Friday, August 27, 2010

More Glue and Pens

If you did not take advantage of the glue and pens earlier this summer at Staples, next week is your second chance.

This coming week (August 29 - September 4), while supplies last, Staples has 8 pack of Bic pens (limit 1) and bottled glue (limit 2) for a penny each.  I am hoping that the teacher limit for each of these is 20-25.  That's been the trend lately, so I'll hope for another good deal.  Both of these deals require a $5 minimum purchase, so I will probably purchase the $.50 scissors (limit 2) on the front page, and the Sharp 10 digit calculator which is free after rebate ($6.99).

Total after rebate:  $1.50 + tax for 25 bottles of glue, 200 pens, 2 scissors, and a calculator.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Composition Notebooks

Earlier tonight I stopped by Staples to take advantage of the composition notebooks for $.10.  I was hoping to pick up the maximum number allowed for teachers.  This week the composition notebooks were a limit of 20 (for teachers) for $.10 each with a $5 minimum purchase.  I was able to get the remaining 12 composition notebooks at the store I visited and then paired it with a $5 gift card to use on next week's deals.

Here's the status of my husband's classroom list:
  • Pencils - 200 purchased for $.25
  • Composition Notebooks - 25 purchased for $3.60 (12 from Walgreen's for $2.40 and 12 from Staples for $1.20)
  • Thin Markers - hoping for a good deal this week or next
  • Colored Pencils - 10 for $2.50 from Target
  • Pencil Sharpeners - hoping for a good deal this week or next (I did get a battery operated one for free after rebate from Staples)
  • Folders - 25 for $.25 total from Staples
  • Scissors - 12 for $7.96 from Ikea
  • Glue (sticks and bottles) - 25 bottles for $.25 (we decided to skip the glue sticks this year unless there is a really good deal this week or next)
  • Small Post-Its - 12 for free after rebate from Staples
  • Kleenexes - hoping for a good deal this week or next
  • Hand Sanitizer - hoping for a good deal this week or next
Total spent - $14.81

Saving money on Groceries

Ordinarily I would be excited about saving money on groceries.  However, this week we spent little to no money on groceries because we were all sick with the flu.  We are finally starting to recover, but have no appetite, so for this week, it was only ginger ale, soda crackers and our CSA vegetables.

Hopefully, I will have more to update on next week's grocery list, but for this week, we stayed well within our $25 weekly grocery budget.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Crust Cutoff Recommends Coborns Delivers

On Wednesday, we picked up our Coborns Delivers delivery.  The delivery arrives in green totes that are insulated if the items are refrigerator/freezer items or in green totes with brown paper bags if the items are general grocery items.

Here's how our order broke down:

4 bags of shrimp (16 oz. each)
3 bags of chicken breasts (2.5 lbs. each)
2 bags of Mission chips (22 oz.)
1 lb. fresh green beans
6 cobs of corn

Total was $50.69, but I had a $50 certificate that I purchased from Living Social for $25, plus I was a new subscriber, so I had a $5 credit.  In total, this order was $20.69.  What a great deal for all of that food, especially since we were out of chicken for a couple of weeks (it's a staple in our home).

The frozen food was completely frozen when we unpacked the totes, which was great.  The fresh items look delicious.  And the best part, I did the order while sitting at my kitchen counter.  Plus, in the future, I plan to shop on Coborns Delivers with manufacturer's coupons, which can be easily added into your online order.  This time around I didn't because the items I purchased did not have coupons available.  Also, occasionally Coborns Delivers has store coupons.  Here is the latest set of coupons (good through 9.23).

Cutting the crust off our grocery budget...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Paint reveal

When we decided to paint the kids’ room, I looked through hundreds of pictures online to find a neutral, modern, kid friendly design. I discovered that: 1. most design were only for infants or only for kids, but not both, and 2. most were not gender neutral. That lead to the problem of trying to figure out ways to make this design work. The first thing we decided on was that the room would be green. After looking at hundreds of paint samples and buying some neon green colors, we decided that the best thing to do would be to pick out the bedding first. As you can see from this, the bedding has a circles and stripes theme with lots of gender neutral, but fun colors. Although it may look like this was easy, we spent a lot of time trying to find something that worked within our budget.

