Gratituesday: God is Stronger Than a Hail Storm

gratituesday[2]

In early June, our garden looked like this:

garden145

Full of plants protected by buckets looked like this:

garden144

A few days later, a hail storm came through, and our garden looked like this:

hail garden 1

It seemed as if we had lost everything.  Our rows and rows of green bean plants had no leaves left.  Our pepper and tomato plants were completely broken down.  It looked like nothing had survived.  We decided to replant a few green bean seeds, and consider the rest of the garden to be a loss.  It would be a small garden this year, and we would just make do.

hail garden 2

But guess what?  God is bigger than any of our gardening efforts, and He is most certainly bigger than a hail storm!!   We left our broken, leafless plants alone.  Within a few weeks, they had turned back into thriving plants again.  Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!

Not only that, we had a lot of rain this summer and fall – so much so that our garden and all the fruit trees around this area have been kicking out the produce like I’ve never seen before.  So now, our garden looks like this:

produce 147

So many beautiful peppers!

Our green bean plants have provided bucket after bucket of green beans.  We’ve eaten them to our heart’s content – 4 months of fresh-from-the-garden green beans!!!  And we’ve frozen many gallon-sized bags of beans too.  We’ll be enjoying them all winter!

produce 146 (1)

Our tomato plants are still giving us many tomatoes every day.  Plus we’re picking spaghetti squash and honey dew melon.

produce 148

An orchard nearby has had the best “apple year” I’ve ever seen.  These bags keep making their way into my kitchen (and the kitchens of my friends).  We’re eating all we can hold, and making jar after jar of Homemade Applesauce.

produce 141

All this to say - we thought we’d be done enjoying garden produce by June after the hail storm was so destructive.   The joke’s on us.  We started canning and freezing produce in July.  Here it is the end of October and we are still going strong.  I usually have my canning supplies packed away by now.  Not this year.  There’s still applesauce to make and green beans to pick.  I am amazed!  I shouldn’t be though.  Isn’t it just like God to show us in such mighty ways of His love and care for us?

Here’s a fun peek into our pantry and freezers.  We have over 50 jars of applesauce, and I’ll be making more this week and next.  This batch turned out so pink, it looks like I added food coloring!  Nope, just straight empire apples.  So pretty!

produce 145

Some friends gave us cucumbers, so I made about 40 jars of dill pickles.  It was a fun experiment and they turned out great!

dill pickles

We bought sweet corn at a road-side stand in August, and froze about a dozen quart-sized bags.  Pay no attention to the fact that I desperately need to defrost my freezers.  I would if I wasn’t so busy canning and freezing produce.

produce 149

I’ve stuffed bags of green beans in our freezers as I’ve found room.  Pay no attention to the fact that I desperately need to re-organize my freezers.  I would if I wasn’t so busy canning and freezing produce.

produce 150

Our peach tree did pretty well this year, so we canned about a dozen quarts, and froze several bags of sliced peaches for smoothies.

produce 142

Next you see a mixture of Sweet Pickle Relish (from the cucumbers our friends shared with us), Homemade Salsa, and more Applesauce.

produce 143

As you can see from the above picture, I’m no longer organizing the jars as I fit them into my pantry.  I’m at a point of simply trying to find room for it all.  Dozens and dozens of full jars of produce!  It is so exciting!!

I’m so grateful for the bounty and for God’s sense of humor.  There may have been a hail storm, but that didn’t stop God from giving us one of our best garden years ever!  Go God!

What are you celebrating this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share what you’re grateful for!

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Money Saving Monday ~ Stretching Your Dollars While Eating Healthy Food

Money Saving Monday large

Never before have I recognized the need to find money-saving grocery methods as I do now.  My boys have always been big eaters.  But now that 2-almost-3-out of 4 of them are teenagers?  There is no sentence to follow that question.  It’s just.  The food.  They eat.  I’m so.  Wow.

