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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Couponing Woes



I LOVE couponing! But, lately I have not really been utilizing my coupons the way I would like. I have a bag full of coupons to cut out and put into the envelopes in my coupon box. When I say full, I mean really full. The bag probably weighs at least 10 pounds! That is a lot of coupons waiting to save me money and stock my cabinets.

Last year, I carefully cut and filed my coupons each week. Then I went Walgreen's and CVS to get awesome deals. I had accumulated 6 months worth of toothpaste, laundry detergent, body care products, and toilet paper. Right now, the stock is getting a little low.

How will I solve my coupon crisis? I have a couple ideas.

1. I will take my coupons, coupon box, and scissors with me to work on during the time I am waiting on one of my sons to finish an activity.

2. I will designate an hour each week on Saturday to cut and organize my coupons. I will conquer my coupon problem and begin using my coupons responsibly!

3. I will rebuild my stock using my semi-extreme couponing capabilities of combining sales with coupons for the greatest savings and even to get free items.

It is very important to my budget to spend the least amount possible on any item I purchase. This policy frees up valuable resources to use in other areas of my budget. Since we are on a very tight budget, every dollar has to be allocated where it can be most useful.

Do you coupon? How do you manage your coupons?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Are You Ready for Christmas Update



Christmas is approaching rapidly. According to http://www.xmasclock.com/, there are 68 days until Christmas! Eek!

The last time I posted on this topic was near the end of August. If you want to refresh your memory or you didn't see the post, you can go to it here-http://thewhollyholly.blogspot.com/2013/08/are-you-ready-for-christmas.html.

My main focus was earning money that I would be earmarking just for Christmas spending. I do not have credit cards to fall back on when I have a budget shortfall so planning ahead is the key to success for me. ; )

A short while ago, I got an email from Amazon.com that I was given a $10.00 gift card. I received it by doing a survey for Math-U-See and being entered for a gift card drawing. Just a bit before that I traded in a book to Amazon and earned $10.44 on my gift card balance. So, with this recent gift card, I am now up to $20.00 in my account. This is enough to purchase at least one nice gift for someone on my list or a few gifts if I find really great deals! I also have an Amazon shopping portal right here on my blog. Folks can buy through Amazon just as they always do but enter through the "door" on my site and I earn a little bit of money. I have loaded my store with items I recommend but those are not the only items someone can buy through that portal.

I am also listing items on Listia to earn credits. I can use the Listia credits I earn to get all kinds of items later on. I will save my credits until closer to Christmas to use for Christmas shopping. You can sign up to trade/give away items there too. If you sign up using my link  (https://www.listia.com/signup/4087751) , both you and I will earn FREE credits that we can use to get items for those folks on our gift lists. Recently, my husband used 55,000 credits he had amassed giving away seeds from our garden plants to get me some much needed and desired skin care products. Christmas came early for me!

I participate in another cool website called Moolala where I can purchase very cool deals and refer these deals to other folks. Everyone on Moolala has the opportunity to build a paymatrix when people sign up under them. I have earned $21.00 so far from my group. Give it a try and see if it is worthwhile for you too. Just cut and paste this code (http://whollyholly.moolala.com?pid=M7TVP75&cid=VND5J9J) into your web browser and give it a try!

These various ventures do not take an expenditure of money on my part but they do require some of my time. I have a little Acer netbook that I take everywhere I go, so that when I am waiting for one of my sons somewhere that has free wifi, I can be productive on these different earning ventures. If I can do this without having an Internet connection at home, just think what those of you with the Internet can do to earn needed funds.

Another thing I do to get ready for Christmas is to begin to purchase holiday food items a little bit at a time the last three or four months of the year and right after the holidays if they have a long enough shelf life. I have several bags of brown sugar in stock that I purchased at $1.00 per bag on clearance. The brown sugar is good through the middle of 2014. I also have gingerbread mix that I purchased for $1.00 a box that is good until January 2014. I have cans of mandarin oranges and pineapple chunks also stored for holiday Ambrosia salad. I can look forward confidently to my Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking and baking with a stocked pantry.



And finally, I purchase nifty gifts all year that I see at good prices. A couple years ago, my local grocery superstore had women's fashion scarves marked down to $1.00 each from the original $8.00! I bought 15 scarves and was able to give seven gifts of two pretty scarves. Another time I went into a Walgreen's and found really nice scented candles in jars marked down to $2.00 each (originally $9.99). Such gifts are great for many gift giving occasions and do not break my limited budget. A little advance planning and watchfulness gives such peace of mind!

How are you doing at getting ready for Christmas giving or other gift giving seasons?






Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Meal Planning for Busy People Update

Gluten-free zucchini muffins and banana muffins cooling so I can store them for the week's grab and go breakfasts.
Okay, so after my trip to Little Caesar's, I was more determined than ever to master my meal planning issues. Check out this link to see why I am whining about my meal planning http://thewhollyholly.blogspot.com/2013/10/menu-planning-ideas-for-frugal-busy.html. Right now I am feeding three adult men (hubby, a 21-year-old son, a 19-year-old son), myself, and my 27-year-old daughter and her 1-year-old son who live with us on a semi-permanent basis.

My husband brought home the following items from his shopping trip on Thursday (Oct. 3), all of which were marked down items: veggie kabobs (peppers, onions, mushrooms, yellow squash, and zucchini), two bags of broccoli and carrot mix, a package of sliced zucchini and yellow squash (this will be shredded and put into gluten-free zucchini muffins), a bag of sliced mushrooms, a five pound package of ground beef, a large container of medium salsa, and a large bag of tortilla chips. Then, on Saturday (Oct. 5) as he was leaving a market days event where he was selling craft and jewelry items, he purchased sausages, barbecue beef, and smoked pork loin that the concession stand was selling really cheap. There were two large (32 oz. size cups) of barbecue beef, a dozen sausages, and a package of pork loin sliced into about twelve good slices. He spent $9.00 for everything!

