Monday, September 14, 2009

Menu - Sept 14th


Monday
Ham and Pineapple Kabobs
Seasoned Rice

Tuesday
We have a potluck so I'm toting along these two dishes:
7-Layer Taco Dip and Tortilla Chips
Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Wednesday
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Garlic Bread

Thursday
General Tsao's Chicken (Thank you Iron Chef sauce.)
Rice
Steamed Broccoli

Friday
Meatloaf
Baked Potatoes
Corn

Saturday
Homemade Pizza

Sunday
Easy Slowcooker French Dip Sandwiches
Chips

For even more delicious menus, head on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Friday, September 4, 2009

FREE Chocolate Friday

What better way to celebrate Friday than nabbing yourself some free chocolate? Go here to get a Mars coupon for free chocolate. But hurry, it's only the first 250,000 each Friday!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Free Magazines

Thanks to Money Saving Mom, I ran across some more great freebie magazines. Now I'm all set to drool over fabulous garden designs while the cold descends upon us here in the Midwest! Enjoy.

Monday, August 31, 2009

September Eating at Home Challenge

Lately, we've found ourselves wandering into restaurants and passing through drive-thru lanes much too frequently. All the usual excuses - we're too busy, it's easier, we're going to be out all day, etc. - are ever ready. But the truth, I suspect, has more to do with habit than anything else. In an effort to break that habit, we've decided on a challenge: No eating out during the month of September. No exceptions. No drive-thru coffee or oops I forgot my lunch and have to eat something stops. In the first case, we'll have to suffer through a caffeine-free morning if we don't make it ourselves. In the latter, a quick stop at the grocery store to nab an apple and cheese will be just as quick.

Hopefully, this coming month will not only break us of this bad habit, but also pad our savings account a bit and lighten our waistlines. Anyone want to join us in our new September = Eat at Home Month challenge?

Menu - Aug 31

Monday -
Fierro Chicken (using fresh green chilies)
Seasoned Rice
Green Beans

Tuesday -
Meatball Subs (Using meatballs & sauce from this recipe, I layer provolone cheese over three hot meatballs per brat bun. Spoon a bit of sauce over each. Then toast under broiler until browned and bun is toasted.)
Chips


Wednesday -

Grilled Pork Chops
Home Fries (I throw in diced onion and bell pepper.)
Corn

Thursday -
Taco Salad

Friday -
Steak
Baked Potatoes w/chives
Broccoli

Saturday -
Homemade Pizzas

Sunday -
Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs (This is a new recipe I'm trying out this week.)
Grilled Veggie Kabobs (seasoned zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and cherry tomatoes)


For even more great menu ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hy-Vee Coupon Matchups

As I was browsing Hy-Vee's website for their weekly ad, I stumbled on a new (at least I've never noticed it before) feature: a coupon matchup. Check it out here if you're interested. Very cool!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Menu - Aug 17th


Monday
Teriyaki Pork Kebabs
White Rice

Tuesday
Grilled Chicken
Fettuccini Alfredo

Wednesday
Shredded Beef Tacos
Mexican Rice

Thursday
Breakfast for Dinner
Waffles
Sausage
Scrambled Eggs

Friday
Bacon Cheeseburgers *
Potato Salad
Honey-Glazed Baby Carrots

Saturday
Tomato Basil Soup
Grilled Turkey/Provolone Sandwiches with Tomato Slices

Sunday
Marinated Steak
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Country Green Beans

* Just a quick note about my new love: bacon cheeseburgers. There's a little joint here in town that makes divine bacon cheeseburgers. Unfortunately, no one else ever wants to eat there because it's 1) a loud sports bar and 2) packed with college kids. So I set out on a mission to recreate that little slice of heaven. The key is Hy-Vee's double-smoked bacon (for perfect bacon, bake in the oven for 20 minutes instead of frying), sauteed onions, and bbq sauce. Keep the ketchup, mustard, and pickles for those ordinary burgers! Yummmm.

For even more delicious menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Free Back-to-School Calenadar with Coupons


Go here to get a free Nestle Back-to-School Calendar with coupons.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer Reading Program Wrap-up

The summer is wrapping up, and school is underway. Hard to believe, isn't it?

In a rare, quiet moment among all the back-to-school hustle, I managed to corral all of the kids' reading loot from their summer reading programs. Although I outlined several programs here, we opted to only participate in two: the public library's program and Half-Price books. But as you'll see from the pictures, both kids made out pretty well! Here's what they got.

My 5-Year-Old's Haul:


from Half-Price Books
17 Books
from the Public Library
1 Book and coupons for the following:
1 Free Book at the Library Book Sale
1 Free Swimming Pass
$5 deposit when you open a child's savings account
1 Free Helium Balloons
1 Free Smoothie
1 Free Quiznos' Kids Meal
1 Free Taco John's Taco
1 Free CiCi's Buffet

*None of the coupons required purchases of any kind to redeem.

My 12-Year-Old's Score:



from Half-Price Books
8 Books
1 VHS Movie (not pictured)
from the Public Library
1 Canvas Bag
1 Book and bookmark and coupons for the following
1 Free Book at the Library Book Sale
1 Free Swimming Pass
1 Free Admission to Paintball Park
1 Free Quiznos' Kids Meal
1 Free Cold Stone Cone
1 Free Giant Cookie

As you can see, my 5-year-old is a bit more of a savvy shopper (and a bit less particular). She hit the clearance racks at Half-Price Books and found a lot of $1.00 books each time. Both kids wound up with a lot of new reading material and several treats. And we didn't even turn in the cards every week at Half-Price Books!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Laundry Room Makeover

Around here, summer means tackling all those home improvement projects I've spent the winter months plotting. Of course, we only get to a fraction of what I have envisioned, but it's a start.

