Wednesday, June 27, 2012

QFC Grocery Basket 6/27

Is there anything better than lettuce fresh from your garden?  I've been eating tons of the stuff.  So far, all that the garden is producing is greens and lettuces, but come August it will be in full swing.  I can't wait for the green beans, zucchinis, spuds, beets, onions, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes...if we ever have summer, that is.

The QFC ad has a couple of items that are stockup worthy this week.  I took advantage of the Hefty storage bags, Best Foods mayonnaise, Starbucks coffee and Tillamook butter.  They all had coupons except for the butter but $2 a pound is a good deal.  My total after the sale prices and coupons was $51.73 (45%) and I received a $2 Catalina for my next shopping trip.  Not too shabby.  Anything over one third off - I'm happy.

They are also running the Buy 10 Participating Items, Save $3, Get $2 Catalina which I was all over with the Hefty Bags and Best Foods.

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

Starbucks Coffee - $6.99/12oz (coupon S/6/17 for $1.50)
Best Foods Mayonnaise - $2.69/30 oz (coupon S/6/24 for $2/2)
Coffee Mate Creamer - $2.79/32oz (coupon S/4/29 for $.50)
QFC Sour Cream - $1/16oz
Tillamook Butter - $2/lb
USDA Choice Bnls Ribeye Steak - $5.99/lb
Hefty One Zip Storage Bags - $1.19/ea (coupon S/5/13 for $1/2)
Leaf Lettuces - $1.25/ea
Broccoli Crowns/Cauliflower - $1.29/lb
Cherries - $3.98/lb
Strawberries - $3.98/2lb
Walla Walla Sweets - $1/lb

I noticed on my receipt that there is a survey.  You take the survey and you are entered to win one of 12 gift cards.  It doesn't say what the gift card is for but I'm assuming QFC.  I'm gonna do it.  I never win anything and I'm not just saying that in hopes that this time will be different.  Okay.  I am.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Garden Center Orgy

Yesterday my friend The Bradster and I cruised by the garden center after chowing down on a Silverwater lunch of yummy fish and chips.  You might remember that the world's best co-workers had pitched in for a $100 gift card to the garden center in honor of my retirement and it has been burning a hole in my pocket.  I spent $40 on two new sprinklers and one of those scary looking grim reaper weeders (picture below) so I have $60 left, plus $5 in bonus bucks to be used in July.

When I got back home I decided to run up to the local garden center here in town.  I picked up four zucchini plants, 2 patio salsa peppers and 3 scented geraniums (above picture.)  I'm in love with the geraniums and every year I plant them next to my favorite spot out on the deck so that I can smell them.  They are not cheap.  These three babies set me back $15 but worth it, in my humble opinion.

After I potted up the peppers, I realized that it was only 60 degrees!! so I moved them into my garden shed which doubles as a pinch greenhouse.  It has a south facing window along one side and gets pretty toasty in there, so I will try to remember to move those little guys in and out as they need it, before they get to live on the deck, if it ever gets to be summer, after July 4th.  I'm determined to have peppers this year.  It will be a first.

Shane, my cute handyman in a tool belt, finished replacing 20 boards in the fence and rebuilding my deck.  There was wood left so he made me a 3 X 5 raised bed which I think will house strawberries, but I'm not entirely sure about that.  Including the wood, this cost me $240 plus a $10 tip and a frozen organic chicken.  Beat that with a stick!!

I want to make sure that everybody knows about these cool hose connectors.  I was going crazy with my wrist issues before a friend told me about these.  Actually, I think she even went out and bought them for me.  The deal is you put them on your hoses, sprinklers, sprayers and water wands and they snap on and off.  No more twisting and turning.  As you can see, over the years I have acquired at least three sets.  They are not expensive but will break if you drive on them, etc.  They get the MoneyPenny Seal of Approval.

This is the grim reaper weeder that I've been wanting.  Now I just need to be careful not to cut off a finger with this thing, but it is just the ticket for that space between the brickwork and sidewalk.  It is such a skinny little area but the weeds don't care and it just looks unsightly in front of my flowerbeds.

