Monday, April 26, 2010

Freezer Meal Swap - Ideas & Tips

I had my monthly freezer meal swap this week. Our group only has had 5 people participating the last two swaps so we have been meeting slightly more often.

A friend asked about how to set up a meal swap, so I thought I share some of my experience and ideas with you readers. First, I'll share my recommendation for setting up a swap of your own. Next, I'll share my own experience joining a swap group. Finally, I'll share about making this month's contribution, Beefy Green Chili Enchilada Casserole.

If you want to start a freezer meal swap of your own, here are some things to consider:
  • What do you want to get out this swap? Is it more recipes & ideas? Is it freedom from cooking one or two times a week? Is it simply to save time? Do you just want to try it out
  • Who can you ask to join you? If you eat organic, vegetarian, or vegan, consider other friends who make it a priority. If you want family-friendly meals, choose other families with kids.
  • How often do you want to meet?
  • How large do the meals need to be?
Once you find a group of people (I'd say six at the minimum) decide on some guidelines. Here are some ideas there:
  • Confirm size of meal and meeting frequency with everyone.
  • Decide on carnivorous, vegetarian, organic, etc. meals. This is important because meat & organic foods are expensive. Swap members won't want to feel an inequality in meals. If you want meat in every meal, speak up!
  • Ask about allergies. Don't get into dislikes or you'll have a huge list, so stick with allergies.
  • Decide on how to package the food. Who will pay for the packaging?
  • What will it look like when you meet? Will it be someone's house? Will it be a park'n'ride? If it's someone's house will they "host" and have refreshments?
  • Bring some cookbooks for the group to look through for ideas.
  • How will you choose meeting dates? First Monday of the month? Decide at each swap? Email conversation? Doodle poll?
I joined an already established group about 2 years ago. The original members were primarily married women with dual incomes. They met mostly at one woman's home and sat around for 30 minutes or so chatting & eating before we swapped. They had set up some basic ground rules earlier that were explained to me. The rules/expectations were pretty straightforward and what I expected.
  • Prepare a dinner entree for four that will freeze, then reheat well.
  • If you make a soup, there should be at least 2 cups per person, so 8 cups minimum.
  • If you make a casserole, it should fill one of the 11"x6" tins we purchase together.
  • The meals should be good, so try them out from frozen before you bring them to contribute.
  • Meals should take awhile to prepare because you're making so many - plan on 6 or more hours.
  • I should plan on the ingredients being costly, also because you're making so many - plan on each month's contribution costing $60-90.
  • I would have to contribute to the purchase of tins & ziplocs which we all use to put the meals in. One person had reponsibility for them & brought them each time.
I was friends with one of the original ladies so she helped me out with my first contribution, sending me a recipe that had been enjoyed before by the group. It took forever to make. I didn't think it even tasted very good, but I was nervous about making something the group would like so I went ahead. After that first swap I had a better idea of what other people made so I felt more comfortable. I also checked out several freezer meal cookbooks from the library and got myself a good stash of recipes to try.
Over the course of two years several things have happened:
  • We've purchased tins/ziplocs twice & both times my contribution was around $20.
  • The original group also bought Costco spices that were rarely used, so we just divided those up among the participants so one person didn't have to keep storing them and bringing them to every swap.
  • Several people have dropped out of the group and several people have joined. We've had childless couples, families with up to 3 kids, a dating couple (they split their meals), a caterer, and some 'visitors' who only stayed for two swaps. The current group of 6 only has one original member and we all have kids (or are expecting) now.
  • The meals have become simpler - which is fine with us! We don't make fancy meals or use expensive ingredients usually. The favorites aren't things from cookbooks, but family favorites like Aunt Millie's Crazy Chicken.
  • We usually meet on a Monday night in a centrally located parking lot, but pick a date that works for everyone using a poll at It takes about 10 minutes to wait for late arrivals & swap. We come a little early if we want to chat.
  • Our central location has shifted from Seattle to Lake City to Woodinville as the group members have changed.
I like my swap group a lot. We've only had one meal that was completely inedible which is pretty good for over two years and about 200 meals! We like meat and always put it in our meals (even if the budget only allows for a little bit), and have only been frustrated a few times when we get meatless meals. They still taste great, but we like our meat! I have gotten some great new recipes, I can easily make extra meals when preparing for the swap to keep for my own family or to take people at church who could use meals, and best of all, I don't have to cook every single night.
This month I made Beefy Green Chili Enchilada Casserole. Here's the recipe:
Cook 1 pound ground beef with 1 t. minced garlic. Drain. Stir in a 10 ounce can or tomatoes w/green chilies and 2T chili powder. Divide in half.
Coat a 9 x 13 x 2 baking dish with cooking spray and cover the bottom with 6" tortillas cut into quarters. Layer the tortillas with half the meat, then 1 cup of frozen corn, 1 cup of green enchilada sauce, 1 cup of jack cheese. Then put another layer of quartered tortillas, layer the other half of the meat, 1 more cup of enchilada sacue,and the other cup of cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes at 350 until bubbly.

