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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Back to Basics Grocery Challenge Week 4, Budget Update


I did it!  I did it! 

I came in under budget this month! 

My food budget for the month was $450 and I spent $447.58 this month

My toiletries budget for the month was $125 and I spent $77.82.

Unfortunately for me I found out that we will be losing a little bit of money come March and I may be having to cut my food budget back to $350 per month.  That will be a challenge!  Feeding six people on $350 per month, I'm honestly not sure if I can do it but I will give it a shot.  I get to keep my $450 budget for February but look out come March.  In an effort to help offset the food budget, or in case I can't make the $350 I am going to cut back my toiletry budget to $80.  This will give me about $45 to play with in case I need to add it to my food budget. 

This week's challenge was to:

Your challenge this week:


Tally up the #s!!
How did you do?!
How can you save more in February?
What is your BIGGEST piece of advice from January?

One of the ways I am going to cut back on my expenses in January is to stick to the items that are on sale, and to watch what I spend at Jay C.  Because Jay C's is the only grocery store in the town I live in I spend the most there, because it's where I run to when I just need this or that.  I have to watch what I spend there.  I am also going to work on trying to come up with lower cost snacks.  I bought Nutri Grain Bars, Granola Bars, and cookies this month for snacks, and I think if I can come up with more inexpensive snacks or made from scratch alternatives it would save me more.

As far as advice goes - it would have to be to get creative.  Use your imagination when coming up with your meal plan and try to utilize what you already have at home verses choosing recipes that you don't have any of the ingredients for.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Friday Night Sew-In

 
So I found a new blog today, it's called Handmade by Heidi.  I absolutely love it! 
 
Heidi is hosting a Friday Night Sew-In on Friday February 19th, and I have decided to participate.  I like to sew but sewing is often something that gets pushed to the side for me.  Like right now, I am working on a dress for myself.  I purchased the fabric for it over the summer, and finally cut the pattern out about two weeks ago but I still have yet to make the first stitch in it.  So I am hoping that maybe participating in this will give me the kick in the behind that I need to get some sewing done.
 
All participants in the Friday Night Sew-In will be posting about what they worked on the next day, and on Sunday all participants will be entered in a giveaway.  Doesn't it sound like fun?   

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cooking Thursday - Crab Cakes Using Imitation Crab Meat


If you've read my blog at all you know that I love to cook.  I've been reading Sandra's blog at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for quite a while now and have always enjoyed her Slow Cooking Thursday posts but haven't participated in the past because I don't have that many unique slow cooking recipes.  So I was excited today when I read that she is changing Slow Cooking Thursday to Cooking Thursday where you can post any old type of recipe.  So guess what that means?  I get to participate and this will be very first Cooking Thursday post.

So for my very first Cooking Thursday post I am going to share my crab cakes recipe.  Whenever we have crab cakes I always link to The Best Crab Cakes recipe on Terri's Kitchen and while that is the general recipe that I do use I do make some changes.  The main difference is that I use imitation crab meat instead of the real deal.   

The first thing you need to do is to find a really adorable assistant like this one.  The only bad thing about this one is that you have to watch him so that he doesn't eat up all your crab meat. 


If you can't find a super adorable and loveable assistant that's okay, you can still make the crab cakes but it won't be nearly as much fun.

Here is what you will need though:

1 - 1.5 pound package of imitation crab meat
Note - different brands taste very different, some is sweet much sweeter than others.  I get mine at Wal-Mart - it's super cheap.  I have gotten a brand at Meijers before that was simply awful.  You really have to find a brand that tastes right to you.

2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
4 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley flakes
1 teaspoon ground mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Canola or Peanut Oil for frying



1.  Mince the entire package of crab meat using a food processor.



2.  Mix in breadcrumbs and the rest of the ingredients.


3.  Form your crab cakes.  If they are too moist you can add in more bread crumbs to help them hold together.  Yours will probably look much neater as you more than likely won't be having a six year old patty them out.

 4.  Generously cover the bottom of a skillet with oil and heat.

5.  Once the oil is hot cook the crab cakes until golden brown on each side.


6.  Allow grease to drain before serving.



We ate ours with Cheesy Hot Potatoes and corn.  You can see one of the downfalls of living with four kids in the picture above - someone ate up all of my cheese and I didn't have much to go on top of our potatoes, we made do though. 

