Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Totals

The totals are in - for the month of January, I've saved

$430.12

I feel like I'm off to a great start! (I'll keep the running total in the right column, but it will be a total for the year.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

He's 4, right?

Monkey has an uncanny ability to single out instruments in a song and with unbelievable accuracy ask is that a trumpet? Guitar? Harmonica? Saxaphone? Piano? We are always amazed and shocked and tonight was no exception. I was holding him football-style, cuddling him and just spending a little Mommy-Monkey time with him. The TV was on, but he couldn't see it and I wasn't paying any attention to it since I was talking to him.

Next thing I know, he looks at me, ears perked up, and asks "is that a ukulele?"

There was a commercial on TV and the background music WAS a ukulele. I didn't even know he knew the word, let alone what it sounds like. I'm still in shock. Pretty crazy....and amazing. Maybe music will be his path.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (Jan 26-Feb1)

I can't believe it is Sunday morning and my menu for the week is completed and I have next week's plan almost figured out as well. For some reason, there weren't enough days in the week this time around to fit all the yummy recipes, so they trailed over to next week's menu. I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of putting together dinners a week at a time, and I'm getting quicker and quicker at it. For us, breakfast is usually cold cereal or oatmeal (maybe grits or cream of wheat) so there isn't any reason to sit an plan breakfasts out. Lunches are the same way. J is at school so he gets a packed lunch, Monkey is home with me, so we'll have whatever - sandwiches, mac & cheese, soup, etc. David will take leftovers from the night before. He's good about that. He gets lunch and I don't have to endure too many leftovers. I'm doing so much better about the leftovers, but they still aren't my favorite unless we're talking about lasagna, and then I'll eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until its all gone! **Hmmm, maybe its time to start looking at putting lasagna on a menu sometime soon...**

This weeks (last week? Umm, the week we are finishing) dinners were pretty much all new to us, and we have found keepers! The Garlic Chicken Fried Brown rice was yummy but we've come up with a few things to tweak it. We love water chestnuts, so we'll add those next time, and it didn't have enough garlic. But all in all, it was very good and a wonderful foundation to play with and make it many other meals. I love recipes like that. The Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta was very good as well. I seasoned the meat a little, added onion to the meat too, and at first I thought it was a little on the plain side. I remembered the recipe saying "Barbecue sauce and prepared mustard optional" and thought it was odd that they would mention putting either of those items on pasta. But I suggested it out loud and we pulled the condiments from the fridge. David added his favorite horseradish mustard (found at Sam's Club if that is something that sounds yummy to you!) and fell in love with the dish!! J and Monkey had ketchup and loved it, and I opted for the BBQ sauce. I still think its weird to put condiments like those on pasta, but I'll get over it because I'm sold on the flavor!

The Italian Turkey Skillet was very cacciatore-like, and very good. J said he gave it "two thumbs up and two more thumbs up and he'd give it another two thumbs up!" I'll take it to mean that he felt it was a keeper recipe!

We're pushing the BBQ Chicken Burritos onto the next week plan since we didn't get to it. I decided to do leftovers last night instead of the Breaded Chicken and Green Rice. I didn't want the pasta dishes going to waste. So, I have no idea if the burritos are a hit as well - we'll see this coming week.

OK, last but not least, the story of the BELT......I was having a conversation with my friend T about doing BLTs for dinner. She told me about being at a friend's house years ago and the mom making BELTs, and that she ("she" being T) was not to keen on the idea of adding an "E" to her BLT. But she politely tried it and hasn't looked back at a BLT since. I know David loves fried egg sandwiches, so I thought I'd make it an option for dinner on BLT night. He was eager to oblige (probably too eager) and gleefully fried an egg for dinner. J wondered what Daddy was so happy about, and when J found out Daddy was frying an egg for dinner, he chimed in that he'd like a BELT as well. David loved the BELT, and J was left to wrestle with his inner turmoil over which is better - the BLT or the BELT. Whichever one wins is yet to be seen, but J has emphatically requested BELTs for dinner this coming Wednesday. I'll take it that we've found another keeper, and I'm happy to report that I'm ruining my oldest son at the tender young age of eight years old. (I apologize to his future wife now...sorry darlin'!!)

We are trying a total of 3 new recipes this time around...the BBQ chicken burritos from last week and 2 others. I'll let you know how things go.

