Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Amazon Mom for diapers

Thanks to my friend, fellow thrifty mom Robin, for this tip. While I'm a diehard cloth diaper user, I know there are lots of parents out there for whom disposables are the right choice. Robin has done a lot of comparison shopping and found a great way to save on disposable diapers and have them delivered to her door! Here are the details, in her own words:

"A box of Pampers typically costs about $40. Best deal I found was at Sam's Club for $38. However, I just joined AmazonMom on It was free to join, and that also rewarded me with a temporary free Amazon Prime membership, which includes free two-day shipping. If you just buy diapers on occasion from them, there's really no deal. But I signed up to have automatic delivery of diapers once a month (you can choose how often), and that gives you a huge discount! The box of diapers is now only $28, and no shipping costs! How cool to know that diapers will arrive at my doorstep, $10 cheaper than Sam's Club, and with no delivery fee?"

So take a look at AmazonMom, it might be the right choice for you, too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin Mac 'n Cheese

Tried this recipe last week and it turned out really well. It also made a lot of hearty leftovers. My potato masher came in handy to mush it up for our daughter, who also loved it! The whole wheat pasta, broccoli, and cauliflower balance the naughtiness of all the cheese and sour cream. Here's a link to the recipe on Rachael Ray's website.
Rachael Ray's Official Website :: Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin Mac 'n Cheese

Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin Mac 'n Cheese

  • Salt
  • 1 small head or bundle broccoli, trimmed into florets (I used half a bag of frozen broccoli)
  • 1 small head cauliflower or half a large head, trimmed and cut into florets (I used half a bag of frozen cauliflower)
  • 1 pound whole wheat macaroni or penne or other short-cut pasta
  • 2 cups sour cream or reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup chives, finely chopped (I used dried)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated or crushed into paste
  • A few drops of hot sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Salt the water and add the broccoli and cauliflower florets. Boil the vegetables for 5 minutes, then remove them with a spider or a strainer and drain. Add the pasta to the water and undercook by about 2 minutes, then drain.

2. Meanwhile, combine the sour cream in a large bowl along with the mustard, chives, garlic, hot sauce and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the pasta and cauliflower and two-thirds of the cheese. Stir to combine, then transfer to a casserole or baking dish and cover with the remaining cheese. Cool and chill for a make-ahead meal.

3. To heat and eat, place the casserole on baking sheet and bake it in the middle of a pre-heated 375°F oven until deeply golden and bubbly, about 40-45 minutes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Splurge-worthy Sunday: An awesome dinner out
 Just got back from an awesome date night with my husband. We received a gift certificate to Rinata for Christmas (with free babysitting thanks to my in-laws!). I had heard that they have a Sunday night special, so we decided to use the gift certificate tonight. And what a great meal it was for a great value.

Rinata has Sunday night Date Night. They offer a 4-course meal for $20. There were two or three choices for each course. They also offer 1/2 price bottles of wine from 4:30-6:00 every day and all night on Monday and Tuesdays. Our 5:30pm Sunday reservation was perfect because we could take advantage of the wine deal, Date Night menu, and also get home in time to put our daughter to bed.

First Course: There were three choices, a soup, an olive plate, and an eggplant dish. We both chose eggplant. It was a long piece of eggplant flattened and rolled up with goat cheese and pine nuts, all in a tomato sauce. Yum!

Second Course: Two salad choices. My husband had the Caesar which looked tasty. I had the beet salad and was not disappointed. The beets were earthy and delicious, and served with spicy greens and some nuts. I love beets so it was a perfect choice for me.

Main Dish: There were three choices- a pork shoulder with ziti and red sauce, clams in a butter/white sauce with pasta, and a risotto. I had the risotto with local root vegetables, which were carrots, celery root, and parsnips. It was creamy and very tasty. My husband had the clam dish, the clams were done very well and the pasta sauce had a nice hint of spice.

Dessert: We both had the tiramisu. There was also a gelato choice. We both enjoyed the tiramisu.

Overall it was a great value. We both think that the portions would probably be larger if they were ordered off of the regular menu rather than the Date Night menu, but we both left nicely full. There was also a nice basket of warm bread with an olive oil/tapenade. Service was great as well, with our waiter making a perfect wine recommendation.

So, if you live in the Twin Cities and are looking for a nice dinner out with a great value, try Rinata. We have also eaten at their sister restaurant Al Vento and enjoyed that as well.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Travel Websites

In the past week I have been planning (OK obsessing over) a couple upcoming vacations. I've used my usual online strategies and have been able to find some good deals, so I thought I'd share them:

From Source
Hotel Methodology:
1. Use,, or another agregator website to search for lodging. They have great filters so you can search for the exact amenities you need.
2. Once you have the list narrowed down to a few properties, go to each of the properties' individual websites (for example Embassy Suites or Holiday Inn Express) and search for rooms there. You will often find different prices and deals that aren't available through the agregator sites.
3. If the price is the same, always book the room through the individual hotel's website as opposed to through or another website. In the event that you need to change or cancel a reservation, you're much better off dealing with the hotel individually.

