Monthly Archives: January 2012

January 2012 Deals n’ Steals Tally

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Wow! My first month of couponing and freebies has come to an end. I have to admit, I concentrated a little more on freebies this month… though I did get a $2 off Tide coupon that I am super happy about!  I started keeping a weekly list of what I sign up for, and at the end of the month I will print it out and check off items as they arrive. There is a collapsible  fabric bag by the door to collect freebies as they come in, but I have not figured out what to do with them at the end of each month. This is what arrived this month, at zero cost to me.

This was all 100% FREE

What I signed up for this Month:

$380.10 in full size freebies (like the normal product you buy in the store)

$55.40 in sample sized freebies (value average of 10 cents each)

$282 in magazine subscriptions(most full 1 year subscriptions by mail, a few digital or 1 time only issues)

$45 in free e-books (a novel, a craft book, a few recipe books and a family organizational book)

I also entered 20 contests! Most of which were photo contests. I entered a picture of my family in their PJs on a holiday trip from a few years ago, and won first prize in a pajama contest! The prize is a pair of footie pajama pants and matching shirt, in plum purple, for an adult woman. They are a little loose in the ankle area but otherwise pretty nice. You would have expected the fabric to be thicker, as these are not the warmest pajama pants I own…but they are cute, comfy and keep my toes clean while I dance around the house. 🙂 They are a $40 value.

$810.50 IN ONE MONTH!

Amount that went into bank account so far? $0.00. 

I know it sounds like a silly thing to be proud of, but this is all without the use of a single coupon. This is with minimal work on my end, just filling out some forms. Its money I do not have to pay out of our hard earned paychecks. no embarassing coupon BS at the store,either.
11 more months like this one (God willing) and we are talking $9,600 dollars SAVED in one year, with minimal time investment.
😀 Damn, I am GOOD.  😉

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My Coupon Organization System

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I finally got my coupon situation under control…I had a plastic bin that I would put my coupons in, and sort through them every time I went shopping…not very efficient.

I chose a simple and cheap organizer, that has clear plastic pockets for 6 months worth of bills and other stuff, and each pocket has a clear envelope type pocket on the front, for the coupons. So I can hold each months bills and coupons in one place!

I love blue!

I printed out a monthly calendar, in order to keep track of paychecks and bills due. They are FREE, and you can get one every month here.

Free printable calendars

I also picked out a small accordion organizer, for taking my coupons to the store with me. I have it set up by store section, which makes life very convenient and I almost never have to double back for an item.

Organizes coupons by section of the store

The plain blue folder is for my rebates…one side for ‘item needs to be purchased’ and the other is ‘ready to mail out’. When I am ready to use one, I stick the rebate in my monthly organizer, to remind me to purchase the item.

I have my envelopes, stamps, pens and scissors all in the same place, and a very useful free self inking ‘Paid’ stamp, from Vista print. Now, I keep all of this in the same bin. It is my ‘Bills & Bargains Bin’, haha.

Bin of Bills and Bargains

Everything is all in one place, can be put away or taken out easily, and all my time sensitive materials are organized by date.

Painted Cork Memo Board

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I am a compulsive note writer. I am constantly jotting lists or scribbling reminders to myself, only to lose them. I am known to rewrite the same list many times, because I am a scatterbrain! One of my goals this year is to get more organized…so I made a little cork memo board for my kitchen entry way.

Craft Cork Memo Board

First, cut the craft corks into wafers. I probably should have gone thicker, but whats done is done. 🙂

Craft cork slices

Since the craft frame did not come with a backing, I made one from paint stirrers. I cut them down to size with an X-Acto knife (carefully!) then hot glued them together. Yours may have a backing, in which case just use that one.

Paint stir backing

Next,  glue the wafers in neat little rows, onto the backing. I lined them all up first to make sure they would fit.Once the glue is dry (2-3 minutes), you can paint. I used some leftover Krylon that I had in the garage, and did a few even coats. I did let just a little of the dark wood frame show through.

a few quick coats

Let dry overnight

Let it dry overnight. I hung it on a stray picture nail that was in the kitchen, but it looked a little naked.

Plain Jane

I had some clip pins left over from my office cubicle days, and I added a few. I LOVE the way this looks in my kitchen, and since it is right near the door…no more excuses not to remember to grab milk!

GET MILK, WOMAN!

Maybe this will help me not lose the grocery list,hmm? 😉

By my back door, next to the fridge

Comfort Food: Broccoli, Ham and Cheese Quiche

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French comfort food!

