Easy Philly Cheese Carnita Pizza with Straight From The Grill Flavor

August 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food

Need a Head Start with Your Favorite Recipes?

By Amy

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #newfromhormel #CollectiveBias
 
 

Hormel Everyday Scratch

I need help on busy days and would love straight from the grill flavor without having to fire up the grill! My kids always seem to be hungry!  Everyday I hear, “Mom, when’s dinner?”  and “Mom, WHAT’s for dinner?”  After school, band practice, and piano lessons, they always seem to be starving!  I’m also hungry after all the running around, but I haven’t had time to even think about dinner, let alone have something fixed.

I prefer to serve a homemade dinner if at all possible, so when we have these busy days (and there are many), how can I get a good dinner on the table that tastes great, has high quality ingredients and is homemade?  My kids love pizza and it is a fast and easy dinner.  Although they enjoy pepperoni, which is the standard at our house, I wanted to make something fun, different, and unexpected for them tonight! While Shopping at my local Kroger, I found a new and different product called Hormel Everyday Scratch Meats.  With straight-from-the-grill flavor, these proteins are cooked and sealed fresh, and are simple and versatile proteins that are actually good for you! (no preservatives and Og Trans fat)

I found exactly the kind of meat I was looking for.  Flame Seared Carnitas!

Hormel Everyday Scratch Meats

Now to get to work on my new pizza recipe…

Philly Cheese Carnita Pizza

- Your favorite homemade pizza dough recipe or prepared pizza crust

- Jarred Alfredo Sauce

- Shredded Cheese (I used a combination of mozzarella and provolone)

- 1 pkg Hormel Everyday Scratch Flame Seared Carnitas

- 1/2 sweet onion, sautéed

- 1 bell pepper, lightly sautéed with onion

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Warm Carnitas according to package directions.  Pull out of package and shred meat with fork.  The meat was so tender and juicy, it really just fell apart!  There was also plenty of meat.  Once shredded, it filled a dinner plate; plenty for a family of 6!  While getting the pizza ready, my kids kept sneaking meat–they couldn’t keep their hands off it.  It really was flavorful and tasted like I’d made it myself.

Hormel Everyday Scratch Meats

Slice onion and pepper.  Sautée onion in butter or oil until soft and transparent and just starting to brown on the edges.  Add peppers and continue to sautée  for a few more minutes. You want the onions nice and sweet,  but the peppers only barely cooked. I had a few small red and green peppers in my garden, so I used one of each for color.

Hormel Everyday Scratch Meats
Prepare your homemade pizza crust or use your favorite prepared pizza crust and spread the alfredo sauce on top. Be generous!

Hormel Everyday Scratch Meats

Next, add plenty of cheese (what’s pizza without lots of cheese?) and plenty of the fabulous Carnitas.

Hormel Everyday Scratch Meats

Add the onions and peppers on top…

Hormel Everyday Scratch Meats

Toss in hot oven for about 12-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Enjoy your new pizza!

I have to say, I actually made 2 pizzas (because one won’t feed my family).  I made this one and then the standard pepperoni.  The Philly Cheese Carnitas pizza was gone in minutes and I still have leftover pepperoni pizza!  Every member of my family asked me when we could make this pizza again!  I think I’ve found a winner!

Hormel Everyday Scratch Meats

If you like Philly cheese flavors, also check out Hormel’s Philly Style Steak with Sautéed Peppers and other new Hot Sandwich Meats!  Yet another new and different easy meal idea that is now available!

Hormel Hot Sandwich Meats

Make sure to look for all the new flavors in both the Hormel Everyday Scratch and Hot Sandwich Meats in your nearest Kroger refrigerated entrees section.  Here’s where I found mine to help you find yours!

Hormel Everyday Scratch and Hot Sandwich Meats

If you’re also a money saver like me, Hormel has printable coupons for the Everyday Scratch and Hot Sandwich Meats! Offers expire 11/30/14. (Note if you live outside the programs geo-target area, both links will direct you to the coupons.com homepage.)

Hormel is also offering a $1 off coupon on their Everyday Scratch Homepage.  Coupon expires 30 days after printout, final expiration being 11/30/14

Thanks to Hormel for helping me save time and money!

Love to All! ~Amy

 

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Strawberry Summer Salad Recipe

June 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, Sales, Shopping, Stores

Strawberry Chicken Salad Recipe For A Quick Summer Meal

By Amy
I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a shopper social amplification for Collective Bias. #GOWalmart #CollectiveBias #WMT2774

Summer Salads #GOWalmart #WMT2774 #shop

I love summer!  Being outside in the sun makes me less than enthusiastic about coming in and heating up the kitchen by cooking a big meal.  Summer salad recipes are the perfect solution.  Fresh produce and minimal cooking make it the perfect summer meal!  I went to the new Walmart Supercenter to shop for a new salad idea that sounded great at this time of year!  Strawberries are in season right now so I couldn’t resist making a lovely salad with the gorgeous strawberries I bought.

Summer Salads #GOWalmart #WMT2774 #shop

This salad was going to be a full meal, so I wanted to add some protein. I purchased chicken, because my family loves it, and it goes great with strawberries.  The price was great, so I purchased a large package.

Summer Salads #GOWalmart #WMT2774 #shop

I wanted to make sure everything about this salad was nice and fresh so I decided to make homemade dressing too.  Here are both of the recipes:

Strawberry Chicken Salad

- Mixed greens (rinsed and chopped)

- Strawberries (washed and sliced)

- 1-2 Grilled Chicken Breasts, diced (depending on amount of protein you’d like)

- Blue Cheese Crumbles

- Glazed Pecans (or any type of “candied” nuts) found near the produce or on the bakery aisle

Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

- 1 cup Diced Strawberries

- 1/4 cup Fresh Lime Juice

- 1/3 cup Sugar (or 6 Tbs Honey)

- 3/4 tsp Sea Salt

- 1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

- 1 Tbs Rice Vinegar (you can use white vinegar, but rice vinegar isn’t quite as strong)

- 1/4 cup Canola Oil

- 1/2 Tbs Poppy Seeds

Toss all ingredients, except for oil and poppy seeds into a blender.  Blend until smooth. Turn the blender onto the lowest setting and while blending, slowly add canola oil until mixed. Add poppy seeds and pulse a couple of times until distributed throughout. Be careful not to pulverize the seeds. Be sure to keep it in airtight container, in the refrigerator until ready to use. Plan to use it within a couple of days.

I was really impressed by the quality of produce at Walmart! Everything was fresh and colorful. It’s refreshing to find high quality produce when you shop.

Summer Salads #GOWalmart #WMT2774 #shop

Summer Salads #GOWalmart #WMT2774 #shop

I love strawberries and lime together.  The flavors mesh so well and the colors are magnificent.

Summer Salads #GOWalmart #WMT2774 #shop

I sprinkled salt and pepper on the breasts and grilled them on the stovetop, but grilling outside is always an option.  The chicken was so tender and juicy!

Summer Salads #GOWalmart #WMT2774 #shop

This salad was the perfect summer-time meal.  I even had the leftovers for lunch the next day.  Since the ingredients were so fresh, they still tasted great the day after!  I also had a nice cool glass of  Strawberry Limeade, the perfect drink for this meal.

Summer Salads #GOWalmart #WMT2774 #shop

Be sure to stop by your local Walmart and purchase the supplies for your summer meal. My family was very pleased with this salad and my husband asked me if I could make it again this week.  I consider that a success.

 

 

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Easy Dinner Recipes with Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes #OreIdaHashbrn

December 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, Reviews & Giveaways

Family Dinner Night During the Holidays Using Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Browns

By Amy

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and it’s advertiser.  #OreIdaHashbrn #shop #cbias
OreIda Shredded Hashbrowns

Ah, family time during the holidays.  Sometimes it’s hard to come by with all the parties, get-togethers, Christmas concerts, shopping, wrapping and delivering to do at this time of year.  For me, the easiest way to find time with family is around the dinner table.  Everyone’s gotta eat, right?   And since it is so busy, easy dinner recipes are just what we all need.  You can do so many things with Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Browns.  Always loving to get new recipes to try, Ore-Ida was at Walmart doing an in-store demo of a favorite dinner recipe so I went to check it out.

Oreida Hashbrowns #shop

He was making Cheesy Potato Casserole which I love!

Oreida Hashbrowns #shop

Here’s the recipe if you don’t already have it.

Cheesy Potato Casserole with Ore-Ida Shredded Hash browns

-1 can       Condensed cream of chicken soup

-2 cups    Sour cream

-1 tsp.      Salt

-1/4 tsp.  Pepper

-2 cups    Shredded Cheddar Cheese

-1/3 cup  Sliced green onions

-1  pkg.    Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes (30 oz)

-2 cups     Crushed corn flake cereal

-1/4 cup  Butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat 13X9 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  2. In a large bowl, whisk together soup, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Stir in cheese, onion and Hash Browns until well mixed.  Spoon evenly into baking dish.  3. In a medium bowl, mix together cereal and butter.  Sprinkle evenly on top of hash brown mixture.  4. Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste if desired.  Garnish with additional sliced green onion if desired.

After sampling the yummy casserole, I needed to go grab some Ore-Ida Shredded Hash browns for myself!

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

There’s just something about warm cheesy, potato goodness that warms your soul…  So it got me to thinking, “What dinner recipe could I come up with using Ore-Ida Shredded Hashbrowns for my next family’s dinner?”  And here it is…  Italian Potato Parmesan! 

