Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Website Wednesday: Couponing Websites

    Welcome to Website Wednesday. I have decided to reserve Wednesdays to highlight and/or review a particular website. That said, I am going to begin by breaking the rules. But it is for a good cause. After all, saving money is always a good cause. Am I right?

    Today I am not going to highlight just one website. Instead, I am going to talk a little about couponing, and I am going to share some of the websites that I have found very helpful.

    I am fairly new at couponing. I mean, sure, I have used a coupon here and there over the years, but I never really knew how to use them to their fullest potential until a few months ago. I have to admit that I was first intrigued by the extreme couponing show on t.v. I quickly learned that the stories that are portrayed on the show are, indeed, extreme. I mean, I have no desire whatsoever to go dumpster diving. Nor do I wish to completely clear shelves of a particular product and deprive others of the chance for a good deal. I do, however, like the idea of finding great deals on things that we use anyway and building a reasonable stockpile if the opportunity presents itself. Finding the great deals takes a little work, but it is well worth it.

 Here are some pointers to get you started:
* Know the store's coupon policy. You can usually find the store's coupon policy on their website. It is often helpful to print the policy and have it with you when you shop.

* Stack manufacturer coupons with in-store coupons whenever possible. Many stores allow you to use both a manufacturer coupon and an in-store coupon on the same item for greater savings.

*If available, sign up for store loyalty or club cards. Most of the time, these are free. Remember to look online for coupons and deals that can be electronically loaded to your card, in addition to the advertised in-store club prices.

*Know where to get coupons. Find out where coupons are in your area. Some are sent in the mail, and others are inserts in the local newspapers. (Call your newspapers to see which day(s) they insert the coupons).
    You can also go to the product brand's website and/or Facebook page to see if they have printable coupons there.
    You can get printable coupons online from various sources. Here are a few:              

    Some of the most valuable tools are couponing websites and blogs. You can learn the specifics of shopping/couponing different stores. You can learn about great coupon deals. Some even match up coupons to store deals for you! There are way too many informative sites out there for me to list. Today, I will share just a few of my favorite sites.

Couponing 101          The Krazy Coupon Lady          Coupon Divas            Coupon Mom       

    Here is an example of one of my couponing trips. It just so happens that my coupons, store card values, and sales were aligned that day.

              Safeway 8-14-11
(The bottled water is not shown)
2 goldfish crackers
2 goldfish grahams
2 gerber puffs
2 fiber one bars
2 fiber one brownie bars
2 chex mix
2 chex mix sweet n salty
4 cheerios cereal
4 chex cereal
2 lucky charms cereal
1 kix cereal
1 cookie crisp cereal
1 bisquick
4 progresso soups
4 golden grain pasta
1 20-pack coca cola
1 35-pack crystal geyser water
4 starkist albacore tuna
1 pack plastic utensils
2 pillsbury delights
1 dozen eggs
1 tub challenge butter
1 speed stick deodorant
1 hershey's chocolate bar that I DID NOT buy, but got charged for. :-(

Total Before Coupons: $162.64
Club Card Savings:       $ 65.21
Paper Coupons:             $ 34.67
Personalized Price*:      $  8.22
Club Card Coupons:      $  1.50
Final Cost:                    $ 53.04
(I saved                          $109.60)

*Personalized Price is a sale price that is electronically loaded to the card. You CAN use coupons in addition to these prices.

Not too shabby, hu? Are there any helpful couponing tips you'd like to share? Please feel free to comment.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Review: Fiber One 90 Calorie Brownies

    We've all had a time... or two, or three... in our lives in which we decided that it would be a good idea to start eating healthier. The only problem is, no one informed out sweet tooth. Well, the folks at Fiber One came up with a remedy for that in their 90 calorie brownies.The brownies aren't overly sweet, but just sweet enough so that you feel like you had a little treat.

