Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Net Worth Update: February 2012

This is coming a little late, but here it is. Sometimes when I think about our finances, I can get down and feel like we aren't saving enough, but doing these net worth updates really helps me keep my eye on the big picture each month! Find our previous net worth updates here.

Savings: -267.36 We had some unforeseen expenses, so this took a little hit. Hoping to add more to it with our tax refund.
Retirement Accounts: +3699.20 Up a decent amount. Not as much as last month, but I've learned that any month in the positives is a good feeling for me!

Mortgage: –240.21 We just keep chipping away at this one!

Total Change in Net Worth
+3672.05 A good month all in all!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The look for less

I've had my eye on these hand towels at Anthropologie for a while now, so when I saw ones that looked very similar at World Market for half the price, I jumped on them. WM also has 20% off bath towels right now, and I had a 10% off coupon on top of that! What a steal!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 2.5.2012

We're traveling this week, so the menu plan is a little short. But here's what we're having:

Pork Fried Rice
Fusilli with Ina's Weeknight Bolognese
Broiled Tilapia with Tomato Caper Sauce

Find more delicious menu plans right here!

Image from here

Friday, March 2, 2012

Weekend links

I'm taking my daughter to a birthday party for one of her little friends this weekend. The theme of the party is a Ladybug Picnic, and my friend the hostess always has cute party ideas, so I can't wait to see what she comes up with. I'm hoping the weather stays beautiful for the party! Here are some of the things I've found interesting this week:

I love essays about being a mom, but this one by a dad takes the cake.

Make your own canned beans cheap!

I didn't know that this had a name.

Image from here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Unextreme Couponing: Shaving Cream

I had $4 in ECBs to spend at CVS, and read a tip on this website that this shave gel was on sale for $3.99, with $4 in ECBs back, making them FREE! My husband likes this brand, so I picked up three of them, and left 2 cans for the next person. I still have $4 ECBs to use on another deal as well.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Catching up

Hey! I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water lately, and have barely had time to sit down and think about what I'm going to do next let alone blog! I was able to check out this book from the library, and I'm already enjoying it a lot. I'm trying to remind myself to be still and breathe every once in a while. Seems like it shouldn't be hard to do, but it is...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy Weekend!

It's already that time again! This week has gone by so fast – we spent lots of time outdoors enjoying the beautiful weather. Here are a few links I've found interesting this week. Have a great weekend!

A beautiful essay about being a mom.
How much does your credit score matter?
A fun toddler project for a rainy day.
These doodles are amazing!

Image from here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fair and Square

I've been seeing the new JCPenney commercials and ads and they peaked my interest, so I decided to stop by a store and check them out. The styling in their ads and circulars looks super fresh and fun, and reminds me more of J Crew than what I've typically thought of from Penneys. (Wondering if it has anything to do with their new leadership.) If you're not familiar with their new pricing structure, here's how it works. I found the visit super pleasant: they've decreased the amount of merchandise on the walls and racks, so it feels a lot less crowded. And the addition of Sephora mini-stores in the center of the store is meant to attract a younger buyer. I picked up this coat and shirt: the coat/cape was $50, and the shirt was $11. I left very satisfied with the trip and will definitely be back!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 2.20.2012

The weather here has been so strange, just like most of the country. Warm one day, freezing the next. Today while I was planning my menu it was very cold, so I planned a few slow cooker recipes to make us feel warm and cozy!

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Style Chicken
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
French Onion Soup with French Bread
Spaghetti with Bolognese
Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Check out more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy weekend!

I've decided to start sharing a few links on Fridays of things I've found interesting, informative or inspiring during the week.

An easy dinner to cook for one.

No heat curl tutorial.

The comments section of this post is so interesting. How much do YOU spend on housing?

Super fun and relatively inexpensive art for your walls. There are so many ways you could make this project your own!

Hope you have a fantastic weekend!

Image from here

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Unextreme Couponing: Soup, Toothpaste and Razor

I made a stop at CVS to work a few of the deals I saw in Sunday's circular. I'm collecting some canned goods for a food drive in my area, so I got some soup, and I also needed to add to my stockpile of razors and toothpaste:

Transaction 1
Toothpaste, on sale for $2.75. Used MQ for .75 off.
Paid $2.00 OOP and got $2 ECB's back.

