From the category archives:

living on less

Disclosure: Sponsored by Mirum Shopper, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

Overripe bananas are hard to come by in our house. My kids usually scarf them down long before they even get close to that perfect banana bread-making stage. So when I recently happened across a tip for ripening bananas quickly in the oven, I couldn't wait to test it out...

TIP: To ripen bananas quickly, bake unpeeled bananas on baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until skins have blackened. Slice skins open and scoop out banana.

And you know what? It totally works! Now I can make delicious banana bread any time I get the craving -- like right now...

If you love banana bread, I've got another secret to share with you. Using I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spread in the recipe yields an unbelievably moist loaf of banana bread! I didn't believe it until I tried it, but it's true.

And it's cheaper than butter... I picked up this I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spread 22.5-oz. bonus size at Meijer where it was priced at 2 for $4. Often you can find additional savings on it in the Meijer mPerks app -- it's saved me over $1,900 so far this year!!!

Though there's no ICBINB coupon available at the moment, right now there is a coupon for $1 off a purchase of $28 or more in the produce section to help you save on bananas and more! There's also a $0.10 off per gallon of fuel mPerks coupon currently. I know that has nothing to do with banana bread, but I'll take any savings on gas that I can find!

And my final secret... I add a heaping handful of chopped toasted pecans to the batter. Toasting the nuts imparts a richer flavor, making any recipe that calls for nuts infinitely better.

Of course, there are tons of other ways to customize banana bread to make it your own -- add chocolate chips, stir in some peanut butter, add a glaze, etc. But I personally think that toasted nuts are the easiest shortcut to a more flavorful and delicious loaf of banana bread. Be sure to save a small amount to sprinkle over the top!

Now that's a loaf of banana bread that's worth sharing! Wrapped up in a pretty new towel, it would make a fantastic hostess gift.

Unbelievably Moist Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spread
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Brush 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with additional I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spread and set aside.
  2. Combine mashed banana, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spread, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in large bowl with wooden spoon. Fold in remaining ingredients until blended, taking care not to over mix. Spoon into prepared pan.
  3. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from the pan and cool completely before slicing.

 
Do you have any other tips for making a great loaf of banana bread?

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Disclosure: Sponsored by Mirum Shopper, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

Christmas break started yesterday for my kids, and not even five minutes into it, I found myself staring into a gaping hole in the wall. I wish I could say I'm joking... But sadly it's true!

It was pretty apparent that I was going to have to find a variety of activities to keep them all out of trouble -- aside from learning how to patch and paint a wall, of course. So my oldest and I made a quick trip to Meijer this morning to grab all of the ingredients for a simple sugar cookie recipe I saw the other day.

As a bit of an afterthought, I also grabbed a container of red, green and white holiday nonpareils, thinking they might enjoy turning the recipe into funfetti-style cookies. Good call on my part! My girls, especially, were thrilled with the idea and eager to start baking.

I think my favorite part of this recipe is that it starts with Country Crock Spread, instead of butter. It means that when my girls get the urge to do some baking, they can get started right away, instead of waiting (and waiting) for a stick of butter to soften sufficiently. This sugar cookie dough is very soft and stirrable, the perfect consistency for kids that are still getting acquainted with the kitchen.

It's actually a great base recipe for mixing in all kinds of ingredients -- toasted nuts, chocolate chips, crushed peppermint, candy-coated chocolates, and on and on.

As I mentioned, we decided to turn it into holiday funfetti cookies with a 7.5-oz. container of holiday-colored nonpareils sprinkles. I reserved about two tablespoons for decorating and folded the remaining contents of the container into the soft sugar cookie batter.

Didn't they turn out so cute?! A few tips for ensuring these holiday funfetti sugar cookies turn out their best:

  • Gently fold the sprinkles into the batter and try not to overwork it. Once the sprinkles are mixed into the batter, they can have the tendency to bleed. So stir and then just leave it alone other than to scoop out each cookie.
  • Use a cookie scoop to portion out the batter. We used a small 1-tablespoon scoop, which consistently produced perfectly sized cookies with no fuss or mess.
  • Make sure to reserve a couple of tablespoons of the nonpareils to sprinkle on top of each cookie before baking. It allows you to skip the step of frosting them after baking, allowing you to get right down to eating them!

Holiday Funfetti Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Country Crock Spread
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 (7.5-oz.) container holiday-colored nonpareils, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Mix Country Crock, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, egg, egg yolk and vanilla in large bowl until well mixed. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda until blended. The dough will be soft and creamy.
  3. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the nonpareils. Gently fold the remaining nonpareils into the dough, taking care not to over mix.
  4. Using a small cookie scoop, drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls on ungreased baking sheets leaving about 3 inches on all side of each cookie.
  5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until edges are lightly golden. Cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet; then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Stock up on the ingredients to make these easy cookies yourself at Meijer. Check the mPerks app for additional savings, including a Buy One Get One FREE Country Crock Spread (15-oz.+) coupon!

Deal Idea:

Country Crock (22.5-oz. bonus size), $2.19
B1G1 FREE Country Crock Spread mPerks coupon
$1.10 ea. after coupon!

