Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Get Paid to Take Surveys

That sounds like the subject line of spam email, right? I promise you, it isn't. There are a few legitimate companies out there that pay people to take online surveys, and one of them, PineCone Research, is currently looking for new registrants.

You aren't going to get rich taking surveys. PineCone pays $3 per survey, and they send me 1 or 2 a week. That's only about $15-$20 each month, but it's worth it to me. That money might be what I use to buy a couple Kindle books, or to get a drink at Starbucks after grocery shopping.

I don't account for those little $3 checks in my monthly budget, so I let myself spend the money however I want. If you're interested in signing up with PineCone Research, click here to see if you qualify.

Monday, October 31, 2011

New Meal Monday: Chicken Parmesan

I am a firm believer that marinara sauce should be a food group all by itself. I love anything dipped, covered, or drowning in marinara. I've already mentioned my love of chicken, so chicken Parmesan is a natural way to pair the two.

I've made different variations of this dish enough times that I was able to wing it. I made it up as I went, and both J and I were thrilled with the results. I only made enough for the two of us, without leftovers, but you could obviously adjust this to fit your family.

Chicken Parmesan
-2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I bought the thin kind, but you could just pound yours to about 1/2 inch thick)
-1 egg
-1/3 cup panko bread crumbs (you could use regular bread crumbs, I just like the crunch from panko)
-1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
-1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
-1/3 cup tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a small bowl or shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, and Italian seasoning. In a separate bowl, beat egg.

Coat both sides of one chicken breast with egg and let excess drip off. Then dredge in bread crumb mixture. Place breaded chicken on a greased cookie sheet and repeat process with additional piece.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until coating is golden. Remove chicken from oven and divide sauce evenly between each piece, spreading sauce across the top of the chicken. Sprinkle half of mozzarella on each piece.

Return to oven and bake an additional 5-6 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on how melted you want your cheese. We like ours brown and almost crispy, so we left it in for about 6-7 minutes.
The cooking time for the chicken gives you the perfect opportunity to cook your pasta, or whatever you decide to make as a side.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Super Savings Saturday: The Dash In Edition

G and I ran into Safeway yesterday because I wanted to grab a gallon of milk and take advantage of the awesome candy sale they had going on. Here is what we got:
-1 gallon of fat free milk, $2.69
-4 bags of Kit Kat candy bars, on sale $2. I used 2 $1/1 coupons, which doubled to $1.50 each, making these  $5 total, or $1.25 each
-4 Nivea lip balm, $1 each with my rain check. I used 2 $1/1 coupons  which doubled to $1.50 each and 1 $3/2 coupon, making these a $2 moneymaker.
-I also used a $2 catalina (the coupon that prints at the register) from a previous purchase.

I paid: $3.69

That's an 88% savings! I guess I should dash in to Safeway more often.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Website Wednesday: Homemade Mamas

I can't remember how I found Homemade Mamas. I believe it was one of those sites that I stumbled across by clicking a link at a blog I read regularly. That link led to another, which led to another, which brought me to Homemade Mamas.

And, goodness, I'm glad it did. Homemade Mamas is pretty much just a website run by three moms who are constantly looking at the world around them and asking "could I make that myself?" They document their attempts, both the successes and the failures, for all their readers to see.

Admittedly, there are many projects on the site that I have no desire to attempt. Some because I'm happy with my store-bought version, some because the project requires too many materials, and some because their homemade version doesn't quite turn out right.

But for every one of those posts that I skimmed by, there were two more that peaked my interest. I encourage you to browse the site, because I guarantee you'll find at least one tutorial that you want to try. A few of my favorites are the fused plastic bib (if you have any other great ideas for this fused plastic, please let me know), bleach pen painting, and easy bath fizzies.

I'd suggest logging into Pinterest before you check out Homemade Mamas, because this site will make you want to pin like crazy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Meal Monday: Crash Hot Potatoes

I know, I know; this isn't a meal. Does it count that they're good enough to be? I'm sure I'm biased, because I absolutely love potatoes in any form, but these really are delicious.

Red potatoes have a nice flavor, so I appreciate that this recipe doesn't attempt to cover that flavor with butter and cream and what not (although, really, there's nothing wrong with a little butter and cream sometimes).

The other great thing about this recipe is that there is no measuring required. That's right, no hunting through your utensil drawer for that the elusive 1/4 teaspoon.

Crash Hot Potatoes
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

You will need:
-red potatoes
-olive oil
-herb of your choice (in lieu of the last three ingredients, I just used Paula Deen's house seasoning found here)

Bring a pot full of water and potatoes to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes, or until they are fork tender. The baking time on these will vary greatly depending on the size of the potatoes, so don't be surprised if it takes longer.
Remove potatoes from water and place on a cookie sheet drizzled with olive oil or coated with cooking spray. Using a potato masher, gently smash potatoes so the skin is broken and potato resembles a thick pancake.

Next, drizzle each potato with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs (or house seasoning).
Bake them at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of the potatoes get crispy and golden and crunchy-looking. Everyone has their own version of ideal-crispiness, so use your own judgement.
Mine would have been even better if I let them go a little longer, but what can I say, we were hungry.

And that's it. They couldn't be easier. Or more delicious. I do believe this is my new go-to potato recipe.

Note: be sure to click through my page to the original post. The Pioneer Woman has amazing photos and a wittiness that I can't even begin to attain. You'll likely enjoy her version of the recipe much more than mine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Super Savings Saturday: Thriftway

I rarely shop at Thriftway. They usually have a couple great weekly sales, but other than those few items, I find the quality of their produce to be inconsistent and their other prices to be too high. However, their sales ad caught my eye this week because of a few great coupons.

