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Top 11 DIY Recipes for Cheaper, Healthier “Convenience” Recipe Ingredients…Get Your Grocery Bill Lower Than Ever!

Cheap, Healthy Homemade Alternatives to Popular “Convenience Foods” Commonly Used in Recipes

Face it, there are a TON of ingredients that are commonly used in recipes that even the most vigilant home cook routinely reaches for on the grocery shelves without thinking that there may be a cheaper (and healthier) version available.

Here are several of the most common recipe ingredients that I’ve used in my cooking, and the DIY alternative recipes I’ve found for them. Even if you don’t use these all the time (I know life can be hectic!), they can come in handy when grocery sales/coupons are uninspiring, because they are generally way more affordable (even with sales and coupons!)  than their packaged counterparts.

These recipes are all easy, inexpensive and healthy. If you have a few extra minutes of time they are a great alternative to buying the packaged alternatives that are often laden with sodium, preservatives, and unpronounceable chemical additives. If you grow a few of your own vegetables and herbs in the summer, and/or buy spices in bulk, the cost for many of these is slim to nil.



Shop ‘n Save 2-Day Sale…3 lb Bags of Chicken Breasts Only $4…Some Easy Recipes for You!!

So many things you can do with a chicken breast!!

This Thursday and Friday at select Shop ‘n Save stores around the Pittsburgh area, 3 lb. bags of chicken breasts are on sale for only $4…which works out to around $1.33/lb. Not a bad deal at all!! I recommend a stock-up, as these bags normally go for $5 each, even when they are on super-sale like this!!

But what to make with all of that chicken breast??

First, if you’re buying in bulk, you’ll want to wrap the breast tightly in 1 lb portions (or whatever portions make sense for your family when cooking a meal). Even in the bag, chicken can become freezer burnt when you are taking pieces of chicken out randomly to cook meals, and you may not be sealing the bag properly….better to wrap your portions in saran wrap and then aluminum foil…then add a sticker with a date on it, so you know when to toss chicken that has exceeded it’s expiration date.

Most of these recipes are pantry-friendly, meaning you don’t have to run to the store to buy five “what the heck is that?’ ingredients.

Anyway, some great recipes using chicken breasts from all over the web, including a site dedicated to the picky-palates of children (featuring…you guessed it…chicken breast recipes)!!

  • Smothered Chicken Breasts ( Love bacon?? Try this recipe…
  • Candied Chicken Breasts ( If you love that sweet, tangy, tropical flavor, this one’s for you…
  • Chicken Parmigiana ( Bobby Flay’s famous recipe…you’ll find you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry/refrigerator!)
  • Barbeque Chicken ( Straight from the Neely’s recipe repertoire…instructions for the grill, and for the grill-less…
  • Mustard Chicken ( This recipe is for a whole chicken cut into sections, but this can easily be translated into several breast portions. Straight from Paris, France, this recipe simple to make, yet leaves a complex, satisfying taste on the palate. Impress your friends and neighbors!!
  • Chicken with Crispy Panko Coating ( Fans of the South, rejoice! Mayonnaise, mustard, and fried chicken breasts are given an Asian twist with Panko bread crumbs. It’s finger-licking’ good!!
  • Kid-Friendly Chicken Breast Recipes (Grandparent’s Cafe) FOR KIDS!! This page contains several “kid-tested, parent-approved” chicken breast recipes, if you have picky wee-ones!!

Have a great chicken breast recipe you’d like to share?? PLEASE leave a comment and let me know about it!! (I’m always looking for new recipes!)

And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog if you don’t want to miss out on any deals!! They will be delivered straight to your e-mail inbox for FREE!!

“I’m Dreaming of a Green Garden…” This Growing Season, Give Heirloom Seeds a Whirl!


So I finally have a house…which means I have a back yard…which means I can (Thank You Lord!) start planning my own vegetable/kitchen garden during these long, cold winter months!!

Now, I’m a seed snob. No genetically altered seeds for me, thank you very much. What do I mean by that? Aren’t all seeds essentially the same? No, my friends, they aren’t, and I’ll tell you why…the government pays big bucks to genetically “enhance” most of the seeds you are purchasing at the dollar store, Kmart, and Home Depot. I don’t want to go into too much detail for the sake of making this post ultra preachy and potentially boring, but seeds are altered, enhanced, and basically mutated for the profit of the seed companies (some of them don’t want you to be able to only buy their product one season and continue to use seeds from mature plants to plant next years harvest…so they cleverly implement a “terminator” gene into the seed that makes it necessary for you to start from scratch the next growing season and buy the company’s seeds all over again). Kinda defeats the purpose of growing your own garden from scratch to get away all the hormones, pesticides, and general junk that infests most grocery store veggies, doesn’t it? If the seeds are contaminated as well, why even bother??

