Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Success!

Weeeellll... after Monday's shopping trip being over by a "lot", I was stressing about if I had come in "under budget" on average for this month. I quickly pulled my information together to find out!!

Sept. 2: $22.24
Sept. 8: $22.41
Sept. 15: $21.99
Sept. 22: $23.89
Sept. 29: $31.51

This totals to $122.04, which averages out to $24.40/week. Whew! The 25 lbs. of sugar yesterday really put me close. I wouldn't have gotten it if I wasn't doing the wedding cake this weekend, but I needed more sugar for that, but it wasn't going to be enough to merit buying with the cake money since most of it would be for our personal use.So... I guess I did ok :) I wouldn't mind seeing a little less for an average, but hey, it's still less than $25 a week, so I'll take it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday's Menu & Groceries

2 pks BallPark Beef Bunsize hotdogs: $4.00 (had a $1 off 2 coupon)
16 oz. sour cream: $1.26
16oz. bacon: $2.68
celery: $1.48
frozen broccoli: $1.98
2 cans red beans: $1.00
12 pk. Pepsi: $3.00
big bag Doritos: $3.50
25lb sugar (not pictured): $11.82
Total: $31.51
over budget: $6.51 :(

I got kinda frustrated with myself... mostly for going "over", but also because when we got home I realized I could've saved a little, but I hadn't thought about those ideas until we were home!! I totally forgot to take along a little "piece of paper" that I had written down that Food Lion was running a sale on bacon (would've saved $.68). Also, I have several lbs. of Pinto Beans in the cupboard... and I BOUGHT "red beans" to go in the taco soup. I didn't buy kidney beans because they were $.08 more per can... so since I was just going for "beans", I could've easily cooked up a few of those pintos instead of buying some canned beans. Oh well. I about passed out when we went to buy sodas. (I keep saying "we" because Daniel was along since he has today off.) On the shelf both Pepsi and Coke were marked $4.28 a case!!!!. That came out to
$.35 a can! I just looked at Daniel with an "I don't know about you, but I think you're gonna have to kick this habit if we're not gonna go broke" kinda look. I told him we had enough left on the shelf here to last until next week if he could get by on 1 can a day. He said he thought he could probably do that, so we left those price-of-gold sodas on the shelf. We were getting ready to walk to the checkout when we found a display of Pepsi marked 2/$6 ($3 case). That was still more than a really great deal, but alot more feasible!! So we got a case (I told him I was going to hide it! ... just kidding... kinda.... :P ) I also managed to pick up the case of Pepsi "just right" to knock a whole stack of cases over onto my leg/ankle!! Oh, it was painful! They kinda hit my leg and slid down. I have a brush burn on my ankle, and it's looking like a pretty bruise is starting to show, but otherwise I'm fine... just my ego a little hurt :(

Ok, on to the Menu:
Mon: Creamy Tortellini - made with Rotini instead (from Erin's $5 Dinner blog)
Tue: Taco Soup (crockpot)
Wed: Showalter's Chicken Casserole
Thurs: Super Easy Crockpot Hamburger Vegetable Soup w/ fresh bread from bread machine
Fri: Crockpot Potato Chowder (will use ham slices from the freezer instead of bacon), broccoli
Sat: Daniel's 5th yr. college reunion
Sun: Leftovers!

You might notice the "vast" amount of crockpot meals this week... that would be because I'm making another wedding cake this weekend, starting on Wednesday, so I really want to have meals that I don't have to do anything with.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tackling the Laundry Room - After!

Wow, if I could find this every time I do some cleaning, I don't know if you could stop me!! These two jars were on the shelf previously to our moving things around, and they got put in a box - the box went on the shelf, but of course I never looked in it!
This is my "laundry find" money :) Not bad, aye? Ta-da!! The sparkly clean shelf! Put on your shades, the washer and dryer are actually a bright white color!
(aren't they pretty, all cleaned off?) And finally, the reorganized and re-loaded laundry shelf:
When I finally use up my laundry soap (it seems like it's lasting FOREVER now that I want to use it up!!), I'll have to figure out a new way to store home-made laundry soap in my laundry room! I wonder if it's "juicy" enough to use in the dispenser? Anybody that's made it... do you know if it would work in that kind of thing (like the purple jug with the "drink like" spout)?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So I Entered the Martha Contest!!

I just entered Martha Stewart's blog contest :) You can read about it here. Wouldn't it be cool if my blog was picked??

Tackling the Laundry Room - Before

Somehow I am just into a cleaning spurt - ever get those? I've spent a mass amount of time in the "office"... it doesn't look like it, but one of the "piles" is a little more a hill than a mountain.

This afternoon I decided that since we are having company over on Saturday that I should tackle some more visible places... like the dryer which has been a major catchall over the past couple months.

