Friday, May 31, 2013

Dedicated to Iced Coffee

Sweet, sweet summertime. It's so hot and steamy and it's one reason why I love iced coffee. I'm a coffee addict, but sometimes it's just too hot for sitting outside with a warm cup of coffee, so I turn to iced coffee. One of my favorite blogs, College Prep, posted about #SignsOfSummer, and iced coffee is one of my signs.

I've written before about my 80 Calorie 'Frappucino' and why it's great for saving money and calories, but sometimes I'm really just not in the mood for pulling out my blender and making one. But that doesn't make me feel inclined to go buy coffee, because y'all know of my stingy attitude with money.

So I do what I do best and make it myself. The routine I've gotten into the habit is making coffee normally, having a cup (or two) and then instead of throwing out the extra, I pour it into an old Powerade or Vitamin Water bottle (I know it's a little crazy that we save them, but oh well) and stick it in our refrigerator.

After about two days of this, you have a full bottle and just fix it up with whatever you want. During AP tests, I would make these the night before and just grab a bottle when I left! Very convenient.

To keep my coffee as 'skinny' as possible, I use my fave fat-free half & half and about five packets of Splenda. Shake it up and pour over ice!

Enjoy your cooled drink!

Also, I posted it late yesterday, but if you missed my post about needing young entrepreneurs, read up!

And enjoy this beautiful weekend...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Calling all bright young people!

Do you have a small fragment of an idea or already an existing business?

The program I'm in at school (Liberal Arts Academy) has a great senior capstone project, infamously known as the 'Mentoring Project'. What you're supposed to do is take one of your passions and really delve into it, whether you're interning somewhere, starting a project, creating a charity, or studying more about what you love.

My passions are business, writing, and crafting (plus some others!), so this blog and small business fit hand-in-hand. I absolutely loved setting up a website and spreadsheets and networking on my own, but that's because that's what I love.

I also have a strong passion for people my age doing pretty cool things. I know so many people that have started their own organizations, charities, and of course, my favorite, their own businesses.

So when I see my friends with these great ideas for businesses but only an inkling of a thought of what to do, it really inspires me to promote their ideas! I loved writing about Silvia's skirts and helping to get her name more 'out there', with whatever little influence I have with this blog.

All that to say, my mentoring project is going to be a combination of all of these things! I'm going to expand my monogrammed shirt business, learn how to make some other items, and start up a young entrepreneurial network, mostly for those in Lexington.

Already this summer, I've been thinking of some things that I'm so excited for. I've been working on getting people that have these great ideas for businesses to work with me because I truly believe in a win-win attitude.

But I still need help! Do you have any sort of thing that you want to sell or offer as your own? Do you have a cool project where you want more publicity? Do you know of anyone who has creativity they can share? LET ME KNOW (email me: I'm not kidding, if you're someone that has any of these things, regardless of whether or not we're close or know each other, I really want to know. This could help me and you tremendously!

I'm still a little fuzzy on the details, but I know that in the fall, I'll be able to get a lot more involved with this project. (I don't know if I've freaked out about it enough, but I cannot wait to learn more about business and leadership at Wharton this summer and I know I'll come back with even greater, bolder thoughts!)

This blog and this small business mean so much to me and I appreciate everyone who reads it. But trust me, this is just the beginning. So many bigger and better things are to come!

love y'all lots,

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Coupon Queen

My mom IS the Coupon Queen.

I'm being serious, you know the people on Extreme Couponing? She's like that. As a homemaker and mother of four, we have to save money. So she turned to coupons as a hobby and as a way for us to practically make money when grocery shopping.

I can't tell you how many people have asked me how she does it: even when we were at the grocery store, a friend stopped her and was asking about it. So this post is going to be a guide for all want-to-be-couponers, because it really is pretty easy. She clips her coupons at night when we're watching TV and goes to the grocery store with coupons about every two weeks. But, we're not one of those families that never goes to the grocery store unless we have handfuls of coupons (my mom just admitted that she goes almost every day or every other day for normal things).

First, let me go through our grocery store experience from the other night, including some of Marta's rules (my mom). According to her, it was a "jackpot" shopping trip. (But if you can't get to all of it, I've included the top tips at the bottom!)