Be sure to visit Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for more Cooking Thursday recipes!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday - Using Coupons and Clearing Up Coupon Confusion



I grew up with a mom who used coupons, but she never explained it to me nor do I think she ever used coupons in the same manner as I do.  We really didn't talk about money or saving money when I was growing up, something I have come to deeply regret and wish my parents would have done with me.  It is also the reason that I do talk seriously with my kids about money, being good stewards, and using money wisely but that's not really the point I was trying to make.  The point I was trying to make is that I grew up around coupons, so for me they did not hold the stigma of something that was lower class or that was only for junk items so it was suprising to me as an adult when I ran across these stigmas.  So before I explain how I use coupons I want to address a few questions/concerns that I have found many people who do not use coupons have.

1.  The coupons I see are never for items I use or are usually for processed foods that I don't buy.

While there are coupons for convenience foods there are also coupons for toilet paper, soap, shampoo, deodorant, baking products (flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, etc.), juice, and frozen vegetables.  It is true that sometimes you have to be flexible on brands and can't always be brand loyal when using coupons.

2.  What does it mean to double or triple coupons?

When a store doubles or triples a coupon it means that they will multiply the face value of the coupon.  Which means a $0.35 coupon is worth $0.70 or a $0.50 coupon is worth $1.  However, most stores that double coupons will only do this for coupons up to $0.50 in value.  If a store doubles coupons it is typically listed in their flyer in the fine print but you can always check with your local stores to see what their coupon policy is.  In my area both Kroger and Meijer double coupons everyday but some stores only double coupons on certain days.  We do not have any stores that double coupons. 

3.  My paper doesn't have coupons.  Can I get these elsewhere?

Many people have excellent luck with coupons printed off the internet.  I personally do not as I have found several stores in my area do not accept internet coupons.  You can also purchase coupons from the inserts online.  Ebay, Lori Has 3 Kids, and The Coupon Clippers, are just a few of the places where you can buy coupons.

Okay, now to how I use coupons. 

Sundays are very lazy days around our house.  We get up early in the morning, go out to eat for lunch, then we all come home and get back into our pajamas for lounging around the house (this is the only day we do this.)  So I take advantage of the day by spending it planning my shopping trips and menu plan.

Typically grocery stores will run through their sales cycles every twelve weeks with prices items reaching their all time low at least once during the cycle.  The trick is to match that low price with coupons to get items for a rock bottom price and to purchase enough of that item to hold you over until the next sales cycle. 

For example Crest Toothpaste will go on sale for $1.  You can typically find coupons for Crest anywhere from $0.35 to $0.50.  Meaning you can purchase Crest for $0.50 to $0.65 a tube.  If your store doubles coupons you can get it for free or around $0.35 a tube. 

To maximize savings you really need to buy items when they are at their lowest price whether you need it at that point or not.  You may not need toothpaste this week but more than likely in two weeks when it is not on sale you will need it.  The trick to saving the most with couponing is to stock up when items are on sale so that you never have to pay full price for something when you do need it.

On Sundays I sit down with the grocery store ads, some paper, and a pen.  I go through each ad and list on the paper the items that are on sale that I think are low prices.  I usually skip a line or two between each item so that I can come back and enter in the coupons that I have. 

Then I go through my coupons to see what I have that matches up to each stores ads.  As I find a coupon that matches up I will write it down on the paper and put the coupon in an envelope for that paticular store (each store has it's own envelope).  If something is on sale but I don't have a coupon for it or don't necessarily need it I will just mark it off my list.

I do not have an additional grocery list for the most part.  I plan my meals around the items that I already have in my pantry or the sale items that I plan to purchase that week.  By stocking up when items are on sale I always have a well stocked pantry.  It does take a while to build up a stockpile but once you have that stockpile you are able to dramatically cut your grocery bill down.

If you are completely confused by my methods or still have no idea what I am talking about I suggest checking out The Grocery Game.  When I first started couponing this was a lifesaver for me, and taught me the basics of what I needed to know to use coupons wisely.  A great thing about The Grocery Game is that she offers a free four week trial for you to try out the website.  If you do the free trial be sure to sign up for all of the stores in your area during the trial.  

I really hope that my ramblings have helped you more than they have confused you!  If I have not been clear about something or you have a question about something just let me know!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday - Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake



Join us for Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays at Blessed With Grace.

I have been making an effort to get my kids more involved with cooking.  Instead of having them all in the kitchen with me at once, I have them take turns helping me cook.  Last night it was Sunshine's turn to help me.  I know this may sound bad but I really enjoy the nights when she helps me.  She is very into the details and loves to make everything look "nice".  The others really could care less when it comes to presentation. 







Yes, that is Taco Bell Sauce, and no we did not steal it.  We always save our leftover sauces for when we cook tacos at home, which honestly isn't very often. 

But that's not why you are here.  Your here for the Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake.



