Author Archives: littlemomontheprairie

About littlemomontheprairie

Passionate about cooking, crafts and learning how to leave the 'Big City'(Chicago) lifestyle behind for a more simple way to be. Follow along as I start my adventures in couponing and freebies, try some of my recipes...lets talk about kids, or country life or commiserate with me about how men do not do their share of the housework...

Maximum Grocery Efficiency

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How do you plan for a shopping trip?

I like to plan a menu, and then make a list. Then I check my coupon stash and match up my coupons to the items I need, and off I go to the store! This handy dandy little Grocery Checklist is helpful. I go down the list with my daughter, who checks how much we have/if we need more of an item. She feels good for getting to help, and I always have my little pantry stocked with the essentials.

I match my grocery list to my Wal-Mart ad (where we do most of our coupon shopping) and compare to our stock up stores ads (Aldi and Sam’s). Usually the best deal is at Wal-Mart, but we buy certain items at the other locations in bulk because the every day price is cheaper if you buy large quantities. It only makes sense for some items, especially since space is at a premium in our house.  I use one sheet for each store,printed on old school papers (recycling!).  Then I grab my coupons, and head to the store!

Do YOU use reusable bags?

Smaller bags for smaller trips

Big cart bags for big trips

I try to, as often as I can. Sometimes I forget to grab them. I got a neat set of Grocery Cart Helper Bags, which attach to the sides of your cart and are great for places like Aldi or Sams, where you HAVE to bag your own…I attach both to the carts and organize my purchases into the bags. They clip closed, and it means less trips to the car when bringing the food in!

I have four smaller bags I like to use for quick Wal-Mart trips, when I can remember to bring them….I bag my groceries the way I was taught back in my teenage days, when I worked in a grocery store. On either side I place a box, like cereal or a similarly sized item, and then fill the cavity in the middle with a layer of cans, then smaller boxed items, and any fragile items or bread on top. I try to spread heavy items like cans evenly through the bags, to keep them from being heavy. I also have a large Aldi insulated bag, for cold and frozen items.

Do you look up coupon/sale match ups online? 

No Wal-Mart Bashing here

I have a few places I like to look for match ups. My favorite blog is I Heart The Mart, since I go to Wal-Mart most often. It doesn’t hurt that I get a teensy discount, because *MH works nights there. 🙂 If I combine the sales, coupons and my discount I can save a pretty penny on our food. BUT on deal items, I certainly do a sale ad check, and compare my favorite stores for prices. Then I can go out and maybe get something free, or nearly free!

Do you rebate? 

I rebate within the parameters of each deal. If it says you need to be dissatisfied, and I am satisfied, I do not usually send out the rebate. It just feels dishonest to me.  But couponing in combination with rebates, if following the rules and ethics, can be a smart way to save!  Today I found a coupon for a local store (good for that location only, for one day only, from 3pm to 7pm only) for a dinner deal for Marie Callender’s new lasagna, 2 liter bottle of Coke (any coke product) and bag of Fresh Express salad – all for only $5! The lasagna alone costs $6.39 (on sale for $5) so it was like getting a bagged salad and bottle of Sprite for free.  THEN…I filled out my Marie Callender rebate, good up to $8. My final cost on dinner tonight was $0.00! I don’t often find deals THAT good, but today we ate dinner for free.

Tasty but small...

Stay tuned for more about menu planning…there are a few different systems you can use, depending on your family’s needs.  It will save you time, money and maybe even lead to healthier eating habits with time.  One quick tip : don’t introduce an entire meal of new foods to your family all at once. Instead, introduce a single new dish in a meal that is full of familiar dishes.  The new item will be associated with old favorites, and perhaps more likely to be accepted. You know your family’s likes and dislikes better than anyone else…don’t try to make liver and onions an acceptable dish if you know it won’t go over well. It is a frustrating waste of time, effort and money!

Happy shopping! 🙂

Cottage Window Coffee Table Upcycle Project

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While I was browsing around our local ReStore (Habitat for Humanity resale shop) I came across their stacks of old windows. They do test for lead paint,which is nice – a lead free guarantee!   I was leaning towards making a coffee table, because we didn’t have one…so this was a very nice treasure hunting trip. I LOVE ReStore!

