Friday, October 31, 2008

Cooking Fun - Part 2

Hopefully you've already read Cooking Fun - Part 1, otherwise you're coming into my cookin' show right in the middle and really have no idea what I'm talking about!! LOL :) If you're comin' back after the Intermission, well, glad you liked it enough to come back for the second half!! So settle into your seat, crunch away on your popcorn and slurp away on that drink.
The lights are dimming..... the music starts.... and Look!! it's started again!
So you'll remember that we had all the ingredients gathered, now it's time to start putting them together.

In the lovely French White Corningware baking dish,
put the rice, cream soup, and water.
Stir together the rice, soup and water,
then whisk in the pepper and paprika.
(and a little salt, but I always forget)
Next place the 4 skinless chicken thighs
in the mixture (the recipe calls for
b/s breasts but they get rather dry,
so I like to use these bone-in thighs).
Then nestle them down in.
Yep, that's right, get the fingers a little messy.
Then wash your paws with soap and water.


It's optional to sprinkle on additional
pepper and paprika, but I never do.
Put the lid on, put it in the oven,
and bake at 350° for about 1 hour.
If it's still juicy after 1 hour, take the lid off
and bake for a few more minutes.
Or serve it like it is if you like it more moist/juicy.

And now....
If you would all look in this direction,
Ta-DA!!!!
YummmmmmmO!!

And you couldn't even really tell that it was made with homemade Cream Soup!

Thank you all for coming to my kitchen and keeping my company while I'm cookin'!! Hopefully I'll have you over again sometime.

And the credits roll...
Ingredients provided by
My Country Cupboard
Dishes provided by My Country Cupboard
Photography by Right or Left Hand, whichever one wasn't busy!

Cooking Fun - Part 1

I made Chicken and Rice Casserole for dinner tonight.
Ok, so what else is new?
No, see, I had fun making it :) I decided to play around with my camera while I was doing my cooking, and thought it would be fun to let you watch me cook (ok, I had the whole blog idea before I grabbed the camera...).

First off, the recipe calls for a can of Cream Of Mushroom Soup. I used up my last can several meals ago, and have since made a "Cream of Whatever Soup" mix. It's pretty nifty.
See? I even put the mixing directions right
on the container so I know what to do.
This is what the mix looks like:
(I think I made 1/2 recipe of the mix, so it's not much.
I wanted to try it before making a whole recipe)

Okey-dokey. So we know that we're making "Cream of Mushroom Soup"... this is just a generic soup mix, so we'll pretend it has mushrooms in it.

I used my nifty little pan for mixing this, it's just the right size.
Here I've stirred the powder and water together:

Now you cook and stir, cook and stir,
until it boils and gets thick.

Ok, now the "cream of" soup is thickened (it's still runnier than the canned stuff, but you're also supposed to let it cool before you use it - I don't see the point in it, at least for this recipe). Time to gather the rest of the ingredients.

Clockwise from top:
Rice, 4 Skinless Chicken Thighs (skinned 'em myself!),
Pepper, Paprika, Water,
and center stage is the fresh-made Cream Soup!

And now, ladies and gentlemen, time for Intermission while I go put together the 2nd half of my cookin' show!! I would do it all in one post, but they only let you put in 5 pictures at a time... Sad :( So go grab some popcorn and a drink, and be back before the lights blink.

It's Apple Time!

Well, it's probably the end of apple time, or close to it, but fall still makes me think "apples", so I wanted to share a super-good apple recipe that I usually make in the fall/winter. It's great as left-overs, too - just warm your serving up in the microwave :) Oh, now I wish I had apples and cream on hand!! I'd make some!

Apple Roly-Poly's

Pastry:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup sour cream

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening and butter until crumbly. Blend in sour cream until ball forms (it's a kinda sticky dough). Roll out on a well-floured surface to make a 15"x10" rectangle.

Filling:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
6 med. apples (5 cups) peeled and coarsely shredded

Spread dough with butter. Sprinkle with remaining ingredients. Roll up jelly-roll style (starting with the long side). Cut into 12 pieces. Place into a 13"x9" pan.

Topping:
2 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup light cream (I always use heavy since that's what I usually have)

Combine water, brown sugar and cinnamon in saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in cream. Carefully pour hot mixture over unbaked dumplings.

Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 35 minutes or until bubbly. Center will jiggle when hot, but will set as it cools. Serve warm. Yields 12 servings.

Don't forget to check out Gayle's Recipe Swap for more great recipes!!

October's Grocery Budget Report

It seems crazy that today is the last day of October, and tomorrow is the first day of November!! I have done pretty good this month. I decided to shop and menu plan for 2 weeks at a time and save 1 trip to town. October was my "experiment" month with that to see how I liked it. I like it fine :) It doesn't seem that I'm really "saving" more money that way as far as groceries go, but I do like not having to plan a menu EACH week, and only going to town every OTHER week (which does save gas money).

For October I shopped twice:
$52.41
$37.76
Total: $90.17

That was for 4 weeks, so my weekly average is: $22.54! $2.46 under budget per week :) So now I can add $9.84 to my meat fund, bringing it up to $13.83. Nice.

So, that's the update! I hope I can come in under the wire this well through the holidays. I've started printing coupons off the Internet that I find for baking things - chocolate chips, brown sugar, etc.

Oh, and remember that $.59/lb turkey that I bought? Well, I used some of it last night to make a turkey pot pie. It was YUMMY!!! Well worth the money spent on the sale and the time cooking it and picking it so all I had to do was pull two baggies (1 cup ea.) of cooked, picked turkey meat out of the freezer, thaw it in the microwave a bit, and throw it in with the rest of my pot pie filling :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

So What's a Girl S'posed To Do?

Should I post this, or should I not post this? If I shouldn't post this, then stop reading it, 'cause I can't make up my mind and I'm going to post it anyway.

I was reading a blog this morning, and took this person seriously when they said "what do you think?" about what they were blogging about. So I commented. Alot of other people commented. Some of the comments were funny, some of them were serious. Mine was serious. My thought was that this person was serious in their post and they really wanted our (serious) thoughts on the matter, so I gave mine.

I went back to check and see what other people said in their comments. More people had commented. And the poster had added a note to the post saying that they had meant for the post to be funny, but kinda serious, and to be careful what you say in your comment (major paraphrase).

My "pink*" instinct is to think "Oh no :(" and sit down and cry 'cause maybe I offended this person with my comment. I love this blog, this person is hilarious, they post great posts. And I took them seriously. And I don't even know if they were talking about MY comment. I'm just assuming they were because I did comment, and it could be my comment that was offensive to them. But I really and truly didn't mean to offend!!! It's very possible that someone else left a really nasty comment that they deleted. I don't know. I will probably never know.

Now I'm left with indecision. Should I go post another comment apologizing just in case my comment offended? Should I leave an anonymous comment saying "woops, wrong blog". (ok, I was just trying to be FUNNY!!!) Or I could delete my comment, but then people wouldn't know that I deleted it and think that the poster deleted it (but would it matter?). What would you do? Seriously, what would you do?

Either way, I'll go ahead and put this out there:

Dear Person with the really great blog that I love to read and may have offended you today by taking your post too seriously and commenting too seriously on what you asked "us" to give our thoughts on,

I'm sorry if it was me, I still love your blog and will keep reading it. I'll just try and read it as a humorous post and not take you so seriously when you post about serious things. I don't know if you read my blog, but if you do, I'm being serious right now.

