Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When Buying Meat and Poultry, Don't Let The Yellow Stickers Scare You.

My first experience with the yellow stickers was several years ago when in the meat department, I came across a case of Perdue whole chickens marked down to $2.00. These were 5-6 lb chickens that are normally around $6.00.

Confused, I asked the meat manager why they were so cheap and he explained to me that they were close to their expiration date. Their was nothing wrong with them as long as you either used them immediately or put them in the freezer.

WOW, so I plucked 5 birds out of the case and put them into my cart.

Now every time I'm in the grocery store, whether or not I need meat, I stop by the meat department to look for the yellow stickers and to see what deals I can find. Unfortunately I have yet to stumble on another Perdue sale.

The deal can be made sweeter if you happen to have coupons on the product. I had a 50 cent coupon on Nature's Promise products that I used on the natural chicken below.
Don't let the yellow stickers scare you (or whatever color your stores uses for markdowns). Marked down meat and poultry is safe as long as you use it or freeze immediately after you buy it. I have never seen marked down meat look any different than the current meat. Although, if the meat did look off color, I would pass on the deal and maybe even show it to the meat manager.

Ask your meat manager when they mark down their products. My store does it in the early mornings. I am not able to get to the store too early in the mornings, so I suspect I miss out on many good deals.

Next time you are in the meat department in the grocery store, keep an eye open for the clearance stickers and hopefully you will find some good bargains too.

Do you buy marked down meat? Or does the thought turn you off? Please let us know in the comment section.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Red and White Chicken Chili

Chili is so easy, healthy, and inexpensive that everyone should have it in their recipe stash. It is also very comforting on a cold, snowy day.

Canned diced tomatoes come in different flavors now, rather than just plain. I like using the flavored tomatoes, like the fire-roasted with garlic in the photo or Basil, Garlic and Oregano. I get a different taste each time I make a big batch depending on on the flavor.

Bulleted List
Red and White Chicken Chili

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped (you can certainly use green, if you'd like)
  • 2 cans great northern beans - drained ans rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 6-7 cups of chicken stock - (recipe for homemade chicken stock)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Over medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil to a large soup pot. Add the onions, peppers, garlic and chicken.

(These chopped peppers are the last of my freezer stash from summer.)

Cook until the chicken is no longer pink and the vegetables are soft.

Add the chicken stock, beans, tomatoes, oregano, cumin, and salt.

The funny cylinders in my soup pot are my frozen homemade chicken stock.

Simmer for one hour and stir occasionally....does it get any easier than that??


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Friday, February 19, 2010

Odd$ and End$

I usually work on my Odd$ and End$ weekly round-up post on Thursday nights to post on Friday morning, but the Olympics seem to have gotten in my way. Have you been watching the Olympics? There have been a lot of late nights at our house. They are so much fun to watch!!

This week's carnival:

Have a Great Weekend!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Snowpocalypse Causes Water Damage, Are You Prepared?

One night this week, as I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, my 4yo dd yelled "Mommy, what is this brown stuff in the window?". My kids like to play in the window well and watch the neighbors walk their dogs.

I was half paying attention and thinking, 'it's probably a crayon mark'. Then she asked me sternly again...and again.

Yes, I was zoned out. I usually do that when I'm in front of the sink. As I awoke from my zone, I walked over to the window and thought, 'OH CRAP'.

The inside of our bay window well totally flooded with a brown liquid.

My first thought was 'how did I spill coffee in the window', but I soon realized that (1) I don't drink coffee in front of the bay window and (2) I don't drink THAT MUCH coffee.

I stood there stunned and then I felt water dripping on my head. I could see icicles hanging off the spouting outside in front of the window. Apparently the spouting is full of ice and as it is melting the water has no where to go except into my house.

Instead of grabbing a camera so that I could take a picture to show my blogging friends, I grabbed an armful of towels to soak up the water.

