Sponsor links


BabyToBee.com - Free baby stuff

Diabetes Guide
MySavings: Free Samples, Free Stuff, Freebies and Coupons

U Follow, I Follow!

Grab my button!

The $200 mission....
One mom. One Mission. One dinner plate at a time.

Entertainment Book 2009

The $200 Mission has relocated to savvysuzieblog.blogspot.com - be sure to update your subscriptions and links!


The Goodie Bag - for me and you!

The goodies for me: I have been OVERWHELMED by the awards and tags that I have gotten in the last week and a half. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has been thinking of me! I was going to just put them all up in one blog, but what fun is that? So next week, I am going to do an AWARD A DAY :) Suzie's spreadin' the love... so be ready...

And the goodies for you

Don't forget to print your weekend grocery coupons!

Free stuff for breastfeeding moms!

Free samples on stuff you actually use!

FREE Betty Crocker taters when you sign up for the Dinner Made Easy newsletter (I get this, they send great recipes!)

Free custom Fruit Roll Ups are back! Get them before they're gone!

Free sample of Stayfree or Carefree pads HERE

Free Playtex Sport Tampons HERE

Free Red Dress Pin (supporting the American Heart Association's Go Red campaign!) HERE (thanks to "Deal"icious Mom for that!)

Get a Neutrogena(R) or Dove(R) Facial Cleansing Cloth Sample. Click Here

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Brick #5 - Spicing it Up

I don't have a one-note palate when it comes to food. I love variety and I love FLAVOR. But I read through gourmet cookbooks and magazines, and I get disenchanted. I don't buy into the idea that I have to invest in a bunch of exotic ingredients if I want to deviate from the basic meat and potatoes, or chicken and cream of *whatever* soup casserole. Budget does not have to equal bland!

Believe it or not, meal planning becomes easier (and a lot more fun!) once you realize that you can build a perfect companion to your stockpile of food when you start viewing seasonings as an investment in making inexpensive dishes more interesting...

Brick #5 - Invest in your spice cabinet

There aren't many things I'd feel ok about paying a little more for. But good seasonings are one of those things - kind of like that pair of shoes you spent good money on, that end up lasting forever and going with everything you own. With a good set of base spices, you can make one dish take on many personalities.

The cost of spices can be a little daunting. But most basic spices can be found at your local discount or dollar store for a buck or less (for a pretty big container!) and aren't any lesser quality than the brand names. The ones I find most commonly are pepper, cinnamon, paprika, oregano, basil, bay leaves, onion salt, onion powder, garlic salt, garlic powder, and parsley. These alone would provide you with a solid seasoning foundation, especially when you add in liquid seasonings (soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, vanilla) which I usually get at my local discount grocery store for a buck a piece.

But to really get the most mileage out of the food you prepare, you will want to invest in a few more expensive items. The ones I have gotten the most use out of (aside from the list above) are rosemary, tarragon, fennel, thyme, curry, nutmeg, cardamom, caraway, celery seed, and dill. If you compare some of your favorite recipes you may find that a few seasonings carry over into multiple dishes - those would be worth adding to your arsenal as well. Just don't be afraid of the price tag. Most recipes call for 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the more expensive spices, because they are richer and a little goes a very long way.

Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a green thumb (I killed a chia pet - don't trust me with your houseplants!) you can grow many herbs either in your garden or on your windowsill, and get all the goodness for free! And the only thing better than inexpensive is FREE :) (I haven't found that fresh herbs from the store are cheaper than bottled, plus they go bad before I can finish using them.) I have also heard that some whole foods stores will sell bulk spices by the ounce, you can bring your own baggies and just get a little instead of buying a whole package. Haven't found that in my area yet but I'm looking! Investigate your spices the same way you are investigating your food prices, and find out where you'll get the most bang for your buck!

If you've been following along this series, you already know what your "pet" foods are - now you can scan your pet recipes and figure out what groups of seasonings appeal to your family's tastes. Start building with the things you will use most frequently, and then you can add to your arsenal slowly. Choose one pricey spice to try out, and experiment with it a couple of times before you add something else. You'll expand your culinary knowledge as well as your spice rack!

Next week, I'll talk more about why a little planning can save a lot of money!

Here are a few base seasoning combinations that will take you on a little trip around the globe:

Mexican: chili powder, garlic, onion powder, salt
Oriental: soy sauce, garlic, onion powder, ginger
Italian: oregano, basil, pepper, fennel
Indian: curry, garlic, onion powder, sesame seeds, cardamom
Szechuan: soy sauce, ginger, garlic, onion powder, red pepper flake

These are just starting points - with the right spices in your arsenal you can adjust any basic dish and make it as exotic as you like!

Some additional resources:

Ten herbs and spices that will make simple foods pop!

Homemade seasoning blend recipes

Spice substitutions if you don't have the exact seasoning in a recipe

Recipezaar and AllRecipes both have ingredient search options - if you want to try out a new spice just plug it in along with any other ingredients you might want to use, and see what comes up!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Fast Freebies

Happy Wednesday! I am working on the next Bricklaying installment, I also got a few tags and awards that I have to catch up on...brings a tear to my eye ;) I could use a few extra hours in the day! Or a trained monkey to dictate my blogs to while I'm doing everything ELSE....no promises on the grammar.

