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The Imperfect Homemaker: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentines Day Pins from Pinterest

I'm always on the lookout for simple and inexpensive Valentine's Day gift ideas that my kids can give to their cousins and friends.  Here are some of my favorite ideas I've pinned from Pinterest.


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Monday, January 30, 2012

Extreme Couponing?

I consider myself an extreme couponer, but not in the sense that I go into a store and get 30 bags of dog food for free, leaving none for the other shoppers (and I don't even have a dog!)

Nope, extreme couponing in my book means saving my family extreme amounts of money on products that we would normally use.

I just came home from my local Harris Teeter.  How much do you think I paid for this stuff?

1 box of Cheerios, 1 bag Kettle potato chips, 2 bags Bertolli Meal soups, 3 Ragu pasta sauce, 1 Breyers ice cream, 2 Suave Professionals hair stylers, 2 Wish Bone salad dressings, 1 Country Crock butter, and 4 Kraft shredded cheeses.

Just guess. 

If you guessed somewhere in the range of $3.00 you were right!  Not bad, especially when you consider that the price for just one bag of Bertolli soup was $8.19!

Here's my tip-of-the-day for racking up on the grocery savings.

Use free product coupons strategically.

If you're wondering where to even get free product coupons in the first place, you should follow my deals Facebook page, The Deal Scoop.  Lots of companies on Facebook give away coupons for free products, and I always try to give a heads up.

Also, emailing companies is a GREAT way to get free product coupons.  If you like a certain company's products, just visit their website to find their email address and shoot them a line or two telling them you like their product and asking them if they have any coupons they could send you.  Be sure to include your mailing address.  You'll be surprised how many of them will send you coupons for free products, sometimes several!

So, when you get those wonderful coupons, don't do a happy dance and run out to the store to get your freebie.  Do a happy dance, and then put the coupons in a specific place where you won't forget about them.  Save them up for the next time your store has a promotion on that product. 

For example, in the picture above, my store was giving an automatic $5 off when I bought $15 worth of specific products.  These promotions are almost always counted before you give your coupons.  I had several free coupons for some of the qualifying items, so I used the freebies to get my total as close to $15 as I could and then bought other items I wanted to finish it out.  So, if I had $10 worth of items I was already getting free with a coupon, I could throw in a $5 carton of ice cream to get up to $15.  $5 would come off from the promotion and $10 would come off from the free coupons, leaving me to pay $0.  Score!  I just got free ice cream and I didn't even have a coupon for it!  See how free coupons are great strategy pieces in the coupon game?

Like I said before though, make sure to put them in a specific place and check them once a month or so to make sure you don't have any that are expiring soon.  It would be a shame to let a coupon for a free product expire and not get to use it at all just because you were saving it for a better deal.

Do you use coupons?  Do you have any tips to maximize your savings?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How I do my Freezer Cooking without Going Insane

I am the world's messiest cook.  If you don't believe me just take a look at this picture:

I don't particularly mind cooking, but I hate cleaning up my horrible messes afterward.  That's why I love freezer cooking.  If you're not familiar with freezer cooking, it is making meals ahead of time and storing them in the freezer.  You can pull them out and heat them up on a busy night.  When we eat a freezer meal, I not only get out of cooking, I get out of cleaning up the mess!

Freezer cooking is also known to some people as "Once a Month Cooking."  They cook all of their meals for an entire month in one day.  Once a Month Cooking was my first introduction to freezer cooking.  It sounded like a good idea, so a friend and I got together, cooked and cooked and cooked, and then had a month's worth of meals ready to go into the freezer.  Sounds great, doesn't it?  But I absolutely hated it.  We cooked so many meals that it took us between 10 - 12 hours start to finish.  When we got done, we were absolutely exhausted.  But, we couldn't sit down.  We had a mess that seemed about 10 times bigger than the one in the picture that still had to be cleaned up.  It seemed to take forever to get it all done.  Every time we sat down to eat one of our freezer meals after that, I had nightmarish flashbacks to that long, grueling day in the kitchen.  I really wasn't sure if it was worth it.

