Love Story

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bacon MacNCheeseburger

I realize that I have shared several mac n' cheese recipes on my blog before (Chicken, Bacon, Ranch Mac N' Cheese - Mac N' Cheese with Steak and Sauteed Onions and Mushrooms). Both of those were using boxed mac n' cheese which I happened to have on hand due to a sale but rarely ever use. Ever since I learned how to make my own homemade mac n' cheese I have continued to tweak and play with the recipe and it has changed many times over. We love it plain but it is always fun to jazz it up with new ingredients as well.

Those of you who have been reading my grocery store posts or following Chrystal's Corner on Facebook know that I have recently gotten a HUGE stock of pasta built up. So this recipe doesn't actually use macaroni noodles because I wanted to use some of the penne I had on hand. I had been playing around with this recipe in my head for a little while and it finally all came together as I was cooking it. You could do lots of different things with this recipe like substituting the mustard and ketchup with BBQ sauce or using a variation of toppings. I am excited because I think it is a great summertime/BBQ/potluck version of mac n' cheese that I hope you will love as much as we did.

Bacon MacN'CheeseBurger
- 1 lb box of pasta (macaroni, penne, shells, etc)
- 1/2 lb of ground beef
- 6 slices of bacon
- 1/4 cup of ketchup
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 4 Tbsp. flour
- 1-1/2 cup milk (more if your sauce is too thick for your liking)
- 3 packed cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (or whatever combination of cheese you like)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 extra large egg yolks
- 2 heaping Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
- toppings of your choice (shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, chopped pickles, additional shredded cheese)

1. I start by getting the meat all cooked. Season your ground beef with a little salt and pepper and cook until brown and crumbled. Turn heat way down and add the ketchup, stirring until heated through. Remove from heat. In a separate pan (or on an electric skillet) cook up the bacon, remove to paper towel when crisp. Once cooled down chop the bacon into pieces and then mix it in with the meat mixture.
2. Cook your noodles according to package directions. Only cook until al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven (this would be a good time to preheat that oven to 325 degrees while you are at it). Drain the pasta.
3. Time to make the sauce. Heat a pan over low heat and add the butter. Once melted stir in the flour until all mixed in and then let the mixture sit over the heat for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk stirring continuously as it thickens. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in cheeses. Then stir in egg yolks and mustard. If the sauce is too thick just add in a splash of milk and stir some more.
4. Add the cooked pasta and the meat mixture to the sauce and blend all together. Pour into a 13x9 pyrex and pop in the oven cooking for 20-25 minutes. Dish up and add desired toppings.

**I was kind of writing this as I was making it so sorry there aren't more pictures...but I figure most of you know what cooked pasta and cheese sauce look like! I mostly wanted to come back to add that this really was delicious! My husband ate after the rest of us and just heated up the mac n cheese without any toppings and as he was shoveling in large fork fulls he kept saying, "This tastes JUST like a bacon burger!" I liked it with the extra stuff but it is a winner all by itself too:)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Teachable moments

There are concepts and beliefs as a parent that we go out of your way to teach. Starting with little things like mama and dada and the ABC's and then moving into the big stuff like faith and what we stand for. We thoughtfully orchestrate moments that allow our little ones to learn without them even knowing it. Sitting down with connectable toys to teach the baby "in and out" which looks to him an awful lot like play time or grabbing a pencil and paper to help the oldest one write a letter to daddy which feels like a lot of fun because he's never done it before. Reading them Bible stories so that the word of God penetrates them while they are just excited to be read to. All of these moments accumulate over the days, weeks, and years to make up a lifetime of learning.

And then there are the moments we don't plan. When life presents itself in an unexpected manner and you grab onto the opportunity and make a learning experience out of it. In elementary education we called this a teachable moment. These don't just happen in the classroom, these happen in your home as well and as a parent I take advantage of that whenever I can.

Today just such a moment presented itself. Late last night my sister-in-law texted me to tell inform me that my 8-week old niece was in the er. As the night went on they discovered she had a severe UTI and would need to stay for observation. So this morning as I was easing into the day with my boys I took a moment to share with my 4 1/2  and 3 1/2 year old that their cousin was sick in the hospital and that we should take a moment to pray for her. Right then Nathan (the 4 year old) clasped his hands, shut his eyes and spoke a prayer out loud on Sienna's behalf. And then we went about our day. But as the day continued we learned that things were a little more serious and that baby Sienna has a benign tumor on one of her kidneys and will be needing surgery.

