Month: July 2019

How to Make Your Home Look Expensive On A Budget

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Have you ever made a move, had a significant life event, or did you just wake up one day feeling like SOMETHING needed to change?

A friend in Mesa, Arizona contacted me with just such a situation. A family life change meant that she had less furniture than before and after some introspection, she felt like some fresh style could help.

She used her cell phone to take some simple pictures of the spaces that she felt could use the most help. Some words she used to describe her spaces were “dark,” “bare,” “plain,” and “no sense of style.” When I asked about her artwork, though, she said that it was the one thing she loved.

I used the artwork and a quick peek at joyful pictures from her FB page to get a sense for her “subconscious” style.

I used Adobe Photoshop to place the items into her spaces, and, although they aren’t perfect 3D renderings, the sizes and perspectives are accurate enough to give a great sense of what some small changes can do.

Let’s start with her Family Room. The total cost for this makeover is about $500! Art, a buffet cabinet, and a storage coffee table with a lift-up desktop for just $160 create a huge impact for very little money! Artificial plants are a low-maintenance way to add color and class to a room. 4-foot tall potted plants frame the fireplace. Dollar Tree has vases and artificial flowers that can make a great impact. I chose the fill a glass vase ($1) with seashells ($3) and a variety of flowers ($6). See the room from a different angle below.

Original Family RoomRedesigned Family Room

Here is the view of the Family Room from a different angle.
Original Family Room View 2 Redesigned Family Room View 2
The exercise room/office includes a “bamboo look” exercise puzzle mat that will reduce joint fatigue and protect her floors for just $70! Inspirational Vinyl Wall Art is $40 on etsy, but only $27 on Amazon! and Canvas Inspirational Messages will help draw her into this sanctuary for loving on her body. Cling film on the french doors will let light in, and add high style beauty and privacy when she has guests. The bright paint subconsciously reduces stress and increases energy for just $40. Including new exercise accessories, this makeover costs less than $250!
Redesigned Exercise Room

Every parent knows that the kitchen is the heart of the home. This space was one that she just didn’t know what to do with. A 52″ wide kitchen island was $330 on Amazon, but was on sale on Wayfair yesterday for $265! An armoire to hold extra kitchen wares is only $260 at Ikea. Adding some artificial potted trees, seating, and side tables make a great spot for her kids to relax and work on homework while she cooks dinner. The modern blue rug adds high-class look, anchoring the space and tying it into the dining room next door. Amazon is a great way to turn your memories into wall art! A 24″x36″ mounted canvas of one of your pictures is only $40 (if you want editing or want a picture rendered to look like a painting, I do that for $20/image).

Original Kitchen Redesigned Kitchen

Last, but not least, the dining room. This beautiful room is flanked with wall-to-wall windows, yet still felt “dark.” When I asked her about the paint color, she said that it looked good on the card in the store. She hated the rug, though and felt like the colors belonged outdoors more than in a dining room. Drawing inspiration from her decorations, I found a modern rug at Amazon or Walmart for under $200. Painting just 2 walls a lighter blue color actually helps her artwork stand out more and makes the area look larger. Sheer curtains that match the accent walls open up the area. Again, small and simple touches renew this room for under $250!

Original Dining Room Redesigned Dining Room

Original Dining Room View 2 Redesigned Dining Room View 2

Do you like what you see?

Become a member, Request a design for your own space, and follow Dime Design!

Before You Shop Online, Here Are 62 Items You Can Buy For A Buck

So, being a HUGE discount queen, (hey it’s more fancier than calling myself cheap haha) I’m always on the lookout for great deals. While shopping online at and Amazon is convenient, I realize that there are so many things you can just buy at Dollar Tree! Why waste your hard-earned money buying these exact same items at any drugstore or online for more money? Can you believe all this stuff’s a BUCK?? Continue reading below!

