Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rubber Roast

This month I have spent $135 on groceries to feed a family of five, plus three cats and a large dog. I include pet food, cleaners and toiletries in with my grocery money. That's $35 a week to feed everyone, and I've got some big eaters.

I keep the food bills low several ways:

  • I get free cereal and snack foods at CVS and Walmart by use of coupons with sales.

  • I keep my eyes peeled for windfalls like wild fruit or a neighbor's over productive garden.

  • I make leftovers on purpose and use them up.

  • I keep chickens, so I have a source of high quality protein (eggs) for very little expense.

  • I trade my eggs for other food items.

  • I make recipes like Rubber Roast to stretch our food dollars.
I use the term "recipe" very loosely in reference to Rubber Roast. It's more a conceptual menu then a recipe. It expands and contracts easily to fill in a week. This elasticity is why I call it Rubber Roast. Besides, it just sounds funny.

Here's how you do it. First, purchase a low cost pork roast. I try to purchase my meat for less then $1 a pound. My last roast cost $1.13 per pound.

Day One: Fried Pork Steaks, Boiled Potatoes and Salad

  1. Prepare the roast for surgery, and cut thin slices off one end. I have five people in my family, so I made five slices.

  2. I boiled up ten large potatoes and put the rest of the roast in a large pot of water with a little soy sauce and as many carrots, onions, tomatoes and other veggies as would fit in the pot with the water and roast.

  3. I fried up my pork steaks and served meat, potatoes and salad.

  4. Leftover potatoes and pork roast went in the fridge for tomorrow.

Day Two: Chopped Pork and Veggies Over Cheesy Potatoes

  1. Pulled out boiled roast still in its pot and heated it up.

  2. Chopped up remaining potatoes with butter and cheese and microwaved them. I use a pastry cutter and a bowl to make it quick and easy.

  3. Spoon out some meat and veggies with a slotted spoon to keep liquids in pot.

  4. Add grains to remaining liquid and continue to heat. There will still be plenty of veggies and meat bits left in the pot. Remove bone and save.

  5. Serve meat and veggies together with cheesy chopped potatoes and salad.

Day Three: Vegetable Pork Soup with Fresh Cuban Bread and Salad

  1. Take the soup out of the fridge and start heating it up. Add water if it needs it and any spices to taste.

  2. Make easy Cuban Bread from Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette.

  3. Serve soup, salad and fresh bread.

  4. Reserve about 4 cups of soup, watered down as needed.

  5. Soak dried beans - enough for another meal.

Day Four: Pork Fried Rice and Veggies

  1. Make rice, using the remaining soup, veggies and meat instead of water. Try to make enough to have a little extra.

  2. In a skillet saute chopped carrots, green beans, onions, celery and whatever you have on hand. Add soy sauce when they have softened.

  3. When rice is done, add to skillet and mix everything.

  4. Start your beans boiling with your pork bone.

  5. Put leftover rice and veggies in fridge.

Day Five: Pork & Beans With Cornbread

  1. Start heating up your beans from yesterday. Remove pork bone at this point and discard it (or give it to your large dog).

  2. Make your cornbread.

  3. When your beans are hot, add rice and veggies from yesterday. Rice and beans make a complete protein and are delicious and satisfying together.

  4. Leftovers from this meal go into the fridge for their final act.

Day Six: Quesadillas and Salad

  1. Spoon beans, meat and veggies from container and microwave.

  2. Chop lettuce, tomatoes, olives and anything else you like in a Mexican salad.

  3. Lay a tortilla in a hot pan, add beans and cheese and top with another tortilla.

  4. Serve with salad.

And you're done. You've just saved money by stretching that roast out over nearly a week. You've also saved a lot of cooking time since after the first day everything is practically instant. You probably haven't eaten out much either, saving more money.

Next week I'll be pulling out my crock pot and seeing if I can stretch a chicken for a week. I think I'll call it Everlasting Chicken;)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Free Bellsouth Two-Way Talk Radio

Hot Freebie Deal From iMommies:

From Penny Pinscher: I just did this deal and now have two radios on their way for $0. This will be great to use with the kids to keep track of them! Thanks iMommies... please make sure yyou check out her great site for more deals!

Regularly priced at $29.99, this Bellsouth Two-way Talk Radio with a five-mile range is on sale this week at for $10. Use the Google Checkout promotion to discount your purchase by $10, and pay $0 out of pocket.

Of course, this is only for ONE radio, so if you don’t already have one in your household, it would be most helpful to purchase TWO! Only one use of the Google Checkout promotion discount is allowed per email address and credit card, so if another member of your family has not yet used Google Checkout…shop away! The promotion ends June 30th!

1.) Click HERE to access
2.) Click the Weekly Advertised Deals tab at the top of the page
3.) Click on the $10 Bellsouth Two-Way Talk Radio image to display the product details
4.) Add the item to your cart
5.) Select Google checkout to receive the $10 discount
6.) Select free shipping. (If your total isn’t $0, you’ve missed a step (unless you live in the sales tax states of California, Massachusetts, or Tennessee.)
7.) Receive your free Bellsouth Two-Way Talk Radio within a few days (usually much faster than their website indicates). allows one free Google checkout item per email address and credit card. (You’ll have to enter your credit card information to check out, but once the Google Checkout discount is applied, your item will be free.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

There IS Such a Thing As a FREE Lunch!

Working at a school can help you learn some interesting things. I've learned that the teacher's lounge always has some sort of baked good waiting there. I've also learned that kids are much more fun when you don't have to clean up after them. And recently I learned that a majority of schools around the nation serve free lunch and breakfast to any child under the age of 18! There are no forms to fill out, no income to verify, no IDs to show. Children just walk in and get lunch.

It's all part of the Summer Food Service Program created by the USDA. While I couldn't find a comprehensive list of all sites involved, I did find plenty of info on Google. Looks like most states participate. I called the schools near my house to find out which ones participate.

I've actually had personal experience with this program prior to rediscovering it. A few years ago I would take my kids to the park at noon and there would always be a group of moms and their kids gathered for lunch.

The kids would have a blast getting out of the house to meet friends, and I loved having the midday meal taken care of every day. It was playdate and lunchtime all rolled into one. I loved it.

I'm curious to see how the program works in other states. In New Mexico it was held in a park, and here in Florida it is held in all the schools. Let me know how it is where you are in the comments section and be sure to spread the word. Who doesn't appreciate a free lunch these days?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Super Saving Saturday!

It's been awhile since I did my SSS update. The truth is, I've been working like crazy and have been too busy to CVS. *GASP!* I know, that's hard to believe...

The one trip I've made recently was to get three Colgate toothbrushes, two bars of Johnson's Buddies soap and six Cadbury chocolate bars for 13 cents OOP plus $12 ECBs back. Not too impressive, but I'm still happy with it.

Now that summer is four days away, I'll be down to two jobs and have TONS more time to spend at CVS and at Penny Pinscher. Four days to freedom! Wahoo!

Note from Penny Pinscher: New to CVSing? Crystal over at Money Saving Moms has an excellent CVS primer you can read here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flashback Time: Remembering Redneck Economics

The other day a friend of mine told me how to catch a gopher. At first I was perplexed.

"Why do you want to catch a gopher?" I asked.

"To eat him!" was the matter of fact reply with an implied "Duh!" for punctuation.

"Oh!" I answered, and a light went on in my head.

Gophers are made of meat. Gophers are made of free meat. Gophers are free range, antibiotic free and pretty much organic. They apparently taste like chicken. Did I mention that they were free? My interest was piqued. There are only a few problems I could see.

  1. I've never caught a gopher.

  2. I don't know where any gopher holes are.

  3. I'm not sure I really know what a gopher looks like.

  4. I'm not sure I could really drag a fuzzy little creature out of a hole with a broom handle, nails and can contraption, look in his soft little eyes and then bean him (even if he is made of free meat).
Suddenly I realized my limitations as a child of the suburban middle class. While I was wasting my teen years gawking at A Clockwork Orange and David Bowie, my redneck counterparts were learning useful skills like automotive repair and gopher catching.

