May 31, 2011

Diet Coke $1/1 Coupon (16 and 20 oz)

dccoup Look under the “Home” tab on the  Diet Coke Facebook page for a fantastic new $1/1 16 oz or 20 oz Diet Coke Product coupon.  Thanks Money Saving Maine-iac!

Tip of the day—Helpful Websites for Disney

As I told you in yesterday’s post, we loved our recent trip to Disney.  Luckily we had some close friends who had recently been there, and they shared some tips and resources with us that made our visit even more magical.  Some of my favorite websites are listed below with a short description of what you’ll find there.

Disney.comthe website for everything Disney.  This is probably your best first stop.  Look under the Parks and Travel tab to start your search.  Go here to get an idea about what the resorts look like, what parts of the park you want to visit, what Disney location you want to visit, and what price you’ll be looking at for your visit.  Even though we ordered our package through AAA, becoming familiar with the options saved us a lot of time when talking to the travel agent.  We also knew what the rate was through Disney and could price compare.  You can also request a free Disney DVD to watch that gives more information about how to plan your trip.  Daughter and I watched it before we went on the trip, and this helped her to know what to expect from some of the rides.  She decided that some looked to scary, and others that I thought might be too much for her, she said looked like fun.

AAA.comIf you are a AAA member, you can attend free workshops to help you plan your Disney vacation and have free access to travel agents through your local office.  What we saved on our trip more than paid for our yearly membership!

Couponing to DisneyNot only does she have a great couponing blog, her tips on Disney were some of the best we found.  Since Disney resorts do not offer free internet service, we printed her tips to a pdf and viewed them on the laptop the night before we visited each park.  It helped us plan out our days.  Probably the best tip she offers is to not follow the crowd.  She said that if you see a bunch of lines, always look to the left. People naturally gravitate to where others are and Americans naturally gravitate right.  Often we would bi-pass huge swells of people and walk right to the front just because of paying attention to this tip! 

AllEars.netThis is a great resource for reading reviews of different aspects of the parks and resorts.  One friend said that this helped her pick a resort because of the many complaints that she read about long waits for buses.  During our stay, we went from Animal Kingdom to the Beach Club Villas to eat at a fantastic restaurant called Cape May (I’ll tell you much more about it soon!)  Even though it was a fancy, smancy resort, we waited significantly longer for a bus to and from there than we had ever waited at the Coronado Springs resort at which we stayed.  Those extra waits matter when you are tired and hot and have tired and hot children with you!  Read through all or most of the reviews and decide what works best for your family.  One of the complaints that some people made about the Coronado Springs resort was that there were many business people staying there because it was also a conference/convention hall.  This didn’t bother us in the least because it meant that it had a quieter atmosphere.  What is a complaint for one person might not matter to you—reading the reviews helps you to make an informed decision for your family.

Apps—(scroll to the bottom of her tip list)  If you have a phone to which you can download apps, I highly recommend that you check out some of the Disney apps that are available.  We talked to many people who had apps on their phones and they went on and on about how helpful they were.  They could see what the wait for rides were without having to walk across the park.  They could see when parades and other small act shows were going to start.  I heard nothing but good things from people who had the Disney apps, and when we upgrade to new phones and make the trip again, we will definitely use this service!

What about you?  Do you have a favorite Disney resource website to share?  Be sure to include it in the comments section of this post.  Stay tuned for more Disney resources throughout the week, or look at the Disney label to view other posts.

May 30, 2011

Print your coupons

bs01864_ It is the end of the month and time to print any coupons you want to make sure you have.  Printable coupon sites often refresh their lists at the beginning of the month, and some coupons may no longer be available.  Others may be refreshed so that you can print additional coupons.  Now is the time to print if you spot any you think you might use!  Remember that when you print from bloggers’ sites, they earn a little money off of each print.  It is a great way to support your favorite bloggers and get your coupon fix.  (I do not make money off of this blog and do not have that option here.  For some of my favorite bloggers, check out my links tab).  Other coupon printable sources:

Coupons.com 

Smartsource.com

All You

Red Plum

Mambo Sprouts

Freebies for your morning—Ziploc and Garnier

home_unite_marquee The Right at Home site has a new free sample offer for the first 2,500 people who respond-- one 15-count box of gallon size Ziploc® Brand Freezer Gallon Bags with the Smart Zip™ Seal.  Hurry, these will go fast if they aren’t already!

prod-P41301-big Garnier Fructis is offering a free sample of their anti-dandruff products.

Independence Days Update, 5/30

 DSC_3769 We participate in Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days Challenge.  Even though she isn’t posting these updates in a while, I really like the format for a weekly review. 

The weather this week was hot at times but overall quite nice.  We had a bit of rain that was helpful for the garden.  On Saturday there was a nice breeze as I worked in the beds and the sun was bright and beautiful. 

After multiple thunderstorms with whipping wind and rain, there aren’t many plums on our tree left.  They were dripping with plums earlier in the year, and I was so happy at the thought of possibly making plum jelly this year.  It looks like that won’t be happening.  Hubby asked if I thought that the squirrels or birds had robbed the tree.  I think that they may have eaten some of them, but by the evidence on the ground beside the tree, I think that the weather was the main culprit.

Other areas of the garden are picking up and doing well.  The bell peppers and squashes are starting to flower.  The bachelor buttons and cosmos are blooming.  The peas are fruiting in full force. 

Plant—more Blue Lake pole beans, another round of Marketmore cucumbers, a few more Gooligan White Baby Pumpkins, more Sweet Beauty Watermelons and more Jenny Lind Melons

Planted to date--

Super Sugar Snap Peas, 7 tomatoes (brandywine, grape, Early Girl, Better Boy), Choko Baby bok choy, One Kilo Chinese cabbage, 4 eggplant, Blue Lake Pole Beans, Christmas Lima Beans, Kestral Baby Beets, Touchstone Gold Beets, Chioggia Beets, Bull’s Blood Beets, Waltham 29 Broccoli, Rouge d’Hiver Romaine Lettuce, Matina Sweet Butterhead Lettuce, Galia Melon, Gooligan White Baby Pumpkin, Gourmet Rainbow Radish Mix, Gigante Inverno Spinach, Cavili Zucchini Squash, Milano Black Zucchini Squash, Supersett Yellow Crookneck squash, Sweet Beauty Watermelon, Marketmore cucumber, Genovese Basil, dill, flat leaf parsley, Jenny Lind melons, Butternut Squash, Garlic (planted in the fall), yellow and red onions, 8 bell peppers, 6 jalapeno peppers, 4 cabbage plants, 4 broccoli plants, daylilies, surprise lilies, sedum, 4 o’clocks, hollyhocks, red cockscomb, moonflower, zinnias, sunflower mix, marigold, butterfly flower garden seed mix, thyme, chives, carrots, coriander, horseradish, garlic chives, Peace Vine tomato, another type of basil (friend gave it to me).

Harvest—We continue to harvest salad greens in full force.  The spinach is bolting quickly, but there is still quite a bit that we can harvest.  Almost every plant of bok choy bolted while we were away.  I think that getting the baby bok choy was part of the problem, and I should have planted succession crops of it.  Oh well, I’ll know for next year.  I did harvest some of it that went into a stir fry.  We pulled 3 big Chinese cabbages from the garden along with hundreds of sugar snap peas and a bit of kale.  I picked the first two jalapenos.  The radishes are bolting, and I would suspect that after another week or so, they will be finished.  While there are some beets ready to pick, I’m waiting for them to get a little bigger before I start picking them.  We have so few of them this year that I want to get the most that I can out of each plant.  I pulled the last of the garlic scapes and added them to the stir fry.   I started to harvest the carrots, and while they are still small, they are sweet and delicious.  We continue to pick flower arrangements, spring onions, herbs and edible flowers.

Preserve—I blanched about 4 cups of sugar snap peas and popped them into the freezer. 

