Microwave Creamy Tortellini {Deep Covered Baker}

I’m always on the lookout for easy weeknight dinners, like this Microwave Creamy Tortellini that is ready in less than 30 minutes thanks to the Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker. If you like my Chicken Tomato Pasta, give this one a try. It’s another pasta-with-veggies-in-sauce recipe, which is a great formula for success at my house. Yours, too?

Microwave Creamy Tortellini
 
Microwave Creamy Tortellini with Ham & Peas
 
Ingredients
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8oz ham, diced
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 16oz frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
Instructions
  1. In a microwave-safe container (I use a large glass bowl), combine butter and flour and whisk until smooth. Add garlic and milk and whisk well.
  2. Microwave, covered, on high 3-4 minutes or until thickened, stirring every 60 seconds.
  3. Add cheese; whisk until smooth.
  4. Add ham and pepper to sauce. Mix well, then set aside.
  5. Combine tortellini and broth in Deep Covered Baker. Microwave on high 12-15 minutes or until tortellini are tender, stirring every 4-5 minutes.
  6. Add cheese sauce to Baker, mix well. Stir in peas.
  7. Microwave, covered, on high 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
  8. Cover and let stand 2-3 minutes.

 

While this isn’t a one-dish recipe (it’s only two!), it’s still weeknight-easy and a new take on mac-and-cheese (which my kids never tire of, but I do). Serve it with a side salad for a great dinner. You can also replace the peas with another vegetable if your family prefers (like cut green beans or fresh baby spinach).

Looking for more Deep Covered Baker microwave recipes? See my DCB Recipes Pinterest Board, where all the recipes I’ve pinned are microwave-only and use whole/real foods:

Follow Gina Lincicum (MoneywiseMoms)’s board Deep Covered Baker Recipes on Pinterest.


Microwave Creamy Tortellini is linked up to TypeAParentFluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, Real Food Recipe Roundup at Musings of a Housewife and Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou.

King of Tokyo {Favorite Family Game}


King of Tokyo - great family board game #frugalfun | MoneywiseMoms
Are you a board game family like us? We love spending time together this way, and I love sharing our Favorite Family Games with you, especially when they’re games you’ve never heard of. King of Tokyo has been a favorite since the holidays. It’s a great combination of strategy, pounding on each other (in fun), and dice rolling.

King of Tokyo - great family board game #frugalfun | MoneywiseMoms
Each player chooses a character (mutant, monster, alien, etc.) and begins the game with 10 hearts (life) and 0 stars (victory points). To win, a player needs to earn 20 victory points or be the last one standing.

On each turn, a player has three chances to roll the six dice, collecting victory points, health and energy (which is used to buy the cards with special abilities and effects). The dice also help you attack, which you can do from inside or outside Tokyo. The real power position is inside Tokyo, but it can be a tricky balance between attacking and being vulnerable (a player cannot heal while inside Tokyo).

We’ve found King of Tokyo easy to teach to new players, no matter their age, and have especially had fun with my son’s friends (ages 10-12). The box says 8 and up, but depending on your child(ren), you can start younger. The game plays up to 6 players; we find that only two players isn’t very fun. It’s much better with a group!

King of Tokyo - great family board game #frugalfun | MoneywiseMoms

We’ve enjoyed (and played) the game so much that we went ahead and bought the expansion set, Power Up!. This lets each character evolve or mutate with extra powers and has been a great way to revitalize the game after seven months of constant play.

You can buy King of Tokyo at a local game/comic book store (here in NoVA, we love Comics & Gaming Fairfax). Support your local small business! As always, it’s also at Amazon.

Looking for more Favorite Family Games for big kids and adults? We also love the DC Deck Building Game and Sketch It.

 

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you.

Road Trip Essentials with Walgreens Paperless Coupons

Roadtrip Essentials with #WalgreensPaperless Coupons via MoneywiseMoms Road Trip Essentials #familytravel - #WalgreensPaperless Coupons via MoneywiseMoms
We have a bunch of road trips coming up in these last few weeks before school starts–everything from short day trips around the Mid-Atlantic area to a week-long cabin vacation near Niagara Falls. That makes it the perfect time to try out the newest way to clip and save–with Walgreens Paperless Coupons–through their mobile app. These manufacturer eCoupons can be added to your Balance Rewards account, then redeemed at the register by scanning your card, punching in your phone number, or scanning the app’s bar code. It’s so easy!

