Friday, October 28, 2016

How did I not know about this Papa Gino's all you can eat thing?

I just found out about this a few days ago when a friend posted on social media about taking their family there.

It's $4.99 for all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta, then you can add salad, breadsticks, or meatballs for a dollar. Amazing. It's Monday through Wednesday 4-8pm. Definitely going to check this out.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Free fruit at Stop and Shop

I was happy to see this when I walked into Stop and Shop a couple days ago. This is the Jackson Square Stop and Shop. I haven't yet noticed if others do it as well, but I'll be looking out for it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The free wine and the free $25 are back up on Swagbucks

The wine offer is back, and it looks like it's not quite free this time, as you get 2000 Swagbucks for the first order and 2000 for the second order a month later. Still, you get around $45 in Swagbucks (if you buy $25 gift cards for 2200 bucks) for buying eight bottles of wine for $64, so it ends up being $19 for eight bottles. That's cheaper than Three-Buck Chuck, and it comes in pretty bottles that are appropriate for giving people or opening with friends over.

The Fingerhut deal looks exactly the same as the one I did, which doesn't require you to buy anything to get the 2500 Swagbucks.

$98.64 for almost $300 worth of stuff

Here's my haul from Stop and Shop yesterday. Everything was done with online printable coupons and phone apps.

Leave me a comment or e-mail me if you can't figure out one of the deals, but I used the Stop and Shop coupons that load to the card,, a few other coupons I found via googling, Checkout 51, iBotta, and SavingStar. For the past few months, the Stop and Shop coupons have largely been duplicates of the ones on, which means you can stack them. The apps often duplicate them as well. FYI, the Fiber One and Nature Valley bar deals aren't worth it. It looks good on paper, since there are paper coupons and deals on Stop and Shop and all the apps, but the total discount is $2 for two boxes of Nature Valley and $2.50 for two boxes of Fiber One. The shelf prices are $3.69-$3.79. Not a good deal unless these are things you buy regardless. Dollar Tree has packs of various granola bars and cereal bars and they only cost, well, you know.

Quorn vegetarian chicken patties have been free for the past month or so. They're on sale for $2.50, iBotta has $1.25 off, and Checkout 51 has $1.50 off. You can only buy one per week with these apps, unfortunately, but hey, free stuff.

Old El Paso enchilada sauce is also free. Shelf price is $1.20, has a 30-cent coupon that gets doubled, Stop and Shop card has 30 cents off, and SavingStar has 30 cents off. iBotta has $1 off two Old El Paso products as well, so you could also toss in a seasoning packet or beans or something and get those for free. The iBotta deal says that purchase price of items must be at least one dollar, and I didn't know if they meant per item or total, so I didn't bother. All Old El Paso products are a percentage off this week (I think 30%?), so the seasoning packets are under a dollar. The rest of their products are closer to $2 or $3, so they don't work so well in these coupon deals and it's usually cheaper to just get store brand or Goya.

Speaking of, the SavingStar Goya products deal is back. You get $5 back if you spend $25 on Goya products. The $25 is based on shelf price, so feel free to use Goya coupons, which are readily available online. Last time this deal came up, I just made sure to buy Goya brand of staples (rice, beans, spices, oil, etc.) and got to the $25 quickly just buying things I would already be buying.

There's also a Purex SavingStar deal that's $5 off of $25. Purex large jugs and small jugs are both on sale at Stop and Shop this week. There are substantial coupons for Purex readily available online by googling. Remember, the $25 is based on shelf price, not what you paid. The shelf price for 150 oz is $9.99 (on sale for $8.99 this week) and the shelf price for 43.5 oz is $4.99 (on sale for $1.99 this week). Two of each gets you to $25 on SavingStar. I used $2 off coupons on each large jug and $1 off on the small ones. So after SavingStar, I'll end up paying about $11 for 387 ounces. It ends up being cheaper than even any store brand detergent I've found.

