Monday, October 31, 2011

New Meal Monday: Chicken Parmesan

I am a firm believer that marinara sauce should be a food group all by itself. I love anything dipped, covered, or drowning in marinara. I've already mentioned my love of chicken, so chicken Parmesan is a natural way to pair the two.

I've made different variations of this dish enough times that I was able to wing it. I made it up as I went, and both J and I were thrilled with the results. I only made enough for the two of us, without leftovers, but you could obviously adjust this to fit your family.

Chicken Parmesan
-2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I bought the thin kind, but you could just pound yours to about 1/2 inch thick)
-1 egg
-1/3 cup panko bread crumbs (you could use regular bread crumbs, I just like the crunch from panko)
-1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
-1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
-1/3 cup tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a small bowl or shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, and Italian seasoning. In a separate bowl, beat egg.

Coat both sides of one chicken breast with egg and let excess drip off. Then dredge in bread crumb mixture. Place breaded chicken on a greased cookie sheet and repeat process with additional piece.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until coating is golden. Remove chicken from oven and divide sauce evenly between each piece, spreading sauce across the top of the chicken. Sprinkle half of mozzarella on each piece.

Return to oven and bake an additional 5-6 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on how melted you want your cheese. We like ours brown and almost crispy, so we left it in for about 6-7 minutes.
The cooking time for the chicken gives you the perfect opportunity to cook your pasta, or whatever you decide to make as a side.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Super Savings Saturday: The Dash In Edition

G and I ran into Safeway yesterday because I wanted to grab a gallon of milk and take advantage of the awesome candy sale they had going on. Here is what we got:
-1 gallon of fat free milk, $2.69
-4 bags of Kit Kat candy bars, on sale $2. I used 2 $1/1 coupons, which doubled to $1.50 each, making these  $5 total, or $1.25 each
-4 Nivea lip balm, $1 each with my rain check. I used 2 $1/1 coupons  which doubled to $1.50 each and 1 $3/2 coupon, making these a $2 moneymaker.
-I also used a $2 catalina (the coupon that prints at the register) from a previous purchase.

I paid: $3.69

That's an 88% savings! I guess I should dash in to Safeway more often.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Website Wednesday: Homemade Mamas

I can't remember how I found Homemade Mamas. I believe it was one of those sites that I stumbled across by clicking a link at a blog I read regularly. That link led to another, which led to another, which brought me to Homemade Mamas.

And, goodness, I'm glad it did. Homemade Mamas is pretty much just a website run by three moms who are constantly looking at the world around them and asking "could I make that myself?" They document their attempts, both the successes and the failures, for all their readers to see.

Admittedly, there are many projects on the site that I have no desire to attempt. Some because I'm happy with my store-bought version, some because the project requires too many materials, and some because their homemade version doesn't quite turn out right.

But for every one of those posts that I skimmed by, there were two more that peaked my interest. I encourage you to browse the site, because I guarantee you'll find at least one tutorial that you want to try. A few of my favorites are the fused plastic bib (if you have any other great ideas for this fused plastic, please let me know), bleach pen painting, and easy bath fizzies.

I'd suggest logging into Pinterest before you check out Homemade Mamas, because this site will make you want to pin like crazy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Meal Monday: Crash Hot Potatoes

I know, I know; this isn't a meal. Does it count that they're good enough to be? I'm sure I'm biased, because I absolutely love potatoes in any form, but these really are delicious.

Red potatoes have a nice flavor, so I appreciate that this recipe doesn't attempt to cover that flavor with butter and cream and what not (although, really, there's nothing wrong with a little butter and cream sometimes).

The other great thing about this recipe is that there is no measuring required. That's right, no hunting through your utensil drawer for that the elusive 1/4 teaspoon.

Crash Hot Potatoes
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

You will need:
-red potatoes
-olive oil
-herb of your choice (in lieu of the last three ingredients, I just used Paula Deen's house seasoning found here)

Bring a pot full of water and potatoes to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes, or until they are fork tender. The baking time on these will vary greatly depending on the size of the potatoes, so don't be surprised if it takes longer.
Remove potatoes from water and place on a cookie sheet drizzled with olive oil or coated with cooking spray. Using a potato masher, gently smash potatoes so the skin is broken and potato resembles a thick pancake.

