Monday, October 20, 2008

Redbox Code & Sam's Club Membership Deal

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is PK66H8. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

Here is an updated list of new releases:

You Don't Mess With the Zohan
Former Israeli assassin who fakes his own death so he can move to New York and pursue his dream of styling hair in gratuitously short jean cutoffs? That's Adam Sandler for you, who you can always count on to deliver the goods in totally absurd ways. Rob Schneider and John Turturro co-star in this whacky comedy.

The Happening
If they rated movies based purely on their otherworldly eeriness, every M. Night Shyamalan movie would be rated X. Surprisingly, this thriller – starring Mark Wahlberg as a science teacher in the midst of a mysterious psychological force threatening all humans – is M. Night's first Rated R movie. Find out why.

The Visitor
Richard Jenkins (the deceased father on Six Feet Under) stars as a widowed college professor who's simply going through the motions. But on a trip home to New York, he discovers two lively immigrants have moved into his apartment, and the friendship he forms with them might just open his future right up.

Kill Switch
You knew that Steven Seagal could act (and break pool cues over your head), but here he stars AND wrote the screenplay. Seagal plays as a famous homicide detective who follows a demented serial killer's trail to Memphis, where he must negotiate a seedy underworld of sex and violence.

Iron Man
The unfairly cool Robert Downey Jr. takes on the role he just might have made for: a superhero with a sense of style. Here, he plays Tony Stark, a billionaire war profiteer who becomes a do-gooder/world-saver after escaping captivity with the help of a hand-built flying iron suit. Gwyneth Paltrow co-stars.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Jason Segal, Kristin Bell and Russell Brand star in this hilarious (and frequently uber-embarrassing) comedy about a heartbroken slob who travels to a Hawaiian resort. There's pretty much no one there – except for his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend, and tons of awkward laughs.

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I just wanted to let you guys know that Sam's Club is offering a special offer on their memberships to show people how they can save with a wholesale club membership. I spoke with a gentleman at our store & they said that they are offering these memberships on the weekends, but I am posting the official press release that states that you can sign up all week long. I believe they have set-ups only on weekends with computers displaying the savings, but you can visit your membership services desk to take advantage of the promotional membership. If you aren't sure about which club to go with or if wholesale club shopping is right for your family, please visit our EXTENSIVE article on wholesale club shopping that breaks down the ins and outs of the wholesale club membership. Regardless, this promotional deal would be helpful for a family who is trying to save money for their holiday shopping.

Cost of a membership versus this ten dollar deal, makes this a higher cost membership if you were considering signing up for a year, but for ten dollars you can decide if a wholesale club membership is the best deal for your family.

We only have a Sam's Club in our area so this is the only club that we can choose from. We do use our wholesale club for diapers, baking supplies, and frozen food purchases. For us, it does make sense, but each family needs to decide for their own individual needs.

Here is the official scoop:

For the first time in its history, Sam’s Club is offering a $10 membership good for 10 weeks --through the end of the year --for families and businesses not currently members. Beginning Oct. 17 through Oct. 26 consumers can visit any Sam’s Club to sign up.

Sam’s Club launched a national radio campaign this week and plans newspaper advertising to support the $10 for 10 weeks campaign, which features 10 reasons for joining. USDA choice meats and $4 generics along with generous food demos at Sam’s Club were called out in advertising. Seasonal merchandise and all the decorations required to trim a tree for less than $100 as well as holiday photo cards as low as 35 cents a piece also made the list.

“We know we can easily demonstrate the value at Sam’s Club in just one shopping trip, said Mike Turner, Vice President, Membership at Sam’s Club. ‘With a temporary 10 week membership we’ll be able to give those who sign up a good chance to see what we can do for them everyday, and through the holidays.”

In addition to the radio campaign, Yahoo! Finance columnist Laura Rowley, author of Money and Happiness, visited Sam’s Club locations in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix this week and suggests consumers should consider five things when looking for ways to save or cut expenses.

1. Start with the Basics - Housing and utilities, food, transportation and medicine.

-According to the government’s survey of costs, these are the top four budget categories for Americans and there are some easy ways to save big money over time without reducing quality of life.

2. Household Overhead – Take a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and review monthly income, outline a household budget and look for ways to “trim around the edges” – from cable to utilities to a cleaning or lawn service.

3. Hungry for a Deal – Plan ahead and create a menu for the whole week, which will allow bulk food purchases (which saves significantly off the regular grocery bill).

-When planning a meal, double the recipe and freeze the leftovers, or consider setting up a meal swap with friends.

-Crunched for time? Shop online. Sam’s Club has a service called “Click ‘n’ Pull” where members can shop online and pick up the assembled order 24 hours later.

4. Transportation Savings - Start by re-examining the families’ auto insurance plan.

-Comparison shop, raise the deductible, eliminate collision coverage on older cars, fill up at a warehouse club gas station; use gas websites

5. Cut Health Care Costs – Only about one-third of prescription drug buys are mostly or fully covered by insurance, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports.

-Always ask the physician for a generic equivalent of any prescription and comparison shop online.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tip #36 For Reducing Your Grocery Budget

Today I provided a list of 35 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Budget that I hope will be really helpful for families. I want to add a #36 though that I know would make your day... how about free toilet paper and paper towels for an entire year from Scott's? Head over right now and put in your entry at The MotherLoot today. Please do not enter here, only entries over here will qualify. The contest is open until Tuesday night and then I will draw our winner!

How is that for helping reduce one's grocery budget? Good luck to each of you!

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35 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Budget

With grocery prices rising and package sizes shrinking, it can be difficult to stay within your grocery budget. Here are 35 steps towards improving your grocery budget and making the most of your money.

1. Buy the least expensive ground beef and rinse the meat instead to reduce the fat content.
2. Stop buying baby carrots and chop the carrots yourself.
3. Milk your milk budget by using powdered milk when the milk prices are too high.
4. Try making your own coffee syrups and coffee creamers to help save on your coffee expenses.
5. Dispose of the disposable items and switch to cloth napkins, washcloths, and and microfiber cloths to replace your paper napkins and disposable wipes.
6. Try making your own bread using a bread machine or making bread the good old-fashioned way.
7. Start keeping a price book to cash in on the best deals (you can download a free one here).
8. Take advantage of grocery delivery services or free in-store shopping services to help avoid impulse shopping.
9. Give wholesale club shopping a try for items that you use frequently, just be sure to use your price book to compare the prices.
10. Start making your own homemade cleaners.
11. Learn the art of stockpiling and create a system for storing your stockpile that works for your family.
12. Create a series of menu plans that you can rotate so you can make your grocery shopping easier and keep yourself under budget.
13. Try using coupons and utilizing free coupon services to help you score the best deals for your money.
14. Start gardening with simple foods that are easy to grow like tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, and squash.
15. Try canning items from your garden to help cut costs in the winter months.
16. Make your own baby food or find a way to buy it cheaper.
17. Give cloth diapering a shot! They have come a long way and can save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
18. Sign up for free samples of food and toiletry items. You will waste less money trying new items out and these samples can help get you by when times are more lean.
19. Make your own mixes instead of buying them.
20. Try shopping at a less expensive supermarket.
21. Bring your own grocery bags for a grocery bag credit at most supermarkets.
22. Shop at stores that will double your coupons.
23. Bring cash and a calculator instead of using your debit card. This will help you to stay on budget better.
24. Utilize a slow cooker so you can buy cheaper cuts of meats and use the slow cooker to tenderize them.
25. Try making your own condiments like pancake syrup, croutons, and salad dressings.
26. Take inventory in your fridge, pantry, and freezer before shopping to avoid buying repeat and unnecessary items.
27. Try replacing one evening meal with breakfast foods instead. Most brunch dishes are less expensive and you can omit or stretch meat in these dishes a lot further.
28. Instead of buying prepackaged bagged ingredients, try packaging your own ingredients once a week instead. It will help get dinner on the table faster and it will save you money in your grocery budget.
29. Make a homemade pizza instead of buying pizzas in the frozen section.
30. Schedule a day in your kitchen every week to make cooking easier and to help save on the cost of buying convenience foods.
31. Feed your freezer and/or give once-a-month cooking a try to save on time and money.
32. Eliminate meat or make one night a meat-free night.
33. Make snacks items convenient so you don't have to buy the prepackaged goodies.
34. Buy and prepare whole chickens instead of buying chicken breasts as a meal or shred this meat for your casseroles.
35. Buy your meat in bulk.

(Photo Credit: WhamBam Pam)

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Coffee Talk

It has been awhile since I had been to Sam's Club, but after all the adventures in bread making that I had been doing, I had run out of a key ingredient for cooking... all-purpose flour.

I don't know what it is about going to Sam's Club, but it is like I have to give myself a pep talk for an entire week that I am going there. I think it is because it is so big and the lines are so long and walking the place takes so much time, but maybe that is just me? Usually I choose the Click 'N Pull option, but our Sam's is under construction so I thought it would be easier if I just ran in and got the stuff myself.

I usually run in and run right back out and rarely do I browse because, frankly, I end up spending money we don't have. As I was making my beeline towards the flour, this shiny bag caught my eye and I was doing a little happy dance in the aisle.

Sam's Club is carrying my FAVORITE coffee in the whole wide world- Folger's Gourmet Vanilla Biscotti. I have been highly addicted to this coffee since the company sent me some samples to review and that, my friends, is why Freebie Friday might not really be free. I can't tell you how many "free" things I have gotten suckered into buying and this coffee is no exception.

This is a killer deal though, $10.88 for two pounds of coffee! Don't forget, Sam's also carries Dunkin' Donuts for cheap too!

What have you received for "free" that you are now hooked on? Tell me I am not the only one getting sucked in by free samples!

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Monday, May 05, 2008

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

Normally, I am privileged to be included on the morning news for WSBT, but this time I made it to the evening news hour. WSBT is doing a Money Saving Mondays segment each Monday for the month of May and asked my thoughts on the rising grocery prices. This segment has lots of great tips and they compare the prices on the basics- bread, eggs, and milk in our area. Is it any surprise that good old Aldi made the cut?

I hope you can check it out and I thank Darla and the WSBT station for including me in this piece!

Sound Off: How are you dealing with the higher grocery prices? What is the biggest struggle for your family right now?

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Incomplete Projects- The Grocery Game & Sewing Classes

I have a couple little loose ends to wrap on a couple of blog projects that I was sharing on. I did manage to complete four sewing classes and this is my finished apron pictured here. I decided not to continue taking more classes because of the expense and the limited time that I have available. The good news is that I learned how to use my sewing machine and I can (sort of) sewing a straight line. My mother-in-law has offered additional classes for me (free of charge) and we plan to make a field trip to the fabric store so I can get over being intimidated by what types of fabrics I can use or what fabrics I shouldn't use for certain projects.

The other project I had been working on was The Grocery Game and how much I could save my family using it.

Here is what I learned:

- My area had a limited amount of grocery stores listed and, honestly, they only offered one store near me that I was interested in really shopping at for the membership (our local Meijer)

- I found that I shopped more often and was spending more money than I typically would on my grocery budget. While I was able to score some great deals, I felt pressured to shop more than my typical bi-weekly or monthly shopping schedule.

- I did not see a big savings compared to my regular Aldi shopping and typical stockpiling of discounted items at stores. This is not to say that the savings weren't there, but for someone who does make almost everything we eat and rarely buys convenience foods, the deals weren't as great for what I needed and rarely beat the great prices at Aldi.

Despite not wanting to continue with the program, I will say that I am more aware of the coupons and am focusing more on my flier research and pricing. I had not been doing that as often and trying this grocery program helped me to get more focused on how much I was spending on foods and helped me get my price book up-to-date.

All in all, both were fun experiences and challenged me as a homemaker! I wouldn't say I failed at the experiments, but I think my limited time really has started shedding light on where I really want to spend my time and focus my energies on.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why Buy Milk? Let Me!


Why buy milk when I could just give it to you for free? Hurry over to The MotherLoot for contest details on a giveaway for three containers of Horizon Organics Plus with DHA!

And while you are perusing our site, be sure to enter our Geek Squad Giveaway and check our latest review entries for fun children’s soaps and a great phone for work-at-home moms!

Sound Off: Let's have a frank discussion about organic milk (without being mean or bullying anyone!) Do you buy organic milk or organic food products? Do you have a selective list of organic products you buy or do you go all the way with organic eating? How has this impacted your health or your grocery bill?

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Testing The Grocery Game: Week One

This is my first week trying out the Grocery Game and really working towards building our stockpile through coupons and sale prices. I promised to chronicle my efforts here and I really appreciated all of your ideas and feedback on your coupon usage and what has been working for you.

Here we are in week one of my Grocery Game membership. Frankly, week one with this membership really stinks. I feel like I do when I go on other websites that offer a "free basic membership," but then they only extend certain offers and the premium members get all of the good stuff. The reason is, of course, because I have none of the coupons that are listed for these good deals, not because I don't have access to seeing the deal.

This week I diligently cut my coupons and then explored the official list of deals. The CVS listings were nothing new and were things that I could find elsewhere on the web. The deals for Kroger & Meijer did offer some insight into great deals that I could take advantage of...if I had coupons from January. I took note of some of the sale items that I had overlooked when I had flipped through my flier though, and decided to stock up on the items that were the best deals for the week.

A local supermarket (Martin's Supermarket for the local folk!) had a 12 for $10 sale advertised this past week so I took advantage of that as well since I am trying to build my stockpile.

In the interim, I cleaned out my purse and gathered up all of the receipts from past grocery visits and put them into my price book (Side Note: We offer a free printable one here!) It had been awhile since this had been updated and I happened to have a few receipts from Aldi to input. I put these in, since ultimately this is about whether or not I do better with coupons or with Aldi.

For this week, I stocked up on:

Martin's Supermarket:

(6) Aunt Millie's 100% Whole Wheat Bread
(6) Store Brand Frozen Vegetables (baby peas, broccoli, corn)
Total Cost: $10

Meijer Supermarket:

10 pounds of apples- $4 (Side Note- This should have been six pounds, but I thought the bag I picked was the smaller bag and told them that the price was wrong. Oops! I ended up with an extra four pounds of apples for the advertised price. I was a little overzealous in my flier efforts, not attempting to be dishonest.)
13 pounds split chicken breasts bone on- $.99 per pound
Total Cost: $17

This first week I did not use coupons, but did take advantage of listed sales that I might not have seen as an amazing deal without the assistance of the list. The coupons that I could have used for this week were for items I would not typically buy (convenience foods, frozen foods, crap foods) and I plan to stick with what I feel is in the best interest of our family's diet and what we would normally buy.

I am looking forward to week two on the program, and feel very good about updating my price book and starting our stockpile. I also am looking forward to making some great dishes with the chicken breasts. I have to also sheepishly admit that the apples look much better than my past couple of bags I have gotten from Aldi (which have went bad in just a couple of days). The kids kept saying, "They are so pretty and shiny!"

If you would like to join me in exploring the program, my referral id is amy@momadvice.com!

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Baby Steps Series: Storing Your Stockpile

Awhile ago we had a fun discussion on what you consider to be a small space and it was a great glimpse into what everyone's space challenges were and how much space each of us were taking up. I love to see how big people's homes are in relation to their family size and also the satisfaction that they have with the space they already have.

Just to make the story a little more fun, I had mentioned that I thought our home was 1,800 square feet because that is what my husband kept telling me. When we would flip through the home catalogs everything was in comparison of what we had ("Oh, that house is only 2,000 square feet? Well, that is only 200 square feet bigger than what we already have").

As we were working on our office organization though, we came across some paperwork from buying our house. My husband had a shocked look on his face as he flipped through the paperwork. "Our house isn't 1,800 square feet....it is only 1,500 square feet." Suddenly the walls were closing in on us and we huddled together in our teeny tiny office space in our teeny tiny shack of a house and shuddered in disbelief that all this time we only had this amount of space.

Of course, that is all melodramatic and I continued to pat ourselves on the back for making this amount of space work for us. No, we have no plans for moving into a bigger space, but I just wanted to use this point to illustrate that our house is not large, nor is it small. In this area of town, our house is considered on the small end. When we lived in Massachusetts, we would have felt VERY blessed to have a home of this size. Space is all relative!

Regardless of size, I have true storage dilemmas with my home, in general, due to the tri-level floor plan of this house. The house is broken into three levels and we also have a basement (in some parts of the country it is referred to as a quad). A broken floor plan like this leaves me with zero storage space and small rooms so stockpiling can be difficult in my space. I do have a basement and a garage though so feel that I am at an advantage compared to someone who might be renting a space or live in a home without these two luxuries. And yes, I do consider having my basement and garage to be a luxury as we have lived in spaces without either of these blessings.

I am going to share some ideas for ways to store your stockpile and am opening the floor up to you to share what your storage dilemmas have been and ways you have (if you have) overcome those dilemmas in a creative way. It should be a fun discussion and I am looking forward to sharing with you!

Today we are talking about how to store your stockpiled groceries. In future discussions, I would love to share about what to do with other stockpiles you might be storing in your house (children's clothing, toiletries, etc...), but today we will focus on the grocery aspect.

Here are some ideas for ways to store your stockpile:

- First, begin by organizing your pantry and getting rid of the items you are not using. Too often, there is space for stockpiled items, but they are being used by items that are wasting your valuable space. I have found that grouping items in totes makes it easier for me to pull out what I need when I need it, keeping the like items together and preventing items from getting lost in the shuffle. Organize the space you have to create space for all that you want to stockpile.

