Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Groupon Deal: The Produce Spot

Have you used Groupon yet? Lately, these group deal sites have been popping up everywhere, although Groupon is the first one that I have heard of. I've bought a few restaurant deals, a 50% off Gap gift certificate, and a $20 Soap.com gift certificate for $10.

I get a daily email with the Groupon for the day (there is one email for San Francisco and one for San Jose; I subscribe to both).

Today's Groupon for San Jose is a $20 gift certificate to The Produce Spot on Berryessa Road in San Jose for $10. The limit is one per person, but you can buy 2 additional ones as gifts. The Produce Spot carries organic and conventional produce, some baked goods, and dairy products. I have not been to the Produce Spot, but I have been to a similar store in South San Jose.

So if you are ever in the area of East San Jose and would like to stretch your grocery budget a little further, maybe it's a good idea to pick up this Groupon today!

***You have until Midnight Tuesday night (tonight!) to purchase this particular Groupon, but you have until March 29th, 2011 to use it.***

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Super Savings Saturday

Boy, I haven't done one of these in awhile. But I got to thinking that seeing others get deals like this inspires me, so why not return the favor?

I went in to Rite Aid this week and picked up:
2 Huggies Jumbo Pack diapers, $8.99 each
1 Huggies Pull-Ups, $8.99
2 Kotex pads, $3.50 each

Oh, and a bag of Cheetos because my girls were being so good. Add in another 89 cents because I get 10% off non-sale merchandise with my wellness+ card. I love that little perk.

Total before coupons: $34.86 plus tax

I was rushing to find coupons because my coupon stash is a bit disorganized at the moment. I tried to print a coupon for the Pull-Ups ($1 or $2) but I couldn't get it to work. I also forgot to get a coupon for the Kotex, which I'm sure I had. But the time wasn't worth the extra $2 or $3 bucks I would have saved since my kids were going crazy while I looked for coupons!

I did have a coupon for a free Jumbo pack of Huggies diapers from their Enjoy the Ride Rewards. Subtract $8.99 for that. Then I had a $5 off a Jumbo pack of Huggies diapers from Recycle Bank.
-$13.99 for the above coupons
-$1 video values Huggies coupon
-$2 video values Huggies coupon
-$5/25 coupon

Total: $15.10

I paid with $15 in giftcards I received from the skincare rebate at Rite Aid this summer, so I spent 10 cents out of pocket.

And I got $9 in +Up Rewards (3 $2 from Huggies and 1 $3 from Kotex).

Plus, I will get a $10 giftcard for the Kimberly-Clark rebate since I spent more than $25 on K-C products.

Even with the Cheetos, it's a $4.10 moneymaker!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Whole Foods' Chicken Sale Friday

This Friday only, my local Whole Foods is having their Rocky fryer chickens on sale for only 99 cents/pound. This is a great price for good quality chicken. I think I'll stop in and pick up a couple of chickens for my freezer.

Check with your local store to see what they've got on sale this week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Hunger Challenge Debate

I read a post on BlogHer about the SF Food Bank's Hunger Challenge last week. Several different bloggers participated in the challenge, which was to eat on $4 per person/day. Apparently that is about what people who are receiving food stamps have to spend on groceries.

After reading some of the posts about getting by on bean and cheese burritos with not enough money for fruits and vegetables, I started to wonder if I could feed my family on the Hunger Challenge amount. Let's see: $4 per person (we have 5)/day works out to $20/day...or $560 per month! In 2008, the maximum a family of 5 could receive in food stamps was $698!

I was shocked because my food budget is less than that...by more than $100/month. So while it is difficult to hand someone a $5 bill and say "This is all the money you have to buy food with today", if you look at the bigger picture, it's not that hard to eat (and actually eat well) on such a "small" amount.

One blogger who got it right is Kimberly from PoorGirlEatsWell. I like the way that she makes her food as appealing as possible, because that always makes it taste better. She also uses what she has on hand instead of running to the store for an ounce of some obscure spice that you'll never use again. I'm definitely going to check out her blog for some inspiration as I prepare my weekly meal plans.

The main point of the Hunger Challenge was made clear: there are people who are on food stamps who don't have the luxury of eating whatever they want. They long to be able to buy a cupcake at the corner bakery or even something from a drive-thru. With every bite they take, they are keenly aware that their bounty is steadily dwindling and the cupboard may be completely bare before they are able to get more assistance or find another job. Those of us who are blessed with full cupboards should be moved to share with those whose pantries are empty.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dinner this week...

I'm itching to use my crockpot again. I think that's the Fall in the air! Here's what I've got on the menu for this week:

Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Spaghetti, green salad, yummy bread
Wednesday: Trader Joe's Orange Chicken, brown rice
Thursday: Dinner Swap Surprise
Friday:Tuna Rapscallions, green salad, green jello
Saturday: still not sure
Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dinner this week...

Is it the middle of September already? I'm planning for Halloween costumes and I bought a butternut squash the other day (the first of the season for me) to make my delicious butternut squash soup.

Here is what we're having for dinner this week:
Monday: Poppyseed chicken over angel hair pasta, peas, fruit salad
Tuesday: Pizza Margherita (didn't end up having this last week)
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Zucchini quiche, green salad, fruit
Friday: Garlic shrimp, butternut squash risotto, green salad, homemade crusty bread
Saturday: Dinner at church
Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Living Room Mini-Makeover

Husband and I will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary in November. That got me wondering if it might be time to take down our wedding picture so prominently displayed in the living room and put up some pictures of the things that have come along since then...namely our three little girls!

