eating well and looking good for less

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My baby is most definitely not a baby...

because his fourth birthday was yesterday. *sniffle* He's so big! And he was so happy about his birthday. He saw this owl-shaped cupcake cake in a magazine, and from that point on he was adamant that he must have that cake. So, we had to make a supermarket trip to pick up all those candies. I still have a few boxes of cake mix (from the fabled October GM catalina deal at Acme), and about a million cake frostings (what on earth am I going to do with all that frosting? it's not even that tasty), but I needed to buy pretty much all the candy.

I was so pleased with myself because I went to Acme and used my $10 OYNO from ConAgra, along with a few other coupons, to get pretzel rods, pretzel sticks, chocolate sprinkles, coconut flakes, Grasshopper cookies, Junior Mints, a bottle of root beer, and two dozen eggs -- for 32c. Thirty two cents! My husband informs me that when I saw the total on the register, I did my money saving dance and sang a song. I didn't know I had one. He says I do. When I scanned the first bag of pretzels, the catalina machine popped out a coupon for a free soda when you buy two bags of snacks. Oh, look, it just so happens that I *have* two bags of snacks, how about that? Hey Hubs, run back there and grab a soda as fast as you can! Then when I scanned the soda, it popped out another coupon for free soda. Woo.

Then we headed across the street to Rite Aid, to pick up some circus peanuts and caramel creams for the eyes. I was looking for jelly roll candies, and unstale circus peanuts. Er. Every circus peanut in the four different stores I shopped was hard as a rock, and no one had anything but peach jelly candies. I made an executive decisions and switched out eyeball ingredients. Anyway, my total cost for the ingredients for this awesome cake was $2.24, and I still have enough candy left over to sustain a sugar high for days or possibly weeks.

So look, here's the cake:

Best. Cake. Ever.

The kid loved his birthday party; you should have seen the look of joy on his face when everyone was singing to him. And we didn't go too overboard with the presents, so he seemed to appreciate and enjoy every single one of them. You know how that goes -- they get so many presents that it's totally overwhelming and half the stuff gets tossed into a pile and never seen again. I can't stand that. I'd much rather have a limit on the amount of gifts, and have him love every single one, than have him get a hundred gifts that he doesn't even play with.

I got a couple of different kinds of J&J soaps, shampoos, lotions, and bubble baths at RA yesterday.  Not anything excessive. Maybe one bottle of bubble bath, two bottles of lotion, three shampoos and two body washes? I dunno, something like that. The point is, there was enough baby shampoo to choose the yummiest smelling kind. So, my husband gave the kid a bubble bath, and then washed his hair, and I ask you, what did the child's hair smell like after the bath? Lavender? Apples? Anything at all from J&J? No, he smelled like my husband's Gillette 2 in 1 Shampoo & Body Wash. Ha ha ha ha ha! He's a manly little four year old.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I can't believe I spent almost $44 yesterday. Where did it go?

A few days in the hospital left me feeling completely out of sorts. So weird. I think the kid was upset with me for not being around. Whenever he got upset over something and started crying, if I tried to help him he would yell and scowl and turn away from me. When I asked him why, he said that he was sad that I didn't come to Nanny and Pop-pop's house to get him. Aww, baby. I'm sorry. A bump in the road, that's all.

I decided to go shopping after all. I didn't want my Ups to expire, plus the coupons for free Coke that I ordered back in mid-December finally arrived. I was not expecting them to take so long!

First we went to Rite Aid. I spent 98c OOP, spent $26 in Ups, and earned $21 back in Ups. They didn't have any of the Ziploc containers, which I would have preferred, nor any of the Dove deodorant for women, but I wanted the Degree more, since my husband was asking me to pick up some up just a couple of days ago.

I was going to buy a 12-pack of Coke using one of the free coupons, but the cashier couldn't get the register to accept the correct amount, so he called over the manager, who, in a somewhat testy fashion, told me that they don't accept the free 12-pack coupons. That's kind of weird, since it's clearly NOT a fake IP coupon, right? But, no problem, I can just take them somewhere else. Then my Colgate coupons beeped, and the cashier said that he was told that when the qs beeped, they were told not to accept them. Don't know about that, but since it was a pair of piddly 35c/1 coupon and the toothpaste was free after Ups anyway, I didn't think it was worth arguing.

