Monday, August 16, 2010

Coupon Class

I'm super excited to be attending a couponing class by Sister's on a Shoestring.   Sister's on a shoestring is a local blog by two sisters, Lisa and Sara.  They have their own blog about local and nationwide deals.  The discuss the use of catalinas and other couponing jargon.
I attended a coupon a few months back and learned a ton of info; some of which I have shared with you.  Internet coupons, catalinas, use of an organizer, importance of having store policies with you and stacking to name a few.
I learned a lot at the last class, but since I am a working mother, decided to primarily stick to coupons (sunday paper and internet) and one store, Giant Eagle since they double their coupons under a dollar. 
I might consider broading my knowledge base even though I am still a novice in couponing.

Here are a few of the blogs out there that I am aware of that share some secrets:
Sister's on a shoestring
Coupon Craving
Surviving the stores
Hey, Its Free!
Briana's Bargins

Hopefully, I will have something blog worthy from tomorrow's class!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wagon Trails: a safari ride

This last Friday we went to Wagon Trails in Vienna Ohio.  Wagon trails is pretty much just that,  A wagon that takes you on a ride through the trails of their reserve where they have everything from ants to zebras.  Ok, I'm just guessing on the ants part, but the do have zebras, camels, llamas, ostriches, cows, water buffalo, deer, antelope, pigs, kangaroos, macaws, wild turkeys and I am sure I am missing a few other animals.
It was a blast though.  You ride on the car and animals come up to you (they know you have food) including Hermes, the camel, who runs along with the wagon at times and loves to stick his head in to see what he can see. 
What was really amazing to see were the Zebras; they are different.  You can see it in their eyes.  They are hunters.  They are slow to come over, appraising and beautiful!!!

In addition to the wagon ride, where they give you a bucket of feed, there is a "petting zoo" where you can feed the animals like the goats, kangaroos and turkeys.
green cone
to animals

In a word where we talk about "going green" and leaving less of a "carbon footprint" on the world I was happy to see that Wagon Wheels had adopted a little bit of this philosophy.  You can say what you will about having animals in captivity but what I found "green" about this palce was that when you bought the feed for the petting zoo it came in ice cream cones that you could feed to the animals too!   No waste; no little white cups to litter everywhere.   I found this really cool.  I don't know if they were special ice cream cones since they were green but what a great idea!!!!

J feeding

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Donating to the troops.

My friend Shayna is married to a college friend Bryan who is over in Afghanistan.  She is trying to raise support for the troops.  Below is a very easy way to donate without even donating a cent.  All you have to do is click.
Each person who helps out, Go Energy, will donate a dollar to feeding the troops.  Please check this out and consider donating

Christine has invited you to help Thanks-A-Bunch without donating a penny.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Neighbors, Do you know yours?

In an increasingly technological world the words "neighbors" takes on a new meaning.  But, I'm talking about the people who actually live next to you and across the street.  We moved into our house about 6 years ago.  We know most of our neighbors on some basis.  We visit and talk to several of them.  I've even shared gardening tips (ok, she shared, I listened) with one.  I've asked to borrow a can opener from another.  I've also at times thought about borrowing the proverbial cup of sugar but chickened out.
So, my question is do you know your neighbors? Would you notice if they didn't sit on the porch, didn't mow their lawn, suddenly got a new car or even moved out.  Most people don't get daily newspapers so you wouldn't see the papers pile up at the end of the driveway. 
I'd like to think I am a good neighbor.  I've helped a neighbor stuck in her driveway, my husband has plowed many driveways and we let people post signs for garage sales on our corner lot.
But today, I was surprised at how unneighborly people can be.   I neighbor we've never met (supposedly 2 blocks away) knocked on our door a preceded to beret us for our loud barking dog who was out in 90 degree weather with no water.  She never introduced herself except to say she lived two blocks away.  I still don't know her name.  She then went on to threaten us with going to the city council about our dog being in 90 degree weather without water.   Let me state for the record our dog is an inside dog.  He does go outside.  He will even stay outside for periods of time.  He does bark.  He barks at people as they go by, when he gets his line stuck, and at squirrels etc.  He does NOT stay out all day.  The one time we left him out for a significant amount of time (cleaning the oven I think as it makes the house stink) he does get water outside.
But I digress, I wondered 1) why wouldn't my neighbors we know say something.  were they immune, scared, not bothered? and 2) What does the city council have to do with anything??????  My first thought was to inform her she was wrong we didn't neglect our dog, the second was to want to say, "Don't you mean the humane society?"   So anyways, besides ranting about this on my blog I decided to see exactly what my city council might have to do with alleged inhumane behavior to a dog. I checked out their webpage and saw all the normal projects they work on: budget allocations, repaving roads, zoning,taxes etc.  I even get that she could go to a open meeting and complain but um, still, isn't this an issue for the human society???
So, further digging was in order.  Perhaps I was still missing something?  So I checked other more general sites.  Unless they were to pass a city wide ordinance about dogs or something it still seems her threat was more likely her blowing hot air. 
So, now my dog's barking inside instead out outside and is nicely pampered in his air conditioned home with pleasantly of love and water....oh wait, I think he has to pee...maybe I can find her yard ;)