I finally decided to get down to business and put up some pictures. I went to Michael's to take advantage of their great sale: all frames are 40% off plus there is a coupon from Sunday's paper for an extra 25% off frames! I took all three of my babes with me to pick out the frames. I also picked up some supplies to make a letter "J" for the wall as well. Total cost for four frames, wooden letter and supplies was about 60 bucks.

Here is the before (simple, but a little blah):

And here is the after:

I already had the "family" sign up on another wall. I also already had the three-picture collage frame holding newborn pictures of my twins. I made the "J" with some scrapbook paper and modge podge on a wooden letter. Most of the pictures were taken by my friend Shannon Montez (if you are in need of a photographer in the Bay Area, you should totally check out her website.)

I just love it. It was a bit of an undertaking trying to get it all together but it was worth it. I ended up also getting rid of some clutter from around the living room to make it look a little more "brand new".

The room feels so much more pulled together now. It helps remind me that the house is not just for the kiddos. : )

Monday, September 6, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Check out the goodies available this week in Finney's Friday Free Stuff:
  • one free 12 ounce bag of Galaxy Granola
  • one free Polly Foot Primer from Foot Candy in Walnut Creek
For more information on to where to send your self-addressed, stamped envelope, click here.

Per Finney's website, Free Stuff offers are only available to viewers of KGO-TV. Sorry to my friends outside of the Bay Area.

Dinner this week...

Here's what's on the menu this week:
Monday: BBQ with family (Happy Labor Day!)
Tuesday: ?
Wednesday: Crockpot chicken masterpiece over rice, green salad, jello
Thursday: Dinner swap surprise
Friday: ?
Saturday: Pizza Margherita
Sunday: Leftovers

I'm working on planning out the month's menu. I think it helps with grocery shopping to have a better idea of what the future brings. : )

What are you having for dinner this week?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Whole Foods' Grass Fed Beef Sale

My neighborhood Whole Foods will have ground grass-fed beef on sale this Friday, September 3rd. $3.99 per pound is a super great price for this. That is about my stock up price for Whole Foods "regular" ground beef. Check to see if your Whole Foods store is participating in this sale...and then stock up!

Quarterly Cash Out

Normally I "cash in" my earnings from surveys and swagbucks once per quarter. It makes it a little bit more fun to get a big check, doesn't it? Well this past quarter I have been a little too busy to do many surveys...I don't have anything to cash in!

I do have some swagbucks that I will convert to Amazon giftcards (totaling $25), which is nothing to sniff at, but this is the lowest cash out that I've had in a long time! I guess it's time to do a few more surveys.

I know what I've been doing with that time, though. I've been trying to get a little bit more organized every day. And I'm still so tired because the littlest one still eats in the night. {I know!} I'm trying to play with my little ones and keep them from destroying the house. Three kids under three sure make a BIG mess.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

This week in Finney's Friday Free Stuff:
  • Coupon for a free Philly Cheesesteak Burger from Carl's Jr.
  • Coupon for a free coffee candy bon-bon bar from the Bon Bon Bar in SF
For info on where to send your self-addressed, stamped envelope, go here.

Per Finney's website, all offers are available only to viewers of KGO-TV. Sorry to my friends outside the Bay Area.

For more on Finney's Friday Free Stuff and to see what other goodies he's offered, click here.

Dinner this week...

The end of August. Where did the summer go? My goodness. September is already here. In the Bay Area, that means another month of summer temperatures...usually. We shall see.

Last week, I made PW's Shrimp Pasta in a Foil Package. It was so delicious. I enjoyed the leftovers for my lunches. Yum, yum. So this week, I'm turning to PW for inspiration again since I've got a leek and some bacon and goat cheese in my fridge.

Here's what we are having for dinner this week:
Monday: Chinese Chicken Salad, fruit
Tuesday: PW's Potato-Leek Pizza, watermelon
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: For dinner swap this week, I'm making my chicken enchiladas, rice, salad, and Jane's homemade frozen yogurt for dessert.
Friday: Ham and cheese paninis, butternut squash soup
Saturday: I'll figure something out when it gets closer.
Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shopping for Me!

My closet has been so sad lately. Clothes stained by toddler tears and sticky-handed hugs, pulled out of shape by a nursing babe and little ones wanting attention. Getting dressed has become a dilemma: dress for battle with the kiddos or dress for the hot mama that I hope still lives inside me?

Earlier this week, I cleared out some items that no longer fit, flatter, or (as Pioneer Woman would say) make my skirt fly up. Then I found out that Gap was having their "Give and Get" sale (formerly known as "Friends and Family") this weekend and I could give my closet the boost it needed for a lot less moola.

I decided to check out the Gilroy outlets (since the Gap coupon works there, too) and took my three babes with me. Though they made difficult work of my closet boosting assignment (it is so hard to think "hot mama" when little ones are wrestling with mannequins), I did get some deals that will make getting dressed a whole lot more fun.

J. Crew Outlet was my first stop and I picked up two pairs of corduroy pants for $39 each. They fit like they were made for me; I couldn't pass them up.

At Gap, they didn't have too much for the kiddos, which made me sad. I really wanted to get them some cute fall clothes. I found a lot for me; their women's section is huge. I limited myself to one knit cardigan ($24.99 before my 30% discount) and my deal of the day: a pair of Long and Lean jeans ($27.99 before my discount). When I pulled on the jeans in the dressing room, I actually said "hello, old friend". They fit me that well.

I hope to check out Gap and Old Navy tomorrow to see if there is anything else I can't live without. I am bummed that this coupon only works in store: I really prefer to shop fromGap and Old Navy online, but I'll take what I can get.

