Cheap Thrill$ in Omaha

Frugal Living In The Heartland

Savings Catcher Caught Me Something!

It’s no secret that WallyWorld is not my favorite place.  I have occasionally given it another shot, here and there, when I need something I know for sure they have for less.  Still, not on my regular stops lately.

Some recent experiences at Target have run afoul with my sensibilities, though, and I’ve not gone there, either, in a long time.  I did try Cartwheel, which saved me .83.  Woo.

So when all the hubbub about the Walmart Savings Catcher hit the fan, I paid no mind. In a nutshell, you sign up at walmart.com for Savings Catcher, and the site does local price matching for you!  You receive savings in the form of a WM or Bluebird gift card.

Meh. Not for me, I said. And yet, I found myself at WallyWorld last week, looking for neutral/clear shoe polish and H&B items.  I found some great clearance items, too.  Anyway, at the checkout I learned that the Savings Catcher is something that works after your purchase, and that I could do it when I got home.  Which, for me, is a bonus.  I don’t always have every price match, and if they’re going to do the work, I’ll take them up on it.

I figured there was nothing in my purchases (mostly store brands and clearance) for which price matching savings could be found.  But I signed up through my smartypants phone, scanned in my receipt, and waited.  I’d heard that some folks have waited longer than a week for their savings.  I’d heard that some folks didn’t get the savings they expected.  I expected nothing.

Lo, and behold!  This morning (four days later, and there was a weekend in there) I got an email stating I’d earned 1.93!  I had no idea Menard’s had my deodorant on sale.  Hey, 1.93 is 24% of the price that item!  Yessirree, I will take that savings, thankyouverymuch!

Do I prefer the immediate cash savings of price matching?  You bet!  Why spend it and get reimbursed if I can just not spend it in the first place?  But when I head to WalMart for something, it’s usually because I haven’t had time to PM that particular item, and I need. it. now.  Being  able to scan in the receipt and get a couple bucks in unexpected savings is awesome.

I don’t think Savings Catcher will replace my own due diligence with price matching.  And I’ll still probably go to my favorite grocery store that PMs store brands, vegs and meats.  If you shop at WallyWorld regularly, and even if you PM there, this might be a good practice to catch the deals that you didn’t know were there.

I’m going to wait till I’ve accumulated a larger balance before requesting my gift card.  It won’t add up quickly, I’m sure.

Does anyone have experience using Savings Catcher at the Neighborhood Markets?  Does it work?  Please share your experience.

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The Beautiful Pizza Cake

I’ve been steering clear of processed foods lately.  Recently, due to an extended bout with tummy trouble, I took 10 days off from wheat, grains except brown rice, sugar, caffiene (yes, even my beloved coffee) and dairy.  It was totally doable!  What it revealed to me is the effect of those foods on my body.  Not allergies, really, but sensitivities.  Especially the sugar.  Which means very, very limited chocolate from here on out.

I know.  Let’s have a moment of silence.

Okay, then.  I found reference to the Pizza Cake on the Facebook recently. Here’s a link to the recipe on the Pillsbury site.  Omigosh, beautiful!  My son (an adult now, away in the Army) could barely contain himself.  And it’s super simple.  Even if it uses highly processed foods, including wheat, dairy and pork product.

This dish uses the roll pizza dough in a can, prepared pizza/pasta sauce, cheese glorious cheese, and pepperoni.  I’m sure you could use non-can dough (Trader Joe’s has awesome fresh pizza dough in the meat section, in three varieties).  It just wouldn’t be so easy.  You could mix it up with your favorite sauce (maybe even garlic herb), and turkey Italian sausage instead of pepperoni.  The cheese varieties are also interchangeable (we’ve developed an affinity for provolone).

Coupons?  Yup, they’re out there.  I can provide limited links these days, but here’s one for Pillsbury (you have to sign up). And one for The Frugal Find coupon database I use often.  (No affiliate links.)

This dish will definitely make an appearance on my table when Army Man returns for a visit (which will hopefully be soon, but who knows).  Maybe two versions, even.  I can make do, and with a salad (for me, anyway), it’ll be a fine meal.

 

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Morgan Freeman Provides a Cheap Thrill

I really, really dislike flying.  Especially lately, with airline carry-on policies, tiered boarding order, and ….. well, let’s leave all that negative baggage behind.

Recently, I flew to Birmingham, Alabama to stay with friends and take a day trip to Ft. Benning, Georgia to visit my son.  It’s relatively inexpensive to fly to Birmingham, and my friends (always gracious and generous) offered to drive to the base (2.5 hours away) with me.  It was wonderful to see and hug my son, whom I hadn’t seen since January 4.  He’s awaiting orders now for the next phase of Army life.  Another story.

