Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 2009! Grocery circulars for this week

Happy 2009 to all of my fellow frugal friends. In yesterday's mail, we received the Ralph's and Albertson's grocery circulars for the week. The sales start today and go through next Tuesday. The best buys are on:


  • Foster Farms Chicken - 50% off
  • Baby back ribs - $2.97
  • Heirloom tomatoes - 2 lbs. for $5 - normally not a good deal, but considering we are in the deepest, darkest part of winter, these can be a treat.
  • Dennison's, Hormel, and Stagg chili - 10 cans for $10 - great quick meal suggestion - Chili Pie. Grab a snack size bag of Frito's, pour some heated chili on the Frito's and top with shredded cheese. Yum!
  • The best sales are in the produce aisle. Broccoli crowns, cauliflower, italian and yellow squash, baby peeled carrots, green bell peppers, sweet red onions, and Fresh Express Garden Salads are all 10 for $10.
  • Boneless pork loin, $2.99lb. Buy a package that is already presliced for delicious pork chop recipes. Freeze what you don't need in family size portions in ziplock bags to reduce your leftovers.
  • Yoplait Yogurt, 20 for $10 - these have been much more expensive, even on sale for the past several months.
To finish off your shopping list, visit Albertson's for a few good specials. There is a two day sale going on starting today. Pick up your new year's eve and day treats here, because they are on sale.

  • Snow crab clusters, $3.99 lb.
  • King crab legs, $9.99 lb.
  • Lobster tails, $4.99 each
  • Potatoes, $1.99 for 10 lb bag

Use coupons for:
  • Avocados, 2 for $1
  • Mission tortilla chips, $1.79 a bag
  • Ruffles and Doritos 2 for $3
  • Domaine Chandon champagne, Jose Cuervo Tequila Especial are both $9.99
  • Heineken, $9.99 for 12 bottles

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Husband's 10 Commandments of Saving Money

My husband also has his Ten Commandments of saving money.

1. Take your shoes off at the front door to save in carpet cleaning costs.

2. Buy quality – it lasts longer – in clothes, shoes, etc.

3. Invest in items that appreciate in value such as your home, antiquities, art, stock and other financial vehicles. Do not overspend on items that depreciate like cars, furniture, and housewares.

4. If you work in a profession that can make your clothes dirty, wear work clothes that are durable and cheap.

5. Go to brunches instead of dinners. The champagne is normally included and the meals are less expensive. Besides, you have all day to digest the food and you don’t end up sleeping on a full stomach.

6. Don’t go to Costco by yourself. You need someone to go with you to talk you out of the 25 pounds of flour and the lifetime supply of yeast.

7. Learn how to "do it yourself" by watching the Food Network, DIY, and Discovery Channels.

8. Buy the book instead of going to see the movie at the theater. The entertainment lasts longer.

9. For movie night, borrow it from the library or rent it from Blockbuster video. Microwave the popcorn.

10. If the wife buys something he doesn’t like, put it in the closet and don’t complain. This saves in future legal fees!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mom's 10 Commandments of Shopping

My mother, the savviest shopper that I know, shared her Ten Commandments of shopping with me. They all seem to be true in Santa Barbara.

1. The price of a product or service is not always an indicator of quality.

2. If it sounds too good to be true, do more research. Sometimes there really are great bargains out there!

3. The zip code of the service will reflect in the price of that service. If you shop in Montecito, you will pay more than if you shop in Santa Barbara, even at garage sales.

4. Everything goes on sale eventually. You just need to know where and when to look.

5. The back of the store is usually where the bargains are, except in January when they move the sales to the front of the store.

6. There is always a less expensive way to get a service. Choices include to ‘do it yourself,’ go to an apprentice, or go for the splurge.

7. Sometimes it makes sense to spend the extra money. Get the $100 haircut when you want a new style, but go to Fantastic Sam’s for the $17 haircut to maintain your style.

8. You will always spend more for spa services if you purchase them at a resort or on a cruise ship. My most expensive pedicure was on Cunard’s QE2, on a transatlantic voyage. For $50, the salon ‘expert’ removed my polish, washed my feet, cut my nails, and added 3 layers of polish. No massage, no small talk. To make matters worse, the nail polish never dried, and smeared 5 hours after the service. I had to pay an additional $50 for a redo. The best pedicure was at a salon called Artistic Nails in the Calle Real Shopping Center. For $25, I sat in a heated massage chair, while the salon ‘expert’ washed my feet, exfoliated, clipped my nails and cuticles, gave my legs a 10 minute massage, and then added 3 coats of polish. She even gave me a pair of flip flops so that I wouldn’t smear the polish.

