Friday, March 30, 2012

Meal Ideas for Lent - Pioneer Woman's Pantry Pasta

I saw this meatless pasta dish on an episode of the Pioneer Woman's Food Network show.  A simple, quick dish she threw together using ingredients right from her pantry.  Artichokes, olives, pesto and cheese.  The recipe calls for jarred pesto since the show was about using items from the pantry.  But after the first time I made fresh pesto, I swore I would never go back to jarred or prepared pesto ever again!  So I did make my own pesto for this dish using another Pioneer Woman recipe.  And instead of feta cheese, I used chevre (goat cheese) since that's what I had on hand!   

Mary Ellen


Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Triples

Harris Teeter Triples Trip #2

The triple coupon event at Harris Teeter has ended.  But, I did manage to get in one more shopping trip when the new coupon inserts came out over the weekend. Which was a good thing because we were running low on toilet paper!  With a family of six, it goes so fast!  And I've yet to convince (and probably will NEVER be able to) my husband to consider family cloth.  There's limits to what he's willing to do for the sake of frugality LOL!

3 Angel Soft 4pks $2.99 ea - .45/1 Q = $1.64 ea
3 Skintimate shave gels $2.50 ea - .55/1 Q = .85 ea
2 McCormick chili powder $1.99 ea - .75/1 Q = FREE
1 McCormick parsley flakes $1.69 - .75/1 Q = FREE
3 Colgate toothpaste $2.50 ea - .50/1 Q = $1 ea
3 Colgate kids toothbrushes $2.99 - .50/1 Q = $1.49 ea

Also bought: sugar and Kitchen Bouquet

Total oop: $21.67
Total savings: $29.99 

Mary Ellen

(Note:  This post contains an affiliate link.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What I Wore to Work - First Day of Spring

Dress - Express (Goodwill)

Maybe I jumped the gun just a bit :)  But when the first day of Spring rolled around, I wore a white dress to work!  After spending the winter months in dresses of browns, blacks and grays, I wanted to mark the change in season with something light.  Plus, the weather was so gorgeous here last week!  Mild morning temps and afternoon highs in the 70s and 80s.  I found this Express dress at Goodwill (of course!).  It's white with a tiny floral print.  The dress has a mermaid type silhouette - fitted from the chest to the knees, then flaring out at the hemline.  It highlights the curves I earned from having three kids :)  To make it more office friendly, I wore my light blue sweater as a cover up.

Mary Ellen

pleated poppy

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bananas Going Bad? Try Banana Pineapple Bread!

Is this a common sight in your kitchen?  Bananas going brown with no one wanting to eat them - even though the banana itself is still perfectly good!  I do two things with bananas in this state - freeze them for smoothies or bake banana bread.  But instead of the traditional banana bread, I bake Banana Pineapple Bread from Tammy's Recipes.  Everyone loves it, especially Dave!  So moist and delicious, with just the right amount of sweetness.  And the bananas and pineapples are a great combination! 


Mary Ellen

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Our Sweet Oreo Kitty

The weather has been gray and dreary this weekend.  Which mirrors my mood at the present.  This past Thursday, I noticed our cat Oreo acting differently.  I didn't know why, I just knew something was off about her.  But she was eating and drinking as usual.  On Friday, she spent most of the day lying close by the house in a shady spot.  Friday evening, Dave went out to check on her in the last spot she had been and she was gone.  He checked underneath the house and all her favorite hiding spots around the yard, but she wasn't there.  We have a wooded area bordering our property and Dave thinks she may have wandered off into the woods for her final moments.  It was so sudden and saddening.  Just last week, I was standing in the kitchen looking out the window at Ashleigh and Oreo going down the slide together.  Oreo loved to run around the backyard just like she was one of the kids!  I really thought we'd have many more sunny days to spend with her.

The kids are taking it in stride.  I try to save my tears for moments I'm alone or with Dave as not to upset them.  I find myself looking towards the back door as I pass by the sunroom, expecting to see her little face peeking in.  She was such a pretty kitty with a sweet demeanor.  We'll miss her dearly.


UPDATE - Sunday afternoon, a neighbor knocked on our back door.  She found Oreo lying underneath an azalea bush in her backyard.  She was breathing (barely) and could only move her ear.  Dave rushed her to the emergency vet.  The vet said Oreo's injuries were consistent with either being hit by a car or shaken by a dog.  The injuries to her spine were such that Oreo had completely lost movement in her back legs and was losing movement in her front legs as well.  We decided to have her put to sleep as the damage to her spine could not be repaired.

