Sunday, June 10

Smoked Chicken Wings

Today is such a happy day here in my household! Today is my handsome husbands 23rd birthday! I told him he could have anything in the whole entire world for dinner tonight, and he chose Chicken Wings. For Christmas last year one of his big gifts was an electric smoker. So he and I decided to try out a recipe for smoked wings. For the most part, its uncommon to smoke wings, or for that matter, just about any area of the chicken. For some reason smoking is more commonly associated with beef and pork. We Googled, and really couldn't find any specific recipe for them. So, I threw together a few of my favorite spices for a dry rub, smoked them, and then charred them on the grill. They were by far the best wings we've ever had.

Ingredients: {Dry Rub}
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
Cayenne Pepper, to Taste
1 Tablespoon "Kickin' Chicken" Seasoning

Before we get started, preheat the smoker to 300-315 degrees. To prep, we decided to cut the tip of the wings off, just under the joint, since it really doesn't yield any meat anyway. After rinsing the wings off, we rubbed each side of the wings, and let them sit at room temperature while the smoker preheated. For even cooking, you know? Once the smoker was nice and warm, we smoked them for about an hour. Then, slapped them on a hot grill to get that perfect charred skin. They grilled on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes per side. Then, the fun part begins. We chose to keep half of them naked, and tossed the other half with Hunts Honey Barbeque sauce. Personally, I enjoyed the naked wings much more than the barbequed ones. My husband was in wing heaven today.

Of course, we polished these bad boys off with some traditional summer sides. A box of Velveeta shells & cheese, as well as corn on the cob. It was a perfect 23rd birthday celebration, as well as the perfect start to the summer barbeque season. Remember, you can totally do this exact same thing on just your barbeque grill. The smokey flavor is just an added bonus to this recipe. I wouldn't be discouraged if you're craving barbeque wings but don't have a smoker. Plus, the dry rub is totally universal, and would work wonderfully with a wing sauce, rather than a barbeque sauce. I'm excited to try this new recipe 12,423 ways this summer. Enjoy the gorgeous weather everyone! And get creative out there on your grill!

Wednesday, June 6

Save Money on Groceries!

I am all about being cheap, frugal, and even "thrifty". But the one place I've always struggled was when it came to the weekly grocery bill. I am not a fan of coupons, that's for sure. Its too time consuming, and in all reality it just physically stresses me out. Now that I have become a full-time homemaker, I've devoted my days into finding ways to save money without having to clip coupons. I decided to share my methods with my friends and family, and hopefully I can save you a buck or two!

1. Make a weekly meal plan, and make your grocery list around it.
I can't explain enough how important it is to make a meal plan. Not only just plan out what you're having to eat, but make your grocery list at the same time. Doing this will help eliminate buying things you don't need, as well as ensuring that you have enough ingredients to make what you're planning to have. I personally meal plan not only dinners, which are the most costly and difficult, but I also meal plan my breakfast and lunch meals as well. This stops me from stopping at fast food, or going out to eat; knowing good and well that I have 5-6 different meals waiting for me at home.

2. Chose meals that have leftovers.
This is a big one. Not only does it save money, it saves time at the grocery store, and it saves time in the kitchen! Some examples of my favorite leftover meals are pot roast, ribs, and ham. Slow-cooker pot roasts are super easy to make, pretty inexpensive, and leave tons of meat behind. The first meal we usually eat as a roast, and the second day we pull it and have hot roast beef sandwiches. Ribs we usually only do for special occasions, since they're a little more pricey, but the eating is great for up to two days later. Worth it! My all time, absolute favorite is oven-baked honey ham. This doesn't just leave dinner leftovers, and it doesn't just leave leftovers for one day. If we have ham steaks for dinner on a Monday, we will still be eating ham sandwiches for lunch on Thursday. Not to mention having ham omelets for breakfast! The initial price may seem a little overwhelming at the store, but when you can get up to 5 meals out of it, it is for sure worth the price.

3. Make a list, and stick to it.
I did a little test for myself a few weeks ago and meal planned, because you couldn't even force me not to meal plan; and purchased my groceries without a list. The next week I meal planned the exact same meals, but on different days, and made a list. I literally saved $48 by only buying what I needed. That's a big savings, but it can be hard not to impulse buy. What I've trained myself to do, and that has been extremely helpful, is to write a list on the back of my grocery list of all of the items I wanted to buy, as well as their price. This way, when I get home I can see, on paper, how much money I saved by using a list. Plus, then the next week as I'm making my grocery list and meal planning, I can try to incorporate what I didn't impulse buy into my budget. The one exception is if my impulse buy is on sale. If I'm craving lemon cookies, and my lemon cookies are on sale, you better believe I'm going to buy them.