It’s a pleasure to watch them eat actually.  Big appetites are fun for a food lovin’ Mama like me.  But I have to find as many ways as possible to make our grocery dollars stretch.  Just last week, I decided to buy some thick deli-sliced ham for a quick lunch.  It was on sale, so I bought several inches of it, hoping I could stretch it with a bunch of side dishes, and therefore save about a half pound to go with eggs for breakfast the next day.  Y’all.  I fried every last bit of that ham, fried some leftover baked potatoes, opened a can of baked beans, pulled out half a pineapple, pulled out a pint of pickles, pulled some tortilla chips to go with leftover Cream Cheese Salsa Dip and leftover Spicy Avocado Dip, pulled a bowl of raw broccoli with homemade ranch dip – and nothing was left at the end of the meal.  Then they said, “Can we have the rest of those peanut butter cookies?”

This is why their legs keep growing and their shoes are too small before they even get them broken in.  (Praise God with me! Two of our boys found brand new pairs of very nice quality running shoes at our church clothing exchange last week for FREE.  Hallelujah! Put the money we would have spent on shoes toward more eggs and meat.)

You know how I share that I buy in bulk all the time?  A friend of mine came over to take a look at my food purchasing and storage system.  She saw all of the containers of pasta.  She saw all the jars of home-canned produce.  She saw all the 50-pound bags of wheat, oats, and rice.  She saw my all my cocoa powder, bottles of ketchup, jars of mayo, and cans of tuna.  She saw my three freezers (THREE!) full of meat and frozen fruits and veggies.  She saw it all.  Her question:

“So, would this food last you for about a year do you think?”  Oh dear, no (said I, with a giggle).  What you see here will be gone in three months.

Well anyway, money saving tips on food are necessary – for all of us, wouldn’t you agree?

Each Monday for the next few weeks, I plan to share a way to save money while eating healthy food.  Healthy food is so important so that we can all thrive physically and emotionally!  These posts won’t be about skimping on nutrition, but rather attaining nutrition without breaking the bank.

Money Saving Monday at Heavenly Homemakers

Of course, I’ll continue to share all the great online deals I find at anytime throughout the week.  But I continue learning new tricks to keep my healthy food grocery budget reasonable.  I can’t wait to share!

Will you help out as we start this series?  Leave a comment letting us know:

1.  What are your favorite ways to save money on healthy foods?
2.  What are the areas you struggle with most while trying to save money on healthy foods?

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Menu Plan for the Week – A Little Bit Different This time

Remember the big boxes we got in our Amazon order last week?  Malachi has made very good use of them.  We’ve cut flaps for doors and secret hide-outs, and we’ve gone through way too much packing tape.  Malachi keeps watching for the UPS man to come back and bring more boxes.  Sorry, Buddy.  Mama got a big order, but I don’t think Mr. UPS is coming back this week.  :)

malachi fort

In other news, I’m finding that my current menu planning system isn’t working very well right now.  This school year is trying to knock me flat.  We added a few different (and good!) academic endeavors this year.  I’m amazed at the extra time it takes away from my blog work and house work.  In addition, I’ve been doing a lot of canning, and need to do more during the next few weeks.

So, in an effort to simplify my kitchen work even more (and I already feel that it has been pretty basic), I’m going to try a different menu planning system this week.  The idea is that I will list food ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Fruits/Veggies based on the ingredients I have on hand.  For each day, I’ll just look at the list and figure out what I have time to work on.  We always have 1-4 fruits or veggies with each meal, so we can pull those out quickly to put with each meal.

Make sense?  I think the crock pot is going to get a work-out.  :)  Here’s what we’ll be working with this week:

Breakfasts

Lunches

Dinners

Fruit and Veggie Side Dishes

We’ll see how this works, and I’ll report back next week!  I may find that it works better for me to have everything planned specifically like I’ve done for years.  But what if this is a change for the better?  We’ll see!