I wanted to buy a gallon of milk, but the $1.99 coupon stipulated that you must make a $10 minimum purchase. My goal was to leave the store having spent less than $15, so I made a short list, loaded G into the cart, and headed inside. I ended up finding a couple deals that were too good to pass up, so it worked out well. Here is what I bought:
-1 quart whole milk, $1.49 (for Griff's first dairy experience!)
-2.38 pounds of bananas at $.49/pound (with in-ad coupon), $1.17
-1 gallon Western Family skim milk, $1.99 (with in-ad coupon)
-1 hothouse tomato, .72 pounds at $.99/pound, $.71
-1.69 pounds of Fuji apples at $.79/pound, $1.34
-1 Granny Smith apple, .55 pounds at $.79/pound, $.43.
-2 bottles Gold Peak iced tea, $1 each. Used 2 $1/1 coupons, making these free
-1.23 pounds of carrots at $.69/pound, $.85
-2 pound brick of cheddar cheese, $2.99 (with in-ad coupon)
-Dozen eggs, $.99 (with in-ad coupon)
-Turkey Italian sausages, $3. I used 1 $1/1 coupon that doubled to $1.50, making these $1.50

After my $.05 discount for bringing my own reusable bag, I paid $13.41.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Website Wednesday: Endorse

Endorse is one of those websites that seems too good to be true. But, as far as I can tell, it's just as good as it claims to be.

Endorse is a new cash back program that runs on the Facebook interface. Here is how it works:
1. You sign-in using your Facebook account. Endorse will send you prepaid envelopes in the mail (like Netflix).
2. Use your account to "endorse" retailers that you visit often, like Safeway or Walmart, and products that you like, like Pampers Baby Dry or Diet Coke.
3. Shop at those retailers, and for those products, just like you normally do. When you get home, just toss the receipts in the prepaid mailer and put them in the mail.
4. Endorse will process the receipts and credit your account with 10% cash back on all the purchases you make at endorsed retailers or for endorsed products. Once your account reaches $25, they'll mail you a check.

It really is that easy! So, let's recap: you can earn money without clipping a single coupon, submitting a single rebate, or taking a single online survey. Just spend a few minutes endorsing the retailers and products you use most often, then shop like normal. When you get home, seal the receipts in the prepaid envelope, put it in the mail, and watch your savings add up!

A few notes:
-Endorse won't allow you to "double dip" on endorsements, i.e. buying an endorsed product at an endorsed retailer won't earn you 10% back on both.

-You must make the endorsement before making the purchase. So, unfortunately, that stack of Target receipts you've been saving since 1999 won't do you any good. That's why I suggest taking a few minutes immediately after signing up to endorse all the stores you visit frequently (online shopping counts, too) and all of the products that you regularly consume.

-Right now Endorse is working on a feature that allows to you email your receipts instead of mailing them. Since that feature isn't up and running yet, I'd suggest holding onto any receipts that you might need later.

I'm so excited about this new program, because I'll be making money just by doing something that I already do. I love it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Meal Monday: Homemade Pizza

Who doesn't love pizza? I'm sure there's someone, somewhere, who doesn't, but that person certainly doesn't live in our house. Around here, we could (and sometimes do) have pizza for supper a couple nights a week. I've tried a few different recipes for homemade crust, but none can compare to the one we use now.

Confession: I was afraid of yeast. The idea of having the water at the exact right temperature intimidated me, the concept of proofing seemed overwhelming, and I was always worried I would knead the dough too much or too little. But this recipe was touted as nearly foolproof, so I gave it a shot.

Best. Decision. Ever. This thing really is nearly impossible to mess up. I've made it numerous times, and every pizza is just as good as the last. If you're a fellow pizza lover (and really, why wouldn't you be?), I urge, nay, I beg you, to add this recipe to your arsenal.

One more thing before I give you the good stuff: let's not overlook how frugal pizza can be. The most expensive  ingredient in the crust is the yeast, which can be purchased rather inexpensively in bulk or with a coupon. I routinely purchase pasta sauce for less than $1 a jar. As for the toppings, you can use pizza night as a way to rid the fridge of leftovers. Taco pizza, kabob pizza, Italian chicken and artichoke pizza...the sky is the limit. Pizza is cheap, my friends.

Homemade Pizza
adapted slightly from Money Saving Mom

First, the line up. You'll need:
-1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
-1 cup of warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees)
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-2 1/2 cups of flour
In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except water and yeast.
In a small bowl (I use a measuring cup) dissolve yeast in water.
Add water and yeast to other ingredients and mix until combined.
Knead dough on a floured surface until the dough is smooth (about five minutes). If you have a mixer with a dough hook, you can let that do the work.
Roll out dough and transfer it to a greased pizza pan.
Top it! Go crazy with whatever sauce, cheese, and toppings you can find.

Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly and crust is golden slightly crispy.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Super Savings Saturday (on Sunday)

Obviously, I didn't get around to posting this yesterday. I don't really have a good excuse for this, other than that work, a family birthday dinner, and my recently developed addiction to the TV show Sister Wives took precedence.

