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Holiday Shopping Tips and Creamy Pasta Sauce

During our meet-up on Sunday, the girls and I got to talking about shopping online.  I shop more than I probably should, but I have some basic strategies.

1) I almost never buy anything full price (like these shoes that I ended up getting for less than $15).  Seriously.  Unless it’s already incredibly cheap (like the adorable necklace I bought from Forever 21), I wait for it to go on sale.  Most of the time I head straight to the sale or clearance racks without even looking at the full priced items. 

2) Get on mailing lists – even if you devote on e-mail address simply to store promo items, it pays off with the amount of coupons and special deals they send!

3) Use Ebates when shopping online.  I read about this on another blog and it’s great.  I’m still trying to remember to click through their site when I order things, but it’s basically free money!  They also list coupon codes that can help you save even more.

4) Get coupon codes when you order online.  I always check Retail Me Not to see if there is a coupon code for the store I’m ordering from.

5) Use daily deal sites like RueLaLa, Gilt, and Beyond the Rack.  Daily coupon deals are great too – but check the fine print – sometimes they expire quickly or are only worth a value less than the product you want to use them toward.

6) Braving the black friday crowds?  I love it and consider this day the super bowl of shopping, but I will not sit in the cold for hours on end or get trampled over saving a few hundred dollars.  Last year I wanted to get my mother a Nook from Best Buy – the line was all around the parking lot at 5AM when they opened and they only let a hundred people in the door at once!  I walked around the mall for a few hours instead, returned at 8 am, and got my Nook and was on my way!  If you’re looking for a particular item, check out for scans of all of the popular store’s ads.

I can’t wait to hear about the deals you score! 🙂

On to food…

I’ve posted this recipe once before, but this time I added zucchini.  And it was a great idea.


An even better idea?  Making my “noodles” with spaghetti squash.


I can’t believe I don’t make this more often.  I almost over-roasted it, but it’s definitely better in the oven than the microwave and worth the extra time.


My husband still had regular pasta noodles.


This sauce tastes like a million calories but honestly isn’t so bad.


With cheese added to the already creamy base, I swear it’s still pretty healthy.


Okay, the Romano topping wasn’t my idea.


Creamy Cheesy Mushroom Pasta Sauce

1 can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup

2 cups prepared tomato sauce (I used Muir Glen Organic’s Garlic Roasted Garlic)

1 small can mushroom stems & pieces (drained and rinsed)

1/2 tsp onion powder (half a sautéed onion would be delicious, I just didn’t have one)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dried rosemary (I’m obsessed with it right now)

vegetables of choice (I used half a zucchini, sautéed in cooking spray)

1/3 cup 2% milk cheese of choice (I used a Monterey/Colby jack blend, but a cheddar gives it a more mac & cheese with ketchup flavor)

1) Heat all ingredients but cheese in a saucepan over medium heat for 15 minutes. 

2) Prepare noodles of choice.

3) Turn off heat, stir in cheese until melted.

4) Add noodles to sauce (or top noodles with sauce).

It tasted just as decadent as it looks – and would be great with other veggies added in.  I had planned on using roasted red peppers as well, but they were starting to get moldy.  I didn’t even miss them!

Approximate nutrition (for 1/5 of recipe, approximately 1/2 cup of sauce): 120 calories, 4 grams fat, 6 grams of protein

Topping 1 cup of spaghetti squash with this sauce made my entrée only 162 calories!


What food do you love but only remember to make once in a while?   I love spaghetti squash, and it’s so versatile and tasty – I just never seem to remember to buy it!

Any shopping tips to share?


18 responses to “Holiday Shopping Tips and Creamy Pasta Sauce

  1. beth @ a latte inspiration November 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Yes I never pay full price on a lot of things, especially clothing. I find that knowing your prices of certain things helps too. I frequently browse my favorite stores online to see what’s happening and search for coupons. That pasta sauce looks so yummy, perfect for a rainy day. 🙂

  2. loftyappetite November 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    so I’ve been using ebates, but recently I discovered that Fat Wallet also has cash back and their % is usually higher than Ebates. I got 25% off on my ink cartridges yesterday. 25%!!! They don’t always have as many stores as ebates, but when they do it’s always higher. you should check it out!

  3. Jenny November 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I love spaghetti squash, you get so much food for so little calories! It’s great. And I’m definitely a sucker for a good deal, I love getting things on sale 😀

  4. sprint2thetable November 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I went Black Friday shopping one time and swore never again – you can get the same deals online without getting elbowed every 5 seconds! I just go to the mall a couple of days before to scope out the goods so I know what size to order online. 🙂

  5. Shanna, like Banana November 22, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I love quesadillas and always forget how easy and satisfying they are to make..nom!

    As a fellow shopper, I love all these tips and use most! I’m a huge fan of online shopping and keeping lists of items I want from various stores and then when they offer 30%, I pounce 🙂

  6. Melissa November 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I love love love spaghetti squash, but I never remember to buy it. Putting it on my list–and I’m going to actually remember to bring the list with me, too! 😉

  7. Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food November 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Never paying full price is the way to go! 🙂

  8. Shannon (Healthiful Balance) November 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the tips and the recipe! 🙂 Looks delish!

  9. peaceloveandoats November 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I love using spaghetti squash as spaghetti! I have one sitting in my kitchen, but it’s going to have to wait until after I get back from Thanksgiving!

  10. foodsweatandbeers November 22, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Any online shopping I do now, I try to remember ebates. So crucial, love that free money!

  11. Katie@Real Food Katie's Way November 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I love love love pasta! And spaghetti squash for that matter!!

    Something I USED to not make often was spaghetti and meatballs (whole wheat pasta and turkey meatballs) but now, I make it every Thursday!

    I am definitely not a shopper at all…I’ve become MORE of a shopper now that I’m with Jeff (because he’s an insane shopper) but I’m still not much of a shopper!

  12. Matt @ The Athlete's Plate November 23, 2011 at 12:50 am

    I love mac and cheese but never make it! I guess I’m just lazy!

    And I never pay full price for anything. That’s my rule 😉

  13. Paige November 23, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Great tips! I’m not one to wake up super early on Black Friday, but if I can score a few good deals after 10, I’m there!

  14. betty November 24, 2011 at 1:44 am

    oh yum that looks delicious 🙂 love a good creamy tomato base sauce

    ive never tried spaghetti squash.. can you make that yourself??

    have a great day!

  15. healthydivaeatskatie November 25, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Thanks again for telling me about that site!!

    Hope you and the family had a beautiful thanksgiving!!!

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