Here's how it started:

Here's how it ended:


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Free $10 at JCPenney online!

For Mother's Day JCPenney is offering $10 off a purchase of $10 or more. Use the code 4BESTMOM on their website April 25 - May 9.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring Cleaning Tips

I am the first to admit I am not a great housekeeper. It's not a priority and is a huge exercise in discipline for me to even vacuum & mop once a week. And posting that on a blog for anybody to see must be an exercise in humility & honesty.

I wanted to post some cleaning planning ideas that encouraged me. I thought they might also encourage some of you, too, since "Spring Cleaning" seems so daunting.

  • Look at your calendar for the next month. Choose a week or two that aren't as busy and try to keep those days from filling up - knowing you'll be busy at home.
  • Assign one room or area of your home to each day you've selected. Take my house for example: Kitchen (2 days), playroom, girls' room, nursery, bathrooms, closets, windows (2 days), office, master, garage. I needed 12 days, but I know some will be just an hour or two and others will be all day - or two day - projects.
  • Prioritize the cleaning. I have a whole list of chores that are "once a year" chores and I make sure these top the list. I also have to try not to get distracted with major sorting and organizing (especially in kids areas). The assigned day is for cleaning - I can sort & organize on another day.
  • Don't be afraid to enlist the help of your children. Yes, they may slow you down, but including them is teaching them and those little hands will be big soon enough.

Here is a list of my "once a year" chores if anyone is interested. I know my mom probably would recommend I do these chores more often, but in my stage of life with littles I feel accomplished getting these done annually. I would love to know if you have things I should add. DH and I are continually learning home maintenance and find things all the time we are 'supposed' to be doing. I won't be discouraged so let 'er rip. I love my lists!
  • Run empty dishwasher with vinegar
  • Run empty washer with vinegar
  • Clean lint from around dryer hose
  • Defrost freezer
  • Empty & wipe out upper kitchen cabinets
  • Empty & wipe out lower kitchen cabinets (great one for kids' help)
  • Dust tops of kitchen cabinets
  • Wash cabinet doors (great one for kids' help)
  • Vacuum under fridge and coils behind fridge
  • Clean oven (6 months)
  • Wash curtains/clean blinds (6 months)
  • Wash windows interior & exterior
  • Wash bathroom light fixtures (6 months)
  • Change furnace filters
  • Fertilize grass (6 months)
  • Seal deck (2 years)
  • Seal tile (2 years)

A few other things I do more often but might be good spring cleaning items for your list are:
  • washing your shower curtain,
  • washing your bed dust ruffle,
  • cleaning the inside of the fridge,
  • vacuuming out the couches,
  • scrubbing kitchen chairs and/or barstools,
  • cleaning the inside of your trash cans,
  • washing fingerprints off doorknobs & light switches,
  • check dates in your pantry & fridge,
  • touch up paint inside the house.

Now don't be discouraged! That's a big list, but if you sort out which tasks go with which rooms and/or which days you've assigned it's not as scary. In some cases you only have to do one thing for the whole day (in my case, washing exterior windows is all alone).

I have tackled some of these chores already, but will focus on them when we get back from vacation the 2nd & 3rd weeks of May. I will also be clearing out clutter as part of that process, and I'll show you before & after pictures. This was inspired by moneysavingmom's blog, but I have way more embarassing junk than she does. More embarassing because it's mine, of course.

So make a plan, be encouraged, and let me know what I'm missing!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bread Overload!

A week ago I was given an abundance of bread by a church friend. This gift included:
  • 4 loaves of Costco Pugliese Bread
  • 4 loaves of Costco Whole Grain Bread
  • 2 Costco Baguettes
  • 6 big Costco sandwich rolls
  • 2 packages of 6 bagels each
Here's a photo of about half of it