The new fence boards.  My back yard is for the use of my dogs so matching is not a big deal for me.  They let me have a veggie garden, though.

Cruise Fund Update:

Old balance = $846.24

                    +     25.00 (Retirement money, thanks Guys!!)

New balance = $871.24

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Guys in Tool Belts

Everyone who knows Miss MoneyPenny is aware of her lack of knowledge when it comes to home maintenance.  I know that it is really important, but I don't know that it needs to be done until something has to be fixed.  Miss MoneyPenny is all about maintenance, not repair, so I'm trying to do better.  Once I learn that you need the gutters cleaned, I no longer wait until the water is gushing all over the place to have them cleaned regularly.  Ignorance is not bliss when we are talking home maintenance but I'm a quick learner.

I have a cedar deck that is 17 years old.  I have taken very good care of it, following the instructions of the guys that built it for me.  It has been pressure washed and stained on a regular basis but still it rots.  The bid for a new deck was in the area of $4000!! if you can believe that.  So, I got hold of my handyman (Shane) to see what could be done.

We stomped around on the deck and he took some measurements.  We came up with a plan to rebuild parts of the deck, replace 20 boards in the fence and re-caulk the windows.  Whew!!

Here is a picture of what $140 will buy you at the lumber yard:

After we got the cushions off, and all the plants and furniture moved, here is what he found:

I can't believe that I haven't fallen through some of those rotten places.  Scary thought.

If you live in my area and you need a cute, I mean good handyman, let me know and I can get you his number.  He has the MoneyPenny seal of approval.

Food Waste Update:

What you are looking at is half of one of those "personal sized" watermelons.  Usually they are pretty tasty, but this guy was taste free, so he languished in the fridge until withered.

Cha Ching: $1.25

Thursday, June 21, 2012

QFC Grocery Basket 6/21

Miss MoneyPenny gets all of her magazines from the library.  This pricey little habit was really eating into my budget before I got it under control.  It just did not make sense that I would actually pay good money out when I was in charge of the magazines at the library.  What planet was I on? 

Anyway, the way you work this is go to your library's website, and they all have one, and place a request on the latest magazines of your choice.  When they are ready for check out, I get an e-mail.  I go down and pick them up and take them home to bed with me and read them.  The next day I take them back and maybe make a copy of a good recipe that I want to try.  Easy peasy.  And free!!

Where I'm going with this is last night I was reading the June issue of ShopSmart (a Consumer Reports magazine, no ads!!) and could not believe my eyes when they suggested purchasing your new fridge online.  So, I checked it out and this is actually true.  I went to and searched for the Consumer Reports best buy in fridges - an Amana beauty, and there it was...with free shipping, no less!!  And a pretty good price.  Who knew?

QFC has a decent ad this week, but as usual so much of the stuff on sale is not really "food" as I think of it.  I did tiptoe through the land mines for you and here is my list of deals:

Duncan Hines Cake Mix - $1/ea
Starbucks Coffee - $6.99/12oz (coupon S/6/17 for $1.50)
Boneless New York Steak - $5.99/lb
Fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon Fillets - $8.99/lb
McCormick Grill Mates Marinades - $1/ea
Angel Soft Bathroom Tissue - $1/ea (4 rolls)
Barilla Pasta - $1/ea
Bell Peppers - $1/ea
Hass Medium Avocados - $1/ea
Northwest Red Cherries - $2.98/lb
Raspberries - $5/4

My grocery bill came in at $54.31 (34%) this week and that included $4.02 for three Fuji apples!!  Ridiculous, but I did get a Catalina for Silk Almond Milk (.75) for next time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Retirement Planning 101

Ever since Miss MoneyPenny moved into the retirement stage of life, a number of people have asked me how I did it.  Where do you start and how do you plan for it - that kind of thing.  I am certainly not an expert on other people's money life, but I'm always happy and very willing to give advice, so here are some steps that I took to get ready.

I started the process when it occurred to me that I was just plain worn out from working and it was getting in the way and I really hated that 5:30 alarm.  That was about five years ago when I was 58.  I had to mull that over for a while and consider just what retirement would look like for me, or was I such a lame brained spender that I would have to work until I dropped in my tracks.  This took some time and soul searching, because I had some really bad habits, money wise.

