Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

I hope that you and your family have a happy new year.  I hope that you take some time and think about your new years resolutions.  I am still thinking about mine but I am going to stay with some from last year but hopefully do a little better.

1. Stick with the monthly budget and track all purchases.

2. Read all the budgeting, organization, green and other books that I can get through the library to find other ways to save money.

3. Continue to work on cooking/baking and new recipes that my family will like.

4. Stockpile at the low prices to plan for a month ahead by using the pantry and freezer.

5. Blog and share all of my top four items with you :)

I would love to hear all of your new years resolutions and plans!  Happy 2012 :)

Last Day of the Year Shopping Trip

I was waiting all day to go to Bloom and Harris Teeter to pick up the deals.  Harris Teeter had a Saturday only special with Cheez-Its on sale for $1.77 and Kelloggs Cereal is $1.77 all week.  I stopped there first and got my few items and ran back out the door to the next stop.  My total was $9.89 which was way more then I would normally spend on this but individually they seemed like a good deal.



Today only was super doubles at Bloom so I couldn't let that pass by especially with Tyson's chicken on sale.  My son only wants the "dinosaur bones" to eat now so I picked up three bags and a few others for the rest of the family that were on clearance.  If you have never had chicken parm with the chicken patties, it is the easiest dish on the nights when you are exhusted and it tastes like you slaved all day (okay, not really but at least as hard as that rice krispy treat commerical).  The total was $16.47 for all that and it should last us a little bit.

The monthly budget was blown with my bad planning this month but we came out at $213.33 so it wasn't as bad as other months.  More in another post about the New Years resolution on the budget!  Happy last day of the year!!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Free" Lotion at CVS

I got a link to a facebook deal that CVS was offering free lotion on their facebook page if you liked them and printed the coupon.  I decided that I would be going there anyway so I should print it so that I could pick it up.  The coupon was expiring and I had not yet made it there.  Another thing on the to do list that was moved to the next day over and over without getting done. 

With the coupon expiration hours away, I ran out tonight to get the lotion.  I looked all over the store and didn't find it anywhere.  I found a few other options and brought it to the front to see what the clerk would say.  She didn't know if they were anywhere in the store and there was a line already formed behind me.  Luckily, Steve, the store manager, came up.  I told him that I could find any and if there was somewhere else that I might look.  He walked towards the Christmas gift display that had some other items and on the side shelf, I saw one lone lotion sitting there.  I grabbed it and asked if it was the right one.  He price checked it and said that it was the right one but it was $2.19.  The coupon was for $1.99 maximum value for the below product:



I had gone all the way to the store and involved the store manager so I pulled out my change purse and paid my $0.21 but the more I thought about it, the more misleading I found the promotion.  I realize that CVS put out the promotion to bring someone into the store so that they would buy other things but I think that it was their own product that the coupon should be the value that they are selling it in the store.  I can't believe that different stores set the price as they want to and the coupon was either for a free lotion or it should have just been for $1.99 off whatever CVS Essence of Beauty product that I wanted.  I know that there are lots of others things to address but I am still trying to decide if I should write a note to customer service to let them know.  I guess I will add it to the to do list :)

Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas

My husband's family liked to have cinnamon rolls from one of those places in the mall.  For many years, my mom and I have run out to the store on Christmas eve to get them.  I decided this year that they were just too expensive and too many calories so I decided to make my own.  I searched on the internet for tons of different recipes.  I decided on a recipe that I was going to make but the best laid plans don't always follow through with family in town.  We were out all day running errands so I didn't get started in time to make the recipe.  I pulled out a card from my husbands 6th grade home ec class. 


He had tried to make these for me unsuccessfully previously but I decided that it would magically work if I did it in the bread maker.  The recipe was a little unclear and I would have been better off with the online recipe and staying up all night.  If you think that this part is bad, the back doesn't even have measurements.  I put everything in the bread maker and waited.  It wasn't working so my mother and I added warm water by spoonful.  At the end of the cycle, the dough wasn't really doughy and it hadn't risen.  I went to bed upset and really heart broken that I had ruined this family tradition because I was too lazy and cheap to buy them at the store.  After tossing and turning and not getting any sleep, I decided to go downstairs at 4 am on Christmas morning.  I decided that I would go into the bread maker and throw away the big mess that was my failed Cinnamon Rolls but there was a risen dough in the container instead of the blob that was there when I went to bed.  I got the dough out and rolled it out.  I was still in awe that it was working.  I melted the butter and got out the cinnamon, sugar, and brown sugar.  I followed the limited instructions.  Put a wet cloth over the pan and stuck it in the oven to rise.  I decided to sneak back into bed to see if I could get some rest.  When we woke up, they looked wonderful.  I started the oven and we got these wonderful rolls:

