living life, choosing joy

Monthly Archives: February 2013

I recently decided to give up coffee.

I have tried {and failed} at this before. I actually went without coffee the whole time I was pregnant a few years ago. But as soon as the Boy got his eviction notice, I was “back on the sauce” {coffee, that is ;)}. And man was it good. I love everything about coffee: its velvety smooth texture; the smell of fresh ground beans; the aroma when it begins to brew…it just makes me happy. Maybe others can relate??

But, if I missed a day of coffee for whatever reason, I became a bear {my husband can attest to the truth of this statement. Laugh if you want, but it’s no joke!} Upset, cranky, no patience – I was just MEAN! Then the headaches in the afternoon…ugh. And that was just from one day without coffee.

OK, so I didn’t just enjoy my morning cup(s) of coffee, I was a coffee addict. Going through a pound of coffee a week made me rely on the power of those magical beans – just to get through the day. And enough was never enough. Instead of enjoying coffee (like I thought I was), coffee was controlling my life.

So with much effort I made the decision to give up coffee. And in the past 3 weeks of being coffee –free, I have come to realize some benefits.

3 Benefits of Giving Up Coffee

1. It Saves Money

At about $7/lb, my habit was fast becoming pricey. A pound a week translated into about $32 per month, or almost $400 per year! That’s a huge chunk of our monthly food budget when you consider that I could buy a lot of fresh produce or meat with that amount. {Or have a date night with my husband once a month, go on a weekend family vacation this summer, finally get an iPhone :), buy a pair of really cute boots…you get the idea}. My addiction was keeping me from experiencing other things in my life.

2.    It Keeps me Honest

I can no longer lie to myself about not being tired. My moods are me being me. My energy levels are what they are (or at least not dependent on getting a jolt). In short, not having coffee makes me actually hear my body. Tired = “You need to rest!” instead of “Drink some coffee and power through!”

3.    My Mind is Clearer

It’s not the first day without coffee…it’s actually the third day that’s the worst. The ice pick that got shoved in to your brain is now trying to find new and uncharted territory to poke and pierce. The dull, low grade headache at the base of your skull and sloshy feeling when you turn your head…that will pass. In a few days. But at least the nausea and shakiness has subsided {I told you, I was addicted, in the truest sense of the word!}. After getting through the “detox” period, I actually feel like I can think again. That might sound strange, but when I was on coffee, I felt like I wasn’t getting past survival mode. Like I needed that “artificial intelligence” just to help me function at a normal level. It feels so good to not be constantly rushed by the overactive caffeine induced chatter in my head. Having a clearer mind creates more calm and peace in my daily life, and also helps me to stay focused on my weekly goals and tasks.

For me, giving up coffee has made a lot of sense, and (I think) was very necessary to achieve a better quality of life. But please don’t only hear me saying that coffee is evil! I know that there are many health benefits to consuming reasonable quantities of it daily. However, I believe that if anything in your life becomes an addiction, then it needs to get kicked to the curb. Even coffee 🙂 .

So what is your coffee drinking style? Casual or addicted?


So I found a GREAT deal at the grocery store the other day – reduced to sell, Jeannie-O Spicy Italian Turkey Sausage – 99  cents for 1.22 lbs.

Now, discount meat speaks a special language to me — I LOVE finding deals like these! Especially when it’s Jeannie-O Turkey 🙂  So I set to work making good use of the four packs I purchased (there were more, but to be honest, I did not actually have a plan for it…so I didn’t want to get too greedy ;)).

Now I had to find a use for a meat that I did not typically buy. Hmmm. I could just use it in spaghetti sauce. But there was a lot of it and my husband is not in love with spaghetti (unlike me, who could eat it 3 times a week and pine for leftovers). <insert wistful, longing-for-spaghetti type sigh here>.

No, I could be more creative. So instead I turned to the ubiquitous casserole.

So without further ado, here is my recipe for how to use {some} spicy Italian sausage when you have A LOT of it 🙂

Creamy Sausage Casserole

Ingredients

~1 lb or so of Spicy Italian Sausage (I really DO love Jeannie-O brand!)

1/2 cup chopped spinach – Fresh or Frozen

1 lb pasta, cooked (I used rotelle, but you could use elbow or penne too)

1/2 cup Sour Cream (or cream of chicken soup, alfredo sauce – any white sauce will do)

1 cup Shredded Cheese, or to taste

{You could also try some spices if you like that kind of thing. Maybe Italian Seasoning or something. You could also substitute just about any of the ingredients to what you have on hand. That really is the beauty of the casserole, after all :).}

Instructions

  1. Cook Pasta, drain, etc. (you know, how you normally would :))
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Mix pasta, sour cream (or other white sauce), sausage, and spinach together in a bowl until everything is mixed well and evenly “coated”.
  4. Pour everything into a glass 9×13 pan
  5. Sprinkle cheese over the top
  6. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes.

And that’s it!