This is obviously a lot of bread and it has been a little more complicated to use because the bread had already passed its pull date and was starting to harden. So what do I do with all of this? Without filling up my freezer (which as you all know I'm trying to get empty!)? It has been a carb-tastic week. Here's what we've done so far:
  • First I sliced up the baguettes and half of the sandwich rolls into thin wafers. I make a yummy appetizer that uses bread slice that way, so it was a good place to start. Those pieces are in the fridge in Ziplocs for now. I'll use about half for company this weekend.
  • The other sandwich rolls were still soft enough to use for sandwiches so DH had some leftover pulled pork on one and I made sandwiches for lunch on two days, but I ended up dipping into a glass of milk to soften the bread a bit. The big girls got a kick out of that and thought I was So Silly!
  • I also tried making croutons for the first time. I used one of the whole grain loaves and they didn't turn out well. I think I'll try again with white bread & I'll post about that whole process another day.
  • Last night we had french toast for dinner (DH wasn't eating at home) using a loaf of the whole grain bread. It worked much better as french toast than as croutons! It was so yummy we used a second loaf this morning for more french toast.
  • We have had soup for dinner twice this week and eaten bread along with it, dipping it in the broth.
  • I also have been enjoying a few slices dipped in olive oil and basalmic vinegar as an afternoon snack this week.
  • A friend also suggested making bread crumbs - thanks Christina! - so I'm planning to try those, too.
Do you have any other ideas on how to use this bread up?
I'll post about the bread crumbs, croutons, & yummy appetizers the first week of May - I'll be out of town so I thought I'd load up a "kitchen week" during my absence.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sad Little Garden Seeds

Ack! Some of my little garden plants have started to get mold on them! I guess in my zeal to keep them hydrated I over-watered. Drat!

The zucchini and pumpkin survived just fine and I only lost a couple of the dozen broccoli so I'm still good there. However the cucumber and yellow squash only have a couple good starts left. I'll keep that in mind when I plant the garden and consider how the water flows.

We are planning to put the garden in the ground this weekend. Tomorrow we want to till up the dirt and mix in some good compost and/or fertilizer. Then on Saturday we'll put the plants in. I still have to buy some tomato plants (and maybe cucumber *sniff*) so hopefully it'll all go according to plan.

I also need to read my seed packaging to figure out where I want to plant everthing. Some need a mound of dirt, some need rows, some need more water than others . . . I really miss Ruth today - she knew everything about where to put plants, but I guess I'll muddle through on my own. =^)


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day Deals

Normally I see lots of great deals around Earth Day for free reusable bags or great prices on a variety of all natural products. I haven't seen too much this year in the way of free bags, but lots of stores including Fred Meyer, Target, and Walgreens have natural cleaning & food products on sale. Also many plants and garden starts are on sale this week if you plan to garden this year.

Here are some specific deals:

  • Fred Meyer has reusable shopping bags this week for $0.50 each with in-ad coupon, limit 2
  • Safeway has a free reusable shopping bag with a purchase of $40 & in-ad coupon
  • Walgreens has reusable shopping bags for 3/$1.00 with in-ad coupon, limit 6

I highly recommend reusable shopping bags. Obviously it is better for the environment, but it also gets you a discount at many stores from $.03 to $.10 per bag used. An added bonus in my home is that we no longer have a multiplying supply of those plastic bags that get shoved in the cupboard causing clutter and an eventual errand to recycle them at the grocery store.

Some other deals I liked:

  • Walgreens is refilling ink cartridges for $1 with in-ad coupon on Thursday only.
  • Walgreens online is reducing prices an additional 22% on some of their organic products through April 30. Product lines include Method, Yes to Carrots, Alba, Better Life, Renpure Organics, GreenWorks, and Eco Tools. Shipping is free when your purchase is $25. If you start your $25 Walgreens online shopping here you'll also get a $10 credit good for a future purchase.
  • Target has Seventh Generation dish soap & Green Works all-purpose cleaner or wipes on sale for $2.49. You can print coupons for those products here and here, respectively.
Have you heard of any other good deals for Earth Day, this week? I'd love to hear about them.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dairy Queen $0.25 BoGo Blizzard

I just got an email from the Dairy Queen Fan Club that says you can get a Buy One, Get One $0.25 blizzard this week, through Sunday 4/25. The Blizzard is 25 years old, thus the $0.25 deal.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend Shopping

Here is a picture of my weekend shopping - I also bought garlic, tuna, cheese, and two cans of tomatoes at Fred Meyer that aren't pictured.
I found some unexpected great deals at TOP this week. I stopped in just for:
  • oranges at $0.38/lb
  • 5# bag of carrots for $2
  • cucumbers were $0.69
  • 3# bag of clementines for $3 since Joanna loves them
I normally don't find any markdowns at top, but decided to check for meat markdowns and found bone-in chicken breast on sale for only $0.99/lb. I decided to buy the smallest package I could find (over 3#) and use the chicken in a couple of meals. Then I noticed the organic milk (near the meat) was on sale for only $4.11/gallon. How did I miss this? Top's Full Circle organic line is all on sale for 25% off this week.

