaction 1:

  • Venus Breeze Razor
  • Adidas Deodorant
  • Cheez It twin pack
Total cost: $20.98
Coupons redeemed: $4 off Venus Razor, $4.99 free deodorant from All You magazine, $3 off $15 CVS coupon (Thanks I Heart CVS!)
ECB Spent: $7.99
OOP: $1.39
ECB earned: $7.99

Store 1, Transaction 2:
  • 2 PlaySkool Jumbo Pack diapers (2/$19.99 plus used $2 off PlaySkool diapers coupon from Very Best Baby -- thanks Be Thrifty Like Us)
  • 3 cans of Pringles (used $0.30/3 coupon
  • Bounce dryer sheets (used $25. coupon)
  • 2 Pampers Baby Wipes (used $2/2 coupon)
  • 4.4 lb bag of Purina dog chow ($1.50 coupon)
  • 2 cans Gold Emblem Peanuts (BOGO)
  • Real Simple magazine ($1 coupon)
Total cost: $46.27
Coupons redeemed: In addition to those listed above, I had a CVS $3/$15 coupon)
ECB Spent: $33.98
OOP: $3.78
ECB earned: $0

Store 2, Transaction 1

  • 2 packages PlaySkool Diapers
  • 1 package Cheerios
Total cost: $21.98
Coupons redeemed: $2/2 PlaySkool diapers, CVS $3/$15. I had intended to use a $0.75 Cheerios coupon, but the store didn't have Fruity Cheerios and wouldn't take the coupon for another variety. But I decided we needed them anyway.
ECB Spent: $15
OOP: $3.72
ECB earned: $0

Total savings of about 90 percent. I'm new to this, so I'm tickled with the deals I got. And I still have ECB left -- only about $4.99, but still.

I'd love to hear your savings scenarios or your strategy for stretching your dollars and ECB further.

Free Peachtree Accounting Software at Staples (After Rebate)

I always like to check the Office Depot and Staples ads to see what they're offering for free after rebate.

Usually, the offers are for free pens, highlighters or Post-Its.

So, imagine my surprise when I opened this week's flyer and saw that the freebie is Peachtree accounting software, a $169 value.

I bought QuickBooks some years back to some years back, so I'm not sure that I'll take advantage of this deal. But it seems too good to pass up.

Here are the details.

Pay $169.99, minus a $30 instant rebate at the store.
Submit your rebate by mail and get a check for $140.

Important: this rebate must be submitted by mail not online.

Purchases must be made by May 10 and rebates must be submitted by June 10.

Dining Out for a Good Cause

Not that I need an excuse to go out to eat, but here's a good one:

Today participating restaurants where I live have pledged 10 percent of the day's sales to help Greensboro Urban Ministry fight hunger. The event is called Serving Greensboro Together, and I bet other communities hold similar events to raise money for local food banks and other charities.

If you happen to live in or near Greensboro, you can view a list of participating restaurants here.

Tonight, the Buchanan family will be dining at Lucky 32 -- hopefully al fresco. (Weather is beautiful today on May 6, which is also the day of the N.C. primary. Voting is next on my to-do list, by the way.)

You know what makes tonight's deal an even better one? I have a $10 coupon/gift certificate to the restaurant.

Giving back and saving money. What a great combination.

Bringing You Bargains and Splurges

This marks a new beginning for this blog.

Originally, I created Goo Goo Buy Buy as a way to share with the world all those things I covet -- great shoes, handbags, clothes, jewelry. (I can just hear old-school Madonna signing, "I am a material girl.")

But I'm reinventing the blog and myself in the process.

I'm still all about things that are "to-die-for." But I also think it's pretty cool to save money so you have more to spend on splurges, be they killer heels or a killer house. So, I'll also be bringing you news of the best bargains around, as well of examples of how I've stretched the bacon.

As you get to know me, I think my spending sensibilities will become clear. I do have some brand allegiances, and I do like to have nice things. But I also think it's foolish to waste your money by overpaying for products. That said, I believe my time is more valuable than money. So, sometimes I'll pay more for something if it saves me precious time. And you won't find me obsessively washing out plastic bags, as my very well-paid mother-in-law does. I just don't have the time or the inclination.

