Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thrifty Thursday - MagicJack

Is anyone using MagicJack? I heard about it from my sister. It is a USB plug-in device that eliminates the traditional monthly land-line phone bill. For around $40, you receive the device and phone service that enables you to make and receive all of the long distance and local calls you want for one year. Thereafter, it is only $20 per year. Sounds pretty good to me! But, I'd love to hear if anyone is using it and their experience with the service.

BTW, that little diddy on the site that says the Free Trial expires on today's date has been changed each day for the last three days. I believe it is coded to display the current day's date. I don't much care for this marketing tactic.

WFMW: Saving Water

Although Rocks In My Dryer is not hosting Works For Me Wednesday this week, I thought I would pass along a little tip anyway for all two of you (thanks Mom and Dad!) who visit this blog. So, here it goes.

Sometimes I need to be motivated to make major changes. I am quite frugal by nature, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a long hot shower. To nip this non-frugal habit, I allow the tub to fill up while I am showering so that I can SEE how much water I am wasting. When the water level reaches a certain point, I tell myself enough is enough! Works for me. :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Woot are you waiting for????

Looks like today will be a Woot-Off Day! Check out all day long for stuff you probably don't need but really want. :) If you are new to Wooting, click the first link above for a crash course in all things Woot. Oh, and skim it our you'll miss out on all the great deals. Go. Now. HURRY!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

It's the end of the month and I'm putting off a major trip to the grocery store, trying to use what's in the freezer and pantry. So, we're having:

Meatless Monday: Panera Bread Broccoli Cheese Soup (take a look at the reviews...might want to add the hot sauce and Dijon mustard one reviewer suggested), homemade bread

Tried and True Tuesday: PB&J (on leftover homemade bread), cinnamon raisin apples with fresh whipped cream

Work less on Wednesday: BLTs, mixed veggies, sliced oranges and a slice of cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory :)

Thanksgiving Thursday (named after traditional post-Thanksgiving menu planning): Leftovers

First Time Friday: Original Cheeseburger Soup OR Rich and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Simple Saturday: Brats with peppers and onions, baked beans, slaw

Slow Cooker Sunday: Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken, rice, green beans

Visit the for more menu plans!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Celebrate National Cheesecake Day

It's all over the blogs I read, but just in case you are living under a rock (just kidding!), The Cheesecake Factory is celebrating 30 years in business and National Cheesecake Day by offering cheesecake slices for $1.50 each on July 30th! Like someone else said, the only downfall is the offer is limited to one per person. :(

Never fear, however; if you don't have a Cheesecake Factory nearby or just don't feel like fighting the crowds (because you KNOW there are going to be long waits for this one!), check out the Crockpot Lady's recipe for fuss-free CrockPot Cheesecake! Or, do both--you can never have too much cheesecake around. :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thrifty Thursday: When to Shop and Smell the Roses

I often find myself missing out on deals because I wait too long to act. It can be the Achilles' heel of frugal shoppers. I was happy to see that Lisa over at posted a few guidelines on clothing sales that will help me decide when to shop and smell the roses!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

WFMW: Frugal Eye Make Up Remover

The easiest and least expensive way I have found to remove eye make up (especially stubborn mascara) is to use a cotton ball with a bit of baby oil. I have had a large bottle of baby oil for a year or more and have hardly made a dent in it! The store brand works just as well as the name brand.

