Friday, May 30, 2008

I heard a little voice calling

After I left CVS high on the thrill of my diaper deal, I realized I had about 15 minutes extra to kill before a doctor's appointment. A little voice in my head whispered to me to check out the CVS a few blocks away; I figured I could get some of the remaining Free After ECB deals for May.

When I walked in I saw a bunch of bins labeled 75% off - clearance. Usually these bins are crap, but I decided to give it a cursory look.


Round 1:

Braun ThermosScan Plus ear thermometer - $8 (retail: $44.90)
Psoriasis lotion - $2
Pens - $.50
Glue - $.50
Dry erase markers - $1.25
Four packages of Dimetapp for kids - $2
Subtotal cost: $14.25

Used $5 / CVS 15 coupon (not sure why this worked, but it did)
Used $5 random coupons peeled off of the Psoriasis lotion and the Dimetapp
Net cost: $4.78 with tax

Round 2:

Vicks ear thermometer - $10 (retail: $40 - $50)
Four packages of Sharpies - $5
Dry erase markers - $1
Subtotal cost: $16

Used $5 / 15 CVS coupon
Net cost: $11

I had wanted an ear thermometer but never could justify the cost. Now I have one to use and one to sell on eBay! Both rang up far under 75% off. Too bad there weren't more!

Does anyone have a recommendation on which thermometer I should keep?

A great site

Grocery Guide

You tell them your local store and it lists every item on sale there right now. The good part: when you click on each item you like, it will tell you where you can find a matching coupon!

Since I don't go through the coupon inserts unless I know what I'm looking for, this could be really helpful to add extra savings on top of the sale prices at the grocery store.

FINALLY kicked this diaper deal's butt

It finally occurred to me that I hadn't yet gotten the Free After ECB items on Stewart's account this month. Thusly, I headed off to one of the four local CVS stores that I frequent.

Round 1:

Package of diapers - $10.99
Freestyle Meter - $10
Subtotal cost: $20.99

Used $5 / 15 CVS coupon
Used $3 / 10 CVS coupon
Used $2 diaper coupon
ECBs generated: $10 on meter
ECBs generated: $2.50 on diapers
Net cost: EARNED $1.51

Round 2:

Package of diapers - $10.99
Freestyle Meter - $10
Subtotal cost: $20.99

Used $5 / 15 CVS coupon
Used $3 / 10 CVS coupon
Used $2 diaper coupon
ECBs generated: $10 on meter
ECBs generated: $2.50 on diapers
Net cost: EARNED $1.51

Therefore, I got this:

and CVS paid me $3.02 to walk out the door. Happy day.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lessons learned, diapers earned

So the Great Diaper Experiment at CVS was a success, despite several mistakes on my part and a few lessons learned. I didn't get them nearly as cheaply as I'd hoped, but they were still a very good deal.

Scenario 1 (two transactions, designed to maximize the $5 / $15 and the Excedrin) went mostly as planned:

Round one:

Excedrin 24 count - $1.99
1 package of diapers - $10.99
1 roll of Bounty (filler) - $2.49
Subtotal cost: $15.47

Used $2 / Excedrin coupon
Used $2 / diapers coupon
Used $5 / $15 coupon
They wouldn't take my $3 / 10 coupon.
ECBs earned: $2.50 (will print out with next transaction)

Net Cost: $3.97

Round 2:

Excedrin 24 count - $1.99
1 package of diapers - $10.99
1 People magazine (filler) - $3.99
Subtotal cost: $16.97

Used $2 / Excedrin coupon
Used $2 / diapers coupon
Used $5 / $15 coupon
They DID take my $3 / 10 coupon.
ECBs earned: $2.50

Net cost: $2.47

Scenario 2 (Designed to maximize the $4 / 20 AND the $5 / 15)

Here's where this one went wrong: The $4 / 20 was expired, and I totally didn't notice. When he pointed it out, I went to the machine and got lucky when a $3 / 10 printed out. Also, since I was buying 2 packages of diapers I figured I could use 2 coupons - nope. They specifically said one per customer. But the deal still worked out to some cheap diapers, so I went ahead with it:

Two packages of diapers - $21.98

Used $5 / 15 CVS coupon
Used $3 / 10 CVS coupon
Used $2 / diaper coupon
ECBs earned: $5

Net cost: $6.98 for two packages of diapers. Still an incredibly good deal. I'll probably try to hit this one at least once more before the week is out!

Garden progress

It is such a joy to go outside to check on the garden; it truly grows noticeably every day.

I am particularly proud of the cucumbers; they're the first vegetable I've ever grown from seed. They're doing great.





