Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Do you have a Kroger near you?

If you shop at Kroger, or even if you don't usually, here's a great way to save a little money.

Until September 7th, when you buy a gift card there you get 4x the bonus points.  For every 100 bonus points you earn, you get 10 cents off per gallon of gas in a one time fill up of up to 35 gallons (I think it's 35).  You can also use these points at most Shell stations by scanning your Kroger card before you fill up.

I'm going to early buy a few gift cards for Christmas (although last year, Kroger ran this promotion before Christmas too)  Another thought is, if you buy stuff on itunes or Amazon anyway, buy a gift card at Kroger to get your gas points then use the gift card for yourself.

Last week, my husband and I bought a Shell gift card, so not only could we earn gas points, we could use them at Shell (on our trip) and make that gift card go even further.  You could do the same with a Kroger gift card if you plan to buy your gas there as well.

More bonus get extra points for filling prescriptions there.  My insurance offers me a lower rate if I mail order a 90 day supply of my meds.  Kroger accepts that mail order price, but fills it in the store.  Not only do I save on the cheaper co-pay for my Rx, I also earn extra gas points.

And they also double coupons up to 50 cents every day.

Let's face it, in this economy, every little bit helps.  And if I'm getting my groceries, meds and gas all in one place, I'm already saving time and money by not driving all over.  In one month alone, For just two people and only one of whom takes and Rx meds, and we really don't buy a ton of groceries, I saved $108.04 with couponsand "Mega Sales" and about $24 on gas. That's $132.04 a month.  That's $1584.48 a year!!  Add that to your crock pot savings per year (see a previous post) and you just paid for a beach vacation.

Think about it.

Until Next Time.....The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Free Recipe Finder Site

you enter what ingredients you have at home and it suggests tons of recipes from all over the web, for free.  You can even make exclusions if you have an allergy or simply don't like certain ingredients.  There are all different ways you can view the recipes, by entree or appetizer, etc.  There is also a tutorial to get you started.

I tried it and found a very simple recipe that I will probably try tonight, a version of chicken and Noodles that the author calls Renee Chicken.....

5-6 boneless chicken breasts
3 can of cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper
1/4 cup butter

melt butter in dutch oven
add chicken and cook.  1/2 way through add seasonings
add soup and heat to boiling
simmer 30-45 min
serve over noodles and mashed potatoes

it's a very basic recipe that needs some work, but that's what I like to do.  For example, I'll probably use my fave garlic salt combo instead of plain salt.  I will use chicken tenders instead of breasts, not only because that's what I have, but because they are more tender.  As it's heating to a boil, I will probably mash the meat up a bit so it's more bite size.  Yep, I'm ready to do this.

Until Next Time......

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cooking in Stainless Steel

Recently I took a techniques class that ended up covering quite a few things that I will be sharing with you.  To start with, how to properly cook in stainless steel.

A lot of people I know love the look and heft of these pots and pans but prefer non-stick to use because they say stainless is too hard to clean.  Actually stainless is naturally non-stick if used properly.

  1. always heat the pot or pan before adding liquid or oil.  If using butter, you know how as it gets hot it foams a little?  once the foam goes down it's ready.
  2. let any ingredients you plan to use sit out from the frig for a little while before adding to the pan.  You just warmed up the pan and adding too cold ingredients lowers the temp of it quickly.
  3. don't turn any meat until it's ready.  The stainless actually helps the oil to form a bit of a "crust" to form on your meat holding in juices and helping it to not stick.  We tend to want to turn things too early.  Shake the pan a little.  If your food moves, it's ready to turn.
Try really works!

