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And it doesn’t get much sweeter than that my friends.  I visit several marvelous coupon bloggers on a daily basis and I’ve noticed that most of them belong to SwagBucks.  But it wasn’t until one of them actually wrote a post about it that I realized what it was (in their defense, I’m sure they have ALL written posts about SwagBucks, I just missed it).  And of course, as soon as I saw Starbucks I was sold…

“You had me at Starbucks”  (while batting eyes, fluffing hair and pouting lips)

Hmmm, that doesn’t have the same rhythm to it as the original…  but it’s just as heartfelt.

Anyway, the way it works is you install their header bar (fast and free) so that it’s always there right below your regular internet header bar.  Then all you do is start searching the internet using the SwagBucks search box and SwagBuck dollars come a rollin’ in!  That’s it!  SwagBucks rewards you with Swag BUCKS that you can then turn in for fantastic stuff.  Seriously, too much to list here but I’m personally drawn to the gift cards.  And a free Starbucks card during the Holiday Flavor season??!!  Music to my taste buds.

There are additional ways to earn SwagBucks… like referrals.  Hence the widget on the left of my blog.  With WordPress’ lovely disapproval of 99.3% of the wigdets out there, I’m not sure if this widget will give me credit when people sign up through it.  You can always use my link at the bottom of this post instead.  That will ensure my credit.  You get 3 SwagBucks just for signing up! I’ve been SwagBuck-ing for a week now and have acquired 32 SwagBucks through searches only.  (hmmm, Starbucks… I’m getting closer!) 

So far it’s been safe and easy.  I’m very gun-shy when it comes to installing things on my computer off the internet and anything requiring it but since the coupon bloggers (who had all been using it for some time and still highly recommended it… and let us in on their fantastic prizes they’ve already held in their thrifty little hands and used too) were singing it’s praises I felt better about it.

So try it out!  It’s a quick, free registration, an easy and safe download and you’re off!  If you could do me a teensy-weensy favor and let me know that you signed up I’d love it!  Here’s my referer link that will get you right where you need to go:  http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/Runningamuck

Happy searching!

Okay, so JUST to clarify some Costco thoughts, I paid closer attention when I went there yesterday.

Costco’s sharp cheddar cheese is just over $4 for a 2lb block.  Words can’t express how muView Imagech this family of lactose-lovers appreciates such a great deal.   A bloggy friend of mine mentioned Winco’s cheese prices and while I LOVE Winco and buy their cheese all the time, they do not carry a store brand sharp cheddar.  They have medium and mild but no sharp.  This has always brought me close to tears (dragging four munchkins to a separate store just for sharp cheddar would make even Super Nanny cry at the sheer inconvenience… nevermind the tired and grumpy 2, 4, 5 and 7 year olds who were “done” 13 minutes after walked into Winco) but with Costco’s great price and the fact that they are literally right next door to Winco helps keep the tears at bay.

Costco Toilet Paper.  I looked yesterday and there is only one View Imagetype of Kirkland TP so we must be all talking about the same one.  I’m baffled though.  At first I thought I had a spoiled and pampered hiney that I had been unknowingly catering to.  But now even the kids are starting to complain about the chaffing.  What are your secrets? 

 I guess by the time we’ve gone through the 57 mega rolls we know have, our fannies will have adjusted and the soft, fluffy, soothing Charmin goodness will be a faint, distant memory. 

The nice thing I DO know about Kirkland TP is that I don’t have to worry about the kids clogging any pipes with it.  It’s the thickness of a 1 ply… and for this toilet phobia mama, that’s a good thing.

Today was FUN.  It was a day out with the kids.  I didn’t end up having to cook dinner.   And the icing on the cake? It was almost free!

The details.

A bowling alley in our area does $1 games in the summer (per person) and $3 shoe rentals.  The reason this works for our family is that out of our four kids, only Poppett has big enough feet for the rental sizes.  I didn’t bowl but helped the younger two boys instead.  That brought our bowling total to $7 for an hour and a half long game.  Fabulous.  The alley had food deals too… $1 pizza slices, $1 drinks and $1 french fries.  I opted to feed the kids lunch in the car before we went inside to save money.