Waste Not/Reduce Waste— Returning home from vacation made this category a little more difficult. We became so accustomed to being in colder air conditioned rooms that I’m finding a strong desire to turn the temp cooler at home. 

Hubby has been experimenting with making furniture from our bamboo.  He was inspired by the Swiss Family Robinson tree house at the Magic Kingdom, and I can only imagine what he’ll create for our daughter’s playhouse now!

Want Not/Prep/Storage—Maybe it is just the mood that I’ve been in this week, but I am really wanting to get to serious work on some projects around the house.  I want to do this and I want to do that and then I want to do this other thing…  Sometimes these moods are the motivation that I need to get to work, and I’m hoping that is the case.  The only problem is that there aren’t enough hours in the day nor enough energy in my body to do all that I want to do. 

Building Community Food Systems—A friend passed on some more delicious home-grown eggs to us this week.  What a delight to open that carton and see an Easter egg colored display from Mother Nature!  I plan to bring her and her mom some salad greens this week.  This time of the year I buy more of our food locally than from the grocery store.  For that reason, you probably won’t hear as much about my shopping trips and percentages saved at Kroger. 

Eat the Food—The first stir fry of this season was quite good (if I do say so myself!)  Our daughter has enjoyed going down to the pea patch each day and picking her snacks.  Some of the peas were larger and could be shelled, which is the kitchen prep job that she likes the most.  She would tell them, “Get out of there you little pea.  You are going to pea-school!” 

Tip of the day—Disney, Part 1

I’m starting a Disney label on the left-hand column to compile the tips and tricks that I learned from our Disney trip.  Below is the first post, and these are some general tips.

First and foremost, GO to Disney!  Go while your children are young or take them when they are older.  Go as an adult or go as a senior citizen, just go.  It really is a magical, wonderful place. 

I’ve been to Disney 4 times now.  I first went when I was around 12 years old with my dad, sister and older cousin.  Then, when I was college my dad worked in Orlando, and I had the opportunity to go with just him and my sister.  Right before Hubby asked me to marry him, he and I went to Orlando to visit my dad.  (Hubby asked for my dad’s blessing on that trip).  I took Hubby for two days to Disney—the first day to the Magic Kingdom and the second day to Epcot.  This most recent visit was with our daughter who is now 5 years old.  Each trip was magical in its own way, but I think that seeing the Magic Kingdom through our daughter’s eyes was the best.

Disney is expensive.  Don’t think that just because you coupon and are frugal that you are going to make a trip to Disney for $100.  If you can, great!  Give me some tips so that we can go more often! 

The recession hit a lot of businesses hard, especially theme parks and entertainment businesses.  Disney is trying to draw in more customers by offering package deals and free theme park admission on your birthday.  Take advantage of those deals to save you some money. 

To save money on our trip we did a few things:

We planned ahead.  We decided what time of the year we wanted to go and could go.  We estimated the cost and added 10% to that estimate in case something changed over that amount of time.  We didn’t spend money on some things (anniversaries, Mother’s Day, birthdays) so that we could go on this trip completely debt free.

Our daughter was responsible for raising $200 to go to Disney (roughly the cost of her admission to the park for the week).  In a little over a year, she raised that money by doing chores, saving her birthday and holiday money from relatives, selling books at a used book store, and earning a little interest through a savings account.  The experience was one of the best learning experiences for her, and I can bet that she appreciated the trip more than someone who had it handed to them.  She learned how to set up a bank account, make deposits, make withdrawals, the concept of interest bearing accounts, and the virtue of hard work.  Out of the  money that she was responsible for earning, we withdrew $50 for her to use on souvenirs over the course of a little more than a week of travels (she didn’t use it all and is already saving for the next adventure).  We kept the rest in her account to build over the years.

We researched the trip to decide where we wanted to stay.  I had stayed on site and off site before, and I decided that for her first trip to the park I wanted to stay on site.  I’ll talk more about weighing the pros and cons of where you stay in a later post. 

We used hotel points and free gift cards to save money on the travel to and from.  We could have flown, but when we did the cost-benefit analysis, it was less expensive to fly.  We had hotel points from business travel that made our stays free.  I had earned a gift card to Cracker Barrel.  With that and packing food, we had all but two of our meals completely paid for on the trip down and back.

Buy smart.  We purchased through AAA and saved a little more than $250 by doing so.  Friends have told me about other sites that they’ve found to buy tickets and packages.  I haven’t had any experience with those and can neither recommend or not recommend them.  If any of you readers have experiences you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments section so that others might benefit.

Stay tuned for more tips on Disney over the next few days!  I hope you’ll find them helpful, and if you have any extra tips to share, I hope you’ll post them in the comments section or e-mail me.

Meal Planning, Week of 5/30

This meal plan is for a family of 3.  We often have at least one friend or family member over to share a meal with us during the week.  Since I factor the cost of the meal when I first prepare it, leftovers will be marked as $0.  When we dine out, it comes from a different part of the family budget and those expenses will also show $0.

Monday

Memorial Day BBQ

Steak Kabobs

Garden Salad

Potato Salad

Relishes

Approximate cost--$8

Ways I saved on this meal—The steak is some that we have from the 1/8 of a pastured steer we bought earlier in the year.  The salad is free from the garden, and I’ll dress it with some of the Annie’s dressing that I bought for free after coupon and Mega Event.  The relishes were ones that I canned and a few that other gave us.  The potato salad will have potatoes, eggs, pimento, celery, green onions, dill, mayo, and a bit of mustard in it.  I might add a bit of the green bell pepper from last year’s garden that I froze, too.  The eggs were free from a friend, the onions and dill are free from the garden.  Mustard, mayo, pimento and potatoes were all bought on sale.  If I get inspired, I might make up some deviled eggs, too.

~~~~~

Tuesday

Leftovers steak in a salad with boiled eggs and extra cheese

Toast points

Approximate cost--$1

Ways I saved on this meal—When I buy bread, I buy whole wheat. My price point for a loaf is no more than $1.99, and I try to keep it around $1 with coupons or by purchasing at a Merita bread outlet.  When I find a good deal, I buy extra and freeze it.  Bread in the fridge becomes stale, but in the freezer it does just fine.  ~~~~~

Wednesday

Roasted chicken

Braised cabbage

Roasted herbed potatoes

Sugar snap peas

Approximate cost--$5.50

Ways I saved on this meal—When I went to Kroger last week, I found some marked down organic chicken and put it in the freezer.  I’ll roast the potatoes at the same time as the chicken so that I don’t waste the heat that the oven is generating.  The cabbage, herbs and sugar snap peas are free from the garden.

~~~~~

Thursday

Leftover chicken shredded and added to pasta with veggies from the garden

Approximate cost--$0.50

Ways I saved on this meal—The only expense will be the small amount of olive oil and lemon juice that I’ll use to make a sauce for the pasta.  The pasta is some Ronzoni that was free after coupon and Mega Event at Kroger.

~~~~~

Friday

Pizza from the freezer

Approximate cost--$2.49

Ways I saved on this meal—At a recent Mega Event at Kroger, I stocked up on Freshetta pizzas and had a coupon that made them a great price.  I’ll probably add a little salad or fruit to the side to make this meal a little healthier.  Bonus—this meal is a cinch for Hubby to pop in the oven and has very little clean up.  It isn’t as good as homemade, but every so often I really like a break away from the kitchen and frozen pizzas come to the rescue.

~~~~~

Saturday

One Skillet Dinner 

Veggies from the garden

Approximate cost--$6

Ways I saved on this meal—The beef is some of the steer that we purchased with friends from a local farmer.  The other ingredients for the one skillet dinner were all bought on sale.  I’ll use whatever veggies we have in the garden as side dishes.

~~~~~

Sunday

Leftovers

Approximate cost--$0

Ways I saved on this meal—Cook once, eat twice.  Love that!