Stop and Shop has a great deal that ends on Friday where if you buy $20 worth of certain frozen items, you save $10. SuperPretzel and Outshine have coupons available right now, which it let me use in addition to the store deal. SuperPretzel is also on SavingStar this week. Outshine has been on various coupon deals before, particularly at Target. For a while, they only made huge bars that came six to a pack. They were good, but they were kind of ridiculous. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they now make small cylindrical pops that come 12 to a box.

Tic-Tacs are nearly free. There's a BOGO coupon on, then iBotta has 50 cents off of some flavors and 75 cents off others. Shelf price is $1.49. Make sure you get two different flavors, like I failed to do, so you can redeem two different iBotta rebates.

Larabar (excuse me, Lärabar) multipacks of five bars are $4.99. There are $1 off deals on, Stop and Shop, Checkout51, and SavingStar. Which means the packs cost less than one bar. Make sure you get the 5-pack, not the 16-pack, which is $22 or something.

Glade has amazing stackable deals as always. Wax melts and small jar candles are $3.14 each through November 3. Stop and Shop has $2 off 3 items and iBotta has 75 cents of wax melts and 75 cents off two jar candles. The items end up being $1.97 each, which is cheaper than IKEA or store brand candles pretty much anywhere, except for Dollar Tree, but theirs are tiny and they usually only have this awful fake vanilla scent. Thanks, Glade, for making my kids' rooms not smell like armpits and the bathroom not smell like cat whiz.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

AdSense "insufficient content" rejections when the content is just fine

AdSense finally approved me! For anyone who's getting the "insufficient content" rejection on a real blog with real content, the issue is probably that you need a "contact us" page and a privacy policy. I added some barebones pages, including a privacy policy that I found through a quick google search, and this time they approved me. Don't bother asking on the AdSense forums why you're getting this rejection; the "experts" will tell you that it's because your content is plagiarized, your English isn't great, or the content isn't real content that anyone would want to read. When I tried this, I then replied to them that I've done plenty of professional writing and this isn't the case, and they were just rude and told me to learn to write better. Um, thanks? No one told me it was the privacy policy and contact page. I managed to find this out from another blogger. Try adding these pages, and you'll likely get approved.

While we're on the subject, please consider turning off adblockers. I used to use one all the time. But I then realized that more than half of the pages I visit are independent writers and people who are starting home businesses. I want to support these people. When we block the ads on their pages, they don't get paid for the ad impression, and there's no change we will ever surf on through to the advertiser's page, because we can't see the ad. Right now I'm only using the adblocker on a few major corporate pages (Facebook, I'm talking to you), but not using it as a default, because I don't want to take away income from small pages owned by individuals. I don't have a lot of money to donate to people, and I generally can't afford to shop local small businesses like I'd like to, but I can support them for free by not blocking their ads. Please consider doing this as well. Please and thank you!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Harvard has even more museums than I knew about, and you can visit for free. Be careful if you like your flesh intact though.

My family and I have recently discovered the Harvard museums. We had been to Natural History and one of the art museums, each as part of a free one-time event, but I had no idea about the museums that don't charge admission at all, or that they have free days that are more than the hour or so once a month that most of the museums offer. I also didn't know that the others existed outside of Natural History and two art museums.

So, here's my roundup of the museums:

Harvard Museum of Natural History

It mainly features taxidermied animals. It also has dinosaur and other prehistoric skeletons and models, a huge whale skeleton, blown glass models of marine life, and an interactive ecology forest geared toward toddlers and preschoolers. It's $12 for adults, $8 for kids, free under 3. So, like half as much as most of the museums in the area. Admission to this museum gets you into the Peabody Museum as well. They have two free days for Massachusetts residents, Sunday 9am-12pm and Wednesday 3pm-5pm. It's also free for K-12 teachers and active duty military families. Passes are also available at public libraries, which admit up to 4 people for $6.

They also offer classes on various topics for children and families (some are drop-off, others are not), which are all either free or reasonably priced. A child in my household attended a free class on spiders last year, which was fabulous, and was taught by female scientists, which I thought was great. 

Can we talk about this pin though? It's got teeth. Not only did it stay on my clothes without sliding around whatsoever, but it also bore down and refused to move at all. I had to pry the jaws open, several times since the first few times it snapped back shut, threatening to take my finger with it, and delicately slide my shirt out of it one tooth at a time so it didn't rip any flesh fabric. I give the museum an extremely positive rating. It's great for kids and adults alike. This pin though. 

