Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A week of meals in one day - review

So, here are my thoughts on the week of cooking in one day so far:

1. It was a lot of fun, but probably not the thing to do on a Monday evening. It took me about 3 hours of cooking (on and off) and cleaning to produce five almost complete meals. If you had a lazy Sunday afternoon, it would be perfect. I am hopeful though that my effort last night will make the rest of the week easier.

2. Use recipes that go well together. Although you could probably do this with any recipes, using the TV show guide was helpful to me - one of the meat items was used for two meals (and this seems to be a theme on the show), most of the meals used similar ingredients (less shopping/cost) and the meal variety was terrific. I'm sure I could put this together on my own, but it would add to the time.

3. Watch your cost. I didn't do any substituting of ingredients (although I could have with the recipes involved), and I already had two of the cuts of meat on hand, so my grocery bill wasn't bad - I spent $60.12 at Meijer, but that also included bread, yogurt, a few staples I was out of, etc. Cheese and crab meat were the most expensive items but if I'd had more time I could have gotten them for less by going to another store.

4. Start with a clean kitchen and empty dishwasher. My kitchen was clean, but my dishwasher was half full and I had to run it halfway through my cooking marathon.

5. If the dishes make more than you need, go ahead and freeze the rest. The mac and cheese dish made a TON - I ended up making one for the adults, a small plain container of mac and cheese for the kids and still had a decent dish that I just put in the freezer - enough for my family another night!

So far, I have to say that the food from this episode appears to be excellent. The pork tacos were amazing! I would make these again for guests in a heartbeat. They were so easy and so flavorful. Adding the pickled onion and cabbage was genius. I also added a bit of sour cream but it wasn't needed. We had enough for dinner last night and lunch for my hubby and myself today. If they are too hot for children, you could just pull some of the meat out and serve it alone to the children.

I'll comment on the other dinners next week. But so far, so good!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday and Monday musings!

First snow day of the year - so early! I can hear the kids downstairs playing together while my hubby keeps an eye on them so I can work. It's fun to hear them negotiating their play ("How about you be Robin and you can save me . . .").

I have lots of last minute Christmas things to tie up this week, so I'm going to try something new for dinners. Rachael Ray (I know, you love her or hate her) has a new show on the Cooking Channel called "A week in a day" where she makes five meals in one afternoon/evening. I've taped a few of them on the DVR and finally watched one the other night - looks like some great recipes and since I have nothing going on this evening - I'm going to give it a try. Best part is that I have most of the ingredients on hand - thanks to our cow and pig in the freezer all I have to buy meat wise is some crab. So, this week's meal plan is courtesy of Rachael Ray - I'll post next week on how it went:

Monday - pulled pork tacos

Tuesday - Crabcake mac & cheese (I'll make a small dish plain for the kids), spinach

Wednesday - Date night

Thursday - Ratatouille

Friday - Meatloaf & Couscous

Saturday - Christmas Party

Sunday - Pork Ragu

Sounds yummy right? Plus a nice variety of meals - since I love to cook, I'm eager to try this out. All the recipes can be found at The Cooking Channel

For more great menu ideas, check out Organizing Junkie!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Step 3 - the life you've always wanted

Look back at last week's list - anything jump out at you? Sometimes taking a few days break can really make a difference in your feelings about something.

Okay, pick one item and do it this week! Write it on your calendar, block time out, whatever you need to do, just do it.

By this time next week you'll be one step closer!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Next step toward the life you want

So, now that we've thought a bit about what we would do, let's take some steps toward getting there!

I'm a list maker, so I always like to start off with a list. Take a look back at the first question I posed:

What would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?

If you haven't already, write down your "answer." It may be a list of jobs you think you'd enjoy, it may be a new sport or hobby you'd like to try, it might be a way of raising your family, or living day to day. Doesn't really matter as long as it's what is important to you.

Got your list? Pick out one or two items and re-write them each on their own page. Now, take some time and brainstorm things you could do today or this week to get started on your journey.

Here's an example:

Learn to play the guitar

1. Research local classes
2. Look online for workbooks
3. Talk to friends to see if any of them play

These are all easy steps that could be taken immediately that would eventually bring you to your end goal. Plus it's so much easier to say "today I'm going to research some local guitar classes," than to just say "I'm going to learn to play the guitar."

No need to actually take action yet, just make your list of action items and think about them overnight. If you are really fired up, go ahead and start doing a bit of work. If not, wait until next week and we'll get back to them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Well, lots of leftovers - we hosted Thanksgiving Sunday. So, I'm going to make the most of them this week. We also picked up our hog Saturday morning, so my freezer is bursting with meat - yeah!

Monday - Bennihana (free meal for my B-day month)
Tuesday - date night (free kids meals for the kids that expire today)
Wednesday - turkey pot pie (using up most of the leftovers)
Thursday - beef roast (gymnastics night, so need something ready when we are)
Friday - spaghetti/ bread/ salad
Saturday - leftover buffet
Sunday - pork chops, applesauce, salad

Not much to pick up at the store, some bread, milk and that's about it!

I might make a peach cobbler with some peaches I have in the freezer - we'll see how it goes.

For more great menus, check out Organizing Junkie

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Remember the big picture

So, back to my post last week about making our lives more fulfilling . . .

As I mentioned, I do a good job of taking things in stride. It's pretty simple really - if I feel myself starting to get really stressed out or worried about something, I stop and ask myself a simple question:

Will this matter in 5 years?

Guess what? Almost every time, the answer is no. So simple, and yet so calming. This really helps keep me thinking about the big picture and about what is really important to me.

This got me thinking - how could I apply this same principle to my other "big" question:

What would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?

Well, maybe by thinking about it in the same context - if it's something I'm afraid to do, just ask myself if it will matter in five years - in other words even if I royally screw up, is it really going to matter? I bet the answer is probably not.

I'm going to challenge myself to think this way for the next few weeks and see what happens - anytime I stop doing something I want to try, or think about something I'd like to try but am "afraid" to, I'm going to ask that question - and keep track of the results. Should be an interesting experiment!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Wow - how can it be Thanksgiving week already?

Crazy but fun week for us:

Monday - shrimp with creole sauce (didn't get to it last night)
Tuesday - Chicken noodles
Wednesday - fried rice
Thursday - Turkey dinner at my SIL's
Friday - out shopping, so some restaurant with hubby and friends
Saturday - probably out for sushi as kids will be at Grandma's
Sunday - Turkey dinner at our house

Not really much cooking this week, so almost like a whole week off! Sunday I'll just handle the turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and pie, everyone else brings a dish. Most of that I'll probably pre-make Saturday so Sunday is a quick put the turkey in before church and then cook up the rest after.

Wishing everyone a terrific Thanksgiving! Check out Organizing Junkie for more menu ideas!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If you knew you wouldn't fail . . .

As I sit here enjoying my Starbucks Peppermint Mocha (yes, I did the deal and gave the free one to my MIL), I'm pondering this question.

What would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?

So often I feel like we just live through life doing what is expected of us and not taking steps to make our lives more meaningful or fulfilling.

I know I do.

I do a good job of not getting stressed out or worrying about the little things, but I also don't take action to make any significant changes.

So, over the next few weeks, you'll see a series of posts on this topic - we'll discuss things like how to focus on the positive and the big picture, how to determine what it is we enjoy doing most, and some small steps on how to achieve the type of life we really want to live. I'm going to be participating right along with the posts, so I'm really looking forward to it.

I suppose this is more "January/ New Year" type stuff, but why wait? Why not get a jump start on things now so you can be even more focused come 2011!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Woo Hoo - B1G1 Starbucks!

Yeah! Starting Thursday through Sunday, Starbucks will have B1G1 beverages from 2 - 5. I think we all know where I'll be heading Thursday! A nice warm Chai will be the perfect afternoon treat.

Check your local Starbucks to make sure they are participating and then enjoy!

Might also be a nice treat if you plan on any holiday shopping this weekend.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Fun week of dinners planned - and mostly things I already have, so the shopping trip should be light this week:

Monday - dinner for my son's birthday, so wherever he picks
Tuesday - spaghetti, broccoli, bread
Wednesday - date night
Thursday - pizza (my daughter is reading a book on pizza in school this day)
Friday - burgers on the grill/ potato fries/ green veggie
Saturday - chipolte BBQ chicken/ mashed red potatoes
Sunday - shrimp with creole sauce and brown rice

Lunches will be leftovers, tuna sandwiches, and maybe a soup one day

Breakfasts will be eggs, pancakes, oatmeal and some pumpkin muffins

Snacks will be fruit, veggies and dips, and whatever is in the pantry - not buying any more processed snacks, so once they are gone, they are gone!

For more great menu plans, check out Organizing Junkie!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Almost the weekend! Fiesta Friday!

So glad it's almost the weekend - it's actually been a fun week, but very busy. This weekend we have my little guy's Birthday Party Sunday - he's going to be 4!!! Not so little anymore I guess.

I'm in the mood for kicking off the weekend early, so I'm declaring tonight Fiesta Friday. After work I plan on making up some tacos with some of our yummy grass fed beef and my first attempt at sourdough tortillas - I often make tortillas myself, but these should be much healthier. Hopefully they'll be as tasty.

