Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

DIY Salad Bar For Summer

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Healthy eating should always be a priority, but making it a priority in the summer seems to be more challenging because we seem to always be eating on the go. I decided to create an easy DIY salad bar that you can create on your grocery day and enjoy all week long. This DIY salad bar can be on hand in your fridge and I wanted to show off an easy way you can enjoy this DIY salad bar on the go too!

All of the supplies can be found at your local Walmart store. You will need a Freezer Storage Basket (found in the same aisle as the plastic containers in the housewares section of the store, $5.97), three Fresh Take Arm & Hammer 5 cup containers ($2.87), and 1 Sterlite Ultra Latch 12.5 cups container ($5.47).

Chop up your favorite salad ingredients and organize them in your containers like this. The largest container does not sit firmly flat, but it still wedges in there nicely so that you can place all of these neatly in this wire organizer.

Don’t you just love summer? I love having such fresh ingredients on hand to choose form and creating a salad bar couldn’t be easier with the fantastic selection we have of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pictured here are just a few of the basics I love in my salad. You could definitely fill your produce drawer up with a few other great salad add-ins!

Ingredients for a Great Salad Bar

Lettuce
Spinach
Kale
Egg
Tomato
Cucumber
Bell pepper
Sunflower Seeds
Croutons
Cheese
Mushrooms
Carrots
Corn Kernels
Onions (none for me please!)
Beans
Artichoke Hearts
Apples
Avocado
Broccoli
Shrimp
Steak
Homemade Dressings

One ingredient I always have on hand in the summer for quick summer salads and wraps is roasted chicken. I don’t keep a lot of fresh chicken around and prefer to buy the frozen chicken breasts instead. There is money to be saved in buying and preparing whole chickens, but my family only likes white meat  so for convenience sake (and to get them to eat it), we stick to the chicken breasts.

I buy the 3 pound bag of chicken  cook and slice all of the chicken for the week. The chicken is then ready to go to be made into wrap sandwiches, fast paninis, a protein addition to my salads for lunch, and it helps me save a step for our dinners for the week.

It is a matter of preference how you like to cook your chicken, but I will share my favorite way that I do weekly!

Roasted Chicken Breasts for Bulk Cooking

Preheat the oven for 375 degrees. Spread the frozen chicken breasts out over one or two cookie sheets. Drizzle a little olive oil over the chicken breasts and then sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest ten to fifteen minutes (to allow the juices to redistribute within the meat). Dice, slice, or shred for your recipes for the week.

Here is my beautiful salad bar on full display! Isn’t she pretty? It makes me really happy to have all of our fruit and vegetables chopped and ready to go for our week. It is something I vow to try to do regularly for our family so that we can, literally, enjoy the fruits of our labor all summer long.

Since we are a family on the go, I wanted to show you a fun way to enjoy your salads while you are out and about.

Over by the other food storage containers were these cute Salad Break Bowls. The set came with two complete sets and cost $3.97 total! I picked up this collapsible basket (in the same aisle) for $6.97. Inside I placed our outdoor blanket, salads, fresh cut fruit, and homemade iced tea for an afternoon picnic. I plan to use these a lot this summer and think it will be a great way to encourage healthy eating wherever we might be.

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

 

I hope this inspires you to make healthy eating a family priority this summer and would love to hear what summer shortcuts you use to achieve healthy in the summer months in your house?

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10 Unique Ideas for Projects To Do With Goodwill T-Shirts

Friday, April 13th, 2012

If there is one craft material I love, it is t-shirt material. You are going to love my post this week on the Goodwill Tips Blog because I am sharing ten unique craft ideas for projects you can create using t-shirts found at your local Goodwill store. Be sure to swing by to find out how to make these nine great projects, pictured above, and find my own cute t-shirt flowers made from a Goodwill t-shirt paired with a spray painted earring for a cute embellishment!

(All images belong to the bloggers. Please visit the Goodwill Tips blog for links to each of these great projects and the amazing bloggers that created them.)

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How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

Six years ago I bought the best pair of jeans of my life. They were a classic pair of black Gap Straight Fit Jeans that I found from Goodwill with a Fall ’03 label on them. They fit me like a glove, made me feel slim, and hit at the perfect length. Have you ever wondered what to do with an old pair of jeans you really love and that are really starting to look like they should be retired? Well, today I wanted to show you how I dyed my black jeans black again and restored this old pair into something that looks like brand new for less than $5!

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

These jeans were black, but they have faded after a million times in my washing machine. I actually think these would have been cool in eighth grade when I begged my mama to buy me a pair of stonewashed jeans that looked like they had been beat to death. Sadly, I am no longer an eighth grader and I am starting to feel self conscious when I wear these out. I’m tired of being judged.

