Monday, January 28, 2013

Menage a Trois: Fuji Steakhouse Style

That's right folks, we've officially had our first blog dining threesome! This past weekend after a sweet tour of the Harpoon Brewery (who knew it was hiding out in Boston?!), Nate, myself, and our friend Jeremy went to Fuji Steakhouse in Needham to feast on hibachi, but really because we had a Groupon.

I'm going to be up front with you, as I was with Jeremy... after we were en route of course.  The reviews for this place are not stellar. It's one of those strange situations that pop up from time to time where the reviews are either 1's or 5's. Basically people either hated it and got food poisoning or thought it was the greatest food on Earth. This isn't the first time I've run into this situation with Yelp! or that type of website. It usually happens when there are reviews from a while ago and newer reviews now that the restaurant got its act together. I was really hoping that the latter described the situation with Fuji Steakhouse. I really hate food poisoning and I know for a fact that Nate agrees (Dunkin Donuts flashback anyone?) 

One of the best things about Jeremy, and a big reason he was the perfect person for our Groupon threesome, is that he's a really good sport and pretty much eats anything just like Nate. So he agreed to go despite the rather iffy ratings. Huzzah! And while I won't lie and say it was the greatest food on Earth, it was good enough and no one got sick. A real win all around I'd say! 

(My apologies for the terrible picture quality. 
Once we get picked up by TLC we'll be able to hire a much needed professional photographer) 

Since we live near Kikuyama, we're a bit spoiled in the hibachi experience. They always put on a great show there and all the entrees come with fried rice at no extra cost. Plus, they have the best worst karaoke in their basement and it's those little things that make a meal. Now unfortunately, Fuji didn't have that, but it did have 352 pictures of Ally Raisman, 1 photo of Jessica Simpson (what?!), and a few random baseball players that no one cares about. Fine, maybe they are popular but I don't care. It also has :: drum roll please :: the best strangest goldfish pond ever. The pond is partitioned off by red velvet ropes like you see at fancy night clubs. I kid you not. Clearly, these are some VIP fish. As I sit here typing this now I'm so mad at myself that I didn't take a picture of it. My description isn't doing it justice and I don't think you're laughing hard enough at the spectacle. Just go see it for yourself. If you hate hibachi you can go to Treat next door and decorate your own cupcake. With candy. In the frosting. What are you waiting for!?! Normal business hours? Please! Cupcakes wait for no one. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Birch Street Bistro Nom Nom Bonanza

Before I get into the fantastic experience that was last Thursday night's live jazz dinner at Birch St. Bistro, I wanted to quickly point out an easy way to save money: don't actually use any. Revolutionary, I know.

Here's the thing, people LOVE giving gift certificates these days. It's fast, it's easy, it's more personable than just a wad of cash, and shows some modicum of thought when giving gifts. Gift certificates are free money and I am sure you can think of plenty of occasions where you'll receive a gift - and likely one you don't want (looking your way, habitual fruit cake givers and Aunt "Knit Socks and Hats").

Here's how you fix that: just let everyone know where you like to go, or what you want, and tell them. It's that easy. Shoe store, clothing retailer, restaurant, bar, strip club - you name it, you can get a gift certificate of some kind to it. Just like that you've turned unwanted and awkward gift giving events into fountains of free money. You're welcome. (I accept thanks in the form of adulation in the comments section or burritos).

One place you should strongly consider getting some of the aforementioned free money to is the Birch Street Bistro in Roslindale. It's a nice, small restaurant tucked onto a one way street in the heart of Roslindale Village with an upscale dining atmosphere, well stocked bar, and delicious rotating menu. I mean, they have an ambiance section on their website for crying out loud! We went there for dinner last Thursday night with a gift certificate courtesy of Yana Davis Photography, partly because we didn't feel like cooking (welcome to every night of my life) and partly because it was jazz night. They do weekly live jazz on Thursdays with a rotating group of musicians and it really adds to the experience.The music is excellent for those of you into jazz, and for those looking for some nice ambiance on a date night out nothing beats background jazz (though I would recommend asking for a table near the back if you don't want to shout at your date all night).
While this sounds like something your dad might be into (and mine probably would be) I assure you it is not only acceptable, but cool, for you to enjoy as well.

You didn't come here to hear about jazz or my dad though (I don't think?), you're here for the savings stories. Here is what we ordered: We split a caesar salad to start, which featured a healthy amount of fresh parmesan cheese much to our Kendra's satisfaction and delicious homemade dressing. So fresh. I had the grilled pork chop topped with caramelized apples and gorgonzola cheese, with sides of spinach and mashed potatoes (the latter conveniently covered in more cheese).

Serious 'Noms
Kendra had the roasted lamb served over green beans and seasonal vegetables (which she substituted in for summer squash or something - shocking, I know). Both our dishes were fantastic, with the meat juicy, tender and literally falling off the bone. The sides had excellent flavor and complimented the main dish. I really enjoyed the sweetness of the apples in every bite of my pork chop, which I was somewhat concerned about initially.

Now, for the savings. The food we ordered came to a grand total of $50, which was conveniently the exact amount of free money we had so free dinner for us...

