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Friday, July 31, 2009

Weekly Grocery Run

This week was slow for deals at the grocery store, which was fine for my budget. :-) I only did two transactions and doubled ten coupons. I bought 33 items and spent $35.79.

I also stopped at Aldi really quickly to check out their produce (which wasn't stellar that day, unfortunately). I did buy 5 items that I knew were cheaper there than at the grocery store, for a
total of $6.66.

Grocery Spending: $42.45

For purposes of the All You Grocery Challenge, I only spent $40.87. I bought 2 boxes of Ziploc baggies which I got for $0.79 each after coupons, so I subtracted those from my total.

Though it was a slow week for deals, I was able to get a few things for free with coupons. And because I shop the deals, stockpile, and cook ahead from week to week, I can make a balanced menu plan without having to buy too many things that aren't on sale, which saves us money. If you are new to couponing and want to know how to get started, you can check out my 6 Part "Coupon 101" course here (scroll down to the bottom).

On a side note, I opened up my blog to anonymous comments last week, and someone who probably doesn't know me and obviously doesn't follow my blog on a regular basis left a pretty rude comment saying that the reason I don't spend a lot on groceries is because all my family eats is processed foods. I hear this type of objection a lot from people who don't coupon, and it just isn't true. If you are used to shopping for groceries one week at a time, and then you look at only one week's grocery picture on my blog, you might wonder what in the world we are going to eat that week! However, I have started posting our menu plans (and can continue to do so, if it is helpful to people--just let me know by leaving a comment), and you can see that I do serve fruits, veggies, protein, dairy, etc. The key is just shopping smarter, buying what is on sale, and using from the pantry and freezer stockpile when it's not. That's why you won't see all the food we eat each week pictured in one weekly grocery trip because we also get fruits and veggies from the garden, pantry, and freezer. I realize not everyone shops and thinks this way, which is why I wanted to talk about it. Don't write off stockpiling, couponing or trying to save money just because you think processed foods are all you'll get. If you are willing to change your shopping habits a bit, you will save money!

And while we are talking about menu plans, here was our menu for this week:

Breakfasts: Scrambled eggs and toast, grapes, Eggo products, blueberries, cereal, Egg, ham and cheese sandwiches, pancakes; milk
Lunches: Macaroni and Cheese, baby carrots and dip, applesauce, leftovers, grapes, PB&J, blueberries, string cheese, raspberries and tomatoes from the garden; milk
Dinners: Chicken a la King over noodles, biscuits, asparagus and salad; Outback; Easy Enchiladas and salad with tomatoes from our garden; Brats or hot dogs, corn on the cob, Smiles potatoes and baby carrots; Boneless Pork Ribs, mashed potatoes, and salad; Homemade Pizza; milk

Free Food From Schwan's!

Be one of the first 500,000 to visit the Schwan’s Free Food giveaway page on August 1st, and you could get $10 in FREE food plus free delivery!

You must be a new customer and live on an existing route to be eligible to receive this offer. Go here and enter your zip code on the left side to see if they deliver in your area.

Thanks, Deal Seeking Mom!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Free Qdoba eClub

Join the Qdoba eClub and get a coupon for free chips and salsa when you join and a free entree on your birthday!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creative Problem Solving

When we stopped at a hotel on our way home from our vacation, Ted and I were busy getting things unpacked. The girls had taken turns going to the bathroom and needed to wash their hands. There wasn't a stool and they couldn't reach the sink. We looked over and saw that they came up with a solution all on their own!

A Win-Win!

Our master bathroom needed to be repainted. We painted it red with white trim a couple years ago, but it was too much and we needed a change. While the girls and I were visiting my parents, Ted came home to work for a week. During his evenings, he decided to repaint our bathroom. (What a guy!)

He went to the store and bought "Beachwalk", which was supposed to look like a light yellow sandy color. Unfortunately, it ended up looking like a 70's yellow. Not good. (But I give him lots of credit for trying!)

