Friday, August 31, 2012

Friendship Bread Book Review

Friendship Bread: A Novel by Darien Gee was calling my name from the new book section at the library.  I was just talking about making friendship bread starter so I decided to grab this book while I was checking out a million and one kids books for my little man.

This book is about the relationships between friends all formed from a starter of Amish Friendship Bread that was left on Julia's front porch from a mystery friend.  Julia and her daughter Gracie enjoy the yummy friendship bread and decide that they are going to make there own in 10 days when the starter is ready.  It follows the small town through the spread of the Amish Friendship Bread starter and meeting lots of different people throughout the town. 

The great part is there are recipes at the back of the book after you read all about the bread and the recipes that they make, you want to be eating a piece so the recipe is a good start.  Not only do they have the recipe for the starter which I hope to be making soon but the recipe for the bread (which I have made before) but brownies, biscuits, and pancakes.  Check out their recipe website with over 200 different recipes!! I think that it would be super nice to have this starter to keep making fun but watch out because it grows quickly!

Recipes can be found all over the Internet at All Recipes, Cooks. com, and blogs.  I highly recommend trying it and seeing how yummy this bread is and you might be hooked!!

I hope that you check out this book at your local library or bookstore.  I know that I enjoyed it a ton and it was a very fast read that I couldn't put down!!  The only negative that I have to say is that it took me a little bit to keep the characters straight but once you start reading it is super hard to put down.  I loved all of the characters and it was interesting to learn about the relationships through the town and how they were changed by the friendship bread.  Let me know if you check out the book and what you think!!

August Month End Budget Update

I am super excited that it is the end of the month because I am out of budget!  I think that I got a ton of stuff this month and only went over budget a little bit :)

There were way to many trips to link to all of them but I went to Harris Teeter(lots), Giant (twice), CVS (once) and Target (twice) for the month.  Here are a few links to some of the trips, just click on the underlined title to check out the original post.

First Trips to CVS, Harris Teeter and another Harris Teeter

Target trip and another Target Trip to get lots of crayons and some other things

Harris Teeter super doubles started this month so there were tons of trips starting with this one and ending with this super doubles trips and this one and lots in the middle.

Giant to get Popsicles and another Giant Trip to close out the month

Total Monthly OOP   $160.80
Total Monthly Savings $522.17
Total Cost of Goods   $682.97
Percentage Savings 76.5%

Hope that you had a great month too!!!  Happy end of August and start to September :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

No coupons this weekend!!

Reminder that this is a holiday weekend so there aren't going to be any coupon inserts!!  This means that I have a week to get my act together and cut my coupons and I will be totally coupon caught up.  Make sure you take this opportunity to organize the coupons you have and get rid of the ones that are expired.  I hope to be able to do that and get my coupon basket back under control.

Hope you have a happy Labor Day weekend!!!!

Thrifty Thursday: Quick Meals To Have on Hand

Every get to dinner time and not know what to make?  I keep a meal plan for every night of the week but sometimes things don't go as planned. The first reaction for most families is to go out to dinner or order pizza.  I just had two of these days in a row so that I thought about what meals that I could make around the house since ordering out is not an option while trying to live on a single income. 

Are you looking for something healthier and more frugal??  This list gives you some ten minute solutions to have dinner on the table faster than takeout!!  What do you have in your pantry that you would make??

1.  Grilled Cheese and soup:  These are often ingredients around the house that can be used in a moments notice.  It makes for a yummy meal for the whole family.  The sandwich can always be customized to your family by adding ham, bacon, or tomatoes to the grilled cheese.  The soup can be as simple as tomato soup the family members can add goldfish crackers, leftover veggies or pasta.  It is a super quick meal and can also use leftovers

2. Mac and Cheese with corn bread:  We always keep emergency mac and cheese around the house. This time we had it with corn bread which was leftover from the other night but sometimes we have garlic bread and a nice salad to round out the plate.

3.  Breakfast for dinner:  Although this is one of my favorite meals, my husband is not the biggest fan of breakfast for anything other than breakfast.  It is a fun tradition to start to make Friday night pancake night or omelet night.  I think that the kids would start to look forward to it and it is a super frugal way to make a fun and filling meal.  A better reason to make chocolate chip pancakes since they are harder to justify at 8 am :)

4. Spaghetti with garlic bread:  We always have at least three different kinds of pasta around the house and a jar of spaghetti sauce to throw together this quick meal.  Also remember the Olive Oil Pasta recipe if you don't have the jar of sauce to make a quick gourmet tasting meal on a frugal budget!!  I have tried all varieties and they are all yummy with fresh rosemary, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and other spices added.  Plus, remember that you don't have to have fancy garlic bread... you can butter and put garlic powder or salt on a hamburger roll, hot dog roll, or bread.

5.  Fried Rice:  I have two different recipes that I often make for fried rice.  One is my mom's recipe for Simplified Fried Rice where you brown rice in a pan and add chicken stock/broth and simmer for 20 minutes.  This is a great side dish or mixed with leftovers to make a complete meal.  I also make Seasoned Fried Rice from already cooked rice that I fry in the skillet and add egg, chicken, and other veggies.  These are both ways to create a great filling meal quickly.

6. Tuna Fish, Cold Cut, or Meatball Sandwiches/Subs: The tuna packets of tuna and super easy to keep in the pantry and throw together a tuna sandwich or tuna melts for the family.  Cold cuts are obviously super easy to make if you have them in the house already but if you weren't planning on an emergency dinner, you might not have them.  Meatballs are something you can buy or make ahead of time and thrown them on a roll with some sauce and maybe a little shredded cheese.  You can keep bread and rolls in the freezer.  I make homemade rolls and freeze the rest in bags that we will be able to make sandwiches at any time which have come in handy more than once!!

7.  Make Ahead Meals:  This is a great idea to make meals to put in the freezer like taco filling, sloppy joes, brown rice, hot pockets, and other casseroles.  I am not great at always doing this but it makes for a super fast dinner.  I hope to be better about making some meals to have in the freezer so that on the nights that we are super busy, I can just throw something in the microwave or oven to have dinner on the table fast and easy!!  Do you make any make ahead meals??