- One of the first places to look is at the closets that you already have in your home. While not all of us are blessed with a closet in the kitchen, some closets that are not being used can be repurposed into a more usable space. Walk around in your house and really take a look at the closets that you have and see if they are being used to the best of their ability. Try and see if there is another place for the stuff in your closet (or get rid of items that you do not use) and measure the inside of it to see how many shelves you could fit into that space. If you head over to your local hardware store, you should be able to find wired shelving that can be cut to match the size of your closet. Durable wire shelving inserted into a rarely used closet can equal an affordable solution for storing your stockpile.

- Look at the doors to your closet as a place to also store items. Hardware stores offer units that can be mounted on the door for storing your canned goods. This space is rarely used, but is an excellent place for you to store items that you are stockpiling. Likewise, the dollar stores offer over-the-door storage with plastic pocketed units that can be great for storing spices, spice packets, trail mixes, nuts, etc...

- Basements and garages are ideal spaces for stockpile storage, particularly for families who are lacking space in their kitchen itself. Try to pick a space that is easy to get to so that you can make the most of your stockpile. In a basement, for example, putting your stockpile at the bottom of the stairs so items can be grabbed easily rather than a far off or less lit corner in your basement. For a garage, storing items closest to the kitchen instead of having to walk the length of the garage would be more ideal. You can use wired shelving in these spaces, bookshelves, mount 2x4's- whatever is cheapest and easiest for you to use.

- Under your beds can be a great storage spot for stockpiles. Although it certainly isn't ideal, it is a more creative way to use space that is rarely used. If your bed is too low, you can purchase bed risers to raise the bed to give you more space underneath. You can purchase under-the-bed storage containers and fill these with canned goods or other items that you like to stockpile or tuck items in your rarely used suitcases or bags for a free storage solution.

- A freezer is a wise investment for anyone who is looking to stockpile their groceries. In some cases, such as rental space, a freezer might not be an option, but if it is, I have found it to be a very smart investment. If you do not think you have the space for a full-size chest freezer, Sears carries a model that is half the standard size and perfect for smaller spaces or for small families that would not need such a large freezer. We purchased this freezer for our small townhouse and we love it. Less seems to get lost in the bottom depths, but we are also able to keep it filled with stockpiled items that I have gotten from the grocery store. Consider buying one of these to help save your family money.

- In smaller spaces, it might be necessary to split your stockpiled items up in various areas around the house. A shelf in the basement, a little space in the garage, a corner in a closet, stuff under the bed...it can spell a recipe for disaster if you don't have tight tabs on what you have stockpiled. Try keeping a list of all of the items that you have and tacking it on your refrigerator. Periodically, do an inventory of the items you have so you don't end up repeatedly buying diced tomatoes, for example, when you already are storing forty cans. An inventory list can help decrease some of the confusion and be a great way to help you decide exactly what you will be eating in the coming weeks.

Sound Off: Where do you store your stockpiled groceries? What else would you like to see covered in our "Baby Steps" series? Help us keep this going!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

WSBT-TV: The Art of Stockpiling

Today on my Frugal Mom segment on WSBT, I wanted to chat a bit about my Baby Steps series and our first topic that we tackled... the art of stockpiling. I wanted to illustrate some of the ways that people can begin making progressive steps towards saving their family money in their weekly grocery budget. If you missed this first post in our series, you can read it here!

Continuing our written series here, tomorrow we will be discussing how and where you can store your stockpiled groceries. Be sure to check back for another riveting piece on groceries.

And if you aren't tired enough of the grocery topic, we will also be watching a mom who hates to cut coupons, cutting coupons and attempting a fun four week trial of the grocery game.

Who needs television when you can have all that entertainment? And I also wonder out loud...does the topic of saving on groceries ever get old? I hope not!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Saturday Morning Treat: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Growing up, one of my favorite Saturday treats was a Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll. My mom would make these for us on Saturdays and we always fought over the ones that had the most frosting. Sadly, it was such a thrill when my dad worked in the mornings because that meant that there would be two extra rolls for us to fight over. Who could resist those rolls and the simple pleasure of having a sweet treat once a week?

I still love those cinnamon rolls, but at $1.69 a roll, they are an unnecessary addition to the grocery budget. What I do have though is flour and sugar, purchased in bulk, and a bread machine that can turn out cinnamon roll dough like nobody's business. I figured I was on to something and decided to give it a shot and figure out if I could replicate my Saturday morning experience. It took a couple of Saturdays to tweak this recipe, but I finally am satisfied with the results. Lucky for me, my family didn't mind being the guinea pigs so I have gotten this down pat for your dining pleasure!

To make my dough, I used the recipe from the homemade hamburger buns, except that I increased the sugar to 1/3 cup. I ran the dough cycle on my bread machine and when it beeped, I had the perfect dough for rolling.

I rolled the dough out into a 12x15 rectangle and then spread it with the following filling:

Cinnamon Roll Filling

1/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Spread the softened butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this all over the dough and then use your hands to gently press the filling in. Take the edge of the dough and begin rolling it up. Roll it tightly and slowly, being careful to keep all the filling inside. At this point you should have a long log that you can cut your rolls from. You can wrap the dough with plastic and store in the fridge overnight or you can slice your rolls (should make ten large rolls) and put them on your cookie sheet or pizza stone. Store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, pull the rolls out and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. When the oven reaches 400 degrees, immediately drop the temperature to 375 degrees and put the rolls in the oven. Cook these for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the rolls are cooking, I just make a frosting out of powdered sugar and water (I don't measure this, but approximately 1/2 cup powdered sugar to 1-2 tablespoons water mixed together should do ya!) When the rolls are done, drizzle your frosting over the rolls and serve them warm or room temperature (although they are best warm)

Amy's Notes-

- The first time I made these, I put them on a pizza stone and they cooked very evenly. The second time, I popped them in a 9x13" pan and only the ones on the outside got done. I would recommend placing these either on a cookie sheet (with a nice lip) or on a pizza stone.

- When you slice the cinnamon rolls, you can slice them with a knife or you can use dental floss and cut them that way. I find the dental floss to be a little more tedious so I stuck to slicing with the knife and reshaping the dough afterwards.

- The best part about making these cinnamon rolls is that you can vary the sizes and I can make mini-versions of the rolls for the little kids and tuck these in the center of the batch so that they don't get overdone. The kids love these mini versions and I control the amount of sugar they are getting. Just give them a teeny drizzle of frosting and they will be set!

- You can reheat these in the microwave for a nice snack in the evening or for breakfast the next day. Place on a microwave-safe plate and zap for about twenty seconds. Makes a great mommy snack with a cup of coffee!

Sound Off: What is a favorite Saturday morning treat in your house?

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Don't forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted. Much luck to everyone!

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Testing the Grocery Game

Our discussion on stockpiling really got me thinking about ways that I could continue to save our family money on our grocery budget. I had been wanting to test the Grocery Game program out ever since I read a story on it in a Mary Hunt publication years ago, and what better time than now to test it?

The Grocery Game is a paid membership to receive a weekly list of groceries to buy, combining rock-bottom sale prices with your coupon cutting from your weekly newspaper. "Terri's List" has a list of everything you should be stockpiling and her personal software tracks the trends of sales for each grocery store, alerting you when you should be stockpiling certain items. They offer a weekly list that tells you all of the advertised and unadvertised sales that are occurring within your local stores. This paid membership supposedly makes it easier for you to track the deals and cash in your coupons at the absolute best time.

I think it is important for me to be honest about what I am going into this program with though so here are a few known truths about Amy:

- I am not a coupon-clipper, except for the occasional CVS trip, and prefer living my life without cutting coupons. For me, I have not seen the value in it because I do so well with our money without coupons.

- Coupons, in the past, have lead me down some destructive paths and have actually ended up costing me more money than saving me. I would see a coupon for, "Hamburger Helper," for example, and then buy it...even though we didn't normally buy this product or really have a need for it in our pantry. What was supposed to save me money, actually ended up costing me more money and I came home with products that I would not typically buy.

- I am an Aldi shopper. Most of my regulars know this, but I thought I would mention it. This would mean that I would have to venture out of my safety zone and excuses that you can't beat their prices, and actually explore some other supermarkets. Aldi does not take coupons so I have never felt the urge to clip.

Now that you know what I am going into the program with, you will understand that I have some low expectations for how well I will do, but I thought it would be some great entertainment to see me struggling with my coupons and lists, trying to buy groceries practically for nothing.

I began by signing up for my membership. They offer a $1 trial program for four weeks so I signed up for that (Referral ID should-you-so-chose is amy@momadvice.com). I was a little worried how many stores they would offer in our area, but they did have listed Kroger, Meijer, Walgreens, & CVS. I signed up for those stores and got all of my information plugged in to begin my account.

The cost for a membership after the $1 deal is broken down by the amount of lists you would sign up for. The pricing is, $10 every 8 weeks for the first store list you choose, and $5 every 8 weeks for each additional store list (if more than one store list is available in your area). Example: 1 store list: $10 every 8 weeks, 2 store lists: $15 every 8 weeks, 3 store lists: $20 every 8 weeks.

It begins with an introduction to the program and basically states that it will take approximately 12 weeks for you to really build your initial stockpile. It also will take 12 weeks for you to be able to cash in on all of the coupon deals because they will be referring to coupon packets from the months previous, so when you begin you don't really get the full benefits of the program. You are just supposed to keep clipping and clipping each week and stockpiling what you can through those initial weeks until your coupon file is as fat as it needs to be and you can really begin cashing in on the program.

I plan to primarily shop at Meijer and CVS because our Kroger was shut down. There is one nearby, but it would require more of an effort on my part. My new list will be published on Tuesday so today I clip all of my coupons, in preparation of my first list.

I am dusting off the old coupon organizer and getting my trusty scissors out- let the games begin!

Edited to Add My Updates:
Grocery Game Week One
The Grocery Game Conclusions

Sound Off: Do you have any experience using a program like this? Do you coupon?

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Baby Steps Series: The Art of Stockpiling

I decided that I would begin a series on our site sharing baby steps that you can take towards learning how to save money and I am answering your questions. If you have something that you would like to see featured on here, please drop me an email at amy@momadvice.com or mention it by leaving a comment. This series will run as long as I have questions from all of you and I hope to provide lots of valuable information for ways to begin to save.

Money Saving Mom is offering a similar series, but focusing on creating and sticking to a budget. Read Crystal's first post here and share with her your budgeting challenges.

As requested by our readers, I wanted to begin our series by tackling the topic of stockpiling. I hope that you will find this post helpful and I thank each of you for giving me an opportunity to share in this way. We will be adding these posts to our Money section of our site for future reference!

The Art of Stockpiling

There are many ways to begin tackling the grocery budget and one of the most popular ways is the art of stockpiling items when doing your grocery trips. This method, also known as the “pantry principle” by loyal Tightwad Gazette readers, is a method of shopping that is meant to give you the best bang for your buck.

Let’s begin by discussing the methods that are commonly used when people are trying to save money on their grocery shopping and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Planner- I feel that this is the first place to start when you begin learning how to save money on your groceries. This is for shoppers who are going from shopping whenever and for whatever they want, to accomplishing a more disciplined form of shopping for only what you need and shopping with a plan. This shopper sits down and menu plans for the amount of meals that they will need and makes a list of the ingredients needed to accomplish their task. The amount of meals planned depends on the amount of times they shop per month and they buy only what they need to accomplish their menu plan goals for the week. This is an excellent place to start and a great way to learn how to buy only what you need and to avoid impulse shopping. Being a planner myself, this method fit our lifestyle for a long time and served its purpose in helping our family save money. Unfortunately, planners focus more on the plan than the sale so this can sometimes be the most expensive option next to shopping without a plan at all. While this shopper has great meal ideas, they buy the ingredients possibly at premium prices and pay more to accomplish their plans then other types of shoppers.

The Flier Shopper- This method of shopping is the next step up and is another great way to save money. This shopper is excited when their weekly fliers and coupons arrive because this determines exactly what they will be eating for the week. Let’s say that chicken is at a bargain-basement price of $1.19 per pound. This shopper will plan a meal around everything they can make with that chicken and out of other ingredients that are featured in the flier. Their meals will consist of items made mostly from sale ingredients and they keep their grocery budget low by planning meals that fit with the sales advertisements and the items that they can get with their coupons. This shopper is still a planner, but their menu plans are created solely around sale ingredients.

The Stockpile Shopper- This way of shopping requires less initial planning and more planning after your food has already been bought. This shopper focuses on stockpiling their pantry with food purchased at the lowest possible price. Grocery shopping then becomes all about keeping your pantry stocked and not about a menu plan really at all. Let’s say that diced tomatoes are marked down to $.29 a can. This shopper would run out and buy twenty cans of diced tomatoes because they know that this is the lowest possible price based on their price book. This shopper has carefully tracked prices and they know that this deal only comes around every three months so they stock up until the next sale, calculated to happen three months later. This shopper looks at all the items that they have bought and figures that they can have a delicious spaghetti sauce, a pizza with a homemade red sauce, and the family’s favorite casserole…that all just happen to use diced tomatoes in their recipe.

Do you want to be a stockpile shopper? Here are some steps for beginning this process:

1. Sit down and make a list of the foods that you eat regularly. If you were formerly a planner, you should have some menu plans that you can take a look at. Write down these ingredients into a notebook and the prices that you normally pay for these items.

2. Cut coupons to go along with your items to gain even more savings to your stockpile. Utilize a free service like CouponMom.com to learn when to use your coupons and to help you find the best deals to apply your coupons towards.

3. Next, begin tracking the ingredients in your sales fliers and begin stockpiling the items when they go on sale. Continue writing and tracking the prices as you go along and when you see a large dip in the pricing, stock up, and up, and up. Stockpile only as much as you can afford in the grocery budget to spend and what you really can eat. The first few weeks will be difficult and you may need to allocate some money to set aside for beginning your stockpile. Understand though that each week will get easier and allow for more breathing room in the budget. As the weeks progress, you will have built up the beginnings of a pantry and will need less and less ingredients, allowing for more room in the budget to stock up on future good deals.

4. Only stockpile what you truly can eat. Even if tuna is marked to a quarter a can, if you spend ten dollars on tuna and no one really likes tuna, you are wasting money and you are wasting space in your pantry. If you find you overbought on items, consider donating them to a food pantry or a shelter so the food is not wasted.

5. If you end up miscalculating how much of an ingredient you will need, you will have to plan your dinner around that missing ingredient. A Stockpile Shopper will refuse to buy spaghetti sauce, for example, unless their store runs that item on a buy-one-get-one free sale. If the shopper runs out of that ingredient, her family won’t eat spaghetti until the next sale or they will find a way to make sauce from other ingredients that have been stockpiled.

6. Some items just can’t be stockpiled like fresh fruits and vegetables. This is where I rely on my Flier Shopper instinct. If bananas are $.19 a pound, I would scoop up ten pounds for my family. I would eat them fresh until they got ripe and then mash the ripe ones for banana breads and muffins. Applying my good shopping instinct, I would pick the sale items and also pick fruits and vegetables that offer longevity over produce that only lasts a few days or could not be used past their duration (like in the bananas example). This is why I tend to gravitate towards carrots, celery, potatoes, bananas, and apples to fill the majority of our fresh fruit and vegetable quota. Once these run out, I would rely on my stockpile of dried fruits, canned fruits, and frozen vegetables to make up the difference until my next trip.

As you can see, stockpiling can really extend your grocery dollars and can be a fun way to approach grocery shopping.

Next week we will be discussing creative ways to store your stockpile! Many of us live in smaller spaces so we have to be more creative with storage.

Sound Off: Which type of shopper do you identify with? Do you stockpile?

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Leaner Ground Beef for Less

This past month I stocked up on ground beef and chicken at our local market. While the pricing was lower on the chicken prices, the ground beef was still $1.79 per pound for 80% lean. Of course their best ground beef prices had the highest percentage of fat, but I figured that I would just drain the fat and prepare the dishes like usual.

When I did a little research and digging though, I realized that I could cut the percentage in half by simply giving my ground beef a good rinsing. With just a little effort on my part, I could have the same lean beef and pay a lot less for it.

First, if you are new to the idea, I would recommend reading this tutorial provided by Hillbilly Housewife. It explains exactly how to do it and how much fat you are shaving off by giving your beef a rinse.

The best way that I have found to rinse my ground beef is to cook the ground beef and then pull the cooked meat out of the pot and put it into a bowl or on a plate while I drain the fat from the pan. I usually can find an empty can in my recycling that I can pour the fat into and then I rinse out the skillet that I am cooking in. Next, I start running the water on my tap as hot as possible. I rest the colander in the sink and then pour my cooked meat into it. I run the hot water over the meat and give it a good rinsing. Once it has been rinsed, I let it rest in the colander until the water has completely drained. Finally, just pour the ground beef back into your skillet and proceed with your recipe.

Now my question is, if I drain the ground beef am I removing important nutrients from my diet? I happened upon this answer, from the American Cancer Association, that I found very helpful when researching this topic...

"The original fat level in ground meat makes a difference in the amount of fat that can be removed from it. With each reduction from regular ground beef to 20% fat, 15% fat and 10% fat, the content of a three-ounce portion is reduced by 3 grams. The leaner the meat, the smaller the effect that draining and rinsing can have on the meat's fat content. Blotting a burger on paper towels (30 seconds on each side) can generally lower the fat by about 1 or 2 grams, while the fat content of drained crumbled meat (as for chili or pasta sauces) may drop by 4 or more grams. When you rinse crumbled ground beef in a fine strainer or colander, you can further reduce fat content in each three-ounce portion by at least 4 or 5 more grams. While draining and rinsing beef can dramatically affect the amount of fat it contains, studies show that protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12 content is not significantly affected."