Ever had any situations like this with your neighbors?  If so, how did you handle it?

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I was having a conversation, as much as you can have one on facebook, with a college friend.  She was bemoaning the price of groceries and comparing what she spent to what her parents spent.

My basic argument in a nutshell, was that we pay more due to several reasons 1) inflation.  For a cool webpage with an inflation calculator click here.  Here is the example it kicked out for me:
What cost $25.00 in 1985 would cost $49.19 in 2009.
Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2009 and 1985,
they would cost you $25.00 and $12.22 respectively.

This does not necessary accurately reflect groceries per se but it gives you a general idea.   2) healthier eating.  We all know how easy it would be to get a cheap meal at McDonald's or some other fast food restaurants.  Also, go to the store and check the prices between white and wheat bread on the same brand; even if its store brand 3) We typically pay more for convenience food.  By this, I mean, since most of couples with or without kids are both working.  They are not always using, for example, dried beans or making bread from scratch on a regular basis,  This something I know my mother did as we were on a very tight budget.

So, what are you spending a week on groceries?
This month I am tracking my groceries.  I'm not particularly on a budget, but want to see what I am spending in a month for our family of three (diapers included).  I'm hoping that we spend less than $400 (100 per week or 33.33 per person per week).  My running Tally is in the blog August and Everything.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini cake

I had 2 zucchini picked from my garden that I needed to use.  I had been searching for something good to  do with zuchinni.  The stuffed zucchini I made earlier was good but I wanted to try something different.  I found a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake and modified it some. I posted this picture on facebook and immediately got requests for my recipe.  Below is the recipe I used and OH is it good!!!!

I made a "small" cake.
1 c. flour
1 c sugar
1/4c + 2 T cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Mix dry ingredients together
Add 2 eggs
3/4 c applesauce (you can use oil instead if you want)
1 1/2 c grated zucchini ( i pureed mine)
and 1/2 or more chocolate chips
cook @ 350 for 45-50 min
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and eat :)

Its so moist and chocolatey!  In my opinion the chocolate chips are key and I am glad I pureed my zucchini as I am not sure about the texture of grated zucchini in a cake.  
I am taking the rest of the cake to work otherwise I'd eat the whole thing this weekend!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

An old favorite and shake recipies


I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this stuff.  PB2 rocks.  Its basically powdered peanuts.  Ingrediants read Peanuts, sugar, Salt.
What so amazing about it is the caloric content.
My regular peanut butter which contains Peanuts and less than 1% salt has 200 calories for 2 TBSP and 16 g of fat.  PB2 contains just 53.2 cal for 2 TBSP and 1.87 g of fat.
The big trade off of course is that its powder.  You have to mix it with water to make peanut butter.  But I see that as a plus for cooking, adding to shakes or other recipies.
I've been using PB2 for awhile now.  I've mixed it with water to make PB&J sanwhiches, ants on a log etc.  By far the wierdest thing I did with PB2 was to mix it with diet cocoa powder and coolwhip and mini chcolate chips to make a low cal dessert.  Its actually pretty good. 
Well, the PB2 had been sitting in my cupboard for awhile until I started making shakes.  Its a perfect way to get the taste of peanut butter into a shake without all the calories and best of all its not filled with chemicals!

