Category Archives: Nifty Thrifty

How To Save $$$ Shopping Online

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I’m an avid online shopper. Mainly because I don’t have the time to spend hours shopping in malls or stores, but also because I prefer to shop from the comfort of my home. Over the years, I have found many ways to shop online and save money. There are so many websites out there that offer coupon codes, deals and even pay you to shop online! I’ve composed a list of my favorite tips to save $$$ shopping online.

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Ways to Save $$$ Shopping at Target

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Target is probably my favorite store, it’s my one stop shop for almost everything my family needs. I love their Up&Up brand, I love looking through their clearance and I love to find ways I can save money by shopping there. Many people still don’t know the in’s & out’s of successful Target savings. It’s like Target wants to help you save money. I don’t know of another store that offers a debit/credit card that saves you 5% on every purchase AND gives you free shipping online. Not to mention the pharmacy rewards tied into those savings which gives you an additional 5% off once you fill so many prescriptions. Then they have their own store coupons which you can combine with manufacturer’s coupons for additional savings. They also have a new program called Cartwheel which is an app on your phone where you can electronically clip coupons and combine these savings with your Target & Manufacturer’s coupons, and they have a text program that offers additional savings as well. The information about all of these savings can be found on Target’s website, but here are some examples of my favorite savings to give you an idea of how to use these to your advantage!

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The ottoman for my daughter’s nursery was regular price $69.99, it went on sale for $55.99. I had a Cartwheel savings of 25% off Threshold ottomans or chairs bringing the price down to $41.99. I also had a Target coupon for $5.00 off any home purchase of $30 or more bringing the price down to $36.99 then I ALWAYS use my Target Red debit card when shopping at Target that saves me 5% off every purchase so my final price was $35.14 + tax. By combining the Cartwheel & coupon savings WITH the sale, I was able to save $34.85 off the regular price of the ottoman.

Here’s another example of savings combining coupons & Cartwheel. Revlon powder is $8.49, I had 25% off cartwheel savings bringing the price down to $6.36, I also had a $2.00 off Target coupon bringing the price down to $4.36 AND I had a manufacturer’s coupon for $2.00 off bringing the price down to $2.36 plus my Red card savings of 5% giving me a final price of $2.24 + tax.

I am not a “crazy” couponer, I don’t buy items just because I can get them cheap or free. I focus only on what my family uses and occasionally I will buy things like extra razors, soap, deodorant, canned food, etc when I see a good sale and have coupons to combine and I donate those items to the local food pantry or send care packages to soldiers overseas. I admit that planning a trip where multiple savings are going to be used is tedious work. Here’s my advice. Make your grocery list of items that you need no matter if they are on sale or if you have coupons. Then look at Target’s weekly ad and decide if they are any items that you need to stock up on because they are a good price. Then go through your coupons and match up savings to your list and your added weekly ad items. I print my coupons from Target’s website and coupons.com. I also use the coupons that come as an insert in the Sunday paper. Then I go on my Target Cartwheel app and add offers specific to my shopping trip and lastly I check my Target text messages to see if there are any additional savings that can be utilized there. The text savings usually are a link to additional coupons or information about a certain sale. Having a list of everything I need to buy and having my coupons ready to go saves me a lot of time when going through the store. When I get to the checkout I have them scan my Cartwheel app first, then any text savings and then I hand over my coupons. Lastly I swipe my Target Red debit card and that takes 5% off my entire purchase. What inspired this post was at checkout of my last Target trip the lady behind me watched my total go from $44 down to $5 after all of my savings and she asked me how I saved so much off my initial total. I told her that I used coupons and about the Cartwheel savings app and that my Red card saves me 5% off every purchase. She signed up for a Red card that day and that got me thinking that even regular Target shoppers don’t know about all the possible savings they could be missing out on.

My advice if you are starting out using coupons is to print out coupons for items you already buy or would like to try, just start using coupons regularly to get in the habit of printing, clipping and bring them along with you shopping. Then after you feel comfortable using coupons start matching them with the weekly ad to maximize your savings. Then once you are comfortable with that, to really maximize your savings, use the Cartwheel app and sign up for the text savings and combine all of those savings together to get the most bang for your buck! Also, next time you are at Target sign up for the Red Card which can be a debit card linked to your checking account or a credit card. I use the debit card in store and online and when using it online it gives me free shipping on every purchase!

