Thursday, October 29, 2009

SoCal Ralph's Mega Event Coupon Match Up

I don't usually do coupon match-ups here, mainly because I don't have a lot of time for it. But I got some great deals at Ralph's today during their Mega Event, so I thought I'd go ahead and post the deals I have found. This is NOT a comprehensive list - if you know of any deals I have missed please leave a comment and share. Deals may vary by region or store so always be sure to check your local ad, and double check the shelf tags at the store!

10 Item Mega Event: Buy any 10 participating items, get $5.00 off instantly at check out with your Ralph's Rewards card. Limit 10 offers per household. Prices listed below assume you are buying 10 participating items and receiving $5.00 off (ie .50 off each item).

Hormel Natural Choice Lunchmeat - $2.49 ea
Use $0.75/1 here (doubles to 1.00)
Final Price = $1.49 ea

Del Monte Canned Tomatoes $.49 ea
Use $1/5 in 9/20 Red Plum
Final Price = $.29 ea

Bumble Bee Pouch Tuna 2.5oz $.75 ea
Use .55/1 from 9/13 Smart Source (doubles to $1), or $1/1 internet printable that was available a while back (looks like printable is gone now?)
Final Price = $.25 OVERAGE

Yoplait Yo-Plus 4 pack $2.49 ea
Use $1/1 from 10/4 General Mills insert or
$1/1 from or
$1/1 from
Final Price = $1.49 ea

Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter $1.99 ea
Use $.40/1 from 10/18 Smart Source (doubles to $.80)
Final Price = $1.19

Hormel Chili $.88 ea
Use $2/3 in 10/18 Smart Source
Final Price = $.22 ea

Carnation Evaporated Milk .79 ea
Use $.50/2 here (doubles to $1.00)
Final Price = $.29 ea

Whiskas Temptations Cat Treats $.99
Use $1/2 from 10-25 Red Plum
Final Price = $.49 ea

Uncle Ben's Ready Rice $1.49 ea
Use $1/2 here
Final Price = $.99 ea

Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts 2.50 ea
Use  $.50/2 from (doubles to $1.00)
Final Price = $2.00 ea

Hall's Cough Drops $.99 ea
Use $.35/1 from 09-27 Smart Source (doubles to $.70)
Final Price = $.29 ea

Welch's Fruit Juice $2.49 ea
Use $1/1 from
Final Price = $1.49 ea

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chicken (Crock)Pot Pie

This recipe is derived from a Campbell's Soup can label. It's pretty quick and easy to do in the oven, but that's no reason not to crockpot-ify it :) So here goes:

1 can cream of potato soup
1/4 cup milk
1/8 tsp ground pepper (I also add a dash of salt)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 cup of cooked chicken (diced or shredded leftovers works, as does canned chicken)

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all purpose baking mix (ie Bisquick)

Grease the inside of your crockpot (4 or 5 quart works best). Combine the filling ingredients in your crockpot. In a separate bowl, mix the topping ingredients, then carefully pour on top of the filling. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

(To cook in the oven, prepare as above using a pie dish instead of the crockpot, and cook for 30 minutes at 400˚F).

And look! I remembered to take a picture, after dinner that is:

I like this recipe because if you keep a can or two of chicken around, this makes a great "oh crap I forgot to take anything out to defrost" meal :) You can also substitute turkey or beef - I often use leftover roast or steak.

Check out more crockpot fun over at Debbie's Crockpot Wednesday!

And even more recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (10/26/09)

Better late than never! Even though I've been on a blogging hiatus I have been diligent about my menu plans. I'm at the point where I can't even remember how I survived my pre-menu planning days... oh yeah, it involved a lot of Taco Bell!
  • Sunday: Grilled chicken ceasar salad
  • Monday: Ham and Potato Soup
  • Tuesday: Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas (similar to this, but with pre-cooked taco seasoned chicken instead of beef)
  • Wednesday: Leftovers/Fend for Yourself
  • Thursday: Orange Chicken, Rice with veggies
  • Friday: Pasta Bake
  • Saturday: Leftover Pasta Bake
See what everyone else is eating over at Menu Plan Monday!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekly Grocery Shopping (10/21 - 10/27)

