Sunday, December 11, 2011

Frugal Deals this Week...

FOOD
Free Peppermint Mocha Nescafe Samples available on Facebook. And CheeseNips at Walmart this week will be only .50 cents with this deal from "I Love To Gossip".

CRAFTS
Make a 3D-Snowflake from 6 sheets of paper! Turn your home or party into a winter wonderland!

ONLINE SHOPPING
December 12 (Monday) will have cyber offers that rival Black Friday....also Ebates will be offering double cash back! Sign up for Ebates now and shop til you drop online tomorrow!

STOCKING STUFFERS
One of my favorite Bloggers "Couponing to Disney" shows you how to get all kinds of goodies and stocking stuffers for free or really cheap in her Walgreen's or CVS scenarios. Print them out and bring them with you as a guide in the stores.

FREE READS

Win Free Electricity for 2012!

Power2Switch launched a new contest to win free electricity for a year!

To QUALIFY, you must be a Power2Switch customer. (Not a customer yet? Become one here: https://power2switch.com/)

To ENTER, you must:

1) Answer (via a comment on the linked blog) the question below and then...
2) Complete the entry form here: (https://power2switch.com/contest/billpay)

QUESTION: “If you have already switched to an alternative electricity supplier, are you seeing any savings on the cost of your electricity? If you just switched for this contest, what was preventing you from switching before today? What were you waiting for??”

DON’T FORGET TO SHARE WITH FRIENDS! THE MORE PEOPLE YOU SHARE WITH WHO SWITCH AND ENTER, THE MORE ENTRIES YOU GET INTO THE CONTEST!

You must be an Illinois resident to qualify. Winner will be announced on the Power2Switch blog on January 1st!

And don't forget you can always save more energy by following these simple tips given by Seyi Fabode (CEO & Founder of Power2Switch)

SIMPLE ENERGY SAVINGS ADVICE
Seyi mentioned in addition to switching to save money, there are other simple ways to save...
  • Turn off the lights when you aren't using them.
  • Never sleep with the lights on - it's a huge waste (of $ and electricity)
  • Kill the Vampires! (Vampire plugs that is!) Energy Vampires are appliances that use energy even while they're not on, see...they are dead but still suck energy,...hence, they are vampires - anyway, Seyi mentioned you can replace regular plugs with special anti-vampire plugs. These are great for TVs, computers and they monitor how long appliances have been on and turn them off when unused - saving you money on your electric bill! You can find these online or at Home/Hardware stores.
  • Ask your landlord for energy-efficient appliances, like "Energy-Star Rated". In the long run, they will save you both money! It's a win-win!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Free Pictures on Michigan Avenue!

Take your friends and family (And Pets!!!) to the Shops at North Bridge (520 N Michigan Avenue) in Chicago this holiday season. You can take free holiday photos for families, friends and even pets!!! (on certain days). Guests can take a picture with Santa (or a winter back-drop), edit, and print their photo all for free! (Sponsored by Windows) The free photo shoot set up is located in the guest lounge by Nordstrom and will be up through December 24. It’s a fun and free way to kick off the holidays!!!

BONUS! Plus for families traveling during the holidays, free holiday photos will also be available in 21 airports nationwide including Chicago Midway. Plus,....you can enter here to win a Windows 7PC or flights from Southwest Airlines!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Aldi - a great place for cheap groceries!

Aldi Stores have been popping up all over Chicago lately since the Great Recession (2008 - ?).

But while Aldi is new to the mainstream, until recently the only Aldi I had ever heard of was on the outskirts of Coshocton, Ohio. My Grandmother and I would go shopping there when I stayed at her home, and sometimes there would be an Amish buggy with horses parked outside of the store. The local Amish population only shopped at Aldi and took advantage of the simple no-frills grocery store with low prices. My Granny says that they still continue to shop there to today! They are smart shoppers!

While there are no horses parked outside of my store in Evanston, there are still great prices on locally produced goods. Aldi has become my go-to place for dairy products. They stock Wisconsin Dairy products, "Happy Farms" for the lowest consistent prices. Milk is
under $3, Butter is on sale this week for $1.99, sour cream is $1.20 and blocks of cheese are $1.89. There's a host of holiday seasonal foods just in time for Christmas parties on sale now, including wines for $2.97 and cocktail sausages for $2.49! Check out the specials here and go stock up!

And while you can save a lot with coupons at Jewel and Dominick's...Aldi's products are store brand. This is a great relief to me, because I know I'm already saving without clipping coupons and relying on what the marketing wizards of the food business are telling me to buy! Also, their layout in stores is simple, no fancy marketing, just food on shelves with small signs overhead telling you the prices. Aldi also has a shopping app for smart phones, and it's free! i doesn't do coupons, because 90% of their products are store brand.

ALDI TIPS:
  1. BYOB - Bring your own reusable bags, because after checkout, they don't provide free bags. You can use their cardboard boxes to carry your groceries out, but I find reusable bags easier to manage.
  2. Bring a Quarter - (If you forget a quarter, ask the cashier for change for a dollar) This is your 'rent a cart' quarter. You get it back when you return your cart. (It's amazing that it only takes a quarter to contain carts in the parking lot!)
  3. Bring cash or a debit card to pay. (No credit cards used here)
Find a local Aldi near you and start saving on your grocery bill!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Frugal Christmas...Chicago 2011!!!

2011 Christmas time in Chicago! I've already seen a couple 'Christmas' commercials with pink elves selling cell phones and car insurance. I guess that means it's that time of year to start thinking about December 25th.

There are so many things to do that are free or frugal in Chicago this season....and I know I have left so many out too! And, for out-of-towners, if you plan a vacation to Chicago this season, you will get to enjoy the many amazing free things to do here in the Windy City! Even many hotels during Christmas season offer great deals to get you in town and shopping on Michigan Avenue! As for dining, remember to check online for extra special deals like these!

