Frugal February – Part 4

Even in Frugal February, one might feel the urge to splurge…kind of like the need for speed, but with money! We have been very well behaved this month! We stuck to our guns about eating out less, taking out lunches to work, taking snacks to work, and we finally cut the cord with cable.  This past week, a friend of ours was having a little birthday celebration in honor of her 30th birthday (Happy Birthday Melissa!), so we used the rare night out as an impromptu date night. We were heading downtown, so we decided to try Fat Sully’s Pizza on Tejon in downtown Colorado Springs. It had been on our list to try since before it opened in Colorado Springs and we had been hearing so many good things about Fat Sully’s Pizza from our friends who had tried it, it seemed like perfect timing! We expected to spend around $30 for our date night dinner, and we were WRONG!!! Our bill was $20 and some change (before tip…always tip your servers!). We each got a slice, with one meat topping, an order of their Garlic “Not”, and an iced tea for Todd, I drank water.  The pizza slices were good, and the slices were HUGE! The problem I normally have with pizza is the sauce, my mid-30s brought me heartburn when I eat tomato based sauces…and the part of me that is convinced I am Italian, is just heart-sick over it! I, personally, rarely eat pizza because of it, and when I do, I normally request they go easy on the sauce. But this time I didn’t, I guess I was feeling kind of rebellious! Thankfully, the sauce was good, and not overly acidic, and there was no heartburn! Woo hoo! Happy dance! Fat Sully’s Pizza ranks high on my best pizza list. However, even with the really good pizza, the best part of the meal was the garlic bread…I was in fat kid heaven! The butter! The garlic! The parmesan cheese! And, of course, the bread…which was more of a pizza crust with all this deliciousness on top.  I ended up letting Todd finish my slice, which he was perfectly okay with doing, and I tried to finish the bread. I failed, but I went down swinging! That was the BEST garlic bread I’ve ever had. And to give you a point of reference for how much I love garlic bread, I’m going to tell you a little story…back home in the Bay Area in Northern California, you can buy a Colombo sourdough bread garlic bread in the grocery stores. I grew up eating it, it was my absolute favorite. On one of my trips back to the Bay, I discovered a Colombo bread stand in one of the terminals at the Oakland Airport…I purchased TEN loaves of this garlic bread to bring home with me, and I was limited to only 10 loaves because it was all I could carry. I have a deep love of garlic bread, and it is not lightly that I state that the Garlic “Not” from Fat Sully’s Pizza is the best garlic bread I’ve had. Also, just a side note…I may not have the official name 100% correct, so please feel free to comment if I got it wrong!

We will definitely return to Fat Sully’s Pizza to try the other items on the menu, specifically, we have heard that the chicken wings were really good. But for now, we were very happy with our low cost date night, really good pizza, and some amazing garlic bread! You don’t have to have ton of money to treat yourselves to a night out, just do a little research and see what options are out there. A lot of restaurants offer happy hours, weekly specials, or special tasting nights.  Make sure to join the mailing lists for your favorite restaurants and like their Facebook & Instagram pages. Deals will pop up all the time, you just have to know where to look!

https://www.facebook.com/FatSullysPizza//

What was the best deal you found this week???

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Frugal February – Part 3

In my house growing up, no matter if it was the first of the month or the 28th of the month, the cabinets were always full of food. My mom was an expert on shopping well and keeping our pantry stocked. As I grew up, I lived in many different types of homes, with all different kinds of people.  I’ve lived with alone, I’ve lived with roommates, and I’ve lived with family. In all of those homes, no matter how many people lived there and how much money we had, the kitchen cabinets always had the basics, but each home has their own version of basics. I recently asked several people, on Facebook, for their top food staples, basically, what do they always have on hand.

Here are the top 15 kitchen staples:

  1. Canned Beans
  2. Chicken Thighs
  3. Cheese
  4. Rice
  5. Peanut Butter
  6. Pasta
  7. Eggs
  8. Pasta Sauce
  9. Potatoes
  10. Milk
  11. Ground Beef
  12. Stock or Broth
  13. Flour
  14. Canned Tomatoes
  15. Frozen Potatoes.