Unfortunately this is NOT the "before" picture... this is about 1/2 done.
This is the "laundry shelf"... also another famous catch-all that I hope to at least make a dent in today.
And goodness knows you can't clean without a very big, empty trash can!!

We'll see if I get finished and post "After" pictures!! :P
And the prize goes to anyone noticing that Daniel painted AROUND the stuff on the shelf!!!!!!!!!
Ok... so there really isn't a prize. And we DO have plans to finish painting - it's one of those "minor" projects that got put on the back burner until the "major" projects were finished.

Hot Chocolate Season Is Here!

If it's here to stay for a while, or only a short bit, I don't know. But this morning when I stepped outside to wave goodbye to Daniel as he was leaving for work, I could see my breath! It didn't look like I'd taken up smoking, but I could see it! It was pretty chilly.

I wore long sleeves and long pants to go on my walk this morning ... that's the first for this year yet :) When I got back I crawled in the tub for a nice hot shower (with the bathroom heater on!)... it felt so good to soak:)

Then I mixed up a mug of hot chocolate with some powdered mix... It looked so yummy... I made a small bowl of (air popped) popcorn and snuggled on the couch to enjoy my mid-morning snack. Hmm, the cocoa mix must've gone stale over the summer, it wasn't very good.

So, after enjoying my popcorn, I came in here to the computer and searched reciepzaar for hot cocoa mix. After looking over several recipes and reading reviews, I tried this recipe. I made 1/3 of a batch, and mixed it all up in my new food processor (from my MIL for my birthday!! The first time I used it! Woohoo!), put some water in my teapot to boil, and gave it a try. It was very, very good!

Nice, hot, chocolatey goodness on my tongue, and warm, chocolatey "fuzzy feelings" from inside my very happy stomach :P Ha ha. The only thing I didn't like so much was that it kinda got clumpy... I had to keep stirring it to keep the little clumpys from floating on top. I think maybe whisking it might've helped, or adding the powder on top of the hot water instead of pouring the hot water on the powder... either way, it was still very good!!!

So... what recipe do you use to make hot chocolate mix? I'd love to try others that are "tried 'n' true".

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I was going to post about this last week when I "did it", but was in a hurry at the time and never got around to it.

I have made my FIRST meat purchase since June!! (you can read about my meat stash here.) My MIL took me to Costco with her, and I bought a 2-pack of whole chickens. They were $10.21 ($.79 lb, I think?), and they were pretty nice sized, too. I brought them home and stuffed them in the frige...uh, actually, Daniel stuffed them in the frige since I had to hurry up and get ready to go to a dinner, and then I cut them up later.

If you're like me, I was a bit "scared" of cutting up a whole chicken. I was sure I couldn't do it and it be "nice"... Lo and behold, way back when I bought 6 chickens for $.69/lb, I determined that pretty or no, I was going to cut up those birds and "make" my own boneless, skinless chicken breasts, my own thighs, drumsticks, etc. It really isn't hard to do! It just requires a good sharp knife and a bird or two to get the hang of where everything is and how to cut it. It might take me 5 minutes to cut up a chicken. I was going to take pictures, but once I got my hands wet and greasy and "chickeney", I didn't take time to wash and take pictures... and I wasn't sure how to take pictures with my non-existent 3rd hand while my other 2 hands were demonstrating for the camera. Check out one of your "I hardly ever look in there because it's so big and full of fancy dishes that I'll never make" cookbooks - that's where I read and looked at pictures about cutting up chickens!

With these two chickens, I DID have (or rather "take") the time to cook down the bones. Surprisingly, after cooking for several hours on low, I was able to pick off about 2 more cups worth of chicken meat! It took some very careful picking to make sure I didn't get any over-cooked-till-they're-soft bones, and there were no large pieces of meat so it took alittle time, but hey, for that kind of savings, I'll spend a little time. I figure it's enough meat to make a batch of fried rice - which makes 2 meals for us. And 1 1/2 cups of broth which I chilled, scooped the grease off the top, and then froze, either to use in recipes, or to save for my family's Christmas get together since I'm on the food planning committee.

While I know that $.79/lb isn't the BEST deal I've seen this summer, my chicken stash is starting to run low, and I wanted to get a little while I had the opportunity to hopefully tie us over till the next REALLY GREAT deal that I'm hoping some store will run really soon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday's Menu and Groceries

This week I really wanted to come away from the store without spending very much at all... like, $10 kind of not very much. I especially though I could probably wing it since we're having leftovers or freezer food all but 1 night this week. Yeah... sure. Har har.

