Friday, February 29, 2008

MomAdvice Weekly Recap: 02.29.08

Another week and another month behind us! I just want to thank everyone who continues to support my efforts here. Your comments and emails totally make my day.

This is what I have been up to for this week:

Featured Article:

Spring Cleaning for Todays Mom-
With spring comes all of the beauty of the changing season. We finally began to see our grass; we enjoy seeing the new buds on our trees, and the sweet smell of a good April shower. What also comes along is the dreaded ritual of spring cleaning. Maybe you went through this awful experience as a child. Your mother would be pulling all the linens, washing the drapes, deep cleaning every nook and cranny of your home and then collapse after a full day of cleaning. I don’t remember this as being a fun ritual for our family and have decided to try a different method of cleaning in our own home.....Continue Reading

Blog Entries for Fun & Discussion:

Staying Fashionable Through Ebates-
I love to be fashionable, but I just don't have the money to keep up with the trends. I share some thrifty spots to visit for your fashion needs and an easy way to earn money towards your clothes (or shoes!) ...Continue Reading

A Sad Life for the Clark Kids- Lots of Chores! - Do your children lead as sad of a life as mine? We are having such a fun discussion on what chores you do in your house and rewards that you offer for good behavior...Continue Reading

Baby Steps: Storing Your Stockpile- We continue our series with a fun discussion on how to store your grocery stockpiles... Continue Reading

Testing the Grocery Game: Week One- Watch me make mistake after mistake trying to figure out how to use coupons. How entertaining does that sound? Continue Reading

Don't miss a single entry and subscribe to my feeds! We have made it easy for you to do it- you are just a click away!

Giving Away the Mother Load!

Hurry-don't forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted.

We will be offering another AMAZING giveaway on Tuesday and adding a fun new feature to our site. I am bursting- can't wait to share it with you!

Featured Recipe of the Week:

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Forum Discussions:

Have any of you taught your babies sign language? If so, was your experience positive? Are there specific web sites or books you would recommend? I am working with my daughter on a few signs, and sometimes she makes the signs for "eat" and "more". I think it would be helpful if I had some good resources...I love the idea of teaching her to sign words before she can say them, so she can tell me what she wants. She has just gotten to the stage where she points to everything and is starting to get impatient when I don't understand what she wants... Join the Discussion

I was wondering if anyone has had any success at earning a little extra income with Online Surveys? I've been checking out a few sites, but I really have no idea where to even start.. Join the Discussion


Play it Again, Momma! (A Spring Cleaning Edition)

Did you miss these posts the first time around? Here they are for your reading pleasure!

Washin' The Washer

Washing Your Child's Lovie

Organizing Your Laundry Room

Caring for Your Table Linens


Not enough of me yet?

WSBT: The Art of Stockpiling
Frugal Hacks: Spring Cleaning & Organizational Hurdles

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Freebie Friday: February 29, 2008

A big hug and thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us compile our list this week. You don't have to wait to get your freebies on Friday, she will keep you supplied until you can get a freebie fix here.

Don't know what to do with all your freebies? Check out some of Heather's excellent recommendations for what to do with all of your free loot. Thanks, Heather!


Health & Beauty



Colgate's Healthy Bedtime Habits log (earn a free toothbrush)

Food



Wyeth S-26 Gold Toddler (milk drink)

Steeped In Style Tea (you do not need to put in a company name or telephone number)

Full Size Box of Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Pasta (Note- To take advantage of this, you have to buy a box TODAY and send in a rebate form. Receipt must be mailed in by 03/15 for the refund)

Entertainment

"Beautiful Children" novel by Charles Brock (free download Friday only)

Home & Garden

Green Engine Oil

Microsoft ebook on starting your own business (download is on the left-hand side of the page)

Sprout Smart Child's Tableware Set (page is loading a little slow)

Pet Care

Zootoo pet community (members get free samples)

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Have a Blog? Need Some Fuel?

Mashable shares that Joffery's Coffee & Tea company is offering bloggers a chance to sample their new coffee flavor... for free. 10,000 spots are available to "beta test" their new flavor. Not only that, but you can add a link to your blog on their site. I was number 399 when I signed up so there are definitely spots still available. Read their post to get the full scoop.

Thanks to my hubby for sending this freebie my way! He knows how happy coffee makes me!

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Practically Free Breakfast

Be sure to hit your local McDonald's for breakfast this morning or tomorrow morning. In honor of the Leap Year, they are giving away free McSkillet Burritos with the purchase of a medium or large drink.

I went over today and although their advertisement said that they were offering only the sausage variety for free, I got a steak one for free (never hurts to ask!) Pair your free burrito with a $1 large sweet tea and you have a deliciously delicious and fattening breakfast.

I just polished off the burrito and ohmygoodness...it is truly heaven! Honestly, it was the best breakfast burrito I have ever eaten. I am not a breakfast person, but this really hit the spot.

Enjoy!

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Amy's Notebook 02.28.08


I love this step-by-step tutorial for roasting a chicken. I want to try her seasoned rub- it looks tasty (@ The Sparrow's Nest)

This one hour project for making a bag looks great! (@ Ric Rac)

This milk jug chandelier is amazing- I would have never thought to repurpose these in this way (@ shelterrific)

I bet my children would love these sesame fish sticks (@ Simply Recipes)

I love this idea to turn your yogurt containers into sippy cups (@ Life Hacker)

I love the photography tips in this post and can't wait to try some of them (@ Dutch Blitz)

This post on food brand loyalty really got me thinking (@ Cheap Healthy Good)

This bagel recipe looks delicious. Must. Make. Bagels. (@ My Paper Crane)

I need to make a clothespin bag for the spring- these free patterns are great (@ Tip Nut)

These toilet paper race cars look like a fun craft to do with my son (@ The Ramblings of a Crazy Woman)

I want to try this homemade banana ice cream recipe- it sounds delicious (@ Blissfully Domestic)

I love these gift ideas- especially the newspaper one (@ Ohdeedoh)

I need to try this recipe for lemon poppyseed scones (@ Be It Ever So Humble)

I love this allowance idea (@ Free Money Finance)

This 20 minute apron is too cute (@ the Loria Family Dialogues)

I am going to be adopting this birthday party table in our house (@ Like Merchant Ships)

I love this idea for making a utility tub skirt. It would certainly mask the paint drips in our tub (@ shelterrific)

This homemade bowling pin set sounds like a fun activity for these long winter days (@ Chocolate on My Cranium)

I love this idea for learning how to draw dinosaurs with your kid. Guaranteed a cool mom award if I learned this (@ GoodyBlog)

I think I might make some Easter gardening baskets this year (@ The Felt Mouse)

Homemade Hostess Cakes? These sound amazing (@ Smitten Kitchen)

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Testing The Grocery Game: Week One

This is my first week trying out the Grocery Game and really working towards building our stockpile through coupons and sale prices. I promised to chronicle my efforts here and I really appreciated all of your ideas and feedback on your coupon usage and what has been working for you.

Here we are in week one of my Grocery Game membership. Frankly, week one with this membership really stinks. I feel like I do when I go on other websites that offer a "free basic membership," but then they only extend certain offers and the premium members get all of the good stuff. The reason is, of course, because I have none of the coupons that are listed for these good deals, not because I don't have access to seeing the deal.

This week I diligently cut my coupons and then explored the official list of deals. The CVS listings were nothing new and were things that I could find elsewhere on the web. The deals for Kroger & Meijer did offer some insight into great deals that I could take advantage of...if I had coupons from January. I took note of some of the sale items that I had overlooked when I had flipped through my flier though, and decided to stock up on the items that were the best deals for the week.

A local supermarket (Martin's Supermarket for the local folk!) had a 12 for $10 sale advertised this past week so I took advantage of that as well since I am trying to build my stockpile.

In the interim, I cleaned out my purse and gathered up all of the receipts from past grocery visits and put them into my price book (Side Note: We offer a free printable one here!) It had been awhile since this had been updated and I happened to have a few receipts from Aldi to input. I put these in, since ultimately this is about whether or not I do better with coupons or with Aldi.

For this week, I stocked up on:

Martin's Supermarket:

(6) Aunt Millie's 100% Whole Wheat Bread
(6) Store Brand Frozen Vegetables (baby peas, broccoli, corn)
Total Cost: $10

Meijer Supermarket:

10 pounds of apples- $4 (Side Note- This should have been six pounds, but I thought the bag I picked was the smaller bag and told them that the price was wrong. Oops! I ended up with an extra four pounds of apples for the advertised price. I was a little overzealous in my flier efforts, not attempting to be dishonest.)
13 pounds split chicken breasts bone on- $.99 per pound
Total Cost: $17

This first week I did not use coupons, but did take advantage of listed sales that I might not have seen as an amazing deal without the assistance of the list. The coupons that I could have used for this week were for items I would not typically buy (convenience foods, frozen foods, crap foods) and I plan to stick with what I feel is in the best interest of our family's diet and what we would normally buy.

I am looking forward to week two on the program, and feel very good about updating my price book and starting our stockpile. I also am looking forward to making some great dishes with the chicken breasts. I have to also sheepishly admit that the apples look much better than my past couple of bags I have gotten from Aldi (which have went bad in just a couple of days). The kids kept saying, "They are so pretty and shiny!"

If you would like to join me in exploring the program, my referral id is amy@momadvice.com!

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Staying Fashionable Through Ebates

I have had an obsession with Ebates for a long time and lemme tell you that I am doing the happy dance every single time I get my check from them. Each person I refer, I get a $5 referral fee and, in turn, the person who signs up also gets a $5 credit into their account. I won't go on and on about it (you can read my experience here if you are interested or just sign up for one of your own accounts- amy@momadvice.com for the referral id), but I have been really happy with the program. This is one of the rare times where I really appreciate the referral programs because it is truly rewarding for me.

A few days ago, I got an email letting me know that another big fat check was on its way. This is my fun money that I get to spend on stuff I want, but don't necessarily need (To date, I have received almost $250 with the company!) . As soon as that check hit the mailbox, it was deposited and spent within two days. Yup, that is how I roll!

What does a girl like me spend her fun money on? SHOES! Oh yeah! And a new SPRING COAT! Neither were necessarily needed, but they really make me happy.


I found this coat at Forever 21. I am not impressed with the quality of the clothes usually, but I inspected this coat throughly before purchasing it. You can usually tell if a company backs the work that they do up with a good return policy. They don't take returns- they will only exchange the merchandise with the tags still on it and they will never ever refund your money. Just to make sure I didn't miss this, the girl circled the return policy on the receipt. This is a red flag to me about companies, so just a warning...check your loot before you leave that store, otherwise you are stuck with it. I will be discussing this option more next week when I share tips for being fashionable in our Baby Steps series.


This coat covers my less-than-desirable assets, as it hits about mid-thigh. It has an empire waist, but doesn't balloon like a maternity top. The arms are the cutest part about it as it they flare out a bit. I also love the cute lining (not that anyone sees the lining), but I adore details like that.

A company that gets an A++ for great quality is Payless Shoes and their styles out for spring are super cute. If it has been awhile since you have been in there, it is worth the trip. They carry a line of American Eagle shoes that are so cute, I can hardly stand it. Try and go when they have their buy-one-get one sales and you can come out with some amazing deals.
I needed to replace my black flats from last year and I loved this style with a little side buckle. They are almost identical to my flats last year, but I couldn't resist another pair. They go good with everything and they are super comfy too.

These shoes are the cutest shoes ever. Red flats, cute ribbon, suede toe...what's not to love? They make me so happy and are my one pair of fun shoes for spring....oh, and they match my coat too! Gotta love that!

These are my "Sporty Spice" shoes. My husband says they look like the first pair, but CLEARLY these are entirely different, and only resemble the first pair because they are the same color. These are my momma-had-a-hard-day-and-is-running-children-everywhere shoes. They have a rubber heel on the bottom and offer great momma-had-a-hard-day support.

All these were free thanks to Ebates and my big fat check. I thank them for keeping me fashionable and keeping me on budget.

