Friday, April 21, 2017

Revisiting Reward Programs


Recently I received two free bags of cat food from Purina because I cashed in some of my reward points from the My Perks reward program. So, I wanted to make a post to update my readers. 

You can earn points with the My Perks program by signing up and doing various activities such as following them on Facebook and Twitter, sharing your cat's name, updating your profile, and logging in daily. You can also earn points by entering the codes found of the bags of Purina Cat Chow. 

I've gotten several free bags of cat food from the program over the years, which helps me to save money. I like to feed my cats Purina Cat Chow because it is a brand that I trust and is not made in China. 

Another reward program I use is Inbox Dollars, which is a program where they pay you to read the emails they send to you. You can also do surveys and watch videos to earn money. You do have to have $30 in your account before they allow you to cash out, but it only takes a few minutes a day to do and I think it's worth the time. I have around $32 right now, but I've cashed out with $30 twice before already, so I know this program works. 

Send Earnings is the same type of rewards program as Inbox Dollars. I've cashed out with them for $30 before and already have over $20 in my account now and will be cashing out with them again soon. 

I also still use Swagbucks and Recycle Bank as well. I find these programs to be worth the time I invest and I hope you do as well.  :)

Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ginger Chicken Stir Fry ~ Monday Night Dinner

On Monday night I made a Chicken Stir Fry loosely based on this recipe for Ginger Chicken Stir Fry from Heidi's Home Cooking

This was a very good recipe and my family loved it. I used fresh ginger, which really reminded us of our favorite salad dressing at a local Japanese restaurant. 

We are not fans of mushrooms and I did not have any asparagus on hand, so I used a bag of Cole slaw mix instead. Next time I might even add two bags. 

The sauce was very good and tasted authentic. 

The cost was under $6.00 to make and fed two of us for dinner and one for lunch on Tuesday. 

We will definitely be having this one again. 

Here is the recipe with my changes in red. 

Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz cleaned, de-stemmed mushrooms (Did not use)
  • 1 bunch asparagus cut in 2 inch pieces (Did not use)
  • 1 medium onion cut in thin wedges
  • 4-5 chicken breasts (1 lb) cut in 1 inch pieces
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp oil (divided)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (I used fresh ginger)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (I use cayenne pepper)
  • 1 bag Cole slaw mix (instead of mushrooms & asparagus)

Directions:

Cut all vegetables.
Cut up chicken into 1 inch pieces and mix with the flour. 
Save flour bowl for sauce.
Mix all wet ingredients and spices in bowl with leftover flour.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in wok and cook chicken about 5 minutes or until brown.
Remove chicken and set aside.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in wok and saute vegetables about 5 minutes or until tender.
Add in sauce and bring to a boil.
Add reserved chicken and stir to combine.
Serve warm over rice.


Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Frugal Week

Since I did not work today, I cleaned the bathroom first thing and then made myself busy in the kitchen. I had several items to put away that I bought over the weekend.

I went to Walmart this weekend because I was out of vegetable oil and they have the best price on this item. 

Normally the one gallon jugs are $5.78, but they had them on Sunday for $4.98, so I bought two gallons. 

These will probably last me until the end of the year if not longer. 


In the Crash & Burn section of two different stores, I found white popcorn in the two pound bags for $1.14 and Lima Beans for $1.14. Odd that they were the same price even though I found them at two different stores. 



Publix had Keebler Club crackers on sale for buy one get one free. I used some of my points at Kellogg's Family Rewards to print $1.00 off coupons, so I was able to get two boxes for 75¢ each. 

While I was in the kitchen this morning I made meatballs to have later in the week for dinner one night, easy sausage quiche to have for breakfasts, and am making a chicken stir fry for dinner tonight. 

A while back I had two bottles of onion powder that became hard as a rock, so I decided to contact the company about this. They were kind enough to send me two bottles through the mail. It definitely pays to let them know about things like this. 



What frugal things have you done lately?

Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Free Breakfast on Tuesdays in April at Chic-Fil-A

https://www.chick-fil-a.com

Chick-Fil-A is offering free breakfast to everyone on Tuesdays in April. 