When the economy starts sliding and push comes to shove, what skill have I got? I know how to apply eye liner like Robert Smith. What about my redneck brethren? He's smacking down gopher soup that he caught last night with a Busch Lite can.

The heat is on in our country and suddenly The Great Depression doesn't look so much like ancient history. The rich are insulated with a fat pad of wealth and the brains to keep it. The poor were already in the middle of a fight to survive. It's the middle class that gets the brunt of the shock wave.

In my two car, two and a half bath world it's a nasty surprise to look around and think "What do you mean, I can't afford milk?" It doesn't compute to the Liz Claiborne and Areopostale set. It's taking some of us a moment to let the new reality sink in. Driving and food are expensive. Computers and cars don't really need to be upgraded every year. No, we can't move up into a better neighborhood in the next six months.

My gophers-as-food conversation brought to my attention, however, that there is a valuable subculture among us that can help us all, if we can keep from turning our noses up. Like the Indians showed the early pilgrims how to hunt and grow corn, our twangy accented neighbors suddenly seem invaluable for their do-it-yourselfer ways.

A few days later I had another short conversation that made me re-evaluate our nations middle class values. At the school where I work I was urging children to look through the heaps of lost & found items that had gathered on the cafeteria stage before they were donated to charity.

"Make sure you look for any lost items!" I reminded an Abercrombie & Fitch clad mini fashionista as she cruised by without a glance. She waved a rhinestone covered hand dismissively in my direction.

"My mom never wants me to bring back items if they have been in the lost & found." she declared with a sniff. "They might have cooties."

Amazed, I thought "Good for her!"

One of these days her mom will look around and realize that her credit's run up and American Express is no longer her friend. In the meantime, I'll take her $75 cast off pullover home with me. I have an old fashioned machine called a 'warsher' that kills cooties, and I need something to wear while sitting around the fire pit enjoying my Fuzzy Catch of the Day Fricassee.'

Note from Penny Pinscher: Originally posted on January 23rd, Redneck Economics has been one of the most popular posts ever to appear on this blog. Besides making numerous networld appearances and being forwarded into inboxes everywhere, the opening lines of Redneck Economics were selected as Wisebread's Quote of the Week. We hope you enjoy this flashback!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Cost of Clutter

Many times I have read self help information aimed at getting me to cut my clutter. Oftentimes they claim that de-cluttering will save time and money. Saving time I can sure understand. But money? I never have made the connection as to how my clutter, innocently piled up at the bottom of my closet, is costing me anything...that is, until today.

Recently I found that I could no longer close my closet door due to the large pile of miscellaneous stuff that has been growing there. With an extra day off to kill and no gas money to go anywhere I decided to attack the pile. Armed with garbage bags and a gritty determination to NOT save anything for a garage sale, I began my quest.

Pulling out piles of clothes and sorting through them I began to see a few things about myself. One thing I realized is I see value in everything. That's a good quality for a tightwad, but it can be over done.

The poorest person in America can have a wealth of free clothing just for asking - do I really need to save my super worn out, holey and stained T-shirt for charity? And yes, I already have enough cleaning rags. I tossed the T-shirt.

I also realized that because I see value in everything, I am reluctant to let anything go without getting some compensation. That dooms me to piles of clothes in my closet that will someday go to my big garage sale where I will make a million dollars from selling my valuable, super worn out, holey and stained T-shirts. It made sense until I thought about it.

The final thing I realized is that I am so busy seeing the value in holey T-shirts that I miss real money issues. For example, I just went out this week and spent $10 on a pair of denim shorts because it has been very hot and I wanted them that afternoon.

This afternoon I uncovered a stack of at least 10 pairs of nice denim shorts in my closet. Suddenly I remembered someone giving them to me last Fall. They have spent the winter languishing under piles of clutter until I forgot they existed. I had just spent $10 for nothing. My firsthand lesson in how clutter costs.

I also recently bought a pair of sport shorts so that I could ride my bicycle more. There in my closet was the exact same pair of shorts purchased last year. I wanted to scream with frustration; not only did I waste more money due to a cluttered closet but I realized I must be pretty boring to buy the exact same pair of shorts a year later.

Losing money always wakes me up, and I took the lessons to heart. I pulled seven bags out of two closets to give away, with even more going straight to the garbage. I quit on the mythical garage sale and the thought that someday we might need half a dozen T-shirt rags.

As a reward I now have a nice clean closet with everything in clear view. Shorts, capris and shirts are stacked in efficient rows. Gift bags (free from CVS, of course;), my emergency present box and my change pot are all within reach. Tomorrow I will shave 20 minutes off my getting ready time because I won't have to look for socks.

Organization feels good, looks good and is good for my wallet. Now if only I can keep it that way! How do you handle clutter? Leave a comment!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Stamp Out Future Postage Hikes With Junk Mail

As of last Monday we are all now paying more to mail the same things.

Like everyone else, the United States Post Office is feeling the finacial pinch and looking for ways to bring in a little more moula. There are only two ways for anyone, inclusing USPS, to get more cash; bring in more and keep more. I don't know what the Post Office is doing to reduce their expenses, but I'm not happy with being part of their "bring in more" equation.

What most of us don't realize is that we all have some 'friends' (their self appointed title) that are willing to pay USPS for us. They send scores of letters everday - literally tons of mail nationwide. Why not send them mail back? They are so desperate to hear back from us they even pay for the postage!

Of course I'm talking about junk mail. Everyday I get 3-7 letters of solicitation in my mail. They want me to buy into their magazines, credit cards, polyesther pants and book club plans. I stacked up all the junk mail I recieved at Christmas one year for a week and the pile weighed more then 5 pounds!

Besides cluttering up my mail box I have to pay to throw it all away. It chokes our landfills, costing the environment. All the bleach and dyes used to print the junk goes out as poison waste into our streams. I'm not even going to get into all the trees that are cut down to make the paper that is destined for garbage from the start...

Why not send these 'friends' of ours a message back and help the USPS keep rates low at the same time? All it takes is a few minutes a day to send back the pre-addressed, pre-paid envelopes that come with all the offers.

We look forward to junk mail around here. The kids snicker mischievously as they look for interesting mail to send back in the free envelopes. After I remove anything that has our information on it (I shred personal info to be used as chick and ferret litter) the rest gets mixed up and stuffed back in. Citibank may get pizza coupons. Discover may be invited to join a book club. American Express gets an amazing offer to purchase credit card insurance.

Sometimes the kids add our own papers from school. Who wouldn't want to receive a star math paper back in the mail? Or a solicitation to buy cookie dough? Or old field trip information fliers?

The results are less junk for me to haul to the curb, a satisfying way to tell solicitors what I think of them, financial support for the post office and I always know when my new mail has arrived because the flag will be down again. If everyone in America sent those envelopes back to the companies the USPS probably wouldn't have to raise rates again for years!

And for anyone who's embarrassed at what their postman (or postwoman) would think of seeing fat envelopes waiting to be picked up on a daily basis? For the three workers I've personally asked, they love it. "It's job security!" was the general opinion.

I was also told that this is not a revolutionary new idea - folks have been sending back junk mail for years. A common trick was to tape the postage paid envelope to a brick and mail it back. The post office does discourage mailing bricks, but nice fat envelopes of your child's latest crayon masterpieces are welcome.

Some tips to remember when return junk mailing:
  1. As a rule, I never send anything with personal info on it. Kid's first names are okay to me, but no last names, school names or addresses. I also watch out for envelopes that have "offer id codes" on them.

  2. Shred all personal info to keep it out of the hands of identity thieves.

  3. Process mail on a daily basis to avoid having heaps of clutter piled on your microwave waiting to be stuffed.

  4. Pass this info on to everyone you know that is tired of junk mail and rising postal rates... I think that would be about everyone!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Our April Financial Check Up

April was a great month for our finances. Basically this last month I had three goals.

