Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This Is Why I Read Christian Fiction

I recently had the privilege of reading and reviewing Sigmund Brouwer's book Flight of Shadows. I honestly haven't had much time to read fiction lately and what I have managed to pick up I have found poorly written but this book was excellent.

From the beginning it was fast paced and drew me in. I didn't know when I began reading that the book was a sequel so I wasn't fully sure of what was happening but the author did a fabulous job of describing the surroundings and getting me engaged in the story.

The book made me think about the future and what could happen while caring about the characters in the book and how they would survive. My favorite character was Razor - he was quite fascinating and gave the reader hope in a dark world.

It was fast-paced and gritty. It's not for the faint of heart but if you are even remotely interested in sci-fi, thrillers or suspense novels you will enjoy this book.

I had not read the prequel (Broken Angel) before this but have already downloaded it to my Nook in order to catch up - yes I liked Flight of Shadows that much!

Disclaimer: I have recently joined Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group's Blogging for Books program and this is the first book I received free to review - all the opinions are mine.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Review of Fisher-Price iXL Learning System - Blue

Originally submitted at Toys R Us

Fisher-Price iXL Learning System. iXL is the ultimate and coolest handheld learning system designed for kids. The iXL Learning System is as a child's Digital Book Reader, Game Player, Digital Art Book, MP3 Music Player, Notepad and Photo Viewer. The base device comes with pre-loaded software fo...


Awesome toy but HUGE battery user.

By Mom to triplets. from Gainesville, VA on 12/27/2010

 

2out of 5

Pros: Interactive, Educational, Engaging, Lots of Fun

Cons: Huge battery eater

Best Uses: Young Children, Entertainment

Describe Yourself: Stay At Home Parent, Parent Of Two Or More Children, Parent Of Multiples (Twins etc)

Was this a gift?: Yes

I bought three iXLs for my triplets for Christmas and they love them. Other than running into high traffic on Christmas we didn't have a problem downloading the software or setting the systems. I did purchase 4 games and was disappointed to find that the system could only hold 3 due to lack of space but we got a full 3 games on and my girls were happy.

My biggest disappointment is how fast the system goes through batteries. It's AWFUL!! With 3 systems I had already used 12 batteries on Christmas but just hours after they started using them they all died and we had to replace them. Two days later I have already gone through 28 batteries and one of them has just died again and that one was 2 hours after we put new batteries in!!

I thought this would be good for car trips and playing at home but now unless I want to invest a fortune in batteries - whether buying new or reusable - my girls can't use them often.

Very frustrated.

(legalese)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas To All!

Forgive my absence I have been busy celebrating Christmas with my family. I hope you had a wonderful holiday as well as a blessed new year.



I will return to blogging in the New Year. For the next few days I will be spending time with my family!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CVS Trip - My Slight Glade Candle Addiction

Sad, but true. If there's a sale on Glade candles I'm there. The French Vanilla just smells so good :) And then there's the two scents in one: creamy custard and apple - LOVE it! Plus, our church is sponsoring a missionary family and they have given us a list of items that they do not have readily available in the country they are going to. Candles are on their list so even though I do have a huge addiction I'm donating at least half of the candles I've picked up in the last few weeks to this family.

Here's what I got:



I spent: $36.07
And saved: $57.54 (including a $5.00 ECB that I had)
And earned: $17.00 in ECB's!!

What I got:

Duracell Batteries
- regular price: $5.48
- sale price: $2.99
- used 6 $1.50 off coupons from RP 11/14 and RP 12/12
- after spending $15 I earned a $5.00 ECB
- so my total after sales, coupons and ECB's is $3.94 or $0.66/each!!

Oral-B Satin Floss
- regular price: $4.39
- sale price: $2.99
- used $1.00 off coupon from PG 11/28
- earned $2.00 back in ECB's
- final price: FREE

And my Glade candles :) I got diffusers as well.
- regular price: $10.99 for the diffusers; $4.29 for the candles
- sale price: $6.00 for the diffusers; $2.50 for the candles
- used Buy 1 Get 1 free diffusers from SS 11/17
- used $1.00/2 Glade candles from Coupons.com - for this one I recommend going through Swagbucks and printing a coupon that way - then you will earn another 10 Swagbucks just for using your coupon!
- I earned $3.00 for every $10.00 spent on Glade - for the diffusers I spent $3.00 for 2 after coupons and ECB's; and for the candles I spent $6.00 for 4 after coupons - certainly makes it easy to donate them!

Batteries are a must for our Christmas Day and the candles make every holiday celebration smell better so I was thrilled to get such a great deal this week!!

Coupon match-ups are from Southern Savers and the Swagbucks link does take you to Swagbucks but if you sign up it will be under my account. I earn Swagbucks for that - just so everyone knows!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Planning Monday


I certainly didn't mean to go a whole week without posting but life gets so incredibly crazy this time of year. I will be sure and update soon about shopping adventures but for now here's my weekly menu plan!

Monday: Chicken Taco Bake

Tuesday: Turkey-Biscuit Pot Pie - will have to use chicken but I still think it will be good

Wednesday: Chicken Noodle Soup - it's certainly cold enough for good soup!

Thursday: Spaghetti and Meatballs - have a kids Christmas performance that night - dinner must be simple!!

Friday: Easy Pleasing Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli

Saturday: Ground Beef and Twice-Baked Potato Pie - calls for different mashed potatoes but I think I will just use the leftovers from Tuesday

Sunday: Barbecue Chili with Corn

Monday, December 6, 2010

Menu Planning Monday


The past two weeks I haven't made up much of a menu plan. I did use the recipes that I had planned for the month but nothing stayed where it was and everything changed :) Plus we ate out a time or two more than I had expected. But now it's the first of the month and I'm back on track once again. At least till next week...

Monday: Christmas Chicken Burrito Bundles with Rice

Tuesday: Angel Chicken

Wednesday: Creamy Baked Ziti

Thursday: Easy Slow-Cooker Beef Stew

Friday: Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup

Saturday: Burger 'N Fries Pot Pie - This just sounds too interesting to pass up :) I think I will add some veggies to the mix to give it just a little something more! We'll see if the kids eat it...

Sunday: Church Women's Christmas Tea (yummy dinner out for me!!)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas, Only Cheaper

I haven't had a ton of time to read and catch-up on blogs but I did get a chance to check out one of my favorites: Moneywise Moms and she had a post on Making Holiday Money so while I wasn't looking to make money per se it did get me thinking about how I could get christmas gifts cheaper or even free.

Before the Christmas season begins we already set a budget for ourselves - how much we will spend on each child and ourselves and I'm pretty strict about it. But I love Christmas and I love having lots of wrapped gifts under the tree :) Even if it's a small stocking stuffer I'll wrap it. Hey, Christmas comes just once a year and it's a day for fun!! So I do like to get what I can for the kids without going over budget.

How do I save?

Get items FREE! Yep, FREE!

2 Ways I do this:

1. Swagbucks. I know I mentioned this recently but this has really helped my holiday shopping. Most recently I was able to get free books for my kids from Amazon for a multiples holiday party that we had this evening. Every year at the party Santa gives each kid a wrapped book (purchased by mom and dad of course). By combining a sale at Amazon (buy 3 get 1 free) and my Swagbucks I got the kids books FREE!!