Until Next Time.....Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ravioli Casserole

1 Tblsp olive oil
1 med onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
2 26-28 oz jars your favorite pasta sauce
1 15 oz can or jar tomato sauce
1 tsp italian seasoning
2 25 oz packages frozen ravioli (beef or cheese filled)
2 c shredded mozzarella  cheese
fresh parsley for garnish
(throw in some baby spinach if you have it)

spray 5-6 qt slow cooker with non-stick spray
in dutch oven, heat oil over med heat
cook onion and garlic until onion is tender
stir in sauces and seasoning
place 1 c of sauce mixture in slow cooker
add 1 package ravioli
top with 1 cup cheese
add other package ravioli
add other cup cheese
top with rest of sauce
cover and cook on low 5.5 - 6.5 hours

1.5 cup serving = 500 calories

Until Next Time.....

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quick Tip Week - Friday

We are independent, self-sufficient women (and men) right?  We can fix our own stuff right?  Sure we can, and here's a website to help. sells more than 11 million replacement parts for home appliances, electronics, computers and wireless accessories.  It also features expert written do it yourself guides so you don't have to pay someone $85 an hour to install your $15 dollar part!

I can't wait to hear from you about your success with this site!

Until Next Time.....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Quick Tip Week - Thursday

A great rub for steak on the grill....

one clove of garlic through a garlic press
enough olive oil for however many steaks you want to grill
pinch of seasoned salt (or your favorite spice)

Mix well and rub into steaks really well.

Until Next Time..... Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord all the Earth. Psalm 96:1

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quick Tip Week - Wednesday

Get a personal trainer and, really!

Go to and for a minimal amount each week you will get a virtual personal trainer who will create a fitness plan with your interests and goals in mind.  It includes daily meal plans along with your workout.

Happy sweating!

Until Next Time.....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

40 Clove Chicken

40 garlic cloves peeled
4 celery stalks sliced
3-4 lbs bone in chicken pieces without skin (bones help it to not dry out)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tblsp olive oil
1/4 c chicken broth or marsala wine
3 Tblsp lemon juice
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
parsley for garnish

spray 5qt slow cooker with non-stick spray, or use crock pot liner
place garlic and celery in pot
sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper
in large skillet, brown chicken in oil in batches (this is more for looks, if you don't brown it comes out looking very white)
transfer to pot
in small bowl, combine rest of ingredients
pour over chicken
cover and cook on low 3 1/2 - 4 hours or until juices run clear
I add an extra 30 minutes to an hour if I don't brown first

Until Next Time.....

Quick Tip Week - Tuesday

Drain clogged and no chemicals on hand.... or don't want to use chemicals?  Try this.

  1. pour 1/4 cup baking soda into clogged drain
  2. top it off with 1 cup vinegar
  3. let it bubble and fizz for 5 minutes
  4. pour boiling water down the drain
this should dissolve most any organic material that is stuck in your sink

Until Next Time..... May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quick Tip Week - Monday

I'm really booked this week, so I decided it would be a good week to try out "quick tips".  They will be about saving time, money, and maybe even a few quick fixes thrown in.

Have a great week!

Gas station owners usually raise prices throughout the day as they get info about what other stations are charging.  The best bet is to leave a few minutes early and fill up before work to get the best deal.

Until Next Time..... For I know the plan I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans for a future and  a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Pantry Part Three - ingredients

As I said in an earlier post, I have gone through boxes of cookbooks and kept only those recipes that I was sure my family would like.  I have been burned by too much experimenting in the past, so I decided to stick with what I know adding only a few new things.  I've never had an overflowing pantry, but with food prices and gas prices (making fewer trips to the store) I wanted a well stocked pantry with plenty of food choices, but not so well stocked that I would be throwing things out.

As I mentioned last time, pantry basics are going to be different for every family.  I took a two step approach to filling my pantry with our own version of the basics.

Step One
First, by using store sales ads and coupons, I stocked up on the things that were basically non-perishable that I knew my family would eat.  My favorite pasta and pasta sauce, some rice and noodle sides, canned soups not only to eat but to cook with, canned vegetables and fruit, cereal, sauces, condiments, etc.  The key here is not to go crazy just because something is on sale and you have a coupon for it!  Only buy something that you know will get eaten.... otherwise you didn't save anything.  If it is a really good deal, buy multiples.  I have a few recipes that call for the 14oz jar of spaghetti sauce.  My favorite brand NEVER puts that size on sale.  But I actually found it at The Dollar General for $1.00 a jar.  I bought 10.  We are already down to 6.

