Monday, March 24, 2008

Creative strategies for coping with rising costs

There probably aren't many of you, but just in case you read CFO Reviews but not Chief Family Officer, I wanted to let you know about a series I've been posting for the last three weeks called Creative Strategies for Coping with Rising Costs. It has ideas and strategies for maintaining your lifestyle in the current environment of rising prices.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

YoBaby printable coupons

Is there a parent who hasn't fed their baby YoBaby yogurt? Okay, I'm sure there are, but not among my friends (or the other parents at the boys' daycare). If this is what your kids eat, sign up to receive printable coupons for YoBaby products here. Via Bebe Reviews.

One additional tip: my kids no longer eat YoBaby. We discovered that the Trader Joe's store brand yogurt cups (which are right next to the YoBaby) are RBST-free and contain a thicker yogurt. Thicker yogurt = fewer spills and less mess.

Win a $10 Target giftcard just for subscribing to HowISaveMoney.net

Lulugal is giving away a $10 Target giftcard to one lucky subscriber. So head over and subscribe to her RSS feed and leave a comment. Enter by March 29.

Review: Outback Steakhouse

I was given a $25 giftcard to Outback Steakhouse to try out their "Bloomin' Birthday Creations," so the family and I went out for dinner earlier this week. Now that in and of itself is an accomplishment, since we rarely eat out - to save money of course, but even more to avoid being stuck waiting for food with two impatient, hungry and restless little boys. But Outback seemed like the perfect venue for a family meal, so off we went.

Marc and I had been to Outback only once before, over five years ago. Our memory was that the food was rather blah, which was the main reason we never went back. So we were pleasantly surprised this time to discover that the food was actually quite good.

We both ordered off the special birthday menu - I got the sirloin, shrimp and scallops mixed grill, and Marc got the fresh tilapia with pure lump crab meat. We ordered off the kids' menu for the boys - macaroni and cheese for Alex, and chicken fingers for Tyler.

I enjoyed my dish quite a bit, although I was disappointed with the wild rice. It was the only part of the dish that didn't taste good, and it should have been the easiest thing to get right. The meal wasn't overly large, but I did take home half of the steak, which served as Tyler's lunch the next day.

Marc enjoyed his tilapia, which again wasn't super-sized. The asparagus was perfectly cooked.

The chicken fingers were a hit with both kids, although Tyler stopped eating it toward the end when I offered him steak. I ordered green beans as the side and they were extremely good.

The mac and cheese was the only disappointment. It was really penne tossed with a light cheese sauce, so it's understandable that Alex utterly rejected it and opted for Tyler's chicken instead. We asked for broccoli to be mixed in, but I'm confident that Alex wouldn't have eaten the pasta even if the broccoli hadn't been there. The dish actually tasted fine, I just felt that it was misleading for the restaurant to call it mac and cheese.

I saw bread being served to other tables, but we didn't get any so I don't know if it's complimentary. I thought about asking for some but didn't want to ruin the kids' appetites or take in empty calories myself.

The atmosphere was nothing particularly special, but perfect for families in the sense that I didn't feel like Alex and Tyler were bothering anyone - except for the older couple and morose man who moved from the booth next to ours to one further down. They seemed like the type who don't like kids in general, and mine weren't doing anything except talking, so they were the kind of people who make me think that perhaps they should consider avoiding family-style restaurants in the early evening, when families are likely to be present. Alex got a kick out of the crocodile on the wall, and had fun coloring with the crayons and activity book provided by the hostess. Perhaps most importantly, the food arrived relatively quickly, reducing the opportunity for the kids to get restless. (Note: we arrived fairly early, at 5:00 p.m. on a weekday.)

The total cost of our meal was $52, not including tip. If it weren't for the giftcard, I would say the meal wasn't worth the cost (though I did take the pasta, half of my steak, and Tyler's green beans home as lunch for Tyler and me the next day). Of course, Marc and I ordered expensive entrees, and I'm sure our meal would have been considerably less if we'd simply ordered some pasta or burgers. And the cost wasn't outrageous, considering it made six meals (the boys pretty much count as full servings now, which I can't believe is already the case).

Final verdict: If you've never been to Outback Steakhouse, I think it's worth a visit. If the dishes that I mentioned appeal to you, you might want to go sooner rather than later, since the birthday menu is a special that I believe is going to be ending in sometime in April. Bon appetit!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Win a $50 Williams Sonoma gift card

The Clean Plate Club is giving away a $50 gift certificate to Williams Sonoma. I usually avoid WS because I'll just be tempted to spend money, but I had to go in there a couple of weeks ago to buy a bridal shower gift and saw some things that I would love to have. I managed to prevent myself from buying them since I didn't want to spend more than the $100 I was spending on the gift. But a free gift card, I could do some shopping with that!

Note: The giveaway seems to be open to bloggers only.

Win a 1GB flash drive with TaxCut 2007 over at CFO!

Now through Tuesday, you can enter to win a 1 GB reusable flash drive with TaxCut 2007 Premium Federal + State, courtesy of H&R Block. Just head over to CFO and leave a comment.

