Friday, May 29, 2009

Food Friday: French Green Bean Salad

BBQ season has officially begun and with that comes many requests for side dishes at the various get togethers. This one is super easy to make and with all of the great Kraft coupons that are out this month (check out my side bar for if you have not printed your coupons yet) it is cheap too.

French Green Bean Salad

4 cups (2 cans) french style green beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp dried onion flakes
1/3 cup Kraft Fat Free French dressing
3 Tbsp shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, combine green beans, onion flakes, and French dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, stir in cheese.

For 4 servings: 77 calories, 1 g fat, 2 g protein, 15 g carbs, 245 g sodium, 72 g calcium, 2 g fiber

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Lesson In Trust

A week ago, my husband and I ran to Kansas City for a quick getaway and for him to attend a 1/2 day conference for his job. It was great to get away without a child but we were exhausted when we came home because we tried to do too much in a short period of time.

Since it has been several years since we had been to KC, my dad offered us his GPS unit. A funny thing happened while using it, I learned a great lesson in trust. At first, we thought it was funny to listen to because we knew where we were going. As we got closer to KC and were looking for our hotel, we found ourselves becoming more and more anxious wanting to know every last detail of where we were going and how many miles to go for each exit. My husband and I are planners and we like to know every last detail ahead of time. As the weekend went on and I explored areas of KC while my husband was at his conference, I learned to trust the GPS more and not worry about the details. I quickly learned it gave me enough information and plenty of time to react to it, I just needed to be patient and take it one step at a time.

This is how life is at times too. I so often want to know every last detail of life but I've got to learn to trust in God. He gives me what I need, when I need it and I'm working on remembering that daily. As you all know, my husband has been working reduced hours for 18+ months. What you do not know, is my part time job has recently reduced hours too. When I start to stress about things, I am reminded of the GPS unit and that I need to take life one step at a time. The amazing thing happening this week is that as I trust God, good things are happening. I've done some freelance work off and on for about a year and out of the blue this week, several jobs have come along. Trusting in God is getting us through and I know we will be fine.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Checking In

I've tried all day to get Food Friday up but it just didn't happen. Sorry to leave you all in the dark this week, but it has been crazy. I have several posts in the editing stage so hopefully I will be back to normal by next week. I pray you all have a great Memorial Day weekend! We will be spending ours getting the baby's room ready and potty training our toddler. We have made progress this week, but there is still a long ways to go on that end. We have been fighting this for ages but I pray it is sticking this time. And yes, I know that he will probably slide some when the baby comes but I have to start somewhere as it is a requirement for him to start preschool in the fall.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tightwad Tuesday: Cell Phone Accessories

We finally caved in two weeks ago and upgraded our cell phones. It had been two and a half years since new phones and I never liked the one I had. My husband found a free one at Best Buy that he liked so we took the plunge. Free phones aren't really free though - there are fees for upgrading and new accessories will need to be purchased. It is still cheaper than paying for a phone though. In order to save some money, we went to and searched for accessories. Instead of paying $24.95 for the travel charger our cell company offered, we paid a penny plus $2.98 shipping for a generic version. We also found similarly priced cases, screen savers, etc. If you are in the market for a new phone, I suggest looking online before buying the expensive accessories from the store.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Food Friday: Brownie Pie Mix

This is a great gift to give someone and would be great for those end of the year teacher gifts everyone is trying to figure out about now. We made these in MOPS last week and they were a hit. I put the mix in a clear cellophane bag and tied it with a pretty ribbon.

Brownie Pie Mix

1 cup sugar

½ cup flour

¼ cup cocoa

Pinch of salt

½-3/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or chocolate chips

In a cellophane bag, pour in 1 cup sugar. Add 1/4 cup cocoa, then add 1/2 cup flour and pinch of salt. Pour 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or substitute chocolate chips) into a small lightweight food storage bag. Twist bag and tie tightly with twine or ribbon, cutting off excess plastic bag end. Push lightly into the flour in the bag.