One of the things we've been gradually working on is re-doing our laundry room. It started out as a "I just want to repaint it honey," and like many of my projects, quickly grew into a whole host of things I wanted to change. Now if I had unlimited money to spend and an ever-ready pool of expert laborers at my beck and call, all those daydreams would be entirely attainable. Trying to accomplish that on a budget, with only one skilled laborer (my sweet husband) and one makes-more-work-for-everyone laborer (that would be me) and it's something of a challenge. But we're both learning as we go, and there's a great deal more satisfaction in a completed project when it's the product of our own sweat equity and bargain-minded innovations.

As you all know, hideous before pictures are an absolute necessity in order to properly appreciate the unveiling of the after pictures. Because the "after" is still a work-in-progress, I'll be posting those as we finish up the room in the next couple weeks. For now, here are a few before shots of what I not-so-fondly recall as the "baby-poop yellow" laundry room I inherited with the house:
Besides the color which made me infinitely crabby just looking at it (did I mention my mother fully embraced the 70s palette of olive green, dull orange, and baby-poop yellow thus triggering a full-out cringe factor whenever I see said colors?), there were several problems with the room.

1. Storage space - although there were a few haphazard shelves, they didn't provide much in the way of storage. And what they did provide was on full display- not the most attractive option in my book.


2. Aesthetics - There was nothing to tie the room together. Instead of looking like a pleasant, finished space, the laundry room looked like precisely what it was: a thrown together closet devoted to piles of dirty clothes. Ick.

3. Lighting - There was one tiny recessed light that, combined with the color, made the room dreary and dark.


4. Wasted Space - Because the door opened into the room, a lot of otherwise useful space was wasted. When you're dealing with a small room, every inch of usable space makes a difference. As you can see in the above picture, half of the wall was taken up by the open door. The other half was used for hanging hats, yes hats. Great use of space there, huh?


Stay tuned to see some of our solutions and the finished laundry room makeover!

Menu - July 20th

I'm back to my slacker ways, posting my Monday menu on Tuesday. This week, we have a lot of projects we want to get finished up so we're doing easy-peasy meals as much as possible. Here's the plan:

Monday
Crockpot Chicken Tacos
Mexican Rice

Tuesday
Sloppy Joes
Corn on the Cob
Cantaloupe

Wednesday
Spaghetti
Garlic Bread

Thursday
It's my birthday, which means someone else is doing the cooking and the cleanup!

Friday

Breakfast for Dinner
Waffles
Scrambled Eggs
Sausage

Saturday
Caesar Salad with
Grilled Chicken

Sunday

Cube Steaks with Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Country Green Beans

For even more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Save $5 off $25 at Walgreens

Today and tomorrow only, you can save $5 off a $25 purchase at Walgreens by printing this online coupon here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Menu - July 13th


Monday -

Last Baseball Game Pizza Party!
OUT

Tuesday -
Grilled Mozza-Chicken Sandwiches
Tex-Mex Corn on the Cob

Wednesday -

Spaghetti & Meatballs
Garden Salad
Garlic Bread

Thursday -
Hamburgers w/ Grilled Onions & Pepperjack Cheese
Home Fries

Friday -
Meatball Subs
Pasta Salad

Saturday -
Ham & Pineapple Kabobs
Red Onion & Bacon Kabobs (As a certifiable onion enthusiast, I've been drooling over these ever since I saw them posted on $5 Dinners.)

Sunday -
Grilled Pork Chops
Baked Beans

For even more menu ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Fun - A Few Ideas

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks Friday = family fun. There is now an initiative, complete with dedicated website, to turn Friday nights into family night. Check out the website here for more information and for some ideas about what to do with all those Friday fun nights. For even more ideas, check out this article on msn today.

One of my favorites from the list is the old standby treasure hunt. With my oldest, we would dress like pirates (bandana and mock earring anyone?) and comb the backyard with my homemade treasure map in hand (tea bags work great to age plain typing paper, and don't forget to burn a hole or two - the best part of making your own map).

If you're looking for something a little more spur-of-the-moment, try digging out those leftover plastic Easter eggs. We've been known to have many an Easter egg hunt in July. Just fill them with pennies, bubblegum, small toys, or even pretty rocks. Any small "treasure" will do. For an even better twist, convince your husband to fork over crisp $10 bills, stuff the eggs, and have the kids hide them for you. Then take your loot and go get that well deserved pedicure!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Frugal Find - $0.99/lb Chicken Breasts

I was thrilled on Sunday when I spotted boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $0.99/lb at Hy-Vee. It wasn't an advertised special so I double-checked, triple-checked, and then loaded up 10 packages. In fact, I was so excited that I went back today and got 6 more!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Menu - July 6th

Monday
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Garden Salad

Tuesday
Sloppy Joes
Potato Salad

Wednesday
Teriyaki Pork Kebabs
Grilled Pineapple
Corn on the Cob

Thursday
Corn Dog Muffins (thanks to the new frugal mom for the idea)
Baked Beans

Friday
Chicken Tacos
Mexican Rice

Saturday
Homemade Pizza

Sunday
Pot Roast w/Veggies
Homemade Bread

For even more menu ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

FREE Chick-fil-A Meal

Chick-fil-A is offering a free meal (okay, maybe it'll cost you a wee bit of your pride). All you have to do is show up at a restaurant dressed like a cow on July 10th. How fun is that??? Don't believe me? Check it out, and please snap a picture for me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Menu - June 29th














I've been MIA for the past couple weeks, but I'm trying to get back on track. In that spirit, here's this week's menu.

