New to $5 Dinners…Learn More Here!

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on January 1, 2007

Welcome to $5 Dinners.com! I am so glad that you are here. I hope this will help you get acquainted with the site. My goal is to make $5 Dinners for my family every night of the week. Be inspired to come up with your own “dollar amount” based on your family size and regional food prices, and challenge yourself to make frugal AND healthy meals!

Here is a general overview of how I do $5 Dinners. And don’t forget to check out all the Recipes that I have $5 Dinners I have made.  I share a Free Weekly Meal Plan each Sunday night full of dinner, breakfast, snacks, and dessert recipes. You can also find free printables including my monthly menu planning template here. And don’t forget to check out my “Tips for Shopping with your Kids“!

And here is a compilation of previous posts and tips that will help you get started on your jurney to grocery store savings!

Internet Printable Coupons

$5 Dinners would NOT be possible if it weren’t for coupons…IPs, newspaper coupons and “ecoupons.” Although I don’t do “deals posts”…I’ll leave that to the other ladies and link you to them…I thought it might be nice to have “coupon source” here (you can print coupons from the left sidebar). Since I find them so valuable. And because coupons “are the next cool thing,” as I told Pauly Shore last week! His “backwards L.A. gangsta handshake is OUT. Coupons are IN!” (Sorry I won’t be able to get a clip of the segment from Friday…too expensive :( You have to pay for the live segments. Tape segments are uploaded to their site.) About the handshake. Pauly Shore interrupted my cooking segment and tried to shake my hand. Backwards L.A. gansta style. I waved him off. It was not cool! Coupons are cool! He probably made fun of me in his stand up act that night. But at least I know I’m cool!

How do you calculate your per meal cost?

I remember the prices of just about all the products I buy. I generally buy the same products, so I have a good sense of the price. If I get something on sale and/or use a coupon, I will write the price down on the item with a Sharpie if I don’t think I’ll remember. I save receipts (mostly for produce costs). (Somehow the “price memory” part of my “mommy brain” is still in tact?!?)

For items like eggs, flour, ground beef…I calculate the cost for that meal based on how much it was and how much I used. So for flour…a 5 lb bag of flour costs $3 for me. There are about 22 cups of flour in a bag…so each cup of flour is about $.13. Eggs: a dozen eggs for me is $1.80, making each egg $.15. I typically use half a pound of pasta for our meals ($.50). Now that I use rice pasta for the boys, it’s a bit more expensive. Milk: Gallon of milk is usually $2.79, sometimes $2.49, so I calculate per cup based on $2.79. Etc. (And remember, I live in the heart of the Midwest, so my prices are likely lower than other parts of the country.)

Can you tell me about Cellfire. If you don’t want calls to your cell phone can you still sign up for the coupons? I do not have internet or text message on my cell.

I am brand new to Cellfire.com so I’ll tell you about my experience. If anyone else has more information or tips, please leave a comment and let us know!  I signed up for Cellfire in less than 5 minutes. It is a free service. You type in your cell phone number and it texts you a confirmation code. So, YES, you do need to have text message services on your phone. You type the confirmation code back in on Cellfire.com and you can then go to the “ecoupon” page. You have to type in your Kroger card number. You can then load the coupons onto your card.I did not explore the other options, but it seemed like it was possible to get coupon codes sent to your cell phone via text message to be used at many different vendors. I did not sign up for that program. I got a free box of Oatmeal for my husband! Love that free stuff!I have received no other text messages from them, or phone calls!

How often should I check the sites to get new coupons? I’ve checked every day for the last few, but haven’t seen anything new. Is it one day of the week, or month?

First, “ecoupon” sites. Shortcuts.com adds a few new coupons every week (it seems). P & G esaver is on a 8-12 week program. Their current offers expire December 31, 2008. There will be new ones to load after that. Cellfire.com ecoupons that I just loaded expire TODAY, so I imagine you will be able to reload next week. Upromise is a program you can sign up for and get “ecoupons” that go into a college savings fund for your child. It’s easy and free!Next, printable coupons. I still don’t have this one figured out! I check them every other week or so. I also check deals blogs (see list in my Blogroll) as they will post the link in their deals posts. Many of the deals blogs will have coupon bars in the side bar that you can print from! “Deals mamas”, please chime in on this one!Last, check out sites like Coupon Loop and Hot Coupon World, as they have coupon databases that you can search for specific printable coupons (Thanks Mommy Snacks for this tip!)