Here's my 'must do' list for free Christmas and Winter events for 2011!
  1. Magnificent Mile Lights Festival - Be downtown on November 19th at 5:30 PM for the nation's largest evening holiday event! Lights, floats, free music, family fun and Disney characters - it's a great event to bring your whole family!
  2. Millennium Park Ice Skating: Bring your skates because there's a free ice-skating rink with a great view of Chicago's iconic skyline!
  3. Michigan Avenue: So many shoppers and festivities during the pre-Chistmas season! All the trees along the street are decorated and lit up! It's perfect at night during a light snow flurry strolling with someone you love looking at the lights and decorated windows!
  4. Free Christmas Carol Opera - take the kids and family to "The Christmas Carol" at Northeastern Illinois University on Nov 18 & 19th at 7:30 PM, the Classic Story is set to music by Chicagoan Ronald Combs.
  5. HOLIDAY CTA TRAIN!!! It's like Christmas on, well, a train! It's bright, cheery and costs the same as your regular train fare. Here's the dates Santa will be on the "el"!
  6. Cloud-Gate or "The Bean": Take fun pictures for your Christmas cards at the Bean with snow and mittens! It'll be a great Christmas card picture! Get creative! Located in Millennium Park.
  7. The Signature Room in the John Hancock Tower: To see Chicago from a bird eye's view, go up to the Signature Room rather than paying $17 to go to the observation deck (which is actually 2 floors below the Signature Room). Tip: The Women's bathroom has the best view of the city!
  8. Eli's Cheesecake Dock Sales: Near O'Hare, Bring your favorite cheesecake to the Holidays to share with friends and family for 50-90% off! With big discount on all their gourmet cheesecakes - you'll want to buy them all! Join their mailing list to stay in touch with their sales! Website
  9. Polar Days (at Northerly Island) - (Winter) Free wintertime and snowy fun offered throughout the winter on specific days. Ice Sculptures, free hot cocoa, Siberian Huskies, and more! Check Chicago Park District Page for details on days!
  10. Macy's on State Street - The Macy's (aka Marshall Field's) is a delight inside and out! At Christmas it's always decorated to the nines, with marvelous storybook window displays, and of course the designer tree is an annual tradition to see and take pictures; located on Macy's top level in the famed Walnut Room.
  11. The Home Alone House is the house of Home Alone character Kevin MacAllister (Macaulay Culkin) to the north of the city at 671 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka (rail: Winnetka, Metra Commuter line from Ogilvie Transportation Center). I'm sure I don't have to remind you that this is a private home and not to disturb the residents.
  12. Christkindlmarket, German Christmas Market in Daley Plaza: An outdoor German Christmas Market that features German food, wine, German music (Brass Bands playing Christmas Carols), small houses filled with German ornaments and Christmas traditions. Bring the kids to come see Santa for free! Walk around and absorb the authentic German culture and music in the heart of Chicago,...splurge for the Hot spiced Gluhwein, because you'll probably be freezing. I mean, it's outdoors during December,...it's going to be cold! (Runs for one month, Nov 24 - Dec 24).
  13. Klingon Christmas Carol? - A seasonal favorite from Commedia Beauregard? Well, it could be, and you could find out for half price! Runs Nov 16-Dec 31.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Frugal Thanksgiving 2011

Free/Frugal things to do on Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

  1. Be thankful - say grace and give thanks for all the blessings in your life. There is always something to be thankful for. Play a 'thankful game' with kids or adults....write on your paper cup what you are thankful for and go around the table and share what everyone wrote down. This is a great way to also not lose your cup during family gatherings.
  2. Be lazy and chill out with your friends and family. There's always football and those 'feel good family movies' on during Thanksgiving! Grab some cozy blankets, tea or hot chocolate and cozy up on the couch with your loved ones! (Pets count as loved ones too!)
  3. Check out some new Christmas/Thanksgiving movies by swapping DVDs with a neighbor. My favorites are Elf and the Chicago-based original, Home Alone.
  4. Burn off some of those pie calories with a jog or run around the neighborhood. Invite family members to join!
  5. Look through the Black Friday Ads online and in the newspaper and carefully plan your retail attack on your favorite stores. If necessary scope out the floor plans at Best Buy and Walmart in the evening with fellow shoppers after the meal - this is a family ritual for us!
  6. Volunteer at a senior home - visit seniors who are alone on the holiday.
  7. Learn to cook; There's not better time! For Thanksgiving tutorials I recommend Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray's "How To" videos online.
  8. Learn and attempt to carve the turkey. Some one's gotta do it! Learn how to do this from Martha Stewart,...she knows everything! There's a free online tutorial.
  9. Go Christmas Caroling in your neighborhood! Hey, it's early, but the radio started playing Christmas tunes already! I say go for it!! Sing the classics, Joy to the World, Let it Snow, Away in the Manger, Frosty the Snowman and all your other favorites!
  10. Play a game with your guests. It could be anything from 'Apples to Apples, 'Freeze Tag' to 'Texas Hold'em'.
  11. If you're flying Southwest Airlines and over 21, treat yourself to a free beverage!
  12. This is a great day to start Christmas projects or to start decorating for Christmas time!
  13. If you're a guest, volunteer to help with dishes and clean up - it's a way of saying thank you to your host, without having to say any words at all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do you have a 1st Gen Ipod Nano?

Did you know they've been recalled due to battery issues? Well it's true - see here!

Contact Apple and they'll send you a box to ship it back to them for either a new refurbished version or a brand new battery or a brand new iPod - the jury is still out on what you will receive, but either way, especially if you had battery issues with it, send it back in for a new replacement! The New York Times wrote up a little article about the issue as well...check it out!

This is actually the iPod that I still use I have the white one. My husband's version in black broke via a battery issue about 2 years ago. We're going through the replacement process which begins here on Apple's Support website.

Here's a quote from the website: "Apple has determined that, in very rare cases, the battery in the iPod nano (1st generation) may overheat and pose a safety risk. Affected iPod nanos were sold between September 2005 and December 2006.

