Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Purposeful Living -- How did January go?

At the beginning of the year we decided to create a list of frugal things that we thought would work for us.  There are tons of great ideas out there, but they aren't really a one size fits all kind of thing. 
We ranked things on four factors:
1.  our ability to do them
2.  our willingness to do them
3.  the fit in our lives
4.  happiness factor
For example:  Growing a garden is a great idea, but I have HOA rules against certain things so that fails factor 1.  Not flushing your toilets saves on water, but we aren't willing to forego flushing so that idea fails to meet factor 2.  Only maintaining one car is frugal, but because my husband works hours away that fails to meet factor 3.  Turning off Netflix would save us a monthly charge, but we enjoy watching documentaries together and to turn it off would decrease our happiness factor.
Anyway, we approached our brainstorming with those ideas in mind.
Rather than make a sweeping "year long resolution" we aimed for things that we would apply to January and that seems to have worked well for us.
My portion of the list was:
-- faithfully menu plan, but be flexible enough to maximize usage of leftovers
-- organize cabinets, pantry, freezer, etc. so that I know exactly what we have to help me
rotate stock and to create menus
-- hang all clothes to dry except towels and bedding
-- insist heat stay on same setting
-- work on Christmas gifts for 2017
-- Use on hand craft supplies
-- always exhaust alternatives before buying
-- buy used if possible (when forced to buy)
-- have a beauty date with my daughter each week
So how did this go?
1.  The menu planning worked well.  Most leftovers have been used up for lunches.  While I did not 100% stick to the menu at times -- life happens -- I feel like I stuck to the spirit of the exercise.
2.  While it took me a while to get the pantry and cabinets organized (technically I am still not supposed to be lifting things heavier than a few pounds), I did get this done.  Even before that though, I made a point to try to plan menus to include what we had on hand.
3.  Hanging the clothes didn't get started until about mid month due to my surgery, but it is working well.  I am trying to spread the loads out over the week and I even began using the delay feature on my washer so that a load is ready when I get up.
4.  We have had some cold days, but we have a heating system that according the technician just blows one temp.  Turning it up doesn't make it blow warmer, just longer.  So the heat is set on a steady temp.  To combat the cold I have placed extra throws in the living room, served lots of hot drinks, encouraged everyone to wear an extra layer, and pretty much just insisted....lol
5.  I have actually been successful on the Christmas gift front -- in part because I have had so much down time.  I've finished a nice scarf for one person, I've purchased part of another's gift, and I am half way finished with an afghan for a third person.
6.  I have been using craft supplies I have on hand.  I have purchased some things, but the rule was to only purchase if I needed something to go with a current project.  I bought yarn to finish the afghan, but had more than 2/3 of what I needed already on hand.  The scarf yarn was gifted to me.  I picked up some card stock and stickers on clearance and these are being used with existing supplies to make homemade cards and paper crafts. (I used a gift card to purchase these.)
7.  I have been working on learning to make do.  My best save this month was on not buying clothes horses for drying clothes.  I am saving for a nice set, but I didn't just rush out and waste money on some I don't think would have lasted too long.
8.  Buying used if possible -- believe it or not, but I went into the thrift store once and actually came out with nothing.  I went in with a list and didn't find what I was looking for.  I've decided I can live without it and if in the future I see what I want (not absolutely need) I will decide then if it is worth it.
9.  My daughter is 19, and she and I like to do some girly things together.  This month we had a nails night at least once a week.  We used nail polish and things we had on hand.  It has been a fun way to connect and just spend time talking.  Bonus is beauty at no extra cost.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the things we do, but just something I am working on being mindful of.  I'll share February's Purposeful Living List tomorrow.

Master Schedule -- Tuesday

Today I do my daily and the following things:

Master Bedroom
Wash bedding
Ceiling Fan
Light switch
Shelves straight
Light switch
Front Stoop

Chaos Tamed

For a little over a year I had been going back to school full time.
While my family was great at helping me, things still got quite chaotic around here.
Now that I am home, I'm slowly reclaiming my home one room at a time.
I started with the kitchen cabinets.
All that stuff on the bottom left corner came out of that top cabinet.
The second cabinet was just as bad.
On the right, the two newly cleaned and organized cabinets.
The top photo shows our teas, vitamins, a few boxed items, etc.
The bottom photo (the second top cabinet over my counter) is my baking station.
I have my pastry flours, sugars, etc on the bottom shelf.
The middle shelf has my dried fruits, some mixes, and my sprinkles..
The top shelf has my chocolate supplies and baking chips.
There's really no organizing the kitchen cabinets without organizing the pantry.
I had recently done a Sam's Club stock up and things were everywhere.
Everything is now organized....pastas together, beans together, large tubs of whole grains together, condiments together --- you get the idea.

