Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Theatre ticket rush lines and lotteries

The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis
In the mood for some culture but not in the mood to spend full price on tickets? Many theaters and concert halls offer last-minute or student tickets for a low rate. I did last-minute student rate tickets a couple times when I was studying in London and once in NYC.

The reason this is on my mind is because a friend from high school is in her first BROADWAY musical, how amazing is that! It's called Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and looks like an awesome show. There is a lottery each night before curtain for 20 tickets at $20 apiece- a thrifty deal since regular seats can go for up to $130.

Local theaters here in the Twin Cities have similar deals:
Guthrie Theater- Public Rush Line
Orpheum Theater- Student Rush
Orchestra Hall- Rush Tickets

If you're in NYC there are always the TKTS Booths where you can buy discounted day-of and day-before tickets.

So go get some (thrifty) culture! Any deals in your hometown you'd like to share?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grocery planning for this week

As I planned my grocery list for the week I had some thoughts I wanted to share:


The word of the week is leftovers! I'm making a pasta dish that creates three to four servings of leftovers which are perfect for lunches. A two-pound meatloaf is also on the menu which means even more tasty leftovers. Not sure about the other nights but I think one dinner will involve the frozen salmon I bought on sale today.

Double-up Deals

Target has a big sale on grocery items this week to celebrate the opening of many newly-remodeled stores with fresh grocery offerings. When doubled-up with some of their available Target online coupons you can get some great deals.
Kraft cheese- on sale in circular for $2. Also a $.75 coupon available online
Archer Farms Chips- There was a coupon for a free bag with $25 purchase in the Sunday paper. Also they are on sale 2 for $5 plus there is an online coupon for $1 off with purchase of three
Progresso Soup- On sale in circular 2 for $3. Also online coupon for $1 off if you buy four

Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't Make these Retirement Planning Mistakes!

Have you thought about retirement lately?  Given that it's Monday I'm guessing you might have on your way to work this morning! This article in the Wall Street Journal outlines four costly retirement planning mistakes- including underestimating health care costs, giving too much money to adult children, being too conservative, and not planning for so much free time.

Four Costly Retirement Planning Mistakes

Saturday, September 25, 2010

DIY Project- Bathroom Remodel Part 2

The first step was demolition. We removed the toilet and stored it in our guest room throughout the project as we were planning to keep it. Everything else but the bathtub had to go. And yes, we did have guests during that time who got to sleep in the same room as a random toilet, I covered it with a beach towel to make it "blend in!" Too bad I didn't get a picture of that.

While demolishing the floor

Floor and vanity are gone!

Hole where toilet used to be

Tub surround is gone. Safety first! Note the red ear protection muffs ready for any loud noises.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thrifty Recipe- Hummus

Hummus is a tasty, healthy dish to bring to any get-together. It's wonderful with pita bread, carrot sticks, crackers, or other veggies. My recipe is a combination of a few that I've read- Good Housekeeping, the recipe book that came with my food processor, and A can of Market Pantry beans at Target is about 65 cents, so this is certainly a thrifty recipe!

Yummy Hummus

1 15oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (if desired, you can saute the garlic cloves whole for a bit before you use them)
1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley or fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like spicy)
Dash salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil

1. Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and blend until completely combined and beans are smooth
2. While food processor is running, drizzle in the olive oil until the hummus reaches desired consistency

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Retailers Aim for a Head Start on Holidays - Kiplinger

I was slightly disturbed when my husband and I were at the mall three weekends ago and saw Christmas trees and decorations at Von Maur department store... I guess they're not the only retailer to move Christmas merchandise early.

Retailers Aim for a Head Start on Holidays - Kiplinger

What does this mean for a thrifty consumer? Don't buy yet, wait until later in the season when retailers have to markdown because of their high inventory levels.

