Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog Moving Time! Oh, And Happy New Year...

At the start of 2012 I have decided to consolidate all my blogging into one site.

Happy New Year to you and please consider joining me at my new site:

Dorinda Writes

I will still be couponing and meal planning but it will be taking a back burner to writing. Over the past three years I have enjoyed sharing how I coupon and save money but find that its taking away from my real passion: writing Christian suspense fiction and I want to get back to it.

I hope that you keep saving money and I plan to do the same.

Thank you for hanging out with me over the years and seeing how our family has grown financially!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!!

We are celebrating with family and will be back in the New Year with some fun new things so please stay tuned.

In the meantime, enjoy a picture of my brand new niece, Aubree Noelle who was born on December 23rd weighing 6 lbs 13 ounces and 18 inches long. I'm so excited to be an aunt and think she's just adorable :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

$10 Dinners: Chicken Pinwheel Pot Pie

I've been meaning to post this recipe for a LOOONG while and I have finally gotten around to doing it.

This recipe came from my mom and was originally meant as a hot tuna dish but my dad doesn't like hot tuna so we substituted chicken for tuna and I have been modifing it from there.

My ingredients as I use them:

6 Tablespoons Crisco
2 1/2 cups Bisquick (divided)
3 cups milk
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Veg-Al
1 cup or more of Chicken (cut-up into bite-size pieces)
1/2 cup (4 oz) of shredded cheese: Mexican or Cheddar will do
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 425

Step 1: Melt Crisco in Large Pan

Step 2: Add 1/2 cup Bisquick and mix well

Step 3: Slowly pour milk, stirring as you pour - stir occasionally till it boils - the more you stir the thicker it will get so it will be up to you how thick you want your mixture to be - I like mine a little thinner so I don't stir as much - you can also add less milk if you like it thicker - more if you like it thinner - play with it to see how you like it

Step 4: Add 2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup and stir - you could also use 1 large family can if that's easier

Step 5: Add can of drained Veg-Al and chicken - you can use a few chicken breasts cooked and cut-up or dark chicken that you picked off the bone - this is a recipe that you can make cheaper by adding less chicken - so add however much or little meat you want!

This is your base mixture - keep it warm on the stove while you move on to the topping.

This is the fun part!

Step 6: Mix 2 cups of Bisquick with a 1/2 cup of water to form a dough

Step 7: Flour your counter or a large cutting board

Step 8: Roll out your dough so it's as flat as you can make it

Step 9: Add cheese to the center of the dough

Step 10: Roll dough carefully around the cheese to make a tube

Step 11: Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan

Step 12: Slice your dough into pinwheels

Step 13: Place on chicken mixture in rows

Bake at 425 for 20 to 22 minutes or until pinwheels are golden brown and the cheese bubbles.

Serve and enjoy!

With just a few ingredients you can see how inexpensive this dinner can be. Most of them I usually have on hand so it's often a meal that costs me a few dollars for the chicken.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Menu Planning Monday

We're already a few days into December and I don't know about you but I bet you're busy like me! The good news is that I'm under budget for this month and due to the holidays I'd like to keep it that way so I'm focusing this week's menu on what I have on hand. Currently, meat wise that means a lot of chicken. Fortunately I can change it up in a number of different ways to keep us from getting "bored" with the same meat day after day.

I've also included a meatless recipe (the ziti) so that I don't have to run out and buy a given meat at full price. One more way to save a little cash!

Monday: Chicken Salad and Appetizer Meatballs - I had a nail party today and we just ate what was left for dinner

Tuesday: Chicken Taco Bake

Wednesday: Sante Fe Chicken Casserole

Thursday: Chicken Pot Pie (my recipe)

Friday: Date Night and Kids Pizza Night

Saturday: Creamy Baked Ziti

Sunday: Burgers N Fries Pot Pie

Just one more week of menu planning for me to go this year! Since we are spending time with the family over Christmas it will be more of a combined effort hopefully this will save me some time and money! Of course, the holidays are rarely about being cheap so we'll see...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Month End Money Recap

You know that feeling when you are this close to starting over yet you have to keep going with where you are? I'm so there. I am so ready for a new set of resolutions because I'm a bit tired of this years and I can't say I've done all that well.

For the last time this year (thankfully) - here are my resolutions for 2011:

1. Organization. Overall this year not as good as I had hoped. I have gone through box after box and closet after closet but it feels like my stuff re-grows on its own.

2. Decorating. I had high hopes to get so much decorating done this year but between budget and time so little got done.

At least I did get a "new" living room - we went from this:

To this thanks to my dad and $200 in accessories - I like that cheap decorating.

Got to say though - I'd like to try the decorating thing again next year. I love to decorate and I love how it changes the house into more of a home.

3. Spending less and saving more. We are staying on budget a little more each month. Who knew budgeting would be such a process? Maybe that's the lesson - it's more of a long-term goal; a lifestyle change that you have to aspire to. Saying you'll only spend $200 a month on going out to eat is a LOT easier said than done and it's taken me a while to find the right amount that works with reality. It's amazing how much "extra" things we need each month that aren't in specific budgeted categories (think printer ink and field trip fees). Keeping track of every penny isn't fun but it is worth it and every month I'm perfecting my ability to stay on track.

4. Do a little more deal hunting. I am and have been but I'll never believe I've learned everything and I'm hoping to learn more in 2012! And save more of course. There's always room for improvement.