My daughter went this past Tuesday and was given a box of four chicken minis for free right before she went to school. 


Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In My Frugal Kitchen


We had some apples that no one was eating that I wanted to use up, so I dehydrated them over the weekend and put them into jars when they were done. These make a great substitution with a sandwich for potato chips and are much healthier.

Monday was a rainy day, so I spent the day indoors puttering around in my kitchen. I first started by cleaning out the refrigerator to make sure to use up anything that needed using before it was too late. 


There was a lurking package of almond bark left over from the holidays that needed using up. So, I made a batch of my granola bars using this recipe and dipped eight of them in the chocolate. They were a big hit with the family.



Monday lunch was burritos using some left over taco meat, cheese, and sour cream. Using up the last of the taco meat, I made taco salads for dinner. 

On Monday night I soaked some garbanzo beans to make hummus with on Tuesday to have for lunches this week. 

Tuesday I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for us to take to school & work along with water and some of the dried apples I made this weekend. 

For dinner on Tuesday (and Wednesday's lunch) I decided to use up some lurking items. 

An opened boxed of lasagna noodles, a bowl of sauce, plus two opened jars of sauce, some spinach, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese made for a good vegetable lasagna. 


The finished product: 

One side dish I made on Monday has served us for several dinners this week, and that was roasted carrots and cabbage. 



What's been going on in your kitchen?

Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Frugal Spring Break

Spring Break was this past week, so I did not work, but did several fun things, and checked several things off my to do list which includes...

Sewing - I repaired several garments that were in need of sewing over Spring Break. I could have spent money and bought new items, but want to see how long I can make the ones I have last without spending any money. 

Oil Change - My daughter's car requires synthetic oil and therefore costs more money than a regular oil change. Even Walmart charges $48 for an oil change with synthetic oil.

Her uncle is a full time mechanic, so I suggested she check with him to see where she could get a good deal. He told her to bring it by the shop and he would change it for her. 

He only charged her $20 for the supplies he used, so she got a good deal and it was less expensive than having someone else do it for her. She also gifted him with some hand soap and shampoo that we had couponed for that day. 



Eating Out - We did not eat out over Spring Break, but we did go to the English Rose tea room in Chattanooga and had a pot of hot tea on Wednesday afternoon, which only cost $3.50 per person. 

A pair of turtle doves landed on the fence right outside the window while we were there. 





Thursday turned out to be a beautiful spring day, so we had a picnic in the park. I brought sandwiches and drinks from home and we had a good time together feeding birds as well as ourselves until it was time for her to return to school. 


Dinners this week have included Meatloaf, Cabbage Rolls, Homemade Chili, and Tacos and Chili Tacos. I've been finding some great prices on both marked down and on sale ground beef, so we have been having it on our menus more than we usually have. 


Yard Sales - On Friday we wanted to yard sale, but think the rain on Thursday night made most of them choose to not set out their items for sale. 

We did happen on one church yard sale and found something on our yard sale list, which was an office chair for $5.00 for my daughter. 


I was going to buy her a new one this year, but decided to shop around and wouldn't you know it? We found one right at the start of yard sale season. They even had several to choose from, so she was able to sit in all of them and find the one she liked best. 

On Saturday we were on our way to the library but decided to yard sale again first. I'm glad we did because we crossed off another thing on my yard sale list...a sewing machine!

If you recall, my sewing machine stopped working back in August of 2015, so I've waited patiently for 19 months to replace it. We found one at a barn sale on Friday, but the price with the cabinet was $150, so we declined. 

The one we found on Saturday had a tag on it marked $40 and works good, but this was close to the end of the day and my daughter heard they were going to start letting things go cheaper. So I offered up $20 and they counter offered with $25, so I bought it. 

Here is a photo of the tag and machine:



I'm so tickled. I have several projects that I want to do now that I am back in business with a sewing machine.  :)


Other things we found today include a towel for $1.00, a jacket for $2.00 (talked her down from $4.00), two umbrellas for $1.00, and two new blankets for my daughter. She would have blankets a mile high on her bed if she could. LOL


How was your weekend?

Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday


Food City is really good about sending texts every now and then for a free item. On Monday they sent a text for us to come  in and get a free can of Bush Baked Organic Beans. Since my daughter and I both have a card there, we were able to pick up two free cans. 


This week I am on Spring Break. Last week there were several students who had the sniffles and I woke up on Saturday with a sore throat, so I made sure to have some hot tea to see if I could nip whatever this was in the bud. 


My honey was crystallized when I went to use it, but now that I have a microwave, I no longer have to boil the jar in hot water on the stove. I just had to microwave it in increments of one minute and it was as good as new after two minutes. 

On Sunday morning I made a big breakfast for everyone. We had sausage, scrambled eggs, tomato slices, toast, cantaloupe and red grapes. 



 Today I took Mom to the dentist and ran a few errands. 

How was your Tuesday?

Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saving Money on Prescriptions

My doctor told me one time that pharmacies like Walgreen's and CVS usually charge more money for prescriptions than smaller pharmacies. For the most part that is correct, but as with any area it really pays to do your homework and do the research. 

Our insurance company will only pay for a certain number of prescriptions per month and since we use more than the allotted amount I have to pay cash for the other prescriptions we use each month, so I did my homework last year and have definitely saved money in this area. 

The first thing I did was to write down all of our prescriptions so I could have this information all in one place. Then I figured out how much each one cost at CVS, which is the pharmacy we regularly use. 

CVS is my go to pharmacy because they give detailed information with each prescription, they have a convenient drive through service, and they give me a free bottle of water every time I fill a prescription.  However, the down side to that is they charge a lot more money for certain prescriptions. 

During my research I called multiple pharmacies to ask them the cost of each prescription. And I found out some interesting details such as...

Did you know Publix offers some drugs for free such as Montelukast (my daughter and I both take this drug), Amlodipine, Lisinopril, and Metformin all for free? They also offer certain antibiotics for free as well. You can read about their free prescriptions here. CVS charges over $100 to my Insurance company for the Montelukast. 

Fresh and Low, a locally owned grocery store here, also offers some prescriptions for free along with free antibiotics, and free monthly vitamins for children under the age of 18 years old. 

Another way of saving money on prescriptions is to shop around for the $4.00 prescriptions that became popular a few years ago. 

Food City has become my second go to pharmacy for this reason. I have been able to save so much money getting several of my prescriptions at Food City for only $4.00 verses the astronomical prices for the same drugs at CVS. 

I love CVS, but I have to do what is in the best interest for me and my family and our budget. 

My Mom uses Walgreen's pharmacy and she thinks they are the bee's knees. She has a prescription for high blood pressure that she was unable to fill at Walgreen's because they wanted $79 for it and she is on a limited income. 

After a great deal of discussion I finally convinced her to call Food City and check their price of the drug. She called and Food City offers the same drug for $21, so I took Mom about two weeks ago and had her prescription filled. 

You want to know what she told me this week? 

She said that she felt so good, knowing that she was able to take her blood pressure medicine EVERY day because she was able to afford it. I didn't even know she was only taking it every other day because of the cost.  As you can imagine, that made me very sad. 

Mom was reluctant to change pharmacies because she is a loyal customer and didn't want to leave a place she had used for years. And many people probably feel that way, but if you are trying to save money in this area, I would consider calling around and seeing if you are able to save yourself some money. I know we certainly were able to do that. 

I hope you find this information helpful. 

Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Monday, March 20, 2017

Childhood Hunger

RockStarFinance.com is such a great website run by J. Money and Nate St. Pierre. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the terrific Directory of Personal Finance Blogs they created.  

Well now they are doing even something better and more beneficial to our communities. 

They've started a program called the Rockstar Community Fund, and specifically the #GivingCards project.  

The idea behind the program is for people to pool together their money and use it to do good in their communities. Specifically they give away five $20 Visa gift cards every month to people to use to do good in their own communities.

Well I loved the idea and immediately thought about the snack pack program at the middle school, which I've written about here before. This is the school where I sub the most and I have seen the need there first hand.  

I explained on the application that this area is a poor rural community where over half of the students are on government assistance due to low incomes. 