Is it more frugal to buy boullion or soup base, or is it better to shop ready-made broth specials? I buy the Toni’s chicken soup base at Sam’s, but I actually don’t hear much about Sam’s or Costco being used in frugal shopping much??

I believe it would be most frugal to use boullion cubes over ready made broth. I have not done a price comparison, but think this is right. The BEST and FREE way to do it is to make it yourself. I do this in two ways. I will strain off the juices from a pork or beef roast and then freeze the juices. When I need a beef or pork broth for a soup, then I thaw the juices and mix in some water. Free! A great way to make chicken broth is to boil the bones, let the broth cool and then freeze it! After roasting a chicken in the crock pot, pick off all the meat and then boil the bones. You can buy the cheaper variety “bone in split breasts” and cut off the breast portions (for your boneless chicken breast), and then boil the bones to make a stock. I freeze the stock in Ziploc baggies!As for Sams, I am no longer a member. I have found that it’s cheaper to match coupons with sales at regular grocery stores. I used to just buy diapers there, but believe I have found a cheaper way.I do diapers 2 ways. I am very much a “Huggies snob”, so here’s what I do!1. At CVS or Walgreens, I buy the “Jumbo packs” when they are on sale and have a Extra Care Bucks or Register Rewards bonus. I also use a paper coupon. I then submit my receipt to Caregiver’s Marketplace (CM). CM is a free program for caregivers. If you have child who is younger than 5, then you qualify for the program. They have a LONG list of products that you can get money back by submitting your ORIGINAL receipt. Huggies Jumbo packs are on that list. They will send you $1 for each package you buy. I have received $14 back from them since I started doing this. My best deal so far was at Walgreens several weeks ago. Package was on sale for $9.99 and I got $2 back as a Register Reward (like cash on your next purchase). I used a $2 off coupon and then submitted my receipt. So I got a package of Huggies Jumbo for $4.99! I got more than one package for my “stockpile”. At Kroger, I use both the Huggies “ecoupon” from Shortcuts.com and paper coupon as well. When the Jumbo packs go on sale for $9.99, the final cost is $6.99 for a package after the coupon, ecoupon and CM rebate. Not as good as CVS or Walgreens, but still better than $11 for a package!

I was wondering if you have to give the cashier the coupon after each product or if you can just hand her all the coupons after everything is rung up? I have avoided coupons like the plague because when I was growing up I thought it showed that our family was poor. Now I realize it is smart to be saving money.

Coupons are definitely not to be avoided and they are definitely not just for the poor! Only the really smart girls and guys are using them! I do believe coupons will be “COOL” again, especially in today’s economy! My attitude about coupons has greatly changed in recent months. We are a one income family living in a two income world! I have now taken it upon myself that my way to “contribute to the family’s income” is to SAVE. My “job” is to spend a few minutes each week making money by saving money! I always have a STACK of coupons when I’m shopping, and yes, I hand them to the cashier at the end. (A cashier recently commented that if you have a “free item” coupon that she/he has to write in the amount spent on the coupon, to please give that to her/him at the time the item is rung up so she/he doesn’t have to scroll back through the receipt looking for the price! So help a cashier out!) I pay close attention to the “rules” on the coupon and to make sure I am getting the right product. I don’t like to get “beeps” at the register (where the computer doesn’t recognize the coupon and it’s trying to reject it), and I want to keep a good reputation at “my stores”. I have only run into 1 unhappy cashier. They are usually impressed with my savvy shopping! My favorite thing to do…call me cheesy, I don’t care…I love to give them my Kroger card after they finish ringing up my transaction. I see the total before savings amount, and then watch the number PLUMMET! After all the store savings and then coupon savings, my total is usually close to or more than half of the original price! I’m a BIG money saving NERD!…a smart nerd that is!

Other Money Saving Ideas

Buy Store Brand. For me, that means buying Kroger brand! Everything! It is always cheaper if you don’t have a coupon for the product! I am not brand loyal to many brands. On occasion, brand name items on sale matched with a coupon will be cheaper, if not FREE!