8.  Planned Leftovers:  Make a pork roast one night and plan for BBQ pork sandwiches the next night.  Make a whole chicken and use the leftovers for quesadillas or pulled buffalo chicken sandwiches. Make tacos one night and use the leftovers to make stuffed hot pockets.  It is super fast to pull dinner together when everything is already cooked.

9.  Frozen Pizza or Frozen Meals:  It is always good to have a backup meal in the freezer.  I normally keep frozen pizza and a Chinese or Italian meal in the freezer just in case I forget to take out the meat for dinner or it doesn't defrost in time.  It is also helpful if unexpected guests show up for leftover lunch day :)  These can be purchased on sale with coupon for under $3 and will serve the whole family with the addition of salad and bread or other side dishes.

I tend to get cooking block when I get to the time of the day that I am super hungry and I don't know what is for dinner.  If I keep a list around, it helps to make it a little easier to pick when the panic sets in :)  I hope that this helps your family too!!  Let me know what other dishes you whip up out of the pantry in a jiff to make meals for your family.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Month End Coupon Printing

It is already that time again- the end of the month and almost the end of the summer...  Time to total those receipts and make sure you clean out your coupons to make room for the new ones.

Check the following sites:
Make sure you don't miss a coupon!!  Keep this list for next month too because the new coupons are normally loaded at the beginning of the month so it is a great time to go back and check.  Please let me know if there are any other coupon websites that you like to visit and I will gladly add them to the list.  Hope you all had a wonderful month and I look forward to hearing all about it!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rosemary Garlic Chicken Pizza

I decided that the next pizza that I make would be a California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) inspired.  My favorite pizzas are no longer available on their new menu so it is time to make it at home anyway!!  I couldn't decide between my favorite Garlic Chicken Pizza and my friend Tracey's favorite Rosemary Chicken Potato Pizza.  I looked around the freezer and pantry to figure out what I had and I found some rosemary chicken that was taken from a roast chicken that I made a little while ago.  I also had fresh rosemary and garlic so I decided to mix the flavors.

I used my homemade pizza crust which is my new favorite.  If you don't make your own, you can buy the bag of dough from Trader Joe's or use a Pillsbury Pizza Crust.  Then I melted butter on the stove top and grated the garlic into the skillet.  I added two sprigs of rosemary to flavor the butter mixture.  I added the rosemary chicken since it was still frozen and heated the whole pan of toppings.  The chicken soaked up a lot of the butter so I did add a little more.  I had a helper in the kitchen so I didn't get to take a picture of the process because I was too busy keeping his hands away from the pan.

Little man helped put the cheese on top and spread it evenly.  I cut up a few sprigs of rosemary and put them on top of the cheese.  I popped it in the oven and a few minutes later, we had dinner!

Do you want a slice???  It was super good!!!  If you want to be more authentic to the CPK recipe, they also had onions but I am not an onion fan.  I didn't have any potatoes and I wasn't sure if they had to be cooked in the pan first or put in raw so it seemed like too much of a gamble. 

Feel free to customize the pizza to your family.  It is super easy to make a pizza with whatever you have around the house and not always end up with a pepperoni pizza with red sauce :)  Here is hoping you enjoy the recipe and try it for your family!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 8/27

Monday- Spiedies with rice
Tuesday- Olive Oil Spaghetti with garlic bread
Wednesday- Worcestershire Chicken
Thursday- Shake n Bake Pork Chops with mac and cheese
Friday- ???
Saturday- Leftovers/Frozen Pizza
Sunday- Leftovers or Fried Rice/Grilled Pork Roast

This is the last full week of summer for us before school starts for everyone else.  We don't start school until September 10th so we still have a little bit more time but this is the last week for the pool and all the other fun summer time treats.  We are going to take advantage with a super busy week and hoping to make it an easy week for dinners.  Hope you enjoy your week! 

I have changed the menu this week more then I can count because it seems to be that kind of week.  Switching the nights of the food is part of the ease of having the menu!!  Of course it has left me with the gap in the menu so I better get work on the menu :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Weekly Goals 8/26

This week was super long- Monday seemed like Friday and so did Friday!!!  I am not sure why there are weeks like this but I packed too much into the week and I just wanted to have a little bit of a with grandpa in town, there is no resting.  He has started the project of cutting down the bamboo in the backyard and between the fences before the new neighbors move in (or the house is ever sold). 

In case you missed the story of the house next store, let me tell you about it.  We had a little cape cod with no basement next to us that wouldn't sell when the owners were retiring.  A company came in to make it into a beautiful mansion (might be an exaggeration but it is super huge) in comparison to the neighborhood.  It was going really well except listening to the construction noise straight through naptime.  Then they put the same color siding on the house that we did... really, the only person on the street and you choose to copy the neighbor.  Fine, copying is the sincerest form of flattery or something like that :)  Then, the last straw... they came back and put shutters on the house...guess what color, almost the same as mine!!

Anyway, back to the week.. long and thank goodness over!  Trying to do better next week :)

