Monday, December 23, 2013

It's What?

Christmas Eve..Eve?

I can't believe it. It's not just because it's been in the 70s here the past few days- it just seems that December has flown by.   The gifts are packed to go to my Dad's house tomorrow.  Tomorrow.

Hopefully, no one will be out and about desperately hunting that last perfect gift. I have to pick up a few holiday lottery tickets, for reasons I will not go in to. Suffice it to say, my Christmas Day plans were up in the air until mid-afternoon today.

I'm wishing you all a very wonderful Christmas, full of good times, good food and very, very little stress!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crocheting my brains out

It has been an interesting few weeks around my house.  To begin with, Tim & I temporarily switched laptops.  He had to work on ordination papers and his "B" and "N" keys randomly stop working- not really helpful for writing papers.   Now that I am back on my personal laptop (which is much larger than Tim's), it's like the height of luxury.  I'm also having trouble with my fingers hitting incorrect keys on the keyboard.  Ha, it's an adjustment.

I have been crocheting like crazy lately.  I had several orders to meet before Christmas.  Thankfully, the last one of those went out in the mail yesterday.  Now I just have one more item to finish up, hopefully by Christmas Eve, but definitely by Christmas Day.  Tim says I am going crazy.  I counter that years with him has already put me there.

I have done well this holiday season- I've managed to fight the urge to spend a lot of money on little dinky things that no one needs- even though it pained me to pass up some of the deals.

I better get back to the crocheting- Christmas is coming up SOON!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

All Quiet-

I've been pretty quiet for a while now and I wanted to give you some idea of what has been going on lately!

In addition to the rabbit shows, which take up my entire day, sometimes two, Thirty One business has been booming!  October and November saw a lot of parties and orders, which I am so thankful for.  I actually made in November what I would have made in a month working my old job.  So nice!

I've also been crocheting up a storm.  I have several orders to finish and want to have them delivered by Christmas- while it is a lot of fun, there is also a lot of work that goes in to each item, and the time commitment can be pretty large, even for small pieces.  Thankfully, I'm down to just one large piece to finish and two smaller pieces.  I think I might take a break for a little while after that, it's been go go go!

I am thankfully done with my Christmas shopping- I just have a few little things to finish up in regards to stocking stuffers for Tim.  It's so nice not to have to worry about all of that!  I hope you enjoyed the 12 Months of Christmas posts.  I very much enjoyed writing them.

Our house is decorated for Christmas this year! It's a major accomplishment, considering last year we pretty much did nothing.  The dogs already have their stocking stuffed, although somehow I bought more toys and treats that will go in the standard Santa-issued stocking.  I guess they get a gift under the tree too. 

Right now I am laying in bed under a very warm faux-down blanket I bought on deep discount at Kohls, dreading the thought of having to get up and get ready to leave the house.  It's 30 degrees outside and there is freezing rain.  Oh joy of joys!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Last Christmas Mile- (12 Months of Christmas Post)

Welcome to December! If you have been following the tips in this blog this year, hopefully you are mostly done with your Christmas preparations- if not completely finished!

If you haven't been following along, it's time to PANIC!!  Kidding...sort of. :)

Perhaps you still have a few people on your list, folks you just could not find the perfect gift for.   Don't worry, we've got you covered.

Look at the names left on your list.  Are all of them a situation where a gift is necessary?  Perhaps there are a few where a beautiful note written in a lovely card, hand chosen or hand made, for them may suffice.  Write of a wonderful memory the two of you made during the year and tell them how much their friendship means to you.  Perhaps attach a candy cane or two in a fun flavor, or tie it to the handle of a dollar store mug that you stuffed with hot chocolate packets.

Tim's Granny loves oreos, but she never buys them for herself, saying they are too expensive.  Every Christmas you can bet she ends up with various kinds of oreos, lovingly wrapped by different family members.  Perhaps your friend loves Godiva chocolate, gourmet cheese or a Hickory Farms summer sausage but can't bring themselves to splurge.  You could get them a small item, under $5 and give them a beautiful card to go with it. 

Tim never gets to have anchovies on his pizza because I think they are gross.  It doesn't stop me from buying him a tin or two and putting them in his stocking, to be used when we made individual pizzas.

Have you considered a coupon book?  Perhaps your friend has children but can't afford a babysitter, or can't find someone she trusts.  Make her a booklet of coupons offering one free babysitting evening per month (or even just give her six coupons to be used when she wants).  Talk about a huge value to her, but very inexpensive for you!

The sky is the limit with coupon books- dog washings, one house cleaning, one homemade meal, a garden weeding, a car wash- whatever you feel comfortable doing is a good idea to put on a coupon!


Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Regifting- Revisited

The following post originally appeared on Keep Me Sane on  November 21st, 2011.

As the holiday season approaches, we reach the sticky subject of Regifting.

Is it right, is it wrong? Let's see.

NEVER EVER EVER regift something that has been used or opened. I'm sorry, that's tacky. Would you give someone a cookie with a big bite taken out of it? No. Or if you would, please don't ever give me a gift lol.

Don't regift crappy gifts. Wait, I know, that's generally WHY we regift, but if YOU don't want that sweater with the sequined puppies on it, obviously no one else will either. Donate it to a charity or take it back to the store if you can't bring yourself to keep it.

If you DO regift, try to do it for a separate group of friends. If your usual group consists of you, Friend A and Friend B, don't take A's gift and give it to B. Chances are, A is gonna see it and recognize it- or else, you'll have to lie about it and that's never good.

What if someone gives me a coffee maker? I don't like coffee, I don't drink it and I never make it. As long as I don't open the box, this is a gift that could easily go to someone else- perhaps someone that DOES drink coffee. Of course, I could also just return it to the store (if I have a reasonable idea where it comes from).

So, in short, I'm ok with regifting, if done properly. Make sure it's a clean, unused item that actually fits the person or is something you genuinely think they'll enjoy. If you really hate the item, take it back to the store or give it to charity. There is always the yard sale option.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Black Friday Shopping

The Black Friday Ads are out.  I'm very disappointed to see that a ton of the stores are starting their sales during or even before Thanksgiving dinner.I could go on a long, long rant about how disrespectful I find it to start your sales during a time when people are supposed to be able to be with their families, but I'll stick to my point.

If you are thinking about going Black Friday shopping, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1.) Compare prices.   Usually BF prices are pretty comparable, so why go to three stores for three different items when you can get all three at the same place for a few dollars difference?  Consider the cost of your time and gas when deciding if it's worth that $1.00 savings.

2.) Have a game plan.  Know where you are going and what you are getting.  Having everything written down helps you keep your cool when you get in to the shoving and pushing crowd- you won't criss cross the store or miss out on that waffle maker you forgot you were buying your aunt.

3.) Divide and Conquer.  If you have other family members going out, see if they are willing to divide and conquer.  Ask them to pick up X and Y for you at Store A, while you grab Z for them while you are shopping at Store B.  Make sure you trust the person to pick up your items and pay you promptly for what you get for them.

4.) Don't sacrifice family for stuff.  Like I said- the sales are starting earlier and earlier.  All these deals will be available online and at various retailers. usually does a great job matching deals, you will just have to fight online to get them.  Regardless, remember- it's Thanksgiving.  Your family changes daily, someone here this year may not be around next year, as sad as it is to think about.  Don't sacrifice your time with loved ones to rush out and fight for cheap junk.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lost Food

Have you ever been digging through the freezer and found a lump of freezer burned meat that must be extremely old?  What about getting home with a new pack of chicken, only to find half of the last pack still in the freezer?

What about cleaning out the pantry and finding expired food hidden behind good food- items you know you would have used, had they not been hidden under other things.

So frustrating- and expensive.

My goal is to do to the freezer and pantry what I have already done to my Spice cabinets.  I plan to do a top to bottom inventory- what is in there, how much of it is there and where it is (top shelf, bottom shelf, etc).  When I put something in, I make a tally mark beside the name, when I use it, I erase or cross off the item.  It's a time consuming process to start with and of course, it has to be maintained every meal, but it is nice to know at a glance if I need more chicken, or where that can of beans is.

The hardest part of this plan is to get Tim on board with it.  The Spice cabinets are pretty much solely my domain, but the fridge and pantry is communal property!

With this system, I'm hoping to minimize those lumps of unidentifiable freezer burned meat and tossing out tons of expired food.  Ok, so it's not tons, but it is still throwing out money, not to mention the sheer waste of good food and the increased amount of garbage in the landfills.

