Using Coupons

 I had the idea of using coupons to save on our monthly grocery bills, but did very little with it for almost a year!  Last year I bought a nice, green binder that zips all the way around and has many zipped pockets to hold goodies.

My Coupon Folder

Then, I went to the dollar store and purchased a few packs of baseball card holders to store my clipped coupons in.  Next, I organized the holders into categories with tabs.  I have about 20 different categories, ranging from dairy to oral care to boxed food and much, much more.  I sat, one afternoon, and clipped all the coupons I received in the Sunday paper that week, organized them into the different holders and then sat back with a satisfied sigh…..The only problem was I didn’t use them!  The coupons all expired because they sat in my folder for many, many months.

Organized Categories

Recently, my husband’s job was looking bleaker and bleaker and it pulled me out of my blissful fog and forced me to, again,  start thinking about coupons.  I figured if I got serious this time and put a couple of hours a week into planning out my shopping trip, along with meal planning, I just might save money on my monthly grocery bill.  I started to get excited!  I found this as a challenge I wanted to conquer!  So, I re-entered my dusty folder, with all the expired coupons, threw them away (well, actually, my 9 year did it for me) and started anew.  My husband brought home the coupon inserts from work so I didn’t even have to buy any newspapers….an extra savings right there.  Thanks to sites like, Bargains to Bounty (http://www.bargainstobounty.com/) I am able to match my coupons with the store ads because they do all the coupons/store match ups for us, which saves a ton of time!  I  hop on the site, see what is on sale at my local grocery stores and sort what coupons I want to use.  I use a combination of coupon inserts and ecoupons from sites like coupons.com.  I then mark a few envelopes with the grocery store name on the outside and slip the coupons in it for my shopping trip.   With a little planning, I have ended up getting boxes of cereal from $1.50 all the way down to .99 each, protein bars and gum for free and V-8 juice for $1.24 each, to name a few things.  I find that very exciting because we go through a LOT of cereal and juice in this house! I do want to be careful not to buy items that I normally wouldn’t buy, just because it’s a lower price than retail.  It needs to be items we regularly use or that I can get free.

I am still learning the tricks of the trade and have to confess I have watched every episode of Extreme Couponing on Netflix (which my daughters have pulled their money together and agreed to pay for each month).  I vow that I will NOT become like the guests on the show and start a three-year stockpile of baby food, especially since I don’t have a baby!  It did, though, give me some good ideas on how to start couponing and how to use them to make the most of my grocery money.  Since this was the first month, I was very excited to see how much I saved on my groceries for the month.  I added up all the receipts and what I would have paid retail, and the total for the month was  $657.70.  After coupons and store deals, I paid $337.67.  I saved $320.03!  That is close to 50%!  That’s not bad for the first month!  My purchases  included a variety of meats, juices, many boxes of cereal, protein bars and gum (both for free) along with the normal staple items like bread, milk, eggs, etc.  As I continue to use coupons, my wish is to see even greater savings each month.

With just a bit of pre-planning and organizing, I have found one way to shave off a bit of our monthly expenses and that makes me feel very satisfied!

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Please vote for my daughter’s leotard design!!

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Please vote for my daughter’s leotard she designed!  https://www.facebook.com/allaboutdance?sk=app_451684954848385&app_data=from-3bwp16      You must ‘like’ their page and then press the ‘vote’ tab and scroll through ALL the beautiful designs ( a couple of pages worth) to find her black with red flame design.

Thanks!!

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New Adventures

It has been over a month since I have written anything on here. It’s hard to believe we only have a little over one month of school left! Time is flying by so quickly. When my 8 year old asks how time is passing too quickly, it might be a sign we are doing too much? It seems there is hardly one day where there is not something to do or somewhere to go! We finished up our production of Fiddler on the Roof and then went straight into practices for our girls to dance at our weekend church service and then to Easter, followed by 2 birthdays.  It has kept us pretty busy!

