Sunday, January 31, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Planning Around Sales and Loss Leaders

Last week’s Pantry Challenge Menu went relatively well but was pretty boring. I had hoped to get to the store on Thursday but never did. On Sunday morning I did a loss leader/sales shop at Stop and Shop and on Monday morning I’ll be completing my grocery shopping at Shaws. Check my blog on Tuesday for the results of those two shopping trips.

My menu plans for the next two weeks will take advantage of the sales items I was able to get at both stores. This week I’m focusing on using the more perishable items in my menu and next week I’ll work with what I have left. My grocery goal this month is to feed my family on $200. The majority of that is going to be spent this week so I’m going to have to make things stretch.

Here is the plan for this week:

Sunday – Flying Pantry Gourmet (in other words I’m winging it!)

Monday – Broccoli, Mushrooms and Sausage over Penne

TuesdayRosemary Chicken Dinner (I'm substituing sweet pototaes for the white potatoes in this recipe), Broccoli

Wednesday – Quesadilla Surprise (utilize leftover chicken and leftover veggies)

ThursdayCrockpot BBQ Spareribs, Coleslaw, Mashed Potatoes, Corn

Friday – Soft Taco’s, Rice, Salad

SaturdayPork Fried Rice (use leftover rib meat and leftover rice)

Lunches this week will consist of sandwiches, chef salads and leftovers.   The kids and I are going to bake Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies later today for a treat throughout the week.

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Grocery List and Meal Planning Process

A Previous shopping trip to Shaws

My frugal grocery budget this month has me planning to spend under $200 for the entire month. We will be gone for one week of the month so it should work out. Just to note I include paper, cleaning products and toiletries in my grocery budget.

Today I am working on planning my grocery trip(s) on Monday (and maybe Tuesday) to purchase the bulk of our food for the month. I have the store circulars, my needs list from the refrigerator, my coupon box, and my notebook. Everything is cleared off the dining table and I’ve got a nice cup of orange spice tea to help me get through the task.

First I work my way through the circulars listing loss leaders and sales items for each store that I am considering purchasing.

Next I work through my coupon box looking for matches to items on both my sales list and my needs list. If I don’t have a coupon I might still purchase the product depending on the price and our need/usage history for that product. If the product is on my needs list and I really need it then I try to get the best price in the store that I can without a coupon. Right now my coupon box is rather empty due to lots of expirations being purged and the fact that I haven’t been couponing in about two months. I will be buying the Sunday newspaper this weekend and scrounging around online for printable coupons. I know that will reset their printable coupons on the 1st of the month so I plan to check there once more before I head out Monday morning.

I now have lists for two stores of loss leaders and sales items. Based on what I plan to purchase for meat and produce, I start meal planning for at least the next week. Today I’m going to try to rough out approximately two weeks worth of menu ideas. I try to utilize the highly perishable items as soon as possible and push out recipe and menus that will use the hardier ingredients towards the end of my plan. I just came up with 11 dinner menu ideas - a few of which utilize leftovers. At this point I’m not looking to plan for specific days. I’m looking for ideas based on the sale items and making sure I either have on hand or on my shopping list the right ingredients for the main dishes as well as sides and vegetables.

Finally I look at my lists and select the store with the greatest number of sales items and/or the store that I know generally has lower prices. I fill in all my needed products on this list from both the fridge list and the list of what I need to round out my menu plans. This store is a must visit for me and I will schedule my shop as early in the morning as possible. The store is generally less busy, I am more energetic, the bottle return area is empty (I have holiday bottles and cans to return) and I can usually snag a few meat markdown sales.

For those of you interested or living in the Northeast here is the list of loss leaders and sales items I plan to purchase along with coupon information:

Stop and Shop
Doubles manufacturer coupons under $1.00
Spareribs (Family Pack) 1.99/lb
Italian Sausage (Family Pack) 1.99/lb
Chicken Leg Quarters (Family Pack) .79/lb
Fresh Brocoli 1.79/lb
Starkist Tuna (5oz) 10/$10
Barilla Pasta (1lb) 10/$10
Betty Crocker Cake Mix 10/$10
Pillsbury Toaster Strudel 2/$4 ($1.00 of two coupon)
Hellman’s Mayonnaise $2.99 (.75 coupon and .60 coupon – both will double)

Doubles manufacturer coupons under $1.00
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast (Family Pack) 1.88/lb
Pork Sirloin Cutlets (Family Pack) 1.88/lb
Shoulder Steak 1.99/lb
Ground Beef 2.49/lb
Mushrooms – 1lb 1.00
Onions – 2lb 1.00
Potatoes – 3lb 1.00
Coleslaw – 10oz 1.00
Land O Lakes American Cheese (Deli) 4.99/lb
Sara Lee Ham (Deli) 6.99/lb
Yoplait Light Yogurts .59 ($1.00 off 8)
Trix Yogurts 2.69 ($.80 off 2 – cannot double)
Quaker Products Buy 5 get $3.00 back (I have other coupons that I am going to see if I can stack with this offer)
Shaws English Muffins – 12 count  1.99
Java Delight Coffee – 1lb  4.99 ($1.00 off two Shaws coupon)

The lists above are just the loss leader and sales items I am planning to purchase. I am adding to the Shaws list the additional items I need for the pantry as well as the items to round out my menus.  I have more sales items for Shaws, I prefer their bottle return area and I think their prices are generally lower than the Stop and Shop I go to.  I thought you would be most interested in previewing the sales items especially if you are local and want to take advantage of the same deals.

