Thursday, January 29, 2009

Recipe Swap Friday

It's recipe swap Friday over at Grocery Cart Challenge. I decided to post a recipe I actually made up for an Asian pasta salad. I have never measured anything out so any measurements are actually "guesstimates". You may need to tweak to your taste.

Asian Pasta Salad
16 oz cooked pasta (any kind is fine)
1/2 cup shredded carrot
3-6 sliced green onions
1 cup sweet peas
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 package crushed up ramen noodles

1 1/2 cups oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 packet ramen noodle seasoning

Mix together pasta and veggies in a large bowl. (You can add any veggies you want, the ones listed are the ones I usually have on hand.) Mix in most of the dressing to coat noodles. Add ramen noodles (uncooked) and almond slices right before you serve. Add the remainder of the dressing. Toss everything to coat.

This salad has a sweet and mild flavored. I made this up when I was looking for a last minute salad to take to my in-laws at Christmas. (Yes, I knew ahead that I was to take salad. However my dear hubby was the one shopping and decided we didn't need some of the things on my list - namely the broccoli - which was for a broccoli salad I was supposed to take. So ........I had to improvise.)

A "Lovely" Award!!!

"These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers."

Thank you, Miriam, for the award! I like that the award doesn't have to go to anyone for any particular reason, other than you like them and their blog. I am going to pass this award on to Sarah at This Beautiful Mess. I had lurked her blog for a couple months before finally signing up to be a follower. I spent days reading through her archives and was hooked! I love that Sarah tells it like it is and doesn't make any apologies for it. She seems to be a sincere person who would be an absolute blast to be around. And she seems like the exact kind of person I would be friends with.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Things we do to look good

Tonight I tanned for the first time in 3 years. I used to work at a tanning salon part time to help earn money to pay for our wedding. One perk was that you could tan before/after your shift for free and if you worked 5 times or more a month you could tan all month for free. Needless to say I had the most amazing tanned body - and I was thin. Oh how I miss that!!

Since I recently started getting on the treadmill I decided I should see how many minutes I still have on my account at the local salon so I can get a little thinner and a little tanner. Now I know that there is a lot of controversy about tanning beds. But I'm not going to debate that and I am asking that anyone who opposes it keep their opinions to themselves. I don't intend to be a tan bed worshipping person - I just want a little color. Besides tanned fat looks better that white fat. : )

Another thing I am trying to do is drink more water. I am terribly addicted to diet coke. It is my main source of caffeine - that said I typically drink 2-3 cans of soda a day.

Tip: I have had a problem with acne since I was in my early 20's. As you know the products are pretty spendy and adds up quickly. I was looking for more affordable, less chemical options. And came across this tip on using Witch Hazel for your facial astringent. It doesn't contain alcohol which is a great bonus because I hate how alcohol dries my skin out. If you page down till you come across to January 24, 2008. Gayle has got some great tips that are very affordable.

Weekly Menu

This weeks menu was worked out last night while I was actually cooking Monday's supper. This weeks menu is very easy and I threw it together in about 5 minutes - after looking in the freezer. Pretty much everything on the menu - except for the lettuce and the buns were items we already had on hand - most of it taking up room in our freezer. : )

Monday - chicken chunks & homemade sweet potato chips
Tuesday - chicken patty on a bun, peas, lettuce salad
Wednesday - hamburgers on a bun, corn, lettuce salad
Thursday - cod nuggets, green beans, lettuce salad
Friday - chicken fajitas, tortilla chips & salsa
Saturday - Asian chicken salads

I did have to dip into the remainder of our budget to pick up the buns ($0.88 on sale) and lettuce ($0.59 on sale and with a coupon). I also splurged on my favorite dressing to make the Asian chicken salads - it's on the shelf and is made by Marzetti's, it's called Oriental Sesame and it is AWESOME! The dressing was $2.19. So my remaining balance for this month is $15.32. Woohoo! I've still got many left and only 3-4 days together.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wonderful Weekend

This weekend has been awesome! Yesterday I picked up our Angel Food. The opportunity that we have to get this food saves us so much money, especially now that we are actually trying to stick to a budget. I did buy a 12 pack of beer today (which will probably last us several months), a jar of sliced pickles, and a bag of buns. My total was $13.16, which leaves us with $18.98 for the month. I'm confident that we will make our budget this month, but I'm not sure we would if we didn't have a stocked freezer.

