Frugally Awesome Giveaway!

I hear there's a football game this week and if you're trying to get ready for a party this week and looking for some help at the grocery store then this giveaway is for you. Jenn at Frugal Upstate is doing a giveaway for a $50 WalMart gift card and detailing all the great game day food you can get for $50! Giveaway ends Feb. 2 so hop on over and enter right now because this is definitely a Cool Idea!

Kroger Mega Deals

Did you shop the Kroger Mega deals this week? I did and between The Grocery Game and the mega deals I only paid full price for 2 things. DH wanted pita bread for his breakfast sandwichs next week and I needed coconut for granola. Those cost me around $3.50.

I bought 30 items that were covered by the mega deals so I saved $15 from my total! I also had $5.50 in coupons and $.95 in bonus coupons and $47.89 in Kroger Plus Savings. My cellfire and shortcuts coupons didn't pull from my loyalty card because I had paper coupons for the same items but hey, I saved a total of $54.34 from the shelf price of the items I bought today!

So, what did I get? I stocked back up on some snack item for the girls' lunches and there were great deals on canned tomatoes and frozen appetizers. Yep, I love soft pretzels and Kroger's frozen pretzels are as good as it gets right now. Oh, and there are Kraft cheese coupons in the sidebar and they are part of the mega event! It's a great double-dip!! Also, Mugs Root Beer - which is caffeine free - was only $.79 so I splurged and got a couple. I rarely have soda in the house. And to balance it out I got DH some Mt. Dew - ick.

Will there be anything to actually eat from all of this? Probably, but my planning is to work out of my pantry most of the time. I'll grab some canned tomatoes and pasta and maybe the black beans I did a couple of weeks ago that are in the freezer and we'll have something yummy. Or maybe I'll put them with some hamburger that's in the freezer and it'll be a meatloaf.

Gotta love the Mega Deals at Kroger - they are definitely a Cool Idea!

All You Magazine on Amazon

Maybe you've got some gift cards saved up in Amazon or you have some from your Swagbucks searches. Either way you'll want to hop over and take a look at this great deal from Amazon. They are offering 1-Year subscriptions to All You Magazine for $15! Seriously, there's probably $15 worth of coupons in just one month's issue of this magazine, right. In fact, Tara at Deal Seeking Mom usually lists the coupons in All You each month. Most of the time you need to subscript directly from the publisher or get this at Wal-Mart but here's another great way for us use up 'free money'.

Make Ahead Meatball Subs

DH is a teacher and the boys generally covet his lunches. He does take great lunches! One of the things the kids especially love about the teacher's lunches is that they get to use the microwave so the kids live vicariously through the lovely warm smells.

Today I made some meatball subs to put in the freezer so DH can just pull one out and take it. This works best especially this time of the year when school is sooo busy for him.

This is what I did:
1. A couple of nights ago I realized I had a large can - probably 28 oz. - of tomato sauce. I diced up half of a small onion and added that to some olive oil and a clove of garlic. Actually I use preminced garlic because it can sit in my fridge until I'm ready for it, ya know.
2. Once the onion and garlic were softened, I added the tomato sauce and brought it up to a boil.
3. After it boiled I turned it down to a simmer, added some oregano in the palm of my hand - and the same amount of basil.
4. Stir it up, cover and simmer for an hour or so.
5. Let it cool and put it away or use it right away.

You could just use a jar of marinara or pasta sauce but I didn't have any on hand and this can of tomato sauce was looking kinda nekkid, which was why it got doctored up a bit.

Today I got the jar of my sauce out an put it in the crockpot with a bunch of frozen meatballs from Costco and put them on low. I stirred them a couple of times over 4 hours but it wouldn't have been necessary. I did it because I know my crockpot has a 'hot side' and I didn't want those to get too hard.

Once all the meatballs were done, I opened up 8 sub rolls [also from Costco] on a baking sheet lined with foil and put 4 meatballs on each roll and added some sauce to each sandwich. Then I sprinkled shredded cheese over each. I used the shredded cheese blend that Costco has because we always have it on hand and we use it for everything but use whatever works for you. Total, I don't think used much more than a cup of cheese.