Search & Win

2. Paper Back Swap. I love Paper Back Swap! You set up an account and then list books in your home that you wish to get rid of. When people ask for your books you ship them - simple as that. You pay for postage going out but when the person receives the book they indicate that they have and you receive a credit. Every credit is a free book for you. I was just able to order 3 books FREE for my daughter for Christmas. All three were on her list and I didn't have to pay a penny for them!! And I have 8 credits left from books I mailed months ago - gives me 8 more free books to come!

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

Other ways to save:

3. Shop places that give gift cards back for what you spend. We all know this works with CVS and Rite Aid but other places are giving gift cards when you spend. On Black Friday I spent money at Target earning me a $10 gift card allowing me to pick up a gift for my daughter for free. When you're price checking look for places that give you rewards :)

4. If you're already shopping Rite Aid consider picking up a few toy items for the kids in your life (or other items) at great prices - some even earn +Up Rewards but better yet Rite Aid is giving you money back when you spend money in their store! Go HERE for details.

5. Use coupons! I'm sure you all know this already :) Whenever I possibly can I use a money off coupon even if it's just a coupon for free shipping. Every dollar counts.

I may be a tightwad but I love to give. I love to celebrate. Hey, I love getting gifts too! I just don't want to spend a fortune to do it.

What ways are you saving this Christmas season?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Restaurant.com

When I first started this blog almost 2 years ago I shared about my love for Restaurant.com - a great place to get gift certificates quite cheap to eat at a local restaurant. Today I have new reason to share it again! Besides the 80% offer (which they do have quite often) there's a new local restaurant that we actually want to eat at. Love it!

How it works: you purchase a $25 gift certificate (or gift certificate of another amount) for a reduced price. Today you can purcahse a $25 gift certificate for just $2 by going to Restaurant.com and entering the code DEAL in the promo code box at checkout.



You do get to choose the restaurant you want to eat at before you check out and each restaurant has it's own set of rules. When I did this last year the only restaurant I liked was quite a ways away from me but now I'm so excited to say that there's a great restaurant (Eggspectation) that recently opened near me that participates with Restaurant.com!!

This would be a restaurant we'd like to go to anyway so I was thrilled to see that I could get a $25 gift certificate today for just $2!!

We actually went last night with a Gift Certificate from Restaurant.com and had a great time. We fed 7 people dining out for just $22 including tip!! Our total bill before tip was $15 :) And since Eggspectation serves breakfast all day the kids ate every last bite of their food.

There are a few restrictions:
- at Eggspectation you have to spend $35 minimum to redeem your $25 gift certificate and 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bill - not a big deal - our server was great and we actually tipped a bit more because she did well and we liked her :)

- you can only redeem one gift certificate per month per restaurant so we can't go back to Eggspectation till next month - I am assuming this is calendar month and not 30 days from yesterday but the website doesn't make that clear

- valid for dine-in only

- can't be combined with any other coupon or offer

Other than that it's super easy to buy and use! Such a great way to save on eating out! And with the holiday season upon us we often get too busy to cook at home and eating out becomes more enticing. At least this way I can do it on a budget :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Shopping

Have you done it?

I have never gone shopping on Black Friday before. Well, maybe during the day but I've never gotten up early to shop but this year I took the plunge.

I would have photos if my camera had flash but unfortunately it's still broken so I can only share my experience in writing :)

I am NOT a morning person so it was easier to stay out all night then to get up really early. My good friend, Kristy, myself and her mom made up our plan and headed out at 10:30 PM. A little late since Toys R Us opened at 10 PM with their deals. By the time we got to Toys R Us there was a line to get in the door (because the store was too full) so we waited to get in and didn't find that many deals worth waiting in a 2-hour line for so we left pretty quickly.

Lesson learned: if you want to get in and not wait in the check-out line you MUST wait in the initial line to get in. You get a line no matter what.

Lesson 2: have someone wait in the crazy line while someone else in your party keeps shopping :) (Is this a Black Friday no-no? I have no idea if there are rules? We were discussing this in one line - how many places can one person hold? I mean can 1 person hold the places of their 10 friends? Is that too many? Seems like there should be rules!)

After leaving Toys R Us we headed to Old Navy. This time we made it in time to wait in the first line so we got in at midnight. Some quick shopping got us in line at 12:30 and out the door at 1. I can't say the deals were that great. A few doorbusters were fun but nothing necessary. I did get a pair of free socks for being in the original line - I think people further up got a better deal but I'm not sure. I think I spent more on items at the checkout area then I did in the store :) Not quite, but almost - hey, they were great stocking stuffers! Sadly, pretty much everyone was buying them (not sad for the store of course) - way too much time in line.

After getting a quick post-midnight snack we got in line at Kohl's. We only stood there for about 30 or 40 minutes - not bad for us - there were quite a few in front of us but not as bad as Best Buy (maybe that's the lesson - wait there instead?!). I think we did pretty good at Kohls. Got quite a few things - everything on my list and then some - Kristy and I combined our things to use a coupon I had - together we spent $355 and saved $570!!

Even better we earned $60 in Kohl's cash and I still have $65 to get back in rebates so really I spent $290 and saved $635!! Plus, my Kohl's cash for more free merchandise next week :) I'd say it wasn't bad. Still debating as to whether or not I love everything I got but shopping at Kohl's was fun at least and I can return anything I decide I don't want right?

We thought we'd head home after Kohl's but ended up stopping at Target for a few more things. Since we were "late" getting there we didn't have any lines to wait in. And even though I thought I had missed one doorbuster they had re-stocked them before I left.

I crawled into bed at 6:30 - not too bad I guess - I did get a little sleep :)

Lesson 3: stay in bed :) Okay, maybe not for the biggest, bestest deal but I've seen the deals I got on the internet so I probably could have just stayed home and ordered online. I certainly did for my Gymboree order. That I placed on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving at about 1 in the morning. That's how I get the kids jackets for just $14!!

While I enjoyed very much hanging out with my friend and her mom I'm pretty sure I could have gotten just as good deals at any other time. I must say, I've never felt I overspent too much in years past when I haven't gone Black Friday shopping. If I were to repeat it next year it would only be to enjoy the night with friends and not for the deals.

What about you? Do you shop on Black Friday? Think it's worth it?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving Menu Planning


For some reason it seems weird to menu plan before Thanksgiving :) I mean we still have to eat and we don't want to eat turkey for weeks on end but it seems odd to eat "normal" food right now :) Fortunately, I'd already planned for the week in advance so we are eating normal food along with Thanksgiving at school, a women's night at church, the triplets birthday party and bringing a meal to someone who needed it - it's been a busy food week!!

Here's what we had and plan to have till Thanksgiving which is more of an obvious meal :)

Last Wednesday: Quick Chicken and Dumplings

Last Thursday: Easy Chicken & Rice Divan

Last Friday: Taco Bake

Saturday: Chicken-Broccoli-Tortellini Soup - this was for the women's night at church so I doubled the recipe and it was a big hit - very yummy!

Sunday: Leftovers - this is actually the 2nd time we've had leftovers this month - I have had SOO much food from all I've made that we just have to clean out the fridge :) Plus, we ordered pizza for the party yesterday and we had a few pizzas leftover making a perfect Sunday lunch. Leftovers are a great budget stretcher :)

Monday: Slow Cooker Lasagna

Tuesday: Chicken and Sweet Pepper Stir-Fry

Wednesday: Mozzarella Pasta Bake

And then it's Thanksgiving followed by some strategic leftovers :) I know Turkey Tetrazzini is already on my list of post-Thanksgiving recipes!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swagbucks Has Just Become Even More Awesome!

