It looks like our buddies at Butera are trying to imitate Meijer. They're having a 10 for $10, get the 11th item FREE sale. While much on this list doesn't exactly knock my socks off, here are some of the deals and steals I found lurking inside:

8 oz. fresh mushrooms
64 oz. Old Orchard apple juice cocktail
1 lb. baby carrots, peeled
Progresso Soup Classics (select varieties only!)
14-15 oz. cans Del Monte canned fruit, select varieties
1.5 L. Lipton Teas
17 oz. pkg. Racconto Potato Gnocchi - (I'm going to try to make my own version of Olive Garden's Chicken Gnocci soup - I love that stuff!!)
Food Club Graham Cracker Crust (it's half the price that I usually see at Aldi's)
12 oz. can frozen Old Orchard Juice concentrate - select varieties
8 oz. Food Club cream cheese
24 oz. Del Monte ketchup
6 count Food Club English Muffins
11-12 oz. Bagels Forever (probably a 4-6 count pkg.)
200 ct. Valutime Coffee Filters
7-16 oz. Land of Lakes margarine or buttery spread
6 count Food Club toaster pastries
3 ct. Food Club microwave popcorn
5 oz. New York TEXAS TOAST croutons

This is a good price if you need some of the items now, there are a few I'll pick up now, but for some, I'm just going to wait and see if Jewel has a better deals in the coming weeks - a Conagra catalina promo should be right around the corner!

Also on sale at Butera:
3/$1 lb. bananas - limit 1 bunch
$1.69 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast - limit 2 pkgs.
$1.98 lb. unsliced mozzarella (half or whole deli-style block)
$.99 lb. split chicken breasts
$1.98 lb. Bavarian smoked ham, sliced at the deli counter
$2.98 lb. Munster, Quesadilla, or Brick cheese, sliced at the deli counter
I managed to get to 3 stores, make 6 transactions both before and after work - look at all the goodies I got for less than 1/2 my weekly grocery budget:

Jewel transaction #1:
6 cans Campbell's Chunky soup $.99 each
- $.50/2 Campbell's Chunky soup coupons (x3)
OOP: $4.64

Jewel Transaction #2:
6 cans Campbell's Chunky soup $.99 each

Dominicks transaction #1:
5 boxes General Mills cereal $1.50 (wyb in multiples of 3)
1 box Captain Crunch $1.00 (wyb in multiples of 3)
1 pint blueberries $.99
1 bag salad shreds $.99
1 box BC instant potatoes $.99
-$.40 BC potatoes
-$1 Honey Cheerios (x2)
-$1.50/3 GM cereals
-$2.50 catalina
OOP: $5.83

Dominicks transaction #2:
Pork Loin - unsliced $.99 lb. (regularly $4.99 lb.) $5.41
Boneless Pork Sirloin Chop $.99 lb. (regularly $3.99 lb.) $4.70
-$5.00 expired catalina from Jewel
OOP: $5.34

4 Tony's Pizzas (small size) $.99 each
2 jars Fisher Peanut Butter $1.29 each
-$1.00 Fisher product over 4 oz. (x2)
-$1/2 Tony's Pizza (x2)
-$.05 bag credit - love reusable bags!!
OOP: $2.64

Coupons spent: $15.90
Total item count: 29
Total OOP: $24.49
This averages out to $.84 per item, but since this includes meat, I'm pretty happy with that total!
Since I've learned to coupon, I've been more than willing to teach anyone that is interested in learning how to coupon. Some days, I like to think I've made a convert here and there, but one person I've taken under my wing with couponing has me rather confused. Let me explain....

Through mutual acquaintances, I met this girl who, like most people that I meet, couldn't believe the kind of deals I was able to get. Naturally, I offered her some online information, the places I look for the deals, where to find the good coupons, a basic outline of how the system works - I even broke it down store by store across our area. I thought that would give her a healthy start.

A few days later she calls, says she doesn't really understand, would I mind showing her. I set up a time to go out shopping with her - just to show a few stores, and some decent deals. By the end of that long, exhausting evening, we've hit every grocery store in the area and when we wrap up the evening, she says, "So, how about the same time next week?" We both have a good laugh.

I have done this more than a few times before, so I wasn't that surprised by the request. It usually takes 2-3 trips before my "student" feels confident to tackle it on their own. What surprises me now, nothing has changed. I don't know if I just wasn't able to teach her, or if she didn't really want to learn...

Now I try to keep her in the loop - like I do with all my fellow couponers, but instead of being able to take the information I give her and do the deals, I'm told she's too busy, no money, has a work commitment, pre-scheduled appointment, plans with family and friends, etc. and as often as not, could I just go and do the deals for her. Once or twice, I wouldn't mind grabbing a few things for a friend, but lately that isn't what it feels like. What she says is I'm too busy or I don't have the money, what I hear: my time is more important to me and I don't need the deals that bad. Which is just fine, but then why ask me to do them for you? My money and my time are important, which is why I do the deals in the first place! Like I don't have enough of my own stuff to me, I am more than capable to keeping myself busy without someone else's errands. My apologies if a certain amount of my frustration is peeking through.