Additionally I saw many markdown stickers on products nearing their pull date. I have seen this very rarely at Top, so I was surprised and delighted. Normally Top will put up a shelf tag with a slightly lower price to clear out products close to their date, but not often with the neon stickers. And they were all over the place at the Redmond Top, including my organic milk. It had a $1 off sticker with a 'sell by' date 4 days out. Usually milk is good for about a week past the pulled date so I was really excited to get a gallon of organic milk for only $3.11. Markdown deals included:
  • Gallon organic milk on sale for $4.11 (1.00 sticker markdown) = $3.11
  • 1 lb lunchmeat ham usually 4.99, but shelf markdown to 2.49 (.55) = $1.96
  • 2 Go-gurt usually $2.99, but shelf markdown to $1.99 (1.00 sticker markdown) ($.75/2) = $.62 each
  • Oscar Meyer Chicken/Mozzarella Lunchable Sandwich sale price $1.25 ($.50 sticker markdown) ($1.00/1) = FREE + $.25 overage
There were also sticker markdowns on orange juice, biscuits, yoplait delights, Fiber One yogurt and other items, too. I am hoping this trend continues and I'll be sure to check out Top on a Saturday morning again to see if that's the best time to go. Fred Meyer does a ton of sticker markdowns on Saturday morning - I usually go around 9 so the bread guy has time to finish.

Speaking of Fred Meyer, the Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers cleaning products are still 30% and 40% off, respecively for another week. I bought a 32 oz bottle of Mrs. Meyers all purpose concentrated cleaner in lemon scent for $5.39. The directions indicate 1/4 cup to a gallon of water which works out to only 1 Tablespoon per quart/32 oz. I think this concentrated cleaner will last a long time and be well worth the $5.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Updated Menu Plan

I am updating my menu to plan for the rest of the month for several reasons:
  • After this weekend's shopping I will be near my planned $100 for the month so I want to see what I've got on hand for the next two weeks.
  • We are all leaving town for the first full week of May, so I want to be sure we use up any food that could spoil and nothing goes to waste
  • I have barely stuck to the menu plan this week because of mass quanitities of leftovers.
  • Finally, I really want to defrost my freezer before we leave town so I want to use everything I can in the next two weeks.

Here is the tentative plan for dinners:
Saturday - Dinner out (reimbursed)
Sunday - Tacos (taco shells from pantry, need to use sc & salsa, beef from freezer)
Monday - ham/white bean soup (ham, stock from freezer - beans from pantry)
Tuesday - Orange Chicken & rice (from freezer)
Wednesday - Italian sausage soup (beans & stock from freezer)
Thursday - Cheesy chicken rotini (pasta, cream soup from pantry - broccoli from freezer)
Friday - leftovers
Saturday - pot roast/salad/rolls (meat from freezer)- Company
Sunday - pulled pork/leftovers
Monday - Pork chops & potatoes (meat from freezer)
Tuesday - Chicken enchilada (from freezer)
Wednesday - Birdseye microwave dinner for 2 (from freezer) and/or leftovers
Thursday - Cheesy chicken & rice casserole (from freezer)
Friday - Leftovers

Lunches will be flexible and using leftovers:
2 macaroni & cheese pies from freezer
french toast/waffles/pancakes
sandwiches: grilled cheese/pbj/egg salad/chicken salad/tuna

*I'm out of tortillas, chips, & chicken nuggets so my lunches will be creative - we usually have nuggets, nachos, & quesadillas at least once a week.

I have another freezer meal swap at the end of this month - I am making beefy enchilada casserole because I have almost everything I need already. Corn tortillas, beef, & corn in the freezer, Jack cheese in the fridge, and green enchilada sauce in the pantry. The only thing I have to buy is canned tomato w/green chilies since I finally ran out of my tomatoes from last summer's garden. I have some salsa in the fridge somone gave me this week & I plan to combine it with the canned tomatoes so I won't have to buy as much.

I'll post about weekend shopping tomorrow.


A Resourceful Quote: Benjamin Franklin (eat)

"Eat to live, and not live to eat."

- Benjamin Franklin

Eating is important and fun, but we choose to pinch pennies when we buy food in order to concentrate on bills and dept. The goal is to live like no one else so that eventually we can live like no one else.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Whole Foods Deals

From time to time I see Whole Foods Deals on another blog, the thrifty mama, but I haven't yet found a consistent source. Here is what I saw this for the week 4/15 to 4/22:

Reportedly Whole Foods gives a 10% discount if you buy a case, so consider buying in bulk for yourself or asking a friend if he/she wants to share.

Also, be sure to take your bags because Whole Foods refunds $.10 per bag which is the largest amount I've seen anywhere.

Here are some coupon deals to get you started:

Back To Nature Macaroni and Cheese $1
-$1/1 Back To Nature Product, exp. 4-30-10 (Mambo Sprouts Mailer)
=FREE after coupon!
Case discount price without coupons: $.90 per box!