#WalgreensPaperless Coupons via MoneywiseMoms
Being able to clip coupons on the go–like on the road, while out on vacation, or even just in the parking lot of my local store–helps me save money on any unplanned drugstore trip (like when I’m bringing a sick kiddo back from the doctor’s office). I’m excited to be able to clip Walgreens Paperless Coupons from the car before I head into the store, or even while I’m standing in the aisle.

First Aid Kit - a Road Trip Essential #familytravel - #WalgreensPaperless Coupons via MoneywiseMoms

Are you packing for an upcoming roadtrip? Now that my kids are older, our roadtrip essentials are different than the old days. Yes, we still carry baby wipes in the car (someone always has sticky fingers!). Here are my other must-haves:

Carsick Kit
We keep a “carsick kit” in the car (I hope you never need this, we’ve used ours often, unfortunately!). It consists of a plastic grocery bag filled with antibacterial wipes, paper towels, a change of clothes (for the child), more plastic bags (for trash), and zipper bags (to hold dirty clothes and contain the smell).

Entertainment
While a long (6+ hours) road trip demands a video or two to kill the time, I like the kids to pack non-electronics like a drawing pad and colored pencils, pads of paper for hangman and tic-tac-toe, and a few books (our two non-carsick-prone kids can read in the car). I’m also packing some audiobooks for the whole family to enjoy along with some printable road trip games.

First Aid Supplies
I think it’s really important to keep a full first-aid kit in your car. Not just on a road trip, but any time you’re away from home (at the park, for example), those items are handy. I picked up this Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit (above photo) with a Walgreens Paperless Coupon, then I’ll add our personal extras (allergy meds, asthma meds, etc.) to make it work best for us.

Family Toiletries & Medicines
No matter where we’re headed, we need sunscreen, bug spray and our maintenance meds. It saves money to shop and pack these items ahead of time rather than buying them at your destination. Still, if you forget something, check the Walgreens app right there in the store (or from your car) to save a little money on your purchase. With the Walgreens mobile app, you can even track your prescriptions and be sure you have what you need while you’re out on vacation.

Music
I know this differs for everyone, but I love a good playlist of sing-along songs for a road trip. This time around, my 8yo twins are helping plan the music, with all their favorites included. I have to say, I’m really glad we’re over the days of preschool music. My girls like Pink, Coldplay, The Beatles, and songs from musicals (perfect for a family sing-along). I haven’t decided yet if the Frozen Soundtrack will be allowed…we’ve only heard it a million times already.

Phone Charger
Now that we’re so reliant on apps for our route map, contacting friends and family we’re visiting, etc., it’s a good idea to have a car-friendly phone charger on hand.

Snacks
What’s a roadtrip without fun snacks? My kids know that for all the healthy, real food we eat at home, road trips are the one time they get to eat junk (with a few healthy things thrown in). I picked up a great selection of Nice! products like almonds, cashews, and treats to go along with the bananas and apples we always pack for the car.

Trash Bags
I save the skinny bags that our daily newspaper comes in; they’re perfect for car trash! I’m a stickler about keeping the car clean. It makes it a lot more pleasant for everyone riding in it and makes more room for pillows, blankies and other comforts from home.

Road Trip Essentials #familytravel - #WalgreensPaperless Coupons via MoneywiseMoms
It’s great to know that if I need to run to the store for something we’ve forgotten–whether it’s toiletries, medicine, or groceries–I can save some money without having paper coupons on me. And with all this shopping, I’m earning points on my Balance Rewards account (be sure and sync up your existing card to the mobile app when you download it). With the money I save with these paperless coupons, I can buy souvenirs while we’re at Niagara Falls. Thanks to #CollectiveBias for urging me to learn how to use the Walgreens mobile app!

What are your family’s road trip essentials? 

Learn more about Walgreens Paperless Coupons when you follow #WalgreensPaperless on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Road Trip Essentials #familytravel - #WalgreensPaperless Coupons via MoneywiseMoms

Treat Yourself with #AudioFest at Best Buy

Disclosure; I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Best Buy August #Audiofest

I love music. I really do. With everyone home for the summer, the kids have been amused watching me go through my daily routine hopping & bopping (did I just say that? how old am I?) to my favorite songs. I put music on whenever I’m doing a big cooking session in the kitchen. It’s just more fun. And house cleaning? Well, the few times that gets done, it’s done to music.

