Saturday, January 30, 2010

Eating from The Pantry: Final Update

We're planning to continue "Eating from the Pantry" – at least for a while longer, supplementing (as we have been doing) with fresh fruits and vegetables and deals that are just too good to pass up!

Here's how the challenge has gone so far – during January. Our goal was $15 (or less) per week on groceries (including food and household needs).

Week 1:
We spent only $7.63 on groceries, basically for two meats. (We were on vacation, sharing cooking duties with our friends.)

Week 2:
We spent $11.15 for groceries at Publix, $0.59 for milk at Walgreens, and $1.38 and $0.38 for miscellaneous deals at CVS.

Week 3:
We spent $12.92 for groceries at Publix and $0.16 on miscellaneous deals at CVS. (Remember that the beauty of shopping at CVS is the ExtraCare Bucks program!)

Week 4:
We spent $8.89 for groceries at Publix – and later allowed a splurge of another $2.00 for ice-cream, thanks to a $1.00/1 coupon from Publix Preschool Pals!

The FREE SoyJoy Deal (limit 6 per card, limit 3 per transaction) is still going on at CVS (until 02/14); it was fun to pay for five boxes (two and then three) with ECBs and $0.00 out of pocket! These aren't our favorite, but they do come in handy as snacks.

An "Eating from the Pantry Challenge" is a great way to save – not only because you're using what you already have on hand but also because you're stopping to figure out what you actually have on hand and then coming up with (creative) ways to use it!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eating from The Pantry: Another Update

We're in the fourth week of our (much-needed) "Eating from the Pantry Challenge" – and still enjoying it! We've been constantly reminded that stocking up when items are on sale (and finding new creative ways to be frugal – i.e. eating carving pumpkins!) are worthy investments.

What's Cookin'?! Lots of good food!

Here's the menu for this week:

January 25 thru 31

Pumpkin Bread (using the newly updated recipe that includes sweet potato!)
Scrambled Eggs with Toasted Sweet Butter Bread
Cereal, cereal, and more cereal

M: Leftover Chicken and Veggie Stew
T: More Leftovers
W: Mac & Cheese with Stewed Tomatoes, Fresh Fruit
Th: Special Potato Soup
F: Sandwiches, Fresh Fruit
Sat & Sun: TBD (probably more leftovers)

M: Tri-Colored Pasta with Tomato Sauce & Cheese, Veggies
T: Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Whipped Potatoes with Sour Cream, Peas & Onions
W: Leftover Chili (from the freezer) with Cheese, Fresh Fruit
Th: More Leftovers
F: Dinner Out (to celebrate a birthday!)
Sat: Birthday Party!
Sun: TBD (probably party leftovers)

I'm excited about the Birthday Party Menu, which I plan to post later. (I'm thankful for the benefits derived from a stocked pantry, a free Sam's Club membership, and recent deals at Publix!)

Speaking of Publix, I should tally up my (grocery) spending for the last two weeks. I'm struck with the fact that blogging can be a type of public journaling, where we write what we don't mind our family and friends reading. In fact, we hope they will read – and maybe even comment now and then! (Hee! Hee!)

Have I mentioned that we love Publix?! Yes, we do!

On the January 19 trip, we spent $12.92 – within the goal of $15 per week during this challenge.

On the January 26 trip, we spent $8.89 – again within our goal and actually a better total than expected because they gave me the Ocean Spray 100% Juice at 2/$3.45!

The biggest highlight, of course, was winning the 10-inch cookie – in the monthly drawing for the Cookie Club! (Well, we paid $0.20 tax for a $9.99 cookie.) Even the cashiers and customer service folks were excited for us, as they tried to figure out how to ring it up!

We love Publix! Yes, we do!
We love Publix! How 'bout you?!

Recipe for Special Potato Soup

(Adapted from a family friend’s recipe, this dish made us fall in love with rosemary and thyme!)

Sauté until softened:
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 Tbsp dried onion
2 Tbsp olive oil

6 medium-sized potatoes, cubed (or 4 cups mashed potatoes)
2 large carrots, grated
3 cups water
1 tsp salt + 1 tsp seasoned salt
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp rosemary
¼ tsp cumin
Dash of garlic powder

Cover and simmer about 20 minutes (or until vegetables are tender). Then remove from heat and mash with potato masher (or purée in blender).

2 cups milk
1 cup shredded (cheddar) cheese

Reheat, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted.

(Yields approximately ten 1-cup servings.)


Inspiration & Encouragement: JOY in Work!