Total before coupons: $266.72
Total after coupons: $108.48
Savings: $158.24 (61%)
It should be noted that we got many things that weren't on our coupon list and that drove up our total cost (y'all know I like my coffee and yogurt), so it is possible to save a lot more than we did in this trip. I'll go through what we bought and how we did it.
48 tubes of Colgate toothpaste: $0.00 per tube.
My mom is a little crazy in that she bought the coupons for these on eBay. She paid about $4.50 for 60 coupons (in three different sets of coupons), and she had clipped some from our normal newspaper, so don't think that the only way to save money is from buying them online. Being a family of 6, we go through a LOT of toothpaste, so whenever these are on sale and we have coupons, we stock up. Mom knew that these go on sale every other month, so that's why she found the coupons (they were mailed to her, they weren't online).
So, these tubes of toothpaste were on sale at Kroger for 10/$10. The coupons were $.50 off any (it's important that it wasn't a specific type) Colgate toothpaste, and they doubled ('double' means the grocery store will literally double the coupon up to $.50. In this case, it means that we got $1 for every coupon we had. But, only 'manufacturer's coupons' double, not coupons that come from the grocery store. It'll usually be clear which type it is.) With our 60 coupons (that doubled), we were getting $1 off each tube, and they were $1 to begin with: FREE.
My mom had also clipped Crest coupons and didn't think they were on sale, but we found the Kid's Crest on sale for $1...we had coupons that were $1 off. Marta's Rule #1: Always carry all your coupons with you.
4 Cans of Gillette Shaving Cream: $.25 a can
We had two coupons that were BOGO (buy one, get one free) and two that were $2 off each can of shaving cream. With the cans of shaving cream being originally $2.50 (on sale), the math figured to be $.25 per can. With two BOGOs, you're getting four cans, right? The two cans that you're paying full price for were paid for with the $2 off coupon. The math: 2.5 x 2= 5.00, 5.00-(2 x 2.00)=1.00: $1 for four cans=$.25 for each can.

 The coupons that Mom used for these were not from the same week. I mean, think about it. The grocery store isn't going to put all the good coupons in a week where the item's also on sale. Usually, if the coupons are in the paper Week 1, they'll be on sale Week 3. Marta's Rule #2: Save your coupons; don't feel like you have to use them right away. Watch for the items to go on sale.
4 Old Spice tubes of deodorant, 2 Old Spice cans of body spray: $12.34 savings
We wouldn't have bought this normally. The coupon was 'buy one two-pack of deodorant ($4.69), get the body spray ($4.17) free'. We had two of these, and another two coupons that were $2 off purchase of any two Old Spice products. So, we paid $5.38 and got four tubes of deodorant and two cans of body spray. If you were to pay for that without coupons, you would pay $17.72, which means we had $12.34 savings!
My brothers obviously don't need this much deodorant right now, but my mom knew that they would eventually, so she went ahead and got it. Marta's Rule #3: Even if you don't need it now, if it's a good sale and you have coupons, get it.
3 packs of Fischer's hot dogs: FREE
I know that this can be all overwhelming at first, but this is an easy one. Mom had clipped three coupons that were $.50 off any Fischer's product (these coupons doubled- they were manufacturer's coupons and less than $.50). We went to the grocery store not knowing if they were on sale or if we would even get anything with these coupons, but we found hot dogs. Even though hot dogs freak me out a little (I'm still a vegetarian, guys), my family loves them, and loves them even more when they're on sale. They were 10/$10 and with three $1 off coupons, we got three packs of hot dogs absolutely free. Marta's Rule #4: Clip the coupons and look at the product the store even if you're not sure they're on sale. And heck, if it's free, go ahead and get it.
2 cans of Van Camp's Pork and Beans: making $.20 a can
This is another easy purchase! These cans were on sale for $.50 a piece and we had two coupons that were $.35 off (and it doubled). This means that we were getting $.70 cents off each $.50 can. So yup, that's right, we were making money (it goes to the rest of your purchase). This $.40 is little, I know. But when you get down to the nitty gritty, it's worth it in the end. Marta's Rule #5: Even if the product's inexpensive, use your coupons. It all adds up in the end.
2 packages of Always Thin pantiliners: FREE
Yeah, I know it's feminine products, but there are always saving in this area (we'll never be running out). We had two coupons that were $.50 off that doubled, so really, we had two $1 off coupons. The Always Thin pantiliners were 10/$10, so we got those free. There are so many reasons that one wouldn't need pantiliners, so I get why this may be a little unnecessary. But I have a strong heart in the fact that it's so easy to donate these sorts of products to people who truly need them. Marta/Meredith's Rule #6: If you don't have a need for something but you can get it free/practically free, just get it and donate it to a food bank or other organization.
Those were some of the most prominent things that we got on our trip (I still keep freaking out over the toothpaste), but here are some of the other things we saved money on and to keep in mind:
  • Kroger Deluxe ice cream: Usually these are $2.99, but we had an in-store coupon for $.40 off. The point of this isn't the savings, but that we got these because we shop at Kroger so much and they'll mail us coupons based on what we buy most frequently. Another use of Rule #1, always carry all your coupons because you never know when you'll have an ice cream craving.
  • Nature Valley granola bars: My family INHALES these. Kroger mailed us coupons for these and we saved $.80 off two boxes.
  • Duncan Hines Frosting Creations: $1 off coupon let us pay only $.69 for a can of this icing (and heck, it's what I put on my Strawberry Cake Cookies!). The next rule is that when a product is new, jump all over it. My mom had seen an ad for these new 'Frosting Creations' where they were $1 off and on sale for $1.39 each. Marta's Rule #7: If a product is new, try it to see if you like it. If so, find the coupons and the sale right away.
  • Diet Coke (or any other drinks): When both my dad and I were drinking it regularly, we went through Diet Coke like that. Even though it's just my mom now, it's still a staple in the Scroggin household. Mom waits for these to go on sale because when you're getting a lot, they add up! Normally, they're $4.99, but go on sale for $3 about once a month. That's the time to stock up, obeying Rule #3.
  • Betty Crocker frosting: Some people get a little too anxious when they have a coupon. We had a $1 off coupon, but the tubes of frosting were $3.29. The coupon expired soon, so this wasn't worth it. Marta's Rule #8: If you don't think you'll ever use it and the coupon isn't a good enough deal, don't bother.
Goodness gracious, I realize that I've written a ton! In following Rule #1, you have to stay organized with all your coupons.
She keeps everything tucked away in divider tabs in a big binder that are separated out by category. They even have cute little pockets in them! Even though that's pretty big, if you don't want to go that far into it, use one of those small accordion folders. They sell them for $1 at Target and they're super cute! That's where we keep all of our restaurant coupons (another good place for savings)!