This issue has been traced to a single battery supplier that produced batteries with a manufacturing defect. While the possibility of an incident is rare, the likelihood increases as the battery ages.

Apple recommends that you stop using your iPod nano (1st gen) and follow the process noted below to order a replacement unit, free of charge.

Note: This battery issue is specific to the iPod nano (1st gen) and does not affect any other iPod."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Frugal Christmas...Shopping

Many people don't have time to make homemade gifts - and that's okay! You can be frugal, give with joy and still shop at the mall or online! I mean, this year I work over 50+ hours a week and while I'd love to make a personalized homemade quilt for everyone on my list, I do not have anywhere near the time, and also I am really terrible at quilting.

START PLANNING
Shopping and saving during the Christmas Season is an art! When time is tight like it is for most people, I recommend starting now (as soon as you can) and estimating who you want to buy for, brainstorming ideas for gifts and estimating what you can spend on each gift.

CASH BACK PROGRAMS
Once you have some ideas, do some internet research (aka Google) and find places for free shipping, lowest prices and definitely sign up for free cash back from places like Ebates or FatWallet. Ebates is one of my favorite places because they have all the current online coupons on their site as well as offering cash back. To sign up for Ebates, just click on the link provided or on the button below! It's worth it for getting a percentage of your spending back after Christmas! Jon and I to date have received over $90.00 back to us!


GOOGLE ALERTS
Also it is a good idea to watch an item via "Google Alert". Set up a Google Alert for the new hot toy of the year to monitor prices and other news about the item. Set up your own Google Alert here.

BLACK FRIDAY
If you're going to do Black Friday...do your research and recon ahead of time to find specific items on your list. Keep in mind, if it's not on sale on Black Friday, don't go out! Many shoppers are so crazed, dazed and sleep-deprived, it's dangerous and common for many parking lot car accidents on this day! Be sure to refer to my Black Friday tips from 2010.







Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dominick's New App - Frugal (and a chance to WIN!)

Today, I'm using a new tool as I'm making my shopping list today for Thanksgiving and looking through the weekly Dominick's Ad - on a APP (from the iTunes Store!!)

Not only is it free to download, but the first 100,000 people that download this app also get free Ragu pasta sauce! I love freebies!

So here's what I got on my list thus far,...Turkey, Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, ingredients for Pecan Pie, GBC (Green Bean Casserole)...so with this app you can build a real shopping list and check out your local store's weekly ad. And,...there's coupons in the app for extra savings!

Since Dominick's is awesome - they asked me to see how I like the app, and will provide one of my lucky readers with a $50 Gift Card! I know this could really help someone this Thanksgiving!

First get thee to the iTunes Store to download this free App from Dominick's. Then comment on my ChicagoNow blog post (found here) about how this awesome app will help you in shopping over the holidays! You can also leave a comment about your favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas recipe. I'll choose a lucky winner randomly and Dominick's will mail you your prize!

Frugal Christmas...Advent

Frugal Christmas...Advent

As Christmas approaches, I find this is the most inspiring times to think about personal finance.

This season many people are suffering in financial woes and think that has to curb their Christmas celebrations. I want to encourage you to enjoy the frugal things about Christmas season, the Nativity scenes, the free Christmas pageants at your church, the free music concerts, (my favorite at Christmas is Handel's Messiah!), the Christmas festivals and more!

THE FIRST FRUGAL CHRISTMAS
Well let me tell you, the first Christmas was frugal! I mean, think about it, Mary and Joseph gave birth without health insurance mind you, to their baby boy Jesus in an outside barn in Jerusalem! They were not in a fancy hotel, or even a hospital - they were in Jerusalem, to be counted for the census and to pay taxes. It sounds like an awful trip, they were not in their hometown with their usual doctor, they were not on vacation, they had to take a government-enforced business trip to pay taxes. Think about how it would be if you had to travel back to your hometown every year just to pay taxes, instead of the 'quick and easy' online TurboTax every April! And not only that, you have to bring your pregnant wife - not on a plane or car, or train, but on a donkey! And yet, in this dire situation of desperation and frugality, Mary still gave birth to the Savior of us all!

ADVENT CALENDARS
As Advent draws closer, I want to share some free/frugal advent calendars that I enjoy to keep your heart centered on Christ through this season. You will be bombarded with commercials that tell you your life will be better once you buy this amazing thing. Let these scripture-based Advent calendars remind you that you don't need to feel the weighty pressure of going into debt just to share your joy about Christ's birth with your friends and family.
Christmas Scripture Advent Tree



Saturday, November 12, 2011

Free Performance of The Christmas Carol

Take your family and friends to the classic Christmas Carol! It's a wonderful opera production put on by Northeastern Illinois University for two nights only on November 18 and 19th.

Northeastern Illinois offers a wonderful variety of free performances from students within their stellar music program year round! More information can be found here!

On Friday, Nov. 18 and Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m come and enjoy this delightful version of A Christmas Carol, the original story by Charles Dickens, set to music by Chicagoan and Opera Divo, Ron Combs. It's free to all, and spreads the message of Christmas!

Secrets of a Retail Associate for Black Friday

Here's a special bonus from my good friend and guest contributor, Theresa Egan. She wrote this great article last Thanksgiving, and I figured it was worth a re-post for "pre-Black Friday". Here's her helpful advice to keep in mind while you're out shopping! Remember retailers are people too, so be nice to them as they are helping you get those Black Friday Bargains! Thanks Theresa!!

Secrets of a Retail Associate by
Theresa Egan

My husband and I have nearly 20 years of retail experience between us. Needless to say, we have both seen our fair share of Black Fridays. The following is a list of things that we wish the customers who shopped in our stores for Black Friday knew. If you are a customer, avoid some of the following things and learn the others and you will receive the best customer service possible on a day that is pure chaos. As you are shopping for those great discounts, please keep the following things in mind:

1.) You probably look forward to Black Friday for weeks. I have been dreading it since I was hired. Black Friday is a nightmare for retail employees. It is completely overwhelming and so crowded that you can't breathe. The difference is that you get to leave whenever you want, but I am stuck here all day.