I was amazed that they turned out so great.  I had already prepared the cream cheese glaze for the top but my husband insisted that he would like his without the icing so we individually applied the icing.  My mom said that they were better then "that place in the mall."  My dad ate it and said nothing.  My husband said that they were good.  Later when I heated up one up with icing, I made him try it and he said that it tasted like the place I am not naming :)  I am so excited.  I guess I will try to make these again and get a better "recipe" then what I currently have.  I will certainly share my version the best that I have to share but I can't set an expectations or they may be crushed like I was going to bed on Christmas Eve.

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup water
1 beaten egg
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 c shortening (might melt this next time to make more liquid)
3 3/4 cup flour
6 tbsp sugar
1 package Rapid Rise Yeast

Add to the bread machine in the order listed and set to dough cycle.  When the dough has risen, roll out into a rectangle.  Top with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar.  Roll up and cut into rolls.  Line pan with butter and brown sugar.  Place cut rolls vertically in the pan (yup- direct quote from the recipe card).  Cover with plastic and damp towel (I didn't use plastic wrap).  Refrigerate (I didn't because I only had a few hours until they were going to be baked).  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 

I hope that you are more successful then my try but I know that I will be better next time!!!!  I hope that you enjoy the story and the recipe :)  Here is to hoping that the next holiday won't be so exciting!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Love the Library

The library is a great place to go!!!  We went this morning to return the big pile of books that we had and listen to storytime.  The best part is that it is free.

1. Return books that you got because you have already read them- free
    Great for books adults are only going to read once and kids books that you have already read 20 times.

2. Get more books to read- free
     I got two cookbooks and an organization book to try out and my son picked out tons of Maisy, Ms. Spider, Curious George, Thomas and others so that we would have new books to read this week.

3.  Entertaining kids with storytime- free
     When they aren't interested, you can leave and not feel like you are loosing money you just spent.

All that fun under one roof- priceless!!!!  I hope that everyone takes advantage of the great public library system and reads a few books that they are interested in.

Free pictures at Walgreens

Until Saturday December 31st at 11:59PM, you can get 25 free pictures through Walgreens website by using the code printnow.  If you haven't used their site before, uploading photos and printing is very easy.  You can choose a local store and it costs nothing to get updated on pictures for your photo album. 

I have been working very hard on getting my son's albums up to date (or at least moving foward).  I vowed after the last dale where I had to come up with so many pictures that my fingers ached from all the computer work that I would take some time to fix read eye and put all the pictures that I wanted to print in file so that I was ready.  This project, as many others, has moved to the bottom of the list so that more boring things could be done like taking a nap or reading a book.  I am sure that I will try to get some of the pictures up today so that I can take advantage of the deal.  I hope that you have some great holiday photos to print and share with friends or a photo album sitting empty on the shelf waiting for lots of new prints!!!!

Menu Plan Monday 12/26/11

Monday lunch- Turkey sandwiches for husband and lunch out with my parents during 8 hour after Christmas shopping trip
Monday dinner- Leftovers
Tuesday lunch- Leftovers
Tuesday dinner- Leftovers re-done- Fried Rice with chicken and egg and soup
Wednesday lunch- Frozen Pizza (with friends visiting)
Wednesday dinner- Velveeta Skillet (first time trying but it was really spicy so I am not sure we liked it)
Thursday lunch- Salads or Chicken wraps
Thursday- Spagetti and Meatballs with garlic bread
Friday lunch- Tacos (at a friends house- I am making the cornbread)
Friday dinner- Leftovers AGAIN!!!  We have to clean out the fridge
Saturday- ???
Sunday-  ???

I am going to sit down with the new January calendar and plan out the meals for the month so I should have a better idea of what is going on later today :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Baking updated

On Wednesday, I made a yummy bold chex mix.  After making the standard one last time, I knew that it wasn't the hit that I was looking for.  I went on the search on the internet and found something and surprisingly I had all the ingredients.  I found this recipe at three different sites so I decided that it would be the one to go with.  It doesn't taste great straight out of the oven but it tastes much better the next day after sitting in a sealed container so don't count it out if you don't like it on the first try.  I hope you try it and love it!