Next, drizzle each potato with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs (or house seasoning).
Bake them at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of the potatoes get crispy and golden and crunchy-looking. Everyone has their own version of ideal-crispiness, so use your own judgement.
Mine would have been even better if I let them go a little longer, but what can I say, we were hungry.

And that's it. They couldn't be easier. Or more delicious. I do believe this is my new go-to potato recipe.

Note: be sure to click through my page to the original post. The Pioneer Woman has amazing photos and a wittiness that I can't even begin to attain. You'll likely enjoy her version of the recipe much more than mine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Super Savings Saturday: Thriftway

I rarely shop at Thriftway. They usually have a couple great weekly sales, but other than those few items, I find the quality of their produce to be inconsistent and their other prices to be too high. However, their sales ad caught my eye this week because of a few great coupons.

I wanted to buy a gallon of milk, but the $1.99 coupon stipulated that you must make a $10 minimum purchase. My goal was to leave the store having spent less than $15, so I made a short list, loaded G into the cart, and headed inside. I ended up finding a couple deals that were too good to pass up, so it worked out well. Here is what I bought:
-1 quart whole milk, $1.49 (for Griff's first dairy experience!)
-2.38 pounds of bananas at $.49/pound (with in-ad coupon), $1.17
-1 gallon Western Family skim milk, $1.99 (with in-ad coupon)
-1 hothouse tomato, .72 pounds at $.99/pound, $.71
-1.69 pounds of Fuji apples at $.79/pound, $1.34
-1 Granny Smith apple, .55 pounds at $.79/pound, $.43.
-2 bottles Gold Peak iced tea, $1 each. Used 2 $1/1 coupons, making these free
-1.23 pounds of carrots at $.69/pound, $.85
-2 pound brick of cheddar cheese, $2.99 (with in-ad coupon)
-Dozen eggs, $.99 (with in-ad coupon)
-Turkey Italian sausages, $3. I used 1 $1/1 coupon that doubled to $1.50, making these $1.50

After my $.05 discount for bringing my own reusable bag, I paid $13.41.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Website Wednesday: Endorse

Endorse is one of those websites that seems too good to be true. But, as far as I can tell, it's just as good as it claims to be.

Endorse is a new cash back program that runs on the Facebook interface. Here is how it works:
1. You sign-in using your Facebook account. Endorse will send you prepaid envelopes in the mail (like Netflix).
2. Use your account to "endorse" retailers that you visit often, like Safeway or Walmart, and products that you like, like Pampers Baby Dry or Diet Coke.
3. Shop at those retailers, and for those products, just like you normally do. When you get home, just toss the receipts in the prepaid mailer and put them in the mail.
4. Endorse will process the receipts and credit your account with 10% cash back on all the purchases you make at endorsed retailers or for endorsed products. Once your account reaches $25, they'll mail you a check.

It really is that easy! So, let's recap: you can earn money without clipping a single coupon, submitting a single rebate, or taking a single online survey. Just spend a few minutes endorsing the retailers and products you use most often, then shop like normal. When you get home, seal the receipts in the prepaid envelope, put it in the mail, and watch your savings add up!

A few notes:
-Endorse won't allow you to "double dip" on endorsements, i.e. buying an endorsed product at an endorsed retailer won't earn you 10% back on both.

-You must make the endorsement before making the purchase. So, unfortunately, that stack of Target receipts you've been saving since 1999 won't do you any good. That's why I suggest taking a few minutes immediately after signing up to endorse all the stores you visit frequently (online shopping counts, too) and all of the products that you regularly consume.

-Right now Endorse is working on a feature that allows to you email your receipts instead of mailing them. Since that feature isn't up and running yet, I'd suggest holding onto any receipts that you might need later.

I'm so excited about this new program, because I'll be making money just by doing something that I already do. I love it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Meal Monday: Homemade Pizza

Who doesn't love pizza? I'm sure there's someone, somewhere, who doesn't, but that person certainly doesn't live in our house. Around here, we could (and sometimes do) have pizza for supper a couple nights a week. I've tried a few different recipes for homemade crust, but none can compare to the one we use now.