Monday

Shredded Beef Tacos
Mexican Rice

Tuesday
Baseball tonight so super-easy supper rules.
Hot dogs
Chips
Veggies with Dip

Wednesday
Grilled Rosemary-Salmon Spedini
Rice
Fresh Fruit Salad with Pineapple, Kiwi, Strawberries, and Grapes

Thursday
Grilled Chicken
Fettuchini Alfredo
Garden Salad

Friday
Marinated Steak
Baked Red Potatoes with Butter and Chives
Fresh-from-the-farm Corn on the Cob

Saturday
Homemade Pizza

Sunday
Chicken Caesar Salad
Tomato Basil Soup (see below for recipe)

For even more menu ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!


Tomato Basil Soup

1 small-medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 T. olive oil
4 cups crushed tomatoes (I used Hy-Vee Italian canned)
4 cups chicken broth
14 washed, fresh basil leaves (I cut out stems)
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. butter

First, heat olive oil in stock pot or large saucepan. Saute diced onion until soft (about 10 minutes). Add tomatoes and broth. Simmer for 30 minutes. Using a blender, puree in small batches (about 5), along with basil leaves, until desired consistency. Return to pan. Add cream and butter and heat until hot over low heat, stirring frequently.

This soup is so good! It makes me extremely grateful that I planted basil in my teeny-tiny garden.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chocolate + Peppermint = Cookie Heaven!

Anyone remember the bag of peppermint baking chips I picked up awhile back for $0.29? They've been sitting in my cupboard just waiting for the right recipe to come along. Last week, I saw this recipe and saw my opportunity to put them to good use.

I replaced the 1 2/3 cups of mint chocolate chips called for in the recipe with a little over 1 cup of these peppermint chips and 2/3 cup mini-chocolate chips.

They were delicious! In fact, they taste a lot like Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. I'd like to say they are better for you too, but that would be a blatant lie. Did I mention they were really good though?

Frugal Finds - Groceries

Since summer started, I've gotten more lax about stocking my pantry. This week, I noticed that things are looking a little bare in the pantry so I picked up duplicates of a few things. Here are my good grocery store deals for the week.

First, up was Hy-Vee:

Bananas - $0.39/lb
Pineapple - $2.77 used $50 off coupon FINAL COST: $2.27
4 Bags Shredded Cheese - $0.99 ea.
3 Cereal - $1.99 ea., used $1/3 coupon FINAL COST: $1.66 ea.


Next was Dillon's where they are having the Daytona 500 event, meaning that if you buy 10 participating items, you get $3 off. I haven't been getting the Sunday paper lately so I didn't have coupons for some of the items. For those of you who do, you'll be able to get some of these even cheaper!

Daytona 500 items (I'm showing the price after the $3 off those 10 items):
3 Cereal - $2.36 ea., used 3 $0.55 coupons doubled to $1 here FINAL COST: $1.36 ea.
3 Kraft BBQ sauce - $0.69 ea.
2 Manwich - $0.70 ea.
1 Ragu Alfredo Sauce - $1.36
1 Hotdogs - $1.49

Other items:
Chex Mix - $2.19 $0.50 cellfire coupon here and $0.50 coupon doubled FINAL COST: $0.69
Yogurt 4-pk - $2.56 used $1 cellfire coupon here and $0.50 coupon FINAL COST: $0.56

Friday, June 26, 2009

FREE Paint

Here's a great giveaway - the Glidden National Paint Giveaway! Go here, choose a color, and you could get a FREE quart of paint. And while you wait for your free paint, you can start planning those endless summer paint projects.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Experimenting with New Tastes

For the first time, we are participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year. For those unfamiliar with CSAs, it is basically a farming cooperative. Traditionally, participants pay for a share of the harvest at the beginning of the growing season, thus sharing both the risks and benefits of the growing season. Ours is a bit different in that the risks are pretty much eliminated. Instead of paying for the share up front, we pay a deposit and then a weekly amount (paid at the beginning of the following month). Our cost is $16/week.

One thing I like about participating is that it forces us out of our routine and into trying new foods. Instead of a steady rotation of a few vegetables that we love, we’re suddenly incorporating a variety of produce, some of which we’re tasting for the first time. The challenge, however, is adapting my menu to accommodate foods I have no idea how to prepare. Or what to pair them with. But I’m working on it.

Last week was our first week participating. As we learned, we’ll receive 6-8 produce items each week. Many of these are presented as a choice. For example, we could pick rhubarb or strawberries, asparagus or radishes. That first visit, I let my son do all the choosing. His strategy seemed to be, if it looks weird and I can’t recognize it, choose that. It’ll be fun watching mom try to figure out what to do with it. This week, I did the choosing. Variety is good, but too much is overwhelming!

This week’s CSA haul, much if which you’ll see incorporated into my dinner menu, included red potatoes, salad greens, lettuce, bok choy, sugar snap peas, radishes, and garlic chives.

Menu - June 8th




Here's my Monday menu plan on Tuesday!

Monday
Hamburgers
Tator Tots

Tuesday
Grilled Chicken Breasts
Rice
Bok Choy Braised with Garlic

Wednesday
We're packing a picnic so we can enjoy Wednesday night's city band concert in the park.
Tuna Cups (popovers filled with tuna salad)
Bowtie Pasta Salad (bowtie pasta tossed with Italian dressing, diced red onion and red bell pepper, grated carrot and parmesan cheese)
Sugar Snap Peas, Baby Carrots, and Radishes with French Onion Dip
Watermelon Slices

Thursday
Kids' activities make this a dinner on the go night.
Sandwiches
Apple Slices

Friday
Spaghetti
Garlic Bread
Salad Greens tossed with Italian Dressing and Toasted Almonds

Saturday
Out of town for a wedding.

