Monday, January 31, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 31, 2011

So this past week we were struck with illness in our house.  A lot of coughing, sneezing, and runny noses!  One child ended up with bronchitis, and I am off to the doctor today for myself and youngest child.  We will see what we have!  The upside of being sick is that I lost 3 lbs and we were forced to eat at home all weekend!  My parents were also very gracious and brought over homemade Chicken Paprikash for us on Saturday night! 

I do not know how much cooking we will accomplish this upcoming week.  We will be trying to recover and we have a lot of things going on at my son's school for Catholic Schools Week.  Hopefully we will all be healed, because Wednesday is his first ever concert!  I cannot wait!

Monday - Leftovers
Tuesday - Steak Fajitas
Wednesday - Cheesy Potato Crock pot Soup (recipe to follow)
Thursday - Meatball Subs
Friday - Eat Out
Saturday - My Niece's Birthday Party
Sunday - Crock pot Roast

This post is liked at MPM at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Free Cup of Yoplait Yogurt

Go here to score your free cup!  Your coupon will arrive by mail in 2 - 4 weeks!

2011 Pantry Challenge – The Results

Overall, we had an amazing Pantry Challenge in 2011! My main goal was to spend 20% less on our grocery budget. Our normal budget is $300 per month, so the Pantry Challenge goal was $240 for the month. Well we succeeded and only ended up spending $239 this month for groceries! Wow that is amazing! I am thinking of the possibilities if we could spend that every month!

The downside of a Pantry Challenge is that we are a bit low on a lot of our pantry staples as well as meat in our freezer. So I am going to have to make a rather large grocery trip within the next couple of days. To every negative, there is a positive. The positive is that I have some Giant Eagle Foodperks that are expiring that need to be used! So I can save an extra 12% on my groceries. The other positive is that February is a shorter month, so I think we will stay below our $300 budget once again.

I have participated in this Pantry Challenge for the past two years and I cannot express how beneficial it is to participate in this challenge. It also comes at an amazing time of year, right after the Christmas spending rush!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monthly Home Project - Cinnamon Scones

So one of my 2011 Small Goals, was to try one "home" project per month.  Well this month I decided to try this amazing recipe for Glazed Cinnamon Scones from Money Saving Mom!  I am not much of a baker besides the normal cookies and boxed cake mixes, so this was a stretch for me.  I am so glad that I challenged myself, because the end product was AMAZING!  I had to keep myself from eating all 8 pieces for myself.  The people at work were much appreciated when I brought in this early morning treat for them! 

I will defintely be making these again.  They would be great for brunch!  Go here if you want to try the recipe for yourself!

What We Are Reading Right Now...

I cannot believe it but my oldest officially turned 5 today!  Kindergarten is on the horizon and we are so excited!  He is into a couple of new books lately which include Clifford's Birthday Party and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten!

He has always been into Clifford books and this one lately due to his upcoming birthday.  Best part was that I got it for free from Paperback Swap!  Miss Bindergarten vigorously prepares for the first day of school as her 26 prospective students (one for each letter of the alphabet) do the same. Any child made anxious by the first day of kindergarten should find great comfort in this book's two parallel stories.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reduction in Employee Social Security Tax Rate

The Tax Relief Act of 2010 makes a major change in the withholding of social security taxes from employees' wages by reducing the employee share of social security tax from 6.2% to 4.2% for the first $106,800 of wages paid in 2011. The maximum that can be withheld will be $4,485.60, a $2,136 decrease from the 2010 maximum of $6,621.60.

Frugal Tips - Ways to Reduce Your Energy Bills

The colder months are here are some tips for insulating your home better . . .

1.  Apply Weather Stripping to doors and windows.

2.  Insulate outlets and light switches.

3.  Install a programmable thermostat and set it to turn down the thermostat at night and when you are gone.

Saving Money With Your Water . . .

1.  Install a tankless water heater.

2.  Insulate your water heater,, just make sure that you don’t cover up important pieces of the heater such as the thermostat and the air intake.

