Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guess who's back? Back again...

Hello blog world! Remember me? Is there anyone out there that will actually read this?
If so, thank you and please accept my apologies for such an extended absence. It's been five months since my last blog entry. Here is what I've been up to during that time:
  • I got a job! This is the main reason for my blog silence. The temp job I started in March turned into a permanent job in June. It requires a lot of my time and zaps a lot of my energy.
  • With the job came a quick return to my old ways. I haven't cooked dinner at home in months. We are eating out every night and spending a fortune doing so. I think I might do an analysis and compare the amount we spent while I was unemployed to the amount since, just out of curiosity.
  • I planned a wedding for my husband's sister.  More on that later.
  • Our bathrooms are being remodeled, in preparation for hopefully getting our house on the market in the near future.
  • I got a new laptop, and for good measure an iPad too.  The laptop was needed; the sorry state of the old one contributed to the blogging hiatus.  The iPad was an impulse buy, but at least I bought it during the sales tax holiday and used ebates to get cash back
  • My obsession with couponing isn't completely dead.  I have totally fallen in love with CVS and get as much free stuff there as possible. 
  • I have a blog giveaway coming soon, thanks to the lovely folks at My Blog Spark.
There may be more but it's not coming to me at the moment.  A little sad that I can sum up five months of my life in seven little bullet points.

I will probably ease my way back into blogging, but I hope to certainly post more often that once every few months.  Hopefully I will be able to build back some of my readers that I've lost and find new ones that might be interested in what I like to babble about.  I look forward to getting back into the swing of things and sharing menus, recipes, freebies, deals and whatever else seems like a good idea at the time!
As a reward for reading this entire post (and either being around my age/generation or having good googling skills) I have a prize for the first person that identifies the reference in the title.  Leave your response in the comments.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Happy Monday!  Here is all of the free stuff I got in the mail this week:

Magazines: Redbook & Saveur
-Olay body wash from Walmart
-Post-it tabs & coupon
-Dentek dental picks, from a Facebook promo I think
-Burt's Bees toothpaste
-Pantene full-size shampoo & high $$$ coupons to share, from Vocalpoint

Giveaway win:
-Pancake prize pack from Bisquick, won from Couponers United.  Includes a cast iron griddle, batter bowl, spatula & Bisquick mix.  Planning to use it this week to make breakfast for dinner!

To see what others got free this week or to add your own, stop by A Frugal Friend.

Menu Plan Monday

I ended up making all but one of the meals we planned for last week, but I have been lacking in my posting about them.  As I explained on Friday, I started a new temp job which is taking up a lot more of my time than my last one.  Unfortunately blogging is one of the first things to be put on the back burner.  On the bright side my laptop that had been in the shop is back, so I should be able to keep up better if I can blog while spending my nightly TV-watching quality time with hubby.
Here is the plan for this week:
For hundreds of other menu plans, check out orgjunkie.com!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Follow

Friday Follow
Hello and welcome! It's that time of the week again - is everyone else as excited as I am that the weekend is almost here? Unfortunately I've heard we might get snow this weekend, just in time for my Digiorno House Party. Boo. Good thing it's indoors! Stop by on Sunday to read about how it went.

This week I thought I'd do a week in review.  Here are some things that happened this week, either on my blog or just in general:

My Jayhawks are #1 and picked by many people to win the NCAA tournament. I'm nervous, but glad they survived the first round. Bring on Northern Iowa!

Wordless Wednesday featured one of the two cutest dogs in the world. Not that I'm biased or anything.

Some random person in New Jersey won my $211 million Powerball jackpot. Again I say boo.

I encouraged the use of Swagbucks and even convinced two people to sign up. I'm now using them to earn extra points towards Amazon gift cards.

I got a lot of free stuff in the mail and shared it on Mailbox Monday.

Finally, I started a new temp job and it is most likely going to eat up quite a bit of my time over the next few months. I apologize if my posts suffer as a result. The good news is that it pays quite well so we should be able to bulk up our savings to help keep us afloat until I find something permanent.