5. Monthly meal planning. I have fallen behind on my this one. Maybe next year my goal should just be to try new foods every month though I do really love the months that I have the whole meal planned.

What about you? Have you thought about next year's goals? Did you do better than me this year?

Here's hoping 2012 is great!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blogging for Books: The Crossing Book Review

It took me a while to get going in this new book by Serita Jakes called The Crossing. I had read great reviews on Amazon and was excited to get it as my next book installment for review but once I began to read I got bogged down in a lot of back story and useless information about the characters. The basic plot is that 10 years ago a cheerleading coach was gun downed and then bled out in front of some of her students. Now they are dealing with what happened that night and trying to find closure when the case is re-opened. Because the book bounces between a number of different characters it was also hard to pinpoint who the book was ultimately about.

Once the story got going the plot was interesting enough to hold my attention and want to know who did what in the ending. The ending didn't surprise me but I was disappointed as to how fast it was thrown together. Instead of showing us the ending in what could have been an exciting conclusion the author told us the ending in an epilogue.

As for the characters, I didn't like any of them except maybe Victor and I didn't care for how most of the ending turned out for anyone but Claudia and Victor. I'm sure it is true to life but I think Casio's character could have been written and finished so much better. The author sets up a lot of suspense but delivers on very little. Of course, I say this as a reader who prefers more action and suspense and a few times saw opportunities built into the plot that weren't explored.

I would recommend this book to readers for the plot alone - I enjoyed it once it got moving and was interested as to how it all played out but I can only give the book three stars due to the very slow start, the overkill on every character's background story (childhood included) and the fact that the ending could have been so much better and more dramatic than it was.

I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group's Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Favorite Black Friday Shopping Place: GYMBOREE

My absolute favorite place to shop on Black Friday is: GYMBOREE

This is the time of year I get the kids winter jackets and fleece outfits. Jackets are currently marked down to $22.73 - add a 20% off coupon and a $65 jacket is just $18.18 which is almost a 75% discount!!

But hurry because the jackets are going fast. I ordered last night and they are already sold out of a few styles.

Fleece and puffer vests are also on sale:

Puffer vests: $12.93
Fleece Jackets $11.53 (before coupon)
Fleece Pants: $8.73
Fleece Skirts: $7.68

What's your favorite Black Friday spot? Are you going out all night or shopping online? Last year I went out, this year I'm staying in. Hopefully the deals will be just as great.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cheap Party Fun

My trio turned 5 last week and to celebrate we did it Arts & Crafts Style!

With my limited time and budget we only managed to pull together a few craft projects but the favorite by far was the colored rice.

Over the summer I found this idea on my friend's blog Magille and I have been wanting to do it ever since. In my head I make things harder than they are so it sat there as just an idea until this weekend for the girl's party.

How we did it:

1. Purchased HUGE 15 lb bag of rice from BJ's - cost $12
2. Using gallon ziploc bags (hefty bags really) I measured out 4 cups of rice into each.
3. Added food coloring to each bag - the amount depended on what color I wanted and how bright - the more I added the more the color (food coloring cost: $0 - used what I had on hand)
4. Added squirts of hand sanitizer (you could use rubbing alcohol but the hand sanitizer was soooo easy) - it spread the food coloring and dried quick. (cost: $0 - had it on hand)

We didn't get our lines quite straight but you can see how pretty it is poured out of the bag.

Of course you know it's not going to stay that way!

The girls are itching to play but we made them wait till all their party guests arrived.

Took seconds to mix:

And draw a crowd:

Seems like it didn't matter the age of the kids they all wanted to play!

If you're wondering, yes, it did make a mess but it cleaned up really easily - unlike sand which gets everywhere the rice cleans up quick and we can use it all over again when we want a fun activity.

All that for about $10! The other $2 worth of rice I still have to use for cooking :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Planning Again

Maybe I've said this before but you know it's been a busy week for me when the only posts I get to are menu planning! Last week Caleb turned 8, this week the triplets turn 5. All these birthdays are making my weeks crazy.

But still we need to eat so I continue to menu plan or maybe just because I love to do it :)

Monday: Chicken Spaghetti

Tuesday: Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas - I had chicken to these and they are soo good

Wednesday: Triplets birthday - out to dinner!

Thursday: Pasta Skillet Dinner - didn't get to this on Sunday

Friday: Beef and Bean Taco Casserole

Saturday: Celebrating the girls birthday with friends - dinner is yet to be determined

Sunday: Spaghetti Casserole

Monday: Leftovers - cleaning out the fridge before we see Grandma

Grandma is cooking from here on out so I don't have to worry about next week's menu planning - even for Thanksgiving. Sounds good to me!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Back To Menu Planning

Last week my parents were in town and we had a great time with them but while they were here menu planning pretty much went out the window and grocery shopping along with it so I feel a little behind coming in to this week. "Forcing" myself to make a menu plans means I have to look at the week ahead and think about it otherwise I'll find myself going out to dinner every night. Granted I should have menu planned for the whole month but this month I just didn't get to it and with Thanksgiving so close I doubt I will again until December. Where does the time go?

After considering what I have on hand, this is the plan I came up with for the week:

Monday: Out to Chili's with a gift card and a coupon code - dinner was $14 out-to-eat for 7 people!!

