Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekly Shopping totals. Only spent $35 pretax!

Sorry, no picture this week of the groceries. I made several small trips to maximize some competitor coupons at Publix and wasn't going to keep the groceries out of the pantry that long. That's like asking for disaster in my house.

My girls like to say this time at the store, I bought lots of great toys. That is to say, lots of things that fit on the lower level of my pantry shelf they are allowed to play with and stack. Punky Brewster turned five this week and received a play kitchen for the big event. It's supposed to stay in the real kitchen so they can play cook with me.

So, what did I pick up for my whopping $25 (before tax. I never count my tax because it's so dang high!) I also can't share all the coupons because there were just too many. My head hurt after doing these.

Transaction 1:

4 boxes betty crocker potatoes
1 pillsbury freezer biscuits (won't be buying those again YUK)
1 publix Peanut butter
1 reeses candy
10 cans of soup

total before sales and coupons: $31.13
after sales and coupons (before tax): $2.21
total savings: 93%

Transaction 2:
20 cans of soup
1 publix peanut butter

total before sales and coupons: $35.99
after sales and coupons (before tax): $5.01
total savings: 87%

Transaction 3:
20 cans of soup
1 pillsbury freezer biscuit

total before sales and coupons: $45.83
total after sales and coupons: $7.19
total savings: 85%

transaction 4:

10 cans of soup
1 bottom round steak
1 taco bell dinner kit
2 totinos pizza stuffers
2 fleishman's yeast
2 fruit roll ups
1 pepsi max

(can you tell I wasn't alone on this trip??)

total before coupons and sales: $45.52
total after sales and coupons: $11.30
total savings: 76%

So my overall totals BEFORE coupons and sales this week?


AFTER coupons and sales?


for an overall savings of
78 percent!

I know that's not really "extreme" but considering everything I bought (60 cans of soup and MEAT), it's not too shabby.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday--October 24

With the fair all done, it's finally time to get back in to menu planning. It's amazing how much more money I spend each week on groceries when I DON'T take the time to plan out a menu.

I'm also so amazed at friends who come over, and seeing my chalkboard wall with our "What's for dinner tonight" section, comment that they don't know what's for dinner until just before they start cooking. I don't mind some spontaneity but I just can't imagine not knowing something basic like dinner, even if the only thing I know is which protein we're eating.

If you don't menu plan, I really encourage you to start a plan! You don't have to plan the whole meal, but at least plan your protein. We eat whatever is on sale, and this week, it's chicken. Lots of it. That's fine with the family because they were getting really burned out on the meatballs that were on sale a couple weeks ago.

Menu Plan

Sunday: Herbed chicken bake, risotto, veggies
Monday: Taco Chicken bake, rice
Tuesday: Southern fried pork, smashed potatoes
Wednesday: Crockpot chicken and dumplings
Thursday: some sort of leftovers, veggies, and rice
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Breakfast

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Last night we had our first Halloween party in the new house!

We ended up with 30 people in the house. It was pretty crazy, but fun.

At the last minute most of the kids decided to come in costume. We pulled out our dress up bucket so there were several wardrobe changes. Having a box of dress up clothes really means hours of fun. I usually hit the after Halloween sales and pick up more goodies for the box and give them as Christmas gifts. It's really a win-win.

The big kids at the party carved pumpkins. We love doing templates. We're just not at all creative when it comes to carving. My favorite this year is the Angry Birds pig.

Friday, October 21, 2011

total savings!

This week, I was given a $50 grocery challenge by a local TV station. So technically, all the groceries above were free ;)

I can't tell you exactly how much I saved and what I spent, but I can tell you, I kicked butt did really well. Not only that, I did it at Winn Dixie! Southern Couponers will tell you that saving big at Publix can be done in your sleep. Their sales ads and store coupons usually match well with the current flyers. WinnDixie takes a lot more effort. Before we even got started, I almost had to redo my entire strategy because there was debate on whether or not I'd be able to use overage.

