Monday, December 24, 2007

Sometimes you have to ask

After church yesterday our family went to Pizza Hut for the buffet. My little one is four and they charge $3.59 for a child's buffet and .99 for a child's drink. After we had finished eating my 4yo had only eaten shredded cheese and drank all his drink. I ate the piece of pizza I had selected for him. When I went to the register I explained that he had only shredded cheese off the salad bar and asked for his buffet to be removed. The manager was called and gladly removed the charge. My husband thought I was crazy to ask, but that saved us almost $4. Not a bonanza, but to have paid for that meal would have been like throwing $4 out the window while driving home from the restaurant.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No More Bows

I always wrap all the Christmas presents, write the persons name on the back on a piece of tape that holds the package together and go back later and add a bow and tag. To me this is a faster process. I was adding ribbons and bows to my presents tonight and realized I really like the look a simple ribbon tied around the packages more than a store bought bow. So, tonight I decided not to buy anymore bows. I always recycle all my bows (because I hate throwing them away) and storing them until the next Christmas season leaves them looking less than desirable. I have a big stockpile of bows and I plan to use them up and not save or replace them!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ace Hardware Freebates!

If you have an Ace Hardware store nearby they offer monthly rebates. The rebates can be mailed or entered online. Often the items are free after rebate!
Oh, and while you're at the website sign up to win the $500 sweepstakes!

Free Spice Islands Calender

Go here to register your spice and get a free calendar! Looks very nice!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

CVS Run, Can This Be Legal?

I think this was my best week ever at CVS. I won't delve in to all that I bought, but Ill tell you that I spent $1.58 oop and the total before sales and coupon and ECB's was $94.56! After the cashier rang all my coupons the cashier said, "wow you saved $60"...then I handed her a ton of ECB's(thanks Black Friday). Shocked at the total she said "I've never seen this happen before!"
Then she proceeded to hand me a few feet long receipt with a lot more ECB's attached(I haven't even looked to see how much money I made)!

My teenage son calls my CVS run my moonshine run because it's like I'm doing something illegal! Hey, getting all those good deals is hard work. It takes time to research the sales and match the coupons. Let alone trying to match the amount due at the end of the deal with the amount of ECB's that are my wallet.

Speaking of ECB's, people ask me a lot how I keep up with them, because they get them too, but forget about them. My answer to that is this: Every time I get ECB's I tear off my receipt and wrap the ECB's around my Extracare card so I can't forget or lose them and stick them in my wallet!

Free Money

My best friends son calls me on the phone today and says "How would you like to make $25?" "What's the catch," I ask. "No catch, I'm opening a bank account with your bank and if I say you referred me we both get $25 added to our accounts!" I love free money and good friends!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sweet Treat

I tried a new(to me) treat last night.
Sugared Pecans are yummy!

I snuck in a picture of banana nut
bread made in the bread machine.

The bread machine was smoking
because I also used it to make this
french bread. This was the first
time I've ever attempted french
bread and the man said it looked
like it came from a bakery. I love
him! I think the eggwash brushed on
top gave it professional touch.

Now I'd never even heard of a baguette
pan until I read it in the recipe for this
french bread. Of course, I had to be
creative so I put the 2 long round loaves
in a 9X13 glass Pyrex and put each
loaf against the long walls and placed a
Pyrex meatloaf pan between the loaves.
Now when the loaves started to rise
they rose up and not out! I never knew
this bread was so easy to make. I will
definitely be making this for my MIL.
She luuuves bread.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Hate Hard Water

Our neighborhood has a community well with very hard water.
Even with a water softener we get hard water stains on the toilets.
The stains always make the toilet look unsightly and always appear dirty.
I have discovered an easy way to get rid of the stain around the water
line of the toilet.

Waterproof sandpaper works great to rid the toilet of the unwanted ring.

It is very easy to do. Just turn the water off at the back of the toilet and
flush until the water doesn't rise to the water line. With a small square of the
sandpaper scrub until the ring is gone. Turn the water back on and flush.

