Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Savings

Happy Memorial Day! I am having a relaxing day which started off with some coupon clipping and then a trip to Target for several much needed items. I learned from the fabulous ladies over at Totally Target that Target accepts one manufacturer coupon (MQ) AND one Target coupon (TQ) for the same item. Hallelujah!

This is called coupon stacking. So this morning I got up early and matched my TQ and MQ and looked online for other coupons for items I needed.
Here's what I bought with coupons.

For Little G - 6 shorts and 3 tops
TQ $5 off purchase of $30.
= $26.50 for all that!

Vanish Drop Ins
MQ B1G1 free
=$2.14 for 2

Colgate Max Toothpaste
TQ $1 off
MQ .75 off
= $1.19

Swiffer Dust & Shine (I just ran out)
MQ $1 off
= $2.49

Up & Up Carpet Cleaner (Just ran out of Folex - will give this a try)
TQ $1 off
= $1.92

Listerine Whitening Mouth Wash
MQ $1 off
It was on clearance for $1.98 = .98

Coppertone Sun Screen Sport
MQ $2.00 off & on sale at Target for $6
= $4.00

Maybelline Mascara
MQ $1.00 off
= $3.49

Mr. G's Old Spice Body Wash
MQ B1G1 free
= $3.99 for 2

Lysol Wipes
No coupons but they were on sale for only $1.89 each

Jon Frieda volumizer - $5.39
Jon Frieda heat protector $5.39
2 MQ for $2.50 off 1 product
TQ for $3.00 of 2 products
= $2.78 for both

Scrubbing Bubbles Cleaner and refill
MQ $5.00 off when you purchase starter
MQ free refill when you purchases starter
TQ $5.00 gift card when you purchase starter
TQ $3.00 off when you purchase starter
= .69 + $5 Gift Card!

I used the $5.00 gift card on a second transaction to purchase the printer ink.
I'm very impressed with my coupon savings today (and so were the two women behind me in line!).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gardner Grub

Chicken Marsala was on the menu tonight along with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. I added onions this time because I had a few in the fridge and I've been meaning to use them. I'm glad I did because the sweet onions were the perfect complement to the mushrooms. Little G ate a little of the potatoes and chicken and really filled up on broccoli.

Here's a video of her coming in from playing outside after dinner asking for MORE broccoli. She's so sweet - listen closely to her say "thanks, mom."

Chicken Marsala
4 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup of flour
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 Tsp dried Parsley flakes
1 cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup Dry Marsala Wine
salt and pepper

On a plate mix flour with a quarter tsp each of salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat chicken in flour mixture, shake off excess and add to skillet. Brown each side.
Add Marsala, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and parsley. Cook 8 to 10 minutes (turning once) or until chicken is no longer pink.
Serve hot with mashed potatoes and a vegetable.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gardner Grub

Tuesday's are super busy so I try to keep it easy. For dinner I made Four-Cheese Pasta Florentine. It is cheesy-spinach goodness. Actually I probably put too much spinach in it, but oh well - it was good. I make at least one vegetarian dish a week and those dinners usually have cheese in them. When there is plenty of cheese, I don't miss the meat. For this dish, if you need meat, add a cup of chopped chicken. Recipe listed below.

Little G had a little of the pasta when it was done around 4pm and then chicken nuggets and strawberries at 7pm. It took her awhile to try the strawberries but once she had one, they were gone in seconds.

The Brie & Cranberry purses were a hit. I sprinkled them with sugar when they came out of the oven and served them with Cool Whip on the side. I forgot to take a picture before my bible study group arrived so I grabbed one and set it aside. Doesn't it look delicious?

For dinner tonight I had Four-Cheese Pasta Florentine leftovers. Mr. G is teaching CPR/1st aide tonight then has to go straight to a sports banquet so instead of cooking I decided to try the leftovers and it was still good.
I made Little G a small bowl of noodles with peas and chopped chicken nugget (leftover from last night). I think she's getting annoyed with me taking pictures of her while she's eating. :)

Four Cheese Pasta Florentine
3 cups Penne, uncooked
1 package (10oz) frozen chopped spinach
4 oz (1/2 8oz package) cream cheese, cubed
1 cup 2% low fat cottage cheese
2 eggs
1 package (8oz) shredded mozzarella Cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook pasta as directed on package. Meanwhile, cook spinach as directed on package; drain well. Place in large bowl. Add cream cheese; stir until melted. Stir in cottage cheese. Italian seasoning and eggs until well blended. Add salt and pepper.
Drain pasta. Add to spinach mixture with mozzarella and chicken; mix lightly. Spoon into medium sized casserole dish; top with Parmesan.
Bake 25 min, or until heated through.

