Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tightwad Tuesday: Boiling Water

I was reading All You Magazine this weekend and came across a "green" tip I've never heard before but plan on trying out. It said when boiling water for things like pasta, boil it in the teapot first and then transfer to your cooking pot. Teapots boil water quicker. I think this is a great idea and will be easy to implement since our teapot is always sitting on the stove.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Food Friday: Baked Spaghetti

This has been a crazy week and next week won't be much better so today's recipe is actually a link. I tried this baked spaghetti recipe this week and it is delicous. My picky husband even liked it. I made it the night before and had my husband stick it in the oven when he got home from work so that it was ready by the time I made it home from work. It was wonderful to come home to a homecooked meal. Money Saving Mom has several of these in the freezer for when her baby comes. Since I know my husband approves of this recipe and it is freezable, I plan on making it again this summer before baby comes and keeping it in the freezer. I love finding new freezer recipes because they take the guesswork out of dinner.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ask the Readers: Make Ahead Recipes

As many of you know, I am the Creative Activities Leader for our MOPS group. Last year, we did two food activities and they were hugely popular. We've decided to add one in last minute this year and I'm planning for next year also, so I need some ideas on what to do. Our budget is $2-3 per person and there are approximately 45 people. Last year we did apple crisp (they could freeze it if not using it that day) and soup in a jar. I'm looking for just about any kind of recipe that can be made cheap and fairly easy. Things we can layer in a jar or a cellophane bag would be perfect for this year. For next year, I'm open to anything.

Feel free to leave a comment or a blog link to any tried and true recipes you have. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Is A Party Without Cake?

I've had fun discovering so many blogs this week through the Ultimate Blog Party. I feel a party is never complete though unless there is cake. For those new to this blog, my toddler turned 3 at the end of February. The above picture is my attempt at making him a cow cake. The idea came from Family Fun. The cake itself can be any recipe so I choose to use my favorite chocolate cake recipe.

This recipe from Hershey's is delicious and very easy to make. Warning, the batter is extremely runny but it comes out perfect once it is cooked. Pretty much any time I want a chocolate cake, this is the recipe I use. I've never made the icing that comes with it but I've had it at a friend's house and it is very good.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tightwad Tuesday: Cooking for a Small Family

Last week I talked about how to reinvent leftovers. This week, I'm going to focus on how to prevent some of those leftovers in the first place. Most days there are just my husband, me, and a toddler eating dinner. If I make a casserole, I have a ton leftover and I get sick of eating it before it goes bad. My husband isn't a huge fan of leftovers so I'm stuck with the same thing for lunch for days. I've solved this problem using one of the following methods:

Cut the recipe in half: Some recipes easily cut in half, some do not, so this takes a little trial and error. I find the hardest ones to cut in half are those that use whole cans of food. I try to make another recipe within the same week using the other half of the can so that I'm not wasting food.

Split the recipe into two dishes: I usually use this method for items that freeze easily. Whenever I make a lasagna, I usually make it in a loaf pan. One gets eaten for dinner and the other goes straight to the freezer. It is the same amount of work to make both as it is to make one. I do this with meatloaf too. I love having a few meals in the freezer so that I don't have to think about dinner on busy nights.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Food Friday: Peking Pork Chops

This is one of our go to recipes as it is simple, quick, and healthy to make. It cooks in the crockpot so you have a wonderful dinner ready when you get home. I usually prepare the sauce the night before and then just dump everything in the crockpot of a morning. This is an easy recipe to cut in half too. For sides, I usually make baked potatoes and green beans flavored with a little soy sauce and garlic. I'm weird and like to put the extra sauce from the pork chops on my potato - my husband thinks I'm crazy.

Peking Pork Chops

6 pork chops
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 cloves garlic, mashed

Trim excess fat from 6 pork chops. Place pork chops in crockpot. Combine brown sugar, ground ginger, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic (mashed), salt and pepper, to taste. Pour mixture over meat in crockpot. Cook, covered, on low for 4-6 hours or until tender (if I'm going to be gone all day, I use frozen pork chops and cook for 8 hours).

If using 4 oz chops, this is 5 Weight Watchers points per serving.

This post is part of Smockity Frocks What's In Your Crockpot? link up.

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

Today kicks off the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom. Head over there to find tons of great blogs and prizes.

For those of you new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My husband and I have been married for close to five years. We have one very active 3 year old and another boy on the way - due in mid-July. I've always been frugal and my husband has somewhat led that lifestyle but not to the extent I have. In Oct. 2007 he learned that his job was being cut to part time. He has not been able to find full time work since then so I took my frugal skills to a whole new level to make ends meet. I work part time at a real job and then run a Tupperware business part time. The rest of the time, I'm a SAHM. Many of our friends asked us how we do it and so I started this blog to let others in on our frugal lifestyle. We truly are Living on Less.

