eating well and looking good for less

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dear Kohl's, I love you.

Here is the awesomeness of Kohl's. We have been needing a new trash can for a while. To make a long story short, ours was busted. I am loathe to spend a fortune on a TRASH CAN because it is a CAN which you fill with TRASH and I don't understand why a trash can must cost over $100 because it's a CAN which you fill with TRASH.

But ours was a useless, broken piece of junk and I got tired of messing with it and getting annoyed every time I needed to put trash in it, so on Monday we went to Kohl's and bought this here fashionable can, normally $139.99, priced on sale at $97.99. Still expensive, but since I had $10 in Kohl's Cash and a 30% off coupon, it was $62.38. Still expensive, but much better. At least, I thought! Until today, when I just happened to check the website to see that it was on sale for $69.99!!! After the 30% discount it would have been $48.99. Minus the $10 KC, it would have been only around $40.

I checked on the website and found that Kohl's has a price adjustment policy, so I hopped right on over to the store, expecting a problem. I mean, I used KC, I used a coupon, I bought multiple items on my last visit. Do they prorate the KC and divide the value between the different items I bought? What about that 30% coupon? Are they going to give me a hassle? Would I have to do something sneaky, like buy the other trash can in the store, then turn around and return it using the old receipt?

No! The cashier scanned the receipt, punched in the 30% discount, turned around with a big friendly smile, said, "This is the amount that will be refunded to your charge card," and that was it. Wow, their CS rocks. That was so much easier than I expected!

Kohl's, keep on treating me this way and I may just stick with you for life. :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I can't decide if getting a Kohl's Charge was the best or worst thing ever

No, just kidding. Clearly it was the best thing ever.

Kohl's sent me a $5 email coupon, plus a 30% off coupon, plus we finally got a statement, so we had to go to the store to pay our bill. I figured that I would scope out the clearance racks, to see if there was anything there for ME this time. Since my "baby" was born, I have purchased new clothing for myself twice. And my "baby?" He is four. I gained weight, lost weight, lost a lot more weight, and then all my shirts mysteriously had tiny holes appear in them. Where are all these pinholes coming from? Just about every shirt that I actually like to wear has a hole in it. Does my washing machine have little nails stuck in it somewhere? And my pants keep sagging and slipping down, which is wildly unattractive.

I found some shirts which look gorgeous on me, and two new pairs of smaller pants. Oh, they're pretty tight in the waist, but they fit and they're smaller than I've worn in, um... gee, most of my adult life, I guess. Also, they look amazing. I'm not really a girly kind of person, and I mostly don't think about my appearance, until I do, at which point I am invariably surprised at how nice it makes you feel to look, well, nice.

My husband also picked up another shirt for himself, plus we finally got a bedskirt for our new mattress set, which we bought in January. My poor box spring has been exposed since then. Early Bird Specials + 30% discount, that's a great price. Better than I've seen anywhere else, and now my bed doesn't have its guts exposed.

I felt a little bad about spending the money, because I have a fairly tight budget and also a fairly aggressive credit card repayment strategy (my credit card is the only interest-charging credit account we have left, woo woo), and every dollar I spend on other things is a dollar I won't be able to send to my card in the future. But. It's nice to have clothing that fits and looks good.

I need to get some aluminum foil. We ran out a few weeks back and I haven't noticed any great sales on it, so I've been doing without. Hope there will be a good sale in the upcoming weeks!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Walmart, Ugh.

I went to Walmart the other day to pick up the Candyland and Operation games that were on sale, and it was easy, fast, and the deal went just as it was supposed to go. So, when I got a TON of Nivea coupons today, I figured what the heck. Walmart is supposed to be getting more coupon-friendly, and the body wash will be free, and I am planning a big donation trip, so why not.

I picked up five bottles of mens' and five of womens', for a total of ten, plus a package of socks for the kid. I expected my total to be $5.88, the price of the socks. Instead, it was $8.28. Uh, what? After I got the receipt, I saw clearly what happened: Walmart charged me sales tax on the body wash. 24c a bottle. Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrgh. You know I would not pay 24c a bottle for body wash, right? The total tax was almost the cost of another whole bottle of body wash.

According to my state's tax code, "Amounts representing on-the-spot cash discounts, employee discounts, volume discounts, store discounts such as ‘‘buy one, get one free,’’ wholesaler’s or trade discounts, rebates and store or manufacturer’s coupons shall establish a new purchase price if both the item and the coupon are described on the invoice or cash register tape." In other words, if a coupon reduces the price of an item, sales tax is calculated based on the price paid after coupon. If the price paid is zero, then zero sales tax is owed.