So it needed to be painted again. This time we decided to go more toward the tan end of the spectrum, with less yellow. We picked "Warm Caramel".

On Friday night, Ted was lamenting having to get up the energy to have to paint the bathroom again. He wasn't complaining, just praying for the energy to get it done on Saturday. So I offered to paint. "Really?!" he asked. I said, "hey, if you are going to watch the kids all day, I'll give it my best shot!"

He was practically walking on air and kept thanking me over and over again for being willing to paint. I kept thinking, is he kidding? I get to be in a room all by myself for most of the day, listening to Christian radio, while he polices the kids. Sounds like a no-brainer to me! (Don't get me wrong, I do love my girls, but you stay-at-home moms know what I mean, right?)

But for him, he got to spend Saturday with the girls, having fun playing and wrestling and splashing in the backyard, while I "slaved away" upstairs on a mundane task.

It was a win-win situation. I got a little bit of a break while being able to actually complete something that I got to work on by myself (okay, mostly by myself. All day the girls kept coming up asking to help me, and I did let them each have a few turns with brushes and rollers, even if it did cause me a little more stress.) And he didn't have to work on a Saturday, he just got to spend time with his girls! He keeps asking me, "what can I set you up to paint next?" :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Step Into Reading Program

If your child reads three Step Into Reading books this summer, they can earn a free pack of Step Into Reading lunch bags. Read six books and enter to win 200 books for home and 200 books for your school! Just fill out and mail in this form, one per person, while supplies last. If you don't already own some of these easy readers, your library should have plenty of them. I just did a keyword search for "step into reading" and over 400 titles came up! If you'd like to search for specific titles within a Step level, there is a listing here (scroll down to choose a level).

More details here. Enter by September 1, 2009. Thanks, Angela!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Locks of Love--G's Turn!

G's hair has always been long. Well, she was born basically bald like all our babies (just like their parents were), but her hair grew the fastest of all our girls and she had a decent ponytail by age 1. I've given her several trims and I even cut bangs for her a year-and-a-half ago (which we then let grow out), but today was her first haircut at a salon. I took her to Great Clips because they give free haircuts if you donate your hair to Locks of Love, and they even mail in the ponytail.

Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children who are suffering from long-term or permanent medical hair loss. My dad lost his hair due to chemotherapy this year, so she has an idea of what medical hair loss can be like. When we told G that some little girls get sick like Grampie and don't have any hair, she thought it was a good idea to share her hair with a little girl. Hair donations must be at least 10 inches long.

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you might remember that H donated her hair to Locks of Love last year around this time. Now it was G's turn, and she knew what to expect. She was excited about having short hair like H! Bye-bye, long hair!Hello short hair!She looks very cute, but now it is harder to tell H and G apart out of the corner of your eye. And now M has the longest hair in our family, though H's is growing fast and is a close second!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

All You Challenge Week 2

Time to check in for week 2 of the All You Grocery Challenge! At the beginning of the week I had to fill up our refrigerator since we were on vacation for three weeks. Because double coupon day is Wednesday, I tried hard to not go to the grocery store until then. However, I did stop at Aldi to pick up some milk, eggs, ham, and fruit. Otherwise for meals we used what we had in the freezer and pantry. I'm so thankful I shop ahead to keep my pantry stocked and sometimes cook enough to freeze for later! This way I know there is food in the house even after I return from out of town. If you'd like some freezer tips and recipes, click here.

