Delicious Deals at OC Restaurant Week

September 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm (Dining Deals) (, , , )

I’m back stateside after my fantastic trip to England (not a very frugalicious place to travel, by the way…the exchange rate kills you!). And I made it back just in time for Orange County Restaurant Week. Through Saturday, participating restaurants are offering prix-fixe lunches for $10, $15, or $20, or prix-fixe dinners for $20, $30, or $40. Yes, $20 for lunch or $40 for dinner is still pretty steep, but Orange County Restaurant Week gives diners a chance to get a three-course meal at some very nice restaurants. However, I would strongly advise would-be diners to check out the restaurant menus posted on the Restaurant Week website. At some restaurants, you might not end up saving any money at all (ahem, I’m talking to you, Crow Bar and Kitchen). Still, if you’ve always wanted to try, say, Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern, now’s the time!

After our jaunt overseas, Mr. Frugalicious and I can’t afford to dine out very often, but we have decided to splurge on a meal at Savannah Chop House on Saturday night. I’ve never been, but I like the supper club vibe of the place. And for $30 each, we get a complete three-course meal–starter, entree, and dessert–PLUS a glass of house wine. Not bad for a place where entrees usually run anywhere from $16 to $32.

Have you been to any of the restaurants that are participating in Restaurant Week? What did you think? How do you save money when you want to go out for a nice meal?

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Review–Eno Wine Bar, Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

August 31, 2009 at 8:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Let’s face it: A girl can’t be frugalicious ALL the time. And after my first week at my new job, I was in serious need of a treat. So, Mr. Frugalicious and I headed out to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel for a tasting of “Big, Bold California Cabernets” at Eno, the hotel’s wine bar.

The wine bar itself was lovely, and the sommelier, Shannon, couldn’t have been nicer or more knowledgeable. But if I’d known we were going to be paying $35 each for just three tastes of wine, I would have reconsidered my splurge. Still, we had a really good time, and the wines were very good…all 2005 vintages of California Cab. We had wine from Beaulieu Vineyards, Rodney Strong, and Mt. Veeder. The Mt. Veeder Cab was my favorite, while Mr. Frugalicious was partial to the Rodney Strong. We paired our wines with some artisan chocolates, which were delicious, although they cost an eye-popping $7.50 for three chocolates. Mr. Frugalicious was interested in ordering the cheese pairing, until he found out that it cost $17.

Every once in a while, you’ve got to splurge. But I don’t think I’ll be going back to Eno anytime soon, unless someone else is footing the bill. I understand that we were paying for the Ritz atmosphere, and we did have fun. Now, however, it’s back to my frugalicious ways!

I am traveling abroad for the next couple of weeks, so I won’t be posting. But I have been researching some great deals, so be on the lookout for a wealth of information when I return!

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Dining Deal–Maggiano’s Little Italy

August 24, 2009 at 9:03 pm (Dining Deals) (, , )

Would you like some pasta with your pasta? As if the portions at Maggiano’s aren’t big enough, the restaurant is now running a promotion where if you buy one pasta meal for $12.95, you can get a second meal to take home with you…for free! According to the promotional mailer that I got, “your second selection will be packaged and ready to go at the end of your meal.”

I don’t know about you, but I can usually get at least two meals out of one serving of pasta from Maggiano’s. And the nice thing about this promotion is that it doesn’t discriminate against single diners. Most restaurants offer “buy one, get one free” entree specials, but those deals aren’t any good if you’re eating alone. Occasionally, I enjoy a solitary lunch. It would be delightful to indulge in some delicious pasta and then have even more to take home with me. Maggiano’s packages its pasta with excellent reheating instructions, as well, so it always tastes good the next day.

You can choose from seven free pastas, including chicken pesto linguine, four-cheese ravioli, and my personal favorite, rigatoni “D”–pasta, roasted chicken, mushrooms, and caramelized onions in a marsala cream sauce, although I always hold the mushrooms. I’m not sure how widely this special is being advertised, but the mailer I got was pretty slick. I haven’t splurged on such a pricey lunch in quite a while, but I just might go back to Maggiano’s to take advantage of the extra free meal. Would a deal like this lure you in?

