Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Using WIC efficiently and effectively!

I know that some of my readers use the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, and this post is for you!

There have been a lot of changes recently, most noteworthy is the addition of whole wheat products and produce checks. There has also been a drastic reduction (by 50% or more) of the juice allotment, and a reduction of the milk allotment. However, the types you can buy have also changed. In the past, the options for milk were regular fresh milk in a gallon container. However, now you can get powdered, shelf stable quarts, or even canned- which is a good thing for people that may only have a tiny fridge. And with the juice, the new options are either frozen concentrate, or premixed 1/2 gallon containers.

One of the biggest problems with the new packages is the lack of stock in many stores. I went looking for a 16oz package of brown rice (can be regular or instant) but came up empty. Tortillas may or may not be carried by your store. And let's not even start with the *fun* of trying to find a 16oz loaf of whole wheat bread....

Ok, so on to using it more efficiently. Ask your local store if they honor the "Buy one get one free" sales on your WIC items. You could possibly get 2 lbs of cheese if there's a BOGO sale!

Don't eat cereal for breakfast? Then get either Chex or cornflakes or FiberOne, and use it for something else. With the Chex, you can make Chex mix. FiberOne and corn flakes make FANTASTIC breading for oven "fried" chicken.

Excess milk can be used to make yogurt or yogurt cheese.

Cheese blocks are still allowed- so you can still get the 1lb block of cheddar, mozzarella, colby, etc. instead of the standard American cheese. Shred the cheese at home, freeze on a cookie sheet, then empty into a freezer bag with a bit of cornstarch to prevent sticking. Voila, you have your own low cost shredded cheese!

Dried beans are a staple in my house, but they may not be in yours. You can get a one pound package of beans, dried peas, or lentils. There are SO many uses for these, but I'll only post a few ideas here:

Lentils can be sprouted- 1/2 cup of dried lentils becomes 2 cups of sprouts after only a few days! They also cook quickly, ready to go in about 45 minutes when simmered on the stove. They don't need to be soaked, which is a HUGE advantage. They also have the benefit of having a meat-like texture, which means you can stretch some meat dishes using lentils. A favorite in our household is shephards' pie with lentils- 1/2 lb meat and 1 cup cooked lentils are in the meat layer (and the lentils are covered in gravy, so you don't notice them!)

Dried split peas in the crockpot with a ham bone and chicken stock or water= split pea soup base. You can go "traditional", or go crazy and add curry powder for curried pea soup.

Pinto beans are a favorite around here- rinse, pick over, and soak beans overnight. Then, drain and rinse again in the morning, and stick in the crockpot with 2 inches of water above the bean level, then let cook all day. DO NOT ADD SALT UNTIL JUST BEFORE SERVING. When you add salt, the beans will stop getting softer at that point, and if you add it too soon you'll end up with hard beans.

Peanut butter is another option in the packages. You can use it in recipes for cookies, or cold peanut noodle salad.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cloth Diapering

Yes, yes, I know. Not for everyone- but I've got a few tricks up my sleeve on this one.

First of all, we have 20 diapers for 2 children. No, that's not much, about a day and a half's supply. I only wash 16 of them at a time- one on each kid, plus a change ready to go for each kid. We don't do cloth when travelling- whether it be for a day trip or an overnighter. It can be done, we just don't do it (to save my sanity).

Diaper laundry is not nearly as daunting as it sounds. I use a wet pail, which basically means that I use a pail that once held kitty litter filled with water for the diapers waiting to be washed. I change the water a couple of times per day- but again, I only have a day or two's supply of diapers.

When it comes time to do the diaper laundry, I drain as much of the stinky water off as I can, then dump the diapers into the washer and run a full cold cycle to get any yuckies off. Then, I pull the inserts out of the diapers, and run the hottest water I can into the washer, adding a "half dose" of laundry detergent (right now I'm using Arm and Hammer free and clear laundry detergent) and then letting it agitate for a couple minutes, then stop the washer for an hour so that the diapers can soak in the water and soap mixture. Then I come back, turn the washer back on, and run the longest hot cycle with a double cold rinse. After that, I run one final cold rinse cycle- and I always double check to make sure there are no suds during this rinse. If there are, then another rinse is on tap. The key is to make sure that there is no soap residue on the diapers!

When the washing is finally done, into the dryer they go. I try (emphasis on try) to stuff the diapers when they're finally dry, but that doesn't always happen. We usually have to purchase about one package of diapers per month for the kids- both are in the same size so that's a big help!

One thing I would do differently if I could do it all again- don't buy velcro, buy a few more diapers, and buy a tub sprayer attachment immediately. The velcro means that everything sticks together, which is kind of a pain. The tub sprayer and extra diapers will be a big help when we finally get them, but that is yet another thing that is on the back burner for now.

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Ebates Reward! is a cash-back site that I use when doing my online shopping. I just got a postcard in the mail from them, detailing their latest promotion!

1. Sign up for Ebates here You'll get $5 just for signing up!

2. Go to

3. Type in promo code EBONUS

4. Make a purchase of at least $25 by clicking through the ebates page before shopping

5. Get a % of your purchase back (for example, 10% back at Old Navy) AND $10 back for entering the promo code! This means if you spent $25 at, you'll get back $12.50! Now that's a sweet deal!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

On Tap for Today!

Today, I decided I would post what we're doing- since some of the things I'm doing are for future posts (as well as for our current needs!). Here's the plan for the next few hours:

Strip diapers (I'll post my method later)
Start a new batch of artesan bread (and take the pictures for the post)
Mix up some instant mocha latte mix
Work on some Christmas presents
Catch up on some of my tv shows (so far behind on some its not even funny!)

Here I go!

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Make Your Own" Series coming soon

I'm revamping this site, and hopefully I'll have my new "home" soon. In the meantime, when I'm not coding and experimenting, I've been working on a few posts that break down the cost and how-to of making your own *insert something here*. So far, I've written up a post on laundry detergent, ninja-ade, artesan bread, fancy coffee drinks, and rehydrating beans at home... now all I have to do is piece them together, take a few pictures (ok lots of pictures!) and get rolling on them. But I assure you, they are coming, along with a complete relaunch and rededication just in time for the first of the year.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New shopping Portal- ShopatHome

Want to get paid back for shopping? Join ShopatHome here and get cash back from your online shopping!

Read more about this deal over on and sign up for her $100 Target Gift Card Giveaway while you're there!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Old Navy- Week 37

As usual, I'm over at for Old Navy Thursday. Make sure you sign up for a screenname from Webby Chat- it is free and works in any Webby Chat room!

In case this is your first time coupon hunting, here's the lowdown. Every week, go to OldNavyWeekly to search for coupons. The most popular coupons are the high value coupons- $75 off a purchase of $100 is usually gone within seconds!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Stocking up for Winter at Shaw's

This week Shaw's is running a huge Catalina sale- Spend $10, get $3 OYNO catalina.

Some highlights:

Splenda, 2/$10. The bags usually go for $10.79, use the peelie coupon on the bag and get them for $3

Kleenex, Buy 2 get 2 free- Use a Buy 3 Get 1 free from the tearpad display, pay for 1 and get 4!

Ronzoni Healthy Harvest or Smart Taste Pastas, 10/$10. Use printable coupons here and here for $1/2 coupons- making each box 50¢

These prices are all based on Presale price, and therefore you can really clean up this week! 6 Pastas= $3 OOP and $3 OYNO, so that alone is worth the trip in my eyes!

