Thrifty Meal Deal

I am a person who is always looking to save money. On everything. Food included. I have come up with a sort-of system. It’s based on items costing a dollar. For reference, I will use one of my favorite stores (Dollar Tree) as an example. Note that these recipes were for times when I REALLY wanted to keep costs down. Regular, routine meals were a little more extravagant. I always splurge for special occasions.
When I was married and cooking for a family of five, I tried to keep the cost to $ plus 1 – hence, the total of $6 for us. When I lived with my sister and her family (we were four people) I kept these meals to $5. Of course, none of this is etched in stone, and some of the extras I usually had on hand.
SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS – I would get a box or two of pasta (sometimes Dollar Tree had boxes that were more large in size, 24 oz. instead of 16). Let me say next that my family has always preferred frozen meatballs to homemade ones (despite many recipes being tried). I would usually use two bags of meatballs. If I was wanting more leftovers, I would buy three. Lastly, I would get a jar of the spaghetti sauce they had on the shelf (my family was not picky). If we needed more sauce or wanted garlic bread with the meal, those were things I usually had on hand. This was always a successful meal that my family enjoyed.


CHICKEN SANDWICHES – A quick, easy meal. Two packages of the Chicken Patties that are round, look like burgers and fit on the same rolls. If we had lettuce on hand, we would include these on the sandwiches. The same with cheese. Use or not use. If you are lucky, you will find the potato rolls at DT. They usually sell fast, so you may end up with regular rolls. No wories, those are good too. To go along with this meal, you could always grab a bag of shoestring fries or those little tater tots. Mmmmmm.
BREAKFAST FOR DINNER – At Dollar Tree, this can be accomplished in different ways. You can get a box of pancake mix, one bottle of syrup, if you don’t mind turkey bacon, for $1 you can fry that up, a bottle or two of 32 oz. apple, orange or cranberry juice. And add a bag of frozen fruit. I always liked having strawberries, but that’s just me.
Also you can get two boxes of waffles (they have a few varieties), the bacon, the juice and the fruit.
And then the eggs. My local Dollar Trees usually have packages of 18 mediums – the potential here is endless. You can get a loaf of bread and turn these eggs into French Toast. You can get a package or two of bagels and make egg sandwiches. You can scramble a bunch, add them to shredded hash browns with some cheese and make a casserole.
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SOUPS – Again, many options. Say, for Chicken Noodle Soup – one or two containers of broth (beef or chicken. It doesn’t matter). One or two cans of canned chicken. A can of carrots. Cook all together, make pasta on the side. Combine it all. Pair it with those scare-the-hell-out-of-you pop biscuits (or whatever you find, or have at home).
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Chicken with White Bean – one of my favorites. Again, one or two cans of canned chicken. One or two containers of broth. A can of canned spinach. A can of white beans (or if you want to be real frugal, in advance soak and use those hard beans). Rolls. Breadsticks. Saltine crackers. Whatever you have to perk up the dish…

I’m hungry – Comfort Food, here I come…

It’s still nasty, cold and snowing in Pennsylvania. There’s not much to do besides scroll around on the Internet while my sister is working (she works from home). I said I would make dinner, so when she is done with work we can eat right away.
But what to make? I have so many “go to” recipes. These recipes can be made right away, as I usually have most of these ingredients on hand. None of them are fancy, but they are easy and are always received well (that means little or no leftovers).

Sloppy Joes

Can of Sloppy Joe sauce
l lb ground beef
Rolls (I like the potato rolls from Dollar Tree, very good)

Follow directions on sauce can, which usually says to brown the beef, drain. Add the meat back in and add the sauce. Simmer until bubbly.
Most of the times when I make this I double the recipe, and I usually have cole slaw with it, too

sloppy joe

Chicken and Rice

4 chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can of your choice, either – cream of mushroom OR cream of celery
1 cup of milk

Spray 13 x 9 baking pan with nonstick spray. Arrange the chicken evenly. To have a smoothly distributed topping, add the soups and milk in a bowl and mix. If it still seems a bit thick, you can add more milk or if you want, water.
Cover with foil and bake for an hour at 350, take foil off and bake 15 more minutes if you think it needs it

Mock Chicken Pot Pie

Line bottom of greased or sprayed 13 x 9 baking pan with SMALL POP OUT BISCUITS (usually two will do, 8 in each roll). In a separate bowl, mix 2 cans CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP and 1 large or two small cans of CANNED CHICKEN. To this mixture, add one frozen package of PEAS AND CARROTS (or mixed veggies, your choice). Mix well, adding one cup of MILK, give or take that amount. Make it as thick or thin as you like. It should kind of look like gravy. Pour over the BISCUITS and bake it at 350 – check after 30 minutes. It should be done for good by the time 45 minutes passes.