Our day back in Birmingham included a visit to “What’s on 2nd,” a vintage resale shop. Definitely a Thrill, definitely not Cheap!  Very “collector” prices.  I was so enjoying the old items, until I realized, “Hey, these old items are from my own childhood!”  Ugh.  A wake-up call for sure.  I hope I’ve held up as well as the Raggedy Ann behind the glass case.

My flight out was at ungodly hour, but my awesome friends were up and carted me to the airport in plenty of time, despite the late ending of the Husker game (which they accommodated on their gargantuan TV), and specialty margaritas at “El Barrio”, and locally-brewed beer at “Avondale Brewing Co.”  Bleary-eyed and coffee-less, I made my way to the security checkpoint, and was surprised by something vaguely familiar.

“Ladies and gentlemen! In the interest of air safety, and your own personal safety, please do not leave luggage unattended….”  Same ole same ole TSA announcement.

Except that this voice was Morgan Freeman!

This was one of the most awesome surprises of all my travels ever!  We love Morgan Freeman’s acting and that distinctive voice.  How cool was that?!  Wait.  Was it just too early on a Sunday morning for me to think straight?  Nope!  There he was again.

I must say that made my trip even better.  Another nice Southern hospitality detail to cap off the visit.  If you make it to the Birmingham airport, listen for Mr. Freeman.  It’ll give you a Cheap Thrill, and put a smile on our face, I promise.

(Actually, I was playing with an app and recorded the announcement by coincidence.  I hope to convert the 3gp file to mp3 soon and post it here.  It must be done. You’ll know when you hear it.)

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Freezer Bags Revisited

In a past post, I referenced the America’s Test Kitchen freezer bag comparison from some years ago.  That test provided a then-appropriate recommendation for the best conventionally available freezer bags.

Lo and behold, there is a new freezer bag comparison from Cook’s Illustrated (of the same organization that brings us America’s Test Kitchen)!  The previous recommendation wasn’t even tested.  However, the winner is…..well, I’ll let you view the video, complete with explanations of what they tested and why.  Hint: it’s good for frugal supermarket shoppers!

So now I have a new favorite, which is what I’ve been using for a while, anyway.  The winner is my preferred bag!  It truly performs as the video states; however, a recent package did contain three out of 20 bags that split as I opened them to fill them.  Not cool!  (Not sure what I’m going to do about that yet.)  Sale prices – coupons = deals!  Look for holiday printed bags to go on sale about a month after the holiday, and get them dirt cheap.  My freezer doesn’t care that there are penguins on bags in the middle of summer.

And I will continue to recommend double bagging.  I don’t know about you, but some items in my freezer seem to grow fangs and put little teeny tiny holes in my bags.  Even for non-liquids, this is a death sentence by freezer burn.

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What Happened to Basic Manners?

Warning!  This post contains a vent about the lack of manners in our community.  Read at your own risk.  If you recognize yourself, be aware that others do, too!

Whatever happened to basic manners?  You know, the manners your mom made you “practice” at home, so when you went out in public you didn’t embarrass yourself (or her).  Our recent Father’s Day dinner experience made me realize that they have pretty much been checked at the door in public places.  True story.

DH wanted a movie and steak dinner out for Father’s Day.  We could handle that.  A matinee of a new sci-fi flick at the Majestic, and a visit to Longhorn Steakhouse, would make for a relaxing afternoon and evening, one would think.

The theater has a self-serve drink station, so I waited until the lady occupying the entire large drink station to fill one cup stepped aside.  Another patron took his spot on the right side dispensers, and as I lifted my cup to fill on the left, stepped in front of me.  It took three attempts to finally fill my cup.  And that lady went back, loudly stating what she was doing for some reason.  Point: stepping in front of others, particularly when you see them, particularly when liquids are involved, is impolite and potentially accident-causing.  Point: no one needs to hear another yell out what they are doing; we’re all getting drinks, and we know it.

After the movie, we headed to Longhorn, and were lucky to get there right before the rush.  We were seated in a booth in a quiet corner.  That is, until a large party was seated at several pulled-together tables next to us.  That would have been okay, except for a few very uncomfortable things.  When the server was taking orders, as she got to a child about 7 years old, she loudly yelled her questions to the child,  of course in a sing-song tone.  The server was standing right next to me, and it was very disruptive.  Point: you do not need to raise your voice or speak condescendingly while taking an order, particularly while standing next to another patron.  Oh, it gets better.