Then, during naps, I checked www.spoofee.com and found out that Hot Dog on a Stick was celebrating over 60 years with free corn dogs (1 per person) between 5pm and 8pm.  SCORE!  Hubby was working late and so it was a perfect time to head to the mall for a free unhealthy meal with the kiddos. 

We wrapped up the day with free coffees and hot chocolate at Borders bookstore.  Another coupon found on Spoofee.

Seriously a great day. 

Tomorrow?  Free movie at Regal Theater! 

I’m positively giddy from all this free entertainment.

I love summer.

First off, let me say I love store brands… usually. 

And often I choose the store brand above the name brand items because of the cheaper prices.  Many of their products are just as good as the name brands… but I’ve also found some that are not.  Some so much so that I’ve decided to give you a heads up about them.  Please feel free to leave a comment to add your store brand hits and misses too.   We’ll get a nice list going and can learn what to avoid or seek out AHEAD of time.

Target:   

Sandwich and snack-sized baggies  – HIT!!

Gallon-sized baggies – HIT/MISS  ~  They are a bit thinner than the brand names but so far I haven’t had a blowout.

Pantyliners – MISS!!  ~ “Hourglass” shape is too severe so the coverage leaves a LOT to be desired! And of course I bought the big box. =0(

Plastic-wrap:  HIT!!  ~ It sticks better than the brand names.  Except still some difficulting sticking to metal.  But then, so do the name brands.

Costco:

Toilet Paper– MISS!!  ~ They did a great job making it look like Quilted Northern and each roll is individually wrapped (I like that because I can stack them up in the closet and not worry about them getting dirty) but it is horrible!  Feels like 1 ply sandpaper… except somehow they managed to make the world’s thinnest plys ever so their “2” is a normal “1”. Bleh!

Paper Towels – HIT! ~ Love ’em… except they only come in the big sheets.  Hoping they come out with a “select-a-size”. 

Butter– HIT!! ~ Fabulous 1 lb packages with 4 wrapped quarters inside.  Tastes great (I can’t tell the difference between it and the brand name).  And I won’t be divulging the amounts of butter my kitchen goes through but I will say that at $2 or less a lb, I don’t feel bad about my huge amounts of baking… unless of course I EAT it all. 

Cheese – HIT!! ~ I love the fact that I can buy a 2 block chunk of sharp cheddar for under $3.  Now, it doesn’t quite have the zip that store brands have but the texture is good (not too “soft” like some store brands) and it’s still sharper than a mild or medium cheddar.  And at more than half the price of a brand name, well, it just gets my heart all fluttery just thinking about it.

Sams Club:

Butter – HIT!!  ~ Same thoughts as the Costco butter.

Liquid Detergent – HIT!!  ~ Great scent, great cleaning abilities, safe for all washers and half the price of Tide.  ‘Nough said.

What store brands have you tried?  And were they Hits or Misses?   Help a girl out and let me know in the comments.  I’d love to know! 

By the way, anyone tried the Costco version of Downey?  I just bought it but haven’t used it yet.  It smelled good.  Anyone?  If not, well, I’ll let you know what I think after I try it.

Happy bargain shopping!

makedomondays

I love Bath and Body Works.  It probably comes from working there a few years, a few during my teen years and then again as a young adult.  I *heart* all the basics; the lotions, creams, soaps and room oils.  I would fill both bathrooms and my kitchen sink and nightstands, end tables, desks, car and anything with a flat surface with all BBW if I could. 

But I can’t.

Plus, there is something a little disheartening to see a favorite scented hand soap get used up in approximately 5.25 hours by the munchkins in your home who instantly are on hand washing overdrive, simply because they like your favorite scent too. 

I DO buy BBW soaps a couple times year.  When they go on sale for $2 or $3 View Imagea piece I splurge and restock for my sinks… well, except the kids’ bathroom. 

