Semi Homemade Classic Lasagna

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Make your own lasagna with this simple recipe!  It is almost completely homemade -- which means less time for you in the kitchen but still leaves your family with a happy tummy!

Ever want a homemade lasagna without all the work? Looking for a delicious “homemade” recipe that can be assembled in 15 minutes or less and taste like you have been cooking all day? I’ve got the perfect Semi Homemade Classic Lasagna recipe for you! It is sure to make jaws drop and leave tummies begging for more!

Ingredients

  • 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 1 package of pre-cooked lasagna noodles (found in the refrigerated section)
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 cups Ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, diced
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degress F.
  2. In a large saute pan brown ground beef. When about half way cooked, add onions, garlic and seasonings. Once ground beef is fully cooked, drain excess liquid and add 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce and allow to simmer for at least 5 minutes.
  3. While the sauce is simmering. In a large bowl combine Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Stir well.
  4. In a 9 x 13 casserole dish begin to assemble lasagna. First pour half of the sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish, then add one layer of pre-cooked lasagna noodles, next add half of the cheese mixture, another layer of noodles, add the remaining sauce and finish the top off with the rest of the cheese mixture.
  5. Cover lasagna and cook at 425 degrees F for 40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and browned.

***This entire process should take you no more than 15 minutes to assemble and then the 40 minutes to bake!

2015 Tax Free Holiday Shopping Dates (By State)

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Check out this list, by state, of all of the 2015 Tax Free Holiday Shopping Weekends (includes a FREE interactive map)

2015 Tax Free Back to School Shopping Holiday / Weekend

One way that some states help families save money during back to school shopping is to offer sales tax holidays.  This helps families save on things they need  for their kids like supplies, clothes and even electronics.  By suspending the collection of state, county or local sales tax, it keeps more money in your pocket when you have to pick up the items your school needs for your child to bring with them on the first day of class.

Below, you will find a sales tax map. To find out if your state participates, simply place your mouse on it.  If the pointer shape changes then you are in luck!  Your state participates and you can click to go directly to that states’s details including included and excluded items as well as the dates when the sales tax holiday will be offered.

 

OR - Not Participating Idaho - Not Participating Montana - Not Partcipating North Dakota - Not Participating Minnesota - Not Participating South Dakota - Not Partcipating Nevada - Not Partcipating Utah - Not Partcipating Colorado - Not Partcipating Nebraska - Not Partcipating Iowa - YES! Click here to learn more California - Not Participating Arizona - Not Participating New Mexico - YES!  Click to learn more Texas - YES! Click to learn more Alaska - Not Participating Hawaii - Not Participating Kansas - Not Participating Oklahoma - YES! Click to learn more Missouri - YES! Click to Learn More Arkansas - YES! Click to Learn More Louisiana - YES! Click to Learn More Mississippi - YES! Click to Learn More Alabama - YES! Tennessee - YES! Click to Learn More Georgia - YES! Click to Learn More Florida - YES! Click to Learn More South Carolina - YES! North Carolina - Not Participating Kentucky - Not Participating Virginia - YES! Click to Learn More West Virginia - Not Participating Illinois - Not Participating Wisconsin - Not Participating Michigan - Not Participating Indiana - Not Participating Ohio - YES! Click to Learn More (New in 2015) Pennsylvania - Not Participating New York - Not Participating District of Columbia - Not Participating Maryland - YES! Click to Learn More Delaware - Not Partcipating New Jersey - Not Participating Connecticut - YES! Click to Learn More Connecticut - YES! Click to Learn More Maine - Not Participating Vermont - Not Participating New Hampshire - Not Participating Massachusettes - Not Partcipating Rhode Island - Not Participating

 

You can also find a list of participating states below, along with some of the details you will need to know:

