Thursday, December 29, 2011

Painless Budgeting Redux

Miss MoneyPenny was going over her budget this morning and realized that it is going to be slim pickins in the old household until payday.  Eeeks!!  The holidays sure are spendy, but if you have adopted the MoneyPenny Method, you may be broke, but at least you don't have credit card debt.

This might just be a good time to revisit my budgeting method, being as it is just about the new year, and that is a good time to start managing your money, as well as start your new diet.  Miss MoneyPenny lives on library wages and a small check for doing the bookkeeping for Weathers Plumbing, but even if you have an endless stream of money, you want to get the most out of it, don't you?



I keep track of my whole financial life in a cheap three column ledger, pictured above, divided into four parts.  Part one is for all money that comes in.  I date it, indicate where it came from and how many hours worked.  This is just for my information and includes paychecks, rebates, Ebates, annual Costco check, tax refund, etc.

Part two is my monthly budget and I have a page for each category.  This will take some time to figure out, but is really worth it.  I strive for balance, not the absolute least that I can live on.  Once you get this nailed down, you are ready for the next step.

Part three is really what makes this system work and I do find it to be almost painless.  I have this part divided into five categories - yours will most likely be different, depending on your lifestyle.  These are the kinds of things that drive us to use our credit cards and never get out of debt.  I used to think that replacing my washing machine was an emergency, not just regular household maintenance.  And Christmas - who could believe that it came around again in December, just like last year?

Anyway, you get the idea.  My categories include medical, auto, vet bills, holidays and home maintenance.  These are the areas that can cause trouble for me, so I try to be prepared.  This is where your monthly budget comes into play.  Once you have that established and it is working well, you take the excess and start dividing it among your categories.  This does take some time, depending on your income.  I have only had mine fully funded a couple of times, because life just keeps happening, but I've got it covered when I get hit with that big vet bill or car insurance.

Miss MoneyPenny paid the minimum on the credit cards until this fund was up and running.  I know that this goes against everybody else, but how else will you ever get out of credit card debt if you have to keep using them?  Once your categories are funded enough to start taking over the "emergencies" you can start paying those cards down.  I started with the card that had the lowest balance, paying it off first, then taking that money and applying it towards the next one, still paying the minimum on the last one until I was at a zero balance.  That felt really good.

Part four keeps track of my savings.  Remember that you always pay yourself first.  Period.

I know that you don't think that this is painless, but it doesn't hurt near as bad as debt.  Give it a try and we will talk in six months.  I guarantee that you will think differently about your money.  If you have questions, leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Grocery Basket 12/28

According to the MoneyPenny Research Department food prices are going to continue to rise in 2012, along with everything else.  I'm trying to not have a panic attack here, thinking about how I'm going to squeeze my budget even more this coming year.  It is becoming more important that we eat with the seasons, instead of what we feel like that day.  Not too many of us love parsnips and brussell sprouts but that is what is in season, not strawberries or green beans, which we do love.  And stocking up on the loss leaders at the grocery store, along with using our coupons is a must.  Good luck.

Here is what I'm looking at this week at QFC, might as well start off with beer:

Stella Beer - $7.99/6 pack
Herbal Essences shampoo - $5/2 (PG/11/27)
Coleman organic whole chicken - $2.79/lb
Cuties California Clementines - $3.99/3 lb bag (S/12/4)
Organic Fuji apples - $1.49/lb
Red grapefruit - $4.99/10 lb bag
Red bell peppers - $1 each

Here is an easy winter soup using those bell peppers:

1 yellow onion
Garlic
3 bell peppers
1 lb Roma tomatoes

Cut these guys up and toss them with olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 until you like the way they look.  Scrape them into your Vitamix or blender with chicken broth and give them a good whiz, adding the broth to get the right consistency.  If you don't mind a few veggie skins, add a good dollop of sour cream, season to taste, and you are ready for a tasty bowl of soup.  If the skins are an issue, strain the soup before you add the sour cream.  This makes about four to six servings, depending on how much broth you add.  I never strain out the skins.  We need roughage, after all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

News You Can Use 12/27

Now, you know that Miss MoneyPenny is a knitter and what a sad thing it was when Dinah's Yarn Store closed earlier this year.  Good news!!  Dale Hagen, an elegant lady up from L.A., has bought the store and it is now called Port Hadlock Yarns (http://www.porthadlockyarns.com/).  I dropped by today to check the place out and was very impressed.  I was thrilled by the large selection of beautiful sock yarn (Miss MoneyPenny's specialty) and all the other gorgeous yarns on display. 

I have a feeling that this store is going to become a "destination" shopping experience.  You feel welcome when you walk in and just know that you could bring your knitting problem and somebody would sit down and help you out.  It is now hip to knit and this store definitely reflects this.  Be careful, though, I walked out with two skeins of stunning sock yarn that I didn't know that I couldn't live without.


Also, I came across a new site that proved to be helpful right away.  It is called DealNews (http://dealnews.com/) and it lists daily online deals.  I'd noticed that my favorite ex husband's old Norelco has been having issues the last few times that I shaved my legs and I had to bang it on the counter to get it to turn on.  I was reading a financial article online yesterday morning with my coffee,  and they had a link to DealNews, so I linked.  I was quite pleased to see that Target.com had Norelco shavers for $19.99, free shipping.  I was on it.  That was just dumb luck, but it wouldn't hurt to check it out if you know that you need to buy something.  They also have interesting articles, which are listed in the same way as the deals. 

Amaryllis update:

I almost feel bad about posting this picture of the beautiful amaryllis in her fading glory.  She was certainly a wonderful addition to Christmas this year and we got a lot of enjoyment from her.  I've been reading up on what to do after they finish blooming and it does not agree with how I did it. Since my method worked, I'm going to cut off the stem and flowers (for the compost, of course) and stash her back in the guest room and forget about her.  In the summer, she can live outside and get a good tan and then freeze to death in the early winter before I bring her back in and stick her under the sink in the bathroom for a couple of weeks.  Should work.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Book Shelf 12/26

Now, you know that Miss MoneyPenny is a voracious reader and sometimes I like to share what I've been reading that stands out from the crowd.  Since I work at the Library I rarely buy books, except ebooks for my Color Nook, and not too many of those.  The Library is the best deal in town.  Its free!!  And you can't beat free, but occasionally a special book, or, as in this case, an author, comes along that is worth putting down your cold hard cash for.

Product Details

That author is Molly Stevens and she is a cookbook author.  You may remember her All About Braising.  Her new book is All About Roasting and it is a beaut.  She is the kind of writer that not only do you want to cook her recipes and try out her techniques, but you just want to read her for the pleasure of her writing.  Definitely worth the $35 and a great addition to your cookbook collection.

Product Details
    
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen is one of those Scandinavian mysteries that you see everywhere these days, but instead of being all dark and violent like The Girl Who...books, it is a joy to read.  You actually like the characters and hope for a sequel.  When you finish reading it, you hold it to your breast like Nancy Pearl and say "that was a good book."  With the other authors, you need a bottle of antidepressants when you get done wading through all the blood and cynicism.



The last book that I want to talk about is Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey.  This is a space opera.  I kid you not.  I've never been a fan of SF but this was a treat.  Think Star Trek on steroids.  I really enjoyed the characters, even though they were a little weird.  You have your "earthers" and you have your "belters" and everything else that goes along with race issues.  I admit that I scanned over the techie stuff, but the story was very entertaining.  This is one of those books that I can't quit thinking about.

You may have noticed that I lifted the book pictures off of Amazon.    I still haven't figured out a graceful way to get them on the blog, but I wanted to show the covers.  I sure hope Mr. Amazon doesn't read this blog and get all mad at me for using his stuff without permission, but most of us will be ordering Molly Stevens' book from him.  That should get me off the hook and make him happy. 




Return That "Thang"

Miss MoneyPenny really cleaned up at Christmas this year.  Bling and Macy's gift cards are the best a girl could hope for, but if you received something so butt ugly that you wouldn't wear it to the dump, you must return it and soon.  Having worked in retail back in the 70s, I know a little something about returns.  There are some unwritten rules to getting a successful outcome when it comes to returning an item and I'm gonna give them to you.

Rule #1:  Probably the most important - be nice.  Don't go in there all aggressive with a chip on your shoulder.  The sales clerk is in charge here and how she or he is treated can really make or break the deal.  Be charming.

Rule #2:  Return it as soon as possible, especially if you just need a different size.

Rule #3:  If at all possible, include tags and or a receipt.

Rule #4:  If you have received something that comes in packaging, try not to wreck the package.  They will be much happier about processing your return if they can put it back on the shelf and sell it to somebody else.

