Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Goals -- How did I do?

February has flown by so quickly!

As a recap -- This year my "resolution" was to live purposefully.  Each month I am sharing my goals and then toward the end of the month I am sharing how the month went.

January's Goals
February's Goals

How February went:

1.    I did manage to stay on track with the master planner.  I found menu sheets that I added and I am loving them.  The expense sheets are up to date and so is the appointment planner.  I really think having everything in one binder just makes my life easier.

2.  I didn't keep bread baked up and in the freezer....unless we want to count sweet breads....in that case, I did bake bread for the freezer.

3.  I did work down pantry supplies.  Despite not baking extra bread for the freezer, I managed to use up all the wheat flour we had ground.  This tells me we made plenty of bread.  I also used up some bits and pieces of opened items from the pantry, the freezer, and the refrigerator.

4.  While I didn't truly do "once a month" shopping, I did do all my big shopping at once.  I had to do a few fill in runs and I did buy chicken, but all in all I consider this to have been a success.

5.  I did finish Eeyore for my nephew.

6.  I feel like we practiced simple entertaining and I was also able to give the neighbors some fresh bread.

7.  I did continue to downsize things....I organized the pantry, the kitchen cabinets, the freezers, the linen closet, the bathroom cabinets, the laundry room, and the master bedroom closet.  (The closet still needs a little more, but it is getting there.). In the process, I donated right many things to Goodwill.  I also gave some away.

8.  Sigh - we didn't manage a girls' night.  Everyone was sick at different times and then I was gone for almost a week.

9.  I did work on redecorating on a budget.  I love the couch and loveseat set.  I also made a table runner using supplies I had on hand.  I gathered candles from around the house and created a simple table centerpiece, too.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments for Last Week

I was slack about keeping my list last week and now I am having to flip through my calendar.  However, the fact that I have things down in the calendar shows how well my household binder is working for me.  Usually I have to try to rely on memory and sometimes that is sketchy.

I really wanted new curtains for my bedroom, but really didn't want to spend money on them.  A case of spring fever and being tired of looking at the same thing, I suppose.  I pulled through the linen closet and took out some curtains I had previously used in the living room -- a cabbage rose print.  I put them up in my room and it gave me an instant boost.  No money out of pocket, looks springy, and changed the feel of the room.

I spent a couple of hours packaging up meals for the freezer.  I see this as a time saver for the future and cost savings because I bought the chicken in bulk.

While not totally frugal, I did finish a birthday gift for my nephew.  I had it done in time to use the least expensive mailing option so that was nice.

I continued to hang our laundry up to dry.

We used our menu plan and continued to work on eating what is on hand.  We had very little food waste and what few "scraps" we had went out to the birds.

I took advantage of the spring like weather to walk  -- my favorite form of free exercise.  I even walked a mile out to our local CVS to pick up two items on sale and to utilize a coupon.  (I bought packing tape for me and dish detergent for my husband.  He prefers small bottles, and I prefer giant bottles...lol)

When we left for my weekend work we drove the most fuel efficient vehicle.  Our ride is a little over 2 hours (due to distance, not traffic) and it was great time spent with my daughter.  I packed our meals for this trip and they worked out well.  The biggest thing I did not pack was enough snack type items for when we were really busy.  Next weekend I will correct that.

On the spending front, I ordered a large drying rack.  In the long term, I believe it will pay for itself.

I did buy dish detergent, eggs and soy milk to take to my husband.

 We also had a sad week and an unexpected expense.  We had to put down my dear Lizzie.  She had been with me for 9 years now and was truly my baby.  I literally dropper fed her before she was big enough to bottle feed.  She had a tumor growing behind her eye and she was in pain.  


Menu Monday -- Over and Over

This is a work in progress, but I think I have made out a basic menu plan for the next few months.
Like all of life, they're subject to change...but still, not too bad.
I've planned them with rotation of freezer meals, pantry goods, and the upcoming meat orders.
I've included the travel I know about.
I think for a menu plan to work for us I have to allow enough flexibility to go with the flow at times, but I do think the planning is pretty solid on this.

Amusingly enough I didn't plan for the last few days of February.
Sunday night -- we had chicken and pasta casserole.  We came in late and I threw something together in the pressure cooker.
Monday night -- We've decided to cook the pork chops I didn't cook last week.

Edited -- Life pops up.  Daughter has a late meeting tonight, so we are going with pancakes and eggs for supper.  The porkchops will be Wednesday's supper.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Victorian "Valentine's Day"

My husband and I don't normally exchange Valentine's Day gifts, per say.  This year we ordered three books I've been wanting to read.  Our local libray doesn't have them -- not even in the branches exchange.  

