Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Soda Stream

Jason and I have been back and forth on whether to get a Soda Stream or not. It seems like a cool idea but I didn't want to get one thinking it would be cost effective without actually running the numbers. When I say I ran the numbers, I really mean it. I broke down each component needed to make soda (even the machine itself) to find out the cost per liter and per can. Number are my thing, so if I was going to do it I was doing to do it right.

What I found out was actually surprising. When sodas aren't on sale the Soda Stream version is much cheaper per liter and can. When packaged sodas are on sale both they and the Soda Stream version is about the same. Plus the Soda Stream bottles are concentrated and lighter than lugging 12 packs or 2 liters of soda around. It's also better for the environment not to have all the extra packaging. Although we do recycle.

Before now we had steady supply of Coke reward points to cash in for free 12 pack coupons (see earlier posts for details) but that supply has sadly ran out. We will still enter the codes when we get them and of course get our free 12 pack coupons when we can, but we don't have enough to keep up with our usage anymore.

So, we decided to go for it and order the Soda Stream. I had a coupon (big surprise) and some Kohl's cash to use plus Kohl's had a $10 rebate on the model we bought. It will end up costing us around $55.00 for the starter pack. I also had $9 reward money from Staples (again, see earlier posts for details) to use as well. I went to Staples today and got a bottle of the caffeine free diet soda for me and the cherry soda for Jason to get us started. For both bottles I only had to pay $1.01 out of pocket for these.

We also participate in the Swagbucks search engine so we can cash our points in for Amazon gift cards and get more of our Soda Stream supplies from there too making it even cheaper to own. (You can also get the details for Swagbucks in earlier posts).

We haven't received the Soda Stream yet, but I'll be sure to let you know how we like it when we get it and try it out.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chicken Update

Don't worry I'm not going to bore you with another description of my money saving chicken process. But if you haven't read one of the previous post yet, be sure to check it out on how to save tons of money on chicken.

On my latest chicken run though, I stumbled across another way to stretch your chicken dollars even more.

We've talked before about how huge the split chicken breast are and how to take advantage of that when you process your chicken. This time I also ended up pounding the chicken breast that I was freezing whole and it turned each breast into a meal for two and doubling what meals I could make with them.

Seriously, check out the size of this chicken breast! I made sure you could see a little of my hand to give you some size reference. It's huge!

Here are 4 chicken breast that I have pounded flatter. I also show you that they're still a good thickness and not paper-thin.

Each of these will now be a meal for me a Jason. So with 4 breast, we can get 4 meals out of just these. I bought 5 packs of split breast chicken for around $25 and here you can see after my process we ended up with enough chicken for 14 meals plus 2 huge containers of chicken broth to freeze and use for the upcoming holiday meals. Not counting the chicken broth, that makes each meal around $1.78 for the chicken. With the high meat prices right now, that's not too bad at all.

Friday, November 8, 2013

New Bed for Sofie

Years ago I bought Sofie a Dora the Explorer kids play tent at a yard sale and she's been using it every winter since to sleep in. She's very cold-natured so she likes to burrow and be warm, which is why she liked the tent so much. I would throw a blanket over it to keep in more heat. Yes, she is very spoiled! The tent worked great but it is so ugly and since it's used in our bedroom I wanted something that looked a little better.

Here's the tent:

It has seen better days.

Next I bought a used Pack N Play.

I cut out the front mesh panel to give her a door and also made sure she would use it before going further. She liked it as you see.

I found some denim in my fabric stash that matched the color pretty well and made a simple cover for it to keep the heat in.

One of Sofie's beds fit perfectly in the bottom to give her some cushion and warmth.

I think she likes it, what do you think? I paid $15 for the Pack N Play and already had the denim material so it was also a pretty thrifty bed.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cheap and Easy, Meals that is!