I also straightened the corner cabinets that I keep dishes in.
I'm slowly downsizing things and I have 3 casserole dishes, a large pasta serving bowl, and 4 pasta plates that are going to my sister.  I've also packed up dishes I was storing for my daughter in law.  She has her own home now and I'll be sending them home with her.
I also cleaned out the spice cabinet and organized it.
Basically I got rid of anything that was too old and put it all back.  I moved all the extras to the highest shelf to rotate down as needed.
The home canned goods are all organized and so are the purchased ones.  (Like with like kind of thing.)
The organization helps my mental health and it allows me to cook from what I have because I can find everything easily.
On my agenda for next is the kitchen drawers.  I have three that need some TLC.
I think I will need to buy organizers for two of them.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Master Cleaning Schedule -- Daily and Monday

Although I shared that I was combining a household binder with a bullet journal, I didn't really share what my 2017 plan is.  It is really a combination of things pulled together and tweaked to what works for me.  In a nut shell, I've updated my Master Cleaning Schedule, created a new kitchen cleaning spreadsheet, streamlined all my record keeping to one notebook, created a weekly calendar and menu combination page, etc.

I was hoping this will translate over well enough for y'all to see it.  I actually have it saved on a spreadsheet, but I can't figure out how to embed it into this.  So instead I am going to break this down into days and share one each day this week for the master cleaning.    In my actual book, I have the entire Master Cleaning Schedule on one sheet (printed landscape) and I have the daily, weekly, and monthly Kitchen Schedule on a second sheet.  The Kitchen Schedule has grids where I can check them off and I only use one sheet for the entire month.  The master schedule I print double sided and use one for every week.

I find that having this ready frees me up to do the things that allow us to save money.  It also keeps me in the "frugal frame of mind" so to speak.  Next week I'll share a list of just some of the frugal things we have adopted and how we choose which things work for us.

Daily Household
Water Plants
Trash cans
Kitty Litter
Beds made
Mail checked
Meal prep

Daily Kitchen
Wipe counters/stove/table
Change Towels
Wipe any spills

 Kitchen Weekly
clean out fridge
wash rugs
check cleaning supplies inventory
flush kitchen drain with boiling water
wipe all appliances in detail

Kitchen Monthly
clean coffee maker in detail
clean inside dishwasher
clean oven
wash garbage cans
update freezer inventory
straighten pantry/cabinets/drawers
wipe cabinets in detail

Master Schedule for Monday

DD's Bedroom
Wash bedding
Ceiling Fan
Light switch
Craft Room
Ceiling Fan
Trash emptied
Light switch
Shelves Straight


Ham Dish #1 -- Hash brown and Ham Bake

The other day I posted about the meals I would make using the ham and I said I would share the recipes.  This is the first meal using 1 cup of the ham.

 My sister and her boyfriend have a family and friends brunch on Sunday mornings.  My contribution this week is a hash brown and ham bake -- aka breakfast casserole -- and some orange zest muffins.

  I like this casserole recipe for two reasons.  First and foremost, you prep it the night before and leave it in the refrigerator until morning.  I can let the oven preheat while I drink a cup of coffee and then once the casserole is in the oven I can shower and get ready.  Second of all, I love that it used dried hash brown shreds.  I like to keep some in my food storage and this is a great way to use them up.

 Hash brown and Ham Bake (Makes a 9 x 13 pan) (This must be refrigerated a minimum of 5 hours for the potatoes to rehydrate.  Overnight is great.)

 Grease your pan and set aside.

 In a large bowl mix:
 6 cups of dried potato shreds
1 cup of diced ham (I minced my cubes a little smaller.)
3/4 cup of diced bell pepper (Any color will work, but the green pops!)
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (You'll need a second cup for the topping.)

Spread this out evenly in your pan.

In the same bowl you just used, whisk the following:
3 cups of milk (I use reconstituted powdered milk that has been chilled.)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. Of onion powder (I do this since my daughter won't eat onions, but you could easily add some diced onion when you add the bell pepper.)
4 large eggs
1 cup of Bisquick (Homemade works fine.)

Pour this evenly over the potatoes.
 At this point I mash them down to make sure all the potatoes are covered.

Spread 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight.  

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 F.  Set the casserole on the counter to begin to warm up while it is preheating -- to avoid shattering the dish.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

The recipe says it makes 12 servings and I am believe that is about right.  6 of us ate about half a pan -- with muffins and fresh fruit to round the meal out.


