Saturday, January 30, 2010

Random Thoughts

So, it is Saturday morning. I am exhausted. My youngest two had a stomach virus on Wednesday and Thursday. My older two and my husband have it now. I have been up for days it seems. Coffee is my friend. Tissues are my friend, since I have had a horrible cold all week. I cannot shake it, probably due to my lack of sleep. I have been taking my vitamins and eating oranges. Trying to be optimisic about not getting the stomach bug that my family seems to have gotten. I am simply praying that if/when I do get it, it is when my husband is better and can take care of the clan.

I am sitting here looking over the blogs that I frequent. Drinking my coffee, eating Cheerios, wishing I had the energy to make a loaf of bread, muffins or lazy granola; anything but the plain Cheerios I am eating.

Every few minutes I wipe the nose of my little man, listen to my 4 year old daughter sing me a song (she is clearly feeling better) or check on the 3 that are sick now. They are through the worst of it and are in recovery mode now. Which is why I am able to sit and drink coffee.

My mom is stopping at the store for me. We are out of Sprite, Gatorade and soup. Oh and bananas for the little man.

As I am reading through my favorite blogs, one happened to have a link to a blog that is new to me. I click the link. And my outlook suddenly changes.

The link here, takes you to Katie. Katie is a 19 year old working as a missionary in Uganda. She has become the legal gaurdian of 3 little girls, along with all the other children she takes care of. These three little girls, ages 9, 7 and 5 were living alone because their mother had died. They were living in their closet, the 7 year old was working to make money for food. Then their wall collapsed on top of the 9 year old . . . click the link to read the rest. You will not be sorry.

You will be inspired. You will be humbled. You will be so very thankful.

Instead of feeling tired and cranky. I find myself with a newly found energy.

I am thankful for the roof over my head. That when my kids are sick, we have what is necessary to make them better. We have the means to provide my kids with the special items they need for their food allergies.

We have warm blankets, socks, coats and mittens. We have warm food for our bellies. Medicine and the best medical facilities in the world.

Today I will not focus on how tired I am. How many door handles and light switches I have to disinfect. How much laundry I have to sanitize. But instead focus taking care of my family. And be so very thankful that I am able to do so.

Today we will watch movies, play games, snuggle and talk. Just be together.

I have always believed that God gives you what you can handle. Today I am reminded that he also gives you what you need.

And now I need to go play a game of peek-a-boo with my 10 month old.

This post is linked to Gratituesday and Finer Things Friday.

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Grocery Deals for January 26



Here is what I got at Kroger. I spent $21.93 and saved $27.16, so that is a savings of over 50%. Not too shabby.

I did buy two things that I had no coupon for but coffee creamer and International Coffee Swiss Mocha are necesseties.

3 Quaker Quakes--99 cents, minus 75 cent coupon that doubled to 99, all FREE
7th Generation Dish Soap--FREE with coupon
Finish gel packs--$2.99, munus $2.25 coupn so 74 cents
General Foods International Coffee--$3.61
2 packs Lays chips--$1.68 each
2 Kellogs fruit snacks--$1.49 each (had no coupon but not bad price, for kids snacks, I only buy these when they are on sale)
2 Zesta crackers $1.69--these are our favorite and is a great price
Coffeemate creamer--$3.29
2 hotpockets--$1.78 each (hubby loves these for lunch)
Crest Pro-health toothpaste (hubby is very picky about toothpaste)--$2.50, minus $1 coupon, so $1.50

Not my best, but not horrible either. I wish that I could figure out a way to not buy chips. But my family loves these in their lunches. I will admit that I eat the occasional chip as well, but never pack them in my lunches.

Most of these items (except the coffee stuff) are things that I am trying to get rid of. I would love to make my own fruit snacks, since the store bought kind are loaded with sugar, but they take too long. For me anyway, who works part of the time.

Now for my Aldi trip.




2-Cinnamon rolls--$1.49 (for the rushed mornings I don't have time to make them from scratch)
pickles--$1.49
3 cans manderin oranges--49 cents each
2 cans green beans--49 cents each
2 cans chili beans--59 cents each
1 bag navel oranges (there were 10 in bag) --$1.29 (these are delicious!)
3 cans tomato paste--39 cents
2 2 lb. boxes thin spaghetti--$1.59
2 honey--$3.79 each
3 chees blocks--$1.79 (these were cheaper at Kroger but forgot to get them there)
scoopable cat litter--$3.69 (new for me, anxious to see if it works well)
4 frozen orange juice--$1.19 each
1 can baby peas--49 cents
2 pack green peppers--$1.49 (not in season but it was what my 4 year old asked for, better than asking for cookies!)
Celery $1.49
Whole Grain bread--$1.29
3 lb. bag Gala apples--99 cents
cinnamon raisin bagels--$1.39
head lettuce--79 cents
bananas--88 cents
2 bags pretzels--$1.29 each
cookie dough icecream--$2.69 (this is so good)
carrots--$1.29
oats--$1.79
2 boxes lasagna noodles--$1.29 each
corn chips--89 cents
mocha cappuchino mix--$1.99 (new to me, anxious to try)
2 salad bags--99 cents each(girls love to eat as snack)
tissues--99 cents
jar spaghetti sauce--99 cents (for my work days)
cake mix--89 cents (to mix with can of pop for quick, low fat cupcakes)
fig bars--$1.15 (I buy one every two weeks for kids)
shortbread cookies--$1.19 (I buy one every two weeks for kids)
onions--99 cents

For a total of $69.47.