Next week I’ll share my menu plan as well as the results of my grocery shopping trips to both Stop and Shop and Shaws.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Links I Liked

Here are a few interesting blog posts I've found over the past week.   Check them out!

Hillary, monthly contributor to Steady Mom, shares 8 Lessons She Has Learned from her 2 Year Old. Her post reminded me that we can learn a lot from these little people in our lives

Jami from An Oregon Cottage has a great instructional post on cutting up whole chicken. It includes photos. For those that are vegetarians or meat phobics maybe skip this post and check out the rest of her site instead.

Molly at Econobusters publishes a Monthly Money-Saving Digest that looks rather interesting. The publication is available as a download for $4.95. Check out this link for more details on the February issue.

Drop me a comment if there are any blogs you recommend I check out - especially your own!   Have a great day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Steady Days Book Review and Giveaway at Keeper of the Home

Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood

Stephanie at Keeper of the Home has a great book review and giveaway on her blog. Check out this link for a review of Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood and to enter the giveaway.  The giveaway ends Friday, January 29th.

Also check out the blog Steady Mom for more great insight and support on your journey through motherhood.

Black Belt Frugality


After the past few months our household budget is totally out of whack. We had a planned trip to Florida and had budgeted for that but then life went beyond our control. We extended our trip which caused increased airfare costs, my husband stayed in Florida without getting paid while his mother was in hospice, I had to fly back to Florida with 3 hours notice (ouch that was expensive), we helped cover costs of services, flowers, extra company and bringing my father in law back home with us for several weeks over the holidays.

Needless to say we really have to tighten our belts for the next few months. I had this post partially written a few months ago and after reviewing and adding to it I think I have a good plan for my “Black Belt Frugality” mission. Here are some of the tips I’m following to help cut our expenses:

• Institute No Spend/No Drive days where I don’t use the car and don’t go to any stores. I try to do this one to two days a week. It also helps me stay on top of things I need to accomplish around the house because I’m not running out the door for a couple hours every day.

• Reduce my grocery budget by combining sales and coupons to stockpile my pantry with items we need and use at the lowest possible prices.

• Take advantage of meat sales and mark downs by getting to the grocery store early in the morning. Most items have a sell by date of the following day and as long as the meat is either cooked or frozen that same day it is fine. This technique has stretched our grocery budget for meat a great deal.

• Use minimal paper products – I don’t buy paper plates or cups and we use dishrags in the kitchen instead of paper towels. We do however use paper napkins and my husband does require some paper towels at his disposal.

• Save bread ends in freezer to make my own bread crumbs.

• Save veggie scraps in the freezer (carrots, onions, celery, peppers) for making stock or adding to roasting pans for gravy flavoring.

• Menu planning and making more foods from scratch is something I have also found saves a lot.

• Both my husband and my daughter bring lunches and snacks to work/school with them each day. My son and I also eat from home and if we have errands to do I will pack snacks and drinks so we aren’t lured in by fast food or convenience stores.

• I’ve put the electronics on light strips and actually shut them off when not in use. We have a DVR that I don’t have on the light strip as we like to record a couple ‘grownup’ shows to watch at our convenience.

• We’re keeping the thermostat set at 62 for the winter – We currently have a wood pellet stove burning in the living room that heats the entire first floor. The heat in our lower level is set at 62 degrees.

• Our last oil delivery was at $3.09 a gallon. In addition to keeping the heat down and using the pellet stove we have turned down the temperature on the hot water heater. I also rinse dishes in cold water and have been doing much more laundry using cold – except for whites, sheets, towels or more heavily soiled items.

• Use the library. I am a voracious reader. I can devour a book within 2 days or less – at 8 bucks a book it can be ridiculously expensive. My son goes to story time at our local library and I check out at least 3 books a week for myself. We also borrow videos – they have a 2 day rental with one renewal. I’m careful to return my books and videos on time so I don’t incur late charges.

Hopefully with some smart shopping, planning and patience we can get our budget back on track within a few months. I’d love to hear any frugal tips my readers have on maximizing the household budget.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - January 25th - The Extra Challenging Pantry Challenge

Last week’s menu went over pretty well. I had to get a bit creative on Wednesday as Aldi didn’t have sweet potatoes and I didn’t have any rosemary for the chicken recipe. Also on Monday I didn’t have sausage for the penne and broccoli dish so I made mini meatballs instead. Our Saturday dinner for company was a big hit – and everyone had a great time.

