Monday, December 31, 2012

Menu Plan 12/30-1/6

We got back into town yesterday afternoon, and it was one of those occasions where I am truly grateful to have pre-prepared food in my freezer at the ready.  I was able to pull a nice dinner out and just make fresh rice to go along with it instead of running out to spend ungodly amounts of money on fast food yet again.  (I seriously do not even want to discuss the $20  for beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde!)

I know that I'm not going to have all my new year planning and preparations in place until a week into it, so I've planned a menu around my existing freezer meals once again this week.

Sunday:  My daughter asked for red beans and rice when we got in.  She was in luck!  I had one container left!

Monday:  Turkey Pot Pie

Tuesday:  Chicken Alfredo

Wednesday:  Use up the leftovers!

Thursday:  Spaghetti

Friday:  Pork Stew

Saturday:  Cabbage Roll Casserole

Sunday:  Use up the leftovers!


I also did a quick inventory of my over the fridge freezer and found some breakfast breads and a couple lunch items that we will be using up in the coming weeks, and then I will begin planning cooking sessions to replenish these things.

What is on your menu plan this week?

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Back In Town And Already Finding Deals At Aldi

It's been over a week since you guys have heard from me, and that is because we were out of town.  Now I brought my laptop with me on the trip, but once we got there, I decided not to use it.  In fact, I never even took it out of the bag and turned it on!  And it felt fabulous! ;)

But now I'm back, and trying to get back into the swing of things and plan for the new year (I'll share some of that a bit later).

We got home around 3pm yesterday, unpacked the van, discovered our betta fish was dead, tried to do laundry only to remember that I was completely OUT of laundry detergent, grabbed my pre-written list of things I was not shopping for before we left, and headed out to Aldi.

We had run out of a lot of things, in fact our fridge was nearly empty!  Were it not for my dad and his chickens and citrus trees (he sent us back with eggs and oranges) I think it would have only contained a single slice of cheese (of which I forgot to purchase more), and half a tub of margarine, and also some aging onions.

So off I went, and as usual I found a couple of things that were not on my list that I simply could not pass up.

#1:  Ham.  

All of their hams were $3 off, making this one that I brought home just $6.15.


We will slice some, and dice some, use some for sandwiches, use some for noodle salads, and freeze the rest.

#2:  Stuffing.

Herb stuffing to be exact.   It's my favorite of their stuffing flavors, and it is a seasonal item so they only sale it twice a year during the winter holidays and Easter.  My husband bought 4 boxes before we left when he saw it marked down for $0.69, but when I went in yesterday, it was marked down even farther...just $0.25 a box!



I bought 8.

They also had lots of their toys and candies reduced in price, so be sure to look all around for seasonal markdowns next time you are in Aldi, or perhaps hurry over before they are all gone!

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Thrifty Christmas Dress Shopping

I have two daughters, 3 years apart.  Sometimes they can be a pain, like all kids can be.  They fight alot and just plain get on each others nerves.  BUT they can SHARE everything.  They like the same toys so they can be passed down, but mostly what they can share are CLOTHES!


This really only benefits the younger one, obviously, and being only 3 she doesn't tend to mind yet because it all seems new to her.  Plus, I have had really good luck finding nice school clothes for my oldest at garage sales in my neighborhood.

But, Christmas is fast approaching, and of course my younger girl has a lovely dress that was worn only once or twice by her sister, but I didn't have a dress for my oldest, and a new Christmas dress was certainly NOT in the budget!  And it's been too cold for garage sales, so I was wondering whatever I would do!

Earlier this week when my husband was home sick, I was able to escape and go grocery shopping by myself, and when I got to the store I recalled that there was a very nice thrift store in the same shopping center, so I decided to run in and have a look around.  I was very pleased with what I found!  It is black velvet at the top and red silky shiny material at the bottom, and in near perfect condition!