OK I am still getting back on track after a few weeks off. I picked up a bunch of Halloween candy while grocery shopping - I didn't want to buy it too early since that increases the chance of me eating it all ahead of time, but I didn't want to wait until the last minute and then have to desperately grab whatever I could find and paying full price. Apparently I'm screwed no matter which strategy I choose because it put me way over budget. So I decided it doesn't count! It's not real food, so it doesn't come out of my grocery money. Haha, take that, budget killing holidays! I will count Halloween candy in my mysterious "Household" category, which ends up catching all sorts of weird things that don't fit anywhere else. With that executive decision out of the way, I came in quite close to my weekly goal of $45!


2x Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent @2.99 - $1/2 MFC = 4.98
3x Nature's Valley Granola Bars @ 2.50 ea and
1x Chex Mix Bars @ 2.50 ea
  -.40 Shortcuts e-coupon
  -.40 Shortcuts e-coupon
  -.50/1 Chex Mix bars MFC (doubled to 1.00)
  -.40/1 Nature Valley bars MFC (doubled to .80)
  -.70/2 Nature Valley bars MFC (doubled to 1.00)
  -4.00 buy 4 Nature Valley/Chex bars get $4 off
  = 2.40
4x 8oz tomato sauce @ .25 ea = 1.00
Hot dog buns = 1.19
5 lbs potatoes = 1.99
2 lbs carrots = 1.29
1.28 lbs bananas = .86
Cucumber = .89
2x Ball Park hot dogs @ .99 ea (manager's special) - $1/2 MFC = .98
Multi Grain bagette french bread = .99

Total: 16.16


2x Kit Kat snack size = 4.00
2x Reeses snack size -2.50 B3G1 free coupon = 1.50
Combo Candy bag = 9.99
2x Whole Grain Wheat Thins @ 1.38 ea - $1/2 MFC = 1.76
Canola Oil = 5.79
Olive Oil = 5.99 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = 4.99
Lean Pockets breakfast @1.79 - .75 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .79
8x Yoplait Yogurt @ .60 ea wyb 8
  -.50 e-coupon
  -.40/6 MFC (doubled to .80)
  -.60 B6G1 MFC
  = 2.90
4x Tombstone Pizza @2.50 ea - 2x 1.50/2 MFC = 7.00
2x Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage @1.99 ea - $1/2 MFC = 3.98

Total: 41.70


1.93 lbs Rome Apples = .64
Romaine Lettuce = 1.19
Green Leaf Lettuce = .99
Celery = .99
Garlic = .67
Onions = .29
Reusable Bag Credit = -.05

Total: 4.72

Weekly Total: 62.58
Halloween Candy: 15.49
Regular Groceries: 47.09

So if we don't count the halloween candy, I was only $2.09 over budget. Stupid candy :)

Check out more great shopping trips at
The Grocery Cart Challenge
Super Savings Saturday
Southern Savings

Grocery Shopping Catch-Up

I've been derelict in posting my shopping trips this month. I will be back on track for the current week with pictures and and a full price break-down, but I wanted to do a quick "catch-up" for all the shopping I've done so far this month so I cant keep track of the totals.

I had one CRAZY overbudget week as you'll see below. This is entirely due to having my parents down for a visit for several days. My dad had a heart attack a while back and has consequently become VERY conscious about what he eats. I wanted to be able to provide meals that everyone could enjoy and would be ok for him to eat. So I ended up buying a lot of "special" items for him (no cholesterol butter spread, fat-free mayonnaise, egg substitute, etc) and a few other items for new "healthy" recipes I planned on trying out. So that week just quickly spiralled out of control.

9/30/09 - 10/06/09
This week I made two trips to Food for Less just to stock up on staples and get a head start for a few things I knew I would want for my parents' visit.

Weekly Total: 44.84

10/07/09 - 10/13/09
OK this was my last trip out before my parents came down to visit, and I ended up paying full price for a lot of things I normally wouldn't buy at all. I could have done a lot better if I'd planned for this a month or two ahead of time, but life happens. This week was GROSSLY overbudget, the worst I have ever done since I began couponing and being a Savings Ninja. Again, life happens. It was a special occasion so I'm not losing sleep over it. But it is certainly a good reminder of why we coupon and put so much effort into planning our purchases!