Tuesday: Easy Pleasing Meatloaf with baked potatoes and green beans

Wednesday: Chicken, noodles and broccoli

Thursday: Spider-Man Spaghetti Pie - it's Caleb's 8th birthday and he's going with a Spider-Man theme

Friday: Layered Enchilada Bake

Saturday: Birthday party then baby shower - dinner will be quick at home or easy drive-thru

Sunday: Pasta Skillet Dinner

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dollar Doubler At Harris Teeter

Super Doubles are back at Harris Teeter this week (where Harris Teeter doubles coupons up to $1.98 - limit is 20 per day and 3 per like item). I didn't find a ton of exciting items but the few things that were deals I am happy about and find worth going back for.

A few things I've picked up:

Chex Cereal

Regular Price: $3.99
Sale Price: 2/$5.00
Additional Sale: buy 2 get 1 free
Used $1.00/2 coupon from S 9/25
Also used: eVic Coupon on my card $1.00/2
Final Price for 3 boxes: $2.00 or $.67/each

Grande Chips (our favorite!)

Regular Price: $2.99
Sale Price: 2/$5.00
Used $1.00/1 coupon from S 9/11
Final price: $0.50/each

Duracell Batteries

Regular Price: $4.99/each
Sale Price: $2.99/each
Used $1.00/1 from PG 10/16 and/or PG 10/30
Also used: $0.75/1 eVic Coupon
Final Price: $0.24/1; $0.99 for all others

Chiquita Fruit

Regular Price: $3.99
Sale Price: None
Used: $1.50/1 from S 10/23
Final Price: $0.99/each

Cheez-Its (not the best deal but still worth stocking up on)

Regular Price: $3.99
Sale Price: 2/$5.00
Used: $1.00/2 from RP 9/18
Final Price: $1.50/each

There are a few other deals to be had but these were my favorite and the ones I'm going back to stock up on. For other match-ups check out Southern Savers - she has three full lists up so you're bound to find something good!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saving Up For Christmas

It doesn't seem possible but Christmas is right around the corner. In just two months we will be celebrating my favorite holiday once again! But before we can celebrate we have a lot of shopping to do.

The big question? Where does all the money come from? The majority for us comes from our regular budget that we set aside for Christmas.

A few places I earn a few extra dollars:

1. I don't shop online too incredibly often and a few of the stores I do shop at (such as Gymboree) are not linked to cash back sites like ebates but when I do shop on line I make sure I first go through ebates or shopathome. I am saving the money I earn through my cash back for some Christmas gifts. So far I have earned enough to at least off set one family members whole Christmas. Yeah!!

These are my referral links to these sites - if you care to link through them, great, if not just go to the website yourself - thanks!



2. Swagbucks. I know, I know, I mention this one often but thanks to Swagbucks I have saved up over $90 in Amazon gift cards towards Christmas already and earning towards more every day. Since gift cards post to my account within a few days of my redeeming my Swagbucks I'm sure to earn quite a few more before Christmas (also my referral link).

3. Saving Star - it isn't much but every few dollarrs helps! Since I can redeem the money in my account for Amazon gift cards it's money I can add to my gift cards that I already have from Swagbucks.

4. Credit card rewards. I've been saving up from my rewards for a few months and holding on to cash in at Christmas. My card links to Amazon so more money for me at Amazon. Looks like my kids Christmas will be coming from Amazon! Thankfully they have everything and free shipping on most items.

5. Selling unused items on Craigslist, at consignment sales or eBay. Of course, this is all provided you aren't like me and spend the money you make at the consignment sale :) But I do have some larger items laying around that if I sell them I would make enough to offset a few more people on my list.

I love stretching my budget as far as it can go. Since Christmas isn't all about gifts (truly it's about celebrating the birth of my Savior), I don't want to make it all about spending money either. Finding ways to get people a little something they want without putting myself in the hole is just one way I can ensure that I will be able to enjoy Christmas and not dread it!

What about you? How are you saving up for Christmas? Any ideas that I missed?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Consignment Sale Success

Last week was a very crazy and very busy week for me. I worked long hours at the consignment sale, shopped a lot and sold a lot.

This week I've been trying to recover :)

So, I know you've been dying to know what I picked up! Here is a portion of my "loot":

The kids were given their "gifts" before I got a chance to take a picture - which includes a bike for Caleb that I picked up for just $20.

My total spent for the week was right around $463. Which, I have to admit was more than I wanted to spend. However, between what I made selling and what I earned working I can subtract $300 from my total bringing my out-of-pocket down to just $163 and since a large number of my purchases were made for my son's birthday next month I used money from his birthday fund to buy them. So, I can subtract another $90 off of my total since that was a previously budgeted amount and that brings me down to $73 - $10 of my purchases were for the school; a little under another $10 were for my church and now I'm down to just over $50 for everything I brought home.

Again, I would have preferred to have spent less than I made but I got a lot of things that I needed including most of Kaitlyn and Caleb's winter wardrobe.

I know in a previous post I had tips about shopping at a consignment sale. I wanted to add a few for shoppers from a worker's point of view.

1. Bring your patience! There may be long lines but I PROMISE you we can see them and we are working as hard and as fast as we can to get you out of there. I highly suggest you plan your day around shopping if you come at a busy time. The other option is to come at a slower time such as the end of the day.

2. Along with bringing your patience, bring your happiest face. While I do love volunteering at the consignment sale it's not the only thing going on in my life either. I will be as pleasant to you as you are to me. If you need help, I will go out of my way to help you no matter how you are to me, however, I would be a lot happier as a worker if you are pleasant to me.

