Wednesday, June 30, 2010 you can rest medicine

Saturday I came down with some kind of cold. I tried to push through it, especially since Husband left before the dawn on Sunday for a work trip to the city of brotherly love. No matter how I've tried to ignore my sinuses, the cold lingers.

As I lay in my empty California king bed last night, my eyes burning from my inflamed sinuses, I thought about what would really make me feel better: more sleep? someone to take the kids for even an hour? That old Nyquil commercial popped into my head and thought I'd come up with one of my own version. Because, the regular Nyquil wouldn't do much for me (in fact, it always keeps me awake...go figure).

Introducing Bay Area Mommy-Nomic's Super Nyquil for Sick Mommies:

The sniffling,
sore throat,
fever reducing,
toddler muting,
wet nurse for crying babies,
crisp sheeted bed in a quiet room with only the sound of the rain on the roof,
dishes done,
laundry folded,
dinner cooked and children fed,
babies bathed and dressed for bed,
deliver your favorite breakfast in bed after letting you sleep in as long as you wanted,
so you can get your rest

Now that's not too much to ask, is it? : )

July 4th Summer Sale at Gilroy Outlets

Did yesterday's post whet your appetite for some outlet shopping? It got me thinking about how long it's been since I've stopped in to check out all the great deals they always seem to have there.
If you're going to be in the South Bay, Gilroy Outlets is celebrating July 4th with their annual summer sale. On top of the discounts I mentioned at Gap and Banana Republic, several other stores will have some pretty great deals, such as:
  • BCBG Max Azria: 30% to 50% off
  • Book Warehouse: 10% off your entire purchase July 2-5
  • Champion: Entire store is 40% through July 11
  • Ann Taylor Factory Store: Entire store is 40% off lowest ticketed price through July 6
  • Carters': $3.99 clearance sale through July 7
  • Coldwater Creek: 40% off Storewide Sale through July 11
  • Eddie Bauer: Super Sale with savings of 20% to 70% through July 13
  • J. Crew: 40% off all women's footwear and accessories, graphic tees, Jackie cardigans, and denim through July 7, Kids' flip flops $6.99
  • Lucky Brand: 25% off lowest price July 1-5, 30% off your purchase July 10-11, and denim is buy 2, get 1 free July 15-18
  • OshKosh B'gosh: Clearance sale through July 7

For more July 4th weekend deals, check it out here. While you're at the website, sign up for the VIP Shopper Club. You'll get extra coupons and updates on sales and special events at the outlets.

With over 145 shops, you are definitely sure to find a deal! And I never make a trip to the Gilroy Outlets without picking up a caramel apple at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. In fact, I'm craving an apple pie one right about now.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Outlet shopping this weekend

Does the upcoming holiday weekend make you think "shopping"? Well here's a way to make your money go a little further at Gap Outlet and Banana Republic Factory Stores. July 1-6, Gap Outlet is having a big sale, with up to 70% off original prices. Banana Republic Factory Stores are advertising 40% off everything in the store.

In this past Sunday's USA Weekend, there was a full page ad about the sales, with two coupons attached. One is for 15% off your Gap Outlet purchase of $75 or more and the other is 15% off your Banana Republic Factory Store purchase of $100 or more. This could work out to be a pretty great deal if you need to stock up on some summer clothes for the kids (and maybe something for yourself, too).
Not sure if there's an outlet store nearby? Gap and Banana Republic have Outlet stores in the following Bay Area cities:
  • Milpitas (Great Mall of the Bay Area): Gap and Banana Republic
  • Gilroy (Gilroy Premium Outlets): Gap and Banana Republic
  • San Leandro (Marina Square): Gap only
  • Tracy (Tracy Outlets): Gap only
  • Napa (Napa Premium Outlets): Gap and Banana Republic
  • Vacaville (Vacaville Premium Outlets): Gap and Banana Republic
  • Petaluma (Petaluma Village): Gap and Banana Republic
  • Folsom (Folsom Premium Outlets): Gap and Banana Republic

Traveling outside the Bay Area for the holiday? Check here for more outlet locations.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dinner this week...

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It's the last week of the month and I'm finally coming up with a menu plan? I guess that gives you an idea of what it's been like around here. Crazy and more crazy. I think it's the good kind of crazy, though.

