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Homemade “Hot Pockets”: Use Up Your Leftovers with These Easy, Freezer-Friendly Sandwiches

In my house, there has to be something quick and easy in the freezer at all times that can be microwaved for lunch or a snack. If there’s not, spur-of-the-moment hunger pangs at unusual times of the day can lead to unhealthy and expensive trips through the drive-thru. I used to keep a stash of chicken patties, hot pockets or frozen burritos on hand, but I’ve been trying to eliminate all convenience food from our diets, so for a while I was at a loss at what to do. Then I devised these hot pocket knock-offs. They’ve been a godsend–they are the perfect vehicle to use up little bits of leftover meat, veggies or sauce, they freeze beautifully, and they heat up in 60-90 seconds!

Using homemade dough, leftover meat and sale-priced cheese, I can make a batch (about 14) of these for around $3.50. That’s less than 30 cents per pocket! And trust me, these are super easy to bake up.

Dough Recipe:

You can either use a bread machine to mix this or knead it out by hand. Either way, let the dough rest for around 10 minutes when you’re through mixing/kneading.

4 cups flour

3 TBS oil

1 TBS sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup of room temperature water

scant 1/4 cup of milk

2 teaspoons yeast

  • Lightly mix flour, sugar and salt and mound on a floured countertop (I sometimes do my initial mixing in a large bowl). Add water, milk, oil and yeast in the center.
  • Gently mix till a dough starts to form.
  • Knead for around 7 minutes until dough ball is smooth and easily workable.
  • Let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Divide dough into 14 balls for 14 hot pockets
  • Roll out into a rectangle and fill with cheese and meat of your choice
  • Fold long sides over, then tops. Gently press or pinch to seal.
  • Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet seam-side down and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and parmesan cheese.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (tops should be slightly golden brown)
  • You can eat them immediately, or freeze for later. To reheat, microwave for 60-90 seconds.

I fill these with leftover meatballs, sauce and cheese (after we’ve had a spaghetti dinner), leftover sliced or cubed ham with some cheddar cheese, or leftover shredded chicken with a bit of buffalo sauce and mozzarella. These would also be great with scrambled eggs, cheese and bulk sausage for quick breakfasts! To freeze, I put 1 or 2 into zippered freezer bags so they can be taken to work for lunch quickly.

Anybody else have any homemade frozen convenience food ideas that keep them away from fast food joints? Please share in the comment section!

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Get a Free $10 off $10 or More Lowe’s Coupon When you Register on Their Site!

Register here to receive a $10 coupon from Lowe’s via email (may take a day or two to receive).

GREAT news for me because the dog just broke our toilet seat. 🙂

You should also be able to score free TP, paper towels, etc. with this coupon…if your toilet seat doesn’t need replacing like mine…

 

Note: Giant Eagle Now Accepts Competitor’s Coupons…Just Don’t Try to Use Them in The Self Check-Out Aisle…

Greetings! Awesome tidbit of news for those of you that don’t already know; Giant Eagle is now accepting all competitor coupons. This means that you can snip, cut, clip or print coupons til you’re blue in the face from other grocery stores including Target, K-Mart, Walgreens, etc. and GE will gladly accept them (but not double them). Quick warning: avoid the self check-out aisles at all costs if you plan on using these coupons without severe delays/embarrassment.

I visited Giant Eagle today, and I was super-stoked to get free Bugles, Chex Mix and frozen veggies, not to mention super-cheap cheese, dips, pizza rolls, Lipton rice and pasta sides, etc. I had one coupon that I had printed from Target’s website. The two regular checkout lanes were backed-up, so for the first time in my life I headed over to the self checkout lane. I scanned a few coupons, and everything was going great. I felt proud of myself for venturing into the unknown. I felt like a pioneer. I should bypass the cashiers all the time, I thought.  Then I can avoid that “why are you making my job a living hell?” glare that some of them tend to give you when you hand over a stack of coupons that is roughly the thickness of Webster’s Dictionary.

