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Archive for July, 2006

July / August goals

July 31st, 2006 at 09:11 am

July goals
~ Limit groceries/Target/eating out to $300: No, but close - only $30.45 over.
~ Put $200+ into savings: Yes, $243.
~ Drive to work no more than 4 times: Yes, finally! Only drove once.
~ Submit paperwork for property tax refund: Yes, hopefully it will arrive in September.


August goals
~ Limit groceries/Target/eating out to $300
~ Put $170 into savings
~ Drive to work no more than 3 times
~ Don't use my personal credit card at all

challenge update

July 31st, 2006 at 09:07 am

We're doing well on the No Spending Week Challenge. We have been running the air conditioner, although the breaker tripped and it was off for a while yesterday before we noticed.

We bought two Sunday papers and spent $2.75, but also picked up a free 2 liter of 7up (coupon was about to expire). We drove to the store, but SO's parents picked us up for the family reunion. We brought a salad to the reunion that contained less black olives than I had originally planned. I didn't notice that the can of black olives SO opened on Friday was the last one. Frown We made due, though, and it was fine.

SO is mailing the coupon train for me today.

I took the bus into work today, and packed lunch for both of us.

So far, so good! It was a nice weekend, too...no thoughts of shopping. Smile

spending freeze starts today

July 28th, 2006 at 07:46 am

Well, SO and I are on board the week-long spending freeze, starting today. I've made a few caveats - we will:

- run the air conditioner
- buy Sunday paper for coupons
- mail coupon train if it arrives
- attend SO's family reunion on Sunday
- use transportation to get to work (bus for me, car for SO)

Otherwise, we will be riding our bikes or walking for entertainment and to get to the library. We have plenty to do at home and plenty of food. We can swing it. This will teach us to get better at planning and preparing meals, I hope.

My friend and I didn't go to the movie last night as we had planned, and she wanted to reschedule for tomorrow. I had to tell her about the voluntary spending freeze. Maybe next weekend!

I really want to get my hair cut - that will have to wait until next week!

This will be a challenge...but it will be good for us.

can I live without chocolate?

July 26th, 2006 at 10:02 am

I wrote to Chiquita and got a somewhat odd reply...

We try to provide as wide a selection of Fresh Express products as possible in stores across the country. The information you shared is very helpful and we will notify our Regional Sales Manager of your inquiry. In the St. Paul, MN area Cub Foods, IGA, and Dierberg.

I have never heard of IGA or Dierberg, and Fresh Express was not at Cub Foods. Guess I will have to do some research.
** UPDATE: The closest IGA store is in Wisconsin, 40 miles away, and the Dierberg is a chain in St. Louis, MO, as far as I can tell. *sigh*

I'm interested in the no-spend week everyone is talking about in the forums. My rules will have to be pretty lax, though, because we've got long-standing plans coming up. There's his family reunion on Sunday, and dinner out next week with friends we haven't seen in months. I'm also not giving up air conditioning - it's close to 100 degrees here, and we've got A/C, so I'm using it (grew up without it - never again). I've proposed a plan to SO, so we'll see! I think we could do it - him without Starbucks, me without my vending machine chocolate.

I need to cull my coupons that expire on July 31 and make sure there's not anything I desperately need. I have to buy a newspaper on Sunday...keep forgetting...and the coupon train is on its way to me!! Big Grin

I'm glad my guest-hosting streak is over for now. I'm tired.

July is almost over...summertime always goes by so much faster than the dreadful winters. Every August I get a little lump in my throat thinking about the imminent change of seasons. Having nice weather year-round is sounding better and better...

Fresh Express bagged lettuce?

July 24th, 2006 at 09:50 am

Any idea which markets offer Fresh Express bagged lettuce? I've looked in Super Target and Cub Foods and couldn't find it. Is it a health food store brand (e.g. Whole Foods)? I've got coupons and would love to use them, if I could just find the product! Their website was less than helpful - no "find our product" page, and no email address to contact them.

nice weekend....

July 24th, 2006 at 08:16 am

...I need to live closer to my family. At the very least, I have to visit them more frequently. We had a great time with my aunts, and after they left this morning I couldn't help but break down in tears (again). All SO could say was, "I think we need to live closer to your family!" I did the same thing last weekend after my parents left.