Chex Mix® Bold Party Blend
.
4 cups Corn Chex
4 cup Wheat Chex
1 cup mini Ritz Bits
1 cup windowpane pretzels
1 cup round pretzels
1 cup mini garlic bagel chips or rye chips
1 cup garlic bread sticks
1/2 cup butter or margarine*
1/4-1/2 cup white cheddar popcorn seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons lawrys seasoning salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon MSG or Accent -OPTIONAL
.
*Do not use spread or tub products
.
Preheat oven to 250°F.
Melt butter or margarine and pour in roasting pan. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients, except cheeese, until well coated. Sprinkle with cheese, mix well. Bake one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in air tight container.
Microwave Directions:
Melt butter or margarine in large microwavable bowl uncovered on High. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients, except cheese, until evenly coated. Sprinkle with cheese and mix.
.
Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes.
Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.
.
Important: Because microwaves cook differently, time is approximate.


I woke up extra early on Thursday to make everything else on the list.  I got the blueberry muffins made first.  Then the cornbread from scratch and carrot cake from the Duncan Hines Deluxe Kit with carrots and rasins.  After all that was done, I decided to make a loaf of applesauce spice bread.  I was done super early and we ate 6 muffins hot out of the oven.  I piled everything in containers and started washing all the dishes.  I got them all cleaned and ran the dishwasher :)

If you would like to try the cornbread, I combined at least three recipes off the internet and through trial and error to come up with the following based on the cornmeal that I had in the house.  I am almost done with the self rising bag of cornmeal so stay tuned to see another recipe when I start the bags of organic cornmeal that I got for $0.99 at the Bloom sale :)

Cornbread with self rising cornmeal

1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
¼ cup melted butter

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray or lightly grease a 9 inch round cake pan. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until just moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Baking to get ready for Company

I am trying to figure out everything that I need to make before company comes into town for the holidays so that I am ready.  I was thinking about making corn bread to have with tacos one night for dinner.  I was also thinking about carrot cake with a cream cheese glaze so that we can have that for dessert for Christmas dinner.  I was also planning on making cinnamon rolls for my husband for Christmas morning.  I don't know what other yummy things I could whip up but I hope to also fit in some snickerdoodle cookies because those are my husbands favorite cookie.  Also, he told me no more Christmas cut outs because there is sprinkles all over the house and they are hard to clean up :)  Yup, but they are so yummy!!!!  Might try some Chex mix so that all of the treats won't be sugary.  I tried out the recipe a few weeks ago but I am still working on perfecting the spicy flavor of bold Chex (the family favorite).

Any ideas out there for good snacks to whip up for a crowd (sugary or otherwise)?  Any other holiday family recipes that I am missing out on??  Let me know because Wednesday and Thursday are suposed to be my baking days!!!!

Monday Shopping Trips

I was really glad this morning when I got to sleep a little past 5 am.  I got the dishwasher unloaded, the dishes washed, counters cleaned, and floor swiffered before getting ready for preschool.  Slowly but surely made it out of the house at to school on time (just barely). 

Then went straight to Harris Teeter and got almost everything on my list plus a few added extras that I didn't have coupons for (GASP!)  In case you can't tell inthe picture below, I bought:  2 boxes of Quinoa, 2 pizzas, 2 Birds Eye Edamame, 3 Green Giant Corn, 2 Sister Schubert's rolls in the tin, Sister Schuberts Yeast Rolls, 2 eighteen count eggs, Sausage Patties, Sausage links, and 4 bags of Millstone Coffee.  The non-coupon items were the Loaf of Bread, Au Jus Gravy Mix, Cream of Tartar, and Peppermint Extract, 2 Ramen Noodles but they were all on sale for a huge discount :)  The total after coupons and discounts was $28.92 ($76.41 savings).  Then I went to Giant and used my rain check to get the turkey which was $22.65 before rain check and coupon but I spent $7.99 after all was done.  I count that as a huge victory because it took two employees three times to ring it up.  Then I quickly ran to Safeway to get the free ice cream and they had Mint Chip- YUM!!!  Normally $5.49 which I paid $0. 

