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A New Element of Surprise to Dining Out

by Courtney on January 28, 2013

Happy Monday, everyone! How was the weekend? Do anything fun and exciting? Relax and lay low? Mine was fairly busy and pretty awesome…here’s a little recap of Friday night and Saturday:

And here’s a little recap of Sunday. First, breakfast.

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1 egg + 2 egg whites with spinach + a toasted whole wheat mini potato roll with almond butter and jelly.

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Yum.

And here’s a random picture of Cody for you because, well, I couldn’t get over the cuteness. Winking smile

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But as for the rest of our Sunday…

Back in December, Heather blogged about these City Dining Cards, and I was so immediately intrigued by them that I immediately went to the website and bought myself a pack.

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Basically, here’s how it works. You pay $20 for the deck, which includes (50) $10 discount cards. You spend $30 or more at the restaurant, and you received $10 off your total bill. Simple as that! And a bonus to buying the cards…5% of all proceeds go to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. Gotta love that.

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So by the time you use two of them, you’re already gotten your money’s worth. Talk about a sweet deal!

There’s also a couple of “bonus” coupons in the capital region deck, one of them being a free loaf of bread (at the same place I checked out those amazing cakes).

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I think one of the things I’m most excited about with the cards is that it’ll give Jay and I a reason to go and check out some other restaurants that we either a) love and forget about, or b) try something new that we’ve just never gotten around to. I feel like it could bring a whole new element of surprise to date night and dining out! Smile

So even though I’ve had the cards for almost a month, we didn’t end up using our first card until yesterday, which brought us to the Albany Pump Station.

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I love the pump station for so many reasons…their food, their beer (to be enjoyed at a later date), and their atmosphere. So fun.

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We were pretty hungry by the time we got there, and we also knew we needed our bill to reach $30, so we both decided to order a cup of their French Onion soup to start. A later realized that I actually got the last time we came here, almost two years ago, and I remember why. The stuff is GOOD.

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For my main lunch, I ordered the Mediterranean Wrap, which included roasted red pepper hummus, tabouli, banana peppers, tomato, feta, and falafel, served with a side of tzatziki.

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The wrap was awesome, and included all sort of delicious flavors, and I think I loved it most because it’s not something I would typically make for myself at home.

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After lunch, it was grocery shopping time, and I even managed to get Jay to hit up Trader Joe’s.

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Unfortunately, the place was PACKED. So much so, that it was just not an enjoyable experience (if it wasn’t for me, then I KNOW Jay was dying the whole time). So we quickly made our way through the aisles as best we could, grabbed what we wanted, and made it out of there fast.

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Apparently, it’s still only safe to go on random Wednesday nights at 9pm. Good to know for future reference!

Since our lunch was so much larger than usual (and not eaten until almost 3pm), neither of us were in the mood for much of anything special for dinner. Around 7:30 though, I started to get a little hungry, so I put together a bowl of cereal (Special K Protein Plus, blueberries, bananas, almond butter, unsweetened vanilla almond milk).

Hey, sometimes cereal for dinner is just where it’s at. Am I right? Winking smile

**FYI: The Baby Tooth page was updated this morning!!

Questions for the Morning:

  • Do you like trying new restaurants, or do you tend to stick with what you know? Do you think you’d ever use something like the City Dining Cards?
  • What’s your favorite time/day to grocery shop?

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{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melanie @ Beautifully Nutty January 28, 2013 at 8:10 am

I had the exact same grocery shopping experience yesterday at Costco. EVERYBODY was out (despite the freezing rain) and I just really don’t do too well with crowds. We went at 11 and we usually go at 10. We learned our lesson!
Dinner looks amazing. I love trying new places!
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2 lisa fine @ vermont vittles January 28, 2013 at 8:11 am

We’ve been trying to eat out less to save money and to experiment more with our own cooking (homemade pizza – yum!), but as newbies to Vermont, we have mostly gone to new restaurants each time we go out.

As for grocery shopping, I like going in the evening, if possible, like after 7pm. Quiet and no lines are key!
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3 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries January 28, 2013 at 8:14 am

I don’t think there’s been many times that I’ve been to Trader Joe’s and it’s NOT been busy, and I’ve been to quite a few locations too! Glad you were able to get some goodies though. I love going out to eat in general… We don’t do it a lot lately because it gets to be pricey, but it’s one of my favorite date night activities. We have our favorites, but I’m always up for trying new places, especially if it was recommended by someone!
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4 Michelle@Peachy Palate January 28, 2013 at 8:14 am

I like grocery shopping nice and early when the shops are quiet ideally on a Monday when everything has just been restocked! :) The wrap looks amazing…if I wasn’t vegan I’d want your breakfast…longing for some tofu scramble now! :)
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5 Avery @ Southern Belle Living Well January 28, 2013 at 8:14 am

