Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Restaurant.com

When I first started this blog almost 2 years ago I shared about my love for Restaurant.com - a great place to get gift certificates quite cheap to eat at a local restaurant. Today I have new reason to share it again! Besides the 80% offer (which they do have quite often) there's a new local restaurant that we actually want to eat at. Love it!

How it works: you purchase a $25 gift certificate (or gift certificate of another amount) for a reduced price. Today you can purcahse a $25 gift certificate for just $2 by going to Restaurant.com and entering the code DEAL in the promo code box at checkout.



You do get to choose the restaurant you want to eat at before you check out and each restaurant has it's own set of rules. When I did this last year the only restaurant I liked was quite a ways away from me but now I'm so excited to say that there's a great restaurant (Eggspectation) that recently opened near me that participates with Restaurant.com!!

This would be a restaurant we'd like to go to anyway so I was thrilled to see that I could get a $25 gift certificate today for just $2!!

We actually went last night with a Gift Certificate from Restaurant.com and had a great time. We fed 7 people dining out for just $22 including tip!! Our total bill before tip was $15 :) And since Eggspectation serves breakfast all day the kids ate every last bite of their food.

There are a few restrictions:
- at Eggspectation you have to spend $35 minimum to redeem your $25 gift certificate and 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bill - not a big deal - our server was great and we actually tipped a bit more because she did well and we liked her :)

- you can only redeem one gift certificate per month per restaurant so we can't go back to Eggspectation till next month - I am assuming this is calendar month and not 30 days from yesterday but the website doesn't make that clear

- valid for dine-in only

- can't be combined with any other coupon or offer

Other than that it's super easy to buy and use! Such a great way to save on eating out! And with the holiday season upon us we often get too busy to cook at home and eating out becomes more enticing. At least this way I can do it on a budget :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Shopping

Have you done it?

I have never gone shopping on Black Friday before. Well, maybe during the day but I've never gotten up early to shop but this year I took the plunge.

I would have photos if my camera had flash but unfortunately it's still broken so I can only share my experience in writing :)

I am NOT a morning person so it was easier to stay out all night then to get up really early. My good friend, Kristy, myself and her mom made up our plan and headed out at 10:30 PM. A little late since Toys R Us opened at 10 PM with their deals. By the time we got to Toys R Us there was a line to get in the door (because the store was too full) so we waited to get in and didn't find that many deals worth waiting in a 2-hour line for so we left pretty quickly.

Lesson learned: if you want to get in and not wait in the check-out line you MUST wait in the initial line to get in. You get a line no matter what.

Lesson 2: have someone wait in the crazy line while someone else in your party keeps shopping :) (Is this a Black Friday no-no? I have no idea if there are rules? We were discussing this in one line - how many places can one person hold? I mean can 1 person hold the places of their 10 friends? Is that too many? Seems like there should be rules!)

After leaving Toys R Us we headed to Old Navy. This time we made it in time to wait in the first line so we got in at midnight. Some quick shopping got us in line at 12:30 and out the door at 1. I can't say the deals were that great. A few doorbusters were fun but nothing necessary. I did get a pair of free socks for being in the original line - I think people further up got a better deal but I'm not sure. I think I spent more on items at the checkout area then I did in the store :) Not quite, but almost - hey, they were great stocking stuffers! Sadly, pretty much everyone was buying them (not sad for the store of course) - way too much time in line.

After getting a quick post-midnight snack we got in line at Kohl's. We only stood there for about 30 or 40 minutes - not bad for us - there were quite a few in front of us but not as bad as Best Buy (maybe that's the lesson - wait there instead?!). I think we did pretty good at Kohls. Got quite a few things - everything on my list and then some - Kristy and I combined our things to use a coupon I had - together we spent $355 and saved $570!!

Even better we earned $60 in Kohl's cash and I still have $65 to get back in rebates so really I spent $290 and saved $635!! Plus, my Kohl's cash for more free merchandise next week :) I'd say it wasn't bad. Still debating as to whether or not I love everything I got but shopping at Kohl's was fun at least and I can return anything I decide I don't want right?