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Top 100 PF Blogs

FIRE Finance has released a new list for the top 100 PF blogs. We didn't get on the list last time, but had hoped to be included in this round. As I hunted towards the bottom of the list though, I didn't see us and was really disappointed. I didn't even think to check towards the top, but after scanning the page for awhile I finally found us listed. We are listed as #8 on one list and #12 on another. Sweet! Check this list for some of the best bloggers in town and add them to your feeds. We humbly bow and congratulate Get Rich Slowly for scoring the top spot.

Currently FIRE Finance is running a contest for a giveaway of Robert Shemin's book "How Come That Idiot's Rich & I'm Not?" This title will be released on March 4, 2008. So this is a fantastic opportunity to win this book totally free. Head over there and get your entries in!

Many thanks to FIRE Finance for including us!

******************************************
Don't forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted. Much luck to everyone!

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Baby Steps Series: Storing Your Stockpile

Awhile ago we had a fun discussion on what you consider to be a small space and it was a great glimpse into what everyone's space challenges were and how much space each of us were taking up. I love to see how big people's homes are in relation to their family size and also the satisfaction that they have with the space they already have.

Just to make the story a little more fun, I had mentioned that I thought our home was 1,800 square feet because that is what my husband kept telling me. When we would flip through the home catalogs everything was in comparison of what we had ("Oh, that house is only 2,000 square feet? Well, that is only 200 square feet bigger than what we already have").

As we were working on our office organization though, we came across some paperwork from buying our house. My husband had a shocked look on his face as he flipped through the paperwork. "Our house isn't 1,800 square feet....it is only 1,500 square feet." Suddenly the walls were closing in on us and we huddled together in our teeny tiny office space in our teeny tiny shack of a house and shuddered in disbelief that all this time we only had this amount of space.

Of course, that is all melodramatic and I continued to pat ourselves on the back for making this amount of space work for us. No, we have no plans for moving into a bigger space, but I just wanted to use this point to illustrate that our house is not large, nor is it small. In this area of town, our house is considered on the small end. When we lived in Massachusetts, we would have felt VERY blessed to have a home of this size. Space is all relative!

Regardless of size, I have true storage dilemmas with my home, in general, due to the tri-level floor plan of this house. The house is broken into three levels and we also have a basement (in some parts of the country it is referred to as a quad). A broken floor plan like this leaves me with zero storage space and small rooms so stockpiling can be difficult in my space. I do have a basement and a garage though so feel that I am at an advantage compared to someone who might be renting a space or live in a home without these two luxuries. And yes, I do consider having my basement and garage to be a luxury as we have lived in spaces without either of these blessings.

I am going to share some ideas for ways to store your stockpile and am opening the floor up to you to share what your storage dilemmas have been and ways you have (if you have) overcome those dilemmas in a creative way. It should be a fun discussion and I am looking forward to sharing with you!

Today we are talking about how to store your stockpiled groceries. In future discussions, I would love to share about what to do with other stockpiles you might be storing in your house (children's clothing, toiletries, etc...), but today we will focus on the grocery aspect.

Here are some ideas for ways to store your stockpile:

- First, begin by organizing your pantry and getting rid of the items you are not using. Too often, there is space for stockpiled items, but they are being used by items that are wasting your valuable space. I have found that grouping items in totes makes it easier for me to pull out what I need when I need it, keeping the like items together and preventing items from getting lost in the shuffle. Organize the space you have to create space for all that you want to stockpile.

- One of the first places to look is at the closets that you already have in your home. While not all of us are blessed with a closet in the kitchen, some closets that are not being used can be repurposed into a more usable space. Walk around in your house and really take a look at the closets that you have and see if they are being used to the best of their ability. Try and see if there is another place for the stuff in your closet (or get rid of items that you do not use) and measure the inside of it to see how many shelves you could fit into that space. If you head over to your local hardware store, you should be able to find wired shelving that can be cut to match the size of your closet. Durable wire shelving inserted into a rarely used closet can equal an affordable solution for storing your stockpile.

- Look at the doors to your closet as a place to also store items. Hardware stores offer units that can be mounted on the door for storing your canned goods. This space is rarely used, but is an excellent place for you to store items that you are stockpiling. Likewise, the dollar stores offer over-the-door storage with plastic pocketed units that can be great for storing spices, spice packets, trail mixes, nuts, etc...

- Basements and garages are ideal spaces for stockpile storage, particularly for families who are lacking space in their kitchen itself. Try to pick a space that is easy to get to so that you can make the most of your stockpile. In a basement, for example, putting your stockpile at the bottom of the stairs so items can be grabbed easily rather than a far off or less lit corner in your basement. For a garage, storing items closest to the kitchen instead of having to walk the length of the garage would be more ideal. You can use wired shelving in these spaces, bookshelves, mount 2x4's- whatever is cheapest and easiest for you to use.

- Under your beds can be a great storage spot for stockpiles. Although it certainly isn't ideal, it is a more creative way to use space that is rarely used. If your bed is too low, you can purchase bed risers to raise the bed to give you more space underneath. You can purchase under-the-bed storage containers and fill these with canned goods or other items that you like to stockpile or tuck items in your rarely used suitcases or bags for a free storage solution.

- A freezer is a wise investment for anyone who is looking to stockpile their groceries. In some cases, such as rental space, a freezer might not be an option, but if it is, I have found it to be a very smart investment. If you do not think you have the space for a full-size chest freezer, Sears carries a model that is half the standard size and perfect for smaller spaces or for small families that would not need such a large freezer. We purchased this freezer for our small townhouse and we love it. Less seems to get lost in the bottom depths, but we are also able to keep it filled with stockpiled items that I have gotten from the grocery store. Consider buying one of these to help save your family money.

- In smaller spaces, it might be necessary to split your stockpiled items up in various areas around the house. A shelf in the basement, a little space in the garage, a corner in a closet, stuff under the bed...it can spell a recipe for disaster if you don't have tight tabs on what you have stockpiled. Try keeping a list of all of the items that you have and tacking it on your refrigerator. Periodically, do an inventory of the items you have so you don't end up repeatedly buying diced tomatoes, for example, when you already are storing forty cans. An inventory list can help decrease some of the confusion and be a great way to help you decide exactly what you will be eating in the coming weeks.

Sound Off: Where do you store your stockpiled groceries? What else would you like to see covered in our "Baby Steps" series? Help us keep this going!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Sad Life for the Clark Kids- Lots of Chores!

Chores are an important task in the Clark household and one of the benefits about our children getting older is that they can pitch in more. Since most chores seem to fall in the lap of mommy, I am thrilled that chores haven't lost their novelty yet and that my son loves to help mommy get things done around here.

Do I know that the novelty will wear off soon? Of course! I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Here are some reasons why chores are important in my house:

- I am grooming my child to someday be a self-sufficient adult. I don't want my kid going to college and not knowing how to make himself/herself a sandwich, do a load of laundry, or have to be dependent on the people around them.

- I want my kids to know that we are a family unit and in a family unit, it is important for everyone to pitch in. Occasionally, I will hear my son say that he is "bored" with chores or "too tired" to help me out. That is tough luck in this house because everyone has to put forth an effort so that we can ALL enjoy having a clean and organized home.

- Chores are a great teaching opportunity. Sorting clothing by colors teaches your child to group colors together, folding clothing helps them build fine-motor skills, working at a fast pace (setting a timer for completing certain tasks) can be a fun way to exercise.

- I want my son to be a catch someday. Yeah, I am looking waaaaayyyy down the road, but that is sometimes in the back of my mind. What girl would not want to marry someone who knew how to wash his own laundry, could whip up a lovely dinner for her, or who picked up after himself? Those are attributes that would have been on my list when choosing a mate and I want my son to have those kind of attributes too...not only for himself, but for whoever he might end up with someday.

Here are what chores we do in our house:

- My son ( 5 yr old) has to get himself dressed in the morning, put his pajamas in his hamper, and make his bed before coming downstairs.

- He helps me prepare the evening meal and helps set the table for our dinner.

- Emily (2 yr old) & Ethan both have to help pick up their toys before they go to bed in the evening. We put on fast and crazy dance music, set the timer for ten minutes, and the whole family pitches in to pick up the playroom.

- On house cleaning day, Ethan is responsible for picking up his room for me to vacuum and dust it and he has to make sure the playroom is in order. We typically clean while my daughter lays down for her nap so this is a solo operation. I have moved my cleaning day to coincide with our Friday night family night. Basically, it is total bribery and we have to get the playroom picked up so that they can have a pizza and a movie with mommy and daddy. It works out really well.

- Ethan sorts our laundry. I line the hampers up and the baskets and he sorts the laundry for me. He also helps fold the laundry when I wash it.

Here is what I had to overcome in order for this to work in our house:

- Teaching chores is a tedious process, but it is worth the time and effort spent. It took him awhile to get the hang of sorting the loads so we would start with a "question" pile which saved us all time. If he didn't know where something went, he would put that in a separate pile and we would talk about each item as we threw it in the correct basket.

- Things will not be done perfectly and I needed to get over that. When my son helps fold the laundry, it is not going to look like I folded the laundry, or like when I set the table, or have all the toys exactly where I would have put them. This is when you take your "mommy dearest" issues down a notch and enjoy being a mom and having someone to help you.

- I try to use our chore opportunities, not as a time to direct, but to talk with my kids. As we work on putting dinner together and setting the table, we talk about our day at school. It isn't always this way, but I try to reserve this special time with them.

Sound Off: What chores do your children do and what are their ages?

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WSBT-TV: The Art of Stockpiling

Today on my Frugal Mom segment on WSBT, I wanted to chat a bit about my Baby Steps series and our first topic that we tackled... the art of stockpiling. I wanted to illustrate some of the ways that people can begin making progressive steps towards saving their family money in their weekly grocery budget. If you missed this first post in our series, you can read it here!

Continuing our written series here, tomorrow we will be discussing how and where you can store your stockpiled groceries. Be sure to check back for another riveting piece on groceries.

And if you aren't tired enough of the grocery topic, we will also be watching a mom who hates to cut coupons, cutting coupons and attempting a fun four week trial of the grocery game.

Who needs television when you can have all that entertainment? And I also wonder out loud...does the topic of saving on groceries ever get old? I hope not!

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Frugal Hacks: Spring Cleaning & Organizational Hurdles

Today on Frugal Hacks, I wanted to explore what might be preventing people from entertaining in their homes. I reflected that if people were anything like me, it might be because chaos and disorganization can rule the roost and I am too embarrassed to have anyone over. Does this ring true with anyone else?

Please head over to Frugal Hacks and share what your biggest challenge is in your home! I am going to be working through these issues in my own home and try to share some helpful tips for creating a space that you would want to entertain in. As I tackle my spring cleaning, I can share my experiments through embarrassing photos and wordy descriptions. Who wouldn't come back for that?

It should make for an interesting month!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Redbox Code 02.25.08

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is 26LBYS. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different accounts to charge to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

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Saturday Morning Treat: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Growing up, one of my favorite Saturday treats was a Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll. My mom would make these for us on Saturdays and we always fought over the ones that had the most frosting. Sadly, it was such a thrill when my dad worked in the mornings because that meant that there would be two extra rolls for us to fight over. Who could resist those rolls and the simple pleasure of having a sweet treat once a week?

I still love those cinnamon rolls, but at $1.69 a roll, they are an unnecessary addition to the grocery budget. What I do have though is flour and sugar, purchased in bulk, and a bread machine that can turn out cinnamon roll dough like nobody's business. I figured I was on to something and decided to give it a shot and figure out if I could replicate my Saturday morning experience. It took a couple of Saturdays to tweak this recipe, but I finally am satisfied with the results. Lucky for me, my family didn't mind being the guinea pigs so I have gotten this down pat for your dining pleasure!

To make my dough, I used the recipe from the homemade hamburger buns, except that I increased the sugar to 1/3 cup. I ran the dough cycle on my bread machine and when it beeped, I had the perfect dough for rolling.

