Thursday, February 28, 2013

Target Deals

I don't do a lot of couponing at this point in my life but when there are good deals that I know I can use and it's convenient to make a trip to get them, I'm all over it!

I noticed via Money Saving Mom that Target had some good deals using their store coupons this week and I was going there anyways. So I printed some coupons, loaded up the toddlers and made a quick trip!

I got 2 bottles of bleach (64 cents each), 4 jars of spaghetti sauce (50-60 cents each) and 2 picture frames (FREE). All are items I would buy anyways and I was looking for frames for a gift idea I have!

 So a pretty good little shopping trip if I  do say so myself!

What deals have you gotten lately? Do you use a lot of coupons or are you like me and pretty much only use them if completely convenient?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homemade Spice Blends and Mixes

One way I save a little money and minimize our consumption of preservatives is to make our own seasoning and mixes!

These are very quick to make especially if you have a  well-stocked spice collection.

Some of our favorites and the mixes I have on hand right now:

1. Rotisserie-Style Chicken Seasoning. I almost always use this when cooking a whole chicken. I triple or quadruple the spice blend recipe and have it on hand to save me time later!

2. Israeli Spice Rub. This is one of our very favorites--a little spicy. Good for chicken breasts  and even chicken legs. I've also used it on a turkey breast and want to try it on fish.

3. Ranch Dressing Mix. I've only used this in a recipe so I can't vouch yet for how it would taste as a dressing. But we really liked it in a  recipe. I did whir mine in my coffee grinder for a powdered consistency.

4. Onion Soup Mix. I've used this in both casserole recipes and as a dip. It's very good. The turmeric does make the dip rather yellow so if that bothers you, it can be omitted; I didn't notice any extra flavor from it.

5. Taco Seasoning. Simple and easy! I was using a recipe that was good but about a mile long. This is much easier with only a few ingredients!

These take minutes to mix and are easy to store in Mason jars--mostly pint or half-pint. I keep lids from mayo (and honey) jars to use on my jars for storage. The lids aren't exactly aesthetically pleasing but I'm ok with that! Baby food jars can be used to store small amounts of mixes as well.

I like to keep my spice blends in the freezer for freshness but if you're going to use them pretty fast, they should be fine in your cabinet.

These mixes are so handy to have all made up and ready to use!

Do you make any homemade mixes? 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frugal Five

Not as frugal of a week: went to Lowe's for some needed household items and starting to look at supplies needed for home projects. Shopping for fruit trees. Got eye exams. Ate out a couple of times--some were frugalish, some not. Need to replace a ceiling fan/light; have priced some and found a couple we like but haven't made the final selection yet.

There are just times that it seems as though we're spending more. Even if I don't like it--it is part of life! Most of these things were planned for and that is the beauty of a budget!

But I still came up with 5 frugal activities for the week:
  1. Attended a free worship concert with a band featuring some of our friends. It was wonderful and not just because it was free! :-) Someday we will pay to see them in concert and it will be totally worth it.
  2. Our ice container was getting really full. Based on the freaking out of kids whenever an ice cube was dropped on the floor, I knew they'd enjoy playing with some ice. "I want ice!" "No, my ice!" I filled a dishpan with ice and took it out on the deck one sunny afternoon. They. had. a. blast! I also provided some plastic containers for them to fill and dump as they pleased. No cleanup--we just left the ice out to melt!
  3. Saved the woody ends of asparagus in hopes of making something like this soup. Also along the line of no-waste cooking, I saved the leftover sauce from this to use with some other cooked veggies this week.
  4. Shopped at Aldi this week--they had very good produce deals this week!
  5. Even with all of our purchases, we still were able to save some money by buying on sale and  using store coupons. One large item we bought was more than 50% off because of this! 
Hopefully, your week contained less spending than mine did! Tell us about your frugal endeavors in the comments! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pinned It, Made It: Ranch Mushrooms

I tried these Ranch Mushrooms for our Sunday Fellowship potluck. Aldi had mushrooms on sale for 69 cents a package so it was a good time to make this recipe!

Only three ingredients and cooked in the crockpot! Mushrooms, a stick of butter and a package of Ranch dressing mix.

I used homemade ranch dressing mix because
 a) we try to avoid prepackaged stuff with preservatives and MSG and other fancy words and
 b) half of my household doesn't like ranch dressing!

