Archives for October 2010

DIY Christmas Gift: Plant Paperwhites

How to Force Paperwhite Bulbs

Forcing Paperwhite bulbs is an incredibly easy Do-It-Yourself and Do-It-Ahead Christmas gift you can do now to have beautiful blooms in the middle of the Holiday Season.

I’ve put together this short video to show you exactly how quick and inexpensive this can be! I’ll show you how the total cost of one gift is about $5!

Now that you know how to plant, or force, paperwhite bulbs, you need to care for them for the next 6 weeks until they bloom!

How to Care for Paperwhites

  • Bulbs are planted with the pointed side up on top of a layer of stones.
  • Fill container with water just to the point where it hits the bottom of the bulb.
  • Keep the bulbs in a place where they get moderate light.
  • Check bulbs daily to make sure water level stays just at the bottom of the bulb. Water as needed.
  • The bulbs will grow very tall and may require support to prevent them from toppling over.

Easy to give as gifts and really beautiful ~ you may want to plant a few for yourself!

Looking for more inspiration? It’s not too late to make my Vodka Cherry Bounce! Just use a bag of frozen cherries!

Supermarket Strategies: Commissary Shopping

Before I became coupon savvy, I went to the commissary weekly thinking I was getting the very best prices on everything. I’ve since learned a thing or two about how to best take advantage of my commissary privileges, and they are all right here on this week’s:

First, the commissary prohibits publication of any of its prices to the public. That is why you can’t (or shouldn’t!) find coupon match-ups online.

But, there is a way to plan out your commissary trip to maximize your savings.

If you have commissary privileges, you’ll want to go to You’ll need to log-in with the sponsor’s social security number, but you’ll be able to see what items are on sale, so you can plan what coupons you’ll want to bring. This site even allows you to search by installation!

By keeping a Price List, you’ll soon be able to recognize what sale items are true bargains and good buys!

One of the best benefits to commissary shopping? By far, the commissary has one of the best coupon policies out there because it allows OVERAGE! What is overage? If you have a coupon that is for MORE than the cost of the item, the commissary gives you the full value of the coupon! Therefore, if you have a $2 coupon, and can find the item for less than $2 – you still get the full $2 off your purchases! No adjusting coupons down!

I always look for high value coupons that I can use at the commissary. For example, look at this coupon:

First, it is worth $2! That is what I mean by high value.

Next, notice I circled the word ANY. That means you can apply this coupon to ANY size Pad or Cleansing Cloth. Look for the smallest size, and there is a good chance with a coupon worth $2 that you can find a product that will give you OVERAGE!

Another great part of the commissary? Many companies issue Military Store coupons for exclusive use in the commissary!

As you can see, this coupon can only be spent at the commissary. Want to find more commissary exclusive coupons? Head to These coupons can usually be found at the front of your commissary.The same couponing principles apply to these coupons. Hold on to them and wait for a sale!

Another site you’ll want to head to is Right now, Kraft Foods is offering a $2/2 Kraft/Nabisco printable coupon for military shoppers! You should be able to print this coupon twice! This should net you something incredibly cheap, if not FREE!

Finally, if you are looking to buy more organics and natural foods, I’d definitely start at the commissary! We can buy things there on a regular basis that are considered FANTASTIC buys in a regular grocer. For the best evidence of that – check prices on Organic Maple Syrup. I do a little happy dance in the aisle each time I get to buy it at the commissary – the price is that good!

Are you a commissary shopper? Is there anything I missed that other commissary shoppers should know about this great military benefit?

Linked up to The Coupon Teacher.

Butternut Squash Risotto

I had to share my lunch today with you. Right now the key ingredient – butternut squash – is in season, which makes it the perfect season for Butternut Squash Risotto!

I actually made this for dinner tonight, but since it is a double volleyball game, running to two different schools, getting home late and hungry kinda day – I made it early and will just reheat it with some additional broth over low. But after I made it, I couldn’t resist. I had to have some for lunch!

While hearty enough to stand on its own, I’m planning on serving it with Pork Tenderloin cooked on the grill and a tossed salad made with sliced apples and dried cranberries. Anyone free for dinner?