I scanned my Ragu pasta sauce coupon. The scanner rejected this Target coupon like a demon rejects holy water. Lights were blinking. The machine stopped working. I was sure some kind of Artificial Intelligence defense mechanism was going to override the system and scramble my molecular structure with a laser gun. I stood in silence, trying to look inconspicuous with my wad of (non-competitor) coupons stacked up in front of me. Inconspicuous is hard to pull off when the lights above your head are blinking frantically and an automated voice keeps repeating “Help is on the way!” in a tone that is bordering on panicked.

After five embarassing minutes of this, a cashier finally came to rescue. Or not. Upon seeing my Target coupon (for 75 cents off two Ragu sauces) she proceeded to SCREAM (across every single other checkout lane), “She has COMPETITOR COUPONS in the self-check aisle. You can’t use COMPETITOR COUPONS here. Only in the REGULAR check-out!!” I lowered my head, feeling much like what I would imagine a guy would feel like if he were buying tampons for his wife and they did a price-check over the microphone. Every person, in every aisle, paused simultaneously to check out the chick who had the AUDACITY to try using a Target coupon in self-checkout. Their stares were long and ominous (or maybe I’m just paranoid.) The folks behind me in the self-checkout were glaring at me, as they probably assumed the self-checkout was the quickest place to go for a roll of toilet paper and a few TV dinners. Wrong. Did I mention this particular Giant Eagle only had one self-check lane open?

Long story short, after ANOTHER long, uncomfortable five minutes (and the help of another sales associate, and after that someone who I’m presuming was a manager), they literally had to transfer my whole order to a regular lane, manually deduct the rest of my coupon savings, and warn me adamantly to never, ever try to go through self-checkout with competitors coupons ever again. Trust me, GE, I never, ever will. I promise. Lesson learned.

This is just a helpful hint, folks. All kidding aside (although the incident was very embarrassing), I realize this coupon policy is new and the employees are probably still ironing out the kinks. And the manager was VERY helpful and lighthearted about the whole situation. No ill will against Giant Eagle at all.

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up. I don’t want anyone to be late for work or to pick up the kids, just to save $1.50 on pasta sauce.

On a happy note, I got TONS of food for $17, and got $7 back in Steeler’s Bucks (and 10 cents off on gasoline).

All for the price of my pride. Happy Couponing! 🙂

Starkist Printable Will Get You Tuna Packets for only 25 cents This Week at Giant Eagle!

If you haven’t already, make sure to go to Facebook’s Starkist page and “Like” them to nab a 50 cents/1 Starkist Tuna Pouch.

It’s on sale at Giant Eagle this week for $1.25, and after the coupon doubles, that means tuna for a quarter!

I believe the other places to get the Starkist coupons in my previous post have disappeared, but you can still get it on facebook here: 50 cents/1 Starkist Tuna Pouch

FREE Panties at Victoria’s Secret…Friday December 30 Only! Print This Coupon Now!!

Santa's bringing you a late present!!

Loooove me some free undies!! Especially the frilly, over-hyped, expensive kind that Victoria’s Secret designs in an amazing amount of varieties, fabrics, and color combinations…the kind that my sensibilities usually won’t let me purchase without a panicked pang of regret, kinda like the nagging guilt that surfaces if I eat that second slice of pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner. And by the way, multiple slices of Pumpkin Pie and Victoria’s Secret panties DO NOT MIX LADIES!! (Pssst…If VS’s is out of your price range, I can usually find bras/undies/lingerie for under ten bucks at clearance sales at major department stores, and I’ve learned which brands equal the quality of Victoria’s Secret…don’t be fooled into thinking they are the only lingerie store with a good product…so not true! In fact, check out the great clearance sale JCPenney has going on right now…I bought tons of bras for under $10 last time they had the sale (push-ups, T-Shirt bras, Balconette bras, etc. etc., and I think they have lasted even LONGER than VS’s stuff…and they were just as intricately designed, sexy, and beautiful! Sign up for Penney’s emails, and you’ll regularly get $10 off $25 coupons delivered right to your inbox for printing or using online via promo codes…and sometimes even $10 off $10 coupons… add these to a 70% off clearance sale, smack on a promo code for free shipping, and you have a whole new wardrobe of underthings for around $30!! Just sayin…)