I hope you have found this post helpful, I love saving money & I love shopping at Target and lucky for me those two things go hand in hand ūüėČ

Vintage Modern Sports Bedroom

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If you follow my blog then you know that I like to decorate and make crafts all while trying to save money. I’m pregnant with my second child and I have two children’s bedrooms to decorate. My son’s nursery was a woodland theme with pastel colors, white furniture and whimsical birds. It was adorable, but a very baby theme. With baby #2 on the way, we decided to move our son into the larger bedroom and keep the smaller bedroom a nursery. Immediately I started to fret, two bedrooms to design & decorate by November and on a budget! I wanted a theme for my son that would grow with him. I asked him what he wanted and I knew it would be sports or animals and he choose sports. I wanted a sports theme that wasn’t too “kid” like, I don’t want to change his room again in a year when he outgrows the bright colors and whimsical looking sports balls. I decided on vintage modern because we were going to be bringing alot of modern items into the room from his nursery and I liked the look of the vintage sports things I was finding. Muted colors, realistic looking sports balls and it would definitely grow with him. He had fun shopping with me at Hobby Lobby and watching his dad & I build things and decorate pieces for his room. He’s so proud to show off his room to anyone who comes over and I’m proud to say that I decorated and furnished the bedroom for just under $150. Here’s how I did it…….

First, I used all the furniture from his nursery that I would not be using for our second child. I had bought a modern green rocker for his nursery and he loves to sit in it so I knew that piece would transfer along with his toy box and book shelf. My parents gave us the twin bed, I got the red bed side table on clearance from Hobby Lobby for $17 and I got the dresser on sale when the dorm room furniture came out at 50% off for $30.

Second, I looked around our house for pieces I could use in his room. His room was a spare bedroom before so I had some picture frames and shelves I could re-use. The pictures of vintage sports balls in the black frames are pictures I found online and printed. I framed them in frames I already had making that project, FREE!

Third, I used coupons, shopped sales and re-sale stores. I got his bedding which incorporates all the colors of his room from Kohls. It was on sale and I had a 30% off coupon making his bed set, skirt and a spare set of sheets just under $50. All of the decorations are either made by me, bought from Hobby Lobby or from a re-sale store. I bought pieces for his room at Hobby Lobby when they were 50% off making each item from there no more than $5 each. I got a few odds and ends from re-sale stores and my sister made some pillows with fabric I bought on sale.

Fourth, I created a board on Pinterest for his bedroom which helped me gather ideas and then figure out how I could do them cheaper! My favorite two ideas were this custom canvas that I painted which was inspired by an expensive canvas that was way out of my budget. I was able to re-create a custom one for only $20 saving over $100 from the original!
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I also had my husband build this vintage basketball hoop, Pinterest inspired, of course! We had the pallet boards already and a friend gave us the vintage rim. My hubby assembled the backboard and attached the hoop and voila….a FREE vintage basketball hoop that brings a lot of character to the room!
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Another Pinterest find was putting a pool noodle under the fitted sheet to keep our boy from rolling out of his bed. That’s the lump you see under his blankets ūüôā It has worked really well and looks much better than those big toddler rails which aren’t cheap by the way!

The shelves above the chair and bookcase were shelves we already had and I decorated them with various items that are a combination of what we already had, Hobby Lobby bargains and thrift store finds. The window curtain came from the original nursery and it helps tie in the green from the rocking chair and bedding. I re-covered the lamp with very inexpensive navy blue fabric.
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Hearing my son talk about his “big boy room” and tell me how “cool” it is brings me so much joy. I wanted him to be a big part of designing the room and he picked out alot of the decorations, fabric and has definetly put his “touch” on the room. I was lucky to get 10 minutes to get some pictures for this post, he loves playing in his room and didn’t like me cleaning up. I re-used as much as I could to create a Vintage Modern Sports room for my baby boy that will grow with him through the years.

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With a little planning, inspiration and determination you can create anything you want and on a budget! Now onto my baby girl’s room next!

Recycle Wreath

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With a baby on the way and two kids bedrooms to furnish and decorate, I have been looking for recycle projects around the house. I had recently made a 4th of July wreath with some sale items and a wreath form that I already had, but with the 4th over I needed a new wreath for my front door. After digging through my craft cabinet, I found a torn apart wreath I had made last spring, some burlap and my hot glue gun. All free items! Yay! I glued the flowers back on the wreath and the house numbers. I cut a strip of burlap and tied a bow, attached it with gobs of hot glue and voila!¬† I have a new/old but most importantly FREE wreath for my front door for the remainder of the summer. I encourage you to recycle items around your house and either make them new again or repurpose them. I will be doing this a lot with the kids bedrooms….more about that soon!

