January 25, 2010

The Mini Social--An Almost Freebie

This is a great new shopping site that I found recently.  It's a site where stores have quick sell-offs of their overstock merchandise.  The sales last only 1-5 days, with limited amounts of extra "stuff" at deeply discounted prices.  Some represented companies this week are: Baby Eggi, Melissa and Doug (my favorite kids' toys), Fatboy, Mija, and Speesees.
  • The bad thing--you have to be a member to buy.  
  • The good thing--you don't have to pay for a membership, or even do anything at all except sign up to get their newsletter whenever there's a new sale.  
  • The best thing--right now, there's a $10 code you can use on ANY priced item.  I was able to buy a darling little apron dress, originally $26, marked down to $11, for $1 plus shipping!  Use code NEWYEAR10 (working right now, I don't know the expiration.)
  • Click on over HERE and sign up.

January 24, 2010

Another Group of Good Freebies

I am sorry for the delay of a whole week between posts.  I don't even know where I lost that many days.  I am looking at the poll and seeing freebies as the clear winner, so I will focus a little more on that for a while.

  • First up, how about some free 3D glasses from Target?  You'll have to go in the store to pick them up, but it seems fun.  Details HERE.
  • Head over to the mall when you're done and get a free scented tattoo from Victoria's Secret.
  • Free cookbook and $10 worth of coupons from Betty Crocker.
  • Free OB tampons
  • Become a fan of Oreos on Facebook, and get some free Double Stuffs on Monday.  Act fast on this one.
  • Free joint supplement.
  • Get a free sample of Cream of Wheat.
  • Free sample of SOS Night Fever, whatever that it.  It's loud, so be warned before you click.  You'll have to click the tab at the top that says "Try."
  • Free Greg Biffle wristband.
  • Free ice cream coupons
  • Free sample of "dried plums."  My girls still eat these when I call them prunes, but I guess that's not a sexy enough name.
  • Free Potato Oles.
  • Free info on Canola Oil, including recipes.
  • Free cheese booklet with recipes.
That should tide people over for a while, and I'll be back with more later.

If you are in the Central Iowa area, HyVee is having a huge 12 hour sale right now through 8 pm.  Some highlights include 1/2 gallon milk for 88 cents.


January 17, 2010

Freebies and Good Mail and Polls, oh my!

I know, it's a totally cheesy title.  I thought I would just make this post a little mish mash of several items.  There are a few good freebies out, and I've had a lot of good mail I want to post about, and I also just put up a poll in my side bar to find out what my readers would like me to post more about.  Go over there >>> on the side and make your choices, then please leave a comment in this post to tell me about any specific things you want to know more about.

As for my mail, it's been a great week. 
  • $25 Target gift card from a new GPT company that I have yet to review.  As readers should know, I don't put up any review until I have received my payment in my hot little hand, because I'd prefer not to waste my time and I don't want my readers to waste their time on something that doesn't work.  Look for the review for this one in the upcoming week.
  • $15 Amazon card from a survey company I've been helping.  This was a bonus one that just showed up in my mail as a thank you, so I loved that.
  • 2 $5 gift cards from Amazon came this week from Swagbucks.  I took down the swidget from the sidebar because it was too big, but you can still click the link to find out more about it.
  • A bag of coffee to test from one of the survey companies.  I can't tell what kind or what survey company, because of their privacy rules, but I'm enjoying some $$ coffee.
  • Swash sample from Vocalpoint, along with a ton of good coupons.  I've used the Swash once on a pair of pants from the bottom of my dresser drawer, and it did a pretty good job of pulling out the wrinkles.  Remember to sign up with Vocalpoint if you want to be among the first to test their new products.
On to the freebies!
  • Free Gold Bond sample
  • Free Bounce sample for Sam's Club members
  • Purex 3 in 1 sample
  • Free eye cream sample
  • Free cat food coupon 
  • Free Christian book and probably a lot of emails and pamphlets later.
  • Classico Sauce coupon 
  • Become a fan, then take their quiz, then you can have free tea
  • This is a multi-layered freebie.  The Federal Citizen Information Center has a lot of publications, some of which have a nominal fee, but many are totally free.  There are a lot of really good ones that are specific to different situations: military families, people with disabilities, how to make the most of prescription drug coverage, among others.  I'm going to post one link, and you can see which ones interest you.