Our meal plan for this week:
Breakfasts: Cereal, bananas, Eggo products, blueberries, egg sandwiches, strawberries, pancakes and sausage, milk
Lunches: PB&J, applesauce, string cheese, ham and cheese wraps, strawberries, leftovers, chips, grapes, yogurt, milk or juice
Dinners: Mahndu and "Healthified Fried Rice" and tomatoes from our garden; Lasagna, Garlic Bread and Salad; Culver's, Alfredo Pasta and Broccoli; Red Robin; Barbecue Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, and Asparagus; Frozen Pizza; Tacos, Quesadillas, and chips; milk

We celebrated H's birthday this week by going out to Red Robin for dinner. We saved some money by using 2 coupons (free kid's meal from the birthday club and $2 off from filling out a comment card at a previous visit), ordering water for the adults to drink (which we usually do) and Ted and I split a meal. H and G got kid's meals (one was free) and for M and F we ordered 2 sides of grilled cheese for $1.29 each. This was a tip that a Red Robin server passed on to me several years ago, and their grilled cheese sandwiches are SO good! Because it was H's birthday, the server brought 4 free ice cream sundaes for our family to share. H also got some free ice cream from Baskin Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery for her birthday for signing up for their birthday clubs, which you can do here and here. Another day we went to Culver's for some Butterburgers during their anniversary celebration. Not everyone wanted one, so Ted picked up three on his way home from work and we supplemented with broccoli and noodles we had on hand.

Aldi: $11.37
Groceries: $49.73

Red Robin: $21 including 25% tip (she did a great job!)
Culver's: $3.15
Candy at the mall: $4.27 (a splurge after family pictures)
H's birthday ice cream: $0
TOTAL: $89.52

So even though we splurged a bit on eating out this week, we were still well within our All You weekly allotment of $150 for a family of six!

New Family Picture

We had new family pictures taken at The Picture People to take advantage of the free portrait package coupon last week. We were glad to get some with F smiling!While we were there, we had M's three-year-old pictures done as well. Her birthday was 2 months ago, but better late than never, right? :-)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Free Tyson Skillet Creations

Click here to print a rebate form to try a Tyson Skillet Creations Meal Kit for free! Purchase this item by 10/31/09 to submit for a full rebate.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Slippin' Summer Fun!

When my parents asked for birthday ideas for H (who turned 6--I can't believe it!!), Ted came up with the idea of a Slip and Slide. Here are the girls trying it out for the first time.

They were a little nervous at first about running and sliding head-first on their tummies, but they eventually got the hang of it. H was still cautious, and frequently would run up to the edge, stop, and then kind of dive on her tummy.

After the initial few times, G was the most fearless about getting a long running start.

M didn't quite get the concept of sliding on her tummy and didn't really like to get wet all that much either. She preferred to fill her watering can and water the flowers.

Here are a couple of short videos of H and G. H was very excited to finally make it all the way down to the end of the slide, and I don't know where she got it from, but G kept saying "Incoming!" before she would run and slide. :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This Week's Groceries

I had fun on double coupon day again! Honestly, it is such a rush for me that I can start shopping with a splitting headache and it will be gone when I am finished, even if I do four separate transactions in one hour! This might be the opposite for some of you, I realize! ;-) I know not everyone enjoys couponing, but I find it very rewarding to be saving our family so much money in this way.

We returned from a three week vacation on Sunday night. Our refrigerator was pretty bare, so I made a quick run to Aldi for a few staples to tide us over until my big shopping day on Wednesday. Because I shop ahead and keep food in the pantry and freezer, we had plenty of food on hand. Milk, eggs and fresh fruit were the biggest needs, so that's what we picked up. The girls all really like sliced ham, too, so I picked that up as well to use for lunches. My total at Aldi was $11.37.

I did four separate transactions at the grocery store on Wednesday in order to maximize my coupon savings. Because I take the time to do this, I am able to shave SO much off of our bill. I also try to shop mainly for the things that are on sale, which helps us save even more.

I was able to get these items for FREE: Dawn soap x3, Cascade rinse agent, Kellogg's cereal x5, Jennie-O ground turkey

These items were less than $1: Hunt's pudding x3, taco seasoning x2, Ronzoni pasta x2, Pasta Roni x10 (the girls favorite), Eggo Bake Shop x3, Capri Sun, bananas, lettuce, Kraft sliced cheese x4

These items were more than $1 but were on sale or I had a coupon that made them a great deal: ground beef, strawberries x2, red grapes, asparagus, Redi-Whip, Dannon yogurt x2, milk x4, deli ham

My total after sales and before coupons was over $100 (before the sale prices I think it was more like $130). My total after coupons was $49.73 for 50 items! Gotta love that!

