Extreme Couponing Requires Extreme Organization: The Search for a Coupon Binder

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I heard a lot of buzz about the TLC show Extreme Couponing before it aired last night. I started following the Twitter chatter when the east coast feed was on. It seemed people had mixed reactions about how the show portrayed people who take 'extreme' measures to save money. Watch the teaser clip aired on ABC to see how TLC defined extreme. So much of TLC's programming is designed to be attention getting so I took the show with a grain of a salt but here's my quick two cents on the show:

*Some of the people featured have hoarding issues. Period.
*Junk is still junk no matter how good the deal was (who needs 150 Butterfingers?!).
*Saving money is important but it shouldn't be your life. Blowing off the people in your life to clip coupons and shop is unhealthy.
*Having such a large stockpile you feel the need to insure it is also unhealthy (seriously, watch the clip) 
*If you have 30 year's worth of toiletries in your garage, please donate some to a shelter, food bank or to foster families. Look at it this way: you probably got it for free so with the tax write off it will be a money maker!
*Not being able to enjoy the rooms in your home because they are full of groceries is unhealthy.
*Spending 70 hours a week on something you are not earning a salary to do is silly.
*The 40 jars of spaghetti sauce you just had to have might have been someone other family's affordable dinner.

Despite TLC's ratings ploys I was still inspired. I thought I was doing a good job with our grocery budget but those people made me feel like a total amateur! I've had Tyler grab coupon inserts from  recycling bins, but only on our street. One woman on the show, Joyce, puts on her toning shoes and walks her neighborhood every week gathering unused inserts. I wonder if my other neighbors would label me crazy if I started doing the same.

This is just a small part of my stash

While I was watching, I Tweeted that I'm in search of a coupon binder. I use two accordion files now and it's not convenient anymore. A few of my followers chimed in that they were looking for a coupon system too so I went through the frugal blogs in my reader and pulled links for post where the authors have given detailed info on how they organize their coupons. Here's what I found:

Erin of 5 Dollar Dinners
Frugal Coupon Living
A Thrifty Mom
Couponing 101 (vlog)
Keeping the Kingdom First (vlog)
Life as Mom 
Money Saving Mom
Save at Home Mommy (Charlene sells a complete binder system on her site)
Savings Lifestyle
Stretching a Buck

The binder method seems to be the most popular and I think it's the one I'll go with. I looked at some supplies during back to school and I should have pulled the trigger.

I'm spending too much time flipping through my coupons and I don't have a good system in place for my extra inserts. The last time I went shopping I saw laundry detergent on sale and remembered seeing a coupon in my inserts. I had pages spread out all over the store shelves while I was looking. It was messy (but I found two!).

One of my goals for 2011 is to do even better with cutting our grocery budget. Getting organized with my coupons is definitely a good first step.

Do you have a good system I can follow? Did you watch Extreme Couponing? What did you think?

Bright Holiday: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Part of a Candy Cane lane near my Dad's house, taken from the car because of the rain

Baking with PURE DARK Chocolate {+Giveaway}

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

*Closed - Congratulations Amber!*

I don't consider myself a great cook but I'm an awesome baker (toot toot!) Right before the holidays, I got an offer I couldn't refuse. Would I like to review a few items from PURE DARK's line of artisanal chocolates that can be used for baking? Why, yes. Yes I would!

The chocolates arrived in the mail and the smell when I opened the box was divine. PURE DARK's motto is "chocolates harvested from nature" and from the taste I could see why. PURE DARK is hand made. They offer exotic flavors like  cardamom allspice, chocolate dipped fruits and barks with fruits and nuts.

PURE DARK varies the intensity of their chocolates with three different levels of cocoa; Striking (60% cocoa), Serious (70%) and Stunning (80%). I really liked that the chocolates weren't grainy the way some dark chocolates can be. Every piece I tried was smooth.

The slabs and rounds are perfect for baking. Right now I'm obsessed with salted caramel. I think I drooled a little over this recipe that came with my chocolate samples. The recipe uses PURE DARK slabs, caramelized cocoa nibs and sea salt rounds.