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Heavenly Homemakers Recipes Across the Globe ~ Share Your Story

Share Your Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Story

I actually cried when I read this story sent in by Jennifer.  What can I say?  I tear up easily.  I am so honored that God is using this site to bless people in so many ways.  Plus, this story reminds me so much of MY STORY.  I also didn’t grow up with sisters, but have gained three by marriage.  I am so thankful for these sisters in my life now.  Here’s Jennifer:

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I did not grow up with sisters, only one brother.  When I married I gained two sisters and a sister in law.  Score!  My sister in law, her husband (my husband’s brother…confused yet?!?) and their three young children have lived in Central Asia as missionaries for the last seven years.  We both have three children.  She has one boy and two girls and we have three boys.  When they left my oldest was in preschool.  He is starting middle school this year.  Sigh.  They’ve been back to the  states just a few times over those seven years.  

We try to communicate as much as possible via skype.  When we are able to talk guess what we discuss?  Your recipes!!  We love it.  We talk about what we like, how we adapted it, who ate it and so on.  Last fall, after several years of saving, my husband and I were able to visit them while they were working.  Guess what she served?  Heavenly Homemakers recipes!  We had the best time sitting around her table, eating good food and visiting.  
 
Living worlds apart is difficult to say the least, but Heavenly Homemakers has been a common bond.  Few things in our daily lives, outside of our mutual love of the Lord, are similar, but almost daily one of us has a HH recipe on our table.  It makes me smile.  Thanks for all you do and your daily encouragement!
 
In Him, 
Jennifer
 
PS-While in Central Asia with them she made your Breakfast Cake, but added fresh pumpkin and white chocolate chips.  It was a winner! 
breakfast_cake_3

Share with us:  Who did God bless you with when you got married, or when a sibling of yours got married?

Also, keep sending in your stories and pictures.  I love ‘em!
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Is It Healthy To Fry Food? Deep Fryers and Great Grocery Deals…

Several have asked how I fry my Pumpkin Donuts.  A skillet with about a 1/2 inch of hot oil works great, and that’s how I used to fry food.  But Matt and the boys got me this Oster Deep Fat Fryer a couple Christmases ago and I LOVE it.  This makes the process of frying donuts, chicken nuggets, French fries, etc. so much easier!

Is it Healthy to Eat Fried Food

The question everyone wants to know is:  Aren’t fried foods unhealthy?

My very happy response to that questions is this:  If you fry your food in Palm Shortening or Coconut Oil, your fried foods will be healthy!  The reason?  Palm Shortening and Coconut Oil are digestible, nourishing, and stable fats.  This means that they can be heated to extreme temperatures without becoming rancid or without turning into trans fats.  #happydance #bringonthehomemadefrenchfries

Other oils – in particular bottled vegetable oils and canola oil – aren’t beneficial to our health in the first place.  When they are heated to the high temperatures required for frying, they begin to go berserk because they aren’t stable enough to handle the heat.  When heated for frying, they become rancid or oxidized, then they create free radicals that attack our cells.  This can eventually lead to many health problems and diseases.  #nothanks  #blech  #stickwithcoconutoil

Olive oil is a healthy fat, but it becomes unstable at about 450° so it isn’t always a great choice for deep-frying food.  I do use olive oil to lightly stir fry veggies in a skillet.

I’m so grateful for healthy frying options, because fried food tastes crazy good!  Obviously, we need to balance the good fats and fried food with plenty of fruits and vegetables.  After all, God created our bodies to function best by eating a wide variety of nutrients.  But for the record, fried green beans, fried zucchini, fried mushrooms, and fried asparagus are fantastic.  #bestofbothworlds

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Donuts with Glaze

Now for some big fat healthy deals around the web:

I typically recommend my favorite Palm Shortening from Tropical Traditions because it is such fantastic quality.  In case you’d like to try a smaller container of this shortening (Tropical Traditions only carries gallon buckets or larger), you may want to try Spectrum brand, which comes in a 24 ounce tub.