chicken pot pie

Ritzy Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 16 oz container sour cream
1/2 sleeve Ritz crackers
1/2 stick butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix soup and sour cream in a separate bowl. Arrange chicken breasts in a greased 13 x 9 baking pan. Pour soup and sour cream over chicken mixture. Cook for about 50 minutes. Take ritz crackers and crumble them well and mix (again of course in a separate bowl) and for the last ten minutes of baking, pour the crumb mixture over the top of the chicken
It goes without saying that you can use any “Ritz-like” crackers. Even ones that are slightly stale work!

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Buffalo Chicken Soup

2 small or 1 large can canned chicken
1/2 bottle of hot sauce (adjust to taste)
1 container (32 oz) chicken broth

Combine all and simmer. This can be done all day in a crock pot, or on the stove top. I usually serve this with blue cheese dressing (which I love) and celery (which I don’t) on the side.

Chicken Taco Soup

2 small or 1 large can canned chicken
2 cans beans (your choice, I usually use two different kinds, at least two different colors)
container of 32 oz chicken broth
1 package taco seasoning
1 can rotel (or mild salsa if you don’t like spicy)

Combine all and simmer. As with the Buffalo Chicken Soup, it can be done all day in a crock pot or on the stove top. I usually will make white rice or maybe taco rice on the side, and have sour cream and shredded cheese to add.

Chicken Casserole

1 small can canned chicken
1 box macaroni and cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup

Prepare macaroni and cheese. Mix in the soup and chicken, and if you want a can of peas and carrots. Transfer into a greased casserole dish, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes and serve.

Pizza
Quick and Easy

Split English Muffins and or Bagels – spread with tomato sauce, add shredded mozzarella cheese. If you want, you could add peppers, mushrooms, whatever else you like as a pizza topping. Bake or broil in the oven until they look melty and done

Bubble Pizza

Grease a 13 x 9 baking pan – use two cans of Pop Up biscuits – 16, you’ll have – line them up. Pour tomato sauce over, and add mozzarella cheese. You can divide the pizza into halves, thirds or quarters, adding whatever toppings you like. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.
Variations –
Do the same with the biscuits – you can use canned chicken and alfredo sauce, alfredo sauce with chopped broccoli, canned chicken with either hot sauce or barbeque…

bubble pizza

CHILI
3 cans of tomato soup
3 soup cans of water
1 lb each ground beef (or turkey, chicken – whatever you choose)
Garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper
*you can substitute 1 large can of tomato juice

Cook on high for 2-2 1/2 hours then simmer on low for 4 hours…

CHILI (large portion)

Brown and drain – 1 lb ground beef, one lb. ground turkey, one lb. sausage
2 cans beans (your choice)
Chili seasoning powder, one package
A cup of tomato sauce

Simmer for two hours on high, then 4-5 hours on low

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BARBEQUE PULLED

4 chicken breasts OR 6 boneless pork chops or one pork roast (3 lbs)
1 bottle of barbeque sauce
Fill the bottle up with water to rinse and add that to the crock pot
High for two hours, low for 3.
Take meat out, shred…put back in for one more hour
Love this with potato rolls (from the dollar store) and cole slaw

CAJUN BEANS

5 15 oz cans of beans – either pork and beans or vegetarian beans
one small chopped onion
1/4 bottle of bbq sauce (at least)

If you want this just as a meatless side, simmer in the crock on high for 2, then low for however many hours after
If you want this more as a meal, its good with sausage in – I use the large brat size ones, I boil them first, then cut them into links, then if I have the time or inclination, I cut those into halves or quarters. Usually the just go in as rounds
This always tastes good with add ins – hot sauce, worchestire sauce, Cajun seasonings, mustard or brown sugar

My Hair Coloring System

Disclaimer – I am not a beauty professional, nor do I claim to be. All I am is a female consumer that likes (and needs) to save money. Make no mistake – if I could, I would have my hair professionally colored exclusively, or at least as much as possible. That cannot be, so I have found alternatives. They have worked for me, and I hope they will work for you. I don’t make any promises, however. Color, etc. at your own risk.
I have naturally dark hair. And those of us at this age with this color hair know – the grays show up a lot now. Some days I feel very young, other days not so much. When I am feeling happy, young and peppy, I don’t want the look I’m going for to be spoiled by gray hair. Or should I say, gray roots. The system I have come up with is not foolproof, but I am happy with the results.
I went a little lighter in the quest to cover my gray. That brought another problem. When the color grows out, I tend to have three different shades on a strand. To combat this somewhat, read on. First I will describe the one way I accomplish this,and then I will explain the second way.
On night number one, I work on just my roots. Being the bargain hunter that I am, I have perfected the use of Dollar Tree hair color. I will wet my hair, and run some conditioner through it. You can use any conditioner you have. I have even done a quick deep condition before coloring. Leaving it on for a few minutes, I then rinse it very well.