Now at this point I had some options in regards to what I would tell the boys. How much do you share with little ones in these situations? I am sure each of us would answer differently and it would depend on the kid but in my case I decided to fill them in on the basics of what was happening. I told the boys that Sienna had something that wasn't good for her in her stomach and that they were going to have to take it out by doing something called surgery. I explained that surgery meant they had to cut her open. Nathan says with big eyes, "But that will hurt her!" I said, "Yes, it will hurt. But it will make her better." Then he says, "But if they cut her open she will be broken forever." I stopped for a minute and then looked right in his eyes and told him that she won't be broken forever, that the doctors are there to help Sienna and that when they are done with the surgery they will fix her back up. I explained that we didn't need to worry but that instead we should pray. Pray for Sienna, and for the doctors, and for her mommy and daddy and sister so that they won't be scared. So we did. We prayed.

For some of you, this may be seem like too much information for children that are not even school-aged. But to me it felt like the right moment to teach them that sometimes things in life seem scary and we don't understand them but that we can trust God and turn to him in prayer. "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." (Psalm 56:3) I am thankful for moments like this - not because I want loved ones to be in the hospital but because they allow me to model my faith for my children. The more times I get the chance to do that, the more likely there will come a day that they are the ones suggesting we should pray instead of me. And on that day I will being doing cartwheels inside...just like when they first said mama and knew they were calling me and just like that first time they said their ABC's all by themselves. Because I will know they got it. Really got it. And I will be reminded of why I do what I do each day.

Putting those food stockpiles to use (Part 2)

I know that I said that I was going to do a post on non-food stockpiles next, but I got a few additional ideas after posting the first Putting those food stockpiles to use so I thought I would share those ideas first.

My fellow blogger and internet friend Laura of Happily Ever After suggested rotating your stockpile to make sure you are using the oldest items first. This way nothing goes to waste due to expiring. I have to admit that I just got around to doing this the other day. My husband usually puts the groceries away and he tends to just shove and pile things where ever they fit. Since I have started to increase my couponing I have been bringing home more stockpile items, so I decided to heed Laura's advice and organize my cupboards. Not only are they now more organized and neat, making it easy to see what I have, I made sure to order things according to the use by dates so they won't expire without me knowing. Thanks for the tip Laura!

I also got to thinking about trying to make meals based on what you have on hand. Some people are good at this naturally. Confident enough in their culinary skills to add a handful of this and a can of that and know it will turn out edible. I feel like I am getting better at that after a handful of years of cooking regularly for my family. But if the thought of trying to go it alone in the kitchen scares you, there is help! Try a site like where you can put in the ingredients you have on hand and they will show you what recipes you can make. I think this is such a great way to stretch your budget and utilize every last bit of food in your kitchen.

I think that's all I got (for now at least!). I would love to hear any more tips you have as I am sure there are lots of great ideas I have missed that we could all learn from.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Safeway Run 5/25/11

Before I break down today's Safeway run I wanted to start by sharing a little about my grocery budget. I mentioned at the end of my last post (here) that I had already spent $126.94 and saved $155.11 since 5/20/11. You may be wondering how I have any grocery money left to spend. We actually sit down and do our budget every two weeks when my husband gets paid so we break our spending into two week periods. Right now our grocery budget is $300 for two weeks. That may seem high considering the fact that I coupon. But that covers all of our groceries, toiletries, cat supplies (we have 2) and kid stuff (1 in diapers and weaning off formula, two in night time Pull-Ups). And it also gives us wiggle room to go to Starbucks and eat out once or twice. This is actually the first month I have gave up on one big shopping trip every two weeks with small stops for necessities along the way. I finally made the jump to more frequent, smaller trips to maximize my ability to match-up sales and coupons. I am hoping to take advantage of that strategy for a few weeks/months to build up my stockpile and then live off of that for another few weeks/months while siphoning a majority of the grocery budget into paying off debt.

Hope I didn't lose you in all of that...just thought I would share for those of you who are interested. I know that all this coupon/match-up stuff can be overwhelming and confusing when you are first starting out so I want to share what I know and what I continue to learn along the way to make it easier for you. So here we go - my Safeway run for today:
- There are a few non-deal items that I had to get. Bananas to tide the little one over until we get more with our Bountiful Basket on Saturday. 2 tubs of icing (I did have a $.75/2 coupon), a pkg of large and mini cupcake wrappers, hamburger patties (2 10 count pkgs at $5.99 each) and hamburger buns (3 Safeway brand at $1.19 each) for Isaiah's birthday BBQ this weekend.These are INCLUDED in my total so I wanted to account for them.
- My BIG score was the Viva 6 count paper towels. Remember how I had to get a raincheck for these after going to Safeway twice to find the shelves empty? They finally had them in stock so I got them for the previously advertised price of $4.99 each. I also had 2 $1/1 coupons making them $3.99 each. For buying 2 I got a Catalina good for $4 towards my next trip making the total for 2=$3.99. They are normally $8.99 each so that was a great deal!
- The John Frieda hair dye was FREE with a coupon I had scored (I think a promotion they were having on Facebook). That is normally $13.99:)
- Pepsi 2 Liters are on sale for today only for $.69 a piece, limit of 2 so I got 2=$1.38
- Johnsonville Brats and Italian Sausage are on sale for $3.99 and I had a $1/1 coupon making 1=$2.99.
- Oscar Mayer hot dogs with in ad coupon are $.99 each (limit 5). I only had 1 $1/2 coupon left since I bought some at Walgreens over the weekend so I got 5 pkgs=$3.95
- Safeway hot dog buns with in ad coupon are $.78 so I got 3=$2.34
- Vlasic pickles are B1G1 at $2.99 each. I had 2 $1/2 coupons so I got 4 jars=$3.98
- Bush's baked beans are 3/$5 (wish I had a coupon!). I bought 3=$5
- Heinz ketchup with in ad coupon is $1.69 plus a $.25 coupon got me 1=$1.44
- Wishbone dressing with in ad coupon $1.19 (limit 3) plus a coupon for $1.25/3 got me 3=$2.32

