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Friday, September 28, 2012

10 Quick-Fixes with Ground Beef

Cheesy BBQ Sloppy Joes
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (11.25-oz.) package frozen garlic Texas toast
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes or until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain well. Return to skillet. Stir in tomatoes, next 3 ingredients, and, if desired, jalapeño peppers and liquid. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Texas toast according to package directions. Serve beef mixture over Texas toast; sprinkle with cheese.

Old-fashioned Meatloaf
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ketchup
Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir together ground beef, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into a 10- x 5-inch loaf; place on a lightly greased broiler rack. Place rack in an aluminum foil-lined broiler pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Stir together remaining 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon ketchup until blended; pour evenly over meatloaf, and bake 10 to 15 more minutes or until no longer pink in center. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Red Bean Chili
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans light red kidney beans
1 (12-ounce) can tomato juice
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato soup
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Cook beef and onion in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 10 to 12 minutes, stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain, and return beef mixture to Dutch oven.Stir kidney beans and next 5 ingredients into beef mixture; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour. Garnish, if desired.

All-In-One Spaghetti
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Dash of pepper
1 (7-ounce) package spaghetti, uncooked
Grated Parmesan cheese
Cook first 3 ingredients in a Dutch oven, stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain well. Return beef mixture to pan. Stir in tomato sauce and next 8 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 30 minutes. Add pasta; cover and simmer, stirring often, 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serve with cheese, and garnish, if desired.

Mexican Lasagna
1/2 pound ground mild pork sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
1 (15-ounce) can -pinto beans, drained
2/3 cup canned diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of celery soup
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
9 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 medium avocado, chopped
Cook sausage and ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain. Stir in beans and next 5 ingredients; cook until thoroughly heated.Stir together soups and enchilada sauce in a saucepan; cook until thoroughly heated. Spoon one-third of sauce onto bottom of a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish; top with 3 tortillas. Spoon half of beef mixture and one-third of sauce over tortillas; sprinkle with half of Cheddar cheese. Top with 3 tortillas; repeat layers ending with tortillas. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese and next 3 ingredients. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Top with avocado.

Shepherd’s Pie
1 1/2 pounds ground round
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 (8-oz.) package fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 (14 1/2-oz.) can stewed tomatoes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Cheese-and-Carrot Mashed Potatoes
Brown beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 10 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove ground beef from skillet using a slotted spoon; reserve 2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Sauté onion, mushrooms, in hot drippings over medium heat 10 to 11 minutes or until tender. Stir in ground beef, peas, and next 4 ingredients. Sprinkle flour over meat mixture. Increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, and vinegar, breaking up large tomato pieces with a spoon. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove bay leaf. Transfer mixture to a lightly greased 3-qt. baking dish or pan. Spoon Cheese-and-Carrot Mashed Potatoes evenly over meat mixture, smoothing with back of spoon. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Italian-Style Beef-and-Pepperoni Soup
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 cup sliced turkey pepperoni (3 ounces)
Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Cook ground beef and pepperoni in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until beef crumbles and is no longer pink. Rinse and drain beef mixture.Sauté mushrooms and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in Dutch oven 5 minutes. Stir in beef mixture, tomato paste, and next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

Smothered Enchiladas
2 pounds ground beef
1 (1 1/4-ounce) package mild taco seasoning mix
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, divided
2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans cream of chicken soup
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
Brown ground beef in a large skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix and half of chopped green chiles; set aside. Stir together remaining green chiles, soup, and sour cream. Pour half of soup mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Spoon beef mixture evenly down centers of tortillas; roll up. Place, seam sides down, over soup mixture in baking dish; top evenly with remaining soup mixture and cheese.
Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish, if desired.

Cheesy Chili Hash Brown Bake
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
1 (15.5-oz.) can original sloppy joe sauce
1 (15-oz.) can chili with beans
1/2 (30-oz.) package frozen country-style shredded hash browns (about 4 cups)
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425°. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 7 to 10 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Stir in sloppy joe sauce and chili. Spoon chili mixture into 8 lightly greased 10-oz. ramekins. Top with frozen hash browns. Bake, covered, at 425° for 30 minutes; uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until browned and crisp. Sprinkle with cheese, and bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

One-Pot Pasta
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 (26-ounce) jars tomato-basil pasta sauce
1 cup water
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (20-ounce) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook ground beef in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Stir in beef, pasta sauce, 1 cup water, and next 3 ingredients. Bring sauce to a boil; add ravioli. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until pasta is done. Stir in cheese. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Easy.Cute.Unique Pumpkin Decorating Ideas ~ No Carve Too Boot

I just love these fun and unique ideas with pumpkins. I will certainly be doing most of these with my 6 year old daughter and the best part about these creative mess with pumpkin guts!

"Stick Around Plaid"
Get crafty with this jack o’ lantern alternative, perfect for the kids because it’s knife free. Use Japanese washi tape on white and orange pumpkins to create an overlapping plaid pattern. Because you aren’t cutting them, the pumpkins stay fresh much longer — working as a centerpiece throughout the fall.

"Spell-Binding Ribbon"
For a no-fuss fall centerpiece, heap bewitching, be-ribboned sugar pumpkins in a rustic bowl. To make: Attach double-stick tape to lengths of black, orange, and white patterned ribbon, then wrap around each squash.

"Feature Creatures"
These eerily familiar faces are dead ringers for carved countenances — but they're ready in less than five minutes. All you need to do is freehand the features with washable markers (just wipe off and restart if you're not satisfied with the design), then finalize the sketch with a black permanent marker. Wicked!

