Thursday, December 15, 2011

Using your stockpile: Clear the Pantry Taco Soup

I made this Uh-MAY-ZING soup last week while trying to use up some stuff in the pantry!  I think there are several variations on this same recipe and I just tried to remember from memory what it was (and threw in a few extra ingredients I"m sure).  In any case, it turned out FABULOUS!

Check it out:

Cook 1-1.5 lbs of ground beef and 1/2 cup sweet onion in skillet until meat is no longer pink.  Drain.
Combine the following in a 5-6 quart slow cooker:
Meat mixture
Taco seasoning packet
Ranch dressing packet
2 cans of Ranch style beans (you can also use pinto and black beans or any combination--I'm sure all would be great!)
2 cans whole kernel corn--I drained one and not the other
2 cans of diced chili-style tomatoes--undrained
Water (maybe 1 cup? I didn't measure!)
3/4 of a can of light beer

Then cover and cook on low 5-6 hours!  That's it!

I sprinkled sharp cheddar cheese on the top and served it with tortilla chips.  You could also garnish with sour cream.

I like to scoop and eat with the chips.  Yummers.

I didn't take a picture because my family literally DEVOURED it.

It makes ALOT so if you have a smaller family, freeze the rest!  I couldn't re-freeze because my ground beef had been previously frozen.  (You can't re-freeze meat once it has been thawed--Yucky).

So that is how you can make use of some of your stockpile pantry items!!!  I would love to hear from you if you make the soup!  This was a GREAT "rainy day" meal!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Letting it go (and being okay with it!)

We are officially starting the 12 days before Christmas.  Do you feel the pressure?  I do!  It seems there are a million things needing my time or energy: coupon classes, giving back (RACK), kid's parties, kid's gifts for said parties, designing, couponing, shopping for my own pantry, playing with my kids, all while trying to savor the season.  
It's ALOT.

I was in my mom's group this past Friday where we had a guest speaker talk about her (many!) Christmas traditions.  I love traditions--for our family, some are intentional (Elf on the Shelf) and some aren't (Christmas PJ's).  As the speaker went on (and on!) about her glorious traditions and associated memories, I could see the other mom's eyes glazing over and I knew what they were thinking: Am I NOT a good mom because we don't make cookies/have 5 trees/ buy Christmas PJ's/make a gingerbread house/have an elf on the shelf?  Of course we (should) know the answer: NO!  However, this time of year it is easy to feel obligated, and as moms, it is very very easy to make ourselves feel bad about what we HAVEN'T done. 

I am here to tell you to 

Let it go.

Here is a glimpse at what I haven't done:

  • I haven't RACK'd anyone in 3 days (yes three).  I know it's sorta been "my thing."  Life happens.  Mommies People get sick and overwhelmed. And you know what?  I'm letting it go.
  • I don't have a cool idea every day of where to move my elf.  In fact, I am thinking that next year the Elf might just stay at the North Pole! People take time off, and maybe our elf will too.  The kids will get a nice note saying he is sending secret spies so behave.  And you know what?  We will let it go!

  • I haven't looked at Pinterest in quite a while. Believe me, I love (and I mean really LOVE) Pinterest.  What I don't love is how it makes you feel that Oh-my-goodness-I'm-not-a-good-mom-if-I-don't-make-fabulously-creative-homemade-treats-for-the-classroom kind of feeling.  I love ideas.  I don't love guilt.

  • I haven't made sugar cookies with my kids.  This was a tradition I did with my mom and I try to carry it to our family as well. Oh well.  I'm letting it go.

  • I haven't decorated the outside of my house.  No wreath, no ribbon, not even a Merry Christmas doormat. It's okay and I'm letting it go.

  • I haven't contributed to my daughter's classroom gift for the teacher.  Let me pull a Rick Perry here: "Oops".  I have some coasters and mug and we will make it work (or maybe we won't!  Time will tell!) Either way, I'm letting it go!

  • I have said NO to many "White Elephant gift" type of Christmas party events.  I'll hug you in January and we will call it good.