I am (mostly) French, so quiche is a familair dish for me. My dad made this for me on Saturday mornings when I was a little girl, and I would watch him chop and layer the ingredients with much interest. By that I mean, I was at his elbow, sneaking bits of veggie and bacon and getting scolded/comforted when he would, inevitably, elbow me in the face. 🙂

This is one of my favorite dishes to make when I need a little comfort. We serve it with a garden salad or fresh fruit. I plan on taking one to my mother in law’s house for Mother’s day brunch this year!  I  like to add mild cheddar cheese (sharp cheddar doesn’t melt as well). This recipe is GREAT for finishing up leftovers, and freezes well, for those of you who like to cook ahead.

A great way to use leftover veggies!

Ingredients:

1 frozen pie crust shell,thawed for 10-15 minutes on counter

1 cup leftover broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces

1 cup ham, cooked and diced

5 large eggs

1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon dried minced Garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried chopped onion flakes

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon parsley (optional)

1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese or mozzarella. I also use ‘Italian blend’ and ‘taco blend’ occasionally.

Mild works better than sharp, half fat works better than fat free

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°.

Prick the bottom of the thawed crust with a fork. Dice your ham and broccoli.

Saute the ham in a small  pan. This removes the excess moisture, and will keep your quiche from becoming soggy. Sprinkle your ham and broccoli in the bottom of the pie crust.

Sizzle!

Beat the eggs and milk until slightly frothy.Mix in the mustard,garlic,onion flakes,paprika and parsley(optional). Salt and pepper to taste. [I choose to not use any salt, since there is plenty of salt in the cheese.] Pour egg mix into the  pie crust over the ham and broccoli.

Just Beat It!

Sprinkle cheese over egg mixture. Bake at 375° for about 30 minutes, or until quiche filling is set and top is ever so slightly browned.

Eggy Pie!

HINT: tap your quiche. If it bounces back at you, its perfect!

Delicious with fresh fruit!

Lemon Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting (Icing)

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The most delicious of all frostings.

Standard yellow cake (my favorite, I am a bit of a purist!) cupcakes are made exceptional with lemon ginger cream cheese frosting.  I am not the world’s best cupcake decorator by a long shot, but the flavor of the frosting makes up for what I lack in decorating skills. 😉 This makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, Spring is around the corner…

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)softened
8oz Philly cream cheese (1 package) softened
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp ground ginger
Grated zest of one large lemon (approx 1 1/2-2 tablespoons)
1 tsp lemon juice

Directions:
1. Make cupcakes according to package directions.
2. With a mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together for approx. 2 minutes, on medium speed until smooth.
3. Add the lemon zest and juice. Mix to combine. Slowly add the icing sugar. Add the ground ginger and mix well.
4.Chill the frosting in the fridge for 1/2 hour.
5. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice and use to decorate to your hearts content. I went Plain Jane on these babies.

Plain Jane Cupcakes but they taste DELICIOUS

Etching Glass – Recycled Wine Bottle Vase or Votive Holder With a Finished Rim

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The etched look finishes the top of the vase

I cut the tops off of green wine bottles, then faux etched the rims. This is incredibly easy! So much more so than I had originally thought. I used the simple score, heat and cool method and got a nice clean line.

Materials Used:
Empty wine bottles (free from neighbor)
Glass cutting kit ($15)
Sharpie or other marker
Candle
Ice Cube

A donation from my neighbor

Directions for Cutting Bottle:
1.Wash bottle well and remove any label or glue residue.

2.Place the bottle on the cutting tool and line the blade up with where you want to cut yur bottle. I marked mine off with a marker first, so it would be even.

Score the bottle evenly

3.Gently heat the score line with a candle.

4.Now run an ice cube over the score mark, cooling the glass. You may hear a small crackly sound.

5.Once again, heat the score mark with the candle. It should not snap into two pieces for you!

6.Sand the edges so that they are not rough. I used a fine grit sandpaper, made for glass (found at any local hardware store).

Sanded Smooth!

I like to sand by hand, to keep my carbon footprint lower!

Also made amber ones

Now that your bottles are cut and sanded, we can ‘etch’ the top rim for a nice finished look.

Materials Used:
masking tape
cut wine bottles, edges sanded
Etching cream

Directions for Etching:
1. Decide how much of your bottle you want ‘etched’. I did the top inch for the rim. Tape off a straight line underneath where you want the etched look to stop. 

2. Apply your etching cream evenly. I recommend wearing protective gloves  for this part. Turn the vase by the bottom while applying. Follow the directions on the can

3. I let mine dry overnight before removing the tape and paper.

all dry!