~~~~~

Memorial Day

full-nofringe-g Memorial Day is about a lot more than BBQ and sleeping in a few extra hours.  Today we honor and remember the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom.  We thank those who have paid the ultimate cost, and we remember their families in our thoughts and prayers.  We thank those who have missed birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries, and births of children so that they could protect all of us.  We thank the men and women who weren’t properly thanked when they returned home from war years ago.  We thank you for the heat and cold you’ve endured, the sleepless nights, the aches and pains, the dirt and mud you’ve sat in for hours at a time, the cracked lips, the burned skin, the wounds you’ve suffered, and the emotion of war.  We thank those who have served outside of wartime, those who kept us safe in ways that we never realized. 

At the same time, I realize that many of you do not want to be thanked.  Many soldiers have told me that they don’t know what to say when someone thanks them and how it feels awkward and almost unjust to be thanked for serving.  Yet, I don’t know what else to say to express how much I value the work that you have done and continue to do for all of us.  I will pray for troops to return home safely, for peace, for rest and peace of the spirit, and I will have a heart of gratitude on this Memorial Day for all of you. 

May 29, 2011

Farmers Market, Week of 5/29

msd-banner-farmers2 Last year, I incorporated into my weekly matchups post information about what to find at farmers markets.  Many readers said that it was helpful, as they weren’t yet familiar with what is in season and when.  I thought I would make them a separate post each week to give you an idea of what you might find at the markets.  Note that farmers markets in different areas of the country vary greatly.  What is ripe in East TN is not going to be what is ripe in AZ or CA. 

What to watch for at the farmers market this week:

  • Summer squashes, I saw the first of these this week at the market.  They’ll most likely be smaller until later in the season.
  • Green tomatoes
  • Lettuce and salad greens of all sorts, including spinach and kale
  • Hot peppers
  • Beets
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lambs quarters
  • Garlic scapes
  • Raspberries, and you’ll probably start to see blueberries and blackberries by the end of this week at some local markets
  • Southern greens, such as collards and turnip greens
  • Chard/Swiss Chard
  • Green or Spring onions
  • Cabbages and Chinese/Napa Cabbages
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower
  • New potatoes
  • Sugar snap peas and snow peas
  • Herbs
  • Cut flowers
  • Dried peppers and garlic
  • Home canned items such as salsas, jellies, jams, chow chow, salad dressing, pickles, etc
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Strawberries
  • Potted plants, shrubs and trees
  • Cheeses, butters, local milk, locally made ice cream
  • Beef, pork, chicken, and related meat products such as sausages, cured meats, and jerkies
  • Eggs (chicken and duck)
  • Sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Dog and cat treats
  • Baked goods of all sorts
  • Grits, corn meal, flour

Note that as the weather becomes warmer, cooler season crops will start to bolt (shoot up seed pods).  Therefore, you’ll start to see more limited quantities of foods like radishes and bok choy as the season progresses. 

I usually shop at the farmers markets downtown and at New Harvest Park.  If you are in another part of Knoxville and saw something I missed, be sure to include it in the comments section.  If you are in different parts of the country, I’d love to hear what other things you have at your markets.

Weekly Matchups and Deals, 5/29-6/4

co op_deals_standard

Co-op Advantage Stores/Three Rivers Market through 5/31

earth-fare-market_thumb[2]Best deals for this month for Earth Fare

target frugal mom blogger  columbus ohio

Target—There are a few good deals on the list!  I’ll be picking up some BBQ sauce if they still have it in stock!

kroger deals kroger sales logo

Kroger—UGH, not much on Kroger’s ad that is very exciting this week.

advantage_card

Ingles—Not that much better at Ingles this week.

Walgreens

Walgreens—I’m hoping some of these products will still be on the shelves when I make it into the store later in the week!

cvspharmacy

CVS—LOTS of good deals in this week’s ad!

A Happy Thought

DSC_3781 “Ability is what you are capable of doing.  Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude determines how well you do it.” –Lou Holtz

Tip of the day—Freebies

DSC_5760I don’t sign up for every freebie that is out there, and even still, look at what greeted me when I returned home from our Disney trip!  FREE sparkling grape juice from R.W. Knudsen, FREE sample of Folgers coffee, FREE sample of cereal through Vocalpoint, FREE sample of Purex plus Zout, FREE Zone bar, FREE Pro Plan Roasted Slices coupon, and coupons from Kroger, Huggies, Smart Toys and Books, and Wok Hay. 

How do I find freebies? 

  • Check out the Walmart website about one time a week.  Usually they refresh their freebies pretty frequently.  Search “free samples” and you’ll find the spot.  Watch for coupon links that are usually posted with the freebies.
  • Sign up at All You for the free sample newsletter.  Each day you’ll receive a link to a freebie.  Also on their site you’ll find printable coupons, some exclusive only to All You.
  • Vocalpoint and Kraft First Taste are two of my favorite sites for receiving access to full sized freebies.  Both have free sign up, and the more you participate in their surveys, polls, and webpage the more likely you will be to receive free offers.
  • “Like” just about any product, restaurant, or store on Facebook that you can ever imagine wanting to patronize.  Facebook has become the new place for companies to introduce their products to the public.  Unfortunately, you won’t see me post many Facebook freebies because they are usually so limited that as soon as they go live they are out in a matter of minutes.  I’ve experienced the frustration that comes with wasting your time waiting for a freebie to no avail.  Sometimes companies make more of the product giveaways available, and when I learn of these, I try to post them on the blog. 
  • Watch the blogs.  I so appreciate each of you visiting this blog.  I encourage you to also check other bloggers’ sites for freebies and deals.   Check the “Links” tab on my blog for some of my favorites.  Right now, I’m finding Hip2Save and Mojo Savings updating their sites most frequently with freebies. 
  • There are some “freebie” sites.  I learned through Money Saving Mom that these are not always reviewed carefully.  Sometimes the links that they post are SPAM harvesting sites (doesn’t that sound like something out of a Sci-Fi novel???)  Be careful what you sign up for.   My rule of thumb is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  I once signed up for a “free” baby blanket only to learn that it was a SPAM harvesting site, and my email was bombarded with junk mail for the next month!

Tips on freebies:

  • Remember that it carries an environmental impact.  I try to only sign up for freebies that I’m truly interested in trying.  If the freebie is in the form of a coupon that will be mailed to me, I try to choose that option. 
  • Use a separate email account only for freebies.  If you happen to sign up for a freebie and your email address is sold, the SPAM will only go to that account. 
  • Use a separate Facebook account only for freebies.  Often Facebook freebies want to access your personal information and/or post on your wall.  I joke that I don’t have any friends because on Facebook I only have the CICT page and on my personal account I don’t have any Facebook friends for this reason.
  • Watch for freebies everywhere.  Sometimes you’ll find them at doctor’s offices, drugstores, shops, and even restaurants. 

May 28, 2011

I’m having trouble responding to comments

If you’ve recently left a comment on this blog and haven’t seen a response by me, please don’t think that I’m ignoring you.  For some reason I’m having trouble leaving comments on my own blog!  Each time I think that I’m posting it, it vanishes.  If your need is more pressing, always feel free to e-mail me.  Until then, I’ll try and figure out what is going on and find a solution. 

For those fellow bloggers out here, I think this and the recent day and a half that Blogger was down is enough to push me to Word Press! 

Thanks for understanding!

Super Diaper Bag Deal at Toys ‘R Us

diap Check out this super duper diaper bag deal at Toys ‘R Us that Together We Save found:

Go here to print a $10 off any diaper bag at Toys “R”. This coupon can be used in-store or online. It appears prices start at $12.98, so you could get a diaper bag for as low as $2.98 after this coupon.
This coupon is good through May 30, 2011.

What an awesome deal!  You could give it as a gift alone, or for that price, you could use the bag as your gift bag for a shower present!

