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Life is beautiful whether you're soaking in sunshine or caught in a thunderstorm. I take the beauty of life for granted too often. I have a supportive husband who I don't want to live life without, a beautiful son who is always reminding me of the simple things that really matter, and an independent daughter who is teaching me to throw schedules out the window and live in the moment. My day is made when free samples fill my mailbox. I love discovering a new product and sharing it with others. I'm addicted to coupons and every penny counts. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts and will share your success stories with me as well.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Save 20% on your next purchase at Bath & Body Works


Use code S113990 to save 20% off your entire purchase at Bath & Body Works.  You can also receive 3% cash back if you check out through Ebates.  This coupon expires on April 17, 2011.  Right now they have a sale on their Signature Collection body care products.  Buy 3 and get 3 free.  Using this 20% coupon and after Ebates 3% cash back will make each bottle a little over $4.

$10 off a purchase of $75 or more at Motherhood Maternity

Use coupon code MHPA10 to save $10 on your next purchase of $75 or more at Motherhood Maternity.  This coupon code expires on April 10, 2011.  They have some selected items up to 50% off right now.

20% Coupon Codes for Gymboree and Crazy 8 Stores

Doing any online shopping at Gymboree or Crazy 8 stores?  Use code 113WRF1ZT086535 to save 20% off your entire purchase at Gymboree.  Use code 11VK2ZBSJ885428 to save 20% off your entire purchase at Crazy 8.  These coupon codes expire on May 1, 2011 and cannot be redeemed with any other offer.
Both of these stores have some great items on clearance.  Shipping is a flat $5.  Let me know if you are able to find any great deals!

Laura Story - Blessings

Our Weekend Getaway

We went on a weekend getaway last weekend to Fort Bluff Camp in Dayton, TN.  I used to attend summer camp when I was a kid and then I worked at the camp during the summers when I was a teenager and then I went full time after I graduated from college.  They have these beautiful LakeHaven cabins on the lake where we stayed.  A great place to just relax and spend time with your family.  You can check out more information on the camp here.  They offer summer camps for children, weekend retreats, or you can just rent a cabin for your family if you need some time to recharge.  Fort Bluff will always have a special place in my heart.  Going back this past weekend was a bittersweet time for me.  Remembering all the special memories I had as a camper and a worker was great.  Thinking about how life has gone by so quickly and things changing was the sad part for me.  It was a great reminder to me that life is short, we only have a small amount of time to make a difference in this world.  Appreciate every day and what God gives you.  Take extra time to spend with your family and enjoy God's creation.

You can see more pictures from our trip here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another quick and easy baby food recipe


I'm really starting to enjoy making homemade baby food for Ty.  It's so simple to make and knowing that he's eating healthier makes me feel really good.  What's great is that you can almost come up your own ingredients to add and more than likely your baby is going to love it!  Tonight I made banana oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar.  He ate it like it was ice cream!

Take 1 cup of Quick Oats and add 1 3/4 cup of hot water.  Stir until well mixed.  Slice two bananas into bowl along with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Pour all into a blender or food processor and blend for about 2 minutes until smooth.

This made five meals servings for Ty.

Do you have a great baby food recipe that you would like to share?  Let me know, I'd love to try it out!

Sign up for Lots of Free Samples


I came across this website last night, thanks to MoneySavingMom.com, and signed up for all sorts of free samples in just a matter of a few minutes.  My favorite free sample of course is the free hair color.  This will be my 3rd box of free hair color which makes me happy although I'm sure my beautician is not liking less money in her pocket.

We recently went on a weekend getaway trip and it was great to put some of my samples to use.  I didn't have to pack up bulky shampoo bottles, toothpaste, lotion, etc.  I just brought several sample packets with us which took up very little space.  And it also gave us a chance to see if we liked a certain brand of a product.

Sample Showcase is free to join and after you do, there will be a page with all sorts of free samples available right now.
Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Free Duracell Batteries at Staples This Week!

 Get 100% back on batteries in Staples Rewards when you buy a 20 pack of Duracell AA or AAA batteries.  Limit two per customer per week.  The batteries are priced at $12.99.  You must be a member of the Staples Rewards program which is free to join.  There aren't any rebates you have to fill out on this one.  It's super simple, just purchase the batteries and have the cashier scan your Staples reward card and you will be sent a check for 100% of your out of pocket cost to be used on your next purchase at Staples.  This is a great way to stock up on batteries.  I used this sale a year ago and bought batteries for 4 weeks.  I'm just now on my last pack so I went last night to start stocking up again. 

*They also have HammerMill copy paper and HP photo paper on sale for $1 after an easy rebate.*

Monday, March 28, 2011

Menu Planning

Menu planning is something I'm trying hard to work on.  My life is only going to get busier once Baby G arrives so I need to get my menu planning in gear.  This week I'm making super simple meals since we have a full week ahead with a busy agenda.  We have a dry erase board in our kitchen so it's very easy to just write the menu on the dry erase board and follow the plan.  I'm only starting with suppers for now.  Mike will normally make his own breakfast and I'm a huge cold cereal fan.  Lunches are super easy since it's just sandwiches or leftovers from the supper the night before.  Here is what is on our supper menu this week:

Monday - Baked Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
Tuesday - Sweet & Sour Chicken
Wednesday - Hot Dogs and Chips
Thursday - Chicken w/ pasta and veggies
Friday - Still to be determined since I haven't planned my grocery shop for this week

I'm happy that I have at least 4 meals planned for this week.  I consider that an accomplishment for me.  LOL

What's on your menu this week?  How do you go about planning your menu and do you normally stick with it?

