Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are Coupons Worth It?

The Wall Street Journal seems to think so. I don't think I need to give you my opinion on the matter - it should be very clear from this blog what I think. The fact is that, yes, coupons take time. Most things in this life are a trade off between time and money. If you have the money, you can buy yourself some time by paying more for conveniences or hiring someone else to do the work. But, when you find yourself short on money, you have to be willing to invest your time to change that.

Last month I saved $517.94 from both sales and coupons (this month, I've alread saved $571, and the month's only half over!). I probably spend 10 hours a week clipping coupons, organizing them, checking blogs, planning shopping trips etc. (I probably spend more time on blogs than I need to, but I enjoy being part of the couponing community) That works out to be about $13 / hour. And that time spent was at home, with my kids and husband, usually watching a TV show or movie at the same time. I can't think of any other job that has the perks or the benefits of couponing. Plus, as an added bonus, there's the rush of excitement in the check out lane when you see just how low you got your total.

Right now, I really feel I have the best job in the whole world - I get to be a stay-at-home mom and a savvy saver. It's pretty much...awesome :o)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

January Budget Wrap Up

Albertsons: (2 shopping trips)

Total Shelf Cost: $148.61
I Paid: $27.44
Savings: 81%
I am SO going to miss Albertsons - the last store closed and I am SO sad *sigh*. That's one of the reasons why I didn't stay under $100 last month - I just couldn't let these deals go by because I will never see ones like them again.

Rite Aid (2 shopping trips):
Total Shelf Cost: $78.90
I Spent: $7.95
Savings: 89%

Smith's and Maceys:

Total Shelf Cost: $52.70
I Spent: $27.74
Savings: 47%

Walgreens (3 shopping trips):
Total Shelf Cost: $100.00
I Spent: $17.09
Savings: 82%

Total Shelf Cost: $16.70
I Spent: $4.20
Savings: 74%

Total Shelf Cost: $92.06
I Spent: $32.57
Savings: 64%

Walmart (2 Shopping Trips):
Total Shelf Cost: $93.85
I spent: $29.33
Savings: 68%

I did do some price matching, which is totally evil, I know, but I had to go there to pick up stuff for a Primary activity and didn't want to make any other trips, so I did it. And I only feel a little bad about it.

Buy Low:

Shelf Cost: $16.35
I Spent: $6.31
Savings: %61

Sunflower Market:

Shelf Cost: $5.14
I Spent: $3.23
Savings: 37%
(FYI - The brown bag is flax seeds)

Shelf Cost: $41.32
I Spent: $6.44
Savings: 84%

Target, Buy Low, Babies R Us (very random, I know):

Shelf Cost: $29.72

I Spent: $7.94

Savings: 73%

We also had several small trips to Smith's where we picked up bread, milk, and whole milk yogurt. I also placed an order with for some Saran Wrap, because we were all out and I knew I wasn't getting to a store in the next few days and didn't want to make a special trip.

All told, in the month of January we:

Spent $197.22 on all groceries (food, household items, diapers, toiletries, medicine etc)

Total Value of Purchases (Shelf Cost): $714.66

Saved with coupons: $284.86 (don't doubt that coupons are worth the work!)

Saved with Sales: $233.08

Savings: 72%

At the beginning of the year, one of my favorite blogs had an excel spreadsheet to download that tracks all of these numbers - you just enter a few numbers in off your receipt and it totals everything up - I love it. I not only love seeing how much I save, but it's so much fun that it keeps me on top of my receipts so that I don't lose track of how much I've spent. I used to just keep a mental tally of how much I had left to spend, but I know there were things I forgot and that adds up. So, I'm loving this new spreadsheet because it's yet another way to save money.

Eating From the Pantry Wrap Up

Well, this is where the confession comes in - I pretty much failed at my eat from the pantry challenge. I wanted to keep our grocery spending under $100, and that did not happen - not even close. In fact, I spent $197! I fell off the wagon, big time. But, I don't really feel bad about it - maybe I should, but I don't :o) I knew that it would be very difficult for me to stick to a $100 budget and I'm not really surprised that I didn't make it.