Regardless, here it is now. This is my Rite Aid shopping trip from last Sunday:
Transaction #1:
-2 M&M's fun size candy, regularly $3.99, on sale $2 each. Used $1.50/2 coupon, paid $1.75 each.
-2 John Freida Root Awakening shampoo, regularly $7.29, on sale $5 each. Used two $2/1 coupons, paid $3 each.
-1 Cepacol sore throat lozenges, regularly $5.29, on sale $2.50. Paid $2.50.
On this transaction, I used a $10 +UP Reward (from my CoverGirl shopping trip), paid $1 out of pocket, and received $8.50 in +UP Rewards.

Transaction #2:
-1 Infant Advil, regularly $7.49, on sale $5. Used $1/1 coupon, paid $4.
-1 Burt's Bees cough drops, regularly $1.99, on sale $1.49. Paid $1.49.
-1 Thermacare heat wraps, regularly $7.49, on sale $5. Used $3/1 coupon, paid $2.
On this transaction, I used $3.50 in +UP Rewards and paid $3.99 out of pocket. Note: This would have been free if the cashier had scanned the largest +UP Reward first, but she didn't. She scanned the two smaller ones, leaving a $4 total and a $5 +UP Reward, so I just paid it.

Transaction #3:
-2 Colgate Optic White toothpaste, regularly $4.79, on sale $3.99 each. Used $1/1 coupon (could have used two, but I only had one), paid $3.49 each.
On this transaction, I used $6.49 in +UP Rewards, paid $.49 out of pocket, and received $6 in +UP Rewards.

Transaction #4:
-1 Airwick candle, regularly $3.29, on sale $2. Used $1/1 coupon, paid $1.
-2 Carefree liners, regularly $1.69, on sale $1 each. Used $1/2 coupon, paid $.50 each.
On this transaction, I used $2 in +UP Rewards and paid $0 out of pocket (this was my first ever $0 transaction!)

In total, I got $61.07 in product and paid only $5.48 out of pocket, for a savings of 91%. I also left with a $5 +UP Reward, which I rolled into more savings during today's shopping trip.

If you'd like to get started saving lots of money at Rite Aid, here are a few links to walk you through it:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Website Wednesday: Super Cook

When I really decided to crack down on our budget, one of the first things I eliminated was all of those extra visits to the grocery store. While that decision certainly cut down on the amount of money I was spending each week on impromptu shopping trips, it sometimes presented a new problem.

I spent many evenings randomly opening the fridge, the freezer, and the cabinets, wracking my brain for supper ideas. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not the best when it comes to surveying a bunch of random ingredients and forming a meal idea in my mind. I'm also not very good at winging it. If I'm making something, I like to have a recipe to follow, or at least a recipe to use as a jumping-off point.

Enter: Super Cook. Super Cook is a recipe search engine that allows you to enter the ingredients you have on hand and, in turn, it produces a list of matching recipes. Super Cook pulls from many of my favorite recipe websites, like Epicurious, Food, and All Recipes. They also allow you to choose food exclusions, so you can search only recipes based on dietary restrictions, like nut allergies or vegetarianism.

You can access Super Cook and search for recipes without signing up for an account. If you do choose to sign up, you can save your favorite recipes and the list of ingredients you have on hand. I haven't signed up, because I think it's easier to find a recipe I like, and then either pin that recipe on Pinterest, or copy it to a note card and put it in my recipe box.

If you're working on reducing the amount of money you spend on groceries each week, a recipe search engine is a helpful tool. Next time you're tempted to make a five o' clock grocery store run, do yourself (and your budget) a favor, and check out Super Cook.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Meal Monday: Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce

I love chilies and and I love chicken. That's why, when I came across this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago, I quickly pinned it, knowing I wanted to make it. Just a few weeks later I found Monterrey Jack cheese half off at Safeway, so I knew it was fate. This recipe and I were meant to find each other.

I made these enchiladas last week and took some fun pictures with my camera. Since I can't find the USB cord (oh, the joys of having a mobile child), and we had leftover chicken and cheese, and they're just plain delicious, I decided to make them again.

Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce
adapted slightly from Let's Dish

(note: I reduced all ingredients by half, except the green chilies; the original recipe calls for one whole can)
4 soft taco size flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1.5 tablespoons butter
1.5 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies

Combine the chicken, half the cheese, and half the can of chilies in a small bowl. Divide the mixture between the tortillas. Roll the tortillas and place, seam down, in a greased glass baking dish.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, add flour and stir until completely incorporated. Next, add chicken broth and cook for about a minute, or until the mixture has thickened and begins to bubble. Add the sour cream, chilies, and remaining cheese. Stir until sour cream and cheese are completely melted. If you want an extra cheesy sauce (and who doesn't?) add more cheese. Pour sauce over enchiladas,
Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the tortillas are golden and the sauce is bubbly. And, if you have an oven that cooks as well as mine, you might want to rotate the baking dish halfway through the cooking time.
Even my husband, who has an eagle eye for anything "green" in his food, loved these. I always make half a batch anytime I try a new recipe, since we don't want to be stuck with leftovers if the meal is a dud, but this is one that I'll definitely be making a whole batch of next time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Super Savings Saturday

Last Sunday, G and I went to Rite Aid and Walgreens. That little guy is such a trooper during our Sunday afternoon drug store shopping trips. He doesn't fuss at all as I drag him in and out of the car seat. I'm glad he was so good on Sunday, because it was certainly a worthwhile trip.
From Rite Aid we got:
-2 Halls cough drops, on clearance for $.62 each; I got $1 +Up Reward
-5 Dove shampoos, I paid $8.50 total after coupons and sales; I got $5 +Up Reward
-Scope mouthwash, I paid $2 and got $2 +Up Reward
-2 Rite Aid brand seasonings, $.90 each
-Pert Plus shampoo, I paid $2 and got $2 +Up Reward
-2 Gillette Body Wash, I paid $4 and got $2 +Up Reward

