Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category

It is hot and I am tired, but I had such a nice time coupon shopping today that I had to share.  My first stop was SuperTarget and the results for $10.10 are shown below.

Bought at Target for $10.10

I had a buy one get one free (BOGO) from Bear Naked’s Facebook Page, so one of those cereals were free, though the coupon was causing trouble, so the cashier had to manually insert it as a miscellaneous coupon.  I also had a 50 cent off Target coupon that I stacked with it, so I got the two cereals for 3.29.  Both Raviolis were free after a $1 off Target Coupon.  The FiberPlus bars were originally 2.69, but I had dollar off coupons for both plus a dollar off two Target coupon for a net cost of 1.19 for each box.  Lastly, I needed Shower Cleaner and have been wanting to try the Extend-A-Clean.  It was on sale for 6.99 and I had a $3 off coupon.  Naturally, I brought my own bag for another nickel off:).

My next stop was Walgreens.  Generally at Walgreens I try to do several small trips, allowing me to “roll” Register Rewards (use the RR from one item to pay for something different on another trip that then produces a different RR), but it’s hot out, and Walgreens is running a Friends and Family 15% discount with a coupon available through Facebook (“like” Walgreens and you can find it), so I decided to just do all the RR items at once and hope for alot of things to buy with them next week:).  My out of pocket cost was $27.10 but I got back $19 in Register Rewards which I always spend and rarely waste them on something I wouldn’t buy anyway, so I consider them to be as good as cash back.    My trip is shown below.

Walgreens for $8.10 net cost

I had a raincheck for the 6 bags of Goldfish for 99 cents each (84 cents after F&F discount), plus 2 coupons for 50 cents off.   The vitamins and contact solution produced Register Rewards for their full price, plus I had a dollar off coupon for the vitamins and lucked into a peel off coupon for the solution right on the box.  Tea bags were on sale for 2.10 (after discount and a Wags coupon) plus I had 40 cent coupons off each one (one from my paper, one from a neighbor who kindly brought me his inserts yesterday).  Visine was 1.69 after discount and in ad coupon, plus I had 1.00 off.  The Tide was on sale and came to 5.09 after discount, plus I had 1.00 off and also got back RR on that one.

Those were my two big shopping coups today.  I did also stop by the “bread store” (Aunt Millie Outlet store) in the hopes of scoring some cheap english muffins and bagels.  Unfortunately, the place was almost cleaned out.  All I could get was two packs of whole wheat bagels for 1.09 each.  Cheaper than the grocery store, but alot more than they usually cost there.

Picked up two Sam’s Club roasted chickens for dinner (too hot to cook) for 4.99 each.  We’ll eat a little more than half of the chicken today and I’ll use the rest for enchiladas later in the week.

My last stop was Meijers.  They had Honey Nut Cherrios large boxes (25.25 oz) on sale for 2.99.  These are about twice the size of the standard boxes.  I had several 1.00 off 2 coupons that were about to expire, so I bought 9 boxes despite still having about 8 boxes in storage due to a rebate offer last month.  Still, my son eats almost 2 boxes a week and they are good until Sept 2011, so it was worth stocking up.

Hope you are having as much fun and luck saving money.  Let me know how it goes.



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I absolutely love the egg sandwiches you can get at various fast food joints.  This summer, my daughter and I have been on a huge kick, eating egg and muffin sandwiches for breakfast, sometimes snacks, and sometimes for lunch.  They are so easy to make and quite inexpensive.  For one sandwich, here’s all you need:

1 English muffin

1 egg

butter to fry egg

cheddar cheese (one slice just slightly smaller than your English Muffin)

one slice deli ham

Have all your ingredients out and ready to go.  Begin heating a small frying pan over medium heat.  Begin toasting muffin in toaster.  Butter your pan.  I just grab a stick of butter and swipe it quickly around your pan.  You can prepare your egg however you prefer.  We like ours scrambled.  I usually just crack the egg into the pan and scramble in the pan.  As the egg starts to set up, begin to scrape it into a pile about the size of your english muffin.  When muffin pops out of toaster, put the cheddar cheese on one side of muffin, then set the other side on top to start softening the cheese.  When your egg pile is set up enough to turn, flip it, and continue cooking until done.  Put egg on top of cheese on muffin, put ham on top of egg, put other size of muffin on your sandwich and you are ready to go!  Yum!!  I can make one of these in just a few minutes and my daughter says they give her a lot of energy to get her through a morning of summer PE.