The Menu:
Mon - Leftover Pork, Leftover Green Beans and Peas, maybe potatoes
Tue - Chicken Calzones from the freezer, leftover Spaghetti Sauce
Wed - Leftover Pizza
Thur - Beef Barley Stew from freezer, Cornbread
Fri - Dinner with In-Laws
Sat - Pizza, Peach Pie and Ice Cream - company over
Sun - any leftovers or sandwiches

1 lb butter: $2.54 (we were totally out of butter, I had to start using margarine on toast)
Ranch Dressing: $1.22

2 OJ: $2.84
16oz LF Cottage Cheese: $1.72
24 slice American Cheese: $3.24
1 lb. block Mozz. Cheese: $3.22
2.3lb grapes: $4.55
1 doz eggs: $1.48
box Ice Cream: $2.50
Total: $23.89
under budget $1.11

I will admit that I strayed from my list today (*gasp!*). I did not have the Cottage Cheese or Grapes on my list. I even picked up a 12 pk. of Cherry Coke for DH. That went back when my total was over $25. I wish I had put the grapes back instead. I was disappointed in the grapes - the sign over the display said "$1.98". Period. That was all it said. Dummy me thought "wow, a bag of grapes for $1.98, what a deal! I will weigh a couple bags and get the heaviest one, and REALLY get a deal!!" I almost mentioned to the cashier lady that they were falsely advertised since the price was not noted as "per pound" on the display. I don't REALLY need to have grapes, just wanted some "fresh fruit" to snack on this week (and next week). The Cottage Cheese I eat on my peaches for breakfast most mornings. I don't "have" to have it, but remembered that I was out, and had wanted to get some more.

Sigh. That's what you get for making your list in a hurry, and for not STICKING the THE LIST, like I preach - oops, I mean advise others to do.


I feel like posting something...
but it's now 12:07 am, Monday morning...
I'm really tired (sleepy)...
Daniel already crawled in bed...
I get to go hang out with 2 year olds for a couple hours at church tomorrow...
and figure out what I MUST buy at the grocery store to get by this week...
and do all the Monday housework I need to do...
plus the other stuff I OUGHT to do...
I think it'd be best if I just go to bed...
instead of trying to think up some great, amazing post that would probably just end up as mindless blabbering while my eyelids stick shut and I can't tell if I'm writing or only dreaming about it...

I will check back tomorrow to see if this even makes sense.

(oh, and it's my own fault for being up this late - just because I was hanging out reading other blogs!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

1-Liner of the Day

"Boob therapy, apply directly to the forehead"

- quoting my husband

Edited for Lucy :P
This comment was from Saturday. He was getting ready to work on the floor, and said his one knee was sensetive from having worked on the floor all day the prev. Sat & Mon. I asked him if he wanted some Tylanol. That was his response.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Banana Nut Muffins

Angie has been after me for a long time to share this recipe, so I guess I will finally just sit down and do it :) Besides, it's Friday Recipe Swap over at Gayle's blog, so this will be a good one to share there, too. You can see more information on this recipe and using ripe bananas here.

Banana Nut Muffins
3 ripe bananas, about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups, mashed
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 cup butter, softened*
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk + 1 1/2 tsp vinegar (or 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk)
3/4 cup walnut pieces

Mix and beat together all ingredients except walnuts, beating until relatively smooth (it stays a little lumpy). Stir in walnuts.

Spoon into greased or cupcake wrapper lined muffin tins. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
Makes 24 muffins.

*The butter issue... the first time I used cupcake wrappers, there was butter standing in the bottom of each muffin tin when I took them out. Since then I've made them once, and cut the butter back to 1/2 cup. They were still plenty greasy on the bottom, so I might try cutting it back some more and hope it doesn't mess up the recipe! They are VERY very VERY good muffins!! If you're a real nut fan and can afford it (ha ha), you can sprinkle the finely chopped walnut pieces on top of the muffins before you bake them for added nuttiness and crunch :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quiet Reflections on a Ride Home

This evening I attended a small women's dinner (not for small women, but for a small group of women!) hosted by a lady at church that I didn't really know. I was hesitant to go - I had ended up being gone pretty much all day unplanned, was tired, realized that the dinner was 1/2 hr sooner than I had thought so I was going to have to hurry to get ready to go... all those things that Satan will sneak and slide into our paths to make us think about stopping and not pressing on.

There were 3 other women there (4 counting the hostess), none of whom I had formally met before, or really knew. They go to our church, but are in the next generation above mine, so we aren't in the same circles really.

It was a wonderful time, and I truly was blessed to be there. On the way home, I had the radio on, and a hymn medley came on. It touched me right at the "God, I needed to hear this so much I want to weep" place in my heart. I wanted to share the lyrics with you.