This was our little grocery list and just Mom's way of organizing herself. Usually we shop at Kroger or Walmart, but when there's a good deal at another store, heck, go for it.
My mom also is very into stocking up on certain things that she knows we'll need. These things include: toothpaste, detergent, feminine products, deodorant, other toiletries, pasta, salad dressings, medicine (medicine like Allegra and Prevacid can be extremely expensive, but we've been able to find great coupons on them and stock up- but only because we know we'll always need it in our house), canned goods, and soda.

We always freeze many things for the future, including: chips, baking candies (hopefully I'm never running out of chocolate chips), frozen meals, cereal, and other various items that can be stored for a long time.

Some of our other great savings have been on Vitamin Water, Crystal Light droppers, Capri-Suns, yogurt, sugar cookie mixes, and granola bars.
I could write on and on and I know my mom could talk for hours about this, so comment if you have any questions at all!
The Coupon Queen's Rules
  1. Always carry all your coupons with you.
  2. Save your coupons; don't feel like you have to use them right away. Watch for the items to go on sale.
  3. Even if you don't need it now, if it's a good sale and you have coupons, get it. BUY IN BULK.
  4. Clip the coupons and check them out at the store even if you're not sure they're on sale. And heck, if it's free, go ahead and get it.
  5. Even if the product's inexpensive, use your coupons. It all adds up in the end.
  6. If you don't have a need for something but you can get it free/practically free, just get it and donate it to a food bank or other organization.
  7. If a product is new, try it to see if you like it. If so, find the coupons and the sale right away.
  8. If you don't think you'll ever use it and the coupon isn't a good enough deal, don't bother.
  9. The things that are good to stock up on!
  10. Know your store's rewards policy and take advantage of it.
I really hope that anyone who reads this is able to save a buck or two! Couponing may seem as if it's too big of a thing to handle, but there are so many little tips here and there that really stretch your money, without a lot of time. Couponing isn't even about people who need to save money, but rather, smart people who know how to spend their money correctly.
with lots of love from a thrifty family,
Meredith & Marta

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Strawberry Cake Cookies

Whoo, what a weekend!

Saturday, I went to our school's graduation and it was so cool to see everyone all cute in their caps and gowns.