Thanks for stopping by and have a happy Friday!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Guess We're Watching Animal Planet

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Ok, so I usually don't do a lot of affiliate type promotions on my blog (except for a few ads on my sidebar and the ones Google inserts wherever it so chooses), but after a Twitter conversation (Twittersation?) w/Em today, I decided I wanted to take a minute to talk about Swagbucks.
What are Swagbucks? The best way I can describe them is as a "currency" of sorts. They can be used to buy any number of odds and ends and, most importantly in my opinion, Amazon gift cards. You earn Swagbucks by using their website to search as you would normally use Google, or Yahoo or Bing or whatever you are inclined to use. Sometimes searches get you nothing but search results, but other times you can win 10, 20 or 30 Swagbucks.
Currently a $5 Amazon card costs 450 Swagbucks. I've been using Swagbucks for a few months and have so far earned enough for 2 $5 Amazon cards. I know that isn't very much in the scheme of things, but it was still completely free and easy so I consider it worth it! Plus I would have just been using Google to search anyway. My hope is that through Swagbucks and survey-taking I can earn enough to pay for Christmas presents.
Swagbucks is powered by Google and Ask, so you get similar results to if you used those search engines. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles that I love about Google, so sometimes I still have to search in both places. It's a little bit of a pain, but I'm usually willing to spend the extra few seconds to try Swagbucks and see if I win.
Fridays are "Mega Swagbucks Day" which means you have a chance of winning even more Swagbucks than normal (50 or 100 so they say). This hasn't actually worked for me yet but I am keeping the faith that it could someday!
There are other ways to earn Swagbucks, like completing offers or buying things through their partners, but searching is definitely the easiest and it doesn't cost anything!
Another free way to earn is through a section called "Special Offers" where you can click on "No Obligation Offers". If you skip through about 5 or 6 offers it will give you a few Swagbucks just for doing so. You can do this once a day and pick up around 10 or 15 SB a week.
Swagbucks is active on Facebook, Twitter and their own personal blog. Sometimes they will give out "Swagcodes" that can be entered to earn some extra Swagbucks. They also have "Swaghunts" which are like virtual scavenger hunts to find Swagcodes. These aren't necessarily worth the time it takes to track them down, but if do you have free time on your hands it can be kind of fun.
If you'd like to give Swagbucks a try, it is free to join and you can go through my referral link and help me earn extra points! See, that's where my selfish motivation for this post becomes clear...
As I am an accountant and not a salesperson, I hate being pushy so please don't feel pressured to join just for me. Even if you don't use my link, I'd still recommend checking it out and seeing if you like it.  As I said, it can't hurt and it can get you some free stuff, so why not?
Search & Win

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Happy Monday!  Here is all of the free stuff I got in the mail this week:
Magazine: Good Housekeeping
-Axe body wash, from Sam's Club
-Lever 2000 soap, from Costco
-Aveeno shampoo & conditioner, plus $1 off coupon
-Fekkai shampoo & conditioner, from Wal-Mart
-Zone Perfect Indulgence bar, plus $1.50 off coupon
-Victorinox Swiss Army cologne
-Nature Valley Nut Clusters & granola bar, plus $.75 off coupon
-Pureology relaxing serum
-Louisiana hot sauce, from Facebook promotion/Saints winning Super Bowl
-Helluva Good Dip coupon, from Facebook promotion
-Fold-up reusable grocery tote, thank you for joining the National Consumer Panel (formerly Nielsen Home Scan)
-Coupon book from Box Tops for Education
-Recipe book from Unilever
-Digiorno House Party pack, including 6 free pizzas, many more $4 off pizza coupons, beads, apron, pizza cutter, trivia cards, finger basketball game and more

Giveaway wins:
-Rainbow Brite Activity CD from Stacey Says...

-$3 check from Pinecone Research
-Hand of Fate by Lis Wiehl, book to review from BookSneeze

To see what other people got for free this week, check out Mailbox Monday hosted by Debra @ A Frugal Friend!

