Savings on Food, part 2: How to get free food and drinks

I like going out to eat sometimes.Some quick tips for free food and drinks:

  • Sign up for the Human Bean’s V.I.B. Club. ¬†You’ll get a free welcome drink and coupons in your email.
  • Get a Qdoba Rewards card. ¬†For every 10 entrees (or 5 if you take advantage of double points days on Wednesdays), you earn a free entree. ¬†They also frequently send email coupons for BOGO meals or will add free chips and salsa/guac/queso to your card.
  • Tokyo Joe’s has a rewards club too. ¬†They send a monthly newsletter with deals for Addict Club members and you can earn points towards free entrees. ¬†They also give you a free meal on your half-birthday.
  • Other places with rewards:¬†Sonny Lubick’s Steakhouse, Garbanzo, The Rio¬†
  • Check out giveaways for national “holidays.” ¬†I got free coffee from the Human Bean yesterday for National Coffee Day, and main other chains were doing giveaways as well. ¬†If you hear of some holiday related to food, chances are someone is giving away something for free.
  • Grab coupon books and open your Valpak, or look online for local coupons. ¬†There are lots of BOGO deals or significant discounts for restaurants, even some locally owned ones. ¬†Always Google before you pay!
  • Sign up for birthday deals! ¬†Lots of places do birthday giveaways, like Larkburger, if you sign up for their email list.
  • Use a student ID for discounts/freebies if you are lucky enough to have one. ¬†Same for senior discounts. ¬†If you are old enough to qualify, take advantage of that shiz!
  • Spin every wheel, enter every drawing, and participate in every free contest you can. ¬†I won a free pound of ground fresh ground coffee and a reusable mug the other day by spinning a wheel at a festival. ¬†No commitment by me, but a pretty great payout.
  • Go out with friends and “forget” your wallet. ¬†Just kidding, don’t do that.

 

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No Spend September: Days 5-7, Labor Day weekend

Labor Day Weekend would normally cost probably at least $100.  I should look back at Mint and compare this LDW with the last two.

Day 5 was a NO SPEND DAY, despite the hullabaloo. ¬†It was Tour de Fat, aka the biggest holiday in Fort Collins. ¬†We hosted a breakfast at our house before the bike parade. ¬†We provided eggs and bacon (already in our fridge) and then we had everyone bring an item, potluck style. ¬†I went as a “Golden Girl” because I was a girl in all gold. ¬†I already owned the gold leggings, gold skirt, gold shoes, gold belt, and gold jewelry, and then I borrowed gold makeup and a gold shirt.

STAND BY FOR PICTURE…I only took photos with my polaroid that weekend. ¬†Cool, but not convenient.

After breakfast we biked to the parade and then made the mistake of going to the festival. ¬†I end up at the festival every year, and I mostly hate it every year because it is full of half-naked drunk folk and their children. ¬†The only redeeming part of the festival was the Honeymoon Cabaret¬†show we happened upon in a secretive sideshow tent labeled “Le Tigre.” ¬† I can’t even describe what we witnessed in that tent. ¬†It involved a dress made out of fake (hopefully?) hair and pasties that looked like chewed gum. ¬†HORRIFYING, but worth it.

It was quite nice to not be tempted by beer because a) it saved me probably a good deal of money and b) I didn’t have to stand in any lines! ¬†I had a massage scheduled for later in the day (I have a membership so this is a regular part of my budget) and it was totally worth it to show up and not have her chastise me for being dehydrated.

My Tour de Fat survival tips:

  • Costumes don’t need to make sense so use what you have.
  • Watch the parade, don’t ride in it. ¬†It is slow and you will probably fall down or get mad.
  • Avoid the festival and having to park your bike because you’re gonna have a bad time, unless you love challenges and huge groups of people, and/or you hate yourself.
  • Get everyone together beforehand because you’ll lose them immediately when you get downtown.
  • Basically, dress up, watch the parade from the south side of the route, and then leave immediately.

On Day 6, we went to see Built to Spill and Lucero at Red Rocks. ¬†We had tickets prior to No Spend September so we didn’t have to pay for those. ¬†We normally buy dinner on the way to Red Rocks or eat at the venue, but instead we got everyone to leave early and we took our portable¬†grill so we could have a cookout. ¬†I spent $10 at King Soopers for stuff to grill and a case of sparkling water (this covered both me and Andy’s meals) and filled my car up with gas ($26).