Instead of the usual haunts, try grouping pumpkins in a less-expected locale, like an unused fireplace. This to-die-for arrangement mixes plain and painted varieties for maximum eye appeal. For the graphic gourds, use painter's tape and self-adhesive paper to mark off stripes and circles. Spray with glossy black and white paint, then casually heap in the hearth.

"Cut and Paste"
Paper leaves encircling a white pumpkin make a graphic statement. Trace lawn-gathered leaves onto orange, yellow, and dark red tissue paper; cut tracings out, and stick them to pumpkin using decoupage glue. With a flat-head bristle brush, push from leaves' outer edges toward the centers to pucker paper slightly and create "veins"; let dry. Brush a thin layer of glue over pumpkin.

"Fright Fest"
Trick out your jack-o'-lanterns in these bewitching handmade masks. To craft, print out one of our three mask designs, enlarge it to fit your pumpkin, and cut it out. Trace twice onto black felt. Cut out both felt masks and sew together with a basting stitch. Glue to a simple store-bought mask, and replace the elastic string with a black ribbon. Tie mask onto pumpkin.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

You Go Texas Cheerleaders

What an inspiring story and I hope that they become "loud" enough to have their voices heard! This is what "standing up for what you believe in" is all about ~ God Bless you Kountze, Texas!

Texas cheerleaders fight for biblical banners at football games

A group of Texas high school cheerleaders is at the center of a spat over religious speech after the school district told them they had to stop using Christian-themed banners at school football games. The large signs, carried onto the field at Kountze High School, included messages such as "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" and "But thanks be to God which gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," according to a report by NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

Kevin Weldon, superintendent of the Kountze school district, about 85 miles northeast of Houston, informed the cheerleaders’ parents Tuesday that the religious banners would not be allowed, the station reported. Weldon's decision set off a tempest in the community of about 21,000, but he told the Houston Chronicle that it was based on 2001 Supreme Court decision that keeps religion out of public schools.

"The decision I made is not my personal opinion," Weldon told the Chronicle earlier this week. "I'm a Christian. This puts me between a rock and a hard place." Weldon reportedly made the decision after receiving a letter of complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that advocates separation of church and state, the Christian Post reported. But the cheerleaders scored a partial victory on Thursday, when a judge granted a temporary restraining order on enforcement of the ban after parents of the cheerleaders filed a discrimination suit earlier in the week, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Under the injunction, the cheerleaders will be allowed to use the Biblical banners at games at least until an Oct. 4 hearing. The nonprofit Liberty Institute, which is representing the cheerleaders' parents, argues that it is unconstitutional to censor religious speech in this manner, the Post said.

The Texas Association of School Boards would not discuss its confidential conversations with Weldon, who had sought the organization's advice prior to banning the religious banners, but issued a statement on the case: "The federal court guidance... draws a distinction between private student speech, including written messages, which enjoys free speech protection under the First Amendment, and school-sponsored speech, which must conform to the Establishment Clause by not endorsing, coercing, or favoring religion,” Joy Baskin, the association's director of legal services, said in the statement. "Whether the display of a religious message by cheerleaders on the field at a high school football game constituted private or school-sponsored speech depends on a number of factors which must be weighed by the district, its counsel, and in this instance, the judge considering the case," Baskin said.

Cheerleader Macy Matthews, 15, argued that no school money was used and the signs weren't made on school property, so they should be allowed. She said she didn't anticipate the ban."It was upsetting because it's what motivated the boys each week," Matthews told the Chronicle. "I was shocked, really. I didn't understand why it would be a problem."

Information from MSN 9.21.2012

Irresistible Apple Dessert Recipes ~ Fall Perfect

Nothing says fall like APPLES. I love apples and so do my kiddos. Here are some new apple recipes I'm going to try out this fall ~ maybe you will too, Enjoy!

Caramel Apples
Branch out and get creative with some favorite caramel apple toppings. Use twigs thoroughly cleaned and stripped or you can use decorated craft sticks or large pretzel sticks.
6 apples
Food-safe branches, such as magnolia twigs, or craft sticks
1 (14-oz.) package caramels
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
Crushed peanut brittle, heath candy bars or toasted pecans
Remove the stems from apples, and insert food-safe branches or craft sticks. Microwave caramels, vanilla extract, and water until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Quickly dip or drizzle apples with caramel mixture; roll or sprinkle with crushed peanut brittle. heath bars or toasted pecans, if desired. Stand apples on lightly greased wax paper, and chill 15 minutes before serving.

Caramel Apple Dip
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Fresh apple slices
Stir together first 3 ingredients just until blended. Spoon mixture into a 10-oz. ramekin; level and smooth surface with a spatula. Cover and chill 2 to 8 hours. Preheat broiler with oven rack 5 inches from heat. Sprinkle granulated sugar over mixture in ramekin. Fill an 8-inch cake pan with ice; place ramekin in pan. Broil 3 to 5 minutes or until sugar is melted and caramelized. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve with apple slices.