2.) You arrived before dawn to grab all those irresistible deals right? Well, I had to get here at least one hour before the store opened. That puts my wake up time around 2am. I'm exhausted. Yes, I am getting paid to be here, but would you be happy about going to work in the middle of the night?

3.) I know that it bothers you when I "pounce" on you the second you walk in the door by bombarding you with sale information. Guess, what? I hate it too, but my boss is standing right over there, so will you please do me a solid and just listen for ten seconds? I promise I won't bother you again.

4.) If I am wearing a lanyard with a sale badge around my neck, don't ask me if I'm for sale. It's not funny and neither are you. PS---It wasn't funny the first 100 times I heard it today either.

5.) No, I will absolutely not model the clothes for you. That's creepy. If you offer to pay me for it, I'm calling security.

6.) You know that impossibly long line that you have been standing in for a half an hour? That's how it has been all day and will be all day, and guess you has to ring you all up? On a regular day I ring around 25 transactions for my 8 hour shift, on Black Friday I will ring 350 transactions by the time I go home. Stop whining.

7.) Please, please, PLEASE read the fine print on the coupon. They always have exclusions and no I can't just magically override the computer for you. Companies purposely make it so I can't do that. It's called stealing.

8.) While we are on the topic, please, please, PLEASE read all sale signs. The exclusions are always printed on the bottom of the sign. If a sign is on a table with pants and shirts and the signs says " $19.50 Shirts" and you bring me pants and complain that they did not ring up at $19.50 then I'm going to suggest that you not buy anything and instead invest in some tutoring to learn how to read. I will never say this to you out loud because my boss is standing right there, but you know who you are.

9.) If I am talking with a customer, please don't interrupt. We are all in a hurry and we have all been up for hours and we are all tired. Just wait politely and I will help you in a moment. You are no more important than anyone else so stop pretending you are

10.) On that note, don't treat me like I am less of a human being simply because I work retail. I am not stupid. Where do you think surgeons and astronauts work to put themselves through school? I could write a lengthy novel about the abuse I have taken from customers over the years simply because I was a "shop girl." How would you feel if I came into your work and treated you like that?

11.) Yes, I do have that sweater in a medium in blue in the back. If you are polite to me I will go get it for you. If you are rude to me, then I suddenly will not have it anymore. If I honestly tell you I don't have it in the back and then if you are an absolute miserable human being to me, then I will tell you I am going back to look for it, but I will actually sit down at the break table and eat cookies and drink coffee for 10 minutes and then come out and tell you that I don't have it. Then I'll sell it to the person in line behind you as soon as you walk out the door.

12.) Remember how your mom taught you to say please and thank you when you were a child? There was a reason. A simple please and thank you can make my day. Please try to remember basic manners. It makes me want to help you and break the rules for you. I'm willing to bend rules for polite, regular customers. I won't budge for the disrespectful ones.

13.) I make more than minimum wage. Barely. There is only so much abuse that I can take before it really isn't worth it anymore, but who can leave their job in this economy? Don't make my bad situation worse by being disrespectful and demanding.

14.) Always get gift receipts. Explain to your friend that if they return it, they will only receive store credit in the amount that you paid for it. So, if you only paid $10 for that sweater, they are only going to get $10 in credit. If the sweater is now $30 it doesn't matter. You only paid $10. I am not going to give you $20 just because. I'm selling sweaters, not giving away money. Of course, if you want to exchange it for the same sweater, but a different size or color, it will be an even exchange regardless if the price has gone up or down and you will not get any money back, nor will you owe any. That's why it's called an even exchange. The same logic is true if you are returning with an original receipt. The amount you paid, is the amount you will get back.

15.) This one is actually really tricky. If a sale is a buy one get one free (affectionately referred to as BOGO) you can't return the full price sweater for the full amount and keep the free one. Otherwise we just gave you a free sweater. You will only receive half the amount that you paid back. For example: You buy 1 sweater at the BOGO price of $40 and get one for free. That means one was $40 and the other was free right? Wrong. This really means that you paid $20 for each sweater. Basically, BOGO is nothing more than half off, but way more problematic. Stores have to make a unit per transaction number each day and this helps them sell more items to each customer. Don't fall for a BOGO unless you really want 2 sweaters and understand that if you return one, you will only get $20. Only God can help you if you do a BOGO and give the sweaters to 2 different people and the person who received the free one wants to return it. Buy them a gift card instead of a sweater. If you return both sweaters, you will receive $40 back.

16.) Yes, if sweaters are 2 for $30 you must purchase 2. No, you can not get only 1 for $15. This process is known as a 2fer. If you could buy 1 at $15 then we would mark them at $15 and not 2 for $30. This is not a grocery store. I am selling sweaters, not cereal.

17.) If you have children with you, don't let them run around unattended and destroy my store. Do you know how long it takes to put up those displays and how long it takes to clean their disgusting fingerprints off all the glass in the store? They may be your precious angels, but to me they are screaming demon spawn sent to make my life a never -ending chore of cleaning Skittles off the merchandise. They are not adorable when they are using permanent pen to draw on our cashmere and silk sweaters and neither are you when you don't confess to it and try to take responsibility. We won't make you pay for it, just do the right thing and teach your children to be accountable for their actions. And no, you may absolutely not use the fitting room as a changing station and leave the dirty diaper for me to pick up. How would you like your workplace to smell like a bathroom? Seriously, in what world is this acceptable?


So as you are hurrying about scoring all those fabulous deals, be kind, be patient, be considerate and be understanding and it will be returned to you with gratitude and stellar customer service. We all want to feel appreciated and if I feel that way, I will do everything in my power to make sure you feel that way too. No, my job in retail is not hard. It doesn't take great wisdom to fold sweaters all day, but being mistreated by people day in and day out makes it unbearable and I go home upset every night. Help make this holiday pleasant for all and follow that age -old golden rule of treat others the way you want to be treated. Everything we really need to know in life we learned in kindergarten after all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Culver's on the Cheap!

