Thursday, December 8, 2011

Almost ready to move

We are still here in the Twin Cities. The moving van takes our stuff to Albuquerque (otherwise known as ABQ) on December 21. Hard to believe that by New Year's we will be in our new city and on January fifth we will move into our house there. For those who don't know, ABQ is known for a yearly hot air balloon festival. Here's a picture:

Meanwhile, the Christmas season is in full swing. Because of the timeline for our move and everything that has to be done, I got most Christmas-related stuff finished in November. It feels great to have the cards sent, presents bought and wrapped, etc.

A few of my past blog posts that are useful this time of year and some strategies that we've been using because of our upcoming move.
- Take a look at this post from last year. Now that the year is nearing the end, make sure you take care of any financial or tax-related to-do's before 2012 hits.
- Love me some Shutterfly. I've taken care of our cards and a gift or two, and saved some major money with their coupons.
- Craigslist is our friend! (See all posts I've done about Craigslist here) sold a few pieces of furniture and a chandelier in the past couple weeks. We've also bought three area rugs for our new home. The home in ABQ is all tile with no carpet, so we're basically collecting area rugs at this point.
- We have hit the Room and Board Outlet recently to look for rugs and a couple other things for the place in ABQ. No purchases but it's fun to look.

In other news, we're almost at 4000 disposable diapers avoided by using cloth. Awesome.

Merry Christmas, next time I post it might be from ABQ!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Taking a blogging break

We got some big news this week. My husband is being promoted/transferred for work. We have just over a month to move to Albuquerque New Mexico! In light of this, I am going to take a blogging sabbatical. If I come up with some thrifty moving tips, maybe I will share. However, my number one tip would be to get your employer to move you (as we are) so you don't have to deal with the cost/hassle of moving yourself!

Have a great month or two.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thrifty Recipe: Cheesy cornbread

Last week, I hosted about twelve people at my house for a chili dinner. I wanted to make cornbread to go with the chili, but wanted to make it a step-up from my usual square pan of Jiffy cornbread bars. After looking around online, I found several different ways to doctor up Jiffy cornbread. Here's the recipe I went with. It turned out great, nice and moist with bits of corn in it. My toddler daughter loved it. The recipe is super thrifty too- each package of cornbread is about 70 cents at Target, and the rest of the ingredients probably add up to a couple dollars. It filled a 9x13 pan. Several other recipes included chopped jalapenos or canned diced green chiles, I think I will try that next time.

Cheesy Cornbread

2 (8oz) boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (add more if you like your bread super cheesy)
1 small can (8oz) creamed corn

1. Combine cornbread mix with the eggs and milk. (these are the same amounts as are listed on the box directions)
2. Stir in cheese and corn
3. Pour into 9x13 pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes (I ended up going for 30 minutes until it was a nice golden brown)

Friday, October 14, 2011

You must see this play: The Burial at Thebes

Last week, I was lucky enough to receive two free "blogger" tickets to the play The Burial at Thebes at the Guthrie Theater. As I wrote about here, I joined a blogger group run by the Guthrie and this was the second set of tickets they have given me.

Before we went to the show, I was able to take some time to explore the Guthrie website and read the background information on the play itself and on the details of how the Guthrie was performing it. The play is based on the ancient Greek tragedy Antigone by Sophocles. It tells the story of Antigone, one of the daughters of Oedipus, and how she went against the government (in this case, Creon, the father of her fiance) to give her brother Polyneices an honorable burial. She is punished for her transgression, setting off a series of devestating consequences for Creon. The playwright, Seamus Heaney, (who later won the Nobel Prize for Literature) wrote the play in the 1990's, and the modern language makes it very easy to follow.

Stephen Yoakam (Creon) and Ernest Bentley (Haemon) with Joseph Turner (Soldier) and T. Mychael Rambo (Chorus) in the Guthrie Theater's production of THE BURIAL AT THEBES, by Seamus Heaney, based upon Sophocles' Antigone. Directed by Marcela Lorca, composer J.D. Steele, set design by Monica Frawley, costume design by Elizabeth Caitlin Ward and lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. September 24 - November 6, 2011 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Michael Brosilow

There are several factors that make this production can't miss: the first being the music that is interspersed throughout the show. Many Greek tragedies have a "chorus," and this show is no different. What is different is the quality of the music, an original score by composer J.D. Steele, and of the performers. The music and the chorus members are woven into the stories and add to the mood of each scene. Their five-part harmonies and movement add much to the dialogue. The second factor is the strong performance of the acting company, especially Stephen Yoakam as Creon. The pivitol scene near the end of the play, pictured above, was one of the most heart-wrenching moments in theatre that I have seen. I was literally holding back sobs as he unleashed a gluttural scream at the climax of the play. Fittingly, I felt catharsis as the lights went up.

How can you tell that this thrifty blogger enjoyed the play? I'm going to see it again, and will pay for my ticket this time!

** Disclaimer- I was given two free tickets to the show by the Guthrie Theater's communications department. I was welcome to blog about my experience but did not have to.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's coming....

The holiday season is upon us. Halloween leads into Thanksgiving which leads to Christmas and then New Year's. Is your budget ready for it? Now is the time to start planning the next few months from a budgetary perspective. Some things to think about:
Halloween candy- What are you going to give to the trick-or-treaters? Can you start picking up some candy every week depending on what's on sale and what coupons are out there?

Halloween costumes- What are you and your kids going to be? Do you already have some costumes stored away that can be re-used or reconfigured to make something else? See my thrifty Halloween ideas post from last year for some low-cost costume ideas as well as other tips.

Holiday food- Are there certain packaged foods that you always buy during the holidays or are there certain ingredients you always need for baking or other holiday entertaining? Start buying them now, as you see them on sale or have a coupon. Of course, make sure they won't expire before you need them!

