Monday, May 30, 2011

Giant Deals for 800 Gas Points (for the locals!) this week

Just got back from Giant.  Matched up some serious coupons with their gas promotions this week to walk out of the store with 800 extra gas points (an extra 80 cents off a gallon).  You can bank these points through 6/25/11.  So far we have 1500 points from 2 weeks of shopping.  Can't wait to redeem these at the pump.  My goal is to get to under $2 a gallon.  If gas prices stay under $4 a gallon, we should be able to pull it off.

Here's what I did:
Buy any 7 for 200 extra points:
  • Deer Park Spring Water Pack - 2 for $4.  Bought 2, used $1 off coupon.
  • Oscar Mayer Carving Board Lunch Meat - 2 for $7. Bought 2, used $1 off coupon.
  • Dixie Plates or cups or Vanity Fair Plates, cups or bowls - 2 for $4. Bought 1 set of vanity fair plates, used 55 cents off coupon - store matched for a total of $1 off.
  • Kraft Salad Dressing - 2 for $4. Bought 2, used $1 off coupon.
Buy any 6 for 200 extra points:
  • Birds Eye Voila - $3.69.  Bought 2.
  • Ego Healthy Waffles - $2.39. Bought 2, used $1 off coupon.
  • Tyson Any'tizers - 2 for $5. Bought 2, used $1 off coupon.
Buy any 5 for 200 extra points:
  • Dannon Light & Fit 4 pack - $1.89 each.  Bought 4.
  • Eggland's Best Eggs, Large or X-Large - $1.88 each.  Used 35 cent off coupon, store doubled to 70 cents off.
Buy any 3 for 200 extra points:
  • Huggies Baby Wipes Refill - $5.99 each.  Used 75 cents off coupon, store doubled to $1 off total.
  • Huggies Jumbo Diapers - $8.99 each. Bought 2, used 2 - $3 off coupons for a total of $6 off.
    (if you don't need diapers or wipes, the other things in this category that could work would be Purina One Dog Food, Gatorade, Kraft Easy Mac Club Pack, Oscar Mayer 3 lb. pkg, Friskies cat food or Capri - Sun variety pack)
So normally, for 800 gas points, you would need to spend $800 (not gonna happen for this girl!)  but tonight, I spent $53.87!!!  You still earn gas points from the money you spend, so technically on these deals I earned 853 gas points : )  This extra 800 points should save us approximately $13.60 on a 17 gallon fill-up.  My goal is $2 off per gallon though which would be a savings of $34!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Deals

We did some Memorial Day shopping at the outlets over the weekend.  Surprisingly, when we were there (yes, we went to 3 outlets) the crowds weren't that bad.  Normally I wouldn't share this kind of stuff, but one of the deals was SOOOO good and ADORABLE I had to share!  Ryan and I hit the Hershey outlets on Friday night after dinner and Dixon and I hit the 2 Lancaster outlets on Saturday.  We also hit up Kohls where I found some good deals - but those aren't pictured.  They have 15% off this weekend and you can earn $10 Kohl's cash for every $50 you spend.

Alright - so on to the deals I want to feature!
Deal 1: Adidas outlet is having a HUGE tent sale.  All sales are final.  Dixon and I came across the infant clothing and couldn't help ourselves!  These little jackets were only $5 a piece!!!  They were both originally $45.  The black one is 3 month and the white is 12 month.  Considering how much I love wearing my Adidas track jacket (pretty much Oct-March) I figure the baby will too ; ) 89% savings!!!  It's taking everything I have to not go back and buy more!!!
The front of both cute as a button jackets.
The most adorable back!  This thing is so mini - its absolutely precious!
Deal 2: Motherhood Maternity is running a deal where you can buy 2 bottoms and get the 3rd bottom free.  This works on all of their sale and clearance too!  I got 3 pairs of capris (1 drawstring/2 with those belly panel things) for $44 bucks!!!  They were all originally $39.99.  64% savings!

Deal 3: Clark shoes.  Ryan and I walked passed their sidewalk sale and they had these sandals on clearance for 19.99.  But they were running a deal where if you bought 2 clearance items, you got 2 for $30!  I got one pair in black and one pair in brown.  They seem to be super comfortable and were both originally $60 a pair (outlet price).  75% savings!

