Monday, December 31, 2012

How to Make Easy, Simple Dog Biscuits

My dog, Wiley the Wonder Dog, loves treats. Who doesn't? Here is a simple recipe to make your own canine cookies. It's a fun, easy project for kids. 

Measure 3 cups flour into a bowl.  I used a whole wheat flour to give the biscuits a nice color.

Dogs have a very underdeveloped sense of taste. While humans have about 9,000 taste buds, dogs only have 1,700 and cats even fewer at around 470. As a result, most dogs like strong flavors.
Interestingly, dogs and cats have taste buds at the tips of their tongues that taste water.  While humans can taste things added to water such as chlorine or impurities, dogs and cats can actually taste the flavor of water.  This is probably why my cat prefers to only drink running water directly from the faucet and refuses to drink any lukewarm water.
The next ingredient is garlic.  I usually add about 2 crushed cloves. If you don't have fresh garlic, you can use about 2 teaspoons garlic powder.
Onions are not good for dogs and garlic is in the onion family.  Some people do not feel comfortable feeding their pets anything with garlic. My research seems to indicate small amounts of garlic are safe for dogs but if you don't feel comfortable using it, then certainly feel free to leave it out.
Next, add about a cup of cheese and 1-2 eggs. (If your dough mixture is too dry, just add another egg). I had one of those packages of Kraft Fresh Take Cheese & Breadcrumbs that I got a free coupon for and never used so I dumped it in.  As a result, I had to add a second egg because of the additional breadcrumbs. 
My point is, dog biscuits are a good way to get rid of stale breadcrumbs, old oatmeal, or that package of Stove Top or Shake n Bake you never got around to using.  Your dog is not nearly as picky as you are. You can kind of wing it with dog biscuits.
Now, add about a cup of milk. "Milk Bone" dog biscuits were created in 1908 and named such because of their large concentration of Cow's milk.  Milk bone biscuits were the first dog treat manufactured in the shape of a bone. Marketing genius!
And though, I forgot to take a picture of it, add about 1/2 cup oil.  Certainly feel free to experiment and add your own ingredients such as sunflower seeds or wheat germ (if your dog is especially health conscious or a hippy), beef bouillon or peanut butter. I wouldn't add them all, just try different combinations until you find the mixture your dog loves the best.
Mix all the ingredients together.  The dough is usually rather stiff and hard to stir. Feel free to skip the gym today if you make dog biscuits. Rolling out dough is a great upper body workout.  If too dry, just add a little more milk or an egg.  If too wet, add a little more lour.
Roll out the dough. Throw a little flour on top to keep the rolling pin from sticking to the dough. Roll out to about 3/8 inch thick and use cookie cutter. I purchased a bone shaped cookie cutter years ago.  They are easy to find online or at most local pet store. If you don't have a bone cookie cutter, you can just roll into small balls about the size of marbles.
I think those plastic rolling pastry mats are a very good investment. I think I got mine at Wal-Mart for around $10. It makes clean up much easier.

Grease a cookie sheet before placing the biscuits on it to take. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.
This batch made 80 biscuits. Cool on a rack, then transfer to a storage container. I think dog biscuits make a really cute gift for your dog-loving friends.

Though dogs have less taste buds than us, they are overly blessed with receptive smell cells. Dogs can smell 10,000-100,000 more than a human. About 40% of a dog's brain is devoted to smelling.  To a dog, smelling is like reading a book. He can tell where you have been, what you have recently eaten, what other animals you have recently encountered, what mood you are in and probably a lot more.
When we walk into a house and smell something cooking, a dog walks into a house and discerns what individual ingredients are in the dish. Humans have about 5 million smell receptors and dogs can have up to 300 million. Dogs probably get more pleasure from smelling their food than from actually eating it.
 My dog, Wiley the Wonder Dog, approves of this recipe. For more pictures of Wiley, visit

Simple recipe:

3 cup flour
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup oil
1 cup cheese
1-2 eggs
1 cup milk

Mix, roll out and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Download Free Music From the Topeka & Shawnee County Library