Sunday
Marinated Steak
Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic and fresh-from-my-garden Thyme
Corn on the Cob

For even more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Frugal Finds

First, for the usual good deals. This week, I found several good deals at Dillon's as well as a couple more at both Hy-Vee and Target. Here's what I got:


Dillon's
4 Knorr Pasta Sides - sale $0.87 each, used two $0.75/2 Cellfire coupons here FINAL COST: $0.50 ea.
Betty Crocker frosting - $1.59, used $0.50 coupon here (doubled to $1) and $0.50 Cellfire coupon here FINAL COST: $0.09
Betty Crocker Warm Delights - $1.99, used $0.50 coupon here (doubled to $1) and $0.50 Cellfire coupon here FINAL COST: $0.49
6 Yoplait Yogurts - sale $0.50 ea, used $0.45/6 coupon here (doubled to $0.90) and $0.50/6 Cellfire coupon here FINAL COST: $0.27 ea.

Hy-Vee
2 Kraft BBQ Sauce - sale $1, used two $1 coupons here FINAL COST: FREE
2 Kraft Shredded Cheese - sale $1.50, used $1/2 coupon here FINAL COST: $1 ea.

Target
2 Bliss candybars - $0.99, used two $1 off coupons (expired today) FINAL COST: FREE


In addition to the run-of-the-mill grocery deals this week, I also got myself a little pretty for next to nothing. About a week ago, we bought my husband some much needed shorts at Kohl's and got $10 Kohl's cash that was expiring on the 10th.


These pretty flip-flops were on sale for $10.99, which after the Kohl cash, was $0.99 plus tax. Go me!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nature Journaling

Gearing Up

When contemplating making a nature journal, the choices can seem endless. Big or small? Buy a tablet or make your own? Lined or unlined paper? There were several factors we considered when making ours.

  1. Cost – Let’s face it, I’m all about the cheap. If I wanted to spend $20, I’m sure I could have found countless beautifully bound journals complete with illustrations and instructions geared toward children. However, half the fun is in the making. Originally, I thought we’d make our own out of typing paper and cardstock, but then I ran across these wonderful drawing pads on clearance for $1. Who could pass that up? A few embellishments, and we had our journals ready to go.
  2. Use – What sets a nature journal apart from an ordinary run-of-the-mill journal is the melding of sensory observations. It’s not just about writing about nature. It’s also about sketching/painting what you see and recreating the textures of the natural world. Lined paper seemed too restrictive so the drawing pads were a perfect alternative.
  3. Durability – To up the durability quotient of our somewhat flimsy drawing pads, we used twine. Although the pages were bound like a tear-off pad, I knew that the binding wouldn’t hold up to rugged outdoor use. Tying them with twine just gave us an insurance plan against wind-scattered pages.
  4. Portability – The size of the journal shouldn’t be so unwieldy that it becomes impractical, particularly for little hands to tote around. And in our case, since we were already adding twine, I figured we might as well add a simple loop so the kids could slip them over their wrists for easy carrying.


Once you’ve got your journal figured out, you need to consider other supplies. Here are some things to consider adding to your journal.

  • A small tote or backpack to keep everything together and easy to carry
  • Pencils with erasers
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencil sharpener & ziplock bag (for the shavings!)
  • Watercolor paints & brushes
  • Magnifying glass &/or binoculars
  • Camera for capturing wildlife photos
  • Envelope to store flowers/leaves for later pressing

Aiding Your Child’s Journaling

First, find opportunities to record nature. Hikes and nature walks are obvious choices. But don’t limit yourself to just the obvious. Going on a picnic? The zoo? Take the journal along. Even a morning in the backyard will uncover a wealth of opportunities to record the natural world.

For each entry in the journal, remind your child to first record the date. When your child finds something (an animal, plant, or setting) that he or she wants to record, ask your child questions that prompt full descriptions. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Can you touch it? What does it feel like? Don’t forget to have the child record environmental information also. Where are we? What does the animal or plant’s habitat look like? What is the weather like?

Be sure to allow adequate time for the child to gather information and record observations through drawings and/or descriptions.

Want to really jumpstart your child’s ideas? Be more than a cheerleader; create a nature journal of your own so that you can compare ideas and observations.

Don’t Stop There

Once you get back home, don’t forget to follow up. A huge component of a nature journal is learning. Take a few minutes to research what you’ve found. If you have field guides, you can do this on the spot. But if not, you can find virtually anything courtesy of google these days! Add notes, facts, and interesting tidbits as you uncover them. You’ll not only be teaching your child about that specific plant or animal but also fostering valuable research skills.

Helpful Resources to Get You Started

Websites:

Books:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Free Fishing Weekend

No fishing license? No problem! Grab your pole, dig up a worm, and enjoy free fishing this weekend. Most states are allowing anglers to fish without a license this coming Saturday and Sunday, June 6 & 7. For more information on Kansas' free fishing weekend, go here. If you're in Missouri, check out this site. For those in other states, a quick google search should tell you if your state is participating.

50 Free Photo Prints at CVS

Here's yet another great freebie, just in time for capturing all those summer memories. CVS is offering 50 FREE photo prints, 30 for opening a photo account (no charge) and 20 more for adding your Extra Care card number. Happy picture-taking!

National Parks Offer Free Weekends

A visit to a national park is a great way to enjoy some outdoor family time and can make for a great mini-vacation. Combine that with this summer's fee-free weekends, and you've got a winner. The National Park Service is offering three fee-free weekends in which they waive the entrance fees to over 100 national parks. The dates for the free weekends are:

  • June 20-21
  • July 18-19
  • August 15-16

For more details or to locate a park, go here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kids' Nature Journals

One of my summer goals is to keep both my kids engaged in learning without the trappings of a classroom. Luckily, both are avid readers, but I'm always on the lookout for fun, educational activities. About a week ago, I came across an article about nature journaling and immediately added it to my summer must-do list.

