Thursday, January 28, 2010

Carpet Cleaning

Maintaining what you have is one of the best ways to keep from having to spend extra money to replace something. A huge example of this is carpets. In my house, carpet is everywhere except for the kitchen and bathrooms. If we had to replace our carpet it would be a huge expense.

We just moved into our house a little over a year ago, and since it was new, the carpet was new also. I keep up with the cleaning pretty well, especially in the high traffic areas of our living room/dining room, so I thought giving the carpets a thorough cleaning would be pretty simple. Over the last 3 weeks I've cleaned the carpets in the whole downstairs, as well as our stairs and upstairs hallway, master bedroom, and 3rd floor loft. My grandmother has a Hoover Steamvac, which I was able to borrow.

It is a pretty big project, so I was really glad that my mom was able to help me with the downstairs, especially when I did the stairs by myself - that was way harder! In preparation I vacuumed the whole downstairs, then mom and I got everything up off the floor. We moved some of the larger pieces, like our dining room table, but left the bookshelves and couches in place.

The Steamvac is great and pretty simple to use, but it does take a little while because you have to go back over the wet carpet a few times to remove the excess water. This is the tank that holds the water with the cleaning solution; it has a handle to carry and a built in measuring cup for the cleaning solution.

The best thing about it is that it really gets the carpet clean. The tank that holds the dirty water is pretty disgusting after using it, but it is the proof that the carpet is getting clean!
This is some of the dirty water - nasty!

And this is a huge clump of hair, dirt, dust - and I vacuumed the carpet right before I steam cleaned it! This was the loft, which has less traffic than the downstairs.

The scary thing to me is that my carpet was that dirty - we keep the house clean, we don't have any pets, and our house is new. It sure is incentive to keep up with my cleaning, and to routinely do some hardcore cleaning with the steamvac. This will keep our house clean for our every day living, and also help to keep the value of our carpet, which ads to the value of our house.
A steamvac like this one is actually pretty affordable. Here is a similar machine on Amazon priced at around $160 new. This comes with the stair attachment that I used too. My grandmother has had hers for over 10 years, so it has paid for itself several times over now.
I have also seen similar steamvacs on sale recently for around $100. The cost to rent a machine is around $50 and a steam cleaning service is even more, so this is an investment that will pay for itself very quickly.
I am marking my calendar to borrow my grandmother's steamvac in 6 months so that I can keep up with these carpets!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2 great offers

Request a free insulated freezer shopping bag from Sam's Club! You do not need a membership to Sam's club to request this freebie! Click here for the form, but hurry, there is a limited number available.

Sign up for the Special K newsletter and you will be able to print a buy one, get one free coupon good for Special K cereal! Click here to sign up!

Thanks, Deal Seeking Mom!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More photo freebies!

I forgot to post about this when I was putting together my free photo resource post yesterday!

Get 25 free photo cards from SeeHere - use the code newbaby

These cards do not have to be Valentines cards, and they do not all have to be the same style and design. Shipping for 25-50 cards is around $5 but it looks like you can get 24 for only $2.49 shipping.

I ordered my Christmas cards through See here and they turned out amazing. I highly recommend! Note: if you used this code to get the free cards around Christmas time you will need to make a new account (use a different email) for this to work.

Thanks to Nicole's Nickels for the heads up.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Free Photo prints

I love getting pictures printed, but the expense can really add up. There are so many opportunities to get cheap or even free pictures printed. These vary from time to time, especially around holidays.

Many sites will often give you free prints if you are a new member.

Join Shutterfly, Snapfish, SeeHere, or Kodak Gallery and get 50 free prints through each site when you first sign up. Be aware that you will have to pay for shipping, which usually comes to just a few dollars!

Right now there are a lot of Valentine's Day related photo sales. One of these sales is for 3 free Valentines photo cards from Shutterfly. Enter code 3FREECARDS at checkout, and just pay for shipping. It also looks like you may be able to make any theme greeting card, not just the Valentines ones.

Through 1/27/10 you can get 100 free prints from Snapfish with any purchase (even a single print!). Code is PRINTSNEW. This is valid for new AND current customers. You will have to pay for shipping (around $5) but that works out to 5 cents a print!