Pay off as much credit card debt as possible. We only have one credit card left, and the balance was $10,000 at the beginning of the month.

Double our Emergency Fund to $2,000. Since everything is becoming so much more expensive, I reason that emergencies might also go up in price. Best to have a little more fat in lean times.

Reduce our expenses as much as possible. This included walking instead of driving, diligently turning off lights when not in use, and conserving water.

Goal number one was accomplished in a big way thanks to 'pinsching' our pennies and using our tax return. Our credit card debt now stands at $5,000. I was also able to accomplish goal number two and goal number three.

Reducing our expenses (gas, electric, water...) was the only way we were able to meet #1 and #2, though that tax return was a big help. I also took all the extra work I could find (without neglecting my kids;) to make extra money.

May's goal? Finish paying off that credit card debt. Can you guess where our economic stimulus check is going?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Houston, We Have A Problem...

Fact: The economy is tight, and only getting tighter.

Fact: Waste costs money going in and going out.

Fact: Few entities can afford unnecessary waste in today's economic climate.

Take a look at the picture I took today of typical lunchroom garbage. On any given day about 24 bulging bags go out to fill the big green dumpster outside. But what can we do about it? The kids have to throw away their trash, don't they? I think not.

When I look inside the great plastic cans I see more than waste. Pounds of food go in there to petrify in our landfills, food that my chickens would be glad to devour every day. Feeding the scraps to farm animals would probably reduce our garbage usage by at least half, and the remaining bags would weigh almost nothing.

One strategic change and suddenly the school saves money on waste disposal, gets good public relations when the media finds out what they are doing to make a difference for the environment and makes a whole lotta chickens happy. All it takes is a can dedicated to scraps and an open mind.

Another issue I see are all the Styrofoam dishes we have to use. While they don't weigh much, making them cheaper and easier to dispose of, they cost money whose ultimate resting place is the garbage. Whatever happened to the old plastic and metal trays I used growing up? Use 'em, wash 'em and reduce garbage to the almost gone stage. Buy it once and they last forever.

Of course, I'm just dreaming. I'm not factoring in water costs to wash all those reusable trays, nor the extra labor that would have to be added to wash those trays. But without dreams where would we be? Stuck in the stone age with Fred Flintstone as a neighbor.

It's something to think about.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Calculating Your Fuel Costs

With food prices in a wild race with gas prices, I've realized that it's time for me to take our personal frugality to new extremes. Each week I'm going to try a few new things to see if we can't cut back on utilities, food costs and fuel.

First off, I found this nifty Fuel Mileage Calculator to help me figure out how much it costs me to drive per mile. This was beneficial because I realized that my old minivan is much more efficient then I give it credit for and my per mile costs are much less than I thought. Knowledge is power, and in this case it helped me avoid a costly mistake.

I was planning on buying a bike rack for my minvan so I could cut out one school trip a day by leaving my van and riding back home on my bike. That would save me 6 miles a day. According to this calculator, it costs me about .19 a mile to drive around, so cutting 6 miles would add up to $1.14 a day. With only 30 days left in our school year that would save me $34.20.

With the cheapest bike rack I could find costing $53, I would have to use it for around 99 days to break even. If I would use the bike rack in other situations, it would be worth it. In my case, however, I will only be using the bike rack for the next 30 days. It’s cheaper for me to continue driving the extra 6 miles a day.

Over this summer I plan on using my bicycle and the bus system to save money. Right now I drive an average of 20 miles a day. That equals $3.80 a day for me to drive. That adds up to around $115 a month. That’s pretty significant over the course of the summer, not to mention the exercise I’ll be getting. I think I’ll probably shop even less then I do now since I’ll have to haul it back in my back pack or return for it with the car.

Calculate your own fuel costs so you can make informed decisions instead of knee jerk reactions like I almost did. To make it easy, simply write your odometer reading on your gas receipt every time you fill up and slip it in your wallet. Then all the info you need is right there when you need to calculate your gas costs.

The "F" In Frugality Is For "Fun"

I have a confession: I'm not overly upset over the high cost of gasoline and food.

I'll admit that I have my moments of worry. Every time gas prices go up I feel obligated to raise my eyebrows, puff out my cheeks and read the new price out loud to anyone in the car with me (usually my kids). In the grocery store I've started talking out loud to the 'luxury items', such as tea. "$1.60?!?" I exclaim to the boxes and tins. "A few months ago this peppermint tea was 99 cents!"

Secretly, though, I think I'm enjoying all the furor in much the same way a gossipy neighbor enjoys bad news. Saving money is one of my favorite subjects to ponder, but it used to be a lonely topic of conversation. Six months ago if I tried to bring up how to container garden using free 5 gallon buckets I would have gotten disinterested signals and a quick change of subject.

Now frugality is "in", and I suddenly find my pet topic awash in popularity. Everywhere I look it's all over the media - how to save cash, gas and utilities. Bikes are suddenly hot (who's got money to spend on a brand new hybrid?), reusable bags are the new tote in demand and refilling your drink bottles makes you a noble global consumer, not a tightwad.

Years of trying to come to grips with "being cheap" are finally paying off socially. No longer do I have to justify why I avoid convenience foods and hang my laundry. Ahhh, but being "in" feels good... as long as it doesn't cost anything extra.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Stop the Train! I Wanna Get Off!


Two weeks since my last post! I can't believe it... but as I mentally review recent events I'm surprised I am posting today.

The big chaos event that occurred (and really seemed to start the karmic chain of events) was that a "situation" happened with my husband who is temporarily overseas in a very sandy and not fun place. He is okay, but the ensuing stress was enough to knock me out of my "pennypinscher" groove. I fell off the bandwagon and into the waiting arms of Ronald McDonald.

Another chaotic event that was much more positive was two of my kids getting accepted into two different talents shows. I was suddenly tossed into whirlwind preparations with costumes, music CDs, rehearsals and filling out paperwork.

Besides the above happenings, we've been maintaining baseball schedules, homework, Scout-o-rama, emergency babysitting, had a prowler, daughter's iPod was stolen from our car, planted sweet potatoes, helped out at school, took on extra work, de-ratted the chicken house, watched my sis-in-law do a bellydancing show and taught a friend to CVS. Whew!

The dust is settling again, thank goodness, and I am back to posting. Thanks to our tax refund, I managed to add to our Emergency Fund and pay off half our credit card debt. Another few months and I should be able to get the rest knocked out. Then I can start on the Home Equity Loan. Here's what I'm doing to scrape up the extra money for payments:

  1. Conserving funds - hanging my laundry, turning off electricity when not in use, walking instead of driving, no eating out (except for my recent exploits), buying nothing but the bare necessities
  2. Taking on extra work - house cleaning, substituting for other positions at work, doing surveys for Pinecone in my spare time, working with Adsense and Associated Content

  3. Trying to maximize my opportunities - I signed up with Revolution Money Exchange to get my $25 and am trying to pay attention to referrals when I can.

  4. Selling off all the extras-Everything we don't need must go. In return we're getting a little cash, the space and less to keep track of.

That's my update at the moment. I've found some really good articles lately, like this one that talks about why we pay sales tax on coupons. I never thought about that.

Another one I liked was Secrets of SuperStar Grocery Shoppers. A lot of common sense info that most of us are already doing, but it never hurts to go back to the basics.

And finally, I got a real kick out of reading about how a dollar saved is really $2 earned. I know I've sent this out to friends and family, but this is some good info that always makes me feel like my frugality is really making a difference.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Cleaning at Penny Pinscher

I love working on Penny Pinscher, but I have had some feelings lately that she is missing her mission. I first started Penny Pinscher as a means to chronicle our journey out of debt, but when the first posts went up I suddenly felt shy to reveal intimate details of our finances.

After all, I see some of the people who read Penny Pinscher on an almost daily basis. (Hi Helen, Rosie, Glory, Kris, Mom...! Did I miss anyone?;) Instead, I started writing about other, more fun things like SSS.