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

Most everyone I know has tried Chicken Parmesan, Veal Parmesan or even Eggplant Parmesan (my personal favorite.) So I wanted to see how the same type of recipe would work for Potatoes.  Um, Yummy and delicious!  Here’s the recipe

Italian Potato Parmesan (yield 12-14 patties)  Recipe can be easily doubled or halved.

-1 tbs.       Butter or olive oil

-1/2          Onion, diced

-2              Garlic cloves, crushed or diced

-1/2 bag   Ore-Ida Shredded Hashbrowns

-1/2 cup   Bread Crumbs

-1/2 – 1  cup Parmesan (depending on how “cheesy” you want it.  You can use either shredded parm or grated)

-3              Eggs

-3 tbs.      Mayonaise

-1/2 tsp.   Salt

-1/4 tsp.  Pepper

-1/2 tsp.  Dried Parsley

-1 jar        Marinara sauce

- Cheese (sliced fresh mozzarella, reg. mozzarella, provolone, or swiss)

Directions

1. In a small skillet sauté onions and garlic with butter or olive oil until transparent.

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

2. In a big bowl, add Ore-Ida Hashbrowns (no need to thaw), bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and cooked onions and garlic.

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

3. In a small bowl mix eggs, mayo, salt, pepper and parsley together.

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

4. Add wet to dry ingredients and mix together.  It should look like this…

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

5. Form patties and cook on heated non-stick skillet. (medium heat) Flatten with hand once on skillet, they stay together better that way and don’t fall apart.

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

6. Leave them cooking (do not mess with them) until you can see the edges are good and brown.  You want them to be crispy.

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

7. Flip them over and cook until both sides are crispy.

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

8. Spray baking dish(es) with non-stick cooking spray. (I used 2 glass 9X13 dishes).  Transfer finished ones to your baking dishes as you cook the rest of the patties.  Once they are all cooked, top with marinara sauce and sliced cheese.

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

9. Broil in oven until hot and bubbly.  Enjoy!

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

My family loved this new dinner and had fun helping me create it, making even more family time!  One of my children even had three helpings! Yep, I think this recipe is a keeper.

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

Ore-Ida is also sponsoring a Disney Frozen Sweepstakes where you could win a trip for your family to the Bahamas or a number of other great prizes!  Be sure to check it out before the sweepstakes ends on January 15th, 2014!

OreIda Hashbrowns #shop

I hope you try out and enjoy both of these recipes when feeding your family during the holidays and beyond.  I also hope that you get to enjoy some much needed family time, and what better way than over some great food around the dinner table!  Have a wonderful holiday season and Merry Christmas!

Love To All! ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 23 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep me young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening, yoga, walking and saving money! I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Christmas Gift Ideas For Gamers with Forza Motorsport 5 and M&M’s #FueledbyMM #shop

Forza Motorsport 5 and M&M’s this Christmas.

By Amy

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and it’s client.  All pictures and opinions are 100% my own.

Some people can be pretty hard to buy for, for the holidays. Teens for instance, or maybe a husband?  I’ve got one, my hubby.  He’s not a big gamer, but he does like car racing games and the new Forza Motorsport 5 for Xbox One is the perfect gift to put under the tree.  He’s also not big on candy, but he loves the Pretzel M&M’s!  Their not too sweet and have the perfect crunch that he loves.  Perfect for a stocking stuffer!

I stopped at our local Walmart to purchase both items since they are offering a special Buy Snap Redeem Promotion.  Buy both the Forza 5 game and participating M&M’s in the same transaction,  snap a photo of the qualifying items on your receipt using your phone, and text it to 811811.  You’ll get a text back with a reward code for a $10 eGift to Walmart!

The newly released Forza Motorsport game is exclusively for the brand new Xbox One System.  With over 200 cars to choose from and continuing “add on” packs. you’ll never get bored racing the same cars over and over.  It has “Unprecedented Visual Realism” with all new graphics and” hundreds of cars perfectly recreated”.

My whole family loves the Pretzel M&M’s, so I bought the BIG bag!

#FueledbyMM #shop

Since I got such a huge bag of M&M’s, I needed to somehow divide it up AND fit them into everyone’s stockings without them just rolling around loose in there.   All I did was fill some small cellophane bags and top with a cute ribbon.  The perfect stocking stuffer!

#FueledbyMM #shop

M&Ms is also hosting an  M&M’s  Pixel Art Sweepstakes through Instagram.   Join me and tons of other Instagram fans to create your own pixel art, for a chance to win an XBOX One game system, the Forza 5 Motorsport Game, and a 14oz bag of M&Ms candies!

Simply create your own Pixel Art using M&Ms candies, snap a photo with your smartphone, and upload it to Instagram, using the hashtags #FueledbyMM and #Contest to enter.  The contest is open until December 18th!

#FueledbyMM #shop

I can’t wait for Christmas now that I have the perfect gift under the tree for my hubby and the tastiest stocking stuffer for all our stockings!

#FueledbyMM #shop

Love to all and Merry Christmas!  ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 23 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep me young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening, yoga, walking and saving money! I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

 

 

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Harvest Granola Recipe

October 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food

Easy Home Made Granola Recipe

by Amy

We love granola at our house!  My husband likes it with milk in a bowl, and my kids love snacking on it dry.  But no matter how it’s eaten, this recipe is fabulous and SO easy to make!  It stores well in an airtight container and has less fat and oil than store bought brands, and since it’s home made and fresh, it definitely tastes much better than the ones at the grocery store.  But the very best thing about making your own granola, is that you can add the ingredients YOU like and customize it to your own family’s tastes!  Here’s my version, doesn’t this look yummy???

Homemade Granola

 

Harvest Granola

- 10 cups Rolled Oats (Old Fashioned, not quick cooking)

- 1 cup Wheat Germ (found in the cereal aisle near the oatmeal)

- 2 cups Dried Fruit (apples, raisins, cranberries, bananas, dates etc.) I use 2 cups dried cranberries.

- 2 cups Chopped Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, or sliced almonds are good) I use chopped pecans.

- 1/2-3/4 cup Seeds (sesame, flax, pumpkin etc.) I use a combination of sesame and flax.

- 1 cup Shredded Coconut (optional)

- 2 tsp Cinnamon

- 1 cup Melted Butter

- 1/2 c Vegetable Oil (or you can omit the butter and veg oil and use 1 1/2 cups coconut oil)

- 1 1/2 cups Honey

-2 tsp vanilla

Mix all dry ingredients into a big bowl. Isn’t it pretty?

Homemade Granola

Next, add wet ingredients into a saucepan and warm on the stove until honey is nice and liquid and incorporated with the other wet ingredients.

Homemade Granola

I have to pause right here for a sec and show you this beautiful honey!  We have a professional beekeeper in the family, so we have access to pure raw honey.  Raw honey has not been cleaned yet.  It still has all the pollens and goodness that pure raw honey offers.  True raw honey is also not liquid, it is solid and has to be gently warmed to return back to it’s liquid state.  I’m certainly no expert on the benefits of raw honey (maybe one of our readers are, hint hint?), but if you ever, can get your hands on some raw honey, do it!  It’s SOOO good and good for you!  There, my commercial is over.

Just look at that…. isn’t pure, raw, unadulterated honey gorgeous???

Homemade Granola

Now back to the recipe folks….  Add the wet ingredients to the big bowl of dry and mix it all together…

Homemade Granola

Until it looks like this.  Almost there!

Homemade Granola

Once it’s all incorporated, divide onto 2 large lipped (with raised edges) cookie sheets (1/4 sheet cake size) and spread evenly.  Bake in a 225 degree oven for 25 minutes, take out, stir granola around and put back in oven for another 25 minutes.  You are drying it out more than you are actually “cooking” it.  After baking, when you think it should be done, pull a little bit out and put in a bowl to cool for a minute, or stick it in the refrigerator for a second.  When cooled, it should be crunchy, that’s how you know it’s done.  Put in an airtight container to keep it fresh and enjoy your homemade goodness!

What I do to cook both sheets at one time – Put your oven racks to the 2 most middle positions of the oven, close together.  Put one pan, lengthwise (not horizontally) on top rack as far to the right as possible and the other pan on the lower rack to the left.  They should only overlap in the middle of the oven by just a bit.  Halfway through, when you pull them out to  stir, just switch the two pans so they get even heat.  Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this step.  OR you can just halve the recipe and use one pan, but then you’ll have to make your granola twice as often, who wants to do that?!  :)

Homemade Granola

I hope you use this easy recipe and have fun trying out different ingredients.  Let me know which version is your favorite!  I just may try it out!

Love To All! ~Amy

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 23 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep me young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening, yoga, walking and saving money! I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Great Stay and Awesome Calamari at Sawmill Creek Resort

We Had An Enjoyable Stay At Sawmill Creek Resort

Dave and I were invited to visit Put-in-Bay Island and stay at the Sawmill Creek Resort, for a review. The resort was about 1/2 hour away from Catawba, where we got off the ferry. It’s situated on Lake Erie, although you can’t see Lake Erie from the room we were staying in. a

sawmill creek resort

As we drove into this golf resort, Dave realized he had stayed here several years ago, when he was on a company outing. My Dad also recalls staying at the Sawmill Creek Resort. My Dad recalls wonderful meals, great golf and a very nice resort. Dave went on a fishing expedition when he stayed, and was pleased when he realized it was the same place he had stayed before.

The decor is very outdoor, western comfortable feel. I love this atmosphere, and I know Dave would much rather have this style of decorating rather than “hotsy-totsy” fancy.