Having a well stocked kitchen is key to avoiding eating out, and saving money! This is Frugal February after all, we HAVE to talk about saving money! It is all about how you shop, and how you prepare to shop.  I remember, so clearly, watching my mom get out her weekly ads for the Lucky’s, Safeway, and Raley’s (the three big grocery stores in our hometown), and sit down to make her lists, then she would go up and down each aisle to make sure she didn’t miss a deal, and grocery shopping would take HOURS!!! I don’t have that kind of time (or patience for people, for that matter). Thank goodness for the internet, making it easier to get the grocery shopping done quicker and more efficiently. Now, I have apps for my three main grocery stores, King Soopers, Safeway, and Sprouts, and I check them weekly, and then decide which deals I want to make sure I don’t miss. Here are my top 3 tips on how to prepare for a successful grocery shopping trip:

  1. Check your weekly ads.
  2. Take inventory of your cabinets and refrigerator before making shopping lists.
  3. Learn to identify the real deals versus the fake deals.

Let’s break this down…first, check weekly ads. Pretty self explanatory, yes? Kind of…most grocery stores run their their ads Wednesday through Tuesday, except Sprouts, which runs their ads Wednesday through Wednesday.  That means, on Wednesdays at Sprouts, you have double ad day, you get two weeks of ads in one day. The reason this is such an important step, is because this is how you save money, because if you know what you are looking for, you are less likely to overspend on your budget or stray from your list.

Second, taking inventory is extremely important, if you don’t know what you have, you don’t know if you need to stock up.  How many times have you been at the grocery store and wondered if you still had eggs in the refrigerator or if you needed more pasta? If I don’t have my list and I don’t double check my inventory, it happens all the time!

Third, this one is a biggie…and yes, there are fake deals out there! Just because it is on the front page of an ad, or it says “Buy One, Get One Free” doesn’t mean it is a good deal.  For example, if a grocery store is running a buy one, get one free special throughout their store…these are normally name brand, more expensive items, and even with the discount, the per unit price may not be such a great deal.  You may be able to get a different brand, not even on sale, for less than the BOGO deal. But this is why you have to know your ads, and your market, every city is different. And, last but not least, a deal is only good if you will use the item…it is wasteful to buy an item and never use it. If your family doesn’t like apples, it doesn’t matter how cheap they are, if no one will eat the apples!

Frugal February Bonus…I add this mainly because I love a good deal. You know how when a girl buys a dress with pockets, then someone compliments said dress, the girl says “Thanks! It has pockets!”…that is how I am with deals! I brought some of Todd’s homemade chili to work the other day for lunch, someone said “That smells amazing!” and my response was “Thanks! Todd made it! We got the meat for the chili on sale at King Soopers for less than $4!”…and then I get the “you’re weird” look as they back away! Anywho…here are a few deals I found in the Colorado Springs, Colorado area in this week’s ad!

King Soopers:
American Beauty Pasta – 12-16 oz, with digital coupon, 4 packs for only $2, that works to only $0.50 per unit!

Ore-Ida Frozen Potatoes – $1.79 per bag with digital coupon (I have rarely seen these for less than $2 per bag).

Safeway:

Digital coupon to save $20 off purchase of $100 or more!

Sprouts:

Strawberries, Blueberries, or Blackberries, 3 for $5.

Jumbo Hass Avocados for $0.88 each.

Comment on this post with your favorite deal of the week!