A new website I just recently heard about is York Photo. Sign up with them and get 40 free prints!

One of the great things about being members of these photo sites is that they will often run promotions that give you freebies or other special offers. I always take a quick look through the emails they send me to see what the current offers are.

I hope you are able to use these offers to get some of those Christmas pictures printed!

Thanks to Moms Need to Know, BabyCheapskate, and MoneySavingMethods for some of these deals!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Acme this week

This week at Acme is a great opportunity get some produce on sale with the $1 sale. The following are all priced at $1 this week:

Onions (3 lb.)
Eat Smart Veggies (12 oz, broccoli is pictured)
Fresh express salad (spinach, garden salad, and cole slaw)
Mushrooms (6 oz)
Baby carrots (1lb)
Garlic (5 oz)
Minced garlic (jar)
Scallions (5 oz)

While it is tempting to get a ton of fresh produce when it is on sale, I am going to try to be careful with the amount I buy this week, so that none of it ends up in my food waste picture on Friday!

Check out coupon match-ups for Acme this week thanks to Mindi @ Moms Need to Know! There is a pretty good deal on several General Mills products, along with some free toothpaste!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Food Waste Friday

This week I had to toss about half of this Half & Half. Does that mean I only wasted a quarter of it? While trying to figure out if it was good still or not I learned that you can freeze half & half. So next time I will freeze some, and hopefully it will not end up in my food waste picture again!

One of the biggest things that I have learned by participating in Food Waste Friday is to purchase less perishables when I go shopping, especially fruits and veggies. I end up shopping every week, at least to get the few great sales, so its easy to just buy enough fruit for that week instead of stocking up for the whole month. The other thing I have found is that when there is a great deal on a specific fruit and I want to stock up, I just choose not to buy other fruits at the same time. Sure we end up eating oranges for 2 weeks, but after that we are ready for something different, and we didn't waste anything!

Thanks as always to Kristen @ The Frugal Girl for her food waste inspiration!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shrimp Corn Chowder recipe

One of the ways that we've worked to save money is by cutting back on our eating out. When we got married, we both saw eating out more as a "right" instead of a luxury. Homemade is way cheaper, but casseroles and pot pie can get very mundane. I've tried to get more creative with meal ideas, especially by borrowing from things that we would order when going out to eat. Even if the main ingredient is more expensive than chicken, you save a ton by making it at home!

This week I started with a recipe from Real Simple (I got a subscription for Christmas).

Shrimp is not usually the most frugal of ingredients, but I wait until frozen shrimp goes on sale for about $4.50 a pound, and then we get a 2 pound bag. This usually lasts us a few months, by using it more as a garnish or accent with different meals. And since we use it occasionally, there is room in the budget!

The Recipe:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks (white and light green parts), chopped sub. onion juice
1 fennel bulb, chopped sub. celery
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice sub. chicken stock
3 cups whole milk sub. 1% milk
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 pound cooked peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 10-ounce package frozen corn sub. canned corn
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice omit

I melted the butter, added the celery for a few minutes, then stirred in the flour, salt, and pepper

Next, added the chicken stock, onion juice, milk, and potatoes. After potatoes were mostly tender I added the corn.

I chopped up the shrimp a little, then added it to the soup and heated everything through.

We garnished with a little crumbled bacon (suggested by Real Simple)

We really liked how this came out, though I think next time I might add a little spinach for some more color and texture. If we had ordered this out in a restaurant, we probably would have paid between $6-$8 a bowl for this dinner.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

90% off clearance at Rite Aid

Just a heads up - my Rite Aid has the remainder of their Christmas things on sale for 90% off! You can get 50 sq. feet of wrapping paper for 20 cents! There are also a few other things like decorations. Most things are picked over, but it only takes a minutes to check.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Goodwill Project

I found this at Goodwill. I really like the basic premise of the piece (three openings with mirror and pictures, and of course the three hangers underneath) but it was white and we're dark wood people...

and it was pretty cruddy

But I figure for $5.50 it could make a good project!