Sawmill Creek Resort

resort

We went to our room and it was an instant.. “Oh, this is NICE!”.  You know,  that initial impression you get when you first open the door to a new hotel. Nice, light colors, very clean and inviting.  I loved the fireplace we had in the room, and the couch that you could sit on to relax.  The king size bed had the most comfortable pillows!  I will say that the mattress itself was ok. There was some kind of harder ridging on the edge of it, that kind of hurt the back of my legs when I first got in. Dave thought that maybe it was some kind of handles to move the mattress?? But once you were in, it was pretty comfortable.  I would have loved a balcony to sit out on. I felt like the room should have one. But we did have a nice big window to look out of.

sawmill creek resort

We went back to the front desk and were given a ride on a golf cart to see the beach area and go to the restaurant.  It was a nice little ride down to this area. I’m not sure if you have to always ask for a ride, or if you are able to take your own golf cart.. but it would be a bit of a walk without one. Cars can’t fit on the path.

sawmill creek resort

They have recently laid sod, and will soon be able to host weddings here.  What a beautiful setting!

huron

The beach is just beyond this grassy area.  It was kind of a wet, cool, rainy afternoon when we were there, so no one was on the beach – but it looks like it would really be nice.  I love that it’s secluded. To have your own beach front is always nice.

PIB 35

The manager then dropped us off at one of the restaurants at the resort, Mariner’s at the Mariner’s Village Marina. It was a fine dining restaurant and it was nice to have the owner there to greet us. We chose to eat out on the screened in porch, overlooking the marina. They have plastic chairs and tables out there, but still have them dressed up to look very nice.

mariners restaurant

 

I took up the waitress’s suggestion for a mint patty drink (and it was ok, but I should have just stuck with a glass of wine).  They brought out some bread that I thought Dave was going to die over! I think I had two small pieces and he finished the rest of this.  Butter galore, but it had a bit of a crisp edge to it. I’m not sure how it was prepared, but it was great.

Mariner's Restuarant

I love Calamari, but so often it’s a little rubbery or tough, so I’m always a little apprehensive when I order it.  We did get it.. and I have to say – to this date, this is the BEST calamari that I have ever had. OMG…  I didn’t know it could be this tender. I think Dave had just a couple and I ate most all of this. I had it with the pesto sauce. Just writing about this, I have a craving for it again!

calamari

Dave ordered the Seared Duck that was one of their specials, from the advice of the owner. He loved it. I had a bite of it too, and it was really good. I’ve not had that much duck to compare it to, but I know it was good.

seared duck

I had the Lake Erie Perch for my meal.  It was good, I don’t know that it stood out from other perch I’ve eaten, but I enjoyed it.  We walked back to our place. We weren’t real sure how to go, but took a path that lead through the golf course and made our way back.

I would recommend staying at the Sawmill Creek Resort, without hesitation.. but you know what I’m also going to suggest too.. right?  If you go, you have to eat at the Mariner’s Restaurant and order Calamari!

Our stay at the hotel was taken care of, but we paid for our own meal at The Mariner’s Restaurant. The thoughts, opinions and pictures are all my own.

You can find more information on the Sawmill Creek Resort Facebook page.

 

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My First Trip & Review of Put-In-Bay #Travel #Ohio

Put-In-Bay, Ohio is an island in Lake Erie

It’s hard to believe that I’ve lived in Ohio all my life and have never been to Put-in-Bay. I’ve heard about it forever, but I never really had the opportunity to go or big desire. I had this offer to do a review of the island, and was told I could bring my family. I’ve always heard that Put-in-Bay was a “party” island, so I immediately said that I didn’t want the kids to come. But I was curious myself.  Dave and I set off for the island on a Saturday morning.

Put -in-Bay

It took us just under three hours to get there from the Columbus area. We met up with Ryan, who owns Green Door Mediaworks  at the Miller Boat Line to catch the ferry over to Put-in-Bay.  The day seemed a little questionable weather -wise.. but we lucked out. A few threats of rain, but everything bypassed us.

Miller Boat Line

 

Ryan was an awesome tour guide on our way to the island. He was pointing out all the little islands and explaining where things were, etc. He really knows the island and history.

With Miller’s Ferry you are able to take your car over to the island if you’d like to, but it isn’t nearly as much fun. We went up to the top to sit, where there were plenty of seats to enjoy the ride over.

Millers ferry

 

To me… part of the charm and the “feel” of the island was using the golf carts. It was so fun to just tool around in them. Of course, we could have gotten bikes (but thank goodness Ryan planned for us to get the carts and not bikes! I would have been dying with bikes!) instead of golf carts, but you can cover a lot more of the island in an afternoon with a cart.

bike rental

We all went to lunch at a cute place called Goat Soup & Whisky Tavern.  There was a darling outdoor patio, and a few tables with umbrellas that were outside of that. Although I didn’t try and soup or whisky, I really enjoyed it.  I did try two new things, walleye fries and a perch taco. The Walleye Fries were just pieces of Walleye that were cut in long narrow strips and deep fried, with some dipping sauce. Yum! I have heard my friends talk about fish taco’s for years, but have never tried one.  I decided to go for it. These were fried perch taco’s. Oh… so good! I had one, but wish I had ordered two. I will for sure get these again when I come back to visit the island the next time.

Goat Soup & Whisky Tavern

After lunch, Dave and I took off on our own and explored the island. It would have been fun to have been able to have eaten a few more meals on the island. There were several places I would have loved to have tried.

I think The Keys, sitting out on the water looks so fun! I love the way it looks, with the bright beachy colors. One thing I love to do when I go to a beach, or lake, or somewhere with water; is to sit and drink a nice glass of wine. Yes.. next visit for sure.

the keys

The Board Walk also has that water view and feel. It looks like a little finer dining. Maybe The Keys for lunch and then the Board Walk for dinner?

Board Walk Put in Bay

I love the outdoor seating at Hooligans Irish Pub, it just looked very comfortable.  It’s not over looking the water, but it is right in the center of town where you can see all the activity.

Put in bay

It was pirates weekend when we were there. There were cannon’s going off, a pirates market/craft show in the middle of the square and men,woman,kids and animals all dressed up as pirates.

put in bay

put in bay

newfie pirate

The square and feel of the island town was charming. I loved it. Everything was clean and well taken care of.  I had always envisioned this row of old bars, when I thought of Put-in-Bay. Not that I’d ever been here to see… but my entire thought of the island is different now.  There were plenty of places for people to drink, and there were plenty of people eating and drinking in them – but the atmosphere was fresh, clean and very island feeling. You tend to forget you are in Ohio.

Put in bay

put in bay

PIB

PIB

PIB

There are some sights to see on the island and things to do. We went to visit the Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center and did a few activities there.

perrys cave

We went to visit the Butterfly House. There was a really nice gift shop inside and the actual butterflies are in a greenhouse style structure in the back.

The butterfly house

Going into the butterfly house, someone came up to us and gave us some information about the butterfly house. That was really nice. They were there to answer any questions, and to let you know how to be careful with the butterflies, so as not to harm them.

PIB

butterfly

We then went on the Perrys Cave tour. I have to explain that I’ve been in several caves and really enjoy going on cave tours, before I give my honest opinion on this cave tour.  This was a 20 minute tour.  We walked down a flight of steps to go down into the cave. You have to bend down part of the way, going down the step and small steps to a depth of only about 50 feet below ground.  This was a wet cave. Puddles of water to walk around, and water dripping off the ceiling. I know some caves can be wet, and others aren’t. Our guide did a great job of explaining things in the cave.  I can not however recommend this cave tour.  Maybe if you’ve never been in a cave, you’d find it worth the cost.  A good explanation for me would be, too much talk and not enough cave.  I felt like they tried to drag out the tour to make it at least 20 minutes. You walk, only about 150 feet into the cave and stop every few feet for a 5 minute talk. I heard a couple people saying, “Is this it?” and one little boy said, “Where is the rest of the cave, where does that go?”.   I felt very disappointed. Had Dave and I had to pay the $8 each to go into the cave (rather than it being part of my review), I would have really been disappointed.

perrys cave

There was a really nice putt-putt course. We always love a good game of putt-putt!

PIB putt putt

Driving around the island and seeing the sites, stopping for some ice cream and just wandering around was so relaxing. I really wish we could have stayed a few days.

put in bay

PIB

PIB

I can certainly recommend Put-in-Bay to anyone! If you love a beautiful, active and fun island, then you’ll love it here. I feel like we made a mistake in not bringing the kids with us. I would have no problem bringing them here.  I might not plan to have them in town on a weekend night, as I’m sure things liven up quite a bit – hence the party atmosphere.  But it’s not something you wouldn’t see in Florida or any other vacation zone that has bars and water.  I think they would have loved it here.

I’ll be sure to come back, but I want to plan on spending a little more time here… and of course – I’ll be sure to get a golf cart to get around!

golf carts on Put in bay

 

You can follow these handles to find out a bit more about the island.

@Put_in_Bay
@MillerBoatLine
@ShoresIslandsOH
@DiscoverOhio

Our ferry rides, golf cart, lunch, Perry’s Cave, Butterfly House, Putt-Putt and our night stay (review to come soon) were all paid for.  My photos, thoughts and opinions are all my own.

 

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Odwalla and Champions for Kids Fighting Hunger in the Summer

Odwalla + Champions For Kids Simple Service Project

by Amy Trauntvein

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias®, Odwalla, and Champions for Kids.  However, all opinions are my own. #cbias #SocialFabric #Odwalla4Kids

Too many kids (and families) are hungry in America.  When school is out for the summer, many children lose access to the school breakfasts, lunches and after-school snacks they receive during the regular school year.  Low-income families with children face even more challenges during the summer when they stretch their food budget to provide additional meals for their children.
Odwalla has teamed up with Champions For Kids to help fight hunger in the summer campaign.  My family was recently asked to help in the fight against hunger by purchasing Odwalla nutrition bars at Walmart and donating them to our Local Food Pantry.  We were able to purchase over 50 bars!
Odwalla Simple Servie Project

These wholesome snack bars taste great and are an easy way to fill kids’ hungry bellies while giving them the nutrition they need.

