I love the Greatland Target in the next town. I really do. They will scan any coupon you hand them, no b.s. required. The SuperTarget in my town...well, they are the Coupon Gestapo. Maybe that's a little harsh, but that is the nicest way I've been able to phrase it in my head. Here's why....

Monday, I heard that the Jewel (Albertson's) flyer had a coupon for $1 off 40 oz. bottles of Heinz ketchup. While I clipped 2 out of te flyers I had at home, it wasn't with any real expectation of being able to use them any time soon. That was, until I heard Target and WalMart had that very same brand and size (woo-hoo!!) on sale for $1. Hmmmm...visions of free ketchup danced in my head. Even though I'm not the biggest ketchup fan, it does come in handy for hotdogs and basic grilling. But, I digress.

After a (thankless) day at work Monday, I ran to Jewel to grab some flyers that have the manufacturer coupon in them...and another round of the ConAgra deal (7 boxes of Orville Redenbacher for $.54!!!). Then I was hot-footin' it to SuperTarget amidst a vicious snarl of rush hour traffic, compounded by road construction closing one lane of the busy street, and sweltering 90 degree temperatures. I get all excited when there actually is ketchup left on the shelf, and that should've been my first clue. Seriously, why did I get it??

I grab 5 bottles (trying to run the deal conservatively) and a package of tortillas - which we needed anyway and scamper (as much as I could at that point, anyway) to the register. I head for the spaced-out looking teenage boy cashier, but get waved over by a girl with no wait on her line. Which is fine, I'm hot, tired, and ready to be done shopping. She scans the items, scans the re-usable bag credits (love that) and I hand over my coupons while she bags.

She looks at the coupons. Then, she studies the coupons. First she tried to refuse because they were expired, until I reminded her of the current date. The coupons didn't expired until Wednesday. Her response was, "Oh..." and she flags down another associate and asks him about the coupons. At no point did she even try to scan them. It's like she had no intention of scanning the coupons at all.

The second cashier looks at the coupons and tells me I can't use them there. I ask as politely as I can at that point, "What is the problem?" He answers with, "Where did you get these coupons?" I realize at this point there is little chance of them even trying to scan the coupons, let alone allowing me to use them, so I try the educational standpoint - why aren't cashier trained in how to do their jobs? This is why I don't shop Target much anymore. I've had enough of their invasive incompetence.

I repeat, "What is the problem? Those are valid manufacturer coupons. Don't you accept manufacturer coupons?"

First cashier is trying hard to blend into the floor at this point, I'm speaking solely with the 2nd cashier (who I've had run-ins with coupons in the past). His reply, "We do accept manufacturer coupons, but we won't take them if they came from another store."

After several minutes of back and forth, I ask rather bluntly, "Are you refusing to scan these manufacturer coupons?" Finally, he admits it. He will not scan those manufacturer coupons. Then, and this is so funny even I had to laugh at this point, he asks if that will complete my order. I plaster on my biggest fake smile and tell me if you will not scan my coupons you will not get my business. I wait for the to empty the items out of my reusable bag and exit. Furious. I've now wasted nearly an hour at SuperTarget.

What's ironic? I go to the Greatland Target less than 4 miles down the same road and grab 8 bottles of ketchup, some Dove deoderant and hand over my stack of coupons. The cashier scans every single one of them. And I had 2 coupons for each Dove item (store and manufacturer), plus for all the ketchup. It was that easy. No questioning, no arguing, no justifying - she simply scanned them.

All total, I spent $13.15 for:

4 Dove 2.6 oz. deoderant - reg. price $3.49
2 25.xx bottles Dove Body Wash reg. price $5.99
2 loofahs reg. price $1.99
10 bottles of ketchup reg. price $2.49
I think aioli is going to be the theme for my sammies this summer! With endless possibilities and variations - I challenge everyone to never eat another boring sandwich!!

Okay, so I'm a little excited about how easy this is. In the summer, a simple (but flavorful) sammie (or sandwich, if you prefer) is just the ticket to an easy weekday dinner or an awesome weekend lunch. Also, great for some kickin' picnics, too. This also makes Leftover Makeovers a snap - add grilled meat, some cheese, and some good bread - presto...a taste-bud tantalyzing treat.