The back came off and I popped out the flower pictures and the mirror, sanded the wood (the frame was real wood, which was great!), and cleaned the mirror. I used black paint that I got for free as a sample. It took between 2 and 3 coats to get the quality that I wanted, probably because I just sanded the white paint instead of removing it.
Those cruddy flowers needed to go too, so I am planning to use some credit I have saved from Shutterfly to order prints of photos my sister took. She's a photography student and genius with a camera, and I take every opportunity possible to showcase her work! While I'm waiting for the new prints though, I put in 2 of her other pieces, these she printed herself. They are not sized for the frame, so its not perfect, but you can barely tell.

Me and my husband at the beach

And our daughter at 4 days old

I'm learning to decorate more purposefully, so I tried to add a little color to the black and white of the wall hanging with this dried rose and red ribbon.

What do you think?

I love how the red pops, and ties in to the red walls we have in the living room and the red stripes in the pillow. The toys give everything a warm "lived-in" touch cause, well, we do live here too :-)

This is my first time linking up to Do it yourself day @ A Soft Place to Land. Tons of DIY projects will start appearing tomorrow night. Check it out!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rite Aid week of Jan. 17-23, 2010

There are some good deals this week at Rite Aid, especially thanks to the new $5/$25 coupon.

I have listed some of my favorites, along with a scenario where you can make over $8 by purchasing the following products.

2 Olay Quench lotions, $9.99 and $5.98
$2/1 Olay Hand or Body Lotion, exp. 2-28-10 (P&G 01/17/10)
or $1/1 Olay Body Wash Bar or In-Shower Lotion, exp. 2-28-10 (P&G 01/17/10)

1 NyQuil, $3.99
$2/1 Vicks Nyquil or Dayquil, exp. 2-28-10 (P&G 01/17/10)

2 Tums, $1.98
$1/1 Tums Product printable

1 Bayer Asprin, $1.99
$1/1 Bayer Aspirin Low Dose Regimin or Heart Health Advantage Product, exp. 3-31-10 (SS #2 1/3/10)
stack with $2/1 VideoValues coupon

1 WetOnes, $1.99

Subtotal: $25.92
- $5/$25 Rite Aid coupon
-$2 Olay lotion
-$2 Olay lotion
-$2 NyQuil
-$1 Tums
-$1 Tums
-$1 Bayer
-$2 Bayer Video Values
-$1.50 WetOnes

OOP Total: $8.42

Submit for Olay Quench rebate: get back full purchase price ($15.97)
Submit for SCR: NyQuil ($1)

Profit after rebates: $8.55

Also have $19.96 towards Visa Rewards Card when you buy select P&G products (through2/13/10)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Food Waste this Friday

It was a pretty good week for us! I have some veggie dip that had some questionable spots. Somehow this stuff always gets left at my house when we have people over, and since I never buy it we never remember to use it!

I've got some sour cream that needs to be used up this week, so hopefully you won't see that in next week's photo!
Read more about reducing your food waste at The Frugal Girl!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Free 1st Birthday Cake!

My daughter turns 1 today, and we are stopping by Acme to pick up her free birthday cake! That's right - free! I just found this out yesterday. Acme will give your child a free 13 inch sheet cake on their first birthday. You just bring their birth certificate in to the store. If you want a larger cake, you will get a credit (I believe it is around $15) for towards the cake you choose. My husband said he thought he heard that Giant does this too, but I have not confirmed that yet. Who knows, we could get 2 birthday cakes! though we surely do NOT need that much cake!!

Happy Birthday, Munchkin!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Coupon Resources

There are so many different ways to get coupons. Last week I mentioned that many companies will send you coupons when you write to them (to compliment or criticize their product). Its completely acceptable to contact a company just to ask for coupons too! Here is a list that I have complied of different coupon resources that I have really benefited from (in addition to "regular" coupon websites:, RedPlum, and SmartSource). I am planning to add an easy link on the sidebar to make this list more accessible in the future, and I will add to the list as I become aware of additional resources! Feel free to post in the comments any additional sources and I will add those too.

My recommendation, since many of these are e-newsletters, is to have a separate email address from your personal email. I am so glad that I have a "newsletter/coupon" email, because my regular inbox does not get clogged and I can more quickly go through the various coupons and newsletters I receive.