Menu Monday

Last week I did pretty well at sticking to our menu.  I made a couple of adjustments, but nothing major.  We had Friday night's pizza on Thursday.  I did not cook fajitas because we had leftover chicken, and I shred it for tacos.  I didn't end up cooking muffins, but we had other things on hand so all in all I consider the week to be a success.

I just found out my son and his family will be coming home this weekend.  I'll be adjusting the cooking to accommodate three more, but the plan is to use things I have on hand.

Breakfasts will be the usual fare.  Lunches Monday through Friday will be leftovers.  There is fruit to supplement and I'll bake most of our snacks.

Monday -- Pressure cooker mac and cheese
Tuesday -- beans and dirty rice
Wednesday (guests over) -- potato and ham casserole, green beans, cornbread
Thursday -- hamburger patties, tater tots
Friday -- Crockpot beef and gravy, rice, glazed carrots, green peas (son's family should be in)
Saturday -- Breakfast -- sausage biscuits, hash browns, and fruit salad
                   Supper -- cheese ravioli with sauce, garlic bread, broccoli
Sunday -- brunch at my sister's house and I'll make a ham quiche and some hash browns to carry

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Frugal Happenings Last Week of January

I'm slack about keeping a jotting of what we do that I consider frugal and then I have to think back to do these posts.  This past week I've tried to be a little smarter and I've recorded things in my household binder.

Sunday 1/22
We inventoried the freezers and ground grain.  I planned our menu out based on what we had on hand.  I only needed to pick up a few things at the store.  I cooked a whole hen, which became the base for several meals. We rode out and priced new folding drying racks since I am down to one.  The only store that had them was over priced.  We left them at the store, came home, and rigged my "redneck" clothes dryer.  I have two handles hanging on my extra dining room chairs. These weren't being used anyway.  I was able to hang 4 loads of laundry to dry this way.  (My goal is to only dry bedding and towels in the dryer if at all possible.) 

Monday 1/23
It was an insane day, but we still managed to eat on plan.  Our new stove was delivered, and I baked a cake using on hand supplies.  I also timed it for as the sun was going down.  It helps the transition feel warmer.  Cooked Chicken Alfredo and used up a partial box of pasta.  We love this sauce recipe.

Tuesday 1/24
Tuesday we had guests and I was able to pull together a simple meal from things on hand. 

Wednesday 1/25
We picked up the car from the dealership and thank goodness the repair was far less expensive than we had expected.  We had guests over again and had a great time.  I tried two new to me recipes that I shared here.   

Thursday 1/26
I redeemed $36.50 earned from taking surveys last year.  I used this to order a pattern book.  This pattern book will be used to make several gifts for family members.  I still had a bit left from the card and I ordered a used cookbook from Amazon for $4.00 including shipping and handling.  I used as near to the $36.50 as I could get.  The cookbook is one I check out repeatedly from the library and I know it will be well used. 

I also spent half an hour working on our grocery list after making sure I had faithfully updated what we had used up this past week.  Through careful shopping I'll have one birthday gift covered and several bathroom items free.  (The bathroom items will go into my linen closet for future use.)

Friday 1/27
I heated the last of the jar of honey and managed to get enough for two large batches of honey wheat bread out.  (I made one large loaf and two smaller.)  I portioned out ham and froze it to make sure I wasn't tempted to use more for the planned meals.  I paid bills online to avoid postage.  Homemade pizza and a trip to Michaels on our girls' night.  I used a coupon to buy some stickers at 40% off and I bought clearance card stock (2 large packages) for $2 each.

Saturday 1/28
I picked up some additional storage containers from Dollar Tree.  I cleaned and organized my kitchen cabinets and my pantry.  (Next week I'll hit the kitchen drawers!)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Baking Day (Recipes Included)

I had paperwork to do and there's something about paperwork and baking day that work well together.  I guess it is because other than a little mixing baking day is mostly letting things rise and waiting for them to bake.

I made three loaves of Honey Wheat Bread -- 1 for now, 1 for the freezer and 1 for the neighbors.
The basic recipe is one I adapted to meet my family's tastes.
To get three loaves I make 2 batches -- one large loaf and two average loaves.
It can be made following the typical bread making guidelines and baked at 350 F for 30 minutes or if your bread machine will bake a 2 lb. loaf it is bread machine friendly.
Honey Wheat Bread
1 1/3 cup of warm water
5 tbsp. of honey
3 tbsp. of mild oil
2 cups of white whole wheat flour
2 cups of bread flour
1 tsp. of salt
1/3 cup of powdered milk
2 1/4 tsps. of yeast

I baked a dozen cupcakes and one 8" layer.
I frosted half of the cupcakes with the leftover cream cheese frosting from my carrot cake.
The layer was put aside for another day.

