Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Quiet Week

This week is going to be a quiet blogging week.  We had guests over the long weekend (ranging from Wednesday to Monday for us), celebrated my birthday, and our grandson stayed behind to spend the week with us.  I’ll be back next week.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Library Books

I’m a pretty voracious reader.
Unless I have company in the evenings, I normally read right on up until bedtime and can finish a book per night.
This is this week’s selection.
Last night I read Con Law, which I enjoyed.
I liked the mix of politics, law, and mystery.
I enjoyed the debates about the Constitution and the “founding fathers’ “ intentions.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Pressure Washer

Carol, over at CTonaBudget, asked about the pressure washer we decided to buy.  We knew we didn’t need a heavy jobs one because our goal is to do regular maintenance to keep jobs from getting too big.

We made a list of what we considered reasonable things to look for in one and our list went something like this:

1.  No more than around $100 in cost.

2.  Lightweight enough I could carry it around and use with no problems.

3.  Easy to operate and also “intuitive” to operate.  (Aka nothing too complicated)

4.  Wish list — soap option for outside windows and cars

5.  We also wanted something that would take up the least space for storage when not in use.

6.  I also wanted to avoid having to buy extra garden hoses and just use the ones we have.

We tried out a couple and worked with a friend, who had a much higher pressured one.  They didn’t really meet our list — they were expensive and cumbersome.  However, the one we recently borrowed did.  It was originally purchased at Lowes several years ago, but they no longer have them.  I began an online search and settled on the one that was comparable on Amazon.

This is what we decided to go with.  
It does not have a reel for hoses or things like that, which was fine with us.  
It is light weight and has the nozzles and capabilities we were looking for as well.

They do have models with higher pressure and other features, and depending on a person’s needs their prices are still good overall.

I do feel like I should say that I haven’t had mine long enough to know how well it will hold up.
However, the one we borrowed is several years old and still going wrong, so I am hopeful that we will be as fortunate.

Small Appliance Purchase

Schedules are getting crazier around here.
In the past, I have always relied on the crockpot for busy nights, but I am finding that downsizing to cooking for two is a bit of a challenge because none of us want to spend days eating the same meal over and over.

My original plan was to invest in a simple flat griddle.
I wanted a small one — for both family size and for storage ease.
I checked in Target and all they had was the really large griddles.
Instead I opted to invest in this Cuisinart Griddler and to buy the waffle plates to go with it.

The reasons included:
The price was only $19 less than purchasing this from Amazon.
The storage space required is much smaller.
I can cook a variety of items on this far easier than I can on a flat griddle.

I made waffles with no problem, too.

We’ve made panini of mulitple varieties.
It does well with both my daughter’s wheat bread and my gluten free bread.
My daughter’s favorite includes turkey and a variety of fixings.

I also made “pizza” sandwiches — basically an Italian sub on a smaller scale.

We’ve used it for grilled cheese sandwiches.
(Photo below — I’ve been freezing my homemade GF bread in slices.  
I just took two out, spread them with margarine, and put shredded cheese in the middle.
Cooked on panini setting — it was excellent.)

I’ve made pancakes (blueberry and gluten free).

I cooked French toast — regular and gluten free.
I’ve cooked boneless chicken breasts with barbecue sauce.

We also had one night where we simply made bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.
My daughter likes hers lightly toasted.

We’ve been pleased with each dish we have tried.
(I’ll let you know how the waffle plates do.)

The bonuses for us are:

1.  It heats quickly, unlike the oven.
2.  It is small and stores easily.
3.  I can cook small amounts with ease.
4.  It lends itself to quick dishes like hot sandwiches.
5.  I can put frozen meat on it to cook.