Holiday cleaning and organizing- This might not be a specifically thrifty tip, but can help save you some stress. Take stock of the current status of your house. Are there any cleaning, repair, or organizing projects you want to get done before you start hosting people over the holidays? Make a list and start now.

Gifts- If you will need to purchase gifts for friends and family, begin developing your list and budget. Start purchasing now to spread the cost over a couple months and so that you don't feel stressed and rushed come December. If you see some great hostess gifts, buy them and keep until you need them. Just make sure to keep track of what you've bought so you don't forget you have it.

Travel- Airfare is usually pretty high during the holidays, but you can find some deals by traveling on off days, on the holiday itself, or moving your trip to before or after the holiday. Spend some time experimenting on travel sites such as Orbitz and Kayak to see what you can find. And make sure you get your tickets far enough ahead of time to avoid paying more.

And if you bought holiday decorations on sale after last year's holidays, don't forget to get them out!

Anything else you've already done to prepare for the holidays?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Free fun, go outside!

Here in the Midwest, we have been blessed with some amazing weather this week. Sunny with temperatures in the 70's and 80's in early October? Almost unheard of! I hope those of you who live around here have been enjoying it. That said, wherever you live, from NYC to rural Georgia, free family fun is always right outside. Head to your backyard or local park. Run around in the grass, jump in fallen leaves, and eat a picnic lunch or dinner. Spending time together as a family outside is great for many reasons including improving fitness, building better relationships, and tiring everyone out before bedtime.

Twin Cities residents, if you're looking for a fun, free Autumn activity during the week, try Minnetonka Orchards. Admission is free on weekdays ($5 per person on weekends), and they have lots for kids to do, including a petting zoo, haystack climb, tractor rides, and several other activities.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Extreme couponing backlash

As I wrote about here and here, extreme couponing has become really popular in the past few years thanks to a reality show and also thanks to the poor economic conditions. However, not everyone is happy about the trend, including other shoppers, cashiers, store managers, and manufacturers. The article below from covers the backlash that extreme couponers are facing. Will the actions of some "crazy couponers" make it harder for the rest of us to use a reasonable amount of coupons on our next shopping trip? It remains to be seen.

Extreme couponing sparks backlash

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Three Favorite Recipes

My dear friend Badger Girl Learns to Cook tagged me in a blog game (kind of a modern version of a chain letter) where you post the three favorite recipes you've ever shared on your blog. Can you believe I've posted 37 recipes in my 226 blog posts? Here are the three that stand out to me on this crisp fall day.

Slow Cooker Chipotle-Lime Chicken Thighs
A zesty crockpot meal. Now that the weather is getting colder, this recipe is on my "to-make SOON" list.

Eggplant Pizzas
I have fond memories of my mom making this when I was a kid, and the eggplant rounds topped with sauce and cheese are just as tasty now.

Terri's BBQ Green Beans
Best. sidedish. ever. case closed.

The other part of the blog game was to tag other food blogs so they can also list their top three recipes. However, Badger Girl's is the only food blog I read. So go check hers out!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Guthrie Theater's Much Ado about Nothing

David Manis (Don Pedro), Daniel Gerroll (Benedick) and Bill McCallum (Claudio) in the Guthrie Theater's production of William Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, directed by Joe Dowling with set design by Riccardo Hernández, costume design by Fabio Toblini and lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. September 10 - November 5, 2011 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Michael Brosilow
As I mentioned here, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend the opening night of The Guthrie Theater's new production of Much Ado about Nothing last Friday night. They had an offer of free tickets for bloggers and I jumped at the chance. We are former season ticket holders, but after having a baby and going down to one income, some of our entertainment expenses had to go. Fortunately, we have been able to see a few shows since then thanks to free tickets through my husband's work, and once through Facebook as I mentioned here.

We were excited to attend the show on opening night. The building was abuzz with energy and packed with people. It was fun to be a part of that. When we got our tickets and headed into the Wurtele Thrust theater, we realized they were great seats. Joe Dowling (the artistic director of the Guthrie and director of Much Ado) was only three rows in front of us and we had perfect sight lines to the whole stage.

Unfortunately since I had little time to prepare before seeing the show, I hadn't visited the Guthrie website and read the play guide like I usually do. My husband and I quickly scanned the program notes before the lights went down. A thrifty theatre tip: many theater websites offer background information about the plays being performed, and the Guthrie website specifically has a lot of great resources. They are free and can really improve your experience, as you are aware of the background of the show, historical facts, playwright biography, etc beforehand.

The play is one of Shakespeare's best-loved romantic comedies. The Guthrie has decided to set it in the 1920's, and the music, sets, and costumes reflect that age well. The story centers around two couples, one young, and one middle-aged. The middle-aged couple, Beatrice and Benedick, provide much comedy throughout the show as they are both very sharp-tongued in their critique of the opposite sex as well as of each other. The actors playing those roles had great chemistry, and their scenes together moved briskly and kept us laughing. A memorable scene involved Benedick hiding in an orange grove to overhear a conversation, with hilarious results. Some scenes without those leading characters seemed to drag a bit, but interjections by Don John, the evil illigitimate brother, and Dogberry, the bumbling police officer, helped to keep us engaged in this long (almost 3-hour) production.

At intermission, we completed our usual tradition of sharing a glass of wine and walking out on the Endless Bridge, an amazing archetectural feature of the Guthrie building. We go out there every time we see a show, even in winter when it's below freezing outside. There is a wonderful view of the Stone Arch Bridge and the Mississippi River. The building is open to the public and free self-guided audio tours as well as paid tours are available, a fun and thrifty thing to do any time of year.

