Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homemade Hot Pockets

My boys LOVE Hot Pockets and I usually get them for .50 a box with coupons. That's a really good deal but let's face it, even though they're quite convenient, they're not healthy! I told my boys that after we ran out of the breakfast variety we had in the freezer, we would try and make them ourselves. Not only would they be much, much healthier, they'd probably be cheaper as well (which I LOVE!).

I'm lucky enough to have a KitchenAid Professional 600 series mixer with a dough hook (cue the Hallelujahs) so I make yeast doughs very frequently. I love to make homemade soup and a nice loaf of homemade bread on cold winter nights for dinner. Max loves it so much that he asked me to make a loaf to take into school so he could share with his classmates. I made him a loaf and sliced it that morning and sent him in with a little tub of butter, plastic knives, napkins and his bread. He was proud to be able to share with his friends. You don't need a fancy mixer to make this dough but if you don't you'll be kneading by hand....think of it as therapy. Here's the recipe for the dough....

10 Cups (possibly more and I'll explain after) All Purpose or Bread Flour

4 Eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (I buy the big double pack of Fleishmanns from Sams Club)

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups water

1 tsp. salt

2 sticks of butter or margarine, melted

Instructions are for my mixer. If you're kneading by hand, you'll want to search the internet to look for instructions for that. Heat your water and milk until it feels hot to your touch. Not scalding, but past luke warm. Pour into your mixer and add yeast. Mix well and allow yeast to bloom (just let it sit for 5 minutes or so). Once your 5 minutes is up, you can add eggs, sugar, salt and melted butter. Next comes the flour. I usually add all of what it calls for and begin mixing. I ended up adding much more than 10 cups of flour. If you're not experienced in bread making this is what you want to look want to add flour slowly until the sides of your mixer are clean and your dough has all come together. Then I let it knead for a good 5-7 minutes. Next, oil your dough and make sure the whole thing is coated. Cover your bowl and allow to double in size. Once it's doubled, you're ready to make the hot pockets. You can cook your fillings while your dough is rising. I didn't really use a recipe for that. I do, however, have some useful tips for you for fillings. I made scrambled eggs. I always make fluffy scrambled eggs (I've seen them dry and crumbly before and so unappetizing). I add about a teaspoon per egg of water and then salt and pepper and whip them up. The trick is to let the eggs sit and set in your pan before you start scrambling them. Once you see a nice layer of cooked egg on the bottom, gently fold and continue that until they're cooked through. I also grated my own cheddar cheese because I had a block from a previous sale and I think it tastes better than the stuff already shredded. For meat, I used breakfast sausages and bacon. I removed the sausage from the casings and chopped it up before frying. The bacon you should also chop before frying, that way it's all ready to go into the dough and you don't have to be bothered crumbling it after it's cooked. I have ham pictured above because I intended on making some with that as well. Upon opening the package and touching it, I found little hard crystal like bits embedded in the slices. It was really quite strange and I've never seen it before. I'll be bringing it back to the store.

Next is filling the pockets. I have a food scale (for my business) and so I measured out 4 ounce pieces of dough, just so I knew they were uniform and would bake more evenly. That's not necessary though. I also realized after baking them that 4 ounces is really too large unless you're feeding really hungry children (or husbands). So I rolled out the pieces of dough into rectangles and layered the fillings. First meat, then a little cheese, egg and cheese again. Pull the sides of dough up together and seal ends and place onto your baking sheet (I used a Pampered Chef baking stone. HIGHLY recommended!) and allow to rise while you heat your oven to 350. I'm sorry that I never time anything. You'll have to just watch them and bake til golden brown. I'm guessing around 20 minutes or so. You can eat them straight out of the oven or allow them to cool completely and wrap and freeze. They can be reheated in the microwave or oven, though I haven't actually tried this yet because I just made them today.

This is what I figure it cost me to make them. I got the eggs for .59 per dozen and used 17 for a total of .84 cents. Bacon, on sale/coupon for .67 per pound. I used 1/2 for a total of 33 1/2 cents. My sausage was on sale/coupon for $1.40 for 12 ounces. I used around 8 ounces for a total of .93 cents. My cheese was .77 for an 8 ounce brick and I used the whole thing. Sugar may have been .25 worth? Flour $1.25, butter $1.25, milk .25, yeast .02 and I'm not even counting the salt. My total estimated cost is $5.89. I made 12 hot pockets probably double the size of those in the store and I have at least half the dough left over in my refrigerator to try pizza hot pockets tomorrow. Considering the cheapest I've gotten them in the store with my coupons makes them .25 cents per hot pocket, I'd say my homemade ones that are double the food and double the nutrition are a real bargain at .36 cents each. This is how I got my figure....I added all the ingredients for the dough and halved it because I only used half, then added the fillings and divided by 12.