I had some cream cheese that I had gotten on sale that I really needed to use it up.  I had found this recipe on All Recipes before Christmas and the reviews of it were great.  I had meant to make it for Christmas but just never got around to it so I thought it would be a good time to try it out. 

I didn't make my own crust as the recipe suggests.  I used a pre-made Chocolate Graham Cracker Pie Crust that I had in my cabinet instead.  The pie was good but the peppermint extract was VERY, VERY strong.  If I were to make it again I would definetly cut the peppermint extract in half but other than that it was delicious.   

Monday, January 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday, January 25th - 31st



Join us for Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.


I can tell you already, it's going to be one of those weeks, between meetings at school, doctors appointments, and church activities we are going to be busy, busy, busy.  What that means is we are going to be eating out WAY more than I want to this week but it's one of those things that I just can't avoid. 

Here's what I have planned for this week:

Normally I do have more links to recipes than I have this week but since I will be experimenting a little bit with the meals I am cooking I don't really have any recipes to link them too.  However, if my experiments are successful you will find my recipes posted here on my blog later this week.

Monday - Tacos


Wednesday - We are starting a new class at church, with time constraints from picking the kids up from school and getting to our class on time we will not be able to eat at home.  So this is going to be one of those nights this week when we eat out.

Thursday - Homemade Pizza Pockets (look for the recipe later)

Friday - My husband is having a sleep study done tonight, again time constraints won't allow us to eat at home so we will be eating out.

Saturday - Crockpot Porks chops with Mushrooms and Swiss Cheese (look for the recipe later), mashed potatoes

Friday, January 22, 2010

Back to Basics Grocery Challenge, Week 3 Budget Updates



Because I had done quite a bit of grocery shopping to stock up at the beginning of the month I didn't really need to buy a lot this week.  I guess it was a good thing though, as there didn't seem to be any major sales going on at the grocery stores this week.  So my shopping was relatively light this week.

Meijer
Cascade Liquid sale $2.49 (bought 2)
used 2 $0.50 coupons doubled, making them $1.49 each

4 pack Valentines Day Conversation Hearts $1.09

Used a $3 off next purchase coupon I earned in a promotion last week. 

Total Spent $1.49

CVS Pharmacy (Trip One)
Mentos Gum $1
used $0.45 coupon, making it $0.55

Dawn Dish Liquid $0.96
used $0.25 coupon, making it $0.71

Used $0.50 in Extra Care Bucks

Total Spent $0.76

CVS Pharmacy (Trip Two)
Had to make a second stop for my daughter.

Cucumber Facial Mask $3.99

Used $3 in Extra Care Bucks

Total Spent $1.06

Jay C (Trip One)
No major deals
Spent $16.67

Jay C (Trip Two)
No major deals
Spent $18.87

Updated Totals

Food Budget for the Month:  $450
Total Spent so Far:   $427.48

Toiletries Budget for the Month:  $125
Total Spent so  Far:  $77.82

My food budget is making me nervous.  I have less than $25 for next week.  I have plenty of food for meals around the house but I still need to buy some produce, milk, and Special K cereal for me. 

Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies



When my kids get home from school they are starving.  In fact the first thing my six year old says to me when he I pick him up is "What's for snack?".  No hello, no I missed you, forget mom.  It's all about the snack.  I work from home during the day while they are in school, plus I try to get all of the housework done while they are gone to.  I am always looking for super easy snacks like jello, peanut butter and crackers, or granola bars for their after school snack because I don't have a lot of time to fix them something special.  That's one of the reasons that I love these Peanut Butter Cookies they can be made in a jiffy and only take four ingredients which are always in my cabinets.


Ingredients:
1 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Grease a large cookie sheet.




3.  Using a hand mixer beat all ingredients together until they are creamy.



4.  Roll the dough into one-inch balls.  (My least favorite part.)

Please ignore the state of my cookie sheets.  They are well used, and desperately need
replacing.  It's on my Valentines Day wish list.  Romantic, huh?



5.  Using a fork press down cookies in a criss-cross shape.



6.  Sprinkle cookies with a little bit of white sugar. 

As you can see neatness doesn't really matter.



6.  Bake cookies for twelve minutes. 

Be sure to watch them though or you will end up with a few well done ones like me.

7.  Allow cookies to cool on pan for a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about two to three dozen cookies depending on size.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Note to Self

Check the kids school menu before planning meals for the week.  If you don't the kids will end up eating Spaghetti and Meatballs for both lunch and supper which equals VERY UNHAPPY KIDS.