January 15, 2010

Easy Creamy Vegetable (or whatever) Soup

So often I hear from friends how difficult cooking is, but it really is very simple.  There are a few basic recipes that can be used to make a lot of different items.  One of our family's favorites is creamy veggie soup.  This is one I make a lot if there is a good sale on fresh vegetables, if I've made a relish tray for a party and had leftovers, or if I just have vegetables I need to use up.

You can start this in many different ways with the same result.  I usually use some stock (broth) I have frozen from cooking, but you can also start with a can of chicken, beef or vegetable broth, or you can use water or dried bouillion.  The best thing to take away from my recipes is that you can change them up using whatever you happen to have on hand or according to your family's taste.

I start with my biggest cooking pot, then put a little olive oil (or butter or vegetable oil) in the bottom.  I don't use very much, probably less than a tablespoon.  I cut up a whole onion and use 3 or more cloves of garlic, depending on their size, and I saute those in the oil.

Once the onions are translucent, I add the broth and then put in the vegetables.  Again, this is to your family's taste what vegetables you want to use and how large or small to cut them.  The time I photographed them, I had a large bag of vegetables that were cut for the relish tray.  I just cut them a little bit smaller, and I use a LOT of vegetables.  This is an 8 cup measuring bowl, and it was filled about to the 8 cup line.  I pour the veggies in the broth, then add more water until it covers the top of the vegetables.

Because I had so many of the vegetables that I used, I didn't add any potatoes, but I often use potatoes along with this.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower it to medium or medium low temperature and cook for around 20-30 minutes.  Once the vegetables are cooked, I will either drain off some of the liquid or do it as is.

First, I use either flour or corn starch, mix with a little water, and whisk to remove lumps.  This is what will thicken the soup.  Mix it into the cooked vegetables, and turn up the temperature to boil again.  Let it boil for 1-2 minutes, then add milk.  I use powdered milk and less water so that I don't have to cook out as much liquid later.  This isn't exact--I don't really measure.

After I have added in the milk (and you can use any kind of milk, cream, half and half, whatever you choose), I add some seasoning.  I use salt, pepper, cumin (we like the smoky flavor, it's not necessarily spicy hot), and parsley.  Sometimes I add more garlic powder or garlic salt, sometimes cheddar cheese, sometimes bacon or ham, sometimes whatever other flavor we think we need.  I then simmer the soup until we are ready to eat it.  I know this sounds like a long process, but it's very simple to do.  Leftovers can be frozen in baggies.

The best part of this is that you can use any vegetables or add any meat or cheese or spice it up more or less to your family's taste.  Let me know if you try this one, and I'd be glad to answer any questions anyone has.

Sporting Goods Blowout on Amazon

It's a great bargain for sports fans today.  I'm amazed to see all these low prices, and it's tempting to start shopping for next Christmas on some of these.  Here's the big link to all the 70% off sporting goods, so you can find what you need, and here are some highlights.

Ringer tees for sports teams. These are very cute, and the small sizes are $3.99 in many cases:

Look for your favorite team in the first link. There are a lot of different ones. They also have Team hats and small backpacks for $3.99,  blankets $10 and under. Looks like you could outfit your whole family for that price.

I will be back later today with some good cooking and money saving tips.  It's been a busy week at our house and the weather is finally nicer, so we're not locked up in the house as much.

January 12, 2010

Amazon Sale on Childrens Shoes

This is a great deal on name brand shoes from Amazon.  They have about 300 pairs of children's shoes for up to 75% off, most of the shoes being in the $10-15 range.  Some of my favorites:

Good deals if you need shoes!

January 8, 2010

Tub Paints for Kids

This has got to be the best way to keep children occupied.  It's clean, it's contained, and it's a great activity for when it's too cold to go outside and you're on your millionth snow day.  I found the idea at Family Fun's web page, and it is just easy.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of clear or white liquid soap, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, and food coloring.  I cut it in half and still had enough soap to fill 8 of the cups from an old foam egg carton.  I used the food coloring from Kid Concoctions so I don't end up with stained kids and tub, and I let them paint.  (Not my kid)

What more fun can kids have?  My little one was already covered in marker from the drawing they did this morning, so now she can paint all over herself and get the marker off at the same time.