As it was opening night, after the show the audience was invited to a reception in the lobby complete with wine, a nice touch to end the (late) evening. Much Ado about Nothing was an enjoyable show, and the atmosphere of the Guthrie Theater added to the evening as usual.

** Disclaimer- I was given two free tickets to the show by the Guthrie Theater's communications department. I was welcome to blog about my experience but did not have to.

Monday, September 19, 2011

More to come...

My weekend got away from me, check back for my promised "Three favorite recipe" and Much Ado about Nothing posts. Until then, here's a post by one of my favorite bloggers about how to make money blogging. Maybe I should start following more of her tips...

The Cynical Girl: How to Make Money as a Blogger

Friday, September 16, 2011

Two firsts in my "blogger life"

It's been an exciting week in the life of this blogger. First, my real-world as well as blog-world friend Badger Girl invited me to participate in a Pick Three Recipes blog game. See an upcoming post this weekend for the three favorite recipes I have shared on this blog thus far.

And secondly, my husband and I are going to opening night of Much Ado About Nothing tonight for FREE just because I'm a blogger. Talk about thrifty! The Guthrie Theater posted a request for local bloggers to contact them with our email addresses and blog url's. Next thing I knew, I got an email from them offering me tickets for tonight. They said I'm welcome to blog, good or bad, about my experience at the show, as long as I share a link to the blog post with them. So, be on the lookout for that post as well.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Qwik Trip milk in a bag?

Last week, we got a flier in our newspaper from Qwik Trip. They had a great price for milk- $2.18 a gallon. I realized that the small print said that the milk came in a bag?! What was that all about? I looked at the Kwik Trip website and realized that the bags of milk came with a pitcher to store the milk in. I had to try this for myself. When I went to Kwik Trip I found the milk in half gallon bags for $1.09 each.

There were also free plastic pitchers available. To use the milk, you put the bag in the pitcher and cut off a corner. It pours really easily. You then twist the corner down and put it in the fridge. It fits perfectly in the door.

So, if you have Kwik Trip in your area, give their milk in a bag a try. You'll save about 50 cents per gallon and have the novelty of pouring milk on your cereal from a pitcher. While you're at Kwik Trip, you might find some good deals on things like bananas and bread as well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Eggplant Pizzas

I was reminded of the value of gardening this weekend at my parents' house. They have a bountiful garden, and it seemed that every meal contained at least a couple items they had grown. Some examples:

- Pickled beets (my favorite)
- Caprese salad with homegrown tomatoes and Thai basil
- Shaved refrigerator pickles made of homegrown cucumbers
- Sliced tomatoes with red wine vinegar and oil and dill

My parents' garden at the beginning of August

They sent us home with an eggplant they had grown and last night I made eggplant pizzas. Here's the recipe:

Eggplant Pizzas

- One medium eggplant
- One stick unsalted butter
- 1-2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce (homemade or jarred)
- 1 cup shredded mozarella

1. Cut off the ends of the eggplant, peel, and slice into half inch thick rounds
2. Melt butter in a shallow dish and put breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Dip each round in the butter and then in the breadcrumbs, coating all sides with crumbs.
3. Place on a greased cookie sheet or jellyroll pan
4. Spoon sauce onto each round, and spread evenly over top surface, then top with shredded cheese
5. Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes

They will be really hot, so be sure to allow to cool a bit before eating. I served with buttered angelhair pasta. Our 19 month old daughter at a whole pizza herself.

CSA's (Community supported agriculture) are another way to get fresh produce without the labor of growing it yourself. Of course, it's not so thrifty to get the produce but then let it go to waste! My BFF Badger Girl has a series on her blog outlining recipes and strategies for getting the most out of your CSA. Be sure to check that out if you need more information about CSA's or are looking for recipes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Ikea for breakfast


One of my best friends was in town last week and wanted to check out Ikea for some kitchen and bathroom ideas and just to see what the hype was about. I had heard that they have some good breakfast prices and I knew it was a child-friendly store, so my friend, me, and my toddler headed over on Thursday morning. We got there at 9:30, as I had heard that the cafe opened before the store opened at 10:00 am.

We were not the only ones there for breakfast, the place was busy! There were elderly folks, families with kids, hipsters, all kinds of people. Coffee was free until 10:00 and my friend got a full breakfast with potatoes, eggs, and bacon, for 99 cents. Our location offers free breakfast on Mondays. I had three Swedish pancakes with lingonberry and butter for $1.99, also a good deal. My daughter had a bit off of each of our plates. There was even a kids' play area in the cafe and a lot of high chairs and booster seats available.

So, if you're near an Ikea and in need of a tasty, reasonably priced breakfast, head on over. Their lunch and dinner food looks good, too. I also saw frozen yogurt for $1 and hot dogs for 50 cents. Have you ever eaten there? what do you recommend?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thrifty Strategies for the Great Minnesota Get-Together

It's the end of the summer, and that means it's time for the Minnesota State Fair. Being a transplant to Minnesota, it took me a couple years to become a big Fair fan, but now I certainly am. Last year, I posted my insight on thrifty ways to travel to the Fair here. (hint: think park and ride, not driving and parking there yourself) We are planning to head there this Friday and so I'm getting my Fair strategy together. Some other tips:
2010 Blue Ribbon Bargain Book cover
The Blue Ribbon Bargain Book: This book sells for $5 both at the Fair and at Cub Foods and includes 125 different coupons. You can look on the website to see the vendors who are included. Some example deals include $2 off a corndog at Corndogs and Lemonade, $3 off BBQ Wings at Famous Dave's, and $2 off a steak or porkchop on a stick at Rajun Cajun. This could be a good deal for you if it includes vendors that you were planning to eat/shop at anyway. Sometimes you can find people giving theirs away as they leave the Fair, usually in the evenings and near the closing weekend.