Last of Oct/First of Nov

Frugal happenings for last week include: 1.  Sunday trip to the library. 2.  Monday was a day at home and a no spend day. 3.  Tuesday —
  • I picked up candy for trick or treaters.  While I was at Sam’s Club I found a huge beef roast and two packages of boneless pork chops that looked great. They were on mark down so I picked them up.  I also picked up the eggs, cheese, sandwich meat, and some bread (for my daughter’s lunches) that we needed for the week.
  • I pulled together a pot of taco soup from on hand ingredients to be my contribution to our annual chili dinner.
4.  Wednesday 
  • I paid bills online to save on postage.
  • I wrote out a menu and corresponding shopping list for our upcoming visits.  I was able to divide it into a couple of stores based on the sales flyers that came out in the mail.
5.  Thursday 
  • I ordered my husband three shirts from Lands End.  With a combined coupon and a discount for ordering three, I managed to get not only free shipping, but the third shirt for free.
  • I used a gift card balane to order a book from Amazon.
  • I placed a Walmart order and received free shipping.  I ordered a replacement cookie jar (on sale), a shower liner, a large decorative candle lantern (which was far less expensive than Hobby Lobby’s version), and 4 large coffee mugs that were reduced by $26.00.  My entire order was less than the cost of the candle/lantern I looked at at Hobby Lobby, and I did not have to go across town so I saved on time and gas.
6.  Friday
  • I changed the menu slightly to use up some things we had in the refrigerator and made a large lasagna with plans for leftovers for lunches for the first half of next week.
  • We hung laundry to dry.
7.  Saturday
  • We mixed some leftovers in with a jar of my home canned soup to make a hearty stew.
  • We spent the day painting.
8.  Sunday
  • On our ride back (two hours) we stopped and picked up coffees.  We opted for 99 cents cups that were on special.  We also got rewards points for these that we will use in the future.
  • We talked about grabbing breakfast on the road, but opted to wait until we were home and make waffles.
  • We picked up books from the local library.
  • We had a quiet night at home — watching online movies and eating popcorn.
On the not frugal at first glance side —
1.  We ordered a small pressure washer.  We are required by HOA ( and want to even if we weren’t required) to keep our house pressure washed.  We have been either renting, borrowing, or even paying someone to do the pressure washing of the house.  That did not include the drive maintenance.  With the costs continuing to rise, we decided to invest in our own.  The plan is to be here at least 6 more years.  Knowing that, we have opted to invest in a modest sized and modest priced pressure washer and do the work ourselves.  One year’s costs will pay for it and the other 5 will just be icing on the cake.
2.  I paid $30 for a beef roast that was on sale.  Yes, I know.  However, I am comparing this to the cost of taking 8 or 9 people out to eat.  This still is the more frugal option.  The plan is to make “oriental” beef and serve it with broccoli and rice.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Weekend Baking

We are continuing to work our way through the recipes in the gluten free muffin cookbook.  This weekend we decided to go with the gingerbread muffins, which I made per the instructions with the exception of not sprinkling extra sugar on top.

These are excellent muffins that have a great texture and fabulous taste.
So far every recipe we have tried has been a winner.
I’m actually looking forward to deciding which one to try next.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Weekend Plans

We have guests coming in next week, and my plan had been to take care of a few details this weekend.
However, you know what they say about best laid
The weather is supposed to be beautiful so we will spend our time painting.
No big deal....I’ll do the bulk of the work I wanted to do at the house today and next Monday.
I’m reserving Tuesday for grocery shopping and a final scrub of all the bathrooms.
Wednesday morning I’ll do the last minute fresh linens and some baking.
By Wednesday midday we should have the first arrivals.

So with the change of plans I altered the menu slightly.
Instead of white lasagna, I decided to do a tomato based one.

Tonight’s supper is now lasagna, which is sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be baked.
This is what I refer to as “use it up” lasagna.
My noodles were getting near their experation date.  Food waste is bad on any budget.
Plus, anyone who buys gluten free products knows they aren’t inexpensive — so wasting them hits hard.

 From the fridge I had some items to use up:
3/4 or so of a container of ricotta cheese
2/3 of a bag of shredded mozzarella
A bowl of leftover pizza sauce (homemade)
A bowl of steamed veg (broccoli/cauli/carrot/squash)

From the freezer:
The last pound of my frozen ground turkey from Zaycon

Then from food storage:
An onion lingering on the counter
Some Dollar Tree mushroom slices
1 can of Italian seasoned tomatoes
Two eggs to help the ricotta stretch

I put together a simple lasagna, but I didn’t have quite enough sauce.
The can of Italian seasoned diced tomatoes worked perfectly.
I just dumped them on top and sprinkled with cheese to finish it off.

I have actually stuck to the menu plan all week!
Next week all bets are off though because we will have a lot more input and mouths to feed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

You Never Know

You never know when and where you’ll find a good deal.
I went to CVS to pick up part of my medication and stumbled upon a good one.

I paid $4 a piece.

These will be perfect for the days we have guests since I expect to brew at least two full pots each morning.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Frugal Happenings Last Week of October

  1. Happy dance here!  The fall weather (even though we are hitting near 80F some days) has helped drop my utility bill down to $155.  (This includes water, trash pickup, and electricity.)
  2. I spent $20 on groceries for the week.
  3. We ate meals from what was on hand.
  4. I donated 4 large boxes of books to the local library.
  5. I set aside 3 large boxes of homeschooling reference books to give to my daughter-in-law for my grandson.  It is hard closing that chapter in my life, but I know it is gone.
  6. I gave away a large plastic tote of crafting magazines.
  7. I carried two loads of items to Goodwill.
  8. (In case you cannot tell we are cleaning out our homeschooling library.  This freed up considerable space on my bookshelves and I was able to unpack several boxes filled with books we will be keeping.)
  9. We purchased a new sectional sofa.  Not frugal, but over the last bit I had saved enough from the household budget to pay for it.  We only have one "big" purchase left for the house, and I've started saving for that.
  10. I'm cleaning out baby and toddler items.  I found someone who can use the toddler bed and mattress and I have given that away. 
  11. We gassed our cars up at Sam’s Club and the prices were 10 cents less per gallon than the local gas station. 
  12. I took advantage of Sam’s Club sales to fill some gaps and to start filling November’s needs. 
  13. I placed an order with Vitacost and took advantage of their free shipping.  This came from my holiday budget.  
  14. We had a Friday night family night complete with homemade pizza and movies at home.
  15. I brought home a stack of books from the library.  I've finished all but one of it has been a good reading week.

