Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Simple Abundance in July, 2010

I'm still putting together my plans for cooking, menu planning and grocery shopping for July. My theme will be "Simple Abundance". I will be using what I have on hand as much as possible and hope to have a "low spend" month on groceries. I will still concentrate on using coupons combined with sales, but need to start shopping only to replenish the pantry.... and then actually cook FROM the pantry!

So, in an effort to kick start my plan of cooking more dishes from the pantry, this was last night's menu:

Rotini Casserole (wacky mac, cream of mushroom soup, petite diced tomatoes, cheese, browned hamburger, french fried onion rings) I had all of these things on hand!

Tiny garden peas (canned) In stock also!

Easy cheese cake (graham cracker pie crust, cheese cake pudding mix, milk, light cool whip) I have had the pie crust since I bought it on sale at Christmas. I bought the pudding mix on sale with coupons while coupon shopping yesterday as well as the light cool whip, which was on sale. We always have milk on hand. So it was a very frugal and light summer dessert!

My thanks go to Denise of MOUNTAIN QUILTER for the idea of making Rotini Casserole as a way to use the french fried onion rings! You can only eat green bean casserole so often and it was a delightful new recipe that my family liked.

I used the recipe found HERE. Even if you aren't interested in the recipe, please go look at the casserole dish collection shown on the same post. Aren't they gorgeous?! I have one similar in harvest gold:



I have had this one for over 30 years and I would love to start collecting more by searching yard sales and thrift shops.

Oh well, back to the subject of this post. I have come to the conclusion that I must really concentrate on eating from my pantry in the upcoming month of July! We are so abundantly blessed with foods of all kinds, including fresh vegetables and items bought on sale and with coupons.

Just yesterday I was given a bag of okra, a bag of new potatoes and corn. Last week I was given 12 pints of blueberries. After work today, I carefully went through the isles of Food Lion using some coupons that were about to expire and when I got home, my pantry was so full, there was hardly anywhere to store my new purchases. Also, We are starting to get ripe tomatoes and green peppers from our own plants.

The dirt still clings to these potatoes:



We love okra, both fried and in vegetable soup.



Our first tomatoes were picked this week. Tomato sandwiches, here we come!



We are so fortunate to be the recipient of gifts of fresh summer produce, but even if we didn't receive them, I pass by at least four places that sell fresh produce on my way home from work every day. If I need any veggies, I could supplement our food supply and help out the local farmers at the same time.

I have already made some progress this past month in cooking from the pantry by taking inventory and making a list of what I have on hand. I also cooked some dishes that included many of the ingredients found on the list. In July I want to continue with this quest of cooking from the pantry and also to make sure we eat the fresh veggies that are so plentiful this time of year so that there is no waste.

I am going to grocery shop only to take advantage of great sales and coupons and of course to buy milk, bread, eggs and meat. During July I plan to post the ways I have cooked from my pantry.

I am reminded of something my mother always used to say: "I can always knock up something to eat from what I have in my cabinets".

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Month End Coupon Organization



This is me sitting on my couch with the laptop, snuggie (which I definitely don't need these days) and my coupons.

Tomorrow is the last day of the month, so I started going through the coupons this past weekend to see if there were any that I especially wanted to make use of before they expire.

Saturday my mother and I made a trip to Walmart and I was able to use one coupon for $2.00 off Quattro Disposable Razors and $1.00 off fluorescent light bulbs. Both of these items were on my list of items to buy.

Today I need to pick up a few items at Food Lion so I'll check to see if any more of the almost expired coupons are worth using. If not, I'll happily throw them away. I don't intend to use them unless they are for items I really need and will use.

I hope to get my CVS and Walgreens list together today. I'm a little behind this week!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Great Gift Idea

Here's another great gift idea! Yesterday I made a hooded towel using an easy and quick tutorial found HERE and HERE at Obsessively Stitching. All you need is a bath or beach towel and a hand towel. The hand towel is cut in half, so one hand towel is enough to make two hooded towel gifts. If you want to be a little more fancy you can add trim like the John Deere fabric shown in the second link.

