Thursday, March 31, 2011

Extreme Couponing

Extreme Couponers--Be warned, you might not like what you read below.  It is my opinion, and I certainly mean no offense.  Please know that I am not trying to criticize you as an individual, just my impressions of Extreme Couponing, I apologize in advance if you feel attacked.

While at my mother-in-law's house, with all of its glorious cable, my sister in law informed me about an upcoming show on TLC called Extreme Couponing.  We don't have cable, so I knew that I wasn't going to be able to watch it, but I was intrigued, and truthfully hoped to be inspired.  So the other night, while dreading cutting & organizing a vat of coupons I looked up TLC's website hoping to get motivated.

To be fair, I haven't seen a full episode, but in general I was quite horrified by the clips.  With the exception of one woman, it appeared to me while most of these people were saving a lot of money, and getting A LOT OF STUFF with their coupons...they were keeping it all for themselves.
These people had HOARDS of STUFFHOARDS.  See the picture above?  That's an actual picture of a pantry of one of these extreme couponers.  See the three boxes on the floor?  ALL DEODORANT.  Yes, it is an amazing deal, but in your entire lifetime could you use all of it?

 Coupons are definitely free money, and I certainly find value in using them, but what is the benefit in buying so much?  I too like to stock up when things are a great deal, but I don't want to become a shopaholic or a hoarder just because I can get a good deal.  And I couldn't help but think while these couponers proudly showed off their converted garages, holding $10-$15,000 worth of goods...What about your neighbors?  In these hard times, I understand the feeling of wanting to stockpile while gas prices soar, and food prices rise, but what about helping people who have NO FOOD?

I feel like learning how to coupon well is a skill, or in the case of these people, a true gift.  I don't pretend to be half as skilled as they are, and I certainly can't get $500 worth of food for free no matter how hard I try. But if I have excess, I like to pass it along to people who need it more than I do.  I just really wish that the show highlighted the positive impact that these people could make on their community, instead of showing how great it is to hoard.

Now don't get me wrong, if the apocalypse comes tomorrow maybe I'll be knocking on my extreme couponing neighbor's door begging for a year's supply of ketchup, gatorade, or ramen noodles; but in the mean time, I think I'll stick to only buying what we can use, and donating the excess.  And I encourage you to do the same.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meatless Monday...On Wednesday

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but around here it has gotten cold and misty.  I do hope that spring blossoming shortly, but for now I'm cooking cold weather food one more time.

My mom makes some of the best soups around, and one of my favorites is her chili.  Unfortunately, most of the time chili involves beef, so once I went veg, I needed to come up with a chili that was still comforting and delicious, but didn't lose its heart.  This is absolutely nothing like the traditional chili my husband grew up with, so I suppose you could call it something between a chili & a tex-mex soup.  Here's what I came up with...

1 64 oz can of tomato or mixed vegetable (V8 type) juice  (I usually prefer mixed because its a great way to get the nutrients of some veggies that I don't eat on a daily basis, but I only had tomato on hand).
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomatoes with green chilies
* Optional, but in my opinion FABULOUS--1 can El Pato (more on this later)
2 cups of cooked brown rice

Spices can be adjusted 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon depending on your personal heat preference, but I'm a pepper belly and I LOVE it HOT!

1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper


While you're prepping the other ingredients start cooking your rice; either in a rice cooker or on the stove top.
You can cook brown rice in a rice maker!  Who knew?  Just add 2 cups & 2 tbsp of water per cup of rice
 In a large pot open the can of juice.  Most juice tends to separate, so be sure to shake the can once or twice.  Add that to the pot, then add the crushed tomatoes with their juices, the tomatoes & chilies with their juices, & the El Pato. Set on medium heat and allow the flavors to incorporate.


*  A note about El Pato--In my opinion El Pato is spicy heaven in a can.  My handsome husband introduced it to me way back when he was my handsome manfriend.  It is super spicy & super delicious.  More stores nationwide are carrying it, so look for it in your Latin food aisle.  In Indiana I found it in Kroger, here I found it in Walmart & Harps.

Next, you will need to drain & rinse your beans.