Odwalla Simple Service Project

Along with the Odwalla bars, we donated  several other food & non-food items that we had in surplus at our home.

Odwalla Simple Service Project

With the couponing I do, I also have plenty of non-food items that I purchase for donations and since our local food pantry also accepts these things, we gathered them up as well.  If someone doesn’t have to buy shampoo, soap or other toiletries, then they can have more money to purchase food for their families.

Odwalla Simple Service Project

Here are our donations packed up and ready to be given to those in need.

Odwalla Simple Service Project

 

Odwalla Simple Service Project

When I arrived at our Community Food Pantry, I noticed how empty their shelves were.

Odwalla Simple Service Project

After talking with Ruth, the coordinator, and Angela, her assistant, they said that the need keeps rising and also with summer coming, the need will be even greater with kids not getting school breakfasts and lunches.  This small pantry helped over 129 families in April and are tracking to help even more this month.  They receive no funding or government assistance, they only rely on the goodness and generosity of the community.

Angela and Ruth of the Johnstown Community Food Pantry

Odwalla Simple Service Project

Ways YOU Can Help! -by Champions For Kids Simple Service Project

GATHER your friends, family and co-workers to fight hunger in the summer by hosting a food drive in your community.  Nutritious snacks like Odwalla Kids Bars and Juice Boxes would be great to give!  Consider giving out prizes to the person who donates the most food at you office or community organization!

LEARN about the needs of children in your community by asking a food pantry volunteer, school nurse, or social worker to talk with your group about their experiences.

GIVE the food items that you collect to a food bank in your community so that children and families will have enough to eat this summer.

SHARE your story with us at www.championsforkids.org/share so that we can celebrate your participation!  How many people were involved, and how many items did you collect?  Please let us know that you are ONE of Millions who helped reach our goal to mobilize 20 Million people by 2020 to become Champions For Kids!

Be sure to check out Odwalla on Facebook, Twitter and Odwalla.com!

Love To All! ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 23 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep me young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening, yoga, walking and saving money! I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Spicy Southwest 5 Cheese Dip with Kraft #FreshTake

May 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, Sales, Shopping, Stores

If You Like A Spicy Kick, You’ve Got To Try This Dip!

By Amy Trauntvein

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias®  and Kraft Foods #FreshTake #cbias #SocialFabric. All opinions, ideas, and photos are my own.

My family loves Mexican food and spicy South-of-the-border flavors so when Kraft Foods asked me to create a new recipe using one of their Fresh Take flavors, I knew which one I wanted to try and what recipe I would make.  Spicy Southwest 5 Cheese Dip using Kraft Fresh Take Southwest 3 Cheese.

Kraft Fresh Take

I took the kids to Walmart to find the Kraft Fresh Take and a few other ingredients.  It was easily found among the cheeses in the Deli Section and had a variety of flavors to choose from.  Also, if you go to the Meat Department, there will be and IRC (immediately redeemable coupon) stuck on packages of chicken.  The coupon takes off $1 for one package of chicken when purchased with Fresh Take.  The coupons will run until 7/31/13.

Kraft Fresh Take

I love Kraft Fresh Take and have been using it to make some pretty tasty dinners lately.  It’s easy to use and the cheeses and spices are a perfect compliment with chicken no matter what flavor packet you buy.  Since I’ve enjoyed the Fresh Takes flavors, I knew adding it to a dip recipe would turn it from “It was alright” to “Wow, how did you make this? I need your recipe!”  Just look at the yumminess on the package, and it already contains 3 of the 5 cheeses for my dip recipe!  How easy it that?

Kraft Fresh Take

Now back home for the creation of the spicy, cheesy, ooey gooey goodness!

Recipe for Spicy Southwest 5 Cheese Dip

  • 1 Package Kraft Fresh Take Southwest 3 Cheese Flavor
  • 1 8 oz Package Kraft Cream Cheese
  • 1/3 cup Kraft Mayo
  • 1 cup shredded Kraft Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 Jalapeno chopped finely with seeds removed.

If you like things really spicy, use 2 peppers.  Go ahead, I dare ya!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut Jalapeno in half and scrape out seeds. Chop finely.

Kraft Fresh Take

Warm cream cheese in in microwave until soft.  Add mayo, monterey jack cheese and jalapeno.  Open package of Fresh Take and mix the cheeses and breadcrumbs together.  Reserve 1/2 cup of Fresh Take for Topping, and add the rest of the Fresh Take to the other ingredients.  Mix well.  If mixture seems a bit dry, add more mayo by tablespoons until mixture looks nice and creamy.  I just mixed it all in the actual baking dish (to save me from dirtying another bowl).  Once mixed well, smooth out the top.

Kraft Fresh Take

Toss into oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Pull out and stir.  Now add the reserved 1/2 cup of Fresh take to the top and toss back into oven for another 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Kraft Fresh Take
Serve with chips or crackers of your choosing.  I liked mine with Pita Chips for their “heftiness”.  This cheesy, hot and gooey dip is a perfect compliment to any Mexican, Tex Mex or Southwestern meal, or a perfect appetizer to your next party.  Your guests will beg you on bended knees for the recipe!  I mean, how can anyone go wrong  with 5 cheeses???  Yep, it’s a winner!  And Thanks to Kraft Fresh Take for taking it to the next level of yumminess!

Kraft Fresh Take

Watch for the Kraft Possibilities Tour truck which will be making stops across the country to the end of July.  To see if they are making a spot in your town, you can check their website Fresh Take Possibilities Tour.

Love To All! ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 23 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep me young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening, yoga, walking and saving money! I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

 

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Ice Cream Festival

Utica’s Sertoma Ice Cream Festival

Each Memorial Day Weekend for the last 39 years the Ye Old Mill in Utica Ohio has been the home of Old Fashion Velvet Ice Cream Festival

It is a yearly tradition for our family, along with many zillions of other people!  I mean really, who can resist Velvet ice cream?  We always enjoy the old time cars (muscle cars), playing games, getting good food and of course eating ice cream.

ye old mill

These pics are from one of our visits in 2010.  I had posted on my Explore Ohio with Sandy blog, but wanted to share with all of you too! I can’t wait until we go this May.

ye old mill

My video gives you the feel of it all.

The water mill works and is just pretty cool.

ye old mill

water mill

The Mill is on one side of the street and you can sit by the water, eat your ice cream and check out the extensive car show. Ice Cream Festival

You’ll find carnival games and foods galore! Ice Cream Festival

Then you can cross the street to find more food….. and a large craft show Ice Cream Festival Ice Cream Festival

But the best part is the Ice Cream! Ice Cream Festival

Alex opted for the shake this year.

Ice Cream Festival

But not Zach. Notice the ice cream on the nose. lol…. oh so good!

Ice Cream Festival

Elise’s favorite is the mint chocolate chip.

Ice Cream Festival

Mine happens to be the Moose Tracks… oh yum!

Ice Cream Festival

Dave and I enjoying the day with the kids.

Ice Cream Festival

I just thought this was a cool pic of Zach.

Ice Cream Festival

More information

Utica Old Fashion Ice Cream 
Facebook pageSchedule of Events

Dates

May 25-27, 2013

Location

Velvet Ice Cream The Ye Old Mill
11324 Mount Vernon Road, Utica, OH, 43080

 

This was first posted May 2012.

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Loved Mariano’s in Chicago

Wish We Had A Mariano’s In Columbus!

I had the opportunity to have a tour of the grand opening of the Harwood Heights Mariano’s Fresh Market last week. I walked out of that store really wishing that I would be able to shop there regularly.  Of course, that isn’t an option for me since I don’t live in Chicago, but I’d love Mariano’s to come this way!

marianos

The feel of the store was nice. It was very crowded since it was the grand opening and you could feel the energy and excitement that everyone had. What makes the store different?  There were many differences from stores I’m familiar with.

They have a $6 meal that you can purchase to take home, or eat in the store. You can pick the main course and a couple sides for a $6 or $10 meal. These foods looked like awesome home cooked meals. We were going to ate lunch while we were there and everything I saw, I was thinking… oh, I want to get THAT for lunch! Look at those pot pies! They were huge! I’ll tell you what, you wouldn’t be able to pick out these meals at a restaurant for $6!