Now is a perfect time to make this project for gift giving, either for the pool/tub/beach for warm weather use, or for a Christmas gift that can be used by a child after a bath in colder weather. Beach towels work great and have kid type themes. These are available everywhere right now and will be marked down on clearance within the next couple of weeks. You know as soon as July 4th passes, all the summer things start being put on sale and clearance to make way for back to school things. So I plan to watch out for clearance priced beach towels.

My model was more interested in playing with his cars and trucks!





The hood used in this tutorial is made from half a hand towel which fits the child much better than putting a small triangle on the corner of the towel.



I can think of several children who would love one of these.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Food Lion Deals For This Week



****Don't forget to scan your MVP card at the front of the store before starting your shopping! Some of the coupons that have printed out for me were for products that were on sale at the same time. Many of the coupons have to be used the same day, but there are some on the sheet that expire at later dates. Unless these items are on sale at a good price the day I get them, I file them in my coupon organizer for possible use at a later date.

****I have found that the Food Lion Coupons that come in my Food Lion Email Newsletter may not be for items on sale that particular week, but the item is often put on sale before the coupon expires. So hold on to them until the expiration dates.

*** This weeks store coupons from my Food Lion newsletter can be found HERE.

These were the best deals at Food Lion that I saw for my family this week and these are good until midnight on Tuesday, the 29th.

Red Baron Pizzas, Buy One Get One Free. A $1.00 coupon printed out at the machine at the front!

French's Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce - 2 for $3.00. I used 2 $1.00 coupons so the final cost was 50 cents each.

Food Lion brand Cheese on Wheat crackers (these are actually made by Lance and taste the same as the ones Lance used to sell) $1.99. I used the $2.00 off 2 packages coupon from my Email newsletter, (see link for the coupons above), so these ended up being 99 cents a box. That's only 13 cents for each individual package of crackers. These are great to put in with a lunch at work for my hubby and for snacks.

Kraft BBQ sauce - Buy one get one free, The bonus size in the traditional flavor is included so you get two large bottles for $1.75, or 88 cents each.

Buy 2 boxes of select varieties of cereal, and get a 64 oz carton of Food Lion orange juice free. We don't eat a lot of cereal at my house, but cereal is great to donate to the Church food pantry. Also a $1.00 off any two Kelloggs cereals printed from the machine at the front! Corn Pops were 2 for $5.00, less the $1.00 Coupon. So I got 2 boxes of cereal for the Church food pantry and a carton of orange juice for us for a total of $4.00.

I also bought some 93% lean hamburger that is on sale and will buy a whole chicken that is on sale for 99 cents a pound this weekend to roast in the crock pot.

Happy Shopping!

One Small Christmas Gift Made!

Its still June and I actually made a Christmas gift! I'll admit its small, but its a start.

I searched the internet recently looking for tutorials for gifts to make. THIS TUTORIAL is for a cute bookmark that uses cute scraps. I love using scraps and have lots of them, so its a perfect idea. Its also really great that they are a quick project and use the small scraps that are hard to find a use for.

I made this first one as an experiment. My sewing machine has a hard time going around the corners, but I'm going to work on that problem. These will be cute for stocking stuffers and other small gifts.





I am having a good time going through my scraps putting together color combinations and themes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

101!!!! Oh No!

Its a heat wave! Our temperature is supposed to break the 100 degree mark today.

I won't be outside in the heat, but here are some pictures of the outdoors to look at from the comfort of your home!

The first Zinnias of the summer:





New baby aloe plants popping up!



Gerbera Daisies:




The pots of Impatiens that self sewed themselves:



The farmhouse mailbox with a pot of Petunias at the base:



This miniature rose had 25 blooms on it! The guard frog is watching for strangers:



The Portulaca (Moss Rose) that reseeded itself:



A view of the front porch:



The yellow Four O'clocks:



Stay cool!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Small Town America - Going Hog Wild!

You know you live in a small town in the South when pig sculptures are painted by local artists and put on display all over the area. There is a map for those who wish to locate all the pigs in sort of a treasure hunt. You can also vote for the best in "Sow" by paying $1.00 and filling out a Hammy Award Voting Ballot.