Pop these in a warm oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Let cool and wrap in plastic wrap and then put in a freezer bag before putting in the freezer. DH now has 8 lunches and it probably took me 20 minutes of total attention time today and another 20 minutes of time for the sauce.

One of the things I like about doing meals like this is that I've used item from my pantry and I'll have less overall waste of items bought. Sometimes sub rolls go bad before we eat them because they come in such a large quantity and there's only the 2 of us going through them. This way they'll keep in the freezer as part of the meal and not turn moldy! A definitely bonus and a perfectly Cool Idea!

Cellfire coupons reset!

Coupons are available on Cellfire for Kroger starting Tuesday 01/26/10 can be saved until Monday 02/08/10 and expire Monday 02/22/10.

Make Tuesday Taco Night! - Save $0.50 when you buy any Old El Paso(r) product.

BC Frosting Save $.50 - Save $0.50 when you buy ONE TUB any flavor/variety Betty Crocker(r) Frosting

BC Fruit Snacks Save $.50 - Save $0.50 on TWO BOXES Betty Crocker(r) Fruit by the Foot(r), Fruit Gushers(r), Fruit Roll-Ups(r) OR Fruit Roll-Ups(r) Fruit Stickerz(r)
Fruit Flavored Snacks

BC Warm Delights Save $.50 - Save $0.50 when you buy ONE any flavor Betty Crocker(r) Warm Delights(r)Bowls OR Betty Crocker(r) Warm Delights(r) Minis Bowls

Chex Mix Save $.50 - Save $0.50 when you buy any flavor 4.5 OZ. OR LARGER Chex Mix(r) OR Chex(r) 100 Calorie Snack

Fiber One Muffin Mix Save $.50 - Save $0.50 when you buy any flavor/variety Fiber One Box Muffin Mix

Fiber One(r) Chewy Bar Save $.40 - Save $0.40 when you buy ONE BOX any flavor Fiber One(r) Chewy Bars

Green Giant(r) vege's Save $.50 - Save $0.50 when you buy TWO any variety Green Giant(r) Frozen Boxed Vegetables

Hamburger Helper(r) Save $.75 - Save $0.75 when you buy THREE any flavor Hamburger Helper(r), Tuna Helper(r) OR Chicken Helper(r) Home Cooked Skillet Meals

Lucky Charms(r) cereal Save $.55 - Save $0.55 when you buy Lucky Charms(r) cereal

Multigrain Cheerios(r) Save $.55 - Save $0.55 when you buy MultiGrain Cheerios(r) cereal

Nature Valley Granola Bars Save $.40 - Save $0.40 when you buy ONE BOX any flavor/variety Nature Valley(r)Granola Bars

NV Granola Nut Clustrs Save $1 - Save $1.00 when you buy ONE BAG any flavor Nature Valley(r) Granola Nut Clusters

Pillsbury Frozen Grands! Save $.75 - Save $0.75 when you buy any TWO Frozen Pillsbury(r) Grands!(r) Biscuits,Cinnamon Rolls, OR Mini Cinnamon Rolls

Pillsbury Holiday Cookies Save $.75 - Save $0.75 when you buy any TWO Pillsbury(r) Refrigerated Holiday Cookies

Pillsbury Italian Meal Bread Save $1/2- Save $1.00 when you buy any TWO Pillsbury(r) Italian Meal Breads (Includes any Loaves, Breadsticks, Dinner Rolls, and Pizza Crust)

Pillsbury Savorings(r) Save $1/2 -Save $1.00 when you buy TWO any flavor/variety Pillsbury(r) Savorings(r) products

Pillsbury Sweet Rolls Save $1/2 - Save $1.00 when you buy any TWO Pillsbury(r) Sweet Rolls OR Grands!(r)Sweet Rolls