Here's how I roll:

1 lb. grilled steak, sliced thin ($1.29)
4 sub rolls (heartier ones work best, but any will do) ($1.35)
4 slices Provolone cheese (any would work, I like the flavor of provolone with grilled meat) ($.25)
1/3 C. shredded carrot ($.25)
1 1/2 C. shredded lettuce ($.22)

3 T. light mayo (free after coupons)
1 tsp. olive oil ($.10)
pinch of garlic salt ($.05)
1/4 roasted red bell pepper, minced ($.10)
pinch of rosemary (optional) ($.05)

Mix together, until well combined. Chill for 5-10 minutes.

Spread sauce (aioli) on sub rolls, layer in meat, cheese, veggies.
Serve immediately.

Yields = 4 sammies or 8 sammie halves
Cost: $3.66
Cost per sandwich: $.92
Summer snacking and lunches: here we come! Jewel is running a $25 get $10 OYNO sale this week on ConAgra products. The tomatoes aren't much of a deal (regular price of $1.20 - on sale for $1 - I want a bigger price spread than that to make it worth my while), but the popcorn and soup sure are! Here's what I got:

Transactions 1-4
13 cans Healthy Choice soup (14-15 oz.) regular price $2.00 - on sale 10 for $10, get the 11th item free
Total = $12.04 - get $10 OYNO
Total spent: $18.16 - plus $10 OYNO coupon
Saved: $132.12

Transaction 5-8
7 Orville Redenbacher popcorn (cheddar, light, movie theater, butter flavors work for sure) regular price $3.59 - on sale for $1.69
$2.14 per transaction - I just rolled the coupon in to the next order.
Total OOP: $8.56
Total Saved: $91.96
plus one $10 OYNO coupon still in my pocket!!

Total Spent at Jewel: $26.72 for 80 items or $.33 per item.
Total saved: $224.08

Butera has some crazy good deals going on, too, right now to celebrate the re-grand opening or remodeling or something like that of one of their stores - I couldn't pass up:

(all are limit one unless otherwise indicated)
$.99 a gallon milk
$.99 64 oz. Dean's Orange Juice
$.39 dozen large eggs (Limit 2)
$3.99 - 3 lb. bag frozen chicken breast (limit 2)
$.29 lb. bananas - (limit 2 bunches)
$1.99 lb. boneless beef rump or rolled pork roast (no limit) - I grabbed one (I'll roast it and slice it with my meat slicer for some amazing deli meat)
BOGOFree Margarine (no limit) $1.05
3/$1 Hass avocados (limit 6)
$.99 head lettuce

Total Spent $27.16
Total Saved: $21.74

Total OOP: $53.88
I'm glad I had Sunday to rest, this was a crazy busy week and weekend and it felt good to get some well-needed downtime. For this coming week - I'm looking forward to a slower pace, some lighter meals, and catching up on my rest before Memorial Day weekend. I hope there are some great coupon deals, I'm hoping it will be as good as last year.

Monday: mini-date with hubby
Tuesday: Steak sammies with a sundried tomato aioli on hard rolls, garden salad, strawberries
Wednesday: Grilled chicken-topped garden salad, garlic bread or quesadillas
Thursday: dinner at DaMama's
Friday: Breakfast wraps, bananas, hashbrowns, juice

Dessert of the week: White chocolate raspberry bars

Lunch of the week: Ham or roasted pork tenderloin sammies, beans and red rice

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, yogurt, granola bars, fresh fruit
On the way home from work, I popped in to Dominicks to grab another round of the cheap cereal.

Quaker Life and Captain Crunch cereal (12-15 oz. boxes) were on sale for $1 a box when you buy 4 or more. Which is a great deal in itself. But I made it a little sweeter by adding in some $3/5 Quaker product coupons from Butera flyer back in March (expired, but Dominicks takes those!)

If that wasn't sweet enough, I had a $4 catalina left from grabbing some Kellogg's cereal when the national catalina was running.