Total=$51.60 and I saved $72.56 which is 60%. Plus I got a $4 coupon towards my next trip!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday Isaiah!

I can hardly believe a whole year has passed by since I first got to meet you. This time last year I was just getting started with labor and was anxious to get it over with so I could finally see your face. And then at exactly 5:21 pm you arrived and I fell madly in love with that sweet face and your head full of soft hair. I remember wondering for months if you would look like one or both of your brothers only to realize that you looked just like you. I will never forget that day.

The first few months you were so quiet and calm. You had such a gentle presence and barely disrupted the flow of our family. Now, while you still go with the flow, you have begun to find your voice and aren't afraid to use it. While mostly speaking in grunts and babbling you have no problem letting us know what you want.

And you have each one of us wrapped around your little truly are the baby of the family! Your brothers love you dearly and my heart melts every time I see you light up as they enter a room. I am so excited to see the bond between the three of you grow.

I think that at some point during each month of your life I have looked at Daddy and said, "I love him just like this. I don't want him to grow anymore." But of course you continue to grow and of course I continue to love you more and more each step of the way.

Happy 1st Birthday our sweet Isaiah!!! Can't wait to see what this year brings.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Albertsons, Walgreens and Safeway (5/22/11)

Last night I had big plans to hit up Albertsons, Walgreens, Safeway AND Target but the family came along with me so we only made it to the first 3 (3 small boys get VERY bored when mommy is on a coupon run!). That worked out fine, I got a lot of great stuff and got to spend time with my family at the same time.

First we hit up Walgreens where I did two separate transactions.
- The Playtex, Wet Ones and Banana Boat were all a part of a "spend $25, get $10 in Register Rewards".
- 2 Playtex 36 count boxes were on sale for $6.99 each plus I had 2 $1/1 coupons.
- 4 Wet Ones wipes were on sale for $1.99 each plus I had 2 $1/2 coupons.
- Banana Boat was supposed to be on sale for $7.99 and I had a $1/1 my store everything was mislabeled and I had the hardest time finding the right size for the promotion so I ended up with a bottle that was $10.49. So I spent more than I wanted on that one...but it happens, right?
- Tone Body Wash was on sale for $3.99 and earned me $3 Register Rewards.
- Pure Silk Shave Cream was on sale for $1.99 and earned me $1.50 Register Rewards.

TOTAL= $36.75. Saved=$13.00 and got back $14.50 in Register Rewards.

Walgreens Transaction #2:
- Charmin Basic 6 Big Rolls were $2.99 with a Walgreens ad coupon and a $.25 coupon I had.
- Carefree 20 count pads were $.99 with Walgreens ad coupon and I had a coupon for a free Carefree product that was $1.00 or less (making that FREE)
- Q-tips were $1.69 after Walgreens ad coupon and an insert coupon I had.
- Schick Hydro Razor and refills were B1G1 free. They cost $8.99 each and I had 2 $1/1 coupons making the final cost for both $6.99.
- Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs were B1G1 free. They cost $2.99 each and I had 2 $2/2 coupons. My Walgreens only had 2 packages of hot dogs left so I got both for a total of $.99.

After using $13.00 in Register Rewards from my first transaction (couldn't use the $1.50 because my remaining total was less that minus tax) my TOTAL=$3.09. I saved $31.73 which is 85%!!
(Both transactions together were a savings of 53%. I think so often people show their best deals but not what they had to do to get there. I had to spend more in that first transaction to do so well in the second.  Keep that in mind when you are trying to compare your own deals to what others are doing.)

I also wanted to show you the coupon books I was able to get while at Walgreens. The one with over $310 in savings was right at the front of the store and the Answers one was in the Vitamin aisle.