I did succeed in cleaning out the fridge and freezer quite a bit (the freezer door actually stays closed now and things don't fall out when I open it!). I managed to go from 10 bottles of salad dressing in the fridge, to 5 (and 2 of those are almost gone). I also finished off lots of other odds and ends that were taking up room in the fridge and freezer: Hoisin sauce, maraschino cherries, marinated artichoke hearts (2 half full jars - what's my problem!), lots of cheese, BBQ sauce, sweet & sour sauce, 10 lbs of clementines, cranberries...and probably some other things that I can't think of at the moment. It feels good to clear out the clutter in there. So, in that regard, the challenge wasn't a complete failure.

In that regard, this challenge was really beneficial to me in that it changed the way I meal plan. I am much more conscious of what I have on hand and need to use up. It was fun to invent recipes that used ingredients that I had on hand - I haven't been that creative in the kitchen for a while - it was refreshing. For those reason, I'm really glad I took on this challenge.

I think I'll throw up a post showing everything I bought last month, just to show that some of the deals were just too good to pass up (and maybe justify my complete lack of self control).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Our Swagbucks Booty

Search & Win

Our family has been using Swagbucks for about 9 months now and during that time, we're accumulated $100 in Amazon gift cards. With those gift cards we bought:

This Plantronics Bluetooth headset for Fred:

This Radioflyer Scooter for Hunter:

(Shhhhhhh, we're saving it for his birthday!)

And this arrived in the mail yesterday for me:

I wrote here that one kitchen gadget that I simply cannot live without is my digital probe thermometer. Well, my beloved thermometer died, on Christmas Day. Not great timing. But, luckily Ham isn't a particularly "needy" meat, and our dinner still turned out great. That day I logged into our Swagbucks account and started redeeming our Amazon gift cards. I was SO grateful that we had a bunch of these gift cards that we got completely free so that I could turn right around and get an item that I wanted.

If you're unsure what Swagbucks is, I wrote posts here and here that explain exactly what it is and why I love it so much. If you'd like to score your own Swagbuck booty, click here and you'll be able to sign up. When you sign up under me, I'll get a Swagbuck for every one that you do (up to 100). And when you've signed up, sign up all your friends and family under you so that you can get Swagbucks for every one that they earn too. It really is a win-win situation: We all get free stuff, just for searching the Internet using Swagbucks, which you probably do already.

Help for Haiti

Ok, so I feel a little weird about posting this, but with all the tremendous support for this cause in the blogging world, I feel I kinda need to. One of my favorite blogs, Money Saving Mom, has started an effort to help those devastated by the earthquake in Haiti. For every blog linked up to her Help for Haiti post, she will donate $10 to Compassion International. She has also recruited the help of 45 blogs, who in turn are donating money for every blog linked to their sites. So, by posting what our family has done to donate to those in Haiti, I will be able to link up to all their posts, multiplying the little that we were able to give.

We donated money to our church's Humanitarian Services. We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and our church runs a phenomenal Humanitarian Aid program. There are dozens of reputable organizations that are accepting donations for Haiti, but I chose to donate through our church because I know that 100% of the money they receive goes to those in need - there is NO overhead for administration costs. I know that they do a wonderful job and are guided by the spirit in their efforts. If you wish to donate to the LDS church's Humanitarian Aid fund, you can do so here.

Our donation wasn't very big, but as Crystal said, even $1 - $2 is a lot of money in Haiti. And thanks to all the wonderful bloggers out there, I can multiply our small donation by simply linking up to their sites. I encourage you to do something and check out all the blogs that will multiply your efforts. This is definitely the kind of thing that I normally just keep to myself, and I don't mean to brag about what I'm doing, I'm really just posting so that I can make our small donation stretch a little further. And beside money, we can all pray. Because above all, the people of Haiti need miracles, and miracles come through prayer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Eating from the Pantry Week 1 Wrap Up

We've been "Eating from the Pantry" for a week now, and we've barely made a dent. But, we have used up some odds and ends, and it feels good to be clearing the kitchen clutter. I'm only posting our dinners here because breakfast is usually cereal and lunch is usually leftovers or something simple, like soup and sandwiches.