How to Get a 3 Month Free Trial of Amazon Prime

Amazon is trying to get people to come and check out their textbook store, so they are offering people a free 3 month trial of Amazon Prime shipping with any purchase.  Amazon Prime is wonderful!  You get free two day shipping on ANY purchase.  Yesterday, we needed a computer part that was around $10.  When we searched to see if it was on Amazon, it was--for $8 instead.  I have also occasionally purchased items that are only $2 or $3 that wouldn't have been worth buying online without Prime. 

So, if you want to get a free trial of Prime, you can see the details on this page.  There are many of the books that are $2 or $3, and a lot of them are cool classics you might want to read anyway.  Just put one in your cart to be offered the free trial. 

My helpful hint: once you get Prime, go into the area called "manage my prime" and unclick the box that says "automatically renew."  This way, when the three months is over, you will not have prime, but you will also not pay for the new subscription unless you want to. 

Hot Weekend Sales

There are some good clearance sales going on right now.  Target is starting their baby items clearance--look for those items to go 50% off very soon (like today or tomorrow).  Their toys should be at 75% now as well.  Check all your local stores, as they should be really busy trying to get rid of extra holiday merchandise before doing inventory.  Here are some online sales that I know about:
  • Old Navy has some really good clearance online right now.
  • NY&Co is having a big sale online, with additional online coupon for either $20 off $50 or $40 off $90.  See the sales flyer HERE.
  • Lands End is having a great winter sale and the sale items.  See the sales flyer HERE.
  • Bath and Body Works is having their big sale online and in store.  The signature collection is buy 3, get 2 free, and the anti-bacterial collection is $3 each, as are home fragrances.  They have a large clearance section in store only.  You can also print some coupons for free products with purchase.
  • JCPenney is having a big sale online and in store.  Free shipping over $75 with code SHB75.
  • Crocs outlet is buy one get one free, 10% off and free shipping with code CROCSHOLIDAY.
  • Toys R Us sale, Babies R Us coupon deals.
  • Staples has some great stuff going on.  They have double rewards on toner purchases (20% back) and toner recycling ($6 per cartridge), they have BOGO on all Avery products , free (well, after the rewards) 3 ring binders and other products, and a ton of $1 products this week.  Preview their ad HERE.
  • If you are from Iowa, Jordan Creek has a whole flyer of store coupons.  Look HERE.
  • Design your own photo watch from Artscow, $4.99 shipped!   Code 499WATCH
  • At Amazon, 30% off Air Mattresses
  • Great deals on K-Cups at Amazon!  Right now there is a sale on many products from Keurig, PLUS save 10% with code KCUP9306 and save an ADDITIONAL 15% off when you do subscribe and save.  Here's one of the good deals, but there are many more.

    January 7, 2010

    CFL Bulbs $1 at ACE Hardware!

    Remember that post I did a few days ago, about replacing your bulbs with CFL bulbs?  The sale at Ace Hardware is here now.  They have the smaller bulbs for $1 each and the larger ones for $2 each, so go and stock up now.  It's a huge savings now, with a good energy savings later.  Sweeten this deal by printing out your $1 coupons from coupons.com.  There's a link to the coupon in my earlier post, or you can just click on the coupons.com widget on the right.  This is a potential for free bulbs if your Ace takes printables.


    I guess I never explained that Swagbucks widget over there, and I see a few readers have signed up.  This one is a similar GPT site to some of the others I've detailed.  You can earn "bucks" in several ways, but the main way is through searching through their site.  If anyone has used Blingo, it's very similar--but it is better in that the search engine is through google and you can actually find what you're searching for.  I just use it like I would use google and every once in a while, I win a buck.

    Search & Win

    You can also earn swagbucks by doing offers (I generally avoid the offers because a lot require you to pay or remember to cancel some trial offer.)  They have a shopping portal you can use as well, giving bucks for each real dollar you spend when clicking through them to shop.

    I use all the GPT sites as something that gives me a little bit of unexpected income, but I don't expect any to really give me some huge amount of money.  For that reason, I don't give them a lot of time.  Like MyPoints and InboxDollars, I click their emails and shop through MyPoints and just let the points build over time.  The extra time in emails is negligible, since all I do is click and delete.

