Friday, December 18, 2009

A Time of Sadness

My inlaws with their grandchildren two years ago

My mother in law passed away Friday, December 11th in Florida.  She had breast cancer that had spread to her lungs and her lymph nodes and ended up in the hospital after being diagnosed with pneumonia.  We were hopeful that she could beat the pneumonia, return home and have more time with us before the cancer got worse....that was not to be.  She passed away knowing she was loved with her son holding her hand.

It's been an incredibly sad and difficult month for us all.  As in most times of sadness though, my husband's family bonded with each other, shared many memories and showed his mom that together we would be ok.

I returned home yesterday after more than a week away from my children.  My husband and father in law will be here on Sunday.  I'm trying today to get my life back in order, finish my tasks to create a somewhat happy Christmas at least for the children, as well as prepare to have my father in law with us for several weeks.  I hope to return to blogging after the new year.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Family Time

Here is the four of us at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort Campfire.   This picture was supposed to include Grandma and Grandpa.   It was a strange 2 day trip that we took - the kids had a great time but my husband and I had to work had to produce that...always knowing in the back of our minds that it was supposed to include his mom and dad.  We tried to reschedule and when we couldn't his parents insisted that we give their grandchildren the trip they wanted them to have even without them.

We are still in Florida.   We extended our stay until this coming weekend.  Today we got some good news that my mother inlaw has made a step in the right direction.   We are hopeful and cautiously optimistic that tomorrow will bring another positive step.

We are all tired - physically and emotionally.   My brother in law has been here since the morning we left for Disney (we couldn't have left dad alone so that was a blessing).  Today we decorated the Christmas Tree with my husband's cousins and their husbands after they all visited at the hospital.  Then we all shared a meal prepared by a neighbor along with sandwiches and salads that I picked up from the grocery store.   It was probably the most festive evening we've had so far...not even Thanksgiving was as enjoyable honestly.

I hope to do a bit more decorating tomorrow and take the kids down to the town square in the evening to see all the holiday decorations.  I also need to see if I can get my Christmas cards printed at CVS and do a bit of online shopping as I am now behind schedule....but of course for a more important reason.

Last night my mother in law searched my face as she asked me for the truth....I told her that she needed to keep 'making the climb' and that she would be 'ok'.   I know in my heart that it's not her time yet.....not yet...

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Bit of Time Away

It's been over a week since I've posted.   I am currently on vacation visiting my in-laws in Florida and prior to that was really consumed with getting ready to leave as well as trying to get a jump on some of my holiday shopping, decorating, etc as we won't be home until December 2nd.

We are staying in The Villages - an active adult community between Orlando and Ocala that is incredibly huge and a great place for my inlaws to live as well as for us to visit.   I hope to share a few photos over the weekend of the community and what we have been doing.

We had a nice Thanksgiving although it turned out different than planned.  We ended up moving the 17 person party from my mother in law's home to her neighbors, as hosting it here wouldn't have worked that day.  Those of you that we are close to know that we are facing some family challenges right now so you understand...I don't want to share more publicly out of respect for my family's privacy.    All in all it was a day to be thankful for...a day that we shared with family we don't see often as well as my inlaws friends who weren't able to be with their own families for the day.

I hope this holiday also found all of you healthy, happy and thankful for the blessings in your own live.  I miss blogging this past week, but need to take this time to be here and involved in the moment....blogging can wait until later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Organized Christmas - 6 Week Countdown to Christmas - Week Three Gifts and Giving & Week 4 Get Cooking

I’m still trying to follow Cynthia Ewer’s Organized Christmas Countdown at Organized Christmas. This is actually Week 4 – Get Cooking Week, but I’m still working on Week 3 – Gifts and Giving Week. My Get Cooking Week isn’t going to happen until we get back from vacation after Thanksgiving. If I can get most of my shopping done by the end of the first week in December I’ll be thrilled. As I said in my last post the point is to keep chipping away at what needs to be done and not stress about being behind.

Tasks I’ve completed in the past two weeks are:
  • Purchased Holiday Stamps
  • Ordered Photo Calendars for Grandparents (already received)
  • Started Selecting Photo’s for the Calendars
  • Started Shopping (I’m making some headway here – more to follow)
  • Emailed my Sister In-Law for gifts ideas for my Nephew and Niece

Tasks I need to complete this week/weekend are:
  • Declutter Décor (remove Halloween and excess regular décor. We won’t be here for Thanksgiving so I’m going to skip decorating for it and will move onto Christmas Décor early)
  • Establish Holiday Clothing Needs
  • Inventory the Gift Box
  • Buy a few supplies for my daughter’s homemade gifts and keep making them
  • Get gift ideas for our parents – other than the grandparent type gifts
  • Keep Shopping!!!!
  • Plan my Baking and Gifts From my Kitchen Lists
Today my daughter has a half day of school and I have a parent teacher conference at 3:40. I’ll be dropping the kids off with my parents at 2pm returning around 5ish for supper with them. My plan is to tackle some shopping before and after the conference. I’ve got some gift cards and coupons to work with so hopefully I can get a lot for less.

Here are some of the deals I am working with:

  • Kohl’s – 20% off entire purchase and I have $20.00 in Kohl’s Cash from shopping last week
  • Toys R Us - $30.00 in Gift Cards from purchasing Hasbro Games and for purchasing over $75 in merchandise
  • Amazon.Com - $20.00 in Gift Cards from Swagbucks
So now I have to get to list making and psyche myself up to head out shopping this afternoon. My goal for this holiday is to have all gifts purchased and wrapped by December 16th. I don’t mind baking and crafting the week before Christmas – I actually enjoy it. But I hate heading to the stores and feeling overwhelmed. I want to enjoy making cookies with the kids, decorating the ‘bird’ tree with the neighbor boys, visiting with family and friends and just appreciating my blessings.

Check out Organized Christmas for great ideas on creating a low stress, high fun, frugal holiday for you and your family.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Links I Liked

Here's a few links that I enjoyed over the past week:

Rachel Anne from Home Sanctuary presents Have Fun with Your Man
Caring for our marriages is vitally important to the foundation of our homes and families. Check out Rachel Anne’s tips on how to connect (or perhaps re-connect) with your man and have some fun.

Stephanie at Keeper of the Home shares her Goals and Plans for a Slower Season
Do you tend to find a slower pace during the fall and winter seasons? I’m yearning to get to that place but it seems for us it won’t be until after the holidays. Stephanie shares her favorite slower paced things to do when the days get colder and we want to stay indoors.

Susanne Myers at Hillbilly Housewife provides some tips on the Perfect Time To Clear Out The Toy Clutter–Tidy Tuesday
Here’s a task we really need to undertake in our house before Christmas comes. I need to get the kids on board to help get rid of some things they don’t use anymore.

If you have any links you liked this week that you'd like to share with me and my readers - from your own blog or others -  please leave the link in a comment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 16th - The Use It Up Before Vacation Week

We’re leaving for vacation next week and I’m trying not to shop this week. My selections are pretty slim and I’m getting very low on meat in the freezer. So I put together a very basic menu using things I have or can ‘create’ from leftovers. I don’t have any recipes or links to share this week as these are either my tried and true or ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ meals.

On another note I’ve been struggling with a few things over the past week – my attitude and sanity being the biggest. I’ve been snapping at everyone, screaming at my kids and dissolving into tears far too easily. I’ve also managed to drag myself into a state of inactivity and am behind on a lot of things that are important to me. This morning I’ve promised myself that I’m going to stay positive this week no matter what kind of challenges I’m facing. I’m going to stay active and take some time for myself to de-stress and recharge before it’s too late and I turn into that raving lunatic mom (yeah you’ve seen her in your own mirror too now haven’t you????). So that said I’m going to post this menu for the week and get off the computer to accomplish some other tasks.

Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Monday – Pasta, Broccoli and Meatballs

Tuesday – Chicken Pot Pie

Wednesday – Breakfast for Supper

Thursday – Hamburger Helper, Corn

Friday – Pork Chops, Rice, Green Beans

Saturday – Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli

Sunday – Pork Fried Rice

For more great menu ideas check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monthly Grocery Challenge - November - How Low Can You Go????

Aldi Shopping Trip - $62.48

Yesterday I shopped at Aldi and managed to keep my total to $62.48. With the exception of milk, lunchmeat and a few incidentals I should be able to keep my spending under my $250 dollar target for the month. In addition to grabbing milk, eggs, English muffins, coffee, flour tortillas, frozen juice concentrate, and a few other weekly necessities I stocked up on butter, 5lbs of ground beef, yeast and cheese.

The next week and a half are going to take some careful planning to keep from shopping.   I plan to Christmas shop tomorrow and we are headed to Florida for vacation the following week.   I generally do a Stop and Shop Peapod order to be delivered when I return from vacation but am going to forgo that treat to myself this time.

A Little Bit of Freezer Cooking

My dinner menu for Tuesday was Roasted Chicken. I had a 10lb bag of chicken leg quarters that I purchased frozen for 4.99. So on Tuesday I undertook thawing the whole bag and cooking it all. We used 3 legs for supper that night and the remaining 7 legs I cooked between the crockpot and the oven. I’ve stripped all the meat and have separated and frozen it. I’m going to make stock with all the bones and scraps tomorrow.

Today my dinner menu was Spaghetti and Meatballs. I made 3lbs of meatballs – some I put into my own sauce along with hot Italian sausage. The remaining meatballs I froze individually and then popped into a large freezer bag.

So basically for a little bit of ‘extended’ dinner preparation I now have already cooked chicken, already cooked meatballs, chicken stock, and spaghetti sauce with meat in the freezer for future meals.  It took a little bit of extra time and planning but it will make a few nights during the coming month a lot easier.

Veteran's Day November 11, 2009

Honoring those who have served and are serving our country...

thank you for your courage and your sacrifice.

Today we visited my grandfather's grave at the Veteran's Memorial Field Cemetary in his hometown.  He was a World War II Army Veteran who served in France, England and Germany for four years.  This is the first time I've ever brought my children to a cemetary.  Surprisingly it was at my daughter's request that we visit the graves of soldiers today - so I told her I knew a special soldier we could visit.   Lately I am very impressed with her grasp on our country's history and the things that are important for us to remember and respect.  It was a bittersweet moment for me today - pride to be the granddaughter of a good man and sorrow that my children and he won't know each other. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Links I Liked

I’m a bit behind on reading blogs this week but I did find a couple notable posts I wanted to share with you:

One Mom’s Guide to Avoiding Swine Flu Naturally by Stephanie at Keeper of the Home
A subject that has most moms concerned right now is the H1N1 flu as well as all the other ‘nasties’ that seem to be roaming the school halls with our kids. Stephanie gives some common sense advice as well as a few natural tips on keeping healthy and fighting off viruses. Mind you as she says this is ONE MOM’s advice and we don’t all agree on how to best keep our families healthy.

In our home we are attempting to prevent illness by:
  • enforcing increased hand washing
  • using antibacterial gel in public places where we can’t wash as easily
  • instituting earlier bedtimes
  • avoiding large public gathering places (the mall playpit being one)
  • increasing our vitamin C intake
Hopefully we can all avoid getting sick this winter or at least minimize the effects of any germs we do encounter.

Ultimate Recipe Swap : Make Ahead Meals by Fishmama at Life as Mom
This post by Fishmama provides tons of links by other bloggers sharing their own Make Ahead Meal ideas, tips and recipes. I need to spend more time checking out the links here and getting some make ahead ideas for myself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 9th

I actually wrote my menu yesterday but am only just getting it posted this morning.  In addition to trying to stretch the pantry and freezer I'm feeling a bit low on creativity and inspiration.   My menu just isn't thrilling me but it does take advantage of what we have on hand in the house along with a few things I plan to pick up from Aldi tomorrow.

Here's what I'm planning for the week:

Sunday - Cubed Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Corn

Monday - London Broil, Rice Pilaf, Broccoli

Tuesday - Roasted Chicken Legs, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans

Wednesday - Spaghetti and Meatballs, Salad, Rolls

Thursday - Soup and Sandwich Night

Friday - Chicken Quesadillas, Mexicorn, Rice

Saturday - Homemade Pizza

I guess after typing up the menu it doesn't sound so bad.   Maybe it's just me that's willy nilly today.....oh well - have a great day.   I'm off to get my house under control after a busy weekend.

For more menu plans and hopefully more inspiration than I've lent today check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Organized Christmas - 6 Week Countdown to Christmas - Week Two Reality Check

I’m following Cynthia Ewer’s Organized Christmas Countdown at Organized Christmas. This is Week Two – Reality Check Week. I’m behind on quite a few things this week after having my daughter home sick. So I’m trying to cram some of my Week Two Christmas Tasks into this weekend and will carry the remaining into next week. The point is to start accomplishing what needs to be done and not stress about being behind.

Tasks I’ve completed this week are:
Purchased Holiday Stamps
Ordered Photo Calendars for Grandparents
Started Selecting Photo’s for the Calendars
Started Shopping (ok I only bought 2 items….but I started!)

Tasks I need to complete this week/weekend are:
Establish Budget
Declutter Décor (remove Halloween and excess regular décor. We won’t be here for Thanksgiving so I’m going to skip decorating for it and will move onto Christmas Décor early)
Establish Holiday Clothing Needs
Inventory the Gift Box

I hope to have next week's checklist posted earlier and to devote more time to planning and task accomplishment.   Shopping is a big task for me to get working on.   I have a Toys R Us list and plan to get there in the next few days.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monthly Grocery Challenge - November - How Low Can You Go????

How Low Can You Go???

$65.57 Shaw's Trip

I finally got to the grocery store this morning. I had hoped to give BJ’s a try but it’s too far and I didn’t have time to get a November coupon booklet from the store to plan my shopping. So instead I went to Shaw’s with a mid-sized list and a handful of coupons. I spent $65.57 today – my savings were VIP Card $31.85, Manufacturer Coupons $3.85, and Store Coupons $2.35. Not too bad and I did get a few good deals including:

Jennie-O Turkey Breast Sliced - $4.99/lb
Russet Potatoes - .99 for 5lbs
Bumble Bee Tuna - .88 each
Keebler Snack Cracker Packs–1.88 minus .55 coupon doubled–Paid .78 each
Malt-O-Meal Cereal – BOGO–2.79 minus .75 coupon doubled–Paid .65 each
Scotties Tissues – BOGO–1.79 minus .50 coupon doubled–Paid .40 each

My total for the month including today’s purchases along with a few items from the market over the weekend comes to $85.23. I have $164.77 remaining in my budget for the month. I’m thinking that an Aldi trip next week will probably get us through until we leave for vacation the week of Thanksgiving. Looking good to meet my goal so far!