Step Two
Now you should try what I like to call "Once a Month Shopping".  Sometimes it ends up lasting longer than that though.  Pick 20 recipes, maybe some new ones maybe your favorites.  Now make a list of any ingredient you don't already have in your pantry, frig or freezer.  Remember to mark down more than one if you have multiple recipes that call for the same thing.  For example, the last time I did this, I needed 9 packages of mozzarella.  That may seem like an extreme purchase, but stay with me.  Now do the same as you did before, using your store ads and coupons to get all of these items.  I ended up going to the three major store chains where I live, a couple of drug stores, Dollar General, then ended up at Wal-Mart for everything else.

Why get 9 packages of cheese, when you could just go get more later?  Remember, our goal is to save money and that includes gas for a shopping trip.  Plus we're saving time.  I got enough cheese for 20 recipes....about a month's worth of dinner's when you throw in leftovers.  As long as the cheese won't expire before then, I got it on sale, with a coupon, and all in one trip in one day.  PLUS, I now have a list of 20 recipes I can choose from.  If I originally decide to have lasagna one day, but time gets away from me or something unexpected happens and I need to make something faster, or simply no one is in the mood for lasagna that day, I already have the ingredients to make something else.

Keeping it Stocked
Now that you have your pantry cleaned out, organized and filled with the things you know you will use, you need to keep it that way.  Always rotate stock when putting new groceries in.  Put the newer stuff behind the older.  Once every 6 months or so, take everything out and clean shelves.  Also make sure nothing got knocked over or completely overlooked.

ALSO, keep a magnetized notepad on the frig.  As soon as you use ingredients in a recipe, write it down on this list.  Then as soon as the next sale and or coupon comes along you can replace that item and be ready to make that recipe again on short notice.  This way you will always have a nice well stocked pantry with many recipes ready to go, also saving you money on those last minute "I guess we'll just have to eat out" trips.

Since doing this, my family has only eaten out twice in the last 6-8 weeks, and that was because we wanted to, not out of frustration.  It has saved us a lot of money, not only in food costs, but in gas, and we have eaten more healthy food.

Let me know if you have any questions about the pantry.
Until Next Time.....

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Pantry Part Two - basics

One of my summer projects was to go through all the cookbooks and cooking magazines I had saved for the past few years; about 5 boxes full!  I love to look at cookbooks.  In the front of a majority of cookbooks you will find a section on "pantry basics".  They list everything you should have on hand in your pantry at all times.

There's a problem with that.  Not all people cook the same.  For example, I'm not much of a baker.  So baking powder is going to go bad in my pantry and end up being a waste of money.  I also don't use a ton of spices.  I have certain ones I consider "stock" but I don't have paprika or celery salt in my pantry.  And contrary to your grandmother, you can't keep spices forever.  When it comes to spices, which can get expensive, I consider how many times I might make that recipe.  If it is something that I would only make say 4 times a year and the spice I need is 1/8 tsp, I'll do one of two things.  Either I won't include that recipe in my "rotation" or I'll find another spice that could fill in for it, or maybe leave it out all together.  Don't feel like you have to buy these expensive spices for one or two recipes.  There are websites out there that can tell you what to substitute, or like I said, in very small amounts, most likely you won't even miss it.

I went through one of these "pantry basics" lists from one of my favorite cookbooks and thought through my most used recipes and my cooking habits.  Out of 50 something items, I would only use 23!!  What a waste of money that would have been for me to just follow the list and go buy those "basics".