I love meals that are cheap and easy. I don't always have the energy or motivation to make a meal from scratch, so I love having meals in the freezer just waiting on me. One of our favorite meals for this is spaghetti. Since I have an unnatural hatred for onions, it's hard to find a spaghetti sauce at the grocery store that doesn't have them in it. So, I've always just made my own sauce. It's tons cheaper, quick and I make it the way I like it - onion free! I also make it in bulk and freeze it for super quick meals.

To start I purchased a large can of tomato sauce from Sam's for $3.18.

Then I poured that in a bowl and added my spices. You can also warm it on the stove with the spices too, but I have found that it taste the same either way, so why bother with the stove and extra cleaning.

I added oregano, garlic salt, Italian seasoning and the Nature's Seasons blend. You can add what you like or just what you have on hand. I keep adding and tasting until the tomato taste if blended well with the spices. I will warn you though to not get the mixture too spicy because it does get a stronger taste once prepared.

With every thing mixed up, I simply put the sauce in freezable containers and of course freeze then!

For me and Jason I was able to get 10 meal size portions from the 1 can of tomato sauce. That's right, 10 meals of sauce for a total of $3.18!!!  That's .38 cents a meal for the sauce!!!

The sauce thaws well on defrost in the microwave as well. Simply thaw and heat it up, that's it. We like angel hair pasta which cooks in 3 to 5 minutes, so within 5 minutes or so I can have homemade spaghetti on the table with little effort. I also like buying ground beef in bulk and browning it all at once and freezing it in small portions that can be added to meals like this in a snap. You can add ground beef, veggies or whatever fresh ingredients you like before serving as well.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Time Flies!

Oh my goodness, has it been since March that I have posted? Wow, time has really gotten away from me lately. Since I'm not working anymore, I am going to try and keep this blog more up to date.

Jason and I have been keeping up with all the things that I've posted about previously, but as I run across new ideas or money saving tips I will pass them on.

I did learn a new tip today. Our dog Sofie has been scratching a lot lately. She has allergies and has been on medication for that but I also started finding a flea here and there. Well, this morning I found more on her and figured I would have to take her into the vet again tomorrow and buy more flea medication. But first, I checked online to see if there was anything that I can do at home today to give her some relief.

Of course I used Swagbucks and searched for home remedies and found several. I ended up first brushing her well with the Furminator comb. Then I gave her a bath with dandruff shampoo with a little Dawn dish soap added in. Apparently fleas do not like either of them. Then I rinsed her well and then poured a little vinegar mixed with lavender essential oil over her before getting her out of the shower. It worked great!

I checked her again after she dried off and only found one flea and it was dead. She rested so well the rest of the day with little to no scratching. I also washed all her bedding to be on the safe side too. I also read about using salt and/or borax powder on the carpet pillows to kill fleas as well. I did sprinkle some salt on the pillows before putting the cases back on but since she's only had a few fleas I wanted to see if we were done with them before doing all the carpets.

She's doing so well that I don't think she will need a trip to the vet right now, saving me vet fees and money for flea medications.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Made a chicken run

If you've never read about me and chicken, check out some of my earlier posts on chicken, complete with pictures. For this post I won't slow you down with my step by step process. In a nutshell, I buy the bone-in, split chicken breast when I can get them for $.97 - $.99 per pound.

This time I bought 6 packs with an average cost of $2.80 per pack. There were 2 breast portions per pack but they were all HUGE! Seriously, like the Dolly Partons of chicken.

I removed the skin from all breasts and cut away the fillet portion to create my own, skinless, boneless chicken breast. Next, I threw what was left of the check breast portion into a pot to boil. You would be shocked at how much chicken is still left on there.

Now, Jason and I go through the cooked, shredded chicken much faster than any need for the whole breast, so I also throw all but 4 of the cut away breast portions in too to boil. (The reason I didn't leave them in tact if I was going to boil them away if for more even cooking times with the rest of the breasts portions).