Sunday’s Paper=No Coupon Inserts

300x250_313 Usually around major holidays, the Sunday papers won’t have any coupon inserts scheduled.  Enjoy the crossword puzzle and articles instead!  Later in the week, flip through your coupons and get them organized.  Having a week off from clipping is usually a good time to get everything in my coupon bag straightened out and neatened. 

Tip of the day—Show your appreciation

Everyone wants to feel appreciated.  Today, think about the people closest to you and find ways to show them and tell them how much you appreciate all they do for you.  Not only will it make them feel good, it will feel good to know you reached out to someone in a positive way. 

Have a fantastic weekend!

May 27, 2011

Tip of the day—Compare Prices

Yesterday I had to make a quick run to Kroger for a couple of things we needed.  The cashier thought that I must have something wrong with me because I didn’t use a single coupon!  I didn’t save much money on the trip, and I was buying things mainly because we needed them (milk, bread, a few veggies, chicken).  Remember that in my stockpiling tip post, I recommended that you get in the habit of buying things ahead of time instead of being at the mercy of the grocery store prices when you need something.  My trip yesterday is a perfect illustration of why it is important to do that, but it isn’t the main purpose of today’s tip. 

When I was purchasing a half gallon of organic milk, which we very much needed, I looked at all of the options.  None were cheaper than $3.19!!!!  There weren’t any that could be marked down, and our daughter had been asking for milk since we returned home from Disney.  I knew that I wouldn’t make it to the farmers market until Saturday, and I would have to buy it then if we wanted it.  The price at the grocery store for organic milk was a little MORE than the price for organic, locally grown, pastured milk at the farmers market!  Which do you think I’d rather buy—milk that has been shipped across the country and sat in the refrigerator after being ultra pasteurized or milk that came from a cow just a day or two before and was raised by some of the sweetest people you’ll ever know?  Hmmmm, really tough choice. 

Often when I tell frugal friends in my life to shop at the farmers market, they say that they won’t because things are more expensive at the grocery.  I just don’t find that to be the case in every situation.  Milk is a great example, and you can bet I’ll be stocking up on it when I go on Saturday!  I hope you’ll make trips to your local farmers market as part of your weekly shopping and stock up on good deals when you see them.  You’ll have better tasting food, and you’ll be supporting local farmers!

May 26, 2011

Fun at the Farmers Market This Week

new harvest park Today, at the New Harvest Park Farmers Market, you can enjoy the following:

Join us between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, May 26 at the New Harvest Park Farmers Market.   

Here's what's happening:

3:00 - 6:00

Buy some raspberries, strawberries, greens, tomatoes, turnips, rhubarb, bedding plants, ice cream, milk, baked goods, salsa, honey jelly, honey, candles, bath salts, soaps, pet treats, knitted and crocheted items and more!

3:15

Vegetable Gardening Hands-On Workshop at the Demonstration Garden.  Bring your gloves, garden rakes, spades, and hoes.  We'll plant some tomato plants, pepper plants, and sunflower seeds.

4:00

"How to Attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies to Your Garden" by Master Gardener Chris Hamilton.  Inside the Community Building.

3:00 - 6:00

Register to win ground beef from Mitchell Family Farms.  Drawing will be held next week.  You do not have to be present to win.

Fat-Elvis-Biscuit This weekend at the downtown Market Square Farmers Market we will celebrate the International Biscuit Festival:

The International Biscuit Festival celebrates the heritage of home cooking through that most perfect of foods – the Biscuit.
Join us on Market Square in downtown Knoxville for food and fun. Here are just some of the activities you can enjoy at the International Biscuit Festival:
* Biscuit Breakfast – Begin your day with our Biscuit Buffet, offering a variety of Biscuits and fixings from top Biscuit professionals.
* Blackberry Brunch – The chefs at world-renowned Blackberry Farm prepare a “Foothills Cuisine” fine dining experience featuring the best regional food producers.
* Biscuit Boulevard – Take a walk through our Biscuit tasting area. One ticket allows you to sample the Biscuit offerings of some of the best Biscuit bakers around, all vying for the coveted crown of Best Biscuit!
* Biscuit Bake Off – The top Biscuit makers compete for cash and prizes in multiple categories. Last year’s Grand Champion was the “Fat Elvis Biscuit”, a Peanut Butter, Banana and Bacon delight fit for a King!
* Miss and Mr. Biscuit Pageant – Biscuit talent, Biscuit poise, and Biscuit making skills all come into play in the competition to be crowned Miss/Mr. Biscuit.
* Biscuit Arts and Entertainment – Folk art, Americana music, Biscuit songwriting competitions, Biscuit books and more! A bonanza of Biscuit beauty take place throughout the weekend to add some culture and butter your Biscuit.
Just want to walk around and enjoy? Come on down! Many of our activities are absolutely free.

FREE $10 Craftsman Gift Card through Vocalpoint

drill-1 Log into your Vocalpoint account and you can score a $10 promotional card good on any Crafstman C3 tool:

Everyone loves finding the perfect gift. So unleash your smart shopper side and opt in for a $10 promotional card good on any Craftsman® C3® tool.

And remember, because they're so lightweight, powerful, and easy to use, it's kind of like you're getting a gift as well.

But first, we need your zip code. (Some states don't apply.)

If you haven’t yet signed up for Vocalpoint, I highly recommend it!  I’ve been very, very pleased with the free newsletter and access to trying new products for free.  Most recently I tried Breve creamer, and it is delicious!

Tip of the day—Give ‘em a rinse

When picking produce from the garden this season, I suggest that you pick into a mesh basket or colander—something with holes.  Before you bring the produce into the house, give them a good rinse outside.  Not only will this knock of a lot of the dirt and make it much easier for you when you start cleaning them at the kitchen sink, but you’ll also save water.  I give mine a rinse over a 5 gallon bucket and then use that to water potted plants.  Just make sure you use a rag or give them a good shake before you bring them inside, as you don’t want them to drip all over the floor. 

I can’t tell you how much time this simple step saves me when I am prepping our veggies!

May 25, 2011

FREE Samples Depends and Tena

tena I posted today a question for readers on how to save money on adult briefs.  As you all know, I’m a geriatric social worker and am always trying to find ways to save money on products like these.  Today, I found two free samples:

Please let me know if you have any other tips on saving money on adult pads.  After I do a little more research into some leads that people gave me, I’m going to write a “ways to save” post on this subject.  Thanks in advance for all of the help! 

Don’t forget to “Like” CICT on Facebook to stay up-to-date on tips like this.  I look forward to seeing y’all over there!

Tip of the day—Lipstick

I don’t feel dressed until I’m wearing my lipstick.  If you are like me, some of the tips below might help to save you a little money on your lip rouge:

  • Get a lipstick brush!  When the tube of lipstick reaches the point where you can no longer apply it easily, use the brush to keep the remaining lipstick from wasting.
  • I choose to use good lipstick instead of the stuff from the drugstore.  I had too many experiences with picking wrong colors, and I find that a good tube of lipstick lasts a little longer when applied.  And, yes, I know that there are some great sales on it with coupons at drugstores.  I just had too many tubes go to waste.  Try a few samples and bring them home so that you can try them in different lights and with a few different outfits before investing in a full tube.
  • Pick a light shade and a dark shade.  You’ll have a more dramatic look, a fresher look, and when you mix the two, you’ll have a completely different color.  You can do the same by purchasing a lighter shade of lip gloss.
  • If you use a lip liner, you can use this trick to make your lips look fuller.  Line the entire lip then fill in the corners of the bottom and top lip.  Add your lipstick and then a dot of gloss to the center of the lip.  Blend as needed.  By leaving the center of the lip unlined, you’ll highlight this portion of the lip and thereby make it look fuller.  It is a makeup trick that my aunt taught me years ago (she does print work and is an actress, and she’s never steered me wrong!)
  • Since I choose to purchase name brand lipstick, I try to wait until there is a bonus buy of some sort.  Mary Kay, with whom I most often purchase, usually run sales incentives like a free brush set or a free lotion set with purchase relatively often.  By waiting and buying when those deals are on, I get a little extra freebie.

