Easy 3 Ingredient Muffins

I am sorry to say, this recipe is not of my own creation and I cannot remember where I got it from, but give it a try if you want a very easy, healthy and delicious treat you can enjoy for breakfast, dessert or as a snack anytime of the day.

muffins

Ingredients:

1 box cake mix (any flavor will do) I used chocolate for this batch

1 can pumpkin or 2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin

½ cup chips of your choice (chocolate, peanut butter, white, etc…)

Directions:

1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium size bowl, beat cake mix and pumpkin together with electric mixer until smooth, (mix will be really thick) fold in chips.

muffins

3. Line muffin tins with paper muffin cups and lightly spray the inside of the liners with non-stick spray (otherwise the wrapper will stick to the muffin when you peel it off).

4. Spoon mix into liners about 3/4 of the way full.

5. Bake  for 45 to 50 minutes, muffins are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Makes approximately 1 dozen muffins.

6. Enjoy warm and gooey or cooled completely.

muffins

 

 

I have to admit that because of how thick the batter is with these muffins, they aren’t the prettiest thing to look at, but they taste great, they are lower in fat and calories than the average muffin, and are packed with veggies because of the pumpkin.

Enjoy the printable recipe card below.



Easy 3 Ingredient Muffins
Yields 12
So easy my sister can make it.
Write a review
Print
240 calories
39 g
1 g
9 g
3 g
1 g
53 g
332 g
0 g
0 g
7 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
53g
Yields
12
Amount Per Serving
Calories 240
Calories from Fat 75
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
13%
Saturated Fat 1g
6%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 1mg
0%
Sodium 332mg
14%
Total Carbohydrates 39g
13%
Dietary Fiber 1g
4%
Sugars 0g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A
0%
Vitamin C
3%
Calcium
6%
Iron
2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 box cake mix (any flavor will do) I used chocolate for this batch
  2. 1 can pumpkin or 2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin
  3. ½ cup chips of your choice (chocolate, peanut butter, white, etc…)
Instructions
  1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium size bowl, beat cake mix and pumpkin together with electric mixer until smooth, (mix will be really thick) fold in chips.
  3. Line muffin tins with paper muffin cups and lightly spray the inside of the liners with non-stick spray (otherwise the wrapper will stick to the muffin when you peel it off).
  4. Spoon mix into liners about 3/4 of the way full.
  5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, muffins are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Makes approximately 1 dozen muffins.
  6. Enjoy warm and gooey or cooled completely.
Other great variations are
  1. Yellow cake mix with peanut butter chips
  2. Spice cake mix with butterscotch chips
  3. Chocolate cake mix with; chocolate, white chip, peanut butter or mint.
beta
calories
240
fat
9g
protein
3g
carbs
39g
more
The Fort Worth Homemaker http://thefortworthhomemaker.com/

 

Five Frugal Friday

piggy-bank

By Liz

This was an odd week here; the weather took on a very bi-polar tone.  The beginning of the week we saw severe storms with tennis ball size hail, mid week we pushed a 90 degree, muggy day, then the next day the weather was cloudy and we did not break the 60 degree mark. The household seemed to be in tune with the weather as well, the week went by pretty quickly, although it felt like I did not do much or get much accomplished.

Well despite the instability of the week, I still managed to do 5 frugal things before Friday:

books

1. I  went to the library and checked out a book “The Color Purple”, by Alice Walker and the movie.  I finished the book and was able to find time to re-watch this wonderful movie. (Maybe this is part of the reason I did not get much accomplished this week).

cake-mix

2. My husband came home from the grocery store with 4 boxes of discounted Ghiradelli, dark chocolate, cake mix. They had been marked down to 75 cents each.  So I pulled up my recipe for 3 ingredient muffins and used one of the mixes to make a batch.

sophie

3. As much as she hates, it; I hate it even more….I trimmed my dog, Sophie’s nails instead of taking her to the groomer to do it.  Sophie has black nails, so it is really hard to see the quick and I am always afraid I am going to cut her.

nail-bag

4. Gave myself a pedicure.  Every 2 to 3 weeks (depending on how long the color lasts), I make a fresh cup of coffee, (sometimes have a glass of wine) put on a movie, and get my nail bag out and settle in to pamper my toes.

money

5. I had managed to come under my cash budget for groceries. I still had a whopping $17.00 to spare.  I know this does not sound like much, but whenever this happens, the remaining cash goes into our “secondary house fund”.  Scoff all you want but, it adds up over time.