A handful of daisies brighten up my kitchen in a bottle vase

One Pot Stacked Enchilada Pie

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Stacked Enchilada Pie

I borrowed my neighbors dutch oven for this recipe. I could have made it in a large sauce pot or a crock pot/slow cooker, but I felt like trying something new. 🙂 This is one of my favorite meals to make if we are having friends over for dinner. It is kid friendly too, and feeds a crowd!
Serves:8-10

Melty Goodness

Ingredients:
12 inch Dutch oven (or oven safe crock/pot)
2-pounds ground beef or ground turkey (I used beef)
1- large onion, chopped
1-package yellow or white corn tortillas
2- small cans diced chilies
1-large can enchilada sauce
1-8 ounce can sliced olives
2-packages of taco seasoning mix (I used mild)
4-cups (2 packages) of shredded taco mix cheese
2-Tbsp Canola or Vegetable oil

Not expensive to make if you shop the deals.

Directions:

1. Get Sizzlin’.    Warm your oil in your dutch oven/pot and add chopped onions. Cook on the stove top pver medium-low heat until the onions are half cooked. You can tell when they reach this stage because they will be limp but not see through.

Warming up,not quite tot the point of smoking.

Not quite tender enough yet

2.  Beef it up!     Add ground beef and brown until cooked through. Add your taco seasoning mix and stir thoroughly. Drain fat. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add your meat when the onions are halfway cooked.

Smells delicious! Ready for layering.

3. Layers.   Time to start layering your stacked enchilada pie! This part is fun.  Take around one third of your meat and spread on bottom of Dutch oven/pot- keeping in mind that you will be making about three layers.

I love everything in this!

3B. Now spread one third of sliced olives, diced chilies, and enchilada sauce over the meat. Cover this with 5 to 6 of your tortillas and then cover your tortillas with one third of your cheese. Repeat this until all of your ingredients are in the pot!

Saucy!

Top layers of tortillas and cheese

4.  Bubble Bubble…  Move the dutch oven/pot to the actual oven. Cook for 40 minutes or until the cheese is melty and bubbly.

Smells Delicious!

This recipe is so versatile…you can swap ingredients to your personal tastes, and make the recipe your own! You could add corn, black beans, rice, diced tomatoes…you name it, I have probably added it at one point. Also a great way to use up leftover veggies!

Vote for me in the Pi day contest! Click photo to go to Instructables.com

This is guaranteed to make your family happy, or win you some hearts at a potluck. I might make this for the upcoming Teacher Appreciation Luncheon. Those lucky teachers!   😉

Savin’ Money and Stickin’ to Rules….or How I Coupon, and My Goals for 2012

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There are so many different rules, codes and ways to coupon. I have a few simple guidelines I live by, that I find helpful. You may or may not agree/abide by them, but you may find them helpful! I will probably be going into some of these in a little more depth later on, but here is a quick run down of how I plan to go about my coupon adventures.

Clip extras for a free coupon swap!

The Guidelines:

1. You can print or clip coupons that you do not need/are not sure that you will need; once you are sure that you will not use them (and are not expired!) Common courtesy says that you should put them into the coupon swap bin in front of your local grocery store. My Wal-Mart just started doing this, and twice a month I plan to dump a handful of coupons in! It is also a great place to find coupons. Don’t have a swap bin? Ask the manager to start one, or start an online local coupon swap. I started mine with Yahoo groups.

2. Print ASAP! Don’t wait…a lot of times coupons are limited time only, or limited amount of prints. Grab it while you can…this is where rule #1 comes in handy. It is okay in my book to print like a wild woman (person) as long as you pay it forward.

3. Get the item for the coupon as soon as possible, so you do not miss out. But do not have a spaz attack if you don’t get it the first week. A lot of times the coupons are hard to get, but the item will be around again at some point. You can also ask for a rain check, which is a great way to ensure you get the most out of your coupons.

4. DO NOT BUY ITEMS THAT YOU/YOUR FAMILY DO NOT USE REGULARLY. This is a big one for me. I recently saw on a Facebook fan page that a couponer had over 30 boxes of hair dye, from 3 different companies, in 5 wildly different colors. This is NOT ALLOWED in my book. Pardon my language, but WTF could you possibly need all that for? It is wasteful both of money and space. It is taking viable products that someone else might actually need, off the shelf. I do not like this practice at ALL. Make a list of core brands/items that you use and stick to it. Veer from your brands or items only if it is something you want to try out but do not want to pay the full price, or if it is a freebie coupon. If you don’t need the item, give it away.  Shelters everywhere need EVERYTHING.

5. NO ALTERING,PHOTOCOPYING OR MISUSING OF COUPONS. Another biggie with me. If you don’t play by the rules, you could potentially ruin the coupon game for everyone. Play nice, and be ethical.

6. Carry the coupon policy with you to your stores. Don’t fight with managers. And most importantly…pick your battles. I saw a woman once get escorted out by the police because the manager wouldn’t honor a 25 cent coupon. That’s right, she got a record for 25 cents. It just isn’t worth it, folks. Keep your dignity.