  • I haven't sent out Christmas cards.  We have moved 4 times in the last 10 years--You want to know what I'm up to?  Find me on Facebook.  You'll see where my 2 year-old is missing two teeth, has had stitches, drinks from the carton of milk and climbs to the top of the pantry.  And that's just one kid!  Case in point of why I don't have the time or patience to try to send out Christmas cards.  I'm just trying to keep that kid alive.  

  • I haven't had our family's Christmas picture made.  Why? Aforementioned two year-old wouldn't sit still for it anyways.  We'll see ya in 2012.  I'm letting it go.

  • I haven't taken my kids to see Santa.  I made a (FREE!) video online where Santa sent them his own (personalized) message and we're good.  See ya in 2012, St. Nick!

  • I haven't used coupons as much as normal! This isn't related to Christmas, but hey--sometimes you have to do what you have to do.  And sometimes that means that you have to buy Poptarts at full price without a coupon.  And then you let it go.  You can't make yourself crazy over missing out on saving $1.

And you know what? Despite what we did or didn't do-- I'M OKAY.  
And better yet, my kids don't even really care. 
The anticipation of the holiday itself is plenty.  PLENTY.

And so maybe this point was a little mostly for my own benefit.  To remind myself that the kids won't remember what we didn't do--truth be told, they probably won't remember what DID do or even that we skipped a year on some many things. 

Because here is what it boils down to: CHRISTmas.  
It's not JACKSONmas or SANTAmas.  Really the only tradition that is important is reminding, and teaching, my kids that point.  
All of the rest of those traditions are just icing on the cake.  

Our guest speaker at that meeting made a great point--when you are gone one day, all that will be left is memories. Presents will make their way to yard sale fodder, food will get eaten, but it's the memories your family will still have of you during the season.  
I don't want my kids to remember a crazy and stressed out mommy.
I want to smile more and find more joy in what I'm doing for the holiday.

What about you?  How do you want to be remembered?

This my RACK for today--this advice for you (and probably for myself as well).  
Let. the. guilt. go. 
Or at least promise you'll try. ;-)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Drugstore Shopping

If you have taken my coupon class, you know that drug store shopping is my FAVORITE.  Believe it or not, I don't even go every week!!!  I really depends on how much time I have or how badly I want the items that are on sale.  Remember--it all goes on sale again eventually!

Here is what I did this week--no crazy scenarios, but I still managed to score diapers, medicine, a pedicure for a Christmas party, gifts for my RACK project (candy) and stocking stuffers for my kids for just $11=tax!

Take a look:

Transaction 1:
(2) Triaminic Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer 2 for $10
-(2) $3/1 Q from 12/4 SS
Total OOP= $4 with $3 Register Rewards ($.50 each!)

Transaction 2:
(6) Snicker’s Nutcrackers $39 with in-ad coupon
-(2) $1/2 Mars coupons (December All You mag and printable NLA)
I bought six so I wouldn’t get beepage –all 6 totaled only $0.34!
(3) Nestle Butterfinger Coins at 3 for $1.50
-$.45/3 December Coupon booklet
Kiss Nail art kit $7.99
-$1/1 coupon my Jedi cashier hooked me up with
-$1/1 December Coupon booklet
-Used my $3 RR from Trans 1
Total OOP:$4.05

1 pack Luv’s diapers at $6.99          $2 ECB
1 box Candy canes at $1.27             $1.27 ECB

And after FINDING peelies on the ground PLUS getting a coupon from the coupon machine I got…..
2 bags M&M’s 2 for $5                     $1 ECB
-$1/2 peelie on ground
-$.50/2 CVS coupon from Magic Coupon Machine

-Used Black Friday ECB’s: $2.99, $.99, $4

Total OOP: $3.78                               $5 ECB total                          
My total could have been lower, but I only went with the coupons I had in my coupon wallet (and found on the ground! ha!) so the M&M’s were a last minute purchase!

In total I spent $11.83 and saved $33.48 or 65% PLUS $5 ECB left to spend next week!

What is your favorite drug store to shop???