Sometimes You Need Easy (Product Review)

I am in no way suffering under the illusion that this is a super healthy dish.
However, sometimes you need easy.
This gluten free mac/cheese mix from Lidl reminds me of Kraft Mac and Cheese.
The only difference was that unlike Kraft, this was actually not quite salty enough.
However, it wasn’t a bad substitute....if you like powdered cheese type boxed mac.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Menu for the Week

Sunday morning started with yummy blueberry muffins.  This recipe is from 150 Best Gluten Free Muffin Recipes by Camilla Saulsbury.  The quality of these is what I would expect from a high quality bakery.

Now for the menu plan:

Sunday — beef roast with gravy, rice (mashed turnips for me), and sauteed green beans

Monday — Tacos

Tuesday — our annual Halloween chili dinner, so chili in the crockpot

Wednesday — BBQ chicken (crockpot), rice, peas

Thursday — Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese

Friday — White Lasagna (with chicken)

Garbage Pizza and Crust Review

This mix came from Lidl.  
It was by far the least expensive pizza crust mix I have seen, and it was the best I have tried.
It requires the addition of an egg, olive oil, and warm water.
It reminds me a little of a more biscuity type dough, but it was excellent.
Two of us wiped out the entire pizza.

On the grocery front, this was a “garbage” pizz.
I used up the last of a jar of Dollar Tree mushrooms, a lingering onion, some olives from an open jar, the remainder of some pepperoni in the fridge, and a mix of leftover cheddar and mozzarella.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Allergy Doctor’s Visit

My last visit to the allergy doctor led to testing that induced anaphalactic shock, and I was feeling a bit antsy about this appointment.  Much to my relief the doctor looked at my chart and said unless I just wanted him to, he wasn’t sure that retesting was in my best interest.  Especially since we already know that accidental exposure is still triggering reactions.  So I left with a prescription of “strict avoidance,” my epi-pen prescription, a new daily allergy pill, and an additional diagnosis of an oral allergy syndrome or pollen allergy syndrome.  I’m to be careful about my fruits and veggies and eat them cooked whenever possible.  He thinks that a combination of the daily allergy medication and the extra care will help me manage things a little better.   So I am excited to see if the allergy medicine will help.

Saving throughout the Year

I’m a big believer in not only monetary savings when possible, but also in time savings.  One of the things I tend to do is shop seasonally and purchase items that I can store for the year — especially when it comes to bathroom supplies and things like that.  I often utlitize Sam’s Club to do this.  This month a lot of their cleaning supplies, bathroom supplies, and some seasonal items are on sale.  (I do keep a buffer amount of money set aside for bulk purchases so that I can take advantage of their sales when they roll around.)

The chicken was not on sale, but I am officially out of chicken. 
I picked up BLSL chicken breasts and thighs.

Now here is where the bulk shopping comes in.
Razors that my husband likes were on sale and us girls just use the same brand for our legs, etc.
This will last three of us 6 months or more.  
(I allow for 6 before I start looking at future sales and I did pretty good.  We have 1/2 of the last package I bought still on the shelf.)
The napkins seem lazy, but I find with two people it is simply easier.
10 bottles of deoderant will last me a year.
(My daughter wears a different brand and I recently stocked up on hers when it was on discount.)
The large box of Kleenex will work for our home and for our side business and I should have some left passed the cold season.
The 3 boxes of Clorox toilet tablets will last me quite a while.
(Not to be indelicate but with my daughter and husband having stomach issues the steady dose of bleach is totally worth it to me.)

The rest of the items were not on sale, but will go into my November food plan.
Fritos because my husband loves them.
Gluten free crackers because soup season is here.
Cinnamon rolls because my daughter requested them.
Coffee to replace the one I just opened.  (I keep two on hand at all times.)
Coffee creamer and cheese because these are my better prices.
Brown rice and quinoa blend because Sam’s Club is the only place I can find this mix and I love it!
Beef roast (gluten free) is a splurge, but was a better price and more reasonable amount than me buying a huge one for two people.

