Sunday, June 29, 2008

Free Coffee from Gevalia

I'm not one of those people who drinks coffee throughout the day, but I have to have a cup first thing in the morning, fixed my way with two Splendas and a dash of hazelnut flavored creamer.

If you've gotta have your coffee, then you ought to try out this freebie from Gevalia.

Sign up and you'll receive two free bags of coffee and a free insulated mug.

If you like the coffee, Gevalia will send you more each month, but you can cancel at any time and keep the freebies.

I've signed up with Gevalia several times throughout the years, and I've always liked their coffees and the freebies they've sent along. (In fact, we still use a free Gevalia coffeemaker at my office.)

There's no risk for trying this freebie out. And if you don't like the coffee -- or don't want monthly shipments -- you can always cancel before they send you the first one.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Great Coupon Offer from Cetaphil

This offer has expired, I'm afraid. I'll repost if it becomes available again.

Sign up for Cetaphil's skincare newsletter and get a coupon for $1 off.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Grocery Deals Using Printable Coupons from Goo Goo Buy Buy

I told you to print those Chex Mix coupons!

This week, Chex Mix is on sale buy-one-get-one free (BOGO) at Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter. Print out two copies of the 65 cents off coupon from my printable coupon bar on the right and get two bags of Chex mix for FREE at Lowes Foods and for 29 cents at Harris Teeter! (Both stores should allow you to use two coupons for your BOGO purchase, and the stores will double the coupons.)

Here are some other great grocery coupon deals I've found this week, using the printable coupons available on Goo Goo Buy Buy and Check back tomorrow, and I'll do a rundown of drugstore coupon deals for CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.

Now, onto the deals:

Tava sparkling beverage four-packs are on sale for 99 cents at Harris Teeter. Print out the $1.50 off coupon on this site and get Tava beverages for FREE! (And you may even make a little money, if the store gives you the full discount for the coupon!)

Cetaphil cream, lotion or cleanser is $8.99 at Harris Teeter, but if you sign up for the company's mailing list through the link on the right, you'll save $1.

Other coupon deals of note this week:

If you clipped the Sargento coupon from the Sunday paper recently, you may want to use it this week. Lowes Foods had Sargento shredded cheese on sale 2 for $4. You should be able to buy just one pack, if you want, at $2 and combine the sale with a 55 cents off coupon from Sargento. The coupon doubles, so you'll pay just 90 cents for Sargento shredded cheese.

Blue Bunny ice cream bars are BOGO at Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter, and there's a $1 off Blue Bunny ice cream coupon available from the manufacturer. This way, you get to have dessert and save money, too.

California Pizza Kitchen pizzas for one are 2 for $5 at Lowes Foods. Combine this deal with a coupon for 75 cents off one pizza for one (clipped from your Sunday newspaper) and get each CPK pizza for $1.

Last week, I told you about some great deals using the printable coupons on Goo Goo Buy Buy.

Just so you know, I do practice what I preach.

I stocked up on creamer for my Coffee using a coupon I printed from Coffee-Mate combined with a killer sale at Walgreens and paid just 50 cents a bottle. I also bought some Little Debbie Muffins at Target, using a coupon I printed from Goo Goo Buy Buy and a store coupon from Target and got the muffins for 25 cents each. Remember, you can stack manufacturers' coupons with store coupons to maximize your grocery savings.

A couple of deals I was hoping to get -- ketchup for 37 cents at Harris Teeter and three boxes of mac-and-cheese plus a packet of American cheese from Kraft for 99 cents -- didn't pan out this week because the store was sold out of some advertised specials. But I asked for rainchecks and will be cashing in on those bargains this week when the stores are hopefully restocked.

Free Sample of Enfamil Formula

This sample is back. See the banner ad on the right side of this page. Sign up quickly, though, as this may be pulled soon.

We're past the formula stage in our house and onto whole milk (for another few months anyway), but I thought I'd pass along a link for a free sample of Enfamil formula.

I nursed my son until he was about 16 months old, so I never had the added expense of buying formula. But I know that formula is super-expensive, babies drink a lot of it and any break you can get is a welcome one.

In fact, I remember being in the grocery store one day and seeing this young couple filling their cart up with formula for their twins. Well, I had my coupon organizer with me (of course!) and I pulled out all the $5, $8 and $10 Enfamil checks that I had and gave tem to the couple. They were ecstatic over the savings.

If you've got a little one around the house, I encourage you to click request the free sample of Enfamil. Even if you're breastfeeding, it helps to have some formula on hand in case you need to supplement, run low on your pumped supply or simply need a break.

My son drank formula occassionally, particularly as he got older and I could leave him for a little bit longer with his dad and nana. Thanks to deals like this one from Enfamil and samples I picked up at the hospital, from my OBGYN and from his pediatrician, I never bought a can of formula. I'm thankful for that savings.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Earn Cash Back on All Your Online Purchases at Ebates

Do you shop online? Then you need to be shopping through Ebates.

Ebates is a portal to other Websites and every time you shop there, you can earn up to 25 percent back on your purchases. You can shop at more than 900 stores through Ebates, including Barnes and Noble, Target, QVC, Gap, Macys, Nordstrom, Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Kmart, Sears, Home Depot, Snapfish and the list goes on.