3. Follow directions. To the best of your ability anyway. Know in advance the kind of payments a given sale takes. For example, Classy Kids takes cash, Visa and Mastercard but only with an ID. Knowing these things will speed the check out process for everyone. Want to speed it up even more? Bring cash - there's no waiting for the credit card machine to run! If you need to remove your hangers, do so. If children aren't supposed to be playing with toys or aren't supposed to be present, keep them with you or leave them at home. You get the idea :)

4. If you take it out, put it back - if you don't know where it goes, ask. If you don't want an item, not a problem but please don't drop it anywhere, let someone know so it can be easily put back. Unlike a store that is open all the time, consignors have a limited amount of time for their items to be sold and if it's not where it's supposed to be they could potentially lose a sale.

Just some thoughts I figured I'd share after a long week of working behind the counter ringing up sales :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Menu Planning: Light Fare

With me working every night this week it's up to Kirk to take care of the kids and the food. On weeks like these I find the best thing to do is to make a menu plan full of very easy meals

Monday: Banana Pancakes

Tuesday: Spaghetti

Wednesday: Chicken Alfredo (this is actually Chicken Helper - I'm going to cook chicken in the crock pot all day on Tuesday leaving Kirk with meat for the rest of the week)

Thursday: Chicken Nugget Casserole

Friday: Chicken Soft Tacos w/ rice

Saturday: Spaghetti Pie

Sunday: Raviolis - yes, it's a lot of pasta this week but it's the end of my month so I'm using what I have to feed us!

At least it looks like an easy meal week this week. That will be one easy thing :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall Consignment Sales: Shopping Tips

It's that time of year again, consignment sale time! Last month my multiples club held their sale and I was able to get rid of a number of items that I no longer needed as well as pick up a few that I did.

Next week I'm working almost every night at the area's biggest consignment sale. It's a week I look forward to because I usually have a pretty good list of items that I need and can always find it there. This year/season especially I have a list.

The best way to get everything on my list? Shop as early as possible! And that's why I volunteer. I don't want to see what's left behind, I want to be first :)

Other tips for shopping at consignment sales? I've compiled a few links with some great tips for shopping sales.

How to Prepare to Shop At Classy Kids Consignment Sale

10 Consignment Sale Tips (and from a mom of triplets too!)

7 Tips for Shopping Consignment Sales

To be honest, I naturally do most of these (like volunteer to shop early) but other things I just don't get to and I still do fine.

I don't make a specific list. Mostly because I like to search for stuff I love - if I don't love it, I don't buy it unless it's really, really cheap or it's a basic that I know I need.

I don't limit myself to 10 outfits or whatever - the fun for me is wondering what I'll find so I leave the lists at home. That's just me but the consignment sale is the ONE place that I get to go and shop for fun. At the grocery store I have lists and coupons, same with any regularly priced store but at the sale I like to have fun. I shop for fun and I like to keep my eye out for clothes and toys that I want.

Does this mean I'll go over budget? Sometimes. I do keep somewhat of a limit in my head but I'm just fine if I go over budget. Why? This sale only comes around 3 times a year so there's no going back to grab the beautiful dress/outfit that I left behind.

The one new piece of advice I liked from all these lists was to have my smart phone (in my case, Galaxy Tab) with me to check prices of items online while shopping. I did this a few times at the last sale to see if what I was getting was worth it. Really comes in handy and I'll be doing it again this time!

Check back next week to see what items I picked up and how much I spent. You can see if my strategies even work :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Menu Planning: Week Two With Kristy

Week One went pretty well. I had to make a few adjustments and move some things around on her menu both for last week and this week in order to cover the meals as well as keep me from overspending and/or traveling to the story every day of the week!

So, here is her plan for the week:

Monday: out to eat

Tuesday: white chicken chili (6 ingredient simple version)

Wednesday: pancakes and fruit

Thursday: spaghetti (or maybe sloppy joes)

Friday: potato-cheese soup and bread

Saturday: at a wedding

(She didn't give me Sunday but she did give me enough to work with)

How I translate her plan to mine:

Monday: Angel Chicken with broccoli - Monday's are her husband's day off so they often go out whereas we more often stay in!

Tuesday: Kristy's chili - both Tuesday and Wednesday this week I will be using Kristy's recipes from last week - I was able to grab the sausage but the rest of the ingredients were not in my budget last week so I will make these this week instead. Last week I substituted Burgers and Fries Pot Pie for the chili since I already had all those ingredients - we served it with extra fries and ketchup - just like burgers and french fries for dinner :)

Wednesday: Kristy's breakfast casserole that I didn't make last week - instead I substituted Mac 'N Cheese Pie

Thursday: Spaghetti Casserole - this was shared with me and I have really been wanting to try it out so we'll have this instead of just "plain" spaghetti

Friday: Potato-Cheese Soup w/ Bread - I don't have Kristy's recipe so I decided to make Cheddar Ham soup which is probably very similar - also calls for potatoes and cheese and sounds really yummy right now in this cooler weather!

Saturday: I'm not going to the wedding so I'll be making Taco Bake instead

Sunday: now we'll have Kristy's White Chicken Chili - I just wanted to spread out my chicken recipes a bit - and my chili recipes :)

Next week is consignment sale week and I am working just about every night so I won't be meal planning next week except to leave Kirk with some really simple recipes like spaghetti and tacos but I've had a lot of fun using someone else's meal plan and making it my own. I hope you can do the same with what I post or any other meal plan you find. Looking at what someone else does gets my juices going as to what I have and what I can make. Also means it's a little easier to plan since I don't have to with what I'm in the mood for!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blogging for Books: Shadows on the Sand Book Review

Slow Start, Okay Ending

It took a while but I finally finished Gayle Roper's Shadows on the Sand. I must say before I write my review that I have read books by Gayle Roper before and have enjoyed them so I was really looking forward to her newest mystery.