Walgreens Deals Week of March 27 - April 2nd



There were two items I was really excited to see go on sale this week since we were completely out.  One was the Edge Shaving Cream and the other was Ziploc bags.  Here's my purchases from Walgreens:

Two 18 count Ziploc Gallon Size Freezer Bags - one sale for $1.99 and I used $1.25/2 coupon which made each box $1.36.
Purex Crystals Fabric Softener - on sale for $3.99 but I had a Free coupon so my total was $0

Two Edge Shaving Creams - on sale 2/$4 with $2 back in Register Rewards which made each can $1

I spent a total of $4.45 out of pocket and saved $14.42.  I also received $2 back in Register Rewards to be used on my next purchase.

CVS Deals Week of March 27-April 2



I got to go shopping all by myself today!  It was so nice to just go at my own pace and not worry about Ty getting cranky.  Here's what I picked up this morning at CVS:

One Bioluxe Mousse and One Bioluxe Hairspray- On sale BOGO and I had a $3 coupon that printed from the CVS kiosk last week.   They were $7.79 each so with the $3 coupon and BOGO offer, each bottle came to $2.39.

One Skintimate Shaving Cream - $3.39 with $2.50 back in ECB's.  I used a 55 cents coupon from All You Magazine which brought the total to 34 cents after ECB's.  By the way, the register was not accepting this coupon so the cashier had to manually type in 56 cents.  She said they had been having problems with this coupon all day.

One package of Halls Cough Drops - on sale for $1.87 with $1  back in ECB's.  I used a 50 cents coupon from All You Magazine which brought my total to 37 cents after ECB's.

Two 50 count bottles of CVS brand pain reliever - on sale for BOGO so each bottle was $3.19

Two large packages of Easter candy - on sale for 2/$5 - I used a $2/2 coupon which brought each bag to $1.50.  These are not pictured because I already dropped them off at Mike's work so I wouldn't be tempted to eat all that candy.  Baby G has been craving sweets these days like crazy!!

Three bags of M&M's - on sale B2G1 and I used a B2G1 coupon along with a 25 cents CVS kiosk coupon which brought each bag down to 24 cents.  Notice Baby G did get to one of those bags. :)

One Dove Chocolate Bar - $2.19 and I used $1 CVS kiosk coupon which brought total to $1.19.  Not the greatest deal but this will be perfect to put back for Mike's Easter basket.

Total amount before coupons and ECB's was $49.52.  After coupons and ECB's, I spent $11.35 out of pocket and saved $38.17.  I also received $3.50 back in ECB's to be used on my next purchase.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Winner of the Crazy Love Book Giveaway

Congratulations to Amanda on being the winner of "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan.  Amanda, please check your email for further instructions.

Thank you to all who entered!  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Free Sample of Kellogg's Latest Breakfast Model



You can sign up here for a free sample of Kellogg's latest breakfast model.

Free Pint of Breve Creme Coffee Creamer



This offer was available earlier this week but the site was so bombarded that I couldn't sign up.  I tried it today, the offer is still valid, and my submission went right through.  So if you haven't already signed up for this offer, do it today while supplies last.

Free Pint of Breve Creme Coffee Creamer.  Must be a vocal point member (which is free to join) and an US resident.  Allow 5-7 weeks for coupon to be mailed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Compatibility Board Game

 Next time you have company over for board games, consider playing Compatibility.  It's a great game for couples!  You will either find out that you and your partner clearly think the same way or you will find out that you are the very opposite.

We played this last weekend with some friends and had so much fun.  Mike and I are right about in the middle when it comes to the way we think.  There were some topics that I was like seriously, Mike?  What were you thinking?  LOL  And I'm sure he was thinking the same thing towards me.
 
The basic rules of the game are players will form pairs and choose from a pack of picture cards (called expression cards) to show what a topic means to them. (topics such as friendship, first date, school, movie star, etc.)  The more matching cards you share with your partner, the more points you receive.  The winner is called Most Compatible Couple!

You can purchase this game on Amazon.com right now for $29.98. 

Have you played this game before?  How did you and your partner do?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Walgreens Sales Week of March 20-26

I picked up the following at Walgreens today:



One 24 pack case of Aquafina Bottled Water - on sale for $3.99 - used $1 coupon to make final cost $2.99 (this is used for Mike's work)
3 boxes of Jello Pudding - used in store coupon to make each box 59 cents each
Two Reach Toothbrushes - Used 99 cents in store coupon and $1.50/2 manufacturer's coupon to make final cost 24 cents each.  I also received $1 back in Register Rewards so they actually paid me to buy the toothbrushes.
Always Maxi Pads - on sale for $2.99 with $2 back in Register Rewards.  I also used a $1 coupon to the pads were free after Register Rewards
Hand Wash on sale for $2.99 with $2.00 back in Register Rewards making final cost 99 cents


I spent a total of $11.20 and saved $10.23.  I also received $5 back in Register Rewards.