More Little G

Now that I've had a couple of questions regarding how I get Little G to eat veggies and try new foods I'll work on adding that info to the blog.

She doesn't always eat what I want her to, in fact it goes in spurts. One week she willingly eats everything I give her, then the next week she doesn't want anything to do with food. I've picked up a few tricks over the past year which I use all the time.

Here are 10 tricks I use.

1. Add a tsp of butter and a pinch of salt to veggies. Would you want to eat peas without seasoning? Plus everything tastes better with butter.

2. One of my newest tricks is offering a dip. She'll eat almost anything right now if she can dip it in ketchup. So I squirt a bit on her plate and she dips away. Sour cream is another dip she enjoys.

3. Add peanut butter. Plain oatmeal with 1/2 a Tbs of peanut butter is one of her favorite breakfasts. For a snack, a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter - another favorite.

4. Put it in pasta. Little G really likes pasta (angel hair cut in half) so I'll make her a bowl and add a tsp of butter and a variation of peas, carrots, chicken, pork, broccoli, and olives.

5. Eat dinner together. We always eat dinner together as a family at the table (she's in a high chair pulled up to the table). I've found that if she watched us eat, she'll likely try anything. I usually give her a portion of the protein I make for dinner along with a veggie/fruit. For example, if I'm making Chicken Marsala for dinner, I'll make a portion for her with a little seasoning and set it aside and also give her some mashed potatoes and mushrooms to try.

6. Wait it out. If I put something new in front of her she'll yell, "Don't like it, Mom!" But if she sits there long enough she'll eventually give in and eat. It's not easy when she's throwing a fit. It usually takes a good 10-15 minutes. I also sing "Try it, you'll like it!" from Yo Gabba Gabba.

7. Offer the veggies/fruit first and nothing else. For dinner, I sometimes give her the veggies first if she's in "one of those moods."

8. Rice. Little G is crazy about rice. All kinds of rice - white, brown, spanish, fried. She loves it all. I chop up chicken and veggies and add it to the rice for dinner or lunch.

9. Steam-In-The-Bag veggies are so easy and cheap. Right now I have 7 bags of veggies in the freezer ready to microwave. I get them at WalMart for $1.00 each.

10. Make grocery shopping fun - my mom taught me this. When Little G and I go grocery shopping I let her hold the fruits and veggies and teach her the name of them. We smell them together and feel their texture. It's really fun. I once had a woman come up to me and say she wishes she would have done that with her children. Make every experience a learning one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Well hello, Monday.

Where'd you come from?

I went shopping at Fresh and Easy today and only spent a total of $32 on everything I need for this weeks meals - I also received a free canvas grocery bag for signing up for the F&E newsletter.

Weekly Meal Plan
Mexican Mac N Cheese
Turkey Burgers - using the ingredients from last week
Four-Cheese Pasta Florentine (vegetarian)
Chicken Marsala
Small group - I'm making Brie and Cranberry purses

Last week, I made two recipes shared by Ashley in her blog Cupcakes & Combat Boots. The first, Giada De Laurentiis' Parmesean-crusted pork chops which were mouth-watering delicious.

The second, Turkey Burgers! They were such a hit that we are having them again this week. Plus I still have all the ingredients for them which is a super bonus!
Here they are along with bacon-wrapped asparagus (I usually use prosciutto but didn't have any on hand) and fries.
Thank you Ashley for your wonderful blog and inspiring me to try new things in the kitchen :)

10 minutes saved me $324.00!

I received my monthly Direct TV e-bill this morning and I finally decided to do something about paying $98 a month on television. I logged on to and compared our current package to their basic package. After adding $7 for the DVR and $10 for HD we'd end up having 200 less channels and only saving $4 a month.

So I picked up the phone and called customer service. We have been Direct TV customers since 2005 so I thought they'd be able to help me put a less expensive package together, but they did even better. We are keeping our current package with HD and DVR service and they gave me a $20 discount with free DVR service for 12 months! That's $27 a month or $324 saved for a year. Thank you Direct TV!

If you think you are paying too much for a service, give the company a call and ask what they can do to help you save money. You've got nothing to lose.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Talk about a deal...

One-Year subscription to Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine for $3.99!!

I love Rachael Ray - she taught me how to cook. True story: Before Mr. G and I got married the only thing I knew how to make was grilled cheese sandwiches. So in an effort to become more domestic I would come home from class or work and watch 30 Minute Meals. Then I'd head over to Alberton's (just down the road) and pick up the ingredients and make what Rachael did that day. There were several inedible meals at first, but after about a year I was creating my own recipes and enjoying cooking more than I ever thought I would.