It is a dirty job so wear gloves.

Every time I do this I am amazed that my toilet looks brand new again!

Turkey Stock attempt

I am attempting to make a turkey stock as I write this. I've never done

this before so I hope it turns out okay, as I want to make a turkey and veggie

soup out of the stock. What went into the pot:

Turkey bones with a little meat on them

1 whole clove

1 clove garlic

1 roughly cut carrot(no need to peel)

1 roughly chopped onion

a little dried parsley

a little dried thyme

a bay leaf
1/2 pot of water

Simmer at least 4 hours and strain the broth. I would have added

celery, but I didn't have any.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Party Potatoes

Traditionally, people serve sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving, but my family always asks for Party Potatoes on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here's the recipe

Party Potatoes

  • 8-10 medium potatoes
  • 1 8oz. cream cheese
  • 1 8oz. carton sour cream
  • 1/3 cup dried chives
  • 4 Tbsp. Butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel, chop and boil potatoes until fork tender(about 30 minutes). Mash potatoes and add cream cheese, sour cream, chives, salt and pepper and beat with mixer until smooth. Dot with butter. Transfer to casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Men really love this recipe. Enjoy!

Flatware find

I am hosting Thanksgiving for 10 of my family members this year. I debated on purchasing plastic ware or using flatware.
I have a hodge podge of flatware and would not have enough forks so I decided on purchasing a new set of flatware.
I found a nice set of Oneida at Walmart for $24.99 for 4 place setting. I was looking for an eight place setting so I would have had to buy 2 for $50.
I decided to check out Kohl's. They had a Cuisinart service for 8 with the wooden box for storage and a 5 piece hostess set. The original price was $139.00, but knowing Kohl's it was on sale. I took it to the price scanner and it showed the price as $69.00.
However, one of the salad forks was missing and I it was the last one they had so I took it to the counter and asked if it could be discounted. The gentleman at the register did not bat an eye he promptly took an additional 20% of the already %50 off!
My point it explaining all this is when you notice a damaged box or item ask for a discount. Chances are they will give it to you to get rid of it.
Now I wonder what happened to that salad fork that was strapped on the front of the box with a zip tie. Maybe an employee needed it for their lunch! We will never know.


Neutrogena Healthy Skin Rejuvenator:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

3 year olds say the funniest things

3 year old sneezes and sprays his hands and arms with...well um...snot. Walks to the kitchen where I am cooking and says with arms held out "Mommy wash this bless you off of me!"

Myself and 3 year old riding in the car listening to the radio(country). 3 year old says "Mommy I like dada's music" I ask "what is dada's music?" 3 year old makes head banging gestures and says "da na na na na na na"

I love the way he makes me laugh!

Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein

I made this yummy dish for Dinner tonight. It was cheap and easy, two of my favorite things. I added an onion to mine, but green onions would have been good too.

Health Insurance Costs

Every year my company has an open enrollment period when all employees can make changes to their health insurance plans. It is no secret insurance costs are rising at astronomical rates, but every year I notice not only the premiums going up, but the amount out of pocket for services also rising. I work for a major health care system and they pay a large portion of the premiums for each employee.

The shift seems to be for the patient to foot more of the bill. For example, we used to have a flat copay for an inpatient visit to the hospital. Now we pay a percentage of the bill based on the insurance plan picked. One plan requires you pay 10% out of pocket the other 20% where the annual cost is higher for the 10% plan. This could amount to thousands of dollars for a major surgery and lengthy hospital stay!

My company also has a FSA for health care costs, where one designates how much they want to go into the account at the beginning of the year. A debit card is issued to use for any health care related costs not covered by insurance. The money is deducted from the paycheck tax free weekly or biweekly, based on how you are paid. This is truly a good service, but if there is money left in the account at the end of the year it is forfeited. So you would only want to select an amount you are almost sure you will spend for the year.