Ingles Grocery Trip

We have an extremely busy week ahead so it feels good to get all of my grocery shopping out of the way already.  Here's what I picked up from Ingles today:


Some of the great deals were:
Tetley Tea bags BOGO - used two 55 cents coupons to make each box 44 cents each.  
Bertolli Sauce BOGO - used $1.50/2 coupon to make each jar 69 cents each.
Arizona Tea and Juices BOGO - total cost 49 cents a can (these will go to Mike's office)
Gain Laundry detergent on sale for $3.98 - used $1 coupon to make final cost $2.98
Hormel lunch meat BOGO - used 50 cent coupon which doubled to make final cost 98 cents
Eggo Waffles on sale 2/$4 - I used $1/2 coupon to make each box $1.50 each.

I spent a total of $21.83 and saved $29.00. 

LUVS Diapers Size 4 - 180 Count shipped for $24.18



You can purchase Luvs Size 4 Diapers 180 count for only $24.18 right now on Amazon.com.  You will need to sign up for the Subscribe and Save option to get this deal.  If you have any 20% coupons from Baby Talk or Parenting magazine, you can even further your deal.  I had one coupon so my total came down to $17.27 which makes it to be about 9 cents per diaper.  

Ty is growing so fast that it's hard to believe a size 4 diaper will fit him.  It's great that he's growing but diapers cost much more the larger the size.

My CVS deals for the week of March 20th-26th



I wasn't too impressed with the CVS deals this week.  Here's what I purchased:

One 24 count Zantac - on sale for $8.99 with $3 back in ECB's.  I used a $5 online coupon so my final cost was 99 cents.
One bottle of Pantene Shampoo - on sale for $4.99 with $2.50 back in ECB's.  I used $1 coupon so my final cost was $$1.49.
One Crest toothpaste - on sale for $3.49 with $2.49 back in ECB's.  I used $1 coupon so my final cost was free.
One birthday card for my niece

My total out of pocket after coupons and ECB's was $2.57.  I saved $20.40 and received $8 back in ECB's to be used on my next purchase.

I had to include a picture of some flowers my sister sent me back on February 25th.  Going on a month and they are still looking great!

Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - 50% off sale



Last summer we tried using Extra Virgin Coconut Oil in our cooking.  We were very impressed with the flavor it added to our cooking.  Our favorite was cooking fresh vegetables in it.  It gave the vegetables such a yummy, fresh taste.

Amazon.com has a great deal on Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.  You can purchase two 15 ounce jars for $13.82 right now.  If you have an Amazon mom account, this will ship for free.   These are regularly priced at $24.00.  If you sign up for subscribe and save, you will save an additional 15% which drops your price down to $11.75.  Don't forget to cancel the Subscribe & Save once your order has shipped unless you want to receive this on a regular basis.

I used a $5 Amazon gift card I had earned from Swagbucks so my final total was only $6.75!  I'm super excited about this deal especially since fresh vegetables are almost in season!

You can read more about the health benefits and other uses for Extra Virgin Coconut Oil here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chicken Marinade Recipe

Mike and I experimented with a chicken marinade last night and it turned out AWESOME!  This will definitely be on our list as our favorite marinade for grilled chicken.

Ingredients
1/4 cup Log Cabin all natural syrup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
Fresh cracked black pepper
Kosher Salt

We marinated the chicken breasts overnight and baked the chicken in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then we transferred it to the grill on medium heat and cooked it for an additional 20 minutes.  This chicken was so juicy and flavorful, it will definitely will be our new favorite!


Friday, March 18, 2011

The 60 Minute Money Workout Book Review

I recently read The 60 Minute Money Workout by Ellie Kay.  I'm going to be honest and say that this book was not my favorite to read.  There were times I was just down right bored with some of the chapters.  Any time you use the word "WORKOUT", I start to panic.  I hate exercising and this book deals with exercising financially.  Ellie Kay writes about how you can have financial transformation in just one hour a week.  One of my favorite chapters in the book was Chapter 7 with the Travel and Fun Guide workout.  This talked about how we can overspend on a vacation and gave alternate ideas on where to go on your next vacation.  It also gives advice on what to bring on certain vacations to help you save money and where to find great deals on airfares and hotel costs.  Overall the book had some great advice on saving money and sticking with a budget.

You can read more about the author Ellie Kay at www.elliekay.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher through the Waterhouse Multnomah.  The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Chocolate Eclair Dessert

This dessert is an old time favorite of a lot of my friends and family.  My mom made it often and you could always be sure to find it at a church function.  I can't even tell you the number of times I've eaten this dessert but I've never made it myself.  I made it last night and was shocked at how super easy it was to make with very little prep work.  It will definitely be on my list of quick and easy desserts to make.

Ingredients:
2 individual packages of graham crackers
2 (3-ounce) packages of instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups milk
1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 jar of hot fudge topping

Directions:
Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan with graham crackers.  In a large bowl, combine pudding mix and milk.  Stir well for about 3 minutes until pudding is thick.  Stir in whipped topping to pudding mixture.  Spread half of mixture over graham cracker layer.  Top with another layer of graham crackers and the remaining frosting.  Top all with a final layer of graham crackers.  Heat hot fudge topping in microwave for about 35 seconds.  Pour over top layer of graham crackers and use knife to smooth.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours for best taste.