Everyone's gotta feed their family! One of my favorite Wisconsin discoveries since I moved to Chicago 10 years ago is the Culver's BUTTER BURGER! My fellow NU peers from Wisconsin were obsessed about Butter Burgers and I never understood it until.....I got CULVERIZED! Now, we're pretty much obsessed with Culver's too.

Why am I writing this on 'Fru-Girl'? Well, why don’t you tell me last time you got a delicious, fresh (never frozen) burger for under $4....that's right - Butter Burgers are FRUGAL! AWESOME!

Jon and I love Culver's amazing Butter Burgers and tend to take visiting non-mid-westerners to get the real Culver's experience. We have a checklist of things to make our visitors try:
  • Deep Fried Cheese Curds
  • Classic Butter Burger
  • CUSTARD!
All of these items are made with fresh Wisconsin products...Beef + Dairy! NOM NOM NOM!

Living in Evanston, sadly (we don't have one really close - although I’ve heard rumors of Culver’s going in on Dempster in Niles!) So for now, our Culver's experiences have to wait until we're out of town: we've hit up the Culver's in Antioch, Mt. Prospect, Pleasant Prairie and in South Bend.

Why is Culver's so good??
  • They use fresh, never frozen beef for their burgers and real Wisconsin Cheese! (not that processed stuff like fast food joints).
  • They have deals! (Follow on Facebook + Twitter for giveaways and deals!)
  • The people working there are always nice and the restaurant is always clean!
  • They have their own Root-beer - YUM!
Prices are comparable to that of McDonalds, only WHY in the world would you eat at McDonald's when you could have a Butter Burger + Cheese Curds?? If you're spending the calories on Burgers, Cheese and Frozen Custard...get thee to your nearest Culver's!

Get the Deals:
Culver's offers seven SnackPak Meal options that include a signature ButterBurger, small crinkle cut fries and a small drink. Some of these meals start at less than $4. Bargain! Also, join Culver’s eClub and receive a buy one, get one free Value Basket for joining and free One Scoop Sundae on your birthday. The Text Club offers deals and news about your local Culver's right to your phone and you'll receive a free single scoop of Fresh Frozen Custard for signing up.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can Organic be Frugal?


Yes, yes a resounding yes! And after all...health is priceless...and if you are what you eat, why would you want to be junk? Consider eating well and eating organic as part of your health care budget. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Steeper Discounts
Organic coupons are typically from smaller companies that really want to get you to try their product....and unlike their non-organic competitors, they offer steeper discounts (i.e: $1 off one item, $1.50 off one item)

I "Like" you on Facebook
"Liking" companies on Facebook can give you great coupons, vouchers and even free products! Don't be shy, tell them how you feel! :)

Stack Your Coupons at Whole Foods
If you have a Whole Foods near you....you are really in business! You can stack Whole Foods coupons found in their flyers or online (here) on top of Manufacturer coupons and get organic groceries for just a few cents or sometimes,.....free! Sign up for Whole Foods email notifications for special sales and free events. FYI: Other Organic favorite Trader Joe's also takes coupons.

Blogger Healthy Life Deals simplifies saving money for you and writes out the up to date deals for Whole Foods and provides links to each available online coupon!

Whole Foods keeps a stash of coupons on hand from their old flyers and from vendors at their customer service desk. Just yesterday I scored a handful of $1.00 off BearNaked Granola coupons and $1.00 off Coconut Milk from SoDelicious!

Ask for the coupons you want!
Email or call the organic companies and ask for coupons. There's always a 1-800 number on their package to call and request coupons.

Get Friendly with Vendors
Also if there's a vendor promoting an item you enjoy at Whole Foods or a festival, ask if they have coupons - they are always happy to get rid of extra coupons!

Start Drinking Free Water...
There's a site called "Find a Spring" where you can find fresh spring water year round somewhere near you. It's user-submitted and rates the quality and taste of the water....there are a couple great springs in Chicagoland.

Try Eating Raw...
It saves time cooking, cause you're not cooking and time is money! Check out site: Raw Under $10 a Day This blogger is frugal minded and health conscious!

Stock a Frugal Organic Pantry...
This may take a couple weeks, because you can buy throughout an entire sale cycle. When Organic Couscous is on sale, grab 3 weeks worth of those yummy little grains. Then, when Organic Chicken Broth is on sale (It was free with stacked coupons a couple weeks ago!) buy up as many that will last through the 'use by date' stamped on the package,...and so on! More helpful tips on stocking your pantry are found on the Whole Foods site.

I will continue to post on these topics....any thoughts, sharing ideas and comments are welcomed!

Free things to do on Thanksgiving (AND bonus advice from a retail pro for tomorrow)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

  1. Be thankful - say grace and give thanks for all the blessings in your life. There is always something to be thankful for. Play a 'thankful game' with kids or adults....write on your paper cup what you are thankful for and go around the table and share what everyone wrote down. This is a great way to also not lose your cup!
  2. Be lazy and chill out with your friends and family. There's always football and those 'feel good family movies' on during Thanksgiving! Grab some cozy blankets, tea or hot chocolate and cozy up on the couch with your loved ones!
  3. Check out some new Christmas/Thanksgiving movies by swapping DVDs with a neighbor. My favorites are Elf and the Chicago-based original, Home Alone.
  4. Burn off some of those pie calories with a jog or run around the neighborhood. Invite family members to join!
  5. Look through the Black Friday Ads online and in the newspaper and carefully plan your retail attack on your favorite stores. If necessary scope out the floor plans at Best Buy and Walmart in the evening with fellow shoppers after the meal - this is a family ritual for us!
  6. Volunteer at a senior home - visit seniors who are alone on the holiday.
  7. Learn to cook; There's not better time! For Thanksgiving tutorials I recommend Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray's "How To" videos online.
  8. Learn and attempt to carve the turkey. Some one's gotta do it! Learn how to do this from Martha Stewart,...she knows everything! There's a free online tutorial.
  9. Go Christmas Caroling in your neighborhood! Hey, it's early, but the radio started playing Christmas tunes already! I say go for it!! Sing the classics, Joy to the World, Let it Snow, Away in the Manger, Frosty the Snowman and all your other favorites!
  10. Play a game with your guests. It could be anything from 'Apples to Apples, 'Freeze Tag' to 'Texas Hold'em'.
  11. Join ChicagoNow's FREE BLACK FRIDAY 5K for ChicagoNow!
  12. If you're flying Southwest Airlines and over 21, treat yourself to a free beverage!


