Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another dining out source

We are headed out on a "parent's only" trip to Vegas Monday, and another dining out source we are using is This is a great way to pick up some inexpensive gift certificates. Be sure to go through ebates for an extra 15% back. If you haven't used ebates - it's a great way to get a little back on your online purchases. I can refer you if you are interested - just send me an email or comment!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Going out to eat for less!

Well, I didn't follow the menu plan last night as I was able to pick up a quick mystery shop. We were able to go out to a local casual restaurant for 37 cents! The shop picked up the rest of the meal. Even better, there was a playground right next to the shop, so after dinner, we walked over and the kids played for a good hour. Dinner and entertainment for cheap - yeah!

I know I've said it before, but you can go out to eat for very little money. Last night was one example (doing a mystery shop), but I'll give you another from last Sunday. It was lunchtime after church and my DH and I had been craving Mexican. We discovered that Don Pablo's has free kids meals on Sunday. So, armed with our rewards card (a free program Don Pablo's has - just ask the hostess), we headed to the restaurant. We split one meal for $9.99 (one of their sampler plates), ordered a kids meal for the kids to split, and for a treat, two Pablorita's ($2.99 deal). After our $10 award on the card, the free kids meal, our total with tip was $9.52. It would have just been a couple of dollars for tip if we hadn't splurged on the margaritas.

The deals are out there, you just have to look. A few ideas to get you started:

1. Split meals - portions are typically huge and this will cut your cost immediately (and help your waistline) You can always order more if you are still hungry.
2. Use coupons - the Entertainment book is a good source, the newspaper, online searches of your favorite restaurants may generate coupons, etc.
3. Go on special deal nights - i.e. some restaurants have a kids eat free night, an early bird menu or a "two can dine" night.
4. Just order an appetizer and dessert - or maybe just dessert and coffee - this is especially great for inexpensive "date nights"
5. Mystery shop - if you don't mind filling in the reports this is a great way to enjoy a free dinner out!

Any other ideas, please feel free to share - we try to keep our eating out to once/ maybe twice a week, but we do enjoy it and are always looking for a bargain!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On a coffee roll . . .

If you haven't noticed, I love my coffee!

I was reading the other day and noticed a recipe for Iced Coffee - I love Iced Coffee, but it's expensive, so I rarely buy it. Well, using some leftover coffee from the morning pot, I made myself a glass using the recipe posted and it was YUMMY!!! I think I've found myself a nice little afternoon treat for the summer - especially by using nonfat milk I should be able to keep the calories down! I also like that there will be no odd additives in my drink.

Here's the link to Amy Clark's blog along with her recipe - try it, you'll like it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Free Coffee!!!

I'm at Starbucks getting a bit of work done this morning - amazing how productive I can be away from home! They have a great promo if you register your Starbucks card before July 14 you'll get a coupon in the mail for a free coffee. I registered both myself and my DH a few weeks ago and our coupon came last week - free date night!!!

I have two more Starbucks cards given to my DH as thank you's, so I'm going to register my mom and dad - they have a Starbucks within walking distance too, so I'm sure they'd enjoy a free night out.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Another week in the freezer! My grocery list is very small - but full of fruits and veggies - so we'll see how much the bill comes to. Lettuce is still plentiful! I just exchanged a cookbook I received as a gift that was a duplicate for Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Although I don't agree with all of her advice, I do agree with some, and there appear to be many great dishes. So, four of my dinners are going to come from that book this week.

Monday - Pepper Steak (NT, p.331), broccoli
Tuesday - Crock Pot chicken, mashed potatoes, salad
Wednesday - Baked Whitefish (NT, p. 260), salad, Gingerbread (NT, p.547)
Thursday - Southwestern Pork Chops, corn, salad
Friday - Chicken Gumbo (NT, p.289), brown rice
Saturday - Beans and Rice, Jamacian style (NT, p.501)
Sunday - Crab legs, leftovers

Breakfast will be cereal, steel cut oatmeal, or eggs; I didn't make the cinammon scones last week, so they might appear this week

Lunches will be leftovers, salads, soups and maybe one picnic day of sandwiches

We aren't planning on going out to eat at all this week because next week DH and I are taking a little getaway to Las Vegas (kids to grandma's) so we know we'll eat all our meals out that week!

