Monday, June 30, 2008


Yeah, this frugal blogger doesn't have a budget. We live pretty reasonably, and can pay our bills. We invest a decent amount, though not as much as I'd like. Until a few years ago, we were always in the black. Then I quit working, we had a kid, we finished our basement, we tore out all of our upstairs walls, we had another kid, Stewart lost his job, our first kid started at a pricey preschool, and now we've got some debt on our equity line.

I'm not sure how much detail I'm going to feel comfortable sharing on-line yet. Maybe all of it, maybe very little. I'll hash it out in my head in the days to come. Suffice to say the debt's pretty big, though neither of us are worried. Stewart has his main job back, plus side-work. I've got my eBay. Plus July is Nate's last month of pricey preschool, and cheapie preschool starts up in September. That'll help tremendously.

So we've decided to be more careful about our daily purchases and to spend a full month tracking everything we spend. I'm starting June 30th and we'll go through July. I'm going to use the Dave Ramsey Monthly Accounting chart to track everything, but we are not going to be using the envelope system. We put every single thing possible on our credit card which puts 2% into Nate's college fund. It really adds up.

If we look back at what we spend in this month and we're overspending, we'll use a modified envelope system to get us back in check: keep a notebook with us and when we make a purchase, subtract the amount spent from the appropriate category. When the allotted balance reaches zero we stop spending in that category. This will allow us to keep buying on the credit card and getting the benefits and still keep us in check.

Any good budget tips out there? What's worked best for you?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

CVS weekly deals - June 29th

Here's what's to come this week (monthly deals not included):

  • Weekly items:

    • CVS aftershaves (limit 5). Pay $2.59, get $1 ECB back. Use the $2/CVS skincare coupon to make this a money-maker. You can print the coupon as many times as you like. I believe this deal is only good through Monday 6/30.

    • Crest toothpaste (limit 1). Pay $1.99, get $1 ECB. Use the $1/Crest coupon from the 6/2 P&G insert to make this a freebie. This deal is only good through Monday 6/30.

    • Clairol Natural Instincts (limit 1). Pay $5.99, get $1 ECB back. Use the $4/coupon from the 6/1 P&G insert to make the net cost $.99! This deal is only good through Monday 6/30.

    • Bic Soleil deal (limit 4 items (two razors and two cartridge packs)) - Buy the razor and a 4-pack of cartridges at $6.99 each, earn 5 ECBs. Use TWO $4/coupons from the 6/22 Smart Source. Net cost of $1 for both items together. This sale is also a July ECB sale, so you can do it all through July.

    • Huggies Lotion or Wash 15 oz (limit 5) - buy each for $3.49, get $2 ECBs. Use the $1/coupon from the 6/22 Smart Source insert. Net cost of $.49 each!

    • Accu-Check Compact Plus Diabetes Kit (limit 1) - buy for $9.99, get $9.99 ECBs. Freebie!

    • Physicians Formula mascara (limit 1) - buy each for $7.99, get $7.99 ECBs. Freebie!

Last week's meal plan

Tried out a few new ones last week:

Monday was a Spanish Tortilla.

I was a little wary of how simple it was, seasoning-wise, but it was very subtle and very good. I think it would be a great way to use up leftovers, and a kind-of fancy "breakfast for dinner." I didn't skin the potatoes (more work, less nutrition). Leftovers were even good cold (with a little ketchup, I admit.)

Tuesday was another new one: Bulgur with Apricots and Almonds. This was the first recipe that I thought was pretty disappointing - it was bland and boring. But I'm still very glad I made it because I really liked the texture and taste of the bulgur wheat, and I plan on using it again, albeit with another recipe.

Wednesday is "friend day" and Dave was over as usual. He brought along a kale salad and re-did the bulgur salad by sauteeing my block of tofu with some asian sauce and adding the bulger to it. Totally saved the recipe.

Thursday I re-made the Roasted Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad. Somehow it wasn't as good as the first time; maybe because I used canned corn. Still very good and very nutritious.

Friday and weekend were "catch as catch can" with leftovers and Trader Joes meals.

This next week will be a little odd - I'm throwing down a "use what's in your pantry" challenge. Wackiness ensues.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

CVS weekly deals - June 22nd

Not a whole lot of deals for me this week, but free is always good.

Soyjoy bars are on sale for a buck, and when you buy 4 you get 4 ECBs. I bought 20 on my account and 20 on Stewart's. I've heard they're pretty terrible, but Nate liked it just fine. Yay for healthy free snacks!

The vitamins are B0G0, and I had two coupons for $2/off. Found Vitamin C for $5.39, so I paid $.70 for each bottle (only one is shown because I gave one to a friend).

The Colgate is on sale for $2.99 and each is generating 2 ECBs. I had 5 coupons for $1/off from a recent Sunday insert.