Our Trader Joe’s is packed too! Plenty of college students, gotta enjoy the cheaper prices! That restaurant looks so fun! French Onion Soup is ALWAYS a good idea ;)
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6 Khushboo January 28, 2013 at 8:16 am

City Dining Cards sounds like an awesome scheme! As much as I tend to gravitate towards old favorites, I equally enjoy trying out new restaurants. The way I see it is that there’s bound to be at least one dish on the menu worth trying, and can’t go wrong with a change in atmosphere!
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7 Whitney January 28, 2013 at 8:23 am

How much do you like that Special K protein cereal?! I am in love and recently have been eating it plain out of a cup for a snack! YUM :)

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8 Courtney January 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Oh man, it is the best!!

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9 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats January 28, 2013 at 8:23 am

I love trying new places but tend to get stuck in the same old restaurant rut a lot. The best time to go shopping is early Sunday morning. We go after our long run while everyone else is still sleeping :)

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10 My Neon Running Shoes January 28, 2013 at 8:26 am

I do like trying new restaurants, but we normally end up sticking with what we know. And the best time to grocery shop for me is weekday mornings. I avoid the weekends like the plague!

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11 Danielle@cleanfoodcreativefitness January 28, 2013 at 8:33 am

Trader Joe’s is the worst when it’s packed! I used to do my shopping on Sundays but couldn’t handle the crowds anymore so have had to find random times to go when it’s not busy! Such a challenge just to get groceries ;)
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12 Lauren @ Lawfully Wedded Wife January 28, 2013 at 8:33 am

I work at Trader Joe’s and my tip for you would be to go in the mornings if you can. Anytime before 11 on a weekday is usually the best time to go for any TJ’s, or right before closing like you mentioned. Lunchtime usually has a big rush, and so does late afternoon and early evening when people get out of work and school. At 9am you will most likely have the store to yourself! :)
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13 Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl January 28, 2013 at 8:34 am

Those dining cards so great, and it looks like you put them to good use at a delicious restaurant. Both the soup and the wrap look awesome. I am in love with falafel, so I have no doubt that I would devour that wrap :).

Cereal for dinner sounds perfect to me. I don’t know why I never think to do that!

Speaking as someone who used to work at a grocery store, generally the best/least busy time to shop is a Saturday or Sunday morning at about 6-8 a.m. You beat everyone else there because they are all still sleeping! ;)
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14 Nicole @ Fruit 'N' Fitness January 28, 2013 at 8:36 am

I love trying new foods at home and at restaurants! I don’t eat out often and when I do I always have a hard time thinking of where I want to go. I know there’s so many restaurants I want to try but never remember when it comes to actually getting ready to go out.
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15 Kim@hungryhealthygirl January 28, 2013 at 8:46 am

Unfortunately, I usually have to go to the grocery store on the weekend in the afternoon.… Worst time ever! Love cereal for dinner! Happy Monday!
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16 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles January 28, 2013 at 8:47 am

As much as I love trying new restaurants, I do have a list of favourites that I tend to fall back on. I need to work on getting out to some newer ones more often!

I wish my city had something like those cards – such a great idea!
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17 Danica @ It's Progression January 28, 2013 at 8:49 am

My husband and I both love to try out new restaurants…we’re already brainstorming a place for our date night on Friday :)
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18 Amanda @ .running with spoons. January 28, 2013 at 8:49 am

Those City Dining Cards actually sound like a really neat idea – sadly not offered up here where I am, though :( Then again, I don’t really tend to eat out that much, and when I do it’s usually to the same place because I have allergies that make eating out kind of a hassle, so I tend to stick to places I know are safe. As for grocery shopping, I usually like to go early in the morning if I can… I find that stores are actually pretty empty then, especially on the weekends.
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19 Linz @ Itz Linz January 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

St. Louis has a deck like that – I love trying new places! I do find that Groupon has amazing deals in that regard though so I typically go that route.
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20 Lauren January 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

I hate when TJ’s is so packed its not enjoyable! That happens to me when I try to go there on a Saturday afternoon. Craziness and the aisles are so damn small that it’s hard to breath. Glad you had a great weekend!
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21 Liz @ Tip Top Shape January 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

I love the idea of those City Dining Cards. I like to try new restaurants, but often find myself sticking to the tried and true ones. Those really are a great way to get you to branch out!
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22 Ashley @ Life and Fitness January 28, 2013 at 8:58 am

I agree about Trader Joe’s on weekends ! The ones near me are so packed, it makes me start to have cart rage just trying to get down the aisle. haha

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23 Andrea @Pencils and Pancakes January 28, 2013 at 8:58 am

Those city dining cards are right up my alley…I wonder if they have them for Buffalo. I love trying new restaurants, but it is a risk! Sometimes you’d rather just be sure you’re going to enjoy it!
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24 Courtney January 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I think they do have them for Buffalo! You should definitely check out the site