I look forward to meeting more of you over the next week as we celebrate The Ultimate Blog Party 2009.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Easy Toddler Game

Our Parents as Teachers person came by last week and one of the activities she did has quickly become one of my son's favorite. She gave him tongs, cotton balls, and a muffin tin and had him put the cotton balls in the tin using the tongs. I figured it would be hard for him but he mastered it in minutes. He then took all of the cotton balls out using the tongs. After that, they stacked blocks using the tongs. When she left, I gave my son a pair of tongs to play with and he has been fascinated. He loves seeing what he can pick up with them and his coordination is amazing me. Who needs expensive toys when you can entertain a child with simple items from around the house?!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tightwad Tuesday: Reinventing Leftovers

My husband does not like leftovers but they are a great way to save money in the grocery budget. I love leftovers so this isn't an issue for me but there are only so many times I can eat the same meal over and over again. Instead of being bored with my food, I either freeze individual portions, cook smaller portions, or reinvent the leftovers. Today I'm going to focus on the reinventing aspect by showing you a few recipes I've used lately.

Bananas: My family loves bananas but it is hard to judge how many we will use each week. If I find them starting to go bad, I put them in the freezer to use at another time. A reader informed me you don't even have to peel them, you just pop them in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and they peel easily. I use these to make smoothies for my son (fruit, milk, ice or ice cream, etc - get creative). I also use the bananas in Chocolate Chip Banana Bars and banana bread (my go to recipe comes from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook). I sometimes make the banana bread into muffins and then I have a quick breakfast or snack that I can take out one at a time.

Ham: Last fall, we had ham at my inlaws. They always send us home with an ice chest full of food (usually items they have bought to spoil our child) and asked us if we wanted the ham hock to take home too. I figured I could find something to use it for so I said yes. My husband isn't a huge ham fan but I love it. Unfortunately, I forgot I stuck it in my freezer until last week. When I found it I immediately started craving ham and beans. I found this wonderful and easy recipe for the crockpot and it made a delicious and cheap meal. A few hours in the crockpot and the ham literally fell off the bone.

Restaurant leftovers: My parents took us out to dinner last week and my husband brought home leftover sausage. I had a feeling he wouldn't eat it and he didn't so I turned it into a new meal. I found a great recipe on the back of a box of scalloped potatoes that uses sausage. It was easy and didn't cost me anything since I had all of the ingredients on hand.

Soup: I keep a bag or bowl in my freezer for random leftover bits and pieces. Veggies or meat usually go in there. Once it gets full, I turn the leftovers in to soup. Just add broth and seasoning as needed and you have a wonderful and unique soup. I love doing this because no two soups are alike.

What are some ways that you reinvent leftovers? Feel free to share as I'm always looking for new ideas and I'm sure my readers would love to hear them too.

Savin' O The Green eBook Sale

Get your grocery spending under control with the Savin' O The Green grocery savings e-book special, a set of 17 e-books to help you save at the grocery store and make your life easier! Along with six easy audio lessons, these e-books show you how to save money in the kitchen, save with or without using coupons, put together delicious and easy dinners and much more!

Here are a list of the ebooks offered:

Supermarket Savings 101 eCourse with audio downloads
Grocery Shopping On A Budget eCourse
Money Saving Meats e-book
Saving On Cleaning Supplies e-book
Eating Healthy On A Budget e-booklet
Is Eating Out Eating You Up? e-book
224 Meals In A Hurry e-book
Grocery Savings e-book
Menus That Make Cents e-book
Plan Ahead Leftovers e-book
Quick Dinners e-book
Menu Planning Made Easy
Simply Centsible Breakfasts
Simply Centsible Suppers
Kids Recipes
Menus On A Dime
470 Crockpot Recipes

This offer includes a special deeply discounted price only good until midnight March 23, so go get it now! Learn more by clicking on this link.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Money Saving Book Sale

Tomorrow, Money Saving Mom and Living on a Dime are hosting an incredible e-book sale. They will be offering 17 ebooks, mostly related to saving money through groceries and cost effective meals, for $17. Check back here Tuesday morning for more details on how to get these great books at an incredible savings.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Teaching a Child to Live on Less

I'm not sure how great I'm doing right now at teaching my toddler how to Live on Less. I know he is at the age where he wants everything now but I'm trying to steer him the other way. I thought I would tell you two cute stories about my child who still has a long way to go on learning to Live on Less.