Confession: I was afraid of yeast. The idea of having the water at the exact right temperature intimidated me, the concept of proofing seemed overwhelming, and I was always worried I would knead the dough too much or too little. But this recipe was touted as nearly foolproof, so I gave it a shot.

Best. Decision. Ever. This thing really is nearly impossible to mess up. I've made it numerous times, and every pizza is just as good as the last. If you're a fellow pizza lover (and really, why wouldn't you be?), I urge, nay, I beg you, to add this recipe to your arsenal.

One more thing before I give you the good stuff: let's not overlook how frugal pizza can be. The most expensive  ingredient in the crust is the yeast, which can be purchased rather inexpensively in bulk or with a coupon. I routinely purchase pasta sauce for less than $1 a jar. As for the toppings, you can use pizza night as a way to rid the fridge of leftovers. Taco pizza, kabob pizza, Italian chicken and artichoke pizza...the sky is the limit. Pizza is cheap, my friends.

Homemade Pizza
adapted slightly from Money Saving Mom

First, the line up. You'll need:
-1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
-1 cup of warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees)
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-2 1/2 cups of flour
In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except water and yeast.
In a small bowl (I use a measuring cup) dissolve yeast in water.
Add water and yeast to other ingredients and mix until combined.
Knead dough on a floured surface until the dough is smooth (about five minutes). If you have a mixer with a dough hook, you can let that do the work.
Roll out dough and transfer it to a greased pizza pan.
Top it! Go crazy with whatever sauce, cheese, and toppings you can find.

Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly and crust is golden slightly crispy.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Super Savings Saturday (on Sunday)

Obviously, I didn't get around to posting this yesterday. I don't really have a good excuse for this, other than that work, a family birthday dinner, and my recently developed addiction to the TV show Sister Wives took precedence.

Regardless, here it is now. This is my Rite Aid shopping trip from last Sunday:
Transaction #1:
-2 M&M's fun size candy, regularly $3.99, on sale $2 each. Used $1.50/2 coupon, paid $1.75 each.
-2 John Freida Root Awakening shampoo, regularly $7.29, on sale $5 each. Used two $2/1 coupons, paid $3 each.
-1 Cepacol sore throat lozenges, regularly $5.29, on sale $2.50. Paid $2.50.
On this transaction, I used a $10 +UP Reward (from my CoverGirl shopping trip), paid $1 out of pocket, and received $8.50 in +UP Rewards.

Transaction #2:
-1 Infant Advil, regularly $7.49, on sale $5. Used $1/1 coupon, paid $4.
-1 Burt's Bees cough drops, regularly $1.99, on sale $1.49. Paid $1.49.
-1 Thermacare heat wraps, regularly $7.49, on sale $5. Used $3/1 coupon, paid $2.
On this transaction, I used $3.50 in +UP Rewards and paid $3.99 out of pocket. Note: This would have been free if the cashier had scanned the largest +UP Reward first, but she didn't. She scanned the two smaller ones, leaving a $4 total and a $5 +UP Reward, so I just paid it.

Transaction #3:
-2 Colgate Optic White toothpaste, regularly $4.79, on sale $3.99 each. Used $1/1 coupon (could have used two, but I only had one), paid $3.49 each.
On this transaction, I used $6.49 in +UP Rewards, paid $.49 out of pocket, and received $6 in +UP Rewards.

Transaction #4:
-1 Airwick candle, regularly $3.29, on sale $2. Used $1/1 coupon, paid $1.
-2 Carefree liners, regularly $1.69, on sale $1 each. Used $1/2 coupon, paid $.50 each.
On this transaction, I used $2 in +UP Rewards and paid $0 out of pocket (this was my first ever $0 transaction!)

In total, I got $61.07 in product and paid only $5.48 out of pocket, for a savings of 91%. I also left with a $5 +UP Reward, which I rolled into more savings during today's shopping trip.