Even with skyrocketing health insurance costs I feel very fortunate to have health insurance. No one ever expects to get sick, but that's why we are insured to protect against a catastrophic event. I personally know some people that don't have it and it has devastated them when a huge hospital bill came in the mail. One family I know had to sell a property they owned to pay the bill.

I don't know what the future holds when it comes to paying for health care, but for now it looks like the consumer is going to have to have deep pockets if they get sick.


I hate laundry as much as Mandy. I have tried all kinds of different ways to make the job easier. The best thing I ever did was buy a front load washing machine until it started giving me trouble(don't buy a Kenmore-trust me on that one). Front loaders hold a ton of laundry. Okay not literally a ton but a lot none the less. I will replace my Kenmore one day but for now I fight with it every time I use it. :(

Another way I have tried to make laundry day easier is over the past few years I have started replacing all my towels as they wear out with white ones. I can wash them with all the other whites and I can bleach them and they stay clean and fresh looking. I don't buy the big huge bath towels either. We really don't need a bath blanket as we are not elephants. I actually prefer the smaller bath towels for wrapping my hair in when I get out the shower, because they stay on tighter.

My latest way of trying to make the laundry process easier is to take the laundry directly upstairs when it is dry and fold it on my bed and put it away as I fold. Even if the item needs to be ironed I will hang it up in the closet and iron when I have the time. I wish my washer was upstairs it sure would make life a lot easier!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CVS AmealBP deal

So, after 3 CVS stores and $20.77 spent oop, I got 3 bottles of the amealbp and $29.99 in ECB's to spend on something else! My dad has high BP so I'll probably give them to him. The clerk had to call the shift supervisor to the counter to authorize the second 2 transactions, as they were free. I sometimes feel guilty doing this, but CVS offers it so am I wrong by taking them up on giving away free stuff???

And a special bonus was when I got home the fedex guy had brought my Victoria's Secret Deal. I was really impressed with the scarf and glove set. The single Beauty Rush lip gloss was marked $7.99 alone. I haven't tried on my sweater yet, but it looks nice.

There are a lot of Dove products on sale this week at CVS. There is a free Dove tote with samples you get free(well$3.99 for shipping) for buying $15 worth of products.

Also,Gold Emblem snacks are on sale so don't forget to use this coupon for buying $10 worth.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cheap Meat

One of the biggest grocery budget busters is fresh meats. You can find meat at reasonable prices if you know when to shop for it. Simply ask the butcher when they mark down their meat. Grocery stores usually slash prices by half and even more on meat that is nearing their sell by date. You just have to know what time of day your particular store performs the mark downs to get the best selection. My local Harris Teeter puts their reduced meat out by 8am. However, my local Lowe's Foods does their markdowns later around 10am.

If I'm out or just need to stock up on meat I will just run in and check the meat section for any decent buys that day. I plan my meals around what cut of meat I have bought the week or weeks before on discount.

On my last meat run I got 2 packs of 1lb. ground chicken. 2 packs 1 1/2lb. boneless/skinless chicken thighs, 1 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breasts and 3 NY Strip steaks(splurge for $5,originally 17.50!) all for $17.

The week before I got a great deal on Perfect Portion Chickens breasts originally priced at 8.99 on sale for 7.99 but had a $5 off sticker on the outside of the package! That was about .50 for one boneless skinless perfectly portioned chicken breast. What a bargain.

Now the cheapest way to save on meat is to go vegetarian and not buy meat, but my husband would not live without meat. However, lately I have been trying to sneak in a meatless or low meat meal a week. This week we had Black Bean Quesadillas. He raved about how good they were.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Marble Works Anyone?