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Happy Hour Review–Peppino’s Irvine

August 21, 2009 at 5:13 pm (Happy Hour) (, , , )

Last night, I met up with some co-workers from my last place of employment to enjoy a few adult beverages. I was laid off, and another member of our party quit said establishment with no notice because she was fed up with our narcissistic boss. Only one remains working at the company, and it’s because he is loyal to a fault, not because he is well-paid. So we needed some cheap drinks and a central location in which to drink them. That led us to Peppino’s in Irvine.

I’ve never been to a Peppino’s before, but Mr. Frugalicious says the restaurants offer heaping portions of Italian-American food. I, however, took only liquid nourishment. We sat in the bar, where drinks were just $2 apiece! Well, I should clarify…Thursday night is “Ladies Night,” so well drinks, draft beer, and house wine are $2 for ladies, but the guy we were with got his beers for $2, too. No gender discrimination at Peppino’s! I enjoyed the house Pinot Grigio: It was very drinkable, especially for just $2. Our waiter was very attentive and was quick to bring us fresh glasses of wine (with a very generous pour) whenever he saw that we were running low. Our total bill was $28. That’s a frugalicious deal!

According to the Peppino’s website, mini meatball sliders are also offered on Thursday nights…just $3.95 for two. They sound tasty, but as I said, our group didn’t let any food get in the way of our alcohol. Still, the price is right, so if I were in need of a little nibble with my drink, I would definitely sample them. Take advantage of “Ladies Night” specials at Peppino’s in Irvine, Mission Viejo, and Foothill Ranch on Thursday nights from 4 pm to close (in the bar area only), or hit up the Lake Forest location on Mondays.

I’ll definitely return to Peppino’s to take advantage of the incredible drink specials. And next time, maybe I’ll even have some food!

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Saving Money at the Movies

August 19, 2009 at 6:39 pm (Entertainment) (, , , , , )

Staying in and watching a movie can be a cozy way to spend an evening, but when  you and your husband have been cooped up in the house together ALL DAY, it’s time to hit the cineplex. But paying $11 per ticket does not exactly make for a frugalicious evening out. That’s why I’m thankful for discount movie houses.

In Orange County, we have a couple of spots that show movies for less than full price. I’m partial to  the Woodbridge theater in Irvine, where tickets are just $2, except on Tuesday, when it’s $1 all day long. You’re not seeing new releases, of course, but you can see movies on the big screen before they come out on DVD. Last night, Mr. Frugalicious and I saw “The Taking of Pelham 123,” and a couple months back, we saw “I Love You, Man.” The movie theater isn’t plush by any means, but it’s serviceable, and it can be fun to see movies with a crowd. Last night, the theater was packed, thanks to the dollar deal. But be warned…concessions are full price, so unless you enjoy shelling out $6 for popcorn, you might want to smuggle in some M&Ms in your purse.

At the Main Place Mall in Santa Ana, you can see a movie for $1.75, or $1 on Tuesday. But based on the reviews I’ve read on Yelp, it doesn’t sound as nice as the Woodbridge theater. Plus, it’s further from our location in South County. When Mr. Frugalicious and I do want to see a new release in the theaters, we usually wait until it’s out for a couple of weeks and then use the coupons in our Entertainment Book, which let us buy tickets for $6.50 each.

When I need a night out, I’ll definitely be attending more movies at the discount picture houses. And considering that renting a movie from Blockbuster costs close to $5, it really is a bargain. And yes, Netflix is great, but I don’t think I watch enough DVDs at home to get the true value out of my subscription. I think I’m going to have to check out Redbox…I just saw a service man installing one outside of the Circle K here in Dana Point. It’s only a dollar (plus tax) per night, which is a great deal if you’re going to take the movie home and watch it right away.

One more money-saving movie tip for you: If you like the classics, check out the selection at your local library. Those DVDs are free! Libraries are also often a good source of workout DVDs and children’s DVDs.

Do you still go out to the movies? If so, how do you save money?

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Good News on the Job Front

August 18, 2009 at 9:52 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

The good news is that I got a job offer today, and I start Monday. The bad news is that the job doesn’t pay quite as much as I had hoped it would, and Mr. Frugalicious is still looking for work. (Need a good designer? Check out his portfolio!) So, we will be living the frugalicious lifestyle for a while longer. No Cristal and caviar for us!

Tomorrow, I’ll have a post on ways to see movies on the cheap. In the meantime, check out some of the links that I’ve added to my blogroll for additional tips on frugalicious living.