Last Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with my family- We had a great week together even though Daddy had to work late since school is about to open and he has to get all the computers ready to go :(
  • Good Vibrations (I think music program) at the library- We had a great time singing, dancing, and playing instruments at this library program.  We got to listen to fun new stories and rhymes!
  • Playdate with a friend- We went to the park one day with some friends and then went to the park and had a friend over to the house the next day!  The week turned out to be more filled with friends then we knew it was going to be which is always a joy!!
  • We added an additional busy day of fun and went to get new shoes for school.  It was exhausting and filled with some ups and downs but we did come home with shoes so that was good news.  We did get a short stop at Panera for lunch so that was a special treat for both of us. 
  • Storytime at the library- We signed up for a new storytime at a new library so we were super interested in checking out the new library :)  It was lots of fun based on the letter P.
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- I really put this off this week and should have started cutting coupons earlier but I don't know what was stopping me from getting it done but I was much more interested in reading and napping my free time :) I started on Friday afternoon so here is hoping that I am better next week!! Saturday night was me hurrying to finish them before the end of the week!!
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I did great with shutting off my computer and saving lots of energy by not leaving my laptop on all night. I just forgot on Friday night :(
  • Read Back on Murder (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand- I reserved this book at the library and it came in so I was super excited to read the first book in the series.  It was super great read and might have been the downfall of the weekly extra chores but it was worth it.  Started on my next book but only about one chapter so I guess that it will be a long reading week to finish that and start off the Hunger Games series... I might need a babysitter for that week :)
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- I cleaned up every day during the week and kept a pretty clean kitchen throughout the week despite having a house guest.
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- I started off the week right by washing all the dishes on Sunday night.  It is a great way to start the week to wake up to a clean kitchen.  I am going to try to be better about it because it really does make for an easier morning. My husband and I washed all the dishes on Tuesday night too!!
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday- Done
  • Schedule at least 7 posts so that can spend more time with family- Done 
  • Review book reviews completed during the week- Done 
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- It was a work in progress but I tried to get a few posts prepped and ready to go! Not too far ahead but here is hoping for a super productive week.
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with my family
  • Take donations to NVFS
  • Pool date with a friend 
  • Playdate with a friend (maybe at the pool)
  • Friends birthday party
Personal Goals
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday
  • Schedule at least 7 posts so that can spend more time with family
  • Review book reviews completed during the week
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Giant Monthly Shopping Trip 8/25

I finally made it to Giant to spend my monthly rewards from being part of their community.  It was really good that I saved it for the end of the month when I didn't have any budget left to get some of the things that we needed and were running low on.  I was super glad to have the credit to fall back on so that I didn't have to go hugely over budget.

Check out what I got??
One loaf of bread, 3 boxes of Annie's Mac and Cheese, 5 lbs flour, bag of mini marshmallows, 4 hams, and one head of lettuce.  Looking at it now seems strange mix but my son loves Arthur mac and cheese and rice krispie treats.  Plus, he currently on a sandwich eating binge so a new loaf of bread is a must.  My husband likes ham and lettuce on his sandwiches for lunch.  Lastly, we were almost out of flour :)

Can you guess what I spent??  Can you guess what it should of cost?? 

This is a fun game at my house.  I don't know if you do this at your house but groceries are super expensive so sometimes at the store, I feel like I have done better than when I get home and put it on the counter for what I got.  Back to the old fight between my husband and mother-in-law when he was growing up... "We have no food!" my husband says  "I just spent $200 a few days ago so you better find some food because I am not going back to the store again!!" my mother-in-law retorts.  I will give you a hint- I paid with change from my change purse that I found on the ground when we were at the mall.

I will leave a big space so that I don't ruin it if you are going to guess but scroll down for the answer :)

Total OOP $0.24
Total Savings $17.48

Back on Murder Book Review

Back on Murder (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand is the first book in the series.  I got the third one through my Bethany House book review and it was good so I wanted to start the series from the beginning.  I put this on book on hold at the library and was super excited when it came in!

Roland March was a great character that I needed to learn more about him so I was super excited to read the first book in the series.  The detective is at the bottom of his career at the beginning and assigned to work all the cases that no one else wants to work, mostly suicides.  He gets assigned to a homicide case as a help to another detective but things go badly.  Then he was transferred to a missing persons task force shortly before being transferred back to a suicide.  Then he makes a breakthrough and a crazy mystery twist that you won't believe until you read it.  It is action packed from the beginning to the end!!

Just a note to the reader:  It is characterized as a Christian Fiction but I find all of the conversation about religion and God to be a normal part of the plot and conversation.  It is not nearly as forced as I find other Christian Fiction that I have read.

I hope that you check out this book at your local library or bookstore.  It was a great read and had me wanting to read it all the time!!!  When you read it, let me know what you think :) 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mexican Rice Pockets with corn shell

I couldn't figure out what to make for dinner this weekend so I thought and thought and I ended up using the leftover taco rice to make Mexican Rice Pockets.  I have this big bag of corn flour that I bought with the intention of making corn tortillas but they didn't turn out as yummy as expected so I haven't used it since.
I decided to mix up 1/2 cup of corn flour with a dash of salt and water (per the package directions).  Then I used my fancy tortilla press that I got for Christmas. 
As suggested from Patty's Mexican Table TV show on PBS, I used the cut plastic bag inside the press.  Then I put the ball of corn dough in the middle and squished it around a little.  I put the rice and cheese in the middle of the corn dough.  On the first one, I took the tortilla off the plastic and the tortilla broke as soon as I put the filling on it :( 

Then I remember a very important lesson from Patty (and her Mexican table). First I added a little more water to the dough just in case.  Then, I pressed another one out and I kept it on the plastic.  I pressed both sides together using the plastic bag so that I was never actually touching the dough.  It was super easy and then the completed pocket just came right off so much more easily!!

I heated up some oil in a skillet and pan fried the pockets (or my own little leftover empanada recipe). Some of the edges weren't as pretty but they cooked up super yummy!!

One even had a little cheese squeeze out the edge and it just made it more yummy!  Can you see the orange line around the edge??  That is the cheese :)

I love reusing the leftovers in yummy new ways!  I think that I am going to add this to the list of things that I would make again.  I have to figure out a million uses for my big bag of corn flour so any suggestions would be appreciated!!!  I searched the Internet but didn't find anything really interesting.

Of course, I really need to give another go to the corn tortilla recipe because we are running out of the corn tortillas in the fridge soon :)  If anyone has a better recipe then on the bag, please let me know what the magic ingredient is so that I can try it too!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Packing a Lunch

Packing a lunch is the less expensive route for kids and adults (but adults get the benefit of being able to use the microwave at the office).  We are weeks away from the start of school and we have to get ready!!  The main thing that I have to get ready for is lunchtime supplies because I think that I have most of the containers to continue using from last school year. 