You're on Swagbucks aren't you?

If not, you absolutely must be!! Swagbucks is SOO easy! I have it set as my home page. Every day I take the Daily Poll, check out the Trusted Survey and search to win - I earn quite a few Swagbucks every day and even the little ones add up. This month I already have $15 in Amazon Gift Cards thanks to Swagbucks and I'm on my way to even more before Christmas!

Click the link (the photo) below to sign yourself up if you are not already on:

Search & Win

Want another reason to sign up for Swagbucks??

COUPONS!!

That's right! You can now print coupons from the Swagbucks home page - for every coupon you redeem you earn 10 Swagbucks!! Since I use coupons ALL the time this sounds like a WIN for me. How easy could that be? Now I'm earning Swagbucks while saving money and earning Swagbucks gets me MORE money.

It's a good day when a website can save me money and make me money all at the same time!!

What are you waiting for?? Sign up TODAY!!

Check out the Swagbucks BLOG for more details.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Racking Up At Rite Aid

I have been shopping Rite Aid for a few months and I like it :) It's not a lot different than CVS but the store by me is much nicer, they seem to have more items that earn +Up Rewards and rarely have a limit on their great sales.

Here's what I picked up:



I spent: $29.72
And saved: $57.34
And earned: $14.00

Normally I wouldn't spend this much in one transaction but I had a few coupons including a $5.00 off $25.00 purchase so I figured I'd go ahead and pick up everything I needed in one trip instead of going back repeatedly.

My best deals:

General Mills Cereal:
- retail price: $4.79
- sale price: 2/$4.00
- used 2 $1.00/2 coupon from S 10/31
- earned $1.00 +Up Reward
- final price: $0.50 per box

Cottonelle Bath Tissue:
- retail price: $3.99
- sale price: 2/$5.00
- used 2 printable $0.50/1 coupon from HERE
- earned $2.00 +Up Reward
- final price: $1.00 per pack

Herbal Essences Shampoo/Conditioner
- retail price: $4.49
- sale price: $2.99
- used 2 $1.00/1 coupon from RP 11/14
- earned $2.00 +Up Reward for each one
- final price: FREE
(and note - CVS is running the same deal but they have a limit of 1 whereas Rite Aid has no limit noted in the ad or on their shelves)

M&M's Holiday Candy
- retail price: $3.99
- sale price: $2.50
- used 2 $1.00/2 coupons from RP 11/14
- earned $1.00 +Up Reward on every 2 purchased
- final price: $1.50 each

I get my coupon match-ups for Rite Aid from Southern Savers. I share here what I picked up and thought were the best deals for our family.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bug Birthday Party On A Budget

With 5 kids one of my biggest challenges is to do birthday parties without spending a large amount of money. I know I have the option not to do one at all but that just isn't my style. I love birthdays so I just can't give the parties up :)

The trick is finding a way to do it without breaking the bank. In years past we've opted to take the party out of the home for convenience but obviously that's more of a budget buster.

My total party expenditure: $102.52 - I would add this includes $16.99 for shipping and handling (how crazy expensive is that?!) because I placed and order with Oriental Trading Company and paid to upgrade shipping for fear the order wouldn't arrive on time so that's certainly one place to save money since taking out that expense means I spent $85.53 on supplies.

My supplies included the cake I made:



The goody "bags":



And dirt cups:



Where the money went:

Lunch was hot dogs, chips, grapes, mac and cheese and bug juice to drink.
- hot dogs - I already had so these aren't in my total but I think I spent $4.00
- chips - $4.00 for 2 bags
- grapes - $2.98 for 2 pounds
- mac n cheese - $1.97 for a box
these items I purchased at Target and used my $5.00 gift card so I saved a few extra dollars that way thanks to my Dunkin Donuts deal last week.
- the bug juice consisted of 1 2-liter of 7-Up and 1 2-liter of lemonade - we then froze ice cubes with bug fruit snacks and green food coloring to give it that more icky factor - total cost - about $3.50

Goody bags:
- mason jars - 12 for $9.99
- crushed oreo cookie dirt - $1.97
- rock candy - 1 pound was $9
- crunchy marshmallow bugs - $11.98 for 24 - I used these on the cake, in the mason jars and in the goody bags
To complete the goody bags I used brown paper bags and added the mason jars along with bug fruit snacks, bug gummies and plastic bugs ($11.99 for 96)

The cake:
- cake mix - $1.49 at Harris Teeter
- 2 containers of chocolate icing - $1.00 for 2 (after coupons)
- cookie crumbles on top oreo cookies and chocolate Teddy Grahams: $6.98 (not on sale and no coupon)
- gummy worms - $1.49 (also in the mud pie cups)
- realistic gummy bugs - $6.99 for 41
- rock candy
- more crunchy marshmallow bugs

Mud pie:
- crushed cookies
- chocolate pudding - $2.30
- whipped topping - $2.00
- more rock candy (I stretched that pound as far as I could!)

With a little bit of work I was able to pull off an awesome theme party for my son's 7th birthday. I will note that it would have been cheaper to keep the boys home and play games but because Caleb's birthday always falls in November just 6 days before his sister's I often end up spending a little more than I might do otherwise and this year was no exception - we took the boys to see the movie Megamind. However, by taking them to a matinee and not buying snacks at the movie we saved a little bit :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Triplet Dads Run On Dunkin (Coffee That Is!)

My husband works at least three jobs. Fortunately only one of them takes him to an office - the rest he can do from home but it means he often only gets 4 hours of sleep a night. And he thought getting up a few times a night to feed triplets was hard :)

To keep him running and at least semi-awake he drinks a ton of coffee. I never touch the stuff (crazy I know but I don't like it) but he loves it and his favorite coffee is Dunkin Donuts so when I found out that Target was running an awesome special on their coffee this week I practically ran right over.

The awesome deal: purchase 3 bags of Dunkin Donuts coffee and get a $5.00 gift card back - the sale price is $6.49 a bag and there are coupons in RP 10/31 - my coupon was for $2.00/2 but some people may have a $1.50/1 coupon (I would have preferred that but as my girls say "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit!").

Using my $2.00 off coupon I paid $17.47 for 3 bags of coffee and got a $5.00 gift card back. As I like to do I had to do it a second time this time I used my first $5.00 gift card as well as a $1.00 off coupon I found inside one of my first coffee bags :) This time around I paid $11.47 for 3 bags of coffee and earned back a $5.00 gift card.

So for 6 bags of coffee I paid $23.94 or $3.99/each and for Dunkin Donuts coffee that's a steal! (In case you don't know the regular price is usually around $8.00 a bag).

Thanks to Southern Savers for a heads-up on this deal :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Planning Monday


A lot of big meals this week because we had expected company so I had planned meals that would feed more than just our family. I guess I should've planned a leftover day :)

Monday: Mini Meat Loaves (I made our regular recipe but here's another version to consider)

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Wednesday: Caleb's 7th Birthday - we will be going out to celebrate :)

Thursday: New-Look Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Friday: Slow Cooker Upside Down Chicken Pot Pie

Saturday: No-Roll Mexican Rice Enchiladas

Sunday: Stuffed Shells (I made my own recipe but here's another version to consider)

As a side note - I use the e-mail recipes as inspiration - sometimes I substitue our familar recipe in the rotation - if it's a family favorite I already know we'll love then it's easier to put that in the mix than something else brand new.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Back To The Grocery Game: Now That's Some Dollar Doubling!