3.  Wash clothes in warm or cold water.

Appliances are your biggest energy sucker. Use these tips to reduce the energy they use:

1.  Pack the dishwasher. Don’t over pack it, but make sure that you never run the dishwasher for three or four plates and some silverware.

2.  Air Dry Large pots, pans, and dishes. These take up a lot of room in the dishwasher, and you’ll use it less if you dry these items yourself.

3  .Buy appliances with the Energy Star sticker on them.

4.  Use the microwave or toaster oven to re-heat food. Don’t use the oven just to re-heat something. It uses much more energy to heat up.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 24, 2010

What an amazing weekend we had!  My oldest son had his fifth birthday party at a bowling alley.  The kids (and adults) has a great time bowling for two hours!  We enjoyed cake too all to a Toy Story 3 theme.  Most of the kids bowled until the bitter end, when they turned the lanes off!  His actual birthday is this Wednesday, so the tradition is he gets to pick the dinner location or what I cook.  However I have an idea what he will pick becausee he LOVES this Mexican restaurant by our house!  So here is what is on the menu this week:

Monday - Shake n Bake Pork Chops
Tuesday - Chopped Spinach Salad and Garlic Bread
Wednesday - Birthday Boy's Choice
Thursday - Skillet Lasagna
Friday - Beef Tips and Noodles
Saturday - Birthday Party!
Sunday- Turkey Roast and Mashed Potatoes

This post is linked at MPM at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

What We Are Reading Lately...

So Christmas has come and gone and my boys are into some new books!  My two year old's favorites right now include Whose Baby Am I and What Makes a Rainbow!

He has learned a lot of new animals from Whose Baby Am I including zebras, polar bears, penguins, and owls!  What Makes a Rainbow is a great book for learning colors and there is a magic ribbon that adds a color of the rainbow with each turn of the page!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Guest Posts

Hello Readers!

I am looking for a few guest posts for the upcoming months due to my work schedule and a family vacation. If you have a post you would like to submit, send it to me at Be sure to attach any photos as well as a short bio of yourself and your blog (if you have one). If your guest post is chosen I will also include free advertising space for your blog button for a week from when your guest post is published!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Pantry & Freezer Staples for Frugal Cooking

We all know its 6 pm and what are we going to have for dinner? With work schedules, school, sports, and activities our lives as families can be very hectic! It is all too tempting to run through the drive thru and pick up a quick meal for the family. In our house, we normally do not do fast food on a regular basis. It is normally a treat and usually only occurs about once a month. Below are some items I keep on hand at all times in my pantry and freezer that can easy create a quick and easy family dinner!
Lean Ground Beef
Chicken Breasts
Diced Onions
Spaghetti Noodles
Spaghetti Sauce
Egg Noodles
Tomato Sauce
Chicken Broth
Beef Broth
Diced Tomatoes
Tomato Paste
Canned Corn
Bread Crumbs
Taco Shells

I find that having these items on hand, I can often create a quick and easy meal with other items in the refrigerator or freezer or use the items just by themselves! I can quickly make Tacos, Chili, Chicken Noodle Soup, Spaghetti, Chicken Parmesan, Skillet Lasagna, and much more!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stuffing Crusted Chicken Tenders


Bag of Stuffing Mix (I used a leftover bag of Home Pride Oven Roasted Cubed Seasoned Stuffing)
1 Cup of Buttermilk
Chicken Tenders

In shallow dish pour in buttermilk and season with pepper. In a gallon size bag, add stuffing mix and seal bag. Using a rolling pin, crush the stuffing mix. Coat chicken in buttermilk then add to bag and shake to coat. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place chicken tenders on foil. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. We like to use either Honey Mustard or Ranch dressing to dip them in! – 30% Cash Back

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Shop through EBATES first and earn an additional 1-5.5% cash back and $5 if it is your first purchase through EBATES!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

$20 Amazon Card for $10 - HOT

Hot, hot deal over at Living Social, the deal is a $20 gift card for $10.  I just ordered mine, hurry up and snag yours too!