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Birthday Party On A Budget

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My baby boy just turned two, we had a Choo Choo¬†Train themed party for him with our family & friends. I had gone a little overboard on the first birthday party so I put myself on a budget for this party. His first birthday was a cowboy themed party complete with western scenes that I painted¬†with cutouts for the kids to put their faces in for pictures, a huge spread of food, a custom ordered cake and about $100 worth of decorations. This year I put myself on a $100 budget to host a Choo Choo¬†Train themed party for about¬†the same amount of people. I had the theme in mind already since Cade loves choo¬†choo’s and we have toy trains that I could use to decorate with. The colors I took from the toy train colors and I really lucked out finding a lot of items on clearance which helped me stick to my budget. Here are some pictures and how I was able to plan a party for about 35 people with a $100 budget.

First I shopped around, I lucked out and found all the plates, cups and napkins at Target on clearance. This all totaled in at $8.00. Yellow plastic cups and white plates with red, orange, green and blue accents matched the theme perfectly. I had plenty of plastic utensils leftover from various parties and I put the red & orange napkins and the utensils in a blue utensil holder that I already had.

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I got the Happy Birthday banner from Dollar Tree for $1.00, the colors matched the theme perfectly! I wanted everything to be colorful!

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I made the cupcake cake and all of the food. 50 cupcakes cost me $4.50 to make. I got cake mix on sale for $1.00 a box, I used 3 boxes. My secret ingredient to making super moist cake & cookies is to add a box of pudding mix. 3 boxes of pudding mix¬†cost me¬†$0.50 each. I made homemade buttercream¬†icing. I had all of the ingredients for this already, as well as eggs and oil for the cake mix. I shaped the cupcakes into a 2 and iced the whole thing in green to look like grass, then I made chocolate buttercream¬†and drew train tracks over the 2 and put a toy train on top for decoration. The cupcakes that didn’t fit were iced and put on a side table.

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I did all cold foods so I didn’t have to turn my oven on and I could make everything ahead of time. I buy¬†all of my produce from Aldi’s. They have the best tasting produce, and it’s much cheaper than a large grocery store. I made fruit & veggie “trains” with toy trains and color coordinated plastic containers I got at Dollar tree for $2.00. I made dollar roll sandwiches, pasta salad and chips and dip. Simple things that everyone likes. The food was the most important part, I had a lot of people to feed. The food came in at $65.00 including the drinks. We always have bottled water so I had to buy soda, tea and juice boxes for the kids. I had coupons for almost everything I didn’t buy at Aldi’s and my local grocery store¬†had select soda on sale for $1.00 a piece. All of the¬† serving containers were things I already had, and luckily the colors matched!

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I didn’t buy¬†many decorations, so I made some with things I already had. I used a chalkboard to create a train ticket. I used a wreath I already had and wrapped it in burlap and ribbon and bought a train and an arrow at the craft store for $0.60 a piece and glued them to the wreath, this hung on the front door. I decorated around the house with toy trains and I did buy some brightly colored balloons for $16.00 (small splurge). I didn’t want to over decorate, but I think the theme was evident. It was raining so I wasn’t able to decorate outside like I had planned, but I would suggest using suitcases to decorate with by the front door and use tape to make a train track leading up to your front door. Also a home-made railroad¬†crossing sign would be cute too.

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The favors were a Thomas The Train coloring sheet that I personalized with “Choo Choo Cade is Two”. I printed¬†one for free online and added the personalization and made copies of the coloring sheet.¬†I bought a¬†pack of 8¬†small crayons for $2.00. I rolled the coloring sheet and attached the crayons with ribbon.

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The birthday boy had lots of fun at his party and really enjoyed everyone singing happy birthday to him. My grand total was $99.70, just under budget! I was very happy with how everything turned out and even more happy that I stuck to my budget. It took a little more planning and a lot more work, but I saved a lot of money and got the exact result I was looking for. Cade had a memorable 2nd birthday party and it didn’t break the bank! My sister made Cade his conductor hat and the overalls were a birthday gift. They said “Engineers Crew” and worked perfect! He looked adorable!

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Here’s the buttercream icing recipe I used….