Shake Recipes:

Vanilla shake:

8oz milk
1 serving of Jay Robb whey powder, vanilla flavor ( or othe protein substitue)
Mix and drink. 

Chocolate Shake:
Vanilla shake recipie
1 TBSP coca powder
1 packet Sun Crystals or other sweetner

PB Chocolate shake:
Chocolate shake recipie plus 2 TBSP
Chocolate banana shake:
Chocolate recipie plus half a banana

You can even make a Chocolate peanut butter with banana

Strawberry shake:
Vanilla shake plus 1/2-1c strawberries blended

add  1/2 a banana for a Strawberry banana shake.

And now for a shake without milk as a base!

Strawberry Orange shake:
8 oz orange (or orange based liquid)
1 serving of of whey protein
1 cup of strawberries

Note I used orange pineapple juice and found this too sweet so the next time i made it i used 4oz milk and 4 oz juice.

Future shakes I want to try--pumpkin cinammin
Failed shake: PB&J shake which used strawberries and PB2

Monday, August 2, 2010

My finds

Today I stopped in at another natural food store, The Olive Branch.  I had a few minutes to waste and was looking for something low cal with no artificial sugars to drink.  Above is a picture of my finds: A zevia soda, stevia extract, and go greens
I've had the zevia (soda made with stevia rather than artificial sweeteners or sugars) sodas before in orange but decided to go with a cola there.  OK, they had no orange; only coke and ginger ale,  I  love coke, diet coke, pepsi whatnot, but after that the other "cokes" are hands down just not the same.   This was true of my zevia coke.  Even 2 plus weeks without a coke and I could tell it wasn't the same.   It wasn't bad and I will probably drink it again.  It was just light and NOT THE REAL THING.   I do recommend the orange though.

I was pleasantly surprised by my next pick; the go greens.  I mixed it into my water bottle and drank it down.  I am not too sure how to describe it.  The predominating flavor was apple but it does not taste like apple juice.  It tasted better than apple juice to me.  My only complaint was it was a little gritty.  However, that being said, I've been spending the last few minites checking out their webpage and amazon's page because I am considering buying more!   Its such a refreshing and healthy change from plain water and since I can't drink crystal light anymore it fits the bill.
For more information about Go greens and their other products follow this link

The last thing I bought was the Sweet Leaf Peppermint extract.  They had a number of flavors but I figured mint was safe (They have chocolate).  I also want to use it in a shake.  The woman at the Olive Branch states she used it in her water.  She says the typical "serving size" is 5-8 drops.  I tried it in my water when I went walking this evening.   I had way more than a serving size of water but only used 10 drops.  The jury's still out on this one.  I think I am going to have to do some more experimenting.  Cost wise I think I should of stuck to McCormick's mint extract.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I was wondering in Sam's club one day and looking for apple juice for my daughter when I ran across Fruitables.   I had just had a talk with my husband about needing to feed her more vegetables throughout the day.  He's staying home with her and therefore is her primary food source.  My daughter actually loves peas and green beans so in general getting her vegetables in is not a struggle.  They just need to be presented to her.
I'd much prefer she get the whole vegetable (Did I mention I made all her baby food?  Yeah. I'm a nut like that!) but this certainly was second best as she loves juice.  The package was appealing enough and I decided to try it.  I certianly hoped it tasted better than V-8.  I bought some and needless to say I was going back.  My daughter calls it her "red apple juice." Only Sam's club didn't have it anymore :(
Prior to that I went to their webpage and printed out a ton of coupons.   Not to be defeated,Ii checked all the local grocery store but none of them had it in the large "family size"  I later found out they have the single serving sizes.  I wanted the family size.  Raisin Rack to the rescue.  They special ordered me a case ( I had to buy a case) and even accepted all my coupons :)

