Showing posts from 2011

God Bless America

Amidst our crazy, hectic lives, I'd like to invite us all to take a minute to pray for our country.  I still get tears in my eyes as I remember the day we were all minding our own business & got sucker-punched on our own soil by a bunch of misled cowards. 

I am indescribably thankful for everyone who sacrificed their time, resources or lives that day in an effort to help their neighbor.  My deepest appreciation also goes to all military personnel & their families who have made painful sacrifices in an effort to keep us safe.

God bless you all & God Bless America.   :_-)

Our Next Canning Adventure

We did it!  We learned so much about canning at our Discover You CAN House Party.  I've been super-excited to attempt another batch of canning. 

Sooo, after an exhausting, 103 degree morning at the Gilcrease Orchard (accompanied by 2 slightly overheated pre-schoolers), we had enough pickling cucumbers to make a batch of pickles!  We also had a nice little haul of pickling cukes from our garden.

I used the "Dill Pickle" recipe from the Ball Canning Blue Book & then added some components from other pickle recipes.  I chose to add a bay leaf, a hot chili pepper, a clove of garlic, a few mixed peppercorns & 1/4 teaspoon of Ball Pickle Crisp to each pint jar.

We had to get creative with the different sizes & shapes of pickling cucumbers.  We left the tiniest guys whole, made spears from the long ones (so they'd fit in the jar & leave the required 1/2 inch of head space) & we sliced the fatter ones. 

The first few jars were kinda pathetic.  I didn't p…

Canning Party!

We won!  Ball Canning sent us this kit to have a "Discover You CAN" House Party!  

It was really fun & we learned a lot.  We made strawberry jam, which I don't really even like, but I was desperate to learn more about canning.  

We made a plain strawberry batch & added blueberries to another batch & added peaches to the 3rd batch.  Of the 3 batches, we cooked 2 & made 1 batch of "no-cook".  We used Classic Pectin, Instant Pectin & Liquid Pectin in the different batches.  And we even experimented with some jars that we simply turned upside down after putting the lid on.  We didn't even process them & they sealed just like the others!  My neighbor who couldn't attend the party told me that trick the week before.  We learned SO much!

This picture shows the strawberry & strawberry-peach batches.  The photo below is of the strawberry-blueberry batch.  It was significantly smaller.  We think it's because we used the "no-cook&…

See You Next Week

Sorry to say this, but I'm going to be taking a short break from Stretch Your Savings.  The two wacky kids in the photo are getting married this weekend & I won't be blogging during the festivities. 

I should return next week as usual.  Please keep the wedding in your thoughts & prayers.

PS- Shortly after my return, the blog is getting a HUGE makeover!  A super-talented web guy has been working on it behind the scenes, so it's going to be really pretty & a lot of fun to use!  Have a great week.

Recipe Heaven!

Just when you think I couldn't be more obsessed with food...I am!  :) 

I just downloaded a toolbar that lets me instantly search through thousands of meals from Food Network.  It looks great so far. 

Click here if you want to learn more.  It's free & they didn't even make me register for it.

I hate the feeling of being in a culinary rut & I've been in one recently with chicken.  It's been on sale so much & I can only make it taste a few different ways.  Hopefully, I can browse around & get the ol' creative juices flowing.  Bon Appetit!

What's Up With Food Prices?

The answer is, well...almost everything. 

If you've gone grocery shopping in the past few months, you've probably experienced some "sticker shock".  I have personally been tracking our food prices for the past 50 weeks & almost everything has risen in the past few months.

Why?  Is it due to gas & diesel prices being so high?  Is it because of the unrest in the Mid East or the devastation in Japan?  The United Nations mentions none of those reasons.

By the way, this post isn't meant to alarm or depress you.  Some people watch The Weather Channel before getting dressed for the day or before deciding whether or not to wash their car.  This is the same thing.  I just want an idea of what I can expect.  Personally, I try to avoid getting caught in a rainstorm in stilletos.  I'd much rather have my umbrella & some cute rain boots!

