Sunday, November 30, 2008

JD Pecan Pie

*Photo by Josh Weisberg

Have you ever noticed that people have their "things" for the holidays? "Things" are something that a person absolutely has to have on that particular holiday to make it feel like that holiday. My brother-in-law John is originally from Alabama and his "thing" for Thanksgiving is Pecan Pie. So I learned how to make a killer Pecan Pie for him! It's so easy and the ingredients are usually on hand but I have to admit, I really only make it once a year. Although this year, I'm hoping to make it more often because it's just so good.



3 large eggs

1 cup corn syrup

2 tbls butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup Jack Daniels whiskey

1 1/4 cups pecan halves



1 pie crust - I make a couple of whole wheat at a time and keep in the freezer but you can use the premade ones



Beat the eggs slightly then stir in corn syrup, sugar, butter, vanilla and JD. Pour in to pie crust and arrange pecans on top. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes until pie is set - it shouldn't jiggle when you touch the pan.



I have also used chopped pecans, not as picturesque a pie but tastes just as good. This year I got really creative - used extra pie crust and a mini leaf cookie cutter to decorate the pie edge.

**Thanks to Josh Weisberg for the awesome photo - that is the actual pie we had on Turkey Day!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Walgreens Haul



I've been super busy at work this week plus trying to get everything organized and prepped for the big Turkey Day Feast at our house so posting has been a little tough. I've found time to shop though and have been raking in the Walgreens deals!





Above is the shopping trip from Saturday.

Just for Men - A Touch of Gray
Crest Spinbrush
4 Christmas cookie cutters - 2/$1 - filler items

Coupons used: $2/1 Touch of Gray, $3/1 Crest Spinbrush
I had trouble with the Spinbrush coupons - the store coupon would not work, but the employees could not find the right brush for the coupon. Then the manager came to help and said she would let me use the coupon with the one I had since they couldn't find the right ones. But then she wouldn't let me use the $2/1 manufacturer coupon because "you can't pay nothing for it." That struck me as funny - a few months ago I may have agreed with her, but now I know better.

Total OOP: $1.34.

Plus I will get a rebate on the JFM. Not clear on whether they will send me $8 or the price I paid but I also got $7 register rewards so a profit, either way.


This is my Tuesday trip:
2 rolls Basic Bounty paper towels (2@ .89)
2 boxes Kleenex (2@ .89)
1 Sure deodorant
4 Venus Embrace razors
1 roll invisible tape
1 box Oven Crisps
1 bag Cheetos Puffs (not shown - ha ha because they have been eaten by my 4 yo!)



Coupons used: 2 .25/1 Bounty
.40/2 Kleenex
4 $4/1 Venus razors
$1/1 Sure deodorant

Used $7 RR from the JFM purchase. Total OOP: $22.20. Got $24 in RR back for all the razor purchases. Wow!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. I hope you all enjoy your holiday and are spending it with those you love. Travel safely and don't eat too much!

Elizabeth

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend Shoppping

My 2-Week Menu Challenge was a fun way to try and use what we had in our freezer and pantry. I even went another whole week after it, buying only milk and bananas. But with us hosting Thanksgiving this year, I knew we'd have a big trip to make and I really wanted to take advantage of all the good sales at Albertson's and Fred Meyer. Glad I did, too because from this week's ad it looks like some of the prices have gone up. Here's what I got:



Albertson's had the Lipton soup mixes and Green Giant Veggies on sale for $1 each. JollyTime Popcorn was on sale for 3 for $5. I had 2 $1/1 coupons and 2 $1.50/1 coupons for the popcorn, 2 $1/1 for the corn and .75/2 for the soup. Total before coupons: $16.00; total OOP $8.25. BUT will get $10 in Albertson's gift cards as rebate for the popcorn purchase - can't beat that!

Fred Meyer was a different ball game - we needed quite a bit of stuff for Turkey Day, including 2 turkeys. We roast one regularly and deep fry one (check back for lots of turkey recipe ideas for all those leftovers!). I get a large turkey to roast and then a smaller one for frying. FM had a coupon that gave you a certain reduced price on a turkey when you spend a certain amount - so I spent at least $50 and got the second bird for only .59/lb.!

There were only 5 items that I did not have a coupon for: Kroger brand crescent rolls, Kroger brand cheddar cheese, organic milk, bleach and the Butterball turkey.

