Monday, September 22, 2008

A Favorite: Cheesy Ranch & Bacon Mashed Potatoes

While I can't commit to saying that this is our absolute favorite recipe (that would most likely be poppyseed chicken), this is definitely one of our favorites & maybe a little different for some of you! So, without further ado:

Cheesy Ranch and Bacon Mashed Potatoes
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1 c. sour cream
1 3/4 c. milk
1 (22 oz.) pkg. frozen mashed potatoes
6 cooked & crumbled bacon slices
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Whisk together dressing mix, sour cream, and milk in a large glass bowl. Stir in frozen mashed potatoes. Microwave on high for 12 minutes - stirring every 4 minutes. Stir in the crumbled bacon & cheese.

Serves: 8

So easy but soo good! Hope you enjoy. :)

Menu Plan Monday - September 22-28

Welcome to my post for Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Once again, we have our weekly potluck on Wednesday. We're also starting to paint our den/dining room this weekend, so quick meals were definitely in order this week!

Since this is Family Favorites edition of Menu Plan Monday, check out one of one of our favorites, Cheesy Ranch & Bacon Mashed Potatoes. There are so many recipes that we love, it's hard to pick one - but give these are a try, they are delicious!!

Monday: Cranberry chicken (in the crockpot), sauteed asparagus, rice. We need to start using up the cranberry sauce from our Sav Mor trip - another ideas for how to use cranberry sauce?

Tuesday: Homemade pizza & spinach salad

Wednesday: potluck! I'm taking crockpot green beans.

Thursday: Tuna mushroom casserole.

Leftover homemade pizza from Tuesday. (We make two, eat one & save one for another night usually.)

Saturday: Leftovers for lunch, spaghetti from the freezer for dinner.

Sunday: grilled hotdogs for lunch, breakfast for dinner!

Please let me know any suggestions you may have for our menu plan or for things you'd like to see in my future menu planning posts!

CVS Deals: September 21-27

This week I really used the first transaction to help "grow" my ECBs and start the candy deal (for Halloween), but I was really most excited about the second transaction! I also spent more out of pocket than usual, but we got a lot of things that we really needed that don't normally give ECBs (toilet paper, for example - at least as far as I've seen).

Transaction #1:

$11.99 - Revlon Revitalift (earns $11.99 ECBs - so free!)
$4.99 - Nivea for Men Body Wash (earns $4.99 ECBs - moneymaker after coupon!)
$4.99 - Adidas deodorant (earns $4.00 ECBs - free after coupon!)
$9.00 - (2) Hershey's big bags M&M (start toward spend $15/get $7 ECBs candy deal)

Coupons used:
-$5/$30 CVS coupon from e-mail
-$2 Hershey's big bags - CVS CRT (cash register coupon)
-$1.00 Nivea body wash, newspaper insert
-$1.00 Adidas deodorant, newspaper insert

Total after coupons: $23 (not exactly - I lost my receipt)
Used $14 ECBs from previous trip

Total OOP: $8 (again, this is a higher than normal OOP, but helps out transaction #2)
Earns: $20.98 ECBs ($11.99, $4.99, & $4.00)

Transaction #2:

$12.98 - (2) Cottonelle toilet paper 12 packs (toward spend $25, get $10 ECBs)
$6.49 - Viva 8 pack paper towels (toward spend $25, get $10 ECBs)
$6.00 - (6) Kleenex (finishes spend $25, get $10 ECBs)
$6.16 - (7) Hershey's/Mars 8-pack candy (finishes spend $15, get $7 ECBs from transaction #1)

Coupons used:
-$5/$30 CVS coupon from email
-$.50 Cottonelle from 9/21 newspaper insert
-$.50 Cottonelle from older newspaper - nice cashier took expired coupon
-$.50/3 Kleenex from newspaper insert
-$.35 Viva paper towels

Total after coupons: $24.28
Used $20.98 ECBs from Transaction #1

Total OOP: $3.30
Earns: $17 ECBs ($10.00 & $7.00)

(I won't be doing these deals again, but according to my receipt, the Kimberly Clark deal AND the candy deal both have a higher limit than 1 as advertised!)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mmm... Ice Cream!