Oh, their soap still comes in a BBW foaming hand soap dispenser.  But it’s filled with Softsoap refill.  Shhhhh! Don’t tell them!  I particularly like the foaming hand soap dispenser because you only need a couple squirts of regular liquid soap and then you just fill ‘er up the rest of the way with water.

Marvelous, ain’t it?!

And cheap.

It’s just another way I make do… and justify still buying my own soap from BBW.

Just being honest.

Check out Ann Kroeker’s blog for more great Make Do ideas…

This is my first time participating in Make Do Mondays, hosted by the lovely Ann Kroeker.  It’s funny, I think throughout the week of things that would make great MDM posts but then can’t think of a single thing when I sit down to actually WRITE one such post.  Ahh, the glories of a horrible memory. 

But I remembered one this morning. Horray for me!!

Quilts.

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I love them. 

I love the beauty of them.  I love the details of them.  I love the heaviness of them.  I love the warmth they offer.  I love the sense of nostalgia they lend to a room.  I love their sturdiness.

Let’s face it, quilts have been around for a long, long time. 

One thing I don’t care for is the disappointment I get when a quilt becomes stained, or a seam gets torn, or the edges start to fray.  I use to struggle with what to do next with a quilt that no longer “healthy” enough to leave out around the house or fold at the end of a bed.   But not anymore.  In fact, I went LOOKING for used up and torn quilts, even just quilt tops!  Why?  Because they can still be used. 

Need a picnic blanket?  Use an old quilt!

Need a blanket or two for emergencies?  Use old quilts!

Going on a road trip and need something to snuggle up with?  Use an old quilt!

Going to the drive ins?  Take an old quilt! (we usually sit outside on camping chairs when we go so it gets a bit cool)

Going camping/rv-ing?  Take old quilts!

Need to make a bed on the floor for sleep-overs?  Use old quilts to make a “mattress”!

And the one need that sent me actually hunting for “new” old quilts/quilt tops?  We do a Harvest Party every year instead of Halloween and I get loaner bales of hay (from Hubby’s co-workers with horses) that I like to cover up with old quilts for decoration and comfort.  Those things can get mighty pokey and itchy so the quilts make a nice comfy barrier and make the bales into instant seating. 

So don’t throw away your old quilts.  And if you still aren’t sold on the idea of holding on to them, let me know and I’ll take them off your hands happily!  I’ll even pay for the shipping.  =0)

Visit Ann’s blog for more Make Do Monday ideas.

Ann Kroeker, who is an awesome blogger and just about as sweet and insight-rich as they come, recently posted about the best cheese discount ever recorded by man woman. 

It was such a good deal that it I ran out to my own Kroger-brand grocery store to see if I could jump on the cheese bandwagon too.

Unfortunately, all my store’s best cheese deals were gone. 

But I did find these:

deals-email

Can you see all the prices?  Even though I didn’t get cheese, I was very thankful for everything I found.  And I actually got two of the jello-fruits.  I just wasn’t fast enough with the picture taking and four hungry little munchkins devoured them before I could drag the camera out.  The Cream of Tartar is normally $4.99 and I got two for 75 cents each! 

Ahhhhh! Just looking at this picture sigh with happiness.  It’s not everyday you strike a good find like this… that’s why I love it so much. 

Any great finds lately for you?  Food OR otherwise?

I’m talking financial changes today.  We’ll save those hormonal, weather, tv and other such changes for another day.

Ann Kroeker asked this morning, over on her blog, “What changes, if any, have you made as a result of this global financial upheaval?” 

I decided to answer this as it’s one I’ve intended on addressing here for awhile now.  We have made changes around the Runningamuck household.  I’ve always coupon shopped and taken advantage of great sales.  But I’ve stepped it up a notch or five. 

We finally have a chest freezer so that I can really take advantage of great grocery sales. 