We have our lunch bag from last year that we are going to use again (hopefully for a few more years).  I got it at Target and it was free after rebate years ago.  It is a really great size and it zips at the top so that nothing comes out.  It is also red like Daddy's lunch bag so that makes it a big winner :)

We have our Rubbermaid containers to fit all our snacks in.  These are great if you need new snack containers because they are super easy for my son to get open but they seal tightly (I don't know that I would make liquid stuff and hold them upside to test them though).  They are super cheap to pick up at Target, Wal-Mart or the grocery store.  They are also available through Amazon.  They are meant to be disposable so if they get lost, it isn't a huge deal because they aren't super expensive.  Mine have the clear lid so they must have been the previous generation.  The other great thing about these is the size.  They are perfect to fit in between my little guys legs so that he can eat in his car seat without dropping them.
Then we have our really neat mat that we got as a gift many years ago before we even had a little guy and now he won't eat his sandwich without it (even at home).  This mat is lined with plastic so it is super easy to clean up and folds over the sandwich nicely to keep it really fresh.  The great part is that when you lay it out, it covers the table around so they can pour out whatever other snacks on it and not worry that they are going to get yucky things from the table.  There are tons of different brands and types out there to get but it is so much better than just using a plastic bag because it is better for the kids and the environment.  Might be the best gift we ever got (Thanks Ann)!! 
I also cut his sandwich into shapes which usually changes with the seasons and holidays.  I think that it makes it more fun to eat and it is always a good test to see if he ate it :)  A duck and a bridge are the first and favorite sandwich.  I cut the duck out of the sandwich and then had to figure out what to do with the rest of the sandwich and I told him it was a bridge, after I cut off any of the remaining crust.  I use the Wilton duck cookie cutter that I got years ago in a clearance bin for $0.25.  I got a few sandwich cutters but I find the old fashion metal cookie cutters are easier to use.

My son also likes drinkable yogurt smoothies.  I currently buy the small bottles when they are on really great sale and put them in wrapped in an ice pack.  I made some from scratch before but then was at a loss on how to send them to school neatly.  I also throw in a straw because he likes to use his straw.

The biggest thing on the wish list is these colorful ice pop molds which would also hold yogurt or other treats for the kids to eat directly out of the container.  They can be used to make push up pops at home or sent to school with things like yogurt, applesauce, pudding, and juice.  It can be frozen overnight and then put in the lunch bag to defrost by lunch time.  We don't have them yet but I might break down and get them soon to see if they will get more things in my little man's stomach :)

When our lunch bag wears out, I am going to look for one of the neat ones that has the ice pack built into it but this works for now since we are trying to be frugal and green :)  Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle!!

Do you have an helpful lunchtime tips to share??  Any reusable containers that are the best you ever used??  Any other helpful lunch hints??  I am still working on more reusable containers for my husband's lunch and that is going to be the goal of this year to find a container to hold two sandwiches or two containers that fit in his bag.  Please share and let me know because I am always looking for some new fun reusable containers, as well as ways to make my son eat his food!! 

Hope you are looking forward to the beginning of school and all the fun of packing lunches.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

September All You Came in the mail!!

Have you gotten your September issue of All You magazine yet???  I just got mine in the mail and started reading!!  In addition to the $103.05 of deals and coupons (only $38.60 are actually coupons), there are a ton of articles that are super interesting!

There was an article on getting a jump start on your holiday shopping.  Has anyone but me started on their holiday shopping??  I know that I am a crazy person but I have always shopped for great deals on holiday and birthday gifts for people.  This year is going to be even more frugal than last year in the gift giving department so I have to start that much earlier to make sure that I get the most things for free or nearly free to give to family and friends.  I think that family and friends come to expect my weird gifts of toothpaste and dental floss but in my mind it pays for something that they need to buy and now they have more money to get some of the other things that they might be able to splurge on because they don't have to pay for body wash and shampoo :)  Anyway, the article is super short but had me start thinking about what we are going to do this year.  Since no one (especially me after spending all this time cleaning the basement) wants to end up with any more clutter around the house and we are all on limited budgets.  There are tons of solutions to make it a wonderful holiday without lots of gift giving so remember the spirit of the holiday :)

There is an article on do it yourself projects for the frugal homeowner.  Luckily, I have my husband who can fix nearly anything that he puts his mind to.  Sadly, for us it is just find enough time to do all the projects.  If there was an article on how to make more than 24 hours in a day or to get by without sleeping, it would help us more but I know that these are seriously easy fixes that you can try without hiring it out.

The interesting article is the break the clutter cycle and save!  I don't think that it has as many details as some of the Peter Walsh books but follows the same train of thought.  It is a great start if you have something you want to clean out and don't know where to start.  Sadly, I think that this might be aimed at people who have less accumulated than we do but maybe not!

Check out the coupons and articles in this months issue of All You!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Last few shopping trips to Harris Teeter

I took my husband and son to Harris Teeter after we went to the park to watch a children's performance on Saturday morning.  I had a list of all of things that I was going to get in order to spend my $5 credit which expired on 8/28. 

I went to look for the sandwich thins and my store didn't have any... didn't even have an empty spot :(  Then I went to look for the cheese and they were all out :(  I grabbed the Minute Maid juice boxes, Gerber baby food, Gerber Graduates, Frosted Mini Wheats, and a special treat of Danimals Yogurt for my son.  I was still a little short of the $5 mark so I decided to get a loaf of bread and save me making it this week.
Total OOP $0.69
Total Savings $25.19

Then, my husband grabbed two more juice boxes and the jelly.  I miscalculated the jelly cost because I thought it was going to be free and it wasn't but it was still a great deal (even if I am blaming my bad math for going over budget).
Total OOP $0.98
Total Savings $13.68

The last check out was to pay my mom back for the two packages of juice boxes that she brought down with her last time which she said she was saving at her house for when my little man came to visit (so I used her card to get the special pricing).  Well, he already drank those... OOPS!  I will have to send these home with my Dad when he comes tomorrow.

