Sunday, December 19, 2010

Favorite Things: Best. Hand. Cream. Ever.

Make sure Santa slips this into your stocking. I am not joking when I say it is the best hand cream I've ever used! It lasts all day, has a pleasing scent, and a little goes a long way. What more could you ask for?

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What's your favorite cheap and cheerful beauty product?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Favorite Things: Are the 1990s back?

I had this skirt in 1990! I should have kept it. Oh well, maybe I will just buy a new one! Preppy really never goes out of style so it would be a good investment.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What trend from your "youth" is back on the scene?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Deal of the Day: Got Wii?

Should we get Wii? Or is the next best thing just around the corner? Discuss.

Deal of the Day? The black Wii bundle is selling for $177 on Amazon with free shipping.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Favorite Things: Feeling crafty?

I admire crafty people. I wish I could be more crafty. Someday, I'd love to be able to make adorable banners like these. Until then, I will buy one from a craftier person!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Are you crafty?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Looks like I'll need to take my walking shoes on my Christmas "vacation" because I plan to eat a few of these. The Betty Crocker website has way too many yummy choices! Maybe I better stop checking the page every day?

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup water

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk, if necessary

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Place paper baking cup in each of 16 medium muffin cups, 2 1/2 x 11/4 inches.

2. Beat sugar, butter, molasses and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and water.

3. Spoon 3 tablespoons batter into each muffin cup.

4. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely; about 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, lemon peel, cinnamon and vanilla with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar on low speed until smooth. Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time for desired consistency.

6. Pipe or spread a generous amount of frosting on top of each muffin. Store covered in refrigerator.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Deck the Halls

Who doesn't love a fresh evergreen wreath on their front door during the holidays? Would you like one for free? You're in luck! I know a great way to get one for free.

First, gather together the following "free products" -- clippings from the bottom of your Christmas tree and some household or floral wire.

Add a little "elbow grease". Then, stick on random, leftover pincones and holly from your Christmas decor box. Grab a nice ribbon from your wrapping paper box.

Don't forget to tell your husband who put it all together, "Thanks Honey! You're the best".

Want proof? See the picture. That's what I call cheap and cheerful.

Total savings: up to $50. (See similar decor here.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Charity: Five Great Groups

'Tis the season to share. I feel blessed to have learned about each deserving group from a friend or family member. If you've got some holiday cheer to share, here are five great groups that will gladly take your love (and funds!) and share it well.

1. The Trevor Project

2. Reece's Rainbow

3. The Annika Kelly Strain Foundation

4. Jenna and Patrick's Foundation of Hope

5. Jesuit Volunteer Corps

Here's an idea -- Instead of the typical stocking stuffers, pick a charity above to support and place a note in your loved one's stocking letting them know you donated on their behalf.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Deal of the Day: New Jamie Lee Curtis Book

I haven't read this book yet but I know it will be great! Our whole family loves all of her other titles. The illustrations are fresh and fun in all of her stories and the moral lessons are sweet and straighforward. If you're "helping" your kids shop for the holidays, this would make a great gift from them to you! After all, a gift that leads to more cuddles and quiet time is perfect for everyone. Plus, it is 42% off -- you can get the hardcover version for less than $10!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: If you have kids, do they buy you a gift for Christmas? And if so, how do they shop for this gift?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Deal of the Day: A Secret Gift

I watched an amazing CBS Sunday Morning piece on this book. It has moved up to the top of my holiday gift list! And, to make a great gift even more Cheap and Cheerful, it is 38% off the list price on Amazon. Curl up with a true and inspiring story this holiday and feel the real spirit of the season.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What was your favorite book from 2010?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Rockin' S'More Bars from Family Fun

I know it's Cyber Monday. But, for some reason, I am thinking more about holiday baking than holiday shopping. I saw these bars in a free magazine called Family Fun that we started getting after buying a book on Amazon. I know two kids who've been carrying around the magazine for days and asking when we can make these bars. I'm thinking it might have to be this weekend while we decorate our Christmas tree.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup crushed graham crackers
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 (1.55-ounce) chocolate bars
1 (7-ounce) jar of marshmallow creme

Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Add the crushed graham crackers, flour, salt, and baking powder and beat until well mixed, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Spoon half the dough into the pan and spread evenly with your fingertips. Break the chocolate into pieces and arrange over the dough. Spread a layer of marshmallow creme over the chocolate. Flatten the remaining dough into pancakes and lay them over the marshmallow.

Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let the bars cool before serving.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Deal of the Day: $10 Off Lands' End Down Vest

Get this down vest for just $24.50 until November 30. I have a black one and wear it almost every day because it is lightweight but also warm and cozy. With so many fun colors to choose, it might be hard to get just one more! I might have to get a plaid one and get this red fleece top for underneath.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Which color would you choose?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- Week 3

I have been so, so busy so I sent Mr. Cheap and Cheerful to Safeway for me this week! He gets an A+ for sticking to the list and saving almost $19 by taking advantage of Club Card specials. He spent $45.07 total and we will only need one fill-in trip to get us through the 3 more days this month that we'll be at home. It looks like we'll make the $300 cut this month but I imagine many of you are hosting Thanksgiving and we're not; I am sure November can get more expensive than most months.