  1. Coupon books – These are pre-labeled books where you can organize your coupons into the little slots! Love these! Great investment for a buck!
  2. Cotton swabs – A box of 170 Q-tips at CVS is $2.79. The same amount at the dollar store is… well, a dollar. It’s not the Q-tips brand, but I see little difference.
  3. Kitchen utensils – If you need a baster, a soup pouring spoon, a spatula, knives, etc. Dollar Tree has it!
  4. Medicines – Ibuprofen is like, $4-5 dollars for a 20 pack at Walmart?? Get it at Dollar Tree, same medication, just without the brand name!
  5. Double-sided tape – You can get 130 inches of this tape at the dollar store. This is a shorter tape than the 450-inch roll for $4.79 at Staples, but it is still 1/5 cent cheaper per inch.
  6. Cleaning supplies – you can find TONS of cleaning supplies here from laundry detergent to glass cleaners and even dish-soap!
  7. Paper clips – A pack of 100 vinyl-coated colored paper clips for a dollar versus 60 of the same for $2.49 at Office Depot.
  8. Wax paper, Parchment Paper & Tin Foil – These are hard to compare price-wise because the square footage is different in the boxes at the dollar stores than the boxes in the regular grocery stores. However, there are still cheaper per inch. Plus, I don’t use these items that much, so I don’t want giant rolls taking up my limited drawer space in the kitchen. I also really like the pre-cut pop-up foil sheets that are huge frustration savers.
  9. Holiday decorations – Every month there is an aisle full of new holiday decorations. These are cheap and fun gifts for the kids or a little seasonal pick-me-up for the house or office. Can’t beat the price.
  10. Envelopes – WITH the pre-licked (just kidding, I mean self-adhesive) tops!
  11. Baby wash and oil – My friends use the baby wash as a bath wash and the baby oil lotion is strictly a lotion but goes on smooth, sinks right in and is absolutely not oily. So don’t buy expensive, overly perfumed lotions and bath washes, you will no be disappointed with these two products.
  12. Tupperware containers – plastic containers to store your leftovers in. I’ve found sets of 2-4 containers at our local Dollar Tree, as well as a large cake-sized container.
  13. No Damage Hair Elastics – A package is $2.39 at CVS. No brainer!
  14. Candy – If you take your own candy into the movie theater, then getting your candy at the dollar store is the way to go as you can save up to $4 per box of junior mints or M&Ms. You’ll see a lot of off-brand candy, but don’t be turned off. There is plenty of brand name candy as well, like Snickers, Butterfinger, and Tootsie Rolls.
  15. Picnic supplies and utensils – Awesome for parties! And YAY for fewer dishes to wash!
  16. Socks – From exercise socks to holiday socks to warm fuzzy cozy snuggle socks! Can’t go wrong here!
  17. Batteries – I’ve seen AA, AAA and watch batteries.
  18. Undergarments –  Good cotton underwear, socks.
  19. School and home office supplies – I seriously get all my papers, pens, notebooks, tape, staplers and colored pencils here. Good deal.
  20. Calculator – AWESOME deal! Put 2 and 2 together on this one. Haha, get it?
  21. Locking plastic baggies and garbage bags – You can pretty much get any off-brand Ziploc bags there, and they sell Hefty brand bags too!
  22. Books – for all you bookworms out there.. the genres are limitless!
  23. Greeting cards – YES!!! Two for a $ at Dollar Tree…. how can you go wrong??
  24. Groceries – A number of my friends and family members RAVE about the groceries and foods they have eaten from dollar stores. While quality varies, the list included organic soymilk, flax seeds, various bags of beans, veggie/fruit “green” bags, dry onion soup mix, canned soups.
  25. Shampoo and conditioner – I’ve seen Suave brand, V05, etc. Pretty good deals!!
  26. “Silk” flowers and fake leaves/ fruits – put these in a basket they sell and viola~ A fruit basket!!
  27. Gift bags and wrapping paper – the whole back wall is full of wrapping paper, gift bags, and ribbons!