Their arrival coincided with the day of chicken prep.
I was sorely tempted to sit and read after I had finished, but I had promised myself I would finish Eeyore.
Now that those obligations are met......
I'm looking forward to settling in with a cup of tea, my favorite fuzzy blanket, and a book!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Eeyore -- The Finished Product

Eeyore is a pretty big guy.
He has 274 strands of hair (more or less) in his mane.
I love the details -- a pink bow for his tail, a tack to "hold" his tail on.
He's just adorable.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Chicken, Chicken, and More Chicken

Yesterday morning, I  put away 40 lbs of chicken and completely cleaned the entire kitchen after with Clorox in 2 hours and 35 minutes.  The trash was even out.  However, to be fair the pressure cooker was still going and had about 30 more minutes.   So what did I make?

2 pans of Italian Ranch chicken strips

 8 pans of barbecue chicken chunks (I froze these in round pans because I can either bake them this way, or they will fit perfectly in my round crockpot.)

 4 pans of chicken pot pie (I freeze the filling and add my bread topping when I bake them.  I either add a biscuit crust, cornbread crust, or a pie crust depending on my mood.)

 4 pans of chicken tetrazzini (I put cheese on all four, but snapped the photo to show the veggies, too.)

 5 bags with the double the amount we need for a meal.  This is for grilling.  If we have company I'll have enough, but if not I'll grill extra to use during the week.

 Almost 2 quarts of chicken broth.

 7 pints of chicken for chicken salad or quick meals.  (This was my first time raw packing meat to can, so I've learned something new this month.)

At $68.95 the chicken for these meals works out to be $2.30 per meal.  Not bad at all.  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pizza Crust Recipe

Carol, sorry this took so long!

I normally use one of three recipes for pizza crust.  I think you'll like this one best because it uses the bread machine for the kneading and first rising....much easier on the wrists.

Note -- We like a "hand tossed" thickness to our crust and I get 2 large pizzas from this.  You could easily get 3 thin crust pizzas.

1 1/3 cup of warm water
2 tbsp. Olive oil
4 cups of flour (I use any combination of whole wheat and white, or I sometimes use all of one or the other.  For the best "crunch" I find that at least half white does the trick.)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tbsp. Of powdered milk
2 1/4 tsps. Of yeast
Optional -- add garlic powder and Italian seasonings

Run on regular dough cycle for the most tender dough.  However, if you have a quick dough cycle it will work for speed's sake.

After bread machine finishes, let your dough rest for 10 minutes while your oven preheats.  I set the heat somewhere around 400 F.

Roll your crust into shape.  (I actually use a rolling pin with this dough.)
Bake for 10 minutes.  (I bake both at once.  I put one on bottom rack and the other on top.  I rotate them at 5 minutes.)
Remove from oven.  At this point, I add my toppings to the first one and bake it for about 10 more minutes.  Sometimes a little less -- I check the crust.  As soon as I pull that one out, I pop the next in.

(I also have a quick pizza crust that is a "quick" bread.  My husband and I like it okay, but my daughter isn't crazy about it at all.  My food processor recipe only makes one crust...the taste is great, but not as good as this one.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


I'm still working on my nephew's birthday present.
I'm hoping the video comes through so you can see my progress.


(Via Facebook, no idea who to give original credit to)

Beans, Beans, Beans!

Back in October, I purchased several flats of beans from Aldi.  (I still have plenty of pumpkin, but I've made a mental note to start rotating more pumpkin dishes into our menu plan.)  It looked like a lot at the time, but we have used up all of those and all of my home canned beans since then.  Of course, I have dried beans on hand.  They just aren't always as convenient. I soaked 2 pounds of cranberry beans and canned 5 pints of them.  I also canned 2 pints of Mayocoba beans.   

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Patience Pays Off

One of my "resolutions" for 2017 is to buy second hand whenever possible.
Last summer when my son moved, I gave them our couch.  Long story short, due to the layout of their new home it was the piece that would work best.  I took their love seat and we made do.  
(It was a piece that I had previously had for years.) 

On my home improvement list was a new couch for the living room.  
I knew I wanted a couch and possibly a matching love seat.
I knew I didn't want to pay a lot.
I knew I wanted something with a print because our home layout is open and all the walls are neutral.
I've been faithfully watching my areas online yard sale site.
A few weeks ago, I was a little sad because I thought I had missed a piece I might would have enjoyed.

However, as life often does, I found this set this week.
The bonus was that not only is it print, but it is floral.
I love floral prints of any kind.
And not only is it floral, but it is in colors I love -- a burgundy, tan, and navy with hints of green in the leaves.
It goes perfectly with my burgundy recliner.

Guess how much I paid?
The family selling it was originally asking $100, which I was more than willing to pay.
However, when they took it out of storage they found two rips on the arms.
She dropped the price to $60 -- without my asking -- and that price included delivery.

Upon careful inspection, I decided that I could easily cover the rips.

I decided to go to my craft room first and look through my fabrics.
I pulled out several pieces that I thought would work and finally decided on a creamy and tan print.