Day 1 - Appetizers: home-made cream cheese & crab wontons, pigs in a blanket, cuties, celery with cream cheese, sweet pickles, cheese ball with crackers, and sparkling cider.

Pantry items used:
  • Sweet pickles
  • Cream Cheese
  • Crackers

Verdict: Yummy!!!!!

Day 2 - Southern Style Chicken Sandwiches, Frozen Onion Rings, Green Smoothies

Pantry Items used:
  • Tyson breaded chicken breasts in the freezer (gone now!)
  • Whole wheat hamburger buns in the freezer (gone now!)
  • Pickles (We have tons of pickles that I got for dirt cheap when Smith's doubled coupons)
  • Frozen Fruit (I got a bunch of Albertson's brand frozen fruit on clearance before they changes to Fresh Market)
  • Onion Rings (used half the bag)
Verdict: Nothing amazing, but they were tasty.

Day 3 - Apple Pecan Pancakes with Pumpkin Butter, Green Smoothies, Hash browns, Sausage

Pantry Items Used:
  • Krusteaz pancake mix (that I got for $.67)
  • Pecans (chopped and stored in the freezer)
  • Pumpkin butter that I made from our jack-o-lantern that we never carved
  • Frozen fruit (gone now!)
  • Jimmy Dean Sausage (that I got for $.49) (gone now!)
  • frozen shredded hash browns (gone now!)
Verdict: Yummy! And very filling - We had lots of leftovers (which we ate for lunches)

Day 4 - My version of Outback Steakhouse's Alice Springs Chicken, salad, canned pineapple

Pantry Items used:
  • Center Cut Bacon (that I got for $.75)
  • Cheese (there have been so many good cheese deals lately - we have a ton!)
  • Chicken (frozen - bought for $1.29 / lb)
  • Canned Pineapple (I bought for $.25)
  • Used some salad dressing on the salad, but we still have tons in the fridge)
  • Used leftover ham sauce from Christmas instead of making honey mustard sauce (and it tasted great - my ham sauce is pretty amazing, if I do say so myself)
  • Potatoes (they have been so cheap lately that we've been buying and using a lot of them. These I got at 10 lbs / $.99 at Albertsons)

Verdict: Soooooooooooooo good! (but not worth paying $10+ for in the restaurant when you can serve 4 for half that price)

Day 5 - Steak, Baked potatoes, roasted broccoli, cherries

O.k. so I know that it is not remotely close to cherry season, but they looked so good and I love them, so I splurged (paying $2.99 / lb - ouch!) Grant loved them too!

Pantry Items Used:
  • Chef's Request Steaks (I got these for $.98 after coupon)
  • Italian salad dressing (I used it as a marinade - 1 bottle of salad dressing down, 9 to go!)
  • Potatoes
Verdict: Good. I bought 4 packs of the Chef's Request Steak (at $.98 each) before I'd heard that they weren't very good - you can taste all the preservatives they use. But, I didn't want to waste them, so, I marinated them for 2 days and served them with crushed pecans and they actually tasted good. Not great, just good. I don't recommend this product at all.

Oh, and the cherries were delish!

Day 6 - Macaroni & Cheese with ham and Broccoli, tropical fruit

Pantry Items used:
  • Macaroni (Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta that I got for $.20 / box)
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Evaporated Milk (I got for $.24 / can)
  • Frozen Broccoli
  • Deli Ham
  • Del Monte jarred Sun Fresh fruit (I used a BOGO coupon on this, it was still a splurge at $1.50 / jar)

Verdict: Creamy, warm, and yummy! I probably wouldn't buy the fruit again though - it's really nothing special and you can get canned fruit for much cheaper. I love the Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta - it's fortified with fiber, calcium and protein, so it has some of the benefits of whole grain pasta but the taste and texture of regular semolina pasta which makes it more versatile.

I made a ton of macaroni & cheese, so we froze half. I love to make double batches of recipes and then freeze the second portion. We rarely eat out, so it's nice to have something on hand for those days that I just don't feel like cooking.