I rolled the dough out into a 12x15 rectangle and then spread it with the following filling:

Cinnamon Roll Filling

1/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Spread the softened butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this all over the dough and then use your hands to gently press the filling in. Take the edge of the dough and begin rolling it up. Roll it tightly and slowly, being careful to keep all the filling inside. At this point you should have a long log that you can cut your rolls from. You can wrap the dough with plastic and store in the fridge overnight or you can slice your rolls (should make ten large rolls) and put them on your cookie sheet or pizza stone. Store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, pull the rolls out and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. When the oven reaches 400 degrees, immediately drop the temperature to 375 degrees and put the rolls in the oven. Cook these for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the rolls are cooking, I just make a frosting out of powdered sugar and water (I don't measure this, but approximately 1/2 cup powdered sugar to 1-2 tablespoons water mixed together should do ya!) When the rolls are done, drizzle your frosting over the rolls and serve them warm or room temperature (although they are best warm)

Amy's Notes-

- The first time I made these, I put them on a pizza stone and they cooked very evenly. The second time, I popped them in a 9x13" pan and only the ones on the outside got done. I would recommend placing these either on a cookie sheet (with a nice lip) or on a pizza stone.

- When you slice the cinnamon rolls, you can slice them with a knife or you can use dental floss and cut them that way. I find the dental floss to be a little more tedious so I stuck to slicing with the knife and reshaping the dough afterwards.

- The best part about making these cinnamon rolls is that you can vary the sizes and I can make mini-versions of the rolls for the little kids and tuck these in the center of the batch so that they don't get overdone. The kids love these mini versions and I control the amount of sugar they are getting. Just give them a teeny drizzle of frosting and they will be set!

- You can reheat these in the microwave for a nice snack in the evening or for breakfast the next day. Place on a microwave-safe plate and zap for about twenty seconds. Makes a great mommy snack with a cup of coffee!

Sound Off: What is a favorite Saturday morning treat in your house?

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Don't forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted. Much luck to everyone!

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Testing the Grocery Game

Our discussion on stockpiling really got me thinking about ways that I could continue to save our family money on our grocery budget. I had been wanting to test the Grocery Game program out ever since I read a story on it in a Mary Hunt publication years ago, and what better time than now to test it?

The Grocery Game is a paid membership to receive a weekly list of groceries to buy, combining rock-bottom sale prices with your coupon cutting from your weekly newspaper. "Terri's List" has a list of everything you should be stockpiling and her personal software tracks the trends of sales for each grocery store, alerting you when you should be stockpiling certain items. They offer a weekly list that tells you all of the advertised and unadvertised sales that are occurring within your local stores. This paid membership supposedly makes it easier for you to track the deals and cash in your coupons at the absolute best time.

I think it is important for me to be honest about what I am going into this program with though so here are a few known truths about Amy:

- I am not a coupon-clipper, except for the occasional CVS trip, and prefer living my life without cutting coupons. For me, I have not seen the value in it because I do so well with our money without coupons.

- Coupons, in the past, have lead me down some destructive paths and have actually ended up costing me more money than saving me. I would see a coupon for, "Hamburger Helper," for example, and then buy it...even though we didn't normally buy this product or really have a need for it in our pantry. What was supposed to save me money, actually ended up costing me more money and I came home with products that I would not typically buy.

- I am an Aldi shopper. Most of my regulars know this, but I thought I would mention it. This would mean that I would have to venture out of my safety zone and excuses that you can't beat their prices, and actually explore some other supermarkets. Aldi does not take coupons so I have never felt the urge to clip.

Now that you know what I am going into the program with, you will understand that I have some low expectations for how well I will do, but I thought it would be some great entertainment to see me struggling with my coupons and lists, trying to buy groceries practically for nothing.

I began by signing up for my membership. They offer a $1 trial program for four weeks so I signed up for that (Referral ID should-you-so-chose is amy@momadvice.com). I was a little worried how many stores they would offer in our area, but they did have listed Kroger, Meijer, Walgreens, & CVS. I signed up for those stores and got all of my information plugged in to begin my account.

The cost for a membership after the $1 deal is broken down by the amount of lists you would sign up for. The pricing is, $10 every 8 weeks for the first store list you choose, and $5 every 8 weeks for each additional store list (if more than one store list is available in your area). Example: 1 store list: $10 every 8 weeks, 2 store lists: $15 every 8 weeks, 3 store lists: $20 every 8 weeks.

It begins with an introduction to the program and basically states that it will take approximately 12 weeks for you to really build your initial stockpile. It also will take 12 weeks for you to be able to cash in on all of the coupon deals because they will be referring to coupon packets from the months previous, so when you begin you don't really get the full benefits of the program. You are just supposed to keep clipping and clipping each week and stockpiling what you can through those initial weeks until your coupon file is as fat as it needs to be and you can really begin cashing in on the program.

I plan to primarily shop at Meijer and CVS because our Kroger was shut down. There is one nearby, but it would require more of an effort on my part. My new list will be published on Tuesday so today I clip all of my coupons, in preparation of my first list.

I am dusting off the old coupon organizer and getting my trusty scissors out- let the games begin!

Edited to Add My Updates:
Grocery Game Week One
The Grocery Game Conclusions

Sound Off: Do you have any experience using a program like this? Do you coupon?

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Friday, February 22, 2008

MomAdvice Weekly Recap: 02.22.08

Keeping up with everything can get overwhelming for me, so I imagine that as a new visitor, the site can put a person on overload.

I am going to start a weekly recap of activity on here, that might get missed in the shuffle, and highlight everything we have been up to.

Of course, no recap would be complete without a few highlights from our archives so I will include a couple of those too.

Please let me know if you find this helpful and if you would like me to continue this each week- I would really appreciate it!

New Article:

A Frugal Mom's Guide to Coffee-
I have a hard time resisting a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. It isn’t just the coffee itself, but it is the act of going to get a cup of coffee, the soft music, and the break away from it all. If I am having a hard day with the kids or I just long for a small treat for myself, the first place I think of is the coffee shop. In some ways I have replaced my desire to shop with a desire to just have some quiet time alone with a delicious cup of hot coffee and a book....Continue Reading

Blog Entries for Fun & Discussion:

The Art of Stockpiling-
I have started a series featuring baby steps that our readers can begin taking to work towards saving money. We begin our series with a discussion on stockpiling groceries...Continue Reading


Disney or Bust-
We are asking for reader tips on how to save money on your Disney vacations. We share a site we found for doing Disney on a budget and we are asking for your help...Continue Reading

Giving Away the Mother Load!

Don't forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted.

Featured Recipe of the Week:

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Forum Discussions:

I have been looking for a storage ottoman to keep games and books in our living area, but they seem to be on the expensive side. Any ideas of where to look or about restoring one? Join the Discussion

Do you have a daily schedule or do you just wing it?? I have a "flexible" schedule... don't have things broke down to the minute, but have a routine of things that I do each day. It really helps! I would love to see your plans. Join the Discussion


Play it Again, Momma!

Did you miss these posts the first time around? Here they are for your reading pleasure!

Foamy Soap

Broken Crayons Equal Good Fun

Sam's Club Click 'N Pull Review

Wholesale Club Shopping

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Freebie Friday: February 22, 2008

Thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us this week! Heather was featured on Frugal Hacks this week in an interview with Kim and she talks about her Frugal Hacks experience here. Visit Heather's site throughout the week to get your freebie fix!

Health & Beauty

Focus Dailies Contacts (Walmart sample)

Kotex Lightdays (Costco sample)

Natural Solutions Magazine (samples for natural products)

6 Coty Fragrance Samples (from Walgreens)

Food

WomenHeart $1 Donation (w/ Cheerios or 8th Continent codes)

Free chocolate fondue for two when you register with The Melting Pot
Entertainment

Canon Try Me Photo

Redbox Code: PRESIDENT for one free rental. Expires on 2/25 (I haven't tried this one).

Yes Magazine for Teachers (one year subscription)

Tennis Magazine (one year subscription)

Track Record Magazine

2 Plain White T's Downloads (click mp3s and then download the songs)

American Baby & Baby Talk Magazine (one year subscriptions)
Home & Garden
Pet Care

Cesar Supreme dog food

Mark your calendars!! Between February 22-24, you can swing by ULTA and redeem a printable certificate for a free blush brush, blush, and a sample of foundation from Smashbox.

Mark your calendars!! Crate & Barrel Wedding Party Events1/27, 2/10, 17, 24 & 3/2, 9-11 a.m. Crate & Barrel introduces The Wedding Parties. If you’re about to be married, we’re throwing a party in your honor. Bring your partner or your friends. Our store is yours. Enjoy great food, drinks, music and our expert advice on registering. Our knowledgeable staff will be there to offer insight, support, plus home entertaining ideas for newlyweds and our newest registry guide. You’ll also receive a brilliant hand-blown glass bowl as our gift. To RSVP today, call a store near you.

Here's to the Heroes!!
Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branches, active members of a reserve or National Guard unit, and/or up to three direct dependants. Valid for one complimentary single-day admission per person, per year, to one of the following Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks:
o SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
o Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
o Sesame Place
o Aquatica
o Adventure Island
o Water Country USA
Offer valid between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2008. Operating days and hours vary by park.
Please check with specific park for current operating schedule. Visit their site for more details!

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Don't forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted. Much luck to everyone!

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Amy's Notebook Q & A


Q: I love that you post these notebook entries every week, but I'm wondering what you do with them once they're compiled on your blog? (So many recipes and craft ideas that I wonder how you file them to be used)?

A: I started my notebook entries as a way to highlight some of the great sites on the internet and a way to track things that I would like to do. I don't anticipate ever doing all of the things in the notebook entries and some of the things that I highlight are really cool for other people, but not for me. For example, I love to see knitting projects, but I don't knit... yet! I just love to look at other people's great ideas and it inspires me to have a list of great crafts to try, recipes to use, and other inventive ideas of saving money. My notebook was a way to decrease linking to favorites on my browser because I was getting really overwhelmed with that. Now I can just go right to my virtual notebooks and find exactly what I am looking for.

I remember almost everything that is highlighted in my notebooks, but sometimes I like to just page through them to remember things I would like to do. If you click on the label at the bottom of the entries (Favorites or Notebook), it will bring up all of the entries that I have ever put together. This is a great way to just browse through all of the entries and have them all in one place.

If I want to do one project in particular I use the Ctrl + F and type in the project or recipe I am looking for. I find it to be the fastest way for me to search through the entries. You could also use the "search" on the left-hand side of our page and type in what you are looking for and it will bring up the entire entry that a particular project was featured in.

Q: Do you have a nifty blogging trick for posting lists of links like this? I'd like to do this on occasion, too, but find it so time consuming. I keep thinking there's got to be a better way...

I will not lie at all, these are INCREDIBLY time-consuming. Each of these entries was handpicked very lovingly and was included because I loved each of them so much. There are no bad eggs in these batches and I always try to highlight things that I think everyone will enjoy and include the things that are important to me. I try to pick a good match for our readers too- crafts, organizing projects, parenting ideas and projects, ways to save money, and thrifty solutions for your home.

What I do is start a notebook entry as soon as a notebook entry is done. I title a post and then I start literally the next day. I have found the easiest way to browse other blogs is using a feed reader. I add tons and tons of blogs to my feed reader and I read many religiously. If I see something that I think would be a good match for my notebook entry, I add it to the next week's entry. I basically compile all week long until I have a nice full notebook of ideas at the end of the week.

It is time-consuming, but I hope it is worth it! I also get lots of new readers through these entries that might not have found us otherwise. They have helped me build some great friendships and have been a fun way to highlight some of my favorite people in the blogging world!

Thank you for your questions!

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Amy's Notebook 02.21.08

I am going to start saving my tin cans to organize my craft space (@ Laissezfaire)

I like these tips for information to leave for your babysitters. Great advice and something that I will need to work on (@ The Family CEO)

I want to try this homemade laundry soap recipe (@ disdressed)

This super hero book is too cool! (@ CraftyPod)

These button-tab hats are beautiful (@ I Like Lemons)

Now I am hungry for some homemade biscuits (@ Shelterrific)

I love these Scrabble Coasters- they would be a perfect addition to our family game nights (@ Craftzine)

I love this patterned key rack (@ Design*Sponge)

These bedside pockets would be great for some of my reading material (@ Knitty Vintage & Roses)

This idea for veneering an old table is so inventive (@ Daily Danny)

I am going to have to try this homemade finger paint recipe (@ ohdeedoh)

These brownie cups look delicious (@ The Sparrow's Nest)

I am going to have to make some Chicken Piccata one night for dinner (@ Simply Recipes)

Making homemade dog food in your slow cooker? That is something I would have never thought of (@ Wisebread)

I love this piece on voluntary simplicity- what a great reminder (@ Millionaire Mommy Next Door)

This homemade bread recipe looks divine (@ Money Saving Mom)

I want to try this raisin bread recipe too (@ INNside Innkeeping)

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Don't forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted. Much luck to everyone!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Baby Steps Series: The Art of Stockpiling

I decided that I would begin a series on our site sharing baby steps that you can take towards learning how to save money and I am answering your questions. If you have something that you would like to see featured on here, please drop me an email at amy@momadvice.com or mention it by leaving a comment. This series will run as long as I have questions from all of you and I hope to provide lots of valuable information for ways to begin to save.