I handed over my Ups, and got my total down to 98c. The register froze up and required a void override, or something like that, so the cashier had to call the snippy manager over again. She took one look at the receipt and said, "Why are there so many coupons? Oh, because she has that many. Are you kidding me?" She then keyed in her approval, once again said, "Are you kidding me?!?" and pretty much stomped out of the store for a cigarette break. Ha. Whether a manager or cashier is feeling snippy has absolutely no bearing on me, because I follow the rules and I KNOW I am not doing anything wrong, illegal, unethical, or immoral. I am gonna keep on doing what I'm doing (and furthermore, I'd be happy to teach YOU how to do it too), but that kind of behavior from a manager is pretty ridiculous. At one point in my life, getting that kind of bad attitude from someone probably would have embarrassed me or made me feel self-conscious and nervous, but instead, my husband and I were cracking up over it as we left the store.

 I can't believe that this paltry amount of food cost $15.39. That's absurd. I used my $8 catalina from last week, and two Coke coupons (I forgot to put the other pack of Coke in the picture) and the mushrooms had a $1 off coupon on the front, and it still cost that much! It does not make me feel any better that my savings came out to 72%. All that tells me is, some people pay way too much for food. Seriously.

Anyway, I took my Rite Aid-rejected Coke and Colgate coupons to CVS, and bought them there instead. I also can't believe how much this purchase cost. I messed it up. My cash OOP on the first transaction was an unholy $8.90, plus I paid with $5 in Extra Bucks. I earned $10.58 back in Extra Bucks. Greeting cards are ridiculously expensive ($8.98 after the coupon). It's the kid's birthday in a week, so my husband found the perfect card for him. Then the red machine printed out a coupon for $1/2 greeting cards, so I got a Valentine card for my husband, too. On the way out the door, I realized that I had completely forgotten to get the papers, so I grabbed them and paid for them in cash, another $3.50. That's a total OOP of $12.40. That is just way too much. Oh well.I should have used the $3 EB from the Coke to pay for the papers, but I didn't think of it.

The last transaction, the Acme ConAgra cat. I said that I wasn't that interested, but I guess I can't resist the siren call of a good cat deal. I spent $12 OOP so far, but I still have a $10 OYNO cat in my wallet for upcoming purchases. No coupons used (though when I came home I found that there is a coupon for Pam cooking spray, but oh well). The first transaction, I bought six hot cocoas and four ketchups, paid $10, and got a $10 OYNO back. The second transaction, I did four cocoas, three ketchups, and two Pams, which cost $2 after I handed over the $10 cat from the first transaction. Then I got the new $10 cat. $12 for this stuff is too expensive, but if you need to spend OOP at first, cat deals always look kind of wonky until you roll them a few times.

I'm crunching the numbers for a few more transactions. More cooking spray, because I really hate greasing baking pans, and maybe some canned roasted tomatoes or some soup for the husband to take to work or a bit more ketchup? Or maybe I won't bother, and will just use it for fresh produce.

I also bought a package of Girl Scout cookies. Tagalongs, yo. Good stuff.

Today, I am using my peppers and my mushrooms to make stuffed peppers, yum. Can't wait.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A title would require organized thoughts

I was going to post all about my trip to Pathmark on Tuesday, in which I bought eight boxes of cereal for 80c, and then got back an $8 ONYO cat. It was pretty awesome. I still had a ton of coupons left to get more Chex and Cheerios, so I was going to go back the next day, but instead the abdominal pain which had been bothering me all week went supernova in my belly, and eventually I ended up getting sent to the hospital and spent the rest of the week there, which sort of waylaid all my plans for shopping, life, and everything else. Diagnosis: maybe some sort of acute colitis, thankfully resolving now. Hey, also, what happened to my house while I was away? No one was here (kiddo was with the grandparents, husband was at work or the hospital with me, dogs were mostly in their crates), so how did it get so danged messy? I came home and it looked like a disaster zone! Stuff piled high on every surface, dirty laundry everywhere, dirty dishes in the sink, dog barf on the rug. What. The. Heck. Happened. Oh, and did I forget to mention that while I was in the hospital, everyone else came down with some horrible stomach bug which left them exploding from both ends? Wow, I really hope that this is not in my very near future.

I have $28 worth of Ups that are expiring at the end of the week, but since I was in the hospital for half the week, I didn't plan my trip out ahead of time. I have absolutely zero energy for going to one store, let alone five, but I'm afraid that if I don't go today, all the deals will be picked over and gone and I won't be able to roll the Ups. $28 is too much to lose, especially when I want to pick up some of the J&J baby stuff next week. I don't want to have to start over from zero! Well, from $3, because I got $3 in Ups from shopping at RA this week. (I didn't go until Tuesday, and I mostly got SCR items.) Either way, starting from $0 or from $3 means multiple transactions to minimize OOP, and have I ever mentioned how much I hate doing multiple transactions?