Here's what we did. I found these blank drawing/painting pads today at Halfprice Books for $1 each (thank you, clearance). Now I'm thinking I should have grabbed a couple spares!

To transform the cutesy books into more rustic looking nature journals, we started with a couple paper lunch bags from my stash. I crumpled them to make them more interesting, reflattened and traced a cover, and then glued them onto the fronts. Then I set the kids loose with the two leaf stamps we had and some green and gold paint.




After labeling them (my daughter still confuses the d for a b in her name), I decided to reinforce the binding with some sort of tie to help make them sturdy enough to withstand our outings. We used some jute twine that we already had, and as an added bonus, we created loops the kids could slip over their wrists for easy carrying.

The kids can't wait to take these on a nature walk, and I can't wait to see all the brilliant observations and illustrations sure to come. On Friday, I'll pass along some good sites and tips for nature journaling for anyone interested in trying it.

Strawberry Jam

And here is the results of our labor. I managed to wrestle enough strawberries out of my 5-year-old's fingers to make 10 jars of strawberry jam. We also froze three small bags of sweetened berries for later shortcake.

It is amazing though how much bigger those berries looked when we were plucking them off the plants than they did halfway through cleaning and cutting the tops off!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bountiful Berries


This morning, we all headed out to a nearby strawberry patch and came home with almost 10 pounds of these delectable little beauties. Tomorrow, we'll dig out the canning supplies and make up a batch of strawberry jam. That is, if I can keep enough of them away from my kids! Here's a great site for anyone who wants to find a local farm to go berry picking at. Next up: raspberries. Yummmm.

Menu - June 1st


Monday
Take me out to the ball game!
- Yup, it's dinner on the go courtesy of a ridiculously timed baseball game tonight.

Tuesday
Chicken Tacos
Easy Mexican Rice

Chips & Salsa

Wednesday
Marinated Steak, Baked Potatoes with sour cream and fresh chives from our garden, & New York Deli Coleslaw

Thursday
Tator Tot Casserole
Fresh Fruit Salad

Friday
Homemade Pizzas

Saturday
Date Night
- Which means sandwiches for the kids and Dave and Buster's for us. Can you tell it was my husband's turn to plan the date? BUT, I did find a coupon for $10 of free game play at least!

Sunday
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Vanilla Ice Cream w/Grilled Pineapple and Crushed Peanuts
- If you haven't tried grilled pineapple, you should. It's delicious!

For even more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Frugal Finds - Grocery Stores & Target

This week, I found a few good deals at several stores.







First, at Dillon's, I used a store coupon for a free box of Cheerios (received in the mail from Dillon's), two cans of vegetable soup that were marked down to $0.69 each, and a Kraft dressing for $0.69 (priced $1.69, used $1 coupon). Next, I grabbed up 10 packets of Kool-Aid just in time for the kids' lemonade stands for $0.05 each (on sale 10/$1, used $0.50 off 10 coupon here). Finally, at Target I scored 2 Bliss candybars and a Kraft mayo, all for free (Bliss were priced $1 each, used two $1 off coupons here; Mayo was priced $1.99, used $1 off Target coupon here & $1 off coupon).

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Scream, You Scream

We all scream for ice cream! And when it's free - even better. If you're out and about in the next few days, be sure to stop in to nab your free ice cream at one (or both) of these places.

Walmart - Try a free ice cream sample from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 30th

Sonic - Get a free 10 oz. rootbeer float on Wednesday, June 3rd from 8 p.m. to midnight

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On the Sugar Trail


Ants, ants, and more ants! Every year, we battle the invading hordes as they come in search of crumbs, trails, and leftover kibbles. Most of the time, we put out some ant bait on the back of the counter when we spot the first scout and a couple days later, they're gone. Well, not this year. We've put it out four, that's right F-O-U-R times and they're still coming back. After doing a little internet research, my husband declared that we have to move the battle outside to prevent them from coming in. Easy right? There are tons of products on the market to sprinkle around the outside of our house.

Except we can't use most of them. Did I mention that we also have a goat masquerading as a beagle? Sophie will eat anything not actually food - grass, sticks, socks, rocks, you name it. So I'm pretty sure if we put out anything poisonous, she'd have her nose to the trail before we finished sprinkling.

Fortunately, we've hit on a solution: cinnamon. Apparently ants hate cinnamon. Of course, being a devotee of Myth Busters, my husband first had to test the theory by sprinkling a circle of cinnamon around an ant on the counter. It actually worked too! The poor little guy frantically searched for a way out without getting too close to the cinnamon. As soon as my husband made an escape route though, that little booger sped out of that circle. Now I'm off to construct a perimeter shield made entirely of sprinkled cinnamon. It's frugal and fragrant. Who can beat that?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Organizing Family Schedules

Free family calendar

Like many busy families, we're busy shuttling between doctor's appointments, kids' activities, and work obligations. Keeping track of who needs to be where when can be a real challenge. A few months ago, I stumbled on a great free tool to help manage our various schedules: Cozi. If you use a smart phone, this would be even better because you could access schedules, photos, and lists anytime, anywhere. But even without mobile access, it's a nice tool. You can even set it up so that it'll send email reminders or text reminders to your cell phone. Very cool.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Menu - May 25th


Monday
Visiting the Inlaws - No cooking for me!

