Friday, December 27, 2013

Saving Money When You've Already Cut Your Spending

Ok, so we've all been here, you've cut your spending, but you still want to save money.  So what do you do next?  Reevaluate.  I do this twice a year (every 6 months).  I sit down, take a look at my last  6 months worth of spending, bills, interest rates, and contracts.  I also take time to scout out free events and classes for my family.  Here are some more tips on what you can do to save your family money:

Have you negotiated your phone and cable bills?  Are you still not please with what you saved?  Try comparing similar packages from different companies.  Maybe you can cut back on features that you don't need.  Sometimes when you bring up to your current providers, they'll reward your loyalty in an attempt to keep you.

Consider refinancing your car or your home.  You could save money just by getting a lower interest rate.  Speaking on interest rates, check your rates for any loans or credit cards you might have, then see if you can renegotiate them to lower rates.

If your credit card offers rewards or cash back, utilize it!  However, make sure the benefits will outweigh any interest rates or fees from your card company.

Double check your services.  You don't want to pay for things you don't use.  You'd be surprised how many features your phone and cable bill could have, that you weren't even aware of.  If possible, cut these features.

For free movies, books, resources, and classes, we head to our library.  At least once a week they have some sort of kid's class or event at the library (including movie nights, story time, crafts, etc.).  We also like to check out Lowe's and Home Depot for their free kid's club Home Depot even offers free classes for adults!).  (Bass Pro has lots of free events around holidays!).  Just because it is free, doesn't mean the fun will be spared.

Food tends to be a huge expense for most families.  We have joined a produce co-op to supply our family with 2 weeks of fresh produce for only $23!  The produce is local, and well worth every penny.  For meat purchases, I but in bulk.  When there is a deal on meat that bis too good to pass up, I stock up for the next few months.  Around Thanksgiving I bought 3 turkeys (which for my family of 4, will give us 9-10 meals).  Same with ham around Christmas and Easter.  We also enjoy meatless dishes 3 days of the week to cut back on spending.  Like most people, I enjoy convenient foods, something that is easy to get on the table.  However, I have found not only is it cheaper to make my own breads, cookies, muffins, and pasta, but it's not really all that hard (just check out Pinterest if you don't believe me!).

Do you have a college savings account for your kids, or do you have student loans yourself?  Sign up for Upromise and link your accounts.  Your online spending will earn you cash back for these accounts.  Pay your loans and save for college while you shop, pretty simple if you ask me!

One weekend a year, Sam's Club has an open house.  That means you can get in for free and take advantage of the great prices!  Pay attention to the unit rices, while most of the time it's cheaper to buy in bulk, sometimes you'll find the deals aren't as great, so skip these items.

Sign up for reward programs.  Almost every store has some sort of reward program now; Walgreens, Kmart, Sears, CVS, Payless, Kohls........theses stores and more reward you for shopping with them.  Most of the time you can turn your points into cash to spend at these stores, getting free product!  Not to mention all of the great coupons they'll send you!  Also, make sure to check out my list of reward sites to earn free gift cards.

Lastly......pay yourself first!  Before you spend any money, put an extra $10, $20, or $50 into savings.  Adding extra cushion, no matter how small, will help you in case of an emergency.

It might seem like I'm telling you to stop spending, cut everything fun from your life, and live under a rock, but with a few simple moves, and smarter spending plans, you and your family will be able to do more!  Are you up to the challenge?


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Homemade Christmas Tree Ornament

As I was scouring Pinterest looking for a craft idea for my son and his little lady friend I watch one day a week (they are both 3), I found a cute homemade scrap ribbon Christmas ornament idea from Fireflies and Mudpies.  I love this craft idea for so many reasons, number one, it uses scrap ribbon, which you would normally toss out and waste.  Number two, it's so very rustic looking!

This ornament is so easy to do.  Grab some sticks from the backyard, and your scrap ribbon, and tie them around the stick.  Make sure your stick is dry and strong (our first stick was brittle and broke!).  You'll want to cut the ribbon to different lengths so it looks like a Christmas tree (we trimmed ours up once we got it on the stick).  I did the first one with my son, he had a blast trying to learn how to tie (didn't do so well, but had fun!!!).  We used a little dot of hot glue to keep the ribbon in place.

When my 9 year old daughter got home from school, she wanted to do one (but pink!).  I let her do hers all by herself unlike my son.  They may not be the prettiest ornaments, but they will sure make my tree look stunning!

To see this and many more craft ideas, visit Fireflies and Mudpies!

FYI, this craft idea didn't seem easy enough to do with a couple of toddlers, so I am still on the hunt for Christmas craft ideas......I'm thinking of doing pasta snowflake ornaments!  Stay tuned for that post.

Monday, December 16, 2013

How Have I Already Saved My Family Money?

How have I already saved money for my family?  We negotiated with our cable and internet provider to get the best rate.  I leave this to the husband since he is so good at it!  We also switched our home owners and car insurance.  These three things alone should be looked at yearly and renegotiated to save your family money.  A lot of times companies will raise your rates, with no apparent reason, and a lot of people just accept it, but you don'y have to.  We also refinanced our car into a lower interest rate, which dropped our payments by $45 a month!  When we bought our car, we took the high interest rate because we knew we were upside down in our old car loan (the truck we traded in for a more family friendly vehicle), and plus we were expecting baby #2 any day at that point.