I'll be stocking pastas until I run out of coupons (long way off on that one since there's a total of 6 coupons printable, times 2 computers, so a total of 24 boxes before I break into the newspaper coupons). Free is always a stockup price at my house!

I figure 8 boxes of Kleenex will get us through the winter. And there's also a deal on Playtex gloves, so I'll get some of those for the first aid kits and for when I'm chopping up jalapenos. Splenda- I figure 4 bags or so will last me through the winter for my coffee drinks.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

French Toast Casserole

This is one of our Family favorites, and I made it by request last night. Use any stale bread, or stale bagels, whatever you have on hand. I used stale cinnamon raisin bagels for last nights' batch.

5 cups stale bread chunks
5 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1.5tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup milk

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Photobook Hints and Tips

I did the Kodak photobooks at CVS last year- so I'm going to save everyone the headache and give you my tips and tricks!

1. Have a theme. The examples I'm using here are mostly from one of my wedding themed albums I've made.

2. Take your theme and pick out photos for it- at home. Plan on 1-3 pictures per page of your album. You can be in and out of the store if you do this!

3. Load your pics to an empty memory card or thumb drive. You don't want to be scrolling through 1000 pictures looking for that one picture that everyone had their eyes open!

4. Use some "accent" pictures. See how I have a picture of our hands and the cake? Very cool picture, but not something that I need to see in huge detail! It is one of those little touches that make these special!

5. When you get to the store, play around with the sizing and backgrounds- there are many different ways to size the pictures, and the background options are pretty neat as well. Notice that there are 3 pages above with three pictures each- and they all have different positioning and sizing. See how I have the front page background as the same photo? That effect is probably my favorite!

If you use these tips, you'll be in and out of your store in no time flat, with a photobook that looks like you took hours to make for a very pretty penny!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

BIG week at CVS!

Finally, the week I've been waiting for has arrived! A big moneymaker, school supplies blitz, and Christmas presents (yes, in July!)

First, the money maker:

Buy Tylenol Arthritis 20-24 ct at $3.99, get $3 in ECBs Limit 3.
use $2/1 coupon from the 5-17 RedPlum
use $2.50/$10 pain reliever purchase CRT

So it looks like this:
3x Tylenol Arthritis @3.99 ea- 11.97
-2.50 (CRT)
-$6 (3x $2q)
pay 3.47, get back $9 in ECB

That would mean a $5.53 MM!

School supplies: 3 Day Sale- good through Tues only!!!!!
Caliber brand 1 subject notebook, 12" rulers, glue (5oz), and Papermate pens are all 99¢ and free after ECB, Limit 2 for the Caliber, Limit 3 on the pens

Caliber 5" scissors $2.99, free after ECB, limit 2

Portfolio folders (I'm getting these because I use them for clipped recipes, organized by category) 5¢ each. Limit 10

And, finally, the Christmas presents- Photobooks are back! 6"x8", 10 page books are free after ECBs. Limit is advertised as 1, but the stores plan-o-gram originally had them at a limit of 3- so we'll find out tomorrow!)

One more noteworthy deal- 3 packs of Brita Filters are on sale for $14.99, $5 ECB back. This makes the net price $3.34 per filter. Each filter lasts for 2 months, so that's 6 months of non-pool smelling water for the Ninja household!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Crockpot Pulled Pork

Ok, ok, I'm finally posting the recipe! I don't have pictures, but they'll be coming as soon as I make it!

Here's what you need:

1 pork roast (don't waste tenderloin on this!)
1 can or bottle of beer (anything you like the taste of- don't use light beer though)
Grill seasoning (1 packet or 1-2 TBSP)

Throw everything in the crockpot and set it on low. Keep yourself away from the crockpot by any means necessary- this stuff smells soooo good that you'll want to dive in head first!

You can add a tsp of liquid smoke, too, if you want that smoky flavor. I'd add it before the beer, so that the beer will mix better with it!

When it is done, the pork will pull apart with a couple of forks. The beauty of this recipe is the fact that you can go in many different directions with it- you're not locked down to one flavor!

Serve on its own with bread, in a wrap or pita with cheese!!! or use your favorite bbq sauce. And hide the evidence if you're taking this to a potluck- nobody has to know that it was that easy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Frugal and Healthy = Weird?

I had an appointment today, and the topic of food came up as a necessary evil. Now, I never thought I was that weird or different. But apparently I am!

In the span of about 5 minutes, I discovered that I definately do a lot of things differently than many. Now, I get that not everyone makes their own yogurt or bread for that matter, but really, is it that weird to want the kids to have a healthy diet? I mean, I got looks for the fact that the kids will go through a bag of frozen veggies in one day, the pumpkin muffins I made here, the fact that I make macaroni and cheese from scratch, and that I make my own knockoff mixes.

So, this just propelled me to post more- to give a glimpse into what life is like as the Shopping Ninja- what I do, how long it takes me, and how easy it really is to fit into our lives. Here's some basic rules I live by:

1. "Fix it and Forget it" Blame the late night paid programming, but this is my motto for the most part. I don't do anything that requires more than 10 minutes of my undivided attention- or maybe it is that I can't with toddlers in the house.

2. "Go! Prices" For frequently bought items, I have what I call a "go!" price- the price at which I stock up. For example, when name brand jumbo packs of diapers are on sale for $8 or less and I have a coupon, I'll bite. But when the price drops to $5 or less when using a coupon, I'll buy all that I can. For the store brand diapers, which I don't like as much, I won't pay more than $4 per pack for them. Another example of this is laundry detergent. It is pretty much a given that laundry detergent will be on sale somewhere for around $3 for a 32 load container, so that price doesn't excite me. When I see it on sale for less than $2, I'll buy a couple. When that drops to $1, that's my Go! price and I'll stock up- but that only comes around once a year or so, so we're talking 20+ bottles of laundry detergent to last till the next sale.

3. Sales cycles- Know them! Ever notice that the same items are on sale all the time? Well, by knowing my "go" prices on stuff, and having an idea of how long until the next "go" price sale, I can get enough of any item to last us until we hit another sale. Take fruit snacks, for example. A box a week will generally last us, and an "ok" sale comes up every month, but a great "go" price sale is more like every couple of months. So I'll buy 8-10 boxes at a time when they're under a dollar, or until I run out of coupons if it's a price of 50¢ or less.

4. Don't spend money on stuff that you can do for yourself quickly and less expensively. This means onion soup mixes, creamed soups, coffee, iced teas, etc. I also rehydrate our beans instead of buying the cans- cuts the price in half, doubles the shelf life, and you control the salt.

5. Have quick meals and snacks on hand. I have an entire snack station set up. See a picture here In my freezer, I've got burritos, waffles, and pre-cooked chicken or beef that just needs to be heated through. Ask yourself honestly- can you REALLY get delivery or dinner in less time than it takes to make a quick meal? If you can, then you need a few go-to meals! Which brings me to my next point:

6. Go-to meals. For me, it is some form of chicken and vegetables with gravy- either topped with biscuits, pie crust, or stuffing, or served over noodle, rice, potatoes, etc. We also have spaghetti and meatballs (precooked meatballs), hot dogs and beans, and burritos in the freezer. All of these meals need less than 10 minutes hands-on prep, and all of them will be on the table before Domino's has time to get to your house.