Order yours now here!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Voluntary Tylenol Recall

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc. is voluntarily recalling, at the wholesale level, certain lots of TYLENOL® 8 Hour, TYLENOL® Arthritis Pain, and TYLENOL® upper respiratory products, and certain lots of BENADRYL®, SUDAFED PE®, and SINUTAB® products distributed in the United States, the Caribbean, and Brazil. These products were manufactured at the McNeil plant in Fort Washington, PA prior to April 2010, when production at the facility was suspended. The company is initiating the recall as a precautionary measure after an extensive review of past production records found instances where equipment cleaning procedures were insufficient or that cleaning was not adequately documented. It is very unlikely that this impacted the quality of these products.

Consumers can access full product details and other information about the recall on the website or by calling our Consumer Care Center at 1-888-222-6036 (available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET and Saturday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern Time).

Read more here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

3 Free Bagels at Bruegger's!


February is Bruegger’s favorite month –it includes National Bagel Day AND Bruegger's birthday! But don’t worry about getting them a gift – they want to give us one instead. On February 8, stop by any Bruegger’s bakery until 2 p.m. and pick up a free gift – THREE FREE BAGELS.

There is one catch… fill out the survey  which has just three short questions about your bagel favorites.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day in Cleveland Plus

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day in Cleveland Plus

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 17, 2011

So yes I went MIA for the remainder of last week.  I have lots going on at work, good things of course, so I have been busy!  One thing we did not abandon was our weekly menu plan.  This is a vital asset in our home.  We have a dry erase board on the fridge which posts all of the monthly events and of course, our menu.  Even if I have to work late, my husband knows exactly what to make.  It is a lifesaver in our house so that we are able to stay within our budget and not be tempted to grab a quick bite out!

Monday - Beef Stew (carrots from freezer)
Tuesday - Stuffing Crusted Chicken Tenders (Recipe to follow) (leftover stuffing mix)
Wednesday - Beef Stroganoff (noodles & beef tips)
Thursday - Pizza Night (pizza sauce)
Friday - Eat Out
Saturday - My Son's 5th Bowling Birthday Party
Sunday - Turkey Roast and Mashed Potatoes (turkey roast in freezer)

This post is linked at MPM on I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Sears Big Weekend Event!

Sears is having a MLK Big Weekend Event!  On-line coupons include save $20 off a $200 purchase, use promo code WEEKENDSAVINGS, or free shipping, use promo code MLK.  Offers are valid through 1/18/11!  Shop through EBATES first and earn and additional 4% back on your purchase, plus a $5 bonus if it is your first time using EBATES!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How to Save Money on Food While Vacationing - Reader Question

I recently had a question from a reader:

 I am a single mom of two and I am planning a trip to visit family this summer.
We have to stay in a motel so I am writing you asking your opinion
on how I may cut costs on eating for us while we are gone and not to be
eating just pb and j the whole time.  I've thought about taking a crock pot
with me I don't know if motels are into that or not please enlighten me
of your ideas. Thank you 

This is a tough question, however we have experienced this and let me share some of my initial thoughts:

1.  Choose a hotel or motel that offers a complimentary breakfast.  Most chains like Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, Country Inn and Suites, Baymount Inn, and more offer this amenity.  This is by far the easiest budget saver out there.  Every morning breakfast is taken care of and you can more then likely have a different item each morning. 

2.  Secondly, make sure the hotel room has a refrigerator and microwave.  If the hotel does not offer breakfast, make sure to pack cereal, bowls, and spoons.  You can always buy milk when you get there and eat breakfast in your room before you venture out for the day. 

3.  Pack plenty of bottled water, juice boxes, and snacks.  This will save you a lot of money if you had to run to the vending machine instead for these items.  Boxes of crackers, pretzels, dried fruit, applesauce containers, and fruit cups are all great snacking options.  If your room has a microwave, pack some microwave popcorn!