Here is a picture of one of the boxes of food we recieved. We actually ordered a box of produce too, but I put the items away before I took the picture.

After picking up Angel Food my husband and I went shopping for curtain rods for the living room. Luckily my mom watched April for us so we didn't have to worry about her getting impatient and grouchy. We found curtain rods at Lowes for $25 each. AND we splurged and went out for supper!! Which I did feel a little guilty about - but it was well deserved since we hadn't gone out for so long.

Today we had church, which was awesome because my childhood friend, Lana & her kids, came up and went to church with us. After church we did go to Burger King so the kids could play and we could catch-up. Lana & I have been friends since I don't know when. We grew up together and I can't imagine my life without her having a place in it. We don't talk frequently, but it's one of those friendships that we can not talk for months and then pick up exactly where we left off when we do - as though no time has passed at all.

When I got home from church I found that my husband had gone to Younkers and picked up a new knife set (which we desperately needed) for $48 - regularly $170!!! How awesome is that?!?!

My appointment at UNMC is only about 10 days away!!! I can't wait - I really hope they find what is wrong with me. Please say a prayer for me!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sticking to the menu

Yesterday at work we received our bonus checks for the 2008 fiscal year. It wasn't a huge sum, but it was enough for me to at least make a dent in my medical bills. Of course one of the first things I thought about though was that we should go out for supper. By the time I got home I had talked myself out of that. When I started fixing our spaghetti supper I actually started to feel pretty good about sticking to the planned menu for the week.

We have become very accustomed to eating at home. We do sometimes go out for a meal. Every conversation afterwards goes something like this:

Layne: I really didn't need all that food.

Liz: Think of the groceries we could have bought with that $25 dollars. We could have ate for about a week.

Layne: Why do we go out?

Liz: I know, every time ends in us having this conversation. And the food usually isn't even great.

These meals out usually left us disatisfied, yet we continue to go out to eat. We used to eat out quite a bit, a couple times a week anyway. We have cut back tremendously. Now we may go out about twice a month. Usually it involves a buy 1, get 1 free meal or another great coupon.

The main reason people eat out is because of convenience. It's not always easy to work all day then come home and cook a meal. It does help though if some of the prep work is done ahead of time. Maybe cut up veggies for stir-fry ahead of time or brown some hamburger for tacos. These little steps can cut significant time off the amount of time you need to spend in the kitchen preparing a meal. If you know some of the leg-work is done ahead of time it won't seem like such a daunting task. Also, if your like me, you'll want to use these things up so they don't go bad.

Today's tip: When you are cooking one of your families favorite meals make a double batch. Throw one batch in the freezer to reheat on one of the nights that you are feeling tempted to eat out for the sake of convenience! You and your pocket book will be very glad you had this meal stashed in the freezer for such an occasion!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekend Meals & this weeks menu plan

This past weekend we decided to cook a turkey my husband received from work right before Thanksgiving. Friday I put the turkey in a bath of water to defrost. Then Saturday I put it in the roaster. Saturday night we had roast turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, corn, & cranberry sauce. Just like Thanksgiving - only a lot smaller. The only thing we had a large amount of was the turkey. It was so good! Sometimes I think that during the holidays everything is such a rush that you don't really get to enjoy any of it - including the meals. Yes, you may eat a lot because it's good - but it's not really enjoyed. Everyone is in a hurry because so-and-so has to leave, so we can get cleaned up, so we can open presents. The list of reasons is neverending.