Anyway, here are a couple of GM freebies to get you past the midweek hump!


Fruit Roll-ups

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


It's the Great Pumpkin!

I am sitting here watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". By myself. (the Boy Wonder is in bed and hubby is working - I'm a dork, I know!) It's actually one of my favorite Halloween traditions. I still have fond memories of checking the TV Guide as a kid to find out when it was on, and my mom would make a big family night of it. We'd bring our pillows and blankets to the living room, and everyone would curl up together to watch. It would usually turn into a big slumber party in the living room because we were tired by the time it was over.

It was one piece of a week of anticipation, costume parties at elementary school, scoping out the candy that Mom had bought (so we could pounce on whatever was left over after the doorbell stopped ringing!), watching my dad set up his decorations on the lawn (complete with outdoor speakers so he could play his "spooky music"), and ultimately trick-or-treating on Halloween evening. My folks always dressed up too, my dad would usually stay behind to hand out treats and my mom would walk us around the neighborhood. We had a great little block with lots of kids and all of the parents knew each other. At the end of the night, my brothers and I would dump our booty on the living room floor, and the negotiating would begin. If I gave you two licorice can I have one of your snickers bars? What will you give me for my Charleston Chews - it doesn't matter that I don't even like them! :)

The Boy Wonder is still a little young to start partaking of the festivities, but he's certainly aware something fun is going on this week. Hubby loves Halloween so we've got decorations all over the house (my dear son has already learned to say "skeleton"...or in his words, "skeh-ni-nin"!) I can't wait till he's old enough to get excited about the Great Pumpkin showings, and really understands the fun. I look forward to watching him deliberate over what he wants to be, what candy he hopes to get, and how he's going to scare his younger siblings...not that I ever did that. Really.

What Halloween memories do you have? Any traditions that you are carrying on to your young ones?

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine

Freebie for diabetics

This is less a freebie posting and more a public service announcement for Type 1 diabetics. (I should mention this is NOT a paid posting). I've mentioned before that hubby has Type 1 - this means his body produces NO insulin (as opposed to Type 2 diabetes, which when your body becomes insulin resistant - in many cases it is reversible with proper diet and exercise). He had been on injection therapy since he was nine, taking 4 or more shots every day, plus numerous finger sticks to test his blood sugar.

For a long time he did so because there wasn't a better option. As he got older, he resisted the idea of using an insulin pump because he was misinformed, thinking it was an implant. Insulin pumps are external, worn like a pager or cell phone. They connect to the body via thin tubing that attaches to the body with a small cannula, or soft needle, that stays in place for 3 days at a time. For some people, injection therapy works well - but for most, pump therapy provides more accurate insulin delivery, less injections (and less scarring at injection sites), and more consistent blood sugar levels.

We liked the control and the convenience that pumps offered, but were never crazy about those loose tubes - he is pretty active, and when he performs with his comedy group he kind of views his body as just another prop...so we had concerns about tubes getting caught and being pulled out. When we found out about the OmniPod, it was the answer we were looking for.

The OmniPod works like every other insulin pump, delivering small doses of insulin continuously through the day and allowing wearers to give themselves extra insulin at meals and when needed for high blood sugars. But unlike anything else available, the OmniPod is TOTALLY wireless. Hubby has been using it since May of this year, and it really is incredible. The disposable "pods" are very small - about a half inch thick and as long as a pager. Each pod holds about 2-3 days worth of insulin, and instead of being carried like a cell phone, they attach to the body with waterproof adhesive. The soft cannula is INTEGRATED into the pod, not separate. Insulin goes directly from the reservoir to the needle, no tubing in between. And you get a small PDA (about the size of an older Palm Pilot) which is the "communications center" for the whole system. The PDA is also a glucometer, so you don't need to have a separate piece of equipment to do your testing. And it communicates to the pods through infrared signals, for bolus doses and changes to basal rates. The PDA also has plenty of memory to store info on carb intake, blood sugars, and comes with a pretty good food/carb list for quick reference.

My husband absolutely loves it - it's very easy to program, and it's really nice to have all of his carb counts and blood sugar levels in one place for those times when he does run either high or low, to help him fine tune his settings. And because the system is wireless, he can wear the pod anywhere he has a little body fat. He has worn it on his belly, his legs and his arms, and some of the old scar tissue has already started to go away since he's only putting a needle in once every 3 days and he has a lot of injection sites to choose from. His blood sugars have stablized really fast too. We had a checkup for him just before he started with the OmniPod, and his A1C (the test to see what your average blood sugar has been over 3 months) was 8.2, which is pretty bad. Three months after starting the Pods, we had another A1C test, and this time it came back at 6.5! People with healthy pancreases test at between 3.5-5.5. That's a huge change in a short period of time.

I've had great luck with their customer service as well - every month we get a box of pods and yes, sometimes they fail. Whenever that happens I just call their service department, and they send a replacement pod free. They have always been extremely helpful with my questions, even before we decided to use their system. And most of their customer service reps are also diabetics who use the Pods, so they can answer your questions from personal experience!