We thought we'd head home after Kohl's but ended up stopping at Target for a few more things. Since we were "late" getting there we didn't have any lines to wait in. And even though I thought I had missed one doorbuster they had re-stocked them before I left.

I crawled into bed at 6:30 - not too bad I guess - I did get a little sleep :)

Lesson 3: stay in bed :) Okay, maybe not for the biggest, bestest deal but I've seen the deals I got on the internet so I probably could have just stayed home and ordered online. I certainly did for my Gymboree order. That I placed on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving at about 1 in the morning. That's how I get the kids jackets for just $14!!

While I enjoyed very much hanging out with my friend and her mom I'm pretty sure I could have gotten just as good deals at any other time. I must say, I've never felt I overspent too much in years past when I haven't gone Black Friday shopping. If I were to repeat it next year it would only be to enjoy the night with friends and not for the deals.

What about you? Do you shop on Black Friday? Think it's worth it?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving Menu Planning


For some reason it seems weird to menu plan before Thanksgiving :) I mean we still have to eat and we don't want to eat turkey for weeks on end but it seems odd to eat "normal" food right now :) Fortunately, I'd already planned for the week in advance so we are eating normal food along with Thanksgiving at school, a women's night at church, the triplets birthday party and bringing a meal to someone who needed it - it's been a busy food week!!

Here's what we had and plan to have till Thanksgiving which is more of an obvious meal :)

Last Wednesday: Quick Chicken and Dumplings

Last Thursday: Easy Chicken & Rice Divan

Last Friday: Taco Bake

Saturday: Chicken-Broccoli-Tortellini Soup - this was for the women's night at church so I doubled the recipe and it was a big hit - very yummy!

Sunday: Leftovers - this is actually the 2nd time we've had leftovers this month - I have had SOO much food from all I've made that we just have to clean out the fridge :) Plus, we ordered pizza for the party yesterday and we had a few pizzas leftover making a perfect Sunday lunch. Leftovers are a great budget stretcher :)

Monday: Slow Cooker Lasagna

Tuesday: Chicken and Sweet Pepper Stir-Fry

Wednesday: Mozzarella Pasta Bake

And then it's Thanksgiving followed by some strategic leftovers :) I know Turkey Tetrazzini is already on my list of post-Thanksgiving recipes!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swagbucks Has Just Become Even More Awesome!

You're on Swagbucks aren't you?

If not, you absolutely must be!! Swagbucks is SOO easy! I have it set as my home page. Every day I take the Daily Poll, check out the Trusted Survey and search to win - I earn quite a few Swagbucks every day and even the little ones add up. This month I already have $15 in Amazon Gift Cards thanks to Swagbucks and I'm on my way to even more before Christmas!

Click the link (the photo) below to sign yourself up if you are not already on:

Search & Win

Want another reason to sign up for Swagbucks??

COUPONS!!

That's right! You can now print coupons from the Swagbucks home page - for every coupon you redeem you earn 10 Swagbucks!! Since I use coupons ALL the time this sounds like a WIN for me. How easy could that be? Now I'm earning Swagbucks while saving money and earning Swagbucks gets me MORE money.

It's a good day when a website can save me money and make me money all at the same time!!

What are you waiting for?? Sign up TODAY!!

Check out the Swagbucks BLOG for more details.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Racking Up At Rite Aid

I have been shopping Rite Aid for a few months and I like it :) It's not a lot different than CVS but the store by me is much nicer, they seem to have more items that earn +Up Rewards and rarely have a limit on their great sales.

Here's what I picked up:



I spent: $29.72
And saved: $57.34
And earned: $14.00

Normally I wouldn't spend this much in one transaction but I had a few coupons including a $5.00 off $25.00 purchase so I figured I'd go ahead and pick up everything I needed in one trip instead of going back repeatedly.