And then, please head over to Free Money Finance and vote for me in round 2 of his March Madness tournament. My post My best financial move this year: The Infrequent Bills Account is in Game 16, up against a comprehensive post on Financial Strategies for Infants and Young Children by My Dollar Plan. I'm losing 9 to 5 at the moment, so I would really appreciate it if you would head over and vote for me in the comments! Thank you!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Get a free sample of Unisom sleep tabs (and maybe some morning sickness relief)

You can get a free sample of Unisom sleep tabs here. Definitely check with your doctor before doing this, but I took these pills paired with vitamin B6 (or was it B12?) when I was pregnant and incapacitated by morning sickness. It was at my OB's direction, and while it didn't make the nausea go away, I felt better with the meds than without. Put it this way: without the Unisom, I couldn't get out of bed. With the Unisom, I could at least drag myself into the office. But again, check with your doctor before trying this.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Welcome to CFO Reviews' Ultimate Blog Party Post!

5 Minutes for Mom is hosting the Ultimate Blog Party, and they've suggested having a creative post right here ...

I was going to try to be creative, when I first read about UBP and decided it would be fun to join in. But frankly, I'm out of steam. This is the first chance I've had all weekend to even think about this post, and I've got nothin'. (That may have something to do with the fact that I didn't get my usual computer time during nap time yesterday or today. In fact, I spent several hours at the pediatric urgent care this afternoon - fortunately, everything's fine, but it wiped out nap time.)

So let me just introduce myself in case you're new here:

I'm Cathy, and I'm married to the most amazing man, Marc. We have two young boys, Alex and Tyler. I work full-time as an attorney, and I also manage my family's finances. I love to cook and I've taken up card-making as a somewhat frugal hobby (learning to scrapbook is on my list of things I'd like to get to eventually). I've been blogging for nearly three years over at Chief Family Officer, where I discuss family finances, cooking, and parenting.

CFO Reviews is an offshoot of CFO and, to be perfectly honest, is still finding its own voice. I started CFO Reviews last September knowing that I wanted a new forum to post links to freebies and giveaways, entries into contests, shopping deals, and even the occasional paid post. I'm still figuring out exactly what fits with CFO Reviews, and having lots of fun in the process! If you have any suggestions or ideas, please leave a comment. Leave a comment anyway - I love hearing from my readers :D

Let me leave you with a little tip: you may have already seen this but if not, there is a printable Target coupon for $5 off any $25+ toy purchase, and it's good until October 1. I've put a permanent link to the coupon up in the left sidebar so you can find it easily whenever you're heading off to Target for some toys.

Thanks for stopping by, and if you like what you see here, please consider subscribing to my feed by RSS or email. Also, when you have a moment, please check out my other blog, Chief Family Officer.

Update: I knew there were some great giveaways in conjunction with the Ultimate Blog Party, but I just finally got around to reading the prize list. Janice and Susan have decided to make things even more fun by letting winners choose the prize they really want. Here are my favorites:

  1. $25 cash from A Cowboy's Wife - Because cash is always a good thing. Check out Lori's About Me page - she really is a cowboy's wife!
  2. $23 cash from An Ordinary Life - Why $23? It's Kristin's way of celebrating her own birthday!
  3. A $20 Amazon certificate from MommyDaddyBlog - Because I regularly buy stuff from Amazon anyway.
If these items are already chosen (as they likely will be!), I'd be happy to win one of the blog design packages, the Mikarose certificate from Liza's Eyeview, or something appropriate for my one or three year old!

Friday, March 07, 2008

My dumbest purchase ever: a Banana Republic fur hat

DebtKid wants to know what everyone's dumbest purchase was. His dumbest purchase is possibly a DS Lite with games, mainly because he didn't really have the money to buy it. Especially because he doesn't like handheld video game consoles. This means he doesn't use the DS Lite and just feels guilty about it. Now he's trying to turn it into something positive: he's using it to get traffic to his site by giving it away! To enter the giveaway, you just have to share your own dumbest purchase ever, either by posting about it or leaving a comment.

What's my dumbest purchase ever?

There are a lot of contenders. There's the navy blue double breasted suit that I bought my first year in law school - it wasn't cheap, and I hated the way it looked (why, oh why, did I buy a double breasted suit?!). Needless to say, I never wore it.

Then there was the yogurt maker. I actually used it quite a few times, but was never completely happy with the results. And it was a big pain cooking the milk and then cooling it down. I don't know if the yogurt maker even lasted a year in our house. But at least it was inexpensive. And it was, I suppose, something of a learning experience.

Other contenders include various kid-related items (manual breast pump and impractical baby clothes immediately come to mind), crafting items (for example: a sewing machine that served only to prove I will never be able to sew), and other clothing and kitchen items.

But the real champ is probably the Banana Republic fur hat that's still sitting in my closet. Have I mentioned that I live in Southern California? Where the weather doesn't get below 35 degrees? And that's only in the middle of the night in the dead of winter. How many times have I worn this hat? Never. I mean, I've put it on and laughed and enjoyed how it feels (it's adorable, of course - that's why I bought it!). But I've never worn it out of the house and I haven't even taken it out of the closet since having kids (except to take this picture).

I've de-cluttered a lot in the last several years, but I've held onto this hat simply because I like it. But I've come to realize while writing this post that it's time to let it go. Thanks for helping me de-clutter, DebtKid!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Get a free card from the USPS and HBO

Order a free card with a quote from John Adams (including postage) here.