Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Halloween Candy

It's . . . gone. All of it, except one little package of Sour Skittles that Milo managed to hide. I'm shocked.

Earlier this year, the husband and I had debated whether the bad economy and real estate market (meaning we're surrounded by empty houses) would mean we'd see next to no kids, because it wouldn't be worth the effort of going out, or a ton, since all you'd need would be a homemade costume. I guessed the latter would be true, but it didn't seem to be a commonly held opinion. So, I stocked up on various non-Nestle chocolate bars, and wee containers of Play-Doh, and then got nervous the day of Halloween, and bought some more stuff.

Last night, I put Milo in a Clash onesie, spiked his hair, and carved a pumpkin under his supervision. I managed a passable cat face, which I stuck over some tea lights next to the drive way. I figure that any lit-up pumpkin, no matter how crappy, is basically an 'Open' sign for trick-or-treaters. We went inside, rolled the Play-Doh containers around for a bit, and waited for kids for about an hour, with no bites. At about 6:40, he started looking tired, and decided to do something awful to his diaper at the same time a dad showed up with a small dinosaur and cowboy. I gave them a good handful of candy each, changed Milo, and gave him a nurse. On my mother's recommendation, I taped a sign over the doorbell, and put out a little bowl of candy, with instructions to take 3, since not many other houses were giving out candy.

I refilled the little bowl from a bigger bowl every ten minutes or so, and ended up meeting someone at the door every time, from parents with toddlers, to school-aged kids, to a couple of shy teenage boys, with no costumes. At 7:38, I went to check on the last bowlful of candy, and it was completely empty.

So, it looks like I was right about Halloween being popular when people are broke, and I liked the small-bowl-outside system, and would use it again. Next year, I'll get more candy, and make sure someone's aroun to take Milo out, or refill the bowl, since he'll be two then.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cheap Online Thrills

Being, in this case, things to send away for, or make a wee bit of money with. Don't get me wrong, you're not going to get rich clicking emails, and anyone who tells you otherwise has something to sell you, but there's still some fun to be had.


Sign up, choose some samples, and you'll be awash in odd magazine subscriptions and fiber supplements in no time. There are more useful samples, too, like little tubes of toothpaste, and shower gel. This is a great way to never have to buy travel-sized items again.


Yes, really. Same idea as StartSampling, run by start sampling, actually, but the selection varies, and sometimes it's possible to order the same item from both sites. When a sample page says the item is only available in stores, it means that if you want to purchase it, you need to go to a physical store, not, but you can still order the sample.


I really like this one. Sign up, receive the occasional survey email, and get neat stuff in the mail, including coupons for free products, and high-value coupons for stuff like Kelloggs cereals, and Kashi (which Kelloggs owns, shockingly enough). The little organizer I'm planning on sticking coupons in came in a FluMist promotion from Vocalpoint.


Yes, I know that free email accounts are just so 1998, and you already have one. Get another one anyway, and use it for signing up for offers from manufacturers. You don't need this stuff cluttering up your personal inbox, and it's nice having it all in one spot. I'd recommend one that lets you filter messags into various folders.


Prime example of why you need a free email account for this stuff. Sign up, click advertising emails, and get 5 or so points each. You can get points for buying from various online shops, but I suck at remembering to do this. Anyway, the email points add up fast enough, and you can redeem them for Amazon gift cards and the like. And then find out your husband spent said gift card on a garage door remote control. But anyway . . . .


Sign up, get sent products and coupons, tell people about the stuff, repeat -- and get MyPoints points for it. You do need to submit reports on what you said, and how people reacted, but it's not hard, and it's extremely friendly. Also, getting a box of makeup or candles in the mail in the middle of a derpressing week is a lot of fun.

Coupon Basics For The Harried

This one's mostly for a coworker who works full time, has a little baby, AND goes to school. If she wasn't such a sweet person, I'd suspect she was some sort of sophisticated animatronic.

Part of the reason I stopped using coupons a few years ago was because organizing and keeping track of them was a huge pain, and trying to prepare for grocery shopping could take longer than the actual shopping. No good. When I got back into couponing, I tried doing the same thing; clipping and filing coupons, and again I ended up with expired ones I'd meant to use, and hadn't, and ones that just seemed to disappear. And it still took too damn long, and required too much mental work.

Newspaper Inserts

So, now I don't clip coupons. I staple each insert down the side, sort of like a pamphlet, Sharpie the date on the front page, and stick them in a plastic three-drawer chest that was probably meant to hold scrapbooking supplies. The Red Plum and Smart Source inserts each get a drawer, and the third is for miscellaneous ones, like the ones Procter and Gamble puts out, and printed coupons. The drawers give me space to rifle through the inserts and coupons, but you could use something else if you wanted, like a plastic envelope. That would take up less space.