I would love to know if you have a different recipe for this chocolate eclair dessert.  Anything to make it stand out more, something to make the filling more rich and fancy, or a different type of cracker you use?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our huge blessing this week

We had a really awesome blessing this week.  I can't necessarily say we prayed for it but it was something that was on our minds a lot recently and I had been looking on Craig's list to find these items to purchase.  

When Mike has coffee clubs at his office, he has to either rent or borrow chairs so there will be adequate seating for his clients.  Renting chairs can add up quickly and having to constantly borrow can be a hassle especially when you have to pick them up and drop them back off.  Earlier this week he received a call saying there was a company that was refurbishing their office.  They had 9 office chairs that Mike could have if he was willing to pick them up.  We stopped by this company's office yesterday afternoon and not only did they have 9 beautiful well-padded office chairs for Mike, they had a solid wood office desk he could also have!  That was like icing on top of the cake!  We ended up renting a U-haul truck since our little car definitely wouldn't be able to fit these items in it.  It cost us $40 for rental, gas, and mileage on the U-haul but was a blessing to be given such nice office furniture.  

It was a great reminder to us that not only does God provide for our needs, He can surprise us with our wants too!  Take a minute today to remind yourself and thank God for how He has blessed you and your family.

Today's Grocery Store Deals

Today I went to CVS, Bi-Lo, Walgreens, and Ingles.  Here are some of the great deals I got:
CVS

 CVS has a great deal on Pampers this week.  Buy $25 worth of selected baby products and receive $10 back in ECB's.  Earlier this week the coupon kiosk printed a $3 off Pampers coupon which I applied with my $2 manufacturer's coupon.  Diapers were $20 and the baby wash and powder were 2/$5.  I used some of my ECB's from earlier this week so I only paid $2 out of pocket and still received $10 back in ECB's.  Total savings of $31.47.  By the way, so far year to date, I've saved $315.11 at CVS.

BI-LO

There were only a few great items on sale at Bi-Lo this week.  The best was the Tetley tea bags BOGO.  I used two 50 cents coupons which doubled so each box of tea bags cost me 9 cents.  They also had Dawn dish soap (forgot to put it in the picture) on sale for $1 and I used a 50 cent coupon which doubled so the dish soap was free.  I used a BOGO coupon on the Pedigree canned dog food, it's the girls 3rd birthday today so this will be their special birthday supper.  LOL  I also came across this whole chicken marked down to $2.52.  My total was $3.41 with a savings of $9.86.  Year to date savings at Bi-Lo is $70.92...not a huge Bi-Lo shopper.

I didn't take any pictures of my Walgreens or Ingles purchases.  I was really disappointed with Walgreens.  They were out of stock in many of the sale items.  I remembered to get rain checks this time.  I bought the Purex laundry soap that was on sale for $2.99.  I used $1 coupon to make final cost $1.99.  I also picked up 4 Arizona tea's for Mike on sale 2/$1.  Total spent $4.17 and saved $5.96.

My Ingles trip wasn't anything great.  We were out of several items such as bread flour, lunch meat, and milk so those items add up when you don't have coupons.  I am also making a dessert for tomorrow night and two meals for families next week so I had to pick up the needed ingredients for those.  Total spent was $59.18 with a savings of $30.51.  My year to date savings at Ingles is $313.82.

I definitely went over my $60 cash budget this week.  I'm trying to find a balance when I make extra meals for friends.  We've had several events already this month that I needed to make meals or a dessert for and I have 3 more that I need to make meals/dessert for.  How do you balance the extra cost of meals from entertaining/social gatherings from your weekly grocery bill? 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Broccoli and Carrots Baby Food Recipe

This is a super easy baby food recipe that is very healthy and affordable.  I found a bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer this afternoon that needed to be used up so I threw that in my steamer along with 1/2 bag of carrots that were close to their expiration date.  I added a tablespoon of fresh minced garlic and steamed the veggies for about 30 minutes until very tender.  Throw it in your blender with a tablespoon of butter and blend well.  This made enough for 4 meals for Ty.  Ty is a big eater so you may be able to get 8 meals out of this depending on how much your child eats.

Book Giveaway - Crazy Love by Francis Chan

I finished reading the book, Crazy Love, last week.  It was so incredible that I'm going to re-read it.   You can read about this book here.  Check out some of the videos, they will get you even more excited to read this book!

Francis Chan is the best-selling author of Forgotten God (my next book on the list to read) and the host of BASIC series.  He has also written the children's books Halfway Herbert and The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village.  Francis is the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA and is the founder of Eternity Bible College.

In order to qualify for this giveaway, you must be a follower on my blog.  In order to receive an extra entry, leave a comment on whether you've read this book before or any of Francis Chan's other books he's written.  A random drawing will be held on Friday, March 31st and the book will be mailed to the winner.  


A Super Easy Way to Give to your Community

We are all blessed.  Whether you're blessed with money, great health, a family, a house to live in, a car to drive, employment, you are blessed.  You may have all these things or may only have one or two, either way, consider yourself blessed.   

I recently received an invitation for a food bank drive at our local fire departments.  What a great and easy way to give back to my community!  This is a great time to sort through your pantry and see what items you have extra's of and pack in a bag to give to someone in need.