10 boxes of Captain Crunch = $10 plus $.22 tax
- $3/5 Quaker product coupon (x2) = -$6
- $4 OYNO catalina coupon = -$4
My total = $.22 (tax)
Savings = 100%!!

I still have one more catalina, a $3 catalina from Jewel that I believe is expired = looks like more free cereal for me. No question on what's for breakfast...cereal isn't a question in my life anymore, it's an answer - the only question is: which box do I open next??
Do you ever catch yourself eying the mouth-watering choices of amazing spices at the grocery store? You know the ones....small, beautiful jar, fancy tag with flowing writing, and it typically costs more than the cut of meat you're going to put it on. I love using spices and marinades in my cooking. Luckily for me, I grabbed a few dozen bottles of marinade for free after coupon. Unfortunately, the spice blends don't tend to come down in price often.

The good news? With a dozen or so basic spices and a few pantry basics, it's possible to have a variety of amazing spice blends to choose from. Over at Eat From Your Pantry, there is a great post about seasoning blends - it's truly amazing how many different blends you can make with ingredients you probably have on hand already. Trust me - it's as easy as:

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Spice

Kansas City Style Rib Rub

Budget 101 - they have 164 different spice blend recipes!!

Taco Seasoning

Ranch Dressing Mix

Unless I stumble onto another freebie seasoning deal (which this is the right time of year for), I have plenty of resources to help me get the same flavorful punch for a lot less money. As for marinades, I haven't spent too much time learning how to make my own. In my defense, when they're plentiful and free, there is really no incentive to make my own. When the deals run out, I'll be posting marinade recipes, but until then - I'm resting on my laurels, or at least resting on a full stockpile that includes more than a dozen different marinades.
The graduation party for my hubby was last weekend - and even though much got changed about where/how of the party, we all had a great time. Even hubby's 92-year-old grandfather was there for the party!! We've got plenty of leftover food, so I will only be planning to cook 2 meals this week. Here's what I'm planning:

Monday: Deli-sliced garlic roasted pork tenderloin sammies, baked bean casserole, potato salad, spinach salad, baby carrots - all leftover from party

Tuesday: Ham and swiss grilled sammies, celery sticks, chips/potato salad - all leftover from party

Wednesday: Cream of mushroom soup, garlic toast, spinach salad

Thursday: Ham, potato salad, baked bean casserole, baby carrots, celery sticks, sweet spinach salad with strawberries and raspberry vinagrette - all leftover from party

Friday: Anniversary party - don't need to cook!

Saturday: Grilling time! If the weather fails us and it's cooler, then it's BBQ-glazed chicken drummies, mashed potatoes, and salad

Sunday: Minestrone soup (using all my leftover veggies), garlic bread, crisp Romaine salad with cheddar and toasted almonds

Lunch of the week: It's all about the party leftovers, for a variation, we also have some spaghetti noodles cooked to go with our choice of pasta sauce (still have lots of the freebies from Ragu back in March)

Breakfast of the week: Yogurt, Cereal, granola bars, oatmeal - I'm sticking to easy stuff this week

Dessert of the week: Banana Nut Bread

What do you think of when you hear that word? When I was younger (much younger), cereal was a treat - we had cereal once in a rare blue moon. Being raised by a single mom with 3 kids, and half the neighborhood eating at our place, that might have something to do with it.

Then, before I started couponing, cereal was a siphon in my wallet, carefully, thoroughly sucking out the few dollars I had for our weekly grocery shopping. Hey, regular priced cereal costs more per pound than meat or produce - and you can't stretch it as far. Believe me, I've tried.

Now, cereal is funny. It's hilarious. It's almost an event. Sometimes it's even a joke.

The conversation starts like this:

"I think I want something to nibble on." (DH)
"Hmmmm..." (me, distracted by the tv, a good book, magazine, or playing on the computer) "cookies?"
DH shakes his head
"Leftovers?" I reply, raising an eyebrow
DH laughs
"Cereal?" Knowing full well he wouldn't go for my first two options, didn't matter what they were. Oh, and there were no cookies, anyway.
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking." Like I could hear his thoughts from across the room - they just took some time getting to me. Might've got lost somewhere around the edge of the coffee table.