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

* Scroll to the bottom to see a running list of daily acts of kindness*

I don't open up very often about what is going on in my life.  You come here to learn how to save money, right?

But the truth is, it has been a tough year.  
Maybe it has been for some of you as well.  

Well this was probably one of the toughest years 
of. my. life.  
My faith, family and finances have been tested in ways I would have never, EVER, suspected.  I have had to face a lot of things about myself that I thought I had figured out in my 33 years on this earth.  I have said, on more than one occasion, that I was ready for 2011 to come to an end. I wasn't participating in the Facebook "Thankful Status" campaign.  I wasn't ready to be thankful. I was just ready for 2011 to END. Forget the holidays--all I could think was I just needed to "get through" so that I could start fresh in 2012.  

And then, I was faced with a series of people in my life who were GIVING THANKS for trials, poor circumstances and misfortune.  Many of whom had it MUCH WORSE than my "crappy 2011" had been for me. Some were losing homes, losing babies, and losing jobs, yet they were still grateful? 

At this same time, I was rushing around getting Christmas gifts for my little ones and crossing things off my list.  One of those things was purchasing an Advent Calendar for my kids.  For my kids, the calendars now include toys, gifts, and fun surprises--
the bigger the better! 

I lay in bed one night thinking about this dichotomy--people with nothing, yet filled with gratitude; and me having "everything", yet filled with attitude (and not the good kind!).
Something had to give! 

That's when I decided what our Advent Calendar would be:
25 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness.

I can't take all the credit--I was inspired by very creative people around the blogging world and posts like this one and this one.

I needed so show some gratitude to get rid of my bad attitude.  And my kids seemed to be picking up on it by turning into Brother and Sister Bear from the book "Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmes." 
(Please tell me you've read that??

So what does this have to do with saving money?  Well, I'm not sure that it does.  But maybe that is what I need after a year of clipping coupons and saving every penny I can at the stores: to give freely of myself, my talents, my service, my heart and my wallet to others--and asking absolutely NOTHING in return.

I have big plans for the next 25 days! I will post updates on our Random Acts as often as I can--most likely through my Facebook page--to help give you ideas for how you can R.A.C.K. someone this Advent.  However, I want to be present in these moments for our family, not for the sake of "blogging about it" so there may be a day (or week!) where you don't hear from me.  Don't worry, I'll do a recap in January.

To help you start your own journey, I have partnered with Punkin Prints who has generously created a free printable to leave behind when you leave your (mostly anonymous) RACK's.

You can also check out her super cute Etsy shop and get some paper products that will WOW your recipients!!!  I'm so lucky to have such talented friends!!

Get the RACK'd download here

Now go bless an unsuspecting someone (or some-more-than-one) with a surprise act of Christmas Kindness.I am committing to 25 acts of kindness, but what about you?  Can you commit to one?  Five? And what will you do?  Leave comments and suggestions below!

Acts 20:35
"In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'."

Day 1: Made cookies for the husband who had a bad day and needed to smile.
Day 2: Was a "coupon fairy" at Walmart by leaving coupons next to a product that made it under $1 after coupon! 

Day 3: Pulled a name from the Angel Tree (Melvin)
Day 4: Placed quarters on toy machines in Walmart

Day 5: Left waters on top of the garbage cans on pick up day for the garbage men.
Day 6: Left a bag of chocolates in the mailbox for the mailman (to which he exclaimed "YEE HAW" upon finding them)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Daily Deals Roundup! {update}

Here is a roundup of some deals you might want to snag today! Scroll through to see Saturday updates in red.

Groupon: $10 for a $20 gift card at Old Navy--must be used by 12/24! Limit 2.

