Monday, November 26, 2012

Cheaper Skin Hydration treatment for dry winter skin....

I can tell winter is HERE…even if the temperatures don’t always reflect that at the moment.  The DRY winter air is back with a vengeance.  My skin has turned SUPER DRY.  My daily lotion “treatments” after a shower are not enough.

Over the years, I have tried a myriad of lotions…starting with the cheap ones (that don’t work), moving through some more pricey ones.  Ultimately, none of them have provided relief from the dry winter air.

Last year, I stumbled across a homemade body scrub.  This EASY body scrub provides the same results of Mary Kay’s “Satin Hands” products….yet for pennies on the dollar.  It exfoliates your skin and leaves it feeling smooth and hydrated.  Anytime my sad-winter-skin needs a hydration pick-me-up, I just add this body scrub to my shower routine!!

Sweet & Spicy Sugar Scrub (from
This picture of the sugar scrub is from
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ c. white sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
Light olive oil

·         Combine everything BUT the oil.
·         Add the oil slowly.  Stir until it is the consistency you want.
·         Store in a container with a lid.  (Keep in fridge while not in use.)
For Use:
1.       Wash body like usual—so you have clean skin when you use the body scrub.
2.       Stir the scrub and take out almost a quarter size amount.  Massage into skin using circular motions for several minutes.
a.       After rinsing, if your skin feels too oily, you can use a bit of soap to wash it off.  I personally leave it.  When I finish with my shower, it doesn’t feel oily anymore.
3.       The scrub will trap the moisture and make your skin so soft and smooth.  After you get out of the shower, slather on some lotion for the finishing touch.  No more dry itchy skin!!! J

Happy Stretching Pennies…

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FAST and CHEAP Breakfasts...alternatives to expensive cereal!

Cereal is the sure fire way to BREAK your budget.  It is a BIG expense…though convenient.

The day after the election, I broke down and fed my children cereal for breakfast.  (They wanted to discuss all the results.)  They RARELY get cereal for breakfast.  This of course brought up the discussion of WHY we only eat cereal every so often.

Boxes/Bags of cereal are SO expensive….but if you look at the cost per serving (of what you actually eat) it looks even MORE expensive.  The cost goes through the roof!!  The “serving size” of the boxes in my cupboard say ½ c. to 1 c. of cereal is “breakfast meal” portion.  HA!  Not in my house!!  My children can easily go through one whole box (and possibly more IF I let them) in ONE breakfast.  The average cost of a box is $3-$5 at the grocery store…and $1-$2 on sale---only for three people???  You may not think that sounds too bad….but when you break down my food budget of $200 a month for 5 people, that’s nuts!  Divide that up and I’m spending $40 per person a month!  Typically a month has approximately 30 days with 3 meals a day—that divides out to be about 44¢ a meal per person all month long….and that does NOT include cost of all the snacks and desserts I make!

 SOOOO…what do you do for breakfast as a cheaper alternative to cereal?  
***(How do you keep the convenience without the expense?) ***
(the PURPLE is the link)
1)      Pancakes—I did a post on making your own inexpensive "JUST ADD WATER Pancake Mix".  Did you know you can freeze already made pancakes?  When its time to eat, just throw them in the microwave for 30 seconds and enjoy a FAST breakfast.  (If want them a little more “crisp” throw them in the toaster, after the microwave, for a cycle and then eat them.)

2)      Oatmeal—I did a post on making your own inexpensive: "JUST ADD WATER Oatmeal Packets."

3)      Rice with cinnamon/sugar sprinkled on it—
       Heat leftover rice in the microwave and this makes it a FAST one.  AND…If you already have a shaker prepared, your breakfast is done almost in the blink of an eye!

4)      Scrambled eggs (Did you know you can scramble them in the microwave for a faster breakfast in the morning?)  Here's a SHORT video from about HOW to do it!  VIDEO of HOW to microwave scrambled eggs

5)      Muffins (Did you know you can freeze premade muffin batter in the muffin cups to have a breakfast cooking while you get ready for your day?  I will do a post on this later!)

6)      Waffles (Did you know you could make a BIG batch and freeze some for later…and thus make your own “Ego waffles”??  Just throw them in the microwave for 30 seconds and then a short cycle in the microwave and PRESTO a fresh “waffle-on-the-go”.)