Unfortunately there is still alot of snow and ice to melt before the gutter clears out, so I have plastic and towels down to catch the dripping. This photo was taken the next day. You can see in the lower left corner of the picture that the wood is starting to bubble. Who knows what we'll find in the ceiling once the ice clears out.

All of this jib jab to say that I am very grateful for our emergency fund. When I called my husband at work to tell him, his first thought was, "Are we going to have to replace the window?". cha-ching, cha-ching... I don't think that will be the case, but there will be some repairs needed.

We have debt. We have a car loan, a student loan and a mortgage. But we also have a solid emergency fund. We're self-employed and it has been essential to our survival. We have dipped into it several times over the years, when business has been off. Each time we made it a priority to build it back up again once we were able to.

I don't know how much this window is going to cost us, but I do know that we will not have to incur any credit card debt to pay for the repair. And that is a zone I want to be in.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How Long Should You Keep Financial Records?

I tackled my home office last week during a major east coast snow storm. I let it get too cluttered and disorganized, so I filed, tossed and shredded my way to a clean work space. In doing so, I noticed my filing cabinet was becoming very hard to close. I was just filing papers, and not purging along the way. It was definitely time to clean out the file cabinet and there was no better time then when the weatherman predicted 20 inches of snow.

As I was removing the files, I wondered, What Financial Records Should I Keep and How Long Should I Keep Them For?

So much is done electronically now, but there are documents where a paper copy is needed. I fired up the computer and here is what I found.

Bank Statements - One nice thing (among many) about the electronic age is that banks keep statements online up to a couple of years. Our personal bank has statements online all the way back to 2006. However, you should print any canceled checks or year-end statements that you would need for tax purposes, ie - charitable contributions, home improvements, business expenses, mortgage payments, etc. If you are not going to print the statements, you really need to check them each month for errors and fees.

Bills - Utility bills can be tossed the following month when you receive your next statement and it shows that the bill was paid, unless you need the bill for tax deduction purposes, then refer to Taxes below. Any bills for big purchases like jewelry, appliances, computers, etc, should be kept permanently for insurance and warranty purposes. Permanent home improvement bills should also be kept while you still own your home.

Credit Card Statements - These can also be found online, so I'm not sure a paper copy is necessary, unless you need it for documentation for tax deductions, then see Taxes below. If you are not printing it, you should still review it closely for any discrepancies and unnecessary or incorrect fees. You should keep any credit card receipts to match up with your statement. Read more about receipts below.

Household Records - Keep all records from the purchase of your home and any receipts for permanent home improvements and selling expenses for as long as you own your home. This is very important and something that I learned while researching for this post. When you go to sell your home, the cost of permanent home improvements and any selling expenses incurred will be added to the original purchase price of your home. This final number will help to lower your capital gains tax.

Legal documents, such as wills, passports, birth certificates, marriage license, proof of paid mortgage, deed to your home, title to your vehicles should be kept permanently in a safe location such as a safe or safety deposit box.

Pay Stubs - Keep for the year until you get your annual W-2. If the information matches, you can shred your pay stubs. If the information doesn't match, head to your human resource department for correction.

Receipts - Keep until the warranty expires or you can no longer return the item. Any receipt that supports a tax deduction, should be kept with your tax returns. For other receipts from a credit card for example, groceries or gas, keep until you get your next statement to look for any errors.

Retirement/ Savings/Brokerage Statements -
  • Keep records permanently for nondeductible contributions to an IRA to prove that you already paid taxes on this money when it is time to withdrawal.
  • Keep the quarterly statements for your 401k or other IRA accounts until you receive the annual statement. Check for any discrepancies. If there aren't any, shred the quarterly statements, but keep the yearly until you retire or close the account.
  • Keep any brokerage statements until you sell the security. You'll need proof of gains or losses at tax time.

Taxes - You can be audited by the IRS for up to three years after you file your return. BUT if the IRS has reason to suspect that you under reported your gross income by 25% or more, the IRS has up to six years to audit your return. AND if you fail to file or they suspect a fraudulent return, there is not time limit on the possibility of an audit. ALSO, if you are self-employed, you should keep your returns and supporting documents for six years.