God intends for His children to rejoice in their vocations – in their daily work!
Most honorable vocations exist to meet the needs of people; God has ordained His world so that people with various abilities meet various needs. We should think of our vocation, therefore, not as a necessary evil to pay the bills, nor even as an opportunity to become rich, but as the primary path of our Christian walk wherein God has planned good deeds for us to do.
(Jerry Bridges in The Fruitful Life)
What an encouragement! Because God Himself says:
By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
(Ephesians 2)
These thoughts have been a blessing to me this week, so I'm sharing them today – "Just for the JOY of It!"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Publix Highlights – 01/26

We're in the fourth week of an "Eating from The Pantry Challenge" – and we're still enjoying it!

We'll be making a last-minute run to Publix for the following deals today!

Quaker Instant Oatmeal – B1G1 for $3.89
Use "Buy one Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Get one Naked Juice FREE" coupon (Publix Family Style Magazine, Spring Issue) (Get a free subscription!)
Stack with $1.00/1 Quaker Oatmeal printable coupon
Stack with $1.00/1 Naked Juice printable coupon (Join "Juice Nation" by clicking on link at bottom right.)
All FREE after coupons!

Hunt's Canned Tomatoes (14.5 oz) – B1G1 for $1.39
Use $1.00/4 coupon (All You Magazine, December 2009)
$0.45 each

Bosc or Anjou Pears – $0.88 per pound

Red, Golden Delicious, or Gala Apples (3 lbs) – $2.49

I’ll also redeem a "rain check" from last week:

Buy two Ocean Spray Grapefruit Juice (64 oz) – $2.00 each
Get one bag (5 lbs) of Fresh Red Grapefruit FREE
$4.00 for everything!

Drum roll, please!

My little one won a 10-inch Decorated Cookie in the monthly drawing for the Cookie Club – just in time for her birthday!

Gotta love Publix!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Inspiration & Encouragement: Celebrating Little Moments!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, allow me to say... In the goodness and grace of God, it's often the little moments in life that bring great joy – from the mundane to the sublime!
  • Looking forward to enjoying Krispy Kreme Donuts because of the great Valentines Day Offer!
  • Reading "The Gingerbread Man" and "The Little Red Hen" to my little girl – from the recently acquired book set I dearly loved as a little girl. 
  • Looking out the window at this afternoon's winter rain, remembering that two days this week we had the windows open to let is some fresh air and sunshine. Yes, it really got that warm in mid-January!
  • Reading a heart-felt letter from a dear saint in Spain, written to encourage my nephew who is battling cancer. She hasn't ever met him or anyone else in the extended family, but she's a wonderful example of how Christ's Church, His Body, should function!
So, I'm sharing these little moments – “Just for the JOY of It!

My biggest bargaining deal yet!

When I first started couponing and bargain-hunting in earnest about a year and a half ago, I never dreamed that it would lead among other things to my finally being able to get the 13-volume book set that I dearly loved as a child!

The big box arrived right before Christmas! The price tag was $195 for a gently used set, listed by a third party seller on Thanks to Swagbucks* and yard sales, I had paid only $3.99 out of pocket for the set – and that was for shipping!

This afternoon I sat down with my daughter to read two stories from Volume 2, the book that is on her level. What a joy!

Most of all, I'm thankful to God for teaching me much patience and perseverance...

*If you haven't signed up yet for Swagbucks, I hope this post will help to persuade you. What exactly are Swagbucks? Read details here and here – and then sign up here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Eating from The Pantry: Update

We're in our third week of the "Eating from the Pantry Challenge" – and we're still enjoying it! In fact, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize how stocked our pantry was; we really needed this challenge!

What's Cookin'?! Lots of good food!

I've decided not to try to reconstruct the vacation menu for the first week – but it was good! I'm thankful that our friends shared the cooking responsibilities with us.

Here are our menus for last week and this week:

January 10 thru 17

Sunday, January 10: We were still traveling. We enjoyed breakfast at a Hampton Inn (very nice free lodging, thanks to credit card points)! After church we ate lunch with family and friends, and on the way home we stopped at a restaurant for supper.

Pumpkin Bread
Cereal, cereal, and more cereal!

M: Leftovers
T: Mac & Cheese, Stewed Tomatoes
W: Pasta with Veggie Tomato Sauce & Cheese, Applesauce
Th: Egg Salad Sandwiches, Pear Slices
F: More Egg Salad Sandwiches
Sat & Sun: We were traveling again and greatly enjoyed Venison Fajitas, Vegetable Soup with Mexican Cornbread, and Dairy Queen Treats, among other good things! (I get no credit for those wonderful meals.)