I don't know why I was suddenly beset by shyness, though. Anyone who personally knows me quickly realizes that I don't really have a lot of secrets. I don't exactly advertise my personal info, but ask and I'll tell you honestly.

I like who I am, so I don't see any reason to hide anything. This includes my weight (I weigh 100 pounds), my age (I'm 22), my finances (I'm richer then Paris Hilton)... oops! Sorry, I was fantasizing again;) Really I am in the middle of about everything - middle aged, middle class and not rich or poor.

More and more it has been coming to the forefront of my mind that I need to either dish the dirt or bury Penny Pinscher. Pinscher was to reveal how we were getting out of debt so that other people could read that they are not alone - there's hope for a credit free life. I also hoped that it would act like my own ongoing financial accountability sermon to keep me on the tightwad straight and narrow. So far I think Pinscher has missed the mark, and since I don't want to bury the whole thing I guess I'd better start dishing.

So, here's my confession:

Two years ago we were almost out of debt with a low mortgage, two paid for cars and and a steady paycheck. Then my husband deployed and I had the bright idea to take advantage of the situation by getting rid of our old nasty carpet and putting in tile. I had set aside $4,000 cash to this end and found a tile guy who gave me a reasonable deal. It was going to take two weeks.

Three months later, after going nearly insane and watching any nice furniture I had become damaged by grout and moving, we were almost done tiling. I was starting to see the light at the end, and then my husband came home. He liked the workman I had hired. He liked him so much that they decided to rip out the entire back of the house and 'fix it'. My neighbor across the street joined in and the demolition party was on at our house.

Unfortunately, anything that was supposed to be simple turned out to be anything but. Every job had issues and cost twice or three times as much as originally planned for (not to mention double or triple the time it was supposed to take). When everything was at its worst we ran out of money and turned to credit. And more credit... and just a little more...

Now we stand at some odd $10,000 on a credit card plus a HEL of around $75,000. Granted, not all the HEL went for the house - we paid off $25,000 in personal debt owed to family and a friend and we would do that again in a heart beat. But we are still here left holding a bag with an $85,000 dollar hole in the bottom.

Just when we were getting our debt dug in, the already emaciated economy started taking its turn for the worst. We came to the end our our debt accumulation nightmare all inspired to tighten our belts and pay it off. It didn't take us long to realize that we were tightening our belts to stay afloat and we were going to have to get corsets if we wanted to make any gains.

So here we are. Penny Pinscher was inspired by Save Leigh Ann, who paid off her credit debt in a year. I don't think we'll get it paid off that fast, but miracles do happen (You can help them happen by clicking on the little ads at the bottom of each post...hint...hint;). The important thing to me is that we learn from our remodeling mishap and go on. Abe Lincoln used to say after every failure (and he had many) "It's a slip, not a fall."

So we slipped, and are now seeking to climb back up by whatever means possible (legal, of course). The economy seems to be plunging into free fall - not a good time to be in debt. If you ask me, not that I'm any kind of $ guru, I'd say we are headed back to the Depression era. It's a good time to have your sails trimmed and ready for a squall.

From now on, Penny Pinscher will be dedicated to detailed doings of of our debt derailment. All SSS posts, fun as they are, will be posted at Dollar Diva, my site that is dedicated to good deals on the Emerald Coast. All posts about our urban farming efforts will be posted at my new site Big City Farm. That's where you can read about the chickens and other critters and how we are getting along in a neighborhood.

I hope my regular Pinscher readers will like the new directions my blogosphere is taking and stick with me. Hopefully Pinscher can inspire your own path to debt freedom, lighten your load through laughter and provide you with useful tools. And as always, thanks for reading!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Super Saving Saturday

The pickings seemed pretty slim for good deals this week, but I still did pretty good. I did two shopping trips at CVS. First, I got in on the Glucerna deal and the beauty products, spent $3.07 opp and received $9.50 in ECBs - I had $5 ECBs to start.

Later I went back for the Spa Body Wash deal and got two bottles for .50 opp and received $9.98 in ECBs. I also received a free T shirt from a music store here for walking in the door at the right time (happy surprise!) which my older son claimed.

In addition, I made a stop at Goodwill and finally found my cast iron dutch oven for $8.00! That was also all I needed to complete my blue card and be eligible for $20 free there.

On a final note, I received my $25 for signing up with Revolution Money Exchange and am debating whether to just request it in a check or keep it in there to use. I love the no fees part - much nicer then Paypal.

So all in all, it's been a pretty good week, despite starting out with such lack luster potential. I can't wait to see next week's deals!

Oh- I almost forgot! After I posted last Saturday I found this grill at a garage sale for $20! I've wanted one for a while, and this one is like new. Oh happy day! :)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Revolution Money Exchange - Free Transactions & $25 To Boot!

For everyone that exchanges money over the internet:

I just found out about Revolution Money Exchange, a new alternative to Paypal. The best part about it are there are no fees when you do anything with another account holder. That means when someone buys your ebay listing and they are signed on with Money Exchange - NO fees.

FREE to register for an account
FREE to add money to your bank account
FREE to send money
FREE to receive money
FREE to request money
FREE to transfer money to your bank account

That beats Paypal all to pieces. Money Exchange is secure and backed by First Bank & Trust in Brookings, SD (Member FDIC) and uses SSL to secure every transaction. It will be nice to send money back and forth without leaving a chunk with Paypal.

Plus, if you sign up before April 15th, 2008 you will get $25 in your account to spend as you will. You can even request it as a check ($2.50 fee applys to checks). Remember when Paypal did this to get people registered? Now's our chance to do it again with Money Exchange.

I'm really excited to check these guys out - makes eBay almost worth it again;) Sign up for your $25 here:

Refer A Friend using Revolution Money Exchange

Friday, March 28, 2008

Super Saving Saturday

That time again, and I can't believe I've only made one post this week! It has been really busy around here with preparing for spring break, baseball, my older son recieved his Arrow of Light for Cub Scouts, a talent show audition, school dance, a teen age boyfriend break up... TGIF!

As far as shopping is concerned, I didn't do much. At first I was disappointed that I didn't have that much to report. Then it occurred to me that not shopping made this a REALLY Super Saving Saturday. Sometimes I think I'm caught in this treadmill of aquiring more things. Eventually enough is enough. Even if something is absolutely free, it still cost me time and gas to go get it. Just something I've started to ponder - is this item worth my time and gas?

That being said, I did wind up finding a great sale on clothes. I took a $50 pressure cooker back to the store and recieved a credit due to a lost receipt. I needed printer ink anyway, but then found all these boy clothes at 75% off. Among other things I bought a tank top for $1.50, basketball shorts for $4.49, a wonderful chenille hoodie (for me!) for $4.50, and Pantene for $1.88. I also bought discount Easter treats and my printer ink. I paid $25.01 out of pocket. I also used the $50 credit.

All in all, I think I'm starting to like "unshopping". Lately when I "need" something I've been realizing that I can do without it. Maybe next Saturday I won't have anything to report at all, then it will really be a Super Saving Saturday.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Super Saving Saturday

All this for $1.03! And later on another CVS trip was .79 and netted MORE soap and two boxes of chocolate. What a week!
This has been a fun week for freebies and rebates. The week started with getting a free tank top from Aeropostale - just bring in a printed homepage from and you can get one too.

We were at the mall for my son's Pinewood Derby race (he won first place in the district, not that I'm proud or anything;) so we did some returns while there. I actually left the mall with more money then when I arrived - that's got to be a record!

Later in the week I loaded up on free soaps and shampoos (CVS had trial sizes of Johnson's Baby shampoo) and am now fully stocked for awhile on the Buddies soaps. My kids love them - even my 14 year old. My CVS trips ended with getting the Pot O' Gold boxes of chocolate (teacher's gifts!) for free with $5 ECBs still in my pocket. Johnson's also sent me two more $2/2 coupons in the mail - 4 more free soaps! :)

If that weren't enough I had an amazing thrift store trip. I found everything I needed in less then 10 minutes and spent $20. This included a pair of like new Nike Airs for $5. My son had just informed me that morning that he had just outgrown his old shoes. To top it off, the cashier gave me a senior citizen's discount! My son laughed and said I should be insulted, but I told him a discount is a discount - I don't care what it's called. ;)

Then all the rebates and freebies started coming in - about $67 in rebates. And the cherry on top? I was offered a small housecleaning job for an extra $40 (that's almost a tank of gas!).

