Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Mom's Famous Oatmeal Cookies

I love oatmeal cookies. It makes me feel like the cookies are a little bit more healthy - although I know they are not. My mom made these all the time when we were kids and I just loved them. I am not a fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, so I always add chocolate chips.

Famous Oatmeal Cookies

3 c. oatmeal

1 c. flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 c. shortening

1 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

1 egg

1/4 c. water

1 tsp. vanilla

chocolate chips

Heat over to 350. Grease cookie sheet. In a medium bowl combine oats, flour, salt, and soda. In a larger bowl beat together shortening, sugars, egg, water, and vanilla until creamy. Add dry ingredients to the larger bowl mixture and mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Now I make these cookies for my own kids.

I think they love them as much as I do!

For other great recipes, check out The Grocery Cart Challenge's Recipe Swap!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Frugal Friday - Cheap Dates

I love my kids just as much as the next mom, but one of the good ways to make a marriage strong is to date. Alone time without the kids always recharges my batteries! When you are trying to keep to a tight budget, sometimes dating can fall by the wayside. Just going to dinner and a movie could set you back almost $100.00 including paying the babysitter! With a little creativity, you can still date your spouse and spend little to nothing doing it. Here are some of the things we do:

  1. Watch a movie to watch after the kids are in bed, have cheap/free snacks, pop some popcorn. (use a FREE Redbox code, grab a movie from the library, or swap movies with a friend)

  2. Take and nice long walk and talk with each other. This is good for your body and for your marriage!

  3. Take the kids to a friends house and go home and have a nice quiet dinner. This is an actual dinner my hubby prepared for me as a surprise. He even borrowed his parent's table linens, candelabra, and china!

  4. Spend an evening taking pictures of each other with the digital camera. We have done this so many times, it can get really silly!

  5. Pack a picnic and eat it in the backyard, living room, or go to a park.

  6. Find a book you both want to read and spend some time reading it out loud to each other.

  7. Read this article I shared early on in my blog about some other fun date ideas - some I have tried, and some I haven't!

How about you? Any great date ideas?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip

If you remember from last week, I was WAY over budget ($70.22). I still have the goal for $2,600 annual grocery budget, so I didn't spend my full budget this week. I am playing catch up for the next few weeks. Here is what I got this week:

First was Walmart - this was on Saturday.
1 classic Romaine salad mix - $1.98

1 huge 5# bag of carrots - $2.98

1 Electrosol gel tabs - $3.50 -$2.50 coupon = $1.00

4 Suave hand lotion - $3.88 -4 $1.00 off Suave coupons = $.12 overage!

1 Kotex lightdays - $1.00 - $1.00 off coupon = FREE

4 Reese's Whips - $2.56 -2 $1.00 off 2 coupons = $.56

Net OOP: $7.35

Monday night I needed to pick up a few things from Walmart for work so I also got:
1 Electrosol gel tabs - $3.50 - $2.50 coupon = $1.00 (I found another one of these coupons in my purse!)

1 Nalley Pickles - $2.08 -$1.50 coupon from 1/25 insert = $.58

4 Good Value Sugar Free drink mix - $7.04

Net OOP: $9.38

Fred Meyer had some great deals this week. I got:
2 Wheat Thins - $3.34 w/in ad coupon - $2.00 off 2 coupon from 1/25 insert - $1.34

1 gallon milk - $2.00

2 Kraft shredded mozzarella cheese - $3.34 - 2 $.75 off coupons = $1.84 (there were 2 blinkie coupons right in front of the cheese!)

Net OOP: $5.70

I also hit up the Hostess Bakery Thrift Store. The loaf of bread on the right is missing a few pieces because the kids and I walked to the bread store and they snacked on some of the bread on the way home. It keeps them from fighting in the double stroller :).

2 loaves Grandma Emilie's Bread - $4.20

1 package flour tortillas - $1.39

1 12 pack English muffins - $1.39

Net OOP: $7.40

Finally I made one more trip to Fred Meyer. I ended up with:

4 Gallons Milk - $8.00

1 kraft singles - $2.25 (mark down)

1 package ham - $1.29 (mark down)

1 Philly cream cheese - $1.25

4 bags of Kraft shredded cheese - $6.67 -4 $.75 off coupons (blinkies I found in front of the display) = $3.67

Net OOP: $17.63

My overall total for the week was: $47.46. Hmmm...that's pretty good if I wasn't WAY overbudget last week. So here is the plan. I think I have enough milk for 2 weeks - so no shopping next week no matter what the deals are! I still have $67.68 to make up for. If I skip next week, the following week I will have $32.32 to spend. Then I will be back on track. I think I can...I think I can...


