Please read the following post on Jill Cataldo's blog regarding Target's coupon scanning (or should I say scamming) practices.

I was stunned to here that Target's computers are programmed to allow them to adjust down manufacturer coupons and that Target has not addressed this issue.

I got a little carried away with the $25/$10 General Mills/Betty Crocker and bought a few dozen boxes of brownie mix, for $.11 per box. While that was a great deal and I will be sharing generously with my friends and family, I decided to challenge myself a little. After all, basic brownies can get a little I'll be putting my spin on them.

One box, One year, and One Woman's Mission!

For 1 year, I will chronicle my adventures in brownie making - all with the help of Betty Crocker. I plan to make 50 different variations on the basic brownie, to showcase what a few basic ingredients can create. Creating great desserts doesn't have to mean spending money on expensive ingredients or toiling for hours in the kitchen.

I'll post a link to each recipe I use, as well as rate the overall recipe idea. My first batch will be Orange Soaked Cranberry Brownies. Why this combination? Because I was inspired when I saw someone soaking cranberries on a Food Network show some weeks ago and thought it was a good idea for some slightly dried out dried cranberries I had and orange juice was on sale this week. I've got tons of ideas for this project - I can't wait to dive in!

Stop by next week to see the latest variation on a basic boxed brownie.
It's been a while since I've posted, between crazy days at work and entering the busy season for my hubby and I - it's great that life is slowly winding down and I've got more time to post. I've still been meal planning, but I really miss having it all written down (or typed out) where I can refer to it - it makes life so much easier when I'm organized.

I've really stocked up during the recent catalina deals at Jewel - so variations on boxed brownie mix will be popping up a lot for our desserts. I'll link my recipe creations to each variation I come up with.

Monday: Tostadas with ground turkey (with minced peppers), minced onion, refried beans, and sour cream and salsa

Tuesday: Mozzarella stuffed meatball subs with marinara sauce, gourmet salad blend

Wednesday: Roasted Garlic Pork Tenderloin, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, applesauce

Thursday: Mushroom & swiss burgers, Autumn Salad

Friday: BBQ pork fried rice, sesame chicken

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, Oatmeal, and Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

Dessert of the week: Orange Soaked Cranberry Brownies
We are entering into anniversary season (at least in my small neck of the woods). Tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of my first date with my hubby. I still can't believe 8 years has flown by so fast! We'll be scrapping Wednesday's dinner plans in favor of a semi-recreation of what we did on our first date.

For our first date, we went to a movie, then shared appetizers at a nearby cafe, and sat in his car talking almost until sunrise. I remember it like it was yesterday. When I finally got home, I knew I had met my future husband. It was crazy, but 8 short- and sometimes crazy - years later I was right.

Unlike in our younger, slightly more foolish years, this year we will celebrate the anniversary at home with a favorite movie and we'll make quesadillas and chicken strips together. I love cooking with my hubby, and this will help us save some money, since we have a week long vacation next month to ring our 5 wedding anniversary. We have not taken a weeklong trip together since our honeymoon, so I think we're long overdue.

For our 5th anniversary, I initially wanted to go to Jamaica (or some other tropical, exotic, fabulous place), but after careful consideration, we'll be staying stateside (and supporting the U.S. tourism industry!) and travelling to The North East Coast. I have never seen the East, so I am crazy-excited to go, especially in the fall it should be beautiful. All of our deal shopping, bargain hunting, penny pinching ways have paid off. We'll fly into a cheaper airport and rent a car and drive to our final destination, much like we did when we went on our honeymoon. There, we actually flew into one city, caught a taxi to the ferry, a ferry ride to the island where we were staying, and a taxi again to the resort. Even with all that, we still managed to save a few hundred dollars by being willing to fly into a different airport.

Over the next week or two, I'll start making my list of places to go on our vacation, checking restaurant prices, and researching the cost of all activities. Even on vacation, we are frugal. And that's perfectly okay with me. I get to see an extra destination because the direct flight to our destination is ridiculously expensive - let's say it's cheaper to fly to Jamaica than to another U.S. city. Isn't that strange?

Tell me - what budget savvy travel tips do you hold true to?
I love weekends that are laid back and lazy, but it's not easy going in to work in the morning after that. The good news: I've got a fridge full of precooked pork (chops and roast) which I'll be basing many of our meals around and half a pot of Navy Bean Soup that my mom shared with me. Meal planning should be easy, but need to make sure we take a break from the pork at least twice.

Monday: DH's cooking dinner
Tuesday: Burritos con Carnitas with rice and quesadilla cheese, refried beans (frijoles)
Wednesday: Navy Bean Soup, focaccia bread, mixed greens salad
Thursday: Pulled Pork sammies, chips, baked bean casserole, garden salad
Friday: Pork tacos, leftover beans and rice
Saturday: Homemade pizza, mozzarella topped foccacia bread sticks
Sunday: Leftovers or chicken sausage and peppers
It's been a few crazy weeks here, I need to get my butt in gear, get my meal-plan set so it's one less thing for me to worry about and stress over. Sometimes life moves so fast, you have to hang on for dear life, grab it by the reins, and get taken along for the ride!

Monday: Cream of mushroom soup, roasted tomato foccacia, mixed greens salad, apple crisp
Tuesday: Roast pork with mashed potatoes, gravy, and garden salad
Wednesday: Enchiladas carnitas with red bell pepper, red rice, beans, shredded lettuce, sour cream, and salsa
Thursday: Fancy French Toast, strawberries, breakfast sausage, apple slices, orange juice
Friday: DH is back as Grill Master! Can't wait to see what he grills up! along with baked bean casserole and corn
Saturday: Italian-style chicken salad sammies or Kansas City-Style pulled pork sammies, chips, carrot sticks, corn on the cob
Sunday: Leftovers

Breakfast of the week: Swiss and Mushroom Frittata, cereal, yogurt, granola bars
Dessert of the week: White Chocolate Raspberry Bars
Lunches are dinner leftovers or chicken sammies
I love meal planning after a busy holiday weekend - so many leftovers, all I have to do is pick and choose what to have each day! We hosted a BBQ on Sunday for our fmailies and had about 8 people over. DH loves to grill, and thsi time he did a huge selection of meats - from steaks to ribs, burgers to brats and some chicken thrown in for good measure, we still have leftovers a-plenty to make into great meals.

Tuesday: Chicken, turkey bacon, and mushrooms tossed with pasta
Wednesday: Build Your Own Sandwich
Thursday: Brats and chicken, leftover red rice, salad
Friday: Chicken sammies, mixed green salad, apple

Lunch of the week: Anything we can turn into a sandwich or taco. I've presliced a chunk of ribeye and some Swiss cheese for some decadent sammies. We also have a partial rotisserie chicken that can be a simple chicken sandwich or get made over into chicken salad. Chicken or steak tacos with a chunky salsa are another easy option.

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, granola bars, yogurt, and bagels (wanted to get some of the bagels out of the freezer)
Monday: Fettucine with Portabella Alfredo and Italian Grilled Chicken
Tuesday: Ham and turkey sammies, salad, chips
Wednesday: Ginger Pork Stirfry, fried rice
Thursday: Sweet Honey Lime Chicken Drummies, baked beans, baby carrots
Friday: Ground turkey tacos with all the fixin's

Weekend: TBD - hubby thinks his family will have a BBQ, so we're in a wait and see before I can do any more planning.

Dessert of the week: Banana Nut Bread, Maple Pecan Apple Crisp

Breakfast for the week: We're still working off our cereal, granola bar, yogurt, and poptart stockpile. I keep grabbing more free granola bars from Dominicks - so it might be awhile before I'm forced to actually cook breakfast more than 1-2 a week.
I couldn't resist another run at the "Buy 3 Juices, get 2 snacks FREE" deal. I found 2 catalina coupons for $2.50 each. I'm just lovin' the free snacks and I totally needed to stock up on granola bars. I go through a box of granola bars a week, so each transaction yields another month supply! And hubby is totally loving all the juice, we're big juice fans, and it doesn't get any better than this!!

6 bottles Mott's apple juice $2.99 (reg. price) $2.00 (sale) -$2/2 (2) -$1.50/2
4 boxes Quaker granola bars ($3.49/box) free wyb 6 juice -$1/1 (4)
1 gallon Lucerne milk $2.99, -$2.99 (wyb 4 Quaker granola bars, get 1 gallon Lucerne milk free)

Total retail value: $36.89
Total saved: $36.89
Total OOP: $.06 (local tax)
100% savings
I'm glad I popped over to Jill Cataldo's website before I headed out yesterday. There was a 3 day sale at Dominicks - buy any 3 participating juices, get 2 participating snack items free. The deal got immeasurably better when coupons for the juice (Mott's apple juice) could be found in a coupon booklet recently spotted at Jewel. Which I actually found, while I was there grabbing newspapers (Saturday paper with coupon inserts) for $.99 each. Best price in the area.

Truth be told, I found a huge display of those coupon booklets, so I helped myself to a dozen or so. I was so thrilled to find them. The deal was on. I had my box of expired coupons in the car, and was ready to go. The snacks that were included in the deal were Quaker granola bars. Which was great - I have tons of expired Quaker granola bar coupons. I had coupon overage on the brain. It's been some time since that happened. And this Dominick's is typically coupon friendly. This was my day.

