Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To-Do List

  1. Shower.  Clearly this is number 1 for a reason - the remainder of my list is in no particular order.
  2. Go to Longhorn
  3. Make granola bars
  4. Make bread
  5. Make double batch of meatballs and freeze them
  6. Find the counter top of the island in the kitchen (I only half struck it out as I have only found half of the counter...)
  7. Clean bathroom
  8. Wash filters for the vacuum
  9. Hunt down the 30 pack of razors I bought for David.  If I can't find them, it confirms that he's eating them when I'm not looking  Oh thank God I found them - the thought of him eating them was more than I could handle...I mean, their triple blade razors!
  10. Buy replacement car charger for the phones
  11. Balance the checkbook *bleh*
  12. Pay the cable and  cell phone bills
  13. Come up with a list of "No Power Meals" (I'll post about this later)
  14. Sort thru Kelton's clothes and weed out stuff that is too small for him
  15. Start menu plan for next week - - clear out some of the older stuff from the freezer
  16. Get rid of the evidence of the gigantic bag of mini eggs that I have inhaled
  17. Speaking of eggs, make hard boiled eggs
  18. Make triple batch of pancakes and freeze them
  19. Make PB&J sandwiches to freeze -- this will require another loaf of bread
  20. Help Jordan get his report finished up
  21. Dust
  22. Sneeze, dust some more
  23. Find the oodles of motorcycle helmets a new home as opposed to behind the front door. 
  24. Fold clothes
  25. Breathe
If I could actually get this all done in one day, I'd be Super Woman.  I laugh at just the thought. Hahaha!  But as you see, I'll be a crazy busy person this week -- just saying...so if I don't get to your Words With Friends game right away, you'll understand why!

Monday, March 21, 2011

MPM 3/21

My poor brain is in overdrive these days. 

Lots of things to think about.

Organic - is it worth it?  Are there things that are touted as "organic" just to be on the organic bandwagon, but completely not worth it?  Things like bananas - what's the point, you don't eat the peel, or is there a difference?  Or milk - is organic milk worth the $6 per gallon price tag?  With the rising cost of food anyways, is it really worth taking on the organic sticker shock?

I'm trying to do what is best for my family, but really, what is that?  I have eliminated a ton of processed foods from our diet, but I just feel like I need to ramp it up.  So we're discussing purchasing a side of beef from a local farm.  I'm pretty sure that we will be doing that here pretty quickly, but there is still so much to discuss...what cuts do we want, etc.  I'm trying to come up with all the questions and answers we need so that we don't rush into this blindly.

That really is just scratching the surface.  There is a lot more plaguing my brain, but this post is supposed to be about my menu for the week, not my headache.  I'll save it for another post.

Since my family feels that feeding them is a requirement, here's the plan for the week.  We'll see how well we stick to it...

Monday - Tomato Soup with rice
Tuesday - Red Beans and Rice
Wednesday - Breakfast for dinner
Thursday - Leftovers/FFA
Friday - Homemade Pizza
Saturday - Stroganoff
Sunday - Three Meat Stromboli

What are you eating this week?  Check out Orgjunkie.com to see what's being served in other kitchens!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Making changes to save some money - Frugal Fridays

This morning as I was fixing lunches for the boys, I asked Jordan for his lunchbox.  As it turns out, he left it at school yesterday.

That's okay, we have other lunchboxes.

But after I got his sandwich made, I reached in the drawer to grab a sandwich zip.  That's when I realized that was stupid as I have other reusable containers that I could put his sandwich in.

So that got me to thinking about the various changes that I've made in our house to reduce waste and save money.  Here is what I've come up with:

  • Reusable containers.  It saves on the budget by reducing the purchase of zip locks.  I do still use them, but not nearly as many.
  • Napkins.  When we bought this house 7 years ago, I had bought some cloth napkins for special occasions.  They weren't super pretty or fancy, just reusable.  I figured since I had already spent the money, I might as well use them.  So I quit buying paper napkins.  Also, we use them more than once before they get washed, which saves a bit more on laundry.  Another thing I do is save whatever paper napkins I get from those random takeout meals.  It seemed silly and wasteful to throw them away unused.  Now if I do need a paper napkin, I have a few, but didn't buy a whole package of them.
  • Paper towels.  We do still buy them.  However, I don't still buy two different kinds, and I'm not brand specific anymore.  We can't seem to completely eliminate them, but have greatly reduced how much we use them, thus how often it's necessary to purchase them.
  • Plastic spoons.  Last year I discovered a huge box (Sam's Club sized) of plastic silverware from David's 40th birthday party.  There were a bunch of spoons, and I started using them in the boys lunches to avoid having the kids lose my good silverware.  It didn't take me long to realize we had sailed through them, so I told the boys that they'd owe me a quarter for every spoon they threw away.  You'd be surprised how quickly they quit throwing them away and started bringing them home!  Four lost spoons paid for a pack from the Dollar Store, and I didn't buy them, the boys did.  That fact alone has kept the boys motivated to not buy me anymore spoons!  We've used the same pack of spoons all school year, and still have the whole pack.  Good job boys!
  • Buying in bulk.  I have quit buying individually wrapped items.  Now I buy things like yogurt by the quart instead of all the yogurt cups.  It saves money by getting more for my money, but it has also reduced how much waste is thrown away.
  • Water bottles.  I bought reusable water bottles for all of us.  That has saved us in a number of different ways: 
    • Water is "free" - I put that in quotes because technically the water isn't really free.  However, the fact that I spend $45 for all of our household water in a month, I don't have to go out and buy something else to drink, making it "free" in my eyes. 
    • I'm no longer buying bottled water -- **see above
    • The boys get water in their lunches.  If they don't get the bottle emptied, the bottle doesn't take on it's contents flavor.  Water doesn't have a faint taste of lemonade or fruit punch or apple juice, and that saves the bottles.
    • We no longer purchase juice boxes or soda.
    • Water is good for you - it's healthy.  I'm instilling healthy habits into my kids.
    • I take water with me everywhere I go.  It helps keep me from buying a bottle of water, or something else to drink.
  • Espresso Machine.  Probably one of the best purchases we've made.  Seriously.  It paid for itself in about a month.  I haven't had a Starbucks in ages, so that means I'm not spending $4 on a coffee that costs me pennies to make at home.
  • Thermoses.  David has a microwave at work, so he can reheat leftovers for his lunches.  The boys on the other hand, can't reheat lunch at school.  So buying them their own thermoses allows them to eat leftovers at school.  They love it, and so do I. Yay, less food waste!
  • Reusable bags.  I use them when I go shopping.  But if I do forget them, and get plastic bags, I use the plastic bags as garbage can liners in the bathroom trash cans so I'm not buying garbage bags.
That's what I can think of right now.  I know there are so many other things we do to save a dollar, but this is a good start.  What do you do to save some green?

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    MPM 3/7

    If you would have asked me three weeks ago if I was ready for spring, I would have said "No."  Actually, I did say no.  I still felt the need...the itch...for snow.  I just felt like this winter couldn't pass by without the fluffy white stuff falling softly around me, or at least my house.

    Fast forward to now and ask me if I'm ready for spring...

    Oh heck yeah!!

    I need the rain to stop, and the cold mornings to come to a halt.

    I need David to be able to ride the motorcycle to work.  Every.  Day.

    Yes, we did get some snow and I probably would still be relishing this weather, but I calculated out how much it costs us for his commute.  If he is able to ride, it's $7.50/day.  My van costs $15/day.  And if he has to (*gulp*) take the truck, it is a staggering $35 per day.  So yes, I need winter to be over, and spring to show it's bright and shining face!

    How does all this relate to my menu plan?  Because...it's been raining, David has had my car and I've had the truck.  If I don't want him driving the truck to work due to the cost of gas, it doesn't make sense for me to drive nearly as many miles to go grocery shopping.  So today I sat down and figured out my plan, shopped the pantry first, then emailed my shopping list to David because he had drill this weekend and drove my car.  He did the shopping on his way home today, saving us on gas (reason #472 that I love this man!!).  I don't have to take the gas guzzling beast of a truck, nor will I have to go shopping in the evening after he has gotten home from work.  It's a win-win situation.  However, I do feel like I'm not doing my job...like I've shirked my responsibilities onto his shoulders. I know he will say that isn't the case, but it doesn't change how I feel about it.  I guess I'd better just get over it.  We do what we need to in order to reduce the bills as much as possible, and that includes gasoline.

    Oh, and one last thing before I get to the menu.  Baseball season has gotten underway and Monday practices are 5-7 pm so I'll need to have super simple meals planned for that night.  I've decided that sandwiches will fit that bill quite nicely.  So get used to seeing sandwich night!  We'll be seeing it a lot between now and the middle of June!

    Without further ado, the plan!