May 24, 2011

FREE Sample Carefree Acti-Fresh

carefree_logo Go here for a free sample of Carefree Acti-Fresh Pantiliners.

Kroger Fuel Points—4x with gift card purchase!

banner_logo_header I’m just now catching up on the deals for the week and was so happy to see this one from Knoxville Mamabelle:

In case you missed the news--Kroger is again having a 4X the fuel points on gift card purchases event! Purchase gift cards to places you frequent in $50 increments and receive 200 fuel points for each $50 spent. I am definitely going to take advantage of this one!
Offer is good now through June 18, 2011.

We have quite a few birthdays that take place this summer, and I look forward to picking up easy gifts that they will love AND earning 4x the points at the same time!  Thanks Isha for this great tip!!!!

To learn more about the Kroger fuel points and ways to save on gasoline, check out this post that I wrote earlier in the year.

Gymboree Memorial Day Sale—Everything $12.99 and under!

FINAL_mainWe’ve had so many hand-me-downs that we’ve been blessed with lately that I haven’t had a need to buy brand new clothes, but this deal just might get me shopping!  In store and on line for a limited time, enjoy savings at Gymboree for their Memorial Day Sale—everything is $12.99 and under!!  You’ll also earn Gymbucks to use later! 

Tip of the day— “Saving Momma’s Home”

saving-mommas-house-book

Monica Franklin, a certified elder law attorney practicing in Knoxville with whom I work, has made her newest book Saving Momma’s Home available on her website to download for FREE.  It is jam packed full of helpful information on issues related to nursing home Medicaid and related questions, and if you or someone you know would benefit, I hope you’ll check it out. 

May 23, 2011

Window Works, a review

ww I haven’t posted a review on the blog in a while, and I’m so happy to be posting this one. 

My dad needed some replacement windows for his place.  A certain someone in the family who shall remain nameless kicked a soccer ball into one of the windows, breaking the storm glass and thus moving up the timeline for replacing the windows.  We phoned two companies—Champion and Window World—to receive quotes, in addition to looking online for companies and prices. 

The Champion guy was absolutely amazing.  We’ve worked with Champion before, and I’ve been very pleased with what they do.  The gentleman was polite, helpful, prompt, and he doted on my dad, which gave him extra points in my book.  The price quote, however, was not as fantastic.  It wasn’t in the ballpark of the budget, and unfortunately, we couldn’t work with them.  Let me be clear that I really like the Champion company, and my experience with them overall is quite good.  In this circumstance, it boiled down to dollars and cents.

Then we phoned Window World, a company that advertises with Dave Ramsey.  The rep came out to the house, measured the windows, and then it was like pulling teeth to get a quote out of him.  After over 4 calls to try and get the quote, I gave up, frustrated and frankly angry.  I decided that if they weren’t reliable enough to phone me back, then I didn’t want to think about how they would work with us when it was time to do the work.  It could have just been the person with whom I was working, but I wasn’t going to risk it with such a big job.

We were just about ready to put the windows in ourselves.  My dad was in the construction business and knew he had the know-how.  However, none of us were looking forward to how big the job was going to be.  In a last minute hope that someone could save us from that task, I phoned my friend Allison Oaks of Platinum Realty Group.  I trust Allison and have always found her advice to be on-the-money.  She spoke very highly of Mr. Chris Moon of Window Works and said that their prices are much lower than the other guys. 

As soon as I got off of the phone with her, I called Mr. Moon, and every praise that she had noted was true.  He went to my dad’s and measured the windows himself, giving us a quote almost immediately that was MUCH, MUCH lower than others.  We were happy to order the windows from them!

Within a few weeks, the windows were installed.  My dad’s house is an older home, and the windows were a little cantankerous to remove.  Yet, the guys were professional, polite, and worked quickly.  My dad worked on construction sites for most of his life, and I’ve heard him more than once complain about people not having a strong work ethic, being sloppy, or not being punctual.  Not the case with these workers—for at least 15 minutes my dad went on and on about all of the things that had impressed him about their work.  The finished product looks great, and he is already noticing the house being much cooler than it was before.

If you are in the Knoxville area and in need of windows, you might want to check out Window Works for a price quote.  Our experience was nothing but good, and I feel confident that yours will be as well.  The Window Works website that is on their card is for Alside, which I’m guessing is their parent company.  To contact them directly, see the information below. 

Window Works(865) 560-3044 155 Sherway Rd, Knoxville, TN 37922

NOTE—I do not have any ownership in the Window Works company and am not related to any of their employees or owners.  My dad was a customer of theirs and my review is based on that experience.   I try to support local businesses whenever possible, and I hope that reading this review will give you a glimpse into what you might experience with this company. 

Meal Planning, Week of 5/23

As many of you know, last week we were at Disney World.  After a little more than a week of almost entirely restaurant food, we are happy to be back home to our dinner table.  While the food was fantastic, it wasn’t great for my waistline!  I also noticed that our daughter had a lot more sugar and a lot less fruits and veggies.  It was vacation, and we very much enjoyed it but this week will have healthier fare on our supper plates.

This meal plan is for a family of 3.  We often have at least one friend or family member over to share a meal with us during the week.  Since I factor the cost of the meal when I first prepare it, leftovers will be marked as $0.  When we dine out, it comes from a different part of the family budget and those expenses will also show $0.

Monday

BBQ Pork Chops at PawPaw’s

Garden Salad

Approximate cost--$0

Ways I saved on this meal—My dad is looking forward to hearing all about our trip and has made us some BBQ pork chops for supper.  I just picked a large salad from the garden with spinach, broccoli, Romaine, Butterhead, the first of the snap peas, the first of the carrots, tons of radishes, chive flowers and green onions.  Since the salad is from the garden, it is free.  Since my dad made the pork chops, there is no OOP for this meal for us.

~~~~~

Tuesday

Pasta with veggies—Kraft Cooking Sauce mixed in

Leftover salad

Approximate cost--$0

Ways I saved on this meal—The pasta is Ronzoni that was free after Mega Event and coupon at Kroger.  The veggies are free from the garden.  The Kraft Cooking Sauce was free with the Kraft First Taste program coupon I received in the mail.  I made up a lot of salad today and suspect that there will be plenty for leftovers on Tuesday.

~~~~~

Wednesday

Veggie Stir Fry

Brown Rice

Sauce—soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, and molasses

Approximate cost--$1

Ways I saved on this meal—If I make it to the store, I might pick up some meat for this stir fry, but most likely I’ll just use veggies.  We have bok choy that is quickly bolting, and I’m hoping I can salvage some of it.  I’ll pick the first of the Chinese cabbages and maybe some of the smaller green cabbages.  I’ll add in the last of the garlic scapes, some broccoli, snap peas, green onions, frozen bell peppers from last year’s garden, and some frozen asparagus from this year’s garden.  The organic brown rice was bought in bulk at Three Rivers Market when it was last on sale.  The soy sauce was free after coupons.  The organic ginger and sesame seeds were bought through Frontier when on sale.  I’ll add a bit of molasses to the sauce to add a punch of sweetness, and it was bought from a local farmer.

~~~~~

Thursday

Pot Roast at my dad’s

Approximate cost--$8

Ways I saved on this meal—I’ll bring some pot roast over to my dad’s place for tonight’s supper.  We went in with friends on a buy of 1/8 of a pastured steer earlier in the year, and the approx price per pound is $3.10.  I’ll add whatever new potatoes and carrots I can dig from the garden with some of our onions.  While I didn’t plant any potatoes this year, these were some volunteers I had come up.  We’ll most likely add some radishes, snap peas, and pickled beets to the side as a snack.