  28. Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol – Perfect for starting a first-aid kit!
  29. Puzzles, board books, and coloring books – great for keeping the little ones busy!
  30. Mops, Brooms, Dustpans – clean house happy family!
  31. Washcloths, kitchen towels – these are pretty good quality, I dunno why I paid $3-6 for each one at Walmart!
  32. Trays and containers – Sterno trays and other aluminum containers. I love using these as serving dishes for meals!
  33. Baking trays and cookie sheets! – I also found disposable casserole dishes
  34. Cheap eyeglasses – one of my friends swears by these, she loves them!
  35. Balloons – they can blow up any for you and you can also buy packs of different colored balloons.
  36. Cell phone car chargers – I’ve seen them at Dollar Tree before.. who woulda known?
  37. Cell phone covers – I found some at Dollar Tree for the iPhone 4 and 5.
  38. Chips – many different kinds. I’ve seen Pringles, potato chips, pretzels, Lays, etc.
  39. Small flashlights – perfect for your emergency kit!
  40. Small puzzles (usually Disney) – what a cute idea for a kid’s birthday gift! And the Disney brand! Awesome!!
  41. Scotch tape as well as packing tape – stick to these and you’ll never go wrong! Ha!
  42. Small Christmas presents and stocking stuffers – during Christmas time there are TONS of Christmas gifts and fun toys you can wrap or add to loved ones’ stockings!
  43. Tableware – Dollar Tree has a good selection of tableware from bowls, plates, glass and mugs to utensils!! All the same brand, different styles, and all $1 per piece.
  44. Nail polishes – they have TONS of different colors there any as far as I’ve tried them, I don’t see a difference in their quality versus drugstore bought nail polish!
  45. Makeup – the Dollar Tree by me sells pretty good quality makeup. I’ve seen Maybelline, ELF and some L.A. Colors brands!
  46. Hazelnut Wafer Twists – yummm those delicious chocolate-filled wafer sticks that everyone loves… and the same flavor as Nutella. Yum again.
  47. Tissues – Kleenex, Puff’s, paper towels, and toilet paper!
  48. Noxzema razors – Apparently they give you a good shave and do not nick like cheap Bics.
  49. Wipes – antibacterial cleaning wipes as well as moist towelettes and baby wipes!! I keep them in the glove compartment of my car and use them to clean up spills, wipe down my desk, wash my hands when I’m on the go, I’ve even used them to remove make-up in a pinch.
  50. Rubber gloves – Save a couple of bucks by buying these at a Dollar Store!!
  51. Cotton balls and cotton swabs – They normally cost between $2 – $4 at drug stores.
  52. Baby powder – perfect for moms who don’t care to spend so much on the same product at a drug store.
  53. Hand sanitizer – little bottles, big bottles, you’ll find them at a dollar store near you!
  54. Pregnancy tests – Dollar tree has them for $1 while the name brand ones anywhere else can be $10-$15! And if you’re wondering, they’re 99.99% accurate and so much cheaper at $1.00!
  55. Animal toys – I’ve bought dog chew toys, cat collars, and toys, catnip here, etc. They have a HUGE selection, and in case you have an animal prone to demolishing toys, you can always go back and get another, they’re only a dollar!
  56. Bleach – goes along with cleaning supplies
  57. Little plastic tube squeezers for toothpaste and ointments – they also have empty spray bottles for those of you who make homemade cleaning supplies!
  58. Juice Boxes – It’s hard to find 100% juice at most supermarkets, and when you find it, it’s pricey. The local Dollar Tree sells four-packs of 100% juice boxes, some of them organic. They’re smaller than standard size but perfect for little ones.
  59. Toothpaste and floss – pretty good deal!
  60. Toothbrushes – how could I forget?
  61. Hand soaps – I’ve seen Soft Soap brands here, normally for $2-3 at Walmart and drugstores. They even have cute bathroom containers you can put hand soaps and lotions in!
  62. Makeup remover cloths – my siblings swear by these, and they don’t leave your face too dry or oily!