After boiling, Jason and I picked the cooked chicken off the bone and pinched up the cooked chicken breast fillets and sectioned the meat out into baggies that will be frozen. This time we were able to get 15 bags of meal-size portions of cooked chicken for us. We use these for pizzas, quesadillas, enchiladas, pot pies, and a ton more recipes. We also have the 4 raw chicken breast portions that were also put into baggies and frozen as well.

So, for roughly $16.80 and a little time on Thursday, we were about to get 17 meal-size portions (for us) of chicken prepped and ready. I can't tell you how much money this has saved us and even more time. It takes no time at all to defrost the shredded chicken and it's ready to go.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

New (to me) table for my living room

We have a column in our living room that I've placed chairs on either side of, but I though we still needed a small table between the chairs to make it more functional when we have guests. 

Lucky for me, I found a table that would work very well at the Goodwill store for $9.99 that just needed a little TLC.

Here is the table before, although Jason had already taken the top off and started to sand it before I remembered to take a "before" picture.

I love that it has the lift-up top and plenty of deep storage. You can never have enough storage!

We removed the hardware and gave it a good sanding and then painted both the table and hardware.

Here is what it looks like now.

Tada! So for about $15.00 total between the cost of the table and cost of the paint, we have a new (to us) table with plenty of storage. I love it!

Now here it is in the living room in it's new home between the chairs.

I love being able to find things that we need for such a small price and making them ours. I find that a lot of the second hand furniture that you can find has a lot more character than new pieces these days. It also seems to hold up better than furniture built today.

So the next time you need something, why not try to find an interesting piece at a thrift store, yard sale or antique store and make it your own.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spaghetti Sauce

This morning I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce and portioned it out to freeze for quick meals later. I don't like onions and it's hard to find a commercial spaghetti sauce without onions so I have always just made my own. Trust me, it's very, very simple and has no recipe. I just use tomato sauce and sometimes tomato paste and then add whatever seasonings I have on hand to taste. That's it.

Then I put it in small, meal-size containers and freeze it for later use. We normally eat angel hair pasta which cooks super fast, so even on crazy days we can have homemade spaghetti on the table in about 5 or 10 minutes!

You might think that the sauce is pretty plain and it is but I do add a good bit of seasoning plus keeping it plain for freezing allows you to add whatever other ingredients you have on hand the night you cook it. Sometimes if I have ground beef already browned I will throw it in. I also sometimes put green olives in my sauce (Jason is crazy and doesn't like green olives). My point is that you can make it your own before you eat it.

We also use the healthy pastas. You know the ones that taste like white pasta but are better for you. So not only is this a make-ahead, quick and versatile meal, it is also healthy. What more could you want?

I took a picture for you guys but apparently didn't send it to the computer before deleting it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

New (to me) TV for my sewing studio

I mentioned earlier than I'm sewing more now. When I purchased my new longarm machine and frame I needed more room than I had available upstairs so I moved my sewing studio into our basement. It's an unfinished basement but my very sweet husband has been doing what he can to make it a great space for me. Plus, having all that space is wonderful and I'm much more organized now that I have lots of pegboard to use.

My longarm frame is 10 feet wide, so you can see the need for space. I usually spend 2 or more hours at a time in the studio so Jason put a small TV down there for me to watch or just listen to music on. Well, it was pretty small and I had to squint a lot to see it but was grateful to have it nonetheless.

Then I was in the Habitat for Humanity resale store on Friday (to get more cabinet knobs) and saw that they had their televisions 75% off. Wow! I checked out the supply and found a 25" TV that would fit the bill nicely and get this, I only paid $12.50 for it!!!!

They had the televisions playing so I knew that it worked and a nice young man at the store even carried it to the front for me and then to my car for loading.

If you have a Habitat store, Salvation Army or Goodwill store in your area, make sure to check them out frequently. There are all kinds of goodies waiting for you.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

New cabinet knobs

I was in the Habitat for Humanity resale store the other day and found some bronze metal cabinet knobs for only .50 cents each. They're normally around $2.00 each in the stores and these were brand new, still in the packs. I started with 7 for our master bath cabinets and loved them.