But since we're all just getting to know each other, I thought I'd share some facts about myself and my spending habits:

  • I hate Wal-Mart. Won't go there no matter how much they roll back prices. I'm not a big fan of the company's practices, and I also hate the whole Wal-Mart atmosphere. Most stores I've been in are cluttered and overcrowded, and I find I spend too much time and patience when I shop there. (I will say this, however: My brother lives in Arkansas, near the W-M HQ and the stores there are spectacular. Well-stocked, well-staffed, clean and everyone seems happy to be there!)
  • I'm a savvy shopper. In fact, I used to be the Savvy Shopper columnist for the News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, N.C. So I have an understanding of the business side of the retail scene. That informs my own shopping decisions and the advice I pass along to my friends who are looking for the best deal.
  • The best deal isn't always about price. As I've said before, I don't always buy the cheapest thing. So, you probably won't find me busting down the doors on Black Friday to get my hands on a $2.99 DVD player. That's just not my style. I try to buy quality products that will last and perform well, and I try to find them for the best possible prices.
  • Splurging is important. Treating myself makes me feel good. And since I'm financially able to do so, I'm going to spend my money on things that I enjoy. That means getting mani-pedis or buying a new pair of shoes every now and again. (Some people would probably say I treat myself too much, but I disagree!)
  • Saving is important, too. If we never delay gratification, we'll never realize our financial goals. Mine are retiring early and moving into my dream house. And lately, I've been thinking that I'd like to spend less time working and more time being a mommy. And then there's the goal of wanting to send our son to private school when the time comes. I understand that how I spend my money today affects whether and when I'll reach those goals.
  • Planning for the future. To prove that I do practice what I preach, here's what we're doing to save money in our house. My husband invests in the 401(k) program at his office, and every month, I put a set amount in my SEP IRA (because I'm self-employed). At tax time, I put as much money as I'm allowed into that account. When my husband and I left our last jobs, we rolled over our 401(k)s instead of cashing them out as so many people do. We'd been maxing out our contributions, so now we each have a mid five-figure fund that's growing. That's in addition to some other investments we have, so I think we're pretty set for retirement if we keep doing what we're doing. We've contributed to Roth IRAs, as well, and we have a school/college fund set up for our 19-month-old son. Finally, we set up a house fund about 9 months ago, and we've managed to save quite a bit. Add that to our equity in our current house, and we will have a very nice downpayment that will enable us to avoid PMI on our dream house and have affordable payments.
Wow, I've written a lot. I hope I haven't bored you, but I felt that I needed to explain why Goo Goo Buy Buy has suddenly morphed into a bargain-saving blog. But as I've noted, I'm about more than pinching pennies. So, I'll probably be writing again about $800 Mary Norton bags, but I won't be buying them unless they're on sale! (BTW, Mary Norton is having a super secret sale from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday at its Charleston boutique with prices starting at $100. How long does it take to get to Charleston from here?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Saving Money with the Grocery Game

How did someone like me who loves to spend money get hooked on The Grocery Game?

I'm not sure the reason behind my latest obsession. But it's safe to call it that -- an obsession.

I'd been doing the CVS thing for a while, then I read about The Grocery Game on imommies and signed up for the 4-week $1 free trial (if you sign up, use my email as the referral - and I'll be in your debt!). Now I'm hooked.

I'm two weeks in, and I'm jazzed by all the money I'm saving. I really do enjoy playing the game, and I think you will, too. It's amazing how many items you can get for free or for pennies on the dollar just by pairing your coupons with the best sales. And, of course, I like that the Grocery Game does all the hard work of figuring out these things for me, because gosh knows, I don't need another thing to do!

I won't bore you by posting my past deals here. At least, not this time. But I'll be back to share other bargains I've found, including a great trip to CVS today in which I spent just a few dollars and walked away with a ton of stuff that we needed. More on that later.