I picked up a couple of avocados for guacamole and I have a bag of limes for margaritas - should be a fun evening - sometimes just declaring a special day and deciding to have fun creates a great time - give it a try!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Using Birthday deals wisely

Well, as promised, here is my post on how to efficiently use your birthday freebies. If you are like me, you actually ended up with many more than you could (or should use). To get the most bang for the buck, I followed a few "rules" when I redeemed many of them:

1. Only print out the ones you know you'll use - goes without saying that you'll save on ink and paper (plus create less clutter).

2. Evaluate if it is truly a good deal - for example, a free dessert is nice, but if it's with the purchase of an entree and you wouldn't normally go to that restaurant without the freebie, you've just spend $10 - $15 for a "free" dessert you don't want or need.

3. If it's a $ off deal, try to stay very close to the free dollar amount - saving $10 on a $50 purchase isn't a great deal (unless you were going to buy that item anyways), however $10 off a $10 purchase is a great deal - free!

4. Try to map out your shopping so you don't waste time and gas driving all over town.

5. Don't feel obligated to purchase more - this is a tough one for me, I always feel I should "repay" the free item, but I'm working on reminding myself that I only cash in freebies for places I visit throughout the year and do spend money at.

So, how did I apply these principles? Here's my day:

I started out at Starbucks for a free birthday month coffee. I got a Carmel Macchiato - an expensive drink I don't normally treat myself to. I ate an english muffin from home before I left, so didn't need to make an additional purchase.

After Starbucks, I ran a few errands, and near where I was headed was one of the stores that sent out a $10 gift card (Occasionally Yours). I used it to purchase a $12 Vera Bradley coin purse that matches my beach bag (place for id's, money, etc.). So, it cost me less than $3 out of pocket - which I was pleased with since the resale on Vera is great so when I tire of it, I'll sell it for about what I paid for it.

Next stop was JCPenney's as I had a $10 off $10 coupon (not birthday) and I purchased a clearance top and a sale pair of pants for my son. $2.93 out of pocket and he needed the dress shirt for church.

It was getting close to lunch, so I went to Moe's Southwest Grill and used my free birthday entree coupon. I ordered water to drink - which is what I would have ordered even without the coupon. Cost was $0.

After lunch I went back home, and later that evening after we put the kids to bed (with my MIL watching them), my DH and I went out to Bonefish Grill for a drink in the bar. While enjoying our $5 cocktails (special in the bar), we had a free order of Bang Bang shrimp using my birthday freebie. This is a place we go regularly for drinks and appetizers, so it was a nice treat to keep it under $15 including tip for a change.

There are still a few coupons I'll use, although many of them I won't - if I used everything I was sent I'd spend a lot of unecessary money out of pocket (and be eating a lot of dessert). The few left I plan on using are:

Free coffee at Borders Bookstore
Free dinner at Benihana - my husband will get sushi, my daughter a kids meal and we'll still have food to take home!
$10 off $10 at World Market - I'll probably use this to buy coffee next Wed on their double stamp day since I need coffee anyway!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Disposable Lunch Kit $19

Jasmere has a fantastic deal today - Jasmere is kinda like Groupon except that as more people purchase, the price goes down. Right now, you can purchase a $42 Kids Konserve lunch kit (includes cotton sack, cloth napkin, stainless steel beverage bottle, reusable sandwich wrapper and two 5 oz. stainless steel food containers) for only $19! If enough people buy by noon EST tomorrow, the price will go down even more. This is super cute and would make a great Christmas gift for a kid (or their mom!).

Shipping is $7.95 per kit.

I'm planning on picking up one for my daughter - she takes her lunch most days and we could definitely get our use out of this deal!

Check it out! Jasmere

(the links go to my referral page - if you aren't comfortable with that, please feel free to go straight to the main site and sign up that way)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Green Tomato Casserole

Well, this turned into a winner - it's a great way to use up some of those green tomatoes sitting on your counter. I'm not sure where I originally got the recipe - a magazine or website, it's been in my "to try" folder for quite some time. I did make quite a few changes for our tastes:

Green Tomato Casserole

3 strips of bacon
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4 - 6 green tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or mozzarella
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs (or Panko)
1 T. butter, melted
handful fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. cook your bacon in a skillet, reserving some of the fat
2. Carmelize the onions in the same skillet, then crumble up the bacon and add it back to the skillet.
3. Place a layer of tomatoes in a baking pan (8x8 is about right), add a layer of onions and bacon, tomatoes, onion and bacon and then one last layer of onions.
4. sprinkle the bread crumbs, cheese and melted butter over top.
5. sprinkle on the thyme and salt and pepper to taste

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Cover with foil if it starts to burn on the top.

I didn't need to add much salt due to the bacon, so season carefully and enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Some yummy dinners on the menu this week - lots of comfort food, and we got our 1/4 cow on Friday, so a bit more meat than usual for this week:

Monday - chili, cornbread
Tuesday - roast chicken, green tomatoes/cheese casserole (if it's good I'll post it), biscuits and homemade apple butter
Wednesday - out for my birthday!
Thursday - mexican chicken soup, apple pie
Friday - steaks on the grill, salad, veggies and dip
Saturday - birthday party for friend - I'll take some type of appetizer
Sunday - fish, veggie, sourdough bread (whatever is on sale and looks good at Whole Foods)

Pretty balanced, and I should get some good chicken stock from the chicken which will be nice as I'm starting to run low. If the casserole and the mexican soup turn out tasty, I'll share the recipes later in the week.

Check out Organizing Junkie for more great menus - and check my previous post for some inexpensive organic food - today only!

Nature's Prime Organic $75 for $35 today only

Great Groupon today - for only $35 you can get $75 worth of Organic food delivered to your door. Sounds like a great way to try out some new items, or stock up on the things that never go on sale! You can't use it until November 6th and it expires May 5th, so plenty of time (I'm thinking about my holiday baking).

Check it out!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Which Birthday Freebies to enjoy?

Well, as I mentioned yesterday, many companies send freebies for your birthday if you sign up for their email list, "club", etc. So, how do you decide which ones to partake in?

My suggestion is to make a list of your favorite restaurants/ stores and then look them up. No point it getting a bunch of "free" stuff you'll never use, so make it useful - make it companies you like and would visit anyway!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Freebies on your birthday!

Well, since my birthday is next week (and it's a big one ending in a zero!), I thought I'd start sharing a few fun extras you can enjoy the month of your birthday.

Many restaurants and stores offer freebies and/or coupons if you sign up with their e-club and share your birthday. Today, I'll share a few of my favorites and later in the week a few ideas on how to best utilize them!

Starbucks - since I love me some coffee, this is a no brainer - with a registered card, you'll receive a card for a free coffee the month of your birthday. Even just a measly little $5 card will work as long as it's registered online.

World Market - if you have a world market nearby this is a great offer - they will send you a coupon for $10 - yep, just a free $10 for anything in the store

Coldstone Creamery - free ice cream - what's not to love about this? The way their coupons work they are good for two weeks, and since my son and I have birthdays a few weeks apart I can usually make it work so we can both get our free cone on the same day!

These are just a few, but they are goodies, so I encourage you to go sign up right now!

I'll share some more later in the week!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (short week)

Short week of menu planning around here as the kids are heading to Grandma's for Fall Break and DH and I will probably go out or make a few of our standby's that the kids aren't fans of (Thai Peanut chicken is always on the menu when they are gone).

Monday - lemon pasta with shrimp and arugula/ salad
Tuesday - homemade pizza
Sunday - chili with all the fixings (cheese, onion, sour cream, jalapenos, cornbread

I'm also going to finish up with canning apples and a I have a counter of the last of the tomatoes to deal with - I think salsa is my best bet.

Be sure to check out Organizing Junkie for much longer and more detailed menus!

Great deal on your Christmas Cards

Start digging out your best picture, because Mamapedia has a great deal going on to help out with Christmas Cards. You can buy $40 worth of photo books, holiday cards, etc. for $20 at Kodak Gallery. I purchased one and will make up my Christmas cards this week - that's one item off the to do list, paid for and completed! Go to Indianapolis as your city to see the deal.

Hurry though, you only have a day left to purchase!

Oh, and one of the best parts is you can designate 5% to go to your child's (or any other) school!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Earn Free Groupons!

Okay, I think it's obvious how much I love Groupons so I was excited to hear about a new contest via Real Simple. Click on the link and you can enter a contest to win $500 in Groupons - that will go a LONG way! Plus, if you get 5 friends to sign up, you will earn $10 in Groupons (note they do say while supplies last).

Plus, another bit of good news. When I clicked on today's deal, I noticed that my city is going to start a Saturday and Sunday deal of the day - check your city to see if they are also.

Have a fun weekend - we are up to all kinds of Halloween parties this weekend, so hope the weather holds for us!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Use your memberships wisely

Since I started talking about memberships yesterday, I thought I'd continue in the same theme today.

If you do decide to purchase a membership (or annual pass), make sure you use it wisely. What do I mean by that? Well, aside from ensuring you'll get your money's worth (i.e. visiting the place enough times), there are some other things you can do.