Do you or someone you know have Type 1 Diabetes? Check out the OmniPod and get a free demo kit so you can see for yourself how the system works!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Monday Redbox free rental!

Here's todays Redbox code for a free movie rental! It's only good until midnight tonight and the movie must be returned by 9PM on Tuesday.


At the redbox kiosk, choose the "Rent with a code" button, choose your movie, swipe your card and enjoy some free entertainment!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Menu Plan Monday - Oct 27th

There's nothing predictable about a New England fall. Last week we saw temperatures dipping into the 20's overnight - I was ready to break out the window plastic and the puffy coats. Last night there was a big rainstorm, and today? It feels like mid-spring. It's true what they say - if you don't like the weather in New England, wait five minutes :)

Last week's new recipes were GREAT! The Vegetable Curry was delish...and not too spicy - even the baby loved it! There were a LOT of leftovers too - I'd say it made closer to 10 servings instead of 8. The ribs pleased even my hubby's BBQ snob palate, and the Chipotle Chicken Tenders disappeared fast. I made the Squash and Apple Casserole in the crockpot instead of the oven, it was very tasty but probably would have had a nice crust (like an apple brown betty) if it were baked. Our only snafu was leftover's night...I have discovered that I need to be a little more specific when hubby is in charge of scavenging - he ate ALL of the leftover chicken from the roaster I made last week....that was about TWO MEALS worth of leftover chicken, because I use it in stew and skillet dishes to stretch it further. I suppose I can't blame him, it is sinfully tasty...but the man needs to learn a little restraint! :)

This week we actually have most nights home together! Friday night we'll be going to a family Halloween party (man, I need to finish the Boy Wonder's costume!!) and we have to decide whether we'll celebrate our anniversary this weekend or next - depends on when grammie wants to have a sleepover with her boy...I am really trying to work out of my stockpile as much as possible - I had to invest in some new spices for one dish this week but other than that shopping was exclusively perishables (fruits and veggies, milk).

Baking this week will include muffins made with the leftovers from the squash and apple casserole and a batch of Applesauce Bread for breakfasts and snacks. I'll be doing a batch of 40 minute buns with half as dinner rolls and half as sandwich sized buns. I found a recipe for wheat bread, but I'm still working up the courage to give it a go...I'll post it if it works!

Here's what'll be on our table, don't forget to pay Laura a visit over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and check out all of the fabulous menus for the week! Get crazy - add yours :)

monday - Cabbage Roll Casserole ($4.28 for 6 servings)

tuesday - Bee Rocks, fruit salad ($6.50, includes 12 servings of Bee Rocks)

wednesday - Autumn Chicken, mashed butternut squash, Homemade rolls ($4.61 for 4 servings)

thursday - Lloyd's BBQ chicken on homemade buns, steamed broccoli ($3.30 for 4 servings)

friday - Halloween shindig at the in-laws - free meal!

saturday - If we don't go out for an anniversary dinner, then Caraway pork chops, leftover dinner rolls, steamed mixed veggies with butter and sweet basil ($5.40 for 4 servings)

sunday Homemade cheese pizza ($1.94)

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Brick #4 - Give a Little Sweat Equity

I had rockstar dreams. Once upon a time, I was going to be a famous actress/singer/dancer and live in the lap of luxury, with a team of dedicated employees to cater to my every whim.


Now I am the caterer...and taxi driver, personal shopper, accountant, maid, butler, activities coordinator...I should get paid by the hour! Then I could live in the lap of...oh nevermind.

With all of that going on, don't I deserve a little convenience in my life? Perhaps. But I had to sit down and take a hard look at where the small amount of money we had was going, and somewhere along the way it occured to me that HUNDREDS of dollars were disappearing out of our wallets because we were buying convenience food.

Let me clarify a little bit - in my book, "convenience food" includes ANYTHING that I could make for myself, but I choose to buy a pre-packaged version. Yes, that includes bread, pancake mix, soup, precooked meats, shredded cheese. Anything that I could DIY in my meager kitchen. There were two thought processes going on:

1. What am I buying just to avoid putting some time in at the stove?
2. What is the benefit if I did it myself instead?

The answer to the first question was a long list of prepared meals, breakfast foods, snacks, and easy dinner solutions. The answer to the second question was short: I save a LOT of money, and I KNOW what is going into my family's mouths - no fillers, preservatives or extra junk. This required me to put firmly in place another brick:

4. Give a little sweat equity in the kitchen, gain a lot in the wallet

Let's dispel a few myths about making things homemade:

It takes too much time
My breakfast muffins take 10 minutes to mix, 20 minutes to bake (while they're baking, I can do other things!). I often throw some together before I go to work in the morning, it's that easy. Same goes for most dinners that I make. Ten or fifteen minutes of prep, and I can go about other business while things cook. Especially in the crockpot - I've been known to toss ingredients into the 'pot before work, set it, and dinner's done when I get home. Easy Peasy! At first things took longer to make, but that was just me re-acquainting myself with the stuff in my kitchen :)

One of my biggest time savers was making extra portions of a meal and freezing them - I haven't yet ventured into once-a-month cooking, but making extras while I'm already in the kitchen has been a lifesaver on nights when we aren't getting home until later in the evening. Sometimes those freezer meals are the only thing standing between me and the temptation to order out. That alone saves me almost 20 bucks a week...more if you include the fact that our leftovers often become lunch at work!