Total OOP $0.59
Total Savings $8.44

Although overall, I got some great deals and saved a ton of money... I went over budget for the month during this trip. 

Total Monthly OOP $160.56
Total Monthly Savings $504.69

I still have one more trip to Giant to spend my $10 credit so I will be spending a little more money there too above the credit.  I don't think that it is too horrible since I was WAY under budget last month but I was still hoping that I could restrain myself during super doubles but it turned out that I couldn't :)  We will see how close I can get at Giant later this week!!  How are you doing this month??

Enough Already! Book Review

Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You by Peter Walsh was the next book on my Peter Walsh list.  I got it out of the library to see what this one was about.  I have already two of his other books and they were very motivational so I had high hopes.
The table of contents breaks down the book into a few categories with chapters underneath each topic.

1.  Introduction (about looking inward)
2. Relationships
3. Work
4. Family
5. Money
6. Health
7. Our Sense of Well-Being

Going through each topic methodically, Walsh discusses how the emotional clutter makes problems with everything else in our life.  Cleaning up the physical and emotional clutter helps clear up other problems in our lives such as extra weight and problems at work. 

The money chapter talks about how people are in debt because they make decisions to go out to eat, take extravagant vacations, and shop until they drop which means that they are spending outside their means.  The important thing to take away is that making a budget and living within the budget are really important.  This chapter also talks about debt but since we have never been in debt, this part of the chapter doesn't hold as much interest for me as the rest of the information but provides valuable insight for people who are in debt. 

Most of the steps that the author discusses are just scratching the surface to bring the attention to light.  In the health chapter, it says that you have to make the time to eat healthy and exercise.  Although this seems obvious, I think that I will have to stop sleeping in order to make time for exercise so I am still looking for a great solution on how I can do this without giving up family dinners to run out and exercise.  It certainly doesn't provide any quick fixes or solutions on how to accomplish the step but rather has you thinking about it in your own life.

If you are looking for the picking up your clutter book and getting organized that this author normally writes, this book is not it.  It seems like it might be a good book to read after you read one of his other books if you are trying to get organized.  It calls you out of certain issues and goes through excuses that people commonly use to stop trying at any goal.  I hope that you decide that you want to check out this thought provoking book at your local library or bookstore. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 8/20

Monday- Chicken and Rice Casserole
Tuesday- Fajita Chicken Wraps
Wednesday- Rosemary Chicken Pizza
Thursday- Olive Oil Pasta with Garlic Bread
Friday- Easy Chicken Parm with spaghetti (made with frozen chicken patties)
Saturday- Leftovers/Kraft Fresh Take Crusted Pork Chops with whole grain blend
Sunday- Frozen Pizza/Leftovers

My father is going to be in town this week with more daylily adventures so I tried to figure out a menu that was flexible to an extra person at the table for dinner.  Pizza, pasta and others fit the bill!  They are most likely what we would have eaten without company and I just have to add a little extra in and we are all set.  I hope that you have a great week planned too! 

If you are looking for recipe ideas, click on the recipe tab at the top of the page and see what you can find that your family would love.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weekly Goals 8/19

Just what the doctor ordered!!  Okay, maybe not the doctor but we needed a calm week in between family visits and this was it.  We should have worked a little of some productive cleaning in there but there is always next week.  I hope that you had a great week and I would love to hear about it.

This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with my family- We had a lot of time together this week and spent most of it trying to relax after company and not really being productive.  I am hoping for a more productive plan next week :) 
  • Storytime and Rhyme at library- It was very strange that we hadn't been at the library yet this week so I was really looking forward to a fun storytime.  We had a blast with singing, instruments, and books.  The presenter was super energetic and the kids loved him!
  • Go to the pool- It is always a special treat to get to go to the pool since we don't have a community pool.  We are super lucky to have a lot of friends that have memberships so we get to go visit lots of different pools... and it is free which is a big bonus!! This pool also had some old playground equipment on the side of the kiddie pool which my son loved!!!
  • Go to Movies based on books at library- Bitter sweet since this is the last week of movies at the library for the summer.  We enjoyed them tons and Dylan really liked watching them and reading the books later too!!   
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons-  I decided to get a jump on it and did it Monday during naptime.  Then on Tuesday, I finally cleaned out my long overdue coupon basket.  Boy did that make a difference.  Almost everything fit in the bottom section with just taking out the expired coupons.  I always try to do that before super doubles because it leads to a crazy time... which it did!!  Of well, maybe I will get it done sooner next time.
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I have done a great job shutting off the computer at night and if we are going to be away from the house all day. 
  • Read Nothing to Hide (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand- Done.  I finished it Monday and wrote my reviews. 
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were off to a messy start.  I did get the kitchen cleaned up in the morning but for some reason we were still having leftover mess from having company so it was extra messy.  By Wednesday, we were finally living in a cleaner house that I was able to more easily maintain.
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- I cleaned the dishes on Tuesday night to be prepared for our Wednesday outing.  I was super excited to come down to a clean kitchen and not have to do a lot of work first thing in the morning.  I rinsed them all on Wednesday night but we opted for watching all the old Grimm episodes on the NBC app to get caught up to start the new season :)
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday- Done!  I had most of the week done but no idea on what I was going to post on Friday so that was my budget update since it was mid-month and the pressure was off.
  • Schedule at least 7 posts so that can spend more time with family- Done.  I didn't have that many posts done ahead this week because my parents were here so I had a little catching up to do to get ahead again. 
  • Review book reviews completed during the week- Done and sent links to Bethany House.
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with my family
  • Good Vibrations (I think music program) at the library
  • Playdate with a friend
  • Storytime at the library
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons 
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Read
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday
  • Schedule at least 7 posts so that can spend more time with family
  • Review book reviews completed during the week
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip

Saturday, August 18, 2012

First Day of School Traditions

I sent my little man to preschool for the first time last year (while I was trying not to cry) and pictures were more of an afterthought than the plan ('cause I was lucky I wasn't crying).  I took a picture of him literally walking towards school, some of his front and some of his back.  There wasn't anything on the front porch like my mom took of us but a collection of him walking towards school.  So I am working on planning first this year :)

We are going to try to work on some first day of school traditions for our family.  I am not really sure if I remember any traditions from my family.  Do you have any great ones???  I was thinking about a special breakfast and pictures to keep it simple on a busy day.