    The "swidget" on the right will sometimes contain a code that will get you from 1-5 bucks, so I just click on the check for codes button a few times a day to see what happens. 

    January 5, 2010

    Keep up the Freebies, eh

    We may as well keep rolling out the freebies.  The music is good, don't forget the Kindle book freebies from the previous Amazon post, and here are a few more that look good.  Right now, I'm sipping a cup of free coffee from a sample I did previously.  Some of the ones listed in previous freebie posts may still be good, so go back and look at the good ones.

    That should hold everyone over for another few days.  There are also some new $5 magazine subscriptions from Amazon, so take a look over there.  Lots of health and cooking related magazines for your New Year's Resolution.

    Free Music Downloads!

    I was perusing the music downloads section at Amazon and discovered a wealth of free music downloads.  Most of these, I've never heard of, but who knows if you'll like something until you give it a listen?  I will only link to a few of them, but if you go just to the bottom of any listing, you'll find a whole scrollbar full of free music from all over the world.  (BTW, I've totally heard of Kate Walsh, so don't be giving me a hard time about calling her an unknown.)

    If free doesn't cut it, there looks to be a huge selection of $5 downloads for filling your new MP3 player HERE.

    January 4, 2010

    Cooking Day

    If you're new to my blog, you may want to click back through my previous posts for many (I hope) helpful tips.  While I don't completely practice Once a Month Cooking, I do often take advantage of having my husband home to distract the kids and do a lot of cooking.

    I posted about the big sale at Fareway earlier, and I had some chicken and ground beef to prepare and freeze.  In a little over two hours, I had meat for 9 meals prepared and in the freezer.  First, I prepared the chicken breasts to bake.  I used a can of Swanson's chicken broth, then seasoned the breasts with salt, pepper, and garlic and placed 4 whole breasts into a large stoneware pan.  I put them in the oven at 350* for around an hour and 15 minutes.

    I started them baking in the oven, then started browning the hamburger.  I did two pounds with onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, then two more pounds with taco seasoning.  I always start by sauteing the (one whole) onion and (2 cloves) garlic in a little bit of olive oil, then add the meat.  My big skillet will do two pounds well, three pounds get crowded.

    As I get the hamburger browned, I put it into my big bowl and cool it in the fridge.  Once it's all cooled, I bag it flat and put it into the freezer.

    In the meantime, the chicken has been in the oven for a little over an hour, so I pull it out.  I freeze the broth in a bag to use later, then cut all the chicken into pieces, bag, and freeze.  The four whole breasts made 5 bags with around 1 pound of meat each.

    What I like about this style of cooking is that it allows me to cook more from scratch, and the work that I do saves me doing the same prep work four more times.  There are many easy recipes I can put together using these already cooked items.  The chicken breast is healthier than canned chicken breast and cheaper than buying pre-cooked chicken at the deli.

    Need a fast meal?  Pull out a bag of chicken or ground beef, throw it in with some tomato sauce while you boil a package of pasta.  Throw it all together and you've got a quick pasta meal.  Chicken and noodles are so much easier when you can throw the chicken in with the broth then cook some egg noodles in the broth.  All of these can become quick one pot meals, or you can make something a little more time consuming without as much prep work.

    I used the chicken broth tonight to make some creamy vegetable soup, and it really enhanced the flavor to use the broth I had cooked.

    Household Money Saving Tip #2 for 2010

     A Bright Idea

    We moved into our current home a little over 6 years ago, and I noticed we were changing light bulbs constantly. As a larger home than our previous one, and with more rooms to light, it was crazy to be going through as many bulbs as we were. Shortly after that, our local Ace hardware store started having sales a couple of times a year, in conjunction with our local utility company offering instant rebates, where the CFL (compact flourescent light) bulbs were 99 cents each.

    The limit was 12, so I bought to my limit and started using the CFL bulbs to replace every light in the house as they burned out. While we have saved money on our electric bill, the most amazing thing to me is that many of our bulbs are now approaching 5 years of use. The other day, a bulb burned out in a lesser-used socket, and I thought we were at the beginning of the replacements phase.  Much to my surprise, it was the lone remaining incandescent bulb in my house.

