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Make your own pre-packaged mixes to save time and money

In today's Discount Diva column, MoneySmart reader Bronwen Battaglia shared an idea for saving time and money when it comes to feeding her three hungry sons.

Instead of buying pre-packaged mixes, such as Bisquick and Swiss Miss, Battaglia takes time to measure out batches of her own scratch recipes and stores them in labeled containers. When it's time for pancakes or hot cocoa, she merely takes the dry mixes off the shelf and adds the wet ingredients as she would with any store-bought box mix.

Not only does this bit of advanced planning save money and add convenience, it allows Battaglia to control the amount of sugar and preservatives her kids eat, and lets her incorporate more healthful whole-wheat flour.

Here are two of the recipes she has perfected for her family:

Hot Cocoa:


4 cups nonfat dry milk
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon

Blend ingredients in a food processor until it resembles a fine powder. Store in air-tight container.

To prepare: Stir three tablespoons of mix with six ounces of hot water.



2 cups whole wheat flour (or a combination of part wheat, part oatmeal flour)
4 cups unbleached white all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ cup baking powder
1 tablespoons salt

To prepare a big batch (approximately 20 pancakes): In a medium bowl, combine: 2 ½ cups mix, 2 cups milk (or more), 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola, or mild olive). Gently stir ingredients together. Do not over mix. Let batter stand for at least 5 minutes. It will thicken up. Add more milk if necessary. Ladle 1/2 cup or so of batter on to hot griddle. Flip once bubbles are visible and edges appear dry.


Substitute buttermilk or sour milk* for milk and add 1 tsp Baking Soda to mix.

Mash a banana in bowl before adding other ingredients.

Add a dash of cinnamon or diced pear and grated fresh ginger.

While first side is cooking, drop a few fresh or frozen blueberries on to the pancake.

Add a few tablespoons of ground flax seed to the batter.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Having trouble refunding Uno Chicago Grill gift cards?

Uno Chicago Grill, which closed in Amherst this week, promised to fully refund gift cards bought at the pizza chain during a holiday sales push. Since then, The News has received several complaints from customers met by constant busy signals when calling for refunds.

It turns out, the number given by store representatives was incorrect. The customer service hotline number is 1-866-600-8667.

Representatives will ask for the account number at the bottom of the card and issue a check by mail, which should arrive within 30 days.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free Burrito Day at new Chipotle restaurant

Chipotle Mexican Grill is opening its first Western New York restaurant in Boulevard Consumer Square this week. To celebrate, the Mexican-style fast-food chain is giving residents a sneak preview of its fare.

Thursday Dec. 10, the day before the store's grand opening, Chipotle will give out one free burrito and one free soft drink to every visitor from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1643 Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst.

The store will then open for regular business Friday, Dec. 11.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Vets eat free Wednesday at Applebee's

Current and former members of the military will eat free at Applebee's Wednesday Nov. 11 in honor of Veteran's Day.

Veterans can choose from a specific menu of free entrees, which includes the seven-ounce house sirloin, three cheese chicken penne, fire pit bacon burger, fiesta lime chicken, chicken tenders platter and oriental chicken salad.

Three_cheese_chicken_penne Fire_pit_bacon_burger

Proof of military service is required, such as military-issued identification or a veterans organization membership card. Showing up in military uniform or bringing a photograph of the service member in uniform also qualify as proof.

Click here to find an Applebee's near you.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free KFC sample today

Don't forget--if you stop by any participating KFC restaurant today (Oct. 26), you will get one free piece of grilled chicken.

A previous promotion in May turned into a national debacle when KFC restaurants were unable to meet the overwhelming demand for the sample. A free coupon for the chicken was announced on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Come Home to Dinner


The wind is whistling, the temperature has dropped and we're all looking forward to our favorite fall comfort foods. Wegmans kept that in mind with its Come Home to Dinner Fall Meal Ideas, picking a perfect focus for the season--the slow cooker.

Its always helpful Web site offers all kinds of great tips on how to make inexpensive, delicious meals in the energy-sipping, lifesaving, cheapskate's-best-friend appliance, which take just a little bit of prep time and cook beautifully while you're at work.


Each menu selection (which includes such greats as Slow-Cooked Italian Sausage Agrodolce for under $2 per serving) even comes with a wine pairing!

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free Eukanuba Puppy Food

Got a hungry, new puppy at home? Eukanuba is hoping to make your little furball a customer for life.



Just click here, put in your contact information and Eukanuba will mail you a voucher for a free bag of its puppy food. Bon appetit, Spot!

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free Cheesecake on Thursday

Who says nice guys finish last?

The Cheesecake Factory is giving free slices of its new Stefanie's Red Velvet Cheesecake to the first 500 good Samaritans who bring two cans of soup to its Walden Galleria location.


The giveaway is part of the chain's Drive Out Hunger campaign, which is visiting 30 cities in 30 days during September--Hunger Action Month. The tour will make its Cheektowaga pit stop from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Thursday, September 24 on its quest to collect 100,000 cans of soup for hunger-relief charity Feeding America.


On September 30, as the tour comes to a close, the Cheesecake Factory will hold a national "You Dine, We Donate," event. Guests who bring two cans of soup will have 10 percent of their check donated to their local food bank.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Now TWO kids eat free at Boston Market


As "kids eat free" deals go, Boston Market's latest is pretty darn awesome.

From now until October 31, all day long and every day of the week, two of your kids will receive a free meal for every adult meal purchase of $6 or more. If you buy a family meal, you can get four free kids' meals! But wait, it gets even better: they define "kid" as anyone 14 years old or younger!

Kids meals generally cost around four bucks and include an entree, small side, cornbread and a drink. Find your closest Boston Market here.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free Dinner for the Kids at IHOP

ReadyToChowGot a hungry kid? IhopFREEIhopFREE Free

IHOP recently announced a "Kids Eat Free" dinner promotion, which will run until September 13.

Each night between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., IHOP will give one free Kid's Meal per every adult entree that is purchased. Kids 12 and under can partake. Drinks aren't included unless specified. Not valid with other offers or coupons.

Find your nearest IHOP here.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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