I can't cook.
YES YOU CAN. You don't need to be Julia Child in the kitchen, you just need to be able to operate an oven/crockpot without breaking something. It's really just following basic instructions, if you could program your iPod you've worked harder at that than you would in the kitchen! Two of my favorite recipe sites, Cooks.com and Recipezaar.com are chock full of simple recipes with minimal ingredients. A good basic cookbook (my personal favorites are How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food and The Best of Cooking with 3 Ingredients (Flavors of Home)) can be your best friend and help in areas you aren't comfortable with - I always had questions about cooking raw meat...now I roast with the best of them!

I won't really save any money because I have to buy the ingredients
OK - most people know that is about as false as Tammy Faye Baker's eyelashes. But I do actually know people who think this way! They figure that buying ONE of something over TEN somethings makes the ONE something cheaper. But most of the time, the raw materials that you use will add up to a LOT less when you consider that you're buying enough to make SEVERAL somethings instead of just one meal.

Investing some sweat equity in your kitchen is ESSENTIAL to successfully feeding your family on a small budget. I am a working mom (anywhere between 32 and 48 hours a week) and my husband works as much or more. My son is a mini-hurricane right now. I DID NOT think I had the time to do the home cooked meals thing every night. But I knew that I could make the same thing as packaged meals for a fraction of the cost, so I made the choice to TRY.

I started just making the effort to plan very basic protein-veggie-starch dinners. The more I did it, the easier it became to branch out and try new recipes. If you stick to recipes with less than 10 ingredients (and follow your price book!) most of your dinners will end up being under $7 for 4-6 portions. That's an ENTIRE WEEK of dinners for less than 40 bucks.

Getting familiar with the flour jar will also cut major costs. I make homemade muffins, buns/rolls, and pizza dough just about every week. ALL THREE of these recipes cost me $2.73 COMBINED. That's six muffins, 12 dinner rolls and a whole pizza pie. There are a TON of cheap recipes for muffins, breads, breakfast bars and such out there, just find the ones that appeal to you! The only think I don't bake myself right now is sandwich bread - only because I get it SO cheap at Price Rite. If I can figure out how to make it for less than 75 cents a loaf, I'm all over it.

I even make our own version of 100 calorie snack packs. I buy a BIG bag of the snack of choice, and divvy it up into snack baggies. The cost? Around 5 bucks for about 20-30 servings. Those snack packs at their CHEAPEST are 2 bucks for SIX. My cost for the same number of servings - $0.25.

The added benefit of all this work? You know EXACTLY what's going into the mouths of your precious family. No fillers. No added preservatives, extra sodium, or things you can't pronounce. I don't know about you, but it makes me sleep better at night. And my husband is healthier than he's ever been, in spite of his diabetes....there's something to this "home cookin' thing"!

Next week we'll spice it up! Literally ;)

Some great resource sites:

Make ahead recipes - Your Own "fast" food

The $5 Dinner Mom - Awesome recipes, all for 5 bucks or less per meal!

Saving Money with Homemade Convenience Mixes - everything from breads to sauces to seasonings, and tips on making homemade even healthier.

Grab and Go foods

The Crockpot Lady - if it can be done in a crockpot, she's tested it! Another awesome recipe site.

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


The Goodie Bag

Some freebies and discounts to get your weekend going!


Another $5/$20 coupon for Walgreens - good today 10/24 and tomorrow 10/25! Get the printable coupon OR a coupon to shop online HERE

Don't forget to print your weekend grocery coupons!

Dunkin' Donuts. Dunkin' keeps me blogging. Try Dunkin' Donuts Coffee For Free. Get a Sample

Diabetes Guide
It's Diabetes awareness month - get a free info kit for you or a loved one (Hubby has type 1 so I'm all about tooting this horn!)

Free samples on stuff you actually use!

FREE Betty Crocker taters when you sign up for the Dinner Made Easy newsletter (I get this, they send great recipes!)

Free custom Fruit Roll Ups are back! Get them before they're gone!

Apparently it's Be Nice To Your Va Jay-Jay week at Wal Mart. Get free samples of Playtex Sport tampons and Kotex

Free sample of Garnier Nutritioniste Ultra Lift HERE

Free sample of Airborne Zesty Orange - just in time for cold season! HERE

Enfamil LIPIL® Formulas. Free sample Click Here

Get a Facial Cleansing Cloth Sample. Click Here

Get signed up with Logical Media and get your blog working for you - they've been really good to me so far!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Old Navy Fall Sale

OK - I just got back from a little shopping excursion for the Boy Wonder at Old Navy - if you have ANY fall shopping to do for your little ones, GET TO OLD NAVY!! I had read this post at "Deal"icious Mom and decided to check out my local store...