Exercise resource!!!

I just found a great new resource for exercise videos at no charge! If you have cable TV with On Demand, there is no additional fee to go to the On Demand section and download workout videos. There is a section called Exercise TV (I think) and there are dozens of workouts there - everything from Biggest Loser to Gaiam. I went specifically to the section "Yoga and Pilates" as I'm trying to add stretching into my weekly routine. I have several yoga videos, but was in the mood for something new. There were about a dozen to choose from - I selected one and had a great 20 minute yoga session.

What a great resource for evenings or mornings when there is nothing on TV - just download a video and get a quick workout in! Just like regular On Demand, the shows change regularly so there should always be something new.

I plan on testing out a few of the other yoga routines this week to round out my month of concentrating on physical fitness!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

50 Days of Summer

I've added a new link on my site for a fun contest/ program called the 50 days of summer. Take a look at it and you can win a $50 gift certificate to Wonder Brains! Here's the link to the post:

It is a perfect compliment to my July focus - "Have fun with the kids" It's also just a great resource for things to do with your kids that are low cost or free.

Last night we went to our local farm and picked strawberries - it was the last day of the season, so we only got six containers (about a lb. each). It was fun - my DS came out with a red face and hands! We gave two containers to my mom, I froze one container, and I'm planning on making some homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert tonight! The rest we'll just eat - it's amazing how much better fresh, just picked strawberries are than the ones from the grocery shipped from California! The cost was about the same as regular (not organic) strawberries on sale!

I've been thinking about new things to post and thought I might start a series on frugal family travel - we travel a lot, and if I didn't know how to do it cheaply, we couldn't go - any thoughts or comments on whether this would be interesting would be appreciated.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Exercise update

Well, this is my week to focus on strength training. In the past, I've been successful doing this at night after the kids are in bed while I'm catching up on TV. So, I stuck my weights behind the couch and am attempting three times a week.

I did find another wonderful exercise resource this week - I really think this one was an answer to a prayer. Lately I've been wanting to get more involved in my church, and of course I've been wanting to workout. Low and behold last week in my regular church email was an announcement about a kickboxing class held twice a week - with devotionals done before and prayer after. I went for the first time last night and it was great! I am sore today! I signed up for ten weeks hoping that would be long enough to get me in the routine. I guess you never know where and when you'll get the (literal) kick you need to get going!

Plus, on the frugal side, it's only $5 a class! That's one less latte a week, so won't hurt the budget and should help my waistline!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Continue the vacation lifestyle

As promised, here is my post about the things we did on vacation that I plan on continuing at home - I really think it will help me keep that "vacation mindset" and lower stress!

On the drive home, I mentioned to DH that some of the things I enjoyed most were not the "big" activities, but small moments. That got us to talking about how we can encorporate some of those into our daily life . . .

1. Morning walk - my DS and I got up almost every morning before anyone else and went for about a half hour walk - great start to the day! We've been home two days and I've managed it one of them. My goal will be most days of the week.

2. Relaxing with a good book - be it while my DS was napping, laying by the pool while my DH and kids played, etc. I did a lot more reading than I do at home. So, several nights a week, I plan on shutting off the TV and opening a book. I'm also joining a book club with some girlfriends - we'll meet once a month to discuss our latest read.

3. Working out of the office. All my work was done from a Starbucks, Panera, McDonald's, hotel lobby - basically anywhere I could get wireless. I am blessed to work from home, but I did discover I could accomplish more in a day at Starbucks than I sometimes finish in a week at home. So, once or twice a week, I'm hitting the road. I figure I might spend an extra $5 - $10 a week, but if I can get more work done, that means more free time to play with the kids.