Day 7 - Spaghetti & Meatballs, peas, cherries

Pantry Items Used:
  • Spaghetti (Ronzoni Smart Taste again)
  • Ragu pasta sauce
  • Ground beef (96% lean that I got for $1.99 / lb - gotta love Smith's markdowns!)
  • Italian Blend cheese
  • Green Giant Frozen Peas
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Dried herbs

Verdict: Nothing special, but it satisfied the family's craving for spaghetti and meatballs after watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

I also made a double batch of meatballs and froze the second portion.

It has been a lot of fun challenging myself to use up what we've got, and it's nice to start making more space in the fridge and freezer. The back room and pantry are still a total mess, but hopefully by the end of the month we'll have cleared out enough that I can get in and organize it better.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eating From the Pantry (well, mostly)...

A couple of my favorite blogs initiated an "eating from the pantry challenge" for the month of January. When I first read of it, my initial reaction was "Thanks, but no thanks" and I didn't give it a second thought. Then, about a week ago I was wading through our back room. I use the term wading because that it literally what it is like - we have so much food and household supplies in our back room that I can't even begin to organize it. There is just so much stuff. It's all stuff that we use, and it's all stuff that I bought at rock bottom prices, so there's nothing to feel bad about. Plus, our church advises that each family have a year supply of food and household supplies. And we are no where close to a year's supply of food! Well, except for granola bars, we have a 2 year supply of those! So, despite not having space, I still feel the need to stock up when the price is right, after all, it's what the Prophet has counseled. *sigh* But, I have finally come to terms with the fact that our little house simply cannot hold a year supply of food and our family - it's one or the other and we've got no where else to go, so the food it is.

So, I decided to follow my blogging leaders on their culinary adventure. Now that doesn't mean that we are going to strictly live off of what's in our house - I plan on buying fresh produce and dairy this month and that's about it. I will probably succumb to some rock bottom deals and venture outside of the basics, but, the bottom line is that I want to keep our grocery bill under $100 this month.

My biggest goal this month is to use up a lot of the odds and ends we have around here (like the 10 open bottles of different salad dressings in the fridge - I'm not joking!). I've come up with a menu plan for the first 2 weeks and things are looking pretty good so far (no mustard and pickle sandwiches ;) Here's the menu for the first 2 weeks (some we've already made):

Meals already made:

Appetizers (not really part of the challenge, but we grazed on yummy appetizers on New Years Day)
Steak with Baked potatoes (using my $.98 Chef's Request Steaks) and roasted broccoli
Apple Pecan pancakes with pumpkin butter and green smoothies
Macaroni & Cheese with ham and broccoli
Southern Style Chicken Sandwiches
My version of Outback Steak House's Alice Springs Chicken

Coming up:
My version of the Olive Garden Tuscana soup (in the freezer) with sourdough bread (that I will make myself if I ever remember to buy cheesecloth!)
Lemon chicken stir fry with rice noodles
Chicken fingers (with crushed up potato chips) and onion rings
Chicken Poppy seed pasta salad (Not really a winter dish, but I gotta use the salad dressing)
The Best Pot Roast
Spaghetti & Meatballs (Fred's request after watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs last night)
French Toast with pumpkin butter (I made a lot of pumpkin butter!)
Cafe Rio sweet pork salad (I have the pork in the freezer leftover from the last time)
Beef Stroganoff

Really, looking at what we have on hand, we could do this eating from the pantry challenge for 2 months before it really begins to stretch us too far. But, I don't want our stockpile to get too low - I'd hate to actually have to pay full price for things. *gasp* Really, the only reason it's possible to live (and eat well) on $100 this month is because I have a lot of food on hand, thanks to some serious couponing. Without coupons $100 would leave us eating a lot of beans and rice. I am so thankful for all the wonderful coupon blogs out there that have helped me save so much money! I've been hard core couponing for almost a year now and it has really paid off. Our family has gone from spending $400 / month for all groceries (food, toiletries, cleaning, diapers etc) and having no food storage. To spending $200 / month for everything and having a size-able food storage. What a blessing!

