Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thinking outside the box – A trip to our favorite discount store

A few months ago the local Amish community opened their own discount store.  This has become our favorite place to browse on a free Saturday.  Since its not close by we tie it in with a trip to Kalamazoo and add in the Amish bakery stop for cookies on the way home.  You never know what you are going to find!


The building is in a converted feed mill outside of Bloomingdale.


Three rows are the bent, dented, outdated, and discount items.  The upside is you never find the same things twice, the downside is if you find a product you really like you might not see it there again for a while.  We dig thru the crackers, rice, cereal, and snacks to help supplement our monthly groceries.  The prices are about what I would pay at Meijer with a coupon on a good day for the items.  The savings comes when I can buy as many as I need, not limited by a coupon amount.

One of our best deals was when we bought 25 boxes of Nabisco crackers at $.99 a box.  We spread the deal around with my parents, my brother and kept some for ourselves. Wheat Thins, Trisquits, Chicken in a Basket and Wheatables that had just gone out of date a week prior.  I have things that are most likely a week out of date in my pantry all the time. Sealed up they are still delicious!

The rice and Mac-n-Cheese are all $.49 a box. Chips are $1 but we take our time to make sure the bag we pick isnt full of crushed chips.  Dog food was $3.99 and the dog treats were 2/$1.

They have opened a new freezer section in the back with free beef, pork and chicken.  The prices seem reasonable for hormone free meat.  We were running tight on time so I plan to explore it more on a later visit. They offer cheese, butter, cider and eggs at very reasonable prices.  The cider was fresh pressed and $3.50.

Several more aisles hold bulk foods. Sugar, Flour, mixes. Monster Trail mix is $2.88 a pound.  I know I pay $.99 for 2 ounces in the quick stop if I want a quick snack. We buy all of our nuts and dry goods there.

My daughters favorite is the 4/$1 boxes of candy and gum.  She will dig for a while to find her favorite gum.


This was our last shopping trip, the grand total was $37.14

Categories: How I Save on Travel, Saving Money | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Yule Run, I’ll Walk fun run

I figured since we had put all of this work into getting race ready why not fill in a couple of weekend with races?  I failed to realize how cold it might be for this Christmas type fun run.  It was a freezing clear night!

The run was at the Fifth Third Ball Park in Grand Rapids.  Two laps thru the Christmas lights, easy enough.  It had been raining off and on most of the morning, it was windy, cold and I just didn’t feel like doing this by the time we left for the run.  It was at 7pm on a Friday night, I was ready to be in my warm house instead.

But we powered through it, I think it might have even made us go crazy from the cold for a bit. I think the free face painting helped her be cheerful.


The race had some moments where it was a little dark, we wished we had worn a head lamp or something.  So we took it easy on those corners.  It was fun to run thru the Christmas lights! The Salvation Army had some band members playing on the course for our enjoyment.





At the end we were offered Hot Chocolate and bagels.  Did it, didn’t freeze to death and we have the T-Shirt.


Categories: Races | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Mickey’s Jungle Jingle 5k recap

Way back over the summer we signed up for the Mickey Jungle Jingle 5k at Animal Kingdom. I figured I had plenty of time to get to a 16 minute mile. Easy.  And then life happened, then school was starting and you know all the excuses.  I had over estimated my fitness level, way over estimated!  I started to read reviews of the 2012 race and figured this might not be as easy as I had thought.

I wanted to stop for pictures are we ran, I didn’t realize I would have to board a bus at 5:15 in the morning or how much walking we would do the day before.  I needed to get my rear in gear!  I have a great running partner who put up with me and my whining. Around mile two there is a lot of whining.

But on this day there was very little whining!!!!!  If there was it was because we were up at 4:45 inhaling pop tarts. Triple checking that we had everything we started the walk to the bus around 5:10am. In the dark!!!!!  By 5:15 the bus was full and we were headed off to Animal Kingdom.