And just for signing up, Ebates will give you a $5 credit -- and maybe a free gift card, too. (I've seen both offered on the site.) And for every friend you refer to Ebates, you can receive a $5 referral credit if they sign up.

Every three months, Ebates sends out Big Fat Checks to its members. (You'll get a check if your cashback earnings total $5.01 for the quarter. If they don't, don't worry. Ebates will roll that money over to the next payment period and send you your check when you hit the magical $5.01 threshhold.)

In addition to offering cash back on all your purchases, Ebates has great coupons for the online merchants that are affiliated with its site. So, just as you might do in a store, you can stack deals -- use a coupon and still earn cashback credit.

I'm a big online shopper, and I'm just kicking myself for not signing up for Ebates sooner. I could have pocketed a lot of money over the years for all I've bought from Nordstrom, Target and QVC and other online merchants. Drats!

But I'm earning that money now. I bought my husband the "Bull Durham" DVD for Father's Day as part of a baseball-themed gift -- (we're going to see Kevin Costner's band in concert at the Durham Athletic Park in celebration of July 4 and the 20th anniversary of "Bull Durham.") And I earned cash back on that. Ditto for the stick vaccuum I bought today at QVC. Man, I wish we had an Ebates account when we bought a portable air conditioner for our office from there. We would have earned a nice credit on that purchase.

I encourage you to sign up for Ebates if you regularly shop online. You'll have to get into the habit of going to Ebates first if you want to buy something online, but that should be easy enough if you're always in the mindset of saving (and earning) money.

Getting paid for shopping -- now that's my dream job! And I'm living it now, thanks to Ebates.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Free Printable Coupons from Goo Goo Buy Buy

This site is about saving money and spending it wisely, so it only makes sense that I should offer printable coupons that you can use at the grocery store, CVS, Walgreens and wherever else you shop.

Check out the pink banner on the right side of the page for some great coupons for

Now, let's see how you can leverage these coupons to maximum advantage by stacking them with store coupons and sales.

Lowes Foods

Hamburger Helper is on sale for 5 for $5. Buy 2 boxes and use the $1 off 2 boxes coupon. Pay just 50 cents for each box of Hamburger Helper.

Little Debbie muffins are on sale for 2 for $4. Buy one box and Use the 75 cents off (which may double at Lowes) and get the Little Debbie muffins 50 cents each or $1.25 each (if the coupon doesn't double) .

Food Lion

A twin pack of Bausch & Lomb Renu is on sale for $8.99. Use the $1 off coupon and get two bottles of Renu contact lens solution for $7.99.

Harris Teeter

Betty Crocker brownies are on sale 4 for $5. Use the 40 cents off coupon, and get Betty Crocker brownie mixes for 85 cents (or 45 cents if the coupon doubles) .


Neutrogena Acne Care products are $1 off with your ExtraCare Card. Use the $1 off Neutrogena coupon on my site and double your savings on Neutrogena.

Renu multipacks are on sale for $8.99, as they are at Food Lion, so you can use your $1 off coupon here and get two bottles of Renu contact lens cleaner for $7.99.


Energizer hearing aid batteries are on sale for $3.99, when you use the store's instant value coupon (found here or in the in-store rebate booklets). Use the store coupon and the $2 off coupon from my site and get your Energizer hearing aid batteries for just $1.99. And here's a bonus deal: If you buy $20 worth of Energizer batteries at Walgreens this month, you can send off for a free sleeping bag through the Walgreens EasySaver rebate program.

Windex is on sale for 2 for $3.79. Combine that deal with the $1 off Windex coupon here and get two bottles of Windex for $2.79 or $1.79 -- if you print the coupon twice. (You may have to use a different Web browser.) Check out your store, too. You may be able to purchase just one bottle on Windex at $1.89, use the $1 off coupon and get it Windex for 89 cents.)

Huggies Little Swimmers are on sale for $6.99. Use the $1 off coupon on this site and get the Huggies Little Swimmers for $5.99. If you buy Huggies diapers on the same shopping trip, you'll get $2 in Register Rewards to spend on your next trip to Walgreens. (Check the store ad for details; this offer expires Sunday, June 22.)

Opti-Free contact lens solution is on sale for $7.99. Use the $1 off coupon on this site and get Opti-Free Multipurpose Disinfecting Solution for $6.99.

I'm sure there are some other great free and almost-free deals that you can find to use with the coupons here on my site. I'd love to hear about how you use these coupons.

Also, please check back on the site often. The coupons change regularly, and as you print coupons, new offers are generated for you. Each week, I'll do a roundup of the best grocery deals using these coupons.

When you see these coupons, I'd definitely click print:

  • $1.00 off Muir Glen tomatoes (I'm told you can get diced tomatoes and tomato sauce at some Wal-Mart stores for 20-24 cents a can.)
  • $5.00 off Glade Wisp Flameless candles (These normally sell for around $9.99, but Target had these on sale recently for $5.99, but with the coupon, they were just 99 cents. Watch out for sales at other stores.)
  • 65 cents off Chex mix (My favorite snack food is often buy-one-get-one-free at the drugstores and grocery stores. And some grocery stores will double this coupon, making it a very sweet deal.)