State
Dates
Details
State Links
AlabamaAugust 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing under $100
  • School supplies under $50
  • Books under $30
  • Computers/computer equipment under $750
  • Alabama Sales Tax Holiday Details
    ArkansasAugust 1 - August 2, 2015
  • Clothing and footwear (priced at less than $100 per item)
  • Accessories (priced at less than $50 per item)
  • School supplies
  • Arkansas Sales Tax Holiday Details
    ConnecticutAugust 17 - August 23, 2014
  • Clothing under $300 per item
  • Shoes under $300 per item
  • Connecticuit Sales Tax Holiday Details
    FloridaAugust 7 - August 16, 2015
  • Clothing, footwear, wallets and bags ($100 or less)
  • School supplies ($15 or less)
  • Computers ($750 or less)
  • Florida Sales Tax Holiday Details
    GeorgiaJuly 31 - August 1, 2015
  • School Supplies, up to $20
  • Clothing, up to $100
  • Computers, up to $1000
  • Georgia Sales Tax Holiday
    IowaAugust 7 - August 8, 2015
  • Clothing under $100
  • Shoes under $100
  • Iowa Sales Tax Holiday Details
    LouisianaAugust 7 - August 8, 2015
  • Purchases under $2,500
  • Louisiana Sales Tax Holiday Details
    MarylandAugust 9 - August 15, 2015
  • Clothing priced at $100 or less
  • Footwear priced at $100 or less
  • Maryland Sales Tax Holiday Details
    MississippiJuly 31 - August 1, 2015
  • Clothing under $100
  • Shoes under $100
  • Mississippi Sales Tax Holiday Details
    MissouriAugust 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing under $100
  • School supplies under $50
  • Computer software under $350
  • Computers/computer equipment under $3,500
  • Missouri Sales Tax Holiday DetailsåÊ
    New MexicoAugust 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing up to $100
  • Computers up to $1,000
  • School supplies up to $30
  • New Mexico Sales Tax Holiday Details
    Ohio *NEW*August 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing up to $75
  • Instructional Materials up to $20
  • School supplies up to $20
  • Ohio Sales Tax Holiday Details
    OklahomaAugust 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing up to $100
  • Oklahoma Sales Tax Holiday Details
    South CarolinaAugust 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing
  • School supplies
  • Computers
  • South Carolina Sales Tax Holiday Details
    TennesseeAugust 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing up to $100
  • School supplies up to $100
  • Computers up to $1,500
  • Tennessee Sales Tax Holiday Details
    TexasAugust 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing, backpacks and school supplies up to $100
  • Texas Sales Tax Holiday Details
    VirginiaAugust 7 - August 9, 2015
  • Clothing up to $100
  • School Supplies up to $20
  • Virginia Sales Tax Holiday Details

    *These states have not yet released details, but have participated in the past.  The dates listed are based upon the same weekend/week from the prior year, but have not yet been confirmed. Please check back with your state to find out more details.

    Living My Life Without Regrets (And Knowing It’s OK to Miss a Deal)!

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    Life is so short.  Life your life without regrets.  Don't do things that make you look back and think "I wish I would not have _________".

     

    If you have kids, I am sure you can relate.  One minute you are bringing them home from the hospital.  You blink and they are starting kindergarten.  Blink again and they are already heading into middle school!!!  Life goes by soooo quickly!!

    In these moments, it is so easy for us to forget what matters most.  For me, that is my family.  They truly come first.  I am very proud that I am a mom.  I love my kids and husband more than words can say.   Every night, before I go to sleep, I look at those three sleeping children and it reminds me just how blessed I am.  I have been given these amazing gifts from God.  Gifts that I do not want to take for granted.  Yes, there are moments when I want to run away, but fortunately, those are not that frequent.

    Every day, I do thank the Lord for these kids.  I always give them a hug and a kiss every single day (and often more than once a day).  They hear the words “I love you” come from my lips every morning.  I have so much fun watching them grow, hearing them laugh making them enjoy this life.  The moments that I love the most are those when they make me bust out laughing because of something that they say.  I truly would never trade be a mom for anything in the world.

    I am, of course, more than just a mom.  I am Tracie.  Part of who I am is a blogger.  I love sharing tips, recipes, articles and helping readers (just like you) learn how to get the most out of your budget.  When it comes to deals, coupons and more, they are truly never ending.  I’ve had deals last 30 seconds and some last 3 months.  There is no way for me to keep up with it all – and I just can’t.  That is just not possible.