We toured the Body Worlds exhibit at the Science Museum. It's an exhibit of actual human bodies that have had the skin removed and the muscles, organs, blood vessels, etc positioned in various ways and plasticized to hold together. It was fascinating to see the blood vessels, and all of the different muscles. I had no idea the sciatic nerve was so large, for example. There were lots of table displays, too, with multiple organs and bones and cross sections. It was interesting, and very sobering, but a little too long. By the time we finished, we were all a bit nauseous. I'd recommend the exhibit, but visit it with a strong stomach.

We also went bird watching along the Mississippi. It was a lovely day, and we had a picnic lunch on an overlook. We saw a juvenile bald eagle soaring overhead...pretty cool.

It's so easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day living and forget the important things...like keeping in touch with family and friends. I'm taking a vow today to do better.

I heart coupons

July 21st, 2006 at 07:02 am

We cleaned the house in a hurry last night and then zipped over to the grocery store. We saved $13 with coupons...I was pretty proud of myself. Smile Shopping was so much easier having SO by my side (as most things are). We only spent $100, and that will last for a while. We bought some neat new Morningstar products to try (with coupons). I am having trouble finding specific toilet paper and specific bagged lettuce, though. Perhaps they just aren't available here.

My aunts will arrive this afternoon. Big Grin I took the afternoon off. I purchased some more Cutemol hand cream (with an online coupon, of course) and have to pick it up from the post office before they arrive. I bought a big container for my mom, so my aunts can bring it with them when they visit my parents next week.

I MUST remember to get a Sunday paper this weekend. Coupons on the brain, I tell ya! SO laughs, but he is awed by how much we are saving.

lots to do, no time for a headache

July 20th, 2006 at 01:47 pm

My head is pounding like the furies today. I'm hoping Excedrin will swoop in and save the day, because I've got to much to do tonight.

My aunts are coming tomorrow and are allergic to cats, so I have to scrub the spare bedroom, wash the comforter, change the sheets, and lock the furballs out of their beloved room. The cats sleep in there all day, so they will be irked this weekend.

Last night I went to Target (saved $9 with my fat stack of coupons!) and intended to go to the grocery store, but it was so busy in the store and on the roads that I just went home. I found it's a lot easier to navigate the crammed aisles, read my list, find the product listed on the coupon, and make it out alive with SO next to me. Tonight I have to go to the grocery store and pick up a few things for the weekend.

I was going to make a birthday dessert for one of my aunts and a chickpea salad for the weekend...don't know how that will happen at this point.

Still not totally sure what we are going to do this weekend. Lots of fluttering thoughts in my head but nothing pinned down.

Maybe if I stop worrying, my headache will go away! Stick Out Tongue

am I supposed to ask for coupons?

July 19th, 2006 at 01:20 pm

About this emailing of companies - am I supposed to come right out and ask for coupons? I've gotten several email replies from companies to my complimentary emails, and all they really say is "thanks." Only one (Amy's Kitchen) has said they'd love to send me coupons. I went down the Organic Coupon list and emailed those companies I knew. I'm just not sure if I'm should be forward and ask for coupons or not. And from what I've read, I shouldn't write more often than every 90 days...so I guess I'll wait a while.

Last night I made an impulse buy at Walgreens when I stopped in for my prescriptions. I bought a new fan for our home, but when I set it up, it was much louder than the display model in the store. It will be going back today. It's difficult to find a truly quiet fan.

I bit of respite from the sun and heat today...thunderstorms. My peppers and tomatoes should be happy.

Hitting Target and the grocery store tonight to stock up on provisions for my weekend guests and use some of my new coupons! Feeding my guests will be a snap - entertaining them will be more of a trick.

It's incredibly slow at work these days and I have so little to do. Dreaming of an office with a door and a job that interests me...

coupon train wish list

July 18th, 2006 at 10:06 am

updated 10/5/06

TOP FIVE WISH LIST:

- Hills Science Diet cat food
- Puffs/Kleenex
- any soda
- any cereal
- organic/natural foods (not meat)

DETAILED WISH LIST:

Beverages
Any soda
Any herbal tea
Canada Dry
Crystal Light
Dasani
Folgers coffee
Ice Mountain water
Kool-Aid
Ocean Spray juice
Perrier
Silk soy milk
Starbucks coffee
V-8