It was a happy week.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Turning Straw Into Gold

Marriage comes with certain expectations. Whether you went for the fairytale wedding or, like me, just decided to cut out the middleman and elope with Prince Charming, we all had somewhat of a preconceived notion of what marriage would be like.

Some of us wake up one day and wonder what happened to the all the roses and champagne. Others marvel at the fact that Prince Charming leaves gross, sweaty socks on the floor of the bathroom every night. Even if your handsome prince picks up his dirty clothes by himself, like me, you might wonder what Cinderella looked like after four kids and no time to work out.

Married life has its challenges. Sometimes I feel like the peasant girl who was locked in a room full of straw and told to make gold by morning. I imagine her face in the dark of the night, pondering the piles of straw and wondering how on earth she was going to get through this. I’ve worn the same expression, standing in my laundry room at night, pondering piles of clothes I had forgotten to wash earlier and wondering how on earth I’m going to get through this.

For me, though, I know there will be no Rumplestiltskin to pop in and do the task for me in exchange for a ring. The task is mine alone, but somehow I always get through it easier than I expected. By the next morning, the laundry will be washed and hung and I can wake up feeling proud of the accomplishment that hours before seemed impossible.

In a way, we are like fairy tale heroines with bite. Like Cinderella, we have slaved away preparing our houses for birthday parties as well as balls. Like Repunzel, we have sat isolated in our bowers when no understood how hard it is to be mom. Like Sleeping Beauty, we have felt tired enough to sleep for a century.

The difference is, in our stories we are independent. We are rescuing knight and damsel in distress all rolled into one. We must clean our house sans fairy Godmother, climb out of our bowers on our own and resist exhaustion until at least after the kids are in bed.

As modern day spouses we gather up whatever life gives us, ponder the possibilities, and set to work. Late hours, laundry, dishes and homework pile around us and become our raw materials. These mundane details whirl around us turning days into weeks, weeks into years.

The hectic preparations that make us crazy turn soccer games and school plays into gems that stand out from other moments. Each success and trial, through our efforts, becomes a jewel to place in the family treasury. We struggle along, feeling like there is never enough time, but it is time that turns the moments we rush through into gold.

We gather the moments to ourselves as we live and forge priceless memories and family tradition from them; the result becomes treasure for our children. With no fairy godmother we make magic. We do the impossible with every day. We spin straw into gold.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Super Saving Saturday

Saturday has rolled around again and it's time to anticipate Money Saving Mom's weekly question - what were your good deals this week?

Aside from 4 MORE boxes of cereal at .26 a box, 9 cans of Glen Muir Organic Tomatoes for free (they actually paid me .09 to carry it out of the store ;) and a month's worth of bread, rolls and extras for $5 - I saved 20% on my last grocery shopping trip. My total coupons were $21.45.

I probably could have done better but I included groceries for two other people with my shopping, and I didn't have time to look up coupons for their items. Still, 20% is as high as I've ever saved on a routine, once a month shopping trip, so I'm pretty happy. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this coupon thing.

I may even laminate my reciept for the fridge!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Work Only A Mother Could Love

Ages ago (I won’t specify how many) in my fifth grade class I was once given an assignment to draw my future self in my ideal career. I set to work with my Crayolas on a large piece of Manila paper and drew a mom. I wasn’t thinking about pay scales or women’s equality at the time. I just knew I wanted to have the most important job in the world. Carefully I printed the word “Mother” at the top of my drawing in purple crayon.

I had read the entire series of Little House on the Prairie books so many times that the pages had begun to separate from their bindings. I knew mothers had a sort of magic that could turn terrible days into wonderful ones. Mothers had innate psychic powers that allowed them to know when you were fibbing and when you were thinking about misdeeds. Next to God, I was certain, were mothers. They could be as frightening as thunderstorms when you deserved it, and as refreshing as a rain soaked meadow when all was forgiven.

Sometimes I would dream about when I would get to take my honored place as a mother. Scores of beautiful, well-behaved children in white pinafores would be gathered around me, faces shining with adoration. I would glide among them, a beneficial queen, kissing boo boos and helping out with homework. When I finally had my first child, she was everything I had expected. Perfect and sweet, she lay like a miniature angel in my arms, and I was the epitome of motherhood. Then reality kicked in.

Reality found me fumbling with diaper pins at three in the morning wearing sweats that needed to be washed and hair that would have turned Medusa into stone. I found out that I wasn’t as patient as I had thought and that white pinafores were a horrible way to dress children. I went from maternal queen to grimy servant in less time than it took me to hit puberty. I threw out my Little House books and dug in for a long battle against perpetual sticky spots, stains and all things stinky.

By the time my third child came along I had learned a few tricks and could pass myself off as fairly capable. I knew which brand of sippy cups really were no-leak when turned upside down, to never put soda in a sippy cup and to avoid purple grape juice like the plague. I found out how many times I could sing Mister Golden Sun while dozing off and that Oreo cookies still taste pretty good after someone else scraped all the middle out.
Nature had to throw me for a loop, though, and gave me a boy the third time. Just when I had gotten it somewhat together, all the rules changed.

Boys, at least mine, are definitely different from girls. Their noses need more wiping, their clothes seem to stain quicker and there are always raspberry noises coming from some part of their body. My third son taught me that not only can any sippy cup leak, but it also makes a pretty good missile on boring car trips. The Power Ranger’s theme eclipsed Mister Golden Sun in my impromptu late night concerts and I gave up on Oreos after cleaning them out of the carpet for the hundredth time.

Sometimes, four children later, I wonder what I was thinking all those years ago when I wrote “Mother” as my career choice. The hours are terrible, the work is unsanitary and some days I’m not even sure who the boss is. I’m still wondering if I have vacation days accrued and if I’m earning overtime and hazardous duty pay. Wait – am I even getting paid for this?

The perfect housekeeping diva I was supposed to become has never materialized for me. As for the scores of children I was destined for, I’m throwing in the towel after four. This has got to be the hardest and most discouraging job I have ever had, and that includes being a dishwasher at a rat and roach infested tavern. But for all that, I wouldn’t trade a minute of my maternal mishaps for any other job.

I’ve grown a lot since those early idealistic days before momhood hit me like Tonka truck. The spills, crumbs and broken knick knacks has taught me that being a mother isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being there. I have been gifted with four energetic, independent and curious souls to try to guide into productive, happy adulthood. I’m less a queen of the house and more of a steward trying to manage all I’ve been blessed with. Indeed, my cup runneth over, but I no longer mind wiping up the mess.

Next to God, I’m still certain, are mothers. Whether male or female, biological moms or adopted, motherhood is the ultimate philanthropic work. Moms heal the sick, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, working miracles in their own way. It’s work only a mother could love, and love is the only way it can work.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Lost $10 & My Shrinking Dollar

Woe to me!

I was Walmart last Saturday and I accidentally dropped a $10 bill onto the floor. By the time I discovered the loss, it was a goner. I had hoped someone would turn it in at the desk, but hope is the stuff that dreams are made of, and my $10 bill went to live with someone else.

I can still remember the days when the loss of a mere $10 wouldn't have had such an impact on my life. As I wandered the aisles looking for my runaway bill, I was almost in tears. Why did I care so much, I wondered. It was just $10 - a meal at McDonald's, a stop at Starbuck's, drinks at the drive thru... Then it hit me. I don't do those things anymore.

Now my $10 is for vanishing into my gas tank to buy me a few more trips. $10 gets me two gallons of milk or mailing a package to my husband overseas or a (very) small bag of groceries. That's why it hurt so much to lose it. It suddenly seemed like a precious lot.