Here's the point.... go through your recipes, the tried and true, the ones you make a lot, and maybe some new ones that you're pretty sure you WILL use a lot, and make a list of those basics.  When I say basics, I mean things like.....
garlic salt (my fave, Lawry's coarse ground with parsley...use it in almost everything!)
worcestershire sauce
bay leaves
dried basil
baking soda (even if you don't bake, you can use this for so many things!)
cooking spray
seasoned salt
olive oil
vegetable oil
taco seasoning

I think you get the idea.  As you see, right now I'm talking about seasonings and condiments.  Next post, canned good basics you should have in your pantry.

Until Next Time.....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Pantry Part One

Part one is short and sweet.  OK, to write anyway.  Take everything out of your cabinets and or pantry.  Throw out anything that's out of date or anything that has been there since Tiffany and Debbie Gibson were teen stars.... and if you just said "who?" take out anything from before you were born.  Do not mourn the loss of money when you realize how much you will be throwing out, just do it knowing you will be wiser from here on out.

Now clean all the shelves and, if there is one, floor.  While that is drying and airing out, take inventory of everything you have left and organize it.  BUT, before you put it back in, will you really use it? Take mental stock of your recipes, do any of them call for that can of jalapeno pickled black olives with the pits?  If not, get rid of that too.

Now put what you will actually use back into your pantry.  Put vegetables together, soups together, condiments together, etc.  Also be sure all the labels are facing forward for easy viewing.

Wasn't that easy?  Part two will cover pantry "basics".

Until Next time.....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Preparing for change

Just a quick post today.... lots to do!  So It's gotten even harder to get by on one income, heck it's hard for two!  Have you noticed the prices at the grocery store?  Most have gone up while the size of the package has gone down.  I don't know about you, but that has really messed up some of my recipes.  Let's say my recipe calls for 12oz of something, but that package has been reduced to 10oz but the price went up!  To be able to make my recipe I have to buy two packages and spend even more money.

Restaurants have gotten even worse.  I recently went to a restaurant that I hadn't been to in awhile.  I usually get the same thing every time I go.  The last time I went that meal was $7.95.  This time it was $13!!  I got a soft drink, an appetizer and a meal.  With tip, I paid $32.  For one person!!!!  I wouldn't mind paying that every once in a great while if it was the most awesome food ever and I do usually get leftovers.  But my food was room temperature, not impressed.

I've already been working on this, but this night out only confirmed my plan.  I must eat at home, and eat home cooked meals, not junk, most of the time.  Eating out will only be for special occasions.  I recently went to the grocery store to get some items that were on sale.  I left with 4 of those small plastic bags for only $23.  But, to get a full, ready to go pantry without spending a fortune will take planning.  That will be the focus of the next few posts, so stay tuned!

Until next time...... what peace, what peace for those whose confidence is Him alone.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Foods to eat if you have arthritis

I read a lot of magazines.  Mostly just as a time filler, but every now and then I actually learn a little something; like this.  Here are three foods to eat that allegedly help if you have arthritis.  I read this in the September 2011 issue of Woman's Day.

Ginger, Pumpkin, and red bell pepper...... now I'm really in the mood for fall!

contains compounds that work like some anti-inflamatory meds, but beware that it can also work like a blood thinner, so if you are on one be careful.  To get more, grate the root into your stir fry dishes, or add to soups and smoothies.

certain antioxidants may help prevent arthritis, slow its progression and relieve pain by reducing inflammation. Pumpkin contains two of these.  Try to eat one can of 100% pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling) every week.  try a dollop mixed with vanilla yogurt with a dash of cinnamon to make a pudding.  You can also add a scoop to ground turkey meat sauce, taco filling or chili....allegedly it does not change the taste.  I'm looking forward to trying this in my chili this fall.  I wonder if it would work in the enchilada casserole... hmmmmmmmm.

Red bell pepper
They contain a ton of anti-inflammatory carotenoids and also 250% of your daily amount of vitamin C.  Try to eat three a week.  This should be pretty easy.  Add them to your fajitas, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, or just eat them plain with some dip.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you to see if this worked.