The dress itself was a size 7 (just what I needed!), but sleeveless, marked half off of its original price for $4.54.  I did a little bit more looking around for a black or red shirt to go under it, but instead I found the velvet sweater cover up in the exact same shade of black velvet!  It looked like it was made to go together, except I knew it wasn't since the sleeve part was a size 6 (a little short maybe but they look like 3/4 sleeves so its all good!).  And it was marked half off as well, for only $0.99.

My total, including tax, came out to $5.99, and it fit her perfectly, if not a little on the large side, so she should be able to wear it for a while!  She has even already begged me if she can wear it to her school party next Friday!  

What have you bought second hand lately that has filled a need that you had?

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

FREE E-Book Today From My Favorite Author!

I blame my sister-in-law.   She has a Jane Austen fetish.  She raved and raved about Pride and Prejudice.   Now I'm an educated person, and I enjoy reading classic literature, but I had never read this one.  Then I found a copy for a quarter at a garage sale a few years back, the day before I went into labor with my youngest, in fact.   I was up all those late night nursing sessions, and decided to read it, you know...since I was awake and all.  I quite enjoyed it, and that got me started reading ALOT of books set in England during that time period.  Seriously, I think I've spent way too much time there.

I also have sort of this obsession with free Kindle downloads.  Not a bad thing really, since I love to read and books are expensive.  But then I end up finding a book I REALLY like, and I wish to read more books by the author, and then I have to hunt them down at the library, and there are interlibrary loans and all that fun stuff.

Well, one author I really have enjoyed is Julie Klassen.  She herself is a huge fan of Jane Austen, and her books are all set in the same time period and place.  I begin reading The Apothecary's Daughter (which was free when I got it, but not now ($4.05 currently)--one of my fav's by the way!  I even got aforementioned sister-in-law engrossed in it during a visit.), and then I hunted down the rest and read all 5 of her novels, and am impatiently awaiting my chance to read her latest.

But, TODAY one of her books is FREE for Kindle, so if you enjoy this type of fiction, I highly suggest you grab it and read it!  I downloaded it, and I'm not one to re-read novels!




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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Persimmons!

I told you guys about the persimmons that I had received in my bountiful basket last week.   When we got them, they were totally soft.  You broke the skin and it was complete puree!  We were told that they should be that way, and they certainly weren't rotten, but they were definitely too messy to eat as a fruit, so I went on pinterest and did a little digging.

The first recipe I came across that sounded pretty good was this persimmon cookie with orange glaze.  I whipped up a bowl of the cookie mix, but I did not feel like making the glaze, so I popped open a tub of cream cheese frosting instead, and it did the trick. ;)  Not my most favorite cookies ever, but still pretty good for trying to use up an item you've never eaten before and did not even know if you liked!  Sorry folks, I didn't snap a pic of these.

I thought that I was only going to need to come up with one recipe, since I only had 4 little persimmons, but alas, my cookies only used up 2 of them, so back to pinterest I went.  This time I found bread.

This persimmon cranberry bread recipe to be precise.  The recipe called for dried cranberries, but I had some fresh ones left over from Thanksgiving that I needed to use up, so I thought it would be a win-win.

I only had two persimmons remaining, so since this recipe made two loaves, I halved it and only made one loaf.  I still found myself a little bit short on persimmon pulp, so I added an applesauce cup to equal out the amount of puree I needed.   (I often substitute this for an egg in my banana bread as well.  Makes it very moist, and lets me leave out a bit of the sugar in the recipe).

Here's the loaf fresh out the oven.

Here's a slice all nice and buttered up.  =)

I thought the bread came out very good.  My girls did not like the fresh cranberries in there and picked them out.  I honestly probably could have used less, even up to half of what I added (I sort of did the sprinkle until it looked about right method).   There were quite a few per slice, and they were pretty tart!  But all in all, not a bad recipe.

I have 9 more smaller persimmons this week (they seem to be a different variety, and much firmer!), so I'm thinking of attempting this bread one more time, and using a bag of chocolate covered raisins I got marked down for $0.79 at Aldi instead of the cranberries.  Chocolate makes everything better, right?  Sounds like a pretty delicious substitution to me!

