Monday, April 29, 2013

May Menu

I'm trying something a little bit different this month.   I'm going to try to plan out the meals we will eat for the entire month based on things that we have on hand and things that are on sale.  This morning I made a big trip to get some meats on sale at one of the local hispanic stores.  I spent just over $43 on 25lbs of beef and pork, as well as some cheap veggies, tomato sauce, and a 5lb bag of rice.  I will use this, along with items in my freezer, and will fill in side dishes from the produce we get from our Bountiful Baskets.

Here's the basket we got this weekend:

I plan to cook some meals and pull some meals from the freezer.  If you've been following long, you know that I can't seem to cook just one meal worth of food at a time, so the nights I do cook, we'll be eating AND adding back to the freezer.  Then I will use what I have in the freezer, and the extra deals I've picked up to plan another set of meals for next month.  That's the plan at least!

Here's the plan (in no particular order):

To Cook:
Red Beans and Rice x2 (plus freeze)
Spaghetti x2 (plus freeze)
Cheddar Chicken x2 (plus freeze)
Chicken & Broccoli x2 (plus freeze)
Shrimp Alfredo
Chicken Pot Pie (plus freeze)
Tacos x2 (plus freeze)
Hamburgers (plus freeze)
Pork steak  (I will likely cook in bulk and freeze)
Potato Soup (plus freeze)
Pancakes x4 (we have this about once a week)
Eggs x2 (we usually do this on busy nights, and hubby doesn't eat eggs, so he finishes off some leftovers)

To Pull From Freezer:
Taco Quiche
Pork Chops
Cabbage Soup
Ham Soup
Italian Sausage Soup
Beef Stew
Cabbage Casserole
Potato Soup

This plan will use up about half the meals already in my freezer, and add another roughly 25 to the freezer over the course of the month.  I like to keep about a month's worth in there at all times, so that will be perfect (plus I'm finishing off a lot of my cool weather food in time for summer).

I haven't worked out the order yet, not even for this week, but I do intend to do tacos tonight.  I bought 15 lbs of ground beef today, and tortillas, plus I have plenty of lettuce and tomato from the basket.  I intend to split the beef into 5 lb chunks and make taco, spaghetti, burger/meatball mixture.

I'm going to be pretty busy in the kitchen over the next few weeks, but it will be worth it to get my freezers stocked back up!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Last Minute Grocery Shopping: Saved 70%

Since I was feeling bad last week, I didn't make it out to any of the stores.  Today I realized that it had to be today, even though it was rainy and the temp was dropping rapidly.

First I went to Tom Thumb, aren't with a handful of store coupons (from the ad)/manufacturer coupons to stack.

Here's what I got at Tom Thumb:

Two Ken's @$0.99 each with store coupon--used 2 $1/1 =FREE
Two Danimals Crunchers @  $1.69 each--Used $1/2 printable= $1.19 each
Two Chex @  $0.99 each--Used $0.50/2 (doubled) = $0.49 each
Two Nature Valley @  $1.79 each--Used $0.50/2 (doubled) =  $1.29 each

Was a little bummed when I got to the store because only the Nature Valley Crunchy were included, and I prefer the sweet and salty variety, but I decided to give them a try anyway.

Total Shelf Price:  $25.32
Total Sale Price (After Store Coupon):  $10.92   (Already 57% savings)
Price Paid After Coupons:  $5.92  (77% Savings)

It also printed me a $5/$20 coupon good through the end of the month, so I'm hoping there's a good sale next week so I can make use of those extra savings!

Then it was off to Albertsons.  I grabbed a few Mega Items, and a few other things on my list, and then my coupons and I wandered around a bit, so I found a few things to buy that I had not intended to, but all good deals.

Here's what I grabbed:

There are two fuzzy impulse buys there in the foreground.   $9.99 slippers marked down to $2.49. I bought a size too big for each of my girls, and plan to keep them for stocking stuffers.  The little one was with me, but I told her she couldn't have them yet, and I'm betting she completely forgets before long.

I'm not going to itemize everything I bought in this trip, but I paid $30.57 in all, and my receipt says  I saved $64.92 so that means the shelf price of everything was $95.49, so I saved 68%.

All said today, I spent $36.49 on items that sale for $120.81, for an average of 70% saved at both stores.  That's right about where I like my savings rate to be when using coupons, and I was about to stock up on some snack items we've been without for quite some time around here.

Did you do any last minute shopping today?