Time to hit the craft store. Grab your coupons!

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

I headed to Joann Fabrics and over by the t-shirts and t-shirt decorating supplies is an aisle filled with fabric dyes. You will need two boxes of the powdered Rit dye in your desired color. They do offer a liquid version, but it is my understanding that the powder seems to be a bit more concentrated and adhere a little better to the fabric. I haven’t tested this theory, but I wanted this color to stick so I went with the powdered version.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.Back to black, old friend. It makes me want to break out my Amy Winehouse playlist right now.  I used two boxes of this Rit dye in black for my jeans. If your aim is to go back to blue with your jeans, you will want two boxes of Navy (for dark jeans) or Indigo (for a lighter wash). Be careful with the Indigo & Navy though as there are many comments reporting that this one can turn your jeans more purple than blue. Always follow the package directions for the best advice!

My only experience is with the BLACK dye. As you can see in the after pictures, it isn’t a true black so this is the color that I would recommend for a dark wash jean!

Let’s get started!

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

Our family has a HE washer so I am sharing with you how to dye your jeans using your HE washer. At the end of the post, I will share the other Rit recommendations depending on your own scenario. All scenarios create a big mess, but just think of your new-to-you jeans!

Did I already warn you?  This is going to get really messy. I recommend throwing on old clothes and a pair of rubber gloves while you mix this.

In a glass measuring cup add four cups of the hottest water possible out of your tap. VERY carefully, add 1 cup of table salt and the contents of two of the powdered packet. Using a metal spoon and VERY carefully stir the contents.

In your laundry sink, wet your jeans in warm water and then place them in your washer wet.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.It is important to use the washer’s hottest water setting. Additionally, a wash cycle of at least 30 minutes is recommended to obtain a satisfactory dyeing. I set my washer to the Whitest White Cycle because it had hot water and was one of the longest running cycles on my washer. Consult your washer manual to figure out which setting would be best for you. Go ahead and start the cycle with your wet jeans in there.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.Here comes the super scary part. VERY carefully pour your dye solution into the spot where you put your detergent after you start your cycle. Try to not panic like I did. I promise it will all work out.

Once the dye goes into the cycle (you will be able to tell when you open up your detergent compartment and see the dye filling in the washer) fill it with four cups of the hottest tap water possible and put it in the same exact spot you put your dye in (the powdered detergent holder) to flush the color out.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

If you value your sink, this might not be a good thing because your sink will turn blue from the dye. You will have to bleach it if you want to maintain a pristine sink. Ours is obviously very classy down in our basement with a single light bulb attached to a piece of string. Try not to be jealous of my laundry room.

Once your jeans are done, run it through another round or two of a warm wash cycle with detergent. You want to check the water to see when it begins to run clear before you dry them to make sure all the color has absorbed into the jeans. As a precautionary measure, wash the jeans separate from other items until you are completely sure that the dye will not transfer.

After that, just run them through the dryer on your usual cycle.

Notes on Retaining Color and Resisting the Fade

Other readers have shared that Retayne is a great product to use to help your fabrics retain the rich colors that you have dyed them. Soaking your already-dyed garment in salt and/or vinegar will not set your dye. At best, it will just add another washing, which will help to remove some of your excess dye. The salt in the dye bath, however,  helps the dye to approach the fabric instead of staying in the water, and vinegar can helps dye nylon or wool, but not cotton (like these jeans). Neither salt or vinegar is actually a dye fixative for already-dyed fiber.

 

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.After you are done, you will want to clean your washing machine. Clean your washing machine immediately after dyeing has completed using the hottest water setting. Since the machine automatically weighs fabric to determine the water level, place 3-4 old towels into the washer along with detergent and 1 to 2 cups chlorine bleach. Wipe spills with chlorine bleach solution. Plastic or rubber parts may be tinted but will not stain laundry.

I happened to have a box of this Tide Washing Machine Cleaner and I used that in lieu of messing with the bleach.

That’s it. A day of effort with less than $5 in supplies for a pair of new-to-you jeans.

Without further adieu, here are my new-to-me jeans…

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

My faded barely gray jeans are now a much richer and more solid color. I still can’t believe that this is the same pair of jeans. Just to be up front, I used the same exact spot in my house, same time of day, and same settings on my camera so this is no trick in photography. It really has restored the color in my jeans.

How To Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.Here is a side by side of the jeans. When they are lined up next to each other, you can see just how dramatically different this pair of jeans is. I am amazed at the results and feel like I got a brand new pair of jeans for less than $5 in supplies.

How To Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.The one thing I was worried about was that the seam would be dyed along with the rest of the fabric, but the seam actually didn’t absorb the dye. This was a lovely, lovely surprise!