After supper I picked as much meat as I could off to use for turkey sandwiches, turkey and rice, and whatever else came to mind. I thought I really did a great job - until I boiled the bones Sunday after church and saw all the meat that had fallen off into the stock!

After I made the stock on Sunday I used some of it to make turkey and rice for supper. (Similar to the chicken and rice casserole.) Instead of using Cream of Whatever soup I used the left over gravy to give it creaminess. Also, I used all the meat from that came off in the stock for the casserole - then I didn't have to add much from what I picked off the bone the night before.

Since I was on a roll in kitchen I decided it would be a great time to cook up some hamburger that I had hanging out in a 10-lb roll on the front porch for the last few weeks. (Wow does that make me sound like a hillbilly! Please, let me explain. We have a screened in porch off to the side of the house that really doesn't get used unless it's summer. Since the weather cold enough to keep items frozen and I didn't have adequate space for a 10-lb roll of burger in it I put it on the porch. I did wrap it in a couple layers of plastic too though.) Anyway, yesterday it was really nice out, so the ends of the roll were starting to defrost. My husband cut the entire roll up for me. I browned the ends and broke them up to use in meals this week. The rest was wrapped up and put into the freezer. These sections were still froze so it worked out well.

I also cooked up a pound of bacon from the freezer and a dozen eggs that my mom gave to us. When those items cooled I wrapped them in tortillas for my husband to take along and eat for either breakfast or lunch during the week. I left one out for Monday and froze about a dozen of them.

Here is our dinner menu for this week. This is mostly just the main dish - we are kind of spontaneous with the sides! (This is probably the only spontaneous area of my life. Seriously.)

Monday - turkey and rice
Tuesday - spaghetti
Wednesday - steaks, peas, & bread
Thursday - lentil pottage* & biscuits
Friday - cod nuggets & fried potatoes

So what do we have for breakfast and lunch?? For breakfast April & I will usually eat cold cereal, oatmeal, or pancakes. Layne - well, Layne is on his own kind of. I did feel a bit guilty about that - thus the breakfast burritos which are now in our freezer. : )

For lunch we are all in separate places - so it's separate lunches as well. Layne occasionally takes leftovers. April usually eats the school lunch, sometimes she takes lunch. Where I work we are lucky enough to have a hot plate, a grill, a set of pans, etc. So the gal I work with & I usually make some type of lunch. There are 4 of us in the office (2 guys and 2 gals) and the guys a lot of times will buy the food, since us gals make the food. Works out very nice. I usually keep bagels in the fridge and peanut butter in the cupboard in the off chance that our cooking system doesn't work out for some reason.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Budget Update

Going into this weekend we had $42.90 remaining on our budget. I knew I was going to have to dip into that remaining amount because we needed milk - badly. I looked through Hy-vee's flyer to see if they had anything else I needed or just couldn't pass up. They did have some good cereal sales - which we didn't really need but I could load up cheaply.

I ended up getting:

2 gallons of milk @ $2.88 each
3 boxes of Multigrain Cheerios (my favorite!) for $1.00 each (after coupons)
1 box of Special K (vanilla almond) for $1.00 (after coupon)
1 box of Quaker Oats Simple Harvest for $1.50 (after coupon)

Our balance remaining for the month is $32.14.

Tip of the day: This is probably common sense but when using coupons use them only on things you would buy anyway. And when going to a store, if possible, look through the flyer(s) to plan your strategy. Match up the coupons with the sales to get the most out of your coupons and to maximize your savings.