Since we wanted pizza, I went ahead and made crusts. 
I only needed one and since my recipe makes two, I put one in the freezer.
Basic Pizza Crust
1 1/3 cup of warm water
2 tbsp. of olive oil
2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 cups of bread flour
2 tbsp. of powdered milk
2 tsps. of salt
2 tbsp. of sugar
2 1/2 tsps. of yeast
Make like any other bread, let rise until doubled, and then punch down.
Divide in half and let rest 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out dough.
Bake crust for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and turn heat up to 400F.
Put toppings on pizza and bake for another 10 minutes.

Ham -- Stretching Your Dollar and Menu Planning

Last week I picked up a "half" turkey ham that was 4.5 lbs. I like the turkey ham because they are lean and a little less salty than a traditional ham.  Neither my daughter or I like to eat overly fatty meats and this works well for us.   I spent $4.98 on it and I've divided it into 6 meals worth.  
I sliced off 3 -- 1/2" slices.  These will be for a "fried breakfast" meal.  That is the only meal of the ham that will just serve the three of us.
The rest of the ham I sliced in slices and cubed.

Then I portioned it into 1 cup measurements.
I find that one cup is the perfect amount for using in dishes.

I sealed all but one cup up to go in freezer.
I put one cup in a mason jar to use this weekend.
I'm going to share my plans for the ham and I'll post back each recipe as I make them so that you can see how I used the ham up.  I'm generous with my portion sizes and the meals that serve 6 will give us leftovers for the next days lunch with on exception that I'll explain below.
1  breakfast type meal with fried ham will serve 3
1 macaroni and cheese meal with peas and ham will serve 6
1 beans and rice dish with ham will serve 6
1 au gratin potato and ham casserole will serve 6
1 hash brown casserole will serve 6 to 8
1 ham quiche will serve 6
That means I'll plan to have one ham "seasoned" dish per week.
However, this upcoming week I will actually be making two ham based meals.
Sunday morning we are going to my sister's house for brunch and I am bringing a hash brown casserole as my contribution.  The number of people in attendance will kind of determine whether there is any left or not.  Then Wednesday we are having people over for supper.  I'm making the au gratin potato and ham casserole that night. 
This will work out to a cost of 83 cents per meal for dishes that include ham.
Even though only one is actually sitting down to eat a piece of meat, the other dishes will be taken to that extra level by the addition of ham.  Sometimes that little bit can take a frugal meal, like beans and rice, to a whole new level of wow, and I don't have to break the bank to do it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

February Grocery Shopping and Christmas Shopping

My husband gets paid once a month and I've decided to go back to my monthly shopping trips.
I've budgeted $500 a month to include toiletries, paper goods, and animal food.
Today I went out armed with my lists and coupons. 
I actually spent a little more at Aldi than I had planned, but they are closing from February 5th to the end of March due to remodeling.  I picked up some extra items to get us through that time period.
Also, when you see some of the mixes I buy please take into account that while I know some other brands are cheaper I do have to look for what is nut/peanut free (including processing). 
In the top corner is a package of 3 makeup bags that I bought on discount for $1.  These are going in my Christmas gift box because my niece will love them.
The next photo shows what I bought from Walmart.
2 -- 2 liter Sam's Choice colas
1 dozen large eggs
2 brownie mixes
3 cake mixes
1 bottle of Great Value brand coffee creamer
1 bag of marshmallow
1 package of cinnamon rolls
1 box of Velveeta
8 ounces of shredded cheddar
2 packages of cream cheese
1 lb. of bananas
1 bottle of body wash
1 large container of vanilla yogurt
1 bottle of orange juice
1 lb. of ground beef
Total $37.20.
At Aldi I bought:
12" take and bake pizza
4 boxes of Stevia
1 large box of pop tarts
5 bags of white corn tortilla chips
3 bags of pretzels
2 packages of loose pork sausage
3 -- 2 liter colas
1 pair of tongs
2 rubber spatulas (at 50 cents each!)
table salt
5 lbs of cornmeal mix
4 cans of evaporated milk
2 roaster hens (89 cents per lb.)
6.5 half pork loin (1.69 per lb.)
hash brown patties
2 toothbrushes
4 packages of crescent rolls
3 layered cookie jars ($1 each and are reusable jars)
2 large cans of coffee
Total 90.88
2 large bottles of CVS "Head and Shoulders"
1 bottle of Head and Shoulders
3 nail polish pens
Total $3.85
All together I spent $132.
I did spend more at Aldi than I had planned, but as I said some of that is to carry into next month.
The last bit of shopping I have to do for February will be a trip to Sam's Club, which I hope to do this weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Entertaining and Trying New Recipes (Recipes Included)