I originally wrote about Swagbucks back in October when I started using it. You can read that post here. Swagbucks is a search engine like Google or but you can earn "Swagbucks" for searches that you do and you can use those Swagbucks to get some cool stuff, like gift cards!

I definitely do a Swagbucks search at least once a day and sometimes I win a Swagbuck or two and sometimes I don't. Anyway, I went to do a search today and I couldn't believe how many Swagbucks I had built up:

Wowzers! 156 Swagbucks! For 45 Swagbucks I can get a $5.00 Amazon e-gift card - so that's $15.00 I can spend on! Woo hoo!

One of the COOLEST things about Swagbucks, though, is how quickly you can build up Swagbucks by getting people to sign up using your referral link.

You can actually earn up to 100 Swagbucks for each person you sign up.

Every time they earn a Swagbuck, you earn a Swagbuck until they reach 100.

Just think of the possibilities! What do ya think? Do you want to sign up for Swagbucks? Sign up here using my link, then get your own link and tell all your friends - you could be on your way to getting some AWESOME FREE stuff - just for searching the web!!!!

Favorite Blog/Site of the Week - Hot Coupon World

This week I am going to share a site that I know a lot of you know about, but this is especially for newbies...Hot Coupon World! This site is jam packed with information about saving money with coupons.

--I love to go to the Forums section and read the Walgreen's thread. Usually there are ad scans available up to three weeks in advance! I love this because you can see what is coming and make a decision about when to use your coupons. If there is a better sale coming up, you can save them!

--I also frequent the Grocery Guide (it takes a minute to load). Enter your zip code and check mark the stores that you want to shop and you will get a breakdown of sales and coupons available! This is really cool!

These are just a few of the many, Many, MANY resources on Hot Coupon World. I recommend that you check it out for yourself!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I won a Lemonade Award!

I'm feeling pretty dang special because I won a Lemonade Award (Thanks Thrifty Soaper!)! Her blog is tons of fun to read - and get this - she posts a scan of the Albertson's ad on Monday (two days early!).

Now that I have been nominated, I get to nominate 10 blogs I love. There are so many great blogs out there! I love all the bloggers in my blogroll, so all of you please consider yourself nominated! I would also like to nominate these four fun blogs:

I recently found the coolest blog Making Life deal at a time. Marne shares frugal tips, recipes, shopping trips, and all the stuff I love! Check out the pics of her stockpile. Hello! Love it - and it is super organized!

I also recently happened up Fabulessly Frugal another Boise frugal blog! YAY! I've had fun reading their posts and scenarios. Great job ladies!

She Does Hair - love, Love, LOVE this blog. She gives fun tutorials of the cutest kid hairstyles. Hmmm...if only my daughter had some hair. :)

I am also in LOVE with Today's Creative Blog. Not that I am creative or crafty, but she features a new fun crafty blog every day. I love to see what other crafty bloggers are doing to get ideas for what I can copycat in my own house.


Works for me Wednesday - Set the timer!

Sometimes my life can get a bit overwhelming with kids, jobs, family, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. Sometimes I just don't know where to start, so I don't do anything.

When I was a kid, my mom had a system where she would set a timer for 5 minutes and we had to hurry and do something before the timer went off (clear the table, do the dishes, put our clothes away, etc.). This ingenious idea has carried over into my adulthood. On the days I don't feel so motivated, this kitchen timer motivates me:I pull it out, set it for a 1/2 hour and that is my cleaning time. Then I set it for another 1/2 hour and that is my blogging time, etc. If a 1/2 hour is too much, I'll set it for 15 minutes, or 10, or 5 - whatever I am in the mood for. I also use this on my son to get him to clean his room. This always works to motivate me to get something done and gets me out of my non-motivated mood! It works for me!

Check out Rocks in my Dryer for other great Works for me Wednesday ideas!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why people don't use coupons...Part II

I started a series last Tuesday to discuss and overcome some of the reasons that people don't use coupons. Last week, we discussed the time factor.

This next reason is something that I hear a lot.

Store brands are cheaper than a name brand with a coupon.

It is a valid point because it is true in a lot of cases - especially when the name brand isn't on sale. I shared my own experience in this post a few weeks ago.