And as a special THANKSGIVING bonus from my good friend and guest contributor, Theresa Egan, here's her helpful advice to keep in mind tomorrow while you're out shopping! Remember retailers are people too, so be nice to them as they are helping you get those Black Friday Bargains! Thanks Theresa!!

Secrets of a Retail Associate on
Theresa Egan

My husband and I have nearly 20 years of retail experience between us. Needless to say, we have both seen our fair share of Black Fridays. The following is a list of things that we wish the customers who shopped in our stores for Black Friday knew. If you are a customer, avoid some of the following things and learn the others and you will receive the best customer service possible on a day that is pure chaos. As you are shopping for those great discounts, please keep the following things in mind:

1.) You probably look forward to Black Friday for weeks. I have been dreading it since I was hired. Black Friday is a nightmare for retail employees. It is completely overwhelming and so crowded that you can't breathe. The difference is that you get to leave whenever you want, but I am stuck here all day.

2.) You arrived before dawn to grab all those irresistible deals right? Well, I had to get here at least one hour before the store opened. That puts my wake up time around 2am. I'm exhausted. Yes, I am getting paid to be here, but would you be happy about going to work in the middle of the night?

3.) I know that it bothers you when I "pounce" on you the second you walk in the door by bombarding you with sale information. Guess, what? I hate it too, but my boss is standing right over there, so will you please do me a solid and just listen for ten seconds? I promise I won't bother you again.

4.) If I am wearing a lanyard with a sale badge around my neck, don't ask me if I'm for sale. It's not funny and neither are you. PS---It wasn't funny the first 100 times I heard it today either.

5.) No, I will absolutely not model the clothes for you. That's creepy. If you offer to pay me for it, I'm calling security.

6.) You know that impossibly long line that you have been standing in for a half an hour? That's how it has been all day and will be all day, and guess you has to ring you all up? On a regular day I ring around 25 transactions for my 8 hour shift, on Black Friday I will ring 350 transactions by the time I go home. Stop whining.

7.) Please, please, PLEASE read the fine print on the coupon. They always have exclusions and no I can't just magically override the computer for you. Companies purposely make it so I can't do that. It's called stealing.

8.) While we are on the topic, please, please, PLEASE read all sale signs. The exclusions are always printed on the bottom of the sign. If a sign is on a table with pants and shirts and the signs says " $19.50 Shirts" and you bring me pants and complain that they did not ring up at $19.50 then I'm going to suggest that you not buy anything and instead invest in some tutoring to learn how to read. I will never say this to you out loud because my boss is standing right there, but you know who you are.

9.) If I am talking with a customer, please don't interrupt. We are all in a hurry and we have all been up for hours and we are all tired. Just wait politely and I will help you in a moment. You are no more important than anyone else so stop pretending you are

10.) On that note, don't treat me like I am less of a human being simply because I work retail. I am not stupid. Where do you think surgeons and astronauts work to put themselves through school? I could write a lengthy novel about the abuse I have taken from customers over the years simply because I was a "shop girl." How would you feel if I came into your work and treated you like that?

11.) Yes, I do have that sweater in a medium in blue in the back. If you are polite to me I will go get it for you. If you are rude to me, then I suddenly will not have it anymore. If I honestly tell you I don't have it in the back and then if you are an absolute miserable human being to me, then I will tell you I am going back to look for it, but I will actually sit down at the break table and eat cookies and drink coffee for 10 minutes and then come out and tell you that I don't have it. Then I'll sell it to the person in line behind you as soon as you walk out the door.

12.) Remember how your mom taught you to say please and thank you when you were a child? There was a reason. A simple please and thank you can make my day. Please try to remember basic manners. It makes me want to help you and break the rules for you. I'm willing to bend rules for polite, regular customers. I won't budge for the disrespectful ones.

13.) I make more than minimum wage. Barely. There is only so much abuse that I can take before it really isn't worth it anymore, but who can leave their job in this economy? Don't make my bad situation worse by being disrespectful and demanding.

14.) Always get gift receipts. Explain to your friend that if they return it, they will only receive store credit in the amount that you paid for it. So, if you only paid $10 for that sweater, they are only going to get $10 in credit. If the sweater is now $30 it doesn't matter. You only paid $10. I am not going to give you $20 just because. I'm selling sweaters, not giving away money. Of course, if you want to exchange it for the same sweater, but a different size or color, it will be an even exchange regardless if the price has gone up or down and you will not get any money back, nor will you owe any. That's why it's called an even exchange. The same logic is true if you are returning with an original receipt. The amount you paid, is the amount you will get back.

15.) This one is actually really tricky. If a sale is a buy one get one free (affectionately referred to as BOGO) you can't return the full price sweater for the full amount and keep the free one. Otherwise we just gave you a free sweater. You will only receive half the amount that you paid back. For example: You buy 1 sweater at the BOGO price of $40 and get one for free. That means one was $40 and the other was free right? Wrong. This really means that you paid $20 for each sweater. Basically, BOGO is nothing more than half off, but way more problematic. Stores have to make a unit per transaction number each day and this helps them sell more items to each customer. Don't fall for a BOGO unless you really want 2 sweaters and understand that if you return one, you will only get $20. Only God can help you if you do a BOGO and give the sweaters to 2 different people and the person who received the free one wants to return it. Buy them a gift card instead of a sweater. If you return both sweaters, you will receive $40 back.