Then comes the long pause. (Don't worry, I was wiating for it.) DH ambles into the kitchen. "Which one?" Here's why I find it funny:

Once upon a time, there was no concept of which one - there was one box, and it was usually almost-empty. Now, there are more than a dozen different kinds on hand at all times. Hubby scratches his wondering for a few seconds, before finally deciding which one and going down to the pantry in the basement to get it. Though, in most scenarios, he'll offer to grab me a fresh box of cereal too. (Since our tastes are rather different - me = Honey Bunches of Oats....him = Froot Loops.)

Now, there's a killer sale at Dominicks on cereal. Not that I really need more, but at these prices, I can't pass it up. I can get Captain Crunch for $.40 a box. There are other deals to be had, but for that one alone - I'll be out shopping.

Got to love my funny, frugal life...
Oh, and for details on the cheap cereal - go HERE.
I know it sounds a little crazy, but I'm a body wash addict. I truly am. I love getting the newest flavor/scent to come out, and I love trying all the different variations that have hit the market. And, thankfully, coupons allow me my addiction. Even though I have more than a dozen free bottles of Suave left, that hasn't stopped me from grabbing a few more brands and scents to pick from.

Last night, I grabbed a bottle of Nivea from Target and last week it was a bottle of Nivea from WalGreens and a bottle of SoftSoap body wash from WalGreens (it was only $.99) in a lovely Sweet Honeysuckle scent. I know I need to be stopped, but I can't get over all the delicious choices that are available. Who could honestly resist? Obviously, not me...

When I was putting away the new bottles of body wash last night and noticed that I have 15-20 different scents to choose from - I had to laugh. No two were the same scent/brand. From Cashmere to Pomegranate, from Cucumber Melon to Peach Silk - I've got a crazy, amazing variety to pick from. Now, when I get to pick the next one to try, I'll probably spend 15-20 minutes trying to decide which one I'm "in the mood" for. I'm worse than a kid at a candy store!

It's a good thing that we have two separate vanities cabinets in the master bathroom - I'm going to have to turn one of them into a place to store my burgeoning body wash collection. It's a good thing I coupon, or I'd have invested a fortune into my addiction. And my current bottle of Suave's Wild Cherry Blossom is almost gone! I'll admit that I'm pondering which one to pick next...

Tell me - what do you love to buy? And, do coupons help make your addiction affordable?
Mother's Day Brunch was a wonderful success - so successful that there are hardly any leftovers! Only a meal worth of hashbrowns is left in my fridge, so this meal plan I have to start from scratch.

Monday: Homemade pizza, salad
Tuesday: Bib-lettuce salad topped with chicken, crumbled mozzarella, and homemade croutons
Wednesday: Dinner at DaMamas
Thursday: Cream of mushroom soup (I'm making it from scratch), homemade biscuits, salad
Friday: Tacos with all the fixins, chips and guacamole/salsa
Saturday: Date-night
Sunday: Graduation Party for DH! I'll post the full menu for that tomorrow.

Breakfast of the week: Frittata & hashbrowns, cereal, yogurt, oatmeal. Plenty of choices there!

Lunch of the week: sammies, tacos, or soup

Dessert of the week: Cookies - I'll bake some tonight.
Have you heard that tomorrow is Stamp Out Hunger Day? What is that and what does it mean? Stamp Out Hunger is a nation-wide movement to help restock our food pantries and empower each community to help stamp out hunger. What makes it even better - your postman will be picking up donations of non-perishable items to help fill local food pantries across the country! How much easier can it get? All you have to do is put together a bag or two of non-perishables and leave them by the mailbox tomorrow.

Couponing for Community is also promoting a rally for all couponers to donate some of their well-shopped goodies to help fight hunger in your local community. All I can say is - I'm all in! Let's see if the power of couponers (and women) working together can make a difference where we need it most - locally.

Or, just share how you donate to family, friends, community, etc. to help combat hunger. Tell me - where do you donate? How do you donate? What do you prefer to donate? Is this a favorite cause of yours?

