Rainbow Deals & Doubles 3/29 thru 4/18

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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Here are the Rainbow Deals and Doubles that interest me this week! Besides the deals below, here's my quick list of the best deals this week to use on double coupon Wed:

Quick List (see below for details)
32 oz Yoplait yogurt for free using $1 printable
free/cheap Crest Toothpaste
free/cheap Wishbone Dressing (sale is BOGO, use 2 $.75 printable coupons to double)
cheap Suave products using coupons
Land O Lakes Butter for $1 using Manif q

Store Sales:
Potatoes, 10 lbs, $2.99
Yellow onions, 3 lbs, $.99
Patrick Cudahy deli ham, $3.99 lb
Roundy's 6 oz yogurt, 4/$1 (store coupon)
Eggs, $.98
Chicken breast, $1.99 lb
Cantaloupe, $2.00
Grapes, $.99 lb
Jennie-O Turkey Ham $1.99 lb
Roundy's frozen potatoes, BOGO ($2.75 for 2)

Coupons to Double on Sale Items
Kraft Miracle Whip, Mayo, 2/$6, $1/2 q in SS 3/29
Angel Soft 9-24 roll, 2/$11, $.50/1 or $1/2 in RP 2/22 or $.50/1 printable
Sparkle Paper Towels, 2/$11, $1/1 in RP 3/1/09
Ball Park Beef Franks, 2/$5, $1/2 in RP 3/15
Sargento Shredded Cheese, 2/$6, $1/2 or $.50/2 in SS 1/25
Hills Bros Coffee, $5.99, $.75/1 in SS 3/29
Dannon Light & fit or Classic, 10/$5, $.50/6 printable, $.60/6 in SS 3/15
Land O Lakes Butter 2/$4, $1/2 or $.50/1 in SS 3/29
Smart Balance spread 2/5, Q for B1 get Smart Balance Mil free in RP 3/8/09
Yoplait Yogurt, 32 oz 2/$4, $1/1 printable
Coffee-mate Creamer 2/$4, $1/2 or $.50/1 in SS 1/4
Oral B Indicator Manual Toothbrush, $1, Q $1/1 in 2/8 PG (q might be $1/2)
Crest Toothpaste 4.6 oz, $1, $.75/1 or $1/1 in PG 3/1, $.50/1 in 2/22 RP
C&H Brown Sugar, $1.50, $.35/1 in RP 3/15
Wishbone Salad Dressing, BOGO, $.75/1 printable (use back button to print q twice to use 2)
Free Milk deal --looks like same deal at Cub, but cereal is NOT on sale. Double q's to get best deal (buy 3/1 free gallon milk, buy 5/2 free gallons milk, buy 7/3 free gallons milk)

Suave Products (Buy $10 get $3 off next trip)
Lots of Q's in 3/1 RP, 2/1 RP, 1/11 RP
Here are some possible ways to do the deal, found at Hot Coupon World
Suave Shampoo/conditioner, 3/$4.98
Suave Styling Aids, 2/$4
Body Wash, 3/$4.98
Lotion 2/$5
Deodorant 3/$4.98

According to HCW, you can also save $.05 for every reusable bag used.
Happy double coupon shopping at Rainbow! Hope it's a good week for you!

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Talkin' Toys Tuesday

by Jen · 0 comments
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I have a confession to make--I have a real problem with toys! I have for a few years now! I buy way too many toys for my children--at Christmas, on birthdays, at garage sales, even on EBay sometimes. We don't have a playroom, so the toys are stored in my children's rooms.

What seems to happen is we hardly play with any of the toys we have! We have so many great toys, but they are stored way in the back of messy closets, we get busy with school and activities, and the toys sit in storage. And every so often, I have a mom meltdown where all I can think about is how these toys are driving me crazy!

And I vow to make a change, to get rid of them, to have less and play with them more! Anyone with children knows how challenging it can be to get rid of toys. Every time I want to get rid of something, it becomes THE cherished toy that my child can't part with. And having a garage sale with kids around--ughh! I become the big bad mom who steals the favorite toys from my children. Every so often I hear, "Mom, what did you do with my special white dog? I know you did something with it!" Most of the time, the "special" toy has been in a box in the garage for 5 months waiting for me to decide what to do with it.

A few days ago, while I was folding laundry with my 4 year old, I had a revelation! We had the best time playing with a Leapfrog Fridge Phonics game that we have had for years. It used to be on my refrigerator, but for about a year now, it has been on the furnace vent in my utility room. While I folded away, I was able to ask my DS, "Can you find the F? It's one of the blue ones. Fish and fun start with F." He would ask, "Is this the F?" and he could test it out himself. When he found the right letter, he would give me a huge Slam Touch, a high-5 in our house. It was tons of fun, and I thought, why haven't we played with this more? It provided a good 45 minutes of educational entertainment, and I was able to get my laundry done.

Sooooo my idea is that every week, we are going to pull out some forgotten toy in our house and play with it! As we use it, I will evaluate how fun the toy really is for us, and if it is worth keeping. Then every week on Talkin' Toys Tuesday, I will share our experience and what I am learning about Toy Management. Talkin' Toys Tuesday will also provide a chance to discuss garage sales, selling toys on Craigslist or eBay, great toy deals, toy storage, etc, etc. Sounds like a fun way to deal with my toy madness problem!! And hopefully all of you smart moms out there will have some great tips for me as well!

Stay tuned for next week's Talkin' Toys Tuesday! Thanks for reading!

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Monday's Menu--on Tuesday!

by Jen · 0 comments

Just thought I would share with you my dinner menu plan for the week, and how I am using it to save a little. Almost everything we are having is based on what I have in my freezer/pantry right now (can you tell we have a lot of chicken?). The shopping I do this week will add some more produce and staples for the week, but I will mainly use my purchases for next week's meals. It pays to plan ahead!

To leave things a bit up to chance, I do not plan each day's specifics. Instead I plan 7-9 meals that I know I have ingredients, and I will decide the night before what I am making.

1. Shrimp, salad, and fruit
2. Chicken Angelo (recipe using baked chicken, mushrooms, and cheese)
3. Chili, corn bread
4. Pork chops, potato fries
5. salmon, rice
6. chicken enchiladas
7. pizza night, salad
8. Honey mustard chicken
9. Roasted chicken, potatoes (use bones to make chicken stock)

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Mom's Night Out--Mom's Know Everything!

by Jen · 0 comments

A few days ago, I went out for dinner with a great group of mom friends. Besides having a fun night away and a break from putting the kids to bed, I got a few tips that I just had to share!

Use your GPS
If you are going on a long road trip with your family, skip the McDonalds, pack lots of lunches, and use your GPS to find city parks along the way. A friend did this with her family on a long road trip down south. They would drive for 4-5 hours and then stop at a park to eat and let the kids run around. It was a great break from the driving and the lunches were healthier and more satisfying than McDonalds!

Audio books in the Car
Another tip for car road trips is to check out audio books on CD from the library to listen to on your journey. My friend and her family recently listened to some Hardy Boys stories on CD, and her boys LOVED them. This is great entertainment for the car, especially if you do not have a portable DVD system.

Get Your Garden Seeds Now!
It sounds like more people than usual are going to be planting gardens this year, so buy your seeds now before the stores run out!

Richardson Nature Center
If you live in the Twin Cities, Richardson Nature Center, part of the Three Rivers Park District in Bloomington, is a great place to take your children for a day outing. It's all free, and the kids will love exploring the exhibits. There are even live animals such as raptors and reptiles. If the weather is nice, there are lots of hiking trails and things to do outside as well. I'm heading here with a friend this week!

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Spring Break at Home!

Monday, March 30, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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It's spring break at our house this week, and, for a number of reasons, we are staying home in Minnesota this year. At the same time, we want to have a fun, "out of the ordinary" week, so we have a local spring break plan to fill our time and have some fun. It's great to have a plan!

Sunday--Swimming, Pizza, and Grandma's
We are heading to southern MN for swimming fun. In my parent's town there is a great indoor pool with three slides, a great shallow section, and a wonderful hot tub. After swimming, we will head to Happy Joe's, where they have the BEST taco pizza ever with a mini "Chuck e Cheese" atmosphere. We will end at Grandma's for a "sleep over," and I'm sure a great breakfast on Monday (we go to Grandma's to eat bacon--always a treat!) This is the perfect "mini-vacation" for our family--just the right amount of excitement!