Your bloggy friend.

* I said "pink" instinct because it's the girly instinct. If I was a guy, I'd have the "blue" instinct and probably not even have gone back to see what other people commented (well, I probably wouldn't have even commented in the first place), or if I had, not paid any attention to the added note... but if I did see it, it wouldn't cross my mind that maybe it was my comment that generated the note... but if I did think that, I would forget it the moment I finished reading it and it wouldn't bother me... so I wouldn't even be posting this right now. I'm just posting this 'cause you're my bestest ever bloggy friends and I wanted to dump on you. And yes, that's "pink".

A Really Great Menu Planning Guide

I was over reading the Hillbilly Housewife blog (Oh yeah, tomorrow is the last day to vote for your favorite "hillbilly housewife", so if you haven't voted already, please go vote for my blog! You can follow the link at the top of my sidebar.), and this week she's been talking about menu planning.

I read her article that explains the process of menu planning better than I ever could, so I'm just going to pass the link along to you here. Menu planning has changed my grocery budget. If you're looking for ways to help your budget, just give it a try.

I don't plan my menu around what's on sale like she talks about in one part of the article, but I do make sure I check the sale papers to see if any of the things on my grocery list are on sale, or if they are running a huge loss leader sale on some item that is just so cheap you can't help but stock up on it.

Even if you aren't ready or don't have time to jump in head first, try sticking your big toe in... maybe start out by planning only a few meals a week. Then you can ease yourself into it. For now I just plan dinners, and that makes it really easy. But I do have ideas in mind for whenever I would need to plan breakfast and lunch, too. Right now breakfast is whatever I make for myself (Daniel get his usual), and lunches are leftovers or something simple for me and a sandwich for Daniel. Dinner is really the big, time-consuming, thought-requiring meal, so that's all I plan in my menu.

If you have little kids (or even bigger kids) that you need to feed - I hope you feed them! - than planning breakfast and lunch menus would be a big help, too. That way you don't crawl out of bed, wipe the sleepers from your eyes, stumble into the kitchen and think "what should I make for breakfast today?". You can look at your menu, see "oh yeah, we're having scramble eggs, muffins and grapes ... and the muffins are already made (for a previous breakfast in the week), so I just have to make the eggs and warm up the muffins". Or for lunch, "should I make Billy a Peanut Butter & Jelly, or a ham'n'cheese? Do we even have Peanut Butter? Oh shucks, I don't have PB"... instead, you planned to have PB&J for some lunches this week, so you bought some more PB when you did your grocery trip (or sent your hubby for groceries). And while you're looking at the menu you see that you planned to have blueberries with your lunch so you don't forget to give the kiddo his fruit.

Oh, and last but not least... menu planning really helps cut down in-between trips to the store. Like it eliminates them. Since I started menu planning, I've been able to figure out that we drink about 2 1/2 cans worth of frozen orange juice each week. So I know how much I need to buy to last however long I'm buying for. You could also do this with milk and other "need to buy fresh" items. If your husband does your shopping for you (maybe it's easier to send him to the store than go by yourself with the little kids), you can send him with the list of exactly what you need. You could even write in what brand you want him to buy. The list will also let him know (or should anyway, if he thinks about it) that this means that you have everything you need written on the list, and if you don't have ice cream written down that means he doesn't need to buy it because you either still have some, or you have other desserts planned that don't need ice cream.

Those are my thoughts from the peanut gallery. Come back tomorrow to see how I did with my October budget!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook

For today, Tuesday October 28, 2008

Outside my window... It is cold! 36° to be exact. The sun isn't quite up, I hear a dump truck driving past on the road.

I am thinking... I've been thinking about this upcoming election lately, and that I've heard alot of people saying they aren't going to vote. It makes me sad because each person that doesn't vote is just giving a vote to "the worser" guy.

I am thankful for... Freedom. Freedom to vote, freedom to make decisions about where I want to shop, get medical help, go to church, worship, buy gas, live, marry ('though I've already made that one, I'm glad I was able to decide on my own), and the list goes on and on.

From the kitchen... I have a thawing pork roast on the counter that I will put in the crockpot this morning for tonight's supper. Dirty dishes from cooking supper last night need dealt with. The "catchall" place on the counter is getting deep! I love my candle! Somehow burning a candle makes it "look" warmer :)

I am wearing... My pink bathrobe and pink slippers.

I am going... Maybe to the chiropractor today.

I am reading... I saw several books in the CBD magazine last night that I'd love to be reading!

I am hoping... that we can make great progress on the home project this week. We made some last night!! Yay :)

I am creating... (this is lame) a blog post so my readers don't wonder what happened to me.

I am hearing... Well, nothing. I will probably turn on the radio or a Christmas CD later on. (Yes, I'm one of those. Actually, I enjoy listening to Christmas music year-round. Sometimes when it's blazing hot outside, I'll turn on a CD just to at least "think" cooler!)

Around the house... Furniture is disheveled in the living room again since we moved the dining room table to work in the dining room. My dresser is piled high - I need to do some serious work on my clothes and get rid of what I don't wear so everything fits easier in the drawers! Mostly the bulky sweater/winter stuff.

One of my favorite things... visual progress.

A few plans for the rest of the week... A fall picnic this Saturday! Get more done on the house. Daily chores.

A picture thought I am sharing with you... from July '07 vacation.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Disclaimer to the Ranting and Raving

After having dinner at some friend's house last night and eating very, very yummy lasagna made with bought sauce, I realized that I was probably kinda hard on some of you, and even worse, what would my friend think if she read my blog and got the impression that I thought low of her cooking methods or her grocery lifestyle?! I don't want my readers to think that I'm anti-pre-made food. You might get that idea if you read this post.

Several people that I know and are good friends have what I consider to be pre-made food as the staple in their pantry! Really and truly, it doesn't bother me in general. When it bothers me is when I hear people complaining over their high grocery bills, their deep debt, or their monster credit card balance (debt), those kind of things. It's all about knowing what you have, and living within your means. If you have enough money to buy those foil-topped packet thingies of caramel sauce to dip your apples in and still pay all your bills and meet the mortgage payment and have time to spend with your spouse and kids, well shucks why not!

So just 'cause you buy pre-made food doesn't mean I won't like you or be your friend :) My food will just taste better than yours. JUST KIDDING!!!! LOL!!!

$25 Is Getting Tough

The past few shopping trips I've made are showing me that $25 a week for groceries is getting hard to do. Especially since I'm trying to come in UNDER $25 so that I can put extra money into "the meat fund" for when I have to restock on meat supply.

I'm not sure if why it's getting harder and harder. If you remember back when I started this challenge, I was easily spending less than even $20 a week. Now it seems like it's all I can do to keep it from going OVER $25.

I'm wondering if one of these isn't the culprit:
~ My supply of things from my pre-$25/week days of buying bulk and stocking up are starting to run out, so I'm having to re-stock on some things.
~ I'm getting lazy in my menu planning and using what I have on hand.

My guess is that it is a combination of both. I'm probably not being as careful in going over what I have on hand and finding recipes to fit, and simply not making recipes that I don't have the ingredients for. At the same time, if I can menu plan and shop carefully enough, I should be able to restock 1 or 2 things at a time as needed and not blow the budget. At least that's the perfect picture in my mind. I guess it all boils down to the fact that I need to "play the cards" more carefully. What are some things that you do??