Not bad, I bought no meat this week, we are still pretty stocked and I didn't see any amazing deals.

I also bought diapers from Target online.




2 boxes of 82 count diapers for $13.69 a piece, so $37.38 total. I am trying to get down to buying diapers once a month. Have no clue now long this will last me. But buying once a month will give me an idea of what I spend on them. I also buy nighttime diapers but currently didn't need any.

This was my OfficeMax purchase on-line.



3 pack of pens, printer ink cartridges and a large file folder. All FREE with a $51 gift card that I had earned from another deal.

That takes my total so far to $128.78. Not bad for this month. I am counting this toward my February total, because I bought most of this stuff for that month. Not to mention I didn't keep track in January, this is something new I am trying.

I am anxious to see how much I spend. I am hoping I really cut my spending so that we can continue to pay down our little bit of debt. We need new windows this year and want to pay cash for them. We will see how well we do! Wish us luck!

This post is linked to Frugal Friday and Super Saving Saturday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Grocery Trips, Deals and Being Held Accountable

In the spirit of true disclosure, I am going to start posting what I get at the grocery store and how much I spend. I am always being asked what I buy, how I get my deals and what I make for my meals. Plus, I love seeing what people buy at the grocery store and the deals they have scored.

So I thought I would start posting this. I had a good system when I was still pregnant with my fourth baby. I would go to the store every other week and then when I came home I would create a 2 week menu plan.

Well, with the baby and well, life, I got out of that routine. It seems I was always needing something and was making multiple weekly trips to the store.

Since one of my goals for this year is to cut back on my spending, I am going to start keeping track of what I buy. I am hoping that by posting it on my blog, it will help to hold me accountable.

I have started a few things differently. You see I have found that one of my weaknesses is the Dollar Spot at Target and anything clearance there as well. So I have decided to start ordering my diapers on-line. I love the Target brand diapers and they are much cheaper than any deal I can find with my coupons. The best part is the diapers have free shipping, so it is no different than going to the store. Except they get delivered to my home and I save money by not buying things I don't need!

So look for my posts on what I bought this week. I know that I will also have to order some formula tomorrow as I am down to only 5 bottles. We only have about 1.5 months left hopefully of the hypoallergenic formula. Or as we like to call it "liquid gold" because of how expensive it is.

Chocolate Banana Muffins



This is a recipe that I found years ago and tweaked it so that it would be safe for my daughter. It is so delicious and not too bad for you, it only has 1/2 cup of brown sugar  and 1/4 cup white sugar and makes 18 muffins. This is a great way to use up old bananas, which is what I use it for.

1/2 cup margerine (again I use Fleischmans Unsalted)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas mashed up
1/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla
3 T water, 3 T oil and 2 tsp baking powder mixed together
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
3 T unsweeted cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 T wheat germ (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 and line muffin tins with paper liners. Combine butter and brown sugar and cream together. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Spoon into the muffin papers and fill about 3/4 full. Sprinkle sugar on top. Bake 20-25 minutes. These freeze well.

This post linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Huge Announcement!

I interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast to bring you an important message. My van is paid off! My husband did the last on-line bill pay the other day for my van. Now we are simply waiting on the title.

We have no car payments right now. Yes, you heard that right, no car payments. What a wonderful feeling!


Now, on to the next debt! Have I mentioned that I hate debt?

This totally works for me!



New Sewing Machine

So I have mentioned before that my husband is wonderful. He is so thoughtful. Well, he has done it again.

I have been borrowing my moms sewing machine for years. I never would buy my own, I am way too cheap for that. Well my husband found this online. It is refurbished so it was pretty reasonable. But did I mention that it looks brand new?



Yes, it is digital. Yes it has over 120 stitches, including hearts, leaves and flowers just to name a few. I also prints the alphabet, that is right, the alphabet! Of course I haven't had as much time to play as I would like, but the first night I was up past midnight playing.




I made a purse for my daughter, isn't it cute?




This is a blurry close-up of one of my stitches.

I cannot wait to make more things! I will hopefully have time in the next couple of weeks. And of course I will post my creations!

Having  a new to me sewing machine definately works for me!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Homemade Bread--Stress Reliever

I LOVE to bake. I have always loved to bake. And I especially love to bake for my family. And I especially love to bake for my family when they LOVE the recipe.

Well, I have found it with this Honey Wheat Bread. I got the recipe at Tammys Recipes. I make it exactly like this except for I omit the tablespoon of milk. You all know of my daughters food allergies of course!



I have found that I really like kneeding the dough. It is a huge stress reliever. And for those 10 minutes, it is just me and the dough. I can think of whatever I want, even if it is nothing. There is something so peaceful about this mindless task. And boy, is it good for the arm muscles. This is me kneeding a triple batch of the bread. The triple batch was a request from my oldest daughter. We go through atleast a loaf and a half at a meal. Everyone loves this bread, from the 10 month old to the 37 year old daddy!




This is the giant ball of my triple batch. Just waiting to get put in a bowl so that it can rise to double it's size.






Aren't they beautiful? This bread is so delicious. And it is fool proof, I have yet to make a bad loaf with this recipe. And for me who doesn't even like bread, there is nothing better than eating a piece still warm from the oven.

Do any of you have an tasty bread recipes to try?