Kettle Chips $2
-$1/2 Lays Kettle Cooked Potato Chips, exp. 4-20-10 (SS 03/21/10)
=$1.50 each when you buy 2!

Imagine Organic Soups $2
-$0.75/2 Imagine Product, exp. 4-30-10 (Mambo Sprouts Mailer)
-$1/1 printable HERE
=$1 after printable coupon!

Nutiva Organic Shelled Hempseed $6.49
-$2/1 from the Vitamin Angel’s coupon booklet
=$4.49 after coupon!

Snyder’s of Hanover Organic Pretzels 2/$4
-$1/1 Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Sticks, exp. 7-31 (SS 4/11/10)
=$1 each after coupon!

Other Deals:
Organic Kiwi 3/$1

So Delicious Coconut Milk Kefir 32 oz. $3.99

Ground Chuck $3.49/lb

p.s. the "SS 3/21/10" means the coupon was in the Smart Source coupon insert on March 21, 2010. Other times you might see RP for Red Plum, another popular insert. These can come in your Sunday newspaper or with your Tuesday grocery ads it the mail, so keep your eyes peeled.

Happy Shopping!


Upcoming Posts

I have been meaning to post about several topics & I hope to get them up here before the end of the month.

Those items are:

Making Bread
Using Cloth Diapers & Wipes
Drugstore Bargain Shopping
Making Croutons
How I Grocery Shop

Stay Tuned!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Buying in Bulk

One of the ways I am able to keep my grocery bill low is to buy in bulk when prices are low. With small children we don't go through huge quantities of food, so I often try to buy with a friend so we can both get the good price without getting too much food.

Recently I was invited to purchase really big quantities as part of a semi-annual bulk buying order a friend of mine participates in. Mostly beans and grains were offered but way, way too much for our family to use in six months and probably not in a whole year. Luckily my aunt was willing to purchase a few items with me. Together we are buying a 20# bag of white rice (CA), a 25# bag of long grain brown rice (AK/MO), and a 50# bag of rolled oats (Canada). Our total for all of this is only $43.90.

My portion (because my cousin is taking some of the oatmeal) works out to $19.96 for 10# white rice, 12.5# brown rice, and 20# of rolled oats. I thought that was pretty good for $20!

Another great place for shared bulk buying is Cash & Carry. A friend & I have gone there a few times and we split produce. We split spinach, romaine, pears, apples, bell peppers, oranges, & whole cases of tomatoes. If you plan ahead by saving a couple of empty quart sized bottles you can also split gallon-sized syrup, vegetable oil, or salad dressing. Often those items are priced cheaper per ounce than you can find on sale at the grocery store.

Other more obvious places to share bulk buying are Costco & Sam's Club. At Costco it's easy to split the cleaners , diapers & wipes, and toiletries which are often in two or more packs and I also have split the brick feta cheese and the whole, peeled garlic tub (those keep great in the freezer).

Happy Shopping!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Weekend Shopping & Menu Plan

These groceries cost $29.39 all together, so I didn't quite manage staying to $25 for the week. Maybe next week will be closer to $20? We'll see.

By far the best deal was the Post Cereal. It was $1.49 on sale at Albertson's and I used 2 $1.00/2 coupons that doubled making each box only $0.49. At the checkout a Post catalina printed for $3.00 off my next shopping trip which meant the cereal was actually free and I got an overage of $1.00. Sweet!

Other great deals:
olive oil $4.99 ($4.00) = $.99
Millstone coffee coupon for free 1/2 pound
Dannon kids yogurt $2.00 ($1.00 doubled) = Free
Tillamook organic sour cream markdown to $.69

Dinners this week:
Wednesday - Pulled pork sandwiches - from freezer
Thursday - Ham & bean soup - using ham stock & ham from freezer
Friday - Beef Bourguignon - from freezer & company for dinner - that's OK, right?
Saturday - Orange chicken with rice - from freezer
Sunday - Birdseye Steamfresh dinner from freezer
Monday - Italian sausage soup - beans from freezer
Tuesday - Pork chops & Potatoes - chops from freezer

I am really focused on emptying my freezer this week, can you tell? I am definitely defrosting this month!

W - mac'n'cheese pie (packed lunch)
D - PB & J (packed lunch)
F - french toast
S - grilled cheese
S - leftover ham soup & biscuits
M - pancakes
T - PB & J (packed lunch)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Resourceful Quote: Benjamin Franklin (penny)

"A penny saved is a penny earned."