I bought my first car, a cream colored 1968 Ford Mustang in 1982, right after I graduated from High School. In 1982, the car was only 14 years old.  At some point, someone had installed an 8-track player in it. By the time I bought the car, 8-tracks were already old technology, though you could still find places to buy them. I really wanted a new stereo but couldn't afford one so made do with the three 8-tracks I owned.
To this day, I am quite confident I could belt out any song from Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" or Carly Simon's "Boys in the Trees" albums. It's true...the songs you listen to in high school are the songs you will be listening to in your retirement years.
So, in my lifetime, I've gone from 8-tracks to cassettes to CD's to Mp3's. It gets expensive to be constantly buying the same old music in different formats.
For our anniversary, my husband bought me a Google tablet, which I love. I wanted some music on it but hated the thought of spending a lot of money. This is when I discovered I could download songs from the Topeka and Shawnee County Library's website.  Here's how it works:
Go to the website located at  On the banner across the top of the library's home web page, click on "Find Stuff," which is the first item listed on the top left side of the home page.

After clicking on "Find Stuff," you will see the above page with a link to "Downloads".  Under Downloads, click on "Music Downloads (Freegal)".

Once you have registered with freegal, you may download three songs a week for free. You log in using your library card number and library password and then can search for songs by title, artist, album or composer.

Not all artists or albums are on freegal.  You will find a lot of newer artists, seeking to build an audience and a lot of older music. That's fine by me because I love me some Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Judy Garland and Dinah Shore. To date, I've downloaded almost 40 songs. These are songs I probably would never have gone out and bought but still enjoy listening my bagpipe music or classical instrumental cowboy theme songs.
I once had a boss who had moved to Topeka from out East and was unfamiliar with our town. One of the first thing he did was have all the employees in his department make a list of the ten best things Topeka has to offer. My list definitely included our library.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How to Enter Sweepstakes and Contests to Win