  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 3 tbls milk

Cream together the shortening & butter, add vanilla, gradually add the sugar. Icing will appear dry, add milk one tablespoon at a time until light and fluffy. Makes about 3 cups. Add 3/4 cup of cocoa to make chocolate buttercream.

More Money Saving Tips & Tricks

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This is a follow-up to my original post “Money Saving Tips & Tricks”. You could say that I’m addicted to saving money, I’m also addicted to spending money….hmmm…..isn’t everyone? I almost enjoy spending money to see how much money I can save. I challenge myself to new saving habits all the time, I research ways to save money and I reward myself with expensive items that I pay next to nothing for. My original money saving post was about cutting costs, clipping coupons and finding ways to save in your daily spending and shopping habits. This post will be about long term savings options for you and your family. Ways to reduce your monthly or yearly costs. I’ve implemented all of these in my life and have reaped the biggest reward of more time with my son, I can work part time and enjoy more of these years with him that are flying by too fast.

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Here are some ways to save hundreds of dollars each month……

  1. Refinance your home. Interest rates are at an all time low right now, talk to a mortgage professional today to see if refinancing would be in your best interest. This is a great option for those who plan on staying in their home long-term. If you plan on moving soon, the cost of refinancing will probably not be paid back in your monthly payment savings before you move. If you do qualify this could save you hundreds of dollars each month!
  2. Adjust your insurance policies, all of them. Shop around, I found better coverage for our automobiles at a lower price. More coverage and less money, that was a no brainer. I picked one company for our auto’s and home and received a multi-policy discount too. Don’t over purchase insurance, buy as much as you need with a little help and guidance from your insurance agent, but be careful not to over-insure which costs you unnecessary money.
  3. Adjust your cable, internet and phone packages. Do you really need HBO, Showtime, etc? If you don’t, cut your cable package down to what you need. Reduce your internet speed to save between $10-15 per month. Get rid of your home phone (unless you need it for your home security system), how much do you use it anyway? Also reduce your data package on your cell phone and connect to wifi when you are at home, work, etc. Cut your minutes if you can too.
  4. Cut your grocery spending in half. Get creative with your menu, clip coupons, shop sale ads and DON’T WASTE! Use up all of the food in your house before you go buy more. Reward yourself with a nice dinner out once a month, it’s something you will look forward to and the rest of the month you will enjoy the extra money in your pocket.
  5. Transfer credit card balances to a low or no interest introductory credit card. You can pay them off faster if you aren’t being charged interest.
  6. Conserve energy and water. Run the dishwasher and washing machine only if they are full. Line dry your clothing. Set a timer for your shower so you don’t waste unnecessary water. How long does it really take to shower? Not 30 minutes……Unplug items that you don’t use daily, turn off lights when leaving a room, turn off the tv and computer when not in use. Open your blinds to naturally heat your home from the sun during the day and turn your thermostat¬† down or up when you leave. All of these things can reduce your water and energy costs by $5-$50 a month!
  7. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle……EVERYTHING……I’m not just talking about recycling cans, glass and newspaper, I’m talking about recycling and reusing things. Those glass jars that spaghetti sauce and pickles come in make great storage containers for the bathroom and garage. Coffee containers make great storage containers for Lego’s and small toys for children. Milk jugs make great watering cans, poke holes in the lid. Diaper and shoe boxes can be transformed into decorative storage bins with some cheap fabric and spray adhesive. You get the idea……get creative and reuse and recycle items you already have instead of going out and buying new.
  8. Did you know you can grow many herbs and veggies from plating the leftover root and it will re-grow? I haven’t tried this yet, but I will when I plant my garden this summer. You can re-grow celery, green onions, herbs, etc from keeping the root end and re-planting it. Google this for specific instructions. This goes along with re-using and not wasting anything. Re-plant it if you can and continue to reap the rewards of ONE PURCHASE!
  9. Make toys for your kids from empty tissue boxes, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, construction paper, egg cartons, etc. My son loves things he’s not suppose to have so when I give him a paper towel roll or an empty water bottle to play with he thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Kids don’t need expensive toys to be happy, they need love, affection, attention and an imagination. Let their imagination run wild with unconventional and FREE toys. Toys are expensive and kids have a short attention span, I have a living room full of toys and my son would rather have an empty box and a paper towel roll.
  10. Make as many things as you can yourself. Life doesn’t have to be so complicated. Take a minute to get back to the basics. It’s so easy to go out and buy things these days, and we pay a pretty penny for those conveniences. Don’t get me wrong, I love the modern-day conveniences that we have today, but I also enjoy making things for myself. You don’t have to be crafty or creative, you just have to believe in yourself. Make something you’ve been wanting to try instead of buying it. You will save money and you will be doing something for yourself. Cook more dinners at home, try making your own household cleaners and detergents, re-use, recycle, up-cycle, conserve, create and believe in yourself.
  11. Put yourself on a budget. It’s as easy as writing down your income, then your set expenses, then your adjustable expenses and then what you wish to save every month and figuring out where you can cut costs. Challenge yourself to save money and reward yourself with that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeballing if you meet your goals. Make sure you find a coupon though ūüėČ
  12. Bring your lunch, make coffee at home, pack snacks to avoid the vending machine. I can easily spend $10 a day on lunch at my favorite restaurant, Panera OR I can spend about $2 a day on lunch by packing it myself the night before. That’s $8 a day I’m saving by putting forth a little effort and making my own lunch. My favorite coffee from Panera is $4 a cup. I estimate that a cup of coffee from home with a delicious creamer I might add is probably about $0.10 a cup. I bring pre-portioned snacks to work to avoid overspending on carb and sugar filled snacks from a vending machine. This saves me money and unnecessary carbs!
  13. We all love to do activities, go to the movies, tour a museum, do a sporting adventure or attend a sporting event, but all of those activities can add up. Think about a matin√©e instead of an evening show. It’s less money and you are less likely to spend money on concessions because it’s right after lunch or right before dinner. Find free activities and museums in your city. St. Louis has a beautiful, huge and FREE Zoo! That is one of my favorite places to go, right in the middle of Forest Park which has many other free activities and the animals are always doing something new. It’s great for the whole family and FREE! We pack a picnic and make a day of it. Find Groupon’s or saving certificates for sporting adventures or events. Look for discounted sporting tickets on Stubhub.com or buy them on a promo day.
  14. Try the 52 week money challenge, see my original post. It’s not too late to start…..what will you do with your savings?
  15. Do yard, home and auto maintenance yourself. I’m very lucky to have a handy husband who can do oil changes, who takes care of all the home and yard maintenance and saves us tons of money by doing the not so fun homeowner chores himself. Get out there and get your hands dirty, cut your own grass, landscape your own yard, build yourself something. Change your own oil (if you know how) instead of paying someone else to do it. Clean out your gutters yourself, maintain your own lawn instead of paying a company to do it. Fire the maid and get your kids to help clean. Teach them responsibility and pay them to help with chores. Teach them how to spend and save their money wisely. Win/Win!