- Benjamin Franklin

You have two choices in life. Make more money or spend less money. Often we have to do both, and you might need both to take you to a lifestyle that you can afford.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Natural Cleaners & Sale at Fred Meyer

A couple of months ago at MOPS our 'craft activity' was to put together a bottle of natural household cleaner. Our speaker topic that day was about being more green so it was a perfect complementary project.

I've been using my bottle of cleaner to wipe down the high chair and barstools in the kitchen and have loved using it!

There's a great list of 25 Safe, Non-toxic, Homemade Cleaning Solutions here.

Fred Meyer is having a great sale this week on earth-friendly cleaning supplies.

Seventh Generation products are 30% off. If you pair that sale with coupons from the Seventh Generation website you should get some excellent prices.

Also, Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products are 40% off. I plan to buy a bottle of this soap so I can use it as I continue to make my own cleaning solutions. I looked into making natural soap and really, frugal as I am, I'd rather buy a bottle of concentrate that will last me several years.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cereal Deals at QFC and Albertsons

I never pay more than $1.00 for a box of cereal and we are getting low on the plain cereal (Cheerios, Kix, Rice Krispies) that the kids eat, so I was pleased to see some good sales this week.

QFC has sale on General Mills, Malt-o-Meal, & Kroger cereals this week. The General Mills cereal includes Cheerios, Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Cookie Crisp. They are $1.99 each, but when you buy 4 the price drops to $1.49 each. If you pair this deal with the $1/2 coupon at (that you can print twice twice per computer) you'll get the GM cereal for $0.99 per box. I'll be getting 4 boxes of Cheerio.

Albertsons also has a great sale on Post Cereals including Honey Bunches of Oats, Raisin Bran, Pebbles, & Grape Nuts. They are $1.49 per box limit 4. I also have several $1/2 Post coupons that have come in the mailers recently. I'll pair those with the Albertsons double coupons that came in today's paper to get the cereal for $.49 each.

Happy Shopping!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Garden Update

The garden starts have taken off! They are none the worse for wear after enduring long car trips to Southern Oregon & home again.

The broccoli is still growing well and the pumpkin & zucchini bloomed all week.

A few days ago the cucumber & yellow squash also started peeking green heads out so we're well on our way! Yahoo!

A Resourceful Quote: Benjamin Franklin (wheel)

"The worst wheel of a cart makes the most noise."

- Benjamin Franklin

What he's saying here is that the person who is the least helpful or useful to a project or purpose is also the person who often complains the most about that project or purpose. In other words, you choose to be miserable and make those around you miserable. An unproductive person is an unresourceful person.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Menu Plan

OK - back to real life!

I'll have to get to the store over the weekend to pick up a few things, but in the meantime here's the plan for dinners:

Tonight - Frozen Dinner - Family Movie Night
Saturday - Mac'n'Cheese Pie from the freezer
Sunday - Baked Potato Soup (using up 1/2 gallon of milk in freezer)
Monday - Chicken Rolls - freezer meal
Tuesday - Pork Chops & gnocchi

By Wednesday I should have my shopping finished & a plan for next week.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Resourceful Quote - Benjamin Franklin (necessity)

"Necessity never made a good bargain."

- Benjamin Franklin

When we need something and are desperate, we are not likely to make the best purchase. So in this case, the trick is to plan ahead and look for bargains, anticipating your future needs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Seventh Generation Rebate

Sheesh, I've been talking about Seventh Generation so much I should get some sort of deal from them! Here's another good one:

I saw a Mail-in rebate for $5 with the purchase of 3 seventh generation prodcuts. You can find it here. I thought it might make a pretty sweet deal with all the Seventh Generation coupons we printed in the last couple of weeks. If you didn't print them you can print the 2nd quarter set on the Seventh Generation website.

I also saw this cool deal if you're a first time customer at It was on the Thrifty Mama site.

Buy 5 packages of Seventh Generation diapers at $10.49 each
Use code Diapers105 or TryUs10 at checkout
Apply for the $14.97 rebate here. Look at the bottom for the cash rebate and not the magazine offer.
Submit for $5 mail-in rebate.

5 packages at $10.49 each = $52.45 - orders over $49 get free shipping
$10.00 off with code = $42.45
$14.97 rebate = $27.48
$5.00 additional rebate = $22.48 for 5 packages of diapers or $4.50 per package!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Meal Swap

I am still out of town, but I didn't want to miss out on the freezer meal swap that was scheduled for last night. A big Thank You to DH for labeling the meals and being willing to attend the swap.

DH and I both enjoy the meal swap for different reasons. I love it because I can cook for a morning and make 8-10 identical meals. I take most of them to the swap, but I keep extras for myself as a rule. So for a morning of cooking once a month I have 8-10 meals in the freezer and I get a night off from cooking at least twice a week. I enjoy cooking, but it is really nice not to have to cook every night.