I’ve got a few playlists on my phone, and that’s also how I listen to music when I’m walking (which hasn’t been happening because it’s 90 and humid in the mornings, but I promise I’ll go back to it in the fall). I really get pepped up when I listen to music, and it puts me in a great mood. But what do I listen with? Whatever ratty earbuds I can find, when I can find them. And I hate how earbuds feel; I actually preferred the old-fashioned headphones from the old days’ Walkman (yes, old again).

When Best Buy asked me to check out JBL products and update my listening for August’s AudioFest, I jumped at the chance. When’s the last time you treated yourself to something new? I know I never do!

JBL Sport Reflect Headphones at Best Buy August #Audiofest
I’ve had a few weeks to try out the JBL Reflect Sport Headphones from Best Buy. Wow–what a difference! I am so in love with these headphones. The noise-canceling feature is perfect for drowning out the background noise at the dojang when I’m waiting for the kids, or even while I’m working on the computer at home. The headphones come with three different size “heads” for the earbuds–small, medium, and large–so you can find your perfect fit, and they’re so comfortable. I’ve worn them on the treadmill and had they stay put–not like regular earbuds (which would just pop right out). I also appreciate how the cord never gets tangled, there’s a magnetic feature that keeps it under control. Plus–I have not let my son or husband use or borrow them–they’re mine! They’re $59.99 and worth every penny.

JBL Products at Best Buy August #Audiofest
The other product they sent was the JBL Clip Portable Bluetooth Speaker. My first thought was–why would I need a speaker? But again–I was very impressed. My husband and I like to listen to podcasts together, and the audio quality is so much better through the speaker than coming out of my iPhone. The sound fills up the room, so it’s perfect for impromptu dance parties with the kids. The Clip Speaker is also great for the pool (or any trips to the beach). You can keep your phone safely away from water and listen via the bluetooth speaker. I actually clip it to my belt loop and wear it around the house when I’m cleaning and doing the stairs–I can listen to music no matter what floor I’m on, with the iPhone just sitting in the kitchen. The speaker will be a great way for our family to listen to audiobooks when we’re on our big roadtrip in a few weeks.

Best Buy August #Audiofest

Head to Best Buy stores between August 3-30 for AudioFest

  • Beginning today through August 30th, Best Buy is featuring one month of deals, audio specials, events & more!
  • Best Buy is gathering the best offers on the best audio products for the entire month of August.
  • Visit a Best Buy store to test & try the latest & greatest in audio – from portable Bluetooth speakers and headphones, to home theater solutions and car audio.

Best Buy has the best selection of audio products, so head there during AudioFest to treat yourself to upgraded sound and love the way you listen!

2014 Teacher Appreciation Events

Custom Teacher Bracelet from BStamped at Etsy | 2014 Teacher Appreciation Events #summer | MoneywiseMoms
If you’re a teacher–I hope you’re enjoying your summer! Many stores have 2014 Teacher Appreication Events planned for you over the next few weeks to show their appreciation–with refreshments, goody bags, and special sales and discounts:

  • Office Depot & Office Max: August 2-5th are Teacher Appreciation Days. All year, stores offer 20% off your purchase and a reusable tote bag when you join the Max Perks Teacher Reward program.
  • Staples: Their Teacher Appreciation Days are this weekend, August 1-3rd. Teachers enrolled in Staples Teacher Rewards program will receive a coupon for 25% off any purchase to use during the event, plus a FREE academic “Calendar of Savings” with teacher-specific offers each month so they can save all year long.
  • Big Lots: Teacher Appreciation Day is Saturday, August 9th. The discount was 10% with school ID.
  • Joann Fabrics: Sign up for their Teacher Rewards Program, which gives you a 15% discount all year, then look for Teacher Appreciation Days in August (usually the second weekend, but there’s no notice on the website yet).
  • Michael’s: Head to the Create2Educate event on July 31st, where the first 25 teachers per store receive a school year survival kit. All year, get 15% off your purchase with the Teachers’ Discount program.