Getting Back on Track

My daughter headed back to school today.   She is fever free but still has a lingering cough.   I opted to keep her off the bus though so my son and I dropped her off and will be picking her up at the end of the day.  I've also decided to have her skip dance class tonight - she doesn't need the extra energy output and I'm trying to avoid exposing her to additional germs.   We'll do a makeup class next Saturday.

I'm a bit overwhelmed and a bit behind on the list of things I had hoped to accomplish this week.   One plus to being home is that I haven't spent money - that needs to change today though as my son and I are headed out to Shaws shortly to catch the last day of this week's sale (the one I made my list and prepped my coupons for).  Other than that I think I am going to take things slow today - even with the overwhelming task list.   I'm feeling a bit of something coming on - my ears are a little stuffy and my throat a bit pinchy.   If we weren't so low on some necessary groceries I wouldn't bother to go today.   That said though I think both DS and I could use a brief outing - we're a bit stir crazy.   Hopefully later on today I'll have a November Grocery Challenge post up with pictures.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Keeping It Real - Priorities and The Things I Stress About

Yesterday I wrote about priorities as a mom being subject to whatever comes your way. While my post yesterday was for the day, lately I’ve been struggling with my priorities overall. Right now I’m a stay at home mom – after being a ladder climbing career woman for almost 20 years. My oldest is 6 and attends 1st grade and my 3 year old is home with me. Some days I feel like Super Mom – I accomplish a lot of household tasks, I do fun and semi educational things with my son, I get dinner on the table and help my daughter with her homework. Other days I feel overwhelmed and certain that I am not focusing on the most important things.

Some of the things that I get stressed on are:

My son is 3 and doesn’t know his letters and can’t count past 3. Am I failing him as a mom? Does he need preschool or should I put together a homeschool curriculum for him? My oldest was in daycare and learned most of these things in that environment.

My daughter needs more focus on her homework – she is a good student but not overly ambitious. Do I push her harder? Do I make it her responsibility to do more than what is ‘just’ required? Is just dance lessons and Daisies enough or should she engage in more extra-curricular activities?   Can I handle more activities????

I am frugal on a lot of small things. I hang dry my clothes, shop sales with coupons, menu plan, keep my electronics on light strips that I shut off, stretch leftovers and pack lunches for my daughter and husband. I did just initiate a refinance on our mortgage - which is a big thing. But I know we need to close a financial gap and that the continuous slow tapping of my severance isn’t good. Do I need to work harder at saving? Do I need to suck it up and go back to work full-time? Is there more that I can do from home to make money?

I have holiday planning, vacation planning, winter survival planning, organizing the house and the kids, my husband, and myself and ahhhhh… many things running through my brain. On top of it I added this blog to my list of things to do. Honestly though this is the one thing I feel is for me. Selfish or narcissistic as it sounds, I find myself energized by writing this blog and receiving positive feedback on what I put out. I have so many creative ideas that I want to implement and I get so excited about them – I just don’t have the time to get to all of them quick enough. The excitement for a project that is all my own has been awesome for my brain and my self-worth.

I just needed a chance to vent and also to let my readers know what’s real. I read a lot of blogs about homemaking, frugal living, homeschooling, cooking, parenting, faith, etc and sometimes after reading these I feel incredibly inadequate. However since I’ve been writing myself, I know that a blog is often ‘life edited’ for readers. Yes mine is that quite often – but for the moment I wanted to keep it real.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Classic Family Dinners Giveaway from Recipe Lion

Recipe Lion has a giveaway contest for one copy of Mark Peel's "New Classic Family Dinners" cookbook.  The book contains more than 200 recipes which were all tested in Mark's home kitchen - without a kitchen staff doing the work.  I've got my entry in already.   Check out this link to enter the contest.


Priorities when you're a mom sure do change quickly.   Today on 'Dawn's Agenda' I had planned to write a few blog posts, work on my Christmas Planning Tasks, do several loads of laundry and get to the grocery store.   Instead I will be snuggling on the couch watching silly kid videos, serving breakfast, lunch, snacks and cleaning up after each, playing board games and reading books.   The only possible trip outside the house is to the Dr's office.

Yes my oldest is still running a fever.   Yesterday she hovered around 100 degrees for most of the day then climbed up to 101 by dinnertime with an increased headache and sore throat.  She is still sleeping right now so I'm not sure what her status is yet this morning.  If she is still not feeling well I'll get her in to the Dr - but regardless she has to stay home from school until she is fever free for 24 hours.

So Dawn's priorities for the day get shoved aside as I step to the plate for my most important job.....mommy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 2nd

Grocery Challenge Menu - How Low Can You Go??? – Week One

I’m trying to keep my grocery spending to $250 this month for my November Monthly Grocery Challenge. As a result I probably won’t have the most exciting menu plans over the next couple weeks since I plan to use the pantry as much as possible. Most of our meals will be the ‘tried and true’ kind that use inexpensive ingredients I always have on hand and that I know my family will eat. I do need to shop but I'm not sure when I will be leaving the house in the next few days as I have one kid sick with flu type symptoms. The few items I do want to pick up for this week’s menu are potatoes, coleslaw veggies and salad fixings.   Maybe tonight or tomorrow night I can get out to the store after my husband gets home from work.

Monday – Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage (I have sausage in the freezer that I will brown with onions and mushrooms. Then add chicken stock from the freezer and broccoli. Pour mixture over pasta and season with parmesan cheese and black pepper)

Tuesday – Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff, Green Beans

WednesdayThyme Pork Chops, Sweet Potato, Broccoli (we didn’t make these last week so I pushed them to this week)

Thursday – Slow Cooker Chicken (boneless chicken pieces with cream soup and chicken stock), Rice, Corn

Friday – Sirloin Tips with Onions and  Mushrooms (I have some bottled marinade to use on these), Mashed Potatoes, Salad

Saturday – Meatloaf, Baked Beans, Coleslaw

Sunday – Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (will make sauce from canned tomatoes I got on sale), Salad, Rolls

Also to make this week: Banana Bread and Pumpkin Bread for the Election Day Bake Sale, Tuna Mac Salad for my husband’s lunchbox, molasses or gingerbread cookies for snacks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Money Saving Mom's "Becoming a Work At Home Mom" Series - Part 2

Starting with Small Things (Part 2)

Part 2 of Crystal’s “Becoming a Work At Home Mom” series is posted at Money Saving Mom. Each post I read has me anticipating the next one! In Part 2 Crystal shares with us the small things she started doing to earn an income from home. If you’re interested in learning more please check out this post at Money Saving Mom as well as all the comments posted.

I would have to say this is the stage I am in right now – dipping my feet in the water and seeing how things feel. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to make quick cash is to sell off items on Craigslist or eBay. I also use Swagbucks and have earned about $20 in gift cards. (See this post for more information on earning prizes and gift cards by using Swagbucks.) I haven’t tried any of the survey sites and I’m not sure I want to take that path – it sounds like an investment in time that doesn’t pay a lot. I really am enjoying blogging and while it hasn’t paid off yet I feel good about building something and having a tangible ‘product’ out there in the world. I like writing and am hopeful that this experience will hone my skills and perhaps open the door to future writing projects.

Do you do things from home to earn additional income? What things seem to work best for you and what kind of advice do you have for someone starting out?

Friday, October 30, 2009


Search & Win

I’ve been using Swagbucks as my search vehicle for well over 6 months now. It’s a site where you search the web, click through to purchase products from affiliated vendors and trade in old electronics to earn Swagbucks. With Swagbucks you can purchase items and best of all redeem your earned bucks for gift cards. So far I have earned $20.00 in Amazon Gift Cards just by simply using Swagbucks as a search vehicle – and it’s all FREE!!!