Money Saving Mom is offering a similar series, but focusing on creating and sticking to a budget. Read Crystal's first post here and share with her your budgeting challenges.

As requested by our readers, I wanted to begin our series by tackling the topic of stockpiling. I hope that you will find this post helpful and I thank each of you for giving me an opportunity to share in this way. We will be adding these posts to our Money section of our site for future reference!

The Art of Stockpiling

There are many ways to begin tackling the grocery budget and one of the most popular ways is the art of stockpiling items when doing your grocery trips. This method, also known as the “pantry principle” by loyal Tightwad Gazette readers, is a method of shopping that is meant to give you the best bang for your buck.

Let’s begin by discussing the methods that are commonly used when people are trying to save money on their grocery shopping and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Planner- I feel that this is the first place to start when you begin learning how to save money on your groceries. This is for shoppers who are going from shopping whenever and for whatever they want, to accomplishing a more disciplined form of shopping for only what you need and shopping with a plan. This shopper sits down and menu plans for the amount of meals that they will need and makes a list of the ingredients needed to accomplish their task. The amount of meals planned depends on the amount of times they shop per month and they buy only what they need to accomplish their menu plan goals for the week. This is an excellent place to start and a great way to learn how to buy only what you need and to avoid impulse shopping. Being a planner myself, this method fit our lifestyle for a long time and served its purpose in helping our family save money. Unfortunately, planners focus more on the plan than the sale so this can sometimes be the most expensive option next to shopping without a plan at all. While this shopper has great meal ideas, they buy the ingredients possibly at premium prices and pay more to accomplish their plans then other types of shoppers.

The Flier Shopper- This method of shopping is the next step up and is another great way to save money. This shopper is excited when their weekly fliers and coupons arrive because this determines exactly what they will be eating for the week. Let’s say that chicken is at a bargain-basement price of $1.19 per pound. This shopper will plan a meal around everything they can make with that chicken and out of other ingredients that are featured in the flier. Their meals will consist of items made mostly from sale ingredients and they keep their grocery budget low by planning meals that fit with the sales advertisements and the items that they can get with their coupons. This shopper is still a planner, but their menu plans are created solely around sale ingredients.

The Stockpile Shopper- This way of shopping requires less initial planning and more planning after your food has already been bought. This shopper focuses on stockpiling their pantry with food purchased at the lowest possible price. Grocery shopping then becomes all about keeping your pantry stocked and not about a menu plan really at all. Let’s say that diced tomatoes are marked down to $.29 a can. This shopper would run out and buy twenty cans of diced tomatoes because they know that this is the lowest possible price based on their price book. This shopper has carefully tracked prices and they know that this deal only comes around every three months so they stock up until the next sale, calculated to happen three months later. This shopper looks at all the items that they have bought and figures that they can have a delicious spaghetti sauce, a pizza with a homemade red sauce, and the family’s favorite casserole…that all just happen to use diced tomatoes in their recipe.

Do you want to be a stockpile shopper? Here are some steps for beginning this process:

1. Sit down and make a list of the foods that you eat regularly. If you were formerly a planner, you should have some menu plans that you can take a look at. Write down these ingredients into a notebook and the prices that you normally pay for these items.

2. Cut coupons to go along with your items to gain even more savings to your stockpile. Utilize a free service like CouponMom.com to learn when to use your coupons and to help you find the best deals to apply your coupons towards.

3. Next, begin tracking the ingredients in your sales fliers and begin stockpiling the items when they go on sale. Continue writing and tracking the prices as you go along and when you see a large dip in the pricing, stock up, and up, and up. Stockpile only as much as you can afford in the grocery budget to spend and what you really can eat. The first few weeks will be difficult and you may need to allocate some money to set aside for beginning your stockpile. Understand though that each week will get easier and allow for more breathing room in the budget. As the weeks progress, you will have built up the beginnings of a pantry and will need less and less ingredients, allowing for more room in the budget to stock up on future good deals.

4. Only stockpile what you truly can eat. Even if tuna is marked to a quarter a can, if you spend ten dollars on tuna and no one really likes tuna, you are wasting money and you are wasting space in your pantry. If you find you overbought on items, consider donating them to a food pantry or a shelter so the food is not wasted.

5. If you end up miscalculating how much of an ingredient you will need, you will have to plan your dinner around that missing ingredient. A Stockpile Shopper will refuse to buy spaghetti sauce, for example, unless their store runs that item on a buy-one-get-one free sale. If the shopper runs out of that ingredient, her family won’t eat spaghetti until the next sale or they will find a way to make sauce from other ingredients that have been stockpiled.

6. Some items just can’t be stockpiled like fresh fruits and vegetables. This is where I rely on my Flier Shopper instinct. If bananas are $.19 a pound, I would scoop up ten pounds for my family. I would eat them fresh until they got ripe and then mash the ripe ones for banana breads and muffins. Applying my good shopping instinct, I would pick the sale items and also pick fruits and vegetables that offer longevity over produce that only lasts a few days or could not be used past their duration (like in the bananas example). This is why I tend to gravitate towards carrots, celery, potatoes, bananas, and apples to fill the majority of our fresh fruit and vegetable quota. Once these run out, I would rely on my stockpile of dried fruits, canned fruits, and frozen vegetables to make up the difference until my next trip.

As you can see, stockpiling can really extend your grocery dollars and can be a fun way to approach grocery shopping.

Next week we will be discussing creative ways to store your stockpile! Many of us live in smaller spaces so we have to be more creative with storage.

Sound Off: Which type of shopper do you identify with? Do you stockpile?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Disney or Bust

Normally, I ignore the majority of the press releases that come through my inbox, but I thought this one might be interesting to parents who are planning to travel for the very official and oh-so-expensive Spring Break! Yeah, baby!

finding Dulcinea has put together a web guide for how to do your Disney vacations on a budget. Here is a link to the web guide for how to get your mouse ears... and not lose your tail in the process. On our site, we have included the ten best children's activities to do in Disney.

I am sure that many parents have made their pilgrimage to Disney so I am curious how you saved money on this vacation? Do you have any Disney tips or tricks that you are willing to share with our readers? We would love to hear them!

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Frugal Hacks: Inspiring Family Nights

Each Tuesday, I write for the Frugal Hacks blog and share some ideas for entertainment on a budget. Today I revisit the topic of having a family night with some really great ideas I have recently come across for creating a fun family night with your kids. You won't want to miss this for some added inspiration so please head over there and share your ideas for how you create a fun family night in your house!

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WSBT-TV: Saving Money On Your Printing

Each Tuesday on WSBT, I share tips to help save families money. This week I shared tips for saving on printing costs. This segment goes along with a past entry that I had written on ways that we save on printing and on ink.

If you have an idea that you would like to see covered on WSBT, please leave me a comment and let me know. I am always looking for new ideas.

Sound Off: How do you save on printing and ink expenses? Do you return your ink cartridges anywhere or do you refill them yourself? Please share!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Blogging Mentions

Today we got a mention on the MSN Money Blog, run by Donna Freedman, for my contribution towards Frugal Hacks last week. Her post entitled, "Frugality is Not a Competition" also questioned the need to beat each other up on forums and within chat communities for not being frugal enough. We thank Donna for including us and all of the other amazing bloggers who mentioned our piece. We saw a nice ripple in our community and we are thankful to have been part of that!

Lucky for us, we were also added to a new feed aggregate created by the infamous Guy Kawasaki. Guy has included us before in his Ultimate Mommy Blog list. Now he has created a place where you can view all the top sites in all different genres. His site makes it easier to see and view the latest entries for all of the top sites for every kind of category from gaming to celebrities to cars all on one page. The site is called Alltop and you can find us in the Mom category.

Thanks to everyone who has been so instrumental in making our site a success- we couldn't do it without you!

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Free Country Home Magazine Subscription

Start Sampling is offering 20 FREE issues of Country Home Magazine. If you do not have a Start Sampling account, it only takes a moment to set this up and they offer freebies all of the time. The offer is also available on their homepage.

Please Note- Start Sampling only offers one freebie per day on their site and the sites that are listed within their network.

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Redbox Code 02.18.07

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is 44TKSW. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different accounts to charge to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

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Weekend Project: New Workspace

I am so excited because Ryan & I were finally able to complete another project on our to-do list... creating a workspace for two.

We have had a lot of challenges with the two of us both working from home and both working on the computer. We both needed computer time and we were constantly battling for the computer. One of my first investments was getting a laptop. Thanks to having a computer guy for a hubby, he was able to get me an excellent deal on a laptop and I was partially in business.

I say partially because we were still battling over workspace. I have back problems and would want to sit at a desk. He would need the desk for his computer so we would once again be duking it out for the workspace. One of us would be sitting at our children's tiny table trying to talk about work ideas and the other one of us would be sitting all comfy at the desk. We also had other scenarios where I would try to be productive working in my room and then fall asleep or I would attempt to work from the couch, but someone would want to watch television. In short, it wasn't working.

Finding a desk though that could fit our "team Clark" philosophy was tough and expensive! We decided to use some of the money that I earned this year to put towards getting a desk that would be perfect for us to work together.

We found what we wanted in the Pottery Barn catalog, but we aren't a Pottery Barn kind of family (budget wise, I mean). Ryan was able to find it for a fraction of the price on Target's website though and you can't even tell a difference between the two designs. He also found a deal where we got 15% off and free shipping. Timing it with that really helped save us some additional money. While it was definitely a splurge, it provided the perfect space for the two of us to work together.

Welcome to my new workspace- isn't it great? You can expand these pictures to view it in more detail. We purchased three cabinets and bought two desk tops to make our new work area. The two desk tops rest on the center cabinet and make one seamless unit. This set-up works great for us because we work together on many of our projects.

Not only is this great for working together, but it has created a lot more space in our office because it is all against one wall versus our corner desk that we had before.

This set-up was not without challenges because we had originally intended for it to go along our back wall and found that the unit was a lot larger than we had anticipated. We had to remove our closet doors and allow the unit to go basically into the closet space, which meant that this closet is now open and viewable to the world. I am not liking that too much, but it was a way to encourage us to weed through the items in the desk and in the closet to free up space and make it look more organized. I am thinking about making a curtain that would just partially hide this from view since a full set of curtains probably won't work.

I did tackle an enormous project though...those craft supplies are finally in order! That was no small undertaking and I am so happy to see everything neatly arranged. I even have space for my sewing machine so I can use my workspace to craft as well.

I organized the closet without making any investments. While I think pretty baskets would look so much better, the practical side of me won this battle and I am just using things we already have. If I add a curtain, I can close this off a bit and no one will even notice.

On the opposite wall we have my children's table and chairs. They can be in the office with us while we work and they can work on their own little projects. You can see past pictures of how we made our workspace kid-friendly.

This is an investment that I hope really pays off because we can both work together and each have our own space. Being productive, without a space to call your own, can be difficult. We love working together so this the ideal space for us!

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Ann Taylor LOFT Maternity Clothing Giveaway

If you haven't been reading The Mother loot, you will want to head over there today and be sure to enter our giveaway. I am giving away, to one lucky mommy-to-be, a maternity outfit from Ann Taylor LOFT!

The company contacted me to see if I would like to review their products, but I am not pregnant (nor would I want to be right now!) Seeing as this is the only time since I had Emily that I would really like a baby, I went ahead and asked my husband if I could get pregnant so I could get a cool new outfit. The answer was no...humph! Whatever!

Since I don't need maternity clothes, I would love to extend the offer to my readers. You can't enter here, you must head over to The Mother loot to enter. Please feel free to share this giveaway with your readers and friends!

Good luck to all our participants!