Other thrifty tips when deciding on a place to stay:
- Look for a place that offers free breakfast. You can often fill up on a free buffet which saves you not only on the breakfast itself but also on lunch later. Plus, breakfast prices at most hotels are exorbinant.
- If you will need to park a car, be sure to check for parking fees. At some resorts and hotels that can add quite a bit to your bill. It might be worth paying a little more at a property that doesn't charge for parking.
- Consider renting a condominium with a full kitchen or staying at a hotel that at least offers a microwave and fridge. That way you won't need to eat out for every meal.

Flight Methodology:
1. Use Orbitz or another website to search for flights. Sites such as these are helpful because they can combine flights on multiple carriers for more complicated itineraries.
2. Also look at the websites for any regional carriers who don't participate in Orbitz
3. If the flights you're interested in are all on one airline (which they usually are), go to that airline's individual website to find the same flights and to book. I have found it's better to book through the airline directly. You will get the best price and it's easier to deal with the airline directly if there is a problem.

Do you agree with my recommendations? Have any experiences to share?

Monday, January 17, 2011

New MVP thrifty kitchen tool

My lovely daughter turns one in a few weeks. She still has ZERO teeth! Because of this, we aren't as far along on her eating "real food" as some babies are at this point. However, now that she has quite a bit of experience in gumming foods, I have stopped using the food processor to puree everything. My new best friend for making her homemade food is....

 OXO® Good Grips® Potato Masher (77891) - Ace Hardware

a potato masher.

It's perfect. I can steam or boil vegetables, drain, and then mash them up right in the pan. A current favorite is the frozen carrot/pea/corn/green bean mixture. It makes a colorful, nutritious mash. She eats that alone or mixed into yogurt. Who needs to spend a bunch of money on processed "stage three" baby food when you can mash it yourself! I did the same thing with canned peaches- mashed them up and mixed in rice cereal. Viola- peach cereal! The masher also works for meals like lasagna and mac and cheese.

So those of you out there who are registering for baby gifts, maybe a potato masher should be your next addition.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I know you were in suspense...

I bought the below at Target yesterday and got some amazing deals. (see blog post from yesterday for teaser/preview) I got everything you see below for less than the original price of the shoes!

My purchases:
Butterfly sweatshirt $0.98 marked down from $3.99
3 pairs sweatpants (3 different sizes) $0.98 each marked down from $3.99 each
1 pair shoes $3.74 marked down from $14.99
2-pak fleece sleepers $4.98 marked down from $9.99

Total Spent: $12.64 (actually a bit less than that since I get 5% off for using my Target Visa and there is no sales tax on clothes in MN)
Original price: $40.94
Amount Saved: $28.30

Everything but one pair of sweatpants is in larger sizes for my daughter to wear during spring or for next winter. Just proves again that shopping at the end of the season can yield some great bargains.

For those who shop at Target there are a lot of baby-related items on clearance right now. Also some great deals to be had in shoes, toys, and home decor.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guess how much I spent...

I got all of this today (1 sweatshirt, 3 pairs of sweatpants, 1 pair of shoes, package 2 fleece sleepers) and spent the original price of one of the items. Can you guess the price and the item?

Answer tomorrow.

Friday, January 7, 2011

DIY Project- Bathroom Remodel Part 4

Back to the 2009 bathroom remodel (wow, two years ago already). As I covered in my previous posts, my husband remodeled our upstairs guest bathroom back in 2009. We were able to save quite a bit of money in labor and use high-end products that we are still really happy with.

Today: The Vanity

Once the floor was installed it was time for the vanity. We picked out a dark wood vanity, the wood color matched a swirl in the granite for the floor. Because the space for the vanity was a bit larger than the vanity itself, we also purchased an extra piece of matching trim board, to bridge the small gap that was going to be left. That allowed us toget a vanity off the shelf rather than custom which saved quite a bit of money.

When visiting someone's home that winter, we saw a great idea. They had installed tube lighting under their vanity that can be used as a night light. We copied the idea for our bathroom, and wired the lighting on its own light switch.

Next it was time for the countertop. My husband had heard about a place that sold granite remnants left from larger kitchen and bathroom jobs. We headed over to their office with one of our floor tiles. Luck would have it that they had a piece of matching granite that would work! We also had back and sidespashes and a threshold for the floor cut from the same piece. They came to measure our space, we told them what kind of sink we wanted and what facuet we were installing, and they cut the granite to our specifications. Awesome!

The faucet was from Home Depot. We picked one that would go with our modern vibe. We also ended up buying coordinating drawer pulls because the ones that came with the vanity didn't fit our style.

Things were really taking shape, next it was time for the biggest project- tiling the tub surround!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mint: I'm not the only one!

Your finances online

One of my favorite "mommy blogs" is It's good for interesting topics, funny advice columns, and some great resources for everything pregnancy and baby. I was happy to read today's post and see that I'm not the only one who recommends for organizing the family budget. If you remember, I have posted about it here and here.

Alphamom: A New Budget for the New Year

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Resolutions? Not so much.

Well being that this is my first post of 2011 and since it's the first Monday of a new year I'm guessing you might be expecting me to post about my resolutions for 2011 or to share a list of thrifty resolutions you should make for 2011. Well, I hate to disappoint you, but I'm not really a resolution-maker. Maybe that's a bad thing, but I have never really gotten into it, and neither has my husband.  Instead I will share some links to what others have said about 2011 financial resolutions. Happy resolving!

Money Magazine
US News and World Report