A few ideas:
- Check online or call and ask about member specials - for example, one of the museum memberships we own allows for free entrance into special events, another offers member only early entrance hours

- See if you can save money on other local attractions with your membership (I touched on that yesterday, but often even non-related attractions will offer a discounted rate)

- Ask if you can get friends/ family members in for a reduced price

- Check to see if there are discounts on classes or workshops - several places we've been members of offer children's programs at a discount for members - the kids have loved attending those!

- When you do visit, pack your lunch or a snack and remind your kids that you aren't buying items in the gift shops. It kind of defeats the purpose of saving money by going frequently if you pay an arm and a leg for concession food or toys. Our kids are so used to bringing our lunch they don't mind at all - it's like a "picnic" for them. As for gift shops - I'm not sure they know they exist as we avoid them!

Finally - use them! If you are on a limited budget consider asking for a membership for a Christmas or Birthday gift, and then GO!!! If you can only afford one a year, rotate locations for variety each year. To me, the best part of having a museum membership is I feel like we can go for a few hours, enjoy ourselves and then leave - it doesn't have to be an all day event and I don't have that pressure of "getting my money's worth" by staying all day!

Check out Frugal Friday at Life as Mom for more ideas!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Save Money on Entertainment

As you probably all know by now, I love to go do things with my family, but I also love to save money, and let's face it - events, museums, etc. are EXPENSIVE!

One of the ways I save money is by purchasing memberships. If there is a place we want to go, I always check the membership price and do a cost analysis to see if it makes sense to buy a membership. For example:

Membership to nearby Science Museum: $65 for a year
One day entrance for our family: $28

So, if we will go more than 2x in the next year, the membership is a better deal. Typically, once we purchase the membership we end up saving lots more because we'll go to that location when we are looking for something to do since "it's already paid for." But, sometimes, we pay full price or find a B1G1 free coupon and use that instead - depends upon if I think we'll visit the place enough times to make the membership worthwhile - don't spend extra money on a membership if you won't really use it (been there, done that!).

These days, if you keep your eyes open, you can score even better deals on memberships! For example, yesterday the membership for the example above was on sale on Groupon for $30! Of course I purchased it, because not only do we only have to visit twice, but this particular membership included free or reduced admission to 250 other science museums. Since I know we'll take several long and short vacations this summer, I've paid for a number of admissions to various fun museums - including some of the biggies in Chicago like the Field Museum! What a deal - thinking ahead will really save me in the long run.

I'll try to remember to add up our savings over the year - it will be fun to check back next year and see how much we really save!

I'm such a fan of Groupon - if you haven't checked it out yet, please do so - and remember to check nearby cities or places you will vacation in the near future also. These links take you to my referral page, but if you aren't comfortable with that, just go to the main page - it's a great place to find a fun bargain.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Some fun, easy dinners this week:

Monday - homemade pizza
Tuesday - date night
Wednesday - linquine with shrimp and arugula (I'll post if it's good)
Thursday - chx enchiladas
Friday - burgers/ potatoes/ caprese salad (last of the tomatoes I suspect)
Saturday - local fundraiser dinner
Sunday - roast chicken

Breakfasts will be cereal, eggs & bacon, bagels and pumpkin pancakes!

For more ideas, visit Organizing Junkie

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Midwest Skiing

How fun - one of my goals for this month was to write and publish a travel article. It's just Associated Content, but still, I did it - very fun! So, here it is - all about skiing in Michigan (place of our annual ski trip):

Skiing Article

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Healthy Success!

So, since July I've been trying not to drink any Diet Soda. I had my last one at Harrah's casino in early July. It was wonderful, but I'm convinced the Aspartame isn't good for me and really, Diet Soda is just a bunch of chemicals overall, and since I don't allow my kids to drink pop I felt like I was setting a bad example. I thought I would never be able to do it, but now it's 3 months later and I think I've succeeded in kicking the habit.

At my SIL's Friday night, we ordered pizza and she served us Diet Pepsi. Not to be rude, I took a few sips, and I can honestly say I didn't like it! I gave it to my husband and switched to water. I don't drink tea or regular soda, so eliminating diet soda has substantially increased my water intake (a secondary goal).

In fact, I'm sitting at Paradise Bakery right now enjoying a cold glass of ice water with a slice of lemon. Truly refreshing.

I have found one time when I've "missed" diet soda. That's when I'm out shopping - often I would be thirsty and grab a soda to carry around while I shop. I could do coffee, but that tends to fill me up. I don't feel comfortable asking for an ice water without buying something else (that I probably don't need or want) and I don't like bottled water. I try to remember to bring my stainless steel bottle but sometimes forget. For now I'm going without, but this is a problem I need to solve - any suggestions would be appreciated!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Easy week mostly from the freezer!

Monday - shrimp linguine with pesto (had to use up the basil before a predicted frost!)
Tuesday - pulled pork, cornbread (with honey butter), potato salad
Wednesday - out with the family (probably pizza)
Thursday - beef stew
Friday - sausage and broccoli slaw
Saturday - fish tacos, chips and salsa/ guacamole,
Sunday - roast chicken, veggies (whatever looks good at the farmer's market), sourdough bread

I might switch Friday and Saturday around - we'll see how the week goes. Breakfasts will be oatmeal, eggs and toast, sourdough pancakes, and muffins and fruit.

Visit Organizing Junkie for more great menu plans!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A new place to relax

We have a screened in porch on the back of our house. When building we went back and forth on adding it on as it was quite expensive and completely unnecessary. I have to say that it has constantly been one of our favorite "rooms," and my husband and I have often said it was "well worth the money."

As soon as the weather is nice, we start heading out there for our dinners. When the kids finish, they can swing on the playset and we can easily see them while we relax over the rest of our meals. I often take prep work (snapping peas, peeling apples, etc.) out there to do while the kids play.

However, after a few years of use, things were looking a little sad. I didn't want to spend a bunch of money because, well, it is a screened in porch - all the elements hit it. And, I'm not interested in running out there every time it rains to bring everything inside. So, instead of a big overhaul, I made a few small touches that made all the difference!

My table and chairs are old (eleven years old). However, they still work just fine, so I don't want to rush out and replace them. The cushions (blue and white striped) are pretty sad. So, I just turned them over! On the backside is a nice chambray blue - still in great condition. I purchased a clearance circular placemat at Kohl's for less than $1 and used it in the center of the table to cover the hole for the umbrella. On that I placed a simple candleholder I had on hand and filled it up with shells. I think I'll change the centerpiece to something more fall like this week when I do the rest of the house.

In one corner is a chest to hold the cushions in the winter. I left that there as it's useful and weather resistant. The other corner is bare, but I think I'll stick a simple small table to hold drinks or condiments while we eat. On the wall connected to the house, I'm on the lookout (on Craigslist and garage sales) for a baker's rack. I can use it to house all the kids sand and outside toys in a few simple boxes. That will clean up the toy clutter while keeping them handy.

I strung up some decorative lighting and in the evening we can use that to eat by. Finally, I cleaned up my herb garden (which is right out front of the porch), put stepping stones made by the kids in it and new plant markers (made with free paint, paint sticks and sharpies).

Eventually I'd like to tile the porch and add a rug under the table, but I'm waiting until the kids are a bit older and not running through the room constantly with dirty feet.

So, aside from a few items I need to purchase when I find a good deal on them, it's done and looks great. Oh, and so far I've only spent $1!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week 2 & 3 of September Goals

Well, I struggled last week with meeting my goals - not really sure what happened, and I don't like to make excuses, so instead of beating myself up about it (which defeats the point!), I just moved them to Week 3. No biggie - I'm really only doing this to focus on what's important to me and to keep myself moving in the directions I want to move. Thanks to letting myself off the hook, I've made good progress:

Family/ friends - implement weekly family night done - it's Thursdays!
Health - increasing exercise - done! signed up for three weekly classes
Personal - create a master to do list - always ongoing, but the list is in my notebook
Work - travel article - complete and submitted to associated content
Home - clean up my herb garden and porch - in process, I'll post about what I've done there tomorrow

So, pretty successful overall!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dinner and a Movie - $20!!!

Today you can get a great deal on dinner and a movie:

At Citydeals do a search for Buca di Beppo/ movie deal. Right now, you can get a $20 gift card to the restaurant and two free movie tickets! Since I love to go to the movies for free, I snapped this deal right up. Buca often has $10 off $20 coupons in the paper, so I'm going to keep an eye out for those - if this is truly a gift card, no reason we couldn't use the coupon also. That would easily cover dinner for two and a movie!!!

Check it out - I see a fun date night coming up soon. If Eat,Pray,Love was still in the theatre that would be a fun night - Italy and Italian!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday - I'm on time this week!

Monday - Subway sandwiches (not the best, but not the worst fast food)
Tuesday - grilled fish, fresh green beans, homemade chutney
Wednesday - date night (pizza for the kids)
Thursday - sausage and cabbage (didn't get to it last week)
Friday - SIL's house
Saturday - chili, cornbread
Sunday - pulled pork in crockpot, cornbread, pickles

Check out more menu plans at Organizing Junkie

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Where did the week go?

