Saturday, March 29, 2008


Today was a good day for "yachting". No, we did not go on a cruise in the bay or on the lake: "yachting" is the Professor's euphemism for garage saling! Saling=sailing=yachting. His definition.

Anyway, while the guys were looking at replacement cars, I went "yachting" in one of those fancy neighborhoods. It's a huge subdivision, all brick and professional landscaping and a fancy club house with acres of tennis courts and slender brown bodies whacking balls at high speed. The kind of place where a committee decides it's time to have the annual neighborhood garage sale and they pay to have professional signs made. The place people like me just shop in, not live in. But that's fine with me; I sure would hate to have to vacuum a house like that!

I stopped at dozens of garage sales, I think, and all I bought was a children's book. I was looking for: a lawn mower, a portable crib (not really wanting a Pack and Play thing), dark green Creative Memories albums, a rice cooker, and a little car was even a possibility! There's my shopping list for the season.

ECB Fun Today

I keep telling myself I won't post so many shopping trips anymore, and then I find more incredible deals. Here's the deal of the day:

I read over at Money Saving Mom that CVS is running an April ECB deal early. The Softsoap Spa Radiant body wash will be $4.99, earn $4.99 ECB's in April, with a limit of five. It started early, and I picked up two of them today. I also used a raincheck from weeks ago, for the Gillette Mach 3 disposable razors. Regularly $8.99, it was to generate $6 ECB's. The manager had written the raincheck to bring the price down to what it would have been had I been able to earn ECB's on it; in other words, the raincheck said I was to get it for $2.99. Finally, they had them in stock today. I had a $3 coupon on the razors, as well as a $1 coupon and a 75 cent coupon on the Softsoap. I also had a $5/$15 CVS coupon, and a $3/$15 facial care coupon. After the raincheck and all the coupons came off, I owed only 53 cents. I didn't even use any ECB's! Then, my new ECB's printed off. I was expecting to get the $9.98 ECB on the Softsoap, but I also got a $5 ECB on the razors. Crazy! All I can figure is that it will be an April deal too, and it is also running early. I'm happy.

I also asked for a raincheck for the Lypsyl since my store has been out for weeks.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Treats

Easter candy 2008. Purchased April 2007. On clearance. Total cost 35 cents. Resided in freezer for the year. Now thawed and ready for enjoying. Actually, the jelly beans are new this year; free at CVS.

We won't be doing Easter baskets this year. The kids are MUCH too old now! They aren't disappointed because they know they still get the goodies; they just have to share one big bowl with everyone.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Weekly Money Savers

This week my best deals were:
3 32-oz bags frozen chicken breasts, $2.99 each, earned $3 Catalina coup at register
Jimmy Dean sausage chubs, $1.34 each after sale and coups
Reddi-Wip cream, $1.45 after sale and coup
Daisy sour cream, free after markdown and coup
8 oz Dole canned pineapple, 25 cents each after coup
2 boxes frozen vegs, 50 cents each after sale and coup
cored fresh pineapple, $2.99
16 oz bag salad greens, 89 cents after markdown and coup
Colgate toothpaste, 24 cents after sale and coup (charity)

Land o Lakes butter, $1.45 after sale and coup
Can't Believe Butter, 10 cents after sale and coup
4 boxes Birds Eye froz vegs, 50 cents ea after sale and coups
cabbage, 25 cents per lb
fresh strawberries, $1.67 per lb
Campbells cream soups, 48 cents ea after sale and coups
Uncle Bens Wild Rice, 15 cents after sale and coup

Listerine mouthwash
2 cans shaving cream
2 bags jelly beans
2 bags mm's (I use as substitute for choc chips in cookies)
OOP 54 cents
earned $9 ecb's


4 8-oz bags grated cheese
10 lb sugar
3 rolls paper towels
1 can spray starch
OOP 37 cents

Dollar General
wedding card, 50 cents

Girl Scouts
Our neighbor gave us two boxes of Girl Scout cookies. I don't know why he gives us food; maybe because he thinks our kids are too skinny?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Radically Frugal

Crystal over at Money Saving Mom asked an interesting question: "If you had to become radically frugal, what would you do?" It got me thinking about ways we could reduce our spending if we really had to. What is the minimum we could get by with? My ideas follow.

The first to go would have to be music lessons for our son. I would hate to cut this out since he plans to make music part of his career, and all the music education we can provide him is beneficial to his future career, but he would probably still do fine if we didn't pay for lessons anymore. Perhaps he could pick up the occasional lesson at his own expense. This would save about $130 a month.

Closely associated with this is music competitions. Presently, we travel out of town six to eight times a year for music competitions. This also is a huge help for his future career, and would probably set him back for awhile if we had to eliminate it, but it is not an insurmountable problem. This would save us $150 a month. Along with this is the band our son plays in. If he quit, we would save about $60 a month in gasoline in driving to band rehearsals and gigs.