I love the Grocery Game.

It's been a while but I finally got back on. Truth be told I've been on before but they have completely redone the website and I haven't had time to figure it out. Until today. Because of my oldest daughter's chicken pox our schedules have cleared up (imagine that - don't want to risk spreading it to company so they have to wait till next month to come).

I love the new site! Maybe that's a bit repetitive but seriously it's great. She has a whole new feature where you get your entire list in coupon date order making it really easy to find the coupons and I can look them all up in order. So nice :)

Anyway, that's only half the point. The rest of it is here is what I picked up tonight:



I paid: $29.19
And saved: $69.80

Since I did pick up a few needs that weren't sale items my spendings were a little higher but I did also get quite a few free items and used doubled 20 coupons this time so I'm feeling pretty good about my trip :)

My Freebies:

Barilla Plus Pasta
- regular price: $2.50/each
- sale price: $0.60/each
- used 3 $1.00/2 coupon which doubled
- final price: FREE (no overage)

Bumble Bee Premium Light Tuna Pouch
- regular price: $1.39/each
- sale price: $1.00/each
- used 3 $1.00/2 coupons
- final price: FREE

Meow Mix Market Select Cat Food
- regular price: $0.69/each
- sale price: $0.67/each (yea, not much of a sale!)
- used 3 $1.00/2 coupons
- final price: FREE

For more great deal match-ups check out The Grocery Game :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dollar Doubler At Harris Teeter


In case you haven't heard Harris Teeter is running Dollar Doubler once again where they double coupons up to $1.98. It runs through next Tuesday the 9th.

I took a trip yesterday and found a few deals though not a huge amount. Most of my coupons came from Catalina promotions so I was able to save a good amount and pick up the majority of the items on my monthly needs list but other than that I only used 8 coupons that doubled. Sad I know!! However I did end up spending $62.89 and saving $82.20 bringing my total for the month to around $100 with only a few items left that I need so I'm pretty excited about being able to stay in budget in November!

My few good coupons came from Kelloggs and I stocked up on a number of a few needed pantry items.

For deal match-ups check out Southern Savers

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Monthly Menu Planning: My Unscientific Method

I am no pro at monthly menu planning but I figured I'd share how I do it anyway. Since I have a crazy, constantly busy household finding time to organize and plan is usually few and far between.

In order for me to stick to something it has to be a simple addition to my routine. You know like couponing and store-hopping. No, I'm kidding about that - monthly meal planning has been much, much easier than I could ever have expected.

My first question and probably yours is "How do I come up with that many meals?"

The funny thing is before I started I really had no idea. Sometimes just for a week's worth of meals I would scour cookbooks hoping just one or two meals would appeal to me.

Some of you don't like variety and have a few tried and true recipes that you use every week on a regular basis. I have a friend who eats the same food every single month and only has to by ingredients for that (works for her and her identical triplet girls :) ) but for me I like a little more variety. Yes, even from one month to the next. So where to come up with new recipes?

Turns out I only had to look in my inbox.

And if you subscribe to a few sites that's all you'll have to do too!

Every few days I can an e-mail with recipe ideas from:

Betty Crocker

Dinner Made Easy

Kraft Foods

Campbells Kitchen

Bisquick

Reynolds Kitchen

Pillsbury

I do pick up recipes here and there from other places but these are the main ones that I get e-mail newsletters from on a regular basis.

Whenever a new e-mail comes in I glance at it and check out the few recipes they've highlighted. If I like one I click on it and check it out in detail. If it meets my criteria: low number of ingredients, simple to make and looks like something my kids might try then I copy the link and paste it in a Word document.

I did this throughout October and for November I had a great list all ready to go!

Last week I went through the list I had accumulated over the month and checked through the recipes again. I think I threw out one that no longer appealed to me but the rest still looked good.

The next part takes a little bit of time but truly taking an hour, maybe two to plan out the month saves me SOOO much time through the month of November.

To make my monthly grocery list I go to each recipe and then copy down the ingredients in a seperate Word document. By doing it electronically I can group all my meat, produce, cheese, etc. together and make a very simple list. I even make notations about items I should already have in the pantry but I still list every ingredient even if I think I may have it to be sure as the month goes on I don't forget :)

After I have my grocery list I go back to my recipe list and print off the names of each recipe I've chosen. I then cut out each individual recipe to paste to my master calendar. I'm sure you can do this electronically but to be honest it's just fun to cut and paste as a grown-up sometimes! Plus, I have the freedom to juggle the recipes around repeatedly till I find an order that I like. You know not too many chicken recipes in a row or sorting recipes that feed more people on a day we are expecting company. Once I have a set up I like I paste it on.

Then each week all I have to do is glance at my calendar and I know what meals I'm planning. It's that easy :)

As for grocery shopping, I do try and get the bulk of what I need at the beginning of the month so that the remainder of the month I can focus on produce, eggs, milk and the deals. However, this month is a little different since I knew in advance that there would be dollar doubler at Harris Teeter starting tomorrow and that a new sales week rolls around so I didn't run to the store today and get everything on my list. I did pick up all the ground beef I'll need for the month since it was on sale. This coming week I'll get most of the things I need but if last month is any indication I did have a few need items left over each week but not enough to put a major dent in my budget.

So, that is how I plan for the month.

For now I'll just share my 1st week's plan...

Monday: Chick-Fil-A

Tuesday: Mini Taco Bowls

Wednesday: Velveeta Baked Spaghetti Squares

Thursday: Moms of Multiples monthly meeting

Friday: Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup and Chicken Quesadillas

Saturday: Tater Topped Casserole

Sunday: Alea's One Pot Chicken Dinner

Saturday, October 30, 2010

October Month End Money Recap

I know it technically ends tomorrow but since I have no plans to grocery shop tomorrow I figure it's close enough :)

1. Spend $100 or less on groceries each week. Once again, close but not quite. But this month I'm not feeling as stressed about it. Having an entire month plan meant that I stayed more on top of my budget than ever and truly didn't overspend. We bought some extras because my parents were here but as loving parents they pitched in and helped with the bill so with a little help from them along with earning $40 back in the General Mills promotion I didn't really go over budget :)

Total spent: $443.80 (plus a few dollars - I know I'm missing a couple small things and didn't include some Target purchases because I couldn't figure out what I saved - it was the applesauce - so add $13.00 for that I think)
Total saved: $594.55 (plus a few dollars - same reason as above)
Earned back: $54.00 in +Up Rewards and Catalinas

My last trip to Harris Teeter for the month I picked up:


(Sorry for the darkness of the picture but the camera flash is broken and we just haven't fixed it yet - on the list to do!)

I spent: $51.66
And saved: $86.10

But what I am most excited about was my second trip (I'd forgotten some coupons so I ran back to HT for a second trip):



I spent: $1.81 (yep, just over $1.00!!)
And saved: $30.95

Do notice that I picked up food that we actually will eat :) Some of what I picked up were treats (Cheesecake bites for $0.74 and free candy bars) but yogurt my kids love and tomatoes that I'll use in next month's recipes as well as butter for a quarter are all good deals!

