Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Loss Leader Shopping

Today, I visited 3 stores. At the end of my errands, I realized I had not bought one thing that wasn't a "loss leader". Maybe you've heard that term before.. what exactly does it mean? These were items that were advertised at a very low price, in order to bring people into the store. The goal is that you will buy not just the sale item, but other items as well.

In order to take maximum advantage of these kinds of sales, you need to know what a "normal" price is, and what sales prices usually run. Reading the ads every week, or keeping a price book, will help you keep track. Once you know something is an extremely good price, don't be shy. If it's an item you use often, this is the time to STOCK UP! Make sure though, you will use what you buy before the item expires, if applicable. You don't want to have waste, that would be a frugal foul! If you have a pantry plan, use that list as a guide. Is this an item you're running short of, or will run short in the next three months? That's usually the cycle of these kinds of sales. If you think you'll need more.. you guessed it... stock up!

Today, my purchases included a whole ham, whole chickens, canned tuna (the solid kind, not chunk!), canned corn (one of two canned veggies I stock), a whole pork shoulder, and reams of paper, among other things. You can guess that my near-empty freezer is now not so empty!

Looking for more tips on saving money, doing things smarter, and having fun? Check out We Are That Family's Works for Me Wednesday Link party!

Frugal Fun: NestCams

One thing that fascinates my kids (and me!) is the variety of birds and animals on our planet. Every opportunity to observe and experience is cherished. If you're lucky enough to have a birds' nest nearby and can safely observe, that's fantastic! Unfortunately, not all of us do. So here's something we enjoy checking every spring. Nestcams! These are cameras set up in known nesting boxes for us to observe (over the internet) these wonderful birds as their young are born and get ready for their new world. Check out the just a few of the many, many sites with NestCams:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Live Owl Nest Box Cam
San Jose Peregrine Falcon Nest Cam   
Channel Islands Nest Cam (Bald eagle)

Have a favorite nest cam you'd like to share? Please post it!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Meal Planning

Less than two weeks until Spring Break! Our weather here has been gorgeous, sunny and mild. My garden is growing nicely; and I'm longing for more beds to plant. For this week's menu, I'm mostly using all our great fresh veggies from the farm. Here's my plan for the week:

Monday: Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche

Tuesday: Fried Chicken (a la Alton Brown), roasted Rutabaga spears with fresh rosemary, salad

Wednesday: Whole wheat spaghetti and meatballs. This is a good recipe to start with if you don't have one you love! I usually use ground turkey, some of my homemade crushed tomatoes/sauce, plus one 15 oz can of tomato sauce, and only one can of tomato paste. You won't miss the sugar, so I recommend you leave it out.

Thursday: Stir fried Rice, based on a recipe from Bon Appetit, modified for veggies on hand

Friday: Homemade Pizza Night

Saturday: Grill night! Grilled chicken, sauteed greens, and baked potatoes

Sunday: Ham, coleslaw, hardboiled eggs, kielbasa... still working on this menu, but it will be based on our family traditions.

What are you making this week? If you're looking for more inspiration, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Frugal Foul - Free Land

Wouldn't it be great to own a piece of land in your favorite state? What if I told you that you could OWN a piece of land anywhere, for free! Own a Piece of America promises FREE LAND in Alaska, or Hawaii, or Florida... actually any state you desire. That sounds pretty great, right? What a great birthday, anniversary, graduation, or wedding gift? Right? Let's look at the facts.

What do you get with this "free land"? You get:
  • One square INCH of land
  • A Deed to your land
  • No property taxes!

That sounds like it might be a fun gift for a coworker, your teenager, or anyone who enjoys unusual and fun gifts. What's the harm here? Well, let's look at what you get in when you own property in more than one state.

Assuming you own property in another state (your house) or other tangible personal property (ie. your car), congratulations! You've just doubled the probate costs of your estate, or the estate of the person you've gifted this "free land". Owning property in more than one state means your estate must now go through ancillary probate. Your heirs will now need to pay attorneys, accountants, and court fees in all the states in which you own property.

Supposedly, the deeds to this "free land" are "nonrecordable", meaning ancillary probate won't apply. All records are kept by the company offering this "free land". Do you believe that it will stay that way? Do you have enough information about the company to make this decision?