The item and coupon are clearly described on the cash register tape, and therefore Walmart is in error charging me sales tax, and owes me $2.40. You try explaining this fact to Walmart's sole customer service employee, without having a copy of said tax code in hand. She clearly could not do anything to help me. Even if she knew the tax law, she wouldn't have been able to do anything to help me. I felt like such a tool. It was embarrassing, honestly. Why did I even bother going over to ask her about it? What on earth did I think would happen? They were probably rolling their eyes and laughing about me when I left. Whatever, the law is the law.

I would never have bought the body wash if I'd realized that they were going to charge me sales tax on it. Should I return it? Since they now have my $30 worth of coupons, would they give me $32.40 in cash back?

I feel more upset about this than I should. I feel like I've been ripped off! Perhaps because a retailer as large as Walmart ought to be charging tax in accordance with local laws? Perhaps because I truly would not have purchased the body wash, had I known, and would have saved my coupons to use at stores where I actually like to shop, and where I know the tax would have been computed properly? Perhaps I am just nuts, and $2.40 is not worth getting upset over?


I did find color photo ink cartridges for my printer on clearance at Target, though, for only $7 and change, 75% off their regular price of $30. That was pretty nice! I only bought two. Maybe I should go back and pick up a few more. I mean, $7, you can't beat that.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More wipes! More! MORE MORE MORE!!!

I look upon my box of flushable wipes, and it fills me with a deep satisfaction. What does this say about my life, and my psyche? Nothing good, I am sure.

Last night when I was at Pathmark I noticed a bin filled with 75% off batteries, including Rayovac, so I came home, clipped my coupons, and headed back there today. I also picked up more wipes, because if the catalina machine is giving me $1.50/3 every single time I scan my savings card, and the catalina keeps on rolling, they obviously really, REALLY want me to buy more wipes. And... I gotta tell you, I am down with that.

Flushable wipes are about a million times easier for kids to use than toilet paper, and I never find great stock-up sales on this kind of item, so I usually end up burning some Extra Bucks on CVS-brand toddler wipes. Seriously, parents, you know how kids have no idea how much toilet paper they need, and then they pull off half the roll and clog the toilet and you're going through $85 worth of toilet paper and a couple of plungers a week? Flushable wipes. The answer to all your problems.

Well, unless your child, like mine, pulls all the wipes out and throws them around the house. But. At least he doesn't throw them all in the toilet.


I wanted to get larger packs of Rayovac, and I wanted to get Rayovac AAs, but the 12-pk of AAA was the biggest I could find. Gave up looking and got the 24-pk of Kodak -- $3.75!!! -- plus two smaller packs of AAA, because that was what there was. Also, bananas from the reduced produce rack. They look fine to me, but cost half of what the other bananas cost...

After my first transaction, the machine printed out yet another Scott coupon, so I went back and bought some more. The cashier was amazed at this deal, when I explained it to her. She said she was going to go get some, just to get the $5 OYNO coupon. I would have gone back and done it once (or twice. or maybe more) again, but my son, whose name surely should have been Wackadoodle McNoodle, was getting a bit wild, so we left instead. Maybe I'll go out tonight, maybe not. I love doing catalina deals! They're crazy addictive. When there's an awesome rolling cat deal for something we regularly use, I honestly have trouble stopping.

Have you been watching Extreme Couponing? Man, that show is cracking me up. Everyone is buying Maalox. I know, I know, they're using the coupon because it was one of the highest value qs available at the time, so it made the numbers look good. But... they're all paying for Maalox. What a waste of a good coupon. Maalox was free with overage at both Rite Aid and Target. Why would you pay 50c a bottle for Maalox, when you could earn $1.50 a bottle buying Maalox?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I need to be more vigilant about taking pictures before I put everything away

I wanted to get out to Target today, not only to buy things I needed (Kandoo wipes, tortillas), but also because it's been raining for days and we are so bored of not being able to go to the park and ugh, we had to go somewhere.