Right now, they are giving an extra 50% off of all infant and toddler clothes with red markdown tags. That means 75 percent off - I bought two long sleeved button down shirts (99 cents each) and three thermal-style shirts (two dollars each) for 8 bucks. The one I shopped at had a lot of summer shirts on the racks, if we hadn't just inherited a ton of 3T sized clothes I'd have gone nuts with stuff for next year.

The Thermal shirts didn't actually have a red tag but they were on the lower racks (where the old stuff goes) and did ring up at a super discount (marked down from $8.50 a piece to 2 bucks). I had grabbed a newer style from an upper rack that didn't ring up on sale so I just had them take it back. Call your local store to confirm whether they are running this sale, and on what items.

Happy shopping!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine

AWESOME deal from Omaha Steaks/Geico *link fixed

It's been a crazy week so I haven't finished the next Bricklaying installment, look for it before the end of the week!

Instead, I am passing along this AWESOME deal that was posted by "Deal"icious Mom

Visit her post HERE for all of the details, but here's how it works:

1. Sign up for Geico Privileges (you don't have to be a Geico customer, it's just a corporate affiliate program where they get discounts for referring business to sponsors)

2. After you sign up, Geico will email you a gift card code for $25 from Omaha Steaks! It took my code about half a day to show up, so be patient. I had to actually log on to get the code, at first the link only sent me to their deals search page.

3. Once you have the code, open up the Omaha Steaks link in "Deal"icious Mom's post - you HAVE to use this link, not the one straight from the Geico site.

4. Choose anything that is at least $12 - view your cart and there should be an option to choose a free gift! The only thing that showed up was the set of 6 cutlery and the cutting board. Select that, and it will be in your cart when you check out.

I am getting a New York Cheesecake, the cutlery and the cutting board for $3.98. Pretty sweet!

Oh and if you want to do any additional shopping at Omaha steaks once you complete this deal, click this link HERE and they will add 12 free burgers to your order! **disclosure: I will get a $20 gift card for every 2 people that complete this deal, which I would love to use in upcoming giveaways!

Happy shopping!!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Menu Plan Monday - Oct 20th

Another week, another menu plan! I'm starting to measure the passage of time based on what's crossing the dinner table :) We're working on finishing our Halloween costumes, I actually scored a huge bit of burlap from the pumpkin patch farm for the Boy Wonder's costume..hooray! We had fun bouncing through the pumpkin field, but it was a very blustery day - and if you've ever dealt with a fall/winter wind in New England, you understand quickly why Yanks are called "hardy". Makes me miss the Colorado winters I grew up with!

Last week's menu went OK, but I ended up switching a bunch of nights around, and I never got around to making the squash and apple casserole. I am going to give it another try this week, and I think I'm going to do it in the crockpot instead of the oven - we'll see how that comes out! Everything else went over very well, though I'd definitely do more cheese in the Broccoli cheese soup next time. Hubby's coworkers have been very jealous of all the good leftovers he brings for lunch :)

This week we only have two nights where everyone will be home for dinner (can you tell which ones?), most other nights the hubby is working so he'll have to enjoy the previous night's dinner on his meal breaks! I had a couple of recipes that I really wanted to try, which made me overshoot my budget by about 10 bucks...next week I have to aim to spend as little as possible and work out of my stockpile. I made a batch of carrot-applesauce muffins that came out AWESOME, so a double batch of those will serve as breakfast and snack options.

Don't forget to visit Laura over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and check out the 300-plus other MPM participants!

monday - Crockpot Vegetable Curry with coconut rice ($7.06 for 8 servings)

tuesday - Leftover veggie soup with leftover chicken and rice added ($0.23 - it's mostly leftovers!)

wednesday - I'm working a 16 hour shift so the boys will be making good on all the leftovers in the fridge!

thursday - Homemade cheese pizza ($1.99 for 6-8 servings)

friday - Oven Baked Country Ribs, Baked squash and apple casserole, cornbread ($7.82 for 6 servings)

saturday - Chipotle Ranch Chicken Fingers, Green Giant broccoli cheese & rice Steamers that I got on sale for 88 cents! ($5.67 for 4-6 servings)

sunday - Leftover baked ziti from nephew's b'day party (froze a bunch of it!) - FREE!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


You can now die happy

I've been tagged by Felicia over at Go Graham Go! with a fun little meme - her blog is full of product reviews and great personal stories. Her little guy even gets in on the reviewing!

And now on to the fun stuff :)


I have to share 7 random facts/habits about myself and then rope in 7 unsuspecting victims to do the same...so here goes!

1. I was once an aspiring Broadway actress and actually got pretty close to acheiving that dream until life circumstances got in the way. I have actually danced on the Shubert theater stage, and I kept the taps from those shoes :) I've been in a choir, musicals, a rock band, and a worship band, and I've actually paid bills by winning karaoke contests.

2. I am a chronic crafter. Scrapbooking? Check. Knitting and crochet? Double check. Bow making, needlepoint, rubber stamping, latch hook, diaper cakes, flower arranging...well you get the point. You don't want to see my storage room.

3. I never finished college, something I have serious regrets about. Going back is in the long-term plans, but sometimes I wonder if I'll ever find the time/money/energy to go through with it.