Friday, October 24, 2008

Plantation Supper Recipe

After I posted this menu, several of you asked, "what is Plantation Supper?" Soooo, here it is! It is a very good recipe, it's really easy, quick, and very cheap. And my little secret? I double alot of the stuff and we have it for 4 meals. We'll have 2 meals this week, and I'll freeze 2 meals worth for another week. All this with 1 lb. of hamburger!! I love it :) It's very budget friendly :) I will post the original recipe, and then post "my version" of it as well.

Plantation Supper, Original Recipe
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup milk
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups whole-kernel corn, drained
1/4 cup chopped pimento
8 oz. noodles, cooked
1 1/2 tsp. salt
dash pepper

Brown meat; add onion and cook until tender. Stir in milk, soup and cheese until well blended. Add remaining ingredients. Cook until heated through.

Plantation Supper, My Version (makes 4 meals for 2 people)
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cans Reduced Fat Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 (8oz) pkg Fat Free Cream Cheese
2 cans whole-kernel corn, drained
1 lb. macaroni, cooked
3 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook noodles. While noodles are cooking, brown meat and onion, drain if desired. Add soup, cream cheese and corn, stir until well blended. Stir in drained macaroni, salt and pepper. Cook until heated through.

I have made the "original" recipe using the milk and the whole amount of cream cheese, but I didn't like how soupy/greasy/cheesy it was. And I leave out the pimento because I've never bought it and don't see a reason to buy it just for this recipe. I've never missed it!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Way I See Things...

In response to Sally's comment on this post (which I laughed at, by the way :P ):

When I walk in your house, nope I don't look around to see what ways you should be more frugal. Well, not on purpose anyway. I don't open your frige or freezer to see if you're saving butter wrappers to grease pans with (I don't - they go in the trash. If they have enough stuck on them, I pull out a scraper and scrape them off before putting them in the trash). I don't look to see if you dump the dirt out of our vacuum bag so you can reuse it (remember those days?), or if you only have 1 bulb per light, or if you like to use lots of hot water just because. And I don't buy Tide so I won't have to hide it when you come to visit... but if I did, I probably wouldn't hide it anyway.

The things I (would) notice would be things like... if you use paper towels to wipe up a mess or wash the dishes instead of a rag or dishcloth. You exclaim over your high grocery bill and I see cake mixes, canned icing, Bertolli spaghetti sauce, Texas Toast, Kraft cheese, salad-in-a-bag, boxes of frozen breakfast thingys, or... even worse, frozen dinners, individual sized soup-cup thingies, single serving packets of whatevers. (See, I don't even know what's out there!)

I'm climbing up on my soapbox here - wait, I think I'm already on it!!!

Last night we had to make a run by WalMart to pick up a bag of Dog Food and to get some salt (I had unknowingly run plumb out of salt). Wow, the price of salt was amazing!! It was $.33 a CAN!! I don't remember seeing salt that cheap ever! I don't know of anything you can buy for $.33!! Not even a candy bar at the checkout line!! I bought 3 cans. It will probably last for a LONG time, but it was $.33 a can!! We were walking back down the "baking goods" aisle, and I was horrified to see there on the shelf little packages of "individual cake bakers" or whatever they are. A little plastic bowl with (I presume) some kind of pre-fab cake goop in it that you microwave and have an instant serving of cake. CUM-ON. It irked me even more to compare the prices: You could get 2 of these microwave cake thingies for $2.12 (that is $2.12 for TWO servings of cake!), OR you could buy a box of cake mix (if you're not frugal enough to make your own from scratch) for $2.00 - and that was Betty Crocker brand, I think. That one box of cake mix for $2 makes 24 servings. If you only need 2 servings... buy the $2 cake mix, make the cake, cut out your two servings and freeze the rest. If frozen cake turns your stomach - get a stronger stomach - or give the rest of it away. Take it to work, whatever, but you've just saved yourself some dignity and $.12.

Probably the other thing that irks me is individual servings of premade food. Frozen dinners, snacks, etc. I am newly amazed each time I'm in the grocery store at what they have come up with now to sell in single servings. It's crazy. Do people not realize that these drain the life-blood from their checking accounts?

For sure, there are some times when convenience foods are the only way to go. Last year when we went on our 10 day vacation and took all our food along to keep from buying fast food or restaurant eating, we did take SOME convenience food. I bought OJ that was already mixed up and fruit and pudding cups. But I think that was it. The chips - the big bag. The sandwich stuff - we threw the stuff from the frige into the cooler and I put mayo and mustard from the big jug into some yogurt cups. But in everyday life, you could save SO MUCH MONEY if you "made your own".

If you need caramel sauce to dip your apple in, don't buy the cute little foil-topped fancy looking packets of caramel sauce. Buy a bottle of caramel sauce and some little tiny container thingies and squirt some sauce into that. And when you're done, throw the container in the dishwasher to use next time. Shucks, if one day you decide you want peanut butter instead of caramel sauce, you just have to put peanut butter in the little container thingy instead of caramel sauce! You don't have to make a trip to the store to find little fancy foil-topped things of peanut butter.

Need pudding cups for your lunchbox? Mix up a batch of pudding, and fill your little container thingies. The extras will keep in the frige for a bit until you use them up.

Chips for snacks? Buy the big family sized bag and a box of 200 (or however many) snack baggies. Fill up several snack baggies with chips, and there ya go! I bet if you compared the big bag of chips by weight, you'd come out with more "home-made" snack packs for less money than if you bought the "case" of 8 at the store.

Need quick breakfasts? Muffins, waffles and pancakes you can all make from scratch (or box mix if you have to) and freeze. Pop the waffles and pancakes in the toaster for a few, and ta-da!

Frozen dinners for lunch? Some night drum up some extra energy, cook up a pot of stew or a pan of casserole, and divide it into containers. Freeze them. Pull them out and stick 'em in your lunchbox with an apple and a tiny container holding a few squirts of caramel goop from the bottle and you got lunch!!

Shucks... if your kids need juice boxes, buy some (cheap) cool looking drink bottles and some fruit punch mix (or some jugs of fruit juices and mix them up to make fruit drinks). Make your own. I bet they'll fast become the cool kids with the cool drink bottles with the cool fruit punch drink that their cool mom made!!

And I probably should get off my soapbox now. If I have friends out there reading this that I just made red-hot mad, sorry. Didn't mean to.

So yeah, that's only like a drop in the bucket of ways you can save money in the food department. Like a minuscule drop. But if you're into convenience foods and looking to save a little, I hope this really helped. I guess this post kinda ended on a different note from what it started out to be. Oh well :)

I wonder how many comments I'll get... And before I close this out, I'm frantically thinking through my cupboards and freezers to see if I'm sitting here typing this hypocritically... and aside from Daniel's sodas (technically we could buy 2 liters instead of the cans and it would be cheaper, but he'd end up with flat soda), I really can't think of anything. You're welcome to come visit and hold me true to my word. Unless you're some freaky stalker, then stay away!

Now THAT is Frugality!

I think I've won a "contest" maybe a time or two in my life? Not to mention that I hardly ever enter them - maybe that's why I "never" win anything.