I begin using the DARK BROWN on my roots only, making sure I cover the top, front, sides and back. Trying not to get it onto the strands and only the roots, some always does. I leave it on the recommended time; sometimes I leave it on even longer. Then I rinse in the kitchen sink. I comb it out and put some more conditioner in, and leave it for another five minutes or so. I then take a shower, rinsing more. Once you are done, you can style your hair like you usually do.
Two days later (for example, this week I did it on a Tuesday and Thursday) I repeat this process with MEDIUM AUBURN, only this time the ends, the rest of the head are focused on and not the roots. It’s exactly the same as the roots – condition, rinse, color, condition, rinse, done.
The second way in my “system” is doing both colors on the same night. I follow the procedure for the roots, and as soon as that step is done, I put color on the rest of my head. DARK BROWN on the roots, MEDIUM AUBURN on the ends – just like above. Everything else is the same – it’s just being done all at the same time, and not being broken up into two nights.
It really makes no difference what way you do this – for me, it depends on my schedule, what’s going on and how much free time I will have. It’s nice to pamper yourself two days in a row (often times while doing this I will have a facial on or will be soaking my feet and then rubbing them in with lotion). My hair is in very good shape because I condition it a lot, even when washing and not doing coloring.
In a perfect world, I would always go to a professional to get myself pampered. My current situation will not allow this, but looking good is important to me. For the time being, this is a very reasonable alternative. Though if a coupon for a cut and color crosses my path, who am I to turn it down?

That awful, nasty, horrible four-letter word…SNOW

As I’ve said in a post from the other day, I have spent more than two weeks in Pennsylvania. I have seen most of the friends I wanted, and spent a lot of time with my kids. I watched my youngest graduate from college. I stayed with my sister and nephew. I dealt with that other four-letter word – COLD. And then it reared it’s ugly head. SNOW.
That’s right, it snowed. Most people who know me know that just about the only thing I hate more than the cold is snow. I woke up this morning, looked out the window and saw it. Immediately, I felt annoyance, anger and frustration. I was supposed to leave today to drive back home to Florida, and this rotten white stuff has delayed my departure. With some luck, the weather will hold and I will be able to drive away from Scranton tomorrow morning. Hopefully, I will get far enough into the ride that this nasty “white stuff” won’t be an issue.
This area is a wonderful place to live – when the weather is decent. I will even go so far to include the word cool. It’s this !@#$%^& stuff that reminds me why I moved to Florida. I can’t wait to get back there.

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How do you thank someone?

I ask…how do you thank someone for always being there? For always being by your side, no matter what? How do you thank them for being there when you feel as though no one else was? It is hard, no doubt.
I have been BLESSED for the past 20+ years to have this person as my best friend. She has never wavered in her love and support of me – NEVER.
Today for her was both terrible and wonderful. And my heart both cries and rejoices – because I could not love her more. Her dreams are mine, mine are hers.
I love you, Christine…you are the Wilona to my Florida.

E A G L E S…

eagles

Let it be known right now that I like the Eagles. Always have and always will. That being said and having spent most of the past two weeks in Eagles country – I am getting a little tired. Tired of that cheer. It’s been everywhere I’ve gone in the area. I get it, the fans are happy. They are excited. But enough is enough already. My only saving grace with this is that a version of this didn’t erupt at my son’s college graduation from Temple University this past Friday.
I do want them to win the Super Bowl. I want my best friend Christine (who is a die hard fan, season ticket holder for twenty plus years) to be happy. What I don’t want is for the city to be destroyed, win or lose. It’s a great city, but has a mostly undeserved reputation for…hooligans and shenanigans. Plus two of my three children live in the city, and quite frankly I will be afraid for their safety later tonight.
So fly Eagles fly – beat the Patriots and make us all proud.
E A G L E S Eagles!