ANYWAY, I clearly have nothing against Victoria’s, especially when I come across great coupons like these…this one will get you a new pair of undies (with a sexy New Year’s theme…I’ve checked them out, very cute!) with ANY purchase!!

That means that you can wander over to the post-Christmas clearance hand-sanitizers (that you need for your purse anyway) or lip glosses (that you already have 25 of, but a girl needs an awesome selection of glosses and lip balms, right??), pick one up for 99 cents, and get your free pair of undies. SOLD!!

Click here to print your coupon for your free undies from Victoria’s Secret!!

Don’t forget: Coupon is good for FRIDAY DECEMBER 30th ONLY!!!

Getting back into my groove here my friends, check back for more freebies, cheapies, and coupon matchups!!

Living the Simple Life…Things I’m Thankful for This Christmas

After a particularly harrowing day out at the stores attempting to finish my Christmas shopping (I do most of  my gift-buying online to avoid a seasonal hatred of humanity that usually results from being cut in front of in store lines, mowed down by frantic shoppers laden with 25 bags from various stores, and insane Holiday drivers who take traffic rules as mere “suggestions”, etc., etc.), I poured a glass of wine and decided to reflect on a few simple (and frugal) pleasures that make me so giddy I could almost shed a happy tear. Forget the coupon clipping, obsessive sale-hunting, wrapping paper, and family drama for a day and just RELAX!!

Random Happy Moments I Had This December

  1. Curling up on the couch watching a movie with Mike and my cat Joey…they are the two most cuddly creatures on God’s earth.
  2. Letting a HUGE pot of homemade chili simmer on the stove for hours (that only cost $4 to put together) and enjoying the anticipatory aroma while all the snuggling takes place…and knowing that chili will feed us for 2 or 3 days.
  3. Occasionally stirring said chili with a super heavy-duty Pampered Chef spoon I got at a garage sale 5 years ago for 25 cents (it still looks brand new!).
  4. Going to bed after eating my chili, bellies warm with all the spicy goodness (I even gave my furry family members a few nibbles), on sheets fresh and warm from the dryer, the kind that smell so good you can bury your face in them and take deep breaths and swear it’s what Heaven smells like.
  5. Waking up in the morning and realizing Mike is spooning me from behind, and Joey is curled up in front of me against my body in a rather human-like sleeping position, using my hand for a pillow for his head, purring away happily.
  6. Getting puppy kisses first thing out of bed. In my comfy slipper-socks. In front of the fireplace. Oh, yeah…
  7. Spending a leisurely hour or two browsing through old magazines for decorating/recipe ideas, or reading a new book I borrowed form a friend. NO TV!! Just the sound of the wind, or cars passing outside the big front window, or dogs barking happily in neighbor’s yards.
  8. Finding a gigantic bag of ripe bananas at the grocery store for under a dollar and baking multiple loaves of banana bread/muffins, and eating some fresh from the oven. Then portioning out the rest for Mike’s lunch for the week.
  9. Listening to The Beatles or Bob Dylan on vinyl. The sound is amazing. Nothing can touch it.
  10. Taking a stroll after dark and checking out all the houses in my neighborhood all decked out for Christmas, and breathing in that crisp, clean winter air.

 

What are the simple things you’re thankful for this Holiday Season? Put away the credit cards and wrapping paper and stress for a day! Merry Christmas my friends!!

“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:

www.amishlandseeds.com (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!!