Bell peppers:

Everything is blooming and thriving. Everything except for the rosemary. Not a single seed has grown. Odd.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The joys of city living

There is no doubt that city living brings it's share of problems, and I've been it's worst critic at times.

I hate that my boys don't have a big plush green yard to run into whenever they want. I'd kill for a garage, and lots of closets and storage. My car gets broken into if I leave anything visible, and sometimes even if I don't. My neighbors drop trash on the street, on the sidewalk, in our yard; there is drinking and cursing and crappy behavior all around us. Sometimes truly reprehensible behavior - shootings and beatings and drugs.

The other side of the coin is lovely, though, and bears note.

Last night we were bbq'ing some burgers and called our neighbors to see if they wanted in. They picked up some extra food and came over; we all hung out in the backyard until 10, Nate running around and enjoying the company. Our other neighbors (David & David) often drop by with a treat they baked, and always have us over for Easter and other fabulous dinner parties.

Today I put Jack in the stroller and walked Nate 3 blocks to the coop preschool he goes to on Tuesdays and that he'll go to full-time starting in September. Then I walked Jack six blocks to the post office and mailed some eBay international packages. Then 4 blocks to CVS where I semi-rocked a diaper deal (more on that in a few days). Loaded everything into the stroller and walked 5 blocks home. Dropped everything off, walked 4 blocks to the grocery store, and got some great deals on our favorite soup. Lastly, walked the 2 blocks back to the preschool, picked up Nate, and we strolled home.

After lunch we hung out in our teeny backyard and had fun. Sometimes we walk the two blocks to the playground or get together with our friends Carol (the Mom) and Sophia (the daughter, and the love of Nate's life).

We really are so lucky.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cheap cereal!

Two days before the coupons expired, I was finally in a Giant that carried the LiveActive cereal. Cost: $3.69 / box. Coupon: $3 / off per box. Net cost of each box: $.69 (81% off).

Yay for cheap cereal!

Drat, and an intriguing deal for this week

CVS only had two 2-liters of Sierra Mist left, so I didn't get to get all 8 like I'd planned. Still, free soda is free soda.

This week looks interesting. I'm planning to try:

Playskool Diapers (never tried 'em, worth a shot), spend $20, get $5 ECBs

Two transactions (to maximize coupon usage), each one should be:

$10.99 / pack of diapers
$1.99 / Excedrin Migraine
$2.10 filler (probably the $1 Pepsi 2-liters)
Cost: $15

* $5 off $15 coupon (see earlier CVS posts for directions)
* $3 off $10 CVS Brand Purchase (get it from the scanner on each visit; I've been told this can still be combined with the $5 / $15)
* $2 off diapers here
* $2 off Excedrin here
* I'll get $5 ECBs when I've done this transaction twice, so I count $2.50 in ECBs for this transaction.

Net cost for diapers, Excedrin, and two 2-liters: $.50

We'll see if it works!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Meal plan

This week's meal plan is intended to use up leftovers that are edging towards their death in the fridge.

English muffin pizzas - I've got open tomato sauce, open mozzarella, and english muffins that my dear husband wanted me to buy and has never glanced at since.
Spinach calzones - Wednesday if the spinach will last that long!
Tofu parmigiana - didn't get to try it last week - probably Friday

I'll play the rest by ear.

Free gift card at CVS - move quick!

Move quickly and print out this add:

Free $25 gift card on new or transferred prescriptions

I'll be doing this tomorrow. Can't see the downside. I'll use that gift card to start a new "account" buying items on Stewart's Extra Care Card. I don't think it would be ethical to get 4 or 5 accounts and get the freebies on each account, but I think it's reasonable for each adult in the home to get to take advantage of the deals. And with the gift card, there'll be no "start-up" costs, which makes me happy.


CVS weekly deals - week of May 25th

Here are the deals I'll be working this week:

Free Sierra Mist, Sunday and Monday only:
* BOGO CVS offer (limit 10).
* BOGO online coupon here
* Another BOGO online coupon here (helpful since most places will only let you print 2 coupons - now you can get 4!)

I'll update more as I work them out!

CVS weekly deals - May 18 - 24th

Sorry I didn't post this ahead of time; it took me a while to get my act together this week.

I think I finally figured out why people are adding in "filler" and random items - if you can get your total up to $15 or $20, there's often a $4 off $20 or a $3 off $15 that CVS has e-mailed you or that you've picked up online. This week, and next, there is a $5 off of $15 floating around on the internet - get it here. (If that link doesn't work for you, go here for instructions. It takes about 4 minutes and you can print as many copies of the coupon as you want. Easy peasy.)

So if you have a $5 off of $15, and you have $14 in "freebie" items, just add in a $1 item to save $5!