    Monday - Tomato & Rice soup and sandwiches
    Tuesday - Refried Bean Enchiladas and Spanish rice
    Wednesday - BELTS
    Thursday - Cowboy Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
    Friday - Stroganoff and steamed broccoli
    Saturday - Chalupas and tortilla chips
    Sunday - Split Pea Soup and rolls

    For more menus, check out Orgjunkie.com.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    No Shopping Summary

    February is over, and so is my No Shopping Challenge.  Boy, do I have some learning to do before I do that again!  I liked that I imposed this on myself, but I realize that there is a ton of room to improve on so many levels.  Yes, I ended up in a store a few times, and yes I bought more than just milk, eggs, bananas and apples like I had planned. 

    So what did I learn from all this?

    #1  Well, first I need to pay attention to what we really use in a month.  (This also means that I would need to take longer than two weeks to plan out a challenge like this.)  If I did attempt this for a two or three month stretch, I need to realistically know what we use.  For example:  I had a whole bottle of vanilla syrup for my coffees and thought it would last me through the whole month.  It was about the 21st of 22nd of the month when I ran out.  At first I was thinking that I'll just use milk and sugar in my coffee, but then I realized that although I could do that, it wasn't what I wanted to do.  This was a self-imposed challenge, not a crisis situation.  Had this been an emergency situation, yes, I could totally use milk and sugar and I would be fine with it.  But in this situation, I gave myself the okay to pick up another bottle before the challenge was over.  So note to self, make sure I really know how much of everything I do use on a monthly basis so that if I choose to challenge myself like this again, I'll be better prepared.

    **As I sit here writing this, I realize that I could have looked up a recipe to make my own vanilla syrup.  I guess that's something I'll work on.  It could save me a bunch of money, especially if I were to do this for a three month stretch.  At two bottles a month, $5 per bottle, that's $30 worth of syrup just to stock up to stay out of a store for three months.  See, always something to learn!

    #2  Something I was reminded of last month was the need to be like Gumby...flexible.  For where we live, snow isn't all that frequent.  So when they forecast a major storm that could bring us a good chunk of snow, we need to be prepared.  Although we were on this no shopping month, I felt it was necessary to stock up on a few things.  $50 later I felt ready to get the planned snow and possibly go a stretch without power.  When neither happened, it was rather disappointing and I felt like I had wasted a bunch of money.  Thanks David for reminding me that we'll use the lamp oil and toilet paper, and that it really wasn't a 'money lost' situation.

    #3  I know when I did the grocery shopping, I shopped for my planned menu and I was well stocked.  However, what I didn't take into consideration was to plan for those snacky moods that hit us all.  When you want that repeated bowl-to-mouth motion, will popcorn always fit the bill?  Nope.  Yeah, I didn't plan well for that.  I know it's hard to plan for the "what ifs" of the month, but I know that I often like snacking on dry cereal like cinnamon Life or Ohs.  It'll always get eaten and it won't go bad, so there is no harm in keeping it around the house.  I also need to remember to keep in mind what the boys would want in those times.  Trail mix?  Banana chips?  Raisins?  Any of those would be good to keep on hand, and I know that, but clearly I overlooked it.

    I'm sure there are other things I could mention here, but those were the biggest ones, and the only ones I can remember at this time.  So, what did I buy?  Milk, half and half, bananas, apples, eggs, vanilla syrup, angel hair pasta, a pair of laptops, American cheese slices, a pair of tires for my van, Girl Scout cookies.... What??!!  Let me explain -- I had ordered the cookies back in January, so I could technically say that I bought them then, but I had to pay for them when they were delivered last week. 

    Oh, HAHA!  The...um...the laptops?!  Doesn't everyone who is on a self-imposed don't go shopping challenge buy not just one, but a pair of laptops?  We've been talking about it for some time now, but David's recent trip to Mississippi showed that the antiquated laptop we had was clearly not cutting it anymore.  It wouldn't even play a movie!!  So we felt that it was important to get a new one, and we also decided that...well, we wanted two of them.  There, I said it.  We wanted two of them!  We are both very pleased with our purchase, and happy with them.  Buyer's remorse could have been an issue, but it wasn't.  Another confirmation that we made the right decision for us. 

    I'm glad that I challenged myself to do this, I'm glad that my family was on board with this crazy idea, and I'm glad that I was able to learn and grow from this.  At one point I told David that I felt like I failed myself on this challenge.  He reminded me that in reality, I didn't go over budget for the groceries, the bills were paid, and I even saved some money.  So the bottom line?  I didn't fail myself and it was totally worth it.  All of it.

    Would I do it again?

    Absolutely!!  I'll let you know when I try it again!!