I follow other blogs that list deals and coupon matches, so when one says I need a coupon from the RP 8/3, I can find that insert, and find the coupon. I've been clipping each store's coupons together with clothes pins, but I just got a neat little organizer from Vocalpoint that I think would work well, since it has four sections, and I usually go to three or four stores per trip.

In case you wondering, I haven't traded or ordered coupons for years, but if you know there's a certain coupon you'll want a lot of, you might want to look into it. I buy two papers per week, since a lot of deals involve buying multiples of the same product, but if I were to find a cheap subscription, I might buy three. Two is enough, though, and works well for me.


When someone links to a printable coupon, I'll print it, then press back until I can print it again, or get a notice saying I've printed it too many times. Most coupons can be printed twice. If the link goes to a site like, I'll also see what else looks useful there, and print those off. Most printable campaigns have a limited number of prints overall, so if you see something you like, print it now. It may stop being available soon. I use black ink on fairly good paper that Milo got into, and sort of mangled. Cheap paper would work, too. If a coupon takes up a third of a page, save the rest, and use it for the same campaign, or, which prints three coupons to a page. For an unfamiliar site, use a new sheet, since you don't know where the coupon will print, and using a partial sheet might mean it gets cut off.

Electronic Coupons

I do use electronic coupons that get linked to store loyalty cards, but since I'm forgetful, I tend to put all the ones I can on my card, just in case I happen to have an unexpected need for crescent rolls or dog treats. I really need to get better at checking for these.

Other Sources For Coupons

Product samples often come with coupons, and you can find other ones in dispensers in stores (blinkies), stuck to products (peelies), or in some product packages. Help yourself to the blinkies, take one or two peelies, to save for a sale (but don't clear out all of them, that's just rude), and check inside of cereal boxes when you get them home, to see if there's a coupon you could use now.

What Coupons To Toss

I save coupons for just about everything, since some deals involve items I wouldn't have otherwise purchased. If buying an item you don't need means you save money on items you do need, do it, and give the unwanted item away. Between friends, food banks, and Freecycle, there are takers for pretty well anything. I'm trying to avoid Nestle items, which is sort of difficult, since they own so much, but I do throw out Gerber coupons, and formula ones. This is a matter of principal; it's certainly not something everyone does, or needs to. Also, I throw out pages in inserts that have offers for personalized checks on one side, and mail-order shoes on the other. It's not like saving them does most people any good.

Also, go through your coupons every once in awhile to look for expired ones.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Meal Plan

. . .Because if I don't make a plan for the veggies, they're going to get forgotten at the back of the fridge, like the bok choy from the last basket.

Chicken Broccoli Stirfry, with the chicken that was on sale at Fry's this week. I'll be skipping the bok choy in this one, for obvious reasons, and need some oyster sauce. A trip to Lee Lee's is wel overdue.

Potato Broccoli Cheese Soup. I think. If I do this, I want to try Beer Bread with it. We were talking about that recipe at work, and figured the oats and beer would be great for lactation, and adding some flax would make it even better, so if I make it, I'm going to have to make enough for the Pumping Moms, too. I might make a broccoli quiche instead, with no crust, to keep it simple. Soup sounds really appealing, but we live in the middle of the desert, so we're still seeng 110+ weather.

Pizza, with green peppers, made with the tomato sauce I opened tonight. Will either make a quick crust for this one, or try the 5-minute bread recipe I've been looking at. I'd like to have a salad with this, to use up the romaine.

Since there are only two adults (one with a really odd work schedule) and one baby here, I figure that'll do us for the week. On nights when I'm alone, I can eat leftovers, or make grilled cheese sandwiches, and stick bits of avocado in those. I can make a small, less-sauced pizza for Milo's lunches, and either send chunks of potato and cheese, or little bits of quiche. I'll pick up some frozen ravioli, too, since he's currently really enjoying that.

Will try Milo with slice of pairs, and see what he thinks. I'm not too fond of them, so if he doesn't like them, I'm giving them away. Apples can be eaten as-is, or baked, or made into apple crisp, if I'm feeling a bit ambitious. Watermelon and bananas can go into lunches, the peaches still need to ripen, and I like grapefruits, even if no one else does.

So, my grocery list for tomorrow is:

1 onion
A loaf of bread
A big thing of vanilla yogurt, for breakfasts
Oyster sauce, I hope
Shredded cheese, since it's 97 cents this week
Maybe bouillion cubes, except they're so darn salty
Frozen ravioli

Will try to get out for about $20, but will probably fail.

And everything else we need is in the house already. Neat.