The other big challenge for those super high savings like you see on TV for those in my area, is our sales tax is very high. Ten percent. Even on groceries. So if I give my store card at WinnDixie and my total is $400, I will be paying at least $40. No zero dollar totals here. And no change can be given back and the coupons cannot take money off the sales tax.

I did find a few AMAZING deals...and stocked up hoarder style: 72 packages of yeast. But I made money on each one. It sounds excessive until you do the math for a family of 8 that makes pizza every single weekend. We will use on average 4 pizza yeast packages a week. If I make breadsticks, even more! So that is, conservatively speaking, a year's supply of pizza yeast. It doesn't expire until next year, so it's all good.

The other great find: generic cheez crackers for 28 cents a box. I put back the name brand on BOGO. I could get 10 of the generic brand for less than I was paying for two name brand with a coupon.

I'm really excited for this story to air in November. Yes, you all have to wait that long to find out how well I did. In the meantime, we're going to be enjoying all of our pizza and cheez crackers for the next few weeks!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fair Wrap Up

Sunday marked the official end of the fair, and I have to say, it was a pretty good year...aside from Leelee like, almost dying. I'll get to that...

So our ribbon total ended up with:
Punky Brewster: 3 blue ribbons, 1 red ribbon and 1 white ribbon.
The Boy: 1 white ribbon
the Mama: 1 blue ribbon, 1 red ribbon and 1 white ribbon.

The last two ribbons I won were for casseroles. Remember that Bubbly Mexican Bake from a couple weeks ago? That took third place! And the creamy baked pasta I make took second in the meatless category.

Early this morning, I got to appear on the local news again, this time demonstrating my first place winning cinnamon roll recipe! As you can see from that link, they lost half the recipe somehow. Just linking to it to show that yes, my recipe really did make the news. Here's the full recipe.

The last contest we entered was cooking with chicken and that's where it was literally almost Leelee's last contest. Ok, I'm being dramatic, but seriously, she could have died and didn't, so I'm really glad about that.

Leelee has a latex allergy. Latex allergies can be tricky because you don't just react to latex. You can cross react with other things like avocados, bananas, and peaches. These cross reactions can be just as serious as coming in to contact with latex.

The winning dish was right next to mine and it looked amazing. I figured it won when I saw the judges picked the chicken clean! Leelee is such a little foodie and asked for a sample of the sauce. She tasted it and THEN asked what was in it...big mistake and one that I'm pretty sure she won't repeat. It had peaches.

Her throat immediately started getting scratchy and she started coughing. It didn't go beyond that, but it could have. We didn't have our epipen, so she took benedryl instead. It made me realize that I don't really know WHEN to use the epipen. How bad does the reaction need to be? Do I have to wait until she's wheezing?

So, the fair ended as best as could ever be hoped for...with my kids all healthy. And, you really can't replace that with pretty ribbons.

Friday, October 14, 2011

15 cents

This week I hit Winn Dixie and made out pretty well. My total was 15 cents before tax! That's right for a whopping 15 cents I got:

2 old el paso dinner kits
10 packages of pizza yeast
8 oz bag shredded cheese
16 oz italian sausage

I saved so much, I actually feel sort of bad about it. It feels like stealing. I know I had all the coupons, and I had LOTS of overage. I think what makes me feel bad is the computer requires an override every time a coupon exceeds the price of an item. The store allows overage, but sheesh...the computer shouldn't lock up every time it happens! Even when I have a coupon that is for a free item, the manager still has to come in and override.

I need to note something about the old el paso dinner kits. I don't like them. Well, let me rephrase, I didn't like them until my friend Christine over at My Bargain Quest told me she always stocks up on them for the shelf stable tortillas. I can sometimes find refrigerated tortillas on sale for under $1, but it doesn't happen often enough. Buying the dinner kits for 60 cents or less, I not only have shelf stable tortillas but also taco seasoning. It's a much better alternative than buying it all separately. Who says you have to use them together?