This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Menu Plan, Week of January 24



So this is another week of the "Eat from the Pantry" challenge. I have not been to the store in a couple of weeks, except for bread and milk. I will have to run in the next day or two to get milk, bread and some produce, but aside from that, if I run out of something, I am simply adding it to the list.

It hasn't been too bad, I have been using up some odds and ends in the freezer. For instance, I had a half pack of bacon in there, which I am going to use up in a new soup recipe.

Here is what is in store for us this week:

Breakfastss: waffles, lazy granola, pumpkin bread, toast, yogert

Lunch: buttered noodles, soup, leftovers, sandwiches

Dinners: Cincinnati Style chili, bacon bean soup(new recipe) and honey wheat bread, ham with green beans and potatoes, Roz's spaghetti and homemade breadsticks, pizza casserole, leftovers

We have our usual this week, Brownies, choir and basketball practice. So nothing out of the ordinary.

I am taking my little man to the E-N-T doctor, I am hoping that our days of constant ear infections will be over soon. Not to mention, he is having a blood test to find out what, if anything he is allergic to, food wise. I have a serious suspicion that he is allergic to soy. He vomits everytime he eats soy.

This post linked to Menu Plan Monday, and the Eat From the Pantry Challenge from Money Saving Mom and Life as Mom.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Little Man

So, my little man is 10 months old. He is getting so big. I gave him his first hair cut on Thursday night. So that he would look good for his photos on Friday.

Here are some of his photos from his photo shoot. He is growing up so quickly. He is walking now and trying to talk. His personallity is hilarious. He loves to make people laugh.

Oh and he is quite the ham. He loved getting his photo taken. And I am enjoying my last little one. That is definately a finer thing.

Enjoy.





















This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Saving Money by Avoiding the Stores

So, I know all the rules, shop with a list, don't shop hungry, take cash, by the cheapest one, use coupons, you all know the list. I know the list, however, I don't always follow it.

You see, I have a problem, I blame my mother. When I was growing up, our pantrys and freezer were always so stocked full we could have gone months without going to the store, and still had food to eat. My mother is the one that even though we had a family of 6, she would cook enough that when unexpected guests stopped by, we always had enough to go around for dinner. Yes, I totally blame my mom.

I also blame my "be prepared" mentallity on being a Girl Scout. That's right, I am blaming an innocent girls group on my hangups. I have a big problem with "just in case". I have to buy this 48 roll of toilet paper that costs $12, because what if our other 48 roll at home runs out and we have no toilet paper. So I buy the toilet paper. Or I can't remember if I need sugar, it isn't on the list. But what if I go to make muffins this week and have no sugar? So I buy the sugar.

And before you know it, my trip to buy diapers, sandwich bags and AA batteries has turned into another $100 shopping trip.

And here's the thing. I don't live in a remote town, where I only get to the store once a month because it is so far away. I live 1-2 miles from WalMart, Target, Kroger, Biggs and Walgreens. So if Heaven for bid, I actually run out of toilet paper, I can easily run to the store.

So the solution I have come to is this, just don't go to the store. We are very well stocked on everything right now. Except we are down to only 2 oranges and 1 gallon of milk. But for fruit, I am going to move on to what we have canned in the pantry and for milk, I am going to stop at the local gas station to pick up 2 gallons of milk.

On Tuesday it will have been 2 weeks since I went to the grocery store and I am going to try and make it last longer. I am going to try a new concept. I think I am going to try an go to the store and do the bulk of my shopping only every 3-4 weeks. If I can get down to a month, that would be awesome.

Yes, I might miss out on some great deals, but when those deals cost me an extra $70 on stuff I think I need, are they really deals? Then I actually spent $70 to save $5. If I stayed home, I could have saved the $70. I'm no math wiz, but I would rather save $70. Plus this way, I don't have to blame my mother, or the Girl Scouts.

So that is my game plan right now. Stay out of the stores. This fits perfectly with my "Eat from the Pantry Challenge".

This post is linked to Super Saver Saturday, Frugal Friday and Works for Me Wednesday.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Home Decorations that have been Repurposed or Redone

I talked about here how I love to find things at garage sales, thrift stores, etc. and repurpose them, repaint them, redo them for our home. I love this look, it is very homey and inviting to me, not to mention frugal. I feel like my guests can feel comfortable here.

So here is another view into our home and some of the things that I repurposed or unconventional solutions to problems and all done for next to nothing but the cost of some paint.




This is a photo of a bench that I got the first year we were married. From the looks of it I also have not dusted it in that time also. I guess I need to dust this and deslobber it huh? This bench used to be stained brown and had birdhouses on it. Very cool at the time but not anymore. This little bench has been inside, outside, you name it. So this summer I decided to paint it black and use it for a few of my collectible bears.




This shot is of a table that I painted about 10 years ago, I crackle painted it a dark hunter green. I was going to repaint it black, but my girls liked itlike this, so for the time being it is still green. This shelf was garbage picked by my mother years before I was even married. She used it in her garage, but it is still in great shape, they just don't make furniture like that anymore. The red shelf that has the bear lamp on it was given to me 14 years ago by my mother-in-law. It started out cream and sat next to our bed before we had bed side tables. Then it sat on our porce as a planter, then came back in to keep the lamp out of reach of our little guy.