So that is my fiver for the week, what did yours look like?




50 Pound Weight Loss, 10 Minutes at a Time

weight-loss-01

By Liz

No one needs to tell you how to save money, the equation is simple, spend less than you earn. The same common sense formula applies to weight loss, burn more calories than you consume. It is that simple. You have to eat in moderation and you have to exercise.

However, in today’s, quick and convenient world, many of us choose to find the fastest, easiest and in many cases costliest ways to achieve weight loss. Procedures such as; starvation diets, diet pills, meal replacement shakes,  bariatric surgery, gastric bypass surgery, cool sculpting, diet food subscriptions, and the list goes on and on and so do the prices.

weight-loss-04Unfortunately, many of the above named procedures are not always a success story.  For instance, when I worked in the white collar world, I knew of 2 rather large women who had both undergone the costly, surgical route.  While at first, they each seemed to be melting away in front of our eyes, as they had each approached their one year anniversary date of their procedures, their old lifestyle ways were back and so was the weight. They were once again, back to a sedentary lifestyle, in addition to poor eating habits.  Not only did each of these ladies gain the weight back they had lost, they had both gained extra to boot.

I too, like so many, struggle with my weight, I always have and I probably always will.  I never had the resources for any of the above methods of losing weight and I probably never will.

About a year ago, I had to undergo total knee replacement surgery.  No big shocker, at the time, I was overweight and according to my doctor, not by a little, but by about 50 pounds. He had explained to me that generally most patients get this operation done when they are in their 60’s and 70’s because this kind of procedure should really be done only once in one’s lifetime.  Due to me being only in my mid forties, this new knee was going to have to last me the rest of my life and for obvious reasons, the less weight it had to carry, the longer it was going to last me.  So, like it or not I had to lose weight.

I had put the surgery on hold for 3 months, because I wanted to lose at least 20 pounds before going under the knife and what they say is true; it DOES get harder to lose weight as you get older. I have never had an issue with the diet portion of my weight loss battles (except the will power segment at times).  I love to cook, and I have always been able to find or create lower calorie and lower fat food options without sacrificing flavor. Even with this knowledge, I am still aware, that whatever it is I eat, has to be in moderation and it has to be well balanced (you know what I am talking about; imagine the food pyramid image).

weight-loss-05

My downfall would always come by way of exercise. I hate to exercise. I can’t say that enough, so I will say it again, I hate to exercise!  I would rather scrub toilet bowls with a toothbrush than exercise.  However, being an intelligent woman, I know I have to. To me, it is a necessary evil in maintaining my health.

When my orthopedist told me I needed to lose weight, I took it seriously and maybe, finally, this was the wakeup call I needed to lose weight and maintain my weight loss for the long haul.  In the past, all of my weight loss attempts had been for pure vanity reasons but now my longevity health was at risk.

Anyone with knee problems will tell you, when you place stress on that joint, no matter how much or how little… it hurts. You might be fine while engaging in the exercise, but afterwards is a pain filled nightmare.  I was limited in the kinds of exercises I could do; this made the whole process even harder.

Swimming is the best option for people with joint problems, however, not everyone has access to a pool and joining a health club gets very pricey. Instead, I invested in an elliptical machine. The motion on my knee was fluent without the shocking impact on the joint that I would have gotten from walking or using a treadmill. So once it was assembled, there it sat in my bedroom, waiting to be used. I can’t tell you how many times I really just looked at that thing and wanted it to just become a clothes hanger, but I knew I had to start using it.

weight-loss-02

So one morning I decided it was time to start on this journey. I started off with no resistance setting at all.  I just needed to start moving.  I got on for 10 minutes.  The time went by rather quickly, considering it was so short, yes my knee was a sore afterwards, but it wasn’t horrible.  After lunch, I decided to do another 10 minutes, same feeling, same results, and then another set before dinner.  At the end of the day, I had done it; I had exercised for 30 minutes.  You can probably imagine that the next day, I was in pain! I did not use the elliptical that day, but the following day I did, I felt better and repeated the same 3; 10 minute interval way of exercising and kept up this method for months.