I love cooking and I think if I had a love language it would be expressed in feeding people.
We had a great visit tonight and I really enjoyed the company.
I started the morning out by baking a carrot cake.
This is a modified version of a Betty Crocker recipe.
Whole Wheat Carrot Cake
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease either a 9x13 pan, or two 8 or 9 inch pans and set aside.
Open an 8 ounce can of crushed pineapple (in juice) and drain.
Set aside
Grate carrots -- 3 cups total.  (This took me 3 decent sized carrots)
Add 1/2 cup of coconut to the carrots and set aside.
In large bowl combine:
2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsps. of cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix together.
Set aside.
In mixer bowl:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
Mix on low until blended.
Add flour mixture to mixer bowl and blend on medium speed for 1 minute.
This is a thick batter.
Stir in 1 tsp. of vanilla
Stir in the carrots, pineapple and coconut.
Divide evenly between greased round pans or pour into a 9 x 13.
For the 9 x 13 bake for 40 to 45 minutes and cool on rack
For the 9 inch pans bake 30 minutes, cool on rack 10 minutes, and then flip out.
For the 8 inch pans bake 35 minutes, cool on rack 10 minutes, and then flip out.
Let cool completely before frosting -- at least an hour.
Frost with cream cheese frosting.
I had purchased chicken over the weekend, but knew I would use veggies from my freezer for the sides.  A bag of frozen corn from Aldi, seasoned with chicken broth and chopped bell pepper was one side dish and I steamed broccoli for the second side dish.  (Sorry I didn't get photos of full bowls, but such is life. I took some but the first ones were blurry.)


The main dish was this chicken and rice casserole, which is one of the recipes I marked in my library book as one to try.  My kitchen lighting isn't great, but everyone liked the dish so I am considering it a keeper.  It wasn't difficult to pull together and it cooked rather quickly.  I did change a few things from the original recipe, so I am sharing what I did here.  The original recipe is from Taste of Home.
Italian Chicken and Rice
Preheat oven to 425F.
In a plate or shallow bowl, mix:
2/3 cup Bisquick
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheee
2 tsps. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. paprika
In second bowl, pour 1/3 cup of evaporated milk.
(You will use a whole 5 oz can for the entire recipe.)

Cut up 4 large chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) into roughly equal sized hunks.
I basically went for thirds.
Dip chicken in milk, then coating, and set on a platter.
Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish.
Pour in 3 cups of Instant Rice.
Pour in 2 cups of boiling water with 2 tsps. of chicken bouillon added.
Dot with 2 tbsp. of butter.
Pour the remaining milk into your measuring cup and add enough boiling water
to make another cup. 
Pour that over the rice.
Arrange your chicken on top and bake uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes or until your chicken is done.
(Mine took about 37 minutes.)
(This fed 5 adults and I have two pieces of the chicken left and the rice that was under them.)
Notes -- In the future, if I was not serving corn with peppers, I would add diced bell pepper to the rice for a pop of color.  Another thing I would consider is adding green peas or perhaps broccoli if I wanted an all in one casserole.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (on a budget)

I got a phone call from Mama saying she and my uncle were coming up. 
I wanted to serve lunch, but of course, all I had put on my menu was leftovers since I knew my daughter wouldn't be home.  I wanted to offer something nice, but I was determined to pull from what is on hand to create a simple meal.  Since everyone is going to be here my sister is swinging by on her lunch break.
My uncle is having surgery in a few days and is on a clear liquids diet.  I have the bone broth from the chicken I cooked -- perfect!
Keeping with the theme of soup I pulled out a jar of my home canned sweetcorn, two potatoes, and some frozen onions and bell peppers.  This became a quick corn chowder.  (I'll puree a little of it for thickener.)  I already had coffee cake so dessert was easy.
I pulled together a quick pitcher of sweetened tea -- a Southern staple.
Since I had already had some buns, I decided to just butter and toast them.
To make it look a little more planned -- presentation does go along way -- I set a pretty, but functional table.  (We've taken the leaf out since there are usually only two of us and I am enjoying the change.)
My crocheted placemats and the soup mugs my daughter in law gave me for Christmas work perfectly.  I added one of my favorite candles and I'll remove it when we sit down to eat so I can put the bread in the middle of the table.
As things progressed the time table changed.  My daughter made it home early.
She and my sister ate the leftovers I had planned anyway.
Having company over doesn't have to break the budget and I think everyone enjoyed the visit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Happy Days