Wow! What a busy week. I had plans everyday to post about:

- my weekly goals and the progress (or lack thereof) that I've made
- our mini vacation to a nearby city
- fall outings on the cheap
- some fun new recipes

So, next week I'll try to catch up. In the meantime, one fun fall idea is the apple orchard. We go EVERY year and buy up a ton of apples for baking, storing and just plain eating. The weather was perfect today - sunny and seventy - so we spent the afternoon wandering the orchard and trying a wide variety of apples! I'm even going to try my hand at canning since I'm out of freezer space. We'll see how it goes . . .

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

A day late, but better late than never right?

Tuesday - fish tacos (my favorite and since Alaskan cod is on sale at Whole Foods!)
Wednesday - date night
Thursday - chicken noodle soup (w/ homemade broth); sourdough bread
Friday - hamburger zucchini stir fry (from Family Feasts for $75 a Week)
Saturday - out or sausage & cabbage (from same cookbook)
Sunday - chicken stir fry over brown rice

Often if I need some inspiration for my meal plans, I'll sit down with a cookbook or two and select a few new (or old favorite) recipes. That's what I did this week. It's actually quite fun for me - I love reading (and collecting cookbooks). I haven't made either of the recipes from this cookbook yet, but I love the style of writing, they sound delicious and I have all the ingredients on hand!

If you'd like more menu ideas, visit Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yummy "healthier" chocolate cupcakes!

Well, my daughter asked for chocolate cupcakes. Being the nice mom I am I told her I'd make some. I pulled a box from the shelf and took a look at the ingredient list - uh oh - goes so against the way we are trying to eat these days. So, I pulled out my cookbooks, looked at a few different receipes and came up with the following . . . and WOW, they are better than I thought they would be! I even ate one with my morning coffee for a mid-morning treat. The only thing I wasn't thrilled with was the white suger. I would normally substitute honey, but I didn't have enough on hand.

Chocolate cupcakes

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 T flaxseed
1 and 1/2 cups sugar (or try honey if you have it)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (best quality you can afford)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
3 large eggs (lightly beaten)
3/4 c. coconut oil (melted)
2 cups finely shredded zucchini

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour cupcake tins (made 18 normal sized)
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add eggs and beat in, then do the same with the oil. Fold in zucchini. The batter will be a bit "chunky."
3. Spoon into prepared muffin tins. Bake about 25 minutes - until fork comes out clean.

Cool and eat plain (as I did) or ice with your favorite frosting.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tees for Change - $13 or less

Today Jasmere has a great new product - but just until noon! Sustainable Tees for Change! You can purchase a $13 (or less if more people purchase them) voucher which will net you a free tee. I really like the message tees! I may purchase a voucher for a friend - it would be a cute gift.

Mini Vacations

It's been a busy first few months of school - more so for my husband than myself I think. We've decided to take off for the weekend with some friends to a nearby city. This is a trip that we take as a family every fall and they've decided to tag along.

Although the city is only an hour and a half away, by staying in a hotel (sharing an affordable 2 bedroom suite at a Staybridge), doing "vacation" things - festival, restaurant meals, local zoo, this trip always feels like a real getaway. In past years we've come home very relaxed.

We joke with our friends that this is the "year of the vacation." And, truth be told, it has been. We've managed at least a weekend away almost every month. We've made some fun memories without spending a fortune.

I've shared some tips in the past, but since this trip is with friends, our spending patters will be different. I'll be sure to share some cost saving ideas next week when we return!

Oh, and tonight is our first "official" family fun night. We do family stuff all the time, but I thought the kids would enjoy a weekly tradition, and Thursday is typically our light night - plus, it will make the weekend feel like it's starting earlier. If the weather is nice we are going to play putt putt (thanks to a great Groupon deal I purchased a few weeks ago). If it's raining, it will be board games and popcorn!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Week 2 September goals

Well, I was pretty successful last week on my weekly goals. I completed everything except for weeding out my pantry. I'll continue to work on that as I have time.

Family/ Friends - implement weekly family night
Health - schedule regular exercise
Personal - create a master "to do" list
Work - write a travel article
Home - clean up my herb garden and finish off the porch

Some of these are items I informally do already (family night, exercise, to do list), but am not super consistent with. Others are things I want to get done, but never seem to get around to . . . so this is my week to get around to them!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

We are hopefully going out of town this weekend, so an abbreviated menu plan is in force:

Monday - eggplant casserole, spaghetti with parmesan
Tuesday - brat patties, green beans, homemade rolls
Wednesday - date night
Thursday - stuffed poblano's (new experiment - they looked great at the farmer's market Saturday)
Friday & Saturday - out of town
Sunday - pizza

Check out Organizing Junkie for more great menus!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The weekend already

Wow, where did the week go? I feel very "behind" this week. You know that feeling? You are always "running" to get things done so you can move on down your list.

So, I've decided that as I don't want to live my life in a rush, I'm going to "take a breather" today. Did I accomplish everything on my list? NO! Will I? NO - and that's okay.

Beginning at 3:30 today (when the bus drops my daughter off), I'm opting out of the rest of my to do list. I figure it won't matter if the house isn't perfectly cleaned today, it won't matter if I didn't finish every "to do" on my list - we aren't going to lose our home because I didn't get stamps today . . . instead, I'm going to literally throw away the list and enjoy my weekend. Maybe if it rains and I feel like doing some cleaning I will, but not because I have to, just because I want to.

The weather is perfect, so maybe we'll go to the apple orchard, or just hang out around the fire pit in the backyard. I've got some limes in the basement - maybe I'll make up a fruity drink and call the neighbors over to chat while we watch our kids play in the cul de sac. Who knows? I do know that I'm more likely to remember a fun fall weekend spent with my family and friends than a clean house, organized closet or perfectly synchronized schedule.

So I declare this a weekend of fun! Feel free to join me!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Plans for Week 1 September

So, as mentioned last week, I'm working on one item this week for each of my "focus" areas. Here are my plans:

Family/ Friends - plan one on one time with each kid
Health - make a list of proposed "diet changes"
Personal - create a list of books I'd like to read
Work - update and schedule next steps for my "to do" list
Home - clean out the pantry

I think this is manageable - as I've thought of new things I'd like to do, I've simply added them to a "master list" so I won't forget about it when I have some free time. So far, I've finished my work list and started the diet and personal lists. We'll see how it goes and I'll update next week as to progress and week 2 goals.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

A day late this week, but a yummy week!

Tuesday - tuna (grilled for me, raw for hubby), avocado & tomato salad, brown rice
Wednesday - wild salmon on the grill, zucchini & tomatoes, sourdough bread
Thursday - date night
Friday - hamburgers, homemade buns, potato salad, tomatoes & mozzarella
Saturday - smoked pork, homemade buns, corn, salsa & chips
Sunday - shrimp linguine (with homemade pesto), tomatoes & mozzarella

Doesn't it sound good! I'm going to start the sourdough bread tonight so it can rise overnight and then make it up fresh for dinner tomorrow.

For more great menu ideas, check out Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday post!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mystery shopping

I know I've mentioned before that we often do mystery shops to save money on our date nights. Mystery shopping is a great way to pick up a little extra cash and/or save money on entertainment. It is however, work. I've been doing it for years, so I can enter the forms pretty quickly and I have a good feel for what I need to remember when conducting the shop, but I can remember those first few shops taking me an hour or more to conduct.

As it can be time consuming to enter the shop details, I go through periods where I conduct a lot of shops, but then, when life gets busy, mystery shopping is one of the first things to go. I enjoy doing them, but I don't make enough money to keep at it if I'm really busy.

This was a slow work week for me (holiday week), and the kids were in school, so I picked up a few shops. Just an example of what you can expect:

Yesterday at the mall I did two clothing shops - together I'll get paid $35, plus a bracelet I purchased. Today, since the kids are at Grandmas, I'm doing a movie shop where I'll get to see a movie I've wanted to see, along with a free drink. Plus, get paid $5.

A few pointers if this is something you are considering:

1. Go to Volition to find quality mystery shopping companies.
2. Sign up for LOTS of companies - back when I didn't have kids I'd sign up for 5 a day - that gives me dozens to choose from.
3. NEVER pay for mystery shopping - if you have to pay money, it's a scam.
4. If you decide to do shops, try to cluster them - for instance yesterday I did two shops at the mall - I was there anyway, and it maximized my time. Or, I'll select shops that are near an area I plan on going to anyway and then I'll work my errands around the shop.
5. Be prepared to spend some time inputting the shops - eventually you'll get pretty proficient at it, but it can take a while at first.
6. Make dinner shops your date night, or restaurant meal for the week - this will definitely cut your entertainment budget even if you don't make any extra cash.

If you decide to pursue this for some fun extras, have fun with it. You won't get rich quick, but the perks can be fun!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Goals

Since today is September first, seemed like a good day to outline the project I mentioned yesterday. The areas of my life I'd like to concentrate on are:


I think 5 is manageable - especially if I only have one concentration area in each a week. I spent a lot of time thinking about those five areas yesterday to determine where I wanted to start. I have so many ideas for each of them! I decided that in order to keep myself from getting overwhelmed, I'd simply keep a running list of changes/ ideas in my journal. That way, I wouldn't forget them, and each month/ week I can refer to the list to see what feels right.

I have a draft for all of September, but I think I'm just going to start with week 1 - that way if I need to expand an area for a second week or feel like a change in my "proposed" following week is appropriate I won't feel pressured to not make the change.