Wish me luck on my new adventure!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall Food Hoarding

I am not sure what it is, but Fall always speaks to me in the most basic way- ie. I start hoarding away food for the winter.

I know, we have lovely little grocery stores and huge mega-stores that carry anything you want all year round, but still- come Fall, every year, my instincts kick in.  I mentioned the other day about harassing my Dad to fill my freezer with deer meat- I was totally serious.

My couponing always kicks in to top gear in the Fall and that is what I've been doing lately.  Popcorn and pizza may not be the healthiest meal, but hey- food is food and thanks to some deals, we have quite a few frozen pizzas and several boxes of microwave popcorn, along with various other odds and ends.

I have been a bit lazy recently with my couponing.  So much has been going on, it just hasn't been top priority, but with the colder temperatures recently, it has picked back up!

My saddest realization is the lack of canned and frozen fresh foods from this year.  Unfortunately, prices never really got to where I wanted to see them for me to *buy* and freeze corn.  Meanwhile, a ton of rain early in the season stunted the gardens in this area.   No fresh salsa for me, and definitely no canned salsa this year.  Sigh.

Oh well, there is always frozen pizza and popcorn :).


Monday, November 4, 2013

Hunting Season!

Black Powder season has come in for our area, and my Dad is like a kid on Christmas Morning.

I also love deer season.  While I don't often find myself in the woods, I have a deal with my Dad- I will pay for processing if he's willing to use one of his tags on a deer for me.

I got a call this morning that he had a doe down!  With a bit of debating, we decided to have the meat processed as hamburger, minus the backstrap which is too delicious to waste in mixing up.  We are going to split the meat from this doe, that way we both have delicious, healthy, clean meat for a reasonable price.

I teased my Dad that he needs to get back out there and get us another- I'd love to have the second cut in to steaks and sausage!

Hunting is such a great way to provide cheap, healthy meat for your family.   I'm thinking that later on this week I may join my Dad in the woods.  Even if you don't bring home dinner, it is absolutely amazing to watch these animals out in the fields.  I wish I could take my camera, but I don't want to risk spooking them!


Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankful for Deals! (12 Months of Christmas Post)

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? "Ha, yeah right" you are saying.  "There were no 12 Months of Thanksgiving posts!"

This is one of my favorite sales times of year.  I often stockpile certain items that go on sale- like Cream of Chicken Soup.  It tides us over the rest of the year for certain items and that equates to saving money.

This has nothing to do with anything Christmasy, I'm aware.  Hang in there with me.

This is a time where a lot of food item coupons come out and there are a lot of sales.  How can you use that? 

If you're planning on baking gifts, now is the time to get your baking items!  Take advantage of those pie crust deals, the sales on chocolate chips, etc.  If you need it, you can usually find it on sale, sometimes as loss leaders to get you in the store! 

You can often find great items to go in snack or favorite-food gift-baskets on sale around this time too.  If you're buying food items, just make sure they won't go bad before the next year- I like my gift baskets to be good at least through February.

It's also a great time to pick up canned goods for donation to local food pantries.  If your Christmas is a little more about giving back than getting stuff, consider how much you can stretch your donation by buying on sale and using coupons.


Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Early Frost

We had some random frosts, a little earlier than expected.  Luckily, most of my lettuce survived until I could put it in the garage (the benefit to container planting!)

The temperatures today reached the high 60s/low 70s, so I am expecting that the containers will be able to move back outside soon! 

I believe I am left with six lettuce plants.  That's not bad, I just hope I have enough time to grow them out to get a decent yield- at least enough of a yield to pay for the baby plants!

I have to admit, I'll be a little relieved when the growing season is officially over.  It's been a rough year.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Menu Planning Saves Money

So just the other day I posted on how eating meals based on leftovers can save money- we ended up getting five various meals off that Turkey Breast, by the way.  Yes, we threw a little away, but hey, there is only so much turkey you can eat, even when you love it and it's delicious.

I want to share another way we have money with meals- by meal planning.

We had Breakfast for Lunch the other day.  Lunfast, if you will, because Brunch is so done already.  It's also fun to make up words.  We made sausage, but knew that Tim and I would never eat an entire package of sausage.   Luckily, we had planned to make our own pizzas the next day, so we kept back some sausage for that purpose.   I had already frozen some small packages of hamburger just for such a purpose, so we thawed a bit of that too.

After making the mini pizzas, we had leftover hamburger, sausage, jalapenos and pieces of onion.  I tossed all of these leftovers in an airtight container and tossed them in the fridge.

Tonight's dinner?  Spaghetti!  Ohhh what a spaghetti sauce it was too, with two kinds of meat, chunks of real onion, small pieces of jalapenos- and of course, my other assorted spices.   Not the smallest piece of sausage, hamburger, or any other piece of food went to waste between Lunfast and the next two days.

When you know you won't use all of something- say you won't use a pound of hamburger in spaghetti sauce or an entire package of sausage on a pizza.  You can easily package and freeze it in to smaller portions, or you can save that effort and the freezer bags (or food saver bags, which are expensive!) by planning a menu based on "paying forward" extra amounts of food, the way the sausage appeared in three meals, the hamburger, onion and jalapeno in two- even the mozzarella cheese, which often ends up having small amounts thrown away, showed up in two meals, rather than being crammed in the back of the cheese drawer until it turns green and I find it.  Believe me- I never find it before it turns green, no matter how clean the fridge is.  Yuck.

Plan your weekly menu and take a second look at it.  Do you always end up with too much hamburger?  Plan hamburgers for dinner one night, spaghetti for the next, and split the package of beef!  Woo hoo.

Rather than toss out that leftover onion from the pizzas, can you add them to salad for the next meal?  See how you can save food, money and your time, by organizing your meals in advance!


Monday, October 7, 2013

A blog correction!

For some reason, most of my recipe posts were not being filed correctly under the label!  That should have been rectified now, so all recipes will be found under the tag "Recipes".



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Time, is on your side- (12 Months of Christmas Post)

Welcome to October! If you haven't been following along, be sure to catch up on the other 12 Months of Christmas Posts here.

October is a good time to look for those gifts you need to purchase.  You're still beating the rush, you're leaving yourself plenty of time to compare prices and if you need to purchase anything online, you've got a lot of built in time for shipping, delays- anything that might cause you stress on say- December 21st.

If you are looking for custom pieces, say something made by a local artisan or on etsy, you are giving them plenty of time to get an item made, have it proofed, do any last minute changes, etc.

Looking for your purchased items now gives you the opportunity to do price comparisons.  Often you can find comparable or better prices online, saving you time and gas money- why run to four different stores to find that perfect item when you can order them online and have them delivered to you?

Planning ahead and buying online can also help you save money- sites like Ebates are shopping portals that give you cash back, while sites like swagbucks is a search portal that awards you points that can be redeemed for all kinds of perks- amazon gift cards, paypal, etc.


Save Money- Eat Leftovers!

I decided to cook a turkey breast today.  Now, turkey is one of those items that I often find myself thinking "Gah, that is so expensive!"  I paid around $11 for a 4lb turkey breast.

That makes me cringe a little, not going to lie.  Then I sat myself down and said wait a minute- let's take a look at these numbers.

Tonight we will have Turkey, potatoes and homemade bread.

Day 1:

Turkey- $11
Potatoes- approx. $0.50 (I paid $2 for a five pound bag and suspect we will not cook more than a pound of potatoes tonight)
Homemade Bread- I'm going to randomly say $1 here for easy math- the cost of the ingredients for each loaf of bread is negligible.

The total of our meal tonight will be $12.50. 

But wait.  We always have leftover turkey, and on the menu tomorrow night is Shredded turkey in salad!

Day 2:

Turkey- $5.50
Romaine Lettuce- $1.49
Cheese- $2.00
Cucumber- $0.69
Tomato- $0.22
Croutons- $1.00
Onion- $.25 (one onion out of a bag we purchased)

The meal tonight will cost $10.52

But wait!  We won't use that whole package of cheese, we will only use half.  We will only use half the head of romaine.  We will use a small fraction of the cucumber and half the tomato.  There will be perhaps a fifth of the bag of croutons used- so our real meal cost looks like this:

Turkey- $5.50
Romaine Lettuce- $0.75
Cheese- $1.00
Cucumber- $0.15
Tomato- $0.11
Croutons- $0.20
Onion- $.25 (one onion out of a bag we purchased)

So our real meal cost is $7.96

We still have turkey leftover.  Sandwiches time!