This week I really need to start cutting back on our expenses so I’ve tried to work out a Pantry Challenge menu. And based on the total lack of meat in my freezer it was a definitely a difficult menu to plan. I don’t have any recipe links as I’m flying by the seat of my pants with this menu. It’s also subject to change based on leftovers or any brilliant new ideas I conjure up during the week. Here’s what I came up with:

Monday – Leftover Buffet – We have steak, potatoes and corn leftover from Saturday night. Not enough for all so I’m going to add in a salad and probably hot dogs for the kids.

Tuesday – Turkey Pot Pie – There are cooked legs, thighs and wings in the freezer. There are potatoes in the pantry as well as carrots, onions and celery. I can do a Bisquick crust for the top.

Wednesday – Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry – There are some thin sandwich steaks and broccoli in the freezer.

Thursday – Dance Lesson Night – Spaghetti and Meatballs – Sauce and Meatballs are in the freezer. I’ll add in a salad and maybe bake some bread.

Friday – Homemade Pizza

Saturday - ??? – I will probably go to the store on Thursday morning so I’m going to leave Saturday’s menu open until I see what I can get on sale for meat, etc.

My husband is back to work starting today so I also need to figure out some lunchbox ideas…and I have just a little deli meat left. I’m not sure yet if he has access to a microwave so this might also take some creativity. The bananas on the counter are getting rather pungent so baking banana bread and banana muffins are on the to do list for this afternoon.

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

Happy Monday!!!

It's Monday morning and my husband has finallly gone back to work after being out for over two months.   Initially for our vacation to Florida, then to stay with his mom in hospice and after that to recover from a broken hand.  So it's just me and the boy today after my daughter heads out to school.  Yes that is a bit of glee that you hear in my voice.....shhhh.....

Today I'm going to spend the morning getting organized and listing all the things that I need to catch up on:

  • Finances - Balance checking account, pay bills, prepare February budget worksheet
  • Inventory freezer, fridge and pantry
  • Menu Plan - Pantry Challenge
  • Pack up the things that my father in law couldn't fit in his suitcase and ship them to him
  • Start thank you notes for holiday gifts and for the support during my mother in law's illness and death
  • Laundry!!!
  • Blog Post Ideas
It's going to be a rainy windy day today and we're going to stay home today.  Hopefully I can put a good dent in my list.  I'll pop back in later with a status.   Have a great Monday! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Links I Liked - Home Sanctuary

Rachel Anne at Home Sanctuary has some great posts this month on Home Management, Housekeeping, Delegating and Creating a Calmer more Peaceful Home. Here a few practical posts that I enjoyed. Check out the rest of Rachel Anne’s blog when you visit – it’s one of my personal favorites!

The Secret to Successful Home Management

Are you a Messy Perfectionist?

Household Organization - Setting Up a System that Works, Gloriously

Where Does Your Time Go?

And Now, A "Real World' Housekeeping Schedule

Share the Work

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - January 18th

I haven’t done weekly menu planning since before Thanksgiving. For quite a bit of that time we weren’t home and the rest was filled with holiday chaos. This week I’m trying to work with the meat I have in the freezer and one trip to Aldi on Tuesday to fill out the rest of my menu requirements. I had hoped to do a pantry challenge next week but I’m not prepared enough yet. Hopefully after a few weeks of budget shopping to restock the pantry and freezer with staples I can give that a try.

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

Sunday – Turkey Noodle Soup

Monday Mom’s Night OutBaked Chicken Tenders, Oven Baked Potato Strips, Corn, Salad

Tuesday – Broccoli and Sausage over Penne, Salad

WednesdayGrilled Mustard Rosemary Chicken Thighs, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans

ThursdayDance Lessons NightCrock Pot Flank Steak in Mushroom Sauce, Brown Rice, Salad

Friday – Soup and Sandwich Night

SaturdayCompany for DinnerBobby Flay’s Porterhouse Steak with Fra Diavolo BBQ Sauce, Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Salad with Honey Basil Vinaigrette, Mashed Potatoes

Lunches: Turkey Salad Sandwiches, Chef Salads, PBandJ, Leftovers

For more great menu ideas, recipe links, etc check out this week's Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On My Way Back

Life is slowly getting back to some level of normalcy around here.   Just last night I started reading blogs and planning some post ideas for next week.   I haven't done any menu planning in ages so Menu Plan Monday is a definite on my list as well as the post of Links I Liked that I try to put up on Tuesdays each week.  I also really need to get a grip on our finances so I have some frugality posts in the works as well.

The last six weeks have left my house in quite a bit of chaos.   We're disorganized, undergoing a master bath remodel, have presents that still need to be put away, old toys that need to be donated, and thank you cards to be written for the holiday gifts as well as for the incredible support given to us during my mother in law's illness and death.

Slowly all these things will happen.   Of course I'm realizing that I need to get far better at delegating and letting unimportant things go or I'll truly drive myself insane.