Pigcasso:



Annie Blossom:



Wasn't it nice of the town to put Annie Blossom near these stepping stones and bench so she could have company? Don't you love her outfit and shoes?



Swine-nancial:



The Sunny Side:



Susie Sow:



There are 24 pigs, many of which are in store front windows. Some of the other names are: Pigsician, Heavenly Gunter, El Cerdo Feliz, Hog Heaven, Bensley Bill the Wakeboarding Pig and Art and Soul.

Only in a small town in America!

I added this picture of my office. I think the yard is very pretty with the Crape Myrtles in bloom. This is an old house that has been converted into offices. There is a lot of history in this house. I've never witnessed a ghost, but sometimes there are noises..... never mind.



***** I love comments!************

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Set The Captives Free --- Second in the Series "Just Be"



You can see the first post in this series HERE.

When I ponder the phrase "to just be", my first thoughts are that it means to just stop moving, to be still and do nothing. It reminds me of the Bible verse that says "Be still and know that I am God", Psalm 46:10

I can think of all kinds of ways to keep my body still.... sleeping comes to mind..., but can you keep your mind still?!!!

A hymn I was singing in Church this past Sunday contained the verse, "setting the captives free" and I began to think of all the things I've kept captive in my mind.

It seems to me that if we are going to "just be", our minds need to be focused on good, peaceful, pleasant things.

So I came up with this list of "captives" that we can try to set free. I say try because some of them are very hard to release. But, all we can do is keep trying and let them go at least temporarily while we are trying to "just be".

1. I know this applies to every single human being. FORGIVE! But, its so hard to do. Think of the people in your life that have hurt you the most and pronounce that you have set the captives free! They might not even know you are holding them prisoners.

2. Those people and things that irritate you every day. The things that happen aren't even that important, but we let them stress us out. Set the captives free.

3. Its so easy to take offense at the smallest things. We don't have to let ourselves get angry so easily. Don't take things personally. Set the captives free!

4. Worrying never changes anything. If you are trying to "just be", set the captives free!

5. Are your expectations for yourself and others set too high? You are only human and can only do so much. Set the captives free!

6. Any mistakes made in the past bothering you? Move forward, fix what you can, and set the rest free!

7. Be aware of your thoughts. If Negative thoughts creep in, set the captives free!

*************************************
*** I love comments!!! ****

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Day of Summer....Christmas Gift Ideas


This is my grandson enjoying Grandma's bench on a recent hot day.

I hope you are having a great first day of summer! Shucks, its felt like summer here for about 6 weeks! This week is forecast to be a scorcher from beginning to end.

So now that the year is almost half over, what do you think that means? It means it will soon be Fall again! It also means that if I am going to hand make any Christmas gifts, I'd better get to it! I am committed to having some gifts made before the last minute this year!

With that being said, I also like to work inside on sewing or other crafts when it gets as hot as it is here this week (upper 90s and above).

Here are some ideas that I have for Christmas gifts.

1. A pillow case made in fabric that the recipient would like along with a new pillow. HERE is one I recently made for my son in camo fabric.

2. Another play mat for my grandson in a different theme, such as jungle, farm or cars and trucks. HERE is the Thomas the Train play mat I made for him last week.

3. A small throw size quilt, perhaps a quillow (magic pillow). If you don't know what these are, they are quilts with a pocket sewn on one end. You then fold the quilt in such a way that it fits inside the pocket. They are great to put on your couch or for a child to take to a sleepover or for nap time away from home. It can be used as a pillow or a quilt.

4. Tote bags. Both for adults or special ones for kids. My grandson would love one in fabric featuring one of his favorite characters.

5. A crayon Roll for my grandson.

6. I made new Christmas Stockings for all my family members last year, but there are other people on my list that I could make one for and then use the stocking to hold their gift, such as a food item. HERE is a tutorial for the stockings I made last year. Feel free to use the tutorial to start making them for your family.