To get your own coupon for the Give and Get event, just google "Gap Give and Get August 2010" and you should be able to print one out. And don't worry if you can't make it out this weekend; if history repeats itself, Gap will do another Give and Get event close to Christmas time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

I received my July rebate check from Rite Aid this week for $12.99. That's a big boost from the past few rebate checks I've received!

This week's deposit:
  • $12.99 from Rite Aid Single Check Rebates

That brings my total up to $268.47 saved since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mommy's Junior Pre-school

I have started "home schooling" my twins. Now, they are not even three years old, so I don't really consider it "school" but I wanted to have some regular time set aside to help them start to recognize letters, shapes, numbers, etc.

I've been doing a modified "Letter of the Week" curriculum. I choose one letter and focus on that for the week, working in other ways to also focus on colors (which they know really well) and shapes (not as well) and numbers (ditto).
This is only our second week, so I don't have a whole lot to report, but the girls are really enjoying it. Last week we did the letter "A". We colored a picture of an alligator, matched ants with a big "A" and little "a", made a 3D apple, and did a gospel lesson about Adam and Eve.
And now is a great time to stock up on supplies for our home school. Yesterday I went to Target and found some foam 1" blocks for counting and building shapes: a bag of 50 blocks was $1. They also had little dry erase boards for $1 each. I thought those would be great for helping them down the road a bit practice their writing. I've also picked up washable markers ($2 each at Target), glue sticks (25 cents for 2), white glue (20 cents each), and scissors (50 cents for 2 pairs).
There are also tons of places online to find worksheets and cute ideas. Some I've found so far:

It is bringing a little more order to our household and the girls love learning and playing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dinner this week...

Basically the last week of the month. Summer is winding down (did we even really have a summer here in the Bay Area?). The grocery budget is getting slim. Let's see what we've got cooking this week, shall we?

Monday: Rotisserie chicken, carrot souffle, green salad
Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday: Pioneer Woman's Shrimp Pasta in Foil, salad, homemade french bread
Thursday: Dinner Swap Surprise
Friday: Church Activity, but I do need to bring a side dish. I might bring my sister's famous Ascini di Pepe salad. I've never tried to make it on my own!
Saturday: Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken, yellow squash, fruit salad, and biscuits. (We didn't get around to having this last week.)
Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

Last week was my first time with no deposits to report! : ( But we are back on track this week since I received my Big Fat Check from Ebates.

Have you been using Ebates? I never make a purchase online unless I check Ebates first to make sure I can't get some cash back. Even if it's a few cents, all those pennies and nickels eventually add up! There are no fees to join and you only need to earn $5.01 in a quarter to receive your check. Click here if you'd like to sign up for Ebates.

This week's deposit:
  • $10.67 from Ebates

That brings my total up to $255.48 saved since May 1st! One quarter of the way to my $1000 goal!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Traveling with Kids: Wine Country, Part 2

We decided to rent a house for our trip to Napa. I found ours on VRBO.com (which has listings all over the world!). Traveling with kids changes your priorities about what you need when you travel. I knew I wanted a house because:
  1. I wanted the kids to sleep in a separate room from me. They sleep better that way, so everyone sleeps better that way.
  2. I wanted the extra space to spread out.
  3. A backyard would be a great place for the kids to play.
  4. A kitchen makes it so much easier not only for meals, but also for snacks. : )
  5. It's more private/you don't have to worry that your crying baby is keeping up the neighbors.

Our little house was a 2 bedroom/1 bath but it had a little sitting room with a daybed, so it kind of worked out to be 3 bedrooms for us. One of the twins slept on the daybed, the other in her own queen bed, and the baby was in a pack and play in our room.

Some vacation rentals offer extra perks, like stocking your fridge with light breakfast food. Ours didn't do that, but we did have bikes in the garage that we could take out and we also had bathrobes in the closets.

Another bonus about vacation rentals is that the owners usually love the area and know almost everything there is to know. Our owners had several binders with different subjects: where to eat, what to do, etc. Our kitchen had cookbooks, many with local flavors and recipes.

If we do decide to stay in a hotel next time, I might check out the Embassy Suites on California Ave. I drove past it on my way to the grocery store, and it looked pretty nice.

If you are going to Wine Country without kids, I must recommend staying at The Cottage in the Vines. It is a one bedroom guest house in Sonoma. The owners are so friendly and take such good care of you. They delivered breakfast outside our door each morning, which we ate out on the deck overlooking their vineyard. I was unable to find their website, so maybe they are not renting at this time, but you can email them at info@cottageinthevines.com or call 925-216-5881 for more information.

We did not eat out with the kiddos. We decided that we didn't want the headache of it, so I cannot recommend a good place to take little kids. However, I did take the kids to a place for a light lunch. It's called The Little Gourmet (A Kid's Restaurant that's Grown-up Friendly). We got to eat outside. I ordered the girls each a smoothie and we shared a Monte Cristo sandwich. (I am very particular about my Monte Cristo sandwiches. This one was okay, but not what I like in a Monte Cristo. By the way, if you've never had a Monte Cristo, my favorite place to get them is at Bennigan's.)

The first night we ordered pizza from a local place called Papa Joe's. Really good pizza and good value. We ordered a large and had lots of leftovers.

Another night I got a marinated steak from Browns Valley Market in Napa. I also got an eggplant that we grilled with the steak and some stuff to make a salad. This is a nice, locally owned store and it was nice to shop in there. They also have pre-made stuff in their deli that looked yummy and plenty of goodies to make a sandwich. I walked right past the dessert display because I knew I would blow my budget there!

There were some main stream stores not far from our house: Safeway, Target, CVS. We got most of our provisions at Safeway, which kept our costs low. There was also a Trader Joe's and a Whole Foods nearby.