If you are in love with a pair of jeans at the thrift store or simply want to restore some color in your old jeans, I encourage you to pick up some Rit fabric dye and give this a try! The results are dramatic, while still being easy on your wallet!

How To Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

Other Methods of Dying With Rit Dye

For Top-Loading Machines

Fill machine with enough hot water for fabric to move freely. Refer to the chart below for the right amount of dye to add. Pre-dissolve powder in 2 cups of hot water. Add pre-dissolved powder or liquid to hot dye bath.

Wet fabric in hot water. Uncrumple and add to dye bath.

Set machine for extended wash cycle. Fabric should be in dye bath for at least 30 minutes before rinse begins. (You can reset your washing machine before the rinse cycle begins for extended wash cycle.)

Rinse in cold water until water runs clear. Wash deep shades in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly in cool water.

Dry item in dryer or hang to dry.

Clean washing machine using highest water level with hot water, detergent and 1 cup chlorine bleach using complete wash cycle. Clean lint traps. Plastic or rubber machine parts may be tinted but will not stain laundry.

For Front-Loading Machines

The settings and options of various front-load washing machines vary among manufaturers. Even though there are slight differences among differing manufacturer’s wash settings, they are common in that they all introduce water to the tumbler once the garment is placed inside. They allow a time period to introduce detergent (or dye in this case), and they all finish with a spin cycle.

It is important to use the washer’s hottest water setting. Additionally, a wash cycle of at least 30 minutes is recommended to obtain a satisfactory dyeing.

Because front-load washers have built-in heaters to maintain the washer’s temperature and the water to fabric ratio is relatively high as compared to top-load machines, deep rich colors can be achieved using Rit dyes.

For Stovetop

Fill pot with enough hot water for fabric to move freely. Remember: Use 1 package of Rit powder or 1/2 bottle of Rit liquid dye and 3 gallons of hot water for each pound of fabric. Pre-dissolve powder in 2 cups of hot water. Add pre-dissolved powder or liquid to dye bath. Stir to mix.

Wet fabric in hot water. Uncrumple and add to dye bath.

Bring dye bath to simmer. Stir constantly (back and forth, up and down) at least 30 minutes.

Rinse in warm water, then gradually cooler water until water runs clear. Wash item in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly in cool water.

Dry item in dryer or hang to dry.

Clean containers immediately with chlorine bleach. Scrub with chlorine-based powder, liquid, or gel cleanser, if necessary.

*This post contains affiliate links*

 

Have you ever used fabric dye for any projects? Any tips or recommendations for fabric dying? Let’s share!

 

 

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How to Make T-Shirt Flowers

Friday, February 17th, 2012

This week I am blogging over at the Goodwill Tips Blog and sharing a project you can do using common items you can find at your local Goodwill store. Today’s project is a simple t-shirt flower pin made from a t-shirt in your favorite shade with a clip-on earring center to add a unique flair.

Visit my step-by-step tutorial on how to make these sweet little pins for someone in your life!

Happy crafting, sweet friends!

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Behind the Scenes with Aldi Supermarket

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

This past week I got the unique opportunity to step behind the scenes and find out more about Aldi Supermarket and the products that they offer their customer. As a longtime fan of the grocery retailer, I could not wait to see how this company operated and, frankly, how in the world they can offer food for such a low price.

During the trip I got to do a wine and cheese tasting, got a grocery store tour to learn more about how their stores were set up, and then I got to participate in a blind taste-testing of the products to see how they compared with other national brands.  There was truly not a single element of this trip that I was not fascinated with.

The first question on everyone’s mind was how do they get their prices so low?

This is an answer that we were told would take years to explain, but the main points all pointed to simple cost-cutting measures, employee training that goes beyond other grocery stores,  a limited selection of items, smart store design, and in-house private labels. The savings are in the big things like having baking items on pallets and dairy items on rolling carts so the employees don’t need to stock shelves and then are reflected in the smaller things like the quarter deposit for your cart and bagging those groceries yourself.

All of these little and big things translate into great prices for their customers.

If you have ever stood in a line at Aldi, one thing you will see is that these cashiers work at lightning speed and can wait on customers quicker than any other store I have ever been to. You may not know it, but Aldi offers smart packaging that can speed up your wait time at their store. In this picture is a single bag of chips, simply held at all different angles. Practically every corner of their bags and boxes have a UPC code that can make scanning your items that much faster.  Go ahead and take a peek in your pantry at your Aldi items and you will see it too. It is one of those things that you may have never noticed, but translates into saving time for you.

The typical Aldi store only has between 6-8 employees and it is common for their employees to celebrate 15, 20, or 25 years of service. They pay their employees significantly higher than the national average and with 20 hours a week, they give their employees full health insurance benefits. Employees go through extensive training and they do everything from putting out the new pallets of food to ringing up the customers to tidying the store. It is this efficiency and the smaller pay rolls that translate into big savings for their customers.