All of these ideas might not work for you, but I urge you to try some of them. It’s amazing how much money we throw away each month until we step back and look for it. A happy family doesn’t consists of riches, it consists of love, memories, laughter and fun. All of which can be created without a single penny! Challenge yourself to live more frugally and then reward yourself with the savings if you wish. Take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about, you’ve earned it! Combine these tips with my original money saving tips post and you have many options to help you save money!

Use What You’ve Got

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This post is inspired by my creativity with dinner last night. We came home from a wonderful vacation in sunny, warm and beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida to a cold, miserable, snow and iced over St. Louis. We flew in about 45 minutes after the snow/sleet started and as we walked off the plane they were making the cancellation announcement for the rest of the day. Over 300 arrivals and departures were canceled, whew we got very lucky to make it home…….or did we…….after about an hour of waiting for our bags and then a 2.5 hour drive home from the airport in the thick of the storm, we finally made it home to a house with no food. I immediately wished our flight had been cancelled and we were back at our beach house laying around in the sun or splashing in the pool! Snapping back to reality, I realized that we hardly had any food in the house and we were snowed in. After that treacherous trip home, we weren’t getting back out. I found some meat in the freezer and some milk that my dad had bought for us before we got home (thanks dad for everything, including coming to the airport to get us). That milk was essential in the dinner I threw together last night and Cade was very happy to have his nightly cup of milk.¬† I found baking mix in the pantry and a chunk of pepper-jack cheese in the back of the fridge. We usually have one week a month, usually at the end of the month where we use up our pantry and fridge stock. That week happened to be the week before we left for vacation so that nothing would spoil while we were gone. Our flight landed at noon and I had planned on making a grocery run when I got home, but mother nature had other plans. When I’m trying to use up items, or make a cheap dinner, I often go to my favorite internet tool…..the Google search bar and I start typing in items that I have on hand and see what recipes come up. I did that last night with the following “baking mix, ground beef, cheese, milk” because that’s pretty much all we had and this is the recipe that came up. http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/impossibly-easy-cheeseburger-pie/8c78aa78-c368-40fa-8a88-1654640c7525. I thought, I can work with that….I realized we didn’t have any eggs so back to the Google search bar to find out what you can substitute for eggs in hearty dishes. I know you can substitute applesauce for eggs in sweets but I didn’t know what you could use in savory dishes. I found that mayonnaise can be used as a substitute, 3 tablespoons per egg that you need. Mayo is made from eggs and oil and I must say it worked as a great substitute. Thinking this dish was going to be a little bland, I spiced it up a bit. I found a can of rotel in the pantry and got out some cumin, pepper and garlic salt. I followed the base of the recipe, but this is what I changed………