My prize?
In the early 1990's, I worked in management at a very large car dealership.  The dealer and/or manufacturer often sponsored promotions, sweepstakes and giveaways to increase product recognition and sales. 
One year the manufacturer co-sponsored a local sweepstakes in which a vehicle was to be given away.  To enter, contestants had to go to a local store and fill out a paper entry form (this was the 90's) by a certain date. The winner was drawn from the entries received.
The winner of the contest had to pick up the vehicle at the dealership where I worked and I was assigned to complete all the paperwork transferring ownership.  She was very excited when she arrived with her husband and small children to pick up the vehicle.  As I completed the paperwork, she told me she was a stay-at-home mom. She explained she saw the contest advertised in the newspaper and asked her husband to take her to the location so she could enter.  Her husband was reluctant but agreed. He waited in the car with their small children while she ran inside to enter the contest.  She went on to tell me she entered only once and on the last day.
Interestingly, I was told that though the contest was heavily advertised and the box in which to enter was placed in a major department store at a mall, the contest received relatively few enteries. I assume many people saw the box or the advertisement and thought, "Why bother? I never win anything".
Later in life I spoke with another lady who told me a story of also winning a vehicle from a car dealership. She stated you entered the contest but then had to be present to win at the drawing. She said they drew many names before her name was called. However, her story did not have a happy ending.
The lady went on to explain she then learned she had not "won" a vehicle but rather a two-year lease of a vehicle with mileage restrictions.  The contest was advertised as winning a vehicle, not winning a 2-year lease. She  contacted an attorney but because she had signed a release agreeing to accept the 2-year lease as the prize she apparently had little recourse.  She was very bitter and felt cheated.
I occassionally enter advertising promotions, sweepstakes or contests. I do not enter anything that requires paying money, including charity raffles since I would consider these to be a form of gambling. Personally, I consider gambling just a legal form of greed. But, if I were to become obsessed with entering contests, would I be any better? Would I be simplifying my life?
This spring, I wanted to get tickets to go the "Symphony in the Flint Hills", a local event where the Kansas City symphony plays a concert outside each year in a different location in the Kansas Flint Hills (
Symphony in theFlint Hills
My husband and I have attended this event for the last several years but it has become increasingly difficult to obtain and expensive to buy tickes.  I saw a local bank had a contest giving away two tickets to the concert. I decided to enter. When I went to the bank's website, I noted there were several other contests and I just went ahead and entered them all. I did this on my laptop while watching television. I was bored.
Though, I didn't win tickets, we managed to obtain tickets and went to the concert. I forgot all about entering the contest. Months later I was checking my junk email and noticed I had received a notice I had won a contest. Usually, I would have deleted without opening. However, the email title stated the name of hte bank and the contest, which I remembered entering. I also recognized the parent name of a local radio station which co-sponsored the contest. I was being notified I had won a contest for backyard items.
If you do enter a contest, many will only notify you be email (which may go into your spam folder). Often, you must respond by a certain date (typically 48-72 hours) or risk forfeiture. I would not advise opening any email stating you have won a contest unless you actually know you entered that contest. And remember, no legitimate contest requires you to pay taxes or any other fees upfront. If you do not remember entering the contest, you didn't. Con artists are betting you will become so greedy you will throw caution to the wind.
In the case of this contest, I was given the choice of patio furniture or a children's playset. After doing some research, I chose the playset. I had to go to the radio station and obtain a certificate which I then took to a local lawn and garden store to obtain the swingset. The radio station gave me a "1099" form which I will file with my taxes. The playset will be considered income by the IRS. You do not pay the taxes upfront but you will pay income tax on the total value of the item won.
I was speaking to a friend of my mine debating whether to get the patio furniture or the playset. I wanted the furniture but thought the store was really inflating the furniture's value.
She said, "It's just not free enough for you, is it?"
I had to laugh. But since I knew I would be paying taxes on whatever value the store placed on the item, I wanted to make sure it was a fair and reasonable evauluation.
It took a couple of months from the time I received notification to when I actually received the certificate for the playset. It took a lot of emails and calls to arrange. I had to make a trip to pick it up. My husband had to put it together. I need to buy mulch and spread underneath it.
Not simple. Not really free.
So, if you still want to enter contests, do so with caution and don't waste a ton of time doing it. Your chances are highest of winning:
1)  local contest over national;
2)  small prize over large prize;
3)  less popular prizes (ie: $25 gift certificate to Dairy Queen vs an iPad)
Why?  Simple statistics.  The fewer the enteries, the more likely your chances of winning.
If you want to enter sweepstakes or  contests, this website provides a current list:

I like this website because it allows you to search by region, prize, end date, number of entries allowed, etc.

Often trade shows (such as lawn & garden or home shows) offer many booths featuring giveaways. I have noted many older individuals who bring address labels with them to such shows and place an address label on the entry instead of having to hand fill out each form. I think this is pretty smart.
My Grandpa always advised folding an entry so it would have multiple edges and thus easier to grab when being drawn rather than simply folding it in half or not at all before placing in a box of entries.   

Also, be aware that by entering a contest, you may be giving permission to a company to contact you in the future in an attempt to sell you something or to sell your name, contact information and demographics. So, always read the fine print before entering. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Use a Sock to Make an Easy, Cute Candle Cover

Do you have an old, boring candle sitting around the house?  Here's a neat way to dress up a boring candle or cover up an unattractive label. Personally, I hate candles with labels you can't easily remove.
The only materials you need are a jar candle, an old sock and a pair of scissors.

First, take an old sock, any sock will do. I used an old, brown trouser sock with a hole in the toe.  Cut off the foot portion of the sock. 

Now, slide the sock over the candle. The candle above is only half dressed. Try the sock on the candle, if too large, remove and trim off as much sock as needed to cover the candle fully.  
Voila! Instant designer candle!  Since I used an old trouser sock with a lace pattern, the candlelight shines through and looks quite lovely on my mantle.
Personally, I think these are cute enough to give as gifts. You do not have to use a trouser sock, use one of your husbands old dress socks or one of the kids cute patterned socks.  The thinner the sock material, the more light you will have to shine through the material but even an old wool sock would look cute.
I believe even the most craft-challenged among us can handle this project!