Most of my coupons were printables so to find those and other great deal match-ups head to Southern Savers - while you're there you may also want to take note that Dollar Doublers starts next Wednesday (11/3) at Harris Teeter and Southern Savers already has a list of coupon match-ups so you can begin to get ready. I know I like to hit Harris Teeter right after I drop the kids off at school on Wednesdays so I don't miss out on the best deals. I'm really hoping that starting the month with dollar doubler will really help my monthly budget for November - I guess we'll see!

2. Pay down debt and not acrue new debt. Sort of. I managed to lose my debit card so only have my credit card. However, each time I use my credit card I record it and set the money aside to pay the credit card off. As soon as I get a new debit card I can stop doing this but I will have the card paid off after the next bill except for a large car repair charge. Remember how credit cards are there for emergencies? Well, it was an emergency. Good news is that again I have a plan to pay it off rather than have it sit there as debt. In every other way we've paid down debt.

3. Budget, budget, budget. I stick very well to the budget I have set except for eating out. Seems that one always goes overboard for one reason or another. I am going to really work on that :)

4. Make a price point book. I'm thinking this is going to be on my resolutions list for 2011 since I'm just not getting to it in 2010!! I will say that I do have a general idea in my head but will often pay more for an item to avoid store hopping - I'm okay with that.

5. Get rid of stuff. Did I ever! A few truckloads worth. Felt so good to get SOOO much stuff out of the house. A good 200 items at least. I'm already looking forward to the spring consignment sales to get rid of more! I did purchase items and brought them in but for the most part it was clothes that the kids need.

6. Organize. In a sense I did by going through so many items but I still have a large number of buckets to go through and as I look ahead at the last 2 months of the year (can you believe 2010 is almost over?!) I don't see a lot of it happening but I have very high hopes for January.

7. Make extra money. This I did. With all my sales I believe I made about $550 in total - talk about helpful!

8. Still buying good kids clothes. Did this too. At the consignment sales I picked up a number of brand name items. I got 2 great Gymboree dresses and am currently bidding on a 3rd coordinating on eBay. I also was able to purchase brand new clothes from Gymboree NOT using a credit card because of the money I made from the consignment sales. I'm hoping to buy a few more matching outfits for the girls this coming month but am holding off till the really awesome Thanksgiving sales to get some cheap ones.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It Pays To Eat Pasta!

From now until October 30th you have a chance to win free groceries for a year (a $5,200 value). 450 First Place winners will also win $100 for a week's worth of groceries.

Sounds like a deal I had to pass along!

To enter go HERE

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Candy At Rite-Aid: Get It Before It's Gone!

Halloween is just days away and I had NO candy! I have to say it's hard to fit candy to give away in my budget. Sure, we eat our fair share but most of it goes to the kids that come to our door. How to save money but still get the good candy?

Head to Rite Aid!

I've been shopping there on and off for a few weeks trying to learn their system which is now very similar to CVS. The Rite Aid by me is newer than CVS and very nice inside. And tonight the manager was very, very helpful making my trip even more pleasant.

Here's what I picked up in 2 trips:



Total spent: $22.16
Total saved: $39.88

In my first trip I bought $25 worth of candy.

I used 5 $1.00/2 coupons from S 10/17 (Hershey's, Reese's or Kit Kat) and RP 10/17 (Nestle Chocolate Fall Candy) along with a $5 off $25 coupon I still had from a while ago. Do note that these coupons are no longer available for print anywhere - I just had one left that I had not used and it hadn't expired.

After coupons my final cost was right around $15 and I got $10 back in +Up Rewards.

In my second transaction I picked up Pepsi and paper towels. The paper towels that are actually on sale are Bounty and there is a $1.00 off coupon from PG 9/26 but the store was out. I was going to get a raincheck but the store manager was more than happy to give me a substitue and since we are completely out of paper towels I was happy to "sacrifice" my $1.00 off coupon for the paper towels I needed :)

I would highly recommend that if you are in need of Halloween candy that you head on over to Rite Aid and do it quick because I was told that a number of Rite Aid stores were already sold out of the candy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Menu Planning Monday (Week 5)


I didn't intend to go a full week without posting but with family in town this week has been way too busy to get on the computer for more than a few minutes at a time. And before I knew it another week had passed.

So, here I am again planning another week of menus and this week I have quite a few to choose from since we have eaten at home less than I had expected.

Here's what I'm planning for the last week of October:

Monday: Angel Chicken

Tuesday: Beef and Green Chile Enchiladas

Wednesday: Creamy Chicken and Rigatoni

Thursday: Beef-Vegetable Skillet Bake

Friday: Easy Cheesy Barbecued Sloppy Joes

Saturday: Taco Bake

Sunday: Layered Meatball Bake

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Menu Planning Monday (Tuesday): Week Four


Sorry - I did mean to have this up yesterday but time just slipped away from me.

This is my fourth week using my monthly plan and I have every intention of sticking to it. It has made my dinner planning significantly easier! And this week with my parents here all I've had to do is pick the dinners that I think they would like.

This is what I've come up with and I'm hoping they like it!!

Monday: Wahoo! Chili with Beans and Homemade Mac N Cheese (this is my only repeat but since the last time I made it was for lunch it worked out well to have it again)

Tuesday: Gram's Chicken Pot Pie Updated

Wednesday: Our day in DC - we'll be eating out

Thursday: Easy Pleasing Meatloaf (that I didn't make last weekend)

Friday: Mexican Shepherd's Pie

Saturday: Meatball Calzones

Sunday: Chicken Broccoli Tortellini Soup

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Consignment Sale Goodies

It has been a very busy week but I have managed to survive (barely). I will tell you that all my hard work was worth it. I'm not sure what my total sales were but my total take-home pay was around $550. I'll know more when my checks start coming in but still that's a significant amount of money!

Of course, not all of that money is "coming home" to me :) Most of it went to outfit my kids for the next season. Here's what I picked up:



Yes, my entire table is covered in clothes. Not pictured: a few toys that the kids have already received and begun playing with.

Total spent: $290 (give or take a few dollars)

From the picture it's a bit hard to tell just how much clothing that is but it's a LOT and includes 3 pairs of brand-new, matching Christmas pajamas for the girl's birthday next month. I got pajamas, dresses, pants, tops, outfits, brand new shoes, toys and gifts - there's no better way to shop than used!

With the leftover money I was able to order brand new clothes from Gymboree for the girls so that they would have a few matching dresses for the fall/winter season and a pair of brand new boots each (though the boots are birthday presents so they weren't included in my spending total since they came out of the kids birthday money budget). I once read that buying used shoes for your kids wasn't a good idea since each child has his or her own shoe shape and each child wears their shoes differently. For me, while I've had success with buying used clothes I haven't had as much success buying used shoes so it's something I would rather not do whenever I can.

All this to say, if you have a chance to shop at a consignment sale - DO! Even better, if you have a chance to volunteer - definitely DO! I got 7 outfits and 1 book for $9.00 because I was among the first to shop Dollar Dash at my last sale. I'm trading my time for huge money savings and the trade off is worth it. Maybe not every day - I'm still recovering from three sales in a week!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Harris Teeter And A Great General Mills Promotion

Dollar for dollar I felt like I overspent this week even though my total wasn't too off the mark. Just didn't seem like I got that much for what I spent. A few high-dollar, not-on-sale items will do that to you :(

However, I felt redeemed when I got a few Catalinas from General Mills :)

Here's what I picked up:



I spent: $38.70
And saved: $67.34

I earned back:

$3.00 coupon off my next order 10/20 to 10/26
$4.00 coupon off my order 10/27 to 11/2
$5.00 coupon off my order 11/3 to 11/9
$8.00 coupon off my order 11/10 to 11/16

If you add that up it's $20.00 and all I had to do was spend $20.00 on GM products (before coupons) in one transaction and it's pretty easy to do this week when so many items are on sale.