I also trade my services for what I need.  I watch a 3 year old one day a week, and instead of charging to watch her, I ask her mom to bring me extra paper goods, toiletries, etc.  One less thing I have to buy!  I also do the basics to save my family money; coupon, shop at consignment shops, shop the clearance racks, shop end of season sales, etc.

I also take additional steps to save our family money.  I have the heat on the lowest comfortable setting right now (no, we're not freezing, we just wear long sleeve shirts and we're fine!), highest possible setting in the summer, I take advantage of Spring and Fall by not using the furnace or ac until we need to.  I also do not turn on the lights in the house unless it is dark.  The windows help bring in lots of sunlight which is just fine for us.  We also invested in really, really good windows!  Yeah, it was pricey to install all new windows, but we have saved so much on our heating and cooling bills.  We also installed low flow faucets and shower heads to save water, and the cool spiral light bulbs (had three years have never burnt out!), which are well worth the investment.

I spend about 3 hours a day online writing articles and blog posts, doing homework, and......wait for it.....save money!  The reward sites I use offer lots of different gift cards (including Amazon and Pay Pal).  I collect them all year and then I a bunch of FREE money to spend on food, household needs, or Christmas shopping!  When I do shop, unless I need to do it in store, I prefer online.  I do this because I am enrolled in Upromise, so I get cash back to help pay off my husband's student loans, and for my kid's college funds!

Every step, no matter how small, that I have taken has saved my family money.  Even with the pay cut my husband took to get his dream job, we have still managed to stay one step ahead.

What is your favorite way to save money?  

Get Rewarded for Searching Bing

It always amazes me the simplicity of these reward sites.  I just found out this past weekend that Bing (yes....Bing, the search engine) has a reward program of it's own!  No surveys, downloads, or games here.  You get points just for the searches you would normally do.  Once you start collecting points, you can redeem them for gift cards to places like Amazon (YAY!), Groupon, IHOP, Burger King, Redbox, you can even redeem them for 500 Swagbucks!  If you are in the giving spirit (which most of us are this time of year), you can turn your points into donations to places like the Boys $ Girls Club of America or Teach for America.  Regardless of how you use your points, it couldn't be easier to earn them.  In fact, Bing is now my homepage so every search I do helps bring in points!


How I'm Going to Save More Money in 2014

My friends and family know that I'm all about finding good deals to help save money.  It still shocks people that we are able to maintain our household on a single income.  Like most years, now is the time I think of my New Year's resolution (which I rarely stick to).  In 2014, I plan to hold myself (and my family) accountable though.  My goal for 2014 is to save MORE money.  Come January 1st, I'm going to put my family's spending in check.  Our first goal is to pay off our family vehicle (a whole 4 years early!).  Secondly, we have our first ever family vacation planned next year.  I am already busy planning that so we spend as little as possible, while having the best experience we can.

Some steps I'm going to take to save us more money in 2014:


  • Track spending
  • Shorten showers
  • Shop BOGO sales (I've got two kids, we always need two of everything!)
  • Spend smarter
  • Pay myself before I spend money (put more money in savings)
  • Clean my house (I'm going to take an "inventory" of what we already have so I don't buy multiples)
  • Waste less
  • Make my garden bigger so it yields more fresh produce


So there you have it, my 2014 New Year's resolution, SAVE MORE MONEY!  I'll post later about how I already saved money up til this point.  I'm teaming up with other bloggers to keep you updated on our resolutions, and to help hold each other accountable.  What has your family done to save money?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Fun in St. Louis!

For children, it's really the most magical time of the year!  I just love all of the activities there are once Christmas time, and the rest of the holiday season roll around.  Here is a list of just a few of the activities around St. Louis that are family friendly:

Santa's Wonderland at Bass Pro Shop in St. Charles.  Free photos with Santa, free games, and free crafts!  Runs from Nov. 9-Dec. 24.

Celebration of Lights in O'Fallon, MO.  Sunday, Tuesday, & Thursday 6-9 pm, Friday & Saturday 6-10 pm.  $9 per family vehicle.  Nov. 29-Dec. 30.

Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park.  $10 per family vehicle.  Open Sunday thru Friday (closed Saturday for carriage rides-fees on page), 5:30 pm-9:30 pm.  Nov. 27-Jan. 1.

Santa's Magical Kingdom at Jellystone (near Six Flags).  $20 per family vehicle.  Friday & Saturday 5:30 pm- 11 pm, Sunday-Thursday 5:30 pm-10:30 pm.  Nov. 15-Jan. 5.  Save $3 off your admission!

Christmas Traditions on Main Street (St. Charles).  Event is free (unless you buy a dozen cookies from Grandma's......guilty!).

KCS Holiday Train at Union Station.  Saturday December 14th 1:30 pm - 7:30 pm.

Breakfast with Santa at the Magic House.  Sunday December 15th, 8 am.  $20 per person, $25 for members.  Reservations required.

