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?
I love cookies. I do. In this world of healthy-eating, weight-losing, ab-firming, strengthen-your-inner-core views, I feel like a drunk stumbling into an AA meeting, muttering incoherently to themselves. To admit that you adore eating something as sinfully simple and sweet as cookie, which is the antithesis of healthy, organic, nutritious - you feel like you're steeping out on that limb alone. The only thing that's worse, is shopping for premade cookies.

What makes it more frustrating: my hubby loves store-bought cookies. Yep, he is the Oreo King. As long as it's not minty, he'll eat it. Which leaves me, as the primary shopper (and not a big fan of Oreos anyway), the one that gets to buy them. This typically isn't a problem - I look at the price of Oreos, have a good chuckle, and reason that until they go on sale, he ain't getting any. Oreo's, I mean. What were you thinking?

This week, Dominicks has them on sale, I can get the mini oreos in the 8 oz. snack pack for $.50 a pack. Now, I get to be the crazy lady in the grocery store with a dozen bags of Oreos in her cart, maybe more (I've got loads of coupons). When kids with their parents see what I'm buying, inevitably I hear - "but Mom, why can't we get some Oreos?" This is swiftly followed by a dirty look from the mom, whose probably thinking something along the lines of "How can you let your kid(s) eat that junk?" When, in fact, I am offering them to a grown man.

Personally, I prefer the soft cookie. You know - the kind that if you bought at the store you'd spend as much on as a pound of meat. Or the kind that you have to spend time in the kitchen to make: atl east an hour or two, that come out of the oven just oozing with chocolaty goodness. Or the sweet tang of cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg/citrus fills the air. The kidd of cookies I grew up on. As you can tell, I had a stay-at-home mom, where hubby's mom worked - therefor: him = Oreos. Me = homemade cookies.

With all the refrigerated cookie dough, it's easy to have an almost homemade cookie, without all that time-consuming stuff, like actually making the dough and dropping by rounded spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. But, I resent paying for work that I am more than capable of doing myself. I can have several kinds of cookies for the price of one tube of cookie dough. In fact, I have never bought refrigerated cookie dough - I object to it on principal. But, I make a double batch of dough, and pop half into the fridge for my next cookie craving, but I digress...

So far, I haven't met a soft cookie I didn't like. My thighs will attest to that. Loudly, in fact, don't let them get started, I don't want my butt to join in.

And I love variety. I have a cabinet full of extract flavors from vanilla and almond to coconut and chocolate, I even found coffee extract. Delish! There is nothing like building a cookie from scratch. From Oatmeal Island Cookies to White Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies to a simple Chocolate Chip Cookie, I can't fathom why Oreo's are the way the cookie crumbles....

Tell me - how do your cookies crumble? What is your favorite, your family's favorite, the one cookie you simply could not live without?
I finally got the ads early (the ones starting Thursday) and had 10 minutes to look over where the cheap eats are - looks like my pals at Dominicks got my back this week! Here are the highlights:

Nabisco snacks (4-8 oz.) $10/10 - use $1/2 EXPIRED coupons from Back to School booklet = $.50 per bag

PopTarts - $1 (WYB in multiples of 5) - use $1/2 blinkie coupons EXPIRED = $.50 a box

Rice-A-Roni $.99 - use EXPIRED coupon for $1/4 to get these for $.74 each (not rockbottom, but a decent enough price)

$.99 lb. green grapes

$1.99 lb. 80% lean ground beef - not a bad price for this, I hate to say

Time to get your sparklies on - after all, this is a party!

Just in time for summer, check out this pretty handcrafted necklace of 4 mm amethyst-dyed pearls, transparent, Czech glass, and Japanese, amber-hued, twisted bugle beads finished with a surgical steel clasp in gold.

Want to win this? It's super easy!

You get one entry into the giveaway for each comment you leave (limit 1 per day) and another entry for being a follower. In your comment, include your email address and tell me what part of summer you're looking forward to the most. The winner will be chosen April 19th at 5:00 p.m. CST.

Good luck everyone!
From décor to dinner, from beverages to basics – I’ve got loads of tips to entertain at home without breaking the bank.