    If we tried, I’d be posting every 10-15 minutes all day long.  Whew!  That is a LOT of work!  That would not only overwhelm me, but also my readers.  Could you keep up with that?  And honestly, would you want to try to?  My guess is no.  Not because you don’t love a deal, but you too are enjoying your life as well.

    We do have several amazing women who help me (thank you to them!!).  But, we still are first and foremost moms.  Our kids always need to come first.  We work to share something new around every 45 minutes all day long.  By doing that, we are giving you time to keep up with what we share, without inundating you with posts.

    We work hard to share those amazing deals.  However, we also know that it is NOT the end of the world if we do not share a few of them.  It is not only that, I want you all to know those which I share matter.  A while back, we tried to post it all and it was just too much.  I was missing out on my life.  I was miserable.  It did not work.

    So now, we are back to posting a little less frequently during the day.  I do not need to kill myself for this site.  My loyal readers know that and they do not care.  In fact, I know many of you appreciate that my priorities are right.  I am focused more on what makes me happiest of all….my kids.

    My children are my world.  They deserve a mom who is not obsessed with posting deals and coupons.  They deserve a mom who is in the moment.  They deserve the best life has to offer.  They are the reason I was put on this earth and they are my focus.  They always have been and always will be.

    I think it is important that we always remember what matters most in this world.  Is it being the best website out there? Is it being better than someone else?  Or is it, instead, living in the moment and having no regrets.  I know, for me, that when my time comes, I will not say “Geez….I sure wish I had posted a few more coupons on my site.”  My goal is that I will say “I am glad I lived in the moment and took in all this world had to offer.  I have no regrets about the mother and wife I was.  Thank you God for blessing me with such an amazing life.”    Perhaps, you too, agree.

    Life is fleeting.  Deals come and go and sure, they save you money.  However, living a life without regrets….that my friends, is priceless. Would you not agree?

    DIY – Burlap Placemats

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    burlap placemat

    If you are planning on hosting a dinner party soon, or just looking for some fun new affordable placemats for your home decor – these DIY Burlap Placemats are perfect! They are crazy easy to make, cost less than $0.50 each and are the perfect shabby chic touch!

    Supplies

    • 1 yard burlap
    • black paint
    • paint brush
    • stencil (or Silhouette machine to make your own stencil)

    Directions

    1. First measure your placemats to cut at 14 x 20 inches.
    2. Put your iron on HIGH and iron each placemat until smooth.
    3. Along the edges of the placemat pull, 2-3 threads to create a small fringe. (I recommend before creating the fringe if you have a sewing machine, sew a fine straight line with white thread along all of the edges. This will make it so that your fringe does not continue to pull apart too much. This step is recommended, but not required. I skipped this step as we are only using these placemats for short term use.)
    4. Take your stencil (or make your own with your Silhouette machine) and create words to paint onto your burlap (ie. DINE, EAT, CHOW, FEAST, NOURISH…)
    5. With a sponge paint brush and black paint, carefully dab paint onto stencils until fully covered. Allow paint to dry for at least 10 minutes before carefully removing stencil.
    6. Once the paint is completely dry, have some fun decorating your dining room table. These DIY Burlap Placemats are sure to impress your next dinner party!

    burlap placemats 2

    Helping Kids Deal with Fear of Storms

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    Kids are often scared of storms.  As parents, we want to do what we can to help them through these times.  We've got some easy tips you can follow to help your own child when a storm strikes.

    Last night, we had some pretty bad storms around here — including tornados.  My daughter actually had a pretty traumatic experience as a result.

    She and her dad were helping with our church’s Fireworks display when the weather started to turn.  The men were closing the tent and tying things down when their phones all went off with the alert — tornado warning.  My daughter instantly started to panic.  She was in tears and was telling her dad that she was afraid she would never see her mom again.  He tried to get her into the Quicktrip next door, but she was too scared to go.  He looked up and could tell that the direction towards our house was away from the storm, so the men there told him to leave with her.  Turns out that the tornado was very far away from them, so no damage to the area where they were at — thankfully!