Help For Haiti

I have been praying for the words to write here for quite some time concerning Haiti.  Long before the earthquake hit Haiti last week Haiti was on the mind of our family, as it has been a passion of our church for quite some time now.  Just this past December we held a "One Less Gift" drive where the church asked everyone to donate money instead of giving a meaningless gift to someone, or to ask that instead of receiving a gift that money that would be spent on it would be donated.  All money donated to the "One Less Gift" drive was to go to buy a portable drill that could be used in Haiti to drill for clean drinking water, a need that our church had seen during the many trips that have been made over the past few years to the country.

God knew then how very much more important clean drinking water would be to Haiti.  On Sunday it was announced that the drill would be taken first to Port au Prince for use there before being moved on to the orphanage that we support in Northwest Haiti. 

And now, just a few minutes ago, I heard a new earthquake has hit Haiti. 

Our church works closely with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission they have been giving updates on the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti, as well as sharing stories of survivors on their website.  If you feel led you can also donate to them there.  You can visit the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission website by clicking here

You can also text the message "Support NWHCM" to the number 20222 to donate $5 to them.  Which you can learn more about here

And most of all please continue to keep this country in your prayers.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Cheryl -

It doesn't have to be chicken you can pick whatever you want out of your new Todd Wilbur Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 cookbook which you can read while soaking in a bath tub full of chocolate scented bubble bath!

Now re-read that paragraph using your best The Price is Right voice.

No seriously I placed everyones name on a list in the order that they entered the contest, and random number generator picked number 6 which was Cheryl.  I have sent you an email but if you don't get it be sure to send me one! 

Works For Me Wednesday - Coupon Binder

Join in all of the Works-For-Me-Wednesday fun at We Are That Family. 

As promised I am finally sharing how I organize my coupons in my coupon binder.  Now my coupon binder isn't anything fancy shmancy, and there are lots of others out there with coupon binders organized completely different than mine but mine works for me, and that's really the point isn't it?  That it works for me?  This is just meant to give you a starting point to fixing your own coupon binder. 

My current binder is a simple, three ring binder.  I've already started to outgrow it, and am planning on purchasing a larger, Trapper Keeper style binder but I've had this one for a while now and I kind of like it. 

Inside my binder I have Baseball card sheets.  The coupons fit in their nicely (although some do need to be folded) and look so organized.  Don't you think so? 



I have my coupons in my binder in alphabetical order.  I seperate them by name brand Bounty, Colgate, Dawn, Secret.  Bounty goes on the "B" page, Colgate on the "C" page, you get the point.  It makes it easier for me when I am looking for a specific brand.  I also have a special page in the back where I put store specific coupons or restaurant coupons, like CVS, Meijer, Red Lobster, Arbys, etc.

When I am not using my coupon binder I keep it in this cute tote.


I also keep a pair of scissors and any coupons that need to be cut out or filed in it.  I take the tote with me so that whenever I find myself sitting and waiting I can work on my coupons.  I get the majority of my coupons cut and filed while I am waiting in the car rider line at my kids school. 

As I cut and file new coupons I look for expired coupons, which I pull but do not throw away.  I donate these, as many military families can still use coupons up to six months after their expiration date on overseas military bases.  You can learn more about donating your expired coupons to military families by visiting Overseas Coupon Program.     

I also cut all coupons, dog food, cat food, baby food, even if I don't use it.  Here's why, with several stores
offering double coupons you can get several products for free or very, very cheap (less than 25 cents) when they are on sale.  I get everything that falls into this category, then the things that I don't use I donate.  Pet items can be donated to animal shelters, baby items can be donated to a women's shelter or food pantry, and canned goods or other non-perishables that you will not use can also be donated to food pantrys.  With our current financial situation I can still do a good deed without it costing me a fortune.  This was very helpful when our kids school had a drive to gain items for the local food pantry and shelter, the class that brought in the most items in each grade got to deliver the items and eat lunch at McDonalds.  They could bring in food or toiletries, just no razors or anything sharp. 

You can find more coupon binder inspiration by checking out these coupon binders:




Now next week I will explain how I use my coupon binder in conjunction with sales ads to get some really great deals on groceries. 






Weight Loss Wednesday, January 20th, Week 3



Join us for Weight Loss Wednesday at Rosey Little Things.

It's week three of my diet. Time has flown by, and so far I haven't had any weight loss.  To keep myself from getting upset about my progress, or lack thereof, I have decided to only weigh myself on Wednesdays.  I have to be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to weighing myself today but when I saw what I weighed I was so glad I did.  I have been going around the house singing to myself ever since because

I've lost seven pounds!  I've lost seven pounds!

I am so excited! 