Monday--The day at Grandma's, an afternoon Cherub Choir practice at church, and a family movie night using Red Box's free Monday night rental!

Tuesday--Kid's playdates. My kids are going to connect with some friends they haven't seen in a while. My husband is home in the AM, so I'm going to do a little baby registry shopping.

Wednesday--Richardson Nature Center
A friend has been raving about Richardson Nature Center, part of the Three Rivers Park District in Bloomington. We are going to meet there, let our kids explore, and end with either a picnic or McDonald's lunch. Should be a fun day!

Thursday--Another playdate with a family we want to connect with. We are going to play at our house this time, and have a nice "kid friendly" and "mom friendly" lunch.

Friday--The Works Museum
Through the library's Museum Adventure Pass program, I plan to get free tickets to the Works Museum in Edina. They are open this Friday and Saturdays and, I hear, offer a lot of "hands on" activities for kids. Sounds like great fun! We've never been there.

Saturday--Perhaps a lunch or dinner with Grandma and Grandpa at our house. We need to invite them yet. We haven't seen them for a while, and we won't be together at Easter, so it would be nice to connect.

Sunday--The MN Landscape Arboretum
We live pretty close to the MN Landscape Arboretum, and we love it! My dad has a family pass that we can use, so we go there for free! They always have fun family activities for the kids! This Sunday in April, they will have pretzel making and information about MN grain and the history of milling.

Other Activities
If things don't go as planned, these are a few other things I can fit into the agenda:
--Breakfast at Ikea--Ikea is such a fun family experience. We can eat cheaply, the kid's can enjoy an hour in the play area, and I can have a little alone time--shopping. It's a nice family adventure where everyone is happy!
--The Library--With my daughter in school, we rarely get here together. At the library we can search for books and DVD's, use the computer, read together in a cozy chair, have a puppet show, and spend some great time together! I never get tired of the library, and neither do my kids!
--Spring Cleaning--My daughter's room is a disaster--can't even walk to her bed. This will take us all week.
Birthday Party Thank Yous--This is something that always gets put off. This would be a great week to get it done.
--Seeds Planting--I need to get my garden seeds planted, and it's getting late. This is a great activity to involve the kids. They can pick their own seeds to plant, water, and grow.

As you can see, we have a fun-filled week planned right in our backyard. There's lot of "out of the ordinary" things to do, we might get a few projects done, and we will connect with a few friends. Sounds like a fun week to me! Leave me a comment if you have some additional ideas for inexpensive, kid-friendly activities for a MN family on spring break! Thanks for reading!

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My Blogging Philosophy

by Jen · 1 comments
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So, it felt good to get out some of my thoughts and feelings on my blogging identity crisis, and now I'm ready to re-group. I took a little time away from the computer, and I've jotted down a few ideas, and I feel as if I have a working plan--always good to have a plan!

So here it is--what I really want to do with Cents in the Cities! I'm writing this for myself--to clarify my goals, plan, and philosophy--but it might also help you, a reader, understand what you will find here.

Why I started Cents in the Cities
I started Cents in the Cities because I wanted to have a conversation about saving money--with myself and whomever might be interested--and I wanted it to make a Minnesota connection. I read lots of great blogs about--saving money, using coupons, and raising a family on less--but I wasn't finding many blogs that posted about the local stores I shop at. Since I enjoy using and learning technology, I thought starting my own blog would be a great chance to have some fun with technology, reflect on my own life, and perhaps create a resource for other Minnesota shoppers and moms like myself.

Since I have started posting on Cents in the Cities, there seems to be so much I want to talk about, but I can't quite figure out what to say (am I making any sense)? There are a lot of different directions I could take, and there are already so many great blogs out there--I don't want to "re-create the wheel." I also want to have a Minnesota connection, but I don't want to limit my audience, since I'm writing about things I think a lot of moms might relate to. I want to post for me and about the things that I care about, but I want other people to read if they are interested.

My Cents in the Cities Plan:

  • Cub and Rainbow--I started this blog because I wanted a place to discuss the deals at Cub and Rainbow, and I commit to doing this on a regular basis--this should be a main focus!
  • Link to Great Blogs--I also shop often at Target, Walgreens, Walmart, Kmart, mall retail stores, and Aldi--just to name a few--but there are already lots of great blogs posting about deals at these stores. Rather than creating posts on these stores (creating more work for myself), I'm going to link to THEIR great posts, and perhaps comment on how the Minnesota shopper might take advantage of the deals. This makes the most sense to me!
  • Minnesota Connection--I am starting to find a lot of great online resources and blogs for the Minnesota shopper--and I will share these with you on a regular basis as well. Minnesota is such a great place to live and raise a family, and I am only one person with one perspective. So, I think it's a great idea to branch out and to connect with what others have to say as well--I'm sure to learn some tips and ideas from my fellow MN shoppers in the process! I'm a Minnesotan at heart and want to talk all about Minnesota family life, entertainment, saving money deals, travel, restaurants, and whatever is relevant to MN at the moment.
  • Saving Money/Living on Less--I use coupons to make my dollar stretch farther. I've always been somewhat thrifty, and attempting to live on one income has made these skills even more important. I will post about coupons and coupon resources that help me spend less money. I will also talk about the tools, planning, and ideas that have made living on a smaller budget work for my family.
  • Share My Passions!--Cents in the Cities is for you to read and enjoy, but it's also for me! And I want to talk about the things I care about. I'm a librarian and I LOVE libraries--I'm going to talk about them! I'm a wife and mom, trying to feed a family and create a home. I'm going to write about toys, kid's clothing, diapers, meals and menu planning, family entertainment, organization, cleaning, and other "fun and frugal" household ideas.
  • Gratitude! Sometimes when talking about how to live on less, the focus turns to what we don't have! I don't want this to be the case! I feel blessed in so many ways, and my life is so full for a number of reasons. I want to use Cents in the Cities as an outlet of gratitude for all that is good in my life. I do feel that it is important to be a responsible steward of the gifts I have been given. And I think in our fast-paced, material-focused world, there is great value in trying to live simply, to focus on the things that matter most, and to take care of my family as best I know how. I want to express how great life can be BECAUSE we are living on less, not in spite of it.
  • The Human Factor--I'm going to try not to expect perfection from this blogging hobby of mine. I might not find all the deals, might be long winded (I'll keep working on it), might have a few typos, and I might not post every day. But my intentions are good. I'll try to post regularly, get the deals right, and let you know if it doesn't work out as I planned. This is me and my blog. Hopefully you can laugh along with me as I share the crazy things I do to save a dollar! It's going to be a fun journey--thanks for taking it with me!
There you have it--my blogging philosophy in a nutshell! If you a reader of Cents in the Cities, leave me a comment and let me know what you like about it. What are the posts that keep you coming back? What would you like to see more of? Thanks so much for reading! And I hope you enjoy what is to come!

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Cub Deals This Week--3/29 thru 4/4

Sunday, March 29, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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It doesn't look like a very exciting week at Cub Foods, but there might be a few deals to help feed a family on less. There might be a few deals on eggs and on Suave products. Let's check it out:

(Q=coupon, SS=Smart Source, RP=Red Plum)

Gift Card Deal--If you have access to your grocery budget now and you shop a lot at Cub, you might want to take advantage of their gift card deal. If you but a $300 gift card, they will give you a $30 gift card. If you but a $250 card, they will also give you a $20. If you are going to shop at Cub anyway, you might as well use a card and save some $$.