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Favorite Hot Cocoa Recipe

Today is a snow day for my daughter.  So naturally, the first thing we think of in the morning is making hot cocoa.  As much as I love the convenience of pre-made packets, they just don't have the rich chocolate taste I want.  So we busted out the Hershey's cocoa and got to making some delicious hot cocoa!

Hot Cocoa

1/2 cup sugar,  
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup powdered non-dairy coffee creamer
1/3 cup of water
4 cups of milk (we love the taste of vanilla almond milk with ours)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Pinch of salt
Whipped cream or marshmallows to top!

Mix together dry ingredients.  In a pan, wisk together dry ingredients with your wet ingredients.  Add your chocolate chips.  Simmer on medium/low until the chips are melted, and your cocoa is heated through (about 10 minutes).  Serve with whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate shavings, or whatever your heart desires!


Stay warm!

Free E-Books - December 6, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Earn free gift cards (and more) with Shopkick!

I love it when friends show me knew apps to help me save money.  Shopkick is one of those apps!  What is Shopkick?  It's a free app that gives you "kicks" every time you scan a product or check in at your favorite store!  You can start redeeming your kicks for gift cards once you reach 500 kicks!  Invite 3 friends and get 2,000 kicks instantly!  Sounds simple, right?  That's because it is!  I have earned enough kicks to get myself $10 in Target gift cards, which you can use online or in-store!  Yep.....in-store!  There are many more gift cards you can earn (including JCP, Amazon, Macys, etc) and actual items you can save for (anyone wishing for a KitchenAid Mixer?).  Check out this video that will help explain the app further:  


Sign up for Shopkick here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jewelry Under $1......SHIPPED!

If you have saved up your gift cards all year from your favorite reward sites (like me), then Amazon is probably your friend right now.  If you are looking for some cheap costume jewelry for yourself or for gifts, then check out these favorites for under $1 SHIPPED!


Seahorse Pendant Necklace - $.89 $.96

Antiqued Bronze Octopus Necklace - $.49 $.65

Lady Cat Pendant - $.83

Vintage Owl Pendant - $.75 $.79

Owl Head Charm Stud Earrings - $.59 $.62

Vintage Champagne Cross Necklace - $.70

Vintage Eiffel Tower Pendant - $.80 $.93





*Prices are subject to change.*

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pumpkin Puree

This year my family got lots of pumpkins for Halloween.  I felt bad about just throwing them all once October ended, so naturally, pumpkin puree came to mind.  We go through a lot of pumpkin during the holiday season (which for me is from mid-October to the end of December!), buying all that pumpkin puree can be a bit pricey.  To make pumpkin puree, you're going to want to use sugar pumpkins, or pie pumpkins.  Sugar pumpkins are the smaller pumpkins (not the itty bitty ones) which have a sweeter taste to them.

To start, you're going to want to take an un-carved sugar pumpkin, wash the outside of it, and slice it into thirds (or fourths, whichever!).  Scoop out all of the seeds and stringy mess.  You can save the seeds for planting, or roast them (we did both!).  Once cleaned out, place them flesh side down in a baking dish.  I like to spritz the pumpkins with a little water before roasting to help keep them moist.  Roast them at 375 degrees (F) for about 50 minutes to an hour.  Your house will smell great during this time!

Once you have roasted them, the skin will peel off very easy while warm.  Put the flesh into a food processor, and puree!  I am new to canning, but I am almost certain you can not can pumpkin puree (please correct me if I'm wrong).  However, you can freeze your puree (which is what I did).

Besides pumpkin pie, you can use your pumpkin puree to add to cheese sauce for mac & cheese, or make breads, muffins, or cakes with it.

How do use your pumpkin puree?


Monday, November 11, 2013

Turn Your Swagbucks Into A Donation: Super Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund

I am always quick to post why I love Swagbucks; mainly because of what it does for me.  However, I love Swagbucks for another reason.....because they are always ready to help out in times of need.  Right now, you can turn your Swagbucks (as little as 5) into a donation to help the victims and families of Typhoon Haiyan.

In response to the devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan, which has destroyed cities in the Philippines, cost so many lives and destroyed homes, and is still on Swagbucks now has a way for us to help those who need it most in the wake of this natural disaster.

Now you can donate Swag Bucks to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. The organization GlobalGiving has set up a fund that will go toward recovery efforts in all areas impacted by the storm. This money provides food, fuel, shelter, and more for victims of the storm. 


The Swag Bucks you donate will be turned into a cash donation, given directly to the GlobalGiving Foundation-Super Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund project. Every Swag Buck you donate equals $0.01, and every bit helps, so click here to donate your Swag Bucks.



Monday, November 4, 2013

Double Stuffed Swagbucks!

It's a DOUBLE STUFFED day over at Swagbucks!  All day today, Nov. 4th, you can earn up to 40 bonus Swag Bucks!  Also, you can earn DOUBLE Swag Bucks when you visit the Shop & Earn stores.

If you are a Swagbucks member, don't miss out on this chance to earn extra Swag Bucks!

If you're not a Swagbucks member, today would be a GREAT day to get started!

I redeem my Swag Bucks for gift cards to my favorite shops (including Amazon, PayPal, and Walmart!).  Check out my post Shopping for Free to read about the gift cards I earn!