The total savings for the day was about $97 so that was a good mornings work!!  The even better news is that adding that into my shopping for month, I am below the budget at only $87.14 spent out of pocket this month.  I will need to get milk and bread next week but that leaves a lot of extra to get some deals on next week sales.  Now if I can just find time to finish wrapping all the Christmas presents then I will be ready for the holidays.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shopping Trips for the rest of December

I can't believe how late it is in the month but I know that I have been holding out to go shopping for the month until Super Doubles was here. I didn't want to spend the whole budget for the month and then realize that it was the last week of December and there wasn't any budget left.  It looks like it is skipping this month so I guess I should get the best deals out there that I can.  I don't know if you noticed that there aren't that many days left in the month!!!  Also, my last day of preschool freedom is tomorrow!!!!!!  Now I start thinking how am I going to get all this done between 9:30 and 11:00 when I have to leave to go to my son's "concert" at school.  I better spend tonight getting organized!!!

I am going to Safeway to get free ice cream that I have a coupon from that I still haven't spent.  I was thinking about getting some to make this yummy ice cream batter cake but I might just get one to eat over the holidays.

I am going to Giant to get a turkey because I have a raincheck from Thanksgiving for $0.58 per pound.  I also have a $1 coupon so I should get a great deal.  I paid $8 for the one at Thanksgiving so I can't wait to see what they have left at this point.  Crossing my fingers!!!

I just looked at a few different match ups for Harris Teeter to see what I could get in addition to the bread and eggs that I needed.  I found a bunch so I am going to check them out tomorrow.  Some of the B1G1 deals vary by store but it seems that there might be some great deals on Palermo pizzas, Seeds of Change Quinoa, Sister Shubert Rolls, Jones Sausage Patties, Birds Eye, Mardi Gras Napkins, Dominos Brown Sugar, and Green Giant veggies.

I pulled up the Wal-Mart deals to try to get all those on the list to see if I could make it there too. 

I also have a box of presesnts still left to wrap so I have quite a morning cut out for me.  Luckily, my lovely son will most likely be up at 4:30 am so I will have an early start to day.  Here is hoping that we all get to sleep in until 6 am :)

Menu Plan Monday 12/19/11

Monday- Caribean Jerk Chicken with brown rice
Tuesday- Philly Cheesesteak Pasta
Wednesday- Raspberry Chicken with cous cous
Thursday- BBQ chicken spiedies with white rice
Friday- Pasta with spicy sausage and garlic bread
Saturday- Tacos with saffron rice
Sunday- Christmas Dinner!!!!

Making Bread in the Bread Machine

I got a bread machine years ago from my husband for Christmas.  I never really used it much.  I did two box mixes that he got me with it and then made quick breads (pumpkin, banana, ect.) a few times.  I decided that it wasn't worth the effort for the quick breads because it was less dishes and clean up to just use the mixer and bake in the oven.  I put the big appliance in the cupboard and never thought about it again (okay, obviously that has changed but be patient).  I think that you can tell why I put it away because it takes up so much room.


When I decided to try to be more frugal, I bought a jar of yeast and decided that I was going to make bread in the machine and try it out.  It was a great jump that instead of getting the little package that I was going with the whole jar but I knew that I had to or I wouldn't commit to this project.  I wish that I had the date that I bought the jar but I could certainly look through all of the past years Harris Teeter receipts but I don't have that much time.  I found out after reading the Breadmaking for Dummies (from the library) that I needed bread flour so I went in search of a good deal on it.  I went searching for wheat flour, only to later find out that I would also need gluten to make that work.  I finally found gluten on clearance at Target so I was on my way after many trips to the store.  I made my first loaf of bread and I thought it was yummy.  It has made toast, garlic bread, sandwiches and best of all paninis throughout the process.  I just made a loaf this morning and finished my first container of yeast!!!  I can't believe it especially because I haven't tried that many recipes (maybe three) and I haven't done anything creative like adding rosemary or making pizza dough.  I guess I will have to go out and get a second jar soon but luckily I got a few strips of the yeast with some coupons during the last sale :)  If you want to make some of the yummy bread, please feel free to follow the easiest recipe that I could find.

White Bread Recipe (makes 1 1/2 lb loaf)

1 1/8 c warm water
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 c flour (does say you can try it with all purpose flour)
2 tsp active dry yeast

Pour everything in order into the bread machine and turn on based on the instruction manual of the bread machine. 