Cub Sales:
BOGO 5 lb bag of potatoes (Cub coupon)
4 lb bag oranges, $2.50
Cub Frozen Vegetables, $1
Cub 16 oz sour cream $1.33
Cub 8 oz cheese $1.78

Barilla Pasta 12,16 0z, Sale $1.00, $1 Q from 3/29 SS (coupon is for Tortellini variety--not sure if included in sale)--Free

Hormel Always Tender Fresh Boneless Sirloin Pork Shops or Stuffed Sirloin Pork Chops, BOGO Cub Coupon, $1 Q from 2/08 SS (don't forget to use 2 coupons if you have them)

Knorr Lipton Sides, Sale 10/$10, Buy 10, Cub Coupon to get $3.99 off order,
Q's: $1/3 or $.50/2 or $.75/2 in RP 1/18/09)

Dole Mandarin Oranges, Tropical Fruit Salad, or Pineapple, SP $1, Q's in 2/1/09 SS: $1/3, $.55/2, or $.75/2)

Egg Deals -- There are lots of Cub coupons where you buy certain items and get eggs free. If you use manufacture coupons on these items, you might be able to get a good deal on eggs and sale-priced items. Here are the coupon matches I find.
Buy these products for free eggs:
--Buy 2 Betty Crocker Warm Delight Minis, SP 2/$4, $.55/1 printable, $1/2 or $.50/1 in 2/8 GM
--Buy 4/$7 Betty Crocker Cookie Mixes, $.40/1 or $.50/1 or $1/2 in 2/8 GM
--Buy 2/$5 Sargento Cheese, $1/2 q in 1/25 SS
--Buy 3/$7.50 Pop Tarts, $1/2 in RP 2/22/09, $.55 printable or another $.55 printable (try to print q's more than once)

Suave Products: Purchase $10 in these Suave Products and get a $3 catalina off your next order
Q's in 3/1 RP, 2/1 RP, 1/11 RP, 12/14 RP, 11/16 RP (remember you can use expired manufaturer coupons at Cub--up to 3 months expired)
Suave Deodorant, 3/$5
Suave Lotion, 3/$8, $2/3 or $1/2 or $.50/1 in 3/1 RP
Suave Body Wash $2/3 or $1/2 or $.50/1 in 3/1 RP
Suave Hair Care 3/$5, $1.75/3 or $1/2 in 3/1 RP

Post Cereal, SP 2/$5., Cub coupon for $1/2, Q $1/2 and $.55/1 off Honeycomb in SS 3/1/09,

Dannon Yogut, SP $.49 each, Q's in 3/15 SS: $.60/6, $1/10

Ragu Pasta Sauce, SP $2, Q's in 1/18 RP for $1/2 or $.50 off 2

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Let's Get It On. . . A Blogging Identity Crisis!

Friday, March 27, 2009 by Jen · 3 comments
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Only two months ago, I decided to start this bloggin' thing. I've been having fun, I've been driving myself crazy, and I sometimes wonder what in the heck am I doing? I stay up really late on the computer--not really accomplishing anything. I lay in bed at night with all of these great ideas running through my head, and I can't go to sleep! I'm a talker processor, so I talk my ideas to death to my husband, to my friends, to my kids, to my two cats (OK, not really)--to anyone who will listen.

I'm trying to learn how to use all of this new technology and networking tools--like how to make a button, like Twitter, like Entecard, like Feedburner, like mom blogging networks, like coupon/ saving money networks, like how to hold a blog giveaway--I'm forgetting the 50 other things that I've been considering.

I read all of these great mom blogs, and I think: "That is so great! I want to blog like that person! I want to live like that person! How do they do it? Do they live on the computer 24/7? When do they play with their kids? When do they clean their bathrooms? How do they manage all of this technology and blogging, and everything that's out there? How do they balance? HOW, HOW, HOW????

Then the next day comes, I'm at the computer, and I hit a roadblock! I might get one good post out, but I spend a lot of time thinking at the computer without really producing--thinking about what I really want to post, but not really doing it. Basically, I'm procrastinating. Yep, that's it!

So this is me! I like to see the big picture! I like to worry a little bit. And I sometimes feel guilty. And I talk about it--that's how I process. I'm sometimes long-winded. And I'm sometimes hard on myself--my own worst critic. I'll try not to dwell on it, and it doesn't make me crazy--at least I don't think so.

I think the scary thing about this blogging thing is that I'm putting myself out there! And it might not all be perfect! I might reveal more about the true me than I really want to --and you might see the crazy things I do to save a little money. I can laugh about them--maybe you can to! I really started this blog for me. . . but I do want people to read it! Will anyone want to hear what I say?? Good question. Does it really matter?

So it's time for me to step back. . to process. . . to figure out what in the world I really want to do with this bloggin' thing! Take a breath! I don't have to accomplish it all in one day! But what do I really want to do????

So enough for one post! My next post will help me make sense of what I'm calling my "Blogging Philosophy"--read it if you are interested!

Oh, and to any of you fellow bloggers out there who might have stumbled upon Cents in the Cities--can anyone relate? I love to hear blogging advice, so your words of wisdom are welcome here! Thanks for reading my Friday morning thoughts!

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My Rainbow Trip This Week

Thursday, March 26, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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So I planned out my Rainbow Trip this week, planning to spend $22.44 total. As always, things change, and I spent a bit more, I still think I did OK. I went through the register twice. For my first order I spent $15.65 OOP and for my second order, I spent $19 -- total OOP $34.65. I think that's pretty decent for this amount of food. My total savings was $41.11--I always feel good when I realize I would be spending this much more if I wasn't using coupons and watching the sales!

My goal in going to Rainbow is not to get the cheapest and best deal, but to get a lot of food for my $$ that will feed my family. When I got to the store, I realized that my Naked Juice coupons were for the 15 oz variety and the 10 oz was on sale, so I didn't use these. To adjust my order and to make sure I reached the $25 limit, I decided to add a few items my family could use--like a bag of apples (sale for $3) and salmon (on sale for $4.88 a lb), and grape jelly--my kids wouldn't eat their PB&J with the apricot jelly I had on hand.

My husband and I are not regular coffee drinkers, but we do like the occasional coffee treat. We seem to be craving coffee this week (earlier in the week, we spent $9 on two speciality Caribou drink--outrageous! This could easily break the budget!) So for under $3.50, I bought some coffee and creamer so we can enjoy the coffee without the guilt this week.

So that's my Rainbow trip this week--I thought I did pretty good! I hope your own Rainbow trip was a success! Happy shopping!

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Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 by Jen · 6 comments
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I never thought I would make my own laundry detergent, but here I am doing it--and loving it! I always used to buy Tide with bleach alternative (using a coupon) because I knew it was the best. Then, I started to use Arm & Hammer Liquid detergent with color safe bleach because Consumer Reports gave it a great rating, and I could get it on sale for about $3. (BTW, Consumer Reports also rated Walmart's liquid detergent very good, but I didn't like the fragrance.)

But a few months ago, I found an interesting article about how to make your own, which also introduced me to a great site called Soaps Gone Buy, which gives some great recipes and also sells some make your own kits.

So here is how I make my own laundry detergent, and a few tips I've learned through the process:

1. Recipe & Cost
I use a recipe for dry laundry detergent, because the liquid recipe seemed like too much work. The ingredients are 6 bars Fels Naptha laundry soap, 3 cups Borax, and 3 cups washing soda. Some of these ingredients can be hard to find, but we MN shoppers are lucky. I have found all of these ingredients at the Cub Foods--not sure if they are at all, but I have found them at the two stores I shop at.

Cost -- around $12 for entire recipe:
-$1.05 for each bar Fels Naptha -- $6.30 for 6 bars
-$2.57 for box of Washing Soda
-Don't know exact price of Borax, because I didn't have to buy it today, but about the same price as the washing soda: I'll just say $3.
(Note: this recipe will leave you with extra washing soda and Borax to use for other things or when you make the recipe again.)

Cost per load is .15 cents according to Soaps Gone Buy. It looks like the liquid recipe might be cheaper, but I don't want to mess with cooking the detergent.

2. Basic Process--Use a Food Processor
Basically, you use a cheese grater and grate your bars of Fels Naptha and mix with the washing soda and Borax. You are to store in an air-tight container. Use 2 tablespoons for normal load, 3 tablespoons for large load.

The first time I made the recipe, I used my cheese grater, and it wasn't that hard, but it did take some "elbow grease." This time when I made it, my husband had the idea to use the grater on my food processor, and this worked GREAT! The grated Fels Naptha looks like grated cheese mixed in with the soda and Borax. Once I grated it, I used the "chopper" on my food processor to grate it up more fine. Now it looks more like "real" laundry detergent.