Quick Apple Dumpling Bundles
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 (15-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
1 (12-oz.) package frozen spiced apples, thawed
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 (12-oz.) jar caramel topping, warmed
Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 5 to 6 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Remove from oven; increase oven temperature to 425°. Unroll piecrust on a lightly floured surface. Cut piecrust into fourths. Divide apples among each fourth, placing in center. Pull corners together over apples, pinching edges to seal. Place on a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined baking sheet; brush with egg white, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425° for 20 to 22 minutes or until golden. Serve apple bundles with caramel topping. Sprinkle with pecans.
SIDE NOTE: I wouldn't use the pecans because I hate nuts =)

Heavenly Apple Bake
1 (20-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
3 apples, peeled and cored, sliced 1/4-inch thick (2 cups)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Press cookie dough into a 9- x 13-inch baking pan, completely covering bottom of pan. In a medium bowl, mix apples with lemon juice, 2 tablespoons sugar, and the cinnamon, and distribute evenly over cookie dough. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the flour and butter, and mix with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over apple mixture and bake 30 minutes, or until top is golden.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Open Mouth, Insert…

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16

One of the best gifts that God has given us is our mouth, but it can also be the biggest problem. We often use it to complain, criticize, and fault find with no idea the impact those negatives have on our life. Every word that comes out of our mouths has power in it ~ it can be creative or destructive, positive or negative, so whether we murmur and complain or give thanks and keep a positive attitude, we are feeding our body, mind and spirit with our mouth!

Plain and simple, complaining is a sin! It causes many people a great deal of problems in their lives and destroys the joy of anyone listening. We need to ask ourselves, how quick are we to become impatient and begin to complain when stuck in traffic or while waiting in checkout lines? How quick are we to spot and point out the faults of our friends or family members? Do we complain about our job when we should be thanking God that we have one?

As we can read, Philippians 2:14 says that we are to do everything without complaining or arguing but boy oh boy is that hard to do sometimes and in some situations. However, we need to make it a daily challenge not to complain or find fault with anything or anybody. This does not mean that we don’t correct situations that need to be corrected, or that we live with our heads in the clouds, pretending that nothing negative exists ~ it simply means that we make it our goal in life to be as positive and thankful as possible.

Try getting up every morning and going to bed every night pondering everything you have to be thankful for. Let it be the first thing and last thing you everyday. We need to thank God for the “little” things and the things we take for granted such as a parking place that is close to the door (my favorite), waking up on time for work, the fact that you can walk or see or hear, your children, your health, etc.

Keep at this "challenge" until it's a habit and soon you will be living with an attitude of gratitude. And remember to thank God when the answer to prayer arrives. We enjoy getting our children what they need and ask for, but we feel taken advantage of if they just “grab the goods and run” without stopping to say thank you. And if they say it more than once and are really sincere, it actually motivates us to want to do more for them. God is the same way with us, so be generous in your gratitude. It will sweeten your relationship with the Lord.

Lord God, thank you for everything you've given me, everything you're doing for me and the things that are yet to come. Help me to remember to live with an attitude of gratitude without grumbling and arguing and never forget that I wouldn't have anything if it weren't for you! In your name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cheap.Easy.Unique Fall Decorating Ideas

I have found some more wonderful Fall Decorating ideas that I can't wait to try so I thought I would pass them on just in case you find them as fun as I do! The items are easy to find and heck we all probably have them on hand especially during this time of year. Have fun creating if you choose to re-create any of these splendid designs =)

Sweater Candle

OHHHH the possibilities for all upcoming holidays with this one! Wrapping sweater remnants around a candle brings warmth and comfort to your home. Camilla stuck a leaf in the sweater scraps to add texture and bring a touch of nature indoors. These candles work well as decor or as a hostess gift.

Harvest Corn

Cute, easy and simple! Tie a grouping of Indian corn ears together and hang from a cabinet door. Display jars filled with dried corn and seeds behind glass-front cabinet doors.

Grassy Fields

I love the simple yet elegant look of this on the staircase. Ornamental grasses dress up a plain staircase for fall -- the dried variety is available at crafts stores and fresh grasses can be purchased at some floral shops. Simply bundle bunches of the grasses together, secure with a rubber band and tie to every other baluster on your staircase with raffia.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

10 Insider Grocery Saving Secrets

Aside from couponing, there are many different ways to save money on your grocery bill ~ if only you knew the ins and outs of your favorite store's policies and promotions. And how do you find that out? "Just ask your store manager, who will happily tell you how to save the most at their store," says Annette Economides, a co-author of "Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half With America's Cheapest Family."

One out of three Americans (34%) reported being unlikely to settle for paying retail prices, according to RetailMeNot's third annual coupon behavior survey. These survey respondents said they'll go to a different store or wait for markdowns rather than pay full price. "Nobody's advocating that you drive all over town to take advantage of every coupon, ad or reward program," says Ellie Kay, a family finance expert. "The trick is finding the ones that are right for your shopping and spending style."

Grocery store managers, who preferred to be anonymous, offered tips and tricks on how to score the best values in their stores.

Know your store's coupon policies
Successful couponers know to look on a store's website for the printable coupon policy to help them get the best deals. For example, Kroger, Giant, Safeway and Acme Markets stores double or triple coupon face values in some states, usually on specific days and up to specific limits. For example, on a double coupon day, a 75 cents off coupon would be worth $1.50 off (most stores generally allow doubling of only coupons worth less than a dollar).

Kroger will waive the expiration date of coupons for military families living on bases. Publix and Target allow coupon stacking (using a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon); Wal-Mart does not. But Wal-Mart will apply any coupon overage (when savings are more than the final product cost) to your total grocery bill, while most other stores won't. Costco accepts no manufacturer coupons whatsoever, while Publix will honor certain competitors' coupons, depending on your store location, and Target honors no competing stores' coupons. Coupon policies change often, so make it a habit to check your store's policy.
Ask your store manager:
Is there a grace period on coupon expiration dates? Do you double or triple coupon face values? Can I stack coupons at your store? Do you have mobile coupons for my cellphone? How do you apply coupon overages? Do you match or accept other stores' coupons?