Sorry for that tangent...back to the point of this post: eating from the pantry - I'm excited for this challenge and the creativity it will take to use up some of the things we have around here. Hopefully I'll stop being a slacker and post some of the recipes over on my other blog (No, there's nothing wrong with your eyes, it really has been 5 months since I've posted). I'm especially looking forward to clearing out some space around here so that I can get my stockpile more organized. Yes, this is going to be good for me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We wish you a very Merry Christmas from our family to yours. We hope that you feel of the peace and hope that the Savior brings into the world, we certainly do. It has been a wonderful year for our family. It has been full of challenges and trials, for sure. But, overcoming those trials has made us closer as a family and to the Lord. We are all healthy and well, which is huge considering this time last year, we weren't sure how Grant's heart was doing. And we are so grateful that he's doing well. Fred's applying to Law School and we're anxious to see where we end up next fall. Amber's loves being a coupon-clipping, deal-seeking, stay-at-home-mom. Hunter is learning to read and Grant is perfecting his demolition abilities. All in all, we feel so very blessed and grateful for everything the Lord has blessed us with, material and immaterial.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Albertson's Doubles and Rite Aid deals

It has been forever since I've posted pictures of my grocery deals. It's not that I haven't been shopping, or that I haven't been getting deals, or even that I haven't taken pictures - I've done all these things, I just haven't posted them. But, I was so jazzed about the Albertson's double coupons in this Sunday's paper and the deals that I got with them, that I just had to share:
(4 cans corn, 4 cans green beans, 5lbs oranges, 2 lbs cheese, 2 packages of sausage, 1 package of salami, 1 tub of butter)

I paid: $7.20

Original cost: $61.41

Savings: $54.21

Keep in mind that Albertson's prices are inflated, but no matter where you're from, $7 for all that is a steal! Now if you're looking at this, and wondering if we're all going to have heart attacks in the next week (with the butter, sausage, cheese, salami), don't worry. Most of this stuff will be consumed over the next couple of months. I don't shop like most people - most people go to the store and buy what they need for that week (or so). I mostly buy things that are on sale at rock bottom prices and stock up on those things. That way I have enough to last until the next time they go on sale. Then I essentially shop and meal plan from my food storage and I rarely have to pay full price for anything. It really is a beautiful system.

I also went to Rite Aid this morning too:

(24 double rolls of toilet paper, 1 pack of Huggies, 1 box Triaminic, 1 bottle of Tylenol, 1 pack of gum, 1 bottle of water, 1 reusable shopping bag and 1 pack of gum)

I paid: $12.42

Original cost: $50.22

I saved: $37.88

It's kind of weird walking away from Rite Aid actually having to pay for things - usually everything I get is free. But, it's hard to get toilet paper and diapers for free. So, I just had to settle for a really great deal. We now have about a 9month supply of Toilet paper. I really need to just stop buying it - but it's hard to pass up such good deals on great quality TP (it ended up being $.16 / roll, which is right about my target price). I had free coupons for the gum, water bottle, and bag - I received them in the mail from Rite Aid. And what's great is that this is my 5th pack of Huggies from Rite Aid this quarter, so I now qualify for a voucher for a free pack! I love buying diapers at Rite Aid. Most weeks they have several free after rebate items (sometimes even money makers) and when I buy a pack of diapers too, I can usually get my total up to $25 to use my $5 / $25 coupon. Since everything else I'm getting is free, the $5 is essentially goes toward the diapers, which makes them a great deal. And then when you buy 5, you get the 6th free. So, I end up spending about $15 for 6 packs of Huggies, which is pretty darn awesome!

Things have been very quite around here lately...

We've been busy and I've thrown most of my blogging energy into keeping up my kids' blog (since it doubles as their journal). So, if you want to know what we've been up to and you don't have access to my kids blog (it's private), just send me your e-mail address and I'll get ya on the list. I don't mind sharing the blog with people I know, I just don't want everyone to be able to see it. So, please let me know if you want to be able to access it. :o)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown Review

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown was very similar to his other Robert Langdon books (Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code). A race against time, a psychotic pursuer, hidden codes, architectural symbolism... these three books all have a very similar "formula". Which made this book a little predictable. There were still plenty of "Aha!" and "Ooooh, that's what that means" and "hmmmmm, very interesting" moments, but I do wish the story line was a little more surprising.

I've been sick the last few days and this book was the perfect companion as I laid on the couch wrapped up in a blanket. I read it pretty quickly - in just 2 days - it was hard to put down :o) I definitely recommend it.

