Frugal Friday: Shopkick

Do you have a smart phone? Put it to good use! Over a year ago, I posted on how to get more bang for your buck using a few different apps. One of these apps was shopkick, a phone app that rewards you for going to the store. 
Shopkick is a phone app that rewards you for simply going into the store. You receive points every time you walk into a participating store. You can also receive extra points for “scanning” items. I’ll be honest, I never scan. You can use your points for gift cards. So far I have used Shopkick to redeem $60+ in gift cards. My favorite store to get points at and redeem gift cards is Target.

Generally speaking, you get about 35 points for entering any store. On bonus days some stores will have 150 to 200 or more points for just walking in the store. I go to Target on a regular basis, at least twice most weeks. It’s almost no extra working, considering my phone is already out because I have my shopping list on it, and I use Target coupons, and cartwheel. Give it a try here

If you’re wanting to be super frugal, and perhaps a bit competitive – a friend of mine used to shopkick to spice up what would otherwise be a boring errand run with her significant other. They had a contest of who could scan the most items, the quickest. A modern day scavenger hunt if you will…….free gift cards and bragging rights??? 

[There are a few more check-in type apps out there. I have given a few of them a try, but have yet to receive any rewards. I’ll be sure to write about them when I do. Are there any apps you use? We’d love to hear about it!]
 
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Chipotle Butternut Squash Chile

One of my greatest loves during the fall and winter months is soup. Not broth. but chunky, hearty, filling soup. It’s easy, comforting and warms you up down to your toes. Soup leaves the kitchen smelling homey. It is easy to double or triple a batch for company. Easy to store, reheat and freeze…and you can cook it so many ways. If you search our posts, we have no shortages of soup here. While I can’t complain about the winter being warmer this year, it has left me less in the mood for soup.

Last week, though, I found myself craving a bowl. I ransacked my fridge to see what I had. Last year I made a delicious butternut squash black bean and quinoa chili, but have since lost the recipe. In my search, I stumbled upon this Chipotle Butternut Squash Chili with Avocado from Cookie & Kate. I already knew that butternut squash and black beans were an excellent combination, and I felt that you can’t really go wrong with chipotle and avocado, especially since I had recently learned to pick a perfectly ripe avocado. So I gave it a go…

Look at this deliciousness —- just screaming eat me

The results were far better than I hoped. We ate it back to back meals, and leftovers. My hubby was quite disappointed when it was all gone. The recipe calls for about an hour of cooking time and a half hour of prep, but I cut this way down, by throwing everything in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. To adapt it for the pressure cooker, I started by sauteing onions, bell peppers and squash in a pan with olive oil. (Costco sells pre-cut squash!). Once soft, add garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin and cinnamon and just enjoy the fragrance. Add the bay leaf, black beans, tomatoes, and broth, put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes. At this point I simmered my chili for about 10 minutes until it was reduced, in the future I will put less liquid… though truth be told, I think pureeing it in a blender for a hearty creamy soup would also be absolutely scrumptious

There are notes on the original recipe, that you may be able to cook this in the slow cooker also.

You can top the chili with corn tortilla strips/chips, avocado, cheese, sour cream, red pepper flakes, cilantro, hot sauce or whatever else you think would be good. I topped mine with cheese, sour cream and avocado. Find the recipe here; and let us know what you think!

Quick Tip Tuesday – Easy Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing tends to be very popular, especially with kids.  It is really easy to make your own, and it tastes even better than when made with the packet from the store, not to mention much less expensive.  I make four times the seasoning recipe and keep it in a small jar with the instructions written on the top.  To make the dressing, add the mix to buttermilk, mayo and sour cream.  If you use light mayo and light sour cream, 2 tablespoons is only 1 Weight Watcher point.  Using it as a dip is a great way to get your family (and you) to eat more raw veggies.

Ranch Dressing

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk*
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  •  1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pinch dried dill weed
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together until well blended.
  2. Refrigerate for several hours (or even better, overnight) to allow flavors to meld together.
  3. Keep refrigerated; use within seven days.
 To make 4 times the amount of the seasoning mix, use:
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon garlic powder
·         1 teaspoon onion powder
·         1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
·         1/2 teaspoon black pepper
·         1/8 teaspoon dried dill
·         1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
 
Mix together in a small jar.  To make the dressing, use 1 teaspoon of the mix to 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup of mayo and 1/4 cup sour cream.  Whisk together, and let set for at least 30 minutes before using.
*Buttermilk freezes great.  I always end up with a lot more buttermilk than I can use before it goes bad, so I freeze small portions in freezer-safe mason jars.  Do not try to freeze sour cream.