As you can see this colorful toy is the first thing that is played with in the morning by CK. MarbleWorks is made by Discovery Toys. Some of you may have been to a Discovery Toys Party, as they were popular in the 90's. This set was given to me by my friend whose 3 boys are all teenagers now, so that gives you an idea how well they hold up. I have a teen too and he has had many Discovery Toys over the years that my mother bought for him. With all the toy recalls of late this company guarantees the highest quality standards by the US and Canadian governments. So, if you are looking for quality education toys for all ages check out the vast array offered at Discovery Toys.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


There are a few things I love about mornings

~the first few sips of hot coffee (tastes so good)

~the sound of the birds outside the window

~watching the squirrels run around and gather acorns(I guess that's what they are doing)

~the quiet in the house after everyone is off to work and school and my 3yo is still sleeping

~last but not least...the smell of 3yo morning breath saying "mommy I waked up this morning" and a warm little body on my lap and sweet little arms wrapped around my neck.

Thank you God for these simple pleasures!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mortgage Calculator

This calculator from Dave Ramsey's website is awesome! If you want to accelerate paying off your mortgage play with the numbers and see the amount of money that you can save by paying a little extra each month. Happy computing.

Online Savings Account

Recently, I decided I needed a savings account that was not so easily accessible. And after reading about online accounts with rates above 5% I thought it would be worth checking out. Bankrate does a wonderful job of comparing the different online banks interest rates, minimums to open, and service fees.

After reviewing all the options I finally chose iGObanking. Their current rate is 5.17% APY. It is very easy to set up an account, as I had my brick and mortar bank linked to this account and when I want to add money to my savings account it is drafted from that account. It takes about three days for the transaction a complete, but that is what I was looking for with this account. I did not want easy access to the money. This account is for long term savings for things like cars and appliances.

Another feature that was appealing to me was PayPeople. This option allows money to be sent or received to or from family or friend. A shared secret code allows the recipient to obtain the money that is being sent.

Overall, I like iGObanking because of the great interest rate, ease of use, and free transfer fees. The account can be opened with only $1 and there are no monthly service fees. Also, if you know that you want to save a certain amount every week or two weeks a recurring transfer can easily be set up.

Don't delay start saving today!! Works for me!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Creative Veggie Steamer

We have all been told that steaming vegetables is the best way to retain all the nutrients and vitamins in the vegetables we eat. I want to start feeding my family more vegetables this way, but I do not have a steamer basket or an electric steamer. I have seen them at yard sales and thrift stores and will pick one up when I come across one again. Until the, do I not make steamed veggies? No, I found a frugal alternative. How, you ask? Bring a small amount of water to a boil in a saucepan and add loosely rolled balls of aluminum foil to the pan. Lay the cut up vegetables on the foil and cover the pan. Steam 2-5 minutes until desired softness and your healthy steamed vegetables are ready to serve! Works for me!
For other great ideas check out Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

CVS deals this week

6 bottles Herbal Essence

2 4pk Energizer C batteries

2 Family size bottles Garnier Fructis

2 Alka Seltzer Cold Medicines

2 125 Count ES Tylenol

1 100 Count ES Tylenol Rapid Release

Original Retail $94.25

After Sales and Coupons $44.07-I had coupons for everything except Alka Seltzer Cold

After EC Bucks $10.07!

As the receipt printed the clerk said "I don't think I've ever seen so many coupons print off. You sure know what to buy!" I really could have done better but even the best laid plans have to change when you get in the store. For instance, the Tylenol deal was "buy $20 of product get $10 in ECB back". Well, the ad was for 100 count bottles and they are 8.99 or 9.99. I had 2 $5 off coupons for Tylenol and wanted to buy only 2 bottles, but because of the price I had to buy 3 for the deal to work. Point being, you have to be flexible when shopping this way. Another thing that often happens is the item you are expecting to buy is sold out. It is always a good idea to have a plan B to make your deal work in your best interest. All that being said, I love CVS!


Have you ever seen or heard of this? These are so cool!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sweet Iced Tea!

