Sunday, February 28, 2010

March Freezer Cooking

My March Freezer Cooking is really a necessity to get through the next two weeks with nothing left in my grocery budget until the next payday. My goal is to prepare things that will make easy, inexpensive meals and keep me out of the store and away from restaurants and take out. I need to accommodate breakfast, boxed lunches, snacks and dinners from my pantry. I think that by doing some freezer and advanced cooking I can achieve tasty healthy meals for my family without entering the grocery store.

Here’s my plan for cooking over the next 3-4 days:

Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs and Sausage (I have some canned tomatoes and ground beef, ground turkey, sausage as well as some tomatoes in the freezer)

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Blueberry Bread

Cake Mix Cookies (with blue and red sprinkles – Go USA!!)

Roasted Turkey (leftovers to be used for sandwiches, pot pie, stock and soup)

Turkey Stock

Turkey Pot Pie

Macaroni Salad

Homemade Bread

My Menu Plan for this week springboards off my freezer cooking efforts. See my Pantry Challenge Menu Plan Monday post for details.   For more Freezer Cooking ideas check out the March Freezer Cooking posts at Money Saving Mom and Life as Mom.

I'll be posting on Wednesday with the results of my freezer cooking.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - March 1st - A Pantry Challenge A Bit Early

I plan to grocery shop on payday – which is Thursday. My goal for this month is to spend approximately $60 a week (so $240 for the month). I can’t shop before Thursday and am planning to do some freezer/advanced cooking this weekend as well as early in the week. Hopefully with utilizing my pantry/freezer and pre-cooking, I can get through until Thursday without hitting the store. I took this menu plan only through Friday as I don’t know what kind of deals I will be getting on Thursday and don’t want to plan out further until shopping. Friday’s menu includes some items I will purchase regardless of price.

Breakfast – French Toast (with homemade bread from freezer)
Lunch – Sandwich Steak Quesadillas, PB;J and Bananas
Dinner – Chicken, Carrots and Green Beans over Rice

Breakfast – Waffles
Lunch – Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Canned Soup
Dinner – Kids at Grandma’s House/Us at US Olympic Hockey Game Party

Breakfast – Raisin Toast with Peanut Butter
Lunch – DH – Tuna Sandwich, Carrots, Macaroni Salad, Banana Muffins / DD – Turkey Wrap, Carrots, Popcorn, Juice Box, Cake Mix Cookies
Dinner – Spaghetti, Meat Sauce, Romaine Salad, Homemade Bread

Breakfast – Waffles with Butter and Jelly
Lunch – DH – Meatball Sandwich, Romaine Salad, Blueberry Bread / DD – School Lunch, Banana Muffins, Juice Box
Dinner - Roasted Turkey, Mashed Potato, Broccoli

Breakfast – Cold Cereal
Lunch – DH – Turkey Sandwich, Macaroni Salad, Banana Muffins / DD – Turkey Wrap, cheese Stick, Juice Box, Banana Muffins
Dinner – BBQ Cubed Steak, Sweet Potato, Broccoli

Breakfast – Waffles with Peanut Butter
Lunch – DH – Turkey Salad Sandwich, Carrots, Cheese Stick, Blueberry Bread / DD –  School Lunch, Popcorn, Juice Box
Dinner – Turkey Pot Pie

Breakfast – Toast, Cereal
Lunch – DH – Chef Salad, Yogurt, Fruit / DD – Turkey Wrap, Carrots, Yogurt, Juice Box, Cookies
Dinner – Steak, Onions & Mushrooms, Roasted Potatoes, Salad, Rolls

Check out my March Freezer Cooking post for more details on what I prepared this week. For more great menu plans and recipe ideas check out Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie

(ps....I'm having a hard time with aligning my text....will work on that more for next time - sorry!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Friday Frenzies

We returned from Florida on Tuesday evening and I feel like I've been behind on my life since even before we left. We had a very nice visit with my father in law, saw my husband's cousins for dinner at their new house and made another step in accepting our family dynamics without my mother in law.

It's a snowy day here and I'm trying to get things back on track at home. Laundry and dishes are at the top of the list as well as updating the budget worksheet and digging through some mail and paperwork.

I really need to get a menu plan in place for next week as the past couple nights meals have been really lame and really late! My pantry and fridge are a bit sparse looking so they need some restocking as well.