Soooooooo I’ve told you all the REALLY GOOD DEALS you’re getting by shopping at a Dollar store FIRST, but I’m about to let you in on a little secret that’s gonna SAVE YOU EVEN MORE $$$ and absolutely blow your mind. Ready for it?




So next time you build that long grocery list, be sure to swing by your local dollar store and find the best deals there FIRST! And by all means, use coupons! Then, feel free to carry on with life!


*Special thanks to Bobbi at for sharing some of your ideas! :D

$20 to Spend at Walmart Freebie

Free cashI found a great deal I wanted to share! We’ve all been there, times get hard and we find something online that we REALLY want, but we can’t get it because… funds are low. Whether it’s a new makeup tool, some cute flip flops, a couple nail polishes or a moisturizing conditioner, if it’s at Walmart, let me help you get it!

And no, my hubby isn’t freaking out right now haha. You see, here’s why it’s great to have a friend in the blogging business. I love finding and sharing COOL PERKS with everyone!

Here’s how I’m going to help you get $20 cash to spend at Walmart:

I partnered with TopCashBack, one of the United States’ most generous cash back sites (its better than Ebates), that gives you cash back on all your purchases. Right now we agreed on a fun deal: $20 to spend at Walmart on (almost) anything, just for signing up. And here’s another perk, I’ll throw in an extra $5 bucks, just for signing up using my referral link below:

Get My $20 now

Here’s how it works. You click my link above, you sign up with TopCashBack, go to THROUGH the Top Cash Back site, spend $20, and within minutes your $5 will show up, and within a few days another $20 will show up. This deal is for new members only.

TopCashBack also has an app, so anytime you want to shop online, be sure to go to the site directly from the app so you can receive cash back on all purchases. If you don’t go to the site first, the program won’t see your referral and cannot reward you. It’s very similar to Ebates.

From 1-5% cash back on every purchase you make, the dollars can add up quickly! This deal only lasts until July 28th so act quickly!

Best wishes and happy shopping!

Healthy High Energy Bites

Are you tying to avoid caffeine? Are you drained of all energy 2 hours after you wake up? Do you need a healthy energizing snack but can’t find anything that isn’t loaded with sugar? Perhaps these Energy Bites can help!

I saw a YouTube video of these No-Bake Energy Balls and wanted to create my own recipe. After a few attempts, I perfected my creation and these are by far my favorite. They are absolutely delicious and a perfect healthy snack, breakfast, or treat when you’re craving sugar!

I used my food processor to blend everything together, and then formed them into balls using plastic wrap. As a sugar addict, I must say, lately I’ve been craving these more than sugar! Eat one with breakfast inHere’s how to make them:

High Energy Breakfast Bites


10 almonds, chopped

10 dates, pruned and pitted

2 tbsp shredded coconut

2 tbsp craisins

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 cup oats

3 tbsp honey

3 tbsp peanut butter

1 tsp lemon zest


Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until it becomes a gritty texture (if you have almond butter than you’ve blended it too much). Form into balls using your palms or drop a few spoonfuls onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a ball, unwrap and repeat. Makes between 10-20 Energy Bites depending on the size you create (my recipe made a dozen 2″ balls, only I couldn’t take the picture fast enough to avoid my family scarfing down half the batch). Enjoy!

Homemade All-Natural Laundry Detergent – 5 cents per load, with free printable labels

Got babies? Or family members with sensitive skin? Or just can’t afford laundry soap with its super high prices? We sure do! Why spend $15-20 on a gallon of chemical-rich, fragrant-overloaded, heavily-dyed laundry detergent if it could potentially harm your loved ones’ lovable yet super sensitive skin?

