Wednesday, June 1, 2011

kid adventures - MN Zoo

Kid adventures is a new weekly posting that I will post on Wednesdays throughout the summer.  This series will include great things to do in the city and surrounding area.  Most will be very minimal expense, so you can continue to cut the crust off your budget... and enjoy spending some fun with the kids.

The MN Zoo is a great place to visit year round.  In the summer, we generally stick to the outdoor trails, and in the winder, we tour the indoor trails.  But all year round, we have to see the dolphins and snow monkeys.  Our son loves watching the dolphins, and luckily the snow monkeys can be seen from indoors at the zoo, so we don't have to freeze outside in the winter.

In the past, we have had a yearly household plus membership, which allowed us to go to the zoo with the kids or another adult to go to the zoo.  This year, we decided to just go with the yearly household membership, which doesn't allow another adult to go with the kids.  However, at this point, we don't have a need for the plus membership, so we will be able to save a bit on our membership.  The household plus membership is $115 and the household membership is $95.  This may seem like a lot out of pocket initially, but here's what we do to save money at the zoo.

Every zoo visit, we pack snacks and/or lunch.  Our kids know that we don't buy any of the overpriced food or toys at the zoo, so they don't even ask.  There are lots of areas for picnicking indoors and outdoors, and lots of families do it, so you won't feel out of place.

When you buy a membership, parking is free.  Otherwise, parking is $5 per vehicle, 3-12 year olds are $10 each, and adults are $16.  In one visit, just for entrance, we would pay $47, so our membership pays for itself if we go three times.

However, if you want to visit the zoo on the cheap, check out your library system for the Museum Adventure Pass.  The is valid for admission of up to two people, but you can check out one per library card.  With this pass, you do have to pay for the parking, but you could potentially have your whole family go for $5.  The catch on this is that the zoo passes are very popular, so you will want to call the library ahead of time to determine if they have any passes in stock or could search local libraries to see which libraries have the most passes.

Cutting the crust off to enjoy adventures with kids.

Friday, February 4, 2011

finance friday - borrow books

Tip #6:
Use a public library.

Public libraries are a great way to save money on books.  Recently, I was talking to my sister about her shopping habits and I commented that she may have to start going to shopaholic classes (joking, of course).  She regularly uses coupons to save money, but I wouldn't say that she is worried about not having enough money to cover her expenses.  I commented that she could save so much money by checking out books from the library instead of buying them.  She rationalized buying the books because multiple people were reading them, but of course, my response back was that they too could obtain a library card and check out the books.  Just a few days ago, she told me that she went to get a library card and checked out two books.

Although this story may not resonate with you, it proves the point that when you are not worried about paying for your expenses, you may be uselessly wasting money.  Now, I don't mean to imply that buying your own books is wasteful, but how many times to do re-read the same book?  For our kids, we re-read the same book over and over, so buying some kids' books makes sense for us, but our kiddos love going to the library to check out new books, explore the games, and spend some time together as a family.

Next time, you are thinking about spending some money on new books, check out a public library.  If you are with your kids, lots of libraries have story times too.  If you are in the Minneapolis area, I would highly recommend the downtown Minneapolis library for kids.  It has a wonderful children's section.

Here's to savings some money and exploring the city libraries.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

01.30 Sunday Spread

French Fries
California Wraps
  • Avocado
  • 1 T. Sour Cream
  • 1/2 t. Lemon Juice
  • 1/8 t. Salt
  • Tortillas
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Green Onions
  • Turkey
  • Sprouts
  • Cheese
 Dice tomato and green onions.  Mash avocado, stir in sour cream, lemon juice and salt.  Spread mixture on tortilla shells.  Cover with toppings and roll up.


Flat Bread Chicken Club

Fish Tacos

BBQ Chicken & Onion Pizza
  • Frozen Cheese Pizza
  • Add tomatoes, onion, cooked chicken with BBQ sauce

Pizza Patties
  • Ground Turkey
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 can pizza sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Bread
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 t. Italian Seasoning Mix
Combine turkey, bread crumbs, bell pepper, onion, garlic and egg white.  Add 1/4 of the pizza sauce.  Form into patties.  Cook 12-14 minutes in skillet until no longer pink.  Top with Cheese.  Bread each side of bread with olive oil.  Toast on skillet for 1-2 minutes.  Place patties on bread slices and top with remaining pizza sauce.  Microwave on high for 45-60 seconds.

Parmesan Chicken and Pasta

Chicken Salad

Friday, January 28, 2011

finance friday - swagbucks

Tip #5:
Use Swagbucks to earn free items.

Swagbucks is an online search engine that rewards users with swagbucks for searching.  Swagbucks are awarded periodically when users search in surprise amounts.  These swagbucks can be used to purchase a variety of items, including gift cards.  Personally I don't think the searches are as good as Google, so I generally only search through this toolbar for specific sites (i.e. Target, etc.).  If I am looking for something very specific or odd, I still search in Google.

I have been using swagbucks for around a year and have earned over 3,000 swagbucks.  I am planning to use the swagbucks to purchase several gift cards - likely Amazon to purchase music downloads.  A $5 Amazon gift card is 450 swagbucks.  My husband using swagbucks to earn enough points to purchase the $5 Amazon gift card, so he can download some music.

Click here to sign up for Swagbucks to start earning gift cards.  I would also recommend downloading the search bar to make searching easy.  It can be found under Toolbars after signing up.

Here's to earning some free items.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

baby buys - formula

$300 worth of formula for just a few dollars.  Here's how I did it.

When I was pregnant with both children, I signed up at various websites to obtain free samples of formula and rebate checks.  Here are the websites that I signed up at:

Gerber Good Start
Parent's Choice (Walmart generic)

With Similac, Enfamil, and Gerber, I signed up for the mom clubs and receive coupons and rebate checks for various amounts.  Recently, I received a coupon worth up to $25.99 for a container of formula.