*  Please note that this part of the instructions freaked me out but it turns out that you really just put everything in the loaf pan and then I put the loaf pan into the little hooks on the side of the machine and lock it into place.  Then, I plug in the machine.  It beeps at me, I press select once for white breaf.  I press loaf size once to pick 1.5 lb loaf and then I press crust control until it goes to light. I found that if you leave the bread in after the time at all on the medium or dark that it was too well done for my family but you can adjust as you like.  Once you find the settings you like, it will make you much more at ease.  Advice I gave to my cousin is to use all the cheap ingredients to make a loaf of bread to play with the settings and then you won't have wasted the whole wheat flour and the gluten on the first try :)

The great thing is that the machine does all the work and then in no time you have dough like this:



In about 3 hours, I have a loaf of bread that looks like this:



Then you have to master the cutting of the bread which I have gotten much better at :)  Hope that you enjoy and make a loaf of bread for yourself and your family.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Best Present Ever

My son has been sick all week and not wanting to take his medicine.  It has been a long week but today makes it all worth it.  He came out of his preschool class and handed me a box.



He wanted to open it right there in the hallway which was swamped with tons of kids and parents trying to put on coats and get to the car.  I didn't think that there was anything in it because it was so light.  I told him that we could open it later but he insisted that it had to happen now.  We opened it and in the tissue paper was two ornaments laying inside which Dylan pulled out and showed me.
Those are his little hands.  On the other side has his name and the year so we will be able to know for years to come.  What a perfect idea!!!!
Then he showed me the Christmas Angel and told me that there was a picture on it.  It was a picture of him.  I told him that he was my angel but he was too busy with the glitter on the wings :)  Hope these make you smile as much as they made me smile.

Christmas Cookies Second batch

I still didn't take any pictures of the cookies in progress but I can promise that it wasn't that interesting.  I went through and decorated them and then baked them.  I tried very hard to use up lots of different containers of Christmas sprinkles in the cupboard to make some room.  I am not sure if I accomplished much but I did finish two containers :)   I was going to put them on a plate but I wanted to show all the cute shapes so I laid them out flat :) I hope that you enjoy making cookies this year too!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Menu Plan Monday- week in review

I thought that I posted this over the weekend but I guess I didn't!!!  The menu plan that was on the calendar for the week got changed after the trip to the store with a great deal on a steak and an okay deal on chicken wings that we haven't had in a long time (and added company on Wednesday night) so maybe it slipped my mind.  I will try to be better about posting before we actually eat the food.  I do plan the menu even if things are changing which does happen a lot but it is helpful because usually I just change the nights that certain things are being served (which can been seen by all the arrows on my calendar).  I hope that this helps you to decide what is for dinner this week :)

Monday- Philly Cheesesteak Pasta (with veggie rotini)
Tuesday- Steak and Baked Potatoes
Wednesday- Chicken Wings and Tater Tots (Christmas with Sister in law and cousin)
Thursday- Crunchy Taco Rice
Friday- Spagetti and Meatballs with homeade garlic bread  (new bread sticks if my son goes to school)
Saturday-  Tacos
Sunday- Frozen Pizza

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Points Websites for free stuff

I love the free points websites.  I have an account with Pampers, Huggies, Coke, Old Orchard Juice, Disney Movie Rewards, Recyclebank and a few other ones.  I highly recommend that everyone get one (it might even be worthwhile with those without kids in diapers).  There are tons of free points that comes up for Pampers and Huggies to add to it and tons of great stuff.  I just added some more Pamper points this morning so I was thinking about it lots!! The Old Orchard and Recyclebank get points from watching videos and playing games.

I have gotten free Melissa and Doug Puzzles and Melissa and Doug Chalkboard/Dry Erase board with letters through Pampers.  I got Crayola markers and paints through Huggies.  I got free 20 oz Cokes through the Coke rewards for just 30 points each.  I just got a free juice from Old Orchard from just watching videos and playing games.  The Disney Movie rewards takes codes from DVD, Blu-Ray and movie tickets to give you free stuff.  I just got a Winnie the Pooh movie for my son free and I am going to go shopping for more soon.  I got coupons for Harris Teeter, Aveeno, and others through Recyclebank.