My best deals:

General Mills Cereal:
- retail price: $4.79
- sale price: 2/$4.00
- used 2 $1.00/2 coupon from S 10/31
- earned $1.00 +Up Reward
- final price: $0.50 per box

Cottonelle Bath Tissue:
- retail price: $3.99
- sale price: 2/$5.00
- used 2 printable $0.50/1 coupon from HERE
- earned $2.00 +Up Reward
- final price: $1.00 per pack

Herbal Essences Shampoo/Conditioner
- retail price: $4.49
- sale price: $2.99
- used 2 $1.00/1 coupon from RP 11/14
- earned $2.00 +Up Reward for each one
- final price: FREE
(and note - CVS is running the same deal but they have a limit of 1 whereas Rite Aid has no limit noted in the ad or on their shelves)

M&M's Holiday Candy
- retail price: $3.99
- sale price: $2.50
- used 2 $1.00/2 coupons from RP 11/14
- earned $1.00 +Up Reward on every 2 purchased
- final price: $1.50 each

I get my coupon match-ups for Rite Aid from Southern Savers. I share here what I picked up and thought were the best deals for our family.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bug Birthday Party On A Budget

With 5 kids one of my biggest challenges is to do birthday parties without spending a large amount of money. I know I have the option not to do one at all but that just isn't my style. I love birthdays so I just can't give the parties up :)

The trick is finding a way to do it without breaking the bank. In years past we've opted to take the party out of the home for convenience but obviously that's more of a budget buster.

My total party expenditure: $102.52 - I would add this includes $16.99 for shipping and handling (how crazy expensive is that?!) because I placed and order with Oriental Trading Company and paid to upgrade shipping for fear the order wouldn't arrive on time so that's certainly one place to save money since taking out that expense means I spent $85.53 on supplies.

My supplies included the cake I made:



The goody "bags":



And dirt cups:



Where the money went:

Lunch was hot dogs, chips, grapes, mac and cheese and bug juice to drink.
- hot dogs - I already had so these aren't in my total but I think I spent $4.00
- chips - $4.00 for 2 bags
- grapes - $2.98 for 2 pounds
- mac n cheese - $1.97 for a box
these items I purchased at Target and used my $5.00 gift card so I saved a few extra dollars that way thanks to my Dunkin Donuts deal last week.
- the bug juice consisted of 1 2-liter of 7-Up and 1 2-liter of lemonade - we then froze ice cubes with bug fruit snacks and green food coloring to give it that more icky factor - total cost - about $3.50

Goody bags:
- mason jars - 12 for $9.99
- crushed oreo cookie dirt - $1.97
- rock candy - 1 pound was $9
- crunchy marshmallow bugs - $11.98 for 24 - I used these on the cake, in the mason jars and in the goody bags
To complete the goody bags I used brown paper bags and added the mason jars along with bug fruit snacks, bug gummies and plastic bugs ($11.99 for 96)

The cake:
- cake mix - $1.49 at Harris Teeter
- 2 containers of chocolate icing - $1.00 for 2 (after coupons)
- cookie crumbles on top oreo cookies and chocolate Teddy Grahams: $6.98 (not on sale and no coupon)
- gummy worms - $1.49 (also in the mud pie cups)
- realistic gummy bugs - $6.99 for 41
- rock candy
- more crunchy marshmallow bugs

Mud pie:
- crushed cookies
- chocolate pudding - $2.30
- whipped topping - $2.00
- more rock candy (I stretched that pound as far as I could!)

With a little bit of work I was able to pull off an awesome theme party for my son's 7th birthday. I will note that it would have been cheaper to keep the boys home and play games but because Caleb's birthday always falls in November just 6 days before his sister's I often end up spending a little more than I might do otherwise and this year was no exception - we took the boys to see the movie Megamind. However, by taking them to a matinee and not buying snacks at the movie we saved a little bit :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Triplet Dads Run On Dunkin (Coffee That Is!)