There's an app for that. Yes, there is a new Minnesota State Fair app. It has a map and a cool feature where you can search for food vendors by categories such as type of food, prices, Blue Ribbon Bargain Book coupons, etc. You can also search for activities and merchandise.

Discount Tickets: Tickets are available for $9 (a $3 savings) at Cub Foods and several other locations in the Twin Cities through August 24. There are also several Discount Days during the Fair:
Thrifty Thursday, Seniors and Kids Day, Military Appreciation Day, Read and Ride Day, Seniors Day, and Kids Day. See the State Fair Website for more details.

Food and drinks can be a major expense at the Fair. There are so many fun foods to try, and you need to keep hydrated on a hot day. My recommendation is to bring some snacks and drinks with you.  Coolers are allowed but might be searched, and you're not allowed to bring in alcoholic beverages. Other than that, you are free to bring food and drinks.  Of course it's no fun to go to the Fair and not eat something on a stick, but even bringing your own water, soda, and some granola bars can save you a lot of cash when bottled water is selling for $3 to $5 each.

Have fun at the Fair! Post any of your Fair thrifty tips in the comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sesame Street Financial Education

Have you heard about Sesame Street's financial literacy program? It's called For me, for you, for later, and teaches kids to save, as well as to give away, the idea of delaying gratification, and several other important financial topics. While we don't let our daughter watch TV at this point, I would probably utilize these videos and learning tools when she was older, along with our own family's discussion and education on finances. Several studies have shown that Americans are lacking in financial literacy. Maybe programs like this will help create a new generation of thrifty adults.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sunday Paper still Key for Coupons

From MediaPost

Do you use Groupon, Twitter, or online coupons to save a little money? You're not alone. However, a recent study shows that 49% of coupon users still use the good ol' Sunday paper. Are you one of them?

People Still Turn to Sunday Papers for Coupons

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Free food at Famous Dave's

Is your name Dave or David? If so, you can get a discount tomorrow, August 14th, at Famous Dave's Restaurants. If your first name is Dave or David, you get a free entree, and if it's your middle name you get half off. The deal is called Dave's Day.

So, if your name is Dave and you're in the mood for some barbeque tomorrow, go to Famous Dave's!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What to do with leftover tahini?

File:Tahinijar 453g.jpg
Picture from Your Dreams Coming True Cooking Blog

We have all been there. We buy an ingredient that's required for a recipe, and then have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. In my case, I'm stuck with a large jar of tahini. For those who haven't used it before, it's a sesame seed paste. The thrifty person in me needs to figure out how to use it up. Help!

In a cooking frenzy earlier this week inspired by a beautiful homegrown eggplant my parents brought me, I made a batch of baba ghanoush. One of the ingredients was tahini, which I was able to find at the store, but only in a large jar. After making the recipe, I still had at least a few cups left. I sent my mom home with some, but the huge jar is still there every time I open the fridge.

So far, my plans are to make some homemade hummus (though I didn't list it in my recipe, tahini is often added to hummus). I also found an interesting-looking tahini cookie recipe.  There is also an interesting recipe here. Do you have any other great ideas? Have you had a similar problem with another ingredient? Do share.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Craigslist Find

It took a couple months, but yesterday I finally took the plunge on a climber for our daughter. For $35. Similar ones brand new can run between $100 and $200. Thank you Craigslist (and the nearby family who is in the process of selling all of their "big plastic" so they can buy a bigger swingset for their school-aged kids)!

Are you on the hunt for anything on Craigslist right now? Share you stories in the comments.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thrifty Travel Tips: The Big Island

As I mentioned here, we recently returned from a trip to Hawaii. It was a fantastic trip. In case any of you are looking to plan a trip to the Big Island, I thought I'd share some of our favorite places and some thrifty tips.
View from Huggo's on the Rocks
Huggo's on the Rocks: This is the less-formal of the two Huggo's restaurants in Kailua Kona. They have a really good happy hour from 4-6pm that includes beer, some mixed drinks, and some food. The location can't be beat, it's literally right on the ocean, the floor is even covered in sand. We went to Huggo's on the Rocks twice, once with a large group for dinner and once just the three of us for happy hour. The sunset was gorgeous and there is live Hawaiian music every night. Our rental car company had given us a 10% off coupon, so we were able to use that for dinner, too.

Some of our farmer's market purchases
Keauhou Farmer's Market: We went to this farmer's market, which was right across the street from our condo, on Saturday morning. There were many local vendors offering everything from fresh fish to avacados to coffee to interesting tropical fruits. We even had a fresh-made California roll. It was really interesting to see and try several fruits we had never seen before. Everyone was friendly, and all-in-all it was a great way to spend a morning.

Kona Coast Resort: As I mentioned in this post, staying in a condo with a full kitchen and laundry is a great thrifty travel strategy. We were able to cook our own meals and the washer and dryer meant we could use our cloth diapers during that part of the vacation. The price was great, too. Kona Coast Resort had lovely grounds, gas grills for guests to use, and several pools and hot tubs. The pools could use a facelift, but all in all it was a wonderful place to stay.

Hapuna Beach State Park: This was one of the best beaches we visited. It was wide and sandy, with small waves. There was no fee to get in and there were places to change, restrooms, as well as a snack bar. The only downside was very little shade on the beach, but there were covered picnic areas nearby.

Harold H Higashihara Park: AMAZING park and playground for kids! We spent two mornings here with our toddler. It's the biggest wooden playground I have ever seen. There is a special toddler area, baseball diamond, picnic ground, and bathrooms. If you're looking for a place for your kids to run off some energy, this is the place to go.
Such a fun park, and the view isn't bad either

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Pasta Salad

Photo From

In the summer, there is nothing like a cool pasta salad with lunch or dinner. It's relatively easy to make, portable, and can be changed and tweaked to fit your guests. In the past I have bought a ready-made kit, but have realized that it's thriftier and more fun to come up with my own combinations. Here are some suggestions of ingredients and mix-ins, what are some of your favorites?