I am always looking for ways to keep our grocery budget on track, but I am also constantly looking for ways to keep my family eating healthy. While we generally rely on ground turkey for most of our dishes, there are occasions where I prefer the ground beef. It is good to know that there are ways to reduce the fat content and still have a yummy dish!

Sound Off: Do you rinse your ground beef or do you just pay more for the leaner varieties? What is a reasonable price in your area for ground beef?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Worth Its Weight in Gold

Last week I went to a local market to stock up on meat for the month. I have been really disappointed in the quality of the meat at our supermarkets in town so I decided to go to another town to stock up on meat there based on some great recommendations from my mom's group. I ended up getting some really excellent deals for my money and the meat was a much better quality too.

I brought home ten pounds of chicken, ten pounds of ground beef, and two whole chickens. I broke out my FoodSaver, purchased from the thrift store, and one of my favorite kitchen tools...my postal scale.

I got my postal scale off of eBay and I use it often for shipping purposes. It has saved me a lot of time and hassle at the post office, but it also has been such a useful tool for me to weigh ingredients when cooking in bulk.

I divide my meat into one pound portions because that is the amount we typically use in a meal and it also thaws a lot quicker when it is in these smaller portions. Each one pound portion was vacuum-sealed and labeled for the freezer.

The whole chickens were rubbed with my Sticky Chicken dry rub and are all ready to go for a yummy meal one night. The chicken breasts were cleaned and trimmed, and then cubed for the various dishes I will be using them for.

With the grocery prices rising, this is one easy way that I can save my family money during the month.

Sound Off: Do you buy your meat in bulk or do you have store that you usually find good meat sales at? What would be a good price on meat in your area?

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ask the Frugal Momma: How Do You Do Your Menu Plans?

Q: What is your experience and advice on planning a standing weekly dinner menu rather than planning out a month of meals? To save time, you pick either a meal or theme for each night of the week, and repeat it for the most part each week. This way you always know what you need to buy (in general) at the grocery store without spending much time planning each week. I would like to set one up for my family and right now we have Sunday - Something New, Monday - Mexican Fiesta Night, Tuesday - Leftovers, Wednesday - Italian Feast, Thursday - Leftovers, Friday - Breakfast for Dinner, Saturday - Homemade Pizza Night. I'm just playing with this idea and have only partially implemented it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

A: Menu planning, although it is a huge chore, is something that I really enjoy doing in our house. I really find a lot of pleasure in trying and implementing new dishes in our house. Sometimes the dishes are a roaring success, other times we find that a cold bowl of cereal would taste a lot better than my experiment.

Over the years, my menu plans have changed a lot depending on the needs of our family. Here are some ways that we have made our menu plans work for us and have saved our family a lot of money in the process.

1. Menu plan according to your family style- This might sound like a strange phrase, but I will try to explain. Generally, you probably have a style to your homemaking or the kind the of parenting that you do in your house. For example, some people live by a fly-by-the-seat of their pants mentality and may parent even in a similar way. For a family like this, expecting them to keep a rigid schedule would be awfully difficult because it just doesn't fit with their general personality. Likewise, a person who cleans the floors on Monday, recycles on Tuesday, changes sheets on Wednesday, etc... will find going without a menu plan would be extremely difficult.

I am one of those weird people that falls somewhere in between. I would love to be more rigid with the things we do in our house and set up more days of scheduled activities, but I am laid back and constantly trying to fight the clutter over here. I like to menu plan and enjoy knowing what I am going to eat throughout the week, but I hate to feel like I have to do exactly what is planned because I often give into my cravings. That is where my menu planning style comes into play. I just plan out a month's worth of meals and then pick from my twenty or so choices so that I always feel like I have lots of options. This gives me a game plan, but not a detailed game plan that I must stick to or else.

Think about your personality and what works best for you, but having a plan in mind will truly save your family a lot of cash. It is time-consuming, but it is only as time-consuming as you want to make it. If your family has simple tastes, don't feel like you have to be a gourmet chef.

2. Get creative with your planning- I love to be creative with my menu plans and have found lots of great recipes to add to my collection by spending lots of time researching new recipes and constantly being open to trying new things. I utilize websites like Recipezaar, All Recipes, and Food Network.

I also love to check out cookbooks and magazines from our local library to help inspire me in the kitchen. Many times I don't necessarily want to make exactly what is in the book, but I can flip through the cookbooks and get general ideas for recipes I can search for on the internet.

One other place I love to hunt for ideas is by saving take-out menus from our favorite restaurants and using these to do my planning off of that. Since eating out was such a temptation for me, I could take those menu plans and use those to build a menu off of them. Let's say that my favorite take-out food in the world is Chicken Lo Mein (which it truly is!) then I can take that menu description or dish idea and try and replicate it through a site like Recipezaar or Food Network.

When I began doing this something very strange started happening. I began to replace my cravings for food out with my own version. In a way it is really great because there are very few places that I really love to go out to eat at anymore, but in some twisted way it is a little disappointing because I don't enjoy dining out anymore. I just have to keep in mind all of the money that we are saving and then it all seems worth it!

3. Theme it up- Themes are definitely a great way to being menu planning and I loved the theme ideas in this question. Themes make planning a lot easier for families because it takes some of the work out of the planning.

One way to make themes easier to implement in your house is by arranging your recipes by your theme night. My recipes are in a giant Word file and are set up by my themed days. My theme was a Brunch Sunday, Slow Cooker Monday, Chicken Tuesday, Italian Night Wednesday, Casserole/Comfort Food Thursday, Kid Food Night Friday (usually pizza, but they have other options too), & Seafood Saturday. Sunday night is also Seek-And-Ye-Shall-Find Night. This is just a fancy way of saying, "Momma ain't cookin'."

You can pick from any variety of themes and you can go to town with your theme or just keep it a general night. You can make it special or keep it super simple. What I hope my children walk away with isn't just that their mom is the best darn cook in the world, but that they have fond memories of our family sitting around the dinner table being together.

4. Involve your children- Things just seem to go better if the family has some input into the week's meals. My son is five now and he is at the stage where he loves to express his opinion and feel like he is contributing towards the family.

That is why each Friday is his day to pick what he wants and I try to come up with a few ideas for things we can eat. Pancakes, waffles, calzones, pizza- those are just a few of the options that I offer. We usually watch a movie with them and have a special snack like popcorn or hot cocoa to make the night completely about them. He looks forward to this evening a lot and we look forward to indulging in some of our favorite foods too.

He doesn't get to pick the rest of the week, but I have made it a rule to only introduce one new thing at a time so that we can avoid the fights over the dinner table. I will always offer one thing that he is familiar with and likes, but I might introduce one new food in with the meal. My son is big on the routine and to hand him a plate of food that he doesn't recognize can make for a really stressful dinner hour. I try to always plan the meals with them in mind, but also like to indulge in trying new dishes. This is a happy compromise that we can all live with.

5. Remember it doesn't have to be all about the menu plan- There are so many elements to making the dinner hour enjoyable in your home. Is the kitchen table not cleared? Are you eating off of paper plates parked in front of the television? Is the baby is crying through the entire meal? I can picture all of these scenarios happening in our house at one point or another. Heck, it might even happen tonight.

Try and make the dinner hour at home fun because it curbs the temptation to want to go out to dinner. If you have an enjoyable dinner hour at home, there is just no need to go out and brave the crowds.

Now it doesn't have to be all fine dining and elegant candlelight, but keeping the dinner table clear for eating can be a great start. My ideal dinner hour has nice dishes and soft music and no children crying or whining at the table. It doesn't happen all of the time, but I try to make an effort so that we all want to be at our table instead of Steak & Shake's table.

6. Visualize your choices- I feel very accomplished when I have our menu plans hanging on our refrigerator and it makes me feel good to see all of our choices neatly typed up and ready to go. If I prepare a dish from the list, I take a highlighter and swipe a line through it. Seeing all of the things we ate all neatly highlighted also proves to me that I did not go out to eat. It makes you feel good and it also gives you ideas for food you can look forward to in the coming weeks.

7. Grocery shop according to your family style- Just as I mentioned in the first part, you need to grocery shop according to your family style or finances. I love, love, love to menu plan, but I hate, hate, hate to grocery shop. This is why menu planning once for the entire month works best for me. It keeps me out of the place I hate and I only have to sit down once a month to do my plans and grocery list.

If you only want to eat fresh produce all week long, then you will need to go weekly or bi-weekly to make that happen. Whereas my style is to rely heavily on canned applesauce, frozen veggies, and potatoes towards the end of the month. I sacrifice the fresh stuff in favor of shopping once a month.

Family finances can also have an impact on when you do your shopping. When my husband was paid bi-weekly I was able to visit the grocery store twice a month. Now that we are working with a monthly check, I find that shopping once a month makes it easier for me to manage our family finances and also keeps me out of the grocery store so often.

8. Save your plans & rotate them- One of the best ways that I have found to save us time is to just keep copies of my past menu plans so that I can rotate them. If you come up with two month's worth of meals, you can reuse those and rotate those dishes to make new planners for the future weeks. I do all of my plans on the computer and then save them so that I can look back on past ideas for inspiration.

I hope this gives you some more ideas on how we do the planning in our family! If you have a question you would like to ask me, just shoot me an email (amy@momadvice.com) and put in the subject line, "Ask Frugal Momma." I love to get your questions and it makes me feel like I am providing some truly useful content!

Some Related Readings:

Iron Chef Mom Challenge

Don't Throw Out Those Take-Out Menus!
Saving on Groceries
Pretty Menu Plans
Ding-Dong: Did Someone Order Groceries?
Become a Coupon Queen or Not
Milking the Milk Budget
Aldi Fall/Winter Planner
One Month of Slow Cooking
Aldi Menu Planner
Grocery Shopping on a Budget
More Aldi Menu Planners & Grocery Lists (Click on titles to expand)
Latest Menu Plans

Sound Off: How do you do your menu plans and keep that family grocery budget on track?

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Homemade Pancake Syrup

This weekend I hit the supermarket and found a fancy loaf of bread that I could make our delicious French Toast out of. I decided this would be a great time to try making my own pancake syrup since it has been on my list of things to do for quite some time.

I found this great recipe, courtesy of Hillbilly Housewife, and decided to give it a try. The syrup was delicious and I don't think we will ever go back to the commercial stuff, especially since this was so easy to make. It was a little thinner than the commercial version, but it had a much better flavor than the store-bought variety.

I hope you can enjoy some of this in your house too!

Homemade Pancake Syrup


2 cups warm tap water
4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons molasses
1-1/2 teaspoons maple flavoring

1/4 teaspoon butter flavoring (optional)


In a three-quart saucepan combine the water, sugar and molasses. Put the pan on the stove over medium heat. Stir every now and then until the syrup comes to a rolling boil. Watch the syrup carefully because it has a tendency to foam and will boil over if your pan is too small. If this starts to happen, remove the pan from the heat and turn the heat down. After the syrup boils, cover the pot and simmer it for ten minutes over a low flame. Do not stir it for this ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Take off the lid and let it cool on the counter for about 15 minutes. Stir in the maple flavoring (and butter flavoring if you're using it). Store the syrup in a clean quart canning jar.

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Are Baby Carrots a Convenience Food?

I had never really thought about baby carrots being a convenience food until I did my grocery shopping at Target a couple of weeks ago. At Aldi, I am able to get baby carrots for $.78 a bag and it doesn't *seem* like much more than the carrots that are not processed.

When I shopped at Target though, I noticed a considerable difference because the unprocessed carrots were on sale for $2 for 5 pounds of carrots, while the 1 pound bag of baby carrots was almost $2 per pound. Have I been buying a convenience food? And exactly what have I been paying for?

I happened upon this excellent article from Wise Bread on what exactly is up with those baby carrots. If you don't feel like reading the entire piece, the premises of the article is that baby carrots are not a frugal choice for families. Not only are they not frugal, but you are actually paying MORE for a product that is of a LESSER quality. What? Did I read that right?

Baby carrots only have 70% of the beta carotene compared to the unprocessed variety and they actually have less flavor because they are produced in a different way than the regular old carrots we grew up on.

When I got my carrots home, I did a little taste test and I definitely could taste a major difference between the carrots I cut myself versus the carrots that were processed for me. The carrots that I cut just tasted more flavorful and fresher while the baby carrots just didn't have much flavor at all.

To speed the cutting process up, I reused one of those plastic grocery bags and rested that on top of my cutting board so that I could scoop and dump all of the peelings in one fell swoop. I chopped the carrots up for the week while I caught up on my television shows in the kitchen. It was a quick and easy way to make some snacks for the week that would save me time during our lunches.

I just want to say that I am not discouraging anyone from eating healthy. If baby carrots are worth the convenience and are an ideal way to get some nutrition in your family's day, then by all means, buy them. I just wanted to point out that from a frugal perspective, that I didn't want to pay more for the convenience especially now that I know how great a fresh cut carrot really can taste and I know that my kid's would benefit nutritionally from me cutting the carrots myself.

Sound Off: Going along with the discussion on baby carrots, are there convenience foods you buy to get your kids to eat healthy? Is there a convenience food that you are willing to splurge on to make sure they get all their nutrition in for the day? Please share!

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Monday, January 07, 2008

December '07 Menu Planner

I did not get to make a lot of the dishes that I planned to due to the holidays and us all being sick over those past couple of weeks. I did want to share my ideas though and hope that you can use some of them for your menu plans in the future!

December Menu Choices:

1. Gingerbread Waffles and Christmas Caramel Rolls

2. Basil Cream Chicken Over Pasta

3. Pizza Night

4. Chicken Caesar Wraps With Tortilla Chips

5. Eggnog Baked French Toast

6. Cheeseburger Pasta with Homemade Bread

7. Funky Chicken With Sesame Noodles

8. Italian Chops Over Pasta

9. Turkey Burgers With Oven Fries

10. Chicken Tacos With Tortilla Chips

11. Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs

12. Herb Baked Tilapia, Rice, & Sweet Cornbread

13. Pizza Night

14. Yeast Waffles & Turkey Bacon

15. Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole (Scroll towards the bottom) Over Egg Noodles

16. Bread Machine Calzones

17. Sloppy Joe Turnovers with Oven Fries

18. Chicken Italiano Over Orzo

19. Chicken & Broccoli Lo Mein With Sticky Rice

20. Roasted Chicken, Rice, & Herb Buttered Corn

21. Harvest Grain & Nut Pancakes

22. Lazy Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken & Noodle Soup with Homemade Bread

23. BBQ Chicken Sandwiches & Shoestring Fries

24. Sloppy Giuseppes (Scroll down to Meal #8) With Oven Fries

Snacks/Desserts: Oreo Biscotti, Cookie Dough Dip, Panettone Bread for the Bread Machine

**Please visit I'm An Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas!**

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WSBT-TV: Is Buying in Bulk a Better Deal?

Today on WSBT, I shared tips for shopping wholesale. Be sure to visit my wholesale club shopping article and print out our free price book sheet for figuring out all of those prices.

Don't have price book? Check our Price Book 101 article for tips on getting started.

Hope you guys enjoy the segments!

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Frugal Hacks: Entertaining Instead of Grocery Shopping

Today on Frugal Hacks, I share a few ways that you can bypass time at the grocery store and spend it getting ready for all of those holiday guests.

Now if only I could find a way to bypass all of the cleaning that needs to be done too!

PS- Our last family member, my dear husband, has been struck with the stomach flu. Now that we have all had it, hopefully we can enjoy the rest of the holidays without illness. Fingers crossed for quick recoveries!

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Ding Dong- Did Someone Order Groceries?

Grocery deliveries have become very popular as people have become more & more busy. I know when I was working, the last thing that I wanted to do was brave the grocery store after a long day at work. Couple that with a few children in tow, and I don't know if I would ever make it to the store at all!

One of my working friends has had that dilemma and recently ran across a grocery delivery program which has finally become an option in our area. Not being from a big city, we often don't have the luxuries of services like Peapod or other grocery delivery programs. Recently though, IndianaGroceries.com recently was added as a service to our small town and I am hearing the praises of how wonderful this option is.

Today I browsed some of the pricing that was available on the grocery items. Like a grocery flier, the delivery programs do offer sale items. If you can focus your grocery shopping in that direction, you can come away with some surprisingly good deals. Here are some from this week's flier:

Jiff Creamy Peanut Butter- $.99
Eggs- $.99
1 gallon Skim Milk- $1.99
Secret Deodorant- $.99
Colgate Toothpaste- $.99
Broccoli Crowns (1#)- $1.89

Of course, when you browse many of the other items, they are not as good of prices. While some items are offered as a store-brand, other items are brand-name only so the pricing can be higher than making a trip the store yourself.

Here are a few tips for shopping grocery delivery websites:

1. Make sure you understand the fees that are involved with your shopping. Some may offer free grocery delivery, but they might charge something called a "bagging fee." The website for our area states that they charge a $3.99 fee for each delivery. Other sites do charge a service fee of $10 or more so acquaint yourself with all the fees before jumping in with your shopping.

2. When you receive your groceries, tips are appreciated and encouraged. This is another one of those small fees that needs to be considered when factoring in the costs of grocery delivery.