Don't miss out on this... FREE Cold Stone Creamery ice cream on September 25 from 5-8 pm.
Find a location near you here. Also, it does look like they will be accepting donations to help the Make-a-Wish foundation. What better - great ice cream all for the cost of helping a great cause?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Newlywed Tip #4: Exercising Together!

So the wedding is over, jobs are busier, you're cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry for two now instead of one... and you just can't seem to find the time to exercise that you could before the wedding! I'd be pretty surprised if I was alone in this. :) You've also lost the motivation of "I need to fit into my wedding dress". So... what now?

We've found that some of our best motivation for exercising can come from each other! It's much more fun to walk or run with someone else than to attempt this by yourself. It also keeps you accountable.

Here are 5 simple tips to help you get the most out of your exercise as newlyweds:

1. Start small!! This may be obvious, but if you try to run a marathon right off the couch, you'll hurt yourself and lose any motivation that you had before you started.

2. Pick something you both enjoy. This could be running, walking around your neighborhood, playing tennis, or even tossing the frisbee.

3. Make a plan. You're much more likely to get out and stretch your legs if you set time aside for this. (Side note: we're still working on this part! We're learning how important this really is.)

4. Better late than never. Or maybe, better something than nothing. :) Even a 10 minute walk is worth it. We find that we feel our best when we're regularly getting outside for something.

5. Be creative and have fun! Try something you haven't tried since you were a kid - like roller blading or playing basketball. Don't be scared to try something just because you haven't done it in a while, and keep trying new things until you find something you both really enjoy.

And just for fun - we love this website WalkJogRun that lets you click on a map to figure out how far you've walked, jogged, or run. Happy exercising!

*Picture taken this summer on a hike.

Inbox Dollars

I recently joined Inbox Dollars, a free program that allows you to make money simply by reading emails or completing other offers. I tend to be pretty skeptical of things like this, thinking they may be scams or just a waste of time.

While I haven't gotten paid yet (you have to reach $30 before they send you a check), the money is adding up at a slow but steady rate. They send me a few emails a day, I click on the "Confirm this paid email" link, and I make a few cents. It really only takes a few seconds. You can also make more money by taking surveys or completing special offers. Be careful though because some of these are not 100% free!

If any of you are interested in trying out Inbox Dollars, check out their website here. Or, if you would like to help me out, feel free to click my referral link here. One other tip - you may not want all of these emails to come to your regular email address. I have a separate address for offers from stores and such that I wouldn't want to clutter my normal inbox.

I know there are other programs like this - Cash Crate, eBates, etc, and I haven't tried enough of them to make a fair comparison. I know some will pay you sooner than others, and some pay you by gift cards instead of cash.

What types of programs do you use to earn a little money online? Or, have you decided it's not worth your time? Please share in the comments below!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reusing Listerine bottles

This Works for Me Wednesday trick comes compliments of my husband! Earlier this summer, we got some Listerine SmartRinse free after ECBs from CVS. Now, one thing we loved about this SmartRinse was how you could squeeze the bottle and exactly 10 mL of rinse would fill up the top & you'd use just the right amount every time.

When we finished the first bottle, Javier figured out that you can pry the top off & refill it with the mouthwash of your choice! It works best to use pliers to grab the little top, but now we can always measure out just the right amount of mouthwash and get to recycle the SmartRinse bottles!

Check out Shannon's blog for more tips!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Easy Sour Cream Muffins

As I wrote about in my Menu Plan Monday (oops... Tuesday!) post, I plan on taking sour cream muffins to our community group's potluck dinner Wednesday. So, in case you'd like this super-easy, super-tasty recipe, here it is:

Sour Cream Muffins

2 c. self-rising flour
1/2 pint sour cream (8 oz.)
1.5 sticks melted margarine

Mix all ingredients together & put in ungreased small muffin tins. Bake @ 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. These also freeze really well!

(I have made them in large muffin tins - this works, but sometimes they're a little doughy in the center.)