I am starting to plan for the next school year already. I know….you say, ‘why already’?  Well first, I especially need to plan out my oldest daughter’s sophomore year of high school (actually the next 3 years).  She plans to be a veterinarian and there are specific classes she must take in high school/college to even be considered into the vet school we are looking at!  Second, this is a great time to look for used home school books at a better price.  Third, registration for our co-op starts Tuesday and I need to know what to sign up for. Three very good reasons to start planning next year before this year is through!

My oldest daughter and I went to an open house at the MSU Vet School and sat in on a few seminars, one being conducted by the admissions department. They gave a lot of great information about high school and under grad requirements to even be considered for acceptance into their school, and it is still not a guarantee one will get in! My daughter had her eyes opened to the fact that she must do well in her studies, especially Science and Math, in both high school and college, along with a lot of community service work. It needn’t be only in the animal field, but rather, a nice variety of services. After that, she must take a 10 page GRE test and get above a certain score to even be considered for the school! This will not be an easy task, but, if she is willing to work hard, she can do it!   Now, where the money is coming from is a question for another day!!

We are quickly coming into the season of ballet recitals and I have 3 very excited girls! My eldest ballerina has her own solo this year and gets to wear a tutu. Not just any ordinary tutu, but one that is stiff and sticks straight out like the one in this picture: ( I believe it is called a pancake?)

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She is super excited and has wanted to dance in one for many years! This summer she will attend her very first ballet summer intensive. She will get to dance her heart away for about 6 hours daily for 5 days straight! She is also very excited for this!!

Because my husband and I are looking ahead, watching our girls getting older at lightening speed pace, and with college lurking around the corner, we felt we needed to find a way to supplement our income. We have taken on a new adventure and partnered with a health and wellness company that sells over 350 products that contain no harsh or cancer causing chemicals. We have switched our store from where we used to buy our detergents, vitamins and cleaning products, etc. and now buy these products, which are safe and very effective! We order online and have them shipped directly to our house. The products cost no more than national brand products do, yet they are free of formaldehyde and other cancer causing components. We are their ‘word of mouth’ advertisers and get paid to advertise. Because we believe in the products, we are happy to share about them and show how easy it is to switch stores, using only the money you would use at a warehouse store!

If this sounds like something you have thought about or are searching for, and you would like to hear more about the products and/or the business side of this, let me know and I would love to walk you through their story and show you more about them! Just send me a message and let me know you are interested in hearing more.

Have a great evening and great start to your week!

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Blueberry Cake

Blueberry Cake

I found a leftover pint of blueberries in my basement refrigerator and decided a blueberry buckle or cake sounded good.  I hopped on to Pinterest, typed in blueberry cake and the first recipe I saw was very easy.  One specific ingredient the recipe called for drew me in……..fresh lemon zest!  My love affair with lemons convinced me this was the cake to make!  The recipe also called for the use of a spring-form pan, which I specifically bought a few months back to make cheesecake in.  I haven’t used it since then, so this clinched the fact that I needed to make this cake just to get more use out of my pan!  Of course, I used my Bosch to mix the cake in.  It only took a few minutes to make and tasted delicious.

Here’s the recipe:

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Ingredients

1/2t salt
4 oz (1 stick) butter

1C sugar
1/4t vanilla
1t lemon zest
2 large eggs

2C blueberries, rinsed and drained

1t lemon juice
1t flour
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F or 175C. Lightly grease and flour the 9″ spring pan or pie pan.
  2. Combine 1C flour with baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes. Add vanilla and lemon zest. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Pour the batter into the pan.
  4. Combine the berries with the 1t flour and the lemon juice in a bowl. Spoon the berries over the batter.
  5. Bake for 45-60minutes or until the toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove form the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it form the pan. Transfer the cake to a platter.
  7. Dust the cake with powdered sugar before serving.

I have three sizes of spring-form pans and thought the 9″ was too big.  The batter didn’t even fill half of the pan.

Blueberry Cake

But, it did rise and somewhat filled the pan.

Blueberry Cake

Maybe next time I will try it in my smaller pan, but I don’t think it really mattered.  Fresh, out of the oven, served with whipped cream equals one cake eaten in about 15 minutes!

