I’ve written before about saving money at the grocery store by playing The Grocery Game as well as about ways to save with or without coupons.  I thought I’d share a few more tips I’ve picked up since then. I must be getting pretty good because I’ve averaged 48% savings over my past four shopping trips (one per week).  To quote one of my favorite original-Arkansan sayings, “I’m not braggin’.  I’m just tellin’ ’cause I’m proud.”

A $4 loaf of bakery bread for 75 cents

Oops, We Baked Too Much – This rack can be found in or near the bakery in most grocery stores.  In Kroger, it really is called the “Oops We Baked Too Much” rack.  It is filled with bakery items that are about to go past their sell-by date.  In most cases the markdowns are 50% or more.  I stop here first and ferret out the good bread, cookies, etc.  I freeze the bread until I need it.  My picky husband did not notice that he was eating previously frozen bread until I asked him to get a loaf out of the freezer one day. Generally the bread lasts 5 days after I buy it off of this rack.

Manager’s Specials on Meat – I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but I just recently realized that the marked down meat is all moved to one area of the refrigerator case.  Makes it much easier to browse.

Clear-Out Corner – I’ve also found that most stores have a clearance corner where they throw random items in a last-ditch effort to get rid of them.  High discounts can be found, but you have to dig through a jumble of dry goods, personal care, and non-food-and-drug items.

A little helper searches the lower shelves for sales

Look High and Low – In every aisle, higher priced items are placed at eye level.  You’ll often find less expensive brands, off brands, and sale items placed on the lowest and highest shelves.

Ten cents off Gas at Shell – This tip is specific to Kroger card holders in Arkansas.  You can now use your Kroger card to save 10 cents per gallon at all Shell gas stations in the state.  You do have to have at least 100 points ($1 spent in groceries = 1 point) accumulated on your Kroger card to use this card benefit.

Store-Specific Digital Coupons – Many grocery chains are now featuring their own digital coupons on their websites. You register your store shopping card, click the coupons you want, and they are automatically loaded to your card.  When you swipe your card at the register, they are automatically deducted from your total.  Visit your store’s website to see if they have digital coupons, and go here for  Kroger e-coupons.  If you are a Target shopper and have a smart phone, you can sign up to have coupons sent directly to your phone.  At the register, you bring up an image of the coupon, and the cashier scans it.

Groupon.com – Groupon is not really grocery specific, but I think it deserves mention here as a great way to save money (as long as you only buy Groupons for things you normally use).  Sign up for a Groupon account, and they will email you a city-specific deal every day. You decide whether you want to buy it or not.  Savings are usually 50 to 65 percent and cover a wide range of goods and services: everything from car washes to trendy clothing boutiques have been featured here in Little Rock.

And finally, a little tip for my WLR tribe members.  It’s about saving time, not money.  But then, time is money…

Our new Marketplace Kroger (read: sort-of-Super-Kroger) is beautiful, but slightly overwhelming.  On my way out of there today, I noticed that they have store maps with a product index available.  They’re on the same stand as the weekly ad.  Grab one to take around with you, at least until we all learn the place.  You might think you’ll look a little silly carrying a map, but you also look a little silly doing three laps through the store, spending two hours finding everything you need. (I know this from experience.  I saw the sushi guys pointing and laughing at me today.)

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Last week we had a very windy day and one of the three tall pines in our back yard snapped in two.  The odd thing is that I watched it happen.  Two things struck me.  One was my instinctual protective mother action of gasping aloud, grabbing hold of Carina and pulling her tight against me.  Even though we were separated from the tree by an exterior wall and 20 feet of deck/flooring.  At least I know I have the instinct. The other thing that was interesting was the sound and feel of the tree falling.  I was sitting on the couch in the living room when the tree caught my attention with a dual-report popping noise, and not only did I see it fall past the window, I heard it whooshing through the air.  When it hit the ground a story and a half below us, I felt it.  I was very glad it fell away from our house and our neighbor’s house.  And now I feel semi-qualified to answer that question about “If a tree falls in the forest…”

Once that tree fell (which was alive) we noticed that the even larger tree behind it was dead.  So we knew we needed to remove it in order to not have a replay of the event described above, which left only the smallest, most-likely-to-hit-the-neighbors’-house-if-it-fell tree, so we decided to remove it too.  Our lot is very sloped, and these trees are at least 30 feet tall, so there was some concern about how to get them out of the back yard.  Luckily, our insurance company happened to send us to a tree service that means serious business.  Many of our friends joke that Craig likes to do things that are EXTREME.  So this was right up his alley.  To bad he was at work and missed all the action.