However, I still do think the concept of cooking and cleaning the kitchen once yet eating multiple times sounds great.  Instead of a Once a Month cooking day, I have a "cooking week."  I plan my menu for the week and buy enough ingredients to multiply all of the meals times 4.  Each night, we eat one of the meals and put the other 3 in the freezer.  After a week, we have 12 - 15 meals in the freezer.  Sure, there are a lot of duplicates, but I just make sure they are things that our family likes really well, and nobody seems to mind.  It only takes a few extra minutes to divide whatever I'm making into 4 different pans, and the cleanup is basically the same as if I were making one night's meal.

This process seems much more manageable to me.  I don't have to give up an entire day to cooking (and cleaning up afterward!), and we still get a nice little stash of meals in the freezer. 

One of several pans of burritos ready to go into the freezer.

Do you enjoy freezer cooking?  What are some tips you have for keeping it manageable?

This post may be linked to one of these parties.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Yarn Wrapped Faux Fruit {Tutorial}

I was getting ready to throw away some old faux pears that I had since they had been treated roughly and beaten up by the kids.  The stems were missing and there were some nicks and dings in them, but it hurts me so much to throw something away.  I decided to figure out a way to make them lovely again.  This ended up being so easy!

You could do this with any type of faux fruit; just use the right color of yarn and follow these instructions.  I'm thinking this would look great with pumpkins in the fall!

Supplies needed:


1. Squirt some glue onto the top of the fruit.

2. Use your foam brush to spread it around.  Do not spread too thinly or too far down because it will dry quickly, and the yarn will not stick once it's dry.  If the yarn is not sticking, you need more glue.  Don't be afraid to add more than you think you need because it will dry clear and won't show up on your finished product. 

3. Starting at the very top, wrap the yarn in a spiral shape on top of the glue.  Once you've covered all the glue, add some more, spread it with your brush, and continue wrapping.  Keep wrapping until the entire piece of fruit is covered.

4. When the fruit is fully covered in yarn, cut your twig to the desired size, and attach to the top with a nice dollop of fabric glue.  Remember, don't worry - it will dry clear.

5.  You are done!  Enjoy this amazingly simple creation!

This post may be linked to one of these parties.


Anti-Procrastination Update: Week 3

I am seriously loving my anti-procrastination challenge!

Before I started this challenge, my mindset was always that I do all the "regular" housework, and then I do anything extra like deep cleaning or organizing.  The problem was, that all the housework was never done!  There were always more meals to prepare, meaning the kitchen had to be cleaned yet again, or more laundry to wash, meaning that it also needed to be dried, folded, and put away.  I never seemed to have time to get around to those "extra" things.

I've made it a priority to get to one anti-procrastination task every single day.  Just something simple like pulling the shower curtain off and sending it through the wash has made an amazing difference!

Here are some ways it has affected our household:

1. It gives me a sense of accomplishment in a much more visible way than regularly-occurring chores do.  There's just something depressing about sweeping the floor only to see that it's dirty again 5 minutes later.  A clean shower curtain, however, gives me a visible reminder that I actually did accomplish something today.

2. A sense of accomplishment brightens my mood and actually helps me enjoy doing the "regular" chores.  It's energizing!

3. Little things like a dirty shower curtain, a disorganized pantry, crumbs in the silverware drawer, etc. were starting to pile up.  Unbeknownst to me, they were dampening my husband's mood when he came home from work.  After I'd been at this anti-procrastination challenge for a week or so, he thanked me for all the little things I was getting done, and told me how it was helping him enjoy our home more!  (By the way, I'm enjoying it more too!  You don't even realize sometimes how those little things can affect you until they're done and you realize how much happier you feel!)

4. My husband's mood and energy after coming home from work has perked up so much that he's started his own anti-procrastination challenge!  He has felt so motivated by the little things I've gotten done, that it has inspired him to start working on his own I-really-need-to-get-that-done projects.  Boy, that has really perked up our house!  My kitchen sink hasn't been draining properly for a while, which made it really annoying to do the dishes.  Now that is fixed!  My husband is also super-organized, so he's been cleaning out the house and re-organizing for me!  He has a whole list of things that he's been chipping away at!  This is great!

Have you been meeting your goals this year?  How has it affected you? 