Perhaps, the most surprising thing for me was discovering the amazing wine selection that Aldi offers. I admitted that I walked by the wine section of the store because the low prices on the bottles made me question the quality of the wine. I will never look at their wine section the same again after their wine tasting.  Don’t believe me? Aldi has received many awards and accolades for their wines.

Here are just a few of the accolades that Aldi has received. Did I mention these bottles are all under $6?

Wine Spectator

Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc
Best Values Award
Received 85 points

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
Received 85 points

Beverage Testing Institute

Landshut (Germany) Riesling Mosel 2010
2010 World Value Wine Challenge- Top 10 White Wine $8 and Under Exceptional Value
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010
World Value Wine Challenge- Top Dessert Wine $8 and Under Best Value German Dessert Wine
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

Of those wines that I sampled, I fell in love with the Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti, the Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009, and the Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010.  Most of the bottles were $4.99, which make them quite affordable both for entertaining and for giving around the holiday season.

We paired these wines with some of Aldi’s cheese offerings which included a delicious goat cheese, a Havarti cheese, and Brie cheese. All of the cheeses were equally delicious and I am looking forward to offering these with these wines around the holidays.

I am a longtime customer and super fan of the products that Aldi offers, but the blind taste test that I participated in surprised even a super fan like me.  Aldi is challenging shoppers to switch from national brands to their private label Aldi brand for the holidays, to save their families up to fifty percent on their shopping.

We sampled many items from their holiday line and compared them to the national brands. Even though I love Aldi, I can be a bit of a food snob when it comes to certain foods like high quality cheeses and meats.

When we taste tested Tyson chicken versus Aldi chicken, I truly loved the Aldi brand better. I knew the meat that I had tasted must have been the Tyson meat, but I was dead wrong. It goes to show that sometimes we are just conditioned to believe one brand is better than the other.

Another surprise was the difference between Mrs. Smith’s apple pie versus the Aldi Belmont Deep Dish Apple Pie.  The Aldi pie is pictured on the right and you can tell just by looking at the bottom of the crust that the pie cooked and browned more evenly.  The difference in the taste was significant and the price was 28% lower.

Even being the Aldi fan girl that I am,  I came away feeling validated that the choice that I had made to shop at the store, out of necessity due to the financial strain we had been under, for our family was a good one.  The cost-cutting measures of the store do not cost-cut on the bottom line of the quality of the items in the store. In fact, the company does their best to offer a better product that the name brand.  After doing this blind taste-testing, I believe they have exceeded the standard.

If you haven’t checked out the store before, you really are missing out on so much.  I can feed my family of four for $220 for three weeks by shopping there. I do not clip coupons. I do 95% of my shopping at this store. I am rarely disappointed in the quality. If I ever was disappointed though, they offer a double guarantee and I could bring the item back for a refund and get it replaced. I don’t know very many places that offer that to their customers.

If you want to learn more about shopping at the store, I have several resources that you can check out on the site:

Aldi Supermarket

Aldi Menu Planner

Aldi Fall/Winter Menu Planner

The Aldi Queen Blog

If I was a fan girl of Aldi before, this trip took it to another level for me. I can confidently say that this store is THE place for families on a budget.  I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Let’s talk! Have you shopped at Aldi Supermarket before? Did anything surprise you about the behind the scenes look? What is your favorite item to buy at the store? Please share!

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Quick Frugal Tip: Leggings Refashioned

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

My daughter has an unbelievable collection of leggings that we have relied upon all year, since she loves wearing a dress almost every day. Now that summer season is finally here, our legging collection has gotten a little short and a little worn out. I hated to give these a toss though and just knew there had to be a good purpose to these.

With a set of scissors, I cut these off just below the knee. Now we have a perfect pair of shorts that can be worn underneath our sun dresses! Leggings that were too short and leggings with worn out knees,  have a fresh new purpose in our wardrobe.

Cute, chic, ladylike, and frugal.

Revealed: 30 Day Cut the Clutter Challenge Results

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Last month I decided to challenge myself to cut the clutter in our home over the course of thirty days. My house and my life has been feeling chaotic these days and I knew that a thirty day challenge is just what I needed to get back to the roots of the organization in my home. If you have been a long time reader, you may remember the results from my clutter challenge last year. I am finding by making this clutter challenge a yearly one that it helps bring me back to center again in my home.

The closet, pictured above, is representative of what my home has been looking like. The bones of organization are there, but they are hiding amidst the overflowing drawers, shelves, and cupboards of endless amounts of unnecessary items. I planned to get rid of four car loads of items from my home and challenged myself to a weekly stop at Goodwill.