O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths it's flow might richer, fuller be.
O Light that followest all my way, I yield my flick'ring torch to Thee;
My heart restores it's borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine's glow it's day may brighter, fairer be.
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav'n, to earth came down;
Fix in us they humble dwelling;
All Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, Thou are all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love Thou are;
Visit us with they salvation;
Enter ev'ry Trembling heart.
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; thro' all it's pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love thee as I ought to love.
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heav'n descended Dove,
My heart an alter, and Thy love the flame.

The Dishwasher Gel trial results

If you read this post, you'll know that I was hesitant about getting "cheaper" dishwasher gel. I had been using Palmolive, and bought Great Value brand out of necessity for the budget.

I've been using it for about a week now, and quite frankly... I can't tell a difference from the Palmolive stuff that cost more! I use the same amount of the Great Value brand stuff (I eyeball it to match the dirtiness of the load) as I did the Palmolive, and the dishes get just as clean. I haven't noticed any "film" on anything lately - that sometimes gets on a scraper or a measuring cup, not on everything, and it wipes off with a towel - but I don't know if that's the refilled rinse aid or the soap.

I guess now I need to check out the price of the powdered stuff and see if I can reduce my expense even more and still maintain clean dishes! Oh, but I need to use up what I have first.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Hardwood Floor Saga III

Daniel and a friend of his laid a good deal of the living room part Saturday morning/afternoon.
The hallway to the bedrooms and bathroom. Daniel is finishing up outside the bathroom right now as I type.
Isn't it BEAUTIFUL!!??

This afternoon when another friend came to help Daniel, they moved the living room furniture back into place -mostly. It is still on carpet pieces, but in it's place. Then when the company came, Daniel and Dave moved the table from the kitchen into the dining room!! I wish I had a picture, but I didn't think to take one before I started blogging. It was so fun to eat in the dining room! That was the first time to eat in the dining room since we've been here, almost 4 years.
There is still plenty of work to be done - the baseboard needs replaced with something that will come down the meet the floor (the carpet was thicker than the hardwood, and it ended up being too much of a space to do what Daniel had thought would work), the dining room still needs painted and trimmed (I've finally got colors picked out!), and other detail work needs done in the kitchen and laundry/pantry room. So, we're not done, but so much closer!!

I hope you've enjoyed your "tour" :) I LOOOOOVE the floor!!!

The Hardwood Floor Saga II

In the midst of all Daniel's hard work, I decided he needed a fun break, so I pulled out bubbles from either Joel & Rachel's or Beth & Jonathan's wedding, and we blew bubbles for a few minutes :) This was the biggest bubble I could blow, probably the size of ... uh, I don't know, it was big!

The almost-the-last piece of particle board!! Woohoo!

The Hardwood Floor Saga, Part I

The "Dining Room" - rolling up the linoleumThe million and one per square foot staples in the particle board
that Daniel got to rip up. (My smart hubby used a shingle popper!!)

Living Room, exhibit 1
Living Room, exhibit 2

Daniel had already moved the piano,

it had been on the left wall inside the door.
Living Room, exhibit 3

More of the nasty million and one stapled flooring stuff to pull up.

Monday's Menu And Groceries!!!

I'm a little later in the day in posting this, but we just finished spending some wonderful time with some friends of ours that we had over for supper.

2 heads lettuce - $2.76
2 lbs. carrots - $1.66
2 OJ - $2.84
Tomatoes - $2.38
2 apples - $1.66
Utz chips - $2.16
Doritos - $3.50
2 lbs. Hormel Ham - $3.83 (Finally, a BOGO that will benefit me!! Woohooo!!)
bananas - $1.09
Total: $21.99
Under budget $3.01 Menu:
Mon - Pizza & Salad (thus the extra lettuce, and the tomatoes - since mine have croaked)
Tue - leftover pork roast, green beans and rolls
Wed - Salisbury Steak
Thur - leftover Chic. Alfredo
Fri - Pork BBQ made the rest of the pork roast
Sat - Tater-tot Casserole
Sun - leftovers

And no snacks need made this week since I stocked the freezer with plenty of Apple Pie Muffins and Peanut Butter Cookies last week :)

It seems like I kinda have a cycle going here with leftovers - I cook every night one week, and then we have leftovers a couple nights the next week. I'm never sure how much is going to be leftover of most meals, and if I'm going to eat the leftovers for lunch, or what. So, it is what it is, and I kinda like it:)

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Demolition Derby Begins

Daniel is home today, and has spent all day pulling up the carpet in the living room. This involved moving everything (piano, sofa, tv, tv stand, stereo, speakers....) OUT of the living room into other places. He did alot of that while I was gone this morning. Tomorrow a friend is coming to help him, and they are going to put down the hardwood floor in the Living Room and Dining Room!!

Since I got home, I've helped carry some stuff around... like the big roll of carpet out the door... the TV stand... all HEAVY things of course!! I hope it doesn't mess with my back too much - I was just at the chiropractor this morning!