4. I'm more than a little disturbed by the fact that my 35th birthday is looming in the very near future.

5. I ADORE country line dancing. Before the baby I would go 3 times a week, I own 2 pairs of dancing boots, and I used to be known as the "spin queen" to the two-steppers.

6. I own a pair of teal sparkly heels. They are shoes only a drag queen could love. And me.

7. I have lived in 16 different homes in 6 different states over my lifetime. I actually had 3 different apartments in the same town. I moved 7 times in a 5 year period, and went through almost a year of living out of my car and crashing on people's couches. If you ask me to help you move/pack/unpack and I AGREE, you must be a VERY special person.

OK now I have to tag 7 other people, so in no particular order:

On the Verge
Jolene at My Absent Mind
Maureen at Qpon Cutie
Mrs Bear at Outnumbered Two to One
Briana at Bargian Briana
Tosha at Savings Makes Cents
Pam at More Than Bargains

Be sure to visit them too!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


The Goodie Bag

Here's an updated list of freebies, samples, and other goodies!

Today and tomorrow only! 10/17 and 10/18
Walgreens $5 off $25 purchase - get the coupon HERE

For the Whole Foods shoppers - they are running a $5/$25 coupon from now until 10/22 - print your COUPON before it expires! - thanks to Mommy Making Money for that one :)

And for YET ANOTHER coupon - while Payless is having their BOGO sale, they are also running a $10/$50 coupon! CLICK HERE for the coupon...and thanks to Green Stew for sharing!

Kotex Free sample pack of Kotex (I got mine already!)


Baby on the way? Get free baby samples and coupons. Click Here

Get your FREE sample of Crystal Light, Purell, Blistex, plus many more samples from REMEDY Magazine just for joining REMEDYLife. In addition to FREE healthy samples you'll get coupons and special offers absolutely FREE. Click here to Join Today! Click Here

Dove(R) Cleansing Cloths help refresh your skin while Neutrogena(R) Cleansing Cloths repair and heal your skin. Get a sample. Click Here

Get up to $30 in coupons for cleaning supplies from SC Johnson at Right at Home

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Brick #3 - Set Some Guidelines

I have to be honest - four months ago if you had asked me how much I should expect things to cost at the market, my eyes would have glassed over and you probably would have seen smoke billowing from my ears. Sure, I could go back to my receipts and tell you how much I had paid for things....but that's not the same as knowing about what things SHOULD cost me. It's the difference between knowing the face value on a concert ticket and knowing what you paid the scalper :)

Last week I delved into the scary territory of creating a price book. If you found a few extra minutes and got something started, you have a great foundational brick for building awareness of what you should be paying for your grocery items. The one drawback of a price book in the early stages - it's totally reactive. You've already bought the item, and you can't change what you paid if it ends up being a higher price. The good news is, in the long run that price book will be ABSOLUTELY indispensible...but in the meantime, there are things you can do to make the process more proactive and head off spending more than you have to. It will also save you some time when you're scanning those circulars!

3. Set some basic guidelines and limitations for your shopping

Boundaries are a good thing! And in terms of grocery shopping, giving yourself good boundaries will set you up to spend smarter.

  • Follow your price book, and figure out what a safe per-unit price is for your area.

I have firm boundaries regarding what I will spend on meat. In my area, I have found that if I am patient, I can get just about any meat for $2 a pound, $1 if it's bone-in chicken. These aren't everyday prices, but if I wait out the sales cycles, these prices come around somewhat regularly. Here's a few examples for you:

**Boneless chicken breasts $1.88/lb**Boneless pork tenderloin (bought in a 10 lb loin, had the store butcher cut into chops) $1.88/lb**Top round london broil $1.79/lb**Bottom round beef roast $2.12/lb (yes this is over $2 but for beef this was close enough!)**Italian sausage $1.99/lb **Ground turkey $1.50/lb **Bone-in split chicken breasts $0.99/lb **Chicken thighs or drumsticks $0.99/lb **Whole chicken $0.79/lb

Because I know what the lowest price is, I can very quickly scan the circulars when they come and not waste time reading every item. I shoot for produce at or close to $1 a pound, though with some items that's just not possible in my area. I won't by a pre-packaged mix or side dish unless it's $0.50 a box (generally with coupons, but it happens a LOT!) And I won't pay more than $1 for any canned good. Having those "rule of thumb" boundaries saves me time, and when those prices hit I know to stock up! Which brings me to my next boundary:
  • Know your eating habits, AND your storage capability.

In the first Brick, I talked a lot about examining your family's regular eating habits. Just as you want to be aware of what you use regularly, to help you shop smarter for the things you use a lot, you also want to be aware of what your regular menus look like - if you see a great sale on pork but your kids won't touch it with a 10 foot pole, it's not worth the plastic it's wrapped in. You also want to be keenly aware of what you have room for, and whether you are able to store things properly. Buying 20 pounds of meat is great until you have to fit it in the freezer. In the fridge, items shouldn't be packed in so tight you can barely get to the milk carton - air has to circulate to keep things cool. And if you can't remember whether the soup is in the pantry, the closet, under the beds, or in the doghouse...well you get the picture. Buying smart means buying within your means to pay AND your means to store...so finally:

  • Don't be enticed into stocking up when the sale is good, if it will NEVER get used.