Pillsbury Toaster Strudel(r) Save $.55 - Save $0.55 when you buy any TWO Pillsbury(r) Toaster Strudel(r) Pastries

Progresso(r) Soups Save $.50 -Save $0.50 when you buy TWO any flavor Progresso(r) Soups

Yoplait(r) Cups Save $.50 - Save $0.50 when you buy SIX any variety Yoplait(r) Yogurt cups OR any flavor Yoplait(r) Original OR Light Smoothies

Yoplait(r) Fiber One(r) Save $1 - Save $1.00 when you buy any flavor Yoplait(r) Fiber One(r) Yogurt Multipacks

Hot/Lean Pockets Save $.55 -Save $.55 when purchasing 1 box of HOT or LEAN POCKETS(r) brand BREAKFAST sandwiches

Toll House(r) Dough Save $.55 - Save $0.55 when you purchase any (1) variety of Nestle(r) Toll House(r)Refrigerated Cookie Dough.

Toll House(r) Morsels Save $.50 -Save $0.50 when you purchase any (1) variety of Nestle(r) Toll House(r)Morsels

Purina(r) Dog/Cat Treats Save $1 - Save $1.00 on two (2) packages of Purina(r) brand Dog Snacks and/or Cat Treats, any size, any variety.

Purina(r) Dry Cat Food Save $1 - Save $1.00 on any one (1) package of Purina(r) brand Dry Cat Food, any size, any variety.

Purina(r) Dry Dog Food Save $1 - Save $1.00 on any one (1) package of Purina(r) brand Dry Dog Food, any size, any variety.

Any Biore Save $1- Save $1.00 when purchasing Biore products.

Any Curel Save $1- Save $1.00 when purchasing Curel, 13oz or larger.

Jergens Lotions Save $1 - Save $1.00 when purchasing full size Jergens (excluding Jergens Natural Glow).

Root Awakening Save $2 - Save $2.00 when purchasing any Root Awakening product, 6 oz - 8.45 oz)

Select BAN Items Save $.75- Save $0.75 on Ban solids and roll-ons.

There you go! Hit the side bar and put then on your Kroger-family store loyalty card so they are there when you go shopping and you don't have to worry about it which is definitely a Cool Idea!

Bzzing about Ultracept

A month ago I received several bottles of ULTRACEPT Antiseptic Handwash to test so that I could report out how I liked it. I've just gotta say that it's nice to find something that will keep my - and my kidlets - hands free of germs without peeling the skin right off.

ULTRACEPT is non-greasy and non-sticky and in a nice change - it actually moisterizes. Pretty amazing. There are a lot of amazing things about ULTRACEPT.
  • It kills 99.9% of germs instantly
  • Lasts for 6 hours
  • Is used by surgeons and clincians because of the awesome germ control

Currently ULTRACEPT™ Antiseptic Handwash is available at, pick up a few 3-packs and enter the code ULTRABZZ to save 10% on your order. Then share the love, not the germs!

You'll love the size of these bottles. Toss one in you purse, one in the car and one in the diaper bag. ULTRACEPT is definitely a Cool Idea!

*I received samples to try as a Bzzagent but this review are entirely of my own thoughts and likes.

Fantastic Finds at the Grocery

I had another grocery mystery shop Thursday night and since I consider the fee that I'm paid to be 'free groceries to me' I sometimes splurge on yummies that I don't otherwise usually buy. Like Chicken Salad from Ukrop's. This chicken salad is AMAZING. It's also expensive - $8.99 for 15 oz. See why it's a treat, but it's all white meat, and creamy and still full of flavor.

As a rule I try to remember to check out the manager's specials in each department. I also check out the dairy products that are being marked down because of their sell by date and I check the overstock/ seasonal racks. This is where I found my bonuses this week.

I'm not sure why baby products were on here but I'm appreciative. I got a refill packages of 128 Huggies Natural Care wipes which are usually $5.25 for $2 each. I picked up two. I also saw Boudreax's Butt Paste, the $4.25 tube, marked down to $1. If I don't need it then I can pass it along to someone or donate it to the women's shelter but it's just not allowed to pass up a deal like that! Seriously.