I also learned of a toyraiser drive that will be happening next month.  What a perfect opportunity to bring my child's unused toys to someone that doesn't have the means to buy toys for their children.

There are so many ways you can give back to your community.  Google non-profit organizations in your city and just watch the amount of organizations that could use your help.  Try to find one organization and volunteer your time and/or resources to them this month.  You will definitely be the one blessed in the end.

CVS Deals Week of March 13-19

I was very happy with my trip to CVS this week.  Here's what I bought this morning:

A whopping $2.75 for all these items!  I love CVS Extra Care Bucks!


Two 16 roll packages of Charmin toilet paper
Two Charmin Freshmates
One Irish Spring Body Wash
Two Gain dish detergent
One Herbal Essence Shampoo
One Herbal Essence Mousse
Two Christophe Shampoo's
One Christophe Conditioner
One Oral B Glide Satin Floss
Two Cadbury Creme Eggs - impulse buy for Mike, they are his favorite.

My favorite deal was the Christophe products.  Those are normally $6.79 a bottle.  They were on sale for $5 each this week and when you bought $15 worth you received $5 back in ECB's.  Last week when I scanned my CVS card at the kiosk, it printed a $3 coupon for one bottle of shampoo.  I used it today so my final cost with ECB's back was $2.33 a bottle! 

My total before coupons and ECB's was $88.40. (that is a lot of money to spend on just 15 items) I spent $24.25 for a total savings of $64.15.  I also received $21.50 back in ECB's to be used on a later purchase.  So I purchased all these items for $2.75 when you include the ECB's I got back!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Next Three Days Trailer (HD)

Mike and I watched this movie over the weekend. Great movie, very intense and emotional.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mission Tortilla Chips for 19 cents a bag!

Last week when you "liked" Mission on Facebook, you would receive a coupon for a free bag of Mission tortilla chips.  The "free" coupon ended up being $2.99 off a bag but I'm not going to complain.  That is still one awesome coupon especially since my computer let me print 3 of them.  Last night I went to Ingles, since the coupon expired yesterday, and bought 3 bags of Mission tortilla chips.  They were priced at $3.18 so I paid 19 cents for each bag!  We will definitely be having some Mexican dinners over the next month to use up these chips!  If you have any great Mexican recipes, be sure to send them my way.

Chocolate Peanut-Butter No Bake Cookies

I needed a dessert to bring to a church function tonight but didn't have a lot of time to bake or go to the grocery store to buy a bunch of ingredients.  This recipe is so simple especially when you're short on time and has the very basic ingredients in it.  Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter (I like to use chunky but you can use creamy if you prefer)
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups old fashioned or quick oatmeal
Waxed Paper

Directions:
In a heavy saucepan bring to a boil the sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk.  Let boil for 1 minute and remove from heat.  Add peanut butter, vanilla, and oatmeal.  Stir well.  On a sheet of waxed paper, drop mixture by the teaspoonfuls, until cooled and hardened.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole

I'm not a huge fan of tuna casserole, probably because our first year of marriage, we ate tuna casserole at least once or twice a week.  It was cheap and we were dirt poor.  I don't think I've made tuna casserole for the last five years.  I came across this new recipe for tuna casserole and decided to try it out last night by using the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme.  I thought it was ok, Mike loved it! It is a super quick meal to put together if you don't have a lot of time. 



1 tub (10 oz) Philadelphia Original Cooking Creme
2 cups egg noodles, cooked
2 cans (5 oz each) chunk light tuna in water, drained
1 cup frozen peas or mixed vegetables (I used mixed vegetables)
1 can (4 oz) sliced mushrooms, drained
8 Ritz or Club Crackers, crushed
1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine first 5 ingredients in a casserole dish; cover.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile mix cracker crumbs and butter.  Stir casserole; top with crumbs.  Bake uncovered 5 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

This recipe can easily be substituted and changed for your preference.  I might try chicken in the future and add some cheddar cheese on top along with the bread crumbs. It wasn't as creamy as I thought it would be so maybe add another 1/2 tub of the Philadelphia cooking creme.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Benefits of Eating Fresh Fruit


I was making this fruit bowl for Mike's coffee club this morning and Ty was helping me sample each fruit.  His favorite was the strawberries and mine of course are the pineapples.  A really good fresh pineapple is like candy to me.  After making the fruit bowl, I decided to do some research on fruit.  I definitely don't get the amount of fruit in my diet that I need.  Read on for some really important information about eating fruit.

We all know that eating fresh fruit is good for our health.  But did you know we are supposed to have 4-6 servings of fruit a day?  The thought of that much fruit to some of you might have you already start suffering the gastric repercussions like bloating and other symptoms. (no kidding)  There is a proper way to eat fruit so you don't suffer from those symptoms.  Here's some really great facts about eating fruit:

Eat fruit on an empty stomach early in the morning -  it will digest very quickly and even faster without any other food in your stomach.  When eating a meal with fruit, the processed carbohydrates will slow the digestion of fruit.  During digestion, that added fructose (sugar) combined with refined carbohydrates will product more gas, bloating, and indigestion.  ( I totally ruined this step since I fixed biscuits and gravy for breakfast prior to making the fruit bowl.)

Once you've eaten fruit, wait an hour before eating foods containing protein or starch - this will allow the fruit to fully digest and will maximize the benefits of fruit nutrients and vitamins.  