I am a southern gal and southern gals(and guys for that matter) love sweet tea. I make my sweet tea by the gallon because our family drinks about that much daily. I used to boil the water on the stove, but since a friend shared with me that she heats her water in the microwave I've adopted that method. I fill a gallon pitcher half full of water and place it the microwave for five minutes. Drop in three family sized tea bags. My personal favorite is Lipton brand, but I buy what is on sale. Let the tea steep for about 10 minutes then squeeze them and discard. Add 1 to 1/2cups of sugar depending on your taste and stir to dissolve. Fill the pitcher to the brim with water and stir again. Enjoy over ice!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My not so favorite things list:

  • Kenmore Elite front load washer. We all know how expensive the front loaders are. I've only had mine a 1 year and 10 months and I have had nothing but trouble from the thing. No problems out of the dryer so far.
  • Pampered Chef measure all cup. Sounded like a great thing. However, measuring dry foods with it is not that easy. I'll stick with my Tupperware measuring cups.
  • Pampered Chef Ice Cream dipper. Worked well until I put it in the dishwasher.
  • Oreck vacuum. This is a very fine vacuum as far as picking up dirt, but I wish it had attachments. My handle is breaking on it because it falls backwards if you leave it to move furniture or a rug. I wish I had bought a Dyson for about the same amount of money.
  • Land Rover 1998 Discovery. Let's just say I wish I'd bought a Honda.

Banana Cake?

My friend brought this delightful cake to work for us a couple weeks ago and I got the recipe from her last night. I am baking it as I type. I have had banana bread, muffins, cream pie, and pudding, but never cake. One word can only describe this cake:YUMMY!

Banana Cake
*1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
*1 Cup ripe Bananas-mashed
*1 Cup Sour Cream
*3 eggs
*1/4 cup Oil
Blend all sour cream and bananas together well.
Add all other ingredients and blend on medium
speed for 2 minutes. Pour in a 9X13 greased and
floured pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven
for 35 minutes.
*1 stick of Butter
*8 oz Cream Cheese
*1 16oz bag Powdered Sugar
Blend together well and spread over cake.
My friend made her cake in 2 9in. round pans. The actual recipe instructs to cut the 9X13 cake into two squares and frost that way. I personally liked the cake by itself because it is soooooo moist, so I will just sprinkle some powdered sugar on mine. Okay, I just pulled it out of the oven and it smells heavenly!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

We all have favorite things we use everyday. Oprah does a show every season about her favorite things.
So, in that same spirit I would like to list a few of my favorite things.
  • Miracle Thaw-a metal sheet(aluminum, I think) that defrosts meat in a couple hours on the counter. I know there were reports about it not being safe because meats are sitting out at room temperature to defrost, but honestly we've never had any problems thawing meat this way. If I'm shorter on time I use the microwave's defrost option.
  • Pampered Chef classic scraper. Let me first say I am not a big fan of Pampered Chef parties after a consultant stalked me about hosting a party (I still get emails from her 7 years later!) Doesn't stain or get bent out of shape! I've had this one for years and love it.
  • Pampered Chef rice cooker. Microwaved rice comes out perfectly every time. I never cook rice on the stove anymore.
  • Pampered Chef nylon pan scraper. I use one of these everyday. It originally came with a baking stone(broken) used to scrap it clean. However, it works great for removing baked on food from other baking dishes and pans and even dried food spills on counter tops.
  • Swivel sweeper. I bought mine at CVS about a year ago and love the little thing. Gets under tables with ease and picks up everything from salt to dog hair. Because of its design it cleans right up to the base boards! You won't replace your regular vacuum with the Swivel Sweeper, but for the quick jobs it fits the bill.
  • Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals foundation. I love, love, love this makeup. First off, it lasts forever. Secondly, my face never breaks out when I use this foundation. Lastly, it covers so well and yet I don't even look like I'm wearing makeup. I bought it off EBay last time I needed a replacement and it was much cheaper than buying from QVC or ULTA or even the infomercials.
  • Craftsman Tools. Enough said. What else could be said about tools that if broken will be replaced by just taking it to the store for another one. Tools that are guaranteed forever. Wouldn't it be great if everything we bought had a lifetime guarantee!