Monday ~ (Monkey's 4th birthday and his special requests) Spaghetti and garlic bread and Chocolate cake for dessert (Happy Birthday Monkey!!)

Tuesday ~ Mac & Cheese with tuna and peas

Wednesday ~ BLT and BELTs


Friday ~ Turkey Bundles (when my lactose-intolerant husband finds a recipe that uses cream cheese and says it looks good enough to try, we try it!!)

Saturday ~ Pot Roast

Sunday ~ Ham 'n' Salami Jambalaya I have been reminded that this is Super Bowl Sunday and we have plans to go to our friends house. Looks like this is being pushed off until the next week...

So there you have it...my menu for the week. Are you in a rut for dinner ideas for your own menu? Check out Laura's page where over 400 people have been contributing their own menus and recipes. You are bound to find something worth trying over there!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Works For Me Wednesday Reading Utility Meters

I have enjoyed Rocks In My Dryer's Works for me Wednesdays. You can get all sorts of tips like uses for peanut butter jars or places to not use super glue. There are so many ideas, so check it out! You never know what nugget of information is out there, waiting for you to find it!

So what is my contribution on this fine Wednesday? Reading your utility meters! How does it work for me? It helps me keep tabs on my bills.

First off, if this is something new for you, you will need to learn how to read each of your meters. The electricity meter may read differently than the water meter. I can't easily get to my water meter since it is under a huge cement lid, so I don't bother with that meter. Many water meters are on the side of the house and easy to see, so you might want to read it. The electricity meters will be on the side of the house (at least mine always have been) and you can easily read it as well.

Once you have learned how to read the meter, find out what your billing cycle is. Is the meter read on the 20th of the month? Every other month? Our electric meter is read somewhere in the ballpark of the 20th of the month, so the billing cycle is usually between 28 and 31 days.

After you have done those two suggestions, have a consistent place to record and keep this information. I have a notebook that I've paper clipped a page (for easy reference) and I jot down the date and the meter reading. Then I tally up how much power has been used so far. We also have propane, so I check the level of the tank at the same time I'm checking the electricity meter and jot down the percentage in the tank.


By keeping all the information in the same place, it is easy to compare prior readings to see if we are way off the charts in power usage or propane usage. For example, this month our power usage seems to be higher than during the last two months. I'm a bit puzzled by this because last month we had Christmas lights on the tree and the house, and our usage wasn't as high. This says to me that I've slacked off on turning things off that weren't necessary to be on. Things like the printer staying on all day for no reason, the TV on in the bedroom if I'm in the kitchen baking. Last month, my bill was $88.87, but since I can see that our usage is higher this time, I know that my bill will be closer to $100 this time around. Since I'm keeping an eye on my utilities, I'm keeping an eye on my budget too. I have a certain peace of mind each month because I can guesstimate what my bills will be based on my own readings. This is what works for me!

**If you have the ability to check the water meter, I would strongly suggest doing so. While growing up, my Dad worked for and ran a water district. I would hear stories all the time of people who would have a water leak, but not know it until the bill came, and their water "usage" was off the charts because they were unaware that they even had a leak. The water passed the meter, so you are being charged for it. It is best to keep an eye on this and find the problem early instead of having an astronomical bill. If mine were easier to get to, I would read it because we get billed every other month. That means if I had a leak, it would be a while until we learned about it.

What a way to start the day

Ok, so here is the deal. Monkey will be turning four on Monday, and our plan has been to buy him a new car seat/booster seat for his birthday. We've been discussing it for a while now. We've been watching his weight, checking his height and biding our time until he turns four. (In our state, a child must be 4 years old AND 40 pounds in order to go into a booster seat.) So there you have it - The Plan....

Over the weekend, I had plans with my sister, and David wanted to take the boys hiking down behind the quarry and down to the river. I made sure to leave the car seat for him to put in the truck. I went on my merry way, and they had a blast and the car seat was completely forgotten about - - until this morning. We (the boys and I) headed out into the garage to take Jordan to school this morning and I asked Jordan if he was buckling Kelton into his car seat. I wasn't ready for the response I got...........

J: "Ummm.....NO? (voice trailing off) There isn't a car seat..."

Me: "WHAT?!?!?!?!"

J: "..."