The best that you can expect in a return situation is cold hard cash, but that doesn't usually happen.  The next best thing is a straight across exchange, like the correct size.  Sometimes they will issue a store credit which is not so bad, as long as it isn't Wal Mart.  Who could find anything worth buying there?  Anyway, what you do not want to happen is getting a store credit for the lowest price this item sold for, or nothing at all.  Then you are stuck with it or you can try to sell it on Ebay.

If you follow Miss MoneyPenny's rules you should have a happy ending.  Just don't show the gift giver all the cool things that you got in exchange for what they got you.  That did not turn out to be a very happy ending.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rockin' Amaryllis

Miss MoneyPenny thought that she better get a picture of the amaryllis while it is fully in bloom - before it falls over.  This thing is so top heavy with blooms that I need to stake it, and very soon.  I'm hoping that it will last until Christmas before it starts to fade. 

I'm also including a picture of Big Mom's Christmas card because the two go together, don't you think?




Sunday, December 18, 2011

Knitting with the Seahawks

Miss MoneyPenny is a knitter and the best thing to knit to is a Seahawks game.  I've never been to a game but I sure enjoy watching the boys on television.  When you watch the game, there is plenty of time between plays to knit and not miss anything.  They make a play, then stop and pat each other on the butt, and sort out the latest penalty.  And there is all that instant replay.  Perfect for knitting. 

You may wonder where I'm going with this - as I am.  Seriously though, those of us who knit know that it can be a very expensive little addiction.  Buying quality yarn for a sweater can set you back over $100, easy.  I used to not blink an eye at this, but times are different now.  The problem is that I still love that gorgeous yarn and want to knit with it.  And there is so much beautiful stuff out there now that it is hip to knit.  Those of us who have always knitted remember the old days when our choices were pretty limited.  Now there is yarn that is handpainted and a work of art in silk, cashmere, merino, alpaca and beautiful cotton.  What to do.

Since I can't seem to get off of the good stuff, I knit socks.  For $20 to $30 you can knit a pair of beautiful socks while enjoying that wonderful yarn as it slips through your fingers.  And who doesn't want a pair of handmade socks made from some gorgeous, arty yarn?  So the sky is the limit when it comes to my socks.  I can afford to buy any yarn that flips my skirt because I only need enough to make a pair of socks.  I prefer to knit on size one needles, so the knitting takes quite some time to finish.  So, now you see where I'm going with this - for a doable price, I get beautiful yarn, lots of quality knitting time and the Seahawks winning.  Brilliant!

Amaryllis update:





This little baby is so beautiful it is almost unreal.  Who knew?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fruitcake - Love it or Leave it

When it comes to fruitcake, you either really, really love it, or really, really hate it.  Miss MoneyPenny comes down firmly on the side of the fruitcake lovers, and does not understand those ghastly games of fruitcake catapult that you hear about.  That is a terrible waste of good fruitcake!

I've never met a fruitcake that I didn't just love, but my mom made the world's best.  Actually, I had my first gall bladder attack because of fruitcake.  Mom sent me home with a big wedge of it and just like she taught me, I toasted it and buttered it up for breakfast. After I ate it, I thought that I was having a heart attack and was going to die anyway, so I went shopping.  I must have been a strange color because all the clerks looked at me funny, but I made it to have several more attacks before I finally gave up and had that useless thing removed.

I digress.  When I was a child, Mom would make the fruitcakes in the fall.  They were the kind with lots of those candied fruits and lots of nuts.  Every Sunday we would go out to her canning shelf and pour a jigger of brandy over each of the little cheesecloth wrapped beauties.  By Christmas they were definitely ready to party.  What was not to love?  Alcohol and sugar.  What a great combination.

I am now in possession of Mom's recipe and discovered that it is from the 40s.  When I finally get around to retiring, I'm going to make that recipe and do the brandy thing, too.  Since I no longer have that pesky gall bladder, I can enjoy fruitcake for breakfast, slathered in butter, of course, and think of Mom.

If there are any other lovers of traditional style fruitcake out there, leave a comment and I will send you Mom's recipe.  You won't be sorry.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Prime Rib

Miss MoneyPenny was noticing that QFC has rib roast on sale for $6.99 a pound this week.  In our family, this is the big deal for Christmas Eve dinner.  Back when my parents were alive, sister SmartyPants and I had taken to putting on the big feed.  We would get everything ready - leaving directions with Mom to put it into the oven at the correct time - then we would leave for the day and go buy ourselves good Christmas presents and have lunch, with dessert.

The idea was that when we got back, the roast would be ready and all we had to do was the finishing touches.  We had it down to a science.  After a few years of this, Mom got a little cranky about having a big bunch of loud, boisterous people (her children) in her house and just wanted to get the whole thing over as soon as possible and get back to peace and quiet.  So, she would put the roast in as soon as we backed the car out.  We all developed a real taste for well done prime rib after that. 

I've heard that there are different ways to cook rib roast than the way SmartyPants and I do it, but this way always turns out a perfectly cooked piece of meat...as long as your mother doesn't put it in the oven at 10:00 when dinner is planned for 5:00.  What you do is pat your meat dry, then rub it with olive oil and lots of salt and pepper.  Put it in a roasting pan, fat side up, without a cover at 325.  Cook it until your meat thermometer tells you it is almost ready, because you need to let it stand covered for about 15 minutes before you carve it and it will cook a little more.  As a rough estimate, I figure about 30 minutes per pound, but trust your thermometer.

Speaking of trusting - don't trust your butcher when it comes to how much meat to buy.  A couple of years ago, I went up to QFC to preorder my roast.  When the butcher asked how big, I told him that I was feeding six people.  Two weeks later when I picked it up, I was stunned when the bill was $120.  We had tons of meat and everybody went home with some, but I kept the bones.  They are very tasty when roasted with barbecue sauce and served with cole slaw and rolls or biscuits.  You will thank me for this idea, and do remember the napkins.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter Gardening

Everybody that knows Miss MoneyPenny is aware of her aversion to going outside in the cold and rain and mucking about in the mud.  I don't want you to think that I am outside throwing up cold frames or anything, but there are a few things that get tended to.  Last weekend we finally got the veggie garden put to bed and we just about froze to death, but it is done.

Keeping with the idea that I started with last summer, I picked up some gorgeous bulbs that they had on sale at QFC.  You will remember that almost my whole gardening effort last summer came from the QFC parking lot.  And everything did very well!!  Anyway, the mums that I planted in the pot on the front porch were beautiful this fall, but they froze up and look really bad.  I'm going to remove them to the compost pile where they will live again later as black gold and put the bulbs in their place.  When they come up in the spring, it will be a stunner of white and purple.

Are your Christmas cactuses blooming?  Both of mine are and I have no idea what I did right, but there you have it, and on time, to boot.

Speaking of Christmas flowers, last year was very embarrassing for Miss MoneyPenny.  I bought several Smith & Hawken amaryllis bulbs and gaily gave them out to friends and family, and one for myself, of course.  They all either died outright or never bulbed.  Mine just had leaves.  They were healthy but who wants long green leaves?  Naturally Miss SmartyPant's amaryllis was the only one that bloomed, but that girl could get a Boston fern to bloom, so that doesn't count.

This summer I noticed that plant in the guest room, so I cut it back to the bulb and put it out in a corner of the deck and never paid any attention to it, thinking that I would dump it into the compost, which I never did.  I noticed it a couple of weeks ago and thought I saw a touch of green still, so I put it under the sink in the bathroom.  I remembered it a few days ago and... ta da!!


The guy from Seattle asked me what color my phallic symbol is going to be.  I have no idea.  It never bloomed but I will keep you updated.  I now know how to grow one of these babies.  Cut them to the bulb. Throw them out on the hot deck all summer, never water or fertilize them, and then let them freeze to death.  A few weeks before Christmas, put them under the sink in the bathroom.  When you remember, take them out and water and fertilize.  Works like a charm.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grocery Basket 12/09

Miss MoneyPenny can't decide whether to use the 35 year old twinkly lights or the new fancy dancy much safer blue LED lights.  I put the new ones on the big ficus last year and they were so bright that you could knit with black fingerling yarn with them.  At night!  And Miss SmartyPants said that she could see the glow all the way to Oregon.  That may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.  I really, really want to put up my old lights, but I really, really don't want to burn down the house.  Surely, they won't catch fire if they are unplugged. 

Aside from the Christmas tree lights dilemma, this is what QFC has to offer this week:

Cuties California clementines $3.99/3 lb (coupon SS/12/4)
Honeycrisp apples $1.99/lb
Mangoes $1/ea
Anjou pears $1/lb
Red grapefruit $4.99/10 lb bag
Starbucks coffee $6.99/12 oz (coupon SS/12/4)
QFC butter $4/2
QFC cottage cheese $1.99/24 oz
Organic fingerling potatoes $2.99/lb

There are no vegetables or fresh fish on sale this week, so we headed over to Chimacum Corners and bought Shorts Farm organic stew meat, fresh vegetables and greens.  While we were there, we noticed that they had Fuji apples for .99/lb and they were organic with no wax.  Also, their fingerling potatoes were $1.59/lb  instead of QFC's $2.99/lb, so savvy shoppers might check out the local guys before laying down hard earned cash with the big guys.  Just saying.