7. Preprep ingredients, not meals. I don't have a lot of freezer space, so I need flexibility. So I freeze chili base, precooked beef, some chicken (both cooked and raw- not together though!), and frozen veggies. These can be turned into many meals, whereas a casserole has only one end-game to it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Green Smoothies

We were talking about weight loss in The Thrifty Mama's chat room earlier, and the topic of green smoothies came up. I love love love my green smoothies! Its super easy to make, and I swear you don't taste the spinach!

Here's what I do:

Pack a magic bullet cup with washed spinach leaves and add a Tbsp of water (or juice). Blend. Then add in as much frozen fruit as you can fit, and top off with yogurt or milk or more juice. I personally add milled flax seeds, too, but that's totally not necessary.

Shaws 3 day Sale- July 3-5

Here's the lowdown on the 3 day sale at Shaw's!

Ground beef 80/20- $1.59 per lb
Shoulder Steak for London Broil- $1.59/lb
Southern Style Spare Ribs (bone-in) 99¢/lb
Boneless Southern Style Spare Ribs- $1.49/lb
Boneless Chicken Breasts- $1.99/lb

Whole Seedless Watermelon- $3.99
Cut seedless watermelon- 49¢/lb

12 pk Coke, Diet Coke, or Sprite 5/$10 (must buy 5)

In ad coupon: Get 2 Free 8-ct Shaw's brand hot dog or hamburger rolls WYB 5-12pks of Coke products.

There's a few good deals in the rest of the ad- coming soon!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cook It Wednesdays!

The Thrifty Mama is hosting "Cook It Wednesdays" over in her chat room this week. I'll be participating this week, and here's my list of what I'm doing:

3lbs ground beef ($5 at Walmart for a tube)- cook and package for the freezer
5lbs fruit (50¢ per lb off the reduced rack)- dehydrate
2- 2L bottles Iced tea (testing)
1- 2L bottle Ninja-ade
1- 1lb package spinach (1.79)- wash, blend, and freeze in ice cube trays for green smoothies
1 batch bread (trying out a new recipe! Thanks, Grizz!)


This time of year, many households go through a TON of Gatorade. And wow, that stuff gets EXPENSIVE!

Here's a knock-your-socks-off knockoff: I bring you Ninja-ade!

1 packet unsweetened Koolaid
2 quarts water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup orange juice

No, it doesn't matter what flavor Koolaid (YOU have to like the flavor, though!). Yes, you can use whatever OJ you have. Yes, it tastes the same!

Free AntiBacterial at Bath and Body Works!

Hot off the press! New Bath and Body Works Coupon Here! Free AntiBacterial Foaming Hand Santizer with ANY purchase!

Expires July 5th.

One thing I do with these is print out a couple extras- and give them to people at random. Very, very fun to give away a freebie coupon!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

By request- Homemade yogurt

I'm making yogurt today, and I thought I'd post about it since I had a request for it! It is really, really easy, I promise!I'm making 2 batches, one 1/2 gallon batch of skim milk yogurt, and a quart of whole milk yogurt. I have a one year old that needs the fat!
Here's what you'll need for a basic batch:

1 4-8oz container of ACTIVE CULTURE yogurt (henceforth- starter yogurt)

1/2 gallon milk
1/2 cup powdered milk (optional)

No, I didn't take a picture of the storebought starter- DH wasn't home yet!

Heat the milk to 180 degrees. While it is heating up, pull the starter yogurt out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Let the milk cool down to 115 (120 if you're adding powdered milk, the powdered milk will lower the temperature). Add powdered milk now if you want (will result in a thicker yogurt). Temper the starter yogurt by adding about a cup of the warm milk mixture to the starter. This will "wake up" the cultures in your starter, and reduce incubation time. Add starter/milk mixture to the rest of the warm milk, then stick in your incubation area.

Incubation can be done in a gas oven as long as it has a pilot light. Or, wrap your container of yogurt in a heating pad and then cover that with a bath towel. Basically, you're aiming for about 110-115 degrees- optimum for the culture to grow!

Incubation time will vary, depending on how "awake" your cultures are. I usually start checking at about 4-5 hours, but it may take as long as 10-12. The longer you incubate the yogurt, the thicker and tarter it will be.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cheater Pumpkin Muffins

Today is Everett's birthday- so I had to make him birthday "cake". Cake is in quotes because, well, it is not really cake. He's getting cheater pumpkin muffins! Here's the recipe:

Cheater Pumpkin Muffins

single batch:
1 box cake mix
1 can (15oz) pumpkin
double batch:
2 boxes Spice Cake mix
1 28oz can Pumpkin

Mix pumpkin and cake mix. Spoon into greased muffin tins.
I added a bit of applesauce to thin out the batter a tiny bit this time.Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, turning once (if you have a well behaved oven, you won't have to do this... my oven doesn't behave) Muffins are done when a knife comes out clean!
Ok, so I didn't get the picture done before the mini muffins got sampled. I think its safe to say he enjoyed his birthday "cake"!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Shaws- Catalina Craziness!

Paul was home for the day (although it turns out they called him in for OT, and he missed the call). So, coupons in hand, I headed out to pick up a few things. Shaw's Catalina deals usually work off of presale prices (PSP)- and this time was no different!

Here's what I got, in two transactions at Shaws:


4 boxes Golden Grahams, PSP $3.69, on sale 2/$4
2 boxes Trix, PSP $3.29, on sale 2/$4
4 boxes Suddenly Salad, PSP 2.69, on sale 3/$4

PSP 32.10, Sale price, 17.38
used 3 $1/2 GM cereals coupons. and
used 4 40¢ off SS coupons (all doubled), and
used $10 catalina from Saturday's trip

Paid 1.14 out of pocket, got $10 catalina and $1.50/3 GM cereals catalina


Wishbone Spray Dressing, PSP 2/$5, sale $2
2 boxes Fruit Rollups, PSP 3.19, sale 2/$5
2 bags Chex Mix, PSP 2.69, on sale $1.67
2 boxes Chexbars, PSP 3.79, on sale $3
2 boxes Fruit Rollup 'stickers', PSP 2.99, on sale 2/$5

PSP total- 27.82, sale price 21.34

Used 2 60¢ off Chex mix ( and doubled
2- 50¢ off two fruit rollup, doubled
2- 50¢ off Chex bars, doubled
$10 catalina from previous order

total after sales and coupons, 4.94 out of pocket. Got another $10 OYNO catalina!

While out, I also grabbed a package of Pampers- and the cashier took my printout from, pretended it was a coupon, and rang it in as such. So it worked out to $2.99OOP for the diapers, rather than getting ECBs.

All in all, I spent $9.07 out of my envelope, didn't spend any ECBs and still have a $10 catalina for Shaws.

When I got home, I opened all the boxes of cereal and fruit rollups, and got a total of $10 in cash cards from the boxes! Which means, I "made" 93¢ for leaving the house today!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Crockpot Chicken Pozole

Hominy is a great variation on the same old corn. It tastes like a combination of corn and potatoes, with a texture more towards the potato. I usually use dried hominy, and soak and rehydrate myself- but this recipe is based off of the canned version. Serve over rice.

Serves 4

3 chicken breasts, cubed
2 cans hominy, drained
1 can chicken stock
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp dried onions

Cook on low in crockpot for 8 hours. Add in the following about 15 minutes before serving:

1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 bag frozen pepper strips (if using fresh, add at beginning. frozen are a LOT softer!)
Check for seasonings- you probably won't need more salt, but pepper is probably needed at this point.