This is just some of the information that can help us know what to expect.
This graph from the U.N. shows the major commodities/…

My Search For a Fun, Inventive Recipe

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I LOOOOVE it, eating it, talking about it & even reminiscing about a meal from 14 years ago!

Since I started this blog a couple of months ago, I've been absolutely swamped with recipes (& coupons & freebies & surveys & hundreds of gimmicks), so I try to sort things out before I lay 'em on y'all.

Tonight, I signed up for Recipe Nut because...well, I AM one & I think I found a recipe that's actually semi-original...& should impress the heck out of anyone with young kids.  :) 
Shoot, I expect my parents to try this one just because it sounds so fun!

Click here to learn how to make The Empty Tomb Buns.

To make this entertaining (& supposedly delicious) Easter treat, you're supposed to...
Wrap pieces of bread dough around marshmallows (I am NOT impressed so far), dip them in butter (hello!), roll them in cinnamon-sugar & bake.  

The end-result is 'Empty Tombs' that baffle your k…

You Call The Shots!

I'm takin' requests!  The handful of requests I've gotten up until now have been great.  I want to formally extend an invitation/ "free-for-all" to everyone.

Ask any questions you'd like me to (try to) answer. 
Tell me anything you'd like to see...or see more of...or see less of, for that matter.

My whole intention is to be helpful.  Times are tough right now.  Even if they weren't, we'd still be expected to be responsible with what we have.

It's Open Mic Night!  Consider this your stage.  Your wish is my command.  :)

Freezer Experiment #2

In a previous post, I mentioned my challenges with & fear of the freezer.  It doesn't sound like Rocket Science, but I always manage to let things get freezer burned or lost until they're expired.

My whole analysis of my freezing abilities began for a reason.  I've been reading a lot of blogs about "Freezer Cooking" which is when brave souls cook for an entire day & freeze everything for later use.  Casseroles, burritos, lasagnas, rice, beans, fruit, chicken, you name it.

It intimidated me, so I decided to start with small freezing experiments & maybe work my way up to Freezer Cooking.  Freezer Experiment #1 was a wild success & we have since added to our frozen stockpile of citrus juices & chicken stock in ice cube-size portions.

This leads us to Freezer Experiment #2...tomato paste.  I read in some magazine, (Sorry, I can't give the proper credit, blame the Momnesia.) that you can freeze Tablespoon sized portions of tomato paste.  What a gr…

Huevos Rancheros Recipe

Molly O. read the last post about Cooking With Sale Items & a Stockpile & asked for details about how we made our Huevos Rancheros.  We ate this dish at The Cracked Egg & loved it.  I just tried my best to re-create the flavors.  We also make pretty substantial portions since we usually eat this for lunch or dinner, so pile it on!

Tortillas (corn or flour)
Canned beans (refried or black)
Shredded Jack cheese (or cheddar, blend, etc.)

Salsa or Pico de Gallo
Jalapeno or Serrano Chiles
Sour Cream
Avocado or Guacamole
Cilantro to garnish (if you have some)

I just top 2 warmed tortillas with a layer of refried beans & a pile of scrambled eggs.  Then I sprinkle with cheese & warm it enough to melt the cheese...can be done in a skillet covered with foil or the microwave (just don't kill the eggs).
Then pile on the cold stuff however you like.

I know the ingredient list looks extensive, but we had all this (minus the sour cream) on-hand or I wouldn't have made it.  :) 


Extreme Couponing Is Easy & Fun

I hope everyone got to see the premier of TLC's Extreme Couponing.  I'm so glad that this stuff is going mainstream!  ...Not that I really mind being "extreme" or "weird" when I'm saving so much money.  :)

I'm just happy that more people will hopefully start saving money & having more food in their pantries than before.  Just the thought of it is literally bringing a tear (of joy) to my eye right now.  Oh, I love it.  My heart is so happy.