Weight Watchers – Week 9

Our goal is to test each recipe before sharing it here, and this week we were able to try four out of the six.  All of them were winners! In real life, we don’t eat six new dishes a week, but I love coming up with lots of options for everyone.

Beef Stir-fry Noodles – 7 points. (1/4 recipe with 1/2 the amount of noodles and lots of added veggies, no oil). This is very good but to make it filling, add a generous amount of veggies.  I cut the recipe in half and added a small crown of broccoli, five large mushrooms (sliced), about a cup of leftover kale salad, and 6-7 baby carrots cut into thin matchsticks.  It would also be good with thinly sliced peppers, snow peas, shredded cabbage and just about any other veggie you might have on hand.  I used 2 oz. of ramen noodles from the Asian market, but spaghetti or other  pasta would certainly work, and it doesn’t  need much. Family add ons could be bread, biscuits, and/or dessert.

Blackberry Sage Pork Chops – 7 points (1/4 recipe, sugar free jam). This is really good and simple to make. If you use thicker chops, return the chops to the skillet with the sauce to finish cooking. Serve with 1/2 cup rice (3 points), cauliflower rice, green salad, roasted veggies, or other veggie side dish.  Add -ons for family could be crusty bread, rice, buttered noodles, potatoes, and/or dessert.

 


One Skillet Chicken & Broccoli – 3 points (4 oz of chicken per serving). Serve with rice (1/2 cup is 3 points). I made this for Kayte and I, adding more veggies (mushrooms, red peppers) and without the celery because we didn’t have any.  I also substituted Thai Sweet Chili Sauce for the Sriracha, and it gave it a great taste.  Kayte agreed but said she would probably double the amount next time. Family add-ons could be more rice, potatoes, crusty bread and/or dessert.

Honey Sriracha Salmon – 8 points (1/4 recipe). Serve with roasted veggies, a green salad or the Cold Sesame Cucumber Noodle Salad (1 point for 1/4 recipe including all the optional ingredients) talked about in the blog post. Family add-ons could be sweet or white potato fries, rice, bread and/or dessert.

Taco Torte – 8 points (1/6 recipe, substituting 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, corn tortillas, 3 cups of beans). If you eat 1/4 recipe, it would be 12 points. A green salad, some raw veggies or fruit on the side could make it more filling. We haven’t had a chance to try this one, yet, but it is bound to be good. Add ons for family could be Spanish rice, tortilla chips, a side of refried beans, and/or dessert.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup – 5 points (1/8 recipe). We haven’t had a chance to try this one but it looks like it would be good.  If you make it, let us know how it turned out.  Unfortunately, I do not like butternut squash (gasp!) so I am leaning on Kayte or Rachael to try it out.  Rachael just made Butternut Squash Chili (recipe coming next week), so  this week they were both eating that. Add ons for family could be bread and/or dessert.

Honey Sriracha Salmon

We have Salmon once or twice a month in our house. We’ve cooked it a few different ways, but typically end up with some type of herbed crusted salmon (like this) or salmon BLTs (recipe coming soon). This week we tried something completely new, and it was amazingly delicious.

This Honey Sriracha Salmon, comes from The Pickled Plum. First the salmon is lightly seasoned with salt & pepper and pre-baked for about 10 minutes. While the salmon is baking, you make the glaze, combining oil, garlic cloves, sriracha, soy sauce, honey and vinegar. Once it’s been thickened and reduced, add in the sesame oil and seeds, then brush on top of the salmon. Bake until the salmon is cooked through, another 10 minutes. 
I searched the internet for different ideas of sides, but I wasn’t finding anything that really spoke to me until I came across this recipe for cold sesame cucumber noodle salad from Ambitious Kitchen. I used my spiralizer to cut cucumber into noodles. I combined them with garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, water and sesame seeds. This website did also feature a Sriracha salmon, but it used different ingredients that I did not have, and I was partial to the recipe I had found first. 
Look at those noodles!