I believed him, I knew where the car seat was - but I still had to see it for myself to confirm that my 8 year old wasn't yanking on my giggle-chain. Yup. No car seat. Now what? I called my husband to inform him that HE has the car seat, and that I am obviously the one who needs it. However, the phone call was simply an informative one - nothing was going to be done about the car seat at that given moment in time...and I knew that. So I started scrambling around the garage looking for Jordan's old booster seat. I figured if I found it, it was better than no car seat at all, right? I found it (yay!) and threw it in the seat and Kelton's eyes danced and sparkled at the sight of the "new" car seat that was placed in his seat. He climbed up and sat down, and while I buckled him in he kept asking if he could keep this car seat.

Then, as we were pulling out of the garage, he shrieked with glee "I'm a REAL big boy!!"

When did Pinocchio get in my car???

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Menu Plan Monday Jan 19-25

Do you ever have one of those moments where you are so excited that a plan totally comes together, and it wasn't even that difficult? My menu for the week is one of those moments for me. Since I started menu planning back in October, I have been trying to link, or connect, meals together so that I can either "recycle" the meat (ie: Tuesday's pot roast becomes Thursday's BBQ beef) or use an ingredient for more than one dish. (**Note that the keyword in that sentence was TRYING!) I've done it once or twice, but haven't been completely successful in that category. But for some reason, this weeks meal plan was a breeze to come up with and worked out just how I have wanted it to all along. I was thumbing through my recipes and saw a recipe for Green Rice (one of our favorites) and saw it needed fresh parsley. Then I found a recipe for a chicken coating that also uses fresh parsley. Then I found another recipe that needed fresh parsley! It was becoming clear to me that I could actually get my money's worth out of the parsley this week by making multiple meals with it instead of using it in one dish and throwing it away in two weeks because I had nothing else that needed it and so it went bad. So, if you haven't already guessed, you'll see that there is a parsley theme this week!! Also, I am quite pleased that the stockpiling is paying off. Just recently I was able to stock up on tomato soup, and now I'll be able to use them this week because the recipes actually call for them! How cool is that?! Now lets just hope that everything I have planned for the week actually taste good because everything except the meat mix, green rice and the BLTs are new recipes for us. I'm being adventurous this time around!! So, here we go......

Monday ~ Mexican Meat Mix Burritos(from the freezer)
Tuesday ~ Garlic Chicken Fried Brown Rice
Wednesday ~ BLTs or BELTs (E=egg)
Thursday ~ Italian Turkey Skillet (I have cooked turkey in the freezer)
Friday ~ Bacon Cheeseburger Penne
Saturday ~ Breaded Chicken and Green Rice
Sunday ~ BBQ Chicken Burritos

Green Rice
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup minced fresh parsley
4½ teaspoons olive oil or vegetable oil
4½ teaspoons butter or margarine
1½ cups uncooked long grain rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf

In a saucepan, saute onions and parsley in oil and butter for 1 minute or until tender. Add rice; cook over medium heat until rice is translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth, cayenne and bay leaf. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer for 18-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Discard bay leaf.

If you like what you see and it leaves you wanting more, head over to Orgjunkie.com

Friday, January 16, 2009

From the mouths of babes

David and Jordan were watching TV and a commercial for the Scooter Store came on. Jordan looked at David and asked, "Dad, will you need one of those soon?"

I seem to be the only one (in this house) who found that funny...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Shopping Success

I am trying to do my shopping on Mondays based on the sales ads. Yesterday was my first try. I had from Wednesday when the sale started until yesterday to get my menu planned and my shopping list made out. I'm also trying to combine my errands so that I'm home more and less likely to spend money during the week. So I hit Safeway, Bel-Air, Rite Aid and Target. My friend picked up the Walgreens deal for me. I didn't get a picture for you, but I'll give you the run down.

Bel-Air:
6 Kraft Mac & Cheese ($1.98)
5.5 pounds Oranges (3.78)
30 count soft taco size tortillas ($4.29)
10 count fajita size tortillas (FREE)

Total OOP: $11.07
Total Saved: $11.30

Safeway:
2 whole chickens ($8.09)
1 Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice (FREE)
3 V8Fusion ($3.00)
1 Welches Grape Juice ($1.00)
6 pounds Fuji Apples ($2.98)

Total OOP = $15.67
Total Savings = $34.25

Target:
1 Windex ($0.93)
1 Dial hand soap ($0.02)
1 36 ct Kotex ($2.84)