Frugal Creativity

Has anyone priced coasters lately??? Since we bought new tables throughout the house we thought it would be a good time to invest in coasters. Holy cow! The average price for 4 coasters is about $8 - from what I could tell. Yeah, there is no way I am going to spend that much money on coasters that's a couple of meals for my family. When we were looking at some coasters at Hobby Lobby I had one of those lightbulb moments. We knew we'd need about 8 or 9 coasters, right? (4 for the dining room, 4 for the coffee table, and possibly 1 or 2 for the end table) So if we bought the plain-Jane coasters at Hobby Lobby it would be $16 plus tax. I grabbed my husband and we left the store and went to Lowes. On the mile drive to Lowes I told my husband about my idea. Why couldn't we just use tiles as coasters? We could easily purchase the little rubber pieces to adhere underneath to protect our tables. We looked through the tile section and found exactly what we were looking for. A package of 9 (how perfect is that!) slate tiles - our tv console has decorative slate tiles in it - it was meant to be. And the price was perfect - $4.62 for all 9!! With the purchase of the rubber pieces our purchase was less than $10. Honestly - we like them better than any of the coasters we saw. (FYI - wouldn't these coasters be a wonderful present for someone who just bought new furniture or a new house? Simply make 4 of them, stack them, and tie a beatiful wide ribbon around them!)

I tell ya, Lady Luck was on our side this weekend! We did find a message center at Hobby Lobby that we liked. It was originally $60, but was on sale for 50% off. On the way to the register we noticed some of the wood on one corner was coming up - an easy repair. I asked to speak to the manager and he gave as an additional 16% off - so our total for the message board was just a few cents over $21.

After Hobby Lobby we went to Target. We have been looking for a clock for the kitchen for a few weeks and the only one we could find that we liked was at Target for $40. We decided to bite the bullet and just get it. Lucky for us the clock rang up at $30 - a savings of $10.
Our total savings for the day were as follows:
coasters - saved at least $6
message board - saved $39
clock - saved $10
Total savings: $55!!!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sticking to the budget

I haven't had to make any purchases since a couple days ago. So I still have $58.10 in our food budget remaining for the month. Although technically I think we need to deduct $15.20 from our budget for the soda. So we actually have $42.90 remaining.

For supper last night we had 'Cheesy Potato Broccoli' soup. It was amazingly easy. Here is the recipe:

1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 qt chicken broth
3 cups milk, divided
2/3 cup flour
8 oz frozen broccoli
8 oz frozen hashbrowns
2 cups cheddar cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Saute onion, celery, and carrots in oil on medium-high heat. When onion becomes translucent add chicken broth, frozen broccoli, and frozen hashbrowns. Mix half of the milk with the flour. Add to soup mixture. When soup starts to thicken add remaining milk and cheese. Add salt and pepper to soup till it is to your liking.

This recipe honestly took all of about 20 minutes to cook. It was a great way to use up the remaining 1/2 bags of broccoli and hashbrowns. I think we actually used closer to 16 oz each of the broccoli and hash browns. The consistency was closer to a chowder. But the soup was really pretty good and it reheated for supper tonight quite well. I think next time I would maybe do the 8oz of broccoli and potatoes and another 8 oz of mixed veggies or something. Oh - and I would add a crusty bread for dipping!

Today's tip: Most houses have an extra binder or two laying around. Use one of these to make an organizer for your home. Mine consists of several sections. 1. Phone numbers and addresses of friends and family. 2. frequently used recipes. 3. cleaning checklists (these are in plastic and I have a dry-erase marker to mark off things as I do them) 4. frugal tips 5. other household helper information 6. an envelope where I store receipts from purchases so I always know where the receipt is in case something needs to be returned!

Great Deal at Walgreens

After work tonight I stopped by Walgreens to pick up a prescription. When I walked in the door my eyes were automatically drawn to sign that said "Pepsi Products 12-packs 7/$11 (after register rewards)". Now, they were in the ad Sunday at 5/$10. I knew that we could use the caffeine at home (we're not big coffee drinkers). So I grabbed a cart and purchased my 7 12-packs. After deposit my total was around $25, but I did get a $10 certificate to use before the end of the month. I took my haul out to the car and then turned around and marched back in, since soda was not what I came to Walgreens for. So I used my $10 certificate for some feminine products and facial astringent. I also had to pick up a prescription was $10, but I still had $8.59 on a gift card from a couple months ago.