~~~~~

Friday

Leftovers

Approximate cost--$0

Ways I saved on this meal—Cook once, eat twice!

~~~~~

Saturday

Lamb Burgers on the grill

Veggies from the farmers market

Approximate cost--$8-$10, depending on the veggies

Ways I saved on this meal—We have a little more lamb left from the half of a lamb we purchased from a local farmer with a friend last fall.  I’m in the mood for grill food, and this should hit the spot.  If we make it to the farmers market, which I hope we do.  I’ll pick up some veggies to add to the side and supplement with what is in the garden

~~~~~

Sunday

Grilled Chicken on top of salad

Approximate cost--$5

Ways I saved on this meal—I’ll grill some chicken with a simple marinade of olive oil and lemon juice.  I’ll add it to a salad with eggs, cheese from the farmers market, and dried cranberries (bought on sale in bulk at Three Rivers Market a couple of weeks ago).

~~~~~

Old Navy 25% off TODAY ONLY

ON_logo Head over to Old Navy for 25% off of your entire purchase today only, 5/23!  Excludes Everyday Steals, Jeans, and Toddler/Baby Items.  Thanks Coupon Katie!

Bath & Body Works—Freebie Coupons Now Single Use Only?

bb Bath & Body Works sent out a great coupon today in their email newsletter for a FREE Signature Body Care Item with $10 purchase.  The only hitch was that the coupon specified that it was single use only and had a coupon code that can only be used 1 time.  It looks like at least right now, they aren’t wanting us to share coupons.  If you like getting the BBW freebies, I strongly suggest that you sign up for their email newsletter (scroll to the bottom of the screen) and/or “Like” them on Facebook.  If your phone allows mobile text alerts, they also have an option for that found at the bottom of their main screen. Their freebies are well worth the couple of minutes it will take you to do so!

Tip of the day—Check your stores

Once a month check your food stores. This not only helps to prevent spoilage and waste, but it also helps you to keep better tabs on what you have on stock to use for meals.

  • Check your freezer. Discard what is freezer burned or what might be beyond use. Give it a good wipe down and refresh the baking soda box if needed.
  • Look in your fridge. Use any leftovers, the last of the olives, that last teaspoon of jelly, anything that might need eating to make way for fresh foods. Give everything a good wipe down and replace the baking soda box in there. Check the temperature and make sure it is at the proper level. Vacuum the coils so that it is running properly at least a couple of times a year.
  • What do you have in dry storage? Onions starting to sprout? Chop them and put them in a bag in the freezer. This will help to streamline your prep work for supper on busy nights. Potatoes starting to sprout? Consider planting them this year as part of your garden. Garlic getting tough? Roast or dehydrate it so that you can use it before it goes bad.
  • What about your pantry? Organize. I like to put the cans so that I can see the labels, because I’m anal because I like to see what is available with a quick scan. Make a habit of putting the new cans and jars in the back so that you can use them in a first in first out method. Check any food that you have preserved at home for spoilage and discard what is unsafe to use.
  • Check your spices. If you can’t smell them, then they are probably too old to use. Most spices do best if stored for 1-2 years.
  • Plan a meal or two using the odds and ends that you found in your kitchen quest.

May 22, 2011

Tip of the day—it is that time again!

Time to check the girls!  Once a month perform a self check breast exam and remind those you love to do the same.  It only takes a few minutes and might help you detect a lump or abnormality.  Remember to have a clinical exam one time a year and a mammogram when you are over 40 or earlier if your healthcare provider recommends due to a family history of breast cancer. 

This time of the month it is also a good idea to remind the men in your life to perform a testicular check for lumps.  Early detection of a testicular lump could save his life!

Remember that preventative health measures aren’t just money smart!

A Happy Thought

DSC_3771 "A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend, one human soul whom we can trust utterly, who knows the best and worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults." Charles Kingsley

May 21, 2011

Tip of the day—Vacation Planning Tips, Part 8

We’ve reviewed just about every aspect of vacation planning—budgeting, staycations, saving money, car travel with kids, saving money on food, prepping your house before you leave.  I’ll leave you with this final tip--

Don’t forget to have fun!  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Laugh when there is a hiccup or problem.  Remember the National Lampoon family and thank the good Lord you aren’t them.  Hold hands with your spouse.  Take photos of your kids.  Make mental snapshots.  Make memories with those you love.

Life is a lot more fleeting than you realize.  Enjoy the time you have now with those you love.

May 20, 2011

Tip of the day—Vacation Planning Tips, Part 7

Planning for your vacation is only part of the work.  You also need to plan for what happens to your house, pet and gardens while away. 

  • Put a hold on your mail and newspaper so that it doesn’t pile up while you are gone.
  • Put your lights on a timer so that the house doesn’t seem vacant.
  • Have a friend or relative drive by and check on things while you are gone.
  • We prefer to have our dog kenneled while away so that we don’t worry about him getting lost or hurt.  When on our honeymoon, we had a cat die, and that experience taught us that you can’t be too careful with your pets.  The lady who trained our dog is like a step mom to him, and he enjoys going out to her farm and playing while we are away.  He isn’t cooped up in a small cage, and we don’t have to worry about him digging out of a friend’s fence.  We know he’s safe, and that is worth the extra cost.
  • Barter services with a friend.  I have some good friends who will water our gardens while we are away, and I will do the same for them when they are gone. 
  • Don’t broadcast when you are leaving if your house is going to be empty.  Luckily we have family members who help to keep our house when we are away, and we do the same for them. 
  • Do a run-through before you leave and make sure all appliances are turned off and unplugged.  Make sure you lock the doors and turn on the alarm.  Make sure you put away any items that would be in plain sight and tempting for a burglar.  Don’t leave your keys under door mats or obvious places.

May 19, 2011

What to do with Swiss Chard

DSC_0345

Swiss Chard is easy to grow, tolerates the heat, and has a long growing season.  Because of this, many farmers and home gardeners choose to make it part of their annual plantings.  If you signed up for a CSA this year, chances are, you’ll be eating a lot of it.  While it isn’t my favorite of foods, I have experimented with many variations of recipes and below are our favorites of them.

Food preservation Method

Dehydrate—my friend Honor has been dehydrating many greens  (kale, chard, turnip greens) and plans to use them later in the year for soups and stews.  They dehydrate quickly and store compactly.

Food prep

Give the chard a good rinse, paying special attention to the ribs where bugs and dirt like to hide.  Chop the tip end of the stem near the roots off.  The stem is completely edible, but it takes longer to cook.  Chop the end pieces and set them in a separate container.  Cut the leaves in large pieces, as they will cook down a good amount.

The recipes

Basic Chard

1 clove garlic sliced thinly

1-2 T. olive oil

1 bunch of chard (or about 6-8 large leaves)

salt, pepper

1-2 T. red wine vinegar

Sauté the garlic with the stems in olive oil on medium-high for about 1-2 minutes.  Be careful not to let the garlic burn.  Add the chard and season.  Stir frequently until the leaves have turned a deep green and they are tender.  Add red wine vinegar.

Chard with Currants (from my friend Honor)

1 clove garlic sliced thinly

2-4 T. olive oil

1 bunch of chard (or about 6-8 large leaves)

salt, pepper

1/4-1/2 c. currents or raisins

boiling water

1/2 cup pine nuts

Pour boiling water over raisins or currants and set aside.  Sauté stems in olive oil for about 2 minutes and then add leaves and cook another few minutes until tender.  Drain, squeeze out any excess moisture with the back of your spoon.  Set aside.  In remaining olive oil, sauté garlic and add pine nuts, cooking for 2-3 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the nuts and garlic.  Drain currants and add them to the chard.  Toss in the garlic, nut, and oil mixture and serve.

Italian Chard (from my friend Honor)  Shown in photo above

2 cloves garlic sliced thinly

1 small red onion or shallot, sliced in rings

2-4 T. olive oil