For more Works For Me Wednesday, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Did anyone see this article in the NY Times about the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie? It's interesting reading (great baking tips!) and included a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe at the end that I hope to try soon. Will it score with my family? We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, here's the game plan for this week:

Meatless Monday: Great Northern White Chili

Tried and True Tuesday: Tacos (we skipped this last week)

Work less on Wednesday: Grilled Cheese, mixed veggies

Thanksgiving Thursday (named after traditional post-Thanksgiving menu planning): Leftovers

First Time Friday: Honey-Ginger Salmon, The Best Pasta Salad, rolls

Simple Saturday: Pizza, salad

Slow Cooker Sunday: BBQ Ribs, corn, green beans

Visit the for more menu plans!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Freebie Friday: Carl Griffith's Sourdough Starter

About a month ago, I decided to begin making ALL of our sandwich bread and rolls from scratch. I have been making our rolls (dinner rolls, hamburger rolls, etc.) for quite some time, so it wasn't a big deal to add in the sandwich bread. Hot dog buns...that poses a different problem. I haven't experimented with those yet. As luck would have it, about three weeks into it my daughter answered an early Saturday morning call and was told, "Congratulations! You've won $20 in free bread!" I remember the day I entered the was the day I was buying hot dog buns for our July 4th gathering. And just when we were settling into homemade bread. I suppose I could have used all $20 to buy hot dog buns, but my freezer wasn't ready for that. So, I have taken a hiatus from baking homemade bread until we use up the $20 in free bread. And that's a good thing, because "the funk" (as one of my friend's calls it) has been making it's way around our family and I've not been spared. I will, however, spare you with the details of my icky illness and get on with Friday's Freebie which, luckily, I discovered some time last week. Otherwise, this post probably wouldn't have made it to press.

Without further delay, I bring you a link to obtain your very own FREE 1847 Carl Griffith's Sourdough Starter. They say vintage starter is the best, right? What could be better than 150 year-old FREE starter? Enjoy, and while you're waiting for that starter to arrive, read more about Carl Griffith or visit the site started by his sourdough fans. You can even find recipes and photos such as this yummy-looking Oatmeal Bread and step-by-step instructions for making this artistic Banneton Boule. the website states, the starter is "cultured, dried, and mailed under sanitary, but not sterile, conditions by a volunteer who adheres to the methods used and recorded by Carl Griffith. It is not certified as a foodstuff. If you are allergic or reactive to any of its components, we guarantee that you will be allergic or reactive to it."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thrifty Thursday Will Return Next Week...

I haven't had much interest in thriftiness this week, what with my catching a nasty bug the kids had several days ago. Luckily I did the research for tomorrow's post last week, so tune in tomorrow for another great Freebie Friday!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

WFMW: No Slip Dough Kneading

I wish I could remember where I read this, as I'm certain there were more great tips about bread making in general, but when kneading your dough on a cutting board or similar surface, placing a damp towel under the board will prevent it from sliding!

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Menu Plan Monday & Chocolate Chip Cookies

I plan to make this week super stress-free in the menu department. My oldest daughter is out of town for the week at EFY and hubby continues to work the evening shift. That leaves me with three young children who are thankful to be fed. Doesn't matter how easy it is to fix, they just want food. What a blessing! That's not to say they aren't picky eaters at times, but they don't mind if I suggest cereal one night or do something that doesn't require a lot of time in the kitchen. Here's my plan:

Meatless Monday: Pasta with marinara sauce, pea salad or leftover garden salad

Tried and True Tuesday: Skillet Salmon (minus the cucumbers, which I generally like, but not in this recipe), pears, roasted squash

Work less on Wednesday: Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes with blueberry syrup, sliced oranges

Thanksgiving Thursday (named after traditional post-Thanksgiving menu planning): Leftovers

First Time Friday: Hubby and I will be out of town for the evening heading south to pick up a truckload of teenagers from EFY early Saturday morning. I'm not sure what the kids will eat. I'll leave that up to our very competent babysitter!

Simple Saturday: Tacos...with meat from the freezer I cooked a couple of weeks ago. That's it. I'm sure I'll be much too tired to make anything else.