This is why I just purchased a ton of Heirloom seeds. Not only are these seeds guaranteed to be free from government meddling, and grown organically without hormones, pesticides, and other lazy-man nasty things that the money-hungry companies may dream up, but the Heirloom seed movement is somewhat of a “secret society” of careful gardeners who take pride in preserving time-tested, historic, natural, and sometimes rare or even endangered plants…all through careful old-fashioned organic gardening, and the harvesting, preserving, and passing on of these precious seeds.

Just what is an Heirloom vegetable? Click here to find out if you’re still confused!!

If you are buying Heirloom, don’t be surprised to find that you are picking the exact same variety of tomatoes that Thomas Jefferson introduced to America hundreds of years ago! There are whole books written on the varieties of these seeds and plants, complete with fascinating histories about the age, places, and people who starred alongside them.

New to gardening? It’s important to find seeds and plants that are compatible with you. Meaning:

  • Will the veggies you plan to grow thrive in your “zone”? The US is divided into different zones that are based on the average lowest temperature likely to take place in the area. For example, in SW Pennsylvania, we are generally in zone 6a or 6b. So, the seeds that I selected came from an organic, Heirloom farm near Lancaster PA. I was sure to choose varieties of plants indigenous to this area, so I would have a better chance of thriving vegetables and a successful harvest. This handy map will tell you exactly what gardening zone you fall into.
  • How much space do you have? Do you have the room for 6 foot tall plants? Or, like me, do you have a small garden bed area, but lots of extra porch and patio space for growing vegetables in containers? That’s why I chose mostly smaller plants, but ones that produced a lot of product…cherry and grape tomatoes that do well in containers, miniature yellow and red bell peppers that look fab on an appetizer spread stuffed with crabmeat and cream cheese, or kebab-ed on the grill. A good seed website or catalog will tell you the nitty-gritty on your plants “personality”–it’s likes and dislikes, it’s good and bad points, the amount of sun and water that will guarantee you the best results. So while I mostly focused on small, prolific plants to get the most bang for my buck, now I also have the room to plant a few veggies that take up a bit more square footage (which I’m still looking into)…zucchini maybe, or a few melons?
  • What are the most “financially beneficial” veggies for you to plant?? It’s simple math…I can get a 10 lb bag of potatoes on sale at the store for a bit over $2. Is it really worth the space, dirt, digging, and cleaning necessary to harvest my own potatoes when I can buy them with my spare pocket change at the grocery store?? On the other hand, I love field greens (spring mix,  artisenal salad, whatever you want to call it!), but small packages of this stuff normally cost more that I spend on an entire pot roast dinner! Since they are easily grown, don’t take up much space, and replenish themselves for a minimal investment of money and time, I think it’s well more worth my time to devote some time and space to spring mix, and enjoy fresh salads all season long!

I would encourage anyone with the space (even apartment dwellers-I was one until a month! ago!) can easily grow herbs in windowsills and maybe some of the smaller varieties of peppers and tomatoes I’ve mentioned above on a sunny balcony, rooftop or front stoop.

Not only is this practice financially and healthfully beneficial, but it is environmentally friendly as well. When you buy veggies shipped from Guatemala, you are paying for not only the product, but the labor, fuel, etc. for it to reach you in your convenient grocery store in Boise, Idaho. And most of the time, these products taste like SHIT.

It’s quite sad that many members of the “younger” generation have no idea what a home-grown garden tomato tastes like…such a fantastic difference from the mealy mush that is being peddled in most supermarkets. I urge you all to buy a few dollars worth of seeds and taste the difference!! My Great-Grandma Carmella (straight off the boat from Italy) grew a FANTASTIC kitchen garden in McKeesport, which is a small town in the suburbs of Pittsburgh that was once known for its steel industry. She would make homemade sauce from said tomatoes, and homemade noodles, and homemade everything else too. We used to visit her as young children…she never spoke a word of English, but she always gave us a dollar to take to the candy store. 🙂

Here is a link to the site that I’ve purchased all my pepper and tomato seeds from, this woman grows and maintains dozens of varieties of heirloom seeds, many passed down from the Amish that live near her, and often provides a fascinating history of the plant’s origin: (especially good seeds for anyone living in the PA region, or 6a/6b gardening zone, as most of these plants were originally cultivated to live and thrive in this area and the temperatures that are normal here.)

A Few Other Good Organic/Heirloom Seed Sites

Information on Container Gardening, If You’re Short on Space

  • Container Vegetable Gardening (although this site is rather bare-bones, it will give you accurate ideas on which plants will fit in which size containers.)
  • Vegetable Container Gardening-Getting Started (Tons of tips, tricks, and practical advice for the novice gardener who doesn’t have tons of space.)
  • Indoor Herb Garden (Don’t have ANY outdoor space? You can still enjoy fresh, culinary herbs that will take your cooking to new heights all year long with the easy instructions from this site…just enjoy the tips and the blog, or order one of their kits if you’re feeling froggy…put it on Santa’s wishlist…)


So for all you fellow barganistas that are also concerned about health and preserving the good stuff from days of old…get out there and get gardening this summer with some Heirloom varieties of veggies! The taste will blow you away, and the $$$ savings will be significant, especially if you are used to purchasing organic (well, at least you are pretty they are) veggies from the grocery store.