However, the start to this book was quite slow and confusing. Rather than start with any action we start with our main character, Carrie, working in her cafe talking with her employees and regulars including her "favorite" regular, Greg Barnes. During this time we learn a LOT about everybody including Carrie. A few chapters in we learn that Carrie's dishwasher (as in the employee, not the appliance) is missing. At this point I would assume the action of the book would go into high gear but the fact that her employee is missing seems like just more back story. Something else going on in Carrie's busy life.

The main story line seems to be Carrie's "love" for Greg. She does a "snoopy dance" every time she sees him but he has a traumatic past, having lost his wife and children to a bomb, and doesn't seem to notice Carrie. Since this is a romance, we know that he has noticed Carrie from the second the author switches to Greg's point of view. Their romance seemed to be the most realistic part of the book and the only part I liked. There is less romantic angst of typical books making the characters seem real and I enjoyed that.

The characters seemed realistic and well-rounded it was the plot that was lacking and the mystery part of the book that I didn't like. For one, the mystery seemed to have very little to do with the main character so it felt odd. The author adds a few chapters from the killer's point of view which I'm assuming were meant to frighten but only served to confuse me. It seemed our bad guy was a serial killer but then the bad guy seemed to come from a cult or own a cult. When the dishwasher's body is discovered it seems like a story footnote. "Oh yeah, there's that body/kid we were looking for." The main character ended up in the action at the end but for most of the book she had very little to do with it.

I'm giving the book 3 out of 5 stars because the author did a good job of wrapping everything up at the end and I enjoyed the romance. I can't give more than that because most of the book felt like backstory and kind of all over the place making it hard to keep my interest and want to know what happens.

If you want a light-hearted romance/mystery you would enjoy this book but if you enjoy real suspense as I do this won't be one of your favorites.

The book was provided for me by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group's Blogging for Books program. All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Menu Planning: Can I Actually Use Someone Else's?

I menu plan on here almost every week and it got me thinking - does it help you at all? I have had quite a few people say they've found some great recipes on this site and when they're in a bind they've checked it to see what I'm making. But it got me to thinking, could I use a week's menu from someone else and make it my own?

So, I asked my good friend Kristy to send me her menu plan for the week to see what I could do with it (next week I've asked for her menu plan along with a few family recipes to see how that works for me)

Her week's meal plan:

Monday: out to eat (giftcard)

Tuesday: leftover pot roast and mashed potatoes

Wednesday: chicken spaghetti and broccoli

Thursday: grilled cheese and tomato soup

Friday: breakfast casserole and applesauce

Saturday: leftover buffet

Sunday: chili and cornbread

What I can do with her meal plan:

Monday: Layered Enchilada Bake (unfortunately, I did not have a gift card to go out to dinner - would have liked that but had to make dinner at home)

Tuesday: Pasta Skillet Dinner with garlic bread and a salad (since I don't have leftover pot roast and mashed potatoes I am adding my own meal for Tuesday night and since I don't see any pasta on her week's menu I decided to add some pasta for us here)

Wednesday: Chicken Spaghetti and Broccoli

Thursday: Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas (my kids don't like grilled cheese - weird right? - so instead we'll have quesadillas - similar concept though)

Friday: Breakfast Casserole and Applesauce - this will be new for us but I'm going to give it a try!

Saturday: Cheesy Chicken & Salsa Skillet (or leftovers - I'm always a little scared to schedule leftovers because sometimes we have them and sometimes we don't)

Sunday: Chili and Cornbread (don't have the recipe on this but I know Kirk will be thrilled to have some chili so we will certainly be going with Kristy's recipe here!)

I am looking forward to changing up our meal plan a little bit. I couldn't follow her plan completely how I would have liked but it gave me some ideas and a jumping point for the week. We'll see how this week goes and what I can do with her plan next week. Thanks Kristy for the contribution to my experiment!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time To Shop At BJ's

I finally got there (and everywhere else) yesterday and managed to get most of my monthly shopping done :) Of course, I leave some in my budget for weekly trips to Harris Teeter for sales and a few necessities but most of my money for the month finds it way to BJ's!

And this is what I "hauled" home for just over $200 (I splurged on Kirk's favorite coffee and that was $20 of my haul so really I just spent $190)

(Not pictured: 4 gallons of milk and the sour cream I forgot to put in the picture)

Because it's getting close to the end of the month I will just post my best deals and coupon match-ups and in October I will do the booklet. Each month you should receive a coupon booklet from BJ's in the mail - if not you can always ask for one at the Customer Service desk when you go in to BJ's. I always like to have mine in advance so I can plan so I'm pretty excited when it comes in the mail. I'm weird, I know.

Do note that the coupons have start and end dates. For example the one I have now began 8/25/11 and is good until 10/2/11 though some coupons expired on 9/13/11. Often the coupons that expire early are diaper coupons and paper products but it can be anything so be sure to check your dates carefully. A select few coupons didn't "begin" until 9/12/11 and expire on 10/2/11. Like any store they want you to come back multiples times :)

I will say for this particular month I didn't have a large number of coupon match-ups like I did last month.