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FREE* Books!

August 17, 2009 at 7:21 pm (Entertainment) (, , , , )

I am a total bookworm. In fact, I feel slightly unsettled when I’m between books. When I was a child, I refused to even go to the store with my mother (a five-minute car ride) unless I had a book with me. I used to attend family gatherings with a book by my side. Happily, my social skills have developed–I actually think I’m a rather good conversationalist–so you’ll no longer find me hiding in corners at parties with my nose in a book. But when I’m home, I read as often as possible.

The problem is that a steady supply of fresh reading material doesn’t come cheap. There is, however, one source of books that’s totally free. That’s right…the library.

If you don’t have a library card, you don’t know what you’re missing. My library offers a pretty good selection of new releases. Special displays turn me on to new topics and new authors, and the periodical section lets me check out certain magazines so I can decide whether they’re worth the subscription price. The library is also a great source of cookbooks and travel books. You know how some cookbooks only offer a few good recipes and then a bunch that use ingredients you hate? Not a problem with a cookbook from the library. Just exchange it for something new! And travel guides…how to decide which has the best information? Just preview several from the library. If you plan your check-out date right, you can even take the book with you on your trip. Just don’t lose it…replacement fees are steep.

The great thing about my library is that for a modest fee (just 25 cents!), I can search for any title available and choose the library where I want to pick it up. Then, I get an email notification when the book has arrived. Sure, it’s no instant gratification, but in certain instances, it’s the perfect solution. For instance, I can buzz through one of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich in a matter of hours. It’s hard for me to justify spending $20 or $25 on a hardback when I’ll be done with it so quickly. So instead, I put in my request through the library, and I wait. (And wait. And wait. But for a quarter, it’s still a good deal.) Sometimes I get lucky and find the hot new release I want on the “rental” shelf. Then, it’s mine for a week for just $1.50. Beats the sticker price! And if your library has a bookstore, like mine does, browse through it. Today, I saw some great paperbacks being offered for just $1 apiece.

If you’re lucky enough to have a used bookstore nearby, you may have another way to get free books. At Mathom House Books in San Clemente, you can take in books that you no longer want and get store credit for them. Occasionally, you can even get cash! You can use your store credit to buy any used books in the store, which are mainly in good condition and steeply discounted from what the new price would be. Plus, the employees are really friendly. Some Copperfield’s bookstores also offer this type of used-book credit program. And Book-Off, with locations in San Diego, Costa Mesa and Torrance ran an ad in the OC Weekly offering to buy used books, CDs, DVDs and games. Of course, you can get great deals on used books through sites like Amazon.com, but then you have to deal with shipping costs, so I prefer the library and used bookstore options.

*Here’s where the asterisk comes in: As a soon-to-be-published novelist (I hope!), I feel somewhat conflicted about encouraging people to buy used books or just borrow from the library. Authors rely on royalties from books sold for a good chunk of their income. Plus, selling lots of books can help them hit various best-seller lists, which could lead to bonuses from their publishing houses. So whenever possible, it’s good to buy new books from a retailer. The more books that are sold, the more money authors can make, and the more money publishing houses and editors and agents and so on can make. Your book dollars can save an industry!

In the meantime, though, my financial straits are rather dire, so I’m glad that there are options for free books out there. Do you try to save money on books? If so, how?

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Happy Hour Review–Casanova Ristorante

August 14, 2009 at 7:37 pm (Happy Hour) (, , , , )

Dining out is expensive, even if you do take advantage of the dining deals out there. But since Mr. Frugalicious and I are both at home all day, every day thanks to our status as involuntary freelancers (read: laid-off employees), sometimes we are desperate to get out. Sure, we could just go to lunch, but even though we don’t have an office to return to, we feel it’s a bit unseemly to be knocking back cocktails in the middle of the day. Luckily, lots of restaurants in Orange County are now offering happy hour specials. I’ll be reviewing one each week (I hope!).

Back when we were gainfully employed, Mr. Frugalicious and I visited Casanova Ristorante in Dana Point several times for dinner, and it was always delicious. It offers a charming atmosphere and delicious Italian food. And now, it’s got a great happy hour. From 3:30 to 6:30, you can belly up to the bar and take advantage of specialty martinis for just $5…my favorite is the “Casanova martini,” a winning combination of vodka, pomegranate juice, peach nectar and a squeeze of lime. A glass of wine or a beer will run you between $4 and $6.