Kelsey’s Kicked Up Cheeseburger Pie

Brown one pound of ground beef, drain and return to pan, add 1 tsp of cumin, 1/2 tsp of garlic salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Drain one can of rotel and add to beef and spices, stir well. Mix 1/2 cup of baking mix (I had Jiffy brand on hand) with 1 cup of milk and 2 eggs (I didn’t have eggs so I used 6 tbls of mayo and it worked great). Mixture will be runny. Spray pie pan with cooking spray and pour beef mixture into the bottom. Top beef with about 1 cup of shredded cheese (I had pepper-jack, use what you have) and pour baking mix over the top. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or until lightly brown on the top. I had sour cream and hot sauce to top it with but next time I’ll add lettuce, black olives and salsa too. I will be making this again on my use up the pantry/fridge weeks! It made 4 large portions so we had dinner last night and lunch for today! Super easy and really good!
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*This recipe is not low carb. For those of you who follow me for low carb recipes, more of those coming soon*

Money Saving Tips & Tricks

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If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I like to save money. I get asked how I score great deals all the time and I’ve spent a lot of time compiling this list to help you save some money too.

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– I shop around…..I don’t buy something at the first store I see it at. There are many app’s for your smart phone that can help you compare prices. I also type in a certain item in the Google search bar and see what comes up.¬† I then compare the price of the item at different stores and check for any deals or discounts I can find.

– I shop sales, clip coupons and participate in many store rewards programs. Shopping sales is easy, all you have to do is check a store’s sale ad for the time you are wanting to shop. Clipping coupons can be time-consuming but the savings can be tremendous, especially at stores that have their own store coupons that you can combine with manufacturer’s coupons. I go through the coupons that come in the Sunday paper, I check websites like www.coupons.com, www.redplum.com and www.smartsource.com for coupons for products that I use. These coupons you print at home. Many retail stores also offer coupons on their websites, or you can register your email to get sales and coupons emailed directly to you. Go to a stores website and look for their “coupons” tab. Also check stores coupon policies, some stores like Kmart offer double coupons everyday (up to $1). ¬†Lastly, I sign up for many rewards programs which reward you with extra discounts and points earned on your purchases. Ask at your favorite stores if they have a rewards program.

– You need some self-discipline¬†with this one, but it can pay off with many discounts. Retail store credit cards often offer extra discounts throughout the year to their users. These are coupons that you would not get unless you have a credit card with that store. You usually have to use the credit card to redeem the discount, but you can pay off the balance immediately. Another thing to look for is major credit cards with rewards programs. I have stayed in very nice hotel rooms for next to nothing with credit card rewards points. I also just got 50,000 free¬†airline points through Southwest Airlines after signing up for their credit card and making a minimum purchase. You can pay the balance off immediately, but still reap the rewards of the rewards program. Like I said before, you need self-discipline with these savings options because it is easy to get carried away with spending on credit cards which defeats the purpose of saving money. This idea is for those who want the extra discounts of being a credit card holder, but will pay off the balance in full each month so you don’t get charged any interest.

– Buy generic, I urge you to try generic items! Many “store brand” items taste just as good as the “name brand” and the cost savings can be tremendous! Also try smaller stores like Aldi’s¬†which has their own brand of products and a wonderful, fresh produce section. I buy a lot of their products, and prefer their produce over many of the larger chain stores. You have to bring your own bags to bag your groceries, but that’s one of the reasons why they can keep the cost of their products low.