The me that remembers abundance argues with the me that cries over a lost $10. The old me says that giving the kids water to drink at meals instead of milk or juice is not very nutritional. The thrifty me reminds her that Americans tend to be over sugared and soaked in fat, and in many other countries water is a beverage, not a punishment. The new, thrifty me usually wins. She has to.

The Dallas Morning News reported today that grocery prices are set to skyrocket. Huh? Isn't that old news? I thought they already did skyrocket! The thought that they may go higher makes me want to weep over my lost $10 all over again.

Bread has increased by 5.4% over the last year. That's because it's been a bad few years for wheat. It went from $3.50 a bushel in 2005 to $8.55 by January. All wheat products from pancake mix to pumpernickel go up. Fortunately, I still get my bread at less then a quarter a loaf, but still. What about donuts, cake and cookies?

It's time to look elsewhere. Some cultures don't depend on wheat as much as we do. Rice, beans, potatoes... they all make delicious starches for our table. How about growing sprouts in the kitchen for greenery instead of always buying high priced veggies that have been shipped from Timbuktu? It's easy, tasty, cheap and satisfying.

I've also been growing lettuce and cabbage all winter. At Christmas and Thanksgiving we had the best organic salads. They were fresh (picked minutes before eating), cheap (how much does a lettuce seed and some recycled dirt cost?) and gratifying. My youngest son was proud to help me cut lettuce for the table, lettuce he himself had helped to grow.

To provide protein in our diet, we invested in a few chickens for our back yard. They are free entertainment for all the neighborhood kids, save me from having to maintain a compost pit (they are the composters!) and the eggs are like nothing I ever tasted from the store - even the expensive Eggland's Best ones!

There's veggies and protein. I'm thinking about getting a dwarf goat for milk and cheese. Rice and beans are still pretty affordable. That pretty much takes care of our diet. Instead of thinking of food as something that has to come from the store, think of where it comes from and whether or not you can become your own source. And don't give me the excuse that you don't have a farm. Neither do I. We live in the city on .34 of an acre with a house in the middle of it.

Then $10 can go back to being $10, instead of something worth crying about.

By the way: I did finally pulled myself out of my pity party. I had to imagine a broke mom with hungry children finding my $10 after she prayed for a miracle. It helped...some.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Financial Shape in 2008 - Monthly Check Up

I love going over to Money Saving Mom's site because she asks starts so many great, interactive discussions. Today she asks for us to report on our financial health this month. I have definitely done some things to try and improve our finances lately, but I haven't made any clear cut goals. That will be my first goal, to make a plan for March. Our finances definitely need tweaking. Our mortgage went up by $120 this month - surprise! We have a fixed rate, too.

Here's what I have done recently:

1. Taken a job. I started a part time job at my kids' school so I can earn a little extra money and still always be around for them. I've also been taking on all the substitute work I can find. Every little bit helps!

2. Stopped buying books and movies. Believe it or not, I used to think nothing of dropping $500 at a school book fair. I figured the books were a good deal, it supported the school, and reading is somthing our whole family loves. Now I have been using the library and getting my books for nearly free with paperbackswap. I've never been a big movie buyer - we've usually just rented. However, recently I've started using swapadvd. When I have a dvd we're done with, I just post it and trade it for what we want. This has been a great program that we have enjoyed using.

3. Cut down on utilities. Lights off, water used sparingly, heat on only when it's very cold. I've also tried to cut down on my driving to save gas.

4. Stopped shopping for 'deals'. Sometimes enough is enough. I realized recently that a lot of my 'deal shopping' was unnecessary. I realized this when I bought 30 1 pound bags of M&Ms because they were .28 a bag. I used them in cookies, and we ate some, but soon it became apparent that one can indeed have too much of a good thing. So I have stopped stocking up on treats, and try to focus my spending on necessities.

My goals for March are to formulate concrete goals and make a spending plan. I am also going to cut down on eating out (our main weakness) and on spending for school lunches (which means making a menu plan, etc.). If I can accomplish those two goals this month I will consider this month a success. With my husband gone overseas, it seems like I have no time for anything. How do single moms do it, I wonder?

Wish me luck, and I'll report again in April.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Super Saving Saturday

Wow! Each Saturday seems to come sooner then the last. I also have a hard time believing it's March already! Whew! Someone slow down the clock...

Anyway, it's the blogospere's weekly show & tell - what good deals did we all get this week? Here's mine from the beginning of the week. Unfortunately it has been a crazy week so I misplaced my reciept for all this, but I do remember the photos were almost $20 saved alone. I spent around $10 for the rest, which of course was reimbursed in ECB's, making it free. I was also able to take advantage of the cereal for .26 a box, free Glen Muir organic tomatoes (with about .20 overage) and the free Johnson's Buddies Soap. I just didn't take a photo of it all. Next week I'll be more organized - this week I was just trying to survive. ;)
So it was a pretty good week for savings. I estimate I probably spent maybe $15 and brought home at least $60 worth of stuff that I'll use. See ya'll next week!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Superwoman Sleeps

The Infamous Proverbs 31 Woman. She is my inspiration and my nemesis. How many times have I sought to be like her only to fall short like a sack of potatoes at the long jump. How many times have I wondered, how does she do it all? Like in verse 15...

She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.

But when you get down to verse 18 it says...

She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.

This woman isn't human! She stays up late and gets up before dawn? I've tried that time and again in my quest to be the perfect Biblical wife and this always becomes a stumbling block for me. I can do it for a few days, but after three days (ask my family;) I'm done and ready to be committed to the Home for Biblical Failures. I am tired, crabby and open for attack.

After years of me trying to burn my candle at both ends I think He has finally given me an insight that allows me to go to bed at a good time without feeling guilty that I'm not living up to Mama Lemuel's standards (thankfully my own mother in law is much more relaxed - thanks Mom! ;)

One night I was pulling the old "Late to bed, early to rise makes me productive and eventually fried" routine. Everyone else was fast asleep and I was tired myself, but as the Mighty Proverbs 31 Wannabe Woman I was pushing on.

I was also trying to "watch over the affairs of my household" by saving electricity so I had turned off all the lights but the night lights. Walking through a dimly lit room I repeated the phrase "and her lamp does not go out at night" to myself as my inspirational mantra to stay up just a little longer. "How did she do it, Lord?" I asked Him for the millionth time.

"Why do you burn a nightlight?" He asked.

"So that I can always be ready to jump up if something happens during the night." I answered.

"So did she."

Like a lightening bolt illuminating a stormy night my brain lit up with comprehension. It doesn't say anywhere in Proverbs 31 that she stayed up all night, or didn't sleep. It only says that her lamp doesn't go out. She was always at the ready, like any good household manager, but in the meantime she was probably sensibly resting up for another productive and happy day!

No wonder her children could arise up and call her blessed. She was rested.

Now, of course, I've gone to bed early every night and woken up before dawn to jumpstart my day with a smile and a flourish... or at least that's the plan. Actually, I'm so accustomed to crowding "just one more thing" into my evenings that I still get to bed later then I'd like. I am doing better, however. Instead of going to bed at 2 am I am hitting the sack around midnight.
Every great now and then I actually go to bed by 9:00pm (my goal). The next morning I am always up early, cheerful and bright and the day that follows is always full of blessing and joy. If I can only remember...

Oops! Speaking of, it's already past my bedtime. Let me know what you think of the Proverb 31 Woman's sleeping habits compared to your own. In the meantime.... G'night!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free McSkillet Burritos on Feb. 28th & 29th!

That's right! Breakfast for the end of February is on McDonald's. They are offering free McSkillet Burritos with the purchase of a medium or large drink during breakfast hours. No coupon needed.

Update: I bought all the kids I carpooled with breakfast this morning and it was tasty! We ordered large hot chocolates (no medium hot chocolates) for $1.45 and got the breakfast burritos. I was surprised at how tasty they were. If we do it tomorrow morning, I'm going to order no hot sauce, though. That was a little too much spice for the kids. Usually I'm no fan, but today I have to say, thanks McDonalds!