9. The fewer things you own, the larger your home feels, so have garage sales and donate items you are not using.

10. Don’t skimp if it makes you feel like a martyr.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

After Christmas Sales - Sunday Circular

Honestly, I think that the pre-Christmas sales were all hype and no substance compared to last year. In 2007, we were able to take advantage of an abundance of "Free with Rebate" offers and true doorbuster specials. This year, the offering was mediocre at best. Besides the closing of Circuit City, there were no major deals to be had. No wonder the stores are struggling.

Now, we have the Sunday circulars in the Santa Barbara News Press. Anything worth getting dressed for?

K-Mart - $6 stability balls - great for the New Year's resolutions. In the local sports stores, these are often $29.99.

P&G Brand Saver - great coupons for every day needs. You'll pay for your paper after clipping a couple of these and going to Ralphs to take advantage of double coupons.

Michaels - 50% off coupon for one item. By the way, visit their website at and register. You will receive these coupons via email, so if you are a crafting junkie like me, you can get double the savings almost every week. If you pay full price at this store, you are a sucker. I'm currently knitting an afgan and rather than buying all the yarn at the same time, I've been buying only one color at a time and using the coupons.

Longs Drugs: Domaine Chandon Brut Champagne - $11.99 - best sparkling for the price, only on sale this Sun through Thurs. Tide detergent $5.49 after rebate - plus use a 35 cent coupon from this week's paper for more savings.

Office Max: They are offering the free software bundles with Turbo Tax software. If you need antivirus software or a dozen new software titles to go with your new computer, go ahead and buy the tax software and fill out the rebate cards. Since we use an accountant, I normally buy the software and collect on the rebates and then sell the software that I don't use on ebay - making a profit in the process.

That's all for now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Turkey Picking

Now that Thanksgiving has been over for a few days, the turkey in your refrigerator probably resembles something you should leave for the buzzards to finish off. You've had your fill of turkey sandwiches, turkey tetrizzini, and all the other turkey leftover recipes that are in the women's magazines. Don't throw the bird out yet, because it still has some 'life' left in it.

Turkey Stock:

Turkey Carcass, well picked of the best parts of meat, but leaving the wings, back meat, and everything you couldn't easily get at - you know, the pieces that have gristle attached, or the ones that just won't separate from the bird. Break the carcass down until it fits in the largest soup pot that you own. Place any fat or juices that are left in your turkey pan into the soup pot.

All of your stuffing leftovers in the vegetable bin - onions, celery, carrots, minced garlic and any other vegetables that you can find. It is fine if the veggies are a bit wilted. Just clean them off and remove any spoiled pieces. Peel the onions of the outer skin, Peel the carrots of the part that sticks out of the ground, and throw these parts away. Quantities don't matter much here. Just use whatever veggie is around the house.

Place all ingredients in the soup pot and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt or garlic (or onion) salt, 2 bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon of your favorite herb. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 to 2 hours.

Now, for the messy, but fun part. Grab a large bowl and a colander (the kind you strain spaghetti with) and place the colander over the bowl in the sink. Use tongs to remove the bones and place them in the colander to cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, come back and separate the meat from the bones. You will have enough meat from this exercise to use either in turkey soup or another leftover turkey recipe. Throw away the bones.

Next, pour the remaining contents of the soup pot into the colander. Throw all of the items in the colander away. The veggies have given up their flavor to the stock that is left inside the bowl.

If you have a fat separater, you can reduce the fat from the stock if you wish, or you can place all of the stock in the refrigerator and allow it to cool. The fat will separate on its own, and you can use a spoon to remove the fat when it is cool.

You are left with a beautiful stock that can be used in a variety of ways including as a base to soup, seasoning for veggies, or flavor for rice. Place in 1 to 2 cup containers and freeze or refrigerate until needed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

Here is a great recipe for pumpkin bread. It is not too sweet - just right for breakfast.

1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 + 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 + 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 1 loaf pan and 1 muffin pan

Mix all dry ingredients except sugar together
Mix all wet ingredients plus sugar
Combine all ingredients

Pour into muffin pans and loaf pan - only 1/3 full each.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cook with your old Halloween Pumpkin

Have you read the comments that a field pumpkin (the kind that you carve Jack O'Lanterns out of) is not good for cooking? It is true that the field pumpkin, unlike the sugar pumpkin tends to be a bit stringy. However, in most pumpkin recipes you cook and then process the pumpkin, effectively altering the texture to a smooth puree, so the initial texture does not matter. One rule of thumb for frugal decorators - use a non-toxic, water based pen to draw your jack 'o lantern design rather than cutting the pumpkin, so you can take advantage of the cooking later.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it is time to remove your fall decorations and replace them with holiday decorations. Before you through out that pumpkin, why not make a tasty treat?