Increased fiber will affect your digestive system - (well duh!)  But your body will eventually start to adjust to the larger amounts of fruit in your diet.  Initially you will be visiting the bathroom a lot more, but give it a week and your body will adjust to the increase amount of fiber.  You will also find that you start to eat smaller meals because you won't be as hungry because that fiber is filling you up.  You will also feel more energetic. Your skin will appear healthier and your hair, nails, and respiratory system will improve. 

Be sure to drink water throughout the day to assist in flushing toxins 
from your body.

So now all of us need to go out and buy some fresh fruit and start eating it the right way.  Let's see the difference it will make in our health. 



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Couple of Easy Ways to Get Coupons for Free Products

The last couple of weeks I've been receiving several free product coupons in my mail.  Getting these coupons is like someone giving me money.  It's so great!  I know, I get excited over the silliest things.  Anyway, I've been trying to email a company at least once a week about their product I have tried.  Most of the emails are compliments, but I did have one complaint a couple weeks ago.  Most companies are very excited to hear from their customers and will send you coupons for that product.  It only takes about a minute or two to fill out a comment or complaint form on the company's website and the payoff is completely worth it when you receive your coupons in the mail.  So the next time you are impressed with a product you try, email the company and let them know.

Another easy way to receive coupons is to "like" a company on Facebook.  There have been many free product coupons on Facebook once you become a fan of the company.  For instance, right now you can get a coupon for a free drink or candy bar at CVS when you "like" them on Facebook.

Some of the "free product" coupons I've received lately are Edy's Icecream, Pepperidge Farm bread product, EggBeaters, Clairol Hair Color, Free Drink or Candy Bar at CVS, Excedrin Migraine, and Mission tortilla chips.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Trip to Walgreens and CVS

I got most of my errands taken care of this morning since this week will be pretty busy.  I only picked up a few items at Walgreens today.  

Walgreens Trip

 Softsoap Body Wash - 2/$7 with $5 back in Register Rewards - make final cost 2/$2
Ricola Cough Drops - use ad in coupon for 99 cents and use $1/2 manufacturer's coupon to make each bag 50 cents.

They also have their CoffeeMate liquid creamer on sale BOGO.  Use $1/2 coupon to make each bottle 75 cents each.  They only had Fat Free Vanilla and Hazelnut left and I don't care for either one of those flavors so I passed up that deal.  

Always Pads are on sale for $2.99 with $2 back in Register Rewards.  Use 50 cents coupon to make final cost 49 cents.  They were out of stock on this deal so I might try later on in the week if I have time and in the area.

CVS Trip - $11.49 for all these items!

My favorite deal at CVS was the Benefiber.  Spend $20 worth of Benefiber, Gas-X, Maalox, or Prevacid and get $10 ECB's.  I spent $20.78 on two Benefiber products and used a $7/2 coupon that I had printed online a couple weeks ago.  Before I checked out, I scanned my CVS card at the coupon kiosk and it printed a $3 coupon for Benefiber.  So using both coupons and counting ECB's I was able to get both Benefiber products for 78 cents!

Other deals were:

Buy $10 worth of John Frieda products and receive $3 back.  I bought one bottle of shampoo and one bottle of Curl gel for Mike's gorgeous hair, that I'm so jealous of, LOL.  Both bottles were $6 each and I used two $2 coupons from Sunday's paper.  That brought my cost to $2.50 per bottle.  A little more than I typically spend on shampoo but I love John Frieda products and they are well worth the extra money.

Spend $10 on Almay cosmetics and receive $4 back in ECB's.  I needed powder so I picked up Almay powder for $12.79.  I used $2 coupon from last Sunday's paper so my final cost was $6.79 for the powder.  Again, a little more than I normally spend on makeup, but when you're out, you just find the best sale you can and cough up the extra money.

Revlon Eye or Lip on sale for $7.49  with $4 back in ECB's.  I bought Revlon mascara and used $1 coupon so my final cost was $2.49.

Revlon Nail Polish on sale for $3.99 with $3 in ECB's.  I used $1 coupon so my final cost on the nail polish was FREE.

Desitin diaper rash cream on sale for $3 - I used $1 coupon to make final cost $2.

Trident Gum on sale for $1 - I used BOGO coupon so final cost was 50 cents each.

My total out of pocket cost was $35.49 with savings of $37.26 and I received $24 ECB's back.  So final cost would be $11.49 for all those items!

Some of you might of worked these transactions differently so your out of pocket wouldn't be so high.  I prefer just to get it all over with in one transaction and know that I have a large amount of ECB's to be used on later purchases.  And I don't feel like I'm annoying the cashier with multiple transactions. 

Freebies and $1 Copy Paper at Staples

There are some great freebies after rebate at Staples this week.  You can also get copy paper for only $1 after rebate.  These sales are only valid Sunday - Wednesday so be sure to stop by Staples in the next couple of days.
Pentel R.S.V.P. ballpoint pens, fine black, 5/pack - $3.79 - FREE after instant savings and rebate (limit one)

#10 envelopes, pull & seal security, 100/pack - $8.49 - FREE after instant savings and rebate (limit two) 

HammerMill Copy Plus copy paper, 500 sheets/ream - $5.99 - $1 after rebate (limit two)


They also have two other freebies that I didn't need so I didn't bother picking up.  Yes, I do pass up freebies from time to time if I don't think I will use them. :) Those other freebies are:

Staples gold paper clips, 200/pack - $4.29 - FREE after instant savings and rebate (limit two)

HP Everyday 8.5 x 11 photo paper, 50/pack - $9.99 - FREE after instant savings and rebate (limit two)

I had Staples credit leftover from previous rebates so I paid a whopping $0.00 out of pocket and still have $9.22 left in Staples credit!