I had a few $3/15 coupons leftover and decided to try one at the self-checkout. It went through just fine!

Merchandise cost: $60.34

ECBs generated: $50
Coupons used: $12

Net cost: Earned $1.66!

A challenge: shop in your pantry!

This week's meal plan is set, but here's what I plan to do for next week: shop out of my pantry and let it guide the meal plan. I hope to use up every odd can, strange jar of sauce, and frozen thing that's been there for long enough that I know I'm not going to use it otherwise.

I've pared down those items in the past few months, and donated anything I know for sure we won't be using. Here's what's left to work with:

Two jars of BBQ sauce
2/3 box of lasagne noodles
A jar of alfredo sauce
Two cans of refried beans
Block of tofu
Two packages of cream cheese
Beef broth & chicken broth
Tomato juice
Frozen salmon
Chicken burgers
Morningstar Farms veggie crumbles (meat substitute)

Got any good ideas for this mess? Send 'em along!

Monday, June 23, 2008

CVS weekly deals - June 15th

This was a fun deal.

Oral-B CrossAction Power Toothbrushes were on sale from $8.99 to $5.99 (replacement heads, too). Each toothbrush generates 3 ECBs. One of the recent newspaper inserts had coupons for buy one, get one free.


Four toothbrushes @ $5.99 each ($23.96)
Four replacement packs @ $5.99 each ($23.96)
Subtotal cost: $47.92

Used four BOGO (buy one, get one) coupons
Subtotal cost: $23.96
ECBs generated: $24

I did have to pay sales tax on these, so my net cost on all 8 was $1.52.

Icing on the cake: at the bottom of my receipt from buying the toothbrushes was a coupon for $2/Almay products. The Almay one-coat mascara this week was on-sale for $6.99 and is generating $5 ECBs, so with the coupon it was free. My favorite word!

Dabbling in Walgreens again

Had a not-so-great experience when I first tried to "do the deals" at Walgreens (the $20 in Register Rewards didn't print out; had to send in a form to have them mailed to me). I just received my gift card from the Free After Rebate items from a few months ago, and my $20 in Register Rewards actually showed up, so I thought I'd give it one more try.

See here for Money Saving Mom's explanation of how to work Walgreens.

The cereal was on sale 3/$7, with $2 RRs printing out (they didn't actually print out, but a manger intervened and put the two bucks on my gift card). I had a manufacturer coupon for $1/2 boxes, so the total cost for the cereal was $1.33 per box.

The rest of the items were free after rebate, so my net cost for everything shown is just the $4!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Meal plan from last week

We were out of town all weekend, so I only made three meals this week. All three were new ones, but I don't have any photos to share. The burritos were too boring to photograph and we skedaddled out of town too soon to take pictures of the salad.

Monday & Tuesday we had Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos. The recipe makes 12 very big burritos and they were absolutely delicious. We all loved them, and will certainly make them again. The best part is that they can be frozen and then reheated individually.

Mashing the beans into the sweet potatoes cuts the overwhelming sweetness of that much potato, and adds tons of fiber and protein. I used four medium-large sweet potatoes, poked holes, wrapped them in tin foil, and threw them in the oven for about an hour at 350. They were nice and mushy when they came out, and I just mashed the beans directly into them with the rest of the ingredients. Nate loved helping to squish them all together; it kept him busy for quite a while. I'm giving this recipe 13 stars.

Wednesday I made up a new recipe: pizza burritos. I took the leftover tortillas, spread them with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Then I sauteed all of the leftover random vegetables in the fridge (mushrooms, spinach, a green pepper, and onions) and threw them on top. Sprinkled with oregano and salt, and folded them up. Stewart had them for lunch and Nate had them for two dinners. They were very good, though obviously nothing special.

What they were was a GREAT, somewhat nutritious, way to use up all of the orphaned vegetables and random shredded cheese and the pasta sauce left in the bottom of the jars. 7 stars.

Thursday I made Curried Couscous With Broccoli and Feta. After I made it, I realized it was a whole lot similar to the rice salad I love to make but with couscous as the grain. Next time I will leave out the feta - I think the flavor is too strong and it just wasn't a coherent part of the flavor of the dish. Anyway, it was great. 16 stars. Definitely going to show up again.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My first hunting trip at Target

Figured as long as I was going to Target today, I'd cash in one some of the great deals Money Saving Mom posted about for this week. We are seriously never going to need toothpaste again.

Net cost before coupons: $27.26
Net cost after coupons: $.26

Had to pay sales tax on it all, so my grand total was the $.26 plus $1.16 for a total of $1.42.