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Use the largest, sharpest knife that you own and cut open the pumpkin.
  3. Pull out all of the seeds and place them in a colander.
  4. Pour running water over the seeds to remove the strings and slimy texture.
  5. Place seeds in a ziplock bag with a generous amount of spices. If you prefer traditional spices, just add salt. If you like your seeds with a kick, add chili powder or Jamaican jerk seasoning.
  6. Coat all seeds in the baggie.
  7. Place the seeds on a cookie sheet covered in cooking spray in a single layer.
  8. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, flipping the seeds at 10 minutes.
Pumpkin Puree for all of your baking needs
  • Continue cutting pumpkin into small chunks - 3 to 4 inches around
  • Place a large steamer tray in your largest soup pot and fill the bottom with 2 inches of water
  • Place all pumpkin in the pot
  • Heat stove to medium and place the pumpkin on the stove
  • Cook until the pumpkin turns a darker color and the consistency is mushy
  • Remove Pumpkin from pot and cut off rinds
  • Place rindless pumpkin into food processor or blender and turn on.
  • Add water as necessary to turn the consistency into what looks like baby food
  • Place in 1 to 2 cup containers and freeze all pumpkin that you are not planning on using for a couple of days.
Tomorrow, I'll add some great recipes for your pumpkin puree. You've worked hard enough today, so take the rest of the day off.

Friday, November 28, 2008

More Black Friday Specials

Today, the stores will be crowded, the parking lots will be packed, and the lines will be long. Is Black Friday shopping worth it? It depends. If you are one of the old fashioned shoppers who believe that you should buy electronics, toys or clothing for your loved ones, and you can stick to purchases that are listed in the Thanksgiving paper, you can't beat the deals. In the next few days, I'll veer off of the old-fashioned materialistic Christmas and into the new eco-friendly and more affordable Christmas. For now, here are the best deals.

Computers: Visit Office Max and Staples. They are offering laptops for under $500 and MS Office for under $70. You can't beat that....unless you are buying the laptop for playing video games. These models will be obsolete within a year or two, but they will run all the basic MS office tasks forever.

CVS and Rite Aid are offering many Free with Rebate deals. Shop early to pick these deals up.

Aaron Brothers and Michaels are offering coupons of between 25% off the total purchase and 50% off one item. These are great places to pick up all of your craft items if you are a do-it-yourselfer.

Old Navy is actually giving things away - MP3 players to be exact. Get their early, grab someting valued at least $20 and get in line. Good luck.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Best Buys on Electronics

There is a great article on Yahoo right now about Black Friday specials on Electronics. Visit to learn more.

Also, Macy's is having a 60% to 90% off sale on their clearance clothing through today. There was a coupon in yesterday's Santa Barbara News Press.

If you are a crafter, I recommend that you sign up for the email newsletters from Michaels craft store. They are starting to send out some great coupons, and since it is far less expensive to manage an email list, they seem to be switching to email coupons from weekly newspaper circular coupons.

If you plan on doing your Thanksgiving day grocery shopping today, you will need to purchase a fresh turkey. There is no safe way to defrost a frozen turkey now. Be sure to take out the bag of giblets inside. Also, be prepared for long lines at the grocery store and in the parking lot. Vons is having a special - buy $25 worth of groceries and buy a turkey for $7.88. Even if you can't defrost it for Thanksgiving, you will be able to take advantage of all the inexpensive protien over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Excellent Black Friday Spreadsheet

My friend, Jennifer, suggested that my frugal friends visit: On this page, you can download all of the latest Black Friday specials at all of the major department, drug, and discount stores. We don't have all of these stores in Santa Barbara, but it is well worth the visit to look at all of the specials. For my friends outside of Santa Barbara, you will find many of your hometown favorite stores in this database. The spreadsheet is organized by store, type of merchandise, discount, and price. It is awesome!

Long's Drugs After Thanksgiving sale

Here is the first Black Friday circular to hit my mailbox. Longs Drugs has beat all of their competitors in getting the mail out. They open at 7am. It has been my experience that you don't need to get up that early to visit Long's on Black Friday. I've gotten there before noon, and they had plenty of Black Friday specials left. I don't see any earlybird specials either, so plan on visiting Longs on your way home.