This is one of my favorite things I have redone. It was to our kitchen table that we bought 10 years ago. Which we ended up outgrowing, as the table portion was not that large. It sat downstairs and was used as our craft table after we bought a new bigger table. When we finished out basement, we really didn't have the room for it anymore, so I painted the bottom black and used the stuffing that I saved from a couch that our great dane had destroyed. The fabric I got for $4 a yard from WalMart. Usually I will use sheets or tableclothes as my fabric but this was much cheaper to buy the fabric this time. This now sits in front of our big bay window in the front room.





This isn't really a redo, you see, we have no coat closet by our front door. So years ago for my birthday my husband bought me this hall tree. I has a storage bench at the bottom. But I have pretty baskets up top for our hats and gloves that we use during the winter season. The extra get stored in the bench. Notice we are one hook short now that we had our 4th child! Oh well, we had only one when we bought this!





This crate/chest I got from my mom when I was still in college. I might of even been in highschool, I honestly don't remember. When we were married it never made it out of a storage space in the basement. But again, when we refinished our basement, well, decided to bring it into our front room and use it as a table. Notice the ugly carpet? It was almost brand new when we moved into this house. With the kids and the animals, it has never seemed the right time to replace the flooring. Plus, this is a bit of a debate as I want hard wood that continues into the kitchen my husband wants carpet. So we still have our ugly carpet.





This little chair was an ugly blue with stains all over it. I got it for $3 at a garage sale this summer. I repainted it and used some of the fabric that I used on the bench above to make a little pillow. Again I put one of my collectible bears on it.

I did all of these items before I had a blog, so I don't have any before photos. From here on out I will take before and after photos of the pieces that I redo.

This post linked to Frugal Friday.



Thursday, January 21, 2010

What do you do when your back is killling you?

What do you do when your back is killing you? You bake.

I wrote here about being in the emergency room on New Years day. Needless to say, it didn't get any better, it only got worse.

By Monday it was awful, I couldn't do anything and would wake up with the horrible pain of what felt like sever charlie horses down my right leg.

I was at my chiropracters that morning. And I felt great when I left. But after a few hours I was right back to the constant pain in my right leg and if I moved it a certain way, the horrible charlie horse pain. So after work I went back to the chiro and they adjusted me again.

By Wednesday I was still in the same pain, so I went to my general practioner's office. I just love them there, they are so wonderful, the doctor and the nurse practioner are just perfect. So there I was given another shot of  steriods and pain meds. And was sent with an order for x-rays. However I had to get back to work so I thought I would go another day to get the xrays. However we got a bunch of snow, so that was pushed back to this coming Monday.

I left the doctors office with 3 new prescriptions. One for a steroid to help with inflamation. One was 800 mg ibuprofen to help with the pain and a muscle relaxer for at night. At this point I hadn't really slept in almost a week. I was staying up later and later because I knew I would wake up to a horrible charlie horse.

That day after work I went to the chiropractors office again and he was baffled as to why the adjustment was not staying. So this time he gave me a lift to put in my right shoe. He also gave me exercises to do at home. My hips have been off balance and it is the thought by both doctors that something was squeezing the nerve that ran down my right leg.

I don't know if it was the medicine, the exercises, the lift for my shoe, the shots or simply time that has eased the pain. But I do know I am feeling almost back to normal. It is only sore and stiff in the morning but as the day goes on I feel pretty normal.

So back to the baking. What did I bake you ask? I made pumpkin bread, honey wheat bread (2 loaves), zucchini brownies and taco soup. I know soup isn't a baking item, but it is something that allows me to stand up. Because sitting and laying down were too painful.

Here is the fruit of my labor:



Pumpkin bread




Honey Wheat bread




Zucchini Brownies




Taco Soup

So there you have it. That is what I do when my back is killing me and it hurts to lay down or sit. Iam very glad to be feeling mostly myself again. It is horrible to not be able to take care of your family.

I have been told that it could come back at any time. I hope not too soon!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I've Been Sewing!

So I gave you a sneak peak the other day of some craft supplies I had gotten. My mom and husband both bought me a slow cooker for Christmas, so I had to return one of them. The money I got back from the return, I decided to put towards some craft supplies.

The other day I decided to do something with them. Something very dear to my heart.

I love bags, it is my downfall. I am not choosy either. Whether they be from Kohl's, Target, TJ Maxx, on clearance, on sale, from a consignment store, garage sale, it doesn't matter to me. I just love bags. Tote bags, wallet on a string, purses, backpacks, it doesn't matter.

I don't know where it started, I just love them. I have this very quirky thing about me that remembers what kind of purse you are carrying. Wierd I know. But if I met you and you were carrying a purse, I would probably remember 10 years from now what kind of purse you had.

I don't care about name brands, I like them all. However, I am cheap. So, I prefer to get them on clearance, or as a gift now that I have kids. I rarely, if ever buy a new one anymore, unless I get it for a gift for my birthday or Christmas.

So that is what I made with my fabric. I made 2 purses! My 2 older girls love the black one and I cannot wait until Spring to use the light colored one.


This is the one I cannot wait to use come spring. Isn't it cute?



Here is the other one. I did loosely use this pattern here to make this one. And yes, my pocket is not centered on the side, it was my first one okay? Cut me some slack. I was however very pleased with how everything else turned out. It is a little small for me, with 4 kids, I tend to carry a lot.



And here is the inside of this purse, I lined it with roosters, adorable right?

I love doing crafts. It is fun and relaxing. I am not one to sit, so this gives me something to do when I do have time for myself. I know, rare, but when I do, I enjoy doing things like this.