This recipe is VERY forgiving!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ninja shopping, W/E 6-6

I call my shopping method "ninja" because I aim to hit 5 stores in rapid fire succession. I'm fortunate to live in an area where this is possible- I made it to 5 stores and was home before an hour had passed! Here's what I got done:

Shaws: 2 day sale Fri and Sat

Coke 2L- 88¢ plus 5¢ deposit, limit 8 (bought 8, so came out to 7.44)

BOGO blueberries (3.99)

And the Catalina deal that I'm working:
2/$4 Golden Grahams (x3, used 1.50 off catalina coupon, 4.50 for 3)
4/$5 Fuze drinks (x12, used 6 BOGO coupons from CVS tearpads, so 7.50 for 12)
4/$5 Vitamin water (x2, used 2 50¢ off coupons from 7-11 tearpads, doubled, 50¢ for 2)
3/$5 Chex mix (used 50¢ coupon, doubled, 67¢)

Total paid, $24.60. Received a BOGO catalina for Sobe Lifewater and a $10 OYNO catalina.

Walgreens: 3 separate transactions, 2 stores

Ecotrin- $2 (used $2 coupon from recent insert) free
Bayer Contour Meter, $10 (used "up to $30" coupon from 3/22 insert) free
paid 60¢ (tax on the free stuff) received 12.00 in RRs (did this 2x)

Revlon hair dryer- $12.99
Similac liquid formula, clearanced to $3.19
Used RRs from previous transaction, paid 4.99, received $10 in RRs

So I still have $22 in RRs to play with next week- sweet!


2pks Pampers 8.99, used $1.50/1 coupon (cheerios box) and $2/1 coupon (home mailer)
1pk Huggies 8.99, used $2/1 coupon (printable from
paid with $10, $5, and $4.99 ECB. Paid 68¢ in cash, got back $10 in ECBs

Price Chopper-
3 Mama Lucia boxed meatballs, (on sale buy one get 2 free 4.99)
total came to 4.99. That's all I got there!

So, grand total of my shopping trip: $36.46, $22 in RR, $10 OYNO at Shaws, $10 ECBs. I 'made' more than I spent- which means that next week will start out with the usual $40 in cash, plus $7 leftover from the last few weeks, and $58 ($42 from this week alone!) in various rewards coupons. I also have a total of $20 in Target GCs, $10 in Shaw's GCs, 4- $5 GCs from Cheerio boxes. Grand total of available cash, store credits, and GCs- $155.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shephards' Pie

I'm a huge fan of making classic recipes in a healthier way. Shephards' Pie is one of those down-home comfort foods that I love- and my family agrees! Here's how I make my healthifed version:

Meat layer:
1/2 lb ground beef
1 cup lentils, pre cooked
2 cups beef stock, low sodium
1 tsp grill seasoning
Worcestershire or A-1

Preheat oven to 350. Brown beef with grill seasoning, drain off most of the fat. Add in lentils, then sprinkle with flour and let it cook off. Deglaze with the beef stock, then add a couple of shakes of Worcestershire or A1 sauce. Adjust seasonings now.

Meanwhile, heat up a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (I use Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers) and potatoes- you can use either leftover homemade or boxed (Potato flakes have come a LONG way! I promise! We like Betty Crocker Garlic mashed, but I skimp a bit on the water when I'm making a double batch).

Place meat layer in the bottom of a well greased casserole, then top with veggies and finally, potatoes. Sprinkle top of potatoes with paprika and parsley, bake for 10 minutes (you're just browning the tops of the potatoes a bit).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What I won't do in the name of Frugality

This topic came up in a chatroom I was in recently. I thought I'd blog a bit about it, because I'm rather surprised with the initial round of reactions I've gotten.

I won't buy regular pasta. There, I said it. I'll only buy the Ronzoni SmartTaste pastas, even if they are regular price of $2 per lb. Walmart has it for $1.50, and with a $1/1 coupon, that means it is 50¢ per box. It is the only brand of protein and fiber enriched pasta that I can get past Paul.

I won't buy commercial yogurt. Well, I will, but only the Fage brand Greek yogurt, and only when my own yogurt needs a new starter. I'd rather make my own, where I know exactly what went into it. The yogurt I make at home has the live cultures, more protein and calcium than regular milk (I add milk powder to it), and no added sugar. Plus, there's the distinct benefit of not having to pay $4 per quart of whole milk yogurt~ the kind that Everett eats.

I won't choose the dollar menu over the healthy option. When I hit the drive-thru, which is more frequent than I care to admit, I'll pick the more expensive yet more healthful option. My two current favorites are the McDonald's Grilled Chicken Club (no mayo) and the Dunkin Donuts Turkey Bacon Cheddar Flatbread. Both are about 400 calories, and they're both pretty good!

What won't you do in the name of frugality?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Old Navy- What I got with my coupon!

I stayed up WAY too late Sunday night. I was in TheThriftyMama's chat room (I swear, I can still hear the popping!) with 250 others , waiting for the site update from to post. At 11:59, the site went live and the big value coupons were gone super super fast. I was one of the lucky ones- I ended up with a $75 off purchase of $100 or more!

So, of course, with the coupon burning a hole in my pocket, I begged DH to take me to ON (not a trip I could handle with the kids!). Alas, his job called him in early, only about 5 minutes after I convinced him to go. So, I had to wait until he got home from work.

My patience was rewarded! DH got home at 7, and we made it to Old Navy by 8. I had a list of stuff I wanted to get- pants for DH, shirts for Abby, a hat for Everett, a warm weather outfit for Everett. But once we hit the door, DH insisted he didn't need pants- he wanted me to pick stuff out for myself and the kids.

I have to say, I'm not a fan of the current trend of very loose tops and unfitted dresses- they all make me look pregnant! So it wasn't exactly easy to find shirts that were inexpensive and flattering, yet not too trendy. I did end up getting 5 shirts for myself, 4 shirts for Abby, Everett's hat, a bathing suit top (I prefer tankinis, but my old top is a bit too revealing for my tastes!), a skirt, and a ball for the kids. Total spent? $12.54. Yeah, I rocked it! (I'll post a picture later!)

Best of all, the staff at my local Old Navy was SUPERB! Super friendly, super helpful, and the cashiers were excited for me when my total started falling!

Another great thing- all of the shirts can be worn with the skirt, which hits right at the knee so it is also very flattering. Double bonus for the fact that the skirt is a medium- haven't been able to buy a medium skirt in years! Most of the shirts are larges- not the typical XL I've been in for years!

Photos to come- got to find the camera!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Menu Planning Monday!

This week is a bit of a wild one for us! DH's work schedule is all kinds of wonky this week, so I'm on my own for the majority of the week. I'm hoping to take the kids out Tuesday, Wednesday is my night out, and DH is off Thursday. Makes for a hectic week!

So here's the plan:

Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Italian-style frozen veggies

Tuesday: Dinner on the go for kids and I, leftover Shephard's pie for DH.

Wednesday: Homemade Mac and Cheese with Broccoli and Ham

Thursday: Enchilada Lasagna

Friday: Hawaiian Pizza

Saturday- leftovers

The only thing I actually had to go out and get was the meatballs- on sale at Price Chopper for B1G2 Free. Spent $4.99, have meatballs for 3 meals!