First of all, my child is seriously in to movies these days. He wants them on all day (although half the time he isn't even in the same room as them but that is another story). His favorite part though is the previews. He has a few movies that every time we turn them on he tells us he wants every movie advertised in the preview. You have to physically be in the room and say something like "I know you want the new Thomas movie, I will add it to your Aunt Dawn list." If you do not mention the specific movie he throws a fit and thinks you aren't paying attention. We have kept the wants at bay for awhile now by creating an imaginary list for his Aunt Dawn. She lives far away and is sending him a late birthday present. Once the present arrives, I think we will move on to creating an imaginary Easter list. As long as he thinks it is on a list somewhere for someone to get him, he is ok with it.

The next story happened when we were at the mall today. My son has a strange obsession with Stride Rite shoes. He will wear nothing else. Luckily, an outlet opened last year about 30 minutes away, otherwise we would not be able to afford them. My husband was pushing our son in the stroller while I did a little maternity shopping and apparently when our child saw the Stride Rite store he went crazy wanting to go in for "his" shoes. We haven't been in that store in over a year, in fact, we haven't been to the mall in months so I was surprised he knew the store. We were later in a shoe store that carries several brands and he said he wanted some of his shoes. I pushed him to the kids area and he threw a fit because that was not "his" shoes - he was looking for Stride Rites. Isn't it lovely how a three year old can already be a label snob?!

I hope you enjoyed the little glimpse into our life. I thought these two stories were pretty funny considering my husband and I try to live on as little as possible.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Food Friday: Cake Mix Cookies

In need of a quick and easy, dessert? This recipe satisfies both needs. This came from a college friend and is super simple.

Cake Mix Cookies

1 white cake mix
1 cup chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend cake mix, oil, water and eggs. Stir in chips. Drop on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Top will be pale. Cook 1 minute before removing from sheet. When cool, store in an airtight container.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Will the Chaos Ever End?

Sorry I haven't been posting much the past two weeks - life has been absolutely crazy. Our child had the stomach flu for a few days, had one day of recovery, and then came down with a nasty cold. At the same time, I was working on a huge project for my parents business and the deadline is this week. When I took it on, I had a healthy child and knew I could do it but it has been overwhelming me instead. I'm hoping to see an end to the craziness by this weekend and then I am going to crash.

It is funny though that times like this when I can barely see myself coming and going, I have tons of blog post ideas running through my head. Hopefully I can find time soon to sit down and write them. As always, if there is a topic you would like me to cover, feel free to email or leave a comment.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Huggies Sale at Walgreens

Huggies are on sale this week at Walgreens for $10 a pack. When you purchase $25 worth of Huggies products, you receive $10 off your next purchase. Coupons.com currently has $3 and $5 off coupons for Huggies and you can print them twice by using the back button on your computer. To access the coupons, check out the pink banner on the left hand side of my blog, towards the bottom. You can print them right from the blog.

I used this opportunity to stock up on diapers for the new baby. If you do not have a child in diapers, this would make a great baby shower gift or a donation to a women's shelter. I purchased 3 packs yesterday for $16 and some change(I had 3 of the $5 coupons thanks to catching them just before they reset for a new month). I also received the $10 back so that made 3 packs of diapers come to just over $6!

Tightwad Tuesday: Scrapbooking on a Budget

I am a huge scrapbook fan, although I rarely have the time to do this hobby justice. It is an expensive hobby though. I've learned a few things over the years though on how to keep it affordable and still fun.

Keep it simple: The complicated pages can be fun but not every page needs to be complicated. Simple pages are sometimes just as rewarding and beautiful and much cheaper.

Watch for sales: I will very rarely ever buy scrapbooking supplies unless they are on sale or I have a 40% (or more) coupon from Michael's, Hobby Lobby, or Joann's. Occasionally I will splurge on an item from an actual scrapbook store, but even then it is usually a sale item. I try to avoid those stores though because they are expensive and extremely tempting.

Share with friends: My friends and I are known for giving gifts to each other of leftover scrapbook supplies. I love buying the large paper packs but there are always several pages I know I won't need and they would be perfect for one of my friends. Sometimes I only need part of a sticker sheet but I know someone doing a page with a similar theme. I save these random things throughout the year and use them as birthday and Christmas presents. I love it when I receive the same gift too.

Another way to share with friends is to have a crop night. This is a great way to share supplies, tools, and ideas. I've found some great tools I never would have bought before thanks to friends and I've also learned of a few things I thought I wanted but realized I didn't after using them. Crops are a great way to get girl time in and finish a few pages.

Look for items around the house: I've been known to pull labels off products and use them in my pages. Office supplies make great embellishments too. Look around at your every day life and see what can be added to a page.