Right now, iHerb is carrying Spectrum Palm Shortening for just $6.34 a tub.  Even better?  You get free shipping at iHerb when your order is over $20.  AND, if you’re a new customer and click through this iHerb referral link, you’ll get $10 off your order of $40 or more.  (Or use my referral number at checkout, BID487)  Sweet deal!

spectrum palm shortening
While you’re at iHerb getting your $10 off and free shipping, I suggest picking up other ingredients you might need for baking this fall and winter.  They carry my favorite brand of sucanat, Rapunzel Whole Cane Sugar.  I often also get Enjoy Life Soy Free Chocolate Chips and Now Foods Cocoa Powder at iHerb.  Yay for fun baking!  Have fun with your $10 of free grocery money!

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I recommend expeller pressed or refined coconut oil for frying as these varieties are flavorless and odorless.  Amazon is carrying BetterBody Foods Organic Refined Oil for just $10.60 for a 15 ounce jar.  There are only a few in stock, so hopefully you can grab one before they run out!

betterbody coconut oil

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Amazon is running a great deal on a Lodge 5-Piece Cast Iron Skillet Set.  It’s only $63.99, down from $150.00.  This is a GREAT deal if you can swing it.  Cast iron is a fantastic, healthy alternative to Teflon.  You can use palm shortening or coconut oil to season your cast iron.

lodge five piece set

Universal Housewares is also offering a great deal on cast iron.  Get this 3-piece skillet set for just $24.99, down from $50.00.

cast iron 6

What are your favorite fried foods?  Have you switched to palm or coconut oil for frying?  It’s a delicious change for the better!

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Whole Wheat Pumpkin Donuts

After months of trial, illness, starvation, exhaustion, and many other forms of misery (encouraging post so far, Laura) – the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags came together for a great feast on what is now known as The First Thanksgiving.  These incredible people had much to celebrate, no doubt.

On their table there was an abundance of lobster, rabbit, chicken, squash, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, radishes, and cabbage – all of the traditional foods you and I always serve to our families on Thanksgiving, right?  (I always tear up a little during the carving of our traditional Thanksgiving Lobster.)

Quick question: How did the above First Thanksgiving menu give way to boxed stuffing and canned cranberry sauce that plops out onto a plate?  Don’t answer that.  But what I do what to know is this:  Where have these Whole Wheat Pumpkin Donuts been all my life?  These need to be added to everyone’s Thanksgiving menu: turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, relish tray, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls with butter, and a big, huge platter of Pumpkin Donuts.  Oh, and don’t forget the Lobster.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Donuts with Glaze

These Pumpkin Donuts scream, “Fall is here!  Be thankful!  Inhale deeply the scent of cinnamon spice!  Eat me already!”  This is a fall treat that ranks right up there with all things amazing.  This donut recipe stirs up quickly, rolls out easily, and fries up into fantastic goodies that might make you pass out.  They are great with a cup of coffee or apple cider.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Donuts (adapted from this recipe)

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
Oil for frying (I recommend coconut oil or palm shortening for healthy frying)

Stir together whole wheat flour, baking powder, sea salt, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and sucanat.  Add melted butter, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, and pumpkin puree – mixing until all ingredients are well combined.  Roll dough on a well-floured surface.  Cut out donuts and donut holes (makes about 30 of each).

Fry dough in hot oil for about 3 minutes or until donuts are golden brown.  Drizzle with glaze and serve.

Buttermilk Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar (I use unbleached powdered sugar)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk ingredients together and drizzle over warm donuts before serving.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Donuts

What are your family’s traditional Thanksgiving foods that are a little different from the norm?  I have to admit, not only have I never had a Thanksgiving Lobster on my table, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually eaten lobster, period.  I’m a Kansas girl turned Nebraska girl.  What can I say?

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Is Laura Really Talking About Ironing?? Yep! It’s an Iron Ease Pro Giveaway! (U.S. and Canada)

If you know me, and I’m afraid you do, you know that ironing is not on my top ten favorite activities list.  Bottom ten is more like it.  Ugh…ironing.

So why am I choosing to talk about this dreaded subject?  Perhaps it’s because my ironing pile is getting bigger and somebody needs to catch up on that around here.  (Boys, are you listening?)