The GM products I picked up were:

Apple Cheerios:
- retail price: $3.99
- sale price: 2/$5.00
- used 2 $0.75/1 coupon from HERE
- final price: $1.00/each

Trix Cereal
- retail price: $3.39
- sale price: 3/$6.00
- used $1.00/2 coupon from S 9/19
- final price: $1.50/each

Betty Crocker Muffin Mix
- retail price: $3.25
- sale price: 2/$4.00
- used 3 $0.50/1 coupon from S 10/3
- final price: $1.00/each

Yoplait Splitz
- retail price: $2.50
- sale price: 2/$4.00
- used 5 $0.50/1 coupon from S 8/22, S 9/12, S 10/3
- final price: $1.00/each (I would have purchased less but it comes as pack of four and 20 is the only way 4 divides to make it even for 5 kids!)

Pillsbury Grands! Bisuits
- retail price: $1.99/each
- sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
- used $0.30/2 coupon from S 9/19, S 10/3
- final price: $0.70/each

Believe it or not I needed rain checks on the other deals I had hoped for except for cat food - go figure - it's only Thursday!

Not sure what you need for the week but I highly recommend hitting Harris Teeter for some General Mills products :) For more deals check out Southern Savers.

One more consignment sale tomorrow/Saturday and then I'll share my deals!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu Planning: Week Three


My monthly menu plan is still going very well though this past week has been no less than crazy. We had a little drama over the weekend so a friend provided our meal for us on Saturday. Yesterday was the wedding and for the next 3 days I'm working at Classy Kids Consignment leaving dad to feed the kids dinner :) I've chosen a few recipes that I think will be kid-friendly but tonight he served spaghetti and that wasn't on my original list. Not a problem, I'll just work around it for the rest of the month.

Monday: Spaghetti made my dad

Tuesday: Chicken and Noodles Skillet (didn't make it last week and I think the kids will eat it this week)

Wednesday: Macaroni and Cheese with Meatballs (certainly sounds kid friendly :) )

Thursday: Cheesy Grilled BBQ Chicken Wraps (mom's back to cooking!)

Friday: MOPS consignment sale - fast food

Saturday: Easy Pleasing Meatloaf Grandma and Grandpa are here so I'll be feeding a few more for a week :)

Sunday: Pasta Skillet Dinner - this may end up being plain ziti - depends on what feeds more and what's easier to make.

I did spend just $30 at Harris Teeter for this week's groceries and stocked up on a number of free toothbrushes. Sorry, I'm a few days behind on everything because of the sales and the fact that we've been soo busy! On the plus side I did make over $300 at the moms of multiples sale this weekend and only spent $4.00 myself :) I will be shopping at Classy Kids tomorrow and I'm excited to share what I pick up!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Great MOTT'S Deal At Super Target

I don't normally shop at Super Target but I do check to see if there are any good deals going on before I stop by for something else. So since I had to pick up tights for the girls and was already going I jumped on Southern Savers to see what the best deals were and believe me there's a deal to be had!

This is what I picked up:



Ended up going back twice to stock up on some free applesauce :)

Here's the deal:

Buy 5 MOTT's juice or applesauce products and get a $5 gift card back. Each item is on sale for $1.75.

On my first trip I spent $8.75 and got $5.00 back making my products just $0.75/each. On my second and third trip I spent $3.75 on 5 products using my $5.00 gift card and got back another $5.00 gift card making the items FREE. Once I felt sufficiently stocked up on applesauce and juice (a treat for us since we go through juice soo fast and it's normally quite expensive) I used my remaining $5.00 to buy 5 Lunchables at $1.00/each - my final cost was just $0.13!! A great way to give my kids a treat for their Friday lunch :)

The oatmeal I found on clearance and used 2 $1.00/1 coupons from RP 8/29 or RP 9/12 making it just $0.56 a box. Not bad for a breakfast (yes, we go through an entire box of oatmeal at one breakfast!)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Consignment Sale Time!!

I have been SOOO busy for the past month getting items in my house sorted, cleaned, hung and tagged for consignment sales because in the next week I have 3 of them!!

Just wanted to share them with you in case you are in the Northern Virginia area and wish to do some shopping :)

The first sale is THIS Saturday at the Fairgrounds:

PWMOMC Fall 2010 Clothing & Toy Sale With Household Goods
Saturday, October 9, 2010
8am-1pm
Prince William County Fairgrounds (click here for directions)
10624 Dumfries Road - Manassas, VA

FREE ADMISSION


Sale will feature:
Fall & Winter Baby and Toddler Clothing, Shoes & Accessories
(Also some Adult clothing)
Holiday Outfits
Baby/Toddler Equipment
Toys & Games
Books, DVD/VHS movies
Maternity Clothes
Household Items
& More!!!

ALSO,
Vendor Sale & Bake Sale

Come and shop for your family’s and friends’ needs!
A portion of the sales support Prince William County Mothers of Multiples Club, a non-profit organization, and its community projects to benefit area mothers,
children, and families.

www.pwmomc.org for more information


CLASSY KIDS CONSIGNMENT

Your one stop shop for

SAVING, QUALITY and SELECTION!

Next Sale Dates:

Oct. 13-17, 2010

Prince William County Fairgrounds

10624 Dumfries Rd. Manassas, VA 20112



The last sale I'm invovled in is next weekend:

Don’t miss it!!

MOPS
(Mothers of Preschoolers)
Fall Toy and Clothing
Consignment Sale!!!


Baby’s and children’s clothes, toys and equipment

Saturday
October 16, 2010

8:00 am – 1:00pm

(1/2 price sale at 11:30!)

Rt. 29 in Gainesville at Church of the Word next to McDonald’s


It's time to stock up on your kids fall/winter wardrobe as well as to shop early for Christmas so get out there and spend a little to save a LOT!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: Month Plan Week 2


Week 1 went very, very well. I really liked having everything planned out and knowing that the items were already in my pantry. I did do a bit of juggling as needed which was fine and Kirk and I had a last minute date night on Saturday so I didn't cook that night pushing my recipes back a day.

Here's this week's list:

Monday: 30-Minute Mini Meat Loaves (sorry the link was wrong last week - I found that out today when I tried to click on it - oops!)

Tuesday: Layered Enchilada Bake

Wednesday: Chicken and Noodles Skillet

Thursday: Wahoo! Chili with Beans (for lunch - I'm entering a chili making "contest" at Kirk's office) - I will be at the Moms of Multiples meeting a.k.a Olive Garden for dinner

Friday: Set up for the Moms of Multiples Sale - we'll be eating fast food

Saturday: Chicken-Vegetable Soup with Dumplings

Sunday: Kirk's brother's wedding - we'll be eating there :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

DVD's At CVS


In years past we would buy DVD's at full price the moment they came out. Today that just isn't in our budget. But I don't want to cut movies out completely. We love to go to the movies, we love to watch movies as a couple and we love to have "family movie night" with the kids. We've done Redbox plenty and at other times we've done Blockbuster but I prefer to own movies so that we can watch them again and again as well as share them with friends.