Total OOP $4.19
Total Savings $5.75

Rite Aid:
8 Reeces Whipps (FREE)
4 Excederin ($0.04 profit)
1 Electrosol ($.01 profit after rebate)

Total OOP $0.85 (which was all tax)
Total Savings $16.50

Walgreens
2 Quaker Oatmeal (1.79)

Total OOP $1.79
Total Savings $5.19

I'd say I did pretty good, don't you think? My favorite was all the free stuff from Rite Aid!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (Jan 12-18)

I know I've mentioned it before, but....I am in dire need of getting my computer back! I hate being all backwards and turned-around. And if it weren't bad enough that HP has my computer right now, my server computer monitor decided to go on the blitz. So here I sit at David's computer trying to get my menu posted, albeit late. Better late than never! So here is what we are eating this week. I went for the easy week this time around.

Monday - Sloppy Joes (from the freezer), mac & cheese, and salad
Tuesday - Pumpkin pancakes and scrambled eggs
Wednesday - Dinner out with friends!!
Thursday - Spaghetti, salad and garlic bread
Friday - Homemade Pizza
Saturday - Grilled cheese and soup
Sunday - Taco Chicken, Spanish Rice and green beans

For tons of ideas, menus and recipes, check out OrgJunkie's page!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Recipe Update

OK, so here is the scoop - DON'T MAKE THE WARM & COZY OATMEAL (from my menu plan this week)!! It's awful, horrible, tasteless cardboard. I'm so confused how all those wonderful flavors can mix together into a glob of yucky mush, but it did. So, don't say I didn't warn you! It was so inedible that we're headed out to my favorite little Mexican restaurant up the hill. Sorry if you were already subjected to this mess of a recipe. I had no intention of steering anybody wrong!!

On a lighter note, I made another batch of granola bars. This time I used 1 cup of Heath bar chips and 1 cup of white chocolate chips......wonderful again! I also added more corn syrup, so they are chewier, which is how we like them. Give them a try!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It was a good day shopping!

I went shopping today to Safeway, Rite Aid and Walgreens. I think I was quite successful! Here is a picture of my loot from today's shopping (minus 12 yogurts that have already been put away.)

So here is the break down:

12 yogurts
20 cans of Campbell's soup
2 Theraflu
10 Soy Joy
2 Fructis shampoos
2 Fructis conditioners
2 Fructis mousse
2 Fructis hair spray
1 Orajel cold sore brush
3 Softsoaps
4 Loreal Kids shampoo
2 Viva paper towels
4 Glucose testing meters

All total should have been $160.46


After coupons and rebates, my TOTAL OOP (out of pocket) $29.44


Yay for me! That is a savings of 82%. I'm going to be donating the glucose meters and the hair care stuff...I figure if they are going to give it to me for free, I'll make sure it goes where it is needed.

I'm so proud of myself! And notice in the right bar what my savings are so far for 2009!! Crazy!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday Jan 5-11


Today I had David cook a turkey from my freezer stockpile. We're getting a good amount of meat for sandwiches, plus a couple dishes for this meals this week. As I type this, the carcass is boiling for more meat and broth to freeze. I'm trying to restock the freezer any way I can, however none of my meals for this week will be doubled or frozen. Also, I know we have been having spaghetti a lot lately...I was given 14 jars of sauce with pull dates of February '09...so I'm trying to get them used up! I still have 8 or 9 to go, but its okay because we love spaghetti, and it is an easy meal for Wednesday which is game night. So, here is what I've got planned for this week (along with a couple recipes):


MONDAY ~ Turkey Tetrazzini


WEDNESDAY ~ Spaghetti with Italian Sausage

THURSDAY ~ Autumn Supper Chicken

FRIDAY ~ Warm & Cozy Oatmeal ***This was HORRIBLE!! Don't try this at home!! Recipe has been removed***

SATURDAY ~ Tuna Noodle Casserole

SUNDAY ~ Meatball Subs


Autumn Supper Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 packet taco seasoning
1 cup salsa
¼ cup sour cream
tortillas or rice

Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased slow cooker; sprinkle seasoning mix over chicken. Top with salsa; cover and cook on low setting for 8 hours. Remove chicken to a plate; shred and set aside. Add sour cream to salsa mixture; stir in chicken. Serve with tortillas or over rice. Serves 4.

For lots of other menu plans and ideas, check out orgjunkie.com.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chewy Granola Bars = Yum-my!