Also not pictured:
2 large bags of cat food (1 for here and 1 for my husband’s place)
2 large tubs of cat litter (again to be divided)

I’m anticipating only needing fresh items and possibly some more meat in November.
That will in part be because we will begin hosting events pretty soon and I find it impossible to totally stock up for events like that.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Holiday Baking

With holiday baking around the corner — we are starting early with our celebrations and family visits start the first full week of November — I took full stock of what I had on hand.  I had several items I had depleted and several recipes I have to alter to meet allergen free standards.  I placed a small order with Vitacost.  Sadly the two stores in my town that are the most likely to carry gluten free and nut free items are two of the nicest stores.  Of course, that means they both have open seafood counters and I cannot shop in either of them. 

The vanilla wafers are for making peppermint sandwich cookies.
The animal crackers are for me to share with my grandson when we have tea.
The bread crumbs are for everyday use.
The graham crackers are for both snacking and cheesecake baking.

I’ve used up the last of my home dried fruit.
It is impossible to find any locally that hasn’t been processed around nuts.  
It is mostly for muffins and scones.
I’ve checked every store....sigh.
The pretzels are for a jello dessert.

The ginger snaps are for the pumpkin cheesecake crust.
I’m hoping the crust only takes one bag and I can have the second to hide for myself.

Have you started planning out your holiday baking and other goodies?
I’m hoping by being prepared in advance I can get it all pulled off with minimal effort.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

GF Flour Tortillas Review

A couple of weeks ago I tried the Aldi gluten free tortillas.
I honestly wasn't overly impressed with them.
They were dry and kind of chalky.
I rarely throw away food, but I ended up tossing the remainder of the package.

When I was in the Neighborhood Market (Walmart) I found Mission Gluten Free Tortillas.
I had heard a lot of good things about them and was actually excited to see them in our local store.

I have tested these pretty thoroughly.
I've made tacos with ground beef, used them as wraps for chicken and veggies with cheese, and used them to make breakfast wraps with scrambled eggs and bacon.
The final test was to see if they would make a good cheese quesadilla.

They do!

I've been very pleased with how well these taste.
Since they lend themselves to a variety of meals I feel like they are great for me to keep on hand.

The only downside I can see (and it isn't a big enough one for me to not recommend these) is that they are thin and one or two did tear easily.
I am sure it is due to the nature of the flours.
However, the taste and texture are quite good.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fried Rice (Kind of?)

We had fried rice with eggs on the menu.  
However, we had eggs for breakfast and decided we really didn’t want them again for supper.
The freezer came to the rescue.
I pulled out a pound of ground turkey breast to add for our protein.
While I was rustling around through the freezer I found 1/2 of a package of broccoli florets.
I steamed them and added them in for an extra veggie boost.

Stock Up for the Week

Such a big stock up for the week; huh?

This was all we needed.  
Well actually that isn’t quite the truth of the matter.
I needed the cheese, the eggs, the onion powder, and the milk.
The hot dogs we bought for lunches for this week.
I know they aren’t great for us, but sometimes I crave one.
The gum is because we were out....daughter keeps one package in her backpack for school and I keep one in my purse.
The chocolate chips were almost an impulse item, but not quite.
I’ve actually used up most of mine, and since Lidl’s don’t have nut issues I decided to go ahead and pick up some more.

2 cartons of lactose free milk
1 package of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 bottle of onion powder
2 packages of gum
1 package of beef hot dogs
4 bags of chocolate chips for baking

Not a bad total for the week.

Although I feel as if I should confess and say we have already deviated from the menu.
Daughter wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want bean soup.
No worries though because we just ate other things we had on hand.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Product Review — GF Garlic and Cheese Biscuits

I picked up this mix from Aldi to try.
Sometimes a quick drop biscuit takes a simple meal to another level....just something about having hot bread with a meal.

These are easy to make and you add 1/2 cup of cheese of your choice.
I went with cheddar.
I also simply mixed the garlic/herb packet into the biscuits.
As I have said previously, I have family members that aren’t crazy about butter.

These were really good and simple to make.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Menu Plan Monday

Monday — burger patties, fried eggplant, string beans Tuesday — bean soup and cornbread Wednesday — fried rice with scrambled eggs Thursday — pancakes, bacon, and eggs Friday — homemade pizza?  (This night is flexible because I may not be home.)

What We Actually Ate Last Week

I made a menu plan, and I actually tried to stick to it.

Zucchini pasta —
I used ground turkey from the freezer, frozen peppers and onions, Dollar Tree mushrooms, and sauce from Lidl.  
We did not make the cheese rolls.
Instead we opened these rolls and added garlic and margarine.

However, we did this for lunch.  I cooked extra for my husband to take for lunches.
Supper ended up being a giant salad.
While I was at it I hard boiled several eggs in preparation for the week.

Monday night was veggie stir fry for one — with 4 lunches packed away afterwards.

Tuesday night:

Wednesday night:
We were supposed to have burgers, but I got up with a massive sinus headache.
My daughter had pizza and I made a BLT on a gluten free bun.