Living Social: multiple deals!
$5 for a magazine subscription (great for stocking stuffers or gifts for teachers, office workers, etc...)
Office max deal is my favorite! $10 for $20 gift card!  Think: printer ink and paper for printing coupons!!
$20 for $40 of credit to
And more!!!!! $5 gift today was in my inbox!  Sign up and check yours!
 Real Simple Subscription $12 (One of my FAVES!)
 All You subscription $19.97 
Start at (Sign up and get a $5 bonus in your account today when you spend $25) and search which is currently offering 52% cash back!!
After using, you can get Real Simple for $5.76 ($.48 an issue!!) and All You for $9.59 ($.80 an issue!)  If you do All You for 2 years (you will spend the $25 and get the $5 Ebates credit), it nets down to $.47 an issue.
I love ALL YOU because each month it has TONS of coupons in it!  (And many are high value!) What a deal!  The double cash back offer on Ebates ends TONIGHT!

Eversave $25 for a $25 Walmart gift card AND $50 to  That is like getting $50 FREE to eat out!  YIPPEE!!! $10 credit if you sign up today PLUS almost free Melissa and Doug toys!
This pattern puzzle is just $13.49, so just $3.49 after the credit!  I wish I would have posted earlier today because some of the toys that have already sold out would have been FREE after the credit!  

They have tons of deals on there, so look around and decide how to spend your FREE $10!!

Plum District: This has become one of my favorite daily deal sites lately.  Here is a sampling of what you can get tonight:
Omaha Steaks is offering a $135 Hoilday package for $75  Use the 40% off code today cyber40 on this and it brings it down to $45 SHIPPED.  This is great quality meat!
Saturday code: Saturday40.  Lots of new deals posted today as well!  Scroll through several different cities to find lots of different deals!

There are tons of other deals you can use the ONE TIME code on.  Plus they are also offering $10 off if you use the code enjoy10.

I have my eye on the Crafty Kids Playhouse deal ($10 after $10 off code)

Crafty Kids Playhouses Everywhere Daily Deal
$20 for Creative Playhouses from Crafty Kids Playhouses - a $40 Value

(Thanks Couponers United for the 40% discount code!)

8moms (I just joined this tonight!!) Looks like another fab daily deal site AND it's partnered with the magazine Parenting, which I love.  I"m sorta obsessed with these.....
Anyways!  Get a $50 voucher PLUS 3 free samples of your choice for just $25. is a beauty and cosmetics website. I'm thinking this would be a GREAT gift for any woman!  My 18 year old niece would LOVE this for Christmas! (I hope she isn't reading this!)
And can I just say that the Green Garmento laundry bag and the Mommy Mitten (for your stroller!) look very interesting as well?  And FUN BITES!  I might have to have that--it cuts your child's food into (cute) bite-sized pieces.  Uh oh....this site could mean trouble for me!  Practicing restraint tonight though!!!

E-mealz:  Seriously love them.  Seriously.  They make meal plans based on what is on sale at the grocery stores that week.  Choose from tons of different plans from low fat to gluten free to weight watchers, regular meal plans and MORE!  They are giving 30% off a gift subscription this weekend using the code CYBER30.  That makes your first 3 months of meal plans only $10! That is $3 a MONTH!.  Click my link in the upper right column to go to their site and to sign up!

My last favorite site is Groopdealz. I just love it because their stuff is cute.  Period.
They have been introducing a new deal every few hours today.  I love the $1.99 Crazy Silly Straw Glasses.
And the $20 personalized duffle bag!
Or Maybe the cute $12 Ruffled skirt for my daughter?

Whenever you can, ALWAYS start with when shopping online!  You can buy tons of stuff and get a BIG FAT rebate check at the end of each quarter! is another site that does similar rebate offers, but it has mixed reviews. I don't personally use it. Find out why here.

I am expecting some more awesome deals as the weekend goes on--especially into Cyber Monday.  Get signed up NOW so that you can see the deals as they come in your inbox!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


My plan of attack for CVS shopping!--See my update below!

Here we go!  See where I got my matchups here.