I cut my strips, basted them in a contrasting thread, and pinned them to the arms.
At that point, I knew sewing them on would be a little tricky.
I pondered it for a bit and remembered that I had been given a bag of sewing supplies that included some curved quilting needles.
Armed with those and a matching thread, I set about sewing the strips on.

All total it took me about two hours from start to finish.

By matching the two strips, they look as if they are meant to be there.
Bonus -- I have enough of the fabric left to do several throw pillows to add to the couch.

So I paid $60 for a personalized couch and loveseat that I love.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Menu Monday

I'm trying my hand at the new menu sheets.

 Instead of using the side for writing in a grocery list -- I'm stocked -- I am writing in my meal prep tasks.

 Sunday -- homemade pizza (make 2 crusts and freeze one for Friday to carry off for weekend -- grate mozzarella)

 Monday -- Pressure Cooker beans and rice (soak beans, can 7 pints of beans)

 Tuesday -- tacos (take out beef to thaw, cook and package leftovers for Thursday night, grate Colby cheese)

 Wednesday -- oven fried pork chops, Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese, Green beans (take out pork chops, grate cheddar cheese)

 Thursday -- leftover tacos (I am picking up 40 lbs of chicken and will spend the day prepping it.  My goals are to make ranch chicken strips, BBQ chicken, tetrazzini, and plain chicken for the freezer.)

 Friday -- On the road -- pack pizza and make up a hamburger helper mix to take with us Saturday -- We will be away.  Carrying beef from freezer, cream of mushroom soup, and rice.  I'll grab a can of peas and we will have a pressure cooker meal.  I'm also packing cereal and milk for breakfast, and the hamburger helper will be for lunch.

 Updated as of Sunday night: We did make pizzas, but I opted to grate all the cheese for the week.  One of my least favorite things is cleaning the food processor and it just made sense to grate it all at once so I only had to clean it once.  


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Frugal Happenings

Last week was a different kind of week for us. Not being at home seemed to throw things off slightly.

We did manage our meals pretty well...despite having to buy sodas and bottled water.

I used a gift card....and came home to another in the mail.  It is a VISA card though so a little more flexible.

I found free menu planner sheets that I liked.

I canned some homemade soup for my husband. I redeemed some coupons on Ibotta and downloaded the Walmart price match app.

I hung one load of laundry to dry, but because we were gone most of the week I wasn't able to space loads out. As a result, I ended up having to dry a load of clothes.  I also had to wash some linens and area rugs that I partially dried in the dryer. On the upside, my electric bill was $45 lower this month.

Rather than create a menu for Friday and Saturday, we ate several smaller items from the freezer.

Weekend Snacking

Sometimes we just need chocolate.
I pulled a 98 cents cake mix from the pantry and popped this in the oven.
I used the last of the frosting I made for the last cake I baked.
(I used shortening and kept this refrigerated.)
We pulled through the sprinkles and decided to go with pastel Easter egg sprinkles.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Our Walmart

Carol mentioned how crazy things could get at her local Walmart.  

 We actually have two Walmart stores in our town and at least 3 of the Walmart Neighborhood Markets.  I'm fortunate to have a market less than 5 minutes from the house.  However, this shopping trip I went to the actual Walmart.

 The nearest Walmart to here is pretty much like the one Carol described.  Literally!  A year or two ago, a guy opened fire on people in the parking lot.  Sadly it is only certain people who act out there, but still it is kind of one of those places I avoided.  I'd even wait until we were in a town about 45 minutes from here if I wanted something from Walmart.

 However, in the last few years a new Walmart was built on the outskirts of our town.  It is clean, quiet, and in general a pleasant place to shop.  I don't go there a lot because the Neighborhood Market is so near me.  Any time I need supplies I cannot get in a grocery store type setting I will head that way.  (As a side note, the old Walmart will be torn down soon because developers have purchased the land.  They've already reduced back to closing at 10:00 each night.)

 As far as prices go: Walmart brand organic soy milk is $2.26 a carton.
 The Walmart brand lactose free milk, which my daughter needs, is $2.87 a carton.
 These prices are comparable to my Aldi prices.
 LF lactose free milk at Aldi is $2.79.
 Soymilk at Aldi is $1.99.
 Aldi is obviously slightly better and I do try to buy these items there whenever possible.

 The large blocks of cheese are $5.96.  My best price on cheese is usually Sam's Club.  This time I really wanted a variety of cheeses in smaller amounts rather than limiting myself to just one cheese.

 The biggest advantage that Walmart (or the market stores) has for me is that due to allergies there are some items I buy by brand.  However, I am really excited that our Aldi is expanding!

Canned Soups

My husband has been asking me to make him soup some to carry with him....specifically to can him some soup to carry with him.  He wanted chicken and vegetables with no tomatoes added.

I used three large, boneless skinless chicken breasts, a large bag of mixed vegetables, and some chicken broth to pull together 7 pints of soup for him.