Transaction 2
Razor was $10.49, used a $2 off MQ. Soup was on sale for .59 a can, used a MQ for .40 off 4.
Used $5 in ECBs I had from previous weeks, plus $2 ECB's from Transaction 1.
Paid $3.70 OOP and got $4 ECB's back from the razor!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crafty Things: Heart Crayon Valentines

In honor of one of my favorite holidays, I thought I'd show you the Valentines I made for a little party my daughter was invited to with her play group. I've seen these crayons all over the blog world, so I picked up the ice trays at Target for $1, and had the rest of the supplies on hand making this a super cheap project. I used the instructions here, and was really happy with the way it turned out! And with the kids in the group all being so little, I think this is better than candy! I'll post pics of the finished crayons all packaged up soon. Hope you have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 2.13.2012

It's going to be a busy week with Valentine's Day this week, as well as some evening commitments my husband has. So I've planned things to eat htis week, but I'm not sure if I'll be sticking to the plan! Here's what we're having:

Homemade French Bread Pizzas
Ginger Honey Chicken and Sauteed Green Beans
Tex-Mex Beef Tacos
Breakfast for Dinner

See more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Make This: Super Quick Pocket Apple Pies

I had a pie crust, an apple, and some spices all on hand the other night, so I made these quick apples pies. They were so delicious and so easy! Here's what you need:

1 refrigerated pie crust
1 apple (I think I had Fuji on hand, but you can use any)
1 tablespoon each of flour, sugar and vanilla extract
A few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg

For the topping
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. sugar and another dash of cinnamon

Peel, core and dice the apple, then put it in a bowl with the sugar, flour, vanilla and spices. Cut your pie crust into 4 equal pieces. Place the apple mixture on the pie crust, and fold over the crust. Crimp and seal the edges. Brush the pies with egg, then sprinkle on the sugar/cinnamon topping. Place the pies in a glass pan sprayed with cooking spray and bake at 375 degrees for around 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

These were so delicious and so easy! Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coupon Savings: January

I thought it might be an interesting experiment to start tracking my monthly coupon and store rewards card savings. Of course, I thought this at the end of the month, so February will be my first month tracking it completely, but for January, I was able to go back through all of my receipts spent at the grocery store and add those up. I also use coupons when we eat out, and other stores, so I'm going to try to track all of that as well. I'm most interested in the monetary value of my couponing versus the time I spend doing it.

So here's my coupon savings for one grocery store in January:
Store Rewards Card Savings: $78.72
Coupon Savings: $30.96
Total Savings: $109.68

I think that's totally worth it for the few hours I spend each week going through the sales circulars and clipping out coupons. Don't you?

Image from here,

Monday, February 6, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 2.6.2012

Hello! Here's what I'm making this week. Just a warning, it's pretty chicken heavy! It will also be a busy week in the evenings, so I have two slow cooker recipes to make it a little easier. Hope you have a great week!

Grilled Chicken and Garlic Almond Broccoli
Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Chicken Cutlets with Smashed Potatoes and Peas
Slow Cooker Chicken Chili Tacos
Chicken Enchiladas

Find more delicious menu plans right here!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Baby Gear I Still Use

When you're expecting a baby, people give you lots of advice about must have things that made their lives easier. A pregnant friend and I were talking about baby essentials a while back, and she told me that some of her other friends had told her a wipe warmer was an absolute must-have. I almost spit out my drink. Seriously? But it made me realize that everyone has their own idea of what they need to feel comfortable taking care of their baby! Lots of things that are "essentials" are only essentials for a few short months, so I encouraged my friend to just borrow those, or spend the least amount of money she could on them (like a baby swing).

My daughter is almost 19 months old, but there are a few things we still use day in and day out around here that have been around since the very beginning. These are our true "essentials".
1. Our video monitor. There have been so many times that I would have gone in and woken up our daughter when she was really just tossing and turning if I hadn't been able to actually see her on the monitor. And waking her up when she isn't really ready to be awake is the kiss of death.
2. Burp cloths. They used to wipe up spit-up and drool, now they wipe up everything from water to lunch. We have a drawer full of them, and go through the drawer once a week.
3. This bath pad was recommended to us by a nurse during the baby care class we went to when I was pregnant. It was so cheap, but our daughter still sits on it while we dry her off after her bath. When she was little, it protected her from banging her head on the counter and now, it helps us keep a grip on her while she tries to wiggle away.
4. This drying rack used to hold bottles, but now holds sippy cups and plastic containers for snacks and her lunch.