Quick remedy: Try making this all-natural homemade laundry detergent! I found a few different recipes and reviews on Pinterest, and apparently everyone swears by this homemade detergent! Its all-natural ingredients are chemical and dye-free, perfume-free, it’s a natural stain and odor remover, it’s safe for sensitive skin, and costs around .5 cents per load to make. Not to mention the fresh natural lemon scent your laundry will be left with after washing each load! I’ve been using this laundry detergent for several months now, and have even found other websites that have compared its super stain-fighting abilities to your average commercial laundry detergent, and this recipe has proven valiant and victorious against the battle with stains!

First of all, to make my claims accurate, I need to share what the ingredients are and what’s in them (thank you Wellness Mama for sharing):

What’s in it:

Borax, Washing Soda, and Fels Naptha

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral made up of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water. It is an ingredient in most of the natural soaps available now (Seventh Generation, etc.) but it is much more inexpensive to make yourself.

Washing Soda, sometimes called sodium carbonate or soda ash, is made from common salt and limestone or found as natural deposits.

Fels Naptha is a laundry bar soap that is used for dissolving oils and removes stains; its ingredients include tallow, glycerine, coconut oil, palm oil or palm kernel oil.

Calculating the Cost (According to local Walmart prices):

  • One 55 ounce box Washing Soda- $3.49
  • One 76 ounce box of Borax – $4.99
  • One Bar Fels Naptha Soap- $2.99

A 3.5-Gallon batch of detergent costs approximately $5.69 to make and washes exactly 112 loads (using 1/2 cup detergent per load), costing about $0.05 per load!

And now for the recipe you’ve been waiting for:

Also helpful:

Print out these super cute labels above that I made and tape them to your milk gallons!

Printable Soap Labels Here

amazon prime day

Amazon Prime Day 2019 Is Here! Top 5 Deals Under $100

amazon prime day

Time Left before AMAZON PRIME DAY is Going Going Gone:

Are you PRIMED this Summer for some great savings? We hope so! Amazon’s Prime Day 2019 is here in full swing and there are many deals to take advantage of! Here are my top 5 favorite deals under $100:

1. Toshiba 32-Inch Fire Edition Smart LED TV, $100 Shipped!

2. Instant Pot DUO Plus 60 Pressure Cooker, $56 Shipped – Lowest Price I’ve Ever Seen!

3. Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, streaming media player (Includes $45 Sling TV credit), $15 Shipped!

4. Echo Dots, only $22 Shipped!

5. Amazon Fire Tablets from $30 Shipped!

These deals won’t last long, they all end soon so get yours while you can! For more amazing Amazon Prime deals, visit the Amazon Prime Day Deals page by clicking here:


Happy Savings!


Don’t Throw Away This Part Of An Onion!

I’m never buying green onions again. Here’s why. I had no idea how easy it was to create an endless supply of fresh green onions at home, and how quickly they grow! Green onions (scallions) are packed with vital and essential nutrients (read all about the impressive health benefits of green onions here). They add such an amazing flavor to almost any meal, and if you grow them at home, you never have to buy them again! Here’s what I did:

I cut the onions right above the roots just past where it starts to turn green and put them in a glass jar filled with water. I originally thought I needed to put them in a large mason jar and insert toothpicks in them so they don’t sink, and realized I could use a smaller jar and add just enough water for the roots to be covered. Two days later, my onions started growing!

Green onions will grow tall and quickly but can get mushy if you leave them in water, so after a week I transferred them into a pot. You can add sand on top of the soil to avoid fruit flies. My onions grew about 12″ and I finally snipped them yesterday, and I’m expecting them to fully re-grow within 2 weeks.

green onion growing

Why would anyone not do this from now on?? It was so easy and the onions did not stink like garlic does when it grows. And when it’s time to harvest, simply snip off however much of the onion you need and it will grow back within weeks! Congrats, you grew your own onions at home!holding a bunch of green onionchopped green onion

Here are a few ideas that you can make with your onions:

5 Ways to Use Up a Bunch of Scallions

19 Scallion Recipes

Green Onion Recipes

The Dream Experiment – Say Goodbye to Toddler Night Terrors!