Have a nice Friday all....mine is a bit frenzied but hopefully will produce some well needed accomplishments in our household.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Light in the Room

Is there someone in your life that always seems to bring the light, fire and energy into a room? That one person who commands your attention and focus? My mother in law was that person in our family. She had the amazing ability to make everything fun. She was the most energetic, celebratory person I’ve ever known. She made it all happen - be it little fancy napkins with snacks, a special outing with a picnic lunch or just being silly and goofy herself while egging (ok…commanding) us all to join her. It was required that we go dancing in the square when we visited and that we threw cocktail parties when they came back north to our house. Holidays were always marked by her – treats for Valentines and Halloween, snuggly bunny animals at Easter….my husband and father in law remember the green dinners at Saint Patrick’s Day as well.

I’m not saying she was perfect. If you hurt her deeply enough she never forgave you. She had no patience or tolerance for sickness, laziness, being tired or whining. Suck it up, get up and get going. Life was to be lived to its fullest. And live it she did....up until the last day before she went into the hospital. Just days before that she took my daughter for her first pedicure, made her last Thanksgiving turkey complete with the stuffing I have yet to master, and sold a house.

I spent the time she was in the hospital and just after she passed away driving her beautiful Cadillac and listening to her Miley Cyrus CD. “The Climb” had become an inspirational boost to her during the rough days of treatments. Even a short trip to Publix had me in tears…missing the woman who made me her daughter from day one, the grandmother to my children, the woman who raised the man I love, and even during times when we clashed….a woman who was one of my dearest friends.

Today is her birthday….she would have been 67 today. Her light was extinguished too soon…and those of us who loved her are still muddling around in a bit of darkness trying to re-kindle in her honor the fire she set in our lives. We love you Marilyn; wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend…you showed us how to live and love life….we pray that in time we can figure out how to get where you want us to be, in some semblance, without you.

Peace, Love, Faith and Hope


Monday, February 8, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - February 8th

Last Week’s Menu Plan around Loss Leaders and Sales Items went pretty good. The Rosemary Chicken got a little dried out but that was a timing issue on my part. We love the sweet potatoes with rosemary – very tasty. The Quesadilla Surprise didn’t thrill my husband (I put kidney beans in there – he could have done without those!). The Crockpot BBQ Spareribs were very tasty but a little fatty and greasy. I think they could have either used more time in the oven before being put in the crockpot or time in the oven or on the grill after cooking in the crockpot. I also ended up substituting baked beans for the mashed potatoes that night as I was crunched for time after dancing lessons. However the leftover ribs were awesome in the Pork Fried Rice.

I won’t be grocery shopping this week so we’ll be eating from the freezer and pantry. Also we will be leaving a week from Tuesday to visit my Father in Law in Florida so I opted to plan my menu out through the Monday night before we leave.

Monday – Baked Ziti (from freezer), Sausage, Salad, Bread,

Tuesday – Grilled Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli

Wednesday – Soup and Sandwich Night

Thursday – Dance Lessons – Out to Eat Night....The 99 Restaurant with a coupon

Friday – Thyme Pork Cutlets, Pierogies, Applesauce, Green Beans

Saturday – Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Corn

Valentine Sunday – Steak, Mushrooms & Onions, Salad, Rolls, Dessert (Yet to be determined)

Monday – Use it Up Leftover Buffet

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

From Frumpy to Fab

I'm joining A Proverbs Wife in her From Frumpy to Fab challenge this week.  Today is the first day of the challenge and the task for today is to document an action plan.

My "Fabulous" Action Plan to De-Frumpify
  • Get dressed each morning after DD leaves for school - NO SWEATS
  • Style my hair and apply makeup (minimal)
  • Look through my clothes and put together 5 outfits including shoes, accessories, jewelry
  • Purge items I won't, don't or can't wear
  • List a few items that would round out my wardrobe
  • Check Goodwill, the consignment store and Kohl's (have a 15% coupon) for new stuff
  • Wash and moisturize my face each night before bed
So far this morning I'm off to a good start.    My hair is styled, makeup is on and I have a new sweater and vest to wear today.   I'm going to the bus company to apply for a job so I chose a pulled together casual look.