Click on the icon above for more information or to join Swagbucks and start earning some swag cash!

Blitz It Friday - The Baking Cabinets

Grab My Blog Button!

It’s Blitz it - Friday at Organized Everyday and I’m pleased to be able to join again this week and share my accomplishment. Last week I did a whole house blitz and honestly it made the house a very nice place to be for the weekend. Because of that I’ve decided to change my housework day to Friday. So yes I’ll be blitzing through the house again but that’s not too exciting to post about every week. Instead I’ll find a project each week that needs a little attention and tackle it for my blitz post.

This week I blitzed through my baking cabinets. I’ve been baking more from scratch, and with the upcoming holidays I really needed to purge and inventory. I tossed a few ancient items that were stuffed in the back and sorted things that had been put back all willy-nilly.

I have quite a bit of molasses, three bags of flour and tons of sprinkles. I need to stock up on sugar, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, chocolate chips and yeast. The cabinets look much nicer and I moved a few items that I use frequently for easier access (I’m only 5 feet tall and as I’m getting older I don’t like climbing as much!). The next cabinet that I need to deal with is the coffee/medicine cabinet next to the sink. Every time I open that cabinet something falls out – usually into the sink. I know my husband would appreciate a blitz on that cabinet as well.

Here’s the before and after shots of my baking cabinets:





For more blitzing inspiration and to read Organized Mommy’s blitzing methodology check out Blitz it - Friday #29 at Organized Everyday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Monthly Grocery Challenge - November - How Low Can You Go????

How Low Can You Go?????

With the holidays approaching and the need to find extra funds to purchase gifts I’m going to ratchet down my grocery budget for November. I’m aiming to keep my spending at $250 for the entire month and divert the extra funds towards holiday gift shopping. The key to making this work is to not increase other areas of spending – especially the eating out/takeout categories. We won’t be hosting Thanksgiving either so that will be a cost savings as well. We will be away on vacation for a week over Thanksgiving so I do anticipate extra miscellaneous spending. I’m hoping to accommodate some of the extra vacation spending by selling off some items on eBay and Craigslist.   I already have a few items posted and will be gathering more to list this weekend.

We just got a BJ’s Club Membership and my first shopping trip of the month is going to be at BJ’s. My plan is to go on Monday of next week. What I didn’t realize before is that BJ’s offers club coupons every month that can be stacked with manufacturers coupons. I have a price list of my regular purchases that I will bring and I did take some notes when we were there on some prices I felt were better than the supermarkets I frequent.

Prior to my shopping trip I want to inventory my pantry and freezer. Then I’m going to make a list of meals that I can prepare for the month using what I have and noting what I need to purchase. I did a good job stocking up this month, and while I want to minimize my spending I also don’t want to deplete my whole stockpile and have to re-stock in December at the height of holiday spending.

What does your November grocery budget look like?   The next couple months are tough between holiday entertaining and gift purchasing.   Do you have any plans or ideas on how to accomplish both goals without busting the bank?   I'd love you to share them here!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Free Candy Christmas Wreath e-Book from Living on a Dime

The folks at Living on a Dime are offering a FREE e-book on how to create a Candy Christmas Wreath.  I think my kids would love making and having one of these on our wall for the holidays.  Tawra recommends taking advantage of post Halloween candy sales - I'll be scouting out the deals on candy this weekend.   Go here to download your copy today!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Organized Christmas - 6 Week Countdown to Christmas - Week One Get Organized

I’m following Cynthia Ewer’s Organized Christmas Countdown at Organized Christmas. This is Week One – Get Organized Week. I will be posting weekly updates on my holiday planning and accomplishments. If you have any tips that make your holiday planning, shopping, baking, entertaining or decorating easier and less stressful I’d love to hear from you.

The tasks I’ve completed so far are:
Print out my Christmas Planner Pages and Calendar Pages
Started populating the calendar pages with pertinent dates
Christmas label list is already completed on my laptop
Gift Idea List is started

Other tasks I need to complete this week are:
Compile photos for the Grandparents Photo Calendars
Blitz through my Baking Cabinets, Toss, Inventory and List Needs
Purchase Holiday Postage Stamps
Work with my daughter on her gift creations (secret stuff!)
Inventory the Gift Wrap, Tags, Bows, etc stash

I’m holding off on purchasing Christmas cards right now as we generally do photo cards. We will be heading to Florida for Thanksgiving and the family will be going to Disney (SHHHH…..the kids DO NOT know this so for my real life family and friends don’t say anything!!!!). I think a family photo from Disney would make a great Christmas card.

Check out the countdown at Organized Christmas and join me in planning a great holiday season.

Links I Liked

Here’s a few links to posts I’ve read over the past week that I really enjoyed:

Blitz-It Friday #28 at Organized Everyday
Blitzing is a great way to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Check out Organized Everyday for the Organized Mommy’s blitzing methodology. I find that blitzing helps keep me focused and helps me get a lot done. When I think I have all day to get things cleaned up I end up noodling around and not accomplishing too much. Organized Everyday is a great site for tips on de-cluttering and organizing your home and life – yep even organizing your kids and husband!! My sidebar has a link to this blog with the most current post noted.

Kids, Chores, and Routines – A Simple, Yet Crucial Part of Family Management at Life as Mom
FishMama at Life as Mom has a neat visual way to remind kids of their daily chores – check It out.  My sidebar also has a link to this blog with the most current post noted.

The Organized Christmas – Christmas Countdown: Six Weeks to an Organized Christmas
Cynthia Ewer from Organized Home has a free six week Christmas Organizing Plan on her website. The site has weekly planning themes, daily inspirational messages as well as free printable forms to help get and keep you organized. I am getting started today with my own planning using Cynthia’s site. We are going to Florida for a week over Thanksgiving and I’d like to have most of my holiday tasks completed by then. I’ll be putting additional links up to this site and posting my progress weekly and  – want to join me?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Creating Leftovers for Lunches

My menu planning focus this week is to create leftovers for my husband’s lunches. We don’t have any deli meat and I’m not grocery shopping again this month. He has access to a microwave and since he works outside he enjoys hot and hearty lunches. Hopefully my plan will satisfy him.

Notes from last week – the Honey Baked Chicken went over well – the Pork Chops with Apples and Thyme did not. My husband asked me to find the last recipe I used for the Thyme Pork Chops so we’re giving that a try again this week. Wednesday and Thursday are busy evenings in our house this week so hopefully my choices will be easy to put together ahead of time. I am also going to make Chicken Stock, Blueberry Bread, and Quiche for the freezer.

Here’s what I’m putting on the table this week:

Sunday: Roast Chicken, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Corn

Monday: Asian Grilled Chicken Breasts, Salad, Rice

Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie with Bisquick

Wednesday: Ham and Noodle Bake, Corn

Thursday: Crockpot Beef Stew, Rolls

Friday: Thyme Pork Chops, Sweet Potato, Green Brocoli

Saturday: Halloween – Take Out/Eat Out at Friends

For more great menu ideas as well as links to recipes check out Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Here Comes The Tooth Fairy

Yes here she is - my oldest child, only daughter has lost her first tooth...sniffle...sniffle....  When the bus pulled up to the driveway this afternoon she had a big cheshire cat grin going - I couldn't figure out why until she leaped off the bus and showed me the tooth.

Of course now we have to figure out what the going rate is for the toothfairy - Any ideas???

Blitz It Friday - Trying to Catch Up

Grab My Blog Button!