Sign up for Swagbucks HERE!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bacon, Mac, & Greens

Pasta has always been my go to meal; it's cheap, and you can add so many different flavors to it!  Mac and cheese is a favorite in my house.  Cheese is a great way for me to hide veggies that my kids would normally turn their noses up at; like collards and squash (or in this case, pumpkin).  Last night just so happened to be a mac and cheese kind of night.  I could write a big long blog post about how my great grandmother's uncle's dog came up with this recipe, but if you are here, you probably want me to get right to the point.  So here it is, my recipe for Bacon, Mac, & Greens:

Ingredients
1 box of noodles (I had rotini)
1 pound (or bunch) of collard greens (spinach would work here too)
1 large yellow onion
1 package of bacon (I had turkey bacon on hand, pancetta would work too)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Sauce:
1 cup of cheddar or white cheddar
1/2 cup of Welsh cheddar
1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 cup of beer or ale
1/2 stick of butter
2 tbsp of pumpkin puree (or squash)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Cut your bacon into bite size pieces.  In a skillet, add your bacon.  If you use turkey bacon, add just a little oil so it doesn't dry out.  Cook until the bacon is crisp, over medium high heat.  Remove the bacon from the skillet (leaving your grease), and put to the side.  Next, chop up an onion into small pieces (about the size of your bacon pieces).  Wash your greens and remove the stem.  Cut into small pieces (I like to roll the leaves up and slice).  Add the onions to your greased skillet and begin to cook, over medium high heat.  After the onions begin to become translucent, add the collards, and add about 1/8 cup of water.  You'll cook those until the greens become tender, over medium heat.  Add a little water as needed if your greens become dry.
As the collards and onions are cooking, boil your pasta water (salt it too!) and cook your pasta until it is al dente.  Once cooked you will drain the pasta.  Save a few tablespoons of the pasta water, put aside.
For the cheese sauce, you'll begin by heating your beer and butter together; bring to a boil to ensure the alcohol is cooked out.  Next add the Velveeta (cubed), Gruyere cheese, and pumpkin.  Once the cheese has melted, add the hot sauce and Worcestershire.  Stir well.  Next, add your nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
In a bowl, mix everything together (pasta, sauce, greens, and bacon).  Use your reserved pasta water to help keep the pasta and sauce from becoming clumpy.  Spread your pasta and cheese mixture into a greased baking dish.  Next, spread your breadcrumbs over the top of your mac.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350, or until the bread crumbs begin to brown.
This recipe will feed 4-6 people depending on if you serve as a side or main course (and how hungry your bunch is!).  Make's a great lunch on day 2!


Friday, November 1, 2013

Turkey Trot 5k and the 100 mile Challenge!

Today is November 1!  So what does that mean?  Well, it means that yesterday, the kids (and I) pigged out on some late night candy.  It also means that today is day 1 of the Slap Dash Mom 100 Mile Challenge (yes, yes, there is a prize involved)!

It just so happens, that this month, right here in St. Louis, MO, there will be a super affordable 5k; the Twilight Turkey Trot.  The timing couldn't be better, right before Thanksgiving!  If you sign up for this 5k through LivingSocial, the cost is only $15 (50% savings!), or $29 for 2 people.  PLUS......(you're going to like this).......now through November 4, use coupon code FALLBACK5 and get $5 off of your registration!

Here's the details (taken from Slap Dash Mom's blog):

The Challenge

The challenge is simple! Complete 100 miles in November. That’s a little over 3 miles each day. The goal is to push yourself. If 100 miles will be too easy, do 125.. do 150.. but you will complete the challenge as long as you log 100. You CAN do 100. I have faith in you.

How You Can Complete it

You can complete your 100 miles in many ways! Walk, jog, run, crawl, swim, bike, skip, hop… you name it, you can do it. If you don’t have a pedometer, you can get one from Walmart for $5. If you don’t have $5 to get the pedometer, drive your car a mile up the road. You now have your mile marker. Drive it another mile. That’s your two mile marker. If you walk there AND back, that’s 4 miles.



Race details: 

Where: Forest Park, upper Muny parking lot
When: November 23, 2013
Time: 4:30 (race starts at 5:30)

You get a t-shirt and FREE coffee/hot chocolate when you register for this 5k.



To sign up for the St. Louis Twilight Turkey Trot, click here.

To find out how to participate in the Slap Dash 100 Mile Challenge, click here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sweet and Sour Cherry Chicken: Crock Pot/Freezer Meal

I am a huge fan of freezer meals.  I'm also a huge fan of crock pot meals.  It doesn't get any better than coming p with a new crock pot freezer meal idea for me!  Yesterday, as I started to prep dinner for the crock pot, I saw I had leftover cherry pie filling from the night before (made some cherry turnovers).  So I grabbed the pie filling and tossed it in a bowl.  Then I thought, instead of using orange or pineapple as my fruity accompaniment to my sweet and sour chicken, why not cherry?  So I grabbed all of the usual ingredients, but when I went to grab the peanut butter.......I saw my chocolate cherry peanut butter......why not just toss that in too?  I'm going to admit, I was very nervous to try this meal!  But in the end, it was delicious, and my family ate every single bit of it (no leftovers for lunch).  We enjoyed this meal with some rice and sauteed veggies.  I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did!