However, when the bedding arrived, we were thrilled. It was perfect. So last Thursday night, I looked at the changing pad covers and really liked the colors, including the green. On Friday morning, my husband went to Lowe’s to pick up the paint. He was reluctant at first, given that I am 7 months pregnant, a perfectionist, that is sometimes very difficult to please (if my husband were writing this he would probably say that I am always difficult to please while pregnant). But I reassured him that he just needed to be sure that we could have the paint re-tinted if it was not what we wanted. I did some research online and found that Lowe’s had a no-VOC, low odor paint that could be tinted. Here is the paint that we picked up in a custom-tinted color to match the bedding.  The wall color is the previous wall color in the kids' room.

So off he went to pick up the paint. He called mid-afternoon to let me know that he started painting and he really liked the color. I was excited to see what it looked like. When I came home from work around 6:00 that evening, I did not expect that he would be almost finished with the first coat. The following morning, he finished the second coat.

As you can see, it looks amazing. The lesson learned on this adventure is that we did lots of research, tried different colors, but in the end needed some inspiration for the final color. We think this color will make the furniture and accessories pop, but now I can’t wait for our furniture to arrive (only 3 more weeks, hopefully). However, the bunk beds should be complete within the next couple of weeks, which will make a huge difference in how the room looks. Next step, buying the DIY accessories, creating the art, and placing it in the room. Stay tuned for these kid-friendly, fun projects.

Oh, I almost forgot, the total came to just over $48 for 2 gallons of no-VOC and low odor paint. Also, Lowe’s was great with helping my husband get everything in order for painting.

Cutting the crust off before the baby arrives, so we can enjoy every minute in the kids’ room with our soon-to-be family of four.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jumping in head first

Some of our family and friends say that we are students for life, but in reality what they mean is that we are crazy for taking on too much at one time. To give you a little insight into our life – in the last four years, we have had our first child, both worked full time during this time, planned a wedding, completed a law degree, completed a masters degree, sat and passed the bar exam, between the two of us have switched positions or jobs six times, moved two times, and are now pregnant with our second child.

It’s been a whirlwind over the last four years, but we’ve enjoyed every minute. Our life would be very different without all of these pieces, so we are thankful for each opportunity to build strength in our relationship. Plus, it is a lot easier looking back on it. There were definitely trying times – for instance, trying to figure out what to wear to work when there has been no time to wash laundry let alone iron anything. But, we couldn’t have done it without our families. They were there to help us catch up on laundry, do some ironing, or simply watch our son while we studied, took a break, or just slept.

When we finished our advanced degrees, we talked about taking at least six months off to enjoy life. At that point, we would decide whether more education would be a good option.

It’s been eight months since either of us have been students. During this time, my husband and I have been able to focus on our family and friends, which has been so exciting because previously we had little to no time for sleep… let along social time. It has been fun to catch up with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, relax in the evening, and play with our son.

This may be a surprise or shock, as we haven’t announced it to anyone, but then again, if you truly know us, it does not surprise you at all – my husband’s headed back for more school.

For the last couple of months, we have been discussing the idea of having my husband go back to school. For those that are unaware of how public school teachers are paid in MN, here’s a quick synopsis. There are different lane changes and subsequently pay scales changes depending on your education and years in position. For most districts, it is something like this BA, BA+15, BA+30, BA+45, BA+60, MA, MA+15, MA+30, MA+45, MA+60, and PhD. With each lane change, your salary increases and with each additional year of service, your salary increases generally (there are some flat levels, but generally include some yearly increase due to changes in contract amounts from year to year).

About two months ago, my husband learned of a distance learning program, where he could obtain additional credits, but these would not count toward a degree. We talked about it for hours on end – would it be better to spend the money to get a PhD, should we hold off for another year, etc. However, just this week, we decided that this program offered the best of both world – distance learning at a reasonable price with classes that he enjoyed taking, so it would be less time consuming than a traditional program and he could always go back for a PhD.

Because of the way that teacher’s pay scales work, we were able to determine that the total cost of the program would be paid off within six months after he completed the program due to the incremental increases he would receive during the program. It’s really a small investment up front to help us cut the crust off in our budget to save a little more each month in the future.

