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  • Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, Two Ways!


     Guest Post from The Coupon Project

    Every month in 2014, I'm sharing a plan for a couple meals you can easily put together for your family by shopping Grocery Outlet. My goal is to keep the menu to $2 or less per serving, based on a family of six. To capitalize on the savings I'll get by shopping at Grocery Outlet, I'll be creating meals that use similar ingredients, or as in the recipes featured this month, using one main ingredient two different ways.

    This month, I wanted to create a couple recipes that minimized your prep time. And what's more convenient than whipping out the slow cooker? So the first day, we're going to throw a pork roast in the slow cooker and then shred it and make pulled sandwiches. We'll use a bit of the leftover meat to create a deliciously different pizza!
     
    Haul from Grocery Outlet


    Here's what I ended up buying at Grocery Outlet:
    - 3.5 lb pork roast
    - 1 package bacon
    - bag of onions
    - garlic
    - 1 clamshell organic salad greens
    - 1 2-cup package pizza cheese
    - 1 pizza crust mix (on sale for just $0.33!)
    - 1 bottle barbecue sauce
    - 1 bottle pickles
    - hamburger buns

    From the pantry:
    - 1 tbsp brown sugar
    - 1 tbsp chili powder
    - 1 tbsp kosher salt
    - 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    - 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

    All together, I paid just under $25 out of pocket at Grocery Outlet for the items from my grocery list above! That works out to $11.64 per meal, or $2.08 per serving (based on 6 servings). That works out to just a tick over $2 per serving, but I should point out that I suspect this menu plan serves more than 6. The pork roast yielded SO MUCH shredded meat that I gave a bunch to a friend to enjoy for dinner!

    Night One: Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ Pork Sandwiches

    I found this highly-rated slow cooker pulled pork over at Chow.com and made some modifications for today's recipe.

     

    Pork Roast

     

    Place one thinly sliced onion and two cloves of minced garlic in the bottom of your slow cooker and pour 1 cup of broth on top. Next, combine the brown sugar, chili powder, salt, and cumin in a small bowl. Pat your 3-4 lb pork roast dry with paper towels, trim as desired, and then rub the spice mixture into the meat. Place the pork roast on top of the onions and garlic in your slow cooker and cook on low 8-10 hours or high 6-8 hours.

     

    Cooked Pork

    When I went to remove the roast from my slow cooker later in the day, my 5-year old daughter wandered into the kitchen and asked, "Mama, what is that wonderful smell?" So warning: be prepared to come home to a delicious aroma!

     

    Pulled Pork

    Remove the roast from the slow cooker and shred using two forks. My roast just fell apart, it was that moist! Don't forget about the broth and onions still in your slow cooker! Run them through a strainer and return the onions back to the slow cooker. You can return the shredded pork to the slow cooker as well. After the remaining broth has sat for a few minutes, the fat will float to the surface so you can easily skim it.

    Add 1 ½ - 2 cups of the barbecue sauce to the pork and combine. Pour in the reserved broth ¼cup at a time, until the meat is moist.

     

    Pulled Pork Sandwich


    The first night, serve the pulled pork on hamburger buns!



    Pickles

     

    I served mine alongside these hot & spicy pickles I found at Grocery Outlet for just $1.49! This is comfort food at its best and quick to serve up!

    Night Two: Leftover Pulled Pork Pizza

     

    Pulled Pork Pizza

    Now of course, you could go on and enjoy pulled pork sandwiches for the second night, but I want to encourage you to be creative with your leftovers!

    Pizza Crust

    Use any pizza crust recipe you like, but I opted for these Betty Crocker pizza crust mixes at Grocery Outlet for just $0.33! One of these makes a 12" pizza. I'd recommend you use 2 or even 3 of these crusts for feeding a larger family. All you need to do is combine with water and let sit for five minutes!

    I topped my pizza with 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce (leftover from yesterday's recipe), one cup of pizza cheese, one cup of the pulled pork, and 2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped up.

     

    Pulled Pork Pizza Slices

     

    I topped with a tablespoon of chopped cilantro after cooking. Of course, there are so many variations you could take on this pizza. Try adding sliced red onion, green peppers, or crushed red pepper. You could also nix the cheese or add fresh sliced tomato. This pizza was oh so good - and it took only minutes to throw together thanks to reusing the previous night's leftovers!

    The next time you're planning your family's menu, think about how you could save money by using similar ingredients or leftovers for a second meal. Then, make sure to shop Grocery Outlet first to save even more.

    To download this recipe in a PDF, click here: March Recipe

    Join me next month for another menu plan and shopping list!

    Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In the rare event she finds spare time, she loves gardening, hanging out with her girlfriends, and watching old cheesy monster movies.


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  • 2014: New Year, New Budget

    Happy New Year! It's refreshing to start a new year with a clean slate. While many new year resolutions may include trimming the waistline, we'd like to help folks trim their grocery spending. In fact, in 2013 we saved our customers $9,222,760.32. Here are some simple, money-saving tips for grocery shopping in 2014.

     

    2014 Budget

    Eat first. Never shop on an empty stomach. Most of us stop at the grocery store after work and before dinner when we are hungry. We've all made this mistake and it is a costly one. So try to plan grocery shopping on the weekends when you can go after a satisfying meal.

    Plan your meals. Meal planning will help you save time and money and avoid those unhealthy drive-thru dinners. Ask your family members to vote on their favorite meals and then take inventory of your cupboards so you don't end up with duplicate groceries.

    Shop in season. Out-of-season produce is more expensive, so find recipes for seasonal fruits and vegetables. It will also be the freshest and tastiest pick in the produce aisle.

    Think bulk. Buy yogurt, sour cream and soup in large containers. The individual servings are more expensive and not environmentally-friendly.

    Resist the ready-made. Pre-made, pre-cut or pre-washed groceries are convenient, but costly. If you're willing to put in the time to cut, wash and prepare your food, you'll reap the rewards and your wallet will thank you.