Cell phones would have to be high on the list too. Cell phones for our eighteen and nineteen year olds give me peace of mind when they are out and about, especially driving alone, but I'm sure we could survive without them. Maybe I would never let the kids go out alone again! Savings: $90 a month.

We could replace the Professor's ancient mini van commuter vehicle with a little putt putt that gets much better gas mileage. That, our son estimates, would save us about $100 a month. We do plan to do this soon, anyway, whether we need to cut back on our spending or not.

Another savings in the Professor's commute costs would be to carpool with a coworker who has recently moved to a new home near us. The Professor would have immediately jumped at the chance to carpool (he has carpooled many times before), but this particular person stays at work very late nearly every night. When I say late, I mean at least 10:00 pm, and often well past midnight. That is not at all appealing to the Professor or to me. That would save maybe another $50.

Our college daughter could work really hard to find a ride to and from school (10 miles away) so I wouldn't have to take her. She did catch a ride from a classmate her freshman year, but that student moved to an apartment near campus and is not longer able to drive her. She has tried, but hasn't found anyone willing, or anyone with a similar class schedule as hers, who lives nearby. This would save $90-$100 per month.

I already walk when I can, and I combine trips when I do drive, such as stopping at Walgreens, CVS, and the grocery store when I do the school driving. But maybe I could find a place here and there to avoid driving. That might save an extra $10-$20 a month.

We could save more on our electric and gas bills if we made our home uncomfortably cold in winter and hot in summer. If we kept the house at 60 degrees in winter and didn't use AC until the house was up to 95 degrees in summer, we might save $50 to $75 in the winter months and about $100 in summer months. But I'm just guessing.

We could cut way down on grocery spending for a few months if we ate almost exclusively from our emergency stash. We have about 200 lbs of whole wheat, and about 50 lb each of oatmeal, split peas, lentils, and barley. We also have some dehydrated eggs, butter, cheese, vegetables, and a little fruit, all left from our Y2K stash. If we ate these mostly, supplementing with fresh dairy and fresh produce, and a little meat as garnish, we could probably get by with spending about $20 a week for a few months. That would save us about $200 a month on groceries.

We are already saving as much as we can on water. We have been in a severe drought here for several years, and the entire metro area has been on water restrictions for two years. Our restrictions are too complicated to go into here, but basically we are not allowed to use water outside, and we are to reduce our water usage overall by 10% minimum. Our family has always been careful about not running the water needlessly, such as when toothbrushing, and running the dishwasher and washing machine only when full. Also, years ago we instituted what we call "military showers". We did this not to save water, but to ration out the hot water. We had the problem of running out of hot water by the third shower if each one of us took a standard shower, one right after the other. That left the last two people in the family taking cold showers. So, military-style, we run the water only to get wet, then, with water off, we soap up. Water on again to rinse, then water off to lather the hair. Water on again to rinse the hair, water off to shave legs (as needed ~ obviously not for the males!) The final rinse, then you're out of the shower. I can promise you that such a shower is no fun in the winter when the bathroom is cold. There is no pleasure as great as shaving goose-bumpy legs! Anyway, looking for more ways to save water beyond what we were already doing, I came up with the idea of putting a 5-gallon bucket in each shower. When we turn on the shower, we collect the cold water in the bucket as we wait for the hot water to arrive from the water heater. In the hall bath, about 2 gallons collect before it gets hot. In the master bath, far from the water heater, 4 gallons collect. At first, in the summer, we were watering our dehydrated shrubs with this water. In the winter, when the shrubs don't need water, we started using it to flush the toilet. We had previously started living by that little poem that tells you when to flush, the one about mellowing. That helped our water usage somewhat, but doing the bucket flush REALLY helped our water usage. Now, when it's time to flush, we empty the shower bucket in and down it all goes! Our water usage has been cut in half. We were amazed. But, sadly, our water bill wasn't cut in half. These measures already save us $20 a month.

We could also save some money on household expenditures if needed. We could cut out the lawn and garden fertilizers and weed control chemicals, the little I spend on scrapbooking, our one magazine subscription, film developing, and any replacement items we buy new. I think this would average about $50 a month. Our personal care items and home cleaning supplies and paper goods are already no cost by CVSing.

The total so far is about $1000 a month we could save in expenditures if we had to.

We could eliminate the extra we're paying on our mortgage, but if we decided to become radically frugal, it would most likely be so that we could pay even more, not less, on our mortgage to get it paid off even sooner.

Another area is our "extra" tithe. It is not an option to stop our tithe altogether, but the extra, the "above and beyond" could stop if necessary. The only reason we would do that would be in the event of unemployment.