Day 3:
Turkey: $3.66
Romaine- $0.38
Cheese- $.50
Homemade Bread- $0.50
Tomato- $0.11
Chips- $1.25 (half a bag)

Our meal cost is $6.40

We will still have turkey leftover.  So do you see how the cost of your ingredients goes down each meal when you do a little planning ahead?  By using the turkey for three meals, instead of that original meal costing us $12.50, it will end up costing $5.16.  Day 2, instead of costing $7.96 drops to $6.12.  Day 3 is $6.40.  If I can stretch leftovers until Day 4 (which with only two people, I definitely can), all those meals drop again!

So for $23.90 (before tax) I end up with:

4lb Turkey
Loaf of Homemade Bread
Bag of Potatoes
Bag of Onions
Head of Romaine Lettuce
Bag of cheese
Bag of Potato Chips
Roma Tomato

None of these numbers include coupon prices!

At the end of THREE meals, I still have most of the bag of potatoes, most of the bag of onions, a small amount of lettuce, a small amount of cheese, half a bag of chips, half a cucumber, half a loaf of bread and some leftoever turkey- We can easily get 4+ meals off this one turkey breast- Day Four could be a few chunks of turkey with some macaroni and cheese- which costs less than $1.00 a box.  I have some beans that I canned from a package of dry beans that will be a quick warm up side dish as well. 

Or I can go out and spend that same amount of money for a single meal.

When you plan something like cooking a turkey, ham, pot of soup, etc.  Try to consider ways you can use the leftovers that will make them fresh and new- and different.  The worst is to throw out your leftovers after one meal- instead of paying $3.66 a meal for the turkey, I would end up paying $11 for it.  While it is still a better value than going out to eat, the real value comes in the leftovers.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Creepy Dreams

I have a tendency to talk in my sleep and on occasion, I've been known to get up and wander.  It's not something that happens a lot in adults- most folks outgrow the childhood tendencies.  Lucky me.

Last night as I was laying in bed, the oddest thing happened.  I fell asleep without noticing it, which normally wouldn't be a problem.  However, in my dream-awake state, as I was laying in bed staring at my dresser, I noticed River had snuck in to the bedroom, walked to my side of the bed then snatched a toy that was near my head.  As she turned to flee, her tail slammed in to a nearby lamp and nearly knocked it over.  I screamed "RIVER!" then sat bolt upright in bed, disoriented.  

Did it happen? My eyes darted to the closed bedroom door.  Slowly my faculties returned.  No, she couldn't have gotten out of her kennel, much less have gotten in to the bedroom.  Nevermind there were no dog toys in bed with me.

A new thought occurred.  Did I really scream her name out loud?  Oh geez, not again, Tim loves to catch me sleep talking, the more outrageous it is, the more fun he has.

I paused, waiting.  When he didn't comment, I began to relax. I slowly scooted back down under the covers.


The bed shakes and I feel the familiar weight of Toby, the needy cat, laying across my leg.  With a gasp, I sit bolt upright again.

I had been fooled again.  Apparently I slipped back in to sleep nearly instantly, though my brain still thought I was looking down towards the foot of the bed, getting comfortable and preparing for sleep.  There was no Toby, though my brain clearly told me he had been laying on me.  I felt the bed bounce when he landed on it, I heard the slight creak of the springs.

I sat for a moment, gathering my thoughts.  Finally, I settled myself in and tightly shut my eyes- then shut my eyes again. 

Though I had some strange dreams, I managed to keep them from bleeding over in to real life.   *whew*


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Churro Cupcakes

Yes, I'm a rebel- those are Halloween cupcake liners and it's only September

Churro Cupcakes (from here!)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set the mixture aside.
  2. In a large bown cream together the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time. After this is combined add the oil and vanilla.
  3. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and stir lightly. Then add half of the milk, again mixing lightly. Continue these steps with another 1/3 of the flour, remainder of the milk, then the last 1/3 of the flour mixture. Mix it until just combined, careful not to overmix.
  4. Pour the batter into a lined cupcake pan, only filling each only half way. According to the recipe, these won't form a nice dome on top when baked so you don't want to fill them 2/3 of the way like usual.
  5. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes for regular sized cupcakes and let cool completely before frosting. 

  6. *I sometimes mix up some white granulated sugar and cinnamon, then dip the top of each cupcake (while hot, before icing is applied) to the mixture.  It gives them a nice crisp crunch :).
    I mix up a vanilla icing with cinnamon in it- yum yum yum. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Make Your Own Cream of Chicken Soup

Make your own Cream of Chicken Soup:

Ingredients (makes approximately 4 "cans" of soup)-
1 cup of non-fat dried milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup chicken bullion (not cubes)
4 Tbsp. freeze dried minced onion
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Mix all your ingredients together.
Store in an air tight container.

To Use:
For 1 can of cream of chicken soup, mix 1 1/4 cups of warm water with 1/3 cup of the dry soup mix.  Heat over medium heat until it reaches the correct consistency.

Easy Peasey! I typically stock up during the Thanksgiving season (when they go deep discount or loss leader prices) and get enough to last a year, but I might try this instead.


Monday, September 16, 2013

It's Been A While

I have spent the past five days filling in at my old job. 

While the paycheck and change to my new routine was welcome, I am definitely looking forward to sleeping in late tomorrow.

This past weekend, I sold five of the six baby guinea pigs I crocheted.  That paid for a chunk of yarn I purchased to make even MORE dish cloths.  They don't sell as well, but are useful and make great gifts. Plus, I just plain enjoy doing them and that is what it is all about anyway.

I have a Thirty One Party this weekend! I am excited, I'll probably spend some time tomorrow preparing everything so I don't leave it until the last minute. I say that now- I'll probably really wait until Friday.  That's how I roll.  Wish me luck! The last party was a $1200 affair which led to an excellent payday for me and a ton of free stuff for my hostess- I'd love to have a repeat.

We are preparing to head up to Pennsylvania- I can't wait! On the docket are trips up to Gettysburg (150th anniversary!) and some caverns- and of course, we have to spend a few minutes playing around Chocolate World! It will be nice to get away for a bit, though this is mixing business with pleasure, as I am attending the ARBA Convention. 


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Let's Start Wrapping This Up (12 Days of Christmas Post)

It's September now- we've talked about making gift baskets and making canned or dehydrated  food.   We've shopped the clearance, made lists of gifts in jars, gleaned nature during our vacations and now you tell me "But I'm not really that crafty- not enough to make someone's gift."

Way to wait until August to tell me this.

The truth is, you don't have to be that crafty.  In the modern age of pinterest, youtube and the wonderful google, you can find dummy-proof step-by-step instructions on how to do pretty much anything.

However, let's say you prefer to buy your gifts.  Nothing wrong with that as long as you watch to catch the sales, keep your budget in mind and don't wait until the last minute.

There is still savings to be had here.

Consider, if you have children, giving them cheap brown parcel paper and allowing them to draw the decorations on the wrapping!  You can do the same with brown paper bags or even computer paper for small gifts.  Trust me- this is one that grandparents will squee over.

A simple candy cane or a cheap $1 ornament attached to a plain package dresses up a gift more than that $5 a roll foil paper.

Save the colored funny papers from those Sunday newspapers you get anyway.  It's an "old school" way to wrap that costs you no additional money. Some folks use sales ads or suggest wrapping sports gifts in the Sports pages.  Do it how you want :).

Save gift bags when given to you and reuse them later. 

Buy paper, Christmas cards, tissue paper and gift bags when stores mark their items down to half off or more.  Even if you only get one roll, one bag of bows, etc. during the sales, you are still saving money.


Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I've been reading some articles on organization recently.  We have so much stuff.  It doesn't help that I am a pack rat extraordinaire and Tim is the king of "I'm going to do something with that!"

I've been going through the house with the hopes of getting rid of things we don't need.  I was able to dump several "but I'm going to fix that!" projects that have been sitting around waiting on me for years. 

I also started another Goodwill box.  This is the hardest thing for me to deal with- getting rid of things I might need.  I also hate looking at something and thinking "I spent X amount of money on that, now I'm going to just get rid of it."  You have to ask yourself if keeping something solely because you spent money on it is a worthy reason to store it.  If I keep it 10 years and never use it or look at it, why save it? 