Let me know if you try them and if you like them or not. I'm super impressed so far and can't wait to try all kinds of fillings (like veggies and low fat cheese for Mommy!).

Al's Big Buys 1/24-1/30

I finished up my shopping for the week yesterday while my middle son Max was at a bowling party with his dad. Actually it was 2 parties at the same place and time. They managed to place the 2 parties at complete opposite ends of the alley giving the 2 boys who were invited to both a little exercise getting back and forth. He was one of two to walk out with 2 goodie bags and was thoroughly tired.

My quick tip this week before I get started on deals is too take coupons with specific flavors, such as Original Cheerios, and try it on other flavors or varieties of the same brand. More often than not, they will work.

So this week I got $233.98 worth of groceries for $100.25 and that's a total savings of $133.73 or 57%!

Here are my best deals for this week...

Quaker Quakes on sale for .77--I got them for free with my .75 coupon doubled up to .77 (which I had to go to customer service for b/c it didn't double at the register). I got 40 bags of assorted flavored mini rice cakes and fiber crisps (which are delicious btw!).

Johnsonville Sausage, 2 breakfast (for homemade hot pockets) and 2 turkey cheddar on sale for 2/5--I paid $1.40 each with my doubled .55 coupon and had another coupon for $1.00 off eggs with the purchase of Johnsonville sausage. I LOVE combo coupons! So for 4 sausage and 2 dozen eggs I paid $6.78.

Rayovac Batteries on sale for .77--I got them free with my $1.00 off coupon (coupon was for hearing aid batteries but worked on all types! Hence my tip for the week? Some cashiers will not allow you to do this and some will...trial and error). I got 14 packs of batteries for free!

Tony's Crispy Crust Pizza on sale for $1.00 each--I got them free with my doubled .50 coupon (expired in December...again, trial and error will tell you what stores will accept them. My store technically doesn't, but the cashiers rarely check). I got 13 pizza's free.

Hefty Trash Bags on sale for $1.24--I paid .14 with my doubled .55 coupon. I got 8 boxes of trash bags for $1.12.

Smithfield Bacon on sale for $1.77--I paid .67 with my doubled .55 coupon. I only got 4 of these because in a previous sale I got Oscar Mayer for .35 per pound! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish on sale for 3/5--I got 3 @ .56 each with a doubled .55 coupon for Pepperidge Farm Natural Baked Crackers (TIP) and 3 @ .66 each with a doubled .50 coupon for Pepperidge Farm Bread (TIP again...). I got all 6 for a total of $3.93.

Fruit2O 6 pk. flavored water on sale for 2/4--I paid .50 each with my doubled .75 coupon. I got 12 6 packs for $6.00.

Hershey's X-L candy bars on sale for 3/4--I paid .33 each with my $1.00 coupon that was for Special Dark only..I got all types including Kit Kat and Reese's (TIP). I got 12 XL candy bars for $3.96.

Nesquik single flavored milk on sale for .77--I got 15 free with my doubled .40 coupon. I had ordered another 125 coupons (yes, that's one hundred twenty five...they freeze well!) from another seller on EBay but they didn't make it for this sale. Bummer! But I can use them in the future.

Cheez-Its on sale for $1.99--I paid .99 each with my $1.00 off coupon. I will end up getting them free as I have a mail in rebate form for $10 off the purchase of 10 Sunshine or Keebler products in one purchase. Actually, they'll pay me for taking them since I paid $9.90 for 10 and will get back $10.00!

Yes, you need room to store when you stock up like I do, but if you want to save 50% plus on your grocery bills, you'll find the room! Good luck!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Al's Big Buys 2009 End Report

This is a little late but better late than never. I'm lovingly known as the coupon queen by several of my friends and my family. I stumbled upon it by accident one day while browsing EBay. I had always wanted to coupon but there were so many each week in the paper that were worthless to me so I never really did it. Until that one day.