In case you were wondering, tomorrow night is the Full Cold Moon and I'm sure it will be.  And you will probably never read another blog where the word "fingerling" is used three times.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Better Christmas Gifts

Anyone who knows Miss MoneyPenny will tell you that she turns into a shape shifter during the holidays.  I don't know why but they bring out the worst in me.  Actually, that is a big lie.  I do know why and one of the big reasons is that money really gets wasted on stuff that people don't really want and can't sell on eBay later.

Miss CutiePie and I were chatting about this the other day and she suggested this post.  I like her ideas.  How about supporting our local businesses by purchasing gift cards?  The ideas that come to mind are passes to the Rose Theater, the local Car Wash and a favorite restaurant.  Then there are pedicures and massages.  Who wouldn't love that?  If you want to really go all out there is always a gym membership.  You see where we are going with this.

Another idea that CutiePie had was to design your own coupons.  You could make it for the coolest things...like yard work, dog sitting or a homemade dinner.  I would love to have a coupon for all three, actually.  A person could really go crazy with this one.  You would only be limited by your imagination and what the intended giftee would appreciate.

In reality, most of us just don't need or want more stuff, unless, of course, we are talking jewelery here.  But that goes without saying.  When I hear that the average person is planning on spending $700 this Christmas on gifts, I wonder how much of that is going on a credit card.  Crazy. 

You do know that you won't get away with giving your six year old grandchild a coupon for Christmas.  When it comes to the kids, ignore all of the above because Christmas is for kids.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grocery Basket 11/30

Miss MoneyPenny has really been falling down on the job lately since that guy from Seattle has been occupying her attention.  It is difficult to have a job, a man, and a life all at once and give each one your best attention.  I have no idea how the moms out there do it, plus kids, and with such grace. 

Before I forget, I wanted to let you know about the "troubles" I've been having with Ebates.  We've been going round and round with the emails.  I think that I finally understand what the deal is.  I bought a $90 pair of UGGs during the daily double of 10%, but they did not credit my account.  According to Ebates they are waiting for UGGs to okay it and won't pay until they do.  I asked them to file a claim, which they say they did. 

As far as PetCareRx, I bought $147 of flea stuff at a 10% daily double.  I used a coupon for $10 off and free shipping, which I always do and get the credit in my Ebate account also.  I call this savvy shopping.  They call it "not so fast."  I'm now told that PetCareRx has been honoring both my coupon and the Ebates credit as a "courtesy" but not any more.

This is the deal:  Ebates gets their money from the business and they pass some of it on to us.  That is how they make their money.  The business gets our business and they make money, but they are starting to drag their feet...probably for all kinds of reasons, one being that they are sick of savvy shoppers getting a deal.  Calm down, MoneyPenny.  Anyway, check your Ebates account, making  sure that your deals are being credited.  If they aren't - make a claim.  Of course you keep your emailed confirmations in a little file titled "Ebates."  Thank Miss SmartyPants for that little tip.

Here are the QFC deals that I'm looking at this week:

Satsumas 3.99/5 lbs
Fuji/Galas $1/lb
Kroger Cheese 2.99/lb
Darigold butter 2/$5
Starbucks coffee 6.99/lb
Fresh rockfish fillets 5.99/lb
QFC cottage cheese 1.99/24 oz
Fage Greek yogurt $1/ea

I checked and there are no coupons for any of these items.  There also aren't any great deals on veggies this week.  The guy from Seattle prefers organic, so we will head over to Chimacum Corners for their beautiful, locally grown vegetables.  We are not talking tomatoes or summer squash here, but carrots, greens and potatoes which are what is being grown at this time of year.  Our local growers are doing a bang up job and we want to support them because I'm sure not going to muck around out in the cold digging up spuds and parsnips.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Black Friday

Miss MoneyPenny never participates in that insanity called Black Friday...at least, not any more.  Miss Maggie May and I got the bright idea back in 1997 that we needed to experience the mother of all shopping days and it began with us almost getting into a fist fight with a bunch of teenagers driving the wrong way and stealing our parking spot, after at least 30 minutes of trying to find ANY kind of spot to park in.  After we finally got cooled off we noticed that almost everyone was behaving badly.  We saw the guy in front of us completely lose it and drive through the landscaping rather than wait any longer in our long line of cars.  We quickly retired to Applebees for an early lunch and got the heck out of there.

Since we are now smart and savvy shoppers, our holiday shopping is pretty much done by Thanksgiving.  We know how much we are going to spend and who is going to get what.  We've been keeping our eyes open and have a plan.  We know that the best deals don't happen in the middle of crazytime.  And since we are really savvy, we plan a day off during the week close to Christmas when the stores are getting desperate and start the real markdowns and there are no crowds.  And we hit them early.  Since we've already taken care of the gift list, this is just for us.  I'm thinking bling or shoes.  We have to keep up the Christmas spirit, after all

And speaking of shopping, you may have noticed that turkeys are expensive this year, along with everything that goes with it.  These food prices might just be our new "normal" so watching the sales and coupon inserts is really important.  If you are doing holiday baking (Miss MoneyPenny doesn't because she eats it) there have been a lot of coupons for baking ingredients in the inserts, although not many sales.  Make a list of what you need and then go to www.couponmom.com to see which inserts have your coupons.  You have been keeping and organizing your inserts, of course.

Miss MoneyPenny does most of her shopping in the ether, taking advantage of cyber Monday and free shipping.  It is so much more dignified than fighting over parking spots or waiting in long lines, but if that turns you on, go for it.  Personally, I'm planning on going to see the new Muppet movie on that day. 

Here is the recipe for the famous MoneyPenny shrimp thingy.  It gets trotted out for all holidays even though Miss MoneyPenny has picked up a shellfish allergy.  This is really good and I got the recipe from my friend, Theresa, who got it from her mom.  It has to be from the 50s.

1 block cream cheese
1/2 pound fresh salad shrimp
1 bottle red seafood sauce
1 lemon
Box of Wheat Thins

Mix shrimp and seafood sauce.  Add a few squirts of lemon.  Pour over block of cream cheese.  Serve with one of those dainty little knives and the crackers.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Grocery Basket 11/12

Miss MoneyPenny did her grocery shopping on Saturday this week.  It wasn't as crazy in the store as I thought it would be, but I was prepared with my list, just in case.  The only item that I took a chance on was fish for dinner.  We found some really fresh fillet of sole for $5.99 a pound that was very tasty.  The fish lady (the best ever) told us to bake it at 400 with a drizzle of melted butter and salt and pepper.  She suggested three to four minutes, but seven worked better in my old oven.  Very simple but elegant, as my dear mother used to say.

QFC has a pretty good sale this week.  They are still running their Buy 10/Save $5 promotion if you need green beans for that famous Thanksgiving casserole.  That stuff sure looks like something that the cat threw up, but it tastes pretty good....and salty.  Here is what I was looking at:

Asparagus - 1.98/lb
Haas avocados - $1 ea ( In my humble opinion, you can't beat Costco for avocados.  They are twice the size and always ripen up nicely.)
Broccoli/Cauliflower - $1/lb
Tillamook medium cheese 2/lb - 4.99
Organic Fujis - 1.49/lb
Clementines - 3.99 for 3/lbs  (Miss CuteyPie told me that these were very good and she was right on.)
Spinach/leaf lettuce - $1 ea

I thought that this was a pretty good mix of sale items if you are trying to eat what is on sale and follow a thoughtful diet.  I did not use one coupon and still saved 38 percent on my grocery basket when I checked out.  It is very hard to find coupons for fresh food, but if you buy what is seasonal and on sale, you can save quite a lot.

You may have noticed that the guy from Seattle has been messing with my photo.  It is a work in progress and subject to change.  You know...these digital cameras can be dangerous, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Full Beaver Moon

Miss MoneyPenny has been so distracted lately.  Get it together MoneyPenny.  It has come to my attention that we are headed for winter...again!!  Where did summer go?  I wasn't done with it yet.  Anyway, where I'm going with this is that it makes sense financially to be prepared for winter and all that it can bring.  Before Miss MoneyPenny started taking care of her house by herself, she thought getting ready for winter was putting away the shorts and taking a vacation from shaving her legs.

Now, you know that Miss MoneyPenny believes in maintenance, not repair, in all things, so here are a few things that I've been doing.

For the CR-V I had my tires checked and rotated.  Then I had my favorite mechanic change the oil and flush and replace the old coolant (anti-freeze).  In August, my grandson put on a good coat of wax.