Here's what I found:
9 bottles of Mott's Apple Juice 64 oz. each $2 each -$1.50/2 coupons (x4)
3 bottles Ocean Spray juices 64 oz. each $2.29-$2.99 -$3/1 coupons (x3) = $.73 moneymaker!
6 boxes Quaker Granola bars $2.49 (free wyb 3 juices) -$3/5 quaker products, $1/1 True Delights = $4.00 moneymaker!!
6 bags Fritos/Cheetos on sale $1.49 (with in-store coupon) -$1/2 coupons (3)
3 jars Frito-Lay brand dip $2.29-$3.79 -$3/1 coupons wyb 2 FritoLay chips (3)
10 bags Nabisco Mini Oreo's, Chips Ahoy, etc. $.99 with instore coupon -$1/2 coupons (5)
2 Kraft Salad Dressing $2.00 -$1/1 coupons (x2)
1 Kraft Garlic & Herb Sandwich Shop Mayo $1.79 -$1/1 coupon
4 WishBone Salad Dressing $.99 -$1/2 coupons (2)

Total before discounts: $198.28
Total Savings: $167.17
Total OOP: $31.11
We didn't get to the roast beef I had planned for Sunday, so I'll be using that in tonight's dinner. For lunches, we have lots of canned soup, salad fixin's, deli-sliced ham for sandwiches, and we often take leftovers to work for lunch, so I have that pretty well covered for the week.

I try to bake one breakfast or dessert a week to round out the meal plan, this week I'm planning to bake some crimson raisin & cinnamon scones. I just love how easy and versatile scones are - they pop up at leat once a month in my house! I like to eat them for breakfast, hubby prefers them as a dessert or snack.

Monday: Thin sliced roast beef over potatoes with a mushroom gravy, salad
Tuesday: Fancy French Toast, pepper and cheddar frittata, apple slices
Wednesday: Ground turkey tacos, beans, and rice
Thursday: Roast beef and provolone paninis, summer salad, grapes
Friday: DH's making pizza!
Saturday: DH's grilling
Sunday: Dinner at Nuevo Leon in the city - best enchiladas ever! (and it's super affordable - less than $6.00 a plate!) We'll be at Navy Pier for the Tall Ships Festival - I love the tall ships.

Breakfast for the week: Cereal (we have more than 12 varities on hand), yogurt, toast, fruit, and granola bars.

Dessert of the week: Crimson Raisin & Cinnamon Scones
I absolutely love chicken. It's my favorite source of protein, hands down. A lot of people get tired of eating the same old chicken entree - and who can blame them? I used to think chicken could only be roasted or fried, with a dash of season salt and black pepper. I'm so glad over the years that I've proven that mentality wrong! Paired with sweet or savory spices, chicken is my go-to everytime. One of my favorite things about chicken is how budget friendly it is.

1. Want to make a bold dish - swap a cut of chicken in for beef or pork as is called for in your recipe. I match boneless with boneless, bone-in with bone-in. Some of my favorite swaps include: Pulled Chicken Sammies, chicken tacos, and chicken and biscuits.

2. Chicken pairs well with most fruits for awesome kebabs, sizzling stirfries, and wings that make your heart sing! Some of my favorites are chicken "burgers" topped with grilled pineapple rings, Indonesian Chicken with Honey and Garlic, and Thai Mandarin Chicken Stirfry. I haven't yet tried chicken dish with fruit that I didn't like - kids love it, too!

3. Soup and salad. I can think of no other protein base that goes so well into either salad or soup, let alone both. From fancy grilled chicken salads to the humblest of chicken soups, this piece of poultry packs a powerful punch in the flavor department. With bone-in pieces of chicken, you can stretch your dollar even further, and when making soups - stretch the flavor further, too!

4. Chicken as a component in casseroles, pastas, rice dishes, etc. A little of this bird can go a really, really long way. One chicken breast can provide enough meat for 2-4 servings when worked into a pasta sauce, as a primary ingredient in a casserole, and when shredded/cubed into a rice dish. When you do this, let the side dish take center stage as your entree and pair it with a hearty salad. That is a easy supper that's good for you and light on your wallet, too.

5. Spices, marinades, and sauces. Chicken with gravy over potatoes, chicken marinated in teriyaki (or any fruit-based marinade), chicken seasoned with basil, garlic, and onion - any favorite spice combination or flavor mix that you love - you will love it on chicken. I like to pair in smoky elements in chicken (cumin and hickory seasoning, anyone?) for an unexpected twist on a classic chicken dish. If you need inspiration - check out ethnic cooking. Chicken seems to be the favored poultry for many nationalities, if you need some flavor inspiration.

Tell me - what's your favorite chicken dish?
Finally, we're having a break in the heatwave that feels like its lasted much of the summer. Hubby has offered to do some grilling this week and I can't wait that! With lots of summer produce keeping the prices low across the area, the meal plan this week has never been easier. No major schedule changes, not too many things to take into consideration. I love it when it's easier to plan.

Monday: Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad
Tuesday: Grilled brats and teriyaki chicken thighs, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob
Wednesday: Turkey, apple, and cheddar paninis, salad, peaches
Thursday: Ginger Lime Roasted chicken, angel hair pasta, green beans
Friday: Breakfast wraps, hashbrowns, bananas, juice
Saturday: Date night
Sunday: Italian beef sammies, fresh fruit, baked beans
I still cannot believe this deal: Jewel has selected Pillsbury/General Mills/Betty Crocker items on sale this week. WYB 10, receive $5 instant savings and receive 50 Bonus Boxtops for Education (BTFE).

The Betty Crocker Potatoes were on sale for $1.00 each - and the price dropped to $.50 each WYB 10. What a fabulous deal! On the boxes, there were $1/2 peelies - which meant, all I had to pay was tax!

I used 16 coupons and grabbed 32 for the cost of the tax ($.09 per transaction of 10 boxes).

While I like homemade mashed potatoes, the boxed ones are not too bad (especially at this price). To make them healthier, I use fat free milk (I start with powdered milk and add water as directed on the box), I use half the butter or margarine called for on the package and substitute light sour cream or fat free cream cheese for the other half of the butter/margarine needed in the recipe. And if you really want to punch up the flavor of the potatoes, use chicken stock in place of the water called for.

It's an easy way to turn boring boxed potatoes into a tasty treat. I've even used my doctored up box potatoes in entertaining, and have had people ask for my recipe. If you are looking to save time, cut calories/fat grams, many varieties of these potatoes are a good choice. If you want to add even more flavor, fold in a little garlic, a tablespoon of parmesan, some parsley - anything you would normally add to your own mashed potatoes.

I also stocked up on canned veggies (Green Giant brand was $.99 - dropped to $.49 a can wyb 10), since I was starting to run low from the last time I loaded up. I grabbed 28 cans - and that should be enough to hold us through the winter. If I have a chance, I may grab another 10 cans before the sale is up. You can never be too well stocked on veggies, especially at these prices!
I have been not-so-patiently waiting for another good deal on cereal, and as it tends to happen, Dominicks is the place to be. Since no stores in Chicagoland double coupons, Dominicks is our saving grace - they accept expired coupons. Couple that with a Buy 10 get a $10 coupon OYNO, and I was in heaven. Oh, and Kellogg wasn't the only brand on sale, Keebler was, too! This was a great time to be couponing!

Transaction #1
10 boxes Keebler cookies (originally $4.19 - $4.39) on sale for $2.49
1 gallon milk (regular price $3.19) $2.69
Minus $1/2 coupons (x5)
Minus $2 milkpurchase wyb 2 Keebler cookies
Minus $3 register rewards from Walgreens
Total: $18.07
Total Saved: $25.60
and a $10 cat prints out...

Transaction #2
10 boxes PopTarts (regular price $3.39) on sale for $1.99
Minus $1/2 coupons (x5)
Minus $10 cat
Total: $5.25
Total Saved: $29.50
no cat prints....I ask the cashier, he tells me to talk to the service desk. I decide to do that after my next 2 orders are complete

Transaction #3
6 boxes Apple Jacks (regular price $3.59) on sale $1.99
2 boxes Kellogg's NutraGrain bars (regular price $3.99) on sale $2.49
2 boxes Keebler cookies (regular price $3.99) on sale $2.49
Minus $1/2 coupon (cookies)
Minus $.70 off 1 box cereal (x6)
Total: $15.87
Saved: $21.50
and a $10 cat prints out...

Transaction #4
2 boxes Keebler cookies (regular price $3.99) on sale $2.49
6 boxes Frosted Flakes (regular price $2.99) on sale $1.99
2 boxes Apple Jacks (regular price $3.59) on sale $1.99
1 jar apricot preserves (regular price $2.79) on sale $1.99
2 64 oz. bottle Ocean Spray juice blends $2.99
Minus $1/2 Kellogg cereals (x3)
Minus $.70 off 1 box cereal (x2)
Minus $1/2 coupon (cookies)
Minus $3 off winetag coupons for the juice
Minus $10 cat
Total: $9.73
Saved: $33.00
and a $10 cat prints out...

I go to customer service after my transactions, ask if the purchase where no cat pr inted could be re-rung or returned. The cashier offered me $10 cash instead of the cat. I happily accepted and was off on my merry way.