We have gone for months without a working full sized oven and about a year without a properly working oven.  Despite attempts we couldn't repair it or find anyone who could.
We made do with a toaster oven while I was still in school.  I simply wasn't baking as much anyway.
However, I am home now and undecided whether I will go back.
Even if I do it will be next fall at the earliest.
On the frugal side -- we were able to wait until we found a pretty good sales price, buy a range I can use for canning, and can use my cast iron cookware on. 
Needless to say, I was quite happy to see it arrive today.
So I did what anyone should do when they have a new oven....I did a test cake.
Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
It's cooling now and we are looking forward to a slice for dessert.
By the way, this is an easy make and one that is well received by everyone I've ever served it to.
Even with the Bisquick (or homemade baking mix if you prefer) it is relatively frugal dessert that presents well.  My mama used to make one using a cake mix and the cake mix costs more than a box of Bisquick costs most of the time and I get many servings of mix to use that way.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Menu Monday

I try to keep our menu kind of fluid.  We work leftovers into future meals as we go along whenever I can and I also try to use them for lunches.  This week we are also working on using up some specific items from the freezer.

B -- cereal with milk
L -- leftover pork chops and rice (I turned this into a simple stir fry.)
S -- leftover roast chicken added to homemade Alfredo sauce and served over pasta

B -- egg wraps (scrambled eggs, flour tortillas, cheese)
L -- leftover chicken Alfredo
S -- tacos (using up 1 cup of dried pintos I had in the canister, 1 lb. of ground beef from the freezer, seasonings, and flour tortillas)

B -- waffles, syrup, bacon (1/2 package from freezer)
L -- leftover taco filling served on baked potatoes
S -- Company over -- Italian chicken and rice casserole, green beans, crescent rolls, and a dessert

B -- muffins
L --  chicken stir fry (new recipe using Ramen noodles, a bag of Aldi brand stir fry veggies, and a small bag of chicken from the freezer)
S -- bacon, eggs, hash browns

B -- cereal or muffins
L -- beef fajitas (using 2 small steaks from the freezer, frozen bell pepper, etc.)
S -- homemade pizza

B -- to each his own
L -- Boca burgers, tater tots, sandwich thins (all from the freezer)
S -- Crockpot hamburger steak, mashed potatoes, green peas, mushroom gravy

Brunch at my sister's house -- Hash brown casserole with bacon
S -- lasagna (I made and froze), garlic bread, and green beans

I'll do various baking throughout the week for snacking on.

Monday! Monday! Looking at Life Through Rose Colored Glasses

I've never put stock in the idea of Monday being a bad day.  I kind of feel like every day is what you make of it. 

However, if I did put stock in something like that I would say today has been a "typical Monday."

Before dawn my neighbors were banging something so hard it was rattling my dishes in the china cabinet.  The alarm didn't go off and we overslept by half an hour.  I had my mental image of my daughter's schedule mixed up and realized I hadn't prepped for her lunch -- thinking that was tomorrow instead of today.

Mama called and wanted to come up -- after I had spread out a year's worth of client files on the dining room table.  I asked her to wait until the next day.  Organizing a year's worth of receipts is quite a job and of course, I couldn't leave them out for privacy reasons. 

Then my daughter gets ready to leave for school and her car will not work at all.  I mean won't even turn over - despite us driving it yesterday and it being just fine.  I send her to school in my car and we are hoping she doesn't get  a parking ticket.  I call AAA and the Ford dealership (the car is a hybrid and we can't simply jump it).  The nice man from AAA got it started and I got it to the dealership.  Of course, I then needed a ride home.  I couldn't stay to wait for them to check the car because I have the stove delivery today sometime from lunch into early afternoon.

All of this before 11:00 this morning, but like I said I don't believe Monday is destined to be a bad day.   In fact, I've had a slew of blessings this morning. 

1.  I have good neighbors, who look out for things when we are gone.
2.  We only overslept by half an hour, the coffee pot was already set to go, and we had allowed some extra time.  I had plenty to improvise and pull together a quick lunch for my daughter.
3.  While I couldn't visit with Mama today I can tomorrow....and I can be free to enjoy it without worrying about incomplete work.
4.  We have income, good clients, and I get to work from home.
5.  The gentleman, who helped me with the car was nice.  He also told me to call him immediately if I got on the road between here and the dealership and had any problems.
6.  My sister's boyfriend was able to pick me up from the dealership and get me back home.

So all in all, I've had a blessed Monday!