Here are the three scenarios I used today. The first two were items I knew wouldn't be free, but I needed sunscreen for the kids and I knew I could get them at a steep discount. The third was my fun one.

Scenario 1:

Two Banana Boat Kids spray sunscreens @ $9.99 each
Subtotal cost = $19.98

Used $5 off of $15 coupon
New subtotal cost = $14.98

ECBs generated: $7

Net cost for both sunscreens = $7.98 ($3.99 each)


Scenario 2:

One Banana Boat Kids and one Banana Boat Adults (to get total over $20)
Subtotal cost = $20.48

Used $4 / $20
New subtotal cost = $16.48

Used $5 / $15
New subtotal cost = $11.48

ECBs generated: $7

Net cost for both sunscreens = $4.48 ($2.24 each)


Scenario 3:

Four Sobe Life Waters
* On sale for $1 each
* Used 2 online coupon for Buy One Get One Free
* Sobe subtotal cost: $2, ECBs generated: $2 - SUBTOTAL COST: 0

Garnier Nutrisse Conditioner
* On sale for $2.99
* Used coupon from Sunday paper for $1 off
* Garnier subtotal cost: $1.99, ECBs generated: $1 - SUBTOTAL COST: $.99

Two Oral-B Indicator Toothbrushes
* On sale for $1.99 each
* Used coupon from Sunday paper for $1 off 2
* Oral-B subtotal cost: $2.98, ECBs generated: $2 - SUBTOTAL COST: $.98

Almay Intense i-color
* On sale for $6.99
* Used coupon from Sunday paper for $1 off
* Almay subtotal cost: $5.99, ECBs generated: $5 - SUBTOTAL COST: $.99

Used a $5 / $15. Net cost for whole Scenario: earned about $1.50!!

Love getting paid to take stuff out of the store.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Meal plan

The meal plan for this week is going to be very sparse; it's a very social week for us.

Sunday - leftover crockpot lasagna. Very bland, but serviceable enough.
Monday - We're out to dinner with family (my baby sister is turning 30!)
Tuesday - I'm out to dinner with a friend. I'll let Stewart reheat something frozen or have a Trader Joe's Indian meal.
Wednesday - Dave over for dinner. I plan to re-make the Spinach Calzones since they were such a hit with Stewart.
Thursday - We're out to dinner with neighbors.
Friday - I'll probably try this recipe for Tofu Parmigiana for the first time.
Saturday - Dinner at a neighbor's house

Not too inspiring, huh?

Friday, May 16, 2008

CVS weekly deals - May 11-17th

I'm only going to focus on the truly FREE CVS weekly deals, so the weekly lists will be pretty short. There are plenty of not-free really great deals you can find and work, especially when you actually need the item you're buying. Check out Money Saving Mom (in my blog list) for the best deals and links to tons of other sites that specialize in that.

I can only find two FREE deals this week, but they're both great.

* There's a Hawaiian Tropic deal in this week's ad (page 15) generating $10 ECBs when you buy any 2 products (Limit 1). Many CVS stores have a Hawaiian Tropics lip balm priced at $1.99 - buy two for $3.98, and get $10 in ECBs! I could not find the lip balm here in Washington, DC but there are reports of them in abundance elsewhere.

* Buy 1 Colgate MaxFresh burst, Total Advanced clean, Whitening fresh toothpaste (4 oz.), Wave or Sponge Bob toothbrush at $2.99, Get $2 ECBs (Limit 5). Go here and print out the coupon on the left for $1 off a toothbrush, and the coupon on the right for $1.50 off the toothpaste. You're allowed to print each coupon twice. Go to the store and buy two toothbrushes and two toothpastes - the sale price for all four should be $11.96. After the four coupons your cost should be $6.96, and you'll receive $8 in ECBs! (Note: instead of receiving $8 ECBs, my receipt only printed out $4. I took the receipt and my items to a manager who opened up a cash register and gave me $4. I'm confident that these items matched the offer, so you should be okay.)

Here's my freebie photo for the week!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dinner recap

Tonight I made these Spinach Calzones With Blue Cheese - a recipe I found on the Cooking Light recipe pages. It was very easy to make with minimal prep work, and was a huge hit. Stewart said he'd be happy to have it for dinner every single night.

Here's a bad photo of how one turned out:

I'd estimate the cost for all four calzones to be around $12.00, so that's a relatively inexpensive dinner item. This recipe is definitely going into the rotation.

Neighborhood note: just as I was putting the calzone onto a plate for Stewart, my front door opened and my neighbor David just walked in with a homemade french baguette for us. I love this neighborhood.