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

This one has weapons from various cultures and eras, amazing ancient pottery from various regions of the world, an exhibit on ocarinas, several exhibits on Native American (north, central, and south Americas) history and culture, and a Dio de Los Muertos altar. It's pretty captivating for all ages.

Same admission rates and same free days at Natural History. They're adjoining, and getting into one via any rate gets you into both. Unsure whether this museum involves vicious maneating pins.

Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

Just what it says. It's always free. Doesn't require any pins, demonically possessed or otherwise.

Semitic Museum

Has a model of a mud house from Ancient Israel, Ancient Egyptian funerary arts (but not actual mummies -- the MFA has some if you need to get a fix), pottery from various locations and eras in the Middle East. Nice explanations of how these cultures (and Ancient Roman and Greek cultures to an extent) intersected in ancient times. Probably not quite as interesting for preschool kids unless they're specifically interested in the topic, though the house might interest them. Always free, doesn't involve any attempts to slash flesh or rip clothing (which, while we're on the subject of ancient Israelites, tearing clothing is part of an ancient Hebrew mourning tradition called Kriah. The more you know.™)

Harvard Art Museums: Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, Sackler

Admission covers all three museums. $15 for adults, free under 18. Free for Massachusetts residents Saturdays from 10am-12pm. The museums all feature a lot of modern art, and collections that change frequently. Check the website for specific information, or just go visit. I don't recall whether these museums involve being maimed by angry bloodthirsty pins.

Warren Anatomical Museum (in the Longwood area)

Free. Has instruments, photos, human remains. Really cool. Has photos of people flaying open bodies, but no pins that do so.

Membership to the museums

$85 for a family, can be less if you have a Harvard ID (I believe you can use any type, including folks who work at Children's Hospital and so forth). I could have sworn that it gives admission to the art museums and the history/cultural museums, but now it's looking like they're two memberships? Might be worth a call.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Got free lunch and a bunch of other free stuff yesterday

I really should have posted about this before the fact, so people could hit it up, but it's been crazy around here and it slipped my mind, so, sorry about that. However, the Boston Vegetarian Festival happens every year, so sign up for their social media or e-mails and be reminded next year.

For those who haven't been, the major downside is that it's packed. A few years ago they started running it for two days instead of one, which cuts down on the crowds, but it's still pretty crazy. It also unfortunately attracts a lot of young self-absorbed types who block aisles, don't say excuse me when they shove through your space, and swing their bags (generally covered in homemade patches about various radical views they'll hold deeply for a couple years until they get married and have a kid and move to the suburbs) into people.

If you can get past this though, it's a great event, and you get a ton of free stuff. Our family got a free huge lunch by walking around and taking samples. Some of the vendors give out little toothpicks of things, but others give out nearly a whole portion of what they have. Many of the vendors sampling South Asian and African food gave us sizeable amounts of curries and other dishes. So Delicious had full-size coconut milk ice cream bars. We also got many packaged samples -- containers of hummus, packages of seitan jerky, trial size soaps and lotions. Oh, and coupons! Most of the vendors of large national brands (Lightlife, Follow Your Heart, Cedar's, So Delicious, Dr. Bronner's) had coupons for a dollar off a product. And speaking of Dr. Bronner's, their table was covered in the same hilarious bizarrely punctuated and capitalized propaganda that's all over the bottles of soap. I couldn't get a very good picture, because the place was packed, but I present for your amusement the photos that I did manage:

All-One! Exceptions Eternally? Absolute None!
We loved the number of women-owned and people-of-color-owned businesses we saw this year. This has been quite a welcome change from the first time we went several years ago. We met some great folks who own local businesses. Three of our favorite -- all three Black-owned, the first two woman-owned, the third woman-co-owned -- were Saffiyah Botanicals from Roslindale, Lyndigo Spice from Dorchester, and Global Village Cuisine, from Vermont but sold at Whole Foods.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Calories per dollar chart