Shopping Trip

Saturday was a busy day for us.  We ran a few errands -- including a trip to the library.
We ground grain, inventoried the freezer, did laundry, and a few other household chores.
I ran out of steam by late day and I sat down with a cookbook I borrowed from the library.
There were several recipes I wanted to try and they called for some items I don't normally buy -- such as ramen noodles, boxed potatoes, etc.
I'm still working on adjusting to cooking for two people and sometimes three.  I find buying fresh produce in bulk like I used to do is just not working well.  While I've never been a big believer in using tons of mixes I've decided to incorporate some in.  I think that it will help me with meal sizes and will also have the added bonus of helping me have quick meals on hand.  My daughter, who has no desire to cook from scratch, is more likely to help cook if mixes are used so that is another plus.
I used my freezer inventory, my pantry supplies, etc. to make out a fluid menu plan for this week...fluid because I will do my best to use up leftovers and that may require some tweaking.
However, from my menu plan and freezer inventory I came up with a simple list:
Dollar Tree
3 family sized boxes of Au Gratin potatoes
1 large box of broccoli and cheese rice
1 soy milk carton (for my husband)
1 package of chicken ramen noodles
1 package of beef ramen noodles
Neighborhood Market
3 Sam's Choice 2 liter sodas
1 box of Stevia packets
1 large box of Bisquick
2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix
2 cans of evaporated milk
1 box of marked down bran flakes
1 box of marked down cornflakes
1 jar of marshmallow crème
1 turkey ham
5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast
I spent in total $47.86 so not too shabby.  This leaves me with about $77 of my budget left for this week.
The chicken was $10 of it and is for a family meal.  My sister and her boyfriend are coming Wednesday and I am making a casserole for the main dish.  (I'm sure it won't take all of it, but I wanted plenty.)
As I try the new to me recipes I'll share how they go.
Plans are a potato and ham casserole, ramen noodle stir fries, broccoli cornbread, corn casserole, a chicken and rice casserole, and a few other recipes from the cookbook.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What We've Been Eating

Friday was a quiet day at home for me.  My daughter had school and I continued to work on my household binder some.  I was rather tired and didn't seem to get as much done.
However, I have been keeping the meals going along.
In no particular order we have had:
sausage biscuits (my contribution to brunch at my sister's house)
grilled pork chops, rice, California Medley veggies
home canned mandarins
blackeyed peas with sautéed onions and bell pepper over rice
baked oatmeal
cabbage, fried chicken, and potatoes
taco baked potatoes
This morning I put on a 8.5 lb. roasting hen.
We had a nice dinner of chicken, stuffing, peas, and beets.

I've packed many meals from these foods for my husband for this week.
In addition to that, my daughter and I are having leftover pork chops and rice as a fried rice one day and we are using the leftover chicken to make chicken alfredo.
I'll nibble on anything else left on the days she's at school during the lunch hour.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Household Binder and Bullet Journal

I'm still working on reading one of my library books.  The heroine is a female Sherlock Holmes.  I'm not horribly far into it, but so far I am enjoying it.

In keeping with my down time rules, I am doing a lot of sitting.
Emphasis on "a lot" !
However, I have put the time to good use.  Years ago I used to keep a household binder and had gotten away from it.  I've been watching videos about Bullet Journaling and while I don't think the Bullet Journaling alone would work for me, I do believe a combined household notebook and journal will.  My rules were I didn't need to go out and spend money to create one and it had to be highly functional.
I repurposed a notebook I had been keeping French notes in, pulled out a package of colored pens from Dollar Tree and got started.  (Those papers are now in the filing cabinet should I ever have need of them again.)  So far I have the following things in it:
1.  Index
2. Year at a Glance and Monthly calendar followed by weekly calendar (with menu planning space on the back of the sheets) for all 12 months
3.  Master cleaning list, monthly kitchen cleaning list, canning list, and freezer inventory sheets
4.  Birthdays and holidays lists and plans
5.  Budget (2016 totals, this years budget, and actual expense sheets)
6.  A personal section that includes goals, crafting projects, books read, etc.
7.  I created a miscellaneous section too.  It will house whatever I need to add.
Today I hope to add addresses and important phone numbers to the third section.
While this isn't a picture perfect scrapbooker's type journal, I think it will work for me.  I've left myself plenty of space to jot down things, to doodle, or whatever crosses my mind.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


I went to the surgeon for a follow up and all seems to be on track.  I'm under four more weeks of restrictions and I'll see him again then. I have hit the stage where I am fatigued and much to my dismay I am craving meat and dairy.  I had found myself eating all day long and still feeling like I was starving.  I don't know if it is related to needing more protein for healing or if it is related to my iron levels.  I gave in tonight and ate some lean ground turkey and cheese to see if it would help since even with my vitamins and trying to eat healthful foods I am so fatigued.   I'm not sure where this leaves me for the next few weeks, because after a few hours I was still satisfied.  I don't know if I need to give myself a break until I have had time to heal or if I need to accept that given my anemia, allergies, and a couple of other problems I may not be able to sustain a long term vegan diet.  I'm playing it by ear at this point and trying to listen to my body.  