4. Which leads into the last item - playing with the kids. Everyday we did something together as a family - a walk, coloring, swimming, going to the park, etc. So, I'm going to make sure we continue that at home. Last night after running errands we stopped at A&W and all got Rootbeer floats (minus rootbeer for the kids as they don't drink pop!). We sat in the booth for an hour and just talked. It was simple and fun and free!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Today's Freebie!

A&W restaurants are giving away a free rootbeer float from 2pm - 8pm today only! We have to run down to SuperTarget to pick up pictures and since it's right next door, I think we'll stop by for a family treat!

Menu Plan Monday

Now that we are home, I'm back on the menu planning gig! I stopped at Meijer last night for milk, eggs, bread, fruit and veggies - I'm going to try to cook out of the freezer and pantry except for that purchase ($26). Other exciting news - we came home to a great looking garden! There is so much romaine that we will be having two salads a day for quite a while I think - huge savings and I know my lettuce is fresh and grown without chemicals! The tomato plants are looking good as is the broccoli. All my herbs are in good shape, but the peppers are still pretty small - for some reason we always have trouble with pepppers!

Monday - turkey brats on the grill, salad, corn on the cob
Tuesday - corned beef, cabbage, rye
Wednesday - Lemon Thyme chicken salad
Thursday - homeade barbeque chicken pizza, salad
Friday - steaks on the grill, broccoli, homeade bread
Saturday - ribs, cornbread, potato salad, fruit salad
Sunday - breakfast for dinner (eggs, biscuits, bacon)

Breakfasts will be cereal, oatmeal, smoothies and I might make cinnamon scones one day
Lunches will be salads, leftovers, stuff from the pantry and freezer

Friday, June 13, 2008

Heading Home

Well, after three weeks on the road we are slowly heading home. Stopping to visit friends tonight and tomorrow, then home on Sunday.

We learned a few things by being gone for so long:

1. We really can make due with fewer clothes - I only packed seven outfits for each of us and I never wished I had more or other clothing.
2. We can eat well and cheaply on the road.
3. We can continue to exercise while traveling.
4. We don't need much to be happy - we actually were talking yesterday that we could keep going for a few more weeks. It will be nice to be home, but it's been great to have no house responsibilities, few possessions, and lots of free time!
5. There are some things we can continue when we return to keep that "stress free - vacation" state of mind - I'll talk more about that in my next post.

I am dreading the mail pile I will receive on Monday! But I am looking forward to getting back into the savings game. We did one deal last night that Sears is offering for this week only - buy $100 worth of Dockers, send in a form and get a $75 gas card from Shell. My DH needs new pants for school next year anyways, so we stocked up last night and since you can do two per household (one per person) we did the deal twice! Here's the link:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Review of May Goals

As promised, here is a recap of how I did with my May goals:

1 - be healthy and a good role model for my children: I did eat a lot better in May than I had been eating, and the great thing is that has continued into June!
2 - less sweets, more fruits and vegetables - I did decrease my sweet intake, I was snacking on candy almost everyday and now I only eat it a few times a week as a specific treat. I've also been eating a lot more fruits and vegetables - which is much easier to do now that I can get them fresh!
3 - more whole foods versus mixes - I was never a big user of mixes, but I think for the entire month of May I only used one box mix and that was a specific request from my DD for Mac n Cheese
4 - more whole grains versus white bread, rice, pasta, etc. - I ate very little grains in May that were not whole grains, I started eating Steel Cut Oats (yum!), we had many different grains (barley, brown rice, quinoa, etc.)
5 - eliminate as much high fructose corn syrup as possible - I checked the labels on everything I purchased and although there is still quite a bit in the pantry, I didn't add to the stash and I will continue to eliminate this as well as some of the other additives I mentioned in one of my posts
6 - increase my water intake (versus diet pop and coffee) - not as good of a job as I'd like here - I am down to no more than one pop a day and one cup of coffee, but I'm still not drinking as much water as I should - I just don't like it and I got really burnt out while I was pregnant and nursing and only drank water - so this one I still need to work on

May was a fun month to concentrate on healthy eating - I learned a lot and made some changes that will stick! Hopefully the rest of the year will be as enjoyable and fruitful!