Menu Plan Monday

The birthday celebrations have finally come to an end, so I actually made most of a real menu plan this week.  Now the challenge will be sticking to it.
Don't forget to stop by throughout the week for pictures, recipes, comments & estimated costs of each meal!

For hundreds of other menu plans, visit orgjunkie.com

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Thai Chicken

Tonight marks a momentous occasion - a purchase has been made to improve my blog.  I promised myself that my blogging adventures wouldn't cost anything (other than my creative blood, sweat & tears of course), but I never promised they wouldn't cost my mom!  She asked what I wanted for my birthday and I couldn't think of anything.  Then, we were at Target and I was reminded of something I have been wanting for a while. 
Yes, that's right, white plates.  I have such lofty aspirations.  Blue plates, though fun and appropriate for the decor I wanted in my house, just aren't the best thing for making food look appetizing, especially in pictures.  So, ladies and gentleman (intentionally misspelled because I'm 99% sure hubby is the only man that reads this blog), tonight I give you the first picture of my dinner on a white plate.  Of course, I picked the night when I made white rice that just blended right in, but I still think these plates will look better in the long run.
Also, as I am my mother's daughter, she didn't actually have to pay for the plates because she had a gift card obtained from filling a new prescription.  Yay for free presents!
Anyway, back to the issue at hand, the actual dinner.  After my last not-so-successful attempt at Thai-inspired food, I was a little leery about making this recipe.  Thankfully I decided to go ahead and make it as I thought it was very tasty and hubby seemed to agree.
I have really started to love allrecipes.com.  The best part of the site is the user reviews, which are helpful to let you know what to expect before you try to make something.  Most of the reviews for this recipe were favorable, and many left suggestions on how to tweak the ingredients to make it even better.
I followed the advice of some of the reviewers, adding extra chicken stock and also more red pepper flakes.  A lot more.  The recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon and I probably threw in at least an extra teaspoon.  Thai food is supposed to be spicy and I knew hubby wouldn't mind the extra heat.
For a side (in addition to the rice, which I somehow managed to make way stickier than normal and hubby did not approve) I decided to get some tortillas.  That may sound like a strange accompaniment, but since hubby is always asking for bread I figured I needed to give him some sort of option.  My inspiration came from BD's Mongolian BBQ, where they serve tortillas as well as rice.  Since he always eats both with his stir-fry, I thought he might like them with this dish.  He said they were okay, but naan would have been better.  After he said that I wished I hadn't asked, since the rest of the meal I was craving a garlicky, crispy, delicious piece of the stuff.  Mmm, naan...


Estimated cost of meal

Chicken: $1.25
Chicken stock: $.50
Bell pepper: $1
Onion: $.50
Soy sauce: $.25
Spices: $.25
Peanut butter: $.25 (only used 1/2 cup)
Limes: $.50
Rice: $.70
Garnish: $.25

Total: $5.45

Former life total: Lunch @ Thai Place (yes that's really the name of one of our local Thai restaurants): $25

Leaner Life Savings: $19.55 or 78%!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Follow & Ferrets (cont.)