    All the way home, my daughter kept telling herself “Calm down, Emma.  It is going to be OK.”  She came running through the door yelling my name and grabbed me and held on for dear life.  She was terrified.  She was shaking and was very pale.  We got her calmed down and had all of the kids take a bath and headed to the basement as a family – to watch a funny movie and take everyone’s mind off of things.

    We went back upstairs at 9 pm and put the kids to bed when it happened.  The tornado sirens began to screech right outside our house.  All 3 of my kids ran down the stairs as fast as they could…..all of them in tears.  We got them into the basement and turned on the TV.  There was no mention of a warning.  It was at that moment that both of our phones alerted us and a few second later, we saw the warning pop up on the screen.

    A tornado was in our area (thankfully it was a couple of miles southeast of us), but we later learned that there had been funnel clouds dropping all around our city for most of the evening (don’t tell my kids).  At 9:15, when we had the all clear, we took them back up the stairs and told them it was time for bed.   They were too scared and it ended up being a sleepover in mom and dad’s room.

    11402931_10206689474052341_2864752759825802298_n

    This was our very first real experience with storms.  We kept our kids calm and we got through it and best of all, there was no damage where we lived and no one was injured as a result of any of the storms.

    Kids will be scared of these storms, but there are things we can do to help them get through it:

    1. Talk about storms before they happen.  In the moment of a storm, kids are often too scared to understand what is going on.  They just want to be safe.

    Talk about thunderstorms and lightning when it is not storming.  Talk about tornados and what to do if we hear a siren.  In fact, when you hear the test sirens in your area, have your kids practice what to do and where to go.

    When they know what to do when it storms, they feel more in control and that can really help them to stay a bit more calm.

    2. Don’t try to pretend it is not happening.  Kids are smart.  They know what the sirens mean.  They can see dark clouds in the sky.  If they ask if there is a tornado, do not lie to them.  Just stay calm and say yes and ask them to come with you to your shelter.

    3. Remind them why they are safe.  When the storm strikes, remind your children that they are away from the lightning, wind and hail when they are in the house.  If it is a very bad storm, take them to your basement (or shelter) and again, remind them how they stay safe where they are at.

    4. Distract them.  Keep the things you need handy in your shelter area.  This would include flashlights, batteries, food, water, weather radio and even games.  Play cards with your kids so they take their minds off of the storm.  You can keep board games handy.  If the power is still on, you might be able to pop in a fun movie into the DVD player.

    5.  Keep calm yourself.  As an adult, we know the damage and what can actually happen as a result of these storms.  Many of us have seen the destruction and fear it ourselves. However, in the moment when your child is scared, they can not see the fear in your face, as that will make them more frightened.  Find a way to stay calm yourself and your child will feel better when they see that you are not worried.

    Do you have anything to add to our list?

    BBQ Cheddar Bacon Turkey Burgers

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    Looking for something new to try on the grill?  You've got to give these Cheddar Bacon Turkey Burgers a try - they are lean and still have so much flavor!!!

    Ingredients

    • 1 lb Ground Turkey
    • 1/4 cup Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce
    • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
    • 1/3 cup finely diced green onions
    • 1/3 cup chopped bacon
    • Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, McCormicks Montreal Steak Seasoning, Johnny’s (your choice, use one or all)

    turkey burger 2

    Add all ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your hand mix well. Roll mixture into handful size balls, flatten into patties. Season.

    Place on hot grill and cook for approximately 4 minutes on each side, until cooked all the way through.

    Serve on a bun or over a bed of lettuce.

    turkey cheddar burger

    S’Mores Stay At Home Dip

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    Have you tried this S'mores dip?  It is DIVINE!!!!!!  It is super simple to make and you're family will be coming back for 2nds, 3rds.......