I knew that Hasbro games were on sale at Target, but I tossed my circular and didn't feel like digging through the wet recycling bins to find it, and my computer is being really slow and irritating so I just left my Hasbro coupons at home. Whatever. When I got to the store, I decided that I did want to buy a game, and guess what? Someone had left that whole page from the toy circular right on top of the game I wanted to buy! How cool is that? I took the Connect 4 q and moved the page over to the Cuponk display. Thanks, Target Coupon Fairy! :)

So, anyway... I wanted tortillas because when we have leftovers in the fridge, one of the things I like to do is to throw it all together in a pot and make a big batch of burritos. Little bits of meat, leftover kale, cooked veggies, chopped fresh veggies, mostly empty jars of salsa, cooked beans, whatever. Into the pot it goes, with refried beans, chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, spices, and cheese. Kitchen sink burrito. Tastes way better than it sounds. I was going to pick up peppers at Target, but they were $1.50 EACH. Wow! No flippin' way!

Got six packages of Kandoo wipes, one Hello Kitty coloring book, one Connect 4 game, and two packages of tortillas. The total came to $13.92 before taxes. I can submit the receipt for the Hasbro/free Tombstone pizza rebate, and get a free pizza out of it, too.

Since I still needed green bell peppers, we went to Pathmark across the street. I got a two pound bag of peppers (six or seven peppers in it), for $2.99. The markdown produce cart had whole, sliced cantaloupes for only 69c, so I got two of those, too, since it's the kid's favorite fruit. Then I picked up four more of the packages of Scott wipes, to see if the cat rolled. My total after coupons was $4.83, and the cat did indeed roll, so I earned back another $5 for future use.

I don't have any more 50c/1 Scott coupons, but I do have a $1.50/3 that printed out from the machine, so I might go back and do the deal once more. Even with the less great coupon, it still comes out to 37c a pack, which is a great price, and flushable wipes are so much easier for little kids to use.

Too bad, the Market Pantry tortillas are seriously not good this time. They're very thick, and even after being heated they don't so much roll up as bend until they crack. Like wrapping a burrito made of very thin drywall?

*sigh* Is it the weather? I just feel so down today. :(

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Boursin-style" cream cheese spread

You know how you put cream cheese in the freezer and then it comes out all crumbly and useless for spreading on bagels? I've had some bricks of cream cheese languishing in the freezer for a long time, for just this reason. Last night I took one out and made some "boursin-style" cream cheese for use on my bagels. I put it in quotes because I didn't have any fresh herbs to put in it, so I guess it's not all that authentic. But it's darn tasty.

I took about two tablespoons of butter and melted it in a tiny saucepan with two cloves of chopped garlic and some freshly ground black pepper, to infuse the butter with pepper and garlic flavor and slightly cook the garlic, so it wouldn't be quite so pungent. (This is also my secret for amazing garlicky mashed potatoes. Melt the butter with the garlic, then heat the milk to just under scalding in the garlic/butter mixture.)

Then I put the rest of a stick of butter my food processor, along with the brick of cream cheese and the melted butter, and processed until smooth. I added just a little salt, and it's so good! It tastes almost exactly like the boursin-style cream cheese spread that they sell at Whole Foods.

After I put the cream cheese spread away, cleaned up everything, and put all the food processor parts in the dishwasher, I looked in my pantry and saw sun-dried tomatoes staring me right in the face. OH! I should have added those! That would have been even better. Alas.

I hope this solves the yucky crumbly cream cheese problem we've faced in the past. I can't even tell you how many times I've passed up a good cream cheese deal because I find it gross after freezing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The best laid plans of mice and me...

I wasn't terribly impressed with the circulars this week, were you? Every store has one or two fantastic loss leaders or OYNO deals on things that I both need and want, and not much else in the way of deals. I don't like to shop more than one or two supermarkets and one drugstore a week (it's just too much hassle with a preschool kid who doesn't want to go shopping at all anymore), but since no one store stood out from the rest, and since I had CVS and RA rewards expiring this week, I figured, whatever, I'll just hit them all.

I meticulously planned out a shopping trip for all the stores along one three mile stretch of the road. Easy and efficient, right?!? Rite Aid worked out well. I spent 25c and got my papers and three bottles of body wash.

Up next: CVS. They only had one Freshmatic kit in stock, so I just bought what they had. The best thing about CVS is definitely the way their system tracks your purchases. I appreciate that so much. I got bubbles, Diet Coke, and AirWick there.

Then: Pathmark. We are almost out of flushable wipes, and they work so well for little kid butts, you know? The Scott catalina deal was calling my name. I went in to the store and found... a big empty hole on the shelf where the flushable wipes should have been. It was as though they had been surgically removed from the shelf. Fortunately, the hard tubs were not tagged as being part of the sale (even though they were included), so I managed to get four of those. I suspect that if they had been properly tagged, they all would have been gone, too. What's up with that? The markdown produce shelf was pretty well stocked today, so I also picked up about four pounds of bananas, a package of mushrooms, and a couple of pounds of tomatoes. Spent about $8 out of pocket, got back a coupon for $5 OYNO. I'm probably going to try rolling it into the Scott deal again. Hopefully it rolls!