4.  Lunch and dinner are a lot more difficult.  I really do not know how hotels feel about crock pots.  I would ask first because they may consider it a fire hazard.  I would however have some bread, pb&j, and lunch meat on hand.  At least you will be able to handle a few lunches.  Also it would be great to have some hot dogs and items such as Lipton Rice & Sauces because they can all be cooked in the microwave.  Also perhaps cans of Spaghettios and Raviolis, just remember to pack some dishes to cook them in!

5.  If you do need to eat out, look for budget friendly options like ordering a pizza and eating it in your room.  You can also look on for deals happening in the area you are visiting!

Check out some of my other points in my Vacationing on a Budget series!

If you ever have a question, drop me an e-mail!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Today's Groupon Deal

Still haven't tried Groupon yet?  Well today's deal is $20 worth of food for $10 at The Root Cafe in Lakewood.  What a great way to stretch your eating out dollars a little further!  Go here to join now!

The Root Cafe uses organic ingredients from local farms to prepare its vegan and vegetarian salads, sandwiches, and baked goods. The menu of healthy munchables, with offerings ranging from oven pizzas and Mediterranean rice dishes to artisan sandwiches shaped such as Egyptian obelisks, showcases the cafe’s global inspiration. Opt for high-quality coffee and other non-alcoholic drinks to pair with a selection of sweet, vegetarian pastries and baked goods.
The Root Cafe uses organic ingredients from local farms to prepare its vegan and vegetarian salads, sandwiches, and baked goods. The menu of healthy munchables, with offerings ranging from oven pizzas and Mediterranean rice dishes to artisan sandwiches shaped such as Egyptian obelisks, showcases the cafe’s global inspiration. Opt for high-quality coffee and other non-alcoholic drinks to pair with a selection of sweet, vegetarian pastries and baked goods.

Super Easy Soup

Ready for a nice, warm bowl of soup, but don’t have all day to make it? Try this easy method for a quick meal with whatever you might have in your house – all you really need is broth in your house. Keep a box, some cans, or even some low sodium bouillon as a staple in your cupboards and you’ll be set.

1 box or 2 cans of broth
Any type of cooked meat (chicken, turkey, pork, beef) or Tofu cut into cubes or strips
Chopped onions
Carrots, celery, snow peas, green beans, corn, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, etc (any type of veggies you have)
Soy Sauce (optional)
Noodles or Rice

Add broth to stock pot and begin warm on medium heat, add onions.

Chop, slice, or julienne vegetables to your liking and add to stock pot.

Add the meat to your soup.

Add seasonings to your soup. Be careful on adding too much salt or soy sauce especially if you are not using low sodium broth.

Serve over cooked rice or noodles or simply as is!

It is that simple to add more or less of all the ingredients and you just made a homemade soup and used up your leftovers!

Check out my other Soups recipes here!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 10th!

So the first week back at work and school went smoothly.  We even managed to cook up some good meals to stay within our grocery budget and stay within our Pantry Challenge 2011 guidelines.  We continue on our Pantry Challenge this week and I have indicated in ( ) what we will be using from the pantry or freezer for our meals this week!

Monday - City Chicken (cream of chicken soup)
Tuesday - Chicken Noodle Soup (Egg noodles)
Wednesday - I have a work dinner - hubby is in charge!
Thursday - Meatball Subs (meatballs in freezer)
Friday - Hamburgers & French Fries (both in freezer)
Saturday - Toy Story 3 On Ice & Eat Out!
Sunday - Dinner with Family

This post is linked at MPM over at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Being Frugal and Making it Work

So I found (or they found me) this amazing website called Being Frugal and Making it Work!  Every week they host Fantastic Frugal Fridays where other bloggers can share their Frugal Posts and Frugal Tips!  Well thanks to my posting I won FREE AD SPACE on the site!  I encourage you to hop on over there and check out what Bridget and JR have to offer!  JR and Bridget are both stay-at-home moms and manage their budgets with a frugal hand!