7)      Puffy Pancakes—I did a post on these YUMMY delights!  Here's the Recipe

8)      Potato Patties

9)      Hash Browns

10)   Breakfast Burritos—Did you know that you can make a big batch of breakfast burritos and FREEZE them individually?  Wrap them in Saran Wrap and store them in the freezer (labeled with the date you prepared them) and take one out and warm it up in the microwave for a minute and you have breakfast-on-the-go!!

11)   Granola—
       Did you know making your own is easier that you think?  After initially mixing it together…you just bake it!  My favorite recipe is Peanut Butter Granola.  (It is from one of favorite websites of mine.  Scroll down to the bottom of this article for the recipe:  PB Granola Recipe).   It makes enough to fill 2 cookie sheets!  When I put it into a reusable container, it is FULL.  It can last through MANY breakfasts!  

12)   Yogurt Parfait—
       When you buy the BIG container of yogurt (which is more cost effective) you can use this to make an individual serving in a nice glass…layering the granola and yogurt for a tasty QUICK breakfast!!  (This one is my daughter’s favorite.  She even has a “special” see through glass JUST for this dish!)

Happy Stretching Pennies…
P.S. I finally added a picture of myself on my profile.... J

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gourmet Mint Hot Cocoa for LESS!

The weather has turned cold, and I return to my LOVE of hot chocolate.  I adore a GOOD cup of tasty hot cocoa…of varying flavors.  To keep my guilty pleasures within my budget, I have bought Stephen’s Gourmet Hot Cocoa to mix in with my “regular” plain hot cocoa mix.   With each glass, I will add just a smidge (a spoonful) of my favorite flavor. 

HOWEVER…Stephen’s Gourmet Hot Cocoa has NOT been on a good sale for over a year now.  I have been OUT of my favorite flavors (mint & raspberry) for a LONG time. 
PLAIN hot chocolate is just not as fulfilling!!  I have tried adding different extracts….I have tried adding Italian cream soda syrup (or coffee) flavorings—such as the Toriani brand and been VERY disappointed. 
This week, on my “weekly hike” with a friend, I was lamenting about my dilemma of disappointing plain old chocolate hot cocoa.  She suggested adding a bit of crushed up candy cane to my next cup.  Tonight was heaven.  After coming home from watering a different friend’s plants while she is gone on vacation (WITH my all my children in tow), in the cold-- for an hour, hot cocoa was just what everyone needed.  I had bought candy canes on clearance last winter and decided this was the time to crack them open.  I was NOT sorry.  My cup of hot cocoa FINALLY had that sweet mint flavor I’ve been missing!!  It was just as good as Stephen’s Hot Cocoa.  I daresay that I will be making my OWN mint hot cocoa from now on.  I have enough candy canes to last a good long time…but when this winter is over, I will stock up AGAIN on candy canes.  (Last year I got them for 6 ¢ a box—both 12 count AND 24 count!!)
Mint Hot Cocoa Recipe:
1)  Pull out your plain hot cocoa mix
AND some candy canes!! 
2) Break apart the candy canes and place in a plastic baggie.  Pull out a meat tenderizor OR other hammering type device.
4) Blast those candy canes to bits!! (Store the remainder in an air tight container for your next single serving of GOURMET hot cocoa!!) 
5) Add a spoonful of candy cane bits to your cup and stir...for a while.  Give thema chance to BLEND in!!
Happy Stretching Pennies!! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Colored Sprinkles for a lot LESS....

One of our special birthday “traditions”.....  I make each member of our family a unique themed cake for their day.  This has been a fun, yet challenging.  Each cake is a SURPRISE which does not allow for me to practice the design before their birthday.  There have been many birthday-eve nights that I wonder WHY I dreamed up this tradition….HOWEVER…it has also been a wonderful opportunity for creativity—not just the design of the cake, but coming up with ways to re-do the design elements in a frugal way instead of expensively.

This year’s themed cake for my daughter came from a book called, “What’s New, Cupcake?”.  
Yes...these are the actual ones I is NOT a picture from the book! 
They were remarkably simple to make--just time consuming!
  I termed my daughter’s cake as a “bouquet of flowers”. 
In this design, it required using many colored sugars to coat the “petals” (made of sliced marshmallows).  Those Cake-Mate colored sugar sprinkles are expensive!!  (But they are even more expensive when considering a project like this!!)  Soooo….for this cake I learned HOW to color my own sugar!  (Holy Cow!!  The Cake Mate company is making a fortune on  those little bottles of colored sugar!!)
HOW to make your own colored sprinkles:
1) Put some white sugar in a plastic baggie.
2) Add a couple drops of food coloring
3) Mix it up.  You will need to knead it a little with your finger tips.  Initially, the drop of food coloring dissolves the sugar it lands in making a wet, grainy clump of sugar.  BUT as you knead it, the color spreads out and the sugar returns to its “dry” state.
Make as many colors as you like....I used yellow, pink, purple, blue and white to color the "petals" of my daughter's bouquet!