However, I had a really bad yesterday.  I have been craving a big juicy hamburger for a while now but I have been fighting the crave.  Yesterday I had a horrible headache, had to run some errands, and just couldn't help myself.  Then on top of that, thinking my headache was a lack of caffeine I drank a Mountain Dew!  AAARRRGGGHHH!

But that was yesterday, today is a new day, and I am not going to let one day get me down.  I'm back on the bandwagon today.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had a hard time drinking water because we were having issues with our water.  So I bought a Brita Water Pitcher yesterday, hoping that would help with the water tasting issues.  I don't really have any major weight loss goals to put into place this week.  I just want to continue to work on my water intake, and hopefully move from a low impact workout to a more productive workout. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday, January 18th - 24th



Last week was a bad week all the way around.  I don't know exactly what it was, whether I just simply didn't feel good or if my sudden diet change caused my lack of energy.  Either way, my menu plan last week just simply didn't happen.  So if you see some repeats from last week on this week's menu it is because we didn't get to enjoy them last week.

Monday - Breaded Pork Cutlets, Macaroni and Cheese, Corn

Tuesday - Spaghetti with Meatballs using my Spaghetti Sauce reipe, Bread Machine French Bread 

Wednesday - Olive Garden Zuppa Tuscana, The Ultimate Breadsticks (halve recipe and fix in bread machine)

Thursday - Breakfast for Dinner Night - Pancakes, Sausage, Eggs, Biscuits

Friday - Super Easy Chicken and Dumplings (Recipe will post on my blog later)

Saturday - Jennie O Turkey Breast Loaf with Gravy, Stuffing, My Grandmother's Green Beans

Sunday - Eat out after church.  Leftovers for supper.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Back to Basics Grocery Challenge, Budget Update

I just wanted to update my grocery budget totals for the week.
Here's what my budget looked like before I went shopping
Food Budget for the Month: $450
Total Spent: $229.47
Toiletry Budget for the Month: $125
Total Spent: $45.52
This week I went shopping at Wal-Mart, Meijer, and Kroger. Here are my
"best deals" from each store.
I consider "best deals" to be the items I purchase for under $1 each.
Wal-Mart
  • Beechnut Let's Grow Meals $1.08
Used a $1 off coupon making it $0.08
  • Band-Aids Box of 40 $1.77
Used a $1 off coupon making it $0.77
Total Spent at Wal-Mart $0.97
I did not make a special trip to Wal-Mart for just these
two items. I had went to pick up other items that were
suppose to be on sale as well but were sold out.
Kroger
My best hot deal of the week in my opinion was the Glade Candle Tins, I love these and burn them frequently. Before Christmas I stocked up on $1.50 coupons that were found in the Holiday tins, and had a total of 20 of them. I found the holiday tins on closeout at Kroger for $1.74 making them just $0.24 each with the coupons. I bought 19 of them at that price, which was all they had in the scents that I like.
  • Suave Deodorant sale $1
used $0.50 coupon which they doubled making it free
  • Banquet Brown N Serve Sausage $1 (bought 10 of these)
used $0.35 coupon doubled, making them $0.30
  • Hunts Pudding 4 packs, $1 (bought 2)
used $0.30 coupon doubled, making them $0.40
  • Birdseye Steamfresh Vegetables $1 (bought 2)
used $0.35 coupon, doubled making them $0.30
  • Pillsbury Brownie Mix, $1 (bought 3)
used $0.40 coupon, doubled making them $0.20
  • Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate, $1 (bought 2)
used save $1 on 2 coupon, making them $0.50 each
Kroger totals
Groceries: $38.77
Toiletries: $17.80
Meijer
  • Chef Boyardee Ravioli in Microwave Cup, $1.04 (bought 2)
used $0.50 coupon doubled, making them $0.04 each
  • Hunts Ketchup $1 (bought 3)
used $0.35 coupon doubled, making them $0.30 each
  • Ronzoni Smart Ones Pasta, $1
used $0.75 coupon, making it $0.25
  • Betty Crocker Frosting $1
used $0.50 coupon doubled, making it free
  • Ivory Soap 3 pack, $1.23
used $1 coupon, making it $0.23
  • Soft Soap Liquid Hand Soap, $0.99
used $0.35 coupon doubled, making it $0.29
Meijer Totals
Grocery $123.70
Toiletries $10.22
So now here are my current budget totals
Monthly Food Budget $450
Total Spent $391.94
Total Left for the month $58.06
Toiletries Budget $125
Total Spent $74.51
Total Left for the Month $50.49
The bad news is I don't have much left in my food budget but the good news is I don't have to buy anything but milk, eggs, and fresh produce for the rest of the month. I will not do a big shopping trip to the store for the rest of the month but will scan the ad's to be sure that I don't miss out on any hot deals.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Works for Me Wednesday Today

Well, I had planned on doing a Works For Me Wednesday post on my coupon binder today but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men....