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Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things (+ My Menu For Two Weeks)

Last week I posted a menu, and promised some recipes, and then all was silent.   If you follow  me on facebook, you might have seen my post that my cold had taken a turn for the worse on Monday night.  On Wednesday morning I went to the doctor as a walk-in, and emerged an hour and a half later with a diagnosis of bronchitis with ear infection and a stack of 6 prescriptions to get filled!

I did little more than rest for the rest of the week.   My husband instructed me to leave him lists of things that needed to get done and he handled it all when he got home from work.  My freezer meals came in very handy because he was able to just grab something and thaw it!

By the weekend I was feeling a little bit better, which was good because we had a very busy Saturday.

By Sunday I was nearly back to normal, but my oldest daughter was not quite acting herself.   That night when we showed up at church for Awana, she got sick in the bathroom stall.  When I got her back home the husband got sick, too.   They were both home yesterday, and the husband is still home today, so my week has been a little bit off.

I am trying to get back into normal mode, while also planning to be leaving town at the end of next week.   My goal is to not have to buy any more groceries until then (I went to Aldi yesterday and bought all we should need except I think I may need more bread in a few days and that's all).

This morning I took inventory of my freezer to see what all we had left after my absence from the meal preparation scene (we also sent a few meals to a sick friend).  I still have a bunch of ready made meals, but we also have a whole lot of meat that needs to be cooked and turned into ready made meals, but I will be saving most of that for when we return.

Here's what I found in my freezer:



I also got another basket of produce this past week so that we would have plenty of time to get all of that used up before we left town, as well.

Here is what was in my basket:


All of that dark green leafy stuff on the left is 3 bunches of radishes.  There are 9 more persimmons in the front, lettuce, grapes, broccoli, yellow (6) & zucchini (2) squash, cucumbers (2), mushrooms, 3 bells, papaya and bananas (8).

I also bought 2 packs of blackberries (gone!), apples, pears, oranges, and sweet potatoes.  If we don't finish those up, they can be travel snacks, but I do have my work cut out for me!


Here is my plan:

Monday (last night):  We had eggs and toast.
Tuesday (tonight):  Meat Loaf Muffins and Mashed Potatoes (both from freezer), fried yellow squash.
Wednesday:  Hubby will grill 10lbs of marinated leg quarters (will freeze the leftovers) and salad.
Thursday:  Provencal Pork (from freezer)
Friday:  Leftovers
Saturday:  Chicken Alfredo (from freezer) and more salad  (I had lettuce from my basket, but I also have some growing in my garden)
Sunday:  Turkey Pot Pie
Monday: Chicken Taco Quiche
Tuesday:  Cabbage Casserole
Wednesday:  Spaghetti
Thursday:  Clean Out The Leftovers
Friday:  Sandwiches and fruit in the van on the road to Louisiana!


That's the plan anyways!  When we get back home it will be New Year's and I will have a ton of fun trying to cook my way through all the meat I have out the in freezer!

What is on your menu this week?

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Menu Plan 12/3

I got another produce basket from Bountiful Baskets this weekend.   It seemed a little on the sparse side, but I think that's too be expected in the winter.   I really can't wait to see the summer baskets!   I think this one might just seem to be getting used up a lot faster because we did/will use a lot of it together.

Here's what we got:


There was a small watermelon, cantaloupe, and papaya, 6 fuji apples, bananas, and 4 persimmons (those are the red tomato looking things in front--never even seen one before!).  For veggies we got a pack of mushrooms (which we don't care for, but I intend to make homemade cream of mushroom soup for the freezer), 6 roma tomatoes, romaine (I think) lettuce, broccoli, and rainbow carrots.   (I'm pretty excited to try a purple carrot!)

Now most of the veggies will just go into a big salad, and the melons we've already diced up and eaten/stored away in the fridge, and I think there will be smoothies.