Slow Cooker Sunday: Crockpot Chicken and Rice, broccoli with cheese


For those of you visiting from, where you can find even more menu plans, I made the "Cookie of the Week" on Saturday, the Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, recipe posted by Your Homebased Mom. The timing couldn't have been better, as I had just received my Oxo Good Grips Cookie Scoop in the mail (BTW, I ordered the medium size)! Neither the recipe nor my new handy-dandy kitchen gadget disappointed, though my cookies weren't fat...just big and chewy! I think I ate about 10 or so within a 12-hour period. Along with the cookie scoop I also received my new pressure cooker/canner and picked up some pint jars, lids, and bands. I don't know what I'm doing yet, but I'll eventually share what I learn.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Freebie Friday - & Easy Microwave Popcorn

With each and every addition to our family, the chances of hubby and I seeing a moving at the theater have exponentially decreased! I'm not much into television, so I don't watch too many movie rentals either. ENTER THE REDBOX! I must admit, I can be drawn in by a good deal. Am I the last person on the planet to learn about free DVD rentals using Redbox Promo Codes? It's only $1 to rent a DVD if I don't have a code, but there's just something delicious about freebies! In the last week, I've watched around five new releases with either hubby or the kids! I'm not necessarily proud of this flood of TV watching...but it has been fun!

There are a couple of ways to get the codes. If you visit, you can sign up for a promo code to be sent to your mobile phone every Monday that will provide you with a free DVD rental. But, if you happen to enjoy movie nights on a day other than Monday, you'll want to check out and select Redbox Codes. They are organized by code and last date used; further down the page they are organized by state.

So, without further delay, locate your nearest Redbox location by clicking here and enjoy a FREE movie rental on Freebie Friday. And, don't forget the popcorn (recipe below)!


Easy (and Inexpensive) Microwave Popcorn

1/4 cup popcorn kernels
Butter & salt (or any other seasoning) to taste
1 brown paper bag (lunch size is best)

Place the popcorn in the brown paper bag, fold it down a couple of times, and staple the top of the bag to keep it securely closed. Place the bag in your microwave and cook on high for two to three minutes. When there is a delay of several seconds between pops, your popcorn is done! Pour it into a bowl and season with butter, salt, etc. (Note: Recipe inspired by Alton Brown's Plain Brown Popper.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thrifty Thursday -

I first read about while searching the archives of Money Saving Mom for something totally unrelated. Since I recently purchased a few items from, the timing could not have been better. The site is pretty self-explanatory--you enter information pertaining to your purchases at Amazon, and you are notified if the price drops during the 30-day period following your transaction. The great thing is that not only are you notified, but the email notification contains a link to the place on the site where you can claim a credit for the difference between the price you paid and the new, lower price! While Amazon is the only retailer for which this service is being provided, they are looking to add more soon. To date, the largest credit found and claimed was for $3,860!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

WFMW: Canning with the FoodSaver

Like Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer, I can't take credit for this week's Works for Me Wednesday tip. And, also like Shannon, my tip involves glass jars. Some of you may use a vacuum sealer, such as a Foodsaver, to store food in glass jars. If you try to vacuum seal powdery substances, such as cake mixes or unflavored gelatin (which can be used as an egg substitute--wow...two tips in one post!), you could ruin your machine. According to a friend of mine who spoke with a representative of the Foodsaver manufacturer, you can simply place a napkin over the lid as you seal it to keep the powder from being sucked up into the machine. I haven't tested this myself, as my jar canning accessory is still en route via the USPS, but I can't wait to try it! Of course, you might want to verify this for yourself through your machine's customer service rep...I'm not in a position to replace broken Foodsavers if something doesn't work! :)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Menu Plan Monday & The Crockpot Lady on Rachel Ray

While I managed to finally make the Salmon Patties from the menu plan a few weeks back, our plans for the 4th changed a bit; instead of "Healthified" Hot German Potato Salad, I made Sweet Grilled Corn. The best thing about this corn was that the kernels popped off the cob like no other corn I have ever had. Maybe it was the presoak...does anyone know? As far as taste, it was okay, but nobody raved about it. And, I mentioned previously that I've been married for 16 years and never knew my husband liked salmon patties...unfortunately, I discovered I don't much care for them like I did when I was a kid! Maybe it was the recipe. Next time I'll try this recipe posted by a fellow blogger. On to this week's menu...