I was AMAZED at the varieties and oddities of the vegetable world that I discovered on my trek through cyberspace while choosing my seeds.

And the histories behind some of them were truly novel-worthy!!

Grab your gloves and your hoe and get out in the garden this summer! Winter is the time to peruse the seed catalogs, and dream up you perfect garden! (word to the wise: seeds go QUICK, especially those types that are Heirloom and rare. The site I visited had already sold out of half of their seed stock, and it wasn’t even December yet. Get started to have dibs on the best and most coveted varieties!)

And once you enjoy a successful  harvest, don’t forget to pass Heirloom seeds along to all your friends!! That’s what the movement is all about!!



How to Eat (Well!) for a Week on $20…Without Coupons!!

You don't need a wad like this to eat great meals all week long...


Hi friends! I’m happy to report that we are (almost) settled in our new home, meaning I should now have the time and energy to do regular posts and coupon matchups! Yay!! I’m also happy to report that my new kitchen affords me A LOT more room to maneuver and whip up some tasty dinners.

Alas, a new house means we are putting out more money every month on bills, housing costs, utilities etc., so I’ve been thinking extra hard about how to cook up a week’s worth of delicious dinners (and pack a big enough lunch for Mike and myself), while spending even less money on groceries than we usually do. I guess my gratuitous shopping trip to Pier 1 Imports for new (upholstered) dining chairs and a hand-carved trunk from India to serve as a new coffee table (with storage space!) didn’t help financial matters much either, but a girl has to shop sometime (especially when decorating a new house), and FYI I got everything I wanted for half off or more, thanks to a few barely noticeable scratches and stains. Don’t be afraid to point out imperfections when shopping the more expensive stores, or to purchase floor models, it can save you a butt-load of dough!

My new coffee table from Pier 1...a trunk from India hand-carved from mango it at over 50% off!! Love at first sight!!

If you read this blog, you know that I spend around $20 each week…that includes food, personal care items, laundry detergent, cat food, and everything else in between.

If you are smart (and short on time, as I have been this past month!), you can still accomplish this goal without clipping a single coupon. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove the coupon game. But at certain hectic times in our lives, all the researching, sorting and clipping may not be possible.

Buying grocery store loss leaders, cooking from scratch, utilizing items that you have already stockpiled, and carefully planning meals will be your greatest ally if you need to go “coupon free” for a week (or a month).

Anyway, I thought I’d share next week’s shopping and cooking plan to illustrate how easy it is to have a weeks worth of tasty home-cooked dinners, and simple, filling lunches without breaking the new budget!

Here are my steps in accomplishing this goal:

