Friday, April 30, 2010

$5 off a $25 purchase at Books a Million

Books A Million is having a cute Mother's Day Sale this weekend. Present this coupon and a picture of your child and get $5 dollars of a purchase of $25

Books a Million always has great stash of books on clearance, combine with this coupon and you could score a great deal.

Don't have a child? Use a picture of someone else's! I can't imagine they will be too strict on that condition.

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Olde World Theatre Presents Peter Pan

Olde Worlde Theatre begins their spring production of Peter Pan this Saturday.

We've been to a couple of their productions and they are great! My daughter loves them. They're very interactive with the audience, so your little ones will not be bored. Last time, the actors came out and met with the children after the production too.

Belcourt Theatre
2102 Belcourt Avenue, Nashville, TN 37212

Saturday, May 1st, 8th & 15th
10 a.m. & 12:15 p.m.
Admission: $7.00

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Half Price Day at Goodwill Saturday!

It's the first Saturday of the month, so that means Half Price Day at Goodwill!

The whole store is half price. Be prepared for crowds, and to dig a little, but you can find some really good deals and even some buried treasure!

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New Charcoal Coupon Book at Publix

Today, I found this new coupon book at Publix. "It's Time For The Flavor of the Grill" has a $1/2 any Glad Storage Product and $2 off any Kingsford Charcoal, Kingsbord Match Light Charcoal, or Kingsford Competition Briquets 11.1 lb or larger. They are manufacturer coupons.

Publix has Kingsford Charcoal on sale for $6.99 right now. There are several other coupons that allow you to get cheap or free products when you buy Kingsford charcoal right now.

Use any of these in combination with the $2/1 and you get a good deal:

$2.00 off meat wyb Kingsford Charcoal 3/14 SS
Free Glad product wyb Kingsford Charcoal Printable
Free Hidden Valley Dressing wyb Kingsford Charcoal Printable
Free KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce wyb Kingsford Charcoal Printable

I found these booklets laying on the shelf next to a large charcoal display, so you may have to hunt for them a little, but they'll be worth it.

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My Publix Shopping List

Here are the deals I plan to get at Publix this week:

BOGO Items (Buy One Get One Free, meaning each is half price)
McCormick Garlic Powder
Sale Price: $1.24
- $1/1 4/25 RP Insert
-$.55/1 McCormick printable or in Publix Earthday book
= FREE after both coupons!

Breakstones Sour Cream
Sale Price: .49

Pace Chunky Salsa
Sale Price: $1.39
- .50/2 Supposed to be in 5/2 SS
= .90 ea

Ocean Spray Juice Cocktail
Sale Price: $1.99

Mission Flour Tortillas
Sale Price: $1.34
- $75/1 Printable=
= .59

Orville Redenbacher Popcorn
Sale Price: $2.44
- $1/1 Publix coupon from Yellow Advantage Buyer
- .40/1 (doubled) SS 3/28
= .64 Ea

Diana's Banana Babies
Sale Price: 2.24
- $1/1 Publix coupon from Publix "Family Style Magazine" Spring Edition
= 1.24

Lenders Bagels
Sale Price: .99
- $1/2 Printable
= .50 ea

Other Items:

Publix Greenwise Market Natural Ground Beef
Sale Price: $4.49/lb
- $1/1 Publix coupon from Publix Baby Club
= $3.49

This is just my list, for the complete sale with coupon matchups visit


The Jumping Frog comes to Nashville Library

The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County is the newest marionnette show at the Nashville Public Library.

Children's Theatre
Friday & Saturdays
April 9 - May 22
9:30, 10:30, 11:30 am

This is a really funny show, based on Mark Twain's story of the same name. Children and adults will enjoy

Go here for a peek at the behind the scenes for this production.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Earth Fare: Organic Coupons

Earth Fare has put out some great organic coupons! It seems most of these are manufacturer's coupons so they should be able to used anywhere.

There is not an Earth Fare in the middle Tennessee area, the closest one is in Chattanooga if any of you are in that area, check them out! Or go here to see if one is in your area. They're great! Oh! I wish they would come to Nashville.


Preserving my produce

I try to buy and use fresh fruits and vegetables every week. As I transition my family off of processed foods to healthy whole foods, I am discovering new ways to preserve/freeze fresh produce for future use.

When I find a fresh item on sale at a really good price, I try to stock up. Lately, this has been happening with potatoes, strawberries and onions (I got carried away with an onion sale at Aldi recently and wound up with 20 pounds of onions that I had to do something with!)

Below are items that I regularly cut up and freeze. These items can all be cut/diced and placed in a freezer bag for storage. Flatten out the freezer bag so that they don't freeze into a clump and it's easier to store
Onions - Go here to see my post about freezing onions without smelling up your freezer.
Bell Peppers

Other items that can be frozen:
Corn on the Cob - Go here for the method I use for blanching and freezing the corn. It's a little time consuming, but after you do it once or twice, you get the hang of it and it goes much quicker.

Potatoes - they can be frozen, but they must be cooked first. Below are some links to recipes I use and then freeze the results. My favorite is steak fries - they're so easy to make and such great alternative to frozen frenchfries from the grocery!
Twice Baked Potatoes (I leave out the bacon)

Strawberries - the best way to freeze strawberries is to cut them up. Lay them on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and put them in the freezer for about an hour or two, then take them out and put them in a freezer bag or plastic container. This way they do not freeze up into one big clump. They are great in all kinds of recipes like smoothies, desserts, etc. Right now is the time to do this because strawberries are very cheap. They have been on sale at Aldi for .99 cents for several weeks.
These are the items I've experimented with, I know there are many other fruits and vegetables that can be frozen.