My total amount spent: $28.35
Products purchased: 7 12-packs of sodas, 2 packages of femine products, 1 very large bottle of witch hazel, and my prescription. Not too bad!

By the way, the soda works out to be about $0.18 each. : )

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Monthly Budget update

This weekend my husband did make a trip to the store. He bought 2 gallons of milk @ $2.65 each, a package of deli sliced ham for $3.96, and 2 6-paks of 24oz soda bottles for $2.50 each (also had to pay $0.60 for deposit).

$120.00 monthly budget - $61.90 spent so far (this includes the $51 for the Angel Food)
= $58.10 remaining.

The good news is that we have a well-stocked freezer and decently stocked cupboards. We also have Angel Food on the way. We do have 20 days remaining but I am feeling very inspired right now!

Todays tip: When you use the items you've canned up don't toss the lids! You can use the jars and lids to hold the contents of bags of rice, pasta, and assorted dried beans. It's easy to see what you have left and they jars are easier to stack and store than those bags! This is also a good use for the jars that have a chip out of the top and won't seal up properly anymore.

Weekend meals

Instead of making a post after each meal its probably easier to post on Sundays about all the meals of the weekend. We did not eat out for any meals this weekend. We may on occasion eat out for one meal on a weekend. We usually try to do this on Saturday for lunch because it is usually significantly cheaper than dinner. If we do I will almost always get water to drink, although I have a hard time convincing the other 2 members of my family to do the same. :)

Friday night for supper we had chicken chunks and lettuce salad. I honestly only choked down a couple chunks before I quit eating. I had a migraine and it was making me nauseated.

Saturday for breakfast we had cereal or oatmeal. For lunch we had grilled cheese and tomato soup. For supper we had boneless chicken breasts, cheesy potatoes, and lettuce salad. For a snack we had popcorn.

Sunday for breakfast we had either cereal or Carnation instant breakfast (bought with a $2 coupon and only had a couple packets left). For lunch we had bagels with cream cheese. We had supper at a friends house which consisted of prime rib and cheesy potatoes (with various items for snacks).

Cupboard Inventory

I still need to do an inventory of our freezers, but I did at least get our cupboards done. I'll be trying to use these items up as much as possible over the next few weeks to keep our $30 budget right on track. Much of it is convenience food, which a lot of people don't approve of. In a perfect world I would be able to make everything from scratch, but since I work full-time and teach Sunday school I really don't have the time to make much from scratch. I do try to dabble with making various items from scratch, but it's real hit and miss. Below is the inventory for our cupboards.

Suddenly Salad - 1 box
brown rice - 1 box
instant rice - 1 box
long grain rice - 1 bag
pinto beans - 1 bag
lentils - 1 bag
tomato soup - 2 cans
sauerkraut - 1 large can
apple sauce - 2 jars
rotel - 1 can
madarin oranges - 1 can
cranberry sauce - 1 can
cream of chicken soup - 1 can
evaporated milk - 1 can
chicken & rice soup - 1 large can, 1 regular can
butter & herb potatoes - 1 pouch
cheese stuffed tortellini - 1/2 bag
spaghetti noodles - 1/2 bag
penne pasta - 10 lb bag (yes, you read that right)
mac & cheese - 1 box
spaghetti - 1 can
potatoes - 1 can
corn muffin mix - 2 pouches
Jiffy cake mix - 1 chocholate, 1 yellow, 1 white, 1 fudge
Hawaiian bread mix - 1 box
beer bread mix - 2 boxes
pudding mix - 1 coconut cream, 1 pistachio, l chocolate, 1 fudge chocolate
Duncan Hines cake mix - 1 marble, 1 tres leches, 1 funfetti
assorted mini pasta - 2 cups approximately
hot sauce (homemade) - 3 jars
marshmallows - 1/3 bag
Miracle Whip - 1 squeeze bottle
pineapple - 1 small can
ketchup - 1 bottle
raspberry preserves - 1 jar
Kraft Asian dressing - 1 bottle
cilantro lime marinade - 1 jar
sliced almonds - 2 small bags
Cereal - 2 boxes honey nut Cheerioes, 1/2 box Life, 1/2 box generic Rice Krispies, numerous single servings of cereal (our daughters school sends a small bag of food home with each kid so the kids have snacks for the weekend)
Assorted teas and coffees
chocolate chips - 1 bag, 3 bags white chocolate
dates - 1 box
coconut - 1/2 bag