My chiropractor has a little box in their office where you can enter the answer to their "Question of the Month" (they give you 4 answers to choose from). Several weeks ago I thought, "shucks, why not, who knows?" and guessed at the answer (I made sure to fold my paper in half to give it a better chance of being picked if I had the right answer, yada yada.).

I walked in Monday, and the girl said "Hey, we've got a surprise for you! You won the question of the month, so you get 2 free movie tickets!"

Yay!! So, that night I took Daniel on a date :) Well, kindof. He drove, and we ran 2 errands on the way. We went to see Fireproof, and wow, it's a real deal of a movie!! If you haven't already seen it, you definitely should. We'd been talking about going to see it, and Daniel was going to take me to see it when it first came out but we had something else going on so we never did. And now we did get to see it and not pay anything for it!! Woohoo! And we ate a good dinner before we went so we weren't hungry - though the salty/buttery smelling popcorn was tempting :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Confess, I Did It...



I swore I'd never do it.

I got a debit card. I have used it. I like using it. It is easy. It is fast. I don't have to write a check. I don't have to pull out my driver's licence and give them my phone number. People don't have to wait in line behind me. I don't have to sign anything. (and that picture is not my cards, so don't go blowing it up trying to steal the numbers -it's some picture I got off the 'net, so it's probably bogus ... I hope...)

And I'm sure you're all wondering "why", right? Here's the "why": Checks cost money. I (used to) write checks for EVERYTHING. That meant using LOTS of checks. I figured up that 1 check cost us about $.10. That's alot just for a piece of paper that I never see again, or like at WalMart, I sign in, give it to the lady, she sends it through the machine and hands it back to me, I come home and shred it. I might as well chuck a dime into the trash can each time instead. Now, I wouldn't think of doing that, and neither would you. So... I got a debit card. I thought long and hard over this... I almost prayed about it, that's how much thought I gave to it. I wanted to be super, duper, extra sure that I wasn't going to just go out and turn into some shopping freak with a massive negative amount in my checking account and the blood hounds from the bank busting through my back door to haul me off to the unknown to make me pay for my unwise actions.

And I'm pretty sure I'll be able to control myself on this. In fact, I'd say "I'm sure". I think I'm frugal and "stick to the budget" enough to know that the piece of plastic doesn't mean "free money!!"

Oh, it was SO nice to just swipe the card at WalMart when I got groceries! And I DID make sure to write it in my ledger (that was my other fear, that I'd forget to record it and end up overspending that way!). And it was so nice to swipe the card at the chiropractors... and the pharmacy... and nope, I didn't go anywhere else. I didn't have to sign anything, spend 5 minutes (at least it seems like it to the guy behind me) writing a check. Ha ha, the previous time I was in Walmart, I was writing my check, and a jerk, I mean, guy, walked up obviously in an impatient hurry. He said a few %#*%&@# and something along the lines of "he'd never get out of there if people keep writing checks!!!!". I'm sure he just needed a pack of cigs or Twinkies... Oh well.

I know this isn't the end of my check writing (when I worked at the bank there were several people that NEVER used paper checks, EVER!!)... we still get paper bills in the mail that we have to send paper checks to pay (or we could pay online... that is another thing that freaks me out). But at least my grocery store visits won't cost me an extra $.10 anymore. As for ATM's, well, I've survived this long without carrying cash, I can keep surviving!

And I'll leave you with this: I'm still a firm believer that plastic can be very, very, very, very (just read that a few times to get the gist) bad for your budget. Like VERY. If you wanna get a handle on your budget and spending, you gotta get a handle on your plastic.

Time To Vote - For My Blog!!!

This original post was kinda getting lost, so I'm reposting "just in case" anybody that might want to vote didn't see the first one.

Hey guys... I was nominated (well, my blog was) for the Hillbilly Housewife Website Award. So click on the button at the top of my sidebar and go vote for me!! I already voted (and I was nice and voted for someone else's blog), so now it's your turn!! The polls close Oct. 31st, so make sure you get your vote in! And really... I'm not sure what happens if I "win", probably nothing other than getting the award, but it would still be fun to win!

Vacation - the Mountains & Valleys part

Ahh, the beautiful Shenandoah Valley!

And that's the Shenandoah River that you see in this picture! There was a tower on top of one of the mountains we drove over, and we made the little hike to the tower, then up the tower (it wasn't extremely tall) and had gorgeous views!!
I don't remember if this is mountain #1 or #2 that we crossed... but the drive was SO pretty! Haha, I DO remember that this was the West Virginia side of the mountain! The VA side had gravel, and right at the top where the "state line" was, it was an obvious change from gravel to DIRT. This was probably the steepest switchback... it felt like you were doing a nose-dive. We backed up to get the picture.
Daniel getting out the blankets. Notice the blue tissue box that was going to bed with me that night to catch the snot from my nose that ran like a faucet all night. (Yes, I said snot - that's what it is)
This is actually the first morning... Daniel cooked/fried all our camp-fire food, all I had to do was bring the foodstuff to him, and he made it :) Old refrigerator racks make great grill racks!

We left here Monday afternoon and drove until we got to our first campground. It wasn't our first place of choice - the first place had done away with their tent sites. So we stayed in a Yogi Bear park. It was nice, their bathrooms were pretty good. But it was SO COLD that night! I had goosebumps all over, I'm not kidding. I had goosebumps in places I didn't know you could get goosebumps! I'm pretty sure I was coming down with my cold Monday, but the freezing cold night didn't help.

Tuesday we drove more country roads and eventually meandered our way up to the Woodstock Tower, where you could climb up the (aforementioned) tower and see the town of Woodstock, and multiple bends in the Shenandoah River.

It was fun driving the "state roads" over the mountains... they were on the map, but they were basically pig-paths carved into the mountain. One switchback was marked with a "curve" sign that looked like a backwards question mark with 5 MPH. Yeah. And going "up hill" was pretty steep in some places... stuff kept falling out of the little "catchall" place in Daniel's dashboard, and we joked that the radio was going to fall out next.

The trees were just beautiful. I'm not sure that we actually hit "peak week", but they were still pretty! We did drive some in West Virginia - we went through the little town of Mathias... (my siblings will probably recognize the name) it consisted of a few poultry houses, a few other buildings... and a mailbox or two. At one point in the booneys of Va, we did see a bear in the road.... a stuffed teddy bear. I wanted to go back and take a picture of it so I could blog about seeing a bear on vacation, but we didn't.

My favorite part was just driving in the country. It was really fun to look for old abandoned farm houses. But it was sad, too, because alot of them looked like they had been really nice places in their day and were just left to rot to the ground. Daniel and I would point them out to each other - it's nice to share the same dreams :)

The last night we spent at a state park on the western tip of Kerr Lake Reservoir (also Bugg's Island Lake). It was warmer that night, but poor Daniel - his firewood didn't want to burn! It took a long time to cook supper (polish sausage, onions and peppers), and then in the morning it took about 1 1/2 hrs to make bacon and eggs. He sat there and puffed and puffed (like the big, bad wolf) to keep the fire going. I mentioned that we could use the little gas camping stove that we'd taken along, but he wanted to do it on a fire, so we did :)

Thursday we meandered our way home, once again driving lots of little, no-yellow-line, a little wider than one lane roads. We saw tobacco fields, acres of tree farms, a prescribed burn, several old log buildings, and more beautiful farm houses that were just sitting empty and sad. It was a great drive home - it was a warm day, and I was faithful in taking Advil Cold & Sinus every 4 hours so I felt decent and enjoyed the ride :)

And that was our vacation!! Thanks for "coming with us" by means of blog posts :)

And is it ok if I just kinda mention that it cost us all of $60 and 2 tanks of gas for a 4 day vacation? C'mon, even Disney can't do that. All the food that we had was planned out in the menu for the week, so we weren't buying special food for the trip or anything.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vacation Tales

"From the mountains, to the valleys, to the oceans white with foam!"