My laptop crashed last night, and I was on the phone for hours last night with Sony trying to get it taken care of so I did not get the post done. We had doctors appointments today, and after school activities, so time just got away from me soooo.....

I am going to wait until next Wednesday to post about my coupon binder. I hope you all will join me then!

Weight Loss Wednesday, January 13th


This week has been a really good week, and I am proud of myself. I have done an excellent job of watching what I eat, and making good food choices. I have even gotten some workouts in on the Wii.

I haven't had any weightloss yet, but I didn't really expect it.

Here's my plan for this week:
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every other day.
  • Up my water intake. I really need to work on drinking more water.
  • Start walking outside when the weather permits.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday - Chili Con Queso

Don't forget to sign up for my 100th post giveaway here.
Before I get too far into this post I have a confession to make. This is pretty much a reprint of a post I made in early November for Crockpot Wednesday. When I first posted my recipe for Chili Con Queso I did not add any pictures so when I made it over the weekend I took pictures for the recipe. So I figured Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays would be the perfect time to repost the recipe with pictures. Visit Blessed With Grace to join the Tempt My Tummy Tuesday fun.


Ingredients

Block of Velveeta Cheese
Jar of Salsa
1 pound of ground beef, browned


1. Cut the block of Velveeta up into cubes, and place them in the
bottom of the crockpot.



2. Add in the jar of salsa and the ground beef.



3. Stir to mix the ingredients together.
4. Cook on low for two to four hours. Stirring if
needed to keep the cheese from burning.


5. Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Super, Super Sweet Crocs Deal

I love a great deal, and this is one of those that you just can't pass up. I just placed an order at Crocs.com for these two sandals.

The Men's Refugio and

the women's Laguna.

So how much do you think I paid for these Crocs sandals? Huh? Are you ready?
Hold on to your seat - I paid $8.99, which included the shipping. That's right two pair of Crocs sandals and shipping for just $8.99.
Here's how it happened.
  • Right now Crocs has a sale going on in their Outlet section, where you buy one marked down pair of shoes you get another pair of equal or lesser value for free.
  • Plus they are offering Free Shipping on all orders.
  • Then on top of that I used the coupon code CROCSHOLIDAY, which took an additional 10% off of my total.
And don't forget I will be getting an additional 7% back because I used Shop at Home to make my purchase. How awesome is that! If you haven't signed up for Shop at Home yet you really should. The money I have earned back using them has really added up, especially since I did quite a bit of my holiday shopping online. New Shop at Home customers will receive a $5 credit in their account just for signing up. Which you can do here.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Menu Plan Monday, January 11 - 17

Don't forget to sign up for your chance to win Todd Wilbur's cookbook Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 and a chocolate scented bath set here.





Join us at I'm an Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.


Links to recipes are in green.




Last week was a crazy week for us. We got hit by a snowstorm on Thursday, which cancelled school both Thursday and Friday. Which means our cabinet and freezer took a major hit. My kids eat, eat, and eat. I have no idea where they put that much food. I also didn't feel very good, so Friday night I let the kids choose what they wanted to eat from our convenience foods (frozen entrees, soups, pasta). Which means we didn't eat our Shrimp Stir-Fry Friday night, so it will be popping back up on our menu plan this week.




Here's what I have planned for this week:




Monday - My husband will be out of town so I am going to fix Shrimp (remember these?) and french fries for the kids while I eat a Salad



Tuesday - The Best Crab Cakes



Wednesday - Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup, Bread Machine French Bread



Thursday - Easy Baked Ziti, Italian Herb Rolls



Friday - Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry



Saturday - Salisbury Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Corn, Sweet Dinner Rolls



Sunday - Eat out after church, leftovers for supper

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Free Peg Perego Baby Planner

Don't forget to sign up for my 100th Post Giveaway. Click here to find out how you can win Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 and a chocolate scented bath set.

I was on the Peg Perego website tonight checking out some of their new products when I discovered that they are offering expectant moms a free baby planner called Planning for Baby. You can sign up to get your copy here.

Back to Basics Grocery Challenge: Taking Inventory

Don't forget to sign up for my 100th post giveaway for your chance to win Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Recipes 2 cookbook and a chocolate scented bath set. Find out how you can be the winner here.


I already try to watch what I spend on groceries but am always looking for more ways to cut grocery costs. I have decided to join Erin at The Many Days of the Dicarolis Family for her Back to Basics Challenge.