Marianos

The bakery was incredible. Have you heard of Fruit Loop or bacon donuts? Look at some of the goodies.

marianos bread

They have their cake decorators work where you can watch them. I really loved that.

marianos

They have creativity rights to create fun! These little 5″ cakes were darling. Loved the cupcake cake!

marianos

I SO wanted to try one of these cream puffs, but I did refrain.

bakery

They had a grill set up in between the seafood and meat departments. You could ask them to take a salmon or steak and grill it for you right then!

grill

polish sausage

They have an extensive wine department. You can also create your own six pack of beer. I thought that was really unique. This particular stores has an extensive couple of international aisles.

international aisle

We were able to meet Mr. Mariano, the CEO of Mariano’s. He loves visiting the stores and stopping to talk to families shopping. He wasn’t too sure what “bloggers” were, but we helped to fill him in. It was nice to see him in the store, and was really friendly.

bob marianos

There is an huge floral department and the flowers were absolutely beautiful.

flower department

Sushi anyone? They had a sushi bar. I’ll admit that I didn’t try it myself. But they were making it fresh as it was ordered.

marianos sushi bar

It sure was pretty though, and three of the bloggers did have sushi for their lunch and loved it.

marianos sushi

Melissa @ConsumerQueen and I had a fresh salad and fresh fruit.

consumerqueen

Vivian King was our tour guide, and we’ve been working with her through Collective Bias. It was great to meet her in person. She had the ribs that were so awesome! There is a BBQ department that prepares them fresh in the store. We were able to try samples of them earlier. She said that she normally always gets the sushi at the grand openings, but she was straying from her normal today.

vivian king

This is what I really wanted to try for lunch, but from the samples that they had throughout the store, I was actually a little too full to get one for lunch. They had individual pizzas that they would make to order for you. I wanted a mushroom, onion one… my fav! Maybe next visit to Chicago!

marianos 20

Look at this monster sandwich! It looked, omg good!

marianos 19

I have never thought about “eating” a meal at a grocery store before. But that is very much the norm at Mariano’s.  You can come in for a glass of wine, pick out your meal and eat in the cafe. I will certainly be stopping back by to try some more of their meals on my next visit to Chicago.

I am an employee of Collective Bias and Mariano’s is our client.  I went on the tour to see the store, and took a lot (almost 300) photos while there. I decided to create a post because I was so impressed with the store, I was not asked to write a post, nor expected to. I just wanted to share with you all!

 

 

 

 

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Red Velvet Cupcakes with #CoolWhipFrosting

February 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food

Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe + Cool Whip Frosting = Amazing!

By Amy Trauntvein

I love love love Red Velvet Cake!  Red Velvet Cake takes me back to my childhood at my Grandma Maxine and Grandpa Ted’s house where we (aunts, uncles and cousins) regularly gathered on Sunday evenings for fun, games and just being together.  Grandma always had cake and ice cream for us, but the best Sundays were the Sundays she made Red Velvet cake.  I think it was the dark red color that as a child, I thought was pretty cool, but the rich full flavor had me at first bite!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

When I heard that Cool Whip now has frosting, I had to try it!  I went to Walmart and found what I was desperately wanting to try on my Red Velvet Cupcakes.  Cool Whip Frosting with Cream Cheese!

Cool Whip Frosting

The price of the frosting was $2.28 but I printed 2 Cool Whip Frosting coupons which made them only $1.53.  Not bad, you know how much I like saving money!

But first, I needed to make the cupcakes.  Here’s my recipe…

Red Velvet Cupcakes 

- Yield 32-36 Cupcakes

3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) Butter, softened at room temperature

1 1/2 Cup Sugar

1 1/3 Cup Buttermilk, shaken well

2 Tablespoons White Vinegar

1 Teaspoon Vanilla

2 Large Eggs

2 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

4 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1 One Ounce Bottle Red Food Coloring

1 Tablespoon Water

Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake pans with liners.  In a mixer, cream butter and sugar together, set on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until light in color and well blended.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

While the butter and sugar are creaming together, combine your wet ingredients (Buttermilk, Vinegar, Vanilla and Eggs whisked together) and your dry ingredients (Flour, Baking Soda and Salt) into separate bowls so you have a “wet” bowl and a “dry” bowl.  Next, in a small bowl combine the Cocoa Powder and entire bottle of Red Food Coloring.  It will form into a dry paste.  At this point, add the Tablespoon of water to give it a more workable consistency.  This is what it should look like.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Now you are ready to make your batter. Turning the mixer onto low, alternately drop in 1/3 “dry” ingredients and “wet” ingredients going back and forth until it is all in the mixer.  This gives a very consistent and smooth texture to your batter avoiding any lumps.  Next, and very carefully I might add, spoon the red cocoa mixture into your batter while it is still on low.  This is what your batter should look like when done.  Isn’t it beautiful?

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Load up your cupcake liners making sure you only fill them no more than 2/3 full so you don’t have overspill while they raise in the oven.  You should get at least 32 cupcakes if not more.  I got 36 exactly. (3 full pans).

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until the cake bounces back when touched, or inserting a toothpick and it comes out clean.  Do not over bake or you will have very dry cupcakes and it will make me sad.  Let cool completely.  I always just leave them in the pan and gently put clear plastic wrap over the top of the cupcakes after they’ve been out for about 5 minutes, just to seal in the moisture until they are cool enough to frost.  Many times I’ve baked cupcakes the night before, left them in their pans, put plastic wrap on them and tossed them in the fridge overnight and frosted them the day after.  I actually prefer doing this as the cupcakes seem to be more moist the next day.

I couldn’t wait to try the New Cool Whip Frosting with Cream Cheese on my cupcakes!  I used a Wilton 4B tip to frost the cupcakes and tiny heart sprinkles for the Valentine Holiday that is coming up this month.  Aren’t they cute?

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Now for the taste test.

#CoolWhipFrosting

My daughter and I split one (as I’m trying to watch the waistline) and BAM!  I was hooked!  I love the light fluffy, not too heavy texture and the flavor was amazing!  Some cream cheese frosting is almost too sweet and rich, and half the time I scrape most of it off, but not this time!  It was the perfect balance of lightly sweet and fluffy consistensy, that I actually had to eat a whole one later that evening, I couldn’t resist!  Waistline?  What?  I didn’t hear you, I’m enjoying my cupcake!

Just so I wouldn’t eat all 36 myself, I took them to our youth group activity night (that my teenage son and daughter belong to) at our church. They were MORE than willing to try them out for me!  I can safely say they were gone in a matter of minutes and were thoroughly enjoyed by all!

Cool Whip Frosting

Cool Whip Frosting

Find more about Cool Whip on Facebook or Twitter at #CoolWhipFrosting and don’t forget to grab a coupon too!  Coupon Printing Help MAC users, please use browser other than Chrome.

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community.  This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Kraft Cool Whip. #CoolWhipFrosting #cbias #SocialFabric.  All pictures and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Exercise Tools – Nike FuelBand vs FitBit

Do I Like To Exercise? No – But I’m Going To Learn To Love It!

Do I Need to Exercise? Absolutely… big time!

exercise

I’ve gone through so many phases in my life, and even on this blog, where I’ve started to exercise and get in shape. I’ll do good for awhile, and then I tend to fall back into my old ways. I think there is a part of me that doesn’t think I can ever be one of those “in shape” people. I know that sounds dumb, but after watching my mom struggle off and on for years with exercise (Jack Lalanne and soup cans.. for some of you who might remember), I just have this block in my head – that I’ll never be that person out running a marathon.  Do I have a desire to run a marathon. Nope. Would I like to be able to run for a few miles? Yes!

I have a zillion excuses, I have plantar fasciitis and my Podiatrist said that walking should not be an exercise for me. The nearest club is over 1/2 hour away and my work schedule won’t allow it. My heart rate goes into the 200′s when I try to jog. Oh… there are more, believe me. But I have to break through those.

At the beginning of this year I decided I have to get 70 pounds off.  I did it in 2008, I used Jenny Craig and took off 50 pounds, but I went off their plan and slowly gained it back.. plus another 20 pounds. Menopause hasn’t helped either… along with sitting on my butt for at least 12 hours a day working.

When I lost my 50 pounds, I wasn’t exercising. This time I have to do both. Now I have the fat arm stuff happening, the big belly.. (I never knew your boobs could touch your belly when you sit certain ways! lol) As always my hips, legs and butt are huge. There are things I never have experienced before. I was always very thin growing up.. and this extra 20 pounds in the last year has thrown me over the edge. I’ve had to buy new fat clothes, the backs of my arms will bother me because things are too tight. It’s the pits and I feel gross.

Nike FuelBand

Part of my inspiration is because I feel terrible.  The other part is watching all my co-workers at Collective Bias show all their pictures of running and working out on Path and Facebook. This company is so awesome to work for that they gave us all Nike FuelBands this Christmas. How cool is that? John Andrews and Jay Thornton both got a Fuelband and liked it so much for themselves, that John decided to get them for all 50+ of us.  For a company to care so much about it’s employees, that they REALLY want to see us healthy. That is just one of the reasons I love working at CB. Not because they gave us a cool gift, but because they really care about us. They want the best for us. Love that!

nike fuelband

This is really neat. I love the look of it. It comes in a white/clear one or a black/clear one.. or this solid black. You get fuel points for your activity. If you are walking or working out, doing laundry etc. It also tells you how many steps you’ve walked, calories burned and what time it is.  You set a goal and you work to meet it each day. The little red dots at the bottom.. go across as you work towards your goal. They get green when you are into the good zone. Then you can share on Facebook or Path your progress and compare with your team. That is where Collective Bias has been really productive with this. There are several runners at CB, and many of us that aren’t, but they have had fun with sharing their fuel points with everyone. It shows the path they have run, or walked. It syncs with your computer and your phone, so you can easily track what you’ve done.

I think this is an awesome tool if you want to get in shape. If you want to track your progress for the day, have competitions to see who can get the most fuel points or just track it yourself. It is a great way to inspire exercise. You want to get more fuel points to hit your goal for the day.

FitBit

Before I knew I was getting one, I had asked Dave for a FitBit for Christmas. He got me one, so now I have both tools. I also got one for Dave for Christmas. He’s been using it and is happy to show me how far he does walk at work everyday, inspecting the job site he manages.

exercise fitbit

They are both awesome tools to tracking your exercise and activity. I highly recommend them both. The FitBit is small and clips onto your clothing. Dave wears his clipped inside his pants pocket. I wear mine clipped to my bra. It tells you your steps for the day, calories burned, time of day and a growing flower for your progress. It has an automatic sync (this model of FitBit at least) to your computer and your phone. You can also share with your friends and post to FB or Twitter.  Very similar features of the Nike FuelBand.