Get a Reward Card. I save big $$$ by using my Rewards card. I also get coupons in the mail every 2-3 months for the products that I buy using my Rewards card. Ask if your store mails coupons to their customers (I know Kroger does), or if there are coupons on their website (like Meijer).

Manager’s Special Sections. My Kroger has “Manager’s Specials” in the Meat, Bakery and Deli departments. Prices are marked down on products that need to be sold right away. You can freeze it and use it when you need it!

Check your Receipts. Stores will likely reimburse you for the entire price of the product if you are charged incorrectly. Check with customer service at your store for their policies.

Take advantage of sales. Match coupons. Send in rebates. Watch the ads and coupon sections for the products that you like. You can often find “name brand” items for less than store brand. This happens rarely for me, but it is possible!

Shop with a list and a plan. Do NOT stray from the list. Impulses must be controlled. Impulse buys break the budget!

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 22, 2009 at 11:12 am

Even though I live in a coupon wasteland; and even though produce is high-cost where I live, I am finding a lot of inspiration from your site and your recipes.

Off to make my menu!

Jora

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Overwhelmed! January 28, 2009 at 12:28 am

I’m getting fairly good at using coupons to get good deals (I use http://www.couponmom.com and http://www.grocerygame.com a lot) but I desperately need help in the menu planning area!

I’ll be reading your blog to get some good tips in that area.

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HopeNHousing.org March 5, 2009 at 4:51 am

Hey this is a great site!

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Cortney March 28, 2009 at 9:03 am

This is amazing!!! I have always thought that cooking a meal for $10 and under was great. Now I know better….. thanks. However, with my schedule, couponing isn’t the easiest thing for me to do. I do grab up the coupons when I get the chance.

I will be following this site and will check out your blog. Bookmarking now!

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Julie Shaver April 19, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I just found your site through “Common Sense With Money,” and I am excited! I have 2 boys (3.75 yrs and 18 months) and a wonderful husband, and we live in a God-following, one-income home. I can’t wait to use your site to help me plan my meals (of course I found your site after I got home from the grocery…). Thank you!

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Annette Allen April 21, 2009 at 10:04 am

This site is wonderful! We are using coupons, and I’m getting much better at it. I have my binder and I’m prepared to do well. My husband thinks this is great. I love my Kroger Great Value Brand, and the money rewards on gas at Kroger.

I plan to check out your menu plan.

Awesome job here.

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Jenna Benoit April 21, 2009 at 10:39 am

Just saw you on Rachel Ray. this is a great site. looking forward to using some of your advice. thanks!:)

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Amy Caldwell April 21, 2009 at 11:51 am

Hey,

I just saw you on the Rachael Ray show. Great job, you were wonderful. I am going to start following your blogs and recipes and see if I can get my families Gluten-Free meals down to $5 a meal. Could be tricky, but I am certainly going to try.

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Tonya April 21, 2009 at 12:26 pm

I think that your site is wonderful. Where I live, Krogers are hard to find. I shop at our local Walmart store where the will meet their competitors price, so before I go to the store I look at our local adds we have three in our town’s paper (including Aldi). I try to shop from what’s on sale at those stores and use coupons. Often I can get chicken on sale for $4.50 for 3lbs. and also cheaper produce prices.

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Katie April 21, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I saw you on Rachael Ray this afternoon, and being the frugal shopper that I am I had to check out your site. Thanks for the great information!

I typically to go to Aldi and Walmart simply because they are the most convenient for me. I’m just wondering how going to those two places compare to couponing at Kroger’s (or elsewhere)? There is a Kroger in my area, but it’s kind of out of the way for me but if it’s going to save me more money I’m willing to go there!

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Steve April 22, 2009 at 1:12 am

I just saw the Rachael Ray show. What great Ideas Erin. You are a godsend. OH and for anyone who saw the show. Those sheets she was sticking her coupons in were trading card sheets, available at your local comic book shop or collectors coin store even. What a Great Idea.

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Kristin April 22, 2009 at 8:48 am

Love this!!! Thank you for sharing with us!

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Janet Parsons April 22, 2009 at 10:49 am

I saw you on the Rachael Ray show. Looking forword to using your recipes and advice.