From Walgreens:
-Cepacol sore throat lozenges, I paid $2.99 and got $2.99 Register Reward
-2 Nivea lip balm, I paid $1 for both
-Kleenex cool touch tissues, I paid $1 and got $.50 Register Reward
-Cottonelle toilet paper (not pictured), I paid $3.50
-Sparkly hair clips (not pictured), $1- these are for our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.
(I had a $5 Register Reward from the week before, so my entire Walgreens shopping trip cost me $1.27)

There are some great freebies this week at both Rite Aid and Walgreens, so I'm hoping to head out tomorrow and replenish some of the areas of our stockpile that are getting low. It's funny how supplying toiletries for two parents, two metrosexual college-age boys, and a 13 year old girl, can deplete your reserves.

Friday, October 7, 2011

$5.61 CoverGirl Moneymaker

Technically this deal should be posted tomorrow, on Super Savings Saturday. But that's how good this deal is. I'm so excited to share it, and I wanted anyone who will be out and about tomorrow to have the chance to try it, too. Read on to see how I made $5.61 on a purchase of CoverGirl makeup at Rite Aid.

Right now at Rite Aid, CoverGirl products are buy one get one 50% off. In addition, if you buy $30 worth of CoverGirl products, you get a $10 +Up Reward (remember, this is the coupon that prints with your receipt, giving you a certain dollar amount off your next purchase).

I bought:
1 trublend minerals powder- $9.99
1 cheekers blush- $2.19 (50% off of $4.39)
1 blush brush- $5.29
2 smoothers concealer sticks- $6.99 and $3.49 (50% off of $6.99)
1 trublend liquid foundation- $4.94 (50% off of $9.89)
Total: $32.89

I used 3 $8/2 CoverGirl face products coupons from the October P & G insert. I also had $4.50 in =Up Rewards from my last Rite Aid shopping trip.
I paid: $4.39

I also received a $10 +Up Reward, which I didn't use. When I use it (probably on Sunday) this trip will be a   $5.61 moneymaker.

Note: While I was in Rite Aid on Thursday, they were restocking their entire makeup section. If you're thinking about trying this deal tomorrow, you might be in luck. Even if you don't want to attempt to get the $10 +Up Reward, the $8/2 coupons can still be combined with the buy one get one 50% sale to get you makeup for free or nearly free.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Website Wednesday: Frugal Living NW

A few months ago, I was lamenting the fact that I didn't know of a blog that specifically highlights deals in the Northwest. It was just about that time that I stumbled across Frugal Living NW. There are a few reasons why this site quickly became one that I visit every day.

-They know the Northwest. Frugal Living NW posts weekly deals on Northwest stores like New Seasons, Albertson's, and Fred Meyer, in addition to national chains like Rite Aid and Walgreens. They teach coupon classes in the Portland area, and they post about daily deals in Oregon and Washington.

-Today's Top Printables. Each day, there is a post with links to the best printable coupons from the day. The post typically contains anywhere from five to 10 coupons, so there's bound to be something you can use.

-Frugality Beyond the Store. The website contains a great section called Frugal Homemaking. In this section, you'll find posts on everything from baking to canning to decorating on a budget. Basically, everything you need to know to make your house a home without going broke.

If you enjoy sites like Money Saving Mom, you should definitely check out Frugal Living NW; it would be a great addition to your bookmarks. If you've already discovered Frugal Living NW, but have a favorite feature that I didn't mention, please tell me about it in the comments!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm Back, Baby!

My blog is not dead! I know it may appear that my blog has ceased to exist, but I’m happy to tell you that we’re back!

I’m not sure exactly why I went almost two months without posting. Mostly, I think, it was one of those situations where you let something slide for a few days, then a few more, and then before you know it it’s been four weeks and the thought of resuming the activity seems overwhelming. Or something like that.

Regardless, I spent many hours thinking about this blog. I thought about ideas to revamp it and turn it into a kind of blog I’d like to read. Here are a few of the changes I’m going to implement:

-New Meal Monday: I’ll share, or I’ll invite someone else to share, about a new recipe I’ve tried recently. Since discovering Pinterest, I look for any excuse to cook something new.

-Website Wednesday: On Wednesday, I’ll share a website that I find interesting, helpful, fun, etc., and that I think you might enjoy, too.

-Super Savings Saturday: This is one that many bloggers do; I'll just share my best deals from the previous week.

There you have it. Don't you just love alliterations? To paraphrase The Eagles, I didn't quit blogging, I just took a two-month vacation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Company Contact List Update

Here's an update on my progress with contacting companies and manufacturers. So far, I've contacted the first nine companies on my list. This is how it went down:

1. Continental Airlines. We flew on Continental at the end of July and had an awful experience. My email wasn't answered for ten days, which didn't sit well with me, but we'll hopefully be receiving a refund for the bulkhead seats we paid for but didn't get to sit in.

2. Cetaphil (face wash). The response I got from Cetaphil suggested that I visit the website to print coupons, and also said they would mail coupons to me.

3. Pepsi. Unfortunately, Pepsi couldn't offer me any coupons, but they suggested that I "like" their Facebook page to stay aware of any special promotions.

4. Boudreaux's Butt Paste. Within four days, I received in the mail from Boudreaux's five small sample packets and three $1/1 coupons.