For a listing of other great coupons from, check out this link (Thanks to Heather at Freebies4Mom!) I'll be printing out the $1.oo off and $1.50 off Coffee-Mate coupons and using them at Walgreens, where Coffee-Mate is on sale for 2 for $3. I'll get two bottles of Coffee-Mate creamer for just 50 cents. (A super deal for me because I use this in my coffee every day!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Saving money the Aldi way

No matter how bad the economy gets, groceries are one expense you can't get rid of. But there are tricks to cutting your grocery bill.

I'm sure many of you (like my wife) have pretty sophisticated methods of saving money via comparison shopping, clipping coupons, watching out for sales, etc. But one simple way I've found to save money is to shop at Aldi, the discount grocery store chain.

Aldi is based in Illinois, but has stores all across the country. There are 44 just here in North Carolina. Aldi stores are smaller than traditional grocery stores and are decidedly no frills. Items are stacked in boxes, not stocked on shelves. You should bring your own bags (or grab an empty box from the shelves), as bags cost extra. And be prepared to bag your own groceries - they don't do it for you.

But the biggest difference is the almost complete lack of name-brand items. Aldi sells almost exclusively their own store brand. For example, if you need ketchup, you'll find one brand - the Aldi brand - in one size. The selection is far more limited than in a traditional grocery store.

However, the prices are generally far cheaper than you will find in your average grocery store. I have to have my orange juice in the mornings. At Aldi, I can get a carton of OJ for $1.79. That's more than $1 less than you'll pay for Tropicana or Minute Maid -- even if you catch it on sale.

But what about quality? As always, store brands aren't quite the same as name brands, but overall, I've found the Aldi brands to be quite satisfactory. I didn't care for their brand of Pop-Tarts, but just about everything else I've tried has been fine. Some items, such as their potato chips, are actually very good.

So give Aldi a shot. You may not find everything you want or need, but you will save yourself quite a bit of money.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beauty Bargains Galore from Amazon and Us Weekly

A shout out to Crystal at Money Saving Mom for passing along this great deal from and US Weekly.

For a limited time, if you buy $25 worth of merchandise from a beauty seller at, you will receive a free subscription to US Weekly magazine. Here are the terms for the Amazon beauty deal.

I do love the "celebrity news," but I like cash more and that's what makes this deal so appealing. If you don't want the free magazine subscription, you can request a refund. You'll get $19.80 back.

So that means, you can get $25 worth of beauty products for only $5.20, plus shipping and handling. If you're an Amazon Prime member, your shipping is free. To browse the products that are eligible for this promotion, visit Amazon Beauty .

Last night, I combined this deal with antoher Amazon promotion -- 4 for 3. That's four (paperback) books for the cost of three. You can access the 4-for-3 Books promotion here.

The 4-for-3 Deal also applies to magaines and home and garden items. How sweet is that?

What did I get?

I bought four mindless mysteries and a trio of Philosophy body washes.

Want to know how I sweetened these deals even more? I used $35 worth of Amazon gift certificates that I received from completing a customer-service survey and as earnings on my Visa card. So, I'll end up paying only $12.03 (including tax and shipping) for nearly $60 worth of books and beauty products from Amazon.

I'm VERY happy about that.

Now, if I could just find time for a relaxing read in a bubble bath...


Bargaining and Dealing During the Hiatus

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted.

Let's just say it's been busy in my world, so busy that I haven't had much time to spare to blog. But I'm going to do better about that from now on, I promise.

These next few weeks, I'll be posting about:

I don't know what my other-half Bruce is up to, but I hope he'll be adding some posts to the blog, too. Bruce is a great money manager, and he was raised by the tightest penny pincher I know. So, you know he has some great ideas about making your money work for you.

  • A great deal from for people like me who can't have enough cosmetics and lotions and perfumes
  • A family chore that's fun and that will save you money
  • How spending just a bit to spruce up your home can make a world of difference on your outlook and your property value
  • Making sure that money-saving deals are worth your while and fit into your lifestyle
  • How I'm working CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and other stores to Save Money
  • Some mommy essentials (these aren't what you think)
  • My favorite inexpensive getaway
  • A new series called "The Best Money I Ever Spent" about purchases that have made my life richer, easier and better
  • A new Goo Goo Giveaway -- something for the little ones this time.
  • How I organize my coupons to make sure I never miss a deal

I don't know what my other-half Bruce is up to, but I hope he'll be adding some posts to the blog, too. Bruce is a great money manager, and he was raised by the tightest penny pincher I know. So, you know he has some great ideas about making your money work for you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Goo Goo Giveaway!

In honor of Father's Day, Amy has given me the honor of picking the winner of the latest Goo Goo Giveaway.

Once again, we received a lot of great entries. I appreciate everyone who shared their embarrassing cooking story. Amy already has shared two of my grilling disasters and, sadly, she's not exaggerating. I'm not a steak fan, but it looked awful - just completely black. The ribs were even more burned, if you can believe that. So I can empathize with anyone who has ever made a mistake in the kitchen.