In many cases it isn't true - like when you can get an item for FREE with a coupon.

You can also use a high value coupon to purchase a smaller sized item. For example, I had a coupon for $1.00 off Suave hand lotion. The standard sized lotion is $3.99. With my coupon it would have been $2.99. The store brand lotion was $1.99. I did, however, find a smaller purse sized Suave hand lotion for $.99 making the lotion FREE.

I know a lot of people like to keep a price book. This would be perfect for determining whether the store brand is cheaper than a coupon item. Unfortunately, I am not that organized, so I do my comparisons in the store. I also have a general idea in my head about how much things are. This helps a lot too.

How about you? What is your experience with this?

Monday, January 26, 2009

FREE Stuff!!

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Request your FREE sample of Prilosec OTC here.

Get a FREE sample of furniture polish from Revage here.

Get 24 FREE issues of Parent's Magazine here.

Join the Ocean Spray Cranberry Club and receive a FREE cookbook! Sign up here.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 26-February 1

I was never a menu planner until I started blogging. It has been so helpful to me in keeping myself more organized. The thing is I don't/can't always stick to the plan, and I am fine with that. I just love having a plan and knowing I have all the stuff to make the recipes in my plan. Peace of mind is wonderful! P.S. We didn't make the turkey - again! I think I am going to keep it in the freezer for awhile :).

Here is the plan for this week:

Monday: Chicken and Stuffing Casserole, fruit salad

Tuesday: Chili, corn muffins

Wednesday: Grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup

Thursday: Home baked macaroni and cheese, green beans

Friday: Homemade Pizza night! I am using this pizza dough recipe.

Saturday: Ham, broccoli, cheese bisquick pie, fruit salad

Sunday: Apricot chicken, rice, broccoli

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yummy Lasagna

I love lasagna! It is one of my favorite comfort foods. This lasagna recipe is one that I have modified from several different recipes. It always comes out wonderfully!


1 lb ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 26 oz can/jar of spaghetti sauce of your choice

9 lasagna noodles

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 c. lowfat cottage cheese

2 c. grated mozzarella cheese

Cook ground beef, onion, and garlic together. When ground beef is browned, add spaghetti sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook lasagna according to package directions. In a small separate bowl, mix the cottage cheese and egg together.

Spread about 1/2 cup of meat/sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Add three noodles side by side to cover bottom of pan. After that, layer as follows:

1/2 of cottage cheese mixture
1/3 of the mozzarella cheese
1/3 of the meat/sauce
3 more noodles side by side
1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture
1/3 of the mozzarella cheese
1/3 of the meat/sauce
3 more noodles
1/3 sauce
1/3 mozzarella cheese

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes at 350.

This is perfect with a green salad and garlic cheese biscuits.

For more great recipes check out the Grocery Cart Challenge's recipe swap!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Frugal Friday - Staying Organized

I know what you are thinking...what does organization have to do with frugality?

My answer: A LOT!

Staying organized with your stockpile and knowing what you have can save you a lot of money:
Case in point:

I think I have a can of refried beans in my stockpile.

I plan a recipe based round those refried beans.

I start making the recipe.

I can't find those refried beans.

I go to the store to buy some refried beans.

I find the refried beans behind some canned tomatoes a week later.

Staying organized would have saved me $.99 that day, not to mention my time and energy!

Staying organized has many benefits - for frugality's sake I would include the following:
  1. You will not purchase things that you already have (like refried beans)

  2. You will not become overrun with stuff because you know that you can only use so many bread bags, baggies, plastic shopping bags, etc.

  3. You keep a grocery list and don't overspend because you stick to the list.

  4. You always know what coupons you have :)

I'm sure there are plenty more benefits, but those are just a few that I have found helpful. I am not writing this because I am the most organized person in the world - on the contrary. I like to be organized, I am striving for organization, and I see the many benefits of it.

For more of my thoughts on this, read this article I wrote few months ago. How about you? How has organization helped your frugality? Please leave a comment!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another shopping trip...

Remember that budget of mine? The one I was already over for this week? I was really bad. I went WAAAYYY over. I don't know what got in to me. I think I went back in time to my pre-frugal days and just went crazy. Now it wasn't horrible, but here we go...

I took two trips to Fred Meyer this week. One trip I bought 6 1/2 gallons of skim milk. They were on sale for $1.00 each with the in ad coupon. I don't have a picture.