Pampers:  http://www.pampers.com/en_US/home/

Huggies:  http://www.huggies.com/en-US/rewards

Coke:  http://www.mycokerewards.com/home.do

Old Orchard:  http://oldorchard.com/club/#!/show/profile

Disney Movie Rewards:  http://www.disneymovierewards.go.com/

Recyclebank: http://www.recyclebank.com/

Feel free to sign up and see if there is anything you can get for free!!!!  I like to save up the toys and give it for birthday and Christmas presents but they are good for anytime!!!  I hope that you love what you get :)

Baking Cookies

This the season to bake cookies.  I made chocolate chip and M&M cookies the other night (remembering to take pictures). I also made Christmas cutout cookies (not remembering to make cookies).  I would love to share the recipes so that you can make your own this holiday season.

But first, I love my Silpats!!!  (Thanks Amy for buying my first one to get me addicted).


"Not so" Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

based on http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/18476/Original-NESTL%C3%89-TOLL-HOUSE-Chocolate-Chip-Cookies/detail.aspx

2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda (sometimes I add a little paking powder for a cake-like cookie)
1 tsp salt
2 sticks of margarine, room temperature
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla (if you want to make it a little different- try almond YUM)
2 eggs
1/2 bag choc chips
bunches of M&Ms (whatever you feel you can spare)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a mixer bowl until creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.  Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix until incorporated.  Stir in chip and candy.  Drop with wonderful cookie scoop on to wonderful Silpat or with a spoon onto a ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 9 to 11 minutes.

Christmas Cookies (based on recipe from my mother so I don't know where it came from)

3 sticks of margarine
1 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla (I used Almond which adds a little something extra)
1 egg

Beat well and then mix with:

4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder

Roll out like dough (I swear that is exactly what my mom's directions say).  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake 8-10 minutes on a greased cookie sheet (or Silpat).

Like most of my mom's recipes, it is missing a few steps but they are implied.  Flour a surface and use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough.  Cut into wonderful festive shapes, currently I made christmas trees, stockings, candy canes, and gingerbread boys.  I take the easy way out and put the sugar sprinkles on and then bake.  My mother always frosted them after they came out of the oven and put sprinkles on then.  My husband prefers them without frosting and prefer not to make it so it all works out well :)

I wish I took pictures of mine but I made them when I was exhusted but I was trying to get ready to go see Santa (now you get why we needed the cookies).  We ate yummy paninis and christmas cookies while in line to see Santa.  It was a nice treat and I hope that you all enjoy the recipes for your own families.

Every Store on Sunday

I highly recommend getting the most of when you leave the house but Sunday was packed full with excitement.  I left around 7 am and was out almost all day.  I went to CVS first and got the deal on the combos because they were $2 and you got $2 ECBs back.  Then I used that and some of my remaining gift card to get diapers.  I also bought a newspaper (not pictured) so with the use of the gift card it was no money out of pocket (OOP).

I left CVS and went to Bloom for Super Doubles (only on Sunday).  There wasn't much in the ad that looked good but we were really low on all food at the house so I figured that I would go and look to see what they had.  I got almost everything that I walked past so I think that I should have brought breakfast with me :)  I found a couponing friend in the freezer section (we met at least a year ago at CVS through her sister, another couponer).  She had meat in her cart and I remembered the good deals that Bloom has on their marked down meat.  The nice thing is that they mark down the per pound price instead of just put a sticker on it like Giant does for $1 or $2 off.  I am still not sure which one works out better but I know that I would rather know how much I am paying per pound so it is great for me.  I found a fancy Angus Sirloin Steak for $3.14 (little less than a pound) and chicken wings for $5.22.  Even they were two really strange purchases for me.... I was looking for something different to mix it up from the same stuff of boneless chicken and ground beef.  It was a long shopping trip and then when I got to the checkout it became longer.  The person in front of me was checking out a little funny but who am I to judge so I just put my stuff on the belt and minded my own business.  I continued to try to figure out what they were doing but I thought that they were just trying to stay within a budget of money they had to spend but then I realized that people who do that don't usually have 10 frozen Pepperidge Farm Cakes.  She explained to me that Bloom changed their policy and you have to give them the coupons after each item.  I guess they were having problems with super doubles but I hope that isn't for every day.  I usually did self check out and they were all closed so I guess that I just figured out why :)  After the longest checkout ever, which is saying something for me, I spent $42.39 out of pocket and saved over $80.  No pictures... more details later on why.