I'm kinda glad there wasn't too much thought and creativity going into this week's basket (except the persimmons~more on that tomorrow!) because my husband and I have both been a little bit sick, and the house is showing that!  Because of that, I'm mostly going to be grabbing from the freezer for dinners this week.

Here's the plan:

Breakfasts:
Persimmon cookies
Persimmon bread  (recipes coming tomorrow!)
oatmeal
cereal
carrot muffins (from freezer)

Lunches:
Ramen & Chef Boyardee  (yep...after shopping and baking that was it for me!)
fish sticks
sandwiches x3  (ham, peanut butter, tuna)
salad

Dinners:
Turkey soup (already thawing)
Beef stroganoff (assuming I get that cream of mushroom made....or It's not like I don't have a can of it sitting around...)
Roast
Italian Sausage Soup x2  (cooking this one fresh, but will freeze a lot of it)
(Saturday Night church this week so perhaps eat out??)
Turkey Pot Pie


What are you having this week?

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Silk Coupons!

You guys know I LOVE me some Dark Chocolate Almond Silk.   Well I haven't had any in a very long time, so let me just tell you how excited I was to see these two coupons!



Right now at Tom Thumb, these are $3.49, so with these coupons they will be $2.49 and $2.74 respectively.  (This isn't really a "sale" as I've seen them much cheaper, but its the only place I see advertising them this week.)  I'll be on the lookout though!  Or there's always Target!


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Aldi Trip: Lots Of Markdowns!

I was needing quite a few things from Aldi this week, but not quite as many as I ended up coming home with!   I really am a sucker for things marked down.  If its something we use, i have a really hard time passing up a good deal even if we don't need it right away.

Case in point:




That's over 5lbs of ground beef for $7.03.   Now right now, I have a TON  (okay maybe slightly less) of uncooked meat in my freezer, but none of it is ground beef.   I could have easily passed this up, but I didn't.   I did talk myself out of buying a 2nd package, though.

In the front of the store, there was a large markdown rack with lots of Italian-y things on it.   We like Italian-y things.   There were also some breakfast-y things.  We like those, too.



Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce-  $0.85 each.

Four Cheese Tortellini--$1 each  (these actually rang up $1.49 on my receipt.   I went back and showed the cashier-who I believe was a manager, and he simply opened the drawer and handed me $1).

"Cream of Wheat" -$1

Steel Cut Oats  $1.25


Now I'm pretty new to this whole healthy foods thing, so somebody please tell me the difference between a steel cut oat and a regular oat, and anything important I may need to know about them.

There were also a LOT of produce markdowns ($0.29 celery, $0.49 cranberries, $0.49 sweet potatoes, $0.69 yellow onions), but as I've ordered my Bountiful Basket I wanted to wait until Saturday to see what I would get.  I did get a bag of red delicious apples because my girls can't seem to get enough apples, so even if we get apples Saturday, I've no doubt they will still get used up.

Here's everything:

Spent roughly $53.  Add that with the $15 for the produce basket, and I've used up $68 of my $70 for the week, so hopefully that is all I need! ;)


I will add one thing that I noticed that really impressed me.  Aldi's yogurt...has no artificial dyes in it!   I've had issues with yogurts before with my oldest daughter.   Aspartame and red dye hype her up beyond belief!.  Yogurts in the past have contained both of those.   Aldi's yogurt...carrot juice for coloring!  NICE!  One less worry for me!  And only $0.39!

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Garden Update

This year is the first year I've ever planted a fall garden, and I must say I've been very impressed with it.   My summer gardens have never fared well in this Texas heat, so I figured that planting a fall one might be worth a shot.

So far, it is looking more beautiful than any summer garden of mine ever has!

And yes, you can see my weenie dogs play fighting in the front.


I've already harvested some lettuces and swiss chard to mix in a salad.

The top is a type of leaf lettuce (It's kind of bitter so I won't recommend it), and the bottom is Arugula, looking kind of sparse because I'd trimmed it the day before.


