Monthly Archives: March 2012

Shopping Beyond the Grocery Store


I have my list, I have my coupons and I have 47 minutes to get out of the store before I have to pick up the kids. Sound familiar? What if there were other options?

There are simply some things we have no choice in the matter, it must be purchased at the local grocery or department store. However, most areas have resources that even local residents are not aware of.

GROCERY OUTLET: Sometimes referred to as the dented can store, it is a company that buys surplus items and offers them at a discount. Fresh items that were close to their expiration date are frozen. New items that were not a success, items that have the old label and yes, even dented cans are available for purchase. Most stores do not accept coupons but have a promise you can bring back any items that you don’t think is up to snuff.

BAKERY OUTLETS: Bakeries only keep products on the shelf for a specific number of days. If more was produced that can be sold, it has to go somewhere. The solution was a bread store. Companies like Hostess and Franz opened small stores that sold only their products and at a discount. Depending on the store, the items can be several days old. The discounted price (up to 50% off) allows the consumer to stock up and freeze item therefore saving on their monthly shopping budget. When freezing bread, I slip on a bag from a previous loaf so that it is double bagged enabling me to freeze it for about a month.

ZAYCON FOODS: This is a company that sells the product in bulk. Items are brought by truck to a drop off site and customers drive up and receive their order. If they are not currently in your area, let them know you want to see them. They have an email set up for such requests.

40 pounds of chicken, sealed in the box.

Products vary from month to month but include organic chicken breasts, turkey, ground beef, fish, bacon and fruit. You must register so you can receive emails of when a drop is occurring in your area. For example, right now in my area they have fresh chicken breasts at $1.79 a pound in 40 pound increments. If the amount is too large for your family, find a friend to split the cost with. What I like is that it comes fresh so the cook can freeze it in the portions that work for their family.

Bagged according to my family’s needs.

AZURE STANDARD: If you shop at health food stores you know how expensive they can be. Azure allows the customer to cut out the middle man. You buy directly from supplier, the same products they deliver to local health food stores. Often the store’s order is on the same truck as your delivery. Groups are formed in an area and 1 home is chosen as the drop off point. Members of the group place their orders directly with the company and go to the drop off site to pick up their items.

not all areas have them, but those who do are able to buy freshly picked produce grown locally. You can meet the farmer who grew the strawberries. You will know the cucumbers are fresh and perfect for pickling. Perhaps you can buy homemade bread from nearby Hutterites or quilts from the Amish. Handmade toys from expert wood carvers or CDs from local musicians. Take cash as generally checks are not accepted. If you plan a big haul, consider taking a wagon. Many stand will even accept food stamps and WIC coupons if you have them. Those who do will typically have a sign so customers know where to go. Go as early as you can so you have the best selection.

LOCAL FARMS: Sometimes local dairies and chicken farms will sell their product directly to the consumer. You can pick up fresh milk and eggs any day of the week.

GLEANING: Gleaning is a tradition that goes back to Biblical times. Farmers wanted to harvest as quick as they could and sometimes small sections would be missed, pieces would be dropped, or damaged items would be discarded. With permission from the owner, gleaners walk through the fields and take home the leftovers. It is still practiced in countries all around the world, often by the poor who could not afford to buy food. Sometimes the farmer will pay gleaners to clean their field so it was ready for the next planting.

Modern day gleaning groups exist in the United States, and the trend is growing. Groups of people work together to find local farmers who would appreciate gleaners. Some groups donate part of their harvest to local food banks or nursing homes. For example, a farmer who had part of his corn field flood was unable to get his equipment in to harvest the crop. Gleaners were able to go in and pick as much as they could to take home. Or, perhaps an elderly couple has several apricot trees in the backyard. They are unable to pick from the trees so it falls to the ground and rots. The gleaners would come in, pick the trees clean of all fruit (even that which was unripe) for the home owners. They should be offered some of the harvest as well, the rest goes home with the gleaners. Everybody wins as the homeowners have a clean yard and others go home with fresh produce. If you don’t have a group in your area, look into starting one.