The book was plenty exciting and I enjoyed all of the discussion of symbolism found in our capitol (I'm sure there is already a "Lost Symbol" tour of Washington D.C in the works). The discussion of the Masonic culture was interesting - especially their belief that we have the ability to become like God and that the Bible is a treasure trove of knowledge (both of things spiritual and things temporal). It's discussion of Noetic Science has sparked my curiosity and I'm definitely going to look into it more (does thoughts really have mass, does the human spirit really have mass, can you really visualize healing power...)- SO interesting! It's always fun to read his books, because he usually does hit on some gospel truths (which is always nice to see in pop culture). There are definitely things that are not compatible with the gospel, which, thanks to the gift of the Holy Ghost, are very easy to discern.

Dan Brown's method of taking facts and extrapolating from them is always polarizing and it will be interesting to see what people to have say about his latest work. I haven't searched out anything yet, but I'm sure that there are already people debunking some of the claims that he makes in The Lost Symbol. But, putting that aside, it was still a great fiction book.

My Grade: A-

Fun and Easy Fall Craft

I am pretty much obsessed with Fall leaves - I absolutely love them! Last year, Hunter and I collected a bunch, only to see their colors fade and watch them dry out and fall apart. This year I had a plan...

Over the last couple weeks, Hunter and I have been collecting leaves as we've been out 'n about. Once we got them home, I heated some paraffin wax in my double boiler and we dipped the leaves in the wax. We set them on a sheet of wax paper to cool (which took all of a minute). Hunter loved helping with this - we did it every day for a couple weeks and it was all he could talk about.

The wax prevents the leaves from dying out and preserves their color. The colors do darken some - they don't stay quite as vibrant, but it still works pretty well. Here's a shot of some of our leaves:
Pretty fun huh? It is a wonderfully inexpensive fall decoration. We've got our preserved leaves spread across our mantle, and I have to say, I'm very fond of it:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fred's 28th Birthday

WOW! Am I a lame blogger or what?! I'm just really finding it hard to find time to blog. We've been up to a lot in the last month, but you certainly can't tell by looking at this blog. Rather than doing a tiresome catch up post, I'm just gonna jump back into the present and hopefully keep a better track record from here on out.

Fred's Birthday was last Friday. Hunter made a cute birthday banner for him - I helped him write out all the letters (I put down dotted lines and he traced over them with his crayons). The writing turned out a little light, so it would be hard to see in a photo, so I'm not going to post one. But, Hunter was SO proud of himself - it was very cute. In fact, even after spelling out "Happy Birthday Daddy!" he wanted to keep tracing letters, so we pulled out one of his Hooked on Phonics workbooks and did some more in there.

Friday night I surprised Fred with a night out. I arranged fro Ryan and Alexis to come over and babysit so we could go out on our own (it's been MONTHS since we've done that). I even managed to keep it a secret so it really was a surprise - which is amazing for me, I usually have a spacey moment and blow it. We went to dinner at Red Robin (he had a free burger coupon and he LOVE the bottomless fries).

Then we headed over to JCPenny. I had 2 $10 off coupons, so we split up and bought something for each other. We put a cap at $15 (only $5 after the coupon). It was a fun challenge. Although Fred was upset at me because I wouldn't allow him to use some of his birthday money to buy me a $30 skirt. He did get me a nice button up shirt - it was originally $30. And I got him a purple, black, gray and silver striped tie - it was originally $30 too. We each spent $5.33 (with tax) out of pocket - what great deals, huh?!

After our "shopping spree" (which it kind of was for us), we headed over to Payless shoe store. This was during the 50% off Oprah coupon event and Hunter needed new church shoes, so we decided to get some. We waited in line for 45 minutes! There were so many people there. We had a great time talking to everyone in line that it wasn't that bad at all. We were probably the only ones buying 1 pair of shoes - I would've loved to get more, but we just don't have the money right now.
Here's what we were able to get for less than $20 - Originally these items would've totaled over $80 wtih tax (Sorry the picture's so dark):

While it was a really simple date night, just the fact that we had a date night was SO wonderful.