April Showers bring May Flowers (finally!)

We had a ton of rain in April and May.  I wasn't sure if our yard would ever be anything but tall grass and weeds.  But things have settled down a bit and our backyard has been blooming.  I've helped myself to 2 different arrangements - it's like using a coupon!  Glad I got to it before June officially rolls around : )

Thursday, May 26, 2011

and Baby makes 3 : )

I FINALLY get to explain why there has been such a lack of posts lately!  We are pregnant!!!  I'm at 13 weeks today and we heard the heart beat last Friday, so I finally feel like we're in the clear to share the news.  Our little one is due Dec. 1st : )  I've been so exhausted and nauseous (thankfully, not too sick) that the idea of coming up with new recipes just hasn't been my thing lately.  I'm just now starting to get some of my energy back - but I'm afraid it's going to go to other projects.  I'm sure I'll come up with some good and quick summer dishes and post about those... but I have a feeling the direction of my energy is about to change.  I'm still couponing, just not as much as I was.  We have a great stockpile of our staples built up (the essentials of paper towels, toilet paper, shampoo, detergent, toothpaste, etc.) but I'm also using my Saturday mornings now to look for baby/infant garage sales.  We've had 2 great weekends so far and have gotten some great essential stuff that we probably would have convinced ourselves was too frivolous to register for.  For example, 2 bottle warmers, one for upstairs and one for downstairs for $5 bucks total!  Or how about the new baby Bjorn carrier for $5 bucks.  Those little scores have let me stay calmer about the big purchases we have coming.  We are over the top excited and have had a full 12 weeks to warm up to all of this.  This week we shared the news with our extended family and friends and my co-workers at work.  I had 24 baby cupcakes made at Giant for the work announcement.  They turned out really cute - the pic is below.
 Because this blog relates to my WLS - there might be some readers wondering how that has all worked (I know some of my WLS buddies read this!).  So here's the deal with that: I have to take my B12 vitamin everyday now instead of once a week.  I'm on a vit. D supplement once a week too.  3 calcium per day and 2 multi's per day.  I'm also supposed to do 1, 30mg of iron per day - but I haven't done that in the last 8 weeks.  I suffered from some serious cramping and upset stomach on those in the 1st trimester (common, even if you're not taking iron), so I was allowed to stop taking that for awhile.  I'm afraid the time has come where I get to incorporate one more chalky little supplement everyday and get the iron back in.  I don't have to take prenatal vitamins like most women because our daily vitamins for life actually have more of all of that than the prenatal vitamins do.  There is one company that makes chewable prenatal, but they are not specifically tailored to our bariatric needs, so they recommend just upping the normal vitamins we take.  I'm not going to lie, the vitamins have been a true pain.  There are days I can hardly choke them down and there were other days that if I couldn't bring myself to eat a lot because of the nausea, the round of vitamins for that night got skipped. 

So far, my lab work looks good.  I'll have 2 more sets of labs drawn during the pregnancy - once at the end of June and once in September to make sure my levels still look good.  And yes, this is the full workup.  For any WLS people out there, my first lab work was 22 tubes of blood.  It was UNBEARABLE!  18 for WLS and 6 for pregnancy.  The next 2 should just be 18 each.  Other interesting tidbits as it relates to WLS... I actually lost about 10 pounds in the first trimester.  I started the beginning of March around 186 (when we conceived) and up until last week I was at 174.  This last week I put on my first weight and I have a feeling, it's just going to keep going up.  I'm actually feeling relieved to gain weight - I was starting to get worried.  There is a glucose test that they do around 20 or 28 weeks (I can't remember) that we are not allowed to do.  Basically they have you drink this pure sugar stuff to see how your body handles the sugar and to check for gestational diabetes.  We have a fasting blood draw taken, we're sent to go have something to eat (they recommended we do it on a Saturday and go out for breakfast) and then come back 2 hours lately to have a 2nd blood draw to test the sugar in our blood. I think breakfast out sounds much better than drinking nasty sugar substance anyway!  Nutritionally, I'm eating more often - what we were always told was "grazing" is now what I do.  It helps me from getting nauseous.  I've had some cravings, but I have a feeling that is about to really kick in.  So far, my biggest craving has been cheetos!  Something I haven't even thought about in a year and a half.  I've increased my carbs considerably and have stopped worrying so much about whole wheat vs. white carbs.  Frankly, if it looks good and I can eat it (nothing with sugar of course), I'm allowing myself to have it.  I'll have to be more diligent as my appetite comes back.