Does your toddler or young child have night terrors? Mine used to.. maybe I can help! Here’s my story:

Ever since we moved to our new apartment, my 3, now 4-year old, Tristan, has been having nightmares. Nightmares of monsters, and ghosts, and being helpless. At first, I thought it was from TV shows he watched, so we changed his shows to only toddler shows (because even G-rated kids’ shows will have lots of fighting). I’m not sure if they’re considered night terrors or what, but he’s been crying and fighting in his sleep randomly, and jumping off out of his bed to come get us at odd hours of the night. I thought maybe it had something to do with the anxieties of being in a new place, mommy getting married, and having a new baby sister. I felt so bad for him, and so helpless like there was nothing I could do to relieve him.

I have a new friend, Nadine, whose son was hospitalized for many months, and she suggested talking to Tristan when he sleeps, which helped her son fight off the ailment that he suffered. She said even though the child does not hear it, it enters their subconscious and comforts them. So I tried it.

Every night for the past 4 days, after Tristan fell asleep, I stood by his bedside and said encouraging words like “You are strong. You are brave. You are wonderful and so so loved. You are amazing. Mommy and Daddy love you so so much. You’re a great big brother.” And for the past 4 days, Tristan has slept better, hasn’t wet his bed (yes, even that was an issue), hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night, and has even come to us in the morning saying he had GOOD dreams of himself being a superhero and having superpowers and flying. He’s doing great!

I’m not 100% positive if there is a correlation between talking to him as he sleeps and his good dreams, but it’s worked for us the past 4 days and I will continue doing it. Thanks Nadine!

13 Make Ahead and Freeze Casseroles (with Grocery List)



Easy Cheeseburger Casserole (makes 3 freezer meals)

For the topping:

2 pounds of ground beef (again, mine was pre-cooked)

1 onion, diced very finely

Six cups Cheddar Cheese, grated

For the crust:

5 cups of self rising flour

3/4 cup of sour cream

1 egg

1 cup (more or less) of water



  • In a saute pan, cook together the ground beef over medium high heat until onion is soft. Set aside to cool.

  • Make the crust first by combining the flour, egg, sour cream and enough water to bring it together into a thick, but spreadable consistency.

  • Spray the pans (I used three round pans) and spread a layer of the dough into each one. 4. Sprinkle the cooled meat mixture over the dough, then top each one with about 2 cups of cheddar. Top with lid.

Write on lid: Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.


Tex Mex Chicken Casserole (makes 4 casseroles)

4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

8 cups of cooked rice

2 can of Rotel tomatoes

2 packs of taco seasoning

2 cans of whole kernel corn, drained

2 cans of black beans (undrained)

1 small can of black olives, drained

6 cups of cheddar cheese, grated


  • Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl, except the cheese. Divide out into four pans, then top each with the cheddar cheese and top with cardboard topper.

Write on lid: Remove cardboard lid and bake at 350 degrees until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted (all ingredients are already cooked, so it’s just a matter of heating it well.) *Serve with sour cream and salsa on top and tortilla chips.


Chicken Casserole (makes 3 casseroles)

4 shredded, cooked chicken breasts

5 cups of cooked rice

2 cans of cream of chicken condensed soup

1 cup of chicken broth

2 bags of frozen peas and carrots (I used peas, but you could use one bag of each)

1 Tablespoon of salt

1/2 Tablespoon of black pepper

3 cup of French’s onions

3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese


  • In a small bowl, combine the cheese and onions together – set aside (for the topping)

  • In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients together, then separate into pans. Top each one with 1/3 of the topping mixture and freeze.

Write on lid: Bake at 350 until thoroughly warm and cheese is melted (everything is already cooked in the casserole.)