Cereals/Breads
Any cereal
Brownberry bread
Earth Grains bread

Crackers/Snacks
Goldfish
Hershey’s chocolate
Mars chocolate
Nabisco snacks
Nature Valley granola bars
Oreo's
Ritz crackers
Tostitos
Wheat Thins

Dairy/Deli
Any cheese
Cage free/organic/etc eggs
La Creme yogurt
Organic Valley milk
Organic Valley yogurt
Reddi-Wip whipped topping
Yoplait yogurt

Frozen
Amy’s Kitchen
Bird’s Eye
Boca
Cool Whip
Edy’s ice cream
Freschetta pizza
Hungry Man frozen dinners
Jack's pizza
Morningstar Farms
Ore-Ida
Skinny Cow ice cream
Weight Watchers ice cream

Other
Athenos hummus
Barilla pasta
Betty Crocker mixes
Classico pasta sauce
Creamette pasta
Delallo pasta sauce
Duncan Hines mixes
Jif peanut butter
Kraft salad dressings
Parmesan cheese (any)
Pillsbury mixes
Splenda

Paper/Plastic
Glad garbage bags
Glad Press’n Seal
Reynolds Wrap
Ziploc bags

Hair Care
Clairol
Dove
Garnier Fructis
Herbal Essences
L'oreal
Neutrogena
Suave
Thermasilk
Tresseme
Pantene

Personal Care
Almay
Always
Aquafresh
Biore
Clean and Clear
Colgate toothbrushes
Crest
Dove
Glide floss
Jergens lotion
Listerine
Neutrogena
Olay
Oral-B toothbrushes
Physician’s Formula
Playtex
Secret
Sensodyne
St. Ives
Tom’s of Maine

Household
All Free & Clear detergent
Any 35mm film
Bounty
Cascade diswasher tabs
Charmin
Clorox
Cottonelle
Dawn concentrated dish soap
Downy
Duracell
Energizer
Era detergent
Kleenex
Puffs
Quilted Northern
Softsoap

Medicine/OTC
Advil
Centrum
Excedrin
Nature Made vitamins
Pepcid A/C
Rolaids
Tums
Tylenol
Vicativ

Pets
Any scoopable cat litter
Hills Science Diet cat food
Tropical fish food

Amy's Kitchen & coupon train!

July 18th, 2006 at 07:22 am

I wrote an email to Amy's Kitchen, praising them for their wonderful food, and asking about new vegan options. They sent me a packet outlining all of their food items and enclosed were several awesome coupons, including one free product coupon! How exciting!

Yesterday's mail also brought my coupon train welcome packet! So many wonderful coupons, and a fat stack of them, too. Thanks so much, flash. I'm excited to jump on the train, and hoping I do it right!

Drove in to work this morning, the first time this month. I brought my gym shoes and plan to stay and work out tonight. My car is now down to two doors that will lock and unlock with the automatic locks, the A/C dripped all over SO's foot the other day, and a funny sweet smell flows into the car after the A/C has been running for a while. Mom told me I need a new car...yeah, I know.

I'm planning to visit the folks back home for a week in August. I'm not sure how it's going to pan out...if I'll take the train or if SO will drive with me...but I'm looking forward to it. I miss having summers off.

Every morning is still a struggle to get out of bed and go to work. My groggy mind thinks of all the possible ways to get out of going in, but I eventually lug myself out of bed and into the shower. It's tough, working just to pay the bills and have health insurance. I haven't seen any job opportunities I'd want to apply for lately. The grad school in Milwaukee would set me back $33,000, and that's with Minnesota reciprocity. Tack that on to the $13,000 in school loans I've already got, and it doesn't seem worth it at all. Who knows if I would get a job in the field I wanted after all that. There are plenty of people with Masters degrees flipping burgers.

I envy the people who know what they want to do with their lives, and do it!

Brownberry Bread

July 17th, 2006 at 09:21 am

I sent an email to [url=http://brownberry.gwbakeries.com/]Brownberry Bread[/b] last week to praise them for their new double-fiber wheat bread (it's great!). I didn't hear back from them via email, so I assumed they were too busy to write back.

Not so! Over the weekend I received a VERY nice card on thick paper thanking me for my feedback, and inside were two $1 off coupons. Great customer service! I am so pleased! It makes me feel a lot better about always making a point to buy their bread.