My body is changing big time!  Up a bra size already and probably another in the next couple of weeks.  My waist is getting larger and my belly is just barely starting to pop out.  All the "toned" areas are now gone - I swear, even my calves look flabbier.  It's like I put on my layer of winter fat in the middle of summer!  My skin is changing, it's been really dry - but I've always suffered from eczema and for the first time in my life, that has completely cleared up.  I have hormonal pimples that are really annoying.  I know I shouldn't complain, but I've never really had to deal with bad skin and this is annoying!  Something I didn't know that I'm glad I figured out... Kohl's carries Petite length maternity pants.  They were having a major fall/winter clearance of their clothes about 6 weeks ago and I was able to score some maternity dress pants in a petite length that were only 6 bucks!  I realize shopping 8 months in advance might seem nuts, but at least I'll have one pair of non-stretchy pants!  We're going to be taking prego pictures every 4 weeks or so to track the change.  I'm sure I'll be posting those as we go.  The 16 month pics that I posted awhile back are actually me at 10 weeks. Not really showing at all there - but that will be the first round of pics I start with as my pregnancy pics.

Alright, time to wrap this up.  Crazy long post, but we've been sitting on this for 3 months!  Just glad we can finally now share and I can get back to posting (maybe just about different things ;)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Local Giant Deal & CVS Makeup Run

Ahhh - last post was May 8th!  This month has totally slipped away from me.  We haven't been cooking too much lately, but I pulled 10 new recipes from a magazine last night... so those should be coming!

Alright, onto the recent deals.  This week (until Saturday May 28th) Giant has a deal where you can earn up to 600 extra gas points.  That translates to an additional 60 cents off of gas.  The points expire June 23rd and you can bank up as many as you want.  We have a small trip planned in June, so we'll be using our gas points for that.  I have some more banking of points to do before then!  Anyway, I made out on this deal and here is how:
Category 1: Buy 4, get 200 pts.
I bought 4 Suave Shampoos for $1.89 each.  Used 2 - $1 off of 2 coupons and 2 - $1 double giant coupons for a total of $4 off.  Total cost: $3.56 for 4 shampoos
Category 2: Buy 10, get 200 pts.
I bought 10 knorr pasta/rice sides for $1 each.  Used 2 - $1 off coupons and 2 - $1 double giant coupons for a total of $4 off.  Total cost: $6 for 10 pasta/rice sides
Category 3: Buy 6, get 200 pts.
I bought 2 reddi whip creams for $2 each, 3 healthy choice steamer meals for $2.49 each, 1 marie calendar meal for $2.49.  Used 2 - 35 cent off coupons that doubled to 70 cents off each, $1 off of one coupon for marie calendar meal, $1 off of 1 healthy choice meal and $1 off of 2 healthy choice meals. Total cost: $9.56 for 6 items.
Total Cost Overall: $19.12, Points earned for gas: 620!  Normally, I would of had to spend $620 at the store to earn these kind of points.  If we wait to fill up one of our cars, we should save at least $10.20 on one fill up (60 cents x 17 gallons) and that's assuming I don't bank more points before then (which I will!) :)

CVS Clearance Makeup Run from tonight (This was AWESOME!)
Yesterday I did a CVS run where I earned some Extra Care Bucks (ECB's).  I used $5 of those ECB's tonight for this transaction tonight.
What I bought:
1 Revlon Nail Polish (75% off) $1.37 (I was trying to trigger the $4 ECB deal, but it didn't work)
1 Loreal Paris Visible Lift Under Eye Concealer (75% off) 3.07 - $2 off coupon
1 Revlon Just Bitten Lipstain and Balm (75% off) $2.35 - $2 off coupon
1 Rimmel Glam'Eyes eye shadow (75% off) $1.09 - $1 off coupon
1 Rimmel Lash MaXXX Multiplying Effect Mascara (75% off) $2.32 - $2 off coupon
1 King Size Peanut M+M's: $1.87 (Had to throw in some Candy to get to the $5 limit to use my ECB's and because Ryan was such a trooper).