This article and accompanying chart is an interesting way to think about eating cheaply. I think I would have guessed the highest was rice or peanut butter, or possibly ramen, not flour or white bread. I was also surprised that pasta and oats were so high up there on the list. Of course, some of these things require cooking, so there's labor and energy costs that aren't factored in; you can't really eat flour and would have to at the very least mix it with water and cook it to make it into noodles or flatbread. Still, the list is useful. I imagine I'll refer to it when I get anxious about finances, and remind myself that it is in fact possible to stay alive on a couple hundred dollars a year. Assuming we're in the urban U.S. or somewhere similar, we would surely get enough other foods even if all we were purchasing was rice or white bread. Think about all the places the average person eats for free -- samples at stores, work events where food is provided, free talks that have a snack table, and so forth. It wouldn't be optimal nutrition, but it would be enough to keep us from getting scurvy or whatever it is people who only eat one food get.

Of course, anyone who's looked at my blog before knows that there are better ways to get cheap (and tastier, and healthier) food than buying just full-price flour or rice. There's Fair Foods, couponing, food banks, and so forth. If you're in the Boston area, you could actually go to Fair Foods every week or every other week, then buy some combination of rice and flour, and have some pretty decent (if a little boring) eating, with produce served with rice or flatbreads. This would allow you to eat for a couple hundred dollars per person per year.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

WTHDIDWTV: OK, not really

When I brought this Fair Foods haul home, someone in my household immediately said, "apparently today they gave us stew." (That yellow item is a yellow tomato, not an orange.) So, yeah, this wasn't a hard one to figure out what to do with. I'm tagging it as WTHDIDWTV anyway though, because it's still something we figured out to make with produce that was available at Fair Foods, rather than something we decided to make and then acquired ingredients for.

We chopped everything up, added a bag of lentils from WIC, and put it in the slow cooker with some seasonings for most of the day. We got several meals out of the pot of stew, and actually had a kid who was aggravated to find that they'd been beaten to the leftovers. I wouldn't have expected that with something so seemingly boring, but it was surprisingly popular.

This was a particularly great Fair Foods bag, because we literally didn't have to add anything to the vegetables to make a desirable meal, except for the lentils that I chose to add to make it more filling. The bag included enough tomatoes that I didn't need to add any tomato products, and enough onions and potatoes to make a nice well-rounded stew. The bag also included a bunch of bananas and some crusty bread, which we ate with the stew. Not bad, getting several meals for $2, with bananas to spare.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An easy way to sell more stuff on eBay: Know your first-class shipping rates

Much of what I've been selling on eBay is single items of clothing, single or small lots of household items (many of which I'm flipping from Dollar Tree or Savers), books, and so forth. Most of these are 16 ounces or under, which means you can send them first class if you buy the postage through a commercial account, which eBay's postage portal is. (FYI, books, CDs, sheet music, and similar can be sent via media mail, but it isn't cheaper until you hit a pound, and I don't believe eBay discounts it.)

For whatever reason, eBay doesn't account for the steeply discounted postage rates they give you. Especially for first-class mail, the commercial account is substantially cheaper than the retail price. But when you enter the size and weight of your item, the price it shows (and charges the customer...) is the higher price you'd pay at the post office counter.

For the clothing item I just sold, which is 14 ounces, eBay listed the shipping at $6.45. The actual price I paid for shipping was $3.55. This is an item I listed a month ago, before I really thought about the shipping rates, so someone did eventually buy it and I got to pocket the difference.

This item did sell, and someone was willing to pay the rather high shipping rate. However it would have likely sold more quickly had I listed the shipping at $3.55. So what I did today was create more shipping policies. See the chart I made? The commercial rate is what eBay charges for first-class packages if you buy the postage through the eBay website, and the retail rate is what you'd pay at the post office, and also what eBay charges the buyer.