One place you don't need to go is Oakville Grocery. It's supposed to be this quaint little grocery with delicious sandwiches and other lunch fare. We stopped there on our way to Sonoma Train Town (which really isn't on the way to Sonoma). I went in, just the twins and me. Just inside the door, I froze: the walls were lined with glass jars filled with delectable (and expensive) vittles for your picnic basket. What was I doing in there with 2 little kids?

I quickly grabbed a sandwich in their pre-made case and an Odwalla smoothie for the girls to share. I picked up licorice from their candy section (although I didn't have any, the girls ended up not eating it and Husband threw the bag away after eating one piece) and then waited for 10 minutes to spend $15 on three big cookies. My total for this lunch? $35. Yes: thirty-five dollars. I was so frazzled with the kids in there that I didn't even blink when she handed me my receipt. I just wanted to get out of there without further incident.

So, skip Oakville Grocery and pick up a lunch for 1/3 of the price at Trader Joe's. It will be just as delicious!

Have you found any great spots to take kids out to eat in Wine Country?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dinner this week...

I'm feeling a bit under the weather. This fall-ish weather we're having has brought a little cold into our household! So I'm feeling like putting together a hearty stew and baking up some bread from the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" book that I finally got from the library. We'll see...

Monday: Stew? Homemade french bread?

Tuesday: Spaghetti, green salad

Wednesday: Sandwiches. Maybe chicken paninis.

Thursday: My turn to take dinner to my sister's family. Almond crusted fish, veggies, rice, and marshmallow cookie sandwiches for dessert.

Friday: Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken, yellow squash, green salad, biscuits

Saturday: Quesadillas with grilled veggies, watermelon

Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Each week, Michael Finney shares a freebie on the ABC 7 5pm newscast. This week's free stuff:
  • Coupon for four free 6-packs of Refreshe soda at Safeway

To find out where to send your self-addressed, stamped envelope, go here.

Per Finney's website, all offers are available only to viewers of ABC 7/KGO news. Sorry to my friends outside of the Bay Area.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sad eyes

I had a busy morning. My baby girl had her one year checkup. Then we had park day. Then we had some quick grocery shopping to do. (Note to self: Shopping with all three babes is never "quick"...even when your list has only 5 items.)

I got the cool shopping cart with the car on the front so the twins could entertain themselves while I shopped. I even gave them books to peruse. Somehow, the itch to get out and cause havoc got to them...and it all came to a head at checkout.

It wasn't anything that I haven't been through before: wandering away, picking up every piece of candy at the checkout, touching the self-scanner so it won't work (why do I go through those lines?!), the ONE coupon I had didn't work so I had to rescan all my items (and didn't buy the item with the coupon).

By the time we got out to the car, I was DONE. Get in the car. Get in your seat. Please don't whine. I turned up the music to help drown out the sound of little voices, the pitying and sad glances of passers-by at the grocery store flashing in my mind and making my blood boil a bit.

Sad? Don't be sad for me. Yes, I had a rather arduous trip to the grocery store. But I'm not sad. My life as a mommy is far from glamorous, but I make up for that in payments of kisses and hugs.

It's all about balance: tempering the hard times with the good, blocking out the lack of sleep and the ruined wardrobe and the piles of dirty laundry that lurk around every corner. Replacing those with images of popsicle smiles and snuggling your once-tiny babe into your squishy tummy (who needs rock hard abs?).

Every day the challenge begins anew to love and teach and guide my little ones and take a deep breath when they spill the milk or say "it's mine!" one hundred times.

Sad? No, don't be sad for me.

Food Storage: What to store?

I know that food storage can seem overwhelming when you don't know what to store. If I could just find a list, then that would be great! Well there are lists, with things like fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. You just need to tailor it to your family.
One really good idea is to write down 10 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and 5 snacks and desserts that your family enjoys. That way you can see what ingredients your family leans toward. You may have to make adjustments for meals that can be made with only pantry items.
I haven't done this exercise yet, so I'm going to try it:
Bay Area Mommy-nomics Food Storage Menu

  1. Oatmeal made with quick oats and evaporated milk, a little bit of brown sugar, and bananas and cinnamon on top. If I didn't have fresh bananas, I'd use frozen blueberries or frozen peaches.
  2. Steel cut oats made with water and a little bit of powdered milk, a splash of vanilla, and topped with jam or maple syrup.
  3. Cold cereal
  4. Pancakes. I make mine from scratch, so I'd need milk or water and eggs along with my dry ingredients.
  5. Toast with peanut butter.
  6. Blueberry Muffins
  7. Pioneer Woman's Egg in a hole
  8. Scrambled eggs with cheese and a little bit of green onions
  9. Waffles
  10. Cinnamon rolls with yogurt and fruit


  1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  2. Egg salad sandwiches
  3. Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup
  4. Quesadillas with grilled vegetables
  5. Macaroni and cheese
  6. Bagels with cream cheese
  7. Smoothies
  8. Scrambled eggs
  9. Chicken salad sandwiches
  10. Soup


  1. Chicken Enchiladas with rice and vegetable
  2. Meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes and carrots
  3. Spaghetti with vegetable or fruit on the side
  4. Poppy Seed Chicken with angel hair pasta and peas
  5. Black Bean Burritos
  6. Sloppy Joes with sweet potato fries and fruit
  7. Quiche with fruit
  8. Pizza
  9. Chili and cornbread
  10. Hamburgers with sweet potato fries


  1. Popcorn
  2. Crackers (wheat thins, Ritz)
  3. Dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries)
  4. Banana bread
  5. Tortilla chips with salsa


  1. Chocolate chip cookies
  2. Brownies
  3. Atomic popcorn (super sweet!)
  4. Chocolate pudding
  5. Cupcakes

Whew! That was kind of hard for me! How did you do? Come back week for the next step!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dinner this week...