(also posted in Google Docs for easy printing, click link above)

½ cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. of water
½ cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. sea salt
tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a heavy bottom sauce pan combine water and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Stir mixture until sugar is completely dissolved.

Increase heat and allow liquid to boil until it becomes a caramel brown. Do not stir to prevent liquid from crystallizing. If crystals form on sides of pan, dip a pastry brush in water and brush down the sides.

When liquid is caramel brown, remove from heat and pour in heavy cream. The caramel will bubble and may seize up.

Return to medium heat and allow caramel to re-melt.

Add vanilla and sea salt.

Remove from heat, transfer to a small metal mixing bowl and cool.

*Caramel can be stored, covered and refrigerated for 5 days.

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
¾ cup premium quality cocoa powder
½ tsp. sea salt
½ cup PURE DARK™ Caramelized Cocoa Nibs
1/3 cup PURE DARK™ sea salt rounds broken in small pieces
2 Tbsp. PURE DARK™ Slab grated or shaved
Non-stick cooking spray

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder and sea salt, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar till smooth.

Add eggs and vanilla extract.

Slowly incorporate dry ingredients, mixing until smooth.

Add PURE DARK™ Caramelized Nibs and PURE DARK™ Sea Salt Rounds. Mix until evenly distributed in batter.

Spread batter in pan and bake for 45 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Place individual brownies on small dessert plates and drizzle with Sea Salt Caramel. Serve with a scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream or fresh whipped cream and top with shaved PURE DARK™ Slab.

Recipe created exclusively for PURE DARK™ by Chef Samara Salisbury

The recipe is a little time consuming but I bet it's insanely good! Now for the best part: I get to share PURE DARK with you! (Make sure to read all the way to the bottom)

Giveaway: One winner will receive a $20 gift card to shop PURE DARK!

To enter:

1. Visit PURE DARK, come back here and tell me what you'll buy with your certificate or what other recipe you'd like to try. This is required.

2. I MUST have a way to get in touch with you! I will have to delete comments with no contact info.

3. Comments will close on Tuesday, January 11th at 11:59pm CA time.

4. I will use random.org to draw the winner and post the results/notify winners via email and Twitter.

5. For two bonus entries: (not required) Tweet, and/or blog about this contest and leave each of your links in a separate comment (three contest entry opportunities total). You will need a free Twitter account.

6. If the notified winner has not responded within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen.

7. You do not have to follow or subscribe to this blog as a method of entry (but you're more than welcome to!). Tweet as often as you like, but only one Tweet will count as an extra entry. Leave one comment for each entry. Here is the URL to this post: http://bit.ly/PureDarkBaking

8. The contest is open to US entrants only.

I invited friend and fellow blogger Nic of 2 Hot Bloggers and A Bottle of Wine to come over and taste test with me and show me how to pair chocolate and wine. I'm determined to find a wine I like and figured pairing it with chocolate was a good way to start! We vlogged our tasting session for San Diego MOMfia. She also posted a recipe and is hosting her own PURE DARK giveaway. You've got two chances to win!

PURE DARK chocolates are sold in specialty shops and through their online store. Thank you PURE DARK for the opportunity to try your fabulous chocolates and for providing the gift card for the giveaway!

Mission Valley Sky Part 2: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Taken the same night as last Wordless Wednesday

Feeling Guilty About Not Feeling Guilty

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A few days ago, when the snow really started falling on the east coast, I saw a Tweet go by that got me thinking about my Mom Guilt again. The Tweet was tagged with #snowday and read something to the effect of: "my kids are why I work from home, they are not an interruption." Then, my mom said something to me that stung a bit. I told her I don't usually cook a big dinner on the days Tyler's sports end late in the evening. Her response? "But why not? You're home all day." Ouch.