3. Does It Work?
Yes--I think this detergent gets my clothes just as clean as the other detergents I used to buy. My whites definitely get clean and we love it at our house. This homemade detergent does not suds, and it really does not have a fragrance, so you might want to add fabric softener to add the fragrance you like. We have soft water, so I don't feel the need--the clothes come out plenty soft!

So what do you think--do you think you might try making your own detergent? Let me know how it works out for you! And if you already make your own, let me know your tips--thanks!

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Rainbow Deals & Doubles 3/22 thru 3/28

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 by Jen · 2 comments
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I'm heading to Rainbow tomorrow to double my coupons, and I am planning to do 2 transactions--haven't done that in a long time. I'm pretty happy with how things are working out. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow with picts. My total OOP should be $22.44 for both orders. There are a few links to printables. Here are my details:

(RP: Regular Price, SP: Sale Price, Q: coupon)
Order 1:
2 lb Carrots, RP 1.89, SP .88
3 lbs Bananas RP 1.65, SP 1.47
l lb green beans RP 1.69, SP 1.49
8 oz mushrooms, RP 1.79, SP 1
1 lb deli ham, RP 5.49, SP 3.99
Mission Tortillas (Q1), RP 2.54, SP 2
6 Yoplait yogurts (Q2), RP 4.50, SP 3
4 Rice a Roni (Q3), RP 6.6, SP 4
1 Muir Glen Tomato Sauce (Q4), RP 1.99, SP 1.25
2 Naked Juice (Q) RP 4.39, SP 2.5
RP Total: $32.53
SP Total: $21.58
Q1 Mission Tortillas, -$1 Q doubled to -$2 (IP--nla)
Q2 Yoplait .40/6 Q, -.40 q doubled to -.80 (SS 3/22/09)
Q3 Rice a Roni $1/4 Q, -$1 doubled to -$2 (home mailer)
Q4 Muir Glen $ -$.75 q doubled to -$1.5 (SS 2/8/09, also $1 printable here)
Q Naked Juice -$2.00 (not doubled) -- (Get printable coupon here)
Total Q's: -$8.30
Total Out of Pocket: ($21.58 - $8.30 = $13.28)

Order #2:
2 Naked Juice (Q), RP 4.39, SP 2.50 (Get printable coupon here)
Mission Tortillas (Q1), RP 2.54, SP 2 (IP, nla)
4 Hunts Tomatoes (Q2), RP 6.20, SP 4 (home mailer)
2 Red Baron Pizzas (Q3), RP 11.98, SP 6.66 (RP 3/1/09)
Buitini Pasta (Q4), RP 4.39, SP 3 ($1. printable)
Buitoni Sauce (Q5), RP 4.39, SP 3 ($1. printable)
RP Total: $33.89
SP Total: $21.16
Q Naked Juice -2
Q1 Mission Tortilla -1 doubled to -2
Q2 Hunts Tomatoes -1 doubled to -2
Q3 Red Baron -1/2 doubled to -2
Q4 buitini -1 doubled to -2
Q5buitini -1 doubled to -2
Total Q's: -12
Total OOP: $21.16 - 12 = 9.16

Both Order Total: $13.28 + 9.16 = $22.44

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A Full Cup -- Register Today!

Friday, March 20, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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Grocery Coupons at A Full Cup

If you haven't been to A Full Cup yet, today is a great day to check it out! It is an online coupon community that has tons of great resources to help make your coupon and shopping planning easier! They have just launched a new look to their great site, so it's the perfect time to check them out.

I go to A Full Cup almost daily to use their Target Coupon Generator, Coupon Database, and Forums, where I can find info on the best deals of the week at my favorite stores, such as Cub, Rainbow, Target, Walgreens, etc. If you register by clicking on the link or the banner above, I have the chance to win some cool prizes as part of their AFC 2.0 Referral Contest. So you can help me win and also find a great coupon resource for yourself! Thanks for reading!

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Travels with Children--earn prizes with your travel reviews!

Thursday, March 19, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments

I just discovered a great travel blog called Travels with Children--authored by a MN mom! Check out her post on Trekaroo. She provides an invitation for you to check out Trekaroo, a family travel site, and write reviews for places you've been to--in MN and, I guess, any state. By writing reviews you can earn money and/or some great prizes. Once several reviews have been written for a state, the state will be "unlocked" for all to see. Make sure to check out the "invitation" information on how to earn your prizes after you write reviews! Looks like a fun and interesting way to share our great state of MN and earn some prizes in the process--what could be better than that!

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Kmart Doubles--Week of 3/22 thru 3/28

by Jen · 1 comments
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It looks like the Kmart stores in our area (Twin Cities that is) are doubling coupons again next week! With a little planning and coupon organization, this is a great chance to get some good deals. Southern Savers and Hot Coupon World have some greats lists of sale items matched to coupon items--check these out to help you narrow down what coupons and items you want to purchase. Happy double coupon shopping!

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Potato Fries

by Jen · 1 comments
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I used to make potato fries a long time ago before I had kids, but stopped making them--don't know why. Then we had some at a friend's house and I LOVED them! I usually cut up both sweet potatoes and "white" potatoes. I put in a bowl, drizzle with oil and add my favorite seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and sometimes seasoned salt). I then shake them in the covered bowl (a great job for the kids) and lay them out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 40+ minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Once they are done, I usually turn the broiler on for a few minutes to crisp them up. They have become a favorite in our house and make a great side dish--enjoy! Who needs fast food fries when you can make your own--and they're pretty healthy too!

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Cheap. Fast. Good!

by Jen · 1 comments
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Cheap. Fast. Good! by Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross

Cheap. Fast. Good! is one of my favorite cookbooks! I found it at the public library and checked it out at least 10 times before I decided to buy it on Ebay for under $10. I love it, not only because it provides a lot of great recipes that are both thrifty and family-friendly, it has taught me how to implement some "thrifty" tricks in the kitchen such as how to:

  • make my own chicken stock
  • make homemade croutons and bread crumbs
  • make homemade granola
  • cook and freeze dried beans (canned beans are pretty cheap, but this is REALLY cheap)
  • do batch cooking for beef, chicken, and pork
Saving money doesn't just happen at the grocery store--but in the kitchen too! As I post about what's cooking in our kitchen, I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to talk more about the recipes and ideas that work for me from Cheap. Fast. Good!

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Make Your Own Croutons

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At our house, we don't usually eat the heel of the bread loaf. I hate to throw this bread away, so, instead, I throw it in my freezer. After I have a good amount saved, I make homemade croutons out of them, with a recipe from Cheap. Fast. Good! The recipe actually calls for bread slices and tells you to save the heel to make bread crumbs, but the heel works just fine for croutons for our family--we love them in our lettuce salads.

The basic idea is to cut your bread up, mix in a bowl or bag with oil or butter, and season as you like (salt, garlic power, or basil). Then you spread on a cookie sheet and cook in a 325 degree oven until brown and crisp, stirring every 15 minutes. If you are baking more than one cookie sheet of croutons, you should make sure to rotate your sheets when you stir. This is the basic idea--hope it might work for you!

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Life, Blogging, Credit Cards, and the Stomach Flu

by Jen · 1 comments

So I've only been blogging on Cents in the Cities for about two months. Though I am really having fun with it, I'm finding it a challenge--which is probably a good thing. I've been trying to strike a balance between posting articles, learning the technical details, shopping for my family, and living my life--I'm still working on it. Any attempt to follow a schedule gets thrown out the window when life happens:

--Last week was birthday party week at our house, where a lot of our time, energy, and shopping were devoted to final party plans--it was very fun, but a large undertaking.

--Because I decided to use my grocery budget for my birthday party shopping (I know, not a great idea), this week my shopping budget is at a big $$zero! On the bright side, not having money makes it easier to stay home, play with my kids, clean my house, and perhaps post a bit on this blogging thing.

--And the vicious cycle of overspending has sneakily crept into our house again. With a diaper deal, a few birthday presents, one restaurant purchase, and a clearance clothing purchase, our credit card again has a balance--something I try desperately to avoid! To solve the problem, I take out of savings to cover our overspending. Then I tighten our already pretty tight household budget in order to pay savings back. This seems to be a reoccurring pattern at our house--keep working on it.