    Fiber One 90 Calorie Brownies come in two flavors: Chocolate Fudge and Chocolate Peanut Butter. Personally, I like the chocolate fudge better than the chocolate peanut butter flavor.  I would have taken a picture of the chocolate fudge ones, but... um... I sort of ate all of them already. To me, the chocolate peanut butter brownies were a bit of a disappointment.  I really like a good chocolate/peanut butter combination, and this simply failed to deliver.  The chocolate was overpowering and I just didn't taste much of a peanut butter flavor at all. They still tasted good. I mean, chocolate STILL = good... just not peanut butter-y, like one would expect.

    The texture of both flavors is soft and cake-like. Great if you like a cake-like brownie. Still good if you like a gooey brownie... you just have to think of it as a little cake instead of a little brownie. The chocolate fudge brownies have a few chocolate chips in them and the peanut butter ones have a few peanut butter chips. The 90 Calorie Brownies stay true to the Fiber One claim of  "Cardboard, no. Delicious, yes." They are a satisfying snack when that sweet craving hits.

Chocolate Fudge:                              Chocolate Peanut Butter:
Taste: ¢¢¢¢                                        Taste: ¢¢¢
Texture: ¢¢¢¢                                    Texture: ¢¢¢¢
Overall Rating: ¢¢¢¢                        Overall Rating: ¢¢¢1/2

Click here for a coupon for Fiber One 90 Calorie Brownies.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lawry's 30 Minute Marinade- Mesquite with Lime Juice

    Have you ever had one of those days when you are just driving along, minding your own business, then suddenly, something hits you? Not something literally running into you. Not a thought or an idea or something that you were supposed to remember. I'm talking about something that speaks to your senses. An aroma. The kind of aroma that makes your taste buds tingle. The kind that immediately makes you want to disregard whatever dinner plans you may have had. Last weekend, my husband had such a day. He was out running errands, when the aroma of someone's backyard barbecue permeated through the windows of his truck. Then and there, he had decided what we were going to do for dinner!

    When he had finished the things that he needed to get done, he picked me and a few of the kids up, and we headed to the grocery store. Once there, we split up. My group went to get the corn on the cob and his group went to check out the meat department. We met back up in the barbecue sauce isle. I saw him looking at the marinades. Now, I am a barbecue sauce kind of girl. And to me, grilling means barbecue (yes I do know there is a difference, but still) and barbecue means barbecue sauce! ...Mmmmmm.... Barbecue sauce.... Hu? Where was I? Oh yes. Marinades and barbecue sauce. After looking through the selection of marinades, my husband decided on the Lawry's 30 Minute Marinade. He chose the Mesquite with Lime Juice flavor. Yeah, ok. I'll try that. After all, it is mesquite. Then he reached over and picked up a bottle of bbq sauce. Since he had gotten two large packages of chicken thighs, he figured we'd do one pack with marinade and one with sauce. I couldn't wait to get back and get everything started.

    The marinade says on the bottle that it is a 30 minute marinade. It was a good thing too, because my husband was starting the grill just as I was getting the chicken into the marinade. About 30 minutes later, the coals were ready and the chicken was on the grill. As my husband manned the grill, basting the marinated chicken with the Lawry's near the end of the cooking time, and brushing barbecue sauce on the remaining chicken; I was inside taking care of the side dishes.
   When everything was ready, I struggled to not sneak a taste as I made the kids' plates. (OK... I did sneak a taste... or 2... come on. I'm only human!) Knowing that I'd for sure like the barbecue chicken best, I grabbed a piece for my plate. I also got a small piece of the marinaded chicken, since I did want to taste it (even though I knew I'd like the barbecue better). I sampled a bite (... ok, another bite) of the barbecue chicken. Yummy, of course. Then I tried a bite of the marinaded chicken. Wow! To my surprise, I actually liked it better!!! It had a really good flavor. The mesquite was nice and the lime wasn't overpowering. I do recommend following the suggestion in the label, to marinade the meat longer in order for the flavors to permeate through, but even with the mere 30 minutes, the flavor was definitely there. I really liked the additional marinade that was basted over the chicken. In fact, the whole family really enjoyed it

    Lawry's 30 Minute Marinade- Mesquite with Lime Juice is inexpensive, flavorful, truthful in its "30 minute marinade" claim, and we will definitely be buying it again.