For the house I put a new filter in the furnace and made sure that the vents were all working properly.  My son, the plumber, made sure that I disconnected my outside hoses.  I plan to buy those gizmos that you put over the faucets so that they don't freeze up.  Even with a plumber in the family, broken pipes are not fun.  I have experienced this.  And don't forget the new battery in the smoke alarm and best of all...the flannel sheets and fuzzy slippers.

Outside is a work in progress but I did get all of my ceramic pots rolled over to the side of the house so that they don't freeze and crack.  My vegetable garden is black slime and is waiting for me to put it to bed for the winter.  I pull all the dead stuff and throw it in the compost.  Then I cover the garden with manure and compost and cardboard weighted down with bricks which equals zero weeds in the spring.  I had a chat with my lawn guy about mulching the flower beds when everything is through blooming, which will be soon.

I think I'm almost ready for Old Man Winter.  Plan for the worst, but hope for the best.  Maybe it will be balmy this winter and we get an early spring and a long, warm summer.  Sounds good, doesn't it?

The Full Beaver Moon?  That is tomorrow, the 10th.  I have no idea why it is called that or who thinks up the names of the full moon, but I always check to see what it is.  I have a vision of beavers frolicking in the moonlight singing Van Morrison's old song "Moondance."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Food Banking

Now, you know how Miss MoneyPenny has been beating you over the head about her favorite community program.  It has really been brought home to me by all the people coming into the library for help making their appointment with the energy assistance program.  I've never seen so many people needing help.  Would you rather eat or be cold?  That is what it is coming down to for so many people in our community.

There are a number of different ways that we can help our neighbors.  I prefer to give to the food bank.  You can give food or money, or both.  Mr. Know-it-all takes a big bag of quality dog food up to the animal shelter every month.  For birthdays and Christmas we donate to the food bank or animal shelter in each other's  name.  Miss MoneyPenny prefers to buy her own gifts anyway.  That way she always gets a good present.

I donate food all year, thinking that people aren't just hungry during the holidays.  Who thought that up anyway?  It really is pretty simple to work it into your routine.  This week I bought six cans of Starkist at 69 cents a can.  It did not break my budget.  You don't have to buy a whole bag of food at one time, just what you can afford.  This week was very unexciting sale wise, so I just bought a few basics and the tuna and it still only came to $17.

I realize that the food bank and the animal shelter aren't very exciting topics, but times are tough.  Since we are now such savvy shoppers and are always looking for the deal, we have a little extra for those in need.  If we don't have an emergency fund, an occasional expense fund and we have credit card debt and we lose our job, we could be depending on the kindness of others.  I know that was a run-on sentence but you get the idea.  We are a community and we care.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Daily Double

OK, kids.  If you are a card carrying ebater, and you should be, today is the day that Miss MoneyPenny waits for.  PetCareRx is 10% today.  This is how I work this deal:

Buy a year's worth of flea meds = $100
Use $10 coupon, get free shipping over $35 (SS/10/9)
Sub total = $90
Amount into ebates account = $9
Use American Express card = .90

What this means is that I'm getting those meds for $20 off and they are usually on sale at PetCareRx.  Check it out if you are a tree hugging flea carrying animal lover.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Grocery Basket 10/30

Now, you know that Miss MoneyPenny is a committed Weight Watcher.  I decided about six months ago that being overweight doesn't really work in the MoneyPenny household anymore.  I've heard for years how so many of the degenerative diseases that plague us are due to obesity.  Miss MoneyPenny never considered herself obese.  What a nasty word that it is.  Anyway, if you are buying your clothes in Plus Size, it is what it is, kitten.

When you buy your clothes in Plus Size they are more expensive and you have fewer choices.  You really have to work hard to find nice things that won't look more appropriate on your loving grandmother.  What is the deal with a nice looking hoodie completely ruined by embroidered birdies?  I don't want no birdies on my hoodies.  Anyway, you get the idea.

We talked about sugar at WW this week.  I used to have a boyfriend back in the 70s who called it "killer sugar" after reading a book and vowed to never eat it again.  As long as I knew him, he stuck to it.  Crazy.  So - according to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than two tablespoons of sugar per day.  We average over ten tablespoons a day, most of it hidden sugar.  I don't know about you but I want to experience my sugar, usually in the form of one of those yummy coffee drinks.  I KNOW that I'm getting my sugar.  None of this business with sugar in the canned vegetables where you don't enjoy it or even know that it is there.  So, beware of processed foods whether it be canned or boxed.  Those food corporations are sneaky.

Here is what I'm looking at this week at QFC:

Gala apples - $1/lb
Roma tomatoes - $1/lb
Raspberries - 3/$5
QFC lite sour cream - $1
Fresh wild Alaskan True Cod - $7.99/lb (The guy from Seattle cooked it this weekend and it was delish!)

For the Food Bank:

Kroger oats - $1
Hunts pasta sauce - $1
Barilla pasta - $1

Don't forget that QFC will give you a $25 grocery credit for transferring a prescription.  I've worked this deal and it is slick.  When I was at my doctor and I needed a new prescription, I had them call it in to Safeway.  A couple of months later I had QFC transfer it.  Works like a charm.  Be sure and take the ad with you for the credit.  I can't see a barcode on it but they want it.  I have heard of people transferring their prescriptions all over town to get these deals.  I don't know.  I think once is enough.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fire Plug

Miss MoneyPenny is a born again composter and recycler.  Before I got the Word I was told by a former boyfriend that I sure generated a lot of garbage.  I don't know how because I was eating off of food stamps and my sister's garden at that time, but I carried that habit with me through the years.  I can't begin to tell you how happy I was when my favorite ex-husband got a dumpster for his business.  Between us, we filled that thing up every week.

Then about 20 years ago I was leafing through a Smith & Hawken catalog when I noticed a kitchen composter.  I always thought composting was for farmers and you had to do a lot of pitchforking and I wanted nothing to do with that.  The picture showed a black, plastic box with louvers on the side and two little lift up doors toward the bottom.  The directions were simple.  Lift the lid and throw in your vegetable peelings and apple cores and magic dirt would come out the bottom.

It really was pretty easy.  The box came with a starter, which was just a bag of hot compost, and I started feeding it.  Coffee filters, tea bags, plant clippings, bottom of the birdcage, peelings and even vacuum cleaner bags.  Never see them again.  Once a year, I add a bag of hot chicken manure just to make things interesting.  If it gets dry, I hose it down.  If it starts to smell, I dig around in it so it can breathe.

Every spring I empty it out onto my garden and mix it with Miracle Gro potting soil for my deck plants.  In the fall, I fill it up over the top with the garden cleanup.  In no time those little wormies bring that pile right down so that the lid fits again.

Since it is up against a sunny wall, it cooks all year.  It never smokes or bursts into flames like some compost piles I have heard of, but it does a good job.

Here is a picture of my inside composting bucket:


The guy from Seattle calls it the fire plug.  It does kind of look like one.  I bought a blue one for Miss SmartyPants and was dismayed when she opened it and it was bigger than mine!!!

I hope that you give composting a try.  If you don't have a garden, just pour the magic dirt out.  Much better than living forever in the landfill.  I'm so serious about composting that I actually dug mine up and moved it to the new house when the big divorce happened.  I got those worms fair and square in the divorce settlement and they were going with me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grocery Basket 10/23/11

Miss MoneyPenny's friend from Seattle came over this weekend and there was great panic because this guy is a serious clean eater.  As in organic, so we headed for the food co-op.  I was really glad he was buying because the chicken that we bought was $15!!  I usually stock up when the price hits 69 cents a pound from the super market, so I really experienced sticker shock.

We took that chicken home and roasted it up with some carrots and potatoes.  It was delicious!  It really did taste better than the chicken that I usually eat.  Maybe the Michael Pollan types are on to something.  But I ain't gonna pay $15 for a chicken, unless it comes with a complimentary bar of good chocolate.  So check this out...QFC has this exact Ranger Free Range Chicken on sale for $1.59 a pound this week.  My calculations indicate that this chicken would be around $5 to $6.  Quite a savings, don't you agree? 

Speaking of QFC, here are the deals that I'm looking at this week:

New crop Fuji's - $1/lb
Haas avocados - $1/each
Broc/Cauli - $1/lb
Tomatoes on the vine - $1/lb
QFC butter - 2/$5
Ranger Free Ranger chicken (whole) - $1.59/lb
Tillamook cheese - $3.99/lb
Millstone coffee - $6.99/12 oz bag - $2 coupon =$4.99 (RP/10/23)

I figure that this basket of groceries will be about $30, unless I buy extra chicken for the freezer.  I did hit up Costco for bananas and butter lettuce this weekend.  I also have Dave's Killer Bread and Dianna's beautiful home grown chicken eggs, so I am set. 