Despite her significant injuries, Oreo made her way back home.  We got to tell her what an amazing kitty she was and that we loved her.  Alleviating her suffering seemed to be the only thing left to give her. 

Mary Ellen

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stocking Up - Vinegar

Last week, Harris Teeter had their large jugs of white distilled vinegar on sale for buy one, get one free.  I found myself very excited about this deal!  For the working home keeper and homemaker, vinegar is a very useful item to have on hand.  You can use it for making homemade vinaigrette dressings, add it to a cup of milk for a buttermilk substitute, it makes your homemade barbecue sauce tangy and is used in a lot of recipes for homemade cleaners.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one who realized this was a good deal!  When I went back to buy more jugs, the shelf was completely empty.  So, I got a rain check!

This is a tip I learned from one of my favorite blogs - A Cultivated Nest.  Add lemon (or orange) peels to a jar of white vinegar and soak for a few weeks.  Remove the peels from the jar and use the vinegar in your homemade cleaning recipes.  The vinegar will have a nice citrus smell from the soaked peels!

Mary Ellen


Friday, March 23, 2012

Meal Ideas for Lent - Yellow Split Pea Dal

Yellow Split Pea Dal

Add a little international flare to your meatless Lenten meals with this recipe for Yellow Split Pea Dal.

Note:  This recipe is from a cookbook I checked out from our public library.  I neglected to write down the name of the book (silly me!), but I believe it's from Easy Indian Cooking by Suneeta Vaswani.

2 cups yellow split peas
2 cups + vegetable broth
1 medium diced onion
Peeled & diced ginger (a small piece)
2 - 3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons tumeric
Red pepper flakes, to taste

Saute onions, ginger and garlic in olive oil over medium heat.  When onions have become translucent, add red pepper flakes, cumin and tumeric.  Stir to combine.  Add broth and yellow split peas.  Simmer for 30 - 40 minutes until peas are done.  Add more broth (or water) as needed during the cooking process.  Serve alone or over brown rice with Naan.

Mary Ellen

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Harris Teeter Triple Coupon Event

Yesterday was the start of triple coupons at Harris Teeter!  I made a quick trip in before work and was able to find all the items I had on my list.  And also offer help to an older lady who was participating in triples for the first time :)

During triples, Harris Teeter will triple the value of coupons up to .99.  So a .75 off coupon, now becomes $2.25 off!  Here are the deals I was able to find yesterday:

2 Almond Breeze $3.29 ea - .55/1 Q = $1.64 ea
2 Almond Breeze shelf stable cartons $2.85 ea - .55/1 Q = $1.20 ea
2 Dole Frozen Fruit Cups $2.79 ea - .75/1 Q = .54 ea
3 Kleenex Hand Towels $2.99 ea - .75/1 Q = .74 ea
2 Ban Invisible Solid deodorants $2.99 ea - .75/1 Q = .74 ea
3 Whiskas Temptations cat treats $1.99 ea - .50/1 Q = .49 ea
1 Ivory soap 3pk $1.55 - .25 zvr - .35/1 Q = .25 (for 3 bars)
6 Dole pineapple (in juice) cans .99 ea - 50/2 Q = $1.44 total (.48 for every 2 cans)
2 Dole mandarin oranges (in juice) jars $2.79 ea - .75/1 Q = .54 ea

Total out of pocket (oop) = $15.78
Total savings $38.65

And at checkout, I received a .50 off my next order catalina courtesy of Dole!

I've mentioned before that when it comes to couponing, I like to focus on non-food items.  Well, as you can see from my list, I do make exceptions!  There are some food items I will buy with coupons if a good deal arises. Like the following:  almond milk (refrigerated and shelf stable), baking supplies (flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, yeast), dried fruits, frozen fruit, canned fruit (in juice), 100% fruit juices (no HFCS), nuts and vinegar.  Even though there are tons of coupons for processed foods, you can still find deals for healthier items as well. 

(This post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What I Wore to Work - Gray Ruby Rox Dress

Dress - Ruby Rox (Goodwill)

My latest Ruby Rox Goodwill find is this gray, off the shoulder dress with black floral design.  I love how the neckline accentuates my neck and shoulders.  Makes me want to add a few more off the shoulder dresses to my wardrobe!  I'm thinking this dress originally came with a pink ribbon for the waist since there were pink string loops attached to the sides.  Unfortunately, I didn't see the ribbon anywhere.  Which is a shame because I love pink and gray together.  So, I just clipped the loops off!