I also scored a handful of Knorr's Vegetable Soup Mix for $.75 which will make some yummy dip for later in the week. I hear there's a football game coming up.

I saved nearly $10 on baby products alone and no one has ever had too many baby wipes. So lesson to us all to make sure to make to at least make a pass by these random racks in your grocery store. You never know what you can score and getting stuff you need for a drastically reduced price is such a Cool Idea!

The Frugal Map

Wow! This is such a Cool Idea that I'm just gonna mention this up front.

The Frugal Map was created so that people could search for a blog that met their category, style, or store preference anywhere around the country. Right now there are 35 bloggers listed in the map but that will be growing as more people submit their blogs to this new map. So hop on over and give it a try. Keep an eye on it and I'm sure you'll see it grow and flourish because this is just the kind of thing that is going to help us all.

Fridgidaire Helps Kids

Frigidaire and Jennifer Garner are teaming up once again to support Save the Children's U.S. Programs, dedicated to helping children living in poverty in the United States.

Their new Spin & Win game gives you the opportunity to win gift cards for spending quality time with your tykes - whether it's curling up with some new books, starting a craft project or taking in a family flick. They're giving away a prize every day. Plus, you could also win a brand new Frigidaire Affinity washer and dryer, with time-saving features that give you more time for the important things in life.

Best of all, every time you play, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children, as part of their $250,000 commitment to support Save the Children's CHANGE program, dedicated to providing nutritious snacks and promoting healthier lifestyles for children living in poverty in the United States.

I have a kitchen full of Frigidaire appliances and would love to replace the washer and dryer soon. Maybe. We'll see. Because these appliance are truly cool. Energy efficient. Cool features. Can fit in tight places and still let me stuff them to the gills. Oh, and did you notice they come in cool colors. I did. Apparently they got the memo. Thank you.

Helping kids is always a Cool Idea and when a great company decides to do it again and again, well, I want to let everyone with ears know that I think this is a very Cool Idea.

Wonderful Wednesday

They say 3 points make a trend! Woohoo. Wonderful Wednesday is back to being a trend here at What A Cool Idea! I hope there are some great things here for you.

Get your free McCafe from McDonald's every Wednesday. Offer is good until the end of February.

FREE Taco Fresco from Taco Bell.

Well, not a great week but there are a couple of things to keep us until next week and you can't beat free food that is definitely a Cool Idea!

Survey Cashouts

I had a lot of surveys to do over the winter break and I got to cashout at Lightspeed, Focusonline, and Opinion Outpost for a total of $40. I also had a survey payout directly to me in the form of a $10 Target gift card. I also cashed out another survey that paid in points for a $10 Target gift card.

And I'm *this close* to being able to cash out at Survey Head. I'm just waiting for some pending surveys to hit my account and then I'll be able to move that amount to my PayPal account. That's one thing I like about Lightspeed, Focusline, and Survey Head. They all have the option to redeem your award in cash through PayPal. Opinion Outpost as a cash option still but if you want to redeem at a lower amount you can get an Amazon e-certificate. Personally, Opinion Outpost usually works so well for me that I redeem at the $5 level with the Amazon e-gift card and it's not like I don't buy books, right;)

So there's the latest on my survey work. I hope it's working out well for you. For me it continues to help fill in around the cracks of my income and it's definitely a Cool Idea!

Are You Totally Together?

If you enjoyed A Year of Slowcooking then you need to hop on over to Totally Together Journal soon because Stephanie O'Dea going to helping us again.

Not only are there some really great tips for getting your act together but each day this year she's posted a quick tip or reminder for how to keep things pulled together around the house.

