Thursday, November 18, 2010

Doing More with Less: Survival of the Holidays

Week 3: As we approach another holiday season jobless I am having to rethink my strategy again, to make sure that I keep spending under control while still keeping the season in perspective.

Its not about stuff
While the commercial machine revs up for what is usually the biggest spending season of the year, its hard not to get excited about all the deals that are out there. Televisions and computers for $300 can get a person pretty excited, especially when you are a techno-nut like me. Having a computer dinosaur from 2005 is still a blessing...and I keep telling myself that when I have to reboot it each and every time I accidentally let it fall asleep. But its even harder when you have kids that you want to shower with gifts. Now don't get me wrong, my kids for the most part would never dream of asking for piles of the latest and greatest.  Especially right now, when they know we are having such a hard time. I know they would love to have the latest phone or laptop and my son would just about fall over for one of those huge Lego star wars ships, but they also know it probably ain't gonna happen unless momma finds a *really* good black friday deal!

Finding the right deals
Black Friday kicks off the "last minute" shopping for me. I collect gifts all year long. From clearance items to special markdowns, I am always thinking birthday and Christmas, so I already have gifts lined up for special people in my life. However, Black Friday is my real focus as I can usually find some insane deals on the one special thing that each of my loved ones really wants. I like to use special sites like Black Friday ads. Here, you make a user account and you can create lists of what you want and then print them out and take them with you as you shop. You can comparison shop what is going to be in the paper on Thanksgiving Day, now! Its a wonderful tool that I have used for years. I make sure I know what those special things are that each child really wants and then I look for the deals. Sometimes I can get exactly what they want at an amazing price and other times, I completely surprise them with something they never dreamed of asking for because it was too expensive.

I also make gifts. There are tons of great blogs and websites out there with sewing ideas, patterns, craft ideas and recipes. Last year I found some marked-down fuzzy fabric and made pillows for my girls' rooms. I sewed mittens with matching scarves and made herbal pillows to heat and help warm their beds. I was able to get all the materials with discount coupons and through sales and materials that I had on hand. These little extras are what make the holidays special.

I use extra ECB bucks and WAGS bucks to get stocking candy and a few odds and ends. Once I have rolled all the extra ones over for deals, I usually have some that I know will expire over the Christmas/New years holiday week that I won't use. So they go for extra goodies that I wouldn't normally buy.

The key in all of this is to not get what is outside of your budget. 

  • Set your spending limits it up front, make a list and stick to it. 
  • Don't use credit cards-unless you pay it off IN FULL each month

If you can't get it with cash or pay for it when the bill comes, don't get it. Paying for Christmas in June doesn't make it a deal because you have certainly paid more in interest than if you had bought the item at full price! If  a person's(aka child's) Christmas is going to be ruined by the fact that they didn't get something you cannot afford then the bigger issue might be the fact that their Christmas was ruined by lack of "stuff." What an awful expectation to have to continually fulfill year after year. Especially in this economy!

Making the meals
Even the Holiday meals can end up being extremely expensive if you aren't careful. Coupons for holiday cooking are in abundance this time of year. In fact, this past Sunday had four coupon circulars in it. Hundreds of dollars in savings there for the clipping.

For Convenience Sake: While I am all about getting a ready-made pie crust if I can for free, I will make one from scratch if I can't. I already have those ingredients in the house and purchasing one, while convenient, when added to all the other "convenient" items is not very frugal. I'd much rather save a dollar here and there and then use those dollars to add something under the tree for my kids. By planning carefully, I can have most of my holiday cooking done ahead of time. Broths are canned year around, flour is already available, oil may have been purchased the last super doubles I shopped at Harris Teeter. Pumpkin was baked after I located some free uncarved pumpkins after Halloween. Butter is easily frozen and when its on sale, I buy extra and stack it in the freezer. Did you know you can butter too? Did you know you can make pie crusts and freeze the dough for later use? You can also save some more dollars just by thinking ahead:

  1. Save the heels from loaves of bread and your scraps of cornbread and use them to make your stuffing. Store them in a resealable freezer bag and keep adding in the months prior to Thanksgiving and save the expense of buying bread crumbs that are loaded with additives and preservatives.
  2. When you see onions on sale, you can chop and freeze them. Not only are they great for all the broths, stuffings and other recipes, but you can use them year around for other things. Don't forget to cut off the bottom 1/4" with the root to plant in the garden. You will see spring onions coming up next year.
  3. Take home extra pumpkins after Halloween, half and remove the seeds. Place in large baking pans in the oven and roast. Freeze the thickened, cooked pulp for pies.
  4. Never throw away the celery that is starting to go limp. Rehydrate in a vase full of cold water and then chop and dry or chop and freeze for use in recipes. You can also freeze the hearts and leaves for stock.
  5. When thawing your Turkey, save the neck and make your gravy stock for that. Boil it with some celery and onion for several hours and then cool over night Lift off the fat and strain you have the perfect liquid to flavor your stuffing and make gravy. No buying broth or chemical-laden gravy packets.
  6. Buy cranberries and freeze them. They last a LONG time and when they are on sale, you can buy a bunch. Make your cranberry sauce from scratch. Its delicious and so much better for you!
  7. Powdered milk is a great substitute for milk, evaporated milk and cream when cooking and its not nearly as expensive. I find even the generic store brands, like Food Lion's brand, work fine. It won't substitute for whipping cream if you are whipping it for pie topping, but it is great to add flavor to gravies and for making a cream sauce for vegetables or casseroles.

