Jul 26, 2010

2 Meals Under $10 + How to Save Money on Groceries


Whether you're a victim of our economy (who isn't?) or you're just cheap like me, saving money on groceries and other needed items is a definite PLUS. Lately, my lucky guy and I have been discussing ways to place even more money than usual in savings, so that we have it when it's most needed.

One of the things we'd like to save money on is eating. We've already started the process by limiting the amount of times per month we eat out, but we still spend a chunk of change each week at the grocery store.

Thinking about it caused me to try and come up with recipes that are good, but are really cheap. Below are just 2 of the recipes that I've been using. They're really good, but it costs $10 or less to make them.

Meat and Veggie Pie

This is my kids' favorite meal, and they're super-picky! It's also really good for the meat and potatoes guy.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cans roast beef and gravy (found in the canned meat section, about $6)
  • 1 can mixed veggies ($.75)
  • 3-4 cups prepared instant mashed potatoes (about $1)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about $1.50)

Open the cans of roast beef and gravy and spread it over the bottom of a casserole dish or baking pan. Then, drain the mixed veggies and spread that on top of the meat. Next, layer the mashed potatoes on top of the veggies and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the mashed potatoes. Place in a 350-degree oven until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Prep time and cook time is about 25 minutes total. If you try this recipe, let me know how you like it!!

Super-Easy "Homemade" Chicken Pot Pie

Another favorite, and so easy to make.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Whole Chicken (about $5 total)
  • 1 diced and cooked potato (about $.50)
  • 1 diced and cooked carrot (pennies)
  • 1 can of peas (about $50)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (about $1)
  • 1 serving Jiffy pot pie biscuit mix (about $.75 to $1.00)
  • 3/4 cup milk (pennies)

Cook the whole chicken in boiling water for 1-2 hours. Pick the meat from the bone and preserve anything over 1 and 1/2 cups to use for another meal. After you've diced and cooked the carrot and potato, add this to the chicken in a large bowl. Add half the can of peas and the cream of chicken soup. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water and stir so that your mixture is creamy. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix the Jiffy mix (about 1 cup) with the milk. The consistency will be thin. Place the chicken and veggie mix into a baking pan and pour the Jiffy mix on top. Place in a 375-degree oven for 1 hour.

Tips for Saving Money on Groceries:

Food is mucho expensive. Until I get to the point where I'm growing all of my own veggies and completely shunning meat of any kind, I'm using a few different methods to save money at the grocery store. First and foremost, clip coupons. You don't have to use EVERY coupon; just the ones that cover products that you're definitely going to use. If your store has double or triple-coupon days, go shopping then and you can save tons of money. I've actually ended up getting free products using this method.

For some items, I buy store-brand rather than name-brand. Granted, some store brands simply will not work, but some things are okay to do this with. For instance, I've found that cereals, milk, canned veggies, syrup, etc. are all okay in the store-brand. However, I absolutely must have name-brand teabags, coffee, sauces, and other things like that.

Always save your leftovers. At the end of the week, have a hodge-podge meal containing all the leftovers. This is a great way to shave some money off your grocery bill. Also, thinking cheaper when you create your grocery list can help. Plan out your meals one week at a time, and buy only the things you've put on your list. Some stores also price-match, so if they have the same item that a competitor has on sale, they'll match the competitor's price. If you have any other tips for saving money on groceries, please add them here!

Image Credit: qmnonic on Flickr

Decorating a Nursery? 3 Adorable, Must-Have Baby Products + Baby Shower Gift Tips

If you're awaiting a sweet little bundle of joy, there's no doubt you're spending time creating a magical place for your baby. I loved decorating the nursery in anticipation of both of my little ones, and now, it seems like everyone I know is getting ready to welcome a brand new baby into their families. Whether it'll be soft yellows, baby blues, or precious pinks, finding adorable and affordable baby products can help you make the nursery a special place for your little one.

CoCaLo Orchid Grace 6-Piece Bedding

This set is absolutely precious! The cozy bedding is perfectly pink, with accent colors in cranberry, green, and purple. It includes the bumper, dust ruffle, quilt, valance, fitted sheet, and diaper stacker.

One of the greatest things about choosing the baby bedding first is that you can then decorate the room around that bedding. For instance, anything with green, purple, and the cranberry color would coordinate perfectly!

Oopsy Daisy Too My ABC's Wall Art

This wall art is absolutely adorable! It contains the alphabet, as well as corresponding pictures. What I love most about this item is that it can be used for a long time, as opposed to art that is simply baby-ish. For example, this could stay in your child's room from birth until age 5 or 6.