So!  If you're new to the whole "couponing thing", don't be scared.  It's really simple.  It can be as quick or as in-depth as you want it to be.  The Basic Method is explained on our Start Here page along with the general strategy we've followed to take our family's finances in a really fun direction. 

The Resources Page is also full of useful information.  It has a price-tracking spreadsheet & will teach you some of the coupon jargon you'll be running into...I affectionatel…

Cooking With Sale Items & A Stockpile (Pt.4 & Final?)

Woo-Hoo!  Here it is. The actual menu list!
Here are 11 meals that we have recently eaten by combining our random sale items & the items we have stockpiled.  Our (semi-picky, but not too bad) family of 6 enjoyed them all.  :)

(If you missed post #3 in this series, it lists our "random sale items" for a couple of weeks.  It'll explain why we used which fresh ingredients we used.)

1)  We had Mediterranean Night with grilled chicken thighs marinated in oregano, garlic & lemon juice.  I made a Lebanese cabbage salad using the cabbage & lemon juice. We threw it all together with pita, hummus & tabouleh.  The girls begged to eat that way more often.  We felt full, but healthy.  (Next time, we'll have some couscous from my stockpile.)

2) We cooked a whole chicken in the pressure cooker with the carrots, onions & lemons.  I cooked some rice from my stockpile.  This process also made a ton of delicious chicken stock that I froze into small portions for later u…

Cooking With Sale Items & A Stockpile (Pt.3)

This post is more explanation about how I cook by combining each week's random sale items with our stockpile.

Ina previous post we explained how a food stockpile is born (almost accidentally) when you shop the right way. Then, we talked about exactly what a stockpile could contain.  Food prices are continuing to increase at a faster rate than they have in several decades, so our stockpile helps to avoid paying those ludicrous prices later.

Even though our non-perishable stockpile is great, it lacks fresh ingredients.  So, how do we save the most money on those?

The most effective basic method for saving the most money on groceries is posted on the Start Here page.  If you haven't been there yet, check it out, so you'll be saving as much money as possible.  Basically, we end up buying items only when they're at their lowest prices...which usually leaves us with an "interesting" looking shopping cart!

Recently, we've had the best sale prices on...drumroll, plea…

More Cheap Food

Quiznos sent me a coupon where you can get any small sub & a cookie for $2.99.

Click here for the coupon.

Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

This is awesome.  Kim (one of my very favorite people) sent me a link to a video that shows all kinds of recipes to make your own cleaners. 

It's dirt-cheap & the lady says they work great.  You'll also have fewer dangerous chemicals in your house & her recipes are all safe to mix with each other. It's definitely worth checking out. 

I went to this site & entered my (junk/coupon) email address & was able to find a printable recipe list.  On the video, she recommended adding some essential oils (she uses grapefruit and peppermint, but not together!) to cover any smell from the vinegar.

If you want to watch the video, it's right here.

A lady who spoke at our Money-Saving Workshop makes her own liquid laundry detergent that's even safe for "H.E." machines.  If you're interested, I'll ask her for it & try to post it for you.

Since I haven't tested these myself yet, I'd love feedback from anyone who has experience.  Has anyone …

Just the Inspiration I Needed...

Well, it's official.  I'm finally gonna take the plunge. 

I want to make my own bread.

Molly O posted some stuff on her blog that gave me the structure, encouragement & exact method that I needed. (That's her & her sweet family in the photo.)

I usually get really pumped up about starting a new project & then get frustrated and give up.  Molly broke it down so well & told us why she does each particular thing.

It's (understandably) a royal pain to track down each stinkin' ingredient individually & drag 'em all out to then begin the entire process.  Her post is a God-send (...and a good read with lots of pictures!).
Here's the link to that post on Mocha Drop Mama.
Mmmm...I can smell the fresh-baking bread now.  AND the cold, hard cash this is going to save me!