3. When you have totaled up all of your fees for grocery delivery, figure out how much you would actually save by using this. There are many fees that are involved with you going out and getting your own groceries too- time, gas, mileage on your car, and all of the extra browsing you might be suckered into at the superstores. If you are having a hard time being disciplined at the grocery store (or always forget your grocery list!) there might be some savings by using a service like this.

4. Coupon moms would not benefit from a service like this because coupons can't be factored in. Cherry-picking from various stores could not be done either, but grocery delivery services do offer sale items that shoppers can take advantage of.

5. Grocery delivery services are usually only offered with a minimum order. Read the fine print on how much you have to spend. If you are spending money just to get the delivery, it might not be worth the trouble.

6. Some grocery delivery programs offer perks to their loyal customers. The website for our area, for example, offers a $5 credit for every 5 orders (of $50 or more) you place with their site. With 5 orders of $100 or more, you can get a $10 credit.

7. A true advantage to online ordering is the ability to save your grocery lists. If you typically get the same things every single week, your grocery shopping can be done in a matter of minutes!

8. Check on the company's page if there are membership fees involved and the ability to cancel your membership. Some companies do charge a membership fee for their services so factor this into your cost too! Once you have factored in all the costs, see if the $1.99 milk is still $1.99- maybe it is $6, when it is all said and done.

9. Each state is different on this, but check and see if there is an additional fee involved for liquor delivery. One page I visited contained a $7 fee. That $4 wine might be a $20 bottle when the fees are all factored. Ouch!

10. Remember that you need to be home to receive the groceries or be subjected to a hefty fee. While there is flexibility with ordering, there is not flexibility with being home for delivery. Be sure you understand when you need to be home to accept your order.

11. If you want to try online grocery shopping, most sites offer a nice credit to get you started on your first shopping experience with them. They are trying to hook you in with their services, so maybe take advantage of it once and then see if it is worth the money and your experience with it. If it isn't positive or you can't justify the cost, at least you got a smoking deal on your first attempt!

12. Find out about referral programs. Friend referrals are big with companies and they need the business. You can often get a $5 (or more) credit on future orders if you refer your friends. Name dropping is definitely a good thing when it comes to your grocery budget!

Here are a listing of Grocery Delivery Sites:

Peapod (Connecticut, New York, Rhode island, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, the rest of the New England coast, Chicago and Milwaukee)
Safeway
Amazon Grocery (free delivery and savings for repeat ordering)
Sam's Club Click N Pull (not technically a delivery, but they do put together all of your groceries for you for free)
Schwan's (Frozen Food Shopping)
Simon Delivers (Twin Cities Shoppers)
Grocery Run, LLC (Michigan Shoppers)
Food Express (Florida Shoppers)
Roche Brothers (Massachusetts Shoppers)
Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (Seattle Shoppers for organic foods)
Indiana Groceries (Indiana Shoppers)

If you are an online grocer and would like to be added, just leave your web address and the area(s) you are available to in the comment box. I know this would help our readers out greatly.

Sound Off: Have you used a grocery delivery service before? What has been your experience?

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Monday, November 19, 2007

A Few Words About Convenience Foods

Convenience foods can ruin anyone's grocery budget. When my husband and I were first married, I shudder to think how many of my own grocery dollars were wasted on foods like these. We would load our cart with tons of convenience foods... and these were for the nights that we were "saving money" by dining in.

Now you will find very few convenience foods in our home and as I become more familiar with the kitchen, I am beginning to discover all of the things that I am able to make myself.

But, let's face it, convenience foods are called convenience foods for a reason. They are wonderful to have on hand for the times in your life where you don't feel like cooking and they are great when mommy isn't home.

There are things that I have been trying to do to keep convenient food in our house without going over our grocery budget. Here are a few of the things that we have tried in our house:

1. I try to individually wrap items for our family. Items like homemade granola bars, homemade fruit & cereal bars, muffins (any variety will do), and even slices of homemade breads can be wrapped in single-serving portions. These are great to throw into lunch boxes or for a quick snack as you are walking out the door. And if you have big eaters in your family, like I do in mine, then it also can help with portion control.

2. I try to take snacks for the kids in my purse, but just wrapping them in a small piece of foil or plastic wrap offers no protection from the destruction that can occur with my purse. It is easy to smash snacks when you are dragging one kid with one arm and have a little one slung on the same hip as your purse. In such cases, it is nice to have small containers that can fit inside your purse. Our dollar store has a set of four of five for $1 which fit perfectly for these kind of occasions. I like to put our snacks in these or make up a batch of trail mix for the kids for when they get hungry while we are out and about. These are helpful for when the grocery stores have not been so helpful and have put lots of goodies by the cash register for your children to throw tantrums over.

3. I try to make time to make snacks for our family. Since we have been going way over on our grocery budget, I am making even more of an effort to do this. My commitment to scheduling a baking day is working out well for us and it puts an emphasis on staying home with the family, spending time with my children in the kitchen, and staying out of the stores. You will probably find me baking on Black Friday- this will not only help our budget, but it will also help us to be home on one of the craziest days of the year.

4. Preparation is a necessity if you want to attempt making your own "convenient" food. For example, a well-stocked freezer or items that can be throw into a slow cooker can be awfully convenient when you don't feel like cooking.

5. And then, there are just those times where having convenience foods around could still do your budget some justice. For example, we have all been down and out with colds and tonight would be a great night for some good ol' Spaghetti-O's (or equally convenient food). This convenient food would still be cheaper than grabbing some junk food at the drive thru. Giving myself permission to take a night off could come from grabbing one or two items for these kinds of nights.

Sound Off: Do you buy convenience foods? How do you make food "convenient" in your home?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

October '07 Menu Planner

I just wanted to share our menu planner for the month of October. This was the first month (in quite some time) that I have menu planned and shopped for one month in one day. I decided to come up with 24 menu choices, which would leave nights available for leftovers and other dinner engagements, and plenty of snack choices.

We ended up making 22 out of the 24 meal choices so I felt like we did really well with staying on track. The two dishes that didn't get made got carried over to our next month.

Let me know if you would like me to continue sharing these and I hope it gives you some ideas for meals around your own dinner table.


October Menu Choices


1. Cheeseburger Ring (We ate this Saturday evening and it was so delicious! It does taste just like a cheeseburger.)

2. Chicken Tacos & Tortilla Chips

3. Ranch Pork Chops (I used this recipe but subbed with Ranch Dressing), Chicken Rice, & Baby Peas

4. Roast Turkey Sandwiches (Scroll to Meal #7) & Oven Fries

5. Leftover Roast Turkey Sandwiches & Panera Bread Cheese & Broccoli Soup

6. Clam Chowder & Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits

7. Oatmeal Waffles With Honey Butter

8. Herb Baked Tilapia, Chicken Rice, & Microwave Corn in Butter Sauce

9. Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes With Orange Juice

10. Chicken Italiano Over Pasta

11. Pizza Night

12. Meatball Subs (I use the meatball recipe and jarred sauce for the subs) & Oven Fries (see above for Oven Fries recipe)

13. Chicken Lo Mein & Fortune Cookies

14. Parmesan Sage Pork Chops & Orzo

15. Baked Salmon, Mashed Potatoes & Baby Peas

16. Chicken BBQ Sandwiches With Oven Fries

17. Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo (served with chicken & broccoli for topping)

18. Honey BBQ Chicken Wings, Cheese Quesadillas & Tortilla Chips

19. Pumpkin Waffles & Scrambled Eggs

20. Calzones With Dipping Sauce

21.Roasted Chicken, Rice, & Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

22. Sarah's Tilapia and Mashed Potatoes

23. Penne & Sausage Skillet Supper

24. Yeast Waffles & Orange Juice

Snacks:

1. Almost Nutra Grain Bars
2. Rice Krispie Treats
3. Apples With Dipping Sauce
4. Air Popped Popcorn
5. Brownies
6. Pumpkin Muffins

***Please visit I'm An Organizing Junkie for more great menu plans for the week***

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Homemade NutraGrain Bars

My kids love cereal bars and I have trouble keeping these in steady supply for our family. I happened upon this recipe to make my own and I thought I would give it a shot. I think the results were nothing short of phenomenal!

I used strawberry preserves that I purchased from Aldi. I did notice that Aldi is also carrying some sugar-free preserves that could easily be substituted if you were trying to be more careful about sweets.

A tray of these made about fifteen generous bars. I don't think the cost-savings on these is that great, but the taste is much better and would be great if you were trying to make more things yourself or were in a pinch until grocery day. These can also be cut and frozen to be used later or tucked in your child's lunch.

You can also substitute your granola bars with my homemade version!

I hope your children enjoy these as much as our family has!

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pretty Menu Plans

I thought I would take the plunge and do a big day of grocery shopping for our entire month. This took a couple days of planning and picking our menus for the month. I really thought it would be a great idea until I actually got to the store and realized that loading and unloading my groceries was a little like a complicated game of Tetris. Nothing fit in the cart and nothing fit in my car. The only thing motivating me was the knowledge that I would not have to do this again for another twenty-nine days. I used to only shop once a month, but had gotten into the habit of shopping every two weeks with my husband's past pay schedule. The new payment schedule motivated me to just go ahead and get it done all in one trip. Am I crazy? Maybe a little bit!

Inspired by my dear friend Monica, I decided to pretty up my menu plan this month. I found a cute pumpkin to add to my planner and now my menu plan looks organized and cute too!

As we have been going through the meals, I have just been highlighting them to remind me what meals we have left to eat and I can see what we have already eaten. I incorporated lots of new dishes and several of our old favorites this month. I am hoping I will have lots more recipes to share and that I can keep us on budget with our dining out category.

Sound Off: How often do you grocery shop? Why did you choose this schedule for shopping?

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Make Your Own Flavored Creamers: Mint Truffle Creamer

Flavored creamers are such a sweet treat to a great cup of coffee. I love to add a little cream to my cup of coffee in the morning, but the cost factor prevents me from indulging the way that I would really like to. Aldi carries a great fat free version of French Vanilla, which I have found is much more affordable than the creamers in the regular supermarket, but I would love to have a little more variation in my cup.

My new quest became figuring out how to make my own flavored creamers. I am not a big fan of powdered creamer so finding a recipe for a homemade version seemed almost impossible. Most recipes that I have found came in powdered form, but I wasn't willing to give up on figuring out how to make my own liquid creamer.

I finally happened upon a recipe and adapted it to fit my taste. Once I finish my first bottle of this creamer, I will start testing some other recipes, but this was a great start towards achieving the yummy flavor I love.

Although you don't get the same mouth-feel as you do with store-bought versions, you do achieve the great flavor that you are looking for from these (for a fraction of the price!)

I hope you can give this recipe a try! I can't wait to share some more recipes and I hope that this inspires you to make your own flavors at home.

Mint Truffle Creamer
1 can sweetened condensed milk (or make your own sweetened condensed milk)
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk (I used prepared powdered milk)
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3 Tablespoons peppermint coffee syrup (or more, depending on your personal taste)

Blend all ingredients together in your blender. Pour into a mason jar or your old coffee creamer dispenser. This creamer will keep up to two weeks in your fridge.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Best Homemade Nonstick Spray In the World

I hate the gunk that is left behind from nonstick sprays. I tried using one of those pump misters that you can fill with your own olive oil, but I didn't find it performed very well.

The Oatmeal Waffles that I made last week were so yummy, but had to be practically scraped from the waffle iron. Shredded waffles don't look too appetizing, but I was still trying to figure out a good solution.

I ran across this recipe for Better Than Pam Spray. It sounded strange, but the reviews looked like people were pleased with the results. I made a double batch of this before I made my sticky Oatmeal Waffles and hoped for the best.

This is an answer to any cook's prayers! The waffles practically fell out of the waffle iron and there was no icky residue on my appliance, like those aerosol sprays seem to leave.

According to the poster, you can leave this solution on your counter top or in your cupboards. In the comments, she also offers a recipe to be used for chocolate dishes (no white residue!)

This stuff is the next best thing to sliced bread and a little goes a long way. Baste your griddles and cake pans with a basting brush and watch your dishes leap out of the pan with ease.

This recipe is so inexpensive so you will save some money at the grocery store too! I hope you can try it- you really won't believe how great the results are. I won't ever use anything else again!

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Dunkin Donuts Coffee at Sam's Club

I have been missing my Dunkin' Donuts coffee in the morning. When we lived in Massachusetts, you couldn't go half a block without seeing one of their locations. In Indiana, I would have to drive an hour just to get a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

What a nice surprise to see that Sam's Club is now carrying the Dunkin' Donuts Original Blend coffee in bulk. While a tad more expensive than my usual coffee ($15.88 for 2.5 pounds) it is still cheaper than traveling all that way for a cup of this delicious goodness.

It brings back fond memories of going to work and splurging daily on a cup of coffee. I even had a cup that I kept at work to refill regularly. They would see me coming and start adding the skim milk and sugar- just how I like it! Now I am making my own coffee amidst crying children who might die if they don't eat breakfast right this second and my morning coffee is a bit more rushed than it once was. Maybe there were a few perks of being in the working world, but I wouldn't trade sharing a bowl of cereal with my kids any day!

Sound Off: Is there a particular brand of coffee that you are loyal to? Any good deals on coffee that you have found?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

A His & Hers Gift to Remember

We went to a beautiful wedding this weekend for a dear family friend. I wanted to give her something special, but funds are tight this month.

One of my favorite gifts to give is a small wine rack, filled with a couple of bottles of wine for their honeymoon. I found some cute gift tags at Wal-Mart and labeled them "His & "Hers" tied to each bottle with a strand of raffia. The wine rack was purchased for $1 at our local thrift store.

To make this gift more special though, I tucked a note from my husband and then a note from myself on each side of the wine rack. My husband came up with a list of "HIS advice" and I came up with a list of "HER advice."

We had a great time coming up with tips for marriage and it was a fun way to pass the time on the trip to the wedding. My husband's list included buying your wife flowers and never cutting your spouse down in public, but always bragging on them, particularly at your work! My list included never going to bed angry and always remembering to date your spouse, even after you have children.

I hope that they will enjoy the gift as much as we enjoyed creating it for them!

The wine chosen was a new favorite of ours called Banrock Station and it is an excellent wine for the price. It has been featured in the Wine Spectator for years now as a great buy for your money. They sell a crate of this wine, with six bottles in it, for a little over $21 at our wholesale club. Unfortunately, they only carry the wine in bulk (at least at our Sam's Club) in the Chardonnay. I have bought the reds on sale though, at our local supermarket, in a case of six bottles to get our ten percent off of the purchase. I can usually get the bottles for under $4 each, which is a great buy for good wine.

Sound Off: Do you have any great advice for a newlywed couple? What advice would you include?

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Day 24: Become a Coupon Queen (or Not)

Should a frugal gal use coupons or should she not? Do coupons really save money or do you just end up spending money that you would have not spent?

I go back and forth on this topic and it really depends on where I am doing my shopping. When I shop exclusively at Aldi, I can't use my coupons. When I shop at other stores, it is usually a toss up on whether the generic is the better deal versus the brand-name with a coupon.

You will talk to some people and they are nuts for coupons and their receipts really prove it. Others of us, don't believe all of the hype and say it is a waste of time and effort.

Since I started doing more of the drugstore rewards, in conjunction with my Aldi trip, I have found that it is possible to get items for free or really inexpensively. You could say that I am becoming a believer again in all of the coupon hype.

Here are some of the tips that I have used to help me follow the path towards coupon savings:

- Organize your coupons in a way that works for you. I have heard everything from shoe boxes to baseball card collection holders can be great ways to organize your coupons. Each person has a different system of organizing, just do what works for you. For me, I like to categorize them and then arrange by dates. I have also been known to lump everything together and then arrange by dates, to insure that I use the coupons before they expire. Right now I am finding categories works a little better for me so that is what I am doing at this point. My arrangements do change, depending on my mood.

- Make sure you put your coupons in a place that you will always have them when you need them. There is nothing worse than having all of your coupons cut and organized, only to discover that they are not with you when you need to do your shopping. Try storing them in your purse or in your car so that you will have them when you decide to make a quick stop at the store.

- There are only savings to be had if you are buying something because you normally use it and would have put it on your grocery list anyway. If you are using a coupon to just get a quarter off and this still leaves you footing a $4 tab, then using the coupon is actually doing a disservice to your budget instead of benefiting it.

- When I first started learning about coupons, I actually was pretty confused. What is the difference between the manufacturer coupons versus the store coupons? Well, the manufacturer coupons are the kind that you find in your newspaper, that come from the companies themselves. The store coupons, however, are the ones that you find in your store specific flier. The great thing about store and manufacturer coupons is that they can be used in conjunction with one another. If Dole, for example, has a coupon for $.50 off of a can of pineapple and Walgreens has a coupon for $.25 off of a can of Dole pineapple, you can use the two coupons together. Your total savings would be $.75 off of the can, and that equals a really great deal for your family. You might hear coupon queens refer to this as the "double whammy." You can also achieve a "triple whammy" if you use the store coupon, manufacturer coupon, and you pick an item that is on sale.

- If you love certain products, call the 1-800 number and rave about the product. Share your experience with them and ask if they have any coupons or if they can add you to a mailing list. Customer service representatives get a lot of disgruntled customer calls, so not only will you brighten their day, you might also be able to pocket some savings on your next trip to the store.