Before there was money, there was bartering. IN essence, goods are exchanged instead of money. For example, a mechanic might trade work on a car for a side of beef from a local rancher. A hairdresser might trade her services for the senior photos for her child. A painter could do a room in exchange for an old truck. Get creative and write down anything you can do well. Let your friends know you are willing to trade services. In areas where there is high unemployment, bartering is an especially needed as no money changes hands.

Groups sprang up on yahoo for areas all around the country where people can list items they no longer need but want to get rid of. Do not assume it is junk, often people are moving or downsizing and just cannot take everything with them. Facebook is catching up, and groups are being created there as well. While freecycle requires that all items are given away, facebook groups can also offer used items for sale. The more members a group has, the bigger variety of items that can be offered. Also use these sites with safety in mind. Agree to meet in a pubic place.

EBAY: I am sure you are familiar with the site by now. Did you know you can narrow down sellers to those who are in your area? This cuts out the cost of shipping altogether.

This is when friends get together for a night of fun and shopping. Guests each bring gently used items they no longer wear and trade with the other guests. This only works if everyone brings modern items that are in good shape. The internet has caught up with the idea and swap sites are popping up as well.

Do you know of some other great resources, please share!


Mustard Crusted Corn Beef


I stock up on corn beef when it is on sale around St. Patty’s Day. Most recipes I have found are pretty much the same with only a little variance here and there. I wanted something different and came up with this.

1/4 c yellow or Brown Mustard
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 Small Onion chopped

Remove the corn-beef from its package and rinse in warm water. The meat tends to feel a bit slimy and the warm water removes it quickly. Pat dry. Sprinkle with the pepper. Rub the mustard all over the corn-beef and place into a slow cooker with no liquid. Sprinkle the onion around the meat.

Now before you panic, it is okay. There are enough juices that will come out of the meat to keep it from getting dry. Not adding liquid right away allows the mustard to stay on the meat and to impart more of its flavor. Check on the dish in 4 hours and again at 6 to make sure you don’t need to add some. Water works, but a chicken or vegetable broth has more flavor. Only add 1 cup if the pot appears to be nearly dry.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

This recipe is especially good if you intend to make Reuben Sandwiches with it. I hope you give this a try!



2 c dried Kidney Beans 3 cans of beans
28 oz Tomato sauce
16 oz diced Tomatoes
1 small Yellow Onion, diced
1/2 pound ground beef/turkey cooked and drained.
1 Tbs Chili Powder
4 oz / 1 c frozen Bell Peppers

Lets talk about chili powder for a moment. The measurement I use is because I know the chili powder. All brands are different and will have varying degrees of heat and ingredients. Common herbs and spices include cumin, garlic, oregano, paprika and cayenne pepper. Other ingredients could be coriander seeds, black pepper, ginger, celery seeds, basil and even salt. If you are trying a new brand of chili powder it is always wise to err on the side of caution. Taste a little bit before you add it to the pot. Then, only add half of the amount called for and see how it tastes once it has had time to blend into the sauce.

Homemade chili powder

Beans are the other important factor in a good bowl of chili. The cook can choose convenience with beans that have been canned. Or they can choose dried beans which are cheaper, but require more effort to make soft. Canned beans will contain salt, but they also are available with some flavors already added. Dried beans need to be soaked and salt must be avoided as it can prevent the beans from becoming as soft as the cook might prefer. You cannot use old beans as they will never become soft.

Before cooking with dried beans, you must always look through them to ensure there are no pebbles in the bag. To soak beans, place them in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for ten minutes then remove from the heat and let it set overnight.

In the morning, drain and rinse the beans before placing into the slow cooker. Pour on the tomato sauce, onions, diced tomatoes 9with the juice) and the cooked ground beef. I will usually prepare the meat the night before as I set the beans to soak so that in the morning all the prep is done. If you are sure your chili seasoning has no salt, add it now and cover. Cook on high 6 hours, or low 10 hours.

An hour before serving, chop the peppers into 1/2 inch lengths and add to the pot. You can certainly used fresh peppers but I use frozen because I need very little and they are easier to toss in this kind of dish. With peppers being $1 apiece (or more) in the store, frozen peppers are often much more economical.

Try the chili with leftover polenta instead of cornbread.

You can freeze leftovers! It must be completely cooled before placing in a bag or container. I use it within a month, but if it is well sealed and air has been removed it can keep longer.