The first challenge, which I missed last week was to set your budget, for Erin's challenge it was to include both your grocery and toiletry items. I already have these budgeted my grocery budget is $450 per month and my toiletry budget is $125 per month for a family of six.

So far this month I have spent $229.47 of my monthly grocery budget and $45.52 of my toiletry budget.

This weeks challenge is:
To take inventory of your food storage!
Fridge, Freezer, Pantry, etc.
Once you have cleaned house and know what you have try to create
at least 5 "no cost" meals.
These can be meals to turn to when you are over budget/missing
ingredients for another meal, etc.
This challenge was easy for me. I have plenty of food available that I can throw together to create an easy meal. Here's what I have come up with for our "no cost" meals.
  • Pasta - I have several boxes of pasta noodles plus I have canned spaghetti sauce and a freezer full of cut up tomatoes from the garden
  • Ham - I have a whole ham in the freezer
  • Turkey - I have a 20 pound turkey in the freezer
  • Jennie O Turkey Breast Loaves - I have four of these which would mean 2 meals for us
  • Sloppy Joes - I have already cooked hamburger and several cans of Manwich
  • Shrimp and French Fries - I already have both in my freezer
  • Canned Soup - we buy these when they are on sale and have a stockpile
  • Convenience Meals - we have several frozen food entrees in our freezer, again we buy on sale and have a stockpile
  • I have plenty of corn and green beans canned from the garden, and keep plenty of potatoes in the house so I always have plenty of sides
  • Bean Soup - We have several bags of different types of dried beans that can be turned into soup
  • I buy flour, sugar, and yeast in bulk so I can always make bread items from scratch

I am sure if I thought a little harder I could come up with more, but it is nice to know that we have plenty to choose from if we had to use up our stockpile.

Flirty Apron Swap Registration Ends January 11th!

Don't forget to sing up for my 100th post Giveaway! One of my readers will win a free copy of Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Recipes 2 Cookbook and a Chocolate Scented Bath Set. Go here to find out how to win!



I have a confession to make - I don't drink. I use to, a long, long time ago but I haven't had anything to drink in at least six years. However, I am still going to be participating in the newes Martini Madness themed Flirty Apron Swap. If you want to join us you need to get signed up ASAP because January 11th is the deadline to sign up. You can visit the Flirty Apron Swap blog here to sign up.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What a Deal!

The snow didn't keep me from going grocery shopping today. I had to go, it was the day I had planned to go for a while, and I needed to go. Especially if we were going to be snowed in all weekend. So I got up early and went shopping before the snow got bad. The good thing about going shopping during a snow storm? The stores were actually pretty much deserted!

When I quit my job to stay home with my kids we took a pay cut, and I had to start learning to cut back expenses. I started using coupons but never really got into it. Well, when my husband had his wreck, and we went to a fixed income I had to really cut back on expenses. That is when we created a budget and I REALLY started couponing.

Since we get paid once a month, I try to do one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month, and do a few smaller ones throughout the week. My grocery budget is $450 a month for the six of us. That does not include toiletries, cleaning supplies, or anything like that. It's strictly food, so when I go to the store I do seperate my general merchandise order from my food order so that I can keep my budget straight.

I thought I would share with you some of my best deals today.

Wal-Mart

Sea-Pak Shrimp Poppers $1.58
Used $1 off any Sea-Pak product coupons (the coupon is a peelie that my husband actually spotted)
Bought 12 boxes at $0.58 per box

Snuggle Fabric Softener $1.87
Used $2 off any Snuggle product coupon
Got 3 for free plus an additional $0.39 off the rest of my order

Meijer

Sure Deodorant $1.89 each
Used $1.50 off any one Men's Sure Deodorant
Got 3 for $0.39 each

Ivory 3 Pack of Soap $1.23
Used $1 off coupon
Got 1 for $0.23

Lipton Smart Soups Chicken Noodle with White Meat Chicken Chunks $1.07
Used $0.50 coupon, which Meijer doubled
Got 1 for $0.07



So here is what my totals looked like for today
Meijer - Grocery Order
Number of Items - 126
Total Before Coupons - $199.75
Coupons - $31.29
Total Paid $168.47
Meijer - General Merchandise Order
Number of Items - 32
Total Before Coupons - $63.21
Coupons - $23.75
Total Paid $39.46
Wal-Mart
Number of Items -51
Total Before Coupons - $91.16
Coupons - $24.10
Total Paid - $67.06
Total Amount of Coupons Used - $79.14
One of my blog related goals for 2010 is to start participating in Works For Me Wednesday which is hosted by We Are That Family. My first few posts will be based around using coupons and saving money. Next Wednesay I plan to show how I organize my coupons, and the following week I will show how I actually plan my grocery trips.
So, does anyone else use coupons?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Weight Loss Wednesday

One of my goals for this new year has been to lose the extra weight that I have put on. My plan is to do this slowly, I didn't put the weight on overnight, and I can't expect to take it off overnight. As part of my plan I have decided to join Rosey Little Things Weight Loss Wednesday blog carnival.