There's a big ConAgra promotion at Acme this week, and everyone is so excited about it, but honestly the only thing I find even remotely interesting is the hot cocoa mix. Oh, ketchup. I do need ketchup. We just emptied our last bottle without realizing it. The stockpile demands ketchup! Maybe I will go later in the week. I do know that even though a lot of the stuff would be great for donation, I am not going to spend every day in there or do more than one or two transactions. I just don't have it in me. I want to crawl back into bed and stay there for the rest of today, at least.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pathmark, wooing us back?

I haven't been back to Pathmark since the change in coupon policies led to the Giant Cash Register Debacle of 2010, in which I had to spend half an hour fixing coupon issues with the cashier and half the store managers. It was Not Fun, and it did not entice me to spend any more time or money in their store, when Acme is happy to accept my coupon business and Food Basics is cheaper on essentials like produce. The GM catalina this week looks really promising, though. What's the coupon atmosphere in Pathmark like these days? Is it better than it was over the summer?

Because free cereal plus an OYNO cat, well... it's very appealing. :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In which I drive back and forth, back and forth

I finally stopped at Target this morning, to pick up those freezer bags I needed. I figured I would try freezing my stock in bags, instead of in plastic containers. I filled the bags, then laid them flat on a baking sheet and put it in my freezer. I hope that they'll freeze relatively flat and then stand or stack nicely in my freezer. My freezer filling progress, incidentally, is coming along quite nicely. I still have to get to the meat market, to see what I can find there, but the freezer is probably halfway full by now, with all sorts of great stuff. Cheese, butter, deli turkey, ground turkey, sausage, a little beef roast, ice cream, vegetables, chicken bones (enough for two more batches, about 20 more cups of stock!), chicken and vegetable stock, a turkey, all kinds of meals and treats I've cooked up and stashed away for lazy days... I wonder, do I need to make a little sheet showing what's hiding in the bottom of the freezer? It's getting harder to know exactly what's down there, now that it's more full.

Anyway. After Target, we went to ShopRite, for ground turkey and London broil, and then to the Rite Aid next door (again, eek), because I needed to pick up disposable cups. I don't really care that they cost more at Rite Aid than they did at Target, since at Target I would need to spend my own money on them, and at RA I could burn some Ups. But, when I did the math I completely forgot about my 10% silver discount, so I handed over too many Ups, and when the cashier scanned the last one, the system rejected it. Of course, having been scanned, it would no longer work at any other store. I called CS and they're going to send me a replacement, yay. I took all my stuff out to the car and then I realized that I'd forgotten to get milk. Well, that won't do. Little people loooooove milk. Headed back in, got milk, left.

But wait! On the way home, I realized once again that I'd forgotten something, this time coffee, so I stopped at another Rite Aid location a mile down the road. (Once, my husband and I tried to think of as many Rite Aids as we could that were within, say, five or ten miles. I think we reached two dozen before we got bored of this exercise and decided the correct answer was, "Plenty." There are four of them within a 3.5 mile stretch on this one road alone.) Mr Almost-Four and I hopped out of the car, got our coffee, and drove towards home. We made it a whole mile and a half before Mr Almost-Four realized that he'd left Mommy ZhuZhu somewhere in a store. Oh no! Because I am an awfully nice mom, we turned around and went back to both Rite Aids. No Mommy ZhuZhu in the coffee store, but it turned out that she'd been hiding in the candy display at the disposable cups and milk store. The cashier had found Mommy ZhuZhu and put her up by the register, in case her owners came back for her. Mr Almost-Four was very, very happy to get her back. Shh, I was too, but don't tell; it'll ruin my street cred.

Once I got home, I discovered two things. One, I forgot to get coffee creamer. Two, the Butterball turkey coupon has reset, so I can buy two more pounds of ground turkey. WTF on the first one (how many items can one person forget on one shopping trip when they've been in FIVE STORES?!?!?), yay on the second one. More 79c/lb turkey for my freezer!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

More ice cream? Sure!

We had to go out and buy cat food last night, for the aforementioned reason that when the cats are out of food, they start eating the house instead. Oh, and coffee! We ran out of coffee. Nooooooo. Since we were out anyway, I decided to pick up the coffee at Rite Aid, along with some more ice cream. Got four cartons of Edy's, plus one tin of Maxwell House. The total came to $15.46. I paid with $15 in Ups, and 46c in change, and while I was digging out exact change, the cashier was mentally rolling her eyes and inwardly laughing, like, "It is the end of the day and I cannot wait to go home, get off my feet, and not have to deal with these cheap-o customers who are paying me with PENNIES," ha ha. I got back $28 in Ups, 4 $2 Ups for the ice cream and one $20 Up for purchasing $100 worth of qualifying products, so that's a profit of $12.54. I need to have a bunch of parties at which I serve lots and lots of ice cream and pie now.