Totally worth it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Garden update

I swear the garden grows every night. It's amazing. I love coming out in the morning and seeing how it looks, and if there are any new little tomatoes, and how everything is thriving. It's such a joy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Last week's meal plan

We were away for 3 nights last week, so just a few items to review for last week:

Monday: Wheatberry Salad again. This is a good standard for us. I think I undercooked the wheatberries this time, but I kinda like the chewy texture. Nate and Stewart both liked it, but didn't love it. I love that it gets whole grains and fruit (apples and raisins) into their bodies.

Tuesday: Spinach Calzones with Blue Cheese again. We love it.

Wednesday: Soba Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables. This was the only new recipe I tried and it was pretty good. Not great, but good. I used a peeler to slide the carrots lengthwise and liked the way it looked. Nate liked it a lot, so I'm happy about that.

Definitely planning on trying some new recipe this week! Anyone have any good new ones?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

CVS weekly deals - June 9th

I know I haven't posted last week's deals yet. I'll get around to it, I promise.

Fresh from the kill at CVS this morning:

Transaction 1:

Two boxes of Cheerios - $3.34 each
Two boxes of Fiber One - $3.34 each
Two boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios - $3.34 each

Used $3/15 CVS coupon
Used (2) $1.50 off Cheerios coupons (from last week's Pamper's deal)
Used (2) $1.00 off Fiber One coupons
Used (2) $1.00 off Honey Nut Cheerios coupons

Earned 10 ECBs for buying $20 in General Mills cereal

Net cost on this transaction: Totally free.


Transaction 2:

Two Garnier Nutrisse Micro-Bead Cream Scrubs - $6.59 each
One package CVS bandaids - $1.99

Used $3/15 CVS coupon

Earned 10 ECBs on Garnier items
Earned 1.99 ECBs on bandaids

Net cost on this transaction: $.30


Transaction 3:

Three Powerades - $1.00 each
One Dove shampoo - $4.99
One Dove conditioner - Free (buy 1, get one free)
Package of two Crossaction toothbrushes - $6.99

Used $3/15 CVS coupon
Used (2) $2/Dove coupons - from the Sunday inserts
Used (3) $.75/Powerade coupons - from the Sunday inserts

Earned 6.99 ECBS on

Net cost for this transaction: Earned $1.01!


Transaction 4:

Two Nivea for Men shaving gels - $3.99 each
One Gillette Fusion razor - $9.99

Used $3/15 CVS coupon
Used $4/Gilette coupon - from the Sunday inserts
Used $4/Nivea coupon - from the Sunday inserts

Earned 5 ECBs for half of Nivea deal
Earned 4 ECBs for Gilette purchase

Net cost for this transaction: earned $1.46!


Transaction 5:

One Schick Quattro razor - $9.49
One Dove shampoo - $4.99
One Dove conditioner - Free (Buy one, get one free)

Used $3/15 CVS coupon
Used (2) $2/Dove coupons - from the Sunday inserts
Used $3/Schick coupon - from the Sunday inserts

Net cost for this transaction: $1.91


Transaction 6:

Four Nivea shave gels - $3.99 each

Used $3/15 CVS coupon
Used (2) $4/Nivea coupons - from the Sunday inserts

Earned 5 ECBs on Nivea products

Net cost for this transaction: $.59


So I got all of this:

Sales price on the merchandise: $100.54 (with sales tax included)

Net cost on the merchandise: $.33. THIRTY-THREE CENTS. AFTER SALES TAX.

CVS rocks.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Our little oasis

Until a few days ago, there was no other way to describe our backyard: it was white-trash. It was even worse before we had the back fence replaced - it was a rickety broken mess. A few weeks ago:

We've been working hard for a few weeks, and we're finally done. Here's our little oasis now:

View from the back fence, toward our house:

I do wish my boys had a big, huge, green yard to play in. But we're very lucky to have the space that we do, and I'm counting my blessings.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The (meal) week in review

Decided it might make more sense to talk about my weekly meal plan after the week is up, so I can include photos and comments about what I chose.

This past week, I only ended up doing two recipes - we ate each for two nights. I always double-up my recipes and freeze half if it's freezable or eat it for two (or three) nights if it won't freeze well. Friday night we just picked out of the fridge for dinner and weekends we tend to be going in opposite directions. For example, Stewart's photographing a wedding tonight, so he'll eat there. I'll just eat a Lean Cuisine Panini or a can of soup.


Monday and Wednesday we had Summer Rolls. I decided to practice a bit of frugality and omit the shrimp - I doubled up on the avocado and used a bit of fake crab in half. Next time I'll skip the protein altogether - it was great with just avocado and cilantro.

Tuesday and Thursday we had Roasted Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad. Oh my goodness this was good. Got lucky finding really nice ripe mangoes at the store. I'm not sure how much the dish benefitted from the roasting of the corn kernels; I might try skipping that step next time to save some time. I used half frozen corn kernels and half fresh. Truly delicious. Nate at bowl after bowl after bowl. I just can't explain how good I feel when I see him stuff healthy food down his throat!