The ham was $2.50 at Walmart for a 1lb package of prediced ham. That 1lb will stretch across 4 meals, I'll use 1/2 lb in the mac and cheese (and freeze 1/2 of that for crazy weeks), and 2 pizzas. That's 63¢ per meal! The key with this is small dices. A lot of little pieces of ham means you get some in every bite, and the flavor goes all through the meal!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

New resource: Ocean State Job Lot printable q's!

This updates weekly, and the coupons are generally pretty good. Last week I got 2 of the wind-up emergency radio/LED flashlights for under $4 apiece. This week the Nestle Crunch sticks looks like a great deal- they're a great <100 calorie snack when you're craving chocolate! And at 20¢ for a 2pack... well, let's just say that's stockup worthy to me!

Back in full force!

I've been hiding from the blogs. My to-do list has been so long lately, but I need to take some time for me! You see, researching for this blog means I'm learning about deals, too, so working on this blog means I'm getting better deals, too!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shopping with the Ninja

Today I managed to make it out of the house alone- no small feat! I took full advantage of the time- and made it to several stores to cherry pick the deals for the week!

At Big Y: Buy One, Get Two Free fish sticks- $4.65 for three boxes of 12

At Price Chopper: Diet Coke, 2L bottles, 99¢ each. Bought 4

At Stop and Shop: Only went in here to look for Kraft cheese coupons- but bought reusable grocery bags for 50¢ each, markdown grape tomatoes for $1.17, and Dawn Direct Foam refill for $3.02

At Shaws: 12 boxes of Crystal Light On-the-Go sticks, 2 packages frozen veggies, 2 deep dish pie crusts, a package of frozen bagels, 2 packs of trail mix, 2 reduced breads, 4 boxes of honey nut cheerios, 5lbs of bananas, one filter for life bottle with 9 on-the-go sticks, 4 packages cheese, 3 oscar meyer sandwich packs, and several other items. This was done over several orders at several stores. Total cash spent at Shaws? $16.34 I also have $22 in Catalina coupons to use next time!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Where to buy....

I'm starting a new series about my favorite places to buy certain items at a great, everyday low price. Got a question? Leave a comment!

1. Shower Curtains- $1 at Dollar Tree

2. Flour- $1.79 at Price Rite

3. Food Storage containers- 5 pack nesting set, sizes from 2 gallons down to about 2 cups- $8 at Family Dollar

4. Contact Paper- $1 at Dollar Tree

5. Applesauce- $1.82 for 50 oz at Walmart

CVS This week- March 1-7

Ok, so I'm late posting, but I figured I'd get it out there!

Free after ECBs:

Carnation Instant Breakfast 10pk- $4.99, Limit 1
blinkie coupons found in several local grocery stores, or 75¢ off in January All You magazine
found in nutritional supplements aisle

Act Total Care Trial Size, 99¢, Limit 2

Slimquick Energy Shot 2pk, $4.99, Limit 1

Also, be on the lookout for Essence of Beauty gift sets and robes. These have been ringing up at 90% off and many stores don't have signage advertizing it!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

My recipe for Chicken Pot Pie is VERY forgiving, and very flexible. I view cooking as a method rather than as recipes.

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 4

1.5 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 bag frozen veggies
2-3Tbsp butter
2-3Tbsp flour
Onion- either 1 small fresh or a couple Tbsp of dried
1 tsp poultry seasoning or to taste
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk

"Crust" of choice- We like stuffing, biscuit dough (if using canned biscuits, flatten them), pie crust. Really, your imagination is your guide.

Start veggies thawing first- I just use the steam in bag veggies because I won't have to dirty a dish.

Melt butter in large skillet, then whisk in flour. Let the flour cook out, then add the chicken broth and milk. Whisk well, and bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste (you may not need salt at all, depending on what kind of broth you used).

Add in the chicken and the veggies and allow to heat through. Pour into casserole dish or pie plate, then top with crust (sprinkle top with thyme if you want!). Bake based on the topper- stuffing would be premade, so it just needs to warm up. If using biscuits, 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until biscuit tops are golden.

Deals around town this week and our menu plan

I did something unusual for me yesterday- I hit 4 stores and grabbed *just* the deals. Usually, I only go out for a smoking deal, or for a big stockup shop. However, lately my stockpile is looking mighty fine, so I don't really have to go to the store for much more than milk and bananas.

Here's the deals I picked up on this week.

At Big Y: Cantalopes- 99¢ each. Also hit up the clearance racks and grabbed 3 Isis pumps for $5 each!

At Shaws: $2 for a bag of granny smith apples.
$2.99 per lb of scallops, with a free container of bread crumbs wyb 2lbs.

At Price Chopper: 88¢ per pound for whole chicken.
99¢ for Coke 2L

What am I doing with this stuff?

Tonight I'll roast the chicken, and we'll have chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, and vegetables for dinner.

Tuesday we'll use up the leftover veggies in an omelet that I'll split with Abby.
Dinner will be my Chicken Pot pie

Wednesday is Crockpot day- Pulled pork sandwiches on homemade bread, BBQ beans, and veggies.

Thursday- Soup and Sandwiches- Soup will be "semi-homemade" in that I'm using canned Gumbo as my base and adding a can of tomatoes and a cup of rice to two cans of soup. Sandwiches will be grilled homemade bread with pepper jack and cheddar.

Friday- Baked Scallops for me (it is Lent!) and baked chicken for Paul.

Breakfasts will be: Pumpkin muffins, Cinnamon rolls, fruit, and cereal.

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Years Resolution- a check in post!

So I'm checking in on my NYR. I resolved to make better use of our space, and I've had several great accomplishments this first month of the year.

1. Abby's bed has been moved into the living room, and the under-crib area is pretty neat and organized.

2. Relocated the laundry sorter from "wherever it fits" to a semi-permenant home near our pantry.

3. Organized the "folding and hanging" laundry area. I now have a spot to put the kids' clothes!

4. Organized snack station and the charging station below it.

5. Hung a new set of shelves in the kitchen

6. Organized toy area in living room.

7. Found a home for my H&B stockpile.

Got a pretty decent amount done this month! The goals for this week are to organize the area under the sink in the kitchen, organize the microwave cart, and clean out the "going out" bags- diaper bags, my purse, my shopping tote, and my car tote.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Frugal Activity of the week- Beer Bread

Food again? Yeah, I know.

Last night Paul and I enjoyed a nice, simple dinner- cheese, summer sausage, and bread. Not particularly healthy, but it kept me out of the kitchen after a long day of cleaning and organizing the living room. It is also one of our traditions- the cheese and sausage came from one of those Hickory Farms gift sets that were on clearance after Christmas.

The beer bread makes the meal, in my opinion. 5 minutes of work in the kitchen for a loaf of bread? I'll take it!

I personally use self rising flour, since I had some on hand. Once that's gone, though, I'll be mixing double batches and storing one for the next time around. Here's the basic recipe:

3 C self-rising flour*
3 Tbsp sugar
1 bottle of beer.

Seriously, that's all there is to it! Mix all ingredients well(use a fork or a spoon- a whisk just turns into a club), dump into a greased loaf pan, and bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. Comes out better if you don't.

*If you don't have self-rising flour on hand, just mix 3 cups flour with 1 Tbsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt.