  1. Take stock of your pantry/stockpile. This will let you see what you have on hand, and you’ll probably see that you already have the ingredients for quite a few meals before you even have to open your wallet. Can of beans and a bag of onions? You’re halfway there towards a huge pot of chili. Tuna pouches galore? (guilty!) Try tuna croquettes, a tuna-based pasta sauce, or good old fashioned tuna noodle casserole (or even Tuna Helper…thanks to some awesome sales on Tuna Helper, my pantry probably contains about 40 boxes of the stuff for lazy, hassle-free dinners.
  2. Read your grocery store ads, and make note of the best deals (loss leaders). These are usually on meat, lunchmeat and veggies. When I see a great deal, I stock up in bulk, portion it out, and freeze it. For example, this week’s ads are compelling me to buy ground chuck (at $1.89 per lb), whole chickens (at .98 cents per pound), and seedless grapes (at .99 cents per pound). Combined with the deals I got in the past week or two (chipped ham for sandwiches at $1.98 per pound, a 10 lb bag of potatoes for $2.25, etc., I should be able to come up with some fantastically tasty (and super-cheap) dinners for the week.
  3. Plan your dinner menu for the week. This saves time, money and, most importantly, your sanity. Remember those chickens for 99 cents/lb I told you about?? Well, with careful planning, a 5 lb bird will easily feed us for 3 days, and the meals will be so different, it won’t get boring. I’ll show you my meal plan shortly.
  4. Keep lunches simple. And breakfast too. Here’s my answer to lunch: I stock up on lunch meat when it’s cheap ( like last week) and freeze it into pound-sized portions. Mike usually gets sandwiches made with said cheap meat and homemade/on-sale/bakery outlet bread. On the side I pack him brownies and cupcakes I make at home from mixes I bought for a quarter or less (sale+coupons), hopefully some fresh fruit (like those grapes for 99 cents/lb), and often some leftovers. Sometimes I’ll make a huge pot of chili or soup early in the week for dinner one night, and use the leftovers to put in his thermos for the rest of the week. It costs me around 50 to 75 cents a day to send him to work with a manly-man sized lunch. Breakfast is usually some cereal or scrambled eggs and toast.
  5. Try doing one meatless dinner per week. A simple pasta, some pierogies with fried onions and sour cream, filling bean burritos, or some black beans ‘n rice are just as satisfying as a hunk of cow. I know the man in your life might protest at first, but sweeten the deal with some homemade, fresh-from-the-oven brownies or cupcakes after dinner. This works especially well if you’re not the Betty Crocker type.
  6. When following a recipe, use slightly less than the called-for amount of meat. As I’ve said before, I portion my ground meat into 3/4 lb portions instead of 1 lb portions, which is what a typical recipe calls for (meat loaf or burritos or tacos or a casserole). No one is ever the wiser, and that 3 lb package of ground chuck just became 4 meals instead of 3 thanks to your craftiness. Good for your heart, great for your wallet!
  7. When it comes to meat, start big and work your way down. I call this method of cooking my 3-Day Plan. By this, I mean it’s usually much cheaper (and tastier) to purchase a whole chicken than boneless, skinless breasts, and you are able to stretch that bird into 3 nights of mouth-watering, unique dinners. Ditto for a roast as opposed to those pre-cut hunks of stew meat that cost about a billion dollars per pound. Don’t pay for small conveniences! You can buy a pork-butt roast and cook it up whole the first night, with some mashed potatoes and veggies on the side, and then re-purpose the leftovers the next night by whipping up some Carnita Quesadillas with the leftover shredded pork, some sauteed onions and green peppers, and a little leftover shredded cheese. Slap it on some flour tortillas, and grill it up on the stove-top grilled-cheese style. Serve some cheap -as -dirt rice on the side, with some mexican seasonings and maybe a can of kidney beans. The next night use the rest of the leftover meat in a stew or soup. If you’re stumped for ideas, the internet is a wealth of information. Some sites, like, allow you to search for recipes based on ingredients. Be creative! I’ll show you my 3-day plan using the 98 cent/lb chicken below.
  8. Know which stores have the lowest prices for staple items you regularly buy! Especially if you are too busy to do the coupon dance. For example, I know Aldi’s has loaves of whole wheat bread for 69 cents. Dollar General has the cheapest olive oil if I need it. And so on and so on. Don’t get stuck paying a gazillion dollars at the grocery store on a jar of cajun seasoning you need for a recipe. I can tell you from experience: walk away from the overpriced, teeny-tiny spice jar that costs $4.99!! Go next door to your local dollar store and get it for 50 cents. Put it in a cute spice jar. I won’t tell. Trust me, the difference isn’t that noticeable.
  9. Be on the lookout for great sales that you can combine with coupons (especially double coupons!), and when you find them, STOCK UP!! This is how I came to have a pantry/freezer that is full of commonly used staples like frozen vegetables, shredded cheese, cream soups and butter that I got for pennies. While I wanted to do this post to show you can still get a TON of food without coupons, never underestimate the power of a great sale combined with a high-value double coupon!!
  10. Make your own snacks! I plunder the discount produce rack for overripe bananas and make some amazing banana bread or muffins. I also use all those cake/brownie mixes I scored for under 25 cents each to bake up some treats to have on hand. On the healthy side, veggies or crackers dipped in some homemade hummus are amazing! And frozen grapes are a sweet treat that’s right in my price range this week! Don’t pay for pre-portioned, pre-packaged snacks!! If you are getting store-bought chips or cookies, buy the whole bag, not the cutesy, individually packaged mini-bags! You’ll pay over double for the “convenience”.


My Shopping List for The Week

(Notice that I usually buy more than what I need for the week when the prices are right, freeze it, and save it for later. So, in actuality, I’m spending less than $20 for the week. Cherry-picking the best-0f-the-best deals each week and buying as much as you can afford or store can add up to tons of $$$ saved. Each week I use a combination of what I’ve newly purchased, and items I’ve stockpiled previously in my pantry or freezer.)

  • 4 lbs of ground chuck at $1.89/lb (which can be divided into 5-6 portion sizes for dinners) On sale at Shop ‘n Save this week (and at Giant Eagle until Thursday as well)
  • 2 4 lb whole chickens at 98 cents/lb (one for this week, one to freeze for later!) On sale at Shop ‘n Save this week, but you can usually find whole chickens anywhere for not much more! Giant Eagle also has fresh boneless chicken breasts on sale for $1.98/lb this week if you’d rather go that route.
  • 3 lbs of seedless grapes at 98 cents/lb (you can freeze grapes too!) On sale at Shop ‘n Save this week
  • 2 loaves of wheat bread (69 cents each at Aldi’s)
  • 1 pint of milk (we don’t drink milk, just use it in cooking) $1.19
  • Flour tortillas (99 cents at Aldi’s)
  • 1 package of generic American cheese for Mike’s lunch sandwiches (99 cents)
  • Beans for chili (I usually use black, kidney and great northern beans) $1.50 for all at Aldi’s. Note: buying dry beans is waaaaay cheaper. I love beans, and plan on starting to use the dry version, which requires an overnight soak. MUCH cheaper, MUCH healthier….slightly less convenient.
  • Red or yellow peppers (in the summer, I’d get this from a friend’s garden for free…now that it’s cold outside, I’m stuck paying ridiculous pepper prices. These babies can cost up to $4 PER POUND at the regular supermarket, but luckily, Aldi’s has 3-packs for around $1.50. This summer I’ll be growing my own out back in my garden!)
  • Spring Mix for salad (99 cents at Aldi’s)

(This all equals out to around $25, but, as you can see, I’m buying enough meat to be the basis of at least 2 weeks worth of meals. If you only bought what you needed for the week using the sale prices I’ve noted this week, your total would be around $10 for my shopping list. Yours may vary depending on what you have on hand, but remember my shopping tips above to get the best deals and the lowest prices! Remember, this is just an example!)