Coupon match-ups I used:

Betty Crocker Potatoes
- regular price: $7.49 for 6 pack
- bonus coupon: buy potatoes get 3 pack progresso chicken broth FREE ($5.99 value)
- also used 2 $0.50/2 coupons (could have used 3)
- final price: $6.49 for 6 packs potatoes and 3 pack chicken broth or $0.72 each item which is a pretty awesome deal!

Betty Crocker Fruit by the Foot (28 ct)
- regular price: $7.59
- BJ's coupon: $5.00 off 2 boxes
- also used $0.50/2 coupon (does NOT double)
- final price: $4.84/each which is about the equivalent to $1.00 per 6 ct box at the store which is pretty good deal even though it sounds a little high. I'd prefer $0.50 a box but that doesn't happen often so $1.00 a box isn't bad)

Wellsley Farms Apples (8-lb bag) AND 1 Pillsbury Pie Crust, 2 pk
- regular price: $7.99 for apples ($1.00/pd) and $4.59 for pie crust
- BJ's coupon: $3.00 off both
- also used printable $1.00/2 pie crusts from Pillsbury
- final price: $8.58 for both - in essence it was like getting the pie crusts free

I also got 4 boxes of cereal. I don't normally get cereal from BJ's because it almost never comes out a better deal than Harris Teeter.

For example:

2 Boxes General Mills Kids Cereal
- Lucky Charms: $7.29
- Cinnamon Toast Crunch $6.29
- BJ's coupon: $5.00/2
- I didn't have a GM coupon for cereal for just 2 boxes and I wasn't buying a third to save $1.00!!
- final price for 2 boxes: $8.58 - since there are 2 bags of cereal in each box it's like getting 4 boxes of cereal at the store making the final price equal to $2.15 a box which is more than I'd like to spend but we needed cereal and the kids were happy to get it.
- also notice that there are 2 bags in each box and they do NOT have their own UPC codes so if I had a $1.00/2 coupon I would have only been able to use 1 on both boxes

Kellogg's Cereal
- Frosted Miniwheates: $7.99
- Frosted Flakes: $6.89
- BJ's coupon: $4.00/2
- also used $1.00/2 coupon I found at a blinkie at Harris Teeter (still a manufacturer's coupon so it still worked at BJ's)
- final price for 2 boxes: $9.88 - again each box had 2 bags so the price per bag was $2.47

In this trip I did buy a few more necessities because we were low on a lot of items. I love to buy Goldfish at BJ's because it's $7.29 for 3 LARGE bags of Goldfish and I can't find a better deal anywhere. Another good deal at BJ's is their milk and shredded cheese so even though I may occasionaly find cheese cheaper at Harris Teeter or other grocery store I find it easier just to buy the huge bag at BJ's. This goes for their salsa and syrup.

When my next coupon book comes in I will be sure to post coupon match-ups early so you too can get in on the great deals!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Menu Planning: Comfort Food

I apologize that I didn't get to BJ's over the weekend. I am planning a trip there tomorrow and will do my coupon match-ups and details then. This weekend got extremely busy with our moms of multiples yard sale on Saturday and since that is the best way for me to make money to pay for my kids clothes it's something I have to put effort into!

For this weeks meals I was thinking about comfort foods. When the weather turns a little cooler I love the idea of cooking warm meals inside and one of our favorites is mini-meatloaves so that's what we started our week with :)

Monday: Mini-Meatloaves with green beans

Tuesday: Kirk's Banana Pancakes (just feel like having breakfast for dinner)

Wednesday: Ground Beef and Twice-Baked Potato Pie

Thursday: Easy Italian Pasta Bake

Friday: Roast Chicken w/ Potatoes and Broccoli

Saturday: Wedding - a good friend is getting married and we're very happy for him!

Sunday: Chicken Taco Bake

Next week I'm going to try using a friend's menu as my own. Considering how often I menu plan and post what we eat on the blog I am curious how easy it is to take another person's menu and use it as my own. We shall see how it goes!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Harris Teeter: Triple Coupons And A Great Box Top Deal

Have you been to Harris Teeter yet?

I've already been twice! Mostly because I forgot a few coupons the first time around and then found a few special ones that I had. You know the weird ones that come on a package and you don't know where to file them? Or is that just me? Anyway, I found some for muffin mix and I just HAD to go back!

Here's what I picked up on trip #1:

I spent: $31.45
And saved: $46.80

And trip #2:

I spent: $7.34
And saved: $24.53

It's not the best ever but I really needed yogurt and a few other things so I went ahead and picked them up.

While I'm excited about my purchases I was even more excited to get almost $20 back in Box Tops certificates for my kids school! That's about half what I paid today going directly back to their school. On top of which each General Mills item I purchased has another one to two box top on it. What a great way for me to give to the school without the money coming out of my pocket!

My best deals today:

Betty Crocker Potatoes:

- regular price: $2.29
- sale price: 4/$5.00 ($1.25/each)
- used 2 $0.50/2 coupons which tripled to $1.50/each
- final price: $2.00 for 4 boxes (also, on each of the boxes there was a $0.50/2 coupon - these coupons don't generally triple so I plan to use them at BJ's this weekend because I have a BJ's coupon for Betty Crocker Potatoes that I can stack these with)

Chex Mix:

- regular price: $2.95/each
- sale price: 2/$4.00 ($2.00/each)
- used 2 $0.50/1 coupon (mine were previously printed from Swagbucks but you can find more at SS 7/10
- final price: $0.50/each

Betty Crocker Cake Mix/Frosting

- regular price: $1.89/$1.99 each (respectively)
- sale price: $0.99/3/$5.00 ($1.67)
- used 2 $0.75 off both from SS 08/07 which tripled to $2.25
- final price: $0.41 for both or $1.22 for 3 boxes of cake mix and 3 tubs of frosting!!

