Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Triple Meal Slow Cooker Beef

I can't resist a good looking cut of beef on manager's special. So when I saw this one marked down, even though we already had dinner plans for the evening, I bought it.

I tossed it into the slow cooker on low for 8 hours with a bag of frozen chopped onions, a can of diced tomatoes, some minced garlic and some salt. The house smelled great all day, and when I drained and shredded it, I had meat prepared for our next three dinners, plus leftovers! Add your favorite sides to each and you can do the same.

First meal:
Shredded beef on top of mashed potatoes

Second meal:
Shredded beef mixed into marinara sauce on top of pasta with shredded mozzarella cheese

Third meal:
Hot beef sandwiches with provolone cheese

Meat usually takes the longest to cook, so having it ready to heat and eat made these meals quick and delicious.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Favorite Store for Basics: Family Dollar

My nearest general store is Family Dollar. It's only a few blocks away. And because everyday prices there are competitive to begin with, it's my go-to shop for household needs, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and sometimes, a few groceries.

When I first started shopping there, I appreciated how quickly I could get into and out of the place, compared to a big box store. I didn't feel like I was paying any more for convenience, either. Then I started seeing coupons on the bottom of their receipts; things like "$5 off $25 purchase." That's an automatic 20% savings, right there. So I kept going back. 

Now they've rolled out "Smart Coupons" and they're super easy to use. You simply register for an account on their website, and you can "clip" coupons from your phone, tablet, or computer. When you arrive at the checkout in store, you enter your phone number and all your digital savings are applied automatically.

Here's an offer I received via email this week:

I "clipped" the coupon on the website, and now all I have to do in the store is select at least $15 worth of the products listed, and when I reach the checkout, enter my phone number. And I'll save 33% on products I would be purchasing anyway. Easy.

Offers like this are regularly available; sometimes they're for specific products or brands, and sometimes they're general. Last week, there was a $5 off a $25 purchase, a $15 off a $60 purchase, and a $30 off $100 purchase. Although there are exclusions, and you must read the fine print carefully, these are great savings you can use on everyday items, gifts, and more. If you're going to be buying these things anyway, why not save some money on them, right?

Where do you shop for household needs, cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene items for your home and family?

Monday, February 19, 2018

5-Minute Project: Share Gratitude

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading about a kiddo who was struggling with some major health concerns. In that moment I was reminded of how much I appreciated Pip's pediatrician, who helped me find the answers I was searching for when I knew my child was ill.

I immediately posted this on Facebook:

This morning I am feeling especially thankful for our pediatrician, [I included her name and practice]. She listened to me and my concerns about P's health when we were brand new patients. After two others asked me to "wait and see," she's the doc who pursued testing, found the markers for P's celiac disease, and referred us to a pediatric GI for diagnosis. She never seems to be in a hurry, and I mean that in a good way. She hears everything I am compelled to tell her when we're in her office. She's calm when I am worried. I am so grateful she is here.

It took a couple of minutes to type, but the post got quite a few responses; all were positive. My comments seemed to encourage others to share their good experiences, too (in this case, appreciation for this particular doc).

This got me thinking... every November, as we approach Thanksgiving, I see and hear people sharing things they're thankful for, and it's inspiring. I realized how much more pleasant daily life (and social media) could be--for me, anyway--if it were peppered with more "hey, check out this good thing!" I mean, who doesn't like to hear about good things?

So the next week, I posted a quick "Thanks, fellas!" directed at a local automotive parts store. Again, people chimed in about how great the shop was and how helpful the employees were. Happy. Uplifting.

This is fun. I encourage you to give it a shot.

There are many ways to go about it, and none of them have to take much time or be a chore; choose the one that fits your lifestyle. Or try out a combination of them. Whether you post about your thankfulness on social media, or hand write a thank you note, or type an email, or send a text, or say so face to face or on the phone,  please take a few minutes this week to share your gratitude. And maybe do the same the next week. And the next. See if it doesn't give you a little boost to let people know that their efforts don't go unnoticed. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

40/40 Challenge

We moved into our new home in December. Although I had every intention of streamlining our belongings before the move, we got involved in repairs and painting and cleaning and holidays and travel, and that decluttering just didn't happen. We packed up and relocated everything to the new house, and every bit of it was unpacked alongside the items that we use and cherish.

Now, it's February, and although the house feels more like home every day, there is still clutter lurking in most corners. I am not talking about trash here; I define clutter as anything that we don't use or love. And there's plenty of that in dresser drawers and on toy shelves and mixed into our school books and (perhaps in the greatest quantities) in totes in the basement. I'm beyond ready to move it out so that we can enjoy the things we DO use and love, without having to wade through all these other items to find them.

One of the most overwhelming areas: a corner of the basement. Sob.

So... There's no time like Lent, right?

Many Christians of various denominations observe Lent--those weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday--by giving up something as a reminder to pray; popular choices among my friends in recent years seem to include alcohol, social media, and chocolate. This year, I am giving up clutter. And regardless of your belief system, I invite you to join me.

Some of this "clutter" will go straight into the trash, and some will be recycled. But most items--those in good condition--will be shared with friends who would like them or taken to charitable organizations in my community. Which means that while I'm moving something out of my life, and giving myself a little more breathing room, I'm moving it into someone else's. Someone who, I hope, will enjoy it. During the sorting process, I will also be tidying up what's staying, so not only will there be more space, but what remains will be neater, too.

The 2018 Lenten season begins on Wednesday, February 14. I challenge you--as I am challenging myself--to clear some of the clutter from your home. My goal is at least one item per day between now and Easter. My ideal is more like one bag or box full of items per day, but I recognize that that won't be doable every day, and I want to succeed. This will give me 40+ (emphasis on the +) items to share (or recycle or throw out) in the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. 

I can work through many areas during these coming weeks, and since I'm committed to it for a while, there's no need to try to do it all in a day. I'll spend just a few minutes a day on this project. I probably won't finish my task of streamlining my home, but it will give me a great start. I'd love for you to join me and use this time to simplify your surroundings while blessing others along the way.

Who's in?

Friday, February 9, 2018

15-Minute Project: Coinstar

Today I used technology that has been around for a while, but I had never tried. Today I dumped a bag of change into the Coinstar machine at the grocery store.

Photo from www.coinstar.com

We don't have a central coin collecting spot at home, so Pip and I gathered up change from the car, from around the house, and from my wallet. We didn't count it; we just dropped it all into a bag that would seal and took it with us when it was time to run errands.

Step by step directions on the machine walked me through the process. I opted to receive an eGift certificate and avoid the 11.9% fee of claiming my money in bills. A half-full sandwich bag of coins that weren't going to be easily used otherwise turned into nearly $12 in Amazon credit in about 2 minutes. Which I can easily spend in 2 minutes.

Boy, was that simple. And that bag was worth more than I estimated, which was fun. We usually spend our coins when paying with cash; I know not everyone does, so you may come out much further ahead than I did. If you have a change jar--or have loose change jingling around in different places in your house or car--and a Coinstar nearby, this might be a fun little rainy day activity for you!