Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Debt Free Christmas: Shop Smart

There are great ways to stretch your grocery budget. Thanks to shows like Extreme Couponing(:-p sorry, I don't like that show), we are all aware of the power of coupons. It is a bit of work in the beginning though, until you establish a routine and know your buy/stock up prices.

Also become familiar with discount grocers in your area. Aldi whose parent company is Trader Joe's, offers the majority of staple products at a fraction of the prices at major retailers. Their items are private label, but they are packaged by the same leading companies that you are currently buying. I had coffee with Marytina this week and she mentioned how Aldi has reduced her monthly grocery budget by $100's of dollars a month! I know it has reduced mine, but not as drastically since I extreme coupon as well.

In addition to couponing, look for Food Coop's in your community and through local churches. Fare for All, Ruby's Pantry, and Bountiful Baskets are great organizations that can help you make the most of your grocery budget. These organizations don't care what your income level is. They are using bulk buying power, teamed with seasonal pricing to bring you lots of value.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

DIY: Cream of ... Soup

Couponing has gotten harder, so I have been trying to save money by making more things from scratch. One item that I hadn't even thought about making from scratch was Cream of ... Soup. I am constantly adding cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, cream of celery ,and cream of potato soups into recipes, yet it hadn't even crossed my mind. That is until Pinterest. On a recent viewing session I saw this post, and had to do it.

I have been printing a lot lately and was out of ink. So I figured I could just look at the recipe online and print a label later. After reading all the reader comments, I decided to go ahead and double the recipe right away. So after fixing dinner for the family, I set to work.

Did I mention it was the end of the day, and I was a bit tired? Anyway, I poured all of the ingredients into the food processor in order to blend them well and break up any lingering large chicken bouillon cubes. It went quickly, so I poured most of it into a storage container, and made a test batch to try. It was good, but I was surprised by how spicy it seemed, not exactly what I had envisioned, but not bad. I decided to double check the recipe and noticed that instead of adding teaspoons of thyme, basil, and pepper, I added Tablespoons. Uh oh! My Vet (who knows my history with trying to follow a recipe) is snickering as he reads this.

Not being someone who likes to waste, I wasn't about to toss it. Instead, I grabbed a teaspoon and a Tablespoon in order to calculate the difference and then adjust the other ingredients accordingly. At this point I was fully committed. I sure hoped it tasted good, or I would be tweaking it until did!

Luckily, My math skills are better than my ability to follow directions. I had to wait until later when I could get to the store to replenish depleted ingredients. This also allowed me to double check my calculations.

Success! I can happily say that it tastes great, and I am glad that I have such a large stock to use.

Cream of "something" soup recipe
1 cup non-fat dried milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup bouillon (if you have cubes you have to smash them up)
You can use whatever kind you like (ie, beef, veggie)
4 Tablespoons freeze dried minced onions
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper

**For the equivalent of one can of condensed cream soup, mix 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cup water. Cook until thick.

I used it in this awesome recipe for Cheesey Wild Rice Soup and it made it even awsomer! (I know it's not a word, but truth is truth.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Debt Free Christmas: Gift giving

Spreading reindeer food.
I like to start with gifts. I start shopping early and aim to be done no later than Black Friday. This allows me to get/make gifts that are specific for the receiver. It also makes the entire Christmas season so much more enjoyable. Instead of fighting the crush of people at the malls on the weekends, We get to stay home and make gingerbread houses, and spread reindeer food on the lawn.

Instead of spending lots of money so they have piles of presents to open, we keep gift giving simple. Every Christmas our children receive three gifts:
Gold- the thing they have wanted most all year long
Frankincense- something the whole family can do together. It could be a game, passes to a theme park, a special vacation- anything goes as long as it's a bringing the family together thing.
Myrrh - something useful for the kids. It might be a set of clothing, an educational toy, or furniture.   They also get a stocking with small items, but this way the focus isn't Santa.

Gifts of the Magi, means that we will have many opportunities to discuss the real reason for the season.

Once you have your list made, it is time to shop. Check out the leaked Black Friday Ads, check weekly ads and for any specific brand of item you are shopping for, like their Facebook page and watch the stores that carry it. Last year I was able to pick up a $69 toy for $49, by price matching at Target and using a corresponding Target coupon from their toy catalogue.
I was also able to pick up games at Toys R Us the weekend before Black Friday for 10% less and avoid the long lines in the middle of the night.

I recently posted some great jewelry deals on Amazon that are still available. Order soon though, as shipping is slow and you want to make sure you get them in time.

In addition to checking my Deals tab, check these websites every day to find great gift ideas/deals:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Debt Free Christmas: Getting Organized

It's not even Halloween yet, why am I 'skipping' a holiday? Because I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I don't want to go in debt to enjoy them. A little preparation now, can make it more enjoyable and easier on the budget. This series is going touch on several ways to enjoy your journey through the holidays.

Get organized. What gatherings will we be a part of this year? Is the family coming to your place? Are you going somewhere? Make a budget. I am terrible at this. I hate to sit down and write it out. Every financial guru out there, tells you this is a step you must do. I still hate it, and avoid it at all costs.