Thanks also for everyone for visiting my site from Being Frugal and Making it Work!  Check out some of my frugal posts here:

What We Did on Our Christmas Vacation
Why This Christmas was Less Stressful
2011 Grocery Budget

and my series, Going From Two Incomes to One!

Extreme Couponing on TLC

So I missed the premerie on December 29th, but it is going to be aired again on January 15th at 10pm on TLC! 

Americans throw away $57 billion worth of coupons every year. But for savvy savers, coupons can mean the difference between saving and spending thousands of dollars. On Wednesday, December 29 at 8 PM ET/PT, TLC will introduce four of the country's most coupon-obsessed savers who will do anything for a deal. Their game is simple - get as MUCH as possible for as LITTLE as possible. But these extreme couponers aren't just looking to save a few dollars here and there. Instead, they're looking to cash in on some serious savings and they're doing it by any means necessary - dumpster diving for coupons, charting weekly store circulars, creating elaborate math formulas and stocking up on as many products as possible. With over 367 billion coupons printed each year, the addictive art of smart shopping can be an extreme rush for any consumer.

Meet the shoppers of TLC's EXTREME COUPONING:

Nathan Engels - Villa Hills, KY - Cartographer

Nathan started clipping coupons four years ago when he and his wife took a closer look at their finances. Now, debt free with more than 10,000 items stockpiled in his garage, Nathan is preparing for the biggest haul of his life. On his latest visit to the supermarket, Nathan is leaving with over 2,000 items - his most massive checkout to date. With 1,100 boxes of cereal, 300 toothbrushes and 60 bottles of hand soap, Nathan is looking forward to topping himself and saving thousands of dollars in the process!

Retail value: $5,743.00 Nathan's cost after utilizing his coupons: $241.00 - 95% savings!

Joanie Demer - McKinleyville, CA - Stay at home mom

For Joanie, clipping coupons started out as a hobby three years ago. But just three months in, she quickly discovered the financial gratitude associated with smart shopping. Now, Joanie is known as "The Krazy Coupon Lady" and to satisfy her daily coupon cravings this stay-at-home mom collects more than 500 coupons each week by doing something most women won't do - she jumps in dumpsters! During her latest trip to the supermarket, she fills four carts full of 250 items including 40 boxes of pasta and 20 liters of soda.

Retail value: $638.64. Joanie's cost after utilizing her coupons: $2.64 - 98% savings!

Joyce House - Philadelphia, PA - Retired Nurse

Through careful planning and smart shopping, Joyce hasn't paid for a toothbrush, toothpaste or deodorant in 34 years. The savvy saver has been on her own since the age of 12 and at 15, was a single mother using coupons out of necessity. On her latest trip to the supermarket, Joyce brings along her daughter to teach her the basics of extreme couponing and ends up walking out of the store with hundreds of dollars in savings.

Retail value: $230.38. Joyce's cost after utilizing her coupons: $6.32.

Amanda Ostrowski - Cincinnati, OH - Storage Facility Manager

Amanda is a full-time Storage Facility Manger in Cincinnati, OH who spends up to 70 hours a week researching in-store promotions, clipping coupons and surfing the internet for the latest and greatest deals. She already has a stockpile of products from previous couponing ventures worth up to $15,000. But this extreme saver is most proud of her collection of toilet paper - over 3,000 rolls - enough to last the average couple about 40 years! Now, with the help of her husband, Amanda is preparing for her largest checkout ever consisting of nine baskets of food, beauty and pet products including 218 boxes of pasta, 268 containers of noodles, 100 bottles of sport drink and 150 candy bars.

Retail value: $1,175.33. Amanda's cost after utilizing her coupons: $51.67.

EXTREME COUPONING is produced for TLC by Sharp Entertainment, LLC.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

5 Foods to Avoid When You Are Dieting

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight? Well I found this interesting article by The Cleveland Clinic on foods to avoid while you are dieting; a few of them particularly surprised me!

