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8 Dec 2009   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Homemade Wrapping Paper

Wrapping-paper

Tip submitted by reader, Deborah:

One of our favorite holiday traditions is to make our own wrapping
paper. We collect all our paper bags which have piled up over the year, cut them open, and decorate the blank side. The kids love
decorating and giving presents in their special paper. And we save money by not having to buy wrapping paper!

Have a simple and frugal Christmas tip? Email it to me, along with pictures, and I might feature it here in the next few weeks!

5 Dec 2009   ·   2
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: The Freezer Cooking Day edition

Whew! It's been a big week here with the Freezer Cooking Day and yesterday's Giveaway Day! Thank you everyone for playing along!

Shoppingtrip
I only made one quick shopping trip in preparation for the Freezer Cooking Day. You can read more about it here.

Bakingday

And then I stocked up our freezer on Wednesday with all sorts of goodies. Read more about that here.

We should be well set as far as meals go through January. And with all the extra events and dinners that December often holds, it's possible our freezer meals might actually last through near the end of January.

————————–

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways?
If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link
below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you
personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order
to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in
their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content
other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to
make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your
link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

2 Dec 2009   ·   47
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking Day: The final results (and come link up your posts, too!)

Okay, so I just have to say that my new plan of action to do the cooking in one day, have the girls spend the day with Grandma, and keep my list on the simpler side, made a big difference. I'm tired tonight, but nowhere near wiped out like I was last time around. And best of all? My house is pretty clean and the cooking is D-O-N-E!

I started at 10:15 a.m. this morning and but for a few breaks to nurse Silas, worked straight through the day until around 6:45 p.m. tonight. And I got everything but one item crossed off my list!

Here's the fruit of my efforts:

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Breakfasts:

Pumpkin Pancakes x 3
Muffin Mixes x 3 (for gifts, breakfasts, and dinners)

Main Dishes:

Tuna Noodle Casserole x 2 (used leftover Thanksgiving turkey instead of tuna–it turned out looking very yummy!)
Broccoli, Ham, and Cheese Casserole x 4 (I just made up this recipe so I don't have a link for you. I used leftover Thanksgiving ham.)
Marinated Chicken x 4 (Pour Italian dressing over frozen chicken tenders and freeze. You can add in extra seasonings or sliced onions or peppers if you like. When ready to cook, you can throw it in the crockpot on low for 6 hours or bake it in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes. We like to serve this over brown rice. It's so simple and delicious! This is such an easy recipe that it really doesn't have to be made ahead, I just find there are days when it is nice to just dump a bag into the crockpot and go. Maybe I'm the only one who has those kinds of days?!)
Barbecue Chicken x 2 (Similar to the above "recipe" just pour a bottle of barbecue sauce and some water over frozen chicken breasts and stick in a bag and freeze. You can add in extra seasonings and/or chopped onions if you like. When
ready to cook, you can throw it in the crockpot on low for 6 hours or
bake it in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes. If you make this in the crockpot, the chicken will just fall apart after it's cooked and can be served on buns for BBQ Chicken Sandwiches. My husband especially likes this!)
Stromboli x 4

Snacks/Desserts:

Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists
Banana Bread
World's Easiest Christmas Candy
(Used saltines instead of Cheez-Its. These are seriously good!)
Sugar Cookie Dough*
Hot Cocoa Mix x 6*
Slab Apple Pie x 4 

*Thanks to C&H Sugar for sending me a little gift card to use to buy some of the ingredients to try out these two recipes. I was planning to make them anyway, so I when they wrote and asked if they could send me a gift card to buy some of their sugar, I was more than happy to oblige!

Things I learned from this month's Freezer Cooking Day:

::It works well to do all the cooking in one day. Splitting it up over two days seems to create more work, less productivity, and a much messier house.

::It is much less stressful to have a babysitter–and I get more done, too! I'm definitely going to be going this route for future cooking days. The girls had a great day, Grandma enjoyed getting lots of time with her granddaughters, and I was able to be much more efficient and focused in the kitchen.