5. Angel Soft. Angel Soft does not offer coupons through the mail.

6. Magnum (ice cream bars). Okay, first, have you tried these things? They defy description, especially the caramel ones. They didn't offer me any coupons by mail, but suggested that I sign up at their website to receive special offers in the future.

7. Lysol. I received an email response from Lysol, but there was no offer of samples or coupons.

8. Burt's Bees. Again, Burt's sent an email thanking me for my kind words regarding their products, but didn't offer any coupons.

9. Gerber. Gerber suggested visiting their website for coupons and promotions, but also said I can expect coupons in the mail.

10. Avent (breast pump). I haven't contacted Avent yet. Their website is less than easy to navigate, and from what I can gather, I can only contact them via telephone about the breast pump. And of course, I can only do that before 6 pm Eastern Time. My pump has a broken piece. It still works, but every time I use it- which is about six times each day, as I exclusively pump- it's more difficult to make it work. The thing has to last me at least three more months, until G is one year old, so I'm really hoping Avent can hook me up with a replacement part.

If you're contacting companies this month, I'd love to know who you've talked to and what the outcome is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jeans for $7.50 at Target!

Today only, for the next nine hours, you can purchase two pairs of jeans from Target for just $15! Simply go to Target.com, click on the Daily Deals banner near the top of the screen, and purchase your Mossimo jeans. The price is $15 for both pairs, and the deal comes with free shipping. There are a variety of sizes and lengths offered, but the deal expires tonight. So hurry!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Saving Money on Printable Coupons

With any luck, you’ve been able to score some great deals by using coupons that you’ve printed online. Unfortunately, with all of that savings come some expenses. Printer ink and paper can seem expensive, but they don’t have to be. Here are my tips for saving money without breaking the bank.

1. Reuse Paper
When you print one or two coupons at a time, you’re left with one- or two-thirds of the sheet. You can stick that remaining paper back into the printer and print a couple more coupons on it.

What about those annoying coupons that print at the top of the page, then print an ad on the rest of the paper? Just cut off the coupon, turn the paper around, and send it back through the printer. Stores accept coupons with things printed on the back. With that in mind, you can reuse virtually any paper in your home that only has ink on one side.

2. Adjust Your Printer Settings
Set your printer to print only in black, and make sure you use the fast draft setting. The fast draft setting will print everything using as little ink as possible. Coupons will come out looking slightly faded, but again, stores will still accept them.

Many computers are different, but you’ll likely be able to find your printer’s settings by going to the control panel from the start menu. Changing those settings will help you preserve ink when printing other documents, as well, and the settings can easily be changed back when necessary.

3. Save on Ink
There are a couple ways to avoid paying full price for ink. The first is to refill your cartridges yourself. Refill kits can be purchased at any office supply store, drugstore, or mass retailer (Walmart, Target, etc.) or online. The process can be messy, but well worth it.

If you aren’t up to filling cartridges on your own, you can take them to an office supply store. At Office Max, you can refill your cartridges and earn rewards points to use on future purchases.

The second option is to buy inexpensive ink. Staples will pay you to recycle your cartridge with them; the check they send is only good at Staples, but that allows you to keep rolling the savings back into buying more ink and paper. Walgreens runs specials on ink from time to time, as does Walmart. I haven’t purchased ink online, but I’ve heard from others that it’s a good option.

More than once, I’ve heard the argument that using printed coupons isn’t worth the savings because of the amount of money you have to spend on ink and paper. False. All you have to do is make the most of the paper and ink you have, and be wise when purchasing more.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


A few weeks ago, I posted about a Living Social deal to soap.com. The deal was a $20 voucher to soap.com for $10. I purchased the deal, knowing that the prices at soap.com are often much higher than what I would pay at Walmart or Target. I was confident that, with research, sales, and the free shipping that soap.com offers on first time orders over $25, I could make the purchase worthwhile.

My order arrived last week, and this is what I got:
For the sake of this price breakdown, let’s do some math. I paid $10 for a $20, voucher, or 50%. My order total was $27, and I paid $17, or 63%, which means I saved 37%. Still with me? Just remember that 37%; I’ll be using it right now.

-Burt’s Bees lip balm, two pack: $5.50. Based on the above math, I saved 37%, so I only paid $3.47, or $1.74 each.
-Infant Advil: $5.99. At 37% off, that’s $3.77
-C. Booth body scrub: $6.25. With the discount, I paid $3.93. I must confess, this was a splurge just for me; body scrub isn’t something you’ll typically find on my stock-up list.
-Accu-Clear pregnancy test, three pack: $8.95. After a 37% discount, the price was $5.64. Nope, I don’t plan to need this anytime soon, but I’ve realized that pregnancy tests are something that, when I think I need one, I’ll pay full price for. It’s better to have a few on hand that I bought inexpensively to avoid paying an arm and a leg.

As you can see, I got some good deals. Nothing that’s going on my all-time best list (no, I don’t really have one of those), but I’m still happy with the transaction. If you purchased the soap.com deal, I’d love to know what you bought with it!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's August!

I've been MIA for the last week and a half because we were on vacation in Mississippi. I didn't want to leave the blog without posting anything for that length of time, so I typed up some posts ahead of time and planned to schedule them to post during the week we were gone. Well, somewhere around 14,000 feet I realized that those  neatly typed posts were sitting on my computer, in their own little Word document... not scheduled to be posted at all. So much for planning ahead.

Because it is the end of July, here is my company contact list. All 31 names, as promised. The list is diverse and includes a wide variety of products and services. Some I haven't tried but would like to, some I use often and love, and some I've used but with less than satisfactory results.