Topeka HyVee Deals Through Nov. 22

It seems every week, one grocery store in Topeka will have far better deals than the other grocery stores. This week, in my opinion HyVee by far had the better savings.
If you have not taken advantage of purchasing a Cure 81 Ham and receiving a FREE turkey, I suggest you hurry.  The trick is, of course, is to find the smallest ham possible and the largest turkey (Up to 12 pounds. You will pay the difference for anything over 12 pounds).  I found a ham for $21.46 and a turkey for $16.66. I also had a $2 off coupon for the ham. After $2 off manufacturer coupon ( and store coupon for free turkey, I paid about $1.05 a pound for around 18 pounds of meat (ham and turkey combined). Anytime, you can find meat for around a $1 a pound, it is a great savings. I should get 15-18 (or more) meals from this much meat.
My projected menu for this week includes:
Turkey and mashed potatoes
Turkey and noodles
Ham and pineapple pizza
Ham and potato casserole
Honeyed Ham, baked sweet potato and grilled asparagus
Loaded Nachos (will need a break from ham and turkey!)
Ham and Potato Chowder with Ritz crackers
Another deal I took advantage of was this "Buy 10, save $6 instantly at checkout" coupon. I ended up purchasing Velveeta ($4.39 after doubled manufacturer coupon combined with store coupon), two boxes of Ritz (89 cents each after doubled manufacturer coupon combined with store coupon) and seven packages of cream cheese (69 cents each after store coupon).  Hy-Vee allows you to stack manufacturer coupons with store coupons resulting in great savings.  Even without manufacturer coupons, 69 cents a package is a great price for cream cheese, especially name brand cream cheese. I don't think I have found cream cheese much less than $1 a package for a long time. This cream cheese does not expire until March 2013 so I should be stocked up for quite a while.
You always find certain things on sale around Thanksgiving--a holiday devoted to gluttony and football. One of those is Cool Whip so I went ahead and got a couple of packages for 69 cents each.  I bought a couple of packages of butter for $1.88 (Aldi's everyday price is about a dime cheaper but I didn't feel like making another stop to just save 20 cents--I'm frugal, not crazy.) There were lots of good deals at HyVee this week but it's really only a deal if it's something you want and will use.
The only other special I took advantage of this week was Apple Market had ten pounds of potatoes for $1.68 and asparagus for $2.98 a pound. I love asparagus! I don't like shopping at multiple stores so I try to keep it to two a week. I just know certain things are cheaper at certain stores and wait until they are having a great sale, then stock up on the other less expensive items they sell at the same time I purchase the sale items. For example, the cheapest cat litter I have found in Topeka is at Hy-Vee so I bought some while taking advantage of these sales. It really doesn't take as much effort as you would think to save a ton of money on groceries.
I will likely be holding another "Couponing" class in January in Topeka (date yet to be determined). If you or anyone you know would like to attend, please make a pre-reservation by emailing me at  The cost to attend is $10 a person. Your ten dollar investment will save you hundreds of dollars.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How Kansas Consumers Can Get Coupons Off Pork
If you live in Kansas and you like pork and coupons, I recommend signing up for the Kansas Pork Associations newsletter. Since signing up, I have not been inundated with pork spam but do receive occasional emails with coupons off specific cuts of Kansas pork. You do not see a lot of coupons off fresh meat so I recommend taking advantage of these offers. (
Growing up on a farm, I am partial to pork.  My Dad called hogs "mortgage makers" because you could take a hog from birth to butcher weight in about 6 months. In contrast, it takes beef cattle about two years to mature.
Here's another reason to like pork: it's diet food. Pork is high in protein and low in carbs.  Pork has about 140 calories in every 4 ounces, compared to beefs 200 calories. Pork has 4.5 grams of fat, compared to beefs approximately 11 grams.
Also, pork is usually a little less expensive than beef. Adding pork dishes to your menu can help reduce your grocery bill.
I hope to post some great, inexpensive pork recipes soon! In the mean time, head over to the Kansas Pork Associations website and check out some of their great recipes at

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dillon's Mega Event through November 6, 2012

$11.58 for all pre-tax
Dillon's is having another one of their Mega Events this week. Their are some fairly good deals but this is one of those promotions you have to be careful to make sure you purchase items in the right quantity.