Pictured here are my first three drops to Goodwill. I have another round of items leftover from our home renovation to take over to the ReStore that are currently sitting in my garage. Once our weather finally warms up, my husband & I have a Saturday date planned with our cluttered garage.  All in all, I removed FIFTEEN garbage bags and three totes of random uselessness from our home. In these bags you would find books that we will never read, toys that the children have outgrown, clothing that is too small, a bazillion plastic containers that I do not need, bedding & blankets that are never used, shoes, & items from household projects that have been abandoned.

Can I say,  I was not sad to see any of these items leave our home?

Maybe when you see some of the corners of my home now, you will know why!

There is still much more clutter to be conquered in our home, but these corners that I have worked on really have me reassured that having our home organized is an attainable goal. If I was going to offer any advice on tackling the clutter in  your home, I would say this:

Start Small…Really Small- When I would survey my house as a whole, I could immediately become defeated. There is so much to do and my to-do list on any given day is enormous. Adding on trying to organize my house to the list and it just did not even seem like a feasible goal. Instead, start with one small spot in your home that has been bothering you. It could be as small as the kid’s bath toys, a junk drawer that could give under its weight of uselessness, or simply a single shelf in your home office.  I found that once I began a junk drawer, for example, I would then start moving into the drawer below it, and then I would move to the next drawer. Most of the time it is just getting the momentum to climb that cluttered hill that holds us back from achieving a little organization that is the hardest part.

You Don’t Need Another Basket, But You Might Need Another Donation Bag- I remember when I first began organizing my home, I considered home organization to be about buying organizers, storage containers, and pretty baskets to house everything. All of a sudden my home was filled with a dozen baskets of items I didn’t need or never used. Instead of thinking of how to make the items you have more attractive, consider if you really need the items themselves. If you don’t really and truly love or use them, get rid of them!

Sentimentality & “This Was So Expensive” Has To Be Set Aside- Two things get in the way of me letting the items go in my home. The first is the sentimental feelings that I have about things in our house. Usually it is a gift, an item that was special to my children when they were small, or something that was special to me that I would like to push my children into also loving. The other thing that gets in the way is my, “This Was So Expensive,” feeling about items that we spent too much money on, but no longer have love for.  If I could get rid of these two feelings about things, I could almost gather another car load of items. Instead, I have dedicated one tote in our basement that is specifically for sentimental mementos and we are working on passing on the gadgets in our life that we don’t use on to others that can use them.

Your feelings about items might be different than mine and it may take some time to figure out what holds you back from letting things go in your life. When you feel an attachment to an item, try to address where that attachment is coming from and if there is a way that you can manage those attachments to achieve the space you desire.

Embrace Your Power to Live Small- The more I cut the clutter in my home, the more I find that I have just the amount of space that I need in my home. When my closets began to feel too small, when the cupboards are bursting at the seams, when the basement is overflowing…those are the times when I think how nice it would be to move to a bigger home. Each time I cut the clutter in those spaces, I rediscover how perfect our home is for us. Basically, I save myself from a heftier mortgage payment AND I find a renewed sense of commitment to stay right where we are.

Our story of giving things away didn’t end there though, in fact, this is a story about the coolest thing that I have ever gotten to give away.  My husband had his ’99 Ford Focus for almost eight years and it was very good to us over the years. For the last five years though, he had been price researching his dream car and dreaming of the day that he could own a Lexus.  At the end of this month, his dream car dropped below the price of my Subaru wagon and with some serious negotiating and a couple of hours in the hot seat at the dealership, he drove that car home.

We talked a lot about what we wanted to do with our Ford Focus. While we could have gotten a little money to trade it in, we knew we could make my brother’s whole year if we gave him our old car. That very day we bought our new car, his car began to leak gas and he had no idea how he was going to get around. Later that afternoon I called to tell him that we had a birthday present for him.

I felt a little like Oprah handing over those keys.

He told me he felt like he won the lottery.

We both couldn’t stop grinning.

I don’t say this to brag, but to showcase how wonderful it can be to pass on the things we have in our lives to others. No matter how much or how little you have, you can always give with your whole heart. Look for creative ways to give back to your community, pass the items on that you no longer use to someone in need, use your talents to bless someone else in your life, and live a life of great thankfulness for all that you have.

If you have taken the clutter challenge, feel free to link up below and share some of the spots in your home that have been transformed or what you plan to work on this month. I can’t wait to see your projects and hear what you have learned from this experience!

Poor Man’s Date Night: Linguine With White Clam Sauce

Monday, February 21st, 2011

There was a time in our married life when even an inexpensive steak dinner was far from something we could afford. When the grandparents would offer to take the kids for us for a date night, we would run to the supermarket and buy ingredients for a date night at home. At the time, it wasn’t because I was such a great cook and because we loved to be home so much, but it was because we had no money to spend on a night on the town.