3 Kroger crescent rolls $1.50 ea
1 Rhodes rolls $3.50
1 Rhodes cinnamon rolls $3.50
2 Fresh Express bagged salad $2.99 ea
4 packets Fleischmann's yeast
4 boxes Quaker instant oatmeal $3.18 ea
1 Pillsbury crescent rolls $2.79
1 can French's Onions $3.00
4 cans Campbell's soup $.66/.67 ea
4 Hillshire Farms Lil Smokies $3.00 ea
1 Everyday Living bleach $1.29
2 Gallons Naturally Preferred organic milk $4.99 ea
1 18.56 lb Butterball Turkey $23.94
1 13.41 lb Private Selection Turkey $7.91

Total before coupons: $123.89.

Used $12.30 in manufacturer coupons, $14.96 in store coupons and $5.00 in Fred Meyer rewards. Got $2 in Catalinas for the yeast - it's still working!

I still have to get green beans since Albertson's was out and I got the corn instead. Overall, not a bad trip, this and the leftovers should keep us comfortable!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cucina! Cucina! Chop Chop

The weather has turned cold and rainy and all we've been eating are soups and stews. Delicious and warm? Yes. But sometimes the rain gets me down and I just want to eat like it's summer again!

This is my favorite summer Chop Chop Salad. It's quick to assemble and most importantly, everything can be chopped up ahead of time.

1 head iceberg or romaine lettuce, chopped into small pieces
1/2 can garbonzo beans
5 slices of salami, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 can chicken - or whatever you have leftover
1-2 roma tomato (2 if they're small)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2-3 sprigs fresh basil, also chopped

Put chopped lettuce into bowl and layer other ingredients in order. If you really like garbanzos add the whole can. If I have tahini, I usually turn the rest of the can into a tasty hummus, which can be served with pita bread or chips along with the salad.


Dressing:
1 garlic clove
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 cup vinegar - I like balsamic but red or white wine varieties will work well
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt, pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning blend - mine is McCormick and it lists marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano and basil

Using a garlic press, squeeze the clove into a container that you can seal and shake. Add mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper and seasonings, then add the olive oil. Shake the container vigorously until dressing is combined.
If you like a creamy dressing, add 1 tsp mayonnaise with the mustard.

We don't like a drenched salad, so if there's too much dressing you can always store it in the container in the fridge for another salad venture. Just let it sit at room temp for 15 minutes and then shake again to reincorporate.

Can't you just taste the sunshine?

The Grocery Cart Challenge hosts the greatest recipe swap every Friday - Prego! (Not pregnant, "Thanks" in Italian!)

Kudos to Target


I went to Target yesterday to get the Enfamil Lipil formula that is on sale for $24.99. When you buy 2 you get a $5 Target gift card. I had 2 $5 "checks" from Enfamil and 2 $2 off coupons from recent inserts that were coupled with a $10 rebate offer on 3. While shopping, I also happened across an endcap with the Glade Scented Oil Candle deal - buy 4 Holiday Scents and get a $5 gift card.

The cashier rang the formula first, gave me the 2 gift cards since I was purchasing 4 cans of the formula and then gave me the 3rd gift card for the candles when she rang those through. I handed her my coupons, which she started to ring through but when one of the $2 off formula coupons beeped, she questioned whether she could ring it through since it was a promotional item. She called the supervisor over and he told us both that coupons were not allowed on these promo items, which, to him, was confirmed by the fact that the register wouldn't ring them through without beeping. The store would not take any coupons except the 2 $5 "checks" from Enfamil. I responded that I had done these deals before with coupons and without a problem but they would not budge. I was on my way back to work and didn't have time to escalate to another manager so I paid and went back to work.

Now that I know how great these deals are and how it is supposed to work, the lost deal was nagging me. I called Target's customer service line and spoke with a great agent, Dell. I explained the situation to him and he was overly apologetic, that the store was absolutely wrong on this point. He asked what the value of the coupons were that the store would not take and said that he would send a $10 gift card to me for my trouble!

This is an example of a company that wants and appreciates my business and understands the value of us coupon shoppers! Thank you Target!

Do Something For Others This Holiday Season

under tree girl 125x125

Not only has work been crazy this week, I've also been fighting a cold. I haven't stopped reading, however and that's how I discovered what I think could be one of the coolest holiday season giveaways.