**Green  Living Freak Alert:  I like to save water, so this is how I open the cans...
 Drain your kidney & your black beans, then drain your corn over the beans.  Then, use the water from rinsing out all of your cans & pour over your beans.  After rinsing your cans & the water from the corn, the brine from the beans should be washed away, without you needing to use any extra water.  If this is too OCD for you, just drain & rinse the beans.

Once all of the beans & corn are rinsed add them to the pot.  Add in all of your seasonings; I have to admit that I don't precisely measure, I usually just go around the top of the pot & make sure everything is covered.  (Extremely exact, huh?)  If that doesn't work for you, you can measure with your palm, ala Rachael Ray, or use measuring spoons.  I would warn you to wash your hands if you measure the cayenne with your palm!

After 15 minutes I like to taste and then adjust seasonings.  From here it is your call when you add the rice.  When using brown you don't run the risk of it getting as mushy as white rice, so you can add it earlier.  I personally like the rice to thicken the soup, so I don't mind if it isn't a perfect grain, but the choice is entirely yours.  Also, if you want a complete protein be sure to use the rice, it really makes this a healthful, meat free dish.

 Allow the soup to simmer & come together.  Like any soup, the longer you allow the flavors to develop the more delicious the soup is, but if you're in a hurry, you just want to make sure that everything is heated through.  It will be even more delicious after sitting in the fridge over night, I promise!

 I love to eat this over a tofu pup.  Even if you're not a big tofu eater, with this chili over a soy dog, it is bliss in a bun.
And if I can get my meat eating husband to try it, you know it must be good!  

I also like eat it as a quick burrito.  Just drain off the juices with a slotted spoon, plop on a tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, and maybe some sour cream.  Yum!

It is also awesome over a baked potato...I mean, seriously awesome.

In college I used to make this, eat off it for a week, and then freeze the remainder.  If you don't have a large family to feed, or want to make a double batch this is a fabulous option.  I also find that sometimes when I get down to the end of the pot there's a lot of extra juice left, but not a lot of substance.  I just pour it into a little container & freeze it for the next batch of chili.  It adds a lot of flavor & eliminates waste.

Hope you enjoy.  Happy Eating!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meet Grandma

I believe in relishing in the kitch of childhood for as long a possible.  My going to grandma's suitcase is still my favorite way to travel.  Unfortunately it is too petite to fit any of my clothes, but it makes the perfect train case.

Not only do I not like to buy toiletries, I also don't like to buy the small bags that keep all of my petite little sample sizes organized.  I've tried to reuse as many little things as possible to keep everything organized.  Let me show you...

This held a Kiss My Face gift from my mom & dad.  It comes in so handy for holding larger travel sized items.

This little container was from a sample from a pharmaceutical company I believe.  

Our travel sized first aid kit is held in an old Strawberry Short Cake Band-Aid container,

While hair accessories are held in an old Altoid tin. 


I've found this way of traveling with samples to be highly effective, and using my grandma suitcase always makes me smile.  If you have any tiny suitcases, or find a vintage train case in an antique store, I highly recommend using samples and found/reused containers.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lord, I Was Born a Ramblin' Man...


We've just gotten back from Spring Break & had a wonderful time.

At the beginning of the week we went to Lake of the Ozarks to visit my most loyal blog reader, JC's Aunt Lynn.  (Hi Aunt Lynn!)

While Emerson enjoyed the lake, she mostly enjoyed snorting with Aunt Lynn's giant stuffed pig.

We spent time in St. Louis with JC's sister, Tibby,

 & his mom & step dad.

We went to the butterfly house in St. Louis for Tibby's wedding shower

Where my two lovies were looking mighty dapper

& Emerson practiced dress up 

and pulling out her bow while being held by Grandpa. 

Good times were had by all!
And when we got home, I discovered some of my seeds have sprouted!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Use It Or Lose It--Pillows

My sister is an interior designer, she's fabulous at her job, and she's also generous.  Several years ago she gave me some scrap upholstery fabric.  I've been going through closets trying to keep in mind the motto 'use it or lose it'.  When I found the upholstery fabric I knew I just had to use it.