Ralph's: 33.98
Henry's: 7.88
Vons: 39.41
Walgreens: 10.59

Weekly Total: 91.86

10/14/09 - 10/20/09
This was my "back on the wagon" week. I managed to make up a little ground and stay about $10 under target!

Ralph's: 15.92
Vons: 14.54
Walgreens: 3.65

Weekly Total: 34.11

I'm Back!

Yes, I kind of disappeared for a few weeks. Nothing major, just got busy with real life and something had to give. Never fear, I did a lot of couponing, shopping, cleaning, and cooking during my little hiatus, and have lots of material for some upcoming posts. Onward!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (10/4/09)

Okay before I get to the menu, I'm hoping to get some ideas from you all. My parents will be visiting next week and my dad is on a low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet since he had a heart attack a while back. So, I need some ideas for healthy meals to make while they are here. So far I have thought of pot roast, chicken & brown rice soup, and maybe beef stew or a roast chicken. I'm not a huge fish person so that's not really a good option - I'm hoping to stick with items I already have on hand, which would include some lean cuts of beef, whole chicken, and chicken breast. For breakfasts so far I'm thinking of egg substitute, whole grain toast, and maybe these Applesauce Oatmeal Pancakes. If you have any ideas or recipes for low cholesterol meals (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) I would be grateful if you shared them. Thanks!

Last week I tried several new recipes (menu with links is here), so I thought I'd give a quick verdict on each:
  • Spicy Honey Glazed Pork Chops - not spicy at all, but really yummy anyway. They were easy to prepare, and I just threw them in the oven with some baked potatoes for an easy and tasty meal. Ninja Hubz loved them.
  • Asian Chicken and Noodles - pretty good. I thought they were a lot better after adding a bit of soy sauce.
  • Chicken (Crock)Pot Pie - an experiment I tried. Came out quite good! I will post the recipe when I get a chance, probably tomorrow.
And at last, this week's menu! A couple repeats that we didn't get to last week. Ninja Hubz volunteered to make home made macaroni and cheese on our usual "fend for yourself" night, and the pasta bake casserole  lasted for several nights of leftovers, so we just didn't get to some of our planned meals.
  • Sunday: Roast beef, noodle stuff, mixed veggies
  • Monday: Beef fried rice with veggies
  • Tuesday: Crockpot vegetable beef soup
  • Wednesday: Leftovers/Fend for yourself
  • Thursday: Italian breaded chicken, noodle stuff
  • Friday: Homemade Pizza
  • Saturday: Carnitas
Check out what everyone else is eating over at Menu Plan Monday

Friday, October 2, 2009

Monthly Update - September

This was an awesome month for us.

Last month I explained that we had achieved our 2009 savings goals. So I approached Ninja Hubz to discuss what we should start doing with our "extra" money for the rest of the year. I expected at least some sort of battle. See, Ninja Hubz likes stuff. Usually, its expensive stuff (with blinky lights and lots of buttons - usually it makes a lot of noise too). I hate stuff. I've been working all year to get rid of stuff. Stuff needs to be cleaned and stored and dusted... I hate stuff! I wanted to start putting our extra money towards paying off the mortgage. Paying off the mortgage is good, because it doesn't require extra dusting :) Anyway, to my complete astonishment Ninja Hubz was 100% completely totally in agreement that extra money should go to the mortgage. Seriously, it was about a 12 second conversation. (I think I know why this was so easy, but that will be another post on compromise and budgeting.)

So, here's where we stand:
  • NO non-mortgage debt
  • Fully funded emergency fund
  • Retirement savings on-track
  • Enough in savings to buy a new car when we need it
  • Working on paying off the mortgage early
Today I scheduled our extra mortage payment with our leftover September money... it was nearly 2 months worth of payments, all going towards principal! I keep an amortization spreadsheet to track how my extra payments affect our loan balance. This one payment just shrunk our loan term by THREE MONTHS. See, once the mortgage is paid off, as far as I'm concerned, me being employed is OPTIONAL. This is like getting 3 months of my life back.

