Sunday, August 7, 2011

It's OK to Cheat...Once in a While

No, I'm not talking about indfidelity here, I'm talking about baking mix! I woke up bright and early this morning and couldn't fall back asleep so it dawned on me that I should make a nice hot breakfast to surprise the hubby when he wakes up.

Since we're leaving for California in a few days, I didn't really do a big shopping trip this weekend so the only thing I had available were eggs and baking mix...hmmm...pancakes!!! So suffice it to say, yes I do use a pre-made baking mix for my pancakes. I have tried the homemade from scratch versions (making my own buttermilk and all), and really I have to say I haven't found them to be all that much better than using a pre-made mix so why go through all the hassle.

I am actually quite pleased with the mix I can get at ALDI. It's cheaper than the Bisquick mix and you can use it for almost anything (pancakes, muffins, shortcake, bisquits, waffles, etc.). Plus if you look at the ingredients, you'll see that they are all the same as if you would make your own mix from scratch (no added junk). So I don't feel too bad about cheating in this area at least!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One Chicken, Many Meals

In the past I've avoided trying to cook a whole chicken for a few reasons. First off, it's only the hubby and I right now so I didn't know what to do with all that leftover meat. Secondly, I've always been intimidated with the whole process of taking a chicken apart and removing all the meat (my cooking skills are a work in progress). Then a few months ago I was perusing the internet and found the slow-cooking method for cooking a whole chicken and now this is one of my favorite things to make.

Buying a whole chicken is far more economical than buying chicken breasts. Now there are still instances in which I might still prefer chicken breasts, depending on the recipe but ultimately the whole chicken is the way to go. I primarily shop at two different grocery stores Wegmans and ALDI. A whole chicken at Wegmans costs around $0.88/pound and at ALDI it's about $0.85/pound. That's significantly cheaper than the $3-4 a pound you can spend on chicken breasts.

When you cook a chicken in a slow-cooker you don't want it to just sit at the bottom of the pot or it will start to boil in it's juices after a bit. To avoid this you can roll up little balls of aluminum foil and put them in the slow-cooker and then place the chicken on top of them. If you are potatoe eaters like the hubs and I, you can even put some potatoes in the bottom of the crockpot. Just cover the potatoes in foil, put them in the bottom of the slow-cooker and place the chicken over them. Make sure to pat the chicken dry and season it to taste (you can choose whatever seasonings you prefer). Close the lid and set the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.

When you pull the chicken out it will be literally falling off the bone, and will be super tender and moist, and the potatoes will be perfectly baked and soft. That's meal one. After dinner I pull off all the remaining chicken meat off the bones, which is very easy since it's falling off anyway. I will then choose another meal or two to make with the leftover chicken such as a casserole, pot pie, soup, etc and freeze those for another day.

After all of that, we're still not done. I still have a chicken carcass to take care of. This is the perfect opportunity to make some homemade chicken broth. In your slow-cooker you will already have the fat, juices and drippings from the cooked chicken as well as the remains of the carcass. To make broth you simply dump in some veggies (whatever you want, I've used carrots, onions, celery, even the leftover cob from corn on the cob), whatever you have left over and some seasonings (I usually use italian seasoning: orgeano, parsley, garlic) Then pour water into the slow-cooker until it's about 3/4 full. Set your slow-cooker to low for 8 hours. This is a great overnight project.

After your broth is completed you will want to gather a large bowl and a colander. Place the colander in/over the bowl and dump the contents of the slow-cooker into the colander and discard the contents of the colander. What will be left in your bowl will be a delicious and nutrient packed homemade chicken broth.

You can store your broth in either tupperware or zip-lock bags. I like to freeze 1 cup portions in a zip-lock bag and then freeze them laying flat to save space in the freezer. The broth can be used for many recipes. I love to use it to make homemade chicken gravy or white sauce for pot pies.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

I recently saw a recipe for Baked Oatmeal on one of the blogs I frequent and thought to myself "I need to try this." Not only do I love oatmeal, but I love a warm homemade breakfast in the morning, especially one that can be made quickly. I adapted this recipe a bit to fit our taste and made a smaller batch as there are only two of us in our household.

Baked Oatmeal
1/2 cup oil (olive or canola)
3/4 cup sugar (more or less depending on your taste)
2 eggs
3 cups slow cooking oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Grease a 8" x 8" baking pan (glass works better in order not to burn). Put in the refrigerator overnight (you can skip this step, but it's a great way to save some time in the morning). When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F and bake for 35 minutes. Top with any of your favorite options (brown sugar, fruit, maple syrup, butter, etc), I just pour a little milk over it and enjoy!