I tend to keep gifts folks have given me.  Long after the giver has forgotten it, I will still store it- moving it from house to house, never unpacking it.  Why?

If you worry about moving something out and forgetting X- Auntie Em who gave it to, the situation surrounding it, that first concert you went to, the summer of '69 or WHATEVER, just take a picture of the item.   It's easier to store a single photo than an entire t-shirt, or a statue of a dalmatian from second grade.

I managed to fill up that Goodwill box today.  I still have a lot more to move- especially stuffed animals.  I have so many from my childhood that just sit in boxes and are useless.   It's time to let them go, even though sometimes it's like saying goodbye to old friends.  Still- I'd rather regain my sanity by getting this house in order, than haul the stuffed toys around until bugs ruin them or they fall apart from old age.

Wish me luck!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cheesy Chicken Bake

I found a recipe on facebook for "Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas"- but I'm not really sure why these are considered enchiladas- so let me introduce my much-modified Cheesy Chicken Bake recipe!

You'll Need:
2 cups of shredded chicken
2 cups of chicken broth
5 burrito shells (or 10 soft taco shells)
2 cups of shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
3 tbsp of butter
3 tbsp of flour
1 cup of Cream of Chicken Soup
1 (4oz) can of diced green chiles (not spicy)

While your oven is preheating to 350 degrees, grease up your 9x13 pan.

Mix your chicken and 1 cup of your cheese in a bowl.  Roll in your tortillas and place in the pan.  I added a little extra feta cheese since I had it on hand.  Nom nom.  I also cut two of the rounded edges off the tortillas once I start to roll- I don't like when there is a ton of extra tortilla- I'm weird, sue me.   So, the ends are still rounded, the part you roll over the meat and cheese are straight edged!

In a sauce pan, melt your butter.  Sirt in the flour and cook one minute . It kind of looks like you're making a biscuit in a pan at this point.  Add in your chicken broth and wisk it until smooth.  Heat it over medium heat until it's thick. 

Stir in your chiles and cream of chicken soup. Heat and wisk until smooth. 

Pour over your stuffed tortillas.  Are you drooling yet? 

Dump the remaining cheese on top, then Bake for 22 minutes.   Under high broil, brown your cheese for another 3 minutes.

It's done!

I think next time I may add in some more cheese and maybe a little salsa inside the shells.  This is another very customizable recipe.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Htipiti Recipe

I've really been enjoying cooking lately- it's amazing what you enjoy doing when you are home all day!  However, I do feel like my life revolves around loading and unloading the dishwasher.  Sigh

So, on to Htipiti!  It's a Greek Dip that I first tasted in a little hippie grocery store- I fell in love with it, but did not want to spend $6.00 for the tiny little container, so I decided to give it a shot myself.

 You will need:
1 12oz Jar of Roasted Red Peppers (or equivalent of peppers you have roasted yourself!)
4 oz (1/2 cup) of Feta Cheese
1 tbsp. of Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes to taste
Minced Garlic to taste

The great thing about this recipe is it is highly customizable.  You can try it by also adding a teaspoon of lemon juice, more garlic, less garlic, no garlic but a scallion- don't be afraid to play.

 Drain your peppers (I also rinse them off in cold water), then lightly squeeze them in a paper towel.  You want to remove as much liquid as possible.  Also, remove any skin you see on the peppers.

Add your peppers, feta cheese (I used  1/2 heaping cup of crumbles, if you use regular, drain off the liquid and then cut it in to chunks), garlic, pepper flakes and olive oil to your food processor.  I use around 4 shakes of the pepper flakes and 3 spoonfuls of garlic- I really like garlic.)

Pulse in the food processor! You want it to not be a smooth paste- unless you do want a smooth paste.  Really- whatever you prefer, though typically this is a thicker, chunkier dip- not a smooth one.  Taste it and decide if you want to play with the flavor a little more or let it go as is! 

I put some minced garlic in, then added a little "juice" from the garlic jar, which made the dip a little runnier than I was expecting- but it still tastes good!

I think this would make a fantastic alternative to tomato sauce on pizza as well- my mouth is watering just thinking about it!    I eat it with Pita Chips! Yum yum.

Refrigerate after it's made and enjoy!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hectic Hectic!

Things have been so crazy lately, this is going to be a general update!

The hens are doing well! Unfortunately the four bantams have pretty much been broody the entire summer, so they are eating, but not producing anything helpful.  Way to go girls.  The Australorp has split her time between broody and making eggs, but by far, the best hens have been the Ameracaunas.  They have been enjoying garden scraps and got plenty of hot dog buns (and a few hot dogs!) courtesy of the youth group not eating all their food at the meetings.  Spoiled girls!

Thirty One:
My Thirty One business is really starting to take off! One of my hostess's just ended up with a $1200 party- meaning she gets $250 worth of FREE stuff, three totally free hostess exclusives and three half priced items- she just can't figure out what all she wants, which is a great problem to have.  That payday for me is going to be very welcome too!

With the little extra free time I've been enjoying, I've really been having fun baking!  So far I've managed several different loaves of artisan bread- delicious! My absolute favorite was making the "churro" cupcakes from scratch!   I've taken advantage of the 40% off Michaels coupons to get a pan for mini cupcakes, mini cupcake liners and a few decorating tips.  No- no new business is being planned, I'm just enjoying playing around with decorating my cupcakes!

Birthday: I am old, I am old- I shall wear my trousers  rolled! I recently turned 29- which really isn't that big of a deal.  I've been operating under the delusion I had already aged another year for at least two months.  Man, my mind is going already!


Friday, August 2, 2013

Gifts in a Jar (12 Months of Christmas Post)

Mason jars come in various sizes and shapes.  Wide mouth jars can make very excellent containers for all kinds of jar gifts.   Tie a bit of ribbon to the jar, use a little fabric over the top and it's gorgeous!  Just be sure to look for wide mouth jars.

Food Mixes:  Cookies, Brownies, Cakes- there is no shortage on the internet for wonderfully fun, attractively layered mixes in jars to be given as gifts.  Don't underestimate an awesome jar of cornbread mix, along with a lovely printed recipe.

Pie in a Jar:  If you can find the right size jars, you can bake small pies right in the mason jar! These are fantastically fun ideas and you'll have your friends and family ooohing and aaahhing over them.

Bath Items: Sugar Scrubs, bath salts- this is another sky's-the-limit jar gift idea.  I like finding funky shaped jars (the best I found were at Lowes, of all places...). 

Memories:  Place beautifully typed or hand written memories on bits of colored papers and fill up a jar with them.  Tie a candy cane to the outside of the jar and paint it or just wrap a bit of ribbon around the top.  It's a very thoughtful gift for someone who has everything.

A quick google search will turn up hundreds of ideas, so get started!  Be sure to check the sunday inserts for coupons on Ball Jars!  Last year I scored lots of great jars at Dollar General. 


Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Target Trip- AWESOME

Check out my haul at Target today!  Now, would you believe I spent only $3.39 for everything you see in the picture?

I used three different phone apps- one was Target Cartwheel, which got me 10% off the peanuts, 5% off the strawberries and 5% off the meat.

Then I used a Target printable on the Right Guard, plus a Manufacturer's
coupon. It was free.

Then I used Target Mobile Coupons (you text FRESH to their number and get coupons that you open with your phone's internet browser) and got $1.00 off the peanuts, $1.00 off the snickers bars, $1.00 off the meat and $1.00 off the strawberries!

Then I used a $0.50 coupon on the strawberries, which I got when I joined Driscoll's email list.

THEN I used a $2.00 gift card I had earned through Shopkick.  You earn points for just walking in to Target or a variety of other stores, then you can cash out for various gift cards.

Oh- and I brought my own shopping bag, so I got another $0.05 off.

So there you have it- lots of different ways to coupon now, which can lead to huge savings- especially at Target, where you can triple stack Cartwheel, Target Qs and Manufacturer's Qs.  Add in gift cards that you earned and you can rock the trip!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reorganizing the Guest Room!

Now that I am happily unemployed (well, relatively, I do still sell Thirty One Gifts and work in the nursery on Sundays), I'm working on getting this house under control!

Today I've decided to tackle the guest bedroom- aka the junk room.  Unfortunately, when we moved we downsized.  I've donated, given away and thrown out tons of things in the three years we have lived here, but somehow we still have too much junk!