Some friends are in town and we are having them over for dinner this week. We've also got leftovers from Baby Girl's first birthday party this weekend. Here's what I've got planned:
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, green salad, jello (as requested by my girls)
Wednesday: Pizza
Thursday: Dinner Swap Surprise
Friday: Garlic shrimp, butternut squash risotto, green salad
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Leftovers
What's on your menu this week?

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

In this week's Finney's Friday Free Stuff:
  • Free bag of Attune Probiotic Granola
  • Coupon for a free dessert from San Francisco's Orson Restaurant

For information on where to send you self-addressed, stamped envelope, click here.

Per Finney's website, free items are available only to viewers of KGO-TV. Sorry to my friends outside of the Bay Area.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Deposit to the European Tour Fund

I cashed in several gift cards in July. I'm still using my version of the cash envelope system, so I just deducted each gift card amount from my "cash". Now I'm transferring that money out of my grocery fund and into my European Tour Fund!

This week's deposit:
  • $10.80 from Visa giftcard I received from Rite Aid SCR
  • $20.54 from Target giftcard that I found in my wallet. Nice!
  • $20.51 from Amazon giftcards I cashed in to buy my wipes. Most of that was from money earned doing surveys for Valued Opinions.

That brings my total up to $244.81 saved since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cage free chicken drumsticks $0.99/lb.

I have been trying to feed my family healthier food options. That includes eating better meat and dairy products (antibiotic free, hormone free, vegetarian feed, cage free, etc.). That is not always the most wallet-friendly choice, however. And I admit that lately, I've been picking up irresistable deals in the marked-down meats' section of my Safeway.

With a new month comes a recommitment to put my money where my values are. I went to Trader Joe's to pick up some chicken breasts this week. I ended up getting their chicken tenders at $4.99/lb. Ouch.

So I was excited to see the weekly specials from Whole Foods this week include their Rocky Jr. drumsticks (cage-free and antibiotic free) on sale for $0.99/lb. in a value pack. That's my stock up price for drumsticks at Safeway!

There you have it: a healthy choice that doesn't break the bank.

Prices are good from Aug. 4th through Aug. 10th. Check your local store's ad to make sure these prices are available in your area.

Field Trip: Berry picking

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I took our kiddos to pick berries at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport. (Uh, where?) Well, it's between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, tucked away outside the tiny town of Davenport (population: 367).
Swanton Farms has U-pick ollalieberries and strawberries now (although I think ollalieberry season is winding down), blackberries at their Coastaways Ranch, and kiwi in the winter. (How cool is that?)

We started off with the ollalieberries. C just wanted to eat them. They are a little bit of work to get, but oh, so juicy! (You want to pick the black ones, not the red ones, remember.)

Then we headed up a little hill to get some strawberries. Again, C just wanted to loll in the field and eat berries until her little tummy was full.

After we paid for our bounty (ollalieberries were $4/pound and strawberries were $2.50/pound, and everything is organic), we had a little picnic at one of the tables they have there. Finally, we washed the kids up (as best we could) and drove along Highway 1 to head home. Such a beautfiul sight to see the ocean along the way.

What did I do with all those juicy berries? First, I made some ollalieberry jam, courtesy of Swanton Farms' recipe here. Oh my goodness, it is so yummy. I must get myself some ollalieberry plants, stat!

I had fewer strawberries than ollalieberries, but we just ate those as fast as we could: on shortcake, in yogurt, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in smoothies. We picked the bright red little ones. So delicious!

There are several U-Pick farms in the Bay Area. To find one near you, hop over here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Food Storage: 3 month supply

A little while ago, I did a little post on food storage 101...an introduction to food storage, if you will. Last week, I did a presentation on food storage for some women in my church. Let me tell you, I learned so much from preparing for that night!

I went through our food storage and calculated that we had about two weeks worth of food and only three days' worth of water. Husband and I talked it over and decided that food storage was very important to us, so we are going to try to have a three month supply, as is suggested by our church leaders.

We determined that we would make a commitment to have 3 months' worth of food storage and two weeks worth of water in six months' time, by February 1st, 2011. I'm sharing this with you so that (a) I can be held accountable for this commitment and (b) maybe you'll get some idea of how this is accomplished.

I am not an expert in this area and am learning a lot as I go, so you are welcome to learn right along with me.

I've divided up what we need to store for each month, although depending on sales, some months I may get more of one thing and less of another. Here is my outline for this month:

Grains (wheat, flour, cornmeal, popcorn, oats, etc.): 49 lbs.
Legumes (beans and lentils): 3.15 lbs.
Powdered milk: 2.3 lbs.
Cooking oil: 0.79 quarts
Sugar or honey: 4.725 lbs.
Salt: 1.16 lbs.
Water: 9 gallons
Canned fruits: 37 cans (these are the 15oz. size)
Dried fruits: 0.75 lbs.
Fruit juice: 3.6 bottles (these are the half gallon size bottles)
Canned vegetables: 37 cans (these are 15oz. again)
Proteins (canned or frozen chicken, tuna, beef, etc.): 19.76 lbs.
Evaporated milk: 43 cans
Processed cheese (powdered and/or frozen): 5.9 lbs.

Now these may seem like crazy numbers to you, and it did to me, too. I got these numbers from a blog called Totally Ready. Our three month supply is supposed to be food that we eat on a regular basis, so I think that as I go through this exercise, I will see more of what we actually eat and can fine tune my storage for our family.