In the beginning, I was using my elliptical 3 times a week, 30 minutes a day in my 10 minute “exercise blasts”. After about 3 weeks of doing this, I noticed my body was starting to get used to the routine, and it didn’t hurt as much.  I decided to try to challenge myself.  I started doing my routine 4 times a week.  My eating habits were also improving and after about 6 weeks of eating well and some regular exercise, I got on the scale to see that I had lost 7 pounds.  I know, a lot of you are saying “that’s it!” But I tell you this, it was a true 7 pounds, it wasn’t water weight so I knew it wasn’t coming back after only a few days.



My surgery was scheduled almost 4 months to the day I originally gone to see my orthopedist, and by that time, I had managed to lose 25 pounds.  I was still only half way to my ultimate goal. The recovery was long and I won’t lie, physical therapy was hard and painful.  I think it was “tough love” on their behalf, because I was so young to have had this procedure, my therapy sessions were rigorous. During that time, physical therapy had replaced my use of the elliptical.  I was going to the therapists’, 3 times a week, for 3 months, plus I was doing some of the exercises they taught me at home. Oh and did I mention that my orthopedist wanted me to be walking at least 30 minutes a day? (Yeah…he was tough). So there I was, each night, my husband by my side and me clinging to my walker, taking a 30 minute walk in my neighborhood and re-learning how to walk.  You can imagine that in the beginning, I was moving at a snail’s pace, it would take me 30 minutes to go 4 houses up and 4 houses back, it did not seem as though I was gaining much ground.  Funny thing though, after a few weeks, I noticed I could go 8 houses up and back in 30 minutes.  I finally lost the walker and in another few weeks and I could make it all the way up the street and back in 30 minutes, and so on and so on, I just needed to stay at it and after some time, I was able to go farther and longer.

I am proud to say that 8 months after my surgery, I had reached my weight loss goal.  I had lost a total of 50 pounds with sheer diet, exercise and time; no magic formula, no weight loss surgery, no starving or depriving myself, no harsh workouts that push me into the ground,  just a plain old common sense approach.

weight-loss-08I am glad to say, that I don’t mind exercising so much anymore.  I just needed to find the right exercise for me, one that I enjoy and doesn’t feel like a chore to me.  I have since replaced my elliptical with a stationary bike (recommended by my orthopedist to ensure flexibility and mobility in my knee).  In addition to using this piece of home equipment, (still in 10 minute intervals…..hey, I’m not a fanatic!) I take regular daily walks with and without my dog, most of the time while listening to music, but sometimes, just to take in the sights, sounds and glory of nature and use it as the “me time” part of my day.

Most people that struggle with weight loss want instant results.  That is unrealistic. Think about it, you didn’t instantaneously gain the weight; it took time to put it on, so why would one think taking the weight off would be different?  I now know and understand the severity of maintaining my current weight and I am fully aware that my lifestyle must contain movement and moderation each and every day all in efforts for a long and healthy life.




Savoring Coffee and the Weekend

french-press

By Liz

Like most, our Mondays through Fridays are extremely hectic. That’s not to say that our weekends aren’t busy either, but we tend to tackle those two glorious days with more of a laid back vibe.

Even though we are family that tries to tighten our belts every chance we get, we do have some luxuries that we enjoy.  As I have mentioned in a previous article, my husband gave me a Keurig coffee machine many Christmases ago that gets a lot of use in our house as you can imagine with the 7 of us.  In fact, it seems as though our Keurig is always hard at work brewing a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa.  What I like most about it, is that it produces a hot, fresh cup of whatever our palates are craving at any particular time.  For example, I enjoy a regular medium roast cup of coffee, my husband enjoys hazelnut coffee, while the older boys enjoy some very strong, alternate flavored, gourmet coffees (that they buy with their own money) and while our teens turn their beverages into iced coffees now and then, they mostly stick to cocoa.




When my hubby and I got married, we received a French Press coffee pot as one of our gifts. It was the first time I had tried a cup of coffee from a French Press.  At the time, I was skeptical, because it reminded me so much of the same process used when making instant or peculated coffee, which is what I grew up on, needless to say, I was not a huge fan of either of those methods back in the day, but it was all we had. But from that very first sip of coffee that was brewed from the French Press coffee pot….I was hooked. The aroma, the intense, smooth flavor, the rich color….OMG!! I was in café heaven!

Mondays through Fridays, I start my days at 6:00 a.m. with a fresh cup of coffee every morning, brewed from my Keurig. While my Keurig is starting up, I will flip open my laptop, log on and start checking emails, start to work on an article for my blog, throw in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, etc… before the rest of my brood even starts wiping the sleep crud from their eyes.  On an average day, I typically enjoy 2, sometimes 3 cups most mornings, another cup late in the afternoon and sometimes a cup at lunch, depending on what is on the menu.