Total Saved during this long shopping trip: $109.60
Coupons spent: $49.60
Total OOP: $38.56 (I've subtracted the $10 cash from this)
Plus another $10 cat in my wallet...
Quantity of items purchased: 44
I didn't have a meal plan last week, because I assigned that duty to DH. I knew I wouoldn't have time to make our dinners (a crazy work week, culminating in an in-office board meeting that was 3 days too long!), and desperately need to get back in the swing of things this week. Luckily I have a few things on hand to build my meals around - like the leftover bagels from the meeting (no one wanted them, so I took home 6-8 huge bagels and popped them in my freezer) and a little help from my mama (who made a large batch of pulled pork and was nice enough to take pity on me and share some). With a few pantry staples, here's what I've got in mind for this week:

Monday: Monte Cristo with tomato basil soup topped with crunchy croutons
Tuesday: Pulled pork sammies with a teriyaki sweet BBQ sauce on egg-onion rolls, gourmet spring blend salad, and corn
Wednesday: Mushroom and Cheddar Frittata, bagels, strawberries, and red grapes
Thursday: Simple Pork Tacos, refried beans, rice
Friday: Girls day out - taking my mama (DaMama) out for lunch and a movie
Saturday: Build your own flatbread pizza - using the last of our $.49 flatbread pizza crusts from the $3 off bread coupon from Jewel
Sunday: Pork steaks on the grill, sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, salad, corn on the cob
This week, my office has its board of director's meeting, which means a few longer days (maybe into early evening) of work, so I've got DH making meals for half of the week.

Monday: Rotini with a white wine portabella sauce, garlic bread, salad
Tuesday: Cheddar, Apple, and Onion Panini's, salad, chips
Wednesday: Dinner at DaMama's
Thursday - Sunday: DH's got his buttery chicken nuggets, pizza, and more planned for us!
I pack a lunch 5 days a week for work, so does my husband. We're not broke, we have no dietary restrictions, we simply bring our own lunches to work, since driving home for lunch for either of us isn't an option (our commutes are 45-55 minutes one way for work each day). It takes minimal planning, some basics on hand, and a willingness to save time and money every day.

Why would we want to brown bag it every day? For me, I like to know what I'm eating, and I don't want to consume too much greasy, fried, sodium-laden dishes that are the fast-food norm - but beyond that, DH & I each work in areas that have many specialty restaurants, ethnic eateries, high-end fast-food, steak houses, and overblown casual eateries. The costs are insane. Two of my co-workers once estimated that by eating out 2-4 days a week for lunch, they spent an average of $200 a month - just on lunches. I have the added bonus of working in Illinois' infamous Cook County - where sales tax is over 10%.

Every week, I plan lunches along with all our dinners. All our lunches are interchangable - doesn't matter what one of us grabs, there are at least 3 options each day for our lunches. We each take one, and the remaining one goes into the pool of choices for the next day. I typically emphasize the first in, first out rule. We have no problems eating leftovers, so this works out well.

I also do a fair amount of what I call - leftover makeover. This week is a great example of that: I roasted a whole chicken and the leftovers are going to be used in salads, in sammies, in soup, and on a pizza. Not all weeks are like this, but 2-3 weeks each month, I make a meal that converts into many dishes easily. Browned, ground turkey (chicken or beef) or bulk sausage also works well for many meals. If you're new to this, just track for 2-3 weeks what meals you often prepare for your family - it won't take very long for a pattern to emerge.

When you see the pattern emerging, you can do some simple meal planning. You don't have to designate which meal is for which day, if that's too exacting for you. You can meal plan by day, week, or 2-4 weeks at a time. For me, the weekly meal plan with each day planned helps me see how quickly we can use a leftover so we waste less food. When I make my meal plan, I take into account how many lunches we need for the week, if we have sandwich fixings on hand, and try to tailor the meals to be easily portable and reheatable. Each week, I look at the 2 prior weeks of meals, to make sure I'm not serving the same things too often. Each week, I try to offer a different meat that covnerts well to many other dishes.

The result? I take restaurant quailty meals for my lunches, while not paying an extra dime out of pocket for it. Today, I'll be having a Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges and Chicken, and a wedge of parmesan focaccia bread. For tomorrow, I'll be having tostadas topped with chicken, red bell pepper strips, and some peach salsa. Where could you get a meal like that?

Tell me, how do you save money on meals? Do you meal plan, brown bag, cook from scratch? I'd love some new ideas!
I still have oodles of bread from the Jewel free bread coupon and some beautiful produce from the save $2 on any produce (price $2.00 or higher) from Jewel. I grabbed half a dozen focaccias, 3-4 loaves of raisin bread, mini-bagels, flatbread pizza crusts, and mini-croissants - all of which I've squeezed in to the freezer.

With 2 loaves of french bread left, I've got some tasty meal ideas that are easy on the budget this week!

Monday: Leftovers sandwich style. We've got plenty of leftovers from DH grilling yesterday, so I'll be turning some of the meats into sammies
Tuesday: Roasted chicken, spinach salad, rice
Wednesday: Basil Pesto Chicken Sammie on Focaccia
Thursday: Cinnamon Raisin bread with homemade peach syrup
Friday: Chicken margarita style flatbread pizza, salad
Saturday: Dinner at Caputo's in Hanover Park - $5 per person - 15 choices on their buffet!
Sunday: Soup (not sure what kind yet) and sammies
I've been having so much fun "buying" fresh blueberries and peaches with the $2 off any $2 or more produce coupon at Jewel. I've got more than 2 dozen fresh, plump, juicy peaches awaiting my attention as we speak. While I enjoy snacking on them, making them into salsa, tossing them into muffin batter, folding them into bars, or slicing them thin and adding them to a lovely spritzer - I've got more peaches than I could possibly eat right now. This is when it's time to start preserving or freezing them.

Since I don't have a big enough batch to make canning worthwhile, I'm going to peel, slice/chop, and freeze my overflow of these amazing peaches. Come the fall and winter months, I'll have plenty of peaches for pies, cobblers, muffins, and other tasty recipes I come up with - without breaking the bank. While it sounds like a lot of work, I'll probably have the peaches blanched, peeled, pitted, sliced and diced in less than an hour or two.

Last weekend, when I got home with my blueberry haul, I immediately got out the collander, tossed in the berries, removed any debris or stems, lightly patted them with a slightly damp rag (you should rinse berries just before using - not before freezing - it affects the consistency of the fruit), before measuring them and popping them into quart-sized freezer bags for easy use. The result - tons of fresh blueberries, frozen at the peak of freshness and plenty on hand for blueberry buckle, blueberry muffins, pancakes, and maybe even a blueberry sauce. I filled 13 quart-sized bags and spent only: $4.48. That's the price right now for blueberries when they are in season for one single 6 oz. pint - I'd hate to see how high that would go in the winter!

In my freezer, I already have raspberries, strawberries, and tons of apple pie filling. Each time a great coupon like this comes along, my first thought is what can I use right now. And once I've gotten the produce that my family needs for the week: bananas, grapes, cilantro, a few peppers, onions, fresh mushrooms, some salad fixin's, and a potato or two - then I look to what is in season, on sale, and will freeze well. Next, I make sure I have plenty of ways to use that fruit from its frozen form, then it's time to start planning for the colder months. They'll be here before you know it.

What would you do with a deal like this? What fruits and veggies do you put up for the winter?
I've been busy shopping, on my way to and from work, using the FREE Jewel bakery bread coupon (up to $3 value) and $2 off any produce coupon of $2 or more. In the last week, I've managed pretty well, granted this is over several transactions - one transaction per store per visit (as the coupon states). I did bring DaMama along to maximum our "girls time" and to get the biggest bang for our buck, or in this case, spare change. Here's what I've gathered so far:

3 loaves of focaccia
3 loaves cinnamon-raisin bread
2 pkgs. mini croissants
1 pkg. french rolls
1 pkg. hotdog buns
3 loaves of assorted sandwich bread (butter-cracked, white, and whole wheat)
19 fresh, local peaches
1 bag European salad blend
1 salad kit
2 bunches of banana
16 pints of blueberries
1 bunch of cilantro
1 apple

Total retail value of: $119.25
Total OOP: $9.77
Total Saved: $109.48

So far, I've frozen all the blueberries, 2 of the focaccias, the salad mixes have been used as lunches, the cilantro is nearly gone (I made salsa - also used the peaches in the salsa too - love a fruity summer salsa that's easy on the wallet!), I just need to grab some red potatoes (since they'll be free anyway...), and a few more peaches for the freezer. I'm planning an hour or two this weekend to prep and freeze the peaches - along with any other hearty produce I can get my hands on.
Jewel has printable coupons out for $2 off a $2 (or more) produce purchase and coupons out for FREE bakery bread (up to $3). These are limit one per transaction, so get in on the goodies now! Use promotional codes "freebread" or "produce" to get these awesome coupons!

I've already got some free salad mix, free dinner rolls - and I'm heading back for more on my way home tonight! I see a half pound of free cherries in my future and some bagels to toss in the freezer - love these deals!
Another crazy whirlwind weekend! My sister and her family were in town visiting - she's from Minnesota - so we don't get nearly as much time with her as we'd like. When she comes for a visit, she usually has a list of things to do (shopping, culture, entertainment, etc.) on her agenda and this time was no exception.

We made it to Brookfield Zoo - with DH & I spending nothing out of pocket. Yep, no one single cent. Here's how: Meijer offered a deal with the purchase of $15 worth of Meijer brand chips, you get a coupon for 2 free tickets to Brookfield (general admission only). When we finally got there and got parked, someone who was just leaving offered us a handful of tickets, including 2 free Stingray Bay admissions (I got to pet a cownose stingray!!), 3 free Trolley rides, and 4 free Carousel rides! Since we weren't going to use the carousel rides, we gave those to 2 families that had small children. And, we packed our own lunch and bottled water - mostly from deals I had hounded and a deli run to Caputo's the night before. My sister paid for a wagon rental, to pull our cooler, bags/purses, etc. We all had so much fun.