When I decided for sure that I was going to retire, I didn't set a firm date because I wasn't sure what needed to be done and how long it would take.  I knew that I would have the state pension because of my years at the library and Social Security because I have been paying into it since 1964.  And since my favorite ex-husband is deceased and we never remarried, I could claim his.  I also have a little part time job, doing the bookkeeping for my son's plumbing business. 

And I had very little in the way of savings and a nasty credit card habit.

I started reading everything that I could get my hands on about managing money and came to realize that a budget is a beautiful thing.  Then I realized that I also needed to have money set aside for things like new tires, vet bills and home maintenance.  These aren't "emergencies" like I had always thought - just life happening.  And I started paying myself first to build up my savings.  This process also took some time as a budget is a living breathing creature and things change.  I discovered that I didn't need so much money in my grocery category, but with the price of gas going up, I needed more in that one, and so on.  This will set you free.  I promise!!

Then I decreased my work hours to 32 per week and started living on that, all the while working the budget, getting rid of the debt and started changing my spending habits.  This is when I developed a real interest in sales and coupons and being choosy about what I paid full price for.

When I was 61, I started paying attention to my Social Security statement and hanging out at the state retirement site, working the numbers.  I made several phone calls and asked a lot of questions.  And I talked to people who were retired to find out how they did it.  They all assured me that it could be done and the sooner, the better.

The next year I used my tax refund to pay for eight sessions with a life coach to help me set my goals.  This was money well spent because we got down to what I really value in life.  I then set my retirement date for June 1, 2012 when I would be 63 1/2. 

This brought up the issue of health insurance until Medicare kicks in, so I talked with my insurance lady and she suggested COBRAing my current plan until then.  This is not cheap, but I put it in my budget and figured around it until the numbers worked.  When Medicare happens, I will still have to pay for a supplemental plan but it should be at least half what I'm paying now.  One can only hope.

I hope that laying out my retirement planning process helps you get started.  Of course, everyone will have different issues and plans, but just getting started is the biggest hurdle.  Trust me.

As far as my retirement?  My planned beach trip got cancelled, the state stiffed me on the June check, it has been so rainy and cold that I have mold in my deck pots and the guy from Seattle and I are going through a rough patch.  It can only go up from here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Holy Mole!!

Friday evening was Miss CutiePie's annual Mexican dinner.  Usually she bakes up a big giant pan of enchiladas, but she and Miss KnowItAll decided to do tamales...from scratch!!  Somehow we were able to boil the chicken, make the mole sauce, and assemble the tamales in corn husks and have dinner on the table in two and a half hours.  Whew!!

Miss KnowItAll has a hand written, two page recipe straight from a Mexican friend who barely speaks English, and it is a beaut.  That sauce is killer!!  You simmer chilies in water and then blend them up with TONS of spices.  Every Mexican family has their own recipe and knows that theirs is the best and they would be right.

After the chicken is cooked and cooled, you shred it with two forks, which isn't as easy as you would think.  Then you make a dough with masa flour and spread it very thinly and perfectly on soaked corn husks or Miss KnowItAll scrapes it off and makes you do it again.  It is an art form.  I only had two scrapeages before I got it down and then I had to do at least a thousand of those babies before they were passed on down the assembly line for chicken and sauce, and then each tamale was properly folded and tied.  Then you stand them up in a big pan and steam them for an hour.  Then you eat them.  Heaven on a plate!!

And my great co-workers pitched in for a $100 gift card from the garden center and $25 for my cruise fund.  Will the retirement parties ever end?  I hope not.  I plan to buy two new sprinklers to replace my old ones that just squirt here and there, if at all.  Then I'm throwing those old things on the ground and stomping them into a million pieces for making me crazy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Shelf 6/14

Today is Flag Day and I don't have my flag out.  If Grandma MoneyPenny were still alive she would not be happy.  I remember when I was a kid staying with my grandma, Flag Day was a real big deal for her.  She was a real patriot and always hung her little flag on the porch post.  She lived out on a ranch and the only people to see her flag were those that would come to buy her eggs and milk and usually they sent their kids.  I happened to have a crush on one of these boys.  I was boy crazy at a young age.