As of today, he submitted the enrollment and will soon be receiving his books. We are now back in the student world – at least for a year. The most exciting part is that my husband is really excited about the class offerings because he isn’t worried about getting certain credits for a degree, so he can take the classes that are most relevant to his classroom setting and interests.

Now the only outstanding question is will this be the last adventure for us as students… my guess is that it’s not.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Grocery Budget 8/15-8/21

Here's this week's grocery breakdown:

Coborn's Delivers
We had a $50 certificate that I purchased on Living Social for $25, so we were able to stock our freezer with shrimp and chicken breasts, as well as a few fresh produce items.  It was a great deal and I will be on the look out for it more often.  Our shipment will be arriving on Wednesday, so stay tuned for more details on how our groceries compared to what we would pick out at the store.  I ended up spending an additional $.69 to get over $50, but there was free shipping, so it was a great deal.

Nectarines:  $.19 each x 6 = $1.14
Peaches: $.19 each x 6 = $1.14
Bananas: $.39/lb x 3 lbs = $1.17
Total after tax and discounts = $3.45

Local D'Lish
Organic Milk: $3.50 x 3 = $10.50

Total for this week:  $14.64, plus the $25 for Coborn's Delivers (but I am not counting that in this week's budget since I purchased this over 3 months ago).

Continuing to cut the crust off our grocery budget...

Pencil sharpener

As we continue to stock my husband's classroom with school supplies this fall, we spend each Sunday searching for the best deals that week.  This week at Staples there are notebooks for a penny, with likely a teacher limit of 25, so lots of notebooks to fill his classroom.  Copy paper and 4x6 photo paper for our home for a penny after rebate (limit 2).

The best deal this week is a battery operated pencil sharpener which is free after rebate.

Total out of pocket will be $46.20, plus we will use a 20% off coupon (which may or may not apply to some of these items, we'll see).  After rebates, the total is $.27 plus tax.  Not too bad for 25 notebooks, a pencil sharpener, two reams of copy paper, and two packs of 50 sheets of 4x6 photo paper.

Cutting the crust off of school supplies shopping...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saving time by freezing food

Since I love to save money and time, I thought I would quickly share how I save lots of time and money in the kitchen. A while ago I was watching a Rachel Ray episode where she covered ways to save money by freezing black beans. I haven’t bought a can of black beans in forever, but I think a can runs around $.50, but a 1 pound bag runs around $.99. I think it takes around 5 cans to equal one bag, so by buying the 1 pound bag at $.99, I save at least $1.50 on just black beans. That may not seem like much, but I also weigh the fact that with a bag of black beans, I can use it for around 8-10 meals versus 5 meals with the cans.

Here’s the trick to stocking up using your freezer and saving time: we cook lots of food as soon as we purchase the item and then divide it into meal size portions in baggies and freeze it. This week, my husband cooked and froze the beans and rice. For the black beans, he cooked 2 pounds following the directions on the bag and for the rice, he cooked 3 pounds following the directions.

To use these for a meal, we add a little bit of water to the rice and cook it in a glass dish in the microwave until warm. It turns out perfect and saves so much money and time because we aren’t buying the 5 minute rice, which is more expensive. For the beans, we toss them in a skillet until warm.

Continuing to cut our budget while enjoying life…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Grocery Budget 8/8-8/14

Last week, my husband and I decided to challenge ourselves with a monthly grocery budget of $100.  Generally, we try to stock up on groceries when they are reasonably priced, so this could pose a problem for our normal routine.  However, the more we thought about it, the more intriguing it sounded.  On a weekly basis, that would be about $25.  However, we generally like to shop one bigger run, plus a few smaller runs throughout the month.  For the last two weeks, we have been eating out of our freezer trying to get it cleaned out before fall comes, as we will have lots freezing to do (apples, pumpkins, various purees, etc.).