M: Ramen Noodle & Veggie Soup, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
T: Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Four Cheese Bowtie Pasta, Green Beans
W: Beef & Veggie Stew, Tomato Bread
Th: Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Mashed Potatoes with Cheese, Lettuce Salad with Olives & Cheese
F: Pork Barbecue with Trimmings (We were invited to eat with friends, so I get no credit.)
Sat & Sun: We were traveling. (See above notes.)

January 18 thru 24:

Cereal, cereal, and more cereal!

M: Leftovers
T: More Leftovers, Noodle Soup, V-8 Juice
W: PB & J Sandwiches, Pear Slices, V-8 Juice
Th: Leftover Chili, Sweet Butter Bread
F: Leftovers
Sat & Sun: TBD (Leftovers?)

M: Scrambled Egg Beaters, English Muffin Toast, Venison Sausage
T: Chili, Sweet Butter Bread
W: Pumpkin Curry Soup
Th: Chicken & Veggie Stew, Sweet Butter Bread
F: Baked Potatoes with Broccoli, Cheese, and Sour Cream
Sat & Sun: TBD (Leftovers?)

A big benefit of this "Eating from the Pantry Challenge" is realizing how blessed we are!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Publix Deals – 01/13 thru 01/19

We’re still in the middle of an "Eating from The Pantry Challenge" – and we're enjoying it!

That said, I am planning a quick run to Publix for the following deals:

Green Giant Boxed Vegetables – 10 for $10
Use $0.50/2 printable coupons
$0.50 each after doubled coupon

Hunt’s Spaghetti Sauce – 10 for $10
Use $0.50/2 printable coupons
$0.50 each after doubled coupon

Pompeian Olive Oil – B1G1 for $5.99
Use $1.00/1 printable coupon
$2.00 each

Broccoli – $1.47 each

Celery – $0.99 each

Radishes – $0.99 each

I also learned last week that the Penny Item is no longer a Sunday or Monday deal; it now falls on either Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the first day of the current ad in any given area. (Not good news for last-minute shoppers – like me!)

Krispy Kreme: Valentine's Day Donuts & Coupons!

My family enjoys an occasional outing for a Krispy Kreme Donut or two – or maybe even a dozen on occasion!

The heart-shaped doughnuts, topped with a yummy white icing and red, pink, and white sprinkles, are back!

Here's how you can get a sweet deal!

While supplies last at participating stores, you can get twelve Valentine's Day Cards when you buy any dozen doughnuts. Each card has a coupon on the back good for one free doughnut!

For a list of participating stores and Valentine's Day doughnut offerings, you can go here.


CVS Deals – 01/17 through 01/23

My sister and I are planning to go to CVS together this evening. She has $2.00 ECBs and a rain check to cash in – both from her very first bargaining visit!

I promised to come up with some good beginner’s scenarios based on deals I knew of, so here goes:

We’ll start with the rain check:

Nivea Body Wash – $5.99
Get $5.00 ECBs (Limit 1)
$0.99 after ECBs

She’ll pay with $2.00 ECBs and $3.99 (plus tax) out of pocket – and get $5.00 ECBs back.

Since she mentioned needing paper products, we’ll cash in on this deal at the second store:

Cottonelle Double Rolls (20 count) – $12.88
Get $4.00 ECBs (Limit 3)
Use $0.50/1 (SmartSource 12/13)
$8.38 after coupon and ECBs

She’ll pay with $5.00 ECBs and $7.38 out of pocket – and get $4.00 ECBs back. Not bad for the equivalent of 40 rolls of bathroom tissue!

The deals really aren’t all that great this week, so I’ll probably go for two of these:

SoyJoy Box (6-count) – $6.00
Get $6.00 ECBs (Limit 3)
FREE after ECBs

Friday, January 15, 2010

Office Max: FREE printer paper, envelopes, and markers

There are some great deals (FREE after MaxPerks Bonus Rewards) for teachers or businesses until Saturday, January 16. And you can order online!

If you don’t already have a MaxPerks Card, sign up here. Plus, get free shipping on orders over $50!

If you go through ebates when ordering, you can earn 3% back on all purchases from Office Max. If you’re new to ebates, you’ll also earn a $5.00 bonus – and sweeten the deal even further! Click here to sign up.