Several years ago my mom and I were channel surfing and came across a PBS documentary entitled, "Ferrets: The Pursuit of Excellence."  We sat glued to the TV, mesmerized by the crazy ferret people.  They were kind of like crazy cat people, but perhaps even more extreme.
One woman had a song, I don't remember all of it but here is a verse:
"Ferret oh ferret, gatherer of stuff,
Ferret my ferret, when will you have enough?"
The producers intertwined her singing of this little diddy throughout the broadcast.  Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can watch a clip here.
Along with the song, there were also people displaying their handmade ferret costumes.  Who wouldn't be proud to show off something like this?
The culmination of the broadcast was at the annual ferret show in Ohio, apparently the biggest of its kind.  Each of the ferret owners that had painstakingly prepared their ferrets for showing (including shampooing them using shampoos specifically for color-treated hair based on their coat coloring) went into the show with high hopes.  It was determined that biting a judge might not necessarily be cause for disqualification.  Several of the owners had large gashes across their noses where ferrets had bitten them. 
They went on and on about how big of an honor it was to earn a ribbon.  At the end of the show, PBS scrolled a message on the screen that said (not an exact quote but close enough), "287 ribbons were presented at the show.  250 ferrets participated."
All in all this might have been the most entertaining thing I have ever seen on television.  It wasn't completely clear if the people at PBS were trying to make fun of the people, but the ferret lovers for their part seemed to take themselves very seriously.
I tell this story because it led to one of my family's new traditions, namely torturing my mother with ferret references.  She hates anything that she considers a "varmint" and ferrets are at the top of the list.  It started out innocently enough, with my sister-in-law emailing my mom articles about ferrets. 
Then, I had a stroke of brilliance.  As I was glancing through my Drs. Foster & Smith catalog (pet supplies for dogs and cats) an insert flew out that advertised the company's specialty catalogs.  Immediately I filled out my mother's mailing info in order to send her the ferret catalog.
Months passed.  Finally, I got a call from my mother in which I could hear mostly laughing and squealing.  I knew that the day, and the catalog, had arrived at last. 
Now, I was pretty proud of this feat and nothing had been done to top it for quite a well.  Until last week.  Recently, my four year-old niece got a goldfish.  My brother and sister-in-law had relayed this information and the family was all aware of the new pet.  Then, my mom got an email from them, entitled, "We didn't just get a fish."  Inside was a picture of my niece and her new favorite pet ferret!  If only I had been there to see my mom's reaction upon opening the email, I'm sure it was priceless.
They didn't actually buy the ferret, but you couldn't tell that from the photo!  I am so proud of my brother and sister-in-law for pulling off this joke, though I am a wee bit sad because I just don't think there is any way to surpass it.  Short of actually buying a ferret, and thereby cementing my mother never again coming to visit, there just doesn't seem to be any way to continue this tradition.
Of course, a really long blog post complete with pictures and links to the crazy ferret singing lady can't hurt!

Friday Follow & Ferrets

Friday Follow

Happy Friday and thanks for stopping by! I am wrapping up my birthday week so my posts have been a bit spotty lately, but hopefully I'll be back on track next week.
I have a really fun totally off-topic story I wanted to tell about ferrets, in honor of my mother, but it got a little too long and I decided to post it separately. Click here if you want to read.

(Disclaimer: If you are currently or have ever been a ferret owner or like ferrets at all, don't read as you will most likely be offended)

MckLinky Blog Hop

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Big 3-0

My original plan for today's Wordless Wednesday post was to put up my baby picture, and maybe a current picture to show what a difference 30 years makes.  With the untimely death of my childhood crush Corey Haim I decided to change things up a bit.  If only I had pictures of my room from when I was about nine, featuring posters of him everywhere, along with all of the latest copies of Teen Beat and Big Bopper.
On the bright side, this change of events does gives me license to create a whole other post devoted to my birthday!  Though I suppose it's my blog and I could have done that anyway.  Behold the power!
My twenties are officially over, I think that calls for a moment of silence.  (insert silence)  
Phew, between that and Wordless Wednesday it's hard to be so quiet.
My blog buddy Em has assured me that turning 30 is fabulous.  So far, I'd like to respectfully disagree.  Here is an up-to-the-minute summary of today's events (and a couple from yesterday):
  • Received a call from my brother to discuss the amazing email he and my sister-in-law sent to my mom the other day.  This is a story for another post, but trust me it's hilarious.  My family is weird, but in a good way.  After this my (older) brother asked me how it felt to have my youth slipping away.  Nice.
  • Called and woke up my mom requesting she scan and email me a baby picture for my WW post.
  • Went to bed arguing with my husband about where to have dinner tonight.  As my blog title is supposed to demonstrate, I'm trying to live "leaner" and so wanted to avoid a really expensive outing.  He thinks I'm obsessed, but not in a good way.
  • This morning decided to wear a cute new dress I just got on clearance at Kohl's for $7.  Questioned by hubby about why I was so dressy,  "I didn't know we were suiting up for this."
  • Highlight: received my present from hubby, a copy of Chelsea Handler's new book, conveniently released the day before my birthday.
  • Hubby reminded me that I share a birthday with Chuck Norris.  Decided to feature him in my WW post.
  • Driving to work I noticed something on my shoe.  Thinking it was a piece of leather that was flaking off (I bought those on clearance too), I reached down to pick it off, only to come up with a handfull of poo.  Technically it might have been mud as it wasn't really stinky, but it looked like poo.  Frantically searched for something to wipe it off with while praying the light wouldn't turn green.  Thank goodness I never go anywhere without my hand sanitizer.
  • Heard the news that Corey Haim died.  Changed WW post plans again. 
  • Got to work and received even more questions about why I was so dressed up - geez people it's like the Spanish Inquisition around here.  Can't a girl wear a dress without having to justify it? 
  • Received a call from hubby to discuss Corey Haim.  He told me to not let it ruin my day.
  • Found out that I totally misunderstood my mom when I thought she couldn't come to my birthday dinner.  It's not Valentine's Day or my anniversary Mom, so you would have been invited!  But this way I get two yummy dinners in a row, and a chocolate bag.
  • Things are looking up - received nice birthday wishes on Twitter and discovered a fun new blog to entertain me.
Aww, wasn't I cute?
Can I have this cake?