The gals at 5 Minutes for Mom are hosting a ton of holiday giveaways and all you really have to do to enter is leave a comment on the giveaway that you want to be entered in. That's what I was doing when I discovered that not only are they giving a ton of stuff away, they are also accepting nominations for families in need to receive some of the same products from the companies providing the prizes. What a great opportunity to help a needy family have a memorable holiday! Well, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Walgreens Haul


I'm a total newbie to the Drugstore Games so I was extremely excited to get my first Walgreens Rebate Gift Card in the mail this weekend! Since my purse was stolen (see this post here if you want to read my post-theft lessons)and I was stuck with no credit cards, I was really hoping it would arrive in time for me to take advantage of some of the deals I'd been reading about. Here's what I got:

2 cans Libby Pumpkin
2 cans Carnation Evaporated Milk
2 boxes Kotex 64 pantyliners (not pictured)
2 boxes Kellogg's Speciak K
1 box Kellogg's Smart Start
1 box Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats
2 Nabisco Graham Cracker Pie Crusts
1 package Pampers
2 containers Coffee Mate Vanilla Creamer
1 Almay Mascara (not pictured)

Total Before Coupons: $58.72
Walgreens Sale Items: -$11.58
Walgreens Coupons: -$8.10
Manufacturer's Coupons: -$11.49

I used a BOGO coupon for the cereals and even though they were on sale for $2.50, the register took off $3.99!

Paid $19.80 w/gift card, spent $7.75 OOP, got $4 RR and a coupon for .75 off Kellogg's Smart Start cereal. I will get $6.99 in rebates for the Almay mascara.

I read on some other blogs that there was a rebate for the cereal out from New You magazine but the KMart I went to did not have it. So I went on Hot Coupon World and traded a rebate for some Amy's Organic coupons that I got from Fred Meyer. SO now I'm also getting $10 back from Kellogg's ~ I love this game!

I'm going to Fred Meyer, Target and possibly Albertson's today so we'll see how we do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2 Week Menu Challenge COMPLETE!

Grocery Money Spent: $0 - I did it!

Here are the rest of the week's meals:

Thursday - leftover Rogue Chicken Soup
Friday - Dinner at some friends' house

This Challenge really wasn't that painful and I learned how to make do with what I have on hand. Even after the challenge, due to other obligations that we had yesterday I did not really have time to put together a shopping plan or menus for the week. So I looked in the pantry and determined that we really only needed milk and bananas. I am going to try and keep going this week because I know that shopping for next week will potentially be expensive!

Grocery Money Spent after the challenge: $6.53.

This has also been a lesson that I have been spending too much on those daily shopping trips. Planning ahead seems to be the key!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Winner!

is commenter #5 helen - congratulations!

Please email me your contact information within 48 hours so that I can get your 2-year subscription to Family Fun or Wondertime magazine to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered - I hope to have some more good giveaways soon~

Hard Lessons and the Bright Side

We live in what we consider a bit of a "rural" area, not a lot of traffic and generally considered a safe neighborhood. Yesterday morning I got in to my car to go to work and noticed that we forgot to close the garage door the night before. I then noticed that my glove box was open, which was strange because nothing but the owner's manual for my car and the car registration are in there.

I reached for my cell phone and it hit me then - my purse was gone along with my cell phone and the charger for my phone! It appears someone snuck into our garage, where my car was parked and simply took my purse and cell phone out of the car, which, since it was in my garage, was not locked.

I spent the morning racking my brain, trying to recall what was in my wallet and spent most of the day calling the bank and few credit card companies. I kept thinking to myself, it's a good thing I only keep a small number of credit cards in my wallet.

The lessons I learned:
1)Take my purse into the house at night.

2)Make sure garage door is closed and doors locked at night - my husband and I have both been lulled into a false sense of security in our neighborhood. We are also going to start locking our mailbox.

3)Photo copy of all the credit cards you have in your wallet - update this periodically and keep in a safe place. I plan to keep this in my office from now on. It would have been so much easier to have the actual list than trying to rely on my memory for who to call.

4)You can sign up for a Fraud Alert to be placed on your credit reports for free for 90 days. You only need to notify one credit reporting agency and they will notify the other 2. Go online to annualcreditreport.com for more information.