Thursday night — I cooked Italian chicken in the slow cooker (Instant Pot) and served cheesy mashed potatoes as a side.
I forgot to take a picture though.  We opted not to have a veggie and had strawberries instead.

Fiday night — We were all tired and decided to just cook breakfast.  I cooked gluten free cheese biscuits, scrambled eggs, and bacon.

Frugal Happenings (Mid October)

  • We picked me up three books from the library and one book on CD for my husband.
  • Meals were doubled and tripled to allow for extras for the week.
  • My husband watched Netflix movies while I read one of my 50 cents books.
  • My vitamins (I have a hard time finding allergen free that I can take) were on sale at CVS.  They were B1 get the second 50% off.  I bought 4 bottles.  Due to absorption issues I take a minimum of 4 a day under doctor’s orders.
  • While at CVS I found a Christmas one more off the list.
  • My favorite face scrub was on sale so I bought two for storage.  The one I have now is about 1/3 full.
  • I cooked enough stir fry to take care of my lunches for a few days.
  • I finished another of my 50 cents books.  I’ve actually almost worked my way through the stack.
  • Quiet day at home.  I used a coupon to get a discount on my fall/winter boots.  I had several pairs that were finally worn out beyond repair at the end of last season.  
  • I spent some down time online researching some easy recipes that make smaller amounts than I am used to cooking.
  • Another quiet day at home.  I ran two loads of laundry on the quick cycle to save on water and energy usage.  I dried one in the dryer and hung the other.
  • We detailed my daughter’s bathroom and used up a bit of lingering cleaners doing that.  (I love to finish off bits of bottles so I don’t have so many sitting around.)
  • I ordered my planner/day runner for next year.  Even though it is a cost, I consider it to be a frugal thing to do.  It helps me keep track of everything and allows me to easily do advanced planning, which always seems to save money in the long run.
  •  I traded in $36 of books through Amazon’s program.  
  • I rearranged some furniture and spent some time purging some items.
  • We used the Instant Pot slow cooker feature and I didn’t turn on any other cooking appliance all day.
  • I hauled off several loads of various items.  My mama let me borrow her truck to do all the moving, and I gave her $20 for gas. A big bargain for me because I did not have to rent a truck to do the moving.  I spent $8 on cold sodas for the family members that helped me move, but since the temps were almost 80F it was a small price to pay.

  • We used a discount at Lowes to save 10% on paint.  We worked all day on cleaning the deck at our place in the area I grew up in.  Even with costs of paint and water, by doing the work ourselves we will save $3,000.  It will eat up about two weekends or more, so the project is not finished, but we are one step closer.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fall is Here

It is late enough in October I feel like it is safe to say fall is here — even if we are having a high of 78F today.  The chocolate muffins were successful enough that I feel encouraged to try a second recipe from this book.  Since it is officially pumpkin season I decided to go with pumpkin muffins.  We will be traveling by the time you read this — just a few hours away — to do some outdoor painting.  I’m packing our lunch and snacks.  I have leftover chicken to take to go in wraps, and I will grab some fruit cups to go with them.  The plan is to pack some muffins to take along, to toss in some cheese sticks, grab some bottled waters, and anything else the rest of the crowd wants.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Muffin Recipe

Brown rice flour, super fine
Tapioca starch
Potato Starch
Xanthan Gum

This is the basic flour blend used in most of the muffins in this book.

Changes I made:
1.  I used home dried cherries.
2.  I used olive oil instead of butter.
3.  I used low fat ricotta.
4.  I used vanilla extract.
5.  I used dark chocolate chunks.

I cooked these for the full 22 minutes, but I did test at 18.
I also ended up with 12 muffins.

As an update, these are the first gluten free thing I have baked that is still just as good at room temperature.
It hasn’t taken us long to go through 12 muffins. 
(My husband was home and took two with him in addition to our snacking.)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Black Forest Muffins (Recipe Review)

I bought this book from Thrift Books.
Finding gluten free items, whose texture isn’t off, is proving elusive.
Even more elusive is finding nut free items because everyone likes to use almond meal as a flour substitute.
While there are some recipes in this book that use almond meal, the bulk do not.
They use a brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch mixture.

We decided to try the Black Forest Muffins first.

My notes:
1.  I used nut free dark chocolate chunks and home dried tart cherries.
2.  I used vanilla to avoid the nut issue.
3.  I ended up with 12 decent sized muffins.
 4.  They took the full 22 minutes to cook.

The overall verdict is these are FABULOUS!
The texture is perfectly soft and not at all gritty!

I cooked these late in the evening and I apologize for the lighting.
This was the best I could get of the inside.
I’m hoping you can make out the cherries and chocolate chunks.