See, I've been feeling guilty for wanting Tyler to go on vacation. By himself. Every year since he turned one he's spent time at my mom's house during Christmas break. Since my Gramma comes from St. Louis and stays with my mom for three months, it's killed two birds with one stone. The Gramma's get some one on one time with their baby, Tyler gets (even more) spoiled and Phil and I get to act like the couple we were before we became parents.
Giant Gavelphoto © 2010 Sam Howzit | more info (via: Wylio)

When we asked Tyler if he wanted to go this year, he said no. I'll admit, my first thought was "how could he be so selfish!" I know, I know. He's only 8. He has no idea why his vacation is so important to his mom and dad. But my gut reaction, combined with that Tweet got me thinking about the idea that we should love being parents 100% of the time. Now that I'm a SAHM the pressure is even worse. It's my job to take care of my family. I should throw myself into it wholeheartedly and enjoy every minute of it, right?

Well, I don't. I love my kid with a fierceness that still surprises me. I love him so much it can be all consuming at times. I love him so much that, occasionally, there's not enough left for my husband, too (another thing I feel guilty about!). And that's my problem. Anything that takes up that much of a person's time, energy and focus is exhausting! I love being a mom. Specifically, I love being Tyler's mom. But every once in awhile I need a break. WE need a break.

Phil and I could really use the time to ourselves this year. We treat Tyler's time away as mini vacation for us too. There's stress that I can't write about just now and it's making me a bad mom and a bad wife. With Tyler gone, in addition to going to dinner somewhere with no kid's menu and watching R rated movies before 9:00, we have a few days to really talk and re-connect. And, maybe my mom and Gramama will crack the whip with eye rolling in a way I've been unsuccessful at so far. I'm sure Tyler could use a break from me, too.

I guess I can't call Tyler selfish without labeling myself the same. But is it selfish to want a break from the daily grind? Society tells me it is. But then there's also the idea that 'if Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy.' And just to throw in another curve, couples who make time for each other have happier marriages. So which is it? Selflessly take care of my family, take care of myself or nurture my marriage?

I don't know why this is such a struggle for me; finding balance. I think because I don't earn a steady income, I feel like I have to bring something to the table and right now all I've got is my time. Time to cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, take Tyler to practice, etc. etc. I'm lucky to be an at home mom. I know that. I don't want to go back to work. At least, I don't think I do.

Anytime I feel guilty about something I know it more than likely stems from some insecurity or doubt about a decision I've made. But in this case, I don't feel guilty about wanting Tyler to go visit my mom. If anything, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty, if that makes sense. Don't get me wrong, I miss him when he's away, but the margarita at Happy Hour helps ease the pain.

So, yes, I admit it. I want my son to away for a few days. When he does, I'm going to make a conscious choice to enjoy it and the few evenings I'll spend with my husband. Alone. This does not make me a bad person. Nor does it make me a bad mom. In fact, think it makes me a better mom. Screw you, society.

*Tyler changed his mind and decided to go! Thank you, Little Brother!

Mission Valley Sky: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Snapped at a stoplight last weekend

What I'm Thankful for This Holiday

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

At Thanksgiving dinner, someone asked my Gramma why her finger was splinted. She told the story of how she got the injury and all I could feel was gratitude.
Gratitudephoto © 2009 Kate | more info (via: Wylio)
My Gramma lives in the midwest. She's been taking the bus for years even though she has a license. Last month when she was coming home from the market she got off before her usual stop to get in a little exercise. She tripped, fell and landed on her right side. Her hand and arm broke some of her fall but not enough to protect her face. She was wearing sunglasses and they broke when her face hit the sidewalk, tearing the skin in the corner of her eye.

After the fall, she wasn't aware enough to dig her cell out of her purse. Fortunately, someone drove by and saw her lying there. The woman drove Gramma home, helped her inside and stayed until Gramma cleaned some of the blood off her face. Gramma is not sure how long she was on the ground. She doesn't remember the car ride to her house. She doesn't remember the woman's name. We're sure she must have blacked out.