It is important to note that you should keep your returns and any supporting documents for these time periods. Supporting documents include any receipts, statements or canceled checks that support income or a tax deduction that you took.

Here is a link to IRS.gov where it explains their Period of Limitations for tax returns.

Personally, I know we have filed honest returns, but because we are self-employed, I am holding on to our returns indefinitely. I have our returns and all supporting documents neatly filed in the cabinet. How long have you held on to your tax returns?

Some Ideas For Keeping Your Financial Records Organized:
  1. For our personal taxes, we keep a present year file for tax deduction documents, such as receipts for charitable contributions, mortgage tax payments, receipts for school and real estate taxes, Goodwill donations, etc. As we receive them, they are put into the file and at the end of the year, I have everything in one place.
  2. Every year for our small business, I create a 4 inch binder, with tabs for each of our expense categories, to store the statements, receipts and invoices. I use a small accordion file with 12 monthly files for credit card receipts.
  3. In your filing cabinet, group your major files together by category with sub-files. Some examples:
  • Assets - with sub-files like your checking, savings, retirement, etc.
  • Insurance - sub-files would be Auto, Health, Home-Owners, Life, etc.
  • Liabilities - sub-files would be Auto Loan, Credit Card, Mortgage, Student Loan, etc.
  • Home improvements -with sub-files for each major improvement.
  • Medical records should be filed by family member.
  • Professional records with sub-files such as resume, employer records, degree records, etc.
  • Taxes with sub-files for each year.

DO NOT FORGET to shred anything that you are throwing away that has your personal information. This will help you avoid possible identity theft. Shredders can be found just about everywhere and are a worthy, inexpensive investment.

If you have any questions regarding a particular document and feel uneasy about whether or not you need to keep it, then please seek advice from a professional.

Do you have a method for filing your financial records that works well for you? I would love to hear about it. Please let us know in the comments

sources: Suze Orman, Bankrate, IRS.gov

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Turkey Cornbread Potpie

If you are looking for a fast, easy, kid-friendly meal, then look no further. I found this recipe in an issue of Cooking Light several years ago and it has been on our dinner table many times in the fall/winter months ever since.

Turkey Cornbread Potpie
adapted from Cooking Light

Turkey Filling
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 Cup chopped red pepper or green pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 - 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes - spice it up with tomatoes with chilis, if desired
  • 1 - 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn

Cornbread topping - You could use a boxed mix if you have it in your pantry.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk or milk
  • 1 large egg

Heat a large pan with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and turkey. (I still had chopped red pepper from our garden in the freezer.)

Break up the turkey and cook until no longer pink. About 5 minutes.

Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, tomatoes, beans and corn.

Stir together and cook for about 3 more minutes.

While the filling is cooking, start prepping the topping. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Mix together the buttermilk and egg and add to the flour mixture. Stir together until moist.

Pour the turkey filling into a 13 X 9 baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Spread the cornmeal mixture over the turkey filling. The cornmeal mixture is thick, but it should cover the majority of the turkey.

Bake at 425 degrees for 18 minutes or until the topping golden brown.

This dish goes well with a garden salad and homemade applesauce. Enjoy!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tackle That Tough Spot - The Home Office

It has been a few weeks since I've tackled, but we had another blizzard this week, so I had some free time as I was stranded inside my home. I baked more cookies and I tackled...my office.

Last year, when I wrote Is Clutter Costing You Cash?, I showed this picture of my home office in the post.
Sadly, a year later, nothing much has changed.

While the blizzard was causing havoc on the roads and power grids, it gave me a chance to clean up my act and organize my office.

I even had time to clean out the filing cabinet. I filled a box of old receipts, statements, papers, and bills to send to the shredder. I organized my files and labeled the drawers. In this drawer, all of our financial files are neat, tidy and in order by Assets, Insurance, Liabilities and Legal Documents.