 

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Strawberry Cake

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I went to the local produce store a couple of weeks ago and they had strawberries for .99 a quart! They looked and smelled delicious! I bought about 4 quarts because, as a family, we can finish off one quart at dinner! A couple of days later, I noticed we still had a quart in the fridge that really needed used up. It got shoved towards the back of my messy refrigerator and that’s why they weren’t gone! I decided to look up a recipe using strawberries and found this delicious strawberry cake. It was really easy to make and really good to eat! You place cut up strawberries on top of the cake batter and bake them right along with the cake! It baked beautifully and tasted great with whipped cream on top! Of course, the cake was gone in one sitting!

Martha Stewart Living, June 2005
Makes one 10-inch cake

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.

Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

I have been craving another one of these cakes, but didn’t find any good strawberries. I bought blueberries yesterday. I wonder if I could substitute  the blueberries. I may have to try it and let you know!

Enjoy your day!

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Sam’s Club One Year Membership Deal

I love to look through Groupon and LivingSocial. The other day I saw a deal for a yearlong membership to Sam’s Club. For new members, or those who let their membership lapse, you can buy a membership for $45. What’s great about the deal is you get a $20 gift card and $19.84 worth of food vouchers with the purchase! So, you are paying $5.16 for a one year membership! What a deal! You must hurry though because the deal ends today!

Even though I have a Costco membership I have some items I miss being able to buy at Sam’s Club. This will be nice to have!

Check it out!

http://www.livingsocial.com/deals/628922-one-year-membership-and-20-gift-card?ref=mobile-email-share-post-purchase%26rpi=107463594%26rui=8258671

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Apps for your iPhone or iPad

I have to say that I REALLY like both my iPhone and iPad!   I use both devices every day!  They have helped me to organize myself a little more.  Now if they would cook and clean….sigh……

There are quite a few Apps available that are very useful!  I would like to share some I find helpful and even fun!  The app I use the most is MealBoard.

This app helps me to plan my meals in advance, for however long I want.  I usually plan for 3 weeks at a time.  I have inputted a ton of recipes from my cookbooks, AllRecipes and Pinterest.  Some of the recipes I find I can cut and paste into my app, but,  some I had to type in, like the ones from my cookbooks.  This took a while over the summer but it was fine because I knew, in the long run, it would help me stay on a meal plan and not ‘wing’ meals any longer.  It also helps me save on my grocery bill per month because I know exactly what I need to get for each meal and it organizes it into a shopping list for me.  The recipes are categorized however I see best.  I have them in categories of crock pot meals, chicken, breakfast, breads, salads, soups and so forth.  It has saved me the headache and panic of forgetting to take something out for dinner that night and has saved in the monthly grocery bills!  I can even add in daily breakfast and lunch meals.  I’m taking baby steps……I’ll hopefully get to the point where I will plan those meals also!  It also shows a monthly calendar with all the meals planned so I can see what variety I have for the month!  It’s just an all-around cool, helpful app!

I did break down and upgrade to the iPhone 5.  My eldest daughter thinks I am cool once again!  What I like about the 5 is Siri (You see, I came from the ‘not so cool’ 4 (not 4s) and according to my daughter, I was uncool!)  But, I do like the Siri because I can talk to her and ask her to remind me to pay a bill, make a phone call or add something to my calendar.  Now my husband, and probably a LOT of you may say, “Can’t you just manually add it in?”  Of course I can, but why would I when I can have Siri do it for me???  Is it laziness on my part.  Sure is!  🙂  I really do use my reminder and calendar on a daily basis!  We lead such busy daily lives, that it is essential to have another ‘brain’ think for me and tell me it’s time to do this or that!   If I can’t afford a personal secretary I guess Siri is the next best thing!

My camera is great on my phone.  I love that I can take crisp, clear pictures and they will automatically ‘appear’ on my iPad and iMac.  I take a lot of food pictures with my phone for the  recipes I post and they will be on my iMac, ready to upload onto my blog.  How convenient!  HOW did we ever live without such devices??  My husband makes never-ending fun of me for my love affair with these devices.  I say he is only jealous!!  🙂

Because I am so lazy I use my iPad a ton with home schooling!  It would take too much energy to get up and walk across the room to look something up on the desktop!  I look up a ton of videos and Google a ton of pictures on a ton of subjects we are learning about.  One of my daughters and I were learning about Tsunamis and I YouTubed  some videos that were captured in Japan.  It really showed her the damage that can be and was done.  My other two daughters and I have watched many videos on Botany..time lapse videos of flowers growing, bees pollinating a flower, the Venus Fly trap in action and more!  Very educational and fun to watch!