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Homemade Hamburger Buns

Can you tell that I give my bread machine a workout? Today I wanted to share this amazing recipe for making your own hamburger buns. Sometimes frugality comes from necessity, and this was one of those times. The snow was coming down and Emily needed a nap desperately. I thought I had hamburger rolls in the freezer, but my trip to the freezer turned up empty. There was no way I was taking a tired toddler out in the brutal snowstorm for a package of buns.

I headed to my computer and remembered I had a recipe bookmarked to make my own rolls. This recipe not only can make your hamburger buns, but it can make hot dog buns too! I had high hopes for this recipe and it totally delivered.

This dough is extremely easy to work with and the rolls puffed up beautifully as the dough did its rising. The buns were soft and squishy, but easy to split for filling them with whatever you like.

The buns stayed soft for about three days after being made. I kept them in a food storage bag and they tasted great for several days.

Hot Dog/Hamburger Buns/Rolls/Cinnamon Buns Dough Cycle (Courtesy of Recipezaar)

1 1/4 cups skim milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
1/4-1/3 cup sugar (I use a 1/4 cup measure)
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast

1. Place all ingredients in order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer.

2. Select dough cycle and start machine.

3. I preheat my oven to 100°F and turn off.

4. When dough cycle is complete remove from machine and proceed.

5. I roll into a long log and cut into 12 pieces for hot dog buns or 9 pieces for large hamburger buns. For Hot Dog Buns, I roll out till they look like long skinny wieners. Hamburger Buns, I flatten with my palm till about the thickness of a pancake. They rise beautifully and look as nicely shaped as store bought ones. Put on parchment-lined baking sheet so sides are almost touching (Amy's Note- I just put them on my pizza stone).

6. Cover with cloth and put in the warm oven for 45-60 minutes to rise.

7. When doubled remove from oven.

8. Turn oven to 400°F and when you put the buns in the oven, reduce temperature immediately to 375° and bake hot dog buns 15 minutes and hamburger buns 17 minutes. (Amy's Note- I checked around 12 minutes and they were golden)

9. CINNAMON BUNS. Use 1/3 cup sugar in recipe. Made 10 large buns.

10. Roll out to about 12 x 15" and spread with butter or margarine. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over all and roll up tightly. Cut into as many buns as you want. I make 10.

11. Set oven to 400° and turn down to 375° when you put buns inches Bake 20 minutes. (Amy's Note: These take more like 12 minutes)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Retro Eats

Meredith, at Like Merchant Ships, is embarking on a fun adventure. She is following a 1950's budget menu plan for her family this week.

I am looking forward to reading all of her thrifty tips and discoveries through her journey. Considering how fun our Iron Chef Moms Challenge was, I am sure that this is going to be a great read and an inspiration in my kitchen.

I also am on the hunt for retro foods since I will be hosting our Bunco group in April. I picked a Retro Housewife theme and everyone has to wear their apron and bring a retro dish. I will have to bookmark some of her ideas for our night together.

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Huggies Diaper Sale- CVS


There are some great deals at CVS this week and I ran over today to cash in. CVS is running a sale- $15 back when you spend $30 on selected Kimberly Clark products. Included in that deal are the Huggies jumbo packs of diapers and wipes.

To take advantage of the deal here is what you can get:

3 Huggies Jumbo Packs of diapers @ $8.99 each
1 package of Huggies Baby Wipes @ $4.99
Total Amount Spent- $31.96
CVS Extra Care Bucks (printed out on receipt) $15.00
Total Spent- $16.96

There are other great products that you can score, but I wanted to mention the diaper deal, in particular. If you have coupons, there are even more savings to be had on that deal! Be sure to visit Baby Cheapskate to stay on top of all of the latest diaper and formula deals!

The other great CVS deal, is their deal on Colgate toothpaste and toothbrushes. These are on sale for $2.39 and you can get $2 back in Extra Care Bucks, making these $.39 each. They had kid's toothbrushes included in this deal so I was able to get some cute Sponge Bob Squarepants toothbrushes for my son and stock up on our toothpaste. There is a limit of 5 on these!

Money Saving Mom is also reporting that the Jane Cosmetics deal is back again. I cashed in a few times on this and it is so worth it! I have some really great make-up and hardly paid anything for it!

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Baby Steps: The Series

Since I wrote my article for Frugal Hacks, I have realized how far away I have come from discussing the basic steps I took towards saving our family money. Luckily, through my journey I have written articles that act as a document for frugal steps that I have taken. I am thankful that I did this because what was new to me then have become daily habits in my life.

I would love to start a baby steps series though and begin talking about ways to start saving money and would love your input. What are some topics that you would like to see covered here? I will cover anything that anyone is interested in and I promise to try to do it well.

Nothing is too little to discuss- all of these baby steps can add up to huge savings! Please share your input.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

MomAdvice Fridays: Water Softener Salt?

It has been awhile since I asked a question on Fridays, but I have one for today!

We purchased a water softener recently because our hard water was ruining everything in our house (plumbing fixtures, the dishwasher which had to be replaced, etc...) Our water is so much better now and I can't believe the difference in my dishes alone! Some of my glasses had looked like a lost cause, but now they are crystal clear... literally!

Since I am new to buying water softener salt though, I am not sure where to find the best deal on this. Could some of you more experienced salt buyers tell me where you buy this stuff or what is the sale price to look for?

Thank you for all your help!

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Freebie Friday: February 15, 2008


A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us compile our list for the week. Heather is having such a fun time hunting for freebies that she has decided to make it her job. Head over there and wish her congratulations on her new occupation!

Health & Beauty

Food

Campbell's Soup at Hand (free with printable coupon)
Campbell's Stock Pot Fresh Soup (free with printable coupon)
Free cup of Dunn Bros Coffee (They have locations in Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin)
Free appetizer at LongHorn Steakhouse

Entertainment

"The Story of Money" and other comics from The Federal Reserve
Fitness Magazine (free 2-yr. subscription through ValueMags)

Pet Care


Purina Pro Club Puppy Starter Kits
Pet Greens Treats (scroll down after entering the form and it will thank you for the submitted information)

Mark your calendars!! Between February 22-24, you can swing by ULTA and redeem a printable certificate for a free blush brush, blush, and a sample of foundation from Smashbox.

Mark your calendars!! Crate & Barrel Wedding Party Events1/27, 2/10, 17, 24 & 3/2, 9-11 a.m. Crate & Barrel introduces The Wedding Parties. If you’re about to be married, we’re throwing a party in your honor. Bring your partner or your friends. Our store is yours. Enjoy great food, drinks, music and our expert advice on registering. Our knowledgeable staff will be there to offer insight, support, plus home entertaining ideas for newlyweds and our newest registry guide. You’ll also receive a brilliant hand-blown glass bowl as our gift. To RSVP today, call a store near you.

Mark your calendars!! Free In-store bag of Sephora Samples. Stop by any Sephora, Jan 6th through Feb. 15th, for a free bag of skincare samples tailored to your needs based on a skincare consultation. No purchase required.

Here's to the Heroes!!
Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branches, active members of a reserve or National Guard unit, and/or up to three direct dependants. Valid for one complimentary single-day admission per person, per year, to one of the following Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks:
o SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
o Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
o Sesame Place
o Aquatica
o Adventure Island
o Water Country USA
Offer valid between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2008. Operating days and hours vary by park. Please check with specific park for current operating schedule. Visit their site for more details!

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Table for Two


Last night we celebrated Valentine's Day alone. Both the kids were tired from all of that partying yesterday (and the crying) so we put them to bed a little early. I worked on dinner and getting our table set for our meal while Ryan got the kids all ready for bed. A table set for two with white plates, white napkins and one white candle. To bring in the red was a red tablecloth for the holiday.

The meal was a simple one- Linguine with White Clam Sauce, Italian Bread (with olive oil for dipping), and bakery cupcakes for dessert. Just in case you thought I was not romantic enough (or cheesy enough) a playlist of 55 love songs was cued and ready to go for when our dinner was served. Who could enjoy a meal like this without a little Marvin Gaye, U2, Maroon 5, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Nat King Cole, Norah Jones, or Frank Sinatra? Did I mention we have eclectic taste in music?

Once our delicious meal was all finished, we finished off the evening with a game of Scrabble. Isn't Scrabble just the best way to say, "I love you...." I mean, you could even spell it out for your spouse, if you were that cheesy. Which I thought about, then I realized that was a little too much. But if you wanted to be that cheesy, it is totally cool too.

Oh, and in case you were worried, I did save the bottle of wine until my husband got home. It was tough, but I figured he would notice. One bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay to round the meal out. Yummy!

Money Spent: Approximately $10- what a deal!

Sound Off: What did you do for Valentine's Day? Feel free to share a link to your blog if you shared on there!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Article: A Frugal Mom's Guide to Good Coffee

The long awaited and much anticipated article is finally here! You can read my guide to good coffee and get your coffee fix for cheap!

Coffee talk is a hot topic on here and people are always searching for coffee recipes. I hope these tips and tricks will help you save some money on your latte factors this year.

Be sure to try the recipes listed at the bottom of the article. I make all of these regularly in our house and it has saved me a lot of money (particularly that creamer recipe!)

Enjoy this article with a fabulous cup of coffee and let me know what you think or if you have ideas for future articles- just leave a comment!

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Be Mine, Sweet Valentine!


Yesterday we made our Valentines for my son's class. I was originally going to do a more organized and cute craft, but ended up just letting Ethan draw and make his own special pictures for each friend.

No Valentine is complete without a heart sucker! Each Valentine lovingly made for his classmates- sixteen in total!



Don't get jealous, but this is my little Valentine! She looked so sweet in her pretty red dress. We had to go to her brother's Valentine's Day party for school so we needed to look our best! Off to school we go for a special party!

We distributed our little cards to all of our friends and teachers. We were so excited to share what we had made. Paper construction hearts filled to the brim with treats and sweet notes from our friends. What is not to love about this holiday?

A plate full of treats for all of the kids. A thoughtful mommy brought extra so the siblings could have their own plate.


Emily was so happy to have her own little plate of goodies and didn't waste any time diving in. The Little Debbie heart-shaped brownies were a huge hit with all the children.

Not Pictured: The crying and wailing of both the children as we left the party. Ethan had a sudden and severe bellyache from all of his treats and Emily was upset because she had to leave all of the fun toys behind. Mommy questioned whether it was too early to pop open the wine or if Daddy would notice half of the bottle gone when he got home for their private Valentine's Day celebration. Let's just it was not all heart-shaped brownies and suckers...but isn't that what motherhood is all about?

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

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Amy's Notebook 02.14.07

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! I hope you enjoy some special time with your loved ones!

Here are this week's picks for great reads- enjoy!

I love these ideas for making your own Swiffer pads.

These oatmeal tips are great- I never would have thought to make it in a thermos.

Aren't these plant cozies made from an old sweater so cute?

Don't these chocolate heart pancakes look delicious?

This tote bag is so cute!

I love these tips and tricks for washing your pillows.

I would have never thought to use vintage board games for art. This would look super cool in a playroom too!

I want to make some flubber with the kids.

This WHO Bread looks delicious.

I love this master bathroom makeover. Our master bathroom is next on our list for being revamped.

Isn't this dog bed amazing?I don't have a dog, but I thought it was such a smart idea!

This beauty products post is a fun read. I love to see what products people are addicted to.

This "mix tape" reminds me of the ones that I used to make for my husband when we were dating.

I love this chocolate pretzels idea.

I want to make some of these rice pillows.

Don't these chocolate cookies look so yummy?

Aren't these day-of-the-week dish towels so cool?

I love these fabric storage bins (hat tip to Apartment Therapy!)

This purse made from a tablecloth is so cute! I have always been a fan of gingham prints.

This diaper wallet is such a smart idea!

I couldn't resist sharing these cupcakes & quilts for some fun retro flashbacks!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hurry! Get Women & Money Free!

Awhile back I offered my review on Suze Orman's book entitled, "Women & Money." It still continues to be my favorite book from her and lucky for you, you can get your hands on a free copy of this book to download. This offer expires at 7 pm (CT) on Thursday, February 14, so head over to Freebies 4 Mom and read about how you can take advantage of this offer. Much thanks to Heather for emailing me about this offer!