Until next time.... What joy, what joy, for those whose help is in the name of the Lord

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time Saver - Diced Potatoes

We want a homecooked meal, but don't always have time for the prep.  That's when we usually give up and go out to eat or order a pizza.  Or maybe you had a day like mine yesterday.  My husband wanted a roast with potatoes and carrots.  I asked him to check the potatoes for me to see if I needed to go to the store the next morning.  He said they were fine.  So it's time for me to start everything.  I throw the carrots in..... baby carrots.  They were cheaper than regular ones this time, and no prep, woo hoo!  I grab some potatoes and go to peel them.  I think they might be a little soft.  This thought is confirmed when, as I'm trying to peel them, they bend away from me.  Sorry Hubs, they are not fine!

What to do?  Recently, after reading some cookbooks that called for them, I started keeping southern style hash browns in the freezer.  Sometimes called home fries, they are diced.  Of course I get them when they are on sale and then they are there whenever I need them.  When your recipe calls for diced potatoes, measure these out and you are ready to go!

Keep in mind, that while this is a great time saver, it may not always be the cheapest way to go.  You'll have to figure that out at your own store.  I get the store brand when they are on sale.  Sometimes you can get a name brand on sale and there might be a coupon that came in the paper.  Even better.  Also weigh out the produce waste you usually have.  There are only two of us, so if I buy the ten pound bag of potatoes, that usually is cheaper, I have to figure out how much of it I might end up throwing away. There is no waste with the freezer potatoes.  Usually I can gauge this by the season.  I use fewer potatoes in the summer, but a whole lot in the fall and winter when I am making more roasts and soups.

The above takes a few minutes of planning up front, but once you have established the routine of your household versus the prices in your area, you're set.  For potatoes anyway!

Until Next Time......

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Living Well and Exercise with Arthritis

As I am about to cook today (another crock pot recipe) and clean the kitchen among about 15 other things I have to do, I start thinking about switching up my exercise routine for more energy.  But I have to be careful because I have arthritis in quite a few of my joints and one knee is particularly bad.  So what can a person do when you need to workout, but it hurts to do so?

WATER AEROBICS!!  No, it's NOT just for old ladies!  In fact there are two regular guys in my classes.  And let me tell you, on Monday I quit doing hard housework at home because when I'm finished at water aerobics that day I feel like I've run a marathon!  BUT my knee isn't killing me!  Every gym that has a pool will probably have a water aerobics class.  The YMCA has more than anyone else and their water is just a little warmer than most other pools if you need that for your joints or if you have Fibromyalgia.  In most classes you can burn anywhere from 200-600 calories depending on how much you put into it.  That's the other great thing, if I'm having a bad day, I can still go and just not work quite as hard.  I'm not burning as many calories, but at least I'm keeping up my mobility.

If you need less activity, but just need to work on mobility, the YMCA has a program called SilverSplash that is technically geared towards older people, but it's for the more severe arthritis cases.  One summer that I had a really bad flare up, I took this class for a few weeks just for the movement to break up the stiffness and I ended up losing 3 pounds.

My favorite part of the classes are when we put on a weightless belt and go to the deep end (I can't swim, but it doesn't matter with the belt) to do part of the workout.  You are completely weightless yet still working out with no impact on your joints.  Love it!  Some days I'm actually sad when the class is over.

The other thing is, when you have a chronic pain syndrome all you want to do is sit still, but that will only make things worse.  You need some kind of activity, but one without great impact on your joints or whatever parts are hurting you.  Some mornings I fight with myself to get up and go to the pool, but I am ALWAYS glad I did when it is over.  I come out of the pool actually having more energy, and I can conquer my chores and errands for the day without pain and fatigue.  OK, not so many on Monday, but I like the calorie burn!

What workout routines have you found that work for you?  I'm thinking of adding Yoga....we shall see!

Until Next Time..... I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

Monday, August 8, 2011

Got Peaches?

Everyone is selling peaches by the side of the road, so how 'bout a recipe?!