Earlier this week I was watching (okay listening) to the tv show The Doctors, it's not a show I usually watch but it just happened to be on while I was in the kitchen cooking supper. One of the women on the show said that she didn't recognize herself anymore when she looked in the mirror, and that she wondered where this person came from. That is exactly how I feel. I have never been heavy. I have always been skinny, extremely skinny. I barely weighed one hundred pounds when I got pregnant with my first child. Now I don't even want to mention how much I weigh. Needless to reach the weight that I want to reach I need to lose seventy-five pounds.

I can't say I am not sure how I got to the weight I am. I know how I got here. I have two bad habits, I am an emotional eater and I eat because I am bored. My weight gain started when my uncle died five years ago. My grandparents both got sick, and I had to move back from Florida. My grandfather died four months after my uncle, and it was quite a blow. I just couldn't handle it. This was in 2005. We had several minor obstacles along the way, that made me eat again. Then in May of 2007 my husband had his accident. The accident that caused him to no longer be able to work, and has resulted in several medical conditions. I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me and this is when I really started to eat. Chocolate is my best friend in times of stress. I know this. I just need to fix it.

One of my biggest obstacles in weight loss is my husband. I love him, but he is a bad influence on me. I say I am not going to get soft drinks, I quit buying them, and then he buys them. Puts them right there in front of me. He snacks all the time, and doesn't want to eat by himself. He is constantly asking me if I want candy, if I want chips, if I want a cookie. It's constant temptation. He can eat, eat, and eat but not gain a pound! It's frustrating. We've had a talk about this, and he promises to stop tempting me but we will see.

My plan for this week is quite simple. Nothing major. I am going to start replacing our down home country style suppers with more sensible meals. Baked chicken, fish, low fat recipes, you get the idea. Instead of eating the potatoes or starches that my family is eating I will eat a salad. I am hoping this will be an easy life change that I can ease into. Like I said, I didn't get this way overnight, and I know that if I start making major changes I will fail.

The second thing I am going to tackle this week is drinking more water. One of my biggest obstacles in this area is our water. Our city is dealing with taste issues on the water, so I have to buy bottled water, adn I am funny about certain brands of bottled water.

And the last thing I am going to do this week is to replace my snacks with sensible alternatives.

I really hope to start walking soon. It's just too cold right now. Seriously, it's too cold. It was six degrees outside this morning. I have no idea what the wind chill was but it was cold. It's started snowing now, and we are suppose to get a major snow storm tommorow. So for now the walking will have to wait.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Apron Giveaway at Never Enough

You know me and my aprons, I love them. So of course I had to register for a chance to win the super cute Disney themed apron being given away at Never Enough. Go check it out for yourself.

Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays - Hot Wings


Join the Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays fun at Blessed with Grace.
And be sure to check out my 100th Post Giveaway here!
Our hot wings are not exactly what you would call hot wings, they are chicken, and they are hot but they are made from boneless, skinless chicken breast instead of wings. We made these last Saturday to eat while we watched the UofL/UofK basketball game. So I apologize if the pictures are not the best, we were running out of time before the game started.
What you will need:
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1" cubes
Milk
flour
red cayenne pepper
black pepper
Salt
your choice of hot wings sauce (we buy our sauce directly from Buffalo Wild Wings)
Oil for cooking
1. Preheat oil for cooking. We use peanut oil in a deep fryer.
2. In a small bowl mix 1 cup flour with 1 teaspoon each of black pepper and salt, and 1/2 teapsoon of red cayenne pepper.
3. In another small bowl add 1 cup of milk.
4. Dip chicken breasts in milk.

5. Allow excess milk to drop off of chicken pieces.
6. Roll chicken pieces in flour mixture.

7. Drop chicken breast pieces into the deep fryer one by one. Do not drop in a bunch at a time or they will stick together.
8. Cook until golden brown and then remove from deep fryer.
9. Allow chicken to drain on a paper towel.
10. Roll cooked chicken in your choice of hot wing sauce. We use a variety of sauces that were purchased at Buffalo Wild Wings



11. Serve with Blue Cheese or Ranch Dressing if desired.