Tuesday
Meatball Subs
Chips

Wednesday
Chicken Caesar Salad
Mandarin Oranges

Thursday
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Peaches

Friday
Homemade Pizza

Saturday
General Tso's Chicken
Fried Rice
Steamed Broccoli

Sunday
Pot Roast w/Red Potatoes, Carrots, & Onions
Crusty French Bread

For even more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Frugal Finds - CVS


Here's what I picked up at CVS today

2 Post Trail Mix Crunch Cereals - $4.79 ea., Buy 1/Get 1 Free, used 2 $2 coupons here FINAL COST: $0.40 ea.

Hello Kitty Bandaids - $2.99, used $1 coupon, got $2 ECB FINAL COST: FREE
Colgate Total - $2.99 used $1 coupon here, got $2 ECB FINAL COST: FREE
Revlon Nail Polish - $3.99, got $3 ECB FINAL COST: $0.99
Igloo Cooler - $9.99, used $4 off $20 CVS email coupon FINAL COST: $5.99

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer Reading Programs

It’s that time of year again, when school is winding down and the summer stretches endlessly in front of us. For those of us with children, it’s also time to start thinking about encouraging summer reading. In that spirit, I thought I’d pass along some links for several summer reading programs. Whether they have great prizes or are just great fun, the one thing they all have in common is the ability to spark our children’s interest and imagination.

Your Local Library!

Of course, the best summer reading programs are often found at your local library. Ours not only offers the typical read so many books and get a prize incentive, but also has a specifically designed teen reading program complete with designated reading selections, book discussion groups, movies, crafts, and more. And the prizes are usually pretty cool too! Last year, my oldest received a nice t-shirt and a host of coupons from local businesses good for everything from a free ice cream cone to a free game of bowling. Be sure to check to see if your library has scheduled a kick-off event to start the program. Our event includes live music, dancing, collaborative chalk mural, and free snow-cones and popcorn. The kids and I are all looking forward to the fun!

Half Price Books
Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program

This is a great one! From June 1 – July 31, kids 12 and under can earn a $3 shopping card for each week they read at least 15 minutes per day. If your kids are anything like mine, they can make $3 go a long way at Half Price Books.

Barnes and Noble
2009 Summer Reading Program

Between May 26th and September 7, kids in grades 1-6 can earn a free book by reading 8 books over the summer. Download the Reading Journal here. Once your child has read the 8 books, take the completed journal to any Barnes and Noble store to select your free book.

Borders
Reading Challenge!

Children 12 and under can read 8 books to earn a coupon for 50% off selected items. For more details and to download the form, go here.

Reading Warriors
2009 Challenge

Kids aged 8 or older can take a summer reading journey inspired by the Warrior series by Erin Hunter. To participate, kids read at least 10 books over the course of the summer. Although there isn’t a guaranteed free book waiting at the end of the journey (there is a sweepstakes entry available after completing the reading challenge), what I love about this program is the fun. The website is great and should serve to get kids into the program. And in the words of the site itself, “Reading Warriors find their own rewards in the fun they have reading and the enjoyment of sharing books with others.” Who can argue with that?

Scholastic
Summer Challenge

Kids can score points by logging the minutes read each day and can earn bonus points by taking games, quizzes, and polls. Kids can also win prizes and sweepstakes along the way. What makes this program truly special though is that the winning team gets to vote on which charity receives a special donation from Scholastic at the end of the summer!

Kansas Talking Books
Be Creative @ Your Library

There is an awesome program through the State Library of Kansas’ Talking Books division for Kansas children who have trouble participating in a traditional summer reading program because of visual or physical impairments. Prizes include gift certificates for first and second place based on the number of books read between June 1 and July 31. For more info, go here.

Do you know of a summer reading program I left out? If so, be sure to comment and share the details.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Save on Books

If there's one thing I love, it's books. But as any book lover knows, getting that paperback fix can get quite expensive. The library, of course, is a great aid for us cost-conscious readers. Sometimes, though, you want a keeper. That's why Half Price Books is one of my favorite stores in all the world. Our local store has a constantly evolving inventory, great regular prices, and fantastic clearance prices and selection. I have picked up many $1 books and movies there over the years.

From now through Monday, you can score some even better deals through their Memorial Day weekend sale. During that time, everything is an extra 20% off! That's 20% off my armfuls of $1-$2 books and movies. Guess who'll be heading to the bookstore right after work today?

Coupon Organizer

It began with a handful of crumpled coupons stuffed in my back pocket, transitioned into categorized envelopes floating in my purse, and finally graduated to this grownup coupon organizer.


When combing the web for various coupon organizing strategies, I found the binder option appealing for a few reasons. First, it was important to me to have all my coupons visible. The binder method, using baseball card holders found at Target or Walmart, makes it so that I can see each coupon (I do stack multiples of the same product in one card sleeve) without shuffling through envelopes. Another plus of this system for me is that it allows me to take the whole binder with me when grocery shopping without sorting out the coupons I think I'll use, only to have to refile them later when I don't use them or scrounge for a coupon for an item not on my list. Finally, this system looks attractive. Shallow, yes. But I'm not above it when it comes to my coupons!

So here's what I did. I repurposed a zippered three-ring binder I had used once-upon-a-time for a portfolio. It works perfect for coupons because it has pull-out handles for easy carrying, and maybe more importantly, a zipper to keep any stray coupons corralled. It also has spaces for a pen and small scissors (for those sheets of coupons I stuff in the back because I'm too lazy that week to cut them all out) and for store cards, gift cards, etc. There are pockets to stash my grocery lists as well. After I found my binder, I needed category dividers. Using old manilla file folders, I cut them in half, then covered them with scrapbook paper to pretty them up.


Here are the categories I used:
  • Fresh Foods
  • Canned
  • Cereal/Snack
  • Bread/Baking
  • Frozen
Each major cateogory is also subdivided into smaller categories. For example, under "Fresh Foods," I have the categories "Dairy," "Meat," and "Produce." To mark these subcategories, I used one of my son's trading cards as a guide and made cards using matching scrapbook paper. I then put those labeled cards in the top right sleeves of individual sheets. For those subcategories needing more than one sheet, I simply place blank sheets behind the labeled one. Yet another advantage of this system is that you can customize and change the number of sheets allocated to a specific category based on your current needs.