My husband works at least three jobs. Fortunately only one of them takes him to an office - the rest he can do from home but it means he often only gets 4 hours of sleep a night. And he thought getting up a few times a night to feed triplets was hard :)

To keep him running and at least semi-awake he drinks a ton of coffee. I never touch the stuff (crazy I know but I don't like it) but he loves it and his favorite coffee is Dunkin Donuts so when I found out that Target was running an awesome special on their coffee this week I practically ran right over.

The awesome deal: purchase 3 bags of Dunkin Donuts coffee and get a $5.00 gift card back - the sale price is $6.49 a bag and there are coupons in RP 10/31 - my coupon was for $2.00/2 but some people may have a $1.50/1 coupon (I would have preferred that but as my girls say "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit!").

Using my $2.00 off coupon I paid $17.47 for 3 bags of coffee and got a $5.00 gift card back. As I like to do I had to do it a second time this time I used my first $5.00 gift card as well as a $1.00 off coupon I found inside one of my first coffee bags :) This time around I paid $11.47 for 3 bags of coffee and earned back a $5.00 gift card.

So for 6 bags of coffee I paid $23.94 or $3.99/each and for Dunkin Donuts coffee that's a steal! (In case you don't know the regular price is usually around $8.00 a bag).

Thanks to Southern Savers for a heads-up on this deal :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Planning Monday


A lot of big meals this week because we had expected company so I had planned meals that would feed more than just our family. I guess I should've planned a leftover day :)

Monday: Mini Meat Loaves (I made our regular recipe but here's another version to consider)

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Wednesday: Caleb's 7th Birthday - we will be going out to celebrate :)

Thursday: New-Look Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Friday: Slow Cooker Upside Down Chicken Pot Pie

Saturday: No-Roll Mexican Rice Enchiladas

Sunday: Stuffed Shells (I made my own recipe but here's another version to consider)

As a side note - I use the e-mail recipes as inspiration - sometimes I substitue our familar recipe in the rotation - if it's a family favorite I already know we'll love then it's easier to put that in the mix than something else brand new.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Back To The Grocery Game: Now That's Some Dollar Doubling!

I love the Grocery Game.

It's been a while but I finally got back on. Truth be told I've been on before but they have completely redone the website and I haven't had time to figure it out. Until today. Because of my oldest daughter's chicken pox our schedules have cleared up (imagine that - don't want to risk spreading it to company so they have to wait till next month to come).

I love the new site! Maybe that's a bit repetitive but seriously it's great. She has a whole new feature where you get your entire list in coupon date order making it really easy to find the coupons and I can look them all up in order. So nice :)

Anyway, that's only half the point. The rest of it is here is what I picked up tonight:



I paid: $29.19
And saved: $69.80

Since I did pick up a few needs that weren't sale items my spendings were a little higher but I did also get quite a few free items and used doubled 20 coupons this time so I'm feeling pretty good about my trip :)

My Freebies:

Barilla Plus Pasta
- regular price: $2.50/each
- sale price: $0.60/each
- used 3 $1.00/2 coupon which doubled
- final price: FREE (no overage)

Bumble Bee Premium Light Tuna Pouch
- regular price: $1.39/each
- sale price: $1.00/each
- used 3 $1.00/2 coupons
- final price: FREE

Meow Mix Market Select Cat Food
- regular price: $0.69/each
- sale price: $0.67/each (yea, not much of a sale!)
- used 3 $1.00/2 coupons
- final price: FREE

For more great deal match-ups check out The Grocery Game :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dollar Doubler At Harris Teeter


In case you haven't heard Harris Teeter is running Dollar Doubler once again where they double coupons up to $1.98. It runs through next Tuesday the 9th.