Who knows, maybe next year it really will be Christmas in July at the mall!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

DIY Project- Bathroom Remodel

Back in December 2008, we (well mostly my husband) started our biggest do-it-yourself project to date: remodeling our upstairs guest bathroom. Here are some "before" shots. Over the next few weeks I plan to run a series of posts about the project, which was finished in April of 2009. It turned out to be a pretty thrifty project. My husband kept track of all of the money spent, and we ended up finding some good ways to save money while getting the new, stylish bathroom we wanted.

Right before demolition began- boring bathroom!

Before- Tub surround

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Private Label Food- Thrifty but Tasty?

Consumer Reports recently did blind taste tests of private label food items as compared to national brands.... check out the overview of the results:

Consumer Reports Conducts Blind Taste Tests

Monday, September 20, 2010

Are Frequent Flier Programs Worth It?

Wouldn't have been able to get this awesome picture on the Acropolis in Athens if not for frequent flier miles!

I read an article from the Washington Post this weekend that got me thinking. The author is very skeptical of the benefits of frequent flier programs. He thinks that the programs cause you to make irrational decisions, choosing flights that might not be the most cost-effective or convenient just to get miles. He also points to credit cards and other programs where you "earn" miles as not being worth it.

The Navigator: Frequent- flier programs cons outweigh the pros

I can't say that I agree with him that frequent flier programs are never worth it. My husband and I have seen some great rewards from our frequent flier programs. I have been a member of Northwest's frequent flier program since a trip to Europe in high school. When Delta bought them my miles rolled over to that program. Living in Minneapolis, Northwest/Delta is often the only choice for a given route anyway, so we have racked up a lot of miles.

Since 2008, I have bought three round-trip flights by cashing in frequent flier miles. We have never had a mileage credit card or taken part in any extra programs to earn extra miles. In 2008, we flew from Minneapolis to Rome and back using miles, and paid something like $20 in fees. This year, I have already flown from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to go to a wedding shower. Additionally, we just booked a weekend in Los Angeles using miles. We have also received The Economist and The Wall Street Journal for the past couple years by redeeming miles.

So, anytime you fly, make sure you're earning your miles. Sign up for the frequent flier program on any airline you happen to fly. It's free, and who knows, maybe over time you will fly enough to earn some rewards. Even if you don't, it's worth a try. I'm not a proponent of credit cards tied to frequent flier miles, especially since they usually have a high yearly fee and sometimes limit how you can use the miles. You're better off with a card that earns you a cash or gasoline rebate, such as the Exxon Mobil card. More on that in another post.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Podcasts

I have had an iPod Touch for almost two years now. Since our baby was born I have used it a ton, but mostly to check email, Facebook, the weather, and to read The New York Times. I haven't really listened to music or podcasts on it for a long time! This weekend, I happened to be in the car when "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" was on NPR. I had totally forgotten what a hilarious radio show it is.

So tonight I got back on the iTunes horse. I subscribed to "Wait Wait" and also downloaded a couple other podcasts I have enjoyed in the past. They include The Mighty Mommy, The Nutrition Diva, Marketplace, and The History of Rome. Podcasts are a fun, thrifty way to pass the time in the car, when exercising, or whenever you might otherwise listen to music. Most are free, and you can learn something or just be entertained. So check them out!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thrifty Recipe- Turkey, Rice, and Apple Baby Food

We have quite a bit of leftover turkey from the recipe (posted here on my blog) I made this week. I decided to use some of it to make a new baby food concoction. It turned out well and she liked it! This is also quite thrifty as a Gerber 2nd Foods Turkey Rice dinner is about $1 a jar if you buy a 12-pak. I got an entire 5.5 pound turkey breast for $5.