This works for me, what about you? What have you frozen? Let me know!


Produce Deals at Aldi

The best produce deals at Aldi this week are:

Roma Tomatoes 20 oz pack - .99 cents

Avocados - .49 cents each

Pineapple - .99 cents each

Iceburg Lettuce - .49 cents each

Strawberries 16 oz pack - .99 cents

Sale runs from Wednesday, April 28 - Tuesday, May 4


Adventure Science Center Membership Half Off Today Only!

Today Only! You can purchase a 1-Year Family membership to the Adventure Science Center for only $45 through Groupon! That's HALF PRICE!

This is a great deal! We have a membership to Adventure Science Center, they offer great programs for kids of all ages. And, it's a great place to go on a rainy or snowy day when you need to get out of the house!

Go here to sign up with Groupon and get this deal. It's only good for today.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free Rice at Publix!

Right now, Publix has certain styles of Mahatma Rice on sale for .99 cents. Use the .50/1 coupon found in Sunday's paper, 4/24 RedPlum insert, and get it for free. Most Publix stores double coupons up to .50 cents (except Florida - sorry).

Even if you don't like rice, this is an item that is always on the donation lists for food banks. So, pick up a bag or two and donate to your local food pantry!

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Olive Garden: $5 off 2 Entrees

Yum! This is one of my favorite restaurants! Right now, Olive Garden is offereing a $5 off 2 Entrees coupon.

Go here to print. If you want it, you should hurry, it does say "limited quantity" and it expired May 7.

Happy Eating!

Thanks Money Saving Mom.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekly Grocery Wrap Up

It's been a very busy day, so I'm going to only give the highlights of my shopping this week. And I must mention that I ran into a very uncoupon-friendly cashier at Publix today. I'm used to it at Kroger and other stores, but I never have a problem at Publix. She questioned almost every coupon I had and went over my Pedigree coupons with a fine tooth comb. The coupons made my dogfood free and I think she was determined not to let me have them for free. She even asked the CS Supervisor about it, and he said it was fine. She begrudgingly accepted them. Maybe she was just having a bad day, or had previously been burned on someone using coupons incorrectly, but she certainly made me feel like a criminal today. Oh well! I still got free dog food!

Kroger highlights:

Apples .99/lb

Blackberries $1.00

Kroger Sour Cream $1.00

Kroger Cottage Cheese $1.00

Ortega Tortillas (most of the Ortega Products on on sale, and the printable coupon is good for any Ortega item)
Sale Price: $1.67
- $1/2 Printable
= $1.17 ea

4 Sunday Tennesseans
Monday Markdown Price: $1.00
= $4.00

Total OOP: $15.63

Publix Highlights:

Mahatma Rice
Sale Price: .99
- .50/1 RP 4/25

Cascadian Farms Organic Cereal
Sale Price: $1.99
- 1/1 Printable
- $2/3 Publix "find deals that make your earth day" or printable
= .33 ea

Snyder Hanover Organic Pretzel Sticks
Sale Price: $2.00
- .50/1 (doubled) SS 4/11
- .50/1 Publix "find deals that make your earth day" or printable
= .50 ea

Cheez Its
Sale Price: $1.60
- $2/2 Tearpad coupon
= .60 ea

DelMonte Fruit Chillers (8 pack)
Sale Price: $1.67
- $1/1 Printable
= .67 ea

McCormick Italian Seasoning
Sale Price: $2.50
- $1/1 RP 4/25
- .55/1 Publix "find deals that make your earth day" or printable
= .95

Sale Price: $1.50
- .55/1 SS 3/21
= .95

Total OOP: $15.63

Aldi Highlights

Broccoli bunch .99
Strawberries .99
Sprinkes .25 clearance
Sprinkles 4-pk .75 clearance
Tomato Paste .39 ea
Easter Ginger Bread House kit 1.99 clearance (guess what our craft project for the week is!)

Total OOP: $13. 85

And my favorite purchase of the day........

Pedigree Dog Food 4.4 lb
Sale Price: $3.99
- $4/1 coupons from Ebay several months ago
= 12 bags for FREE
Our dog Joey was very excited about this purchase!

TOTAL OOP: $45.11 Whoo Hoo! 2 weeks in a row that I am waaay below budget! Yeah!


Menu Plan Monday

I totally forgot to make my menu plan this week! It wasn't until it was time to start making dinner tonight and I realized I didn't have a plan! So, here is one hurried plan.

Monday -- Spaghetti with marinara sauce (when all else fails - have spaghetti!)

Tuesday -- Red Beans w/ Corn and Rice(gonna try this receipe again, I was missing some key ingredients last week)

Wednesday -- Roasted Sticky Chicken

Thursday -- Simple Supper: Mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, biscuits

Friday -- Dance Class! Quick Bean Quesadillas or leftovers

Saturday -- Hash Brown Fritatta w/ side of fresh fruit/veggies

Sunday -- Homemade Veggie Helper

Find other great menu ideas at


.31 cent Scoop Night at Baskin Robbins!

Oh, this is an exciting one for my family. .31 cent Scoop Night at Baskin Robbins!

Wednesday, April 28

5:00 - 10:00 pm

Proceeds go to the Fallen Fightfighters Foundation

* Limit of three (3) 2.5 oz scoops per person. While supplies last. Call your local store or go here to make sure they're participating.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Healthy(er) Chicken Nuggets

I am on a mission to cut out processed and fast foods from our diet. In order to keep the peace around my house, I'm always searching for a healthy version of some of our favorite "junk" food. One of big ones for us is chicken nuggets. I've been experimenting with a few recipes and this is a combination of a couple of different ones.