I took a trip yesterday and found a few deals though not a huge amount. Most of my coupons came from Catalina promotions so I was able to save a good amount and pick up the majority of the items on my monthly needs list but other than that I only used 8 coupons that doubled. Sad I know!! However I did end up spending $62.89 and saving $82.20 bringing my total for the month to around $100 with only a few items left that I need so I'm pretty excited about being able to stay in budget in November!

My few good coupons came from Kelloggs and I stocked up on a number of a few needed pantry items.

For deal match-ups check out Southern Savers

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Monthly Menu Planning: My Unscientific Method

I am no pro at monthly menu planning but I figured I'd share how I do it anyway. Since I have a crazy, constantly busy household finding time to organize and plan is usually few and far between.

In order for me to stick to something it has to be a simple addition to my routine. You know like couponing and store-hopping. No, I'm kidding about that - monthly meal planning has been much, much easier than I could ever have expected.

My first question and probably yours is "How do I come up with that many meals?"

The funny thing is before I started I really had no idea. Sometimes just for a week's worth of meals I would scour cookbooks hoping just one or two meals would appeal to me.

Some of you don't like variety and have a few tried and true recipes that you use every week on a regular basis. I have a friend who eats the same food every single month and only has to by ingredients for that (works for her and her identical triplet girls :) ) but for me I like a little more variety. Yes, even from one month to the next. So where to come up with new recipes?

Turns out I only had to look in my inbox.

And if you subscribe to a few sites that's all you'll have to do too!

Every few days I can an e-mail with recipe ideas from:

Betty Crocker

Dinner Made Easy

Kraft Foods

Campbells Kitchen

Bisquick

Reynolds Kitchen

Pillsbury

I do pick up recipes here and there from other places but these are the main ones that I get e-mail newsletters from on a regular basis.

Whenever a new e-mail comes in I glance at it and check out the few recipes they've highlighted. If I like one I click on it and check it out in detail. If it meets my criteria: low number of ingredients, simple to make and looks like something my kids might try then I copy the link and paste it in a Word document.

I did this throughout October and for November I had a great list all ready to go!

Last week I went through the list I had accumulated over the month and checked through the recipes again. I think I threw out one that no longer appealed to me but the rest still looked good.

The next part takes a little bit of time but truly taking an hour, maybe two to plan out the month saves me SOOO much time through the month of November.

To make my monthly grocery list I go to each recipe and then copy down the ingredients in a seperate Word document. By doing it electronically I can group all my meat, produce, cheese, etc. together and make a very simple list. I even make notations about items I should already have in the pantry but I still list every ingredient even if I think I may have it to be sure as the month goes on I don't forget :)

After I have my grocery list I go back to my recipe list and print off the names of each recipe I've chosen. I then cut out each individual recipe to paste to my master calendar. I'm sure you can do this electronically but to be honest it's just fun to cut and paste as a grown-up sometimes! Plus, I have the freedom to juggle the recipes around repeatedly till I find an order that I like. You know not too many chicken recipes in a row or sorting recipes that feed more people on a day we are expecting company. Once I have a set up I like I paste it on.

Then each week all I have to do is glance at my calendar and I know what meals I'm planning. It's that easy :)

As for grocery shopping, I do try and get the bulk of what I need at the beginning of the month so that the remainder of the month I can focus on produce, eggs, milk and the deals. However, this month is a little different since I knew in advance that there would be dollar doubler at Harris Teeter starting tomorrow and that a new sales week rolls around so I didn't run to the store today and get everything on my list. I did pick up all the ground beef I'll need for the month since it was on sale. This coming week I'll get most of the things I need but if last month is any indication I did have a few need items left over each week but not enough to put a major dent in my budget.

So, that is how I plan for the month.

For now I'll just share my 1st week's plan...

Monday: Chick-Fil-A

Tuesday: Mini Taco Bowls

Wednesday: Velveeta Baked Spaghetti Squares

Thursday: Moms of Multiples monthly meeting

Friday: Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup and Chicken Quesadillas

Saturday: Tater Topped Casserole

Sunday: Alea's One Pot Chicken Dinner