I LOVE having Kindle on both devices.  I mainly use it on my iPad, especially when I am walking on my treadmill.  The words are a perfect size that are easy to see.  I love taking it with me when I am waiting at a ballet class or wherever else I wait.  I have found a ton of free books and cookbooks on Amazon….I think I’ve only bought two .99 cent books so far!  I have recently discovered that you can borrow books from your library and download them onto your Kindle or iPad and read them.  I LOVE that!

My AroundMe app has helped many times.  If I am in an unknown area and would like to know where the closest hospital is, it will show where it is, how close and directions.  We did need this app last summer when my daughter got a piece of food stuck in her throat while we were eating at a restaurant.  We wanted to take her to the nearest hospital and it showed us right where to go.  I have used it many times for stores, restaurants and more.  It will use the location you are currently in and find the nearest places you are looking for.  Cool!

I have  a word processor, called ‘Pages”, and ‘excel’ program, called ‘Numbers”, on both devices.  If I write something on one device, it automatically goes to the other device and syncs with it!  If I am waiting for someone to get out of a class, I am able to work on a blog or take notes or write a document while I wait.

I have a flashlight app that I use quite a bit!

I have a calculator and

dictionary app.

I use my clock app to set an alarm, the timer to time spelling and a stopwatch to see how long one of my girls takes to jump on one foot!!

I can check Facebook, email, Safari, Pinterest, WordPress, Groupon, LivingSocial, play Pandora or YouTube, check the weather, even live radar, check out Google earth and so much more!  They are amazing devices for as small as they are!  I can even print from both of them if I desire!  I can make movies, play awesome games, like Plants vs. Zombies or Angry Birds, check next year’s calendar to see what date Easter falls on, translate my Japanese friend’s sentence, convert units of measure, record a voice memo and so much more that I probably don’t know I can do!

Can you tell I am excited?  In all seriousness though, I have used them both for keeping myself a little more organized, educational purposes and even for a little fun!  If you have a cool app you would like to share, feel free to do so.  Most of the apps I get are free, with the exception of a few.  I like free!  I may add a few on this blog, here and there, as I learn about new one that I like.

I hope this humored and educated you a bit on the benefits of owning a smartphone or tablet of some kind.  I understand that these devices are not for everyone (my husband for one) and some really think they are a waste of time and money.  I respect that!

Have a great evening everyone!

 

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Bosch Compact Kitchen Machine Review

This small stand mixer is a delight to own!

This small stand mixer is a delight to own!

Since I have been trying to make more and more home made meals and using my hand held mixer more, it decided to quit on me in the middle of Christmas cookies!  Ok, so it was cheap one that I bought when my husband and I got married, 17 years earlier….was it made that well…OR did I not use it that much???  Luckily, I bought another cheap one earlier that month, though I’m not sure why I did.  Was it women’s intuition that my old one would quit in the middle of making Christmas cookies?  I’m not sure, but, I WAS glad I had a spare!  I took that opportune moment to ‘complain’ to my husband…..ok, really I meant ‘hint’ to my husband that I had been eying the stand mixers for awhile.  They are rather expensive and bulky though, so I only hinted a few times, maybe a couple were strong hints…:)  He decided to do a little research on them behind my back and asked a good friend of mine, who is an excellent guide on cooking and kitchen tools.  She told him the best brand was Bosch, so he started researching that brand.  His only concern was that we have very little extra counter space and where would I put it?  He found the compact mixer online and read positive review after positive review about this product and decided to go for it.  When I opened it I thought it was rather small and felt like it was cheaply made.  That was a review my husband had read from another buyer.  The reviewer had said the same thing, but, after he used it was amazed at the quality of it!   So I thought I would give it a try.  I did like the smallness of it.  It’s not too small that I can’t make anything in it, but small enough not to intrude the counter.   I can easily make a batch of cookies or 2 batches of bread in it!  I have been using it at least once a week since Christmas and have not been disappointed!  I just shove every ingredient in the bowl and let it do it’s work!