Has this ever happened to anyone else out there? While I try to understand that couponing isn't for everyone, I find it so hard to fathom why someone who is looking to save money isn't able to learn this system and help themselves or their family. I know it took me some time to learn it, but I didn't have anyone in person that was teaching me - I just had a message board on, some people giving suggestions that I thought I could use, and I managed to figure it out. I'm not saying that everyone learns or should learn the same way, I am at a loss for how I should handle this situation.

Any suggestions? I could definitely use some help right about now!
DH & I popped in to Barnes & Noble and found oodles of goodies - all for $2 an item. This includes: board games (Worst Case Scenario: Office Edition was one of them), books (paperback and hard cover), some handheld electronic games (Guitar Hero - there were plenty of those floating around), cookbooks, kids books, and the list could easily go on.

I grabbed a Favorite Brand Name cookbook (it's one of my favorite cookbook publishers), a hardcover book, and 2 games - all for $8.68. If you need to grab some gifts for teens, tweens, and even adults/family gifts - this is a great time to stock up! Too bad a sale like this (for Barnes and Noble) only comes along once a year....

After that, we went to Caputo's and grabbed Fisher peanut butter for $.49 a jar. I grabbed 6, but will go back to day to score a few more. I ordered some coupons off of Ebay (20 of the $1 Fisher coupons) using a free $5 Paypal gift card from swagbucks - so the coupons were free, there is no limit on the peanut butter - last time I saw a sale on this, I had 40 coupons and the peanut butter was $.99 a jar. And I used every last coupon, too! Naturally, that's almost gone by now. Looks liek the sale popped up just in time. I love it when that happens.
DH & I have gone through most of the leftovers today, so it's time for our weekly meal-plan!

Monday - leftovers
Tuesday - Dinner at DaMama's - she's baking a ham! Yummy!!
Wednesday - Pulled chicken sammies, baked potatoes, green beans
Thursday - Tomato basil soup, garlic cheese bread
Friday - Pizza, garlic bread, salad
Saturday - dinner in Chicago at Nuevo Leon - best enchiladas con mole I've ever had!
Sunday - Spaghetti with Italian sausage & peppers, salad

Breakfast of the week: cereal, oatmeal, fresh fruit (unless I make the banana bread tonight)

Dessert of the week: Almond-topped brownies, ice cream

Snack of the week: Wheat Thins, apples 'n' peanut butter, trail mix
$.99 lb. for the following items:
Pork loin rib half-sliced
Smoked Shank 1/2 ham
Boneless Sirloin Pork Chops
Honeysuckle or Jennie-O Turkey Breast (bone-in)
Baby carrots
Green onions
Navel Oranges
Gala Apples

Also $.99:
Fresh Express salad shreds and mix
pint of blueberries
Filone Artisan Breads (love the Asiago one!!)
5 lb. Russet potatoes

Other Deals:

$.88 6-8 oz. pkgs. Pepperridge Farm goldfish
$.77 2L 7-Up products

Buy 3 Save $3 instantly on selected cereals (remember to use your expired coupons on this!!) Limit 18 boxes per cardholder, per transaction


Mango Pork Tenderloin

Ham and Mashed Potatoes

Orange Pepper Turkey Breast

Dijon Pork Chops

Turkey & Spinach Salad

Ham & Potato Casserole

Apple Crisp

Blueberry Blonde Brownies

Blueberry Muffins
It's been a while since I've seen enough good eals to do this - but, by golly - Caputo's has enough deals on stuff to make it a one-stop shopping trip to get you set for the week. I've got a list of items on sale, and a menu (click on each entree to go to the recipe) that combines quick and easy, not just in the store, but in the kitchen!

$.99 lb. pork roast
$.89 lb. roasting bell peppers
$1.49 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
$.79 La Bella Romana pasta (12-16 oz. pkgs.)
$1.49 18 oz. Fisher Peanut Butter
2/$1 heads of: Boston, Romaine, Red, or Green Leaf Lettuce
$.59 lb. Anjou Pears
2/$3 Dutch Farms 8 oz. shred cheese
$.99 Pillsbury rolls
$.79 lb. Gala apples
4/$1 bunches of cilantro
4/$5 28 oz. cans La Bella Romana tomatoes

What you'll need to have on hand:
carrots, optional
tortillas, corn preferrably
cooking oil
sandwich bread
salad dressing
chicken bouillion
brown sugar
soy sauce

Meal Ideas:

Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Mozzarella Frittata

Pepper and Tomato Pasta, side salad, garlic bread

Pork Roast with veggies

Tacos Carnitas

Chicken 'n' Biscuits, Cinnamon Apples

Peanut Chicken

Apple Crisp

Pear Crisp
I was looking through the DOminicks sale ad that ends today, and had my box of carefully filed expired coupons and found some tasty match-ups:

$.99 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars - limit 3
Pair this with $1/2 or $.75/2 = $.50-$.61 a box

$.99 Wishbone salad dressing
Pair this with $1/2 coupons ( I have several) = $.50 a bottle
Stack this with $1 off Chicken, Beef, or Produce WYB2 Wishbone Salad dressings
$.99 lb. Chicken drumsticks, thighs, and leg quarters
$1.69 lb. 80% lean ground beef
$1.99 lb. London Broil
Looks like I'll be taking home some cheap meat!