If you'd like to get started saving lots of money at Rite Aid, here are a few links to walk you through it:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Website Wednesday: Super Cook

When I really decided to crack down on our budget, one of the first things I eliminated was all of those extra visits to the grocery store. While that decision certainly cut down on the amount of money I was spending each week on impromptu shopping trips, it sometimes presented a new problem.

I spent many evenings randomly opening the fridge, the freezer, and the cabinets, wracking my brain for supper ideas. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not the best when it comes to surveying a bunch of random ingredients and forming a meal idea in my mind. I'm also not very good at winging it. If I'm making something, I like to have a recipe to follow, or at least a recipe to use as a jumping-off point.

Enter: Super Cook. Super Cook is a recipe search engine that allows you to enter the ingredients you have on hand and, in turn, it produces a list of matching recipes. Super Cook pulls from many of my favorite recipe websites, like Epicurious, Food, and All Recipes. They also allow you to choose food exclusions, so you can search only recipes based on dietary restrictions, like nut allergies or vegetarianism.

You can access Super Cook and search for recipes without signing up for an account. If you do choose to sign up, you can save your favorite recipes and the list of ingredients you have on hand. I haven't signed up, because I think it's easier to find a recipe I like, and then either pin that recipe on Pinterest, or copy it to a note card and put it in my recipe box.

If you're working on reducing the amount of money you spend on groceries each week, a recipe search engine is a helpful tool. Next time you're tempted to make a five o' clock grocery store run, do yourself (and your budget) a favor, and check out Super Cook.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Meal Monday: Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce

I love chilies and and I love chicken. That's why, when I came across this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago, I quickly pinned it, knowing I wanted to make it. Just a few weeks later I found Monterrey Jack cheese half off at Safeway, so I knew it was fate. This recipe and I were meant to find each other.

I made these enchiladas last week and took some fun pictures with my camera. Since I can't find the USB cord (oh, the joys of having a mobile child), and we had leftover chicken and cheese, and they're just plain delicious, I decided to make them again.

Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce
adapted slightly from Let's Dish

(note: I reduced all ingredients by half, except the green chilies; the original recipe calls for one whole can)
4 soft taco size flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1.5 tablespoons butter
1.5 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies

Combine the chicken, half the cheese, and half the can of chilies in a small bowl. Divide the mixture between the tortillas. Roll the tortillas and place, seam down, in a greased glass baking dish.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, add flour and stir until completely incorporated. Next, add chicken broth and cook for about a minute, or until the mixture has thickened and begins to bubble. Add the sour cream, chilies, and remaining cheese. Stir until sour cream and cheese are completely melted. If you want an extra cheesy sauce (and who doesn't?) add more cheese. Pour sauce over enchiladas,
Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the tortillas are golden and the sauce is bubbly. And, if you have an oven that cooks as well as mine, you might want to rotate the baking dish halfway through the cooking time.
Even my husband, who has an eagle eye for anything "green" in his food, loved these. I always make half a batch anytime I try a new recipe, since we don't want to be stuck with leftovers if the meal is a dud, but this is one that I'll definitely be making a whole batch of next time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Super Savings Saturday

Last Sunday, G and I went to Rite Aid and Walgreens. That little guy is such a trooper during our Sunday afternoon drug store shopping trips. He doesn't fuss at all as I drag him in and out of the car seat. I'm glad he was so good on Sunday, because it was certainly a worthwhile trip.
From Rite Aid we got:
-2 Halls cough drops, on clearance for $.62 each; I got $1 +Up Reward
-5 Dove shampoos, I paid $8.50 total after coupons and sales; I got $5 +Up Reward
-Scope mouthwash, I paid $2 and got $2 +Up Reward
-2 Rite Aid brand seasonings, $.90 each
-Pert Plus shampoo, I paid $2 and got $2 +Up Reward
-2 Gillette Body Wash, I paid $4 and got $2 +Up Reward

From Walgreens:
-Cepacol sore throat lozenges, I paid $2.99 and got $2.99 Register Reward
-2 Nivea lip balm, I paid $1 for both
-Kleenex cool touch tissues, I paid $1 and got $.50 Register Reward
-Cottonelle toilet paper (not pictured), I paid $3.50
-Sparkly hair clips (not pictured), $1- these are for our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.
(I had a $5 Register Reward from the week before, so my entire Walgreens shopping trip cost me $1.27)

There are some great freebies this week at both Rite Aid and Walgreens, so I'm hoping to head out tomorrow and replenish some of the areas of our stockpile that are getting low. It's funny how supplying toiletries for two parents, two metrosexual college-age boys, and a 13 year old girl, can deplete your reserves.