--And to top it all off, my daughter caught the stomach bug, which she passed on to both me and my husband yesterday. It's not often that both of us are sick at the same time. Thank God for grandparents, who came up from southern MN yesterday, and entertained, fed, and put my kids to bed--such a blessing! There is nothing like the stomach flu to make you appreciate your health!

So life happens, and I guess we keep going, striving for a balance, caring for our families, and appreciating the blessings in our lives. Thanks for reading my life rant today.

Still planning to keep the frugal fun and saving articles a comin'!

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Inexpensive Home Birthday Party Tips

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 by Jen · 2 comments
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I love putting on a great birthday party. They might stress me out just a little bit, but I love the fun and excitement they bring into our home. They may take a bit of time, planning, and energy, but the resulting fun and memories for both me and my children are so worth it! Here are my tips on how to put on a great in-home, inexpensive birthday party on a budget:

1. Set a Budget and Stick to It
This is probably THE most important thing to remember. Since I am the "queen" of going overboard, I know that the birthday party expenses can add up so fast if you are not careful, you start to think, "why didn't I just have this party at the pool/community center/birthday store and pay the same amount of $$!" So decide what you want to spend on your in-home party, and stick to the plan. It might help you to be very specific--how much do you want to spend on the cake, decorations, games, gifts, etc. The more you plan, the more you save!

2. Use a Theme

I Love, Love, Love planning my birthday parties around a theme. It makes the planning sooooo easy! We have had a Princess party, a Cat/Dog party, a Rainbow party, a Scooby Doo party (yep, couldn't talk my DS out of that one), and now a cooking party. Everything you plan including the invitations, games, cake, and gift bags revolves around the theme. My favorite site that gives me all my ideas is http://www.birthdaypartyideas.com/. You can read all about parties other people have put on--on more themes than you can imagine--and select the ideas that work for you!

3. Limit Number of Guests
This is such a hard one for me--especially now that my DD is in grade school. The common recommendation is to have the same number of guests as the age your child is turning (7 guests for a 7 year-old party). It also depends on the size of your house and how you use your space.
Last year, I had 17 children in our pretty small house for our Rainbow party, and it was too many. We did break the group in half and had "stations" downstairs and upstairs, so we were able to work it out. For me, more kids means things take more time, so you need to plan for that.

4. Start with a Creative Invitation
For me, the invitation sets the entire tone for the birthday event. I'm not "crafty" so my invitations usually involve printing something off the computer and taping it to cardstock.

This year, our invitation was in the form of a recipe, and I found a great teddy bear recipe template online. For our Rainbow party, the invitation read "Somewhere Over the Rainbow. . . Is a Birthday Party." We used rainbow clip art off the computer that my daughter and I colored together--not a "perfect" invitation, but we had fun together. For the cat/dog party, we delivered all of the invitations in a brown "doggie bag" that included graham cracker dog bones. Even if you are being creative, try now to buy extras--use the craft paper or supplies that you have--creative can be simple.

5. Use What You Have/Borrow From Friends
This is key! Think about the supplies you have on hand and how you can use them.

I had very fine sand left over from a craft project and powered paint purchased at a garage sale--very easy to make my own colored sand. With glass baby food jars from a friend and a bit of ribbon from the gift wrap drawer, I had my rainbow craft! Time and energy to make this happen--yes, but if was fun! This year, I am borrowing rolling pins from friends so the girls can roll out their own pizza dough for our food project. A friend is always willing to help out--especially if you return the favor.

6. Make Your Own Cake

I am also not a cake decorator (that's my sister.) I made a Strawberry Shortcake cake once with the stars covering the cake to make the picture (you know, the kind they hold classes on at your area craft store) and vowed NEVER to make a cake like that again. But You can make a pretty simple cake that can be very cute. Family Fun Magazine has lots of recommendations for making your own cake.

For our Cat/Dog party, I made a brown cat cake that involved cutting two round cakes into easy shapes. Our rainbow cake used a basic rectangle cake with white frosting with the rainbow created using skittles and marshmallows. And for our Cooking party, the girls are decorating their own cupcakes--one to eat and one to take home. Again, these cakes weren't "perfect" but my daughter and I had fun making them together!

7. Decorations and Tableware
Paper products with TV/movie characters are so expensive and can quickly break the budget. Instead, use inexpensive table products, crepe paper, and balloons from Walmart or the Dollar Store. Purple/pink plates are great for a princess party. Who needs helium balloons when you can tape blow-up balloons up high or where ever you want them. Christmas decorations bought on clearance (garland, tinsel, etc) can also make nice decorations for a festive party. I also reuse the same "Happy Birthday" sign every year. Another great idea is to write on windows, doors, or sidewalks with a birthday message. Use what you have and consider your budget!

8. Have a Birthday Plan
I like to have a word document or notebook where I write out the order of the party. Have more games/activities planned than you need, because you never know what you will need. Dancing to birthday music is a fun filler activity and reading a story is a great way to quiet a group down.

If you have a small house, use different spaces for different activities. In my split-level house, we always do crafts and food upstairs and games/presents downstairs. One year, we were even set up in the laundry room for a sand art craft. The more you plan, the more options you have and the more smoothly your party will go!

9. Cake and Ice Cream
My favorite tip is to have the ice cream already scooped out in muffin tins in the freezer--makes for easy serving and not so messy!

10. Opening Gifts
It's hard to keep the kids down--they get so excited to open and see the presents. It's helpful if you can have the birthday girl sit in a special place and the friend can join her when opening the present. At our house, the birthday girl sits on couch with the present giver and everyone else is on the floor. It also works to use a special stuffed chair or even a colored piece of paper for the children to sit on when opening--it helps cut down the chaos. This year, my younger son was involved by choosing the present to open--he felt very important!

11. Take Home Goodie Bags
This is another area that can quickly break the budget. I like to use 3 or 4 larger items that we used or made at the party.
I also like to use inexpensive paper lunch bags that we can decorate or just write the child's name on. In my opinion, a few main gifts is much nicer and costs about the same as buying lots of trinket/party toys to go home in a plastic character bag.

At our cooking party, the girls went home with a cloth hat/apron, a wooden spoon (from the party game), a cupcake (from decorating activity), and a fruit snack (I had extra). At a train party my son went to, he came home with a train whistle and Melissa & Doug crayons--what a great idea!

12. Thank You Cards--Again, use your theme to plan your idea. I always like to include photos, and a photo glued to card stock makes a great card. Even though your child might not know how to write, I like to have them include some form of art or writing--a picture, their name, or a short thank you that they can manage--makes that thank you more personal.

These are the things I keep in mind when planning my parties. (I tried to be brief, but just couldn't help sharing the details). Thanks for reading and hope these tips might help with your party planning!

If you have a favorite birthday party tip, I would LOVE to hear it! Thanks for reading!

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Birthday Party Blast--Cooking in the Kitchen!

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It was birthday party central at our house this last week. On Sunday, we hosted a Cooking Birthday Party for my 7 year old daughter. Even though it was a lot of planning, organization, and work, we all had so much fun. I didn't keep very close track of my budget (not a smart idea), but I know it was fairly inexpensive--I'm guessing under $75 for everything--which is much less than a cooking party at the mall. I can't resist sharing the fun details:

1. The Invitation--I thought this was very cute and a fun way to introduce the party--got lots of compliments on it!

2. Arrival--Girls put on hats/aprons ($3 each on Ebay), "floured their faces," and had their picture taken. We colored "cooking" pages while we waited for everyone to arrive.

3. Pizza Making--We washed hands and made pizzas. Each girl got to roll out her dough, spread out the sauce, and add toppings. We also made fruit & cheese kabobs. They had lots of fun.

4. Games downstairs--We had a wooden spoon scavenger hunt and a "pin the cherry" on the ice cream sundae.

5. Time to eat--our menu included, pizza, fruit kabobs, carrots, and chocolate milk. The girls ate really good--I think because they made the food themselves.