The best part? All of these ingredients will last for months in your pantry, so you can buy the ingredients now to have on hand for risotto later!

Winter Squash such as Butternut Squash can be stupid hard to peel. So first, let me tell you how I easily peel and chop a squash.

How to Easily Peel and Chop Butternut Squash

Heat your oven to 450. Roast the whole butternut squash for 10 minutes. Just toss the sucker in as is! Remove from oven and peel, remove seeds and chop into 2″ pieces.

Ta-Da! No superhero strength required! On to the recipe!

Butternut Squash Risotto


  • 2 C Organic Chicken Broth or Homemade Organic Chicken Broth
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 small Shallot
  • 1 lb Butternut Squash, Peeled and chopped into 2" pieces
  • 1 C Arborio Rice
  • 1/2 C Sherry
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese


  1. On stovetop, heat 2 cups chicken broth with 2 cups water. Reserve.
  2. In second pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallots and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add butternut squash, season with salt and pepper, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add rice and stir for 1 minute. Add sherry and cook until it evaporates.
  3. Start adding the reserved chick broth mixture by 1 cupfuls to the squash and rice. Cook, stirring continuously until liquid is absorbed. Continuing adding broth mixture by 1 cupfuls until all the liquid is absorbed. This will take about 30 - 40 minutes.
  4. Serve Butternut Squash Risotto with grated Parmesan and additional pepper.


If you want to skip the step where you have to peel your own butternut squash, buy frozen or buy it peeled from Costco!

Supermarket Strategies: Budgeting

What does your grocery budget look like? What are your priorities when developing your budget? That’s the topic of this week’s

Do you have an actual grocery budget? How do you decide what you will buy each week? As I’ve talked before, I’m trying to feed my family a Green Diet for $15/day. That actually comes out to about $115/week. That seems like a lot compared to what some of the “Extreme” grocery shoppers are spending per week. But let’s compare.

How much can $20 buy you?

First, I went to Albertsons. This week they have a Quaker coupon in their flier for $3/5 qualifying Quaker purchases. That made the instant oatmeal only $1/box. With just a little over $20 I bought 15 boxes of Instant Oatmeal and 5 large containers of Rolled Oats (which were more expensive at $1.40).

This morning my daughter said to me that she would be happy if she could only eat oatmeal every day! Be careful what you wish for, right?

I went to Sunflower Farmer’s Market to buy my produce. I purposefully went there because they tend to advertise some of the lowest prices on produce. When I shop, I strive to get anything organic that is at a good price. This is what I bought:

5 lbs of Organic Apples

2 lbs Pears

1/2 lb Sugar Peas

Bag of Organic Carrots

2 lbs Grapes

1 Head Organic Lettuce

1 Red Pepper

2 Oranges

1 Organic Spring Salad Mix

2 lbs Bananas

The difference? The sugar peas are already gone. I will probably need to get more apples and bananas by Sunday, and I will be completely out of produce by Monday (as long as the pears ripen).

As for the instant oatmeal? It will last us the winter. I bought this for comparison purposes – although we will happily eat it.

I think the difference in $20 is apparent. $20 in produce doesn’t buy you as much and is gone in a week.  $20 in instant oatmeal is food that you can feed you for a season!

It’s a matter of looking at your regular spending habits, figuring out where your priorities are, and being smart about combining sales with coupons to get the most for your dollar on the foods that you can, so you can still afford to buy the foods that are a priority for you.

Are you buying food just because you can get it for super cheap? Are you addicted to doing the deals? (I’ll admit I get absolutely giddy when I get a really good deal!) Do you buy conventional food? Or do you only buy organics?

As I prepare my family’s budget, I try to buy as much fresh produce weekly as possible. At a minimum, I set aside $20. I’m hoping that as my stockpile grows, I can increase that even more.

Our current budget looks a lot like this:

$20+/week produce

$20/week organic dairy

$20/week meats and organic eggs (buying what’s on special)

$7/week bread buying only 100% whole grains

The rest goes to stockpiling what is on special and other home good expenses such as laundry detergent and the like. Most weeks I come in at $115 or less.

How about you? What are your priorities? What drives your family’s spending?