What it does do that is different, than the Fuelband  is that you can track your food intake and it also tracks your sleep. There is a wrist band that you slip the fitbit into. It comes out of the rubber clip you see above and easily slips into this Velcro wristband. Then you just hit the timer to start it. In the morning you turn the timer off. The wristband doesn’t bother me at all to sleep, although I did see on a few people who reviewed it, that they didn’t like it.  I like being able to see my sleep patterns. I was surprised I woke up as much as I did through the night.

exercise fitbit

This also has an alarm feature on it. It will wake you up in the morning. I have yet to figure out how to set that, but I think I saw a way, and just haven’t taken the time to try that feature out yet.

This is what the dashboard looks like. You can earn badges for your accomplishments. Climbing stairs, steps, miles.  You can see where I did my short work out in the morning.. where the yellow spikes are.

exercise

The feature I like the best with this FitBit is that I can track my food intake. I picked a program of easy, medium or hard (I picked hard) in order to lose my weight. It has me losing 2 pounds a week, so that I’ll hit my goal of 70 pounds in August of this year. It then calculates your food intake (you plug in the food and there are many options that come up to pick from. If those don’t fit, you can enter your own food item with the portion and calories.) and exercise for that day.

It tells you how much more you can eat for that day… or if you’ve gone over your calories for the day. Several times when I’ve gone over, then it has inspired me to go up and do more exercise.

exercise

For me, because I am trying to lose weight along with the exercise.. the FitBit is a better exercise tool. It has been more inspiring to me due to the calorie intake feature, than the Nike FuelBand.  If your main goal is the exercise and getting in shape, then I think the Nike Fuelband would be ideal. I think the guys like the look of the FuelBand.

The FitBit One that I have is $99. I got mine for Dave at BestBuy. He got the one for me online.
The Nike Fuelband is $149.

I can highly recommend both of these exercise tools, and I’m very thankful to Collective Bias and my husband for giving them to me. Neither one expected or asked for a review – I just wanted to share part of my big inspiration for exercising and losing weight.

So far since January 1st of 2013, I’ve lost 8 1/2 pounds. What I was thrilled with, was that it also included a six day trip to Bentonville, AR for work, and I’ve always gained weight when I’ve traveled before. I’ve always had an attitude of “I can eat whatever I want when I’m traveling, because it’s too hard to try and eat healthy”.  But not this time. I exercised 3 of the 4 available mornings I was there with Debba from Girlfriendology. Of course she was far past me in her running and exercising abilities, but she was great encouragement and  inspiration while I was there.

 

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Homemade Caramels Recipe

January 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food

Making Homemade Caramels, It’s Easier Than You Think

Caramels

My family loves homemade caramels.  They just can’t compare to the cellophane wrapped squares that you find in the grocery store.  Don’t get me wrong, those store bought ones are great if you want to make caramel apples, but if you want some amazing, soft, decadent eating caramels, there’s nothing like making them in your own kitchen.  When we have caramels in the house, my youngest thinks she can live on eating caramels alone she loves them that much!  And even better, they really aren’t that difficult to make.  The key to good caramel making is to stir constantly.  Otherwise all those sticky sugars can easily burn if not continually moving it around in the pan.  It really only takes about 15 minutes of actual cooking/stirring time so it’s really not that bad.  Let’s start with the recipe that I like to use.

Homemade Caramels

1 cup Brown Sugar (make sure it is soft with no hard chunks)

1 cup White Sugar

1 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk

2 cubes (1 cup) Butter (salted butter is fine)

1 cup White Corn Syrup

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 cup Chopped Nuts -optional (any kind of nut you want, I use pecans)

I also use a good candy thermometer for my caramels.  It is not required and will show you how to test the caramels for doneness without one, but it does make caramel making easier and takes the guesswork out of it.  I bought mine at Target for about $10 a few years ago when my last one gave up the ghost.  This kind is great because it has a clip on the back to hold it onto your pan, the markings are easy to read and the actual thermometer doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan to give you a false reading (the bottom of the pan is hotter than the actual candy cooking).

Caramels

First, if you are using nuts in your recipe, chop them up before you start cooking.  That way they are ready when you need to add them and you won’t end up burning your caramel while it waits for you to chop the nuts. Don’t chop them too fine, leave some good chunks.

Caramels

Now you’re ready to cook!  Using a nonstick (works much better for sticky caramel as it won’t stick to the bottom of your pan and burn) pot on medium high heat, add both sticks of butter and melt.  I like to melt the butter first before adding any other ingredients.  Once the butter is melted, dump in both sugars, condensed milk and corn syrup to pan and stir until combined.  Save out the vanilla and nuts.

Caramels

Bring to a boil and continue stirring.  Once boiling, add the candy thermometer to your pan.  If you don’t own one, it’s ok, skip this part.  Keep stirring…

Caramels

When it has been boiling for a good 10 minutes, you will notice it turning a darker brown.

Caramels

Start watching your thermometer and cooking to between “Soft Ball” and ”Firm Ball” or 244-246 degrees F. Mine is just about there…  I’m not a fan of caramels that pull my teeth out so this is where I cook it to.  If you like a firmer caramel, cook right up to “Firm Ball” or 2 degrees above, 248-250 degrees F.

Caramels

*Testing Caramels WITHOUT a Candy Thermometer- If you don’t own a candy thermometer, this is how you can test to see if your caramels are ready.  Get a small bowl or a short wide mouth cup that is big enough to put your hand in.  fill it with cold water and set to the side of your cooking caramel.  When your caramel starts turning color, pull a bit our with your stirring spoon and drip into the cold water.

Caramels

Move the caramel around with your fingers for a few seconds until it’s cool and pull it out.  If it holds shape and feels like the consistency you want in a caramel, it’s probably ready.  If it doesn’t hold shape, keep cooking and testing until you are satisfied.  It goes pretty quick, so you’ll want to “test” every couple minutes if not more.  Good thing though, every time you “test” you also get to taste!  It’s a bit messy, but kind of fun and yummy!  Even though I use a thermometer, my kids beg to “test” the caramels this way just like when I was a kid and got to be my mom’s “tester”.

Caramels

Now that your caramel is done (almost firm ball, or holds shape when cooled), take off heat and stir in vanilla and nuts.

Caramels

Pour into a lightly greased 9×13 pan (I like to use glass).  Let cool completely (4-6 hours).  I made a double batch, one with nuts and one without.  To do this, I poured half into a pan before adding the nuts, then stirred in the nuts and poured the second half into another pan.

Caramels

Let cool completely, 4-6 hours then cut into bite-size pieces and wrap.  I like to use waxed paper pieces, but you may also use plastic wrap.

Caramels

Now you can enjoy these little pieces of paradise and suddenly become everyone’s best friend if you decide to share the little puppies!  I hope you have fun making your own Homemade Caramels and let me know how they turn out.   I would love to hear from you!

Love to all!  ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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English Toffee Recipe

December 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Family & Friends, Food, Holidays & Special Events

Who Doesn’t Love English Toffee?

by Amy Trauntvein

English Toffee

The holidays are right around the corner and for me that means baking and lots of it, and homemade holiday candy tops the list!  Peanut butter balls, dipped pretzels, almond joys, and caramels, clusters, turtles….  But my favorite homemade treat is my grandma’s recipe of homemade English Toffee.  For years I  just let my mom and grandma make it while I enjoyed eating it thinking it was WAY too complicated and difficult to make, but then my husband and I found ourselves moving across the country with our then 3 (now 4) children and if I wanted any of this wonderfully delicious treat at Christmas time, it was now up to me to make it.  ACK!!  I thought for sure I was going to ruin it the first time I tried, but you know what?  It really was easier than I thought and it turned out perfect!  So now I’m going to give YOU the recipe and show you how you can make and enjoy your very own English Toffee and wow your friends with your culinary smarts!  And one other awesome thing about this recipe, you don’t need a candy thermometer to make it!  Score!  Ready?  Here we go!

English Toffee

  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup

Topping

  • 12 oz chocolate chips or good quality chocolate chopped up
  • 2 cups chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans) Purely optional.

Yes, 1 lb of butter is correct.  I never said it was light and healthy, did I? But there IS one secret to successful toffee and that is do not leave it alone.  Period.  You need stay at the stove because it must be constantly stirred and watched. If you think you can run upstairs and fold a load of laundry or go answer the phone while it cooks, before you know it, you’ve got a big burned mess.  It turns quickly and you need to be present.

First, you need to get your topping ready before you start cooking the toffee.  Chop the nuts, I used pecans for this recipe.  I chopped one cup more finely than the other for the topping.  One cup will go into the toffee (if you desire) and one cup will go on top of the toffee and chocolate.  Take one cup of nuts (the coarser chopped) and sprinkle onto an un-buttered cookie sheet

English Toffee

Chop up your chocolate and toss into a microwave safe bowl. Or if you are using chocolate chips, do nothing.  Here’s my chopped chocolate and the 5 lbs. of chocolate I buy every year to make candy.

English Toffee

My daughter wasn’t real happy about modeling it for me.  I really do go through almost all of it every Christmas making candy so it’s worth it to me to buy good quality chocolate.  No, we don’t eat it all ourselves.  I give most of my treats away to lucky recipients for the holidays!

English Toffee

Now you’re ready to start cooking!  Melt butter in a large non-stick pot on med/med high heat (do not brown).  Add sugar, water and corn syrup and mix well.