We're making soup again this week, eating up our eggs and potatoes in a frittata, and also having pasta, tacos/burritos, and salami and sundried tomato pizza for dinners.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What is your favorite homemade soup? (We love pea soup and rosemary and white bean. Yum!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Deal of the Day: Where's Waldo?

My son has been asking for a globe. I found this one at 50% off. It's a smaller globe which is perfect for my son's smallish bedroom. So, if Santa brings the world to our house, we can play a 3D game of Where's Waldo which the kids adore. Hey, I need to brush up on geography myself so this will be a great gift for the entire family.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Are there any educational toys on your holiday lists this year?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Deal of the Day: Best Prices All Year for Hanna Andersson

If you love Hannas, now is the time to buy! Every year, they have the best markdowns on some of their classic items during these last weeks in November.

These dresses with leggings are virtually indestructible! $11 off the dress and $7 off the leggings. If you're looking for a fun gift for under $35 dollars, check out these colorful rugby sweaters -- $18 off!

Santa needs to do some looking around now -- catch you later, faithful readers!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What are your favorite sources for cozy, well made clothes?

Favorite Things: Silly Slippers

My kids beg me for slippers all of the time. Then, when I tell them we should go pick out a pair, they balk and say they don't want them. So I spend a lot of time looking at slippers that my kids love to look at but would never put on their cold little feet. But I thought I'd share some of the cheap and cheerful options I've found with you in case Santa is looking for some for his sleigh.

* Cupcake slippers from Children's Place (There is an adorable matching robe!)

* Hello Kitty slippers from Target

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What fun slippers (for any age) have you found?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Favorite Things: A Gift Tradition

Sometimes the rush of the holidays can shift our focus from less is more to more is better. We forget to simplify and get swept away by sales, deals, and stretch our budgets more than necessary. After all, the season is very much about magical surprises and unflinching generosity. But special gifts don't have to be complicated; after all, the love behind the gift is the most important and magical part.

I've got one idea that can make your holiday shopping simpler and more focused; I call it a gift tradition. Instead of rushing around to find the perfect scarf for her, the best tie for him, or the toy with all the tiny parts for your godson, why not get everyone on your list the same thing? Pick a hardcover book for each person, write a hearfelt note in the cover, wrap and give! Or maybe you'd rather pick a special ornament or holiday decoration each year? Got a sweet tooth? Hit up your favorite treat vendor and get something for everyone! Or maybe everyone on your list needs a pair of Tom's shoes? (My twin sister gets credit for that idea!)

Below are a few book suggestions that just might work for everyone on your list. Each selection is under $16!

* Gregory Boyle's Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion is the lastest offering from the Jesuit priest who founded and runs Homeboy/Homegirl Industries in Los Angeles. All proceeds from book sales support the gang intervention programs which are making such a huge impact in East LA.

* Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer is written by Nancy Brinker of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Laugh, cry, and learn about this important cause.

* Who can resist classic, comforting recipes? Check out the newest book -- Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten (and it is 50% off)!

* This collection of legends, illustrated by Tomie dePaola, is a favorite at our house. The beautiful pictures are interesting enough for a toddler and the stories are great for emerging readers.

* This final suggestion -- a collection of travel photos by the creators of Lonely Planet -- costs a little more but who doesn't love an amazing coffee table book.

Imagine going into one bookstore or visiting one online bookseller and being 100% done with your holiday shopping. Not only cheap and cheerful, but also merry and bright!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Do you have a gift tradition? Or, if you were to start one, what one cool item would you pick?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- Week Two

I am happy to report that Operation (More) Organics was mostly a success. I purchased organic lettuce, apples, chives, carrots, peas, onions, chicken broth, milk, cheese, and yogurt and my grocery bill was only about 12% more than I anticipated spending.

My total for the week was $88.43. When you consider that I did not have to shop for one of my weekly dinners (lasagna), you can add that to your total spending but still come in under $100 for the week for the meals I planned.

For those taking the grocery challenge, please share your savings stories. Maybe $300 a month is too severe for your family but I know you are discovering new ways to stretch your grocery dollar and I'd love to hear them.

Also, I've got $124 left for November but we're staying with family for the week of Thanksgiving. Most likely, we'll spend less than $300 this month and coming in under budget would be great; I could use the money for treats on the Thanksgiving road trip, roll the money over into December for special holiday treats, or use it towards postage for our Christmas cards. How would you spend the extra cash?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Grocery Game: How to spend less than $100 a week

Let the grocery makeovers begin! This month, I will be giving some guidance to friends and blog readers who want to save some cash in their grocery budget. Over the next few weeks, I will give each chosen reader some specific advice on how to stretch their dollar for their own specific food needs and family size. But, if you want the basics on how to spend less than $100 per week on all of your food for four people, read on!

Here are your four weekly steps --

Step One: Do an inventory of pantry and fridge items.
Step Two: Create a menu for the week and make a grocery list based on that menu.
Step Three: Cross check your list with existing paper and electronic coupons, plus Club Card specials
Step Four: Only do one shopping trip per week (and stick to your list!)

Here's my version for this week of each step --

Step One: My pantry and fridge items include orzo, chicken broth, butternut squash, three frozen sourdough baguettes, five potatoes, one dozen eggs, oatmeal, raisins, flour, sour cream, six yogurts, one ball of mozzarella, one container of ricotta, lasagna noodles, frozen ground beef, lots of tomato sauce and tomato paste, and other odds and ends.