The doctor visit afterward showed she had fractured the bones around her eye socket. Luckily there was no glass in her eye from her sunglasses and no bone fragments to worry about. She landed on the opposite side of her torn rotator cuff that she had surgery on last year, which is also lucky because that shoulder still gives her trouble. Her eye doctor says she won't need plastic surgery, she's healing well on her own. Her finger probably broke and didn't heal properly which is why she keeps it in a splint. But if that's the extent of her lasting injuries, we'll take it.

What happened to Gramma could have been so much worse. She doesn't live in the best neighborhood. An elderly woman; alone, injured and possibly unconscious is the perfect storm for something really, really bad. This holiday season, I am most grateful for the kindness of strangers.

Happy Birthday to My Husband

Monday, December 13, 2010

If you don't watch The Walking Dead this won't be funny. Even if you do watch, it still might not be funny.
Birthday Cakephoto © 2009 Omer Wazir | more info (via: Wylio)

Today is Phil's birthday. I'm really glad I married such a handy guy. He put in the wood floors in our kitchen and gave me recessed lights in the living room for my birthday. He can reach all the stuff on the high shelves, doesn't mind doing catch and release duty with spiders and I've never had to man the grill. 

But the real reason I'm glad I've kept him around? Zombies. We just watched the first season of The Walking Dead. After almost 12 1/2 years of marriage it took a TV show for me to find out my husband is an expert at the undead!

Each night of the show Phil would say, "That's totally unrealistic! Those people are so stupid!" and tell me what he'd do differently. And you know what? He's right. Those people ARE stupid. Phil's plan for the zombie apocalypse is so much better than what they've been doing on the show.

I know it's only season one, but with the mistakes the survivors have made so far, it's surprising they're still alive. Have they not driven past a single RV lot? Why aren't they sharpening sticks to make more bow and arrows? And what's with the tiny gas cans?

I can't share all the details of Phil's plan with you (gotta conserve resources, right?), but let's just say if you're not married to someone with military base access who knows how to drive a Humvee, fire a 50 Cal, and drive a LARK; you're zombie food. 

So, happy birthday babe. I'm so glad to be married to you. I feel better knowing we'll be just fine when the zombies start taking over. Just think, we could be the next Adam and Eve!

$1 for 3 Redbox Rentals: Groupon Deal Extended

It's still here! Through tomorrow, Groupon has an awesome offer for 3 Redbox rentals for only $1! I got mine last week when the offer first went live. You can buy it as a gift too! Pair this with a box of popcorn and two retro popcorn boxes (I see them in Target's $1 Spot all the time) and this is a very frugal gift!

If you don't have a Groupon account create one here.
This is a national deal that you might not be able to find easily. I found it under the Ft. Lauderdale page. You may need to sign in to your account and then come back and click the links or image below. 

Plus, if you have an Ebates account, you can get 6% cash back on Groupon purchases. Even better! 

*Affiliate links used

HOT! $10 off $10 Another great Hallmark Coupon!

Friday, December 10, 2010


Well it seems someone ruined the fun. Apparently, the coupon was altered and it's invalid. People who do that really piss me off. Those of us who try to use coupons legitimately end up looking like we're trying to pull a fast one. I apologize. I've used coupons from Deals Plus before with no problems. I hope none of you tried to use it yet and if you did and there were problems I'm so sorry. I'll definitely do more research before trusting that site again. 

In addition to the Hallmark $5 off $5 coupons in certain magazines, there's a great $10 off printable coupon on deals.plus. This is a great way to score free cards, wrapping paper or small stocking stuffers. 

You might be able to score free Almond Butter Toffee or Peppermint Vanilla diffusers depending on the offers in your store. Both are priced around $9. Add two .99 cards* and this a sweet deal!

The coupon is good through 12/24. Print it quickly before it's gone!

*Purchase needs to be $10 before taxes.

Childproof - Until They Can Read

Thursday, December 9, 2010

regulatephoto © 2010 anna | more info (via: Wylio)
From the 'funny things my kid says' files: 

Tyler just got over bronchitis. When he started his medicine I reminded him that he's not allowed to take it by himself. One night at bedtime he offered to open the cough syrup for me. I let him try knowing he wouldn't be able to. He asked why the top was just spinning and I explained what child proofing is and why it's used with medicine. 