In addition to the items on my shopping list, I’ll be using some things from my pantry/freezer/fridge: onions, potatoes, rice, tomato paste, shredded cheese (frozen from a great sale+coupon day when it was nearly free!), frozen veggies, spices, garlic, lemons, cornbread, olive oil, butter, etc.

The Week’s Meal Plan

(I’ve included links to some of my favorite versions of these recipes below, but feel free to get creative! Use up what you have on hand, crack open those recipe books your grandma got you for Christmas five years ago, and get cookin’!)

  • Monday: The week starts off with a great big pot of chili. I use a recipe I adapted from this Jamaican Me Crazy Chili recipe. It’s VERY flavorful, and a just a little bit different, but still has that classic chili taste. Feel free to omit or substitute items if you don’t have them on hand, I do. Not only is this a great meal for the start of the week (I’ll probably make some corn muffins or corn bread on the side), but now I have a ton of leftover chili to pack in Mike’s lunch for the week so he has something hot to eat.
  • Tuesday: It’s time to bust out the bird! A simple dinner of Roast Chicken is a nice change-up from the chili last night. I usually make some homemade mashed or scalloped potatoes on the side, and pick a bag of frozen veggies (in winter) from my stockpile in the freezer.
  • Wednesday: Leftover roast chicken makes for excellent Chicken Enchiladas! To complete the South-of-the-Border theme, I usually do some Mexican rice on the side using my rice cooker, and maybe a can of re-fried beans from my pantry.
  • Thursday: I work late on Thursday, and there’s still some life left in that old bird, so tonight I’ll probably use the rest of the meat to make a nice, hearty chicken noodle soup. But first, I make my own homemade stock using the chicken carcass, some herbs, and some onions and carrots and celery I have leftover from Thanksgiving. The soup will taste 100 times better with the homemade stock!! On the side I might make some biscuits or rolls, I usually have the refrigerated kind handy from recent sales to make it easy on myself. A nice salad with the spring mix and some dressing from my stockpile will round out the meal.
  • Friday: To be completely honest, Friday is a day where we will order a pizza half of the time. Mike is super exhausted from a long week at work, and I don’t get home from work til around 8:30 or 9 pm, so a coupon for a $5.99 pizza delivered to our doorstep is a godsend sometimes. Or we might just have some of the leftover chili from earlier in the week to finish it up before it goes bad. We often make some simple grilled cheese sandwiches on the side to go with the chili, using up any leftover sandwich bread from the week. Mmmm…
  • Saturday: I’ll defrost one of my 3/4 lb packages of ground chuck and make a Taco Lasagna. We love mexican! This uses the rest of the tortillas from the package we bought for the enchiladas as well. And I always keep my own special Mexican spice blend on hand. Cheaper than traditional Italian lasagna (damn you, ricotta cheese!), but just as tasty!
  • Sunday: I work til 8 pm and usually don’t feel like slaving over the stove since it’s the end of my work week. We will probably do something simple like frozen pierogies and salad, as well as raid the fridge for leftover Taco Lasagna. I usually do a batch of cupcakes or brownies or banana bread for dessert as well, so Mike can have it in his lunch all next week.

There you have it, my low-cost menu plan for the week! Next week it’s back to coupon-clipping and building up my stockpile! I’d love to hear your low-cost menu ideas in the comment section of this post (I’m always on the hunt for some new ideas!)

How I Pay for My Groceries and Stockpile for The Future With My Pocket Change Each Week…$31.44 Bought All This!

Thanks quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies!!


Although I enjoy cooking from scratch a good percentage of the time (maybe it’s just that cute retro apron from Anthropologie that I bought for myself on clearance last Christmas…), Giant Eagle and Shop ‘n Save were having some FANTASTIC stockpile deals on some semi-convenience foods this week, so I took the opportunity to buy enough to more than fill the cupboards. Awesome promotions, free meat Catalina coupons at checkout, and clipped coupons from the paper all converging together to bring prices down to over 85% off? Who could resist?? Now Mike and I are SO thoroughly prepared for any lazy cooking days I might have, that we may have to be lazy more often to make room in the cabinets again!

Anyway, the Coinstar machine only gave me $24.83 to work with after I fed it all my loose change collected over the past week…here’s what I managed to buy with that!