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Thank You Writers Strike!

The shows on television have been so boring and all of my television watching has come to a standstill since the writers strike. But instead of moping about the television, I started turning into some new shows and have reignited my love for a hobby that I once lost... reading!

I kept blaming my kids for my lack of reading when I should have blaming my own lack of motivation and laziness. Why read when I can flip on the television? It just seemed so much easier. Since nothing has been on television though, I flipped my remote back to reading.

It has become an evening ritual for me. I curl up into my glider chair and escape for the evening with a little snack. Candles are lit in my room, a comfy pillow behind my back, my feet propped on the ottoman, a warm quilt wrapping in me... and I crack the binding to my library book. Do you hear that? Sweet silence! The children are in bed and the only sound that I am hearing is the flipping of the pages.

First to get read was my first James Patterson book. I know, I know...I have just not found his material all that engaging, but I could not put down, "The Quickie." And lest you think I am reading pornographic material, as my husband eyes danced over the title and I confessed my addiction to porn just for kicks, this book is less about that and more about a thrilling witnessed murder that happens quickly and takes over a detective's life. Why would that take over her life? Why, her lover was murdered by her husband and she is put in charge of the case. Oh, it was a thrill ride that reminded me a lot of one of my favorite thrillers, "Derailed," by James Siegel (that got turned into a sub par movie that did little justice to the book) and I hung onto the roller coaster ride for two days. It literally took me two evenings to flip through and I could not put it down. My mother-in-law read it (as did a bunch of the people she worked with!) and she had the same experience as me. She has read other Jame Patterson books though and said none were as good as this so she said I made a good first choice. If you are looking for a quick mommy read, this is it!
The next book I read was also out of my normal genre, but it was so good that I could not put it down. "Heart Sick" by Chelsea Cain reminded me a lot of, "Silence of the Lambs." Instead of a male serial killer though, a detective is tracking a female serial killer. She is on a killing spree and ends the spree with her last victim...the detective. Instead of killing him though she tortures him and then lets him go, knowing that she is going to prison forever. The detective can't understand why she has let him go and it tortures him more because he doesn't know why. Apparently, this is the first book in the series and I am looking forward to more novels to come. If you don't have the stomach for stuff like this though, I wouldn't recommend it. Like I said, this is not my normal genre, but I just found the premise of the book to be quite fascinating.
I also finished, "The Time Traveler's Wife," by Audrey Niffenegger. This has been a book that I have wanted to read for a long time, but had never set aside the time to read it. I am so glad that I waited though because I don't know if I could have appreciated this book as much as I did now. This has to be one of the best books I have ever read. It is about a man who time travels, but not in a science fiction kind of way. He is born with a condition that causes him to time travel and he arrives to all of his destinations completely naked, starving, and with no money. He has to become resourceful and find ways to eat and live when he travels to these new destinations. Who he comes to visit often though ends up being his future wife at different stages in her life and they form a friendship and then later fall in love. I don't want to give too much away, but I noticed that it is being made into a film and I am hoping it does more justice to the book than other films I have seen in the past. Without giving anything away, my husband came into our room to see me bawling like a baby...dripping nose, mascara running, hiccuping....the whole works. I am rarely moved by a book in this way, but this book did it for me. If you haven't read it run, run, run to the library and get it.

I got an early release copy of "The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun & Profit," but hadn't had a chance to sit down and read this until now. I really love the Sweet Potato Queen books and have been a big fan of Jill's for a long time now. Unfortunately, this book wasn't half as good as her first couple of novels. There are some funny parts in it, but it wasn't what I had been hoping for. There are some great recipes in it though that are full of butter and calories- yum!

Now I am starting the Janet Evanovich books and of course I had to start with, "One for the Money." I have been wanting to read these for awhile now and I am looking forward to reading the entire series. The good part about starting a series late though is that you don't have to wait for the new releases to come out to finish. I think she is up to book thirteen so that gives me plenty of reading material to get me started.


Sound Off:
What books have you read lately- anything you could recommend? I am going to have to hit our library again soon so I would love some new suggestions!

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WSBT-TV: Getting Inexpensive Health Care Coverage

You can find me on our local news each Tuesday sharing advice on ways to save a buck. This week I share how we found health care coverage during my husband's time of unemployment. Our town is supported mainly by the factories and the RV industry and it seems that jobs are fewer and farther between. I wanted to share how we found our health care coverage and less conventional ways to buy your prescription drugs.

If you are looking for more information on this subject you can visit my article on going without health insurance or my article explaining the prescription drug lowdown.

Sound Off: Do you have good health care coverage? Are your prescription drugs covered or do you pay for those out of pocket? Please share!

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It's the Little Things

These little dinner trays are one of my favorite things for my kids to eat on. I found these awhile ago at Target and they continue to offer them in array of colors. For some reason, they really start marketing and selling them around the Easter season in pastel colors. I noticed they had them in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog last year for about three times the price.

One of the compartments is perfect for sippy cups or for a big glob of ketchup for dipping. The other compartments are big enough for generous portions of food and deep enough that it makes scooping things like macaroni and peas just a little bit easier. Bonus for the kids...the foods never touch.

A quick rinse and in the dishwasher they go! Cafeteria dining at its best!

*Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday for more great ideas!*

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Don't Forget!

Are you heading over to IHOP today to get your free pancake fix? IHOP's National Pancake Day is today! From 7AM-10PM you can get your free short stack of pancakes. Donations are requested for the Children's Miracle Network that day.

This is one of my favorite freebies and I look forward to it ever year. I hope you can enjoy a fun and free lunch!

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Leaner Ground Beef for Less

This past month I stocked up on ground beef and chicken at our local market. While the pricing was lower on the chicken prices, the ground beef was still $1.79 per pound for 80% lean. Of course their best ground beef prices had the highest percentage of fat, but I figured that I would just drain the fat and prepare the dishes like usual.

When I did a little research and digging though, I realized that I could cut the percentage in half by simply giving my ground beef a good rinsing. With just a little effort on my part, I could have the same lean beef and pay a lot less for it.

First, if you are new to the idea, I would recommend reading this tutorial provided by Hillbilly Housewife. It explains exactly how to do it and how much fat you are shaving off by giving your beef a rinse.

The best way that I have found to rinse my ground beef is to cook the ground beef and then pull the cooked meat out of the pot and put it into a bowl or on a plate while I drain the fat from the pan. I usually can find an empty can in my recycling that I can pour the fat into and then I rinse out the skillet that I am cooking in. Next, I start running the water on my tap as hot as possible. I rest the colander in the sink and then pour my cooked meat into it. I run the hot water over the meat and give it a good rinsing. Once it has been rinsed, I let it rest in the colander until the water has completely drained. Finally, just pour the ground beef back into your skillet and proceed with your recipe.

Now my question is, if I drain the ground beef am I removing important nutrients from my diet? I happened upon this answer, from the American Cancer Association, that I found very helpful when researching this topic...

"The original fat level in ground meat makes a difference in the amount of fat that can be removed from it. With each reduction from regular ground beef to 20% fat, 15% fat and 10% fat, the content of a three-ounce portion is reduced by 3 grams. The leaner the meat, the smaller the effect that draining and rinsing can have on the meat's fat content. Blotting a burger on paper towels (30 seconds on each side) can generally lower the fat by about 1 or 2 grams, while the fat content of drained crumbled meat (as for chili or pasta sauces) may drop by 4 or more grams. When you rinse crumbled ground beef in a fine strainer or colander, you can further reduce fat content in each three-ounce portion by at least 4 or 5 more grams. While draining and rinsing beef can dramatically affect the amount of fat it contains, studies show that protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12 content is not significantly affected."

I am always looking for ways to keep our grocery budget on track, but I am also constantly looking for ways to keep my family eating healthy. While we generally rely on ground turkey for most of our dishes, there are occasions where I prefer the ground beef. It is good to know that there are ways to reduce the fat content and still have a yummy dish!

Sound Off: Do you rinse your ground beef or do you just pay more for the leaner varieties? What is a reasonable price in your area for ground beef?

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Frugal Hacks: Frugality Superiority Complex

Today on Frugal Hacks, I wanted to talk about something that I refer to as the, "frugality superiority complex." This is just a phrase I came up with to describe something that I sometimes find myself doing when it comes to discussions on saving money. I immediately feel like I know the answer, like I have been around the block a few times (and saved a few dimes) before I even know what the other person might be talking about.

This idea has been floating in my head for so long that it was almost therapeutic when I was able to finally share my feelings in writing.

I hope I am not building it up too much, but I am just thrilled to share this piece. Please join me over at Frugal Hacks for my frugality journey.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Missing Child Alert

This is a letter from one of my readers...

My name is Melissa Jones, site id (mrj0308). The reason I am contacting you is because my 15 yr old niece has gone missing. She disappeared from her home on 02/09/08. And she hasn't called or anything , we are worried sick! I live 4.5 hours away from my sister, and have 2 small children so I am feeling pretty useless right now. I have been making phone calls for her and anything else I can think of. This is the flier we have made up. Could you please put a post on the site? We are so worried, we love her and just want her home safely.

Thank you,
Melissa

Name: Stephanie Bass

AKA: Kyrie Holland, Kyrie Bass, and Valarie Bass

Age: 15

Hair Color: Red Eyes: Hazel Ht 5’3” Wt 142 lbs

Her family is very worried about her and is praying for her safe return, if you have any information please Call 1-704-293-1729 or the Matthews Police Dept. @ 1-704-847-4069

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The Thrills of Modern Day Inventions

The weather here has just been brutal- blowing snow, freezing temperatures, icy road conditions...the list goes on and on. I am ready for warm weather and bathing suits. I want to sit in my lounge chair and watch the kids play in the sprinklers. I want to sweat, not shiver.

Last night the school listings were starting to post for delays and cancellations. Ethan's school was not listed, but I was determined to not have a repeat incident of what happened last time. I checked the news website and lo and behold...you can have school delays and cancellations sent right to your phone.

I signed up for this service and the weather alert service. I am bad about watching the news so this was perfect for someone like me.

This morning I heard a beep, beep, beep. This wasn't my alarm beeping at me...it was my telephone. "South Bend Community Schools have been canceled. Go back to sleep, momma!" (Well, I am adding that last part for the sake of narration...)

Roll back over and go back to sleep. Thank you, sweet modern day invention!

Sound Off: Do you do text messaging or receive any free services like this to your cell phone? Coupons, deals, alerts? Please share!

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What to Do With Leftover Pitas?

We had pitas leftover from our dinner,but they didn't last long. Most of them got turned into little personal pan pizzas for lunches this week.

I topped them with some of my homemade sauce, a little cheese, and some pepperoni. The kids gobbled them up and ever since we ate these, Emily keeps pointing to the stove and saying, "Pizza? Pizza?"

These might be a fun variation on our pizza nights at home especially since everyone can pick their own favorite toppings!

Sound Off: What do you do with leftover pitas? Do you have a favorite topping or way to stuff them that is a hit with your family?

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Redbox Code 02.11.08

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is BST53H. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together! Check out Meredith, from Like Merchant Ships, post on creating a fun family night on Monday instead of the traditional Monday night. She makes some really great points about frugality and creating a fun night with your family.

I read in our local paper that Redbox is planning to make a lot of expansions this year, including adding their rental kiosks to Wal-Marts all over. I thought I would mention this in case your area doesn't have one. They could be coming to a town near you this year so keep searching under your zip code.

Side Note: If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different accounts to charge to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

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Homemade Pitas

If you would have asked me I thought I could whip up some pitas for my family a few years ago, I would have told you no. I have had this recipe in my collection for so long that I don't even know where it originated from, but I decided to dust off the old recipe collection and see if these could come together for me. After all, if it was a complete failure...well, at least I tried!

This dough is incredibly easy to work with, especially for a novice! It is not too dry and it is not too wet so you don't have to use a lot of flour to roll these out.

These pitas are so yummy and the whole wheat flour adds a yummy dimension to the flavors. The kids loved these and my husband could not get over that I had made them because they looked just like the store-bought variety.

Now that I have made them though, there is no turning back. I will never buy these at the store again. In fact, I am whipping up my second batch for the week today! I hope your family will enjoy these as much as we have!