My tips to live by: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce: How much you spend. I can’t think of anyone how wouldn’t want to reduce what they spend while throwing a fabulous party. The tricky part is it looking like you spent top dollar when really, all you did was a little planning. If you have the time to plan ahead (roughly 4-8 weeks is best), you’ll be able to pull off a fabulous party for any occasion while staying easily within your budget.

Reuse: What you already have one hand – this how you get amazing décor without reaching into your wallet. Christmas lights – love those mini white lights – they turn a BBQ into a garden party. String those around a gazebo-style tent, along your balcony, deck, patio, etc. and you’ve instantly set the mood. Reuse an oversize platter by adding a similar-hued and shaped bowl in the center for an instant chip and dip tray that looks elegant. Put out cookies in a large mixing bowl for a down-home feel – whatever the mood you’re going for, I’m sure you have half the décor items right in your own cupboards.

Reuse is not just reserved for decorating, though. Reuse an ordinary ingredient to turn a simple dish into an amazing entrée, salad, or side. Here’s how:

Turn a simple pasta into an amazing entrée by only adding color. Here’s how: with a marinara or red sauce, top with parmesan (or if you’re low on that, half parmesan and half fine bread crumbs) with a generous helping of parsley. Top any pasta and sauce with cheese, bake for 5-10 minutes (long enough for the cheese to melt) and serve. Works best on shorter noodles, but trust me, this instantly dresses up pasta. If you’re doing an Alfredo sauce, add a pinch of color. My favorites: finely diced red bell pepper, chopped, dry-packed sun-dried tomato, or even some shredded spinach toss into the mix.

For a salad, add interest with dried fruit or sun-dried tomatoes. To punch up flavor, add a pinch or two of a complimentary dried herb.

For meat, serve with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, julienned bell pepper, or a simple sauce.

Top ordinary (even boxed mashed potatoes!) with parsley, fancy garlic salt, or a sprinkling of cheese. Pop in the oven to turn the top a lovely golden brown and serve. Remember, to be fancy, it only needs to look fancy.

For a baked good, this is even easier. Alongside a store-bought coffee cake, place a handful or two of plump berries, either at the base of the coffee cake (or any cake, really), or sprinkle a few on top. If they’re on the menu anyway, why not use them as part of the display?

Recycle: Old recipes with a twist. A cake stand becomes a stand for your fancy salad bowl on a buffet line. Anything can be made over, all you have to do is look at it from a different perspective. Not so easy? Ask for someone else’s opinion – especially kids. They naturally see things differently than we do.

How to recycle an old recipe: Swap out one key ingredients for something that serves the same purpose. Oatmeal raisin cookies become oatmeal craisin cookies, swap out one extract, spice, marinade, etc. etc. for another. My mom made If’N cookies growing up – if and she had the right stuff, they would’ve been something else! This idea even works for the main course: like a pork recipe, but all you’ve got is chicken? Boy, does that happen to me – I just swap out one cut of meat for the other. I do match bone in with bone in, boneless with boneless, but sometimes you invent a new family favorite that way.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a frugal girl’s best friend – especially when she’s in the kitchen. Nothing says a great party like a fabulous spread, and with these tips – you are more than sure to have one!

It's that time of the week again - I've (quickly) eyed what's left in our fridge for meal-building and this should be a pretty easy week. With lots of cheese, deli meat, salad fixin's, leftover grilled chicken - I'm looking at tons of meal options without spending hours in the kitchen - it doesn't get better than that!

Monday - Pizza! Topped with Italian sausage, mushrooms, and smoked provolone. We didn't get to this last week, so it's been rolled over to today. No complaints here!

Tuesday - Chicken club sammies on Italian bread, salad, and oven roasted potatoes (leftover from last week)

Wednesday - Angel hair parmesan with grilled chicken (the pasta comes courtesy of Pasta-Roni and is tossed with leftover grileld chicken), garden salad

Thursday - dinner at DaMama's

Friday - Tortas Cubana, fresh fruit, and chips and guacamole

Saturday - Date Night on the Dollar (We have a $20 budget for date this week - let's see how much fun we can have on the cheap!)