To make brownie pie:

Brownie pie mix

2 eggs

1 stick butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 9-inch pie plate. Whisk together 2 eggs in mixing bowl; add 4 ounces softened butter or margarine and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Remove bag of nuts or chocolate chips and set aside. Pour bag contents into mixing bowl. Mix to moisten ingredients then beat on high speed of electric mixer for 2 - 3 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Empty bag of nuts or chocolate chips into the batter and fold in. Spread batter in prepared pie plate. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until set. Cut into wedges and serve slightly warm with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gotta Have Faith

I've talked to many people lately who are discouraged by the down enconomy and the lifestyle changes they are having to make. I will admit, it can be discouraging, but my faith is what is keeping me going. Usually about the time I feel I've had enough or start to worry how I am going to take care of a need, God comes through.

For instance, I was getting frustrated in the first trimester when none of my clothes fit and my maternity clothes from our first son were huge thanks to this child being born in a different season. I knew I had a little Christmas money to spend but it would not get me through the entire pregnancy. About this time, three different people blessed me with their maternity clothes and said they did not want them back. I went through everything, kept what fit and I liked, and passed on the rest to others who needed clothes too.

This one might seem petty, but another example is my son needed some sandals. We have had a few warm days and he was just too hot in socks and shoes. The only problem is my son will only wear Stride Rite shoes and he can instantly tell you when you put something different on his feet. I can usually find a pair at the outlet for a reasonable price but their selection was pretty sad and they were out of his size in the affordable options. On a whim, I decided to go to Kohl's since they sometimes have Stride Rite or Munchkins (made by Stride Rite). Lo and behold, my son fell in love with a pair of Cars sandals that were on sale for $12. This is literally the first pair of non Stride Rite shoes he has ever agreed to wear. A huge relief came off my shoulders because I wasn't sure where the $50-60 was coming from to buy him a pair of shoes for the summer.

I could go on and on with other non clothing related examples such as food being given to us and random checks or gift cards in the mail, but these are just two that have happened recently and caused me to pause and thank God for his blessings. I leave you with a verse that was posted on the Dave Ramsey site today:

"Blessed is the man who keeps on going when times are hard." James 1:12

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tightwad Tuesday: Preparing for a Baby

It is hard to believe, but my second child will be here in 10 weeks or less. Although I was late with my first child, this one is on the large side and they are not letting me go past my due date with him. Last week my friends told me they decided to throw me a shower so we went and registered last night at Babies r Us. While creating my short registry, I was reminded of how much excess the baby industry tries to sell us. I bought in to some of this with the first child but I tried to keep it minimal. With this one, we need to replace a few things that didn't survive or we simply did not like the version we bought. Most of these items I've already replaced thanks to Craigslist and garage sales.

Here are the essentials for a newborn:

* Diapers (disposable or cloth)
* Wipes
* Bottles
* Crib
* Crib sheets
* Clothes - be careful to not go overboard here
* Diaper bag
* Infant bath soap
* Infant Tylenol

Here are a few of the splurges I want or already have:

* Sling
* Swing
* Bouncy seat
* Boppy
* Stroller of various types
* Electric breast pump (if working and breastfeeding, this becomes a necessity)

While registering, I could have added hundreds of items to this list, but I kept it minimal. With our first, we did not even buy the swing until he was a few months old. Some babies love them, some hate them. When we discovered he really liked it and it was lifesaver for us, we splurged. With this child, my big splurge is a sling. I know it will be hard to chase a toddler around while holding a baby and I think a sling would be handy. I already have a front pack carrier but I like the concept of the sling better.

Another word of warning is to not go overboard on the necessities either. Do you really need the most expensive diaper bag? I wound up using the free one from the hospital because I liked it better than the one I bought. Do you need excessive amounts of bottles? No, a few will be fine and it is ok to only buy the larger ones as the baby will eventually need them anyway.

I see nothing wrong with splurging on a few items as long as there is room in the budget, but my point is to pick and choose wisely.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

I pray all of the mother's are enjoying their day and taking a few moments to thank God for their precious children. Don't forget to thank your own mom for raising you too.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Food Friday: Mexican Cobb Salad

This is one of my favorite salads in the summer as it does not warm up your house to make it and it can easily be adapted to everyone's tastes. Feel free to experiment with different cheeses and veggies to make it your own. Once my garden comes in, most of the veggies will come from there.