Then I looked at the clock and it was 10:00.  I decided to go to Harris Teeter to get a few sale items including a great coffee deal for my mother in law and milk for my son.  As I was walking up the aisles with my list and coupons, I saw a deal on Wasa crackers for $1.50.  I knew that I had a $0.75 coupon out in the car so I got all my stuff in the cart and left it at the front of the store.  I ran wildly to the car (scaring the people who were trying to get in the car next to mine) and then running back in the store.  I was ready to check out.... NOPE.  Forgot the milk.  Took the cart to the back of the store and grabbed the milk.  I spent $5.13 OOP and saved $18.55.  They were out of tons so I got rainchecks and while I was getting my rainchecks, the cell phone rang.  It was my husband to ask what the plans were because I was suposed to be at a girls lunch at 11 am but he realized that if I left, he didn't have a car seat to go to the boys playdate.  How can we have these plans for a month and still not realize that until the last minute???  I called my friend Amy and she said that she would come and pick me up.... no problem!!!  What a life saver but I had to get home and get the groceries unpacked and in the freezer.  I knew that I could do it (okay I really didn't but I was determined to).  My husband was in the shower because he thought that I was going to be home sooner so that he wouldn't have to do it with our son hovering outside the shower saying "Daddy is in the shower."  I grabbed the first load of groceries (which we all over the car because I still had the recycling in my trunk from the past two times of trying to get it done).  I ran into the house and dropped them in the kitchen.  My son wanted to come out with me and he was in PJs with only one sock on so I decided that carrying was the best method of transport.  I grabbed him and started running... he told me to slow down and puff with care (Thomas the train reference).  I told him that there was no time so we were going fast, fast, fast.  Grabbed two bags and ran back into the house.  One more trip with him (28.7 lbs at the last doctor visit) and then I left him in the house to bother his father again :)  I got everything in the house and brought out the cake that I had to bring to the girls lunch and put it on the steps so that I would be ready.  I went back into the house only to be hit by a stinky diaper odor in the air!  Grabbed my son, hit the stairs at a million miles, changed the diaper and got him changed to playdate clothes... then heard the phone ringing.  That must mean that Amy is outside waiting in the car with her two little ones.  Ran back down the stairs, told my husband that I was leaving and his son was dressed and ran out of the door.  I got everything done just in time (well, late if you count the fact that it was almost 11am and we weren't really at the lunch yet).  We dropped her two little guys at her mom's and then went on our way.  She wasn't sure how to get there so she told me that I was in charge of directions (oh no- not my highpoint but I had faith).  We made it there and had a yummy lunch.  After the longest day ever, I think that I made it home around 3 pm after leaving at 7 am.  So that is the reason why I don't have any pictures of my shopping trips :)  It is nice to be productive but very tiring!!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More coupon reading but this one is a winner!!!

I started a new book which is going to be my first recommended book to anyone who wants to get into couponing.  I think that it should be a pre-read before anyone comes to a couponing class because it helps with some of the concepts so that people can ask lots more questions.  I think that they cover a lot of topics that many (including myself) learn by trial and error through websites.  Sold on reading this book yet???

Be CentsAble: How to Cut Your Household Budget in Half by Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee is a great resource for first time couponers.  At $5.60 on Amazon, it might even be one that I recommend that people buy but certainly try the library to see if you think that it is a good reference (I don't want people to get .  It goes through how and where to get coupons, how to stack store coupons with manufacturer coupons, how to stock up at low prices, and how to shop the drugstore game.  I think that these ideas are the basis of all couponing.  The great thing is that it takes so many steps to get to be an expert couponer where it is second nature instead of thought so anything to help save steps is a great idea (and a start to saving money).

A little off topic of the book itself but more on the concept of learning step by step from my own perspective.  I started to try to save a little money because I was having my son (which funny enough was the same reason behind both authors).  I saw a morning show with the Coupon Mom and then looked at her website.  I learned a bunch from her information but started finding other websites.  I quickly found a bunch of other blogs that had lots of learning.  I started with one store and added another one at a time to see the difference in the policies.  I learned how to use store sales, store coupons, and bunches of things together to get the best deal on products.  It was great to have a "buy" or stock up price for different items because you knew when to buy all products but that means that I was always buying products.  I had to go to the next step because even though I was saving my family tons of money, I had to figure out whether was a really saving my family money.  Does that seem like double talk?  Anyone who has been couponing for awhile knows that there are only so many tubes of toothpaste, shavers, and cans of tomato paste one family needed.  I knew that I was getting tons of great deals but if you are still spending a ton of money, it doesn't add up to saving.  After two years of couponing, I started tracking my grocery and drug store purchases to see how much I was spending a month.  I do realize that this was a little late in the game to start to think about the budget but I had also just quit my job and trying to make sure that we were really saving.  The only advice that I could find online was to figure out what you were spending currently and see if you could cut back more each month so I did exactly that.  It turns out that most months with more careful planning, I could cut my budget to $150-$160.  By all means, I am not saying that others should live off of this amount but I had a huge stockpile and needed to cut back so that I would actually use the older stuff.  As they say in the book, please learn from my mistake and start tracking what you are spending first, this helps know when you are making progress but better yet you know when to stop buying the deals.  Once you do one great trip to the store, you are hooked and can't stop so you need something to stop you.  The best tool for me to keep on track and put down the 12th bottle of Tide just because it was a good deal or tell my husband that we have to wait until next month to get another box of cheese its because they were all gone too quickly.  It helps the whole family to keep on track and on budget.