The Bright Sides:
1) Register your Starbucks Card. I use a Starbucks Gift card to keep me from overspending at the coffee mecca. I load a certain un-named amount on it every month to keep my budget in line. I also registered it through the website. I called them to report it stolen. They determined that it was used yesterday morning and told me the location, which made me feel better that these theives do not likely live in my neighborhood. They de-activated the old card and are issuing me a new card with the balance left on it after the thief used it.

2) There are honest people out there. A woman very near our neighborhood called yesterday afternoon because she found my purse and wallet in her driveway. It seems the thief took what he/she wanted and just dumped my purse. Luckily, my driver license was still in my wallet. Most of the other important items were missing but I'd already canceled them all anyway.

I am thankful that the thieves did not get much, nothing irreplaceable and we learned some lessons that will hopefully protect us from this happening again.

Grocery Budget Update

I noticed particularly in October that I did some deals at Safeway for Kleenex and Albertson's for Jet Dry. Those are not products that I usually purchase at a grocery store, but because they had the great Catalina promos running with them, I got the products and then got ONYO coupons to use toward groceries.

I don't do every deal that I see, especially if it's products that I won't really use and even if it is completely free. I find that just creates more clutter in my house until I can figure out where to donate those products.

Here's how we did for October's budget:

October $83.62 + $72.29 (September carryover)= $155.91 - $106.00 = $49.91 (carryover for next month)

Still within my goal! I am hoping for some really good pre-holiday sales so that I can stock up on some staple items and continue to stretch the budget as far as we can make it go!

How are you doing on your budget goals for this year? Have you started planning for next year? I am already thinking about whether I should reduce the allowance for next year or if that's just flirting with disaster, especially with a new baby joining us in March. Well, I will decide and of course, keep you updated.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Chipotle Grill Carnitas Burrito Bol

The Chipotle Mexican Grill near my work is one of my favorite lunchtime hotspots. It's super delicious and depending on what you get, fairly healthy fare. Unfortunately, the one close to me has no parking! It's cutthroat-mall-parking-lot-at-Christmastime-vicious competition for any spot, let alone one close to the door. I have seen arguments over parking spots in the small lot that also serves the also popular Jamba Juice. Rather than risk my sanity on a daily basis if the lot is too crowded, I just find somewhere else for lunch. This lack of parking and an extreme craving for my favorite Chipotle combo led me to this creation:

2-3 lbs pork tenderloin
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup chicken stock
2-3 limes, juiced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt/Pepper to taste

Pat the tenderloin dry and season with cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Place in the crockpot with the onion and pour in the tequila and lime juice. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. If I am leaving it for more than 6 hours I will add an additional 1/4 cup of water or chicken stock to make sure the pork does not dry out. If you don't want to use the tequila* you could also use all chicken stock. I use forks to pull the meat apart and then let it sit in the juice while I prepare the rest of the dish.

*Don't be concerned about this tasting like alcohol - the alcohol cooks off throughout the day and you get a sweet-spicy meat.

2 cups cooked white or brown rice
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups grated cheddar/jack cheese
Corn Salsa
Sour Cream

The corn salsa is really simple to make: I combine one regular size can of corn, one regular size can of black beans, 1/2 a small chopped red onion, 1 small chopped jalepeno pepper. Stir it all up, pour the juice from a lime over it and let sit for 15 minutes.

To assemble the "bol:" Take 2 scoops of rice and top with pork, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream and top with shredded romaine lettuce. If you are watching your carbs, skip the rice and put the lettuce down first instead.

Ole!

As always, thanks go out to Gayle from The Grocery Cart Challenge who hosts an awesome recipe swap every week. I always enjoy seeing what others are cooking - a great inspiration for trying new meals!

2-Week Menu Challenge Update

Grocery Money Spent: $0

I still have not gone to the grocery store!

Even with Monday's husband-induced snafu and before that, Saturday's birthday present trip to Fred Meyer, I have held the line. We are running low on milk and cheese. We probably wouldn't be running low on milk but I didn't buy creamer for my morning coffee before the challenge so I've been using the milk instead. My son wonders aloud what it would be like to taste the soothing flavor of his beloved bananas again in the morning - your time will come, son!