I took a personal day yesterday, to spend more time with my sister - we even had enough time to go through my "Market" (large pantry), and I sent some of my overstock from couponing back with her. Last night, the whole family gathered at a favorite cafe for dinner, and my sisters heads back home today. While I will miss her like cray, I'm definitely ready for some downtime with my hubby - maybe watch some TV and go for our evening walks.

Monday - Went to dinner with my mom, sister, and her family
Tuesday - Tostadas (my latest, easiest replacement for grilled cheese)
Wednesday - 10 Minute Breakfast Wraps, fresh fruit salad, hashbrowns
Thursday - Spaghetti with garden salad and garlic bread
Friday - Chicken and gnocchi soup, sammies
I'm running a day late with the meal plan - the holiday weekend has me off. Not that I'm complaining. I love a three-day weekend! I only wish more of them could happen like this. With the heat we've been experiencing lately, one of my goals is to keep the meal plan light and simple and reduce my dependence on the oven. From a frugal standpoint, it's counterproductive to run the oven when we have the A/C going. No need to make the A/C work any harder than it has to.

Monday: BBQ at the in-laws
Tuesday: Tostadas with all the fixin's
Wednesday: Paninis with munster, pastrami, and julienned bell peppers
Thursday: Rotini pasta in an alfredo sauce
Friday: Mushroom and swiss burgers, garden salad
Saturday: Date night
Sunday: ?? (DH is grilling, making pizza, or making subs - depends on the weather)

Lunch of the week: Sandwiches! We've got plenty of leftover lunchmeat and cheese, easy and quick.

Dessert of the week: Grapes, strawberries, and peaches.

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, and breakfast wraps.
This cool, refreshing twist on typical July weather has spoiled me. I'm not ready to return to the sweltering, humid mid 90 degree temperatures rather typical for July in Chicagoland. Naturally, for the 4th of July, it's supposed to be more than 90's degrees. I had been thinking of a BBQ, but with that kind of heat, lighter fare is definitely in order.

In place of the BBQ I was planning, it's time to make great use of seasonal fruits and amazing deals. Here's my 4th of July non-BBQ menu:

Red & Green Grapes
Summer Fruit Salad
Sweet Corn on the Cob
Tortilla chips and Peach Salsa
Potato Chips
Sub rolls/sandwich bread
Cold cuts/deli meat (I've got some goodies in the freezer to pick from and I"ll hit Caputos to round out my choices - they are the cheapest deli with the best selection in town)
Cheeses (Swiss, American, Cheddar, Provolone)
Italian-style chicken salad
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pecan Sandies

The only thing I have to do is bake the cookies (probably tonight, before it gets any hotter outside) and cook the corn the day of - everything is just chopped, stirring and serving! I am so looking forward to kicking back and relaxing with this light and simple feast. What are your plans for the 4th of July? Does the weather affect what you plan to do this year?
In the Jewel Osco flyer this week, purchase 4 12packs of Coca Cola products ($2.00 each, in quantities of 4), receive a FREE package of Hillshire Farms sausage (with in-ad coupon). That's a great deal!

What will make that even better for me? I've got some winetags for $2.00 off any cola purchase of $2.01 or more. I've got 3 of those left, so here's my scenario:

4 12 packs of Coca Cola
1 pkg. Hillshire Farms sausage
-$2.00 Cola purchase winetag (x3)
-Get One Free Hillshire Farms Sausage (x1)
=$2.00 plus tax for my entire order

Guess I better look for more winetags...
This summer, I have been focusing on building meal with ingredients that are:

1. In-season
2. Locally grown
3. Affordable

So far, this has resulted in an bevy of new recipes for me - some of which have stayed in my rotation rather frequently. With each week or so, I'm trying to add another new in-season produce pick to my meals. So far, DH & I are loving it. From summer fruit based salsas to light-as-air desserts options, we've been tasting all the season has to offer. Right now, peaches and berries are taking a primetime spot on our meal plan rotation.

Over the weekend, I'm planning to grill some lovely peaches, toss plump, ripe strawberries into a mixed green salad, and whip up a sweet fruit salad to go along side some light and lowfat bars, to balance out some of the heartier fare on offer. Barbeques don't have to be all about the heavy potato salad, piles of meat, and chips and dip. With all the fruits and veggies in season, it's a shame not to put them to use! Here are some of my favorite creations with all the yummy in-season produce we have to pick from:

Some of my favorite recipes so far this summer:
Peach Salsa
Boston Spinach Salad
10 Minute Fruit Salad
Summer Peach and Almond Bars
Sweet Nectarine Lemonade

Tell me: Does your family change their eating habits in the summer? What are your go-to recipes on a sultry summer day? I'd love some delicious inspiration!
Nothing makes me feel on track on a Monday morning like getting my meal plan together. After a quick inventory of the freezer and pantry yesterday, our meals are full of possibility!

Monday: Chicken, mushroom, and gnocchi soup, french bread, salad
Tuesday: Tostadas with all the fixin's
Wednesday: Garlic Chicken and Pepper stirfry, brown rice
Thursday: French bread pizzas with marinara dipping sauce and salad
Friday: Taste of Chicago (or if the weather is miserable - grilled cheese with fruit salad)
Saturday: TBD
Sunday - Happy 4th of July!! Going to BBQ!
I've got quite a few Weber $1/2 coupons left from the tearpads I found in the store, and finally got a chance to use some of them today. My local Jewel won't allow me to use a coupon on a BOGOFree item, which the marinades happen to be - until sometime next month. The regular price is $.99 each, with the BOGOF and coupon - they are free for me!

14 packets Weber marinade seasonings ($.99 each)
Total: $14.28
Cost: $.35

I still have more than a dozen of those coupons left, so I'll have to keep looking for chances to stop at different Jewel stores in the area.
It's been a crazy few weeks for my little household. First we spent al ong weekend in Minnesota for a good friend's wedding and last weekend we were off to Atlanta for brother-in-law's college graduation. After seeing my somewhat barren fridge, I went out shopping for some produce and basics to build some light meals with. Here's what's eating me this week:

Tuesday: Tomato soup and grilled cheese (milk is about to expire, so this is an easy way to make it disappear!), fresh fruit

Wednesday: Chicken bacon ranch tostadas, salsa and chips

Thursday: Build Your Own Sub Night, fresh berries, chips

Friday: DH's grilling up a storm - Grilled chicken teriyaki, hotdogs, and Mole-Rubbed Pork Ribs (instead of chops), grilled peppers, fruit salad, garden salad, mashed potatoes

Saturday: Date night!!

Sunday: Leftovers from Friday, dessert will be fruit smoothies

Breakfast of the week: fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal
Lunch of the week: Chicken tacos, soup, or sammies
Dessert of the week: Vanilla Spiced White Chocolate Cheesecake
Wow - the trip to Minnesota was amazing! The night before the trip, DaMama and I loaded 2 huge reusable bags full of fresh ingredients and treats to bring to my sister and her family, and that was a huge hit!

With the crazy prices of produce (when you have to import so much of it year-round up there), the bags I brought were bursting with limes, blueberries, peaches, peppers, cilantro, etc. etc. etc. not to mention a few pounds of amazing deli meat (all for under $3.00 a lb.) - everyone was thrilled! And all of that for less than $25, my sister was speechless!

A few of the nights, my sis and I were in the kitchen making dinner together. It was great! Never having lived close enough in my adult life to do these normal, everyday things with Amy, I had so much fun just doing those simple tasks.

On Saturday, I watched one of my oldest and dearest friends get married. Nothing can compare to that. Nothing. I'm so excited and happy for her, it was just a perfect weekend all round....except the weather. It has rained everyday for the last week and a half. I'm so ready for the rain to end.

On to this week's meal plan - it's another short week as DH & I head to Atlanta for my brother-in-law's college graduation. By next week, I'll be screaming to get back in to the rhythm of things at home, but for another straight week, I'm a traveling gal! Not a lot of fresh ingredients on hand, so this week I"m trying to use up what I have left. No point in going shopping for perishables except yogurt - I got to have it for my breakfast. For now, here's the plan:

Monday: Spaghetti with Italian sausage and roasted pepper marinara

Tuesday: Garlic bread pizza (homemade), garden salad

Wednesday: Breakfast burritos with peppers and sausage, apple slices, juice

Thursday-Sunday: In Atlanta for the graduation celebration!
Wow - this is the first time in months that I'm not creating a meal plan. This week, DH & I are heading to a wedding out-of-state and will be gone most of the week. I can't wait to see a dear friend of mine get married - I'm so excited. It's worth the 500+ mile trip!

While I'm there visiting, I'll be staying with my sister, the organic farmer and chef. I will get a chance to help in her (huge) garden, see my nephews, and unwind. I've been looking forward to this trip for months. Typically, DH & I take long weekends each season (except winter) and get out of town, but this year is the first year that we haven't. And boy, does it show! I don't think I've ever been so antsy to get out of town as I am right now.

Next week is another crazy one because for Father's Day weekend, we're heading south (out-of-state again) for my brother-in-law's college graduation. Whew - I'm on the road again....(channeling that Willie Nelson song in my head and imagining the beautiful countryside spilling out before me). Good thing you can't hear me singing!!

This year, we skipped our usual weekends away with the idea of going out-of-country for our 5th wedding anniversary. We had been planning on the Caribbean - which the locations (the cheaper places to visit) have experienced a rise in crime, drop in economy, etc. that make them unsafe to visit currently. Which totally sucks. Really, it does.

I've been looking forward to this anniversary for some time, and having to change our plans really makes me frustrated. Especially since I haven't left the Chicago area since October of last year. I love my area, but sometimes I need distance to make the heart grow fonder, or whatever that nonsense is about.