MEALS IN ADVANCE: Marinara Sauce


It has been cookie week in my house. Girl Scout cookies were delivered and I have to get them to parents, do booths and get my own child’s delivered. Weeks like this are when I am so glad I have things in the freezer that are ready to go for a quick meal.

A basic marinara sauce is simple to make and has a wide range of possibilities. Once you thaw the sauce, you can add cheese, pepper flakes and vegetables to change it up from one meal to another. Making your own also allows the a cook to adjust it according to their own tastes. Preparing it in the slow cooker is simple and it will simmer as you do a hard day’s work. At the end of the day you have several quarts to freeze and dinner for tonight nearly done.

2 28 oz cans Diced Tomatoes
2 28 oz cans Tomatoes sauce
8 Garlic Cloves smashed and chopped
1 medium Yellow Onion diced
1/8 tsp Salt
2 Tb dried Parsley
2 Tb dried Oregano
2 Tb dried Basil
2 tsp Salt
Salt to taste

TOOLS: 4 qt Slow Cooker

Drizzle oil in a pan, when hot add the onions, garlic and 1/8 tsp salt. Saute until the onions are clear.

In the slow cooker, mix the onions and all the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Depending on the sauce and tomatoes that you use, season with salt according to taste. Some brand have more sodium than others and you want the sauce to absorb all the other flavors before you add more.

Allow the sauce to cool completely! This takes a little time so stir it occasionally. I like to freeze my sauce in jars, it makes it easy to measure, however you can also use bags. Keep stirring it every few minutes to speed up the process. I find that the sauce will thicken more as it cools. Keep in mind, if you are placing the sauce into canning jars it WILL expand so give yourself at least 1 inch of headroom.

This batch produced 4 1/2 quarts of sauce for the freezer.

Classic Pizza
Bubblin Pizza Casserole
Pasta dishes
Chicken Parmesan
Chicken Cacciatore
Dipping Sauces

Coupon Lingo


Are you trying to learn how to use coupons in the best way possible and the words and acronyms are confusing you? Don’t get disheartened, it can take a while. Here is a breakdown of the most commonly used terms.

INSERT: The coupon pages that come in a newspaper. They are referred to specifically by the company that produces them. RP = Red Plum; P&G = Proctor & Gamble; SS = Smart Source The vast majority of the coupons are from the manufacture, however sometimes they are also for specific stores. Target has been doing this a lot lately.

CLIPPING: The process of cutting out coupons.

Companies that will cut coupons for you, you are paying for the service and not the coupon.

MANUFACTURE COUPONS: Coupons printed by a company for specific products. Always read them carefully for expiration dates as well as size or selection specifics. For the example below, a coupon for Campbell’s is only for the Select Harvest variety and you must buy 2.

STORE COUPONS: Coupons for a specific store. It will be clearly marked that it is a store coupon. Sometimes you find coupons in the store circular that is a manufacture coupon so be sure to read it before using it.

STACKING: Using a store coupon and a manufacture coupon at the same time for 1 product. Not all stores allow this so be sure to check the store policy.

The weekly ad that stores release with their sales listed. Always read the dates as not all stores follow the same week. For example, Rite Aid is Sunday through Saturday while Safeway is Wednesday through Tuesday. Even then, more stores are having 1 or 3 day sales. For example, Safeway has a $5 Friday every week but that price is only good on that day.

DOUBLE COUPONS: Some stores will double the price of your coupon. For example, if you buy 3 cans of Campbell’s soup instead of only .50 off, you will receive $1. Not all stores will double and those that do will have very specific policies. Know those policies before you shop. Albertsons often has double coupons in their circular. You must use that coupon along with the manufacture coupon in order to double your manufacturer coupon.

REWARDS PROGRAM: Every store calls it by their own name, but the idea is the same. If you register with the company you can receive discounts and more. For example, Rite Aid will give you rewards to use on your next shopping trip while Safeway gives a fuel discount. Don’t blow off the discounts, they do add up. I was selected (I don’t know why) to receive a .30 cent fuel discount for every $100 I spend in the store instead of the usual .10 cents. That adds up very quickly when your van has a 40 gallon tank!

eCOUPONS: Electronic coupons that can be loaded onto your reward card or smart phone. Saving Star is a popular one, but always check your app store for new ones.