Turkey/Rice/Apple Baby Food
  • Take leftover cooked turkey, break into chunks, and place in food processor bowl
  • Add cooked rice, brown or white, I used jasmine
  • Put in some applesauce. I'll bet it would also be good with sweet potato or even pears.
  • Turn on food processor and let it run until you don't see individual grains of rice, then drizzle in a little water until the mixture turns into a paste-like consistency, right for your baby
  • Store covered in the fridge for a day or two or freeze in individual servings

Friday, September 17, 2010

100 Thrifty Posts

Wow, this is my 100th blog post. Hard to believe I've been a blogger for over three months now. It's been a lot of fun so far. I still have quite a few ideas up my sleeve. Here's a preview of some of the topics:
  • Changing your own oil
  • Monthly budgeting process
  • DIY- Bathroom Remodel
  • Shutterfly photo books and enlargements
  • DIY- Picture framing
  • More Thrifty Recipes
  • Coupon finds
  • More on cloth diapers
  • Further adventures in making baby food
What else would you like to see me write about?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Frugal Traveler Blog

 We're working on planning a trip right now so I'm inspired to read about exotic locales we haven't visited before. I found a good blog on the New York Times website. It's called The Frugal Traveler. Looks like some really interesting posts. The blogger spent the summer traveling from Brazil to New York City for less than $500 per week- what a challenge!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Who knew? Crazy deals at CVS!

Have you ever shopped at CVS Drugstore? I haven't even though we have one not far from our house. I have never even looked at their Sunday ad! A friend of mine has really figured out how to save money at CVS. It's all about their "Extra Care Bucks." Here's a link to her blog post from today outlining the great deals she just got. I'm going to have to check out the CVS ad this week...

What a deal!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wall Street Journal College Rankings- by Recruiters

The Wall Street Journal is out with its rankings of the best colleges according to corporate recruiters. If you or your child is in the process of picking out a college and plans to enter the workforce directly after graduation, I think that this ranking is just as important or even more important the one done by US News and World Report. It's one thing to go to a top-ranked school based on the amount of research grants, test scores, etc if you're looking to pad your application to medical school or another graduate program, but if you're looking to get a job after you graduate, wouldn't you want to know what recruiters think?

I'm happy to see so many public and state schools on the list, showing that your best option is not necessarily the most expensive, private institution. And go Big Ten with six of the top 16 spots!

2010 Wall Street Journal College Rankings

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why she never gets new things

Last week, we bought our daughter a new car seat. She is almost too big for her infant carrier so we got her the next size up, a convertible (meaning it faces rear now but can also face forward) car seat called the Graco Comfortsport. It was on sale at Target last week plus we had our extra 10% off from our Target Visa. And it seems really cushy and comfortable, we couldn't bring ourselves to get her the cheaper Cosco model that didn't seem to have enough seat padding.

Today I was reminded why we have bought her very few new things. Most of her toys, furniture, etc are from Craigslist, garage sales, gifts, etc. We haven't attached the seat into the car yet, and I decided to put her into the seat on the floor in the house to make sure the straps were adjusted correctly. I got her all strapped in and adjusted and she seemed very comfy. Then she spit up all over the straps and buckle! Of course the one brand-new thing she got has already been broken in. Oh well, I'm sure the car seat will have many more adventures over the next few years.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Library book sales

Have you ever been to a library book sale? Most public libraries have them a few times a year. They usually sell a combination of books they used to lend out and books that have been donated. You can find some great deals and they are usually well-organized, too. My mom got quite a few books for our daughter this weekend at a sale near where they live. I'm sure there will be several coming up now that school has started and it's fall, so do a google search and see what you can find near you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Target online coupons- some good ones are back!

I saved quite a bit of money this week with the online coupons offered on Target's website. They have private label ones back again. I got $2 off frozen chicken, $0.50 off hand sanitizer, a free bottle of juice with purchase of two boxes of cereal.....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meals for the week- Part Two

As I wrote here, I put together a week of meals based on the Sunday newspaper ads. I was missing two recipes from my mom so here they are, enjoy!

Rosemary Turkey Breast

  • One turkey breast- rinsed and patted dry
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • Olive oil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons rosemary
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Thaw and rinse turkey breast and dry with paper towels. Lightly salt and pepper breast inside and out.
  2. Using your hands, rub turkey with paprika, then massage with olive oil
  3. Pat rosemary leaves all over the turkey
  4. Cover completely with aluminum foil and place in 9 x 12 pan
  5. Bake 1/2 hour per pound. Internal temperature should be 170
  6. Let rest on cutting board, covered, for at least 10 minutes. That makes it easier to cut and the juices will permeate the turkey instead of running out all over.
 Leftover turkey is perfect for sandwiches, soup, you name it!