It can pay off to write to companies!

great weekend

July 17th, 2006 at 07:35 am

What a wonderful weekend! Apart from the oppressive heat and humidity, it was lovely. My family came to visit, and we hit the art institute, had dinner with some of their friends, chowed down on that delicious St. Paul ice cream, and toured a college campus for my sister (already thinking of grad school!). We also went to Penzeys Spices for the first time. What an amazing store! It's full of beautiful, fragrant spices. I had no idea paprika was supposed to have a scent. I forsee many a holiday gift coming from Penzeys this year.

Yesterday, I slept all afternoon. All I had to do was lie down on the couch and boom, down for the count.

The friend I was cat sitting for stopped by last night with an apology gift for her cat's behavior. Wink She gave me a gorgeous verigated oregano plant. She feels really bad about the incident, but it was my own fault for picking the cat up. The cut is healing really well, thankfully.

My aunts will be visiting this weekend. Entertaining them will be a tad trickier, since I don't know them as well as my parents, but I have a few ideas. I need to come up with backup plans in case it is 100 degrees again.

Overall, I spent about $23 this weekend. My parents insisted on paying for practically everything.

I'm putting $150 into the emergency fund today. It's nice to have the budget leeway to be able to do that again.

emailing companies

July 13th, 2006 at 06:37 am

I sent out a few emails this week praising companies for their food products. I wrote to Kellogg asking if they are planning to expand their Organic Morningstar line to include the Twin Cities. Their form letter response told me to buy them online. Not so much with the helpful.

On the other hand, my GoOrganic! coupons arrived yesteday - yeah! Amy's Kitchen wrote me a very nice email and said they'll send me information and coupons. Stonyfield Farm sent me a nice email as well. I guess that illustrates the difference between conglomerates and small businesses.

My family is visting this weekend, so we cleaned the house like mad last night. Everything is in its place and sparkling clean...my favorite. I haven't planned much for meals, though. Maybe I'll look up recipes today. It's just so hard to want to cook when it's 95 degrees!

My new pepper rotted on the vine. I suspect that there wasn't enough calcium in the soil, so I added bonemeal. It's also super hot on the deck, so maybe the plants aren't too happy with that, either. I don't have anywhere else to put them, though, out of the reach of hungry rabbits. The tomatoes are doing great!

I have taken the bus to work almost every day so far this month, and SO has picked me up from work most nights. It's great! I'm still on the same tank of gas from May. Smile

An Inconvenient Truth

July 11th, 2006 at 07:17 am

I saw the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, last night. It's the one about global warming with Al Gore.

I strongly encourage, no - BEG - each and every one of you to see this movie. It may not be playing where you are right now - rent it when it comes out. It is worth the money.

I've been an environmentalist since I was a little kid...earth stickers everywhere, telling everyone to shut off the water...

It made me ill to see exactly how quickly we are destroying our home, our earth, and doing so little to change. Polar bears are drowning because the Arctic ice is melting so rapidly. Our CO2 levels are through the roof. Antarctica is breaking off in chunks. If Greenland melts entirely (which it is well on its way to doing), billions of people on our earth's coastlines will die. BILLIONS. Think Hurricane Katrina, a million times worse.

If you're a Democrat, Republican, Independent, hate Al Gore, love Al Gore, couldn't care less about Al Gore - it doesn't matter. See the movie. If you care about polar bears, baby birds, the child napping in the room next to you, the grass under your feet - see this movie. It's important!

photos developed

July 9th, 2006 at 06:18 pm

I guess I got a roll of film developed today, too...but I used a $3 off coupon. Wink






great deals & coupon delights!

July 9th, 2006 at 05:27 pm

About a week ago, I checked out the Coupon Train forum and read all about it. It sounded really interesting...but I thought to myself, "I don't even use coupons as it is! How can I join a coupon train?" So today, I did my best to pull out the coupons I've saved up and use them.

Today I saved $33.05 using coupons, and got $10 back in rebates!

That's not much compared to some of the coupon greats around here, but they are inspiring me to do better. Perhaps I'll dip my toes in the Midwest Coupon Train the next time it rolls around.

PetSmart is giving $5 rebate gift cards if you buy certain items in-store. Mostly big bags of cat and dog food qualify, but since I had a $5 off Science Diet coupon, I used it and saved! Yippee!

