Saturday, November 28, 2009


I have learned some new and  important things about coupons within the past year that I didn't know.  I won't post them all now, but here's just a few..with more to come later!
Before I started using coupons, I had a system for handling groceries.  I would create a menu for the month, make a list of what I needed, and then shop for everything at once, except for the perishables that I would have to go back for weekly.  By shopping this way, I was spending about $800+ on groceries and household supplies in any given month; and the worst part is, by the time the month was over, the cupboard was BARE...I was having a hard time scraping meals together because it seemed like everyone was eating more than I planned.  I realized that as my kids continued to get older the grocery bill was only going to keep going up and decided I needed to do something about it.  That's when I started really learning how to make coupons work.
First of all, if you just get one little pack of coupons in your Sunday newspaper and clip them and use them when doing your regular grocery shopping, chances are you aren't going to save much.  In truth, you may even end up spending more because you may end up buying things you didn't intend to buy simply because you have a coupon.  This is why most people think it doesn't pay to use coupons.  A few simple changes in the way you do things make all the difference.
Rule #1 in coupons is that you need to combine coupons with the sales going on in the store.  This may lead you to shop at several different stores in any given week, but if it can save you more than half of what you are currently spending, isn't a little extra time worth it?  Since things cycle through the sales, you need to be familiar with the things you buy the most, how much you use in any given week or month, and plan to buy enough to last until that item goes on sale again.  Some things will go on sale about every 6 weeks, while others will never really hit a rock bottom price for an entire year.  It takes some trial and error to start to understand the trends, but once you do you will never pay full price for things again!
Stockpiling of groceries can be tricky.  Thought needs to be given to how much of something you will need so that you don't over buy and end up throwing things out.  I like to create menus around the things in my stock that I know need to be rotated.  I have a stockpile good enough now that I can literally make a menu, make a list and "shop" right out of my stock...then hit the grocery store for perishables to finish off those meals (and I look at the ads, see what perishables are on sale, and then plan to incorporate them while making the menu).
Obviously, if you are looking to buy as much as you are going to need for a month or so, one coupon is not going to be enough.  Multiple coupons are key.  For me, this means buying four Sunday papers, and I also collect coupons from neighbors and family members that aren't going to use them.  I keep almost every coupon (those I won't be using I will give to friends who will--like diapers and dog food) because I never know what kind of deals will pop up--things I might not think I would ever buy may end up being free or nearly free, and then I will try them.  I have found some great stuff that we didn't realize we would like until I got them free with coupons! I have also almost completely abandoned brand loyalty (I say "almost" because I have learned that some brands I cannot substitute--like Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup--I hate all other brands!) and have even discovered that sometimes I like a different brand more than the one I used to buy whatever I can get the cheapest is what I will buy!
Speaking of coupons, it's time to go clear out my expired stuff and get ready for a whole new batch tomorrow!


Jello salad of some kind is a staple of our Thanksgiving dinner...and this year I realized I was truly tired of the same ol' orange jello that we usually have and went looking for a new recipe to try.  I also only wanted to use stuff I already had--no special trips to the store for me! (that's part of my new food storage deal--try to do with what I have on hand!) Unfortunately, I didn't have anything to make any of the recipes I had, so I had to come up with something new...and it turned out FABULOUS!

1 lrg. box raspberry jello
1 10-oz package frozen raspberries, drained (reserve juice)
2 cups jellied cranberry sauce (about a can and a half)
1 12-oz. can ginger ale

Measure juice from raspberries and add enough water to equal one cup.  Bring liquid to a boil and dissolve jello in it.  Allow to cool, then beat in cranberry sauce until mixed well.  Stir in ginger ale and raspberries and pour into a 9x13 pan. ( The jello will be a little bubbly and foamy on top) Refrigerate until set.

1 8-oz. cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 8-oz. whipped topping

Beat cream cheese until smooth, then add sour cream and powdered sugar and mix thoroughly.  Fold in whipped topping and spread evenly over salad.  Refrigerate to allow topping to set up slightly.


Sunday, November 22, 2009


I'm actually not much of a cake fan (although I like Costco's cake... and I have the thighs to prove it!) But not long ago my sister went looking for a bundt cake recipe online and found one that looked like it would be good.  The first time she made it, following the recipe and directions, it ran over the top of her pan and all over into the bottom of the oven, so she had to make some adjustments.  It ended up being the BEST chocolate cake EVER...I'm not sure I can go back to any other cake recipe after this one!  If you have a bundt pan, it's time to wipe off the dust and put it to use!

1 package Devil's Food cake mix
1 lrg. chocolate fudge instant pudding
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer mini chips, but any will do)

Spray bundt pan or grease well.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix all wet ingredients until well blended, but do not overmix.  Combine cake mix and pudding mix in a separate bowl and add chocolate chips (by mixing them with the dry flour-like ingredients you will keep them from sinking to the bottom).  Add dry ingredients all at once and blend just until mixed--DO NOT OVERMIX!  (Overmixing is what will cause the batter to rise over the top of the pan--I can't stress enough to NOT overmix it!)  

Batter will be thick, more like brownie batter than cake batter, and slightly lumpy (partly from the chips)   Spread evenly in the bundt pan.  Bake for 50-55 minutes.  Cake will be done when a toothpick comes out clean (unless you poke the chocolate chips, of course)

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before turning it out onto a serving plate.  Spread with warm frosting (or if you're using premade frosting, spread it on while the cake is still warm so the frosting will melt slightly and run).