So when I saw this deal on one of my favorite blogs The Prudent Patron, I was thrilled and wanted to share it here. Just use the code EVERYDAY at checkout. The price fluctuates about $1 - I bought my subscription yesterday for $3.99 and others said they only paid $2.99. Either way, what a great deal!

Order your subscription HERE

Friday, May 21, 2010

Photo Friday

For my first Photo Friday I wanted to share a picture that would give you a moment of joy. Out of the thousands of pictures I have stored in iPhoto, the one that makes me smile every time I see it is this one

Mr. G and Little G were relaxing in the warm sand in Santa Barbara when I snapped this peaceful image. Little G, then 11 months old, has a shovel in her hands and was having a blast digging away. She looked up often to gaze out at the harbor and I was able to capture this sweet moment. I love it so much that a 23x18 resting above the fireplace. Hope it brought a smile to your face :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vacation In A Glass

I've been waiting all week to enjoy this:

Nope. Not these Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas - although they were soooo yummy!

A sweet glass of chilled Riesling. It immediately takes me back to a vacation Mr. G and I took to Santa Barbara several years ago. If I take a sip and close my eyes I can see myself sitting on the beach, reading a great book and soaking in the sun. Ahhhhhh.
This is the only Riesling available at Fresh & Easy. It was only $4.99 and surprisingly delicious. Very fruity and smooth.

Back to reality.
So far this week has been filled with friends and fun. We hit 83 degrees on Wednesday so I was able to fill up Little G's pool with a couple inches of water and let the kids (Little G and my niece and nephew) have a blast splashing around for an hour.
We got a visit on Tuesday from my best friend, Kim and her new baby boy, Christopher. He is such a sweetie! And on Wednesday night we had dinner at our friends Justin and Jenny's house. They made teriyaki hamburgers with grilled pineapple.

Mrs. G and Little G with Kim and Chris

Another treat was this Chocolate Pie from Marie Callender's which was given to Mr. G by a co-worker who recognized his hard work and wanted to show her appreciation. Thank you, Mrs. Shepherd!

Thankful Thursday

So much to be thankful for! I can make a list that includes everyone in my life and everything that God has blessed me with - but to keep it more specific, today I am thankful for my unbelievably sweet and beautiful daughter who sleeps in past 8am and naps without a fuss (most of the time).

I hear from my mommy friends all the time about how their kids wake up with the sun every morning. I am SO thankful Little G likes to sleep in as much as me because 6am is not my friend. I should add that because I am a SAHM bedtime for Little G is later than most kids I know. She usually goes to bed between 8:30 and 9 pm - sometimes around 9:30 if Mr. G comes home late and the two of them are enjoying some time together. I would never cut their time short because of a "bedtime." I'm positive her favorite part of the day is when she hears Mr. G's truck pull up and she gets to run out and greet him - telling him all the fun things she did and learned.
It's one of my favorite moments each day too.

Vintage Little G - June 2008

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week 3 - Already?

This month is going by so fast! And the weather is out of control - hot, cold, rainy, hot, hot, rainy. I can't keep up!
So far the $250 Challenge is going as planned. I am amazed at how relaxed I am this month. I'm not worrying about how much money is in the account, because I know how much there is. Mr. G has only used his check card three times this month, each time the purchases were for less than $20 and he told me right after using it. I've been using cash and I can't tell you how much that has changed my spending habits. I'm definitely going to keep taking out cash for my monthly spending money from now on.

Weekly Meal Plan
Budget - $50 of the $125 for the rest of the month

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad
Tuesday - small group - I'll bring an appetizer
Wednesday - Dinner at a friends house - bringing dessert
Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas with rice and beans
Friday - I'm on my own, Enchilada leftovers

Ham and Turkey sandwiches
Chicken Noodle Soup :)
Left overs

Breakfast bars

At Fresh and Easy I spent $40.72 which included 4 bottles of the sulfate-free shampoo & conditioner I use (F&E brand Retreat) - it was 50% off!! I also spent $12.10 at Whole Foods leaving me $72.18 for the remainder of the month.

Monday Night I made Asian Chopped Chicken Salad - my most asked for recipe. It is crunchy, sweet and overall a party in your mouth. And to make Monday night even better, the new edition of Food & Family came so I got to relax with my magazine and scrumptious salad. :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Eat This Not That!

Mr. G did a health test at work last month and was given the book Eat This Not That! - Supermarket Survival Guide. The night he brought it home I read it cover to cover and learned so much about how to read food labels and make better choices when I'm grocery shopping. Instead of saying, "Don't eat chocolate donuts," the authors give the best option, the lesser of the evils if you will.