But as much as I wish I could give everyone a prize, we only have one BBQ fork. So the winner of this Goo Goo Giveaway is....


Anyway, I hope you enjoy this nifty grilling tool. And we'll have more contests in the weeks to come, so everyone please come back and share your stories.


Tomato Warning from the FDA - Check Yours Before Eating

If the taste doesn't do it for you, here's another argument for buying locally grown tomatoes. (Or for growing your own.)

The FDA is warning about an outbreak of salmonellosis in tomatoes -- namely romas and round red tomatoes.

The salmonella outbreak hasn't been linked to all states, so you may be safe if the tomatoes you buy are from these states and countries:

New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
West Virginia
Dominican Republic
Puerto Rico

However, to be truly safe, the FDA recommends eating only grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes with the vine still attached and homegrown tomatoes.

Homegrown tomatoes -- those are the best -- but we don't have any here yet. So, what's a tomato lover to do.

I wonder if it's safe to buy tomatoes from the local farmer's market from farmers that you know well and trust. And I guess certain heirloom tomatoes (the purpose ones) and yellow tomatoes will be safe.

I hope they announce more news on this soon because tomatoes are my absolute favorite food. It wouldn't be summer without them.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Goo Goo Giveaway -- Digital BBQ Fork for Father's Day

Welcome to the second Goo Goo Giveaway. This time, I'll be giving away something that will be perfect for dad (or hubby) for Father's Day.

Given that Father's Day is just a week away, the entry period for this giveaway is short. I'll stop taking entries at 8 p.m. Monday night. The winner will be announced first thing Tuesday morning, and I'll ship out the BBQ fork on Tuesday morning via priority mail, so it will arrive in time for Father's Day.

The ability to control fire ranks as the most important discovery/invention of mankind. But sometimes I wonder about that ability -- usually when my husband's standing in front of the grill.

The worst steak I ever ate was chargrilled -- blackened, actually, but not in that yummy Cajun way -- after my husband left it unwatched on the grill too long. Goodbye ribeye, hello carcinogens.

And then there was the time I spent all day marinating and steaming baby-back ribs. As dinner approached, my husband took the ribs to the grill to sear them.

Flash forward a few minutes, and I start smelling smoke. The ribs -- which I had slaved over all day and spent a pretty penny on -- had turned to inedible ash. Seems that the flash plate (or something like that) had moved, meaning that there was nothing between the meat and the fire.

My husband couldn't have known this would happen, but that was his second grilling strike. One more, and he's banned from the barbecue for life. Kinda like Pete Rose and baseball.

To be fair, I don't have a great track record with fire either. My mom would love to tell you all about the time I set her backsplash on fire. And in high school chemistry class, I proved that heavily lacquered bangs are combustible.

My problems with fire might be genetic. As a teenager, my dad caught the curtains in the basement on fire while flicking matches at a styrofoam cup.

I figure this notion that humans can control fire might be a myth. But with tools like the digital BBQ fork that I'm giving away, you may be able to avoid the disasters that we've had on our grill.

To enter the Goo Goo Giveaway, post a comment sharing with me your funniest cooking, grilling or fire disaster. (No injuries, please.)

I'm sorry I don't have a photo of the digital BBQ fork -- no time. But I'll describe it here.

The unit includes an interchangeable fork or prong. The digital readout tells you when you're food is done.

Good and happy grilling...and happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Free Magazine Subscriptions

If you love magazines as much as I do, you'll want to check out lowpricesubs often.

Today -- while supplies last - they're offering subscriptions to Spin and Bassmasters Magazine for free.

In our house, we like to read "the news" -- that's what we call celebrity news and gossip -- so I signed up to get Spin Magazine for free. Earlier today, I also signed up to get Woman's Day -- also free.

I think I'll pass on Bassmasters, but it would make a great Father's Day gift for some dads out there.

In addition to free magazines, lowpricesubs also has some great deal on popular magazines. Everyday with Rachael Ray, for example, is just $4 for 10 issues. Yum-O! That's a deal too tasty to pass up.

FYI, if you purchase a magazine from this site, you'll have to pay by PayPal.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Buying for a Baby - Temptations to Resist

S.B. at Be Thrifty Like Us had an interesting post recently about buying baby gear, specifically what she and her husband did right and what they did wrong when buying for their daughter, who is now 1.

I've thought about this issue a lot -- usually everytime I go into Jackson's room -- so I'd like to add my thoughts about some other things you should avoid buying when you have a baby. And I'll follow up later with our list of must-haves now that we're veteran parents of an almost 2-year-old.

If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't buy...

A big, fancy diaper bag. For my baby shower, two dear friends of mine pooled their money to buy me a fabulous -- and fabulously expensive -- Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag. It's gorgeous, but it isn't practical for everyday use. My diaper bag is still bigger than my son. It wouldn't fit under the stroller, and if I hung it from the back of our umbrella stroller, it always threatened to tip the thing over.