I didn't see any good deals on produce there this week, but next week:
$.99 pint blueberries!!
Can I just say.....YUM!
I have a secret. I like to cook and get housework done when no one else is in the house. It's unusual to say the least. But, I get so much more done that way - it's crazy!

For example: what can you do with two hours? Ready for the answer?? Are you sure?

I can:
1. Organize my coupons for the week
2. Whip up a frittata - lunches for the week...halfway done!
3. Bake a batch of cookies - why not, the oven is already on - saves energy, too!
4. Finish 2 loads of laundry in the cold water cycle
5. Clean out the fridge
6. Make a list of what we actually "need" from the what if it's only 5 items?!
7. Make taco/burrito meat for a dinner during the week (actually 2 dinners)
8. Plan my menu for the upcoming week
9. Add another recipe to my cookbook blog
10. Give my husband a dirty look and a derisive snort when he comes home and asks - "So, did you have a relaxing time?"

How does all this save me money?
1. Coupons...saves me tons of money - like the free salad at Meijer right now. YUM!
2. No excuse to go out for lunch - it's already made
3. No excuse to go to the bakery - cookies are made
4. Did both cycles on cold - less energy used than warm or hot water.
5. I actually know what I need when I go to the store - less over-buying
6. For only 5 items - I'll grab them on my way home from work. Less fuel used.
7. Another meal I can't go out for (I love eating out....maybe a little too much.)
8. I'm doing my best to curtail eating out, it's a huge money drain for me.
9. Stay inspired to eat in - I don't want to want to eat out.
10. Much cheaper to give hubby a dirty look now than go into therapy many years down the road for "not expressing my true feelings"!!

Wow - after reading that list, I'm exhausted. I think it's time for a nap. I love/hate being so organized - I feel great...until the end of the week, when it's Friday and I'm tired, and I think "I deserve to kick back and relax". Must keep up the momentum! Maybe I'll make some Sweet Cinnamon Almond Muffins tomorrow. The cookies - well, those are already gone!

Tell me - what can you get done in 2 hours?? Each week, I'm going to see if I can add to that list, one Sunday afternoon, 2 hours, 120 minutes, and see if I can make my work-week run along any smoother!! Next Sunday, have each outfit for the week organized and ready to go - let's see if I'm up for the challenge.
DH and I are collaborators, co-conspirators in the kitchen, our meals becoming more imaginative, more exploratory than I could have imagined just a few short years ago. When we first got married, brats and mashed potatoes were a weekly fixture on our menu, not because I didn't know how to cook, but I was afraid to experiment, didn't think I could afford better, and I hadn't started couponing yet. When I started couponing - everything changed. Suddenly there was money to buy not-completely-necessary ingredients, and I could try my hand at something different. It's opened a whole new, tasty world! Like this past weekend....

Last Friday, I invited DaMama over for dinner, I was making stuffed mushrooms, a swiss and mushroom frittata with English muffins, and for dessert - 30-Minute Tiramisu. While DaMama and I chatted, I chopped mushrooms, whisked eggs, minced red bell pepper, and folded Cool Whip into the light cream cheese pudding mixture that would be our filling for the tiramisu. While the mushrooms - stuffed with gooey, cheesey goodness, baked - we chatted, getting caught up on how things were going for my sister, my mom's latest adventure, and me - mostly whining about work and chatting about the next big coupon deal.

Often when I invite my mother over for dinner, I'm asking her to take a culinary leap of faith and trust me. This was her first frittata, but it certainly won't be her last - and she was delighted...and a surprise bonus: another use for a pie plate. With each dish I create, with each trip I make to the grocery store, I slowly challenge myself to try (and like) another new ingredient. A few years ago, I never would have had cremini mushrooms on hand for a dish like this, my only use for them was sauteed over a large piece of meat. And as for bell peppers, I wouldn't have eaten them, let alone bought them.

For my next creation, I turned to a crockpot cookbook DaMama gave me several months ago. While I'm eager to make the Dijon Chicken, as I don't have Dijon on hand, I was scanning through to see what I could make without hitting the store this week - and have decided on a combination of 2 recipes, Indonesian Chicken (which is delish) and Tropical Pork Tenderloin. I've got loads of chicken in my freezer, but no fresh ginger. I've got the canned pineapple and garlic, but no pork tenderloin at the moment. So it looks like I'll be making a Tropical Chicken with a sweet tangy glaze. When in doubt, go to the crockpot....

For DH, he has a different philosophy. He'll take ingredients he know he likes and combine them in ways typically seen in restaurants. His last creation, inspired predominantly by Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives: Bacon-Wrapped Hotdogs. Not the healthiest meal, but it had amazing flavor. I did serve a salad with it, but even I know - this is a meal you shouldn't include in the meal plan on any kind of regular basis. Though with the SuperBowl coming up - this is a quick, cheap crowd pleaser - sure to make the guys happy on game day.