First step, the special breakfast to prepare for school with a full tummy.  I have already gotten three options for breakfast: Dinosaur Egg Oatmeal, Pancakes, or Waffles.  I was thinking about a different place setting that would make him happy but couldn't come up with anything myself.

Here is the first idea that I saw with a special place mat and a chalk centerpiece.  But it might be a little too much for my three year old to take because he would think that it is art time first thing in the morning.

I saw this neat idea with the pencils already worked in which can be added to any other place setting ideas. 

Then I found this blog, talking about how to decorate the table for the whole family and different food ideas.  I really liked the scrabble tiles to spell out back to school.  I might do that or my little guys name at his seat or maybe his grade level.  He could hold that for the picture too!!!

First day of school pictures are the big decision next after breakfast.  Of course to avoid the rush, best make decisions ahead of time so that we are ready!! 

Here is one where they print a sign on the computer for the kid to hold.  What I love about this is that there is not any confusion later about what grade it is and what the date is because it all in the picture.  Check out the original posting and see if you like her idea.

Here is another idea of dressing them in mom and dad's clothes so that you can watch them grow into them.  Of course, the trouble runs into when my little man gets to be bigger then his Daddy!  Check out her post because there are a bunch of other pictures.

Okay, this is another one of my favorites, putting the paper up next them while they are sleeping!!! I love writing the information on the driveway in chalk (something you can do when they are young and they can do when they are older).  And putting together a neat collage is always a great option which takes a little more time.

Lastly, I decided to look at the most overwhelming place- Pinterest!!  There are way too many options here but I like recording what they want to do when they grow up as an additional option or something that they are interested in.

Do you have any great ideas?  We aren't going back to school until the second week of September so I still have lots of time to get thinking.  Hope that you have some great ideas for your little ones :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

August Monthly Budget Update

We are half way through the month already... can you believe it.  The last month of summer is zooming past.  I am really not sure where the summer went and August is no exception.

With super doubles early in the month, I peaked a little earlier in the month then I wanted to.  Only one trip to CVS so far this month to get an emergency pull-up supply.  One trip to Giant to get Popsicles for $0.48.  But I stocked up on chicken first thing in the month which I was going to do in July and didn't get a chance.  I got a ton of cereal and filled the cereal cupboard.  I had a few great trips to Target which used the overage for groceries to stock up on a few basics (and used a gift card to pay for the rest).  Most of the monthly budget was spent at Harris Teeter which is why there is also such big savings.

Total OOP $158.30
Total Savings $457.38

Total Value $615.68
Percentage Savings 74.3%

Remaining in monthly budget $1.70

I crossed off a few things on my list to get for the month with a few still left.  I got pancake mix, syrup, and Bisquick which we were totally out of at super doubles.  I also got Milk, lettuce, mac and cheese, goldfish and yeast at Target with my gift card and overage.  My mom bought me some bread flour and shake n bake at her house because it was cheaper then it was in VA. 

I know that I still have a few more things to get for the month with very little budget left (including cheese at Wegman's for two more weeks of my husband's sandwiches- Did I mention that this is going to be at least $8).  Luckily, I still have my Giant $10 credit and Harris Teeter $5 credit for the month to spend on some basics there this month.  I might have to find cheese with one of my credits :) 

I hope that you are on track for August (at least better than me) and I look forward to hearing how you are doing!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Harris Teeter Shopping Trip Final Day

My son and I took off to check on the status of the pull-ups at Harris Teeter.  We got in our green race car cart and took off (after a quick stop for a cookie).  We looked for Kashi Layer Granola bars and only found one box.. better than nothing so it was in the cart.  We found blank shelves with the Cover Girl powder puffs, Keri Lotion, Damp Rid, and some other freebies on our list.  There were some pull-ups- overnight ones and the one size bigger so we got three bags.  We checked out with my favorite cashier and we were on our way to customer service to get rain checks.

After leaving the customer service desk, I spotted the protein drinks that I missed on the way in for the rush of getting to the cookies with the little guy.  I used my card and the $5 Kimberly Clark promotion came off!!!  Normally a great thing, this order was going to be free any way so I was at a negative number.  One of the customer service people came over and she decided to break the rules and give me back the money.  Thank goodness because I didn't want to loose it all together and I didn't have anything else to get because the store was already sold out of everything on my list.  Because of the credit back, I still have a little money left in the budget for the month too!!!

Total OOP $4.84
Total Savings $39.71

Oops!  I thought I published this one before but it seems that it was sent into the computer waste land and not published. 

Thrifty Thursday: Ways to reuse plastic bags

We are a die hard reusable bag family (okay, mostly me but since I do most of the shopping... that is what matters).  We have two bag holders hanging in the doorway near the kitchen that hold our plastic bags (one for big bags and one for normal sized ones).  My husband and I went to the store with our reusable bag and he said that he wanted to use a plastic bag because he needed something for his bathroom trash can :)  Strangely, I had to ask a friend for some of her plastic bags because we ran really low because we do LOVE to reuse our few plastic bags. 

How do you reuse your bags??  The first ten are the ways that we use our bags (plus a few more ways that I found good and funny)!!!  I would love any other ideas to get the most out of the plastic grocery bags.

1.  Trash can liners for the bathroom trash can- It is so much easier to get the trash out of the bathroom when there is a bag in and if there is anything messy, you don't have to clean the trash can.  There is also a special trash can that you can buy that hooks the bag to either side.

2. To return items to the store- Please tell me if I bought it in a reusable bag, why I feel it is better to return it in a plastic bag.  I really am not sure why that is but maybe it is just me being stuck in the past.