What about the rest of the website? Just perusing this site, if your "scam alert" isn't screaming in your head, it should be. There are numerous offers for instant upgrades and embellishments. If you want land in all 50 states, well, that will cost you between $3.95 and $49.95.

All I can recommend is, no matter how tempting it might sound, stay away!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Freebies - Kids Bowl Free ALL SUMMER!

This is a great program if you have a participating center nearby. Your kids (ages 15 and under) can get two free bowling games per day.

First, check if there are any participating bowling centers in your area. Note, according to their facebook pages, they will be adding more centers in the weeks to come, so if you don't see one nearby now, it might be added soon!

Next, sign up as follows:
  1. Select a bowling center near you.
  2. Register directly on the bowling center page (The registration is valid only at the bowling center where you register and cannot be used at any other bowling center unless otherwise noted.)
  3. Once you register, you will have the opportunity to purchase the family pass.

Note, you do NOT have to buy the family pass. Note the following though!

The second email is very important. This email does not contain coupons, but you will need to click the link confirming your subscription to our service. If you do not click the link, our system will not send your weekly coupons to you.

One thing your kids will need is bowling shoes. Check out Craigslist, Freecycle, or ebay for a used pair to help keep your costs down. Also, watch out for the snack bar and video games! Plan ahead for a great, frugal summer!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Free Elvis mp3 from Amazon

Walk a Mile in My Shoes free from Amazon. Enjoy!

Fabulous Freebie Finds!

I just have to brag about the freebies my husband picked up this past weekend.

Our city has an annual "Cleanup Campaign" as an opportunity for residents to get rid of bulky items not usually collected in the city's garbage, recycling, or green waste programs. Of course, we usually take the opportunity to see what other people consider "trash". Just in our neighborhood, here are the things my husband found:
  • a couple like-new tshirts
  • some wood to build more raised garden beds
  • a treadmill (reported working by the owner, though we still need to test it)
and the best item:
  • a nice Char-Broil grill! This even came with a stainless steel grill cleaning tool and a silicone mit. All it needs is a little cleaning and a new propane tank (already purchased for $20). As you can see, we've already put it into use!

I'm pretty excited because I've been watching Craigslist and Freecycle for a grill, but hadn't seen one in our free or close-to-free price range that didn't need significant repair. Now I can add grilled items more regularly to our menu planning as we won't need the long preparation associated with the old (and small) charcoal grill.

Thanks, hubby! <3

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Meal Planning - March 22nd

Hi everyone! Lots of fresh produce coming each Wednesday now our CSA has begun. I will continue to make my plan on Monday, though I won't find out what will be in the basket until Tuesday. I'll adjust when we get there!

Here's my plan for this week:

Monday: Sausage Rice Casserole. I've be adding some extra veggies to this to use up what's in my refrigerator, including mushrooms and peppers.

Tuesday: Monkey Meat (shredded beef) in tortillas with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and homemade guacamole.

Wednesday: My younger son's class is putting on a luncheon for the staff on this day. I'm planning to make a Pasta salad with asparagus and that's on sale for 86 cents a lb from Safeway and feta cheese. I'll make a double batch, with half for our dinner, along with a roasted chicken. Half of the chicken will be saved for another meal in the freezer.

Thursday: Salmon and greens quiche, based on this recipe, using greens from the farm.

Friday: Homemade Pizza night

Saturday: Chicken Lo Mein

Sunday: Leftovers

Plan your menus for the week! You'll be happy you did! If you need more ideas, check out orgjunkie.com's Menu Plan Monday!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Free Starbucks Pastry Tuesday morning!

Free Pastry day at Starbucks Tuesday, March 23rd, until 10:30am. Print the coupon here. You must order a beverage, so save money by ordering a regular cup of coffee or (my favorite) tea!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Freebies!

What a beautiful week it's been here in California! The sunshine has been very welcome. My garden is loving the weather!  Here are some great freebies for you!

Get your FREE travel size of Pssssst! Instant Spray Shampoo.  I'll be adding this to my emergency supplies.