Wait til you see what I am making for my kids for Valentine's Day. Stay tuned.

This post linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Allergy Free Monkey Munch




Around here, we do not eat peanut products. My youngest daughter has various food allergies, including peanuts. But that doesn't stop me from making any recipe that calls for peanut butter.

I simply use Sun Butter, made from sunflower seeds. I originally tried Soy Butter, but that has a very strong taste that isn't condusive to sweet things. Then I found Sun Butter and not only is it delicious on crackers but wonderful in any food that calls for peanut butter.

Some may say that it confuses my daughter and lets her think that she can have peanut products. But I beg to differ. She only eats this when I make it, she knows that she cannot have any other snacks that are from someone else. Not only due to the peanuts but her egg, dairy and treenut allergies.

You can find this recipe all over the internet, I found my base recipe here. I think there is even one listed on the Chex cereal website. I simply did a search for the recipe, found one that looked like it could be altered and through a little trial and error, found one that works for us and tastes delicious.




Here is my recipe:

7 cups Chex cereal
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Sun Butter
1/4 cup butter (Fleischman's unsalted sticks)
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Measure the cereal in a large bowl. Melt the chocolate chips, Sun Butter and butter in microwave for about 1 minute. Stir. Then heat again another minute. Stir together until smooth then add the vanilla and pour over cereal and mix until all is coated. Measure the powdered sugar into a baggy and then dump the cereal in. Close the bag and shake around until all the cereal is coated with the sugar.

Then eat. I can honestly say that this is one treat that I eat as much as the kids do. Enjoy!

This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Menu Plan, Week of January 17



I cannot believe January is half over already. Where does the time go?

I am hoping this week will be a slow week for us and that I will have time to work around the house. I have a ton of cleaning to do, not to mention some weeding out of old toys, organizing, etc.

Sunday was spent with the girls playing with friends. Breakfast was cinnamon rolls, lunch was leftovers and dinner was bbq and mac-n-cheese.

Here are our breakfasts for the week: cold cereal, turkey bacon, toast and cantaloupe, pumpkin bread

Lunches for the week: leftovers, soup, sandwiches

Dinners: spaghetti and salad, turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, leftovers, saurkraut and polish sausage with mashed potatoes, turkey pot pie.

My back is back to normal and I am hoping to go back to working out and back to my diet. I mean lifestyle change. Not only am I trying to eat healthier, but smaller portions. I really want to lose this extra weight.

Maybe if I post about it, I will be more accountable and will do better? Who knows.

This post linked to Menu Plan Mondays.

New Projects

I am working on some new projects. I am not one to sit around, so I always look for ways to occupy my hands.



Check back later this week to see what I turned this into over the weekend!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January 10 Kroger Trip

I went to Kroger to take advantage of the 10 for $10 deals they had going this week. While I still am doing the "Eat from the Pantry" challenge, I could not pass up some of the deals.

I apologize for not taking a photo but I got home around 10:30 and my kids were all asleep, so we I had to put them away quickly and very quietly.

Here is the lowdown on what I got:

Minute Maid OJ $1.66, after $1 coupon
Smart Balance margerine $1.89, $1 coupon (this is the only kind of butter my food allergy daughter can have)
4 Whole Soy yogert $1 each on sale
3 Rice-A-Roni (for those quick nights), 66 cents each after sale and coupon
5 Chef Boy R Dee (my husband likes these for quick lunches) 80 cents each after sale and coupon
2 Kroger Dressing $1 each, (I buy italian to marinate chicken in)
Suave deoderant, free after coupon
2 Kroger buns, 50 cents each after sale and coupon
2 Private Selections Soymilk, $1.29 each after sale and coupon
1 Silk Soy milk, $1.99 after sale and coupon
3 Manwich, 66 cents each after sale and coupon
Riceworks snack, $1.69 after sale and coupon
3 Poweraids, 50 each after sale and coupon
1 Poweraid, free after coupon
1 G2 Gatoraide, free after coupon
Activia yogert 4-pack, 88 cents after sale and coupon
2 Birdseye frozen sweet corn, 50 cents after sale and coupon
1 Birdseye frozen sweet corn, 30 cents after sale and coupon
2 Cincinnati Chili Mixes $1.38 each
3 Hot Pockets (again, my husband likes these for lunch), $1.10 after sale and coupon
2 Kroger Chocolate chips $1.38 each
John Morrell hotdogs $1.25 each
Whole Wheat flour $2.94
5 lb pack of ground beef $8.00
Cantaloupe $1.28
Kroger green chilis 69 cents
chicken nuggets (for those quick nights) $3.99
Organic chicken $3.52 after coupon
Doritos (treat for older girls) $2.18
Fruit snacks $1 (treat for food allergy daughter)
Deli honey ham $6.08 (for kids lunches at school)
bananas $1.18

For a total of $52.12 after coupons and gift card I had. I usually do better than this at Kroger. I did however have to stock up on some soy items, which can be rather expensive. Not too bad.

You may have noticed that I have some not so healthy items, like Manwich, Chef Boy R Dee and the Rice-A-Roni. While I love to cook and bake from scratch as much as possible, I also realize that I do work 2-3 days a week. On those days I do cut myself some slack, I have to because I simply cannot do it all.

Is my "Eat From the Pantry" challenge a bomb? I don't think so. Mainly because it made me take stock of what I do have in my freezer and pantry. I wrote it down and now I know exactly what is in there and can continue to weed through those this month.