1 lb of chicken ( I usually use thighs because they are less expensive)
2/3 cup of all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 egg slightly beaten
3 tbsp of melted butter or margarine (optional)

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees

2. Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

3. Cut chicken into 1 inch squares or chunks

4. In bowl 1, mix flour, parmasan cheese, garlic salt and paprika

5. In bowl 2, place slightly beaten egg.

6. Dip the chicken squares into the egg mix and then into the flour mixture. I usually do two or three at a time.

7. Place coated chicken onto cookie sheet.

8. Sprinkle lightly with melted butter/margarine (this is optional - only if you want a little more flavor)

9. Bake at 450 degrees for 14 minutes. Flip them with a large spatula half way through the baking period.

Wallah! Golden brown chicken nuggets that even a 5 year old will eat! And, the best part? YOU know EXACTLY what is in them!

This is linked to The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap


Summer Family Movies at Cinemark Theatres

Get 10 weeks of G and PG rated family movies for just a dollar each or you can buy a pass for 10 movies for $5 dollars!

This offer is good at select Cinemark Theatres around the country. Go here to see if there is one in your area. Unfortunately, there are not any theatres in the middle Tennessee area, but I thought I'd post for my long distance readers.

Thanks Faithful Provisions for this tip!


Tour For Life Event comes to Nashville Today!

For the 8th year, Nashville has been selected to host Tour for Life, a Pet adoption event sponsored by North Shore Animal League.

This is a great opportunity to adopt a new lifelong friend/pet. Or if you're like my family, and your pet family is complete, you can still come out ( leashed pets welcome) and partake in the giveaways, live entertainment, yard sale and celebrity appearances.

Go here for all the details.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Sign up for Organic Coupons

I'm trying to go organic and all natural in the foods and products I buy, but it's tough when your on a small budget. One of the best resources I've found for organic coupons is Mambo Sprouts.

Sign up here to receive a coupon booklet of coupons for various organic products. You can also find Mambo Sprouts coupons in the Whole Deal flyer at Whole Foods. And, there is printable coupons on their site.

Got another source for organic coupons and deals? PLEASE let me know!

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My Publix Shopping List

Here are my best Publix Shopping Deals for the week. If you're new to couponing, check out my "Coupon Lingo" on the right side bar.

Post Cereal
Sale Price: $1.99
- 2/1 Printable (sign up for newsletter)

Cascadian Farms Organic Cereal or Granola Bars
Sale Price: $1.99
- $1/1 Manufacturer's Printable (Sign up)
- $2/3 Publix Coupon from Find Deals that Make Your Earth Day booklet or printable
= 3 at .33 each

Snyders Organic Pretzels
Sale Price: $2.00
- 1/1 from SS 4/11
- .50/1 Publix Coupon from Find Deals and Make Your Earth Day booklet or printable
= .50 each
DelMonte Fruit Chillers (8-pack)
Sale Price: $1.66 ea
- $1/1 Printable
= .66 each

Shout Laundry Stain Remover
Sale Price: $1.50
- .55/1 from SS 3/21
= .95 each
* note there is a Publix coupon out there that when stacked with the manufacturer's q, will make the product free, but I can't find the coupon book at any Publix I've visited! Ugh!

Sale Price: $1.70
- $1/1 Printable
= .70

McCormick Perfect Pinch Seasoning
Sale Price: $2.50
- $1/1 Manu. Supposed to be in this Sunday's inserts
- .55/1 Publix coupon in Find Deals and Make Your Earth Day booklet or Printable
= .95 ea

Cheese It Crackers
Sale Price: $2.00
- $2/2 tearpad coupon
= $1.00 ea

Purina Tidy Cat Litter
Sale Price: .$3.50
- $1/1 RP 2/7 or printable
= $2.50

For a complete list of coupon matchups for this weeks sale, visit


Get Money Back with your Online Purchases

Sign up with Ebates and then go through them to hundreds of online shopping sites like Target, JCPenney, WalMart, Home Depot, Kohls, the list goes on and on!

Each time you make a purchase from one of the shopping sites, a percentage of the sale will be returned to you from Ebates.

The percentages vary depending on the store, example, is currently offering 15% back while is offering 1% back. Most average 3% - 5% back. The money accumulates in your account and Ebates will send you a check (or other form of payment you choose) every quarter for the amount accumulated for the previous quarter. Go here for all the details on payment.

Just remember to go through Ebates to get to the shopping site you want in order for your account to credited. It's an extra step, but if it pays you a few bucks, why not do it? Also, when you sign up you get an automatic $5 bucks added to your account!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

For the locals: Nashville Flea Market this Weekend

This weekend is the Nashville Flea Market. There will be hundreds of vendors with everything imaginable from antiques to flowers to jewelry.

Admission is free but parking is $4.00 on Saturday and Sunday. Friday is Free parking.

Friday - 8am - 5pm
Saturday 7am - 6pm
Sunday 7am - 4pm

Happy treasure hunting!


Vegetable Plants & Seeds BOGO at Lowes

Now through Saturday, April 26. Lowes Home Improvement stores are running Bonnie Plants on sale, Buy One Get One Free! They also have seed packets on sale BOGO.

Go here to make sure the Lowes in your area is participating.

This is a great time to start that garden if you haven't already.