The one that I'm working on, in a modified form is the Daily 7, which are:

Number 1: Make Beds Right Away

Number 2: Do One Complete Load of Laundry

Number 3: Empty All Garbage Cans

Number 4: Keep Your Kitchen Sink Empty

Number 5: Clean Up After Yourself and Help Children Do the Same

Number 6: Bathroom Wipe-Down

Number 7: Before Bed 10-Minute Clean Up

But this is how I works in reality for me.
#1: I don't care about beds. I never have. This comes from the fact that no one ever spent any portion of the day at my house growing up. I generally pull up the duvet when I get out of bed and that's the extent of it. I do the same to the girls beds.
#2: This is a reality in our house. I set the washer late at night - a habit I got into when we were on the critical-peak power pilot - and I put it away in the morning after the girls go to school.
#3: Um, not so much. Trash gets taken out when I get a chance or it gets too smelly. Which is usually the same thing.
#4: This is the way I am already. I empty the dishwasher at breakfast time and load it as I go throughout the day. I am, however, the only one in my house who does this. Not that I notice.
#5: We're working on this. Comfort and Joy are 4 and 3, respectively, so it's a slow process but I never forget to clean up after myself. It's reality in my house.
#6: I'm working on this and finding it easier to get in my pattern than I thought I would. I mean, with potty training it's not like I'm not in the bathroom a great deal of the day. Instead of just sitting around uttering encouraging words I get out the Clorox wipes and do the wipe down.
#7: This was something we started doing over the holidays while the girls were home from school. Too much indoor playtime had turned our living room into a total wreck. Now we have clean up time when we change activities, like moving from coloring time to eating or reading to bedtime. It's still mostly me putting things away but the girls are doing their part and that's the point.

The point is to do a little bit all along so that it's not entirely overwhelming. Also, it's good to get the kids involved as soon as we can. They learn from us and their future roommates and spouses will thank us for instilling good habits in them at this early age. Believe me. I know.

Bar Keepers Friend is My New Friend

I loved having a white porcelain sink when we first moved into this house 8 years ago. It looks so nice with the blond wood cabinets and the gray tile floors.

Then reality sets in. DH loves coffee. And he's not so great about rinsing out the sink after he pours his cup out. And the scratches. I had NO idea. Well, it's taken a toll.

Then I read a great tip on Mary Hunt's Everyday Cheapskate about using Barkeepers Friend to clean porcelain sinks and I bought some the next time I had a mystery shop at Kroger. That way, if it didn't work, at least it was free. Right?

Well, no worries. It definitely works. Check this out.

Here's the side by side view of my kitchen sink. The left side has been cleaned with dish soap only and the right side with Barkeepers Friend. Sure there's still some staining but it actually looks better than this picture portrays since my kitchen doesn't have the best lighting for photography - even with the camera's flash.

So, my new friend is Barkeeper's Friend. It has so many uses I haven't even learned about them all but it is definitely a Cool Idea!!

Stocking the Freezer

So I'm stocking my new freezer slowing but surely. And here's how I'm doing it.

Every time I make a 'go to' meal I double the recipe and freeze one.

Yep, that way I know I'm putting away food that I know my family eats. The first thing I put away was a Knock Off recipe of Chi-Chi's Corn Cake. I love this recipe but I rarely have heavy cream in the house to make it so I made sure to make two and freeze one.

Next, after testing the Apple Struesel Muffins from Once a Month Mom and getting Toddler Approval I baked a double batch and froze them. I also made the Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes so I'll have something to take to church for potluck for the next couple of months.

Another great way to stock the freezer and keep my butt from getting huge(r) - last time I made a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough I only needed half of it. I froze the other half. Cookie dough freezes really well.

So these are my really Cool Ideas for getting the fridge stocked from nothing. I'll post more as I go along. If you have other Cool Ideas that I'm missing, Please Let Me Know.

Meal Planning Confession

The confession part is that I bought myself a major appliance as part of my Christmas present. UGH.

This was originally a rule in our marriage. No household appliances for birthdays or holidays but we decided use our collective Christmas monies to buy a chest freezer for the house. We'd talked about it for several months and watched the sales at Sears and Costco and decided on one that would fit in the area off our kitchen since there was no way a freezer would make the turn into our basement.