Friday, October 7, 2011

$5.61 CoverGirl Moneymaker

Technically this deal should be posted tomorrow, on Super Savings Saturday. But that's how good this deal is. I'm so excited to share it, and I wanted anyone who will be out and about tomorrow to have the chance to try it, too. Read on to see how I made $5.61 on a purchase of CoverGirl makeup at Rite Aid.

Right now at Rite Aid, CoverGirl products are buy one get one 50% off. In addition, if you buy $30 worth of CoverGirl products, you get a $10 +Up Reward (remember, this is the coupon that prints with your receipt, giving you a certain dollar amount off your next purchase).

I bought:
1 trublend minerals powder- $9.99
1 cheekers blush- $2.19 (50% off of $4.39)
1 blush brush- $5.29
2 smoothers concealer sticks- $6.99 and $3.49 (50% off of $6.99)
1 trublend liquid foundation- $4.94 (50% off of $9.89)
Total: $32.89

I used 3 $8/2 CoverGirl face products coupons from the October P & G insert. I also had $4.50 in =Up Rewards from my last Rite Aid shopping trip.
I paid: $4.39

I also received a $10 +Up Reward, which I didn't use. When I use it (probably on Sunday) this trip will be a   $5.61 moneymaker.

Note: While I was in Rite Aid on Thursday, they were restocking their entire makeup section. If you're thinking about trying this deal tomorrow, you might be in luck. Even if you don't want to attempt to get the $10 +Up Reward, the $8/2 coupons can still be combined with the buy one get one 50% sale to get you makeup for free or nearly free.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Website Wednesday: Frugal Living NW

A few months ago, I was lamenting the fact that I didn't know of a blog that specifically highlights deals in the Northwest. It was just about that time that I stumbled across Frugal Living NW. There are a few reasons why this site quickly became one that I visit every day.

-They know the Northwest. Frugal Living NW posts weekly deals on Northwest stores like New Seasons, Albertson's, and Fred Meyer, in addition to national chains like Rite Aid and Walgreens. They teach coupon classes in the Portland area, and they post about daily deals in Oregon and Washington.

-Today's Top Printables. Each day, there is a post with links to the best printable coupons from the day. The post typically contains anywhere from five to 10 coupons, so there's bound to be something you can use.

-Frugality Beyond the Store. The website contains a great section called Frugal Homemaking. In this section, you'll find posts on everything from baking to canning to decorating on a budget. Basically, everything you need to know to make your house a home without going broke.

If you enjoy sites like Money Saving Mom, you should definitely check out Frugal Living NW; it would be a great addition to your bookmarks. If you've already discovered Frugal Living NW, but have a favorite feature that I didn't mention, please tell me about it in the comments!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm Back, Baby!

My blog is not dead! I know it may appear that my blog has ceased to exist, but I’m happy to tell you that we’re back!

I’m not sure exactly why I went almost two months without posting. Mostly, I think, it was one of those situations where you let something slide for a few days, then a few more, and then before you know it it’s been four weeks and the thought of resuming the activity seems overwhelming. Or something like that.

Regardless, I spent many hours thinking about this blog. I thought about ideas to revamp it and turn it into a kind of blog I’d like to read. Here are a few of the changes I’m going to implement:

-New Meal Monday: I’ll share, or I’ll invite someone else to share, about a new recipe I’ve tried recently. Since discovering Pinterest, I look for any excuse to cook something new.

-Website Wednesday: On Wednesday, I’ll share a website that I find interesting, helpful, fun, etc., and that I think you might enjoy, too.

-Super Savings Saturday: This is one that many bloggers do; I'll just share my best deals from the previous week.

There you have it. Don't you just love alliterations? To paraphrase The Eagles, I didn't quit blogging, I just took a two-month vacation.