Wordless Wednesday: RIP Corey & My Youth

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Ok, I know it's Tuesday, but I didn't get the menu planned until last night.  Tomorrow is my birthday so I refuse to cook.  Also, there will be even more birthday dinners throughout the week since my mom can't make it to my regular birthday dinner and also we have one more freebie left to use.

  • Monday: Dinner out since I didn't plan a menu
  • Tuesday: Chimichangas (substituting pork for beef)
  • Wednesday: Still deciding - it's narrowed down to Pierpont's, Lidia's or La Bodega
  • Thursday: Dinner w/mom (thinking McCormick & Schmick's - mmm chocolate bag, see below)
  • Friday: Sweet Tomatoes (last birthday freebie)
  • Saturday: Pasta with shrimp and roasted red pepper sauce
  • Sunday: Thai chicken (carry-over from last week)
The chocolate bag (you can't even see the white chocolate mousse filling but it is underneath all those berries)

For hundreds of other menu plans, check out orgjunkie.com.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Here is all the great free stuff I got in the mail this week.  Also check here and here for the free things I got at CVS and Walgreens!

Magazines: Cruise Travel & Saveur

-Purex 3-in-1 (these look so neat, can't wait to try them)
-Gilette Fusion razor from ShopText
-Teecino strange coffee-flavored tea beverage - looks interesting
-BodiHeat heat pad, plus $1 coupon
-Yogi tea, plus $1 coupon (they already sent this a couple of weeks ago, not sure why I got it again)
-Pregnancy journal (note to my family: don't freak out, I just signed up for this because it looked like a nice freebie, I don't need it at the moment but could someday)
-The Modern World sticker (only signed up because it has a Boston Terrier on it)
-Coupon for free Digiorno pizza

Giveaway wins:
-$50 Safeway card from Saving in Sacramento
-Rainbow Brite activity CD from Alas 3 Lads
-Child's apron from The Frugal Homeschooling Mom and Etsy shop Empty Nest Crafts
-Coupons for 2 free bags of Mahatma rice, from Traci at My1LittleWorld (proof that it pays to participate in Mailbox Monday - I found out about this giveaway from her MM post!!!)

    To see all the fun things others got in their mailbox this week or link your own, visit A Frugal Friend!

    Dinner Tonight: Breakfast

    I took the weekend off from blogging so this post is really late.  This was the meal I cooked on Friday night.  I'm pretty sure everyone knows how to make scrambled eggs, so I'll spare you the specifics.  Suffice to say that it was yummy, quick and easy to make.  Also, as most breakfast for dinner options tend to be, it was really cheap!


    Estimated cost of meal

    Eggs: $.60
    Cheese: $.25
    Hashbrowns: $.90
    Bacon: $.50
    Toast: $.50

    Total: $2.75

    Former life total: Breakfast at Cook Shack Cafe: $26.00

    Leaner Life Savings: $23.25 or 89%!!!