Sign up with Vocalpoint to get access to many different sample and coupon opportunities. Occasionally you will be notified about a sample to sign up for, but many times you will be pleasantly surprised with high-value coupons in your mailbox. Most recently I have received coupons for Pantene and Secret, along with a sample size stick of Secret deodorant.

Psst is through General Mills, and offers coupons, recipes, and other information about various General Mills Products. Currently in my account I have some information about their new yogurt smoothies, including a coupon!

Betty Crocker has a newsletter that provides many quick and easy meal ideas, naturally using Betty Crocker products. There are also a variety of coupons you can print for General Mills products. There are usually a lot of these in the regular coupon inserts in the paper, but it is nice to have another place from which to gather additional coupons, especially because General Mills products are often involved in grocery store Catalina deals. Another good source for General Mills coupons is Eat Better America.

A great place to get coupons for organic products is Mambo Sprouts. This website is filled with articles and recipes to help you eat healthier, along with many different coupon opportunities, as well as contests and giveaways.

P&GEveryday Solutions is a great resource for P&G coupons and free samples. Periodically you will be able to request different samples and coupons for P&G products. There are also helpful articles, as well as a number of different sweepstakes and contests to enter.

One newsletter I have talked about before is Right at Home. This is specifically for SC Johnson products, and is another great place to get brand specific coupons. Right at Home also offers free gift packs periodically (the current one features the Glade Sense and Spray) for the first 3,000 people to request one. I have not yet won one of these, but I am going to keep trying!

You can request a Refresh Your Nest coupon book from Home Made Simple with $35 worth of coupons for products like Dawn, Mr. Clean, Fabreeze, and more.

Kraft First Taste can give you the inside scoop about new products from Kraft. You can also recommend different products and see what other people are recommending. There are also opportunities for coupons and sometime free samples!

Many restaurants have loyalty programs that will email you coupons. I recently signed up for the Cheeseburger in Paradise email list because we have a gift card to use and received a Buy one entree, get one free coupon - just for signing up! Many other resaurants will give you something free on your birthday.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Food waste Friday

I haven't blogged about our food waste the last few weeks, which does not mean that there has been a lack of waste. On the contrary, we probably have been throwing away more...I've just tried to block that from my mind.

Today I'm tossing some extra colorful salsa and a few leftover cheesy potatoes. They were good, and I even ate them as leftovers once, but not twice :-)

Going through your fridge every week only takes a few minutes, and it can save so much food (that you've already paid for!) from ending up as trash. You can read more stories about people trying to waste less at The Frugal Girl.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Active Consumerism

Are you a passive consumer? Does a tv ad or display in a store catch your gaze and you end up buying something that you were not planning on getting? We get bombarded with so many different kinds of ads for products, and many of them we really do not need. A good marketer can make you think that you need something for long enough so that you buy it! This is not to say that all "impulse purchases" are bad or wrong, just that many times (for me, at least) buying something unplanned turns out to be something I could have lived without just fine.

Or are you an active consumer? I see an active consumer as someone who is aware of what is out there, but is able to fight of the urge to buy something just because it is new, different, exciting, or even (gasp) on sale! Additionally, I think an active consumer is someone who wants to give feedback to a company, thus seeking to impact what that company produces for other fellow consumers.

Usually I do not think about contacting a company unless something is wrong with a product. Even then, much of the time we are more likely to throw something away and forget about it trying to get in touch with someone and complaining (unless it is a larger purchase, of course). Last fall I started writing to different companies that made a product our family liked. In my email, I tell the company why I like their product. I try to be very specific, both about the product that we like as well as why we like it. I got this idea from Kristen at Couponing to Disney who tries to write to 5 companies every day. I am not that ambitious, and I took most of December off because we were so busy, but I do try to write to a few companies a week.

Usually I will receive an email back within just a few days. I imagine that most of the people who contact a company are complaining, so many times these reply emails are very appreciative of the good feedback. Sometimes you will also be sent coupons for that company's product in the mail -- and there are times the coupon is for a free product!