That was our vacation this year - in the state that has it all! The most beautiful-est state of Virginia! (Our vacation kinda had two parts to it, so I'll be doing another post about the 2nd part later on.) Only we did it backwards from the song - we did the "oceans white with foam" first, then the valleys and mountains :)

We left on Friday afternoon and drove to another couple's house, and carpooled with them to the Couple's Beach Retreat that our Sunday School does every year. It is always a great time of fellowship around the Word, visiting and fun!! It's also the time to pull out all the stops on your nocturnal side and see how late you can stay up playing games. Daniel was up till 3:45am Sunday morning playing... I was brain-fried at mid-night (I'd come back to "our" house with some other couples and we played Ticket To Ride till mid-night when we all called it quits). I did stay up for another 1 1/2 hrs. waiting for Daniel and reading "They Called Her Mrs. Doc" by Janette Oke. After visiting and having fun around Sunday lunch for a while, we loaded back up and came home :)
Here's some pictures from the retreat:
Daniel, RK & Jamie leading the praise & worship

Eileen, Dave, Daniel & I played "Pirateers" (I think..)
It's a couples retreat, we can act married :)
Dave & Daniel playing beach football
(our SS leader was out there, too, but didn't make this picture)
You can't see it, but it was really windy while we where there! The ocean was choppy and lots of big waves. Walking from one beach house to another (it was 30 couples I think, and we had 3 beach houses spread out), you would get pelted with sand.
It was lots of fun - our second time to go on the retreat since we skipped last year, and it was just a great time of getting to know people outside of Sunday School and church.
Come back later for the "mountain side"!!

Menu and Groceries for 2 Weeks

Ahh, what a lovely fall morning! The sky is clear and blue, and it's not terribly chilly out there... I even had my wash hung out by quarter to 10! It should be a good "cool" drying day out there.

So I did my menu planning and shopping yesterday. I got everything from Walmart - Kroger didn't have any sales worthy of my driving all the way over there, so I stuck close to home.

Groceries:
box of trash bags (Glad brand was cheaper than store brand!): $7.12
7 cans corn: $4.41
Sesame Oil: $2.64
Brown Sugar: $1.56
Dish Soap: $.97 (I was getting desperate trying to stay well under-budget!)
2 Orange Drink mix: $1.36
2 OJ mix: $2.84
Swiss Cheese: $2.42
FF Cream Cheese: $1.18
3lb Gala Apples: $3.88
8oz mushrooms: $1.78
Munchies mix: $3.50
Corn Chips: $1.47
1 doz. eggs: $1.52
Total: $37.76
woop, woop!! Under budget: $12.24

Wow, I really, really had to scramble my purchases to come out "under" that much. I had to scratch a few things off the list. And of course last night I suddenly remembered that I had broccoli on the menu and forgot to buy broccoli!! I know I have some in the freezer, but I will just either make it stretch, or figure something out.

The big bag of corn chips were super cheap, and don't taste so bad - they're decent and will fit the purpose of "chips"!! The dish soap... well, I use my dishwasher like a mad woman, so I don't do alot of hand washing except for really big or "food-stuck-on" stuff, so I figured I could make do with cheaper soap - otherwise I just use it for hand soap in the kitchen, so cheap is even more appropriate! And the "Orange Drink" mix... it's a budget saver!! So the ingredients list probably reads something like "sugar, orange color, water, ... and then some kind of fruit juice goop that is leftover from everything else"... but it doesn't taste bad at all, and mixed with the "expensive" (ha ha!!) store-brand cheapo OJ concentrate, it all tastes pretty good! It helps cover up the sour, rindy taste that comes through in the OJ sometimes.

Yay, now I have some more $$ to put to the meat fund :)

Ok, ok, I need to get to the Menu:
Mon - Hamburger Barley Stew, leftover Cornbread from MIL
Tue - Baked Chicken, Brown Buttered Potatoes, Peas
Wed - Plantation Supper
Thur - Leftover Hamburger Barley Stew, leftover Cornbread from MIL
Fri - dinner with our small group, I'll be taking some kind of dessert thing
Sat - Beefy Asian Rice (recipe from Aliisa's blog)
Sun - Leftover Plantation Supper
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mon - Chicken Cherry Roll-Ups, Broccoli
Tue - Pork Roast, Sauerkraut, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
Wed - Chicken (or turkey) Pot-Pie
Thur - Pork BBQ (from pork roast), Oven Baked Beans
Fri - Deep Sea Chicken (Chicken/Rice Cass), Broccoli
Sat - Sunday School Fall Picnic - taking baked corn (thus all the cans of corn since I like to save my homegrown stuff for eating plain!)
Sun - Leftovers


So... there you have it :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook

For today, Monday October 20, 2008

Outside my window... It is pretty chilly - it was 36° this morning at 7:30. The sun is just about all the way up, it looks so pretty shining through the fall colored trees!!

I am thinking... that my oatmeal & raisins breakfast was really yummy and warm.

I am thankful for... starting to feel better with my cold - and that we turned on the heat last night - set on the high temperature of 61°!!

From the kitchen... I have a candle burning to at least make it look warmer, and that's where I'll be focusing my cleaning today, and it needs it!

I am wearing... gray pants and a white turtleneck (I'll be wearing several more layers once I do my exercising and shower!!)

I am going... to town today (check back later or tomorrow for the results)

I am reading... besides the Bible, zilch, zip, nada

I am hoping... that I will stick to my (re-)new(ed) goal to stay on top of my to-do list and not get distracted with things like blog reading...

I am creating... ha ha, my creative side hasn't kicked in yet today - but I do need to make bread if that counts.

I am hearing... ahhh, quiet:) (I bet some of you moms out there are wishing for the same... I keep telling myself that I won't always have "quiet" to "hear")

Around the house... some things need picked up or put away here and there

One of my favorite things... BLOGGING!!!

A few plans for the rest of the week... finish a project and hopefully get started on another one!!

A picture thought I am sharing with you... take a look out the window at God's beautiful creation!


Friday, October 17, 2008

Time To Vote - For My Blog!!!

Hey guys... I was nominated (well, my blog was) for the Hillbilly Housewife Website Award.




So click on the button at the top of my sidebar and go vote for me!!


I already voted (and I was nice and voted for someone else's blog), so now it's your turn!! The polls close Oct. 31st, so make sure you get your vote in!


And really... I'm not sure what happens if I "win", probably nothing other than getting the award, but it would still be fun to win!

What's Up??

Ha ha, it was fun to come back to multiple comments/emails from people wondering what was going on that I wasn't posting!!

Was I deathly ill?
Was I pregnant?
Were we on vacation?

I had every intention of sneakily scheduling several posts so that you wouldn't think I was missing a beat over here... but ha ha, that didn't happen.