On to Albertsons:
- I was so excited that they had Ronzoni Garden Delight back in stock (my store was out on Friday). They were on sale for $1.00 each. I had 2 $1/2 coupons, 3 $1/1 coupons, and used 2 Albertsons doubler coupons making all 7 boxes FREE!
- Oscar Mayer Lunchables are on sale for a $1.00 each. There are $1 off coupons out there making these free but I only had the kinds that emphasized the fruit cup so I couldn't use them. I still bought 4 for $4.00 to have on hand for snacks.
- 2 Stouffers Farmers Harvest Frozen Meals were on sale for $2.27 each. I had 2 $1/1 coupons and used an Albertsons doubler coupon making them $.77 each!

TOTAL=$5.54. I saved $27.43 which is 83%!! And I got 5 game pieces for their new giveaway game.

- I only went back to Safeway to try to get some Viva paper towels (6 pack with store coupon is $4.99 plus I had 2 $1/1 coupons and there is supposed to be a $4 Catalina that prints at check out). They were still out of stock so I got a raincheck for 2.

They also had these for free at the registers. It is a Special K Challenge sneak peek book with 3 coupons and 10 healthy recipes. There is also a rebate inside if you are wanting to buy the full size book:

Phew...did you make it through all of that? I hope you guys find this helpful. I know there are lots of blogs that post the deals you CAN get but I wanted to share what I am actually getting. This weekend I made to 2 trips each to Safeway and Albertsons plus one trip to Walgreens for a total of 5 transactions. I have spent $126.94 and saved $155.11 which is 55%. Not bad!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

And the winner is...

The time has come to announce the winner from my 100 Followers on Facebook Giveaway!!! Let me just say that while I love giving stuff away, I hate only choosing 1 person. You all left such nice comments and each one I read I thought to myself, "Aww, I want her to win!" But alas, I only have enough for one of you so with no further ado.....

I had 16 eligible comments so I used to draw a number between 1 and 16. And the winning comment number was:

#7: Kristen

Believe it or not, out of 16 people, I had 3 Kristen's enter!! So to be even more clear it was the Kristen who left the comment "CONGRATULATIONS". If you could email me at with your address I will get your prizes out to you right away. Congratulations!!

Are you guys wanting more free stuff? Spread the word about my Facebook page....when I hit 300 followers I am going to giveaway some full size products from my stockpile!

Making my Swiffer WetJet more cost effective

Recently I scored a great deal on a Swiffer WetJet Starter Pack at Albertsons. It normally sells for $25 but was marked down to $19.99. I had a $5.00 off coupon and they were having a promotion where you got $5.00 towards your next purchase when you bought a Swiffer. So all in all I paid $10.00. Score!

But then I realized that the starter pack only comes with two pads and a small bottle of cleaner. Of course the replacements for these are pretty spendy and would need to be purchased on a fairly regular basis. I saw some Albertsons brand replacement pads that were considerably cheaper but I just knew there had to be a better way.

So I got home and put my mop together and realized that anything that would stick to the velcro on the bottom would make an acceptable replacement. Then I remembered that I had a handful of Sham Wow cloths that hadn't been put to use. So I took a small one, measured it against the mop and after some cutting was able to get 3 cleaning pads out of it.

I stuck one to the bottom to test it out and it held strong. I mopped my kitchen floor to test it out and it not only continued to stick but it did a great job cleaning the floor. The best part is that when I was done I peeled it off and threw it in the washing machine. Hello reusable pads!

Now onto the tiny rip-off cleaning bottle. Thanks to this article on eHow I was easily able to refill my cleaning solution bottle (despite the fact the label says not to). Trust me, this took such little time and is going to cost you pennies!

Here's what you need:
- Your empty Swiffer bottle, some Distilled White Vinegar, a bowl, water and some measuring utensils (essential oil if you prefer a certain smell, but totally optional)

Let's get to work:
1. First you have to loosen the cap so boil some water and pour it into a bowl. Then hold the cap of the bottle in the hot water for about a minute. Using a towel for grip, you should be able to twist it right off.

2. Now to add new cleaning solution. Feel free to fill with your favorite floor cleaning solution. If you are looking for something natural and cheap, you can just use vinegar and water. This bottle holds a little over 2 cups so you'll want to mix 2 Tbsp of Distilled White Vinegar with 2 cups of water. Then pour it straight into the bottle.

3. At this point I added in a few drops of Orange essential oil but that is optional. After that I screwed on the cap and that was that.

There you have it, a simple way to save some money when cleaning your home!

Putting those food stockpiles to use

Do you guys ever see these seasoned couponers getting dozens of the same product at a time for nearly nothing and think "That's cool, but what do you do with all of that?" I used to wonder the same thing so I thought I would fill you in on what I do with my little 'ol stockpile.