So, there it is. Now I have more space and no excuse for not putting good food away. Tomorrow I'll post more about how I'm working to get ahead and stocking our new freezer.

Cool Ideas from

Personally, we've been doing a great job of eating in but I can see us beginning to get stir crazy for a some good Mexican so it's time to raid our account and go out this weekend. We find that this is a great way for us to treat ourselves and still stick to a moderate budget.

Now 80% off $25 Gift Cert. orders. Use code INDULGE and Pay $2 thru 01/19/10.
Most restaurants allow you to use the certificate up to a year later, but be sure to read the fine print.

Wonderful Wednesday

Ready to get started again. Here we go:

FREE UniBall Super Ink Pen - free pens are given away everyday beginning at Noon CDT and will go fast.

Become a fan of Celestial Seasonings of Facebook and get a free sample of green tea

Sample of Gold Bond Santizer and Moisterizer in One

FREE sample of Kotex Ultra Thin Pads and Fresh & Dry Liners

FREE sample of Purex 3-in-1 Complete

Are You Searching with Swagbucks?

I hope so. It's a great way to get both information and good stuff.

Signing up with Swagbucks is easy. Follow the link or one of the Swagbucks buttons or banners on this page. Also, you can go through my search swidget down on the lower right hand bar.

One of the great reasons to use Swagbucks is that if you download the Swagbucks toolbar, you'll get notice of free Swagbucks - and who doesn't want free stuff! This week there's a free Swagbuck every day being released on the toolbar. Just download the toolbar and keep an eye out for when it pops up to tell you that there's a new one out there. You also get Swagbucks randomly for your searches.

And once you get a good number of Swagbucks accumulated you can check out the Swag Store and see what you want to buy with your Swagbucks. Usually I get Amazon certificates or I turn them in for PayPal cash. It just depends what I need at the time or if the Swag Store is running a sale. Either way I win because I'm getting a prize for something I'd be doing anyway which I think is definitely a Cool Idea!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I've been waiting to tell you how this worked for us and I can now let you know that I LOVE USING HOMEMADE LAUNDRY DETERGENT!

I was pretty sure that I would but I didn't want to say anything out loud - just in case. I'm still working on how much cheaper it'll be in the long run but already it's more fun and we're better at portion control per load than we were with store bought detergent.

If you've never thought about making your own detergent, really, consider it. It's super easy and it's good for you and your clothes. This way you can control what is in your detergent. I'm sensitive to scents and perfumes and this way I KNOW that my clothes aren't going to smell like anything that will make me sneeze. Also, this detergent doesn't suds a lot which is perfect for HE and front loading washing machines.

Here's the recipe I used, which I got from Jenn at Frugal Upstate:

1 Cup Grated Soap - I use Fels Naptha
1/2 C Washing Soda - Arm & Hammer makes the brand I found
1/2 Cup Borax

Mix together and use 1 Tablespoon per load. I did add some Oxi-Clean to each load as I finds that it helps with our toddler stains.

Here's the link to Jenn's laundry detergent video at Frugal Upstate what walks you through the process on how to make laundry detergent it in the food processor - which is exactly what I did.

For years I noticed that my local Kroger carried Fels Naptha and that's where I bought it last summer when I made my first homemade batch of detergent. This weekend when I needed another bar I noticed that my store no longer carries this product so I went to Soaps Gone Buy and found that it was on sale for $0.99 - so I stocked up!

The Fels Naptha will be the most expensive part of the recipe - at $0.99 at bar sale price or $1.75 retail - as this will make one batch. I have plenty of the other left in the boxes of washing soda and borax and might not have to buy any more for the rest of the year.

So just how far did I get on one batch of detergent? Just about 2 months. Personally, I think that's pretty good for a family of four that includes 2 toddlers. I probably do about five loads of laundry a week on average. I'll keep better track this next time and let you know but it's still a pretty Cool Idea!