– Ask for discounts. It never hurt to ask, right? All they can say is no….you can handle that two letter word that no one likes to hear. You will be surprised, you will probably hear yes more than you will hear no. Just like you ask at a restaurant what their specials are, ask at stores if they have any coupons or discounts. Many times they will have un-used coupons from other customers sitting at the register that you can use or they will tell you about their rewards program that will give you discounts. Send brands that you like an email and ask them to send you coupons, this can be food, baby items, clothing, etc. More times than not, I’ve received an email back asking for my address and within a few weeks I’ve received a coupon in the mail. It’s as easy as that!

– Sign up for daily deals from websites like Groupon and Amazon. I most recently got a great mount for a tv for $39 with free shipping from a one day deal website. The original price was over $100, and it was a nicer mount with more features than the original one we were considering which was around $50. I’ve also bought discount spa treatments and other discount certificates through these types of websites.

– This tip is for my fellow Target lovers. Target offers its own¬†debit or credit card. The debit card links to your checking account and immediately¬†takes the funds from your checking account after purchase. The credit card is a true credit card that you have to make payments on. The benefit of either of these options is that you get 5% off your total purchase every time you shop. This is in store and online. Online you also benefit from free shipping on all purchases. Target offers their own store coupons on their website and you can get them sent to your mobile. They allow you to combine their store coupons with Manufacturer’s coupons for additional savings.

– Many restaurants offer rewards programs and coupons or discounts. Ask about their frequent dining rewards or their kids eat free days. Another way to save at restaurants is to check out www.restaurant.com. It’s a website with discount gift certificates to restaurants in your area, you buy the gift certificate on their site, print it and take it to the restaurant with you. Be sure to read the fine print, some exclusions do apply.

– If you don’t have the benefit of using rewards from a credit card for hotel stays, then look into hotel rewards programs. They often offer a discount after so many night’s purchased. Also inquire if they offer a discount if you are active¬†military, a veteran or a member of AAA, AARP, NRA or any other organization.

– If you are a senior citizen, be sure to take advantage of the senior citizen discounts at many stores and restaurants. They may not always offer it because some people get offended if they are offered the discount and aren’t a senior citizen, but if you qualify, be sure to tell them to take off your senior citizen discount which is usually around 10% off.

– I tend to shop online more than I do in stores because I don’t have the time. I’ve posted about this before, but I can’t encourage you enough to check out Ebates. It’s a website that literally pays you to shop online (check out my previous post about Ebates¬†for more info). You can find a lot¬†of discounts when shopping online from free shipping to certain percentages off your purchase. My favorite site (besides Ebates) to check for online savings is www.retailmenot.com. This website has a list of discounts for certain stores. Check the store where you are wanting to shop and see what discounts they have to offer.

– Pay with cash. I know this sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but some stores offer a discount if you pay with cash. They are charged every time they swipe a credit card, so to avoid that charge, they offer discounts to cash paying customers. You will find this more in small businesses, but the savings can vary from 1-10% when paying in cash.

– Buy an Entertainment book. Yes those coupon books that organizations and kids sell to make money for a certain cause. They actually have good discounts in them and most of the coupons will pay for the cost of the book in the first use! Ask to look through a book before you purchase it to make sure there are enough savings that you would use.

– Travel during “non-peak” times. Look up the destination where you are wanting to travel and research their peak travel times. If you are flexible, then don’t travel during their peak period. Airfare, rentals and activities will all be more expensive during their peak travel season. Deep discounts can be found during non-peak travel times. Research the area before you arrive and look for coupons or discounts to places you wish to try.

– Lastly, being organized and planning will save you money in the long run. Research, take your time, save money, look for discounts and plan our your purchases.

$2.00 Homemade Multi-purpose Cleaner

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I came across this multi-purpose cleaner on Pinterest. I had all of the ingredients and decided to try it, I think I used the whole bottle in one day cleaning everything from windows to countertops all the way down to my floors. I was amazed at how well it worked and how cheap it would be to replace my other cleaners with this one concoction. This one is defiantly worth a try, for around $2 you can make your own multi-purpose cleaner that is safe to use around children and pets, has virtually no smell (slight vinegar smell that goes away quickly) and is CHEAP! The rubbing alcohol makes the cleaner streak free plus its a natural disinfectant and degreaser which makes it great for cleaning any surface. White vinegar is a natural deodorizer and sanitizer. The combination of the two makes this multi-purpose cleaner great for any household chore!