There's so much advice out there for things you have to have for a baby, but a lot of it I only used for a few months. I consider these things the true workhorses of our baby gear!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Net Worth Update: January 2012

I can't believe it's already time for this! Find our previous net worth updates here.

Savings: +231.46 We took a little money out of our vacation savings account to put a deposit down on a beach home we're going to this spring, so savings didn't go up as much as usual.
Retirement Accounts: +5855.60 Hooray for gains in both our accounts! I'm glad 2012 is starting out this way, and hope it keeps going up up up!

Mortgage: –430.78 I learned my lesson last month and remembered to write down our balance on our mortgage, so this is the right amount.

Total Change in Net Worth +6517.84 A fantastic way to start off the year!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Perfect Pantry

The Pioneer Woman had an interesting post the other day that I thought I'd link to about what she keeps on hand in her pantry. It reminded me of how helpful and what a moneysaver it is to have a stockpile of staples on hand so you can throw dinner together if all your previous plans fall through. I keep a stockpile of pasta sauce, salsa, canned tomatoes, soups and pasta that I buy using coupons and store sales.

Here's the link to what PW keeps in her pantry.

I think menu planning along with keeping a well-stocked pantry has changed us from a family that only eats out because we plan to rather than a family that eats out because we can't think of what to make for dinner. Which saves us lots of dough!

Pretty pantry photo from here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 1.24.2012

Oops. More like Menu Plan Tuesday. Oh well, here's what we're having:

French Bread Pizzas
Sauteed Chicken with Balsamic Green Beans
Beef and Black Bean Taco Bake
Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Baked Potato Soup and Salad

And for snacks, we made these, which are SO delicious. I see what all the fuss is about!

No Bake Energy Bites

Find more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Make This: Creamy Chicken with Shallots

I've mentioned this cookbook before, as it's one of my go-to books for menu planning. I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes from the book. It's not exactly low-calorie, but it's just so delicious.

Creamy Chicken with Shallots from Time for Dinner

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper
4 chicken cutlets
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. dijon mustard

Put the flour, paprika and salt and pepper in a flat dish. Coat the chicken with the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Heat the oil on medium high heat, and saute the chicken turning once, about 2 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a plate, and then saute the shallots in the same pan around 5 minutes. Add the wine or broth and bring to a boil until it's reduced by half, around 2 minutes. Add the cream and mustard and return to boil. Reduce heat to medium, and add the chicken pieces and their juices back in. Continue to cook until the cream is reduced and coating the chicken, turning over once, around 7 to 9 minutes. (I sometimes have to cook the chicken a little longer depending on its thickness.)

The sauce is so delicious that I find myself scooping it out of the pan and eating it by itself! Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Project De-brown: Painting a Side Table

In an attempt to "de-brownify" our den, which currently houses a dark brown couch, coffee table, bookshelves, piano, tv console, and wood floors, I decided to paint the side table that sits next to our couch. I'm really pleased with the results: I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey (this paint is super great because you don't need to primer and you only need one coat.) Now I'm wanting to paint everything else in the room too!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kitchen Tip: How to Bake Bacon

I may be the last person on earth to know about this, but I came across this tip yesterday that was just too good not to share. Do you know about baking bacon? I found it less messy than pan frying, and the bacon came out more crisp and bacon-y and less soggy and fatty. I followed the instructions in this post, but here's the rundown:

1. Place aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Make sure the edges of the foil go up the sides of the baking sheet.
2. Spread out your pieces of bacon flat so that none overlap.
3. Set your oven to 400 and put the pan in. You don't need to preheat. According to some of the comments I read, it's better when you don't preheat.
4. Cook for 12-17 minutes. Mine only needed to cook for 12, but that will depend on the thickness of the bacon.
5. Remove and set cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain.
6. Eat!