TONS of old windows at ReStore

Materials Used:
8 pane window
4 table legs
light grit sand paper
window calk (I had leftovers)
calk scraper
primer (I had leftovers)
spray paint (I had leftovers)

1. I picked out an eight pane window, and paid a whopping .60 cents for it. On my way out the door I spied a bin of old table legs, and grabbed myself 4 matching ones for .10 cents each.

I've got legs! And I know how to use them!

2. I had some primer in the garage and I have shelves full of half used spray paint colors…so this is also a stash buster for me.
I picked Aqua Turquoise.

3. I wiped the dirt and grime off the window as much as possible, then scraped the crusty loose calk from the edges of the panes. I did a quick hand sanding, lightly, then wiped the window down again. I calked the edges to even it out as much as possible  but I sort of suck at calking. I let it cure as directed on package.

Messy work

4. Next, I primed the window with one coat of Kilz primer. I used up the last bit I had left. Yay stash busting! Yay excuse to go to the hardware store!  I also sanded the legs and primed them, but somehow didnt end up with a picture of anything wet on the newspaper. I coulda swore I took those pictures, but they are not on the computer or camera anywhere…hmmm….

5. Then, I covered the panes with newspaper and taped them off.  Then I applied several coats of the aqua turquoise paint to everything and let it dry overnight. 

This is the result, my quaint little cottage window coffee table. I think it looks good with my dark blue sofa. It brightens up the room a bit! Now if I could keep my daughter from picking at the calk. She keeps peeling it (she is way beyond the put things in her mouth phase, just a compulsive peeler) so the middle pane divider thingies are not as pretty as I would like. Ah…kids. Aren’t they grand? 🙂

My Cottage Window Coffee Table

 

What Does Valentine’s Day Mean to You?

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Because I love ya!

Valentine’s day has always been more about the little things in our house. Birthdays are a much bigger production. We   don’t usually go out for Vday, but I do like to make a special dinner. IF we buy gifts for one another (sometimes we make  them) it is a small token of affection or something that the person needs…this year us adults exchanged t-shirts, and I put  together a small gift basket for Lil’ G that had dollar store manicure stuff in it. We are working on getting her to stop biting  her nails, and I though this might be a fun way. We keep it small and light, no pressure and little money spent. How do  YOU celebrate the day of love? Tell me in the comments!

With all the customize-able freebies this year, everyone in my house got a personalized Valentine from me. I also snagged 30 free personalized Valentines for Lil’ G! They were a HUGE hit, and there was even a few left over for family. This is the one I got, with one of my favorite pictures of my princess! What a smiley happy sunshine baby!

Vista Print Freebie!

😀 The Valentines (and birthday treats) you send to school here in our rural town are somewhat of a status symbol, and although I do not usually fall into the “Keeping up with the Jones’s” attitude, I was pleased to hear that the Valentines we sent were the HIT of the school party. Even over the ones that had candy!

All together it was a quiet day and a quiet night, filled with smiles and affection. The boys each brought me flowers, which I broke up into little bunches and spread out all over the house. Daisies, a few roses, tulips and carnations…MH even brought Lil’ G her own bouquet of carnations, it really made her day!

Happy Valentine’s day, everyone! And if no one has said it to you yet today…I Love You! 🙂

Chocolate Pudding Cupcakes with Strawberry Centers – for VDay

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Love at first bite

My mens were so happy when I made these treats for them, and oh boy do they deserve it! The cold months are always roughest on us financially, and they get a double whammy with V-Day, and my birthday, all in one month.  They have been working extra hours to get me a present, a memory card for my Nook. They deserve cupcakes, and so much more, for how sweet they both are to me!

Ingredients:
1 package cupcake mix, chocolate
1 package strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1 package pudding, chocolate
Fresh mint sprigs,optional but awesome

Directions:
1.Prepare cupcakes according to package and let cool. Using a paring knife, core out a well down into each cupcake, for your strawberry to fit into. Prepare your pudding according to the package.

2.Stick the strawberry pointy side down into your cupcakes. Top liberally with pudding in leu of frosting.


3. Add a sprig of mint if you like.  I think it adds a certain something, and my neighbor had some growing in her kitchen and shared…but don’t go out and buy some.