Step Two: Our dinners for the week are Ina's Pea Soup, Giada's White Bean and Tuna Salad, the famous Ferrara lasagna (which we never made last week), risotto with butternut squash, and other odds and ends like leftover chili and cornbread from tonight's dinner, homemade pizza (the kids' favorite meal), and black bean and cheese burritos, etc. We'll stock up on green salad items, fruit, granola, yogurt, and wheat bread, too. We'll also bake some Oatmeal Raisin cookies.

Note: I will be able to add more organic products this week because Safeway has its own line, O Organics, that work into these menu items such as chicken broth, frozen peas, cheddar cheese, butter, and milk. I'll also check which organic fresh fruits and veggies look good this week.

Budget Tip: We usually do one pasta, one soup, one pizza, one meat, and one - two "leftovers" nights for dinner. Then one night we have something super simple like panini or cold pasta salad or even breakfast for dinner such as waffles, smoothies, or eggs!

Step Three: First, I double check Safeway's Just 4 U for clipless coupons and to view the Club Card specials. I've usually already looked at the list as I am doing my inventory to help me brainstorm how to maximize my deals. Once I've loaded all of the coupons on to my Club Card, I am ready to go shopping.

Budget Tip: Using a Club Card saves me at least 25% every time I go to the store. I am interested to see what my savings margin will be when I pick more Safeway O Organics products.

Step Four: I plan my menu and write my shopping list on Sunday nights and shop on Monday mornings. By going to the store only once per week, I make myself eat what we've purchased and avoid wasting food or exceeding my budget because I am not allowing myself to spend money on additional trips.

Budget Tip: Share your list with your spouse or a friend if you need to be held accountable for sticking to your list. Then, save your weekly receipts and you can review them at the end of the month to better assess if you are sticking to your overall grocery budget.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What is your favorite, affordable dinner for a family of four?

Buy This, Not That: Snow Bibs

Since we live close to Lake Tahoe, but the kids aren't yet skiing, we only visit the snow two or three times per winter. Some friends in the know recommended buying the Circo and Cherokee snow bibs. I snagged two pairs yesterday; the toddler size sells for $12.99 and the youth size retails for $16.99. Snow bibs on Lands' End and L.L. Bean cost $50. So if your kids are growing fast and you love to play in the snow, I'd recommend checking out this Cheap and Cheerful deal. They look to be good quality and fit nicely when the kids tried them on. They also have snow board style pants for $17.99 in sizes 4/5 and up. If you're looking for a pair to get you through one (or two) season(s), run to your nearest Target as I imagine deal hunters will scoop up these items quickly. But the best part -- I've got plenty of money left over for some new hats and gloves which we also need before we head to the winter wonderland.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Where do you buy your cold weather gear?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Gift Closet Guru

I am looking for a guest blogger. Is it you? Are you a gift closet guru? Do you have a closet or drawer of cheap and cheerful go-to gifts that you use all year? If so, I need your help. I'd like to feature gift closet finds each month. Come on, I know you're out there!

While I wait for you to let me know of your mad gift closet stashing skills, check out the adorable wallet pictured above. It's a great gift closet find from Target for just $8.99!

Come on, you know you're the one. Shoot me a message and I will give you more details.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Deal of the Day: Star Wars Clone Wars Season Two

We're more of a classic Star Wars family but this is a great deal for the boxed set of Star Wars Clone Wars, Season Two. Santa usually brings a new movie or two for those lazy holiday mornings. It might be Toy Story 3 this year but Santa has some time to shop around.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What is your favorite holiday DVD?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge, with a twist!

This month's $300 grocery challenge will add a twist. Encouraged by my friend Rebecca, I will buy only organic products during Week Two. If you have any ideas or suggestions for me, let me know! I'm thinking about starting Week Two with a trip to Trader Joe's and supplementing with fruits and veggies from the Farmer's Market.

Here's a run down of Week One:

Money spent: $88.75
12 rolls of toilet paper
8 rolls of paper towels
brownie mix
canned tomatoes
tomato sauce
tomato paste
Four 1.5 pound packages of ground beef (but one, get one free)
pork shoulder
flour and corn tortillas
wheat bread
lasagna noodles
5 lb bag of potatoes
eggs (free with registration in Safeway's new Just 4 U program)
and a couple other things I can't remember ...
On the menu for dinner:
The famous Ferrara lasagna, carnitas (due to our superstition about the Giants!), potato and egg fritatta, tacos, ravioli with homemade sauce, homemade pizzas, and white bean pasta salad. We may eat out (burritos) once this week and use the money from our small entertainment budget. We've also still got lettuce, green beans, and corn for sides, as well as frozen baguettes for garlic bread.
Our lunches will be soup and macaroni and cheese from the pantry as well as the usual sandwiches, fruit, crackers, etc. We've got blueberry muffins, yogurt, cereal, and smoothies for breakfast.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: There are lots of turkeys out in the store already. We may have to have turkey and other Thanksgiving food early! What are your favorite fall dishes?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Deal of the Day: Prep Coat from Old Navy?