If you look closely, you can see the guy climbing up the tree to cut the top off (this is the tree that’s dead).

Everyone should have a crane parked in the yard at least once in their lives…

And have a telephone pole dangled over their rooftop…

And a big claw-truck thingy that scares the children.

And the A-#1 source of entertainment for the day for ourselves and several of the (incredibly understanding) neighbors was this, which happened five or six times when it was all said and done.

I’m glad that if the trees had to be removed, it happened the way it happened and when it happened.  But honestly, I really miss my trees.  I loved those tall pines. I liked to watch them sway (ironically) in the breeze, and the kids and I watched the birds and squirrels play in the tops.  I spent many a late evening laying on the couch looking up at the sky through their branches. I wonder if the woodpeckers miss them.  I wonder what happened to all that wood. I never knew being a tree hugger could take an emotional toll.

At the beginning of August, the kids and I were looking at a full month of empty week day schedules.  I had envisioned trips to the pool, a tour of all the area playgrounds, maybe a few morning runs with the jog stroller.  And then the real live Arkansas summer reared it’s ugly three digit temperatures and all my plans were dashed.  In the meantime, we’ve found a few new summer pastimes that come free and complete with climate control.  If you’re not in Little Rock, maybe this list will help you get ideas when researching things to do in your town. Click the links for location and hours.

Indoor Playgrounds: Two area churches have indoor playgrounds that are open to the public.  Both of these locations also have a cafe so you can catch lunch or at least a snack after a long play session (the cafes are not free).

  • The Church at Rock Creek‘s playground is a beast, boasting four levels of climbing, tunneling, sliding adventure.  There is also a less intimidating space for the under two set.  As best I know this playground is open every day except Friday and Sunday.
  • Little Rock’s First Baptist Church Family Recreation Center has a small indoor playground that is great for preschool aged kids and younger.  It is two levels with a slide, and it’s very easy to see the kiddos at all times.  There is also an adjacent outdoor playground here. Open Monday thru Friday starting at 5:45am

Storytimes: Normally the Central Arkansas Library system is ripe with  storytimes throughout the week, but for some reason several branches take the month of August off.  We’ve found a couple great storytime events to keep us afloat, though.  Both of these storytimes are scheduled to continue through the fall.

  • Storytime at McMath Library is every Wednesday at 10am.  Miss Julie is a wonderfully energetic storytime librarian, and the library itself is beautiful, clean, and easy to get to.  Storytime includes 3-4 books, 2-3 songs, and an art/craft activity.
  • Storytime at Whole Foods is every Friday at 10am.  “Farmer Kaylea” (complete with overalls) takes time out from her farm to share some stories and a yummy snack.  Storytime includes 2-3 books, 1-2 songs, a healthy (usually fruit) snack, and coloring sheets.  The kids and I usually stay and play in the kids’ play area (blocks, puzzles, books) for an hour or so.

Open Gym: There are a couple opportunities for open gym play that I know of. (These are not drop-offs.)

  • Unity Martial Arts offers a free open gym every Friday from 9am-11am.  Sometimes a wide open padded space is all a kid needs.  The huge bouncy balls and a game of bean-bag toss are just icing on the cake.
  • The Little Gym is offering a free open house this Friday, August 13 from 2:30-4:30pm.  Instructors will be on-hand to facilitate free play, themed games, prize drawings, face painting, and more.  If you decide to sign up for classes while you are there, mention that you heard about the open house event from me (Fawn) and they will waive the yearly membership fee for you.

If you know of any other free “beat the heat” activities or events, please post them in the comments section. We still have a month til school starts!

The last post I did with tons of survey-type information about myself was a huge hit in the bloggy underground (still shocked about that one), so I’m taking a cue from my blog buddy, The Park Wife, and posting the “25 Things” list that I wrote when it was circulating around Facebook back in February of 2009. Surprisingly, not much has changed, except that I am getting a little more sleep these days.