And then Sunday, I got to go to a few graduation parties, which were all tons of fun, too! Just a HUGE congrats to the class of 2013!

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day, too! I went to a cookout last night and brought a treat: strawberry cake cookies. They were so soft and delicious, and I covered them with a layer of icing, which made them even better.

I can't get over how much I like these cookies and this recipe. They a) are so easy b) take no time c) are low mess d) can be used with any type of cake mix e) make 40 cookies and f) THEY'RE ONLY 70 CALORIES!

So yeah, there are lots of reasons to like love these cookies. Here are the nutrition facts:

I was stoked to use this strawberry cake mix because when I had bought it, I knew exactly what I was going to use it for. And I love that you can use this recipe with any type of cake mix: I'll definitely be trying this with chocolate mix and chocolate chips in the future.

Now, don't get me wrong, they were good without the icing, but I have this theory that EVERYTHING is better with icing. So I couldn't resist.

Strawberry Cake Cookies
Makes 40 cookies

  • 1 box cake mix (strawberry, or whichever kind you want)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl until smooth. Drop teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet, giving enough room for them to spread out.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes and let cool.
  • Frost with icing (optional).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

White Wedding Cake Cupcakes w/ Buttercream Icing

I'm a little bit of a cupcake snob. Don't get me wrong, I love pretty much all desserts. But a cupcake has to be really good for me to really like it. I'd prefer a mediocre brownie or cookie over a mediocre cupcake.

But what's funny about that is that cupcakes are somewhat of a weakness. I tried to make them for a friend once (in the fall) and the icing turned into glaze...

So now that I've explained my mixed emotions about cupcakes, here's a recipe that I LOVE. They're White Wedding Cake Cupcakes with my mom's amazing buttercream icing. They're moist and fluffy and just so delicious.

I actually made them in February to bring to school, but we had a snow day the next day! Safe to say that my figure struggled a little bit that weekend trying to 'get rid of them'.

My family enjoyed them a lot.

And even though the icing looks a bit messy, it's because it's the BEST homemade icing you'll ever have. I'm not kidding. My mom uses it on all of her cakes and I could eat it by the spoonful (...and so what if I already have?).

I made them for the last day of school yesterday (HELLO senior year!) and I was really excited for my friends to finally get to try them.

I LOVE that it makes so many of them: 36!
White Wedding Cake Cupcakes w/ Buttercream Icing
  • 1 box of white cake mix
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 & 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream (I only had 1/2 cup of sour cream and so I just used that and 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt...still turned out pretty well!)
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup/1 stick solid regular flavor Crisco
  • 1 tsp. clear almond flavoring (this is what makes it so good)
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place cupcake liners in pans.
  • Mix together cake mix, flour, sugar, and salt. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth (about 2 minutes).
  • Pour batter into cupcake tins, about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick is clean.
  • To make the icing: beat Crisco until fluffy. Add the almond flavoring and water and mix well. Add the powdered sugar and beat until creamy.
  • Frost your cupcakes and enjoy!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Throwback Thursday.

I am in absolute disbelief that the school year is (almost) over. I know I keep writing about it, but so much has changed since last summer and throughout this year.
But oh my goodness gracious, this year has been magnificent and wonderful and I feel like it's been so much more than I ever thought it would be and it's just been so different.

The biggest thing that's probably changed my whole year has been my lack of volleyball, because not playing it has changed so much. I learned that I didn't have to identify as an athlete to be taken seriously (why did I think this?? I have no idea), I learned that there are so many more fun ways to work out other than jump roping constantly and doing squats like there's no tomorrow (I got to play some super fun indoor soccer), and I learned that there are things I enjoy WAY more than waking up at 5 AM every Saturday morning to play in a hot gym for 14 hours and spending lots of my time in spandex shorts. I mean, I know that's what I loved about playing volleyball, but it feels like such a relief to not worry about it.

What I learned is that I L O V E to bake and cook. I mean, I used to not be able to successfully make coffee (now I live on making coffee??), but I find a serious comfort in having a kitchen full of supplies and a recipe to follow- if there are step by step instructions on how to make something, I feel a little bit invincible. And then everything is yummy at the end!

And that taught me that I like to craft, which taught me that I like to make monogrammed shirts, and that I loved starting my own business and that I loved to write by starting my own blog. I've learned that I love to learn. I've learned that I love to feel like I can do something and that I love feeling like I'm on top of the world and that I love what I believe in and I love my friends and my family and I even like being by myself (even when everyone else is out). I love a LOT.