Here are the deals:

Boise X-9 Copy Paper (10 Ream Case) – $34.99 each (Limit 2)
Earn $35.00 per case on MaxPerks Card
FREE after MaxPerks Bonus Rewards*

Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Markers (12 count) – $5.99 each (Limit 3)
Earn $6.00 per box on MaxPerks Card
FREE after MaxPerks Bonus Rewards*

Ascend 30% Recycled Business Peel-to-Seal Envelopes (50 count) – $3.99 each (Limit 3)
Earn $4.00 on MaxPerks Card
FREE after MaxPerks Bonus Rewards*

*After your MaxPerks Bonus Rewards post, you can use them like a gift card on a future purchase at Office Max. (I’m planning to get toner for the printer.)

CVS Deals – 01/10 thru 01/16

Believe it or not, this CVS Fan hadn’t been to a CVS since my outing with my sister on December 26! Since I had ECBs that had to be used, I made two trips yesterday.

On the first trip, I picked up these deals:

Buy two CVS Reusable Bags – $0.99 each
Get $1.00 ECB (Limit 1)
$0.49 each after ECB

Buy two Pantene Shampoo, Conditioner, or Styler – two for $6.97
Get $2.00 ECBs (Limit 1)
Use $3.00/2 coupon (P&G 12/27)
$0.98 cents each after coupon and ECBs

Cottonelle Double Rolls (20 count) – $12.88
Get $4.00 ECBs (Limit 3)
Use $0.50/1 (SmartSource 12/13)
$8.38 after coupon and ECBs

All Christmas items have been marked down to 90% off, so I also picked up two rolls of wrapping paper for $0.39 and $0.29!

I paid with $19 ECBs ($15 from taking a survey!) and $1.38 out of pocket – and got back $9.50 ECBs ($2.50 from fall spending).

On the second trip, I got these deals:

SoyJoy Box (6-count) – $6.00
Get $6.00 ECBs (Limit 3)
FREE after ECBs

I also redeemed the rain check from the week of December 26:

Nivea Body Wash – $5.99
Get $5.00 ECBs (Limit 1)
Use $2.00/1 printable coupon
FREE plus $1.01 overage after coupons and ECBs

I also picked up four boxes of small candy canes (50 count each) for $0.19 each and some Christmas garland for $0.39 (Think: ministry with children!) I paid with $11 ECBs and $0.38 out of pocket – and got back $11 ECBs!

This is not necessarily the greatest week for deals, but since I had $24 ECBs I had to spend this week, I’m thankful to have stocked up on household paper for (almost) free!

Gotta love CVS!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eating from The Pantry

Yes, I missed my What's Cookin'? post this week – and last week, too...

We're currently in the middle of an "Eating from The Pantry Challenge" right now. In late December, before reading that the frugal blogosphere had decided to launch out on an "Eating from the Pantry Challenge" this January, we had decided to do so. I remembered reading about the whole idea last January...

I'm currently recovering from what I call "Post Vacation Trauma" as well. (You know how it goes: there's all the unpacking, putting stuff away, readjusting to the "normal" demands of life, etc.) So, I haven't taken time to sit down and blog about our progress – until now!

I'm planning to post my current menu later (and possibly what I can recall of last week's menu, which I left on the fridge where we vacationed).

That said, our main goal during the challenge this month will be to save most of what we would otherwise spend on groceries, putting it toward other expenses – possibly car repairs. Every little bit helps, eh?!

So far, it's been an exciting challenge!

Last week, we spent only $7.63 on groceries – basically for two meats. (We decided not to count the two times we ate out while on vacation.) Thankfully, we shared cooking duties with our friends, making the vacation more of, well, a vacation!

This week, we've spent $11.15 for miscellaneous groceries at Publix and $0.59 for milk at Walgreens. (That free cereal deal has also turned into almost free milk for this week!)

We've actually been eating very well. Sharing kitchen duties last week definitely helped, and rising to the idea of a challenge is also helping...

Since this is already a rambling post, allow me to ramble just a bit more and post our beginning pictures:

These pictures do not include the staples (flour, sugar, rice, beans, coffee, etc.) on the counters, the dozen or so boxes of cereal in another cupboard, or the contents of the chest freezer: turkey, chicken, venison, a half dozen or so gallons of milk, a gallon of orange juice, peach slices, breads, and more cheese!

We probably needed this challenge – just to use up what we have now! And we're already planning to stretch this challenge to at least another month, too!

Inspiration & Encouragement: Celebrating Life!