Speaking of boys:  Because we have a household full of them, ironing has not been super necessary most of the time.  T-shirts and jeans, athletic gear and soccer uniforms - none of those items need ironing even if one of the boys crams his clothes into his drawers without folding them first but let’s not even talk about that.  Now that our boys are getting older and caring more about how they look and smell?  Well, ironing is going to have to move higher up on our chore list.

boys at wedding

Here are all the boys at a wedding a couple months ago – all unwrinkled and buttoned up.

So let’s make ironing as easy as possible, shall we?  I just received a wonderful free IronEase Pro to try out.  Who knew an ironing board could be so nice?  Who knew I could actually iron the sleeves of shirts without putting more creases in during the process?  Who knew the iron could glide over the clothes so nicely?

Well, it just might be that I don’t hate ironing as much as I used to.  I’ll still encourage t-shirts and jeans, but when the boys need to look a little nicer, I won’t dread ironing their shirts as much as I used to.  Trust me when I say that they will also be using the IronEase Pro to keep themselves handsome, oh yes they will.  (Boys, are you listening?)

Iron Ease 1 IronEase 2

A word from de Machinor:

We’ve experienced countless improvements in common household products since the Millennium, yet the common ironing board has remained unchanged since it was first conceived over 140 years ago. Innovative product design powerhouse, de Machinor, has addressed the design flaws inherent of traditional ironing boards in their debut IronEase Pro– resulting in a markedly more effective product that saves time and makes ironing feel like less of a chore.

The IronEase Pro has 8 unique time-saving design features that separate it from all other boards on the market, including the patented ShoulderWing Design that eliminates the common frustrations of ironing a collared shirt. These features have earned the IronEase Pro consistent five star ratings from happy customers on Amazon.com.
de Machinor’s ironing board is not only superior in design, but in quality as well. The IronEase Pro is constructed from rust-resistant steel instead of the synthetic plastic used by most ironing board manufacturers today, resulting in an ironing board that lasts several times as long as its competitors.

This ironing board is not your average el cheapo ironing board.  It is made with quality materials with a board that does not wear out, because it is made with metal, not plastic.  The Shoulder Wing system saves much time when ironing dress shirts.  I really am impressed with all this ironing board offers.  Indeed, I’m gushing about an ironing board.  Who knew I would ever do that?  In addition to finding this item at the deMachinor website, you can also find the IronEase Pro at Amazon.

 

Want to win one of these IronEase Pro ironing boards?!  Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.  For an additional chance, you can follow de Machinor on Twitter, then leave an additional comment here telling us you did.

 

Are you from Canada?  You’ll be excited to know that the IronEase Pro is available there too!  Not only that, de Machinor is giving away an additional IronEase Pro to one of you from Canada!!!  Please specify in your comment if you are Canadian so that I can grab those entries for a separate random drawing.  Thanks!

 

I’ll draw two random winners (one U.S. and one Canada) on Tuesday, October 21.  Be watching for a post stating the winners as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen!
 
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10-15% off Everything at Lilla Rose ~ Plus an Additional Heavenly Homemakers Special!

My favorite hair accessories are on sale…twice!  :)  This is a great way to grab some early Christmas gifts.

Lilla Rose Fall Sale Post

Not only will you get 10-15% off your order, Paula from Lilla Rose will give you a FREE SURPRISE FLEXI when you place a $40 order between now and Oct.18!!!*

*Place an order of $40 or more (excluding tax and shipping) through Paula’s website, then message her to redeem your free surprise flexi! Offer valid for U.S. customers only and expires Oct. 18, 2014. This is for both new and returning customers, but if you already have another Lilla Rose consultant, please stay with her; I’m sure she’ll appreciate it! Thank you!

Take advantage of this amazingness!

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Something Is Wrong With This Picture

I wash dishes like this so often, I forget how it must look to a guest hanging out in my kitchen.

crazy gloves

What? It’s the best way to do dishes.

Two left handed gloves, one on each hand, two different colors.  Sometimes, on a day I feel wild and crazy, I’ll switch the gloves around, putting the blue one on my right hand and the purple one on my left.  Y’all, doing dishes is never boring at my house – I’ll tell you that right now.