While I was eating my salad, the teenage female next to me leaned back, stretched, repeatedly flipped her ponytail, and loudly had a conversation with her mother on the other end of the table about a friend’s schedule later in the week.  Point: the stretch-and-hold pose is never appropriate in a restaurant; no one wants to see your breasts or see your hair flipped around food.  Point: no other patrons need to hear about anyone’s schedule, particularly yelled across a restaurant.  If I can hear it from the next table, you’re too loud.  And oh, it gets even better.

A few minutes later, the teenager and the mother engaged in a loud discussion about “fingernail hygiene.”  Right in front of me.  In a restaurant.  Point: do I really need to say that gross personal hygiene discussions are always inappropriate in a restaurant?  Okay, I had to do it: I glared over, caught the eye of the grandmother across the table, and gestured that I was eating here, people!  They soon stopped that conversation.  I hoped all was now well and good.

Seated at my 1 o’clock was a table of four kids and dad, who all looked nice and polite.  The twin blonde girls were about 12 or 13 years old, and sat facing me.  During the meal, one of them sat crossed-legged, campfire-style, revealing a straight-on view of her underwear under her skirt.  I was glad my teenage son had his back to that table!  To add to the disgust, this child was eating her entree with her fingers and with her mouth open, with food clinging to her face and food falling out.  (Remember the monkey-boy skit on Saturday Night Live?  Just like that!)  Point: tween/teen kids should have been already taught appropriate restaurant behavior.  Point: disgusting table manners may be okay at a campfire, but Longhorn Steakhouse is not a campfire!  Point: young ladies should never cross legs like that with a skirt on, Dad!  Point: if your child has issues, she should sit right next to you, to allow for gentle and quiet instruction during the meal, which any parent would understand.  Point: why weren’t you gently and quietly instructing your daughter instead of sitting there, leaning forward with your elbows on the table watching her? (I guess that was the model.)

It did get better.  I must commend the rest of the staff at Longhorn on 144th.  It was getting crowded, and they were all bustling about providing fast, friendly service.  (I’m not sure, though, why the servers were assigned large groups on opposite ends of the restaurant.)  On one of their busiest evenings, the food was awesome, and service fast.  Usually, the restaurant has a very nice atmosphere, which I don’t mind paying for.  They did the best they could on Father’s Day.

Do people really not remember manners?  Or were they never taught the importance of using them?  Is there nowhere in Omaha to get a reasonably-priced meal in a nice atmosphere?  And by “atmosphere” I mean including the behavior of other patrons.  And by “reasonably-priced” I mean less than $100 for three.

I wonder if it’s just my pleasure to encounter the folks who don’t get out much.  Maybe they get out so much, though, that they consider their behavior acceptable (after all, obviously no one tells them it’s not acceptable).  That’s a sad thought.

I’m not really sure how to address some of these issues, especially without coming across as a self-righteous buttinsky. But there must be a way for us as a community to call attention to these kinds of impolite behaviors, in an appropriate way, to turn society back to civilization.  No, I’m not talking about Victorian standards!  I’m talking about common courtesy, basic manners.  (Not even addressing electronics here.)

Let’s show love of neighbor!  How about that?  A second or two of considering where you are, the fact that others are around other than yourself, and the simplest way to keep everyone comfortable, would really make a difference!  A little less self-centeredness and entitlement, and a little more politeness — what a concept!

What do you think?

 

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New BagNSave/NoFrills Coupon Policy

Here’s what’s on their site as of this morning.  Emphasis mine.

 
The following guidelines apply when presenting manufacturers’ coupons clipped from newspapers or magazines, received by mail, or obtained legitimately from the internet through our website or that of our partners:
  • The coupon must be legible and have a scannable bar code (UPC) and a remittable manufacturer’s address.
  • Coupons with an expiration date must be used within the stated time frame. Expired coupons will not be accepted.
  • Only one manufacturer coupon per item will be accepted.
  • Coupon values that exceed the price of the item will not be accepted.
  • Digitally duplicated copies of coupons (copy machines, scans, etc.) will not be accepted.
  • We do not accept competitor in-store ad coupons.
The following guidelines apply to internet coupons:
  • Manufacturer coupons that involve any kind of free product will not be accepted, including “buy one, get one free” offers.
  • No coupon that exceeds $5.00 will be accepted.
  • Internet coupons are not eligible for double coupon promotions or any other program that exceeds the actual face value of the coupon.
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Target Stouffer’s Family Entree Deal

On sale 6.49 (we like the Italiano lasagna) – 1.50/1 Target coupon – 1.50 mfg FB coupon = 3.49!!!  You can print each coupon twice, so you can have two in the freezer for “those” days.