There you have it. You now know what I have in my cupboards. We also have our spices, flour, sugar, brown sugar, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, etc. I don't know exactly how much of these items I currently have, but I do know that none of them need replaced right now.

I probably won't get to take inventory of our freezers until next weekend.

Friday, January 9, 2009

And the winners are.....

My 2 followers!! Miriam and Big Mama will each get a reusable bag so they can save some trees!

You may be asking "what about the other 3 bags?"

Well, I will hold these to giveaway at a future time.

So Miriam, please email your address to me at

Big Mama, since you gave birth to me I think I kn0w where you live. : )

Blog Giveaway

Don't forget to sign up to be a follower ( sign up link is on the right side) so you can win a reusable grocery bag!

Winners will be posted tonight at 7pm CST.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

80's Flashback

Guess what I did tonight?? I got my groove on skating in circles around the local skating rink. I have to admit I didn't do too badly. Especially considering that I was holding hands with a 6-year old who has only been skating 2 other times and is still a bit clumsy. We did fall once - and I kind of landed with my hand down and jammed my wrist. It didn't hurt, but I was excited thinking I had perhaps been lucky enough to cause my ganglion cyst to burst. But all that excitement was short live when I felt that bulging bump on the top of my wrist. (Ryan - once it gets a little bigger I think I will take you up on your offer to slam something hard down on my wrist to pop and avoid surgery some time later if it keeps growing.) We did have a good time though - I was kind of hoping to go around a couple times by myself just to see how good I really was, but I didn't get the chance. The funniest part was that I swear they still were playing the same music that they played when I was younger and went skating. Maybe I'd skate really good if I wore my golfing outfit. (Ryan - hope you don't mind!)

Tonight was a quick supper. We had cod nuggets and french fries, both were in our freezer so still no need to buy anything. : ) We still have enough milk to get us through breakfast tomorrow so we are in good shape. I did write a check for Angel Food later in the month. The total was $51 for the regular box and the produce box. So we still have $69 left in our monthly account - which actually doesn't seem like much considering it is only the 8th of January. Yikes! But I know we can do it since we have a good stock of food right now to work with.
Today's tip: Getting tired of a piece of furniture or do you have some clothes in your closet that just don't fit right but are practically new? Do your kids have some toys that are in great shape that they don't play with any longer? Try to sell the items. Many times local papers will allow you to sell items under a certain dollar amount for free. Or you can post it online if your city has a BUY_SELL_TRADE group through Yahoo. These are great ways to sell your items and get a few bucks for them. We recently sold a few pieces of furniture and now have money to buy some nice decorations for our home (which we desperately need). All you have to do is sign up through Yahoo. You only buy, sell when you want to. No need to worry about having an account that goes "inactive". Try it out!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Monthly Budget - update

After some serious thought I have determined that it will be much easier for me to track our food budget monthly instead of weekly. The reason? Because we often buy Angel Food and it is $30 for the regular box and we often purchase more than one box. So - I will need to budget $120 for a month (4 weeks) instead of as $30 a week. Ultimately it all works out the same.

Tonight we had leftover vegetable soup. Since Layne didn't want that (he's not much for soup usually) he made himself 2 poached eggs on top of a bagel (?!?!?). He used the last of the eggs and we have less than half a gallon of milk, I'm hoping I can get it to last till Friday.