    Save the savings. Quick! Stash your savings so it doesn't run away. Some people like to make a game out of it and try to beat their savings each month.

    Wishing you all the best in the New Year! 

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  • Stocking Stuffer Solutions

    Holiday shoppers were in full swing this weekend, some proudly announcing that their holiday shopping was complete. But with kids waving their holiday wish lists, it's easy for parents to forget about good ol' stocking stuffers. Stocking stuffers are a fun way to surprise and delight children on Christmas morning. So don't let the hustle and bustle of the holidays leave you paying premium prices on stocking stuffers. Here are some budget-friendly stocking stuffing tips that will make you feel like the most clever (and frugal) elf in the North Pole!

    Be practical. Think about items that you need to buy anyway. A toothbrush, character Band-Aids, socks and even deodorant becomes fun when you pull it out of a big red sock!

    Make it edible. Look for your child's favorite snack foods for sock filler, like pretzels, gum, nuts and for the healthy families, even small fruits.

    Smart socks. Grab some school tools for your whiz kids! School supplies like pencils, erasers, highlighters, a calculator and a paperback book will keep them sharp during winter break. Who doesn't love new school supplies?

    Age up. Don't disappoint your teenage kids with a stocking full of kiddie knick knacks. Beauty supplies, including name brand beauty care items available at Grocery Outlet, will please teen girls. And you can't go wrong with a gas gift card.

    Happy Holideals from Grocery Outlet!

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  • Gifts Galore! Delicious Gifts for the Hostess, Teacher and More

    'Tis the season of giving! At Grocery Outlet, we like to think you can give more, when you spend less. And we're here to help! This week we are talking about budget-friendly gift ideas for those special people on your list. Here are some fun gift ideas, perfect for teachers, neighbors and co-workers. And don't forget those gracious party hosts and hostesses that deserve some holiday love too.

    Edible gifts
    We love giving edible gifts because they don't become clutter or require a gift receipt for returns. Last year, we posted some simple recipes for edible gifts created by food blogger Amy Sherman at Cooking with Amy. And here are some delicious ideas to add to the mix:

    Go Nuts. Fill a decorative vase with nuts for a classic salty snack. Consider layering nut varieties with dried cranberries and yogurt-covered raisins for a dash of red and white. Adorn with decorative ribbon and a tag that reads, “Go Nuts this Holiday!”

    Santa's Trail Mix. Fill a large mason jar with layers of mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, peanuts, granola and cereal. If you're feeling ambitious, you can add these darling Santa Hats made with Bugles and red Candy Melts.  Recipe and photo via Cookies & Cups.

     

    Cheers. If you're strapped for time, a bottle of wine is the perfect gift to show your appreciation to the gracious hostess. Just add a pretty ribbon and gift tag, or write a festive note directly on the bottle's label. Pop in to your local Grocery Outlet's Wine Department and you're guaranteed to find a great selection of quality wines at bargain prices. In fact, they're such a bargain you can get yourself a bottle too!

    So go ahead and give yummy gifts galore! Happy Holideals from Grocery Outlet!

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  • Your Holiday Home – Inside and Out

    Decking the halls can be overwhelming and expensive. So if you haven't had time to tackle your holiday decorating yet, we put together some budget-friendly ideas to help inspire your inner elf.

    DIY all the way. Making your own decorations will save money and it's sure to get you into the holiday spirit. Pinterest has more holiday DIY ideas than the North Pole has snow. And don't forget to get the kids involved. One of our favorite bargain bloggers, Charlene at My Frugal Adventures, has a great tutorial for Easy Homemade Children's Christmas Ornaments. Check it out and get your craft on!

    Poinsettia points. The poinsettia is a classic. And the bright red blooms will last for weeks. So go ahead and add them around the house – inside and out. Right now we have a great deal on 6-inch potted poinsettias for only $3.99. You'll save up to $5 on each one!

     

    Poinsettias

    Twinkle, twinkle. Twinkle lights add instant holiday glow. We like to add them to a mantle, a door frame and even above a headboard in the bedroom. And the new LED lights use less energy, up to 75% less, so you'll save money on your energy bill.

    Pinecones everywhere. Take a winter walk and gather pinecones to spruce up your holiday home with a natural twist. You can glam them up with glitter or keep them au natural. Before using, it's a good idea to bake pinecones at 200-degrees for 20-30 minutes to dry the sap and kill any bugs.  

    Now it's time to get decorating so you can enjoy it for the rest of the month before we ring in 2014! Happy Holideals from Grocery Outlet!

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  • Last-Minute Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

    It happens. Sometimes, despite our best intentions to plan ahead, the holiday happenings creep up on us and we find ourselves strapped for time. But don’t let it keep you from playing host to the most wonderful meal of the year. Here are three quick tips for the Last-Minute Lucy’s out there.

    Mini bird. If you don’t have time to thaw and cook the whole turkey, opt for just the breast. A five-pound turkey breast will cook in just about one hour and will serve 6-8 people.

    Less is more. You don’t need eight different side dishes. Just choose your favorite three side dishes. After all, the true Thanksgiving bounty is the abundance of loved ones. And the turkey sandwiches on Friday!

    Store bought shortcuts. Dressing up store bought products is a great way to save time and impress guests. Add fresh garlic and parsley to boxed mashed potatoes. A store bought pumpkin pie looks great topped with homemade whipped cream, sprinkled graham cracker crumbs and a sprig of fresh mint.

     


    Thanksgiving Dinner

    Easy Thanksgiving Decor

    Thanksgiving is all about the food, so don’t let a fussy centerpiece steal the show. Consider these ideas to let the great American feast take center stage.

    Thankful notes. Use a butcher paper table runner and place colorful markers at each place setting. Ask your guests to write or draw what they are thankful for. In fact, ask them to do it before each course is served.

