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Food for Thought Friday – $1 Drinks at McDonalds

Here’s a random food thought for this Friday:

McDonalds Offering Any Size Soft Drinks or Tea for $1 was GENIUS

McDonalds Drink

I NEVER bought a drink from McDonalds before unless it came with a meal I really craved, and ordering a meal was rare for me.  I’m a value menu girl and can get along great with a $1-$1.50 sandwich and a $1 Fruit and Yogurt Parfait.

Then they started offering their drinks, any size, for $1.  Now the “large sweet tea, half cut” has become a consistent order from me at least once if not several times a week as I travel between pet sitting jobs or to visit friends.  “Half cut” is just their way of making a half sweet, half unsweet tea.

Seriously, between me and my husband, they probably make at least $150 a year on us in just teas.  Yes, we make unsweet tea at home and my husband drinks gallons of it a week.  But their tea (usually) tastes better, I am addicted to the half cut yumminess, it is the epitome of pure convenience, and their large cup fits into our cup holders perfectly.

They outright got me.  Marketing genius.

Have You Looked at ALL of Your Grocery Options?

I was a lazy snob when it came to groceries.  I apologize and am back to my personal finance blogging roots.  ;-)

My Options

Want to know what got me to stop shopping solely at Kroger and HEB?  Aldi’s and Dollar Tree.  Seriously, check out these price comparisons from my most recent trips this past week:

Kroger vs Aldi vs Dollar Tree

Kroger has more options overall and they are 1-2 minutes from my house.  The Dollar Tree is 2-3 minutes away, has limited options, but they really caught my attention with our favorite sandwich bread since we eat sandwiches nearly every day for lunch.  Aldi’s is 8-10 minutes away, has more options than Dollar Tree but less than Kroger, and has taken the cake for me on the basics.

So Kroger is still my go-to for last minute fill-ins for meals.  But Aldi’s and the Dollar Tree have become my go-to’s for the basics like milk, eggs, cheese, and bread.  Our overall grocery bill has declined by about 20% by doing 1 trip a week from Aldi’s and the Dollar Tree and filling in the rest at Kroger.

Places I Haven’t Checked Out Yet

You may have noticed that I didn’t put HEB on my Excel sheet.  That’s mainly because it’s even further away than the Aldi’s and it doesn’t have an amazing deal on anything but the jalapeno potato chips that my husband eats with every sandwich.  I go in once every 6-8 weeks to stock up on those, grab any amazing specials, and head back home.  It’s sort of like my bimonthly trek to Sam’s Club for things like paper towels and toilet paper.

I also haven’t actually entered the Whole Foods or Sprouts in my area yet at all.  I was told on good authority that their food is awesome but even more expensive overall than Kroger, so I just avoid them.  Let me know if I’m missing out on something truly awesome.

Have you looked at all of the options in your area?  Does a mix help you save money?

This is How You Get Repeat Customers – Incanto Italian Cafe

A new Italian place called Incanto Italian Café just opened up near me a couple of month’s ago.  I only noticed them about 2 weeks ago.  And I’ve already been back 4 times.  :-D

First Experiences at Incanto Italian Café

It was amazing! The bread they bring to the table is made fresh, soft and delicious. I ordered the $7.99 Calzone and I swear the thing was bigger than my head. The dough was stellar, the marinara sauce is simply tasty, and the four cheeses and fresh spinach inside were oh-so-good.  My bill was really $8.  To top it off, the waitress and probable family member of the business, Lucy, was friendly and professional.

Incanto Italian Cafe Calzone

This is the actual calzone they served me the first time at Incanto Italian Café. I’m hungry just writing this post…

My second visit 3 days later was uneventful since I ordered a Calzone again for pickup.  It was just as yummy as before (that’s called quality control testing, hahaha).  About a week after that, I tried a personal Margherita pizza for $6 that was EVEN BETTER than the calzone!  Wow! 

All three times, I also interacted with Lucy.  It was always pleasant.     

Yesterday’s Experience

It gets better!  I took my grandparents to Incanto yesterday afternoon for coffee (well, coffee for them and lemonade for me, haha) after they popped up spontaneously.  They had a difficult afternoon dealing with a car dealership for silly issues that shouldn’t cost as much as they were quoted.  That sort of explains how coffee turned into them ordering cheesy potato soup too.

They loved it all.  Plus, Lucy came in from picking up her kids as we were getting done, came over to our table to say hi, AND stayed to listen to a few of our back-in-the-day stories for 5-10 minutes before her shift started.  It made their afternoon.  :-D

Delicious food, fair prices, and amazing people.  That is how you turn into one of my favorite places ever.

How did you find your favorite restaurant or business?

Just Started Using Checkout 51 – The Grocery App for Everybody! Really!