I do use this diaper bag to pack Jackson's things in for overnight trips. But a diaper bag isn't supposed to be luggage. It's supposed to be used every day.

I ended up buying a very simple chenille polka dot bag and using that as my diaper bag. It was no bigger than a purse, had to pokets on the outside, a small pocket on the inside and a removable cardboard bottom. (I've found that some Vera Bradley purses also have designs that lend themselves to be used as diaper bags.) I'm of the opinion that a diaper bag should be cute because you'll be carrying it instead of a purse for quite a while. And I think the bag should match the mom, not the baby. I had a boy, buy my diaper bags -- the big one and its replacement -- are very girly because that's my style. Jackson never knew the difference.

Stuffed animals. When I found out that I was pregnant, the first thing I bought for the baby was a stuffed animal. Because it was cute and soft, just the kind of thing that stoked my hormone-fueled image of what motherhood would be like. Because in our minds, it's always cooing babies being rocked by beautiful mommies in nurseries decorated with lucious linens and bunny-soft stuffed animals. Cue the lullaby.

Everyone thinks that about babies, and they'll shower you with stuffed animals and keep buying them for every occasion in your child's life. Several months back, I counted Jackson's stuffed animals and was amazed to find that he had more than 20 -- not counting the ones that are in the toy bin in the car. His room and our entire house was turning into a zoo for plush playthings.

Since that count, Jackson's grandparents, aunts, uncles, other relatives and friends have added ot the menager.

This week, Bruce and I decided -- enough. After Jackson was asleep (in our bed), we tackled the chore of cleaning up and cleaning out his room. We took some of his baby stuffies with special significance and stored them in bins with other outgrown toys. (We're saving them for Number 2 -- if we decide to have a Number 2.) We also picked through the stuffed animals -- some of which have never been played with -- and choose a few to donate to Goodwill.

We still have too many for my liking, but Jackson has his favorites and is very attached. I don't have the heart to banish Elmo or Snoopy, his mo-mos (monkeys) or even that annoying, emotially needy Learning Puppy.

Receiving blankets or any other kind. Blankets are kind of like stuffed animals. They evoke images of sweet, sleeping babies. When you see them, you want to buy them to swaddle your little one in.

Don't. Resist the temptation. Take it from someone who knows. In a house with a baby, blankets are like kudzu. They seem pretty and innocuous and even useful, but they have a way of taking over...

My mom is a crocheter, and before Jackson was even born -- heck before any of her grandchildren were even conceived -- she had a drawer full of blankets in baby blue, petal pink and "we're having a surprise" green and yellow. When I was pregnant with Jackson, she gave me several handmade baby blankets. After he was born, she gave me more.

We still have all of those blankets, and we cherish them. They are keepsakes, and I will never throw them away.

Only problem is, my mom wasn't the only one buying blankets.

I bought some because I couldn't resist the cute factor. I got some at my baby showers (all of them beautiful, I might add.) People shared their hand-me-downs. Suddenly one little boy, who doesn't much like being swaddled or covered up, had dozens of blankets. They were everywhere. In his room. In the car. In our room. In the living room. In the laundry room. In the kitchen.

Blankets are one of those baby necessities. You will need them, but you don't need to buy them. Because you will get them as gifts. In this case, it's OK to have more than you need -- because when you have a peeing, pooping baby being cared for my sleep-deprived parents who have trouble finding their own feet, much less a blanket, you're always going to need a backup.

As my son has grown from baby to toddler, I've slowly pared down his linens, stashing the extras in the attic for Number 2. (That nonexistent baby has a great headstart on a life of excess.) We have just a few special, cozy blankets in Jackson's room now.

Baby bottles. S.B. mentioned this in her post, but my reasoning is different. Her daughter was picky when it came to bottles, but Jackson's never met a nipple he didn't like. But we didn't need as many bottles as we had. Jackson nursed until he was almost 16 months old -- and by then he was drinking from a sippy cup. He would take a bottle if I wasn't around, but we never needed as many as we had in the cabinet. Two or three would have been fine for us.

Of course, this bit of advice doesn't apply to babies who are formula fed or whose mommies aren't able to stay home and nurse them. (I'm lucky to have a flexible career as a writer. Many times, I've left my computer to let Jackson refuel.)

Interestingly, now that Jackson is a toddler, we never seem to have enough sippy cups. He goes through... I don't know how many a day. Leaves them everywhere. Drips them on the carpet. On the sofa. On the bed... but I digress.

Extraneous baby-proofing gear. If you have a child, it's essential that you take proper steps to babyproof your home to protect your child from some very real and very scary dangers. But there are some baby-proofing items that you may never use or need.

Case in point -- our toilet locks. I bought two of them (or maybe three) because that's how many thrones we have in the house. I installed one of them before Jackson was even crawling, just to test it out. Only thing it proved was that we adults are idiots. My husband and I and everyone who visited us struggled to work the thing and ended up just taking it off to do their business. (And can I mention that you don't want to be messing with a toilet lock when you've really got to go.)

Interestingly, Jackson has never been very interested in throwing anything but toilet paper into the toilet. We usually keep the bathroom doors shut, so he stays out. (I know that may change as he gets older and tall enough to reach the door knobs.) But at that point, a toilet lock won't be very effective.