Net OOP: $6.36

The second trip was the biggie.
I bought:

2 loaves of bread - $3.34
2 FM cottage cheese - $2.50
2 FM sour cream - $1.98
1 FM plain yogurt - $1.25
10 assorted Yoplait yogurt - $5.00
2 FM orange juice - $2.00 (w/in ad coupon)
2 FM chocolate milk - $2.00 (w/in ad coupon)
1 8-pack Yoplait yogurt - $2.19 (this was a mark down because it was getting close to the date)
5.13 lbs of bananas - $1.71 (they were 3 lbs for $1.00!)
2 cans FM pears - $1.98
1 bag of grapes - $2.68
2 big pears - $1.24
1 cantaloupe - $4.28!!! (I didn't see that coming - it also wasn't very good :'()
2 FM pepperoni - $5.00
1 Kroger cheese - $4.79
1 pack Jimmy Dean turkey sausage patties - $1.99 (these were marked down)
2 packages Oscar Meyer hot dogs - $1.98 (also marked down)
1 package Ham - $.79 (also a mark down)

Net OOP: $49.51 (yes! a whole week's budget! ugh!)

I also went to Walgreen's for the Ragu deal:
I got:

7 jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce - $13.93 (-2 $.50 off 2 Ragu coupon, and 3 $.25 off 1 Ragu coupon) - $12.18

1 jar Hellman's Mayonaise - $3.99 (-$.60 off Hellman's coupon)

Net OOP: $16.65 + I received a $10.00 Register Reward
Now, instead of being $4.06 over budget, I am now $70.22 over budget! Yikes. Was it worth it? Not really. Especially not that cantaloupe!

Here is the thing, though. I have a huge stockpile. I have tons of fresh stuff. I have a lot of milk. My plan is to cut way back the next few weeks so I can catch up with this. After all, I still have the $2600.00 budget for the year. I want to make sure I don't go over that.

Favorite Blog/Site of the Week - The Dollar Stretcher

There are many, many blogs and/or websites out there that have given me inspiration. I love the blogging community and how it is such a great way for people to share ideas, struggles, etc. I have a blog roll, but those are just a few of the great blogs out there.

I have decided to start a series where each Thursday I will share a blog or website that inspires me (that hopefully with inspire you too!).

This week I would like to highlight:

I have been reading The Dollar Stretcher for a long time. When I first got married and was trying to live frugally, I found this site. The Dollar Stretcher is full of great articles from people across the world who are sharing ways to save money banking, cooking, decorating, housekeeping, and anything else you can imagine.

My favorite feature is the Readers Tips section. This section shares a paragraph from readers who share a frugal tip that works for them. I love to read the ideas - and try the ones that I think will work for my family.

I encourage you to check out this site - I'm sure you will love it as much as I do!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Works for me Wednesday - Cheap Thrills for Kids

I don't know about you, but during these cold winter months, my kids aren't going outside. They are staying inside and saying they are bored. One thing that I do (not very often so it is a novelty) is build an indoor fort. My kids play in it for hours!

Here is how we do it:

  1. We take 4 kitchen chairs and put two on each side of our living room rug facing away from each other (see picture above).
  2. A twin sheet fits perfectly around the chair seats.
  3. The flat sheet goes over the top the opposite way (it isn't in its lowered position for this picture).
  4. We usually put a pillow and blanket in there and my son likes to look at books, bring his toys/cars and play, or take a nap.
  5. Voila! Happy, entertained kids!
    Head on over to Rocks in my Dryer for other great Works for me Wednesday ideas!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why people don't use coupons...Part I

I personally LOVE coupons. I love to see how much I can save, how cheaply I can get things, and how far I can use coupons to stretch my dollar. When I talk to people about their coupon usage, or lack thereof these are some of the things I hear:
-It takes too much time.

-Store brands are cheaper than a name brand with a coupon.

-I don't know where to start.

-I'm not that organized.

-I don't want to shop several stores.

What I'd like to do over the next few weeks is share some ways to overcome these reasons to prove that couponing is worth it. Today I will be overcoming this excuse:

It takes too much time. Using coupons can be time consuming, however, there are many, many, many ways you can save time.

  • Check out blogs like Be Centsable. They have a feature called the Grocery Gathering where they team up with many other bloggers to list the sales at stores around the country with coupon matches. This takes the guesswork out of getting the best deal.

  • Check out the other blogs on my blogroll who share deals, freebies, shopping trips, and ideas for frugal living.