I have two goals for this weekend. 1 is to go through my coupons and toss any that have expired and use any that I really need that are about to expire. 2 is go through the freezer, cupboards, and refrigerator and make an inventory list so I know where I stand on all the staples. Then I can make a meal plan for the next week or two based off of the inventory.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Crab Rangoon & my first ever Giveaway!!!

Tonight's supper was very easy. It was a premade frozen shrimp stir-fry and crab rangoons. The stir-fry was actually a pack I had bought about a month ago and the crab rangoons were made by sister-in-law and I in September. They were very easy to make. All you need is some cream cheese, imitation crab meat, wonton wrappers, green onion, and an egg. Let the cream cheese soften then toss in some shredded imitation crab and the chopped greens from a couple green onions. Mix well. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Place a spoonful of mixture in the center of a wonton wrapper. Brush egg around the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold the wonton wrapper in half so it forms a triangle. Make sure it is sealed well. Then deep fry till golden brown. You can warm these up in either the microwave (approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds) or place on a cookie sheet and warm at 400 degrees for a few minutes. They will be a little crispy, but are not near as crispy as when you first make them. Serve with sweet and sour sauce or Oriental chili sauce - which is what we like.

Today's tip: Well, it's more of an environmental tip. I don't know about you but I hate carrying a dozen plastic bags when I leave the store. Often there are only a few items in each one. The best investment I have made is in reusable bags. They are typically a dollar each and my local grocer even gives me a $0.05 credit for each bag I bring in and reuse at the store (per visit). I can guarantee that I have already used my bags more than the 20 times needed to get my money back. The best part is that you can fit TONS of stuff in these bags and the ones that I have also have the longer straps so I can actually carry them on my shoulder. And I am keeping a plastic bag from the landfill or blowing around town in the wind!

**************Now for a Bloggy Giveaway**************

As part of a promotional piece to get people to sign up for my blog I am going to give away 5 reusable bags to 5 lucky people! To be in the drawing you must sign up to be a follower on my blog. (The people currently signed up will automatically be in the drawing.) I know there are some lurkers - which I love and do often with other blogs! But sign up! Get in the drawing for a free bag! And you can read about my glorious life! How much better can it get????

Results from the drawing will posted Friday evening around 7pm CST.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year - New Budget

Last night I sat down and balanced my checkbook. I didn't realize just how much we were spending in groceries!! We make a few trips a week - usually with the intention of picking up 1 or 2 items - and end up blowing almost $25 each time. That is crazy!! Then I looked in my cupboards and my freezer and realized that we probably have at least a couple months worth of food in our house already! Layne and I were talking about it and decided that we need to set a budget for groceries. We think we can do it on $30 a week. Of course the first few weeks should be easy since we are pretty well stocked right now. But it could be a real challenge when we have to start refilling our stock.

So in light of this challenge - I will post my receipt EVERY time I stop for any groceries - along with a picture of my purchase. It will be somewhat similar to Miriam's blog and Gayle's blog. Except that at this point I am not planning on posting a weekly menu. I will probably post daily what we are having along with the recipe for it. I am really psyched for this challenge. I think we will be surprised by how much money we save!

Our strategy is to put $30 in an envelope each week for the shopping. That is the only money allowed for shopping - debit cards and checks stay home! If we have money left over at the end of the week it stays in the grocery envelope for future purchases.

Tonight for supper we had vegetable soup, rolls, and milk. The soup was made with a small beef roast I had in the freezer. I laid it out yesterday to thaw. I cut it into bite-size pieces and browned them. I then threw them into the crockpot along with some frozen veggies, beef bouillon cubes, and water. I used up some sacks of veggies in the fridge that were stashed in there just waiting for such an occasion. You know the kinds, the ones that have a handful or two of veggies, not really enough for a serving but you can't bring yourself to throw them out! I also had some little alphabet pasta that I added in during the last half hour.