Back to the meal plan (or lack thereof): this week, we're working on eating the perishables in our fridge, I'll probably buy milk (DH will finish it no problem) and some yogurt with good expiration dates to have waiting for me when we get back, and grab a few fresh items to bring to my sis. To help clear out the fridge, last night, I made an Italian sausage bolognese over capellini.

Tonight, I think it's going to be provolone or havarti paninis with herb-crusted chicken and bell pepper strips, and some fresh fruit. Tomorrow - if all the leftover are gone, it's a can of soup, loaf of french bread and rotisserie chicken, or I'll grab a premade sub from Caputos. We grabbed a small one over the weekend and it was fabulous. I've already crafted my version of it, Basil Pesto Chicken Sammie on Foccacia. It's seriously divine. A sandwich worth worshipping. Not cheap, but packed with so much flavor, my mouth waters just remembering it.
I love eating fruits and veggies that are in-season. Not only is it easier on my wallet, but the taste difference is incredible. Nothing can quite match it.

So, each week this summer, I've challenged myself to try one in-season produce item I've never worked with before. Trying to slowly expand my repertoire, and reawlly learn each ingredients, I think this one-at-a-time apporach is a great way to start. So far, this week has been a peach. Literally!

I bought 6 lovely white peaches, and have begun my experiment. Almost giddy with excitement, I decided to try my hand at a summer fruit salsa. This was such a hit, I am still grinning!! Even my FIL (born in Mexico) loved it. That was truly a shocker. Super kid friendly, too - this isn't very spicy but packs tons of flavor (and vitamins, too).

That only used half the bag of peaches I had bought, so with another three lovely peaches to create with, I made a batch of bars last night, since it was finally cool enough for me to bake.

The bars are filled with diced peaches and topped with sliced, toasted almonds. It appears I have a new favorite, Summer Peach and Almond Bars. And I bought a few more peaches today, since I had done so well with the first batch. And the price of the peaches is plummeting (down to $.50 per lb.). At that rate, I'll have a plethora of peach presentations to pass along.

Next stop on my peachy-path: Ginger Poached Peaches. All of 4 ingredients will go into this creation - I'm modelling this creation on the cinnamon apples recipe a couponing friend shared with me.

All I have to do is figured out how to properly freeze them - then I'll be enjoying luscious peaches all year long. Bellini, anyone?
I love doing small lunches in the office - there are only 4 of us, 6 if we include the office suite next door - which we usually do. Life at the office has been a little dull, though rather busy lately, so I've organized another lunch at the office.

Rather than doing the tried and true Italian feast, we're going Mexican this time. With tons of fresh produce in season, this is the best time to set up a taco bar. Complete with fresh, fragrant limes, creamy Munster cheese, crisp lettuce, piles of tostadas and tortillas and a lovely peach salsa - this is a quick, cheap, easy, and fun way to have lunch - and everybody can build their own! What's not to love?

Here's how it comes together:

Ground beef ($1.39)
Ground turkey ($.79)
Cheese ($1.00)
Sour Cream ($.44)
Avocados ($.50)
Fresh Limes ($.20)
Salsa (peach salsa) ($.89)
Refried beans ($.29)
Tomatoes ($.67)
Lettuce ($.48)
Onions ($.20)
Corn ($.39)
Cilantro - ($.33)
Tostadas - ($2.35)
Tortillas - ($.50)
Lemonade - ($.25)

A simple, summer time lunch that feeds 6 to 8 people for only $10.57!!
That averages out to $1.33 to $1.77 per person. Much cheaper and healthier than ordering pizza - not to mention, you get exactly what you want on your tacos. Where can you get a deal like that? And, it includes a drink...
It was such a busy weekend, I forgot about the meal plan until today. But, that's okay - with loads of yummy leftovers from a small BBQ we had at our home for our parents, we have plenty of quick and easy meals out of some of my favorite basics. Here's what cookin'!

Tuesday: Harvarti & deli-sliced pork grilled cheese sammies, simple salad
Wednesday: French Bread Pizza topped with provolone, bell pepper, mushroom, and parmesan, served with compote of fresh peaches, raspberries, and a hint of sweet coconut
Thursday: DH's buttery chicken nuggets, chicken rice, fruit salad
Friday: Taco's with all the fixin's, tortilla chips, peach salsa
Saturday: Leftovers or sammies - DH's choice
Sunday: Grillin'! If the weather permits

Lunch of the week: leftover hotdogs, burgers, BBQ chicken drummies, red rice, mashed potatoes

Snack of the week: Whole grain tortilla chips with peach salsa

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, yogurt, fruit
I love the Greatland Target in the next town. I really do. They will scan any coupon you hand them, no b.s. required. The SuperTarget in my town...well, they are the Coupon Gestapo. Maybe that's a little harsh, but that is the nicest way I've been able to phrase it in my head. Here's why....

Monday, I heard that the Jewel (Albertson's) flyer had a coupon for $1 off 40 oz. bottles of Heinz ketchup. While I clipped 2 out of te flyers I had at home, it wasn't with any real expectation of being able to use them any time soon. That was, until I heard Target and WalMart had that very same brand and size (woo-hoo!!) on sale for $1. Hmmmm...visions of free ketchup danced in my head. Even though I'm not the biggest ketchup fan, it does come in handy for hotdogs and basic grilling. But, I digress.

After a (thankless) day at work Monday, I ran to Jewel to grab some flyers that have the manufacturer coupon in them...and another round of the ConAgra deal (7 boxes of Orville Redenbacher for $.54!!!). Then I was hot-footin' it to SuperTarget amidst a vicious snarl of rush hour traffic, compounded by road construction closing one lane of the busy street, and sweltering 90 degree temperatures. I get all excited when there actually is ketchup left on the shelf, and that should've been my first clue. Seriously, why did I get it??

I grab 5 bottles (trying to run the deal conservatively) and a package of tortillas - which we needed anyway and scamper (as much as I could at that point, anyway) to the register. I head for the spaced-out looking teenage boy cashier, but get waved over by a girl with no wait on her line. Which is fine, I'm hot, tired, and ready to be done shopping. She scans the items, scans the re-usable bag credits (love that) and I hand over my coupons while she bags.

She looks at the coupons. Then, she studies the coupons. First she tried to refuse because they were expired, until I reminded her of the current date. The coupons didn't expired until Wednesday. Her response was, "Oh..." and she flags down another associate and asks him about the coupons. At no point did she even try to scan them. It's like she had no intention of scanning the coupons at all.

The second cashier looks at the coupons and tells me I can't use them there. I ask as politely as I can at that point, "What is the problem?" He answers with, "Where did you get these coupons?" I realize at this point there is little chance of them even trying to scan the coupons, let alone allowing me to use them, so I try the educational standpoint - why aren't cashier trained in how to do their jobs? This is why I don't shop Target much anymore. I've had enough of their invasive incompetence.

I repeat, "What is the problem? Those are valid manufacturer coupons. Don't you accept manufacturer coupons?"

First cashier is trying hard to blend into the floor at this point, I'm speaking solely with the 2nd cashier (who I've had run-ins with coupons in the past). His reply, "We do accept manufacturer coupons, but we won't take them if they came from another store."

After several minutes of back and forth, I ask rather bluntly, "Are you refusing to scan these manufacturer coupons?" Finally, he admits it. He will not scan those manufacturer coupons. Then, and this is so funny even I had to laugh at this point, he asks if that will complete my order. I plaster on my biggest fake smile and tell me if you will not scan my coupons you will not get my business. I wait for the to empty the items out of my reusable bag and exit. Furious. I've now wasted nearly an hour at SuperTarget.

What's ironic? I go to the Greatland Target less than 4 miles down the same road and grab 8 bottles of ketchup, some Dove deoderant and hand over my stack of coupons. The cashier scans every single one of them. And I had 2 coupons for each Dove item (store and manufacturer), plus for all the ketchup. It was that easy. No questioning, no arguing, no justifying - she simply scanned them.

All total, I spent $13.15 for:

4 Dove 2.6 oz. deoderant - reg. price $3.49
2 25.xx bottles Dove Body Wash reg. price $5.99
2 loofahs reg. price $1.99
10 bottles of ketchup reg. price $2.49
I think aioli is going to be the theme for my sammies this summer! With endless possibilities and variations - I challenge everyone to never eat another boring sandwich!!

Okay, so I'm a little excited about how easy this is. In the summer, a simple (but flavorful) sammie (or sandwich, if you prefer) is just the ticket to an easy weekday dinner or an awesome weekend lunch. Also, great for some kickin' picnics, too. This also makes Leftover Makeovers a snap - add grilled meat, some cheese, and some good bread - presto...a taste-bud tantalyzing treat.

Here's how I roll:

1 lb. grilled steak, sliced thin ($1.29)
4 sub rolls (heartier ones work best, but any will do) ($1.35)
4 slices Provolone cheese (any would work, I like the flavor of provolone with grilled meat) ($.25)
1/3 C. shredded carrot ($.25)
1 1/2 C. shredded lettuce ($.22)

3 T. light mayo (free after coupons)
1 tsp. olive oil ($.10)
pinch of garlic salt ($.05)
1/4 roasted red bell pepper, minced ($.10)
pinch of rosemary (optional) ($.05)

Mix together, until well combined. Chill for 5-10 minutes.

Spread sauce (aioli) on sub rolls, layer in meat, cheese, veggies.
Serve immediately.