We also didn't use furniture corner covers. Jackson walked pretty early, and he became fleet of feet very early. I can't remember him falling once or hitting himself on the edge of a table. So, we never used the cushioned furniture corners that I bought too early in his babyhood to return by the time he was walking. (They're in a box destined for Goodwill.)

When it comes to babyproofing items, my advice is that you shouldn't buy these items on the hunch that they're be useful. Observe your baby and see what attracts his or her attention. Things like gates (especially on the stairs), plug covers and cabinet latches are essential, but you may not need all the other things you find in the safety section at Babies R Us. You'll end up wasting time and money. (Babyproofing is time consuming.)

And you may be able to find frugal or no-cost solutions that work just as well. To keep Jackson out of my jewelry armoire, I tied a scarve through the drawer pulls. To keep him out of our living room end table (our junk drawer), we removed the drawer pull, as my own parents had done decades earlier. I'm sad to report that Jackson has now figured out how to open that drawer. He delights in grabbing pens and running off with them and in wiping his bottom with neon pink Post-It notes. That's a problem I don't know how to solve.

Do you have children? If so, I'd love to hear what you'd add to the list. And if you're a mommy- or daddy-to-be, feel free to ask me if the baby gear you're planning on purchasing is really necessary.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stockpiling Can Save Time and Money

The idea of stockpiling may seem at odds with one of the tenets of frugal living -- simplicity.

To live frugally is, by definition, to live simply. The goal is to purchase only those things that you need and to fulfill only those most precious wants. It follows that if you don't buy a lot of extraneous things then you won't be emptying your bank account.

And this certainly makes sense. However, one of the best ways that I know of to save money in the long run requires me to horde certain things.

I'm talking, of course, about stockpiling -- that notion that when you see a great deal on something you use regularly that you should buy as much of that item as you can afford/use/store.

Please note my wording -- a great deal on something you use regularly. That's important. A great deal, not a good deal. Something you use regularly, not something you use every now and then.

In our family, those items that we use regularly and that we stockpile include:

  • diapers
  • baby wipes
  • toilet paper
  • paper towels
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes
  • deodorant
  • detergent
  • dishwashing and dishwasher detergent
  • Shampoo (conditioner, not so much. A bottle lasts me a long time!)
  • soap
  • cereal
  • apple juice
  • salad dressing (especially in the summertime)
  • frozen vegetables
  • frozen shrimp
  • meats
  • occasional convenience meals (for when I'm too tired to cook)
  • soft drinks (or sodas or pop to those of you living outside of the South)
  • dog food

Actually, the list could probably go on for awhile. But you get the idea.

I like to keep these items on hand, so I don't run out. Just today, I tossed out an old tube of toothpaste and ran upstairs to my toiletries stockpile to grab a new tube and a new toothbrush for myself.

That was so much easier than wrestling the empty tube for one last squeeze and then trying to remember to swing by the drug store for a replacement. And thanks to some great deals I've found at CVS and Walgreens and the Grocery Game, that toothpaste and toothbrush didn't cost me a cent. Not one cent. (If you're a super frugal shopper, you know how I did it. If not, I'm happy to share my secrets with you. Just post a comment or a question.)

Because of certain circumstances, I have stockpiles of other items, as well. These are things that I don't use as often, but I've still got a lot of them thanks to a variety of reasons. (Remember, I'm a reforming shopaholic. Also, it seems that certain items have a way of multiplying because they're such popular gifts. What woman doesn't have more candles than she can use? And my skin would have to be drier than the Sahara for me to use up all the body lotion that I've amassed.) I'll use these things as I need them or I may pass them along to friends or donate them to charity.

By keeping these items organized together, I always know what I have and what I need. Ideally, I should never run out.

Sometimes even I get fooled. For example, I thought we were stocked up on toilet paper last week, but my husband informed me that we were completely out. I'd mistaken our stockpile of paper towels for toilet paper! Ouch -- and I mean that literally and figuratively.

To remedy the TP disaster, my visiting father-in-law ran to the store to pick us up enough rolls to last us a week or so. Since then, I've stumbled on a great ExtraCare deal from CVS, so I'll be buying a bunch of 9-packs of Charmin this week. We shouldn't run out for quite a while.

Stockpiling How-To

If you're contemplating starting a stockpile, I'd love to share with you some tips on how to create and organize yours. I've found that you really don't need to devote an incredible amount of space to your stockpile (or stockpiles, if you spread them around the house, as I do.)