Selling Out

Did you notice that I've enabled Google AdSense on this blog? Yep, I'm selling out. I am very pro-selling-out in theory, and I've decided to put it into practice.

I have two sons. Two sons who have the potential to be fairly athletic. Nate already is. Being frank, the odds are against either of my Jewish sons being professional athletes is inordinately small. That said? If either of them turn out to fabulous at some sport, and some professional league comes calling and wants to pay them millions of dollars to kick or throw or catch a ball, they're SIGNING. If they have to leave college early? They're signing. If they have to skip college altogether? They're signing. Hell, if they want to recruit my kids out of junior high, bring it on.

They can always go back to college, or high school, or grade school, or whatever. They can't always get a chance to earn millions of dollars doing something inane like jumping really high or wrestling someone else to the ground.

I'm just saying.

CVS May deals

Each month, CVS has a bunch of "free" deals. They also offer weekly deals, and I'll try to find all of the truly free ones I can find each week and post them up.

In the meantime, here are May's great monthly deals. Don't forget that if you do have coupons for any of these items, you can use them and make a PROFIT instead of just getting the items for free!

Freestyle Lite or Freedom Lite Blood Glucose Monitor (Limit 2)
You Pay $10.00
Earn $10.00 In Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks Back

CVS Allergy Relief 5 ct (Limit 3)
You Pay $3.79
Earn $3.79 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks

Aquafresh Toothpaste Including Advanced Whitening 6 oz or Extreme Clean 5.6 oz (Limit 3)
You pay $2.99
Earn $2.99 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Use $1.00 off coupons here
Make $1.50 profit in Extra Care Bucks back! Without coupons, they're just free!

Adidas Action 3 Antiperspirant 2.8 oz $4.99 (Limit 3)
You pay $4.99
Earn $4.99 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks back

Orapik Traveler Twin Pack (Limit 3)
You Pay $2.79
Earn $2.79 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks back

Tums Quik Pak 24 ct (Limit 2)
You pay $4.69
Earn $4.69 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Use $2.25 cent off coupon here
You Pay 2.44 cents
Make $2.25 profit in Extra Care Bucks

Colgate 360 Clean or Deep Clean Tooth Brush (Limit 5)
You pay $3.99
Earn $3.99 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks Back

CVS pointers

As I said before, there's no sense in my replicating the good detail work that others have done talking about getting freebies from CVS.

Here are the top pointers I've got, based on what I've experienced so far:

1) I like to have lots of small ECBs, between $2 and $6, instead of one big one for $20. To do this I do several small check-outs each time. Let's say I'm "buying" three deodorants, three toothbrushes, and three aspirins and they're all going to generate $5 each in ECBs. If I buy all three aspirins together then I'll end up with one ECB worth $15. If I buy all three aspirins and all three deodorants together, I'll end up with two ECBs worth $15 each.

BUT - if I buy one deodorant, one toothbrush, and one aspirin in my first transaction, I'll end up with three ECB coupons each worth $5. See?

2) Relevant to point one - I like to go to the CVS stores that have self-checkout. It's a lot less stressful and embarrassing to do several small check-outs and I can take my time.

3) Relevant to point two - I like to go in the evening when it's a lot less crowded and I don't have to rush around or feel like I'm holding people up.

4) I don't go to the store without a list. It's really easy to get confused without one.

5) They don't often put out the yellow sale tags on the items that are discounted, so it's helpful to pick up the monthly deal brochure (usually up front with the weekly add) and carry it around with you so you can make sure you're buying the exact right thing. The brochure has photos of each item in it.

6) I keep an envelope with my coupons, my Extra Care card, my ECBs from previous transactions, and my shopping list. Simple and easy to keep in my diaper bag in case I walk by a CVS and stop in.

7) Brandy asked about giving out my information online to get coupons. Almost every registration page will ask you to fill in your information, but there's no reason you have to tell them the truth. Usually you just have to fill in SOMETHING and then it lets you through to the page with the coupons.

8) To clarify the "free" point - you WILL have to spend out of pocket the first time you start doing this. But once you've "invested" that money, you'll be able to use the ECBs that you earn on one trip to purchase the items on your next trip, which will generate more ECBs that you'll use to purchase the items on your next trip, and so on.

9) This is NOT a CVS pointer, just a general money-saving thing I do: if there are grocery items that you buy over and over, don't forget to buy coupons on eBay or an online coupon store like The Coupon Clippers. I eat a lot of Campbell's Select Soups, so I make sure to buy a bunch of coupons every month and I usually save at least $.50/can. That absolutely adds up. I do not generally clip coupons from my Sunday paper - I don't think the time I expend is worth it. Buy buying 20 coupons for shelf-stable items that I can stock up on is definitely worth it to me.