Other random deals of the day: did the ThredUp deal on Deal Pulp. Since I used my $5 signup credit, it only cost $1. Should be great, since the kid recently went through a big growth spurt and needs plenty of new clothing. Something like 8000 other people have purchased this deal, so I'm wondering what kind of stuff is going to be available on ThredUp for a while! Slim pickin's, or major bounty?

Also finally used my Wild Dill $35 credit, that I bought from Eversave way back in November. (Or was it October? Well, it was a while ago.) I got the green recycling truck, the red dump truck, and the Sprig Toys seaplane, all for the kid's upcoming birthday. I can't believe he's going to be four years old. I hope he likes the toys as much in real life, as he enjoyed watching them in the videos.

Yesterday I baked more banana-filled foods. I did a couple of loaves of banana nut bread, using the recipe from The Family Circle Cookbook. I have no idea if this book is in print anymore; the copy I have is an old, battered hand-me-down from my grandmother, with marked pages and food stains and scraps of paper that fall out whenever you're not looking. The banana nut bread recipe wasn't what I was expecting! It was delicious, of course, but very unlike my mom's recipe, which is moist, dense, and chewy, with lots of banana flavor and lots of black specks of banana sprinkled throughout. This one was lighter and fluffier, more like a pound cake. My husband said it tasted more like a spice cake with a hint of banana. It smelled heavenly, and had an amazing crust! Don't mind the fact that the loaves are totally different sizes. I didn't bother weighing out each pan. The bigger one is more impressive, though, don't you think?

I also made a couple more loaves of banana feather bread, this time using whole wheat instead of white in the sponge. It was too cold in my house, and I think I made the dough a tiny bit too dry (I always forget to add a bit more water when I make it with wheat, oops), so it rose very slowly. By the time the bread was ready to go in the oven, it was after 11 PM and we just wanted to go to sleep. As a result, I wasn't paying very close attention to the baking process, and it was, um, let's say "aggressively browned." Not burnt, exactly, but definitely darker than I would have preferred. Hopefully the bread will have an interesting and complex flavor profile, and not taste like ashy death. I haven't been all that satisfied with my bread baking lately. It's all boring, utilitarian loaves. Sandwich loaves. Pizza dough. Oh, well, I was really pleased with the cloverleaf dinner rolls, I have to say. They were astonishingly good. Anyway, I feel like I need to take a day or two, try some new recipes, some new flavors, some new techniques, and turn out some challenging artisanal loaves.

I've gone through one and a half of the three bags of bananas, but I still have probably seven or eight more pounds of mushy bananas, which are growing mushier with every passing hour. I need to either bake like a crazy woman TODAY, or freeze them now. Any great ideas? I've already done white bread, wheat bread, banana nut bread, and three varieties of banana muffins. And I am down to the last bag of all purpose flour. I knew I didn't buy enough at the last sale! My husband laughed at me then, because while I was saying, "I don't have enough! I don't have enough," I had 40 or 50 pounds of flour in the cart, but I was sure I would run out. And look, I have. Although I still have around 18 pounds of bread flour, I am going to have to pick up some all purpose by the weekend.

Also made a big pot of turkey chili yesterday. I was craving it, and man, it was soooooo good. Started off with two pounds of ground turkey, dropped it in the pan to brown.

 Got to add some spices. What's in there? Salt, pepper, cumin, ground chipotle, chili powder, Mexican oregano, cocoa powder. Added a couple of cloves of garlic (maybe five or six), and two chopped onions. Mmm. Mixed it all up, tasted it, added more of some ingredients, then dropped in a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, plus what was left from another 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, plus a can of tomato paste. I know tomatoes are not traditional in Southwestern chili, but I'm a city slicker, don'tcha know.

I can't stand the taste of raw tomatoes in chili. I am one of those who feels like, the longer it cooks the better. Two hours, at a minimum. Four hours, even better. I cooked it for two, maybe 2.5 hours, until the tomatoes dissolved and the whole mess darkened and it tasted gooooood. We ate the chili with cheese, sour cream, and some of those cloverleaf dinner rolls. I wanted to make corn bread or drop biscuits, but by that point every baking utensil was dirty and I didn't want to wash them, so I just took the easy way out and reheated the rolls which I'd previously stashed in the freezer. We still have a ton left today, so maybe I will turn it into chili mac tonight. Or, I could cook some rice, mix it together, and freeze up another batch of burritos. Hmm, not sure!