I will probably go back later in the week and pick up a few more items after I have a chance to match up more coupons with sale/event items.  For example, the creamer is $2.49 (if you purchase 10 participating items) and after 55 cent coupon which doubled, it was only $1.49. The Windex is $2.51 and after 50 cent doubled coupon was $1.51 each. If you want to be really frugal, it's easy to make your own cleansers.
I actually went to Dillon's in an emergency to buy butter...I paid $2.49 (on sale) for this butter and it almost killed me because the regular price of butter at Wal-Mart and Aldi's is about $1.78.
The baggies were $1.21 after coupon. I have a baggie obsession. This was cheaper than the store brands anywhere else but obviously if I had to drastically cut my grocery budget, baggies would be be an easy cut.
I had coupons for all of the items pictured above. This, combined with the sales event made many of these items very inexpressive.
The toothpaste was free after coupon. I frequently see items such as this at garage sales. Extreme couponers turning around and selling items they have obtained free or almost free. They would take this toothpaste and resell it for around 75 cents. I've been to a couple of garage sales where the seller literally had hundreds of items. Of course, I recognized the items since I had recently purchased them, just not in near the same quantities.
Many of Dillon's mega event items do have current coupons. I suggest making an exact list including the number of each item you plan to purchase. If you miscount by 1 item, you could end up paying full price for 9 items. Such a mistake would cost you $4.50.

HyVee Two Day Sale November 1 & 2

$10.24 before tax

Don't miss HyVee's 2 Day Sale (Nov. 1 & 2)!  Eggs are just 98 cents a carton (limit 2) and soda (Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, 7-up, Mountain Dew, RC or A&W) is only 68 cents a 2-liter bottle (limit 4). Ocean Spray Juice is also on sale for just $1.79.  This is the same price as Aldi's juice but there are many more varieties in OceanSpray. Personally, I love the White Cran Peach.
Lettuce is on sale all week (through Nov. 6) for 99 cents.  This is cheaper than Apple Market which usually sells their green leaf lettuce for $1.29. The potatoes were 99 cents for 10 pounds.
I estimate I paid about 50% off the normal price for these items and that is without using any coupons.
HyVee is also starting a new fuel saver program. You have to sign up for the program and get a plastic tag to put on your key chain. It works quite a bit differently from Dillon's program. With Dillon's, you basically earn a point for every dollar you spend. At HyVee, you will earn so many cents off a gallon based on buying specific items.
For example, each week in their ad, they will state which items earn fuel discounts. Let's say one week you can earn 5 cents off per gallon for every box of Kellogg's cereal you purchase. If you purchase 5 boxes, you will earn 25 cents off a gallon.
I never earn more than`10 cents off a gallon at Dillon's. This is because I really don't buy very many groceries at Dillon's. I have to spend a $100 to earn 10 cents off and it takes me all month to spend that amount at Dillon's.
My neighbor says he purchases gift cards at Dillon's and then uses those to pay for his groceries. He earns points when he purchases the gift card and then again when he uses the gift card to pay for his groceries. He says he saves about $70 a month in gas by accumulating double points in this manner. He also accumulates his points until he reaches the highest possible discount, then takes both of his cars to the pump at the same time, filling first one car and then the other without turning off the pump. I asked him if this was allowed and he said no one has ever told him he couldn't do it.
HyVee's new program does not start until December 5. There are restrictions but it sounds as if you may be able to earn some rather large discounts. We will have to wait and see...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dillon's Deals through October 30