This is another adorable item that makes you say ... "Does it come in my size?" It could be "yours", if you wear a 5T or smaller, for $24.50. I'd go with the red one. How about you?

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: There are tons of great deals on outerwear right now. Have you taken advantage of any of them?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Favorite Things: Do You Doodle?

I heard about this book today when my friend posted a request on Facebook for gift ideas for a 6 year old boy. Thanks to Rachel! One of her friends suggested this book called Do You Doodle? It looks amazing -- a great gift for a kid or a kid at heart. I think this Santa is going to order a few copies because I might need one for myself!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What is your go-to book for gift giving?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- October, Week 4

We had $90 left in the October grocery budget and I spent $87.87 today. I was pleased especially since I stocked up on a few things that will get us through most of next month as well: coffee, Windex, Shout, Advil (free with coupon!), flat of bottled water (free with coupon!) and hand soap ($.79 with coupon!). I also got some cake and brownie mixes that were on a super sale, plus a 6 pack of beer for my husband.

Here's the other stuff on my list:
wheat bread
muffin mixes
cheese: cheddar and mozzarella
everything for carnitas, including 60 corn tortillas for $1.69 with coupon
and a few other things I can't remember

Our dinners for the week are carnitas, homemade pizza, pasta with meat sauce, paninis and soup, tamales/burritos, and more carnitas! We've got the usual peanut butter, yogurt, fruit, and pretzels/goldfish for lunch and lots of muffins, smoothies, and cereal for breakfast.

Now it is time to start thinking about November ... Should I try for $300 again?

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Crockpot Carnitas

Yum. And double yum. My friend Erin passed along this recipe and it was super easy, super cheap, and super tasty. We doubled it and it fit nicely in our large oval crockpot. We omitted the red peppers but I am sure they would be delicious, too. Serve with lots of chips and salsa and your favorite Mexican sides.


•2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs or pork shoulder (You can cut it up in to 2 inch pieces in advance or leave it in several large chunks.)
•2 teaspoons salt
•2 teaspoons ground black pepper
•2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
•1/2 large onion, cut into 4 pieces
•1 avocado, halved, pitted, sliced
•Fresh cilantro sprigs
•Sliced red bell peppers (optional)
•Corn tortillas


•Toss pork in bowl of slow cooker with salt, black pepper, and dried oregano to coat. Place onion pieces atop pork. Cover slow cooker and cook pork on low setting until meat is very tender and falling apart, about 6 hours.
•Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to cutting board. Discard onion pieces. Using fingers, shred pork; transfer carnitas to platter. Place avocado slices, cilantro sprigs, and sliced red bell peppers, if desired, alongside. Wrap corn tortillas in damp kitchen towel; microwave until warm, about 1 minute. Serve carnitas with warm tortillas and tomatillo salsa.

Does it get any better?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Got lids?

I can't let October pass by without talking about Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My grandmother died of breast cancer in 1986 so this is a cause near and dear to my heart. Yoplait Yogurt's Save Lids to Save Lives program has donated more than $25 million dollars to the cause!

I've always been a fan of Yoplait but had not been motivated to save lids. Well, I've changed my tune. After reading through the materials sent to me by MyGetTogether, I am now motivated to add my lids to this important effort.

I made myself several envelopes with the Save Lids, Save Lives address so I can just pop in my lids after I enjoy my yogurt. For the cost of a stamp, I can do my part. Also, you can find out more here.

Here's the address. Make your envelopes today!

Save Lids, Save Lives
P.O. Box 420704
El Paso TX 88542-0704

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What is your favorite Yoplait flavor? (I love Harvest Peach and Pina Colada!)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Buy This, Not That: Black Patent Flats

I saw these a few weeks ago at Nordstrom but opted for a gray pair with a silk flower instead. But I saw the shoes pictured here yesterday at Target for $24.99. With the $40 in savings, I'm heading to Old Navy to buy a pair of skinny jeans. Shoes and jeans for the price of shoes = cheap and cheerful.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Have you found any buy this, not that products lately? Please share!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Deal(s) of the Day: Fall Sale Madness

Lots of great deals right now, online and in store.

*Old Navy: $5 fleece tops today online (and in store on Super Saturday). Plus codes on the website for 15% off and free shipping if you spend $50.

* Children's Place: 25% off dressy clothes collection. Plus, a code on the website for 15% off your entire purchase. Who can say holiday clothes at 40% off?

* Nordstrom: 4 more days for free shipping on any order that includes shoes. Use code SHOES.

* Land's End: 30% of regularly priced items through 10/25. Code SAVEBIG and pin 1252. Grab a cashmere sweater at a great discount!

* Target: Wii is $187 with Sports Resort. Plus, sign yourself up for the new RedCard -- it's linked directly to your debit card and has no fees -- and you will get 2% to your chosen school or charity and 5% all of your purchases any time you shop.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What great deals have you seen lately?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: 1, 2, 3 cupcakes ... Ah, Ah, Ah!

Let the Count count your cupcakes. These are so cute that they will disappear quickly; you may not have any left to count by the end of the party! This Betty Crocker recipe isn't from scratch so you can save time and money, too. I love counting my change as I enjoy my cupcake.