I really need to go get the kitchen cleaned up and get the bottom of the hall closet cleaned out (they'll be putting hardwood in there, too), but I will come back and post pictures of the demo work in this post later on, so check back!!


Check out The Hardwood Floor Sagas I, II & III for pictures.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Amazing Dinner


It was that good. I'm always skeptical of trying new recipes that I haven't heard or read a review from someone I know, so this was a stretch for me. But I'd been surprised with another similar meat/fruit recipe, so I decided to take the plunge and give this on a try as well. And shucks, if it turns out tasting great, another way to use the all the raspberries in my freezer, right?

Roast Pork with Raspberry Sauce, Buttery Bread Machine Rolls, and Green Beans from the garden earlier in the summer that were so good we didn't put ANYthing on them!!

The Buttery Bread Machine Rolls recipe came from Gayle (thank you!), and was super easy to make. I was running short on time and didn't want to shape them into balls, so here's what I did: I patted the dough into something like an 8"x8" square, cut it into 4ths, and then cut each 4th into 3 wedges. Then I rolled each wedge up starting with the pointy end. It went super-fast, and they looked like this:

As you can tell from this second picture... they taste really good!

And for the Pork Roast With Raspberry Sauce:

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. rubbed sage

1 tsp. pepper

1 boneless pork loin roast (3 1/2 - 4 lbs) - I had a 4.75 lb. bone-in roast, and used that


1 pkg. (10 oz) frozen sweetened raspberries, thawed - I used 1 pint of unsweetened

1 1/2 cups sugar - I only used 1 cup, and it was just fine

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 tsp. EACH of ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 Tbsp. butter or margarine melted

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

3 - 4 drops red food coloring, optional - I did not use

Combine the salt, sage and pepper; rub over entire roast. Place roast fat side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 70 - 80 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160° (my roast took alot longer, about 2 hours).

For the sauce, drain raspberries, reserving liquid. Set berries aside. Add enough water to juice to measure 3/4 cup. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar, spices and 1/2 cup of raspberry juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Combine cornstarch and remaining raspberry juice until smooth; stir into saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, lemon juice, food coloring if desired and reserved raspberries.

Let roast stand for 10 - 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with raspberry sauce.

Yield: 8 - 10 servings.

For more great recipes, go check out The Grocery Cart Challenge for Gayle's Friday Recipe Swap!

Thrifty Thursday - Eggs!!

Find yourself looking to save in whatever areas you can and still have good food to eat? I tell ya, this is the latest and greatest in my book. Gayle posted about this over on her blog, and I knew I had to try it.

In cooking and baking, use 1 heaping Tbsp. of Soy Flour and 1 Tbsp. of water in place of 1 egg!!

(I'm sure you have to use your judgement for which recipes you can use it in - I wouldn't want to make an omelet with this stuff!)

The best part is that is it SO much cheaper than eggs. I bought a box of Soy Flour from Walmart (it was the only kind they had) for $1.23. It has approx. 23 quarter cups of flour in the box.

4 (Tbsp. per 1/4 cup) x 20 (1/4 cups) = 80 Tbsp!! (I multiplied by 20 to allow for the "heaping" part.)

$1.23 (for the box of Soy Flour) / 80 (Tbsp.) = $.01 per "egg"!!

Is it really cheaper and worth it? You tell me...
1 Dozen eggs: $1.63 / 12 = $.13 an egg.

Now, how do you use the stuff in baking? Ha ha, don't make the mistake I did the first time I used it, and mix the water and flour together - it made a thick, boogery paste that didn't mix into the other ingredients well!! Instead, add the water with the wet ingredients, and the soy flour with the dry ingredients, or however your recipe works.

I've used this in two recipes so far, and they have both turned out great, (ha ha!! not to mention that they were both new recipes so I wouldn't know what they are like with real eggs anyway, but hey, they didn't flop, and tasted just fine!)

Now if I could just use up my store-bought laundry detergent so I can try the homemade...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just Plain Down Right...

Don't feel like doing anything! Yesterday OR today. Ever have one of those days, or maybe more than one, that you just don't want to DO?

I don't know what it is. Maybe PMS. I just want to do nothing. Crawl in bed and sleep all day long, blink my eyes and everything is cleaned, cooked, washed, folded, put away, and I can roll over and go back to sleep. Or blog for a bit, or read other blogs, or happen across things like the Duggar family website, which I should be fascinated with, but instead it raised my tail-feathers and put me in a bad mood. That probably didn't help for my already dragging tail feathers to get ruffled. And I don't even KNOW these people! I just know that they're pregnant with #18, they live in a HUGE, immaculate, perfect, 7000 sq. foot house that they "built themselves, debt free"...

And my devotions this morning were in Ps. 40, and this verse jumped out at me:
3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.