1 bunch of chard (or about 6-8 large leaves)

salt, pepper

Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon

2-5 large leaves of basil, torn into small pieces

Squeeze lemon and add zest to juice.  Set aside.  Sauté the garlic and onion with the stems in olive oil on medium-high for about 1-2 minutes.  Be careful not to let the garlic burn.  Add the chard and season.  Stir frequently until the leaves have turned a deep green and they are tender.  Add lemon and zest.  Just before serving toss in the basil.

Sweet Chard (our favorite thus far)

1-2 T. olive oil

1 bunch of chard (or about 6-8 large leaves)

salt

1/4 c. dark brown sugar

Sauté the stems in olive oil on medium-high for about 1-2 minutes.  Add the chard and season.  Stir frequently until the leaves have turned a deep green and they are tender.  Add 1/4 c. brown sugar and stir.

Tip of the day—Vacation Planning Tips, Part 6

Souvenirs can be another expensive part of the vacation budget.  If you aren’t careful, you can turn around and realize that you spent hundreds of dollars on a bunch of junk that will be sold for less than a dollar at your next yard sale.  Below are some tips to help you avoid that mistake:

  • Let go of the guilt.  Your friends really don’t care if you buy them a t-shirt or send them a postcard.  If you have a friend or relative who watched your home while away, do pick them up something.  It doesn’t have to be “touristy” to be appreciated, though.  A nice box of chocolates or good tin of tea will suffice.
  • Children are going to want something.  If traveling without your kids, pick up something for them to open when you get home.  If they are traveling with you, give them a budget.  A friend said that she loaded a gift card for her son to use while on vacation.  When the money ran out, it was gone.  Because it was a gift card, he was less likely to nag for more money than if it had been cash. 
  • Buy off site.  If you are going to a big attraction, consider buying your souvenirs off site.  I grew up near the Memphis area, and I know that the Elvis knickknacks across the street from Graceland are much less than those in the souvenir shop.
  • Buy ahead of time.  As you all know, we’re going to Disney.  One site recommended buying Disney gifts ahead of time and wrapping them.  This helps to curb some of the “I wants” when on site.  Since Disney character gear can be found just about anyplace, I watched for sales and bought when the price was right.

May 18, 2011

Easy Breakfast Parfait

DSC_0242

Night before:

  • Mix 2 c. old fashioned oats and 2 c. milk (can use half and half or cream).
  • Add 2-3 T. sugar or rapadura. Don’t worry—you can adjust sugar later if you add too little.
  • Cover and refrigerate.

Next Morning:

  • Stir mixture and taste. If too bland you can add a little more sugar or honey.
  • Layer mixture with fresh or frozen fruit (think berries, peaches, and/or bananas), yogurt (or freshly whipped and sweetened cream or cool whip), and nuts (walnuts, pecans, and/or almonds).

Layer in a parfait dish for a nice presentation. This is quite filling and is good for an easy brunch since you can do most of the steps in advance. Yummy!

Tip of the day—Vacation Planning Tips, Part 5

Car travel with kids can be interesting, to say the least.  Today as part of your vacation planning, be sure to click on the link and read through some of my best tips for making the car ride go as smoothly as possible.

May 17, 2011

Making the Drive-in Even More Fun!

 drive in Drive-in movies were wonderful treats for our family when our daughter was a baby. We were not ready to leave her with a baby-sitter, and she was too young to be in the theater with us. The drive in theater allowed us to spend time as a family, get our movie fix, and not have to worry about every little cry from her. We still enjoy going for a double feature and letting her crawl into a sleeping bag in the back of the car while we watch the late night flick.  Drive-ins can be fun, inexpensive, and a full-fledged experience if you do a little prep work.  Below are a few tips and ideas to help you make the most out of your night out.

Some tips to make the drive in extra fun:

  • Pack a small radio. The theaters have their sound on radios. While not necessary, a radio can make hearing the sound a little easier.
  • Get there early, very early. If you want a decent parking spot, get to the gates a little before they open. They fill up very fast.
  • Pack a cooler. We enjoy packing a full supper in a cooler. The cooler can serve as a table for drinks.
  • Since you are there early, bring some things to do. A soft ball to throw back and forth, cards for the parents, and toys for the kids all make the waiting go a little faster.
  • Most people these days at the drive-in sit outside of their vehicles to watch the show. Bring a few camp chairs to make things more comfortable.
  • Bring a few blankets that you don't mind getting dirty. The night air, even during the hottest part of summer, gets a little cool.
  • Pack bug spray and sunscreen.
  • Expect a late night. The theaters usually have at least two movies per night--the first being more family appropriate and the second one for when the children are asleep. While you do not have to stay for both movies, we usually try to find a night when both movies are ones we have been wanting to view.
  • Bring friends.  It is fun to go with a few car loads of people, get spaces next to one another and make a night of it. 
If you are in the East Tennessee area, check out this site for details on the Blue Moon Theaters drive-in. You can sign up for their e-newsletter to receive updates on movies playing each week.  Have fun!

Tip of the day—Vacation Planning Tips, Part 4

Today, as we continue to plan for vacations, we’ll focus on the food.  This will be a fairly large part of your budget, and so you’ll want to find as many ways to save as you can.  Like I mentioned yesterday, finding deals on group buying sites, searching for coupons online, and earning points for gift cards to restaurants will help lower your expenditures.  The tips below should also help:

Pack food.  We pack a bag full of foods that can handle the heat of the car.  Things like crackers, chips, trail mix, gum, suckers, banana chips, and granola bars are perfect.  We add some drinks to a small cooler and make sure we have water in the car in case of emergency.  Drinks at a convenience store can cost $2 each, or if you buy them at the grocery and pack your own, you’ll pay a fraction of that.  We usually pack dried fruit instead of fresh because there is less mess and it can handle being jostled around in the car.  We also try and pack at least one meal for our car trip.

Eat regional and seasonal foods.  There is nothing better than buying shrimp right off of the boat that was netted that same morning.  It is so much sweeter and so much cheaper than what you’ll find away from the coast.  Find out what the area in which you are traveling is known for and try and eat that.  Chances are it will be less expensive than other choices. 

Visit local farmers markets.  Buy your fresh fruit or veggies straight from the farmer instead of going to the grocery store.

Go to the grocery instead of the restaurant.  Many grocery stores offer delis where you can buy a delicious meal for much less than a restaurant. 

Opt for a hotel with a kitchen or rent out a house or condo.  When we traveled to Destin a few years ago, we opted for renting a condo and doing much of our own cooking.  We did a little cost benefit analysis and realized that the savings on our meals would negate the extra we paid for the condo.  Plus, it is a little hard to cook blue crab in a microwave at the Holiday Inn!

Have bigger meals in the daytime.  Breakfast and lunch will be less expensive meals than supper at most restaurants.  Fill up earlier in the day and have a simple snack for supper.

Take advantage of freebies.  Whenever your hotel offers a free breakfast, use it!  If you can’t eat right then, ask about a to-go box to pack for your trip.  Many are happy to provide them for you.  Fill your cooler up with ice from the hotel ice machine rather than buying it at the convenience store.  Fill up your mug with the coffee brewed in your room instead of stopping at Starbucks.

Go for the usual savings.  Split meals, drink water, eat vegetarian—use all of those tricks for saving money at restaurants.

May 16, 2011

Free Coloring Pages and Printables for Kids

honey_honey_lion_jacket_400 Here are a few free printable sites I thought those of you with children might like to check out. If you know of any others, please post information in the comments section.

Author and illustrator Jan Brett's website is full of free printables for children. Everything from activity and coloring pages to cards and bookmarks are available.

The Dover Publications website offers free samples each week. Upon signing up for the program, they send samples to your e-mail address each Friday which often contain coloring and activity pages for children. Their sticker and coloring books have more than once saved my sanity when traveling with our 5 year old!