4. I cut each cutcake in half and set it on a plate, because presentation is everything with these suckers. They are DELICIOUS and super easy!

 

I love you, *DH and *MH! *kisses and hugs galore*    Now, eat a cupcake!  *shoves a cupcake into two open mouths*

Pine Cone Earrings from Toilet Paper Roll

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Today I realized I have a big bag full of toilet paper rolls that we have been saving for crafts…and no crafts have come to mind to use them up!  So I pulled out my ol’ jewelry supply tackle box (yep, i keep my supplies in a big tackle box!) and made some pine cone earrings. Later on down the road I will go into more detail, or perhaps post a tutorial…if that interests anyone…but here are a few grainy webcam pictures of me wearing the funky T.P. Pine cone Earrings!

Chili Con Carne for the Superbowl

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Chili Con Carne and Cornbread

February means a lot of things in my house. Of course, there is Valentine’s Day, and my birthday too! But the most fun part is the SUPERBOWL! This year, we are going to MIL1’s house, and the family requested my “famous chili” and sweet cornbread. When they butter you up like that, how can you say no? 😀  I’m making my chili con carne…which is only semi-famous. I have won 2 local chili cook offs with the recipe, but outside of our area I don’t know that it is all that famous,haha. 😉

Ingredients:

2.5 LB. ground beef
1/2 diced green pepper
1/4 Cup dried flaked onion

If you shop sales with coupons, the ingredients are pretty cheap,too.

1 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup red wine

1 14 oz can diced tomatos
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 beef bullion cubes
1 can lite kidney beans
1 can dark kidney beans

Spices:

1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp sugar


 LET’S MAKE SOME CHILI CON CARNE! 

1. Saute your green pepper, onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat, until they are softened. (This part smells great!)

2.  Add the meat, and brown over medium heat until the juices run clear (cooked through).

3.  Add wine, bullion cubes, tomatoes and herbs and combine well. I like to use my big ol’ wood spoon for this part. My Grammy gave it to me. 😀

4.  Add both cans of beans, liquid and all. At this point in the process I also added 1/2 cup water, and gave it a really good stir.

5.  Let simmer for around 90 minutes…or until the smell drives you crazy, and you HAVE to have some! I distracted myself by making cornbread muffins. In my opinion, chili without cornbread is like A burger without a bun. Sure…you could eat it…but it just isn’t right. 😉

This is one of my favorite one pot meals, and you can adjust the spice level to your tastes. We like it to kick you a little in the back of the throat! 😉    Well, everyone except *MH, who does not like chili in any form. Although he HAS said, of all the chili he has had to eat, he tolerates mine the best. 😀 

Crock Pot Molten Lava Cake

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Crock Pot Molten Lava Cake

When I was younger, I worked for one of the church ladies, cleaning her house. She would make this on Sundays, for her husband. I could smell it cooking while I dusted and vaccumed, and once she invited me to have some…I HAD to have the recipe!

Thank you, Phyllis! This has become a family favorite with MY family now, too. Plus, very few dishes to wash!

Easy to make

Cake Ingredients:
2 C. Brown Sugar
2 C. All-purpose Flour
6 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 C. Milk
4 Tbsp. Butter, melted
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 C. Semisweet chocolate chips.

Molten Lava Sauce Ingredients:
1 1/2 C. Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
3 C. Boiling Water

You can see chocolate chips hiding in there

1. Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in your crock pot. Stir in milk, melted butter and vanilla until combined. Spread the batter evenly over the bottom of the crock.

cocoa powder and brown sugar

2. Mix together the brown sugar and cocoa. Sprinkle mixture over the cake batter.

NOTE: If you are not a molten fudge type of person, and want a more subtle cake, omit the sauce step, move on to the next part. The result is a springy, sweet and spongy cake that is a hit with the “I don’t much care for chocolate” crowd.

DO NOT STIR

3. Pour the boiling water over the top. DO NOT STIR!

Not a great presentation piece but delicious nonetheless

4. Cover and cook on High for 2 – 2 1/2 hours.

Molten Lava Cake with vanilla bean ice cream

5. Turn off heat, and remove lid. Let sit approx. 20 minutes before serving, so its still warm and liquid but will not scorch your tongue!

This is what the cake looks like made without the sauce.

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.  😉

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