    My most favorite summertime dessert is definitely S’more! Unfortunately with the responsibilities of work, kids and life we just can’t find a way to go camping, or set up a campfire often enough to enjoy this sweet gooey treat. That’s why I have decided that this Stay At Home S’mores Dip is the most amazing alternative. Even better is perfect for family get together’s, parties or just a fun treat to finish off a fun day in the sun.

    Ingredients

    • Chocolate Chips
    • Marshmallows
    • Graham Crackers
    • Cast Iron Pan (approx 6-8 inches in diameter)
    • 2 TBSP oil (vegetable, canola, olive or even coconut oil will work)

    smores choc chip

    Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Place the cast iron pan in the oven and let heat (empty) for 5-10 minutes. Using an oven mit remove the pan from the oven and pour in oil. Sprinkle chocolate chips in the pan next and gently mix them around in the oil. The chocolate chips should begin to soften and melt.

    smores dip ingredients

    Add marshmallows one at a time on top of the softened chocolate chips, until the entire pan is filled with marshmallows.

    Place the s’mores dip back in the oven to bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

    smores dip 2

    Remove from the oven and serve with a side of graham crackers for scooping.

    ***Beware this dip is beyond addicting!

        smores ingred 2

    Hidden Valley® Ranch Seasoning Mix Copycat Recipe

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    Want to make your own Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing?  We've got the perfect recipe for you!

    Do you use Hidden Valley® Ranch Mix to make salad dressings, chip dip or even in various recipes? I know I use it quite often. However I hate how much it costs, and even more so I hate all of the unknown ingredients listed on the packaging. This Hidden Valley Ranch Mix Copycat recipe is awesome. Tastes exactly like Hidden Valley brand (or better)!

    Ingredients

    1/2 cup dry buttermilk powder
    2 TBSP dried parsley
    1  tsp dried dill weed
    1 tsp dried onion flakes
    1 tsp onion powder
    2 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp dried chives
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp ground pepper
    1/2 tsp sugar

    Mix all ingredients together in a blender and pulse until smooth. To make Ranch Dressing simply mix 1 TBSP of Hidden Valley® Copycat seasoning mix with 1/3 cup Greek yogurt and 1/3 cup milk.

    Forget the store bought!  Make your very own Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing at home!

     

    Olive Garden Copycat Salad Dressing

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    olive garden ps

    Yum Yum! Do you ever just crave a refreshing Olive Garden Salad? What’s the salad without the special Olive Garden dressing? Instead of going out for an expensive dinner, enjoy a relaxing night at home with this tasty Olive Garden Salad Dressing Mix Copycat recipe. You are sure to love it!

    Ingredients

    • 1 packet Italian Dressing Mix
    • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
    •  1/3 cup white vinegar
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise
    • 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1/3 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper

    olive garden dressing pin

    Mix all ingredients together in a food processor, whisk or blender. Pulse or mix until well blended. Serve over a refreshing garden salad and store excess salad dressing in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

    10 Awesome Kitchen Hacks!

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    There are lots of amazing kitchen hacks out there  -- and many are truly amazing!  We've put together a list of TEN hacks - all of which will save you money!!!

    I love reading about all of these amazing hacks to make life better.  They usually are things I’d never have thought of myself!  While many are about making life simpler, there are some which actually can save you money!  We’ve put together a list of TEN amazing hacks which are designed to do just that – make your wallet happy!

    Just click the link below and you’ll go right to the idea!!  Tell them we sent you their way!!!

     

    How to Clean Your Dishwasher with Tang // by One Creative Mommy

    How to Remove Rust Stains from Knives with Lemon Juice // by Thrifty Jinxy

    DIY Glass Kitchen Canisters // by Penny Pinchin’ Mom

    Why You Should Grease Oven Racks // by Thrifty DIY Diva

    DIY Bandits Oil Disinfecting Kitchen Spray // by Live Simply

    Spray Measuring Cups with Cooking Spray // by Our Best Bites

    10 Uses for Ice Trays // by Recipes to Make

    How to Clean Your Microwave without Scrubbing or Chemicals // by Simply Stacie

    DIY Jet Dry // by The Thrifty Couple

    DIY Sponge Icepacks // by My Kitchen Escapades