Pasta Salad Formula: Base + Mix-Ins + Sauce= Pasta Salad

Base: One box of rainbow rotelle or other hefty pasta such as macaroni, cooked until done but still firm. Rinse and allow to drain and cool.

Mix-Ins: There are so many ways you can go here. Some suggestions are below.
  • Diced bell pepper
  • Diced onion (green or white)
  • Pepperoni pieces, quartered
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Tomatoes, diced
  • Cooked ham, diced
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Chunks of cooked chicken
  • Chopped spinach

  • Tomato juice, makes it more of a gazpacho
  • Italian salad dressing, here is a recipe if you are interested in making your own
  • A combination of sour cream, mayonaise, or plain yogurt for a creamy salad
  • Vinegar and oil
Just mix the combination of Base + Mix-Ins + Sauce together, amount of mix-ins and sauce vary based on your taste.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Maybe I've got this all wrong?

A couple weekends ago I heard a segment on Marketplace Money that really got me thinking. The author basically recommends that instead of cutting down on expensive lattes and finding other ways to save a little money, we should focus our time and energy on bringing in more income. In his estimation, this will be a better use of our time and will allow us to continue to live the lifestyle we want. Some ideas include giving private music or other lessons, helping create PowerPoint presentations, or organizing people's closets.

I see some flaws in this theory. First of all, if we increase our income but still continue to live just at or above our means, we will still have the same problem and will just have to keep earning more money. It seems to me that a combination of cutting our spending and increasing our income would be the best strategy. Come to think of it, I think that we could possibly solve the current fiscal problems in our state (Minnesota, where our state government is currently shut down), as well as national budgets with a similar approach!

So, you're looking to earn some extra income, where to start? If you have professional or technical skills, try, which offers a way to connect businesses who are looking for writers, accountants, and many other skilled professionals to complete specific jobs or assignments. Craigslist has a section with similar postings. If you have some time, possibly look into direct selling such as Pampered Chef. If you're a stay-at-home parent, maybe you could watch another child some days. Or if you are handy you could do some maintenance or fix-it work for friends or neighbors.

Just don't forget to stay thrifty once the extra money comes rolling in.

Link to transcript of the segment: A new way to save Marketplace From American Public Media

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Extreme Couponing: My Edition

Colgate T/P TOTL Plus Whte PST Size: 6 oz
Image from Google Product Search

As you may recall, I posted here about extreme couponers who go nuts buying items with multiple coupons and then storing the items until they need them. I decided to give it a limited try.

My first target has been toothpaste. It's something we use all the time, is easy to store, and we are not picky about the specific brand and type. Over the past few weeks, I have been clipping most manufacturer's coupons I have seen for toothpaste. This week, my first opportunity presented itself. A Target coupon book came in the mail which contained a $1 off Colgate Total coupon. Ha!  I had clipped a $1 off Colgate manufacturer's coupon two weeks ago. I marched over to Target and picked up a tube of Colgate Total for 64 cents by combining the two coupons.

A small victory, but I will take it. Do you have any recent coupon victories?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Post-Vacation Recovery

We just returned from a two-week vacation (one excuse for so few blog posts lately).  It was an amazing, memorable trip but wow we are now in major vacation recovery mode. I've been thinking about all of the things I/we have to do to recover from vacation. Here are a few:

Food and Drinks: We spent over half of the vacation in a rental condominium with full kitchen so that we could cook our own food and avoid eating out every meal. Still, the time away, with new restaurants, fast food, and fruity adult beverages and local brews to tempt us, left us in need of some detoxing. My usual strategy when we get home from time away, even if it's just a weekend road trip, is to cook and eat as healthily as possible for the first week. My trip to the grocery store when we got home included lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and my meal plan for the week includes fish, chicken, and milk or water to drink instead of beer or mai tai's.

Spending: When on vacation, it's OK and expected to spend more money than when we're at home (and we budgeted for it). Fun outings that can't be done at home (like diving with manta rays) come up, as do extras, like that fun new candy or flavor of ice cream you don't see at home or a cold bottle of water when you're out and about. Now that we're home, it's back to buying only what's on the list and planning out our bigger expenditures ahead of time.

The Random Things: There are a bunch of random things that have taken up my time since we got home. Things like laundry, opening two weeks worth of mail, organizing the almost 1000 photos we took, catching up on email and blogs, even adjusting our family's sleep schedule have all taken time. I'm almost there, though.

Soon to come is a post wrapping up the thrifty strategies we used while on vacation, as well as some specific reviews and suggestions if you're ever traveling to The Big Island of Hawaii.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thrifty Strategy: Buying kid-sized clothes for adults

Right before a recent vacation, I realized I might need "water shoes," those flexible shoes that you can wear on the beach or in the water when there are a lot of rocks. I headed to Target to see what I could find. It turned out that the boys size XL shoes fit me better than the women's size 7, and were about $4 cheaper. Can you guess which one I picked?

I've used the same thrifty strategy when buying souvenir t-shirts, often the kids size large or extra large is the same size as an adult small, but costs less and sometimes has cuter design choices.

Have you found any similar deals?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thrifty Recipe: Sundried Tomato Pesto

I was inspired by my friend Badger Girl's blog yesterday. She posted a recipe for Garlic Scape Pesto. It sounded really good. However, I am not a member of a CSA and don't have any fresh-grown garlic scapes. But I did have a half jar of sundried tomatoes and some very healthy basil and oregano plants on my deck.
One trip to Google later, I had my dinner recipe for tonight. Good old Giada to the rescue. I made a half recipe of the below. Served with leftover Papa John's breadsticks and a salad, it was an Italian feast!