Use the store's loyalty programs
Now more than ever, stores are trying to attract you with special rewards for shopping at their stores, but not all stores have these programs. At CVS, you can earn Extra Bucks (cash built up on your Extra Care rewards card) for qualifying purchases for use as cash off your next purchase. There's even a coupon machine in front of every store where Extra Care cardholders can scan their cards and get unadvertised coupons (up to four at a time).

At Costco, an executive membership earns 2% cash-back rewards (up to $500 per year) on Costco purchases. At Winn-Dixie, if you don't scan your rewards card, all prices ring up at full price. It pays to know the ins and outs of each system, so you can take advantage of it, says Economides.
Ask your store manager:
Do you have a loyalty program? Do you give cash-back rewards? How do I use it? Does it provide additional savings on future purchases? Can these savings be combined with other manufacturer or store coupons?

Stock up at outlets and closeouts
These stores have a lot to offer, says Economides, especially when they sell a brand-name item you eat or use regularly. For example, Big Lots closeout stores provide an outlet for Pepperidge Farm, so if you love that brand, it pays to find out what day the truck arrives to take advantage of its products. If these stores offer a deal on items you regularly use, you should snatch up as many as you can afford and stockpile them, says Economides. "Watch out, though, because some manufacturers will provide these outlets with a smaller size to sell for cheaper, so know your regular sizes and prices before buying." She also says these stores typically do not accept coupons of any type -- another reason to know your prices.
Ask your store manager:
When does the (brand) truck come each week? Do you always carry (name brand)? Do you accept any coupons?
Do you have a loyalty program?

Find the final markdowns and clearances
You can score some really great bargains if you know where to look for final markdown items in your favorite stores, says Economides. For example, Publix provides a free-standing shelving rack with red-stickered grocery merchandise (never meat, produce or dairy) in a specific location in each store, while CVS usually provides final clearance merchandise either at the end of an aisle in the back of the store or sometimes on the bottom shelf where the product is usually displayed.

In contrast, Wal-Mart denotes clearance merchandise with orange or blue stickers and marks down produce and bakery items in addition to clearance grocery items in different locations of each store. Kroger repackages broken egg cartons to include eggs of all sizes, clearly marked to clear out.
Ask your store manager:
How often do you mark down items at final clearance prices? How can I identify these clearance items?
Where can I find these clearance items in the store? When during the day do you mark down or repackage perishable items (such as bakery, produce, eggs or dairy)?

Understand multiples and BOGOs
At some stores, a sign will say, "Two for $5," but if you buy one, it costs $3. Other times, says Economides, 10 for $10 means that no matter how many you buy, you still get the deal price at $1 each. "Watch out for multiples," says Kay, because this is how they get you to spend more than you planned, and they are not always the best deal, especially if you have to buy the quantity to get the deal price."

Buy-one-get-one deals, or BOGOs, can also get tricky. For example, at one store you might get two bags of BOGO chips for $3.99, but individually they also cost $3.99. In such cases, of course, it doesn't pay to get just one. But at another store, the same chips might be $3.29 regularly or $2 each when on sale.
Ask your store manager:
Do I have to buy as many as the deal says to get the deal price per item? How often do you switch or run BOGO promotions?

Do the math
"Don't shy away from doing the math to determine the best deal. That's what cellphone calculators are for," says Kay.
Economides adds that many stores have shelf tags that show you the per-unit price so you can compare deals. But let's do the math and work out three competing Publix deals:
10 for $10 -- 32 oz. Powerade bottles (10 x 32 oz. = 320 oz., $10 ÷ 320 = $.031 per oz.)
3 for $5 -- 64 oz. Gatorade bottles (3 x 64 oz. = 192 oz., $5 ÷ 192 = $.026 per oz.)
2 for $5 -- 128 oz. Gatorade jugs (2 x 128 oz. = 256 oz., $5 ÷ 256 = $.019 per oz.)
With the largest two-jug deal you are clearly getting more fluids for less money, but you lose the convenience of smaller bottles. "Being able to quickly compare the deal, product size and unit price makes selecting the right one for you easier," says Economides.

'Where's the beef?' savings
"Meat can be a large portion of any family's grocery bill, but there are many ways to save, depending on the store," says Economides. Her best deli tip: Look for "chubs." That's the word for a whole cooked ham, turkey breast or roast beef in the meat section. Take it over to the deli section and ask them to slice it. You will save more than 50% over the brand-name and even store-name deli meats.

Many stores also have different meat expiration and promotion policies. For example, a Publix ground beef insider secret is that the "market ground" meat label means the beef could be ground from high-quality meat left over from an advertised special (never expired meat), which is a great way to get better-tasting, higher-quality ground beef. Just check the meat specials and ask the butcher.
Ask your manager:
What is your policy on marking down meat? What are the choices in ground beef, turkey and chicken?
Do you sell whole cooked meats in the meat department? Can I bring a whole cooked meat from the meat department to the deli for slicing?

Produce savings in the bag
Many stores mark down and repackage produce that might be below the standards for full-price display, but that is not the biggest secret in the produce department. Economides says that bulk packaged produce is usually less expensive -- up to 50% less expensive than loose produce -- because packaged produce is priced by the unit and not by the pound, as with loose produce.

She says that by law, each bag must contain at least the advertised weight. The big secret is that to avoid underweight-error problems, grocers will throw in an extra food item so you get a few more ounces in the bag. "Just weigh your bag and see how many extra ounces are provided, and pick the heaviest one for the best deal -- especially if you eat a lot of apples, potatoes, grapefruits, etc."
Ask your manager:
What is the store's policy for marking down produce? Where and when can I find marked-down produce?