Overall Rating: ¢¢¢¢¢

    Have you tried any of Lawry's other marinades? What did you think of them? Are there any other flavors you'd recommend?


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Revlon Nail Enamel

    I am going to start today's review with somewhat of a disclaimer. As always, I am going to share my own personal experience with this product. However, I feel it only fitting to warn you in advance that my experience with Revlon Nail Enamel could quite possibly be an isolated incident. I don't know what the deal is with the one that I bought, but I am not ruling out the possibility of it being an older product that was simply left on the drugstore shelf too long.

    I chose Revlon color number 168, Temptress. I really love the color, and I looked forward to trying it out. I gave my nails a quick once-over with the emery board, then smoothed out the ridges and shined them up a bit. Knowing my cuticles would take more time, I decided to skip them... a decision that I have now come to regret. Had I known that I was going to take a picture and share their sorry state for all the world to see, I would have spent a little time on them. But I didn't, so I pay the price. Live and learn.

   I shook the bottle really well, then I applied a coat. It seemed to dry almost as quickly as I put it on. Sadly, I was disappointed with the results. It looked very "streaky" and uneven. Hmmmm... Ok. I decided to wait a couple of minutes to make sure it dried completely, then try a second coat. It didn't help. It just looked "goopy" and bubbly. I wish I had taken a picture to show you, but I just couldn't wait to remove it.

    Once it was removed, I thought I'd add a couple drops of the nail polish remover to the bottle of enamel. I did that and shook it like crazy. I guess I thought that if I shook it hard enough, it would work. Well, I was wrong. Streaky again. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, I even went ahead and added another coat. Um... that didn't make it better last time... why did I think it would this time?
   So, after I removed the enamel once again, I figured I'd just put one coat on and leave it. Here are the results (please forgive my crude photography skills... and the state of my cuticles).
The streaks seemed to mellow out a bit when they were completely dry, but the results were still uneven and messy looking. I am glad that I had coupons, and didn't have to pay the $3.99 full price.

Color Selection: ¢¢¢¢¢ I loved the color selection! There were more colors that I would have liked to buy. If I hear of any good experiences that my readers have with Revlon Nail Enamel, I will go back and buy more. Feel free to leave me a comment.

Value: ¢ For me, the value was poor. I have bought 99¢ nail enamel that performed much better than this $3.99 bottle.

Overall Rating: ¢¢ I would like to be able to give this a higher rating because I really do like the color and I like that it dries quickly. But, given the fact that the bottle I bought is simply unwearable, I could only give it  ¢¢.

If I hear good things about Revlon Nail Enamel, I will be fair and give it another shot; in which case, I will definitely write another post about it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pillsbury Sweet Moments Bite-Sized Brownies- Chocolate Fudge

    I have made it no secret that I have a sweet tooth. So, when I had a coupon for $1.00 off of one package of any Pillsbury Sweet Moments refrigerated dessert AND the store I was heading to had an in-store coupon, making my final price a mere 99¢ (most stores allow you to "stack" an in-store coupon with a manufacturer coupon for greater savings), it was obvious what had to be done.
    Now, I had never even heard of these sweet little moments before, but coupons in hand, I searched the store through. I FINALLY found them hiding in plain sight... right next to the refrigerated Pillsbury biscuits... and the Pillsbury cookie dough... that I had passed by three timed already... but who's counting?

    There they sat. Four packages left. There in my hand- four coupons. As tempting as it was, I restrained myself to only two packages. The flavor choice was easy- there was only one kind left. Lucky for me, it was Chocolate Fudge. I had been craving a good, fudgey brownie for weeks!

    We finished our shopping, loaded the groceries into the truck and got the kids all buckled in. I had the good sense to keep one of the bags of Sweet Moments up front with me. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I was tearing open the package.

  I had my hopes up about these, and they sure delivered! They were little squares of chocolate covered brownie, with a little layer of fudge in the middle. AKA: Sweet, Chocolatey, Fudgey, Gooey, Goodness! When biting into them, the chocolate coating was smooth. It didn't crumble and fall apart.
    The serving size is three pieces, and that is enough. Really, I was happy to have my family to share them with because I could have easily eaten the entire package myself. They were THAT yummy!