...except for a certain nameless (yet dashingly handsome) someone who happened to break the "only drink water to save money" rule and get a beer with his dinner. In my this person's defense, the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA was both delicious and paired fantastically with the meal, balancing out the sweetness of the apples with its smooth and not overly hoppy flavor.

So, factoring in tax, tip, and one minor rule violation for the sake of quality beverage pairing, our total came to something like $15 or $20, I'm too lazy to look up the exact amount. Either way, a significant savings over what the the meal would have ordinarily cost and another huge success in the eat great, save money, buy a house and then be poor again project.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Savings & Spreadsheets & Stockpiles, Oh My!

The other night our extreme couponing stockpile reached its limit and was starting to bust at the seams bins. It was indeed time for a weed through. (Which we then donate somewhere). Fellow spreadsheet lovers will be thrilled to know that we keep an extensive one in our Google drive that we update to have an accurate count of all our treasures. It helps us to know if we're ever getting "low" on anything (ha!) or if we've ever accumulated too much of something (see previous post for reference).

At this point I imagine some of combination of thoughts are going through your mind: 1) "What? I thought this blog was something about food?" 2) "My god, when did Kendra and Nate turn into such freaks? and/or 3) "This is like a train wreck, but I.. can't... look... away". You're welcome.

But really, our extreme couponing totally relates to our original reason for this blog: buying a house! We need more space and a basement so we can stockpile in all its glory and not have to worry about the ridicule from our friends when they see our tiny stuffed closet. (Okay, let's be real, you know we don't care one bit about the ridicule; we just want the space!)

This picture doesn't entirely do the stockpile justice because it's hard to capture in one iPhone photo, but I think it gives you a good idea. The extreme couponing deals have been less than stellar lately (boo hiss), but I have hunted down a bunch of great Groupon deals so stay tuned for some exciting posts on the horizon. Next up on our dinner docket first though: Dinner and live jazz at Birch Street Bistro with a gift certificate courtesy of Yana Davis Photography. Cheers! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Buca di Nada

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have some pretty bad luck. Dry sockets after getting my wisdom teeth out? Absolutely. Skin condition on my foot the dermatologist has never seen? Most definitely. Appeal a small speeding ticket in court? Cop actually shows up. I could go on. For days. And you know bad luck is contagious so poor Nate's spent almost half his life suffering too.

So when we went out on our date last weekend and had so much luck, it was shocking. Unnerving almost. And we should NOT have been lulled into a false sense of lucky security. While making our dinner plans last night, we double checked our Groupons. And there it was. A big old "redeemed" mark next to our Jerry Remy's Groupon. What?! You said we could come back! You said you were going to take care of us! How could you lie to us like that Albert?!

Right there, we should have known. We should have put the kibosh on dinner plans and stayed home to cook. But we had to run errands! And we're dumb! And we always have more hope! So, we made our dinner plans: Buca di Peppo with a $10 off $20 coupon. The place is great for this kind of deal because the dishes are for sharing so we could easily stick to a $20 budget and wind up paying half that. We dominated our errands. Bam! We started thinking about salad and pasta and bread, oh my! And we rolled up to Buca di Peppo around 9:30pm.

And we found NOTHING. That's right, good old Buca di Peppo of Dedham is closed. No, not it's 9:30pm closed, but rather we are no longer here at all closed. Really food gods? This late at night?

So now we panic. (And if you've ever seen a hungry Nate, you know exactly why I'm freaking out in that moment and worrying we might get divorced). We lay out the options. We have a Groupon to a steakhouse in Needham, but that's kind of far for this late at night. We have a thousand fast food coupons but we want to live past 40. So finally, after some hemming and hawing in the empty parking lot, we're forced to settle on going to TGI Friday's because it's around the corner, we have a coupon, and we can still eat for two for around $10.

This is where the post basically ends because 1) TGI Friday's isn't really that exciting and 2) We ate everything and forgot to take pictures. I will say however that a few years back I got some rewards card for free called "Stripes" which means we always get an appetizer of free homemade potato chips. We also earn rewards, but it's been 6 years and we still can't figure out where they are going. But wherever they are, there's a lot of them. In the end, our two meals and water (holla!) came to $17 and our $5 off $15 coupon helped us to pay just $13.64 plus tip to be exact. Better luck next time?

PS - We would like to thank our friends Kelly and Shaan for helping to make this dinner happen by gifting us another year of Entertainment Book for Christmas. Wait, what?! We don't have an entire book full of hundreds of coupons... that'd just be weird...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Can You Eat Shampoo?

This particular post isn't exactly about food. Unless you can eat shampoo? But it is about way good deals so I just have to share it. Because it's the new year, CVS has so many things on clearance to get rid of lingering stuff. So. Many. Things. The beauty is that these clearance items often match up to sales (insert awesome belting music and party in your head). Nate and I have been racking up the deals these last few weeks thanks to this clearance phenomenon and Christmas gift cards. So on my way home from work today I stopped by CVS to grab my prescription and peruse the aisles. Every CVS has different clearance items so it's pretty exciting. Anyway, I was dangerously low on deodorants (only have two!) and since there was a good sale I had a purpose for my browsing. Then, I stumbled upon all these shampoos and conditioners and well, be still my heart, I couldn't pass them up!