Weekends however are another story when it comes to java. I sleep in on Saturday and Sundays (usually until about 6:45 a.m.) on these 2 days, my beloved French Press Coffee pot comes out.  I brew a fresh, hot pot of coffee and then spend some overdue, quality time, relaxing and enjoying my java.  Depending on what kind of weekend it is, I pair my cup of coffee with a good book and a blanket, curled up on the couch. Then there are times when I sip on my java and watch an old movie; but my favorite is when the weather cooperates, I will sit out on my back patio and just enjoy another beautiful day that God has created, just taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the fresh morning air while sipping on my cup of heaven.

After well over a decade in the corporate world, which also included those rushed,” squeeze in all those tasks on the weekends because you were working all week”, and even now, though I am our COO and Home Manager, of a hustling and bustling household,  I purposely find time to savor the flavor of my coffee and weekend mornings.




Food Subscription Boxes

mail-box

By Liz

Talk about all things trendy.  If you haven’t seen or heard about food subscription boxes yet, then you must be living under a rock. This is not a new concept, I mean, take Omaha Steaks for instance…they have been around since 1917.  But nowadays you can get just about any kind of food, delivered to your door with easy step by step instructions, with little to no waste and without the hassle of visiting your grocery store to pick up the ingredients.

Types of boxes available are fruits, vegetables, and snacks, jerky, chocolate, bacon, cheese, full meals, seasonal, regional and the list goes on and on.

Sorry to say, I think this trend, is a waste of your hard earned money!

We as a society already spend so much money on food, whether going out to eat or at our local grocery store(s), so it seems to me that this kind of service is really irrelevant.  However, like most trends, these companies are trying to convince you, that you need their product to be hip, trendy, creative, and money savvy; but do you really need their help?

I decided to do some research on these companies, because many of my fellow, “frugal” bloggers have wonderful things to say about them, (although, I personally believe that if you are calling yourself a “frugal or money saving” blogger and promote or purchase these kinds of subscriptions…..you’ve missed the mark).

There are so many companies trying to cash in on this latest trend, it is overwhelming, so I decided to just concentrate on just produce boxes, but most of this information also applies to most of the other subscription boxes and this is what I have discovered:

produce

1. Many are locally based, so they might not deliver to your zip code, or you will be paying very high shipping costs for this convenience.

2. Your going to pay for this kind of convenience, anywhere from $11 to $110 (and these are prices for produce boxes).

3. Most offer both traditional or organic products.

4. You really don’t get what you pay for. If you were to do a price comparison, you would see that in most cases, you are paying double and in some cases, triple what it would cost you at the grocery store for the same or very similar products.

5. Packaging can sometimes be environmentally unfriendly. Some of the organic products being purchased, come packaged so as they are not bruised or damaged; all well and good, but many of the materials used for packaging, are not good for mother earth. (Ironic…..huh?)

6. Some of the produce subscription services are selling “recovered”, produce, meaning fruits and vegetables that are perfectly fine to eat, but would have otherwise been thrown away. It’s often discarded because of aesthetic imperfections or logistical inefficiencies. They don’t try to hide this; in fact, for some it is on the main page of their website.




So it has been pointed out to me is that these kinds of services  are helping local farmers and business owners  not to mention the convenience it brings to the consumer of not having to go the store to pick these items out for themselves.  My argument is this….you have to go to the grocery store anyway, right? So while you are there picking up the myriad of other items on your list, why aren’t you taking a few extra minutes to purchase fresh, traditional or organic produce from the same place you shop in the first place?

farmers-market

It has also been argued that these kinds of services offer more natural choices, help many with diet restrictions due to health, and offer step by step instructions with just the right amount of ingredients to make a gourmet meal at home.  My argument for this is the following:  just about everyone owns or has access to a cookbook, (these resources also come with step by step instructions) or the internet, which offers an endless supply of recipes.  Natural and organic produce can be found not only at your local grocery store(s), but also at specialty stores and especially local farmer’s markets.