One example I wanted to share is with Glade candles by SC Johnson. I really really really like Glade's soy candles. Mostly because they smell really good and because coupons and sales are a-plenty for them, I have found great deals on them! So I wrote to SC Johnson and told them how much I like their candles. They sent me a follow-up email and told me I would be getting a coupon for a free candle - sweet! When my coupon arrived, it also contained a coupon book for other Glade products. Because of the coupons I received in the mail, I tried a different Glade product...and ended up being very disappointed. It did not work like the package said (I read the instructions very carefully!), so I decided to email them again. I was a bit worried that they would not take my complain seriously because I have just emailed about 3 weeks before saying how much I like their products! Well it turns out the problem I had was one that other had complained about, so I was sent some coupons for free Glade products along with another coupon book! SC Johnson is one of my favorite companies in terms of having great customer service!

So I encourage you to take a step to be a more active consumer. Do you really like the Barilla tortellini you made for dinner? Or a specific flavor of IBC soda? Or do you prefer the old pour spout on International Delights coffee creamer instead of that new one that drips when you shake it up??? (I may or may not have answered yes to all of the above....) Then tell the company! Thank them for making something that you really enjoy, or pose a suggestion on something you preferred that was changed. Most companies have a form on the 'Contact Us' section of their website, which makes it super easy to write down a paragraph or two. It really only takes 5 minutes of your time, and it is a simple step towards becoming a more active consumer.

A really interesting video about Subliminal Advertising is on YouTube

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sale and Clearance items at Rite Aid this week

I have not been posting the coupon match-ups for Rite Aid lately, mostly because of being busy. This is something that I hope to get back to doing, and I hope that it is helpful!

This week at Rite Aid the Christmas stuff is finally on deep discount (75% off!). I also found a few good freebies (through Single Check Rebates and coupons).

Here's what I got:

3 rolls of wrapping paper: $.49 each (for 50 sq. feet!)

4 chinese take-out style Christmas boxes: $.24 each

A birthday present for my dad: (no picture don't worry, Dad!)

And the rest: 2 bottles of fish oil (200 total softgels), Listerine, 100ct. Tylenol, and 2 Nivea lip care products

I spent $18.90 OOP (out of pocket) and will receive $11.50 via rebate check from Rite Aid. So all of this will only cost me $7.40.

Coupon match-ups:

Nature's Bounty Vitamins, Buy One, get one free
2 $1/1 Nature's Bounty from 1/3 RP
stack with $.50/1 from Video Values (watch short commercials and receive Rite Aid store coupons)

Nivea lip care, buy one, get one free
use BOGO lip item from 1/3 inserts (note: this one was in the Philly paper inserts, but not the News Journal inserts)

Listerine, sale, $3.50
use $.50 from 1/3 inserts
receive $3 SCR

Tylenol, sale, $7.99
$1/1 from 1/3 inserts (another paper had it too, 12/6 I believe)
receive $3 SCR

I also used the $5/$20 purchase I earned watching Video Values commercials.

Remember to have a print out of the Rite Aid corporate coupon policy with you when you go to the store in case you need to stand up for the coupons you are using. The policy clearly states that you may use a BOGO coupon with a BOGO sale (Nivea this week) and you can use a coupon on both items in a BOGO sale (Nature's Bounty). Thanks a million times to Tara @ Deal Seeking Mom for posting the coupon policy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thrifty Christmas: wrap-up

I did not get to do as much with the Christmas theme as I had hoped to last week -- we have been on the road logging over 500 miles since Christmas, so it has been busy!

I did have one last thought that I wanted to share about how we did Christmas gifts this year. Gift baskets are a really great way to bring together a bunch of smaller items attractively. Small baskets or totes full of travel-sized bath goodies or a variety of snack foods are marketed as great gift ideas during the Christmas shopping time. This year I made a bunch of our gifts (many using Mason-jar recipes) and wanted to put them in gift baskets. But the people we were giving to (parents and grandparents) really had no need for yet another (no matter how cute it is) gift basket or bag. So I borrowed baskets from them, added some decorations (ribbon and tissue paper), and instant gift basket that does not add to the clutter!

I was really happy with how it turned out, and I am thinking that this will be a great idea for the future too!

Happy New Year!
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