$14.20 pre-tax
I found lots of great deals at Dillon's this week. First, Dole pineapple is $1 a can. After my 50 cent coupons which doubled, each can was just 50 cents.
Stove Top was not on sale ($1.29 each) but I had a coupon for $1 off two. Heinz gravy is on sale for $1 a jar and if you purchase both Stove Top and Heinz gravy, you will receive a $1 off a future order coupon at checkout.
Duncan Hines cake mix is on sale for $1 a box. No coupons but still a pretty good price. Cream cheese is also on sale for $1 a package which is about as cheap as you ever see it. Uncle Ben's is on sale on $1 a package minus coupon made the rice just 50 cents a package.
The yogurt is not on sale (90 cents each) but after doubled coupon was only 30 cents each.
The three packages of Crest, Hot sauce, carrots and noodles were all free after coupon. All together, I saved $19.09 with my coupons. Of course, I had to purchase a few essentials not on sale and for which I didn't have any coupons. My "total" bill was $36.13 (with tax) and according to Dillon's calculations (coupons and sale items), I saved 55% off my total bill. The percentage off would have been much higher had I only purchased sale items and coupon items.
I find free stuff almost every week (usually the item is on sale and after double coupon is free). If you don't have an enormous stockpile of toothpaste, you simply aren't trying very hard. At this point, I try to send toothpaste home with every guest as a party favor.

Aldi's Deals Week of Oct. 24

$11.39 pre tax

Aldi's has the cheapest eggs ($1.28) and butter ($1.78) in town. I checked the prices at Sam's clubs on butter today. Butter is about 50 cents a package cheaper at Aldi's and you don't have to buy three of them. I'm starting to think buying a Sam's membership was not worth it.
I had planned on buying Ocean Spray Juice at Dillon's for $1.99 but found this juice at Aldi's for $1.79. It tastes great. Tomatoes were $1.49, limes were 19 cents each, avocados still were 49 cents each and fig bars just 99 cents. There are a few things I don't like at Aldi's but over all I have found the Aldi brands very comparable to other brands.

Though I didn't buy one, fresh pineapple is only $1.29.
Best deal of all, bananas just 29 cents a pound (91 cents for this large bunch). Try Aldi's...I don't think you will be disappointed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is Sam's Club Cheaper than Wal-Mart or the Grocery Store?

I have resisted rejoining Sam's Club for a long time. It wasn't that I didn't want to shop there at times but it kills me to pay $40 for the "Privilege" of shopping at a store. So, for the last couple of years I have used the "Take Advantage of Friends and Family" plan. Otherwise known as the "I'm-too-cheap-to-buy-a-membership-will-you-take-me" strategy. 
When I went in the store to sign up, I was given the hard sell about upgrading my membership to some premium plan which cost $100. The main difference appeared to be you could then shop even more (starting at 7am as opposed to 10am) and an extended warranty plan on some items you purchase.  If you pay $100 to shop somewhere you are going to have to buy a lot of stuff to make back the initial cost of membership.
Before I went to Sam's, I did a little grocery shopping and wrote down some prices so I could compare to prices at Sam's. First, Apple Market.
I personally didn't find a lot of great deals this week at any of the Topeka grocery stores. At Apple Market, they did have Tostito corn chips on sale for $1.98. I had some $1 off coupons which made each package 98 cents. Rotel tomatoes were 98 cents each so after doubled coupons, I paid 48 cents a can. Roberts dip and sour cream were 98 cents so after doubled coupon, were just 18 cents each. I finally used my rain check for the 98 cent package sausage which was on sale last week. I bought hamburger at $2.99 a pound (cheapest I have found in town) and lettuce for $1.29.
Then on to Aldi's. Aldi's has the cheapest old fashioned oatmeal I have been able to find at $2.19 for a large container (used in my granola). Strawberries were $1.69 a package. Raisins were $1.79 a package, avocados 49 cents each (about half Wal-Mart's price), tomatoes 99 cents a package and Apple Juice $1.49. Aldi's has the least expensive marshmallows for 89 cents a package, cookies just $1.19 (similar cookies at Wal-Mart cost $1.88) and vegetable oil for $2.49 ($2.98 at Wal-Mart). I am a very picky eater. I can tell no difference between these brands and the national brands. I estimate I saved about $9 buying these items at Aldi's as opposed to buying them at Dillon's or even Wal-Mart. The difference isn't in flavor, it's in how much the company is spending on marketing.

