Monday, November 30, 2009

Crockpot Lasagna

This recipe has quickly become a family favorite. To me, it is easier to make than conventional lasagna, mostly because with the crockpot I can leave it be and not worry about it until dinnertime. I have a larger size family crockpot, so if you use a smaller one, adjustments to the amounts of the ingredients may have to be made.

Crockpot Lasagna

1 pound cooked ground beef

1-2 packages uncooked lasagna noodles

22 ounce container cottage cheese

2 - 26 ounce cans or jars of spaghetti sauce

4 cups shredded cheese

1 cup water

Place enough sauce inside of crockpot to lightly cover the bottom. Place a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles on top of that (I do have to break some of the pieces to get it to fit right). Place some sauce, ground beef, and cheese on top of the noodles. Add another layer of noodles, then add sauce and some cottage cheese. Alternate layers until ground beef and cottage cheese are used up. Then add another layer of noodles, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese on top. Pour 1 cup of water evenly around the edges of the lasagna. Cook on high setting for 1 hour, then cook on low setting for around 4-5 hours.

If I happen to have mushrooms on hand, I have added them as well. I also prefer to use the whole wheat lasagna noodles. Hodgeson Mills brand makes a really good one! This recipe also makes enough for us to have a couple of meals out of it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Planning Meals

I have decided that I am going to try to be more organized and less wasteful by planning our meals. We are going to give it a whirl, and I am sure that this is a great way to reduce spending! I am hoping that this will help me use up things like fresh produce before it goes bad because I forgot that we had it. I am thinking it will also help me to utilize the ingredients in my cupboard as well, before I go out and get more! I have thought of doing this before, but have never gotten serious about it. I think it will also help me to plan ahead enough to avoid eating out as much as possible.

I found some awesome printable meal planning charts over at . They have them for weekly or monthly menu planning. I am going to start out with the weekly meal planning form. I think doing the monthly one would be too overwhelming for me. I am also going to plan on having my family help me plan the meals by giving their input. By doing this, I think the transition to meal planning will go more smoothly and the family will be sure to have some of their favorites on the menu. I think I am also going to look around some more, they seem to have lots of ideas and tools for being more organized, and their printables are free!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Excellent Turkey Recipe

Looking for a last minute great tasting turkey recipe? Do I have the recipe for you! This is the only recipe I have ever tried, and I will not try another one because this one is so good! The family always gives it rave reviews every time, and the meat is super moist and delicious (even the white meat).

My recipe is based on the Paula Deen turkey recipe. I find it pretty simple to do, using my roaster instead of my oven makes it even easier. I use less energy, plus it cooks faster in there, and my oven is free to use for other Thanksgiving goodies.

Super Moist Roasted Turkey

1 turkey, thawed
1 medium sized onion, quartered
1/2 cup melted butter
2 bay leaves
Italian Seasoning

Empty the turkey cavities (don't forget to check the neck cavity - this has happened to me before!). Place the quartered onion inside the main cavity, along with the bay leaves (you can always add more fresh herbs in there if you like to add flavor). Close the legs by putting them back into the turkey stirrups (I have no idea what those things are called!). Take the melted butter and baste the entire turkey. Then sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the entire bird. Cook according to directions on turkey wrapper, or according to instruction in your roaster manual (this will be different than cooking it in an oven because it does have a tendency to cook faster). When the turkey is done, discard the onion and herbs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free Greeting Cards

I love going to the store and looking at all the cards when I need one for a special occasion. But then I see how much some of these cards cost, it's pretty crazy! I have seen regular greeting cards cost more than $5 a piece. Granted, not all of them cost that much, and there are ways to get nice greeting cards for a much more reasonable price. However, I often find that the cards available for $.99 are pretty well picked over, and there isn't much of a selection.

If you are on a tight budget and need a card, there are ways to do it for next to nothing. There is always the dollar store, they might have them pretty cheap. If you have kids, they can make a greeting card for whatever occasion you need one for. Some occasions may not be appropriate for this, however. You could always make your own greeting card as well. If you are good at things like scrapbooking, this is an excellent way to save on greeting cards and add a nice personal touch.

Then there's always the internet. There are plenty of sites out there that are devoted to free printable greeting cards. Some of them want your personal information before they will let you print a card. I tend to steer clear of these because then it opens up my email for junk mail. We just used a site today that looks pretty good. My daughter has a birthday party to go to, and she found a card she liked at . They even have cute little envelopes to make to go along with your card. There is also or . There are other sites that are free, such as but you have to become a member to use those. Happy card making!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Easy Stir Fry Recipe

We just finished eating some delicious stir fry! Yum! I used to buy the little seasoning packets at the grocery store that cost $1.00 or more per packet, plus you still had to add the soy sauce and the sugar yourself. I found some recipe ideas online to adapt and make my own stir fry sauce from scratch. I like it even better than the store bought packets, and the ingredients are things that I usually have around the house. Bonus! The honey and the brown sugar are interchangeable, but I prefer making it with the honey.