Monday, June 9, 2008


From the InShape Indiana website:

Physical activity is any movement that requires the body to use up energy reserves. Walking, gardening, climbing the stairs, playing Frisbee or dancing are all great examples of being physically active! For health benefits, activities need to be moderate or vigorous, while adding up to at least 30 minutes a day.

Moderate activities:
Walking briskly (3 ½ miles per hour)
Gardening/yard work
Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
Bicycling (less than 10 miles per hour)
Weight training (light workout)

Vigorous activities:
Running/jogging (5 miles per hour)
Bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour)
Swimming (freestyle laps)
Walking very fast (4 ½ miles per hour)
Weight lifting (vigorous effort)

Some physical activities are not intense enough to help you meet current recommendations. Although you are moving, these activities do not increase your heart rate. You should not count these towards the 30 or more minutes a day goal.

From the American Heart Association website:

They also recommend 30 minutes but only 5 days a week.

I've even heard up to one hour a day is recommended.

I think looking at the list of activities 30 minutes of moderate activity a day is very doable - a lot of that is just a part of everyday life. My aim is 30 minutes five days a week, but at least three of those to be vigorous. This may not be the best week for meeting my goal, but I'll at least make sure and hit the 30 minutes everyday with no problem!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fitness - week 1

This week has been great for fitness while on vacation. I haven't had the "best" workouts ever, but I have consistently exercised while away from home, and that was my goal. Here's how I did:

Sunday, June 1 - my DS woke up at 7:30, so he and I went on a half hour walk thru my SIL's neighborhood.
Monday, June 2 - went to Disney World, so walked all day . . .
Tuesday, June 3 - didn't walk, but did crunches, pushups, etc. before bed
Wednesday, June 4 - walked with DS at 7:30 again
Thursday, June 5 - walked with DS at 7:30

Tomorrow and Friday we are going back to the parks, so although I'll try to do crunches, etc. one night, I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't.

Since I have one child that's an early bird, I think walking with him while my DD and DH sleep works well for me while away from home - I don't have to worry about child care, I get to start my day off well, and the rest of my family don't hear us rummaging around and can sleep a bit longer. Next week the focus is on cardio!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Say No to Kraft Carnival

I thought it would be fun to contribute to a meme on on quick and healthy dinners that would keep us from relying on unhealthy convenience food. I do have one that I rely on monthly:

Fried Rice

I just use up leftover rice, add in veggies (always frozen peas, carrots and onions, plus whatever is on hand - broccoli, beans, etc), add whatever leftover meat I have (or I cup up a frozen chicken breast), scramble a few eggs, and pan fry it all in a bit of olive oil. I season with reduced sodium soy sauce, some garlic powder, salt, pepper and some teriyaki sauce.

Easy, Healthy and Delicious!

This is my go to right before vacation because I ALWAYS have the ingredients on hand.

June - time to exercise!

Well, now that June is here, I'm going to make my monthly focus physical fitness. To me, there are three components to physical fitness, and I'm going to laser focus on one each week: cardio, strength and flexibility. Since there are four weeks in June, here's my plan and goals:

Week 1: vacation - how to successfully exercise while traveling
Week 2: cardio - consistently manage 5 days a week 30 minutes a day
Week 3: strength - add in 2 to 3 days of strength training
Week 4: flexibility - add in some yoga or some other form of flexibility "training"

Sounds like a lot of work, but hopefully by the end of the month I'll have accomplished the following:

- increase my energy level
- created a fitness routine that encompasses all aspects and that I can maintain with my lifestyle
- created a "habit" of regular exercise
- do all this without spending a fortune
Here we go . . .