It was amazing to walk across the dark parking lot and to look behind us at all the runner streaming in!  I wish it had been lighter to take better pictures, but it was 5:30 in the morning. The lines quickly formed to take pictures with the characters, the child refused so we walked around people watching.  What a creative group we were running with.  We saw Cruella Devil and her puppies ready to run.  All sorts of princess, fairies and characters.  A family of the Incredibles in costume and groups in matching tutus.  So fun to look at all the costumes!


We were in our running corals as the sun was rising, stretching and trying to stay loose for the beginning of the run. Disney had corals A-D set up.  We were in the back of C because I made us to the bathroom before we lined up.  I didn’t want to hear at 7:30 during the run that we needed to stop.

The time to start went quickly and our coral was off past Mickey and Minnie cheering us on at the start line.  Things got interesting because I have never run with this many people before.  Disney did not require proof of time for a 5k, so I assume many people were very generous with their estimated speed.  Before the half mile we had hit so much traffic we were almost at a walk.  It was very frustrating to try to “run” around people walking 3 wide.  That is my only complaint about the race.


By the time we finished the parking lot mile and headed into Animal Kingdom we had spread out, the runners were past the walkers for the most part.  We stopped to take some pictures by the tree. Disney did a great job having alot of volunteers willing to take pictures with your camera for you!  As we ran around toward Asia the paths were narrow so there was more traffic to watch for.  It seemed to pass so quickly! Next thing I knew we were running past Everest.  Another lovely volunteer took a picture for us with Everest in the background!  We headed back toward the front of the park for the long leg we still had in the back lot area.  We turned the corner and my child was so disappointed to see the back of Expedition Everest. She didn’t even want me to take a picture of it.  LOL!  Just ugly brown metal.


Another turn and we were back out at the parking lot for the last .1 of the race.  It was fun to have everyone still cheering at the finish line.  Another volunteer gave us our finishing medal and we were also given a snack box.  There was tables full of Gatorade and waters. A huge and impressive undertaking to put on these races!

As we tore into our food boxes we started talking about what race we wanted to do next and why.  Its sad, we hadn’t even showered yet!  There were plenty of Disney buses waiting to take us back to our hotels to clean up. No one wants to smell like a runner all day.  We proudly wore our finisher medals all day at Animal Kingdom.  It was not my fastest 5k with all traffic but it was the funnest!


The downside after spending the rest of the day at Animal Kingdom was we felt like this at 3pm. Well, she felt worse. I had worn my pink compression socks after the race.  They really helped with my recovery.  The one time in your life you don’t feel like a dork for wearing compression socks has to be after a Disney race!


Categories: Disney, Races, Trip Reviews | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

The things I do to go to Disney and we still saved money.

This is something I never saw coming. I knew I would be willing to work 2nd jobs, pack a lunch, get rid of satellite TV and cut our budget to travel.  But I never figured there would be running involved.  Somehow I do blame this all on my little sister, but in the end it did get me another trip to Disney.

If you know me you know I am was a pretty sedimentary person.  Stairs, only to avoid the elevators that I might get trapped in.  Walking, only because I need to get to my next location.  If you have seen the movie Wall-E and the people who float around and never walk in the movie you know I could generally be OK with that concept.  I don’t like to exercise!  No into sweating, being tired or thinking I might just die of exertion.  Yup, that was me.  In early September I couldn’t even run for 5 min straight.  I assumed I could but let me tell you, it was ugly!  I even threatened to take my child out of the will that night while trying to run for 5 min straight.  She found that very funny and kept running.

So how does this relate to Disney and why the heck did I run for five minutes that night?  We (my child and I) had signed up to run a Disney 5k.  I thought it would be so easy, you had to keep a 16 minute pace or be swept.  No problem!  I get to go to Disney, I can do this!!!!!

On the plus side, if you book a Disney run you also are eligible for discounts.  Yup, saving money and Disney vacations. My two favorite topics rolled into 1 blog post. You can save on your hotel and on your park tickets!  Win/Win!!!!!  So we gladly took Disney up on the discounts and booked a room at All Star Sports.  The theme fit perfectly! The hotel was $110 a night including taxes and park tickets were $155 for 2 day base tickets thru Run Disney.  Regular Disney tickets would have been $195.96 a person.