    Walgreens Trip - all this for $.73!!!

    After my success at CVS I decided to do a quick Walgreen's run to see if I could keep up the bargains.  Here's the details for this one:

    Purex                         $5.99 x 2 =  $11.98
    Trident                                           1.29    
    Total before coupons                      13.18
    Purex Walgreens BOGO sale              (5.99)
    Purex BOGO coupon from paper         (5.99)
    Trident Walgreens coupon                (0.60)

    Total after coupons                         $0.69
    Tax                                                0.04
    Total OOP                                      $0.73!!!

    Total Savings=$12.58 or 94%!!!

    I only bought the gum because otherwise my total would have been $0.00 and I was embarrassed and didn't know how the checker would handle that situation.

    CVS Trip - all this for $0.20!!!

    When I first learned about the art of couponing, I tried my hand at some Walgreen's shopping a bit but never tried CVS.  The main reason was that CVS required a membership card, and Walgreen's didn't.  A couple of weeks ago hubby needed something from the drug store so we ran into CVS while out running other errands.  While there I noticed the area where you could sign up for a new card and decided it was time to bite the bullet. 
    Flash forward to this past week while I was grocery shopping.  I needed peanuts for a garnish on the Thai chicken I was going to make, but they were at least $3/jar at Target and Walmart.  I stopped at CVS to look for broth (I had seen that it was on sale for $.49/can, but it turned out they only had chicken and I needed beef) and noticed that they had peanuts on sale for $2.50/jar.  I was pretty excited and even more so when I checked out and noticed that my receipt printed with a coupon for $5 off my next purchase of $15 or more.  The only problem was the coupon expired just a few days later.
    After some careful planning, I think I managed to come up with a pretty successful trip. 
    Here's how I did it:

    Stayfree Maxi Pads:               $3.69 x 2= $7.38
    Power Bar Energy Gel blasts:   $1.50 x 2= $3.00 (sale price, orig. $1.69 each)
    Excedrin:                             $2.50 x 2= $5.00 (sale price, orig. $5.39 each)
    Total before coupons                           $15.38
    $5/$15 CVS coupon                              (5.00)
    $1 off Stayfree coupon                          (1.00)
    BOGO free Stayfree coupon                    (3.69)
    $1 off Power Bar coupon                        (1.00)
    $2 off Excedrin coupon                          (2.00)
    Free Excedrin coupon                            (2.50)

    Total after coupons                               $0.19
    Tax                                                        .01 (in my state tax is charged on the after coupon price)
    Total OOP                                            $0.20!!!

    Total Savings= $21.35 or 99%!!!

    Also, I earned $4 "Extra Care Bucks" for the Stayfree purchase and $1.50 ECBs for the Power Bar purchase, so I was basically paid $4.30 to shop!

    I needed my total to be above $15 so I grabbed 2 of the Power Bar pouches thinking I would get ECBs for both, but found out later that there was a limit of one per household.  If I had known this I would have looked for another filler to make my total even less!

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Friday Follow

    Friday Follow
    Although I was very aware that today is Friday, I totally forgot about Friday Follow this morning.  Good thing I get the email feed from Midday Escapades and I was reminded when I saw her daily update! 

    This is my fourth week participating in FF.  Last week's effort was not quite as successful as the previous two, but I also didn't have as much opportunity to go out and actively follow other blogs so it's partially my fault.  I can't believe that over 700 blogs are participating now! 

    Random pondering for the day - do you think that the high volume will harm or hurt the concept in the long run?  I think it's great that so many blogs are involved but worry that it might be getting a little too big.  It seems like it could go either way - more participants means more people with the chance of clicking on your link, but it also means there are a lot more choices out there for them to visit instead of yours.

    Thanks for stopping by and Happy Friday!