These 233 pages are a quick read (probably quicker than this post) and worth the time to save lots of money!!  I hope that you agree.  Please give it a read and post your thoughts :)  I would love to hear if you have read it and what you think!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Reading completed

I continued reading all of my different research books which have been taking turns between organization books, stay at home mom books and frugal books. I was trying to get on the blog and write up each book but I am very far behind.

I read The Frantic Woman's Guide to Life: A Year's Worth of Hints, Tips, and Tricks by Mary Jo Rulnick and Judith Burnett Schneider.  I quickly saw that this was a well written book that was not aimed at me.  It would be a perfect for a mom with an older child in elementary or middle school.  It gives tons of tips on how to prepare for college and with a 2 year old at home, I just do not want to think that far in advanced about all the forms that I will have to fill out.  I did take notes on the to do lists for each month and the spring cleaning list.  I am going to save the master list and change it to meet our family needs.  I think that it is a good reminder on washing all the winter coats before you put them away for the year instead of pulling out a dirty coat when it is cold again.  There are some great tips like going after Christmas shopping to get the red decorations for Valentines Day and Fourth of July or green things for St. Patty's Day.  I always shop after the holidays to get stuff for the rest of the year like wrapping paper, paper goods and presents but the rest was a little harder to apply to my life.  I was hoping for more organization information that would apply to my life but I am sure that it fits many others since it got some great ratings on Amazon! 

In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Laura Schlessinger  was an interesting read but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone- stay at home moms, people trying to figure it out or anyone else.  If you look at the Amazon reviews for one stars opinions, that sums up my opinions on the book.  I was going to put it down and return it to the library but I am that person who always thinks that things are going to get better so I kept going.  I got more and more upset through reading the book because she started by talking about how she did not want to start or join the mommy wars which she promptly did.  She was in favor of only the 1960's picture of a house wife (she didn't mention barefoot and pregnant) where the wife does everything for the husband.  I certainly love the fact that I have the chance to stay at home with my son but I do not think that everyone should have to.  The other thing that upset me was that she only talked about stay at home moms and not about stay at home dads.  She specifically said that men and woman were different and children needed a mom and dad to grow up right.  First, I got upset about stay at home dads but later after thinking more about it, this means that no single parents and no same sex parents which got me even more upset.  I think that every child needs a loving family to tell them how much they love them and there is no reason that a preschool or daycare provider isn't good option for those families that need to work.  I certainly do not want my child calling a nanny "mommy" but I am sure that all moms have that same wish but the constant harping on the worst fears of women was throughout the whole message of the book.  If you want to be scared straight (or "guilt"ed) into staying home, this is the book for you.  If you are already staying home and want to have one day when you appreciate your life because you don't agree with the things she says, read this.  If not, I suggest skipping it!!!!

I hope that this helps you to decide which books you pick up off the library shelf.  I know that I am going to try to read lots of different books to see if there is some new information out there to help.  Any little bit helps!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Monday- Grilled Spiedie Marinated Chicken with white rice
Tuesday-Chicken Paninis with tater tots (using homemade bread and leftover chicken)
Wednesday- Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes
Thursday- Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sliders with oven fries
Friday- Spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread
Saturday- Tacos with Spicy Mahatma Rice
Sunday- Homemade or Frozen Pizza (depending on plans)

Last week didn't go exactly as planned but I just moved some of the meals around that were next on the list and we had a yummy week regardless :)  Always have a easy backup plan in the freezer in case you forget to take something out of the freezer or set aside ground beef (my mistake of the week).