On to Sam's Club....
I found a few items which were less expensive at Sam's. The Kaiser rolls were $1.87 for 12 buns. The snap peas were $3.47. A much smaller package normally sells for about $2.99 at other stores. Whole milk was $3.14 a gallon. Milk is selling for $3.50-$3.75 (was $3.37 at Wal-Mart on same day). However, milk is often on sale at other stores for around a dollar for half a gallon. When on sale, milk prices will be significantly lower than Sam's price. When not on sale, buy at Sam's.
The paper coffee cups with lids (perfect for camping) cost $7.86 for 50 cups. At Wal-Mart, similar cups cost 26 cups for $4.37. So, if you could buy 50 cups at Wal-Mart, they would cost $8.40. I saved 54 cents. Think about will have to buy 80 items in which you save 50 cents per item before you recoup your $40 membership fee.
Here's what I found which I thought was significantly lower. Equal sells at Sam's for $9.88 for 800 packages. At Wal-Mart, equal sells for $4.98 for 250 packages. The same amount of equal purchased at Wal-Mart would cost about $6 more. Trash bags sell at Sam's for $9.68 for 150 bags. Wal-Mart sells similar trash bags for $11.57 for 88 bags. It takes a lot of math to compare prices. Stores are gambling we are bad at math (a pretty good gamble).
Items are not sold in the same quantities. To compare, you must figure out the price per number of items in the container. In this comparison, Sam's trash bags cost .0695 per bag and Wal-Mart is charging .1314 per bag. To buy 150 bags at Wal-Mart (not sold in this quantity) would cost $19.71. I saved about $10 buying these trash bags at Sam's. I estimate I "saved" around $18 on this trip as opposed to buying at Wal-Mart. It will actually take at least three similar trips to Sam's before I "save" anything since  I haven't saved enough to recoup my membership fee yet.
But not everything is cheaper is Sam's....

This Wolf Chili is being sold for $7.69 a case (I think 6 cans). Last week this chili was on sale at Dillon's for $1 a can. After double coupons, you could purchase it for just 20 cents a can.
At Sam's you can purchase 48 cans of cat food for $21.98. At Wal-Mart, you can purchase 24 cans of Friskies cat food for $10.98 (or two 24 can cases for $21.96). Two cents cheaper at Wal-Mart and you didn't have to purchase a membership. Ah yes, I'm starting to remember why I resisted buying a membership for so long. That, and the fact that I get really freaked out when I must spend something like $100 to buy 7 items. Do you really want to buy everything in bulk?
Club crackers, two boxes for $4.48. These crackers are frequently on sale for $1.99 a box at other stores or have coupons.
Here's what made me craziest while shopping at Sam's. I went on my smart phone to look up a comparison price at another store. Each time I connected to the Internet, it took me straight to an advertisement for AT&T phone service which I could purchase at Sam's!!!!! This is downright dirty. I felt like my phone was being held hostage. I was very mad.
So like every other store, Sam's is cheaper on some items and the same or even more expensive on others. Always compare prices.  I will continue to let you know what I find cheaper at Sam's and what is more expensive. Please tell me what items you have found less expensive at Sam's. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

How to Make Comfort Food: Stuffed Chicken Breast

Chicken has been selling for less than $2 pound on and off for several months. Most recently, this week (ending Oct. 23rd), Dillon's is selling skinless chicken breast for $1.89 a pound. I noticed Sam's Club had skinless chicken breast for $1.77 pound. As a result, we have been eating a lot of chicken at my house. I never thought I would miss good old hamburger.
Here is an easy chicken dish that looks gourmet but isn't: Stuffed Chicken Breast. It takes very little time to make and looks like you really put a lot of work into it.
To begin, you will need a box of stuffing mix. Any brand will work, I use the really cheap Wal-Mart Great Value brand. I cannot tell a difference between it and Stove Top. After all, it's just dried bread and some spices. You will also need an onion and a package of sausage. I bought this package of sausage at Apple Market when I it was on sale for 98 cents a package. This is shaping up to be a pretty cheap meal.
First fry the sausage will some onion. How much onion you put fry depends on how much you like onion. I like onion a lot.
Add some seasoning. I used salt, pepper and about a teaspoon of sage.