For more coupon match-ups check out Southern Savers

(Please note: the Swagbucks link is my own referral code and I will get credit if you are new to signing up. This costs you nothing and I greatly appreciate it but if you would rather sign up for yourself please go directly to their homepage rather than using my link - thanks!)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shopping At BJ's

Our area is preparing for something very exciting: a brand new BJ's!! I am thrilled since currently I travel almost 30 minutes each way to shop at one. I find shopping at BJ's to be worth the trouble but am greatly looking forward to having one closer if just to run in and get cheaper milk.

How does one go about shopping at BJ's? Aren't all wholesale clubs alike? And are they a good deal or a bad one?

For starters - not all wholesale clubs are alike. BJ's accepts manufacturers coupons while all other warehouse clubs do not. What's more - they will accept a coupon per barcode. Meaning if you have 12 cans of beans and each can has its own barcode you can use 12 coupons (not to exceed the value of the item and coupons do NOT double). However, if you have say a box of cereal which has two bags inside it and can not be sold individually then you can only use one coupon.

Pretty much everything that is packaged as if you took five or so of them off the shelf and wrapped them together in a big package - you can use a coupon on each of them :)

Warehouse clubs can be a great deal - they have cheaper milk and cheese and other basic products (not always meats) - but they can also be a poor deal. You pick up one *extra* item and instead of spending a few dollars you could spend $5, $10, $20 or more.

BUT if you go in with a plan and stick to it you will be on your way to a budget friendly way to stock up.

How is that?

1. Make a budget before you go - as my friends say I have a *thing* for numbers so almost to the dollar I can guess the cost of each item on my list so before I go I already have a general idea of exactly how much it will cost me. If I find I'm off by a lot and the item is not a good deal, I pass. I also have a pretty good idea of what I spend on any given item at the grocery store and I'm not paying more for it at BJ's (or any other wholesale club). I will add I'm not perfect and I do find extra items in my cart often (we really love those darn Veggie Straws!!)

2. Collect your BJ's coupons - each month I get a coupon booklet in the mail and a few times a year I get the BJ's Journal which contains a large number of coupons. These coupons are the basis for my monthly plan as to what I'm stocking up on - I only buy the crackers or snacks that I have a coupon for and I enjoy seeing each month what new items I get to add to my pantry. I also plan meals around the items I am able to purchase in bulk.

3. For me the items in the booklet are essentially "on sale" and we all know the rule: using coupons on sales saves you money! Once I have the booklet I use a coupon database site to match my manufacturers coupons to the BJ's coupons.

4. With both sets of coupons and a monthly shopping list in hand I head out to BJ's. As I shop I calculate my total cost so that I'm not overspending. In my last trip I saved over $50 in coupons alone.

BJ's really is a great and easy way to stock your pantry. It's also much faster than grocery shopping for sales alone since a sale item at BJ's is much larger than a sale item at the grocery store.

For BJ's official coupon policy go HERE

Since I am planning a BJ's shopping trip this weekend be sure and check in as I will do some coupon match-ups for the items I'm purchasing.

And don't forget that triple coupons starts at Harris Teeter on Wednesday and Southern Savers already has 2 lists out with coupons. I'm looking forward to that trip too!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meal Plan Monday: Happy Labor Day

I hope you all had a great Labor Day. For many of you I'm sure it was the last day of summer. For us, I was so grateful for a 3-day weekend after a crazy start to school and especially grateful to spend the day with some very good friends of ours. They grilled us some fabulous chicken which certainly helped my meal planning this week :)

Monday: Chicken grilled by friends (yum!)

Tuesday: Pork Chops with rice, broccoli, applesauce and biscuits (didn't get to these on Sunday)

Wednesday: Beef and Bean Taco Casserole

Thursday: Wahoo! Chili with Beans per my husband's request to have soon :)

Friday: Baked Chicken Enchiladas

Saturday: Kirk's company picnic at Six Flags - we look forward to this all year and we certainly can't wait to go this year!

Sunday: Chicken and Potato Skillet Dinner

Sorry for the posting delay. The holiday put me a little behind :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Month End Money Recap

You know how it sometimes feels like you can't get ahead and when you look at your goals you realize how far behind you really are? The good news is that you can start over whenever you want and I have to say the start of a new school year is like starting over again for me!

My kids are back in school which means I have a **little** more freetime than I used to which means I can focus more on my home. It also means no more vacations so we will spend less money. It also means lots of consignment sale prep which will hopefully lead to more money so all around a bit of a money plus :)

1. Organization. I did a little. I have a lot of clothes hung and ready to tag for my upcoming consignment sales - this weekend my plan is to go through buckets of toys to see what I have there to sell. Hoping for a lot so I can pay myself back for clothes that I have had to buy for the kids for school!

2. Decorating. Did not get to this again this month. When I originally set this goal I was really hoping for more free weekends to work on the house but it hasn't happened. I'm very much hoping it will happen soon but as I look ahead I know it definitely won't happen in September. The whole month is already full and it hasn't even started!