English Toffee
Bring to a rolling boil and continue stirring.  This is what is should look like.  I’m showing you so you can see the difference between the color of when it starts and and when it is finished…

English Toffee

Continue to boil while stirring until it turns the color of a brown paper bag (about 15 minutes).  See the bag and the toffee?  At this point it will start to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Let it cook for another 2 minutes stirring constantly.

English Toffee

Take off heat and pour onto the cookie sheet.  I forgot to sprinkle mine with the nuts so I poured them over the top and pressed them into the toffee.  It still worked just fine.

English Toffee

Now for the chocolate.  If you are using chocolate chips, just pour the chips evenly onto the hot toffee and let melt.  If you are using chopped chocolate, toss into the microwave and heat in 30 second increments on high while stirring in between until melted (it took me 60 seconds total).  Pour chocolate onto (still hot)toffee.  Spread chocolate evenly and top with remaining nuts.  Let cool completely.

English Toffee

Once cooled, break into pieces, enjoy the deliciousness and bask in the glow of the compliments you will receive!

English Toffee

Thanks for joining me and I hope this tutorial had helped you get over any qualms you may have about candy making. It really is easier than you may think!  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Love to all!  ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Nestle Celebrate The Season with Nestle #HolidayCandy #cbias

November 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, Holidays & Special Events

 Christmas Recipes with Nestle

by Amy Trauntvein

Ah the holidays…. with everything that the holidays come with, for me it means baking and lots of it!  Nestle asked me to head to my nearest Walmart and purchase their Nestle Butterfinger Jingles, Nestle Crunch Jingles and Nestle Spree Candy canes to try out a couple of new recipes.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

 

I was able to find all the holiday candy I needed quite easily at Walmart.  Spree Candy Canes…

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

Nestle Butterfinger Jingles on the bottom shelf.

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

And Nestle Crunch Jingles on the top shelf.

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

I needed to get a few other items that we were out of, and then headed home to do some holiday baking!

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

First, I decided to make Peanut Butter Sleigh Ride Bars

The kids snarfed them right down. Don’t they look scrumptious?  Would you  like the recipe?

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

Peanut Butter Sleigh Ride Bars

  • 30 NESTLÉ BUTTERFINGER Jingles, unwrapped
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Beat brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour and baking soda.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

 Stir in Nestlé Jingles and press dough into 9-inch-square baking pan, distributing Nestlé Jingles evenly.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.
NOTE: Try substituting NESTLÉ Milk Chocolate Jingles.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

The next recipe is one I came up with using the Nestle Milk Chocolate Crunch Jingles.

Nestle Crunch Krispie Twirls 

Would you like the recipe for this one too?

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

 Nestle Crunch Krispy Twirls

  • 2 bags Nestle Crunch Milk Chocolate Jingles unwrapped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups crisped rice cereal

Pour sugar and corn syrup into saucepan and stir together.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

 Cook on Med-Med high heat until boiling.  Let boil for one minute.  Take off heat and add peanut butter and vanilla and stir until smooth.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Pour peanut butter mixture into cereal and mix well.  Dump it all onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet and press evenly.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Put Jingles into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds and stir, heat 30 seconds more and stir again.  If not all melted, microwave at 15 second intervals stirring in between until melted.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Pour melted chocolate onto pan and spread evenly.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Wait 5-7 minutes to cool a bit and then start rolling, using the wax paper to help your roll stay together.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Wrap roll with the wax paper you used or get a clean sheet of plastic wrap.  Either will do.  Let cool completely, at least 2 hours.  When cooled, the chocolate should be hardened and will hold the roll together.  Cut slices and serve.  Kids enjoys these treats as they can just grab and go, plus they look cool!

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Nestle has some great Holiday Baking recipes at http://nestleseasonalrecipes.com/ rel=”no follow”

 

Love to all and Happy Holidays!  ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Year Supply of Trident Gum Giveaway!

November 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, Reviews & Giveaways

Trident Gum- Giveaway

by Amy Trauntvein

Trident Gum

Hi, my name is Amy and  I’m a sugarless gum addict. There, I said it.  I feel much better.  However, it’s not going to keep me from my gum!   I love sugarless chewing gum and keep at least 3 different packs in my purse (for variety of course!).   Having fresh clean breath  is important to me, and my friends appreciate it too.   I also love that Trident contains Xylitol and not aspartame, which in my opinion, is healthier for me.  So when Trident asked if they could send me some gum AND do a giveaway to one lucky reader, I said “yes please”!

Trident wants to give you a year supply of gum to one of you, our readers.  Here’s why…

Believe it or not, tooth decay affects approximately half of all second graders and nearly 80 percent of 17-year-olds, but according to a survey by Trident, more than 84 percent of American parents don’t realize this.

Trident’s survey also showed that more than nine in ten (92%) parents believe that cavities in children are preventable; yet getting a child to take care of their teeth can be difficult for 86 percent of parents. To help get the word out about keeping your kids teeth in tip top shape, here are some helpful tips below to help keep kids’ mouths happy and healthy!

Brush 

Remind children to brush their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time, using a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Eat

Foods such as fruits, vegetables and cheese help build strong healthy teeth and gums. Try chewing a sugar free gum, like Trident, after eating to help fight cavities.

Floss

Children should gently floss once a day to remove food that can get stuck between their teeth.

Avoid 

Try to avoid overindulging in sticky and sugary foods. When kids do have a special treat (especially during the holidays), make sure they brush and floss afterwards.

Routine

Remember to get regular dental check-ups. The more you help kids incorporate healthy oral care habits in their everyday life, the more they will as adults.

Trident Gum

To Enter Giveaway-

Contest ends…

Winner will be announced…

Good luck to all, and happy chewing!  I know I am…

Win a One Year Supply of Sugarfree Trident® Gum!

You can win the same amount of gum that Amy shows in the picture! Hoot! I know she was excited when she opened her box to review! The contest ends on 11/30/12 at 12:01am.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I was compensated with the product for the giveaway.  The pictures and opinions are honest and my own.  ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Tips To Prepare For Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Will Run Smooth If Your Prepared

The last thing we want to be doing on Thanksgiving day is running around trying to figure out how to accomplish things, because we didn’t plan ahead.

Planning ahead of time makes it possible to borrow or buy the things you need.  Need more chairs or card tables to set things up? This is a good time to ask family  or neighbors if they have what you need.  You might find you need baking dishes, freezer space, extra dishes, oven space – you want to plan this all out ahead of time.

Using labels can help you in your pre-Thanksgiving Day preparations.  To have your Thanksgiving day move smoothly, planning needs to be done ahead of time.

One way to make things move smoothly is to use this idea from Good Housekeeping.  When you set your table, or get out your serving dishes – label them. Use a non-sticky note card and label what is going to go in the dish and make sure you have a serving utensil to go with it.

It makes it very easy for anyone to help you when it comes time to fill the dishes.

thanksgiving organizing

Good Housekeeping

Thanksgiving Day Tips for Planning Ahead

  • Make sure you have enough seating for all your guests
  • Make sure you have all the place settings you need, plates, silverware, glassware.
  • Make sure you have the necessary serving dishes and utensils.
  • Have all your recipes gathered together
  • Make sure you have all the necessary ingredients for your recipes
  • See if there are any recipes that can be made ahead of time.
  • Be sure you have enough refrigerator space (you may need to ask a neighbor for extra space)
  • Write out a schedule of times as to when you need to put each item into cook/bake so that all your food is finished and warm for the meal.
  • Write out place cards ahead of time and have your tables set up and ready to go.
  • Plan any Thanksgiving day activities, so your guests aren’t bored while you are in the kitchen

I also love this idea of making notecards noting what each item is. We can’t always assume your guests will know what your dishes are. They might be something that is very familiar to us, but something completely new to a guest. They might wonder, but wouldn’t want seem rude to ask. This is especially important if you have any guest that might have some kind of food allergy. In that case, find out what that allergy is, and make a note if it is allergy free for that guest.

thanksgiving

Good Housekeeping

Simple steps like this can help your Thanksgiving day meal go smoother.  Being prepared and thinking through things ahead of time will make your day much easier.  It also makes it possible for more people to be able to assist you in the kitchen to prepare the meal.

Here are a couple more of my posts from Thanksgivings past.

Organizing for Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving Is About Being Thankful - 2010

Organizing for Thanksgiving Dinner – 2009

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How to Organize Your Coupons

November 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, How To Organize, Paper, Sales, Shopping, Stores

Organizing Coupons Continued…

by Amy Trautvein

Today we are going to talk about clipping coupons, when to pull out expired, and how to organize a shopping trip with your coupon binder.  Are you as excited as I am?  Good!

I only get one Sunday paper, believe it or not.  I don’t want to spend hours cutting coupons and I can get some great coupons on the internet anyway to help bulk up my binder a bit and get some coupons that you won’t see in the Sunday ads.  Every Sunday night, or Monday morning I pull out the coupon inserts, have a seat on my couch, turn on the TV and cut away.  As I’m cutting, I stack the coupons into my categories so it saves much time putting them into my binder.  A must do! Here are my coupons after they ‘ve all been cut and are ready to be filed.  Classy, huh!?coupons
REALITY CHECK:  Do NOT clip every coupon that is printed. Only clip coupons for products you regulary use, would like to buy if it was on sale, and/or are willing to try.  If you’re not sure, say to yourself, “Would I buy this if it was a steal?”  If your answer is yes, then clip it.  I don’t have babies in the house anymore, so why clip coupons for baby products?  I don’t drink coffee, so I obviously pass by the coffee coupons, there are certain products (that I won’t name) that I’ve tried and not enjoyed, and even if it were a steal I wouldn’t waste my time so those get trashed too.  I know it’s just common sense, but I’ve talked to a lot of people to clip every coupon that is in the insert.  Don’t, just don’t.