Credit card rewards add up to real cash
If a store or credit card gives cash back, you should try to take advantage of it, Kay and Economides say. Costco's TrueEarnings American Express card earns between 1% and 4% cash back depending on the type of purchase.

Target's REDcard (available in credit and debit versions) saves you 5% on Target purchases every time you use it. Kroger has a 1-2-3 rewards credit card that earns points for purchases and rewards customers with cash to spend in Kroger. None of these cards has an annual fee.
Ask your store manager:
Does your store offer a credit or debit card that earns rewards? How do the rewards work, and how can I use them? When are the rewards applied?

Other ways to save
"There are so many different types of promotions and ways for you to take advantage of them, and the best thing is to be as informed as possible to find the ones that work for you," says Kay.
Here are some more specific perks at some stores:
*A mobile coupon program at Target allows coupons to be scanned directly from your phone.
*The CVS email program notifies you of unadvertised specials.
*If a Publix clearance price rings up wrong, you get it for free.
*Whole Foods, CVS and Target offer reusable bag rebates that take cash off your final receipt.
*Register rewards from Winn-Dixie give you coupons for your next purchase.
*You can activate a Upromise account at a grocery store in your area to earn college money on items you're buying and saving on already.
*Many grocery stores offer special deals on their websites.

information gathered from MSNMoney

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Just saying ~ Bath and Body Works Fall Scents are AMAZING!

Sew Off The Subject

As fall is settling in the air here in Missouri, I started "switching" up the house today. It was time to put away the summer things, you know decor such as pillows, blankets, wreaths, etc. even the candles and wallflowers. As I unpacked my fall things I was so excited to find my Bath and Body stash from last year ~ candles and wallflowers! I am in love with their scents and just can't get enough.

I was even more thrilled to find that Bath and Body Works brought back my ALL TIME favorite scents from last fall, this year (even though I already have enough). I stocked up last year just in case they didn't bring it back this year, but they did. =) I never really review things but I want to pass along the love here! There is nothing I hate more than buying an expensive candle and getting it home to realize it don't like it ~ the good thing about BB candles though, you can return even if you've burned it, BOUNS!!! If you only buy 1 candle this fall make it a Slatkin & Co. Candle from Bath and Body and you won't be disappointed!

My 3 favorites are Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin, Autumn and Leaves. I have these scents in candles and wallflowers! Run to the store and pick some up!

Get festive this fall with our heartwarming fragrance that unites the beloved, autumnal scents of dark pomegranate, sweet red apple and woodsy fir balsam.

A harvest fave returns for fall! Our delicious, one-of-a-kind recipe combines sweet pumpkin pie, rich vanilla cream and a touch of cinnamon.

Like an afternoon spent jumping in a pile of freshly fallen leaves, this fragrance embodies all the richness of the season and features a medley of ripe delicious apples, red berries and golden nectar.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Our Children ~ Our Blessings

This year has been like none other for me in many ways but the most pivotal has been my walk with Christ! I have studied, prayed, sought and fought harder in my spiritual walk with the Lord than I have in years! I hate to admit it but I had become complacent and content with where I was (or so I thought) so I prayed "sleepy" prayers before falling asleep (often not finishing a thought let alone a prayer), I went to church but didn't really "listen", I read the bible when I felt like it or when it "fit" into my schedule, etc, etc.

This year however my eyes where opened to what I had been missing out on through this complacent lifestyle. Call it a "wake up call" direct from God himself but factors, situations, and issues in my life put me in a place that I had to change my ways and seek Him regularly!

It started with "my girls" from church and a little devotion book called Journey that we 3 decided to become more accountable and get our lives back on track with what God wanted from us not what we "thought" He wanted from us. We email and respond to each other regarding a daily devotional dealing with our innermost thoughts and feelings and it was through this time with my girls that I started to realize just how much God loved me in spite of my actions, laziness, behaviors, words and deeds. It came from realizing that as much as I love my own children......He loves me a thousand more times than that! That is still something I struggle wrapping my mind around, He loves me more than I love my children and unconditionally ~ WOW!

Did you know that from the very beginning, God created men and women to be in a relationship of blessing with others and that He designed the family to be the first place, the main source, of this blessing of unconditional love, acceptance, value and worth? As a mom of 3 growing children, ages 15, 12 and 7, I am being tested in these ares of love, acceptance, value and worth each and every day but one thing is constant ~ I love then UNCONDITIONALLY!

This past spring.summer, along with all the other crazy things going on around here, I had the wonderful opportunity to have a young lady walk into my life who changed my own thinking about being a responsible parent. While this young lady is only 17 and just a senior in high school, she has gone through some pretty tough trials, the kind that change a person forever. She taught me to love my children no matter the mistake (we all make them too right?), she taught me to hang onto my faith even when things don't appear to being going as planned ~ the perfect plan that God has in store for each of us. As I reflect back now, all the time I spent with her, talking and sharing personal experiences and God's truths, I realized that this time of accountability with my devotion girls (which had/has me studying and researching like I've never known/done before) prepared me to fellowship with this young girl. You see, what she has gone through in her young life may be leaving her feeling that she is not loved unconditionally, that there are conditions to love, acceptance, value and worth. BUT through God's perfect plan, He planted her in my life for a reason and I hope and pray that what I shared with her gives her the realization that she is loved unconditionally, that no one loves her more than her Heavenly Father, that there is no mistake too big for our God, and that He does have a perfect plan for her life!