Monday: Dinner with my parents.

Tuesday: Dinner Swap Surprise (It's my sister's week to bring dinner over.)

Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner, probably blueberry pancakes or waffles

Thursday: Rotisserie chicken from Costco, carrot souffle, and green salad

Friday: We'll be in Sacramento, going out to dinner with family.

Saturday: Ditto.

Sunday: Coming home to an empty fridge. Probably sandwiches.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Super Savings Saturday

I was feeling the crunch this week. We were supposed to have guests over for dinner Saturday night, but they ended up not being able to make it. Instead of scratching my head over how I was going to feed their family and ours with the $14 I had left for the week, now I was able to see what I could get to carry us through to next week. Here's what I ended up with today:

The picture above is of my combined shopping trips to Safeway and Smart & Final Extra. At Safeway I got:
  • 2 bags Baby Goldfish crackers $0.88 each. Used $0.50 e-coupon (from shortcuts) and two $0.50 internet coupons here.
  • Goldfish graham snacks $0.88. Used $0.75 e-coupon (from shortcuts).
  • 2 Lucerne cream chese $0.99 each. Used $1/2 coupon from the Dairy booklet they had up in the Safeway stores over the last few weeks.
  • Lucerne string cheese $1.50. Used $1 catalina I got from a previous purchase. (It also printed out a $1/2 string cheese catalina for me that I'll most likely use next week.)
  • Tropicana OJ $3.99. Used free item coupon.
  • Yoplait Fiber One yogurt $2.00. Used $1 e-coupon and $1 internet coupon. (It should have taken off two e-coupons, but at least it was still free. Oh well.)
  • Gallon milk $2.59
My total at Safeway: $4.46 (I saved $18.66 or 81%!)

I just discovered there was a Smart & Final nearby. At Smart & Final Extra, they have the mini-warehouse stuff, but it caters more towards super markey shoppers. There is more produce and more grocery store type items (smaller packages). Check here to see if there's a Smart & Final Extra in your neighborhood. There I picked up:

  • 5 bananas $0.59/lb. = $1.21
  • 3 Roma tomatoes $0.59/lb. = $0.45
  • 1.8lbs. red grapes $0.69/lb. = $1.26
  • 5 Nectarines $0.79/lb. = $1.17
  • Seedless watermelon $2.99
My total at Smart & Final Extra: $7.08 (I saved $5.08 or 42% without using any coupons.)

My total for the picture above was $11.54. The best part? I was under my budget by $2.46. Not a ton, but pretty good considering I started the week at $30 less than usual because I went over so much last week. (See more about my cash envelope experiment here.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go fix myself a little fruit salad. : )

Friday, June 25, 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:
  • Large McDonald's Frappe
  • Eating Right Yogurt Salad Dressing from Safeway

Click here for information on where to send your SASE.

One of those days

I have three little girls. My twins are two and a half and my littlest babe is almost 11 months old. I love them. I love them a lot. But somehow they can push the right buttons to make me want to tear my hair out. Yesterday was one of those days.

I was going to make some homemade lemon sorbet to bring over to my sister's house for our dinner swap. (Every other week, I bring dinner to her on Thursday nights and vice versa.) All I had to do was pour my mixture in my ice cream maker. Well I couldn't find all the parts to the ice cream maker. Then when I did, somehow they didn't fit. So I had to stand there and hold the lid on while the ice cream maker worked. What were my girls doing? Screaming.

They wanted juice, they wanted fruit snacks, they wanted chocolate milk, they wanted cereal, they wanted to watch Dora, they wanted to watch George, they wanted to go outside, they wanted a spoon, they wanted a fork, they wanted a big girl glass, they wanted a sippy cup, and on and on and on.

They were supposed to be eating lunch. I realize that it wasn't the best timing to get the sorbet made, butI was so frustrated that I wasn't thinking straight.

I tried to get on the computer to see if I was missing something...but the tiniest babe (or someone helping her) and turned off my computer at the power strip. I had to reboot everything...and then the internet wouldn't matter what I did.

I gave the girls some of the lemon slushie to quiet them so my mind could settle for a minute. Finally S took the cup of melted lemon slushie and poured it all over the floor. And I was done.