I made these today, and they were a huge hit!

Chewy Granola Bars

4½ cups rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup butter or margerine, softened
1/2 cup honey (I used light corn syrup and still thought they were delicious!)
1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips **

1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Lightly grease one 9x13 pan
2. In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, baking soda, vanilla, butter or margerine, honey or corn syrup, and brown sugar. Stir in the 2 cups chocolate chips.**
3. Lightly press mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into bars. Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving.

Yields: 18 bars

**Use any combination of chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, raisins, chopped dried fruits, candy coated chocolate pieces, chopped nuts, marshmallows, etc.

I used 1 cup mini chocolate chips and 1 cup white chocolate chips, and I will gladly do that combination again!

Friday, January 2, 2009

...it's in!

The final total for my savings in 2008 (which is only November and December)...

$884.12

using coupons, sales/clearance and rebates! Pretty amazing for only two months!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new

As I sit here at my computer, my head is swimming with all sorts things...Where should I start this post? Should I write of sentimental and retrospective thoughts? Should I recap 2008? Should I share a few of the things I learned over the last year? Should I cyber-serenade you with Auld Lang Syne?! And yet, the only words that keep trying to escape my fingertips are...

Resolutions....Schmesolutions!!

Yep. That's what you are getting from me. Mind-shattering, isn't it?! I don't even like making resolutions. That word alone makes my skin crawl - it makes me want to immediately break whatever "fix-me-ideas" I just made. How can I stick to my guns if I'm doing everything in my power to break them within twelve hours of the ball dropping? A lot of good they did me... So I long ago gave up on making things up to try to fix for the new year. Instead, I might set a goal or two. But? Usually that doesn't even happen. I can't for the life of me tell you what goals (if any) I set for last year. If I can't remember what they were, I'm pretty sure I didn't meet them. Lovely, isn't it?

So this year, I'm taking a different approach. I'm setting a couple-few goals, and I'm putting them out there for you to read about. (These aren't like birthday wishes that won't come true if you say them out loud.) I'm not guaranteeing greatness here. In fact, I'm pretty sure they won't even rate higher than boring. But for me, it's what I'm aiming for.

  1. Pay off all credit cards this year. I'm not sure how they got out of hand. I'm positive it wasn't me saying "Woohoo!! Let's go shopping!!" Nope, that wasn't it at all...
  2. Save some money. I'm not even going to say I want to have $20,000 in the bank by the end of the year. That would be crazy of me...but I want something in the savings account so that if there is a need, we have the money.
  3. Continue with the Menu Planning. It has been such a major relief to not be that scatterbrained (you can substitute "crazed") mom in the grocery store at 5PM marching mindlessly up and down the aisles looking for some sort of inspiration for dinner. It has saved me lots of money too, which brings me to my next goal -
  4. Keep up with the coupons. I feel like it looks like I jumped on the coupon bandwagon because everyone else is so concerned in saving money due to the economy. Simply put, I got tired of everyone else getting my money. And for what reason? So I can say "See? We're doing well because I can afford to pay full price for everything"?? Yeah, that makes sense - not. So, in an attempt to come up with ways to keep our money, I opted to go with coupons. The goal is to keep the money in our pocket.
  5. More FREE stuff. There is something so exhilarating about going into a store, and walking out with free stuff! I'll even jump for joy with nearly-free-stuff. It's fun too, but not as fun as totally and completely free (and it's legal too!!!)
  6. De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter. I wish I could take a picture to show you the look on my husband's face when I ask him to take something to the garage for storage. It's priceless! He's never happy about it, but he does it anyways and the stuff keeps piling up in the garage, spilling off the shelves, creeping out onto the floor and jeapordizing my parking space...and now its moved into not one, not two, but FOUR closets in the house. Something needs to be done about it. So I guess it needs to be "de-clutter and reorganize."
  7. Do less whimsical shopping...cut it out entirely if I can. While David was deployed, I shopped a lot just to pass the time and have something to do. He's been home now for 3 years, and I'm still passing the time in a store or three. Well, not so much since November. But it has been a constant struggle to not shop simply because I have a coupon! Although he'll tell you that is exactly why I go shopping now!

So there you have it ~ my simple list of goals. Nothing spectacular, but things to work on nonetheless. Check back next January to see how I did! But until then, I hope you have a wonderful and Happy New Year, and every other day of the year!