1 box (18.25 oz) Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® cake mix (any flavor)
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
6 drops red food color
6 drops blue food color
1 container (1 lb) Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy vanilla frosting
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons candy-coated milk chocolate candies (48 candies)
1/3 cup red candy-coated licorice candies (72 candies)
2 tablespoons white vanilla baking chips (48 chips)

1.Heat oven to 350°F. Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
2.Make and bake cake mix as directed on box for cupcakes, using water, oil and eggs. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooking rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
3.Stir food colors into frosting. Frost cupcakes.
4.To decorate each cupcake, sprinkle miniature chocolate chips along top for hair; use 2 candy-coated candies for eyes, 3 licorice candies for nose and mouth and 2 white baking chips for fangs.

Count. Distribute. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- Week 3.5

Hey, sometimes you just need a little ice cream. Oh, and a little hot fudge, too. Make that $90 left for the final week of groceries and some Halloween candy. I am pretty sure we'll still make it.

I've got some new recipes to try next week that I am really excited about but will fit with our budget. Think Butternet Squash Risotto and Crockpot Carnitas. Yum. Any other ideas out there?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Deal of the Day: Peanuts Gang T-Shirt

When I was in high school, my group of friends dubbed ourselves the "Peanuts Gang". It would only be right that the next generation of the Peanuts Gang would need this shirt. For only $12.50, it would make a cute birthday or just because treat. Maybe my little girl will be getting on in her stocking this year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- Week Three

Another week and another less than $50 shopping trip. We still have $110 left for the month which will help us get our Halloween treats (including stuff for a class party) and possibly leave us some extra for a night of take out!

I spent $43.79 today and got ground beef, corn, lettuce, bananas, apples, two muffin mixes (huge sale on Krusteaz, plus $2 worth of coupons), eggs, yogurt, milk, pizza toppings, sour cream, bread, peanut butter (buy one, get one free), tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, pasta, pretzels, and a few other things I can't remember. (I am too lazy to get out from under my warm covers to get the receipt!)

Anyway, our dinners this week are taco salad, pasta with homemade sauce, huevos rancheros, homemade pizza, chili and cornbread, burgers/tacos/or tostadas (depending on what we feel like that night), and there will be plenty for leftovers. We've still got green beans and other frozen veggies for side dishes and several frozen sourdough baguettes.

Lots of frozen fruit for breakfast smoothies, plus plenty of cereal and yogurts and we'll make some muffins this week, too. My kids live and die for their daily peanut butter sandwich and we're all stocked up there, with pretzels, raisins, and frozen go-gurts on the side.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What are you eating this week?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Favorite Things: Santa Bear saves the day!

Do your kids have a serious case of the gimmes? If so, consider reading them this book -- The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear. The cute story talks about thinking of others when making your own Christmas wish list. Brother Bear and Sister Bear decide to ask Santa Bear to bring gifts to others in need and to ask for a just a few gifts for themselves. My kids haven't stopped talking about the cute little bears since reading it this weekend. I'd venture to guess that it is totally worth the $3.99 if you can't find it at the library!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Favorite Things: Got game(s)?

I am always looking out for a just on the market or all time favorite game around holiday time. After all, a new game is a great family gift! I found this one that looks really fun. I haven't played it yet but it seems like an English teacher type of game!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What's your favorite family friendly board game?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge Continues -- October Week 2

The savings continue! I did my "fill in" shopping trip this week and picked up fruit, milk, vegetables, pretzels, crackers, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and pasta. I spent $40.60 and also used Self Checkout for the first time ever! I've got about $150 left for the rest of the month. Any ideas on what to make?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Favorite Things: Let's Go Giants! (clap clap clapclapclap)

Get 'em while they're hot! There are some great deals on Giants gear here as the playoffs heat up! Or if you are less of a fan and more of a bargain hunter, wait a week and see who drops out of the next round and scoop up some 2010 gear. As for me, I am a true believer! Let's go Giants!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Favorite Things: Anne Taintor Engagement Calendar

Who would not love this? A fun just because gift or a go-to stocking stuffer, Anne Taintor's hilarious humor will make any hectic week seem a little more fun when recorded on this cool calendar. Available for under $20 on several websites or hopefully at a hip gift store near you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: And So It Continues ... $300 Grocery Challenge

So October is going to be a crazy month for us ... but I am continuing the $300 grocery challenge! My plan is to shop three times and spend $100 each time. Today, I got some great deals, stocked up on some of our favorite items, and only spent $104.91. So ideally, I'd spend more like $75 more on each trip and reserve some cash for a milk and fruit run if needed.

Here's the highlights of what I got:

4 boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats (favorite cereal of 3 of 4 family members and on a buy 2, get 2 free promotion)

2 packages of ground turkey ($2.49 each) for burgers/tacos/chili

2 packages of italian sausage (buy one, get one free) for spaghetti sauce, etc.

cake mix and icing (used 3 different coupons) for Halloween cupcakes

lots of fresh fruit and veggies (grapes, apples, bananas, asparagus, corn, carrots, and celery)

lots of yogurt for snacks and smoothies (used 5 different coupons)

5 lb. bag of flour

chicken broth


corn bread mix

wheat bread

... and more

Basically, I got about two weeks of meals during this trip and will do a quick shop for milk and maybe more fruits and veggies next week. We'll have pasta with spicy sausage sauce, chili and cornbread, risotto with asparagus, burgers and corn, and bean burritos this week.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What great grocery deals did you find this week?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge, Week 4

I did it! Week 4 saw me spend $59.10 at Safeway. So I came in $31 under budget for the month of September. Saving $100 (well, actually $131!) off our grocery budget in one month certainly wasn't easy and I learned a bunch of shopping lessons in the process. I did yearn for a little more fresh fruit (apples and bananas got a little boring) and my husband missed his Diet Coke. The kids probably wished for more Goldfish! I've decided to do the challenge again in October. I will be working on my menus this week and shopping next Monday.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Are you in for October? And what's on your menu?

