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Viewing the 'Food Costs and Healthy Eating' Category

One PotatOH, two PotatOH...

July 8th, 2006 at 08:27 am

Yesterday a mysterious package arrived on our porch, a UPS 2nd day air box, from Colorado, filled with something heavy. I couldn't imagine what it could be... Here, the Express PotatOH! people had actually sent me 4 of their microwavable baking potatoes to replace the 2 moldy ones I'd complained about.

I feel kind of bad that they went to the expense of sending out a 4 lb package of potatoes. (Maybe someone should tell them about free item coupons?) But I'm glad to essentially get double my money back on them. They look fine, nice and fresh.

Smuckers' response was excellent, too. I'd written them about their sugar-free preserves, which I didn't like the taste of. They sent me two free-product coupons to replace the two jars I couldn't face eating. The really impressive thing was, within 24 hours of my email they actually called me on the phone to ask some questions (such as the product codes on my jars). Within the week, the coupons were here.

It really only takes a few minutes to email a company about a problem (especially with the aid of Flash's contact list), and very satisfying when you get a response.

The Tea Solution

July 6th, 2006 at 10:02 am

Thanks for all the comments from those who shared my disbelief over the teakettle that couldn't boil water. It definitely was a kettle, not a teapot--there was a whistle, and everything. This is the dumb thing, here:

Text is www.target.com/gp/detail.html/sr=1-4/qid=1152204615/ref=sr_1_4/601-2474764-5440904?%5Fencoding=UTF8&asin=B000ENADU0 and Link is

I notice they haven't posted my bad review yet. Wink I did manage to get my money back without having the box, although I had to dig in my heels a bit.

Kudos to the Lipton tea people, though. They do still make the unsweetened tea! I was googling around and came across their online store. If I couldn't find it locally, I could order it online direct from them.

But even better, they had a "store finder" feature that's better than any I've seen. You can actually search for a store that carries the specific product you are looking for, instead of getting a list of stores who happen to carry the brand.

I found out only one grocery chain in my area carries this specific stuff, Acme. I never go there, hence I never see the product. So I made a special trip today and am drinking some as I type. Smile It's funny how little comforts like this can make your day, even when more important stuff is going on.

Whew, I can stop teakettle shopping, too!

Grrr... Product Rant

July 5th, 2006 at 09:37 am

I didn't really want to buy a tea kettle in the first place, but...

I used to be able to get powdered instant tea by Nestea or Lipton, in a glass jar, with no sweetener or lemon flavor. Just plain, dehydrated tea. You even had a choice of regular or decaf. Now all I can find is sweetened, whether with sugar or artificial sweetener.

OK, so I'll make my own iced tea. But I got tired of spilling water or tea every time I tried to pour it from a regular pan. So when I was at Target, I picked up a tea kettle for $9.99. I didn't really want to spend the money, and I don't really have the storage space for it, but it seems like a necessity at this point.

So I go to wash it out and use it, and find the use and care instructions. In large, bold letters it says you can't use it on high heat!!! On either a gas or electric stove!!! How the heck do you get the water to the boiling point on medium heat? I gave up after half an hour.

I've written a one star review on Target's website, and I'm seriously thinking of writing a letter to Copco. I used to think that was a decent brand, and most of Target's stuff is decent quality. This was a total let-down; a completely useless product. I just hope Target will take it back, being I already discarded the box.

At this point, I still don't have an easy way to make myself some plain iced tea. Grrr.

Joys of a half-empty fridge

June 17th, 2006 at 04:52 am

Our fridge is looking emptier and emptier lately, as a result of a slower shopping pace. If anyone looked in it day before yesterday, they'd think we were flat broke.

Yesterday morning I thought I'd get a head start on dinner and make up my salmon patty mixture. It was a pleasure to be able to actually fit the bowl in the fridge. There was still more room, and I still had time. So I made chocolate pudding and mixed up a pitcher of diet lemonade. Also hard-boiled the end of the eggs.

I like the idea of cooking from scratch and making things ahead, but rarely do it. And now I'm aware of one reason why. Trying to find ingredients in an over-stuffed fridge is hard. Trying to fit prepared foods into same is also hard. So I don't do it.

I'm going to make a conscious effort to get used to the look of a fridge with plenty of open space.

Latest experiment seems to be working

June 10th, 2006 at 04:48 pm

Just finished my first full week of the new month, where I'm trying to spend more slowly by limiting myself to $15 a day. I've ended up right on target, having spent $105 this week (including one take-out dinner of cheese steaks). We've had to do without a couple of things for a day or two, but it hasn't been awful. There always seem to be substitutes, if we look around at home.

Here's a comparison of how I've been spending during the first week of each month:

May $187
April $198
March $167
February $212
January $254

Obviously, the pace IS much slower and there should be a lot more money left toward the end of the month. So I will keep going with it for now.

$15 a day - First Day

June 4th, 2006 at 09:36 am

Thanks to some good sales, I was able to get quite a bit for less than $15.