 

Image of Custom Teacher Bracelet from BStamped at Etsy

National Zoo (Washington DC)

National Zoo in Washington DC - fabulous FREE destination for #familytravel - MoneywiseMoms
Living near Washington DC, one of the best frugal fun activities is visiting the National Zoo. Like all Smithsonian Institution sites, admission is completely FREE. The grounds are open 6:00am-8:00pm daily (great for arriving early!) while the buildings open at 10:00am. We like to go super early on a weekend (like 7:30am), then spend the cool part of the morning there and head home before noon, when it gets very crowded and hot (that’s the same plan we use for visiting the DC Memorials and Monuments). One of the benefits of going early is that the Great Cats are out and playing.

Parking is $22, and if you plan to park you need to arrive early, well before 10:00am. With a FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) membership, you get FREE Parking for one year, plus other discounts and invitations to special events. There are Metro stops just north and south of the zoo, but we’ve never tried that: 1) because I didn’t want to try it with a double stroller and loose kid and 2) because now that they’re older, it costs less for all of us to park than to ride the Metro.

Great Pandas at the National Zoo in Washington DC - FREE #familytravel destination - MoneywiseMoms
On our last visit, we got lucky and saw both the Papa panda Tian Tain, sitting around eating bamboo, and the baby Bao Bao (up in the tree). Besides waiting in line to view from the front of the panda enclosure, be sure and go up to the Panda Café on the ridge above. Sometimes you can get a great view from there. You can also check the Panda Cams from home or on your phone to see when they’re out and about. Even if you don’t get to see the pandas, there’s a lot to enjoy on the Asia Trail, including otters, sloths, clouded leopards, and a giant salamander.

If you’re bringing small children or a stroller, I recommend that you park in the lot at the bottom of the hill. You’ll enter the zoo in the Kids Farm area, which includes the Pizza Playground, then head up the hill while everyone’s energy is high. Then, when it’s time to go, it’s a downhill walk to the car. We generally hit half the zoo in any one trip, no matter how old the kids (or adults) are that we’re with. If you’re planning to do the upper hill areas (elephants, Asia Trail/pandas, and cheetahs), park in one of the upper lots if you can find room. The paths around the zoo are quite steep.

Every part of the zoo is a hit with my family, especially Amazonia, an enclosed rainforest. We also love the Small Mammal House (there’s some weird creatures in there!). Last, we usually spend over an hour in the Great Ape House, with the gorillas and orangutans. My kids love to sit and watch them interact, especially when there’s a baby running around making trouble for the older ones.

Small Mammal House at the National Zoo in Washington DC - FREE #familytravel destination - MoneywiseMoms
If you’re going to be in the DC area, you may also like:

And be sure and follow my Mid-Atlantic Family Trips board on Pinterest.

Pley.com Review {Lego Rental Service}

Disclosure: I received a Super Fan membership to facilitate this Pley.com review. No other compensation was received.

Pley.com Review (Lego Rental Service) | MoneywiseMoms
 

I shared with you last month that we signed up for Pley.com, a Lego rental service. For a monthly fee, you can rent sets one at a time, keep them as long as you’d like, then send them back for another on your list (called a Pleylist). Think of it as Lego + Netflix. It’s a great idea! There are three tiers of service: Fan, Super Fan or Mega Fan. I received a three-month trial of the mid-level tier, “Super Fan,” to test it out and share my findings with you in this Pley.com review.

Pley.com Review (Lego Rental Service) | MoneywiseMoms
When you join Pley with their Super Fan Free Trial (14 days), the first thing you do is add sets to your Pleylist. I like that you can search for sets only in your level, and I appreciated receiving emails during the month when new sets were added to inventory. Once your Pleylist is full, your first set is sent out.

The set doesn’t come in its original Lego packaging. It comes in a fine mesh bag, with instruction manuals included, in a bright blue box. There’s a return address label in the bottom of the box, which I adhere right away to the top so I don’t misplace it.

The box seemed tiny, but once you take away all the baggies that separate the pieces in a new set, it’s so compact. Our first set was Treehouse Creator, which came with all three manuals (and was a great pick for a family with three kids, so they each got to build their own house).