This week, our exploration takes us to the tropical side of the chicken - which is only natural, as there is still snow on the ground, and if I can't fly to someplace tropical, than I want to feel like I'm eating there - at least that I can still afford to do! Maybe I'll even ask DH to make me a margarita or pina colada to enjoy while watching a movie - something to do with warmer climates than the one we now live in....nothing like an early escape in the week!

It feels like cabin fever, but it certainly doesn't taste like it:

Bacon-Wrapped Hotdogs

Tropical Chicken

30-Minute Tiramisu

Meal Plan:

Monday: Ground turkey tacos, Spanish Rice, beans, all the fixin's for tacos
Tuesday: Tropical Chicken, fried rice, salad
Wednesday: Meatball sammies, salad, chips
Thursday: Dinner at DaMamas
Friday: Spaghetti with Italian sausage, salad, garlic bread
Saturday: Chicken and provolone sausage, potatoes julienne, corn
Sunday: Homemade pizza, salad, garlic bread

Breakfast of the week: cheddar and mushroom frittata, banana bread, cereal, yogurt, bananas

Dessert of the week: White Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies, almond cookies
I can only hope as I type these words that help is on the way. The help that your country has needed for far too long, is finally being given. Watching the news last night, the pictures of the destruction were horrific, but the faces of the people - to see fellow humans that despondent, that was heart-breaking.

After watching the news, I called my mom (DaMama) and told her how I wished we could send supplies to Haiti just like we did when Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, Mississippi, and much of the South. It's easier for me to give in-kind donations as opposed to money, but when you see the bleak faces, a people suffering under the worst kinds of conditions - it really makes you grateful for all you have and makes you pause - thinking of all the little things each of us takes for granted everyday.

My blog-buddy over at 4 Hats & Frugal has a great post: please click HERE to read it.

Other bloggers willing to donate for the people of Haiti are listed below:

Coupon Geek: Help for Haiti

A High and Noble Calling: Haiti: How We Are Helping

4 Hats and Frugal

Publix Penny Pincher: Help for Haiti
My sister's birthday is coming up on the 19th, and she is a cookbook collector, like many of the women I know (including myself). Now, unless you have amazing timing, great luck, or work for a publishing company and get remainder books - cookbooks are certainly not a cheap item. Unless, of course, you happen to have that great luck I mentioned. And one day, a scant week before Christmas, I did. I really, really did. But, there was a minor snafu.

Out Christmas browsing (since the stores were wickedly overpriced for that close to the holiday - otherwise it would have been considered actual shopping) with DaMaMa, we ventured from one shop to another within the plaza, our last stop being TJ Maxx. I've never professed to be any sort of fan of that store, or the others like it. I've been to Burling Coat Factory once, Marshall twice, and that was my second trip to any TJ Maxx. But after that, it won't be my last!

On a rack near the register, DaMaMa spied some books, as our family is full of avid readers, we decided to browse - and am I glad we did. We found a variety of new cookbooks from $2.99-$5.99, about baking, cooking, grilling - the baking ones really caught my attention, and we did not leave empty handed. We grabbed 10 cookbooks (for Christmas gifts, birthdays, etc.) and spent $35.xx. I can't even find them second hand that cheap - so after careful consideration - the pile of books was divided and 5 of those have been sent as gifts for my sister. It should have been 7, but....well, here's how the snafu goes:

DaMama (whose wrapping skills far exceed that of my own) was going to wrap the books and ship them to the frigid, I mean lovely, state of MN where my sister lives. To get the most out of our shipping, we also sent my sister's son's (Nephew #1) brithday gifts along with it (more books, naturally and their birthdays are less than 2 weeks apart - ship once, save a bundle). Maybe it was late or DaMaMa had gotten into the after CHristmas nog, but she accidentally labeled 2 of the cookbooks for Nephew #1. Oops....but then, not oops. Here's where it gets interesting.

I called my nephew to wish him a happy birthday (if I didn't, I'd get burned at the stake, or excommunicated - birthday calls are mandatory in my family), and got to hear how excited he was over the 1 recipe, 100 Cakes cookbook he received and how he wants to make the Honey Beehive Cake that he saw in it. Keep in mind, this kid also got an XBox 360. But, we spent more than 5 minutes just talking about his new cookbook (he didn't know that his Auntie got the same one for Christmas, he just thinks I've got a great memory....I'm gonna let him keep thinking that, too!) and telling me how excited he was to start cooking/baking. He just turned 12.

Imagine my surprise (and my sister's, too) that Nephew #1 not only was happy about the mix-up - and no, we're not telling him that's what actually happened, he has cookbooks, he's happy - we're happy, my sister though ....a little sad to see a few of her gifts going towards her son, but that's okay, more on that later, my nephew is genuinely excited about this gift. I'm still shocked.

Feeling a little bad for my sister, I called yesterday, remembering that I had some cokerewards built up, so I asked her what kinds of magazines she likes and for her birthday, she's getting a free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens! As a suprise bonus, I found out what her favorite magazine is (Taste of Home) and through a very savvy blogging buddy, I grabbed a subscription to that for her at the bargain price of......$3.99 for a year!