The other night, I made taco soup parting out a dinner kit. I still have the salsa and the tortillas. The salsa pack is just perfect for the boys to take on a camping trip without risking the salsa jar breaking open in the cooler. Trust me, that's a mess you really want to avoid.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

They like me! They really like me!


I think the grin on my face is so big right now, it might be visible from space.

On a complete whim, I decided to enter the Bake for the Cure event. I had to make sure I had all the ingredients on hand, which is always a huge task. My craving lately has been cinnamon rolls and then I thought "ohh apple cinnamon rolls would be yummy." Then it hit me...what's better than apples and cinnamon?

Caramel Apples and cinnamon.

Oh yes.

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls. They took me nearly all day to make. It wasn't one of those easy peasy overnight cinnamon roll recipes i'm so fond of. This involved not only making a cinnamon yeast dough, but actually caramelizing the apples AND making a caramel sauce from scratch because I didn't have any store bought stuff.

Was it worth it?

Well, the first place ribbon says it was! I've never won first place in a cooking contest before, and I wasn't expecting to win. It seems the only time I ever win at these fair contests is when I decide to enter last minute and just whip something together...well, not that these were whipped together, but you get what I mean. Leelee took the picture. I think she was shaking with excitement in my behalf.

So are you all just DYING for the recipe? Are ya? Are ya?

Ok. Just remember these are something you are going to drool over and never actually make yourself because they take stinkin' forever.

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

For the cinnamon rolls:
6½ T sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
5½ T. butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3½ cups all purpose flour
1 package instant fleishman's yeast
1 cup plus 2-4 tbsp. whole milk at room temperature

For the filling:
1½ T butter
3 Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices
¼ cup sugar
½ t cornstarch
¼ t ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 t vanilla extract

3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

For the glaze:
4 oz. cream cheese
1 T. butter
3 T. caramel sauce (I made mine from scratch or you can use ice cream topping)
1 T milk
½ t. vanilla extract
1 C powedered sugar

Cream together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter on medium-high speed until smooth. Mix in the egg. Mix in the flour, yeast and milk until a dough forms. Knead about 8 minutes until the dough is silky. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the filling. To make the caramelized apples, melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apple slices, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until the apples are evenly coated. Cook about 18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon to blend; set aside.

On floured surface, roll it out into a rectangle(about 12 x 14 inches for larger rolls or 9 x 18 inches for smaller rolls). Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix to blend. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the surface of the dough. Evenly distribute the caramelized apples over the top of the dough. Starting with the wide edge, roll up the dough. Pinch the seam shut, and with the seam side down, slice the log into your desired number of rolls. Transfer them to a prepared baking placing the rolls about ½-1 inch apart.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 75-90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

To make the glaze, combine the cream cheese and butter in a small heatproof bowl and microwave in 15-20 second intervals until it is warm enough to whisk together. Whisk in the caramel sauce, milk and vanilla extract until smooth. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Swirl the glaze over the top of the cinnamon rolls. Let cool at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

Lots of big winners!

Yesterday was the kids' big day at the fair. We had lots of winners!

There were three pretty big wins.

First, Punky Brewster took first place in the under 6 year old home baking competition! Her recipe is super easy and something a 4 year old can definitely pull off with minimal help.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 box spice cake
15 oz can pumpkin puree

Mix cake and pumpkin puree together. Pour into prepared or lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

They stay moist for a very long time :) And they are only 2 WW points!

Punky Brewster also took home second place in the crazy creations (they give the kids a bag of miscellaneous containers and cardboard and other assorted junk and tell them to build) and she took first place in under 6 pumpkin decorating. She ended up winning $70 in prize money! She plans to combine that with her upcoming birthday money and buy herself a new swing set.