What kind of deals did you snag this week?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Night Terrors

Since around January, G has been having night terrors on a regular basis. She has them sometimes up to three times a week, usually around the same time at night (between 10-11pm).

A lot of people think nightmares and night terrors are the same thing. I remember when H was about 3 or 4 years old, she had a few really bad nightmares and I thought they were night terrors. But when G started having night terrors, I quickly learned that they are VERY different.

During an episode, G wakes up suddenly and starts crying and screaming VERY loudly. Her eyes are always wide open and wild with fear and she frequently points into the distance and screams about something. We whisk her out of bed because she shares a room with H and M, and we've learned to quickly put her on the toilet (ask Ted how he knows). The night terror usually lasts between 4-7 minutes, and can be very unnerving and terrifying to us, though she never remembers them. She has said on several occasions, "how did I get downstairs?" or "hey, I didn't fall asleep in your room!"

We've learned there is nothing really to do during a night terror but to keep her safe (and put her on the toilet so she doesn't have an accident) and wait it out. We have tried talking to her, reasoning with her, praying with her, singing to her, waking her up by several methods--you name it--but she is FAST asleep. Though her eyes are wide open and it seems like she is talking to us, though she can walk and go to the bathroom and wash her hands, we've learned she is NOT awake. When the episode ends, she just stops crying. We ask her if she is ready to go back to bed and she sleepily nods. Often we've asked her if she remembers being scared and she says no. She has never remembered one of her night terrors, so even though they are unnerving to us, I am thankful she doesn't seem to be affected by them.

When we were visiting my parents last week, G woke up one night screaming. Ted calmly walked over and dealt with the situation as usual, taking her to the bathroom and patiently waiting it out. My mom was surprised at how intense the episode was, and it made me realize I hadn't prepped her at all for the possibility that G might have one while we were gone, so I'm thankful she didn't.

The cause of night terrors is unknown. It doesn't seem to correlate with how much sleep she has gotten and we don't let the kids watch scary movies. However, G is a very imaginative child, so I wouldn't be surprised if her brain is just more active. Night terrors always occur during the beginning of the night, usually an hour or two after sleep, before REM stage. On the other hand, nightmares almost always occur later in the night or early in the morning because they occur during REM sleep.

If you've never experienced a night terror, be glad! If your child ever has a night terror, just try to keep him or her safe and try to patiently wait it out. I would also suggest guiding them to the bathroom, just in case! :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All You Challenge-Week 1 Recap

We've finished the first week of the All You Grocery Challenge. Since we were on vacation, we spent more on eating out this weekend as we were driving back. We ate breakfast before leaving on Saturday and then had a continental breakfast at the hotel on Sunday morning. Our lunches and dinners were at fast food places. We saved money by not ordering drinks (we normally don't anyway), ordering off the dollar menus (which we usually do anyway) and supplementing with snacks in the car. We try not to eat too much when we are on the road because we aren't really getting much exercise, so if we eat too much, we end up getting "yucky tummies". Here's the breakdown of our eating out this weekend.

Lunch at Cook Out: $16.24
Mocha at McDonalds: $2.96 (Ted needs some coffee on the road and it's a treat to get a yummy mocha. He used to get his traveling treats at Starbucks, but he's found that the mochas at McD's are good and over $1 less.)
Dinner at McDonald's: $7.93
Lunch at Taco Bell: $11.26
Mocha at McDonalds: $3.63
Dinner at McDonalds: $6.35

Eating Out: $48.37
Groceries: $15.37
Total for Week 1 (July 13-19): $63.74

This is well under our family's All You allotment of $150 a week, but is just about right on according to our normal expenses. Since we were on vacation, we spent less on groceries and more on eating out and it almost evened out.