Cooking With Sale Items & A Stockpile (Pt. 2)

This series of posts is in response to Julie's request that I explain how I feed my family.  We eat a combination of the random fresh items that were on sale & non-perishable items from our stockpile.

In Cooking With Sale Items & A Stockpile (Pt. 1) we talked about how to begin stocking up.  Basically, if you buy the right stuff at the right time, the stockpile just kind of magically happens.  If you only buy things when they're dirt-cheap, you can automatically afford to buy lots more of them & poof!'ve got a stockpile!  That way, you'll never get stuck paying more than you absolutely have to.

So, what's in our stockpile? 

Black beans
Pinto beans
Chili beans
Green beans
Tomato paste
Petite diced tomatoes
Evaporated milk (for casseroles)
Creamy soups for cooking
Chef Boyardee pastas
Black olives
Chunky (meal-type) soups
Spaghetti sauce
Enchilada sauce
Refried beans
White beans
Nacho cheese sauce

Any type of sauce …

Cooking With Sale Items & A Stockpile (Pt. 1)

Julie had a brilliant suggestion:
" what you are making for dinner using the things you bought that week and what you use from your storage. That way people can see how effective your strategy really is."

Good question.  Complicated answer.  :)

How does it all work?  How do we save the most grocery money?  ...& preferably not raise a family solely on Ramen noodles.

We combine our stockpiled pantry items with whatever fresh ingredients are at their lowest price.

This topic will take a series of posts.  This post will discuss starting a stockpile. 
Don't worry.  It's not intimidating...actually, with a tiny bit of effort, it kinda just happens by itself!

My garage contains cans, boxes & bags of non-perishables.  It also contains a bucket of wheat (for whenever I get a bread machine), a refrigerator & 2 freezers.

It's about to contain my stockpile of shampoo, soap, toothpaste, lotion & medicine, too because my ketchup & other heat-sensitive items…

Freezer Experiment #1

This is the 1st post in a series about freezing. 

Freezing might seem pretty basic & mundane, but I'm determined to learn how to do it the right way.  My hubby doesn't hate many things, but he does hate freezer burn...and leftovers.  Hence, the challenge...and this series.

"Freezer Cooking" is all the rage right now.  I'm considering trying it on a somewhat small scale.  Also, we just got a new freezer, so I'm excited to fill it up with healthy, yummy food. (...and with food prices increasing at a faster rate than they have in the last 36 years, it might not be a bad idea to have some stuff in the freezer.)

Experiment #1 was a complete success!

I've heard of people using ice cube trays to freeze little bits of various liquids & purees in individual portions. Then, you're supposed to pop the cubes into a freezer bag, so you can have small portions of these fabulous ingredients at your fingertips.
A few factors came together, so I finally tried it.


Free Food!

You can get a FREE order of Skillet Queso & Chips at Chili's when you sign up for their Email Club. 

Here's the link.

(Thanks, Screaming Penny)

Frugal Recipes

I have changed the Frugal Recipes page to allow you to post your recipes directly.  It saves the step of emailing them. 

I'm looking forward to cooking some new things.  :)

Calling All Cooks!

Two heads are better than one, right?

Well, we've got hundreds of heads here, so let's put them all together to help each other's dinner tables be more exciting.

I'm looking for frugal recipes.  Give us your exotic, your rustic & everything in-between!

I will begin posting your frugal creations this weekend. 

Please email them to and write RECIPE in the subject line.