This post may be linked to one of these parties.


Friday, January 20, 2012

When Mommy Gets Grouchy in the Middle of the Night

"Mommy, I wet the bed."

Grumble, grumble, grumble.  Mommy thinks to herself, (sarcastically), "No problem.  I'll just throw all the wet clothes and sheets in the wash along with the dirty towels that I used to clean the bathroom floor when the toilet overflowed.  While I'm at it I'll throw in Kaylah's wet pants and panties that she wet after I had done all the laundry.  Then I'll get so awake giving you a bath and changing your sheets that I won't be able to go back to sleep and I will be sooo tired in the morning."

Why do I act like I'm dying?  I just need to be thankful!

Thankful that I have a little boy to come wake me up in the night.
Thankful that I have clean sheets to put on his bed.
Thankful that we have a bathtub to give him a bath.
Thankful that we have a toilet to overflow.
Thankful that I have a little girl and that she is learning to go on the potty.
Thankful that I have a washing machine to put all the dirty things into.
Thankful that I have a bed to get back into (and that I have a wonderful husband who is keeping the sheets warm.)
Thankful that all 3 kids normally sleep very well through the night.
And on and on and on I could go.

Thank you Lord for reminding me to be thankful!  I have absolutely no right to be grumbling about something so trifling.

Thank you Lord for your blessings! 


Monday, January 16, 2012

Anti-Procrastination Update: Week 2

I've gone two weeks straight without missing a day of Anti-Procrastination!  At least if I stink at meeting my weekly goals, I'm at least accomplishing something every day.

Sunday: I can't remember what this was; I didn't write it down.
Monday: Laminated some stuff for the kids' preschool.  I'm notorious for planning on doing the laminating later, and so far I've done...zilch.  I figured it would be best to start right where I am and laminate the stuff we used today.
Tuesday: Dry Cleaned some stuff that has been hanging in the laundry room forever.
Wednesday: Sewed a button that had come off the boys' hamper.  Removed the bumper from baby boy's crib - he's getting to roly poly for me to feel comfortable with it being on there anymore.  I actually put it all the way in the attic too!
Thursday: Cleaned the crumbs out of the silverware drawer.
Friday: Listed some things on ebay
Saturday: Finished listing things on ebay

So far I am loving the variety of this Anti-Procrastination thing.  It's helping me get something done without getting bored with doing the same old thing every day.  (Even though I still do that too - cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, the works.  It's all part of being a mom, and I wouldn't give it up for anything!)

This post may be linked to one of these parties.


My Weekly Goals

As I mentioned last week, I think I have "Homemaker's ADD."  I really struggle with staying focused on one thing, and because of that I've been doing well with my One Year of Anti-procrastination project.  I usually just pick the first thing that jumps out at me and do it right away.  I've been getting more done, but I'm not forced to work in any particular order.

Here were my weekly goals for last week:

1. Be in bed by 9 pm every night (the hubs and I have both done much better with going to bed early since we set this goal.  I don't think we've ever made it by 9, but we've been getting there a lot earlier than we ever have before!)
2. Be up at 5 am every morning (Ahem.  Hubby and I have both been shooting for this, but we've only made it a couple of times.  Still, we're getting up earlier than we ever have before.  Setting goals is definitely pushing us in the right direction.)
3. Drink 64 oz. of water every day (I haven't kept the greatest track of exactly how much, but I have been filling up a water bottle every day, and I usually refill it at least once.)
4. Do preschool with the kids every day (We made it every day but one last week.)
5. Read one book to the kids every day (Um...I sort of forgot about this one.  Hanging head in shame.)
6. Complete my one anti-procrastination task every day. (Yay!  I crossed one off!)
7. Finalize ideas for hubby's valentine and birthday gifts so I can begin working on them. (Not 100% finalized, but definitely closer.  I also got the ideas for the kids gifts to their cousins completely figured out.)

Wow.  I really stink at this.  Hence, the name of my blog is very appropriate.  At the very least, this goal-setting thing is at least helping me do better than I was before.  With continual working at it, I know I will continue to improve.  Cheer me on, okay?  I need all the encouragement I can get to stick with it.