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Reader Review: Tenmarks.com

Reader Jen sent this email about Tenmarks.com

I am actually really liking this!
 
You may have to play with Grade level – D. completed Algebra, is starting Geometry, tests just fine, but we are doing Grade 8 for her. P. is flying through 2nd grade assignments.
 
Some presentations are not easy for me to understand – common core????
 
You can set up Rewards after a given # of assignments. I did things like ice cream cone, Redbox movies/games, mostly little stuff every 4-5 completed & we have a few pizza & taco nights & then Dave & Busters for the end of it all.
 

There you have it, folks:  unsolicited recommendation from someone I personally know only wants the best for her kids!  Why even think about spending $2,500 just for testing at a fancy tutoring business?  There are so many workable solutions online, doable in the privacy of your own home on your own schedule, and Fah-REE!

Thanks, Jen!

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Product Review: Awesome and Frugal Auto Scratch Repair

Last year we bit the bullet and got a “previously owned” vehicle to replace the lemon Buick, may it R.I.P.  It’s a Subaru Forester with hail damage, which made it immensely cheaper than we would have otherwise been able to afford.  The hail damage did not puncture the paint, but did make little dents and a couple of little clear coat cracks.

There was, however, a large scratch on the left rear fender and bumper (it’s all one piece), and we didn’t want rust or too many more comments. No problem to repair, right?  A quick quote from B-Street Collision (where I have had great service after “not my fault” bumps), revealed that body damage to a Subaru is not cheaply repaired.  $3,800 not cheaply.

What to do, what to do?

After a couple weeks or so of researching, questioning our my abilities, and visiting local auto stores, I found the solution: Automotive Touchup online. They not only provide the most awesome products, but they give you fool fail proof, step-by-step instructions, and suggest the additional products you’ll need when you put items in your cart!  It’s okay to ignore those, if you have your own (I had the fine grit sandpaper and the primer/filler already).

To get the correct color match, you plug in your vehicle specifics, and if it’s factory paint, they do the rest.  My unusual color paint was a perfect match!  I was able to “airbrush” the ending of my paint repair and not have to do the entire bumper. That part of the vehicle looks incredible. Much more affordable (under $60)!  And easy-peasy to do!  Just make sure the temperature is right, and you do it in a dust-free environment that also has ventilation. Give it time and don’t rush.

I chose a rare non-windy Nebraska day, opened the opposite garage door a couple of inches, and the side walk-through door on the other side of the vehicle several inches, and had the storage attic steps open so the electric fan would pull out fumes. (This does not pull into the living areas.) I hung a dropcloth 4″ off the floor to allow air, but not dust, to flow below where I painted.

First, you block off the area to be painted. I used newspaper, blue painter’s tape, and a few drop cloths to protect both the floor and the parts of the vehicle (including wheels) I didn’t want coated.  Over protect those areas, and use the panel boundaries as your guides, so you paint the entire panels.  Then, wipe, dry, sand. Fill in gouges with primer and let dry. Wipe, dry, sand, wipe, dry, sand, wipe, dry.  Really dry.  Let dry some more. Then shake, shake, shake….  Dust off the lint again.  And very lightly spray just one coat (you do not want drips or sags).  Let dry 15 minutes without getting dust on it. After three similar very light coats, let dry at least an hour, then clear coat it.  Et voila! Give it a couple days to cure before buffing or washing.

The clear coat spray also went on the hail damaged areas where it looked like the factory coat had split, to prevent rusting.  And, of course, since we got the Subaru there have been parking lot dings and a minor user error on the driver door. As soon as the weather becomes a little more predictable (meaning tornado season is over and the air conditioner has been prepped), I’ll be addressing those areas again.

It’s not professional unless a professional does it, but I can tell you this amateur did a pretty professional-looking job.  Spray auto paint!  Who knew?!

BTW, I haven’t been compensated for this review.  I just tell it like it is.  These products worked for me, and they could work for you, too, especially if you’re on a squeaky tight budget.

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2014 Omaha Adventure Family Festival

The 2014 Omaha Adventure Family Festival is this Saturday at Village Pointe!

It runs 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and includes activities for kids courtesy the Omaha Children’s Museum, Durham Museum, Joslyn Art Museum, and Lauritzen Gardens. Kids can collect free $5 arcade cards and pose for pictures with Cogswell from The Amazing Pizza Machine.  First National Bank is also a sponsor.  Look for the bright blue Visit Omaha tent and pick up an Omaha Adventure Savings Card worth more than $100 in savings at top Omaha attractions. After May 17th, the cards will be available at can pick up at any First National Bank of Omaha location.

You’re welcome!

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