Yields = 4 sammies or 8 sammie halves
Cost: $3.66
Cost per sandwich: $.92
Summer snacking and lunches: here we come! Jewel is running a $25 get $10 OYNO sale this week on ConAgra products. The tomatoes aren't much of a deal (regular price of $1.20 - on sale for $1 - I want a bigger price spread than that to make it worth my while), but the popcorn and soup sure are! Here's what I got:

Transactions 1-4
13 cans Healthy Choice soup (14-15 oz.) regular price $2.00 - on sale 10 for $10, get the 11th item free
Total = $12.04 - get $10 OYNO
Total spent: $18.16 - plus $10 OYNO coupon
Saved: $132.12

Transaction 5-8
7 Orville Redenbacher popcorn (cheddar, light, movie theater, butter flavors work for sure) regular price $3.59 - on sale for $1.69
$2.14 per transaction - I just rolled the coupon in to the next order.
Total OOP: $8.56
Total Saved: $91.96
plus one $10 OYNO coupon still in my pocket!!

Total Spent at Jewel: $26.72 for 80 items or $.33 per item.
Total saved: $224.08

Butera has some crazy good deals going on, too, right now to celebrate the re-grand opening or remodeling or something like that of one of their stores - I couldn't pass up:

(all are limit one unless otherwise indicated)
$.99 a gallon milk
$.99 64 oz. Dean's Orange Juice
$.39 dozen large eggs (Limit 2)
$3.99 - 3 lb. bag frozen chicken breast (limit 2)
$.29 lb. bananas - (limit 2 bunches)
$1.99 lb. boneless beef rump or rolled pork roast (no limit) - I grabbed one (I'll roast it and slice it with my meat slicer for some amazing deli meat)
BOGOFree Margarine (no limit) $1.05
3/$1 Hass avocados (limit 6)
$.99 head lettuce

Total Spent $27.16
Total Saved: $21.74

Total OOP: $53.88
I'm glad I had Sunday to rest, this was a crazy busy week and weekend and it felt good to get some well-needed downtime. For this coming week - I'm looking forward to a slower pace, some lighter meals, and catching up on my rest before Memorial Day weekend. I hope there are some great coupon deals, I'm hoping it will be as good as last year.

Monday: mini-date with hubby
Tuesday: Steak sammies with a sundried tomato aioli on hard rolls, garden salad, strawberries
Wednesday: Grilled chicken-topped garden salad, garlic bread or quesadillas
Thursday: dinner at DaMama's
Friday: Breakfast wraps, bananas, hashbrowns, juice

Dessert of the week: White chocolate raspberry bars

Lunch of the week: Ham or roasted pork tenderloin sammies, beans and red rice

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, yogurt, granola bars, fresh fruit
On the way home from work, I popped in to Dominicks to grab another round of the cheap cereal.

Quaker Life and Captain Crunch cereal (12-15 oz. boxes) were on sale for $1 a box when you buy 4 or more. Which is a great deal in itself. But I made it a little sweeter by adding in some $3/5 Quaker product coupons from Butera flyer back in March (expired, but Dominicks takes those!)

If that wasn't sweet enough, I had a $4 catalina left from grabbing some Kellogg's cereal when the national catalina was running.

10 boxes of Captain Crunch = $10 plus $.22 tax
- $3/5 Quaker product coupon (x2) = -$6
- $4 OYNO catalina coupon = -$4
My total = $.22 (tax)
Savings = 100%!!

I still have one more catalina, a $3 catalina from Jewel that I believe is expired = looks like more free cereal for me. No question on what's for breakfast...cereal isn't a question in my life anymore, it's an answer - the only question is: which box do I open next??
Do you ever catch yourself eying the mouth-watering choices of amazing spices at the grocery store? You know the ones....small, beautiful jar, fancy tag with flowing writing, and it typically costs more than the cut of meat you're going to put it on. I love using spices and marinades in my cooking. Luckily for me, I grabbed a few dozen bottles of marinade for free after coupon. Unfortunately, the spice blends don't tend to come down in price often.

The good news? With a dozen or so basic spices and a few pantry basics, it's possible to have a variety of amazing spice blends to choose from. Over at Eat From Your Pantry, there is a great post about seasoning blends - it's truly amazing how many different blends you can make with ingredients you probably have on hand already. Trust me - it's as easy as:

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Spice

Kansas City Style Rib Rub

Budget 101 - they have 164 different spice blend recipes!!

Taco Seasoning

Ranch Dressing Mix

Unless I stumble onto another freebie seasoning deal (which this is the right time of year for), I have plenty of resources to help me get the same flavorful punch for a lot less money. As for marinades, I haven't spent too much time learning how to make my own. In my defense, when they're plentiful and free, there is really no incentive to make my own. When the deals run out, I'll be posting marinade recipes, but until then - I'm resting on my laurels, or at least resting on a full stockpile that includes more than a dozen different marinades.
The graduation party for my hubby was last weekend - and even though much got changed about where/how of the party, we all had a great time. Even hubby's 92-year-old grandfather was there for the party!! We've got plenty of leftover food, so I will only be planning to cook 2 meals this week. Here's what I'm planning:

Monday: Deli-sliced garlic roasted pork tenderloin sammies, baked bean casserole, potato salad, spinach salad, baby carrots - all leftover from party

Tuesday: Ham and swiss grilled sammies, celery sticks, chips/potato salad - all leftover from party

Wednesday: Cream of mushroom soup, garlic toast, spinach salad

Thursday: Ham, potato salad, baked bean casserole, baby carrots, celery sticks, sweet spinach salad with strawberries and raspberry vinagrette - all leftover from party

Friday: Anniversary party - don't need to cook!

Saturday: Grilling time! If the weather fails us and it's cooler, then it's BBQ-glazed chicken drummies, mashed potatoes, and salad

Sunday: Minestrone soup (using all my leftover veggies), garlic bread, crisp Romaine salad with cheddar and toasted almonds

Lunch of the week: It's all about the party leftovers, for a variation, we also have some spaghetti noodles cooked to go with our choice of pasta sauce (still have lots of the freebies from Ragu back in March)

Breakfast of the week: Yogurt, Cereal, granola bars, oatmeal - I'm sticking to easy stuff this week

Dessert of the week: Banana Nut Bread

What do you think of when you hear that word? When I was younger (much younger), cereal was a treat - we had cereal once in a rare blue moon. Being raised by a single mom with 3 kids, and half the neighborhood eating at our place, that might have something to do with it.

Then, before I started couponing, cereal was a siphon in my wallet, carefully, thoroughly sucking out the few dollars I had for our weekly grocery shopping. Hey, regular priced cereal costs more per pound than meat or produce - and you can't stretch it as far. Believe me, I've tried.

Now, cereal is funny. It's hilarious. It's almost an event. Sometimes it's even a joke.

The conversation starts like this:

"I think I want something to nibble on." (DH)
"Hmmmm..." (me, distracted by the tv, a good book, magazine, or playing on the computer) "cookies?"
DH shakes his head
"Leftovers?" I reply, raising an eyebrow
DH laughs
"Cereal?" Knowing full well he wouldn't go for my first two options, didn't matter what they were. Oh, and there were no cookies, anyway.
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking." Like I could hear his thoughts from across the room - they just took some time getting to me. Might've got lost somewhere around the edge of the coffee table.

Then comes the long pause. (Don't worry, I was wiating for it.) DH ambles into the kitchen. "Which one?" Here's why I find it funny:

Once upon a time, there was no concept of which one - there was one box, and it was usually almost-empty. Now, there are more than a dozen different kinds on hand at all times. Hubby scratches his wondering for a few seconds, before finally deciding which one and going down to the pantry in the basement to get it. Though, in most scenarios, he'll offer to grab me a fresh box of cereal too. (Since our tastes are rather different - me = Honey Bunches of Oats....him = Froot Loops.)

Now, there's a killer sale at Dominicks on cereal. Not that I really need more, but at these prices, I can't pass it up. I can get Captain Crunch for $.40 a box. There are other deals to be had, but for that one alone - I'll be out shopping.

Got to love my funny, frugal life...
Oh, and for details on the cheap cereal - go HERE.
I know it sounds a little crazy, but I'm a body wash addict. I truly am. I love getting the newest flavor/scent to come out, and I love trying all the different variations that have hit the market. And, thankfully, coupons allow me my addiction. Even though I have more than a dozen free bottles of Suave left, that hasn't stopped me from grabbing a few more brands and scents to pick from.

Last night, I grabbed a bottle of Nivea from Target and last week it was a bottle of Nivea from WalGreens and a bottle of SoftSoap body wash from WalGreens (it was only $.99) in a lovely Sweet Honeysuckle scent. I know I need to be stopped, but I can't get over all the delicious choices that are available. Who could honestly resist? Obviously, not me...

When I was putting away the new bottles of body wash last night and noticed that I have 15-20 different scents to choose from - I had to laugh. No two were the same scent/brand. From Cashmere to Pomegranate, from Cucumber Melon to Peach Silk - I've got a crazy, amazing variety to pick from. Now, when I get to pick the next one to try, I'll probably spend 15-20 minutes trying to decide which one I'm "in the mood" for. I'm worse than a kid at a candy store!

It's a good thing that we have two separate vanities cabinets in the master bathroom - I'm going to have to turn one of them into a place to store my burgeoning body wash collection. It's a good thing I coupon, or I'd have invested a fortune into my addiction. And my current bottle of Suave's Wild Cherry Blossom is almost gone! I'll admit that I'm pondering which one to pick next...