  • 15 Hamburger/Tuna/Chicken helpers in various flavors
  • 6 Betty Crocker Potato Sides (Au Gratin, Scalloped, Julienne…in various flavors)
  • 8 Zatarain’s Rice Mixes (Jambalaya, Dirty Rice, Black Beans and Rice…I like to add smoked sausage/chicken/shrimp to these for a quick meal when I don’t feel like making it from scratch…I LOVE Cajun/Creole cooking, and I swear the flavor can’t be beat for a boxed mix!)
  • 2 Betty Crocker Supreme Brownie Mixes (chocolate chunk and frosted)
  • 2 boxes of San Giorgio Linguine (plan on making some kick-butt Cajun Chicken Alfredo Pasta)
  • 4 jars of Ragu sauce (Marinara, 4 Cheese Marinara, Alfredo and Cheese Sauce)
  • 1 packet of Sun Bird’s General Tso’s Seasoning Mix (one of our favorites…fast, simple, delicious)
  • 1 box of Chicken Patties
  • 1 loaf of Giant Eagle brand bread
  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 2 lbs of ground chuck
  • 2 Soft Soap foaming hand soaps
  • 1 bag of Fresh Step kitty litter (for stinky Joey!)
  • 1 can Campbell’s Nacho Cheese Soup (for cooking)
  • 4 rolls of toilet paper (would’ve bought more, but that’s enough to get us through the week until a better coupon+sale deal comes around)


Again, I stocked up on some frozen veggies last week when they were on sale, and the rest of my fresh veggies/fruit comes from friend’s gardens.

So the retail value of all this (and I lost my receipt, so I’ll have to guesstimate!) would be around: $107.17

I spent: $31.44 ($6.61 over my spare change budget)

Pretty close to a 75% savings! Not too bad…

🙂 If you’re new to the blog and would like to be kept updated of coupon matchups and printable coupon updates from stores like Giant Eagle, Target, Shop ‘n Save, Rite Aid…and be alerted to fantastic online deals for home decor, fashion, and Christmas/birthday gifts...just click the Sign Me Up button near the top of the blog to subscribe for FREE!! Don’t ever pay insane grocery prices again, and save extra money to put towards a new car, vacation, home or whatever else your hard-working heart desires! With an email subscription you’ll be alerted via email of any new posts to the blog, so you’ll never miss out on a crazy-valuable internet coupon again (they go quick!), and you’ll be able to find the best deals before you go grocery shopping without spending hours researching sales and finding obscure coupons on the internet (leave that to me!) 🙂

And don’t forget to leave a comment below(or use the link at the beginning of the post) if you’d like to brag about your incredible prowess at snagging a buggy full of groceries for little more than pocket change…I love to read about other people’s deals and steals…


Paper or Plastic? Forget It! Bring Your Own Reusable Grocery Tote…Help the Environment, Flaunt Your Unique Style, and SAVE MONEY!!


Reusable grocery totes are all the rage right now...whether they are a nostalgic throwback to bygone cartoons, an Eco-friendly work of art crafted by an up-and-coming artist, or a DIY crafting project involving little more than an old shirt and a pair of scissors, this HOT new fashion accessory (Europeans have been donning these for years!) is a frugal shopper’s new Bestie! Forget the old “Paper or Plastic” routine…no matter what your budget, you can find (or create) a grocery tote that expresses your personal style, eliminates hundreds of useless (and non-biodegradable) plastic bags each year, and aids you in your quest to save as much money as possible when shopping!! I’ve fallen in love with these reusable totes! They are available in every material, color, design and size imaginable, and most bags cost next to nothing, and boast some very cool features/perks.

Stay tuned till the end of the post…I’ve gathered a collection of the most adorable, practical, and reasonably priced grocery totes on the web!! 🙂