Let me start off by saying that I strongly support ethical couponing. I think practices like stealing inserts, copying coupons, clearing the shelves, taking more of something than you could ever possibly use just because you can are all wrong and in some of those cases illegal. What I am talking about here is building up a supply of stuff that your family can live off of for awhile. The reason I coupon is so that I can save money on the groceries we buy so that money can go towards paying off our debt and giving to others.

Now that we have that out of the way let's get back to how to use up those food stockpiles. What I look for when stocking up on cheap/free food is something that I already use and that can be used in various ways. Let's take Albertsons deal on pasta right now. Ronzoni is on sale for $1.00 and there are tons of $1.00 coupons floating around out there so there is the potential to really stock up. Since we LOVE pasta and can eat it multiple times a week, this is something I will take advantage of. I have also recently stocked up on Ragu (Amazon Subscribe and Save groceries) so that pairs up well. Of course my family would get tired of plain old spaghetti and sauce if that was all I served so I make it a point to not just build my food pile but also my recipe box. Luckily pasta is so versatile that I can do something as simple as take last nights leftover meat and veggies (we get ours cheap through Bountiful Baskets and Farmer's Markets are great this time of year) and have all new dishes.

Enough about pasta, there are other great ways to use your food stockpiles. Right now with memorial day around the corner there are great deals on pop (yes, we say pop!), chips, hot dogs and other seasonal goodies. Since we also have a birthday party this week (which means family BBQ) and are also planning to attend several potluck BBQs in upcoming week, I know that I can stock up on these kinds of foods and they will be put to good use. I will not only be feeding my family but also my friends and at a very low cost to us.

To wrap this up I guess there are two things that you should remember when stockpiling food. First - Just like building your coupon stash takes awhile, the same applies to building your food stash. At first you may just have jars of pasta sauce and nothing to put it on...that's okay, wait it out and you are bound to find some pasta on sale too. When I first started couponing I still spent a lot of my grocery budget on non-coupon items. I NEEDED stuff to fill in the gaps whether I had a coupon and a sale or not. But just recently, as my stockpile has grown, I am able to spend most of my budget on stock up items and much less on filler items. So stay the course, you too will get there! Second - Buy for you. By that I mean, look at the size of your family, your dietary needs, your lifestyle and buy according to that. Don't worry that Susie down the street is coming home with 26 bags of Doritoes for $3.00...if you don't want your kids eating Doritoes, it doesn't matter how cheap you an get them! If you are a retired couple you are going to go through a lot less food than a family of 5 so your stockpile should look a lot different then mine.

If you find yourself going overboard on an item (happens to the best of us from time to time!), especially something that expires fairly quickly, don't let it go to waste. I am sure you have neighbors who would love to be surprised with a basket of food for that nights dinner. And of course the food banks are always in need of extra food. There is a point when stockpiling becomes hoarding (which is why I think those shows are back to back on TLC:) so make sure you don't find yourself in that place! I would love to see us all get to a point where we are giving just as much as we are keeping for ourselves.Wouldn't that be cool?

I would love to hear how you use your food stockpiles so feel free to share. I also am in a place where we don't have much storage space for extra food so if you have ideas on how you have made the most of your little space, I would be excited to hear them.

If you found this post useful, I will be writing a similar one on how to use your non-food stockpile so stay tuned for that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Albertson trip (5/20)

Hit up Albertsons last night for a few things and wanted to share with you what I got:

- 4 bags of Lays chips (Buy 4, they become $1.99/ea + I used a $2/2 coupon) = $5.96
- 2 bottles of Kraft dressing (On sale 2/$3 + I used a $1/2 coupon) = $2.00
- 8 boxes of Ronzoni pasta (On sale $1.00/ea + I used 4 $1/2 coupons) = $4.00
   *You can find the Ronzoni coupons HERE (Hit the back button to print them each twice). My store was out of the Garden Delight version so I am going to go back for those (like Ronzoni on Facebook to get a $1/1 coupon that would make it free!). Also - doublers are supposed to be coming out in Sundays paper so you can pair them with these Ronzoni coupons for FREE pasta!

TOTAL = $11.96 (Should have been $38.86 so I saved $26.90 which is 69% savings)

What have you gotten on sale at Albertsons this week? If you have lunchables coupons, they are on sale for $1 so you should be able to get them free. Also, Albertsons has a new giveaway game board and you can earn game pieces when you shop. I got 5 pieces from what I bought last night.