Here are a few tips:

I shop for English Muffins at the day old bread store (where I also try to buy all my bread).  Last time I was in, they had Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) on English muffins and bagels.  You can’t beat 2 packs of english muffins or bagels for a total of 89 cents – less than 8 cents per muffin.  Stock up – bread products freeze great!

I buy a 2 lb block of cheddar at Sam’s club for about 5 bucks.  It keeps great and is good for snacks and cooking.  I probably use less than 1/2 an ounce of cheese on the muffin sandwiches, so the cheese costs about 8 cents per muffin also.

I really like the Egglands Best Eggs.  We were buying an 18 pack at Sam’s Club for about 3 bucks, but many of my magazines had 50 cent off coupons for EB eggs lately, so I clipped them all.  My Kroger doubles coupons, which results in a 12 pack of Eggland Best Eggs for 1.59.  That works out to about 13 cents an egg.  If you want to buy store brand eggs, you can often get them on sale for about a buck a dozen.

Finally, I have been buying Oscar Mayer prepackaged deli ham.  The round slices work perfectly for these muffins, which is the main use I have for the ham.  One 7 oz. pack can be found on sale for about 3 bucks or less.  There is probably at least 30 slices per container, so about a dime per piece of ham.  They usually have a long shelf life both before and after opening.

So, my total for a muffin would be:  8+8+13+10=39 cents.  Add a penny or two for butter and electricity for toaster and stove if you like.  Not too bad!



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I’m all about good food, but also like to save money and save time.  This recipe covers all the bases.  First off, one of my main grocery shopping strategies is to take advantage of sale meats.  Last week, Kroger had pork shoulder on sale for about 1.39 per pound, so I bought a 6 pound roast and threw it in my garage fridge (check the sell by date – mine was good for a couple weeks).  Yesterday morning around 8 am, I started the Pork Shoulder in the crockpot.   By 6pm, we were ready to eat.   Here’s the recipe:

Crockpot Pulled Pork

1 pork shoulder (6 lbs is a good size and fits in a large crockpot)

olive oil to sear pork

1 can beer

1 onion, cut in half then sliced

salt and pepper

Put the sliced onion in the bottom of your crockpot, add some salt and pepper (use your judgement), and a splash of beer.  Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium high heat and sear the pork as best you can on all sides.  I think you could just throw the pork directly in the crockpot, but I like to sear mine first.  Add pork to crockpot and pour over some more beer.  Add more salt and pepper.  Put the cover on the crockpot and heat on low for at least 8 hours.  I usually like to flip my roast about half way through cooking, but you don’t have to.  About an hour before you want to eat, pull out the pork and set it on a plate to cool, breaking into some chunks if you can.   Let cool for about 1/2 an hour.  You can leave the lid off the crockpot and let the onions and juice cook down a bit.   After 1/2 an hour, don some gloves if you have them (this helps keep your hands clean and also seems to help mitigate the heat a little bit), and start pulling any fat off the meat, take out the bone, and shred the meat back into the crockpot.  The gloves really help with this (I keep a bag of plastic disposable gloves in my kitchen and they are great for lots of things.) and you can usually shred the meat in about 15 minutes or so.  The dog is my best friend while I am doing this!  At this point, the meat is pretty much ready to go, but you can let it sit in the hot broth with the cover on for a while longer until whenever you are ready to eat.

To serve, we eat this on buns, with a little BBQ sauce served table side for those who desire it.  For a family of 4, we got one dinner the night I cooked this, plus I bagged enough to freeze for another generous dinner, and had enough leftover for a couple of lunch sandwiches.