- Look for coupons in unexpected places. Always check your receipt, at the end of your shopping trip, to see if any printable coupons were printed. Other unusual places for coupons are inside of your magazines, hidden inside of your piles of junk mail, and inside/outside of the packaging on what you are using. I am often surprised how many coupons I can find in these unusual places.

- Visit the websites for companies and sign up for their mailing lists. They will usually have printable coupons you can use on your groceries, or will add you to future mailings on special sales they are running.

- Shop at stores that double or triple your coupons. You will maximize your savings much more if you can go to one of these stores.

- Try using the Coupon Mom website, to figure out how to maximize your savings with your coupons. This website is free and can tell you exactly what you need to buy and when. There are also services that you can pay for, such as The Grocery Game. I have never paid for the service so I have no personal experience with it, but there are many people who swear by it.

- If your friends or family do not cut coupons, ask if they will save the coupon fliers for you.

Potential Monthly Savings: $10 or more

Sound Off: Do you have any coupon tips to share? Are you a believer in the coupon hype?

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Monday, July 30, 2007

New Article: Milking the Milk Budget

As you all know, grocery savings is a huge topic on our site, so I was excited to talk this week about how to save some money in the milk category. With milk prices rising, my grocery dollars have been screaming for mercy. I did some research on ways that you can keep your costs down and still have tons of milk in your house to drink.

Adding the powdered milk was not a new addition in our house, but freezing our milk has been something new we have been trying. I hope you will have some time to read my article, "Milking the Milk Budget."

For the locals, this will be our topic focus tomorrow (Tuesday) on Moms First on WSBT-TV morning news. I will be on sometime between 6:30-7:00 AM. I hope that you can catch it and I can share more about this topic with our local moms out there!

Related Readings:

Grocery Shopping Tips
Hillbilly Housewife's Guide to Powdered Milk
Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Orange Julius
Magic Milkshakes & Slushies
Iced Peppermint Mochas
Powdered Milk & Christmas Drink Mixes

Sound Off: How much is milk going for in your area? How much milk does your family go through each week?

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Product Review: Fruity Cheerios

I got the opportunity to try a newer product from General Mills called Fruity Cheerios. Yup, it is the same old favorite that you grew up with as a kid, but now with a fruity kick! I was so excited to try these because one of my favorite cereals is Fruit Loops and I was hoping that these would be a similar (but healthier) version of this.

These are absolutely delicious! They still have the original Cheerios flavor, but have a fruity coating on the outside. I would eat these every day of the week if I could!

The children loved these too, but I hid them away and was stingy with them because as a mom, there are few things in life that are just for me. I now see why my mom was always hiding food around our house for herself because nothing is just for you when you have little ones constantly wanting whatever you are eating.

I would highly recommend this cereal to anyone who is a Cheerios lover, or a Fruit Loops lover. They are sweet, but not too sweet. They are still healthy, but a bit more sugary then their original version.

Your kids will love these, so be sure to hide a box for yourself!

As a side note: Modern Mom is currently running a Fruity Cheerios photo contest and they have picked their ten finalists. The winner is chosen based on the number of votes, so please head over there and help to pick the winning picture.

Many thanks to General Mills for this product review opportunity!

Sound Off: What was your favorite cereal growing up? Are you currently hiding anything in your cupboards or fridge? Shhhhh...we won't tell!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reynold's Slow Cooker Liners


The Reynold's company contacted me and asked if I would be game to review their Slow Cooker Liners that are now part of their product line. As someone who uses her slow cooker regularly, I was very anxious to give this product a try and see what I thought about it.

Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners are made of heat resistant nylon and designed to make slow cooker cleanup fast and easy. The liners help you avoid all that soaking and scrubbing that is associated with slow cooking. All you have to do is place the liner in the slow cooker bowl, add ingredients, and cook as you normally would. After cooking, remove meal from the lined-slow cooker, allow to cool, and simply toss the liner. It’s that easy!

Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners are 13"X21" liners, optimally-sized to fit 3 to 6.5 quart round or oval slow cookers. There are 4 liners in each carton.

For my review, I decided to roast a chicken in the slow cooker. This is one of those messier meals that I don't enjoy cleaning up at all. I wanted to really put these bags to the test and cleaning up after roasting a chicken is one of my least favorite tasks.

I was not disappointed at all, as the product actually did contain my entire dinner in the bag with no mess on the outside for me to clean up. I was able to easily take the chicken out and pour the drippings into a pan to make gravy.

To be honest, I don't usually mind cleaning out my slow cooker so this is not a product that I would buy regularly. This would be a great investment for entertaining though or for really messy dishes (like red sauces),where cleaning up can be more time consuming.

Be sure to visit our One Month with Your Slow Cooker article, where you can get an entire month's worth of yummy recipes for your family. You can also visit the Reynold's website where they have a special section dedicated to slow cooker recipes.

For step-by-step directions on how to use these liners, you will find a picture tutorial on the Reynold's site.

Much thanks to Reynold's for giving us this opportunity and encouraging families to eat together at the dinner table!

Try to stop over at the Reynolds No Scrub RV Club site and enter their current sweepstakes! They are offering several freebies for the first entries and gift certificates for a photo contest that they are running.

Feel free to share your own personal experience with this product- I am sure that the company would appreciate the feedback.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mashed Banana, Mashed Banana

Is the song stuck in your head now?

When I went grocery shopping this week, I noticed that the bananas were looking a bit shabby. They looked exactly as they are pictured here....very, very ripe. The price happened to be crossed out though and the bananas were marked down to half off. What a steal! Fifteen cents per pound- who could resist?

I loaded my cart up with tons of bananas and headed home with my nasty bananas in tote. I got out an old butter tub and filled it with eight of the bananas. I mashed those suckers up and put them in a freezer container and then started with the next batch. Eight bananas translates to four mini-loaves of banana bread so I packaged them that way so that it would be easy for me to dethaw and dump when it came time to make my bread. I ended up with enough to do twenty-four mini loaves of bread once everything was smashed and put away for another day.

My family loves banana bread and I love to keep it in my freezer to give away as gifts to friends & family. I make a mean banana bread and I love to have loaves on hand for those unexpected occasions- a sick family member, a thank-you to someone who has helped us out, a quick birthday gift...I think it is a gift for any occasion! Tied with a bow and a thoughtful card makes your last minute gift look planned!

Bananas can be frozen whole too and thrown into your freezer, eliminating my smashing step altogether. Just chop off the tip and squeeze it out. You don't even have to touch the banana.

I prefer the smashing because it saves valuable space in my freezer and I can just chuck it into the bowl when it is time to mix it up.

Next time you are at the store and the bananas are looking too ripe, buy a bunch and keep them in your freezer. If the supermarket has not marked them down, just ask if they will give them to you for half price. Usually they just want to get these out of their store.
Here are my banana recipes for the little monkeys in your family!

Banana Pancakes

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ripe banana

Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder cinnamon, & salt. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, & bananas. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop batter onto the griddle, using approximately ¼ cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot.


Banana Oatmeal Bread

1/2 - 3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups mashed banana
3 T vegetable oil
2 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
1 3/4 cups oats
3 cups bread flour
2 1/2 t yeast
Layer in bread machine pan according to manufacturer's recommendation. Bake on the sweet, basic or rapid cycle. Makes a large loaf (2 lbs).


Banana Crumb Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cups white sugar
1 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 T butter

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease ten muffin cups or line with muffin papers. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut the butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins. Bake in preheated oven for eighteen to twenty minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean.


Heavenly Banana Bread


2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
½ cup butter
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
1 t. vanilla
½ t. cinnamon
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (usually is about four bananas)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 60-65 minutes. Allow bread to cool ten minutes in pan and then turn onto wire rack.


Chocolate Banana Bread


1 cup margarine, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
6 bananas, mashed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup lite sour cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.In a large bowl, cream together margarine sugar and eggs. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Sift in flour, baking soda and cocoa; mix well. Blend in sour cream and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pans.Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of a loaf comes out clean.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reducing Plastic Bag Consumption

Is your home littered with plastic bags? Yes, I know that the frugal side of us can find many ways to use these, but does anyone else feel bogged down by these?

Since I do our grocery shopping at Aldi, I have always brought my own bags to the grocery store. I have had many a bag bust on me. Frankly, I find the plastic bags flimsy and not well-equipped to hold the loads that I put in them. I am not a grocery bagger so I am sure that I overload these, but I usually have a handle or bottom break on these when I take them to the store.

On the flip side of me, we shall call this part of myself the environmentally aware portion, has felt really bad about all of the plastic bags that we have been tossing out. Apparently, other people feel the same way as San Francisco has banned the use of them in supermarkets, large retailers, & pharmacies. IKEA also made the move to charge customers five cents per bag, in hopes of encouraging the public to bring their own bag.
ReusableBags.com offers some surprising statistics on plastic bag consumption:

Top Facts - Consumption

 Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
 According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
 According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion)
 According to the American Forest and Paper Association, in 1999 the U.S. alone used 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees to be cut down.
 According to the industry publication Modern Plastics, Taiwan consumes 20 billion bags a year—900 per person.
 According to Australia’s Department of Environment, Australians consume 6.9 billion plastic bags each year—326 per person. An estimated .7% or 49,600,000 end up as litter each year.

Top Facts - Environmental Impact

 Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
 Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.
 As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected.
 Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group harvests 30,000 per month.
 According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone "from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere from Spitsbergen 78° North [latitude] to Falklands 51° South [latitude].
 Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

There are frugal ways that you can reduce your use of plastic consumption. If you can sew, try sewing some canvas bags for yourself to use in lieu of the plastic bag. Visit this site for a free pattern (use the grocery bag dimensions) on how to sew grocery bags.

Reuse the bags that you already have for anything and everything. Use them to line wastebaskets, take them to the grocery store with you, or tote them around with you while you clean up the yard.

You can also purchase bags that can be reused for your grocery day. I decided to take a less frugal approach towards reducing my plastic bag consumption, but this saved me time and helps me feel like I am doing my part to help the world. This set of bags was found through Everyday Happenings of a Frugal Mom, a blog that I recently ran across, and I loved the look of these! I purchased this set of bags from Reusable Bags.com and have been using them for the past couple of days.

These bags are amazing and I am so pleased with them. They are made just like a grocery bag and are flat on the bottom so that they naturally stand upright. They have handles on them to make toting them around very easy and they hold tons of stuff. I was able to fit all of our groceries into four bags with ease. The set came with fabric drawstring bags for my produce and I used these for that purpose and for storing my eggs in.

I also went to Dollar Tree and got two plastic totes to put my canned goods in because it is easier when I am bagging the groceries myself for me to put them in the car and carry them inside.

I can’t rave enough about these and how pleased I am with my purchase. It has made my shopping day so much easier and I feel like I am doing my part to help the environment.

The shipping time is so unbelievably quick that I could hardly believe it. I literally had my order in my hand twenty-four hours after I placed it.

I have been toting my bags around since they came and taking them everywhere we go. These work great for all of my shopping, but also our frequent trips to the library. I also can’t wait to tote these bags to our Farmer’s Market this summer.

Being frugal and being environmentally aware, in my opinion, seem to go hand in hand. I cloth diaper because I want to save money, but I also make a positive impact on our environment. I do not use paper towels or napkins because I think they waste valuable grocery dollars, and I reduce the waste in our house. I choose not to buy paper plates because I don’t like using things only once and tossing them so I use the plates we already have to serve our lunch on.

Being a mom and being environmentally aware should go hand in hand too. You love your kids so you want them to have as beautiful of a world as we have. How do we accomplish that? By caring for the world so that our children can enjoy it.

What are some frugal things that you do that have a positive impact on our environment? Do you find helping the environment and your frugal endeavors seem to go hand in hand?

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Nature Valley Oats N' Honey Cereal


I received a box of Nature Valley Oats N' Honey cereal to sample and we were excited to give it a try. I have always been a big fan of the granola bars that this company puts out and was looking forward to a big bowl of this cereal.

We, unfortunately, did not enjoy this cereal at all. When you first bite into it the cereal has a great crunchy taste and texture that their granola bars are known for and it tastes really good. After swallowing the first mouthful though, you are left with a nasty aftertaste in your mouth that will not go away.

I was disappointed with this product, but I do appreciate Nature Valley giving me the opportunity to review it. I will continue to purchase their yummy granola bars, but will shy away from the Oats N' Honey cereal.

Nature Valley does offer two varieties of cereal though and I am wondering if the Cinnamon flavor offers up the same aftertaste.

Thanks to Nature Valley for giving me the opportunity to review their product and I am sorry that I was not able to offer up a stellar review on this cereal.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Iron Chef Moms Challenge: The Final Results


Meredith has posted her last meal of the contest, a Cheese & Spinach pie that she found in an old cookbook. Be sure to check her post to get her recipe and more creative ways that she is able to stretch her grocery dollars.

She also compiled all of the meals and the total amounts spent so that you can easily reference all of our dinners and the cost breakdowns. Included in this post is also the final results for the contest, and I am shocked to say that I beat her by a dollar. One mere dollar! This means that my Aldi shopping and her sales flier shopping are pretty much on equal ground. For those of you who do not have an Aldi near you, this is great news! You can shop anywhere if you take advantage of all of those great loss leaders and still be under budget.

This was such a fun week and I have enjoyed all of your comments more than you can imagine. I know that many people read my blog, but I have to be honest and say that the comments are what fuel me creatively. Your ideas and cheerleading through the comments is what keeps me motivated on this site! Thank you all for your invaluable feedback.

Much thanks to Meredith for challenging me this week and for being such a wonderful friend! Her blog has provided much inspiration to me and challenged me in my daily life. She is resourceful, thoughtful, and kind. I know her readers would agree!

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Iron Chef Moms Challenge: Day Five- Mini-Meatloaves & a Great Conclusion


This is the final day of the Iron Chef Moms Challenge and I have been both challenged & inspired by the dishes that Meredith & I have put together. I hope that you walk away with a sense of what we were both trying to accomplish. Meredith has proven that it is possible to eat very inexpensively by just going to your local supermarket and picking up the items that are on special at the stores. I was trying to prove that Aldi offers many affordable choices for your dinner hour.

I think more than that, at least for me, I wanted to prove how you can eat well and not spend a lot of money. I think a lot of times people walk away with the impression that if they go to a discount store, that they are reduced to eating processed meats and chips. I know about this impression, because that is how I had thought of it a few years ago. The food, at that time, looked like a bunch of junk food to me and I didn’t see anything there that would be worth serving to my family.

When we moved here though and my husband’s salary drastically decreased, we had no choice but to cut corners. I did not know a lot about cooking and never had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom before.

Aldi Supermarket does offer good food for low prices. I do miss the frills of the other supermarkets- a bagger, picking my groceries up at the door, and the thousands of choices of each product. I don’t miss the price tag though, which keeps me shopping there.

Despite Aldi being my favorite store, I do love to shop the other grocery stores for the exact reason that Meredith has pointed out. Shopping loss leaders in the fliers can be a huge savings to your family. My well-stocked freezers prove that theory! I have tons of meat and cheese that I have purchased at greatly reduced prices and I enjoy shopping the end of the day when the manager’s special tags are calling my name. I have gotten great deals from the supermarket and do feel that shopping the fliers can save you a lot of money. Imagine combining the Aldi shopping with one extra trip to a supermarket to pick up the very best deals of the week.

Setting aside ten dollars even, to shop the loss leaders at the other stores, can be beneficial in the long run to your grocery budget. Coupon cutters can get even more savings by bringing their tote of coupons with them. I know many people, with proper planning, that get food for free or even get money back on their purchases! That is amazing and a tribute to what good shoppers we all could be if we invested a little time into it.

I hope you see through my meals, the desire to provide good food that looks like restaurant-quality eating, but costs you only three or four dollars compared to the twenty or thirty dollar tab you would run if you went out to dinner.

I am anxious to hear all your thoughts and what you have gained from this challenge. What meal was your favorite? What has changed about the way you want to shop? Are you able to eat less expensively than you thought?

For our final day, I made one of my favorite foods for the kids…meatloaf. For some reason, my children are not big meatloaf fans, but make meatloaf muffins? Well, now that is a different story entirely! The best part about preparing meatloaf in your muffin tins, in my opinion, is how much quicker it is to do these versus in the loaf pan. Smaller portions cook up in thirty to thirty-five minutes instead of an hour like the larger loaf. They also transport well for lunches. This recipe tastes like meatballs to me and it is so yummy.

Please ignore the fact that we are eating instant mashed potatoes. Those are my husband’s favorite kind and they are much easier for me to make, so how can I argue with that request?

I served these with a side of steamed broccoli. I love the fresh broccoli hearts because I get the part of the broccoli that I really want. The frozen variety carries more stems than anything else, but mixed in a casserole or dip, they are just fine. If you want to save a little money though, prepare the frozen variety using the microwave instructions, but cook them just a hair under then what it says on the bag. Then take a handful of parmesan cheese a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle it on top with a little salt and pepper. Give it a light toss and the kids will love it more because it has a little cheese on top.

I can make just about anyone a lover out of broccoli. My only trick is I cook them just until they are done so that the broccoli still has a bite to it and it is still that pretty bright green. My kids will even eat it this way. I just cook the broccoli in an inch of boiling water. Put the broccoli heads in and let them cook four minutes. Drain them and let them sit in the hot pan until the rest of the dinner is ready (about five to ten minutes). They will be perfect!