Part of it is my unwillingness to get rid of some of my craft items.  I want to paint more, I want to cross stitch more- I want to finish those latch hook projects- but I just don't have the time to do it.  Still, I find it hard to move out my items.

Part of the problem is that the house also came with furniture I don't want and don't need- but we have to find a place to "cram".  If we stick it outside in the garage and it gets ruined, it's still our fault, even though we've asked them to remove what we don't want.  Sigh.

So, I'm working on trying to condense what I can't bring myself to donate or give away.   I'm trying to put all the unwanted furniture in the guestroom.  It's not going to give folks who need to stay the most luxurious room in the house, but it comes down to inconveniencing one person for a day or two, versus everyone in the house all the time.

I definitely think this is going to be longer than a one day project!  Accccck!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Awesome Diced Potatoes

You'll Need:

*3-4 medium sized russet potatoes.  Adjust this based on the amount of people you will be feeding, but these are great- you'll end up scarfing them up, trust me.
* Lipton's/Great Value/Whatever Onion Soup Mix (1 packet)
* 1 tbsp. of Olive Oil.

Peel and dice your potatoes.

In a baking dish, mix your potatoes with the Olive Oil, making sure they are coated.  You don't want them too oily.   These cook better if they aren't piled up too deeply in your baking dish, so try to keep them to a thin layer.

Dump in your soup mix and stir well, making sure the potatoes are well coated. 

Pop in to the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, making sure to keep a check on them.  Stir occasionally.

You're done! Delicious!    This recipe can also be adjusted to use canned potatoes quite easily- just reduce cooking time in the oven.


Thursday, July 25, 2013


I'm doing more canning this year- I've found it so darn convenient- I love taking an hour to make 3-4 times the amount of something I need, if it means I will only take 10 minutes to use it later on!

For instance- tonight we had French Onion Soup for dinner. My preferred recipe can take forever to make and messes up multiple dishes (pots, pans, the mandolin slicer, measuring spoons, etc.  Not to mention I have to get all that junk out).  I also can put it in the exact amounts I need it- we don't end up with WAY too much soup leftover that we have to either toss out or eat until we are sick of it. Money saving! woo hoo! Bags of onions? Cheaper than buying a few at "full" price.

By doing it all at once, I can simply pop open a jar, toss in the croutons and some gruyere cheese and it's done!  Today I cut up a small onion (by hand- it's not such a task when it's only ONE) to add a little crunch to the soup.  I didn't have to measure a single thing and a dinner that would have taken me an hour to make took 10 minutes.  

I plan on canning potatoes this year.  I'm able to buy bags of small russets and do all the peeling, dicing, etc. just once.  Then I can pop open a can of potatoes, mix up any ingredients I want (I have a killer recipe coming for you guys- cheap, easy and quick!) and voila- fancy side dish is done.  It also will take them a shorter time to cook, since the potatoes cook while being canned.

Don't feel good? Pop open a can of french onion soup instead of ordering pizza.  In a hurry? Pop open a can of potatoes to make hashbrowns, instead of paying out the nose for a bag of frozen ones.  Not to mention- my salsa tastes way better than the junk you get at Walmart.  Sorry- but it's totally true.  Healthier too- we don't get all that extra sugar, GMOs, whatever.

There is something satisfying in seeing all that homemade food on your shelves as well.  Makes me feel so darn self-sufficient!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Benefits of Eating In-

I was thinking today- as I often do.  The topic was money and how to acquire more of it, or keep more of what I have- as it often is.

I thought of the website 5 Dollar Dinners and said to myself "Hmm.  $5 a dinner for a month is $150. Fast Food at $12 for 2 people is $360.  $20 a dinner (going out to a decent place for 2 people) is $600!   WOW."

That's right.  Eating at home can save so much money.  I know most of us won't spend $20 a meal every night, but think about it this way- Let's say you go out for a sit down dinner twice a week (let's call it dinner on the weekend), and grab fast food one night a week.  That's $72 in food that week, compared to $35 making a $5 dinner each night.  Wowza- that's twice the cost.

Sometimes you can come in better than $5 by eating out.  For instance- by utilizing a Papa John's coupon code tonight, I got a large pizza with tons of toppings for $8.54.  We'll get two meals (for 2 people) off the one pizza, coming out to $4.27 for each meal.

Now is the time to start if you are interested in making cheaper meals.  Cheap corn is easily frozen.  You can go ahead and can your tomatoes, freeze your peppers- whatever you want to do.  I'm going to try canning potatoes this year as a quick to prepare and inexpensive side dish.

Couponing and working the sales is essential to making cheap dinners.  When you do go out, utilize coupons and bring home leftovers! $20 for your two people meal out isn't a budget buster if you get two meals off of it!

Drink water! That helps cut the costs of eating out as well.

The benefits to eating at home extend beyond saving money.  You know what is in your food, how it was prepared, you don't have to wait in line to get it and it always is going to be just the way you like it.

I'm currently working on eating in more.  It's satisfying to make your own meal and even more satisfying to make it with ingredients you grew or hand chose.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Google It!

I am giving making yeast rolls once last shot.  I always manage to royally screw it up, most recently adding too much salt.  It should be noted that this is the same recipe I use for my homemade bread, so I really should have a better handle on it, but what can I say... it's my Achilles Heel.

I turned on the bread machine and it appeared to be stuck on a 4 hour bake cycle.  I tried several things- holding the on/off button for 10 seconds.  Unplugging it, then plugging it back in.   Randomly mashing buttons while cursing at it.  I tried everything ya'll.

Now this is where you can save some money.  I could have chunked it out and bought a new one.  I could have taken it in to be repaired somewhere.

Instead, I jumped on google and looked up "Panasonic bread machine won't change functions".  <-- eloquent, no?   Instantly up came pages of people who had the same problem.  The solution? Hold the on/off button until it turns off, then hit the timer button.  Voila, it functions again.

Woo hoo! Saved myself having to buy a new machine or pay someone to do the exact same thing!  So next time you have an appliance or item that went a little wonky for no reason- simply google what it's doing.  Chances are, someone online has a simple solution for fixing your problem!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Garden Robber

We lost another tomato to our garden robber.   This is the second tomato that has been partially eaten on the vine.  Add in an already pitiful yield and we just can't afford to lose more produce!

I think the obnoxious, whiny birds that are living around the house are robbing our plants of their ripened tomatoes.  We've managed to get two tiny little tomatoes, approximately roma sized, off of our "Better Boy" plants.  Ugh.

I think I will tie a plastic bag to one of our tomato sticks and position it near the plants that are fruiting.  Hopefully the bag moving in the wind will discourage the small birds from scarfing up our vegetables.

The chickens enjoyed getting what was left of the tomato, again, so at least it wasn't a complete waste.

I also purchased the book "Container Gardening for Dummies" yesterday from a clearance table. Hopefully it has some helpful hints and tips for me!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jalapeno Happiness

We went to visit with some folks from our church today.  It wasn't the best day for it, since Tim and I are both exhausted from a long night at a rabbit show.  We didn't get home until the wee hours of this morning.  While I got more sleep than he did, I still feel ready to drop.

Regardless, we went to eat lunch with the couple and the lady, Diane, offered Tim a big, beautiful bowl of Jalapenos to take home with him.

It seems that while she loves to grow them, she doesn't care for the spicy jalapenos.  Of course, her plants are fruiting like crazy, while ours have only a single, pitiful jalapeno on them.   At least the one I thought was dead is finally beginning to bloom!  The rain we have had lately has everyone worried about small harvests.

I'm trying to decide what exactly we will do with all these jalapenos.  Tim isn't a big fan of pickled jalapenos, but I may try a jar again anyway.    I know he'll eat some fresh or in various dishes.

I definitely think I am going to try making a small batch of  "Cowboy Candy"- aka Candied Jalapenos.  I figure if they don't turn out well, at least we didn't spend a lot of money or use our entire crop of jalapenos on them.  I also want to include a jar or two in some Christmas gifts!


Friday, July 12, 2013

Mind Blown.

If you are looking for some silly, fun reading and happen to be a fan of Pixar movies, check out this blog by Jon Negroni:  The Pixar Theory

Long story short- every Pixar movie is interconnected and takes place in the same universe. 

Ohhh the theory- it is wonderful.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Vacation Items- (12 Months of Christmas Gifts)

It's July- the big time for vacations and when millions of people flock to the beach or other destinations.