I actually am seeing some beans and peas growing finally!  I've always had issues with my produce growing big enough to harvest.  They seem to stall out so I'm holding my breath on these!

A few green beans, that appear larger in this picture than they actually are.

My first pea, and I've since noticed a few more!

I'm pretty excited about my huge pot of carrots!  I tried them once before in the ground here (do not recommend!) and they got about an inch long.    I have a friend from church who has a very nice container garden, and a husband with a very green thumb, and I saw pictures of her carrots last year, and also a picture on pinterest showing how they grew well in a deep pot, so I tried it, and I have to say, so far so good!

Carrots in front, the old ice chest in the back contains a winter squash.   I'm not going to get too excited about it because borer bugs have gotten to every single squash plant I have ever attempted growing, and I did find a larva wrapped in a dead leaf in there with it last week, so apparently getting them off of the ground doesn't help too much!

Now this one is the biggest and most beautiful plant I've got growing, only I have no idea what it is!   Well, that's not entirely true.   I have 4 ideas what it could be!   You see, I planted broccoli, cauliflower  and green and purple cabbage.    Two sprouted, two did not, and I cannot recall which order I potted them in.  So this is one of those 4, and I have another smaller one in a nearby pot that looks pretty much identical, so I guess I'm playing a waiting game!  Unless one of you has any guesses?

To the left of this one, you can see a rather large tomato plant.   I did not actually plant this tomato plant.  My summer garden contained tomatoes in that pot, and two sprung up from the soil uninvited.  I actually had to transplant my other smaller unknown vegetable when I realized that there where actually two types of plants growing in that pot.   Ii didn't think tomatoes did well in cooler weather, but hey...this is Texas!  We shall see what happens!



So there you have it!  That is the current state of my garden as of a few days ago  (I've been fighting with blogger to allow me to upload pictures for 3 days now, and I was finally able to figure out a way to get around my issue with the advice of some very nice bloggers!  *mwuah*).  As my summer garden this year was very disappointing, I am quite thrilled about the state of things!

I still need to learn about what to do when freezing strikes, because, this being Texas, that comes on without warning sometimes.   Thankfully the coldest its been has been around 36 so far, and nice mild temps are still showing up in the forecast, so I'm really hopeful for good results from this crop!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Menu Plan

I didn't post my menu plan last week, as I had family visiting and with Thanksgiving and all, everything was just a bit left up in the air.  Except for Thursday's meal.  I had that planned out a week in advance, and I just finished dealing with all of the leftovers yesterday.

After putting 4 turkey soups and 4 turkey pot pies in my freezer yesterday, I took inventory this morning, and found that I had 51 (yes 51!) cooked meals in my freezer, and a whole LOT of frozen meat needing to be cooked!

So my menu for the next week(s) is totally from my freezer.  We plan to be out of town for some amount of time over the Christmas holidays, so I suppose I will resume some cooking after that.  But I seriously should not have to buy meat for at least 2 months.

Here is what I've written down for this week:

Breakfasts:
eggs x2
banana bread
carrot muffins
cereal x2
toast

Lunches:
Chicken nuggets x2
tuna fish sandwiches
hot dogs
sandwiches
fruit/salad

Dinners:
Ham & Broccoli Quiche
Pork Stew
Kung Pao Pork
Lasagna x2
Meatballs
Soup (of some sort, I believe I have 5 types in the freezer!)


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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Menu...A Bit Late

I really did have this menu finished up last night, I just didn't get it posted.   I did not make a menu last week, as my mom was visiting and helping with the menu/cooking.  This Friday, my husband's parents and his younger sister will be coming in town to stay next week for Thanksgiving, and I will also be picking up another basket of produce from Bountiful Baskets (I skipped last week because we were completely inundated with produce!), so I cannot wait to see what I will get and use it to plan meals for my guests.

But this week, I had just a few produce items left to use up, and them I'm employing my most loved appliance...my slow cooker!

Sunday:  We took a chicken soup out of the freezer.