Sunday - Caribbean Jerk Pork Chops on the grill, fried rice, mandarin orange slices, and tortillas (whether permitting for the grilling, of course)

Dessert of the week: Oatmeal Island Cookies

Lunch of the week: Grilled chicken with rice or sammies

Breakfast of the week: Blueberry bagels (on sale at bread thrift shop for $.75 for a 5 ct. pkg.!), cereal
I love hosting a party, and lucky for me - I have tons of reasons to host them! From Christmas cookie exchanges to work office luncheons, to backyard BBQ's and holidays feasts, I've tackled a little bit of everything. Here is one of my tried and true rules: Master the Marinade.

A marinade if a basic available in any budget range, for any cut of meat, fish, seafood, or hardy veggie. With lots of time or little time, here's how to select and make the perfect marinade for you.

1. Consider the amount of time you have to marinade your meat. If you have 12-24 hours, consider a mild marinade. Some of my favorites include ginger, garlic, or onion based marinade or even Italian salad dressing - it's a absolute dream as a marinade - love a condiment that pulls double-duty!

If you have 6-10 hours, consider a marinade with a light amount of citrus - this will help tenderize a tougher or less flavorful cut of meat in shorter amount of time. For fish and seafood, stick to milder marinades or shorter amount of time to marinade - let a cut of meat marinade too long and the meat dissolves too much in the marinade.

If you have 2-6 hours, use a marinade with a lot of soy sauce or citrus. This will quickly tenderize a cut of meat and leave a flavorful punch. Some of the basics include teriyaki (pineapple-soy sauce blend), lemon pepper, or Caribbean Jerk.

With a half dozen pantry staples and some spices, you have everything you need to whip up some of the common marinades right in your own kitchen.

Asian Ginger Sesame Marinade

1/2 C. soy sauce
2 T. olive oil or peanut oil
2 tsp. sesame seeds
3 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder or salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. molasses

In a small canning jar, add all ingredients and shake to combine thoroughly.
Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days before using.
Yields - 1 batch of marinade (enough for 3-4 lbs. of meat)
Goes great on beef stew meat, pork or beef ribs, bone-in chicken breast
Italian Garlic Marinade (6-10 hours - longer for less tender cuts of meat)

1/4 C. vinegar (distilled, white wine, or balsamic)
2 T. lemon juice
3 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 T. dry minced onion
1 T. basil
1/4 tsp. fennel seed (optional)
1 tsp. corn starch
1 T. sugar

In a small canning jar, add all ingredients and shake to combine thoroughly.
Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days before using.
Yields - 1 batch of marinade (enough for 3-4 lbs. of meat)
Great for: chicken, tougher cuts of beef, and

Lemon Pepper Marinade (2-6 hour marinade)

1/3 C. lemon juice
1-2 T. brown sugar
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 T. olive oil
1/4 tsp. paprika

In a small canning jar, add all ingredients and shake to combine thoroughly.
Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days before using.
Yields - 1 batch of marinade (enough for 3-4 lbs. of meat)
Goes well on pork chops, chicken breast, and pork steaks

Smoky Orange Marinade (2-6 hour marinade)

1/4 C. orange juice
3 T. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dry minced onion
1 T. olive oil
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. hickory smoked salt (optional)

In a small canning jar, add all ingredients and shake to combine thoroughly.
Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days before using.
Yields - 1 batch of marinade (enough for 3-4 lbs. of meat)
I love to use this on chicken drummies - packs a flavorful punch with a smoky hint at the end.

If you are a couponer, start looking for marinades to be on sale starting next month - and combine with coupons from your Sunday newspaper - you can get some of the Lawry's bottled marinades, or Weber/McCormick marinade packets on sale for next to nothing. I'm still using the marinades I grabbed last year (check your expiration dates if purchasing in large quantities) for mere pennies.
Ultimate Blog Party 2010

Check out my beautiful handcrafted necklace giveaway!