My sister in law got carried away one week. She bought 40 yogurts for a ridiculously low price. The problem? She doesn't eat yogurt. Choked down every last one of them to justify her purchase, but was that necessary? Of course not - the thrill of the chase and the rush of buying things at a huge discount got the better of her.

I caught myself falling into the same trap - I'd see these crazy deals, and it would physically pain me to pass them up. But if I knew I could never use or find a use for something, what good is spending any money at all on it? I'm going to say this out loud, so brace yourself.

If you can't use it, share it, or donate it, it is OK to pass up a great deal.

Whew. I hope they don't come for me with pitchforks and torches.

Be realistic - certain things are always good for donation even if you don't need them (in fact, Coupon Mom lists charity-worthy items in with the "best deals" for your grocery store), but if you won't need it before your current stockpile runs out you can probably sit out this sale - it will come around again! We get into a hoarding mentality when a deal is really good, but giving in to that particular monster could lead you to have cabinets full of cake mix when your husband is diabetic (nobody I know...really.)

Next week, we're returning to the good ol' days before convenience foods ruled the world - get your frilly apron and your rolling pin ready!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine

Get your Halloween on!

Halloween is a huge holiday in my house. For my husband (the Misfits/horror movie/Tim Burton fan) it's bigger than Christmas. We start planning our costumes just after Easter, and the pumpkins go in the window as soon as September is past.

We have wanted to do a big Halloween blowout party, our apartment doesn't accommodate a crowd well but we're working on an evil plot to take over my Mother in law's house :) I have visions of family costume contests, silly themed games, and a LOT of mischief!

If you are lucky enough to have a Halloween party in the works, you HAVE to check out this contest - Oriental Trading company is giving away FREE party supplies! OTC is my absolute go-to source for cheap party goods. You get good bulk pricing, a great variety, and they ship really quick. I've used them on several occasions and never been disappointed.

OTC Sweepstakes

Browse the site, but be sure to enter the contest! And send me an invite to your party :)

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Hooray for bloggy love!

I got some real warm fuzzies when I checked my blog comments today - Felicia over at Go Graham Go! has given me an award! If you haven't checked out her blog, head on over - she has great stories and product reviews :)



And of course there are rules:
1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs of the persons you've nominated.

This is just a small sampling of the awesome blogs I try to read every day - be sure to stop in and say hi!

Blogging MoRe

The Un-Mom

Memoirs of a Chaotic Mommy

April's Little Family

Cheaper than Therapy

Feels Like Home

Northern Cheapskate

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Menu Plan Monday - Oct 13th

We managed to survive last week *mostly* intact - even with the extra hours at work we stayed on plan as far as the menu goes, though since we did end up over my in-laws on Sunday I will probably do the soup and sandwiches for dinner tonight...I haven't decided yet :)

The Sausage Oven Omelette turned out SOOOO good and made six healthy portions, so that will definitely go on the regular rotation...it'd be easy to double too, which will make it great for family brunches and pot lucks! I was also impressed with how far we stretched the Mexican chicken - two good sized chix breasts made enough shredded meat for 4 quesadillas, a burrito and chicken on my salad! Imagine what I could do with 2 pounds instead of 1...hehehe..

I did NO baking last week, so this week I have to hit the flour jar hard. I'm just about out of muffins so I'm going to do a batch of carrot muffins, some applesauce bread, and some dinner rolls and hoagie-sized rolls from this dough recipe (this one gets a LOT of mileage in my house!) If there are any leftovers from the squash and apple casserole I will probably see about baking that into muffins too!

I'm trying out a new soup recipe this week, it's one of those things I want to build in my repertoire because soup is relatively cheap for a LOT of servings, and it stores well. I like having things on hand that I can just pull out of the freezer and have on the table without a lot of extra effort :)

I had a really good shopping week but I'll post about that separately - in the meantime check out this week's MPM participants over at I'm an Organizing Junkie! And Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all the Canucks :)

monday - either veggie soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (carryover), or pasta with veggies ($3.15/$2.50)

tuesday - Mimi's Sticky Chicken, baked squash & apple casserole, homemade rolls ($8.65 - it's a pretty big chicken. I'll be making stock too!)

wednesday - Crockpot Thai chicken thighs, rice, steamed zukes ($7.70)

thursday - Homemade Hawaiian pizza - I do mine with pineapple and bacon ($2.94)

friday - Creamy broccoli cheese soup, leftover rolls from earlier in the week ($6.60)

saturday - Turkey meatball subs ($5.20)

sunday - taking our annual trip to the pumkin patch, then we have Uncle Bubba's birthday party...free eats!

**You'll notice my per-meal cost is a little high this week - I've been debating whether it's easier to break meals down to the number of servings we'll have or just do the whole cost and count leftovers as freebies. This week is the cost of the whole recipe, most serve 6-8 but some (like the chicken and the soup) serve almost twice that. If you have preferences of what you'd like to see, leave a comment and let me know!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine


Freebies for the day

Here's a couple of good freebies offers:

Fruit Roll-ups

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine

Brick #2 - Do your Homework!