Cheesy Hashbrown Potato Casserole/ Funeral Potatoes (makes 1 freezer meal)


12 large potatoes or 1 (32 oz) bag frozen shredded hashbrowns

2 (10 3/4 oz) cans cream of chicken soup (reduced fat is fine)

2 cups sour cream (light is fine)

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup chopped onions


2 cups crushed corn flakes

2 Tbsp butter, melted


  • Peel potatoes and boil for 30 minutes, until just tender. Cool and grate into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish (or put frozen hash-browns into the baking dish). Combine soup, sour cream, cheese, the 1/2 cup melted butter, and onions. Gently blend into potatoes. Combine crushed corn flakes and the 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle on top. Cover with cardboard lid.

Write on lid: Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with sliced ham and veggies.



Baked Cheesy Chicken Penne (makes 2 freezer meals)

6 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes

kosher salt and black pepper

1 pound penne rigate (I used a 14.5 oz box of Ronzoni Smart Taste Penne Rigate)

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces each), halved horizontally (I used some leftover cooked chicken)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

6 garlic cloves, finely minced

6 cups whole milk

10 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (I used 8 oz of button mushrooms)

1 cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained

1 1/2 cups shredded provolone (6 ounces) (I used an italian blend that had provolone in it)

1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 6 ounces)


  • Preheat oven to 400. Butter two shallow 2-quart baking dishes. If you’re going to freeze one, use a disposable foil pan.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta and set aside.

  • While pasta is boiling, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.  While chicken pan is still hot, toss the mushrooms in and saute until golden brown (3-4 minutes).  Use a little extra olive oil if needed.(Since I used left over chicken, I just cooked the mushrooms in the olive oil)

  • In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot , melt butter over medium. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking constantly, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer.  Keep whisking frequently as sauce thickens, about 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Take the pan off the heat and and gradually stir in provolone and 1/2 cup Parmesan.

  • Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide pasta mixture between baking dishes.  If freezing, place remaining parmesan cheese in a zip-top baggie.  If cooking, sprinkle on top.

  • Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

  • Freezer instructions: To freeze, prepare through step 4 and then let pasta cool. Cover pan well with plastic wrap.  Place extra cheese in baggie (for topping) on top and then cover entire pan well with foil.  Freeze for up to 3 months.

Write on lid: Preheat oven to 400.  Remove foil and plastic from pan and set cheese baggie aside. Place foil back on pan and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil, stir pasta, and top with cheese.  Return pan to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes (I only did 10 minutes) or until mixture is hot and bubbly throughout.


SHOPPING LIST (to make ALL the above recipes):

13 FOIL CASSEROLE DISHES with lids, all sizes (I got mine at Dollar Tree)

2 pounds of ground beef (mine was pre-cooked)

10 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1 and ⅓ onions, diced very finely

16 cups Cheddar Cheese, grated

5 cups of self rising flour

3/4 cup of sour cream

1 egg

13 cups of cooked rice

2 cans of Rotel tomatoes

2 packs of taco seasoning

2 cans of whole kernel corn, drained

2 cans of black beans (undrained)

1 small can of black olives, drained

4 cans of cream of chicken condensed soup

1 cup of chicken broth

2 bags of frozen peas and carrots (I used mixed, but you could use one bag of each)

1 Tablespoon of salt

3 cup of French’s onions

12 large potatoes or 1 (32 oz) bag frozen shredded hashbrowns

2 cups sour cream (light is fine)

1/2 cup butter, melted, plus 2 Tbsp butter, melted

2 cups crushed corn flakes

6 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes

Salt and black pepper

1 pound penne rigate (I used a 14.5 oz box of Ronzoni Smart Taste Penne Rigate)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

6 garlic cloves, finely minced

6 cups whole milk

10 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (I used 8 oz of button mushrooms)

1 cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained

1 1/2 cups shredded provolone (6 ounces) (I used an Italian blend that had provolone in it)

1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 6 ounces)


*Note: Images are for illustration purposes only.