    Outside in. While you are whisking the gravy, ask your guests to take a nature walk down the block to collect fall foliage and acorns. Then they can place their treasures in a clear glass vase (or a few) on the table.

    Go nuts. Use your existing serving dishes, like a clear glass trifle bowl, and fill with whole walnuts. You can also layer with clementines to add a dash of bright orange color.

    Pumpkin redo. Use those leftover pumpkins from Halloween for a winter white tablescape. Just paint pumpkins in creamy white hues and you can even add gold glitter for a little sparkle.

    Whatever you choose to decorate your table, we’re certain the family, friends and food gracing your table will be the most memorable.

    Happy Holideals from Grocery Outlet!



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  • Back to School Savings

    Back-to-School season can cost you both time and money. Being of the frugal-minded, we want to help you alleviate some of the cost. Below, are a few easy-to-do suggestions on how to save money on school supplies.

    Think simple and plan. Make a list of the bare essentials for school and plan a budget. Knowing what you can spend in advance will help prevent surprise purchases and added stress. Stick to the bare minimum, like paper and pencils, and expand from there. Keep in mind, they’re going to class, not combat.

    Practice patience. During the first week of classes, teachers will usually send home a list of required items and materials for the school year. Holding off on a shopping spree and waiting for an “official” school list will prevent you from buying unnecessary items and help save on costs.

    Scavenge your space. Start your shopping at home. You’ll be surprised to find that a lot of the items on your list are probably right under your nose. Gather barely-used pens and pencils from your “junk” drawer, or borrow scotch tape and glue from your craft box. Better yet, help your children clean out their rooms, while keeping an eye out for lost rulers or erasers.

     

    Back to School

    Recover and recreate. Be creative with your old findings. You can spruce up used notebooks and binders with collages, using recycled paper, old magazines and stickers. If you’re sew-savvy, you can use loose fabric and a spare button to make a one-of-a-kind pencil case. Making it a family activity will help ensure your kids are happy with their refurbished supplies, while lessening your shopping load.

    Stay Organized. Encourage your family to keep all school essentials in one place. This will save time when a last-minute school project comes up and emergency report covers or construction paper is needed. But most importantly, staying organized will help you avoid unnecessary expenses during the school year, when things tend to get misplaced.

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  • Breaking Out of the Dinner Rut: Goat Cheese & Apricot Preserve Appetizer


     Guest Post from The Coupon Project

     

    Normally, I don't try to spice things up at the dinner table with fancy cheese because it's so expensive! However, Grocery Outlet always surprises me by offering up gourmet cheese for ridiculously low prices. This has been true of all the locations I've had the pleasure of visiting.

     

    groceryoutletcheese

     

    While at my local South Tacoma store recently, I stumbled upon such a cheese find. Check it out:

     

    DSCN0194 (759x800)

     

    It's a small log of honey-flavored goat cheese for just $1.99. Elsewhere, you'd expect to pay about twice that. As I've never cooked with goat cheese before, I thought this would be just the ticket for this month's Breaking out of the Dinner Rut post. After all, I have definitely fallen into a pattern of choosing the same basic cheeses over and over again. Why not let a Grocery Outlet steal spark a new culinary experience?

     

    winetastinggo

     

    While shopping - I bumped into my pal Christopher who works at Grocery Outlet. (He's actually the genius behind the Grocery Outlet YouTube Channel - make sure to check out their fun videos if you haven't already!). It turns out I was there during a wine tasting. How awesome is that?

    I mentioned the goat cheese to Christopher and he said he didn't much care for the stuff. But then he remembered an exception! He'd recently had an appetizer at a local restaurant which consisted of a crostini topped with dried fruit, pecans, and honey. I thought this sounded like excellent inspiration.

    So here's my version of that idea, frugal-ed up using Grocery Outlet ingredients!

     

    DSCN0402 (800x659)

    Goat Cheese and Apricot Preserve Appetizers

    Ingredients

    • Crackers or appetizer-sized toast
    • Dried cranberries
    • Preserves of your choice - I selected apricot
    • Small log goat cheese

    DSCN0404 (800x652)

     

    Start by spreading a little of the preserves on your crackers. Now you could use those fancy little toasts or crostini if you want, but I found that plain old crackers worked just fine for this recipe.

     

    DSCN0406 (800x623)

     

    Next, spread a little of the goat cheese on top. You'll find that it may crumble a bit. Don't worry; it doesn't affect the flavor one bit.

     

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    Can you believe you're almost done with this recipe?

     

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    Finally, top with a few dried cranberries.

     

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    That's it!

     

    DSCN0409 (800x600)

     

    I think they look pretty displayed on a cutting board with some sprigs of mint or other fresh herbs. (I had mint in my garden, so that's what I used!) You can serve this as a prelude to a light dinner alfresco, perhaps with some sparkling wine (make sure to check Grocery Outlet's wine department for fabulous prices there, too)!

    All told, I spent about $8 on the ingredients to make this recipe. I love that it's totally frugal but looks like I paid a lot more to make it.

    How were these?

     

    gone

     

    I think the results speak for themselves!

    Like this post? You might want to read the others in this series:


    Make sure to come back next month for another fun installment!

    Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and has recently taken up canning.

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  • Breaking Out of the Dinner Rut: Asian Mung Bean Salad


     Guest Post from The Coupon Project

     

    I recently happened upon a different item at my local Grocery Outlet store and I knew instantly that I had to bring it home for a fun dinner creation.....

     

    100_7485 (800x600)

     

    Organic Sprouted Mung Beans for $2.99. Now I'm definitely familiar with bean sprouts, but not sprouted mung beans. I flipped over the package and it read:

    These tiny fresh-tasting beans have a rich creamy texture and nutty-sweet taste.