Ever find yourself watching Jeopardy and you get the right answer to a question with no idea how you knew? If you lived with my husband (AKA the Bottomless Pit of Useless Knowledge), you'd know :) But seriously - we have no idea how much information is actually stored in our heads until we need that little nugget of wisdom that was buried under memories of "Gilmore Girls" before it got boring.

My friend Melissa thinks I'm some kind of magician because I appear to have ESP when it comes to knowing where the best prices are and knowing what to look for. Little does she know that my "superpower" is really just the result of diligence on my part! Which brings me to this week's brick:

2. Keep a Price Book - and do your homework!

Last week you came away with your "essentials" list - those 20-odd items that your family uses with absolute regularity every week, and the foods in your diet that are indispensible. If you saved any of your shopping receipts over the last few months, you've already got the makings of a price book on the things you use most! A good price book includes the following basic information:

  1. Item (you want to use specifics here - prices do vary brand-to-brand for the same item!)
  2. Cost (use the cost including store discounts but NOT cost after coupons)
  3. Package size
  4. Unit Cost (this is VERY important info!)
  5. Store you bought from
  6. Date of purchase (helps track sales cycles)
There are lots of ways to set up a price book - in a looseleaf notebook, Excel spreadsheet, 3-ring binder, even a small memo pad. The internet is full of resources to help get you started - check out this printable form, or this downloadable spreadsheet version. This article from the Dollar Stretcher on setting one up has good suggestions, and Organized Home has some good templates to print for a binder. Once you figure out what will work for you, get ready for a little elbow grease!

Fill in as much as you can from the receipts you have on hand. I suggest starting only with your most essential items because otherwise the task can be incredibly overwhelming - once you have the info from the store you USUALLY shop at, you need to make a little time and expand your horizons...by reading all of the circulars, even visiting other stores on fact-finding missions! When I started out, I knew that Price Rite had the most consistent low pricing of all of my local stores. So I let the hubby watch the baby for an hour, and I went to the store - I didn't buy anything, but I made notes on prices and package sizes for everything I used regularly. This became the gold standard by which all other stores' sales were measured. Over the subsequent weeks I'd watch the circulars and visit other stores...adding comparison info to my notes, until I had a great reference tool built up!

What you want to do is build a list of the lowest pricing that a particular store offers. I keep my book in a spreadsheet so I can change it easily - but if you decide to handwrite, use a pencil so that you can adjust along the way without having to rewrite everything. If in checking your circulars you find that an item on your list is going for a lower sale price than the last time you bought it (or noted the price), change your price book and note the date of the sale. If the price has been high for a while and goes back down to your lowest marked price, change the date. You'll be comparison shopping AND tracking sales cycles for your particular stores. After a while, you'll catch on to trends - maybe your market lowers the price on chicken breasts every 6 weeks...maybe only around the holidays. What you will know for SURE is when you are getting your items at their BEST price (which is a good time to use coupons for even MORE savings!) and when to stock up!

But why is unit pricing so important? As someone with a chronic allergy to math I was hesitant to do that much work. But it has definitely paid off - sometimes by breaking things down to the unit price, I find that smaller packaging is actually cheaper than bulk packaging. Figuring out the unit price points me to the truly good deals, instead of a "deal" masked in smaller sizes. A perfect example was my last diaper purchase. I usually buy BJ's brand diapers because they are cheaper per diaper than most of the rest - $0.16 per diaper for the Boy Wonder's size 4's, and the box of 152 gets me through a couple of weeks. This time, I happened to have a coupon for Luvs diapers, and I did the math just to see if it'd be worthwhile - with the coupon, the Luvs hit that $0.16 per diaper AND they came in a box of 180 - so I paid the same low unit price as the store brand, got a brand name, and a bigger box that will last me longer!

Getting started on a price book is a lot of work, but it'll become more valuable than your wallet after a while! And the more you read the circulars, note the sales, and get familiar with more than one store, you'll find that the process becomes second nature. You'll have an "instinct" for when to hit particular stores. And you'll get your own version of grocery ESP, simply because you paid attention and did your homework along the way!

Next week, I'll talk a bit about setting good guidelines, which will make scanning the circulars go even faster!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine



Ok. I'm sitting here watching Dancing with the Stars, and it's time for the Crazy Old Lady and her Crazier Dance Partner. I can appreciate that Cloris Leachman has made a career out of her left-of-center-where-the-heck-is-left sense of humor. And man, I can only hope to be hopping around like that when I'm her age. I hope I'm continent at her age.

But ew.

Like really, ew.

Am I the only one who finds them more than a little disturbing?

I'm not really sure which is oogier. Her (just in general) on the dance floor, or her partner Corky Ballas who actually CHOREOGRAPHS these dances. And seems to be enjoying himself WAAAAY too much on the dance floor. Do I really need to see her boobies in the camera? Does he HAVE to do the rump shake with her EVERY time? I seriously think he lays awake at night, dreaming up new and unusual ways to cop a feel.

I need a shower. And something that will dissolve the images that are now burned into my retinas.


Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Search Engine