No matter how old I get, I am always looking for ways to save money, as much money as I can, because my dream is to retire with my husband somewhere close to the ocean and be able to travel, volunteer, relax, and really to just wake up on any given day and do whatever we want, when we want.  We don’t want to realize one day that we don’t have enough for our retirement, and we have to keep working until we are 75 or 80 years old, or that any one medical condition that myself or my husband might encounter down the road, will wipe us out financially.  So we are all about saving as many pennies as we can for as long as we can. My husband and I are both foodies, and we both enjoy cooking, but we also know that, throwing money away on the latest band wagon of what is hip and trendy today, will not help us achieve our goals for tomorrow.

couple

If you too are financially conscience, and not only want to eat healthy, but well; I suggest that rather than subscribe to one of these, trendy, overpriced and under stocked box services, you should take a little time each week, plan out a few meals, list your ingredients, purchase only what you need for these dishes and keep the money you have saved in your wallet.




Open Faced Portabella Salmon Burgers

 

salmon

by Liz
This is one of my new favorites and is a quick and healthy lunch. As usual, the idea of this recipe came to me while looking around my fridge, thinking I really had to use up some of the stuff in there.

I use salmon burger patties for this recipe, but you could easily swap this out for a veggie, black bean or a regular beef burger….whatever your preference.

salmon

Ingredients:

2 frozen salmon burger patties

2 large portabella mushroom caps

2 slices of cheese (I used Muenster and Pepper Jack)

Fresh Spinach leaves (optional)

Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven (I used my toaster oven) to 325 degrees.

2. Wipe mushrooms clean of debris or dirt (never rinse a mushroom, it will make it soggy).  With a spoon gently scrape off as much of the mushroom gills without digging into the meat of the mushroom, on the underside of the cap and level out any protruding stem pieces.

salmon

3. Place cap topside down on your lined baking sheet and lightly spray the gill side up with an oil, non stick spray.  Lightly season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Bake portabellas until slightly soft about 7 to 10 minutes.  Set baking sheet aside and let cool momentarily.

salmon

4. Meanwhile, in a non stick pan, over medium to high heat, cook the salmon patties thoroughly on each side, and season each side lightly with salt and pepper. Salmon patties should cook at least 6 to 7 minutes on each side to ensure proper doneness.

salmon

5. Place 3 to 4 spinach leaves on each, cooled mushroom cap. Then slide a burger patty on to each portabella.  Top with cheese slices (any kind will do). Place back into the oven for another 3 minutes to melt the cheese.

6. Serve immediately and enjoy by itself, or with a side salad.

salmon

This lunch is oddly satisfying, because of the protein of the burger patty and the “meatiness” taste and texture of the portabella.  This recipe is not only good for lunch, but makes for a really good dinner option as well.

Enjoy the printable recipe card below.



Open Faced Portabella Salmon Burgers
Serves 2
A healthy twist for a burger.
Write a review
Print
359 calories
24 g
52 g
20 g
25 g
7 g
370 g
541 g
3 g
0 g
10 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
370g
Servings
2
Amount Per Serving
Calories 359
Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 20g
31%
Saturated Fat 7g
37%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Cholesterol 52mg
17%
Sodium 541mg
23%
Total Carbohydrates 24g
8%
Dietary Fiber 5g
21%
Sugars 3g
Protein 25g
Vitamin A
325%
Vitamin C
80%
Calcium
39%
Iron
35%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 2 frozen salmon burger patties
  2. 2 large portabella mushroom caps
  3. 2 slices of cheese (I used Muenster and Pepper Jack)
  4. Fresh Spinach leaves (optional)
  5. Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven (I used my toaster oven) to 325 degrees.
  2. Wipe mushrooms clean of debris or dirt (never rinse a mushroom, it will make it soggy). With a spoon gently scrape off as much of the mushroom gills without digging into the meat of the mushroom, on the underside of the cap and level out any protruding stem pieces.
  3. Place cap topside down on your lined baking sheet and lightly spray the gill side up with an oil, non stick spray. Lightly season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake portabellas until slightly soft about 7 to 10 minutes. Set baking sheet aside and let cool momentarily.
  4. Meanwhile, in a non stick pan, over medium to high heat, cook the salmon patties thoroughly on each side, and season each side lightly with salt and pepper. Salmon patties should cook at least 6 to 7 minutes on each side to ensure proper doneness.
  5. Place 3 to 4 spinach leaves on each, cooled mushroom cap. Then slide a burger patty on to each portabella. Top with cheese slices (any kind will do). Place back into the oven for another 3 minutes to melt the cheese.
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy by itself, or with a side salad.
Notes
  1. Can also be made with a beef, tofu, veggie or black bean burgers.
beta
calories
359
fat
20g
protein
25g
carbs
24g
more
The Fort Worth Homemaker http://thefortworthhomemaker.com/

 

Dollar Tree Musts

money-tree

By Liz

If you are like me, you have read many an article from different folks sharing their top buys at the Dollar Tree store.