Also, it's a perfect opportunity for you to help your toddler or small child to learn his or her ABC's. The whimsical pictures are also stimulating for your child, helping grow that brain that will soon soak up anything and everything in sight!

Baby Love Activity Mat

Starting at just a few months old, your baby is going to need significant floor time! This will help him or her learn to roll over and eventually crawl. The Baby Love activity mat is not only adorable, but your baby will love the bright colors and shapes.

It's super soft, so you won't have to worry that the floor is uncomfortable for Baby. You can also use it as your child gets older, for playtime or even naps.

Going to a Baby Shower? What to Give...

If you've been invited to a baby shower and you're not sure what to bring as a gift, you might be a little hesitant to purchase anything. Well, I'm going to reveal the absolute BEST gifts I received - and you ladies can chime in and let me know what you think a great baby shower gift is.

Receiving Blankets - Not only did these help in the beginning, when my tiny newborns wanted to be swaddled, but as they got older, they were used for EVERYTHING. Spit-up guards, chew-things for teething babies, etc. Now, my daughter uses the receiving blankets to play with her dolls! You can't go wrong with these.

Diapers - Whether the mommy-to-be plans on using disposable or cloth diapers, she can never have enough of them. Find out which route she plans to go, and you'll have a perfect gift. Also, you might want to check out diaper cakes, as they come with diapers and numerous other things Mom will need - and they're SUPER-cute. You might even look up the instructions and make one yourself so it will be really meaningful.

Gifts for Mom - The ladies invited to the baby shower are going to go NUTS in stores, poring over ribbons and lace, pinks and blues, sweet little onesies and more. This means that Baby is going to get a TON of presents. So, purchasing something exclusively for Mom is a great idea. Spa-sets, movie tickets, gourmet snacks...these are all great ideas. Anything that will help your friend feel pampered and relaxed!

So...what do you think the best baby shower gifts are?

I'll Never Forget Sunscreen Again...


Saturday, Mr. Muffin (who wishes to be known as something much more macho...and so I've chosen Mr. Cornbread, but not the sweet kind) and I packed up the kids and headed to the local water park for his company's summer picnic. On the way there, I gave the children copious amounts of sunscreen and pointed out all the missed spots.

When we arrived, I quickly slapped some sunscreen on my arms but by then the kids had already turned into rabid animals and were pulling me in several different directions, shouting about slides and lazy rivers and magical sprinkling firetrucks.

So...I didn't put sunscreen on my chest, shoulders, face, or back. We were there from 10am until about 4pm and the whole time, my skin was roasting like a buttered chicken on the grill. I should also point out that I am a freckled, extremely fair-skinned individual. Luckily, the sunburn isn't too severe (no blisters, etc.) but it still hurts!

In fact, sleep last night would have been almost impossible if I hadn't been completely exhausted. I purchased some pure aloe vera gel, and have been rubbing that (gently) into my skin every few hours. In honor of my stupidity, I'm posting some natural sunburn remedies that you may or may not find helpful if you ever forget the sunscreen. Let me know if you've tried any of these, or if you know of a remedy that's better than the ones I've posted!

Milk - Most of the sites I found recommended milk, as it's great for any kind of burn. I imagine that the cold temp of the milk would also feel really good against the skin, and help let the heat out of the burn. Most places recommend soaking clean gauze in milk and then draping that across the burn.

Vinegar? - Seriously. To me, this sounds very hurty, but I don't know. I'm too chicken to try it. Have any of you tried vinegar for a sunburn?

Aloe Vera - My treatment of choice, since that's what I grew up using. You can use either the pure aloe vera gel (purchased from any drugstore) or actually break a piece of the plant and squeeze out the juice. I used the gel, which I bought for about $5. It's very cooling, and is supposed to help the burn heal faster.

Vitamin E - Squeeze the gel right out of the caplets and spread that on your skin, or purchase a cooling lotion with lots of vitamin E in it. Since this is the ultimate skin vitamin, I can see how this would work.

Tea Bath - Create a tea bath by running some warm water in the tub (not too hot, as that will probably really hurt!) and use tons of teabags. I have those huge gallon-sized tea bags that I bought at Sam's, but regular teabags will work too. You just need a lot. Throw those suckers in the tub and let them steep for a few minutes before getting in. Tea has a lot of great antioxidants and will soothe your skin.

In addition to these remedies, most people recommended taking some ibuprofen to relieve the pain. AND...loose clothing! In fact, I found the biggest, thinnest shirt I could find and have been using that! So...here's to a speed skin recovery, and don't forget to share your thoughts.