Taste: ¢¢¢¢¢
Value: ¢¢¢ They were a little pricey without coupons/sales. Just under $4 at the local grocery store. With four servings per package, that is almost $1 per serving. I can make a whole pan of brownies for around a dollar!
Overall Rating: ¢¢¢¢ 
    I would totally recommend these if you can get them on sale or have a coupon. And if you can't, well, everyone deserves to splurge sometimes! I am pretty sure I will buy them again. Besides... I need to try the other flavors, right?

   Have you tried these or any of the other flavors? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of them.

    Click Here For a $1 Coupon for Pillsbury Sweet Moments.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Huggies Little Movers Slip-On Diapers

    Anyone who has a baby knows that trying a new kind of diaper can create a bit of anxiety for Mom. Of course we want them to fit right so that our little ones are comfortable. And we definitely don't want them to cause a rash. It would be nice if they are affordable. And if they are cute, that's a plus. But what I am really talking about here are the dreaded LEAKS! No one wants to have to change crib sheets at 3 a.m. That said, I'm afraid I am going to have to address the topic a bit later in this post. Because really, what good is it to talk about leaks if you can't get the diaper on the kid in the first place?
    When your little one is on the move, it can be difficult to tackle him/her down and force him/her to lie still through a diaper change. These kids have stuff to do! They can't be bothered by such menial things. A better tactic would be "catch and release". Huggies has come up with a way to make that possible with their new Little Movers Slip-On diapers.

Re-closable sides
and adjustable tab.
 Let's Talk Ease of Use: Providing that you are actually able to catch your little one, Huggies Slip-Ons are really easy to use. You just simply slip them off or on, as you would underwear or pants. If your baby needs a changing that requires him/her lying down, you can easily remove the sides and proceed like a regular diaper.

 Let's Talk Fit: I really like the fit of these diapers. The waistband is  stretchy, as are the sides and leg holes. The sides are really neat, because you can open them completely, like a traditional diaper, and they can be closed back up again with no problem. And the little tab makes it easy to adjust to your baby's fit.

Let's Talk Style: These diapers are cute. They are very similar to the regular Huggies Little Movers. They have pictures of Tigger bouncing and romping, as Tiggers do best. On the front, just under the waistband, is the word "front". And the back, fittingly, has the word "back". This is a nice little feature for those less experienced in diapering... or for those easily confused.

Let's Talk Value: Slip-Ons are a bit more expensive than the traditional Huggies Little Movers. The expense is not reflected in price, but in quantity. A jumbo pack of Little Movers contains 27 diapers. A jumbo pack of Slip-Ons has 23.
You can occasionally find coupons for Huggies in your Sunday newspaper inserts. Or, if you sign up here, you can get the Huggies newsletter. From time to time, they will send printable coupons to you via Email. (While you are there, check out their rewards program.)

Now... Let's Finally Talk Leaks: I bought the Slip-Ons one evening last week, and couldn't wait to put one on my 10 month old. The thing was, she was about to go to bed. Not wanting to risk it, I decided to wait until morning. (Refer back to the changing of sheets at 3 a.m.). She wore the diaper after breakfast and through her (unusual) morning nap. Yay! No leaks! I decided to go forward and let her wear them when we went out shopping. Still no leaks. But how would they be overnight? Well, 3 a.m. came and went and I was none-the wiser. The Slip-Ons held up just as well as the regular Little Movers. I am impressed!

  One thing I did think about with the Huggies Slip-Ons was potty training. I am wondering how they will affect the transition to Pull-Ups, being that they are so similar. Now, I know that Pull-Ups have wetness indicators and the like, but I'm just not sure how she will react when the change-over comes. Will she think that the Pull-Ups are just diapers?
On the other hand, I think they will be really great for nighttime wear during potty training. Let's face it, Pull-Ups just don't always do the job overnight (Disclaimer: I have never tried the nighttime pull-ups, so I am comparing them with the regular daytime ones). I think that the absorbency will work well and there won't be the "set-back" of putting the little one in a regular diaper overnight.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Please leave a comment.