So I went back for 2 more for the guest bath cabinets. Then discovered that they matched the metal tile decorations that are in our kitchen. So, you guessed it, back to habitat I went for more. I will say that I did not make special trips for these. I took a chance and waited until I was already in town for other errands to get more to save on gas.

In total I bought 42 pulls and only paid $21.00 for all of them and they're brand new. In the store these would have cost me a minimum of $84.00.

Here are my old knobs. They were brass and I painted them black.

Now check out the new knobs and how well they look with the tile decorations.

I love saving money, especially when you get brand new items like these for next to nothing. Trust me, I would have never spent the $84.00 for these knobs in the retail stores but gladly paid $21.00 at Habitat.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Salsa at Home

I love restaurant salsa! In fact, in the past I would swing by the restaurant and get just salsa to go. Then I would make my own Mexican inspired meals at home using the good salsa. But it's not always convenient to get salsa from the restaurant. I have tried many, many times to make my own salsa but it has never turned out as good as what you get at a restaurant. I have also bought the salsa in the jars but it's way too chunky for me. I like my salsa smooth.

Well, the other day Jason brought home some salsa in a jar because he thought it would be more like the restaurant salsa, but it was still too chunky. But I had an idea, maybe I could put the salsa in the food processor or blender to break it down more to my liking. It had a great taste, it just needed to be smooth for my picky taste.

I checked online some and discovered that the blender was the way to go. So, this morning I dumped the jar of salsa in my small blender cup and hit puree.

I used my smaller, smoothie cup instead of the big blender pitcher to make sure the salsa would get blended well and to clean up a small container instead of a big one. I also let the cup sit on the blender for a minute to let the salsa drain down from the top and get to the blender blades. I rinsed out the salsa jar to get rid of the leftover chunks also.

And here's the after....

Wow! It's perfectly smooth! I'm so excited. I put the salsa back in the clean salsa jar and back in the fridge. It will be so much easier now to stock up on salsa and have it the way that I like it. Of course, if you don't want it as smooth as this, just don't puree as long.

You can use salsa for quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas and countless other meals or just as a side or snack with tortilla chips. If you like thin chips too, Tostitos now has a Cantina style chip that taste a lot like the chips you get at Chili's. They're so good and now with my smooth salsa, I'm all set.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Start and New Blog

Well, now that you know I am not working anymore, maybe you're wondering what I am doing. I am getting used to being a stay-at-home wife, trying to get healthier and also I am quilting. That's right, I quilt. I am sure that I have mentioned that before but I have taken it to a new level now.

I now have a longarm sewing machine and frame that enables me to quilt easier and faster than before. Quilting is something that I have enjoyed for a long time and now I have more time to do it both for myself and for others.

I'm starting to dabble in making quilts for sale or by special orders. I have started another blog to share some of my older quilts as well as the new ones. You can visit my new blog at www.sewtonya.blogspot.com and I will also put a link on the side of this page to it.

I hope you enjoy seeing my quilts and sewing projects and who knows, you might see me set up at a booth one day selling them.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thankful for Thriftiness

I'm sure thriftiness isn't a real word but it should be. The last time I published a post was about our paying the mortgage off and being debt free. I don't think that statement will ever be said or written without making me smile. That was around the late part of June and boy am I glad now because at the end of October I lost my job.

I can't tell you how much it helped us knowing that we didn't have that house payment to try and make anymore, let alone on one salary with all the day to day bills. As a family we decided that it would be best for me to not return to the job market. So with a lot of budgeting, money watching and more of our being thrifty, I think we will be okay on one salary.

It's still scary but I can't tell you how glad I am that we've been thrifty all along and also worked so hard to get debt paid off. I wish I could help more people to see that being frugal or thrifty doesn't have to be a bad thing and can often be your saving grace. It was for us.