Monday, February 25, 2008

We Made WiseBread Quote of the Week & Reddit!

Wow! Penny Pinscher made "Quote of the Week" on Wise Bread's Best of the Web. Wise Bread is one of my favorite places to hang out on the web. The forums are full of experts on everything. Make sure you stop by there for a visit! Thanks Wise Bread for choosing Redneck Economics for your Quote of the Week! :)

On Another Note: Penny Pinscher was also mentioned on Reddit, which I had never heard of before. It looks like an interesting site, and we're pleasantly surprised to find ourselves there. Thanks to everyone who is helping to spread the word about Penny Pinscher and giving us so much support and good will! We love you all!

More Redneck Economics: Investing In Precious Metals

Chickens don't eat much, but as my financial belt tightens every little expense is under scrutiny, including my chicken feed. In my backyard wait 10 hungry beaks. In exchange for my leftovers and some Egg Maker Pellets, my little cluckers give me the best, free range eggs I've ever had.

I just have to keep the food coming, which costs around $18 a month. With egg prices hovering around $2.50 a dozen here in the Guld Coast, that's a good deal for eggs. My backyard fresh eggs cost me around .96 a dozen.
Still, $18 dollars is $18 dollars I don't want to spend if I can get around it, and the other day I found myself complaining about the situation with my redneck friend.

"Invest in precious metals." he sagely advised.

"Precious metals...?" I asked, seeking clarification.

"Yep," he replied. "Precious metals. What do you get when you find an old grill on the corner?"

"I don't know." I answered. "What do you get from it?"

"Aluminum. About $15 bucks worth." He raised his eyebrows knowingly and nodded.

"Your kidding me! An old grill has got that much aluminum in it? I see those all the time!"

My brain whirred as my mental calculators tried to recall where I had last seen one of these derelict cookers. He grinned, another nugget of wisdom passed on to his unenlightened friend.

I struggled to stay on the road as I drove home that day. My eyes were too busy roving to and fro, looking for cast off metal items. Down a side street I glimpsed a pile of twisted scrap gutters. "Ka-ching!" I crowed to the empty minivan, and I made a beeline for the heap.

After a quick check to see if anyone was looking my direction, I hurried out of the car and opened the hatch. In 30 seconds I had stuffed the ungainly pile in my backseat, slammed the door and jumped in, feeling oddly embarrassed and pleased both at the same time.

Too excited to wait, I made a run to the recyclers to see what my treasure was worth. A short while later found me $7.85 richer, just like that. Inspired, I made up my mind to keep my eyes peeled for 'precious metals' on the roadside and beyond.

I didn't have to wait long. My little pile of scrap metal grew at a healthy rate as I fed it a steady diet of empty cans, corner findings and my own cast offs. Neighbors gladly saved their aluminum for me, after finding out I'd take it off their hands. Suddenly old cooking pots and ugly metal desks looked like piles of treasure glittering under a noon day sun.

The kids on the block got wind of my odd collection and humored me by leaving car flattened offerings on my porch. An old brass fireplace set that I couldn't give away at garage sales went into the pile. Finally, I was out of chicken feed, and it was time to see what my pile of junk was worth.

I was surprised to find myself one of many metal dealers that day. Everyone from suits and foremen to homeless were there with piles of scrap. A gruff and grimy worker directed me to back my van up to a scratched up dumpster type bin and toss in my findings. A forklift carried my bin to a scale big enough for a VW Bug to park on. Another employee sorted my treasures and called out to a cashier, who was taking my weights.

"Aluminum cast!" he shouted after tossing a pile of old cookware on. She tapped and nodded.

"Yellow brass!" heralded the fireplace tools being set alone on the scale. Tap and nod.

"Aluminum cans!" rang out as two large garbage bags hit the scale. He whipped out a magnet to check some more gutter pieces I found. They tested good and were tossed and weighed. Meanwhile, I waited on the sidelines, anxiously overseeing the translation of a month's worth of metal hunting into cash.

"Okay, Honey!" the cashier said, motioning to me. I approached as she dug change out of a cash drawer. Would this all be worth it or was this going to be more fodder for my husband's jokes?

The cashier handed me a small stack of bills and a few coins. "$27.03 for your metals. Sign here please." She motioned to a receipt on the counter. I grinned like a pirate with a treasure map and scribbled my name. I couldn't help noticing they paid me $6 for the fireplace tools I couldn't give away.

Elated, I bought my chicken feed with my essentially free money, and had enough left over to treat my daughter and I to a snack, buy a few staples from Walmart and have change left over to throw in my coin jar. Next time I saw my redneck friend I thanked him for his investment advice.

"That ain't nothin'," he said, taking a swig of Coke. "That's just common sense." I just smiled and eyed his soda can.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Super Saving Saturday

Grand Total? $13.88

That time already? Seems like this week flew by in a blur of coughing, rushing and...coughing. To answer Crystal over at Money Saving Mom's weekly question, here's my good deals this week. Just in case you wonder why I buy so much candy - I donate it to my school to be used for prizes. I try not to buy it at all for home, but it does slip in sometimes....

2 Bags of Wonka Mix Ups for .87 each
1 Bag 3 Musketeer Cherry Minis .87
1 Bag Hershey Kisses Trio .87
3 boxes Nerds Card & Candy Valentine kits .62 each
Valentine Ribbon Hair Scrunchies .72
Valentine Hair Bands .72
Love Coupons .50
Reach Dental Floss .20 (.95 minus .75 coupon)
Large Box of Godiva Chocolate for $6.50

My favorite find this week? The Godiva, of course! It was nice to find it at a price that made me glad to share it. I was able to introduce one of the neighbor girls to the nuances of fine chocolate, as well as have a choco feast with my kids and sis-in-law. We were all getting way too skinny anyway! ;)

Scavenger Hunt Is Over!

Wow! Audra Marie over at Six Short of a Dozen got every answer, and FAST! I think she had the answers posted in a day or two. If there's ever a scavenger hunt, I want Audra on my team:) Her website is really neat too - I love the name. I think I'll start referring to my kids as "Eight Short of a Dozen"... or maybe not.

Anyway, email me your address Audra, and I'll get your prize sent off to you Monday. Thanks for doing the scavenger hunt, and I hope you had fun. I did, reading your answers.

On another note - yesterday was my oldest son's birthday. Deecat, as we like to call him, is a big 11 years old! When I say big, he's really big. At 11 he is already almost a head taller then me, and I'm pretty tall myself. (Those of you who know me personally, stop snickering!)

I just want to give him a big, cyber Happy Birthday and tell him I think he's the best 11 year old in the world. Love you, Deecat!

So, now that birthdays, Blue & Gold Banquet and the flu are all done with, I look forward to getting in here and getting some blogging done. My hubby is gone for just over 3 months, and I'm wondering what I can get done while he's away. Lose 15 pounds? Declutter the house? Train our kids? Write a Bible Study? All of the above?

What do you think?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Okay, I've Got A Good Excuse For My Absence

My husband was scheduled to leave for a long trip next week but his departure time was moved up by 4 days over the weekend. That meant we suddenly had to rush and get Pinewood Derby cars started, an Emergency Birthday party celebrated, his gear packed...

Whew! On top of that we had a new front door installed; I got sick, we had a lunar eclipse and a spy satellite crashing to the Earth! Okay, so the eclipse and the satellite had nothing to do with me, but it was good for drama.

So, bottom line is...we made it. I am a 'married single' mom for the next few months. You can bet that I'll have A LOT more time to devote to the blogosphere.

Note: All sprouter prizes have been delivered. Congratulations again to our winners! Please let us know how you like your sprouters, girls, and if they work good for you - photos welcome. I love my sprouter system - the alfalfa sprouts always add a nice zing to my sandwiches. We want to know details, ladies!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Let the Hunt Begin!

On your mark, get set... go!