Bountiful Basket, Barely Made It

As it turns out, if you have an alarm that's set to go off from M-F, it won't wake you up on Saturday. Oops. I ended up waking up at 8:36 this morning because Milo was crying, and remembered that I had a co-op fruit and veg basket to pick up at 8:30, which led to all sorts of running around, trying to find clothes. Add a rather nasty diaper to that, and I was shocked when we got to the pickup spot and there were still people there. Anyway, I ended up chatting to a woman wearing her little daughter in an Ergo carrier, because she'd asked what I had Milo in (it's a buckle tai, a mei tai carrier with buckles), and where I'd gotten in (Etsy). Apparently, she'd had a lot of people ask if her baby could breathe in there, which I've never had to deal with, since Milo is usually either babbling to people, or trying to steal their cell phones. He's not exactly an introvert.

We came home with two bags of produce, which I'll be trying to use for meals this week.

5 avocados
2 heads of broccoli
1 head of romaine lettuce
6 baking
2 big green peppers
a little bunch of radishes

3 lbs bag of gala apples
4 grapefruits
a 'personal size' watermelon
9 peaches
a big bunch of bananas (Milo ate TWO bananas last night)
4 pears

All of this cost $16.50 -- $15 for the produce, and a $1.50 handling fee. There are usually themed add-on packs too, like Italian ones with eggplant, tomatoes, and muchrooms, or Mexican, with onions, cilantro, and tomatilos. There was a tropical one a few weeks ago I really wish I'd gone for, since it ended up containing a ton of good looking fruit. Those are usually about $7.50. I did get the $15 case of cherries (18 lbs!) which I shared with coworkers and inlaws, made into pies, and ate a ton of. Would definitely do that again. With very few exceptions, the items are always in really good shape. Oh, there's an organic option some weeks, too, for $25, and bread, which is GOOD, but only available in large quantities.

All of this stuff comes from, and if you're in Arizona, Utah, or Washington, you should definitely check the site out. I'll be writing about what I do with my basket later.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cult Diapers

I just ordered two new diapers, and two new wet bags (for those of you who don't use cloth, these are reusable, waterproof bags for storing dirties in), and am feeling a bit guilty. Spent about $70 total, with shipping, which is way more than I usually spend on anything, though said all items were half price, and the materials alone are pricey. For what it's worth, all of my other diapers have seen a ton of use, and my expensive GEN-Y wetbag (also bought half price) is holding up wonderfully, while my cheaper one isn't doing so well.

Said diapers are Goodmamas, which I feel a bit odd about, since they're wildly popular, super expensive, and definitely have the brand-chic thing going. The reviews are generally good, and they're cute, but I still feel like a bit of a sell-out. If I'm going to sell out, I might as well do it at as little loss as possible, I suppose.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Coupons, Take 1

So, I went out today to try shopping with coupons. I was pretty serious about that when we lived in California, but hadn't done much since then, and figured I should start again. I'd found a list of things to look for, gone through the newspaper coupons I'd clipped, and printed some, too, after a bit of a mishap with buying the wrong ink cartridge. I had everything ready and organized, and then I got scared off by KMart.

It's not like that's never happened before -- I've never been in one that wasn't at least a little dingy and ill-stocked, but this one was a bit beyond what I was used to, even. The lights in the center section of the store (over clothing) were out, the ceiling seemed too low, and everything seemed oddly expensive, if it was there at all. When I noticed that disposable razors were in a locked case, I decided to leave. Apparently, said KMart is also haunted. Asking someone who'd worked in the area about that revealed that it was either haunted, and also frequented by homeless people, or haunted by a dead homeless person. The phone connection was a bit garbled, but I could believe either.

So, moved on from there to Big Lots, because I'd never been in one before, and found it benignly depressing, and then to Food City, which was shabby but friendly. I got a ton of tomatillos, mangos, nectarines, and bananas for about $7, which made me happy, and people stopped to look at Milo in his baby carrier. Drove to the newer, posher shopping center and found some very marked-down cashmere sweaters that I'll make into little pants to use over cloth diapers, and a couple of t-shirts and soap. I did manage to use a $10 off $50 coupon there, which was nice, and was followed by an employee who either thought I was shoplifting, or was just bad at flirting.

Did pretty well at Target, with 75% off a lot of items in the dollar section. You do the math, but that worked out to a bunch of reusable bags, and a couple of bath toys. I grabbed a vinyl duck and tugboat which light up and make noises when you either touch the little metal contacts on the bottom, or put them in water. Those were great fun until we put them in an actual bath, and the duck started sounding a little off. By the time we were halfway through lathering and rinsing, the poor duck was silent, and its light was no more. The tugboat still works, at least, and I might try another Target to look for a replacement duck. It's not like Milo's exactly old enough to ask for a Wii or iPod, so I could at least make sure his bath toys aren't too crappy.

Have looked at the deal listings for the drug stores for tomorrow, so maybe we'll do a bit better then. Chances are, we won't, but at least we'll get out for a bit.