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

  • 1 can condensed cream of celery, chicken, or mushroom soup. I prefer mushroom soup
  •  1/2-3/4 cup milk
  •  Dash pepper
  •  4 cups thinly sliced potatoes
  •  1 small onion sliced
  •  Ham- already cooked, thinly sliced, around 1/2 pound, more or less depending on how much you like ham (note, the ham that I listed in the original blog post is not cooked, so you'd need to cook it before using in this recipe) You could also just buy a single slice of precooked ham
  •  1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  •  Dash paprika
  1. Blend soup,milk, and pepper.
  2. Arrange alternate layers of potatoes, onion, ham, and sauce in 1 1/2 quart casserole.
  3. Have potatoes on the top layer. Dot top with butter;sprinkle with paprika.
  4. Cover;bake at 375 for 1 hour
  5. Uncover;bake 15 minutes more.
  6. Stick a fork into the potatoes to be sure they are soft. Thinner slices of potatoes cook faster.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Baby products- what you need and don't need

I recently found out that a friend is expecting her first baby. It got me thinking about what items I couldn't have done without for the first few months and which I could live without...

  • Gilligan and O'Malley Nursing Tanktops- I have three of these, in pink, black, and white and basically rotated between them 24 x7  for the first three months of our baby's life. They are comfortable and convenient.
  • Boppy or other nursing pillow
  • Swaddles with Velcro- We swaddled the lower half of our baby's body, always leaving her arms out, most of the time for the first few weeks. After that we swaddled for sleep only for about another month.
  • Breast pump- I love my Lansinoh but I know many who swear by Medela.
  • Mam brand pacifiers- they look cute and are the right shape
  • The First Years Breastflow bottles- the only ones we have used, are supposed to be more like breastfeeding.
  • Kimono style onesies- Babies, especially newborns, don't like having things put over their heads and generally don't like being dressed and undressed. Our friends gave us a pack of these in newborn size and they were our go-to outfits for the first few weeks.
  • Diaper Champ- Can be used with disposable or cloth diapers. You can use regular plastic bags with them so you don't have to buy expensive refills.
  • Wipe warmer or bottle warmer
  • Baby lotion, baby oil, baby powder
  • Crib bumpers and thick blankets
  • Bumbo
Also, as I have mentioned in several past posts, we are using cloth diapers (BumGenius brand) which are awesome! I would call them a "need" too.

Any items that you want to add/delete from these lists?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall Book Season

I love to read and am looking forward to the new crop of fall books that are about to be published. Here's an article from the New York Times about some of the biggest ones. Personally, I plan to read Freedom and Fall of Giants. I've already requested Freedom from the library and need to get online to request the other one as well.

Beach Reads Finished, It's Time for the Big Books
New York Times

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Meals for the week based on grocery ads- Part One

OK, here it is. A week of meals based on today's newspaper ads for the three biggest grocery stores in our market- Target, Cub, and Rainbow. There are five entrees and three side dishes. I included links to three of the five entree recipes, the other two will be coming in a future post as I have to find the recipes my mom always made.

Entree One: Boneless Country Style Ribs I've made this one a few times and it's really good. I don't usually add too much store-bought sauce at the end, sometimes I just put a little on when we eat.
Entree Two: Ground Beef Tacos Just a basic ground beef taco recipe. We always have tortillas instead of hard shells. Make sure to get some lettuce, tomato, and other fixings to top them.
Entree ThreeSlow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Thighs Note this makes a lot of leftovers. I don't make the rice recipe included on the webpage, just some white rice is great.
Entree Four: Scalloped Potatoes and Ham (recipe coming later this week)
Entree Five: Baked Turkey Breast with Rosemary (recipe coming later this week)
Side Dish One: Frozen vegetable
Side Dish Two: Corn on the Cob
Side Dish Three: Baked Potatoes