What I've learned through this situation is that we as parents have a responsibility to extend blessings to our children, just as our Heavenly Father extends blessings to us. Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” We have to speak good to and for our children in order for them to receive it. Our children need to hear us say "I love you...I’m proud of you...You can do it!....It's Ok......It will be alright!" At two critical times in Jesus’ own life ~ His baptism, when He was about to start His ministry and near the end, on the Mount of Transfiguration ~ He heard His Father’s voice from heaven, "This is my son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased."

We have to encourage them to be all they can be in life. We have to help and guide them reach their potential by enlarging their vision of God, our mighty God who always does things in abundance and works everything together for good! We need to find out their dreams and dream with them. We need to value them as the valuable blessings they are ~ when we value people, we find out their likes and dislikes, we hurt when they hurt, we celebrate when they celebrate. This is how we encourage them, we invest in them.

We need to be reminded and teach our children what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” We need to use our words and actions to change our children’s future, to give and treat our children as the blessing they are, a blessing from God!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Celebrating Home ~ More Bean Pot Recipes, Desserts

I am in love with this thing! I have to tell you that I honestly didn't think I would us this "bean pot" (really a bean pot what is that) but since I broke it out last week, I've used it 3 times now! Here are a few desserts you can try as well: I actually made a Chocolate Strawberry Dump Cake on Saturday and while I hate chocolate ~ yes you heard me right, I don't care for chocolate! ~ this thing was YUMMY!

Chocolate Strawberry Dump Cake
1 chocolate cake mix
1 can strawberry pie filling
3 eggs
Pour cake mix in the bowl. Add eggs and the pie filling. Mix with a spoon. Put the lid on the bean pot or if using serving bowl put a Celebrating Home microwave safe dinner plate on the top of the bowl. Put in 350* oven and back for 55 minutes with lid on. Remove bean pot lid, poke holes throughout with wooden sppon handle and cover with chocolate frosting, it will drain into the cake. Top with remaining chocolate frosting, other can of strawberry filling, fresh strawberries, whipped topping, or ice cream.

Pineapple- Cherry Dump Cake
1 can pineapple tidbits w/ juice 1 can cherry pie filling
1 box Super Moist Butter Recipe Yellow w/ pudding
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 stick margarine
Spray inside of bean pot with canola oil. Pour pineapple in bean pot w/juice. Pour cherry pie filling in bean pot. In a mixing bowl, combine 3 eggs in bowl - break yellow with fork, pour in milk - cake mix and mix with large slotted plastic spoon until lumpy batter. Pour into bean pot 1 stick margarine - cut in 12 slices and place on top of batter. Microwave for 12 minutes - check & let steam out at 6 minutes. Toothpick test passed after 12 minutes. Remove lid - cool down. Serve hot w/ ice cream - 12 servings.

German Apple Cake
2 eggs beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
2 cups chopped apples
1 cup nuts - optional
Using a spoon not a mixer, mix together the eggs oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir in apples and nuts. Bake in the bean pot at 350 for 90 minutes.
1st hour with the lid off and the last 30 minutes with the lid on.

Sauce Ingredients:
1tsp flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk.
Combine flour and both sugars in a saucepan. Mix well. Over low heat add butter and sweetened condensed milk. Continue to mix. Bring to a boil and stir for a few minutes.

Apple Spice Dessert
1 can apple pie filling (12 oz)
1 jar of caramel topping
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 spice cake mix
1 1/2 sticks of butter cut into pats
vanilla ice cream
In your bean pot, dump 1 can of apple pie filling. Pour 1/2 jar of caramel topping on top then sprinkle the chopped pecans on top. Dump spice cake mix on top (dry). Place butter pats evenly over dry cake mix. Place lid on bean pot and place in a 350 degree oven for 90 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel topping that is left. If dessert becomes cold, microwave to warm up before serving.

Pecan Dump Cake
1 Butter pecan or yellow cake mix
1 large can sliced peaches in juice and diced
1 stick sliced butter
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
Lightly spray bean pot first, then add peaches and juice, sprinkle cake mix over peaches, gently stir together, dot with butter. Sprinkle coconut and pecans. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 1 hour. It is excellent warm with ice cream.

Bean Pot Ice Cream Cake
Layer 4 slices of angel food on the bottom of the bean pot, then spread vanilla ice cream on top of the angel food cake, do this til you have 3 layers. Then, put in freezer til firm. About 3 hours. When ready to serve, take out of freezer and scoop into dessert bowls. Then pour heated cherry pie filling over cake and sprinkle with dark chocolate shavings.

Death By Mint Chocolate Cake
1 store bought or pre-made chocolate cake (pound cake works best)
1 carton of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (softened)
2 Cups crushed Oreo cookies.
Cut or tear cake into cubes or bite sized pieces. Cover bottom of Bean Pot with a layer of the cake. Spread softened ice cream over the cake, and repeat until you run out of cake (or room!). Make sure you end up with a layer of ice cream on top. Sprinkle crushed Oreos on top, adding more if you like. Cover and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving. Scoop, serve and enjoy this cool treat!

Bean Pot Toffee Pie
1 pkg softened cream cheese
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 C half and half
8 oz thawed Cool Whip
8 oz milk chocolate toffee bits, divided
1 graham cracker crust (9 inches)
Press crust into bottom of the Bean Pot. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.
Beat in half and half until well blended. Gently fold in 1/2 of the toffee bits and whipped topping. Spoon mixture into Bean Pot on top of the pie crust. Sprinkle remaining toffee bits on top. Place lid on Bean Pot and freeze overnight. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving. Scoop and serve in dessert cups. Serves 6-8.