Fun Free App: Pocket Penguins

I like free apps  (ok, well I like free stuff in general...).  I download a lot of free apps just to see if I like them for my kids.   Most of them I delete immediately.  Some bore them after a few uses.

Yesterday, I found one that I think they will ask to use over and over.

This app is from the California Academy of Sciences, and it is a live camera feed with three different views of a penguin habitat.   

My little one and I just had the best time watching the penguins swim and play over breakfast.  :)

There are some's dark, so you can't see anything.  This morning it was plenty bright though.   

I haven't used it enough yet to learn when they are most active and when feeding times will be, but I can see my older one watching the clock with anticipation during the summer.

The link above goes to the Amazon appstore, and will download an Android version.   I'm not sure if there is an iphone/ipad version.   I tried searching the itunes store and found nothing, but it's very possibly user error.  ;)  If anyone finds it on there, feel free to leave a link in the comments. 


Monday, April 22, 2013

Menu Plan 4/22

My menu's have been very hit and miss lately.  Last weekend my family was all recovering from strep, and then I came down with it too, so last week we went day by day and have a lot of breakfast food.

We had gotten a basket of produce, and were able to work a lot of it into our meals (like we made banana bread pancakes that I had found on pinterest).  We did not order our Bountiful Basket this past week, so I'm still trying to use up a few items we have on hand, and scraping the pantry and freezer until payday (friday) and new basket (saturday).

Here was last week's produce basket:

Most of this just went into a big salad, of which we have about half a mixing bowl left in the fridge.  I basically have mushrooms, zucchini, and the anaheim peppers left to use, and some apples and oranges.

So here is the plan:

Monday:  Meatballs and mashed potatoes (both from freezer) and frozen peas.

Tuesday:  Crockpot Beef Stroganoff  (I have stew meat in the freezer.  I have mushrooms.  I have cans of cream soup that need to get used.)

Wednesday:  Leftovers

Thursday:  Ham and bean soup (in freezer)

Friday:  Tilapia and I will figure out some sides (hoping the anaheims will last until then...want to stuff with cream cheese and wrap in bacon.

I'm only planning until basket day this week.

I am also planning on making zucchini bread (never tried this before) and some homemade crescent roll dough to make pigs in blankets with some little smokies sausages I got on sale.  Those will freeze well (if we don't devour them all, which we likely will) and will be great for lunches/lunchboxes.

What's on your menu this week?


Monday, April 8, 2013

Menu Plan April 8-14

I made my menu plan last night, but I didn't post it.   I didn't post it because I knew I was going shopping today and I would likely decide to use some of the things I bought in my menu.  I didn't go ahead and plan to use the things I bought in menu because, hey, sometimes it doesn't work out like that.

Today it didn't.   I went to one of the local hispanic stores because they had a ton of good meat deals, including one on shrimp, which was a slight splurge for us, but considering they were peeled already, and the price would have been a good price even if they were not, we went ahead and got some.   I also intended to buy some ground beef and pork chops they had advertised, but in the store there were no signs for those in the meat department, so I left without them.   I also left with fresh warm tortillas, $0.99 bacon  (yeah I bought 8 packs) and $1.59 shredded cheese (ditto).

So I've changed my plans and we are having soft tacos tonight :)

I also have our produce basket we got on Saturday to work into our menu:

Monday:  Soft tacos (I intended to use the ground beef I was going to buy, but will thaw a chub of ground turkey instead.  I'm making pinto beans also, and we will use some of the lettuce and tomatoes on those.

Tuesday:  (tutoring)  Pulling a soup from the freezer

Wednesday:  (husband gone)  Pulling a beef stew from the freezer.

Thursday:  (I may be gone)  Pulling red beans from the freezer.

Friday:  Hamburgers (shaped and in the freezer) and fries (I still have a bag of red potatoes in the pantry also)

Saturday:  Shrimp Alfredo, I will add some mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and the small sweet peppers from the basket to the sauce, and have either salad (if any lettuce remains) or asparagus on the side.   I sauted last basket's asparagus in some fresh chopped garlic and olive oil in a skillet and it was awesome.  My favorite way yet (its a new veggie for us!)

Sunday: Pancakes

I will also be attempting zucchini bread using the zucchini from the basket (never made that one before but i've heard it's good!), and I will be making up some freezer burritos and breakfast burritos using the rest of the tortillas I bought today.  Will be nice to have something different in the freezer.  It has been far too long since I've made any of those!

I think that will use up all of the veggies except the celery, which will probably get munched on with peanut butter, or I can always chop and freeze it.  The fruits will definitely get eaten.  I've ordered another basket for this Saturday (we usually do every other week) so I can't wait to see what we get and plan meals around it.