1. Drinks With Calories – choose drinks with zero calories and ones that are NOT loaded with sugar.

2. Store Bough Smoothies – these can contain upwards of a 1000 calories, make your own with fresh fruit, veggies, and low fat yogurt.

3. Store Bought Trail Mix – they normally contain a lot of trans fat.

4. Frozen Diet Entrees – typically loaded with sodium and very few nutrients.

5. Fiber/Protein Bars – skip the bars and eat fresh fruit and veggies.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A 2011 Pantry Challenge

I am joining Life as Mom in her Pantry Challenge for January! I did this last year and it turned out to be a success! I create my "own rules" for this challenge because each family is different. The key is to use up a lot that is in our pantry and save some extra $$ this January to kick 2011 off right! My rules are as follows:

1. Use one pantry item or freezer item in each meal.  I will indicate in my weekly meal plan which pantry or freezer item I am using.

2. Only buy what is necesary which includes produce, meat and dairy products.

3. Cut our normal grocery bill by at least 20%, so we can only spend $240 this month!

I'm linked up over at Life as Mom for this challenge!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hearty Beef Barley Soup

This is a great recipe to re-purpose leftovers.  I made a 3# roast on Sunday night and we used the leftover meat in the soup.  Not bad for a $7.00 roast getting two meals out of it!

1-2# fully cooked pot roast cut into chunks
10 oz bag of Egg Barley (found by spaghetti noodles)
1 can of corn, drained
1 cup of carrots sliced
1/2 cup onion diced
64 ounces of Beef Broth

Add all ingredients to stock pot except Egg Barley.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile in another pan, cook the Egg Barley according to the package directions, add the Egg Barley to the soup and serve.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 3rd 2011!

Well our Christmas Vacation has officially ended.  It was so nice having some time off around the holidays.  Monday means back to reality, school and work!  I also took a break from cooking!  I am a very schedule orientated person and last week was tough!  Dinner time often came around and I had no plan!  So it is now 2011 and I am back on the plan!  Hope your 2011 starts off with a bang, a good bang :)!

Monday - Hearty Beef Barley Soup
Tuesday - Shake n Bake Pork Chops
Wednesday - Spaghetti
Thursday - Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders
Friday - Pizza Night!
Saturday - Birthday Party!
Sunday - Turkey Roast and Mashed Potatoes

This post is linked at MPM at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

New Item I Cannot Live Without!

Gone is 2010, however one new item I found this year, will definitely stay in our household.  Here is my new favorite product from 2010!

              Purex Complete 3-in-1

I am absolutely in love with these new laundry sheets.  They are so easy to throw them in the washer and then transfer them to the dryer with the clothes.  Plus, I can always score these for less than a $1 in most cases, making them very economical!  I just hope the coupons and BOGO sales continue in 2011 or I might have to say adios to this product!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Free Febreze Noticeables MIR!

I am all about FREE after rebate items!  Here is a great one from Febreze!

Trade Up to a Febreze NOTICEables warmer for FREE

First, purchase a new Febreze NOTICEables scented oil warmer.

Send your NOTICEables receipt, UPC code and completed trade-up form.

Get your noticeables rebate check for $3.50.

Rebate is valid from 1-1-11 until 6-30-12!  I HIGHLY recommend saving this form or printing it now just in case it disappears!

Old Navy - 10% Off Plus Free Shipping

2 days only January 1st and 2nd get an additional 10% off online when you use promo code ONEXTRA10, plus receive free shipping on all orders greater than $50, no promo code needed!

Shop through EBATES first and receive 8% cash back!

Happy New Year 2011

2010 was a great year for myself and my family!  We had a lot of changes in our family for the better!  We are well set to enter a new year.  I am really looking for to 2011.  We have a lot of fun things planned for our family and will hit a milestone when our oldest will go to kindergarten in the fall for the first time. 

Wishing everyone a very Happy and Blessed 2011!