The show was excellent. ¬†The company was excellent. ¬†It was a beautiful way to end the summer. ¬†And then we drove home and the peanut gallery in the back spent most of the time telling me how My Brother, My Brother, and Me sucks and he could make a much better podcast. ¬†FYI, MBMBaM does not suck and it’s hilarious so listen to it.

The crew of the new podcast "Drunk Jerrod Hates Everything"

The crew of the new podcast “Drunk Jerrod Hates Everything”

Day 7 was spent resting and grilling.  It was also a NO SPEND DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Total spent on Labor Day Weekend: $36

Total fun had: All of it

Total number of beards in our group at Red Rocks: Five–three very full beards attached to glasses, one that hates everything, and one who shares my love of pop music.

 

No Spend September: Day 2

Another successful day on the mission to only spend on Needs for a month.

I walked to the Max to get to work and had several meetings that filled up my day. ¬†Our office provides coffee so when I can’t get coffee at home, I can get it at work. ¬†I ate leftover roasted red pepper and tomato bisque for lunch because Andy ate the spaghetti with meat sauce I was dying to eat. ¬†The sacrifices we make for love…

After cleaning out the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, I realized I HAD to go grocery shopping.  I initially thought I was only going to get a couple of things, but I ended up stocking up so that we would be able to eat for a minimum of two weeks.  For tips on how I shop for maximum savings with maximum sanity, see Saving on Food, Part 1: Groceries.

For dinner, I was inspired by this post on Smitten Kitchen:

I cubed¬†a large cucumber, a ripe avocado, and two heirloom tomatoes and mixed them with a large dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt. ¬†I stirred in a little of a dill dip mix that Andy found at the farmer’s market. ¬†Then I chilled it for a couple of hours in the fridge and let the flavors meld. ¬†OMFG, this salad is a game changer! ¬†Andy and I agreed that it would need to become a constant in our fridge.

Because we can’t live on salad alone, I also made a pizza with whole wheat crust (the kind in a tube because ain’t nobody got time for homemade crust on a weeknight), heirloom tomato slices instead of sauce, a generous sprinkling of basil, fresh mozzarella (thanks, half-price manager special!), some shaved parmesan, sliced uncured jalapeno cheddar bratwurst (again, thanks, half-price manager special!), and some artichoke antipasto from Trader Joe’s. ¬†Andy said, and I quote, “This has to be one of the best pizzas you’ve ever made, and it’s not like your other pizzas aren’t great.” ¬†I would call that a win. ¬†Unfortunately, I don’t have photo documentation of the pizza, so I’ll just have to make it again.

We play Geeks Who Drink on Wednesdays so that was an activity where I knew there would be some temptation to spend money. ¬†The whole reason bars and restaurants do Geeks Who Drink is to bring in people who are going to spend money on a normally slow night. ¬†I usually try to order either a beer or an appetizer or something, but I stuck with club soda. ¬†I like the carbonation and taste, and it’s hydrating. ¬†If no one at our table had been purchasing food or drinks, I would have felt bad about not buying anything and taking up space at the restaurant. ¬†However, we’re there every week, Andy tipped extra for the service I received, and the other five people at our table ordered food and at least two drinks each. ¬†As soon as No Spend September is done, I’ll resume buying something during trivia because I like to support local business, but for now I’m sticking to the goal at hand. ¬†Bonus: I won a beer so I can use that to save some $$$ when teacher training is done! ¬†And our team won by 10 points!

Day 2 verdict: Success!

Spending: $153 on groceries, and I only used my car to go to the grocery store.

Income: $.60 interest income

 

 

No Spend September: Day 1

No Spend September is underway! ¬†So far, so good, as I had a day completely free of spending (bills don’t count as spending).

How did I get through the day without spending? ¬†Here’s an overview of my day, my temptations, and my successes.

I got to work around 7:15 am and was in meetings from 8:00 am-5:00 pm with no breaks. ¬†Can’t spend money if you don’t have a free moment! ¬†I didn’t even think about things that are normally tempting me during the work day, like a delicious Consuelo’s Spanish omelet burrito.

No photo available of a Consuelo's burrito because they never last longer than a minute in my possession.