I cooked my chicken first (and used that liquid as my broth).
I seasoned it with onions and garlic.
Added my veggies to the cubed chicken.
Pressure canned for 75 minutes.

(I also ended up with 2 quarts of broth and 2 chicken breasts for the refrigerator.
My poor kitty is sick and the chicken is for her.  I'll use the broth in our cooking this week, or I will put it in the freezer.)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Last of the Month's Shopping

I did the last of the shopping for the month on our way home.  I spent $78, but the full amount is not part of this month's budget.  I'll explain the split as I go along.  (Our Aldi is closed for renovations, so I made do as best I could with Walmart prices.)

 The pizza comes out of our eating out budget and was just under $7.00.
We picked it up because we did not make it in early enough to have anything from the freezer thawed.

The cheese is one item I did run out of.  (My fault because I didn't check when I shopped before and I used up 2 lbs. on sausage balls.).   The three soy milks will go with my husband and will last a while.

These are actually for part of some freezer meals and some canning that I will be doing.

The mushrooms are for chicken tetrazzini for the freezer and the slaw is for a veggie hash.

The coffee was a mark down at Walmart and my daughter loves chocolate coffee.
The taco shells were my impulse purchase, but one my daughter had mentioned recently.

These items are exclusively pantry and batching cooking items.
The crumbs and the ranch dressing are for chicken strips for the freezer.
The BBQ sauce is for dump and go crockpot chicken.
The 8 pans rare for freezing tetrazzini, chicken strips, and possibly some chicken pot pies in. 
I picked up the pectin because I am out.

So actually the bulk of this was for freezer meals or the pantry.
The most I may need later in the month is another dozen eggs, but I will try to get by with what I have on hand.

Clothes Shopping

For Christmas I received a gift card of $50 for Forever 21.  We do not have one of their stores near us, but since I knew I would be traveling to a town that does I saved the card.  

 I really didn't have anything special in mind, but I decided to look anyway.  I always hear about gift cards sitting and never being used, so I make an effort to use them up.

Most of the colors in the store seemed to be "not me."  I found one top for myself, but I found three tops that I thought would be perfect for my daughter. In order to make sure I do not leave any money on a gift card, I always go armed with a little extra cash and deliberately spend just over the amount on the card.  I spent a total of $57.22 with $3.62 of that being tax.

I bought this blue gray top for me:

  For my daughter I bought a long sleeved button up shirt and two short sleeved print t-shirts.  I know short sleeves seem kind of odd for February, but she can layer them under things or she can put them aside for spring, which isn't far away.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Much Does it Take?

I knew we would be away from home for four nights.  As I worked in the kitchen last week, I began the prep for some of our meals.
I packed:
1 chicken casserole (using crockpot chicken from another meal, a can of mixed veggies, and a half box of stuffing)
1 meal of food storage hamburger helper (I pull this together from my various dried food cans)
1 meal of BBQ sandwiches (leftovers from last week's roast)
1 loaf of zucchini bread from the freezer
Chips, cookies, apples, sausage balls for snacking on
Soy milk, stevia, tea bags, and coffee
1 box of cereal just in case
3 cans of Southwestern veggie soup from food storage and crackers
I planned for one meal out.

When we arrived, I found a "better" kitchen than I had expected.  
With the two burners, a microwave, and the Instant Pot I brought from home, we ate well all week.
With a little planning, it doesn't take much to keep food costs down.

There was one thing I didn't plan well.
  I think it was an oversight on my part because at home I keep beverages made up and in the refrigerator.
The water here had a horrible chemical smell.
We ended up picking up some sodas and bottle waters.
Rather than spread out around the area and try to find a lower price store, we bought them near us.
We ended up spending $20 while on the road for our meal out and the drinks we needed for the week.
Not too bad!

So I learned a few things:
With a little advanced prep, it didn't take much time to pack our meals.
With a few appliances, we could have hot meals everyday.
I need to pack drink mixes for next time or allot in my mental plan for purchases.
This place has full sized refrigerators, and next time I may not have to bring dried meals.
Baking and freezing quick breads before travel works great to help keep the cooler cold.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Menu Planners

I really love the menu planner that Shelly uses when she does her weekly menu planning video.  My husband and I had discussed it and I was all set to order one.  I decided to give it my three day test and see what I thought about it after three days.  During that three days I found myself thinking about how I had just worked so hard to pull together a household binder and how well it was working for me.  Of course, it isn't as pretty as the purchased menu planner, but it is highly functional.  After spending some time thinking about what I really liked about the planner, I decided that I have not only the time, but also the skills and supplies to design my own.  I hated the idea of buying one once a year.  Of course, I am not at home this week and decided to start with an internet search for samples.

What did I find?  This great black and white sheet that is very similar to the sheets in Shelly's planner.
Best of all it is free.

A similar planner page is here.