CATALINA / CAT: The coupons printed out at the register that a cashier hands you at the end of your transaction. Some are store coupons and others are manufacture coupons. You should always read them carefully to determine which it is. Sometimes they are for specific products, other times they are a discount on the entire purchase. Read them the minute you receive them as of then the really god ones expire in just a few days.

BLINKIE: Those little machines in the store that allows you to grab a coupon. They are located near the product the coupon is for.

INTERNET COUPONS: Coupons that stores and companies publish online that can be printed at home. There is a limit of 2 prints per computer. To make copies is illegal and stores will not accept them.

PEELIE: Coupons that come on the product when you buy them. Sometimes they are worth more than the coupon you may have intended on using. If not, be sure to tell the cashier to leave them on.

BINDER: This is how I organize my coupons. Everyone should do it in the way that works best for them. Some people use a shoebox, others the accordion style which is designed to hold coupons. As long as you can find what you need and don’t forget what you have, then it is the system that works for you.

BOGO: Buy one, get one free is when you purchase 1 of the item and receive the second one for free.

CLOSEOUT / CLEARANCE: These are items the store wants to unload as quick as possible so they can use the shelf space. Items can be marked down as much as 75%.

MAIL IN REBATE: Allows the customer to send in a form to receive a check rebate from the company. Most require the original receipt. Rite Aid now allows them to be processed online.

UPC: This is the bar code on the product. Sometimes you need it for rebates, sometimes you need to know how to read it because you are unsure which variety the coupon will be good on.

EXPIRATION DATE: You have until midnight of that date to use the coupon. If they expire, either toss or send to a military family overseas. They are allowed to use them for months after the expiration dates.

STORE POLICY: This is how you find out what a store does and does not allow regarding coupons and their rewards program. Always know what your store is doing before you shop. I keep mine in my binder.

I hope this has been helpful, let me know if you have any questions.

Meatball Soup


Doesn’t a hot bowl of soup sound great on a cold day? How about a recipe that can simmer for a couple of hours but requires very little effort on your part? This meatball soup is a breeze to make, especially if you have meatballs in the freezer. Don’t let the simplicity of it fool you, it makes a hearty meal, especially if served with a little toasted bread on the side.

48 oz Beef broth
20 Meatballs
6 c slice Potatoes
2 c Sliced Carrots
1/3 c diced Yellow Onions
4 diced cloves Garlic
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/2 Tb Parsley
1/2 Tb Oregano

Generally I don’t peel the potatoes because there is so much flavor and nutrition in the peel. However, the cook’s prerogative is to change things to suit their own taste, right? This time I used russets, but red potatoes and fingerlings hold up very well. Someday I may even try purple potatoes, if they are a\ever available in Smallville. 4 green onions can be substituted for the yellow onions if you prefer a more mild flavor. I also like mushrooms in mine, but the rest of the family frowns on that, so I only put them in leftovers I take to work.

In a pot place everything except the meatballs. Cook on medium till the vegetables are fork tender. Add the meatballs and continue cooking until they are heated through, about 10 minutes.

If you like, you can finish with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. This soup also works well in the slow cooker for 4 hours on low.

With mushrooms

Parmesan Chicken

Parmesan Chicken

Here is a chicken dish that is sure to please. It is very simple and the kids can help you put it together. The chicken has a lot of flavor but is light enough that it goes well with just about anything.

6 to 8 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken
1 c Italian Bread Crumbs
1/2 c finely grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 c melted Butter/Margarine
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

This time I cut large chicken breasts in half, but you can also use thighs.

Combine the bread crumbs, cheese and garlic powder. Sometimes I will substitute panko crumbs but when I do, I add 1/2 Tbs of dried parsley, oregano and Basil to the mix.

Mix the butter with the Worcestershire and mustard. You need to whisk it to get a proper emulsion going.

Dip each piece of chicken into the butter.

When you coat each piece with the bread crumbs, really push the crumbs onto the chicken. This helps them to stay on as it bakes.

Boo loves to help with this part.

Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before placing in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes.

This tastes great for lunch the next day, even cold.