Dollar Tree stores have been in existence since 1991 and operates more than 13,600 stores throughout the 48 contiguous U.S. states and Canada.

Dollar Tree is classified as an extreme discount store and while initially, it’s targeted consumers were those who were suffering financial burdens, it has now become more popular with affluent customers (that’s how the affluent, stay affluent, by saving their money).

So here is my list of must haves from Dollar Tree:

cards

1.Greeting cards.  While I do “care enough to send the very best”, I am not particularly fond of taking out a small loan to pay for the sentiment. This is especially true when you are shopping for several cards for special occasions and you can’t find a box set with the repeated greeting. If you look hard enough, Dollar Tree even offers a section of cards that are 2 for $1.00.

bags

2.Gift bags/wrapping.  The store offers a wide variety of gift bags, in assorted sizes, plain, unmarked as well as occasion specific decorated bags.  In addition they offer bows, tissue paper, stickers and tags.

seasonal

3.Sesonal items.  Each major (and some minor) holiday, you can find wall décor, table décor,  crafts, ornaments, baking items, disposable and non-disposable kitchen items, and more to help you celebrate, without breaking the bank.

party

 

4.Party. Whether you are hosting a birthday, holiday, shower or a wedding, you can find invitations, thank-yous, banners, balloons, party favors, table ware, centerpieces and more.

readers

5.Reading glasses. Dollar Tree offers an array of magnifications and a wide variety of frame styles for both men and women. The store also offers, cleaning cloths and hard shelled glass cases in different sizes to help you keep your readers safe.

newspapers

6.Your local Sunday newspaper.  If you are a “couponer”, I personally believe that this is your most cost efficient way of obtaining duplicate coupons, (unless your friends, family and/or neighbors donate them to you).  If you are going to buy multiple Sunday papers, some locations may limit the quantity, so you might want to check with store personnel. Also, if they haven’t sold out, you can still find the Sunday paper, throughout the week at the store.

books

7.Activity books. Sophisticated coloring books for youth and adults are all the rage right now and I have seen some of these complex, designed coloring books with a hefty price tag being offered at both online and brick and mortar stores, Dollar Tree offers the same kind of coloring entertainment, just at a bargain rate.  Dollar Tree also sells puzzle books, so if you, or someone you know enjoys passing the time with word search, Sudoku or crossword puzzles, you can find plenty of options for only a $1.00 a piece. This is not only a great form of entertainment on the cheap, but it also requires one to “unplug” for awhile, while engaged in these activities….and who couldn’t use some more of that?

foil

8.Aluminium foil pans. Due to the size of our household, 7 people, we generally wind up hosting all of the major and some of the minor holidays at our house. It doesn’t feel right converging on my sister’s family of 3 and expect them to cook for our brood.  That’s when these lifesavers come in handy.  I can generally do some or most of the cooking a day or two prior to the event, store the food in the foil pans, and then just re-heat the day of the feast. Then there is the clean up factor, it is exhilarating to just empty the pan, crumple it up and toss it in the trash.  These beauties are a wonderful time saver for me and I am able to enjoy the day with my family and not be stuck in the kitchen cooking and doing dishes all day.

pasta

9.Pasta. Most stores offer this pantry staple pretty cheap, so you might be wondering why I listed it. When was the last time you actually looked at the size of the package when you bought pasta at your favorite grocery store? I have noticed that at even at my own beloved grocery stores, offers pasta for as low as 85 cents per package……great deal, right? Not exactly, upon further inspection, the size of the package is only 12 ounces. This equates to 7 cents per ounce. Dollar Tree offers both 16 and 24 ounce packages, this equates to 6 cents and 4 cents per ounce, respectfully. This probably does not sound like much of a savings, but when you eat as much pasta as we do, it just makes cents (see what I did there?).

broth

10.Broth. I know….I know….making your own homemade broth is more economical, but I use so much beef and chicken broth on a weekly basis, that I would have to make a batch every 2-3 days. Dollar Tree offers beef, chicken, and sometimes when I can find it vegetable broth. Each container is 32 ounces (4 cups) for $1.00. Even though making it from scratch would save me money, this option saves me time, and that too is just as valuable to me.