When I get home I'll print a few and see how I like using them.  (I already have monthly calendar pages printed for the year, but I know I am not truly interested in planning meals for a month...at least not yet.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Frugal Happennings for 2/5 - 2-11

Sunday February 5th
Brunch at my sister's house and I was able to cook a casserole from planned supplies.
We watched the Super Bowl for free on our Roku, through a special promotion.
I pulled a pizza crust from the freezer and we had an easy supper. 
I only had two pieces to mend -- both from my husband.  I mended one sock.  He also gave me a pair of cargo pants, whose cuffs were fraying.  They were a little long and I was able to hem them under 1/2 inch so that he can get a bit more wear from them. 

Monday February 6th
We roasted a chicken to eat on this week. 
I used 3 apples and a couple of zucchini to make bread for the freezer -- prevented food waste and hedges for a snack for a road trip we are taking soon.
I dropped off two small bags of clothes to Goodwill.
I washed a load of laundry and hung it to dry over night.

Tuesday February 7th
We tried a ramen noodle based stir fry -- frugal, but a flop.  We ate it for supper, but opted to feed the leftovers to the birds.
I took an online survey to work towards rewards points.
I worked diligently on the Eeyore I am crocheting.  (I'm really hoping to have this finished on time.)

Wednesday February 8th
We had guests over for supper.  I put the boneless pork loin roast in the slow cooker and used a recipe I had everything on hand.  A box of doctored mac and cheese and some steamed veggies finished off the meal. 

Thursday February 9th
I didn't do more than absolutely necessary.  Lunch was leftovers from the night before.  I divided the remainders into two freezer meals.  One to go with my husband and one for here.  By supper time I was really not wanting to cook.  We almost gave in and ordered pizza.  I just sucked it up and in no time at all I had made our pancakes and fried our bacon.  It only took a few minutes to clean up, and I called it an early night.  Our temps dropped really low and rather than have the heat run all night, I dropped it a few more degrees.

Friday February 10th
The good, the bad, and the budget.  The good, I put on dinner in the crockpot and I cooked extra chicken for a pot pie or casserole.  The bad, I spent a lot of time on the road and stopped to buy a bottle of green tea.  The budget, while it wasn't a no spend day I did find 3 books for the Christmas box and I bought myself an inexpensive mug.  Having a pretty mug while I drink my tea just makes me happy.  (I recently broke one that I really liked.)

Saturday February 11th
I baked sausage balls for my family and froze some for later.  All week I ran one load of laundry as needed and today I only had one.  Except for towels, I've made it all week not using the dryer.
I filled all the soap dispensers from a bulk container.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Menu Monday

This week is a little different, because I will not be at home. Sunday -- We will eat dinner on the road. Monday -- Chicken Casserole (with leftovers for my lunch on Tuesday) Tuesday -- Southwestern Soup and Chips   Wednesday -- food storage hamburger helper  Thursday -- We will be traveling home and I will cook pancakes and sausage when we get home. Friday and Saturday -- I may be gone during the days and if so I will use the slow cooker to have meals mostly ready.

Non Traditional Valentine's Day Gift

My husband and I don't really exchange Valentine's Day gifts, per say.  I normally try to bake him something.
This year I decided to bake him sausage balls.  He loves them and I rarely make them.  Since they freeze well, I mixed up a double batch and put some in the freezer.

The recipe is super simple.  I do not make them low fat or use any variations in them.  They literally have 3 ingredients.
For one batch I use:
1 lb. of bulk pork sausage
1 lb. of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups of Bisquick  (You can use homemade, but I have found they spread slightly more. Still tasty though.)

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Fry your sausage in a large frying pan.  Do not drain.  Add the shredded cheese and stir until melted.

Stir into the 3 cups of Bisquick.

I use a tablespoon measure for each sausage ball.  I have seen some that call for teaspoon sized, but my family prefers them a little bulkier.

 I bake them on ungreased sheets for about 15 minutes.  From a double batch I end up with around 100 "balls."


Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Goody for Me

When I found this in the thrift store I just couldn't pass it up.
It was spotless, with the stickers still on it.
I paid a whopping 79 cents for it.
I love the message, because I love tea.
I love the red, because red is one of my favorite colors.
I love all things "English" and I love the cost.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Frazzled Friday

Today's one of those crazy, "run around like a chicken with your head cut off" kind of days.

 I have a head cold and of course, I knew I wouldn't want to jump right out of bed this morning.  I set the coffee pot to go off about 20 Minutes before I wanted to get up and it was nice to wake up to the smell and know coffee was ready.  I allowed myself some extra time to just sit and drink my coffee, go over my planner, and pet the cat.

 My day has gone something like this:
 1.  Do my morning routine.

 2.  Start chicken in the crockpot.  Thank goodness for menu planning and the crockpot.  Without those two I would probably still be standing in the kitchen wondering what to cook for supper.  (I'm doing simple chicken breasts -- I put in three large frozen breasts, topped with cream of chicken soup, salt, pepper, and a bit of onion powder.  I'm making a mashed cauliflower side dish and serving carrot sticks.)

