Friday, February 25, 2011

Frugal Friday: RecycleBank

On prior Frugal Friday posts, I have mentioned a few coupons or items that I had received through RecycleBank, so I thought I should explain their website and how it works. Basically it encourages recycling. You can set up an account for free and then you can earn points by recycling or by other means on their website. Those points can be used then for rewards. Often there will be ways to earn points very easily by watching a short video or playing a simple game. A lot of the rewards I take advantage of are the special promotions for coupons from their partners (ie: Kashi, Naked Juices, Seventh Generation).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meal Planner Monday: Beef Burgundy Stew

This is an adaptation from a recipe in Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook (p.44). I don't particularly care for the traditional pot roast with the potatoes and vegetables cooked together in the oven, but, I really like this recipe. I have grown to love the earthy flavor of meat seasoned with thyme. With our brief Spring weather behind us and cooler temperatures here again, this is a great meal to put on the calendar. This is really good, low-calorie comfort food - and very easy too...
2 lb beef roast, bottom round or equivalent
4 carrots, sliced (2 cups)
1 onion, sliced
3/4 bag frozen peas
1 8 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained (optional...I don't put them in because Mike doesn't like them)
3/4 cup dry red wine or beef broth, low-sodium if desired (I used beef broth and added several dashes of red wine vinegar)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dry ground mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
Cook on low heat in slow cooker 8-10 hours. Mix 1/4 cup water and 3 Tbsp flour; gradually stir into beef mixture before serving. I often change the recipe slightly or substitute, for example, I had a can of Progresso French Onion Soup (free from Martins a couple months ago) so I used that. Adjust amount of liquid or vegetables to your preferences.
**As a side note, I made this for friends of ours last Sunday who just had a baby. It's a nice meal for something like that because you don't have to worry about the timing of getting it there and it being eaten immediately. I took some homemade applesauce from the freezer, bakery wheat bread (from Walmart) and a bag of Caesar salad (from Walmart) to go with it or eat later. So, it was super easy.
**If you are looking for a low-carb addition to the meal rather than bread, I really liked it served over barley (you could do a side of corn as well if you serve it this way).
**Also, Ruby Tuesday has cheddar herb biscuits $1.99 for a dozen. You can call and pick them up in 15 minutes. They are awesome with this meal if you want something different to go with it (not as healthy of course). Homemade bread or cornbread would be great, too. You could probably find the recipe for the Ruby Tuesday biscuits online too if you wanted to try that.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Another Valentine's Day Treat
Do you love chocolate? I admit I am a chocoholic. Even though I know dark chocolate is healthier, I have always preferred milk chocolate...until I discovered Green & Black's Organic Chocolate. Oh my, it is amazing! This is good quality chocolate. It is a bit more expensive, but it is made with higher quality (and healthier) ingredients than most of the other chocolate bars. It is available at Walmart for $2.97 for a 3.5 oz bar. I calculated the WW points to be only 1 point (because it's just 40 calories) for two pieces. There are 30 pieces in the 3.5 oz bar, so a couple little pieces a day lasts quite a while. It is such a decadent treat for a dessert. And, it's a heart-healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth too, because dark chocolate contains lots of wonderful antioxidants. So, as a Valentine's Day treat (since $2.97 is a pretty cheap Valentine's Day gift), I recommend Green & Black's Organic Chocolate... ...or maybe you'd like to make some chocolate covered strawberries for your sweetie :) Click here for a $1 coupon through Facebook.

Frugal Friday Freebies

Over the last couple months we've had some great freebies arrive right on our doorstep. It was so exciting to save up for them and then open up the package when it finally arrived at our house.
- Toy Story Hamm Bank - free through Kellogg's website with 4 cereal purchases (all on sale of course)
- Coombs Family Farms Pure Organic Maple Syrup (32 oz)- free with "oodles" through the Game Show Network website ($22 value on Amazon)
- Eat Smart Precision Plus Bathroom Scale - free with "oodles" through the Game Show Network website (this will replace our old one, a 50 year-old dial up kind, for our Biggest Loser Challenge)($37 value on Amazon with a list price of $65)
This was an exercise in delayed gratification since we had to slowly save up for each of these. I am not necessarily endorsing the Game Show Network website. It probably isn't the best use of time when you consider the value of the prize and the amount of time to get it (about 1/2 hour each evening for a couple months), but it was something we had fun doing together. And, all of these were completely free - there were no shipping charges.
Other freebies from recently... - Stride Shift or Trident gum - free after ECB at CVS this week
- Simply Orange Juice - free at Giant with a catalina coupon that printed at the register
- Kashi cereal bars - free with a $3 coupon through RecycleBank and you also earn points when you recycle specially marked cereal boxes through Recycle Bank
- Excedrin - free at Rite Aid with $2 coupon

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meal Planner Monday: Healthy, Organic Steak and Potatoes Dinner

This was my Organic, grass-fed sirloin steak from Wegmans. I marinated it in Aldi's House Dressing with several dashes of red wine vinegar then broiled for a total of 8 minutes (turn after 5 minutes). The red skin (organic) potatoes were cubed and roasted in a bit of olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and Italian seasoning. The broccoli (organic) was steamed in the microwave (plain) for 2 minutes.
I rarely buy steak, so this was a treat. Because all of it was organic, it was more expensive than what I normally spend per dinner - about $10-12 for the entire meal for the 2 of us. However, it was still less expensive than a steak dinner out, in fact the cost is comparable to 2 value meals at McDonald's, but much healthier. Due to the healthier portion sizes as well, I calculated the WW point value to be only 8 points. And, it was so delicious!
I just wanted to post this to show that... 1) it may be possible financially for most of us to work organic and fresh foods into our meal planning (at least once in awhile), and 2) buying and preparing healthy "whole food dinners" is typically easy and convenient.
Besides...this would make for a very nice Valentine's Day dinner :)