I want to either try pumpkin or gingerbread next.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

GF Product Review

Tuesday’s are usually a slam packed day for us.  Knowing that I try to plan something that is quick and easy.  We jokingly refer to it as our “junk food” night.  Yesterday was no exception.   However, we did try two new to us products — Live Gfree brand rice shells and cheese (from Aldi) and GF White meat chicken nuggets from Lidl.  The cucumber was, well half a cucumber I had leftover from making salad early in the week....

I decided to rank these based on 4 things.

Ease of preparation — These both recieve a “doesn’t get any easier” rating.
  • The mac and cheese was a simple boil your pasta, drain, and stir in the cheese pack.  
  • The nuggets simply went on a tray in the oven.
Taste — very good
  • My daughter declared that the mac and cheese tastes like any boxed mac and cheese.  I pretty much agreed, which as far as I am concerned is a big plus for any gluten free product.
  • The nuggets were a winner.   We have tried every brand of nuggets from Aldi in the past, and my daughter has always hated them.  I wasn’t able to eat most of them so I don’t have a comparison.  However, I really liked these enough to justify buying them again. 
Serving Size — generous. (I was unable to finish all that was on my plate and wrapped it up for a late night snack.  My daughter, on the other hand, ate all of hers.)
  • Mac and cheese serving size was 1 cup prepared.  I deliberately measured the portion on my plate so that you would see an actual serving.  
  • The serving size for the nuggets was 5.  I actually made myself 5 and my daughter 8. 
Cooking Time — very quick
  • Once the water came to a boil, the noodles cooked in about 6 minutes.  I know the box says 10 to 12, but it did not take that long.
  • Once the oven was preheated, the nuggets cooked for 14 minutes.  
  • The timings were close enough to have it all pretty much finished at once.  I had time to get the plates, utensils, etc. ready.
Cost — I was actually going to give you the cost comparison until I realized when I cleaned my purse I had tossed my receipts.  Most gluten free items are automatically higher in price than their “gluten containing” counterparts.  However, both of these items were store brand and from the lowest priced stores in my area.  
Conclusion — While I don’t kid myself into thinking this is a perfectly healthful meal, I think a meal like this once in a while is kind of fun.  The taste was good.  Cost wise, per person the cost was less than one fast food meal each.  (I still have enough nuggets for one or possible two more meals without having a ton of macaroni and cheese leftover.). The speed was the biggest bonus.  And for me there was the additional bonus of each of these products not having my food allergens.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Convenience Foods Can Be Economical

In the past, I always believed that there was no way convenience foods could be economical.  I was cooking for a growing family on a tight budget.  However, fastforward 15 to 20 years and that is no longer the case.  Now that I am cooking for anywhere from 1 to 3 people I find that I have lost the “economy of scale” that cooking from scratch offerred me.  That isn’t too say that cooking from scratch and prepping all your own ingredients isn’t less expensive possibly, but that is only if you have enough people to consume items in a reasonable amount of time before they begin to spoil.  I no longer do.

I almost fell out from shock this week.  I threw out my first ever (that I can remember) loaf of bread because it had molded.  Yeah.  A loaf of bread sat here for two weeks despite my daughter taking sandwiches for lunch and her having the occassional snack from it.   Like I said, my world is changing.  (Yes, I know it can be frozen and toasted, but other than a grill cheese or a BLT she will not eat sandwiches made with toasted bread....and she does NOT like my gluten free bread...)
Anyway, this is how I am finding convenience foods to be economical.
Stir Fry was on my menu for tonight.  I’m the only one eating it...literally.  My daughter won’t eat it and my husband is gone.

This is my general break down:
$4.99 for the pre-packaged fresh veggies
$1.29 for the ready to go brown rice
$1.00 for the garbanzo beans (sale price)
$1.00 (overestimation) of homemade sauce

So for less than $8.50 I made enough stir fry for my supper and at least four lunches (which I packaged up individually).

How is this more economical?

The veggie mix had broccoli, onions, snow peas, carrots, red bell pepper, mushrooms, etc.
To buy all of those ingredients individually would have cost me more than the $8.50 by themselves.
Yes, I would have had more veggies, but as 1 person I would not have been able to eat them fast enough.
I would have found myself throwing out veggies.

I’ll concede I could cook the brown rice from scratch and set aside, but I needed very little.
I also had the benefit of the cost savings of cooking time.
I simply crumbled this into the hot veggies and let it simmer a bit in my sauce to heat it up.

I did use bulk items for my sauce — liquid aminos, corn starch, Chinese 5 Spice.  

All in all I think this was an economical way to get my extra veggies in and meet my dietary guidelines.
Would this have been the case 5 years ago — probably not.

I’m also looking at another factor that will play into my future — time savings.
I’ll be taking night courses, working part time, and still handling the household.
Nothing that isn’t done by thousands of people, but I am guessing “that” population is the one that made the convenience items so popular.
I literally popped a top on the veggies, opened a can of beans, tore open a bag of rice, and mixed together a quick sauce.
This meal didn’t take me 15 minutes to cook.