Friday mid-afternoon we left here and drove to another couple's house, and then carpooled from there to Sandbridge Beach for our annual Sunday School's couple's retreat. We got home late Sunday afternoon.

Monday morning Daniel changed the starter on his truck and I started packing stuff for our vacation and getting things around here ready for us to be gone for a couple days (you know how it is...).

We left mid-afternoon for our vacation. The gist of our vacation (Mon - Thurs) was: driving, camping. Yup. Hours and hours of driving. Like hours and hours and hours. But it was fun :) Daniel and I both like driving around, so that's what we do for our "fun time". We only rode a teeny tiny bit of interstate at one point.

The first night we spent at Jellystone State Park in Luray. It was COOOOOLLLLLLDDDDD. I had goosebumps ALL OVER, and kept waking up in the middle of the night. Daniel didn't seem to think it was too cold. He has more fur than I do, and that's ok!! I was glad I packed all 3 blankets and the sleeping bag!!

Then we drove all day and wound up at Joel & Rachel's Tuesday night. We all went out to eat for supper, and then spent a nice cozy night indoors (thanks to them giving up their heater so we could be warm in our bedroom! What a sacrifice and muchly appreciated!!!). Then mid-morning we hit the road again and wound up at Kerr Lake (also "Bugg's Island")... well, at the far-western end of it, and stayed at a state park there. It wasn't NEARLY as cold, and I slept pretty decently. Oh, ha ha, we also played "Tic-Tac-Toe" and "Hang-Man" in the tent before going to sleep. It was alot of fun. It was the first time I'd played Hang-Man, and it was fun to play in the half-dark (we had our crank "lantern" for light - it's better than nothing).

Early afternoon we loaded everything up and drove around the one side of the lake to see the dam, and then meandered our way back home, getting here shortly before dark.

So for those of you that were wondering:

Yes, I have fallen ill - with a cold.
No, it's not morning sickness, but I could say that I've been sick the past several mornings, ha ha.
No, we haven't cancelled our internet connection.
Yes, I missed reading your blogs! I really did think about what y'all were up to that I was missing.
Yes, we were simply on vacation :)

And now that I'm not "stuck in a truck" for hours on end with no idea where or when the next bathroom stop might be, I plan to get off here and start drinking tons and tons of water to further this cold along towards the "leaving" part of the process.

And I'll do a post later on with pictures and more fun details :)

Simple Woman's Daybook (and I'm back!)

For today, October 17, 2008

Outside my window... The sky is gray and I think it's stopped raining, the trees are more yellow than they were last week.

I am thinking... that it was fun to catch up on all the blogs I read :)

I am thankful for... the time Daniel and I could be together these past several days.

From the kitchen... I need to put away clean dishes and wash or load the dishwasher with the few dirty ones.

I am wearing... a pink turtleneck and gray pants

I am going... to stay home today :)

I am reading... nothing right now, I've been browsing through my "new" Tightwad Gazzette III that the library GAVE me (because it was too worn out and they were taking it out of circulation but I had asked if they had it)

I am hoping... to get over my cold really really fast, and that it doesn't go into my throat or chest

I am creating... clean laundry :P

I am hearing... quiet

Around the house... Daniel's sneakers need put away, a laundry basket of clean jeans needs folded and put away, I need to refresh my "gnat-catcher"...

One of my favorite things... crossing things off my to-do list

A few plans for the rest of the week... well, not much "rest of the week left", but I do hope to get the house cleaned, and start on my next 2 weeks of menus and planning next weeks grocery trip.

A picture thought I am sharing with you...

3 pints of pear-butter :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Bloggy Friends are My Froggy Friends

I was talking to one of my sisters online last evening. She asked me why I liked to blog, so I was telling her. I said one thing I liked about it are my bloggy friends.

She said, "Bloggy friends... that sounds like friendly frogs in a swamp."

So welcome, friendly frogs, to my little corner of the swamp!

And feel free to leap over and croak out a few comments any ol' time!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

For a friend...

This isn't something that I would usually do, but a new bloggy friend of mine, Elizabeth, just lost her baby earlier this week.

Having never been through anything near that, having never carried a child in my own womb, I cannot begin to identify with what she is going through... but I can imagine - and it makes my heart ache.

So.... as you think about it, could you pray for her and her family? She and her husband have 2 little boys, and she was so excited to be pregnant with their 3rd baby.

Our pastor just started a new series on Faith, and the choir has been practicing this song for a couple weeks now to sing in one of the services. The lyrics "blow me away" each time we sing it. It is amazing and comforting to me that even when we are too weak or weary to even get our thoughts together to pray or talk to God... He still knows and hears the cries of our heart.

Here are the lyrics (and you can go here to listen):

My Wordless Prayer
by Craig Courtney

My words lie still and lifeless as dust upon the sand,
I can no longer voice one request or demand,
My cup of tears is empty, I can no loner cry,
My lips have fallen silent, my prayer is but a sigh.
Spirit come and rest Your ear upon my heart,
O come and hear my wordless prayer,
my silent plea and take them far away from me.
Take them from this heart of mine to the Father’s heart divine,
Speak in tones unknown to man that God may hear and understand.
My voice is weak from calling to You both night and day.
How long will You be silent? Why do You turn away?
Spirit, come and rest Your ear upon my heart;
Come and hear my wordless prayer,
my silent plea and take them far away from me.
Take them from this heart of mine to the Father’s heart divine.
Speak in tones unknown to man that God may hear and under stand.

Gnats, Gnats, Go Away - and never come back!!

Ever since we had peaches in the house this summer, we've had a constant supply of fruit gnats in the house as well. Sometimes more than others, especially if some new fruit (pears lately) appeared, or a dirty dish was left out for them to graze upon. I've gotten pretty good at killing them by smacking them with my hand while they're landed on the cupboard doors (or somewhere with a hard surface!), but it was obvious that they were multiplying faster than I could kill them off.

And they were getting on my nerves big time. And getting more so as time went on and they were just sticking around!!

I tried the "vinegar/soap" in a dish thing - ha, that didn't work at all. Then I heard about this, and was still a little skeptical of it, but decided I was being aggravated by them enough to try it!

Last night after killing several of them, I pulled out an empty jar, and asked Daniel if he would make a paper funnel for me (I was in the middle of canning pear-butter and trying to get supper made). He did, and we put it in the jar - then realized we had to put the vinegar in first! Duh! So we untaped the paper carefully, and put in some vinegar, and put the paper funnel back in. Within just a minute or two, we had our first victim, and by the end of the evening we had quite a few!
You just put a little vinegar (I used Apple Cider Vinegar) in the jar, then put the funnel on top. We made the hole pretty small, about the size of a pencil. Then we used masking tape to tape around the rim of the jar to prevent them from sneaking out that way since it wasn't a completely crack-free fit. Supposedly once they get in, they can't figure out how to get back out. Daniel taped the seam in the funnel in a couple places, I would recommend taping it the whole way just in case!

Now I'm trying to figure out how I can successfully kill them and not just take the jar outside and release them to come back in my house or go pester somebody else. I'm also not 100% sure that a few of them haven't escaped as I hadn't seen any gnats this morning.... then later I killed two. So I need to figure out my plan of action and get actin'.

Anyways, I'm sure that several of you have these pesky things in your house, too, so I wanted to pass along what seems to really be workin' for me!!