Imagine her surprise when I tell her (I'll try to wait for her birthday) what bonus gifts she's got coming! And today, that's the way the birthday cake crumbles.
Over the last few days, DH & I have been slowly talking abour our budget, our plans, our goals for the upcoming year or two. After seeing where we did well (and not so well) on our 2009 budget, we're ready to make some plans!

First, the $200 bonus I received at the end of the year went straight into savings. It's a tiny bonus, but every small piece to fuel our savings adds up. This year, once our cost of living increase is finalized, I'll increase my 401k contribution to eat that up, as I've done the last few years. I see my increase year to year as spare change adding to my check - never as whole dollars. And if I didn't have before, I won'tm iss it now.

Next, time to start deliberately saving. To me, this means funneling a portion of my paycheck directly into savings - the less work you have to do in order to save, the better. I still am collecting change is a 5 gallon jug at home - I will keep tossing in change and the odd dollar bill as they come to me. The jug is tucked out-of-sight at home, so there is zero temptation to use its contents, but in case of emergency, we know its there. I haven't tapped into the jug in more than 8 years, so I'm not too worried that I'll be doing that anytime soon.

Another idea I had, our entertainment budget is fairly generous - I want to reduce that by 25%, and use the remainder to really get our savings built up. We did not use our savigns over the holidays, neither did we use credit cards, so there is no pressure to pay off anything, but I see homes in our neighborhood going into foreclosure, and when our lease comes up - I'd like to be in a position to buy one of those homes. We currently are renting a townhouse in a neighborhood we plan to stay in for the foreseeable future.

For our entertainment, we will continue our weekly date-nights, but 2 date nights a month will have a $25 budget (for food, entertainment, etc.) one will be an average date night, the other - we'll go a bit fancier. Our project savings from that: $100 a month, which will add a nice cushion to our savings. It's easier to save when you can still have some fun. All I need now is an arsenal of cheap date night ideas and I'm all set. DH always votes for a movie, but in the winter, it's hard to find other avenues of entertainment in the Midwest - does anyone have some ideas for me? I need all the help I can get, over it's all movies - all the time. I haven othing against movies, but I love lots of variety.

I'm going to work on my cake-making skills - that will be a standard offer for anyone in our circle of family/friends for their gift. We will offer them a cake - it's both practical and affordable, cake mixes are super affordable and I always have a few dozen of those on hand, anyway. For very few people will we get gifts - unless the gifts come out of our gift drawer. Over the next year, I want to see how much we can save, without it feeling like we're under the microscope.

The best bit of advice someone gave me about money - no amount saved is too small. With that in mind, I've got to see if I've got anything I can sell on Ebay, to help bloster those numbers. After that, it'll be time to pull the recipe for 30-Minute Tiramisu - click HERE to take a look.
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I'm a huge fan of pizza, but in the past wasn't too big on deep dish (I know, I know - a traitor to the local pizza - how could it be?) but after last night - everything changed. Completely.

DH loves to make pizza and grill - those are his cooking favorites and what he did last night was almost too good to share with everyone....almost. He's been wanting deep-dish pizza for a while, and I keep dragging my feet, pointing out other cheaper options, explaining that it takes too long, etc. Naturally, I've been hard to pin down. Finally, after watching a FoodNetwork special on the secret life of pizza and seeing a few of our hometown pizza places explaining how they make a deep dish - we felt so inspired. Or should I say, I was hungry enough while watching to think this would be a good idea. I don't know why it took me so long to convert.

This deep dish pizza was.....transcendent. It looked like something off a magazine cover, it really did. Until we cut into it. And began devouring it. The fragrant sauce, the hearty sausage, the ooey-gooey cheese, the buttery crunch of the crust giving way to doughy perfection. It was magnificent - no, words cannot describe how amazing this one single pizza was. It symbolized hope, it spoke to my soul - okay, maybe I'm being a little too melodramatic, but this pizza - there is nothing by which to compare it to. For a mere $3.45 in ingredients, all but one of which we had on hand anyway, we achieved perfection. (I only say we because I was so humbly allowed in the kitchen to slice the mushrooms and flatten the sausage - otherwise, I would've been banished from the kitchen due to my predilection for snacking on the ingredients.)

There are many recipes we try in life, some succeed, others drop by the wayside, but something like this - it deserves to live in infamy.