I’m not an avid coupon clipper.  In fact, I sort of suck at maximizing store specials, buying seasonally, or any of the other methods that truly help keep grocery shopping cheap.  My regular readers know that I’m not a classic “frugal blogger”.  But I do like easy money.

My friend, Anne, told me about this phone app about a week ago, Checkout 51, and I’ve already earned $3.00 of free money.  Really.  The links in this post are my affiliate links, but I only signed up to be an affiliate after I’d been using this app and then noticed that I told 5 friends about it in 2 days, lol.  This is a grocery store application that everybody can use.  Let me explain…

How It Works

1.  Download the app and sign up.
2.  Shop like normal (all grocery stores or even places like Wal-Mart or Target) and keep your receipt.
3.  Check the app’s current, weekly list for qualifying items after you have that receipt in hand.
4.  Claim free money if something you buy is on their list by submitting a picture of your receipt (super easy).
5.  Get sent money after you hit $20.

Checkout 51

Like I said, I am already at $3.00 in about a week.  And you don’t need to buy anything extra, just claim what matches anyway.  No need to change your spending habits or anything like that.  Oh, and if you use coupons to buy whatever it is that you are claiming, that’s fine.  They only care about what items make it to your receipts that are also on their weekly list.

Sample List

Here’s a sample list of qualifying items that are valid until 11:59 PM on Wednesday, July 9 2014.  Their lists change every week.

20 fl oz or more. Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Burger patties
Any frozen or fresh variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Hamburger buns
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Bell peppers
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Amy’s Organic Soups
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Earth Balance natural buttery spreads
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Wyman’s of Maine frozen fruit
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Select Ken’s Vinaigrette Dressings
Valid on Blue Cheese Vinaigrette, Lite Strawberry Vinaigrette, or Lite Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
Cash back: $0.60

McCormick® Grill Mates® Steak Sauce
Any variety.
Cash back: $1.00

Carmex Lip Balm
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.30

World Peas
Any variety.
Cash back: $1.00

Buy 2: Nongshim Noodle Soups
Any variety. Excludes Bowl Noodles. Items must appear on the same receipt.
Cash back: $0.50

Buy 2: Blue Dragon Products
Any variety. Items must appear on the same receipt.
Cash back: $1.50

HALLS Drops Bags
Bags 17 count or higher, any variety.
Cash back: $0.50

Glade® PlugIns® Scented Oil Customizables™ Starter Kit
Any Glade® Customizables™ Starter Kit.
Cash back: $2.00

Glade Jar® Candle
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.50

Glade® Wax Melts
Any variety. Excludes Glade® Wax Melt Warmer.
Cash back: $1.00

Try It Out

Overall, it’s just a simple extra way to save a few bucks overall.  I think it’s ingenious!  Let me know what you think!

Almost Made it to that $500 Mark!

Mr. BFS and I need to cut down our spending, so we are bringing our total food expenditure down to $500 or less a month.  Then we’ll start aiming for $450.  Here are the results for May-June 2014!

Food Spending from May 13, 2014 – June 12, 2014

In order to track our spending without logging into our credit card account every day, we keep a running tally on a sheet of paper stuck to our refrigerator.  The weird “month” from the 13th through the 12th is because that is our main credit card statement term.  It’s not the prettiest method ever, but it usually works great to keep our eyes on the prize. We stayed on top of it pretty well this past month. I had some blanks to fill in.

Here’s how we did:

Food May-June 2014

Eating Out – $362.17

Groceries – $140.73

That comes to $502.90 total.  Yay!

So we didn’t hit the target on the head, but we also didn’t start cracking down on ourselves until mid-month.  Our friends meet up with my husband 2-3 times a week at restaurants like Jason’s Deli and Steak and Shake for board game play testing (testing out unpublished board games).  We’re pushing the eating-at-home-for-fun thing way more now.

What We’ve Been Eating

Mr. BFS and I have been eating all kinds of stuff this month…

  • Spaghetti
  • Restaurants like Mexican, Jason’s Deli, and Black Eyed Pea
  • LOTS of cereal
  • Frozen pizza
  • Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
  • Milk

Knowing that we need to start cutting back long-term is very motivating.  We’ll see if we beat the $500 mark for June-July.  :-)

Did you hit any specific goals lately? How is your food budget coming along?

Bad Customer Service is the #1 Way to Lose Your Business!!!

Mr. BFS and I were craving Chinese last night, but our favorite place is closed on Sundays.  So we called our 2nd favorite and ordered our norm – General Tso’s Chicken and Chicken and Broccoli for pickup.  And now, I doubt I will go back.

Picking Up the Order

This part wasn’t so bad.  I walked in, waited for the person in front of me to finish paying, and asked for my order.  I handed them my credit card to pay and saw him bring out one of those old, mechanical, credit card copy machines.  He explained that the normal machine was down.  I didn’t mind, but took back my credit card, and handed him the last of my cash.  That covered our meal and a nice tip even though I was picking up my own order.