This recipe doubles well for a larger group, and it also freezes well if you want to make ahead of time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How We Are Getting Out of Debt: Part 2

If you are just joining us you can read Part 1 posted on 01/21/2011. Needless to say I was shocked, humbled and very grateful for my Dad’s gratitude. My parents are very hard working individuals and have spent their whole lives working to build up what they now have, and truly want to bless their children with what they can. Within a few months my dad had my car paid off and we were just down to one car loan (Alan’s car which was only purchased a few months before we got married so we had a few years left on it) and our school loans. Since we had paid off so much of our other debt by this time we had started to pad our savings account a little more heavily in case of emergency, and felt that now it was time to concentrate our efforts on getting his car paid off as early as possible. We figured out that once we knocked of his car payment, we would be able to live completely and totally off of what I made with my salary and would no longer have to chip away at any money saved up, or use any financial aid from his school that wasn’t to pay just for classes and books. Well I’m proud to say that we took some aggressive steps and a little bit of chance by taking a good chunk out of “savings” and we paid his car off yesterday! That would be 3 ½ years early!!! I didn’t even think it was possible, but with very hard work and perseverance, we have eliminated all of our debt with the exception of school loans, which will realistically take us a much longer time to pay off, especially since Alan graduated in May but is now going back for two more years for a second Bachelor’s degree. We are very grateful to be at this point and know that we could not have gotten here without letting God lead our lives, having faith and being able to make sacrifices. For the past couple of years we have had to say no to a lot of things. While we had friends going on vacations and buying things that we also would like to have, we’ve had to sit back and watch and not to able to participate in those things that we would enjoy. But I’m so grateful to have to go through these times so early on in our marriage. We have learned to have something that many people nowadays don’t seem to have, and that is contentment. We can find enjoyment in spending time at home, enjoying a cup of coffee (not bought from Starbucks, but made at home) and reading a book or renting a movie and staying home instead of paying $20 to go to the movie theatre. We haven’t taken a vacation since our honeymoon (unless you count when we go to California to visit my parents), and we hardly ever go out to eat, and when we do it’s usually with gift cards we got for Christmas. But we have learned that these things are not what’s important, and not being able to do them often makes them all the more enjoyable the few times we are able to indulge a little. We’ve learned to look at our lives and see all of the abundant blessings God has bestowed on us, instead of looking around at what we don’t have. And because of that we have become one of the few people nowadays who do not complain about their finances, but embrace the little we have and know how truly blessed we are. When it comes time to start a family and buy a house we will feel confidant knowing we learned the lessons we’ll need to be successful now instead of learning them the hard way when those times come. I do not mean to sound haughty or boastful in the above comments. Please know that we have only been able to come to this point by the grace of God and not because of our own knowledge, strength, or efforts. God has provided us with all of the resources we have and He is the one teaching us how to be responsible in the management of those resources. If you have a story of how you’ve been able to manage debt or change your family’s situation that could be inspiring to others, please email me at so that it may be shared and be a blessing to others. Be blessed!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Target Deals 03/30/2011

Today I stopped by Target to use some coupon matchups that I had worked out. Here is how my tripbroke down: Purex Crystals Fabric Softener = $2.99 - $2.00 MFR coupon - $1.00 target coupon = FREE Colgate Advanced Total toothpaste = $3.24 - $1.50 MFR coupon - $1.00 target coupon = $0.74 Suave Professionals Curl Cream Mousse = $2.69/each - $1.00/2 MFR coupon - $0.50 target coupon =$1.94/each Zyrtec (30 count) = $18.19 on sale - $4.00 target coupon - $5.00 MFR coupon = $9.19 (great price for thisproduct!) My total for all of the above items = $13.81 I saved $16 in total during this shopping trip by stacking manufacturer (MFR) coupons with targetcoupons as well as some items being on sale to begin with.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekly Savings Walmart 3/25/11

I also stopped off at Walmart yesterday during my lunch break to see if I could mix any good sales with coupons to get some great savings. I am glad I did! Here is how my Walmart trip broke down:

3 Hamburger/Chicken helper meal kits = $1.50 each + $1.00/3 coupon = $3.00 ($1/each)

1 Uncle Ben's Whole Grain White Rice product = $1.50 + $1.00/1 coupon = $0.50

2 boxes of Healthy Harvest Rotini pasta = $1.08 each + $1.00/2 coupon = $1.16 ($0.58/each)

1 bottle of Purex laundry detergent = $2.97 + $1.00/1 coupon = $1.97

2 (3 pk.) Irish Spring soap = $1.97 each + $1.00/2 coupon = $2.94 ($1.47/each)

1 (3 pk.) Zest soap = $1.98 + $1.00/1 coupon = $0.98

2 boxes of Smart Tasta Penne pasta = $1.08 each + $1.00/2 coupon = $1.16 ($0.58/each)

2 tubes Crest toothpaste = $1.96 each + $1.00/2 coupon = $2.92 ($1.46/each)

2 bottles Aussie hairspray = $2.84 each + buy one get one free coupon = $2.84 ($1.42/each)

1 bottle dial hand soap = $1.47 + $1.00/1 coupon = $0.47

12 Pack Angel Soft double roll toilet paper = $5.97 + $1.00/1 coupon = $4.97 ($0.41/roll)

Total at Walmart = $22.91