Today I'm joining Blitz It Friday #28 at Organized Everyday. I'm behind on housework and really don't want to spend the whole weekend trying to accomplish things with both kids and my husband under foot. So here's my plan for today and what I've completed so far:

For Blitz It Friday I am working on the following:

Balance Checking Account and Update October Budget
Put Away 3 Laundry Baskets of Clean Clothes
Clean the Hall Bathroom (except for the tub/shower)
Vacuum Bedrooms, Kitchen, Living Room, Playroom, Stairs and Bathroom
Pick Up Playroom
Separate, Wrap and Freeze Meat purchased Thursday

Blitzing is a great way to forge ahead on getting a lot of tasks done in a small amount of time. The key for me is to limit my distractions - ie computer, tv, noodling, etc. If I set myself a deadline and have a list of things to accomplish I can usually get most of it done. Granted today I'm blocking out a large amount of time to getting things accomplished but often times with even 15 minutes to spare you can tackle at least one thing that has been bugging you.
Check out the link above to Blitz It Friday at Organized Mommy has lots of info on her blitzing methodology and some great inspiration to be gained from her previous projects.
Next week I plan to tackle the baking cabinets for my blitz. Stay tuned until then.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I made a batch of these the other day. I buy bananas at Aldi in a large bag and we never seem to get through them before they get too ripe. When they are very ripe, I peel them, pop them into a Ziploc bag and put them into the freezer to use for baking. As they thaw they get all mushy so you don’t even have to mash them.

Here’s the recipe I used with my own tweaks added. For starters I reduced the sugar from ¾ cup to ½ cup and added vanilla, cinnamon and the mini chips to the recipe. Also I generally make the mini muffins as my kids like them better than the large muffins.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12 Large Muffins or just about 4 Dozen Mini Muffins

• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3 large bananas, mashed
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/3 cup butter, melted
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
2. Combine bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla, and melted butter in a large bowl. Fold in flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Add chocolate chips Scoop into muffin pans.
3. Bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes, and large muffins for 25 to 30 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped.

After the muffins cool, I put half in a container for us to snack on immediately. (and I mean immediately as they are already gone!) The other half I freeze on a plate then transfer to a Ziploc bag to dole out for lunches and on the go snacks. The mini size muffins are perfect for the kids – they will have 2 for a snack – no waste and a yummy treat.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Monthly Grocery Challenge

October - Stock the Pantry and Freezer for Under $400

Today was my Shaw’s shopping trip. I spent more than I had intended but I grabbed some great deals including Marked-Down Meats, Sylvania CFL Bulbs, Healthy Choice dinners, Flour, Green Giant Steamer Veggies, Wheat Bread BOGO, Prego Sauce and even Beer for DH. I also got $11.00 in coupons to use on my next grocery trip.

My total today came to $125.19. I had $60.79 in Preferred Customer Savings, $25.18 in Manufacturer Coupons, $19.20 in Shaws Store Coupons and $4.30 in bottle returns. I achieved a total savings of $105.17 today – not too bad if I do say so myself.

Total spending for the month comes to $383.06. I’m done except for milk and produce next week which I will use the $11.00 in coupons towards. So it looks like I will be coming in under my $400 dollar target for groceries this month. I was able to stock my pantry with soups, pasta, flour, tomato sauce and lunchbox snacks. My freezer has a ton of meat as well as bread, frozen meals, and frozen veggies.

I'm pleased with my efforts this month. I know that menu planning helped a lot as I used what I had and what was on sale. We also reduced our eating out/take out spending quite a bit this month by having meals planned. Next month we will be gone for a week over Thanksgiving so my spending should be reduced. I need to look at my calendar and come up with my challenge for next month. I'm thinking of budgeting $250 for the month so that I can start my holiday shopping using some of what I would have spent on groceries.

How have you done so far this month on your grocery budget? Any goals for next month?

For more inspiration on grocery savings, steals and deals check out Money Saving Mom's Super Savings Saturday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Money Saving Mom's "Becoming a Work At Home Mom" Series

Crystal at Money Saving Mom has Part 1 of her Work At Home Mom Series posted. Check out Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: In the Beginning…(Part 1). While this post is mostly an intro, it does give you background on Crystal and her husband’s journey to multiple income streams. Crystal is a respected blogger and definite mentor in the on-line work at home world. I’m looking forward to learning more from her series. I also hope to share here at Finding My Way at Home, my own attempts to increase our household income using alternative means.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Links I Liked

Here are a few links to posts I've read over the past week that I've enjoyed. Hope you do as well:

Embrace Plan B at I’m an Organizing Junkie
Laura has some heartfelt words about battling perfectionism, stepping out of your comfort zone and being 'OK' with the current situation even when it goes against your plans.

Review: The Simple Living Guide at The Simple Dollar
Trent has a review of Janet Luhrs book "The Simple Living Guide" that has inspired me to check out this book further.

Guest Post: Maximize Your Freezer's Potential and Minimize Freezer Burn at Money Saving Mom
Amy from The Finer Things in Life writes a guest post on Money Saving Mom about how to package meals for the freezer. Great tips for those of you who try to do bulk cooking.

Feel free to leave comments on any great links you've found or links to your own posts that you think myself or my readers would enjoy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - October 19th

I never got the recipes posted last week that I intended to post – I’ll try to do that this week. The Rosemary Chicken and Sweet Potatoes is just soooo yummy!!! Shepherd’s Pie is one of my husbands favorites and it even got a thumbs up from little miss picky eater. The Pork Fried Rice I made on Sunday was very good – of course it’s one of my ‘throw together’ recipes so who knows if it will be as good next time.

On the menu at our house this week is:

MondayHoney Baked Chicken, Rice, Salad

Tuesday – Grilled Sirloin, Baked Sweet Potato, Broccoli, Rolls

WednesdayPork Chops with Apple & Thyme, Pierogies, Green Beans

Thursday – Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (meat is leftover cubed steak in freezer and I’ll make my own tomato sauce), Salad, Homemade Bread

Friday – BBQ Pork Sandwiches (from leftover Pork Chops – the apple is a nice touch with the BBQ), Hot Dogs, Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Carrots & Celery

Saturday – Leftover Buffet/Breakfast for Supper

Sunday - I’d like to do some kind of roast this day – pork, beef, chicken or turkey. I’ll finalize which meat based on what I can get for the best price when I shop on Wednesday. My plan is to get some leftovers and lunchmeat out of whatever meat I cook on Sunday.

Hopefully my family will enjoy the meals I planned for this week. The Honey Baked Chicken has gone over well in the past and we haven’t had pork chops or pierogies in a while. I’m also planning to bake banana mini muffins for the lunchboxes and need to make up a batch of waffles for the freezer.
Need ideas for your menu? Check out the great links and recipes on the Menu Plan Monday post at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Don't Know How They Do It

3 of "My Boys" for the Day

Yesterday I babysat for the boys next door. After getting my daughter and the two oldest boys on the bus, my son and I went over for 8am to get the other two boys. The morning was spent between their house and my house, doing a little bit of cleaning up and baking while the boys played. At lunchtime one of the boys came home from kindergarten. I fed them lunch, put the baby down for a nap and took the other three outside in the front yard for about 20 minutes. My daughter and the oldest boy got home at 3:30. Everyone had a snack and we all went out for a while again. The older kids stayed out while I brought the baby and the two littlest boys inside.