Last week, we enjoyed a (much-needed!) family vacation. We went to the (currently chilly!) South Carolina Coast. Our dear friends (and future ministry partners) joined us for part of that time.

As usual, I took LOTS of pictures!

Here's one of my favorites – of my two favorite people!

I'm once again joining Just for the JOY of It – just to share and to celebrate life! It's often the little moments that become the most cherished memories...

(By the way, this is Post #200 for this blog! And it "happened" to post at 2:02 p.m. Cool, eh? Another of those neat little details in life that make me smile...)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Publix Super Savers – 01/12/10

Gotta take advantage of some very last minute deals!

In late December, before reading that the frugal blogosphere had decided to launch out on an "Eating from the Pantry Challenge" this January, we had decided to do so. (I'm hoping to post our details soon...)

That said, there are some deals at Publix (good through today in my area) that I'm planning to get this evening; they're mostly of the kind that would be difficult to stash in the cupboards or even the freezer – or they match coupons that are too good to let slip!

Egg Beaters – B1G1 for $2.79
Use $0.55/1 "blinkie" coupons (in store)
$0.85 each

Quaker Life (or Oatmeal Squares) Cereal – B1G1 for $4.49
Use $1.00/1 coupon (from oatmeal box)
$1.25 each

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – $1.99 per pound
Use $1.00/1 coupon (courtesy of Publix Preschool Pals)
(The coupons arrived in the mail yesterday!)

Publix Salad Blends – $2.00 each

Bartlett or Bosc Pears – $0.88 per pound

Gotta love Publix!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Book Review: The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers

The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2, by Carla Barnhill, uses the (cute!) Little Blessings characters (Kaitlyn, Zoe, Parker, and Jack) to help children through easy-to-understand devotions. Each reading pairs a Little Blessings illustration with a short Bible verse and devotional thought that gets you and your child talking about the simple truths of Scripture. A fun, rhyming prayer or application completes each devotional. This book is a great way to get young children interacting with Scripture daily – to learn about God’s wonderful promises and timeless truths. Put out by Tyndale House Publishers, it was previously published as Blessings Every Day.

The back cover of the book states that the idea is “do-able, daily devotions” for preschoolers:
  • Do-able: You and your child can just pick up the book and start on today’s date.
  • Daily: Kids can learn about God and what’s really important, a little bit each day.
  • Devotions: Kids can experience firsthand how to connect with God.
The book is intended for three to six year olds, but my initial impression was that it is too simplistic for that age range. The more I read, however, the more I realize that there is a mix. Some entries are very simple, illustrating one verse or principle for very young minds; others are more developed, requiring more thoughtful application.

After perusing the book on my own, I started at the beginning with my toddler, reading through most of January in two sittings – for the sake of this review, of course! We then jumped right into the middle of the book, reading at random.

The lesson from Psalm 139 is definitely a favorite; because we have an avid little “painter” and “builder” at our house, I love the connection made between activities she understands and loves – communicating in terms she can grasp the wonder of the Creator’s delight in making her:
“When God made you, He picked out all your parts and put them together. So He knows and loves everything about you. You are His special creation.”
Another favorite is A Solid Rock, in which the qualities and uses of rocks are explained in terms little ones can appreciate:
“[Rocks are] really strong. Big rocks are great to stand on when you want to see higher or to sit on when you need to rest… God is incredibly strong, and He’s always there when we need Him.”
I do find myself fleshing out the more simple entries, sometimes substituting stronger vocabulary and more often adding in the message of salvation through Christ. For example, the entry on King David states: “He knew God loved him, even when he made bad choices and big mistakes.” I added: “Because God loved David and because He loves you and me, He sent Jesus to die for David’s sins and for your sins and my sins, too – so we can be forgiven!”

The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2 can be a good tool in the hands of discerning parents who desire to teach God’s truths diligently to their children. (See Deuteronomy 6:5-7.) And it might help to make a noble New Year's Resolution a reality. Measuring 5.75 x 7.25 inches, the book has 384 beautifully laid out and illustrated pages in a hardcover binding. Because it is a book that will be used every day, all year, the list price of $14.99 seems very fair.

My almost four year old is delighted with the endearing artwork by Care Bears artist, Elena Kucharik. The cute Little Blessings characters at work and at play illustrate beautifully the principles being communicated and provide opportunity to discuss those truths further. We're looking forward to reading together!

A complimentary copy of the book was provided to me, as a reviewer for Mama Bzz, by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for today’s blog tour.

A big “Thank-you!” to the folks at Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to review and enjoy this wonderful book!