A few nights later I told him to get ready for bed and that I'd be down shortly to give him his medicine before he brushed his teeth. When I got downstairs I saw him put the bottle down really quickly and he had that guilty 'I just did something' look on his face.

Tyler: Mom, can I ask you a question?

Me: Sure.

Tyler: If the people who make medicine don't want kids to be able to open the bottles, why do they print the instruction on the top of the lid? 

Me: That's an excellent question. You figured out how to open this, didn't you?

Tyler: [looking sheepish] Yes. [then excited] Wanna see me?

I had to laugh.

Hot Air Balloon: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Give the Gift of Reading {Scholastic Giveaway}

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

*CLOSED Congratulations Cindi!*

Phil and I both love to read. We wanted to pass that on to Tyler so we started reading to him when was a baby. It's been gratifying to watch Tyler's love affair with books develop. He was so happy to get his own library card! When we go to the library I recommend the books I read when I was his age.

He's almost finished with The Chronicles of Prydain series, he's started Judy Blume's Fudge books and some of the Encyclopedia Brown series. He's inherited his father's love of Sci Fi and Fantasy too. We think it's great that his bookshelves are so diverse.

I think reading opens so many doors. People who are well read are on their way to being well rounded. We see the benefit of Tyler's love of reading in his schoolwork and how much he likes to write stories. It feels good to see Tyler with a book. Loving to read is something he will always have.

When Scholastic asked if I wanted to host a giveaway so someone else could give the gift of reading I didn't hesitate. Books are one of my favorite new baby gifts. The sent me two books to review; Captain Sky Blue by Richard Egielski; and It's Christmas, David by David Shannon.

Both of these were really cute. It's Christmas, David is perfect as a bedtime story book for parents to read to young kids. The sentences are short and the pictures are colorful and fun. Captain Sky Blue is also a good bedtime book for younger kids but is also good for new readers.

Would you like copies of your own? Scholastic gave me a HUGE prize pack filled with the most popular children’s books in the marketplace to offer one lucky reader!

One winner will receive these titles: Captain Sky Blue, It's Christmas, David, Ook and Gluk as well as Tony Baloney, Odious Ogre and I Spy Christmas A Tree! The prize pack is valued at almost $90.

How do you win? You know I like to keep it easy. 

1. Is reading important in your home? What are your kids' favorite books? Do they love to read or is it a chore? Answer any (or all) of the questions in the comments and be entered to win (required).

2. I MUST have a way to get in touch with you! I will have to delete comments with no contact info.

3. Comments will close on Tuesday, December 14th at 11:59pm CA time.

4. I will use random.org to draw the winner and post the results/notify winners via email and Twitter.

5. For two extra entries: (not required) Tweet, and/or blog about this contest and leave each of your links in a separate comment (three contest entry opportunities total). You will need a free Twitter account.

6. If the notified winner has not responded within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen.

7. You do not have to follow or subscribe to this blog as a method of entry (but you're more than welcome to!). Tweet as often as you like, but only one Tweet will count as an extra entry. Leave one comment for each entry. Here is the URL to this post: http://bit.ly/ScholasticBooksGiveaway

8. The contest is open to US entrants only. 
Thank you to Scholastic for supplying the review and giveaway items! Good luck!

I'm Not Dead, Just Busy

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Well hello, December. I didn't think I'd be seeing you again so soon! Holy time warp. Where did the year go?! I'm hoping to get back on track with posts this week. 

Between the walk, leaving town for Thanksgiving, having my Gramma here for a week, Tyler's bronchitis, more family in town this weekend and the Charger Raider game this afternoon (we're all going) I've been running around like the proverbial chicken.

I want to tell you all about the walk, I have a giveaway and want to talk about a book I read, The Conversation by Hill Harper. It's a relationship book. The chapter on interracial relationships (which I skipped ahead to) made me sad. 

Have a great Sunday!
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