Are you participating in this challenge? If so, how did you do?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Visit With Grammie and Grampie

How often do you leave your kids with the grandparents? Do they ignore your rules about sugar, naps, or carseats? Is there a difference between your parents and your in-laws? The new Juice Box Jungle video on my right sidebar called "Grandma Says I Can" is about free babysitting from Grandma. . .and the implications that might entail in your family.

We just returned from a three-week visit to my parents' house. Now to some, this might sound like torture. However, our whole family had a wonderful time. . .and my parents did too! Unfortunately, my parents live over a thousand miles away, which amounts to two long days in the car, since flying our family of six is not fiscally feasible. We are not able to visit with them very often, usually only once or twice a year, so we wanted to make the most of it. Ted couldn't take that long off of work, so he was with us the first week and then flew home to work for two weeks and then flew back so he could drive home with us.

A few days after we arrived we left the girls with Grammie and Grampie for THREE nights while Ted and I took a vacation BY OURSELVES! We've only had one night alone since having kids, so we were very excited about this time away. All I can say is my parents are WONDERFUL. They embraced having the girls, even though my dad has been going through serious health issues in the last five months. We had been planning this time away since F was born last year, timing it for after she would be weaned. My dad finished his chemotherapy treatments at the end of June and has been recovering well from his quadruple bypass, and he was in great spirits when we arrived, though he looked VERY different from the last time the girls had seen him in December for our trip to Disney World. (F and I flew to visit them twice after his cancer diagnosis, but the girls and Ted hadn't seen him.)

So how did it go leaving four girls younger than six years old with my parents for four days? They had a great time! My parents took them to parks and let them swim in the pool and did crafts with them, among other things. I left some general instructions and shopped for food I knew they would eat well that was easy to prepare, but beyond that, I knew they would be in loving and capable hands. My sister was also there to help them out, and I know they appreciated her energy. But my parents were there every step of the way, my dad rocking the baby when she was crying, my mom the first to step up to change a poopy diaper. Did they eat too much sugar? I didn't ask. I know my mom loves to make desserts, so I'm sure they had plenty, but I eat too much sugar when we visit them, too. Hey, it's a vacation, right?!

After three weeks at Grammie and Grampie's, are my kids totally unglued and addicted to sugar? No. Will it take us a little while to get back into our regularly scheduled life? Yes. But it was a wonderful vacation and I wouldn't have traded it. We only wish we could have had MORE time with them. After we'd been on the road for several hours yesterday, I looked into the backseat to see H looking at one of the CVS photobooks I made of our trip. Her eyes and cheeks were wet with tears, though she was quiet. I asked her if she was crying, and she came completely undone, sobbing for several minutes that she missed Grammie and Grampie. When I called my mom later that night, she said that the house was SO quiet (after our "zoo" left?! You're kidding!). She said that she had wiped off the dining room table, but couldn't bring herself to take the leaves out to shrink it back down to a smaller size. It was sad for her to think that there wouldn't be a large family gathering there for dinner that night. I was sad, too. I wish we lived closer to them and could visit more often.

The cost of gas to drive to and from Grammie and Grampie's, hotel stays on the way there and back, a flight for Ted so he could work while we stayed for an extended visit, these all add up. However, the chance to have a vacation alone with Ted while knowing the girls and their grandparents were having a grand time together made it a blessing all around!

So what about you? Take a minute to leave a comment about grandparent relations at your house! What struggles have you had and how do you work them out? What non-negotiable rules do you leave with grandma? Do you have any funny grandparent stories you'd like to share?

Saturday, July 18, 2009


When we were visiting my family, my sister and I took the kids to a rodeo. It was getting late and my sister was explaining that we had to leave because it was a school night for my nephew.

H: What's a school night?