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Frugal February – Part 2

Frugal February continues in our month long series about eating good and saving money. In our day to day life, have been focusing on eating dinner at home more often, and making sure we take our lunches to work. Valentine’s day could put quite a dent in a budget, if you are not careful! Valentine’s day is on a Thursday this year, which happens to be our day off, that means we have the whole day together. However, we do not have a ton of money to be frivolous and financially reckless, so we will probably spend the day together, probably watching movies and talking about our future. The last two years, when it came time to celebrate Valentine’s day, we splurged on really good steak from a local butcher, fresh & locally grown produce, and some sort of potatoes…yes, I know potatoes are produce, but a meal with steak is not complete without potatoes, and deserves a special mention. This year on the other hand, the budget is tighter, and our goals are bigger than ever before. However, budget or no budget, we love good food, and our best date nights have been in our own kitchen. This year, we are both working our side gigs on our days off, so we made our steak dinner a little early, it wasn’t intentional, but sometimes you find an deal too good to pass up! About a week ago, we were doing our shopping at the local King Soopers, when we decided to have our Valentine’s day dinner a little early. In the meat section, there is always an end cap with their sale items, and on this trip they had New York strip steak on sale.  We got 2 steaks for right around $11. We also got a bag of baby potatoes for $2.99, and a few zucchini for about $2, so for right around $16, we had a delicious dinner, filled with great conversation and lots of love.
This weeks post isn’t about how to make a romantic dinner, but rather about how to shop for a romantic dinner for two. I have always been a frugal shopper, and the one thing I have learned, especially in the past 5 years, is that cheap and quality are not mutually exclusive. If you know how to shop, and know how much you can spend, you can make a beautiful dinner that tastes as good as it looks. When shopping the grocery store on a budget, I always make a list of what we want to cook for the next week. I go through the weekly ad to find the deals, however, there are more deals in the store.  What we put on the list isn’t necessarily what we end up buying. We start our shopping trips by getting the things that are non-negotiable, the things we have to have, like toilet paper and toothpaste. Our next stop is the meat department, in every store they have designated places that hold the specials, normally end caps, not on the back wall. Once we know what the proteins will be for the week, we can move on to the sides and veggies. I always look at the name brand side dishes on sale, and then look for the store brand version of the same dish, because the store brand will (almost always) be cheaper. In our house, we always have potatoes, and we also do a lot of zucchini and asparagus.  Stock up when you can, for instance, we went to the store last night, and they had some pot roast on sale, we got a decent size one for less than $7, got home and put it in the freezer.

When you know how to shop the ad, rather than just a premade shopping list, you can come up with some excellent meals that has better quality and tastes better than anything you can get from a drive-thru!

Side note…if you want a little history on Valentine’s day…

https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

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Frugal February Part 1

Welcome to Frugal February! This month we are tightening the reins on our budget, and getting control of our finances. We have already trimmed out budget in several areas, but our food budget is always a struggle. We, obviously, like to eat, and eat well. But, at the same time, we aren’t fancy people, and our food doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. This month, we will focus on saving money in the kitchen! We are limiting how many times we go out to eat, and budgeting more carefully when grocery shopping. For the last week, we started by not eating out for dinner. Regardless of our tight budget, we still had some delicious dinners, even after spending only $40 for a weeks worth of groceries. We did simple meals like hot dogs and mac & cheese, along with tacos (a weekly staple in our house).

My favorite meal this week was the Italian sausage sandwiches. The Italian sausage was only $2.77 for a pack of 5 sausages, we got a pack of rolls for $0.87, we got some fancy fromage, a Tomato Basil Jack cheese, from the cheese case at King Soopers for $2.55. The french fries were $2 from the frozen food section. We only ate 3 sandwiches, and half the bag of french fries, which means we will still have a couple rolls left, 2 sausage links, and a half a bag of fries left for another meal. We will have hot dogs and french fries one night, and then sausage and pasta with garlic butter rolls another night. For $8.19, we will get 3 meals, which breaks down to only $1.37 per person per meal. I say this is a Frugal February victory!

I grew up in a home where my mom got paid once a month, and she had to make that one paycheck stretch to feed our family of five, along with all the strays (not animals, but rather our friends who stayed with us) my mom collected over the years, on a very tight budget. Todd’s father is a minister, and his mom fed and took care of their family, on a modest income. Our parents taught us both to cook on a budget, however, we openly admit we don’t always eat on a budget. Sometimes life gets in the way of the budget. We both work a lot, and work on our feet all day, and sometimes we just do not have it in us to cook dinner when we are both getting home after 8pm. When we decided to start Frugal February by not eating dinner out for 10 days, we knew it would be a struggle for us, and something we would have to do with great intention. We will not be perfect, we will budget for small dinners out, but we will work hard to spend little and eat well.

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