The specialty martinis are potent, and as everyone knows, you should never drink on an empty stomach. That’s why I’m glad that Casanova’s also offers a selection of appetizers and small plates for just $5 to $7. The bruschetta is heaped with tomatoes and basil, and the pepperoni pizza could easily serve as dinner for one. The happy hour food isn’t extraordinary, but the price is right.

Although the leather banquettes look inviting, do not sit in them if you’re there for happy hour. The happy hour specials are only served to patrons sitting at the bar, and the bar can get crowded. To snag a space, plan on heading to Casanova’s on the early side…maybe a little before 5:00. The good news is that Casanova’s offers its happy hour specials seven days a week, making it an ideal spot to relax with a drink on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

If you decide to check out Casanova’s happy hour, let me know. I’ll meet you there…especially if you’re buying!

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Dining Out Deals

August 12, 2009 at 8:38 pm (Dining Deals) (, , , )

If you’re on a budget, of course it is most sensible to stay home and cook your own meals. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta live a little. Although we enjoy cooking at home, every once in a while, Mr. Frugalicious and I like to head out to a restaurant and let someone else sweat over a stove. To save money, though, I keep an eye on special deals at our favorite spots. And now, the Dana Point Times has compiled a round-up of deals at local restaurants. The list has a lot of good information on food and drink specials, at upscale restaurants and at casual joints.

I’m looking forward to trying the $3 appetizers at Salt Creek Grille, and I can’t imagine anything more pleasant than sitting on the Chart House patio overlooking the Dana Point Harbor while sipping a discounted specialty cocktail and nibbling on a $4 appetizer.

What are your favorite restaurant deals?

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Spend Less? No, Earn More.

August 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm (Personal Finance) (, , , )

Whenever I’ve been faced with a personal economic crisis, my response has always been the same: cut spending. (Wait, no, that’s not true. When I was young and stupid, my response was, “That’s what credit cards are for, right?”) But after a friend sent me an advance copy of financial guru Loral Langemeier’s soon-to-be-released book, “Put More Cash in Your Pocket,” I realized I had another option: make more money.

I haven’t read a lot of personal finance books, and I’ve never given much thought to a long-term financial plan. But reading Langemeier’s book really inspired me. The premise is that most people have money-making skills and talents that they can tap to bring in an extra $500 to $1,000 a month. She exhorts people to come up with a business idea quickly and start finding customers right away.

Now, I’ve freelanced off and on for 10 years, but I’ve never done much to market my services. Most of my clients have come via referral. And when I have thought about running a marketing campaign to attract more clients, I always get bogged down in the details, or I get distracted by a looming deadline. The point of Langemeier’s book is to just take action. Don’t worry about the details…embrace the vision and make it a reality.

Just about everyone has some skill he or she can sell, according to Langemeier. In her book, she works with a man who has a power washer and loves to power-wash his house a couple of times a year. She encourages him to offer his power-washing services to the neighborhood, and his enterprise grows from there. A schoolteacher starts bringing in extra money by taking on private tutoring clients. And an IT guy starts a mobile “computer doctor” service. Although she doesn’t go into great detail, Langemeier talks about how to make sure there’s a market for your services, how to find clients, and what to charge.

When I’m not seeking out the frugalicious deals that make life a little more fun, I’m actively courting new freelance clients. And I may even branch out into tutoring…I have experience as both a substitute teacher and a test-prep tutor. I’ve even started thinking of ways for my friends and family to start their own “lemonade stands,” as Langemeier calls them. My mother-in-law loves to knit, and she made me an amazing evening bag for my birthday. I told her she should make a bunch and start selling them on Etsy. My husband can offer his design services, obviously, and he’s actually hooked up with someone to start an iconoclastic T-shirt line that could hit stores within just a few weeks. And my youngest brother, who works at Mumm in Napa, could start offering wine appreciation lessons. Creativity and gumption…that’s what we need!

“Put More Cash in Your Pocket” comes out in October, and Langemeier is running a bunch of cool promotions surrounding the launch. Check it out, and leave your comments about the “lemonade stand” you would start. I also want to know about the other personal finance books you’ve read and loved!

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