May 21, 2011

"May 21, 2011 will mark the second coming of Christ, or at least that's what some Christian groups believe. The date was calculated by Harold Camping, the leader of an independent Christian ministry called Family Radio Worldwide, which is based in Oakland, Calif. Camping's date is based on his interpretation of the Bible." (Found at

I can keep this short by referring to Matthew 24:36 - No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

If you believe the Bible to be true, as I do, you just shake your head at the crazy billboards that have sprung up about the upcoming "Judgement Day." But unfortunately, there are those who don't know. Those who doubt. Those who are living in fear. Let's pray for those people today. Let's fill ourselves with the truth so that we can stand firm on it and be ready to share it with those who are waiting to be told. If you find yourself fearing and doubting on this day I encourage you to reach out to someone who can pray with you and share God's beautiful message. If you don't know someone like that feel free to email me and I will be glad to pray with you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

100 Followers on Facebook Giveway!!!

I was so excited to wake up yesterday morning to see that my blog's Facebook page (Chrystal's Corner) reached over 100 followers. Small in the world of Facebook but big in my world! For those of you who haven't checked out my Facebook page, not only do my blog posts show up there but I also update throughout the day with my favorite deals and coupons as well as my favorite blogs and money saving sites to follow. Check it out if you haven't yet:)

In celebration of reaching this small milestone, I am having a small giveaway. 1 lucky winner will receive 4 Albertson's Summertime Fun coupon books with over $30 worth of coupons in each book, as well as over 15 samples from my sample stash.

What do you have to do? Just leave a comment here on this blog post (comments on my Facebook page won't count as an entry) telling me you want to win. Simple as that! The giveaway ends on Sunday May 22, 2011 at 7 pm PST. I will be using to pick a winner at random.

While you are at it, make sure to "like" Chrystal's Corner on Facebook if you haven't. And share this with your friends because when I reach 300 followers I am going to have another giveaway!


Monday, May 16, 2011

A willing heart

As I am approaching the end of the Ruth study I am leading in my women's small group, I can see God shining a spot light on my life and asking me to examine what I see. Am I willing to do more than read about it and discuss it? Am I willing to live what I know to be right and true?

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Kelly Minter (author of the book we are studying) puts it perfectly into perspective when she says, "One of the most tragic ways for a Christian to spend her life is to be in the right place with all the right resources but without a willing heart." Ouch - this one speaks to me. I can say that I am probably in that place right at this moment. I know what I need to do, I am being given the opportunity yet I am stalling because I can't get my heart on board.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1)

I don't know what's worse...that I am in this place or that I KNOW I am in this place and still can't seem to make a decision. It shouldn't be such a battle. A battle between my flesh and God's will. Ultimately, if I want to follow him I should desire the things he does. I should desire his will. And I should want it in my heart. But I guess that response isn't always easy or automatic. This is when I make a decision. Do I give in to my flesh or do I press harder into God and dig further into his word until my heart chooses to obey? Until my heart longs for the things he longs for.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

I know the answer. I choose him. It's not the easy choice even though it should be. It would be easier to react to what I am feeling at this moment. But I want to live the life I was called to live and that means rising above what I feel. I know that he chooses me each and every day. He knew my name before there was time, he loves me when I am at my most unlovable, through him I am saved. So I choose him. And I know my heart will follow.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:5)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My first Walgreens run

I did it...I took the next step in my couponing journey. I have moved on from just hitting the two grocery stores in my neighborhood and am planning specific trips based on the deals I can get. Today I did my first Walgreens run and am happy with what I came out with. I am sure I could have done better but as I advised all of you in my last post, I did what I could where I am at right now and that is good enough for me!

Originally I had one small transaction planned but after some help from this post at The Krazy Coupon Lady and some time spent with my Walgreens ad this morning, I decided to be brave and plan out two transactions. Why two? The second one took advantage of all the register rewards I earned in the first transaction!

So let me break it all down for you:
Transaction #1 -
- 1 Gillette Body Wash and 2 Old Spice Body Wash on sale 3/$10. I had a B1G1 coupon for the Old Spice and a $2.00 off coupon on the Gillette making the total for all 3 = $4.67 (plus it printed a $3 Register Rewards)
- 1 Dove Men+Care Deodorant on sale $3.99. I had a $1.00 off coupon making it = $2.99 (this also printed $3 Register Rewards)
- Gillete ProGlide Fusion Razor on sale for $9.89 (at my store the sticker price still said $10.99 but it rang up on sale so watch for that at your store). I had a $4.00 off coupon making it = $5.89 (this printed  $5 Register Rewards)

Total = $15.63. I saved $15.90 AND got back $11 in Register Rewards*
*For those of you new to Walgreens Register Rewards are earned through special deals. They print out like manufacturers coupons to be used on a future purchase. If you go here you can read more on this and how they can be used. I will say that even after reading the policy, I had to try it first to understand. I thought they printed in single $1 coupons and that I had to have one item per coupon. While you do have to have one item per coupon, they print out in the amount they say they will. So in my first transaction I got two $3.00 coupons and one $5.00. I could have planned my second transaction differently had I known this before but hey, live and learn, right?