    Suggested uses included salads, pilafs, soups, purees, and sandwiches. Turns out, these are quite nutritious too! One serving (1/4 cup dry) contains 7 grams of dietary fiber and a whopping 10 grams of protein. It's also high in iron and vitamin C and low in fat. I'm thinking this would be a wonderful superfood for vegetarians to explore!

     

    100_7920 - Copy (800x754)

     

    I decided to try these sprouted mung beans for the first time in an Asian-inspired salad. Today's recipe is quick, easy, and delicious! It's enough for 2 large servings, or 4 sides.

    Ingredients:

    Salad
    1 cup dry mung beans
    2 cups mixed salad greens
    couple sprigs cilantro, chopped
    1/4 cup chopped sweet peppers

    Dressing (from Once Upon a Chef's Asian Slaw recipe)
    2 tbsp honey
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
    1 tsp soy sauce
    1 tsp sesame oil
    small piece of ginger, minced
    1 clove garlic, minced
    dash sea salt

    Start by prepping your mung beans. Add 1 cup of dry beans to 3 cups of boiling water. Let boil for 5 minutes before removing from heat, covering, and allow to set 4-8 minutes.

     

    100_7923 (800x600)

     

    While my mung beans were rehydrating, I got to work on the rest of the salad. I found some lovely salad ingredients at my Grocery Outlet store yesterday - organic baby kale, organic mixed Romaine, a big bag of sweet mini baby peppers for just $3.99, and a bunch of fresh cilantro.

     

    100_7924 (800x600)

     

    Have you ever tried these peppers? If not, I recommend them! They are perfect for dipping in hummus, slicing on sandwiches, or great when your recipe just calls for a little bit of pepper.

     

    100_7927 (800x745)

     

    Prepare your dressing by mixing all the ingredients listed above and stirring. This is one of my very favorite Asian dressings I've come across on the web, and I make it often. Incidentally, I found a 1 lb bag of ginger at my Grocery Outlet for $1.99 and the garlic for $0.33 each. If you can't use up all the ginger before it goes bad? Consider chopping and freezing leftover portions or making ginger tea!

     

    100_7934 (800x708)

     

    By now, your mung beans should be cooked and your salad ready to assemble! Toss the greens in the dressing, top with the peppers, scoop on some mung beans and sprinkle on the cilantro. I did have a decent amount of the prepped mung beans leftover, so I will refrigerate them to use in another recipe in the next day or so.

     

    mungbean

     

    The warm mung beans added a nice touch to this salad - and they had such a mild, pleasing flavor! I could see how well they'd work on any number of recipes. While researching their use for this post, I also learned that some people even enjoy turning them into a cake! Now how would that be for a nutritious alternative for your kids?

    If you're looking for new, fun ingredients to make cooking fun again without breaking the bank? You need to visit Grocery Outlet!

    For more ideas, check out my other posts for this series:

    Make sure to come back next month for another fun installment!

    Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and has recently taken up canning.

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  • Breaking Out of the Dinner Rut: Sundried Tomato Pesto Chicken Stuffed Manicotti


     Guest Post from The Coupon Project

     


    It can be so easy to grab for the same ingredients to make the same recipes over and over, can't it? That's why I love hunting for interesting foods at Grocery Outlet. They can help keep me from getting in those dinner ruts! Last month, you might recall how I discovered these pasilla peppers at my local Grocery Outlet store and used them to put a spin on traditional stuffed peppers. This month, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful new Maple Valley store in Washington and did I ever find some delicious treats!


    100_6978 (800x600)

     

    They had beautiful organic pasta for just $1.50. I rarely venture beyond plain old spaghetti (and maybe penne when I'm in a mood!), largely due to the cost. Sure, it would be fun to try some new pasta - but who wants to spend $4 or $5 a bag? Not this gal! But $1.50? Now I'm game to change things up at the dinner table a bit! I decided to poke around and see what else I could find to put together a fun new pasta creation.

     

    100_6974

     

    Check out these beautiful pesto varieties: garlic galore; basil, garlic & sundried tomatoes; and bail & garlic. I decided to pick up the basil, garlic & dried tomatoes. After that, I decided to see what I could find in the cheese section to complete my meal.

     

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    If you like cheese of any kind, you really need to make Grocery Outlet your stop. Check out these tubs of shredded Asiago, Romano and Parmesan cheese - all for just $1.99 each. I've seen similar tubs for $4 or more at other stores! It's all good quality stuff, too.

    Taking my Grocery Outlet ingredients, I decided to do a spin on this beautiful Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells recipe I discovered a couple weeks ago. Here's what I came up with:

    Ingredients: 1 package manicotti
    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (optional: plus more for garnish)
    1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cubed and cooked
    1 package cream cheese (I opted for fat free)
    1/2 cup sundried tomato pesto (OR other pesto of your choosing)
    Fresh ground pepper & salt, to taste
    2 tsp minced garlic
    1-tsp fresh chopped Italian parsley (optional: plus more for garnish)
    One batch Bechamel Sauce


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    Start by making your filling. Place the cream cheese in a bottom of a mixing bowl and add the garlic.

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    Next: the pesto! I was really excited to give this a whirl. You can mix it to your taste, and I wanted a really pesto-y taste, so I ended up adding about 1/2 of this container.

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    Add the cooked, cubed chicken. Make sure the pieces are not too large, because you are going to be stuffing your pasta. If you would prefer, you could omit the chicken for a vegetarian take on this recipe. OR, you could swap Italian sausage for the chicken for a different flavor combination.

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    Mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan, freshly ground pepper, salt, and a good measure of fresh chopped parsley. If you wish, you could add some other Grocery Outlet cheeses into the mix! I think a little mozzarella would be rather tasty.

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    Mix it all together. This might not look pretty, but trust me - take one whiff and you'll be wanting to just spoon it right out of the bowl like this! Heavenly!