This makes a great gift, a great filling side dish, or, if you're like us- add cheese and sausage and make it dinner...

And it is very inexpensive- if you have beer in the house anyways. We have bachelors living in the apartment below us, so we know where to get an extra beer or two! Craft beers work VERY well for this- I've used Pumpkin Head, last night's was Sam Adam's Hefeweizen. We tend to buy a 12 pack of the "seasonal" beers and usually find one or two that we don't particularly enjoy- now it is just an excuse for beer bread!

See this and more at Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hosted by!

*Oh, and I slice my bread upside down. When it is done, I take a tea towel, cover the loaf pan, and invert it (so the bread pan can soak right away, and the crust doesn't continue cooking). I end up with upside down bread on my counter, and I just don't take the time to stand it up on end.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Circuit Scheduling

So, my house is semi-upside down after moving stuff around the house this week. I came up with a little plan that's worked pretty well so far, and I wanted to share!

Here's what my To-Do list looks like:

1. Laundry
2. Dishes/kitchen
3. Parlour
4. Bedroom
5. Kids' room
6. Laundry
7. Bathroom
8. Pantry
9. Dishes/kitchen

Looks undetailed, doesn't it? Well, what I've been trying is to set the timer for 10 minutes and pick up wherever I am in the circuit. I always start with filling the dishpan with warm water, starting the washer, and filling the brita. Then I start on the "actual" room I'm supposed to be in.

What I've been doing has been working. I usually get through 3 complete circuits every 2 days- and I'm starting to see a real difference. The most important thing is to take a break every 3-4 stops on the circuit. If I don't, I'll burn out.

Big week!

So this week is just winding down. It is 10AM and I just got out of bed- I'm so exhausted! Got quite a bit accomplished this week since the kids were taking some serious naps to sleep off a virus or something.

1. Planned, bought, and put up a new set of shelves above my sink. Now I have a place for my blender, toaster, and food processer on the top shelf, plus a nice and neat basket of baggies, foil, and saran wrap. There's also a "under shelf" basket for dishtowels and my coffee supplies. This freed up space on the "laundry" shelves- now I can *actually* put the detergent up on the shelves!

2. Moved the crib into the livingroom. Moved a dresser to the old crib area, and set up a laundry folding station using one of those mini-hanging areas (think small version of a clothing store rack) and the surface of the dresser. A drop leaf table sits next to the dresser, so I can either use it to fold or for crafting.

3. Organized the snack area.

4. Did A LOT of research on frugal living- started looking into gardening for the spring, MYO recipes, and bread/bagel making.

5. Made 3 batches of yogurt this week- 2 lowfat and 1 whole milk mini-batch for Everett.

6. Didn't do much shopping, hit Walmart for the shelves and some groceries, Target for some freebie juice, but that's it.

7. Stepped on the scale and found that I'm down 10 lbs since my anniversary (no small feat considering we ate nothing but junk from the 20th of December through the 1st of the year!)

Goals for next week:

1. Start implementing morning and evening routines. I'm going to work on setting these up today.

2. Work on taxes- I do taxes for several people- and I am just waiting for 1 piece of paperwork for our personal taxes.

3. Find recipes using dried split peas (not soup!) and eggs. I have a TON of eggs that I need to use up.

4. No moving furnature on the schedule. I'm going to do a "Circuit" week this week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kitchen Tip Tuesday- Breakfast and Snack station

One of my favorite kitchen organizing ideas is a snack station. Ours is really a breakfast/lunch/snack station, since I keep the cereal, oatmeal, and some nutrition bars there too.

There's a section for oatmeal packets, instant breakfast powder, dry cereals, and fiberone and soyjoy bars. There's nutragrain bars and ClifBars in the baskets, along with trail mixes, cocoa mixes, and freeze-dried fruits. I have a section for Everett's baby food- the jars of foods he's already tried go in the snack station. There is a small basket for the "stick drinks" that mix into water, and a few super-fast lunch options (ramen noodles, soup, and meal bars).

If you look closely, there's a clementine box on the top shelf- that's where the "sick kit" is. Our sick kit has all of the cold-related meds, cough drops, a couple cans of chicken soup (because sometimes Mom gets sick too!), and a thermometer.

The one thing that makes me happiest is the fact that the whole set up cost under $25! I bought the shelves at Walmart- right now they are $12.44. The under-shelf baskets were under $3 apiece, and the baskets were all from the dollar store.

Everything in the snack station except for the cereals and baby foods was FREE after coupons, ECBs, and/or RRs.

This also doubles as a part of our emergency kit- If we had to evacuate, everything is in one place for me to grab and go. Power outage emergencies are taken care of, too, since there's plenty of foods that don't require cooking.

Looking for more kitchen tips? Visit Kitchen Tip Tuesdays at Tammy's Recipes!

Menu Planning, turned on its ear

Lots of people subscribe to the "you must menu plan!" mantra. I don't. Quite frankly, I never know what challenges the kiddos will present to me on any given day, not to mention Paul's fluctuating schedule.

So I menu plan differently. On my fridge there is a white board calendar. It is what I use to keep track of appointments, Paul's schedule, and a running list of dinner ideas using stuff from the pantry and freezer. All of the recipes that make it onto the white board have been knocked down into prep steps that take 5 minutes or less, with a 10-15 minute chunk during the "actual" cooking. I can even bake bread and pizzas this way!

Full pantry + couponing= peace

Sounds funny, right?

Well, it's true. For me, at least, knowing that I have enough on hand to feed my family even in emergencies just makes me feel better. The emergency doesn't have to be one of the "typical" ones- it could be that we're snowbound, one of the cars goes out, one of us gets sick and we can't leave the house, etc.

Here's my "must have" stock up items

Tomatoes- diced, crushed, whole, and several jars of ready-made sauce
Pasta- I have 20lbs of pasta- Ronzoni SmartTaste- 3 shapes- all free after coupon
Beans- 10lbs of various types of dried beans. Plus another 5 of lentils and peas.
Rice- 2 types- instant for Paul's rice pudding, and brown for everything else.
Canned soups- large variety, about 30 cans.
Cereal- 6 different boxes of healthy stuff- plus a big container of Maypo

Baking supplies:
Flour- I have AP, whole wheat, and self rising on hand.
Sugar- white, brown, molasses, and corn syrup
Yeast- a jar in the fridge
baking soda, powder, cornstarch, cornmeal, and oats

Using JUST what is in my pantry, I can make a wide variety of meals. Add in my fridge and freezer stuff, and we could eat for quite some time if we were stuck.

And that makes me feel better!

Super baby food deal!

I was at Walmart, and I was peeking down the baby food aisle. The Stage 1 jars of Beech Nut baby food are on rollback for 40¢ each. Combine with the $1.50/8 coupons out there, and you will get 8 jars for 90¢.

Even if you don't have a baby in the house- don't laugh, but the pureed carrots can be snuck into pretty much anything tomato based.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Deals I got so far this week!

Well, I'm back in the saddle. Sort of.