Use what you have: Most scrapbookers have way more supplies than they will ever use yet they keep buying the latest and greatest. When my husband had his hour cuts I quickly realized my little bit of spending money was gone and that meant no more new supplies. I challenged myself to use what I had and it was amazing some of the stuff I came up with. I used paper and embelishments I thought I would never use and the pages came out great. I've only bought a few items over the past year thanks to this challenge and I'm clearing out some of the clutter in scrapbooking stash at the same time.

Do you have any other ideas on how to scrapbook on a budget? I would love to hear your ideas.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Food Friday: Rotel Chicken Pasta

I realize it is no longer Friday but I figure better late than never. I'm happy to report our child is feeling back to his normal self today and I'm getting caught up on everything that didn't get done the past two days.

I found this recipe years ago off the Weight Watchers message boards. I do not follow the amounts on here but rather use them as a guide simply because I rarely cook a full portion for our small family. This is another way to Live on Less - cook half portions so you are not wasting leftovers. If you do not like spicy food, I suggest using the milder version of Rotel or simply a can of diced tomatoes.

Rotel Chicken Pasta

3 cups cooked spaghetti
8 oz Velveeta Light
2 1/2 servings Rotel (one small can)
1/2 cup cooked onions
1 item boneless chicken breast (I use 1-2 chicken tenders per person)
1 garlic clove

Saute onions and garlic in Pam. Add Rotel and Velveeta, heat until melted. Add cooked spaghetti and cooked shredded chicken, stir to coat. Put in casserole dish sprayed with Pam and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.

5 WW points per serving

Friday, March 6, 2009

Guest Post

I have a guest post up today at Momma's Blog on Living on Less with a Toddler. Check it and the other great posts that Momma has up.

Delay for Food Friday

Just a quick note to let you know Food Friday will be coming either late tonight or sometime on Sat as I'm home with a sick child today. He is much better than yesterday so hopefully we are on the mend.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spring Fever

The weather around here lately has been all over the place but the few warm days we have had have given me a major case of spring fever. One of my favorite parts of spring is planting my garden. I'm hoping to slightly increase the size of my veggie garden this year and have been dreaming about getting it going. In order to hopefully save a little money and give me a jump start on spring, I'm going to try growing a few of the veggies from seed (maybe flowers too). I found a great blog,The Dirty Radish that is inspiring me to give this a try. I haven't tried seeds in years and I did no research the few times I tried so I'm hoping that armed with information, I can succeed this year. If you want to try growing seeds, here is her post on how to start seeds. For my zone, this is the ideal week to start seeds so I'm going to give it a try and let you all know how it goes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Simplify: Part 2 - Decluttering

During the Christmas season I discussed how I was simplifing my life for the holidays and I promised to show later how I was simplifing my everyday life. This is another installment in the series and I will periodically post more throughout the year.

This time I'm focusing on cleaning out the clutter in our house. I'm a natural born pack rat but I'm doing everything I can to overcome it. If you look at my grandparents on both sides of my family, you will know where it came from. After cleaning out two of their houses in one year, I realized it was amazing I'm not worse. I've known this has been an issue for years and have been slowly working on improving my habits. I know it will be a lifelong journey but I can say I've greatly improved over the years.

With a baby coming, we have decided to move our toddler to the room next door. The baby will get his room since we have never redecorated it from the nursery. He is excited for the new room but it is taking forever because this was our catchall room. It started as a scrapbook room and a guest room but quickly became the dumping grounds for anything we needed to keep the toddler out of. I would work on cleaning it out a little at a time but never did that great of a job. Now that I'm trying to completely clear it out, I'm realizing just how much junk is in there and wondering why I've been keeping some of it all of these years. Of course, there are some things I want to keep and now I have to find a new home for those items. Needless to say, the majority of our house is being cleaned out at the moment. And the best part....it is very freeing.

We decided a while back to have a garage sale this spring. I made myself set a date on the calendar so that I have deadline. I've already filled an entire shelving unit in my garage with sale items and I have several boxes tucked in corners all over my house (I hope I remember where it all is when the sale comes). As I get little parts of my house cleared out, it feels wonderful. Just this weekend I commented to someone that it was nice to have cabinet space in my kitchen again. (Side note: we have a ton of cabinets but most of our stuff is only in the high cabinets due to a very curious child). I felt like I was bursting at the seams before but now I have room to grow. The amazing part is that I really only got rid of a few coffee cups and random wedding presents that hadn't been used since we moved in to the house 4 1/2 years ago.

My biggest tip for simplifying by removing the clutter is to take it one area at a time. If the kitchen seems overwhelming, start with just the junk drawer. If your child's room is too much, just go through their closet. Once you get one area done, it is much easier to keep going.

What are you doing to simplify your life? I would love to hear your ideas.

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