6. Cupcake Decorating -- This was a blast. The girl's got to pick a color and mix their own frosting and choose their own toppings/sprinkles. I also had frosting in bags for them to decorate. Some girls went all out--very creative. Plastic table cloths down kept the mess to a minimum. The cupcakes became our birthday cake. And each girl took a cupcake home.

7. More games & presents--Downstairs, we played a play food relay race and a food memory game sitting in a circle. Then it was time to open presents! Taking a picture of my daughter with each girl and her present makes thank you cards easier.

8. Cake and Ice cream time! One of my best birthday party tips is to have the ice cream already scooped out in muffin tins--makes things so easy! The girls were hungry and ate all of the cupcakes and ice cream!

9. Goodie Bags--Each girl went home with her apron hat, wooden spoon, cupcake in cute cardboard container, and a fruit snack (I had lots of these from a Cub Foods deal).

10. Thank you cards will be a recipe booklet including pictures and recipes from the party.

11. Clean up and crash! I will admit, that this party was a lot of work, but I had so much fun. I'm so glad we did it because we created so many fun memories--I will always remember this great party. Next year with a new baby, I can't imagine doing a party like this, so I'm so glad we did it this year. It was definitely worth the time and energy!

I'd love to hear about your special in-home birthday parties! Thanks for reading my details! Jen

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Rainbow Deals 3/15/09 - 3/21/09

by Jen · 1 comments
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Here are a few of the deals that I see at Rainbow this week with coupon match-ups. Remember that Wed is double coupon day at Rainbow, where you can double up to 5 coupons with a value of $1 or less. Hope this might help your Rainbow shopping:

Roundy's Gallon Milk, $1.68, limit 2
80% Lean Ground Chuck, $1.99 lb, 3 lb pkg
Boneless Pork Loin in the bag, $1.49 lb
Green Grapes, $.99 lb
Roundy's Whole Cut up Chicken, $1.29 lb

-McCormick Chili Seasoning, $.25/1, 01/18/2009 RP
-Wholly Guacamole or Salsa, 2/$4, $1/1 02/08/2009 SS, $1/1 printable
-Kashi Go Lean Crunch, 20% off, $1/1 printable
-Smart Ones, 4/$9, $1/5 printable
-Boston Market Entrees, 2/$5, $1/1 printable
-Dannon 6 oz yogurt cups, 10/$5, $1/10 in 03/15/2009 SS
-Land O Lakes Fresh Buttery Taste Spread, 2/$3, $1/2 in 01/25/2009 SS
-International Delights Coffee Creamer, 2/$5, $1 printable
-Kellogg's Cereal, 4/$11, $1 of any--printable,
-Nature's Pride Bread, 2/$4.50, $.55 q in 02/22/2009 RP
-Ken's Dressing, 2/$4, $1/2 in 01/11/2009 SS
-Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks, 4/$9, $1/3 in 03-08-09 SS, $.50/2 in 03-08-09 SS, $1/2 in 03-08-09 SS, $.75/2 printable, $1/3 in 02-08-09 GM, $1/2 in 02-01-09 SS, $.75/2 printable, $.75/2 printable
-Chex Mix, Bugels, Chex 100 cal, Gardettos, or Cheerios Snack, 4/$5, $.60/1 printable, $1/2 in 02-22-09 SS, $1/1 printable, $1/2 in 01-25-09 SS, $1/2 printable
-Yoplait Go-Gurt or Fizzix Yogurt, $2/4, $1/2 printable, $1/2 in 02-08-09 GM, $1/2 printable here or here or here
-Pillsbury Ready to Bake Cookies, 2/$4, $0.35/1 in 02-08-09 GM, $1/2 printable, $1/2 printable,
-Betty Crocker Brownie or Muffin Mix, Warm Delight Minis, 2/$4, $.55/1 printable, $1/2, $.55/1 printable,
-Betty Crocker Cookie Mix, 2/$3, $.75/1 printable here
--Cascadian Farm Cereal or Granola Bars, 2/$5, $1/1 printable
-General Mills Cereal, Buy 6, get $10 off order and coupon for free milk, $1/2 printable, $1/2 printable, $1/2 printable,
-Dove 6 pk soap, $5.99, $1/1 in 01-18-09 RP or 03-15-09 RP
--Lots of Dove Products on sale
Nabisco 100 cal cookies, 2/$4, $1/2 printable
Nabisco Crackers, 2/$5, $1/2 printable.
Arm & Hammer Laundry Det, $2.99, $1/1 printable
Knorr Pasta Sides, $1, $1/2 in 01-18-09 RP,

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Walgreens Last Week: Huggies Diapers

Monday, March 16, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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I decided to use the Walgreens Huggies diaper deal to stock up. I did the deal three times, using the $5. diaper coupons and the Register Rewards I had from the previous weeks to bring down the cost of my order. I was able to purchase:
6 pkgs Huggies Newborn diapers
2 pkgs Huggies size 1 diapers
1 large pkg Huggies baby wipes

In these same transactions, I also purchased 1 Colgate toothpaste, 3 Garnier hair products, some wooden spoons for DD birthday party, and a few misc items.

My total out of pocket (OOP) for all items was $17.97.
I also have 2 $10 Register Rewards left over from these deals to use in the next two weeks. AND, I should receive $6. in rebates from the Caregivers Network. I would say, this was a great deal to stock up on diapers!

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Cub Deals--Week of 3/15 - 3/21/09

by Jen · 2 comments
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Here are a few of the deals at Cub that I like this week. Remember at Cub, you can use manufacture coupons up to 3 months expired--these can really help reduce your cost. For more coupons that match this weeks Cub ad, check out Hot Coupon World.

There are lots of B1G1 Cub coupons in their ad:
Rancher's Preferred Black Angus Chuck Roast 2/$3.99
Carrots, 2 lb, 2/$1.99
Potatoes 5 lbs, 2/$2.99
Cub Vegetable Blends, 16 oz each, 2/$2.73
Dinner Rolls, 12 ct, 2/$2.99
Onions, 2 lb bag, 2/$1.79

Buy 10 Participating Kellogg's Products, Get $10 off your order (coupon in ad):

Kellogg's Cereals
--Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, Printable here and here, $1.00/2,
--$1/1 any Kellogg's Cereal, printable
--$1.50/2 Kellogg's Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes Cereals, Cereal Straws And/Or Grab ‘N Go Cereal Packs, Any 5 Oz. + - 01-18-09 RP (exp. 3/1/09)
$1.00/1 Kellogg's Cereal (8.8 oz or larger, Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops, Cocoa Krispies, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops Or Cocoa Krispies) or Cereal Straws - 12-14-08 RP (exp. 1/25/09)
--$1.50/2 Smart Star, Rice Krispies, Crispix, Raisin Bran Crunch, Corn Flakes RP 1/19/09

--$1.00/1 Kellogg's Cereal: Rice Krispies Or Crispix, Any 10 Oz. + - 12-14-08 RP (exp. 1/25/09)

--Kellogg's Chocolate Banana Split Pop-Tarts, 8 ct., printable here or here or here, $0.55/1
--$1/2, RP 02/22/2009

Nutri-Grain Bars
$1.00/2 Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Bars, Any 6 Ct. + - 01-11-09 SS (exp. 3/8/09)
Rice Krispies Treats
$1.00/2 Kelloggs Rice Krispies Treats, 2 - 03-15-09 RP

Keebler E.L Fudge Cookies
--$1/1 printable

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Caregivers Marketplace--Huggies Diapers Rebate and More

Friday, March 13, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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For those of you who may have bought Huggies diapers this week at Walgreens, you can mail your receipts to the Caregivers Marketplace to receive cash back. Their program provides cash back on eligible medical products such as Huggies, Goodnites, Balmex, Citrucel, Depend, Ensure, Glucerna, Gold Bond, Nature Made, and many others. If you buy any of these brand items, you might want to check out their program. If the program works like I think, I will get $6. back on the Huggies diapers I purchased this week. I think that's worth it!

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Birthday Budget-- You Win Some. . .and then Some!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 by Jen · 2 comments
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So we just celebrated my daughter's 7Th birthday--golden birthday on the 7Th. And I thought I was really planning well, going very inexpensive and still making it special. But I actually think the best laid plans don't always work out that way. . . .