  1. Group like items together. That way, you know at a glance what you have and what you need. I struggle with this often -- not because of my own organizational skills but because of others who live with me. My toddler loves to get in the stockpile and rearrange things. Apparently, it's fun for almost 2-year-olds to load baby wipes, dog food and canned goods into their wagon. And my husband, bless his helpful heart -- never seems to sort things quite right on the shelves.
  2. Keep items handy. Like everyone else, my time is tight. So, I like to be able to grab something and go. I hate searching for something or having to traipse halfway across the house to get something that I need right this minute. For that reason, I keep things like cosmetics and shampoo and hairspray and body washes stockpiled on a small shelf in my closet. If I run out, it's easy for me to dash in the closest and grab something while my toddler is sitting on my bed reading or watching Curious George.
  3. Consider a second refrigerator or freezer. As I mentioned, we keep a stockpile of certain food items -- lots of frozen meats, veggies and convenience meals in the freezer. Since we live in the south, we never like to run out of cold drinks, so the second refrigerator comes in handy. Ours is in our garage, and we've only had it for a couple of months, but I couldn't live without it. I suspect it will become even more essential as my son gets older and his appetite grows. (When my brothers were teenagers, my mom had to keep her second fridge packed.)
  4. Shop your stockpile. When I find great deals on groceries, I stock up. However, I don't have room in my relatively small townhouse kitchen for all those extras. So, I repurposed an old bookshelf as a secondary pantry. It's in my garage, as well, and I keep nonperishable, pest-proof foods and household items there. (Think canned and bottled goods, toilet paper and paper towels, plastic bag and laundry and dishwashing supplies.
  5. Keep pests away. I learned this the hard way. Apparently we are -- or we were -- providing rent-free housing to a family of rodents in our garage. Before we got rid of the problem once and for all, we lost a tremendous amount of food to these vermin. They were attracted to anything sweet and anything in a box -- macaroni and cheese, cereal, rice mixes, hot chocolate in foil packs, and even Splenda. Now, we don't keep any perishable food unprotected in the garage. If I need to stockpile these items, I'll store them in the pantry in my kitchen. In the case of snacks and cereal, I keep a few items in a small plastic bin on top of the refrigerator in the garage. I only buy what will fit in there. Depending on your storage conditions, you may have to contend with ants or other insects. But there are ways to prevent these invasions.
  6. Let your stockpile guide your cooking. Every now and again, I'll find a recipe that I just have to try. But I usually plan our meals around what we have in the stockpile. Tonight, we grilled chicken (marinated in an expensive grilling sauce that I got for less than $1), a noodle side dish (bought on sale for less than $1) and some steamed frozen peas (bought on a super sale with a coupon.)
  7. Try other brands. I'm brand loyal to a few things -- Coke Zero, for example. But since I've started stockpiling and bargain shopping for basics, I've relaxed some of that brand loyalty. It is possible to stockpile only your beloved brands, but it will take longer, and you probably won't be able to keep as robust a stockpile. But if you're willing to try other brands, you'll save a lot of money. And you may discover that your brand allegiances weren't so deserved. For example, I used to use only Degree deodorant and Finesse hairspray. But since I've begun stockpiling, I've given some other brands a try and I've been pleased with the results. My pits don't stink, my hair looks great, and I have extra money in my purse. As for Coke Zero -- I always have to have some in the house, but if I find a good deal on Diet Cheerwine or Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Mountain Dew, I'll buy a few. But never Diet Pepsi. Ick!
  8. Know when to say, "Enough!" Nearly every week, I find toothpaste on sale for nothing or next to nothing (when combined with store and manufacturers' coupons and rebates). But I won't be buying any for quite a while. There are just three of us -- and Jackson doesn't have a full set of teeth yet! -- and we probably have enough toothpaste to last us the year. Even when you stockpile, you much set a threshhold of how much is enough. Your threshhold will be different from mine, and it will likely vary from product to product.

Do you stockpile? I'd love to hear your comments on how you make this budget-trimming tool work for you.

No Sweat: No-Cook Recipes to Help Beat the Heat

Yesterday it was hot, hot, hot. And today is supposed to be hotter, hotter, hotter.

97 degrees, to be exact. (One more degree, and I guess Nick and Drew Lachey would be showing up.)

When it's that hot out, I don't want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking. There's nothing fun about sweating over a hot stove. Then the whole house gets stuffy and you end up running the air conditioner at full blast to cool things down again, wasting energy and money.

So, until the heat wave passes and then a lot this summer once 90-degree temps are an everyday reality, I'll be looking for recipes that require little or no cooking.

One of my favorites is 1905 Salad, a specialty of Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida. My husband and I dined at Columbia several years ago on a business trip/vacation to Tampa, and I fell in love with the salad. So, I was tickled to find the recipe so I could replicate it at home myself.

The salad (recipe available at this link) mixes ham, swiss cheese, Spanish olives, tomatoes and Romano cheese, in a deliciously garlicky viniagrette. You can top the salad with croutons, if you like, but it's perfect without them. And what's more, this is a super-quick recipe. You won't be in the kitchen any longer than 15 minutes and you won't have many dirty dishes to wash.

Another great hot-weather meal is homemade chicken salad. (Of course, you'll have to use some leftover chicken, use canned or spring for a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at the grocery store.) I like all kinds of chicken salad -- grape and pecan, curry , cranberry -- but I also like basic chicken salad.

I don't follow a recipe, really, I just mix shredded chicken with mayonnaise (to taste), celery (sometimes) and sweet pickle relish (or chopped up sweet pickles.) And salt and pepper to taste. This is delicious atop a bed of greens or -- if you want to go old school -- pillowy soft white bread.