  1.              Continental Airlines
    2.       Cetaphil (face wash)
    3.       Pepsi
    4.       Boudreaux’s Butt Paste
    5.       Angel Soft
    6.       Magnum Ice Cream bars
    7.       Lysol
    8.       Burt’s Bees
    9.       Gerber
    10.   Avent (the brand that makes my breast pump)
    11.   St. Ives
    12.   Airborne
    13.   Huggies
    14.   L’Oreal
    15.   Kashi
    16.   m&ms
    17.   Aquafresh
    18.   Emergen-C
    19.   Tyson
    20.   Pilot (pens)
    21.   Tillamook
    22.   Earth’s Best
    23.   Red Robin
    24.   Soyjoy
    25.   Johnson and Johnson
    26.   Formula 409
    27.   Lucerne
    28.   Foster Farms
    29.   Barilla Pasta
    30.   Dole (bagged salad and banana chips)
    31.   Cheerios

The first on the list, Continental, is a company I actually contacted yesterday. I figured that, because I'm still simmering over our awful customer service experience, I'll count it for August 1. I'll keep the list updated as I hear back from each company. Feel free to leave your list and keep me updated on your progress! For best results, leave the list in the comments of this post, instead of on Facebook, so it's easy to keep track of.

If you need a little help getting started, you can find a few tips for contacting manufacturers here. Good luck!

$5 Pizza

I'll blog later about why I've been MIA for so long, but I wanted to get this deal up this morning.

Right now, Safeway has their own deli pizzas on sale for $5. If you've never had their pizza, it's worth a try. J and I like it better than the pizza places here in town, and at $5 for a 16 inch, it's a better value than DiGiorno or Freschetta.

This sale ends today, so hurry down to Safeway and stock up on frozen pizza!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Share Your Opinion

If you've been hanging around here for a while, you might have read about my experiences with getting coupons just by telling a manufacturer that I like their product, like the posts here and here. Thanks to the internet, it takes only a minute to find a company's website and give them your feedback.

I've decided that, during the month of August, I'm going to contact one company each day. I'll choose companies that make products we use frequently at our house. I won't contact them with complaints or criticisms (unless I have a valid one); instead, I'll just let them know that we appreciate the product and would gladly accept any coupons they have to offer.

In order to accomplish this, I'll need a list of 31 products/companies. I've started compiling that list in my head (a dangerous place for it, I know). When it's complete, I'll post the list here and keep it updated as I hear back from companies. I invite all of you to provide suggestions for companies to contact, and to join me in the process. All of our lists will look different, since we all use different brands and products, so I look forward to seeing who you plan to contact!

Monday, July 18, 2011

DIY Cleaning Products

I'm curious to know if any of y'all have attempted to make your own cleaning products, or know someone who has. Laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, all-purpose cleaners; I'd like to know what you've tried, what has worked, and what hasn't worked. Please share your experiences!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Making Extra Cash on eBay Part Two

A few days ago, I posted about making extra money by selling things on eBay, and I promised to follow up that post with a second installment, discussing more tips for selling, as well as some ideas for after the sale. Wait no more, my friends, because this is that post.

1. Provide a Photo
Of course, if your selling something like clothing or sports equipment, this is a no-brainer. But I would take it one step further. Even if you're selling a book or DVD, and eBay provides a stock photo for you, I still suggest posting your own. I've received good feedback from doing this; buyers appreciate seeming the actual item they're buying.

If you're selling something with details, consider posting multiple photos. For instance, I recently sold a shirt that had ruffles on the front. I took a photo of the entire blouse, but I also included one of the ruffled detail. There is a small fee, usually $.15, for additional photos, but it's more than worth it if they help you make a sale.

2. Don't Pay for Special Supplies
When mailing items that aren't fragile, like DVDs, video games, books, or pieces of clothing, don't spend extra money buying boxes or padded envelopes. I package all of those things using materials we have around the house: wrapping paper (turn the paper backwards, so the white side faces out), sheets of newspaper, packing and/or scotch tape. If you require padded envelopes, they can often be purchased inexpensively from Walgreens using an in-ad coupon.

3. Be Prompt
Again, this one probably seems obvious, but don't underestimate the power of fast shipping. Last week I sold an item on a Sunday night, I mailed it first thing Monday morning, and the buyer received it on Wednesday. The buyer left me great feedback for the sale. Quick turnaround like that will attract the attention of potential buyers.

One way I ensure that I'm able to mail things quickly is by having them prepackaged. When something I've listed for sale receives a bid, and I know it will sell, I package it up and write what the item is on the back. Then, when the auction ends, all I have to do is fill in the buyer's name and address and deliver it to the post office.

If you've had any success (or failure) making extra money on eBay, I'd love for you to share your story in the comments!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cheating Fries

Sometimes, I just don't want to cook. Okay, honestly, that happens at least once a week. Since there isn't room in our eating out budget to accommodate my lazy evenings, I'm forced to be creative. Enter: cheating fries. 

Cheating fries are my cure for I-don't-want-to-cook-but-I-don't-want-to-eat-dry-dull-frozen-french-fries-itis. Or maybe I'm the only one who suffers from this? Regardless, I've found a way to elevate frozen potatoes to the perfect level: high enough that they actually taste good, but low enough so that I still feel like I got away with not cooking.