P.S.: Halloween candy does not count toward the $300. You can put that in your Entertainment column for your monthly budget. ; )

Deal of the Day: Does it some in my size?

With the 20% coupons that are out now (and are good until November 15th), you could get this adorable jumper for your little rosebud for less than $20. However, you may have to get two as it is too hard to pick between pink and black! They have some cute, reasonably priced blouses and mary janes to create a complete outfit. I wish dressing myself was that easy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Favorite Things: All things in moderation?

Oscar Wilde once said: "Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess." Do you agree or disagree? Chocolate in moderation? Good? I think so. And so do the people at Hershey's. Moderation Nation aims to provide information about how to enjoy the good things in life balanced with the really good things in life. Health and happiness all on one little plate. Check it out.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What is your favorite quote about moderation? The winner gets a free Moderation Nation t-shirt.

Full disclosure: Hershey's gave me some chocolate samples, a notebook, and a t-shirt as a free gift for checking out their new website. I'd give you the chocolate but my husband already ate most of it! (Maybe he needs to visit their website?)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Mary Alice's Hoagie Dip

Believe me, you won't be able to stop eating this. When reading the recipe, it may sound like too much, but the combination is so yummy. Perfect for an afternoon of football with your family and friends.


1 medium onion
2 pickled pepperoncini peppers
1/2 head iceberg lettuce
1 large tomato, halved and seeded
1/4 pound deli-sliced genoa salami
1/4 pound deli-sliced ham
1/4 pound deli-sliced prosciutto
1/4 pound deli-sliced roast turkey
1/4 pound deli-sliced provolone cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 10-to-12-inch round loaf Italian bread
8 hoagie rolls, cut into pieces, for dipping


Chop the onion, pepperoncini, lettuce and tomato into bite-size pieces. Dice the meats and cheese.

Combine the chopped vegetables, meats and cheese in a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise, olive oil, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes and stir until everything is all mixed up and tasty. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Carve out the center of the bread loaf to make a bowl (don't cut through the bottom) and cut the scraps into bite-size pieces. Serve the hoagie dip in the bread bowl, with the extra bread and hoagie rolls to scoop it up.

From Food Network website

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- Week 4

We're in the home stretch and I still have $94 to spend. My goal for week four is to spend only $50 at Safeway. If I can do it, I will come in $40 under budget for the month!

Here's my shopping list:

shrimp (Great coupon for $4.88 for a bag of shrimp)
frozen strawberries
trash bags
flour tortillas
red onion

Here's the menu for the week:

lemon pepper pasta with shrimp and sage butter
beef and bean tostadas
homemade pizza
scrambled eggs and bacon
chicken caesar salad
Others: egg burritos, pasta salad, tamales and rice

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What's on your menu this week?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deal of the Day: Paperless Post

My friend Lisa just sent the cutest online birthday party invitations using this new site and I must say that Paperless Post is worth a look for sure! Twenty "stamps" cost $4 but you earn 25 points when you sign up. Great prices and way-too-cute designs. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Favorite Things: Rubbish Roll Sleeve T-Shirt

Ok, so a $36 t-shirt isn't cheap but I got for $24.90 during the Half Yearly Sale ... and my mom bought it for me as a birthday gift so it was actually free ... but I digress. This shirt is cute, comfortable, and versatile. Pair with a skirt, skinny jeans, walking shorts. Throw on a necklace, or not. I have it in both colors but can't decide which is my favorite. Everyone needs a favorite fall tee. What's yours?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- Week 3

So my week three shopping is complete! My goal was to spend $70 and I spent $71.95. I added in our soccer snacks since we're responsible for them next Saturday and still only went $1.95 over budget -- not too shabby! Price and selection wise, I was very pleased with my Target grocery experience. I will return to Safeway next week; we do get points towards school scrip at Safeway so we need to be consistent about shopping there.

We still had several dinners (raviolis, tamales, omelettes/waffles, chili, and tacos/burritos) on hand so this shopping list was focused on restocking breakfast and lunch items, plus snacks and a few toiletry items.

Here's what I got:
cream cheese
banana nut muffin mix
Honey Bunches of Oats
wheat bread
sourdough bread
peanut butter
frozen pizza (great $2 coupon)
Betty Crocker cookie mix (Matthew's treat request and had a great coupon)
Wheat Thins (great $2 coupon)
soccer snack: juice boxes, granola bars, fruit leathers, extremely green bananas
Hefty bags

I think I am forgetting a few things, but you get the idea. Almost there!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: How is the $300 challenge going for you?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deal of the Day: College Football Hoodies

Are you a Trojan or a Bruin? Or maybe you root for the Wolverines? Or cheer for the Irish? Need some school gear? Maybe you will find it here? (Hey, that sounded like a cheer!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- Menu Ideas?