  • Hot Coupon World is another wonderful resource. I always check out the Walgreen's forum to see the latest ad scan, deals, and coupon matches. This resource shares information from coupon shoppers all over the country.

  • Set aside some uninterrupted time each week to organize, clip, and prepare your lists. I usually spend less than an hour a week preparing to shop.

  • Don't try to get every deal out there. This is what I did in the beginning that caused a lot of problems. I went to every store for this deal or that deal and by the time I was done I was frustrated and had spent all night getting 5 items. Not cool. Just get the deals that you can't live without - it will save you tons of time!
The bottom line on the time thing is that there are many successful frugalites who do not use coupons. Amy Dacyczyn author of the Tightwad Gazette is a perfect example. Gayle from the Grocery Cart Challenge is another. If you are willing to spend a little bit of extra time each week to coupon, trust me it is worth it!
How about you? Any other great time saving ideas for those anti-coupon people?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip

Last week we ran out of milk on Friday, so I did quite a bit of my shopping for this week on Friday and Saturday. I went just slightly over budget again. I had $48.77 to spend (because I was $1.23 over budget last week).

It has been quite a while since I have been to Winco. They usually have the lowest prices on everyday items. They also have a great bulk foods section. They have a semi-strict coupon policy (no printables!) so I just don't shop there all that much.

I ended up with:

4 Gallons milk - $9.52

2 Jiffy corn muffin mixes - $.98

1 Worcestershire sauce - $.88

10# bag flour - $3.78

.93# barley - $.45

4 apples - $1.57

2 peaches - $1.57

1 can cherry pie filling - $1.78

celery - $1.28

carrots - $.98

.92# lentils - $.81

.29# poppy seeds - $1.19

1 can olives - $.98

I didn't use any coupons, so my net OOP was $26.86

Then I went to Albertson's because we were also out of ground beef. That just stresses me out!

Here is what I ended up with there:

1 Family pack ground beef - $10.41

Stew meat - $2.51

2# bananas $1.24

2 canisters of Quaker Oats - $3.00 (used 2 $.60 off Quaker coupons) - $1.80

2 boxes of Life cereal - $3.00 (used 1 $1.00 off 2 coupon) - $2.00

4 boxes of Frosted Flakes - $5.00 (used 2 $1.00 off kellogg's coupons) - $3.00

Net OOP: $21.47

If I had stopped there, I would have been just under budget. But I didn't. Saturday we took our car to Walmart to get the oil changed and we had about 1 1/2 hours to kill at Walmart. I had some coupons with me - and I found some great deals. So here is what put me over budget. I have to say that I LOVE the Laughing Cow cheeses. They are so yummy, but are usually $2.98 each, which is expensive. There were some $.55 off coupons in a recent insert, so I have been carrying them around with me looking for a good deal on Laughing Cow cheese. Walmart had these on sale for $1.88 each - already a great discount, but with my get the picture.

3 Laughing Cow Cheeses - $5.64 (used 3 $.55 off Laughing Cow) - $3.99

2 Kotex - $2.00 (used 2 $1.00 off Kotex) - FREE!

2 Suave hand lotion - $1.94 (used 2 $1.00 off Suave) - FREE+.06 overage!

Net OOP: $4.50

Here is the thing...I'm not done. We still really need bread and I want to do the Ragu deal at Walgreen's, so I am going to use some of next week's budget, and not go shopping next week - except for milk. My hubby and kids drink it like crazy! Stay tuned and I'll post the rest of the trip when I do it.

For more shopping trips - check out The Grocery Cart Challenge and Money Saving Mom!

**update** see the rest of my shopping this week here.

FREE Stuff!!

There are some great new FREEbies out there this week:

I love new recipes! Don't you? Get a FREE "Hospitality in a Jiffy" cookbook from Jiffy Mix here. Fun!

Get a FREE sample of Lyson Toilet Bowl Cleaner here.

Head and Shoulders is offerring a FREE sample of shampoo AND conditioner here.

Request your FREE sample of Febreze Sport Odor Eliminator here.

Has anyone heard of Little Crow Foods? If their products are available in your area, you can get a FREE coupon mailer here.

Speaking of FREE coupons check out these that are still available: (this is an awesome way to build your stash of coupons!)

Get a $10.00 coupon booklet from Eat Better America here.

Get $10.00 in FREE Betty Crocker coupons here.

Pillsbury is offerring a FREE $10.00 coupon booklet here.

Get $27.00 in FREE coupons from Home Made Simple here.

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