All righty, here are my goals for this week

1. Be in bed by 9 pm every night
2. Be up at 5 am every morning
3. Drink 64 oz. of water every day
4. Do preschool with the kids every day
5. Read one book to the kids every day
6. Complete my one anti-procrastination task every day.
7. Finalize ideas for hubby's valentine and birthday gifts so I can begin working on them.

Simple enough.  Let's see if I can do this.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Anti-Procrastination Challenge


I have challenged myself, not to a day, a week, or even a month; but to a full year of Anti-Procrastination!

I'd love to have you join me!

We are going to complete one task every day that would normally be put off until all of the "regular cleaning" is done.    If you go here, you can see all the challenges I've posted so far.

Be sure to subscribe to email updates or follow me on Facebook so you won't miss any of the challenges! 


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Great Chicken Debate: Which is Cheaper?

Have you ever felt like it will be so much cheaper to buy the bone-in chicken because it costs so much less per pound?  I know I have, but as I sit there de-boning it I always wonder if it's really worth it or whether I should be buying boneless, skinless breasts.

The other night, I decided to figure this out once and for all. [Side note: I normally try to wait until boneless, skinless chicken breasts are $1.99 or less per pound.  For bone-in chicken I try to buy it at $.99 per pound or less.] 

I had purchased 6 pounds of bone-in chicken breasts at $.99 per pound for a total of $5.94.  After I de-boned it I weighed the meat and had only 3 pounds of meat.  I could have purchased 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $1.99 a pound for $5.97.  I saved a whopping 3 cents by doing all that work de-boning the chicken!

So, is bone-in chicken cheaper?  No!  I will be saving myself the trouble from here on out. 

Note: sometimes I get whole chickens or chicken thighs at $.59 or even $.49 per pound.  In that case, I would still buy the bone-in chicken.  It comes out better price-wise, plus I enjoy the taste of dark-meat and  homemade chicken broth for making soup. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Easiest Way to Perfectly Cooked Rice

I have been married nearly 6 years.  I have cooked rice for our family many times in those 6 years, but I can only remember a handful of times that it has come out just right.  If I get it too sticky one time, I over-correct the next time and it's crunchy and underdone. 

I cannot for the life of me remember where I read this tip, but I have been doing this the last few times I've cooked rice, and it comes out just right every time! 

All you need to do is cook your rice in a larger amount of water than the measurements call for (generally a 2:1 ratio of water to rice).  Since rice produces a sticky starch when cooked, it can start sticking together very easily.  The extra water keeps the grains separated from each other so they won't stick together.  When the rice is done, simply drain the extra water.  Voila!  Perfectly cooked rice with no stickage!

So, for those of you who like detailed instructions:

1. Fill a pot with double the amount of water normally needed for the amount of rice you'll be cooking.
2. Bring the water to a boil.
3. Add the rice and reduce the temperature to medium.
4. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Drain the remaining water from the rice.

It's so profoundly simple that I wonder why I've never thought of this before.  Oh, wait.  That would be too easy.  I never do things the easy way.  Except cook rice.  Now, anyways. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Goals for This Week

I think I have "homemaker's ADD".  I have a really hard time focusing on things, and routines seem to make me do worse than a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach.  Maybe that's why I'm enjoying the Anti-Procrastination challenge.  I can just pick something at random every day to work on.  I'm not forced to follow any specific routine, but I'm still getting things done.

Most of my weekly goals, therefore, are ongoing things that I want to become habits in my life. 

1. Be in bed by 9 pm every night
2. Be up at 5 am every morning
3. Drink 64 oz. of water every day
4. Do preschool with the kids every day
5. Read one book to the kids every day
6. Complete my one anti-procrastination task every day
7. Finalize ideas for hubby's valentine and birthday gifts so I can begin working on them

I think this is a pretty do-able list.  I get discouraged very easily, so I definitely do better when I keep things simple.

Am I the only one who struggles with "homemaker's ADD"?