I added one of my hair clips as a pin.

Mary Ellen

Ready to get out of the frump slump?
Frumps to Pumps is your one month motivational for getting dressed and staying that way!

pleated poppy

(Note:  This post contains an affiliate link.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quick Meals for Working Moms - Spaghetti with Homemade Meat Sauce

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with 
Homemade Meat Sauce

When I think about quick meals to make in the evenings after work, spaghetti always comes to mind!  It's not very time intensive and the kids love it.  But instead of reaching for a jarred pasta sauce, why not make your own?  It's simple and it gives you more control over the ingredients.  My go-to homemade meat sauce is this recipe featured on the Naturally Knocked Up blog (cute name!).  I do make a few changes to make it more to our liking.  I omit the olive oil, Worchestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese.  If we add Parmesan, it's usually sprinkled on after the pasta is plated.  I also leave out the minced onions and use onion powder instead.  Ashleigh is convinced she is allergic to onions (she's not!) and will not eat anything containing visible onion pieces.  And when I'm feeling particularly thrifty, instead of two-15oz. cans of tomato sauce, I'll use one can + a can of water.  The sauce will thicken as the water cooks down.  This recipe serves our family of 6, with one serving usually left over.


Mary Ellen



Happy first day of Spring!

Mary Ellen

Monday, March 19, 2012

PTO Day - "Paint" Time Off

Last Friday, I took some time off from work to take care of a few homecaring tasks.  The weather was gorgeous and the kids were in early from school.  It was the perfect day for an afternoon away from the office!

Having the afternoon off gave me the opportunity to do some spray painting.  I had intended to start on these projects weeks ago, but never found time on the weekends.  For my garden, I spray painted a wooden trellis in a soft french lilac color.  The trellis was a Craigslist freebie!  I think lavender and green are a beautiful color combination.  In my head, I'm envisioning pea and cucumber vines wrapping themselves around the trellis in my garden this year.

I also started priming this trash to treasure find.  It's a small stand with a cut out for storing electrical components.  Would work well as a small TV stand or writing desk.  I'm thinking about doing some sort of design on top in gray.  I have a Martha Stewart stencil I'd like to try out and this would be a good practice piece!

Since Dave's office is closer, he's usually home before me.  But Friday, I was able to treat him by having the house in order, dinner cooking and plate of warm, homemade chocolate chip cookies ready for him as he walked into the door!

Mary Ellen

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Beauty in the Ordinary

A simple (and frugal) bouquet from bolted garden plants

The warm weather lately has my thoughts turning towards my Spring garden.  This weekend, I started clearing out my garden squares in anticipation of Spring planting.  Most of my fall vegetable plants have gone to seed (bolted), with the exception of my Swiss chard and lettuce plants.  I gathered together the blossoming tops of my arugula, mizuna and red kale plants for a simple (and frugal!) bouquet.  Beauty in the ordinary.

Mary Ellen   

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tropical Green Smoothie Recipe for St. Patrick's Day

Tropical Green Smoothie

Want to start your St. Patrick's Day (or any day!) off with a little green?  Try this Tropical Green Smoothie!

Tropical Green Smoothie:

1 cup of water {I was going to use almond milk, but the kids drank it all!}
1 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
1 cup pineapple chunks, canned
1/2 cup pineapple juice (from the can)
about 1 tablespoon organic, extra virgin coconut oil {from my Earth Fare score}
1/2 - 1 cup ice cubes
Fresh greens, a good handful  {I used Swiss Chard since it's growing in my garden.  But spinach would work as well}.

1.  Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container and secure the lid.
2.  Select Variable 1.
3.  Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10.
4.  Blend for 45 seconds or until desired consistency is reached.


Mary Ellen

Make the perfect GREEN smoothie with Vitamix!

(Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Meal Ideas for Lent - Sweet Potato Chili

Sweet Potato Chili

Looking for something other than pasta for your meatless Lenten Friday meal?  Try this recipe for Sweet Potato Chili from the blog Chocolate Covered Katie.  It's gluten free - and delicious!

Mary Ellen

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Master Grocery List & Weekly Meal Plan

My Saturday morning routine
A cup of coffee, a homemade muffin and my meal and grocery lists!