This week, I'm joining the Ultimate Blog Party! For my new readers, it's great to have you here, my name is Annie and I love to entertain on a budget. From a backyard BBQ to a delicious dinner party - I've got recipes, tips, and ideas to make entertaining a snap for any budget. Here are a few of my favorite posts and recipes for parties:

BBQ on a Budget

Game Day Favorites

Easy, Basic Biscotti

Brunch on a Budget

Easy Frittata Recipe

Master of the Marinade

Frugal Party Tips

Each day, I'll post about great party tips, budget-friendly party menus, easy and adaptable recipes, and all the ways to squeeze a little more party bang out of your dollar. With summer and graduation season right around the corner, I can hardly wait to get started!

Check out all the great giveaways listed over at 5 Minutes for Mom and let's get this party started! Go check out this great post by 4 Hats and Frugal - she is such an amazing inspiration!
DH is finishing up his school program in May and I'm planning a party for him. His field of study is the paralegal program offered at a local college, and in 2 years, he has nearly completed the program. His final classes end in the middle of May. Since he has opted out of the graduation ceremony, I've decided he'll at least get a small backyard, BBQ type of party to commemorate finishing this stage of schooling.

Using the reasoning that a small townhouse isn't big enough to host a party, I've enlisted my mother-in-law to help with this shindig and we'll hold the get-together at her house. After all, he's definitely mama's favorite! Here's what I'm thinking for a full-flavor, frugalicious fun for $25...

MENU - to feed 20-25 people Cost: $25 or less

Chicken and hotdogs/sausage on the grill ($8 - that's all I'll spend out of pocket on meat - I think I can manage that and I've got tons of free marinades to use)
Baked Pasta (1 large pan or 2 smaller pans - got everything, so FREE)
Garden salad ($3 - I'll grab whatever is on sale the week of)
Beans & Rice ($2-$3 I've got everything to make the rice, so I just need a large bag of pinto beans)
Baked Bean Casserole (got everything so FREE)
Tortillas & Buns ($5 - 6-8 dozen tortillas and 3-5 pkgs. buns)
Condiments (got 'em - I've got loads of stuff for this! FREE)
Chips, dip, crackers ($5 - good tortilla chips, dip, guacamole)
Cake (DaMama has offered to bake 2 cakes - yippee)
Cookies & bars (got all the ingredients for them, so FREE)

My mother-in-law has offered to supply the beverages, which I'm so glad, that tends to be the most expensive part of the get together, but I'll bring Southern-style sweet tea and a couple canisters of lemonade mix, to help round out the water and soda.

I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for deals like $.50 hotdogs, $.49 chicken leg quarters, and any deal on sausage I can get. I'll probably roll some cats that are about to expire into bags of dried pinto beans, to help bring down the cost a little more, too. I'll scan for deals on sour cream (for dip) when we get down to the last 3-4 weeks before the party. By zeroing in on a menu now, I have time to get everything for the price I want. It's easy to entertain on a budget, but it requires strategy and planning. Always know what you want before you shop! If I have any $$ leftover, I'll grab potatoes for potato salad or a package of ribs. Let's see how the dollars go.

Any frugal ideas on rounding out the party? My budget is $25 for all the food and drink that I'm bringing. I think I can do this - fun, frugal, and fabulous!!
I was organizing my fridge (after wishing and praying for it to happen automatically and nothing doing) and noticed I have a bit of a collection of coffee creamers. From Belgian chocolate to honey vanilla to Southern Butter Pecan to Parisian Almond to Sweet Italian cream - I have loads of fresh, funky flavors to play with! Not that I'm complaining - I'm most certainly not, most of them were free and the rest were moneymakers -so no problems there. The only question is: what alternative uses are there for them? Here are the ones I've found:

1. Use in hot tea instead of coffee

2. Use in brownies to replace the milk - gives them an awesome hint of flavor!

3. Use in French toast to replace half the milk used to make the mixture you dip the bread in - did this Tuesday and watched a mountain of French toast quickly disappear.

4. The obvious - use in hot coffee (which I'm not the biggest fan of)

5. Use in cookies, cakes, etc. - any baked sweet that has a small amount of milk or water called for in the recipe. I usually add an extract to compliment the flavor of the coffee creamer.