7. Fabric bags made especially for holding food gift items. After Christmas the recipient could use it as a reusable fabric grocery bag. I have some kitchen themed fabric that would be cute for this. HERE is a tutorial I posted for these as well.

8. Rice filled neck pillows. These could be microwaved and then would soothe the neck, shoulders, back or knees. I love THIS ONE.

Those are all the ideas I have for now. As I think of more ideas and make some of these gifts I'll update you.

I'm really getting into the Christmas gift making spirit! If you have any ideas let me know. Is there something you wish someone would hand make for you?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Drug Store Deal Runs For The Week

Ok, the following shopping scenarios are getting kind of complicated for me to keep up with, but I'm excited to try! I won't be able to keep up this pace of going to two stores and doing two transactions at each one. However, this week there are some good deals at both places and since I'm on a roll, this is the plan:

CVS:I already have $11.00 in Extra Bucks to spend.

Transaction Number 1:

Purchase:

2 Colgate Total Advance Toothpaste at $2.99 each (There is a $1.00 coupon for this, but I've already used mine), EBs earned $4.00

2 Power Bars at $.99 each, EBs earned $1.98

1 CVS brand Ibuprophen at $3.99 each, EBs earned $3.00.

Total cost before EBs = $11.95. I will pay for this with the $11.00 EBs I have from last week, so I will pay $.95 out of pocket.

Total EBs earned $8.98

Transaction Number 2:

Purchase 1 BIG box of Huggies for $19.99, using a $1.50 off coupon.

Use the $8.98 EBs from the first transaction towards this. I'll pay out of pocket $9.51.

EBs earned $10.00.

So I will have $10.00 to use next time.

WALGREENS:

I have $6.00 in Register Rewards to spend.

Transaction Number 1:

Purchase:

1 Old Spice or Gillette Body wash for $4.49, earn $4.49 Register Rewards
1 Aussie or Herbal Essence shampoo or conditioner for $2.99, earn $2.00 Register Rewards.

Total - $7.48. Apply the $6.00 Register Rewards and spend out of pocket $1.48.

Total Register Rewards earned: $6.49

Transaction Number 2:

Purchase:

1 Renu Contact Lens Solution at $7.49, earn $7.49 Register Rewards

Apply the $6.49 Register Rewards from the first transaction, so I'll spend out of pocket $1.00.

Total Register Rewards for next time - $7.49.

**All of these coupon plans depend on whether or not my stores have these items in stock. My situation prevents me from going shopping until I am on my lunch break on Monday. Lots of times the best deals are gone!

***There are coupons available for lots of these items that would further sweeten these deals, but unfortunately I don't have them. I haven't been keeping up with my coupons very well, but am starting all over with organizing them.... on a very SMALL scale.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In The Kitchen With Debbie and Food Lion Deals



Just so you'll know, I grew up on a tobacco farm in the South and we did not grow or cook with fresh herbs. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. We grew and ate butter beans, corn, garden peas, field peas, cabbage, collards, chickens, pork and things like that.

Yesterday I cooked a dish using the first fresh basil that I grew myself. Isn't it beautiful!!!!??? I checked at the grocery store and a package containing about the same as the above small amount cost $2.00!

Its Pasta Primavera... Am I not getting fancy?



I looked up Pasta Primavera to make sure I really cooked it! Its an American-Italian dish containing pasta and fresh vegetables. In addition to fresh basil, my version contained mushrooms, garlic, broccoli, chicken, penne pasta and grated Parmesan cheese. The next time I cook it, I will use zucchini and bell pepper.

My plate sitting in the late afternoon sunshine.



For those of you that live in areas with Food Lions:

I got some great Food Lion deals yesterday. The cheese was free after using a Food Lion $2.00 coupon; the pasta was 15 cents after using a $1.00 Food Lion coupon; the eggs were 42 cents after using a $1.00 Food Lion coupon.

You can print these coupons HERE and HERE.



If you haven't already signed up for the Food Lion weekly newsletter, you really should. It always includes some pretty good coupons and what I like about it is that they are for produce, meat, eggs and other basic grocery items that you don't normally get coupons for.