I have decided I like this cake best with this chocolate frosting and I think it tastes the best when the cake is still warm.  It's also good with cream cheese frosting, or you could dust it with powdered sugar.

I have been meaning to try this recipe with different flavors of cake mix and pudding mix...I'm sure there are lots of good combinations!  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to tear myself away from the chocolate one yet!

Friday, November 20, 2009


A lot of people shy away from using coupons because they just don't see the big picture of how big of a difference they can make.  Here are some common misconceptions about coupons:
  1. Coupons are mainly for poor people.  Actually, middle-income people with a college education are more likely to use coupons than low-income people.
  2. Coupons are only for unhealthy processed food.  While there are a LOT of coupons for junk food, there are equal amounts available for healthy foods.  Who doesn't buy things like salad dressing, condiments, seasonings, bread, and paper products...just to name a few?  There are even coupons for fresh and frozen produce and fresh meat.
  3. Store brands are always cheaper.  Not true.  While this might sometimes be true, people need to watch those prices closely because by assuming that it's true, you may be paying more than you would for name brands.  In addition, have you ever used generic plastic wrap?  Ugh...
  4. You should only use coupons for things you would normally buy.  By using coupons for things you normally WOULDN'T buy, you might find out that there are other things out there that you really like but have never bought because you felt they were out of your price range.  Also, by trying a different brand of something, you might find out you like it BETTER than what you're used to buying.
  5. It isn't worth the effort/time/price of gas to shop at several different stores.  If you can drive 20 minutes out of your way and buy $100 worth of groceries for $25, isn't that worth it?
  6. Using coupons will cause me to buy things I normally wouldn't buy.  While coupons may influence your decisions, coupons can't force you to do anything.  If the coupons make something a good deal, you might want it. Buying things you wouldn't normally buy is not necessarily a bad thing.  If it's still expensive, exert some self control and don't put it in your cart.
  7. People who shop with coupons spend more money than people that don't. This may be true if you are going to the store and just buying whatever you have coupons for, even if the items are not on sale.  If you use coupons the right way and combine them with the store's sales, you will definitely be spending less. 
  8. Don't clip coupons for stuff you won't use.  There are many reasons to keep ALL your coupons.  If you can use your coupons to get things for free, you can get them and give them to a local food drive (I did this recently with some coupons that I had).  You can also trade them--if you need dog food and your friend needs diapers, swap coupons.
  9. Shopping discount stores and dollar stores will save more money than using coupons. The disadvantage to dollar stores is that they don't offer sales or deals like other stores do.  Most of the items I buy on sale and using coupons I pay less than a dollar for anyway, so these stores are definitely not a bargain.
  10. Corner drugstores are expensive and should be avoided.  Many of the best deals I have found have been at Walgreens and RiteAid.  Not only do they accept coupons, they also offer their own in-store coupons that can be stacked, and they offer a lot of rebates and other store deals that can't be found at other stores.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I have really grown to love whole wheat bread over the last couple of years...especially when it's homemade, hot out of the oven and slathered in honey butter!  I have tried several recipes, but this is my new favorite, and it was pretty quick because it rises really fast.  If you're in a hurry, this is a great recipe to use... From the time I began until it was finished baking was only two hours.  I use Wheat Montana Prairie Gold 100% Whole Wheat (the only place I have found this is at Walmart...) Because it is white wheat, it is a little lighter than a typical whole wheat bread.  If you grind your own, that's great too, but I'm not that ambitious yet. This recipe makes 4 big loaves.

7 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup vital wheat gluten
2 1/2 Tablespoons yeast

Mix these three ingredients together, then add 5 cups hot water (120-130 degrees--it's hot, and it will be steaming.  I measured mine with a candy thermometer to get the right temperature.)  Mix for 1 minute with a mixer, then cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.

2 Tablespoons salt
2/3 cup oil
2/3 cup honey
2 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
5 cups whole wheat flour

Add the salt, oil, honey, and lemon juice to the dough mixture and beat for one minute.  Add the last 5 cups of flour one cup at a time, mixing well between each cup.  Knead for an additional 6-10 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  The dough will be soft.

Preheat the oven for one minute to warm and turn off.  Spray bread pans with cooking spray.  Spray your counter with cooking spray, and turn the dough out onto the counter; divide into four even pieces, shape into loaves and place in pans. Push the dough lightly into the corners of the pans and make the dough as even as possible..  Place pans in the warm oven and let rise until dough reaches the top of the pans (about 20-30 minutes).  DO NOT REMOVE BREAD FROM OVEN; turn oven to 350F and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from pans and rub tops lightly with butter to maintain a soft crust.  Cool on racks. 
Note:  The first time I made this, when I pulled it out of the pans it almost seemed like it was too soft, maybe a little doughy, and not quite done...but it was.  It was a very soft wheat bread.  That's what's so good about it!


I LOVE to shop.....for groceries!  Is that so wrong?  I love the hunt for deals, getting good bargains, using my coupons and finding rebates to make my deals even better.  I even love taking pictures of my good deals to commemorate my hard work (and for those that don't do the bargain/coupon shopping, it really is HARD WORK)!  It feels a little like a hobby, actually, and as much as I enjoy my other hobbies, I have to admit that I really enjoy this one too.  In addition to grocery shopping, I enjoy cooking.  I am no kind of gourmet chef by any means, but I like trying new recipes and I usually make changes to fit my tastes...Plus I have a lot of tried and true favorites that I want to share....thus begins the food blog.