After I make breakfast on Saturday mornings, I sit down to the dining room table with my Homecaring Binder and begin work on the meal plan for the coming week.  Under the meal planning section of my binder, I keep copies of my weekly meal plan form and master grocery list.  I started using these lists many years ago after discovering the FlyLady.  The master grocery list is basically a listing of items I typically buy at the grocery store divided under different categories.  I use the same category headings as suggested here for the FlyLady Control Journal.  Using a highlighter, I go through the list and mark those items I need for the week.  If I run out of something mid-week, I go then to my binder and highlight it on the list.  That's less I have to remember - which also means less is forgotten! 

As its name implies, the weekly meal plan form lists out the days of the week with space to write the entree, salad, vegetable, beverage, bread and dessert.  I'm not always so detailed that I write down the exact vegetables and beverages for each meal.  But I do make sure I have the entree listed, of course.  I've found that by writing down my meals ahead of time, I can get started with dinner right away in the evenings after work.  Instead of wandering the kitchen aimlessly trying to pull something together last minute.  Which in turn means we're less likely to eat out - except for those days in which we've already planned to.

Meal planning made a little easier!

Mary Ellen

Delicious, Affordable Meals in 30 Minutes or Less!
On sale through March 19th for just $6.48

(Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Green - Trash to Treasure Side Tables

I decided to add a little GREEN to our family room decor.  Seems fitting considering Spring is right around the corner!


This dusty trash to treasure side table was easily transformed...


With just a little paint and glaze!
The color is Benjamin Moore Huntington Green with a black glaze to bring out the details (as I did with the turquoise TV dresser).  

This nightstand was a previous trash to treasure find that was made over once before in a lighter shade of green.  I gave it an update with the Huntington Green to match the new (to us!) side table.

Mary Ellen   

P.S. If you're looking to do some painting, or any other alterations in your house, try using these coupons for Home Depot.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Meal Ideas for Lent - Pasta Fagioli

Pasta Fagioli
from Dining On A Dime Cookbook 

This quick and meatless pasta dish is sure to please! 

Pasta Fagioli

1-15 oz can Great Northern beans (or 2 cups Northern beans cooked)
1-28 oz can stewed tomatoes, sliced
16 oz spaghetti sauce (p. 220) {I use a jarred, organic Marinara sauce from Trader Joe's}
Italian seasoning (to taste)
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups small spiral pasta, uncooked
salt & pepper (to taste)

In a Dutch oven combine everything and bring to a boil on medium high.  Turn heat down to low.  Cover pan with lid and allow to cook on a slow simmer for 30 minutes or until pasta is tender.  Stir occasionally.  Serves 6.

You can find this and other great recipes in the Dining On A Dime Cookbook.  On sale now through March 12th for $10.98.  Half-off the original price!  Hurry and get your copy today! 

Mary Ellen

(Note:  The post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ashleigh's First Vintage Dress

My Momma has been doing a bit of Spring cleaning lately.  She's been going through her walk-in closet and removing any clutter and organizing the items she wants to keep.  During her excavations yesterday, she came across a couple dresses of mine from when I was a little girl.  Ashleigh quickly laid claim to a pink dress with puffed sleeves and white pinafore.  She's expressed a desire to wear more dresses (like mother, like daughter!).  So, Ashleigh's Spring dress collection will start out with an actual 1980's "vintage" dress.  Isn't it crazy the 80's are considered vintage now?  I feel so old!


Ashleigh with her kitten Kiss-Kiss

My Momma also found one of my most treasured dresses from when I was a little girl.  My Alice in Wonderland dress from Disney World!  For a time, my oldest sister lived in Florida.  On one of our visits down to see her, we went to Disney and bought this dress while there.  The pinafore has the white rabbit with his watch embroidered on the front.  I still remember getting my picture taken in this dress.  With my black, patent leather Mary Jane, block-heeled shoes and two, long side ponytails hanging down by my face.  I felt like a princess! 

Mary Ellen

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Easier Mornings Before Work - Kids Clothing Organization

My mornings just got easier!  Let me explain.  As a working home keeper, I know the benefits of planning for the next day the night before.  Anything you do the evening before, from prepping lunch boxes to laying out clothes, can help make your mornings more relaxed and less hectic.  Confession time - some evenings, I just don't feel like it!  After coming in from work, cleaning up and cooking dinner (in heels!), I just want to melt into my bed.  So, sometimes clothes don't get laid out the night before.  Which means the next morning starts with a rush to put together outfits for three kids - and myself!