7. Pick 1-3 stores that are within either A. a 5 mile radius of each other, B. a 10 mile radius of your home, or C. 5 mile radius from work/on your way home. Stick to these stores, regardless of deals that try to entice you into other establishments. MOST coupon policies state they will take competitor coupons, and do ad price checks. This is where rule #6 comes in handy.

8. Develop an organization system that works for you. This includes the coupons, the stockpile and your freebies. I also like to have a stash of gifties hidden away. Find what works for you…this may be a trial and error sort of thing.

9. Don’t spend more than 1-3 hours per week clipping/printing/searching. It negates the actual savings, unless you think your time is worth nothing. TIME=MONEY so keep it to a minimum, to max out your benefits and savings.

10. Keep track of what you save, and ACTUALLY SAVE IT. Using cash during shopping helps with this. Stick the money saved in a separate savings account and watch it add up over time.

Keep it fun for everyone

My Coupon Goals for 2012:

A. Not to pay for feminine products (razors,tampons) for the entire year.
B. Drop my monthly grocery costs by 20%.
C. Actual, in an account savings of $500 by December,2012.

Think I can do it? I think A and B will be a lot easir than C, actually saving the cash instead of spending it on something else the house needs/wants is a tough one.

Hello world!

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A new year, a new blog! I have tried my hand at blogging a few
times, with moderate success, but I was never truly happy with
the direction things took. I have decided to focus on the things
that make me happy, and not let a rigid writing schedule take
the fun out of things. I DO promise to be active as much as
possible though, cause the point of this is to share my little
window to the world with y’all. 😉

Some of you might end up following me because of coupon stuff or
freebie stuff, and thats cool. I am not going to be one of those
daily deal blogs, though…so you may be disapointed. I am
pretty darn new to the couponing world…as a matter of fact, I
started this afternoon! 😀 So for those of you who are also new,
we can learn together or offer each other suggestions. If you
are a pro, feel free to poke your nose in and tell us whats
what!
That being said…I follow a different coupon and freebie
philosophy than some of you, which I will tell you more about
here. I am not gonzo for coupons, but I AM
gonzo for freebies! But if a coupon could get me something free,
I am all over that, my friends. And if it is really good, I will
link ya, on my Facebook page.

Why am I writing this blog? Well, to share with you, of course!
Here is a little background on us. IF you are not interested,
just skip ahead to our second post! I won’t be hurt. not even a
little. That is not a tear, my eyes are sweating. Just go. 😉

*Notice- This is a judgement free zone. Any negative or nasty
comments will be deleted and the poster banned. If you have any
concerns, see my About Me page and send me an email*

I moved from Chicago to a tiny town (3,500 people) in Central
Illinois, because the cost of living in “The Big City” got to be
too high. I love Chicago, we bleed Cubby red and blue in this
house…but we had to be smart and do what was best for our
future. The cost of living in a rural community is lower, though
it comes with its own interesting issues. We have been here a
few years, but the adjustment has come hard to some of us.
Sometimes in very funny ways! The town has horse hitches at our
one tiny gas station/diner, and I have seen people ride their
horse to buy a pack of smokes before!

We live in a town home,and are dreaming/saving for what I call the "Forever House"

I have Walking People blood in me, and so I have spent most of
my life moving around from one town to another. Now that my
daughter is getting older, however, I’ve decided to put down
roots (if I can, haha) and concentrate on raising the family and
selling my crafties. My daughter is almost 9, a pink-wearing
girly girl who loves sports and wants to be a vet when she grows
up. (The country is a good place for her,haha.) She is my little
princess! We refer to her here as Lil’ G.

My personal life is kept very private (except for…you know,
the whole blog thing) but I will occasionally refer to my
partners in crime. *DH is tall, quiet and incredibly smart. Scary smart.
He is very into science, physics, and space. I asked him once
why he felt like he needed to know how everything in the
universe works, and he joked “because thats how I hold it all
together with my mind”. But I believe he could do it,haha.
*MH is a small, wirey and boisterous man of mischevious good
intentions and an easy going nature.He is the one who senses my
moods and always forces me to talk about my stupid girly
feelings, even if I don’t wanna…a great listener.

I am 28, with 5 years in the event industry and culinary arts. I
gave up the 9-5 life to peddle my wares full time. We also
bought a 100 year old house in a nearby city,and are slowly
rehabbing. no glorious quick flippers here…we are in this one
for the long haul, and plan to rent it out. But money is tight,
so we work on it when funds become available.
I love music, art, sitcoms that make me laugh or think,dogs over
cats but cats are ok too,books,movies, Football,Nascar,baseball,
animals, food and making things. I think recycling is neat.I
think rockabilly is the shit. I Love to swear. Sorry and I will
try to keep it to a minimum. I love my oddball family. I don’t
care much what people think about me.

Welcome to my little corner of the internet.