Easy Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
1 box Chocolate Cake Mix
1/2 c Water
1/2 c (or more) Chocolate Chips
1 can Pumpkin
Mix all together in Bean Pot. Place in Microwave for about 12 minutes. Serve hot with Chocolate Syrup and Cool Whip.

Heath Crumble Cake
1 box of chocolate cake mix
1 box chocolate pudding mix
1 container of whipped topping
2 Heath bars, crumbled
Mix it up and pour batter into bean pot. Follow box for time and temp. While waiting, use a mixing bowl to mix up some chocolate pudding. When cake is cooled pour pudding over cake in bean pot then add whip cream and crumbled heath bars to top it off.

Bean Pot Strawberry Cheesecake
1 package strawberry cake mix
1 large package Jello instant Cheesecake pudding mix
Strawberry Soda
1 12oz. container of Cool Whip
Prepare strawberry cake, according to package directions, substituting strawberry soda for the water. Bake cake in 9’ x 13” Celebrating Home casserole dish at 325 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes. Cool completely!
Prepare pudding according to package directions. Cut cake into cubes. Place ½ of the cake cubes into a Celebrating Home Bean pot. Then pour ½ of the partially thickened pudding over cake cubes. Top with ½ of the Cool Whip then repeat all 3 layers. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving!

Pina Colada Cake
1 can coconut creme pie filling
1 can pineapple chunks
Cherries if you like
1 pk white cake mix
1 1/2 sticks of butter
Pour coconut pie filling into bean pot. Pour pineapple & juice into bean pot. Next, the pkg of dry cake mix.
Put little pats of butter on top of cake mix. Put the top on the bean pot & cook for 2hrs on 350 or til done. Check with a cake tester.

Bean Pot Bread Pudding
1/2 loaf of french bread, dried out
6 eggs
1 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c.sugar
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. pumpkin puree
Mix all but bread together. Spray bean pot & add bread. Pour mix over bread & bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour 15 min.

Homestyle Apple Brown Betty
12 cups apples peel, core and slice
8 cups dry white bread cube
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups brown sugar
1 cup butter melt
Place apples in Bean pot. Combine bread crumbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, brown sugar, and butter. Spread over apples. Cover; cook on 300 degrees 3-4 hours.

Hot Apple Crisp
Fresh apples slices
apple cinnamon muffins mix
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 brown sugar
1 stick of butter
Layer in bean pot. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Feeds 6 to 8 - you can add an extra layer of oatmeal and brown sugar to make it go a little further. Can also use apple pie filing instead of fresh apples.

Blue Ribbon Peach Cobbler
1 1/2 cup self rising flour
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar, divided
4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
1 1/2 cups milk
freshly ground cinnamon, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the peaches, water, and 1 cup of the sugar in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Place a stick of butter in a Celebrating Home Bean pot and put in oven to melt. Mix the flour, remaining cup of sugar, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir! Spoon fruit mixture gently on top, gently pouring in syrup. You can sprinkle cinnamon on top of desired. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake 30-45 minutes.
Hint: Be sure to use self rising flour so batter rises. Great with vanilla ice cream.

Snowball Cake
1 pkg Devils food cake Mix
1 pkg Phil. Cream cheese, softened
1 egg
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 pkg Jello Vanilla Instant pudding
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cold milk
1 tub 8 oz cool whip
1 cup Bakers Angel Flake coconut
Prepare the batter in your Large Serving Bowl as directed on pkg, scrape the bowl to clean edges. In small bowl, beat cream cheese, egg & Gr. Sugar till well blended. SPOON the cream cheese mixture into a the very center of cake mix in bowl (leaving in a dollop, do not blend). BAKE about 50-60 mins at 350 or less ( this depends on heat of oven, and you need to remove as soon as a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake about 8 mins, run a knife around the edges gently to loosen and invert onto wire rack.
Meanwhile, beat dry pudding mix, powdered sugar and milk in another bowl stir in the cool whip and refrigerate till ready to spread over completely cooled cake. Then, place cake on serving plate, frost this pudding mixture over top and cover with coconut. Keep Refrigerated till ready to serve.
When you cut into this yummy snowball, the white center will be right in the middle top of the chocolate cake.....takes some time, so prepare early in the day, and prepare to receive the raves for this Holiday Dessert.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Celebrating Home Bean Pot ~ WHO KNEW, Entree Recipes

Oh my gosh! So my mom bought me this bean pot from a Celebrating Home party because she knew that I live out of my crock pot in fall and winter. She also bought me the recipe books that went along with them but I tossed the pot and books aside thinking "What in the world is a bean pot ~ I LOVE my crock pot ~ not changing my cooking methods!"

Anyhoo, I decided this weekend to pull out the un-opened box and read through the cook books ~ WOW what was I missing!!! I made a spaghetti bake in my bean pot just the other night and now I'm hooked! So besides loving my new "kitchen tool" I am in love with the much so I want to share a few that I found and can't wait to try. If you've tried already them share your thoughts, I can't be the only one out here not having heard of Celebrating Home or this crazy little dish called the Bean Pot =)

This is the pot my Momma got me! Yeah Mom!!!

Baked Spaghetti
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1 (16 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large skillet, cook hamburger until brown. Mix spaghetti sauce into skillet. Reduce heat and simmer. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Mix in pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
Layer in the bean pot spaghetti and meat mixture and top with cheese and bake for 30 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is bubbly.

Pork Chops & Rice
Empty contents of purchased rice/pilaf mix (Uncle Bens or Near East) into Bean Pot. Add water according to package directions.
Place pork Chops on top of rice & sprinkle seasoning mix on meat.
Cover & bake for 1-2 hours at 350 F.