Now, I have a new plan - do it once and forget about for the rest of the week!  Instead of laying out one set of clothes for the next day, I put together outfits for the entire week on Sunday afternoon.  To keep the clothes organized, I use the hanging shoe organizers pictured above.  Ashleigh has one organizer, and the boys share a separate 10-pocket organizer.  Since the organizers are intended for shoes, they aren't very wide.  But they are pretty deep and the sides are a flexible fabric.  The pockets can easily hold a shirt, pair of pants, underwear and socks.  Bulkier sweaters would be problematic.  But we are slowly moving towards milder temperatures, thank goodness!  If this new system works out well, maybe I'll upgrade to a standard hanging shelf organizer by the time winter (and the need for bigger sweaters!) arrives again.    

How do you keep your mornings running smoothly?

Mary Ellen


P.S. If you're looking for more storage solutions for your closet, use these coupons for Lowes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dining On A Dime Sale - 50% Off!

by Tawra Kellam & Jill Cooper
{available as print copy or e-book}
HALF OFF PRICE $10.98  (through March 12th)

Great news for those looking to trim their grocery budget amid rising prices!  Through March 12th, the Dining On A Dime Cookbook is available for 50% OFF!  You can read my review here.  Our family is still thoroughly enjoying the recipes in the cookbook.  And each week, I continue to cut a little more off my grocery budget using the money saving tips offered in the book. 

by Jill Cooper & Tawra Kellam
{available as e-book only}
HALF OFF PRICE $9.98  (through March 12th)

Also on sale for half off through March 12th, is the Keeping It Clean e-book series.  The series includes 3 e-books designed to help you learn better techniques for getting and keeping your home clean, managing laundry and getting all those household tasks under control. 

Don't miss out on these great sales!

Mary Ellen

(Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Meal Ideas for Lent - Asian Vegetable Pasta

Asian Vegetable Pasta

This dish is basically my homemade version of  Vegetable Lo Mein.  This recipe allows for creativity when it comes to the vegetables and seasonings used.  So, it's not really exact.  But it's hard to mess up, so don't be afraid to mix things up!

The vegetables I typically use for this dish are:

Broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
Cauliflower florets (fresh or frozen)
Onions (sliced)
Carrots (shredded)
Cabbage (shredded)
Mushrooms (sliced)

 For seasonings - soy sauce (low sodium), garlic powder, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper and sometimes I'll add in a little toasted sesame oil.

In a pan, saute onions, carrots, cabbage and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat.  When onions become translucent, add broccoli and cauliflower florets.  Add seasonings to the vegetables, reduce heat and cover.  Cook until vegetables have reached desired tenderness.  While vegetables are cooking, prepare whole wheat spaghetti according to package directions.  Once pasta is done, drain and combine with vegetables in a large serving bowl.  Add additional soy sauce or other seasonings if needed.  Gently stir vegetables and pasta together.

Mary Ellen 

P.S. The ingredients can be bought here with these coupons for Kmart.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Earth Fare Savings - Nutiva Coconut Oil

2 jars Nutiva extra virgin coconut oil - $5.75 each (reg. $19.49)
1-1lb bag of organic carrots - FREE with coupon
1 strawberry kombucha (not pictured because I drank it during lunch!) $3.89

Total oop $15.88
Total savings $28.48

Ever have one of those days where you unexpectedly stumble upon the best deal ever?  I had one of those days yesterday!  During my lunch hour, I needed to make a trip to the bank.  Afterward, I decided to stop into Earth Fare, a regional health food store.  It was nearby and I had received a coupon via email for a free bag of organic carrots.  Can't pass up free organic vegetables!  I also decided to get a jar of organic extra virgin coconut oil while I was there.  The Earth Fare brand is pretty reasonably priced.  But as I turned on the aisle for the cooking oils what did I see?  Under the 29 oz jars of Nutiva extra virgin coconut oil a shelf tag that said discontinue and a price of $5.75!  Those jars are regularly priced at $19.49.  I couldn't believe my eyes - that's cheaper than the store brand!  So, I grabbed two jars because I've never seen Nutiva in store for that price.  Or any organic extra virgin coconut oil for that matter!

I have no idea if all Earth Fare stores are discontinuing Nutiva or just my local store.  But, if you have an Earth Fare in your area, and you use organic extra virgin coconut oil, it might be worth a look!  At checkout, the jars did ring up regular price.  But my cashier kindly verified the reduced price on the shelf tag and made the adjustment.  And these jars were located in the cooking oil section and not the whole body/supplement department. 

Mary Ellen

Get the Groceries On A Dime e-book series for only $9.98 (regularly priced at $19.95)
 through March 4th. 

(Note:  This post contains an affiliate link.  Read my disclosure policy here).