This works really well to make earlier in the day (like during certain little peoples’ nap times) and put in the fridge until dinner time rolls around. Then all you have to do is pop it in the oven. Because, is it just me or do other people’s kids get KA-RAZY right around 4:30 when you start trying to prep something for dinner??? Even just making a quick pot of pasta can become a disaster!!

Prep early, prep often. That’s my motto — at least when it comes to casseroles 🙂

I forgot to get a photo before some of it got hijacked! But it was delicious!!

I forgot to get a photo before some of it got hijacked! But it was delicious!!

What about you? Do you like to experiment with creating new casseroles??

P.S. The remaining 4 lbs of sausage went cooked and into the freezer…for a future casserole…maybe 😉


$119.05 shopping trip for $24.23 (including tax) !!

I would say a big YES!!

Today was the day …the sales arrived…the coupons aligned…and it culminated in to my best shopping trip to date! Now, I know that there are some super-couponers out there that could top this, but I am still really excited!!

Shopping Trip 2.24.13

Ok, so what was involved, you ask?

1 hour clipping, planning, etc. {I didn’t actually clock it, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere around there. Note: This step saved me almost $95 – this is a really important step!!}

3 stores {CVS, Target, Staples}

1 hour, 15 min actually Shopping/Driving {the stores are pretty close to each other}

Ok, so now on to what I bought:

CVS

Schick Hydro Razor {FREE, except for tax, due to a recent coupon mailer that came to my husband – yay! + $4 ECBs!!}

Poise Cooling Wipes {I don’t need these, but I actually made $2.01 + $1 ECB for “buying” them with coupons – so I couldn’t resist!}

4 Tubes Carmex Lip Balm {only 3 are pictured –one had to be used right away! }

Physicians Formula Blush { I have really been looking for a new blush, and this one fit in to the deal SOOO well – I actually got $7 ECBs for “buying” it}

Thermacare Heatwrap{My husband likes me to get these when they are free, just in case J and I don’t mind getting the at all, especially when they are $3.49 and I get $3.49 back in ECBs !}

Systane Eyedrops {OK, in all honesty, this was actually what I was after the whole trip, but… I just COULDN’T resist the urge to play the game and see if I could win! Considering that the “sale price” of this product was $8.99, I would definitely put this in the win category!!}

I used a $5 ECB coupon from a few weeks ago, so…

Total Spent: $5.62 (inc. tax){I like to add the tax in because I think it’s cheating NOT to count it – I actually parted with this money, so it counts against my monthly budget!}

Target

1 tub Huggies Baby Wipes (64 count)

2 Reach Floss

1 Picture Frame

1 box Up & Up Sandwich Bags (100 ct)

1 bottle Up & Up Antacids (90 ct)

1 ½ inch Up & Up 3-ring binder (for which I have GREAT plans! Stay tuned…:))

1 pkg Up & Up Printer Paper (400 sheet)

33 oz Hunts Tomato Sauce Tetra Pack

1-14.75 oz Can Hunts Diced Tomatoes

2 – 8 oz Bags Market Pantry Shredded Cheese

2 Jars Market Pantry Pasta Sauce

I used 2 bag credits ($0.05 each) and a $5 gift card I got from the Cheerios deal last week {I only count those GC’s as savings on the trip I am able to use it, since it’s cash I don’t have to part with}…

Total Spent: $12.44 (inc. tax)

Staples

1 double pack HP ink (black & color)

1 Reusable bag

I used the Staples 20% off coupon for everything you could fit inside the reusable bag (which was free with purchase, but I forgot to put in the picture) and also used my Staples rewards dollars from past purchases and ink cartridge recycling credits…

Total Spent: $6.17 (inc. tax)

So now you may be thinking – “Wow, good for you. But I can’t duplicate your same savings, because you used coupons/deals/rewards dollars/etc. that I can’t get in order to do the same ones. You didn’t help me, you just teased me!”

A year ago, I would have said the EXACT SAME THING! But the point of my story of spectacular savings is not to make you upset or taunt you, but to inspire you with the idea that major savings ARE possible. I myself often wonder if all the time spent combing through blogs and coupon sites and organizing binders and boxes and strategizing my drug store deals with the laser focus of a military sniper are really all worth it.

And then I have a day like today {*big smile*} and realize that it is totally worth it!  But, it wasn’t like this the first few times I went on CVS runs and Target outings. I made lots of mistakes and realized (sometimes too late 😦 ) that some deals would have been better left off the list (even though I had a coupon! ;)). I wanted stuff for cheap and free as much as the next person, but to be honest, I had no idea how to do it! And when I saw posts similar to this one, it would frustrate me and make me think I wasn’t trying hard enough, or place the blame on my location (“we just don’t get double coupons here!” “CVS doesn’t do ECBs on milk here!”). You know the drill. But it’s really only now, with my still (very) limited experience with coupons that I can say this: It just takes time.

Seriously, couponing can be a huge investment and can take over your life if you let it, but ultimately can yield you a handsome return for patience and good planning. Just like most things in life :).

There. Now aren’t you glad you stuck it out until the end of the post 😉