So whenever CVS comes out with a movie deal I'm all over it!

Last night I picked up the brand new Iron Man 2 DVD for just $5.00 and since $5.00 is the cost of a rental at Blockbuster and sometimes at Redbox when you've just forgotten about it for too long I think that's a pretty good deal :)

When you spend $25 on certain P&G products you qualify for $15 off the Iron Man 2 DVD in stores this past Tuesday.

I ended up spending $20 on products after coupons and then $5.00 for the DVD. A number of the coupons I used expired yesterday but I encourage you to check out the ad HERE and see what you can pick up to get your DVD cheaper. I have already seen next week's ad (and if CVS has your e-mail you have too) so I know that next week you will be able to purchase a whole other set of products and get $10 off Iron Man 2.

On another note if you don't know already - you can earn a $110 P&G coupon booklet after spending $50 on P&G products between September and December. After yesterday's purchase I'm halfway there and this coming week you can earn $10 in ECB's after purchasing $25 in select P&G products which would be all I need to qualify for the booklet - not bad for picking up items I need.

I've seen the mail-in form in my Sunday paper P&G inserts but you can also go to Southern Savers for a link to the form as well as to find what else is in the booklet.

Just another way to stretch your dollar on things other than groceries!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Awesome Kraft Cheese Deal At Harris Teeter


I'm kicking myself for buying my cheese at Safeway this week - I thought $1.25 a bag was a good deal until I saw the deal at Harris Teeter!

This week Kraft Cheese is on sale buy 1 get 1 free. By using the $5.00/5 coupon from HERE the cheese is just $0.64 each! I have already stocked up on cheese for November :) That will have to come out of my sale budget - so worth it. I also got some sliced cheese for $1.00.

Cheese was by far my best deal - other items I purchased were on my needs list. I was able to get cereal which we have been low on for a good week - 9 boxes for $11.03 - just over $1.00 a box.

For this week I spent: $60.25
And saved: $82.45

Still have a few more needs to pick up but as much as I can I plan to spread those out over the rest of the month. I think I've seen enough stores for one week :)

For more coupon match-ups check out: Southern Savers

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: Week One


I know, technically it's Tuesday but that's only because I am up WAAAY too late. I meant to have this up before midnight but it just didn't happen.

Last week I had my meal plan all the way into this week but like I said yesterday I didn't have all the ingredients so I'm kind of, sort of starting over :)

Here's the new list from today on - the easiest part is that all I have to do is check my master calendar and then drop in the links here in case anyone wants to try out a recipe.

Monday: Chicken Taco Bake

Tuesday: Weeknight Lasagna Toss

Wednesday: Tater Tot Casserole

Thursday: White Bean Chicken Chili

Friday: Mac 'N Cheese Pie

Saturday: Cheesy Chicken & Salsa Skillet

Sunday: 30-Minute Mini-Meatloaves

You may notice a number of meals we've had before - I didn't plan it that way - that's just kind of where they all fell in the month. Lots of new recipes coming though I don't mind starting the month out with familiar food.

I wanted to add I love Donna's idea about doing a 3-month rotation. I have a feeling that is most likely what I will end up doing. I love variety and can NOT have the same thing every week and often every month is too much but every three months I could handle with a few tweaks here and there. Thanks Donna for the suggestion!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A New Month: A New Plan

I have been committed to a $400/month budget since January but as I look back over the year I realize I haven't hit that mark in a single month. In February I was $50 under only to go $50 over in March.

Since my overall goal is to spend even less than $400 spending more than $400 is frustrating. In September I tried Angel Food and while it did help some the meals were small and not that great and I felt like the price was right but the rest was not. Beyond that I feel like I might be able to do even better on the price.

For October (and the remaining week of September) I have a new plan. It's not new per se but it is new to me. I am doing a month menu plan rather than week by week.

I found 2 things in my shopping that I think are the reason I am overspending:

1. I focus way too much on the "deals" and overbuy without thinking about what I need.

2. I often begin my week not having an idea of what we will eat at the end and go to the grocery store again for necessities after having shopped the sales.

To date for the month of September:

I have spent: $403.50
And saved: $497.29 (55%)
And earned: $20 back in ECB's, +Up Rewards from Rite Aid and Catalinas

I would be happy with that if today were the end of the month but it's not. We have 4 more days to go and in those 4 days we need to eat. I didn't have the ingredients to make meals - I had the meat from Angel Food but not the rest of the ingredients. I didn't have milk, I didn't have produce - meaning I would be way over budget before this week was over.

Enough is enough. I'm frustrated and intending to fix it.

I can do 1 of 2 things:

1. Increase my monthly budget to meet what we seem to be spending.

2. Try again with a new plan to rein in my budget and spend less.

Before I concede to option 1 I must try option 2 :)

So, the month plan.

It's not my ideal because I like to make new things and try new ideas as they come to me rather than having this huge master plan but I have to do something drastic to fix my budget issue so I'll try it.

To get started I chose one place to get all my recipes from: the internet. Sounds endless but I kept my searches narrow. I subscribe to quite a number of food websites: Betty Crocker/Dinner Made Easy; Kraft Foods; Campbells Kitchen to name a few. Each one of these places e-mails me newsletters on a regular basis with brand new meal ideas. Sometimes I try a recipe but usually I just transfer it from my inbox to my "recipe" box for later.

In order to get a variety of meals I just went over to my "recipe box" and scanned the e-mails. I quickly found a number of meals that looked interesting and added them to my list.

Using my monthly calendar I got an idea of how many meals I would need between now and October 31st. I was aiming for 30 but only found 29 meals that sounded good enough to make so I settled for that.

As I looked through recipes for this month I chose, for the most part recipes that used ground beef, chopped or diced chicken or no meat at all because I know these recipes will use slightly less meat and cost me less over all. That means a lot of casseroles, chilis and soups and for October that sounds just perfect.

After narrowing down my meat I also narrowed down the number of ingredients. Four-cheese fettucine sounded great but buying all those cheeses did not so I opted against that.

Once I saved all of my recipes I went through each one and wrote down what I needed to buy to make them all - I came up with 15 pounds of ground beef and about 12 pounds of chicken. One recipe needed ham and 2 will use pre-made meatballs but I'm okay with that :)

I then made a 2-page shopping list taking note of how much meat, how much cheese, canned goods, produce and frozen foods along with "other" items that I would need.

I also made a list of my meals in a Word document, printed it out and cut out each dinner so that I could place the desired meal on my calendar. Some of you may not need to be so visual but it helps me a lot to actually see it laid out. I moved meals around based on what we have going on each week and tried to avoid having 2 chilis in one week or too much ground beef in any particular area. We have a wedding in October so our meal will be taken care of. I also have 3 consignment sales and won't be home to cook a few times so those will be take-out nights. My parents are coming into town and I had to figure out which meals they would eat and which they wouldn't.

Maybe I didn't choose the best month to start this :) Or maybe I did. Now rather then hitting these nights were I'm tired or have family in town trying to figure out what the heck to make and then going out I now have a plan.

I have been to Wegman's and Harris Teeter over the past 2 days and already spent $100 of my October budget (and the month hasn't even started I know!) but for the first time it's going towards our dinners and not towards more crackers or cereal in my pantry.

My hope is that I will get all my needs items for the meals for about $200 or half my budget leaving the other $200 to be split up over the next 4 weeks and devoted to milk, eggs and produce as well as the sales that I love to pick up.