Happy Stretching Pennies...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Birthday Candles Can Be Reused...without anyone noticing!!

While I’ve been dealing with what life throws at me this summer and into the new school year, I have fallen farther and farther behind.  Sometimes, it is just hard to keep up with the punches!!  Soooo….Here’s to being more caught up…and catching up on a few blog entries I’ve taken pictures of but never written!!

My daughter’s birthday was this weekend.   I learned a new money saving trick and took pictures for a new blog entry.  However, as I review the pictures I have stored on my computer,  I see that I still have pictures from her LAST birthday to write about.  I can’t believe it has taken me over a full year to get around to it.
Did you know that those candles you put on birthday cakes do NOT have to be thrown out after ONE use?? 
How much of the candle do you use after one use? 
Each candle COULD be used 2-3 times, depending on how much wax you burn through!!
Once you pull them out of the cake.... just rinse them off, dry them and put them back in the box and use them for another birthday moment!! 
In case you were worried about looking "cheap"...this is what they look like BEFORE they were lit!
Once the candles are lit, NO ONE can tell that they were reused!!
These are the REUSED candles on my daughter's "PURSE" themed birthday cake.
I know that is just saving a few “pennies”…but my favorite quote by Benjamin Franklin is “a little leak can sink a great ship”.  For me, this is an epitome of the application of this philosophy!!
 Happy Stretching Pennies...

P.S.  In the 14 years we have been married, we have only purchased 2 boxes of birthday I guess this "saving candles" has more than paid off over the years to be more than  a few "pennies", huh?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Immunizations or Vaccinations for less...

This summer has been a crazy one.  We’ve redone our kitchen, attended two family reunions, gone on a family vacation, attended another reunion, and our youngest had surgery in a hospital 7 ½ hours away from our home.  Time has flown by!!

Now that we are home, we have been preparing for the upcoming school year.  My youngest is entering kindergarten.  (WOW!  Time flies.  I haven’t been home alone during the day for over a decade!!)  My son needed to finish up his immunizations, like every other 5 year old in the US.
IF your insurance will cover your immunizations, go visit your family doctor to have them administered.
IF your insurance (is like mine) and will not cover, or will only partially cover the immunizations, you can still get your immunizations for a reasonable price!!

OUR insurance will cover a portion of the immunizations…up to a certain amount.  When you include the “well child” doctor bill in addition to the cost of many immunizations required at age 5, we would go well over the limit and would be held responsible for the remaining part of the bill that the insurance would not cover.  (Yes.  This has happened to us back when our son was 6 months old.  Our insurance had changed and we found out AFTER the shots had been administered.)  I did not want this to happen again.  The doctor’s office charges a hefty price for each immunization.

Your local Health Department offers immunizations to the public!!  IF you are UNDER-insured (like us) or NOT insured at all—this is the option for you!!  AND this program is not just for children either!!  (I got my 10 year tetanus shot several years ago there as well.)  Our health department charges according to how many shots are administered (or each needle…not the immunization). 
  • 1 shot= $16
  • 2-3 shots= $25
  • 4 or more shots= $30
This option was a FAR more affordable way to get my son his vaccinations that going to the doctor’s office.  Keep your health updated does not need to break the bank!!

 Happy Stretching Pennies…

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Making your own Homemade Corn Bread more pricey prepackaged stuff!!

Convenience is a BIG thing!  But typically it comes at a cost.  I am a BIG fan of making my own dry mixes.  They save me time AND money…not to mention they are healthier!! 

My family loves corn bread & corn muffins!  I used to buy the packages when we 1st got married…but found a “mix” recipe that I LOVE and have never gone back to the grocery store prepackaged ones.  This mix produces FLUFFY and light corn bread and muffins.  Try them!  You won’t be sorry!
1st you make the DRY mix…and store it in an airtight container.