Meatloaf Muffins
Yields Four Servings


1 pound ground turkey (purchased in the frozen section)

1/3 cup breadcrumbs (the Italian variety work well or fresh breadcrumbs)

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

¼ teaspoon garlic powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, but only use about ¼ of the tomato sauce in the meat mixture. Press the meat into the muffin cups (you should be able to get eight out of this amount of meat). Top with a dollop of tomato sauce on each one. Cook for 30-35 minutes. Serve two per person.


This was served with freshly steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes (we like the butter-flavored variety).

Cost Breakdown:

1 pound ground turkey for $0.89
1 egg for $0.07
1 can tomato sauce for $0.19
I package of broccoli hearts for $1.29
1 package of mashed potato mix for $0.40

Total Cost For a Family of Four: $2.84
Total Cost Per Person: $0.71

My overall total for five meals, feeding a family of four, was $15.38. This means that my average cost per person for an entire week of dinners was $3.85!

I am feeling pretty pumped about this! This is how we eat every week so this has helped justify all the time and effort I put into our dinners. What a savings for our family! We could not eat out once for that amount of money unless we dined on nasty fast food.

This also demonstrates how our $50 a week budget works. I still end up with about thirty-five dollars leftover for the other stuff. We also keep an extra ten out each week for maybe a little splurge here and there. This is usually reserved for those little social engagements like coffee with a good friend or those unexpected events where I have to pitch in a little money at a playgroup. There are weeks that go by where I never even spend this money. If I can go under the fifty dollar amount and still provide great food for my family, I have a little extra for a special treat for myself or for the kids.

Please share with me your thoughts. Was the Iron Chef Moms Challenge worth it? Would you like to see another face-off with a different type of shopper? Share away!

Please check Meredith's blog for her final tally and her last meal. I am sure she has something wonderful going in her kitchen and I will be anxious to see the final totals!

Note: This recipe will be added to
"the Aldi Queen" and all ingredients listed will be added to my weekly menu planner. My planners are posted every Friday so you can get a week's worth of ideas and a grocery list in one stop! I am running a little behind today so the planner will be up by this evening.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Iron Chef Moms Challenge: Day Four- Breakfast for Dinner

Today's Featured Cookbook: The Joy of Cooking. This is a great reference book that I refer to often when cooking new dishes. There are lots of frugal recipes and great tips on cooking techniques for the novice or the expert.


Pantry Items of the Day (according to Martha): Today’s pantry item is vegetables. Store only hardy vegetables such as potatoes, onions, garlic, and dried wild mushrooms in your pantry. Potatoes should not be refrigerated; keep up to two weeks’ worth in baskets or bins in a cool dry, dark, well-ventilated spot. Do not store them in plastic, which can encourage mold, Keep onions, shallots, and garlic in the pantry (do not refrigerate) up to one month, and dried mushrooms for several months. Store each vegetable in a separate basket or bin. It is especially important to keep potatoes and onions apart since they can cause each other to spoil.

Is it just me or is this Iron Chef Moms Challenge going by so quick? I have been having a blast planning these meals and Meredith has so many great dishes cooking in her kitchen. My guess is that she is going to beat me with her shopping. There is just no denying Meredith’s shopping skills…as if I could anyway?

One of the ways we save money on our grocery budget is by doing breakfast once a week. My kids will eat anything with syrup on it and I have never had anyone once say, “Delicious pancakes AGAIN?” Breakfast foods are so inexpensive to make and it is a breeze for me to clean up and to prepare.

In my opinion, a griddle is a must in our house because I can prepare dinner in about ten minutes flat. Throw six pieces of French toast on at the same time and we have three people served and happy. You just can’t beat it!

On my Aldi blog I am incorporating a “Fast Food” night. This night isn’t a rush out to Wendy’s night, but maybe just a quick and simple dish that you can get on the table when there are no dinner plans or you have had a rough day with the kids.

I was having one of those kinds of days yesterday, so I prepared my French toast. I do love to make this in mass quantities, for breakfasts for the kids or for my hubby to take for lunch the next day. The funny thing is that he took this one week to work and got tons of comments on how good his lunch looked. If only they knew how little it cost to throw a meal like that together!


If you have a large family, preheat your oven to 200 degrees and put a cookie sheet inside of it. As you do batches of the French toast, transfer them to the cookie sheet to keep warm. Our family is small, but sometimes I do this and cook up the whole loaf. This is also one of the best ways to keep all the food warm when you serve dinner to guests. We did this as a birthday brunch for my mother-in-law and it was a hit. I just served coffee, orange juice, and a roll of cinnamon rolls. It was easy and inexpensive, but a great way to celebrate her day!

Here is my recipe for French toast- I hope that you thoroughly enjoy it!


Amy’s French Toast
Scaled to serve four

½ loaf of white bread (can substitute with whole wheat)
3 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 cup milk (just a splash to thin out the egg coating)

Beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, sugar, & cinnamon. Turn your griddle to 350 degrees or put your skillet on medium-low heat. Dip bread in the egg mixture (on both sides) and drop the bread into the skillet or onto the griddle. Cook until golden brown on each side.

I served this with turkey bacon. I use the Joy of Cooking cookbook’s recommendation and actually put all the bacon on a cookie sheet. Turn your broiler on high and cook for ten to fifteen minutes. The bacon took about twelve minutes and it was crispy. Make a little extra for a BLT for your lunch!

Cost Breakdown:
White bread- $.45 a loaf, used half for $0.23
3 eggs- $.89 a dozen, used three for $.21
Syrup- $.89, used a third of the bottle for $.30
Turkey Bacon- $1.69, used half for $.85

Total Cost To Feed Four- $1.59
Cost Per Person- $.40

Note: This recipe will be added to "the Aldi Queen" and all ingredients listed will be added to my weekly menu planner. My planners are posted every Friday so you can get a week's worth of ideas and a grocery list in one stop!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How We Accomplish a $50 Grocery Budget

I have actually read of people who budget less than us and I think that is amazing and I applaud anyone who can do it for less than this. In our family of four, fifty dollars a week seems to work for us and I was asked to share ways that we save on the extras in our grocery budget.

- We do not buy a lot of paper products, the only exception being toilet paper, which I haven’t figured out a way around yet. We use cloth washcloths for faces & dirty hands, another set of cloth washcloths (in a different color) as baby wipes, cloth diapers, cloth napkins, and microfiber cloths (purchased inexpensively at your local wholesale club in the automotive section) for cleaning the house.

- I just buy toilet paper in bulk and usually purchase this when our local Meijer runs a good sale on their store brand of toilet paper. Our toilet paper is our Kleenex. I know…we live a glamorous life!

- Our dishwashing soap and detergent are purchased at Aldi and I have been really happy with the performance of both of these products. I actually prefer the Aldi brand dishwashing detergent over other store brands and I have tried many including Wal-Mart & Target. This seems to perform the best in our dishwasher and we have hard water. To make sure that it performs even better though, I fill our little dispenser on the door with white vinegar and this helps cut down on spotting on our glasses. Periodically cleaning my dishwasher with a citrus drink mix (Tang or any other citrus type drink) also helps our dishwasher performing well and keeps it looking nice & clean.

- I make the majority of our household cleaners utilizing white vinegar and baking soda. If I do purchase any cleaners, I love The Works cleaners that I purchase at our local dollar store. This brand works well, again on those tough hard water stains, and the price is great!

- For hand soaps, I buy the dollar store brand. I received some of those pretty foamy soaps from Bath & Body Works as a Christmas gift and I just refill these foamy dispensers. I fill the soap dispenser about ¼ of a way up and then the rest gets filled with water. Give it a shake and you have foaming hand soap. One dollar can fill four hand soap containers for us and this lasts a long time. The foaming hand soap containers also work really well for baby soaps as it extends your bottles a lot longer.

- We don’t buy expensive shampoos or conditioners. I try to watch for good sales at our drugstore or I purchase Suave hair products which give us the most shampoo for our money. Leave on conditioners are made out of filling spray bottles with a ¼ the way full of conditioner and adding water. Give it a shake each time you use it and you will have leave on conditioner without the price tag.

Here are some other entries for saving on your grocery budget:

Cleaning the House:

Disposing of the Disposable Items
Frugal Solutions for the Swiffer
Microfiber Obsessions
Frugal Carpet Steaming
Solution for Cheap Trash Bags

Toiletries:

Homemade Skincare Products
Foamy Soap
Making Your Own Cleaners
Cloth Diapering 101
Frugal Momma Bath Tips

Saving on Groceries:

Wholesale Club Shopping
Grocery Shopping
Sam’s Club Click N Pull
Quest to Find Cheap Baby Food
Saving on Groceries

Please feel free to share ways you save on your groceries! What is your grocery budget? How do you accomplish it?

P.S.- We are working on a search function and also a VERY exciting project that I can’t wait to tell you all about! It will be big news for MomAdvice.com! Stay tuned!

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Iron Chef Moms Challenge: Day Three- Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad

Today's Featured Cookbook: Cooking Light Magazine. This is a great one to pick up from your library or pick up their books chock full of dinner ideas!

Pantry Items of the Day (according to Martha): Today I am sharing her excerpt on spices. “Most spices will lose their potency after about a year, but their flavor will deteriorate faster if stored improperly. Keep them in airtight, light-proof containers, away from the heat. Choose an accessible drawer or cabinet or a wall-mounted rack. Do not hang your spices above the cooktop.”

Welcome to day three of the Iron Chef Moms Challenge. I hope that you are getting some great ideas for your dinner hour between our dishes and Meredith’s tasty fare. It has been a lot of fun to see how this is all playing out. Meredith is an excellent shopper and I admire her knack for finding the best deals and finding ways to utilize those ingredients. She is certainly making me a believer that it is possible to eat very inexpensively by planning your meals around the fliers. Her meal today is a mere $.59 per person! That is pretty darn incredible! Great job, Meredith!

I choose to shop Aldi Supermarket for a number of reasons, but the main reason has always been the savings to our family. There are savings to be had, not only because the food is so cheap, but because you are not tempted by all of the other goodies available in the store.

For example, when I would go to Wal-Mart, I would go with a list in hand and plan to get those items only. That was it. Nada. Nothing else. Then I would be lured to other areas of the store or I would find myself putting items in my cart that I could have done without. Maybe it is lack of discipline, but shopping at a superstore is a super drain on our budget. With Aldi, I walk in and out with exactly what is on my list. On occasion they will have a special purchase available that is worth going a dollar or two over, otherwise I stay on the straight and narrow. I also enjoy the convenience of going to only one store to do my shopping. It is so nice to be able to walk in and out of the store and have everything I need. The only disadvantage is that you have to plan properly before entering the store for your meals that week. Aldi has select ingredients so it can be difficult to plan sometimes. Thank goodness for “the Aldi Queen” blog though, because you will never have to worry about that again!

For our family’s grocery budget, we budget fifty dollars a week. This includes all of our toiletries, paper products, and cleaners. I don’t find it a challenge to stay within our budget because I enjoy planning menus and I consider sticking to my budget almost a game. I love to go under budget and my husband always gets a kick out of my cost breakdowns for the things we eat. “Oh, you love this dish? Guess how much it cost…go ahead, guess! Two cents and not a penny more- can you believe it?”

I think what has always been important to me is no matter where I shop, that I make really good food for my family. We eat very well and I am proud of what I am able to make and to make it so inexpensively is just the icing on that cheap cake we are eating!

Let’s begin talking about today’s menu. Yes, I do realize that I have done three chicken dishes in a row. We eat a lot of chicken in our house, but I promise to do better the rest of the week. I have some other meats unthawing for our next meal, so be sure to check back for a non-chicken dish.

It was very warm yesterday (I am posting these a day ahead so you can view this in the morning) and the last thing I felt like eating was a hot dish. I made a Caesar Pasta Salad dish because it was a nice cold dish and it makes for really great lunches for the week. In the original recipe, I use feta cheese instead of the parmesan, but feta is not available at Aldi…just yet! This dish was taken from Cooking Light Magazine. Enjoy!

Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad

1 pound chicken (about three small breasts)
½ pound penne pasta (This ingredient is available this week at Aldi. If it isn’t at your store, you can substitute with elbow macaroni)
1 romaine heart, chopped
½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup Caesar dressing
A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top

Bake chicken breasts as directed on package on a cookie sheet. While the chicken is baking, chop the romaine heart and halve the tomatoes. Cook pasta until al dente, as directed on package. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water. Dice the cooked chicken and put this in a bowl. Toss in pasta, tomatoes, lettuce, and the dressing. Mix until all the ingredients are incorporated. This can be served with a little sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.


Amy's Notes
- Because I wanted plenty of food for leftovers, I actually cooked the entire box of pasta and kept all the other ingredients the same. This stretched the dish further and we have enough for four more lunches. Additional dressing can be added to leftovers to keep pasta from tasting dried out. Basically, for forty more cents you can feed another four people! That makes this a great dish to entertain with!


Cost Breakdown:

Chicken breasts- $5.99 a bag, used one pound for $1.71
Penne Pasta- $.79 a box, used half the box for $.40
Romaine heart- $1.59 for three, used one for $.53
Cherry tomatoes- $1.79 for a container, used half for $.90
Total Cost To Feed Four- $3.54
Cost Per Person- $.89

Note: This recipe will be added to "the Aldi Queen" and all ingredients listed will be added to my weekly menu planner. My planners are posted every Friday so you can get a week's worth of ideas and a grocery list in one stop!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Iron Chef Moms Challenge: Day Two- Parmesan Chicken Drumsticks

Today's Featured Cookbook: The Complete Tightwad Gazette- it is full of cheap & thrifty recipes that a frugal cook just can’t do without!

Pantry Items of the Day (according to Martha): Here are the canned and bottled items you need for a well-stocked pantry. Italian plum tomatoes, tomato paste, green & black olives, olive paste, anchovies, anchovy paste, capers, chickpeas, black beans, hot sauce, mustards, Italian oil-packed tuna, low-sodium chicken broth, canned fruits, chutneys, fruit jam. Heed expiration dates; otherwise, most canned and bottled goods, such as preserves, pickles, and relishes can be kept unopened, for up to one year. Once opened, glass bottles should be refrigerated; transfer unused canned goods to airtight containers and refrigerate for three or four days. This is especially important for canned acidic foods such as tomatoes or pineapples; once the interior of the can is exposed to air, the acidity is likely to cause rust. If you do see rust on an opened can of food, the can & food should be discarded.

Welcome to day two of the Iron Chef Moms Challenge. Please be sure to visit Meredith’s blog where she will be sharing ways that you can stay within your budget just by utilizing the sales flier. Yesterday she shared tips for cooking with loss leaders and the fabulous Southern-style birthday dinner she was able to make out of ingredients she purchased on sale. Her total beat me by $1.65! Great job, Meredith!

Meredith has already posted her day two results, as she has thrown a dinner together in the slow cooker (I love those kind of recipes!) using cabbage that she found on sale at her local supermarket. Her daily total came to $4.55 or $1.13 per person. I am excited to say that my total today was $3.14 or $.79 per person, which seemed more reflective of Meredith’s total yesterday. This puts me at $1.41 ahead today, but still $.24 behind, overall.

I have a little confession to make that might surprise you…I actually have never in my life cooked chicken drumsticks so last night’s dinner was a bit of an experiment in our house. If I purchase chicken, I tend to go for the white meat because it is the healthiest option. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive option so I have been trying other cuts of meat to keep our expenses down.

When I happened upon these two recipes, I was very excited to try something a little different. When I put it together, I realized it will be a perfect meal for us to take on our next picnic and it was a cinch to put together.

Here is a one little tip for today that I would like to share. This might be common knowledge, but it is a little trick that I use when I am cooking chicken with a coating or breading on the outside. I take a jelly roll pan and then rest our cooling rack on top of that and spray it lightly with cooking spray. I then bread the meat and rest it on top of the cooling rack. The reason I do this is because I absolutely hate it when you have a nice crisp side on one side and then a soggy mess on the flip-side. By using the cooling rack, I am able to get the heat to circulate on the bottoms, which help keep that crispy coating on all the sides of the meat.

Although the chicken was divine, I have to admit that I was most surprised by the simple side dish and how tasty it actually turned out to be. Potatoes prepared in the microwave? Covered in only a tablespoon of butter? Could Cooking Light Magazine have been mistaken when putting this dish together? I was wrong though- the amount of butter and the swiftness of the microwave made for some very tasty taters. My husband, who will only eat the fry variety of these, actually gobbled them up and asked if we could have them again.

Best of all, you just can’t beat the price tag on the meal itself!

Parmesan Chicken

4 drumsticks (the Aldi’s bag contains five drumsticks, but there will still be plenty of coating)
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (in the dairy section, not in the shaker)
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I make my own and store them in the freezer)

In a shallow bowl, mix together cheese and breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, beat egg until lemon colored. Dip chicken in egg, coating well. Roll in cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Amy's Notes: I removed the skin on the chicken drumsticks. Simply slip your fingers under the skin and pull to remove. I then proceeded with the coating. My drumsticks took 50 minutes to bake.

Microwave Taters

1.5 pounds potatoes- red or Russet. 1.5 pounds of potatoes equals about four cups of diced potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
Any seasoning of your choice- I used a teaspoon of Italian seasoning & salt and pepper

In a shallow baking dish, place a tablespoon of butter in the dish and microwave for fifteen seconds (or until the butter is melted). Dice the potatoes and put them on top of the butter. Top the potatoes with any seasonings of your choice. With a spoon, lightly toss the potatoes until they are all coated in the butter. Pop the bowl in the microwave and microwave for fifteen minutes. Every five minutes, just give them a little stir to make sure all of the potatoes get heated evenly.

