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!