Menu Plan Monday - September 8-15

Welcome to my post for Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday! As like last time I did this... it's Tuesday. Apparently I just can't get things together to post on Monday! :)

This week is a bit crazy for us. We have a potluck dinner Wednesday (which will be pretty much every Wednesday from now on), and you can see several other out-of-the-ordinary events below too. Here's our stab at a plan though - it seems even more important to have during a week this crazy!

Tuesday: Leftover homemade pizza & spinach salad - we typically make 2 small pizzas on Sunday, eat one, then save the 2nd for another night or lunches

Wednesday: potluck! I'm taking easy sour cream muffins.

Thursday: Grilled tilapia with mango marinade, salad, and rice. Aldi (my favorite store!) has great deals on fish, and we scored tons of marinade at Sav Mor last Saturday.

Friday: Dinner theater! My dad is in his church play that shows as a dinner theater.

Saturday: Tailgating brunch (I'll make monkey bread), sandwiches for dinner (we'll be worn out after the game!)

Sunday: Lunch at church (provided), make fresh homemade pizza for supper

Monday: Mexican night - Bean burritos, rice, salad

We are blessed that where my husband works, lunch is provided usually several days a week. My lunches will be egg salad sandwiches, pretzels, bananas, or leftovers.

Please let me know any suggestions you may have for our menu plan or for things you'd like to see in my future menu planning posts!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sav-Mor Sidewalk Sale

For those of you who live close to a Sav-Mor Foods, you need to check out their sidewalk sales! I have no idea how widespread this store is - I just know that we have one here in Greenville.

Today was my first experience with the sale - and I will DEFINITELY be going back! Javier & I went with 2 of our good friends with the plan that we would each fill our box up with whatever we could manage, then split what we ended up with.

Here's how it works: Sav-Mor, and other local grocery stores, round up food that has dented packaging or is near/past its expiration date. Since most foods have to have expiration dates well before they will actually go bad, Sav-Mor sells this food at a deeply discounted price at their sidewalk sales. What price, you might ask? $6 for everything you can fit into a large banana box!!

The sale starts at 9:00 at the blow of whistle - very exciting! Before 9:00 you have to line up around the perimeter of the sale (which is also laid out in rows of banana boxes). We got there at 8:30 - but will probably get there earlier next time. Most of the "good stuff" gets gone in the first few minutes, but we were still able to get 3 full boxes between the 4 of us. We fit everything in the picture above into the 3 boxes for a grand total of $18. We certainly won't need salad dressing again for a long time!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Goog 411

Today for Frugal Friday, I want to share about Goog 411. This amazing service offered by Google has saved me lots of time, money & frustration! (FYI - I am in no way associated with Google - I just love this service!)

Goog 411 is a lot like Free 411, except without the ads. All you do is dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411). An automated, voice-activated service picks up & asks you for which city & state you wish to search. You just speak the city & state back into the phone, Goog 411 confirms this, then asks which store or business you wish to find. Once it has found the business, it tells you the address, then connects you directly to the business. And... all this is 100% FREE!

As I'm relatively new to my city, I have used this when running errands and realize I need directions or store hours. This has definitely kept me from being lost at times, and also prevented me from going to a store that was about to close.

For more frugal tips, be sure to check out Frugal Friday at Biblical Womanhood.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday - Freezer Storage Question

Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a BACKWARDS edition of Works for Me Wednesday today! I was so excited... because I'm super curious about everyone's best suggestion for freezer storage.

Currently, if I buy a large-ish quantity of meat, I'll subdivide it into meal-sized portions and freeze. Ground beef gets frozen in Ziploc bags, chicken breasts usually get flash-frozen then all stored in one big bag. My dilemma really comes with other types of frozen items. For instance, I made chocolate chip cookie dough & froze some - just in a piece of Gladware. I have no idea if this will keep well or not.

Please let me know your best tips for freezing things (especially meal-type items or things other than just plain meat!). We also have relatively few containers that I can use for freezing things, so I may purchase some soon - any suggestions for this, too?