Week one will be a sort of planning week for some of the categories - for others there will be action items. Tune back in later in the week to see specifically what I have planned!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So much to do, so little time . . .

The other day I was talking on the front porch with my husband and neighbors and I mentioned that I was upset at how less energetic I had been feeling. They all were surprised (except for my husband) as they thought I was one of the most energetic people they knew. I guess in retrospect I can handle and do a lot, but there is definitely a slow down . . . and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe instead of thinking about all the things I'd like to do, I should be concentrating on what I'm doing now and accept that I can't do everything but instead should do a few things "better." Make sense?

I have a ton of ideas in my head . . . projects I'd like to start, "improvements" on my home, myself and my family life . . . changes in our eating, health, living . . . the list goes on and on. It's hard to decide where to start - what is most important?

To help myself focus, I've decided to make a list of my top priorities and then determine ways I can work on/with them each week. Hopefully this will keep me from attempting everything at once and create some meaningful changes versus just a bunch of new short lived trials.

Since I love a good project . . . here we go . . .

Monday, August 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Friday ended up being quite the night. I knew I'd have my family and a friend and his kids to feed - ended up being our next door neighbors, their parents, and another set of neighbors. Amazingly I had plenty of food - not a bit of leftovers however! Just goes to show that being ready to entertain can lead to some fun and stress free times!

This week is an unusual menu plan since it's a holiday weekend and the kids are going to stay with my in-laws for a few nights:


Monday - grilled chicken, grilled veggies (whatever is left in the fridge!)
Tuesday - "snack plate" (hummus, pita, roasted red pepper, bruschetta, leftover grilled veggies, feta, etc.)
Wednesday - brat patties (from Farmer's market - yum!), grilled peppers and onions, baked potatoes
Thursday - homemade pizza
Friday - burgers on the grill, homemade buns, corn, potato salad
Saturday - out
Sunday - pulled pork in crockpot, salad

Breakfast -

Monday - cereal/ fruit
Tuesday - eggs/toast/ bacon
Wednesday - smoothies/ waffles
Thursday - cereal/ fruit
Friday - eggs/ toast/ bacon

HOT DEAL THIS WEEK - Whole Foods is having a one day sale Friday on grass fed beef $3.99/lb. Since it'll be a few weeks until our cow is here, I'm going to stock up on enough to last us until then!

Check out their blog for the details: Whole Foods Blog

For more great menu plans, check over at Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Entertaining on a budget

How I love to entertain! I really enjoy having friends over for food and drinks. The kids get to play, we get to connect and have fun with our friends. It's just a good time all around. Now that it's fall, we actually tend to entertain more often. The weather is nice to be outside, so everyone comes out to watch their kids play and before you know it, I have a spontaneous party on my hands!

It probably does seem spontaneous to most of my friends, but actually, there is a bit of planning involved on my part - that's what keeps it easy and frugal. A few things I do:

1. Menu Plan - Early in the week, I'll see if we'll be home for the weekend - if so, when I do my menu plan, I plan something for Friday and Saturday that can easily be expanded to feed extras.

2. Have kids food on hand - I also stock up on typical kids food when they go on sale so that I can feed picky kids with ease (I have an amazing supply of mac and cheese and Capri Sun on hand even though we don't eat those items ourselves often). This can stretch a meal to feed extras and the kids prefer it anyway.

3. Prepare appetizer food ahead of time - salsa, dip, etc. nice to have on hand for your family for the weekend, and a plus if people drop by.

4. Signature drinks - I'm known for my fun and different drinks, but in reality I simply keep my eyes open for a simple (and budget stretching) drink recipe and then make a pitcher or two - much cheaper than different drinks for everyone and I can typically keep the ingredients on hand.

For example, it's a beautiful day today, so as I was prepping for dinner, I made up enough to feed some extras - we are having cuban sandwiches, so it's easy to expand the fixings and I'll present it on a platter so everyone can make their own. If we don't eat it all, no sweat, I have lunch prepared for tomorrow or Sunday!

I made up a batch of salsa last night, and will also make up some guacamole while the pork roast is on the grill.

Finally, I found a fun, festive latin drink that is made by the pitcher - so, if enough people come over I'll whip up a few pitchers. If not, I have the ingredients on hand for next time. Easy, peasy!

Since the work day is about over and I hear the kids playing outside, I'm going to go put some music on and start prepping the guac - I'm sure a fun time will follow!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chance to join Pinecone!

Pinecone is currently accepting applications for females. This is a great site that I've been a part of for years. The surveys are very easy, and you get paid $3 in your paypal account very quickly - usually within a few days. They also sometimes send products to review which is always fun. I typically do a few surveys a month, so it keeps my paypal account in a bit of cash - perfect for online deals that use paypal or ebay purchases!

They don't accept applications all the time, so I was excited to see that they are now!

Pinecone Research

Fun and inexpensive date night!

Last night was date night - we haven't had regular ones this summer, but now that schools in full swing, we have one of our moms watching the kids a few days each week - that means date night without the sitter costs!

I needed to go to Trader Joe's for a few staples - I know, not the most exciting evening, but a whole lot more fun with just my spouse than the whole family! It's a bit of a drive, but luckily I had a gift card in my stash for Bonefish Grill. Plus, on Wednesday nights they have $5 Bang Bang Shrimp (YUMMY!) and $5 drink specials.

So, we sat in the bar, ordered two Bang Bang Shrimps, a drink for me, and water for both of us. Including tip, our total was $20. My $25 gift card covered the cost with $5 left for next time!

I keep a stash of gift cards in my car and we often look at them first when we feel like going out. It saves a lot of money and since most of them were free or discounted to start with, makes for cheap or free outings.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Movie Ticket for $4 thru Fandango

Today only, head over to Groupon and snatch up a $4 Fandango ticket. Go to Orange County as the city. I love to go to the movies, but can't bear to pay full price, so this one was right up my alley! I might have to drag my hubby to the movies for date night next week! Or maybe take my daughter out for a mommy and daughter date night this weekend. Either way, it's a good deal - note the fine print, ticket has to be used by February 2011.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fun & Easy Surveys

I do a few surveys here and there for extra cash or prizes. My requirement is that the survey has to be fast and easy - I don't have hours to spend on the internet for a minimum return. HCD surveys fit that bill - they tend to be only a few minutes and typically require a short video which is interesting and a different format. The points add up pretty quickly and tend to be around 50 points each. 1000 points is equal to $10. So, if you start now and do a survey or two a week, you should easily have some extra cash by Christmas!


Free Sample of Cheetos

I'm not a big fan of Cheetos, but my son is - and though I'll avoid buying him a big bag, he'll certainly enjoy getting a small sample in the mail. Moderation is my mojo, so as long as we eat well 80% of the time, a few unhealthy items won't kill us!

That being said, if you like Cheetos, Walmart has a free sample right now - it'll go fast, so hurry on over:


Monday, August 23, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

That time of the week again! Actually, I did my menu planning last night. I sat out on our new front patio while the kids played with a few recipes I've wanted to try and a few cookbooks for inspiration. The weather was perfect and it was a great way to wind down a Sunday evening while planning for the upcoming week!


Monday - fish tacos (picked up some fresh wild caught Pacific Cod today)
Tuesday - Vegetable panini on homemade sourdough bread
Wednesday - date night - no plans yet!
Thursday - "fried" chicken legs, potato salad
Friday - Cubano sandwiches, fried plantains, slushy mojitos
Saturday - homemade pizza
Sunday - chicken curry

Good variety, and I didn't have to spend much at the grocery today.


Monday - cereal, strawberries
Tuesday - eggs, bacon, fruit
Wednesday - soaked pancakes, maple syrup, frozen blueberries
Thursday - oatmeal, fruit
Friday - eggs, bacon, fruit
Saturday - farmer's market (pick up something there)
Sunday - homemade cinnamon rolls

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another amazing savings opportunity

Well, just after I mentioned Groupon yesterday, what do they do? Go and post an amazing deal today - it seems to be in all cities. I haven't purchased any of my kids back to school clothes yet, but after today, I'll have a good place to start. Today only, you can purchase a $50 certificate to GAP for $25. That's 50% off! Best of all, the fine print mentions it can be used on sale items (although not combined with other offers). Expires November 19, 2010. So, you could probably end up with a pretty sweet deal. Run over to Groupon today and pick one up!

Also, if you missed the Nutty Guys promo yesterday at Eversave, it seems to be valid today also. I just placed an order for a pound of dried pineapple, a pound of dried bananas, 8 oz. of dried cantelope and 8 oz. of yogurt covered cranberries. My total with shipping and the Eversave deal was $6.49. Add in the Eversave purchase price of $1 (minus the $5 new customer deal), and I paid $7.49 for all that fruit - pretty good and will make some nice additions to granola and trail mix for the fall!

As with any other deal, make sure you read the fine print and decide if the deal will work for you before you purchase!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eversave - cool new $$ saving program!