What we've had so far:
Monday - rogue Chicken Noodle Soup
Tuesday - Fish tacos
Wednesday - Honey-Apple Pork Tenderloin

We've still got leftovers from last week's lentil soup and a lot of other options for the rest of the week. I am confident we can get through this challenge!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Frugal Healthcare Management - Part II

Here are more tips on how to do your part to keep healthcare costs down:

3) Review your Explanation of Benefits. Most people don't. Check service dates and service provided. If they don't jive with what happened at your appointment or the dates are wrong, immediately notify your healthcare plan. They can then make necessary adjustments or contact the doctor/provider for additional information. I have caught several mistakes by both provider and insurance plans that would have cost someone money - remember that in the long term, "someone" is YOU.

4) If you do get sick, use services wisely. We've made trips to the emergency room but I think of that option as the absolute last resort. The moment I get a call from daycare that a child is sick, I am on the phone with our pediatrician for a same day appointment. Not only is the emergency room the most expensive form of care, think about the amount of time that it takes to get treatment.

5) Take advantage of Flexible Spending Accounts. Tax benefits and plans differ, but generally your employer deducts a chosen amount from your paycheck and then when you need to, you use those funds to pay for out of pocket health expenses or deductibles. My husbands health care provider offers this option which they tout as another good option for healthy people.

6) Our dental plan provides a certain amount of coverage each year and at the end of the year, our dentist is always sending us reminders to "use up your allotments." He wants us to come in for additional services to "use it up." We don't agree with this attitude and frankly, we get really irritated that he tries to solicit us like this. Now, I know it's his way of trying to generate additional business but this is part of the reasons costs increase: people use services because they are there, not necessarily because they need them.

These are just my opinions on how to cut costs for what is arguably one of the most pressing issues in our society. I'd love to hear your healthcare savings ideas - leave me a comment and let me know your ideas!

Family Fun or Wondertime Magazine Giveaway



This week I am giving away your choice of a two-year subscription to either Family Fun or Wondertime Magazine. Both are considered great family magazines with parenting advice and fun projects and crafts to do with your kids.

To enter, leave me a comment. To receive additional entries, blog about this giveaway, link to this post or subscribe and then leave a comment that you did so. Please make sure you leave an email address in your post so that I can contact you if you win. Winner will be selected on Friday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Photo Contest


5 Minutes for Mom is sponsoring a Fun with Food photo contest that you can read about here.

This is one of my favorite photos of Michael, taken last year by one of our dear neighbors who had invited us over for an impromptu spaghetti feast.
Slurp slurp slurp! Yummm.

Free Sample - Kyolic


Yesterday I posted some frugal healthcare management tips here. I also linked to a post by Crystal at The Thrifty Mama where she offered some of her great natural tips for staying healthy through the winter. One of the tips she suggested was a garlic supplement called Kyolic.

Get a free sample of this supplement by calling 1-800-421-2998 and mentioning the ad from Fred Meyer's free magazine, Naturally Preferred.

Lots of Coupons from Fred Meyer


If you have a Fred Meyer near you, I highly recommend picking up the free Naturally Preferred magazine found in the Natural Foods section of the store. There is usually at least one and sometimes several great natural foods coupons in the magazine.

November's issue has 3 awesome coupons: $1/2 any Amy's Organic product, $1/1 Kashi Oatmeal or Hot Cereal and $1/1 Simply Organic 4 oz. Vanilla Extract. I will be watching to see if any of these go on sale - could be the makings of a great deal!

Monday, November 10, 2008

2 Week Menu Challenge Update

Last week my husband told me that he wasn't feeling well and wanted to go to Costco to get groceries to make chicken noodle soup. I explained what we were doing and told him he could make soup with what we have in the pantry or wait until the Challenge was done. I also sent the link to my 2 Week Menu Challenge post. Apparently, my husband does not listen, nor does he even read his own lovely wife's blog because I came home from work today to a large stockpot of chicken soup!! He went to Costco anyway! UGH - Challenge Foiled!

The soup was really good for dinner tonight though and best of all, I didn't have to cook... I'm still not going to the grocery store this week.

Frugal Healthcare Management - Part I

By day I am a labor and employment law attorney and part of my job is serving as a Trustee on health and welfare trusts that provide medical/dental insurance to all the participants. In that position I get a very real picture of the costs associated with funding a plan and providing the health services.

Two years ago, our health insurance plan (our firm is also covered through the plan) went through a major overhaul. Foremost was a mindset change - focusing more on staying healthy and preventive measures, even though it meant a temporary cost increase.