How To Organize Coupons

If you play your cards right, you’ll find yourself holding multiple copies of each week’s coupon inserts.  Score!   That’s money in the bank, baby!  (& food in your pantry, too!) But, that excitement can turn into Coupon Claustrophobia in a hot second!  “What do I do with all of these flyers?” “Am I supposed to clip ALL of these coupons out individually?” “If I actually DO, then where do I put ‘em?” “They just end up expiring anyway, so why bother?” “It’s a $5 item…it’s NOT worth me combing through this stack of mayhem to find a 35 cent off coupon!” My BFF Ginger finally gave me the epiphany I needed.   We sat at lunch & I took notes so fast my pencil was smoking!  She showed me her method AND 2 other variations. In the end, you should do what works best for you.   Our brains are wired differently & some peoples’ methods would drive me crazy!  Likewise, my method might not be the perfect one for you, so I’ll show you all 3 & let you pick your favorite.  (Even then, you’ll pr…

Congrats! You're About To Be Bi-Lingual

Let's learn our new second language!

If we're going to be talking about coupons, we'll need to understand most of the standard abbreviations & other coupon slang.

Here's a start:

Basic Coupon Lingo $1/2                       One dollar off of two items .50/1                      Fifty cents off one item $/$$                       Dollars off when you buy XX dollars WYB                      When you buy MFR                      Manufacturer OOP                      Out of pocket BOGO, B1G1       Buy one, get one FAR                       Free after rebate MIR                        Mail-in rebate Types of Coupons RP                          Red Plum coupon insert (Tuesday mail) SS                         SmartSource coupon insert (Sunday newspaper) PG                         Proctor & Gamble coupon insert (Sunday paper monthly) Tear Pad              A pad of coupons hanging from a shelf in the store Catalina                A coupon that’s printed at the checkout after you make a …

Tuesday Nights

Each Tuesday night, I park myself at the kitchen table with the following:

• The new batch of sales flyers that just came in the mail
• A hard copy of my price-tracking spreadsheet
• A red pen
• A glass of wine

I scour each ad individually.

If I see a price I think is a good deal, I consult the spreadsheet.

If it’s not the lowest price for that particular item, I return to the flyer & continue searching.

If it is that item’s lowest price, I write that week’s cycle number on the spreadsheet near that column & circle it.
For example, the upcoming week will be my 42nd week of price-tracking, so I will write a “42” in red by the Cycle column. I also write the store that’s offering that price. It helps me track cycles & is crucial when price-matching.

Trust me, it’s worth the effort! Remember, that the whole point of that sales flyer is to convince me to shop at their store. They really can pile on the ***stars***, exclamation points!!!!!,bright colors & LARGE PRINT!!!!! ...even w…

How To Track Prices

Now that you have access to the spreadsheet, here are 2 things you should know about it.

First, I realize that it looks a bit funky. I used a Google program to allow it to be available online since blogspot doesn't appear to allow me to attach a document. Here's the best way to save it so you can use it easier.

After you click on the link for the spreadsheet, Click on "File" in the upper left corner as shown in the green circle below. Then select "Download As" & choose which program you use. Voila!  Save it to your computer to use forever.

Second, I used some abbreviations for some store names. If you live in Las Vegas, you'll hopefully be able to deduce which stores I'm talking about. If you don't live in Las Vegas, you'll be replacing those names with your own awesome, local stores' anyway.

What the spreadsheet tracks:
• Food or Household Item (by category)
• Lowest price I have found it at
• What store offered that lowest price
• What dat…

Best Grocery Prices

Today is a big day.  I feel like a proud Mommy sending my only child off to college.
Only, my kid is my price-tracking spreadsheet & I'm sending it to you.

This spreadsheet will quite possibly be the single-most important tool for your Money-Saving Mission.  I know I have saved hundreds of dollars because of it & would be utterly lost without it.
It contains 42 weeks of grocery prices in 11 pages.  And, not just any grocery prices, but the very best ones I was able to find.

People who live outside of Las Vegas should use it as a guide & a groundwork.  Sit with it each week & adjust the prices to match your flyers.  (Dear Southern friends:  Take pity on us that we have to exist without Publix, Kroger & double coupons.  Oh, how I envy you for so many reasons.)
People who live in Las Vegas can use this as a living, breathing, ever-changing document that's ready to go.

No matter where you live, this will help you make sure you don't accidentally pay too much for …