You now have until Saturday the 23rd to find answers to the following 20 questions. When you think you have all the answers, publish them on your blog or website and then put the link to it on Mr. Linky at the end. If you don't have a site, then you can email it to me, but I'd rather see it up on your site so I can come visit. All answers are hidden within my two blogs, Penny Pinscher and Emerald Coast Dollar Diva.

The first correct and complete entry gets the prize. All entries will be tabulated next Saturday. The prize is a beautiful blue leatherette coupon organizor with coupons plus a $5 Krispy Kreme gift certificate (thanks Ms. Rosie for donating the Krispy Kremes!)

Good luck everyone, and happy hunting!

Here's the list...

  1. What color was the original Penny Pinscher?
  2. Who makes the Penny Pinscher films on the site?
  3. Who was our first Giveaway winner?
  4. How much was organic milk in one post?
  5. What kind of class do I sometimes teach?
  6. What time does Junkyard Dog Thrift Store close?
  7. What is Cluckingham Palace?
  8. When did I fall off the bandwagon?
  9. What does a ‘warsher’ kill?
  10. What’s The Dividend Guy’s first name?
  11. What does my recycled can money go for?
  12. Where did my reading room furniture come from?
  13. How much do I usually pay for bread?
  14. How many AA batteries are inside a regular 6 volt lamp battery?
  15. What humble freebie created a glamorous border?
  16. What are the best chocolate covered cherries?
  17. Where was my camera left?
  18. If I were rich I’d buy…
  19. What’s my favorite holiday?
  20. What does my older son call me?

And the winner is...

Rosie R. & Kris O. ! Congratulations to our sprouter winners - these will be on their way to you asap. The movie of our "Penny Pinscher" picking the winners will be up soon, along with the scavenger hunt list. Congratulations again to our winners!

Scavenger Hunt Starts Tomorrow!

Okay, I had such a fun idea (famous last words...;)!

I was trying to think of a way to do giveaways that would be really fun and the scavenger hunt idea hit me like a box of chocolate on the clearance rack. After I announce the winners to the sprouters I will post the list for the hunt. Ladies, start your browsers!

Talk to you later today!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Super Saving Saturday

MMMMmmm! Discount Godiva... :)

Crystal over at Money Saving Moms asked what good deals did I get this week? I found Godiva chocolate at 50% off ($10 for a large box - I splurged on one), a wonderful XXL, red knit henley sweater for $12 new, candy hearts for a school project for .45 and (drum roll, please...) a battery charger plus 6 rechargeable batteries for $7.98 ($12.98 with a $5 rebate).

Now I don't have to cut open any more 6 volts - I still feel silly after falling for that one... ;) All in the name of Frugal Science. The best part, I ran into a dear friend at the store. That was the best deal of the day!

PS The henley isn't in the picture because DH won't take it off;)

Scenes From the Backyard

Cluckingham Palace starts to go up...

The first chickens - they were so much fun!
Everyone loved watching them, especially Moffi!

Harvesting a giant cabbage last summer that my oldest boy grew himself.
Little Bro' can't wait to eat it, which is exactly what Big Bro' is worried about.

Urban Farming - Investing in Backyard Stocks

To live on a farm is to live in the country. You are either the town mouse or the country mouse. You have big city glamour or small town charm. To most people's minds, it's as simple as that, and there is nothing in between. They assume that if they haven't got a place with 40 acres then they must be 'city dwellers'.

Mention farming and folks get a bucolic image in their minds of sweeping fields of grain and fat, contented cattle. Chickens peck and scratch near the barn door as the sun sets behind rolling hills. Gardens bursting with greenery and ripe bounty lay like little quilts across the lawn as twilight whispers by with sleepy sweetness.

Now imagine a small piece of country in the middle of a city. The sounds of traffic are muted out by the soft clucking of hens. Emerald cabbages gleam brilliantly against a fence, causing the passing school children to wonder what on earth these strange plants could be. Fruit trees begin to bud out, promising fruits that will be taken to the beach and the library as snacks, both within a 10 minute drive.

This is urban farming, a third option in between the two extremes of rural and rat race. To me, it's having my cake and being able to eat it slowly, and with relish. I can get up in the morning and fetch my eggs for breakfast, still warm and as fresh and delicious as nature can provide. But if I run out of coffee I have the choice to stop at any of about 8 coffee house choices from trendy to mainstream, the best being PFIA in Niceville. On an urban farm, life is definitely good.

There are difficulties with a countrified city lifestyle. Zoning is one. I'm lucky enough to be considered "county", even though I live in a populated area. Another thing to consider is supplies. Livestock need more then a local pet center can usually provide. I have a feed store close by, the wonderful and infamous Sue's Country Corner, hemmed in with McDonald's, CVS and a car dealership in an eclectic mix of town and country.

The benefits outweigh any difficulties, however, and the opportunities are many. For example, there's a scrap metal dealer around the corner from where I get my hay and chicken feed. All month I save aluminum cans from where I work and around the neighborhood.

When food buying time rolls around I recycle my metals and use the proceeds as a 'discount' off the chicken food. Last month my recycling paid for the food completely, and I still had a few dollars left over! In the country I'd have to drive so far to get to everything the gas alone would negate any economic bonus.

I think of urban farming as a solution for many of the issues we face today. If everyone kept a few chickens in their yard, just think of all the resources we'd save in fuel for delivery, chemicals for packages, trees for paper cartons, waste disposal from large chicken farming... not to mention all the table scraps that wouldn't go to the landfill!

In today's Age of Turbulence, as Greenspan so aptly calls it, we need to think less like consumers and be more creative. Outside the box thinking can be the difference between an impoverished lifestyle and one that finds richness waiting beyond the horizon you only thought was there. Like Columbus, you too might discover that your world has no boundaries.

I prefer my backyard live'stocks & bonds' to any high pressured make it big or bust lifestyle. Take a look around and see if you can't find your perfect solution hidden somewhere in between the layers of what we think of as our limitations. You might just find the best of both worlds.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Back On Track! Day #5

Okay, we missed a few days due to my camera being forgotten at a friend's over the weekend. Pressing onward, here is Day #5, in the morning. This sink challenge has really been helping me keep my sink a priority. Just knowing that you all are out there, holding your breath to see if I kept my sink clean another day (yes, sarcasm...). But seriously, thanks for all the emails and for keeping me accountable.

The Chickens Are In Bed

Hope your Valentine's Day was fun & frugal, whether you celebrated by yourself, with your cat, your sweetie or your sweetie and a passal of kids.

This has been a crazy week for us - I've been sick, then my two sons got sick, then my husband got sick, he's trying to get ready to deploy to Afghanistan... TGIF!

Needless to say, a few things have been slipping. Operation Clean Sink, for one. The sink has been doing pretty well, but I accidentally left my camera at a friend's house on Saturday. GGGgggrrrrr!

The post on urban farming will also have to be postponed until tomorrow. I should have known better then to try and make a meaty post on Valentine's Day. I will be back asap tomorrow - maybe even tomorrow morning. Through the week I'm frequently up at 4:00ish.

So, I will see you very soon with a nice fat post on the thrills and chills of life with chickens. Until then... Keep Reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Will you be mine? I hope so!

I will be back on tomorrow evening with a post about Urban Farming starring... my backyard chickens! Having poultry in our backyard has been one of the most rewarding things we've done as a family, and they are so easy!

We don't live on a farm either. I live within 10 minutes of 2 Starbucks, a super Walmart, a K-Mart, a CVS, a Rite-Aid, a Walgreens... You get the idea.

I live in the city. Having chickens in the city is one way to have your cake and eat it too. I don't spend a fortune on driving, but I still have my little farm. You can read all the juicy details tomorrow, in the meantime here are a few Valentine links for you to enjoy.

And don't forget to subscribe for a chance to win the sprouter! XOXOX Penny P.

Valentine’s Pizza
Delicious heart shaped pizza recipe - a great idea for Him!

Valentine's Day Crafts
Valentine's Day Tips & Ideas to Spark Your Creative Cupid ;)