3. Spending less and saving more. No. Unfortunately, this whole summer has been crazy with one thing after another and the month of August meant school supplies. Oh, I used coupons and shopped sales but no matter what none of it was free so I had to account for that somewhere. Plus, there was school uniforms and fall clothes so that was yet another extra expense. The good news is that I am paying in full for all my purchases and not going in to debt which is really the most important thing right? I am certainly going to work on saving more in the coming months though because I'm tired of my savings account not being bigger than it is!!

4. Do a little more deal hunting. I did some with school supplies - using rebates, coupons and sales wherever I could. I've spent some time on Swagbucks earning extra bucks wherever I could. Right now I have a growing stash of Amazon gift cards that I am saving to use at Christmas. I've also been earning Barnes and Noble gift cards now through Swagbucks and that has been fun to get even more books free! I love books :)

5. Monthly meal planning. I didn't get to this in August. I made good weekly plans and with September starting I feel like I'm in the same boat. I have been busy and haven't had a chance to set out a full months meal plan. However, each week I have been looking at what I have to see what I can make and my "needs" list to purchase from the store has been very small - somewhere around $15 a week which I am very happy with. Note: that doesn't include milk which is always on my needs list! I also increased my food budget from $450 a month to $500 - milk has gone up along with some other items and I'm stocking up a little more at BJ's so I just feel like my budget is a little more roomier than it was and I'm happy about that! All the time I realize that budgets aren't set in stone but guidelines to see where I fall and rather than struggle and become frustrated about going over every month I'd rather see myself come under budget or meet it :)

How about you? Have you even though about your New Year's Goals since January? It's hard to believe that there is only 4 months left in the year and we will soon be thinking about Christmas. Having goals to keep up with helps us financially and mentally to stay on track rather than have life pass us by.

Here's to a great school year for you and yours!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: School's In!

I didn't intend to go a whole week without posting nor did I intend to only post about menu planning. I suspect this may continue to happen over the next few weeks as we adjust to being back at school and inch closer and closer to my moms of multiples yard sale which is just 3 weeks away! This is what happens when life gets busy whether I like it or not.

Today was the kids official school start date so I can already look forward to a crazy week. One thing that keeps me calm, on track and organized is my Menu Plan!

Here's my plan for this crazy and busy week:

Monday: Chicken and Peppers Pasta Skillet

Tuesday: Layered Enchilada Bake

Wednesday: Bruschetta Chicken Bake

Thursday: Moms of Multiples Meeting (I'm not cooking!)

Friday: Mexican Shepherd's Pie

Saturday: White Bean Chicken Chili

Sunday: Pork Chops (saving some of the pork for a recipe next week)

I hope you and your family have a very blessed and productive school year!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Menu Planning: Lots of Meat

This week Harris Teeter had a great sale on meat so I'm excited to have a bunch of new recipes this week or at least ones that we don't normally have because meat is well, expensive and I normally stick to my chicken and ground beef.

Sunday: Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas - I added shredded chicken and these came out really well!

Monday: Aloha Pork Chop Skillet

Tuesday: Creamy Baked Ziti

Wednesday: Seriously Simple Beef Stew - I know it's not fall yet but the Kraft Food & Family came in with all their fall recipes and this one just looked good!

Thursday: Kung Pao Chicken - another recipe from the magazine that just looked really good!

Friday through Sunday: gone to a church retreat - all meals covered - except Sunday night which is my birthday so I assume we'll head out to eat that night to celebrate - hint, hint for my husband :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Organization Friday: Art Corner

While it's been a while since I did an organizational post it doesn't mean it's been that long since I was organizing! Honestly, I feel like I do it every day - there's always clutter somewhere that could be tackled.

My first instinct is to get overwhelmed and walk away because the house will never be ***perfect***. You know what? That's true! In this life nothing is perfect. Our lives are full of chaos from the inside out not to mention the fact that I have 5 little ones who have ideas and goals of their own to clutter my house.

But rather than walk away completely and find myself one day at that show Hoarders: Buried Alive or any other number of reality shows with a similar day I take a deep breath and find a spot to dig in. I can't say ever really want to get moving on the project but I am always pleased with the result and thankful the Lord gives us our homes for a respite from the chaos of this world!

This week I tackled a corner of the dining room. I'm working on the whole room slowly (it's almost done) and I have to post about the living room redo. Baby steps. Right now we're knee deep in swapping kids rooms - talk about an organizational nightmare!!

That being said, this week I just worked on the corner. Why? Well, it looked like this:

For some reason this one corner had become the dumping ground for all things art and all things school. You know the little projects at school that you want to keep but aren't exactly sure where to store?

I'll insert here that I am not a hugely emotional person who needs to hang on to every little thing but some things I want to keep and remember and pull out to look at some day and to be honest a digital photo just won't do. I know a lot of people like this idea but I have pictures (tons of them!), I'd rather see and hold what they did not just look at another picture of it - no offense to those who do but this is how I "work". Mind you I don't keep everything - I DON'T need one million worksheets from Kindergarten but I do keep a few of the nicer things.

What to do with them?

The best solution I've found is to get the Priority Mail boxes from the post office (or some other similar box) - write the child's name on it and the year and start packing some things away. If it fits, it stays otherwise it goes and I'll always have a record of those handprints or famous drawings, stories or poems.

Once the papers were sorted it was a pretty easy to task to put the corner back together:

I did also remove school supplies from the original pile and place them in a basket all their own. Since I have a ton more to buy I had to find a good place to store them before it got out of control :)

I hope you had a chance to organize this week! And don't forget to visit OrgJunkie for more tips and trips to organizing.