I really did try to do what I could to make our life feel special, no matter how much or how little money we had. Through that effort, we began a tradition of making Linguine With White Clam Sauce for our fancy dinner  together, and it became a tradition to make that every time we wanted a date night at home. We would indulge in a loaf of artisan bread and bakery cupcakes for dessert and then indulge all week long in the leftovers.

To be honest, I had never thought to serve it to the kids, but one night the pantry was bare except for a few ingredients for that dish. I decided to go ahead and make it for the kids and had a back-up plan of eggs and toast if it didn’t work out. To my amazement, my kids went nuts for mommy’s linguine and have been begging for it every day since.

It seems those kids are always teaching me a lesson about my own inhibitions towards foods when I was young, and this linguine is now not only a date night treat, but a fabulous treat for them too. Your kids might be different than mine, but it is always worth a shot!

Gather all of the ingredients you will need to make your Linguine with Clam Sauce for your fun weeknight dinner (or poor man’s date night). You will need butter, olive oil, garlic (fresh or bottled minced), one or two lemons, white wine (I love boxed wine for this dish), two or three cans of whole baby clams, linguine noodles, and fresh parsley.

Now you can certainly subsitute with real baby clams, but I live in Indiana where it is harder to get the real deal anymore and they add a lot of expense to the dish here. They have a couple of varieties of clams on the shelf and you definitely want to go with the fancy whole baby clams over the minced clams that come in the smaller cans. Trust me, your dish will taste much better with the whole clams then those smaller clam pieces.

Heat a large pot of boiling water for your linguine noodles. Meanwhile, chop, chop, chop up a generous amount of fresh parsley to be mixed into the linguine and for garnish on top of your dish.

In the bottom of your pot, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. You like how well-seasoned my dutch oven is? Yeah, should probably pay more attention to it, but I think it showcases how loved it is in our house.

Add the olive oil and quickly saute your garlic. You want to make sure your pot isn’t too hot or your garlic will burn.  Next add your white wine, the juice from the canned clams, and the zest of one or two lemons. Allow this to cook for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol and season generously with a little salt and pepper.

Once your noodles are about done, you will want to add the baby clams to your sauce.

Squeeze in the juice of one or two lemons, depending on how much you love lemon flavor.

Finish with your generous handfuls of fresh parsley. Don’t skimp on the parsley since it adds so much fresh flavor to those canned ingredients.

Add your drained linguine noodles and toss everything together, incorporating all of those delicious flavors. Add a little bit more salt and pepper, seasoning the dish to your own personal taste.

The final touch to bring everything together is a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese. Don’t skimp on this, it really is what brings the sauce together and makes the sauce hug the noodles.

Finally, revel in being the cheapest date in town as you bask in the glory of the compliments from your significant other.

Sweet.


Linguine with White Clam Sauce

1 pound linguine
Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped,
1/2 cup wine
Juice and zest from one or two lemons
2-3  (15-ounce) can whole baby clams, with their juice
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the linguine and cook as directed or until al dente. The linguine will continue to cook in sauce, later. To a large skillet heated over medium heat, add oil, butter, garlic. Cook together. Add wine, the juice from the clams to the pan, and the zest of one or two lemons. Finally, add the clams and the juice from one or two lemons. Drain pasta and add it to the clam sauce. Toss and coat the pasta in sauce with clams until the pasta absorbs the flavor and juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt, add parsley and serve with a loaf of crusty bread.

Do you attempt fancy date night dinners at home? What is your favorite frugal date with your significant other?

Taking a Little Store-Bought Help in the Kitchen for the Holidays

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

If you have been reading the site long enough, I am sure you know that I am one of those people that prefers to make everything from scratch to cut down on our grocery budget. We have big eaters in our family though and often convenience foods leaving us feeling unsatisfied and ready for snacking within an hour. Since those foods don’t seem to fill us up, the nights that I don’t feel like cooking we usually end up opting for dining out which costs a lot, even for our little family of four!

I doubt I am alone in saying that my calendar is overflowing with an unbelievable amount of obligations right now. We have holiday concerts, appointments, work commitments, volunteer opportunities…  and it is only going to get worse as the holiday season gets closer.

See that little “No,” sign in the corner of my calendar?

This is supposed to be offering a memory trigger to myself that there is no need to say yes to everything.

Now view my calendar.

I think I must be having a disconnect these days.

Fortunately, Walmart reached out to me to see if we would like to sample some of their Marketside brand items that are sold over by their deli area in the store. These items are of gourmet quality, but offered at a lower price.  The line includes bagged salads, gourmet soups, fun dips for entertaining, take-and-bake pizzas, veggie steamers, artisan breads, and fresh gourmet pastas.