There's a three day sale at Food Lion this weekend that I plan to hit. The best deals are 12 packs of Cottonnelle toilet tissue for $4.99 and Arm and Hammer Laundry detergent for $1.99.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coupons Again?

ok, so I'm trying to use my coupons again, on a smaller scale. This is my old coupon organizer which I bought from Gooseberry Patch, using my birthday $5.00 coupon, of course. Its getting a little worn, but it still works and fits in my purse or totebag.



This organizer is about as high tech as it gets for me!

At one time I saved EVERY coupon I could get my hands on, no matter what it was for, just in case a deal came up that I could combine the coupons with and maybe, just maybe... get it for free.

Well, I'm still interested in getting free stuff, but it has to be something we really need and will use. I don't have the time or energy to keep up with a big pile of coupons. So, I am simplifying as much as I can, but at the same time I want to save lots of money on my family's grocery bill.

I enjoy getting extra bucks from CVS and Register Rewards from Walgreens. Its fun to keep rolling them on more items, but it can become overwhelming if you let it. So, I'm not going to let myself get carried away with it.

One way I have failed in the past with this was by letting the extra bucks and register rewards expire. Here's how I am trying to avoid this in the future. I have set aside a pocket in the organizer JUST for the extra bucks, register rewards and also Food Lion Coupons. These coupons have a short period of time before they expire, so I need to keep them in a separate place, like this:



Since I usually make my drugstore runs on my lunch break, I wrote down the dates I need to have used them on a post it note which is on the front of my computer at work like this:



So where do I get my coupons from? We don't subscribe to any newspapers, but I still have more coupons than I can keep up with! My mother gives me her coupon inserts and I subscribe to the All You Magazine. I'm not a big fan of internet coupons, but will occasionally print them out. Food Lion emails me coupons that are good just at their store each week and I use lots of these, especially the ones for meat, eggs, and produce. In addition, all kinds of coupons print out at the register at Food Lion, CVS and Walgreens. CVS and Food Lion now have a machine at the front of the store that prints out coupons when you scan your little card.

Coupons are everywhere!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Pantry Inventory

In my latest attempt to save money and time with menu planning and couponing, I decided to do a pantry inventory. Before going to the grocery store on Saturday I listed what I had on hand and some meal ideas to go with the items. I put an asterisk beside items that would only be used as a recipe ingredient, such as the several cans of French Fried Onions I had bought on sale during the Christmas season.

French Fried Onions - check; Cream of Mushroom Soup - check; cans of green beans - check; milk in fridge - check; black pepper in spice cabinet - check. SHAZAM! I was definitely going to be cooking green bean casserole this week! Other items that I needed to use in recipes were brown rice, cornbread stuffing mix, saltines, apple pie filling, chicken broth and tomato soup. Some of these had recipes right on the package and I can go through my cookbooks or look on the internet to find recipes in order to use what I already have on hand.

While making my list, I also listed items that needed to be used... soon. On this list were sweet potatoes, squash, regular potatoes, bologna and a can of biscuits. So I put these on the menu for this week, and added any items needed to go along with these items to make a meal or a dish. For instance, I already had everything needed to make a sweet potato casserole (brown sugar, butter, vanilla flavoring, eggs, marshmallows). I was able to get many ideas for my menus this week just by checking to see what was about to go out of date.

The inventory also helped me to know exactly what I was out of and I made a grocery list based on that. It was so nice to not wonder if I needed certain things. I just felt so much more in control when I was grocery shopping this week.

We had a family dinner on Sunday, so while making these "food" lists, I planned our meal. I wrote down the dishes, a list of what I needed to do before going to church and what I needed to do when I got back from church. It made getting a big meal on the table so much more stress free. Here's my list for that:

Morning: Cook squash, chop onions, put together squash casserole in dish for baking later, boil potatoes, make string bean casserole, put chicken in crock pot with bbq sauce and put oil in pan and set aside for after church;

After church: Put two casseroles in the oven, Put bbq chicken in oven to brown, fry the boiled fresh potatoes, set table, make tea.