Guess I'd better ditch the wolf-in-the-tail*, ask for a renewed and better attitude, and get started Praisin' the Lord who still loves me.

*wolf-in-the-tail: I'm not sure if it's a real term or not, but one we used on the farm for cows that seemed fine and healthy, but wouldn't get up to eat, drink or poop, and just lie around lazy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday's Menu and Groceries

This weeks shopping trip started to make me sweat! I had a longer-than-usual list, and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to come in "under the wire" or not, but I DID!!

1 lb. fettuccine* - $1.23
16oz. LF Cottage Cheese, SB - $1.68
1 cucumber - $.88
2 Gala apples - $1.15
Garlic Powder, SB - $1.58
Saltine Crackers, SB - $1.00
Garden Rotini, SB - $1.12
Soy Flour - $1.98
head lettuce - $1.44
Parmesan Style Grated Cheese, SB - $2.74
8oz. FF Cream Cheese, SB - $1.18
3 OJ concentrate, SB - $4.26
doz. eggs - $1.63
Total: $22.41
SB = Store Brand
under budget: $2.59

Spaghetti w/ homemade sauce, Garlic Parmesan Potato Wedges, Salad
Fried Rice My Way
Chicken Calzones, Rotini Salad
Roast Pork w/ Raspberry Sauce, Green Beans, bread
Salisbury Steak over Egg Noodles, Broccoli
Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken (from the new Kraft magazine), Peas
Snacks restock:
Apple Pie Muffins
Peanut Butter Cookies

If you followed the Soy Flour link, you'll see that I plan to severely reduce the amount of eggs that I'll use in cooking/baking. I couldn't believe this, and haven't PERSONALLY tried it, but I tell ya what, if Gayle does it and it works for her, it's as good as tried 'n' true in my book.

The big bad thing about my shopping trip: Garlic Powder was high on the "need to restock" list. I only had a teeny bit left in the bottle, and needed it for tonight's spaghetti sauce and the potato wedges. Well, Ms. Checker-Outer-Lady wasn't paying attention one bit to my transaction. I handed her my cloth grocery bags before I put anything on the belt. She laid them on top the bag carousel, and started bagging my groceries into the plastic bags! Ok, I'm not so green that I mind plastic, but I could tell her brain had been captured by aliens and I needed to bring her back to earth. I kindly asked her if she could use my bags. So, she picked the few items she'd already scanned and bagged out of the plastic bag, and started loading into my cloth bags. All's well, end's well... until I went to make my potatoes! I realized that I had put garlic powder into the grocery cart, had unloaded it out of the grocery cart, but it wasn't in my grocery bags that I'd already unloaded and put away! I checked my receipt, just in case it had fallen out of the cart somehow. If I hadn't paid for it, no sweat, I'd do without until next time. But it IS on the receipt. So, I will take the receipt with me on Friday and get another one. This has happened before and they've given me a replacement, so I'm hoping they will do the same this time.

Otherwise, I had a fine shopping trip!

Oops, I just re-read this post and realized I hadn't written about the *fettuccine. If you were nosey enough to peer at each item in the picture of my groceries, you'll notice that it is Barilla brand and NOT GREAT VALUE!! *gasp!* Well, that's because I whipped out my handy cellphone calculator, and found out that the Barilla brand was cheaper per ounce than the GV brand - even though "per package", the GV was cheaper. But the GV pkg. had fewer oz in it, even though the boxes were the same size. Ah-ha!! I found them out, and I win!

My Favorite Saturday :)

Saturday was my 24th birthday, and it was a very wonderful birthday :)
I started celebrating my birthday by sleeping in (we usually do on Saturday's anyway), then opening the window to listen to the rain from Tropical Storm Hannah. It was a nice steady rain, and oh so pleasant to the ears!

Later we got up, and I made big pancakes topped with a dump-n-stir version of gingered pears/sauce. Yummy!! Somebody gave us a grocery bag of pears, and I thought that would be a fun way to use some of them.

If you're interested, here's how I made the pears:
1 cup water
3-4 Tbsp. sugar
about 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
splash of lemon juice
2 pears, peeled and sliced
Cook everything together until pears are soft. Remove pears from juice. Mix a little juice and cornstarch, pour back into juice, boil until thickened to syrup. Serve with pears! This amount of juice/syrup would do for probably 4 - 6 pears. I had looked up gingered pears on recipezaar, and made my own recipe after looking at theirs.