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    At this point, I set aside my filling mix to chill while I worked on cooking my pasta and prepping the Bechamel Sauce. Here's one more look at the beautiful organic pasta I ended up with:

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    I cooked the entire package until al dente in salted water. While the pasta cooked, I made the sauce. Now, I'd never made a Bechamel sauce, but I figured - why not? The whole idea is to get out of a rut, try something new!

    To make the sauce, I followed this recipe at Epicurious. Turns out, I had everything I needed in my fridge already and it took mere minutes. Easy peasy!

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    You can get the full details at Epicurious, but it basically involves melting butter, adding a little flour and watching it bubble, adding hot milk, waiting for it to thicken and seasoning with salt and pepper. Really, really easy.

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    At this point, you should have the filling, the pasta, and the sauce done. It's time to assemble! I started by adding a small portion of Bechamel to the bottom of a baking pan, to prevent sticking. My manicotti was a "mini" version, so I found roughly 2 tablespoons of the filling did the trick. I worked to get two pieces of chicken into every noodle.

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    Here are all my manicotti noodles nearly ready for the oven!

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    I topped with the Bechamel, making sure to cover each noodle evenly and topped with a little more Parmesan for good measure. Then I popped this dish into a 350° oven for about 20 minutes.

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    The finished product! Yes, this dinner took a little more time, but I promise, it's worth the effort! Delicious!

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    Serve with plenty of fresh green salad and maybe a loaf of crusty Italian bread or garlic breadsticks. This recipe should serve 4-6, depending on appetites.

    If you've been in a dinner rut, can I recommend paying a stop to your local Grocery Outlet? I guarantee you'll find some new ingredients to jazz up your meal plan this week without breaking the bank. Make sure to come back next month and see what new creation I've come up with. If you missed it, check out my Stuffed Pasilla Peppers recipe from last month, too.

    With thanks to What's Cookin, Chicago? and Epicurious for today's recipe inspiration.

    Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and has recently taken up canning.

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  • Guest Blog: Turkey Leftovers

    by Amy Sherman, of Cooking with Amy

    The holidays mean friends, family and, of course, food. Lots of food.

    While it may seem like a lot of cooking, many holiday dishes can become the base for great meals the day after the holiday and all weekend long. Best of all, you’ll be saving money and trips to the grocery store too.

    Instead of a cold turkey or ham sandwich, I like grilled cheese sandwiches with ham or turkey. These versions don’t feel like leftovers, but something special that everyone will enjoy. With people stopping by to drop off gifts and visit, it’s nice to have something warm on the stove to serve. Split pea soup or turkey rice soup are warm and soothing and can be served for lunch or a light supper. For bigger appetites, serve soup and a sandwich.

     

    Grilled Turkey and Cheese

     

    Shopping at Grocery Outlet, you will find lots of special ingredients that can help add pizzazz to your holiday meals without adding a lot of expense, whether you are serving a holiday meal or dressing up leftovers. To make a festive holiday salad, I used a pomegranate that was only 69 cents and some roasted salted pepitas, which were also a great buy. While there is a lot of rich food at the holidays, look for dried fruit, nuts and pies on sale.  They are all wonderful choices for dessert and will give your holiday table a traditional feel—all while saving you money.

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  • The Holidays: Simplified

    It's that time of year. The magical and joyful holiday season, with twinkling lights, festive music and parties galore. It's a time to reconnect with loved ones, and embrace the spirit of giving. And while kids are making their holiday wish lists and hoping to make the “nice list,” grown-ups often become too over-committed and overstressed to enjoy the season. At Grocery Outlet, we hope to inspire our customers, employees and friends to be nice to themselves by keeping the holidays simple.

     

    Winter Tree with Snow

     

    We put together this Grown-Up Holiday Wish List to remind folks to keep it simple and enjoy the greatest gift of the season – making holiday memories with family and friends.

    A Grown-Up Holiday Wish List
    • I wish to embrace the joy of the holiday season
    • I wish to not exhaust my energy and financial resources
    • I wish to resist the urge to do it all
    • I wish to plan ahead to avoid last-minute stress
    • I wish to ask for help when I need it. Even Santa has lots of helpers.
    • I wish to stick to my holiday budget
    • I wish to give gifts from the heart more than the wallet
    • I wish to leave room in my schedule to slow down and enjoy the small things
    • I wish to slow down and keep it simple

    Throughout the season, we will be sharing tips and ideas for a simple holiday. We hope you'll join us and wrap-up 2012 on the “nice list.”

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  • Sam the Cooking Guy and Grocery Outlet

    We like to partner with local chefs and experts to illustrate how you can use the bargains you find at Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in your everyday life.  We've been honored to work with Sam the Cooking Guy, whose take on easy, affordable cuisine is one we greatly admire.

    A little about Sam
    Sam Zien, known as Sam the Cooking Guy, is a Canadian-born television cook (not a classically trained chef) and author, based in San Diego, California. His show, Sam the Cooking Guy, started on local television stations before moving to a Fox affiliate and thence to Discovery Health. He has won multiple Emmy awards, including one for an episode on Jewish cuisine. Zien started his television career doing travel shows, but reconsidered after the World Trade Center attack. in the decade following Zien has taken his television cooking show on the road, producing multiple shows across the world in places like Hong Kong, Fiji, New Zealand and Vancouver. (from Wikipedia.  For more about Sam, check out his bio here.)


    Sam the Cooking Guy
    Source: Sam the Cooking Guy

    Grocery Outlet
    Sam agreed to partner with us in launching our East Village San Diego location.  He cooked for a couple of events we hosted at that store, and in the process, created these five videos for us about the amazing values he found at Grocery Outlet, checking out the deals by scanning them on his phone.  He even made some spicy steak and corn soft tacos.  Check out our videos below for more.