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. Planters NUT-rition cherry chocolate peanut butter
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2-3 sliced bell peppers (I used red, yellow, and orange)
1/2 cup of cherry preserves or pie filing (I used leftover cherry pie filling, 1/2 can)
2 sliced onions
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup of water
4-8 skinless chicken thighs (or any cut of chicken you enjoy)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Mix everything except the peppers, onions, and chicken.  Slice your peppers and onions.  Place your chicken in your slow cooker, top with onions and peppers.  Then pour your cherry sauce mixture over the top.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours.  Then enjoy!

For a freezer meal:
Pour all of your ingredients except the onions, peppers, and chicken into a freezer bag (omit the 1/4 cup of water).  Squeeze your bag to mix well.  Place your peppers, onions, and chicken into the bag once mixed.  Press the air out and seal.  Give your bag another give mix, then freeze flat.  To cook later on, thaw for about 30 minutes to an hour, pour into your slow cooker, and cook on low for 6 hours. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Options, Potty Training, and a Three Year Old

My son turned three this past August.  Leading up to his birthday, he still wanted a bottle at bedtime, and would stay up all night screaming until he got one.  After his third, I knew I was doing something wrong......he wouldn't give his bottle up!  Earlier this week, I grabbed all of his bottles and threw them in the trash.......with my three year old watching.  His jaw dropped, time slowed down, the background zoomed out as his face became the focus on my attention.....and then it happened.  My son threw his body into the corner of the kitchen.  He began the tantrum of his life!  After about five minutes of screaming, he curled up into the fetal position and began to rock....."what did mom just do?".  It took him a while to regain composer.  He moved on with his day, but he surely remembered the horrific event that had just taken place.  When Daddy came home, the first thing he told him was "Mommy threw the bottles in the trash!".  The hubby and I knew it was going to be a long night.  As we placed him down for bed, he asked for a bottle, the hubby reminded him what Mommy had done.  So he rolled over, closed his eyes, and tried to forget.....falling asleep while doing so.  Since this tragedy, he has had no problem falling asleep.  The idea was, if I didn't give him the option of having a bottle, then maybe he would just roll over and fall asleep without one.

While the bottle fight was happening, we noticed our son, the three year old, was starting to try to sneak snacks.  At lunch time he would eat his cookies, and then avoid his sandwich and fruit.  He would avoid anything nutritional at every meal time, if he knew he had options.  So this week, and the grocery store, we walked down the snack aisle.  We passed by every single one of his favorite snacks without grabbing any of them.  We circled back around to the produce, where I asked for his input on what to buy.  So for lunch today, instead of a snack, fruit, and sandwich, my son got fruit, a veggie, and a sandwich.  He didn't have the option of a cookie or chips, and guess what....he ate every bit of his lunch!

So what does this have to do with potty training?  Options!  My son knows we have pull-ups and diapers in the house.  With every issue we've had with my son, we've stopped giving him options, and have come out victorious!  We have decided to one day soon, throw out all of his diapering gear, and no longer give him the option of diapers and pull-ups.  Fingers crossed this will work!

What potty training tips do you have?


*Update: We "tossed out" all of his diapering gear (by tossed out, I mean we threw it into a clean trash can, and the hubby dug it back out when my son wasn't looking).  Let's just say I spent the entire day cleaning pee off of my floor.  We are still working on potty training him, but aren't having any luck.  Rewards aren't working, letting him run around nakey doesn't work.  Why is it potty training doesn't get any easier on child #2?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Freezer Meals: Chicken

This week my local grocery store has chicken leg quarters on sale for $.59 per pound.  I usually buy the big 10 pound bags, and freeze them.  I realized that thawing the bags whole was a disaster!  So I started to separate them into individual meal portions.  I'm a fan of freezer cooking, so I decided to start making meals as I portioned them (duh, why didn't I think of that before?).  Unless you want a whole leg quarter (the thigh and leg combined), then you're going to have to separate the thigh from the leg.  Once you butcher your chicken, you will have thighs for certain meals, and legs for other meals.  This is what was on sale, so that is what I am using.

Here are the freezer meals I am going to make with my chicken:

Honey Chicken
Hawaiian Chicken
Cafe Rio Chicken
French Chicken
Maple Dijon Chicken
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Pecan Stuffed Chicken (instead of using breasts for this recipe, I pounded out thighs and rolled them, securing them with toothpicks.  Try not to poke your freezer bags with them.)

After I butcher my chicken and cut up my veggies, I had lots of chicken bones and veggie scraps.  I made up 8 cups of chicken stock to freeze also.