Check back here for more updates on From Frumpy to Fab and if you want to join the challenge pop over to A Proverbs Wife.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Grocery Savings this Week

I shopped twice this week. On Sunday I hit Stop and Shop for loss leader and sales items. I stuck to my list and used coupons. Some of the deals I got at Stop and Shop include:

- Hellman’s Mayo – $2.99 each plus .75 and .60 coupons doubled (purchased 2)
- Barilla Whole Wheat Pasta - $1/box
- Starkist Tuna - $1.00/5oz
- Chicken Leg Quarters - .79/lb
- Pork Spareribs – $1.99/lb
- Italian Sasuage – $1.99/lb

My total before savings came to $77.98. My savings including Rewards Card Savings and Manufacturers Coupons was $30.02. Total Spending at Stop & Shop was $47.96

My trip to Shaw’s was quite a big lengthier and more expensive. In addition to sales and loss leaders items I had a large list of needed items to replenish the pantry with. I find that Shaw’s tends to be slightly less expensive than the Stop and Shop. Some of the deals I got at Shaw’s include:

- Cantaloupe - $1.49
- Mushroom - $1.00/8oz
- Yellow Onions - $1.00/2lbs
- Brocoli Slaw - $1.00/10oz
- Radishes - $1.00/10oz
- Ground Turkey - $2.29 for 1.25lbs (Marked down – grabbed 2 packages)
- Boneless Chicken Breast – $1.88/lb
- Pork Cutlets - $1.88/lb
- Land O Lakes Deli Cheese - $4.99/lb
- Sara Lee Deli Ham – $6.99/lb
- Java Delight Coffee - $4.99/12oz (Coupon $1.00 off two bags)
- Bertoli Olive Oil - $5.99 ($1.00 off coupon)

I had quite a few coupons at Shaw’s including a $15.00 off any purchase of $150 or greater. Also they had a Quaker promotion – all items were $1.99 and if you purchased 5 items you got an additional $3.00 off. We returned $3.90 in bottles and cans so that amount also came off my total. My total purchase before savings and bottle returns was $267.87.  Shaw's also has a gas reward program and based on my spending the next time I pump up at Gulf or Irving I save .30 cents a gallon.   After the $3.90 in bottle returns I saved $116.93 in Rewards Card and Coupon Savings. Total Spending at Shaw’s was $147.04

I originally set my grocery budget for $200 this month. I’ve already spent $195.00. I won’t be shopping again except for milk and fresh produce so I’m going to have to bump my budget up to $225. I can probably maximize that by making my last trip of the month to Aldi.

Hope you were able to do some frugal shopping this week.   If you grabbed any great deals or coupons share them in the comments.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Additional Income Required

This May I will have been out of work for 2 years. My unemployment has run out and the one year severance I received is being tapped far too quickly. It's time for me to get serious about supplementing my husband's paycheck with some income of my own.

My goal in earning income is to minimize my 'cost of working'. Costs of working include; daycare, clothing, gasoline, lunches, and less time to bargain shop and prepare meals.  It is also important to me to maintain balance in our home and for our children.  I want my kids to know that mom is here for them before and after school.   I want them to be able to stay home when they are sick and to experience summer vacations.  I want my husband to have the flexibility to work overtime when it's available - something that increases his income tremendously.

Monday morning I have an appointment at the local school bus company to apply for a job as a driver. My work days and times will match those of my daughter's school and both she and my 3 year old son can ride along on my route.  I will have a chunk of time each day to take care of household tasks, doctor appointments, volunteer opportunities at school and hopefully just to catch my breath.

Since the training and certification for driving can take up to two months, I spent some time today working on listing some unused items on Craigslist.   Tomorrow I am going to go through the bags of outgrown clothing we have and get them down to the consignment store.  Hopefully within the next month or so I can bring in a little cash by re-selling and then get certified to drive the bus.

Links I Liked

In keeping with my budget grocery shopping theme here are a few links that I found interesting:

At This Side of Eternity’s Savings Dollars and Sense Blog you can read some tips on Successful Grocery Shopping.

In her post Simplify Your Pantry and Your Life - Susanne at Hillbilly Housewife shares some of the benefits of doing a pantry challenge. She ended up with de-cluttering her kitchen food storage and clearing room for the items that make for a well stocked pantry.

Money Saving Mom has a guest post by Jennifer of Saving and Giving in which she shares the NON-COOKING LESSONS LEARNED by participating in the January Pantry Challenge held by Money Saving Mom and Life As Mom. One of the lessons I took away is that dinner doesn’t need to be extravagant – a soup and sandwich night can satisfy everyone’s appetite as well as our grocery budget.

Hope you find these links informative and helpful in your quest to simplify and reduce the cost of feeding your families.