Oh, if I've got you hungry - click HERE for the recipe. I couldn't leave you hanging like that, now could I?
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I'm all stocked up on cereal and Nature Valley Granola Clusters - thanks to the stacking of coupons at Dominicks -store and manufacturer coupons made this a super deal - regularily $3.79 a bag, I grabbed 2 for $.50 each. Over at Jewel, I combined this with a General Mills/Betty Crocker catalina deal and here's what I walked away with:

JEWEL - Buy $20 in participating products, get $5 OYNO
Jewel: transaction #1
3 boxes General Mills cereal ($2.79-$3.29 each regular price) $1.99 preferred card
2 bags Nature Valley Granola CLusters ($3.79 each regular price) 2/$5 preferred card
2 pouches Betty Crocker Cookie Mix ($2.39 regular price) $1.99 preferred card
-$1.00/3 General Mills cereal
-$.50/1 Nature Valley Granola Clusters (2)
- $10.00 catalina coupon from last week's sales
OOP = $3.19
Saved: $18.80

$5 coupon OYNO
$1.50/3 boxes General Mills cereal
50 bonus Boxtops for Education

Jewel #2:
3 boxes General Mills cereal ($2.79-$3.29 each regular price) $1.99 preferred card
7 boxes Hamburger Helper ($1.60 regular price) $1 each
-$.75/3 Hamburger Helper (2)
$1.50/3 General Mills cereals (from previous order)
-$5.00 OYNO coupon (from previous purchase)
OOP: $5.20
Saved: $15.60

$5 coupon OYNO
$1.50/3 boxes General Mills cereal
50 bonus Boxtops for Education

$.98 - 1 gallon Lucerne milk (with in-store coupon)
$.99 - 18 count Lucerne large eggs (with in-store coupon)
$1.99 Oscar Mayer Bacon (4) (with in-store coupon)
$1.49 Cinnamon Toast Crunch
$1.49 Honey Nut Cheerios (1)
$1.24 CoffeeMate Caramel Apple coffee creamer (50% Off)
$.99 Oscar Mayer deli meat (9-10 oz. - mark down)
4/$6 Nature Valley Granola Bars & Clusters (with in-store coupon)
-$1.00 Nature Valley Granola Clusters (2)
-$1.00/2 Nature Valley Granola Bars
-$1.00 CoffeeMate coffee creamer, powder or liquid
-$.55 Honey Nut Cheerios (2)
-$.55 Cinnamon Toast Crunch
-$1.00/2 Oscar Mayer deli meat
OOP: $17.43
Savings: $34.79
Percent savings: 66%

Total OOP: $25.82
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We were out of most fresh produce, so a quick trip after work with DH yielded some versatile produce to use for next week - lots of options with these affordable fruit and veggie options:

$.24 - heart of Romaine
$.35 - 2 cloves of garlic
$.75 - 2 extra large roasting red bell peppers
$.79 - 8 lbs. potatoes
$.42 - 5 medium bananas
$.99 - 8 oz. whole button mushrooms
$1.49 - 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
$3.99 - 3 lb. Italian sausage links

Total OOP = $9.16 (includes tax)

I also scopped up some coupon booklets while walking through Caputo's - so lots of deals to be had for the future.

Want an easy, no bake recipe for....tiramisu? Just click HERE to see how to put this together using lots of basics from the pantry and freezer - I actually have everything on hand to make this tasty treat. Looks like dessert will be served in no time at all!

TIRAMISU - 30 Minutes or less!!
Why is it that coming up with new recipes is always easier when it's snowing? Maybe it's because you don't want to go out driving in the blustery, chilly storm or maybe because you just feel more like being at home when those arctic storms hit. There is nothing like puttering around the kitchen, armed only with a spatula and an idea. That's when good things start happening...

In my kitchen this winter, I've been lucky enough to ride the biggest inspirational wave I've ever seen. I've created more than a dozen new cookie recipes, borrow ideas liberlly from the Food Network (of which I'm a hopeless addict!), making frugal and quick twists using the same basic flavors they do. What has that resulted in? Funny you should wonder, here's the list of new cookie recipes to come out of my kitchen over the last month or two: (P. S. - want to see the recipe? just click on the link!)

Decadent Chocolate Snowballs

Cranberry Almond White Chocolate Cookies

Pumpkin Cookies

Cookies 'n' Creme Brownies

Vanilla Creme Brownies

White Mocha Sugar Cookies

Orange Rum Oatmeal Cookies

There are a few of my new favorites, though I've concocted many more. My New Year's Resolution, like last year, is to record a new recipe a day or add 365 recipes to my online cookbook by the end of the year. While I cut it a little too close for comfort in 2009 (finishing in a blaze of typing on New Year's Eve), I'm starting this year out stronger (and much sooner) than ever. New flavors, more quick and easy ideas, and budget-friendly tips are on their way! I'm rigorously combing through cookbooks, recipe cards, online recipes, and re-vamping old favorites with new flavors to bring the most flavor and fun to the table!

Tell me: what is your signature flavor? What taste, recipe, dish makes you feel at your best?

My baking tip of the week: when making brownies or bars, replace water called for in recipe with a liquid that has more flavor. Try liquid coffee creamers, juice, milk, etc. to booster flavor while using something you already have on hand!
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The snow we were predicted is coming down, turning the view from my windows into a picture perfect scene. Too much snow to drive in, so I'm working from home today. Which will save me a gallon or two of gasoline - yippee!! Though, I do have easy access to the peanut butter, so the savings may very well cancel itself out.