4. Clip coupons, if it's your thing.
I'm not a coupon clipper, as I said before. But, if you are up to the challenge, do it. My little tip as a non-couponer is this: Do not buy your groceries around the coupons. Make a grocery list first, and then clip the coupons that you already need. When I tried coupon clipping, I found that grocery shopping around coupons made me spend whole dollars to save cents on items I didn't need. The way coupon clipping helps me is I chose to buy the items on sale, regardless of brand. I'm lucky in the fact that the same items usually have coupons hanging next to them. So I don't usually have to experiment too much, but if what I need is on sale in another brand, I'll save the 20 cents to try a new product.

5. Shop at the dollar store for as many products as you can.
I cannot believe how much money I've wasted on non-perishable items at the big box stores vs. shopping at my local Dollar Tree. The idea is simple. But let me break down how much money you can save. Window cleaner. The popular brand of window cleaner is almost $3. Glass Plus, which is my personal favorite brand of window cleaner is $1 at Dollar Tree. You now have an extra $2 in your pocket. Disinfecting wipes. The big brand can cost up to $4 a container. At Dollar Tree, 1 single dollar. We are already up to $5 in savings. The list goes on and on. Foil, sponges, plastic baggies, candles, pens, paper, etc! Just wait until you see how much money you can save. My recommendation is to write down how much money you spend on these types of products every week, and then budget only $1 per item, see how much money you could save.

6. Purchase the off-brand products, rather than the big name products.
This is the big money saver. The big deal if you will. If you chose not to do any other item on my list, I urge you to do this one. I did another little experiment just yesterday. I was tough and purchased the off-brand for every single item on my list. I budget $150 a week on groceries, and sometimes that's not even enough. By purchasing only off-brand products, my final bill was $93 including the $5 gratuity to the baggers. I saved over $50 by purchasing off-brand. To be honest, 97% of the time, our family prefers off-brand products to the big names. The best example is Malt-O-Meal cereal. Its to die for. No matter which type of cereal, this brand beats them all. On average, a bag of cereal is half of the price of a box, and you get double the amount. That is 1/4 of the price. Not to mention it tastes so much better. Laundry detergent is another one. I used to buy Cheer. Sorry to name bash you, but the price is physically sickening. I paid up to $8 for 50 loads. I now buy either Sun or Xtra laundry detergent. $3 for 96 loads. I'm not joking here. I could go on for hours about this, but the bottom line is, I literally saved over $50 just yesterday by doing this. Give it a try, you won't be sorry!

I'm really happy to have poked and pryed around enough to be able to save myself some money on groceries. Its a bill that is coming whether we like it or not, we might as well enjoy shopping, and not leave with an empty wallet! Please, share your money saving tips in the comment section. I'd love to hear more about how to save money!

Sunday, June 3

My New Wedding Ring

Oh what an incredible day, let me tell you. I don't want to get too personal here on my craft blog, but I'll say that getting married at a young age, in my case 18, isn't always the best idea. We were just kids, and completely immature. Our marriage was a little rocky for the first 2 years to say the least. Being married as a kid is rough. I don't recommend anyone get married that young, honestly. But, he and I pushed and pulled and fought to prevail, and we have never been happier. It took the first 2 years of immaturity to mature us into the picture perfect couple we are today. It took an 8 month long deployment to Iraq for he and I to both wise up into what marriage is really about. After he returned home from that dreadful deployment, everything changed. Like a rope snap. Deployments are hard on relationships, but not in our case. His deployment may have even saved our marriage. Distance really does make the heart grow fonder.

Everyone knows that a wedding ring is a physical symbol of love. But what happens when the wedding ring symbolizes the past? Well, in my case, my husband took my old ring full of negative memories, and upgraded it into the most gorgeous peice of heaven I've ever seen. He used the center stone of my old engagement ring, and just replaced the mount and setting. It symbolizes that we will always have a piece of who we were at the ripe, young, immature age of 18, but that our "new" marriage is to be filled with positive outlooks, and to forget the stupid kids we used to be. Here, take a look. Its amazing.

The ring itself is a 3/4 carat center stone, surrounded by a halo of diamonds, wrapped in diamonds around both the engagement ring and the wedding band. It is the perfect symbol of our love, and how it has changed in the last 4 years of our marriage. It just means so much in my heart to have the center stone. He proposed with that gorgeous rock when we were only 17. We had nothing. We were still in high school! He is an incredible man, let me tell you. I am beyond blessed to be married to him.

Not only was this a romantic thing to do on his part by upgrading my old ring, but he did it with such class! He and I went for a walk to our Ellsworth Air Force Base park, visted the pond, fed the fish off of the dock, and then walked across the pond bridge. At the top of the bridge he actually got down on one knee and asked if I would "stay married to him" for the rest of our lives. How sweet is that? He actually took me to our local Downtown area to a large fountain, but got too shy around all the people to get down on a knee in public. So really I got two romantic dates that day, but only one of them left me with a beautiful new wedding ring on my hand. I couldn't be more thankful, and I couldn't be happier to be married to this amazing person. My very best friend. I only wish that he and I knew 4 years ago what we know today. Marriage is a hard everyday living. But totally worth fighting for when you're fighting for your true love.