Not bad – 2 dinners and a couple lunches for under ten bucks!



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This month’s Cooking Light magazine had a feature on hamburgers, and one of the recipes provided details on how to make your own fresh ground beef for really tasty burgers.  All you needed was some time, a cut of beef, and a Kitchenaid mixer with the grinder attachment.   The most time consuming part for me was digging all around my house for the box with the kitchenaid attachments we had bought when we bought the mixer.  They are infrequently used and had been put away SOMEWHERE after our kitchen remodel two years ago.  I had to comb the house for about a half hour before I found the dusty old box on the back of the top shelf in the furthest corner of the basement storage area.

Cooking Light‘s recipe suggested Brisket, but I did some research online that recommended cuts such as chuck steak as well.  A local grocery had boneless “English Roast” on sale for about $2/pound.    This cut apparently comes from the same area as chuck and looks pretty much the same as a pot roast cut to me.  I bought a 2.5 pound package.

Per Cooking Light‘s instructions, I put the parts of my grinder attachment in the freezer for about an hour.    The next time I tried this, I did not have time to chill the attachments and it didn’t seem to matter.   I cut the roast into strips that were small enough around to fit in the chute of the grinder.  They were about 3/4 x 1 inch and maybe 3-5 inches long.  I laid them all out on a cookie sheet and tossed them in the freezer for about 30 min to an hour.

Once the meat was partially frozen, I set the Kitchenaid with grinder attachment to speed 4 as specified by my manual.  Then I put a bowl under the grinder and started feeding the meat into the hopper using the wood plunger to push it through.  As the nice ground meat started to come out, I was reminded of a scene in Pink Floyd’s The Wall and started singing “we don’t need no education…”

I was able to feed 2.5 lbs of meat through fairly quickly.  Since both Cooking Light and my manual said to grind the meat twice, I dumped what I had in the bowl back onto the cookie sheet and ran it through the grinder again.  This is slightly messier than the first run, but still goes quickly.  I  then put the bowl of beautiful ground meat into the fridge to use for dinner.  All in all, I think i spent about 30 minutes prepping the meat, running it through the grinder, and cleaning up.

The first time, I made burgers from the meat.   I thought they were amazing but my family did not jump up and down as much as I thought I deserved:).  My husband suggested that next time I might try running the seasoning through with the burger on the second grind so that I wouldn’t have to mix so vigorously while making patties and could pat the patties a bit looser.

This week I made tacos with 2 lbs of ground English roast.  I trimmed off a bit of the fat, but left most if it to be ground in with the meat.  I always have trouble breaking up the big chunks of ground beef as I cook it, but this time I got a lovely fine crumble.  I did strain all the liquid and fat out, and in the morning, that bowl had mostly  gel and very little fat.  The tacos were terrific.

I can’t wait to try fresh ground beef for other recipes like sloppy joes, meatballs, and bolognese sauce.

Try it, I think you’ll enjoy it.


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For those of us who cook most of our family meals at home, menu planning can help save money, time, and frustration, but sometimes it is hard to find the time or initiative to get a meal plan going.  In the past, I have used weekly or even monthly menu plans, but as our family gets busier, they have fallen by the wayside.  I have also noticed that it is not always easy to track if you are having variety in your menu (my family often accuses me of cooking nothing but chicken!) or to remember to make old family favorites.

I have spent the last two years teach Excel skills to college students in my job as a visiting faculty, and this summer decided to use a spreadsheet to track my menus.  It gives me a good way to see if we are getting variety, and also to remember old family favorites or to know when we actually cooked the leftovers languishing in the fridge.  Here is an example of my spreadsheet (you can click on it to see the full size version – use your back button to come back to this page when you are done):

The beauty of this list is that I can sort it in a variety of ways if I want.  For instance, sort by protein type to look for ideas for chicken.  Or if it is a special day for a certain family member, sort to find their favorites.  Another thing that sometimes happens at our house is that one family member may miss a dinner due to other plans and on that day, we try to cook something that person doesn’t like.  So we could sort by the “hated by” column to find dinners to make when someone is absent.  I often forget where I have the recipe saved for some of our infrequent dinners, so there is a column to help with that as well.