Independence Day Update, 5/16

 DSC_5984 We participate in Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days Challenge.  Even though she isn’t posting these updates in a while, I really like the format for a weekly review. 

The weather was hot and dry most of the week with a little rain and cooling off towards the end of the week.  I was glad to see some rain, as I was nearing the end of the rain barrel. 

Parts of the garden are growing nicely, while other crops are struggling a bit this year.  The beets aren’t coming in like I would like, which is unfortunate.  I’m hoping I have enough to pickle, and I need to plant a succession crop of them.  Luckily, I do have access to some that are in my dad’s garden, and I’m hoping those do better than ours did.  The blueberry bushes are weighed down with berries.  The earlier varieties are turning a dusky lavender, and I can’t wait for that deep blue purple tint.  The bok choy is already starting to bolt, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to enjoy much of it this year.  I knew I should have planted it much earlier than I did, but there are some years that you can only do as much as you can do.  Oh well!  The Chinese cabbages are gorgeous and, knock on wood, the regular green cabbages do not seem to have been too eaten up by worms thus far.  I haven’t noticed any loopers around that bed, and I’m hoping that is a good sign.  The jalapenos are already producing while the bell peppers seem almost stunted in their growth.  The peas are FINALLY starting to produce, and the green garlic scapes are winding in coils out of their stalks like swirls of calligraphy.  I feel almost like a garden fairy as I flutter between different plants and parts of the garden seeing what each has to show me from day to day. 

Plant—I planted a little more basil and another tomato, a few more daylilies and some more surprise lilies

Planted to date--

Super Sugar Snap Peas, 7 tomatoes (brandywine, grape, Early Girl, Better Boy), Choko Baby bok choy, One Kilo Chinese cabbage, 4 eggplant, Blue Lake Pole Beans, Christmas Lima Beans, Kestral Baby Beets, Touchstone Gold Beets, Chioggia Beets, Bull’s Blood Beets, Waltham 29 Broccoli, Rouge d’Hiver Romaine Lettuce, Matina Sweet Butterhead Lettuce, Galia Melon, Gooligan White Baby Pumpkin, Gourmet Rainbow Radish Mix, Gigante Inverno Spinach, Cavili Zucchini Squash, Milano Black Zucchini Squash, Supersett Yellow Crookneck squash, Sweet Beauty Watermelon, Marketmore cucumber, Genovese Basil, dill, flat leaf parsley, Jenny Lind melons, Butternut Squash, Garlic (planted in the fall), yellow and red onions, 8 bell peppers, 6 jalapeno peppers, 4 cabbage plants, 4 broccoli plants, daylilies, surprise lilies, sedum, 4 o’clocks, hollyhocks, red cockscomb, moonflower, zinnias, sunflower mix, marigold, butterfly flower garden seed mix, thyme, chives, carrots, coriander, horseradish, garlic chives, Peace Vine tomato, another type of basil (friend gave it to me).

Harvest—We continue to harvest salad greens in full force, eating and sharing as much as we can before they start to bolt.  The radishes continue to be a delight and it is so fun to bring some of them to my dad for him to enjoy.  He said with a grin, “I was hoping I might get some more of those!”  The garlic scapes will be ready to harvest in a few days if not today, and I’ll be sharing those with a friend who doesn’t have any.  Spring onions, edible flowers, and flower arrangements continue to be harvested. 

Preserve—I didn’t make it to the strawberry patch this week.  I’m disappointed and hoping that I will be able to catch another harvest before they are gone. 

Waste Not/Reduce Waste— Hmmm, I can’t think of much this week that is new for us.  We compost, recycle, and try to reduce our consumption as much as we can.  If you’ve read for a while, you know that we keep track of our utility bill from month to month and year to year.  This last month was our lowest for that period in usage since we’ve been recording (both in dollars and electricity, water, and gas used). 

Want Not/Prep/Storage—Can’t think of much new in this category this week.  It was a busy one for us, and we kind of did the “same old, same old.” 

Building Community Food Systems—Shared salad greens with a friend.  Shared from our stockpile for East TN Disaster Relief.  Also gave some toiletries to someoe I know who needed them.  Continue to support local farmers at the farmers markets.  Continue to prepare the meals for the children on Wednesday nights at church, and I’m using coupons to start stockpiling supplies for VBS and the Youth Mission Trip this summer.  Other than that, not too much new.

Eat the Food—Salad, lots of salad.  We had a gorgeous one on Monday with orange slices, beautiful thinly sliced steak, feta from the farmers market, pickled beets, pecans, and organic salad dressing.  MMMMMMM, good!

Tip of the day—Vacation Planning Tips, Part 3

So far we’ve talked about setting a budget and considering a “staycation”, now we’ll start talking about other ways to save money on vacation.  One of my money saving mottos is to always get a discount if at all possible.  I try not to pay full price for anything if I can help it.  Below are some of the ways that I try to save our family money when vacationing:

  • Look at group buying sites like Groupon and see what deals are available for the time frame you will be traveling. 
  • Sign up for hotel rewards programs and earn points towards free hotel stays.  We will have 2 free hotel nights this vacation because of work trips that we’ve made where we earned points. 
  • If you have AAA, use it!  Get trip ticks, book attractions through them for the discount, and use your card for discounts on shopping, restaurants, and attractions. 
  • If you have a membership to somewhere, see if reciprocity is offered. For example, a membership to the Knoxville zoo will give you a discount to the Memphis Zoo and free entry to zoos in other town.  Gym membership is often the same.  It never hurts to ask!
  • Earn gift cards through Mypoints or Swag Bucks to use while on your trip.  I have earned gift cards to Cracker Barrel that we’ll use on this year’s vacation.
  • Don’t leave home without it…your coupons that is!  You never know when you’ll need them.  If you forgot to pack shampoo or sunscreen, those coupons might save you a few dollars!
  • Print coupons for restaurants.  Search national restaurant chain websites and Facebook pages for coupons, print them and bring them with you. 
  • Negotiate the price of hotels and airfare through Internet buying sites.  We’ve all seen the commercials for sites where you can name your own price.  Since I’ve only used these once or twice in the past, I don’t have a good recommendation for you.  See what deals you can find and compare that to the prices you would pay with a rewards discount or AAA rate. 
  • Stay with friends or family.  If you can plan your trip so that you travel through a town where a good friend or family member lives, consider if it is doable to stay with them for the night.  Always bring a host/hostess gift with you as a little thank you.
  • Go through a travel agent.  If planning a big trip or a trip abroad, it sometimes pays to go through a travel agent.  When I went to Paris years ago, I was so pleased with the museum card that the travel agent suggested we get.  With it we had entry to all of the major museums and walked to the front of the line instead of waiting behind tons of people.  I would have never known it was an option if we hadn’t gone through an agent.
  • Likewise, pay for an interpreter if traveling abroad.  Sometimes the best place to find an interpreter is through a university.  You want to find someone you can trust rather than just anyone off of the street.  I distinctly remember our interpreter leaving us in Kiev to go on a train to Khmelnitsky and being very concerned and worried about us not having an interpreter for the train ride.  Hours later when guards armed with AK47s were speaking Russian loudly and quickly to us, I knew why.  Luckily there was a teenager on the train with us who spoke English, and she interpreted for us so that they knew we weren’t trying to smuggle anything in or out.  We avoided unnecessary detainment and long hours trying to explain that we had done nothing wrong.
  • Along those same lines, learn the language or some of the language if you can.  Again I’ll use an example from Kiev.  Friends and I were traveling from our hotel to a restaurant on the subway system.  We got off at the wrong stop and then had no idea what do do.  Because I had learned the alphabet and some of the language, I was able to read the signs and figure out where we needed to go.  Instead of being vulnerable to those who might try to take advantage of  young travelers, we only had a short detour from our trip of about 5 minutes.