    If you live in my area, be on the lookout for Ace to run this special again.  When these bulbs can run in the neighborhood of $6 each, you have a tough time seeing the savings, but at 99 cents each they are really worth it--especially with coupons.

    If you aren't in my area or don't want to wait for the sale, there is still a decent sale going on right now, with some coupons to sweeten the deal.  You can print two Target coupons on their site (per computer) for $1.50 off GE bulbs, then two of the coupons from coupons.com (on the right, but also HERE).  Stack the coupons for a savings of $2.50 per bulb.


    While this isn't necessarily a new concept, I am surprised at how many people don't follow this simple step for money and energy savings.  Give it a try.

    January 3, 2010

    How to Make the Most of Amazon Shopping

    Some helpful information to aid in your Amazon shopping:

    Amazon's phone number: 1-866-216-1072  (they hide this number and make it almost impossible to find)

    Amazon help section: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=508510  You can find a yellow "Contact Us" button about halfway down the right sidebar.

    Filler items to get you up to $25 for the free super saver shipping: http://www.filleritem.com/ (there are others, this is the one I have bookmarked)

    Want to find out the price trend on an item before you buy? This link shows you the most recent price changes, but you can also click on the long term tracking to get an idea of how it's performed over a year's time. http://camelcamelcamel.com/ If you use Firefox, you can also add the "camelizer" HERE

    Looking for items with really great prices? It's usually a safe bet that the items hit the Movers and Shakers list when the price has dropped very low. This is the link to the general Movers and Shakers list, and you can navigate to the different areas using the sidebar on the left.  Movers and Shakers 

    Just because everyone seems to like the toy deals, Toys Movers and Shakers. Movers and Shakers 

    Friday Sales! Check back every Friday morning. Friday Sale

    4 for 3 books 4-for-3

    Bestsellers in Kindle store, usually has bunches of FREE downloads: Kindle(why pay for a book for your kindle)

    For right now, the Lightning Deals for Toys and Games http://www.amazon.com/Toys-Holiday-Event/b?ie=UTF8&node=360960011

    How to sort items. I've read a lot of people ask "how did you find that?" Amazon has really cool sorting sections on the left sidebars, so for example, you type in the item you're looking for in the search bar. Maybe you need something for a little Dora fanatic. Start in the search bar, typing "Dora."

    * Choose the category you want (home and garden for bedding items, toys and games, books, etc) on the left.
    * The next area has an age range, so narrow it down that way.
    * After that, you can narrow down items further by the type of toy or game.
    * Further down, you can choose Prime Eligible, or Eligible for Free Super Saver Shipping. This saves you the disappointment of finding the perfect item with $10 shipping.
    * Next, sort by ratings. I like to look for items with 4 stars or higher when it has to do with electronics, but I'm less picky for some items. This is up to you.
    * The next area you can narrow is by price range. I've found this one doesn't work very well, and some things that are higher priced will slip in occasionally.
    * You can further narrow it down by looking for items that are a certain % off
    * Then I will often also choose to only look at items sold by Amazon (because I know how their customer service is, I don't like unpleasant surprises.)

    Did you know that you can trade in your used DVDs at Amazon to get Amazon gift cards? They even pay for the shipping. It's a great way to get some of the extra clutter out of your house. Movie Trade-In

    Trade in your video games here: Video Game Trade-In

    I hope you find this information useful.  I went through every bookmark I had, and I would also be glad to help more.  If you have any comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

    January 2, 2010

    Photo Freebies and Deals

    Use code CALENDAR2010 to get a free photo calendar from Shutterfly through January 6th.

    Get 50 4x6 inch prints for 50 cents from Snapfish using code NEWYEAR50 through January 7th from Snapfish

    Household Money Saving Tip #1 for 2010

    I'm hoping to provide some more good tips for saving money.  There are so many easy things that we can do to cut our bills every month, and most you barely notice.  All the little things can add up to big savings.

    Yesterday it got very cold outside, and it was a little chilly in our house as well.  We keep the thermostat turned down to 67 or 68 to keep the heat bill down, but it felt much colder.  I went around looking for a leaky window, door, whatever was making it chilly, and found the bottom of the door had a slight breeze.