1. I am a night owl by nature. My children no longer let me live as such.
2. I am not, nor would I ever claim to be, a domestic goddess. In fact, my husband is more domestic than I.
3. I am interested in learning about all religions, although I haven’t found a single doctrine that I am fully satisfied with. I don’t think that makes me an athiest, or a sinner. In fact, I’d say I live a more morally secure life than many very religious people that I know.
4. I’ve sworn off movies. I don’t really have the time or the attention span for them anymore.
5. I miss working out on a regular basis and feeling fit.
6. I am addicted to the internet. My day is not complete if I haven’t logged on.
7. I love saving money and getting things on the cheap. Probably a good thing since we’re paying two mortgages right now.
8. My Mom is my best friend, besides my husband. I hope that my kids will say that about me some day (well, except they might notl say, “besides my husband”).
9. I moved around a lot as a kid. I started a new school in 5th grade – it was my 5th school. I think this has effected me in both profoundly positive and negative ways.
10. I HAVE to eat breakfast every morning. Sometimes twice. I usually have to wait my turn though.
11. I am a Stay At Home Mom. I’m not one of those soccer-mom types though. I’m very thankful to be able to raise our children and to enjoy their every-day hijinx, but I spend about 10% of my time wondering if I’m really cut out to be a full time mommy.
12. I can’t believe this is only #12. I guess I’m not as interesting as I thought.
13. I’m officially limiting myself to 5 of these fill it out and forward it thingys for the year. Now that I’ve joined facebook, I think I’ll hit my limit quickly.
14.I’m really good at tossing things. Unless it’s an egg at the family reunion and there are several second cousins running through the tossing range.
15. The only caffeine I get is through chocolate. I guess I should have put this under #1.
16. I like to do things fast. Run fast, bike fast, drive fast. Lately the only things I get to do fast are sleep, eat, and pee.
17. My goal for the year is to sleep through the night more nights than not. So far I am 0 for 37 nights.
18. Many of my daily tasks are highly repetitive. I’m getting used to this, but I still don’t like it.
18. Many of my daily tasks are highly repetitive. I’m getting used to this, but I still don’t like it.
19. I hate doing dishes.
20. I love to travel. I love the ocean. I love to travel to the ocean. I hope that someday I won’t have to travel to get to the ocean.
21. I hope to write a novel. My husband hopes I write a novel that makes money.
22. I am a tree-hugger and am always trying to take the eco-friendly route.
23. I am a bit of a know-it-all. I do my best to help people improve their lives with what I know.
24. Now that I’m 30, I feel a bit differently about hair dye and eye cream.
25. The best for last. I have the most wonderful husband in the world. I know lots of women say this, but I think if there was a wonderful husband competition, mine would come in first, with out a doubt.

Those of you who know I am on a momcation this weekend might be disappointed that I have yet to put up any new blog posts.  My apologies.  I am on vacation, you know.  In the meantime, I have post over at Arkansas Women Bloggers that you can read if you miss me that bad.

Ok, I’m a day late, but that’s because the guys who are putting in our sprinkler system hacked right through my internet cable line yesterday.  For shame.  I was like a fish out of water.

Twingles

A Twingle is a single child who is often mistaken for a twin, due to being close in age to a sibling with similar physical appearance.  So a twingle is always part of a pair of twingles.   My kids are indeed twingles.  The are 17 months apart in age, and look more like one another than they look like their parents.  We get asked all the time if they are twins (or people just assume) and have also been asked several times if we adopted our twins.  This phenomenon seems to be getting worse as Callen is starting to catch up to Carina in size.

So, there you have it.   Janet is the winner of the guess the definition contest.  If you recall, the prize was a twingle for a day.  So, Janet, which of my twingles would you like to have for the day?  Hahaha! How about I just buy you a drink sometime?

I did want to add that my favorite guess for the definition of twingle came from Janice, who thought a twingle is a cross between a twinkie and a bagel.  Very creative!

It’s been a while since we’ve done an “interactive” TWT, so here we go.

I made up a word today: Twingle.  Not like that time when I thought I made up the word momcation only to find out a year later that it is being used all over the place by moms with wanderlust.  No, this time, I really did make up a word.  Now, twingle is a homograph (remember that from last week’s TWT post?), so if you do a search online for “twingle”  you’ll get results, but that twingle has a different definition.  No, this twingle is all mine.  My very own word.  I’m twingle’s mama.

So, now the interactive part:  What is the definition of twingle?  (not that other twingle. MY twingle.)  Leave a comment with what you think the definition of twingle is.  Closest to correct wins a twingle for a day.  No kidding.  Winner (and definition) revealed next week.

Goodnight and Good luck.