The only way I could figure out to reflect the shipping discounts other than manually entering it on every listing was to create shipping policies. I didn't want to make nine separate shipping polices (I might next time I get bored...), but I created two policies, one called "1-8 ounces, $2.60 flat" and one called "9-16 ounces, $3.65 flat." Now, the buyer is paying considerably less for shipping at most weights. (Nine ounces seems to be an anomaly. I'll work on more policies eventually.) For shipping prices like $2.60 vs. $2.62 or $3.65 vs. $3.78, I doubt most buyers notice or care. But at some weights, my items are now listed at $3.65 shipping instead of $6.45, or $2.60 instead of $3.40, which is surely going to make my items sell faster.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Thrive Gives: $100 in free items and steep discounts on everything else

Swagbucks had a deal the other day where you got some Swagbucks for signing up for Thrive Market and then more for placing your first order. I went in through the Swagbucks link, then signed up for Thrive Gives, which is their program that gives a free yearly membership to anyone receiving any type of government assistance. The Swagbucks deal is down, but it may reappear. Or, if you want to apply for Thrive Gives without it, go here. Disclosure: Signing up for a Thrive Gives membership doesn't get me anything.

The Thrive Gives membership isn't very well explained on their site, so I'll tell you how mine has gone so far. I applied, then they sent me an approval e-mail within a couple days. I then placed an order that I paid their regular prices for. A week later, they sent me an e-mail offering me $40 off a $50 order if I took a survey about health habits. It stated that I'll get two more of these during the year, each for $30 off a $50 order. I'm not sure if you have to place an order first to get the $100 off; I thought it was a great deal anyway to buy things I normally buy at extremely discounted prices, and I got some Swagbucks for doing it. I remembered hearing somewhere that you get $100 of free things, but my membership approval didn't say how to get that, so I just bought some stuff so I could get some Swagbucks and because I signed up since I needed some things that they have the best priced on.

If you don't receive government assistance, Thrive Market is still a ridiculously good deal. The membership is $60 for the year. You can sign up for a regular membership here. Disclosure: Signing up through my link will give my family a few dollars off our next order. Then you can refer your friends and earn money off. (Is there anything these days that doesn't use a freakin' pyramid scheme to entice people?)

As far as their merchandise goes, it's basically the nonperishable sections of Whole Foods. So, I personally am not going to use it to buy organic pastas and soups and things. My family is very fortuntae in that we don't have any health conditions that limit our diets. So while we're scraping by, we buy whatever brands we can get through coupons and sales, and a lot of those are going to contain a lot of white flour and white sugar. I'm just not in a place where I'm going to spend two to three times as much for something that's probably slightly healthier. BUT, for those of you who have family members who require wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, etc. foods, Thrive Market is going to be a much better deal than pretty much anywhere you can get those things locally. The prices are much lower than a grocery store, because they have less overhead. You can sort by gluten-free, vegan, etc.

As for what I ended up buying, I got a bunch of Everyday Shea products. They were less than half the price they are at Whole Foods, which is the only place I've seen it. Hair and skin products are the area where our family really can't go with the cheapest stuff, because in our family we have eczema-prone skin and hair textures that need added moisture and oil. Everyday Shea is generally cheaper than Shea Moisture or Curls Unleashed or any of those, but it's high enough quality that it doesn't contain mineral oil or petroleum jelly, which is pretty much where I set my bar for what I'll put on our bodies on any sort of regular basis. And at $7.95 for 32 ounces of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion (so, twice as big as a normal bottle), it's barely more than buying a low-quality grocery store brand.

I rounded out my order (you have to buy $50 per order, or else you pay for shipping) with some organic bleach-free tampons and pads, which with the discount were the same price as the brands we get at CVS that are rarely on sale. With my next order, which will be $10 for $50 worth of stuff (and closer to $75-$100 worth of stuff based on store prices), I plan to stock up on various hygiene items. They have a small selection of baby things and kitchen gadgets, so it would be a good program to recommend to low-income friends who have a new baby or are newly housed and could use some free supplies. I know baby items are especially hard to come by, so I probably will get some disposable diapers and other baby things to give to a food bank when I place my order. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

I made some things

I made these muffins. Or energy bars. Or something. They're really good, whatever they are. And they were easy. Someone gave me a huge bag of rolled oats and a huge bag of dried cherries. I took this as a challenge.