Thanks to The Thrifty Mama for this tip!

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Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

My family tries to keep the enviroment in mind every day. Sometimes it's hard to incorporate earth friendly options into a hectic lifestyle. And, we don't always make the best enviromentally friendly decision; the gas guzzling SUV that we own comes to mind. But, we keep on trying!

Here are some links to prior posts about some earth friendly and frugal things we've done around our house.



Rain Barrels

Reducing our utilitiy usage

A month without the clothes dryer

This post is part of Thrifty Thursday at The Coupon Teacher and Madame Deals


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Food Inc. Airs tonight on PBS for FREE

PBS will be airing the documentary Food Inc tonight. Locally it's on at 8:00 pm and will run again at 12 midnight. Go here to see if your local affiliate will air it.
This is a great documentary that is very informative about where our food comes from. I encourage you to watch it and make your own, informed decision about the food you eat.

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Produce Deals at Aldi

Here are the best deals on fresh produce at Aldi this week:

Strawberries - 16 oz pack .99

Bananas .39 per lb

Carrots - 2lb bag .49

Broccoli - 16 oz pack .99

This sale runs Wedesday, April 21 - Tuesday, April 27


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Find Grocery Deals in Your Area

I've had a few people email me or leave comments on my Weekly Shopping Wrap ups and say that they wish they could save money on their groceries but they don't have a Publix or Kroger in their area.

Well, Kroger and Publix is not the only stores with great deals. There is a great site called becentsable that has compiled a list of great blogs/websites in every state that posts sale and coupon matchups. You can search for a particular store or you can search by state.

Check it out and start saving money!

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$1 Dollar Printer Cartridge Refill at Walgreens

If you have a printer that holds re-fillable ink cartridges, then Thursday is your LUCKY DAY!

Walgreens will be refilling printer cartridges for only $1 dollar in celebration of Earth Day. This is for Thursday Only!

Make sure you clip the coupon out of the Walgreens circular (page 5) from Sunday's paper, or, you can get it in the store. It's usually near the front entrance.

For a complete list of cartridge models and participating stores go here

Oh! I'm so wishing we had the refillable kind of cartridges in our printer!


Weekly Grocery Wrap Up!

I hit more than my usual 2 stores this week. I hit 4! I also caved on the no processed foods kick that I'm on right now, because Tombstone Pizza's were such a great deal at Publix. Oh well, it's a long journey to go completely processed food free!


2 Purex Detergent
Sale Price: $2.50 ea
- .35/1 RP 4/18(doubled)
- B1G1 Free (Kroger Home Mailer) The register took off the full price, not the sale price! Who am I to argue?? :)
= Both FREE

Kroger Baby Carrots
Sale Price: $1.00
- .50/1 Kroger Home Mailer
= .50

Sale Price: .99/lb
= $1.56

8th Continent Soy Milk
Sale Price: $2.49
- $1.50/1 Printable
= .99

Kroger Milk
Manager Markdown: $1.26

Kroger Ibuprofen
Sale: $1.00

Total OOP: $7.54


4 Tombstone Frozen Pizzas
Sale Price: $1.89
- $3/2 Tearpad coupons found last month in store
= .39 ea

2 Hunts Ketchup
Sale Price: .88 ea

8 Peter Pan Peanut Butter
Sale Price: $1.17 ea
- $1.50/4 Printable
= .79

Reg Price: $3.99
- .50/1 (doubled)
= $2.99

Total OOP: $14.42


DelMonte Canned Vegetables
Sale Price: .50 ea
- $1/8 RP 3/21
= .37 ea

Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Sale Price: .99

Just Bare Chicken
Sale Price; $3.99

Bell Peppers
Sale Price: .79 ea

Total OOP: $12.46


5lb Baking Potatoes .99

Strawberries 16 oz .99

Romaine Lettuce $1.99

Roma Tomatoes $1.99

Salsa $1.69

Total OOP: $8.24

GRAND TOTAL $42.66 Not an exciting week for deals for me, so I'm glad I came in waaaay under budget!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I try to keep my dinners at $5 or under, unless I use meat, and then it's more. I've made a committment to only puchasing organic, humanely raised meat. Otherwise, I'm able to keep my meals at $5 or less by purchasing ingredients when they are on sale and with coupon to get them at the lowest price. When I find an item at their rock bottom price, I stockpile!

This week, I am not feeling creative or doing heavy cooking, so it's going to be a lot of simple suppers.

Monday -- Chili Mac

Tuesday -- Homemade Veggie Helper

Wednesday -- Black Bean Tacos

Thursday -- Simple Supper: Green Beans, Potatoes, corn, biscuits

Friday -- Dance Class! Quick Bean Quesadillas

Saturday - Grilled Hamburgers, Steak Fries

Sunday -- Red Beans with Corn & Rice

See other great menu ideas at


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Big Birthday on a Small Budget

We just celebrated our daughter's 5th Birthday. She had a blast and I think she will remember it for a long time.

This year our birthday celebration budget was smaller than ever before. So, I had to get creative in ways to celebrate this milestone birthday.

1. Party at Home. Instead of having a party at a location (i.e. Chuck E Cheese) we decided to have an "old fashion" birthday party at home. We played games like duck, duck goose, Red Rover, Simon Says, and we had a pinata. Exactly when was it decided that every child's birthday had to be celebrated at an expensive venue?

2. Use Evite for invitations. I sent out electronic invitations using the FREE website, Evite. No cost for invitations or postage. Evite lets you customize your invitation to any event, including letting you use your own pictures. It also has a function that lets you keep track of all the RSVPs. And, automatically sent out a reminder to the invitees a couple of days before the event.