    MckLinky Blog Hop

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Dinner Tonight: Beef Stroganoff

    Tonight we had beef stroganoff, mostly based on this recipe from my buddy Rachael Ray.  I think I veered enough away from her recipe this time that I will go ahead and post my version instead of just recapping the changes I made.
    My camera battery died so I had to take this picture with my cell phone.  I promise that it didn't really look that green in real life.  Actually, this meal is very yummy and comforting, kind of reminiscent of my beef and noodles from a few weeks ago but with a more interesting sauce.  My friend says her mom used to make something called "Poor Man's Stroganoff" which used ground beef in place of the tenderloin.  I used sirloin, so I guess mine is more of a "Middle Class Stroganoff". 
    Seriously, who takes a tenderloin and serves it drenched in sauce?  I don't get it.  That's just not necessary to do to a ridiculously expensive piece of beef that can stand on its own.

    Beef Stroganoff

    1 lb sirloin, sliced thin and cut into bite-sized pieces
    Salt, pepper & garlic powder
    1/2 small onion, sliced thin
    2 Tbsp butter
    1 Tbsp olive oil
    2 Tbsp flour
    1.5-2 cups beef stock
    1 heaping tsp dijon mustard
    1/4 cup sour cream
    1 Tbsp red currant jelly (serves the same sweet/sour purpose as RR's cornichons, but with less weird bits of pickle)
    1/2 lb egg noodles

    Boil water for noodles (I forgot to do this at first so I just used really hot water to shorten the process).  Rachael Ray thinks you should make the sauce first and set it aside while you make the meat.  I don't believe in dirtying that many pans, especially if you have a nifty & pricey Rachael Ray pan like this.
    Add olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter to large, deep skillet or saute pan.  Season meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder (because when don't I do this?), add to pan with onion.  Brown meat and remove from pan.  Check your water - is it boiling yet?  If so, add noodles and cook according to package directions.
    Add remaining tablespoon of butter to skillet, make sure it is melted then add flour.  Whisk well and cook for about one minute.  Add 1.5 cups beef stock, whisk vigorously to eliminate lumps.  Bring to a boil and simmer until desired thickness is reached.  Add mustard, sour cream and jelly.  Again, whisk well to incorporate (the sour cream can look a little curdled, just keep whisking).  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.  You can also add more beef stock, but mine ended up being a little thin with 2 cups of stock so I had to thicken it with some corn starch.  Add meat back into pan and coat with sauce.  Drain pasta, serve with sauce mixture.  Rachael Ray suggests adding some parsley for garnish, which isn't a terrible idea but I refused to pay $.80 for a bunch of parsley just to use a couple of tablespoons.  She also suggests pumpernickel bread, which I suppose could be traditional but we went with a nice crusty sourdough loaf (now that was worth the $.80 Target charged me for it).


    Estimated cost of meal

    Beef: $2
    Butter: $.10
    Olive oil: $.10
    Onion: $.10
    Spices: $.05
    Flour: $.05
    Stock: $1
    Mustard: $.05
    Sour cream: $.15
    Jelly: $.10
    Noodles: $.50
    Bread: $.80

    Total: $5.00

    Former life total: Dinner @ Mimi's: $34

    Leaner Life Savings: $29 or 85%!!

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Wordless Wednesday: Channeling Teddy Roosevelt, "Speak softly and..."

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Menu Plan Monday

    Basketball is finally over so we should be getting back to a normal schedule.  Key words being "should be" since it looks like this week that probably won't happen.  Or next week for that matter.  My birthday is next week and that means this week I will start receiving all of my restaurant email list freebies which we will be taking advantage of over the next couple of weeks. 

    Here's the plan, subject to change drastically since I'm making it up as I type:
    • Monday: Dinner w/my grandma (probably leftover chili)
    • Tuesday: Dinner out w/a friend
    • Wednesday: Beef stroganoff
    • Thursday: Dinner out (free birthday meal #1)
    • Friday: Breakfast for dinner (scrambled eggs, bacon, hasbrowns, toast)
    • Saturday: Slow cooker Thai chicken, rice
    • Sunday: Dinner out (free birthday meal #2)

    For hundreds of other menu planning ideas, go to orgjunkie.com!