What I do, basically, is on Friday's my local grocery store posts sales for the following week. I pull their circular up in one tab and EBay in another and compare sales to coupons available. YES, I buy coupons. In future posts I'll give you little tips that you can try that have worked for me.

So last year I decided to start saving my receipts from this store to keep track of how much I've actually saved. I don't have 100% of my receipts but probably 90%. Keep in mind when you see the numbers that I'm feeding a family of 5, 4 of them being male who are hungry all the time, and 2 dogs. I consider this part of my "job" as a stay at home mom.

I probably spent around $300-400 on coupons but they saved me a WHOPPING $4254.71! I got $8871.18 worth of groceries for $4616.47. I think that's awesome! I could probably not shop for 6 months and not run out of any toiletries, frozen veggies, cereal, paper products, spaghetti sauce, canned stock, and many more items.

I get very excited on Friday afternoon's when the circular posts and look forward to all the money I'll save this year!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oooooh! Max has a GIRLfriend!

How quickly our little ones grow up. Some milestones are bitter sweet, knowing that soon enough, they'll be headed off to college. I had another post in mind for today as I haven't yet updated you on my savings at the grocery store from all of last year. Last night changed my mind as I really need to get this down so we don't let the memory slip away.

My middle son Max is 6 1/2. He is in 1st grade and smart as a whip. Not only academically, but the kid can come up with an excuse or story with the blink of an eye. So my husband works at their school as a LAN tech (Local Area Network...computers) and this week he's been using my car to get back and forth. The kids have been going to his office after school and playing on the computers instead of having Mom pick them up. As I was sitting here waiting for them to come home, the phone rings. I didn't recognize the number and therefore didn't answer (thank you caller ID). It was a little persons voice and I automatically said they must have the wrong number. Later when I played the message back it said "Hi Max, it's me. Call me when you get home from the bus." "It's me"?...hmmm...he must have been expecting her phone call, huh? So later after homework and while we were enjoying pork chops for dinner, I mentioned that someone had called for him and that it was a girl. He then proceeds to put his chubby little hand into the pocket of is ripped jeans and pull out a piece of paper with some random numbers and a few letters and says it's another girls phone number and he has to call her too! I laughed out loud as I read that number/letter combination. I guess that's the thing to do as a first grader as they've all been exchanging numbers.

After dinner I let him call her back. She didn't leave her number but we pulled it off the caller ID (again, thank you caller ID). I dialed and handed him the phone. He ran down the hallway and into his bedroom where I hear him say "Hi [insert girls name here], it's ME...." and Then I heard a huge sigh. I went in and he said "I forgot what to say, it was the answering machine." Awww..poor kid. I felt awful for him so I said we could call her back and I would help him with another message.

Not expecting to hear a person actually answer the phone, he was caught off guard when they did. He was so nervous that he shoved the phone into my face and whispered "somebody answered, it's her, you talk." I pushed the phone back to his ear and whispered to him "say Hi this is Max, may I please speak to [insert girls name here]." And so he did. Apparently it was her who had answered and as soon as he knew it was her his entire tone changed into sort of a babyish accent. It was the cutest thing. He was very nervous and had the beet red face to prove it. He clearly didn't know what to talk about because he just looked at me so I sort of helped him out a little. As I was leaving his room I heard him say "what room are you in?" The kid who never stops talking was at a loss for words, I guess. Then she had to go and told him she'd call him back after they were done making cupcakes.

While getting ready for bed he asked me if he could call her back because she had forgotten to call him. Unfortunately for him, it was too late. I told him not to worry, that he'd be able to see her tomorrow in school.

I'm pretty sure as an 11 year old, my oldest still hasn't gotten a phone call from a girl. Not because he's not worthy, but because he's so shy that he'd probably die before he'd hand a girl his number and ask her to call him.

Now I'm sitting here thinking to myself "Oh Dear God! I'm going to have 3 daughters-in-law someday...that'll" How time slips away. Sometimes we need wake up calls so we don't miss out on these precious moments, like first calls from little girls.

I'm glad to be back to blogging so I can catch moments like these. So much time has gone by and so many little memories with it. My boys are growing up entirely too fast...such is life.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My 4 Month Hiatus

I'm not sure why it's been so long since I last posted. So much has happened and I've had many perfect things to write about.

Anyway, I'm back. I decided that if nothing else, my children might enjoy reading these in the years to come. I've missed reading posts of my favorite bloggers. I get incredibly inspired by many of you, thank you.

Til tomorrow....