If it is true that time is worth money then I consider that a steal.
I would have spent longer waiting to pick up take home and spent far more for one meal.
A convenient win-win!

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Trip to a New Grocery Store

On Friday I did a huge clean out of the refrigerator.  Took everything out, wiped it all down, combined some things, tossed a few (not many thank goodness), and made a quick list of items I was running low on.  

Saturday morning we decided to check out the new Lidl that opened not long ago.  I usually stick to Aldi and the Walmart Neighborhood Market because they are literally minutes from my house.  In fact, the only reason I don’t walk to Aldi is because I have no way to carry my bags  The Lidl is probaby 5 or so minutes from us so it isn’t bad either.  I just don’t normally head that way for groceries.

 I was totally impressed.  As much as I love Aldi, and I really do, I think I like Lidl better.  They have a larger selection without having higher prices.  They’re much more like the traditional grocery store I am used to shopping at.  Their gluten free product prices are great.  Their veggies and fruits were fabulous.  (Sadly sometimes at Aldi they are hit and miss.)

My non food items — a box of freezer bags and two candles.
4 boxes of stevia, a bottle of wine, and a box of fruit flavored teas.
A pizza for my daughter, chicken nuggets for a quick meal (that I can share), and 2 dozen eggs.
Organic ketchup, pink salt, cilantro, Italian dressing, salsa, pasta sauce, and light mayo.

GF items — pizza crust mix, 2 boxes of rice pasta mac/cheese, 1 box of brown rice ceral
1 package of cookies to go in daughter’s lunches and corn chips for the snack basket.
2 rice side dishes.
Bananas, Roma tomatoes, red grapes, eggplant, English cucumber, 3 zucchini, Romaine lettuce, strawberries, and a bowl of fresh stir fry veggies.
Coffee creamer, 2 cartons of milk, Greek yogurt, sour cream, ricotta cheese, 4 l/f cream cheese, and soft cheese.

My cart was pretty much full and I spent $91.21.
I’m quite pleased with that because I bought a lot of fresh produce and a lot of dairy.
In addition to that I bought right many gluten free items, which are always a little more expensive.
(That total includes the wine and the two candles, which are not something I normally buy.
Removing those from the total would take $15 off.)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Frugal Happenings

Sunday and Monday we were traveling.   Tuesday — 
  • My eye glasses broke.  Fortunately I was able to take them back to the place I purchased them from and they fixed them for free.  
  • While I was out, I found a few more items that are now marked off the Christmas list.  I also purchased wrapping paper so that I would not have to worry about it later.  
  • We ate leftovers for lunch.  
  • I bought flowers to go by the front door.  ($8 for 2.)  
Wednesday — 
  • I am working on streamlining my wardrobe and creating more of a capsule wardrobe.   I cleared out two huge (leaf) garbage bags of items that no longer fit my current lifestyle.  While I was at it, I pulled three large totes of clothing from the garage and went throught them.  (Some were my daughter’s, too.)
Thursday — 
  • We used food storge items to make potato soup.
  • I worked on cleaning all the sweaters and jackets that had been packed away.  (The only place we have for storage is the garage.  While I do put them in totes, I like to wash them when I bring them back in.)
Friday —
  • I continued with my plan of purging excess stuff and I carried a car full of items to the Goodwill.  
  • I gave my sister one of my embroidery machines and the supplies to go with it.  I rarely use it and she will get good use from it.
  • I used freezer and pantry storage to make a quick supper.
  • I detailed the kitchen.  It always feels like a “makeover” and the best thing is it is free.
Saturday —
  • We made our first trip to Lidl, and I was quite pleased.  I meal planned and bought what we needed to round out our storage.  Mostly fresh items and a few condiment type items.
All week in general:
  • I’ve used a combination of the dryer and the drying rack, but I hope the fact that the a/c isn’t running as much offests some of the cost.
  • I used water from the a/c to water my outdoor plants.
  • I read 4 — yes 4 — books from my library book sale stack.
  • I’m loving my streamlined wardrobe.  I was able to get dressed far faster.
  • I did buy the “gold” version of Cozi.  I needed an easy and portable way to keep everyone up to date on events and deadlines.
  • I bought some new eyeshadow, and I love it!
  • We’ve used the pressure cooker enough that I intend to keep it “out” and pack the crockpot away.

What We Ate

Our suppers for the week....

  Monday — cake (yes, I know, but in the name of honesty that is what we had.)

Tuesday — leftover brown rice mixed with steamed veggie blend (broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, and squash, fried hambuger patties.  I had a few veggies left to carry over.

Wednesday — I let time get away from me.  What can I say, except I was reading when I should have been thinking about supper.  I cooked frozen chicken breasts in the Instant Pot.  Then I used the broth to quick cook some pasta to go with the chicken and made a simple Alfredo sauce.  (I kept reading while I waited for the sauce to  This made enough for leftovers for lunch the next day.  