All in all, if you plan the menu and bake things ahead of time you can do it for a fraction of the cost of buying prepared foods and it will be so yummy and so rewarding. And if you have a family with dietary needs like I do, the benefits are even greater! Start your cooking the week before. You can assemble casseroles and freeze them, make gravy base and refrigerate it. Saute onions, chop celery and freeze them. So many time-saving things you can do and all of it lowers the budget and makes putting a fantastic meal on the table possible without breaking your bank or your back!

Remember what its all about
My kids know we are going through a tough period in our lives. Lots of families are and they know that too. They know we can't do a lot of things we used to do. We don't know when it will get better and we don't even know how God will provide for us some months, but we do know God will and He loves us and we are in the palm of His hand, even in this. They know we will have a hot meal on the table and their daddy and mommy are here and in love with each other and with them, and that they are blessed to have their Granny living with them as well. They know the fire will keep them warm and we are destined for marathon Holiday movie nights with popcorn and hot cocoa. We will eat lots of cookies and breads and see our friends.

We will decorate a tree and we will exchange gifts. Gifts we make, and gifts we bake, gifts from generous family members that can't be with us and gifts from loving friends that we are so grateful for. Gifts that I find when I use points from Swag Bucks, or from surveys I take or gifts using coupons or rebates or deals I find on Black Friday. We know that God will provide all we need and even some things we want in one way or another and so we have no worries. I hope that you and your family have a  blessed holiday season and that something I shared here helps you. God bless you all!
Retro Momma, Vintage Wife

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Coupons

The Loreal make up coupon may be helpful as I heard that there is makeup at CVS on clearance. May make for quite a deal!
Redplum coupons:

Save $0.75 on any TWO (2) packages of Hillshire Farm® Lit’l Smokies®
SAVE $1.00 when you purchase any THREE packages of Kellogg’s® Cereals (10 oz. or Larger, Any Flavor, Mix or Match)
SAVE $1.00 on ANY L’Oréal Facial Cleanser
SAVE $2.00 on ANY 1 L’Oréal Cosmetic Face Product
SAVE $1.50 when you purchase any THREE packages of Kellogg’s® Apple Jacks®, Corn Pops®, Froot Loops® and/or Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes® Cereals (8.7 oz. or Larger, Any Flavor, Mix or Match)
SAVE $2.00 On any Excellence or Excellence to-Go shade.
SAVE $0.50 on any flavor of Stash Tea
save $0.35 on any ONE (1) package of Hillshire Farm® Deli Select® Lunchmeat (8 oz. or larger)
SAVE $1 on TWO (2) 2-Giant Roll or larger packages of Sparkle® Paper Towels
SAVE $1.00 On ANY Nature's Bounty® Your Life® Multi
$1.00 OFF ANY TUMS® (24 ct. or larger)
Save $0.55 On ANY Tennessee Pride Product

And from
$3.00 off Pass the Popcorn!
$5.00 off on ONE (1) RREMBRANDT Kit
$1.50 off Glade Automatic Spray Refill
$2.00 off 2 Welch's Sparkling Juices
$2.00 off any NEW Expo Washable Marker product
$1.00 off Burt's Bees NEW Natural Lotion
$5.00 off Enfamil Newborn or PREMIUM Infant
$1.00 off any ONE Welch's 100% Juice 10 oz. 6-pack
$0.50 off on any ONE (1) Gorton's Item
$3.00 off Any TWO (2) HUGGIES Snug & Dry Diapers
$1.00 off TWO (2) pints of Starbucks Ice Cream
$1.00 off one (1) bottle of Pine-Sol Cleaner
Buy Two Get One FREE DOVE Chocolate Singles Bar
Buy One get One Free bag of BUTTERFINGER Snackerz
50% off Online, Animated Picture Storybook

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spaghetti Pie

1 (6 ounce) package spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 pound lean ground beef(optional)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup ricotta cheese or cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook and drain spaghetti. Stir in butter, parmesan cheese and eggs, while spaghetti is hot. Form spaghetti mixture into a crust in a buttered 10 inch pie plate.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a skillet cook the beef, onion, green pepper and garlic. Drain off the fat and stir in the spaghetti sauce and oregano. Heat through.
Spread ricotta or cream cheese over the spaghetti crust then pour in the beef and tomato mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top of the pie then bake for 5 minutes longer, until cheese melts

Spaghetti Sauce

I love spaghetti sauce, but finding sauce that is made without corn syrup is often hard. Almost all of them have sugar and while a little is fine, I don't want it to be a top ingredient and for me, the less refined the better. After a summer crop of tomatoes has been canned, there is nothing better then a fresh-made spaghetti sauce served over pasta with a hunk of crusty fresh-baked french bread. Tonight we had chicken parmesan. This is a great dish that is fairly easy to make.