What will you be making this week?


Friday, April 5, 2013

Fun Frugal Snack: Peanut Butter & Bananas

I've browsed around on Pinterest a lot and have pinned a ton of things.. a lot of pretty brilliant things!  There are some smart, creative people out in the world!  I love learning from them!

I especially love learning about new ways to not let things go to waste.  I hate waste.

I found this idea intriguing, and decided to give it a try.  It's one of those that you can't really mess up (we've all seen those pinterest experiment disasters, right???)

So I  had a couple of bananas that were past their prime.  I normally make banana bread, but my recipe needs 3, and I only had two.

First you slice them.  Then you spread peanut butter on them.  Then you stick them together.

You can eat them like this if you like (I think my older girl would have prefered them this way), or you can pop them in the freezer, which is what I did.

My younger girl, who could live on peanut butter, loved them.  My oldest I don't think cared much for the frozen texture.  My husband just said interesting.   I personally detest bananas, so I have no opinion on the matter.  ;)


30 Day Home Cleaning Challenge: Day 4

Yesterday's challenge was to surface clean an extra room.  I had originally thought that I was going to clean up our office, but I had a slight change of plans. ;)

I made all my shopping lists intending to go shopping, and then decided that it was too late in the morning and too cold to start out, so I decided to go up to the elementary school and have lunch with my daughter.

Came back home, got my youngest all tucked in and napping, brewed some fresh hot coffee (I'd had some iced that morning and it just was not doing the trick! lol) and was ready to get to work!  Only it was already after 2pm!

I knew that my original plan to finish all the laundry, spend 15 minutes in the kitchen, and clean up the office were not going to happen.

I am happy to say that the laundry is DONE!  However, when I took a look at what was left to do in my kitchen, I noticed that one of my major remaining tasks was to straighten and wipe down my laundry cart.   You see, the far left side of my kitchen houses my washing machine, and my dryer is in the garage.

So, I don't have a laundry room, but two separate laundry areas.  I know it's a cop out, but yesterday I decided that my kitchen task was going to be one and the same as my extra room task.

Here's what I had to deal with:

Things had fallen over and not been uprighted, and otherwise just tossed and shoved into there.  Not that big of a deal, but sort of an eyesore in the kitchen.  What you can't see is that, because this sits amid my food preparation area, beneath all of that there always accumulates a layer of crumbs and gunk.  That cart even has 3 shelves, and yesterday I found a dried up piece of broccoli down on the bottom one.   I fail to even see how that is even possible!

Much better!  All wiped down and uprighted.   I moved some of the things causing the pile up issues back down to lower the cart had been rolled out to retrieve them, but they had just been sat back on the top shelf.  I even found room for my box of Borax that had been living on the left edge of my washer.

Today's challenge task says to surface clean living room and kitchen.  I have a few toys to straighten up in the living room, and I've been pretty well keeping up with the kitchen all week, but I do need to clean out and wipe down inside my fridge in preparation for my Bountiful Basket we are picking up on Saturday morning.   And I will be making a large shopping excursion this morning.  A busy end to a busy week, but I'm pretty pleased with the progress I've made around here!

How is your challenge coming along?


Thursday, April 4, 2013

30 Day House Cleaning Challenge: Day 3

Yesterday's challenge was to surface clean the bedrooms.   My husband had unknowingly helped me out with that Tuesday night by having my girls clean their rooms while I was away.

Our room was not looking so hot, however.   We had gotten pretty lazy with putting shoes away (mostly myself I admit).  Things had not gotten put away on the bookshelf properly, hangers were left on the floor.

Here is the cleaned space.

And here is the surprising part---That took me all of 5 minutes!  11 minutes total spent cleaning this room, and then vacuuming this room, oldest daughter's room, and hallway.  My husband was quite impressed!

I also washed all the bedding in our room and remade the bed.

Then I moved into the kitchen.  I said I would spend 15 minutes each day this week cleaning/decluttering in my kitchen, and I must admit that I'm running out of things to declutter....except for those ones that I just do not want to the cabinet with all the plastic containers and scrubbing the fridge shelves  (ICK!).

Yesterday, I decided to rearrange and inventory the small over the fridge freezer.  I found that I had a lot more frozen fruit than I realize.   I do a really good job of preserving things before they spoil...but they never seem to make it out of the freezer.  I see some smoothies in our future!  I also straightened the things on top of the fridge and redid my dry erase calendar on the fridge and made it be April.  Not cleaning, I know, but it needed to be done.  ;)

Then there was mount laundry to tackle.