Next time I will post about some of my not so favorite things that I wish now I had not wasted my money on.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Yesterday, I replaced the summer wreath on front door for a pumpkin plaque. I have one linen closet in which I keep seasonal decorations except for Christmas decor, those are in the attic. I was trying to fit this wreath back into the linen closet and there was really no space for it. After a few minutes of struggling I had the idea of hanging on the inside of the door. There it would not loose its shape and would leave me more space for other items. A couple of other clever storage ideas I use are placing folded sheets between the mattresses. And, all my pot lids are are stacked in a strainer for easy access. Anybody have any good storage tips of there own?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stockpiling and Aldi

I really like shopping at Aldi, but they don't take coupons, have loss leaders or run sales. That being said their prices are consistently lower than other grocery stores and I shop there weekly. If you have never shopped at Aldi you can check their store locator to find a store near you. I used to stockpile items from sales from other grocery stores matching coupons with the sales. I still do if the items are close to being free by doing so. All this got me thinking how could I stockpile using Aldi to fill my cupboards. I came up with a plan to spend an extra $10 a week on stockpiling by picking 2 items and buy extra of them. This week it is peanut butter and rice. Next week will be flour and sugar since baking season is upon us. Obviously, this only works for groceries with a long shelf life and if you have the space to store the goods.

Sidebar: Stockpiling is a great way to fill your pantry now for when times are more lean. However, you have to be careful when you have an abundance of groceries the "there's more where that come from" mentality can lead to using more than is really needed.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Yeah, We made it!

Well, we did it! We made it last week with only $23 in the bank! My husband spent $15 on gas leaving us a grand total of $8 in the bank. I learned this week that I am more disciplined than I thought. I could have pulled out the CC, but I'm tired of working to make them rich! If we don't have the money we can't afford it(whatever it is), period! Some things I did to fill my time were, a lot of extra cooking and baking, working extra hours and doing free and cheap things with my 3 yo. This week is not going to be a non money spending week, however I am buying only necessities this week at Aldi and the bread store. No thrift store (my weakness) for me this week.
On a different note I wanted to share a Coconut Cookie recipe I made last week. These were marvelous.
Tip: Put a piece of bread in the cookie jar to keep homemade cookies moist. I usually use the end piece as we don't eat those anyway!

Small Things Add to Big Savings Over Time

Here's a list of small things I do today to save money:

  • Double a recipe and freeze half. Use the frozen meal instead of fast food for a quick meal when you are short on time.

  • Shut all cabinet and closet doors. Don't pay to cool/heat "dead" space.

  • Try living without one convenience item for a short time. Paper towels or paper plates are a good items to try and avoid. Even a week without them saves money. If you do use paper towels for drying hands don't throw them away. Save it for wiping up a spill. And after a paper towel dries works great to clean windows.

  • When using oven, turn off the oven 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

  • Use less of everything! A smidgen of toothpaste is enough to clean our teeth. Use 1/2 lb.- 3/4 lb of ground beef in a recipe that calls for a pound and "bulk" it up by adding rolled oats while browning. No one will know it is in there! Use half the recommended amount of laundry detergent.

  • Wash clothes in cold water. They will get clean.

  • Dilute liquids. Things like dish soap, shampoo, and even ketchup can easily be diluted.

  • Write down every meal you cook this week. You just started a meal plan!

  • Unplug appliances that are not being used.

  • Hang laundry to dry on a the line or on small drying racks.

I would love to hear what small things others do to save money.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A $23 Week.