Ahh... the joys of a kitchen that is gnat free....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Praise God from Whom All Blessings of Free Liver Flow!!

Update: I'm using this post from previously in the week for the Friday recipe swap over at Gayle's blog. Go check her blog out for more recipes!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wow, Amazing, Cow-abunga... whatever you want to call it! A couple weeks ago my sister offered to give away her supply of beef liver to anyone that wanted it (she's newly diabetic, so liver doesn't fit her diet anymore). I quickly replied that I would take it if no one closer (geographically) wanted it, but I wasn't sure when I'd be able to get it.




We grew up with liver every Wednesday for a long time - I guess since we butchered our own beef and undoubtedly had a good supply of livers! It was always tough, gristly and tasted like you were chewing on a magnet (don't ask how I know what that's like). No matter how much you tried to hide it with mashed 'taters and gravy (and the onions cooked with it were "gross" to me, too), it was never very good to me as a kid. Unless by chance we happened to get "good, fat-cow" liver, then it was good, but we were all so brain-washed that liver was gross and yuck that I never liked liver until after we got married and I bought some because it was on sale and it made for cheap meat!



When I discovered that GOOD liver actually tastes GOOD (especially when cooked the proper way!), I really like to make it. But I wouldn't buy it very often just because. Thankfully, I guess no one else was as excited over "free" liver as I was, because when I went to the Valley to go to a funeral last week, Sally asked if she could bring the liver. So... Yay! We're having (FREE!) liver 'n' onions for supper tonight!!



I will finish posting this once I get it cooked, along with a picture (hopefully) and directions on how I cook it (thanks to another sister, Rachel, coming up with this fabulous method!!).

The great thing about the meal you see on this plate?
The only thing that cost $$ was the onions!
The green beans are from our garden,
the potatoes are from Daniel's sister's garden,
and the liver was given to us by Sally!!
Does God supply our needs or WHAT?



To cook/fry the liver:

Cut the liver into serving sized pieces if needed. Dredge each piece in flour.

Melt about 1 Tbsp. or so of bacon grease in a large skillet with a lid, brown the liver on both sides over med. heat. While browning, sprinkle each piece generously on each side with:

Salt, Pepper, and Steak Seasoning

Once the liver is browned, add some more bacon grease (being sure to coat the bottom of the pan so the liver doesn't stick), and add lots of thickly sliced onions (I used 2 onions for 4 pieces of liver). Put the lid on the skillet, and let cook over med/low heat until done and onions are cooked. Occasionally flip the liver so it doesn't get too done on one side or burn, and add additional bacon grease if needed to keep it from sticking.

Serve with mashed potatoes and a favorite vegetable!!

Buying Meat

If any of you have noticed, I don't usually buy raw meat with my regular grocery purchases. How do I get around this? Well, it's easy - kind of :)

I started out my new budget with a pretty well stocked meat freezer, which made it really nice on the budget!!

My grocery budget is $25 a week. Each week I spend somewhere around that - I usually try to go less than that.

I keep track of how much I spent each week, and at the end of the month I total them up. I divide the total by the number of weeks I went shopping to get my average (as long as my average is $25 or less, I know I'm "on target" with my shopping and budget).

I then multiply $25 by the number of weeks I shopped. Then I subtract the total from what my entire budget was.
Example:
Shopped 4 weeks, and spent a total of $84.52
$100 ($25 x 4 weeks) - $84.52 = $15.48
The $15.48 (or what's left in my budget at the end of each month) goes into my imaginary "meat fund". As my meat supply starts to run low, I start watching sales for really really really good deals. I try to go for around $1.50/lb on ground beef, and less than $.75/lb on poultry. Then I stock up! Occasionally (and RARELY) I will "stock up" even if I'm not specifically running low, just because the deal is rare and extremely good (like turkey for $.59/lb?? - that's only going to happen now in the fall - once a year). I will make this turkey last several months :)
Usually I only find "good enough" sales on poultry (usually whole chickens). Hamburger is usually on "sale" for $1.99/lb - which is still to expensive for me, so I try and find big family sized packs that have been marked down for quick sale. The money I spend on the meat comes out of the meat fund, and doesn't effect my weekly shopping budget. Just today I started a list of my weekly shopping totals, and how much I have left at the end of the month to put towards meat. Then I also started a list of what goes into the meat fund, and what I spend out of the meat fund.
Things like hotdogs, bacon and sandwich meat do come out of the regular grocery fund. But I don't buy hotdogs or bacon very much, and try to get sandwich meat on sale.
Currently we are fully stocked with hamburger and poultry, and I have $3.99 left in the meat fund! I will need to be extra careful the next couple weeks here in October so that I can add to the meat fund. I try to be "extra" careful each week of course, but there are "drastic" measures that can be made sometimes - called "doing without". Ha ha.
It takes some planning and a little work, but it sure beats running out and having to pay full price for meat!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Forgot the Menu!

Woops. And I hate to edit a post after I've put pictures in it and posted it because it always messes up on me, so I'm just going to leave it and post my 2 weeks of menu right here :)

Menu:
Mon - Leftover Chic. Casserole and leftover broccoli
Tue - Liver'n'Onions (woohoo for Sally!), Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes
Wed - Leftover Chic. Casserole
Thur - Potato Chowder, Broccoli
Fri - Baked Chicken, Corn, Mac'n'Cheese
Sat - Sunday School Dinner
Sun - Fried Rice
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mon - Chicken, Baked Potatoes
Tue - Polish Sausage, Onions & Peppers
Wed - Hotdogs, Beans
Thur - Taco Soup from freezer
Fri - Pork Chops, Salad
Sat - with in-laws
Sun - crockpot beef stew

2 Weeks Menu and Groceries

I have decided to stretch my menu planning and shopping trips to cover 2 weeks at a time - #1 to save gas, and #2 to see how it effects my budget. I also decided to switch my grocery trips from Mondays to Tuesdays, and hopefully have a better chance of getting some markdowns (which I did!!). This morning "early" I hiked my way over to Kroger to take advantage of some sales they had going on, and to compare prices on the other items on my grocery list.


Groceries: (What I got, and where I got it from)
Food Lion:
3 lb. yellow onions - $1.99 (on sale, WalMart only had a 2lb bag for more $$)
5 lb. "new" potatoes - $2.24 (on sale)
5 lb. carrots - $3.99 (should last a WHILE! cheaper per lb. than any other place)
Total: $8.43


WalMart:
1 Bright & Early "orange flavored" breakfast drink - $.68
4 OJ - $5.68
Hair Conditioner to keep me from going bald - $3.76
Total: $10.45


Kroger:
3 Dr. Pepper & 1 Pepsi - $11.00
3 lbs. butter - $5.64 ($1.88 ea!! I HAD to get some even though I didn't "need" any)
1 lb. block cheese - $4.29
2 (12 oz) lunchmeats - $2.98 (Manager's Special!)
Lettuce - $1.38
2 Utz Chips - $4.00
3 doz. eggs - $3.42
Total: $33.53


Grand Total: $52.41
over budget $2.41


The butter and sodas were actually on sale last week, and we stopped by a Kroger Saturday night to get the butter - and while we were there saw their sale on Pepsi products. Daniel was about to go into withdrawal from lack of Dr. Pepper, so we took advantage of the sale and stocked up. It should last much longer than these next 2 weeks!