For example, I have a few cans of Manwich sloppy joe sauce. My family loves it and yes, I consider it a vegetable. : ) I also have a freezer in my garage and I have frozen fruits, meats, and vegetables and some grains in there, so I'm counting those items as well as the items in my pantry.

Another example: evaporated milk. 43 cans? I don't think I've even used 1 can in the last 3 months! But I've been reading another amazing website called The Prudent Homemaker and she talks about how you can use evaporated milk for a lot of cooking and it tastes better than powdered milk. I would definitely use it if I had no source of income to buy fresh milk, but I don't think I need that many cans to round out my three month storage.

So we'll see how things go. I'd love to hear how your food storage efforts are going as well!

I also thought I might do a post each week with what I think are good items to add to your pantry (at their best price) to help you fill in the holes in your food storage.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Every Friday, Michael Finney shares a freebie or two with those who watch channel 7's five o'clock news. This week's freebies:

  • One free week of yoga or one free 30 minute Pilates session at Yogaworks Studio

  • One free individual chocolate fondue from the Melting Pot in San Mateo.

All you need to do is send in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. For more information, check it out here.

Dinner this week...

It's a new month, which always gets me excited to start planning some dinners. I'm trying to plan the whole month out this time. I think it might help me look for some deals ahead of time.

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Pizza bianca with goat cheese, green salad, watermelon

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: My turn to take dinner to my sister's. I'm making Cheesy Chicken, wild rice pilaf, carrots, and whole wheat chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for dessert. Yes, these cookies are healthy and yummy. I like to add M&M's. You know, to make up for the healthy stuff.

Friday: Grilled steak, potato bundles, grilled corn on the cob (6/$1 at Safeway!)

Saturday: Date night. Husband and I are going to have a picnic. I'm going to pick up some treats at Trader Joe's, like cheese and crackers, grapes, and maybe some delicious bread.

Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

A little housekeeping note: Finney's Friday Free Stuff will now be published on Mondays.

Have you been sending in for your free stuff? I have! However, this week I got one envelope returned to me, but it had been opened, so there was no coupon inside. : ( And, the Safeway ice cream freebie ran out so I got a coupon for a free box of crackers instead. : ( : (

Oh, well. There's always more free stuff on the horizon.

Traveling with kids: Wine Country

I've been putting off my report on our trip to Napa because I could not find my camera. Lo and behold it has finally resurfaced!

Husband and I took our three little girls to Napa earlier this month. We needed a change of scenery, a break from the day-to-day. Whenever I told people we were going to Napa, they would say, "what are you going to do with the kids"? It seems that Wine Country has gotten a reputation for being an "adult only" destination. But Husband and I aren't wine drinkers, so we were looking for alternative forms of entertainment anyway.

After lots of research, I made a list of potential spots we could visit and then we just played it by ear each day. So where did we end up?

We crossed over into the Valley of the Moon and visited Sonoma Train Town, which was just perfect for our little crew. They have a scaled-down train that travels a delightful little track through tunnels (S loved that part), over bridges, and past waterfalls.
Your train ride stops part way at a little town where they have a petting zoo set up and a town that's built at half-scale.

After the train ride, we bought tickets for some of the rides (5 tickets for $10, or $2.50 each). Each ride is one ticket. I rode the ferris wheel with the twins. Let's just say that once I got to the top I realized why I wasn't so keen on riding with two wiggly two year olds! But S had been dying to ride the ferris wheel since she saw one on the Fox and the Hound 2 and when she couldn't ride the ferris wheel at the Alameda County Fair because she was too little, she was devastated.

The girls then rode a Dumbo-like airplane ride. There was also a carousel and a little roller coaster. Thomas the Train Engine fans will love the little depot where all the trains are housed.
Summary: Good for little kids (under 5 is best, but kids up to 10 would probably like it). Not too expensive at $4.50 each to ride the train (babes under 1 year are free). You can see everything in about an hour or two.

We left the Train Town and picked up some Slurpees at a 7-11, then headed towards Sonoma's town square. There's a playground and a little duck pond. The town square is my favorite thing about Sonoma. It is so cute with fun shops and restaurants, although I wouldn't take my little kids into any of them!

Another day we headed up to the tiny town of Glen Ellen to swim in Morton's Warm Springs. It is a bit of a drive, but the layout of the "resort" is nice. There are three pools: one about 6 inches deep for babes. It is big enough for lots of little ones. The second pool has a shallow end about 2 1/2 feet deep and the deep end is about 3 1/2 or 4 feet deep. One of my twins went in there with Husband and loved that she could stand up in the water. The third pool is big and deep enough for the big kids.
They have a little snack shack with your regular "shack" fare of hot dogs, pizza, and ice cream. I forgot to pack swim diapers and they had them for sale there.

Summary: It is a little bit expensive ($8 for adults, $7 for children over 1 year), but if you were going to spend the day there, it would be worth it. It is a lot less than the other natural springs pools (Calistoga is $25 per person over $1). This would be super fun for a big group with the picnic area and different pools: something for everyone at Morton's.
Other places on my list that we didn't get to this time...
  1. Napa Firefighters Museum in downtown Napa. I actually walked past this when it was closed and it looked pretty cool, though not for my under 3 crowd. I think I would wait until the kids are 5 to take them here, unless they listen when you say "don't touch". It is a very small museum, so it would be fun to stop in if you are exploring downtown with your little ones.
  2. John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. I didn't get to see this, but it sounded cool. The park supposedly has lots of picnic tables and playground equipment with a trail that winds along the Napa River.