Easy Peach Crisp
1 stick butter softened
2 lb peaches sliced (more ripe are better.... you could also use 2 16oz canned peaches drained and patted dry)
1 c light brown sugar
1 c flour
1.5 tsp cinnamon

preheat oven to 375
mix sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl
add butter and combine with a fork until it makes a dough
place peaches in a 2 qt baking dish
spread dough over top
bake for 50 min

you might need to bake longer if your peaches are very firm.

Until next time......

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pork Chop Dinner

another Crock Pot recipe

1 lb carrots coarsely chopped
3-4 med potatoes cubed or enough to have about the same amount as carrots
4 boneless pork chops 3/4 inch thick
1 lrg onion sliced
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
2 cans cream of mushroom soup

spray crock pot with non-stick spray
place carrots and potatoes in first
top with pork chops, onions, dry soup, and cream soup
cover and cook on low 6-8 hours

Yum!  So.... shall I continue with the crock pot recipes, or would you like something else?  Let me know by leaving a comment, and I hope you'll become a member of my page.  Thanks for reading!

Until next time.....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Italian Pork Chops

16oz bottle zesty italian salad dressing
4 thick cut pork chops

spray slow cooker with non-stick spray
place pork chops in slow cooker
pour dressing over top
cover and cook on low 4-6 hours

To Make A Meal...
add cubed potatoes and thinly sliced carrots and onions BEFORE putting the meat in
cook for 6-8 hours on low

Until next time....Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches

.... A Crock Pot recipe

5 Italian sausage links, 4 oz each
1 med green pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lrg onion cut into 1 inch pieces
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1/8 tsp pepper
6 hoagie buns
(for added flavor and color, use some colored peppers)

in a large skillet, brown sausage and cut into 1/2 inch slices
place in 3 qt slow cooker
stir in rest of ingredients (except buns)
cover and cook on low 7-8 hours
use a slotted spoon to serve on buns

This recipe can easily be doubled for bigger families and crock pots. Add about 2-3 hours cooking time if you double or triple.

Until next time..... May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Psalm 115:15

Monday, August 1, 2011

Crock Pot tips as promised

Adapting a recipe to a slow cooker
regular cooking time 15-30 min = Low 4-6 hours, or High 1.5-2 hrs
35-45 min = Low 6-10 hrs, or High 3-4 hrs
50 min-3 hrs = Low 8-15 hrs, or High 4-6 hrs

It's a wide range due to sizes and shapes of crock pots, how much it is filled, and how hot yours runs.  Generally Low is 200 degrees and High is 300 degrees.  I have a newer one and it runs a little hotter I think as a recipe I use quite often gets done sooner in this one.

if you want to use a regular recipe in a crock pot remember NOT to add extra liquid as it doesn't boil away as in regular cooking.  For example, I have a soup recipe that I add extra water to and simmer it for 3-4 hours on the stove top.  To make that in the crock pot, I would leave out the extra water and even cut back on the amount of water it called for in the first place.

most crock pots will tell you (umm, the book not the actual pot) to fill more than half full but not more than 2/3 to 3/4 full.
If you are cooking vegetables and meat together, place the vegetables on the bottom with the meat on top.  The longer you plan to cook, the larger the chunks of your vegetables, especially potatoes.
One of the best things about the new crock pots is the removable liner. This way you can get everything ready the night before, put it in the frig, then simply put it in the pot and turn it on the next morning.

And, finally, resist the temptation to take the lid off and check on it.  When you take the lid off the temperature reduces rapidly and it takes a while for it to get back up once you replace the lid.  Manuals say it adds 20-30 minutes cooking time when you remove the lid.  Recipes don't need stirred or turned like they do with conventional cooking.  Peek through the glass or plastic lid and try not to open it.  Of course when I'm learning the new times in my new cooker sometimes I do open it, just be sure to write down any modifications you've made to your time.

I hope that helps some, and I would love to hear some of your tips, so please leave a comment!

Until next time......