 3. I went to the next town over to mail a package.

 4. I left from there to head to a doctor's appointment 45 minutes away -- because of distance, not traffic.

 5.  I was about 20 Minutes early and I stopped into Goodwill, where I found a mug for myself and 3 Christmas books to go in my Christmas gift box.  I think my grandson will love them.  I paid $2.42 for all four pieces.  I'll share a photo later...the mug is in the dishwasher.

 6.  Off to my doctor's appointment.  Apparently I've not finished healing internally and while I can now drive, I am still on all the other restrictions.

 7.  Rode back home, only to find my daughter's tutor didn't show up.  Pulled some quick leftovers out for lunch -- all we had left was mac and cheese, so mac and cheese it was.

 8.  I vacuumed upstairs, loaded the dishwasher after lunch, quizzed my daughter on info for an upcoming test, returned some business calls, and plopped here to spend a few minutes reading my favorite blogs.

 On my agenda for the rest of the day is: As soon as my daughter gets home from her last class of the day, we have to immediately head out to her gastroentology appointment.  I'm expecting it to have us out and probably driving home in rush hour traffic....my least favorite thing to do!  At least when we get home, supper will be pretty much taken care of.  I have some paper work that has to be completed by tomorrow night, so my plan is to work on that this evening if I can muster the gumption.

 Worse case scenario, I will rally around it early in the morning.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New to Me

I admit to being a total book lover.
So far this year I've picked up 5 new books to come home with me.

The Taste of Home Fast Fixes with Mixes is one I have been checking out from the library.
I had a chance to buy a copy for a penny.  I paid $3.99 in shipping for a total of $4.
Now I know that mixes may not seem like the most frugal option at first, but as I have mentioned before I am not cooking for many people anymore and sometimes a small mix is just the right amount.
I also bought this book with a second consideration.
My daughter, who for various reasons has difficulty with slicing/dicing/etc., needs to know how to not rely on take out as she goes out into the world. Mixes are a good alternative for her and we are working on building up a repertoire of dishes she likes and can prepare easily.

The New Basics Cookbook came home from the library booksale.  
I paid $2.00 for it.  
Reading the bread recipes alone made me feel like it was well worth what I spent on it.

The Souper Recipes with Campbell came home from the same booksale. 
I paid $1.00 for it.
It falls under the same category as the Mixes book and I am actually looking forward to trying some of these recipes.

The last two books were for me and also from the library booksale.
I love reference books of all kinds and at $1.00 I couldn't pass up the book of synonyms.
The book about Ben Franklin ($1.00) is one I'll read and put back on my shelf.
He is an individual I have always found fascinating and I am looking forward to reading this to see if I learn anything new.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Playing with the Menu

Last night before bed, I noticed I had some pain behind my eyes.  No big deal since I had been crocheting, but then it turned into a night of tossing and turning until after 3:00 this morning. Today it is a full on sinus headache.  I don't know if I have picked up something or if it is thanks to the pressure front coming in.  Either way the end result was a change in menu plans for tonight.
I already had the roast thawing in the refrigerator.  Yesterday I watched a YouTube video by Shelly and she shared an easy crockpot pulled pork recipe.  It isn't one I've tried before, but by fluke I had everything on hand.  (My sister is trying to lose weight and I think this will help cut some of the calories to make the meal more in line with her diet.)
The recipe is super simple:
1 onion
1 (3 or 4 lbs.) boneless pork loin
12 ounces of Diet Coke 
1/2 bottle of barbecue sauce
Lawry's seasoning salt
Cook on low for about 8 hours.  Fork shred and add back to the sauce and cook for another half hour.
My notes:
1.  I had Diet Coke on hand by fluke.  My husband brought one home from a meeting.
2.  Daughter won't do onions, so I added onion powder when I seasoned the roast.
3.  I had 1/2 of a bottle of bold and spicy BBQ sauce in the refrigerator.  (Aldi organics)
4.  Serve on sandwich thins I had in freezer.
As the day progressed I felt worse instead of better.  Sides quickly became easy.  Annie's Organic boxed mac and cheese and canned string beans.

Wednesday's Work In Progress

One of my nephew's has his 5th birthday this month and he loves Winnie the Pooh.  I'm working on this Eeyore for him.  It seems slow go because the stitches are tight and I can only crochet a while before my wrists start to bother me.   I am trying hard to have it ready by the end of this month so my goal is to do some on it everyday.      