I buy my rubbing alcohol and white vinegar at Dollar Tree so it costs me $2.00 plus tax. These products may be slightly higher or lower at your grocery store.

Mix 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 1 cup of water together in a spray bottle (use an old Windex bottle). Once the mixture settles, add 2-3 drops of dishwashing liquid. This increases the degreasing and disinfecting qualities. Shake lightly (it will bubble), once its all settled its ready to use. Clean, clean, clean away!

*If you don’t like the vinegar smell or would like this cleaner to have a lasting smell, you could add a few drops of any essential oil to the mixture*

Prep Day – Preparing For The Week Ahead

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Do you have a certain day of the week where you prep? This can be prep for anything….work, school, meals, or just the week ahead. I’m a planner, organizer and prepper. I’m a sale shopper, coupon clipper and deal finder. I can’t stand to pay full price for anything and I really can’t stand to waste. My prep day helps keep me organized and stress free throughout the week.

My prep day is Monday, I’m off work and its the start of a new week. I use this day to clean, prep and spend some quality time with my son. My son’s nap time is prime time for me to complete as much as I can so the afternoon can be full of play. I try to prep my meals for the week so I don’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen after work. I enjoy cooking, but being in the kitchen for hours after work is not my idea of fun. I clean and chop veggies, pre-cook and shred meat, portion out ingredients and go through my fridge pulling out ingredients on their last leg and find ways to use them. Doing this saves me time during the week but it also helps eliminate waste. How many times have you got to the back of your meat drawer and found expired meat? Or your veggie drawer and had moldy vegetables? Food waste is like throwing cash in the trash can. Groceries are too expensive to let them go to waste. Prepping in advance not only saves you time during the week, but it also saves you money because you are more likely to use the ingredients that are chopped or cooked and ready to go than if you have to chop or cook them after a long day at work.

Here are my tips for meal prep and suggestions on how to prep for the week.

  1. Make a grocery list, plan out your meals and just make one trip to the store. Plan your meals around the store sale ad to save money. Use coupons or buy generic items, I have switched my family over to many generic products. You can’t tell any difference and they cost much less.
  2. Plan a “Prep Day” to prepare your meals. This will save you time each night for dinner and will help eliminate waste because you are more likely to use ingredients that are prepped and ready to go. I prep my meals to a certain point of their cooking process. I chop all veggies or herbs and pre-cook meat that needs to be shredded or can be pre-cooked. Then I store my prepped ingredients and use them to assemble the dish on the day I’m cooking it. Another option is prepping your dish all the way to the point where it would go in the oven and then refrigerating it or freezing it until you are ready to use it.
  3. Use what you have in the fridge. Think of creative ways to use veggies. There are no rules to cooking, you can put anything in a salad or make a stir fry with those leftover veggies.
  4. Check expiration dates on your meat, if you aren’t going to use the meat within a day or two after purchasing it, freeze it and defrost it when you need it.
  5. Use clear food storage containers and zipper baggies to store prepped ingredients so they are easy to see and so they stay fresh.
  6. Buy some prepped ingredients to save time. Yes, I do buy some prepped ingredients even though they cost more. Sometimes the time savings is worth the extra cost. Here are my suggestions on what to buy prepped. Most everything else I buy and prep myself.

Prepped Veggies

  • Chopped lettuce in the bag (I always rinse even though it says washed)
  • Baby Carrots – No peeling or chopping
  • Trimmed and ready fresh green beans – I can’t stand cutting the ends off of green beans
  • Butternut Squash (This is a new find in my store and they are cut in bite sized pieces perfect for steaming and mashing or eating whole. Baking butternut squash can be quite the ordeal, not to mention it’s hard to cut in half!)
  • Sliced mushrooms (unless I need them whole)
  • English Cucumbers have edible skin and have smaller seeds than traditional cucumbers, you buy the cucumber whole but it’s easy to wash and slice. No peeling unless you don’t care for the skin.

Once I have everything prepped to the point I want it, I know that dinner after work won’t be an ordeal. I know what meals I’m making and I know what ingredients I have prepped and ready to go. This helps me stay organized, less stressed and able to feed my family a healthy, home cooked meal each night. Try picking a day for your prep, it just might be what you need to get on track to eating healthy, saving money and eliminating waste.

Now off to cook dinner……more new recipes coming soon!