After all bills were paid last Friday there was $44 left in the bank for the week. Normally, we would fall back on the CC to get through the rest of the week. But, we have a pact not to use our CC's anymore and live on what we make! Out of the above balance I spent $11 at Walgreen's for a couple of free after rebate items, and $10 for a trip to the pumpkin patch with the preschool on Thursday. So that left $23 for the rest of the week. Now I don't have a $10 a day Starbucks habit or spend $100 a week on a "just shopping" trip to Target. However, I do usually stop by the Goodwill once a week and run to the grocery store and check out the 50% off meat bin. I also love to stop by a few yard sales on Saturday mornings, but I refrained even though there were a ton around town! I have plenty of groceries in my freezer and pantry so food has not been a problem. I normally cook at home everyday and pack lunches for the family anyway, so there is no big difference there. I have found myself baking more this week. Well, it is midweek and I think we are going to survive our "no spending" fast. It is really a freeing feeling. Maybe I will choose to have a no spending week in the future...maybe.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Boiling Ground Beef?

I found ground beef for .99/lb at the grocery store last week so I bought 10 lbs to fill the freezer. Now, I had never even heard about boiling ground beef until a few weeks ago when I read an article on the subject. Intrigued by the idea I decided to give it a try to make quick work of cooking it all. I placed it in a large stock pot and covered the meat with water. I boiled it until the meat lost its pink color, drained it in a colander over a big bowl, and measured by 3 cups increments into freezer bags. I covered the big bowl and placed in the refrigerator and let it cool. The fat rose to the top after it cooled and I removed it and poured the broth into freezer bags as well. Standing the freezer bag inside a tall container large enough to hold the amount of broth you want to add and draping the sides of the bag over the container makes them easier to fill. Then, just zip the bag and pull it out of the container and lay the bags flat in the freezer. Now I have 11 bags of low fat cooked ground beef crumbles and 2 bags of beef broth ready for to use for quick tacos, spaghetti or whatever other recipe I choose in which to use them!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Car Woes

In 2001 I got fanatical about getting out of debt. We sold our new truck that I absolutely loved, because the payment was $587 monthly. It was stupid for us to buy the thing anyway, but because we got a deal through my husband's employer our good sense flew out the window. I got that feeling when the loan manager told us what the payment would be. You know the feeling one gets when they know they're doing something wrong and stupid. At that point, it was very hard to walk away from the deal plus, the new car bug consumed me. After selling the truck, I drove a 1991 Eagle Talon(an extra paid for car we had at the time). One day the timing belt broke and did serious damage to the engine. It was too costly to fix, so what did we do? Financed a new used car that we didn't have the money for. That car was $16,000 and after looking over the paperwork today I noticed we put down $1500! I could have paid cash for another car with that. Two years ago, my husband got a better paying job and wanted a new used truck. Because he was working so hard(about 60hrs/wk), I agreed to it. This year he wanted a used Z06 Vette. I gave in again. You know that feeling? It rushed over me, again. Some people never learn. We have since sold the Vette...much to my husband's dismay. The moral of this story is we are never going to get ahead owing a bunch of money on cars. We have one decent car payment(oxymoron)now(the truck) that I want to pay off in 24 months. I know we can do it with a little self discipline and hard work. I'll save those topics for another day!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Second Showing and Photography Practice

While outside this morning I notice my Coleus was blooming again! I bought two of these beauties in the spring for the planters outside my front door. As I had never planted these before, I did not know they would actually bloom. I just liked the color of the foliage and decided to give them a try. To my surprise in mid summer they bloomed and this week they bloomed again!

Look how big they have grown since spring! So, after reading these tips on photography
I thought I could give a few of them a try.

The idea for this pumpkin basket(which is really a planter) came from here. The miniature pumpkins were a gift and I thought they looked so sweet on my front step.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Better Budget

I've heard it said that a budget can be your friend. Well, I need a friend. Every month I write out the bills that I know are coming and their due date. On payday I send the bills that are due that next week. The problem is I always have an unexpected expenditure come up that was not in the budget. Therefore, I am always behind. I tried using Budget Simple and I think it would work, but I am more a paper and pencil kinda girl. After reading this at No Credit Needed I decided to give this method a try. My husband and I sat down tonight and did out budget for October in about five minutes. I realized very quickly I need to work some extra hours next month (bummer). We weren't able to fill anything in the savings category and Christmas is coming. We did base the budget on the lowest income we could expect, so I will hope for a better month than our worst. How do some of you budget? Any ideas? I am bound and determined to make a balanced budget. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pumpkin Bread