The vegetables in this package were on skewers as they were intended for veggie kabobs. I turned them into ratatouille and Slow Cooker Mediterranean vegetable stew. I put the mushrooms aside to use in pasta primavera, so this package of vegetables became ingredients in three meals.


Slow cooker Mediterranean vegetable stew is spicy with red pepper flakes in it and delicious over rice. 


I had on hand some frozen chicken, some cooked pork chops, rice, potatoes, refried beans, tostada shells, flour tortillas, some canned vegetables, spaghetti sauce, dried pinto beans, okra, and peppers from our garden and other staple items such as spices, eggs, and the like.

Here is the dinner menu I created from the items listed above:

Saturday, October 5- We ate the barbecue beef and had potato salad with it that hubby had picked up to make dinner easy on me. Because I am gluten-free, I ate my barbecue beef on tostada shells.

Sunday, October 6-Ratatouille, pasta, smoked pork loin.

Doesn't the ratatouille look pretty?

Monday, October 7-Smoked sausages on buns and tater tots. We have a very long Monday each week so I keep this meal simple.

Tuesday, October 8-Meatball sandwiches, oven fries, baby carrots.

Wednesday, October 9-Tostada casserole (I will use the dried pinto beans in this and cook them overnight in my crockpot the night before, making extra for Saturday's chili). This can be made ahead a day or two before and just popped into the oven for 20-25 minutes to reheat.

Thursday, October 10-Pasta primavera (will use the mushrooms, broccoli, and carrots in this), topped with sauce and meatballs from Tuesday's dinner.

Friday, October 11-Clean Out the Fridge Day. We will eat the leftovers that have piled up during the week today.

Saturday, October 12-Chili . We eat our chili over rice so I will make a big batch of rice to use with this meal and in the coming week. This is the third of four meals that I will have made with five pounds of ground beef.

I got three cups of shredded zucchini from the package of zucchini and squash. I used one cup in the gluten-free zucchini muffins and used the squash in ratatouille and Mediterranean vegetable stew.
I love my salad shooter for shredding
small quantities of foods quickly with
easy clean up.




What a deal! Isn't my hubby a savvy shopper?


I am feeling better about my menu and meal planning for this week. ; )


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Menu Planning Ideas for Frugal Busy People

Over the years I have had many challenges in my life. Who hasn't? One of my biggest current challenges involves menu and meal planning. I used to be really good at it but lately, not so much, due to a jam-packed schedule and the unpredictable way we do our grocery shopping.

This not a typical meal served at my house these days!



My husband does some of our grocery shopping and buys whatever he can find that is marked down or on clearance. This stretches our funds and is a huge help, but it also makes meal planning have to occur once shopping is completed rather than before. Most every article I see about meal planning encourages a person to get the sale ads, make a menu based on what is on sale, and then go shopping. We end up seeing what we can get for the funds available and then I have to gather my cookbooks together to compile recipes and a menu that make the best use of the raw materials I have available.

Frozen chicken tenders, a can of black beans, a can of corn, and a can of tomatoes and green chiles are the main components of Santa Fe Chicken. The canned items were all purchased on markdown by my hubby and cost 50 cents each!

The completed dish of Santa Fe Chicken. We serve ours over rice and with either tortilla chips and a salad or with flour tortillas. Some of us like to sprinkle a little Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese over this. The total cost to feed four of us was around $5.00!



In addition to the challenge of creating a menu based on available ingredients, four out of the seven nights of the week, I do not arrive home until between 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. This makes cooking a meal a little dicey unless we want to eat around midnight. So, I am currently reformulating my cooking routine.


On Sundays now, I am making two meals. One to eat on Sunday and one for Monday. Reheating an already prepared meal is much easier than preparing a meal from scratch. I am now avidly searching online and in women's magazines for recipes that are cook once, eat twice type of recipes. A recent issue of Family Circle was a big help in this area. Some ideas they featured were: roast a chicken one day and the second day make a pot pie, serve spaghetti and meatballs one day and the second day serve meatball sub sandwiches. This type of meal preparation will go a long way to make serving meals in my home much easier. Here are a couple URLs that look promising to me: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20333807,00.html and http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/cook_once_eat_twice_recipes.


I used to do freeze ahead meals years ago and I think I will incorporate that into my meal planning as well. I really enjoyed looking at the nicely stacked packages filling the freezer shelves and knowing that we had meals at the ready. I used Once-a-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg as my guide to cooking up to a month's worth of meals in one day or over a weekend (check out cookbooks in my Amazon store link http://astore.amazon.com/thewhollyholl-20/detail/B0072O02AA to get their books). Most likely I won't have enough groceries at the ready to do a month of meals in advance but perhaps I can start with a week and utilize a freezer meal once or twice a week for those days when I am extremely pressed for time.

I am also employing the power of crock pot cooking at least once a week to help me over the meal planning and eating later in the evening hump. I am enjoying perusing the recipes at Stephanie O'Dea's website devoted to crock pot cooking. A big bonus for me in following her blog, A Year of Slow Cooking, (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/) is that she is also gluten-free. I have eaten gluten-free since 2007 and I really appreciate being able to grab a recipe and not have to take the time to convert it to a gluten-free concoction.

Stay tuned as I share favorite recipes from my frugal busy cooking journey and please share how you handle menu planning and meal prep in your household. I need all the help I can get right now because last night I had to make a stop at Little Caesar's!