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Loretta April 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Hi there,

I have been doing this for 6 yrs now when I met my husband and he was unable to work for the first 3 years and I have 2 kids and ourselves to feed. I shop our local store here in Canada and if you go early mornings we have meat 1/2 price and so therefor a family package of lean groundbeef you can get for like 7.00 which is a steal…..I also shop the marked down breads and vegetables…..if you are using them the same day they are great and if not like you say freeze…..I also raise a garden and I started back to canning…I preserve about 500 jars a year….that way I know exactly what went into the jar….I like feeding my family this way and even after my husband went back to work I find that i still continued this…….we now feed 3 of us around 70.00 a week…..beleive me it sure makes a difference.

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Robin April 22, 2009 at 5:23 pm

For the most part I am a vegetarian but my kids like meat so when they’re here I serve it. My meals are only expensive when I serve meat so why not make one or two meals a week vegetarian. You’ll be surprised how tasty they are and you’ll be saving money!

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liz April 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm

GREAT SITE HOPE I CAN FOLLOW IT GREAT TIPS ON MAKING STOCK I HAVE ANOTHER TIP USE AN ICE CUBE TREY IF U JUST NEED A A SMALL AMOUNT

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Jessica April 27, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I found your site through http://www.mombloggersclub.com, this is awesome!
My husband & I are about to move into a new place in the next few days and our rent will be going up ALOT. So saving every little bit will help!
We shop at Kroger too because they seem to have alot more savings there & I actually don’t mind buying most Kroger brand items (minus their chocolate poptarts, I found I REALLY didn’t care for those! Gonna stay a brand snob over my poptarts, LOL)
I never knew that ecoupons, paper coupons & the Kroger savings card could all work together to save you even more money. I’m so happy that you touched on this in your post!!
Not to mention the adivce on saving money on Huggies!! I’m pregnant for the first time & I’m sure this will come in VERY HANDY!

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Jessica April 30, 2009 at 9:05 am

I just found this site thanks to the Crockpot Lady! crockpot365.blogspot.com. I love her site and I know I will be a huge fan of yours too! I can not wait to start exploring! i’m always looking for ways to save money or cut back, we work too hard for our money to let it go to waste!

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Robin April 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Thank you for making this site! I am a coupon clipper from way back, but really just used them on the weekend I clipped them because my little accordion file was to disorganized and hard to use in the store. I saw you on Rachel Ray the other day and I’m now in the process of making my binder.

My question is are people cutting and using the number of coupons according to the number of people in the house? Again, if I had a coupon for $.50 off Special K I’d buy a box and at Kroger save a $1. Why buy 4?

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knoxes2 April 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm

a supermarket in my town has crazy good sales, but I was not in their mailing area, so I could not get advance notice of sales. I emailed them, and they mail me their circulars every Wednesday and Sunday through the USPS at their own cost! My grandma always said it never hurts to ask – guess she was right again.

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Pam Minor April 30, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Hi Erin,
I was just catching up on Rachael Ray episodes and saw you on, so here I am! I have been cooking meals for $5 and under for quite a few years now and I am always searching for new recipes and tips to add to my stockpile. I am sure that I will be spending a lot of time in your website and I will be adding a link to yours from mine, if that’s okay. Keep up the good work… you are an inspiration to many and I am sure that your appearance on RR definitely made a big impact!

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alaina May 18, 2009 at 7:15 am

Hey a few other tips!
Shopping from 12pm-4pm will get you the “mark-down” breads/bakery at Krogers too! But in the am from 8-10am you will get marked down produce/dairy. I usually stop in the mornings to check after I drop off my daughter at school and after I pick her up LOL. OH this is for Krogers!! Meat is done early morning at Tom Thumb by the way!!
I also write in how much the item is on the coupon if it’s a freebie…I shop at the same place week after week so they trust what I put (most do anyways lol).

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Rebecca May 21, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Mary Hunt sent me and I am glad she did! Great tips. Thanks for sharing. Rebecca

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Birgit May 22, 2009 at 8:13 am

We’ve found that using Angel Food http://www.angelfoodministries.com/ helps us save a great deal too. My saving grace is my list. I try not to go into a store without it so I don’t end up with extra “stuff” that I don’t need.