Transaction 1
Colgate toothpaste 4oz $2.87
-$1/1 CVS coupon
OOP=$1.37                $2.87 ECB
L.A. Looks Styling Gel 26oz $2.49
-$1/1 Manu Q.
OOP=$1.49                $2.49 ECB
Bayer 20ct $.99
-$2/1 MQ (if overage is allowed)
Carmex .15-.35oz $1.00
OOP=1.00                  $1.00 ECB
Benefiber sticks trial size 3ct $1.49
-$2/1 MQ (if allowed)
(2) Theraflu Caplets 8ct $1.87
OOP=$.74                   $1.87ECB
Finish Quantum 10ct. $2.99
-1/1 Finish Manu Q
OOP=$1.99                $2.99ECB
Total OOP $5.07      $12.71ECB

Transaction 2
G.U.M. Toothbrush 2pk $2.99
Breathe Right Strips Bonus size 10+2ct. $5.99
-$1.50 Breathe Right Manu Q
OOP=$4.49                $5.99ECB
FiberOne 90 Cal bars $3.99
-$.40/1 MQ
OOP=$3.59                $3.99ECB
Listerine Pocket Paks 3pk $2.99
-$.50/1 Listerine Manu Q
OOP=$2.49                $2.99ECB
-$12.71 ECB from Trans 1
OOP= $.85                 $15.96ECB

Transaction 3
Sheets Energy Strips 10ct $3.99/$3.99ECB
Be Koool for kids 4ct $4.49/$4.49ECB
Softlips $2.00/$2.00ECB
Advil PM 4ct  $.99/$.99ECB
CVS Batteries AA or AAA $3.99/$3.99ECB
(1) Mars Candy $.75/.$75ECB
-$15.96 ECB from Trans 2
OOP=$.25               $16.46 ECB

Transaction 4
Universal Remote $6.99/$6.99 ECB
Exederin 8ct+bonusPM $.99/$.99ECB
Kleenex Cool Touch $1.50/$1.50 ECB
Balance Bar $1.69/$1.69 ECB
Starbucks Double shot $1.69/$1.69 ECB
Pepto Bismol 4oz $2.99/$2.99 ECB
(1) Mars Candy $.75/$.75 ECB
Total $16.60
-$16.46 ECB From Trans 3
OOP=$.14               $16.60 ECB

Transaction 5
Advil 10ct $2.99/$2.99ECB
CVS Flossers 90ct $1.99/$1.99ECB
Revlon nail $4.99
iChill Relaxation shot $5.29/$5.29ECB
Theraflu travel size $.99/$.99ECB
(2) Hershey bar King size $1.98/$1.98ECB
-$16.60ECB from Trans 4
OOP=$.63                  $17.24ECB

Transaction 6
Phillips Earbuds $6.99/$6 ECB
Wet n Wild nail kit $2.88/$2ECB
-$5.29 and $3.99 ECB from Trans 5
OOP= $.59                 $8.00ECB

Total OOP= $6.38 plus tax
Retail $92.44
ECB left to spend $15.95
Profit after ECB=$9.57

I will come back and update to let you know how it goes!!

Update:  They were out of the Sheetz and BeKOOOL fever patches I needed for Transaction 3 so I subbed in the two items from Transaction 6.

My total was $9.87OOP and saved $100 with $17.97 in ECB left to spend! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CVS Black Friday Scenarios

Here is the first of my Black Friday CVS Scenarios!  I don't know about you, but I will be skipping the malls this year in favor of some Black Friday shopping at CVS!!!  Even as a beginner, you can score some great products (for yourself or to donate!) PLUS make $3.50!
MOMumental Savings CVS Black Friday Scenarios (Beginner)

Transaction 1:
L.A. Looks Styling Gel 26oz $2.49
-$1/1 Manu Q.
OOP=$1.49                $2.49 ECB

Transaction 2:
Finish Quantum 10ct. $2.99
Hershey King Size $.99
-1/1 Finish Manu Q
-$2.49 ECB From trans. 1
OOP=$.49                   $.99ECB and $2.99 ECB

Transaction 3:
Listerine Pocket Paks 3pk $2.99
Hershey King Size $.99
Hot Wheels or Matchbox car $.50
-$.50/1 Listerine Manu Q
-$2.99 ECB and -$.99 ECB from trans. 2
OOP=$0                      $.99ECB and $2.99 ECB

Transaction 4:
Breathe Right Strips Bonus size 10+2ct. $5.99
-$1.50 Breathe Right Manu Q
-$.99 ECB and -$2.99ECB from trans. 3
OOP=$.51                   $5.99 ECB

Total OOP=$2.49=tax
Total Retail value=$17
$5.99 ECB to spend next visit.
$3.50 Moneymaker plus $17 in products!!!!!!