Frugal Happenings 2nd Week January 2017

It's a lot easier to be frugal when you can't truly leave the house. However, to be fair I did try to make sure things were stocked up for recovery time.

1.  We have eaten at home all week except for one order of pizza.  We used advertised specials and bought two medium pizzas for $13.98.  This was on one of my worst days and I just wasn't up to doing much.  It was also easier on my husband, who does not cook at all.

2.  I used up two balls of yarn leftover from other projects.  I crocheted one "tween" sized hat, knit one preemie baby hat, and crocheted a toddler hat.  These will all be given away.

3.  I sat at my sewing table and culled a pile of fabric.  I have some small pieces that I won't use up any time soon.  They'll be gifted to a quilter who can add them into her quilt stash.

4.  We've continued to use up our home canned products and I am officially down to 5 quarts of tomatoes, 9 pints of sweet corn, 18 pints of cranberry sauce, 5 pints of broth, 13 pints of carrots, and we added 5 pints of apple butter and 1 pint of "syrup" for future use.  The apples were free to us and I had all the supplies we needed to can them on hand.  (I do have a cabinet with canned orange slices, but I cannot get to them at present to do an inventory.)

5.  We used a coupon to buy some school supplies my daughter needed.

6.  We did not have to run out to buy anything for our rare Southern snow storm.  We baked a loaf of bread and I just turned the last of it into dried "croutons" for stuffing.  We ate home baked goods, used extra blankets, and just stayed in.

7.  We sold back a few text books to the school.  My husband said we could have the money as mad money.  Daughter and I each walked away with $55. 

8.  I paid medical bills online and used the credit card.  No stamps, I will earn the points, and my savings will continue to earn interest until I pay the bill the beginning of next month.

9.  I had the urge to buy a new dress.  Instead I pulled through my sewing patterns and fabric.  I've picked out my new project at no new cost to me.

On the not so frugal side:

1.  Because of my surgery and risk of infection, we have washed towels and my gowns everyday.  I am expecting the water and electric bill to be higher, but consider it "an ounce of prevention."

2.  Our car gas expense will be higher because my husband has driven home every night to help here.  Compared to cost of hiring someone to help and the added emotional benefit of having him here -- I'm considering this money well spent.

Vegan Meatballs

This recipe is from Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen.  We have enjoyed each of her recipes that we have tried, but she does have a few that have nuts that I cannot vouch for.  (Carol, I believe with a few easy substitutions you could make these gluten free.)

Meatballs and Pasta

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
canola oil for frying

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook onion and mushrooms until soft and lightly browned.  Add garlic and cook a few more minutes.  Transfer to a food processor.  Reserve the skillet for later use.

Add cooled brown rice, bread crumbs, flour, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper (if using) to the food processor.  Pulse until the mixture just comes together.  If necessary, transfer to a large bowl and mix with your hands.  Season to taste and let cool slightly.  Form the mixture into 1 to 2 inch balls.

Heat canola oil in the reserved skillet over medium heat and pan fry the meatballs in batches.  They should be well done and browned on each side with a nice crust.  Drain on paper towels.

To serve:
Combine cooked pasta with your choice of sauce.  Top with meatballs and garnish with parsley and Parmesan topping.

I see no reason these couldn't just as easily be served with a gravy.  I would assume they would not "simmer" well in it though, but I haven't tried doing so either.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kitchen Duty

I've been trying to keep kitchen duty light and it has meant a change in shopping, but needs must kind of thing.
a kind of sort of Italian sausage sub
I had limited energy, so I used a purchased whole wheat roll.
Sliced a vegan Italian sausage, added some bell pepper and onion, and sautéed it all with a tiny bit of olive oil.  Then I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of marinara and let it heat.
A quick topping of Daiya mozzarella. 

My sister took care of brunch on Sunday -- delicious by the way!
Then I had more energy for cooking on Sunday evening. 
I made my first ever egg rolls -- I used up a bag of broccoli slaw mix, some mushrooms, onion powder, and a bit of Bragg's Liquid Aminos to make the filling.
I brushed them very lightly with oil and air fried them.

This was my Aldi find of vegetarian chili.  There's a baked potato under there and a light topping of Daiya cheddar.  Extremely easy, filling and inexpensive.

YouTube Creator Tag

This just shares a little bit about me and how/why I set up my YouTube channel.