  1. Old Faithful Geyser. We didn't hit this one for two reasons: (1) it would have been $8 per adult and (2) we were worried about keeping our little ones far enough away from the spewing hot water. Maybe in a few years.
  2. Sharpsteen Museum. A cool museum for little ones about the history of the Napa Valley with exhibits that change often. Admission is free.
  3. Pioneer Park is across the street from the museum and has a gazebo, picnic tables, and climbing structures. There is also a stream to play in. It just sounded so quaint to me.

Santa Rosa:

A bit of a drive, but still considered part of wine country, we wanted to visit Santa Rosa as Husband had briefly considered a job opportunity there. We didn't get to make it this time, but I really want to check out Howarth Memorial Park. Apparently they have a playground, pony rides, petting zoo, merry go round, and miniature train. They also have a splash pad and ice cream shop, which sounds perfect for the summer time! What sounded really fun were the teepee huts and an "extensive kid-sized Old West town". We're definitely going to try to work that one in next time!

Have any of you found a great place to take kids in the Wine Country?

Tune in next week for more on where we stayed and what we ate in Wine Country!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Deposit to the European Tour Fund

Two rebates this week. One is from Rite Aid. The other is from Gerber (remember this?). Here's this week's deposit:
  • $2.00 June rebate check from Rite Aid
  • $2.50 rebate check from Gerber "Try Me Free"

That brings my total up to $192.96 saved since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dinner this week...

It's the end of the month and it feels like it is going to be a busy week. I'm giving a presentation on emergency preparedness/food storage at my church this week, so I've been doing a lot of research for that. It's also my littlest one's first birthday next week and I'm making party preparations! I'm all about keeping it simple, thus the frequent use of leftovers on the menu.

What we are having for dinner this week:

Monday: Stuffed shells with marinara sauce, green salad, garlic bread

Tuesday: I'm thinking of doing a roast in the crockpot. (tonight, if you're interested!)

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Dinner Swap Surprise

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: I never made that pizza I mentioned last week. I think we'll do that tonight.

Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

In this Friday's Free Stuff:

  • one free large Real Fruit Smoothie from McDonald's
  • one free Cobb Salad from the Royal Exchange in San Francisco

For more information on where to send you self-addressed stamped envelope, click here.

Per Finney's website, Finney's Friday Free Stuff is only available to ABC7 viewers. Sorry to my friends outside the Bay Area!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

This week I received a check from Kraft for the rebate they had in the Back to School coupon book. (You could submit a rebate for 2009 and 2010.) My check was for $20, which brings my total up to $188.46 saved since May 1st.
For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Save on baby supplies at Amazon

Have you ever tried using Amazon to get your diapers and wipes? Amazon offers a 15% discount when you sign up for their "Subscribe & Save" service, which signs you up for automatic deliveries every 1, 3 or 6 months. The great thing is that you can change your delivery frequency at anytime...or even cancel it altogether.

Right now, Amazon is offering an additional 15% off their already marked down price, making their Subscribe & Save option even better.

I just ordered two boxes of Huggies wipes through Subscribe & Save. Each box had 3 refills with 216 wipes in each refill. After discounts, each box cost me only $12.16! I used a giftcard I earned taking surveys to lower my out of pocket expense. Nice!

Shipping is free for Subscribe & Save items, so you don't have to meet the $25 quota they normally reserve for free shipping.

***Update: I just checked the price on these and it has gone up to $14.22, which is still a great deal at 2 cents per wipe. Amazon's prices do tend to fluctuate. The Pampers wipes are actually a better deal right now at $13.47 for 720 wipes or 1.87 cents per wipe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bed Bath & Savings Beyond

A friend of mine works at Bed Bath & Beyond and told me a few little known facts:
  1. You can use expired 20% off coupons (you know, the ones you seem to get all the time until you actually want to use one)
  2. You can use more than one 20% off coupon in one transaction. In fact, you can use one 20% off coupon for each item in your transaction.
  3. If you don't have a coupon at the time of purchase, you can come back with your receipt and your coupon and get a price adjustment...whenever! There is no time limit!

So earlier in the year, I bought two new slipcovers for our couches at Bed Bath and Beyond without a coupon {gasp!}. (For shame, I know.) Then my friend told me about the little known facts above. After misplacing the receipt and miraculously finding it after cleaning out my junk drawer, I decided to put it to the test.

Today I took my receipt and two 20% off coupons (one of which was way expired) to get my price adjustment. And guess what...I walked out with $40 some odd dollars back on my Visa card. Suh-weet.

I was feeling so great about how smart I was when I walked out into the parking lot only to see that I had left one of the sliding car doors open. Doh! Oh well. I guess you can't win them all. : )

So check your filing system for old BB&B receipts and see if you can make some money out of nothing today!

Dinner this week...

I'm going to have some repeats this week because last week was still a little up in the air, planning-wise. The beans I was supposed to make DID NOT turn out. It's not PW's recipe, this is the third time I have tried to make beans "from scratch" and it didn't turn out any of those times, so I'm stumped. Any suggestions would be great!

Monday: Spinach & onion quesadillas

Tuesday: BLT's

Wednesday: Spaghetti night, green salad, maybe some garlic bread

Thursday: My turn to take dinner to my sister...still thinking about that one...

Friday: Chicken paninis?

Saturday: Tacos in the slow cooker

Sunday: Dinner at my parents' (didn't go last Sunday, but definitely going this Sunday)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Living in the Bay Area, surely you've heard of Michael Finney from Channel 7's "7 on your side". Did you know that every Friday in the 5pm newscast, Michael Finney offers his "Finney's Friday Free Stuff"? It's completely free, all you have to do is mail in a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

I've gotten a few of these great free things, including a free large, one-topping Papa Murphy's Pizza and a coupon for a free frozen appetizer from Safeway.
Each Friday, I'll post the details on Finney's Friday Free Stuff for the week. This week's offers are:

  • Free Hunt's tomato product

  • Free Safeway Select 1/2 gallon of ice cream

Click here for information on where to send your SASE.