Meatless Monday: Homemade cheese and veggie pizza

Tried and True Tuesday: Meatball subs (with leftover hot dog buns!), fruit salad

Work less on Wednesday: Chicken noodle soup with crackers

Thanksgiving Thursday (named after traditional post-Thanksgiving menu planning): Leftovers

First Time Friday: I'm taking hubby to Crisper's for a light dinner (it'll be his first time eating there)...the kids will eat sandwiches at home!

Slow Cooker Saturday: Chicken Parmesan, noodles, green beans, and garlic bread

Simple Sunday: Steak, baked potatoes, salad, crusty bread and Crockpot Cheesecake (on SIMPLE Sunday? Yep! Read the recipe to see how easy!)


One final note...occasionally I'll link to one of The Crockpot Lady's unique and tasty recipes (see cheesecake above as one example). She recently revealed that she was invited to tape a spot for the Rachel Ray Show that will air on July 9th. I'm not much into TV, but I just might check this out. And, for more menus, visit

My Finds: Helpful Websites

As I peruse the Internet, I sometimes come across a great find, a website that I know I'll come back to again and again. Here's a sample of my favorites:
  • With the kiddos around the house all day long, I entertain more frequent requests for coloring pages. Check out Ivy's Coloring Page Search Engine and break out the crayons. The only down side to this search engine, I have found, is that the best results are from simple searches (like frogs or princess or Star Wars); use more than one or two words and you may not get the results you were looking for.
  • Spend some time poking around for all kinds of helpful information about the foods you eat. I really like the Recipe Analyzer since I can input any recipe ingredients and find out how nutritious (or UNnutritious) they are.
Be back Monday with my weekly menu plan!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thrifty Thursday - How I $aved 48% on Automobile Insurance

I was reading a post recently at Clever Dude that triggered my own curiosity about how much I could save on my auto insurance. A few years ago I called around and got quotes that were the same or worst than our rates. This time, however, I secured a rate that is around 48% less than our (then) current policy! In fact, by switching we went from a company with one of the worst customer service reputations to one of the best in the business.

Since Clever Dude's insurance company isn't quoting rates in my area, I contacted three companies based on the following: our credit union's recommendation, a company I read about at Clark Howard's website, and the company who carries our homeowner's insurance. With each phone call, I became a little more giddy with excitement--the rates got better and better! Finally, we settled on Amica. The agent was so helpful and knowledgeable, I can not begin to describe what a pleasurable experience this was. Honestly, I sometimes shrink at the thought of making major changes, but Vivian's expertise really put me at ease. I only wish she were able to quote me a price for homeowner's insurance! I'll tackle that monster next. Living in Florida, it's a bit more difficult to make the switch since it has been hard to even find a company that is writing policies in our state. So, if you are interested in receiving a quote from Amica, I'm including the contact information for the representative who assisted me below. She just asked that I let everyone know that Amica is a "preferred risk company and [the] rates are based on a clear driving record." You can request an online quote here, or reach the wonderful lady who helped me:

Vivian Heidel
Amica Insurance
1 888 887 9313, Ext. 37537

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

WFMW: Easy "Magic Shell" Ice Cream Topping

We could go broke buying Magic Shell ice cream topping this summer! Or, we could just use this recipe:

Easy "Magic Shell" Ice Cream Topping

4 ounces of chocolate chips
3 TB of butter

Melt the chips and butter in a saucepan on the stove top, stirring occasionally. When fully melted and cooled a bit, dish up your ice cream and pour it over the top (repeat this step as often as you wish!). IF you have any leftovers, store them in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave.

For more Works for Me Wednesday The Five-Ingredients-Or-Less edition, visit Rocks In My Dryer.