The beach is a perfect place to pick up special gifts- literally- for free.  Hunt the shores for sea shells and use them to glue to a plain store-bought (or hand painted) picture frame.  This could work great as a gift for a mother or grandparent, especially if you have an old picture of the family at the beach.

Gather seashells and sand from the beach.  Put the sand in a vase (try the dollar store), place a candle in the sand (make sure it's slightly buried in the sand for stability) and sprinkle cute shells you found (or bought cheaply at the gift shops) around it.    You can do this same thing with beautiful pebbles from a mountain stream.

Pick up river rocks if the beach isn't your thing.  Wash them well and let them dry, then use a paint pen to write words on each rock that describe your recipient- "Funny", "Happy", "Inspiring"- try to do around 10, then package them in a cute little container.  Write a beautiful note to the person you are gifting them to, to let them know where the rocks came from and that each one describes how you feel about them.  This is a perfect pick-me-up gift and a nice bowl picked up on clearance could make a lovely way for them to be displayed year round.

Even if you don't want to make a gift, try looking for unique items while you are shopping on vacation.  You never know when you'll find a completely unique item in one of those funky little tourist shops- it's a great way to avoid a big box store and you can even share that you got the item in X- a subtle way to share with the person that you were thinking about them at a time other than Christmas.


Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Yummin'

We have had a ridiculous amount of rain lately- the yard is sludge, but at least it helps keep those awful temperatures at bay.

The best part of summer, in my humble opinion, is the bounty from the vegetable garden!  Unfortunately we had to go with the container garden this year and so far I am not terribly impressed.  Our first two tomatoes were tiny and split open- the chickens enjoyed the treat, but BOO that we didn't get to use them ourselves!  One tomato plant is doing pretty well, it has a ton of blooms and the few green tomatoes on it's branches are already larger than the first two from the other plant.  Now if I can just keep it from going bad because of all the water!

Our green pepper plant is thriving in it's pot.  We even have three tiny peppers (and a ton of blooms), which I find amazing.  Last year it was late August before we had green peppers, even though we planted earlier than we did this year.

One jalapeno is doing well, we're just waiting on it's single pepper to be ready to pick, but I have high hopes for a large yield later in the summer.

Our Hot Banana Pepper is by far the success story so far.  We've had several peppers that have found their way to our dinner table and WOW are they hot.  They have the power to make you sweat and light your mouth on fire- which is perfect for those light summer dinners of sandwiches and salads.

I miss our large garden, complete with corn, onions, cucumbers and other money-saving Summer must-haves, but I've still got high hopes for the plants we have.  Every little bit helps and it just isn't summer around here without a harvest from the garden!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Almost Free!

Tomorrow is my last day of my last full week of work.

Yes.  I'm leaving my job- and I couldn't be more excited.

I've been working on the crocheting orders I have- hooray!  I've also been throwing myself in to earning money through my online surveys and earning gift cards through Swagbucks.  I've actually already had another job offer, but I'm not interested in jumping in to another position before I've even fully left this one.

The book is on hold again.  I've noticed that if I am unhappy, the first thing to go is any creativity.  Since I've been unhappy in my "real" job for a while, you can imagine the tiny bit of work that has gotten done.  It drives me nuts because I'm so very close to the end and my beta reader has been begging me for months to finish up the next installment. Working on it!

 Speaking of books, I got an awesome and unexpected honor recently!  A friend of mine is publishing her first book soon (I'll be sure to share details of that as it progresses) and she wanted to give me an acknowledgement in it!  That piece of news absolutely has made my week.

So, here we go- I'm about to step out into the world of being unemployed.   I'm excited and plan on reviewing our budget to make sure there are no unexpected expenses that derail my wonderful break!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Crafting Craziness

With the church yard sale/ craft show coming up this weekend, things have been crazy lately.

I'm using this opportunity to downsize how many crafting things I have and I am even running "Clearance" on some of the earrings I had made in the past, just to get them gone!

I've also been crocheting like crazy, trying to build up a non-existent inventory in three weeks.  I've managed some amigurumi (toys) and some dishcloths, but nothing like what I was hoping to have done!  Luckily I still have a few days in which to try to finish up a large stuffed puppy and more dishcloths.

I am hoping the items sell! I've posted some pictures of the amigurumi items on facebook and the response has been good- I even have one or two folks looking to commission their own items, so that gives me hope.

Mostly, I just really enjoy the process of crafting, crocheting especially.  I love to make things, but after a while, what do you do with all you've made?  This way, I can cover my costs for materials and continue to do things I enjoy.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Free Flatbread from Chilis

If you go here, you can join the chili's email club and get a coupon for a free flatbread!  No worries, if you are already a member of their club, you just have to sign in to get your coupon.

Choose which week you want to use it (there are only two options) and choose your store, then be ready to print your coupon!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Video Games

Tim and I used to play a lot of video games- now it's definitely more of a situation where Tim plays a few select titles and I play almost never.

Typically, video games hold very little value.  They are mass produced and if you purchase them when they first come out, you're looking at a $50-$60 price tag, which rapidly depreciates.

As we are getting ready for a church yard sale this weekend, I asked Tim to take a look at the boxes of video games we have sitting around gathering dust and decide if he wanted to sell any.  I came home to several piles of games, most in the $1 pile, while three to four had prices ranging from $2-$5.  Most of our games are just like new- we take very good care of everything from the disk or cartridge to the instruction booklet and case, so he felt like a few of the games could be worth a little more.

We went through the pile he wasn't sure about letting go and decided to just move out everything- we weren't playing the games, after all, so why keep them?  Just as he was about to slap $1 on them all, I suggested we check the prices on just in case.

WHOA am I glad that we did!  We found 6 games that were worth $15-$25 each and of those 6, 5 have already sold- in less than 12 hours. 


What surprises me most is that the games that are selling the best are old Nintendo Gamecube games.  I guess it truly was the best system ever, because the value is holding to these games like crazy!

So the moral of the story is- price check your items when you decide to sell them- don't just assume you know the price.  Yes, it took us a little longer and yes, most of them were $1 games.  However, we made $100+ by spending 20 minutes making sure of our prices.  I could do that all day long.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Gift of Summer

Give the delicious gift of summer this Christmas.   As we are are gearing up to enjoy the summer months, stop and consider how they can help you gift this Christmas.

If you are anything like me, you end up with more garden produce than you can use.  Even if you don't garden yourself, produce is plentiful and prices are low at your local Farmer's Market.

Consider canning extra- whether it is salsa, plain tomatoes, beans, applesauce, stew ingredients (just add meat!)- whatever you want to share.  You already have it on hand anyway, all you need is a few jars and canning apparatus.  This may not be the cheapest way to go if you don't already have a pressure canner on hand.

You could also freeze excess to be used to cook special treats in December.

Jams and jellies with a fresh loaf of bread or a fun recipe for bread could make a delicious and inexpensive gift basket.

During apple season, why not use a dehydrator to make some homemade apple chips?  You could even give a gift basket made up solely of dehydrated food- fruits, veggies and beef jerky! Just plan now and make sure to seal everything in good quality foodsaver bags.   Consider home made trail mix for any "outdoorsy" friends and family.

If you can make it, you can gift it.


Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Petsmart Friends and Family Discount Days!

It's one of the best times of the year if you have a pet (or more than one!) 

Petsmart has released their Friends and Family Coupons! Starting June 6th and running through June 9th, take 15% off anything in the store!  Remember, this coupon DOES stack with your regular manufacturer's coupons, so keep an eye out for the deals.

I like to stock up on cat food, dog food and cat litter while I can- the store usually runs some pretty decent deals about this time.

Thanks Joni!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Free Redbox Rental 5/29/13

Use the code "YYNNM957" to get a free dvd rental from redbox! You can upgrade to a blu-ray, but you will have to pay the 30 cents difference (if that makes a difference to you).  The code expires today, 5/29!


Free Full Size Body Wash from CVS

Go here and enter your email address!  The Minute Clinic from CVS will email you a coupon for a free full size body wash.  Mine has an expiration date of 6/23, so you have plenty of time to redeem the coupon. 

If this isn't something you will use for yourself, you can always donate it or give it to a friend or family member.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Party's Over :(

Well, vacation is over and I'm finding it very hard to be back at work.