$5.07 total - $4.99 in ECB's for a TOTAL Out of Pocket Cost (OOP) 8 CENTS! (Would have been $42.68 Retail)
Ryan was driving, so I tried all the makeup on the way home in the car and the only thing that is a maybe is the Revlon nail color (Electric Pink) - but we'll see what summer brings. Happy couponing!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Strawberry Pie

My mom and sister make this great strawberry pie in the late spring and summer.  I can't have things like that anymore, but I don't miss them with recipes like this!  It's easy, low low sugar and very good!  I love stand-ins like this that help me not miss old favorites : )

1 box of sugar free strawberry jello
2 - 6oz. containers of light and fit strawberry yogurt
1 tub (8oz) of lite coolwhip
1/4 cup of water (boiling)
1 reduced fat graham cracker pie crust
1 pkg of rip strawberries (tops cut off, sprinkled with equal)

In medium-large bowl, dissolve Jell-O in boiling water.  With wire whisk, stir in yogurt. Gently fold in Cool Whip with spatula. Spoon into crust.  Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.  Serve with fresh cut strawberries.  Makes 8 servings.

BBQ Ribs and Sweet Corn

I tried two new recipes for dinner tonight and both turned out well!  The first was for BBQ ribs and the second was sweet corn.  I've never made ribs because I was always intimidated - but after this, they could easily go in our summer rotation.  We made them on the stove and in the oven, not the grill.  Might try it with the grill later in the summer.  Same thing with the sweet corn.  We normally make it in the microwave, this time we made it on the stove and it was just as quick and better we thought!  Below are the pics, ingredients and directions.

BBQ Ribs

2.5 pounds of bone in ribs
1 bottle of BBQ sauce (we use Jack Daniels spicy tonight)
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tsp of ground black pepper

In large stock pot, place ribs and cover with water.  Add in garlic powder, pepper and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 40-45 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Remove ribs and place in 9x13 baking dish. Cover with BBQ sauce and bake for 60-75 minutes.  Serve warm!  (This is so easy - I'm no longer scared of ribs!)

Sweet Corn
up to 5 ears of corn (we used half ears that were from the frozen section - super easy!)
1/4 cup of margarine
1 and 1/4 cup skim milk
1/3 cup of splenda brown sugar
salt (optional)

Fill stock pot about half full of water.  Add in milk, margarine and splenda brown sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Drop in corn (thawed if using frozen).  Cook for 7-8 minutes, remove from water and serve warm.  We didn't find the need to add extra butter and I added just a touch of salt.  We'll be making it this way all the time now - it tasted just like Iowa sweet corn that you get in the middle of summer.  We can't ever find corn out here like that - so this will be our new go to recipe!

16 month Before and After Pictures

Here they are - 16 month before and after pictures! I did a collage style this time around to see the progression.  The top left is the night before surgery (1-5-10, 327 lbs), top right is 6 months (7-4-10, 244 lbs), bottom left is 1 year (1-6-11, 195 lbs) and the bottom right are the most recent 16 month pictures (5-5-11, 177 lbs).  My highest weight was 347 (picture also included) and my current weight is 177.  When I started this journey, my ultimate goal that I never wanted to say out loud to anyone was to get to 180 or below.  It seemed impossible at the time and that number was something I only saw during my junior year of high school.  Some days it's hard to remember those 170 pounds that I've lost, but after compiling these pics tonight - it really hit home.  I really do think learning to cook and trying new recipes has been a HUGE part of my success.  My number one supporter (my hubby Ryan) has helped me along every step of the way - I couldn't do it without him!!!

Picture of high weight (347 lbs, July 2009)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chicken Caprese and Tomato Parmesan Rice

Well, not every recipe is a hit.  I've been waiting to make tonight's meal during the weekend because I was hoping to have leftovers to start the week off.  This looked so good while I was making it and even smelled good as it was in the oven/on the stove.  Unfortunately, once it hit my plate - I was over it.  It "looked" very seasoned, but tasted bland and the flavors of the 2 dishes didn't go together.  I've decided to go ahead and post it because I don't want to only post the things that work well.  Maybe this will work for you or you can change it up to make it better.  If the latter is true, let me know!