Weight Watchers – Week Eight


Hamburger Hash – 9 points. My mother used to make this, and it is quick and easy when you are out of inspiration and time.  Crumble and brown 1/4 lb ground beef for each serving, along with a generous amount of chopped onions (about 1/2 cup for 4 servings).  While meat is browning, peel and cut one medium potato per serving into thin slices.  When meat is brown, drain any extra grease, add potatoes, mix well, and add 1/2 cup of water.  Cover pan and simmer until water is gone and potatoes are tender. Serve with green or fruit salad or veggie side dish.  Add ons for family could be bread, biscuits, and/or dessert.
Bubble & Squeak – 8 points (2 links turkey breakfast sausage). This is an old English recipe I have been making for years.  Put link sausages in a skillet with about 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook until water is gone and sausage is done. Peel and quarter a small potato (138 grams) for each serving.  Cut a cabbage into wedges.  Boil potatoes and cabbage until just tender and drain.  Remove sausage from skillet and add potatoes and cabbage (spray skillet with Pam if needed) and continue to cook briefly, turning as they start to brown. Add sausage back to skillet, cover and remove from heat.  Let set for a minute or two (it loosens the brown bits on the bottom of the skillet). I like to sprinkle a little apple cider vinegar on my serving before eating.  Add ons for family could be bread and/or dessert.


Thai Sauteed Chicken with Basil – 4 points (1/4 recipe). Serve over 1/2 cup of rice (3 points). This recipe calls for both fish sauce and oyster sauce, which can be found at most grocery stores.  However, if you have access to an Asian store, get it there for a fraction of the price. Asparagus would be even better than green beans, but I only buy it when it is in season (early spring).  I used red pepper flakes instead of the Thai chili, and dried basil instead of fresh (about a tablespoon). Add ons for family could be extra rice, bread, and/or dessert.

Tuna salad sandwiches – 4 points (1/2 recipe).  Drain one 5 oz can water-packed tuna. Add one chopped hard-boiled egg, 2 tablespoons finely chopped onions, 2 tablespoons dill relish or chopped dill pickles, 4 tablespoons light mayo and 1 teaspoon of mustard.  Mix well and serve over shredded lettuce or as a sandwich filling.  I also like to add about a tablespoon of sunflower seeds (1 point) for some crunch. Add-ons for family could be chips, bread, French fries, and/or dessert.

Weeknight Enchiladas – 9 points (2 enchiladas).  If you cut the cheese in half, it would bring the points down to 7.  Use fat-free refried beans, or better yet, make your own – they are easy and much tastier. For a more authentic Mexican taste, use crumbled feta instead of pepper jack cheese, waiting to add the cheese on top until after baking.  Serve with salad.  Add ons for family could be Spanish rice, tortilla chips, and/or dessert.
Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup – 5 points (1/8 of recipe, includes 1/4 ozs parmesan sprinkled on top). This is a real keeper, and the point count is low enough you can easily add a slice of crusty bread or some crackers.  The recipe calls for it to be made in a slow cooker, but I did it on top of the stove, simmering it for several hours to fully develop the flavors.  However, it could be made in about 30 minutes if you are short on time. Add ons for family could be garlic bread, crackers, and/or dessert.

Frugal Friday: Ebates

Over a year ago, I posted about one of my favorite ways to get a little more bang for your buck: Ebates. With the new year here, and some changes to the program, I want to make sure everyone knows about it!
 Ebates is a way to get cash back on purchases you are already making. It is a website, but is also available as an app. You may have even seen some TV commercials for it. I’ve been using this site for nearly 3 years. I don’t make a lot of online purchases, and I forget about ebates almost every other time. Initially Amazon was not included, which is a majority of my online shopping, but it is now. However, in that time, I’ve gotten over $150 back on purchases I was going to make regardless. This cash is in addition to cash back from my credit cards rewards program. Cash back ranges from 1% up to 10% or more. Additionally, Ebates includes sales and discounts for some stores.

So how does it work? When you’re ready to do some shopping, go to the ebates website (or app) and log in. Then search for the store you want to shop at. Ebates will display how much cash back and the terms. Click the store, and a ticket will open into a new window, then the store website itself will be displayed. At this point you shop like normal. It sounds like a lot, but it honestly adds 30 seconds to your shopping experience.
Ebates actually has recently added the ability to get cash back for in-store purchases at certain stores if you link your credit card. Again, this is in addition to any discount, loyalty programs, or credit card cash-back programs you are already a part of.
Ebates policy allows for a certain number of days before your cash back appears, but I typically see it within 48 hours. Cash is sent back to you each quarter. Typically it’s sent back via paypal, but sometimes there are options for gift cards.
New users receive a $10 gift card after their first $25 purchase, so sign up today.