Pita Bread (for the Bread Machine)

1 1/3 cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons yeast


Put ingredients into the bread machine in order listed. Run the dough cycle on your machine. When the bread machine beeps, pull the dough out of the bread machine and divide the dough into ten pieces. Roll each piece into a six inch circle. Place these on a baking sheet (or your pizza stones) and let them rise for twenty minutes (I can fit about four rounds per pizza stone or three pitas per baking sheet). Bake at 500 degrees for three minutes. Using a spatula, flip the pitas and cook for another three to four minutes on the flip side.

Amy's Side Notes:


- When you pull the pitas off of your baking sheet, wrap them into a damp kitchen towel for a few minutes. This helps keep them from drying out. Once they are cool, you can store them in a food storage bag.

- Freeze extras for a rainy day! After the pitas have cooled, slip a piece of wax paper between them and store in a freezer bag. You can take out what you need...when you need it!

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snow Days for a Frugal Family

I am standing in the kitchen baking my little heart out. I have two trays of granola in our oven and the bread machine is humming as I make another batch of homemade pitas. The computer is booted up and I am typing in between flipping and turning pans. I work at a frantic pace, trying to crank out the work for the week so that I have my time free this week for making and attending my son's Valentine's Day party.

The smell of shoe polish is traveling into the kitchen, as my husband sits on the couch shining his shoes for the week. He has had the same shoes for years now, but believes in making a good investment in one pair of shoes and frowns upon my ten dollar Payless shoe habit. I have went through about the same amount of money as he has on his shoe splurge, but I try to keep up with the trends and he is more of a classic kind of guy.

As he is shining, the kids are running and gathering speed as they loop around and around chasing each other. Emily is banging a coffee can like it is a drum and they run past me as I type.

If you listen, you will hear the washing machine humming as it cranks out another load of our wash. The dryer buzzes, and I plop in the front room and fold our clothes. I head upstairs and place the fresh sheets on our bed. Sunday night is my favorite night to climb into bed because this is when I put on the clean sheets for the week. The sheets are crisp and smell like lavender- a fancy scented laundry detergent. The detergent is a splurge, but I love it too much to give it up.

In the evening, you can hear the sound of the hair clippers as I give the guys a hair cut. They both need one and we are all thankful that we don't have to try and schedule hair cuts for them anymore or put up with poor service at the cheap salons they used to frequent. I also spend the evening coloring my hair...a shade called, "Color Me Vibrant." I call it "Color Me Cheap" though because I save $35 each time I color my hair myself.

As we tuck the kids into bed, we break out the board games for an evening of fun. Games that were probably rarely used in someone's else's house and then donated as they gathered dust in a closet. They rarely get dusty in our house as you hear the clink, clink, clink of tiles being placed on the Scrabble board for the third night this week.

As I climb into my bed with the clean sheets against my skin, I grab a library book that I am working through. No guilt as I page through it quickly, devouring it at a record pace. There is no guilt because I didn't pay for it and I can return it with no buyer's remorse.

I am happy and I am content...Yes, this is the picture of a snow day for our frugal family!

Sound Off: What are some of your favorite things to do when you are snowed in? If you don't get snow, just offer sympathies for those less fortunate than you!

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Board Game Giveaway Results

Thanks to everyone who entered our board game giveaway. I dropped everyone's name in a hat and our winner is Dolphin Lady who said:

"We love many games, but Apples to Apples has to be the favorite. Passports to Cultures is another - very educational - favorite of ours, too. Would LOVE to win this game (our children are adopted African Amerian.)"

Thanks again to the Pressman Toy Company for making this giveaway possible. We hope that Dolphin Lady's family truly enjoys this board game! We promise to keep offering these giveaways to our readers!

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Freebie Friday: February 8, 2008

Don't forget to enter our FREE contest for our trivia game giveaway. This would be a great addition to your family game collection and you can enter until 8PM tonight. There are not as many entries for this one so there are much better chances than some of the other giveaways I have conducted. Please remember to leave your email address, if you do not have a Blogger account, so that I can find you if you are the winner. It is hard to track down anonymous to let them know that they have won!

Another big thanks to Heather from Freebies 4 Mom for helping make our Friday freebies that much fatter! Be sure to read her, "Wheres My Freebie?" post on what happened to some of those freebies you might have signed up for, but never received.

Health & Beauty


Food

Flat Earth Crisps (free bag with printable coupon)
Chipotle Burrito Offer (Feb. 13 and 14)
10 free wings from Wing Stop

Entertainment

O, The Oprah Magazine (2 free issues through StartSampling)
Cosmopolitan Magazine (3 free issues through StartSampling)
Walgreens Photo Free "Family Pack" with coupon code VALENTINE (expires Feb. 9)
The Secret of Happiness by Billy Graham
Book It Program (now made available to homeschooling mommas)
Blockbuster Rental (complete survey & they will send you a coupon good for one free rental)

Home & Garden

Fresh Starts Gift Pack
(Glade and Ziploc samples, coupons)

Mark your calendars!! IHOP's National Pancake Day is coming on February 12th. From 7AM-10PM you can get your free short stack of pancakes. Donations are requested for the Children's Miracle Network that day.

Mark your calendars!! Crate & Barrel Wedding Party Events1/27, 2/10, 17, 24 & 3/2, 9-11 a.m. Crate & Barrel introduces The Wedding Parties. If you’re about to be married, we’re throwing a party in your honor. Bring your partner or your friends. Our store is yours. Enjoy great food, drinks, music and our expert advice on registering. Our knowledgeable staff will be there to offer insight, support, plus home entertaining ideas for newlyweds and our newest registry guide. You’ll also receive a brilliant hand-blown glass bowl as our gift. To RSVP today, call a store near you.

Mark your calendars!! Free In-store bag of Sephora Samples. Stop by any Sephora, Jan 6th through Feb. 15th, for a free bag of skincare samples tailored to your needs based on a skincare consultation. No purchase required.

Here's to the Heroes!!
Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branches, active members of a reserve or National Guard unit, and/or up to three direct dependants. Valid for one complimentary single-day admission per person, per year, to one of the following Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks:
o SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
o Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
o Sesame Place
o Aquatica
o Adventure Island
o Water Country USA
Offer valid between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2008. Operating days and hours vary by park. Please check with specific park for current operating schedule. Visit their site for more details!

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Free Family Fun Subscription

Head over to Baby Cheapskate and read how you can get a free subscription to Family Fun Magazine!

This is a great magazine for those of us who try desperately to craft with our kids, but are stumped for ideas!

While you are over there, Angie has added new additions to her Freepeats program...including Chicago. Midwest moms say, "Hurray!" Boston & Houston communities were also added to the mix.

Enjoy!

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Amy's Notebook 02.07.08

I love this tutorial on cleaning your vacuum cleaner filter.

Isn't this idea for making an ABC book so cute?

I like this idea for recycling old catalogs around our house.

Some great inspiration for an organized craft space.

I am going to have to remember this idea for using a can opener to open all of those gifts next year.

I could also use my can opener and make these cute Valentine's containers.

I want to make one of these heart-shaped wreaths for my door.

These button cards would be a great way to use some buttons out of my stash.

I love these little steps towards saving money.

I love this linen checkerboard set.

These Valentine's Day blocks are so neat looking. Gives me lots of ideas for future projects!

I think this car litter bag is so amazing looking. We need about forty of these for my car.

I need to download this cookbook- I sure do love a freebie!

This stitched lazy susan is super cool looking.

These heart-shaped paper clips are so cute!

How cute are these map collages? Yet another great repurpose for an old map!

Yet another smart idea for ways to use oil cloth.

These red velvet cupcakes would be a neat Valentine's Day treat.

These homemade pop tarts look absolutely delicious!

I want to try this recipe for Parmesan Pretzel Sticks. They would be a fun addition to a family meal!

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All Around the House 02.07.08

You might be wondering where I was yesterday? Well, I am proud to say that I am tackling one of my New Year's resolutions and have begun a sewing course over at Hancock Fabrics. I had been looking into it (or procrastinating on it) for several months now and finally decided that this was the year to learn.

To say that sewing is hard for me is an understatement. I am really struggling with learning to sew. Does sewing come naturally to anyone? I find this whole thing to be quite tedious compared to using a hot glue gun and a staple gun. I am one of those free spirits though that doesn't like to measure or follow direction, but that is not what is expected of you in a sewing class. I know I am being taught the proper way to sew, but I don't envision myself doing half the stuff I am learning when sewing. My goal really was just to learn how to use the sewing machine so that I could make throw pillows or curtains. An added bonus for me would be to be able to make a simple skirt or apron, but never to sew my own pajamas (which is our third project in this series of classes).

Our first project was pillowcases. I have a feeling I will never make pillowcases again because this is something I would rather buy in the store. Of course, the purpose is to learn how to sew, not necessarily to learn how to make pillowcases. These were supposed to be an easy first time project, but it took me four hours to make these. They didn't turn out perfect, in fact, one of my pillowcases had to be completely sewn again because it wasn't done right. I also had made the mistake of picking striped fabric, which I wouldn't recommend to anyone who is trying to learn to sew because all of the lines had to match up and it took forever to cut these and sew them.

Our next project will be more up my alley. We are learning how to make aprons and this time I picked a green polka-dotted print. Seeing as the pillowcases took me four hours, I can imagine that an apron will take me about twenty hours.

Regardless, I am really enjoying Ivy's, from Home Ec 101, posts on learning to sew and she is offering a great tutorial for beginning sewers. Taking her free advice is a lot less expensive than taking the courses, which average $15 each plus materials, but I am hoping this class pays off for me.

If you have any kind words for a discouraged sewer, I could really use them! I know I am not very patient!

Ethan was also the superstar in his class for the week. They pick one person each week to be the star and each day they do something special with that person. He had to make a picture about himself and his family which shared all about himself and his favorite things (pancakes and trips to Chicago). The next day he shared his favorite book, "How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon." The next day was spent sharing about his favorite toy- his Mega T-Rex. Lastly, today we had to make his favorite snack to bring in to share with the class..Pumpkin Muffins. After my sewing class last night, I came home and whipped these up to take this morning while my little superstar slept.

The whole family chipped in to make his superstar week, complete. Even Emily & her monkey helped by handing crayons to our rock star to complete his project! This was definitely a family effort to make his week special.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Frugal Hacks: Fun Valentine's Day Ideas for Families

Continuing with my theme earlier today, I wanted to share some linkage to some really great sites and ideas for celebrating Valentine's Day in a fun way with your family. You can find me sharing on the "entertainment" category each week on Frugal Hacks. All of the contributers do such a great job so I hope you will take a look around while you are over there reading it!

In this entry there are tons of great links to printables, crafts, and ideas for making your Valentine's Day extra special with your family. I hope it will inspire you to create and share a new tradition for the holiday.

Ethan and I will be spending time working on making our Valentines together this weekend and I look forward to sharing what we come up with. He is finally at the age where he has the attention span to really enjoy doing things like this so we are getting to a fun stage for doing some serious crafting. It will be great to have a partner in crafting crime, but hopefully he is better at it than me!

Please head over to Frugal Hacks and read my ideas for enjoying a fun & frugal Valentine's Day!

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WSBT-TV: Tips for a Fun & Frugal Valentine's Day

Featured today on WSBT was a segment that I did on celebrating Valentine's Day on a budget. This goes along with our Valentine's Day article full of tips for saving cash.

I mentioned that Restaurant.com is a great place to get gift certificates for your evening out. We do have an affiliation with the company, but I recommend it because it really can save families money. I checked their current promotions and they are offering gift certificates for 60% off with an additional 25% discount from deLaFlowers. This offer is good through February 6th using coupon code SUPER when checking out. Use this provided link to access this deal! If you want to understand more about how this program works, you can read my personal review of this program.

Just to be sure you don't miss it, listen for a tiny voice in the background on the segment. Emily was particularly wild that day, but Cari said it would just help people believe me more that I really am a mom and really do have children. Emily won't hold still for any camera shots, but she was having a great time in the playroom while we shot our segments.

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Giving Away the Mother Load: Black Heritage Trivia Game

I would like to offer you another great giveaway sponsored through the Pressman Toy Company. In this giveaway we will be offering a copy of "The Black Heritage Trivia Game."