I figured a homemade mix may not taste quite so "ranchy" but instead more "herby". This is the recipe I used--I whirred it into a powder in my coffee grinder so it would be more like the  bought mix. (The comments said to use less if powdered--I used around 1 Tablespoon.)

The verdict: 

This couldn't be easier and it turned out delicious! Everyone who likes mushrooms really enjoyed this dish.

I used my little 2 quart crockpot and 1 pound of mushrooms (2-8 ounce packages) filled it up. But they cooked way next time I would add another package after they started cooking. There's plenty of sauce to accommodate more mushrooms.

I saved the leftover butter sauce as the pin said that it was great on steaks or veggies--thinking I'll use it to cook some other veggies this week! Yum!

I'll definitely be making these mushrooms again!

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It Monday over at Country Girl At Home!**

Friday, February 22, 2013

Owl Babies

Have you read the book Owl Babies?

It's a delightful tale of three little owls--Sarah, Percy and Bill-- who wake up one night to find their owl mother gone. They wonder where she is and have a joyous reunion when she returns.

A good friend of mine, who happens to be a retired kindergarten teacher, recommended Owl Babies for the toddlers a few years ago. Every little one that I've read this book to has absolutely loved it.

I don't yet own my own copy but we get it from the library. We actually have it in the house right now and Toddler Girl and Toddler Boy can't get enough!

I remembered pinning this stuffed owl  and this owl bag a while back and I had the crazy thought yesterday to make some owl babies for the little ones using these two sources.

There wasn't a tutorial that I could find for the stuffed owls so I drew an owl shape freehand.  My drawing skills aren't the best so my shape wasn't at all symmetrical and perfect and the owls look a bit wonky in certain areas.

The little ones don't seem to mind though!

Owls were made from some thrifted fabric (green), an old pair of pj pants (pink) and an old shirt (plaid). Scraps and heat and bond were used for the eyes and beaks. I also stitched around the facial features so they would be more durable for washing.

This was such a relaxing project -- I just cut and sewed and mixed and matched fabrics to my heart's content. There was no pressure to be perfect. My only objectives were to create something fun for the little ones and enjoy the creative process!

So it is my pleasure to introduce to you...

Sarah, Percy and Bill!

We have had so much fun with our owl babies today. Using them as props for the story and just playing with them! T.G. and T.B. really like stuffed animals and dolls so it's my hope to gain more practice in creating a few other stuffed animals and dolls over time.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beautiful Snow

We finally got some snow last weekend!

So pretty--we had nowhere to go so we stayed at home all cozy and warm and watched it come down.


It didn't last long but we loved it while it was here!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Recipes We've Tried

Today I'm sharing links to a  few new recipes we've tried recently:

Hot Fruit Salad In The Slow Cooker: This was really good! Something different to make for Sunday Fellowship.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse: Don't knock it until you've tried it! :-) We liked this so much I've made it a couple of times now. It does call for 5 avocados, so a good recipe to make when avocados are on sale! It keeps in the fridge very well for a day or two also.

Mango-Avocado Refresher: I'd wanted to try this for a long time and finally mangoes and avocados were on sale together! This was good, but...interesting. We liked it best mixed up for the sweet mango flavor throughout.

Spinach Artichoke Chicken: Yum!!! This was seriously delicious! My husband wants me to make this again.

What new recipes have you tried lately?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Frugal Five

Five frugal activities from the week:

  1. Made chicken broth--twice. I made a big pot after cutting chicken breasts for freezer cooking. Then when organizing the freezer, I found a bag of chicken bones and veggie scraps so those got thrown into a pot and cooked!
  2. Hauled our trash to the dump. This is ongoing and you can read more about it here. When we lived in the city, we paid around $16 a month for trash pick-up. While I think that's a reasonable price for the convenience, we are happy to drive a couple miles to the dump every couple of weeks and keep that money in our pockets!
  3. Enjoyed a game night with friends. We played Apples to Apples, Uno and then watched the kids put on a Talent Show.  Cost--a snack and gas to get there. 
  4. Found some nice things on clearance at Target which will go right into my gift drawer for Christmas and birthday gifts. Because family members read here, I won't divulge all the secrets and spoil the surprise by telling everything I got! But I will say that winter hats  and gloves are on clearance right now. And some other cute things.:-)
  5. I love getting cards for all occasions at the Dollar Tree! They have a huge selection of cards 2/$1. I enjoy sending cards for holidays (when I remember) and this week I hit up Dollar Tree for Valentine cards--they had some very nice ones! Sometimes I make my own cards and other times I buy them for 50 cents each which can't be beat! 
How have you saved money this week? I love reading your frugal tips so please share in the comments!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pinned It, Made It: Pocket Handwarmers

One of my goals for this year is to make and give more handmade gifts and to work on them all year and not just right before I need them!