For educators: Free American History DVD from The History Channel.
America The Story of US — premiering on HISTORY™ April 25 at 9pm/8c — is a six week event that provides a fascinating look at the stories of the people, events, and innovations that forged our nation. It will provide you with an unprecedented opportunity to bring our nation's history to life for your students. This 12-hour series will be supported by educational materials tied to curriculum standards and is copyright cleared for Fair Use in the classroom by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities.
* HISTORY is offering America The Story of US on DVD to every school in the United States. School must be an accredited public, private or home school, for grades K-12 and college. In order to receive your school's DVD, your school principal (grades K-12) or Dean of Students (college) should fill out the request form below. HISTORY strictly limits one request per school. DVD requests must be made prior to July 1, 2010. DVD's will be mailed around August 2010 and free shipping is included in this offer.

Free sample of Dove Daily Treatment Conditioner.

Coupon for free carton of BetterOats Oatmeal.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DIY: Make Your Own Soil Amendment with Egg Shells

Starting a garden can be an expensive proposition. Your local home center's garden area is full of great products, meant to put your garden on the path to success. Building materials, seeds, plants, compost, soil amendments, tools -- it all adds up fast. In the past I've written about starting your own seeds and making your own soil blocks. Here's another frugal idea for all you gardeners out there.

Plants need calcium to form strong cell walls. You can add calcium to your soil very inexpensively by recycling your own egg shells. Here's how I do it:

1. Save your egg shells. We keep a container on the counter for this. Broken shells are rinsed and placed in the container. Make sure there is a plenty of air available -- don't crush the shells or cover the container, or it will quickly start to smell nasty!

2. When your container is full, spread them out in a pan or on a cookie sheet, and place them in the oven at a low temperature. I recommend to do this after other baking, as your oven is already warm. I leave them in for up to 2 hours at 125 F, depending on how wet the shells are to begin.

3. When dry, place them in batches (follow the recommendations of your equipment) into your food processor, blender, or coffee grinder. Process until they are as fine as you can get -- larger chunks will break down more slowly than smaller ones.

4. Add these to your garden, especially around brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts), tomatoes, potatoes. All plants in your garden will benefit from the calcium!

5. If you're not planning to add your amendments right away, I place my ground egg shells in a well sealed ziploc bag and store in the freezer. Even though they've been dried, I like to avoid an possibility of unpleasant smells!

Here's to healthy and happy garden plants!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday Meal Planning

Whew, what a crazy week last week was. I just finished going through a huge pile of mail, email, and will be working on catching up. Time to take a deep breath! The school play is over -- it's time for other activities! My older son has three concerts upcoming. I'm working on technology budget issues and moving our garden to the next phase. I can't wait to include those veggies into our meal plans! For now, I have 9 weeks of CSA veggies coming starting this Wednesday. I'll make a plan now, though I may need to make some adjustments tomorrow when the list comes out.

Here's what we're having for dinner this week:

Monday: White Chili - I'll use chicken I saved from a whole cooked chicken then put in the freezer.

Tuesday: Beans, Rice, and Cheese Burritos with all the fixin's!

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Pork with rice and salad

Thursday: Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs

Friday:  Homemade Pizza night

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Italian Ribs and Rice

If you're looking for more meal planning or recipe ideas, check out orgjunkie.com's Meal Plan Monday.

Have a great week!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Freebies

Hi everyone!

It's been quite a busy week! My younger son's play starts tonight, for shows this weekend and next weekend. We've worked out (most) of the bugs, and are looking forward to fabulous performances!

Today I have the following freebies for you. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

137 years of Popular Science online, free!
We've partnered with Google to offer our entire 137-year archive for free browsing. Each issue appears just as it did at its original time of publication, complete with period advertisements. It's an amazing resource that beautifully encapsulates our ongoing fascination with the future, and science and technology's incredible potential to improve our lives. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Free Carly Simon Song from Amazon

10 Free sample business cards from moo.com

Free download of Alice in Wonderland
This offer is available March 3-16, 2010, to customers worldwide, courtesy of Blackstone Audio.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Science Project: Make a circuit

Our Webelos are almost done! The last activity badge we finished is Engineer. As a part of this we've made catapults and built various types of bridges. For our last project we built simple electrical circuits.

Warning! This should be a supervised activity. Take all safety precautions, including safety glasses. Use a low voltage power source. Start out by explaining the concept of an electrical circuit. This way, when building their own, they can trouble-shoot it as they understand the concepts behind what they're trying to build.

Here's how we did it.

You'll need the following items to make this circuit.