I like to think about when I had NO CLUE how to bake or make anything at all and think about how far I've come...
I felt like I had labored over this 'dessert'. I used one sugar cookie mix and tried to make one big cookie. I spelled out 'Adam' in M&Ms and it all broke and I was so embarrassed.
Yeah! I learned how to bake break-away cookies.....!
But I'm being dead serious when I say that this year has been GREAT. It makes me excited for senior year and college but not want to leave the high school that I love. Everything about this year has been great- even all the stresses and worries and anxiety have been worth it. I can't even put into words how happy I am.
A few (not near all of them) of my favorite memories that I just had to share:
I got married and gained a few sister wives.
First day of school.
We had the most fun white-out football game. I'm in the top picture! (Creds to Lauren Duffy)
We visited NINE schools in three days. Pictured is us at Duke.
After our superb 'Get Out the Vote' rally, we met Coach Cal!
Played indoor soccer.
I went to a formal, Seniors.
I spoke in front of our whole church.
Had a blast on Spring Break with some of my best friends in the whole world.
And overall, just got closer with so many people that I love so dearly!
So please excuse all my sentiment and emotion, I promise I'll get back to baking recipes soon!
I'm stoked for this summer and all of my new adventures to come... and for my senior project that I'll be writing about in the future.

So a big 'hasta la vista' to junior year and all the times I had!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Monogram Necklace

My two hardest finals are now over and it's hard to believe that my junior year is coming to a close! What better way to celebrate than to get home and see my new mail?

Ahhh I was just so excited! I ordered it on Saturday from Etsy and it was already here! It came from the ChristyTreasureBox shop, and her shop has so many cute things: lots of cute jewelry, including bracelets, earrings, and tons of necklaces to choose from. Here's the link to exactly what I ordered.

Mine was the 'mirrored silver' (18") and I just really love it a lot.

It was a GREAT price and it got here so, it came with the cutest free monogram sticker that I put on the back of my computer.

Check out Christy's shop, you'll love it!

with lots of monogram love,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Club & Brownies

As everything comes to an end this year, we had our last book club meeting of the year yesterday. The Henry Clay Book Club has meant so incredibly much to me these past few years; we like to say that we read books, make friends, and eat food, which is exactly what it's all about. Book club is where I've gotten to bring all my new desserts and where I've made so many friends.

But what's sad about yesterday's meeting is that we're losing our seniors, who are also our founders, Logan, Jack, and Silvia (remember when I posted about Silvia's Skirts? Same Silvia!). I'm honored to be taking over the club as president next year! And follow us on Twitter!

We had lots of fun yesterday...


So anyways, I made lots of brownies. They're probably one of the easiest things to make, and everyone loves brownies, especially when you can play with the recipe a lot. For my three batches, I made one with chocolate chips and white chocolate chips, one with M&Ms, and one with Oreos in the bottom.

And I had to add a picture of the adorable strawberry shortcakes my friend Victoria made. Aren't they good looking?!

Here are some of my favorite ideas for brownies!
  • Literally any type of candy. I mean, just throw in a bag of any sort of candy you like! Or put a layer of bigger candy, such as Reese's.
  • Oreos. I made these for our meeting, and I can't explain how quickly they were gone. I put a thin layer of brownie batter down first, then the Oreos, and then the rest of the brownie batter. The Oreos weren't soft enough to cut into, so it meant that each brownie got one full Oreo!
  • Chocolate chips. I'm a sucker for anything white chocolate, so white chocolate chips are perfect, but so are butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, dark chocolate chips, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, mint chocolate chips, etc. One time my mom even used raspberry chocolate chips!
  • Frosting. Enough said.
  • Nuts. I love pecans and walnuts!
  • Marshmallows. Throw them on top when the pan is hot!
  • Mints. A layer of Andes on top, mint chocolate chips, or even crushed peppermints.
  • Cream cheese
  • Caramel
  • Rice crispies... was an idea I saw on a blog, definitely interesting.
So seriously, if you're ever pressed for time or just want something different, make a normal brownie batter and put in whatever type of addition you want. It's pretty doggone good.

But I'll miss our Book Club seniors and all the seniors a lot.

And one of my favorite seniors, Lauren Duffy, is such a sweetheart. I'll miss you lots.

But I wish all of the Class of 2013 luck in their future!

Well, sorry for rambling and being sentimental. It's just bound to happen at the end of the year.