I pulled out some pillow forms that have been sitting around from the people who previously owned this house (they left us their bedding...weird right?) and sewed over the forms.  Here's the final product:

Three beautiful pillows! (We don't normally keep them all on this chair, I just couldn't bring myself to show you our uber shabby couches.  They were used 20 years ago when my parents got them & they're in sad shape now). 

I particularly love this fabric!  Oh so pretty.  Thanks sister pants!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bring Your Own...

Last week at Target I received a coupon for a $2 Latte at Starbucks.  I never buy Starbucks, even though it is a fabulous treat.  Well, I shouldn't say never, in the fall I buy a Pumpkin Spice Latte, but otherwise, I skip it.  Anyway, back to the coffee...

A few days later E & I took a little trip to Tarzhay to get my Starbucks & while heading out of the house I decided to my own coffee cup.  I've never done this before & always assumed it would be rather embarrassing, but after seeing the video about the zero waste family I figured I should try it. 

And you know what?  It wasn't embarrassing at all.  I ordered my drink, said I wanted to use my own cup & the barista said, 'Ok.'  That's it.  Nothing bad at all!  I don't know what my hesitation has been all these years.  It was not a big deal at all.  In fact, as an added bonus, my coupon was only for a tall & my cup was more the size of a grande, but the barista filled up my WHOLE cup!  Score!

If you have been worrying about judgment & a look of scorn from your local barista, don't fear!  In these green times, it's totally ok to bring your own coffee cup.  I intend to do this again in the future.  Perhaps I'll even bring my own container to my favorite take out place.  We'll  have to see how brave I can be!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Frugal Experiments

I'm always reading about frugal living trying to perfect my 'game' if you will.  While I often try out new things there are some that I have found rather ridiculous and not worth the effort.  Here are some that I tried this week:

Reusing your tea bags--The frugal principal here is that there is still loads of flavor to be gained from your tea bag, so use it one more time.

Bremen Town Musicians mug my dad brought me back from Bremen, Germany when I was a kid

One evening I made tea for myself & JC, saved our bags, put them in the fridge, and the following morning I made tea from one of those bags...It was...not so great.  Sure it steeped & turned a tea color, but the flavor.  Oh the flavor.  Well, there was none.  It was the same great tea, but 1/10th of the potency.  I think if I ever try this again, and I have the same scenario-- I have recently made 2 cups of tea & can reuse 2 tea bags, then perhaps I will get 1 decent cup.  In the meantime, I have to say, unless you enjoy weak tea, this one was not for me.

Make a soap baby--After using a bar of soap, take the little shards that are left and sort of meld them to a larger bit of soap.  The bits become one with the larger bit of soap, hence, the soap baby. 

Because we only use bars of soap I had one bar that had broken in to two chunks, so I figured now was a good time to try this.  The only problem was I would smoosh the pieces together, think they were stuck, but then when I would wet the bar to wash my hands the pieces would come apart.  I finally had to get sort of rough with it and really mash them together.  After thoroughly roughing them up they did stick, and I tell you, it was like having a new bar of soap!  I was quite thrilled with this little experiment, and I think it's a great way to get what you paid for out of your soap. 

Reuse Tinfoil--This one is straight out of Tightwad Gazette.   Amy Dacyzyn, the author, swears by washing and reusing tinfoil.

I wash & reuse our ziplocs, but I had never before thought of recycling tin foil; especially because we buy 100% recycled foil, recycle it once it is used, and use very little of it.  BUT, after we ate at a local Mediterranean restaurant & they wrapped our extra naan in foil, I figured I should try it.  I promptly brought it home, washed it off, and used it to line the bottom of our oven.  It works really well to pick up little bits that might fall to the bottom & burn and means less cleaning!  However, I'm not sure I would use the foil again for covering food; truthfully, I don't know how you would prevent it from getting too crunched up or getting holes in it. That said, when freshness isn't at stake, reusing foil for lining the oven is a great option!

One last thing...

If you are looking to try to make your own laundry detergent, I just wanted to give a helpful hint.  Above is my laundry detergent after sitting for two or three days.  See how much it separates?  This is why I HIGHLY recommend taking the time to store it in smaller containers that can be shaken up before use. 

Just give it a little shake, and it will go back to normal.  Hope that helps. 