Based on this experience*, here are my first 2 tips on how to be a wise healthcare consumer:

1) Stay healthy. I know, I know - easier said than done. Statistics show that the unhealthy participants use the plan more and unfortunately less wisely. Overweight participants have more health incidents than participants who are at their ideal weight. Diabetes, heart disease and a number of other conditions result from being overweight. Getting participants to lose weight by offering things like a pedometer to help reach 10,000 steps per day is a great way to get people motivated. I have been wearing mine diligently and am so much more conscious of being more active even during my workday.

To help people stay healthy, we changed coverage for well-baby checkups, yearly physicals and some prescription medications to 100%. Additionally, the plan offered incentives to participants such as cash for filling out lifestyle surveys, the free pedometer mentioned above, and most recently tobacco cessation. The Quit Smoking campaign offers free nicotine patches, gum and $100 to participants who complete a certain number of personalized treatment sessions. If your plan offers these options, take advantage of them. Even if they are not paid at 100%, the costs are usually reduced from what you would pay in the open market.

If your employer is struggling with the rising costs of covering employees, it may be worthwhile to suggest to your HR department or the person in charge of your healthcare procurement that some of these changes be considered. The worst they can say is no and if some changes are made, it may be able to lower your employer's costs, which they can then hopefully pass on to employees!

I am a big fan of natural health care, using supplements and natural remedies as a compliment to traditional health care. Crystal at The Thrifty Mama had a great post here about keeping your family healthy the natural way.

2) If you are usually healthy, you can save money by choosing a lesser plan with a high deductible. This is often ideal for single employees or those without children. I do not recommend cutting back on catastrophic medical coverage but if you rarely need to go to the doctor, some of these plans will cover preventive services which would help you stay healthy.

What do you do to help your family save money on healthcare? Leave me a comment and check back for more money saving tips!

*This is not legal advice - just my opinion

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Free Entertainment + $1.17 for Dog Food


I had to take advantage of this deal since I was on my way to Fred Meyer for a present for a birthday party that we are going to on Sunday. Petco has Hill's Science Diet Dog Food on sale for Petco P.A.L.s members for $5.00. I printed a $5/1 coupon and paid only the tax - $1.17! I wanted to do more than one of these but even when I used another computer, it wouldn't print more than once. See the details of this deal at JANE4girls.

I have not shopped at a "pet store" for quite some time, since we usually buy the huge bags of dog food at Costco (100lb labradors eat A LOT!)so I forgot about this totally free entertainment for your kids. We watched the birds, the fish and then the "Lizard Wizard" came over and pulled out the snakes, lizards and turtles for us to pet. My 4-year old was enthralled! A great place to visit on a rainy day.

2-Week Menu Challenge Update

1 week down, 1 week to go!

Grocery Money Spent: $0

Our dinners this week have been:

Monday - Veggie Pizza
Tuesday - Chicken Parmesan
Wednesday - dinner at my parents' house!
Thursday - Sausage Lentil Soup (see my earlier post if you want the recipe)
Friday - Chicken Parm leftovers with spaghetti and ravioli

Here's next week's menu plan:

Fish Tacos
Roast Beef
Tuna Casserole
Hamburgers
Spaghetti and meatballs

I got my Fred Meyer Rewards coupons and plan to use them for a birthday present today. I know I will be tempted to buy bananas - we'll see how that goes!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cucina! Cucina! Lentil Soup

I was never a big fan of lentils until I tried this soup at a Cucina! Cucina! restaurant. Sadly, the Cucina chain is defunct but since I love replicating my restaurant favorites, I knew I had to figure this one out. This is an awesome cold weather crockpot recipe that I prep ahead and just pour into the crockpot in the morning before I take off for work. I have used either chicken or italian pork sausage, both come out delicious. If I have it, I will also add chopped spinach for extra nutrients. For this soup, chopping finely is key - no one even realizes how many great veggies they are getting in this soup. I have also added a creamy option, which was how the original was served.

1 cup carrots, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
11/2 cups chopped spinach
11/2 cups dried lentils
1 lb sausage, chicken or italian pork
32oz chicken stock
1tsp dijon mustard
Red wine vinegar

Optional: Fresh Basil, parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half

Brown the sausage in a skillet, breaking into small pieces. Toss all vegetables into crockpot, add browned sausage, stock, mustard and 2-3 splashes of vinegar, salt and pepper (all to taste). Cook on low 8-10 hours.