I also purchased Ziploc‘s new Vacuum Freezer System.  I had held off purchasing anything like this for quite awhile because I just didn’t want to have to spend more money (for the bags) when the goal was to save money.  However, a few regular freezer bags of freezer-burned sale meat forced me to try Ziploc’s version.  It’s the cheaper than Reynold’s version (I think the pump was only $4.99 and it came with four or five quart-sized bags).  And I have to admit, I love it.  It’s relatively cheap because I stock up on the bags when they are on sale and I have coupons.  I purchased a bunch of roasts about a month ago when Ralphs had a buy one roast get one free deal and so far, they are looking MIGHTY FINE in my freezer!!  I’ve also bought a huge pork loin that I cut into 3 large roasts and they are doing just as well in my freezer.  I highly recommend the product.  It’s makes me smile every time I open my freezer to see it stocked with burn-free meat!

I am collecting large Tupperware containers to store sugar and flour.  It’s so much cheaper when you buy it in bulk.  Can’t beat 25 cents a pound for flour!  And it’s projected to get sooo much higher.

A friend of mine from Church started a food distribution thingy during the summer that I’ve taken part in almost every week.  Can you tell I’m having a hard time knowing what to call it?  What happens is a few people take their vans/trucks to three different food distribution centers, load up and bring it all back to the Church.  We unload everything and mark how much of each item people can take.  Anyone who wants to participate chips in $20 and then goes “shopping”.  I come home with about $100 of food every time.  Sometimes more depending on what they are able to find.  In a word? AWESOME!  Lots of cereal, crackers, bread, eggs, CVS brand allergy and cold meds and even cleaning supplies!  It really helps extend those grocery dollars.  It’s also a ministry as there are always some folks who don’t have the $20 to contribute but they are never turned away.  You just have to be willing to push the line on expiration dates and be ready to use the produce within the next few days after pick up.  Another nice part of this is we get a lot of Organic food items.  Apparently they don’t do as well in the grocery stores as everyone might think. =0)

I have a veggie garden!  I started one last year just for fun.  This year I had a little more purpose in mind.  The summer veggies have been a great addition and I’ve planted fall veggies for the first time.  We are eagerly awaiting bush beans, sugar-snap peas, zucchini (or summer plant had to be replaced), broccoli while still enjoying our summer bell peppers plants that are still producing and an abundance of fresh basil, thyme, sage and chives.  I’m already planning next years garden.  My goal is to not have to buy grocery store veggies next year.  Now, if only fruit trees could be planted and produce fruit all in one year.  Darn!

As a couple, Hubby and I don’t go out on dates as much.  If we do, it usually is a group date with four extra little people.  We just don’t have the money to pay for even a cheap date AND a sitter.  It’s cheaper to take advantage of those “Kids Eat Free” nights at certain restaurants where we can feed them for free and not have to pay for a sitter.  We still get out on our own maybe once a month or so which is nothing to complain about.  I try to jump on www.restaurant.com when they run their additional 60% off the purchase price.  They just had one (I’m not sure if it’s still running or not) and I purchased four $25 local restaurant gift certificates (Citrus Grill being one and Ye Auld Dubliner is the other) for only $16!  And they have no expiration date.  The only requirement is we have to purchase $35 worth of food in order to use the $25 gift certificate.  So for $35 worth of food, we only pay $14 (plus tip, DON’T forget to tip the total bill, not your discounted amount!! Pet peeve).  If you want to try out their site, the coupon code was present. See if it still works.

It hasn’t turned very cool here yet but when it does, Hubby and I have always set our thermastat at 55 degrees at night.  Well, not whenever we had a baby but when the kids are big enough to be bundled up and keep their body temps up the thermostat goes down, lol.  Last year we weren’t able to since Lil Blue was a baby but now that he’s two the temp will go back down.  It helps save on energy costs which annually seem to get higher and higher.

Even though gas prices are going back down, Hubby and I are keeping up with the practice of wise driving.  We try to save up errands until we can do a bunch at a time and make a circular route to save on gas.  We also keep our longer trips to a minimum… non-existent if possible.  So alas, there haven’t been as many trips to the zoo this year. 

There you have it.  The Runningamuck World changes.  If you’d like to chime in with your own, either post a comment here or write a post on your blog and link up with Ann’s

We can all learn from each other.

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