Okay, hopefully I haven't totally confused you with the Register Rewards talk. Let's move on to the next transaction:
Transaction #2 -
 - All Detergent and Snuggle Fabric Softener were B1G1 Free. The detergent cost $6.99 and I had a $1.00 off coupon. The fabric softener was $4.59 and I had a $0.75 off coupon for that. The fabric softener ended up being free (but the coupon for it is still applied) so the total for the two was = $5.24.
- The tuna was $0.99 each with a Walgreens coupon (from the ad) so I paid = $2.97
- Mars and Dove candies are on sale for $.039 so I got 3 for = $1.17
- Royal Gelatin was 5/$1.00 with a Walgreens coupon (from the ad) so I paid = $1.00.

This is where all those Register Rewards came in handy. Now I was trying to use filler items to attach to the Register Rewards thinking I was going to have 11 separate coupons to attach them to, this wasn't the case so some of the stuff was unnecessary. It was still a good deal nonetheless:
Total=$3.33. I saved $24.43 on this transaction (WOOHOO! I think this is my biggest savings to date:)

At the end of it all I spent $18.96 and saved $40.33 and got all of this:
 I am happy with that!

All the cool kids are doing it

I remember a time not all that long ago when couponing was kind of taboo. Those who toted their handful of coupons or gasp, coupon holders, to the store were looked at as if they were poor or in need. The thought was if you were well off why would you bother with coupons.

Boy has that thought changed! Sure, there are people out there that still have a negative view but couponing definitely has a new look and a new set of followers. Of course shows like Extreme Couponing have added to the phenomenon but even before that this practice of saving money was gaining recognition.

I remember a few years back when my mom gave me a little wallet-size accordion style coupon holder and I wondered if I would ever use such a thing. Now my coupon stash has outgrown that little holder and resides in a binder or box. I have fallen in love with couponing because it gives me a way to contribute financially without having to earn money. I am able to control the grocery part of our budget which gives us room to spend money in other areas. Not only that but I get a complete high from scoring great deals! It is fun to even see my husband get on board...he loves when I send him to the store on a coupon run because he always gets a positive reaction (and then he brags about me and my hard work:). 

For those of you who are just getting started in couponing or who have yet to jump on the bandwagon, let me address a few of your possible concerns:

1. I can't do what they do - It is intimidating when you sit down and watch Extreme Couponing or read some of the match ups that professional bloggers are able to come up with. The truth could do that too. You could. But it takes time to learn it all. Remember to keep it in perspective and be proud of what you are able to do. It will get easier over time and before you know it you will be bragging to your friends.

2. I don't have that kind of time - It is true that couponing takes some time, especially in the beginning. You have to build a coupon stash, find your preferred method of organizing said coupons, browse through ads, match up sales with coupons. This will get faster and faster over time as you become more proficient. And you can make it whatever you want it to be. You don't have to run to 7 different stores 3 separate times in a week. The beauty of couponing is that it isn't all or nothing, everyone can play at their own level and adjust it to their lifestyle. (I recently logged the time I spent on couponing compared to what I saved and the results are pretty amazing! Check it out here:

3. I will never be able to learn all of this - No, not in one day. But the beauty of couponing in this day and age is that information is accessible to anyone who wants it. One option is a coupon class. I think this is a good idea for someone who doesn't have the time to learn it all on their own (or for the person who just doesn't want to spend the time). There are free classes out there as well as people who will put on paid classes in your home. Now if you have a little time and the will to learn you can also gather all of this information by yourself. My favorite way to not only obtain coupons but also to learn more about couponing is through blogs. There are SO MANY out there these days that focus solely on saving money. Some of my favorites are The Krazy Coupon Lady and Coupon Pro. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of others out there as well (for a list of the ones I follow check out my blog's Facebook page). Not only can you get these updated daily through your email or Facebook but this also cuts out most of the guess work and leg work. These are great places to access stores coupon policies and most of these ladies do all the matching up for you so it cuts down your time spent searching through ads.

I would love to hear your thoughts on couponing. Do you do it and to what extreme? What are your favorite ways to get coupons and learn how to save money?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Getting Creative

Last week I was featured on Small Fry & Co. as a part of her Unsong Creative Mom Week. It was such an honor and I feel blessed to have had that opportunity. Here's the post I wrote:

I have to start by saying that I have been following Small Fry& Co for awhile now and find her to be an incredibly talented and crafty lady. So to be featured here for being creative feels like such an honor! 

Now that I have gotten the gushing out of the way, let me tell you a little about myself. As a stay at home mom of 3 boys ages 4, 3 and 10 months, blogging is one of my favorite outlets. I like to use my blog Chrystal's Corner to write about everything from parenting, to recipes we are trying, to the great deals I am finding. I especially like to share my craft projects. I mostly create things for my kids or my nieces as I find kids crafts to be so much fun. Plus, kids are so appreciative when it comes to homemade gifts.