This post is linked to Super Saving Saturday and GCC Shopping Round Up.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A quick cover for a drafty fireplace



Okay, this photo does not do it justice but this actually looks pretty nice.

You see we cannot have a fire in our fireplace, because most of our family is allergic to trees, grass, mold, pollen, anything that is in the outdoors, we are allergic. And when we use out fireplace, it makes us feel horrible. We all  end up with stuffy noses, coughs, you name it.

So we don't use it at all, even though it has a pretty nice insert in it.

But we noticed the other day that is was rather drafty, even though we had it closed. So my husband said to me "I am surprised with all your frugal blogs you go to that you haven't tried to make something for this". So that is exactly what I did!

I took a sheet that I had bought for $4 for another project that I never got to. I took t he sheet and put pleats in it and then I hot glued it to the brick of the fireplace. You read that right, I hot glued it! It comes right off the brick when I am done, I just peel it right off!

That room is half underground and we cover the windows and now the fireplace cover with winterizer plastic every winter (new windows are on our list for this year hopefully). The windows are also covered with a double layer of curtains over top the plastic.

And my $4 fix is working very nicely, it feels so much better down there and doesn't look too bad.

This post linked to Frugal Friday.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lazy Granola



This is something that I make almost every week. We all love it, not just for breakfast but also for snacks. I believe I got the original recipe for it over at Money Saving Mom over a year or so ago.

I don't use her exact recipe, as I have altered it for our tastes.

Here is what I use to make this:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sugar, oil and honey on a pot and bring to a boil. Mix until all is blended and melted together. In a separate dish, measure out 7 cups of oats. I have used quick cooking and regular oats, but they honestly all taste the same to me. I just buy whatever kind of uncooked oats are cheapest. And I don't even measure the oats anymore, I just eyeball it in the pan.

Once the mixture on the stove is well blended together and the sugar has melted, pour it over the oats. Mix well with a spoon. Then place in the oven for 10 minutes, turn off the oven and go to bed. When you wake up it will be done for you. This is why they call it lazy granola.

I don't leave it sit over night though, as I like mine more chewy and not as crunchy which is also why I add the extra honey.You can eat this plain or if you want more of a snack, you can mixe it with chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, raisins, or dried cranberries. You could even add nuts if you wanted to. We have a nut free house, so that isn't an option for us.

As for storage, I simply use an empty canister that my oats came in at the store, I label it "lazy granola" and this keeps it very fresh, for a week atleast, that is the longest that ours lasts around here.

This post is linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Mom Binder



I believe I got this idea originally from Crystal at Money Saving Mom.

It has changed a little since I first put it together and now I have something that works for me.

The mom binder is what I use to keep my home running smoothly. Here is what the inside pocket looks like.




My inside pocket contains return address labels, stamps and envelopes. We do most of our bills on-line, however I do like to mail birthday, sympathy and get well cards.

Then I have tabs on the inside for sections that are labeled with: one for each of my 4 kids, household, vacation stuff, holiday stuff and I used to have a receipt section (now I use a tub for my receipts).

In each of the kids section is where I put the class lists with phone numbers and email addresses for the classmates. Any information about the teacher. I also put party invitations as well as papers for soccer and basketball signups. Just a little tip, to keep from paying a late fee for signups. I put the paper in the section for that child that will play. Then I make a note on my calendar as to when to send in the form or fill it out on-line. Also in the kids section is where I put my information if I am in charge of a class party. I always volunteer to chair atleast one holiday party per kid, that information goes in here as well. In this section I also put any information pertaining to future doctor visits, such as family history papers that I need to have filled out before our appointment.
In the "Household" section, I might put information we are gathering for new windows or a new roof, I have a cleaning sheet that gives me a list of things I need to do every week, month, season, etc. That helps me to not forget to do something. Like for instance cleaning the baseboards. I honestly don't look down that far very often, so I never remember, this helps me to remember and gives me a place to start from.

I also have a spot for "Vacation" information. We rarely travel but this is where I would put articles, emails or general information I need for the vacation or a vacation that we would like to take someday.

The "Holiday" section is for recipes I might find on Halloween cookies. I put it in the "Holiday" section to remember for the girls school parties. Or an idea for a great birthday theme. Or a Fall Festival I heard about.

In the back inside pocket I have extra copies of my "Weekly Planner" papers that I print off from MomAdvice.com not to mention the "Daily Docket" sheets from there as well.

This binder really helps me to know where the papers are. All the kids know what I need when I ask them to go grab my "Mom" binder.

This is something that really works for me. This post linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to keep mail and papers piling by the door to the garage?

In our kitchen the door to the garage is right next to the kitchen counter. This is also the door that we come in and out of everytime we go somewhere. So you can imagine the pile that happens there.

We sit mail there, what has come in and what needs to go out. We sit our keys there, my husband puts his wallet, phone, ipod, pager, name badge and anything else that he needs for work there, these all go in a basket. I have speakers there for our ipod, a little country crock to put our change in and a little dish for my lipbalm and my wedding ring when I am cleaning.

So you can see, it gets piled up even before the junk gets piled up.

So I had this idea, which I am sure I have seen on some home and garden show. Remember the curtain I used on my shelf as a table runner here? Well it had a twin and I sewed it up to make a little organizer for my papers.

Here is what I came up with.




I used a tension rod that I had for something else, and hung it with ribbons below my picture that is right inside the door. I have a space for mail, the coupon magazines we get monthly and some other papers that I don't currently have a home for.