Creamy version: After cooking on low for 8-10 hours, add 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half and turn heat to high for 30 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped fresh basil and parmesan cheese.

Mangi!

Grazie to The Grocery Cart Challenge for hosting a terrific recipe swap every Friday!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gnu Food Bar Giveaway

Check out The Thrifty Mama for a cool giveaway of Gnu Foods Flavor & Fiber Bars. These nutritious bars have 50% of your recommended daily fiber and come in 5 delish flavors. They have no cholesterol, trans fats, refined sugars (except the chocolate one) and none of my personal pet peeve ingredient: high fructose corn syrup.

Thanks for a great giveaway!


Free Shipping Alert!

Today Only - Bath & Body Works is offering free ground shipping on ANY order. Need to get some Christmas shopping in? They have some good sales right now and lots of Halloween stuff that you could stock up on for next year. Additionally, if you spend $30, you will get $10 off a future purchase.

If you want to take advantage of this deal, leave me a comment with your email address and I will forward you the email that you must click through in order to take advantage of this deal.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What have you got for me lately?




These are the free samples that I have received recently. Walmart is to thank for the diaper and baby bath products. GoodNites and Bear Naked granola came directly from those companies. I'm not positive where the Venus razor came from -I've signed up for so much free stuff that I can barely keep track of it all!

You can still get the granola here!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Enjoying my free Starbucks!

I am sitting at my desk, enjoying my free Starbucks right now and debating about whether to go to Ben & Jerry's for free ice cream after I pick the kids up from daycare. Is the line going to be unbearable? We have our "I voted" stickers firmly attached to our shirts!

2-Week Menu Challenge

An update on my 2-week menu challenge - THIS is HARD!! You can see the frugal blogs I follow and it is so difficult to read about the great deals, knowing that I won't be taking advantage of them for 2. whole. weeks??! The Albertson's deal is especially killing me! You can read about it here, here and here.

But, we are doing absolutely fine even though I don't have any bananas. If I were to stock up before doing this challenge again, that's the one thing on my list because of course, that's what my four-year-old asked for yesterday morning! On Sunday, my parents were over to help me with the kids and my dad did some little house projects for us so we fed them the meatloaf on Sunday night. Bonus is that they invited us to dinner for Wednesday night, so I didn't have to find a substitute for the meatloaf night - phew! I'm waiting for my veggie box tomorrow to plan Week 2. Check back for the rest of the plan and how we're faring.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

2 Week Menu Challenge

I started this blog because I was really inspired by all of the cool frugal women that are out there helping each other save money, get free stuff and give back to communities. I have been following some of the women who have challenged themselves to live on and/or spend less on groceries than they thought they could.

So I decided to try my own challenge - the 2-week Menu Challenge. I want to see if I can plan and make two weeks worth of dinners using only what I already have in my pantry/freezer.I keep a well stocked pantry to begin with, something I probably inherited from my grandmother, who was definitely a depression-era frugal momma in her own right! So I want to use what I already have, without buying anything at the grocery store. That's where the challenge will be for me because I have discovered that the reason I often spend too much is that I shop on the way home, decide what's for dinner and then buy it - whether it's on sale, whether I have coupons or not. Not exactly the frugal way - but often the way of the full-time working mom. I want to plan ahead, use what I have and restock when things are on sale or I have coupons.

What are you going to do about produce, you ask? We subscribe to a local CSA program that provides us with a small box of organic fruits and vegetables every other week and this just happens to be that week. So I should be good. I didn't stockpile in advance of this attempt although I did assess that I had enough milk to keep my 4-year old satisfied.

Here's the menu plan for week 1 (not necessarily in order):

Meatloaf
Chicken parmesan
Sausage Lentil Soup
Fish Tacos
Pizza

I made the meatloaf and chopped up the soup ingredients so I should be able to just throw it into the crockpot. I took out the chicken for the parm and the dough for the pizza.

I have to admit that when I started reading the sale ads this morning, I had to just put the Fred Meyer one down and step away - telling myself that I can't care about what's on sale this week because I'm not going shopping!

About Me

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Seattle Area, Washington - the state
I am an attorney, working mom of 3, who loves a bargain, a great deal and freebies. Who doesn't want the best, for less? Come here to see my triumphs and budget tribulations, good deals and my take on what the good life can mean...