That poor little squished penguin.

That is 5 (!!) days worth (seriously...we emptied that basket on Saturday!), minus all the stuff that hangs, because I tend to hang that up right out the dryer, and of course not counting all the washed bedding.

I tried.  Really I did.   I was separating it all, tossing the towels and washcloths to my girls to fold because that is their job.  Somewhere in the midst of tossing laundry around into piles, something in my back got really angry at me*, and I ended up having to spend the rest of the evening on a heating pad in that freshly made bed.

I'm feeling a lot better today, and at least the towels are done, right?

Today's task is to surface clean an extra room.   I choose our office/guest room.  I won't be able to clean it completely because my husband has sort of turned the bed into a table for his grading papers, but I need to straighten up a bit and vacuum, and also vacuum the younger ones room (she was sleeping yesterday).

I'm going to make one more attempt at finishing up that laundry (adding today's load to it of course), and then maybe, just maybe, I can get back to my one complete load a day schedule.  The aftermath of headlice/bedwetting is brutal!

I am hoping to also get in my kitchen cleaning today, and also get some grocery shopping done.

How did your day go yesterday?

*Note:  I've had issues with my back on and off since a car accident in college.  I know my body has limits that I frequently ignore and later regret.  So no, I did not just happen to randomly hurt myself doing laundry. ;)  I've been pushing myself hard for three days now and it caught up with me, but I'm ready to go again!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

30 Day House Cleaning Challenge: Day 2

I told you yesterday that I have decided to blog along with the 30 Day House Cleaning Challenge.  Once again, I was far too tired to get this up last night, so here is a quick update on my progress for day 2.

Yesterday's task was to surface clean the bathrooms.  I have two bathrooms in my house, and I intended to give them both a quick wipe down, but I only got to the one in the hall...the kids bathroom.   Last I had checked it wasn't too bad.  Ever since I implemented my $2 basket system things have stayed pretty neat on the counter.

When I walked in yesterday morning, however, I had to call for back-up.  Namely, the three year old.   Apparently she felt she needed bathroom reading material (thus there was a stack of about 8 princess books on the counter) and also music (her toy keyboard was set up in front of the toilet) while she was doing water art (there were wet paintbrushes lined up along the side of the tub beside rubber duckies and naked Barbies).

I find that sometimes it's better just not to ask.  So I called her in there and had her return all those things to their proper place and pick up a few bath toys that were scattered on the floor while I wiped everything down and then I got the floor swept.

I also spent my 15 minutes decluttering in my kitchen like I said I was going to do all week.  In that time I was able to tackle the cups, the top of the hutch (meds and cereals are up there) and the utensil drawer.  The cups and utensils have been taking a hit lately since we've been having the girls help with unloading the dishwasher, but they are learning!

I didn't make it to that laundry pile yesterday though.  I made my husband bring it in from the garage last night so it was ready for me today.  He was very surprised to see that a stack up to my chest had accumulated just since last Friday when we all folded a basket the same size.   I'm pretty sure he thought we were doing about 2 weeks worth of laundry that day instead of 4-5 days worth.  Now he gets it!

I think the hardest thing for me is trying to tack on extra tasks while still keeping up with the normal everyday tasks that have to be done each and every day (dishes/laundry, etc.), especially when I have places to go!  I'm going to be gone this morning to a ladies Bible Study so I'm really going to have to make myself get stuff done when I get home after lunch.

Today's task is going to be to surface clean the bedrooms.  My lovely husband had both the girls straighten their rooms while I was off tutoring last night, so I will just have to tidy up our room, wash our sheets, and vacuum the three floors.  I am still going to try to spend 15 minutes tackling something in the kitchen, and conquer the laundry.  I'm thinking that might be saved for in front of the tv this evening.  ;)

Are you following along with this challenge?  How did it go yesterday?  What will you tackle today?


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

30 Day House Cleaning Challenge: Day 1

Yesterday, MoneySavingMom and a ton of other bloggers kicked off a 30 Day House Cleaning Challenge.  I was a little bit on the fence about if I wanted to blog along with it or not.  I've sort of taken a blogging hiatus lately, my mind being on my tutoring mostly.  But now that I'm doing less of that I wanted to get back to blogging, and I actually have tons of posts in mind to share with you.  But, I also am needing to whip my house back into shape!  So, I thought that blogging along with this would give *me* motivation to stick with it and get it done.