3. Homemade Birthday Cake/Cupcakes. Using cake mix that I paid .25 cents after a coupon and sale at Publix and FREE frosting from a different sale, my sister made a beautiful cupcake/cake creation. She actually made a couple of designs. The one picture above with vanilla cupcakes and one with chocolate cupcakes arranged in the shape of Mickey Mouse! The whole thing cost about $2.00!

4. Snack food and drinks from sales. I began to stock up on soda and snack food items back in February when I could find them on sale. We had potato chips, tortilla chips with Rotel Dip, veggie tray, cheese, rice krispie treats , cheese & crackers and marinated meatballs all for about $20.

5. Generic party paper products. Instead of buying the trademarked themed paper plates, cups, party hats, etc, this year I purchased generic "princess" themed party items from Dollar General. Each pack was about a dollar each, but then I used a special coupon that DG put out for 20% off your total purchase. They worked just as well, and my daughter was very happy with them -- they were pink and purple, her favorite!

6. Make your own decorations. We are always making arts & craft projects around my house. So, I decided, why not turn some of those crafts into birthday decorations? We made flowers and butterflies, hung them with curling ribbon from the ceiling for decorations. My sister brought over some streamers and balloons to add to the decorations and it made for quite a festive environment.

7. Free Kids Music. We pulled up I-Tunes and played kids songs that we had downloaded for free. Keep an eye out for places like Amazon, where they will often offer legal free music downloads (particularly kids music) for a limited time. We have over a hundred kids songs that we've downloaded for free - legally!

8. Inexpensive Goody Bags. Goody bags can be a budget buster for sure! Just the pre-printed bags themselves that are in the birthday aisle are several dollars for a small quantity. I purchased a pack of 50 white paper lunch bags (in the paper/plastic wrap aisle at Wal-Mart) for $1.50. We decorated them with crayons, markers and stickers we already had. I went to the "Everything's a Dollar" store and purchased multi packs of toy items like crayons, spinners, and other items that I could break up and put in each bag. I also purchased a box of individual snack items and mini juice boxes, and put one in each bag. Wallah! Each child got a goody bag full of exciting things that cost me about a $1.50 a bag.

So, you can have a great kid's party on a small budget. It does take some creative thinking, and some advance planning. But, it was totally worth it to us!

If you've got a creative and inexpensive idea for a kid's party, let me know! The next one will be here before we know it!

This is link to Works For Me Wednesday hosted by We Are That Family


FREE Simply Smart Milk

Go Here to sign up to be a Facebook Fan of Simply Smart Milk and they will send you a coupon for a FREE half gallon of milk (it is sent via snail mail).

Gotta love free milk!

Thanks to I Heart Saving Money for this tip.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Taking the Day Off - Partying Like a 5 Year Old!

Today is my daughter's Birthday! So I will be taking a break from the blog!

Happy Saturday!!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Home Depot Garden Club

Have you signed up for the Home Depot Garden Club? They send out a monthly newsletter that always has a coupon or two for a good deal in their Garden Department. This month it was Buy 1 Tree Get 1 Free! That is a BIG savings.

Click Here and select Garden Club. There are other newsletters and programs you can sign up for as well.

Since I've been signed up, I've gotten coupons for Buy One Get One for shrubs, mums, and houseplants.

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Fancy Nancy Event at Borders Books

We are BIG fans of Fancy Nancy at my house. This Saturday, April 17, Borders Books will be having a Fancy Nancy Storytime at many of their locations.

Children are encouraged to dress up. There will be storytelling, games, and giveaways. And, it's FREE!

Go here to look up the location nearest you.

Stay Fancy!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Russian Adoption Story

With the recent headline news about the Russian adoption that went very very wrong, I have been asked by many friends and family about my opinion of the situation. I've not been able to really articulate my feelings about it, but I do have a strong opinion. I think the best way to answer the questions and give my perspective is to tell our story. So, I'm steering away from the normal topic of my blog to talk one time about this very important issue. If you don't want to read the whole story, that's okay -- just go here to sign the petition requesting that Russia continue to allow adoptions to US citizens.

When my husband and I decided to adopt, we looked at many different options. Domestic infant adoption had a long wait and there were age limitations we were concerned about. Foster care adoption came with it's own set of challenges and concerns and we felt we were not the right fit for it. Then came international adoption consideration. I was immediately pulled towards Russia. I don't even know how I knew that Russia had an international adoption program but somehow I knew.

We started investigating Russian adoption, and visited with several adoption agencies. Through the advice of a friend we were referred to Children's Hope International. We went to a prospective parents meeting. I knew after that brief meeting, it was the agency we should go with. We filled out the 6 page application soon after. It was just the tiny beginning of the MOUNTAIN of paperwork we would complete over the next 16 months.

Our application did not even make it past the first checkpoint before the agency called us and asked for more information regarding an answer we had given about my husband's medical history. STOP -- before it could go any further, my husband had to go to his doctor, be checked out and get a letter stating his health was good. He did, the doctor wrote the letter, and everything was fine. The application went forward. This would be one of the many times that we would be required to get a medical review.