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25 Kassidy January 28, 2013 at 8:59 am

Those cards are awesome! I wish they were sold where I live.
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26 Meghan @ After the Ivy League January 28, 2013 at 9:00 am

My roommate has those same cards, such a great idea and a great deal! That wrap sounds pretty awesome, love the roasted red pepper hummus and with all that other good stuff, must’ve been delicious.
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27 Lindsey January 28, 2013 at 9:00 am

Love that idea. Great for a fundraiser. I will keep it in mind. Anyways, I love trying new restaurants! I would use those cards for sure. We always buy community coupon books and try to at least get our money back on them.
We always grocery shop Saturday mornings, it is usually fairly quiet and we are home before lunch.
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28 Claire @ Keeping Up With Claire January 28, 2013 at 9:16 am

Oooh, I would totally use one of those! I love trying new restaurants, and they’re definitely not in short supply down here in Orlando. I actually prefer to grocery shop early on Saturday morning, but we always end up going on Sunday or Monday night because my boyfriend is not a fan of early morning grocery shopping. Weird, right?

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29 sara @ fitcupcaker January 28, 2013 at 9:21 am

I love cereal for dinner :) Also I love trying new restaurants… Are you going to BLEND?
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30 Courtney January 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Sadly, NO. :(
I’ll be about 7 months preggo by then, and didn’t feel comfortable traveling across the country. Boooo. I’m hoping I can skype with someone or something while it’s going on though! :)

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31 Jenna @ Crazy Healthy Fit January 28, 2013 at 9:31 am

We Love trying new restaurants, but still usually end up going back to the same places (and ordering the same favorite platters) :-)

We shop at trader joes, and try and go as early as we can on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Otherwise, its crowded!
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32 Natalie @ Free Range Human January 28, 2013 at 9:44 am

I’ve had that experience at Trader Joe’s the last few times I’ve been there. I was hoping it was just because that particular store was new! I definitely like to grocery shop first thing in the morning. There aren’t a whole lot of other people there at 7 on a Saturday morning :)
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33 Lindsay January 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

That looked like a really fun restaurant! And cereal for dinner is hands down the best!
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34 Ali January 28, 2013 at 10:07 am

Those dining cards are amazing. That’s a great idea. I wish Denver had something like that.

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35 Jana @ Happy Wife Healthy Life January 28, 2013 at 10:08 am

I love the playing cards for meal deals! It sounds like you only have to go a couple times and it is totally worth buying! I love trying new restaurants so I think this is a perfect way to force yourself to go to new places.
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36 Fizz @fizzsbizz January 28, 2013 at 10:15 am

Those cards are so cool! What a great idea to get you out and about to try somewhere new!
Great job with your 5 workout week, you’re going to be my pregnancy role model ( when I’m pregnant haha).
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37 Kerry @ Totes My Oats January 28, 2013 at 10:16 am

That wrap looks amazing! That encompasses all of my favorite Mediterranean foods. Our TJ’s is always jam packed; I guess New Yorkers just love Trader Joe’s :)
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38 Kathryn January 28, 2013 at 10:18 am

I’m a very picky eater, so I’m always hesitant to try new places. I’m just now getting to the point where I’m trying new menu items at our usual restaurants, lol.

For shopping, I love going 8 am on weekdays (I’m a SAHM). I get the kids to school, then go to the store. It gives me some time to myself and is usually less crowded. If I can’t go in the morning, I prefer early afternoon. I’ll pick up my son from the bus (he only has half days) and head out. My 2 favorite places to shop get VERY busy in the evening and one of them I won’t go to on the weekend unless I have no choice. It gets crazy busy. Think Costco on a Saturday. That kind of busy.
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39 Sarah @PickyRunner January 28, 2013 at 10:32 am

I love having breakfast for dinner. Even cereal, if I’m not hungry :)
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40 Kathryn January 28, 2013 at 10:58 am

I do have question for you regarding your use of egg whites…what do you do with the yolk? Do you just dump it? Is there anyway to save the yolks (for a quiche, for example) and for how long?
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41 Courtney January 28, 2013 at 11:10 am

I buy the container of liquid egg whites and just measure out what two egg whites would be. Much easier than throwing out the yolk :)

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42 Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers January 28, 2013 at 11:14 am

I love tryin new restaurants, but my Husband doesn’t! I go with my friends at lunch time!! The wrap looks so good!!
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43 Molly Petsch January 28, 2013 at 11:16 am

Use and enjoy those cards, especially before the baby comes! I wish my husband and I would have made a ‘Before Baby Bucket List,’ something friends of our did that I thought was a great idea!