What other ingredients would you incorporate into this easy sugar cookie mix to make it your own?

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It's been awhile since I've done a shopping trip at ALDI -- my closest store is not in a super convenient location. But I just have to say how totally impressed I was at the current selection of products!

Since I've been there last, they're really increased their SimplyNature organic line. I stocked up on their organic creamy peanut butter, wildflower honey, and baby spinach, to name a few. I also noticed that they had a wide variety of organic spices available at amazingly low prices. I passed them by, since I'm stocked up currently, but I'll definitely be back for those!

Oh, I also grabbed several boxes of their award-winning SimplyNature Organic Macaroni and Cheese. It recently received the coveted Parent Tested Parent Approved Seal of Approval that's only given to the highest rated products in the PTPA testing community.

Boxed macaroni and cheese is a special treat in our house, and to find an organic variety priced at just $1.29 per box is unheard of. I figured it would be the perfect way to send my kids off to trick or treat with their friends! As an afterthought, I also grabbed a can of extra large black olives to create a spooky spider on top.

Or maybe not so spooky... How cute is this little guy? I simply cut one of the olives in half for the body and sliced up a couple more halves for the legs. Most of my kids aren't big fans of olives, but they flipped over my Halloween-ified mac and cheese -- and the olives are simple to just pick off the top for those that don't like them.

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of ALDI; all opinions and text are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

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I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but we're pretty vigilant about making sure our our kids are not bothering others with their technology devices. Headphones are a requirement when we're out and about, especially if we're dining out and they're using their devices before our meal arrives.

But headphone head is the worst. You know what I mean, right? That telltale line of flattened hair on top of their head and the rings around each ear. It seems to affect my youngest son the most, so I've been on the hunt for a pair of wireless earbuds for him to use in lieu of traditional headphones.

And while wireless earbuds are pretty common, I've found that most of them, including the pair I originally bought for my son, have a volume control module built into the cord on one side. This module adds extra weight that was constantly pulling the earbud out of his ear on that side -- super frustrating!

So when iFrogz contacted me about trying out a pair of their new wireless earbuds that feature a wireless hub that magnetically clips to your shirt collar, I jumped on the opportunity, hoping that this was the solution to our wireless earbud problem. They sent me a pair of Summit wireless earbuds for my son to try -- and I have to say, they are totally great!

Connecting the Summit wireless earbuds to his tablet was a breeze, and the clip-on module has totally eliminated the problem of my son's earbuds falling out of his ears. Once we figured out which size ear tips provided the best fit, it was smooth sailing. The secure-fit wing is an added measure to keep them in place.

Priced at just $34.99, these are an excellent value, and I'd totally recommend them! In fact, his brothers and sisters are pretty jealous, so I'll be picking up several more pairs as Christmas gifts this year.

iFrogz Summit Wireless Earbuds, $34.99

  • Designed with an active lifestyle in mind with IPX2 sweat-resistance
  • A soft, secure-fit wing nestles in the curve of your ears to keep your earbuds in place no matter the activity
  • 8mm drivers deliver crisp, clear sound
  • Three sizes of ear tips ensure you find the perfect fit

This post is in partnership with iFrogz. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this site possible!

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A week-and-a-half ago, she turned 12... Wasn't it just yesterday that I watched her toddle on chubby little legs after a shiny pink soccer ball, blond curls streaming behind her?

Time changes everything, some things more than others. She still chases after a pink soccer ball, but she's much more sure on her feet these days, with a talent for spot-on passes into tight spaces. Same blond hair, not so chubby legs...

She left the house this morning a middle schooler, and I'm still processing how I feel about that. She also asked me to buy her a razor and shave gel the other day, and that REALLY took me by surprise. My baby girl is growing up before my eyes -- I knew it was coming, but I still feel completely unprepared.

Earlier this week, we did a little back to school shopping at Walmart. In case you're wondering, yes, I did buy her the razor and shave gel she requested... And we also picked up a few new pieces of clothing.

I was pleasantly surprised at her choices: a navy layering cami, a cute striped swingy tank, a graphic owl print tee, and a pair of dark rinse skinny jeans. This is a girl who lives in her soccer gear and refused to wear jeans at all last year. I joke about picking up most of her wardrobe from the vendors at soccer tournaments, but I'm really NOT joking.

So the fact that she was willing to look at clothing beyond a tie-dyed soccer tee tells me that maybe she's maturing a bit. Or maybe not, lol...

Either way, I was very impressed with the juniors selection at Walmart. She's in kind of that in between stage -- she can wear 14s and 16s in girls sizes, but most of them are a little juvenile for her. Extra small and small juniors tops fit fine, but leggings and jeans are often too long.

We did opt for a pair of No Boundaries skinny jeans in a size one, and they fit really well. They're a little long, but she was fine with rolling them, and I'm hoping they'll shrink a bit when I wash them. You really can't go wrong with these at just $7.78 per pair! They're great quality and super comfortable.

All told, we spent under $23 on these four items -- which is a total steal in my book!

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Walmart Moms Disclosure

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