Today I hit CVS- no weekly deals that were pressing, but I had quite a few of the $3 CVS brand coupons to use up. Here's what I got:

Transaction 1:

Nasogel (monthly) 7.99
Reinventing beauty .99
CVS GE water 6pk 3.99
candy bar 50¢
Total 13.47 + tax
-$3 CVS q
-$2 Nasogel IP
-$8 ECB
Paid 45¢ out of pocket, rec'd 9.99 in ECB

Transaction 2:
Soyjoy 6pk x4- $24
Diet Coke 2L x2- $2.50
CVS fabric softener sheets- $3.99
30.49 +tax
-$6 (2x $3/10 soyjoy)
-$3 CVS q
-21.49 in ECB
paid 10¢ out of pocket, $24 in ECB

Transaction 3:
Soyjoy x2 $12
24/7 lip plumper $10 (I really wanted one!)
CVS gallon storage bags $2.49
24.49 + tax
-$3 CVS q
-$5 24/7 CRT
-$2 24/7 q from reinventing beauty
-$3 soyjoy
-11.00 in ECB
paid 52¢ oop

Then I went on to Rite Aid. Now, I am NOT a RA girl. The one closest to my house is less than desireable. But the deal was too sweet, and I desperately needed diapers. I went in looking for the huggies, but walked out with 10 packs of diapers....

2x Huggies diapers- 19.98
2x Huggies Wipes- 6.98
Used $5/$25 RA coupon
-$3 (2x $1.50 diapers)
-$1 wipes
Paid 17.96 out of pocket.
-$4 (diaper and wipe SCRs)
-$10 (KC SCR)
-$2 (Caregivers Marketplace)

Seriously, folks, after rebates, we will have paid $1.96 for 2 packs each of diapers and wipes!

RA trans 2
8x RA brand diapers- clearanced to $5 per pack- plus on sale at B1G1 50% off.
total- $30
-$5/$25 q
paid $25 for 8!!! packs of diapers! or $3.13 per pack!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Organizing on the fly...

Or should it be "on the sly?"

I was supposed to go through the clothes in the crib. And I meant to, really I did. But it was WAY too cold to hang out in the draftiest room of the house this week, so rather than do that, I found myself another project.

This week I got a decent amount accomplished:

I reorganized the stockpile crates and found a new home for them- now they live in the lower cabinet in the pantry where I used to store excess pots and pans (which have been put in the donation bag). Now I have room in the pantry for my laundry sorter.

I organized the dish hutch and the drawers attached to it.

Organized the snack area/kid food area. What was once a jumble is now neat!

Baked bread for the first time- something I've been meaning to do for quite some time!

In addition to the "normal" laundry, I did 4 loads of blankets and bathrobes.

All of this- with a sick toddler!

Not too shabby!

Frugal Activity of the week: Pizza dough from scratch

I've been hemming and hawing about yeast breads, doughs, and the like for quite some time. A mess of epic proportions comes to mind- we tried buying the pizza dough from the store once, and we ended up with flour on everything, an inedible crust, and a gigantic mess, along with a new inside joke.

I decided that enough was enough, and dipped my toe into the waters of bread with pizza dough. I found a recipe on the King Arthur website, and felt sufficiently scared by the directions, but I'd already promised Paul pizza... so I dove right in.

I have now made 2 batches of pizza dough, using the recipe here at the King Arthur website. It was pretty easy, once I got past the LONG instructions!

It really was quite good. The only changes I'll make is to use 50% whole wheat flour next time, scatter some cornmeal on the bottom of the pan after proofing and before baking, and brush a bit of olive oil on the edges.

Here's one of our favorite pizza combos!

Hawaiian BBQ pizza
4-5 slices deli ham, sliced into bite size pieces
1/2 can crushed pineapple, drained well
mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese
BBQ sauce

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Frugally staying warm

It is 7 degrees outside. SERIOUSLY! Al Gore, you promised Warming!

Ok, ok, ok. We need to keep warm. Here's some of the things we've been doing.

1. Reroute the dryer vent.

We've been doing this for a couple of winters now. Our dryer vent usually gets stuck in one of those window things that allows us to vent outside the house. In the winter time, it is WAY too cold to allow this to continue- the housing for the vent is very drafty, and really, why in the world would I want to throw all that heat and moisture out the window?

To do this, take a pair of old, ripped pantyhose, and fit over the end of the vent hose. I personally don't wear pantyhose often, so I've taken to buying either clearanced odd sizes that are marked down to under $1, or the little knee highs that come in the eggs at Walmart for 33¢. As they fill up with lint, pull it down further into the toe to maximize airflow. Either way, clean it out once a week. Make sure you vacuum out your dryer at least once every quarter- personally, I do mine once a month.

2. Keep that heat IN!

Use draft dodgers at the bottom of your outside doors. In my case, we live in an apartment with unheated hallways- so I use the draft dodgers there.

Install plastic sheeting on your drafty windows. You'll be amazed at how much heat escapes, and how much warmer it will feel in your home.

Close doors to rooms you're not using during the day- for us, that is the kid's room. We don't have a door to that room, so I hang an old comforter over the door.

3. Bake. I make something in the oven at least every other day- usually more often. Sometimes it is dinner, sometimes a snack, sometimes it is the next day's breakfast. Leave the oven door open after you're done.

4. Cook warming foods- I don't know about you, but "comfort foods" like mac and cheese, chicken casserole, soups, and shephard's pie never fail to keep me warm. Ditto for spicy foods like curry, chilis, and enchilada lasagna.

5. Dress the part. I personally HATE long sleeves- more accurately, I hate having fabric on my forearms while typing, doing dishes, cooking, etc. In the winter, though, I layer up- tank top, then long sleeved t-shirt or turtleneck, and then a sweater, sweatshirt, or track jacket on top of that. I'll wear leggings under jeans if it is REALLY cold, and always warm socks.

My babies get double layered all the time- right now Everett is hanging out in his onesie, socks, then a thin set of jammies, and a feety blanket sleeper on top of that, with a hat on his head and a bib to catch the drool/spitup. Abby's got on a turtleneck onesie, leggings, socks, a sweater, and a pair of jeans.

I'm working on making crocheted bootie slippers for both kids- but that would require some time, of course!

6. Blankets, Bathrobes, and Snuggies, Oh my!

I'll admit- my mother-in-law got us Snuggies (well, actually, they're Slankets from QVC) for Christmas. After laughing at the commercial for the last 3 months, I've developed a love for the thing! Sure, I look like a cult member. But I'm a WARM one! We put ours in our beds, which prevents Paul from burrito-izing himself with the comforter. At night, we stay nice and warm with the snuggies, a down comforter, and 2 fleece blankets.

Bathrobes are worn all.the.time in this house. Paul and I both have nice, warm fuzzy bathrobes, and Abby just got one this past Christmas.

We also keep lots of blankets around- and I'll let you in on my little secret. I always buy or make blankets that are at least one size too big for the bed it is meant for. Abby's got a full size comforter for the portable crib, along with a queen size fleece and a throw. Our bed has all King sized blankets on it- even though it is a Queen. The key to marital bliss is a King blanket on a Queen bed.

7. Sip warm drinks. I keep the teakettle out all the time this time of year. I also pre-fill Everett's bottles with water, and set them out on top of the stove so that they get nice and warm by the time he needs them (always check the temperature before giving to baby!). We all drink "ghetto spiced cider" made with spices and apple juice. Abby really likes my milk-mixtures- pumpkin spice milk, gingerbread milk, and warm vanilla steamers. I make these primarily for my "designer knockoff" coffee drinks, but she likes them too!

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Frugal Activity of the Week!

This week, I am starting a weekly series on frugal activities- some fun, some kitchen, some cleaning, all easy.