So there you have it, my personal favorites from Dollar Tree.  I hope that you will be able to apply some of these suggestions into your own time and money saving routines.  Stop in at your local Dollar Tree, you just might be surprised what you find.




Why I Don’t Coupon

 

coupons

by Liz

We have all seen or at least heard about couponing and extreme couponing, where everyday people have been able to save anywhere from 40% all the way up to a staggering 90% off of their grocery bill by means of clipping some coupons and following their local grocery store sales.  To these folks, I say, congratulations!

A few years back, I too, jumped on this bandwagon, hoping to save myself and my family of 7 buckets of cash while amassing stockpiles of items we would not have to re purchase at full price at an inopportune time in the future.

Here is what I experienced:

1.  In order to maximize and accumulate the quantity my family would need of any one particular item, I would need multiple coupons for the same item.  No problem, I just picked up more than one Sunday paper with coupons at my local Dollar Tree for $1.00 per newspaper (our Dollar Tree has a 5 quantity limit). The alternative to this was to print coupons at home, however, it would cost me more in paper and ink to print up multiple coupons, and some of the coupon companies would set a limit of only 2 print out per device, thereby, having me jump from one computer to another to be able to print what I needed.

2. After gathering all my coupons, I would then spread them out over my living room floor combining duplicates and then separating them into like categories; i.e. dairy; cleaning; beauty; snacks; etc…

3. Then I would have to cut them all down to size and put them all together in my storage system,  I had chosen the 3 ring binder/baseball card pocket storage, as I thought this would be the easiest to carry around and shop with at the grocery stores.  However, before filing these little beauties away, I would first have to “weed” out all my expired coupons, and their always seemed to be a lot of them that I had not used and I had to toss out.

4. Later that day, I would pull out the local grocers sales flyers from the week to start to match up sale items with coupons, giving me the lowest prices I could find on any given item.  This was an ongoing step in this process, because unlike in the North East of the country where the store’s sales run from Sunday to Saturday, here in Texas, the sales run from Wednesday to Tuesday, for this reason alone, there was always more than one trip to the stores in any given week, (this is marketing genius on behalf of the grocery stores.)

5. After gathering my coupon binder, I would head off to seek my treasures, I would then be stopping in at least 2 to 3 stores at least twice a week to cash in on my savings and reap my rewards.  Usually upon leaving the store, I would check my receipt, I would generally save, somewhere in the ball park of 40%, not nearly the savings as bragged about by self appointed “coupon mavens”, but week after week, I would be at it again.

6. Once I got my items home, I needed to find a place to store them.  At the time, the 7 of us were living in a 1600 sq. ft. home, and it seemed as though the kids were growing all the time.  For this reason, I asked my wonderful husband to build me some shelving out in our garage, which he happily did.




After only a few months of this ritual of savings, I had acquired quite a large, over-flowing stock pile of goods. Most of the items were health and beauty items, which we kept in our garage in our then, new, elaborate shelving system and most of the food and pantry staples were kept in our tiny kitchen storage system.

coupons

I was feeling mighty proud of myself at the time and was pleased in knowing that if anyone of my family members needed to replace their toothbrush, deodorant or any other product, all they had to do was go “shopping” in our stash, which I had purchased at a discount.

Here is what I actually learned:

1. My time is precious and valuable.  After only a couple of weeks, I learned I dreaded Sundays.  Spending hours of my time going through this crazy, couponing cycle, only to save an average of about 40% was disheartening, when I was striving for a larger savings.

2. Most of the items, I obtained due to couponing we hadn’t ever really needed or used. The only reason I bought most of the items instead of my usual brands, was because there was a coupon being offered.

3. My family never learned to live the motto of “a little goes a long way” because psychologically they knew there was an endless supply of items, so there was never any thought of how to conserve anything.

4. When my stock pile would start to look sparse, here or there, I would start to panic and get anxious, so I would usually go out of my way, with an additional trip to the grocery store(s), on top of the 2 times I was already going per week, just to replenish my vast inventory, thereby spending even more of my time and my money.

5. We did not have the storage space to keep this “hamster on a wheel” way of shopping up.  If you were an outsider looking in, we looked like a mom and pop general store or a family of hoarders at least that was certainly the way I had started to feel.