I've spent $134.21. This means I have $165.79 left to spend. I am thinking (because why not add a challenge on top of a challenge!) that I will grocery shop this week at Target. I need trash bags, body wash, and toilet paper in addition to food and I have several high value, Target specific coupons. So, my faithful readers, my goal is to spend less than $70 on groceries at Target. Any good menu ideas?

Here's what I will still have on hand that can "roll over" into next week:

1 loaf of wheat bread
1 package pita bread
3 boxes of pasta
2 cans of black beans
1 can of white beans
cheddar cheese (large brick)
18 eggs
tomato sauce
tomato paste
frozen green beans
frozen corn
frozen fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries)
a few packages of Shells and Cheese
the huge box of Cheerios that will not die
large box of Bisquick
(plus other odds and ends not worth mentioning like yogurts, applesauce, etc.)


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge

Any Target grocery shoppers out there? I got some Target coupons in the mail for produce, bread, and frozen food. Before I rule out using them, has anyone out there had good luck getting groceries at Target? If so, do tell!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge -- Shopping Trip #2

On my grocery list for this week:

red onion
green beans
cheddar cheese
corn tortillas
ground beef
white beans
wheat bread
peanut butter
snacks: pretzels, granola bars, peanuts, Goldfish
paper towels
My goal was to spend only $50. I came in at $48.79. Yay!
On the menu this week:

pasta salad: box of pasta, can of white beans, diced red onion, tomatoes and basil from our garden, parmesan cheese; toss with a dressing made from red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve with veggies or garlic bread.
tostadas: corn tortillas, seasoned ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce. Serve with sides of black beans, rice and corn (pantry and freezer items).
grilled cheese and soup (pantry item) -- not the most exciting dinner but great for after soccer practice on a Fall evening
homemade pizza -- We still have so many great, fresh toppings from the garden to use up!
ravioli (freezer item) and sauteed green beans OR tamales with leftovers from tostada night
"cheater" meal: We have an In and Out $20 gift card that my husband got as a birthday gift. We will be out of the house for most of the day tomorrow and will likely stop and get dinner there on the way home.
Breakfasts: We still have a massive box of Cheerios and a huge box of Kix. We also used a muffing mix from the pantry and made muffins yesterday so we will eat those. We also have pancake mix in the pantry and smoothie ingredients in the freezer.
Lunches: Peanut butter and jelly! Also, yogurt, applesauce, crackers and cheese, hummus and pita (still have lots from last week), plus all of the snacks we have on hand -- raisins, peanuts, goldfish, etc. I also have ingredients for another cold pasta on hand (lemon pepper pasta with sage butter and shaved parmesan) so we will make that for lunch if we need to fill in.
Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What's on your menu this week?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Favorite Things: Skippyjon Jones Lost in Space

I'm watching the Stand Up 2 Cancer telethon and thinking about tomorrow's 9 -11-01 anniversary. Sigh. This book provided a little smile. After all, what's not to like when a siamese cat who thinks he is a chihuahua goes on a pretend journey to the planet Mars?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Mini Maple-Chocolate Chip Muffins

I "won" a free Betty Crocker Fall Baking magazine by answering a survey on the Betty Crocker website. It arrived yesterday and it has the best recipes. I was particularly drawn to this mini muffin recipe from the issue's featured cook, Bakerella. She is a super clever baker and these would be fun for a special fall holiday breakfast or brunch treat.


2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 tbsp real maple syrup
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini or regular milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup real maple syrup (optional for dipping)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24 mini muffin tins with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, beat buttermilk, egg, 2 tbsp syrup, and butter with a wire wisk. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Reserve a few chocolate chips to sprinkle on muffin tops. Fold remaining chocolate chips into batter. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle with reserved chips. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until very light brown around edges and toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool 3 to 5 minutes; remove from pan. Place 1/2 cup syrup in small bowl; serve with warm muffins for dipping.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Favorite Things: Cherry Lime Boutique

My friend just started an online store that sells adorable hair accessories. Check out Cherry Lime Boutique on Facebook or click here! Happy Shopping!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Favorite Things: Do you want a dinosaur with that?

Just when you thought books about dinosaurs were all terribly dull and boring, feast your eyes on this title: When Dinosaurs Came With Everything. It is officially my new favorite book. We got a free (teeny, tiny) paperback for free with our latest box of Cheerios but I have a feeling that Santa will be bringing us a hardcover copy in a few months.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge Shopping Trip #1

I survived my first shopping trip for the $300 challenge. I even added three items (coffee, toilet paper, and cheerios) and came in under $90. Tonight is breakfast for dinner -- yum!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: How did your first shopping trip go? What's on your menu this week?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $300 Grocery Challenge begins tomorrow!

Ready, set, shop! The spend-only-$300-on-groceries in September begins tomorrow! Here's what I have planned for my first shopping trip. I estimate it will be about a $90 total.