Some people like to add hard boiled eggs to their chicken salad, but we don't like eggs at our house. So, I would never put eggs in my chicken salad. But if you like 'em, feel free!

Real Simple magazine also has some great no cook recipes when you're looking to beat the heat and stay out of the kitchen.

As I find other no-cook recipes, I'll share them with you as the summer heats up.

In the meantime, please feel free to share your favorite no cook recipes in the comments section of this post.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Work Your Rainchecks for Maximum Savings

Since I've been using the Grocery Game to save money on our grocery bills, I've tried to schedule our weekly shopping for Sundays. But things don't always work out as I've planned.

This weekend was a perfect example. I was hit by a bad bug and spent most of Sunday in bed. So, no grocery shopping. I ended up doing my shopping on Tuesday night in advance of the new store sales on Wednesday.

Because of this, however, my stores were sold out of many of the sale items that I wanted to buy and combine with coupons. But I didn't let that deter me.

As they're ringing up your order, most cashiers will ask, "Did you find everything you were looking for today."

If the store was sold out of anything that was on sale, here's your chance to speak up. Unless the sale is advertised as "while supplies last," most stores will issue you a raincheck for the item. I've found this is particularly advantageous on items I stockpile, say toilet paper or paper towels or boxed macaroni and cheese.

I have a limited space in my home and garage where I can store these items. But a raincheck is like a virtual stockpile. (Just be careful to check the expiration date of your raincheck. Some are good only for a limited period of time.)

I got two rainchecks last night and spent one. And I even got a carton of orange juice for free.

How did that happen?

My store, Harris Teeter advertised its brand of orange juice on sale 2/$5. I'm a member of the store's e-VIC program, which sends me information about sales and specials through email. As an e-VIC member, I was eligible for an automatic $2 coupon on the orange juice, meaning I could get it for 50 cents a carton. But alas, the store did not have that brand in stock.

When I explained the problem to the manager, he told me I could pick another orange juice, and he ended up giving it to me for free. (I would have been happy to pay 50 cents for it, as I had intended. But he said he had no way to make the price adjustment, so he gave the OJ to me for free.)

This store manager really bent over backwards to provide me with excellent customer service. That's one reason I continue to shop at Harris Teeter, even though the prices are at times slightly higher than other stores in my area (but not when you're playing the Grocery Game.)

Don't be afraid to ask for rainchecks if your store is sold out of an advertised special. Most are happy to give you one.

Just last weekend, I went to CVS to redeem an email coupon for some free antibacterial wipes. The store was sold out of them, and the coupon was for a short time only -- three days. However, the cashier made a note on the coupon that will allow me to use it once the store has them back in stock.

As I've said before, it never hurts to ask for a good deal. You just might get it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Catalog Your Photos and Create a Keepsake At the Same Time

Shannon at Be Thrifty Like Us is planning to create a series of personalized photo books for her daughter.

I think it's a great idea because kids are so thrilled to read about themselves. You can put your scrapbooking skills to work and write a book about your little one' s adventures. Or you can take the high-tech approach as I did last year after we took a trip to the Land of Oz, a now-defunct amusement park in North Carolina.

I plopped Jackson and his canine companion, McCoy, right into the middle of The Wizard of Oz. (Click that link and you can read Jackson's story.)

The adults in the family loved it, and just last week, I read it to Jackson for the first time. He loved seeing himself and his doggie in a book.

I'll definitely be writing more stories about Jackson's adventures.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cherry Picking - An Inexpensive Family Outing

Several years ago, a friend was kind enough to invite me on a cherry picking picnic.

I had so much fun that I've gone back nearly every year to pick my own cherries and to enjoy the beautiful scenery. This year, I'm excited to take Jackson along with us, though I know we'll probably have a time keeping him off the ladders and out of the trees.

We always pick at Levering Orchard in Cana, Virginia, a family-owned farm that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. For the first time in years, it seems that they'll be having a bumper crop. (Sometimes the weather conspires against the cherries and if you don't pick on the first weekend, you don't get cherries.) This year, picking begins June 4.

I've found that in many cases, the pick-your-own price for cherries is cheaper than you'll find them at the grocery store.

If you live in North Carolina or Virginia, I'd recommend you make the drive to Levering Orchard. The orchard is near the Blue Ridge Parkway, so you can take a scenic drive during your outing. There are some great picnic spots along the parkway or you can have your lunch under one of the cherry trees at the orchard.

There are some great farmstands along Highway 52 leading to Cana, and we always stop to buy half-runners (my husband's favorite variety of green beans), sncks and Amish cheese.

In the past, we've combined our trip to Levering Orchard with a stop at Chateau Morrisette winery. They have a great restaurant, but I would recommend reservations. And I would recommend eating before you pick cherries. It can sometimes be dirty, sweaty work, so you may not feel like dining in a nice restaurant afterwards.

After picking cherries, we always stop at Nancy's Candy Co. because they make the best homemade fudge.

If you don't live near Levering Orchard, you can find a list of other cherry orchards and pick-your-own fruit farms online. There you'll find a state-by-state list.