Here is a blurb about the game from the company:

In honor of Black History Month, and throughout the year, encourage your readers to share the heroic stories of Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Oprah Winfrey and other African Americans with their children by playing GEEBEE’s Black Heritage Series games and puzzles together.

GEEBEE Marketing, Inc., the only U.S. toy manufacturer dedicated to creating African American themed games and puzzles, has developed the Black History Series that strives to make learning about Black history in America fun for children of many ages. They have proven to be popular with teachers as well as parents and make great additions to the classroom and the toy box.

This year, GEEBEE is excited to include its games and puzzles in Wal-Mart’s February Black History Month promotions at stores nationwide. They can also be found online at Pressman Toys website and at other online sites, book stores and retailers.

The Black Heritage Trivia Game is intended for children that are ten years to adult and is retailed at $19.99. This game will test your knowledge of the history, cultural experiences, scientific accomplishments and major contributions made by African Americans from 1619 until today! Get the answers right and make your way into the inner circle. But be careful, your opponent is trying to send you back to the start! Be ready for hours of enlightening entertainment.
Who wouldn't love another great game to add to their collection?

Rules for Entry: Leave a comment and let us know what your favorite family board game is! I will draw the winner at random. You can enter until 8 PM Friday (02/08). The winner will be announced on Saturday. Good luck to everyone!

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Open Your Own Bed & Breakfast

Pre-children, my husband & I got the opportunity to take some really fun trips and to visit some really amazing places. While we have never gotten the opportunity to travel out of the country, we have gone lots of great places in our own country.

One of our trips lead us to a beautiful bed and breakfast in Cape Cod. Our room was tucked away in the attic of the home and it was filled with beautiful antiques and slanted ceilings. They served us an amazing breakfast and we lounged on their antique couches and enjoyed our beautiful breakfast while reading the paper. We spent the entire day window-shopping and curled into our bed, covered in quilts and feathered pillows. It has been one of our favorite little getaways and was one of the last trips we got to take before our son entered the world.

Since we have had children, our travels are more limited, but I have been trying to capture the feeling of a good bed and breakfast over the weekends in our home. While I don't have someone here to keep the home tidy, I try to revel in the details that can help make our home feel more like a vacation house, instead of just the place we live in.

Here are some of my ideas for helping create a bed and breakfast in your own home:

1. Putting fresh sheets on the bed makes climbing into bed so much nicer. I love to turn the bed back to make it look more welcoming. I wouldn't suggest doing this until the evening (or you will probably end up in it!), but doing this before bed makes the bed seem more inviting. If you don't have time to clean the sheets, fresh pillowcases or just neatly making the bed can help to freshen it up.

2. If you have the space, pull a comfy chair up into your room. Our glider was rarely used in Emily's room anymore, so I brought it into our room to make a cozy little reading corner. A basket of library books are right next to my bed so I always have a little reading material.

3. I love my trays and I keep one in our bedroom too. It is a great place for me to put my current reading material, the newspaper, and a Suduko puzzle book. I like to rest my coffee in the tray while I do my reading so I don't have to balance a cup on our bed. You could also bring your breakfast into your bedroom and take a little mommy time-out on the weekends. My husband sometimes lets me disappear for a little bit and I can enjoy a few moments in peace. It is great!

4. One of the fun things about staying at a hotel is getting to try all sorts of new bath and body products. I keep a basket of freebies in our room and love to dig into these on the weekend. It is so fun to try tons of spa products without paying a dime for them. What could be better than that?

5. On Saturdays, we love to make pancakes or waffles. On Friday night, while our pizza is cooking, I try to make up the batter for our brunch the next day. I put this in a bowl and tuck it in the fridge for the morning. The next day, all I have to do is pour the batter out and we are ready to go. It helps eliminate a lot of the work for the meal the following day and makes my morning run much smoother.

6. When serving your brunch, break out the good dishes! Everything looks and tastes so much better when it is well-presented.

7. If the budget allows it, buy some fresh flowers for your bedroom and table. A beautiful bouquet at Aldi is only $2.99 and has enough flowers that it can be split into two rooms.

Here are a few recipes for creating your own bed & breakfast:

Oatmeal Waffles
Spiced Pumpkin Waffles With Honey Butter
Yeast Waffles
Banana Pancakes
Pete's Scratch Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes With Oven Fried Bacon (scroll down)
Amy's French Toast
Gingerbread Waffles
Cinnamon Muffins
Apple Pie Muffins
Sour Cream Muffins
Pumpkin Struesel Muffins
Almost Nutra Grain Bars
Amy's Favorite Cocoa Mix
Homemade Pancake Syrup
Homemade Nonstick Spray (This will help keep your waffles and pancakes from sticking)


For inspirational reading on making your house feel more like a fabulous weekend retreat, I love to read INNside Innkeeping in Montana. There are excellent tips for home maintenance and tons of delicious recipes to try.

Sound Off: What is your favorite thing to do on the weekends? How do you help keep your weekends running smoothly?

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Redbox Code 02.04.08

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is HD36MJ. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together! Check out Meredith, from Like Merchant Ships, post on creating a fun family night on Monday instead of the traditional Monday night. She makes some really great points about frugality and creating a fun night with your family.

Side Note: If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different accounts to charge to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

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I Heart Oz (Or I Heart Carrie)

I got an unexpected package in the mail last week. I didn't remember ordering anything, but tucked between all of the junk mail was a squishy envelope.

I opened the envelope up and out fell an "I Love Oz" t-shirt. There was a sweet note explaining that my awesome blogging buddy Carrie had attended a swap night and happened upon this shirt. She remembered my entry about my surprise birthday tickets to the show and she also knew my size. Wouldn't you know she snatched it up for me?

I really wanted a shirt when I attended the show, but you know me and my money. We are tight. I kept my money in my pocket and never imagined that I would have gotten such a nice surprise!

Thank you, Carrie! You truly made my week!

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Vanilla Scented Granola

I am easing my family into eating granola and I found this recipe that I thought would fit the bill perfectly. The only item that they could consider "weird" are the slivered almonds. No dried fruits, no coconut, no weird foods...no reason to complain!

I will gradually be adding some other elements into this recipe, but if you have a picky family, this granola recipe might be a great place to start. I bought a large container of vanilla yogurt and made little yogurt cups for the kids with this homemade granola sprinkled on top. They gobbled it up and I found them both licking their bowls. I would say this one was a hit!

Vanilla Scented Granola Courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine

Cooking spray
4
cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2
cup brown sugar
1/4
teaspoon salt
1/8
teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3
cup vegetable oil
1/4
cup honey
2
tablespoons sugar
4
teaspoons vanilla extract Position rack to middle of oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Lightly spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray. Mix next 5 ingredients in large bowl. Combine oil, honey and sugar in small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour hot liquid over oat mixture; stir well. Using hands, toss mixture until thoroughly mixed. Spread granola on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionaly, about 30 minutes (but check after 20). Transfer sheet to rack; cool granola completely. (Can be made two weeks ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.) Makes approximately 8 cups.

Side Note: If you prefer granola clumps, do not stir during baking and allow the granola to cool. You can then break the granola apart into pieces.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

I'm On the Kenmore Page

I promised I would update you guys when I actually appeared on the Kenmore website and now I am finally up there. You can see me on the homepage under "Advice for Home & Housework (little tiny me in a blue sweater) or you can see me on their formal Meet the Experts page. My bio is located here!

I will get to write monthly for the Kenmore company and share tips on a variety of mommy subjects. This is so exciting for me and a true blessing for our family. I apologize for the bragging, but everyone wanted to know when it would be posted after my little announcement about joining their team.

I will be sure to share when we have new articles posted there as well as sharing about their future promotions!

Thank you all for your continued support! I couldn't do it without you!

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Starbucks Gift Card Giveaway Results

Who would have thought that a $25 gift card for coffee would bring in 701 entries? Pure craziness! A big congratulations to Mimi on winning our $25 Starbucks Gift Card. I chose our winner randomly, but could not have picked a better person. Mimi is on my site daily and a huge contributer to our forum & MomAdvice community. I was so thrilled to pick her name out of the hat and she truly deserves this.

Thank you to everyone who participated and I plan to share many more giveaways in the future!!

PS- Everyone is a winner in this one. Take a peek at the comments and pick a new favorite drink- there are over seven hundred choices! I have a new list of things to try thanks to all of your great orders!

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Freebie Friday: February 1, 2008

I just want to say a big THANK YOU to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us with this week's list. Please visit her site for some really amazing freebies throughout the week and in-depth discussions on coupon dos & don'ts!

Much thanks to Beth & Amy for sending us the Chex Mix Turtle sample. If you haven't had this, it is delicious! Yummy!

Don't forget to enter our Starbuck's Gift Card Giveaway that we are offering on our site! You could win a free $25 gift card to grab your favorite cup of coffee. I love reading everyone's favorite drinks. Geesh, I thought I was high maintenance! You guys are picky about your coffee.

Here are your freebies...


Health & Beauty
Dentek samples
"A is for Asthma" DVD (teaching children about their asthma and other club benefits)

Food
Team Hansen's Refreshment Book (offer for Soccer Teams only)
Barilla The Celebrity Italian Table cookbook (Barilla donates $1 per download to America's Second Harvest)
Wines From Spain Wine Guide

Entertainment

2008 Space Camp Program Guide with magnet
Toys 'R Us Birthday Club with Birthday Gifts
Redbox Code: GROUNDHOG (Expires 2/05). Good for one free rental.
SPIN Magazine
Metropolitan Home Magazine
Parents Magazine (2 Years- this was posted earlier, but want to make sure that everyone gets it)
Green Guide Magazine (Use Coupon Code: HSBC07470)

Home & Garden

2X Ultra Tide with Dawn

Mark your calendars!! Auntie Anne's is turning 20! To kick-off its 20th birthday celebration, Auntie Anne's is hosting a Free Pretzel Day on February 2nd at stores nationwide! Stop by your local Auntie Anne's on February 2nd between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to try one complimentary Original or Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel -- no strings attached.

Mark your calendars!! IHOP's National Pancake Day is coming on February 12th. From 7AM-10PM you can get your free short stack of pancakes. Donations are requested for the Children's Miracle Network that day.

Mark your calendars!! Crate & Barrel Wedding Party Events1/27, 2/10, 17, 24 & 3/2, 9-11 a.m. Crate & Barrel introduces The Wedding Parties. If you’re about to be married, we’re throwing a party in your honor. Bring your partner or your friends. Our store is yours. Enjoy great food, drinks, music and our expert advice on registering. Our knowledgeable staff will be there to offer insight, support, plus home entertaining ideas for newlyweds and our newest registry guide. You’ll also receive a brilliant hand-blown glass bowl as our gift. To RSVP today, call a store near you.

Mark your calendars!! Free In-store bag of Sephora Samples. Stop by any Sephora, Jan 6th through Feb. 15th, for a free bag of skincare samples tailored to your needs based on a skincare consultation. No purchase required.

Here's to the Heroes!!
Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branches, active members of a reserve or National Guard unit, and/or up to three direct dependants. Valid for one complimentary single-day admission per person, per year, to one of the following Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks:
o SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
o Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
o Sesame Place
o Aquatica
o Adventure Island
o Water Country USA
Offer valid between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2008. Operating days and hours vary by park. Please check with specific park for current operating schedule. Visit their site for more details!

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Frugal Hacks: Take a Vacation? Why Not!

Editor's Note: This was written on Tuesday, but we have had some technical difficulties on Frugal Hacks. We are up and rolling now!

Today is my fun day because I get to do the news segment AND I get to guest write for Frugal Hacks. A magazine I got in my mail today gave me the idea for our topic. I am sharing frugal ways to vacation in your own state.

I am also looking for the best Miss America answer for what makes your state so great. I know, I know... but anyone who saw the Miss America pageant this year knows that this question is much better than asking our contestants questions about their feelings concerning Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, or Britney Spear's sister. Seriously? Seriously? How about an African American running for office? How about a woman running for office? How about the war in Iraq? How about educating our children? How about...Well, you get the idea. I think there are far more important issues at hand. Modernize the pageant, sure, but our women can still be smart AND hip!

Head over to Frugal Hacks and share your thoughts on your state there. If you have thoughts about the Miss America pageant and the lame questions this year, leave 'em here!

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