Instead, I make a list of items I am going to want. What dishes or desserts do you equate with the season? Is that negotiable or non negotiable? How much should it cost you to buy/make? Can you get it for less? What gifts do you intend on purchasing for who?

My lists include names and corresponding gifts, meal plans and needed ingredients, baking supplies and needed ingredients, hostess gifts, and an event schedule. Once these lists are created I am than able to search out the best deals. I know that on Thanksgiving and Christmas morning we will need cinnamon rolls and good coffee. Our annual Lefse making party will require large amounts of potatoes and flour, as well as evaporated milk. Christmas baking will call for more flour, variety of kinds of sugars, peanut butter, pecans, vanilla extract, almond bark, eggs, shortening, oil, popcorn, corn syrup, molasses, peppermint, candy canes, Hershey Kisses, cherries, walnuts, and an obscene amount of butter. A main meat for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Egg bakes for easy, crowd pleasing breakfasts, cans of pumpkin for muffins, pies, lattes, etc. Sparkling cider, and some brie cheese to bake and take to a party.

Once your extensive lists are made. Then you can start to shop for deals, or set aside money hoping they will be on sale at the last minute. Sometimes it is. I can usually count on potatoes and turkey at a great price as we get closer to the day. Other things like flour, sugar, nuts, and shortening will start going on sale about now. Peanut Butter has a 6 month shelf life, so I like to stock up in August during the back to school sales. I usually pick up my Hershey Kisses right after Halloween on markdown. (Once they are out of the wrapper, you can't tell they came in orange foil vs. red and green.) It is common for pumpkin pie filling to become scarce and more expensive the closer you get to the day. The Sunday coupon inserts will start featuring these items soon, so save those inserts!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Living Room Progress

New art on the walls and pillows added.
Thanks for all of the tips! I have been busy working on them, and thought I would give you an update.

I called the MN State Fair office and ordered the print I found. It was only $10 (plus $5 for delivery or you could pick it up for free.) I was so excited when it came, until I pulled it out. Don't get me wrong, I love the image, even the kids love to stand in front of it and fight over which SkyRide pod they are in. But it is way smaller than I had hoped. The gal on the phone when I ordered it, had no idea of the size, so it wasn't as if I was mislead or anything. Just wishful thinking on my part.  Based on it's size I placed it on the smaller wall, by the buffet, and set to work figuring out a solution for the clock wall.

Thanks to a friend I did this pinterest idea. I really like how it turned out, but read here to avoid the same mistakes I made when you make it.
Pretty bare. Like the walls, buffet and the one print.

I also added some small objects to the buffet that I picked up on a recent shopping trip that resulted in a kitchen upgrade too.

Things are moving slowly, but that makes them good for the wallet, and keeps me entertained. I am actually looking forward to winter this year and being stuck in the house!
Needs major work. Like the TV and the dog. Not much else.

Wall art on a budget

I found this post on Pinterest, I even posted it to my board. I then promptly forgot about it until I was begging for help, and a friend recommended it.

I picked up the canvasses and paint at Micheal's, but I wasn't impressed with their paper choices. I found the papers I liked at Craft's Direct. I had intended to go to Archiver's, just found myself in a different part of town. Once I had all my items I was eager to get it on the wall.

I laid out some newspaper, grabbed a brush and started to paint the sides. You could really choose any color for the side, I went with a brown/black color that goes with the touches of Oil Rubbed Bronze already in the room. The paint was thick and reminded my of pudding, or fudge ice cream topping. Yum!( Guess what I had for snack when I finished.) After letting it dry, I applied a second coat of paint.

The 12x12 canvas and the 12x12 paper do not match up perfectly. Cut your paper to fit. I cut mine slightly smaller to allow a bit of the paint to show through. A paper cutter works great for this.

Since I wanted the paint to show, I thought it would be best to burnish the edges of my paper. I again dove into my scrapbooking supplies and used liquid chalk to 'dirty' up the edges a bit.

Then came the hard part. Adhering the paper to the canvas. If you want a bubbled paper look, just do what I did at first. Liberally spread Mod Podge on the back of the paper, then the canvas, then on top, without waiting for it to dry.

If you want it to have a nice smooth finish...
Slow down! Spread Mod Podge sparingly on the back of your paper and on the edges of your canvas. Position your paper and slowly rub until it is adhered well and smooth. Let it completely dry, then apply a layer of Mod Podge on the top. After it is dry you may spread another thin coat. You can do as many coats as you want. I did 2 because I might have to wash it someday, but for the most part will only dust it.

***After 24 hours of drying all but 2 of the canvasses, dried flat. I am still deciding if I want to redo them...***

Hanging your canvas has many options. I decided it would be easiest for me to get them hung evenly, straight, and level if I just use 3M Command adhesive. My canvas did not have any hooks, and it could get expensive to add them to 9. I also was leery about using picture wire and then trying to get all 9 of them to look evenly spaced. 3M Command worked super slick. The canvas is fairly light, and there is no wiggle since this is a wall that is frequently walked by.