Here's how it all went down... 

1. The Mitchum deodorant is on sale for $1.99 and I had 2 coupons for $1.00 off making them only 99 cents. It's clinical strength to boot, which is key because let's be honest, I sweat like nobody's business. Too much information? Didn't think so. 

2. The Pantene shampoos were $3.49 and $1.24, with a $3.00 off coupon making it $1.73 for both. 

3. The Herbal Essences conditioner is for my people (curly hairs) and was on sale for $1.12 which coupled with my $1.00 off was 12 cents. Bam! That's less than 1 cent an once. Basically free. 

4. And finally, for the grand finale, the TreSemme shampoo and split end conditioner were $2.74 and $2.89. But don't worry, I had two $1.75 off coupons and a $2.00 off CVS coupon. 13 cents for both! Do you see how big one is? That's WAY less than 1 cent an once. I can't even do the math that's how almost free it is. Score!

[ Drum roll please! ] 

Total cost (including taxes): $4.21 (but I used a giftcard so really it was all free). At this point, I'm not even sure what you are still doing reading this post. You should be at CVS matching up your coupons to clearance items or at the very least printing coupons like a mad person. I'm off to update our stockpile... and considering that we already have 12 shampoos and 11 conditioners let me know if you need any! 

By the way, if you need a couponing assistant, I can make some recommendations...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Groupon: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Our hunt for a good deal didn't begin when the ball dropped in Times Square. We (read: Kendra) has always been on the lookout for solid bargains, which is how we came to have a Groupon to Jerry Remy's. We paid $15.00 for $35.00 worth of food. This kind of Groupon where you save more than 50% is the best because it's boom! Free money! Last night it was time to cash in on the savings. We made a reservation for 8:00pm (highly recommended on the weekends by the way) and we caught the last parking spot around the corner. Sweet luck.

We'd never been to Jerry Remy's before and let us just say that they are indeed a sports bar and they have TVs the size of your house. Not ours because we don't own one yet. After we were seated we inspected the menu to calculate the best use of our money. How close could we get to $35 while still eating things we liked? Luckily for us, Jerry Remy's is not expensive, and although we vowed to cut soda in restaurants to save the few bucks, we actually had to both order one to spend our dough. Nate decided on the Remy Burger. Shocking, I know. I went for the Ty Cobb salad with a few modifications. Again, shocking, I know. At least we're good looking?

Aside from our bonus sodas, we also shared a big ol' bowl of clam chowdah. (Not pictured due to hungry bellies and forgetful minds). The place was packed for the football playoffs (that's still happening?) and because it was a Saturday night. On top of that, they seemed down a couple servers so our poor guy Albert spent the whole time running around like mad. 

Overall, the food was pretty good and we'd totally go back. Especially because we still have our Groupon. But we'll get to that. Nate reported that the burger was a bit bland and could have used more thousand island dressing. But a little extra ketchup solved that problem. My grilled chicken hadn't yet seen the grill, but my new piece was hot and moist. The clam chowder was delicious and had hints of bacon which is always an insta hit for us. 

And here comes the best part. Are you ready? As we went to pay the bill (which was originally $40 after taxes) our server Albert apologized for all of the inconveniences and waiting and said he was taking care of the bill for us, we could keep our Groupon and come back again. Total charged: $2.68 plus tip. Total gained: $35.00. So our initial $15.00 investment has gone a long way. 

It's kind of like the blogging gods knew we were working on our first post. If you decide to check out Jerry Remy's definitely ask for Albert. We know we will on our next visit. 

Let Them Eat Cheap

With the New Year brings a flood of resolutions: get skinny, work out, save money, blah blah blah. Most of these only see the light of day for the first few weeks in January before they fall by the wayside. So obviously we've made all three of these resolutions, but we aren't delusional enough to think that we'll actually stick to them all, especially when our couch is so darn comfortable. Sigh. That being said, we are serious about buying a house this year. So we can stop living on top of other people. And have enough space in our closet so that we don't have to unpack everything just for a new roll of toilet paper.

Saving money isn't hard if you're a recluse and never do anything. Unfortunately, we have a (small) social life and enjoy doing things. One of our big weaknesses is that we love to go out to eat. It tastes delicious, you don't have to cook it, and it cleans up itself. What else could a person want? But if you recall our resolutions from above (that we almost just talked ourselves out of writing this last paragraph) that plan doesn't make our wallets fatter or our waists thinner. Hence this blog. Beginning with this new year, we've challenged ourselves to put our couponing skills to good use and cut back. The plan is to go 365 days without dining out...

...without some kind of coupon/Groupon/discount/deal. (If you actually thought we were going to give up restaurants, you have way more faith than we do). We figure blogging about it is a good way to stay accountable. And who knows, maybe someone will actually read it? Feed us? Make us famous? Solve the whole money problem once and for all? But until that happens our scissors are poised. Bon appetit.