After sampling all of the items, you can be assured that they are delicious and every bit as fancy as dining out.  The soups and bread rivaled our Panera Bread and the veggies were crisp and delicious.  The fresh dips (which included vanilla bean fruit dips, fresh guacamole, and a variety of ranch dressings) would be perfect to keep on hand for all of those holiday potlucks and gatherings!

Of course, adding my own homemade spin to these great convenience items allowed us to pull together a delicious dinner every night last week on a week where our calendar was jam-packed with activities (see the calendar above). With the busy holiday season upon us, I wanted to share a few ways to take those store-bought ingredients to a new level as the calendar fills up.

Veggie steamers are an easy way to incorporate great veggies into your diet in a quick way.  Look for these stir fry medleys over in your local Walmart’s cooler and take these home for a quick & healthy dinner. I love dressing up veggie steamers with a little of my favorite sauce from our favorite Chicken Lo Mein recipe.

Quick Weeknight Stir Fry

1 bag of stir fry medley veggies
1 chicken breast diced (Optional. I use this roasting method once a week to keep chicken on hand)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup

Cook veggies as directed. In a separate mixing bow, add soy sauce, vinegar, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Add cooked veggies and serve immediately over baked brown rice.

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Fresh pasta is one of life’s little luxuries that I love to keep on hand for a quick weeknight dinner. Marketside offers so many fun varieties for the meat-eaters in the family as well as the vegetarians. These delicious pastas can transform your usual spaghetti night into a dinner that rivals your favorite Italian bistro. They also offer fresh pesto and sauces to decorate your pasta without any effort.  Here are a few ways to use their pasta on a busy weeknight!

Pesto Tortellini Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound  tortellini of your choice (I love a chicken or sausage stuffed, but cheese is always a crowd pleaser!)
9 ounces spinach, chopped roughly
1/4 cup basil pesto

In a large pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil. After a minute or so, add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth to the pot. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and then add in your tortellini. Cook tortellini as directed on package. In the last minute of cooking time, mix in your roughly chopped spinach and stir in the 1/4 cup of basil pesto. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top. Side Note: When reheating, feel free to add some additional chicken broth to thin the soup, as the tortellini will absorb the liquid!

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

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Ravioli With Pesto Cream Sauce

1 pound ravioli or tortellini (I love a mushroom-stuffed variety)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (we used skim milk)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Romano cheese
1 cup prepared pesto

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and butter, and saute until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Dissolve flour in milk, then stir in. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheese, and stir until melted. Stir in pesto. Dish ravioli on plates and then drizzle the pesto cream sauce over it. Garnish with a little fresh basil or chopped parsley.

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

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Ravioli With Homemade Red Sauce

1# package of ravioli
3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes (do not drain)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent in another pot. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Serve over a big plate of your favorite ravioli.

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Although this wasn’t included in my Marketside feast, I recently discovered the beauty and flavors of their rotisserie chickens for my weeknight chicken noodle soup. This soup is being made again this week for a fast & delicious soup that will leave people wondering how the heck you could pull it off on a busy school night.

Quick Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup

2-3 cups egg noodles (I like the Ream’s brand in the frozen foods section)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
2 stalks chopped celery
3 chopped carrots
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 rotisserie chicken

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook until tender. Drain, and rinse under cool running water. Meanwhile, in  a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the carrots and celery in two tablespoons of olive oil for five minutes to start your soup base or you can skip this step and proceed as directed, if you desire a crunchier vegetable.  Heat up broth and bring it to a simmer. Stir in celery and carrot. Gently add your rotisserie chicken and all of the drippings from the pan and put a lid on your pot.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pull out your chicken and set aside to dice.  Gradually add the cornstarch to soup, stirring constantly. Stir in noodles and diced rotisserie  chicken, and heat through. Toss in a handful of fresh chopped parsley and ladle into bowls.
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Of course when all else fails, there ain’t no shame in taking home a take-and-bake pizza and calling it a night! My favorite variety is the Primo Pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, & black olives. Every mom deserves a night off from the kitchen once in awhile!
I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program.  Marketside provided me with meals last week in exchange for my honest feedback.  Participation in this program is voluntary. All opinions are my own. check out the other Walmart Moms had to say about Marketside. (prices may vary from store to store)
What store-bought items do you like to keep on hand for quick weeknight meals or for a night off in the kitchen? Please share!

A Real Mom’s Review of Alice.com: Drugstore Shopping Simplified

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Since becoming a mother, I have become much more strategic with my shopping time. Ideally, it is time spent after my husband gets home and I can shop by myself without two wildly crazy children distracting me from my list of tasks. Let’s face it though, the idea of spending all of my evenings in a store sounds mind-numbingly boring and I would much rather spend my time with a good book or with my family.