Easy Stir Fry Sauce

2-3 Tbsp cornstarch

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed, or 1/4 cup honey

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup cider vinegar or white vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups vegetable, chicken, or beef broth

Combine ingredients in a large bowl, mix well. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet or wok. Add meat and brown (if using meat). Add veggies, stir fry. Add desired amount of sauce and bring to a boil. Boil until slightly thickened. If you have leftover sauce, it will store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

We like to serve our stir fry over whole wheat or whole grain spaghetti noodles. Of course, rice goes well with it if you prefer that. We like using the noodles because it is something a little bit different, and it tastes great! I also choose to use all of the sauce at once, because we like our stir fry saucy :) I hope you like this recipe as much as we do!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe

This recipe is a favorite around our house! We eat it for snacks, and sometimes for breakfast too. I adapted this recipe from another one and made it my own. We have also served it to guests in our home, who always enjoy it :)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 beaten eggs

3 mashed bananas

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup ground flax seeds

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Combine ingredients in order given. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour in a greased loaf pan.

I have also used this recipe to make muffins with. Just place batter in muffin tins and reduce baking time to 30-35 minutes. This recipe will also fit well into an 8x8 baking pan in place of a loaf pan. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tips For Saving At The Grocery Store

We went grocery shopping yesterday. I am always on the lookout for savings, and I was pretty happy that I got a cart load of groceries for $75. With a family of 5, I think that is doing pretty well! I just thought I would offer up a few tips that I use for saving at the grocery store :)

1. Wal-Mart is usually NOT the cheapest place to get groceries. Their prices are consistently low, but there are ways to save at the grocery store even moreso than at Wal-Mart. Although, Wal-Mart will usually match the grocery store ad prices if you bring the flyer along with you. I just prefer not to go to Wal-Mart myself, mostly because of the crowds. The local grocery store also usually offers better customer service, like drive-up service to pick up your groceries, or a bag boy/girl to help you get them to your car. I have to say that I have really appreciated that service, especially when I have some squirrely children along with me :)

2. Shop the local grocery ads. You can get some great deals doing this! Usually the front page and the back page have the best deals listed on them. The best deal I got at the store this week was to buy two Dole bagged salads (2 for $5), and get a pint of grape tomatoes, a bag of shredded carrots, a cucumber, and a bottle of salad dressing all for free. I also got fresh mangos for $.79 each, and apples for $.49 a pound.

3. Clip coupons, but use them wisely! I clip coupons, but am cautious about how I use them. If I am going to use a coupon for something, it usually has to be on sale as well, otherwise it is not worth it to me. This week, I got some Red Baron pizzas for cheap. They were on sale for something like $3.79, plus I had $1 off coupons. My husband likes my home cooking, but does appreciate the junky food every now and then!

4. Buy less pre-packaged foods. We all love convenience foods, but they can get expensive, plus they really aren't that good for you. It does take more work to cook from scratch, but if you make extra it will last for a meal or two. Heating up leftovers is just as convenient as popping a frozen pizza in the oven. I don't usually buy convenience food unless is it on sale and/or I have a really good coupon to go along with it.

5. Know where the store clearance areas are. I have gotten plenty good deals shopping this way. One of my latest deals was buying several large bottles of John Frieda hair conditioner for $1.00 each. I have also gotten ziploc baggies for $.50 a box this way too.

6. Stock up when there are really good sales. If there is a product on sale that you will consistently use, it is worth it to buy alot of it. A while back at our grocery store, they had Secret deoderant and Xtreme Sport deoderant on sale for $1.00 each. My husband and I both like those brands, and we bought around $20 worth of deoderant. Those deoderants usually cost around $4 each, so at $1 each it was definitely worth it to stock up.

7. Check your receipt after you check out. I do this consistently, and you would be surprised at how often there are mistakes that result in being overcharged. One time there was a difference of over $8.00! It has happened often enough that I make an effort to check it every time. If you are overcharged, take your receipt to the customer service counter and show them what you were overcharged for. Sometimes the stores just didn't get the sale price in the computer correctly, or an employee may have mislabeled a product. Most of the time the store will be happy to sort out the errors with you and give you the difference of what you were overcharged for.