::It is helpful to do the more intensive cooking projects first. By the end of the day, I'm running out of steam so it was good I saved the easiest things for last.

::I need to plan more in advance. Yes, I've been planning for this cooking day for a few weeks and buying groceries with it in mind, but it wasn't until a few days before that I sat down and made a list. And it wasn't until last night that I fleshed out my list. I think it would help if I made my game plan farther in advance and had the recipes printed out. Having to keep looking them up in different places just took extra time.

::I could save time by doing more prep work the day before–having the cheese already shredded, etc. would help speed up the cooking day. This is when more advance planning would also be helpful.

All in all, it was a very successful day and judging by how stuffed both of our little freezers are, I doubt I will need to do much of any cooking or baking this month–which will save me a great deal of time and effort and will also save us money since there won't be a temptation to get carryout because dinner's in the freezer!

Thanks again to FishMama and everyone else who joined us in this Freezer Cooking Day. My family thanks you, too. 🙂

Now I think I'm going to go fix myself a cup of hot cocoa and put my feet up for awhile!

——————————-

Did you have a chance to do any baking or cooking this week?
If so, post about it
on your blog and leave your link below to your direct blog post. I'd
love it especially if you could share pictures and recipes so we can
get ideas for our next Freezer Cooking Day! And I'm guessing many
others would be inspired as well.

2 Dec 2009   ·   54
Money Saving Mom

My Freezer Cooking Day helper

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As I mentioned earlier, my mom took the girls today so I could focus on cooking (I'm so blessed we live near family again!) so I only had Silas. It was so weird to be home just with him and I enjoyed the chance to get some quality one-on-one time with him.

When Silas wasn't napping, he played on the floor nearby me, or was on my hip watching my every move. I'm not quite as fast with a baby on my hip, but I've learned to manage pretty well with practice–something I've had quite a bit of over the last few years!

As you can tell from the above pictures, our little Silas is quite the doll! He's all boy and every bit Mommy's boy and we love him to pieces. And I'm sure someday, he'll learn to sleep through the night. 🙂

2 Dec 2009   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking Day: Experimenting with Stromboli

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I created a new Stromboli recipe today since I decided this one was too complicated. I used my homemade pizza dough and took that recipe times four. Then I divided the dough into four pieces and rolled them out and put organic roast beef, chopped peppers and onions, and shredded cheese.

(There are many more ideas here for fillings. Stromboli is so versatile–which is one reason I love it!)

050

I rolled this up and pinched the ends under and baked two of them at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and froze them and then froze the other two unbaked. We'll see which way works better. It looks delicious and I'm anxious to try them!

2 Dec 2009   ·   37
These Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists are SO delicious, easy to make, and a total crowd pleaser! Perfect to take to brunch -- especially on Christmas morning!

Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists

These Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists are SO delicious, easy to make, and a total crowd pleaser! Perfect to take to brunch -- especially on Christmas morning!

This recipe is one of our family’s very favorite recipes. I originally adapted it from an old, falling-apart Better Homes and Gardens bread cookbook my mom had when we were growing up. I’ve made these countless times and they are so easy to do and so yummy!

We like to serve these fresh out of the oven on Christmas morning. They are also great paired with an Egg, Ham, and Cheese casserole and fruit for a simple Christmas brunch.

2 Dec 2009   ·   11
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking Day: Slab Apple Pies

I'm glad I decided to tackle the Slab Apple Pies as one of the first things today because they definitely were a bit more work and if I'd waited until the end of the day, I'm pretty positive I would have run out of steam!

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I followed the recipe exactly as written here (Yes, can you believe it? I actually followed a recipe without making any changes or substitutions! We should write that one down in my baby book since it certainly is a rarity!)

I used mostly organic apples which I'd picked up a few weeks back at the health food store reduced to $0.99 per bag. They were still in pretty great shape and perfect for use in baking!