Super Easy Fajitas
2 lbs of thin cut stir fry beef (you could use chicken)
1 or 2 packets of fajita seasoning mix by McCormick
1 onion
2 bell peppers (I used 1 orange, 1 yellow)
1/2 cup of water
Dump your meat into the Beanpot. It can be frozen or thawed. Cut the onion and the peppers in strips, and add to the crock. Add the seasoning and water. Cover and cook on 250 degrees for 8-9 hours, or 350 degrees for 6. The meat is done when it reaches desired tenderness.

Barbecued Chicken and Cornbread Casserole
1 pound of cooked, or practically cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
1 red onion, diced
1 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce (18 oz)
1/4 cup hot water
cornbread topping: use a mix and follow the directions on the box (minus the oil or butter)
Spray the inside of your stoneware with cooking spray. Cut up the chicken and sweet potato, and add to the Beanpot. Add the corn. Empty the contents of the barbecue sauce bottle, and then add 1/4 cup of hot water to the bottle, shake, and pour that out, too. Mix well with a spoon.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cornbread topping. You don't need to mix well, I just used a fork. Spread the topping on to the chicken mixture. Cover and cook on 250 degrees for 6-8 hours.

Bean Pot Lasagna
1 pound package Italian Sausage Roll
1 - 9 ounce package no-boil lasagna noodles, broken into 2 pieces
12 ounces ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 - 26 ounce jars pasta sauce
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Spray interior of slow cooker with non-stick vegetable spray. In medium skillet over medium heat, crumble and cook sausage until brown. Place in Bean Pot. Add noodles, ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, pasta sauce and parsley. Stir gently to combine. Cover and cool on low for 4 to 6 hours. 5 minutes before serving, top with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover to melt cheese.

Easy Chicken Bake
Place ingredients in Bean Pot in following order:
6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
Sprinkle 1/2 envelope of Lipton
Onion Soup Mix
Bake 6 -8 hrs at 250 degrees. Cook 2 cups of instant rice & serve with your favorite veggies.

Chicken Pot Pie
2 lbs cooked chicken
2 cans cream of potato soup one can of water
1 small bag of frozen veggies
1 can of crescent rolls
Place all ingredients into Bean Pot except the crescent rolls. Mix well then place in oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, with lid on. Place crescent rolls unfolded on top of mixture. Leave lid off and cook until crescent rolls are golden brown.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Can You Really Save at the Grocery Store

A while back I decided to see where all our money kept "disappearing" too because it just seemed that there was always some missing and I don't feel like we are a frivolously spending family ~ but we do like to have fun and spend a little money in doing so. What I found was shocking. I was spending on average $1,000 - 1,200 a month for our family of 5 at the grocery store/WalMart, and I didn't feel like I was "splurging" on non-essentials or name brands (I often buy grocery store brands for many everyday items.) and beyond that price at the store, we still eat/ate out a few times a week.

It was clear that something about my grocery shopping habits was not working, and that something drastic had to be done, which is why I decided to test drive a menu plan. A menu plan is essentially a plan you put together that lays out what your family will be eating each week or month, however you decide to do it. From your menu plan you can create shopping lists, find coupons for what you need and start saving money immediately.

As you may have guessed, I was eager to get started. While there are plenty of websites that provide meal planning services for a small fee, I decided to spend a little time and go about it the DIY way, after all I was trying to SAVE money not spend more!

Here’s what I did:
1. Start small and involve the family
It can be intimidating to think about planning family meals for a whole month, so I’d suggest starting with something more manageable, like planning for a week at a time. Here’s how to do it:

Get our the recipe books, search recipe websites, gather your family and create a list of 7 dinner ideas, both entrees and sides. Make the dinner ideas foods that everyone will eat and enjoy.
With the meal ideas in hand, create a new list that will be your menu plan, and make our grocery list of items needed.

2. Build in leftover night
Cut yourself a break when building your menu plan and don’t forget to make at least one night leftover night.
This is where the savings really add up. Instead of throwing away all those leftovers you’re bound to have, create a leftover buffet for dinner and finish them off. If leftover nights don’t work for your family, at least re-purpose that extra food into lunches instead.

3. Go shopping
Menu plan in hand, make a grocery list. I started by checking the pantry and fridge for items we already had, and only put items on the list we needed to make the meals for the week. Once you have your list, check coupon circulars and printable coupons to see if there are any that match your needs.

With the list and coupons done, it’s time to shop. I found that shopping alone with a full stomach helped me stay under budget. The kids couldn’t distract me (or convince me to purchase items we didn’t need), and a growling stomach didn’t entice me to buy all those fun treats at the end of the aisles.

4. Stick with the plan
Creating the plan and shopping is half the battle–now you need to stick with it. Although my first meal plan included six meals a week, I didn’t assign them to a specific day. This gave me flexibility, so I didn’t have to prepare spaghetti on a night when we felt like eating chicken pot pie. A good way to keep on track with your plan is to post it somewhere in the kitchen such as a work or E space bulletin board or on the fridge. That will hold you accountable, as well as give your family a heads up of what’s coming for dinner.

5. Use sales to plan
After you’ve successfully planned your meals for a few weeks, start planning based on what you find for sale in store circulars and with coupons. (This will probably take some extra time in the planning stage.)

After I had been at it for a while, I became a meal planning pro. By using these simple principles, and spending about 30 minutes a week planning, I found that I was able to shave a coupon hundred dollars from our family’s grocery bill per month. What we were eating didn’t change all that much, it was all about planning and shopping strategically.