I picked her up and put her in her bed. Goodnight. Shut the door. Picked up C and put her in her bed. Goodnight. Shut the door. More screaming ensued while I fed the baby and tried to fix the computer.

When I went to put the baby down for a nap in the room she shares with S, S was snoring away, peacefully as ever. I know they aren't trying to help me learn patience. I know that they are little. But I forget sometimes.

Sometimes Mommy needs a time out, too. So if you're a Mommy reading this on your time out, know you are not alone. Hopefully some of these posts will help make your life a little easier so you can spend your happy time with those little ones.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

This week I received a check for a class-action settlement that I was a part of. I chose the cash settlement as opposed to the discount on future bookings (this was a settlement against Expedia). My share? $2.42...and it's going straight into my fund.

That brings my new total up to $77.26 saved since May 1st.
For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Gerber Yogurt Blends: Try Me Free

Yesterday at Safeway, I saw the new Gerber Yogurt Blends. One of the flavors (strawberry banana) had a "Try Me Free" sticker on it. I had a $1.00 off coupon that Gerber/Good Start had sent me, so I decided to give them a try. They are priced $2.50 at Safeway this week.
For the rebate, you need to send in the little form, the UPC code from the package, and the original receipt with the proof of purchase circled. The purchase dates are from 3/1/10 through 11/30/10, so you have plenty of time to seek these out at your local store.
It also gave me a $1.50/2 Yogurt Blends catalina at check-out, so if you really like them, you could get three for $3.50 (after catalina and rebate). Even lower if you got hte $1 off coupon from Gerber/Good Start. (If you don't get coupons from them, you can sign up here.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Places to take the Kids: Vacation Edition

Husband and I are planning a vacation for our little family. Actually, we have two trips planned and I'm excited to report back to you when we return. One is a short visit to Sacramento (we'll be going with some of my siblings, their families, and my parents) and the other is a trip to Napa. Since my babes are still really little, I'm trying to find some ideas for places to go, things to see, and places to eat.

I'm putting out a call for Vacation Ideas with kids, espcially in the Bay Area. What are some fun things to do while vacationing in this great state of California? We are so lucky to have so many wonderful things nearby: mountains/camping, beaches, wine country, urban life, etc. Frugal/inexpensive ideas would be great!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cash Envelope Experiment Update

At the beginning of the month I started an experiment. After three weeks, I've got to say that I really like the cash system. It keeps me accountable for all my purchases and makes me really think about what I need.
After Friday's diaper purchase, I was over on my weekly budget by about $30. I borrowed that from this week's envelope, so this will definitely be a slim week. I'm enjoying the challenge of trying to create something from a small budget!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Super Savings Saturday

Friday I went to a new Safeway that I've been wanting to check out. It's smaller and geared more toward "city living". They touted superb produce, so I thought I'd check it out...with my three kids in tow.
I was just getting a watermelon and a cantaloupe for a Father's Day fruit salad. Then I saw a little cart piled with Pampers. As I got closer, I saw the 50% off sticker on each of them.

The Jumbo packs ended up being $5 each and the big box was $11. Then I remembered that I had a ton of Pampers coupons waiting to be used. I put five jumbo packs and one big box in my stroller and headed to the checkout.

To make a long and exhausting story short: my tiny babe was pretty much okay, one twin was whining the entire time I was at the checkout while the other twin did a little dance for everyone. The checker was not as familiar with things as I was and I kept having to tell him what to do. Finally, when I handed over my six $2 coupons off the Pampers, he wouldn't let me use them! I told him to go ahead and ask the manager, thinking for sure she would agree with me. Nope, she told him not to let me use the coupons. At this point, I was over it, so I took my 1/2 off diapers (which was a good deal anyway, but could have been a GREAT deal) and left the store.

I do plan to write a letter to the store manager about this. I also plan never to set foot in that location again!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Food Storage 101

What do you know about food storage? What would you like to know about food storage? I feel like food storage and money saving go hand in hand. The leaders of our church have counseled us to have enough food storage for our family for one year. Does that sound like a daunting task to you? It does to me too. But it is to help us in case of unemployment, decrease in income for miscellaneous reasons, disaster, etc.