Mexican Cobb Salad with Salsa Dressing

3 cups finely chopped lettuce (I use romaine or red leaf)
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
10 oz drained black beans
12 cherry tomatoes
2 1/4 oz reduced fat shredded pepper jack cheese
3/4 cup salsa
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin

Place lettuce in a large bowl. Layer across the top of the lettuce with the onion, bell pepper, beans, cheese, and tomatoes. In a small bowl whisk together the salsa, lime juice, and cumin. Serve with the dressing on the side. Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tightwad Tuesday: Stay Away from the Stores

People often ask me for my top tips on how to Live on Less. I would have to say one of the top tips on how to save money is to stay away from the stores. Too often we run out to get one needed item and come home with a ton of junk that just happened to jump into our cart. My biggest weakness is Target so when my husband first had his hours reduced, this is one of the first things I cut. Sometimes I would head there just to get out of the house with my son. I went six months without stepping foot in a Target and I'm sure I saved hundreds by skipping that one store.

I also began limiting shopping to only necessities. I grocery shop on Monday and very rarely go to the store again throughout the week unless I am making something for a special occasion. I switched my grocery shopping to Dillons in order to take advantage of double coupons matched with sales. I quickly noticed that I was not only saving money on groceries, but I was saving a ton on non-essential items I picked up every time I did my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.

My tip this week is to find a few stores that are your downfall and have a fast from them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Garage Sale Update

Despite awful weather, I hit my goal on my garage sale. The first day we had about 2 hours before it started raining. Once the rain hit, we stuffed everything in the garage but kept the sale open. Surprisingly, we had several die hard garage salers stop by. The rain stayed away most of Sat. but it turned cool and threatened rain the entire day. Even though the weather stunk, we still made $400! I'm sure it would have been higher had the weather been better but this was exactly my goal so I'm happy. The few items of decent value we still have will be posted on Craigslist today and the rest is being boxed up for Goodwill. My intention was to box it all up Saturday when we closed but lucky me came down with a migraine Saturday morning and I was too wiped by the afternoon to clean it all up.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hosting a Garage Sale: Part 4

If you missed the first three parts of this series, here are part 1, part 2 and part 3. This week's focus is on marketing the sale. Here are a few of the ways to market your sale in order to gain the most customers:

Newspaper: Yes, newspaper readership is declining, but for many people this is the first stop when deciding their garage sale strategy for the day. I used to always advertise my sales in the paper and received many customers directly because of it. The few sales I haven't advertised turned out to be pretty pathetic sales. This year the paper drastically increased their price so I'm trying my first sale in years without advertising in our local paper.

Craigslist: In most areas, Craigslist is free to advertise and is rapidly gaining popularity. I put up an ad earlier in the week about the sale and then relist it the day before and day(s) of. I recommend not putting your actual address in for safety reasons but to put a good starting point as to where your signs will be. I've actually presold a few items through my postings so I find this an easy way to gain customers.

Local media websites: Many TV and radio stations in our area have a garage sale section on their website and the majority are free to advertise on.

National websites: More and more national websites such as Garage Sale Tracker are popping up to promote garage sales. I do not have a lot of experience with these sites but my best guess is that they will grow with popularity since our economy has tanked and people are having to bargain shop more than ever before.

Signage: This is probably the most important marketing tool as it gains drive by customers. Start your signs at a major intersection and provide easy directional signs all the way to your house. I live on a cul-de-sac kind of hidden back and I always put out a ton of directional signs so people can find me. I've received many compliments on the signs because most people would turn on the street attached to mine, not see the sale, and turn around but that last sign telling them to keep going let's them know they are close.

My other piece of advice for signage is to keep it simple. As people drive by, it is hard for them to read a lot of wording, therefore I usually just put SALE and an arrow. I'm not a fan of putting times or addresses as people abuse this.

This is the last in my garage sale series - I hope you have enjoyed it. If you have a garage sale, I would love to hear how it goes. Ours is going on right now and I will update everyone once it is over. So far, it has rained almost the entire day but our sales are still good considering.

Food Friday: Fruit Salsa

This is a super simple recipe I learned about at my latest Tupperware meeting. It is meant to be used at our parties to show off our Quick Chef food chopper but can easily be made in a regular food processor or blender. I like to serve it with graham sticks but have been told it is really good with mini rice cakes or cinnamon sugar tortilla chips.

Fruit Salsa

1 apple, cored
2 kiwi, peeled
8-10 strawberries, hulled

Cut apple into wedges and process in chopper until slightly chunky. Add kiwi and strawberries and continue chopping until desired consistency. If not serving right away, add a little lemon juice to preserve the apples and store sealed in the fridge.

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