I got the can of "Orange Drink" to mix in with the Orange Juice. Even though I'm getting the store-brand OJ, it is still expensive! I'm going to try the Orange Drink/Orange Juice mix and see if we can save some - at $.68 a can for the cheap stuff, it's worth a shot!



The very biggest reason I wanted to go to Kroger: Frozen turkeys on sale for $.59/lb. I got one for myself, and one for my MIL. I plan to let it thaw, cut it up, and freeze the pieces - I know I can get SEVERAL meals out of this bird! And... (drum roll, please!!) they had this huge pack of lean ground beef on Manager's Special! It was $1.53/lb. I was tickled pink. I have 1 lb. left in the freezer that I've been hanging on to, and now I have a nice supply again!

So my total "meat restock" expense: $16.65. With this added to the cheap whole chickens I bought a couple weeks ago, I shouldn't have to buy meat for a long time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today, October 6, 2008

Outside my window... Trees are starting to turn, it's a little cloudy but the sun is trying to shine.

I am thinking... about what all I am going to do today.

I am thankful for... A new day.

From the kitchen... The dishwasher needs unloaded, bread needs made.

I am wearing... (sheepish grin) my pink bathrobe.

I am going... maybe to the grocery store, but I might wait until tomorrow.

I am reading... nothing right now.

I am hoping... for a nice, normal week, to get lots done.

I am creating... need to finish the cookbook I am putting together.

I am hearing... Quiet, except for the computer fan.

Around the house... Pepsi and Dr. Pepper wait to be put away, Laundry waits to be started.

One of my favorite things... Being able to stay at home.

A few plans for the rest of the week... Grocery shop for 2 weeks, make pear-butter, ask the neighbors if I can have some of their apples (need lots of courage!).

A picture thought I am sharing with you...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cake

It is as done as it gets for tonight. Tomorrow morning (EARLY) ... well, this morning since it's after midnight, we get to carefully drive it to church and set it up, where I will put the finishing touches on it.

Everything went great after I got the new icing mixed up. Thanks for hangin' in there with me! LOL.

Now I must get a few more things done really quick before hauling off to bed, as we have a VERY busy day ahead of us tomorrow.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Venting:

Plug your ears if you don't want to hear this one.

WHY CAN'T MY CAKES EVER GO TOGETHER SMOOTHLY?

The cakes turned out fine. The icing smells wonderful, but just doesn't "feel" right, and wants to sag off the cake, almost like it's too soft. I'm about to the point of scraping the cakes off, throwing out that batch of frosting and making a new batch.

I'm seriously considering throwing in the towel with making cakes for people. This is a SIMPLE cake. It's even SMALL. Why, why, why, why why? I know I CAN do this, because I DO do this. Why can it never be right the first time? They taste great! But the process between the mixing/baking and the beautification is insane. Maybe I can just require everyone to wear blindfolds to the reception tomorrow so they don't see a dumpy looking cake, and only taste how absolutely DELISH I KNOW it is? Why do wedding cakes have to be perfect anyway?

I swan, next time I get married (ok, just kidding!!!!) I will have brownies, or cupcakes, or Krispie Kreme donuts... maybe even just chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. I think that is a splendid idea, don't you? (hint hint to anybody thinking about getting married out there!) There is no earthly way that you can pay me or anybody else what it is worth in time and stress to create a beautiful cake worthy of your wedding day. Ok, so maybe like a billion dollars might work.

Allright, I will go make a decision. And remember - you hired me to do this knowing that I was not a pro, so if you don't get pro-like results... well, at least it TASTES better than "pro".

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Update: Tada! Guess what? I decided to scrape the icing off and start over. Daniel called while he was in WalMart picking up a dowel rod (for the cake that I forgot I was out of), and he was able to pick up some more 10x sugar and shortening. As if everything else wasn't enough:
My beaters broke!!
Thankfully, I had a stand mixer in the cupboard that I never use b/c it doesn't have a turntable for the bowl to sit on. I was going to have to use it anyway. I got it out, went to use it, and lo and behold - the head DOES come off! Voila!! Now my NEW icing is all mixed up, a MUCH better texture - I'm still clueless about the other batch, it was not "like itself" at all. Oh well, now I have 5 batches of yummy, almond/vanilla flavored buttercream icing to freeze and figure out something to do with! Maybe we'll have lots of carry ins that I can take cupcakes to.
Now I'm hoping that this icing will go on super-duper smooth and easy and effortlessly like it's supposed to, and I can be done in another hour or so. Wish me luck!!

Hamburger Veggie Soup

Good fall morning!! Here where we are it's starting to get chilly at night. This morning at 6:45 it was 47° outside and 64° inside - and we have windows open (well, not all the windows, and not all the way open) in the house :) That also means that we (more like I) drug out the comforter and put it on the bed to stay warm at night. I also dug out my "winter" bathrobe to throw on while I get Daniel's breakfast ready and get him on his way (and blog, and eat breakfast... and anything else that I do before actually getting dressed!).

This weather - plus my extreme frugality right now - has had me looking to soups and stews this week. Yesterday I tried this recipe, but tweaked it to fit my own liking. Oh, it was very yummy!! You could easily cut the hamburger amount back, or even double all of the other ingredients to make a BIG batch of soup, and either have lots of leftovers or freeze some for later. And I served it with a huge, crusty loaf of fresh from the oven french bread, oooo-la-la!! You can click the link to see the original recipe, but I'm going to write my version here in the post.

Gayle so kindly hosts a Friday Recipe Swap each Friday over on her Grocery Cart Challenge blog. Scoot on over there for more yummy recipes!!

Hamburger Veggie Soup
1 lb hamburger
1 onion, chopped
1 can green beans, drained - reserve juice
1 can corn, drained - reserve juice
2 cups sliced carrots
1 can diced tomatoes
2 blocks beef bouillon
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
water
1/2 cup rice

(This recipe is supposed to be a crockpot recipe, but I forgot about making it until too late, so I just simmered it on the stove for a couple hours, my directions are for the stove-top method.)

Brown hamburger, drain. Add onion, beans, corn, carrots, tomatoes, Worcestershire Sauce and Cream of Mushroom soup.

To reserved bean/corn juice, add enough water to make 3 cups. Dissolve bouillon cubes most of the way in juice/water, add to soup mixture.

About 30 - 40 minutes before serving, add 1/2 cup rice* to soup, stir occasionally.

*Probably if I were doing it in the crockpot, I'd add the rice at the beginning when I put everything else in.

Daniel voted to add the rice since he is not a "liquid soup" person - he likes his soup to be pretty hearty. The 1/2 cup really helped out with that. We even had his parents over to eat with us! This recipe fed 4 of us nicely. The french bread, wow. It was my bread machine recipe, but the bread machine cycle for that was going to take too long. So I just mixed it up on the dough setting, and 30 min. from the end of the dough cycle (it's rising the 2nd time) I pulled it out and shaped it into a huge french loaf, put it on a greased baking sheet, and let it rise on top of the warm stove for about 30 minutes, then baked it for about 35 minutes. It had a nice, crunchy crust, and was the best french bread I've had! I even cut the big slashes in the top of the loaf before baking it so it even looked the part!! I wanted to take a picture, but didn't have time to.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading this recipe!!