This is what I do:
I use whatever brand and variety of fries is cheapest. We prefer steak fries, but for some reason I picked up crinkle cut last time I was at Walmart. I don't think this "recipe" will be winning any culinary awards any time soon, so feel free to improvise with what you have on hand.
In a medium mixing bowl, or right on the cookie sheet, toss fries with olive oil and seasoning. You can try to use utensils for this, but it's easier and faster if you use your hands. Yes, the fries are cold, but it's a small price to pay. This is where you can get creative. The seasoning in the picture is salt, pepper, and garlic powder, but you can use seasoned salt, Italian seasoning, or anything else. One of my favorite ways to make these is with garlic (diced or in powder form) and Parmesan cheese. 
Bake according to the instructions on the bag. Because of the olive oil, expect to need to bake them a little longer than the directions call for. You're family will think you put way more effort into these than you actually did!

Need an equally easy something to serve them with? I recommend our cheating sandwich. Just take your favorite sandwich (tuna with diced onions, dill relish, and diced red peppers for me; ham and cheese for Jonathan) and slather butter or margarine on the outside of both pieces of bread. Grill until each side is dark and toasted. My husband never fails to rave about this meal. Okay, that's probably because the man could eat ham and cheese sandwiches and some form of potatoes for eternity (in fact, he did just that every day of high school).

As you can tell from this recipe, we aren't very high brow around here. I realize frozen fries aren't even in a lot of peoples' freezers. But for those of you who, like me, enjoy the potato in any of it's many forms, cheating fries might be just the ticket to a quick, lazy suppertime meal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Making Extra Cash on eBay

My mission lately has been to cut down on the amount of stuff we have around our house. Maybe I’ve started seeing our home through the eyes of a mother to a soon-to-be mobile little boy. Maybe all this talk about saving money has me thinking about money that we’ve wasted in the past. Whatever the reason, I’ve spent the last few weeks on an eBay selling spree.

I've sold a video game console, clothes, DVDs, an mp3 player, and more. While my recent sales experience by no means qualifies me as an expert, I do have some tips to share with anyone considering turning to eBay to make a little cash. This will be a two-part series, with this first installment focusing on pricing.

1. Decide What Your Time is Worth
Don’t forget to pay yourself. By the time you list your item, package it after it sells, and take it to the post office, you’ll likely have invested a good amount of time. Remember to take that into account when you set the price.

I value my time at next to nothing. It takes just a few minutes for me to package and address a DVD, and the post office is less than a block from where I work, so mailing something doesn't require a special out-of-the-way trip. If either of those things require significant effort on your part, you should pay yourself accordingly.

2. Offer Free Shipping
Many experienced sellers would probably disagree with this one, but it seems to work for me. I've sold enough things online to know approximately how much an item will cost to mail, so I take that into account when setting a price. Buyers are happy to see that little “Free Shipping” icon next to the item; they appreciate knowing that the price they see is all they’ll be paying.

3. Be Confident With Your Price
Price your item at an amount that you’re happy with. If it sells immediately at your Buy It Now price, you don’t want to be stuck wondering if you could have made more money. On the flip side, if you don’t want to price so high that the item doesn’t sell.

Really evaluate what the item is worth to you. Is it a movie you never even opened and wouldn’t be the least bit sad to say goodbye to? If so, you might be satisfied making only a dollar or two from the sale, just to get the item out of your house. Is it a wedding gift that’s sentimental to you, but you know you’ll never use? Perhaps you’ll set the price a little bit higher. Choose a price that you’re comfortable with and don’t second guess yourself.

Next time we'll discuss what happens after the sale, including inexpensive ways to package items and how to make sure the buyer is 100% happy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where I've Been

I'm sure my legions of dedicated followers have noticed that I haven't posted in more than a week. Between not feeling well, a camping trip, and everyday life getting in the way, I just haven't had the time. But I'm back, and boy have I been thinking.

I know that the majority of my blog posts discuss ways to save money, specifically by using coupons. If we go way back, to my first post, you'll see that wasn't by goal at all. Don't get me wrong; using coupons is a big part of my life, and I want to share that. It just isn't what I envisioned being the focus of this blog.

So what do I see as the focus? For that, I have to refer to the title of the blog: Mom on a Mission. My mission is to make my family, our house, and the world around us the best I can for my son and for the (hopefully many) children we'll have in the future. Right now I'm looking to simplify our lives to allow us to save more, give more, and have more time together.

Be on the lookout for a few changes around here. My money saving posts aren't going anywhere; saving money will always be a passion of mine. And in the end, I think it leads back to the same place. I want to save money because it's all about being the best steward I can of the gifts I've been given: finances, children, a home, my husband. This blog is all about that journey, so you can expect more posts about all of that in the future. Sounds fun, right?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Including Perishables in Your Stockpile

If you look in my cabinets, you'll see that my stockpile includes eight bottles of salad dressing, nine boxes of pasta, seven bottles of body wash, and seven sticks of deodorant. There's more, of course, but do you see the pattern? All of that stuff is nonperishable.

The concept of building a stockpile is fairly easy when you limit your thinking only to products that have months-long, or even years-long, shelf lives; the tricky part is stocking up on items that spoil within a few days or weeks. Fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, eggs, cheese, meat- these are all things that make a serious dent in anyone's grocery budget. It might seem like having to make weekly grocery store visits just for fresh food is negating the savings you get from stockpiling, but there are ways to help.

Here are some of my tips for adding perishable items to your stockpile:

1. Dairy (cheese, milk, eggs, etc.)
As you keep reading this post, you'll notice that I'll talk a lot about freezing things; dairy products are no exception.