Danger Girl was another big winner, taking first place in the crazy creations for the older kids. There were quite a few big kids competing. We were not expecting her to even place. It was a complete surprise to hear her name called. She won $30 and has plans to buy a pogo stick. We'll see...

The big upset came later that night in the Spam Cookoff. This has been Leelee's domain. She loves to cook and has gotten quite the diva attitude about her cooking abilities. I told her if she kept up the attitude she probably wouldn't win at all. And, after the judging, she was left more than a little annoyed because The BOY took third place! It was his first win ever at the fair.

The Boy made a Hootenanny, which is basically an oven baked pancake, just add spam. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. He did it all himself, including the chopping. He gets really nervous around the kitchen. I don't think any of the judged realized he has Aspergers Syndrome. This was just one of those huge personal victories for him. He never gave up trying to win something at the fair. And it was another one of those moments when I see him with the other boys who won (one was close to his age and the other much younger), it opens my eyes to how not typical he is. I sometimes forget because he's our normal.

1 C white flour
1 C milk
6 eggs
1/4 t salt
12 oz can Bacon SPAM, chopped

Blend up 1 c. white flour, 1 c. milk, 6 eggs, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Pour batter into greased 9x13 pan. Then, pour 1/2 cube melted butter over the top (do not mix). Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Cut in pieces, drizzle with Maple Syrup, serve.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I did some sewing

It's been ages since I broke out the sewing machines. One of my machines is having some issues and I can't figure out what's going on. It's one of those times I'm glad I have so many machines! The downside is now I'm "down" to one machine! I have four other machines that need some sort of repair :(

One of my favorite fair contests is a home sewing one where the children model the clothes. It's my goal when I sew for my kids for it not to look home sewn. I sew with my iron, making sure I press all my seams. I do french seams even though I have a serger. It's just faster.

This year, Leelee is barely young enough to be in the category with Danger Girl age sewing. So instead of competing against others sewing for their teen-sized kids, I get to sew for my teen-sized kid and compete with those sewing for little kids. I'm sewing for Danger Girl, Punky Brewster and Little miss, too. And I'll have two girls modeling in each category.

I really want to win. This year there aren't prizes for second or third place, just an overall winner in each age division. I'm hoping the fact that I sewed a much more difficult pattern (perfectly sewn zipper and pleats!) and did the fancy-schmancy seams, that I'll win the gift card to the fabric store.

Fingers crossed that my sewing nemesis at the fair doesn't pull out all the stops, too. LOL She always takes first and I always seem to take second. She usually wins because she sews for her boys and no one ever sews for boys. We have very different sewing tastes. Her items look like grandma sewed them and mine look like they were bought at a store :P

Anyway, here's my lovely Leelee modeling the absolutely gorgeous dress I made for her. It's Simplicity 2444. As far as difficulty level, I'm not a fan of the project runway patterns because it's too many choices, but this one wasn't too bad. After cutting, it took me about 6 hours to complete. But, I also made Cinderella in about 2 hours, so keep that in mind. It's definitely not a beginner pattern.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's Fair time!

The first week of October is probably my kids' favorite time of year next to Christmas. They really look forward to entering various contests.

This year, the fair started a bit early for Leelee and I. Last Saturday, we were called by the national organization that sponsors state fair cooking contests to do an interview with a local TV station about entering the cooking contests. Of course, I said yes! I never really mind being interviewed.

I really should have asked what the interview entailed before I agreed for Leelee and I to go on TV.

Not only was it an interview, it was also going to be LIVE and I had one minute to demonstrate the dish I placed with in the Spam cookoff!

I've watched enough Food Network Star to know the time goes very fast. I did as much prep work as possible the night before and tried to go over in my head what we could possibly be asked.

It went pretty well. I cringed watching myself because I realized I forgot to take my nail polish off. It was BADLY chipped. Terrible.

Today was the first day for the kids' contests and so far Lizzy is the only winner. She took third place in cupcake decorating.

Hopefully we'll do well again this year!