I am curious as to what your grocery basket looks like, so leave a comment.  Although -- I tried to comment on a comment on MY OWN blog and it would not let me.  Go figure.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Grocery Basket 10/16

As you know, Miss MoneyPenny is concerned about high food prices.  If we are not careful our groceries can really take a big bite out of our budget these days.  I budget $50 a week for me and the critters and I refuse to give in.  Granted, I had a summer garden and I am pretty much a non meat eater, but quality food costs money.  The sad thing is that most, not all, but most of the coupons are for junk food, so you really have to sort through them to find the good ones.  I have mentioned Coupon Mom at http://www.couponmom.com/grocery-coupon-database-10 before as a great place to not only find coupons, but she lists the grocery deals.  All for free!!  Can't beat that.

For some strange reason I am not getting to my grocery shopping until Mondays after work lately.  In case you didn't know, that is a terrible time to shop, but a good time to get fresh produce and fish.  Monday is when all the fresh stuff comes in, so if you want fresh, go shopping on Monday afternoon.  Not in the morning because it is not all displayed yet and you will just get the wilty, stinky stuff leftover from the weekend.  Be forewarned -- the place is a zoo.

This is what I'm putting in my grocery basket this week from QFC:

Red grapes - .99/lb
Asparagus - 1.99/lb
Seedless cukes - 4/$5
Salmon - 9.99/lb
Pantene - 3.49/ea + .50 ecoupon + 2/$3 coupon ( RP/9/25) = one free

I did hit up Costco before Weight Watchers this weekend for a few things that they had coupons for.  Now I'm just trying to figure out where to store 48 12 ounce cans of V-8.  I love that stuff with a couple of squirts of Rooster Sauce.

My garden is pretty much a goner after a couple of light freezes.  I did pick a colander full of Sun Gold tomatoes and there are more coming on, but it is getting close to the time for the garden to go to bed for the winter.  Miss MoneyPenny is not one of those crazy gardeners who think it is fun to dig the carrots out of the snow.  And speaking of crazy gardeners, my sister, Miss SmartyPants, actually has a head lamp that she wears to continue working outside after dark.  But she really makes stunning gardens.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Shelf

Now, you remember back in August when Miss MoneyPenny was harping on about what an excellent book Doc by Mary Doria Russell was.  Well, it seems that the Pulitzer people agree with me, although they never called me up or anything to make sure I was on board before nominating it.  I'm sure it was just an oversight.

Last night, Ms Russell was our guest for the Huntingford Lecture.  The Library does this lecture every year in honor of Sally Huntingford, a teacher, who decided that our community needed a library, way back when.  We always have great speakers, including Sherman Alexie and Nancy Pearl.  And it is always very well attended.  In fact, we have moved it from our large meeting room to the school auditorium to accommodate all of the attendees.

It was fascinating to hear how the book Doc came to be.  She said she had 24 linear feet of research materials and even learned how to play the piano because Doc was an accomplished pianist, and that was an important part of who he was.  Ms Russell is a very educated lady, with degrees up the ying yang in many different fields, but I could have sat down with her and had a beer.  She is just that down-to-earth and funny, to boot.

You know that Miss MoneyPenny is not a reader of westerns, but I sure am looking forward to her new book based on the doin's at the OK Corral.  Sometimes it is good to leave our comfort zone and see what else is out there besides mysteries.  Mr SuperGenius even has me reading a space war book and I'm loving it.  I had to read it because he stayed up all night reading a book I recommended to him.  See how this works?  Reading is a wonderful thing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Grocery Basket 10/09

Miss MoneyPenny has been depressed lately.  Grocery prices continue to rise and the sales continue to go down.  Also, good coupons are far and few between.  I really hate to say it, but it looks like we are getting closer to how the rest of the world deals with food.  It seems that we are the rare society who is used to cheap food and believe that we are entitled to it.  As a result of our attitude, we waste between 30 and 60 per cent of the food that we bring home.  We just don't respect the food.

I was shooting off my mouth one evening over a glass of wine with Mr. SuperGenius about the reasons for the increasing cost of food, when he brought up a very good point.  One of the biggest reasons for high grocery prices is the cost of fuel.  Duh - I can't believe that I missed that one when I was doing my research, but he is right on.  All those trucks don't run on love, ya know, and for some reason we can't ship by rail, which is pretty cheap, comparatively.  Must be a political thing, but Miss MoneyPenny doesn't discuss politics or religion.  We want to have fun here, after all.

Another reason for our rising food prices is the ongoing drought in the middle of the country.  Cattlemen are selling their herds because they can't feed their cattle.  Right now they are feeding them the winter hay because there just hasn't been any grazing.  They are getting a high price because the whole world loves our beef, so our beef prices will not be going down.  The long range picture is bleak because young people are not interested in going into the family business of raising cattle.  Plus, Dad sold the good breeding stock.

Then there is corn.  Corn is in everything.  I don't know about you, but I have never met a piece of cornbread that I didn't just love or corn on the cob.  And we all know that corn is the basis for all of our junk food faves, and we can't forget the high fructose stuff.  Don't get me started on that.  The deal with corn is that the farmers make more money growing it for ethanol and using it for animal feed.  They can spray way more pesticides on it, making it a lot easier and cheaper to grow.

The last reason for high food prices is the saddest.  Because of our mean spirited immigration laws, farmers have to actually pay a decent wage to get their harvest in, if they can find anyone to do that back breaking work.  The people from south of the border are thinking twice about coming up here to work the harvest.  Pretty risky business when they think about being separated from their children when they are suddenly deported.  I'm not going to say any more about this, but you get the idea.

Now that I've thoroughly depressed you, too - here's what I'm putting in my grocery basket this week:

QFC:

Avocados, pears, romas = .88 each or per pound
Broccoli/Cauliflower = .99/lb
Cottage cheese/Sour cream = 4/$5
Coffee Mate = 2/$5
Silk Almond Milk = $2.79
Parmesan = ?
Lemon = ?

I'm hitting Costco after Weight Watchers on Saturday, so will make a list.  I picked my for real last mess of green beans today, so will roast them along with the cherry tomatoes.  I really am going to miss that wonderful feeling that I get when I go outside and pick my dinner, but it is getting close to the time when the garden needs to be put to bed for the winter.  That is a big job.  I'm thinking I need a visit from my grandson.  He is a good helper and very entertaining, but that guy can eat. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bulbamania

Miss MoneyPenny wanted to pass along a deal that a coworker came upon.  Miss MoneyPenny no longer does bulbs but they are still coming up here and there.  I don't know what the deal is but something or somebody is moving them around.  It is my recollection that I planted all of my bulbs in the front flower beds.  I know for sure that I did not plant two kind of expensive, fancy pink tulips by the back gate.  It is a mystery to me when I planted a dozen of those babies pretty much all together for a stunning show.  And it was for a couple of years but they started moving around in a very haphazard way.  I can't bear to pull them out so one will appear in the middle of the Autumn Joy sedum or right next to Don Juan, the rose.  Figure that one out.

Anyway, if you have received a Breck's Bulbs catalog, there just might be a coupon for $25 off of your order.  My coworker ordered the mix of 100 bulbs for $35.  She used the coupon and her order was $10!  Now that is a good deal, don't you think?  That works out to 10 cents a bulb by my reckoning and these are quality bulbs.  If you didn't get a catalog, you can request one for free from their website.  I can't guarantee that those bulbs won't travel once you get them in the ground though.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good Coupon

Miss MoneyPenny spied an $8 off two Cover Girl face products in the October P&G insert today.  So if you need it, head on over to Rite Aid because they are running the Buy One, Second One 50% off deal.  It isn't very often when a great coupon coincides with a sale these days.

There is also a $7 coupon in that very same insert on Crest 3D Whitestrips.  I find it very strange to see a coupon for Pringles potato chips along with the Tide and Nyquil coupons.  I guess Proctor & Gamble makes a lot of things in their factory.  Gee...I hope they don't get the ingredients mixed up.

Yesterday I met Miss Maggie May in Las Silverdale for lunch at Applebees.  I hadn't seen her for over a month so we had a lot to talk about, as in a two hour lunch.  Of course, we reminded the waitress that we were seniors and got the discount which meant that my iced tea was free.  It was our waitress's first day and she was literally shaking.  We tipped her well.  I would rather my money go to her than a big corporation any day.

I want to talk about keeping a running list, either in your head or on paper, for things that you always need or are running low on.  I know that Miss Know It All is going to be horrified but I needed some underwear.  I've lost some weight and it was starting to feel like I could pull my uns up to my armpits.  Not really, but you get the idea.  I've been waiting for OneHanesPlace.com to hit the daily double on ebates because they run some really good deals on Bali.  But on my way out of town I decided to drop by Macy's and guess what?  They were running a BOGO on Bali!!