Anyway, I recently finished reading the first book writtin by Mark Mills and thought that I should pass this author on.  Miss KnowItAll first brought my attention to him with his book The Savage Garden and I have been hooked ever since.  To my knowledge he has written four books, all of which are great reading.  His books are what I call literary fiction and are set in very interesting places and times.  Each of his books has hit on all my pistons when it comes to the pleasures of my reading life.

His first book, written in 2004 is Amagansett, which is set on Long Island after WWII.  The main character is a Basque fisherman who gets involved with the rich summer people and all of their issues.  I really enjoyed learning about the local people and the fishing industry back then.  Also, it is a good mystery.

The second book, The Savage Garden, written in 2007 is about a Cambridge student who goes to Tuscany to write about the famous Docci gardens and gets wrapped up in the mystery of the family and the villa.  If I remember correctly, there was even some hot sex which is hard to write about without it seeming laughable.  He did a good job.

The Information Officer came out in 2009 and is set on Malta in 1942.  This is about a young officer who sets out to solve the murder of a local woman, but really Malta and her people are the main characters in this very satisfying read.

Mark Mills' latest novel is House of the Hunted and it is about a former intelligence officer who has retired to the French Rivera in 1935.  At least he is trying to be retired, but his past during the Russian Revolution has come back to haunt him.  Lots of intrigue and very well written.

So if you are looking for some good summertime reading, check this guy out.  You will not be disappointed.  His books are at the library, so don't go out and buy them, unless you want them for your personal library, of course.

Grocery shopping trip update:

I came in under the $40 grocery budget today at QFC with a bill of $37.35, but what I wanted to mention is that Tide has changed the weight on their smaller boxes from 56 ounces to 42 ounces, but the price remains the same, of course.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

QFC Grocery Basket 6/13

Ever since the state stiffed me on my first retirement check things have been pretty tight around the MoneyPenny household.  It makes me just a little nervous when I realize that my pension and Social Security checks could just NOT come and there ain't nothing that I can do about it, but what is a person supposed to do?  Not retire?  Ridiculous!!

According to my budget planner, there is $50 a week for groceries.  Period.  So last Wednesday I spent almost $24 at QFC and $20 at Costco, leaving me $6.  On Monday I decided to head over to Chimacum Corners and pick up a cookie, a yam and a couple apples.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Except when I got there they had just put out the most beautiful organic cherries I've ever seen.  My bill was $16 something, $10 over my budget, leaving me $40 for this week.

In my defense I will say that cherries are the world's most perfect food and the season is short.

QFC has been sending me lots of coupons and they are pretty good ones.  Of course, my QFC card tells them what I buy, which is fine with me.  I don't buy my Ben & Jerry's there, so when I have the big one, my insurance company will have to pay up, since it looks like I don't buy any junk food.  Good thinking, there.

Here are the deals for the week keeping in mind Father's Day and barbecues:

Tide - $5.99/50oz powder
QFC Cottage Cheese or Sour Cream - $1.99/24oz
Roasted Chicken - $4.99/ea
Kroger Chicken or Italian Sausage - $2.99/18oz
USDA Choice Boneless Ribeye - $6.99/lb
Fresh Wild Halibut Fillets - $16.99/lb
Fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon Fillets - $8.99/lb
Blueberries - $4.99/18oz
Organic Strawberries - $3.50/lb
Red or Green Grapes - $1.28/lb
Broccoli/Cauliflower - .99/lb
Sweet Onions - $1/lb
Carpinito Bark or Soil - 4/$10

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Costco Coupons 6/14 -7/8

Remember that old saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?  It's true!!  I'm living it.  For some reason the nice lady at the state retirement office and I were on different pages when it came to the date of my first check.  I thought that she said June 1st.  It turns out that it will be July 1st which makes more sense, but I had laid out my plans thinking June 1st.

Now you know that Miss MoneyPenny is all about planning for the worst and hoping for the best, so I had been setting aside a "Retirement Bridge Fund" and this baby is coming in real handy.  My last paycheck from the library was about $300 more than I expected, so that helps.  I refigured everything and decided I would be just fine...until I received the $293 bill from PSE.