I also used a ton of coupons at Target and came away with a lot of pop (thanks to those Coke Olympic coupons). My stash of soda is nowhere near the quantity of ImaSaver's, but it will do. Wink

Overall, I'm pretty pleased. The only thing I splurged on this weekend was a stack of books (a trip to Half Price Books set me back $42). I have a penchant for novels about the Tudor family, Elizabeth I in particular, and they had a couple of thick books I couldn't pass up. Also got a cookbook, Vegetarian Cookbook for Cheese Lovers. Mmmm, my kind of cookbook.

Several family members are popping in and out over the next couple of weeks. I should really plan menus. I have a lot of cleaning to do, too.

I didn't scare the birthday girls too much yesterday, and they were really excited about our present to them - time with us. I need to remember that time together is often so much more valuable than a book or a trinket.

summer fruits

July 7th, 2006 at 04:38 pm

My first pepper!



and tomatoes are well on their way...



I love summer. Big Grin

psychotic cat

July 7th, 2006 at 02:54 pm

I'm cat-sitting for a friend of mine who is out of town for a couple of weeks. I've known her cats since they were kittens...in fact, I lived with them for two years. So no problem, right?

Wrong. Last night I picked up one of them and within four seconds, she swiveled around and slashed a nasty cut in my eyelid. No hissing, no growling, no squirming to get away - no warning. Just slashing. Totally psychotic.

I skipped work today and went to the doctor because the cut hadn't stopped bleeding. He said he couldn't put stitches in at this point, so he taped it back together as best he could and now I cross my fingers, hoping that it doesn't get infected (Neosporin at the ready).

What baffles me most is that the cat has never been anything but loved - never abused, always been indoors, lived a pampered existence. I'd expect that kind of behavior from a wild outdoor cat, not a spoiled indoor cat. It surely makes me appreciate my sweet little beasts! My previously-outdoor cat has far better manners.

Not looking forward to sharing this with my friend when she gets back. The only saving grace is that her other cat is quite sweet and was very happy to see me.

Tomorrow I'm going to SO's nieces' birthday party, looking like Igor with my puffy, bruised, taped eye. SO has taken to calling me a prize fighter. I should thoroughly frighten all the 6 year olds.

So, $15 more dollars down the drain for today's doctor's appt. I'm so thankful that the cat didn't scratch my eyeball, or I'd probably be blind.

Signing off for now - stay clear of vicious house-pets,

Igor

visited Aldi for the first time

July 3rd, 2006 at 02:00 pm

I visited Aldi this past weekend, with high hopes and expectations based on all the rave reviews here...and I'm sad to say, I was disappointed. There wasn't much in the store, and all the produce I picked up had mold on it. I bought a few mold-free things, and I will try them out in the coming weeks. A gallon of milk was a pretty good deal, but not worth driving to the store. Perhaps it's because the Aldi I visited was in a sketchy part of town? or because it was a Saturday? but I wasn't impressed. I may try another store at a different location, just to compare.

I also didn't realize that it was a cash-only kind of place. Oops! Had to use the cash machine and pay the convenience fee. I was ready with bags from home and a quarter for the cart, but not enough cash.

Next up, find a discount bread store nearby. Paying $3.00-$3.50 for a decent loaf of wheat bread is lunacy.

student loans

July 3rd, 2006 at 07:24 am

I started out my post-college life with $23,170 in loans to pay off. The total now stands at $12,940. That means I've paid off $10,230, or $2,046 per year. Not bad.

I used the credit card calculator at Bankrate.com to calculate how much longer it will take me to pay off my loans. If I keep paying the minimum on my highest loan, it will take me 109 months, or 9 more years. Yikes! If I pay the minimum on my smaller loan, it will take me 20 months! I'm definitely going to be rid of the smaller one in 2007 - it's just under $1000 now. My original goal was to be rid of it by next month, but that's not going to happen. I feel it's more important to get my emergency fund back up to $1000 and fund my 2006 Roth IRA as much as I can. The loan will wait.

I showed SO just how much we spent on groceries and household products in the last six months...he was shocked. You really don't believe how much you've spent until you see the numbers. We're definitely going to try to do better.

Last night we went for an hour-long walk around the neighborhood. Retire@50 has inspired me! I'm hoping we can keep up with the nightly walking. We both need to get in better shape!