Cost Breakdown:

Chicken Drumsticks- $1.89
¾ cup Parmesan Cheese- $1.89 for the container, $.95 is amount used
1 egg- $.89 for a dozen, $.07 for one egg
1.5 pounds potatoes- $1.49 for 10#, $.23

Total Cost To Feed Four- $3.14
Cost Per Person- $.79

Note: This recipe will be added to
"the Aldi Queen" and all ingredients listed will be added to my weekly menu planner. My planners are posted every Friday so you can get a week's worth of ideas and a grocery list in one stop!

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Iron Chef Moms Challenge: Day One- Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein



Today's Featured Cookbook: Cheap, Fast, Good by Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross

Pantry Items of the Day (according to Martha): Here are the basic baking staples you need for a well-stocked pantry. Pure vanilla extract and other extracts, vanilla beans, baking soda, baking powder, unsweetened and semisweet dark chocolate, Dutch- process cocoa powder, unflavored gelatin, dry yeast, cornstarch- store ingredients in airtight containers, away from heat and light sources. Extracts will last several years; leavenings lose their potency after about one year, and should be discarded on their expiration dates.

I had anticipated on spending a bit more time in my cookbooks this weekend, but my daughter & I both came down with a nasty strep infection and my time has been spent trying to sleep it off and care for Emily.


Despite the setback, I am excited to begin sharing with you some of the meals that our family enjoys, utilizing ingredients purchased from Aldi. I hope that this week’s menu plan provides you some new ideas for your dinner hour, as well as providing you a very budget-friendly dinner.

One of my favorite take-out foods is Chinese food. I love a good Chicken Lo Mein and was so excited when I happened upon this excellent recipe to make this dish at home. With some of my own modifications, I was able to make this dish with ingredients purchased at our local Aldi.

This dish is a hit with our entire family, even the broccoli & mushroom haters in the bunch. This dish just has something for everyone in the family. Because it is a pasta dish, the chicken and vegetables are easily stretched, keeping you well under budget.

To be honest, we do not normally serve a side with this dish, but we were to include a side with this dish so I will add a side of applesauce for the kids.

I love to double the recipe to eat it for lunch or a yummy late night snack!

Please check Meredith's blog for her breakdown and meal plan for the evening. It sounds like she has something very yummy going in her kitchen. I think I would like to eat over there!



Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein
Adapted from Cheap, Fast, Good!


8 ounces thin spaghetti (if linguine is available, I prefer this over the spaghetti)
2/3 pound skinless, boneless chicken (3 chicken breasts, dethawed overnnight)
1 cup fresh button mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bag frozen broccoli pieces
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon ketchup

Cook pasta as directed. Clean & chop mushrooms. Heat oil. Cut chicken in bite size pieces. When all the chicken is cut, add it to the skillet. Add mushrooms and broccoli to the skillet. Cook for five to six minutes or until mushrooms have released their liquid and chicken is cooked through. Add soy sauce, vinegar, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Add cooked pasta and serve immediately.

Serve with ramekins of applesauce.

Cost Breakdown:

8 ounces thin spaghetti- .25
2/3# chicken breasts (approximately 1/4 of a bag)- $1.75
1 cup fresh mushrooms- .79
1 bag frozen broccoli- .79
1 jar applesauce- .69
(Other ingredients listed are considered staple items according to Iron Chef Mom guidelines)

Total Cost To Feed Four: $4.27
Cost Per Person: $1.07

Note: This recipe will be added to "the Aldi Queen" and all ingredients listed will be added to my weekly menu planner. My planners are posted every Friday so you can get a week's worth of ideas and a grocery list in one stop!

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Product Review: FruitaBu Twirls


We recently got the opportunity to review the new FruitaBu Twirls. As my son loves anything that tastes like a fruit snack, he was more than happy to oblige and do his own personal taste test.

The FruitaBu Twirls look exactly like a fruit roll-up. Miles of smooshed fruit in various flavors are available. What kid could resist this kind of product?

Ethan was not disappointed and has been enjoying the Grape flavor most of all. As the smooshed fruits before, these contain minimal sugar, no artificial flavor, and no preservatives. Because the fruit is in a format that kids love, this product is ideal for those picky eaters who aren't getting enough from the food groups. These make a great snack or can be part of any lunchtime meal.

Much thanks to FruitaBu for giving us the opportunity to sample their new products. We have become big fans of this company and their endeavors to enable us to eat more healthy. The best part about this company is that they do not sacrifice the taste factor in the process.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Disposing of the Disposable Items

Frankly, I am pretty tired of being home. We have been in the house for the entire month of January, due to our entire family being sick, and finally everyone is starting to feel better...and there is a weather advisory today. I had gotten up and gotten the kids ready for the day, made plans to join my grandmother for lunch, and then noticed that my son's school had been cancelled. Despite our disappointment, this feels like it has been a month of accomplishments, as we have tried to tackle some stuff around the house. Some of the things that I have gotten done are:

1. My laundry is caught up. Everything has been washed and even has been put away (only a mother would know how hard that is to do!) I even did a little ironing while I watched television this weekend. I have been home too long when I am now ironing my dish towels.


2. When I do my laundry, I throw all of our socks into their own basket. Then when I have gotten all of the loads done, I sit and sort socks. Sometimes this never happens. This week...it happened! So sad when there is so much joy over accomplishing that.

3. Organized the area around my phone as I got a "new" organizer from Goodwill and filled it with all of the random junk that had been laying on a table. I made a little message board, which I will share for a future entry, and felt a good sense of accomplishment over that.

4. I made Valentine's with my son. More on that in a future entry...

5. Ripped out our entire closet and reorganized it. My husband did all of the hard work doing the putting together of everything and then I organized all of the clothes and weeded through everything that needed to be donated to charity. I even pieced together some new outfits for my husband to give him some new ideas. I have a lot of fun doing that kind of thing and sometimes it helps to have another set of eyes to your clothes to make you realize all that you do have. With everything now being accessible without a stool (as I am five-foot-nothing) I now have everything in reach and have found items in my closet that I had even forgot I had.

6. Cleaned out every single one of my purses. Ended up with almost eight dollars in change, three lipsticks, and a pair of sunglasses. I always scoff at people who tell me that they found money lying around their house that they didn't know they had. Eight dollars of change proves that I was the one who should have been looking!

7. Wrote a new article on frugal storage solutions. I will let everyone know when we post that!

I did want to share one system that we have incoporated into our home, that might be useful to you. One of the biggest questions I get is how we can feed our family of four for only $200 a month (including paper products). There are long and lengthy answers to that, but one of the main things that I have found is to dispose of the disposable items. Now I know not everyone is up for cloth diapering, but there are other disposable items that you might be buying that are wasting precious grocery dollars. Items like paper plates, paper cups, plastic cutlery, paper bags, napkins, & paper towels can drain the budget quickly.


Instead of wasting your money on these items, do an extra load of dishes and just use the dishes you already have in your house. Paper towels can be replaced by microfiber cloths, dish towels, dish rags. Finally, paper napkins can be replaced with cloth napkins.


You can make your own cloth napkins (as my friend Shannon, from Rocks in My Dryer, has suggested) with NO sewing skills required. If you are unmotivated or just love the look of a vintage cloth napkin, check your local thrift store for cloth napkins. I can get my cloth napkins for a quarter each at our thrift store, so it is definitely worth it compared to the amounts we save.

Since I had plenty of time this week, I actually gathered all of the cloth napkins we already had and put them in a basket. The basket is resting on my kitchen counter as a reminder to us all to use these instead of the disposable napkins.

My girlfriend had suggested a brilliant idea, which has helped motivate me further to use the cloth napkins. Underneath your sink, store a basket for all of the baby bibs, dish towels, dish rags (and in our house), cloth napkins. When the basket is full, or when I do a load of towels, I just throw them in the wash. It also makes removing the tablecloth easier, as I can just fold that and throw it in the basket too.

If you are not completely sold on doing the cloth napkins for every meal, start out small and use them for dinner only. You will soon find how easy it is to care for them and the benefits it will provide to your grocery budget.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Aldi Supermarket: Price Sheet & Store Information

I put together a list of pricing, last year, of items at Aldi Supermarket. I am posting the information here and providing you a list of all the prices on the items that Aldi carries. I do want to say, I am in no way affiliated with or receive any benefits from promoting Aldi Supermarket. I am just a mom who happens to love shopping there and saving our family money. The prices listed are what they were this past winter- the pricing may have changed, however, Aldi usually does not do a dramatic change in their pricing so this should be an accurate portrayal of their current prices. The items that have a star next to them are items that are carried seasonally or the item prices change according to the season/farmers. They may or may not be available at the time you come to visit the store.

The sizing and prices are listed on the items as best as I could do. If you do not like the arrangement or the ordering, feel free to do changes on your own sheet. I literally spent three straight hours on a Sunday afternoon working on this. I was leaning over stacks of food (with my big pregnant belly) trying to write everything down on top of random cans. I hope that this work will benefit someone out there!!

If you are unhappy with a product from Aldi PLEASE do not email me. I cannot tell you how many "Dear Aldi," emails that I receive. If you are dissatisfied with a product from this store, take it back to your local store. They do not have an email address or anyone who can answer your phone calls. Bring the item back to the store and receive another item for free plus your money back. That is how it works and I have no control over refunds or if your store no longer carries a particular item. Like I said, I do not work for the store- so sorry!

If you are looking for more information on Aldi Supermarket, please visit our articles on MomAdvice.com. Here are a few that are related to this store:

Aldi Supermarket: The Real Deal?
Aldi Menu Planner
Aldi Fall/Winter Menu Planner

Feel free to add to our list in the comments section. See a new product? Tried something you loved? Tried something you absolutely hated? Share away! Please share our site and our blog with your friends. You all keep my site up and running & help to motivate me to continue doing what I am doing here in the internet world.

Aldi Item Pricing:

Breakfast Foods

Grandessa Syrup- maple praline or wild blueberry
12 ounce
2.29

Aunt Maples Lite Syrup
24 ounce
0.89

Millville Quick Oats
42 ounce
1.39

Millville Crisp Rice
13.5 ounce
1.69

Millville Sugar Frosted Flakes
20 ounce
1.69

Toaster Tarts
12 count
1.69

Millville Bite-Size Shredded Wheat
1.69

Millville Marshmallow & Stars Cereal
1.69

Millville Apple-Cinnamon Crispy Oat Cereal
15 ounce
1.69

Millville Cinnamon Grahams Cereal
14.4 ounce
1.69


Dairy


Gold Hen Grade A Eggs
12 eggs
0.69

Friendly Farms Whipped Cream (aersol)
7 ounce
1.29

Natures Nectar Premium OJ
64 ounce
1.69

Friendly Farms Sour Cream
16 ounce
0.99

Friendly Farms Lo-Fat Cottage Cheese
24 ounce
1.69

Friendly Farms Cream Cheese
8 ounce
0.99

Buehlers Buttermilk Biscuits
7.5 ounce
0.25

Happy Farms Shredded Cheese- Colby, Monterey Jack, & Mexican
12 ounce
2.49

Happy Farms Shredded Cheese- Cheddar or Mozzarella
16 ounce
2.69

Casa Mamita Refrigerated Flour Tortillas
12.5 ounce
0.69

Lynder Cheese Singles
10.67 ounce
0.79

Happy Farms Butter Quarters
16 ounce
2.29

*Milk- 2%
1 gallon
2.19

Fit & Active Lite Yogurts
8 ounce
0.35

Happy Farms Butter Quarters
4 per package
2.29

Produce


Caesar or Italian Salad Mix
10 ounce
1.49

Fresh Farms Garden Salad
16 ounce
0.79

Fresh Express Flat Leaf Spinach
9 ounce
1.29

Avocados
1 each
0.79

Baby Watermelons (Seedless)
1 each
2.29

*Grape Tomatoes
10 ounce
1.79

*Strawberries
16 ounce
1.79

*Cabbage
1 each
1.19

*Iceberg Lettuce
1 each
1.19

*Cauliflower
1 each
1.99

*Broccoli Crowns
14 ounce
1.79

*Green Peppers
20 ounce
1.69

*Multi-Colored Peppers
20 ounce
2.29

*Celery
1 each
1.29

*Cucumbers
1 each
0.49

*Carrots
1 each
0.79

*Cantaloupe
1 each
2.29

*Pineapple
1 each
2.29

Anjou Pears
28 ounce
1.29

*Lemon or Limes
1 each
0.25

*Apples- Roma, Glaa, Red Delicious)
3 pounds
1.49

*Grapefruit
1 each
0.49

*Navel Oranges
4 pounds
1.89

*Bananas
1 pound
0.29

*Onions
3 pounds
0.79

*Russet Potatoes
10 pounds
1.69

Baking Potatoes
5 pounds
1.49

Red Potatoes
3 pounds
1.49

Fresh Garlic
6 ounce
0.79

*Portabella Mushroom Caps
2 per pack
1.99

Baking Supplies


Carlini Canola Oil
48 ounce
1.79

Carlini Corn Oil
48 ounce
1.79

Carlini Vegetable Oil
48 ounce
1.59

Carlini Vegetable Shortening
48 ounce
1.59

Carlini Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
16.9 ounce
3.29

Carlini Olive Oil
16.9 ounce
2.29

Baker's Corner Lite Corn Syrup
32 ounce
1.19

Friendly Farms Dry Milk
64 ounce
6.99

Baker's Corner Frosting- choc, milk choc, vanilla, or cream cheese
16 ounce
0.99

Baker's Corner Cake Mix- yellow, devil's food
18.5 ounce
0.69

Baker's Corner Fudge Brownie Mix
19.8 ounce
0.99

Baker's Corner Marshmallow Crème
7 ounce
0.79

Toasty Puffs Mini Marshmallows
10.5 ounce
0.59

No Bake Cheesecake (include filling & crust)
11.5 ounce
1.59

Mr. Pudding Instant Pudding- choc or vanilla
3.5 ounce
0.29

Baker's Corner Graham Cracker Crust
6 ounce
0.89

Baker's Corner Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
12 ounce
0.99

Southern Grove Walnuts
16 ounce
3.29

Southern Grove Pecan Halves
6 ounce
2.49

Sebree Iodized Salt
26 ounce
0.25

Sweet Harvest California Seedless Rasins
15 ounce
1.69

Spice Club Garlic Powder
3.5 ounce
0.99

Spice Club Minced Garlic
8 ounce
0.99

Spice Club Imitation Bacon Chips
3.25 ounce
0.79

Spice Club Pure Vanilla Extract
2 ounce
2.69

Baker's Corner Baking Soda
16 ounce
0.39

Baker's Corner Baking Cocoa
18.6 ounce
1.49

Grandma's Best Flour
5 pounds
0.89

Sweet Harvest Granulated Sugar
5 pounds
1.69
Sweet Harvest Brown Sugar
32 ounce
0.89

Sweet Harvest Powdered Sugar
5 pounds
1.69

Choceur Chocolate or Hazelnut Spread
14.1 ounce
1.69

Canned Goods


Chef's Cupboard Chicken or Beef Broth
14.5 ounce
0.39

Fit & Active 100% Fat-Free Chix Broth
14.5 ounce
0.39

Chef's Cupboard cream of chicken, cream of potato, cream of mushroom, cream of celery, or tomato soup
10.75 ounce
0.39

Bean Town Pinto Beans
32 ounce
1.19

Range Master Sloppy Joe Sauce
15.5 ounce
0.59

Casa Mamita Refried Beans
16 ounce
0.49

Kirkwood Chicken Breast
5 ounce
0.99

Seanet Tuna (packed in water)
6 ounce
0.45

Artic Baby Pink Salmon
14.75 ounce
1.19

Happy Harvest Stewed Tomatoes
14.5 ounce
0.49

Happy Harvest Mushrooms
4 ounce
0.39

Happy Harvest Vegetables (Corn, Sweet Peas, Green Beans, French Style Green Beans, Kidney Beans, & Chili Beans
0.33

Happy Harvest Tomato Sauce
8 ounce
0.19

Happy Harvest Diced Tomatoes
14.5 ounce
0.49

Happy Harvest Tomato Paste
6 ounce
0.33

La Mas Rica Pinto Beans
30 ounce
0.69

Baked Beans
16 ounce
0.49

Sweet Harvest Peaches in heavy syrup
29 ounce
0.89

Fit & Active Peaches in lite syrup
29 ounce
0.89

Sweet Harvest Pear Halves
29 ounce
0.99

Sweet Harvest Pumpkin
15 ounce
0.59

Sweet Harvest Cherry Pie Filling
21 ounce
1.49

Sweet Harvest Mandarin Oranges
11 ounce
0.39

Sweet Harvest Applesauce
25 ounce
0.69

Sweet Harvest Pineapple Chunks
20 ounce
0.59

Rings with Meatballs
0.59


Frozen Goods

Granger Frozen T-Bone Steaks
2 Steaks
14.98

B-Bar 75% Lean Ground Beef (Chubb)
3 pounds
4.99

B-Bar 85% Lean Ground Beef (Chubb)
16 ounce
1.89

B-Bar 12 Beef Patties
3 pounds
4.99

Boca Burgers
10 ounce
2.49

Roseland Center-Cut Pork Chops
per pound
1.79

Kirkwood Cornish Hens
20 ounce (1 Hen)
1.99

Roseland Brats or Italian Brats
19.76 ounce
2.49

Kirkwood Chicken Drumsticks
2.5 pounds
1.69

Kirkwood Chicken Wings
4 pounds
5.49

Kirkwood Whole Frying Chicken
1 pound
0.65

Kirkwood Chicken Leg Quarters
5 pounds
2.49

Kirkwood Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts
3 pounds
6.99

Kirkwood Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenderloins
2.5 pounds
6.99