I meant to post this last night, but I was so motivated to get stuff done around here yesterday, I actually wore myself out and was so tired I totally forgot about posting this yesterday!  Oops!  I guess I'm off to a pretty good start on the challenge, but not the blogging!

Using this list, yesterday's task was to surface clean living room and kitchen.

My living room was not too bad, as we had just had a long tedious struggle over the weekend getting the girls to pick up their things off the floor.  I'm fairly convinced that past infancy (when small objects are obviously magnified), they become completely invisible to children's eyes!

So, all I had left to do in the living room was to vacuum.  But, oh.....the kitchen!

I told you in my menu/declutter plan yesterday that I planned to spend 15 minutes each day cleaning my kitchen.  Well, I decided to begin with just the surfaces yesterday (stick to the challenge, right?) but I figured it would take me a bit longer, so I turned on PBS, set my timer for 20 minutes, and set to work wiping things down--counters, cabinets, appliances.   When the timer went off, I was *nearly* finished wiping all the kitchen surfaces. I had just sprayed down the stove top with my homemade orange vinegar spray (posting soon) so I kept going and got that finished up, but I still had to do dishes (several that had to be hand washed as well) and then sweep and mop the kitchen.  

I got all of that accomplished, plus washing 4 loads of laundry (I have to fold it all today....and of course we had a bed wetting last night so there is more bedding to wash) and preparing our soup for tonight...its all in the pot in the fridge, I just have to pull it out and pop it on the stove!

So, I was busy, busy, busy yesterday!  But, it was well worth it when my oldest got home from school and walked into the kitchen for her snack and said "Wow!  I like how you have the kitchen all clean and organized!"

We were even able to have a little relaxing family time after dinner.   We took the girls and their Dollar Tree kites from their Easter baskets and went over to the park for a bit.

I think it was a fabulous start to the month of April, and so very refreshing after the rough few weeks we've had around here!

How did your day go?

Today's challenge is cleaning the bathrooms, but I still want to spend 15 minutes in my kitchen, and get my laundry folded, but I'm pretty tired after that 4am bedwetting escapade, so we will see how it goes.  I'm also challenging myself to not take naps during the day.  This might be a rough one!  LOL


Monday, April 1, 2013

Menu Plan (Yes! I Have One!) And Declutter Plan

It's been a rough few weeks around here.  Almost comical looking back on it.  Nothing majorly bad, just annoying and time consuming and incessant.

I'm glad to, at least seemingly, be getting a breather, and I am going to try to get back on top of things around here.  Seems like I've just been treading water since spring break.  

But it's a whole new month now.  I'm not sure why, but new months give me motivation.  It feels like a good time to make a fresh start, and when they start on a Monday, it just seems like a little voice from Heaven telling me that now is the time.

So I made a menu plan.  On Sunday night (which is always my intention that never seems to happen).  It's pretty simple, but that's a good thing.

Monday:  Saturday I made a pot of Great Northern Beans.  I've never cooked them, but I found them marked down at Aldi since their expiration date was approaching, so I decided to give them a try.   We liked them!  Which is good because I have a whole crock pot full!  We ate them over rice and with cornbread.  We will eat more tomorrow, and I will freeze the rest.

Tuesday:  I have some leftover grilled chicken leg quarters from friday.  I also have some veggies, including a large cabbage, that I need to use up.   I'm going to boil the chicken, pick the meat off for the soup, and use the stock from the bones as the base.  I found an intriguing chicken cabbage soup recipe on pinterest that I will attempt.

Wednesday:  Leftovers.  I sure hope it's good!  (Will freeze the rest.)

Thursday:  Pork chops (pre-cooked from freezer) and roasted cauliflower

Friday:  Spaghetti from freezer
Saturday:  Chicken Taco Quiche from freezer

Sunday:  Pancakes

I'm continuing my trend of adding a few things to the freezer while taking a few things out each week.   This allows me to only cook 2-3 nights each week and still keep a nice rotation of freezer meals.  I usually have over a month's worth at all times, but we've been eating from the freezer a lot, and I was down to 26 currently, but that is still very helpful on busy nights!

I was also trying to make a habit of doing 15 minutes of decluttering a day.  That habit got totally derailed!  I'm trying to get back on top of that this month.   This week I have not assigned specific tasks to days, but I intend to spend 15 minutes each day reorganizing my kitchen.  Things have gotten tossed around and need to be put back in order, so I will set my timer and get to work on a task.  If I finish before my timer, I will begin another until time runs out.   My kitchen should be looking pretty good by the end of the week!


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