4 quart mixing bowl

It has a lid with a hole to pour in liquid ingredients while not splattering all over the place.

I LOVE having this lid, especially with a small opening to pour liquids into it!

I LOVE having this lid, especially with a small opening to pour liquids into it!

It has three attachments, a stirring whisk, beating whisk and a hook for dough.

These are the three attachments that come with the mixer.

These are the three attachments that come with the mixer.

This is a 400-watt power unit with a four quart mixing bowl, the anti-splash cover, four speeds, and a 5-6 pound dough capacity.  It fits perfectly on my counter and is kind of cute!

I really do love my new toy and was really surprised my husband did quite a bit of research to buy just the perfect one for me!  See, it only took a little bit of hinting around!!  🙂

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Creamy Chicken Rice Soup

This is sooooo good!

This is sooooo good!

Since I am not back on track with meals from this past week,  I was trying to figure out what to make today that was easy and took very little ingredients that I actually had in my cupboard.  Then I had a great idea!  Over the past week we had lots of food brought in for us as we were rehearsing, getting ready for the play and while it was running.  One day we had various soups and salads.   There I discovered one of the best soups!  I went back for seconds and it was gone, so others must have thought it was good too!  I asked and found out who made it and she gave me the simple recipe.  I looked and also found one on Pinterest that was similar, so looked through my cupboards and found I had all the ingredients!

This soup is very easy and very, very good!  Everyone in the household liked it!  Here’s the recipe:

3 cups cooked Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice (there are several different varieties – use whichever kind you want!)
2 carrots (diced small)
1 cup diced chicken
1 cup flour
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 large onion, diced
2 celery stalks (diced small)
1/2 cup butter
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup half and half

Start cooking the rice before you begin working on the rest of the soup.  I usually get the “quick cook” kind, but if you get regular wild rice, it will take a while before it is ready!

Chop up carrots, onions and celery.

Saute carrots, celery and onion in butter until tender.  Add flour.  Add broth, salt and pepper (I just put a pinch of each in – you probably don’t even really need salt).  Bring to a boil.  Add chicken and half and half and reheat, but don’t boil again.  Add rice right before serving (if you put it in a long time before serving, the rice will keep cooking and get mushy).

***I used my own half and half.  It was 1 tbsp of butter melted and enough milk to fill one cup with the butter in it.***

 

I hope you try it out!  You’ll find out how delicious it is!!

 

Have a great evening!

 

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Lemon Yogurt Muffins

I absolutely LOVE anything lemon!  Even as a child!  I remember, when I was in 6th grade, getting a lemon lip gloss and wanting to eat it because it smelled so good!  Of course I didn’t, but I was tempted!  I have a lemon candle I bought to use for a ‘special’ occasion.  Not sure what that will be, but I have it waiting!  So, I was looking for healthy muffin recipes using yogurt and ran into this one on Pinterest.  They are super easy to make and I really liked the taste of them!  NOt all my girls like them and it may be because of the icing, but, it meant more for me!!  🙂

Here’s the recipe:

Adapted from Cooking Light’s Tuscan Lemon Muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 oz nonfat yogurt

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup canola oil

zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

1 large egg, lightly beaten

cooking spray

For the lemon icing:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 tbsp milk

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center.

In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, water, lemon juice, oil and egg. Pour the liquid mixture into the well of the dry mix.

Mix until just combined. The batter should be airy and light.

Stir in the zest.

Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for about 15 minutes, or until done.

Allow the muffins to cool slightly while you make the lemon icing.

This part is easy. Simply whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest, and milk. Then, drizzle over each muffin.

It makes 12, but I left 2 in the pan for my daughter after ballet, knowing we would eat them all and not save her any!.

It makes 12, but I left 2 in the pan for my daughter after ballet.

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Look at the gooey icing! Mmmmmm

Enjoy!!!!

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