While we ate our breakfast on the couch, we watched Sarah Plain & Tall (Daniel told me to pick out a movie to watch for my birthday). Then we bummed around for a while until a lunch of tomato sandwiches. Then Daniel had to go on a call.... :(

While he was gone I just enjoyed bumming around, working on stuff here and there, then taking a nap. I woke up when the phone rang - it was Daniel. He wondered where I was in the house, then told me to close my eyes and keep them closed. I heard him pull in the driveway, but kept my eyes closed. He came in the door, and told me I could open my eyes. This is what I saw:
They are soooo pretty!!! The picture does not do them justice. He got lotsa hugs and kisses and "thank you"s. He said a little birdie had told him to get me flowers for my birthday, so he did! (About a month ago he asked what I wanted for my birthday - I told him flowers and a nice dinner.) He also said he wasn't sure how he was going to get flowers for my birthday since he would be home on Saturday, but it was convenient to go out on the call, and stop and pick up flowers on his way home :) They are still beautiful, sitting on the table where I can look at them and remember how much Daniel loves me :)

After the excitement over the flowers settled down (a little), I gave Daniel a haircut, and then we got ready to go out to dinner. This isn't a very good picture, but it's what you get for self-timer, a white wall for the background, and in a hurry:
He took me to O'Charley's for a very nice dinner. We ordered their fiesta chips for the appetizer, I had Strawberry Lemonade to drink, and then I had salad, steak and broccoli, and he had some kind of southern pasta/chicken dish. With their rolls, of course!! I wanted to go there for the rolls :P And their menu is good, too :) When the waiter came and asked if we had room for dessert, Daniel said "do you have any free dessert?" He said not unless it was somebody's birthday. Then Daniel filled him in on it being my birthday, and we both made sure that he was NOT going to make the usual resturant birthday to-do. He brought us some delicious "Sweetened Condensed Milk" pie. I don't know the real name of it, but it was good. It was a graham cracker crust, the filling tasted like you mixed sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping (VERY sweet), it was topped with spray-whipping cream and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips and pecan pieces. It was very sweet, very rich, very good, very fattening, and very free!

Then Daniel took me to pick out a birthday movie for the rest of my birthday present. I wanted to get Sarah Plain & Tall 2, so we went to Barnes & Noble, figuring they would have a good chance of having it if it was available. Nope - the guy said it's out of print. Boohoo. We looked at the Anne of Green Gables trilogy (another set on my wish list), but decided to pass it up at almost $90, and we'd go across the street to Best Buy to check out their selection.

Their movies were all $10 - $20 cheaper than Barnes & Noble. The Anne series was $20 cheaper, but I still couldn't justify that for my birthday when I'd already gotten a very nice flower bouqet and dinner. We settled on:
We left there and came home to watch the first Shreck movie. Last night (Sunday) we watched the second one, and I've a suspicion that Shreck the Third will get watched tonight :)

So that was my birthday! It was a great day, I didn't mind the rain one bit (I was happy that we were getting such nice rain!), and I had a whole day of fun time with my hubby :) What more could I ask for?

Friday, September 5, 2008

English Muffins Recipe

This recipe is from my Mother-In-Law, and they are SO GOOD! I especially like it because I can use All Purpose flour, which is cheaper than my bread flour, and they still turn out really good! Here's the recipe the way I make it:

English Muffins
1 cup water
2 1/2 tsp. yeast (don't skimp)
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. butter, pretty soft
1 egg, beaten
3 cups flour

Combine water, yeast and sugar. Whisk and let stand until starts to foam. Stir in salt, butter and egg with a fork, being sure to "cut in" the butter well. Add flour and mix well (I still use a fork, the recipe says to "beat well"). Turn onto a well floured board and knead lightly, using more flour if necessary.

Roll out to 1/2" thickness. Cut into 3" or 4" rounds. Place on cookie sheets well sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle tops with cornmeal also. Let rise for 1 hour.

With a pancake turner, carefully remove each muffin from cookie sheet. Place in 350° ungreased electric skillet. Bake 7 minutes, flip and bake 7 more minutes.

I don't have an electric skillet, so I put my pizza stone in the oven, set it to preheat, and then bake them on the stone. Works great!

Gayle hosts a recipe swap every Friday, so be sure to go check out her blog for more great recipes (and just plain ole good readin'!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In Case You Thought I Was Perfect...

Look again. This is what faced me after a long afternoon in the kitchen and making supper. And of course right as I was getting finished with everything, I got slammed with a migraine and didn't want to clean it up.

What you see:
A sink full of dirty dishes, a counter full of dirty dishes and covered in flour and pie-dough-rolling-out mess, dirty pots stacked on each other on the stove (and a dirty bowl in one of the pots), a pot lid on top of a stack of cookbooks that doesn't belong there (the cookbooks or the pot lid), flour/sugar canisters out of place to make room for the rolling pin action....

What you don't see:
The fresh peach pie baking in the oven, alongside the stuffed peppers casserole for supper.