Monday:  Took some pork chops out of the freezer, and I made a cream soup from some leftover spaghetti squash, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.   It was my first time making anything of the sort, and I just sort of tossed things in the pot with some homemade vegetable broth (which was nothing more than the water that the veggies were boiled in on Saturday, which my husband encouraged me to save).   I added some milk, flour, and a can of cream of chicken, and seasoned it up a bit.   It had a strange grainy texture (I guess I should have left them in the blender a bit longer), but it tasted good.   My husband filled up on soup and hardly touched his pork chop, if you can believe that!

Tuesday:  I still have broccoli to use.   I'm going to take some pre-cooked ground beef out of the freezer, and use it and some cream soup to make a beef and broccoli stroganoff type of dish and serve over pasta.  Another made up dish, so I will hope for the best!

Wednesday:  I am going to use some beef shank from my freezer and make a vegetable beef soup in my crock pot.

Thursday:  Leftovers, and I'm sure to have some to freeze as well.

Friday:   This is the day the guests arrive.  I'm making a large crockpot full of red beans and sausage, served over rice.  I will use up the last of some corn bread muffins from my freezer, also.

Saturday:  Leftovers.   And hopefully some to freeze, also.   This is both my girls favorite meal, so I like to have some always in the freezer, and I've been out for quite a while.


What are you having this week?

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Shopping Trip: Kroger And Albertsons

I *finally* made it out to the store and used some coupons again today!   It had been so long that I was afraid I had forgotten how, but everything went very well.  I even was able to get some Halloween markdowns!

Here's what I picked up at Kroger:




Shelf Price:  $52.18
Sale Price:   $28.20    (already 46% savings)
Price Paid After Coupons:  $21.20      59% Savings


Here's what I picked up at Albertsons:


Shelf Price:  $62.21
Sale Price:   $24.56  (Already  61 % Savings)
Price Paid After Coupons:  $16.66    73 % Savings



Altogether today, I spent $37.86 on $114.39 worth of groceries.  That's an average savings of  67%!

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Friday, November 2, 2012

November Is My Favorite Time To Coupon (Plus New Coupons!)

To be perfectly honest, I've not done a whole lot of couponing lately.   In fact, I'm pretty sure it's been over a month since I've used one.   I've mostly been buying cheap meats and produce on sale and planning my menus around these fresh items, and I've been using up my stockpile of toiletries.  Those are getting pretty low now.  In fact, I think I can count my toothpaste tubes on one hand!  Tsk.  Tsk.

On Wednesday when I saw this week's sale items, I knew that I had to work very hard to get my coupons in order, because it is that time of year again!   What time of year is that?   Holiday season!

Yes I know that many stores have been stocking their holiday merchandise for WEEKS now, but I'm not talking about buying presents.   I'm talking about all the COOKING!   And because the food manufacturers know that a ton of extra cooking goes on during and leading up to the holidays, they put items on SALE *and* they put out coupons for those items!

When items are on sale and there is a coupon to match with that sale price, that is the best time to buy because you are going to get the lowest price on that item.  When you can buy an item at it's lowest price, then you should buy as many as you are able to (within reason!) for maximum savings.   Those savings will carry over into future months when those items are no longer on sale, but you don't have to buy them because you stocked up when they were!  I like to have about a 3-4 month supply of things on hand, as that typically will last until there is another sale and another coupon.

Some can goods will keep for a VERY long time though.  I still have canned tomatoes and cream soups that I bought this time last year, and I am finally working my way to the end of the FREE pasta I got a LONG while back!  That means it's time for me to shop again!

If you happen to have a massive stockpile, but still want to snag these deals again, now is a perfect time to think about donating some of the items that might be nearing their expiration date to a food bank or shelter.  I know many kind-hearted couponers shop throughout the year with this in mind.

If you do not have a reasonable stockpile, now is a great time to work on building one!  Here are the lastest holiday coupons that will help you get started with that:  (If you happen to not be able to see the coupons below, please click here.)





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