The rolls were made from frozen bread dough. I let it defrost and rise a bit then broke it into several pieces and rolled them in balls. I placed them in a greased circular cake pan and baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. I have to say the rolls were my favorite! With a little butter and honey or jelly - YUM!!

Yesterday we did go to the store and we spent right at $30 dollars - so this week I can't buy anything else. I will do my grocery shopping on Friday evening or sometime Saturday and will post my purchases afterwards.

The tip of the day will still remain on the blog along with my regular ramblings. : )

Speaking of which - today's tip of the day: If you buy a jar of pickles that you just love the taste of you can duplicate it when the jar is finished. Simply save the juice and slice a couple cucumbers really thin. Put the cucumber slices in the jar for a couple days. Voila! You have another jar of your favorite pickles! With only the cost of the cucumber - unless you grow your own! : )

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It came off!

Just in case anyone was wondering if the permanent marker came off the wall - Yes it did! I put a little rubbing alcohol on a sponge and gave it a little elbow grease. Off it came. However it did take off a little of the paint as well. A person probably wouldn't notice it unless they knew exactly where to look. April was confined to her room with no toys or anything last night after that happened. I can pretty much guarantee she will never do it again!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Where did she learn that?!?!

This evening April was a tad grouchy. She kept being bossy - which tends to be a huge problem. She told Layne and I that we were being naughty and that she was going to write our names on the wall. I said made a comment like "yeah go ahead and then you can go straight into your room and go to bed." Then I look over and see her with a PERMANENT MARKER writing on the wall!! I don't imagine that I have to tell you that she is in serious trouble. I already told her that if I can't get the marker off the wall in the dining room she will be paying for it with the money she has saved up in her change container.
This was not at all what I planned on posting for tonight. But I think I need to cool down a little more before I feel up to it!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Productive Day

Today I roasted my first chicken. And it turned out awesome!! It was beautiful and delicious. I couldn't believe how moist it was. I only wished it had produced more drippings for gravy. Here is what the chicken looked like:

Here is what it looked like on my plate (cause I know your curious!):

I also made some laundry soap today. This container will probably last us a couple months. It's so easy! Just mix together a box of Borax, a box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, and a grated bar of either Ivory or Fels Naptha. I am able to find the washing soda and Fels Naptha at my local Hy-Vee store in the laundry section.

I guess you could say that today was pretty productive! In addition to roasting a chicken and making laundry soap I made a loaf of "Mix-in Bread". This bread is so easy and yummy. I wish I had taken a picture but we ate the whole loaf before I thought of it. To make this bread you need one loaf of frozen bread. Place it in a greased loaf pan. Allow it to defrost and start to rise. When the loaf rises about 1/2 an inch above the pan you punch it down and "mix-in" an egg and what ever ingredients you would like. I'm not sure why exactly you need an egg, but I think it helps to bind everything together. This morning I added bacon bits and shredded cheddar. It's easiest to mix everything together using to butter knives to kind of chop the bread and get the little bits of food all over in the bread so it doesn't just lump together in one place. Then let the bread rise till it's about 1/2 an inch of the loaf pan again. Place it in an oven that's been preheated to 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. I have made this other ingredients such as an assortment of peppers, other cheeses, onions, ham, etc.

Today's tip: If you feel like eating food from your favorite restaurant but don't want to actually eat at the restaurant and have to pay for drinks or tips then call your order in and pick it up to go. My husband and I both like the Buffalo chicken salad from Chili's but when we go there to eat we often spend $25 or more. To satisfy our craving I'll phone in an order for 1 salad, a side of chips and salsa, and an order of steamed broccoli (for April). The total is around $12 and we get the food we want and pay far less than we would at the restaurant. The salad is massive and the food is more than enough to satisfy us. If you don't want to share a meal with your significant other then order two kids meals. They are usually under $5 each and are enough food for an adult! We have a folder in the kitchen by the phone that we keep all the menus for area restaurants in. While we don't eat out much, it is nice to have just in case.... : )