This post is dedicated to my sister Sally, just to reassure her that my place is not always clean and organized. But I'll take pictures anyway :) And some of the pictures that I take that it "looks" clean - well, maybe the mess was just shoved out of the way.

What Do I Do With 25 lbs. of FLOUR?

Debbie commented on this post wondering what do I do with my flour? So I took some pictures today to show you :)

First off, I have an amazing husband who built this pantry for me over the winter/spring, where the bottom shelf was put at exactly the right height off the floor so my flour/sugar bins could sit on the floor.

In case you can't tell from the picture, I use Rubbermaid containers. Are they food grade plastic? I don't know and would still use them even if they weren't (unless it caused us to be sick, but we are healthy horses, so no problem with that).

The on the left is marked "bread" for bread flour, the other one is marked "cake & cookie" for All Purpose flour. The two white ones all the way on the right hold my sugars - granulated (on top since I use it more) and 10x (on the bottom since I use it less).

I clean all the "old" flour out of the bin before I put in the new flour.

As far as weevils in the flour - weevils don't "get in" your flour, they COME IN your flour. So as long as you don't have weevils (or their eggs) in the flour you buy, you won't have weevils in your flour! I've never had any trouble with any bugs in my flour or sugar bins.

Do I really use this much flour? You bet! I made 7 pies today - took all of 12 cups of flour, so a good bit of what I bought today is already used.

So - that's what I do with 25 lbs of flour! I used to buy it in 50lb. bags, but that was a more expensive brand, and this brand (Walmart brand) works just as well.

Monday's Menu and Groceries - On Tuesday

Since yesterday was a holiday, I ran my errands today.

Lg. bag frozen cut broccoli, SB - $1.98
25 lbs. AP flour, SB - $8.82
doz. eggs - $1.63
24 slice American Cheese, SB - $3.24
OJ Concentrate, SB - $1.42
Lime Jello, SB - $.35
White Out tape - $1.76
LandOFrost lunch meat - $2.44 (on sale for $2.99, had $.55 coupon)
Total: $22.24
under budget $2.76
SB = Store Brand
Mon - with Daniel's parents
Tue - Stuffed Peppers (with extra rice to make it stretch further)
Wed - Robin's Chicken Casserole, Zucchini from garden
Thur - Leftover Pork BBQ, Corn on the Cob from garden
Fri - Baked Chicken Teriyaki, Squash from garden
Sat - leftovers
Sun - leftovers
Desserts - Peach Pie and Green Mountain Salad (to use up some celery)

Monday, September 1, 2008

So how have I done?

Right before August I decided to slash our grocery budget in half. You can read about what inspired that decision here.

Since it is now officially September, I have checked my weekly average for my August grocery shopping trips. They averaged out to:

(drum roll, please!)

$21.82 per week

This is from my Monday shopping trips for August, and some honey and chocolate chips from Costco (my MIL has a membership there, and these are much cheaper at Costco than anywhere else I've found). They will last me quite a while, too.

That is $12.72 under my budget for the month, so I feel pretty good about it! One thing I haven't figured out how to budget, or work into my budget, is the $ I spent on the 2 1/2 bu. of peaches. That is a one-time-a-year expense that should last until this time next year. Hmm, I just figured it up, and the peaches come out to $.82/week (cost divided by 52 weeks), so I think I'm ok there as long as I can keep this average going :)

A few things that have helped:

First off, I haven't had to buy any meat. I had stocked up quite well on meat in July, plus the pork we already had. It has been hard to pass up some really good meat sales in August and here around Labor Day, but I don't need it. I still have plenty of chicken and hamburger in the freezer. I actually considered buying a few more whole chickens to cut up (they are on sale for $.77/lb), but I had to tell myself that I already have 4 whole chickens in the freezer waiting to be used - I can use them whole or cut them up if I need pieces - and that is not the VERY best sale price I've seen in the past months.

Menu Planning! If you've read any of my previous posts, you know that I do this. It's not the most looked-forwards-to part of my week, but I do like being able to look at the calendar and seeing what to make for supper, not trying to figure it out at the last minute! I try to plan meals around things that I already have, or things that I need to use (this week it's celery and sour cream).

Planning Ahead. I have also started marking on my calendar when I need to re-stock on something. Last week I knew my AP flour was really starting to run low. I also knew that I had enough to last until I go shopping this week (tomorrow since today is a holiday). I marked on my calendar that I need to buy another 25 lbs. of flour. I also saw that Daniel's breakfast cheese was going to run out over the weekend. I marked that on the calendar. I have marked a few other things that I need to get by a certain time, but don't need to buy RIGHT NOW. I figure up when I need them by, then mark them for the Monday's trip before that.

So there's just a few things that have really been helping me stick to our budget. That and making almost everything from scratch.

And my favorite new quote: "Frugal does not mean poor".