Sale Items to Buy (you'll need other ingredients for the recipes but these are the items from the ad)
Hormel Fresh Boneless Country Style Ribs $1.89 per pound
Corn on the Cob buy 6 get 6 free with coupon

Meal Deal- Buy one Cook's Portion Ham for $2.29 per pound, get one 3 pound Butterball boneless turkey breast and one bag of Roundy's frozen vegetables free
Roundy's Fresh Chicken Thighs Jumbo Pack $0.98 per pound
Roundy's Fresh Russet Potatoes 10lb for $1.99
Mission Tortillas two packs for $4

One pound ground beef- not on sale this week but they usually have the best price
I love Target and do most of my shopping there, but they didn't have any wow factor sale items in food this week. I would recommend buying all of your staples there, as they have an "every day low price" strategy.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

DIY Project- Bean Bag Toss (Cornhole) Set

When we lived in California, we learned of a super fun yard game called cornhole (or bean bags, bags, corn toss...). You set the two boards across from each other and take turns attempting to toss the beanbags either on the board (one point) or in the hole (three points). You play to 21. The game is best played with a beer in one hand. You can play on grass, concrete, or even at the beach! It's fun for any skill level, you can move the boards closer together for kids or less-skilled players.

It's a fun project to make the boards yourself. My husband made a set, it took a few hours to make the boards and then he painted them over a couple days. The hardest part is cutting the circle. As you can see, our set has one Wisconsin Badger board and one Minnesota Vikings board. We also made a set of beanbags with our sewing machine and some heavy cloth, but they self-destructed after one season. After that, we got a set of beanbags as a gift.

Making your own set has several advantages: first, you know the quality of the boards is good- storebought sets are often made of cheap particleboard or an almost-cardboard like product. Also, you can choose your teams and combine teams from different sports or leagues, like we did with Badger/Vikings. If you already have the tools, it's very thrifty to make a set, you just have to buy a few pieces of lumber, some bolts, and paint. Finally, your friends will be impressed that you are handy enough to make your own!

Here's a link to the official American Cornhole Association site: On the site you can find the official rules which includes plans to make your own boards and beanbags.

Anyone out there like to play?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Future post preview- meal plans

Last month, I mentioned a woman who makes money by bloging meal plans and recipes based on the weekly grocery ads. I'm going to give it a try this week. On Sunday, I'm going to take the Target, Cub, and Rainbow Foods ads along with the manufacturer's coupons from the Sunday paper and put together meals using as many on-sale items as possible. My mom is going to be in town so hopefully she can help me with some great ideas!

Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Home Mortgages- Shop around before you lock in

Did you shop around for your home mortgage or did you go with the first rate you found? If you don't get the lowest rate possible on your mortgage, the single largest financial outlay for most families, it doesn't matter how thrifty you are with coupons and travel because you could be spending thousands extra!

A recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune showed that rates can vary greatly. It pays to ask several banks for their rates before you lock in.

Mortgage shopping results in big savings

Did anyone out there get a great rate by shopping around?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Splurge- Worthy Wednesday- Working out?!

As you may recall, I posted here about the fact that it's OK to quit the gym if you aren't using it enough to justify the price. But what I didn't say is that for some people, working out is their favorite splurge and one that brings them joy. I have friends who are into marathons, triathlons, yoga, pilates, kickboxing, you name it. And they spend a good amount of money on bikes, shoes, mats, trainers, entry fees, etc. It's great, they get a lot of satisfaction, motivation, and positive health effects from their chosen workouts and the money they spend.

I, in fact, just got back from my first ever fitness yoga class at a local studio. They were offering a deal so I bought five sessions for $40. I'm going to give a few different classes a try. Who knows, maybe I will enjoy it so much that yoga and pilates will move to my personal splurge-worthy list! I'll keep you posted