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After about 45 minutes of peeling, coring, and slicing (and wishing I had an automatic apple peeler/corer/slicer!), I was done with apples!

I made up the crusts and put everything into individual bags to be able to quickly through together this next month when I'm in need of a yummy dessert.

037

I almost gave in and made one up for dinner tonight since the picture of the finished result here looks so delicious, but I showed immense self-control and just packaged them all up for the freezer!

Next up: Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists

2 Dec 2009   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking Day: Pumpkin Pancakes

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No Freezer Cooking Day is complete without a beautiful apron from Marie-Madeline Studio!

The day got off to a rocky start since all of my children seemed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed and my patience was really tested as I tried to smile and get everyone dressed and ready in between the crying and crankiness. I wondered a few times if this Freezer Cooking Day was such a great idea, but I reminded myself that it would be worth it in the long run. So I pressed on and we finally made it out the door 15 minutes late.

After dropping the girls off at Grandma's house and coming back home and putting Silas to bed for his morning nap, I got busy on the Pumpkin Pancakes.

023

I tripled the recipe here and followed it almost exactly as written, except I used sucanat in place of the sugar. Like usual, I used organic milk from the freezer. I always buy organic milk when I find it greatly reduced and then freeze what we can't use right away to use in waffles and pancakes.

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The pancake batter was a little thicker than usual pancake batter and took quite awhile to bake. But the end result was delicious! My only regret? That I just took the recipe times three. I think I should have taken it times six!

Next up: Slab Apple Pies

1 Dec 2009   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking Day: My Detailed Plan (share yours, too!)

Bakingdaybutton

I'm planning to begin baking/cooking at 10 a.m. CST sharp tomorrow and am hoping to be completely finished and have the kitchen clean by 5:30 p.m. Yes, I'm probably being a little ambitious, but that's my goal anyway!

Since I ended last Freezer Cooking Day completely worn out, I chose recipes this time which required fewer steps and prep work. I'm hoping it makes things more enjoyable and less exhausting. Only time will tell!

At any rate, here's my plan:

1. Mix up Pumpkin Pancake batter and begin baking pancakes
2. While pancakes are baking, peel and slice apples
3. Make Slab Apple Pies
4. Make Banana Bread
5. Mix biscuit dough and stromboli dough
6. Make Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists and stromboli
7. Make Sugar Cookie Dough
8. Boil Noodles, Make Muffin Mixes
9. Make Tuna Noodle Casserole
10. Make Ham and Broccoli Casserole (added this in place of the breakfast casserole)
11. Make Christmas Candy
12. Make Turkey Shepherd's Pie
13. Make Hot Cocoa Mix
14. Make Barbecue Chicken and Marinated Chicken
15. Clean up my very messy kitchen and find room for everything in my two tiny freezers
16. Put my feet up and be thankful that I'm done with most of my cooking and baking for the entire month!

Stay tuned for live-blogging and tweeting (follow me on Twitter here) tomorrow on my real-time progress complete with pictures and recipes. Don't forget to follow FishMama on her blog and Twitter or the more that 160 other women around the country who are participating in this Freezer Cooking Day and tweeting about it with the hashtag #oamc.

At the end of the day tomorrow, I'll post a final wrap-up with recipe links and a Mr. Linky so you can share your accomplishments as well, if you've been blogging about any cooking or baking you're doing this week.

See you in the kitchen tomorrow morning! For now, I'm off to get a good night's rest!

Have
you posted your Freezer Cooking Day plans or progress on your blog? If so, leave your link
below so others can be inspired with ideas and new recipes to try.
Remember to link directly to your blog post.

1 Dec 2009   ·   4
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking Day: The Shopping Trip

Download

A freezer cooking day can't happen without lots of supplies on hand, namely groceries. While I have been stocking up over the last few weeks with this in mind, there were still some last-minute things I needed to buy for tomorrow's big Freezer Cooking Day. So I loaded up all three little ones and stopped into our local grocery store, health food store, and Aldi. Whew!