Overall Rating for Huggies Little Movers Slip-On Diapers: ¢¢¢¢ 
There are really only two reasons for giving these 4 ¢ instead of 5. The main one being the price. You simply get less diapers for the same money. The other is my concerns about the potty training/Pull-Up transition.
Other than those two reasons, I think the Slip-Ons are a great diaper. I recommend them and I will buy them again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fiber Cereal Comparison

    I thought that it might be fun, from time to time, to have a product comparison. The idea came to me as I was re-organizing the ten thousand boxes of cereal that I bought on one of my recent couponing trips. OK... so there aren't really ten thousand boxes, but you knew that! It sure seemed like it, though, when I was searching for a place to store them. As I looked through my haul and tried to match "like cereals" with other "like cereals"- basically separating the sugary ones from the healthy ones, I came up with the idea to have a cereal comparison. Now, the sugary cereals would just be too easy. I mean, Cookie Crisp... who doesn't like cookies for breakfast? And Lucky Charms... yeah, even my 10 month old knows to eat all of the marshmallows first! Hmmmm... how should I do this? Then it hit me. Fiber cereals! They are usually a little more expensive than the sugary cereals and, to be honest, I am sometimes afraid to buy them. I mean, who wants to buy a box of flavored cardboard? Really. Buying fiber cereal is hit and miss. How many boxes have you either suffered through or just ended up throwing away?

    So, here it goes. The cereals will be judged on amount of fiber per serving, taste, texture, and overall value.

Kashi GoLean Crunch!
Kashi Go Lean Crunch
I was optimistic about trying this cereal. I had read some good things about it online in the "fitness circles". When we saw it on sale a while back, we bought a few boxes.

Fiber: ¢¢¢¢ Each serving has 8 grams of fiber. 
Taste: ¢¢¢ The FLAVOR of this cereal was somewhat good. If I used my imagination a bit, it reminded me of caramel corn.... not the best caramel corn, mind you... but OK.
Texture: ¢ Bad. Sorry. There is no sugar-coating this one. It is like chewing on stale, crunchy Styrofoam packing peanuts. Not that I have ever done that, but close your eyes and imagine how it would be... got it? Not pleasant.  
Overall Value:  ¢¢ I guess I could have given it 3 ¢'s, but considering the fact that we ended up throwing a couple boxes away because we just couldn't get past the texture... it wasn't a good value for us. I would not by it again. Even with a coupon.

Fiber Plus Caramel Pecan Crunch
Fiber Plus Caramel Pecan Crunch
I love caramel, I love pecans, I had a coupon, and the store had a sale. Need I say more?

Fiber: ¢¢¢¢ Each serving has 9 grams of fiber.
Taste: ¢¢¢ Did I mention that I love caramel and pecans? So, why only 3 ¢'s then? A couple of reasons. First, the cereal was just too sweet. Keep in mind, I have quite the sweet tooth and it is a shocker for me to even HINT that something could possibly be too sweet.... but this was. The second reason is the "caramel" flavor. It tasted more like maple than caramel, which may have been ok, but when it's the artificial maple flavor that doesn't quite taste right and you are looking forward to caramel, it was a let-down.
Texture: ¢¢¢ "Cardboard, yes." The flakes, anyway. I don't think those suckers would get soggy in milk if you let them sit overnight! They were just too thick and slightly tough. The pecan clusters, on the other hand, were very good. Crunchy, as they should be, and not off-putting.
Overall Value: ¢¢¢ We did end up eating the whole box. I mostly ate a bowl as a dessert, when I craved something sweet (still too sweet, though). I don't think we will be buying this one again.


Fiber One 80 Calories Honey Squares
Fiber One 80 Calories Honey Squares
I had a coupon for this and it was on sale, so I bought a couple of boxes. The fact that is is only 80 calories per serving is definitely a plus!