I found this pin for pocket handwarmers and thought they were so cute. Plus a good way to use up some of my fabric scraps--I made mine a bit smaller than the tutorial to accommodate more scraps! I had everything on hand so this was a free project!

I started making them and after a few sewing sessions and a couple of days later, realized I'd made 12 sets! Now they are in my gift drawer waiting to be given away! (I might snag a set for myself too!)

These are a very easy sewing project--perfect for beginners.

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It Monday over at Country Girl At Home.

Friday, February 15, 2013

February Freezer Cooking

I've been trying to make a habit of planning for some freezer cooking once I do my big shopping trip at the beginning of the month.

With my fridge and pantry well-stocked, it's a good time to prep foods for easy cooking later in the month. Instead of bringing meat home and freezing, then thawing it to make into meals later, I've been prepping it right away--ground beef, chicken legs and chicken breasts are good for this.

What I made this month:

  • 2 meatloaves.
  • 3 pounds browned ground beef--bagged in 1/2 pound portions.
  • Spaghetti sauce--5 containers of various sizes.
  • Pot of chili--3 (quart) jars. 
  • Chicken and brown rice stuffing--9x13 pan. This size will feed us for about 3 meals or is a good size for using for our Sunday fellowship. 
  • Shredded cheese--11 (1-cup) bags.
  • Brown rice-- 9 (2-cup) bags. 
  • 2-Spicy Dijon Chicken (from this cookbook).
  • 2- Garlicky Italian Chicken (from this cookbook).
  • 1- Israeli Spice Chicken.
  • 3- bags of chopped chicken for stir-fry. 
  • Turkey gravy-- 1 (quart) jar. I froze this last month for the first time and it turned out really good!
This cooking was done in several 1-2 hour sessions.  It would be nice to just get it all done at one time but my schedule just doesn't allow for that right now! Plus I was feeling pretty sick last weekend so this all took much longer than normal as I was absolutely wiped out after about 1 hour of cooking!

Because of this, I simplified my plan somewhat, making meatloaves instead of meatballs and freezing plain cooked ground beef instead of seasoning some of it. 

But thankfully, I got this much cooking done and I'm feeling better too! I know not everyone is a fan of freezer cooking but for me it's a lifesaver. It would be very difficult to get home-cooked meals on the table every day without having some of the prep work done for me already!

It's important to us (and our budget) to eat mostly unprocessed foods and homemade meals made from scratch. Freezer cooking is one of the ways we can do this without cooking all. the. time.

I heart freezer cooking!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Image from House and Hone.

For whatever reason, I'm feeling a bit uninspired in the area of heartsy cuteness this year. I do have some decorations from previous years adorning the house and it all looks so festive! And we have a couple of simple Valentine activities in store for the day.

I want to wish all of you a very happy and enjoyable Valentine's Day! I hope it's a wonderful day for you and your loved ones!

May you know God's great love for you today!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lasagna Soup

I started making this soup back when we were first married. I've given out the recipe many times and can't believe I've never posted it here! A mom of one of our friends has made this soup a holiday tradition with her family!

When we stopped eating wheat and pasta, we figured this soup was a food of the past. A few months ago, it came to me that I could use rice pasta in place of the lasagna noodles. I tried it this way the other week on a sort-of-snowy-day and it was really good! Rice pasta is still quite high in carbs so we eat it in moderation--right now we have some kind of pasta on Friday night!

The list of ingredients seem long but this is really quite quick to pull together. 

Lasagna Soup
From Is it Soup Yet?
Serves 6

1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage or ground beef
4 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
5 large mushrooms, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
4 cups beef or chicken broth (original recipe calls for 3 chicken and 1 beef bouillon cubes and 4 cups water)
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 lasagna noodles or about 4 ounces other pasta
Ricotta cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Crumble and brown meat in a  4-quart stock pot.Add onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms. Saute the vegetables for 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, broth, and spices.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Break the lasagna noodles into pieces and add to the soup. Cook over medium heat until noodles are tender, about 15 minutes.