You can even cook a bigger batch and refrigerate the cooked bacon, then use it crumbled on salads or baked potatoes, heat it up for breakfast, or use it on a BLT the next day. Hooray for bacon!

image from here

Monday, January 16, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 1.16.2012

It's another Monday friends! I have to say that last week's Eggplant Parmesan was delicious, so it will definitely be figuring in to the rotation again. Here's what's up for this week:

Breakfast for Dinner
Chicken with Cream and Shallots
Stuffed Bell Peppers (from this cookbook. I'll post the recipe if it's good!)
Chicken Casserole Biscuits
BBQ Sliders (never made these last week)

Find more delicious menu plans and recipes right here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pretty and Practical: Smith's Rosebud Salve

I thought I'd share some products I use that give great results, but not at the crazy prices you find at some department store counters.

First up is Smith's Rosebud Salve, which I've used for years. I use it mostly as a lip gloss, but it also works on diaper rash, skin blemishes, and I often use it on my cuticles. It smells nice and delicate too. And it's only $6! I get mine at Sephora, but here's a list of retailers that carry it too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Three Questions

While I was folding a mountain of laundry yesterday, I had the television on and caught a few reruns of Suze Orman on Oprah talking about people on the brink of financial disaster. Suze said something that really struck me, and I've decided to make it part of my intentions for living through the year. There was a couple expecting a baby who made well over 100K a year, who had student loan debt that  they weren't repaying, three cars, and a huge shopping habit. Suze told them that to save themselves from the black hole they were going further and further into, they should start thinking about these three things before they made any purchase:

Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind?

I started to think about how I view buying things: as a stress reliever sometimes, as a mindless activity other times. But how is that getting me closer to my goals? It isn't. So I'm going to try to do a better job of thinking through every purchase I make this year with those criteria.

Image from here

Monday, January 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 1.9.2012

Hello Friends,
Well, if I thought 2012 might allow me to slow down a little, I was wrong! The first week of the year flew by, and here we are again at another Monday. Here's what we're cooking this week:

Eggplant Parmesan
Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry
Chicken and Cheese Tortilla Soup
Spaghetti with Bolognese
Spicy Whiskey Barbecue Sliders

Find more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blue Velvet

Last weekend I picked up a chair that I had been eying for quite a while at World Market. I tested it out in the store, and thought it was really comfortable for the price, and I absolutely loved the color. About the same time I found the chair, I read that furniture oftentimes goes on sale in January to make room for the new stock, so I patiently waited a few months, and then checked after the holidays were over! And lo and behold, World Market was having a big sale on their furniture. I also had a 10% off coupon from signing up for their rewards program. It pays to wait!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My 2012 Goals

I know a lot of people scoff at New Year's resolutions, but I love them. I love the start of a fresh year, full of promise and another chance to create the life you dream of. So with that in mind, I resolve this year to work towards our financial and personal goals, and try to make sure every important decision I make somehow gets us further to those goals. I shared our money goals for 2011 in this post, and some of these will carry over to this year.

Money Goals
Complete our 8-month emergency fund
Increase our contribution to retirement by 1%
Continue to stay on budget using my new system
Complete the legacy drawer by March

Pretty Goals
Go on a date once a month
Continue to make my home a comfortable place to be, on a budget
Experiment more with my cooking and menu planning

What about you? Any goals for the year?

Image from here

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Net Worth Update: December 2012

The end of the month that ends the year, and it's time for another update on our net worth!

Savings: +732.20 Just a normal month here. Glad we were able to dump some money into savings because we had some travel for the holidays, and Christmas always seems to cost a little more than we plan for!
Retirement Accounts: +95.24 Our gains in our 401K pretty much covered our losses in our traditional IRA, so we're just about even for the month.


Mortgage: –70.86 So this number isn't complete, because I didn't write down our mortgage balance when our slip came in the mail, and I can't access that info online. This is how much we paid off on our home improvement loan, which I always just keep together with our mortgage for simplicity's sake. So we actually paid off a little more than this, but I don't know how much! Whoops!

Total Change in Net Worth
+898.30 It was great to end the year with a positive gain, especially considering how many swings we saw last year. Here's to a positive 2012!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 1.2.2012

Happy New Year Friends! We had a very busy holiday, and I'm ready now to tackle this year with a vengeance! One of my resolutions is to be more organized, and continuing to menu plan will be a huge part of that. I got a few new cookbooks for Christmas, so I'll be experimenting with some new recipes the next few weeks. Here's what we're having this week.

Oven Baked Chicken Fingers
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Pasta alla Vodka
Crockpot Meat Loaf

And you can find more delicious menu plans right here! Have a great week!