We could also stop adding to our savings account if we needed to, since we have our six month emergency fund in place. In the most radical scenario, we could also stop our 401k, but to do so would be very short-sighted. All these "others" could save us a couple of thousand, but we would only do them in the event of unemployment.

Areas we can't reduce further:
  • We live in a modest home and our mortgage is amazingly low.
  • Our landline and DSL are as low as possible. The Professor is required to have DSL at home for his job.
  • We presently have the least expensive trash collection company.
  • Our auto insurance might drop a bit with a different car, but not by much.
  • Our monthly set-aside for auto maintenance isn't really enough to cover the repairs we have been needing.
  • We don't go out to eat, or spend on any other entertainment.
  • We almost never buy clothes.
  • Our medical, dental, vision, and life insurance are free with the Professor's employer.
  • We can't eliminate the $50 in monthly prescriptions the Professor needs.
  • College tuition is free since our college student is in-state and maintains a B average. Her brother will join her in the fall and will have the same tuition deal. They pay for their own books and supplies and auto insurance.
  • I cut everyone's hair but my own. No one in the family will cut mine, so I get it professionally cut, although I go as long as possible before getting it cut.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

CVS Gets Better and Better

So, this evening I went to CVS to "spend" some big ecb's I had. I took my time and looked on every shelf and every aisle. Here is what I chose:
Oster 10-speed blender, $29.99
small hammer for the kitchen, $8.39
4 Dove Body Wash, $3.99 each
2 Lypsyl lip gloss $2.99 each
Total: $63 and change

I paid with:
$4/$20 CVS coupon
$5/$15 CVS coupon
$3/$15 CVS beauty coupon
2 $2 off Dove coupons
2 $1 off Dove coupons
$2 special ecb
$25 special ecb
$15 regular ecb

I EARNED $10.98 in ecb's
And the blender has a $10 REBATE

Rainy Day Bread

Today is a good bread baking day, with torrents of rain coming down outside my window, and my need to thump on the dough a good bit. Our son-in-law was in a motorcycle accident on Sunday. He required emergency surgery that evening to piece his shattered kneecap back together. Yesterday he had surgery again, this time to put his wrist back together with a titanium plate. He was up walking (!) soon after each surgery but it was excruciatingly painful. He will be recovering for several weeks, unable to negotiate stairs, yet they live in a second-floor apartment. We have invited them to recover at our home since we live in a ranch.
Thump! Thump! Thump! This is barley-oat-rye bread. I ground the grains in my mill just before making the dough.
Ready to rise. My oven has a bread dough setting and it is very handy, not only for bread dough, but for making yogurt and souring sourdough starter too.All that is left after our supper of White Chili and multi grain bread.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Green Day

We like to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with the traditional corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. And a green desert. This year I made Key Lime Pie, but I put it in a chocolate crumb crust instead of a graham cracker crumb crust. I wouldn't recommend it.
A little leprechaun or gremlin-guy I made a few years ago. He and his identical twin usually join our St. Patrick's Day table.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Twin Egg

Look what David got for supper tonight! I have never seen two yolks in one egg before, have you?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Adding to My Collection

I found a cute dish at the thrift store yesterday to add to my collection of children's dishes. This is a type used years ago to keep a child's meal warm. Mom added warm water inside, through one of the holes in the rim.

I can't imagine that the dish is very practical. At any moment a toddler may fling his dish from his high chair tray, smashing the ceramic dish and sending food bits flying across the kitchen. And hot water? Certainly today the child welfare crew would be in the house in an instant, demanding to inspect such a child head to toe. But the dish is still cute. More than $1.48 worth of cute.

May 2008: I spied a child's bowl very similar to this at an antique shop. It was not nearly as nice; the picture was badly worn, and it was priced at $30. A note said from the 1940's. I am very pleased with my find!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sheet Transformation

The ladies' group at church had their annual Souper Supper last night. This year I volunteered to host a table, providing all the plates, bowls, silverware, table linens, and centerpiece for a table for eight. I decided to use my china since ladies usually appreciate it. My china is as old as our marriage, meaning it is looking a little dated compared to 20-somethings' tableware. But I still like it. It has a tiny daisy border in faint greens and yellows, as well as a silver rim. With that in mind, I created a centerpiece of multiple clear glass vases on a wrought iron tray, filled with yellow daisies and greens. The one part that stumped me, momentarily, was a tablecloth. The round tables at church are more than six feet in diameter; who owns a tablecloth that large? Not me! I don't like plastic tablecloths (cloth is the key word here). Maybe a sheet? A large sheet?

Off to the thrift store I went, with tape measure in hand. A king size flat sheet should be just about right. The very few sheets on the rack surprised me, but I found a creamy white one with a woven-in stripe. I cut a circle as large as I could, hemmed it, pressed it, and we were good to go.Here I have scribed a quarter circle on the folded sheet. It's very easy to do using a tape measure and pencil.