So here is the deal: they had three packs for $25 each.  When did uns get so expensive?  Anyway, I took two packs up to the counter.  I should have bought more but I was unsure of the style and fit.  This is what it looked like:

2 packs of 3 @ $25 = $50
1 pack free              = $25
plus 20% coupon    -  $5
Total                       = $20
(plus $1.72 tax)

That looks like a savings of $30 to me just by keeping in mind what I needed and also keeping my eyes open for a deal.  To be able to use my coupon I had to charge this to my Macy's card.  They are hoping that I will run a balance but I keep money in my budget for clothing and shoes, so will bill pay them, thus avoiding any finance charges but taking advantage of the goodies that come with having their card.

Now, I'm on the hunt for new jeans.  Losing weight is expensive but that is okay with me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Grocery Basket 9/30

You may have noticed that Miss MoneyPenny has been pretty quiet for the last couple of weeks.  I've been in TRAINING at work.  We are getting a new system, and as usual, everything has to be different.  Not one thing is the same.  It is like these guys do it on purpose to make us crazy.  And it is working. 

This is how it goes:  We sit in a hot, stuffy room and our training person starts talking Greek.  I wish it were Greek because I could then go to Greece and actually communicate.  As it is, I just have a few phrases like 'build a periodical record set' or 'build a purchase order record set.'  As you can see there are a lot of record sets with this new system...and I'm just thrilled.

I was looking at the QFC flyer this week and noticed that they seem to be using a lot of ad space per item.  What is with that?  And the sales stink.  I was interested in the cantaloupe for .49/lb but got scared off by the Listeria bug.  So I just picked up a few things and went through the self checkout and called it good.

Safeway is having a pretty good sale on beef this week.  Steak ranges from $3.99/lb to $5/99/lb so if you need it - grab it.  I carefully looked over the flyer to see if they had one of those cool steak coupons like what I used at the beginning of summer.  No dice.  They still are running the flu shot deal for 10% off of your groceries, though.

I'm still eating from the garden and made up a big pan of the famous green bean dish.  Every since I made the trade for potatoes with Mr. SuperGenius, I've added them to the mix, and it is good.  I'm thinking that this is my last mess of green beans for the year but the cherry tomatoes are still coming on like crazy and will continue to do so until a good freeze.  I also picked a nice bouquet of sunflowers and it looks like I'm going to get beautiful dahlias after all.  I love this time of year in the garden.

Someone asked if I could show my budget book so I took a few pictures.  You will notice that it is splitting down the middle.





This very simple budget book has changed my life.  Really.  I posted earlier about how my system works but am planning on doing it again because I think it will work for everyone.   Although, it has been brought to my attention that this doesn't work with some husbands.  It has been my experience that this is so but I can't help you with that because I had the same problem with my favorite ex husband.  His deal was - work hard, make money, play hard, spend money.  Very simple.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Costco and PetSmart Day

Miss MoneyPenny was going to hit the Macy sale after Weight Watchers today but after spending $122 at Costco, she had to go home and sit down.  Costco had good coupons for a lot of their supplements and things like that that I use regularly.  I'm here to tell you that stuff is not cheap but I believe in them and that is half the battle.  Until I was 45, all the pills that I took could be summed up in a birth control pill and a monthly headache aspirin.  Those were the days.  My sister, Miss SmartyPants, called yesterday and asked me what did it mean when you went to the drug store and bought one of those seven day pill holders.  Honey Lamb - it means you've crossed over and the next step is Depends.

Anyway, without those coupons my eye drops and supplements would have cost $140, so I really stocked up.  If I had purchased them at my local grocery store they probably would have been at least $200 - easy.  I have this sneaky feeling that if I become a bag lady, my eye drops may not be in my monthly budget, so that is what all this is about - avoiding the shopping cart with all my worldly possessions safely tucked in a black garbage bag.

PetSmart went much better.  In fact, the cashier was impressed.  I had $14 in coupons for Nutro and ProPlan dog food, plus PetSmart had emailed me a 15% off coupon.  So after scanning my loyalty card, I was able to get the sale prices, which is kind of unfriendly but almost all the stores are doing it these days.  No card = no sale price.  What is with that?  Anyway, the end result was that I got 16 pounds of quality dog food for $18.92, including tax, instead of $42.86.  It adds up.

When I got back to town, I dropped by QFC to cherry pick their loss leaders.  There was a man panhandling where you turn in to the parking lot.  At the door, the Disabled Vets were giving away little poppies for a donation.  I am thrilled to give to those guys.  As I was leaving, there was a "blind" man with a cane and a gas can asking for change.  I'm wondering how blind he was because he called
me "ma'am."  I told him that I gave my last $2 to the vets and not to call me "ma'am."  Good grief!!!  I know it is almost the end of the month but this is crazy.  Is this what our men are coming to?  Flat scares the hell out of me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grocery Basket 9/22

Miss MoneyPenny is STILL eating green beans and tomatoes from the garden.  I think that the green beans are almost done, but not the tomatoes.  Those little babies are gonna go strong until the first hard freeze.  I know that in the middle of winter I will really miss them and wonder how I could have possible gotten sick of them.  Happens every year.

Along with the aforementioned, I'm planning on doing a chicken stir-fry and brown rice, tuna sliders and some kind of eggplant dish.  I haven't decided yet what that will be, but it is on sale.  Maybe ratatouille.  I love the stuff.  It is great on polenta and in pasta.  I'm happy to eat it right out of the bowl.

The sale flyers aren't very exciting this week, but here are some items of interest:

QFC

Broc/Cauli - .99/lb
Grapes - .99/lb
Pears - .99/lb
Eggplant - 2/$3
Cucumbers & Green Peppers - .59/lb
King salmon - 9.99/lb
They are still running the Buy 10/Get $5 this week.

Earlier I promised the recipe for Killer Chicken Soup.  Here it is:

Saute in 1T olive oil - chopped onion & garlic.  When soft, add 1 small can chopped green chilies, 15 oz can chopped tomatoes, box of chicken broth and diced leftover cooked chicken.  Now, this is the really important part, so don't leave out any of the spices.

1 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp Lea & Perrins
good dash of hot sauce

Simmer on the back of the stove so that flavors develop.  When it is almost ready, boil up 1/2 cup of orzo pasta.  Drain and add to the soup.  Spoon some of the soup broth into a bowl with 1/2 cup or more of light sour cream.  Whisk until smooth, then add slowly back to the pot.  This is called tempering and you do it so that the sour cream won't look all lumpy.  I bet you didn't think that I was paying attention when the Food Network was on, did you?

This soup just gets better every day as the flavors deepen.  You can change it up by adding bell peppers, corn or black beans.  My friend Miss Maggie May doesn't even put chicken in it - just beans and corn.  This recipe is a keeper and great for when it is cold outside or, God forbid, you have a cold.  Trust me on this.  If you make it, let me know what you think.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sounds of Summer

Now you know how Miss MoneyPenny loves her music.  There is always music playing in the MoneyPenny household, and there always has been.  I came to music on the radio pretty young.  When I was in first grade I brought home the measles, mumps and chicken pox to the whole family, including Dad.  When I say Mom went crazy taking care of three sick little kids and their father, I mean it - literally.  It was like I brought the plague home on purpose and was never forgiven.

Anyway, the thinking at that time was you had to be in a darkened room, or else you would go blind from the measles.  I personally think that Mom dreamed that one up because whenever any of us got sick from then on, it was the dark room.  We would go to school sick to avoid it.  You can imagine how lonely I was by myself in the dark, so Mom plugged in a radio by my bed.  All I could get on that radio was a Top 40 station out of Roseburg but that was fine with me.  Those DJs were my friends and I really liked the music.  So began a lifetime of radio listening.  I even slept all night with it on and was really put out when my young husband told me to turn that darn thing off, so he could get some sleep.  Jerk.

When I think of summertime music, Summer in the City by the Lovin' Spoonful, always comes to mind.  Also, California Girls by The Beach Boys and Light My Fire by The Doors, Fool by Chris Rea. Lying Eyes by The Eagles, Dreamboat Annie by Heart.  I could go on and on.  I still love those songs and the memories that they bring.

So, this is a list of what I've been listening to this summer:

Light You Up - Shawn Mullins
Beg, Steal or Borrow - Ray LaMontagne
Crash into You - Dave Matthews Band
Two Against One - Dangermouse
Rolling in the Deep - Adele
Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
Come as you are - Nirvana
John Mayer - everything by him - I know that he is a kiss and tell jerk, but I like his music

This is the short list.  Click on the "0 comments" and tell me what you are liking this summer and I'll share.  After all, summer in the city is almost over.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grocery Basket 9/16

Miss MoneyPenny got her flu shot at Safeway today.  All you have to do is give the nice ladies in the pharmacy your insurance card and then somebody comes out and gives you a shot in the arm.  Nothing to it.  Then you get 10% off of your groceries.