The next step was called the homestudy phase. We were assigned a social worker to manage the homestudy for us. During this time, we were required to have full blown physicals, and the doctors must complete a detailed form stating our health in all areas of the body. The doctor was also required to provide a notorized copy of his medical license along with this form (in other words, we couldn't just pay some quack to sign off on this form!)
We were also interviewed separately and together by the social worker. We were given a 100+ questionaire, asking everything from things about our childhood, parents, siblings, all the places we had previously lived, previous romantic relationships, our marriage, how we communicate, how we argue/fight, even questions about our sex life! We had to meet with a psychologist and have a mental assessment completed. We had to have written references from family members and friends. We had to establish a legal guardian of the child (the one we didn't even have yet) in case we both died. We had to turn over financial records of every kind, bank accounts, retirment funds, stocks, bonds, credit reports, etc. And all of that had to be reviewed and certified by a CPA (so, we couldn't just say we had money in the bank). We also had a criminal background check done and had to be fingerprinted and cleared by the FBI.

Parenting classes were also required as part of the homestudy. We took 20 hours of classes ranging from baby and child CPR to adoptive parenting and attachment and bonding processes. We were also introduced to doctors and pychologists in our area that specialize in internationally adopted children and learned of the program they had for parents when they were in-country. This would be invaluable in the future.

Finally, after 5 months of me running around like a crazy woman getting all the paperwork properly completed, notorized and apostilled (that is a designation that only the secretary of state of Tennessee can give and it makes the document a legal international document), we were finally ready to send our dossier off to Russia. Oh, and by this point, we were several thousand dollars invested in the adoption as well.

For nine months we anxiously waited for "the call". We were given a loose timeline of 3 to 4 months. But there were no guarantees. Things change everyday in the world of international adoption. 4 months came and went with no call. I grew more and more anxious. I wanted my child so badly! Every week with no news seemed like a month. Our agency was very good, they would communicate with us on a very regular basis and tell us what they knew. Our dossier was orignally sent to the region of Smolensk (the area where the Polish President and staff were in the plane crash). But that region had stopped accepting adoption applications for the time being. Later our dossier was sent to Astrakhan in the southwest region of Russia.

Finally, FINALLY! We were called about a little 4 year old boy. They wouldn't release any medical records to us, we would have to travel to meet him, that was standard for Russia so we didn't balk at that. We agreed to travel to see him. Four weeks later, we were on a plane to Moscow, and then a domestic flight to the town of Astrakhan. Russia is a different world. It's very intimidating. Although they are a democracy now, there are still lots of processes and procedures left over from the soviet days. But, we had wonderful guides. We were assigned a translator through our agency and the agency had in-country staff that escorted us through the whole process. Thank Goodness! We'd probably still be trying to find our way out of the airport if it weren't for them!

The first day in Astrakhan, we tried to make an appointment with the Ministry of Education to receive the formal referral of the child. But, we were told there had been a death in the department and everyone was gone to the funeral. Oh no! This could throw off our whole schedule. We were only supposed to be there for 1 week and we were required to spend a certain number of days visiting with the child and make a decision about adopting him. Finally, our adoption coordinator got us a late afternoon appointment. We thought we were there just to pick up the referral -- but we actually were given a lengthy interview. Some of the questions were: "Why do you want to adopt?" "why Russia", "do you understand that institutionalized children can have emotional, behavioral, and development problems?" "Can you parent a child like that". After we answered all the questions, the lady told us that by law they had 10 days to review our dossier and give a referral. WHAT??? 10 days!! I did not have 10 day to sit around Russia waiting on them! They had our dossier for months and had plenty of time to review it! Of course, that's what I was screaming in my head. In reality, I thanked her politely and we left, deflated. When our in-country Adoption Coordinator heard this (she was not allowed to sit in on the interview with us) she started spurting things in Russian and quickly turned around on her high heels and marched into the MOE's office. She returned five minutes later and said "they will call us with a referral by noon tomorrow". We nervously took her word for it.

We went back to the MOE's office the next day. Had the same interview with a different person. But this time, when she was satisfied with our answers she laid a piece of paper down on the table and walked away. Our translator jumped up and said "this is it! this is the referral!" I was so surprised by the MOE's sudden departure that I didn't really know what was going on. The translator started reading. "it's a 2 year old girl, her name is...., she was born.....," I said "wait, it's a girl?" "yes, it's a girl" said the translator "she's 2 years old, her birth mother....." I interrupted again, "it's a girl?" The translator slowly said "IT IS A G-I-R-L". We never did find out exactly what happened to the 4 year old boy we were initally matched with. But after we read the referral and signed the paper requesting to see her, the MOE pulled up a picture of her on the computer. There was this little girl with a fluffy bow in her hair, standing next to giant pink bunny. She was frowning and looked annoyed to be standing next to the bunny. But to me, she was the most beautiful child I'd ever seen and I knew, in that instant, that was MY child.

We quickly left the MOE and drove straight to the orphanage, or baby home as they are called, to meet her. My head was spinning, we had just went from expecting a 4 year old boy to being referred a 2 year old girl. We arrived at the baby home. It was in a building that used to be a kindergarten. It was run down, but very clean, you could smell the cleaning solutions as soon as you stepped in. And there was almost always someone mopping the floor when ever we went to visit. We were required to wear blue booties over our shoes before entering the main part of the building and we had to take our shoes off when in the visitation room.

We met with the orphanage director, a very large, intimidating woman, who was stern and all business with us. But when I saw her interact with the children, I could see her pure love for them. We were given our soon to be daughter's medical history, her family history, we were shown a picture of her as an infant, and a picture of her birth mother. Then, they brought her in, this little blond haired toddler. She seemed right at home in the director's office. But she was much more interested in the toys on the shelf than any of the people in the room. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. The director had to tap the table and tell me to pay attention to her so she could finish telling me about our daughter's record. It didn't really matter at that point, because in my mind, she was already mine.