6. In the end, when me moved from our 1600 sq. ft. home, we looked at our couponing treasures, and there was a lot of it, we decided to donate most of it to families that were in need.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of “couponers” who donate much of their goods, and I feel like my family and I are very blessed, so we had no qualms about giving to those in need.

7. I have since gone back to my original way of shopping which include:

a. Shopping  at my local Winco and Aldi food stores, both of which offer the lowest prices, compared to the other, larger grocery chains.

b. Buying in bulk.  My Winco has a wonderful bulk section, so I can stock up on nuts, cereals, beans, grains, rice and even candy if I so choose.

c. If I am in my local Walmart, Albertson’s or Tom Thumb stores, I will always swing by their discounted sections to see what kind of deals they have.  I have been able to purchase discounted, but still wonderful looking meats, cheeses, pastries and breads at each of these stores.




My now stock pile(s) only have a 1 to 2 item reserve on any given item, sometimes less. I am ecstatic to say the least, as I do not have to look at all that clutter not to mention, I have regained control of my Sunday’s and now use that time to spend with my family enjoying our life and our home together.

And the most important:  I shop only once a week.  By limiting my trips, I save time, gas and money and who can’t use more of those?

How to Heat your Home for Free…..or Almost Free




By Luis

It’s springtime and that means many things to many people; spring cleaning, landscaping, gardening and picnics.  All of those things conjure up bright and happy images for a multitude of people.  Springtime, for me, however get me thinking about heating up my house.

fire

Wait, before you click away let me explain.  My household loves a roaring fireplace during the cold dreary winter months.  If you do too, then you know exactly how wonderful it is to hear the crackle of a wood fire while basking in its radiant warmth.  This kind of heating source always comes with a price, most notably the cost of the firewood.

Anyone that has purchased firewood as a cord, half-cord, quarter-cord or even a prepackaged bundle from your local hardware store can agree that firewood is expensive! A cord of firewood is defined as cut firewood stacked 4ft. tall, 4ft. deep, and 8ft long.  Depending on the type of wood, a cord of firewood can range anywhere from $300 to $700 dollars.  That’s exactly why springtime to me means FREE firewood.

 


This is the time of year that several people perform tree trimming.  Some people trim their own trees; others hire someone to do the trimming, either way most are faced with the trouble of getting rid of those trimmings.  This leads to a win-win situation.  Many people will post online ads on sites such as Craigslist or Freecycle for “free firewood”; the only catch is that you have to go pick it up and haul it away, it might seem like quite the effort, but the payoff is the huge savings for free heat in the cold months that lie ahead.

I recently responded to such an online ad and after meeting with the homeowners, I learned they had trimmed 6 oak trees on their property and happily encouraged me to “take all you want”.  I loaded all our family van could carry which ended up being just over half a cord of oak (the best) firewood. My family enjoyed the free warmth of many a fires this past winter, and because this past season was unusually warm, we still have quite the large stockpile to start off this upcoming winter season.

spring-haul

So if you are willing to answer these ads, put in some muscle and bring home free firewood, whether a trunk-load, or pickup truck-load at a time; you can start to amass your own source of free winter heat  without paying the high prices of ordering firewood from a vendor.

 

The Best Ever Fresh Beans

by Liz

beans

I have to admit, before I moved to Texas, the only beans I had ever really known were baked beans.  However, since then, I had been introduced to this very delicious and very satisfying Texas staple.

Beans are not only great tasting, but they are very economical and versatile.

Here is my recipe for the best tasting beans; I used black beans for this recipe.

In a 5 quart slow cooker, add 1 pound of dried beans (pinto, red, black, navy…the possibilities are endless) fill slow cooker ¾ full of water and cover, (you want plenty of water to cover the beans as they will expand overnight).

Let soak overnight.

The next day, drain and rinse beans.

Add beans and fresh water back into the slow cooker, one again filling pot ¾ way with water, (the beans will expand a little more and some of this water will evaporate during cooking).

Add 1; 2” x 2” piece of salt pork and 4 to 5 large cloves of peeled garlic to slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. (Beans will be fully cooked when they are soft and/or their outer skin starts to crack.)

Turn off slow cooker, remove and discard salt pork.

Add 1 Tablespoon of salt (do not add salt in the beginning of this process as this will toughen the beans) and 2 teaspoons of oregano, stir well, replace lid and let sit for about a half hour. (This lets the spices, permeate the beans).

Enjoy as is, or over rice with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, green onion, avocado, fresh tomato or whatever you prefer.