Tell me - what do you love to buy? And, do coupons help make your addiction affordable?
Mother's Day Brunch was a wonderful success - so successful that there are hardly any leftovers! Only a meal worth of hashbrowns is left in my fridge, so this meal plan I have to start from scratch.

Monday: Homemade pizza, salad
Tuesday: Bib-lettuce salad topped with chicken, crumbled mozzarella, and homemade croutons
Wednesday: Dinner at DaMamas
Thursday: Cream of mushroom soup (I'm making it from scratch), homemade biscuits, salad
Friday: Tacos with all the fixins, chips and guacamole/salsa
Saturday: Date-night
Sunday: Graduation Party for DH! I'll post the full menu for that tomorrow.

Breakfast of the week: Frittata & hashbrowns, cereal, yogurt, oatmeal. Plenty of choices there!

Lunch of the week: sammies, tacos, or soup

Dessert of the week: Cookies - I'll bake some tonight.
Have you heard that tomorrow is Stamp Out Hunger Day? What is that and what does it mean? Stamp Out Hunger is a nation-wide movement to help restock our food pantries and empower each community to help stamp out hunger. What makes it even better - your postman will be picking up donations of non-perishable items to help fill local food pantries across the country! How much easier can it get? All you have to do is put together a bag or two of non-perishables and leave them by the mailbox tomorrow.

Couponing for Community is also promoting a rally for all couponers to donate some of their well-shopped goodies to help fight hunger in your local community. All I can say is - I'm all in! Let's see if the power of couponers (and women) working together can make a difference where we need it most - locally.

Or, just share how you donate to family, friends, community, etc. to help combat hunger. Tell me - where do you donate? How do you donate? What do you prefer to donate? Is this a favorite cause of yours?

For me, I donate first to family and friends - I like to think that what I give helps keep a family or two from needing state-run services. I also donate to the food pantry monthly - my goal is to donate $5 or less in items and I mostly give freebies that I've overstocked on, though I do give family first pick of the goodies. I try to give 20-30 items each month, more when my stockpile is overflowing. I also donate unneeded household items to Goodwill - that I do seasonally (5-6 times per year or as often as I try to weed out, clean up, or make space).

For me, helping the food pantry is a very near-and-dear-to-my-heart cause. I want to see this country stamp out hunger across the nation and the only way we can do that is by working together. The greatest part to me is, it doesn't have to cost a fortune to help. As we've seen - through amazing coupon deals - it shouldn't cost us more than a few dollars. And what may seem small at first, will have a huge impact if we work together!
I heard through a few blogging buddies that Lane Bryant was offering a free camisole (no purchase required), so last night, DaMama and I went out to do a little shopping.

We needed to go to a neighboring town to pick up some thread for a sewing project of hers and conveniently, a Lane Bryant is in that same plaza! We used a coupon for 40% off to pick up the thread (a savings of $2.51), and while we were browsing around, looking at different materials, I found some beautiful denim with cream colored, scrolling stitiching on it - that was 50% off! While that was a good price, we didn't realize until we got to the cutting table that it was ringing up 75% off!! For that price, we took all the fabric that was left. It's going to make some amazingly cute (and sturdy) re-usable shopping bags. I've already placed my order with DaMama for another set of bags. I just cannot seem to have enough of them!

Then we popped in to Lane Bryant and each grabbed a free camisole (regular retail price of $19.50!). The girls at the register we also handing out couposn for 40% off one regular priced item, which came in handy, too. I have been eying their new johnny-colored tee shirts for a few weeks now, and with that extra percent off, I treated myself to a $15.00 splurge of a new, pretty tee.

After Lane Bryant, we popped in to Butera on the way home and I picked up deli-style chunks of cheese for $1.98 lb. (munster and mozzarella), a small package of chicken breast ($1.59 lb.), some chicken leg quarters ($.69 lb.), some $1.69 lb. Italian sausage (bulk or rope style), and a small loaf of garlic bread ($.99). The cheese, chicken, and sausage are great staples to have on hand for making homemade pizzas, and the bread was put to use right away for dinner last night. I also scored a container of heavy cream (8 oz.) for only $.79 - this will come in handy for the chicken and gnocchi soup - I'm doing my take on Olive Garden's classic soup for Mother's Day Brunch.

My total spending for the night was only $37.28 for a camisole, tee-shirt, pizza toppings that will last us 3-4 months (if we make pizza every week), chicken that can double in a lot of recipes, and enough fabric for a fabulous pair of shopping bags that will be able to withstand the use I plan to get out of them.

We had dinner at DaMama's - tomato basil penne with ground turkey and mushrooms (most of ingredients were free from stockpile), watched some TV, and talked to my sister on the phone.

Later on last night, I started a load of laundry after 11pm (cheaper rates - check with your electrical company on what are your off-peak hours are for maximum savings), and started the dishwasher after 11 pm, too.

I'll post pictures of the new bags as soon as they are done (probably in a week or two) - I am so excited to see the finished result!
Has anyone else noticed this trend, or maybe it's just me...

Some of the most common examples for me are: when you invite someone over and somehow your invitation becomes interpreted (and I use this word loosely) to mean going out...often at your expense. Or when you hear someone saying that while they like your/someone else's sentiment, they would really prefer something more meaningful (read: expensive, high quality, etc. etc. - and half the time they name the brand, store, eatery, etc. that they would prefer). I don't know if this is simply a rash of bad manners, or if people really feel that entitled to your's or someone elses's money that this seems perfectly acceptable. I call this trend: Trading Up.

My first irritant: anniversary parties that morph into the couple renewing their vows, dressed as if it's their first wedding, and they expect gifts. Nothing sentimental there when I read that they were not registered anywhere, they prefer monetary gifts. While I planned to attend the event (for lack of a better word) and give a small token to the couple, when I read the part about monetary gifts only, I was not only shocked, but more than a bit put-off. I'm so embarrassed for the couple, to be so rude - am I the only one that thinks that? Am I old-fashioned for thinking that a gift is what someone chooses to give you, not what you tell someone to give?

My most common irritant: dinner, lunch, brunch, etc. invitation that people decide to set their own time frame for/change the venue entirely - sometimes on the day of. Yes, this has happened, more times that I care to remember. It's almost become the norm now - to invite over a couple or some friends and have them tell you what time they'll be coming - even though your invitation clearly stated when you had asked them over. I wouldn't mind someone asking if I could change the start time, but I am a little fed-up with people that tell me when the start time would be. Often, I'll invite a group/couple over for dinner and what happens is they somehow interpret this as us all going out to dinner at a (typically expensive) restaurant that they have chosen, occasionally with additional guests included (by the other group/couple) and the additional guests do not expect to pay.

Am I within my rights as a hostess to get fed-up with these behaviors? With Mother's Day looming large around the corner, I'm waiting for that to happen. While I love to hostess an event (and I'm eagerly anticipating hostessing a lovely Mother's Day Brunch) and have held many events successfully, I find that some guests are so accustomed to being catered to, that the invitation given gets re-interpreted to suit their lifestyle, rather than being accepted or politely declined at face-value.

Tell me, has this happened to you? Have you witnessed Trading Up? I'd love to hear your stories!
I'm hosting a Mother's Day Brunch this year - and I'm getting so excited! I've never hosted a true "brunch" before, so I've evaluated a few of my favorite recipes, grabbed some amazing ideas off the food network (naturally...I love that channel!), and I think I'm ready to tackle this event. It was hard trying to narrow down my choices, but in the end - I think I've paired a few rich and savory favorites with a few sweet and light options.

Most of my hosting experience lies with holiday dinners (rich and traditional favorites), backyard BBQ's (tons of easy options in that category), or smallish dinner parties (just whip out an old favorite or two with some nice bread and salad), so creating the menu has been challenging - I don't want the meal to be too heavy, but I don't want anyone going home unsatisfied.

So, tell me - how does this sound? I've also itemized how much this brunch will cost - and if these seems like a lot of options, I've invited my mother, DH's mother, DH's aunts (3-4 of them), DH's grandmother, and their families. The exact number is around 18-22 people. I won't know until Thursday-Friday how many people to expect.

Chicken & Gnocchi Soup (will post this recipe tomorrow - have to find it first)

Boston Spinach Salad $3.15

Tea Sandwiches $1.67

Munster and Sausage Frittata $2.62 (will make a double batch)

Hashbrowns $1.80 (will make a double batch)

White Chocolate Raspberry Scones $2.12

Banana Nut Bread $1.83

Grapes ($2.00)
Fresh strawberries ($1.50)
Coffee, tea, juice = $8.00

I'm currently at $24.69 for this entire meal (not including soup), but if I don't need to double up on some recipes, I'll make the soup - it's rich, but a little goes a very long way. It would pair nicely with the tea sandwiches and the salad, and the white chocolate raspberry scones - I think those will steal the show! Ever since I learned how to make scones - they've been at the top of my favorites list! Elegant, sweet, and savory - here's hoping this event will be a success!