Penne with Sundried Tomato Pesto

  • 12 ounces penne pasta (I used fettucini)
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan.
Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Finding great deals on furniture

We love modern/Scandinavian design and thank goodness someone told us about the Room and Board Outlet when we moved into our house a few years ago. Many a weekend has included a trip. The outlet is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. People arrive up to an hour before it opens and line up around the building. We did that once, but have found that it's better to go about an hour or two after it opens, that way the crowds have thinned out and you don't have the herd/scarcity mentality that can cause you to buy just because so many other people are there and buying.
Golden Valley, MN
Photo from

Looking at our living room/kitchen area, it's amazing how much has come from the outlet. Our kitchen table top and base, kitchen chairs, dining room hutch, and sofa were all purchased from there. Of course, it probably took a total of over 15 visits to find and buy everything. You never know what will be there, as new items are unpacked throughout the weekend. Most of the time you walk out with empty hands, and that's OK. We bought the tabletop a couple months before the table base we wanted showed up. The kitchen chairs were bought one or two at a time, and we saved over 50% on each. Our best find so far was a Linear Cabinet (similar to the one linked), it would have retailed for over $3,000 and we got it for under $1,000.

Craigslist is another thrifty source for furniture. If there is a certain brand or piece of furniture you are looking for, you can set up an RSS feed search to email you every time one is posted. That's how we found a Room and Board armchair a few years ago which was a perfect match with our other decor.

The Wall Street Journal published an article about finding good deals on designer furniture today, which inspired me to write this post: Never Pay Retail Decorating: A Bargain Huntress Reveals her Secrets. The article covers other ways to find thrifty, but well-designed furniture.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thrifty Recipe: Slow-Cooker Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

grilled portobello mushroom recipe
From the Reluctant Gourmet
I have been trying to plan at least one meatless meal per week, to be thrifty, but more importantly to try new things and hopefully eat more healthily. This recipe was a big winner. My 16-month old ate almost an entire stuffed mushroom by herself. My husband and I wished we could each have another one. I served it over couscous and with sweet potatoes.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
From Make it Fast, Cook it Slow

4 large portobello mushrooms (or two per adult, one per kid)
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped (Roma or another type would be more thrifty, but the cherry tomatoes were very crisp and tasty)
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used packaged Progresso breadcrumbs but you could make your own)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

With a knife, cut the stems off of the mushrooms, chop, and put in bowl. Scrape the gills out of the mushroom caps and add to bowl. Add tomatoes, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Stir until combined.

Coat the bottom of the slow cooker with the remaining tablespoon olive oil. Divide filling between the mushroom caps, spooning it in. Lay mushrooms in the slow cooker, it's OK if they overlap.

Cover and cook on low for 4-7 hours (That's what the recipe says but mine were done after 2 hours, be sure to check on them. Don't be alarmed when the mushrooms shrink down in size as they cook.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Time for a Trade-In?

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this week about used cars. There is high demand for certain kinds of low-mileage used cars, specifically those with good gas milage. Some used cars are even going for more than the sticker price of a new car. Somehow I don't think our 1997 Accord with 180,000 miles is on the list...
A Good Time to Trade in That Gently Used Car

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Extreme Couponing?


Over the past year, I have read and seen several stories about so-called "extreme couponing." This involves using coupons and store sales to get items for a very low price or for free. Often these extreme couponers will get many many packages of a certain product and stockpile it, just because it is very cheap. Some of them are so good, the store will owe them money at the end of a purchase transaction because of the combination of coupons and sales!
Have you seen the TV show about these deal-finders? It's on The Learning Channel (TLC) and is called Extreme Couponing.

Here's a website that has tips and strategies, as well as weekly breakdowns for stores such as Target and CVS.

What do you think of the strategy? Have you ever done it? The jury is still out for me, but maybe I should try it for a couple weeks and see what happens...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Over 3000 disposable diapers avoided

Well, we have hit another cloth diaper milestone. Last week we went over the 3000 disposable diapers avoided mark. Here's a link to the post I did when we hit 2000 diapers. Every time I wash a load of cloth diapers (which is about every three to four days now) I make tick marks on a piece of paper taped to the wall to keep track of the number washed. I've been doing this since we started using cloth diapers when my daughter was three and a half weeks old.

By my count, we have saved $450 if we had used Target Up & Up brand diapers (about 15 cents each) and $750 if we had been using Pampers (about 25 cents each). Not to mention the money saved by using a cloth swim diaper rather than disposable swim diapers at 75 cents each.

Cotton Babies, a cloth diapering website, has been sponsoring a program called Change Three Things to have parents pledge to use at least three cloth diapers a day instead of disposables for one year. So far through this program they have avoided over a million disposable diapers going in the trash. Check it out!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Bacon-Wrapped Smokies

I was at a brunch recently and these were the hit of the party. The combination of salty and sweet is addicting. A thrifty and fun item for a get-together at any time of day.

Bacon Wrapped Smokies Recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Smokies

1 pound sliced bacon, cut into thirds
1 (14 ounce) package beef cocktail wieners
3/4 cup brown sugar, or to taste


1.Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

2.Refrigerate 2/3 of the bacon until needed. It is easier to wrap the wieners with cold bacon. Wrap each cocktail wiener with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle brown sugar generously over all.