Tips for Having a Successful Garage Sale

I love Garage Sales!  One of my favorite things about Spring is knowing that garage sale season is ready to start.  I love going to the garage sales and I love having my own garage sale.  Here are some tips that I've learned on how to have a successful garage sale:

Location, Location, Location - This is a big one.  To get the amount of traffic needed for a successful garage sale, you must have a great location for it.  If you live way out in the country, you might not get the traffic that you were expecting.  A lot of people don't want to drive (especially with the gas prices the way they are) too far just for a garage sale.  Find another location to have your garage sale at.  It could be at a friend's house, vacant parking lot on a busy road, or renting a booth at a local Flea Market.  We've always been very fortunate that we've lived in a central location so our garage sales have always received a good amount of traffic.  Because we have such a great location, we invite our friends and family to bring their items to sell at the garage sale.  Multi-family garage sales are even more fun because there is a larger variety of items for your customers to choose from and it's fun to sit and talk with your family and friends while waiting for customers to make their purchases.

Proper Signage - There's nothing worse than seeing one sign for a  garage sale but getting lost trying to find that garage sale.  If I'm looking for a garage sale and proper signing is not posted, I will turn around and head to another garage sale.  It's not worth my time or gas trying to "hunt" down that one garage sale.  Proper signage would be a bright neon-colored poster signs.  Make the lettering in bold, black words that is easy for a driver to read.  Only write the important information on the sign such as Garage Sale, Date, Times,  and Street Address and an arrow pointing to where they need to go.  There's no reason to distract that important information with other wording, descriptions of the items you are selling, etc.   You will need more than one sign.  A lot of people won't be familiar with your street or subdivision to just go off of the address you wrote on the sign.  You need a sign at each turn they will make and if they are driving straight for more than 1/2 mile, put another sign with an arrow going straight, so your customer won't get discouraged about not finding your garage sale right away.  Attaching a balloon to your sign is also another easy way to make your sign stand out.

Pricing/Tagging - another frustrating thing about garage sales is not finding any price tags on the items.  This can also be frustrating to the seller because you constantly have your customers coming up to you asking what price you want for an item.  Make sure all your items are properly tagged.  Make sure your items are reasonably priced.  People who go to garage sales are looking for a deal.  They are not going to be paying high price dollar for a little trinket or used clothing.   Isn't it better to sell your items rather than box them up and take them to Goodwill?  The more you sell, the less you have to pack up.  If you have lots of clothing to sell, sometimes it's easier to offer a $5 bag sale.  Tell your customers to pack a bag as much as they can and they can have it for $5.  You'll quickly see that huge pile of clothes disappear.

Items need to cleaned and working properly - If you really want your items to sell, make sure they are cleaned.  It's gross to pick up items that are layered inches in dust and grime.  All electronics need to be working properly.  Have extra batteries and an electric socket available so customers can test your electronics.  This goes for all children's toys too.  I won't buy a toy not knowing if it works or not.  I don't know the seller so how do I know if he/she is telling me the truth when they say "it just needs batteries"?  They might just be trying to make an easy sale and I'll get stuck with a toy that doesn't work.

Easy way to make a little extra dough - offer sodas, bottled water, lemonade, etc.  Stock up on sodas when they go on sale at the grocery store.  Load them up in an ice cooler and offer them for 50 cents a can.  If you have children, let them sell the drinks.  This is a great way for them to make a little extra cash and learn to be a salesperson.

Do you have any other suggestions for having a successful garage sale?  Do you have any frustrations or complaints when going to a garage sale?  I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Peanut Butter Frosting

Ok, so I could eat this peanut butter frosting by the pound.  My sister-in-law, Tina, made this frosting a couple years ago and I forgot how delicious it was until I made it today.  There is nothing like it....totally melts in your mouth and you can't stop yourself from eating teaspoon after teaspoon of it.  The cupcakes are incredible!  So moist and chocolatey if that's even a word.  These cupcakes will be a huge hit at your next party.