Ingredients for Chicken Caprese:
2 tbsp. Mrs. Dash Tomato Basic Garlic Blend
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
15 grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
6 oz. of mozzarella cheese cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp. of olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Pam cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray. Toss tomatoes with 1 Tbsp. of Mrs. Dash blend. Lay chicken breasts in baking dish.  Place tomatoes on top of chicken.  Take mozzarella chunks and sprinkle evening across chicken.  Drizzle with tbsp. of olive oil and 2 tsp. of red wine vinegar.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.   Remove from over, cover lightly with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Not pictured: minced garlic
Ingredients for Tomato Parmesan Rice:
1 pkg. of uncle ben's brown rice - ready rice (90 second style)
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
10 grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. prepared minced garlic (found in the produce section)

Saute tomato quarters in olive oil over medium heat in small skillet.  After 4-5 minutes, add in chopped basil leaves and garlic.  Stir 1 more minute.  In the meantime, make rice in microwave (90 seconds).  Add rice to tomato and basil mixture and stir together.  Stir in 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Heat through (30-60 seconds), serve warm.

Angel Lush Cake

The finished cake : )
This recipe can be found on the box of vanilla jello pudding dry mix.  I made a few substitutions to make it work for me, but it is good, fresh and dresses up my usual sugar free angel food cake dessert.  Very easy and looks pretty too (although I wish I would have cut my cake layers more even... my cake looked just a bit lopsided when it was all done : )

Simple ingredients.

Base layer of cake with pineapple spread.

1 store bought Sugar free angel food cake, cut into 3 layers
1 can (20 oz.) Dole crushed pineapple in it's own juice, undrained
1 pkg. of sugar free fat free Jell-O vanilla pudding mix (3.4oz)
1 cup thawed lite cool-whip
10 large fresh strawberries

Mix pineapple (including juice) with pkg of pudding mix.  Once mixed, fold in cool-whip until mixed together.  Spread the top of each cake layer with pineapple mixture and top with next layer of cake (top layer of cake will also get pineapple mixture spread on top).  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.  Top with fresh strawberries and serve extra strawberry slices on the side of the plate.

Eggs and Muffin Breakfast Casserole

The final product just out of the oven.
This recipe was meant to be for Easter because of all the good sales on eggs last week.  Well, I didn't get around to making it last week - but I did this morning and it was GREAT!  Ryan said I should enter into an egg cook-off.  Considering I just started eating eggs less than 2 years ago (had to get the protein in), I don't think I'm there yet - but that is my hubby's way of saying "I like this, please make it again".  I'll take it however I can get it.  I halved the recipe because it's just the 2 of us, but the original recipe called for 12 servings.  I'll post notes about the original recipe at the bottom.   

Before putting it into the oven to bake.

My piece served up : )

1-12 oz. pkg. of original breakfast sausage links (can use turkey sausage if you prefer)
3 whole wheat English muffins, ripped into 1 inch pieces
1/8 cup melted butter and enough to grease the bottom and sides of the dish
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (feel free to up this if you like things cheesier)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (again, feel free to up if you like)
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
6 large eggs
1 cup skim milk
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 cup bacon bits

Cook sausage according to package directions (I made mine in the microwave, super easy). Cool slightly and cut into 1/4 inch bite size pieces. In a greased 8x8 baking dish, layer half of the English muffin pieces and half the cooked sausage.  Repeat layers.  Drizzle with melted butter and top with onion, red pepper and sprinkle with both kinds of shredded cheese.  In medium-large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Pour over casserole.  Sprinkle top of casserole with bacon bits.  Cover and refrigerate overnight (I only let mine sit for a half hour in the fridge and it worked just fine).  Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (Ours went the full 50 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Makes 6 servings total. (VERY FILLING!)

The original recipe calls for double of everything above, does not specify whole wheat English muffins and uses a 9x13 dish.  If you double the recipe, I'd expect to increase the cooking time to 55-60 minutes and it will easily make 12 servings.