Before reading this book I always checked for certain ingredients and calories, but ultimately I would usually buy the cheapest option on the shelf. Now I am aware of many other harmful additives and also check the sodium and fat content. I take my time and find the healthiest option - I may pay more, but I'm making the best choice for my family.

I keep the book in the living room and flip through it almost every day. Today I learned that Bread & Butter pickles are injected with high fructose corn syrup and have about 60 calories verses Kosher Dill pickles which have 10 calories.

I just ordered a copy of Eat This Not That! For Kids. There are several other versions for sale on Amazon. HERE

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner for cheap!

Little G loves scrambled eggs, which luckily for me, are very cheap. On my grocery trip this week I got a crate of 18 eggs for $1.89 at Fresh and Easy. Enough for scrambled eggs for Little G and egg salad sandwiches for Mr. G.
For a quick lunch I love Annie Chun's Udon soup (MSG free, of course). It is only 110 calories and delicious with just an added pinch of salt and pepper. It is very filling and only costs about $2.
For my small group I made these yummy and cheap treats on Tuesday night. I had a coupon for $1 off Rise Krispy Cereal which made the total for the plate of goodies less than $4.00.
On Wednesday night my good friend, Lauren, brought over enchiladas (they were SO good) and I made tostadas. I bought the ingredients last week for "G" Tacos but needed to pick up a head of lettuce. Tostadas are one of my favorite meals and they are very cost effective.

Little G had a bowl of scrumptious peas and a cheese quesadilla. I love that she enjoys veggies!

Manufacturer Coupons

Manufacturer coupons are free money and I've learned to love them. While searching online for coupons this month I glanced over at my grocery list and saw Colgate toothpaste and Lysol disinfecting wipes. Instead of looking at page after page of coupons on sites like or, I went straight to the website of the brands I am loyal to and looked for coupons there and was quite successful.

On I found a coupon for $1.00 off the sensitive whitening toothpaste that we use.

On I printed out a coupon for $1.00 off 2 Lysol disinfecting wipes - which were on sale at Target for only $1.89 each!

Campbell's has a coupon page where I found $1.00 off any 2 soups and I needed 2 cans of Cream of Mushroom soup.

During my coupon research I also stubbled upon an article on Grocery Coupon Guide which has an extensive list of company and brand name links that take you straight to the coupon page. I bookmarked it right away and have been back several times.

Happy Savings!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies make everything better

My weekly Fresh & Easy grocery trip was a success. I only spent $23.20 (using a $5 off coupon) and I was able to get everything that I needed for this week which means I won't have to go to WalMart!
$22.80 left until May 15th.
Here is what I came home with:
For dinner on Monday I made Mr. G's favorite meal, Chicken Thanksgiving, and it seriously messed me up. After two hours in the bathroom I went straight to the kitchen to read all the ingredients in the soup and stuffing. The only thing that I found that could have made me that sick is Hydrolyzed Soy Protein which was listed on the stuffing container. I triple check everything for MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein, but missed the hydrolyzed soy protein ingredient. Remember that when a protein is hydrolyzed an effect is the creation of MSG. I didn't even know hydrolyzed soy protein existed! I wonder how many more there are.

Chicken Thanksgiving with broccoli

Little G enjoying her noodles and broccoli
When I returned from the store after dinner I found Mr. G and Little G dancing to 80's Rock and baking chocolate chip cookies - he got the secret recipe from my sister who made him promise not to share it with anyone and he hasn't! They are the perfect little treat at the end of the day...actually any time of day :)

On to Week 2

Let's get caught up to date, shall we?
Thursday night we were invited to a BBQ for Mr. G's swim team so we were able to push back Thursday's dinner for another time saving us some money. Friday night we were invited to my parents house for my dad's birthday dinner, again allowing us to use that dinner another night.

My dad and Little G - Happy Birthday, Dad!
Saturday was a busy birthday party day. It started as almost all Saturday's do with Daddy and Daughter Donut Day. Mr. G and Little G go out for donuts while I get ready for the day and clean up the house. Then we headed out for Party #1 - my niece Gwen's 8th birthday.

Gwen with Mr. G and Little G (They all have the Gardner eyes) - Happy Birthday, Gwen!
Then it was on to Party #2 - my nephew Evan's 1st birthday.

Evan saying and showing that he is One! Happy Birthday, Evan!

Mrs. G and Little G enjoying a delicious (melting) cupcake at the party.