16.) Yes, if sweaters are 2 for $30 you must purchase 2. No, you can not get only 1 for $15. This process is known as a 2fer. If you could buy 1 at $15 then we would mark them at $15 and not 2 for $30. This is not a grocery store. I am selling sweaters, not cereal.

17.) If you have children with you, don't let them run around unattended and destroy my store. Do you know how long it takes to put up those displays and how long it takes to clean their disgusting fingerprints off all the glass in the store? They may be your precious angels, but to me they are screaming demon spawn sent to make my life a never -ending chore of cleaning Skittles off the merchandise. They are not adorable when they are using permanent pen to draw on our cashmere and silk sweaters and neither are you when you don't confess to it and try to take responsibility. We won't make you pay for it, just do the right thing and teach your children to be accountable for their actions. And no, you may absolutely not use the fitting room as a changing station and leave the dirty diaper for me to pick up. How would you like your workplace to smell like a bathroom? Seriously, in what world is this acceptable?


So as you are hurrying about scoring all those fabulous deals, be kind, be patient, be considerate and be understanding and it will be returned to you with gratitude and stellar customer service. We all want to feel appreciated and if I feel that way, I will do everything in my power to make sure you feel that way too. No, my job in retail is not hard. It doesn't take great wisdom to fold sweaters all day, but being mistreated by people day in and day out makes it unbearable and I go home upset every night. Help make this holiday pleasant for all and follow that age -old golden rule of treat others the way you want to be treated. Everything we really need to know in life we learned in kindergarten after all.


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Top 10 shopping secrets for BLACK FRIDAY!!

BLACK FRIDAY is the annual American retail-crazed extravaganza that offers deals beckoning and tempting frugal shoppers and bargain hunters nationwide out of their homes into the cold at insane hours of the night or morning! If done right, you can save a lot of money without camping out the night before! From a family who has mastered the art of Black Friday retail reconnaissance....here are my top 10 secrets for success on BLACK FRIDAY!
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Are you ready???

Start Wednesday
1. First, make a list and budget for your gift buying for the holiday season if you haven't done so already.
We make something like this on Excel: We jot down ideas in the ideas list and keep a running total of what we've spent. From the budget, we calculate how much we have left to spend on each person.

Name Have Idea Budget Spent Total
Bob Hat Golf Stuff $75 $20 $20
Judy ----- Sweater $75 $0

2. Research the BLACK FRIDAY deals online: Do your homework and read up on the ad scans! Crazed bargain hunters have leaked the ads for over a week now....check it out! Assess your shopping needs with the ads make a Quick GOAL List with item and store....(this will be elaborated later)
Golf Bag - Dick's
Disney PJ's - Walmart
DS LIte - Walmart
Book - Walmart

3. Match deals with coupons - yes you are allowed to use coupons on Black Friday! If there's not a coupon in the paper ad, check their website. Also make sure to check Retailnenot.com to check for any additional printable savings/coupons/freebies.

4. If you're going for the big screen TV or appliance, buy it with a credit card that doubles or extends your warranty for free! These cards give you that free extended coverage or double you warranty in case something should break. Both Discover Card and AMEX have a good reputation for the extended warranty if you make the full charge of the purchased item on the card. Also, Old Navy Card Holders are allowed to get the Black Friday sales pre-sale on Thursday!

5. If you are buying clothes for yourself or for the family (which I think this is a GREAT time to do so) go clothes shopping and try on clothes on WEDNESDAY. This avoids the nightmare of trying on clothes in the fitting rooms on Black Friday and eliminates the need to return items that don't fit during the holiday season. If you can, put the clothes on hold under your name on Wednesday or Thursday....that way you can get in and buy them, and then get out! Remember your time is very valuable on Black Friday!!

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THURSDAY

5. Do your in-store recon after Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Scope out where things are located and make detailed notes about the locations, varieties and numbers of each item.

6. Elaborate and organize your PLAN: Find out what time the doors open, where the items are located and make detailed notes of it on your sheet.

WALMART: TIME OPENS 5 AM
ITEM , DETAILS/NOTES
DS Lite Nintendo Bundle, color RED, located back 3rd row, Electronics
2 sets Disney PJs: Boys sizes 3T, 6, Center aisle of store, children's section
DICKS SPORTING GOODS: TIME OPENS 6AM
ITEM, DETAILS/NOTES
Golf Bag, front of store - Color Hunter Green

7. Map out your driving route the night before...prioritize your route by opening times and your biggest goal items. Even consider doing a test run of your route the night before. Also, you don't want to be getting lost in the dark in an unknown area and wasting precious time. Make time goals for each store.....I mean you don't want to spend over an hour in Walmart if it means you are going to miss fantastic Door Busters elsewhere! If you're out of town, shop with a GPS in your car and plug the addresses of the stores in the night before.

On Black Friday...
8. Eat breakfast before you go whenever that is..and get your coffee prior to shopping if you're one of those "I'm cranky if I don't have coffee" people.

9. Come prepared,....bring your detailed lists, GPS, coupons, rewards credit card, budget sheet and the ads for each store. Women: Bring a sling purse that allows for two hand shopping. And remember buying something just because "It's a good deal" doesn't help your bottom line. In the spirit of BLACK FRIDAY, in the chaos and noise of it all, you may want to consider using hand signals with your shopping army!!! (See Below!)

10. Always get gift receipts - (and boxes but only if they are free!)

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A hand signal is worth a thousand words....on BLACK FRIDAY!!!

Most importantly, remember to be kind to others and remember the reason for the giving! Best of luck to all! Be safe and have a happy Thanksgiving and a successful BLACK FRIDAY!!! Check back to see Free Things to do on Thanksgiving!!!

10 Free Ways to Relax...

Relaxing is an important part of life. Period. Stress affects your health, so counteract it by fitting in some time to relax...to truly relax. Take a deep breath in,........slowly exhale....good! We're onto something now!

So, even if it's just for 15 minutes...let go of whatever you are spending time worrying and thinking about, work, school, car, family, health, kids, spouse, cat, dog, jobs, interviews.....it will all still be there waiting for you later, so just for now, take some time for you.