3.Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until the sugar is bubbly. To serve, place the wieners in a slow cooker and keep on the low setting.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Gnocchi

Romulo Yanes for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Karen Evans

It's almost the end of the month and will be out of town for part of the week. Another perfect chance to see if I could make it without grocery shopping. (disclosure: I did stop at Target for whole milk, bananas, and bread - with a toddler in the house there are certain things you just can't go without) The following recipe is great for this kind of week. I didn't realize it before I read this article, but in Argentina, gnocchi is served near the end of the month (on the 29th specifically) when people are almost out of money and groceries. My history with gnocchi has always been with Italian food, and it was the first dish I ate when we were in Rome a couple years ago. Little did I know it was also a thrifty Argentinian tradition.

Below is the recipe from the Wall Street Journal. The recommend a sage butter sauce but the two times I have made it I used this sauce recipe from Martha Stewart- Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce.

From the Wall Street Journal- New World Gnocchi January 29, 2011


3 large or 6 small Idaho potatoes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
1½ cups all-purpose flour


1. Fill a large pan with salted water and bring to a boil.

2. Set up a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted with flour.

3. Scrub and dry the potatoes but do not peel them. Microwave on high until soft—the setting and time varies widely by microwave. Allow to cool only enough to be able to handle and peel with a sharp knife.

4. Pass potatoes through a ricer into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt and flour over the potatoes. Add egg.

5. Using hands, knead quickly trying not to overwork the dough. The dough should be slightly on the wet side—though not sticky.

6. Generously flour a work surface and pinch off a small handful of dough. Using both hands, roll it into the shape of a snake. Using a sharp knife, cut into bite size pieces and lay them, separately, on the cookie sheet. Continue until finished.

5.Once water boils, add the gnocchi, a few at a time, to boiling water. Using a skimmer, retrieve the gnocchi as they rise to the surface.

Tomato Sauce for Gnocchi
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes with juice, crushed by hand
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) tomato sauce
2 sprigs basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Thinly shaved parmesan cheese, for serving


1.Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add wine; cook until most liquid has evaporated. Add tomatoes and juice, tomato sauce, basil, and red pepper flakes.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until slightly thick, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

3.Reheat gnocchi over low heat in sauce; gently toss. Serve with cheese shavings.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Financial Education for our kids?

Larger view
MPR photo/Tom Weber
How can we raise kids who appreciate the value of money? Kids who won't get a credit card from the first person who offers them a free t-shirt and rack up thousands of dollars of debt? Kids who will save their money in order to buy something they want? Kids who will give to others? This was the subject of a Minnesota Public Radio conversation on Friday. There was some great insight offered from two experts in the field- a writer and an educator. Here's a link to the conversation:

Financial advice and education for young people Minnesota Public Radio News

One idea that resonated was to provide your kids with three large transparent jars marked "spend" "save" and "give." Any time they receive money, they are expected to divide it evenly between the three. This teaches them in a simple way how we don't just spend all of the money we take in, there is a need to save some and we should give some to others who are less fortunate.

How did you learn about money? How do you plan to teach your kids?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Almost a year...

It's hard to believe I'm closing in on a year of blogging. My first post was June 6, 2010. For those first few months I had the (crazy) idea that I would post every single day. I'd even jump out of bed at 11:45pm and write a quick blog if I realized I hadn't posted yet that day. Thankfully, I have left that mindset behind. My current goal is two to three posts per week.

Which leads me to my question.... is there any thrifty-related topic you'd like to see? Something that has caught your interest that you'd like me to do some research about? I had one friend ask about extreme couponing, so I might dig into that and give you guys a full report. More slow cooker recipes are on the way as well.

Until then, enjoy the fact that Spring is finally here. We finally have leaves on the trees here in Minnesota!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Subscription Price Savings

Graphic from
Wanted to share a method my husband used to save quite a bit of money.

We have had a subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio (used to be XM Radio) since 2001. My husband has always gotten the best monthly price possible by signing up for multi-year contracts. This year, when our subscription was up for renewal, the prices had gone up. It was time for a new strategy.

Tonight, my husband called XM and said he was going to cancel his subscription (disclosure: my husband had no intention of actually cancelling and was sweating a little bit, worried they might call his bluff). When asked why, he said it was too expensive. Miraculously, the customer service representative was able to offer him a "special" limited-time deal that was less than any of the advertised prices. So, we now have a year subscription for around $8 per month. Nice.

Thrifty lesson learned: if the price of a service or subscription goes up, see what they will offer you if you threaten to quit!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Salad Bar Tips

We've all been there. Just trying to have a healthy lunch, we head to the salad bar. We create a masterpiece of lettuce, toppings, and dressing. Then we get to the checkout scale and reality hits. That plastic box of greens cost over $10? What did I do wrong?

In March, the New York Times did an article on smart salad bar strategies "How to Beat the Salad Bar." The graphic they provided is below. In a nutshell, you should go for the items that cost more per pound on their own than the salad bar charges. So for example, piling your salad with sun-dried tomatoes that would cost $9.99 per pound elsewhere is a good value if the salad bar charges $7.99 per pound.

Graphic from
Rachael Ray recently did a segment on her show about the same topic. Best Value at the Salad Bar One great tip shared there was to skip salad dressing from the salad bar and dress it yourself when you get back to your desk- just keep a bottle of your favorite dressing in the fridge or some packets of dressing in your desk drawer. That way you're not paying for the weight of the liquid dressing.

One tip I've learned from experience at olive bars that charge by weight- make sure to drain out any extra oil or marinade you might have picked up when scooping your olives. A drop here and there can add up.

Go get your (thrifty) salad bar on!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Free admission to gardens throughout the US on Friday May 6

I found out about a great deal being offered by Better Homes and Gardens. This Friday, May 6 (National Public Gardens Day), they are offering free admission to public gardens throughout the United States. For more details see the link below. You just enter some information about yourself (be sure to uncheck the boxes asking for email newsletters unless you want junk mail), which garden you want to go to, and print your free voucher.

The weather is looking great for Friday, so I think my daughter and I will be checking it out.