First, I made oat flour. Sort of. Making oat flour is normally really easy. You put rolled oats into a blender, then turn it on until you have oat flour. In my case though, the only blender I have is a stick blender. For a decade, it's worked as well or better for all of my blendering needs. Making oat flour though wasn't one of those. I stuck the blender in a bowl with a small amount of oats. Turned it on. Oats flew all over the kitchen. I chose a mixing bowl I have that's more than a foot deep and taller than it is wide. Nope. Same thing. I ended up putting two towels over the bowl with the stick in between. This prevented huge clouds of oats from flying all over the kitchen, but some still sprayed out of the spaces. I ended up only blending it about halfway, so that it was basically half oat flour and half rolled oats. That's about what I was going for though, so it was all good.

I didn't actually measure any of the ingredients, because this was totally just improvising, but the recipe ended up being roughly:
  • 2 cups crappy oat flour (so, like one cup oat flour and one cup rolled oats)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • dried cherries added so that they made up about half of the volume of the batter/dough
I then spooned it into a muffin pan. I had these muffin papers that I got at IKEA for 99 cents or something, and I used them because I had no idea what consistency I would end up with, and I wanted them to come out of the pan easily. They ended up being something in between a chewy muffin and a soft energy bar. I still have a crapload of oats and cherries, so I likely will make them again. Um, I might see if one of my neighbors will loan me a jar blender though.

Oh, WIC now allows oatmeal, and they give you milk and soymilk, so this could be a great WIC recipe too. They don't allow dried fruit, but you could make it with fresh blueberries or bananas I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

FML, I now have a Fingerhut account. But not for the reason you think.

There's a Swagbucks deal to apply for a Fingerhut account and get $25 in Swagbucks. I did it. If your credit isn't great, it's not worth having a new account and a credit pull on your credit report, but if your credit is fine, it shouldn't affect anything. Just, for the love of all that is good and holy, don't use the Fingerhut account. It's overpriced cheap Chinese stuff sold at like 200 percent interest. There are so many better ways to get items cheaply if you need them. So go get a Fingerhut account, enjoy the $25 in Amazon gift cards, but then don't use the account. Use my tips for eBay and thrift stores and whatnot instead if you need to buy things and don't have the cash.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

WTHDIDWTV: Zucchini Fajitas

This was one of the easiest things I've made recently and one of the cheapest. I had several huge zucchinis from my garden, even after I gave a bunch away to anyone who would take some. I also had onions, jalapeños, and habañeros from my garden, plus green peppers, avocados and limes from Fair Foods. I wasn't planning to use the peppers, but ended up needing them because Old El Paso and I have differing ideas about what constitutes "seasoning." Maybe I should start a class action suit. Just kidding. Mostly.

I grew these, yo
I sauteed the zucchini, green peppers, and onions, along with a packet of Old El Paso fajita seasoning that a coupon deal had paid me to take out of the store. I then tasted the stuff and realized that the packet contained approximately nothing, despite claiming to contain a bunch of spices. Which is weird, because their chili seasoning and taco seasoning are all right. This was bland though. I ended up adding soy sauce, lime juice, adobo, habañeros, and cumin. So, basically it was like I made my own seasoning anyway. Oh well, still cheap, and all stuff I had on hand. Next time there's a deal on the seasoning packets, I'll just get the taco one. There's not a lot of difference in the actual spices included, and I can add soy sauce and lime juice to the fajitas myself.

The dim lighting makes the bad tortillas not look as
bright white or spongy as they actually are. Do not be fooled.
I also had several boxes of Goya Spanish rice from couponing and Old El Paso tortillas that were free from couponing. FYI, the Old El Paso tortillas aren't very good. The flour is the overly bleached bright white type and they're kind of spongy and puffy, like bad overly processed white bread. Even store brand are better than these. They were free though, and they taste fine when filled with deliciously seasoning veggies. Oh, and I made some guacamole too, because guacamole.

Threw it all into the spongy tortillas, and there's some good stuff. There was enough for leftovers too, because there was so much damn zucchini. They kept well when pre-assembled and taken for lunches. (Sour cream and guacamole transported on the side if you're able to reheat it).