    Sam the Cooking Guy - Introduction

    Sam the Cooking Guy - Prices

    Sam the Cooking Guy - NOSH (Natural, Organic, Specialty, Healthy)

    Sam the Cooking Guy - Wine & Beer

    Sam the Cooking Guy - Sam Cooks Spicy Steak and Corn Soft Tacos

    Thank you Sam, for showing us you can make a healthy and delicious dinner easily and inexpensively, by shopping and saving at Grocery Outlet!

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  • Lesson 10: Frugal and DIY Halloween Costumes


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    When I grew up, Halloween costumes were made from "scratch" around the house.  Today, however, costumes can cost upwards of $50 each just for the kids!  This is just silly.  They're worn for a couple of hours then tossed in a bin to donate next year when they've been outgrown.  Now, I realize there are those kiddos that wear their costumes night and day for months—we have had a couple of those around here, however, I still cannot justify the $50 price tag.  So with this in mind, I thought I'd share a few DIY costume ideas from around the web.  I hope you find something here that will save you a few bucks.

    Tip Junkie has a slew of great Halloween DIY ideas, everything from food, to decor, to costumes.

    Real Simple has a photo slide show with 16 DIY Costumes for Kids.  They're really cute too!  I especially love these because most of the costumes are from your kiddos' gear that they already have at home!

     

     Safari Costume
    Photo Credit: Real Simple

     

    Of course we can't forget Pinterest, especially when DIY is in mind.  Check out this Halloween Costume board over on Pinterest for some great costume ideas for all ages.

    I'd love to hear from you.  What are some of your frugal, tried-and-true costumes?  Has your child ever won a "Best Costume" award and you were grinning from ear-to-ear because you knew it cost you practically nothing?  Leave a comment on our Facebook post and let us know what your best costume was!


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  • Lesson 9: Back to School Lunches on a Budget


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    If you're sending kids to school, likely you're making the decision between hot lunches at school or sending a cold lunch.  We have four kids all in school this year and a hot lunch costs $2.50 x 4 that's a whopping $10 a day!  I've talked before about our ENTIRE family grocery budget being only $75/week.  This would seriously eat into our budget so the decision for our family was an easy one to make.


    Back to School Kids

     


    Of course, finances aren't the only factor that plays into sending a lunch with our kids to school.  Knowing they'll actually EAT the food I send with them is even more important.  I wanted to share a few examples of lunches we send with our kids each day.  First of all, we invested in a few containers with snug lids to put inside their lunch boxes so that we could cut back on the cost of Ziploc bags.  I also scoured local thrift stores and found a few Thermos containers so that I could send hot lunches from time to time.  Sending hot lunches is a great way to stretch your budget if you have leftovers from dinner.  For example, today my daughter is taking a bowl of White Bean Chicken Chili to school today—I think that beats a PB&J any day!


    Cost of food varies greatly from state to state, but I think you'll find that hands-down, eating at home (or prepared at home) food is always cheaper.


    Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking about creative (and frugal!) lunchbox meals:
    Bagel & Cream Cheese
    Homemade Uncrustables (PB&J or Grilled Cheese)
    Salami, Cheese, and Crackers - substitute ham, turkey, etc
    Peanut Butter and Apple "Sandwiches"
    Homemade Pumpkin Muffins
    Soups and Chilis

     Homemade Uncrustable How-To!

    There are also a few tools that make packing lunches a breeze for me.  The first one is the Apple Wedger which works great for pears too! When packing hot liquid lunches (soups, etc) the Thermos Leak Proof Stainless Steel Food Container is a must!  Of course if you're packing a cold lunch and actually want it to stay cold you'll need a couple Blue Ice Packs.  Also as I mentioned above, a good set of plastic containers are very useful and in the end will help you to save money by cutting out Ziploc bags. I like The Container Store Klip-It Lunch Cubes but there are many different products on the market, the key is to make sure they don't leak especially if you're putting fruit or yogurt into the containers.


    Lastly, I thought I'd share one of my family's favorite recipes: Homemade Granola Bars!  They're actually very simple to make and a lot heartier (and healthier) than your average Quaker granola bars. This recipe comes from my friend Sumiko who blogs at Near to Nothing.  She guest posts on The Frugal Find each week in our From Our Pantry on a Budget series!

    Granola Bars
    2 cups old fashioned oats
    1/2 to 3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup wheat germ*
    3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    3/4 tsp salt
    3/4 cup mix-ins (see below)
    1/2 cup honey
    1 egg
    1/2 cup canola oil
    2 tsp vanilla extract

    Mix-ins:
    Dried cranberries
    Chocolate chips or peanut butter chips
    1/2 Cup peanut butter (plus some chocolate chips, of course!)
    Nuts
    Dried fruits (apples, bananas, cherries, blueberries, etc.)
    Pretty much anything your heart desires!

     Granola Bars!


    Directions
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 baking pan and set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into well.  Mix until combined, then spread into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press it evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until they begin to turn brown around the edges. Cut bars while still warm then cool completely. Store in an air-tight container or zip-top bag.


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  • Lesson 8: Save Money by Freezing Your Food


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    We talked very briefly last month about freezing your food as a method to saving money each month. Well I want to elaborate because in my opinion this is one of the MAIN ways you can save BIG each month. The key is stocking up when the prices are low, but if your food goes to waste so does your money. So you need to be prepared to freeze your goods. For quite some time I used the affordable over the counter Ziploc Vacuum Starter and Bags to freeze various food. However recently we upgraded to a FoodSaver from Costco, we bought the lower end model for $64 (after an instant $20 rebate). I’m so happy we did this, it’s made the process so much quicker and easier! However the Ziploc Vacuum works very well too!

     

    Frozen Food

     

    Here is a list of many food staples that freeze well. Of course, this isn't an extensive end-all list, but it's a great place to start!