DH enjoys our participation in the swap because he gets to try new things. I am a good cook, but nothing fabulous, believe me. I occasionally try new recipes and actually have a pretty extensive repertoire, but I don't generally make the labor intensive recipes or those with costly ingredients. DH is all about variety so with the swap he gets a few new things every month. For example we recently got orange chicken, chicken caccitore, and beef bourguignon - I don't make any of those.

This month the 4 other meals I got were:
BBQ Beef Sandwiches
Pulled Pork with Buns
Parmesan Garlic Chicken
Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole
I also have 4 Macaroni & Cheese Pies still in the freezer which my girls love for lunch or dinner.

I was planning to make pulled pork for the next swap, but I'll hold off since we got two similar things this time. Maybe I'll make this chicken, artichoke heart, parmesan, penne casserole next time. We'll see if I make it to Costco for a jar of artichoke hearts.

This month we had a pair of friends drop out of the swap so we are down to six ladies. Then one of those ladies backed out at the last minute because she still had some meals from the last swap. So only 5 of us swapped and I only got 4 other meals. If anyone of you local girls is interested in the swap, please talk to me. We swap in Woodinville once a month in the evening.

If there is interest I can also post all about how our swap is organized in case some of you ladies are interested in starting your own swap. Just let me know.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Apple Cider Pot Roast

A few weeks back I had pot roast on the menu. I had found a great price on the meat and I had some old carrots and potatoes I needed to use up. When I pulled out my cook book to check on spices & cooking time I found this other recipe for Apple Cider Pot Roast. I happened to have a bottle of Trader Joe's Apple Cider from our Thanksgiving basket and plenty of apples on hand, so I gave it a try. It was delicious!

In a crockpot place:
2 medium potatoes peeled & quartered
2 large carrots cut into 2" pieces
1 medium onion cut into wedges

Brown 1 1/2 - 2 pound pork roast on all sides in a pot with 2 T. oil, then place roast on top of the vegetables in the crockpot.

Stir together:
1 1/4 c. apple cider or apple juice
2 t. beef bouillon granules
1/4 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. pepper

Pour over the meat & veggies. Cover & cook on low for 9 hours, then turn up to high and add 2 medium cooking apples, cored & sliced. Cook another 30 minutes until apples are tender, then serve.

I always make gravy from the drippings, too.


I wish I'd taken a picture!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shopping Trip

I made a small shopping trip at Fred Meyer before I left town & of course, found a bunch of bargains. I did stay under my $25 for groceries for the week though!

Here's what I bought:
2 gallons organic milk on clearance for $2.79 each
1 1/2 gallon Minute Maid OJ on clearance for $1.89 (nasty cold, thought oj might help)
2 bottles of imitation vanilla extract on clearance for $.49 each (I am on my last bottle and we bake a lot)
whole chicken for $2.98
3-1# butter for $1.67 each
2-5# bags of flour for $.99 each
romaine lettuce $1.00
1# strawberries $1.67 (a total splurge)
hand of bananas at $.59/lb.

While not technically part of the grocery budget, I also found a package of newborn Pampers for $4.49 on clearance and I used a $1.50 off coupon to get them for $2.99! I'll set those aside for #4 since we don't usually get the cloth diapers rolling for the first couple of weeks.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

March Wrap-up and April Aspirations

I started March with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about how we would manage the bills. Praise the Lord I am feeling much better and have been able to lean on Him more instead of trying to manage all the financial struggles with my own solutions.

We were able to pay all the bills this month, but we did have to put some things on the credit card for the first time in a long time. We are hoping our tax refund will arrive before the payment is due so we won't have to carry a balance. If you don't carry consumer debt you probably understand how painful using the credit card is for DH and I. We are trusting God that this is a very temporary way to stay afloat.

I had a couple of goals for March. One was to keep the grocery spending to $100. I totally failed at this and ended up spending $145.56. This was even with some grocery gifts and a gift of a PCC gift card. I'll do better in April. Another goal was to list 5 things on ebay. I also didn't manage this one, but I did list and sell one thing which is a big chore for me so I won't chalk this up to total failure. I also managed to repost many books on that have been out in our garage since a water issue in our basement last November. This is a potential way to bring in a little income, so it balances out the non-ebay listing a little bit more.

For April I will keep the same goals of $100 for groceries and listing 5 things on ebay. I will be spending a week at my parents' house so that will alleviate some of the grocery burden. I'll plan to spend approximately $25/week so I don't run out of budget halfway through the month like I did in March. I also think listing 5 things on ebay is reasonable for one month so I'll try it again.