Corn Bread Basic Dry Mix
I store my dry mix in a #10 in the cupboard...
This is what the dry mix looks like.  Can you see the resemblance to the prepackaged stuff at the grocery store?
4 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. yellow cornmeal
2 c. instant dry milk
2/3 c. sugar
4 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking soda

When you desire corn bread or muffins…here are the additional WET ingredients to add to the dry mix.
Corn Bread  (makes 6 muffins)

1 egg, beaten (or 1 Tbsp. dehydrated egg + 1/8 c. water)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 c. water
1 1/4 c. Corn bread mix

1.    Preheat oven to 425 F.
2.    Butter a 5 “x 3” pan.
3.    Wisk together all wet ingredients. 
4.    Slowly add “mix” and stir until moistened.
5.    Bake 20-25 min.
a.    (Muffins bake 15 min.)

 Happy Stretching Pennies...

TIME is MONEY: Freezing Tastier Hamburger Patties for less than prepackaged ones!!

When ground beef goes on sale, I REALLY go nuts with preparing things for the freezer to save time and money!  As I said in my last post, Savemart had ground beef on sale for $1.69 a pound.  I decided I was sick of the premade pre-frozen hamburger patties…and decided to see if I could make my own.

I tried some recipes from  and froze them.  I couldn’t have been more pleased!! 

My favorites:
Southwest Chipotle Burgers

1.       I followed the above recipes. 
2.       Prepared a cookie sheet with saran wrap.
3.       I wore plastic gloves, since I was going to be up to my elbows in meat for a while.  I scooped up a handful of prepared meat (about the size of a baseball) and made it into a nice ball…and the squished it.  I made the hamburger patties bigger than the anticipated buns…preparing for them to shrink on the grill. 
4.       I placed them on the plastic wrap and dabbed the edges until looked like a nice circle.
5.       Place them in the freezer to “flash freeze” for an hour or two.
6.       Remove from the freezer.  Spread out saran wrap, enough for 3 hamburgers.  Place 3 evenly across.  Fold the top half over the hamburgers, and roll them up.
A picture after I froze them and before I packaged them for storage.
I took these out of my freezer for this picture.
7.       Place in a labeled Ziplock baggie and place in the freezer. 
This is my SMALL bag of burgers....just READY-to-be grilled!
8.       Prepare just as you would the pre-frozen ones from the grocery store.  (Place the frozen patty directly onto hot grill and cook!!)

Happy Stretching Pennies...

Monday, June 25, 2012

TIME is MONEY: Preparing Meatballs in BULK can save you money AND time!!

Preparing your ground beef in bulk does NOT need to end with plain crumbled ground beef!!   There are so many varieties to enjoy!
Consider making meatballs in bulk too!  Whether you are making them for spaghetti sauce OR stews, you will find it will save you time and energy!!

A couple of months ago, Savemart had a GREAT sale on hamburger at $1.69 a pound.  I went on a cooking binge and my life has been simplified because of it.  In one afternoon, my family’s meatballs needs were met for over 6 months!!   My freezer is FULL of all sorts of things already prepared and ready to go. 

When I typed my “Bulk” recipe for meatballs, it seemed overwhelming…so I thought I would post the “regular” recipe 1st.    Even using the “regular” recipe gives me extra meatballs for the freezer…so don’t think you need to do “bulk” recipe.  Make it the size of how much ground beef you purchased!

Regular Recipe Meatballs
1 lb. ground beef
½ c. soft or ¼ c. dry bread crumbs
1 egg
2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

1.       Heat oven 400 F.
2.       Large bowl combine all ingredients, mixing lightly but thoroughly.
3.       Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil
4.       Pinch off approx 1 inch pieces of beef mixture to make 30 meatballs.
5.       Bake 10-13 min. or until centers are no longer pink. 

BULK  Meatballs
5 lb. ground beef
2 ½ c. soft OR 1 ¼ c. dry bread crumbs
5 eggs
10 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ salt
½ tsp. + 1/8 tsp. pepper

1.       Heat oven 400 F.
2.       Large bowl combine all ingredients, mixing lightly but thoroughly.
3.       Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil. 
4.       Pinch off approx 1 inch pieces of beef mixture to make meatballs.
 5.      Bake 10-13 min. or until centers are no longer pink. 
6.    Remove from pan with a fork and put into a bowl.  When meatballs are to desired amount, dump into labeled freezer ziplock baggies. 
7.  Clean up couldn't be EASIER!  Just roll up the aluminum foil...and throw it away.         
8.   Your next Stew or Spaghetti Sauce recipe is simplified beyond belief!!   

Happy Pinching Pennies...