5 Reasons To Make The Switch To A Reusable Grocery Tote

  1. They are environmentally AWESOME!! Not only do these handy little helpers keep millions of plastic grocery bags from eternally cluttering landfills each year, but a lot of them are made from recycled materials, like plastic water bottles. Earth friendly times two! Reusable and Sustainable are definitely two of the hottest “It” words of the decade…
  2. The designs are VERY chic. Or retro. Or nostalgic. Or comfortable/functional. Whatever you’re looking for that expresses your personal style, I guarantee there is a tote that fits the bill. From old-school Sesame Street characters to the designs of well-known artists, the options available in this new “handbag” category are amazing, and the construction materials, artwork and designs are becoming more innovative and inventive every month. Yet another outlet in which you can express yourself. You can even find “thermal” or “insulated” totes (like picnic or beer coolers)  that help keep your groceries cool until you get home! How great is modern technology?
  3. You don’t have to worry about the bottom of your bag breaking open and your expensive bottle of Grey Goose vodka shattering all over the unforgiving pavement on your walk home/to the car (not to mention your five cans of cream of chicken soup rolling down a steep graded hill faster than you can possibly catch up in your new Jessica Simpson heels without falling flat on your face) as you can only stare vacantly in horror. This is a true story. Enough said. All hail reinforced canvas bottoms that cradle your groceries and liquor like the precious cargo that they are!!
  4. If you’re an avid bargain-hunter/couponer (like I am) these totes are fabulous because they pull double-duty and give you a way to carry your tools-of-the-trade into the store. My purse isn’t big enough to hold my “Bargain-Hunting Kit” (with my checkbook, keys, wallet, three different lipsticks, compact, change purse, etc., etc., etc. already stuffed to maximum capacity inside of it), so my grocery tote is a great way to covertly carry my coupon binder, calculator, mini-scissors, sale circulars, and whatever else I need for my mission without looking particularly awkward!! Just pop them in the tote, and no one’s the wiser…they stay safe and secure until needed, and leave your hands free to shop and text on your Droid simultaneously! Then just carry them out amongst your newly purchased, almost-free groceries! (Plus they are handy on overnight trips, as beach-bags, and so much more…)
  5. Reusable totes can save you money at stores you already shop at! Many people don’t realize that an increasing number of grocery/drugstore/super-centers are offering enticing incentives that encourage shoppers to bring their own grocery bags. Most offer a small discount off your total bill that is calculated per bag (usually from 3 to 10 cents), and some stores will enter you in drawings for free groceries or prizes. For the supremely altruistic amongst us, a small number of stores allow you the option of donating your small grocery-bag savings to a favorite charity instead of reaping the monetary rewards on your grocery receipt. Any way you slice it, savings do add up! (example…if my grocery store takes 5 cents off my bill for every reusable bag I fill with their products, and estimating that I fill 5 grocery bags each week, the savings from using reusable totes would equal around $1 each month, or $12 per year…I know, I know, it doesn’t seem like much…but it’s enough to get me a couple subscriptions to my favorite magazines for the year. That makes me happy. 🙂 ) All the small ways we save money add up to BIG savings at the end of the year!!

Stores That Reward Customers Who Bring Their Own Reusable Shopping Bags/Totes

Remember, these policies can differ depending on the location/ownership policies of your store. Don’t take my word as gospel; always find out the nitty-gritty details of your local branch’s practices before banking on that extra 5 cents per bag discount!!

  • Target (takes 5 cents per bag off your total bill)
  • CVS (purchase a tag for 99 cents that you attach to your tote-it’s scanned every time you shop-and get a $1 off coupon for every fourth scan)
  • Aldi’s (no longer will you have to pay good money for hideous Aldi’s plastic bags. Reward enough.)
  • Safeway (save 3 cents per bag)
  • Kroger (save 3 to 5 cents per bag)
  • Foodland (save 5 cents per bag)
  • Winco (save 10 cents per bag. WOO HOO! BIG SPENDERS!)
  • Whole Foods (save 10 cents per bag, or opt to donate this sum to a local charity or school)
  • Trader Joe’s (tote users are often entered into giveaways for free groceries or other items, and sometimes a small amount of store credit is given, depending on your location’s policies)

My Favorite Reusable Grocery Totes on the Web

From Tapp Collections on, this cheerful and fun tote is perfect for parent’s toting the kiddos along to the grocery store (or the kid at heart!)…the whole thing easily folds/scrunches up to fit inside the connected duck, which will easily fit inside your purse for easy storage. VERY tempted to get my niece one of these for Christmas…she’s only 5 but she LOVES helping out on shopping excursion.  Don’t fancy the duck? No worries…they also sell frogs, mice, pigs and more! Only $7.99 and eligible for free shipping if you’re ordering $25 or more of products from Amazon. Definitely the most storage-friendly bag of the could probably even stuff the little duck/frog/pig in your pocket…or your bra (depending on cup size and bra construction, of course!)

Masha Reusable Tote: this tote has it all: It’s ultra-chic cherry tree design was created by artist Masha Dyans, its primarily constructed of  reclaimed plastic bottles (perfect for you or as a gift for you Eco-conscious BFF) , and the price is nice!! Only $6.99!! Check out Amazon for a few more of her aesthetically pleasing bag designs if this one doesn’t tickle your fancy! As far as grocery totes go, she has some AMAZING artwork going on in her bag designs!

Envirosax Sesame Street Shopper: Oscar The Grouch: Who doesn’t want to relive those “Sunny Days”?? This lightweight tote can be rolled up and snapped for easy storage, and is rain-resistant and Eco-friendly ( wallet friendly too…only $8.73, with free super-saver shipping available! 6 dollars, 7 dollars, 8 dollars, Mwah-Ha-Ha-Ha!! C’mon…The Count???) Check out the page for a few more of your favorite characters immortalized on these cool grocery totes…

Waste Less Bags Variety Pack (6 bags): Because let’s face it, bargain-shopping addicts (like me!) need more than just one bag. This set of 6 delivers it all…colorful, coordinated, and in varying sizes. And each one can hold up to 25 pounds or two-times the weight of a normal grocery bag! Sign me up! These babies are also waterproof…no more soggy paper bags!! $19.29 for all six ($3.22 each) and eligible for free shipping on Amazon with orders of $25 or more.