Here are the best specials:

  • Coby 7" digital photo frame: $39.99 with rebate
  • Maxx Portable Tripleplay DVD Player: $79.99 after rebate
  • Emerson 6 bottle wine cooler: $69.99 or save an additional $30 if you buy 6 bottles of Robert Mondavi Private selection wine. This drops the price to $39.99.
  • Nextar GPS: $89.99 after rebate
  • Hewlett Packard 3.5" Digital Brag Book with case: $39.99 after mail in rebate
  • Assorted kitchen electronics: chopper, toaster, iron, and mixer for $6.99
  • GE Cordless phone: $14.99

  • Buy one get one free Bonny Bell Lip Smackers: I love these and stock up every year. Bring the coupon!
  • Cheap drugstore fragrances by Revlon and Coty: Buy one get one free with coupon
  • Free Gilette Fusion manual razor with rebate
  • Revlon beauty tools: Bogo with coupon
  • ITunes Gift Card: $5 off $25 card with coupon (I'm getting this for my niece)
  • If you have a cat or dog, be sure to put the 2 for $4 blankets in their stocking.

Photo Department

  • Photo Processing is only 12 cents each on line and in the store. You can clear off your memory cards of all your Than
  • GE A730 7 megapixel camera: $59.99 after rebateksgiving photos here for cheap!

I'll list more deals as they come in.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pre Thanksgiving Bargains from Sunday Newspaper

On Sunday, there were several great circulars. Black Friday has started early in some stores. Here is a sample of the savings:

Longs Drugs:

10 for 10 sale:

  • Kleenex - we are in cold and flu season so stock up.
  • Dinty Moore Beef Stew
  • Sacramento Tomato Juice
  • Del Monte Ketchup
  • Kid's Kitchen Microwaveable Meals

Eggs: $1.79

Christmas Holiday decor from 25% to 40% off

Rite Aid:
Popcorn Tins - $4.88 - Yum! Share the popcorn in the office and save the tin to store your ornaments after Christmas.

Altoids: 99 cents each

Free with rebate
  • Grounded power strip
  • Universal 3 device remote control
Palmolive Dish Liquid: Buy one get one free

4 for $5
  • Campbell's Select Harvest soup
  • Hormel chili with beans
  • Healthy Choice Soup
  • Dinty Moore Beef Stew

  • Hunt's Tomatoes Sauce: 29 cents
  • Comet Cleanser: 59 cents
For any other shopping, I recommend waiting until Friday.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Santa Barbara on a Shoestring Introduction

Most people in Santa Barbara, whether they are homeowners or are just starting out on their own are living on a tight budget to make ends meet. Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive places in the world, and keeping up appearances is very important to our community.
I was born in Texas, where houses and food are comparatively cheap. When I was very young, my musician father and scientist mother had to be very creative to feed a family of four on $20 per week. They learned quite a bit from their Depression-era parents. My mother often served foods that were tasty but stretched the meat budget tremendously. She also made most of our clothes, and shopped the sales and clearance sections of the local stores to ensure that we were properly dressed.

My grandmothers both enjoyed shopping in several grocery stores to take advantage of the loss leaders, the foods that were being sold below the store’s cost to attract customers. For my mother and grandparents, these activities were for survival, As a 10-year-old child, these money saving strategies became a game for me.

After our family’s fortunes changed and my parents became comparatively well off, we had a large home, beautiful wardrobes, and took several exotic vacations a year. We truly lived as if everything was bigger and better in Texas. Regardless, it was my responsibility to earn money while I was in high school to help my family pay for some of my college expenses. By the time I was a freshman at Texas A&M, I had to revert to the lessons that I learned from my family as a child, and found that it was just as fun as a young adult to stretch my dollars as it was as a kid. The difference was that now, the money was more valuable to me because I earned it myself.
After earning a degree, I moved to Santa Barbara to marry my college sweetheart. His family also believed that it was important for their children to become self-sufficient, so we were on our own. Being at the beginning of our careers, money was tight, but we managed to pay off my student debt and save for a home. Now, over 15 years later, we are both in careers that we love. From the outside, people would say that we are living the high life. We have designer wardrobes, late model cars, original artwork on our walls by name artists; we travel around the world and we eat at fine restaurants every week. We’ve saved enough to retire in 10 years, and we have done all of this on middle income salaries. Most people would think that we make twice the amount of money that we actually do and our only debt is our mortgage.

I wrote this blog so that whether you are a student, a family living on one income or someone who wants to retire early, you will benefit from making simple adjustments to your lifestyle that are low-income but high-style. You too can save thousands of dollars per year but still live like high rollers in Santa Barbara.