Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oh, How I ♥ Coupons...

I had to share my deals of the day:

Walgreens -
Did you know that when Wags has a "Buy One, Get One Free" sale, you can use a coupon on the free item?  This was a revelation to me some time ago, and now I take advantage of the opportunity whenever it arises.  I had a $5.00/1 from coupons.com and a $7.00/1 from Nature Made Wellness Rewards, so I was able to get two big bottles of Nature Made Multi vitamins (300 tablets each) for $6.18, including tax.  That's a 10-month supply of vitamins for both hubby and me, thank you very much!

Target - 
Using a $1.00/1 up & up pain reliever coupon from Target, I got the $0.97 ibuprofen for free.  We sort of go through ibuprofen like water around here, so it will come in handy, even if I just throw it in my purse.  Big thanks to the blogs Totally Target and Penny Pinchin' Mom for the heads-up on this deal!

And that, my friends, is how you rock the coupons.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Little By Little...Getting Organized

At last!  A post that's NOT about food!  Proof that I do indeed have other interests.  Shocking, I know. 

I've been on a mission to get organized recently, so I've been browsing Pinterest for ideas.  Through it, I've discovered links to a lot of organizing blogs.  I♥Organizing, in particular, is pretty inspirational.

But honestly, I have to admit that I get a little overwhelmed by all the perfection found on the organizing sites.  I mean, I just don't see how people's homes stay looking so perfect.  I know at our house, I only just get all the kitchen counters wiped off and dishes done when someone inevitably shows up with a dirty cup to put in the sink.  And I can only imagine the serious amounts of cash spent on making closets and workspaces so neat, with the baskets, the matching containers, and on, and on, and on...  I try to inspire myself, and I only end up depressed.  Not so good!

Regardless, I decided to make a serious effort to add a little order to our lives.  The laundry room, the master bedroom closet, the deep freeze, and the "drop zone" exit out to the patio where we take the dog out all needed major assistance.  Here is a little peek at our results.

Jewelry organization in closet:
I have a thing about jewelry.  I have a lot of it.  We have a nice dresser with three jewelry drawers, which are great for earrings and bracelets, but not so good for (all) my necklaces.  Several months ago we were at an open house where the homeowner used a hook rail to hang her jewelry.  I loved the idea, but I couldn't bring myself to pay $50 for two of them at Lowe's.  But then I saw a similar idea on Etsy using cabinet knobs that was really cute, that I could possibly make for less.  Mike had some knobs lying around and we had paint.  It was just a matter of mounting the knobs to some wood and then hanging the rail on the wall.  This is how it turned out: 

Patio drop zone:
Then we took on the patio exit drop zone.  In better days it looked like this.

But now, because we have to take the dog out to monitor her while she does her business (another story entirely), we had coats, dog leashes, hats, and scarves draped all over the dining chairs and who knows where our gloves were.  It was a mess (no photo available) and it was driving me crazy!  I looked everywhere for a solution - Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Pier 1, World Market, Target - but anything I liked was either more than I wanted to spend (have I mentioned I'm cheap, er, frugal?) or the style didn't fit with our decor.  I finally discovered an acceptable piece at Hobby Lobby.  It had baskets to hold all our "etcetera" and it was reasonably priced.  It just needed a cushion, which hubby was able to come up with.  We bought some iron hooks to hang the coats and...viola!

Then came the laundry room.  While I love that our laundry room is on the main floor, it is really pretty small and there is a lot of stuff stored in it.  And it didn't look very neat.  I considered ordering custom fabric bins off Etsy or from Thirty-One, but then I saw some baskets at WalMart I thought might fit.  For $20, I had my solution.

Deep Freeze:
And finally, I tackled the deep freeze.  Due to my recent baking and cooking kick, it's full.  Really full.  And every time we wanted to have leftovers, we had to dig everything out, rummage through it to find what we wanted, and then put everything back and defrost our frozen hands when we were done.  Not fun.  I had used an inventory system before, but that wasn't enough.  I couldn't really find any great ideas on Pinterest, but I did find some older blogs that recommend the use of milk crates to easily store and move large groups of containers or packages at once.  I had a couple of milk crates (from my the laundry room, ironically enough) that I was able to re-purpose.  Yahoo!  Those, paired with two smaller baskets bought from the dollar store, and I had my easily sortable deep freeze.  I even put the whole system to the test tonight when I fished out the mixing bowl -- at the bottom of the freezer, no less -- for my ice cream maker.  I made the BEST ice cream ever, but that's an entirely different post.

This is the middle layer in the deep freeze.  On the right are the two milk crates, one stacked on top of the other.  The upper milk crate and one of the black dollar store bins easily move, revealing more containers below.  Everything is stored in freezer containers, original packaging, or freezer Ziplocs and labeled using a simple system of blue painter's tape and black Sharpie marker.

And the top layer, which is easily moved, looks like this:

On second thought, I probably shouldn't have made the leftover Reese's peanut butter bars so accessible.  That might haunt me...

The inventory is kept on a white board on the exterior of the freezer with a magnetic marker.  As we remove things, I cross them off.  If I can fit anything new to put in the freezer, I'll write it on the list and include it in the next typed edition.  Easy peasy!  At least I hope so.

We're going to live with these changes for a while and see if we can actually maintain the neatness.  Maybe eventually I'll have a dreamily organized house.  Baby steps.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Low-Cal Heartiness From Your Slow Cooker

I love, love, love to bake.  Sadly, however, my family cannot exist on cookies, cupcakes and bread alone (although it might be tasty to try).  I actually have to make nutritious meals, and I want them to be both hearty and tasty.  Quick and easy helps, too.  One meal that's a go-to since we started tracking our calories in 2010 comes from the Betty Crocker 300 Calorie Cookbook.  I've adapted it and kicked it up a little so it now has a bit more than 300 calories (about 355), but the servings are generous and taste good as leftovers as well.  It cooks all day in a slow cooker so it will be ready to eat when you are!

Asian Chicken & Noodles

2 packages (3 oz. each) Oriental-flavor ramen noodle soup mix
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups carrot, sliced
1 medium bell pepper (any color), chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1 tsp. ground gingerroot
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Penzey's Vindaloo seasoning
2 Tbsp. Mr. Yoshida's Marinade & Cooking Sauce
2 1/2 cups water
8 oz. bag fresh sugar snap peas (frozen works, too)

Spray a 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.  Place the soup mix seasoning (not the noodles), cut up chicken, carrots, pepper, celery, spices, marinade sauce, and water into the slow cooker.

 Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  About 15 minutes prior to serving, add peas and broken noodles.

Stir and increase heat to high.  Serve once the noodles are tender.

Serves 5

Calories:  Approximately 355, depending upon exact weight of chicken

Click here for a printable copy.