Serve topped with ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

**This soup freezes well although I recommend leaving the pasta out and adding it when heating the soup to serve. **


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Frugal Five

 Five frugal things from this past week:

1. Emptied the change from cash envelopes at the end of the month and deposited the money (around $5)  into our "Couch Fund". Which is now our "10th Anniversary Fund" since we already bought a couch!

2. Mended some pants.

3. Combined some errands to save time and gasoline. This is difficult because of the way our town is laid out. Many times I'm not sure we're actually saving much! But we do try.

4. On my way home from Sam's Club one day, I stopped at Chipotle to pick up lunch to take home. Instead of purchasing two separate entrees, I ordered one for us to share. The amount of food was plenty for the two of us and saved me around $7!

5. Went to the library. I went to the library's website and placed holds on the books I wanted a couple of days before hand and they were ready to pick up when we got there. Like online shopping for free! Also a sanity saver with toddler in tow.The little ones have been loving having a new stack of library books to read every couple of weeks. Toddler Girl (almost 3) calls them 'berry' (library) books. Currently, we're working our way through the Llama, Llama books as well as including some classics and a few board books each time.

What have you done to save money this week?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pinned It, Made It: Garlic Beef Stew and Cauliflower Mash

I love crockpot meals. I also like crockpot meals that are very low-grain or grain-free.

We made some major changes in the way we eat almost 2 years ago now; the main change being that we no longer eat wheat and bread and pasta type things on a regular basis. We feel so much better when we eat mostly grain-free! In addition, we have both lost quite a bit of weight.

While we do eat some grains, mostly brown rice, and we do eat dairy, I've found that many recipes geared for the Paleo diet work well for us. The Paleo diet focuses mostly on meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits and nuts-- a "caveman diet".

A while back I pinned this great list of 30 Nights of Paleo Crockpot Meals. There are some really good looking yummy recipes in the list, whether you eat grain or not!

I decided to try the Garlic Beef Stew with Mashed Cauliflower. The stew was good-- I used 1 pound of beef as that's all I had and used Italian seasoning because I didn't have marjoram. The recipe calls for 6-12 cloves of garlic. I used 6 to be on the safe side and we felt it was plenty garlicky!

The mashed cauliflower was awesome! We aren't big fans of cauliflower so to say we really like a cauliflower recipe is saying something. I had tried mashed cauliflower before but for some reason had never thought to use the food processor to blend it up. The result was a very creamy mashed potato-like texture which we loved. 

The turmeric in the cauliflower gave it a bright yellow color which matched the shirt Andy was wearing. We both got a laugh out of that!

I will definitely make both of these recipes again.

This was a great winter meal--warm and nourishing!

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It Monday over at Country Girl At Home.

Friday, February 08, 2013


Do you use Freecycle?

If there's a group in your area, you should join!

Everything posted on Freecycle is completely free. You can offer things you want to get rid of and someone who wants them will respond. You can request items you're looking for. And of course, someone may offer something you want!

We like it, not for just the free stuff, but as a way to give away items we are no longer using.

We have yard sales and donate to thrift stores and then there's stuff we just want to give away to someone who can use it. Or we don't want to haul anywhere. Or we know someone can use it but it's not really something you can donate to the thrift store. That's where Freecycle comes in very handy.

We've given away a lot and received a lot this way. I've listed some of the items to give you an idea.

  • Crib mattress and sheets.
  • Bag of dog toys.
  • Shipping boxes. 
  • CD player.
  • Bag of men's shorts.
  • DVD recorder.

  • Dining room table and chairs.
  • Vacuum cleaner.
  • Bag of old jeans and fabric for sewing.
  • Bookcases.
  • Baby food jars and containers.
  • Boxes of clothing. 
  • Computer tower.
  • Moving boxes.
Freecycle is a wonderful way to share....for free! 

**Pictures are from a recent Freecycle haul--- a big bag of dog toys! There were some really great toys included! We took out what Rock can use and will pass the rest on to someone else.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

"Long Winter's Bath" Soothing Bath Salts

As I mentioned earlier this week, we've had colds, congestion and other sickies going around our home. Nothing serious and certainly not those terrible stomach viruses I've heard are going around, but enough to make us feel nasty.

For some reason, we've had a more difficult time keeping colds and such at bay this winter--this is the 3rd cold I've had since December!

I'm upping our supplements, making sure we are eating healthfully with minimal sugar consumption and replenishing our natural medicine cabinet which will include a large order to Beeyoutiful this week--love their products!