Finally, we headed to the last stop, ShopRite, the store where I wanted to do the most shopping. The parking lot was a madhouse. We both took one look and made the unanimous decision that no amount of cheap butter was worth battling the hordes in that store on a Sunday morning. They'll buy all the butter, the stock guys will restock all the butter, I'll go back midweek, midday, and we'll have the store to ourselves and all will be well.

But then. Then we decided to go to another CVS. Except... we realized that we couldn't think of a single CVS anywhere near where we were, because they're all on the other side of the city. My husband kept saying, "Oh! I know where there's a CVS!" and I would drive there and then when we arrived, it would be a Walgreens or a Wawa or a dirt lot with weeds growing in it. The gas tank was low and we decided to fill it, which cost over $50. Oh, my. We ended up driving around for about 45 minutes, just to pick up one stupid air freshener, with the kid in the back seat whining the whole time about how much he wanted to go to CVS and buy some chocolate milk, and no matter how many times we told him that we were going to CVS, he wasn't really buying the story.

And guess what? When I finally did get to CVS, they didn't have any chocolate milk!!! And then we had to go to Rite Aid to get chocolate milk, and snacks, because I realized that it was after 2 PM and I hadn't eaten anything all day and was getting awfully hypoglycemic and shaky and finding it difficult to drive, so I needed a snack break.

So, to recap. Planned shopping trip very well. Drank coffee and then forgot to feed myself. Threw all shopping trip plans out the window. Drove in giant circles in confusing suburban wasteland. Ate potato chips in a Rite Aid parking lot. Um, yeah, that's about it!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Well, if there's an extended government shutdown, at least we'll have enough cereal to avoid starvation. :)

After dinner last time (that chicken and cauliflower recipe was amazing, by the way), we decided to go and pick up some cereal from Acme after all.

I bought twelve boxes of cereal -- Corn Flakes, Crispix, and Rice Krispies. I paid $14 total for one dozen boxes, but also got four coupons for a free gallon of milk valued up to $4.29, plus I submitted the UPCs for two Kellogg's gas card rebates totalling $20. I had to put out some cash, but I guess it's a money maker deal, if you count the milk and the rebates.

Good goodness, do we have a lot of cereal right now. The best part is, it's all healthy stuff! I swear, if there is ONE teeny tiny itty bitty box of sugary cereal hidden behind all the Special K and Cheerios, Mr Four detects it like some kind of preschooler heat-seeking missile and refuses to eat anything else. I tell you, if we told a bunch of four year olds that Al Qaeda was hiding a vast store of Cocoa Puffs, the war would have been over before it started.

I think I'll make chicken parm for dinner tonight. Mmmmm. Chicken paaaaaarm.... Commence drooling now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Plans for dinner

I woke up this morning and realized that it's Thursday, meaning that it's the last day of the Acme sale week, and I still haven't gotten any Kellogg's cereals there. In addition, a couple of my ShopRite OYNO coupons were expiring tomorrow. I decided to go to Acme, then maybe ShopRite if the kid could tolerate it. On the way towards Acme, I thought, "What am I doing?!?" No way that kid will hold up well through trips to multiple stores. I don't need cereal and I don't need milk, and my cereal coupons are not even that great. Why am I wasting precious shopping time today?

So, I hung a right and headed towards ShopRite instead, where I used my soon-to-expire coupons to pick up some ingredients for dinner, some more milk, and a few other things.

91c total, saved $31.22, for a total savings of 97%.

Used two free milk coupons (but the price of milk went up by 11c a gallon, so I still had to pay 2c a gallon, ha ha), $1.50/3 Nescafe, two 55c/1 International Delights, and $14 in OYNO coupons. I only need to spend $1.69 more to get my free Easter food. Will I go for the lasagna or the turkey? I dunno.

Anyway, I thought I would make the roasted chicken and cauliflower recipe from the April 2011 issue of Everyday Food, so I bought a whole chicken and the tomatoes. I hope it's tasty!

Maybe I'll go to Acme tonight, if we feel like it. I'd like to pick up more cereal, just so that I can stick the extra milk in the freezer and submit the UPCs for that gas rebate, but if not, no big loss, I guess.