We walked back to our house just before 5:30pm and I immediately got supper started. My husband was working late and then going to his dart club so I had all the parenting, feeding, homework, and bed readying duties myself. WOW was that tougher than I had realized. I’m used to having those responsibilities when he works late but never after working myself. I’ve been a stay at home mom since my daughter started school and have been able to work my schedule to accommodate everything else that needs to get done. (uh oh….I need to get ground beef out of the freezer this morning for dinner tonight….sorry brain wanderings there)

Last night made me very thankful that I am able to stay home right now and that most nights my husband is home to help with homework, bath and dinner cleanup. It also gave me a great deal of compassion for the women out there who work all day and then come home at night to do all the things that I’m able to do during the day. Let’s just say I’m a little bit in awe…..

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monthly Grocery Challenge

October – Stock the Pantry and Freezer for Under $400

I shopped at Aldi on Sunday and spent $67.82 – definitely a little bit more than I wanted but I also had my husband and the two kids with me. Shopping with DH always adds up to more – even more so than just shopping with the kids. Regardless, I’m pleased with my purchases and with the abundance in my freezer and pantry.

My Aldi list had a few staples that I had run out of like Baking Mix, Butter, Flour, Frozen Juice Concentrate, Minced Garlic, Shredded Cheeses and Canned Tomatoes. I also grabbed a few items for this week’s menu plan – Sweet Potatoes, Brocoli, Fresh Mushrooms and Biscuits. My usual buys at Aldi included Milk, Eggs, Bread, Bananas, Flour Tortillas and English Muffins. The kids got a treat of Corn Dogs and DH grabbed a bag of Pistachios.

My total grocery spending for the month comes in at $250.99 as of yesterday. That includes my stop at the convenience store for milk (and the piece of chocolate that DS begged for me when we were there). My game plan for the rest of the month is to buy only essentials and use the rest of my budget towards stockpiling with loss leaders and coupons. Look here to see my previous Monthly Grocery Challenge post

What’s your grocery budget look like this month? Are you able to work the sales and coupons to maximize your dollars? Have you gotten any great deals? Share your knowledge and accomplishments here!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - October 11 - Busy Week!

It's Sunday here in our house but lately it seems that it's the better day for me to start our menu for the week. The Crockpot Ribs were very good but I didn't have boneless ribs which I think would have made the recipe better. We didn't eat all the ribs so I cut the meat off the bone and popped it into the freezer. The meat from them is the 'pork' in my Pork Fried Rice tonite.

It's going to be busy around here this coming week. Monday is a holiday and DD has a playdate, Tuesday DD has no school, Wednesday and Thursday I am babysitting for the neighbor boys, Friday evening we are having company, Saturday DD has a birthday party in the afternoon and then both kids are sleeping at the grandparents as my husband and I are going out. Sunday DD and I have a baby shower brunch to attend. I tried to plan my menu with things that would accomodate our busy schedule days as well as a few things we haven't had in a while. We're needing a little more variety around here. Menu planning with fussy kids is so difficult though!

Sunday - Pork Fried Rice (I wish I had a real recipe for this but it is usually a leftover/kitchen sink put together - sometimes better than others), Kids are having frozen corn dogs and leftover mac & cheese

Monday - Grilled Steak, Rice Pilaf, Salad

Tuesday - Baked Rosemary Chicken and Sweet Potatoes, Brocoli, Biscuits

Wednesday - Pasta with Brocoli & Sausage

Thursday - Shepherds Pie

Friday - Homemade Pizzas

Saturday - Eating out, Kids eating at grandparents

I will post a few recipes later today as I can't find the links for them. For more great menu and recipe ideas check out Menu Plan Monday hosted at

Friday, October 9, 2009

Secrets of a Super Saver

Lisa Palmi, 20 year stay at home mom and fellow Dollar Stretcher Forumite, has recently published an informational download on her secrets to saving 60% - 90% off your grocery bill. As most moms know, the grocery bill is one of the largest expenses of a growing family. Lisa’s download details how to utilize coupons, rebates and store programs to maximize your grocery budget. I consider myself a relatively smart shopper and user of coupons, however there were quite a few new tricks I learned from Lisa’s publication. Some of the information Lisa teaches about are:

Coupon & Rebate Sources
Coupon “Stacking” Tips
Doubling Bar Code Secrets
How to Get Paid to Purchase Products
Store Sales Cycles by Month

My favorite part of Secrets of a Supersaver is that Lisa shares her methods for organizing coupons, planning shops and transactions and maximizing the value of your coupons.

The Secrets of a Supersaver download is being offered for $7.00 through the follwing link . Click Here to Purchase.

As part of a special promotion, anyone who purchases the download via the link above will receive 3 entries in a random drawing for a FREE COUPON ORGANIZER.

You may also receive 1 entry in the drawing by viewing Lisa's site via the link and then returning here to Finding My Way at Home and leaving feedback in the comments section of this post. This drawing is valid today through October 31st. Winner will be announced on November 1st.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Money Saving Mom's "Becoming a Work At Home Mom" Series

Crystal at Money Saving Mom is doing a series on becoming a work at home mom. She's gotten an overwhelming response to her introduction for the series. Check out this post at Money Saving Mom and keep an eye out here for future links to this exciting series.

I have to go Pee Pee - Toilet Training Fun

I hear this statement yelled to me multiple times a day. DS is doing a very good job a toilet training but wow does it take a lot more focus, time and patience than I realized. I waited until DD was in her third week of 1st grade and our schedule slowed down to give it a try. DS had just turned three and got big boy underwear for his birthday so he was psyched up to wear them. The first day we went through 3 pairs of underwear by 10:30am and we went back to the pull-ups. Each day got increasingly better and after 3 weeks he has very few accidents and even manages to have a dry pull-up most mornings.

That said the things that drive me crazy about this whole toilet training business are:
• Constant little boy nudity – he has to have shoes, socks, pants off to go and then decides that he prefers not putting any of them back on
• Sitting on a wet toilet seat – yes I have boycotted using the same bathroom but DD gets caught sometimes
• Having to check out every public bathroom wherever we are
• Needing the diaper bag for every outing just in case

It’s interesting though that the methods used for my two children were vastly different. DD was in daycare and started toilet training at the age of 2. It was a big deal to get all the little kids to ‘try’ even if they were still wearing diapers. And frankly I wasn’t the one doing the training so I wasn’t sure if it was the best method.

With DS I never once got him to perform on the toilet. He would sit there, read books, sing, fill the toilet with paper and flush but nothing else. It basically took the cold turkey method to get him trained and it delivered much quicker results than the method used with DD. Also DS is staying dry at night – something which took DD another year to accomplish after being day trained.

Check out the book below Mommy I have to go Potty by for more information on tips and tools to toilet train your child.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Update on Summer Learning Adventures

I’m laughing at myself about my overly ambitious goals for providing the kids, mostly DD, with learning adventures this summer. We did accomplish some of the goals but most of the summer was spent trying to keep them amused, keeping them from pummeling each other, and trying to find a few moments of peace and quiet for myself in between the mayhem. Where on earth did I get the idea that I was SuperMommy???

The goals we accomplished for the summer included:

• Completion of the Summer Reading Challenge and getting to attend a special Magic Show at school as a reward
• Tying shoes
• Great improvement in telling time
• Starting to comprehend money, coin values and overall money concepts
• Both kids completed Swim Class

So now DD is in 1st grade all day and it’s just me and DS at home. Which means my next task is to figure out how to ensure he’s learning at the appropriate rate since he isn’t currently in preschool or daycare. Somehow I think my plan might be a little more ‘reasonable and achievable’ this time.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - October 5th

Overall I did really well sticking to last week’s menu plan. Monday’s Honey Mustard Chicken wasn’t that great but since homemade bread was on the menu for Wednesday that night was a big hit. Friday night ended up being tomato soup and grilled cheese as DH was working pretty late and the London Broil wasn’t worth wasting on the kids. The tag sale on Saturday was cancelled due to rain so I did the London Broil that night instead of Friday.