For me, I donate first to family and friends - I like to think that what I give helps keep a family or two from needing state-run services. I also donate to the food pantry monthly - my goal is to donate $5 or less in items and I mostly give freebies that I've overstocked on, though I do give family first pick of the goodies. I try to give 20-30 items each month, more when my stockpile is overflowing. I also donate unneeded household items to Goodwill - that I do seasonally (5-6 times per year or as often as I try to weed out, clean up, or make space).

For me, helping the food pantry is a very near-and-dear-to-my-heart cause. I want to see this country stamp out hunger across the nation and the only way we can do that is by working together. The greatest part to me is, it doesn't have to cost a fortune to help. As we've seen - through amazing coupon deals - it shouldn't cost us more than a few dollars. And what may seem small at first, will have a huge impact if we work together!
I heard through a few blogging buddies that Lane Bryant was offering a free camisole (no purchase required), so last night, DaMama and I went out to do a little shopping.

We needed to go to a neighboring town to pick up some thread for a sewing project of hers and conveniently, a Lane Bryant is in that same plaza! We used a coupon for 40% off to pick up the thread (a savings of $2.51), and while we were browsing around, looking at different materials, I found some beautiful denim with cream colored, scrolling stitiching on it - that was 50% off! While that was a good price, we didn't realize until we got to the cutting table that it was ringing up 75% off!! For that price, we took all the fabric that was left. It's going to make some amazingly cute (and sturdy) re-usable shopping bags. I've already placed my order with DaMama for another set of bags. I just cannot seem to have enough of them!

Then we popped in to Lane Bryant and each grabbed a free camisole (regular retail price of $19.50!). The girls at the register we also handing out couposn for 40% off one regular priced item, which came in handy, too. I have been eying their new johnny-colored tee shirts for a few weeks now, and with that extra percent off, I treated myself to a $15.00 splurge of a new, pretty tee.

After Lane Bryant, we popped in to Butera on the way home and I picked up deli-style chunks of cheese for $1.98 lb. (munster and mozzarella), a small package of chicken breast ($1.59 lb.), some chicken leg quarters ($.69 lb.), some $1.69 lb. Italian sausage (bulk or rope style), and a small loaf of garlic bread ($.99). The cheese, chicken, and sausage are great staples to have on hand for making homemade pizzas, and the bread was put to use right away for dinner last night. I also scored a container of heavy cream (8 oz.) for only $.79 - this will come in handy for the chicken and gnocchi soup - I'm doing my take on Olive Garden's classic soup for Mother's Day Brunch.

My total spending for the night was only $37.28 for a camisole, tee-shirt, pizza toppings that will last us 3-4 months (if we make pizza every week), chicken that can double in a lot of recipes, and enough fabric for a fabulous pair of shopping bags that will be able to withstand the use I plan to get out of them.

We had dinner at DaMama's - tomato basil penne with ground turkey and mushrooms (most of ingredients were free from stockpile), watched some TV, and talked to my sister on the phone.

Later on last night, I started a load of laundry after 11pm (cheaper rates - check with your electrical company on what are your off-peak hours are for maximum savings), and started the dishwasher after 11 pm, too.

I'll post pictures of the new bags as soon as they are done (probably in a week or two) - I am so excited to see the finished result!
Has anyone else noticed this trend, or maybe it's just me...

Some of the most common examples for me are: when you invite someone over and somehow your invitation becomes interpreted (and I use this word loosely) to mean going out...often at your expense. Or when you hear someone saying that while they like your/someone else's sentiment, they would really prefer something more meaningful (read: expensive, high quality, etc. etc. - and half the time they name the brand, store, eatery, etc. that they would prefer). I don't know if this is simply a rash of bad manners, or if people really feel that entitled to your's or someone elses's money that this seems perfectly acceptable. I call this trend: Trading Up.

My first irritant: anniversary parties that morph into the couple renewing their vows, dressed as if it's their first wedding, and they expect gifts. Nothing sentimental there when I read that they were not registered anywhere, they prefer monetary gifts. While I planned to attend the event (for lack of a better word) and give a small token to the couple, when I read the part about monetary gifts only, I was not only shocked, but more than a bit put-off. I'm so embarrassed for the couple, to be so rude - am I the only one that thinks that? Am I old-fashioned for thinking that a gift is what someone chooses to give you, not what you tell someone to give?