The Gift:
So we got her an inexpensive MP3 player--this was something she asked for. And even though I don't really think a 7 year old needs one, it's not another toy taking up tons of space that never gets played with. I was able to get one on sale for $25, and she has been very excited about it. So this gift was worth it!

The Cake
So I went to Aldi and Target and bought ingredients to make an inexpensive ice cream cake using ice cream sandwiches and cool whip. The cake really was very inexpensive--under $9--and was very tasty. The can of purple frosting was a bit expensive at $2.99, but overall, the entire cake was very good for the price. It would have been great except. . .

The Meal
So my daughter had it in her head that she wanted to go to Olive Garden for her birthday because we went last year. She is a "pasta girl" so I thought--OK. This will be a special treat for her and our entire family. And it was very tasty, but it wasn't as inexpensive as I remember it being. Plus, they do NOT give you a complementary dessert and sing happy birthday. We had to pay $7.99 for a little cake. So we had cake at the restaurant, and we didn't even eat my tasty ice cream cake until the next day. Plus, we went over the $50 in cash that I had set aside for the meal, so we had to put it on a credit card--frustrating! I don't think a 7 year old needs a $60 birthday meal--even if she loves pasta. I think we need to re-think this tradition for next year. My husband thinks I'm being a "hum bug."

The Activities
My husband was working the day of her birthday, so I did take my kids swimming for $10.50. So the day after her birthday, as part of the birthday fun, we went to the MN Zoo. Now, I did use an adventure pass from the library, so we two adults got in free, but I still paid $22.

The Party
And we haven't even had the party yet! The party is next weekend! It's going to be very fun, and I will post about the details later.

Birthday Budgeting Conclusion
This was not an inexpensive birthday plan--especially with an expensive meal, two cakes, activities, and a party to come.

To save money on birthdays, it makes more sense to have the birthday party on the actual date, or as close to the actual birthday as possible. Because I wanted to make the day special for my daughter ON her birthday, I spent money on food and activities and I will spend on a birthday party. She probably doesn't need both.

But I am known to go overboard on birthdays--it's one of my downfalls. If you have any tips on making your child's birthday special without breaking the bank, I'm all ears.

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I Love Trader Joe's!

Monday, March 9, 2009 by Jen · 3 comments
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January was the last time I went to Trader Joe's and I blew my entire two week budget there--my husband would tell you it was so worth it! Because I have been limiting my grocery shopping these last two weeks (check out my $60 Challenge), I was able to set aside $20 to stock up on a few items. Here are my recommendations for the "best" items to stock up on when going to Trader Joe's:

Because Trader Joe's isn't overly easy for me to get to, I only go there about once every 6 to 8 weeks. There are certain things that I buy there that are more inexpensive than even the major retail grocery stores. I will list my main staples first, but will also list some other great items:

-PEANUT BUTTER--sorry for the all caps, but this is the main reason I go there. Their natural peanut butter is only $1.79 for a 16oz jar, and my family has grown to love it. This is much cheaper than natural PB at Cub or Target. For me, it's worth it to buy in bulk! Today, I bought 5.
--Raw Almonds--$4.99 for a lb. This is tons cheaper than other stores, where the cheapest I found was $7.99 a lb. Stick them in the freezer, and they make a great snack--my kids love them!
-- Olive Oil, $6.99 to $7.99 depending on the variety for a large bottle--excellent!
-- Frozen strawberries, $1.69 for 16 oz; again cheapest price anywhere--stock up
-- Frozen vegetables--I've bought inexpensive bags of the baby green beans and a bell pepper mix--very inexpensive.
--soups such as tomato and red pepper--not necessarily inexpensive but very tasty
-- Cheeses--I think their cheeses are VERY reasonable--if you are having a party, buy your cheese here!
-- vitamins, I haven't purchased a lot here, but there are definitely some inexpensive choices
--bag of organic apples; if you are trying to buy organic, their bag of apples is pretty reasonable
--Dried fruit--this is just a treat for our family. We love the mango!

--2 Buck Chuck--OK, so I don't think it's 2 bucks anymore, but their wine is very inexpensive. If you want cheap wine, try the Charles Shaw varieties--it might be more tasty than you think. Again, this is a great place to get your wine for a party

OK, I know I have forgotten some great items, because Trader Joe's is just soooo great! So leave a comment and share your favorite things to buy at Trader Joe's! See if you can convince me to add to my Trader Joe's list of staples!

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Week 2 Update: $60 Grocery Challenge

by Jen · 0 comments
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Last week was super busy for me, and I feel like I haven't posted in a while. I feel guilty, but life happens, and I have to go with it! I'm new to this blogging thing and haven't quite found the balance. If you enjoy reading Cents in the Cities, I hope you're still hanging with me, as I do plan to post on a regular basis.

I have ended my 2 week $60 grocery challenge and want to give you my Week 2 Update. I definitely wasn't as organized as week 1--I didn't have a great menu plan, but I was still able to stick to my $60. So here are my shopping details:

Target $6.52
Rainbow $23.26
Aldi $20.45
Target $5.76
Total: $55.99 (The entire $60 is gone--I'm sure the other $4 went to Walgreens, even thought I didn't keep careful track)

I made a lot of trips to Walgreens last week, did lots of deals, and was able to get my "shopping fix." Shopping the deals really can be addicting. Because I had money on my Walgreens gift card from shopping the deals there in February, I spent only a few dollars out of pocket. I also have $28 in Register Rewards to use to buy shampoo and diapers this week--I'm stocking up.

I went to Target twice, the first time to get a snack for my DS for preschool, and got great deals on Goldfish, Motts Applesauce, Archer Farms soup and cereal. On the second trip, I got $.99 a lb grapes, and hot fudge and frosting for my DD birthday cake. If you shop at Target, you really should check out the Target Coupon Generator at A Full Cup--great deals.

I went to Rainbow on Wed and took advantage of their double coupon deals. I got a lot of food for my $23.26, so it was definitely a good shopping trip. I'm not going to do double coupons there this week, but I am going to get a few items.

We were out of all produce last week, so I decided to do a major shopping trip to Aldi's, which was only $20.45. I got bananas, apples, oranges, potatoes, celery, carrots, and cheap ingredients to make my daughter's birthday cake. Honestly, I also really went here because I was craving their peanut butter wafer bars that are only $1 (they are like the Little Debbie or Hostess peanut butter wafer snacks covered in chocolate that my Mom bought when I was a kid--I think they are just as good as the name brand ones). If you haven't been to Aldi, you should definitely go to experience it. At first I wasn't sold, but the store has grown on me. You can definitely make your dollar stretch.

I didn't shop at Cub this week, which is unusual, since I consider this my main store for groceries. But their deals weren't all that great, so I chose to skip it--didn't miss anything. Now I will shop there this week, as they have cheap milk and some great BOGO (buy one get one) deals. Guess it just depends on the week and where the deals are.

Where I'm at Today
Overall, it wasn't THAT hard to shop on only $60 a week--I could do it with some planning. At the same time, I felt like I had little flexibility--my money had to go for the necessities--and there was little left over for anything extra. I also feel today that my pantry and freezer are getting more sparse than I like them to be. On the smaller budget, it's harder to stock up when there is a sale, and I definitely need to stock up if there is a great price on an item.

I actually am going to continue to limit my grocery budget to $60 a week, but I am also allowing a $20 budget for what I call Target items (the bathroom/household things). This will give me a bit more flexibility, but is still pretty tight for my family. This tight budget will help us work toward the goal of paying off our kitchen by June--I'll keep you posted on our progress. I'll also let you know about the continued challenges of feeding my family on a tighter budget than usual. Thanks for reading my shopping details!

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Sunday MN Star Tribune for 50 Cents a Week

by Jen · 22 comments

I just received a letter from the Minneapolis StarTribune offering the Sunday paper for $26 a year delivered--that's 50 cents a week. All you need to do is call 1-800-775-4344 or 612-673-4343 and mention code DMD S50. This offer is for people who have subscribed to the Sunday paper before, but it's worth a try if you are interested.

A few years ago, I subscribed to two Sunday papers. This allowed my husband to take one to work with him on Sundays and I got an extra set of coupon inserts. Lately, I haven't felt the need as I am using a lot of online coupons and my mother-in-law saves me her coupons. But if you are just starting out and want to get the Sunday paper, this is a great price!