Recently, our church leaders have "lowered" the time period to three months, mainly so people don't get so overwhelmed with the idea of food storage. So that is my goal right now: to have enough food stored to feed my family for three months.
How long do you think you could feed your family on what you have in your cupboards? If you have seen the natural disasters in the news, you know that sometimes it's not always an option to run to the store. What about in times of storms or blackouts? Here in California, we are most susceptible to earthquakes and our cities being under strain (at the very least) in the aftermath.
I am not here to get on a soapbox about food storage. And I'm definitely not here to preach a sermon. But what a lot of other money-saving bloggers call "stockpiling" I call food storage. And I want to build mine up. I'm going to post about my endeavors every now and then, so if you're interested, follow along!
To get things started, I wanted to show you how I have my food storage set up right now. Although I have a "pantry" in my kitchen (a set of double tall cabinets), most of my food is kept outside in the garage, unless it would spoil too quickly from heat out there: salad dressings, sauces, stuff like that.
I have two large plastic shelving units that we bought at Target. I think we got them on sale for about $35 each. I try to group things that go together: cereals, crackers, juice, etc. and then I have a shelf with ingredients: cream soups, diced tomatoes, chicken stock and another shelf with "meals", like chili, tuna, soups, and things like that.

On the very bottom shelf I have a storage of water. We have filled cleaned used juice bottles with water. We will rotate those out every 6 to 12 months. In an emergency, they say you should have a gallon of water per person per day. Obviously this is not enough water for my family of 5 for 3 months. But that is something I will have to work toward. I think here we have enough for our family for three days, which should be the bare minimum.

I hope this is not totally overwhelming. Sometimes when I think about it, I wonder how it can be accomplished. But we have been advised to do it slowly and thoughtfully, and not to go into debt to do it.
I'm interested in your thoughts on food storage and welcome your questions. Look forward to more posts on food storage!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I like Costco

Yes, I like Costco and I'll tell you why: they do have great prices on things and I don't have to worry about coupons (unless I use their monthly coupons). Some people don't like Costco because they think they can get a better price at the regular grocery store with a sale and coupon (which is true for some items). Others don't like Costco because they think the package sizes are too big and wasteful.

Well for me, for lots of things Costco is the place to go. I thought I'd highlight some of those things, especially since I went there today.

Four gallons of apple juice: $6.59/2 gallons. There is a coupon in their coupon book for $2 off, making these $4.59/2 gallons or $1.15/half gallon. To compare, this week Safeway has 1/2 gallons of Mott's apple juice on sale for $1.49 each when you buy 8 or more participating products. $1.50/half gallon is my target price for apple juice. If I see anything lower, I try to stock up a little bit.

Two and a half pounds Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese: $7.49. To compare, Safeway has these on sale (ending today) for $7.99/2 pounds, which works out to $4/pound. Even with the $1 off coupon that I have, that brings it down to $3.50/pound and the Costco one is $3/pound. I love Tillamook cheese and have tried the "store brand" cheese. That's good, but this is better...and I'm willing to pay a little extra for it.

Two gallons organic milk: $10.49. This is the best price I've found on organic milk. Safeway's O Organics brand vascillates between $5.79 and $5.99/gallon, so every time I buy this instead, I save 54 cents/gallon, which adds up when you end up buying about two gallons per week!

Finally, 3 pounds of bananas: $1.32 or $0.44/pound. Safeway is almost always $0.79/pound for bananas. The only other place that has a great price on bananas is Trader Joe's at $0.19/each, which I think they say works out to $0.43/pound, so I buy bananas there, too.

Total spent at Costco: $28.48
What I would have spent had I bought the same stuff at Safeway: $33.27
Savings: $4.79

As you can see, sometimes it does pay to shop at Costco!

Menu Plan Monday

I've been a little lax in the menu planning department lately. I'm not sure why. Just a few months ago I was planning out a month at a time and really loving it. But then I read a post on This Week for Dinner when Jane interviewed the author of French Women Don't Get Fat. The author, Mireille Guiliano, said that she doesn't plan meals, per se. Instead she goes to the market and finds what looks good and then builds her meals around that.