You could customize this however it works best for you.  You might want to add a column with costs, so that you can find cheap dinners when you need to.

As I always told my students, Excel is an amazing tool and you can do so much with it, both within your career and in your life.  Let me know if you find this idea helpful.



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Just a heads up for anyone who subscribes to Self magazine – in the January 2010 issue there is a $5 off coupon for any three Listerine, Reach, or Rembrandt products.  The coupon does not expire until Jan 2011, so be sure to clip it and hang on to it until a good sale comes along.  Stacked with a CVS Extra Care Bucks offer or a Walgreens Register Reward, it could even be a money maker.    And we all know we should be flossing, so stock up on that floss:).

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I’ve got the food storage blues this weekend.   We have a narrow storage area in our basement that we have filled with shelving.  I use about 30% of the shelving for longer term storage of non-perishables and things like cereal, crackers, noodles, etc.  I think of it as my own personal store.

Wednesday I was off work and went out for the last items we needed for Thanksgiving.  Since I was at Aldi’s, I did a bit of stocking up and brought home things like egg noodles, bran flakes, and graham crackers to put away in the basement pantry.  As I went to put the noodles away, I picked up the last bag of noodles on the shelf to move it to the front and noodles spilled all over.  Looking at the bag, I saw a ragged little hole that had clearly been made by little teeth – MICE!

I groused a bit and carried the bag upstairs to throw away.  My son is working on a physics project where he has to build a bridge out of spaghetti.  I went downstairs to check to see if we had any thick spaghetti.  Picking up the last bag of spaghetti off the shelf, and surprise, a jagged little hole in the end – the mice apparently love noodles.

OK, now I’m getting ticked.  A couple of dollars gone and I count on my food storage to be there when I need it.  Dug out a couple mouse traps and baited with peanut butter and set one on the shelf and one on the floor nearby.

Yesterday I go downstairs to check the traps and one is sprung, but no mousie caught.  I rebait the trap and start looking around at my shelves – could they have gotten into my cereal, my Cheezits, my crackers?  I have enough trouble keeping the kids out of my Cheezits and now I have to compete with the mice too??

I check the boxes and none are chewed.  Then I wonder about the 6 packs of Keebler cookies purchased at the Kroger mega event….

Pulling out the first bag, safe.  Pulling out the next bag – corner chewed, toss in trash.  Pull out the next bag of chocolate covered peanut butter wafers – not only is it chewed, but it is half empty!  Darn little mice must be rotund after that feast.  In all, 3 bags of cookies go in the trash – at least they only cost me about 25 cents each after coupons and the mega event.  So I pick a trap off the floor and set it on that shelf and pull all my favorite foods off the shelf and stuff them in a Rubbermaid tote.

As I wake up this morning I recall that I have several bags of leftover Heath Bars (our FAVORITE candy) left over from Halloween.  Oh no, the mice have gone after the crinkly packaging, did they get into my favorite candy??

Despite singing malicious little ditties about assassinating mousies, I knew I would feel guilty when I actually caught one.  I went downstairs this morning and one trap was still unsprung but completely licked clean of peanut butter.  The licker on the other trap was not so lucky – one plump mousie gone to great mouse beyond.  And I did feel guilty.  And a little sick.  But less so when I did indeed find a bag of Heath bars nibbled.  They couldn’t go after the Twix, which I do not love quite as much as Heath.  These mice are sugar hounds.  They even got into a bag of Splenda – yuk.

So there are now 3 new traps set for tonight.  I have whatever I can put into storage bins.  I hate to go after any living creature, but I can’t have them in my house nibbling on my food storage.  I kind of hope it was just the one guy.    We’ll see tomorrow.  For now, I’ve got the food storage blues….  In the future, may need to hire a cat….

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