Kirkwood Grilled Chicken Breast Strips
32 ounce
7.99

Jehling Chicken or Shrimp Stir Fry
24.2 ounce
3.99

Sea Queen Deluxe Cooked Shrimp
12 ounce
3.49

Sea Queen Salmon
16 ounce
3.99

Sea Queen Tilapia
24 ounce
2.89

Sea Queen Orange Roughy
16 ounce
6.99

Sea Qeen Whiting Fillets
24 ounce
2.89

Sea Queen Jumbo Cooked Shrimp
12 ounce
4.49

Sea Queen Extra-Jumbo Cooked Shrimp
8.99

Mama Cozzi Spinach or Portobello Mushroom Stuffed Rigatoni
24 ounce
2.69

Mama Cozzi Garlic Cheese Texas Toast
11.25 ounce
1.49

Happy Harvest Frozen Veggies- Corn, Broc., Cauliflower
16 ounce
0.79

Happy Harvest Mixed Veggies
16 ounce
0.89

Valley View Crinkle Cut Fries
32 ounce
0.99

Fit & Active Fat Free Whipped topping
8 ounce
0.69

Fit & Active- Whole Strawberries or Mixed Fruit
32 ounce
2.69

Fit & Active 3 Berry Blend
24 ounce
2.69

Sundae Shop Ice Cream- Vanilla or Chocolate
64 ounce
1.49

Fit & Active Stuffed Sandwiches- Turkey w/Broccoli
2 per package
1.69

Cahill Ground Turkey
1 pound
0.79

Kirkwood Chicken Breast Nuggets
3.49

Snacks & Prepared Items


Casa Mamita Tortilla Chips
15 ounce
0.99

Casa Mamita Salsa
24 ounce
1.49

Saltine Crackers
16 ounce
0.59

Fit & Active Reduced-Fat Wheat Crackers
0.89

Snack Rite Butter Crackers
16 ounce
1.19

Jellrite Gelatin- strawberry or orange
3 ounce
0.25

Sundae Shop Ice Cream Cones- Sugar
4.5 ounce
0.79

Sundae Shop Ice Cream Cones- Cake
4.0 ounce
0.79

Raisins
1.69

Dry Roasted Peanuts
1.69

Chewy Granola Bars- Chocolate Chip or Peanut Butter & Chocolate
12 pack
1.69

Millville Fruit & Grain Bars
8 pack
1.69

Cinnamon Graham Crackers
0.99

Chef's Cupboard Onion Soup Mix
2.0 ounce
0.49

Spice Club Taco Seasoning Packet
1.25 ounce
0.29

Leland Cheese Spread (Velveeta)
32 ounce
3.49

Chef's Cupboard Stuffing Mix (Cornbread or Chicken)
6 ounce
0.69

Valley View Instant Mashed Potatoes (Butter & Herb or Roasted Garlic)
7.6 ounce
0.79

Cheese Club Macaroni & Cheese
7.25 ounce
0.25

Grandessa Spaghetti Sauce (3 Cheese or Chunky Marinara)
26 ounce
1.79

Mama Cozzi Spaghetti Sauce (Traditional, Meat, or Mushroom)
26 ounce
0.99

Meats

Cahill Turkey Bacon
12 ounce
1.69

Premium Pride Bacon
16 ounce
2.49

Premium Pride Thick Sliced Maple or Peppercorn Bacon
24 ounce
3.99

Grandessa Gourmet Smoked Chicken Sausage- sundried tomato basil, cajun andouile, sweet apple gouda
13 ounce
3.69

Parkview Cheddar Brats
16 ounce
1.99

Parkview Smoked Sausage
48 ounce
3.29

Premium Pride Pork Sausage (chubb)
16 ounce
1.49

Parkview Smokey Links
10 ounce
1.69

Mama Cozzi Pepperoni
8 ounce
1.69

B-Bar Beef Franks
16 ounce
1.59

B-Bar Hot Dogs
12 ounce
0.59

B-Bar Hot Dogs
16 ounce
0.99

Sea Queen Imitation King Crab
12 ounce
1.89

Tyson Whole Roasted Chicken
23.2 ounce
3.99

Lunchmates Deli Meat- Roastbeef, chicken, smoked turkey, smoked ham
per pound
4.49

Parkview Beef or Summer Sausage
16 ounce
2.49

Paper Products

Nanny's Size 3 Diapers
40 count
5.99/ 14.98 cents each

Nanny's Size 4 Diapers
34 count
5.99/ 17.62 cents each

Nanny's Size 5 Diapers
30 count
5.99/ 19.97 cents each

Sandwich Bags
100 count
1.79

Ultra Liquid Fabric Softener
1.99

Decorated Paper Plates
1.69

Fill N Toss Tall Kitchen Bags
36 count
1.99

Drinks

Burlwood Cellars Wine
4.99

Beaumont Roast Coffee
39 ounce
3.29

Beaumont Instant Decaf Coffee
8 ounce
1.99

Beaumont Instant Decaf Coffee
4 ounce
1.69

Beaumont Decaf Roast Coffee
13 ounce
1.99

Benner Regular Tea Bags
100 count
1.49

Beaumont Coffee Creamer
22 ounce
1.39

Mixade- Lemonade or Fruit Punch
19 ounce
1.29

Nature's Nectar Tomato Juice
46 ounce
0.99

Nature's Nectar Lemon Juice
32 ounce
0.99

Orchard Gold Fruit Punch
64 ounce
0.99

Nature's Nectar Grape Juice
64 ounce
1.89

Nature's Nectar Cranberry Juice
64 ounce
1.69

Nature's Nectar CranApple or CranGrape Juice
64 ounce
1.69

Nature's Nectar 100% Juice Fruit Punch- Mixed Berry
64 ounce
2.99

Nature's Nectar Apple Juice
64 ounce
0.99

Sweet Valley 12-Pack Soda- black cherry, cola, diet cola, root beer, orange, or lemon lime
12 count
1.69

Sweet Valley 2 Liter- Cola or Lemon Lime
2 Liter
0.59

Condiments

Lyder Ketchup
36 ounce
0.99

Briargate Mustard- spicey, brown or dijon
12 ounce
0.99

Briargate Mustard- Honey
15 ounce
0.99

Briargate Mustard- Yellow
14 ounce
0.59

Salad Mate Salad Dressing (Miracle Whip)
32 ounce
0.99

Burman's Mayonaise
32 ounce
1.29

Great Gherkin's Hamburger Pickle Slices
32 ounce
0.99

Jehling Soy/Teriyaki Sauce
10 ounce
0.99

Grandessa Artichoke Quarters
12 ounce
1.69

Grandessa Gourmet Dressings- Sun dried tomato, 3 cheese, whole clove garlic, raspberry vinagerette
12.7 ounce
2.69

Chef's Cupboard Bread Croutons- seasoned, ceasar, cheese & garlic
0.89

Diomede Spanish Stuffed Olives
5.75 ounce
0.89

Diomede Large Pitted Olives
6 ounce
0.89

Happy Harvest White Vinegar
32 ounce
0.59

Carlini Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
16.9 ounce
1.39

Fit & Active Lite Ranch or Lite Italian
16 ounce
0.99

Berry Hill Grape, Strawberry, or Apricot Perserves
18 ounce
0.99

Golden Nectar Pure Honey
24 ounce
2.99

Peanut Delight Peanut Butter- Crunchy or Creamy
18 ounce
1.19

Reggano Grated Cheese (Parmesan or Parmesan Romano Cheese)
8 ounce
1.89

La Missa Chocolate Syrup
24 ounce
0.99

Sundae Shop Ice Cream Toppings- Hot Fudge
16 ounce
1.69

Sundae Shop Ice Cream Toppings- Caramel
17 ounce
1.69

Sundae Shop Ice Cream Toppings- Strawberry
15.5 ounce
1.69

KC Style BBQ Sauce
0.79

Grains

Rice Bowl Long Grain Rice
3 pounds
0.89

Rice Bowl Instant Rice
14 ounce
0.99

Rice Bowl Chicken Flavored Rice
6.9 ounce
0.49

Rice Bowl Beef Flavored Rice
6.8 ounce
0.49

Casa Mamita Yellow/White corn Taco Shells (12 pck)
4.6 ounce
0.79

Reggano Elbow Macaroni
32 ounce
0.89

Reggano Penne Pasta
16 ounce
0.89

Reggano Farfalle Pasta
12 ounce
0.89

Reggano Rotini Pasta
16 ounce
0.59

Lovin' Fresh White Bread
1 Loaf
0.45

Lovin' Fresh 100% Whole Wheat Bread
1 Loaf
1.29

Lovin' Fresh 12 Grain Bread
1 Loaf
1.29

Lovin' Fresh Wheat Bread
1 Loaf
0.69

Lovin' Fresh Oat Bran
1 Loaf
0.69

Lovin' Fresh Hamburger Buns
6 Pack
0.55

Lovin' Fresh Hot Dog Buns
6 Pack
0.55

Lovin' Fresh Hoagie Rolls
6 Pack
0.99

Lovin' Fresh Bagels- Multigrain, cinnamon & raisin, or plain
21 ounce
0.99

Lovin' Fresh English Muffins
12 ounce
0.59

Lovin' Fresh Garlic Bread
10 ounce
1.49

Wide Egg Noodles
0.59


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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunday Supper: "Roasted" Chicken

Today is one of those days where I just don't feel like cooking. What do I do when I don't feel like cooking? Break out that slow cooker, of course! I am a slow cooking queen, particularly during these hot summer months. This recipe is taken from my One Month of Slow Cooking article.

Today I am "roasting" a chicken in my slow cooker. Now, I am the first to admit that this roast chicken does not have that crispy skin or the beautiful browned top that an oven roasted chicken has, but this is quick and easy for our family. My son loves the drumstick and my husband and I feast on the rest of the chicken. What is left is then shredded and sent into a baggie. I keep adding to this bag of shredded meat until I have enough for a casserole or soup. We purchase our whole chickens from the frozen section of Aldi Supermarket. The chicken that I bought was over five pounds and cost $3.40. This is a great deal for us to all have a dinner and also to sock away a little bit for the next meal. I serve this with mashed potatoes and sweet baby peas (purchased from the frozen section of Aldi for $.78). While this is not gourmet, by any sense of the word, it is a great summer supper that is both affordable and loved by all. Best of all, it doesn't require me to stand in front of a hot stove all day long.

Making Stock in the Slow Cooker

If you are feeling particularly motivated after your roast chicken dinner and want to get even more out of your chicken, you can make your own chicken broth in the slow cooker. Simply throw the chicken carcass back into the slow cooker. Add six cups of water, 2 stalks of chopped celery, 2 carrots that have been chopped, 1 onion that has been quartered (I leave this out- just a personal preference), and 1 tablespoon of dried thyme. Put all of this into the slow cooker and cook on low for eight to ten hours. Just throw these ingredients in right before you hit the sack and you will wake to a fresh batch of chicken stock. Strain the broth before using (you can do this in a colander lined with paper towel) and discard the vegetables. Put the broth into the fridge and skim the fat off of the top when it has cooled. You can freeze into ice cube trays or one cup portions.

Roasted Chicken
Serves 4


Ingredients
1 whole chicken - approximately three pounds


Wash chicken inside & out (removing anything inside). Sprinkle seasoning of your choice on the chicken (Lawry's, Mrs. Dash, poultry seasoning, salt, or pepper). Next put three balls of aluminum foil in the bottom of the slow cooker (this creates a rack so the chicken doesn't soak in its own juices). Place the chicken in, breast side down, and cook on low for six to eight hours.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

More on Online Grocery Shopping

CBS News just did a report on online grocery shopping. They actually tried out several of the big name grocery stores and reviewed the pros & cons of each place. It is definitely worth reading, particularly if you have entertained the idea of doing your grocery shopping online.

For more information on online grocery shopping, visit my post about Amazon & Peapod. I also blogged on how I do my shopping online through Sam's Club via their Click 'N Pull feature (no fees attached!)- this can save you a lot of time & money. We do not live in a big city so I am not able to take advantage of the online grocers, although we used them for business purposes when I lived in Massachusetts.

If you have thoughts on the buying groceries online craze, feel free to share!

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Saturday Sales

Lots of great sales are happening as time is approaching for the kiddos to return to school. I know, I know. I can just hear you guys groaning. But we want our kids to stay home! Why, God? Why must my children return to school (*shaking fist at the sky*). I am sorry to say that summer is coming to a close, moms. Be sure to read my Back to School article, which should offer some helpful tips on how to get your family back into the groove and find new ways to utilize all of your free time (yeah, right!)

Last week’s sales are still applicable. Visit them by clicking on this link.

This week’s sales:

Each week, Ebates will double the cash back on Tuesdays for one merchant. Check their site on July 25th to find out who was chosen for the week.

Getting the kids a new pair of jeans? American Eagle is running a great coupon code. Take 15% off of your order at AE.com. Use code 68911546.
*Ebates members receive additional two percent cash back on purchases*

Take ten percent off at BabyAge.com , using coupon code JULY10. They have some great things under the clearance section, in particular a really nice train table for $99, which would make a great Christmas gift from Santa. You can use their coupon code on clearance items, so this is one worth checking.
*Ebates members receive additional four percent cash back on purchases.*

Barnes & Noble is having a GREAT sale. All books under ten bucks. Check it out! Again, for the Christmas Queen Bees (like myself), these would make lovely Christmas gifts for the bookworm in your life! I noticed many board & felt books for the kiddos. These could be put away for all of those birthday gifts.
*Ebates members receive additional three percent cash back on purchases.*

Dell is running several coupon codes. If you are still hunting for a computer for a recent high school graduate, they are running several specials.

Save $200 on select Inspiron™ notebook B120 (E-Value code 6vaff- ib120s1) with free external wireless card at Dell Home. Use coupon code 51V2R10JHTZSL8.

Save 30% on select Inspiron™ notebooks $1499 or more at Dell Home, not including XPS systems. Use coupon code 34?058XPTKZ4CP.

Save $350 on select Dimensions™ $999 or more, not including XPS systems at Dell Home. Use coupon code N6LJQJRFXLC2LZ.

Save $750 off select Inspiron™ notebooks $1999 or more at Dell Home, not including XPS systems. Use coupon code 9BCP1T8V?340DL.

Save $350 on select Dimensions systems over $1049. Use coupon code $1K$46W?HNNQ9Q. Not valid with other offers.
*Ebates members receive additional two percent back.*

Take up to $20 off at DisneyShopping.com. Use coupon code SCHOOLSAVE. Exp 07/23/2006. Visit the Outlet (you will see the outlet on the homepage) for great deals on beach towels, pajamas (cute princess pajamas for girls & great boy prints for only $4.99), and back to school items.
*Ebates members receive additional two percent cash back.*

If you are interested in learning more about the Ebates program, please follow this link for more information. An additional $5 is applied to your account, upon making your first purchase.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Sam's Club Click 'N Pull Review

Today I had to pick up an order from Sam's Club so I decided to give their Click 'N Pull option a try. I had talked a little bit about this in last week's blog entry on online shopping, but had not gotten a chance yet to give it a shot at our local Sam's Club. Basically, you can do all of your ordering online (place your order by 5 PM) and then you come and pick the order up the next day.

I placed an order for some frozen goods, produce, and water. I did not have to enter my credit card online or anything like that, just placed the order and got an email confirmation that they received it. The following day I received an email that my order had been processed and I could pick it up within the next seventy-two hours. That sounded good to me because I was hoping that I wouldn't have to rush over there with the two kids.

When my husband got home, I headed over to the store and went to the Customer Service Desk to pick up my order. I gave my name and they scanned a bar code on my order, which brought all of my items up in one scan and provided my total. While I wrote my check, they called someone to get my items from the freezer and cooler. By the time I finished my check, my order was ready to go and I was in and out of there in a matter of ten minutes. That HAS to be a record for me.

Since I am always looking for ways to save money, I found this a true benefit to my wallet in a few different ways.

1. I can comparison shop online and find out if the biggest bag of chicken really is the best deal (which it was not!). Shopping online gave me the time I needed to browse through all of their selections and price everything. Trying to figure out prices, when many times it offers price per pallet, was much easier when I was doing this from home.

2. By having my order ready for me, I did not have to walk around the store and feel overwhelmed. I have a really hard time shopping in places when they offer too much. I get that sick feeling in my stomach, get overwhelmed, start throwing things in my cart, then decide to put things back, then grab them again, etc.. I don't know if this is just me or if other people go through this- Sam's Club is one of those places for me.

3. I avoided all of the unnecessary shopping that seems to sidetrack me when I am shopping there. No looking at books, getting clothes, buying everything from the people offering samples (Do they really need to get the sweetest ladies in the world handing those out because it makes it hard for me to refuse???) I got exactly what I needed and was home to spend an evening with my family. This makes my wallet happier and our family happier.

I hope that you guys can take advantage of this service. There was no charge and it was so simple. I told the associate that I thought it was a wonderful service that they were offering and she said that it usually works out really well. The only thing that they have had trouble with is when people take things out of the carts that have items reserved in them.

Other than a small wait for the frozen/cooler foods, it was a great service for this tired momma!

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