My Living Room is starting to look pretty good now. It has come a long way in the past year.
Before. It really was that dark. Look at Nate Berkus on the TV.
How embarrassed would he be, to be in this picture?
Progress. Still some big projects to do, but looking tons better!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shutterfly- Free Print!

2-Day Exclusive
Pick Your Print*
Give your home an instant Fall update

One FREE 11x14 PrintorTwo FREE 8x10 Prints
(I love Shutterfly and order stuff from them all the time!)

Monday, October 15, 2012

20 Minute Make-over

Over a year ago I did some work in the kitchen. I like how it all came together, but one area has continued to bother me: the back splash. Previous owners covered the back splash area with a plastic sheet of some sort. I didn't hate it, but it stood out against my newly painted walls. I don't love the counter tops, and didn't want to do something permanent in case I can ever convince My Vet to redo them. I also didn't want to spend a lot of money on a temporary solution.

Not bad for $15!
For the past year or so, I have been pondering this problem. Then, on a recent trip to Target, I got an idea. I came home and did some online looking, and decided to get it at Target. I then went to 3 Targets, and none of them carried the same decal I had seen at my inspiration Target. Grrrr. Then I had another moment of inspiration, and went to a craft store a friend recently told me about. Not only did I find the exact same decal , I got it for 40% off, score.

It only took me 20 minutes to stick them up and snap some pictures. I had already pre-scrubbed the grease and grime buildup in anticipation of finding the decals.

posted too quick. I like it better after a bit more tweeking.
FYI - I am also making some progress on the living room. I will try to get that posted this week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

$2 MP3 Amazon Credit

Get $2 MP3 Amazon Credit when you answer the following question:
“The Best Care Package would include:"

You can finally download that song you've been eyeing .

Upon successful completion of the Share & Claim action, a $2 Amazon MP3 credit will be automatically applied to your Amazon account. Promotional credits must be redeemed by 11:59 p.m. PST on October 23, 2012. Amazon MP3 music is available to customers located and with billing addresses in the United States. You must have an Amazon.com account and accept the Amazon MP3 Service Terms of Use to redeem your credit. Limit one promotional credit per customer.

Coborn's this Saturday

I received my weekly email from Coborn's in addition to a coupon for $.99 Cottage Bread. They mentioned a Pork Event happening this Saturday. Only at the Princeton Coborn's Location.

I spoke with Dave in the meat department, and he confirmed that Saturday at 10 am they will be having samples and will have coupons for $5 off your pork purchase. They will only have 150 coupons and when they are gone they are gone.

See you Saturday morning!

Amazon - $2.15 shipped

Light Pink Crystal Surrounded By Diamonds Foldup Hand Bag Purse Hook Hanger

As a germaphobe I LOVE purse hooks. I even used mine when the kids where babies to hang my purse/diaper bag from the changing table in public restrooms. It also makes a great gift!

Amazon - only $2.15 + Free Shipping!

Remember prices can change at ANY time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Coupon Matchup for Coborn's

Buy 10 Participating Conagra Products for 10/$10,
Get 3 Free w/ In-Ad Coborn’s Coupon (Must Buy 10; Limit 1)

Hunt’s or Ro-Tel Tomatoes (10-14.5 oz.)
Banquet Value Meals
Chef Boyardee Pasta Cup or Can
Healthy Choice Soups (15 oz.)
Hunt’s Manwich Sauce (15-16 oz.)
Hunt’s Snack Pack Pudding (4 pk.)
Hunt’s Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz.)
Hunt’s Tomato Sauce (15 oz.)
Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa(8-10 ct.)

Get 13 items for $10 that is $.77 each. Here is how you can sweeten the deal.
Teal's Market in Milaca, is running a similar sale this week. They have an in-ad manufacurer coupon for $2 off when you buy 10 Conagra Products.

Coborn's coupon policy allows the use of a Store Coupon and a manufacturer coupon for an item. Which means you can use both to get 13 items for $.8 ($.61 each)

If you need other items, spend a total of $10 to use your coborn's email coupon for a Free box of Pillsbury Brownies with any $10 purchase.

**Sale Prices are good through Saturday October 6th, 2012**

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bracelet - $1.89 Shipped

This is a beautiful and amazing bracelet. Suitable for banquet, date, shopping, party and so on. Add a unique accent to your jewelry collection. Great Gift for your Friends. Diameter about 5.5cm(2.17inch)
$1.89 + Free Shipping
Amazon prices can change at any time

Amazon - $1.89 with free shipping!

Brand new and high quality. A good choice for gift or decoration. Bracelet size: open ended from one side
$1.89 + Free Shipping
Remember that prices can change anytime

Also check out this cute matching Vintage Jewelry Crystal Peacock Hair Clip

$1.90 + Free Shipping

Amazon - $1.89 Shipped!

Stylish and cool. It makes you more fashionable. Show off your unique style. Material: Alloy and Rhinestone. It can be as a gift for yourself or your friends.
$1.89 + Free Shipping

Remember that prices can change

Amazon - Cute necklace only $1.39 Shipped!

Another Awesome Amazon Deal!
Perfect for a gift or stocking stuffer!
ONLY $1.39 Shipped
Remember prices can change at anytime