I would love to show you a picture of my completed table, but I forgot my camera. Sorry!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hats Off to Kroger!

I just returned home from Kroger, where I bought all of the pictured groceries. I spent just $14.91 on all this stuff!! How did I do it? Coupons and clearances. It also helped that they honored their price guarantee on the one item that rang up full price even though it was on sale. So:
Braeburn apples (my favorite!) 99 cents lb
1 lb cheese $3.29
10 lb chicken quarters $4.90
strawberries $1.88
bread 99 cents
2 Hunt's tomatoes 79 cents ea, 35 cent coupon on two, doubled (net 44 cents ea)
And now the good stuff:
Colgate 99 cents ea, $1 coupon on ea
4 boxes Honey Bunches of Oats on sale $1.99, $2 coupon on each (for charity)
3 cartons sour cream 59 cents ea
1 gallon milk $1.50
3 six-packs yogurt cups $1.29 ea, $1 coupon on ea (net 29 cents ea)
2 bottles vitamins BOGO, brought them down to about $3 ea, $3 coupon on ea
One bottle of vitamins rang up full price, so Customer Service refunded me the full price on it even though I had already used my $3 coupon.
I also had a $4/$40 coupon from the entertainment book, which I of course used first.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Scooping Up the Deals

I finally got my Walgreens gift card for buying rebate items. Now I can start rolling the dollars. This week I bought:
2 2-packs Olay soap, $4, used 2 $2 coupons, earned $4 Register Rewards, FREE plus overage (I bought all the remaining bars my store had)
3 Olay Body Wash, 3/$10, 2 $2 coupons, earned $4 Register Rewards
2 cans Blue Diamond almonds, $3.30, 75-cent coupon, net $1.27 each
Mr Clean Magic Erasers, $1.99, 50-cent coupon
Angel Soft tissue 12-pack, 3/$8, 3 50-cent coupons, net $2.16 each

By paying with coupons, Register Rewards and my gift card, all this cost me nothing.

On to CVS:
I helped out my daughter by using $4 ecb's that she couldn't use before they expired:
2 bottles Pert Plus, $3.99, used BOGO coupon (for charity)
Johnsons bath buddies soap, 99 cents, used $1 coupon (for daughter)
30 cents OOP

I had two $5/$15 CVS coupons I wanted to use, but all the CVS stores were out of the free ecb items by Sunday. On Tuesday I found:
2 Colgate, $2.99 ea, earn $2.99 ecb's ea, used $1 coupon and 75 cent coupon
CVS vitamin C, $2.99, earn $2.99 ecb's
Hylands Calms, $6.19, earn $3 ecb's
Used $5/$15 CVS coupon, $1.75 mfr coupons, $7 ecb's, $1.50 rebate money
10 cents OOP

Later in the week, after CVS had received new shipments, I bought:
Venus Embrace razor, $9.99, used $4 coupon, earned $6 ecb's
Caress body wash, $3.99, used 70 cent coupon
Johnson's Bath Buddies soap, 99 cents, used $1 coupon
threw in a 13 cent pencil as filler
Used $5/$15 CVS coupon, $5.70 mfr coupons, $4 ecb's
78 cents OOP

At Target I happened to find a special deal:
Buy 2 bundles of IrishSpring Body Wash (2 bottles in each bundle), $4.95 each bundle, earn a $5 Target gift card, I used 2 $1 coupons
$8.16 OOP
Then I used the $5 gift card on:
Splenda marked down to $6.04, used 75 cent coupon
Honey Bunches of Oats, marked down to $2.14, used $2 coupon (for charity)
60 cents OOP

For my $1 charity spending this week, besides the Pert shampoo and Honey Bunches of Oats, I added the Publix mystery coupon item (brownie mix) and a can of corn on sale BOGO. My total OOP for charity was $1, but the value of the items I bought was $15.55. I think that is excellent multiplication of my money.

Altogether, I spent $10.50 in cash including tax, I earned $18.98 in Register Rewards and ECB's that I haven't spent yet, and the value of the items I bought was $112.96 not including tax. I am truly amazed. (This photo does not include the last CVS purchase of a Venus razor, Caress, one Bath Buddies soap, and filler pencil.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Scrapbooking 2005

I finished our 2005 scrapbook! This one took so long because I was stuck on one or two pages for several years. I finally had to tell myself that the exact shade of paper, or the perfect decorative element really didn't matter all that much. The important thing was to get the book finished before I forgot the details. And in book-form, the family can now enjoy reliving the memories.

I still have a few little details to complete, but nothing all that important.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Finger Salad

I found an acceptable way to use up the undesirable ends of romaine lettuce.

Turn it into finger food and let the family dip the pieces in creamy dressing. It was a hit in our house.