My most common irritant: dinner, lunch, brunch, etc. invitation that people decide to set their own time frame for/change the venue entirely - sometimes on the day of. Yes, this has happened, more times that I care to remember. It's almost become the norm now - to invite over a couple or some friends and have them tell you what time they'll be coming - even though your invitation clearly stated when you had asked them over. I wouldn't mind someone asking if I could change the start time, but I am a little fed-up with people that tell me when the start time would be. Often, I'll invite a group/couple over for dinner and what happens is they somehow interpret this as us all going out to dinner at a (typically expensive) restaurant that they have chosen, occasionally with additional guests included (by the other group/couple) and the additional guests do not expect to pay.

Am I within my rights as a hostess to get fed-up with these behaviors? With Mother's Day looming large around the corner, I'm waiting for that to happen. While I love to hostess an event (and I'm eagerly anticipating hostessing a lovely Mother's Day Brunch) and have held many events successfully, I find that some guests are so accustomed to being catered to, that the invitation given gets re-interpreted to suit their lifestyle, rather than being accepted or politely declined at face-value.

Tell me, has this happened to you? Have you witnessed Trading Up? I'd love to hear your stories!
I'm hosting a Mother's Day Brunch this year - and I'm getting so excited! I've never hosted a true "brunch" before, so I've evaluated a few of my favorite recipes, grabbed some amazing ideas off the food network (naturally...I love that channel!), and I think I'm ready to tackle this event. It was hard trying to narrow down my choices, but in the end - I think I've paired a few rich and savory favorites with a few sweet and light options.

Most of my hosting experience lies with holiday dinners (rich and traditional favorites), backyard BBQ's (tons of easy options in that category), or smallish dinner parties (just whip out an old favorite or two with some nice bread and salad), so creating the menu has been challenging - I don't want the meal to be too heavy, but I don't want anyone going home unsatisfied.

So, tell me - how does this sound? I've also itemized how much this brunch will cost - and if these seems like a lot of options, I've invited my mother, DH's mother, DH's aunts (3-4 of them), DH's grandmother, and their families. The exact number is around 18-22 people. I won't know until Thursday-Friday how many people to expect.

Chicken & Gnocchi Soup (will post this recipe tomorrow - have to find it first)

Boston Spinach Salad $3.15

Tea Sandwiches $1.67

Munster and Sausage Frittata $2.62 (will make a double batch)

Hashbrowns $1.80 (will make a double batch)

White Chocolate Raspberry Scones $2.12

Banana Nut Bread $1.83

Grapes ($2.00)
Fresh strawberries ($1.50)
Coffee, tea, juice = $8.00

I'm currently at $24.69 for this entire meal (not including soup), but if I don't need to double up on some recipes, I'll make the soup - it's rich, but a little goes a very long way. It would pair nicely with the tea sandwiches and the salad, and the white chocolate raspberry scones - I think those will steal the show! Ever since I learned how to make scones - they've been at the top of my favorites list! Elegant, sweet, and savory - here's hoping this event will be a success!

So tell me, what are you doing for your mother or what do you hope someone is doing for you on Mother's Day?
Getting ready to kick off another week - with a brunch on Sunday in honor of Mother's Day. I'll post my Mother's Day brunch menu tomorrow - I just want to tweak a few favorite recipes for the occasion. For the rest of the week - here's what we're eating:

Monday: Grilled cheese and tomato soup (trying to use up milk that expires tomorrow)
Tuesday: Caribbean Jerk marinated grilled chicken, fried rice, salad
Wednesday: Happy Cinqo de Mayo!! Tacos with all the fixin's, red rice, beans, chips and guacamole
Thursday: Swiss and mushroom omelets, fresh berries, toast, hashbrowns
Friday: Homemade chicken nuggets, Pasta-Roni, salad, corn
Saturday: Chinese takeout
Sunday: Mother's Day Brunch

Dessert of the week: Chocolate chip cookies
Breakfast of the week: Cereal, cinnamon raisin toast, yogurt, egg sammies
Lunch of the week: Leftover spaghetti, fried rice with stirfried veggies, or tacos

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