While I was cooking a batch of homemade elderberry syrup, I also mixed up a small jar of cayenne garlic honey mixture and a batch of these bath salts.

The recipe for the bath salts comes from an old Beeyoutiful catalog. It's very soothing and comforting and helpful for colds, congestion and if you're just not feeling well.

"Long Winter's Bath" Soothing Bath Salts

  • 2 cups Epsom salts
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon olive or sweet almond oil
  • 5-10 drops each of peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils
Mix everything together in a large bowl, breaking up any clumps. if you are wearing gloves, use your hands to rub the oils through the mixture. Store in glass jars.

Use 1/2 to 1 cup per bath.

I wanted to make some cute labels/tags for my jars so I used this idea to make some sewn tags!

I traced my lids onto brown paper--I recycled a paper bag and used a ruler to make some lines.

I then sewed over the lines with red thread, cut out some little hearts from scraps of felt and sewed them on too.

The last step was to cut out the circles, write on them and put them in the lids! Super cute and makes me smile.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Wheat-Free Almond Butter Cookies

Another Christmas gift was the Good Housekeeping cookbook Christmas Cookies!.

As I paged through it, a recipe for Wheat-Free Almond Butter Cookies caught my eye. With a couple tweaks to the recipe, I discovered I had everything on hand to make these.

So the little ones and I whipped up a batch!

I don't see why peanut butter wouldn't work in these as well; I've seen many recipes for flourless peanut butter cookies.

Anyways, these were quite tasty and quick and easy to make. They are pretty fragile and tend to crumble. I noticed that the smaller cookies stayed together nicer and baking them a bit longer helped too.

Wheat-Free Almond Butter Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

1 egg
1 cup smooth almond butter
1 cup packed brown sugar or any raw sugar -- I used turbinado sugar.
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.

Using mixer, blend all 6 ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Shape dough into small balls and place 1 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheet.

Bake until slightly golden, 11-12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute before transferring to baking rack to cool.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Frugal Five

Five frugal things from this past week:

1. We needed to buy more ink. Staples gives $2 through their reward system for each ink cartridge you return. We had 5 cartridges. So we will get $10 back to use in the store.

2. Went out to eat and used a $10 off 2 entrees coupon. We enjoy eating out several times per month and have an "Eating Out " cash envelope so this money doesn't come out of our grocery budget. We do try to use coupons and deals when we can to stretch this budget a bit further.

3. Stayed home a lot. This is really nothing new. I work from home and am a homebody. But I'm convinced staying home so much has saved us hundreds of dollars over the years.

4. Used a couple Food Lion store coupons to get $1/$3 produce purchase and $2 off my whole purchase (from a recent store brand promotion). I was able to get 6 avocados, 2 green peppers and 2 small bags of M&M's (it had been a DAY!) for under $3!

5. There's been colds and congestion going around our home. I've been utilizing home remedies and using essential oils I already have on hand to treat. So far, it seems to be working!

What have you saved money on recently?

Monday, February 04, 2013

Pinned It, Made It: Pillowcase Bag

I used a vintage pillowcase to make this cute bag!

The tutorial was super easy to follow and the project was very quick to complete.

That said, I thought my bag turned out a bit wonky size-wise. I added some side seams to pull it in a bit so it wasn't so wide which helped a bit. Maybe it's just me and the pillowcase I used--don't know.

Anyways, I was hoping to mass produce a pile of these for gifts but I don't think I love it enough for that!

I want to try this pillowcase grocery bag next.

My bag will make a great Aldi shopping bag though!

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It Monday over at Country Girl At Home.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Craigslist Furniture

Several of you commented on this post that you'd like to see pictures of our "new-to-us" furniture. Here you go!

Obviously, none of these items are fancy furnishings or anything really high-end. I'm good with sturdy basic items that will hold up to a lot of use!


Patio table and chairs--The chairs came from the same home as the couch. She was moving out of state rather quickly for a new job and was taking only what could fit in her car. So prices were reasonable! So I'd prefer something more charming but the price was right and these are basic and fill the need and can be used for a long time until I find something I like better.

Dining room table and 6 chairs-We finally found one that we liked and was in our price range. This came from the sweetest Christian family. It does show some wear but nothing that couldn't be fixed when the time comes and we all know it will receive more wear around here! It's a super sturdy set. Once we got it home, I noticed how nicely it matches our dining room. It's the perfect shape and size for our space. (Only 5 chairs are pictured but we do have 6!)

What have you bought on Craigslist?