Why do I Write?

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to acknowledge publicly that I write. Well, obviously, I write - this blog has been around for a year now. But I write fiction. No one's read it and no one's publishing it but I still write it.

Some of you might remember my posts last summer when I went to the RWA Conference in Washington, DC. I spent three days attending workshops on the craft of writing, meeting other writers, listening to people describe their work or how hard it is to get published, etc.

There was some fun, too. I met women who I, at that time, only knew from the internet. We met as part of an online writer's community and it wasn't until July that we met in person. Now I get hear their voices in my head when I read their emails or their Facebook posts.

But Why Do I Write? Because I have stories that I think are interesting and I want to learn how to tell them better. Today I'm at my monthly writing workshop - learning more about the craft of writing, having great conversations and just generally catching up with friends. Not only does it give me a creative outlet but it gives me some personal time as well. And as we all know, it's definitely a Cool Idea to get out of the house every now and then!

Baby Steps toward good Meal Planning

When DH and I were first married he was in grad school and often had dinner ready when I got home. It was usually a casserole - he picked a meat, a starch, a cream of 'something' soup, and topped it with cracker crumbs or cheese. Occasionally there was a mystery spice involved, too. I couldn't complain too much because I didn't have to do the planning.

For many years it was just the two of us and with hectic schedules we'd just catch a quick dinner when we got home or we'd go out if we couldn't come up with a better plan. This was not a good habit to establish and one day I had to stop and remind myself that we really didn't have the money to do this.

So, I pulled out all of my cookbooks and made a list of the things we liked to eat. Well, the things I like to eat. That's a shorter list and it's not very broad. We eat a lot of chicken - when we eat meat at all. Or we eat 'go to' meals that my mom made when I was growing up.

Now that our lives have shifted again and Comfort and Joy have joined our family I have an even greater need to make a meal plan. Last year was a learning experience even in the failure to achieve what I wanted to do. I learned that planning a month at a time wasn't going to work for me. At least not right away.

Why? Because I need Baby Steps to get used to this meal planning thing. Yes, I'm glad that I'm not starring in to the fridge at 4 o'clock trying to figure out what we're going to eat and nuking hot dogs for the girls every night but I also need to allow for some flexiblity for us.

Right now I'm planning 3-4 days ahead. This gets me from grocery trip to Costco run and back each week. I'm also not doing this just in my head. I'm keeping track on our family calendar. I thought about using another page - maybe on my computer - but by using the family calendar it gives DH a vote in the meal idea, too.

There you are. My first Baby Steps toward my New Years resolution to create a sustainabl meal plan for our family. Next week I'll continue to write about how I'm bulking up the pantry. Sucess or failure - meal planning is definitely a Cool Idea!

Check out Once A Month Mom

This is a site I've mentioned before - both here and to everyone who has ears. In fact, I was posting on Facebook last night about one of the recipes I was baking yesterday with Comfort and Joy when I found out that today I was going to have a guest post up at Once a Month Mom.

I hope you'll hop on over and hear what I've learned about once a month cooking. I also hope you'll stick around here for more on this topic because I have a confession to share in tomorrow's post.


Wonderful Wednesday

Personally, I've missed doing my weekly free samples so I'm adding them back to my weekly blog schedule so that I'll have them in my life again. Here we go:

FREE Sample of Post It Durable Filing Flags

FREE Sample of Barbara's Bakery Organic Cereal

We'll start off slowly so we don't get overwhelmed. Enjoy!

Resolutions for 2010

It's Tuesday - in case anyone is keeping track - so I'm a day late posting this. Joy was helping me cook dinner yesterday, and the pizza dough was having trouble rising in our amazingly cold kitchen, so everything took just a bit longer than anticipated. I do love that she's helpful but I'm constantly reminding her that things are hot. At least she can say that word!