We were able to spend about an hour with our daughter that day. Of course, she was very unsure of us. Who were these two strange people, who talked funny, and looked funny. She wouldn't let us hold her or barely touch her, but that was fine. The next day we returned for a longer visit. We would visit with her every day, 2 times a day for the next 4 days. We sent her medical records and birth family history to a physician with the Vanderbilt International Adoption Clinic, where he reviewed the records and gave his opinion of any issues. We were required to have spent a certain number of hours with her before we could petition the court for her adoption. We also had to be evaluated by the orphanage staff and a Russian social worker on our interaction with our child and our bonding. We brought her toys to play with and I had made a little photo album with pictures of our house, our family, me and hubs, our pets and other things so that she could understand a little more about where she would eventually be going. . After 5 days, we had to say goodbye and through our translator tried to help her understand that we would be back soon to take her home.

We returned home to the states and waited for a court date to be assigned. We got it pretty quickly (for Russia) . We returned seven weeks later for the court hearing. We stood before a Russian judge, a prosecuter
a representative from the Ministry of Education and a representative for the social worker. We had our translator in the court room with us, but our adoption agency was not allowed to have a representative during that time because of a credentialing issue (not the agency's fault, Russia had allowed the credentials of all international agencies to expire and was taking their sweet time to renew). We were asked so many questions about our parenting style, how we would discipline, what were our child care arrangments, would I return to work, what religion would we raisie her in, and the question that caught us off guard: who gets the child if we divorce? They left no stone unturned. During this hearing, some new information about her birth family was revealed. The fact that we were not told about this earlier really upset the judge and she really plowed into the MOE Rep on why we were not told of some crucial information. She questioned us heavily on if we still wanted this child given the new information. We both firmly said yes! In my mind, the information was good to have for future reference, but it was not a deal breaker. In our case, the judge and the orphanage seemed to want to make sure we had all the information about our daughter's history that was available. After 2 hours and a 30 minute recess, the judge made the decree that she was ours!

Now we had to wait 10 days to get custody of her. This 10 days is supposed to be for paperwork filing and to notify all interested parties. This was one last shot that her birth family had to make objections to her adoption. We visited with her every day in the orphanage during the 10 days. She seemed to get more and more comfortable with us. She took to my husband quicker than me. But that was alright, I knew that I was nervous because so many eyes were on me, and she could feel that. After we got home, and it was just me and her, we could really bond.

After the 10 days were up, we came to pick her up. She was scared. And she refused to let us touch her. The translator had to hold her in the car. She actually threw up in the car! But once we got back to the hotel and she saw all the toys we had laid out for her, she became more confortable with us and let me hold her and carry her. Sleeping was the hardest part. She did not sleep! She would just cry and cry until her little body just gave out. That was the biggest problem we had after we came home too.

We spent another 7 days in Astrakhan waiting her her passport to be processed. Then we flew back to Moscow. That was another wonderful adventure. She screemed the whole 2 hour flight to Moscow. Nothing we did helped. Even the other passengers tried to calm her down. Nothing worked. Oh! And then there was the exploding diarrhea diaper that I got to change in the airplane bathroom. And, did I mention that there was turbulance??? Yep, fun times!

We made it back to Moscow and spent 4 days there. We were required to go to the US Embassy and be interviewed there and get her visa and other immigration paperwork that made her a US citizen. When we landed in Atlanta GA, she became a naturalized US citizen with all the rights and responsibilities of a natural born citizen of the the U.S. We received a certificate in the mail along with a "welcome letter" from the President of the United States a few weeks later.

We were greeted at the airport by many of our friends and family and the director of our adoption agency. We were exhausted but so happy to be home. It had been a grueling 28 days in Russia and an angst filled 16 months before. But it was all worth it. Because I was holding my daughter in my arms. She is my forever daughter. I would never give her up.

We had adjustment issues. There was many screaming, throw herself in the floor fits. There was a biting phase, a hitting phase. She had to learn English (we had learned enough Russian to communicate with her, but were far from fluent). She also had to learn that we were her parents and there was only one "mama' and one "papa". We tried to keep her world small for the first few months and limit her exposure to other people. Of course that was hard, because we have so many friends and family that wanted to see her, hold her and welcome her into the family. I took her to the international adoption clinic in our city where she was fully checked out by a medical doctor and she was evaluated by a psychologist who specializes in internationally adopted children. She was a wealth of knowledge and insight on how to help us bond and attach. There is also an open invitation for us to come back should we need their services in the future.

I also joined Russian playgroups because I want my child to know other children that came from where she did. I think it's important that she know that she's not strange in that way. I also became friends with other Russian adoptive mothers. We are a support to one another. I cherish these relationships because we share such a unique experience.

We also continue to receive follow up and support from our adoption agency. As a requirement of Russia, we must have an in-home post adoption visit by a social worker at 6 months after adoption and then at the 1 year anniversary and then annually for the next few years. These reports are taken very seriously by our agency and are sent to Russia for review.

I write this very long story (trust me, I condensed it a lot!) to hopefully answer some of the questions and mystery about Russian adoption. I want everyone to know that there are strict procedures and reviews for potential parents. And there are many support groups and post-adoption support professionals available for parents when issues come up.

I don't know why this woman chose to do what she did, but I know that there are thousands of children waiting for homes and thousands of adoptive parents whose hearts just dropped with the news that Russia is suspending adoptions. I urge you to please sign the petition "We Are the Truth". This petition is going to President Obama and President Medvedev urging them to make an agreement to keep Russian adoptions open to American citizens.