I thought it turned out really cute. And many times what I want and what I am willing to pay for something don't match. What I mean is plain and simply I am cheap. This is something that works for me, using stuff I found in the house to repurpose for something else. I do this all the time and I love it!

This post is linked to Tackle It Tuesday.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Menu Plan, Week of January 10



What a week we had last week, two snow days and the problems with my back. We had easy meals and sandwiches more than I could count. We did not follow the meal plan at all! Oh well, that happens some time.

This week we have Brownies, basketball practice and choir practice, so not a bad week really.

Sunday we had whatever for breakfast, everyone woke up at different times on Sunday, due to a sick baby and an old dog that is going crazy. Poor things. So this week you will see many of the same things that I have been posting for the last couple of weeks, because we have had to shift some things around.

But now that I am back to feeling mostly like myself, I am back to cooking more normally!

So back to Sunday, lunch was haystacks with black beans and ground turkey mixed together, salsa, lettuce, refried beans and cheese. Dinner was Cincinnati style chili.

Breakfasts for the week: pumpkin bread (2 loaves), lazy granola, cold cereal and cinnamon rolls.

Lunches for the week: leftovers, sandwiches, buttered noodles, tuna and crackers.

Dinners for the week: taco baked potatoes with broccoli, turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy and honey wheat bread, spaghetti and bread sticks, sourkraut with polish sausage and mashed potatoes.

Wow, this winter weather really makes me want to load up on carbs!

All of these are from items I already had in my freezer or pantry, since I am taking the Eat From the Pantry challenge this month. I do have to go to the store this week for mill and produce. But hopefully that will be it!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What to do with leftover icing?



A couple of years ago I stumbled upon this idea. I have no idea where I read it from.

We seem to always have leftover icing around here. So what do you do with it? Make homemade cookies!

Alll you do is take graham crackers, we have used honey and the chocolate kind, then simply spread the icing on one side. Take the other side and make a little cookie.

My kids love these, they will eat them as a quick snack. No it isn't great for you, but are cookies really good for you anyway?

This is just an idea so that you don't waste your icing. I use this tip for all my icing,whether it is store bought or homemade.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Eat From the Pantry Challenge



I have decided to do the Eat from the Pantry Challenge that Crystal from MoneySavingMom.com and  FishMama from LifeasMom.com.

This is a good time for me to do this as I have a huge problem. My problem is that even though I go to the store every week or every other week, I still feel the need to have 6 cans of greenbeans at a time, same with diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and corn! I am always stocked up.

Same with the freezer, If I have less than 4 pounds of ground beef, I am running low!

So here is a photo of my pantry (cereal is kept in another cabinet and we currently have about 10 boxes. So are the pretzel and chip type snacks, those are kept on top of my fridge.



Here is what is currently in my kitchen freezer:
1 whole turkey
5 pounds frozen skinless chicken breasts
3 boxes waffles
1 bag wheat germ
1 package frozen sandwigh things
2 packages of frozen homemade pizza dough
2 ham bones
3 freezer bags of Vinnie's pasta sauce
1 gallon bag of cut up onions
1 gallon bag of cut up green peppers
3 bags of stir fry vegetable
2 bags frozen broccoli
1 container of homemade chicken rice soup
1 container of taco soup
2 packages of goetta (made by my mom)
3 frozen OJ's
1 frozen apple juice
2 packages of bacon (turkey and regular)
2 frozen stir fry steaks

And in my overhead freezer in the garage refrigerator:
6 pounds ground beef
3 pounds ground turkey
3 quart size bags of stew meat
1 frozen peas
3 frozen burritos
3 zip loc bags of homemade pumpkin puree (in 2 cup portions)
1 package of egg/dairy free waffles
Ice cream bars--regular and soy
Ice cream--regular and soy
6 baggies of shredded zucchini in 2 cup portions
popsicles
1 bag frozen tilapia
4 turkey burgers
2 bags of black beans

So that is what I have in my freezers, it is too long of a list to tell you what I have in my pantry, but it is quite alot. I am hoping that this challenge forces me to come up with new recipes. I have been in a rut lately and feel like I keep making the same couple of recipes.

I have not been doing a good job of following my meal plan, with my back hurting I have been making easier recipes. Last night we had taco soup with homemade honey wheat bread. I made 2 small loaves and there were only 3 pieces left.

So tonight I put stew in my crockpot and was asked by my kids to make more of the honey wheat bread, this is definately a keeper. And of course, this is all from my pantry and freezer.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Feeling a little torn lately



I have been feeling a little torn lately.

I love blogging, it is very fun for me to be able to post my ideas and recipes. However finding the time is proving to be rather difficult in this season in my life.

I have 4 kids, ages 9, 7, 4 and almost 10 months. To say I am busy is an understatement.

The kids are in public schools. Two are in the elementary school and one in preschool. So with that comes volunteering opportunities for each one.

I work part time outside of the home. So that means that 2 days one week and 3 the next I am not at home for about 10 hours.

In the evening at any given time, we have homework, soccer, basketball, Brownies, student council, choir and time to play in there.

My husband and I try to find some time during the week for some one on one quality time. This could be as simple as having an adult conversation without the interruption of the kids.

I have to clean the house, make sure we have clean clothes, take the kids to the doctor and dentist appointments. I cook and bake as much from scratch as I possibly can. I do all the grocery shopping. I make all our own homemade cleaners and baby wipes as well.