You'll notice that I don't have any household categories in my binder. This is because most household goods including pet food, cleaners, and beauty/health products get purchased at Walgreens, CVS, or Target. Rather than having one giant binder, I choose to divide my coupons according to where I use them. That way, I can take my big binder with me when grocery shopping (a planned, specific outing complete with large cart to perch it on) and use a much smaller coupon organizer that fits in my purse for household purchases. An added advantage of having a purse-size organizer is that it will always be on me when I make those spur of the moment stops at Walgreens or CVS.

So there you have it, my new and improved coupon organizer!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Free Kids' Workshops at Home Depot

Did you know that Home Depot offers free "How-to" workshops for kids on the first Saturday of each month, from 9 a.m. to noon? I had no idea myself until I noticed a flyer the last time we were in the store. The workshops are for kids aged 5-12. In addition to the project, kids receive a free kid-sized Home Depot apron and an achievement pin. Upcoming projects include a Hardware Sorter on June 6th and a Picnic Caddy on July 4th. We'll definitely be checking out the next one! For more details, check out the website.

Menu



I'm going to jump on the Menu Plan Monday bandwagon (admittedly on Tuesday, but I AM a rebel). Here's this week's dinner menu:

Tuesday
Grilled Chicken
Fettuchini Alfredo

Wednesday
Meatloaf
Oven Roasted Red Potatoes with Olive Oil & Thyme
Corn on the Cob

Thursday
Tator Tot Casserole
Fresh Fruit Salad

Friday
Steak
Grilled Veggie Salad, inspiration here
Baked Potatoes

Saturday
"Someone Else is Cooking" Date Night

Sunday
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Garlic Bread

Blogging Schedule

At our house, summer means more time for family, fun, and hopefully more consistent blog postings as I only work part-time during the next three months. The last couple of months have seen this blog severely neglected, something I hope to remedy starting this week! What better way to kick off the summer than by spending an hour creating a rigid posting schedule that I will undoubtedly abandon before the week is out? You see, I am one of those compulsive list-makers who takes more joy from making said lists than actually following them. So in that spirit, here's my maybe-this-time-I'll-actually-follow-it schedule for the summer:

Mondays - Food (recipes, menus, etc.)
Tuesdays - Creativity Central (anything I can make, repurpose, or recreate)
Wednesdays - Organization (ideas and projects for organizing our busy lives)
Thursdays - Money Saving Ideas (tips and tricks for saving)
Fridays - Fun (family activities, date night ideas, etc.)
Weekends - Frugal Finds (my week's best freebies and deals)

Tune in tonight for installments 1 and 2 because, of course, I'm already a day behind!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Anniversary

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. A week ago, I was thrilled that we had actually managed to line up a real live babysitter. For the first time in 7 years, I had visions of nice restaurants with real tablecloths and soft lighting. Fast forward to this week when the babysitter, inevitably, had to cancel. I admit it, I was pretty bummed at first. There would be no uninterrupted eye-gazing, which, in all fairness, usually makes me ask my husband if I have something stuck in my teeth anyway. But I was looking forward to trying. And that sexy skirt and lowcut shirt won't get to come out to play for fear our dinner conversation will become something like this:

5-year-old daughter, "You should pull your shirt up mom. We can see your breasts."
12-year-old son, covering ears because she said the B word, "MOM!!!! Make her stop!"
5-year-old daughter, laughing, "What? They're funny. You should see them!"

At which point, the romance will be officially dead at the table. (No conjecture here, by the way. Slight adaptation of a real conversation.)

So it's on to Plan B for us. After some thought, we decided to keep the dinner plans but move it to a nice Mexican restaurant that has great food but still is kid-friendly. After that, my husband is going to demonstrate his deep and abiding love for me by doing something he would never do for anything less than love: scrapbooking. Yup! I STILL, seven years later, have an unfinished scrapbook I started making of our wedding photos. So tonight we're going to come home, drag out the scissors and glue, and revisit our memories together. Granted, my husband will probably be more company than crafter, but what more could a woman ask for than the good company of a great man while she's knee-deep in pretty paper and flashy stickers? And as a bonus, instead of just watching mom and dad go out, our kids will be part of celebrating our marriage.

Besides, eventually they'll go to bed, and I can break out the sexy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Send Mom a FREE Card

The good news? Thanks to Frugal & Fabulous, I've got another great freebie to pass on to you. If you go to Hallmark, they'll send a Mother's Day card for you absolutely FREE, stamp and all. Just type in promo code "CARD4MOM" at checkout. If you hurry, it might just get out in time for Mother's Day.

The bad news? Both my mother-in-law and stepmother occasionally read my blog so they'll now have certifiable proof of my cheapness, ahem, I mean frugality, when they get their free Mother's Day goodies. But it IS the thought that counts, right? Besides, I could hardly resist passing along such a nice freebie to you all.

Make Some Free Crafts for Mom

Today we stopped into Michael's to pick up some cheap painting supplies (around here, we have to keep our 5-year-old in supplies and ceramic canvases or risk serious withdrawals). One of the highlights of a trip to Michael's on Saturday is the opportunity for the little one to do an in-store craft.

Today's craft was a free keepsake plate for Mother's Day. Here's a picture of my budding Picasso's work.
We still have to put a picture in the center before it's ready to be shipped to Grandma's. Pretty cute for a free craft!