My usual monthly bill is $114 on the budget plan.  In June I usually have a smaller bill as they re-calculate my new bill based on usage.  I called them up and told them that they had made a big mistake on my bill.  They said, and very politely, that I have been using a whole lot of electricity and this is what I owed and that my new monthly bill was gonna go up.  I said that was nice as I slunk over to the thermostat and adjusted it to the "new" position, which is "off" - at least for the summer.  I will revisit it in the fall when I can see my breath in the house.  Sheesh!!

Anyway, about Costco - I shot them an email asking to be put on their mailing list for their Connection Magazine and their coupon booklet, explaining that just because I'm "family" doesn't mean I should have to keep begging my friends for these items.  I have yet to hear back, but Miss MaggieMay came through with the coupons and I have carefully looked them over and there are some of interest.  I'm looking at the coupons for the Sonicare Replacement Brush Heads, Dove Shampoo, Palmolive, Resolve Spray 'n Wash and Kirkland Diapers.

Diapers, you ask?  I don't know anything about diapers that you throw away because I used the cloth kind that you actually put in the diaper pail, then washed with bleach and dried and folded.  That was a long time ago - the 70's, I think, but the deal is I'm going to be a great grandma in September and these might come in handy for the new parents.  I'm so excited!!

Garden Update:

The first planting of green beans is in.  I don't know why I bother to stagger the planting as they are always ready to pick at the same time anyway, but that is how I do it.  It looks like the second planting of dahlias is going to work out as they are sticking their little heads out of the ground.  The garden is starting to look so pretty.  Since the zinnias aren't working out, I'm going to put a Cosmo start where ever I can find an open spot and go for the Monet look.  Beauty is a really important part of the garden for me.

I'm still waiting on putting in the peppers and summer squash - maybe another week - then they are going in - even if there is snow on the ground.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

QFC Grocery Basket 6/6

Most of my loyal readers know that my sister, Miss SmartyPants, is raising her three grandchildren, all under the age of ten and also running an accounting business in her spare time...can you say superwoman?  And those of us who have raised little kids back in the olden days remember that these little guys are hotbeds of every disease known to man.  Where I'm going with this is - all of these little darlings came down with a nasty flu, and you guessed it - so did my sister, which means that we are not at the beach this week, as planned.

We were going to celebrate my retirement with three nights at the Shiloh in Seaside, where we have been many times in the past - our favorite.  We get a room with a kitchen because we like to cook and it makes our trip cheaper if we don't have to eat out all the time and we like to be right on the beach.  This place is not cheap but my sister worked a deal where we got winter rates by booking ahead, so it was real doable.  When she called to cancel, she asked if we could keep the rate.  Since they don't have a sense of humor and it is summer, of course they said "not".

We are now planning on going in August and will pay full price, but we will whip out our AAA cards and proof of seniorship to help bring the price down.  It will be worth it and I will be fully rested by then so I will have a better chance of keeping up with the whirlwind, who is my sister.

Now, regarding the QFC ad - I hope that they are not going to concentrate on selling liquor instead of food.  I'm going there today to see where they could possibly squeeze in room for booze as that store is crammed tight.  Anyway, this is what I'm looking at this week and there are no coupons:

Chicken of the Sea Tuna - .69/ea (food bank)
Nancy's Yogurt - $2/32oz
QFC Butter - $2.50/ea
QFC Large Eggs - $1.69/18 count
Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage - 3/$10 (good for grilling)
Ranger Free Range Whole Chicken - $1.59/lb
USDA Flank Steak - $5.99 (already in marinade for grill)
Wild Copper River Sockeye Fillets - $9.99/lb
4 lb Strawberries - $5.99
2 lb Blueberries - $5.99
Lemons or Limes - 2/$1
Personal Sized Watermelon - $3/ea

Cruise Fund Update:

Old Balance = $782.78

                      +    43.26 West Hills Honda Senior Discount

                      +    20.00 Found in retirement card for cruise - thanks Joe & Cindy

                      +        .20 Checkbook overage

New Balance = $846.24