Since I went crazy and bought 8 cans of pumpkin at Aldi(.79 a can),
I started my fall baking with the best pumpkin bread recipe I've ever made.
Pumpkin Bread

2/3 c. shortening
2 2/3 c. sugar
4 eggs
1-lb can pumpkin
2/3c. water
3 1/3c. flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp.baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2/3 c. chopped pecans/walnuts
1 c. raisins(opt.)

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time. Add pumpkin and water. Blend in dry sifted ingredients. Stir in nuts and raisins gently. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. This makes two 9x5 loaves.
Tip: After greasing the pans then sugar them as you would if you were flouring the pan. This makes the crust of the bread even more yummy!

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Can See Clearly Now

The old adage "out of sight out of mind" holds true in my kitchen

when it comes to containers. Juice made in colored containers goes

bad before it gets used because my family can't see what's in there.

Bags of beans lay unused in the bottom of my cupboard because

frankly, I forget about them. So, my solution is to make a gradual

change to clear containers. I picked these up in one shopping trip

to the thrift store. Glass is my first choice for storing dry goods.

But these clear Rubbermaid containers will work great for liquids.

I made OJ in one of them and my husband actually drank two glasses

one evening. So my theory that if it can be seen it will be consumed

is already proving true. Also, check out the clever uses for glass

containers at thehomespunheart.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pickin' up Pine Cones

Pine cones on the ground means fall is in the air. The pine cone is so natural and so pretty. I have some of the biggest pine cones in my attic. Ones I painted silver for Christmas years ago. I picked them up on the side of the road on my MIL's street. A few days ago, while in Wallyworld looking for candles, I noticed they had bags of pine cones for sale for $3.97. It never dawned on me pine cones were a consumer good. So I came home and searched the net. Sure enough, any type and size of pine cone one could want is available online. Now mind you I wanted pine cones to fill this basket, but a short walk to a pine tree in my neighborhood resulted in an overflowing bounty of free pine cones. Everyday since then my 3 year old asks "Mommy, are we going to pick up more pine cones today?" I think we made a memory.
Tip: Add a few drops of essential oil to your pine cones and place in a storage bag for a few days. Place them in baskets and/or bowls around your house for a fragrant treat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Not So Thrifty Secondhand Finds

I love to find good deals at thrift stores. I found these candleholders for a very nice price. The large one was 1.99 and the two round ones were .99 a piece. Great deal, right? Only if I didn't need to buy the candles for them! $26 later, my $4 deal turned into $30.00. I looked for the cheapest candles that I could find too. The dollar store didn't have the sizes or colors I needed so Walmart was my next option. At those prices, I don't want to light them! I guess that way they will last a long time. Mental note to self....don't buy pretty candle holders unless you have the extra dough to fork out for the candles to fill them. Or, I could learn to make my own candles!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Freecycle Finds

I have only recieved two items from freecycle. The first was a burn barrel. The second, this Coleman gas grill! Out last grill was a freebie from out neighbors, but after years of use it caught fire one day and I was scared to ever use it again; so I gave it away on freecycle. As it turned out, the gentleman who was giving this grill away only lived a few neighborhoods from mine. I was too excited to wait for my husband to get home (he has a truck), so I called a friend to go with me to pick it up since it was a man giving it away. Well, good thing I took her and her teenage son because the thing was REALLY heavy and it didn't fit well in the back of my SUV. Determined to get this grill home, we tied the back door closed and her son had to hold it to keep it from falling out. We drove home about 10mph to prevent it from busting out my back glass. The saying "you might be a redneck if" kept coming to mind while we trying to get it in my vehicle. Oh well, I have a new used gas grill!