Shopping List: 
Chicken – 4  10-pound bags
Garlic
Red bell peppers
Onions (keep scraps)
2 cans of cranberry sauce
1 bottle French dressing
1 bottle Catalina dressing
3 boxes onion soup mix
Lemon (for lemon juice)
Celery (keep scraps)
1 pack of dry ranch dressing


Things I already have on hand (but you might need to get):
Honey
Ginger
Soy Sauce
Ketchup
Pineapple juice (from canned pineapple rings)
1 can of pineapple rings
Cornstarch
Butter
Salt & Pepper
Parsley flakes
Pecans (I had some in the freezer from when I made granola)
Italian dressing
Red wine vinegar
Maple syrup
Dijon mustard
Cumin
Chili powder
Chicken broth (made homemade)

For later (when you prepare your meals):
Whole wheat buns or lettuce to make wraps
Provolone cheese

Bread (for toast)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Spirit Day : I Am Against Bullying

Today is Spirit Day!  Today we take a stand against bullying, specifically bullying against LGBT youth.  But I wanted to share my own bullying story right here:

My child has dealt with bullying since preschool.  At first, her teacher said it was because she was smarter than the kids, and never gave them the chance to answer questions, so they made fun of her.


Then she switched to public school, where not once, but twice she was assaulted by the same boy (who has since moved school districts).

My daughter, who will be 9 next month, has since become overly sensitive.  I want to believe that it's just part of her growing up, but I do feel that bullying has bent (not broken) her spirit.  

Last night she cried about how none of the children in her class like her.  So we sat down and talked.  I asked her if she had any friends.  She replied that two girls in her class like her.  I then asked if she had friends in Girl Scouts (which she just started this year), she replied that all of her Scout friends liked her.  I took this as an opportunity to teach her a very valuable life lesson.  My response to her, "not everyone in life is going to like you.  There might be people who flat out hate you.  But these people probably don't truly know who you are as a person.  And it's their fault for not allowing themselves to get to know you.  You are going to come across a lot of people who don't like you Soph, but all you need to worry about is the people who do care for you.  Because they like you for who you are.  If you try to get everyone to like you, then there's a good chance you're not being true to yourself.  So instead of crying over people who don't like you, smile about those who do."

I can relate to my daughter.  As a child, my only true friends were the neighborhood girls I grew up with.  I transferred schools a lot, I wore glasses, and was tall.  I wasn't a girly-girl.  I was probably the only girl in my class who begged her daddy for a pink shotgun!  But if I have learned one lesson from it, it's to be thankful for what's in front of you; the people who surround you will always be there for you.  It doesn't help to worry about those who are unkind, because them not taking the time to know you is their loss.

In honor of Spirit Day, sit down with your child, teach them what it means to be a good person.  Because the only way to end bullying is to teach our children how to accept things that are different.

Crock Pot Korean BBQ Tacos

Campbell's has recently came out with these new slow cooker sauces.  And of course, I had a coupon to try them.  I quickly grabbed the Korean BBQ sauce......simply because of the recipe on the back.  Per the directions on the pack, I placed my beef roast into my crock pot, and poured the Campbell's sauce over the top.  Night one we enjoyed the beef served with rice and with sauteed peppers, but night two we enjoyed the recipe on the back......Korean tacos.....but with my own twist of course!

By the time the beef was done cooking (8 long hours later), the beef was shredded and covered in delicious sauce.......which was perfect for tacos!  So here is what I did on day two:

Since the meat is cooked and flavored, you only need to heat it up for the tacos.

For the slaw....cabbage (I used 1/2 a head), carrots (1-2 carrots), red bell pepper (1 large pepper).

Thinly slice all of the ingredients and toss together.  This will act like your lettuce for your tacos.

I also thinly sliced onions and green onions to add to our tacos.

For the sauce....I mixed together 1 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1/4 cup of sweet chili sauce, and 1 tsp. of sesame oil.  That simple!  The sauce is creamy and sweet which helps to counter the tangy meat and red peppers.

Where is the rest of the recipe?????  That's it!  Simple, right?  We served our tacos on regular tortillas (meat, slaw, onions, and sauce).  We enjoyed out meat with fresh veggies sauted in a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil, and brown rice.

We have yet to try the other sauces Campbell's has to offer, but after trying the Korean BBQ, I am sure the others will be tasty!

This leftover meal took me less than 30 minutes to prepare (which was mainly because of the rice).  Super simple, and super tasty! 



Check out my original post over at my food blog!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Breast cancer is an issue that hits close to home.  For many years, my husband's grandmother fought her battle against cancer.  In 2009, she became our angel.  Then in 2010, my husband then lost his cousin Andrew to lymphoma cancer.  However, as much support as we give to these well known cancers, there are still lesser known cancers, such as mesothelioma, or asbestos cancer.  One of my readers, Heather, is a survivor of this not so familiar cancer.

Here is Heather's story:
Heather and her family

"I am a wife, mother, and a mesothelioma survivor. When my daughter was 3 ½ months old, I was diagnosed with this rare and deadly cancer, and given 15 months to live.  My prognosis was grim but I knew that I needed to beat the odds for my newborn daughter, Lily.  It’s been 7 years now and I feel that it is my duty to pay it forward and inspire others.
I clung on to hope throughout my whole journey with mesothelioma. When you have hope, it makes the battle easier.  I want people to be inspired by me, I want to make them fight; give them something to hold on to when all else fails. That is why I do it.  If I inspire one person, I've done my job."

Heather's mission is to help bring hope; where there is love, there is always hope.