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Anti-Procrastination Check-Up: Week One

Okay, I have successfully completed my first week of anti-procrastination!  Here's how it went:

Sunday: This one is really embarrassing, and revealed just how bad of a procrastinator I really am.  I threw away a half-eaten candy bar that had been sitting on a shelf for 3 days.  Yes, THREE DAYS.  There was no reason to save it because it belonged to my father-in-law who doesn't even live here - he was just stopping by and forgot to take his Twix bar with him.  Anyway, after 3 days I finally decided to throw it away.
Monday: Worked to get the crayon out of a load of clothes.  Fun stuff. 

Tuesday: Got some venison ground up that had been sitting in the fridge since hubby shot it.  I also went ahead and cooked all of it to make meal prep easier later on.

Wednesday: Got the rest of the venison portioned up, packaged and put into the freezer.

Thursday:  Cleaned off a tray that had been collecting papers, receipts, etc.

Friday: Bleached the dishes that had contained the raw venison.

 Saturday:  I know I did something here, but I didn't write it down, so I don't remember.  We did have a lot of fun playing outside most of the day in our wonderful 60+ degree January weather. 

How did you do last week?  I'm feeling rather unmotivated today, but I have at least started on my anti-procrastination task for today.  I guess I should get off the computer and finish...


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Grind Venison in the Food Processor

My husband got two deer this year, his first since we've been married.  That means I got my first experience at helping butcher.  Not exactly what I would call fun, but I'm thankful for the meat.  There are, of course, certain portions of the meat which are only suitable for grinding.  When I was growing up, my dad always had a big meat grinder that he would use.  Since I did not have one, I thought I would just try it in the food processor.  It works!  Quite well, I might add.

After a little trial and error, here is how it worked best:

  • Use the S-shaped steel blade.
  • Only grind a small amount at a time.  Turn the food processor on the highest setting, but be ready to turn it off quickly if the meat is too tough.  If it seems like the machine is struggling, turn it off right away, otherwise you will burn up your motor.  If you are having trouble getting your machine to cut through the meat, you will have to work at cutting away some of the sinew.  See all the white streaks in that piece of meat?  That's what you have to get rid of.  I found that it was actually easier to grind the meat first, and then pick out the white strands, but every once in a while there is some that is too tough and it has to be cut off before you can grind it.
  • It took about 10 seconds to fully grind each small piece.  Bigger pieces took more like 30 seconds. 
 This is a piece that has already been ground.  Now you need to pick out as much of those white streaks as you reasonably can without spending forever or wasting too much meat.  I wore disposable gloves for this part.

  It will look like it has been crushed to smitherines, but once you cook it, it is the perfect consistency.  See?


Now you can use it for spaghetti, chili, or anything else for which you would use regular burger!

I apologize if that was a little gross for you, but I hope it will help someone like me who had no earthly idea how to go about grinding venison. 


Monday, January 2, 2012

How to Remove Crayon from Clothing

Preschool Boy + Pockets + Crayons + Washer + Dryer =

Yes, that is one of my daughter's good dresses that is absolutely covered in yellow crayon.  I washed and dried an entire load of kids clothes with a yellow crayon.  Every article of clothing had lovely yellow splotches on it.  Rather than cry, I did a little searching until I came up with what I thought should be the least pain-free way of removing said yellow crayon splotches.  

In case you ever find yourself in the same predicament, here are step-by-step instructions for removing crayon from clothing.

  1.  Spray each crayon splotch with WD-40.

2. After you have sprayed the spots, place the clothing into the bathtub with the hottest water you can get.  (It is very important to have your water very hot or you will end up with grease spots on the clothes.)

3.  Let the clothing sit for a few minutes and scrape each spot with your fingernail.  The crayon should come right off, along with some oil from the WD-40.

4. If you have tough spots, re-spray them and scrub them some more with your fingernail.  When you have removed all or most of the spots, put the clothes into the washing machine on the hottest water setting.  Use good laundry detergent like Tide if you can.

5.  You may have to send the load through a couple times and use some good-smelling fabric softener to get rid of the oily smell from the WD-40.

6.  Do not dry any of the clothes until you are sure the crayon marks are gone.  If you have any clothing that still has crayon marks, start over at step 1 and repeat until the crayon marks are gone.

7. NEVER wash a little boy's clothes in the future without checking the pockets!