I know I've mentioned Groupon before as one of my favorite money saving sites, but today I found another one - and they have a terrific deal today in my city. It's a web based deal, so even if you don't live near Indianapolis, you could take advantage:

Have you heard of Eversave? They feature 50 Percent -90 Percent off on
restaurants, spas, local activities and online deals. Its free to get their
email, and first time buyers get $5 to use towards their first purchase. Click
the link to signup for Eversaves daily newsletter: Eversave

Monday, August 16, 2010

Getting into the groove!

This has been a good start to our school year. I have been able to keep a nice, easy flow to our days and haven't overbooked us. The house has stayed fairly clean, and we've had some fun.

Now that things are moving along well, I need to get myself back into my routines. I started today with a new yoga class - it felt terrific! I also took a quick 20 minute walk after lunch. If I could incorporate some yoga and a short walk each day, I think it would help my state of mind immensely. I also found a terrific resource for massages! Call your local hospital or woman's health center and ask if they offer massages - one of ours does, and a thirty minute (heavenly) back and shoulder massage is only $30. Plus, you can't tip (I tried!). It made me feel so relaxed and content I booked one every other week for the next month.

So, in conjunction with eating better, I'll hopefully begin to add in some easy exercising and stay healthy for the remainder of the year!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Here come the tomatoes!

Well, our tomatoes are finally starting to ripen! My husband tried growing them by seed this year, and since they were very small when he was ready to move them, he bought a few more to supplement - now they are ALL ripening! I've already been through jalapenos (bumper crop!), cucumbers and basil (I have enough pesto in the freezer for the whole winter!).

Last year I dried a ton of tomatoes - we use them on pizza, with pasta and in dips. I actually still have plenty of those, so this year I'm concentrating on sauce. I make a super simple, generic sauce and I can use it on pizza, in place of canned tomatoes in soups, and with pasta. I'm afraid to can (really need to get over that!), so I typically make batches and freeze it. It comes out of the freezer a little watery, but still tastes terrific.

Here's how it goes:

Preheat oven to 250.
Half or slice (big chunks) tomatoes.
Place into a 9x13 glass pan.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt, pepper and any herbs you like over top.
Add onions or garlic chopped finely if you'd like.
Put in the oven for an hour and a half or until the skin slides off and the tomatoes are soft. Take the skins off and discard (or use for compost).
Cool, put in blender and blend until smooth.
Use or freeze!

How simple is that? I have a couple pans in the oven right now!

Any good ideas for jalapenos? I have frozen more than we will ever use, and given away a ton, but there are still more coming!!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cranberry Zucchini Bread

I used to only make this at Christmas - because of the pretty green and red colors, but it is actually my favorite zucchini bread, so now I keep cranberries and shredded zucchini in the freezer so I can make it year round.

The recipe is loosely based upon a standard zucchini bread recipe from a Taste of Home magazine, but I've made so many changes over the years . . .

Cranberry Zucchini Bread(makes 2 loaves)

3 cups of flour (I use whole wheat)
2/3 c. sugar
2-1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. nutmeg
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. oil (I use coconut)
3/4 c. applesauce
1 T. vanilla
1 c. chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. In another bowl, beat eggs; add zucchini, oil, applesauce and vanilla.
3. Stir wet ingredients into dry just until blended.
4. Fold in the cranberries.
5. Pour into two loaf pans, bake at 350 for 50 - 60 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I've always planned our menus - helps me eliminate that 5:00 "what do we have for dinner" rush! I've found that with the changes I've made in our eating habits, planning is even more important. So, I've added another element to my weekly plan - "prep" - this helps me remember to soak beans, take meat out of the freezer, etc.

School starts this week, so having breakfast planned helps the mornings run smoothly! Lunches always consist of leftovers, sandwiches or something from the freezer (I freeze lunch size portions of larger meals).

Here's this week's "newly improved" meal plan:

Monday - brkst: zucchini-cranberry bread (YUMMY! I'll post the recipe tomorrow)
dinner: Milanese turkey cutlets, garlic zucchini & tomatoes
prep: thaw turkey breast for Wed night, make cupcakes for teachers lunch

Tuesday - brkst: eggs, smoothies
dinner: pork stir-fry (leftover pork from Sun/veggies/brown rice)
prep: soak batter for biscuits

Wednesday - brkst: whole wheat cinnamon waffles
dinner: turkey breast, green beans, potatoes, biscuits
prep: soak beans and rice

Thursday - brkst: eggs, biscuits with honey
dinner: beans and rice (w/ lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa)
prep: soak oatmeal

Friday - brkst: cereal/oatmeal, yogurt
dinner: turkey noodle soup
prep: soak batter for pancakes

Saturday - brkst: pancakes
dinner: leftover buffet
prep: make dish for church picnic tomorrow

Sunday - dinner: brats with peppers and onions, homemade buns

For more great menu plans, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Improving our eating

Since January it seems that we have had a run of health issues - nothing serious, just annoying colds, infections, etc. I can't help but think that by improving our eating we can improve our overall health. I've slowly been making steps to eat more whole foods, cook better quality foods and just overhaul our diet.

However, with a husband and two kids I can't do it all at once - I'd have mutiny on my hands. So, I've been taking little steps. A few things I've done so far:

- Cut back on buying processed food, and when I still buy it, find a healthier alternative.

- Found a local source for farm fresh, free range, pastured eggs.

- Switched to whole wheat flour (started at half and half, then 3/4 to 1/4, now full).

- Started soaking grains to aide in digestion (still working on this one)

- Replaced most oils with coconut and olive oil

There are still a lot of changes I want to make - I'm looking for a source for grass fed beef and organically fed pigs. If I can find that, I plan on buying 1/4 to 1/2 for our freezer. I did just find a source for pastured, organically raised chickens at a good price and I'm picking up 5 for the freezer Monday. I'll attempt to start using those instead of boneless, skinless breasts from the supermarket.

My plan for the rest of the year is to make one small change a week. This week it has been soaking grains. I made the best soaked whole wheat pancakes this morning - my son asked for seconds. Tonight I'll attempt soaking brown rice for dinner tomorrow night. The soaking only takes seconds, but it does require some advance planning. Eventually I hope to eliminate most (if not all) of our processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, msg, etc. I hope that by this time next year, my pantry and fridge will look dramatically different and we'll be well on the way to a healthier lifestyle!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I did it! Unbelievable but I finished everything on my to do list this weekend. The house is in so much better shape. I do need to clean a bit, but as for organization, I nailed it. Plus, in the process I gathered two big trashbags of items for Goodwill, two large tupperware containers and a bag for our next garage sale, and a nice sized pile of items to list on Craigslist. I'll have to keep track of how much money I "make" from my work this weekend!

I also made a batch of freezer jam from some fresh raspberries last night. I used Ponoma Pectin and a bit of honey for a sweetener, and it jelled up perfectly. The jam is a beautiful red and will be so nice this winter when we don't have fresh berries everyday.

One of my summer goals has been to improve our eating habits. I've been slowly moving away from more processed foods and getting us eating more whole foods. I don't want to overwhelm the family, so little steps. It's hard for me to pass up the "deals" at the grocery, but I know just because something is inexpensive, that's still no reason to buy it! Later this week, I'll post more about my plans for healthier eating and the steps I'm taking.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weekend Plans

The kids are off to Grandma's tonight for a few days before summer is over. And I have big plans!!!

My goals:
clean the basement closet (it's a disaster)
reorganize the laundry pantry
work on de-cluttering the kids room
shop for a table and chairs for our new front patio

Yes, a lot of work, and yes, I am excited about it!!!!

Hopefully if I can get my list done, I can go into the school year organized and relaxed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Super Simple Veggie Dip

Yesterday one of my daughter's friends was over for lunch. Trying to get anything healthy into most of her friends isn't easy, but I knew this one liked carrots. So, I sliced up a bunch of veggies (including carrots of course!), and prepared this simple dip. I love it because it contains fresh ingredients from my garden, and no preservatives or artifical flavoring. The kids love it because it's good!

Pesto Dip (aka Veggie Dip):

1/2 c. plain greek yogurt
1/2 c. organic lowfat sour cream
2 T. pesto

Mix it up, let it sit for the flavors to blend and enjoy with veggies, crackers or bread.

I make the pesto myself in the summer when my basil plant gets out of control and then freeze it in 2 T portions to use all winter (or for quick dips). This batch included sun dried tomatoes which made for a wonderful veggie dip! Enjoy!

Go to Pennywise Platter Thursday for more great frugal recipes!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Just a few more weeks of summer left . . .

Wow, where has summer gone? With just a few weeks left, I look at the list of things we'd like to do as a family that we created back and June and realize we'll never finish it! I guess some will have to move to fall . . .

However, there are still a few weeks and weekends, so we'll try to pack in the best of the best!

Putt putt - we have a few free coupons, so no excuse!
Free movies at the theatres
Splash pads
Picnic at a State Park
Find a fair with rides (that one came from my daughter)

That's a manageable list I think!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back to Normal?

Well, last week was our "grown up" trip to Vegas. Lots of fun, but glad to be back home with the kiddos. I've had lots of stomach problems since I returned and today went to the doctor - apparently one of the problems with normally eating healthy, fresh foods is that when you don't, your body lets you know!

She assured me I'd be feeling like myself again within a few more days of our normal schedule.