(Emily - are you out there? I think you would love this recipe!)

Friday, June 6, 2008

A great resource

Here's a list of all of the online printable coupons out right now. Very helpful!


Speaking of hippy-dippy frugality

I like to feed the kids organic when I can, especially milk and cheese. I don't go terribly out of my way, but when the cost is reasonable I opt for organic. Thank goodness for Trader Joes and their cheapie organics!

So it's baby food time for Jack, and try to keep costs reasonable means I can either buy non-organic food or make my own organic, like I did with Nate. I happen to love "putting food up" - it makes me feel all Little House on the Prairie. So I made him the food.

It's so easy it's almost ridiculous: bake the sweet potatoes and acorn squash until mushy, puree with breastmilk. Glop onto cookie sheets in glumps, freeze, put in bags. Boil apples until mushy, rinse, repeat. Bananas are the easist: puree with breastmilk, freeze in glops. I cut up a bunch of avocados, froze in slices, and put one into his meals here and there, to cut back on the sweetness of the foods I picked.

I'm especially glad I did this because the boy is a pig. He eats food three times a day, probably about 5 ounces each feed. It's a good thing I'm learning frugality now; when these boys are teenagers I think our food bills are going to be outrageous.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hippy-dippy frugality

I read a lot of "frugality blogs" and I learn a lot, use some of it, and reject a whole heck of a lot of what they have to say. A woman today wrote about setting a timer for her showers; she's proud to have cut them down from 10 minutes to 5. She's shooting to get it down to 3 minutes. I read a lot about how and when people find time to clip coupons, how they cut their own hair at home, and how they visit four grocery stores each week to maximize the bargains.

I do have the luxury of being able to buy what I need. I try to be frugal and smart with our money, but we don't have to pinch every penny until it hurts. I know that some people are very close to the bone.

But for people somewhere in the middle, I just say this: please consider the cost of your precious time. To spend three hours making bread, which you can buy for $3, seems like a losing proposition. If you love making bread, it's worth every second. To save a couple of bucks? I won't do it.

Here's an example: my husband drinks 2 or 3 beers a night. It costs us about $15 a week. This is the ultimate in luxury purchases. That said, I'd never ask him to give it up. He works hard, spends time with his kids, and indulges very little. Let him have his beer.

It's hard, when you're trying to stay in the "frugal mindset", to remember to be sane and balanced about money. To remember that the point of it all is to create a happy, safe life for everyone; not to die with money in the bank. I tend to err a bit too much on the frugality side; my husband a little too much on the spendy side. We're lucky to have a built-in system of "checks and balances". Knowing what he's thinking makes me consider the time and money-worthiness of some of my projects; knowing that I'm going to see the credit card bill makes him do the same.

What kinds of balanced choices are you making these days? Any suggestions to share?


I wrote recently about walking to get a bunch of errands done; I do it at least 3 times a week. Today it was CVS and the bank.

Today I found a link to a site that will tell you how "walkable" your neighborhood is. My address got an 89 (out of 100).

What's your walkability score?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Massive growth.

So the Burpee order that I canceled? They refunded me, but shipped it anyway. It arrives today with a whole load of tomato seedlings inside. I'll inventory it when it comes in and figure out what the heck to do with all of these new babies! I'm excited, but I need more planters and soil (and space!).


Sunday, June 1, 2008

New CVS $3 / $15 purchase

Just sign up for a membership here:

Beacon Journal

You'll have to use a real e-mail address, but you can put in fake information for everything else.

Then click here to go directly to the add. Play around with your print options - I used the "Print Current View" option once the coupon was in the main part of my screen.

New June deals will be up soon!

CVS May wrapup

Went to CVS yesterday to get the rest of the Free After ECB items on Stewart's account.

I haven't added up the merchandise worth, but to get all of this (including toothpaste for Nate which we just needed), CVS paid me $11.70

Those days are passing, since my $5 / 15 coupons are now officially expired. It's sort of fun to look forward to figuring out new good deals in the coming days!

Meal plan - week of June 2

It's gotten hot here, so I think it's time to work some cooler meals into the mix. Tonight we'll have the Tofu Parmigiana - I prepped the tofu yesterday but we ended up going out for BBQ and eating our weight in ribs. Leftovers for lunch today Yum.

So, in no particular order, our dinners for this week:

* Shrimp summer rolls (Stewart loves these) I do my own version with shrimp, chives, cilantro, and a peanut dipping sauce. They're a little complicated to make, so it'll definitely be a "after the kids are in bed" dinner

* Soba Salad with Tofu

* Roasted Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad

I think we'll have leftovers from at least one of those meals, plus the nice weather is encouraging us to eat out in our local restaurants. I'll just plan those 3 dinners and play the rest of them by ear.