Sausage is greasy. Drain the sausage. You may want to keep the drippings to make gravy. I did.
Now, cook the stuffing mix according to the box directions. Most mixes just require you to boil some water and dump in the stuffing and spices. Easy and cheap.

Next, add the fried sausage mixture to the stuffing and stir.
Take one of your cheap chicken breasts you just bought on sale. I usually marinate mine in a little Hendrickson's salad dressing but you don't necessary have to do this. Trim off the fat.
Now cover the chicken breast with a piece of plastic wrap and pound it thin. If you do not cover with plastic wrap, you will end up with raw chicken pieces all over your kitchen. Feeling a little stressed? This is great anger management therapy.

Congratulations! You have now successfully beat up a chicken. You probably have a great career ahead of you as a bouncer in a biker chicken bar. I know it looks a little yucky but deal with it.
Spread your sausage/chicken stuffing mixture on top of the pounded chicken breast. 

Just roll up the chicken breast and place in a greased pan, seam side down. If you have some stuffing mix left over, you can put it around the chicken breast.

Bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour. It may take longer depending on the size of the breast and how many you are baking. Never depend on the stated baking time, your oven may vary, the size of the breasts vary, the number of breasts, etc. Just set your timer and start checking after an hour. They are done when they are done but usually an hour is about right. I think these took about 75 minutes. Keep in mind stuffed chicken breast should reach an internal temperature of 165-170 degrees.  

I served with mashed potatoes and gravy. They were yummy.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How Long Will Potates Store?

There have been some great deals on potatoes lately. This week (ending Oct. 16) HyVee had potatoes on sale for $1.48. HyVees deal of the day yesterday was the same potatoes for 99 cents. We're talking 10 cent a pound potatoes. That is some cheap eating.
The question is how to store potatoes? Most people probably don't realize potatoes last extremely well when stored properly. There are two important factors when storing potatoes: light and temperature.
First, potatoes must be stored in the dark.  Have you ever peeled a green potato?  Potatoes are alive and when exposed to light turn green due to chlorophyll. Green potatoes are bitter and should be thrown away. The glycoalkaloids (family of poisons found in plants) in green potatoes can actually make you sick. You can't just peel off the green part and use the rest of the potato because the unseen glycoalkaloids will be through out the potato.
Potatoes are part of the nightshade family of plants (also tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tobacco, belladonna and about 2,800 other species). Alkaloids in these plants can impact nerve-muscle  and digestive function. Cooking lowers the alkoids by about 50%.  Unless you are very sensitive, you will likely not be bothered by the alkaloids which help protect the plants from insects and disease. Most normal people would have to eat about 4.5 pounds of potatoes in one sitting before they began experienceing neurological symptoms.
(This does remind me of a story my Grandma told me about my Grandpa. People used to believe you would die if you ate raw tomatoes. My Grandpa and a friend ate some raw tomatoes when very young boys  and then watched each other to see you who would die first. Both survived, of course.)
So, store your potatoes in a dark place. Second, store between 40-55 degrees. Third, potatoes are 80% water and prefer a humid environment or they will shrivel. Four, potatoes need some air circulation. A dark corner of your garage or basement will usually work just fine. Potatoes will store for several months if you meet these conditions so feel free to stock up on them.
Like a lot of people, I keep some potatoes under my sink (the rest I keep in my garage on a shelf). I am highly envious of people with fancy cabinets with pull out drawers. But part of simplifying my life means learning to be content with what I have.

Here is my cheap improvisation of pull out drawers under my sink. For less than $25, I was able to buy these plastic pull out bins at Wal-Mart. They work just great.