It seems that any small step that could have been taken to save me a ton of work was studiously avoided.  It's not about having to do the extra work- it's about the little bit of thoughtfulness that clearly no one had.  It's about the lack of respect- just pile it up on Kristen, she can deal with it all when she gets back, even when it is as simple as walking two extra steps to do it themselves.

Yes, I'm a little more bitter than usual.  Does it have anything to do with my raging headache? Maybe.

Does it have anything to do with Tim being gone for a week, leaving me with ALL the chores?  Perhaps.

Mostly, it revolves around the fact that I truly dread going to my job.  I wonder what stupidity I will have to deal with each day.  Who is going to be overly dramatic about everything? Who is going to try to use me as their personal slave for the day?

There is so much more to life than this.

I'm planning a meal schedule now, then hitting the budget hard again.  A church yard sale coming up will net us some additional money and I plan on cutting down the rabbit herd for the summer- less to feed and money in my pocket, if all goes according to plan with the sales.

Meanwhile, it's back to job searching.  Vacation is over, the good times have stopped rolling. 

Back to work.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Kindle Fire Owners:

If you are an Amazon Kindle owner, I have good news!  Amazon is offering $5 in free "Coins" to buy any apps for your kindle that you want.  You don't have to do anything special, just go to and there is an announcement on the homepage!

Coins are going to be a new currency for apps on amazon and you can buy them at discount (each 100 coins is equal to $1). So if you purchase them, you are essentially getting a discount for buying something you wanted anyway.

But again- if you own a Kindle Fire, you get 500 free coins to spend on apps!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Free Target Giftcard

Shopkick is offering a free $2 Target Giftcard to new and old users alike!  I've been using Shopkick for months and I love it.  You earn points by opening the app as you walk in to certain stores (Target, Best Buy, Macys, etc).  You do have to remember to do it close to the front doors, otherwise the app has trouble verifying you are actually in the store.    Then, you earn more points (as many or as few as you like) by scanning items in the store or referring friends.  I can't tell you how many giftcards I've redeemed from them, but they stay right on your phone and you just have them scanned at checkout.  You can also use multiples per transaction.  LOVE IT! :)  It's really easy to earn your rewards and the sky is the limit.  I have also found the app to be unobtrusive, so no worries it is going to bug you to death.

If you don't have Shopkick, go here to download it to your phone!

After you sign up, go here to get your FREE $2 Target giftcard next time you open the Shopkick App in Target.

Done!  It's a free $2.00!


Dave Ramsey's Guide to Budgeting

Go download Dave Ramsey's Guide to Budgeting now, while it is free.  DR's "Total Money Makeover" is what started this whole thing for me- the way I look at money, the way I view debt- even my intense couponing.

This guide to budgeting will help you understand how to make your money work for you.  It walks you through the fears people have about their money (fear of seeing that you are really eating out way too much in a month, for instance).  He'll explain his baby steps and the envelope system.  He covers various paycheck scenarios, marriage and having a baby!  This is just the icing on the financial cake, as obviously he goes more in depth in his books- the ones you have to pay for.  However, it's enough to get you facing in the right direction!

What are you waiting for? It's free and it just might start you on the journey to living debt-free. 


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Making Soap!

I had a block of melt and pour coconut soap base that was sitting around, taking up space in the house.

Today, I decided to finally use it up!

To begin with, melt and pour is extremely easy soap to make. You literally chop the block of soap in small pieces, melt it in the microwave, then pour it in to molds.  Done.  Oh yes, you can color it, and fragrance it- you can add things to make it an exfoliating bar, but ultimately, it's as easy as its name implies.

My one pound block of based made 4-3oz. bars of soap and 2 2-oz. bars of soap.   A few of them are Eucalyptus scented, the rest are apple scented.

I think that ultimately, melt and pour soap will be less satisfactory than the soap you're used to using in the stores.  Not to mention that start up costs, while not prohibitive, they are at least going to cost you around $15 for the bare minimum block of soap, fragrances and mold(s).  The fancier you get, the more costs you have.

Now, if you are clever with your use of coupons (think 40% off at Michaels), you can cut your start up costs to $9.00 or under.  Still, you are looking at $0.56 per ounce of soap, plus the time to actually make it, costs to wrap it up and keep it clean, etc.

Now, if you have an excess of goats milk, a good market and really want to go at this in a business sense, I know there is money to be made selling a good quality milk soap.  However, it is certainly not melt and pour easy.

If you don't mind the extra costs and time involved, if this is something you just want to do for the pleasure of working with your hands, then it's enjoyable to see your creations pop out of the mold.  If you think you are going to save a ton of money, then at best I am thinking you can eventually get down to around $0.32 an ounce or cheaper, but you can still purchase soap at the store cheaper, especially if you coupon.  So- it is what it is. 


Monday, May 6, 2013

Nearly Vacation Time!

Tim and I are gearing up for vacation time and I have to say- mentally I've already pretty much checked out.  It has been a trying time recently, with stress over my job(s), tragedy striking some dear friends and just the gloomy weather we have been subjected to for the past week and a half or longer.  I try not to focus on how long it has been dreary (and cold!) so I hopefully don't struggle with every minute of it.

This year we are going on vacation with a pair of friends.  I am so excited because they are making the trip down from Toronto, Canada to visit with us! I'm feeling a little pressure to get us some extra good deals because of their costs in flying down.

So far, my attempts at cutting costs haven't been the most successful thing ever- with the economy beginning to recover, everywhere is stopping the constant promotions.  I have heard Disney World is even trying to cut back on Free Dining Offers, with the thought of cutting them out entirely in the very near future.  If Disney World isn't doing promotions, what hope do I have of finding something in Tennessee?

Still, we'll do our best! We plan on doing some cooking while on vacation and of course I will stop at the state border to pick up pamphlets and brochures, which often contain money saving coupons.  Several days we have "free" activities planned, such as hiking.  My trust "gas buddy" app will help us score the cheapest gas in the area.  All in all, as things stand the vacation isn't going to be too expensive as is.  However, every penny counts!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Yard Sale Season (12 Months of Christmas Post)

Ahhh May.  The time of year where the pollen has mostly died down, even our friends and family to the North are finally putting away the snow and a staple of summer begins to show up in your local newspaper- Yard Sales!

Keep an eye out, while you're out and about.  I can't tell you how many times I have found new-in-the-box items at yard sales.  Most recently, I found two crystal "sweet trays" that are Christmas themed, still in the box, for $1 each!  I bought them both and they will be making their reappearance this December in one of those various "draw a number, steal a gift" parties that small groups are so fond of.  Perhaps you can find a beautiful plate that can be washed and later grace the table of a friend, piled high with heaps of freshly baked Christmas cookies.  Vases, mason jars, pots- there are tons of items that can be useful to the forward thinking gifter!

If the thought of buying your loved ones gifts from someone's front yard makes you feel a little squeamish (and for some folks, it does!), check out the christmas decor that is usually available.  Maybe you can find a new strand of lights to replace the burned out one for pennies on the dollar.  Maybe there are boxes of Christmas cards that you can use.   You just never know what you'll find in the modern day treasure hunt known as yard sales, garage sales, estate sales, etc.

If you find some out of season clothes still with tags on them or toys new in the box for a good price, why not consider picking these items up to donate them during the Christmas season?


Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

No Beer Purchase Required-

If you live in FL, GA, KY, MD, NC, SC, TN, VA or WV run to print this $4 off an $8 purchase of meat or seafood!  You don't have to purchase beer to get this rebate, so it's like getting your meat 50% off!  It runs the month of May, but the rebate will probably hit max prints before that. 

You must be 21 years of age to participate in this rebate.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Garden Plan

So I decided to go with a container garden this year.  I am a little sad, because this will mean less plants and no onions, cantaloupes, etc.  We're keeping it simple this year, just some tomatoes, peppers and lettuce if I can find it.

I've decided to do something a little different as far as planting the tomatoes go- to keep my costs low, I am going to try planting in the 50lb rabbit feed bags! A picture tutorial will follow.

If this works, I save the costs of buying all those containers and I won't have to do any weeding! Not to mention it will be a little something extra that the bunnies will be helping with, since they are already going to provide the bulk of the soil I'm planting in! Might as well use their feed bags to further assist in the planting!

Now the biggest problem is going to be how to keep the chickens away from the ripening fruits and veggies this summer. :)


Friday, April 26, 2013

Recipe: Toasted Sesame Chicken

It's been a while since I posted a recipe.   This one is SUPER easy, super quick and very good!