    Milk and Cheese - Cheese is simple, just toss it in the freezer that includes shredded cheese too! However with your milk, you'll need to take the cap off and pour out about a 1/2 cup to leave room for the jug to expand. Often times you can find milk on clearance but if it expires in just a few days, you may not consider buying 4 gallons, unless of course you freeze them! When you thaw out your milk (in the fridge) you may need to give it a good shake before serving, but that's it.

    Eggs - Yes, surprisingly eggs freeze very well! You'll just need to take them out of their shells first and scramble them (you don't have to, but I find it's much easier this way). Place the scrambled eggs in ice cube trays to freeze them initially, then I combine them in a Ziploc bag to save space. You could also just place 6 scrambled eggs directly into a ziploc bag if you plan to use them all at once.

    Asparagus

    Veggies, Herbs, and Fruit - These are one of my favorites to freeze because it means that even when produce isn't in season I can still enjoy it. Recently I stocked up on asparagus. Here’s a tip when freezing asparagus (and brussels sprouts), the key is to blanch them first. Drop them into boiling water for 2-3 minutes then immediately place them into a cold water ice bath. Blanching stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Until vegetables are harvested, the enzymes cause them to grow and develop their color and flavor. By blanching them you stop that process, keeping them as fresh as possible.

    Bread, Cake, Pies, Dough - All forms of pastries freeze well, you just need to make sure that you prep it well using wax paper and a good freezer bag (or freezing system). Bread goes on sale from time to time and if I can find a good hearty whole wheat loaf for $1.00, that's when I buy 8-10 loaves and stick them in the freezer. We have 4 kids and we easily go through a loaf every 2-3 days so stocking up is essential for us.

    Fully Prepared or Fully Cooked Meals - This won't just save you money it will save you a lot of time too! If you can cook a meal or two in bulk and then freeze the rest you'll be very thankful when a busy day rolls around. Just grab that extra pan of enchiladas out of the freezer and stick in the oven! Maybe you'd like to organize a group of friends and create a Freezer Meal Exchange Group on Facebook!

    You may also be interested in using this Free Printable Freezer Inventory Form to keep track of what you have in the freezer. After all, you've gone through all the effort to score a deal and prep it for the freezer you wouldn't want it to go to waste because you forgot you had it!


    Frozen Food

     

     

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  • Lesson 5: Garage Sale Tips and Tricks


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    It’s that time of year again: it’s Garage Sale Season!  Yes it's a season, look... Fall, Winter, Spring, Garage-Saling, and Summer.  See?  I told you!

    I absolutely LOVE to go out on a Saturday morning and hit multiple garage sales.  It’s a fun hobby, but it’s also a frugal way that I provide for my family.  If there is something that we need, say clothes for the kids, a griddle, a printer, a patio table, etc., it goes on my Garage Sale Hunting List.  We have envelopes for these expenses already budgeted, so I figure out the funds and plan my trip.

    Garage Sale

    Here are a just a few tips to make the experience worthwhile…

    1.  Have a plan.  I use the iGarageSale app on my iPhone to help me along the way, but beforehand I search Craigslist and the newspaper for ads that look like they may have a few of the items I’m looking for.  I gather the address and add them to my GPS, optimizing them so that I’m not driving back and forth across town.

    2.  Have a budget.  Bring a certain amount of cash and leave the rest at home.  You’re much less likely to overspend if you simply don’t have a way to do so.

    3.  Show up on time, but not early.  I like to get to a garage that I know has something I want on-time, but if you're there early you risk being annoying.  If you annoy the seller, they're less likely to want to bargain with you.  Plus it's just rude, they had to roll out of bed much earlier than usual on a Saturday morning and they're probably feeling a bit stressed as it is.

    4.  Practice negotiating.  People that are selling the items you’re shopping for consider much of it “junk” and that works to your advantage.  Many times I’ve been blown away by what people consider junk because to me it’s a treasure!  With that said, always ask if they’ll take less.  More times than not they will.  Now don’t undercut them to the point of insulting them, but it is a garage sale and bargaining is the game.

    5.  Be prepared.  Pack a snack, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lots of water – but not too much because you’ll have to find a restroom!

    What are some of your best Garage Sale tips?  Let's talk selling and shopping!

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  • Lesson 4: Tax Refunds Are Not a Good Savings Plan


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    April 15th is just around the corner and it’s time to tackle the topic of taxes.  Every year around this time, Americans look forward to a large chunk of change coming their way in the form of a tax return.  Now if this was free money, I could understand why everyone gets so excited.  However this isn't free money at all—it's money you've earned in your hourly wage all year long that you've essentially loaned to the government.  The numbers below should be proof enough.  This isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that many Americans don’t understand or choose not to adapt into their lives.

    In 2010, the average Tax Refund was $2,869.  So if you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year you're basically taking a $1.34 per hour pay cut.  You know what that means don’t you?  It means that the average American loaned the government (interest free) close to $3,000 each last year.  

     

    Tax Refund

    Maybe you didn’t know that you could keep that money in your pocket each month instead.  Would you turn down an extra $240 per month?  Personally, for our family we’ve NEVER received a Tax Refund instead we’ve always had the extra cash in our bank each month—and trust me we needed it and found a way to use it.  All you have to do is claim the correct number of deductions on your W4 form.  Just ask your employer to change it based on the calculations you’ve made here or have figured out with your tax consultant based on your family's situation.

    Maybe in your case you’re financially stable and you don’t need that $240 per month (likely not the case for the average American) but if that IS you, have you considered investing that money?

    Here are 3 different things you could do with your a $240 per month income:

    1.  If you continued to loan the government $2,869 per month for 10 years at the end of 10 years (if you didn’t spend a penny of your tax return) you’d have $28,690.  If you’ve been doing this since you were 30 until you retired at age 65, you’d have $100,415.00.

    2.  If you invested the $240 per month for 10 years in a slow growth mutual fund with a 10% return at the end of the 10 years you’d have $50,296.92 – a much prettier number than the interest free loan you’ve been giving the government.  If you’re 30 years old today and you did this until retirement at age 65 you would have $855,325.80 in your account.  You can run the numbers using a Compound Interest Calculator.