No photo available of a Consuelo’s burrito because they never last longer than a minute in my possession.

We had a working lunch at Rainbow, where I ate the peanut cashew vegetables with tempeh along with a tomato bisque because that’s a normal combination… whatever. ¬†The food was delicious. ¬†Thanks for buying me lunch, CSU!

I got home around 5:30 pm too exhausted to move. ¬†I may have crowded my way onto the bus by pretending I couldn’t hear the driver say they were at capacity because there was no way I was going to wait for the next bus. ¬†Andy was brewing a barleywine for 6 hours last night (…) so I had the house to myself. ¬†I wanted to cook dinner but all of my creative energy was sapped. ¬†This is when I REALLY wanted to order a pizza. ¬†Like so bad. ¬†SO BAD. ¬†But instead, I ate some hummus and tortilla chips to replenish my energy stores, watched a few episodes of The League, and then mustered up the ability to make…wait for it…tomato bisque because evidently I just can’t get enough. ¬†By “make,” I mean I took a carton of roasted red pepper and tomato bisque (see! it was different…I’m not a soup addicted weirdo), cut up an heirloom tomato, fresh basil leaves, and some leftover tofu I needed to use, and heated it all in a pan. ¬†It did the job and didn’t require a trip to the grocery store.

If you aren’t watching The League yet, someone should probably “take care” of you.

I worked on cleaning out the refrigerator and pantry while my soup was cooking. ¬†I added any hot sauce that was nearly out to my soup and threw out anything past its prime or questionable. ¬†I will probably have to make a grocery trip soon, but I now know exactly what I have in reserves so I can work on planning meals and making a “needs” list. ¬†No rando “want” food purchases during this experiment.

Other temptations I avoided: a TOMS shoe sale, a Sierra Trading Post sale, the idea of owning a yoga bolster and wanting to make that an immediate reality, and a yearning for avocado because we were out.

“Saved”: I could have easily spent around $200 on my Wants. ¬†I didn’t drive anywhere by walking and riding the Max, so I saved on gas and car wear-and-tear.

Income: $1.77 in interest and two found pennies.

 

Digit Update: Real, Tangible Savings

Digit update

Holy crap! Digit has saved me over $250 since I’ve joined! ¬†I currently only have about $8 in my Digit account because I’ve been transferring every $50 to my savings, but that is real, tangible savings that I never missed from my checking account and wouldn’t have saved on my own. ¬†Digit is now offering bonuses if you leave your money in their account (they use the interest they earn on users’ money to pay themselves), but I get a better return rate on my savings account. ¬†If you haven’t tried Digit yet, you need to do it. ¬†I never miss the money and it’s a nice surprise to see how much has accumulated when I get the handy account balance texts. ¬†It is also so SO easy to use. ¬†All commands are done via text so you don’t even have to log into the account online. ¬†I only do it when I need a screenshot to post. ¬†Digit is phenomenal. ¬†Do it.

Roasted Roma Tomatoes

I wrote this post last fall and for some reason never posted it.  Here you go:

In order to maximize our CSA share, I bought 30 lbs. box of roma tomatoes.  What does one do with 30 lbs. of roma tomatoes?

I suppose this was an option:

 

Instead, I opted for roasting them.  I think I made a wise decision.

This is in a box that holds a case of beer bottles. THAT'S A LOT OF TOMATOES.

This is in a box that holds a case of beer bottles. THAT’S A LOT OF TOMATOES.

By buying in bulk, I saved on the normal cost of tomatoes, plus these are locally grown and so flavorful and delicious.

I halved all the tomatoes and laid them out on cookie sheets covered with parchment. ¬†The parchment prevented the tomatoes sticking to the pan and allowed me to use the pan multiple times in a row. ¬†I drizzled them with some extra virgin olive oil and roasted them for 40 minutes at 375¬į and then increased the temperature to 400¬į for the last 20 minutes.

Roasting

Roasting

I had multiple batches so I seasoned them each differently. ¬†I sprinkled some with red pepper flakes, some with oregano and basil, some with rosemary (the rosemary tomatoes were my favorite), some with 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s, and left some unseasoned.

After they cooled, I put them into quart sized freezer bags, marked them with the date and the type of seasoning, and stacked them in the freezer.