So tell me, what are you doing for your mother or what do you hope someone is doing for you on Mother's Day?
Getting ready to kick off another week - with a brunch on Sunday in honor of Mother's Day. I'll post my Mother's Day brunch menu tomorrow - I just want to tweak a few favorite recipes for the occasion. For the rest of the week - here's what we're eating:

Monday: Grilled cheese and tomato soup (trying to use up milk that expires tomorrow)
Tuesday: Caribbean Jerk marinated grilled chicken, fried rice, salad
Wednesday: Happy Cinqo de Mayo!! Tacos with all the fixin's, red rice, beans, chips and guacamole
Thursday: Swiss and mushroom omelets, fresh berries, toast, hashbrowns
Friday: Homemade chicken nuggets, Pasta-Roni, salad, corn
Saturday: Chinese takeout
Sunday: Mother's Day Brunch

Dessert of the week: Chocolate chip cookies
Breakfast of the week: Cereal, cinnamon raisin toast, yogurt, egg sammies
Lunch of the week: Leftover spaghetti, fried rice with stirfried veggies, or tacos
The last two days were a whirlwind of Jewel catalina shopping! Their $25/$10 (spend $25 get $10 in coupons OYNO) was insane! The Healthy Choice soups, normally $2.80 each, were on sale for $1 a piece! How did that work out? It worked out to 11 transactions, 105 free cans of soup, a few free cans of spaghetti sauce, 2 free bottles of Lipton 1.5L tea (I'm hopelessly addicted to those! My biggest weakness...), 6 reusable bags filled to the brim, and a pair of tired couponers!

Can you believe I did all that in a little more than 24 hours? I can't. Imagine if I had my sorry butt motivated earlier on in the sale? I'd have double that number of soup, I'd guess. I spoke to my sister last night and told her what I'd gathered, that I hoped she could use a few more cans of soup. I've already sent a half dozen home with DaMama - my mom, co-conspirator, couponing buddy, and inspiration extraordinare.

Heck, we were so good, we erven got it all put away last night, too. After a big shopping trip like that, I tend to get lazy about putting it all away. Usually, I wait until the weekend and put away stuff while working on laundry. It's a good feeling to know that it's all organized (by flavor), put away on the shelf (in order of expiration date), and it's one less job to do another day.

Tonight - I'll probably pop into Dominick's on the way home to grab some Kraft salad dressing ($.99 - limit three) with some expired coupons and see if I can do a little stacking action. Nothing wrong with that!

I've got tons of bread on hand this week, so that will form nearly half the meals that I'm making. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate for grilling this past weekend - so, I have to start from scratch on meals this week. Here's how it's looking:

Monday: Garlic baked chicken, angel hair pasta, garlic bread, salad
Tuesday: Ginger Stirfry, fried rice (this has quickly become a staple in our meal rotation)
Wednesday: Fancy French Toast, fresh fruit, ham, juice
Thursday: Homemade pizza, salad, garlic bread
Friday: Spaghetti, garlic bread
Saturday: DH's turn to cook (and plan!)
Sunday: TBD

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, bananas, egg sammies (with Sourdough English muffins), yogurt, granola bars

Lunch of the week: Sandwiches! And for some variety, I'll boil some pasta tonight to toss with jarred sauce to give us some choices.

Dessert of the week: Brownies
DH & I moved into a great 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom townhouse last spring and have been slowly getting things to finish our new space. The dressers we had at the last house were in bad condition (Ikea-made and falling apart), so we offered those up for free on craigslist and found takers for both - but we have been fueling more money to our savings and haven't found a dresser that we liked enough to pay for. Luckily, my in-laws were looking to get rid of a simple 6-drawer, white dresser that they no longer had space for. It works perfectly for us. It fits in the closet, right under the shelves and clothing bar. It even matches the same (boring...) white style that's already in place. I love it! And I won't have to keep hunting for my socks - an even bigger bonus.

Also, they bought new living-room furniture (from the same place we did a few months back), and were kind enough to offer us their old stuff, since we were looking for basement furniture. Unfortunately, the big sofa won't even fit down our basement stairs (we've listed that on craigslist now to see if we can find a new home for it), and I'm sure by next week, the sofa will have found a new home and we'll have added some dollars to our furniture fund. We've also added a coffee table (that I hope to be able to give to my sister next time she comes to visit), and a reading chair for the master bedroom.

I'm slowly seeing the home come together. This morning, DH & I went to Menards to grab some replacement shelves for our big bookcases - the cheap particle-board was warping from the weight of actual books, so they had to be replaced. For less than the cost of a single bookshelf - we've made 3 bookshelves fully functional again. The best part? Being able to find the book I want when I actually want to read it!

All these home improvements and we haven't even spent $50! And, we're keeping stuff out of the trash, garbage, landfill, etc. etc. etc. It feels good to save money and help the planet - even if it's only on a small scale. For our entertainment tonight, we're off to Half-Price Books and I'll see what good reads I can snap up in the clearance section - why buy a book new when it reads just the same when its used?

How has your weekend been? Any good projects done on the cheap? Any planet-saving tips to share?

The Jewel Lawry's catalina is officially rolling - I bought my first 2 transactions worth on my way to work this morning - while there was still some teriyaki on the shelf - but, not for long! The Herb & Garlic was already empty, so there must be other houds in my vicinity that picked it clean of that flavor long before I got to the store.

Here's what I spent:
4 Lawry's Marinades
-$.50/1 Q
Spent: $3.23
Saved: $9.32

Transaction #2
4 Lawry's Marinades
-$3.00 OYNO cat that printed out from the first order
OOP: $1.10 (I hate how high the taxes are!)
Saved: $11.52

Total OOP: $4.33
Total Saved: $20.84

I can live with that. I hope to get another 12-16 bottles - to get me stocked up for the BBQ season again! My supply from last year is pretty sparce - just a few of te funkier flavors left (Mesquite Lime, Mexican Chile & Lime, etc.). All my basics are gone: teriyaki, garlic & herb, lemon pepper, etc.
Jewel's got some decent deals starting tomorrow with a $25/$10 Conagra catalina deal starting, then on April 23rd, the Lawry's Marinade catalina starts running! And you know me - I love a good marinade! With all the summer grilling we'll be doing, it's never to early to get stocked up for a fun-filled, BBQ-every-weekend, try-some-funky-fresh recipes summer!

A big thank you to Couponing for 4 for all the great deals!

Want a new twist with a marinade? Try this:

Tangy Tacos with Lime

2/3 C. Mesquite Lime Marinade (free after coupons)
1/2 tsp. cumin ($.10)
1 medium onion, finely chopped ($.15)
1 lb. ground meat (beef or chicken would work, I use ground turkey) ($1.00)
2 cloves garlic, minced ($.15)

In a large skillet, add onions and ground meat, cook together until meat is browned and onion is tender and translucent. Add in cumin and garlic, cook an additional 2-3 minutes to incorporate. Stir in marinade and cook 3-5 minutes until the meat absorbs the liquid.

Serve with shredded lettuce, salsa, cheese, refried beans, and tortillas.
Cilantro is optional.

Yields = 4 servings
Cost: $1.40
Cost per serving: $.35 per serving
This is easily a meal under $5 to feed a family of 4! The best part is - it's absolutely brimming with lots of fresh flavors, and ready in under 30 minutes!

My good friends over at Colonial Cafe are going it again - $.50 ice cream cones for the month of April! Last year, they ran this special in July and I was there almost daily! The ice cream is simply amazing, if you're a butter pecan fan - Colonial's is the best I've ever had. Such a graet treat for the kids, for the adults, just a little something to brighten everyone's day - after all...who said you have to have dinner before having ice cream?
This is going to be an easy week due to some crazy schedules! DH is out of town for the first 2 days, has class the next two days, and he and I will finally have dinner together Friday. So, I'll be solo for Monday-Thursday. To keep me focused (and out of drive-through), here's my meal plan:

Monday: Fancy French Toast, sausage, strawberries
Tuesday - Szechuan pork with fried rice (leftover from Date Night Saturday)
Wedesday: Leftover spaghetti (from office lunch Monday), garlic bread, salad
Thursday - dinner at DaMama's
Friday - Ginger Stirfry, fried rice
Saturday - Grilled chicken teriyaki, angel hair pasta (Pasta-Roni), salad
It's been a whirlwind of blogs this past week - I visited dozens if not hundreds of new blogs and found many new sources of inspiration in my favorite areas: frugal living, cooking, baking, couponing, eco-friendly, and organizing. This was my first year participating in the Ultimate Blog Party, I had so much fun and can't wait to participate in next year's event. For now, I'm eager to read the new blogs I'm following and though I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite, here are a few of the new blogs I'm inspired by:

But I had a coupon... - The title of this is a phrase I've said countless times! With tons of good deals and coupons posted, I must admit - I'll be back again and again.

Life's A Beach - I love the open, honest approach Bridgett takes to life. It's so refreshing!

Chicago Mommy - Lots of local deals makes this blog a winner to me!

I do want to give 4 Hats and Frugal a special thank you - I stumbled onto the Ultimate Blog Party after reading one of her posts and I have had such a blast!
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Just a few thoughts for a flavorful weekend:

1. It's easy to order a pizza, but a homemade pizza (even with a not-so-homemade crust) is so much tastier! And, you don't get charged extra for the toppings...

2. In the mood for some awesome sammies? Check out this post on my other blog, Chicago's Cookbook on making your own deli meat at home. The difference is in the price and the flavor!

3. Feeling a little lazy? Take a cake mix, and turn it into a fabulous batch of bars. The amazing thing? This is a lowfat recipe, sure to tantalize your tastebuds at every turn. And, who doesn't have a few cake mixes laying around?

Double Chocolate Brownies
Vanilla Nut Swirl Bars

4. A simple smoothie is but a blender away! Add your favorite fruit, yogurt, juice, and splash of milk and you've got a great, healthy dessert that you and your kids can enjoy!

5. Treat some valuable time at home. With all the rushing around during the week, it's time to relax, kick back, play a board game, talk to your family, read a book/magazine/newspaper until the fireflies are twinkling in the yard. Then, it's time to go catch some! No fireflies yet? Watch a movie that you've been meaning to see. There is always something fun to do!

What are your Flavorful Friday favorites?

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