You'll need:
Campbell's Skillet Sauce- Toasted Sesame with Garlic and Ginger.
1 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 pound of chicken breast
Angel Hair/Thin Spaghetti noodles
Salt to taste

A quick word on the Skillet Sauce- at the store near my house, the one that is very expensive, these run $3.00.  However, you can find a $0.75 off coupon here.  Right now, the store in my area that doubles coupons is running triples, so I can get these for $.75.  Keep an eye out for deals, to save yourself money.

Start your noodles as you normally would.  Make however much you want for feeding the number of people in your family.  I always tend to make too much.

Put the tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet and get that heating up. 

Slice your chicken in to strips, then place them in the skillet.  Cook them until they are mostly done, then remove them and set them aside.

Cut your yellow onion in half and slice some rounds. I made mine around a quarter of an inch thick.  Cut these in half (or cut your onion in quarters, then do your slices.  However you do this, do it!).  Toss the onions in the pan and lightly caramelize them.  You don't want your onions cooked to death at this stage, so err on the side of not cooked enough, rather than too done.

Toss your chicken back in the pan with the onions, then pour in your Skillet Sauce and mix it all up.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cover the pan for 5 minutes.  I checked it once about halfway through to stir again.

Your noodles should be about done by now, so go ahead and drain them, then put them on your plate.  Simply scoop some onions, chicken and sauce on to your bed of pasta, add a little salt to taste, and voila! A quick, cheap, easy meal!

This one is really customizable.  Add in less chicken if you want, or more onion.  Consider other veggies that you think will compliment the flavors in the sauce.  This would also work very well with rice.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Ring, My Precious-

So recently, Tim lost his wedding ring.  In typical Tim fashion, he managed to fling it from his finger while wiping dirt on his shorts (I don't know why he was doing that either) and also in typical Tim fashion, he was 100% certain it was about five feet to the left of where it actually was.

After crawling around on my hands and knees for hours in the grass that desperately needed to be mowed (thanks mower guy, for getting upset when we asked you not to scalp the lawn and now doing a "I will cut the tip off each individual blade of grass approach) and literally cutting the grass with scissors (or pulling it up by the handfuls) we gave up for the night.

Ultimately, it took another hour, this time with a metal detector, before I found his ring- and it was a near thing then as well.

Yesterday, I had to make the hard decision to "bench" my rings. After the weight we have lost (around 35 lbs for both of us), they don't fit.  For some reason, yesterday was particularly bad, as they nearly flew off in spectacular fashion at least a dozen times.

I guess I'm going to have to decide if I want them cut down and resized, or if I think a ring guard will suffice.  I have heard the ring guards can be immensely uncomfortable, but I also worry about permanently resizing the ring, only to end up unable to wear it if I gain weight back (which I am not planning on doing, but you know how plans go sometimes.)

Oh well, at least I will know the rings are safe and sound for now, not ready to leap off my finger at any given point in time, never to be found again.

It just feels really weird to be without them.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Cheap Plants

With it being planting season, there are tons of places you can go to find cheap, healthy garden plants!

Try your local High School- many FFAs have greenhouses on campus and look to sell plants at rock bottom prices to raise money for their club.  It's a great way to support your community and save money.

Prison Farms.  Yes, Prison Farms.  There happens to be one near me and they offer the best prices around.  Like the FFA, it helps keep the money in your local community and helps pay for programs that give prisoners life skills. 

Farmer's Market- another local place to try for great prices! You can also find a wide range of plant varieties here.

Craigslist- You never know what you may find here! Perhaps someone started 15 tomato plants, expecting half to die.  Now they have more than they need and will happily sell them off at a buck each.  It's worth a look!


Free Bruegger's Bagels on April 25th!

We’re proud to celebrate our anniversary alongside Children's Miracle Network Hospitals as they celebrate theirs! Help us honor 3 decades with 3 free bagels at participating bakeries. While you’re getting your bagels, please consider donating any spare change to help support kids treated by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals each year.

Go here to download and print your coupon for three free Bruegger's Bagels on Thursday, April 25th!  The coupon is valid from Open until 2pm.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Coupon to Christmas (12 Months of Christmas Post)

It's April now.  How ya hanging in there?  If you haven't started considering Christmas, go back and read the 12 Months of Christmas posts to catch up.

 Now is a great time to gather materials if you haven't already.  Consider craft stores like Michaels, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, etc.  Each week they come out with some new, awesome coupon- 40% off 1 regular price item!  50% off 1 item, 25% off your whole order including clearance.

Why pay full price for items you need?  Is there a person in your life that loves to bake cookies?  Why not put together a cookie basket- include cookie cutters, a cookie sheet, mixing bowl, sprinkles, etc- and buy each item with a coupon!  Save things like sprinkles for closer to Christmas, but there is no reason not to buy the non perishable items earlier.  Simply make note of what you bought. 

Maybe you want to crochet your sister a scarf.  Find a pattern, figure out how much and what kind of yarn you need, then look for "no dye lots"- you can buy a skein at a time at 40% off.  If you need 3 skeins at $5 each, you will spend $9 buying them with coupons separately, rather than rushing to get them all at once in early December because you waited too long.   If you have a friend or two that you often go out with, maybe they will be willing to buy the yarn for you with a coupon and money you provide (most craft places accept printable copies or take them right off your phone).  

Know someone that wants to learn a craft? Put together a crafting basket the same way- one piece at a time, with a coupon!

Even if you want to skip all this homemade stuff, keep your eyes out for coupons or sales run in your stores.  Have a Vera Bradley fanatic in your household?  Their outlet often posts great sales.   Bath & Body Works lover around? Pick up their favorite scents with a coupon such as "Get a Free Signature item with any $10 purchase" or during their semi-annual sales.

Coupons are your best friends as long as you don't wait too long.  Even in December, there are still great deals to be had, but beware of buying something just because it's on sale or overspending because of a great deal. Keep in mind, if you bank on the sales at Christmas, you may spend more in time and gas than you save trying to find hot items.  If you must shop the toy/electronic sales, try to limit who you need to buy for to just a few people, rather than leaving your entire list to the last minute.  This gives you the opportunity to shop the deals, without setting you up for marathon shopping weekends.

Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Another Sad Day

I had a "12 Months of Christmas" post scheduled for today, but in light of the events in Boston yesterday, I have rescheduled it to post tomorrow.

There are no words to describe the tragedy in Boston. I feel like lately there have been entirely too many posts like this- too many innocent people caught up in something terrible as they try to go about their daily lives, or spend what should have been a fun day out with friends and family.

Prayers are going out to those whose lives have been impacted by such a senseless act. 

Now we wait to see if this was a "homegrown" act of terror, or an outside force :(.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Free Sample of Cat Food

Get a free sample of Fancy Feast Delights with Cheddar when you like Tidy Cats on Facebook and fill out the form!  Remember, if you don't have a cat, you can always donate it to a shelter or to a friend who does have a cat!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Despite it being an absolutely gorgeous day outside, there were some chores that absolutely needed to be taken care of. Oh well, every day can't be a play day.

Tim headed outside to clean rabbit cages.  We've had a request to purchase rabbit manure for gardens, so he had to sacrifice a little extra time to bag up the poop.   The dogs got to spend a lazy day playing outside and the chickens got significantly more free range time.

While Tim was working on rabbit cages, I decided to tackle the house.

I hate to clean.  Hate it.  Usually my approach is get a bit done here and a bit done there and ultimately I spend hours piddling around and not getting much done.

I decided today to tackle one room at a time.  First up- the dining room.  We don't sit at the table that often, so Tim tends to toss his junk on that table and go on about his business.  It took quite a while to sort through the junk and throw it out, then put the useful items in their proper place.

I did some dusting, which I also despise, and spend the next 10 minutes sneezing around the house.  Ughhh dust.

I found some old blankets tossed in a chair that the cats had been sleeping on- they went into the washer and are being dried now.

I spent a good hour cleaning the garage (also a site of "just toss it and forget it) and setting up the new heavy plastic shelves I bought from an estate sale yesterday.  Then I gathered up all the various boxes of mason jars for canning season and moved them out to their new home on the shelves.

All in all, I spent 3 1/2 hours working on the garage and the dining room. There is still plenty of cleaning that needs to be done, but I think I earned a bit of a break!