On Sunday, we had a big birthday dinner as well. We invited over Jillian, Ryan and Alexis (and Maija), Mike and Alicia (and Katie & Ethan), and our neighbors Jade and David Griffith (and Ezra & Eli). Ezra was sick, so he and David didn't come, which was sad because Hunter loves Ezra. But, he had so much fun with Katie anyways. We had a big dinner with Allison's Brisket, blue cheese mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus and broccoli, salad, rolls, wassail and other drinks too. For dessert we had brownie sundaes. Fred REALLY wanted to play games with everyone, but it never happened. The kids were so crazy and with daylight savings, the kids were tired "earlier" so people had to head home before we could get out the games. We still had a great time talking and hanging out. We'll have to have a game night some other time just for Fred.
Unfortunately I didn't think about taking pictures. I did snap this one of the kids trying to grab the DVD logo on the TV as it bounced around the screen. At first it was just Maija and Ethan mesmerized by it and trying to grab it, then Katie got in on the action too.

Overall, I think Fred had a pretty good birthday. It was fun to turn the spotlight on him - he's so great a taking care of all of us that it was nice to give a special couple of days. Love ya babe! xoxo

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall in the Provo Canyon

Last Saturday, in between sessions of General Conference, we took a trip up Provo Canyon to see the leaves and play at bridal veil falls.
The trees were beautiful, as you can see:

Hunter had SO much fun playing in the waterfall. It was a none too warm day, and the water was frigid as usual, but he didn't care one bit. He splashed and leaped and stomped and climbed until the only dry part of him was his underwear (which is all he was wearing in the car ride home). It was the perfect mid-conference-day activity to get all the wiggles out. We'll have to remember that for next year, that is, if we're still around here. Next fall will be law school, and who knows where we'll be.

Review of Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim and Charles Fray

I just finished reading Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim and Charles Fray and let me tell you, that's one life changing book. As a parent of a energetic and sometimes difficult 3 year old, I was looking for any and all help that I could get. My friend Kimberly said that this book helped her immensely with her preschooler, so I decided it was worth a try. The book is very enjoyable to read, provides lots of memorable examples to go along with the principles it teaches. The principles are simple but powerful. Now, I just need to break my habit of getting frustrated at every misbehavior and implement the love and logic principles. It's hard to change behavior, but I determined to do it and put love and logic to the test. I can't wait to see the results, both in Hunter and in myself. This is seriously a life changing book for parents of young children - everyone should read it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins Review

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the sequel to the Hunger Games was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. from start to finish. The story is gripping and haunting - I found myself thinking about it anytime I wasn't reading it. I wanted to pace myself and read it slowly, savoring it, but I just couldn't - I devoured it and was left with a sad, empty feeling when I was done since it is going to be so long before the sequel comes out (I felt the same way after each and every Harry Potter book too). I could go on and on about this book, but whatever I say will not do it justice - my limited literary capabilities will not ever be able to pay it proper tribute. In case you haven't read it yet - it is a must read!
Grade: A+

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Review

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a beautifully written, compelling story about a girl in WWII Germany who loses everything familiar to her as her world and the country fall apart all around her. The story is narrated by Death, which may sound morbid, but it is actually poetic and insightful. The omniscient point of view creates a very revealing portrait of humanity. I was hook from the very first sentence and loved it to the very end. In fact, while the story does come to a very complete and perfect closing, I wanted it to continue simply because I enjoyed Death's narration so much.

My Grade: A

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rockin' Rite Aid

Rite Aid's deals aren't too shabby this week either. Here's what I got:

(2 deodorant, 1 razor, 1 toothpaste, 1 box of pads, 1 Reese's)
I spent: $8.26 out of pocket
Rebates: $2.69 for the toothpaste, $5 for the razor
Bottom line: $.57
Plus, these purchases qualified me to receive $20 back from Rite Aid's Fall Gift of Savings Program. Thanks to this program, I've made $11.20 in profit shopping at Rite Aid the last couple of weeks. It doesn't get much better than being paid to shop.