Fiber: ¢¢¢¢¢ There are 10 grams of fiber per serving!
Taste: ¢¢¢¢  The flavor is actually pretty good. I, personally, am not a huge fan of the honey square type of cereals, but I did like it. My husband didn't like it much at all though. Our oldest daughter was the only one of our kids to try it and most of the box went to her. She liked it a lot.
Texture: ¢¢¢¢ "Cardboard, no." Very true. It even held up ok in milk. I did find that there was an ever-so-slight grainy texture to it, though.
Overall Value: ¢¢¢¢  Good cereal, I guess I could give it another 1/2 ¢, but this being a new blog, I haven't figured that one out yet. Decent price if you can get it on sale and/or use a coupon, and I'd probably buy it again.

All-Bran Bran Buds
All-Bran Bran Buds
I have to admit my skepticism when my husband chose this cereal for the first time. I turned up my nose and made up my mind that I wouldn't even try it. Um... yeah... I was kinda wrong.

Fiber: ¢¢¢¢¢ This cereal has a whopping 13 grams of fiber per serving!
Taste: ¢¢¢¢¢ This cereal has a pleasant, slightly sweet, bran flavor. Even the kids like to snack on it. And when you can get kids to snack on something healthy as if it were a treat, that's a winner in my book!
Texture: ¢¢¢¢¢ Each little bud of bran has a nice crunch. They have a descent "milk-sit" time, yet they aren't too hard, so you're not going to break a tooth on one.
Overall Value: ¢¢¢¢¢ It was a bit obvious that I would give this the highest rating. But really, it deserves it. Bran Buds are so yummy and versitile, that we buy them over and over. And to tell the truth, we rarely even eat them as a bowl of cereal with milk. We like to sprinkle a few on top of applesauce or yogurt, or just snack on them as is. We even use them fer medicinal purposes. Have a tummy ache? Eat a handful of Bran Buds! Seriously. It WORKS!  (Oh, and I just learned a little secret from a friend- she sneaks Bran Buds into her taco meat to add fiber!) I would, and do, buy this cereal again... and again.

So there you have it! Have you tried any of these cereals? Leave a comment and let me know what you think of them. What other fiber cereals do you like?

Oh, and if you want coupons, check out these links:  Fiber One    Kellogg's    Kashi

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender with Chopper Attachment

    I thought that it was only fitting to start my reviews off with one of my most favorite possessions. It just so happens that I got it as a gift from my most favorite people! Knowing how much I like to cook and how giddy I get when I get something new for the kitchen, my husband and kids surprised me with a brand new Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender with Chopper Attachment one Mother's Day.

I got this picture from the web,
but mine looks just like it.
    Now, I've had other hand blenders before... and I've had other choppers, but none as powerful and reliable as this one. They were the cheap, plastic, burn out the motor after three uses, can't chop anything firmer than overripe bananas kind.  While the cheaper hand blenders retail for around $20, you can pick up a Cuisinart SmartStick for about $50. And believe me, the extra $30 is well worth it. I've had mine for over three years and I use it all the time.
    The SmartStick is reliable, powerful, easy to use and easy to clean. It doesn't take up a lot of space, so it stores nicely, and it's pretty enough to leave out on the counter- which you may want to do, since it is sure to be used all the time.
     The SmartStick is great for pureeing almost anything. I've used it for milkshakes, soups, making baby food, and even homemade slushies for the kids... yes... you read right SLUSHIES. That sucker can blend through ice like nobody's business! Don't even get me started on all of the blended coffees you can make! Yum!
     The chopper attachment is great for jobs like mincing onions or garlic. And I know it isn't shown in the picture, but mine also came with a whisk attachment. It is perfect for whipping up some fresh whipped cream (to go on top of the delicious blended mocha that I am now craving).
    The possibilities are endless, the value is supreme, and I highly recommend this product.

   Pros: Powerful, Lightweight, Easy to clean, Multiple Uses, Reliable, Compact.
   Cons: I can't really think of any.
   Recommended: YES!
   Overall Rating: ¢¢¢¢¢

Do you have a Cuisinart SmartStick? How do you like it? What do you like to make with it? Feel free to share in Comments.
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