Pley.com Review - Lego Rental Service | MoneywiseMoms
The sets ship out Priority Mail, so they get to you quickly, but the return label is Parcel Post, so that takes longer. It seems that as soon as the USPS scans in your label, the company knows, because then I’d receive an email saying my next set was being shipped out. I’ve been really happy with the turn-around time, and I had been concerned because we’re in Virginia and they’re in California. For all five of the sets we’ve received so far, we’ve gotten them in 3 days of being notified that they were shipped out.

Pley.com Review - Lego Rental Service | MoneywiseMoms
 

Each time you receive a set, you’re asked to report the set status–if there are any missing pieces or problems. We’ve only had one of the five sets that was missing any pieces, and it bothers my son when there are pieces still stuck together from the last user. We’ve been careful to take everything apart before returning it to the bag, and while it’s hard for the kids, we only put our sets together at the dining room table so there’s no chance to mix them with our own (many) Lego pieces.

When we’re done with a set (after all three kids have built it, sometimes more than once), we take every single piece apart and put them back in the red mesh bag. Since there’s a pre-printed label, I just hand the box to my mail carrier. Easy peasy!

Review of Pley.com Lego Rental Service | MoneywiseMoms
I asked my 10-year-old son for his point of view, and he said: “It’s frustrating when we don’t get all the pieces, because sometimes it’s important (to putting together the set.” He’s also irritated that there has never been a freebie or giveaway in the box (he’s referring to the FAQ on Pley’s website, where it mentions that every box has something for you to keep).

From the Mom side, I’ve been really happy with the service, though we’re not paying too much attention to which set on the Pleylist we’re receiving (sometimes it’s #5, sometimes it’s #19). It’s been great timing with school out, because when that blue box appears on the doorstep, it’s very exciting! My kids have been taking turns with who gets to do the set first.

Give Pley.com a try with their Free Trial. You’ll get to see how it works and what sets are in the program. Then you can choose to upgrade to Fan (small sets, $15/month), Super Fan (medium sets, $25/month) or Mega Fan (large sets, $39/month) subscription. I’ve just paid for the Mega Fan membership (the BIG sets, like Star Wars, etc.) for my son’s birthday in August, and I’m eager to see what we get. The list is all huge sets that we would never normally buy ($200+), so it should be a great value to us.

Sales Tax Holidays 2014 (Save on Clothes & School Supplies)

Save on Clothes and School Supplies with Sales Tax Holidays 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

Save on clothes & school supplies if your state is participating in a Sales Tax Holiday for Clothes & School Supplies. Even if you do not have children attending school, it’s a good time to stock up on office supplies or preschool art supplies at back-to-school sale prices with no sales tax. Qualifying school supplies selling for $20 or less per item and clothing/footwear selling for $100 or less per item are exempt from sales tax. Virginia’s holiday runs Friday through Sunday, August 1st-3rd. Check Virginia’s list of qualifiying items.

Does your state offer a tax-free weekend to help you save on clothes and school supplies? Other states across the country are also offering a tax holiday the first weekend in August (it’s the same weekend every year). Click the links for specifics for your area:

Next weekend, August 1-3:

Alabama (includes computers)
Arkansas (Saturday and Sunday only)
Florida
Georgia (includes computers)
Iowa (clothing only, Friday and Saturday only)
Louisiana (all tangible personal property subject to sales tax, Friday and Saturday only)
Missouri (includes computers)
New Mexico (includes computers)
Oklahoma (clothing only)
South Carolina (includes computers)
Tennessee (includes computers)

And mark your calendars for these upcoming sales tax holidays:

Connecticut (only clothing/footwear, August 17-23)
Maryland (only clothing/footwear, August 10-16)
Texas (August 8-10)

If you shop the sales tax holidays in your state, what advice do you have for shoppers?

Sales Tax Holidays 2014 is linked up to Type A Parent.

Busy Summer

Today marks 3 weeks since the last day of school, yet it feels like we’ve already done a million things. How does summer move so quickly?

Summer 2014 Instagram
Here are a few Instagram photos of what’s happening day-to-day. In between the swimming, the swim team, the many swim meets (do you sense a pattern?), we’re still trying to squeeze in down time (lots of reading and board games), playdates, working on multiplication for next year, and some cooking. Not a lot of cooking. My meal plan this week consists of “eat at meet” and “whatever is in fridge.” We’ll get back on a normal routine next week…I hope.

Hope your summer is going well!