I've eyed some good deals at Caputo's:

$.79 lb. large roasting red bell peppers
$.39 lb. bananas
$1.49 each golden pineapples
$.59 lb. anjou pears
$.79 8 lb. bag russet potatoes
2/$1 mangos
$.49 lb. Florida juice oranges
$.99 8 oz. bag Fresh Express iceberg lettuce shreds
$.49 lb. Andy Boy Romaine Lettuce
4/$5 Francesco Rinaldi pasta sauce (love this brand - great for pizza sauce)
$1.19 lb. Pork Sirloin End Chops or Pork Country Ribs
$.99 16 oz. Prairie Sour Cream
$.99 Dutch Farms cream cheese, 8 oz. bricks
$.89 14 oz. Dutch Farms bagels

I see some cheap breakfast in my future using the bagels for sammies or along side some deals on fruit, and potatoes will be my primary side dish for next week's meal plans. I'm still good on sour cream, but may grab a few extra cream cheese for the freezer - I love making cheesecake, especially in the summer, so this is the best time of year to stock up on that. Tons of salad options with the romaine and bell pepper, so this next week will be super easy for eating. I even came up with a chicken recipe using the deals I see for the week - a Tropical Chicken in a Crockpot! What could be easier?

The best part? The chicken for this recipe is on sale at Butera for $.79 lb., though Caputo's has it for $.99 lb. It's about time the meat prices dropped, my freezer is getting a little empty, and this sale is just in the nick of time.
With the cold weather and the dreary skies, I haven't been too eager to go out and do any kind of shopping - and the stores here have been obliging with skimpy sales, Christmas clearance at only 50% off, and most stores didn't have much to pick from before Christmas anyway.

Last night, I stayed in and made my first whole roasted chicken. And never did I realize how easy that was! 5 cloves of garlic, some spices from the spice cabinet, a splash or two of olive oil, and dinner was delish! I took a little help from my good friends of Rice-A-Roni for some yummy chicken rice on the side, and we finished the head of lettuce DH bought on Sunday as a light, simple salad with some baby carrots (shredded), parmesan cheese, and a palmful of dried cranberries. Dinner was super simple, and I have leftover chicken breast to make into quesadillas, tacos, sammies, and any other lunch item we need for the week. I love a simple meal, and this will definitely go back into the rotation soon!

Another idea I had for roasted chicken flavoring - using free/dirt-cheap seasoning packets instead of raiding the spice cabinet. I've got oodles of Lipton dired mixes left from the last great catalina deal at Jewel and a few dozen Weber marinade packets from the freebies at Jewel over the past summer, so I will be using those to season everything from dips, to roasted pork tenderloin, to chicken, adding it as seasoning to pasta sauce, and anything else I can think of! While I'm challenging myself to cook more from the pantry and put all those freebies and cheapies to good use, I am also looking to round out the variety of stuff on hand in Annie's Market.

Since my pantry is fully organized and functional, my next step is to take stock of the freezer. I haven't really bought much meat in the past few months, so I will need to restock the freezer - slowly. My chicken breast supply is probably gone, and I'm hoping I've got the pork chops on hand to make Friday's meal - if not, there is always soup and sandwich.

I stopped at Jewel on my way to work this morning, grabbing Cascade, Dawn, and Crest - using a $10 cat that I generated when buying paper towel for my workplace. 4 tubes of Crest, 2 bottles each Dawn and Cascade for $13.18. Savings of $16.xx. For items I was out of, I'm glad to have found a deal just in time.

At this point, I'm nearly out of fresh produce - since I've been too cold/lazy to go to the produce market - but now, I'm see if Caputo's has any sales waiting for me!

Coupon Savings Today: $10.00
For anyone interested in some recipes for pumpkin cookies, check out this post on my other blog, Chicago's Cookbook, for some delicious inspiration!


Just one warning....the white chocolate pumpkin cookie dough was so yummy I had to store it in the fridge until I was ready to make them - I couldn't keep from eating the dough!

An unexpected bonus: For anyone allergic to eggs, this is a naturally egg-less cookie. Great for kids with allergies to help make - and eat!
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Got to start the new year off with a tasty bang - and here it is! Tons of flavor, lots of variety, and a new recipe to kick the year off.

Monday - Adam's chicken nuggets, garlic mashed potatoes, salad
Tuesday - Lemon Pepper Roasted Chicken, chicken rice,
Wednesday - Ham and mozzarella paninis, chips, apples
Thursday - Chicken parmesan, garden salad, garlic bread
Friday - Tangy Dijon Pork Chops, potatoes julienne, corn
Saturday - Date night!
Sunday - Chicago-style deep dish home!

Umm-hmm - I'm getting hungry already!
If the deep dish is a success, I'll be sharing that recipe with you. If not, there's always next week.....
In defense of winter weather, it elps me save money. Seriously, it does. It's too darned cold to go out shopping, but that's okay - yesterday, I sent DH out to grab a Redbox (movie rental) using a code I found online (which actually worked - woohoo!) and asked him to grab some lettuce and a tomato to go with our burgers for dinner.

Meanwhile, I stayed in, baked some pumpkin cookies out of the leftover refrigerated dough I made up myself when I was doing all sorts of holiday baking. I even have 3 rolls of cookie dough (each a different flavor) in the freezer. Since it's just DH & I, I just made one cookie sheet worth of cookies. I still have enough dough left on the Decadent Chocolate Snowballs to make 3 dozen cookies and ditto that for the Pumpkin White Chocolate Cookies.