I even cleaned out and organized the drawers.

Whew, I can cross that task off of my to-do list.

What tough spot have you tackled lately?

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When Mother Nature Hands Me Snow, I Bake.

The Northeast is being pounded with possibly a second blizzard in less than a week today. We got almost 22 inches of snow this past weekend. Last evening, the weatherman said we were likely to get 5-10 more inches overnight, maybe more. Schools also announced closings for today.

It is 7 am as I am typing this and I have yet to look at the window. I just don't want to know right now how much we got during the night.

These snow pictures are from 4 days ago. There is a patio somewhere.

Still looking for the patio...

There is a street under all of that snow. My husband took this picture before anyone ventured outside to shovel. It looks so beautiful and peaceful.

When life hands me a snow storm, for some reason, I feel compelled to bake.

Banana Muffins...

Our dear neighbor helped us out by snow blowing a path down the sidewalk. Honestly, I think he was giddy underneath his snowsuit. His snow blower is a toy that he only gets to play with maybe once or twice a year. Today will be the fourth snowfall where a snow blower was be needed.

Chocolate Chip cookies were needed to soothe our souls and thank our kind neighbor.

I'm going to go look out the my window now. Whatever is out there, I'm thankful for my fairly stocked kitchen and that we have electricity. I'm sure baking will be on our agenda today.

What did you wake up to this morning? I would love to hear about it.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Grilled Lime Chicken with Mango Red Pepper Salsa

My husband went to the grocery store a few weeks ago and came home with mangoes.

"They were only a buck", he said. So, he bought three of them.

"What should I do with them?", he asks.

"Salsa", I said. We cut into one immediately and it was quite clear that it wasn't ripe enough. So they sat in our refrigerator for a couple of weeks. I forgot about them, until last week when I found them underneath some apples.

They were ripe and it was time for some salsa.

Grilled Lime Chicken with Mango Red Pepper Salsa

The Salsa

  • 2 mangoes
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 red onion, depending on how much bite you like, chopped into small pieces
  • parsley, chopped fine. I used about 1/4 of the bundle that I bought at the store
  • juice from one lime

The mangoes are ripe enough when they are slightly soft to to the touch. It is similar to an avocado in that sense, when it is hard it is not ripe enough.

Peel the mangoes.

If you have never cut a mango, the pit is in the middle and it is hard to see. You need to cut vertically to the side. If you put the knife through the fruit and it gets stuck, move the knife slightly more to the outside to cut around the pit.

This is the pit. It seems wasteful. I nibble around the pit for a little snack.

Chop the mango into small chunks.

Add a medium red pepper, chopped into small pieces.

Add 1/4 to 1/2 of a red onion, chopped into small pieces.

Mix in the chopped parsley and lime juice. Set aside in the refrigerator.

The Lime Marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • zest and juice from one lime
  • 1 teaspoon fiesta seasoning, if you don't have fiesta seasonings, use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • 2-4 chicken breasts - pounded to about 1/2 inch thickness

The kitchen smells so fresh when you are zesting a lime.

I put the chicken breasts in a plastic bag, that is not closed all of the way, and pound with a rolling pin. Pound the meat until it is evenly about 1/2 inch thick. It shortens the cooking time and prevents some parts of the chicken breast from cooking before the thicker parts.

Mix the olive oil, lime juice, zest and seasoning and pour over the chicken. Let sit in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

It is 20 degrees here in the northeast, so I used my indoor grill pan on my stove top. I'm not venturing outside to the grill when it is that cold.

Spray pan with non-cooking spray and heat over medium heat.

Remove the chicken breasts from marinade and discard the marinade. Place the chicken on heated pan and cook for about 7 minutes until golden brown. Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown and cooked all the way through. Probably another 5-7 minutes. The key here is to not over-cook, because that dries out the chicken, but you want to make sure it is cooked all the way through.

Top the chicken with the Mango Red Pepper Salsa and Enjoy!

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