All told, we spent right around $50 for the groceries shown above including two big bags of chicken and four packages of organic grass-fed roast beef marked down from $8.99 to $1.59 at the health food store. Gotta love those kinds of bargains!

It looks like we'll be spending right under $100 total for this Freezer Cooking Day. It should well carry us through upcoming Christmas get-togethers, provide some homemade Christmas gifts, and take care of most of the cooking and baking for the entire month–especially since we still have some meals left in the freezer from last month's Freezer Cooking Day–so I'd say it's well worth the monetary investment.

I don't plan to buy many more groceries the rest of this month so the additional $75 or so we still have leftover in our grocery budget envelope should be plenty for the next four weeks.

But first I have to actually tackle the cooking!

Next up: The Detailed Step-By-Step Freezer Cooking Plan

1 Dec 2009   ·   5
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking Day: What can you freeze?

Bakingdaybutton 

Are you new to cooking and baking ahead and wondering what kind of
stuff you can freeze? As I
confessed last time
, I really have no idea what I'm doing so I'm not really qualified to write authoritatively on the topic.

However, FishMama is much more of pro in this realm than me and she has an excellent post up here with details on what you can and can't freeze, along with recipe links.

30 Nov 2009   ·   22
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking Day: The Master Plan

Mail.google.com

Tomorrow and Wednesday of this week (December 1-2, 2009), FishMama from LifeAsMom
and I are hosting another a Freezer Cooking Day. We'll be live-blogging our progress and sharing
tips and recipes along the way on both of our blogs.

If you'd like to
join in the fun, you can sign up at the Facebook Event page here, follow along (and participate!) on twitter with the #oamc hashtag, or just check our blogs for updates, pictures, and more! We'd love it if you'd like to blog about any baking or cooking you do and share your links here. I'll post a Mr. Linky up tomorrow so you can post your plans and recipe lists. In addition, I'll have a Mr. Linky up on Wednesday evening for you to post what you accomplished.

I tried splitting up my cooking between two days last time around and I ended up exhausted, with a very messy house and cranky children. It is so worth it to have most of the cooking and baking for the month done in one big swoop, but I realized I needed a different plan of action this time.

So I'm going to do my shopping and prep work tomorrow afternoon and I'll be doing the actual cooking and baking on Wednesday. My mom is willingly taking the girls for most of the day on Wednesday so I can focus on cooking and baking. And unlike last time, I plan to do nothing else besides feed and take care of my little guy, cook and bake, clean up the kitchen, and blog and tweet about my progress. We'll see if things go a little smoother this time!

Here's my Proposed Freezer Cooking Plan:

Breakfasts:

Pumpkin Pancakes x 3
Muffin Mixes (for gifts, breakfasts, and dinners)

Main Dishes:

Tuna Noodle Casserole x 2 (haven't decided whether I'm going to use turkey or tuna!)
Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole (using leftover Thanksgiving ham!)
Marinated Chicken
Barbecue Chicken
Stromboli x 4
Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Snacks/Desserts:

Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists
Banana Bread
World's Easiest Christmas Candy
Sugar Cookie Dough
Hot Cocoa Mix
Slab Apple Pie

A few of the items I'm making to give me a head start on Christmas gifts and to have in the freezer if I need a quick snack or dessert to take to the many gatherings which always happen around this time of year. I did this last year and it was a huge help! The rest are just things to help fill out our weekly menus for the month of December. We already have some meals left in the freezer from last month's Freezer Cooking Day so we should be all set after the cooking and baking I do this week.

I'll be posting a detailed and ordered list of my plan tomorrow and also a picture of the groceries I'm purchasing to pull this off. And then the real work begins Wednesday!

FishMama has her post up here of everything she's planning on cooking and baking tomorrow. I'm trying not to feel like a loser when I compare my list to hers especially considering she has twice as many children as me and she's not bringing in recruits to help with them. But I'm not superwoman so I just have to do what I can do! 🙂

30 Nov 2009   ·   13
Money Saving Mom

Menu Plan Monday: Lots of fresh juice and Thanksgiving leftovers

Thanksgiving

After a few weeks of not being organized enough to get a menu posted, I finally am getting it done this week!