In past articles I have shared ideas for fantastic places to online shop including those dreaded trips to the grocery store and wholesale club. Today I want to share with you my new favorite place to shop for my drugstore deals. It is a little website called Alice.com that has simplified my shopping time and has still allowed me to get great deals.

You see, there was a time when I coupon clipped, organized rebate forms, saved those drugstore receipts with money back, and horded a large wall full of toothpaste for our family of four. You could say that I have gotten lazier in my old age or that I realized that I was spending too much money and time in our local drugstores, but I knew that something in my life had to change. I realized that I was buying items just because they were “free,” but the items really weren’t free when I thought of all of the impulse splurges and the space that they took up in my home.

Alice.com has provided me with online access to managing my household items and supplies online. You basically tell Alice what you typically buy and Alice (yes, your very own Alice just like the Brady Bunch) goes to work for you. The site organize all of your products, finds coupons and deals for you, reminds you when you might be running low, and helps you order just the items you need so you can avoid that trip to the corner drugstore or the big-box store.

Here are some ideas for how to shop on a budget with Alice.com:

  • Say goodbye to those paper inserts, scissors, and wasted time clipping coupons. One of the best things about Alice is that there is no coupon clipping involved. If there is a coupon available on the product, it will automatically be applied to your order… no clipping necessary. Alice also has relationships with the manufacturer’s and many times offers coupons that aren’t available in your newspaper’s coupon insert. It is important to note though, that they offer a specific amount of coupons on each product. For example, your favorite shampoo may have only fifteen coupons available. You will need to snag that coupon before the coupons are no longer offered to get the savings.
  • Shipping is free on your first order, regardless of the number of items that you buy. After that first order, there is no minimum amount of spending that you need to do to qualify for the free shipping,but you do have to have six items in your cart for the free shipping. This can easily be met with smaller items like toothbrushes, dental floss, or other “filler” items if you are unable to meet the six item requirement.
  • You always know if you are getting the best deal. Comparison shopping in fliers can be time-consuming, but Alice will actually tell you who has the best deal on the product you are looking at with comparisons between  drugstore.com, cvs.com, Peapod, Safeway, Walgreens, Amazon Fresh, and diapers.com. This can be found by scrolling below the item you are looking at and clicking on the, “Price Comparison,” link. You could also use this price comparison when doing your local shopping without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
  • Shopping for the best deals is easy to do if you familiarize yourself with the website. Under the, “Other Ways to Shop,” category, you will find a, “Shop the Best Deals,” link. That link will direct you to the top fifty deals that the site is currently running with the coupon prices included. Sticking to the top fifty deals will insure that you get the very best deal for your money. These deals also will be great to add as filler items or for donation items for the local homeless shelter and charitable giving.
  • Orders are fulfilled very quickly. The official amount of time that Alice will give you is between one to six business days. I have placed three orders with the company and they have all arrived the next day (if I placed the order before noon eastern time) or two days later if I happen to order in the afternoon. Lucky for me, I live in the Midwest and Alice is Midwest-based so orders are shipped very quickly here.
  • You will no longer have to worry about embarrassing drugstore shopping. I thought when I became a grown-up I would no longer care about what was in my drugstore cart. Thanks to living in a small town, there are few moments of privacy shopping anywhere. To top it off, I now have two inquisitive children asking loudly at the checkout counter what I am buying. I love that I can now buy those items with confidence, in the privacy of my own home, and not face the embarrassment about those unmentionable items.  The items all arrive in a beautifully packed blue Alice box with minimal packaging that reminds me a lot of the great packing strategies that Amazon.com uses.
  • The site offers great reminder features. Just like any smart business, the company wants to insure that you will be a repeat customer for them and they do it through a targeted email that reminds you when you are getting low on an item. When you order an item, you can tell Alice how often you buy that item and an automatic reminder will be sent out when you are getting low. That doesn’t mean that it will be automatically ordered for you, it just means that a reminder will be sent to have you come back and reorder. Thanks to this feature, there are no more late night runs to the drugstore for forgotten items… At least, they are fewer and farther between!

I am now a super fan of Alice and love having the time to spend with family and not having another item on my list of errands to do. I hope you can check it out and consider giving online drugstore shopping a try!

If you would like to give Alice a try, feel free to visit through our link.  In full discretion, this is an affiliate link, but we rarely ever refer you to anything ever unless we truly and actually embrace or use a product or service! We love our readers and aim to only offer the best information on saving money that we possibly can!

Have you ever tried Alice.com or any other online shopping service? We want to hear what your thoughts are and how you choose to shop to save your family time or money! Please share here!