    Mailbox Monday

    Happy Mailbox Monday!  Here is all of the free stuff I got in the mail this week, quality over quantity this time:

    • Kashi cereal sample plus a coupon for a free box and some high $ coupons to share, from Vocalpoint

    • Dove men's body wash, for a review for All You Reality Checker program

    • Hard water test kit from Diamond salt

    • Moisturizer samples (can't remember where I got these)

    • Red Zone sample (again, not sure where this came from or even what it is - probably back when I was signing up for everything I could before I realized I needed to edit my freebie requests)

    • Coupon for free bottle of Excedrin

    • Lee jeans from Facebook promo (finally!  I was wondering if these would ever come)

    • $50 Godiva gift card from Shop at Home, won in a giveaway from Frugal Fritzie
    If you want to see what others got for free this week, visit A Frugal Friend!

    Sunday, February 28, 2010

    Dinner Tonight: Chili

    Our menu plan got switched around a bit this week when I got a flat tire.  I had to go get it fixed on Friday while hubby was at basketball practice, so I had dinner with my mom and grandma and pushed Friday's dinner to tonight.
    I'm sure I have said this before, but one of my favorite things about making chili is how quick and easy it is.  This time I just made my regular chili recipe, which is basically just using a packet of Lawry's chili seasoning, a can of tomatoes and a can of beans.  It's simple, tasty and hubby loves it.  It would be much cheaper to use my own seasonings, but the Lawry's mix is so good that we deem it to be worth the "splurge."
    One tip I suggest is using fire-roasted tomatoes instead of just regular ones.  They have more depth of flavor.  Also, for hubby's sake I puree them in the food processor and it makes the chili really smooth, except of course for the chunks of beans and meat.
    We always serve chili with cornbread, made from the Jiffy muffin mix box.  My mom and grandma were saying that they used to make their own cornbread but have come to the conclusion that the Jiffy mix is just as good and probably not much more expensive than the raw ingredients you would need to bake from scratch.
    Here's my chili recipe, even though I've basically detailed it above:


    1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
    1 package Lawry's chili seasoning (I feel it's the best and that no other packaged mix can compare)
    1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed until smooth
    1 can dark red kidney beans

    Brown meat in skillet, drain or pat dry if necessary.  Add seasoning, then beans and tomatoes.  Stir until combined.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes.

    See told you it was crazy easy!


    Estimated cost of meal

    Beef: $1.50
    Seasoning: $.89
    Tomatoes: $.61 ($.86/can at Walmart, less $1/4 coupon)
    Beans: $.92 (couldn't find on sale, usually can get for around $.75/can)
    Corn bread mix: $.43
    Egg: $.11
    Milk: $.16
    Cheese: $.15

    Total: $4.77

    Former life total: Dinner at Sonic: $14

    Leaner Life Savings: $9.23 or 65%!!!

    Friday, February 26, 2010

    Friday Follow

    Friday Follow
    TGIF!  It's been a long week and I'm so happy the weekend is almost here! 

    It's been a landmark week for me - I participated in my first Wordless Wednesday, then decided that I had trouble with the wordless part so I "invented" Talkative Thursday.

    This is my 3rd week participating in Friday Follow and so far I've really been enjoying it.  Without it I wouldn't have discovered some really great blogs.  Before last week most of the blogs I followed were for deals, coupons, freebies & giveaways.  Now I have discovered that I can read blogs not just for informational purposes but for perhaps an even more important reason - to make me laugh! 

    Here are a couple I found last week, one by randomly clicking around the list and one because she followed me!

    Emily from emcogNEATO:  It's hard to categorize this blog but what I can say is that she is an amazing writer and has a very unique voice. When I found this blog I went back and read every single post - pretty much took up most of free time on Friday but it was worth it.  She cracks me up - and  even made me cry at least once.  I now look forward to her posts every day! 

    Missy from Loving My Children's Gifts: This is not the type of blog I would normally read, but I followed it as a return follow and I am so glad I did!  Even though I can't necessarily relate to the stories about her kids, she is so funny and engaging I love to read about them nonetheless. 

    What other wonderful blogs will I find this week?  I can't wait to see!  Thanks for stopping by!

    MckLinky Blog Hop