Monday, April 4, 2011

No P&G?

I sent my husband to Rite Aid yesterday, while I called up my credit card company to see if I could get them to reduce my interest rate or upgrade my card. No go with my company. The most I managed to get out of them was a $20 credit to my account. I promise you, they will see the light by the end of the year. Because if not, I'm opening a better card and then closing this one. :)

Anyway, sent him to Rite Aid. I haven't really been feeling the drugstore love these past few weeks. I have just about all the health and beauty items that we need for a long, long time, so for me to want to go to the drugstore, something would have to be a really good deal. I had a $5/1 Gillette razor coupon from the booklet that P&G sent out, and I needed my weekly papers, and with the $3/15 survey coupon that was a pretty good deal.

The husband picked up one of those Gillette Fusion bonus packs -- the ones that have a razor, two cartridges, shaving gel, face wash, and some sort of lotion. It wasn't on sale, but was instead the regular price of $10.99, which actually worked out even better. Since our Wellness card is at silver, we got 10% off, paid $9.89, used the $5 coupon, and got $5 in Ups back. Total was $3.17 for the the razor and four papers (normally $1.75 each).

I currently have 773 wellness points, and should have 780-781 after yesterday's shopping trip hits the system. Only 220 to gold!

Not a single one of the four papers he bought had a P&G insert! I was thinking about ordering a set, but the only coupon I particularly want is the Pampers Kandoo, so, whatever.

*yawn* Sleepy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Guess what I bought?!?

Hint: it was milk. And cereal. We have "are you mentally ill? why do you have so much cereal?!?" amounts of cereal in the house right now. I am pleased with this.

$1.44, and I didn't use ANY product-specific manufacturer coupons! I had a Shop Rite store coupon for the free container when you buy three Kellogg's cereals, a free milk coupon, and $18 worth of various OYNO coupons. According to my receipt, I saved $38.04 or 96.2% on this shopping trip.

I wanted to make hummus yesterday (the food of the gods, *sigh*), but we didn't have lemons and we ran out of olive oil earlier in the week. I use olive oil for everything, even baking. It's my go-to cooking oil. Running out of olive oil is like running out of... of... of, um, I have not had enough coffee this morning and so a brilliant simile eludes me. Like running out of something that I really need. Yeah. So mainly, we went to the supermarket to get some olive oil and lemons. But since I was there, I figured I may as well do the cereal deal once again, since even without any coupons the value of the milk and container exceeds the purchase price of the cereal. Plus, now I have nine boxes of cereal towards the ten I need for the Kellogg's gas rebate.

Without coupons, I paid $1.99 for each box. Each box earns me the equivalent of $1 in gas, $1.27 in milk, and 99c in containers, for a total of $3.26 in product/value earned per box. Ha ha! Awesome.

Marshmallows, because what do you do when you have a wall of Rice Krispies? Duh.

In other news... My master plan, which I've been working towards for quite some time, is to get all credit card debt paid off, get my husband's credit score way high, apply for a good rewards card, and then start using credit cards strategically in order to earn rewards. I am a big fan of credit, guys. You aren't going to see me cutting my cards into little pieces or freezing them in blocks of ice! No way. We don't have spending problems, and I think that when used carefully, credit cards are a fantastic tool, and a whole lot safer to use than debit cards. And YES, let's get it out of the way: credit card companies are big entities whose sole purpose in existence is to remove money from your account and put it into theirs, and they're really, really good at it.

But... You know how much I love gaming a system? I mean, did you read the this post? Because if you did, I think you know the answer to this question. When used carefully, to purchase items which you were going to buy anyway and which you have the ability to pay for, credit cards offer the opportunity to save and/or earn mucho bucks. Plus, from a practical standpoint, I'd rather have someone steal my credit card number and wipe out the credit card company, than steal my debit card number and wipe out my bank account. Sure, you're gonna get the money back eventually, but which one will be more of a hassle?

So, yesterday I had my husband call up and request a lower interest rate on his credit card, which currently has a very low balance. The first rep claimed he couldn't help. Husband was about to give up, but I made scowly faces in his general direction, so he put on his work voice, asked to be transferred to someone else who could help, and got a more senior rep. The second rep also couldn't or wouldn't help with the interest rate, but DID offer to waive/credit the past three months worth of interest (since our balance is so low, does this mean that they'll owe us money?), plus he upgraded the card to a no-annual-fee rewards card. Score! It pays to ask!

My master plan continues apace!