What I like about menu planning is that it gives me options for the entire week. If I choose to rearrange the order of my plan because ‘life’ got in the way one day, it is still easier than being clueless. I also find it helps keep my grocery spending in line as I plan around what I have on hand. Yes on occasion I will go grab something extra as I have an idea that just needs a little something I don’t have in stock. But overall menu planning seems to reduce my stress level and my grocery budget.

Have you given menu planning a try? What works for you and what obstacles do you find yourself fighting to overcome when it comes to creating and sticking to a menu plan?

Here’s what on the table at our house this week:

Sunday – Dinner at a Friend’s House
MondayCrockpot Ribs, Salad, Mashed Potatoes
Tuesday – Sirloin Tips, Noodles, Brocoli
WednesdayChicken Baked in Cream of Chicken Soup , Rice, Green Beans
Thursday – Dance Class Night and Dinner Out – DH hasn’t been to DD’s dance class yet this year so we’re all going to go watch and then head to THE 99 RESTAURANT for dinner with my $5 off coupon.
Friday – Ham Steaks, Pasta Alfredo, Broccoli
Saturday – Hamburger Helper Beef Pasta, Green Beans (ok, yes my family likes some HH once in a while. I keep them on hand and when I buy ground beef I separate it into ¾ lb packs to use for HH or to toss into pasta. I’m not a super chef – I do what I need to do to get my family to eat, provide something quick and easy, and keep my budget in line.)

For more excellent ideas on menu planning check out the Menu Planning Monday thread on

Chicken Baked in Cream of Chicken Soup

4 Split Chicken breasts – Skin removed (boneless would work as well)
½ Stick Butter/Margarine Softened
Flour (enough to make a paste with the butter)
1tsp Poultry Seasoning (more to taste)
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
½ Can Milk
½ Can Water

Place chicken in a greased baking dish. Combine butter, flour and poultry seasoning to make a paste. Make patties out of the paste and place on top of each chicken breast smoothing over as much of the chicken as possible. Combine the soup with the milk and water in a separate bowl then pour over the chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes (or until chicken doesn’t run pink).

Sorry my recipe isn’t precise but it’s one of my grandmother’s that was never written down and I’ve always sort of ‘wung it’. The butter and flour mixture makes a nice crusty yet soft topping on the chicken. This was one of my favorites as a kid.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Faith and Friendship

A lot of the homemaking blogs out there are written by women of Christian faith whose beliefs and family choices are very different from mine. While I have gotten some wonderful advice, great recipes and even spiritual inspiration from these women, my own personal faith might cause contention if we were to discuss it. That said, I respect their choices and their convictions to follow their faith.

What I’ve found in real life though is that sometimes people of different faiths and beliefs have a hard time bonding as friends and neighbors. I am honored to have made friends with two women of vastly different spiritual and religious beliefs – and our friendship flourishes not just in spite of our differences but often because of them. We are friends and neighbors, our children romp through all our yards and through each other’s houses. We share sorrows, joys, aggravations, meals and cocktails – often all in the same evening with at least 8 children underfoot. Sometimes our discussions get very philosophical and with grace and respect we question and explore each other’s faiths and practices. I’ve learned so much about these women and so much about the spiritual paths they have chosen. I’ve also found that I’ve added components of their beliefs into my own because they resonated within me as ‘right’.

I’m raising a glass, wishing on the moon and bowing my head to thank god/goddess and the heavens to have gifted the three of us with each other.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Monthly Grocery Challenge

October – Stock the Pantry and Freezer for Under $400

My grocery goal this month is to utilize loss leaders, coupons and shopping at Aldi to stock my pantry and freezer while providing my family with well balanced meals. Both DD and DH bring lunch each day and I need to provide snacks for home and on the go. Since October is a 3 paycheck month (and we used a lot of the pantry at the end of September) I am setting my budget at $350 but if I find some good deals I am willing to push it to $400.

My first week of shopping utilized CVS for ECB deals and Shaws for loss leaders – both with coupon stacking. The balance of my shopping this week was at Stop & Shop where I had an additional 5% off my entire purchase coupon. I estimate I spent approximately 1.5 hours planning my trips – this included coupon cutting, sorting, reviewing adds, matching coupons to both sale items and my needs list as well as searching for additional coupons on line.

My total spending so far for the month of October is $171.32 – approximately half of my budget for the month. However my freezer is now pretty well stocked with meat and the pantry is in good shape as well.

Here are the details of my shopping this week.

CVS - Total spent $32.94. I think this was one of my best CVS trips lately. The clerk knows me and she asked if I could take her shopping list for her. I think she gets as big of a kick out seeing how much I can save as I do.

Transaction #1
Dawn Dish Liquid – $1.00 Each – Quantity 5
Charm in Ultra 16 Roll – $10.00 Each – Quantity 2
Gillette Fusion Razor – $9.99
Thermacare Back Wrap – $6.99

For this transaction I used $7.20 in Manufacturer coupons, $4.00 in ECBs and a $5.00 off $25 Purchase CVS Coupon for taking the Flu Test (see Money Saving Mom). Total for this transaction was $27.33 and from it I earned $16.00 in ECB’s

Transaction #2
Hellman’s Mayo – 2 for $6.00
CVS Honey Wheat Pretzel Braids - $1.00 Each – Quantity 2
1 Gallon 2% Garelick Farms Milk – - $2.69
1 Dozen Eggs – $1.05
Speed Stick Deodorant – $1.99 Each – Quantity 3
CVS Floss Picks – $2.49
Gillette Body Wash and Shampoo – $4.99

For this transaction I used $4.00 in manufacturer coupons and the $16.00 in ECB’s earned from the previous transaction. Total for this transaction was $5.61

SHAWS - Total Spent - $30.97
10lb Bag of Frozen Chicken Leg Quarters – $2.99
Split Chicken Breast - $.99/lb – 4.23
Hamburger Helper – 10/$10 – 3 Boxes
Nestle Chocolate Chips – 2/$5
New England Coffee – $2.77/each – Quantity 2
Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Pasta – 10/$10 – Quantity 2
Campbell’s Healthy Harvest Soups – 2/$3 – Quantity 2
Kelloggs Yogo’s – $2.22 each
Huggies Pull-ups – $9.99
Animal Cookies (the grocery life saver with a 3 year old) – $1.00

For this transaction I had $8.00 in coupons.

STOP & SHOP - Total Spent - $107.41
12 Pack Heineken Light – $13.99
6 Pack Italian Rolls - $2.49
3 Loaves Wheat Bread - $4.99
10 Dannon Yogurts - $.40 Each
3 Pack Yeast - $1.99
2 6 packs of Yoplait Trix Yogurt – 2/$5.00
Honey Ham Lunchmeat – $5.99/lb
Turkey Breast Lunchmeat - $6.99/lb
Sliced American Cheese - $4.99/lb
3 Boxes Fruit Snacks – 2/$5.00
5 Cans Delmonte Vegetables – 10/$10.00
5 Cans Creamed Soup – 3/$4.00
5 Cans Chicken Broth – 5/$5.00
Pillsbury Toaster Strudel - $2.00
3 Cans Frozen Apple Juice Concentrate - $1.19 each
2 Packs Hotdogs - $.99 each
Ground Beef - $1.99/lb
Cube Steak – Marked Down
Italian Sausage – Marked Down
Beef Round Sandwich Steaks – Marked Down
2 lbs Baby Carrots - FREE
3lbs Granny Smith Apple - $3.49
Mini Raisins – 14 Pack - FREE
3lb Yellow Onions - $1.79
Grape Tomatoes - $2.50
Romaine Hearts - $2.99
Vanilla Extract - $3.99
Nature Valley Nut Clusters - $2.99
Keebler Crackers – 8 Pack - $2.00
Juicy Juice 8 Pack Juice Boxes - $3.00
Salsa - $1.50

My total before any savings was $162.56. Stop & Shop Card Savings including my additional %5 off were $46.44. Coupon savings were $9.55 – for a total savings of $55.99.