Only from a child who is homeschooled. :-)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Specials

No such thing as a free lunch? Well there could be! Every Friday until October 23rd, enter to win a week's worth of free meals from Lean Cuisine! Just enter your email address, and every Friday 125 people will win 7 coupons for Lean Cuisine meals.

Have you received 4 coupons for free chocolate yet? If not, go over and register for another one today! Click here starting at 9 AM EST to register for a coupon to redeem for a single-size package of M&Ms, Milky Way, Twix, Dove, Snickers, or 3 Musketeers.

Free National Park Weekend

On the weekends of July 18 and August 15, the National Park Service will offer free admission at more than 100 national parks. That's including Yosemite (usual fee: $20), Yellowstone (usual fee: $25), and Acadia (usual summer fee: $20). Remember, many national parks never charge an entrance fee, so you can plan inexpensive visits year round!

Find a park near you.
Thanks Karen!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Savings at Staples

I was so excited about this trip to Staples! We don't have one near us, but my parents do, so while I was visiting, I picked up these great deals!

2 reams of paper (just THINK of all the coupons I can print out on these!)
2 packs of pencils
2 rolls of tape
2 packs of photo paper

Spent $25.52
Get $25.34 back in rebates (and no stamp since it's all online!)
Total OOP: $0.18

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All You Grocery Challenge

The All You Grocery Challenge started this week! Are you participating by tracking your food spending? We are! You get $25 per person per week, which includes all food items, both groceries and eating out. This week we haven't spent too much yet, as we're using a lot of things we had on hand. Here's our rough menu plan for this week:

Breakfasts: Eggo products, cereal, pancakes and bacon, fruit; milk or juice
Lunches: PB&J sandwiches, fruit, cheese, yogurt, macaroni and cheese, leftovers; milk or juice
Dinners: Camp Chicken and broccoli, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and salad, Chicken a la King and salad, Salsa Chili and chips, Chicken Alfredo and broccoli, Taco Bell; milk or juice
Snacks: Crackers, graham crackers, Goldfish, cheese, fruit, cereal

This was my grocery trip this week. I spent $15.37 on items to supplement what we already had in the cupboards and freezer. We might have more eating out this weekend, but we have plenty of room in our weekly budget of $150, so I'm not worried at all! My shopping trip next week will look more like normal, since our refrigerator and will be pretty bare, but "normal" for me is around $50-$60 a week. I shouldn't have any trouble staying within the All You budget.

It's been fun to have this challenge to spark conversation with my sister and my parents about their grocery and eating out habits. My dad likes the thrill of couponing and I wish we could shop together every week. My sister spends WAY too much money on eating out because she feels like she doesn't have time or energy to cook. So this week I helped her make a list of items she had on hand and recipes she is interested in trying. Then we scoured the ads and coupons and made a grocery list. I went shopping with her and showed her how to add her purchases up on the calculator and keep track of her coupons. I had to rein her in a few times from straying from her list, but she ended up doing really well. She spent $31.04 and saved $35.57! She was THRILLED to have saved more than she spent using coupons and shopping sales. I went to her house yesterday and helped her prep 7 meals to put into the freezer (Camp Chicken x2, Tater Tot Casserole x2 (in the comments section of this post), and Chicken Pasta Bake x3). Today we are going to make a menu plan, plugging meals into days so that she doesn't have to think about what to cook (it stresses her out) and she will be sure to have time to thaw something out to bake it instead of running to get take out again. She kept saying, "WOW. You are SO good at this!" but I kept reminding her that I've had seven more years of practice than she has since I'm older. :-)

How about you? Are you participating in the All You Challenge? If you are, please let me know that I'm not alone! If you are blogging about it, please leave your link in the comments.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Free Sun Exposure Stickers

Do you ever wonder when it's time to reapply sunscreen? Sundiwear Sun Exposure stickers can help you out! They change color to let you know when your child has had too much sun. Click here to receive a free pack! You can apply to skin or clothes.

Thanks, Angela!

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