Have you done any frugal experiments lately?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Break

We're going to be traveling over the next week visiting family & celebrating JC's sister's upcoming wedding.  The car is packed...

I've got my reading material...

And my Shabby Chic thermos filled with water.  Looks like it will be a good trip!

**I'm not 100% sure I'll have internet access the whole time, but I'll try to keep the posts coming every day.  Happy spring break to you!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Little Seed, Little Seed

Spring is almost here, which means garden preparations.  We haven't had a garden in several years, but we're going to give it a go again this year.  The only problem is we're lazy gardeners & didn't clear the land in the fall, but I still have high hopes.

Also, most of my seeds are a few years old, because we didn't have the opportunity to have a garden the last two years...but again, I have high hopes.

In keeping with that hopeful spirit, today I planted all of my indoor seeds the proper 6-8 weeks early, in the hopes that at least some of them will germinate & we'll be blessed with a bounty.

After a few hours work, my laundry room turned in to a nursery.  Here's what we have...

4 green house trays filled with assorted types of tomatoes
Many, many pots filled with multi-colored bell peppers

My rarely used dryer is getting a little use holding pots

A few pots filled with hot peppers (I put them in the red & pink pots...hopefully I'll remember!)
2 pots of basil
2 pots of Foxglove flowers (Has anyone grown these?  I'm not even sure how I got the seeds...)

And one surprise survivor-- the Easter lily I forgot to plant last year survived the winter, and was discovered to be alive while I was reusing its potting soil.  Sweet lil' fella was transplanted & I hope he makes it, especially because it was given to us for Little E's first Easter.  

Here's hoping we all have successful gardens this spring!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Make It Do: Crib Sheet

We only have two crib choice.  When I bought them, both were 75% off; one came with our bedding set, and the other I bought on clearance at the same time, shortly after we were married.  Yup, you read right, I started buying baby stuff before we had a baby.  I liked the bedding set, it was gender neutral, 75% off, and I figured we'd have babies eventually right?  (By the way, even if this makes you a crazy person, I highly recommend this type of behavior if it is in the name of saving money.  In fact we also put down a deposit on our wedding location before we were engaged, but that's another story...) 

Most of the time only having two sheets is not a big deal, but a week ago, before I stripped my cloth diapers, E's diaper leaked, and I was left without any clean sheets.  Fortunately, I'd learned the following trick from my mother in law:

Take your twin sheet and unfold it.

Fold it under width and lengthwise so there is just enough left to tuck under the mattress.  Try to make your folds rather crisp so you won't have a lumpy bed.   Pull very taut, and tuck under.

Voila!  I will say that I would be slightly nervous about doing this if E was still at the age where you had to worry about SIDS, but I think if you made sure to pull the sheet tight enough you wouldn't have to worry.  In a pinch, this is a great alternative to having to go buy loads of those ridiculously useless crib sheets. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Occasionally I get in a rut.  Occasionally I just don't feel like doing chores around the house, being frugal, or being green.  Occasionally, I just feel like forgetting all of the little extras that I do that take time, but save energy, or money.  It always seems that just about the time that I feel that way I find some little gem to keep me going.  Here are a few that I've really been enjoying this week. 

Check out the Johnson family here.  They live a zero waste lifestyle, meaning they create absolutely no garbage.  It is truly amazing. 

The make the conscious effort to primarily eliminate waste before it ever enters their home, meaning, bringing glass jars to the deli counter, using compostable toothbrushes, & keeping produce in lingere bags.  I thought that I was making green efforts, but to see the minuscule amount of waste their family of four produces really gets me thinking about my choices.  Awesome, seriously, awesome.

Photo Credit:  Down To Earth

Another blog that I've been enjoying is Down to Earth.  It is written by an Australian woman, who is newly retired, but an old hat at homemaking.  She and her husband live a green, self sustaining life, filled with the glorious comforts of yester-year.  Rhonda keeps chickens (chooks as she calls them), has a MASSIVE garden, knits her own dishcloths, makes her own soap, and cooks from scratch.  She is a BIG believer in doing things the way our grandparents or great grandparents did; work hard, and reap the many awesome benefits of doing things the old fashioned way.  I can't tell you how inspired I am by her lifestyle. 

When you're feeling run down, where do you get your inspiration?