And better yet? They've got free workshops all week long. Here's the lineup of what you can make each day. So if you've got a Michael's near you, stop in and make a gift for one of the mamas in your life.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Frugal Finds


It's been awhile since I've really done a drug store trip as life has had a way of taking over. This week the deals were tempting enough to get me back to my old coupon-clipping, list-making self. Here are my finds:

Walgreens
3 Suave Kids Shampoos - 3/$5, used $1.75/3 coupon, got $2 Register Rewards (RR) FINAL COST: $0.42 each
2 Listerine Mouthwash - $4 each, got $4 RR FINAL COST: $2.00 each
Nivea Body Wash - $4.99, got $5 RR FINAL COST: FREE
Rembrandt Toothpaste - $5.99, got $6 RR FINAL COST: FREE
Ecotrin Aspirin - $2.00, got $2 RR FINAL COST: FREE
3 Scotch Packaging Tape - $0.99 w/coupon, used 3 $0.50 coupons FINAL COST: $0.24 each

CVS

Zyrtec, 30 ct. - $19.00, used $4 coupon, got $10 ECB FINAL COST: $5.00
Band-Aids, 40 ct. - $3.29, used $1 coupon (ECB w/Zyrtec deal) FINAL COST: $2.29
Crest Kids Toothpaste - $1.99, used $0.75 coupon, got $1.00 ECB FINAL COST: $0.24

All this for under $9 seems like successful shopping to me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another FREE Bag

In celebration of Earth Day, Walgreens is offering a free reusable shopping bag with any purchase as well as 15% off eligible store items. If you're heading to Walgreens, click here to print your coupon before you go. It's only good for today!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Site for Free Movies

Some of you may remember my earlier post about free or cheap movie sources. Since that time, I've stumbled on another, fancast.com. Although I haven't yet watched any, it looks like a nice selection of movies and TV show episodes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FREE Reusable Shopping Bag

If you live near a Dillon's grocery store, be sure to take advantage of this offer for a free reusable shopping bag. All you have to do is go to their website, create a quick design for a reusable bag, enter your design & vote, and viola - a coupon for a free bag will be loaded onto your Dillon's Shopper Card for use during your next visit.

Even though I am something of a reusable bag snob when it comes to grocery shopping (I only use my heavy-duty canvas bags because they hold half the store and make my life much easier), I use my collection of odds and ends light-weight bags for other things. And I always keep one folded in my purse for those oops-I-didn't-think-about-it occasions.

Here's just a few examples of their usefulness:
  • Toting library books home
  • Carrying things to and from work (lunch included)
  • Farmer's markets
  • Quick trips to the drug store or Target

And, of course, perhaps the single most important use:
  • Kenneling haphazard piles of mail and papers into when company comes

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Frugal Find - FREE Ziplocs

Ever have one of those weeks when nothing seems to go right? I've been having a couple of those weeks back to back. First, some family drama complete with calling circles and raised blood pressure. Then, a car ran a red light and smashed into my car. And, of course, the ensuing insurance hoops - is it totaled or isn't it. Ick!

But today I found a little ray of sunshine in the form of FREE things. While at Hy-Vee, I noticed they had a bunch of Ziploc bags marked down to 2/$1. And I just so happened to have 5 coupons for $0.55 off so I came home with all these for free. Hooray for the little things!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bath & Body Works Freebie

Yesterday, I got a nice $10 gift card in the mail for Bath & Body Works, thanks to mypoints. Before I head out to spend it, I thought I'd take a few minutes to look for a coupon to maximize my "free stuff" trip and came across this coupon for a free Signature Collection body care item with any $10 purchase. Bingo!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

3-in-1 Meals: Part One - Spaghetti & Meatballs


Around here, we love America's Test Kitchen. Most of our favorite, and almost all our foolproof, recipes have come from the pages of their cookbooks or the web content of their show. Our latest favorite is this Marinara & Meatballs recipe. Although factoring in good ingredients which are essential to the recipe made it seem a little pricey, we found that we can easily get 7 or 8 meals out of one batch, thus reducing the cost to a completely acceptable range. And the taste is divine!

First up was spaghetti and meatballs, of course. A few notes on the recipe:

1. Be sure to buy decent quality, block Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself. It is absolutely worth the splurge - trust me!
2. Use fresh basil and parsley, not dried.
3. Don't skimp on the onions. I used three large yellow onions, which had my kids moaning about too many onions (I am a certified onion lover so it's a common moan around here), but they loved the sauce!
4. Unless you like meatballs the size of hamburger patties, do what I did. Make normal size meatballs (a scant ice cream scooper full works great). I reduced the baking time by 5 minutes for the meatballs and cooked them in two big batches, the first of which I added to the sauce as directed, and the second of which I froze for later use.

Whatever you don't eat, freeze for later. Here's what I got from one batch in addition to that night's meal:
  • 3 ziplocks with enough sauce and meatballs for spaghetti
  • 3 ziplocks with enough sauce (no meatballs) for pizzas
  • 2 snack-size ziplocks with just enough sauce for subs (1/8 - 1/4 c. is plenty)
  • 4 ziplocks with enough meatballs for subs

Coming Soon:
Part Two - Homemade Pizzas
&
Part Three - Amazing Meatball Subs

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Frugal Finds


Here are some of this week's highlights:

At Dillon's
4 bags Iams Puppy Food - $6.39 ea., used 4 $5 coupons
FINAL COST: $1.39 ea.
Peppermint Baking Chips - clearanced to $0.29
FINAL COST: $0.29

At Target
2 Mott's Applesauce (6 pk.) - $1.67 ea., used two $1 Target coupons and two $0.55 coupons
FINAL COST: $0.12 ea.
Dr. Pepper (2 liter) - $1.49 used free item coupon
FINAL COST: FREE
Cat Food - $0.84 used free item coupon
FINAL COST: FREE

At CVS
Crest ProHealth Toothpaste - $2.99, used $1 coupon and got $2 ECB
FINAL COST: FREE

To see even more great weekly deals, check out the posts at Money Saving Mom!