Watch Heather's story:

For more information on mesothelioma cancer, visit http://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-cancer/

Make sure your order your FREE information packet about mesothelioma, which includes an awareness bracelet.  I ordered mine to wear and help bring awareness, will you?

What is your story?  Have you been touched by a disease that you feel isn't getting enough attention?  Help spread the word.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Home Management Binder

It's been a while since I've done a post, but I figured I would write one over a project I have recently started.......my home management binder.  I always have 2,000 things bouncing around in my head.  Add the fact that I'm a bit Type A/OCD, and you'll understand why I needed a binder!  As you can imagine, no two binders are ever the same.  My binder includes sections for school, Girl Scouts, a register for our bank account, medical information, bills, etc...  Whenever I get a bill, I toss it in.  When my kid brings papers home from school, they get tossed in.  I have a section for receipts, online orders, I even have a sheet with upcoming (FREE/LOCAL) activities for our family.  I browsed lots of different sites to find different templates to fit my binder (as well as made some of my own).  I bought a large binder, and still have room to add sections if I need to.  But for now, my binder seems to be keeping my cluttered mind on track!  So, while I go scrub the blue marker off of my 3 year old's face, you can check out these free printable binder sheets I found (and LOVE!).  Make sure to check out the blogs they came from to find more great printable sheets!

Found this blank calendar (and more) over at DIY Home Sweet Home.

This weekly planner was found over at The Peaceful Mom.

I found this daily planner (and lots more sheets) over at World Label.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gardening with Listia

I love to garden!  And every year, I tell the hubby we need to expand my garden plot.  So alas, here we are, September is coming to an end, and once again, I have given my hubby the job of helping me tear up grass!  I learned the hard way that buying pre-grown plants is expensive (plus the variety of plants is limited).  The past two years I have been growing my plants from seed myself (which is going very well).  This year I also learned how to save my seeds so I don't have to put out money every year for seeds.  I was also introduced to Listia (LOVE!!!!!!).  What is Listia?  I'm so glad you asked!  Listia is an auction site.  But you don't pay for anything, nope, you use credits to big on auctions!  When I signed up, I was given 500 credits!  To earn more credits, you can watch videos, complete surveys, list auctions, etc.  So why is Listia important to my gardening?  Over half of my seeds for next year have come from auctions I have won!  Yep, free seeds for this lady!  Some of the seeds I have obtained are plants I have never grown, so this should be a great learning experience for me.  Wish me luck!

Anyways, back to my garden.  This year I grew radishes,onions, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.  I was growing corn until some silly dog decided to roll around on top of the corn!  Next year, I plan on growing collards, kale, mustard greens, onions, a variety of peppers and tomatoes, green beans, corn, zucchini, beets, radishes, pumpkins, and watermelon.  I may even try my hand at potatoes!  My daughter and I are also experimenting with apple and peach seeds from fruit we picked ourselves (my kid is certain she has the skill level of Johnny Appleseed).  Our garden is huge learning process every year.  

What re your favorite crops to grow?  What tips do you have on growing them?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Saving with Ibotta

I know you've seen one too many bloggers post about Ibotta and how great it is, right?  But what is it?  Ibotta is an app (that you can download for free on your smartphone or tablet) that gives you money back when you buy certain products.  Think of it as an instant rebate!  Ibotta offers cash back for products most of us buy on a regular basis; diapers, paper products, food, etc.  You complete the offers, purchase the product, scan your receipt and the product bar code, and then Ibotta issues you the appropriate cash back amount which you can instantly transfer into your PayPal account.  But wait, there's more!  You can also earn extra cash back by completing bonuses!  I just got over $60 worth of products for less than $20 with coupons, Ibotta, and Target's new Cartwheel program.


Here's my Ibotta trip(s):::


Cottonelle, Scott's Toilet Paper, Viva Paper Towels, Huggies Diapers, Huggies Pull-Ups, Huggies Baby Wipes, Poise Liners, Cottenelle Wet Wipes, Colgate Optic 360 Toothbrush, Colgate Total Advanced Toothpaste, Kleenex 4 Pack, Kleenex, Kotex U Tampons

I paid $52.48 out of pocket.  My total before coupons, my Cartwheel savings, and my Target Red Card savings was $67.37.  Every product I bought was eligible for cash back from Ibotta, even some bonuses.  There were 4 bonuses I was able to cash in on; $5 Autumn Stock Up, $20 for 10 Offers, $2 Hug Your Baby, and $3 Freshen Up!  After my Ibotta rebates and bonuses, I only paid $13.23 for everything!  Not too shabby considering the diapers and pull-ups were $17.98 together.


Not earning cash back with Ibotta yet?  Sign up here!




UPDATE (Nov. 15, 2013): Ibotta has updated (Ibotta 2.0).  You can now earn money by shopping at Lowe's or Home Depot.........and by eating out at your favorite restaurants!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Buy Meat on the CHEAP!

For a while, I have been interested in a company called Zaycon Foods.  Then today, I saw a segment from Good Morning America on another blog about them.  So I checked it out.  I could go on and on telling you about them, but I'd rather show you.  Check out this video from Good Morning America that describes just who, and what they are:




So now that you know who they are, sign up and start saving!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Ibotta Members get a $10 Bonus!