August and Everything

I had decided last month that I was going to "watch my pennies" on the grocery shopping and try to get a baseline on what I was spending and saving.  So, I'll be editing this post as I shop as I think I might try to keep a"running tally."
 Today Cara and I went to the Hartville Market and Flea market to buy fruits and veggies.  I got a little carried away and bought a new purse and shoes for my daughter too.  I love this place things are so cheap!  And you can find some pretty interesting stuff.  For example, there is a Lego store in there and the owners spent what I am guessing is a good part of a year building this magnificent village out of Legos

How cool is that!?!  The trains were running too.  they also have packaes of silly bands for $1.  I'm using one now to put my hair up LOL

Alas, I digress:
Running total for all foods at the farmer's market was $36

(I just googled the shoes I bought my daughter...i got them for $20 and they retail for $50!!  Sadly I was reticent about even spending that much.  Here is a pic of the shoes.)

After the market I headed to raisin rack to buy more protein powder: $46
Aug 1 food total $82 yikes!!
August 2 108.93 OOP saved 29.66 with coupons and card discount  (27%)
August 8  33.11 OOP saved 19.64 (37%)
Running Tally: $224.04 for a family of three

Friday, July 30, 2010

Free smoothie!!!

Recently McDonald's came out with their new smoothies; strawberry banana and wild berry.   Yum.  These are available in 2 sizes; small and large.  The small is a 12 oz drink with 210 calories.  As an aside McDonald's has a neat nutritional webpage where you can customize your meals called Bag a Meal.

But back to the free part!  On drinks they are putting a "coupon" for a free smoothie or frappe (12 oz).

So, i went ahead and got one in place of the normal luna bar i have been having for a snack.  I also ordered a medium water (because mediums are free).  To my suprise, i know only got a smoothie and water for free I got an additional coupon for another smoothie!!!!!   Wow

Electronic savings

There is nothing better than saving money without having to use paper coupons and companies are getting on board with this!
There are a few sites that you can lead your store savings card to allowing you to save just by swiping your card as your normally would.

Above are two of the sites.  The really cool part of this isn't that fact that its paperless savings but that you can stack the savings with a paper coupon giving you doubling savings!!  The savings factor can be phenomenal.
All you have to do is link your card by setting up a free account and entering your savings card number typically located on the back of the card.

Next, if you have an iphone there are numerous apps that provide coupons that you can swipe from your iphone!   Coupon Sherpa, mobiQpons and meal ticket are a few.  Meal ticket is relatively new and might take awhile to catch on unless you are in a major metropolis.

The blog Coupon Cravings has a sections dedicated to iphone apps that save you money

These doubled with your paper coupons lead to big savings!!!!

Insomnic post

Ok, for some reason my brain won't shut off so here I am typing in the dark.  Hubby is asleep.
Part of the blog is supposed to be about coupons so let me share what I do and where I go.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the Sunday coupons already so I simply mention that along with how to get them for free!
1) Go to your local library.  They will often give them to you
2) Head to McDonald's or other hang outs where newspapers circulate and scoop them up
3) bug your friends and family and neighbors
4) start a coupon train  * A coupon train is where a group of like minded people send each other their coupons and send it on down the list taking and adding coupons as it goes on*

I also go online to get coupons.  I use the following methods:
Coupon specific websites such as:

 There are other sites but those are my three basics

Also, the new trend is to advertise on facebook and twitter.  I'm on facebook but not twitter.  Bascially if you  "like" a product a lot of times you can get a coupon to print out from facebook.

I've also found that going straight to the manufacturer's page can garner you a coupon, especially if its a new product.  Try it.  Type in the name of a product you like in the browser of your choice and click on the associated webpage.

If you write to the people who make the product and give them a good review you are likely to get coupons in return!


Sometimes if you hit the back button after printing a coupon it will let you print a second one.  I know this works for the sobe page!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The dreaded D word

The DietAlign Center

This week I started *cue ominous music* The Diet. I've had good success with weight watchers and south beach in the past but I just wasn't feeling it. You know?

I decided I wanted to do slim-fast but a week previous I had been to the doctor's office and she told me, "No artificial sweeteners." WHAT!?! No more diet coke? no more yogurt with aspartame, no more low calorie sweet foods, no more sobe drinks. They had coupons I've been printing out by the millions all summer long at their webpage. I thought I was doomed. I was kinda burnt out and wanted to do something "easy" hence the slim fast idea.