That's why I coupon, and shopt the thrift stores, and wash/re-use zip-loc baggies, and bring my lunch every day when all my co-workers go out. I want financial freedom, and we just got 3 months closer to it :)

Well we did quite well controlling our spending. Total groceries was $174.70. I'm still budgeting $50/week ($200 for the month), but aiming for $45/week ($180 for the month). And I did it! My "other household" category actually showed a profit due to almost no spending and some rebates coming in.

As usual, we had some unplanned expenses come up - one of the Ninja Pups went to the vet for a dental cleaning, and we paid for half of rebuilding the fence between our house and the neighbors. These are the types of expenses I know are going to come, I just don't know exactly when. In last month's update I talked about trying to budget for these types of expenses, but I've decided not to worry about it for now.

Here's why: we have the monthly income to deal with most of these expenses without impacting other things. Basically, when these expenses come up it just means there is a little less for the "extra" savings or mortgage payment. I could set aside a little every month so it was already allocated for these costs, but here's the thing - I don't want any more money sitting around in low-interest accounts than I have to. If I have extra money this month, I want it all going towards the mortgage. If I have the extra expense next month, I can pay for it then, and just put less towards the mortgage that month.

This tactic probably won't work for everyone. If I had concerns that I would NOT have the extra money available when the expense occurred, I would start saving now. If I was less disciplined and thought we might blow the extra money on shiny things with blinky lights instead of putting it towards the mortgage, I would save it now. But basically, the money will do the most good right now if it goes to the mortgage (lowering future interest payments). I know I'll have more money when I need it, so its all good. This means I have to give up some of my control freak desires to know EXACTLY where every penny I ever earn will be spent for the next 10 years, but I should probably get over that anyway :)

We've found a lot of cheap and free activities to keep us entertained without spending a lot. We went hiking one Saturday, and took advantage of free museum day to visit the local botanical gardens. I've been faithfully using the library and Paperback Swap for all my reading and music needs.

Extra Income
Every little bit helps! Most of these things only take a few minutes here and there - just keeping track of receipts, washing out Coke cans, and goofing on the Internet during commercials. The extra money either goes for "wants" I would otherwise do without, or gets put toward the mortgage payment.
  • Took in the recycling: $30.40
  • Online surveys and other sites:
  • FLEX spending reimbursement: $89 (my employer provides me with a certain amount of money for health benefits and lets me choose from several insurcance options. Since I choose the lowest cost insurance plans, there is leftover money each month that goes into a flexible spending account, and from that account I can get reimbursed for out of pocket medical spending like prescription co-pays and over the counter medications. And its all tax free!)
Around the House
I've managed to take care of a few things that have been bugging me - I've done a DEEP cleaning on about 1/2 the bathroom (the really bad half - got the blinds and walls near the window clean), and some deep cleaning in the kitchen. I totally cleaned the inside of the fridge and reorganized my food cupboards so I could see what was in there. I found a lot of things that need to get used up and moved them to the front of the cupboards so I will SEE them. My goal is to plan at least 1 meal a week using boxed items that need to go! I think what has happened is that I've been moving towards preparing things from scratch as opposed to using boxed dinner kits or side dishes, so those items have languished in my cupboards. I will get them used up, and keep this all in my mind when I go shopping - I like to have one or two such things on hand for when I am rushed, but there is no need for 10 boxes of cheesy noodle dishes and 6 boxes of potato dishes when I usually use fresh potatoes or rice or make my own pasta sauces!

There's still more to do... there's always more to do. I will likely focus on yard work in October since it is now actually cool enough to go outside without fear of bursting in to flames.

Other Stuff
Saving the best for last... I had my annual performance review at work and if all goes well with the HR gods, I will be getting a merit pay increase! Yay! This is especially good since we did not get a cost of living increase this year due to the economy. Not sure of my math after taxes, but this should mean a couple hundred dollars more a month to put towards the mortgage!

Good luck in October!