Now that I'm back from being gone five weeks of the summer, the house is in shambles. So, my current goals are:

1. To get things back in order - one room at a time is my plan.
2. Get us back on a normal routine.
3. Have some fun with the family for the rest of the summer!

Last night while fixing dinner, I cleaned (and decluttered) the breakfast nook. It's probably the smallest room I have to clean, but I figured a quick "win" would feel good and hopefully keep me moving forward! Tonight I attack the kitchen - I've not yet been to the grocery as I have plenty of meat in the freezer and food in the pantry, but that will have to change soon, so I plan to get ready!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Great deal on glass straws!

My kids LOVE using straws. But I hate throwing them away, having them use plastic, etc.

Introducing . . . Strawsome . . . these look fantastic, are machine washable, pretty and hopefully will fill a need in our household. They are pretty expensive, but until noon tomorrow, you can purchase a $35 credit from Jasmere

The price is $16 now, but will probably go down lower before tomorrow - should end up over 50% off! The more people that purchase, the lower it will go, so consider purchasing such a fun, environmentally friendly product yourself!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Plan your vacation week!

So, we have a list of things we want to do this week (with input from everyone - my 3 year old added "eat candy"). How to decide when to do what?

Well, there are a few restaurants we love to visit while we are here, so I looked up their phone numbers and made a quick call to see if they have any specials this week. Sure enough, five minutes later I discovered our favorite Mexican restaurant has drink specials and unlimited chips and salsa on Mondays, and our favorite Tapas restaurant has drink specials and a live band on Tuesday nights.

With that knowledge we looked at our list of activities and loosely (it is vacation after all) planned out a few scenarios for each day.

We spent yesterday by the pool and our resort had a free bounce house on Mondays, so the kids enjoyed that. Last night we had Mexican and thanks to a B1G1 coupon from our Entertainment book, the drink specials (99 cent Margaritas) and chips/ salsa deal, all four of us ate (with 4 margaritas - two each but they were small) for $26 including tip. We had a healthly blackened mahi mahi fajita dish and a simple 3 tacos with black beans and rice. Yummy and we ended up unable to eat it all! After that one of the things we wanted to do was scope out a place to stay for next year - we plan on doing something really cool and staying at Animal Kingdom. It was actually really fun to tour the resort (they even showed us a room). We walked down and looked at the animals and we were there when they were doing the music in the lobby. Our original plan was to have dessert at one of the restaurants there, but by the time we were ready it was 9:00. So, instead, we stopped at Publix, purchased a Warm Delight and made quick cakes in the room. Total spent for the day: $28.

Tomorrow night is Tapas thanks to their specials on Tuesdays - YUMMY!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Last week of traveling!

Hard to believe our month long trip is almost at an end. We spent the weekend visiting with friends and family (everyone came to us) and so aside from two meals out, just ate in the condo. We did do great on our two dinners out:

Saturday we took our SIL and BIL to TRex as a thank you for spending her vacation with us. I had a $50 gift card from MyPoints (happy to send an invite if anyone is interested), and we used our Rainforest Cafe Safari card for a free appetizer. So, for the six of us our total out of pocket was $44 and change. Not bad!

Sunday we had friends from out of town visit and since the kids were all worn out from swimming in the pool all day we ordered pizza from Uno. They had a deal for 2 pizzas for carryout for $19.99. I had a $5 off coupon from the Entertainment Book, so it cost us $16 and change - for all eight of us! We even had leftovers which fed us lunch today.

This week we are trying to finish up the things we like to do in Orlando and haven't gotten to yet (due to our multiple nights at Sea World). We made a list this morning and have been figuring out the best days to cross items off - more on that tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Magazine Deal!

Well, along our latest topic of Budget Travel, there is a terrific deal this week on the magazine "Budget Travel." I've received it on and off for a number of years (mostly whenever I get a good deal), and it's a fun magazine to read when daydreaming of trips. There are some good tips in there and sometimes fun articles about places to visit. Right now, if you go to


you'll find it on the weekly special. After you place your order, use the coupon code: WKLYSPEC to get an additional percentage off - ends up costing you $3.75 for a year.

If you go through EBATES you'll get 10% back on your purhcase also!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Savings at the beach

We've been at the beach for the past few days. This is an EASY place to save a lot of money and still have a terrific vacation.

We would have done more than we have, but we've had an influx of the stomach flu - no fun while you are on vacation. So far everyone has had it except my husband - I guess that's one way to save a lot - don't eat! Kidding aside, we went to the grocery the first night we arrived and stocked up on food and that turned out great - we haven't gone out to eat at all since someone has always felt sick, so aside from our grocery stop we've spent nothing on food since Friday!

The beach is terrific as once you've gotten your room, the activities are free. We spend most days alternating between the ocean (which is beautiful here) and the pools. We brought sand and water toys from home, along with a great beach umbrella we purchased at Sam's Club three years ago and a few fold up chairs. Our room is so close to the ocean we don't even bother to pack food - we just run back when we get hungry.

A big plus of staying at a timeshare/ condo resort is the activities - we honestly never thought of that when we first purchased (off ebay super cheap of course), but the activities are so fun for the kids! This week alone we've enjoyed pool games, free cookies and lemonade, games at the activities center (checkers, connect 4, rock band, air hockey), bingo and more. The kids really look forward to these and most are free!

Our resort is older, but still very nice and very close to the ocean (2 min walk). Plus there is a pool right on the ocean. With two bedrooms and a full kitchen, we have everything we need. Plus, by snagging an older, but clean and well maintained location I was able to get it for a steal - including trade in and maintenance fees, this week is costing us $360.

I'll take $360 a week for sun, sand and swimming any day!

Hopefully today we'll be on the mend and I'll have some tips for saving outside the resort!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Theme Restaurant Experience at a low cost!

Still traveling and still saving money!

Monday night we were back at Sea World - really getting our use out of those annual passes! No money spent out of pocket. I took the morning off and we did a character breakfast at Chef Mickey's - no big savings there expect it is less expensive to have breakfast than lunch or dinner. Afterwards, we rode the monorail around and then the boat from the Magic Kingdom to the ticket and transportation area and the monorail back to the Contemporary where we had left our car. The kids think the monorail is fun and the boat was deserted since we were going the opposite direction from the Magic Kingdom. We ate at the condo the rest of the day . . .

Tuesday I worked all day and the kids and hubby went to Sea World to play in the splash pad all morning. In the evening we went to Downtown Disney, and had a nice dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe - we split two meals and with our 10% DVC discount, got out for $17. Since the meal was light, after a few hours of window shopping, we decided to have dessert at the new T-Rex restaurant. It is similar to Rainforest Cafe, but dinosaur themed. This was the perfect way to have the restaurant experience at a minimal cost. We got the HUGE volcano dessert (comes out with dry ice smoke), and split it with two pieces of chocolate cake left to take home for later. Total cost was $15, but I had a $10 Rainforest Cafe coupon (courtesy of their Safari Club which is free to join), so out of pocket, after tip we spent $9. Total cost for another big day of fun: $26!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Theme Park Savings

Well, the weekend was spent at the parks - we went to the Magic Kingdom Saturday and Sea World last night.

How to save at the Magic Kingdom . . . I've mentioned this before, but I purchase 10 day, no expiration passes online and we use 2 - 3 days a year. My tickets end up costing about $30 a day - big savings over the $70+ for a one day pass! We also save money at Disney on food by: 1 - splitting a double burger and a hot dog meal for lunch - with the toppings bar and ordering an extra bun ($.85), we spend under $20 and get plenty of food for the four of us. We actually didn't eat it all! 2 - order ice water - any restaurant that sells fountain drinks will happily give you an ice water for the asking. If you can't stand Orlando water (I don't mind it myself), just add a drink mix pack - one is the perfect size for the cup. This tip alone will easily save you $10 a day, you'll stay hydrated and you don't have to carry around water bottles! We only had one meal at the park, went home around 3:00, dinner in the condo and returned at 7:00 when the weather had cooled off. Total spent $25 for the day (lunch and a snack).

How to save at Sea World . . . last year we purchased annual passes - they cost us $30 more than a day pass and are good for 365 days from date of purchase. Best part - they include parking ($12 savings a day). We went three times last summer, once at Christmas and will go several times this week. Last night we went about 7:00after dinner, and since the park closed at 10:00, enjoyed most of the rides (no lines that late at night), visited a few of the exhibits and then watched the fireworks. Lunch was at a great BBQ place (local dive) using a coupon in the Entertainment book (purchased for $12 end of the year), split two meals for the four of us. Then we did get Mickey Ice Cream Bars at Downtown Disney on our way home from Sea World. Total spent $26 for the day (lunch and ice cream).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Save money on the road

We've taken off on our month long June trip - this is something we've done the past few years. This year, I thought I'd document some of the ways we save money on the road - in real time!

So, today's big savings (and it's only 9:23 AM):

Stopped at Walgreen's on my way to "work." I had a few Register Rewards (RR) that expire Sunday - even though I'm not at home, doesn't mean I can't still play a condensed version of the drugstore game! I picked up the vitamins and Ecotrin that were on this week's RR, used my $2 Ecotrin coupon (yes I brought some of my coupons along), my expiring RR and also picked up a case of water. We leave family tonight for a condo, so we'll need some water. It was on sale for $2.99, but after my RR I paid a total of $1.61 for everything. Plus I got back $11 in RR that expire 6/18.