Speaking of groceries - I know that my shopping looks crazy but remember it is only me and the critters.  Both Safeway and QFC were running a couple of deals that I took advantage of for stockpiling.  This is what I bought at Safeway:

Hermiston Sweet Onions - .99/lb
4 Lucerne Greek Yogurts - .89 ea
4 Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaners - BOGO - used 2 $1/2 coupons from SS/8/21 - ($5.98-$2=$3.98 for 4) - regular price would have been $11.96 before sale and coupons
They were also running the Buy $75 Get $10 Catalina coupon for next time.  I don't think that I've ever taken advantage of that one but it would have come in handy when I had all those hungry guys to feed.

QFC:

New crop Gala apples - .99/lb
2 Coffee Mate - 2/$5 - plus I used a $1 QFC coupon making them $2 each
2 Silk Almond milks - $3.49 each - I used a $1.50/2 QFC coupon making them $2.74 ea
2 red peppers - $1 each
Buy 10 Save $5 deal:
4 Kraft Mac & Cheese - .49 each
4 Del Monte peaches - .99 each
4 Tide liquid - $5.77 ea - I used 2 $1.50/2 coupons from Sept P&G insert - ($23.08 - $3 = $20.08 for 4) - regular price before sale and coupons $35.96
I had them bag the mac & cheese and peaches separately for the food bank.  I mainly bought them to get the Tide deal but the food bank can always use some help.

Here is a picture of today's stockpile.  I really had a hard time in finding a place on my counter that wasn't all cluttered up.  These 8 items cost me $24.06 instead of $47.92.  They will not go bad and I always use them - good contenders for stockpiling.


My menu plan for the week is to make a big pot of my Killer Chicken Soup, halibut, salad. more green beans and tomatoes - I eat 'em until they are gone.  I might also do some polenta.  I have apples, nectarines and bananas for cereal, yogurt and smoothies.  When I do salad it is a real meal.  I put feta cheese along with the kitchen sink in it.  I buy feta at Costco.  I have no trouble using it up and it is lower in fat than other cheeses.

I will give you the recipe in a later post for the Killer Chicken Soup.  I love regular chicken soup but it can be pretty boring but not this soup.  Trust me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hot Springs Weekend

Miss MoneyPenny had such a terrific time at the Hot Springs this past weekend that she still hasn't caught her breath.  It was really hot up there this time so we didn't spend a lot of time in the hot springs.  So we ate and drank and talked until we were blue in the face.  And laughed, of course.  Here is a picture of our cabin:


The cabins are rustic - but not as bad as they were 20 years ago.  I'm not making this up - I rubbed against the wall and got a splinter the first time I was there.  There is no TV, radio, Internet or cell service but the food is very good and you can't beat the scenery.  We also had a swing by the creek, which other people thought that they could use too.  We were very territorial about the swing.  Here is a picture of my sister and I having an early morning chat:


I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to get my National Parks & Forests Senior Pass.  This is a great deal and if you are 62 or over, take advantage of this.  It was $10!!! and is good for the rest of my life!!!  As long as I'm in the car, armed with my pass, everybody gets in free.  My sister, who is only 59, does a lot of hiking and other wild and crazy outdoor activities.  She's planning on taking me and my little card along with her on some of her adventures.  Her idea of fun is my idea of pure hell.  I know there will be snakes.  We'll stick to places that you don't have sleep on the ground in a tent.  Shudder!!  Here is my card, complete with tiara:


And here is a picture of my two sisters:


My sister, the accountant, figured out our bill and it came to about $200 a piece for everything, including our meals at the lodge, with the cute waiter.  That is pretty reasonable for two nights and all the other stuff.  What was not reasonable was the $203 that I paid to board my babies and then the $80 for the flea medication.  They picked up some of the biggest and meanest fleas I've ever encountered at the doggie hotel.  They are not due for more flea medicine for another two weeks, so I called my vet and asked what to do.  She said I needed to put a different brand of flea stuff on them that worked in a different way than my usual stuff or else there could be a problem.  So now we are looking at a total of $483 for the weekend.  It was worth every penny.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Grocery Basket 9/9

Miss MoneyPenny is not shopping this weekend because it is HOT SPRINGS WEEKEND!!!  I save all year for this.  This includes the cabin, massage and eating at the Lodge, plus all the laying around in the hot springs.  This year my sister Miss SmartyPants is joining Miss Know-it-All and myself to celebrate her birthday.  And this is the exciting part - because Miss MoneyPennny is 62, she can get the lifetime free pass to all the National Parks for $10!!!  Normally it costs us $15 every year to get into the park.  No more!!  My dear old dad told me to be sure and take advantage of all the senior discounts.  He would be proud because I've taken it to the limit.

Okay - QFC is having another one of their 10/$10 sales.  This includes peaches, pears, peppers, oranges and Roma tomatoes.  Miss CutiePie brought up a good point yesterday.  You do not have to buy 10 pounds or 10 peppers to get the sale.  What it breaks down to is $1 per pound or $1 per pepper.  It scares me when I think of the shoppers who either try to eat 10 pounds of pears or 10 peppers before they go bad.  EEK!  Or worse - not taking advantage of the sale.  Also, first aid type stuff is also 10/$10.  This includes cotton balls, alcohol, etc.  They also have Stella beer on for $7.99 for a six pack.  My granddaughter turned me onto Stella.  Good beer.

Of course my sister had the last word on my Costco post.  She's always been that way.  So here is her comment:

Miss Smarty Pants said...
Good thing you added "step" in front of sister! You also won't find slug bait and potting soil cheaper anywhere. Costco rotisserie chickens are the biggest and best! I got my Verizon cell phone there. You not only get the best price, but it adds to your Costco rebate. Did you forget to mention the Am Ex and Membership Costco rebate? Now that I have 3 grandchildren that live with me I once again have no problem using things up by the expiration date. By the way.. DID I MENTION THAT SCHOOL STARTED TODAY!!! Imagine, being almost 59 and excited about the first day of school again....

She is right.  I did forget a lot of stuff.  I also got my Droid there and really cute, well made flip flops for the summer.  I'll be sure and check next year for them.  The rebate that she is talking about is a really good one.  The deal is you sign up for your Costco American Express card and get real money put into an account.  I believe that it is 4% for gas, 2% for restaurants and 1% for everything else.  I use my card all the time, and every week I add up my receipts and bill pay American Express so I don't carry a balance.  They are hoping that I will, of course.  Then come February or March in your Am Ex bill will be a check.  You do have to cash it at Costco but you don't have to spend it there.  Last year I think, if I remember right, my check was around $150.  My sister and my son also use theirs for business, so they get a real nice check.  See - money for nothing!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Costco

Miss MoneyPenny loves Costco .  You may find it strange that a single lady would shop at Costco because it is warehouse shopping in bulk.  It is true, though.  When I was married to my favorite ex- husband, we would go once a month and spend a whole gob of money.  We didn't even have a list!!!  When I became single again, I would do the same thing!  That didn't last long.  I decided to just avoid Costco altogether because I couldn't get out of there without spending at least $200.  Now, you know Miss MoneyPenny doesn't have $200 in her budget for Costco, nor do I even need $200 worth of stuff every month.

After several years of avoiding the place, my daughter-in-law, who works there, put me on her family plan.  That means I don't have to pay the yearly $50.  What a deal!  So, I decided that I was going to learn how to shop Costco and get the most for my money.  The is what I've learned:

First - never, never go there without a list.  I keep a list of things that I need on the refrigerator.  Sometimes I start a new list as soon as I get home if I've seen something interesting during my shopping trip.  I rarely buy anything that is not on my list because it can really wreck my budget since everything is in bulk, and that adds up quick.  If I'm still interested next month, I'll keep it on the list.  No recreational shopping at Costco.  Ever.

Second - Think hard and long about buying produce at Costco.  I can do the bananas, peppers, grape tomatoes, fresh blueberries and sometimes a container of salad mix.  That is about it.  The quality of their produce is top notch but there is no way one person can eat a flat of apples before they go soft.  I've tried.

Third - Can you use it up before the expiration date?  I'm talking about canned goods, frozen foods and cheeses.  I've found that I can't, no matter how hard I try, no matter how good the price.

That being said, Costco is the best place to buy cat litter, toilet paper, oatmeal, Special K, almonds, canned cat food, Cetaphil, eye drops, baking soda & vinegar, most vitamins, tires,  flannel sheets, pillows, Comet, frozen smoothie fruit and rotisserie chickens.  These are things that I use all the time so nothing goes bad before it gets used up.  You may wonder how one woman can eat up 10 pounds of oatmeal.  Good question, but I do.  It has taken me quite a while to figure out what works for me at Costco.  Your list is probably very different from mine, especially if you have a family and don't like oatmeal.