We have lots of apples and tangerines to use up this week so we're going to be making fresh juice every morning–yum! I have found this is an excellent and nutritious way to use up a lot of excess fruit which is going to be going bad quickly.

We also have–you guessed it!–Thanksgiving leftovers. I've frozen some of them and am remaking most of the rest of them into other dishes this week and for our Freezer Cooking Day this week. If you have extra Thanksgiving leftovers, stay tuned for some ideas and links I'll be sharing over the next few days.

Breakfasts:
Granola over yogurt, fresh apple/tangerine juice
Whole-wheat waffles, fresh apple/tangerine juice
Whole-wheat English muffins, scrambled eggs, fresh apple/tangerine juice
Cereal, cranberry juice
Pumpkin pancakes, fresh apple/tangerine juice
Cream of wheat, fresh apple/tangerine juice
Oatmeal, fresh apple/tangerine juice

Lunches (my hubby usually has sandwiches or leftovers in his packed lunch):
PB&J, applesauce
Tuna Noodle Casserole, applesauce
Steamed veggies over brown rice, oranges
Turkey sandwiches, steamed veggies, grapefruit
Homemade mac and cheese, broccoli, applesauce
Leftovers x 2

Dinners:
Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole, grapefruit, homemade bread
Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, steamed veggies
Chicken Tetrazinni, grapefruit, muffins, steamed veggies, chocolate pudding
Turkey meatballs, biscuits, steamed veggies, mashed potatoes
Breaded fish, sweet potatoes, homemade bread, steamed veggies, Slab Apple Pie
Pasta salad with turkey and veggies, oranges
Dinner out

28 Nov 2009   ·   7
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Double Dollar Coupon Event

So I didn't get out early yesterday morning to hit the Black Friday shopping frenzy. But I did go out in the afternoon for the Double Dollar Coupon Event at our local grocery store. And as I suspected, the store was pretty empty and the shelves were full!

Here's what I came home with:

 Download

Before coupons and sales, my total was about $150. After coupons? I paid $47.36 plus I got $2 in catalinas back!

I was especially excited to get over 10 pounds of really beautiful-looking apples for less than $7 total! And I also was able to snag free toilet paper after coupons–something I've not been able to do in quite some time!

I'll be using some of this stuff for next week's Freezer Cooking Day. Some of it is for re-stocking our household supplies closet, and some of it, I'll be giving away or freezing to use for Christmas gifts and get-togethers.

I also purchased about 25 pounds of sweet potatoes this week because they were on sale for $0.25 per pound at Walmart. I spent an afternoon peeling and boiling and mashing these for Sweet Potato Casserole for our Thanksgiving gatherings and froze the rest to use as a side dish with dinners over the next few weeks.

I'll be posting my Freezer Cooking Day plan and next week's menu on Monday. Stay tuned for that!

————————–

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways?
If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link
below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you
personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order
to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in
their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content
other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to
make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your
link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

24 Nov 2009   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

MySurvey.com: Earn cash or rewards for taking surveys

Banner Ad

I've been posting about various survey companies recently and in doing so, I kept hearing about MySurvey.com and how great of a survey company it is.

I finally decided to go and investigate myself and was so impressed with what I discovered. After signing up, I was almost immediately given a really simple survey to fill out which earned me 25 points and have since had two more very easy survey opportunities, both which earned me 10 more points each.

From what I've heard, this company is just as good or even better than Pinecone Research. And the best thing of all? You earn points for every single survey you take–even those which are just qualifiers! So you will never waste time and effort on a survey only to discover you don't qualify. You can redeem your points earned for cash or prizes and every 1000 points equals $10.

Go here to sign up.

As always, you won't get rich filling out surveys, but it's a fun way to add a little extra cashflow to your budget. If you want to sign up with other legitimate survey companies you can go here for my recommended list of survey companies.