Spaghetti Sauce
2 quarts of canned tomatoes, with liquid
1/4 cup dried onion(3/4 cup fresh, finely chopped)
1 T dried basil
1 tsp powdered garlic(6 cloves fresh, minced)
4 T olive oil
1/2 cup red pepper sauce(or pureed roasted red peppers)
1 T sucanat(optional)
Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. You may want to add salt to taste.

Baked Chicken Parmesan
8 pieces of boneless chicken breast(or breaded patties)
1 pkg of whole wheat spaghetti
1 quart(4 cups) of Spaghetti sauce(see above)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup fresh mozarella

Start by baking the chicken till about 10 minutes shy of being done. Usually a 4oz piece of chicken takes about 30 minutes to cook, so cook for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. I place the boneless skinless breast meat in a lightly greased baking dish. If the breasts are fresh(not frozen), you may want to add a little water to the pan so they dont get dry. If you are using packaged breaded filets, follow the manufacturers directions.

In the meantime you can be making the spaghetti sauce if you haven't already done so. This sauce gets better as it simmers, so if you can make it earlier in the day, do so.

Cook your spaghetti according to package directions. Drain.

Spoon about 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 11x17 baking dish. Spread the cooked spaghetti on the bottom. Layer with the partially cooked chicken breast. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan sauce and then place thick slices of mozzarella on top of each piece of chicken. If you are using shredded cheese, concentrate the bulk of the cheese onto of each piece of meat. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until chicken is completely cooked and cheese is melted and bubbly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Coupons~

$10.00 off Any One (1) 27 oz Tub of GREENIES
$0.50 off LAND O LAKES Spreadable Butter Product
$1.00 off on one Reser's Sensational Sides item
$0.55 off any Bar Keepers Friend Liquid Cleanser
BOGO 18.5 oz bottle of Gold Peak Tea
$1.00 off Wonderful Pistachios
$0.35 off HERSHEY'S Milk or Milkshake
$0.50 off any Two LAND O LAKES Butter Products
$0.55 off HORMEL™ COUNTRY CROCK side dishes
$0.55 off any two HORMEL Chili
$0.75 off Hormel Chili Master chili
$2.00 off on any one (1) HORMEL Party Tray
$0.75 off any Quorn™ Foods product

Red Plum Coupons

SAVE $1.00 On Any TWO packages of Murray Sugar Free® Cookies (4.44 oz. or Larger, Any Flavor, Mix or Match)
$1 OFF any ONE (1) PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX® Treats For Dogs 5.57oz or larger
SAVE $3 on any Maybelline New York foundation
$1 OFF any ONE (1) PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX® Treats For Dogs 5.57oz or larger
$0.55 OFF Any Endust® Product
SAVE $1.00 on any two (2) Goya® Rice Mixes
SAVE $0.75 on any Sara Lee® Frozen Dessert
SAVE $0.25 off any ONE (1) McCormick® Spice or Extract
SAVE $1.00 on Osteo Bi-Flex® Liquid Joint Aid (Valid on 6 pack only. Individual 8oz bottles not sold separately.)
SAVE $0.55 off any ONE (1) package of Hefty® Waste Bags

Monday, November 8, 2010

Flu Tonic

Its that time of year again. Time to make the flu tonic. A killer combo of all that's hot. It seems to scare the virus out of you and appears to be effective on a host of other viral, bacterial and fungal invaders.

Its fairly easy to make too. I made mine this weekend.

In a large glass jar, combine equal parts of the following:
Fresh chopped, hot white onion
Fresh chopped, garlic
Fresh chopped, horseradish root
Fresh chopped, ginger root
Fresh chopped, cayenne pepper(or other hot pepper like habanero or scotch bonnet)

All of these should be fresh and organic if possible. You can use dried, but only as a last resort. I use my food processer to make this quick and easy and usually use a cup of each ingredient.

Place all of the ingredients in a large jar. The jar should be about 3/4 full. Pour raw, organic applecider vinegar over the ingredients until completely covered. Place a plastic lid on top(metal will corrode) and shake. Add more vinegar up to the top, making sure the liquid is completely covering everything. Set in a cool, dark place.

Every day, shake the jar well. Do this for two weeks. Then strain the liquid through a piece of cotton muslin or thick cheesecloth. Bottle and label the tonic.

For ordinary infections 1 dropperful(2ml) 5-6 times a day is adequate.

Dosage for flu is 1-2 T two or more times a day. Gargle and swallow. Do not dilute.

This is spicy-hot and powerful and is completely non-toxic. No food dyes and chemicals that you need to worry about. It is safe for children although they don't need as much. If you look at the properties of the ingredients, you can see how it would be effective in helping your body clear out the germs. I have read that some refer to similar combinations as a natural antibiotic. I can attest to the fact that garlic and onion are number one on my food list when there is an illness in the house.

Remember it is always smart to do your own research on anything you make and plan to take as medicine. Let me know what you think!