These tomatoes were absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever made. ¬†I didn’t use canned tomatoes or marinara sauce until they were gone. ¬†I used up 30 lbs of tomatoes in probably less than two months–that’s how spectacularly good they were. ¬†This fall I’m going to do at least 60 lbs. because I want my freezer to have these FOREVER. ¬†I don’t think you’d get the same flavor using store bought tomatoes because fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes are so flavorful, but roasting helps bring out the flavors and caramelizes them slightly so that they are unreal delicious so it’s worth a shot if you can’t get your hands on farm-fresh tomatoes.

Kill Your Television…No, wait! Don’t! He never did anything to you! Just get rid of your cable.

By special request from my Aunt Becky, here’s how we live without cable and watch everything we want to watch for less than $50¬†a month (including high speed internet):

  • Fight with your internet company.¬† Don’t actually fight, but kill them with kindness until you threaten to leave. ¬†Every time our bill goes up, I immediately call our internet company and ask if they can do anything to help us save on our internet. ¬†If they say no, I tell them that I can’t stay with them if I am paying full price for internet because it’s too expensive. ¬†My trick, though, is to be as nice as humanly possible to everyone I talk to and try to joke around and make small talk with them. ¬†These people are in call centers being yelled at all day. ¬†I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “Wow, thanks for asking how my day is going. ¬†People don’t usually do that.” ¬† I actually had to call this week and was able to lock in a $30 discount for two years without every having to threaten to leave. ¬†The first person I talked to told me he was only authorized to give discounts on bundling (no, I don’t want to pay extra for DirectTV or a home phone…you’re missing the point, guy), but said that since we’ve been with the company for two years the loyalty department would be able to find me discounts on internet only. ¬†After 3 minutes on the phone with the loyalty department rep, I had a two-year discount locked in that was the same as our intro price without having to add any services. ¬†Total time commitment: 10 minutes.
  • Get a streaming device.¬† We spent $30 on a Roku three years ago during an Amazon sale and we can stream a huge number of channels to our TV. ¬†It has a remote for maximum laziness. ¬†We have friends that use Chromecast and Sony, and they basically do the same thing. ¬†Find what works for your preferences and try to get it on sale to cut your initial costs.
  • Netflix and Hulu+. ¬†We survive on these two subscriptions. ¬†Each is roughly $8 a month. ¬†Paying for Hulu+ allows us to stream to our Roku. ¬†If we were watching on our laptop, I’d probably stick to regular Hulu. ¬†The convenience of watching it on our TV is worth it. ¬†Netflix is life so no explanation necessary.
  • HD Digital Antenna.¬† Andy likes football. ¬†Football is hard to stream from the internet, if not impossible without a cable subscription…UNLESS you have a digital antenna. ¬†We can get Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS over the airwaves and that covers quite a few sporting events. ¬†We also get PBS and a million Christian channels so we could have church in our living room all the time. ¬†(http://www.ourladyofperpetualexemption.com/) ¬†We initally went to Best Buy where they sold us a shitty antenna for $35 that didn’t pick up¬†ANYTHING. ¬†We returned it and they told us we’d have to spend at least $100 to get a roof-mounted setup. ¬†We went to Target, spent $30 on a digital antenna with an amplifier, and now we have channels. ¬†Antenna TV will always be affected by location, the weather, solar flares and other strange phenomena, but we can generally get the channel we’re looking for out of either Denver or Cheyenne.
  • Find out who you know that pays for cable or¬†satellite. ¬†Andy’s parents pay for cable and HBO. ¬†We have friends who pay for DirectTV. ¬†We can go to their houses to watch anything we can’t stream. ¬†We may or may not use their logins… ¬†If you are from a television provider, we most definitely do not use anyone’s login information.
  • If all else fails, find a sports bar with specials.¬† We like college sports, especially CSU and Wyoming. ¬†Their games aren’t typically shown on major channels. ¬†If we can’t stream it, get it on our antenna, or find a house where we can watch it, we’ll head to a bar with reasonable prices and ample TVs. ¬†Road 34, The Bar, CB & Potts, Tap N Handle, Blind Pig, Ryan’s, and Taps have all worked well for us in the past. ¬†The CSU Alumni Association usually hosts watch parties for games so you can watch in the company of other fans and have the game day experience.

How do you save on TV? ¬†If you only read and work out and are generally better than us TV addicts, I don’t care.