I am making progress, but I still have a ways to go.
The original patterns are tiny, but I am using worsted weight yarn and a size H hook.
My Eeyore is huge!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Recipe Meh (keeping it real)

One of my goals has been to try some new recipes.  Today we decided to try a stir fry that has ramen noodles as a base.  For full disclosure, I did alter the meat and veggies rather than use the original recipe.  However, by my estimation that shouldn't have changed the overall taste.  The recipe was from a Taste of Home cookbook. This recipe fell short of our expectations.  It isn't horrible, but it isn't great either.  It isn't well seasoned.  I'm sharing what I did and then I'll share what I would do differently if I ever make something similar to this again.  
I thawed a bag of stir fry veggies, which I heated in the wok.
I added cooked chicken breast.
When this was heated through, I added the pack of chicken flavored ramen noodles, the seasoning packet, 1 cup of water, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
Then the recipe calls for it to simmer until the noodles were done, which we did.
(The original recipe called for pork and fresh stir fry veggies, but the rest was pretty much the same.)
Like I said, "It's just meh."
Despite me adding additional Braggs Liquid Aminos (my soy sauce substitute).
In the future, I'll approach this a little differently.
I'll cook my veggies and meat and add some onion powder and garlic powder.  Perhaps a dash or two of soy sauce.
I'll prepare my  noodles separately.
When they are done, I will drain them --  all but 1/4 cup of liquid.  I'll add the soy sauce and the seasoning packet.  Then I will serve the veggies over a bed of the seasoned noodles.
I'm hoping that will combat our biggest complaint -- the seasonings simply weren't the pop we were looking for.

Baking for the Freezer (and Recipes)

My husband brought back three apples with him from last week's packed supplies and when I was cleaning out the refrigerator I found three zucchini that needed using up.  Even though both items were fine, I knew they were fast approaching "having" to be used.  Since my menu didn't include anything that would use either of them I decided to bake up some sweet breads. 
To conserve energy, I filled the oven with both breads.

I used fresh ground whole wheat flour and on hand baking supplies to make 2 large loaves of zucchini and raisin bread (glass pans) and then I made an 8"x4" pan of apple date bread and 3 small loaves of apple date bread.
I'll save out one small loaf to go with afternoon tea and the rest will go in the freezer.
At least one loaf will be earmarked for some traveling we will be doing soon.

Honey "Baked" Chicken

One of the "you tubers" I like to watch, Kimmy of She's in Her 
Apron, issued a cookbook challenge encouraging her viewers to pull out some of their cookbooks they don't use a lot and pick a recipe or two to try each week. The goal is to fall in love with them all over again.
I love to use my slow cooker and I don't know why I don't branch out more from the same old recipes.
I guess I just fall back into the familiar. 
This week I decided to slow cook a whole chicken and I pulled out my "big cookbook" of slow cooker recipes.
This recipe is my adaptation of Honey Baked Chicken.
I had a partial bottle -- a couple of tablespoons of Dijon mustard I wanted to use up.
I added a teaspoon of paprika.
There was just a touch over 2 tablespoons of honey in my bottle I wanted to use up, too.
I added a bit of salt and pepper and brushed it over my cleaned chicken.
I let it cook on high until the chicken was fall apart tender.
The results:

I picked all the meat off the bones.
I'm dividing it into three meals' portions.
1 portion for risotto with peas
1 portion for chicken tacos
1 portion for a stir fry
I know that is chicken three meals in a row, but the seasonings will give it totally different tastes each time and I think we will be fine with it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Menu Monday (includes how last week went)


We also had a night of chicken nuggets, tater tots, etc.  and we baked chocolate chip cookies.
This week's menu is something like this:
Sunday -- homemade pizza, chips, etc. for Super Bowl
Monday -- I am roasting a hen.  I'll divide it and we will have part for supper with rice and peas.
Tuesday -- chicken stir fry made  with roast chicken
Wednesday -- guests over and we are having a crockpot pork roast, egg noodles, broccoli, and mixed fruit.
Thursday -- pancakes, bacon, and eggs
Friday -- cauliflower bake with chopped chicken added
Saturday -- taco casserole (using beans, beef, etc)
We will be traveling the next Sunday afternoon and I am not sure if we will do brunch next week or not.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Quick Quiche -- Ham Meal #3

My sister hostesses a brunch on Sunday morning. 
I always try to contribute something that is easy to transport and good at room temperature.
This morning she had fresh fruit and apple cinnamon muffins.
I made an "impossible pie" quiche.
This was the 3rd meal from my ham stretch.
I don't follow an exact recipe.
5 eggs, beaten
1 or so cups of shredded cheese (I used mozzarella)
1 cup of milk (I used reconstituted powdered milk)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of Biquick or homemade baking mix
1 tsp. parsley
1 cup of diced ham
Mix it all.  Pour into greased pan.
(I did an 8" square)
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.
Let sit for 10 to cool.
Doing a casserole gives me time to get ready while it is baking.
The "sitting" time for it allows me time to get to her home, which is about 15 minutes away.
So it works out perfectly.

Frugal Happenings for Beginning of February

Sunday January 29th  I picked up vegetables and a few loss leaders from a local store.  I also divided and packaged a pork loin.  I continued with our organization and organized all the kitchen drawers and the downstairs bathroom drawers.  I made sure to use a lasagna I had frozen rather than letting it sit in the freezer to long -- which I am ashamed to say has happened in the past.  I renewed our library books online because we hadn't finished them, rather than driving across town to renew them in person.  I gave my sister some extra casserole dishes I had and to Goodwill I dropped off a load of dishes I had been storing.