What I love most about crafting is taking an idea that started in my head and making it come to life. So often these ideas come to me at the most random times. In the past year between the end of pregnancy and taking care of a baby, I have spent many a night awake at all hours. I have found myself using that quiet time to brainstorm.

Sometimes the projects I create are for a specific occasion, be it a birthday, a baby shower or a Christmas present. Here are some examples:
One of my boys' birthday invitations

A nursing cover for a friend's first baby

A tutu for my niece

A present for my husband's birthday from our sons

Sometimes what I make is for the purpose of re-using something I have laying around the house:
Turning broken crayons into new crayons

Making an old frame into a wipe-off weekly menu board

Re-purposing old CDs

Formula can turned into a centerpiece

Bamboo place mat transformed into a wall hanging

Whatever the project, whatever the occasion, whatever the material it feels good to create! I love knowing that I can take an idea and make it come to life. And isn't there just something so special about a handmade gift or a piece in your home that you crafted yourself? I hope some of these projects have inspired you to spend some time getting in touch with your creative side.

Featured On:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes - Life

Oh if only I had captured this on video! Nathan (4 1/2) just sleepily came out into the living room not even realizing that I was up yet. I said hi and asked him for a hug. He came over to where I was sitting and said, "I was just thinking about life."

Nathan is my thinker so I knew this would be interesting. "You were thinking about life? What about it?"

He replied in the most serious way, "Life is like numbers that go up until you become a big boy. 1 and 2 aren't big. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 are big. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 are grown-ups. That's what I was thinking!"

I tell ya...this one is going to keep us on our toes!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Be Careful What You Ask For!!

There is a long standing joke amongst many of my Christian friends when it comes to asking the Lord for patience. When it comes time for prayer requests and somebody asks that we pray for patience, one of two things happens, people either laugh or just shake their heads. This may sound insensitive but really it is out of love. Anyone who has been there before knows that if you ask God for patience he is not going to wave his hands and BAM you instantly feel more patient. Instead, he is going to present you with opportunity after opportunity to practice patience. That is a hard way to go about it and therefore we try to guide those who have yet to experience this so that they don't have to find out the hard way.

Somebody should have warned me that this applies to other areas as well. I am referring specifically to this fast (if you missed that post, catch up here). I naively went into it thinking, "This will be great, I will ask God to give me clarity and vision for what He wants me to be doing in my life." Can I just say, stupid? Okay, not really, but stay with me here. Let me just say that I am really getting what I asked for. God is showing me exactly what I need to learn. And that isn't necessarily easy!!

I still need time to process most of this before I can fully share what God is working on and revealing to me. But I will say that I have more time than I thought for that to happen. Yesterday proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be. I was all mopey about not getting to celebrate Mother's Day right and so I gave in to that feeling and convinced Jeremy to take us all to coffee and muffins before church. Before you ask what the crime is there, neither of those things are allowed on this fast. (Here is the does and don'ts of what I can eat: Daniel Fast Food List). I know, shame on me I couldn't even make it two whole days. But we did jump right back into it after that. That is until a extended family crisis of sorts came up (don't worry, everyone is okay). In reaction to that we decided to love on said family members by driving to their house with dinner...a non-fast approved dinner I might add. Okay, so now the day was officially blown.

Now normally, I would just throw in the towel. Obviously I had failed and there was just no point in continuing. This is where I am so thankful for my husband. Where I am weak he is strong and he convinced me that we needed to do this right so together we made the decision to restart our 10 days today. And you want to know the cool thing? God has used this little blip to remind me that even in our failure he gives us grace and that we should do the same for ourselves. You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1) I was also reminded that in our weakness God reveals himself and uses us if we are open. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10) Yesterday reminded me of the unhealthy role that food plays in my life. It is how I celebrate, how I fellowship, how I comfort myself and others. Shouldn't that role in my life be reserved for God?

In a way, I am glad that we got the chance to start over. Already God has changed my perspective as I enter into this fast a second time. I cannot make it about the food, that is just symbolic of the sacrifice I should be willing to make to get closer to God. After all, Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for me. I am now ready to glean from this experience exactly what God wants me to. Hold on to your seats ladies and gentlemen, it may be a bumpy ride!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My mom

Happy Mother's Day!! I am so lucky to be a mom blessed with 3 happy healthy boys. They are the best gift a mom could ask for.

I feel equally blessed to have a mom who has shown me how to be the mom I am. She is truly one of my best friends, someone I talk to several times a week and whose council I still seek.

My mom is adventurous:

She loves to share her faith as a missionary in Mexico by providing food, love, and sharing the gospel:

She is a fun, loving grandma:

Love you mom! Thanks for all you are and all you do.
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