2 gallons of milk
2 loaves of bread
2 dozen eggs (Buy one, get one free)
6 to 8 yogurts
peanut butter
mozzarella cheese
pepper (from our garden)
tomatoes (from our garden)
ground turkey
hamburger buns
kidney beans
spice packet for chili
cornbread mix

Our dinners will include homemade pizza and salad, turkey chili and cornbread, turkey burgers and oven fries, bean and cheese burritos, a breakfast for dinner night, a night of leftovers, and night of dinner from the freezer since we have raviolis and tamales frozen already. (I will also make a pasta salad with odds and ends we already have and use it for lunches.)

Of course, I've got some pantry items already like refried beans, cereal, granola bars, pasta, and pretzels that will round out our breakfast and lunch menus. Also, I've got cheddar cheese, hummus and pita, cheese sticks, and tomato sauce already in the fridge.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Are you up for the challenge? And what are you cooking?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: A Little Gap Love

When I first saw the Groupon post for the $50 GAP gift card for $25, I thought it was too good to be true. But it was a legitimate Groupon -- hooray! I snagged one the day it was offered and headed to the mall yesterday. To my delight, the Buy 1 Kid or Baby Regularly Priced ($19.50) jeans and get another Kid or Baby jeans for $10 deal was still in progress. I got two pairs of jeans and two long sleeved tops for the kids for $38 total, adding just $13 out of pocket after using the Groupon. Pretty sweet deal ... but it gets even better! When buying the jeans, the cashier gave me a 1969 Kids and Baby Jeans Club card and stamped it twice. Collect four stamps and get a free pair of kids or baby jeans! Then, just when you thought it could not get any better, the cashier gave me a We Love Wednesdays coupon book which has four 40% off one regularly priced item coupons that are valid on specific Wednesdays, September 8 - 29th. So, here's my plan: Buy two more pairs of kids or baby jeans -- one on Wednesday, September 15 and one on Wednesday, September 22 at 40% off and collect two more stamps. (I just called my local GAP to confirm that you can indeed "double dip".) Those two trips will earn me a free pair of jeans and the savings will be complete. My kids are growing like weeds and both just went up a size in pants so it was totally perfect timing! A little GAP love for not a lot of cash. And, last but not least, the cashier handed two We Love Wednesdays coupon books to my kids! So faithful readers, who needs a little GAP love? I've got two sets of coupons to share.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: You know Yubo?

I had never heard of Yubo lunchboxes until wise reader Melissa mentioned them. Do you know Yubo?

What's your favorite cheap and cheerful lunch menu?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: What is YOUR favorite thing?

What do you love, love, love to give or receive as a hostess gift? How about the first item you'd splurge on if you had an extra $25, $50 or $100? Or what's the cutest thing you've seen lately whether you needed it or not?

Please share!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Favorite Things: Have Your Cake Poster

What's not to love about this super cool poster? I love giving posters as gifts, especially when I find one that really matches a friend's personality.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What cools stuff graces your walls? Any fun home decor finds that are fun, yet inexpensive?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Favorite Things: Personalized Placemats

Do you desire no more fighting about which one is "mine, mine, mine!"? My kids must not be the only ones who seem to want everything to belong only to them. A dinner time solution: personalized placemats. Personally, $8.99 is a reasonable price for some peace and quiet. Just kidding. Sort of. In all seriousness, these would make a very cute gift!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Favorite Things: Crocband Sneak Kids

Maybe your kid is addicted to Crocs but not allowed to wear them to school? Never fear -- the Crocband Sneaker is here! In a word, brilliant!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Halloween Budget

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: How much do you spend per costume? Do you have a candy and decoration budget? Please share.

And how cute is this shark costume? $22.50 at Old Navy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Challenge: $300 Grocery Bill?

Each month, we budget $400 for groceries which includes all food and household supplies for our family of four. After analyzing our menus, looking at food prices, and clipping coupons, I've made the decision to try a one month challenge. During the month of September, I am planning to slash our food budget by $100. I will post all of my grocery receipts and menus here to keep myself accountable. I've also made the radical decision to return to Trader Joe's! Can you tell I am excited? I will make two trips to Safeway each month and two trips to Trader Joe's each month. I plan to spend $200 at Safeway and $100 at Trader Joe's. I did a "dry run" today; I spent $88 at Safeway last week and $47 at Trader Joe's today. I came in under budget for the past two weeks but we've got some great meals planned. I am feeling good about getting some new menu items and more organic food into our weekly plans.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: How often do you grocery shop? Where? Why?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Rachael Ray's Honey-Vanilla Lemonade

The summer is slipping away, but there is still time for one last glass of lemonade. Cheers!

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cups water, plus more as needed
1 vanilla bean
2 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 24 lemons)
Lemon wheels or wedges, for garnish

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, and 2 cups water and place over medium-high heat. Cut the vanilla bean in 1/2 lengthwise, then, using the back of the knife, scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add to the saucepan, along with the pod. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Put the lemon juice into a gallon jug or pitcher. Pour the sugar syrup through a strainer into the pitcher and discard the pod. Add water to equal 1 gallon and stir well.

Serve over ice with lemon wheels or wedges.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deal of the Day: Suede Boots from The Children's Place

I love these boots and so does my son. Plus, they are over 50% less per pair than other similar boots. You can literally buy jeans and shirt to go with the boots and spend less than you would on a $50 pair of shoes. A whole outfit versus just the shoes -- that is what I call cheap and cheerful!


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