Monday January 30th I hung laundry to dry.  Ran a full load of delicates that I had been letting build up.  Worked on using up odd partial bottles of cleaner and I think I have enough of all of them for the next month.  Leftovers for lunch and cooked enough supper for leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. My pattern book that I purchased with a gift card (from survey taking) arrived and my first thought was I need to go buy yarn...but I stopped myself.  With a little pulling through I found the colors I need to make my nephew's birthday present and I've started on it.

Tuesday January 31st Since we have company coming I switched my cleaning schedule around slightly and washed bedding today.  (They'll be using my bed because my husband won't be here to help me arrange the guest bed...long story.)  When the quilt was almost dry I hung it over the banister to finish rather than tossing it back in the dryer.  Leftovers for lunch today and enough for tomorrow's lunch cooked tonight. I pulled beans I had previously frozen out to go into the beans and rice for tonight and I used 1/3 of a pound of beef.    The other 2/3 will be burgers for later this week.  

Wednesday February 1st
I mended a bra for my daughter.
We packed my daughter's lunch and I ate leftovers.
We had company over for dinner and I was able to prepare the meal with things on hand as planned.
My daughter brought home a free newspaper.

Thursday February 2nd
I spent some time tallying up the shopping for February and I placed a Sam's Club pick up order online to avoid being tempted to buy things I didn't have on my list.  I was able to buy some items on sale for future months and spread those costs out over my budget.
I switched around a shelf I was no longer using in my craft room and the move to the laundry room helped me organize it and now I have all my extra bathroom and cleaning supplies in the laundry room.  This visually cleared up my bathroom shelf, which now just has medications (prescription and OTC) and some basic personal items. 
We took some odd remnants from the freezer and had a nice meal for two.  (We had munched on the casserole from the night before and didn't have enough leftovers for a lunch.)

Friday February 3rd
We picked up our Sam's Club order.  I baked a heart shaped cake in a pan I borrowed from my sister -- and mixed the holiday with my grandson's Star Wars love.  He was thrilled.  We baked homemade pizzas.

Saturday February 4th
We ate all our meals at home and even though we rearranged the menu slightly to allow for a snack meal night -- tater tots, chicken nuggets, etc. -- we ate from what was here.  
I attended the local library book sale and bought 6 books.  Two children's books for my grandson, 2 cookbooks for me, 1 biography, and 1 reference book. Total spent was $8. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Master Schedule -- Weekend

The weekend's vary some.  This is my basic schedule, but if I know we are doing other things I just work these into the week.  Laundry is also something I do as I go, but on weekends I have my husband's home so I do it on Saturday's to make sure he is covered for the upcoming week.

Grill clean

Do the daily
Pack Ken's stuff
Look over week

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sam's Club and Where the February Grocery Budget Stands

I'm very fortunate to live literally 5 minutes from a Sam's Club.  I find the store to be invaluable for certain items that I like to buy because of either personal preference and/or allergy issues.  I prefer their Member's Mark brand dishwasher tabs.  I like to buy the POM toilet paper and paper towels.  Their fruit prices (for the quality they sell) are excellent and I've never had any trouble with any of the produce I bought there.  Sadly I can't say the same for some of the other stores in my area.  I also like their meats.

 This month they had some great sales and I actually bought items for storage that will stretch on into June.  We are covered for toilet paper, paper towels, dishwasher tabs, Clorox 2, food saver bags, and deodorant.  After a careful inventory I made a list of items we needed to go into our food rotation to round out what we have.  I'll also be picking up an order of chicken breasts from Zaycon later this month and it is reflected in my totals.

 For tracking purposes we divide these purchases (except the chicken) out over how many months we will use them and subtract them from those individual months' budget.  This accounting method and our "convenience" fund helps us balance things out. I budgeted $500 for food and household supplies.  When everything is added and the household supplies are portioned out, I have $158 left for the month for incidentals like milk, eggs, etc.  We are well stocked on everything and should be able to carry on into the next month with no problems.

  (This order includes two gifts -- a box of coffee pods for my son and a bag of chocolates for my daughter in law and grandson.  Their cost is not part of the grocery budget, but if I include them I would still have $122 left to spend if I need it.)  

Master Schedule -- Friday

Daily chores and following:

Grocery Shopping
Master Bathroom
Toilet/light switch
Trash emptied
Nellie's Bathroom
Toilet/light switch
Trash emptied
Guest Bathroom
Light switch

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Master Schedule -- Thursday

Daily chores and the following:

Laundry Room
Light switch
Sink and Tops
Cat Litter
Trash emptied
Straighten Shelves
Light switches

YouTube Creator Tag

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