Here is my main pantry/food cabinet:



Inside:



These two cabinets are located beside the stove and I use them kind of like a baking center. They contain, flour, sugar, spices, cooking oil, coffee, tea bags, etc.





Here are my scribbled notes:



I want to start keeping this information in a nice little journal or notebook, so that I can refer to it each week.

Yesterday at lunch I organized my coupons.... after I finally found the coupon organizer! I haven't used it in weeks! Almost all of the coupons had expired, so I started over from scratch. I'm going to do couponing on a smaller scale this time. I just simply can't keep up with a lot of coupons in a complicated coupon organizing system, such as a shoebox, etc. It overwhelms me and I lose the incentive I need to use coupons in the first place.

More on my couponing in a later post!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strike While the Iron is Hot


Since this blog is dedicated to homemaking, I thought I'd occasionally post a homemaking tip.

Today's tip:

If you are doing any sewing at all, you know the iron is hot a lot! My ironing board and iron stay set up all the time in my sewing room. So, any time the iron has been turned on for pressing some sewing projects, I try to iron at least one item of clothing. This way the hot iron is put to additional use, while its hot, and just ironing one item of clothing at a time helps to keep the ironing pile monster under control. No marathon ironing sessions for me!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thomas The Train Quilted Travel Play Mat - Tutorial

(Visit my Homemaking Dreams Etsy Shop for hand made items, including this playmat.)

Time spent on an afternoon project was a joy... seeing my grandson play with the project... priceless!











My inspiration for making my grandson this neat Thomas the Train Quilted Travel Play Mat came from some tutorials I have seen that used fabric featuring cars, trucks and streets. Since my grandson loves Thomas the Train and this Thomas the Train fabric is the only one my local fabric store carries that would work, I decided to switch from cars to trains. And since I am a quilter at heart, I put a quilty twist on it. It has pockets for the trains and folds up to fit into his Mom's purse.

Here's how I made it.

I bought 1/2 yard of the Thomas the Train fabric. I trimmed off the selvage and evened up the edges. I then cut the fabric into two pieces on the fold so that there were two rectangles 18 inches by 22 inches. I had plenty of scraps and other fabric in my stash to make the pockets and binding, as well as lots of leftover quilt batting scraps. This is just like making a mini quilt. The play mat I made has the same fabric on both sides and the child can use either side for pretending to drive his trains.



I taped down the edges of one piece of the fabric, face down, before layering the mini quilt sandwich.



On top of the taped down rectangle, I layered the quilt batting and the other rectangle face up and then pin basted it.





Then I free motion quilted the quilt sandwich in a meander design.



This is what it looked like after being quilted:



For making the pockets for the trains, I used two pieces of coordinating fabric 18 inches wide and 10 inches long. I folded both pieces in half lengthwise which made the pockets a double thickness and about 5 inches deep. I pressed it well and pinned the raw edges on one end of the quilt. When the binding was sewn on the quilt the edges of this fabric were sewn down right along with the binding.



I then sewed on the binding. For instructions on this, see my quilt binding tutorial HERE.



After the binding was finished, it was time to sew the seams to create the pockets. I laid the toy trains on top of the fabric to see what size I needed. The little trains I bought to go with the mat are about the size of a matchbox car, maybe just a little bigger, and the pockets needed to be about 3 inches wide.



The finished play mat front:



Back:





After placing the trains in the pockets, I folded the play mat up from the bottom in 4 inch or so sections and added two small velcro squares to help secure the play mat. Then I folded that in half. I think if I make another one I will omit the velcro, since the play mat folded up and stored in my daughter's purse just fine without it.



This would work for lots of different ideas for kids. I'm thinking of a princess theme for a little girl with pockets for her small dolls. Also an army theme for a boy with pockets for the toy soldiers and tanks. How about a farm theme one with pockets for the tractors?

Another good thing about this project is that the child can take the small quilt to bed with them and use it as a cuddle quilt, without the toys.

Trim Healthy Table and an Amazon $5.00 off $15.00 Coupon on Books

I've been wanting the new Trim Healthy Table cookbook and was getting ready to order it for myself on Amazon for Christmas.  I was ha...