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44 Courtney January 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm

That’s SUCH a great idea! I may need to bring that up to Jay tonight ;)

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45 Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction January 28, 2013 at 11:16 am

I love to try new restaurants (especially when they are good!) I have a few of the same ones that I always go to, but I’m always up for trying something new at least once.
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46 Stephanie @ Steph's Miles January 28, 2013 at 11:24 am

The best time to grocery shop is early in the morning. However, I usually don’t get around to it until 5 pm after work, which is the busiest! Sunday shopping around my house is also super crowded. I totally know what you mean – if you didn’t like the crowds, then your husband must have despised it.
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47 Danielle @ Truffles n' Treadmills January 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

Those cards are pretty cool! Do they have them for all of the big cities? I’ve never heard of them
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48 Laurie @ Love, Laugh, Laurie January 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I love this idea! I need to figure out if my city has something similar!
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49 Lauren @ Chocolate, Cheese and Wine January 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Man, that french onion soup looks amazing.. its my absolute favorite soup. I love trying new restaurants especially locally owned small restaurants.
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50 Lauren January 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I love going shopping on weekday mornings. Most people are working so most places are not busy and it seems there’s more of a selection in the morning! I love those cards! I wish they had something like that around here because it does get you out of going to the same places again and again.
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51 Sarah January 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I love trying new restaurants. There are so many great places where I live too so I should check that out!

I grocery shop on Friday after work. Fun stuff!

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52 Sherri January 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I spy TJ’s red pepper spread in your cart – I am absolutely in love with the stuff!

PS: Now I want falafel

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53 Allison January 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Cody is beautiful! Or handsome…. :p That wrap looks delicious. I love trying out new restaurants…I would rather go to a cute local place than a chain any day. The best time to go grocery shopping is 10pm on a Wednesday. Inconvenient, but so fast! One of the many time/money saving tricks I learned in college.
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54 Annette@FitnessPerks January 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I went to TJs on a Friday morning & it wasn’t bad at all. I don’t grocery shop on Sunday for one of those reasons–too many crazies out there shopping! hah
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55 Cassie @RedLetterDaye January 28, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I was so excited when TJ’s came to Albany, but I’ve yet to go since it’s always packed on weekends when I usually shop, and I’m always too tired to bother during the week, so I just buy what I need at the regular grocery stores. I’m hoping the hype will die down soon, or when they put in the Whole Foods.
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56 Marie January 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

My Trader Joe’s is always packed on the weekends too. I try to grocery shop on Monday mornings so I can at least see where I’m going. Those dining cards look fun!!

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57 Lydia January 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Hey Courtney! I keep seeing all over the place where people have only egg whites or, in this case, 1 egg and two egg whites. What is the point of only doing the whites without the yolk? And do you physically separate the yolk from the white when putting it in the skillet or do you buy “egg whites” already separated?

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58 Courtney January 28, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I buy the carton of egg whites. :)

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59 Chelsea @ LittleOneRuns January 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

i usually just stick to what i know, unless it’s something that just sounds amazing and is too good to pass up, doesn’t happen often lol
for some reason i love to shop in the morning, i guess because it’s so quiet and no one else is there? no long lines? lol and also around noon, which kind of contradicts why i like the morning, i like it because there are more people? lol

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60 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More January 28, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Those cards are really cool! Definitely a great way to try new restaurants!
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61 Katy January 28, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Those cards sound fantastic! I really wish there were some for my area. My husband and I go out all the time and it’s always nice to save some $$ and try new places.
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62 Celeste @ HealthfulMindBodyandSoul.com January 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I like to go early,preferably when the store opens to avoid the crowds and to have first pick of what I need. Unfortunately I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday as well and to my surprise it was really packed, helped me to spend less, since I couldn’t browse.
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63 Gina @ Health, Love, and Chocolate January 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Those dining cards seem like a great way to branch out and try new places! I always like to get my grocery shopping done early in the morning which is great to avoid crowds, but not so great when I end up at Whole Foods because their breakfast bar draws me in EVERY single time.
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64 Brittany @ DulceVie January 28, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Awww Cody is adorable! I like trying new restaurants, old ones are boring!
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65 Katie @ Skinny Minnie Moves January 28, 2013 at 10:54 pm

LOVE tzatziki! I like morning grocery shopping on like a monday when no one is there!
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66 Bek @ Crave January 29, 2013 at 12:19 am

Those cards look neat! I like trying new restaurants but sometimes I feel like we are in a rut trying all the same ones- because we know they are good. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to get a bit adventurous! I want :P
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67 Emily @ Hungry Delights January 29, 2013 at 12:20 am

Wow everything looks really delicious – I wish Australia had trader joes! Also the deck of coupons is an awesome idea!
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68 Jessica @ Prayers and Apples January 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

those cards are such a good idea! i would def use them… it sounds kind of similar to restaurants.com – my friend and i used to buy coupons off of there and explore new places (i’m all about a great deal!)
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