IGA, one day sale on deli ham and cheese (1/2 pound each), plus a large carton of fat-free half and half, $5.27

Stop and Shop, Kraft buy 5 get $5 off promotion, used some coupons, and I got:
bread, a tomato, cottage cheese, cheese crumbles, two bars of 2% fat Cracker Barrel, soft light cream cheese with chives, a large bag of chips, and chow mein noodles for $8.58. The receipt says I saved $14.84.

Total, $13.85. The only thing we are missing is something dessert-y. I might make some peanut butter cookies this afternoon. Other than that, we have plenty of food to hold us for the next few days.

NJ on $15 a day

May 31st, 2006 at 05:20 am

It's that time again--almost to the end of my 4-week "month" of May (ending June 3). Again, not happy with how I've managed my Everyday Expenses budget.

So I've come up with a money game to try in June: Each day I have $15 to spend, and can only go over if there's a surplus left from previous days.

My natural tendency is to stock up at the beginning of the month, when there's finally a new batch of money to spend. I'm just not very good at estimating a month ahead what we're really going to need or what's going to happen. Work schedules change, people get sick, cars break down-- and then I wish I had cash on hand for pizza, instead of a freezer full of pork chops.

Also, when sales are too good to pass up, I can't pass them up, and end up having too much money tied up in toilet paper or something.

This way I'll be forced to pace myself through the month, not go overboard on sales, and I'll always have the option of using part of the day's $15 for take-out or some forgotten item, if necessary.

An investment that pays 400%

May 23rd, 2006 at 06:29 am

Try paying for coupons. (Actually, the sellers all specify you are paying for the service of having the coupons clipped rather than for the coupons themselves. Legal issue, I guess.) I'm so pleased with how this has been going for me lately, I figured I'd post about it.

I set up a lot of saved searches on Ebay, and each morning I get an email with links to auctions that match the search. (I also have searches set up for gift cards and other products I'm looking for.)

This morning I saw a lot of (6) $1 coupons for cat food our cat likes. I snapped them up immediately for $1.19. If I'm figuring this right, I'll be saving $4.81 by spending the $1.19, which means I've increased my purchasing power by 404%.

I've learned to be careful about getting more than I can use before the expiration date. I've seen lots of 20 of this same coupon, but passed on them because I'd never use them in time. 6, I will use.

I also use a non-Ebay clipping service, where you can choose individual coupons in the specific quantities you need. I'm using

Text is www.cnfcentral.com and Link is
www.cnfcentral.com (formerly Dab's Forms) because you don't have to get multiples of each coupon you choose. If I only get Worcestershire sauce once a year, I don't want to be forced into buying 5 coupons for it. But if you want multiples anyway, there are many other sources. A good discussion on them is here:
Text is www.dealagogo.com/showthread.php?t=31959 and Link is

Since I'm getting so much at Aldi now, there are only a limited number of name brand items I can use coupons for. This targeted approach gives me a quick way to find the specific ones I can use.

TOPS, and Weight Loss Plan B

April 27th, 2006 at 01:33 pm

Sorry so many posts in one day!

As I posted before, I was going to try TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) as it was about the lowest cost weight loss organization I could find. My plan was to visit the local chapters my schedule would allow, and then settle on one to attend every week. The cost was supposed to be $24 a year, and $1 a week to the local chapter.

Yes, the dues are $1 a week but more is expected to be put out, if you're going to go along with the group and fit in.

The smaller, laid-back group played bingo regularly and other little contests that cost money. It would have been a minimum of $3 a week even there. Not much, but they told me flat out they only had "fun" programs, as they'd all been trying to lose weight for a long time and knew what to do. It was just a matter of doing it. I didn't see much chance for support and inspiration there.

The larger, more active group had raffles and 50-50 drawings. Plus they were very enthused about attending the state level events every year. Which can involve fees, special shirts so everyone matches, renting a hotel room, etc. I could see there would always be pressure to spend more than I wanted to, if I wasn't always going to be the odd bird. For the amount of money I'd end up spending with them, I might as well be going to Weight Watchers or rejoining the gym.

So, I'm going online only.

4-week report

April 8th, 2006 at 03:44 pm

Total cc debt as of 4/8 - $3537, ($3906 on 3/11), down by $369

Emergency fund as of 4/8 - $511, ($441 on 3/11), up by $70

We aren't quite caught up to where we were as of February 11, but we're moving in the right direction again.

Everyday expenses 4 weeks ending 4/8, $506, which is fine. Anything around $545 or under, I feel pretty good about.

I think it was a very good month, especially considering--

It was quarterly utilities month, about $190 for water and two sewer bills (one municipal and one county)
It was time to put money on the Virgin Mobile phones, about $111
It was our nephew's birthday, which required a gift, $20
I did quite a bit of discretionary spending on clothes, about $115
Joined TOPS, $24
Bought that beer! $18

I did charge quite a bit of this for convenience and the rewards, but paid it off right away. It helped that I worked some extra hours, and we didn't have to pay an electric bill this month.

Today's money-generating task was calling Discover card, and trying to cancel. I really was ready to cancel, as there isn't much reason for me to keep it. But I figured if they made me an offer I couldn't refuse, I'd keep it awhile longer. Wink They did--a $20 rebate when I make a purchase within 30 days. Smile