Some participating gardens in places my readers live:
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (Minnesota)
Boerner Botanical Gardens (Wisconsin)
Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Wisconsin)
Chicago Botanic Garden (Illinois)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thrifty Recipe: Indian ground turkey with split peas and coconut

OK, right up front I'm going to say that this isn't the quickest/easiest recipe. However, the taste is so amazingly different from anything I've had before that I just had to share it here. Please don't let the long ingredient list scare you. Just give it a try! Ground turkey can be a thrifty choice. It goes on sale once a month or so, when it does I try to buy a couple packages to freeze for recipes like this one.

Ground Turkey with Split Peas and Coconut
From Healthy South Indian Cooking

1/2 cup dry split peas
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 dry bay leaf
2-4 slivers cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup chopped onion
2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 green chili pepper
1 pound ground turkey
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shredded coconut or unsweetened coconut powder

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add split peas and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, about 15 minutes until split peas are tender and water is absorbed. Drain any remaining water and set aside.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add bay leaf and cinnamon stick into oil. Add cumin and fennel seeds.
3. Immediately add onion, garlic, chili pepper, and the remaining turmeric powder. Cook, stirring, until onions are tender. Add ground turkey and pan-fry about 3 minutes until browned.
4. Stir in curry powder, cayenne powder, and cumin powder. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Stir in salt (I skipped this), cover, and cook another 5 minutes.
5. Stir in cooked split peas. Cover and cook another two minutes. Add coconut and stir well. Serve with rice and plain yogurt.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Let's Get Rrrrrrready to Rummage!

That's right, folks. Rummage sale season "officially" begins this weekend! For those of you in the south, I'm sure they last all year round, but here up north, most wait until the weather is a bit warmer to start. This is also the spring fishing opener weekend, so many men will be out on the lake, leaving their wives to hold sales or to go shopping!

Last year, I wrote a post about garage sale strategy. However, I thought today would be a great time to mention it again. Some key thrifty garage sale tips:
- With the price of gas at an all-time high, doing some research before setting out makes more sense than ever. Use Craigslist to search for garage sales in your area. Once you find some promising ones, map the addresses out using google maps in order to determine the best route.
- Take some time to empty out your change jar, pockets, cup holders, and other places that coins gather. Keep them in a ziptop bag in your car or purse and use them for your garage sale purchases. Garage sale hosts love getting more change, and it's "free money" for you.
- If you really don't need it, don't buy it. Even if it's only 50 cents.
- Check everything over to ensure it's in good condition, and make sure to disinfect or wash the items once you get them home.
- Have fun!

Over the past two days, I went to four garage sales and purchased the loot you see below. Any guesses as to how much I spent? Answer below.
Black jean jacket, fleece hoodie, fleece hat with matching gloves, 2 pairs fleece gloves, four Christmas hand towels, Strawberry Shortcake beach towel, hooded sweater with flowers, new tights, new swimsuit, four pairs of shoes (two being Stride Rite brand), Connect Four (not pictured).

Grand total..... $20.25. $5 of which was from my change bag so really I only spent $15.25 of "real money."  Nice.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thrifty Tip- Rental Car vs Taxis

From Google Images
I learned a good lesson when planning for a recent trip. Make sure to check the distance from the airport to your hotel and the price of a taxi ride. Sometimes, renting a car is a much better deal. Plus, having your own car allows you to leave the hotel or resort to grab some groceries or eat at a non-hotel restaurant. When making your comparison, be sure to include the cost (if any) of parking at your hotel or resort. On our recent trip, we got a car for the whole weekend for $77, a one-way ride from the airport was going to be $60. Even with a daily parking fee we saved quite a bit of money and were able to explore the area on our own without having to hire another cab.

Also, when we reserve a rental car, we always pick the smallest/cheapest car on the website. And every time, when we get to the rental desk, they don't have that size and we get a free upgrade.

Any other rental car tips you want to share?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Pantry Staples

A few weeks ago I wrote (link here) about how I went for almost a week without going to the grocery store, just using items I had on-hand to make dinner each night. Many people out there have created pantry staples lists, and I have linked to several below

Real Simple Magazine's List
Rachael Ray's List's List

I'm not going to compete with the above and list out every single thing you should always have in your pantry. However, there are certainly some key things that I try to always have on hand because they make quick and healthy meals in a pinch. Keeping items such as these can help you be thrifty by avoiding so many trips to the grocery store. What's on your list?

Crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
Tomato paste
Spaghetti sauce
Quick-cooking couscous
Jasmine rice
Shredded cheese
Quick-cook oatmeal
White onion
Sweet potato
Lettuce or spinach

Frozen vegetables (peas and broccoli are favorites)
Frozen chicken breasts
Frozen chicken thighs or drumsticks
Frozen pizza (last resort!)
Frozen white fish (cod, swai, flounder)

Ground beef

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Splurge-worthy Tuesday: Facial tissue with lotion

Puffs Plus Lotion Facial Tissue, 2-Ply, Plus Lotion
Picture from Google Products

For the past couple weeks, my daughter and I have been battling Spring Cold 2011. She has it beat and I am on the mend. The worst part were the unending runny noses. It wasn't just a matter of having to wipe my nose every once in awhile. We're talking bring the whole box of tissues in the car, have to ask for more at the service desk while shopping at Target, leaving piles all over the house, you get the idea. Needless to say, after a couple days my nose was red and painful. My daughter's was, too.

Enter the savior of the hour: Kleenex (or Puffs) with lotion! My parents bought us a box, and the difference was miraculous. Our noses were saved! When the box ran out, I bought more. So worth it. I'm not going to stock it thoughout the house in every room, but next time we're battling a cold it will be first on my shopping list!

Do you have any splurge-worthy items that help you when you're sick?