Overall I’m pleased with my shopping this week. Although now I have a lengthy date with my Seal A Meal this afternoon to get all that meat wrapped and into the freezer.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Leftover Queen

Yes the Leftover Queen is a name I love to call myself – and love even more hearing it from those I feed. I get the biggest kick out of taking leftovers and re-creating them into something tasty and frugal. My Pantry Challenge Menu this week takes advantage of a few of these leftovers. Our BBQ Pork on Tuesday is using up the Garlic Thyme Pork Roast leftovers in the freezer from last week. I will serve it sliced thin heated with sautéed onions and BBQ sauce. The ‘meat’ in Wednesday night’s Spaghetti and Meat Sauce is actually cubed leftover Meat Loaf frozen from the week before last.

One of my family’s favorites re-created from leftovers is quesadillas or wraps. I sauté whatever leftover meat I have along with onions, peppers, leftover veggies (broccoli, mushrooms, squash, potato, sweet potato, etc) and either roll them into a flour tortilla or put the mixture between two tortillas with cheese and fry lightly until the cheese is melted. The quesadillas work great as either a sandwich for one or cut into smaller triangles as an appetizer.

Leftover rice, veggies and meat often become Fried Rice, Soup or Pot Pie . Leftover potatoes are re-created into potato pancakes or hash browns on the weekend.

How do you make use of leftovers? Do you plan your menu to create leftovers and then re-create them? I’d love to hear your recipe ideas for creating meals out of leftovers.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Pantry Challenge

It's Sunday and I'm planning my menu for the week. I can't grocery shop until DH gets paid on the 1st so I'm trying to stretch what we have in the pantry and freezer.

Here's our list of Dinners for the week:

Sunday - Breakfast for Supper - Scrambled Eggs and Toast with Grape Jelly
Monday - Honey Mustard Chicken, Rice, Brocoli
Tuesday - BBQ Pork Sandwiches, HotDogs, Baked Beans, Carrot/Celery Sticks
Wednesday- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce & Homemade Bread
Thursday - Crockpot Cubed Steak and Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
Friday - London Broil, Roasted Potatoes, Salad
Saturday - Leftover Buffet or Takeout (We are having a tag sale this day)

Lunches will be turkey, chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad sandwiches or leftovers. I made waffles this morning for the freezer and the kids and I are making peanut butter cookies this afternoon. I'd also like to make this Bisquick Quiche for DH to bring to work for breakfasts as well as some banana mini muffins. I have all the ingredients I need either in the fridge, freezer or pantry.

Check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great menu ideas.

Bisquick Quiche

Here's my variation of Bisquick Quiche:

1 1/4 Cups Bisquick Mix
1/4 Cup butter or margarine, softened
2 Tablespoons boiling water
2/3 Cup Chopped Ham
1 Cup shredded Swiss Cheese
1/4 Cup chopped onion
1/2 Cup chopped brocoli
12 ounce can Evaporated milk
3 Large Eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottom and side of 9-inch pie plate. Stir Bisquick and butter until blended. Add boiling water and stir until soft dough forms. Press dough into bottom and up sides of greased pie plate.

Sprinkle ham, cheese, onion and brocoli over crust. Beat eggs, evaporated milk, salt and pepper until blended. Pour into crust.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until edge is golden brown and center is set.

The recipe is derived from the Betty Crocker Bisquick site. I substitute Evaporated milk for Half and Half as I can keep the cans on hand in the pantry. I always use swiss cheese but I will experiment with other meats like sausage or bacon and other veggies. DH seems to really like the brocoli best.

After the quiche has cooled I cut it into large pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for DH to bring in his lunch box. If he has microwave access I will leave it frozen - if not I'll let it thaw in the fridge and he lets it sit out of his lunchbox until he's ready to eat it.

Settling Back into Routine

Fall always seems to signify a settling back into the normal routine of life after all the fun and chaos of summer. It seems even more like that now that DD is in first grade. Summer was fun but it was the most un-frugal and often the most overwhelming two months of the year. Now that we are into our 4th week of school, dance lessons have started, DD has joined Daisy's, managing homework is becoming a norm and I'm happy to have more structure and slow down a bit.

My goals for the fall include:

1. Declutter and selling off that clutter (we are doing a tag sale next weekend and I have a couple things up on Craigslist right now)
2. Work more on my Blog
3. Reduce our Expenses
4. Increase our Income

Today is a rainy Sunday and it seems like the perfect time to sit down and make a plan for achieving my goals.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Continued Learning Curriculum

After having a great year in kindergarten we really want our daughter to re-inforce her new skills and do a little preparation for first grade. Hubby and I spent some time discussing our priorities for our daughter's summer learning activites. We came up with the following curriculum:
  • Summer Reading Challenge - School sponsored challenge where each child entering 1st grade must read 10 books this summer. We want to commit 10-15 minutes a day at least 5 times a week to independent reading. I am working on a reading list that is age/skill appropriate and we will utilize our town library for books. In addition both she and my 3 year old son can choose books to have us read to them.
  • Telling Time
  • Tying Shoes
  • Money
  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Swim Lessons - Level 2
  • Chores - Pick up room, make bed, help clean and help with food prep

I have several workbooks that we got from friends that I plan to use in conjunction with tangible items - the kitchen clock, new sneakers with laces and real money with applications (think ice cream man and dollar store trips).

I'd like to minimize the time spent doing workbook pages and instead use them to springboard into fun applications for learning. I haven't quite figured out exactly how that will work but my guess is that we can come up with ideas as we go along. I liked the idea of new sneakers and learning money through earning for chores and spending on wants throughout the summer.

What kind of things do you do with your children over the summer to help them keep learning? How do you work fun into the mix? Also, I'd welcome any suggestions for reading lists for a child entering 1st grade.

Happy summer learning!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Imagine Nation

On Sunday we took the kids to Imagine Nation Children's Museum in Bristol, Connecticut. It was a great time....for all 4 of us ranging in age from 3 through 41. Admission was only $5.00 per person and there were lots of hands on activities. They have a cafe in the front lobby where you can get ice cream and lunch - and also families are able to bring their own. We opted to picnic in a park across the street that had a playscape as well.

This photo below is DH's personal favorite. He watches ESPN's Sports Center every morning. Bristol is ESPN's home headquarters. If you wanted you could do a video cast and get it recorded for an additional $6.00.

Here's the sand pendulum....of course little man just wanted to keep shoveling sand and couldn't careless how the pendulum worked.

There was also a very cool water exhibit. It had a fishing tank where the kids 'caught' magnetic fish and boats. There was also a real neat huge bubble ring that I wish I got a photo of. Here's our two water painting.

Imagine Nation was a great family outing and a great value. I definitely see us going again this summer.