See this post for details on where to find your coupons.
Happy CVS'ing!

Black Friday Gameplan {Series} Day 5

Welcome back to the last day of my Black Friday Gameplan series!

Okay, you have done some research inside the stores to find out what your store will be doing on Black Friday.  You have also made your gift-giving list, explored other options--online and beyond--for saving on those gifts.  Finally, you have started your list of those items you want to purchase and track their prices to know what is a hot deal versus what is just Black Friday hype.  Today we are addressing two final things before the big day.

Set your budget and create your itinerary.

Now your budget for Black Friday is going to be very different than mine or anyone else's!  I have included a place on the Price Tracker download from Day 4 to include your budget (look at the bottom of the sheet!).  It will automatically deduct the price of your items from your set budget.  As you enter the price of each item you are purchasing, it will automatically deduct if from the overall budget amount at the bottom to give you a running total.  Pretty cool, huh?  Don't have the downloads from earlier this week?  Email me!  I will send them along!  You have to get moving on this!!  Remember my advice from Day 1?  PREPARATION IS KEY!

Now for creating your itinerary.
You have may have seen commercials or the online ad scans advertising the times each store will open.  Depending on what is on your gift list, and what store has the best price, you will need to create an itinerary for yourself so that you arrive at each store at the ideal time for you.  Some things to keep in mind as you create your itinerary:

Are you getting "Doorbuster" deals?  These are the "hot price" items from Day 4.  If so, you might want to plan accordingly and get there early to get in line.  

Will you have help?  Sometimes to get the best deals you can "station" people at certain locations in the store to grab your item as they are brought out. How will you know where the items will be located? Check out the store map!! 
(Thanks to a coupon class student for this tip!) 
Here are the maps I could find for 2011:

*Keep in mind these maps were designed to show you what section to look for.  Your store may be slightly different or a mirror image of the map.  Also, items may shift around as things sell out*

Now you are ready to make your itinerary!  Use my free printable to schedule yourself a Black Friday itinerary!  I have left room for you to list the items on your list for each store.
Armed with this, you should handle Black Friday like a pro! Email me and get your itinerary in your inbox today!

Here are some last tips before you walk out the door:
  • Check the weather!  It may be cold when you start out and warm up mid morning.  Dress in layers if necessary in order to shed as you go store-to-store.
  • Don't bring a full wallet/purse.  Black Friday is a thief's paradise.  Only bring what you need and keep it close at hand.
  • Beware of fake vouchers--alot of stores give out vouchers for top items so that people aren't just grabbing.  If you get the laptop, TV, iPod, will be given a voucher and (likely) taken to a different part of the store to pick it up to help ease traffic.  Beware if someone wants to "sell" you their voucher because they got it and no longer want it (I know someone that this happened to!).  It could be a fake!  I mean, really: why would you wait in line for 6 hours then sell the voucher for $75?  
  • Leave your kids at home. I know it's tempting to bring them to get extra vouchers, but really it could be dangerous.  I know you've seen it (at least on TV) where the doors open and people don't care who is in their way!  If they aren't at least 18 and 5' tall, leave them at home!
  • BE happy.  So you missed a deal?  Not worth being mean to store associates, other shoppers, or your shopping buddies over it!  After all, there is always next year!

And there you go!  You have a Black Friday Gameplan assembled and ready to shop!

What did you think of this series?  Was this helpful?  LET ME HEAR FROM YOU! 
{Yes, YOU--who reads my posts daily, but never comments--you know who you are!  ;-)}

I have NO IDEA what is helpful until you let me know!  I would love to do other series as well.
What would you like to see?