If we had booked thru Disney like normal it would have been $741.94, thru Run Disney we paid $593.65. We had the added expense of our race entries, but we still were under $700. If you travel with more than two people and not everyone runs the savings would be greater.

I will do a race and trip recap in other posts. We had a great time and hope to go it again next year. We are even shooting for a longer distance if you can believe that!




Categories: Discounts, How I Save on Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Radisson Blu Chicago Girls Stay

We spent a Saturday night at the Radisson Blu Chicago for a girls night.  Not your typical girls night, this was a teenage girl “Girls Night Out”.  The girls LOVED the hotel and are begging to stay here again.  I would be very willing to stay here again myself!

Last year we participated in a Radisson promo that was taking place.  Stay in any Radisson, get a night in any Radisson.  We needed a hotel room before our cruise, all prices being pretty much equal we chose the Radisson to get a future stay.  What a great promo that was. Our room was $89+ tax at the port, and we were able to stay in a much nicer hotel free.

We had great plans to use our free night various times over 2013, and it kept falling thru.  Cross Country meets, friend cancellations, family obligations, and a host of other things made me move this free reservation several times. And the free room had to be used in 2013 or it was lost.  I was NOT going to give up this free hotel room, no way!!!!!

We finally found a free weekend at the end of October and we tied it in with my daughters birthday.  She chose a friend to take for her girls weekend.  I don’t know who was more excited, my child or her friend!

The hotel did not disappoint!!!  The location is great! Just a couple of short blocks from the Chicago Cultural Center, still on this side of the river.  The closest hotel we have ever booked in relation to the train station.  Image

We did some touring in the morning and arrived at the hotel at 1pm.  I had expected to leave our bags and to come back later when our room was ready.  We had lunch plans and things to do, no one wants to haul the heavy backpacks all day.  The front desk told us not only was our room ready but the online upgrade request I had put in was fulfilled.  And we were upgraded to a balcony room thanks to my loyalty status.  Hot dog!!!!!!  We were on the 17th floor in business class with lounge access.   This hotel is now moved up to amazing in my mind and I haven’t even made it to the room yet!


The girls squealed over the room and then over the bathroom. The black sparkly tile is very cool looking. And I appreciated having a large bathroom.


The view looking toward Lake Michigan from our balcony.  I am NOT a height person so I just stuck my head out and quick snapped a pic. The girls loved being out there and I tried not to panic or assume they were going to fall.


Before they could do anything else the girls wanted to check out the lounge and what they had to offer.  Since it was 1:30ish all they had out were drinks.  From 4:30-10 they had snacks like popcorn, cookies, pretzels, nuts, muffins and some wine.  They lounge came in really handy around dinner time when the girls were not really hungry but wanted a couple of snacks and a drink.  I was thrilled to not have to purchase a meal that they were not really going to eat much of.   The girls loved the area and the comfy chairs. Being the weekend and so few guests I didn’t rush them out, we had the lounge to ourselves!  See Millennium Park out the window?


They swam in the lap pool and hung out in the hot tub.  Making faces every time I took a picture.  Image

And as you can see from the balcony photo we were really on a good street to view the fireworks.  They shot off Halloween fireworks at 9:30, so we walked out of the hotel and looked toward the lake. Excellent viewing with no walk!!!!!  Everyone was happy because as crazy as teenage girls can be they seemed to be getting tired.

Breakfast was in the lounge the next morning. The girls had cereal, croissants, and milk.  I had a chocolate croissant that was so yummy and some fresh fruit.  They had oatmeal, yogurts, muffins and some cheeses.  It was more than enough and saved me from having to purchase breakfast for the girls.

We had a great hotel stay that with my upgrade including tax the cost was $29.11.  Not the $405.63 that the same room would have been.  I agree with the girls, I would LOVE to be able to do this again sometime!  We will see what future promotions bring but I do love my travel hacking hobby!

Categories: Discounts, Hotel Reviews, Trip Reviews | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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