If you have any specific questions about our adoption or adoption in general, please feel free to email me or leave a comment. I'll be happy to answer anything I can.

Thank you!


CVS Trip

We had a very expensive and unexpected day at the vet today. So, after that was done I felt the need for some free stuff. So here's what I did.

I purchased:

3 John Freida Shampoos
Sale Price: $5.00 ea
- $2.50/1 Printable
= $2.50 ea

2 Single rolls CVS Bath tissue
Sale Price: .50 ea
- $1 off any CVS Paper Product - received by scanning my CVS card at Price Scanner in store

1 3oz Tube of CVS Hand lotion
Reg Price: 1.49
- $1/1 CVS Skin Product - received by scanning CVS card at Price Scanner in store
= .49

Also Used:
- $3 off $15 Purchase CVS coupon emailed from CVS (handed over this q first before any others)
- $3.00 ECB earned from previous purchase last week
- .50 ECB from previous purchases

Total OOP w/ Tax: $2.60
+ received $5.00 ECB for John Frieda Purchase + $1.00 ECB for using Green Bag Tag

Still didn't take the sting out of the vet bill. But it always makes me feel better when I get a good deal. I must give my opinion of this toilet paper. It's supposed to be environmentally friendly, etc, etc. And I try to be very environmentally friendly, but this stuff is really gas station bathroom paper. If it weren't free, I would never buy it. I'll stick it in the back of the closet and it will be "Emergency TP"


Free Admission to the Discovery Center on Friday

The Discovery Center in Murfreesboro will have free admission on Friday between 5:00 - 7:30.

This is a favorite of my family. There's always great activities for the kids.

Go here for more info.

Thanks to Keeping Our Cash for this tip!

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WFMW: Cooking & Freezing Dried Beans

My family does not eat a lot of meat. So we supplement with beans. I struggled with finding the best way to cook and store dried beans for a long time. The problem I kept running into was that if I had a recipe that called for beans, I would often not remember to start cooking the beans enough in advance for them to be ready by meal time. And then, I often did not cook them long enough. I tried soaking them, I tried cooking them. It was never the right texture. Finally I tried soaking and cooking! Hah! I finally found the right combination. Then I started to wonder, "what if I froze the cooked beans?". I tried it, they were fine in recipes after being frozen.

Here's what I do (I tried to take pictures of all my steps, but my camera flaked out on me and I only ended up with 3 -- but this is not rocket science, if I figured it out, you can too!):

Rinse the dry beans and pick out any bad ones, dirt or other things that shouldn't be in there (usually it's just bad beans).

Place beans in bowl and cover with cold water. Make sure there is at least 2 inches of water above beans.

Soak in refrigerator overnight.

Remove beans from bowl, rinse, and place in large pot on stove. Add clean fresh water to pot. Make sure at least 2 inches of water covers beans in pot.

Cook on medium for 90 minutes. Check the beans every 30 minutes to make sure the water hasn't cooked out. Add water as needed.

* Note: I've read that to cut down on the gas that beans supposedly cause people who eat them, you should scoop off the foam that forms on top of the water while cooking. I've done it. I can't say that it works or not because I never noticed beans giving us a lot of gas when I didn't do this. But if this is a problem for you, try it!.

Drain water

Let beans cool.

Measure out two cups of cooked beans.

Place 2 cups worth into Ziploc Freezer Bags and flatten out. This makes it easier to stack and store the beans in the freezer.

Wallah! You've got several "cans" worth of beans from one bag of dried beans. Depending upon the size bag I get, I can usually get the equivalent of 4 cans of beans from one bag. And, they are healthier because you know exactly what is in them.

So, now I store lots of cooked beans in my freezer. And I never worry about having beans done in time for dinner. I can remove them from the freezer and throw them right in the pot I'm cooking, like I used to do with canned beans.
This is what works for me! Do you have a tip or idea about food storage? Please let me know.
This is linked to Works For Me Wednesday hosted by We are that family!


Free Dog Treats at PetSmart

Right now, Petsmart has Milkbone Essentials Plus Chewy Treats on sale for $1.99 with your Pet Perks Card (loyalty card - get one free at Customer Service).

Use the $2/1 Printable here and get them for free!

There is also a $1/1 printable on the same site that will make them only .99 cents.

Yeah!!! My dogs are so excited!

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Produce Deals at Aldi

This week's good deals at Aldi are:

Iceburg Lettuce - .99 ea

Cucumbers - .49 ea

Mushrooms - .69 ea 8oz pack

Baby Carrots - .49 bag

Celery - .99 ea

Potatoes - .99 for 5lb bag

Strawberries - .99 16 oz pack

Sale runs Wednesday April 14 - Tuesday, April 20


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cheap Del Monte Veggies at Target

Now till 5/8/10, Target has Del Monte canned Vegetables on Price Cut for .50 cents each.

Use the $1/8 coupon from the 3/21 RedPlum insert OR
Use the $1/4 coupon printable from the Del Monte website (makes them .25 a can).
Note: You must sign up with Del Monte to get the coupon and if you've already printed it previously, it will not allow you to print again - from the same computer. In cases like these, I often sign up my husband and other family members and print from different computers.


No Tax at Whole Foods on April 15

Whole Foods will be paying your tax on any purchases made at their store on Tax Day, April 15.

Sounds like a good day to bring my coupons do the shopping that I was going to do later in the week!