So, my savings was small - $1.00 on the Redbox rental. But, there is no savings to small to be kept in my pocket!

Today, at the office is a co-workers birthday, since there is only 5 of us here, one girl will bring the cake, the office guy will bring bread, my boss is in charge of a card and small gift, and I brought in my crockpot to make spaghetti. Much of the fixin's for a good spaghetti sauce for me were nearly free and I didn't have to buy anything (as I always have the ingredients to make this on hand), so this goes down as a nice big savings to me. Much better than paying $3.00 for a loaf of french bread. Nope, I'm not kidding, that's what they get away with charging around here. The a lternative - everyone chipping $5-$8 and ordering a pizza. As tasty as that sounds, I'll feed them spaghetti and feed my savings at the same time!

Deal of the Day = Dominick's Super Coupons: $.99 milk (Can't remember the brand), $.98 - 18 count Lucerne Eggs, $1.99 Smithfield bacon - 16 oz. pkg. - limit 4, and Nature Valley Granola Bars 4/$6. Minimum $20 purchase satisfies all requirements.
Even though it was pretty cold outside, 3 degrees, but windchill made it feel like -17, I went out for a quick hounding/couponing run. Grabbed 6 newspapers from Menards (only $1 each there) and popped over to Target for my final 7 boxes of Swiss Miss hot cocoa. Used my last coupons, and grabbed all 7 boxes for $.14 total. $7 worth of coupons spent, and a handful of pennies liberated from the bottom of my purse.

As I was leaving, DH gets a call from his mother - his grandfather's 92nd birthday - they decided to throw a party. Naturally, we find out 2 hours before the party starts. Naturally....not enough time to make a dish to share, I asked DH to grab a bag of chips or box of crackers to contribute and found a birthday card among the stash I still have left from my days working for Factory Card Outlet. OOP for birthday party = $0. Yay! Moments where I wish I could strangle people for not planning ahead....priceless (or should I say countless?). For everything else, there are coupons.

Total $$ spent: $6.14
Saved $$: $10.14 (newspaper and hot cocoa savings)
Coupon Value Redeemed: $7.00
Number of Coupons Used: 7

New Deals: Ultra Foods - BumbleBee tuna = $.38 a can - limit 4
DH & I went into Chicago - our new years tradition. We go into the city - where it's eerily quiet, parking is plentiful, and the streets aren't overly crowded. This year, the tree at Macy's on State Street was beautiful - decorated in silver. Each year we go to see the tree, and like most year - I absolutely adored this one. Afterwards, we typically grab lunch in the city, though instead of an over-priced pizza place, this year we went to an old family favorite's of my husband, Nuevo Leon. This is the only restaurant I will wait in line for. The enchiladas in mole sauce are amazing. Best in the city, hands down. And a huge bargain, $6 a plate for salsa and homemade tortilla chips, 3 enchiladas with beef, chicken, or cheese and your choice of homemade sauce, beans, rice, and an appetizer. Where else can you eat that cheap in Chicago? Not even McDonalds. Total spent on lunch/dinner: $18.03 - and that includes tip!

We even popped into Avenue (clothing store) who was having 80% off select stuff, and I found jeans for $1.96! I can't tell you how happy I was about that. They were originally $35.90. A savings of $33.94! I can ring in the new year with that!!

After that, rather than spend $$/time on things we didn't need, we went home and DH helped me organized anthoer portion of my pantry. Little by little, things are getting whipped into shape. 2 shelves organized, 2 more to go. I'll tackle one today and the other tomorrow and by Monday, I'll start making my list of "endangered/extinct species" - all the that items I'm running low on or completely out of and need to desperately hound deals on. I'll post my list by the middle of next week - once I've got a good handle on everything we've got.

Any tips, hints, ideas, and suggestions for getting the deals are always appreciated - it takes a village to empty my pantry, and it'll take all the help I can get to refill it!
For the new year, I've been listening to some of the goals my fellow bloggers, couponers, friends, and bargain-hunters have been posting - and I'm finally ready with my goals. It took some deliberation, a lot of hope (that I could stay organized enough to track what I'm going), and I am ready!

For 2010, here are the few, fast, and easy rules for me to keep my budget and my life in balance:

1. Take stock of my market/pantry area as well as my freezer. Make lists according to what I need. Do not drive out of my area for a freebie - unless it's something we need. More shopping to be done to and from work - less gas and time required.

2. Spend 10-15 minutes per day researching the deals.

3. Donate monthly to the food pantry.

4. Track all coupons redeemed by DH & I. Reduce grocery budget to $175 month. $50 per month alloted for holiday dinners/birthday dinners - only for months when we are hosting an event.

5. Switch to reusable grocery. No More Plastic Bags!!

6. Finally, the big one: I resolve to save $10,000 this year through the cool use of couponing! All coupons count (loadable, newspaper, printable, online codes, etc.): electronics, craft supplies, grocery, dining, clothes, etc. No coupon is too small to count towards this goal!
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