Thursday — I used a jar of my home canned potatoes to make potato soup.  I served it with cheese and cornbread.

 Friday — Once again the pressure cooker came to the rescue.  I made a one pot meal with beef, rice, green peas, and brown gravy.  

Saturday — pancakes and bacon

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Menu Plan for Next Week

 Sunday — zucchini pasta with Basil/Tomato sauce*, garden salad, and GF cheddar biscuits*.  (We’re testing an Aldi mix.)

 Monday — stir fried veggies with eggs/rice*

 Tuesday — chicken nuggets and boxed mac/cheese* (Need a quick supper that night.)

 Wednesday — burgers, fruit salad

 Thursday —  Italian chicken (crockpot), mashed potatoes*

 Friday — pork pot pie (trying my hand at gluten free crust) *(whole meal will come from home canned items and dried goods)

 Saturday — homemade pizza (testing the Lidl GF mix*)

(* marks food storage products being used because I am trying to make sure I use something everyday.)

Changes Coming

Last year some medical problems really threw me for a loop — a mini stroke, severe hypoglycemia, sever anemia, and finally surgery.  I stopped my degree plans a little over halfway and spent this year recovering, both mentally and physically.  I feel like I am ready to jump back in, and I have reapplied.

I’ll be doing a little driving this time — one or two days a week — but the class schedule, teaching methods, and the subject matter work well for me.  As usual, I will keep my spring semester a little lighter to allow for work.  I know this will slow down my progress some, but I have to do what works for me.  I’m aiming for slow and steady....I’ll get there eventually.

 So with that in mind I am working on a grand “to do” list.

 1. Continue to declutter the house one room at a time.  My housework time will be limited, my daughter will be in school full time, I’ll be working and taking courses, and my husband will be working two jobs.  Streamlining is going to be essential.  

 2.  Continue to clean out pantry and freezer, with the long term intentions of freezer/batch cooking for the first months of 2018. 

 3.  Increase my physical activity to start boosting myself up.

 4.  Sell and/or donate a ton of my crafting supplies.  I want to turn that room into a study room.

 5.  Clear my kitchen cabinets down to the essentials — pots/pans/etc.

I’m sure other things will come up as I progress, but this is a pretty good overview list of what I would like to accomplish between now and January 1st.

I’m both excited and a little nervous, but all changes are that way I suppose.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Holiday Baking — Ready or Not, Here it Comes

The holiday season is coming.  It always does whether I am ready or not.   😏. This year I am determined to be ready.  Starting early November we have a slew of celebrations.  We have three birthdays within the first two weeks of November.  My husband’s family is coming to visit for a long weekend.  Thanksgiving will be in there somewhere.  Then in December we have all the Christmas festivities. This year we have rented a beach condo for the holidays and I will be packing all our food.  With all that in mind, I’ve decided to practice a few easy desserts to make sure I can pull together one or two items that will work for the whole family.  I do not intend to be cooking multiple separate meals.

I ordered these books, along with three more I’ll share soon, from Thrift Books.  
I paid total for the 5 books less than one book cost new.
Like most gluten free books do, these contain some recipes I cannot use because of the nut content, but all in all I believe I will be able to use most of them.  
I’m quite used to “regular baking” by the seat of my pants, but I am still not ready to do that with gluten free products.
I don’t feel like I have perfected the ratios.

My town does have some options for gluten free products.
The Aldi has a small selection;  the Walmart Neighborhood Market does, too.
A couple of the nicer stores do, but I have difficulties frequenting them because of the fresh seafood counters.
After carefully reading over the recipes and some online searching, I decided to take advantage of a Vitacost coupon.
I was able to order my baking supplies for 20% off and receive free shipping.

I opted to order spice cake mixes because of their versatility....I’m dreaming of cake doughnuts, pumpkin muffins, carrot cake, chocolate chip muffins, and gingerbread.  However, what I really wanted was the flours to create the “base” for most of the muffins and desserts.

When it was all said and done there is about $55 worth of supplies there.
Not the most inexpensive, but not bad as far as the cost of gluten free flours go.
We have tried the Namaste all purpose blend and while it is okay, I am hoping we will like this homemade version better.
If we don’t then I’ll either go back to the Namaste or perhaps try another blend.
The nut and peanut allergies limit the varieties I can buy, so I have high hopes for homemade version.

I’m not affiliated with Vitacost in anyway, but I will say that I love how easy they are to shop from.
I also love that they do a quick turn around on shipping.  
I placed my order Tuesday evening, and it arrived by Thursday morning.

Quiet Week

This week is going to be a quiet blogging week.  We had guests over the long weekend (ranging from Wednesday to Monday for us), celebrated m...