Oftentimes these students leave school on Friday and don't have another hot meal until they return to school on Monday. Some of them have no one to cook a meal for them. 

The snack pack program helps to fill a void in their lives by sending them home with a bag of food so they will have something to eat over the weekend. 

The most requested item for the program is canned pasta and canned soup because this is something easy for a middle school aged student to fix for him or herself. 

One of the problems with the program is that it is severely underfunded. There are over 100 students on the program and even with donations, there is often not enough food to meet the needs of the students. 

Because of that, I decided to apply for one of the $20 Visa cards from the Rockstar Community Fund to buy some food for these student. The application for the snack pack program was approved and I received the $20 Visa card earlier this month. 


 Well you know me. I did my research and found the best deal I could to use this money wisely. I knew that the cheapest place to find canned pasta would be at Walmart. 

Now I know some of you don't care for Walmart, but I was looking to buy as many cans of pasta that I could for this $20.00.


Lucky for us, my daughter even found some coupons for Spaghettios. The coupons were 40¢ off for two cans. So on Saturday, my daughter and I went to Walmart and picked up 26 cans of Spaghettios with meatballs. The pasta was 98¢ per can, but with the coupon would be 71¢, which was cheaper than the 80¢ cans of Chef Boyardee. 

Here is a photo of the bags of Spaghettios. It was dark this morning when I took the picture. 


I'm so thrilled and grateful to the people at Rockstar Finance who created such a beautiful program to help people help in their own communities. I am grateful that they decided to help me help the students in my community with childhood hunger. 

And since we are not supposed to take pictures of students and post them on the Internet, I posted some photos of the school hallway this morning before they arrived. 


I was early enough to catch the custodian cleaning the office inside.  :)


And here is a photo of the classroom I worked in today before the students arrived. 


I want to send a big thank you to Nate St Pierre, J. Money, and the Rockstar Community for donating the money to help alleviate childhood hunger. We could do not this without people like you helping with programs like this.

Thank you!

Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Grocery Shopping Saturday

This week I perused the grocery store sale ads online since I did not pick up a copy of the newspaper. I looked through the sale ads, checked for coupons we had or could print and went shopping on Saturday morning. 

The first place we stopped at was Walmart because I had something to do that required shopping there that I will share in a blog post another time. I did pick up some croissants while I was there for $1.94 on markdown. 
After that we headed over to Food City. I had six coupons for $1.00 off Bush's Hummus Made Easy. Food City had it on markdown for $1.15, so I paid 15¢ for each of them. 

My daughter also found a rebate on them for 55¢, so we will be getting a rebate on them as well. 


We went early as I knew Food City would probably have meat markdowns and they did. 











I picked up three packages of premade hamburgers, three packages of cube steaks, two packages of small steaks (will make Swiss steak with these), and one package of pork chops. The total cost of the nine packages came to $23.91, which worked out to $2.66 a package. 

Our next stop was Sam's Club where I picked up four pounds of cheddar cheese and a block of American cheese. I also picked up a rotisserie chicken for dinner while I was there. 



Next stop was the Bakery Outlet to get bread. This one is located on Bonnie Oaks Drive in Chattanooga, which has better prices than the one located in Cleveland. 


I bought two loaves of Butter Bread for 79¢ each, 1 package of hamburger buns for 69¢, and two packages of hot dog buns for 69¢ each. 


My next stop was Aldi where I picked up four bags of onions, which were on sale for 89¢, and four cartons of eggs, which were on sale for 59¢ a dozen, which was an unadvertised special. 


My last stop of the day was at Publix where they had Oscar Meyer beef hot dogs and Mt. Olive Pickles both at buy one get one free, so I picked up two packages of hot dogs and four jars of pickles - two were dill and the other two were bread and butter. The hot dogs were $2.75 each, which is a great price for beef hot dogs. 




I spent a total of $80.21 today and saved $6.00 in coupons. All of these items will be added to our freezer and pantry to make meals over the course of the next few weeks. 

One of the ways we save money on our grocery bill is to shop the sales and markdowns as I've tried to show you in this post. 

I hope it was helpful.  :)

Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~