I've tried to adopt that approach, although it is a little different. I'm trying to hunt down sales a little bit more and then "shop" from my pantry for the week. I'm also looking at cooking blogs and leafing through my cookbooks for ideas still, but I'm not "planning" as much right now. We'll see how it works out.

I think this comes from being a true Gemini. The symbol of the Gemini sign is the twins, which means that a Gemini is almost always changing her mind and is often a study in contradictions. I think this is why it has been hard for me to stick to one method of budgeting, meal planning, etc. for very long. I fear it is something I will have to work to overcome. Although, the flip side to that is that I never get in a rut! : )

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Super Savings Saturday

I don't have a picture today but I did hit Target and Safeway for some pretty great deals. At Target:
  • Strawberry Shortcake bandages $1.37 after coupons (should have been $0.37, but the cashier didn't end up scanning my second coupon. Bummer.)
  • Princess BandAids $0.44 after coupons
  • Shout stain remover $0.42 after coupons
  • Ritz Crackerfuls (used free coupon)
  • Oscar Mayer lunchmeat (used free coupon)
  • Kool Aid Fizz drink (used free coupon)

Target total: $2.53

The higlights at Safeway:

  • 2 Bulls Eye BBQ sauce $0.99 (free after $1 off coupons)
  • 2 Pillsbury Cinnamon rolls $0.79 each after coupons
  • 2 dozen eggs $0.99 each with in-ad coupon
  • Gogurt $0.99 after coupon
  • Oscar Mayer turkey bacon (used free coupon)

I ended up saving 77% at Safeway today ($43.35).

The best part is that I ended up $13 under on my weekly budget. I'm adding it to next week's allotment. It will be nice to have the extra wiggle room since we are hosting Father's Day this coming week and we're having a couple over for dinner the following week.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

Another deposit to the European Tour Fund:

I received my April rebate check from Rite Aid for $6.50 and I received a cash out from Opinion Outpost for doing surveys for $11.70, which brings my new total up to $74.84 saved since May 1st.
For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

House Party

I hosted a House Party this weekend for the Ball Canning Company. It was a fun way to get together with some of my friends and try out their canning products. We canned some strawberry jam...delicious and so very easy.

This is also the reason that I went over my budget this last week: I bought a 4 lb. package of strawberries at Costco to use in our jam. When I pulled them out for the party, more than HALF of them had gone bad! My friend ran to the store and bought four more pounds of strawberries so that we could make the jam. : ( Of course, when I go back to Costco I will have to let them know about this...

House Party is a win-win-win situation: the company wins by getting the word of mouth out about their products, you win by getting some great goodies to keep, and your friends win by getting to attend a fun party and take home some treats of your own.

For this House Party (my third), the GENEROUS Ball Company sent me a water canner with rack (very nice), a smaller plastic rack (called a Discovery Canner) that also came with three jars, a canning utensil set (jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, funnel, etc.), coupons for free jars, coupons for $ off jars, and more. It was such an amazing "party pack". My friends got sent home with goodie bags with coupons and some pectin to make their own jam as well as the fruits of our labors.

If you're interested in signing up for a House Party, check out the available hosting opportunities here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

An Experiment

I've been following Money Saving Mom for almost two years now and I know she really likes using the cash only/envelope system. I like the ease of using credit cards and even though we always pay our balance off each month, it did seem like it was a lot easier to go over budget.
I decided to try it, but in a transitional way. I got out my Monopoly money and divided it among the 5 "weeks" in the month of June, putting it in 5 different envelopes. When I make a purchase, I write it down on a piece of paper that I keep in the envelope for that week and then I take out the "money". I round up so that I don't have to make change, thus increasing my savings.
My plan is that whatever I save this month in groceries gets to go to the European Tour Fund. With this in mind, I carefully (oh, ever so carefully) planned out my grocery expenses for the week. I even hosted a little House Party this weekend (more on that in a bit) and factored that in. I'm happy to say that for the first week of this experiment, I was only $1 over on my budget...and I'll explain why in my next post.
It's kind of fun and it's really helpful to see exactly how much I have left. The visual is helping me to rein in my expenses and see which ones I really need. If this experiment goes well, I might just go to actual cash....we'll see.