I wrote down in my calendar a reminder to visit Walgreen's before the 18th and use the RR for either something we need or something to roll them. There are Walgreen's where we are headed, so easy enough to swing in. I still have a $3 RR to use by Sunday, so when we arrive I'll run over for CoffeeMate and milk. The CoffeeMate, milk and water are all things we would have purchased at the grocery once we arrived at our condo, so by using my RR I've saved us at least $9!

Savings #2 for the day - while I travel I still work from Starbucks, restaurants, etc. Today I'm at ABC - because they have free coffee this morning! I still purchased a muffin (because I feel like I should give them some money for the free wireless!), but saved $1.60 on my coffee - with free refills I'm set for the morning.

Just because you're on vacation or away from home doesn't mean you can't save! More tips to follow as they happen!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

School's out for summer!

Hard to believe school is out for the summer already! My daughter just finished Kindergarten and will be heading to first grade in the fall. Wow!

Yesterday she brought home a folder with all of her writing prompts. They were in order from the first to the last. Although I dearly wanted to go through them all, I didn't - I gave the folder to my husband and asked him to make it into a book. He just brought it home and it is the perfect way to remember the year and see how my daughter has progressed.

I've been keeping assorted papers and projects in a file folder (dating them as I go) and I may just make one more book for those - then I'll have two organized books representing her first year of school. They don't take up much room, but tell a fantastic story - and I can place them right on a bookshelf to enjoy frequently instead of put away in a box somewhere.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Heard of Groupon???

Have you heard of Groupon yet? What a fun new company. Everyday, they showcase a deal on a service, restaurant, etc. for your city (along with many others). If you are interested, you can buy it at the reduced price. I've purchased a few for my city and also follow the cities we frequent regularly on vacations or long weekends. I've been VERY impressed with the discounts and haven't had any problems using the coupons. The variety has been fun too - everything from a wine tasting class to yoga and pilates!

Check to see if they have your city and give it a try!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Free Photo Deals - Baby Announcements

I love to take and print pictures of my kids, but it can be very expensive. So, I'm always on the look out for deals on pictures - luckily I find something almost every week!

This week, Kodak Gallery has 2 sets (10 cards each) of free birth announcements. I don't have a new birth to announce, but some of the cards were generic enough that I made a set of 10 thank you cards for my son and 10 for my daughter - these will come in handy when the next gift giving holiday comes around!

I'm excited to get them - they look super cute and I was even able to customize the envelope in a color to match the card!

Just go to Kodak Gallery then click on Special Offers. I did have to pay shipping so my total was $2.98. There wasn't a coupon code, the $17.98 just came off my total automatically.

Don't know how long this will last, so rush over there if you are at all interested!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wow! I am sore today!!!

Well, my husband and I accomplished a big goal Saturday - we ran/walked a mini-marathon! 13.1 miles. Our goal was three hours and we blew it away at 2:44 - it was an amazing experience and one I hope to repeat!!!

I'm sore, but not that bad - I know I need to strengthen my legs as that is the only area where I am sore - so a new exercise routine needs to be put into place.

I've been toying around with creating a monthly "goal" like I did last year - that really worked well with giving me an area of my life to improve/ focus on. I may just make a list and post it later this week!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Starbucks Deals!

I LOVE my coffee - really, any kind will do, so I search out deals regularly.

We have a Starbucks nearby - five minute drive, and they have a great deal coming up next week. From May 7 - 16th, all Frappaccino's are 1/2 price from 3 - 5! I can't wait to hit them up - hopefully the weather will cooperate and I might even walk over!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beautiful weather = good times

Amazing how when the weather is beautiful we automatically go outside, watch less TV, eat better, etc. The last few day we've had healthy meals, not turned the TV on at all, and gotten plenty of exercise. Compare that to a few rainy days last week where we watched TV, brought home pizza and didn't get to the gym.

Here's to all the beautiful summer days on their way!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend recap

Well, as promised, here is my weekend shopping re-cap. It was a lot of fun gathering deals and since the weather was rainy and cold a good day to do so.

After church Sunday we took the kids to the Children's Museum - we have an annual membership, so no cost to us, but what we didn't know is that it was a free public day - wow was it busy - I've never seen it that crowded. We stayed for a few hours and then couldn't stand the crowds. Saved $4 on the carousel ride with our membership, but nothing on admission since it would have been free regardless.

We dropped off food for my grandparents and then ran into Trader Joe's for peanut butter (I'm working on cleaning up our eating and their peanut butter has two ingredients - peanuts and salt versus the many unpronounceable ingredients in the national brands). Spent $1.79 per jar, so more expensive than the grocery with coupons, but a lot less than other natural peanut butters.

Then hit Penzey's for my free spice from the catalog - saved $3.99 on Northwood Seasoning - sounds like a fun one for grilling this summer!

Next was lunch at Don Pablo's - we had a $10 Anniversary credit from our Habenero's card, so with splitting one meal and one kid's meal, our bill came to $4.35. We left a $10 since the waiter did such a great job - so saved about $10 total.

Now came the really fun part. We stopped first at Aeropostale and I picked up a cami and panty for $.91. My husband helped my daughter pick out two necklaces and paid a total of $2.14. The coupon stated one per customer versus one per household, so we felt okay about each using one.

Next stop, Kohl's. I picked up a pair of workout pants (Fila) on sale for 60% off for $14.40. After my $10 coupon and 15% off coupon, I paid $4.02.

A quick stop into Victoria's Secret netted me two pairs of panties (one free with coupon and one with my $10 mystery card) for $3.38

Last stop on the spree was JCPenney - here my husband picked up two pairs of boxers for $1.97.

All in all, we spent $26 out of pocket for everything (including museum stop, lunch for all four of us amd items purchased), and our savings was: $67.99!!! Plus, we had a blast!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend for coupons!

Wow, the free coupons keep rolling in! So far, I've collected $10 off $10 for JCPenney and $10 off $10 for Kohl's - both in the mail. I have a mystery card for Victoria's Secret worth at least $10. Then I saw a post for $10 off $10 at


So - if I can keep myself from purchasing more at each store, I should have a fun weekend shopping spree - I'll post an upate next week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No TV week!

My daughter's school is having a no TV week this week. What a terrific program for kids! The school has planned activities some nights (a hike with an I-Spy list, a bike ride, and tonight is dinner at Culver's with the teachers as servers), and also gave us a list of ideas for the other nights.

I admit I let my kids watch way more TV than I think is appropriate. And I find that the more I let them watch, the more they end up watching the next week, etc. It's a slippery slope.

But, this week has been a ton of fun and I've decided to implement a few new "rules" around our TV watching:

1. No TV in the morning - sometimes I let them turn on a cartoon to watch while I get ready. Not having the TV on has made our mornings go so much smoother! They actually get ready themselves (or color, read a book, etc.) and don't zone out in front of the TV which ends up making us all late.

2. At least one night a week will be TV free night. I think it will be Thursday night as that is free of all activities and we can plan something fun each week.

I think this is a start and I definitely plan on easing out more TV - having gone cold turkey for a week (and with the warmer weather) I think this will be easy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don't drive yourself crazy chasing deals!

It is so easy to get caught up in the deal chasing madness! I know, I've been there. A few years ago, I was running to CVS or Walgreens almost every day. Finally, after I realized I had almost 20 bottles of body wash, I decided it had to stop. So, I set myself up a schedule and now I make 1 trip to each store each week.

My schedule:
Saturday night after the kids go to bed, I run through a short list of blogs (3-4)to find the best deals at CVS and Walgreens. I write out my list, gather my coupons and set my bag by the door. After church we stop at both stores on the way home. This works well for me - it's not out of the way, I spend maybe 30 minutes shopping and the deals are typically still in the stores.

Yes, I miss out on some deals people discover later in the week, but unless it's on something we need, I just let that deal go - there will always be another. We still have enough body wash to last us all year (and have some to donate), but I'm spending less overall, still having the fun of the bargain find, yet not spending too much time preparing for deals and shopping.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Garage Sale Season is Approaching

With the recent warm and beautiful weather we are having, along with gardening, getting the yard ready and enjoying the sunshine, we are starting to prepare for our first garage sale of the season.

A quick little tip - I keep a rubbermaid container in my office and as I find things throughout the year, I put a price on the item and add it to the container. When the container is full, it goes to the garage and a new one is brought into the office. This makes my garage sales SOOOO easy. All I do is pull out and organize my stuff - it's already gathered and priced. Plus it gives clutter a place to go year round so I can stay on top the house!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What a difference a year makes!

Wow - interesting to go back and read my posts. Like last year, we did a valentine's party at school, I just de-cluttered my pantry, have done my weekly CVS and Walgreens deals and we took our annual (inexpensive) ski trip! Funny how things go in cycles, isn't it?

This year we are in kindergarten (for my daughter), my son is talking and running, and we took a last minute (inexpensive of course) trip for spring break.

It's been a while, but I have a bit more time now, so I think I'll pick this back up and try to post on a regular basis - so keep your eyes open for money saving, travel and family, organizing and fun posts in the near future!