The comments about when things go on markdown in the stores is great for some, but next to impossible for those of us who work full time. :(

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Sally May 23, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Mary Hunt sent me, too. What a great site! I’m going to have to study your menu plan. Thank you for the great tips and recipes.

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Shirley May 24, 2009 at 11:42 am

found you today on Mary Hunt I am a 81 year young lady still very much interested in saving and menu ideals. glad I can be a new friend

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Joy May 26, 2009 at 9:21 pm

What a great site! I’m excited to learn more on how to be a savvy shopper for my family of 4! Thanks for sharing what you learned with all of us. I read about you from Mary Hunt.

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Sharon May 29, 2009 at 6:47 am

Found your link on Mary Hunt’s site. Looking forward to help with frugal meal planning

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Necole May 29, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Found you via Mary Hunt!

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Toni Burns June 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm

This is the best site I have been on so far because of me being out of work things get tight each month and if I can cut down our grocery bills it will help a lot. I am going to try some of the recipes that i have printed. Also some of the recipes that i have come across there is no way to print them how do you get by that? Thank you for the site. Also can I submit some recipes to you?

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Erin June 7, 2009 at 1:14 pm

You are welcome to email recipes!

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Suzanne June 7, 2009 at 6:11 pm

I also found you via Mary Hunt. I will add you to my favorites! Thank you so much for sharing your great ideas.

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Camille July 1, 2009 at 11:15 pm

I’m not sure about other states, but California will reimburse you about 5 cents for each bag that you bring in use to bag your groceries rather than using paper or plastic. It’s not much, but certainly adds up over the year!

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Michelle July 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Thank You for ALL your help in saving money…. :) God bless you and your family

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Lisa-Marie October 26, 2009 at 6:32 pm

As I use my coupons at the supermarket where we live, I put each coupon ontop of the product I am using it for, as it helps the cashier swipe it with the correct price. I founf this has made my time at the checkouts quicker.
Lisa-Marie
NZ

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Trena (Tncountrygal) December 31, 2009 at 11:02 am

I love you web site you have such wonderful ideas. I like how you break down the price of a cup of flour. Thank you so much for sharing your great ideas!

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Kara January 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I have decided to cut back on expenses. I realized that the biggest way to start was by cutting our grocery bill. I wanted a site to go to that was easy to follow and informative (coupon sites, sales info. etc) I just started reviewing your site and so far things look good. It is wonderful that women across the world are able to go to sites and share tips to help others. Thanks for the info and keep up the good work.

Kara in Ky.

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Patricia A. gravel October 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Thanks I need all the help I can get Thanks for all your help

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Sandy @ yesiamcheap October 30, 2010 at 7:33 pm

This is a great idea. I do a $10 meal monthly but it’s hard to get a decent protein on sale here in NY and when they ARE on sale, it’s because it’s old.

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John M. Walsh January 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm

My wife and I, were working a publication, “Harmony’s Guide to Financial Wellness” before died suddenly last year. I want to finish our work. I watched your interview this morning on Fox.
I have the help of serveral authors, products and services, from around the country. I am very impressed with your work. I think we are headed for some tough times. We need to help individuals and families. I shared your “The dollardinners” with several people today.
I would like to find a way to share your services with others. 563-845-0066, 563-580-0879
John M. Walsh

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Natasha H March 27, 2011 at 8:26 am

Hi I’m new to your site and new to using coupons. What I have read so far is really helpful. I’ve written two pages of notes already. I look forward to reading more. Thanks

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Ginny S August 10, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Just stumbled upon this site tonight and love what I see! I am a widow who has to watch her pennies so am very interested in your advice. I just signed up to receive the e-mail updates.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom August 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Welcome Ginny! So glad you are here!

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jewls August 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Just watched a re-run of the View on ABC from May of this year. The meals looked amazing and healthy. My budget is $14.00 a day. Thank you for the inspiration to keep on going.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom August 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Hey Jewls,

Welcome! Glad you caught the segment…and great job with your daily budget!!! Hope you find some great new ideas and recipes from the site!

Erin

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SONJA HANSEN November 3, 2011 at 12:12 am

I love your website, but as someone much older than you I have a hard time finding the “embedded” links so that I can print recipes. Can you help me understand how to find them easier. I have spent a tremendous amount of time trying to find them.

Thanks,

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