Here’s this week’s Grocery Budget Breakdown:

Cantaloupe: $.99
Grapes: $.79/lb x 4 lbs = $3.16
White Rice: $1.39 for 3 lbs.
Total after discounts and tax: $5.54

Rainbow (Double, double days this Wednesday)
Organic Milk: $3 - $.50 Q doubled = $2 x 4 half gallons = $8
Ronzoni Healthy Harvest or Smart Taste Pasta: $1.25 - $.75 Q doubled = free x 8 = $0
Newman’s Own Lemonade: $1 - .$50 Q doubled = $0
Total after discounts and tax: $8.07

Bananas: $.49 x 2.6 lbs. = $1.27 - $1 Q = .27
Black beans: $.99 x 2 lbs. = $1.98
Quaker Breakfast Squares: $2.50 - $1 Q = $1.50
Annie’s Mac and Cheese = $1
Canned Tuna = $.67 x 6 = $4.02
Bread = $1.39 - $.50 Q = $.89
Brownie Mix = $.65 x 2 = $1.30
Snack Packs = .95 x 3 = $2.85 - $1 Q = $1.85
Total after discounts and tax: $9.72

Total this week: $23.33 (we stock up throughout the year, so we generally don’t just eat from our weekly grocery list)

**For the summer/fall, we joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture -, so we get weekly vegetables for $375 for the entire season. During these months, we spend less on groceries on a monthly basis, so I really try to stock up on our pantry items.

Cutting the cut off our budget…

Friday, August 6, 2010

One more checked off

This morning I viewed the upcoming Staples ad and saw some great deals.  Filler paper is on sale for a penny (limit 2) when you spend an additional $5, so hopefully the teacher limit is 25, which would mean 25 packs of filler paper for $.25.  I am guessing that my husband does not need all of this for his classroom, but it is such a good deal, that I think I am going to pick it up and we can always donate it. 

The best part of the ad this week is the free after rebate sticky notes.  These are on my husband's school list and I never anticipated that we would be able to get these free, so I am really excited.  This is a 12 pack of small sticky notes.  The sticky notes are $3, with a $3 mail in rebate.  Next item is Scotch pop-up tape.  Normally, I wouldn't purchase this, but what a great way to get some nearly free tape ($5.29 out of pocket minus $5.29 rebate).  Plus, I can use this during Christmas time for wrapping presents.  Finally, a four pack of highlighters are also free after rebate.

Staples rebates are really easy and can be done online after creating an account, so I love taking advantage of rebate deals at Staples.  Plus, you can track the rebates online, so you know when your check should be arriving.

As a side note, I keep track of all of our rebates by placing the duplicate receipts in an envelope.  When we receive the check, I toss the corresponding receipt.

Total for this run will be .25 + tax after all of the rebates.  What a great week for school supplies.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stratus to Jetta

Monday was a sad day for me. Back in high school when I started driving, I envisioned having a new car that I could drive around in and enjoy. My parents helped me achieve that vision. The deal was that I had a loan through my parents with 5% interest. I made car payments of $325 a month to my parents for the vehicle while competing in two-three activities. I had to work hard to pay for the vehicle and never missed a payment. I was proud to own the vehicle and officially take title from my parents. There are a lot of really good memories with that car, but here is one that I will never forget.

After I had the car two months, my parents were on their way to Hong Kong, but before they left, the one thing my mom said was to only drive the vehicle if I absolutely needed to. Of course, that lasted two minutes. Before they had left the Minneapolis airport (so literally they were gone less than 3 hours), I was on my way to the golf course only one mile from my parent’s house. And of course, what happened – I was hit by someone. That’s right, I didn’t hit anyone, I was hit in my rear passenger door from a person coming out of a private drive. My poor, beautiful car would never be the same. At first, I was sad and then I realized that I would have to call my parents. I would have to explain why I had to drive that one mile, which obviously was not a necessity – I could have easily walked. I had to call my parents and tell them that I not only didn’t listen to the one thing they said, but now I had a huge dent in my car that would need to be fixed.

Today, we traded in that car. That’s right my one and only car that I have had since beginning to drive. Although, we needed to get a new one because it didn’t have the latch system and wouldn’t work with two car seats, I am a little sad to see the car leave our home.

Although, it’s hard to say goodbye, it’s time. What’s really important is that the kids are safely secured in their car seats… the crust here is just saying goodbye… it’s hard.