I'm going to cheat and write about something I've been doing for some time now. Making homemade yogurt is super easy, and very rewarding. When Abby was a baby, I was looking for healthy foods to feed her- and full fat yogurt was one of her favorites. I didn't learn how to make homemade yogurt then, in fact, I didn't even know it was an option! My mom bought one of the fancy yogurt makers and started making her own- so I went looking for a workaround. Here's what I do for homemade yogurt:

You'll need:

1/2 gallon of milk (personally, I use 1%, but you can use any kind you like)
1 small container of plain, ACTIVE CULTURE yogurt (I use single serve size of Fage or other greek style yogurt)
1/2 cup milk powder
crockpot insert and cover
candy thermometer

Pour milk into the crockery insert, and leaving cover off, microwave for 20 minutes. Check temperature, milk needs to get to at least 180 degrees. Once it reaches temp, cover, and wait until milk drops back down to 110 degrees (112 max!). I've done this both inside and out of the microwave, and I find that I will check more often if it is on the kitchen counter, and the temp seems to drop faster. Pull the starter yogurt out of the fridge now so that it will reach room temperature.

Once the milk has cooled to 110, whisk in the milk powder. Dump the starter yogurt into a small bowl, and refill the container with some of the milk mixture, pouring over the starter. Whisk till loosened, then pour all of the starter/milk mixture into the crockpot and whisk well. Cover, and place in incubation area. *

*Incubation areas need to stay at about 100-110 degrees. If you have a gas stove, you're done. Place lidded crockpot in oven with door shut overnight- the pilot light will do the trick. If you don't have a gas stove, you've got to get more creative. You can use your crockpot on warm (test it first!) or a heating pad wrapped around the crockery with a bathtowel insulating everything will work.

Let the yogurt develop overnight, or throughout the day, depending on when you start it. It will start to set up and thicken within a few hours, the longer you let it go, the thicker it will be.

We eat the yogurt plain, or "Greek" it for dips, or turn it into yogurt cheese. "Greeking" involves lining a strainer with a coffee filter, setting that on top of a measuring cup or something else to catch the whey, spooning yogurt into filter, then letting it drain off the whey for an hour or so. Yogurt cheese has the consistancy somewhere between ricotta and cream cheese- and it is made by "Greeking" the yogurt overnight.

I mix yogurt cheese with preserves (current favorite is a blueberry/cherry blend) and spread on bagels or toast.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Year- Renewed life

Tara over at Seeking Deals inspired me to post my New Year Resolutions for 2009.

I, too, am struggling with organizing. Two years ago, Paul and I were both working full time plus overtime, our home was more or less livable, clothes were usually clean, and dinners weren't a struggle. Well, the last two years have seen the birth of two preemies, our decision to have me stay home with the kids, Paul's job loss and 10 months (and counting) of partial employment, hospital stays and multiple doctor appointments. In that time, our lives have become nearly unrecognizable- with a messy house, finances in disarray, and a harried, tired set of parents.

So my resolution is this: To streamline the finances, the house, and our day-to-day activities. I am going to break everything down into weekly, manageble goals so that I don't become overwhelmed and give up.

First thing I'm addressing is the house. We've got soooo little space- and right now some of it is being underutilized. The kids' room is too cold for them to sleep in, the pantry has a couple mostly-empty drawers and a cabinet that's filled with stuff that belongs in the kitchen, the back hallway closet is currently holding a radiatior that no longer works and is taking up half of the space, and our closets are in dire need of organizing and new shelving.

Here's the plan for giving us more space:

1. Move the crib out of the kids room and put it in the parlour. Abby sleeps in there anyways. Use space under the crib to store diapers, wipes, and toys.

2. Move the computer, desk, and filing stuff out of the bedroom and into the kids room.

3. Move the playpen into our bedroom, and set it up where the desk used to be.

In order to be able to do these things, my goal for the week is to clean out the crib and the area around it. Since it hasn't been used as a bed for quite some time, outgrown and out of season clothes have taken up residence. These need to be sorted into keep and donate, then organized by size for the keepers, bagged and stored. Once this part is done, Paul and BIL will be moving the crib for me!

Next week's goal is to get the desk area prepped to be moved. This means A LOT of paper purging and filing, separating the desk stuff from the bedroom stuff, and organizing the desk drawers so that they are *GASP* usable.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Deals at CVS!

Last week, I took a break from CVS. There was nothing that caught my eye, and we're well stocked up at this point. I have a mental list of things that we're low on (liquid fabric softener, dryer sheets, freezer bags, to name a few).

Wouldn't you know that CVS got into my brain and figured out a way to get me into the store?

A new coupon came out over the weekend: $3 off any CVS brand item. Find it here on page 14.

CVS makes their own version of all of the items on my mental list. Actually, the CVS brand garbage bags are a favorite over the national brands. So looks like I'll be stocking up!

Impromptu Cooking Day!

So I did something I don't usually do- I got inspiration from the dried bean aisle!

I was at Big Y picking up the last of my pasta stash on the last day of the sale, and for some reason the tiny bags of beans and salt that claim to be "quick minestrone" caught my eye. I love minestrone. Heck, I love soup. But what I don't love is the salty mess that the little baggies call minestrone, with still hard beans and overcooked pasta. And they take over an hour to make...

I know that I can make a good minestrone in less time than that! So, I doubled back to the produce section, grabbed celery, carrots, and a bag of onions- none of which were on sale- and headed home. I had already picked out some bulk sausage (oops, I was supposed to make that into spaghetti sauce!) and as soon as I got home, into the stockpot it went.

In about 20 minutes, I had a delicious, homemade minestrone with sausage. I also had about 4 cups of already chopped onions. Hmm... what to do?

I had a 5lb log of ground beef that I'd been ignoring in my freezer- got it for $6.82 at Walmart- the big downside is it was 73/27- ugh. I had heard about boiling ground beef instead of frying, and I figured I'd give it a try. My tallest stockpot went onto the stove, and the giant log o meat went into it, along with some water and a good handful of grill seasoning.

I can't say it came out GREAT- but perhaps that is because I had high expectations. The meat itself was perfect- it was the broth I was disappointed with. Forget about the sheer amount of fat floating on the top- it was not nearly meaty-flavored enough for me. Sigh.

Ok, so I took the whole entire stockpot, dropped the collapsing-sides strainer thing in to keep the meat in the bottom of the pot, and stuck it out on the porch. 25 degree weather CAN be a good thing!

Once cooled, the fat rose to the top and formed a hardened disk that is easy to lift out. Fat went into a bowl for now- I'll need a bit of it later.

Then I cleaned out my two big stockpots and started the final part of my cooking day- chili and shephards' pie filling. Used up the rest of the onions, carrots, and celery, split up the meat, and made a batch of lentils for the shephards' pie.

All in all, I ended up with 6 batches of shephards' pie filling (I freeze them in foil-lined casseroles, then pop them out and store in gallon size bags), and an as-yet undetermined amount of chili. When I'm freezing chili, I don't add beans. They take up a lot of space in the bags, and I can just as easily start a batch of dried beans in the rice cooker when I plan to make a batch of chili with beans. I have more pantry space than freezer space!

It has been requested...

So I'm back! Been in hiding dealing with the insanity of the holidays- 7 Christmas parties, 14 hours of baking, and a mountain of laundry I've been ignoring. I'm going to run some catching up posts, then I'll post about the current deals at CVS and wherever else catches my eye.