You see I find my self almost competing with the full  time stay at home moms. Not competing as in I want to be like them, but competing as in I try to fit as much into my week as a stay at home mom does.

And I feel like I am failing miserably at everything.

To be honest, most days I wish I could be a stay at home mom, so I could bake, clean and cook all day. But that isn't all that being a mom is about. Yes it is great to do those things. But kids who eat nuggets and fries everyday grow up to be fine. But then there are also the rare day where the kids drive me crazy and I want  to go into work.

Am I doing these things strictly because I enjoy them, or because I want my family to eat better, healthier food.

Lately I have been cranky, I know it, my kids know it, everybody knows it. I have been struggling with back pain this last week or so, much worse than usual. So that is making me cranky.

I am tired, plain and simple. I have not been getting alot of sleep, due to my little guy having 4 ear infections in less than 4 months. And due to him teething. Plus the back stated above.

At night when I should probably be going to bed early even though it hurts my back to sleep, I am up watching tv, reading or working on my blog.

In short, I am wondering if I am trying to do too many things. At the end of the day, I want to be the best mom and wife I can be, isn't that what being married and having kids is all  about?

How to do this I do not know.  But I have been trying out a few things. Like not using as many coupons. I simply do not have the time to run all over town. I have been going to Aldi plus one other store every other week or so.

Yes, I am missing out on the deals. But the deals should not come at a price to your family.

I have been thinking about quitting the blog. I do love it but finding the time feels almost selfish. Should I feel selfish for doing something I love? Doing something you love  is supposed to make you a better person. And that is supposed to make you a better mom right?

And so I struggle. Struggle with what to do and what not to do.

Today I am having a very heavy heart. Maybe from my back not feeling well, maybe from being tired. Or maybe because I yelled one to many times at my girls. Today was a snow day and we didn't really do anything fun. And I feel really guilty about it.

Over the next several weeks I am going to try and simplify things. This will probably include cutting out tv, even though I only watch about 3 hours a week. It might include discontinuing this blog, or at the very least, not posting daily.

Anyone else ever feel like this? Like they are burning their candles from both ends? I would love to hear from you. And I appreciate you listening to me.

This post links to Finer Things Friday.

Healthy Brownies?




Can brownies be healthy? Isn't that any oxymoron? While I really would't consider brownies a healthy food, there are ways to make brownies a little healthier for you so they aren't just sugar and chocolate.

I got the idea for this from Laura at HeavenlyHomemakers.com, she has awesome recipes that are super delicious and super healthy for you. I have made quite a few of her recipes in the past year and they have all been super tasty.

I didn't follow her recipe to the "T", infact, I didn't follow it that much at all. For one, I don't have or use rapadura or sucanat, I haven't gone that deep into organic/good for you cooking. And second of all, we cannot cook or bake with eggs. I have a daughter with allergies to eggs, dairy, peanuts and treenuts. So those are all out.

If I find a recipe that I want to try, I almost always have to alter it, to make it allergy safe, most of the time, it works. This is one of those times.

Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup butter, melte3d ( I use Fleischman's Unsalted-it is dairy free)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup shredded zucchini (in the summer we had an over abundance in our garden, so I shredded a bunch and froze them for later use)
egg replazer (1 1/2 tsp Egg Replacer and 2 T water mixed together) or 1 egg if you can do eggs
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 T vanilla
1 tsp wheat germ

Combine together in a bowl until combined. Bake at 350 degrees about 25-30 minutes until done.

These are super good, they even pass my kid test. And they do not care that there is zucchini, whole wheat flour or wheatgerm in it. They love them.

This post is linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap, Finer Things Friday and Grocery Cart Challenge.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 Goals

Since it is a new year, a new beginning, I thought I would take a few minutes to post my New Year's resolutions. Better late than never right?
  1. Find a solution that works for my back. I have had on and off back pain since highschool. Lately it has been more on than off. I am hoping to find something that works.
  2. Of course, like ,most people, I would like to lose weight. I still have about 20 pounds that I gained with my pregnancies that I have yet to lose, I would love to lose those. But I am trying to lose them by eating smarter and exercising, not necessarily by dieting. These are changes that I want to do to be healthy and I am hoping that a side effect will be weight loss, which in turn might help my back to feel better.
  3. Spend more quality time with my family. I would love to spend time playing and not just running from one activity to the next.
  4. Enjoy the moment. Learn to enjoy what I am doing at the time, instead of thinking of the 10 other things that I need to be doing.
  5. Finish paying down debt. We are working really hard to pay off all our debt. I loath debt.
  6. Purchase new windows for the house. This is a major expense, but one that is very much needed. Hopefully it will help with our electric bill also in the winter.
  7. Spend less and track my spending. I have a problem with Target. I go in to buy diapers and come out with $100 worth of stuff that was a good deal and I had to have. But I didn't need it.
  8. Buy only what we need. This goes with the one above. Reduce spending by buying what is a great deal to stock up or what we need.
  9. Work on my friendships. I have made a couple of new friendships this year. I am hoping to work on those, I find it hard to find people that I have something in common with. But I have found some new friends this year and I am super excited about it.
  10. Be supportive of my husband. He works hard and I am lucky to be able to be part time. There are many that would love to be in my shoes. I need to be thankful for that.
So, that is it. I think that is alot. These are really just improvements I want to tackle. To make me a better person.

This post links to Works for Me Wednesday.