Wonderful Walgreens

This week is amazing at Walgreens - there are so many free after RR and moneymaker deals. Here's what I got:

(1 chap stick, 1 toothbrush, 1 bag of cough drops, 1 bottle mousse, 1 razor, 1 bottle of lotion, 1 pack of floss picks, 2 cans almonds, 1 box Robitussin to go, 2 bottles of Emergen-C)

I spent $16.69
I received $17 in Register Rewards
Bottom line: $.31 in profit
Regular Retail: $45.05

I came out ahead $.31 "buying" all of the stuff above. Our Walgreens is a little lame in that they limit you to 2 transactions, so I had to spend a lot out of pocket since I couldn't do lots of transactions and just roll my RR from one to the next. So, now I have a ton of RR to use in the next couple of weeks. Thankfully, it looks like there will be quite a few freebies and cheapies coming up, so hopefully I'll be able to keep them rolling. Our Walgreens actually limits you to 1 of each of the RR offers. Which I like, it ensures that more people get a chance to get in on the deals. It's all about sharin' the freebie love.

Super Exciting Baby Einstein DVD Deals

I found out on Saturday that Babies 'R Us and Toys 'R Us had an amazing sale on Baby Einstein DVDs - $2.50 each! The sale was ending that day and we were super busy, so busy we didn't even have time to watch the BYU Football game, but I managed to squeeze a trip to the stores. I got 12 Baby Einstein DVDs for $31.98! And we're selling 4 of them on for a profit that's going to cover the cost of the 8 that we're keeping. I was so giddy - I've wanted to buy these ever since Hunter was a baby, but we just didn't have the money. Patience really does pay off when it comes to frugality.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekly Monday Morning Shopping Trip...


(4 bottles All Small & Mighty 32 load laundry detergent, 2 10ct packages of Airborne, 2 toothbrushes, 2 Febreeze candles, 1 Thermacare wrap)

I spent: $ 13.08 (That's how much 2 bottles of the laundry detergent would've cost)

Regular Retail: $ 65.36

I had heard about a lot of great clearance finds at Walgreens, but wasn't expecting to actually find them at my store. I was so excited about the laundry detergent - they would've been a better deal if I had any All coupons, but I've used them all. Darn it! $1.79 is still a great price for this detergent. The priciest thing, by far, was the Airborne - it was a good deal, but still a good bit of money.


(4 Healthy Choice Meals, 8 bags of veggies, 2 bottles applesauce, 2 1/2 gal Lactaid milk, 3 cans coconut milk, 4 cans cream of chicken soup, 2 boxes Jell-o, 2 bottles SeasonAll, 4 packets taco seasoning, 6 bananas, 3 pears)

I spent $ 21.81

Regular Walmart Retail (which is already low): $ 43.51

I usually only go to Walmart to use coupons that will lead to free or almost free products or to use coupons that are about to expire on products I really want or need. So that's what this trip was, plus a few well priced produce items. I should've bought fewer veggies - you should've seen me trying to get them into my freezer - it was pretty comical. The Simpson's episode where Homer uses his Tetris skills to pack the car for a family trip came to my mind while I was packing, re-arranging, and shoving everything into our freezer. I sure wish we had an extra freezer - some day :o).

Rite Aid:
(2 packages of Pull-Ups, 1 package of Diapers, 1 Clean & Clear face cleanser, 1 bottle Proantinox)

I spent $ 25.15
I will receive $17 in Single Check Rebates from Rite Aid
Total, after Rebates: $8.15!!!!!

Regular Retail: $52.95
A couple of weeks ago our Rite Aid changed their hours from being open 24 hours to 8am - 12 midnight. It has made it very difficult to get there on Mondays - the only time that I have the car is before Fred goes to work (which is usually before 8). I was a little distraught this morning knowing that with the amazing diaper deal going on this week, I would probably find a lot of empty shelves by the time I finally made it to the store. And they were pretty much cleaned out of Huggies diapers (no size 3 or 4), but I was still able to get some :o)
In case your wondering the Proantinox is an ultra concentrated Cranberry drink, specifically designed to help treat UTI's. I don't really need it, but I made $3 buying it, so I figured why not. Oh, and I didn't buy Newborn size diapers because I'm pregnant, I got them because they were out of pretty much everything else and I figured that they'd make a good baby shower present some day.