3. Recycle at the grocery store- Most stores have bins inside the entrance or exit to put your plastic bags.  If you can't find it, ask the customer service desk and I am sure that they can direct you to one.  We used to do this all the time before I found reusable bags but now I am super stingy with my bags since we don't have too many.

4. Garage Sales-  We had a garage sale and gave everyone that bought something a plastic bag to take home their loot.  There were a few people who didn't need bags or they brought their own but most people still needed something to carry home all their goodies.

5.  Wrap around paint brush- After you are done painting, it is great to seal up the paint brush or roller in a plastic bag so that is stays moist.  That way you can use the paint brush to do the second coat without cleaning in between.  Some people also have luck freezing the paint brushes in between but that has never worked for us :)  As my husband pointed out to me, it also makes it easier to take off the paint roller later because you have something to grip and not get paint all over your hands!

6.  Use for packing materials-  When we moved, we used to wrap everything in newspaper.  I hate the feeling of newspaper but also it means that you have to wash everything when you get to the new house.  The last time we moved (over 9 years ago now) I wrapped in plastic bags and then the items didn't have the gross film on the outside from the newspaper print.  If something needed extra padding, then I wrapped the already plastic bag wrapped item in the newspaper :)  I never would have thought about buying something like bubble wrap when we already had so many useful ingredients around.

7. Protective material- Also great for packing up breakables or decorations that are in storage. We use them for all our Christmas decorations before putting them away so they can be used every year.  We use them to wrap ornaments and decorations that go around the house.  The great thing is that it provides padding and dust protection at the same time!

8. Diaper Pail-  We used to have the fancy diaper pail that kept all the smells inside when my little guy was really little but since he is bigger and started going through less diapers, we used plastic bags and took them out to the trash more often.  Also, good to put in the diaper bag for diaper changes on the go.

9.  Wet or Dirty Clothes Bag-  We always pack an extra plastic bag to put in wet clothes and towels from the pool.  Anytime we travel, we keep an extra plastic bag in suitcase so that we can start putting the dirty clothes in the bag to keep them away from the clean clothes.  It helps to keep the wet and dirty clothes away from the stuff that might not have to get washed or might need to used later.  We now have two fabric bags that fold up that we also use for this purpose too to try to be more green.

10.  Lunch bag-  For many years, my husband used on plastic bag to bring his lunch to work (because he said what else would a man use).  Although better better than the old paper lunch bags, I finally got him to start taking a reusable lunch bag within the last year (because I found a manly one).  We went through many to transport his lunch to work everyday but often reusing the one for over a week until it got a hole.

11. Draft Blocker- Sew a fabric tube and stuff it with bags, then keep it next to exterior doors to stop drafts.  We have one from the store and if I knew this frugal tip, I might have tried to make one first!

12. Ice Proof Car- Tie bags around your rear view mirrors and windshield wipers for less scraping in the morning when you are getting ice and snow.  I don't know about this one because it seems just as likely that the bag will get stuck in the ice but I have seen it a lot in Northern VA (about as much as the people who pull out their wipers the night before a storm).

13. Toy Strainer- Poke small holes in one and hang it in the shower to drain kids' toys in between bath times so that you don't have to dry each toy off.  It helps dry and prevent mold.

14. Snowy weather gear- Keep your feet dry in bad weather by wearing bags on your feet between your socks and boots.  I know that my mom used to use this for my brother back when moon boots were cool because they leaked and often came off his feet.  I haven't seen a lot of adult wear this into the office on a snowy day but maybe they are changing in the car!

15. Summer weather gear- Tie them around your knees to protect pants when gardening so that you can kneel on the ground and not worry about getting wet and muddy.

16. Shoe covers-  If it is rainy or muddy, cover shoes to make a quick run out of the house to get the mail or grab something that isn't supposed to be getting wet.  Take off when you get back to the house and you leave all the weather outside.  Then you don't get your house dirty or your shoes.

17. Kids entertainment- Cut the handles off a bag so that you have a large circle. Then, poke some holes around its perimeter and tie a piece of string in each hole. Tie the string ends together and tie a large washer or other toy on the end to weight done the end. Throw in the air and you have a toy parachute to have fun with for hours.  Here are some step by step instructions in case you are as interested as I am in this new project!! Or if you don't have any string and are looking for a challenge to make it with a straw, try this one but don't do this one with the kids because it looks like it might be a little bit more of an adult craft.

18. Cast protection- Put plastic bag over casts to take showers so that they don't get wet.  The handles make a perfect handle to tie around the cast to make sure that it doesn't fall off.

19. Pet cleanup-  If you have a dog to follow on a walk and clean up, plastic bags are a must.  They are also super helpful to clean out kitty litter (of course, you may have to double bag to assure nothing gets out).

20. Watering can-  Don't have a watering can?  Fill a plastic bag with water and cut off the corner.  You can use it to pour directly on the plants and pick up the corner when you are done pouring.  The nice thing is that it weighs less than a watering can so you can fill with more water and it won't be as heavy.

21. Shape Keepers- Ball up bags and stuff them into purses to help them keep their shape in the off-season.  Also used for shoes!!

22. Curtain filler-  I don't know if the curtains are still in style but my aunt used to have all these balloon valances and in order to make them super puffy, she filled them with plastic bags because they were light weight and gave volume. Check out this blog for details.

23. Defrost protection- Defrost meat in a bag lined with paper towels to catch condensation and any leaking juices so that they don't get all over the fridge.  There is nothing worse then defrosting a steak and spending all of time you were supposed to be cooking, chasing bloody meat juices around the fridge to sanitize.

24.  Car trash can-  Stash a few in your truck to make sure that you always have a trash can for long car rides or during sicknesses to hold all those icky tissues.  There is nothing worse than cleaning up messy stuff in the car after getting home so making it easy in one grab to get inside.

25. Crochet items-  Cut plastic bags into strips and crochet into a rug or other crafts.  This is by far the strangest idea that I have heard but if you have the extra time or need, it seems like it might be interesting!  Want to check out a neat pattern for a purse?  It would be super neat to make a reusable bag for the grocery store out of plastic grocery bag right?