What other uses do you have for all the deals on coffee creamer? I'm sure there are some aawesome ideas out there I can incorporate with the different flavors I have! I'm open to almost any experimentation out there - so please, tell me: what do you do with free coffee creamer?

With tons of Easter leftovers, I'm going to see how creatively I can use some honey, spiral cut ham without getting sick of ham everyday. Here's what I've come up with:

Monday: French toast, sausage, ham, fresh fruit, and juice

Tuesday: Ham and Cheddar Bay Biscuit sammies with harvarti cheese, hashbrowns, applesauce, and salad

Wednesday: Yummy Onion Chicken and rice, refried beans, tortillas, corn

Thursday: Ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, and applesauce

Friday: Burgers on the grill, baked beans, spinach salad, baked potatoes

Saturday: Ham, harvati, and mushroom omelets, toast, juice, bananas

Sunday - Either Smoky Orange Chicken Drummies or grilled Jamaican Jerk chicken with rice, salad, chips and salsa

Lunch of the week: Spaghetti with jarred sauce (tons of freebies from Ragu) and ham sammies (we have Italian bread, English muffins, and biscuits).

Fruit of the week: Let's see what Caputo's has on sale tomorrow!

Dessert of the week: Island-Style Oatmeal Cookies - this may be my new spring favorite cookie! P.S. - I added some dried pineapple to them - these are super light and yummy.
I found Whopper Robin Eggs at Dominicks for $.99 a bag!
Also on sale: select varieties of Hershey's for $1.99 a bag - check eawch item carefully as some are $2.99-$3.50 each, so watch what you grab and keep an eye out on them at the registers.

Also grabbed 2 bags of Ritz Toasted Chips - these are heavenly, I've had all but original and loved each flavor! On sale for $2 a bag - use $1/2 expired coupon from the back to school coupon books I found back in August.

Now, I just have to see what I can put together for the Easter basket!
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In my pantry, that is. I have been super-hounding (shopping) to get deals on cheapies and freebies to send back with my sister and her friend that came to celebrate DaMama's birthday weekend, and now - I actually have some space in my pantry. And in my freezer. Though a small dent was made in my pantry, I still have some re-arranging to do to make things more accessible. And my freezer - well, I've already started to refill that too.

I cleared out most of the cookie shelf, half the cereal shelf, and weeded out some of the chex mix collection that has been lingering and I've really opened up some areas where I had an over abundance. When I find items, like the Suave and the Colgate which are free after coupons (tax only kind of deals), I get as many as I can either store or as many as I have coupons for. I sent back a few dozen bottles of Suave (body wash, conditioner, and shampoo), 2-3 dozen tubes of toothpaste, jars of Ragu pasta sauce, boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats, and all sorts of other goodies.

Amy (sis) & Tanya (friend) were amazed by the amount of goodies they got to take home. I even took them "out-on-the-hound" so they could see just how easy it is to get all these goodies without breaking the bank. My sister's friend was surprised at how easy it was to spend very little and walk out with oodles of basic, usable food that most families would have on their grocery list. When I asked Tanya what cereals her family likes - she was puzzled - they typically don't get a choice on cereal, so when they have 3-4 different kinds of cereal on hand - that is amazing to them.

It's good for me to see how far I've come now that I coupon. Here just for a quick rundown on things that I have now th at I didn't have before:

1. Choices for meat - I used to stock chicken and ground turkey. Pork was a treat and beef never came into the house. Now - pork is on hand, so is deli meat, different cuts of chicken, etc. This gives me more flexibility on what meals I can make at any given time.

2. Cereal. I used to buy 1-2 boxes at a time at Aldi (I can't remember the last time I went in there!) and pray that it would last a few weeks - which it never did. Now, I pay $.50 or less per box of cereal. We have 8-10 varieties on hand at all times. I haven't run out of cereal since I started couponing. It's all good.

3. Condiments/Flavorings. I have tons of free salad dressing, cheap BBQ sauce, loads of free seasoning packets, and the list goes on. With my variety of meat - I can make any variation I choose. I still can't believe what they charge (regular price) for most condiments. It's insane!

What benefits do you see from bargain shopping, couponing, etc.? For me, it's all about choice and variety!
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