Sunday was my 2nd Mother's Day. Last year Mr. G got me a card but forgot to give it to me - I found it weeks later in a drawer in the kitchen. And yesterday he went out in the morning to get me a card while I was getting ready for church. He's not so good at this holiday...yet.
After church we went out to lunch with my mom, then came home so Little G and Mr. G could nap. I probably should have taken that time to treat myself to something, but instead I dusted and did some laundry, my usual Sunday tasks.
Mr. G did make me dinner - chicken stir fry (he forgot the vegetables) and pot stickers.

It was delicious and I enjoyed sitting on the couch with Little G while he cooked - I did the dishes, if you were wondering.

Little G and Grandma (my mom) on our ride to lunch. I love these two people SO much!

So on to Week 2. I only have $46.00 left for this week after using $8 on a few items at Fresh and Easy on Friday. I had an interesting conversation with my sister's father-in-law, Dave, at Evan's birthday party. He said F&E marks down many of their prices beginning around 7pm each night. The closer to closing time (at 10pm) the lower the prices go. So tonight I'm going to check it out. Maybe I'll find some good deals!

I was able to roll over three meals from last week and searched the pantry for things I can use to make dinner this week. Mr. G requested his favorite meal which he calls "Chicken Thanksgiving" because it tastes like Thanksgiving dinner with chicken instead of turkey, obviously. Luckily I already have the stuffing, cream of mushroom soup & sour cream and will only need to spend about $2 on the remaining ingredients needed. I would like to take another try at perfecting pork chops so that's on the list as well.

Week 2 Meal Plan
Dinner (in no particular order)
Grilled Cheese with soup (from last week - perfect meal for a cold and windy day) - vegetarian
Small group - Rice Crispy Treats
Tostadas (from last week) - also vegetarian
Chicken Thanksgiving (Mr. G's favorite dinner) with broccoli and garlic bread
Pork Chops with peas
Stir Fry with rice (using the veggies)

Roast Beef sandwiches
Egg Salad sandwiches

Oatmeal (pantry)
Scrambled eggs
Pancakes (pantry)
Cereal (pantry)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

to my incredible mom. Thank you, mom, for everything you've done for me, for my family, and for our family. You are the most loving, giving, devoted, and selfless person I know and I am so proud that you are my mom.
I love you.

Also Happy Mother's Day to my sister, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law and all my mommy friends - especially Kim who is holding a two-week old baby boy and celebrating her first Mother's Day, and to Mallory who found out yesterday that she is going to be a mommy!
Enjoy your day :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Birthday's, Mother's Day, and Money

I very much regret adding all necessities (and wants) to the $250 Challenge. I should have budgeted $50 for clothing, makeup, project materials, and other items I usually buy throughout the month. But I didn't and I'm going to try to make it work (Tim Gunn just popped into my head). After discussing my poor planning with Mr. G, he made me an offer I couldn't refuse. If I complete the challenge I get 20 dollars to spend on myself as well as any left over money from the Challenge. More incentive to make my goal!

While working on this month's budget I took out $100 for gifts and boy did it go fast. This weekend we have three birthday's - my dad, my nephew Evan, my niece Gwen - and Mother's Day! I wish I could give them all the world, but I used what I had (well, a teensy bit over) and I know everyone understands that we aren't exactly making the big bucks right now with me staying home with Little G. It's especially hard when there are several birthday's in the month. Next month is the same, Little G's birthday as well as two other family members, three anniversaries, and Father's Day. Mental note to budget $150 for gifts next month.

I'm looking forward to all the parties this weekend and of course for Mother's Day. When we have busy weekends like this one is going to be, I'm reminded of how blessed we are living close to all of our immediate family. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Good Luck Mrs. J!

A fellow blogger, and friend of mine, has been inspired by The $250 Challenge and has decided to take on the experiment herself. You can read about it on her blog It's Southern Charm.

Happy Cinco de Mayo

The next two days are going to be a serious test for me at this Challenge. Mr. G won't be home from work until late and I am not watching my niece and nephew until Friday (I have them three times a week). In the past, I've always used my two days off to 1. relax 2. go to Target and take Little G on a lunch date to Wendy's 3. clean. Number 2 is going to be hard give up. I've been trying to think of things we can do together that are free. Maybe a picnic at the park?

On Sunday night I made these Chicken Cesar Sandwiches on Ciabatta bread. The are simple to make and very delicious.

Monday night I made Chicken Marsala with mushrooms, Mashed Potatoes, Salad & Garlic Bread. I had to walk an extra 20 minutes after this meal.

Every Tuesday we get together with our small group (bible study). Each couple brings a finger food and this week I made Bacon Appetizer Cresent. I found the recipe on I knew they would be good (bacon and cream cheese are the main ingredients), but they were even better than I imagined. A couple of people asked for the recipe so here it is.