I bought my iPod at Costco and swear by their concierge service - free technical support and an 800 number.  They are very patient with people that need a manual to figure things out.  What is the deal with all this technology that doesn't come with a manual?  Miss MoneyPenny never reads the manual until all else fails, but it is still good to have it, don't you think?  Anyway, I've also been looking at their mattresses.  Who knew that a mattress doesn't last a lifetime?  Now, all I need is a truck to haul it out of there.

Be sure and take advantage of their coupons because they are good ones and make the deal that much sweeter.  I don't get them in the mail because I am family (what is up with that?) but someone is always giving me theirs.  When all else fails, I drop by and pick them up at the Returns Counter.

Speaking of returns - they are really good about giving your money back if something is wrong.  I bought the wrong vitamins once and took them back.  I had my receipt and hadn't opened them.  I understand from my daughter-in-law that some people really take advantage.  That is too bad.  Costco is a warehouse CLUB and we belong to it.  They should get black balled out of the club because it probably doesn't help with keeping the prices low. 

And they take a pretty good picture, not like the Department of Motor Vehicles, where you can look like Dracula's step sister.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Grocery Basket 9/3

Well, Miss MoneyPenny just learned a big lesson.  When the blogger people tell you that they have failed to save while you are writing your post, they mean it.  I finished my post and thought that it looked pretty good and hit "post."  Nothing.  I'm thinking that maybe I was doing too much ranting and raving and opinionating, so they sent me to the showers, as my dear old dad used to say.  With that in mind, here is what I put in my grocery basket this week:

Safeway -

Buy 4 Get $4 off -
1 large bottle Tabasco - 2.29
1 Grey Poupon - 2.09
2 Best Foods mayonnaise - 4.98

BOGO -
2 large cans of light whip cream - 4.99
(I like to spritz my smoothies)

1 cantaloupe - $2
3 lbs bananas - 2.25

6 pack Stella beer for my granddaughter's birthday BBQ - 11.49

QFC -

Buy 4 Get $4 off -
3 family sized Puffs - 2.97
17 lbs Iams dog food - 16.99
The $1 ecoupon that I loaded onto my card did not come off my total.  Very irritating.

1 Silk almond milk - 3.29
1 Almond Breeze milk - 3.89
Slider buns - 2.99

I'm eating green beans, cherry tomatoes, blackberries and blueberries like mad, as they are coming on like gang busters.  I have one steak left after that steak deal I did earlier this summer and it will do three meals.  I've got Costco salad and I will pick up salmon on Monday for $8.99/lb.  That should do it, along with Costco oatmeal and Special K.

I almost forgot.  I'm trading green beans with Mr. SuperGenius for his homegrown potatoes.  He has grown several different kinds this year and I'm really looking forward to them

Here's a recipe for you:

Green beans
Cherry tomatoes
1T olive oil
Salt & pepper

Toss all together and spread on sheet pan.  Roast at 400 until tomatoes pop.  Add feta cheese to melt and a few drops of red wine vinegar at serving, then eat it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kitchenaid Mixer Deal

Miss MoneyPenny was browsing Queen Bee Coupons and noticed that she was saying that Amazon.com has KitchenAid Artisan stand mixers on sale for $225.99, with free shipping.  Now, that is a good sale!!!  And that is not all - go to KitchenAid.com and print out the $30 rebate form.  I don't know how long the sale is, so if you are jonesing for one of those beauties, now is the time.  My favorite, and only son, got me one for my birthday a few years ago, in red.  If the house was on fire, I would grab it on the way out the door....along with my dogs, of course.

Miss MoneyPenny has been keeping house since 1967.  That is a long time and I have collected just tons of kitchen stuff and I bet you have, too.  I'm starting to realize that I always use the same cup and the same few pots and pans and bowls, etc.  I think that it is getting time for a purge.  Does that say something about my age?  I understand that you want to simplify when you get older.  Well, I must be getting close.

There are a few ways to do this.  I could have a big garage sale and hope that it sells.  Or I could donate it to ARC - they come and pick up, which is a nice idea.  ARC is a charity for developmentally challenged kids and I believe in that kind of thing.  I also have friends who own a thrift shop.  They are always happy to take things, too.

The point that I'm trying to drive home is that we all have STUFF that we no longer need or even want.  Why not make a few bucks for the old budget and clean out the house?  Or help somebody out.  Or do both.  Sell things that are more valuable and sellable, and donate the rest to charity.  Someone who is down on their luck and needing to set up their house would really appreciate some nice, gently used items.  And you would actually be able to see your new Kitcheaid mixer now that you have cleared all the excess stuff off your countertops.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Car Talk

Miss MoneyPenny is a little uneasy talking about car care when things went bad after posting about critter care.  Since Suzette did come back from the edge, I think it might be safe to carry on.

I took my car to Costco to get my tires rotated today.  I bought new Michelin All Weather tires from them last year, using a $70 coupon, of course, and got free tire rotation for the life of the tires.  I know this is important because my dad was in the tire business.  I drive a 2003 Honda CR-V, nothing sexy, but with these tires and all-wheel drive, I can drive through most anything that Mother Nature throws at us.  Tires are very important and they also need their pressures checked regularly, along with the rotation.  Tires are cool and Miss MoneyPenny is thinking of replacing the plain wheels that came on the CR-V with something that will make it more sexy to other cars.

Miss MoneyPenny always buys new cars.  I know, I know - they loose value after you drive them out of the lot, but I drive my cars forever and take real good care of them.  Money maven, Suze Orman says, you have to drive your car for at least 10 years to get your value.  I believe in this.  In 1971, I bought a new VW bug for $2100 and sold it in 1986 for $5000.  I think that I got my money out of that car.  I buy new because I really need a dependable car.  I go crazy when my car breaks down, so I practice maintenance, instead of repair.

The most important thing that you can do for your car is to develop a close and loving relationship with a good mechanic.  It is public record that I actually married one.  Anyway, take your car in for regular oil changes and scheduled maintenance.  One of my "occasional expense" categories in my budget is for my car, so  I always have the money on hand.  If you aren't married to your mechanic, he will expect cash on the barrel head, at the time of service.  I pay close attention to what he has to say and I always ask lots of questions.  Hey, I'm paying him for his expertise.

Once a year, I get my car waxed and detailed.  This year, my sweet grandson did it for me.  Thank you Eli!!!!  The rest of the year, I take it up to the car wash and they give it a quick going over.  I always, always, always put Chevron gas in my car.  Three mechanics have told me to use this.  No cheap Safeway gas for me.  Miss Maggie May told me that a friend of hers learned the hard way when she had to take her late model car in from using that stuff.  Just a suggestion.

As soon as I get home from buying a new car, I start a folder and put everything regarding the care of that car into it.  I keep everything, including the stickers that came off of it.  Today, I put my receipt, with a zero balance, into the file.  When I sell the car, I hand over the file.  The last car I sold was to Miss Maggie May.  Now her grandson is driving it and it still looks like brand new. 

If you are wondering what happened to the file?  It seems that it got recycled.  So much for that, but usually a new owner is happy to have the history of the car.  Miss Maggie May will ask me if I had had some work or other done on the car when I had it.  I tell her to check the file.

Friday, August 26, 2011

QFC Parking Lot Mums

Miss MoneyPenny thinks she may be onto something with parking lot plants.  All my pots have done really well this year, which is a first, let me tell you.  I get full hot sun all day on my deck and it has taken me 16 years to get it.  My plants have to be tough, hence, parking lot girls.

 I mentioned in my last post that I was going to check out the 3/$10 gallons of mums in this week's sale.  There were several colors, including the ever important white, and they looked healthy.  I chose white, lemon and a rusty colored one - we are talking fall colors here.  Some of them were already flowering and were gorgeous.  It was hard not to choose them for instant gratification, but I went with the buds.  Check them out:



I also took some quick pictures of my begonias.  I bought the last three sickly begonia starts that they had.  They were in pretty bad shape, but they were cheap.  I picked off all the dead stuff and potted them in my begonia pot in a mixture of compost and Miracle Grow potting soil.  They did pretty good considering what a cool summer we have had up until now:



I picked a nice mess of green beans this afternoon and a few cherry tomatoes.  This is a strange picture of my garden.  I don't water the grass, as you can tell.  My sun gold tomato is really taking over the garden as you also can tell, or maybe not, what with my photography:


This is the least amount of money that I have spent on my summer gardening, ever, and I have been quite happy with the results.  I realize that I don't have exotic beauties, but I haven't had disappointment either. 

I have no idea why my sentences are centering themselves, but it is kind of cool, don't you think?  Gives the place some class.  Oh, I fixed it.