    I have all that extra fleece from my I Spy bags so I went to work.  I measured the doors, cut a larger remnant into 12x36 inch rectangles, and sewed it into tubes.  I also had some extra beans from that previous project, but didn't want to use as many as it would take to fill the whole thing.  I searched around and discovered that you can pretty well stuff them with anything.  I used beans at the ends for weight, then stuffed them with empty plastic grocery sacks (someday I'll do a whole post on uses of them).  Finally, I stitched the end closed and threw it in front of the doors.

    You can also make draft stoppers for windows with a much smaller piece of fabric.  If you're a creative person, you can turn this into a fun craft for the kids to help with and decorate it to look like a snake or caterpillar.  I was interested in function at the time of this quick creation.

    January 1, 2010

    Per Request, Some Freebies

    One commenter asked for more freebies, and I'm always willing to oblige.  If anyone else has any requests for any sort of money-saving tips, recipes, etc., I will be glad to do my best.  This post will be a nice melange of freebies/money-savers/earners.

    • Free laughs with animal videos.
    • Make the most of your grocery purchases.  Be sure to check out old posts for other rebate deals.  I've recently received about $30 in checks from various companies.  Con-Agra is offering coupon booklets, and another coupon book when you spend $10.  You might not think you use many of their products, but you'll recognize a lot of labels.  Can't link, so copy and paste this into your browser to get it.    http://startsampling.com/sm/101044/  You can get the rebate form HERE.
    • Free sample of Emergen-C.
    • Another good Home Made Simple coupon booklet HERE.
    • Free sample of True Lemon
    • Get a free photo book every month!  Sign up at HotPrints 
    • 70% off Clearance Merchandise at Expressionary.  Use code MADNESS, only good on clearance merchandise.
    • Resolved to quit smoking?  Get a free Nicoderm CQ sample and $7 off coupon.
    • Free bumper sticker for Military Veterans.
    • Free coffee from Hardee's.
    • Free dog treats.
    • Free books from Crown Publishing.  Bookmark this one, looks like they change often.  I signed up for all three, what's to lose?  I love reading free books.
    • Free pregnancy journal

    Our Favorite Roast Recipe

    I've been making this roast for so long that I can no longer remember where I first found the recipe.  I may have gotten it from a friend or family member, or may have found it through online search, so I apologize for the lack of attribution for the recipe.  I know it's been a staple in my core recipes for at least 6 years.  It is always a hit, and it's my go-to recipe if I am entertaining or we just have a roast we need to cook.

    We just refer to it as "Our Favorite Roast"

    1 3 pound beef roast (though I have used this recipe with a pork loin roast with good results).  We really like chuck roasts, but I've used whatever happens to be on sale.
    1/2 cup soy sauce
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 tablespoon thyme
    1 tablespoon rosemary
    1 tablespoon garlic powder (do not use garlic salt, the soy sauce is salty enough)
    1 whole bay leaf
    4-5 whole peppercorns

    Put all dry spices over the roast, then mix the liquids and pour over.  I do this in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.  It's a great recipe to make in the morning and leave on all day long.  The smell from the cooking roast greets you as you walk in, and it is just delicious.

    Serving suggestions
    I sometimes cook this with cut up potatoes, carrots, and onions in the crock pot with it, sometimes just serve it with baked potatoes.  It makes a delicious broth that we spoon over our veggies or potatoes, and it also makes a really good open face sandwich.  Just serve it the way you like best.

    I put the leftover meat and broth in the fridge and set some beans to soak overnight.  The next morning, I rinse the soaked beans, add another 2-3 cups of water to the broth, and put it on to cook all day again.  This process can be sped up with a large cooking pot on the stove if you'd like.  My favorite style of beans for this recipe is one of the mixes, like 10 or 15 bean soup mix.  I will also throw in whatever leftover vegetables we have, or finish off open bags of frozen vegetables.  Tomatoes are a good addition, and I will use whatever style of tomato we have or a can of diced tomatoes.  I don't drain the can, because the juice from the tomatoes just adds depth to the flavor.

    The leftover soup can be bagged in quart- or gallon-sized freezer bags or put into freezer storage containers.  It's a great thing to pull out and serve as a side or hearty enough for a full meal.  By doing this, one 3 pound roast is good for four or more meals.