Please let me know if you have any other questions, general or specific to the week!

Free stuff!

In April, I got these monthly deal items from CVS. The merchandise is worth $114.27 and my net cost was $2.38.

In May, I got these monthly deal items from CVS. The merchandise is worth $97.12 and my net cost was $.13. There are additional weekly deals that I got; I'll post those separately.

There are about a million blogs about how to get free, and almost free, stuff from CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. I'm not going to replicate the great posts and the work they've already done, so if you're interested in learning "the systems", check out these sites:

* Money Saving Mom (check the Beginner's links on the right)
* Be Thrifty Like Us
* Centsible Savings
* A great CVS starter guide - step-by-step instructions for May's deals

A lot of these "frugal bloggers" will do scenarios that depend on searching through old coupons from the paper, which I've decided isn't worth my time.

I will try to post the best CVS monthly and weekly deals, only items you can get for FREE, and only ones that depend on coupons you can quickly print online. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

Our garden, phase 2

Alrighty, everything is planted and fertilized and hopefully on the verge of springing to life all over. When I was planning my garden over the past few years, I found very sporadic information on doing vegetables in a container garden; mostly articles focused on potted plants and other wussie flower arrangements.

Here's how it all took shape this year:

I usually order seedlings from Burpee, but there was a problem with the order this year so I was forced to buy the standards that my local nursery had available. Next year there'll be much more interesting tomatoes to report on, I promise.

I punched holes in the bottom of each trash can and used a few inches of pebbles at the bottom to help with drainage. For soil I used an equal mix of Gardener's Gold Potting Soil and Bumper Crop Soil Amendment. It cost a bloody fortune to get all of the cans filled but I don't expect to have to replace the soil again; in future years we'll just fortify the soil with compost (hopefully homemade at some point) and the expense will be minimal.

I mixed Osmocote into the first few inches of soil in the correct proportions for the type of vegetable or herb, and used Bone Meal to keep the blossom end rot away this year.

I've crossed all the "t"s and dotted all the "i"s that I can think of, and if this garden doesn't start producing, and quickly, then you can probably find me out back stomping my feet like a little kid. If it does start producing? Come get some tomatoes. I've got a feeling we're going to be overrun.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Meal plan

Truthfully, I don't do a ton of "housewife" duties. We have a cleaning crew that comes in every other week, so you will never find me scrubbing a toilet or a shower. I do laundry and re-stock diapers and grocery shop and pay bills and straighten up and make meals and keep the children alive. Okay, I guess I do quite a bit of housewife stuff. Just no deep cleaning.

I've gotten into a routine where I spend a little time on Sunday coming up with a meal plan for the week, grocery shopping, and then prepping the food for the week as best I can. I chop up a bunch of fruits and veggies to put out with Nate's meals (or AS Nate's meal) and I chop up as much as I can for the recipes I plan to make during the week. It allows me to cook much more easily during a hectic week-day, and makes it easy for Nate to help out with the stirring and whatnot.

When I think of it, I'll post my meal plan for the week. I don't plan more than 4 meals each week because:

1) We often have leftovers that we can eat the next night (the is a BIG leftover house)
2) We sometimes decide to walk to a local restaurant for dinner
3) I occasionally just don't cook, leaving Stewart to happily heat up a Trader Joe's indian meal and feeding myself a delicious Lean Cuisine.

This week's plan:

Trader Joe's chili lime chicken burgers w/roasted potatoes (did this Monday, one of our easy favorites)
African Sweet Potato Stew (did this Tuesday for the first time, it went over very well with both the under 3 crowd and the over 40 demographic. We'll have it again tonight.)
Slow Cooker Lasagne (Maybe Thursday?)
Spinach Calzones

I'm always on the lookout for good vegetarian dinners if you have any to share!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Our garden, phase 1

I've been working towards a good vegetable container garden for years, but this year is when it all comes together. I just know it. We finally have a spigot installed in our backyard which will save much back-breaking work hauling water out from the kitchen. I invested in great quality potting soil and soil enhancers and we're set to go.

Today I finished filling all of the containers and mapping out a plan for what will go where. I planted the items that will be grown from seed (cucumbers, basil, chives, cilantro, rosemary) and tomorrow I'll go buy the plants that we'll let the garden center start for us (tomatoes and peppers).

Here's how I'm planning it. I'll take another picture when the seedlings are installed and growing!

And when I say "we"? I mean me and friend Dave. Husband has been no help at all, and I imagine he'll finally get into the game when it comes to the all-important "eat the fruits of our labor" part of the game.