Cheese, including cream cheese, can be frozen. When freezing cream cheese, simply freeze the entire unopened package. If freezing a brick of cheese, it works best to freeze it already shredded. The taste and texture won't be the same as unfrozen cheese, so I would recommend using previously frozen shredded cheese in something that's going to be cooked or baked: casseroles, biscuits, sauces, etc. For added convenience, freeze shredded cheese in half cup or one cup measurements. Then simply pull from the freezer the amount you need for your recipe.

Milk can also be frozen. Simply pour it into an airtight container, leaving room at the top for the milk to expand when it freezes. As with cheese, I wouldn't suggest drinking milk that has been frozen, just for taste reasons, but it can be used in sauces, pancakes or waffles, quiches, and more.

Eggs are something I didn't know could be frozen, until recently. The process is simple: just break the eggs into a bowl and scramble. Pour into an airtight container, freezer bag, or ice cube tray (if you use an ice cube tray, you'll want to transfer the cubes to a freezer bag after they've completely frozen). Again, I wouldn't use frozen eggs in a dish where they'll be eaten by themselves; instead, use them to bake.

Yogurt is simply frozen in it's original, unopened container. I don't know how the taste holds up to freezing, so unless you do a lot of baking with yogurt, you might want to try freezing just one container first to see how it goes. Of course, you can always eat the yogurt while it's still mostly frozen, and you'll have frozen yogurt!

2. Meat and Poultry
Most meat and poultry can be frozen.

Unopened lunch meat, pork, chicken, and beef can be frozen by simply putting the package in the freezer. Depending on the size of your family and how you plan your meals, it might be wise to open the packages and portion the meat into sizes that make sense for the meals you usually cook. Be sure to label what you're freezing with the date and portion size.

Precooked meats, like chicken breast, whole roasted chicken, taco meat, and more are frozen by placing in airtight containers or freezer bags and then freezing. If you're freezing a whole roasted chicken, just cut it into smaller pieces or pick the meat off before freezing.

**The items listed above will give you the best taste, quality, and baking results if you use them within 2-3 months of freezing. I suggest making a detailed list of the foods you have frozen in your freezer. Keep it in your recipe box or on the front of your refrigerator- somewhere you'll see it often and be reminded to include those ingredients in your meals.**

Tuesday's post will be all about stockpiling fruits, vegetables, and bread. You know you don't want to miss it!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


In case you don't know...

Coupon inserts are usually not included in Sunday newspapers that follow or precede a holiday, so tomorrow's paper will not include any SmartSource or Red Plum inserts. However, it will include the monthly P & G coupons. At our house, we also received a P & G insert in the mail on Wednesday, with our grocery store sale fliers. If you received one on Wednesday, too, and you can get a few more from friends or family, you may not need to purchase a paper on Sunday!

Come back tomorrow, when I'll be talking about how to include perishable items in your stockpile!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Target Highlights

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself out of bed early to go to Target before work. I so didn't want to, but I had some great coupons that were about to expire. That would be why, at 7:30 am, armed with a detailed shopping list and my coupon binder, I headed to Albany. I bought a good bit of stuff, but here are some of my favorite deals:
Playtex sippy cups two-pack: originally $5.14 per package. I bought two and used two $2/1 manufacturer coupons (there might be more if you sign up here) and one $1/1 Target coupon. I paid $5.28 total, or $2.64 per package- $1.32 per cup.
Kotex liners, 16-count: $.94 each. I used two $1.50/2 manufacturer coupons that I got here. I paid $.76 total, or $.19 each.
Nexcare bandages, two boxes: originally $2.09. I used two $1/1 Target coupons (still available here) and one $1.50/2 manufacturer coupon (no longer available). I paid $.68 total, or $.34 each.

Obviously, I bought more than what is pictured. Have you had any great steals lately? Please share!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not So Fast...

If you purchased the Living Social deal for Soap.com, be cautious when using it. Know that most of the prices on the website are considerably more than what you'd find in the store. But because the offer was such a good one ($10 for a $20 voucher) you should be able to watch for sales and end up snagging a good deal.

Also...July is almost here! Crazy, right? That means June is coming to an end, so make sure you print your online coupons before they reset. Coupons.com, SmartSource.com, and RedPlum.com are all great sites for printable coupons. Then, be sure to check back on those sites at the beginning of July to print the best coupons before they reach their printing limits.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Your Turn!

So, this blogging thing is a little bit one-sided. I get to tell my readers everything that I know, and y'all get to use the information to save money and live better. Well, now it's time for a little role reversal. I want y'all to share your favorite bit of homemaking advice with me!

There are no limits. It can have to do with cooking, cleaning, parenting, saving money, having fun, or anything else you thing me or another reader might not know. Just leave a comment sharing your sage wisdom. If I see something particularly helpful, I might just share it in the blog later!

Ready, go!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Living Social Deal!

I just bought an awesome Living Social deal! For $10, you can purchase a $20 voucher to Soap.com. If that doesn't sound like something you would be interested in, be sure to check out the website. They have so much more than just soap. They offer free shipping on your order over $25. That means you can purchase this voucher, spend an additional $5, and end up with $25 worth of product for only $15, without paying for shipping. Or, you can just choose something less expensive

I'm going to use my voucher to purchase the more expensive Cascade ActionPacs for the dishwasher. I can't bring myself to pay full price for them in the store, but whenever we use them I can tell a big difference in our dishes. You should know that the deal is only good on certain brands, which are listed on the webpage. It seems to be mostly Proctor & Gamble products. The deal is only available through tonight, so don't procrastinate!