    Let’s put the numbers side by side here…
    Loan the Gov’t - $2,869 X 35 years = $100,415.00
    Invest the $$$ - $2,869 X 35 years = $855,325.80

    Maybe you’re thinking “I don’t get anywhere near that amount”. Let’s say you get $480 at the end of the year – if you invested that $40 per month ($480 per year) at the end of 35 years you’d have $153,131.07 or $18,200 if you continued to loan it to the government.

    3.  If you have ANY amount of debt (and this is a no brainer), that $240 should go to pay down your debt.  Let’s say you’re sitting on $15,000 worth of car loans or credit card debt at an interest rate of 16.86% (average American credit card interest rate).  Just guessing here, but I’d venture to say this person is already paying $300/month towards the debt on the low end.  At this rate they would have their debt payed off in 6 1/2 years and paid $10,000.00 in interest!   INSTEAD, if they put the extra $240 towards debt along with the $300 they’re already paying they’d have their debt payed off in just under 3 years and paid only $4,100 in interest. You can run the numbers using an Amortization Calculator.

    Let’s put the numbers side by side here…
    Debt of $15,000 @ 16.89% = 80 months (6.5 years) + $10,092.22 in interest paid
    Debt of $15,000 @ 16.895 = 35 months (3 years) + $4,100 in interest paid

    I know this can be a bit overwhelming, but this simple fact is that it is YOUR money, you’re working every day to earn each and every one of those dollars.  Take charge of your finances and put the ball back into your court!

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  • Cooking with Wine

    With our wine sale earlier this month, you probably have a bunch of bottles stocked up.  Inevitably, there’s half a bottle lying around after dinner that you cork back up and then forget about, and before you realize it, it’s turned to vinegar.  Such a waste!

    The great news is that there’s a simple way to use up leftover wine—cooking! You can up the Wow Factor of any dish by adding a little bit of wine to the recipe, which saves you money and cuts down on waste.


    Cooking with Wine


    Here are some ideas on how to add wine to your cooking:
    • Add wine to your marinade.  The acid in the marinade will help the meat absorb the flavor of the wine.
    • Replace some of the water, vinegar, broth, or fruit juice in a recipe with wine for a richer, fuller flavor.
    • Use a little bit to add flavor to soups, stews, gravy, and hearty dishes.
    • Make sangria!  Add chopped fruit and a little sugar and you have the perfect summer beverage.
    • Mix with oil and spices to baste turkey, roasts, or braise vegetables.
    • Make a pan sauce using the juices from the meat, some wine, and some spices.  Perfect for sautéed or browned meats.
    • Create a classic French dish like Coq au Vin.  Julia Child’s classic recipe is worth a try: Coq au Vin Recipe

    The rule of thumb is to pair red wine with heartier fare, and white wine with lighter dishes.  But we say experiment!  Your palate is what’s most important.  Try a bunch of things and find out what works best for you.  Always consult the recipe if you’re cooking with wine—the author may have had a specific flavor profile in mind and has done the legwork ahead of time.

    What do you like to drink with different foods?  


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  • Lesson 3: Dumping Debt By Doing it Yourself


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    One of the #1 ways to save money is to become debt-free. I know that isn't a common way of thinking for most Americans, but I believe it's 100% doable. I'm speaking mainly of consumer debt, student loans, car loans, etc. I understand that in most areas of the country dropping a few hundred thousand dollars to buy a house outright isn't feasible. If, however, you'd like to pay down debt, you may want to follow my new series over on The Frugal Find called Debt Free in 52.

    Here are just a few tips that will help you to dump debt this year...

    Can it be MADE from scratch for less?

    Paying retail is already out of the question for those of you who are dumping debt, but even with coupons there are some household necessities that can be made cheaper from basic ingredients. I wanted to revisit the various posts we’ve written in the past about DIY household products and Cooking from Scratch recipes such as…
    1. Homemade Dog Food Recipe
    2. Frugal DIY: Turn Your Magazines into Christmas Bows!
    3. Homemade PB&J and Grilled Cheese Uncrustables
    4. Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener
    5. Homemade Granola Bars
    6. Freezer ‘BRC’ Beans, Rice, and Cheese Burritos
    7. Homemade All Purpose Cleaner
    8. Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
    9. Homemade Laundry Detergent
    10. Homemade Strawberry Jam

    As you can see many of the things we buy can be made for just pennies on the dollar, especially when you find a deal on your ingredients at Grocery Outlet!


    Money Tree

    Can you FIX it yourself?

    Chances are there is something in your life that needs to be fixed, tangibly speaking. I could start a pretty good list myself from the back hatch of our Sequoia that doesn’t open any longer, the 2 small holes in our walls, the small tear on our couch, and on and on. I’m sure several things will quickly come to mind for you as well. When you’re on a budget and paying down debt the last thing you want to do is hire out help for things you could do yourself. I say this within reason—if your husband is working 10+ hour days making a decent wage and the lawn needs to be mowed, paying a local teenager $10 every couple of weeks to get the job done can be a worthy investment.

    However, there are very likely tasks that you’ve been putting off for one reason or another. Maybe it’s too technical for you, such as a computer issue or a check engine light in your car? YouTube, Google, and your neighbors are a good place to start when you haven’t a clue where to begin. It’s very likely someone, somewhere, has had the same issue you’re having. In most situations, labor is the most costly expense there is: parts are minimal and elbow grease is free. So the next time you have a broken this or that, consider repairing it yourself – you might find it wasn’t all you thought it would be.

    Here’s what I have learned from just doing it ourselves:
    1. It’s never as hard as we imagined.
    2. It’s never quite as time consuming as we thought.
    3. It’s never as costly as we expected.
    4. The gratification that comes from a job done with our own hands – priceless!

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