These are some of my tips for saving money at the grocery store. If you have any more tips, feel free to share!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hubby's Shepard Pie Recipe

My hubby likes to cook from time to time. When he does, I figure it best to stay out of the way. He takes over my kitchen! He made up this recipe tonight, and has offered it up for my blog. What a sweetie! It was a hit with the kids, and I will admit that it was pretty good too :)

Hubby's Shepard Pie

1 pound browned ground beef, buffalo, or turkey
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
4 oz. can mushrooms, drained
12 oz. can of corn, drained
2 cups prepared brown gravy
4 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

Brown the meat along with the onion. Combine ground beef, onion, worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, corn, and gravy. Spread evenly in a 13x9 inch baking pan. Top evenly with mashed potatoes, then with cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Free Crochet Patterns

It is getting to be that time of year when thinking about holiday gifts becomes more of a priority. I have been to several crafting stores today to look at pattern books for crocheting gifts. This year, I am more into slippers and socks. In past years, I have crocheted scarves, gloves, hats, afghans, etc.

My problem is that I like one pattern in each book, but I probably wouldn't use the rest of them. I hate to spend the money to buy a whole pattern book for just one pattern that I will use. I decided I would come home and look for some crocheting patterns on the internet and see what I could come up with. At least then, I can find one pattern I like, and I am not out $10 or more dollars for buying the pattern book.

The website has many, many, many free patterns, plus links to other free patterns. To see what kind of patterns are available on this website, click on the "site index" option at the bottom of the webpage. Their website says they have thousands of free patterns available. You're sure to get some new ideas for projects just by browsing around there! The picture on this page is actually their logo. What a neat website!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Great Turkey Sale at Safeway!

Click Here for the 2011 Turkey Sale!!!

I just finished reading the Wednesday grocery ads to discover that 'tis the season for buying cheap turkeys! For the last couple of years, we have made an effort to get to Safeway and stock up on their super cheap turkeys. This keeps us well supplied with some poultry for the entire year. If you are going to do this, it helps to have an extra freezer. If you don't, you could always cook all of the turkeys within a few days of getting them, and then freeze the cooked meat in freezer bags or some sort of container. We use the cooked turkey meat for all sorts of things, like turkey alfredo, turkey noodle soup, turkey sandwiches, etc.

The specials this week on turkeys are:
- Safeway Turkey up to 16 pounds, $5.88 each
- Safeway Turkey 16 pounds and over, $6.88 each
- Honeysuckle Turkey up to 16 pounds, $8.88 each
- Honeysuckle Turkey 16 pounds and over $9.88 each

These are each limit one, and require a minimum $10 purchase, plus you need a Safeway Club Card. In the past, I have been able to make a $10 purchase, plus buy one of each kind of turkey on sale. It is limit one of each kind, so you should be able to buy one of each per trip to the store. My family is very fond of turkey, and this is a great way to stock up on meat for a relatively low price. Check out to see if your area is having the turkey sale.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Diapering For Less

Ah, the joys of motherhood! Diapers! Diapers are one of the bigger expenses of having a baby. The Real Diaper Association,, estimates that it costs roughly $1,600 to diaper a child for two years in disposables. That's alot of money! (Note: there are lots of other interesting diapering facts on that website too!).

One of the ways to save money on diapering is to use cloth diapers. There are many advantages to this. Saving money on diapers long-term is a definite bonus. Using cloth cuts down on waste and disposal as well. You can always re-sell your diapers when you are done with them and recoup some of the cost. While you cannot sell used cloth diapers on Ebay anymore, there are other sites around to sell them at, such as Also, has very reasonable prices for a very simple cloth diaper. We use the diaper covers, and I really do like them alot!

One of the disadvantages of cloth diapers is that the initial upfront cost is quite a bit. It is like spending your entire diaper budget all at once. Buying used diapers can help with that, or you could make your own cloth diapers if you know how to sew. There are many free cloth diaper patterns out there on the web. Some mothers will also make diapers and sell them as a business. There are also ideas about how to make them economically for less on some of these websites. This website,, has links to several different kinds of free cloth diaper patterns.

Right now, we use both cloth and disposable diapers. I was converted to cloth diapers by a friend, I actually bought my first diapers used from her. To me, doing diaper laundry was just an added chore, but I have found that it really isn't so bad after all. I like to use the cloth diapers when we are home, and the disposables overnight and when we are out and about.

Saving money on disposables is also possible. I have found that the generic diapers, most of the time, serve our needs just fine. I know some people have to use name brand diapers for various reasons. If you use name brand diapers, sign up at or and get on their mailing list for coupons. They send out some pretty good coupons, and I have noticed that in this economy, the coupons are better than usual. Use those coupons when the diapers are on sale, and sometimes you can get the name brand diapers for the same price as the generics. Some stores, like Walgreen's, sometimes have really good sales on their brand of diapers, like buy one get one free. If there is a sale like that, it is a good time to stock up on diapers for a while if you have the money to do so. Target also has a really good generic diaper for a reasonable price. When we buy their diapers, we usually get a large box of them for around $13-$14 (considering that Pampers and Huggies are usually around $20-$25 for the same size box, the savings are significant).

Whether you use cloth or disposable diapers, there are ways to cut costs and save money!