1. Cardboard rectangle, about 4" by 6"
2. 1 AA battery holder - 99 cents from Radio Shack (strip about 1/2" of wire ends, if needed)
3. 1 AA battery
4. 1 1.5V lamp - $1.49 at Radio Shack (strip about 1/2" of wire ends, if needed)
5. 2 brass fasteners
6. 1 paper clip
7. something to poke small holes in your cardboard - we used small screw drivers.
8. scotch tape


1. Lay the paper clip onto the cardboard about one inch from one of the narrow ends. With a pencil, mark the areas inside the paper clip curves. This is where you'll need to poke small holes for your brass fasteners to go through.

2. Poke holes where you've made the marks. We used small screw drivers. Place your small piece of cardboard on top of a scrap piece and push through at your marked locations. These holes should be just large enough to push the fastener through.

3. Place the battery and battery holder at the other short end of the cardboard, on the side we'll call the "front" or "top" of your circuit. We used scotch tape to hold it in place.

4. Make two holes near each battery holder end using the same method as above. The wire from each end of the battery holder should go through the hole onto the back of the cardboard.

5. Using the wire lengths on the lamp, determine a position for the lamp that's not too far away from both one of the battery holder wires and one of the holes made using the paper clip. Mark this position and make a hole in the cardboard for the lamp. Make sure it's not too big so the lamp will not pull through the cardboard.

6. Place one of the fasteners mostly through one of the holes you made using the paper clip. Holding the wire near the card, wrap the closest bare wire end from the battery holder around the base of the fastener. Open the fastener ends and spread tight to the card to maintain a good connection with the wire.

7. Place the lamp wires through the hole for the lamp. Use tape to hold the wires in place on the back of the cardboard.  Take one of the lamp wires and twist it tightly together with one of the wires from the battery holder.

8. Holding the paper clip in place, with one of it's round ends over the holes made using the paper clip as a guide, place one of the fasteners through the paper clip and the hole. On the back side of the card, wrap the other lamp wire around the fastener as close to the cardboard as possible. Spread the fastener "wings" so that it keeps a tight connection to the lamp wire.

9. Put one fastener through one of the holes. Open the ends of the fastener on the other side so that they do not touch the other fastener ends. This would short your circuit!

10. With all the parts in place, your paper clip becomes your "switch" to turn your lamp off and on. Rotate the paper clip to touch the second brass fastener, and your circuit is "closed" and your lamp should light! Rotate the paper clip so it's not touching the other brass fastener and the circuit is open -- there will be no light.

11. When all done and you're sure it's working, secure wires and the fasteners to the cardboard with tape on the "bottom" or "back" side.

Troubleshooting: If it's not operating properly, check all your connections. Make sure you make a complete "circle" to complete the circuit. Then, consider the following variations!

It works!

What would happen if you used either larger or more batteries?
What would happen if you added another lamp in parallel? In series? Used another type of lamp? How would that affect the design?

Be safe and have fun!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Meal Planning

This week is crazy. It just is! Every night this week, I'll be at the theater supporting my younger son's spring play production. His opening "night" is Saturday afternoon. That's also the same day as the Webelos graduation! So, what's for dinner???

Monday: Turkey Chili (in the freezer!)

Tuesday: Bean, rice, and cheese burritos. I made my own beans using a variation of this recipe. Instead of jalapeno, I used about 1/4 cup of roasted anaheim peppers from last summer -- now in the freezer in portions.

Wednesday: Chicken tacos. I lost where I got this recipe, but it's super easy! Put chicken breasts in the bottom of your crockpot. Add on top about 2 cups of salsa, or a mix of diced tomatoes and salsa depending on how spicy you like things. Also add a can or about 2 cups of black beans, and about 2 cups or 1 can of corn. Even in the crockpot, this will cook fast -- about 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Be careful of overcooking! I remove and shred the chicken, then add it back to the crockpot mixture. It makes great taco filling!

Thursday: Pulled pork (pork shoulder cooked in the slow cooker with a can of root beer). Served on homemade buns with salad.

Friday: Homemade pizza night (Luckily, my husband is an expert at this! The boys would really miss it!)

Saturday: Since I'll have more time in the morning, I'll put together a nice beef stew with onions, carrots, celery and potatoes. When we get back from the theater after my son's first show, dinner will be waiting!

Sunday: Leftovers, or maybe White Chili (chicken, peppers, onion, and white beans)

If you're looking for more inspiration for your menu this week, check out orgjunkie.com's Meal Planning Monday!
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