We were SUPPOSED to check out the wedding venue, but…

My son, future daughter-in-law and I had a nice lunch out, and afterwards decided to do one of my favorite activities – thrift store shopping.  All of us did well – being the pre-planner that I am, I found Christmas Stocking items for next year, as well as a few random gifts.  As usual, I was done last so they waited for me outside.  As I got into the car with my wonderful $35 haul, I was told the plans were changed.  To where you may ask?  Well, of course to the Animal Shelter.  While waiting for me to come out, they were scrolling Facebook and found a post from the local shelter advertising the two most adorable little kittens for adoption.  Before you knew it, we were there.  In the cat play adoption room with these little guys in our hands, and of course in our hearts.  In an instant, Amanda and Kevin decided to take Mango and Tango home.   They were a little conflicted, as they already have two, Delilah and Thor.  I told them if people hesitated with human babies, Kevin wouldn’t have been here (as he’s our second son).  In time, the fearless foursome will be happy and all will be good.  It will be a joy watching these two grow up…

Lived my passion…four nights out of four :)

I just got back to my motel room – with snacks, and a nice ham sandwich.  It’s been a good few days.  And as most of you know (and for those who don’t) I am a HUGE WWE wrestling fan.

Friday and Saturday I went to what they call “house shows.”  These are events that aren’t televised.  Many times these shows can be a lot of fun, as the performers can move “off script.”  Friday I went with a good friend, Tom.  Saturday I set off for Baltimore from my sister’s place.  I checked into a nice, comfy hotel room close to the venue.  I went to the show, hung out with the other fans and had a great time.

Sunday I woke up and drove from Baltimore to Philadelphia – for what is called the WWE’s Royal Rumble.  It’s a big deal in the wrestling world, and as it was my absolute favorite, my heart’s 40th birthday – WWE Superstar Sheamus – I needed to be there.  I had to be there.  And the event did not disappoint.  My boy regained his Tag Team Championship, and the entire event was wonderful.  It was made even better by the fans I was seated near.  There’s not much better in this world than a wrestling fan.

I wrapped up my four days of wrestling tonight, attending WWE Monday Night Raw (also in Philadelphia).  Again, the performers did not disappoint – even the star I don’t care for (Roman Reigns) did an amazing job in a match with The Miz.  My Stephen (ok, Sheamus) beautifully defended his Tag Team Title with his partner, Cesaro.  I left the building a very happy fan.

Thank you, wwe.com…thank you for everything.

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I am a Dollar Tree girl…

Anyone who knows me knows that I just LOVE Dollar Tree.  I have found amazing things there to complete gift purchases, as well as perfect things for every day life.  That being said, even as this is one of my favorite places to shop, dollartree.com isn’t perfect.  Not that this will stop me from shopping there, but…I’ll continue.
For a long time, they sold an AMAZING hair removal cream.  It worked great, and at a dollar it was such a great value, and so much cheaper than Nair or Neet.  Yet, inexplicably they stopped carrying it.  So for this, DT gets a “nay.”
Their choice of nail polish is amazing.  That being said, each individual store has their own standard for neatness and organization with the bottles.  If you don’t mind that your particular store might not be the best with showcasing what they have, you will find good choices.  Some of the stores even have deals with two bottles on one card.  So…yay!
The toilet paper and the dishwashing liquid – good in a pinch, to have on hand just in case you run out of your regular, better stuff – overall I would say “nay!”
Same thing with the pillow cases and the 3 package of socks – you might get lucky with a case that doesn’t fray, and the socks might last more than a few washings, so…yay, but a middle of the road yay.
Yay to the 24 ounce box of pasta, which with combined with a jar of DT sauce and a loaf of their garlic bread – feeds a few people.  It’s all good.
Greeting cards, wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper – all YAY.  You can’t beat dollartree.com for this stuff.  100% yay.
We eat a lot of eggs in my house, so…even though they are medium eggs (and we usually get large) this is a huge YAY for us, for an 18 count container..
The absolute BEST yay I can recommend is their Awesome Cleaner.  Years ago, I was at a church/temple rummage sale, and someone there recommended this product.  Oh my goodness, amazing!  It has cleaned a very dirty bathroom and has removed green grassy mold from our house, out on the front porch.  It can be used as a stain removal agent for laundry also.  Cannot say enough about this product.  And just think, it is only $1…

My Stanley…

***  edited for time; I am learning, blog people…
So somehow, Stanley had managed to totally charm the entire Veterinary office.  He went for his checkup, the first he’s had since arriving in Florida (aside from the worming visit we had in November). 
At ten years old, he is twelve pounds and is in great health.  I was very happy to hear this, as many aspects of his relocation from PA to FL have not been easy.  He was a very brave boy as he got his one injection, yet he was glad to walk back into his carrier and get ready for the drive home.

Never before have I had a cat so totally in love with me, and I don’t know why.  Despite his odd personality (you will all hear about him in the future, I am sure) he’s my boy.  And I love him with all my heart.

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