Internet coupons are great, but it can be overwhelming.  There are SO many places you can go.  My suggestion is to pick your 2 favorite coupon sites and just stick with those.  My top favorite is coupon.com. They have a wide range of coupons from grocery to nonfoods and you don’t have to give your name, address, phone number, first born to print them, and it’s free.  You are also allowed to print up to 2 of each one you want.  I’m not a huge fan of clipping services because you are having to PAY for coupons to then save you money?  Plus like I said, I’m not a shelf clearer and don’t recommend it either. Why would somone need 50 coupons of ketchup?  Here are my internet coupons from this week.  They reset and add new coupons at the beginning of the month so that’s why I have such a stack for this week.  They had some good ones this time.  :)couponsNow back to filing your coupons into your binder…  Just start at the front of your binder and go to your first category, mine is the breakfast asile.  Before  you add any new coupons, go through that section and pull any expired ones.  Then add your new coupons into any empty slots. Do this every week!  It saves time in the long run and saves you from trying to use a coupon that expired a week ago at the reigister.  No need to organize by expiration date.  That adds TONS of time shuffling all your coupons up to the front and adding new ones to the back and doing it all over again week after week.  Remember, you only have 2-4 pages in each section to go through.  Why create more work for yourself?  See how nice and pretty?  coupons
*One other thing I do that is a good idea:  As I’m putting coupons in my binder I keep a sitcky note list of high value coupons that I want to use, but the product may not be in any of your sale ads.  That way, while you’re at the store, it’s easy to take a look at those products, see what the price is and decide, at the store, if they are worth using that day.  My rule: it needs to be more than half off for me to consider, OR just a really great coupon that I don’t want to forget about.  I then put the sticky note on my list for easy reference.

Now you can go through your store adds for the week and compare with the coupons you’ve got.  As you find coupons to use on sale items, pull them out and paper clip them together.  I only do 2 grocery stores and one drug store.  That’s as much as I can handle without having to run around alot.  Also, some weeks are way better than others.  If I find that I’ve only found 2 or 3 good deals for a store, I scratch it and don’t even go.  It’s not worth my time and gas to only save on a couple items.

First, I list how many items I want to get, then I list the product, next the sale price, then my coupon amount (double it if your store doubles coupons, which mine do) and then the final price.  Once you’ve gone through all your ads, put your list into the front of your binder for east reference and marking off as you put it in your cart.  Here’s what it all should look like.  My list of “on sale” products with coupons and final prices, my sticky note of high value coupons, and my paper clipped piles of coupons I know I will be using this week.  Just keep those in the front pocket of your binder.coupons
**Don’t forget about digital coupons either.  Most stores let you add electronic coupons from their website to your store card AND they let you also use a paper coupon fro the same item!  Double the savings!  The only store I know of that does NOT do this is Kroger, but check your stores coupon policy just to be sure.  Also, some stores let you combine a store coupon and a manufacture coupon together for ONE item (CVS, Target to name a couple), also double the savings!  So yes, please check their coupon policy, you may be missing out on saving even more than you thought!

Now you are ready to shop and save!  And be organized so you can save time AND money!  Just remember, this is what works for me.  You may need to do some tweaking for what works for you.  There’s no one right way to do it, just do it!  Let me know how you coupon, I’d love to hear from you!

Love to all!  ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Coupon Organization

November 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, How To Organize, Sales, Shopping, Stores

Organizing Your Coupons

by Amy Trauntvein

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I love, live and breathe coupons.  Even though I have been couponing for over 20 years, I am not what some people call an Extreme Couponer.  I do not keep stacks of coupon inserts nor do I clear shelves.  I coupon to save money, and yes, slowly add to my stock of food and nonfood items in my home.  I wouldn’t call it a stockpile either, just some extras to have on hand when I get a great deal so I don’t have to buy it at full price when we run out.  And if I find that I’m starting to “pile” my stock, I spread the love by donating items to various organizations and/or give away to friends who can use it.

So let’s start organizing those coupons!  For years, I used an accordion coupon organizer and thought it was great, but it took me a LONG time to grocery shop since every time I wanted to grab something off the shelf, I had to pull out the pile from one section and sift through it all to find the one coupon I thought I might have, but couldn’t remember.  It finally came time to swtich over to the binder system.  Here’s my lovely binder…Coupon Organization
When looking for a binder, it MUST have a zipper closure and a handle.  Ease for carrying and also, if you drop it (like me), you won’t have coupons flying everywhere.  Been there done that. I found mine at Staples for around $12, but you can buy one at most places that have a school supply aisle. The next thing you need is a zippered pencil pouch.  Enclosed I keep a calculator, pencils, and paper clips.  The front pouch on the left holds general store coupons that don’t really belong in any of my categories (example: $5 off $50 grocery purchase).Coupon Organization
The next essential supply you need for your coupon binder are Tab Dividers.

REALITY CHECK: I actually had a bunch of tab dividers from school supply shopping for my kids so I just used those.  Some were used but still in great condition and they don’t match, but it’s ok!  You don’t need to go spend a bunch of money just to make it look cute when you’re trying to save money!  Use what you’ve got and then purchase only if you have to.  Notice mine don’t even match.  Some are solid colors while the ones in the back have designs.  Truthfully, this helps me find the category faster since I know what all my nonfood category tab dividers look like.  :)Coupon Organization
Finally you need Baseball card inserts. You can find these and any discount store (Walmart, Target etc) wherever they sell baseball cards. Just ask any associate, they’ll point the way. You can usually find boxes of 25-30 pages for around $5. This is what keeps your coupons nice and clutter free!  Can you tell mine are well used?Coupon Organization
When putting your coupons in, many times they need to be folded to fit.  Just try to fold it so you can easily see, 1. the product 2. the amount off 3. the expiration date.  If its too big, just do your best.  Many of my coupons are folded so #1 and #2 are on the front, but #3 is on the back, but it’s ok because you can just flip the page to see the exp. date on the back.  Also, one great thing about these pages is that you are constantly looking at all your coupons so it is easier to remember if you have a coupon for a certain item.  It’s amazing what you remember when you are looking at them all the time!  Here is what it should look like once your coupons are in.Coupon Organization
Now…What categories do you choose for your dividers?  I have 19 different categories.  I have chosen to divide my categories into “aisles” meaning, how the grocery store aisles are usually set up.  That way, as I’m heading down an aisle, I normally only need to open up one category and flip through 2-4 pages of coupons.  I know some people have a tab divider for EVERYTHING like; (Breakfast aisle) cold cereal, hot cereal, granola bars, fruit snacks, on-the-go breakfast bars/pouches for 1 aisle so they are flipping through 5 categories in 1 aisle!  I just keep all “breakfast aisle” coupons in one section.  Remember, I’m still only having to look through 2-4 pages instead of 1-2 pages of 5 categories! Plus, by dividing everything up in the sub categories you have even more dividers and baseball card inserts you have to flip through and it makes your binder thicker and heavier with all those extra pages.  Just simplify, please.  Here are the categories that I use and work for me.

1. Breakfast/Fruit Snacks/Granola

2. Fruit/Vegetables/Juices ( includes fresh produce)

3. Cookies/Chips/Crackers

4. Condiments/Soup/Dinners (Mac & Cheese, Box Potatoes etc.)

5. Baking/PB&J/Breads

6. Inernational foods

7. Frozen

8. Deli/Dairy/Meat (basically the refrigerated section)

9. Candy/Nuts and Popcorn/Drinks

10. Paper Products (includes sanitary items)

11. Cleaning Supplies

12. Laundry

13. Pets

14. Body (Lotion, Shaving men and women, shower gel etc.)

15. Hair (shampoo, style)

16. Face (makeup, contact soluction, face wash, fingernail polish since it is with makeup)

17. Meds/First Aid (includes vitamins)

18. Teeth

19. Office supplies/Clothing/Misc. (include batteries)

Work with the categories and adjust to what works for you or how your favorite stores are set up.  It took me a few months of moving coupons here and there and creating new and taking out hardly used categories.  These 19 work great for me!

In the very back of my binder I keep a copy of my favorite stores’ coupon policies.  Very nice to have on hand when you need to win an argument with a checkout employee who is not familiar with their policies.  I’ve been glad I’ve had them for a few occasions.  Just to the stores website and you can find a link to  their printable coupon policy near the bottom of the home page.  If not, just use their “seach” box at the top.  Keep updated around twice a year and reprint the new policies as needed.Coupon Organization

One other “coupon divider” I do still use for my purse is a small accordion coupon folder for those stores that I DON’T need to haul my binder in with, but I DO have a coupon for.  Clothing stores, for example.

Coupon Organization

This little one also holds any gift card I have, and any TOTALLY FREE coupons (that aren’t for groceries) I need to use.  I’ve found they can get kind of lost in my big binder and forgotten since I don’t want to carry my big binder into clothing stores etc.  Notice my pile of CVS Extra Care Bucks! Those are like cash so I keep them in my little binder right in the front so I don’t forget about them and can see them and their expiration date clearly.  I keep the FREE coupons in the front also according to expiration date.  And then other coupons in the other sections.Coupon Organization
I hope this post has gotten you converted to a binder system if you haven’t switched yet.  It’s not that hard, and in the end, it WILL save you time AND money!  Later this week I will do a post on coupon clipping, when to pull expired coupons and which coupons you should and shouldn’t clip and more.  Stay Tuned…..! Love to all! ~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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