Want to do it yourself??? Check out this awesome post from that rounds up some of the most popular DIY reusable tote/produce bag/etc. craft projects out there on the web that are made from nothing more than old, tired t-shirts and such! (and with such awesome results!!) Pick the project picture you like best and click on the link for detailed instructions on how to make your own grocery tote…a great sewing project for beginners, and a fantastic way to finally put your ex-boyfriend’s t-shirts that have been stuffed in the back of your closet to rest (and good use!!) The required slicing, dicing and shredding of them is VERY therapeutic, and the end result is crazy-chic! HAVE FUN GALS!! 🙂

See anything you like?? What kind of reusable bag do you carry home your hard-won bargains in?? Please feel free to comment in the box below (or the link at the top of the post) or email me at!! I look forward to hearing from you, and welcome any ideas you have!!

How I Buy My Weekly Groceries (and stockpile for the future) On Pocket Change…I Missed Last Week, But Came Back Strong Today at Giant Eagle, Shop ‘n Save and Rite Aid!

A whooooole mess of groceries...Mike helped me arrange it...somewhat haphazardly...that's part of the charm!


OK, I realize It’s probably impossible to see the groceries I bought today from this Dali-esque photograph…but, Mike wanted to help arrange it, and men like to balance things in precarious towers and strange positions.

Here’s the side view of the “Castle of Groceries”:

See? He does have some wonderful balancing skills...


Anyway, I slacked off on my shopping last week because I had too much going on (and missed out on all those great butter deals…dammit!) But here are my stats for this week:

Total Amount of Voucher from Loose Change Deposited in Coinstar Machine: $43.78


What I Bought at Shop ‘n Save:

  • 3 lbs of chipped ham from the deli
  • 2 packages of French Onion Soup mix (for the two delicious pot roasts I plan on making in the next couple weeks! Awwww, yeah!!)
  • 1 package of General Tso’s Seasoning Mix (Mike’s fave…we cooked it up tonight with some chicken and fried rice…super yum!)
  • 2 Ortega Complete Soft Taco Kits
  • 2 Cans Ortega Re-fried Beans
  • 2 Bottles of Ortega Taco Sauce (medium for me, hot for Mike)
  • 4 Bottles of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce
  • 2 Bottles of Clorox Bleach (with nice scents like lavender and citrus…I hate that bleach smell.)
  • 2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 bags of Heluva Good shredded cheese (cheddar/pepper jack blend, our fave…rock-botttom price, my Shop ‘n Save DOUBLED the internet coupon…wish I had used the rest there…we froze the excess cheese)
  • Milk
  • 5 lb bag of sugar
  • 2 lb bag of brown sugar

Total Spent: $24.26

Total Retail Value (before sales, coupons, and store promotions): $50.39


What I Bought At Giant Eagle:

  • 5 boxes of Totino’s Pizza Rolls
  • 2 boxes of Bagel Bites
  • 4 boxes of Green Giant frozen veggies (a variety…as summer draws to a close, I’m losing all those wonderfully fresh and free garden vegetables I got used to enjoying!)
  • 3 bags of Giant Eagle hamburger buns
  • 2 Suave Professionals Shampoo/Conditoners
  • 4 (1 gallon) bottles of Swiss Iced Tea/Lemonade combo drink (INCREDIBLY addictive!!)
  • 3 packages of Kraft Singles (16 count)
  • 2 boxes of Cheddar Kashi Crackers
  • 2 boxes of Kashi TLC Bars (dark chocolate cherry and sweet honey oat)
  • 6 Go Lean Kashi single bars
  • 1 container of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cooking Spread (Santa Fe)
  • 2 containers of Pillsbury Grands! biscuits
  • 1 container of Heluva Good! French Onion Dip

Total Spent: $29.58     Total Retail Price (before sales, promotions and coupons) $84.26


What I Bought at Rite Aid

  • 2 Garnier Fructise Shampoos
  • 4 Garnier Fructise Hair Stylers (various)
  • 1 Got 2 B flat iron hair styler
  • 4 packages of Carefree panty liners
  • 1 package of straws
  • 2 single serving bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (minis)

Total Spent (after two transactions using +Up) $6     Total Retail Value: $30.49    +Up Remaining: $3.00

Remember: I have TONS of tuna, chicken, ground meat, pork and beef stockpiled, as well as fresh garden veggies that I get from my friend’s gardens…so don’t judge my diet based on this list! The whole purpose of “extreme” couponing and “stockpiling” is to be able to pick and choose the best deals each week…only the ones that you need, and only the ones with the greatest savings!! Mike had to rearrange our entire freezer to make room for tonight’s new additions, there is TOO MUCH going on in there. Again, I need the space for a chest freezer!!


Grand Totals:

Total Spent: $59.84 ($43.78 from loose change)

Actual Price of all Goods: $165.14 (with $3 +Up remaining for next week’s Rite Aid trip!)

Total Savings of $105.30

Not too shabby!! Looking forward to next week’s haul, and sharing all the great deals with everyone…I’m working on some right now!

Feel free to leave your own brags/comments about your weekly haul in the comment area below (or click the tab at the beginning of the post).