Ibotta is giving all my friends $10 when they sign up!  Anyone with a smartphone or a tablet can join.  It's so simple, you get paid to buy the brands you already buy!  If you haven't signed up yet, now is the time.  They don't offer this $10 bonus all the time, so grab it while you can.


Movies Starting at $.98 on Amazon

Head over to Amazon to snag some cheap DVDs or Blu-rays.  Right now you can use coupon code 4OFFDVDS to get $4 of a select DVD purchase.  If you are looking for a Blu-ray, use 6OFFBLRY to get $6 off!  Grab some great family movies for under $10, including Horton Hears a Who for only $.98!  You can  use both coupons codes at checkout.
Get free shipping with orders over $25 or with your Amazon Prime membership!  Try Prime free for 30 days.  




Offer is valid through June 1, 2013.  Don't miss out! 



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This Extra Baggage Has Got To Go!

For nearly 8 years now I have struggled with my weight.  I went from being athletic and 150 to well over 200 lbs after the birth of my daughter.  One year ago I began working with a personal trainer 3-4 times a week and I had started Weight Watchers.  I lost a quick 16 lbs.......and that is where I stayed.  Since then, my weight has gone up and down slightly, but there hasn't been any more weight loss.  At the start of May, I started a plank and squat challenge.  While I feel like I'm doing well, the scale has yet to tell me so.  My family has also cut out a large amount of sugar and we have started eating more fresh, local produce than we have in recent years.  Over the past few years, I have tried everything from magic pills, to super diets, to busting my ass at the gym.  Mr. T says I need to focus on my stress level before I can expect my body to change.  As much as I hate to admit he's right.....he might just be (but don't tell him I said so).  In addition to focusing on my stress levels, I am looking at what has worked for my body in the past.  It is time to get rid of this extra baggage once and for all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

How I Save Money on Clothing

Kid's grow like weeds.  We buy brand new clothes for our kids, and within months they no longer fit!  Clothing for kids can take up a big part of your budget.  For a short time after the birth of my son, my kids were getting only a few outfits a piece when I did buy clothing.  I have a set budget for clothing, so we did with what we had.  If you ask my husband, he'll tell you I complain all the time about how I hate paying a lot for kids clothing.  Eventually I was able to spend the same amount, but get triple the amount of clothing!  Want to know how?  Sure you do!  That's why you're here.........right?

  • Clearance racks.  I love shopping clearance!  Walmart is notorious for leaving clearance carts full of $1 clothing.  I always hit these up.  I recently spent $6 on shirts for my son that would have normally cost me well over $35!  Target is another great place to find clearance clothing.  I like to check their website for clothing coupons before I visit my local Target.  They recently had a $4 off any 2 children's clothing items.  I was able to print 2 of the coupons and found 4 shirts for $2.20 each.  I paid $.80 for 4 shirts!
  • Shop out of season.  This goes hand-in-hand with clearance racks.  Shopping for Winter clothes in Spring or Summer will save you a few bucks.
  • Shop resale.  I love hitting up resale shops.  Not only can you find cheap clothes, but if you're lucky, you can find cheap designer or name brand clothing!  
  • Shop online.  My newest favorite online clothing site is thredUP.com.  You get a $10 credit when you sign up (FREE clothes people!).  Plus when you invite your friends, you can earn more free credit!  You can also sell your gently used clothing from the comfort of your own home.
  • Consign.  I recently have fallen in love with consignment sales.  My favorite is the Just Between Friends Sale.  You can sign up to sell your children's clothing and toys online.  Once they sell, you get a check mailed to you!  They have numerous sales a year all around the country.  Great way to get new clothes and make money off your old ones.  Plus, unlike other consignment and resale shops, you price your own items.
  • Extend the life of your clothes.  Too often we find ourselves tossing out clothing because they have a hole in them.  Maybe it's getting too warm out to wear long pants?  I always take a second look at clothing with rips and holes.  Check to see if they can be stitched up or have a patch put over the hole.  My daughter once ripped her leggings on the knee.  Instead of tossing out the leggings, I cut them into shorts and hemmed up the bottoms.  My daughter loves leggings.  So every fall we buy her leggings.  By the time Spring comes, we cut them into shorts or capris so she can get another season out of them.
  • Hand me downs!  Yep, I said it.  Hand me downs.  Save your clothes for the next kid.  I grew up wearing a lot of my big brother's clothing.  If you have two daughters a few years apart in age, it makes sense to just save the clothing for the second child. 
  • Trade.  You can go online and find groups of mom's in your area who trade and sell their kid's clothing among themselves.  
What do you do to save money on your kids clothing?  What about your clothing?

Check out this article on Yahoo!

After I wrote this article, I was introduced to my local Goodwill Outlet.  This Goodwill isn't like the others......oh no.  They do not sort anything, nor do they wash it.  Everything is dumped into bins, and left for you to sort through.  The cost.......$.79 per pound!  I redid my family's wardrobe for under $30!  You wouldn't believe how many things are donated still with tags on them!  I also found out that my local Target donates excess items that they marked down on clearance, but never sold (and their out of season items).  A bargain hunter's dream!