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcakes pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately five minutes.  Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well.  Add the buttermilk and hot coffee and continue to blend until mixed.  Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly.  Spoon batter into cupcakes pans and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Creamy Peanut Butter Frosting

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cream butter and peanut butter.  Add 1/2 powdered sugar and mix well.  Blend in milk and vanilla.  Add remaining powdered sugar and blend until smooth.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas Recipe

This was one of my favorite recipes of my Mom's.  I would request these enchiladas on my birthday and when I came home from college to visit.  I found the recipe earlier this week when I was cleaning out my recipe cabinet.  Chicken breasts have been on sale this week at Bi-Lo (BOGO) so I've been able to make more chicken recipes than normal.  Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
4 large chicken breasts
7 Tablespoons Butter
7 Tablespoons Flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
4 ounce can of green chilies
1/2 cup green pencil onions
2 cups cheddar cheese
8 large flour tortillas or 12 small flour tortillas

                                        Directions:
Cook chicken in large saucepan with 2 cups of water until tender. (about 8-10 minutes)  Chop chicken in chunks or shred chicken depending on how you prefer.  Melt margarine in a saucepan, add flour and cook for one minute.  Pour in chicken broth and milk.  Cook until thick.  Add green chilies, sour cream, cubed or shredded chicken and pencil onions and stir until well mixed.  Spoon chicken mixture onto flour tortilla and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  Make sure the sauce is very light in the tortilla  because you will want to use a good amount on top of the tortillas.  Place wrapped tortilla in a greased 9x13 pan.  Once all tortillas are made and placed in pan, pour remaining sauce over all the tortillas.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Winner of the Purex Crystals Softener Giveaway

Congratulations to Robin for winning the Free Product Coupon for Purex Complete Crystals Softener.  Thanks to all who participated!

For more information on Purex Crystals and to watch some videos, go here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sales at Bi-Lo good through Tuesday, March 8th

There were a couple of really great sales at Bi-Lo this week that I stopped to pick up.  Bi-Lo will double coupons up to 55 cents.

Yoplait Yogurt on sale for 50 cents each - buy six and use 40 cents/six coupon for final price of 37 cents each

Pampers Wipes on sale BOGO - Use two 50 cents coupons for final price of 84 cents each

Beech-nut Baby Food on sale BOGO - makes each jar 32 cents each.  If you have any Beech-nut coupons, you can score even a better deal.

General Mills selected cereal on sale 4/$6.  You have to buy 4 boxes to score this deal.  Use $1/2 coupon to make final price of $1 per box.   I found that only Cheerios, Trix, and Cocoa Puffs are valid for this deal.  Since I'm not a huge Trix or Cocoa Puffs person, I just bought 4 boxes of Cheerios.

Welch's juice on sale for $3 - use $1 coupon to make final price $2

Secret Deodorant on sale for $2.50 - use 50 cents coupon to make final price $1.50

Delicious Chicken Salad Recipe

My sister-in-law, Rebekah, made these delicious chicken salad sandwiches a couple weeks ago.  I couldn't wait to get the recipe to make this for Mike.  Our supper menu tonight: chicken salad sandwiches.  :)





Ingredients
3 cups pineapple juice
1/3 cup soy
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups water
1/2 cup of each: red pepper, yellow pepper, sweet onion, and celery
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 cups mayo (I only use 1 cup mayo, but you can use more depending on how much mayo you like to taste)

Directions

  • In a small bowl, combine pineapple juice and soy sauce.  Pour 1 1/2 cups into a large Ziploc bag and add chicken breasts.  Turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.  Reserve the remaining marinade.
  • Drain & discard marinade from chicken.  In a large saucepan combine chicken, water, and reserved marinade.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until 170 degrees.  Drain, cool slightly, shred chicken.
  • In a large bowl combine shredded chicken, peppers, onion, celery, seasonings, and mayo.  Toss to coat.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Making Homemade Strawberry Jelly

I grew up on homemade strawberry jelly.  Smucker's, what was that?  There's nothing like the smell of walking in a kitchen right after a batch of jelly has been made.  Yummy goodness!  And then to have fresh homemade sourdough bread to spread the jelly on...absolute heaven!  My mother was seriously the best at sourdough bread and strawberry jelly.  She could of put Pepperidge Farm and Smucker's out of business if she'd tried. 

I'll never forget when I was old enough for Mom to teach me how to make the strawberry jelly on my own.  It's so easy to make but I don't recommend it for small children.  If they are old enough to use a knife and slice strawberries, let them help with that step.  Or they can remove the stems from the strawberries.  But don't let them get near the stove and pot of jelly, it's extremely hot and can cause severe burns.

Here's the recipe and process for making your own strawberry jelly.

Two pounds of fresh strawberries
4 1/2 cups of white sugar
1 box of Sure Jell premium fruit prectin
6 canning jars

Wash and drain strawberries.  Remove stems from strawberries and slice.  Blend sliced strawberries in blender or food processor.  Measure 3 3/4 cups of crushed strawberries and 4 1/2 cups of white sugar.  Make sure to measure out the sugar ahead of time because you don't want to stop in the middle of making the jelly and have to measure it out.  The jelly can easily burn. 


Stir 1 box of fruit pectin and 3 3/4 cups of crushed strawberries into a large saucepot on high heat.  You can add 1/2 teaspoon of butter to help reduce the foaming if you'd like.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that doesn't stop when stirred.  Stir in sugar quickly.  Return to a full rolling boil and boil exactly one minute.  Remove from heat.  Pour quickly into clean jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops.  Cover with lids and screw bands on tightly.  My Mom would always finish with putting them into a pressure cooker to seal the lids.  I was always scared of pressure cookers because I thought they would blow up on me so she told me that most of the time the jelly is so hot that it will seal the lid on its own within 30 minutes.  But to be safe, in case it doesn't seal, always store the jelly in the freezer.  Majority of the time all my jars have sealed but I still store the jelly in the freezer, just in case.  This recipe makes about 6 cups of strawberry jelly.  (I made a double batch this morning.)