The pantry/freezer challenge continues to progress and I am hopeful I'll be able to defrost the freezer completely in April and use some of my pantry space for my craft supplies that have been stored in the garage since the water problem in November.

Here's what the pantry & freezer look like today:

Here's what they looked like in November before a huge Thanksgiving basket from church:

We definitely need to increase our income for April as we have property taxes due on our rental property at the end of the month. We have saved some for this but haven't been able to save for the last two months. Again, if the tax refund comes we'll be able to pay this without difficulty, but it could be a mad scramble. DH has been interviewing for some other part-time work so we're hoping something happens there to produce a paycheck soon. =^) I also should be more motivated to put stuff on ebay just in case we need that extra cash sooner rather than later.

I also want to express our deep appreciation for the gifts of food, cash, needed items, and gift cards that we've been blessed with this month. We also very much appreciate the kind words of encouragement and support our friends & family have offered as we try to stay afloat and wait on the Lord's direction. It is humbling to be on the receiving end of all of this, but we rejoice that God is meeting our needs and that He is able to use so many in the church body in the process.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Garden Sprouts!

Rats! I just wrote this whole post and it disappeared when I was trying to publish it. I have a huge list of things to do as I'm trying to leave town so writing it twice is a bother. See how much I love you, Dear Readers? I'm writing again.

The big news is that the seeds are alreay sprouting! The broccoli poked out only four days after planting and is going crazy already. Here's a picture - the broccoi are all on the right side.

I'm driving 7 hours today to my mom's for a week and I've decided to bring the seeds along with me. DH is many wonderful things - and a little forgetful. So I decided to keep the little babies with me so I didn't stress out and potentially get mad at DH if he forgot to water. I'll just keep them hydrated on my own and we'll all be happier. Let's hope they survive two long rides in the trunk!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

200 Flower Bulbs for $11.04 Shipped

I saw this deal at Little People Wealth and wanted to pass it on.

Head on over to BulbsDirect where they are having an Easter sale of 100 bulbs for $12.99 and get another 100 bulbs for free. Then use the coupon code GN1020059 to get an additional 10% off and free shipping.

The 100 Bulb Collection includes Poppy Anenome, Brodiaea Mountain Lily, Gladioli, Lxia, and Liatris bulbs. I don't even know what all of these are, but I love my Gladioli (which are late bloomers) and I have lots of barren flower beds where I can plant these babies and just see what happens.

I don't know how long this deal lasts, but it's currently advertising on their home page.


Prescription Coupons

DH & I are blessed with great prescription drug insurance. We don't have a co-pay or deductible so we benefit greatly from prescription coupon/gift card offers.

Usually I run across coupons for a free gift card with the transfer of a prescription. This makes sense because pharmacies want you to move your prescription and then try to retain your business. Rite Aid has these at least once a month in their insert, sometimes they'll have a blitz of weeks and weeks in succession.

Harder to come by are the gift card offers for a new prescription. Target usually has one of these about once a month, but they are only for $10.

I use the Target coupons the most often because we don't have many recurring prescriptions that would warrant a transfer for a refill. Usually it's some antibiotic for one of the kids and I just count myself lucky if it happens to be a week when Target runs their coupon.

I was please to notice the QFC ad has coupons this week for new or transferred prescriptions. The pharmacy there will credit your QFC card with $20 each for up to 2 prescriptions. We've done this before and it's like a gift card right on your shopper card. I think the store does this so you can't give the gift card away; they want you to come back into the store to shop.

I also found a $30 coupon with prescription transfer at the Safeway pharmacy in the Safeway ad this week. I love when these coupons are for grocery stores!

I was kicking myself when I saw these coupons because on Tuesday (the day before the coupons were valid) I went and filled two prescriptions at the Top pharmacy. I had heard that Top pharmacy gave away prenatal vitamins with a filled prescription (and they had a sign up advertising it), but as it turns out they need a prescription from your doctor which would have been free for me anyway. Ack! Yes, seriously kicking myself. On a positive note, Top pharmacy was giving away free Mr. Yuck stickers so I was happy to get my hands on those so I can label some scary stuff for the kids.

So here's my new plan for these coupons: I am pregnant with #4 and usually the OB prescribes super-strenth iron for me. Our insurance lets us fill a prescription & refill twice before having to use their mail order service. I will ask the OB today at my appointment for the prescription and get it filled at QFC for the $20 store credit (coupon good through 4/30). Then I'll get it refilled later this month at Safeway for a $30 gift card (coupon good through 4/27). I will be able to transfer once more so I'll probably go with Rite-Aid which is usually good for a $20 gift card, at least, or another offer if I find a better one by the time I need that refill. Let's hope my OB gives me the rx today or my plan will be foiled.


Speaking of prescriptions...