1) Take a nap (set the timer for 15-20 minutes and visit dreamland!) Zzz......

2) Visit RainyMood for a relaxing thunderstorm soundtrack. Sit back in your chair and think happy thoughts. (I am playing the 30 minute soundtrack while I'm blogging....sigh! so relaxing!)

3) Pray. Just get on your knees and pray. Let Him know you're still around, after all, it's great to know He's there and already knows what you're going to say.

4) Yoga....there's yoga free everywhere,....free online classes and free within your community. Take a moment to look online for places near you that offer free classes. And don't miss Free Yoga Day USA next year....look up a free yoga studio near you! DIY Yoga....do a free online yoga class at home. Many free yoga classes are found not surprisingly on YouTube. Also you can rent a Yoga videos free or cheaply from your Library.

Free Yoga in Evanston and Chicago:
  • Free classes taught by advanced students: Evanston's Global Family Yoga.
  • Frugal Bikram Yoga for 31 days only $29.00 (available in Lincoln Park and Wicker Park). Evanston also has a Bikram Studio that costs $75/for first month unlimited and then $99/month after that (Bikram Yoga Evanston).
  • Pick up a free 3 day pass for LA Fitness or other "box" gyms and take advantage of their free yoga and pilates classes.
  • Lululemon retail locations offer free Yoga classes (on Saturdays 9AM-10AM in Evanston)...look up your location to take advantage of their free yoga classes. You can bring your own mat or borrow one there.
  • 'Yoga from the Beginning' offers you one free class - and many other classes free throughout the month as well. It's located at the Mystical Science Institute on Ashland Avenue in Evanston.
5) Take a walk or jog outside. There's very little that endorphins and fresh air can't solve!

6) This one is simple, drink a glass of water. Dehydration causes much physical stress that we don't consider throughout the day.

7) Animal Therapy! Spend some quality time with your favorite furry friend. Stoking a cat or dog has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Little Layla (our Ragdoll cat) is a great therapist she and I volunteer with seniors in Evanston! She curls up on anyone's lap and purrs while they get to spend some time with an adorable and friendly cat!

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Layla our adorable Ragdoll! Isn't she cute??


8) Sing! Singing reduces stress! Just turn on your favorite songs to sing along with or if you want to be more adventurous, sign up for voice lessons. I know other voice teachers who do this as well, but personally as a voice teacher, I would definitely teach a free first lesson if asked!

9) Stream relaxing music for free....whether it be Enya or Brahms or Baroque selections, you can create your own free play list on Playlist.com (thanks Kristine!) or create your own free radio station at Pandora.com.

10) Watch a picture slide show. Sit back in your computer chair and gaze at the slide show of the best photos on Flickr from the past 7 days. Or if you need a good laugh, look at some "Adorable Animal Photo Bombs"...you'll enjoy it! Laugh and relax!

Cheap Eats from Your Pantry

Maybe you're feeling a little bit of financial stress...well, you still need to feed yourself and the family, so no fear....'Cheap Eats Part 1' are the answer!

Currently we're going through our pantry/fridge/freezer and creating meals from what we have stored up from previous sales and trips to the grocery! Here's some delicious ideas from what we've created!

Gnocchi with Beef Vodka Sauce and Caramelized Onions
  • Gnocchi Package, $1.00 (bought on sale and stored in pantry)
  • 4 oz Ground Sirloin, .80 cents (bought on sale and stored in freezer in 4 oz portions)
  • 1 Spanish onion, .65 cents (bought on sale and stored in pantry)
  • Classico Vodka Sauce (1/2 jar), .80 (bought on sale for 1.75 for whole jar and stored in pantry)
  • $1.00 for 1 pound of In-Season Oranges
Boil Water (salted). De-thaw and brown beef in skillet. Drain any fat and add chopped onions. When onions are tender, add 1/2 jar of Vodka Sauce. When water is boiling, add Gnocchi - they are done when the dumplings float to the top, then drain. Plate sauce over gnocchi and enjoy with in-season Clementines and oranges on the side!
Total cost = $4.25

Date & sharp cheddar Quesadilla
It's that sweet and sharp flavor combined that are just so delicious! Yum!
  • 2 flour tortillas, .10 cents (.60 cents for package of 12)
  • 4-5 chopped pitted dates, .30 cents
  • 1 oz of shredded sharp cheddar, .25 cents
Total cost (for one quesadilla) = .65 cents

Italian Quesadilla Dippers
Great for late night pizza cravings! Makes 2 quesadillas to share with a friend/spouse!
  • 4 flour tortillas, 20 cents
  • 2oz shredded mozzarella, .50 cents
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (in pantry bought on sale), .50 cents
  • Dried Oregano
  • Garlic Powder
Make quesadilla in skillet with tortillas and mozzarella, when done, slice into 8 pieces for dipping. Heat tomato sauce (combined with garlic powder and oregano for taste) in a microwave-safe dish in microwave until hot. Total costs = $1.20

Spaghetti-O's (homemade style!)
We stumbled upon this creation that has delighted our childhood appetites! It's better than the real thing and is all natural! For my husband who loves this so much this would only be a 1 serving recipe, but for most normal people, this serves 2-3 people. (Serve with Garlic Toast to re-create childhood tradition!)
  • Orzo pasta, .35 cents (whole box was $1, bought on sale and stored in pantry)
  • 1 can of basic Tomato Soup, .60 cents
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese, .70 cents
  • Garlic Powder
Cook 1/3 box of Orzo noodles in a small amount (10 oz. approx) of boiling water. When orzo is al dente, add can of tomato soup and stir. Add 1 teaspoon of Garlic Powder and 2-3 Tablespoons of Grated Parmesan Cheese and stir in! Total cost = $1.65 cents

More adventures in cheap eats to come....new challenges....using different items in pantry/freezer including Bran, canned Chili, Beans, pineapple rings, Panko crumbs, dry ravioli and more!