26.  Crafty Wreath-  Cut into strips and tie around a wire frame (can be made from coat hanger) to make a weather proof wreath for your front door.  If you use a lot of fun bright colors, you can decorate for different holidays based on the color combinations.  Check out this one or this one.  You can decorate with a bow or other seasonal decorations like ornaments or Easter eggs.

27. Scarecrow-  Use to stuff the scarecrow you made with you extra shirts from last weeks post!!!  Check out this neat post on how to make it from top to bottom or you can buy a ready made one to stuff.

Do you have any to add to my list to make it an even 30???  Let me know and I will add them :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nothing to Hide Book Review

Nothing to Hide (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand was my next book from Bethany House Publishers that I got to choose.  It seemed drastically different from the lat two that I read so it seemed like a great choice.

Although this is the first book that I have read from the author, J. Mark Bertrand, I was instantly interested in his writing style.  The writing in this book reminds me of Robert Parker who wrote the Jesse Stone series and lots of others.  The language was very flowery and detailed to start out the book.  I was quickly engrossed in the book and couldn't put it down.  The characters are wonderful and the plot was full of twists and turns.

The main character is Roland March, a police detective, who is working on a case where there is a headless corpse in a park.  Dedicated to right and wrong, he continues on the case even after suspension from a shooting in the line of duty.  Not knowing who to trust, he has many different groups of people helping him to put together the pieces including the Houston police, FBI, and possible CIA working to clear his name and do the right thing.  The great thing is that this book covers not only his work life but including his home life with wife and friends.  It seems to be a little more realistic view of the detective's complete life so that you understand his motivations.

I don't want to ruin the mystery but check it out for yourself!!!  I can't wait to read some other books by this author!!  Going to add them to my list of books to find at the library next starting at the beginning of this series and working my way through as long as the author keeps writing this series :) I hope that you all check it out at your local library or bookstore!!

If you would like to receive review copies of books, you can sign up with Bethany House, too!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Nothing to Hide from Bethany House Publishers. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Harris Teeter Shopping Trip #6 and 7

I was super hopeful if I went to Harris Teeter again that they would have the things in that I still didn't get but I was wrong.  On my way down an aisle, I was stopped by a girl playing in the electric wheelchair.  I was a little confused and then she couldn't get the thing to work and get out of my way so she stood up and let her mom "drive" it.  I was starting to get a little irritated when I realized that I was stopped in front of the Weber Seasoning which was on sale for $1.99.  Ummm, I just cleaned out my whole coupon basket and there was a coupon for that in there!!!!  It would be free after coupon so I grabbed three and brought them with me to look for the rest of the deals.  No more luck after that miracle find.

Then the reason that I came was one package of pull-ups so I grabbed those.  I noticed when I got home that I needed 6.02 towards getting my next $5 reward from Kimberly Clark!!  WHAT!  I would only have to pay $3 for a bag of diapers and get $5 back.  Well, that is enough excuse to get off the couch and make it back to the store so I did.

I checked out and realized that there were only a few hours left in the sale and tons of the Weber Seasoning so I went back and got 3 Weber Seasoning for my mom on her card since I totally didn't see the deal while she was here and shopping.  These are the ones right up her alley :)
Total OOP $3.40
Total Savings $26.20

Sad and glad that it is over!!!  I have some extra time now and very little budget left for the month :)

Check out what I got in the mail!

I got this new Almond and Aloe lotion packet in the mail from Caswell Massey.  Isn't it pretty!!!

This was during my cleaning binge so I decided that I deserved a treat and I wouldn't put this in my travel bag (also known as the group of small samples that I bring with me the very few times that I travel so that I don't have to worry about not having anything).  I used it and it was great.  Not only did it make my skin soft (even after I washed my hands) but it smelled like almond.... YUM!  I smelled like a cookie which made me a little hungry but it was super!  If you wander by the store that has it, I highly recommend you give it a sniff.  Since I am on a lotion fast and not currently (maybe ever) buying another lotion, I won't be getting this one but maybe you will enjoy :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Harris Teeter Shopping Trip #5 (Possibly the last)

Sadly, we are getting close to the end of super doubles.  My son and I went to the store today to grab some pull-ups.  They have been on my list all week but I kept forgetting to print the coupon.  I finally did it the other night along with a few more deals that I wanted to get but they were out of all of them :(  No more Damp Rid, Cover Girl Powder Puffs, Smart Balance Milk, Cottonelle Toilet paper, and lots more.

I grabbed a package of nighttime pull-ups because it was the only one left.  I was super tempted to by the princess ones since I know that he would like them just fine too but I wasn't sure if the girl ones had a different absorption area for the tinkle??  I would prefer not to get the leaks so I am crossing my fingers for tomorrow.

We also grabbed one more turkey lunch meat so that we can make it through a long time without having to worry about getting more lunch meat.  I also got two Red Baron Pizzas since they were on an evic special for $2.77.  I was hoping to get a little more and save a little more but it was still worth the trip.

Total OOP $11.90
Total Savings $15.25

Menu Plan Monday 8/13

Monday- Olive Oil Spaghetti with garlic bread
Tuesday- Buffalo Chicken Wraps with mac and cheese
Wednesday- Leftover Chicken Fingers
Thursday- Pizza Roll
Friday- Orange Ginger Grilled Chicken with simplfied fried rice
Saturday- leftovers/Frozen Pizza
Sunday- ??/??

This week seemed super hard to plan for but I don't know why.  I usually start at the beginning of the month and plot out the whole month so things are a little spaced out so that we aren't eating grilled chicken every day :)  Since I got the chicken later and cut it up, I had to do a little figuring while I was preparing the chicken for the freezer.  The flexiblity was just too much for me!!  I guess I have gotten really used to the meal plan and working with what we have in the house.  Plus we were out of ground beef so it was hard to put things in the middle of the plan that weren't also chicken :)  Here is what I think that we are going to have but I guess it is subject to change this week.  Hope that you have a great week!!!