You know what’s great about this post, and the picture, and all that seems rather pointless?  I actually do have a point.  Two points actually:

1.  Never worry about what people think about you when you’re washing dishes.  Two lefthanded gloves of different colors worn at the same time?  Why, we can establish a new dishwashing trend.

2.  If you use rubber gloves to wash dishes and one of the gloves gets a hole in it, save the glove that doesn’t have a hole.  Eventually, you can use it with another glove that has lost its mate.  You’ll save a lot of money doing this.  And I believe we’ve already established how cool you will look…not that we care what other people think.

In practicing this, sometimes my mismatched gloves end up being the same color.  Sometimes I actually end up with a left-handed and a right-handed pair of misfits.  But more often than not, I end up with two left-handed gloves of different colors.  It matters not.  They still work just fine.

And that, my friends, is my very helpful, money-saving homemaking tip for you today.

P.S.  This money-saving method does not apply to shoes or contact lenses.

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I Might Have Gone a Little Bit Nuts This Month at Amazon…

With the recent announcement that after November 11, our Amazon Prime/Amazon Mom discount goes from 20% to 15% – I decided to really stock up during our October subscribe and save order.  I continued to find good deals on food we eat regularly, adding them to our order.  Before I knew it, the UPS man brought this:

amazon october 1

To be clear, the nine year old boy already lives here, the blue cooler was sitting out waiting for farm fresh milk pick-up, the flowers and pumpkins have been on our steps for over a week, and the sacks of apples were delivered last Sunday.  Amazon and UPS are good, but they’re not that good.

Did I blow my grocery budget for this month?  Why yes I did, thank you for asking.  Am I worried about it?  No, I’m not.  Because I regularly buy in bulk, or grocery budget is very small some months and very large other months.  This is obviously a large month.  Seeing as I bought the entire internet with this order, giving our family plenty to eat for quite some time, the next few months’ budget look to be quite a bit smaller.

What you see in the picture below is only a portion of our order.  There were a 6 t0 16 packs of pasta in each box, and I ordered six different kinds.  (That’s 80 pounds of pasta. God bless the UPS man and his back muscles.)  With good planning, I will not need to buy pasta until April, 2015.  I hope this plan works, as my boys never cease to amaze me with the amount of food we go through.

amazon october 2

I got two cases of toilet paper, a case of organic tortilla chips, a super discounted case of Izze soda for a treat, a case of salmon…here, I’ll give you a bullet list.  Some of the prices I paid are no longer available.  I used coupons for almost everything in my order, as well.  I soooo love combining my subscribe and save discount with coupon savings.  I get SUCH good deals this way!  Not all of these items have come in yet.  The UPS man will be busy making deliveries to our house the rest of this week.  :)

Shucks.  When it’s all listed out that way, it doesn’t really seem like much for my household.  It only looks huge when it seems that Amazon blew up all over my living room:

amazon october 4

Thankfully, we have many (almost) free blessings from our garden that help counter-balance our grocery spending.

amazon october 3

In case you were wondering, we did not grow that pineapple in our garden.  We Nebraskans are amazing, but we’re not that amazing.

Now that Amazon Prime/Mom perks are decreasing to 15%, I still plan to purchase subscribe and save items regularly.  How about you?  A 15% discount with coupons is still really, really good!  But hey, until November 11, we all still get 20% off – so you may want to join me in going nuts.  :)  Not only will you have lots of great groceries, you’ll receive fantastic boxes with which your kids can build forts and make messes in the living room.  My nine year old was glad to see the Izzes, the pasta, and the chips, but he was very, very excited to see the boxes that hold so much potential for him.

Here are more details about how Amazon Prime/Amazon Mom works with subscribe and save works to save money.  Be sure to keep up with our Amazon Deals page for all the latest deals!

How do you work your grocery budget?  Do you spend the same amount each month, or do you spend more some months when you stock up and less other months when you don’t need as much?

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