Per Finney's website, offers are available to ABC7 viewers only. (Sorry to my friends out of the Bay Area.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Traveling with kids: Sacramento, part 2

Yesterday I talked about my trip to Sacramento and highlighted some fun places to take the kids. Today I'm finishing up by sharing where you could stay and some kid-friendly eating establishments, if you're planning a trip to our state's capitol.

Where to stay: There are lots of hotels in the area, with all different pricepoints. We chose to stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites in West Sacramento. Each party got a king-sized studio suite, which was very nice. We got a crib for the baby, and put it kind of in the closet, so it was out of the way and a little more quiet. The twins slept on the pull out sofa and Husband and I got to sleep in a king bed. The room had a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker and a little sink. It was right off the freeway, but not so close that you heard all the cars.

On the other side of the freeway, there was a large shopping center with a Super Wal-Mart and lots of restaurants, including Chipotle (which is where we got dinner one night). We almost went to the In-N-Out Burger right across the street from the hotel, too.

We spent lots of time in the swimming pool. We also enjoyed the complimentary breakfast: muffins, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, and make your own waffle (just to name a few items). The room was very nice and for less than $100/night, I thought this was a great deal.

Where to eat: Finding a kid-friendly restaurant seems to be the most difficult trick of all. I'm not an expert on Sacramento (in fact, this was my first visit there!), but I can share with you the two places we went out to eat with the kids.

Logan's Roadhouse: with the music blaring and the peanut shells on the floor, no one will complain when your kids are screaming or the make a huge mess. I ordered the half rack of ribs with a baked sweet potato. So good. In fact, probably the best ribs I've ever had. And the rolls...oh my goodness. My kids each ate a whole roll and I ate 4...and then I lost count. Warm and floury goodness, those rolls. The juke box is free and the atmosphere is laid back.

Kids' menu: I ordered mac & cheese for one of the twins and chicken tenders for the other with french fries and cinnamon apples (I split these between the two). They got milk to drink. The girls ate a decent amount, but it was a little hard to concentrate with so much going on.

Joe's Crab Shack: This was the most fun I've had at a restaurant in a long time. There's loud music (again) and this location (in Old Sacramento) had an awesome view of the river. I ordered the snow crab (with garlic and herbs), which comes with new potatoes and corn on the cob. It was a little bit of work, especially with the kidlets getting antsy, but it was so, so good. And be sure to try the Crazy-Good Crab Dip. It definitely lives up to its name.

Kids' menu: I liked the selection on their kids' menu. I ordered Cheesy Mac for one twin(again...hey, she loves cheesy noodles) and pizza for the other with applesauce for both this time and milk to drink. The portions were plenty big enough for big kids. My hungry little one ate almost the whole huge piece of pizza! I fed some of the applesauce to the tiny babe.

We were there a long time. It was a little slow because it was 4th of July weekend on Saturday at lunchtime. The servers danced twice, which was really fun. My brother-in-law and I actually got up to join them for part of the second song. Definitely some good times!

Deposit to European Tour Fund

I received three checks for completing surveys this week. All three were from Pinecone Research, which I love because they always pay promptly and I sometimes get to try out some cool stuff.
  • $9.00 in checks from completing Pinecone Research surveys

That brings my total up to saved $168.46 since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Traveling with kids: Sacramento

Two weeks ago, my brother met up with our family in Sacramento for a mini-reunion. Since our group had four kids 4 and under (plus 2 babies), we decided to make it a "kid-focused" trip.

Our first stop was Fairytale Town. I was really excited about this little place. Size-wise, it was perfect for our group. We didn't get separated too easily and when we did, it was fairly easy to track the others down. We arrived right before closing time, although they will let you stay an hour after closing time if you are already in the park. My sister had a coupon for 20% off that she printed from the Entertainment Book, and all but one of the kids were free, so our group got in for a pretty good price.

The downside to going at closing time is that all the animals had already been put away. Bummer. We could peek at a few of them in their cages, but that wasn't quite as exciting.

The biggest hit of the park? There were two: the treehouse slide, which my nephew desperately wanted to tackle head first, and the Crooked Mile. My girls walked that crooked mile half a dozen times and were not one bit tired of it!

Great for little kids (under 5). Perfect price, especially for going with bigger groups. You can easily see everything in about an hour or so, perfect for those short attention spans.

The next day we hit the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. We didn't get in to the museum because the train was leaving. It's an actual train that takes you on a 40 minute ride along the river. We were on the first train of the day and it was a little crowded, but nice to be able to just sit. All the kids were good about staying in their seats. The train does stop at the halfway point and turn around, so you're free to get up and walk around during that stretch, which is good for the kids.

Old Sacramento is so cute. They have lots of different shops (especially candy shops) and even in the heat of the day, the shaded sidewalks are nice to walk down. We stopped to get an ice cream bar from one of the stores as we took in the sights.

A must see. Great for all ages. You can gauge this to suit your budget. Train rides are $9 per person, with kids under 5 free and kids 6-17 for $4. The same prices apply to a visit to the museum. Even if you don't ride the train, it's fun to walk around downtown and see the train leaving from the depot. Several people are dressed in period costume, which is always fun. There is paid parking at the nearby garage, but several stores and restaurants offer validation.

Tune in tomorrow for more on my Sacramento trip, including where to stay and eat.