My biggest hurdle was the drinks. I cannot live without my drink! I started by making iced tea, but not just any old iced tea. Since it couldn't have sugar in it it I made a combo of chai and mint tea (both decalf). I brewed the tea and stuck in in the fridge. I also drank a ton of water. But, woman cannot live on water alone!
This was actually pretty good.

So, step one down--drinks.
Step two-- a shake and snacks to replace slim-fast with no artifical sweeteners.

I hit my local natural food store, Raisin Rack, and headed to the aisle with the protein powders and picked up a few samplers. I wound up getting the following:

I chose vanilla since I thought it would work well with blending in fruits and what not. I am on day four and will share the recipies I've tried so far in future posts.

In addition to the 2 shakes a day I am also have 2 snacks a day which for right now are snack bars (since I am mirroring slim-fast and for ease). I picked Luna Bars for women. My favorites this far ( and I am a chocolate freak but its not chocolate) are Lemon Zest and Iced Oatmeal Raisin. While writing this I just noticed they have a chai tea one i am going to have to check out.

The plus side of this, 4 days in, is ease and I don't really have to think. I make the shakes the night before. Refrigerate one for the am and freeze one for lunch and grab two bars! We'll see how the weight loss goes this week. A week that included my Father-in-law's birthday dinner at Longhorn!

My garden

"From the giant gum tree to the very small weed, every flowering plant started out as a seed. Plants are so useful to me and to you Can you think of the ways? I will name you a few"
-Oh say can you seed?

Last year I started my own garden. I'd always wanted to do so but having a daughter made it seem even more fun. Something to teach her and show her. It had humble beginnings. I grew the easiest of plants, the goards; winter quash, acorn squash and pumpkin. I did very little work on it and the gourds were hearty.
This year my friend Tamra sent me some more seeds. She has been gardening for a few years and is much better than I am. She is also part of a co-op in Florida.
My garden took considerable more effort this year as the weeds grew in abundance! The plants also took on a life of their own. I planted, watermelons, spinach, lettuce, green beans, summer squash, carrots, 1 tomato plant and zucchini.
The lettuce was the first thing ready. It was so cool to just go to my garden and pick some lettuce leaves for a salad. Sadly, I didn't take any pictures of the lettuce. But I did get a picture of my next haul:
Green beans and a mondo zucchini

I wound up making stuffed zucchini (thanks to my neighbor for the idea).

Recipe for Stuffed Zucchini
Ground beef
Italian sausage
bread crumbs
1 egg
pizza or marinara sauce
spices ( I used onion powder, garlic, and basil I think)
grated cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Cut the zucchini length wise and hollow out the seeds with a spoon. Save half of the seeds to add back in ( I kept the other seeds to dry for next year). In a bowl
Add all the above ingredients except cheese and sauce. Mix together like you are making meatloaf. Place the meat concoction into the hallowed out zucchini halves. Top with sauce and bake. Time varies. Its much faster if you actually brown your meat first. If you brown it I think you are looking at about 40 min. I didn't so mine took an extra 30-40 min.
When its close to done add cheese to melt and bubble.
Cut into portion sizes and serve!

Here are some pics of it.


I've decided to revive my blog. Its retitled and refurbished. Topics will include posts about me, my family, couponing, dieting, and my garden. I have a 2 year old daughter who is the light of my life. My husband was laid off from his job and is now her primary care giver. It takes a lot of patience to raise a kid and put up with our dog. Out dog is an 80 lb 1/2 lab 1/2 Alaskan Malmute dog who sometimes thinks he is a lap puppy! He's none to happy with me since I bought him some diet food by accident last time I went shopping.
That's me and my family. Currently my big kicks are couponing and dieting. We'll see how long that lasts! I plan to blog about some of my daily fun. I'm not going to be a duplicate site to any of those blogs that have ALL the savings you might need, but I will reference them as they are awesome!!!!
Hope, you'll come along for the journey! Here are some current pics. Meet the family!