The Main Issues

When I drove back home and handed over the food, Mr. BFS had his General Tso’s Chicken, but I had Beef and Broccoli.  I really do not enjoy their beef – it’s spongy.  :-(  So I called at 5:50pm and explained that I received Beef and Broccoli instead of chicken like I ordered.  I then asked if they could just make a note so I could order it for free a different day since I did not want to drive back out again.

Bad Customer Service

No, they wouldn’t make a note.  I had to drive back out to pick up the correct order.  So, my first question:

Why didn’t they offer to deliver my corrected order? 

I didn’t think about this until later, but that would have been the appropriate way to handle this.

So I waited the time they quoted and drove back over.  It’s now 6:15pm.  The woman in front of me pays by credit, so that process with the old card copier takes 7 minutes.  It’s now 6:22pm.  Then I get to the counter and ask for my corrected order.  The guy acts surprised that there was a wrong order, but I handed him back the Beef and Broccoli minus the few bites I took to make sure that I couldn’t just suck it up and eat it.

He sends his younger coworker to the back to have my corrected order made.  What?!  I had called 30 minutes earlier!

I ask the younger guy why my order wasn’t remade when I called 30 minutes ago and he says that he wasn’t working the phones.  So I look to the older man, and he just gives me a blank stare.  No explanation and no apology.  So I wait for my new order and finally make it out of the place by 6:40pm.  Still no apologies.

I seriously wanted to ask for my earlier tip back.  These shenanigans make me an hour later than I wanted to be to pet sitting.  Luckily, Pendek and Zim, my current awesome pet sitting pup and kitty, are fine when I get there.  No accidents.

Not Going Back

Now I don’t want to go back for two reasons:

1.  Yesterday
2.  It happened 2 visits ago too!  My friend and I were eating in the restaurant and I ordered Mongolian Chicken with steamed rice.  I received Mongolian Beef with fried rice.  First I noticed the rice, and they brought out steamed.  Then I noticed it was beef, and they asked if it would be okay.  I tried to eat it, but the beef was spongy as usual and the Mongolian seasoning made it worse.  So I asked for Chicken and Broccoli instead.  I blew off this experience since I did end up happy, but along with yesterday, I know that this Chinese place doesn’t care enough to read what they write down or to follow through well when they make mistakes.

I’m a little sad because their seasonings and sauces are good, plus they are much closer than our favorite place.  But they cost 50% more and their customer service stinks.  So, their loss.

Do you have any bad customer service experiences to share?  Come on, vent away!

It’s Roasted Turkey Time Again!

My husband knows how much I love his roasted turkey at Thanksgiving.  He bastes it every 20 minutes for 4 hours at 300-350 degrees, so it turns out picture perfect.  So when it was time to buy the turkey in November 2013, he took advantage of the prices and bought three of the suckers… at 16+ pounds each.

The first one only lasted about 3 days since we had 10 people over for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration, and we didn’t have many leftovers. Well, the second one was cooked up for 4 of us yesterday and I have pounds and pounds of leftovers.  Yay!


I forgot to take a picture, but this looks nearly identical. Golden brown on the outside and amazingly delicious.


1.  We enjoyed the ability to have a mini-Thanksgiving with a couple of friends on Tuesday night.  It had been a rough week or two for all of us, so it was nice to chat, laugh, and vent over a delicious, nostalgic meal.

2.  Mr. BFS and I think turkey is yummy.  That’s an important point.

3.  Not only do I think roast turkey is delicious, but it is also one of the low point options with Weight Watchers.  One ounce of roasted turkey equals 1 point.  So I can have 3-4 ounces of turkey, a helping of mashed potatoes, carrots, and green beans for just 7 or 8 of my 26 total daily points.  That’s an amazing dinner.

4.  It’s cost effective.  At less than $10 per turkey, we couldn’t beat the deal.  We already have the deep freezer, so it’s not like it gets in the way. Plus, we get a week or more of protein for about $1 a day.  We usually pair it with carrots, green beans, or potatoes – which are all cheap right now here in Texas.  For lunches, we make simple sandwiches, so those are less than $1 each.  I also make turkey tacos and quesadillas that cost less than $1 each.  Money-wise, this one turkey makes me a happy camper for 7-10 days.

Only Downside

So far, the only downside is that I appreciate leftovers more than Mr. BFS.  He’ll eat it for lunch or dinner in different ways, but he won’t have it for both.  That generally means that I need to either freeze a little or eat turkey for lunch and dinner everyday until it’s gone.  It’s Friday and I am still happy with it, so I’ll see how I feel over the weekend before I make up my mind on that one.

Do you do something like this with holiday foods?  Do you buy an extra turkey or ham to have a few months later?