Here's how to get the best deal if you are not brand specific.  I use the rebate checks to purchase formula as close to that price as possible.  So, if I receive a rebate check for $9 from Gerber Good Start, I am likely to purchase the $9.69 six bottle pre-made formula pack.  Now, I realize that this is not necessarily the best price per ounce, but it is very close to free.  Check on the rebate checks to see if it states one item per check (I believe all Gerber checks state this), so the best way to get free formula is to find the formula product that is as close to the rebate check as possible.  So far, I have been able to "purchase" enough formula for 415 four ounce bottles.  That's 415 free (or close to it) bottles of formula.  That would be enough to last quite a long time on an exclusively bottle-fed baby.  Taking an average of six four ounce bottles a day that would last amount three months, maybe longer depending on your baby's weight and formula intake.

If you are currently expecting or the parent of an infant, consider signing up for these clubs to receive the formula coupons and rebate checks.  If you don't use the formula, consider donating to a local food shelf.

Cutting off the crust in your baby budget.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

01.23 sunday spread

Chicken Salad
  • Cooked chicken breast (left over from a few days ago)
  • Salad Greens
  • Various Salad Toppings
Homemade Mini Pizzas
  • Pita Bread
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Cheese
  • Toppings
Black bean tacos
  • Cream cheese
  • Black Beans
  • Lime Juice
  • Tortillas
  • Taco toppings
Stir-fry with rice
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Chicken
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Rice
Pizza Burgers


Dinner out

Friday, January 21, 2011

finance friday - online coupon codes

Tip #4:

Search for coupon codes.

The thought of coupons overwhelms most people.  I am a proud couponer and save our family lots of money on essentials.  However, I understand that for many it takes too much time, so today's post is about coupon codes.  This is one of the easiest ways to save money when you are shopping online.  I rarely order anything online at full price.  It takes a few moments to find these coupons and seconds to apply them to your shopping cart.  Here's the rundown.

Add your selection(s) to your online shopping bag.  Then, open a new internet browser and Google the retailer plus coupon code.  So for Gap, you would Google "Gap promotional code".  Some of the more popular databases will pull up, I will generally look through to find a code that work.  I just continue trying the codes until one works.  At time, I have been able to save 30% off an item and it only takes a few minutes.

To gain additional money back, link to the retailer through Upromise or your credit card reward system.

Continuing to cut your budget.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

baby buys - photos sites

Photo sites are a great way to keep family near and far in contact with your family.  We use Shutterfly for our family photos.  Other sites include Kodak Gallery and Snapfish.  These sites allow for personal website names with passwords.  With Shutterfly, any person with access to your site can print photos to Target or order from Shutterfly.

Another plus of Shutterfly is unlimited storage for free (I can't speak for the other sites as I don't currently use them).  As of right now, Shutterfly does not charge a fee to host a website with unlimited pictures.  We currently have thousands of photos on our site.

Here's to cutting the crust off household expenses.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

01.16 Sunday Spread

Total:  $20 for the whole batch, which ends up being around 10 meals for us
Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Total: $3
Brown Rice (free from Rainbow a few weeks ago)
  • Chicken ($1 from Sam's Club)
  • Broccoli ($1 from Target - I will only use half of the head of broccoli)
  • Carrots ($1 from Target)
  • Green Peppers
  • Onions (stocked in pantry)
  • Stir-fry sauce (stocked in fridge)

Total: $2.50
Chicken and Stuffing
  • Chicken Breasts ($2)
  • Stove-top Stuffing ($.50 on sale a while back)

Total:  $3
Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • Turkey Meatballs ($2)
  • Spaghetti Sauce ($1 from Rainbow last week)
  • Noodles (free from Rainbow a few weeks ago)

Sesame Chicken Salad (from (I didn't get a chance to make this last week)
  • Salad Greens (1/2 package $2)
  • 2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken ($1 - I use one large chicken breast)
  • 1 (8 3/4 ounce) can whole baby corn, drained and halved crosswise
  • 2 green onions, sliced (stocked in fridge from a previous recipe)
  • 1/4 cup sliced radishes (we don't like these, so we aren't using them)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (stocked in freezer, made concentrated juice)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar (stocked in pantry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (stocked in pantry)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (stocked in pantry)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted* (stocked in pantry)
In a large bowl combine the salad greens, chicken, baby corn, green onions, and radishes.

For dressing, combine the orange juice, vinegar, sesame oil, and pepper. Cover and shake well.

Pour dressing over greens mixture; toss gently to coat. Divide greens mixture among 6 salad bowls. Sprinkle with sesame seed.

Makes 6 servings.

For smaller portions, mix the salad items and dressing together individually.  The remaining can be used for leftovers.
*Note: To toast sesame seed, in a nonstick skillet cook and stir sesame seed over medium heat about 1 minute or just until golden brown. Watch closely so the seeds don't burn. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool completely.

  • Black Beans ($.20)
  • Ground Beef ($2.49)
  • Taco Seasoning (stocked in pantry)
  • Tortilla Shells ($.75)
  • Toppings

Out to dinner this night, but if you are looking for a dinner, I would try a crock pot lasagna.  Let me know if you have or find a good recipe.  We want to try this next week.

Friday, January 14, 2011

finance friday - brown bag it

Tip #3:
Bring your brown bag.

One great way to save money everyday is bringing your own lunch.  It doesn't need to be anything fancy.  My husband and I bring our lunch everyday with leftovers from the prior night.  This allows us to eat healthier, save money, and waste less food.  Generally, we pack the leftovers from the prior night, a yogurt, fruit, veggie, and a snack.

Enjoy cutting your budget by packing a brown bag.