So, my resolutions. Well, I haven't really do a lot of thinking about them. Meal Planning is still an issue so that goes back on the list. Income is still an issue so that goes back on the list. My writing has always been an issue but I've only just named it publicly so I'm finally going to put it on the list. Living Smart is part of who I am and who I want to continue to be so I'm moving it from 'resolutions' to 'goals'.

What does that leave:
1. Get serious about meal planning.
2. Continue to come up with creative solutions to add to my SAHM income.
3. I am a great writer. Whether it's non-fiction, blogging, birthday cards, or fiction. I need to make sure I give myself time to do what I enjoy.

There. That feels do-able and like a list I can continue to be accountable for throughout the year. I hope you'll stick around and see how it goes. Already I have a few ideas to get started. And if you have tips and tricks that work for you, I'd love to hear them. We all know I could use some help here and sharing what we know already works is always a Cool Idea!

Resolutions: Last Year's Recap

Probably my first resolution for the New Year should be to do a better job of being accountable for my resolutions. I noticed that the last time I did a monthly Recap was in July. Not good. This time I'm going to put it on the calendar. Well, probably it was on the calendar last year but that laptop died in April.

Here are last year's Resolutions:

1. Do a better job with coupons and pantry stockpiling.
2. Continue to find creative ways to cut expenses
3. Meal planning/ smart planning
4. Increase my income as a stay-at-home parent
5. Find ways to live smarter in the balance between frugality and the environment
6. [not sure yet but I feel like there's something still there to be explored - so I'm leaving room for one more]

1. I think I did a good job here. I 'stuck to the list' - by which I mean - The Grocery Game so that I would be getting my items at the least possible cost to me. I love that the list also tells me where to find the coupon in my pile of coupons. Definitely worth the small cost, I think.

2. Cutting expenses continued to challenge us. One benefit I hadn't realized was that the school that Comfort and Joy attend serves breakfast everyday so theorectically I don't have to serve breakfast 5 days a week, 9 months a year. Bonus!

3. Meal Planning was my down fall and will be carried over into this year. Smart Planning is something I'm good at and I might pull them out and treat them as two different items. We'll see.

4. Creating income as a SAHParent is a challenge. I now have a couple more hours a day in which I can work but I still can't entirely rely on that time because I get called to get one of the girls from school at least once or twice a month. Surveys, mystery shopping, and online focus groups have been my main source and I've kept on top of this to try to maximize it.

5. Living smarter is definitely a strength and I hope I can continue to find additional ways in which we can blend frugality and our goal of being gentler on the environment.

6. This one never did get named but I think it probably had something to do with my fiction writing. I should just call it what it is and move on. I'm a Great Writer!

I'll post my Resolutions on Monday and I'm going to have Recaps set up for later each month.

How well did you do on your resolutions last year? Any that you'd like to reshuffle and try again this year?

Happy New Year 2010!

What A Cool Idea! has been around for a year and here are a couple of things that I've learned:
  • I'm perhaps the least successful Mommy Blogger [by page hits] on the internet
  • I Am A Great Writer

So, for 2010 I'll be working on both my strenghts and my 'challenges'. I hope you'll be along for the ride with me. Heck, for nothing else, you'll at least want to see what this year's Resolutions might be and how well/ badly I do. It will definitely be a Cool Idea!

Endings and Beginnings

It's the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. Did you realize that? I didn't until someone else mentioned it. It reminded me that DH and I went to the millenium celebration on The Mall in DC as the new century rolled in and - well - sadly there's not much I remember except standing up all night and wondering if the Metro would in fact work for the ride home.

Remember that? Y2K and everything else. Seems like a long time ago doesn't it.

What I remember about that event was the intensely bright lights that they used to mimic the Sun dawning on the New Century. I kid you not - These Lights Were Bright.

We were standing at least half way down the Reflecting Pool and when the lights [which came up from behind the Lincoln Memorial] came on it was warmer and brighter than any sun I've ever actually seen. It was absolutely amazing.

I think the best part about it was that it helped remind us that the dawn always follows the night and the Light Shines in the Darkness.

So, it's the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. Welcome to the new Decade.