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Walgreens Deals 3/8 thru 3/14

Saturday, March 7, 2009 by Jen · 3 comments
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I had a lot of fun shopping at Walgreens last week--haven't shopped there in a long time--and this week, I went crazy! I can't even tell you how many times I went to Walgreens. I think I went back 5 or 6 times after I posted about my deals here. Besides doing the Dove soap deal pictured in that post, I got lots more Colgate toothpaste and Sambucol cold medicine. By Friday, I just had to stop myself. Now, I have about $30 in Register Rewards (RR's) to use on deals this upcoming week, and am hoping to buy some Huggies diapers and Garnier shampoo at a low price.

If you are shopping at Walgreens this week, Southern Savers has a good listing of the sales and what you can do with them to save money. Have fun!

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Coupon Basics #4: Online Printable Coupons

Thursday, March 5, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments

Here is a list of online sources that provide you with coupons to print. You may have to register at each and download a coupon printer (I recommend using a separate couponing email address).

There are so many sites out there, that it can be challenging to use or follow all of them. Coupon generators or coupon databases like those found at A Full Cup or Hot Coupon World can easily help you find these available coupons when you need them. I have found that these printable coupons can be just as good or better than those found in the newspaper, and can help you build a specific "deal" for a weekly store sale.

Cool Savings
Red Plum

Coupon Loop
Coupon Surfer
Special Offers

Target Coupon Generators: A Full Cup, Hot Coupon World

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A Walgreens Shopper Today!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 by Jen · 1 comments
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I'm not a "diehard" Walgreens shopper--I kind of go in streaks. Sometimes I'll try to do the deals there, but other times I just focus on buying groceries for my family--some weeks, feels like I have all I can do just to get to one store. Not today! Today I was a great Walgreens shopper, and got some awesome deals! I did have to go to 3 Walgreens to make it happen, but once in a while I can do this. I pretty much got all of the items above free using coupons, catalina coupons, and my Walgreens gift card. Here are the details. . .

I went to the first Walgreens and bought the Colgate toothpaste and Vaseline lotion with coupons for each. I used my Walgreens card to pay $4.15 and received a $3.50 and $2.00 catalina to use on my next order. They didn't have the Dove soap I wanted to buy so I moved on.

I went to the second Walgreens and bought 2 Fiber One boxes (using coupons paid $.64 each), another colgate tootpaste and another Vasoline lotion. I used my Walgreens gift card to pay $5.4 and received another $3.50 and $2.00 catalina to use on my next order.

I went to the third Walgreens and bought 8 bars of Dove soap with the in-ad coupon and one more Vaseline lotion. I used the $3.50, $2. and $2.catalinas I earned in the purchases above and spent $1. cash on the entire order. THEN, I received a $10 catalina and a $2. catalina to use later. I then went through one last time and bought 8 more Dove soaps for a total of $2.97, which I paid with my Walgreens gift card. AND received one more $10 catalina.

I got all of these items for $1. cash, and it earned me two $10 catalina coupons to use next week to do another deal. Oh, life is good! Shopping the deals is great!

There are a lot of great couponing blogs out there that highlight drugstore deals, so I do not plan to do this at Cents in the Cities right now. I will try, however, to provide a link every week to a good post that spells out the deals for you! Common Sense with Money provides one good overview of Walgreen's deals. If you haven't shopped the deals at Walgreens or CVS, you might want to try it. It can be a great way to get lots of products free or close to it! Happy shopping!

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My Great Rainbows Double Order

by Jen · 0 comments
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I did very well shopping at Rainbow today for their double coupon deals. I pretty much stuck to the plan that I spelled out in yesterday's post. I didn't buy the juicy juice as planned. Instead I purchased 2 Paul Newman's spaghetti sauce at 2/$4 and doubled a $1 Q making the final price $1 each. Won't go into the details here, but I got free yogurt, cheap milk, bread, chicken breast, a pizza for "pizza night," plus a lot more. I was worried that they wouldn't take my "buy 1 get 3 free" printable for the Zone Perfect bars, but they took it no problem. Total OOP was $23.26, and I had a savings of $38.49. For me, that's good shopping.

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My Rainbow Double Coupon Order--Free Yogurt!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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So this is how I think my Rainbow double coupon purchase will work tomorrow:
Q=coupons, OOP=Out of pocket
2 Gallons Milk @ $1.68 each; $3.36 OOP
2 lbs Roundys Chicken Breast @ 1.99lb; $3.98OOP
3 Roundy's Shredded Cheese @ 3/$4.98; $4.98OOP (not as good as previous weeks, but I need for DD birthday party)
3 Scott Bath Tissue@ 3/$.99; use store coupon out of Rainbow flyer, $.99OOP
1 Tombstone Pizza @ 4/$12; $3OOP
2 loaves bread @ $1; $2.OOP
1 Fiber One Yogurt @ $2; use $1Q from Eat Better America coupons, doubled to $2; OOP Free
3 Yo Plus Yogurt @ $2 each; $6; use 3 Q's $1/1 from here or here; Q's double to $2. off; OOP FREE
2 Juicy Juice @ 2/$5.; $5. $1/1 Q here, (hoping that hte Harvest Surprise is on sale), Q doubled to $2; OOP $3 (need for DS preschool snack)
2 light Progresso soupons @ $1/1; $2 Q $1/1 here; doubled to $2 off; OOP FREE
4 Zone Perfect Bars @ $1/1; $4; I'm going to try to use my buy 1 get 3 free Q (register 1st, then go back to print Q), but don't know if they will take it, $1 OOP

Total OOP: $22.31 (if I did the math right)
I'll let you know how it works out!

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Giving Up. . . Giving Out!

by Jen · 0 comments
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For my family, this time of year is a focus on Lent--preparing for Easter. As a child, we were encouraged to "give up" something for Lent, something like candy, desserts, TV watching, or some luxury. This never worked for me--I never could do it--still can't do it to this day! Don't know if I lack willpower, or if the meaning just wasn't behind it for me. I can see how this can be meaningful and a powerful form of prayer for some people, but I'm not one of them.

So instead of giving up, I've decided there is something I can do--give out. There are some simple things I want to do in my life--that I say I'm going to do everyday--but that I constantly struggle with. I have decided that my prayer can be to focus on three simple things that can help me "give out"--to myself, to my family and to my community. Here they are:

1. Save and Give
I love shopping the deals and saving money for my family. I have a grocery bag for the food shelf ready to add to as I shop each week, but I never quite seem to fill it up. So these two months, I'm going to make a conscious effort to SAVE AND GIVE--to add something to my food shelf bag with every weekly shopping trip. This is something I CAN make happen!

2. Quality and Presence
Being a stay-at-home-mom, I am home with my children all of the time. Even though we have a basic routine and limit TV, my projects can sometimes (often) take over my life, and I don't feel like I'm really giving my children the QUALITY time that I want to give them--that they deserve. So for the next two months, I'm going to make a conscious effort to drop everything else and just be with them--in the morning, afternoon, and night! Not every moment of the day, because there is always work to be done, but I can do more. I can make this happen!

3. Computer Time Limits
Now that I am doing this blogging thing, I am on the computer all of the time--way too much! I've justified it by saying that I'm just starting my blog, so, of course, it's going to take an investment of time at the start up. But it's time to put this in perspective--to balance this out. So even though I really enjoy my computer time, I HAVE TO limit it and balance it with the other meaningful activities in my life. I need to be with my family, read a book, take a walk (warm up MN), do my laundry, and just "be." I don't have to have all of my blog components done today--every day there is time to add something new or make an adjustment. So I'm going to make a conscious effort to follow a "blogging schedule" and to limit my computer use to certain times of the day. I can make this happen! This shouldn't be so hard, should it?

So these are the three simple ways I plan to Give Out this spring. I'll keep you posted on the process each week--let you know if this is more successful for me than the "giving up." If you have a "giving up" or "giving out" thing that you are focusing on this season, feel free to share a comment--I love to hear your thoughts and to know that I am not alone in my mommy struggles. Thanks!

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