Rather then grabbing all the sales I plan to focus on only the best sales with the hopes of keeping my pantry well stocked (it currently is VERY well stocked for kids snacks) as we move in to November.

I know I will have to be strict on myself to stay within budget each week and keep myself from overbuying the sales but dinners are important to us and so is my budget.

We will see how my new plan works out come the end of October :) You know I'll keep you posted!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: Angel Food


One of the biggest struggles I have is dinner. It's easy for me to get cheap/free breakfast food and cheap/free snacks for lunches but dinner can often be a challenge. I like to make meals that have a large number of ingredents to be sure we are eating a well-balanced meal. So this month I tried something different: ordering from Angel Food Ministries.

Angel Food is a ministry that provides boxes of food at discounted prices - most boxes are supposed to feed a family of 4 for a week. Obviously we are a family of 7 but for meals they seem to feed us sufficiently but we have no leftovers. However, if anyone has a decent appetite you'd need twice as much food - for us the girls don't eat much dinner

Sunday: Meatloaf and green beans from Angel Food with homemade mashed potatoes

Monday: Shepherd's Pie - using ground beef from Angel Food and mashed potatoes from Monday

Tuesday: Pot Roast from Angel Food (complete meal)

Wednesday: Pork Chops from Angel Food with Applesauce and Cheesy Potatoes

Thursday: Chicken Taco Bake using chicken from Angel Food

Friday: Hamburgers from Angel Food with mac n cheese and corn

Saturday: Women's event at church - dad to feed kids - dad will probably eat beef and bean burritos from Angel Food

Sunday: Broccoli, Chicken, Cheese dish (Angel Food)

Monday: Wahoo! Chili from Tastefully Simple using Angel Food ground beef

Tuesday: Creamy Chicken and Rigatoni - chicken from Angel Food

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Chicken Chow Mein - chicken from Angel Food - slightly modified - we don't eat mushrooms :)

Thursday: Finally September is over! We'll eat leftovers to give me and the budget a break

For just $64 I got 2 boxes of food that included all this:





We've had some of the food already and I wouldn't say it's the greatest - you do get what you pay for so it is discount food but it hasn't been bad and it will really help my budget for this month as I have all of $40 left in my September grocery budget!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Super Double Trip #2

I don't intend to bore you with each and every purchase I make but I wanted to show you the large variety of items that you can buy with coupons. Before I started couponing I wondered if when I started I would have a pantry full of random, obscure food that was free but we wouldn't eat. Even today, the biggest objection I get to couponing is that they never find coupons for what their kids eat or what their family eats. In rare cases I know that's true - if your family only eats veggies and meats then it's a possibility (though even then I've seen coupons for both things) but for the most part if you coupon you will find a large enough variety for just about any diet.

Here's what I picked up today:



I spent: $34.19
And saved: $82.47
And earned: $1.00 back in Catalinas

As you can see I got a number of different items than I did yesterday. Today I stocked up on yogurt and cat food (yes, the fun stuff!)

For a 2nd time I did the General Mills promotion - mixing coupons with $0.30 off each item when I bought 20. I don't think anything was free this time but things like the kids yogurt was cheap enough to stock up on ($0.95/each after coupons and discounts).

Once again I encourage you when you don't think couponing is for you is to give it a try - you never know what deals you may find!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Super Doubles Are Back At Harris Teeter!!!

It's that time again - Harris Teeter is doubling coupons up to $1.98 with a limit of 20 a day. I expected triples before dollar doubler again but that's not the case. Either way is fine - I am still able to get plenty at free to very low prices :)

In fact, this is what I picked up:



I spent: $19.40
And saved: $84.82!!
And earned: $4.00 back in Catalinas

My best deals were pretty much everything :)

For starters there's a great General Mills promotion when you buy 20 items you get $6.00 off your total as well as Catalinas (coupons that print from the register after you make your purchase) for Pillsbury and Green Giant.

My GM purchases were:

Betty Crocker Potatoes:
- regular price: $1.79/each
- sale price: $1.00/each (10/$10.00)
- used $1.00/2 coupon from HERE which doubled
- final price: FREE plus $0.60 overage with GM promotion

Green Giant Frozen Boxed Vegetables
- regular price: $1.79/each
- sale price: $0.99/each
- used $1.00/3 coupon (no longer available) and 2 $0.60/3 coupons from S 9/12
- final price: $0.03 to $0.29/each with GM promotion

Pillsbury Grand Biscuits
- regular price: $1.99
- sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
- used 2 $1.00/2 coupons from HERE which doubled
- final price: FREE plus $0.60 overage with GM promotion

Pillsbury Toaster Strudel
- regular price: $2.19
- sale price: 2/$4.00
- used $1.00/2 coupon from HERE which doubled
- final price: $0.70/each with GM promotion

Yoplait Frozen Smoothies
- regular price: $3.75/each
- sale price: $2.50
- used 4 $1.00/1 coupons from HERE and S 8/8 which doubled
- final price: $1.20/each with GM promotion

Other deals:

Quaker Oats (instant is no longer on sale - bummer)
- regular price: $2.85
- sale price: $1.50
- used $1.00/1 coupon from RP 9/12
- final price: FREE

Dannon Danimals Smoothies
- regular price: $2.69
- sale price: $1.99
- used $1.00/1 coupon from S 9/12
- final price: FREE

Pop Secret Popcorn
- regular price: $2.99
- sale price: buy 2 get 3 free
- used $1.00/2 coupon from HERE which doubled
- final price: $0.80/each

Kool-Aid Fizz Fun
- regular price: $2.79
- sale price: $1.99
- used 2 $1.00/1 coupons from S 8/29
- final price: FREE

Herbal Essence Shampoo
- regular price: $2.99
- sale price: $2.49
- used $1.00/1 from S 9/12
- final price: $0.49/each

This is what I bought to get the best deals today - I'll be heading back tomorrow to do the GM promotion again - not sure if I will do as well since I plan to pick up a few different things but we will see.

For other match-ups check out Southern Savers

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This Week At Harris Teeter

Of course I only went for a few things but ended up with a cartful :) Not that I spent a fortune but still more than I had hoped for it only being September 8th.

Here's what I got:



I spent: $49.36
And saved: $68.62

My best deals:

Yocrunch Yogurt
- regular price: $3.19
- sale price: 2/$4.00
- used 3 $0.75/1 coupons from S 8/1
- final price: $0.50/each

New York Garlic Texas Toast
- regular price: $3.65
- sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
- used 3 $0.50/1 coupons from S 7/25
- final price: $0.83/each

Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
- regular price: $1.50
- sale price: 10/$10.00
- used 2 $0.50/2 coupons from HERE
- final price: $0.50/each

Breakstone's Sour Cream
- regular price: $2.35
- sale price: $1.50
- used $5.00/5 coupon from HERE
- final price: $0.50/each
(I did buy one pack of sliced cheese instead of 5 things of sour cream so that was $1.79 after the coupon and not $0.50)

Quaker Instant Oatmeal
- regular price: $3.79
- sale price: 2/$5.00
- used 3 $1.00/1 coupons from RP 8/29
- final price: $1.50/each

I had coupons for a few other things like the Danimals yogurt and Lunchables but they weren't great deals I just wanted the Lunchables and didn't want the Danimals coupon to expire.

For more coupon match-ups check out Southern Savers.