Friday, May 31, 2019

May Month End Shopping and Eating Out Budget

My monthly budget for all of our household goods is $160 which includes all our groceries, paper goods, and everything for the house.  I use sales, coupons and anything else that I can come up with in order to stretch our budget as far as I can and get the most for my family.  Normally our meal plan is made from the the things that are in the the freezer and pantry from the previous months and I use sales to stock up for future months.  Sometimes there are urgent needs but mostly I get as much as I can that is on sale to stock for future months.  This month seemed to be getting a lot of things that we were using right away because stock has gone down in most areas in the fridge, freezer and pantry.

We also have a monthly eating out budget of $40.  This spending together with my grocery spending keeps my budget at $200 for all of our expenses.  I used to track the budgets separately but I try to do better about taking the over spending on one category by taking it out on another one. Below is how I did for eating out spending.

Check out below what I got and the breakdown of my shopping trips and eating out.  The shopping trips in the first half of the month don't have a break down because I broke them down here.  There are details on the second half of the month trips but all trips show the total and items purchased.

Aldi $27.61

Harris Teeter $3.58

Harris Teeter $1.67

Harris Teeter $16.88


Harris Teeter $20.10

Harris Teeter $25.84

Harris Teeter $2.19

Harris Teeter $3.85

Harris Teeter $0.08

Harris Teeter $3.65

Harris Teeter $11.12

Harris Teeter $1.95

Harris Teeter $0.11

Walmart $0

We were out of CranGrape juice and my family really wanted it and we were also running low on peroxide so I decided that it was best to get it at Walmart.  I went and got the two Pink Cranberry juice with coupons that I had in my stash.  The total was $8.85 and I had a $10 gift card so that I could get it all free.

Safeway $0

I went to get soda which was $14 for the 4 cases after the Buy Two, Get Two free.  I had a free electronic coupon to get the orange juice and the yogurt.  The sale pricing made more money come off the total so I spent less than that on the soda.  It is the reason that it is so hard to go get just the free things at the store.  I have $1.08 left on my gift card and I got another free item on my account so I guess I will see what I can spend it on.

Harris Teeter $2.86

I needed potatoes and I thought I would grab them at Safeway but they were really expensive and I didn't get them there so I ran over to Harris Teeter where they are cheaper then Aldi and they last longer.  Get them just in time for dinner that night!

Aldi $1.93

We were running out of milk so I grabbed another gallon from Aldi when I passed it from appointments so that I didn't have to go back out a day later. Love it when I remember!

 Giant $0

I went to the store to get my freebies.  I gave the Sabra Hummus to my mom and she bought a little treat for my husband (gum) and my son (popsicles) so that they had something when they came home and she left.  It was about $2.50 but she paid for it.

Harris Teeter $7.06

It was the first day of Super Doubles and I was not prepared even though I knew I was going.  I got the Taste and Tell cheese because I hadn't picked it up yet.  I got the Kool Aid because it was on sale for 6/$1 still and we were out again.  I got the Cinnamon and Sugar Pretzels for $0.99 per bag. My husband was out of Tums so I got two bottles of those.  I tried to get sunblock but the pricing didn't ring up correctly so I asked them to take it off.  I started the process and explained to the new cashier that he needed to cover the part of the coupon so that the computer didn't crash and he promptly crashed my register and I had to go check out at self checkout.  It was upsetting because I was in a hurry to get my son and because I literally just told him and he ignored me.

Harris Teeter $17.86

I was going to try a second try and super doubles and hope to do better but I don't think that I did.  I got the ground chicken for $1.49 per pound.  I got the Coppertone for $3.99 each.  I got the lunch meat for my husband because I thought he was out...he wasn't yet.  I got the McCain wedges with the evic coupon to get them buy one, get one free and then did the Ibotta rebate to get $1.60 total back ($0.10 any item and $0.75 each for McCain).

Harris Teeter $4.49

I got excited because I found coupons on the bottles of Franks with a new flavor and went to check out with them and they were expired by a lot. The customer service person said that they would give me the coupon value but not double it so I didn't get the sauce and had to have them all taken off.  I got my free bacon bits.  I also got the sunblock that I wanted.  It turned out that I didn't look at the receipt but it didn't ring up correctly so I was a little sad that I forgot to check my receipt but I hope to go back and get the price fixed.

Total Retail $665.99
Total Savings $513.16
Total OOP $152.83

I had a rough beginning of the month with high spending so I did a better job later in the month.  I went to Walmart to get a few things and got a My Points Gift card to pay for it.  I used the extra gift card to pay for part of a birthday gift that my son picked out for his friend.  I got another gift card awhile back for Safeway and used it to get some soda and a few freebies.  I love having the flexibility to stretch my budget when I need to using my gift cards from points.  There were a few more sales that came up with super doubles at the end of the month that made it hard to pass up. Great news is that I ended up under budget!!

Eating Out

Too much eating out this month for sure!!  I used the rest of a Burger King gift card to get a hamburger so I paid $0.33 out of pocket so that I could go straight from physical therapy to the book fair at my son's school.  We got Pizza Hut for my cousins and our family before going to Fun Fair at school for $22.25.  My cousin bought Chinese food the next day so we didn't have to pay for it.  We went out to dinner to Cheesecake Factory and split the bill so we paid $55.82.  I went to Pisano's for lunch one day with my dad and he paid for the sandwiches.  We got take out from the Chinese restaurant and my father paid so no more out of pocket for the month.  The total eating out was $78.40 for the month which is well over the $40 budget for eating out.  We ate out way too much this month but made it through only $38.40 over budget but taking it this month and moving on.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Take Me Home for Christmas Book Review

I thought I had a huge pile of books to read but it turned out that most of them where in the to review pile.  I thought I reviewed all the books and I found another one that I hadn't!!  Oops!  Good thing that I found in in a pile of papers.  Take Me Home for Christmas (Whiskey Creek) by Brenda Novak was the missing review.

Christmas is a time for remembering... Too bad not all memories are pleasant! Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town's Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned. But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she "did" marry was rich and powerful but abusive. Then he goes missing--and she soon learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he's left her to face all the townspeople he cheated.... Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she accepts a job as housekeeper for Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can't turn his back on her, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. Will Christmas, the season of love and forgiveness, bring them another chance at happiness?

This book was a little heart wrenching and unexpected.  Sophia has been a character in many of the previous books and this is the book where you get to find out lots more about her.  She starts geting over rehab by spending time with her family on a ship.  She married Skip after high school and turned everyone against her because they felt that she married for money and not for love.  Sophia led a hard life with her husband beating her whenever he didn't like what she did and then she woke up on the boat to find him missing.  She tried to figure out what to do and quickly learned that the FBI closed down his business and froze all their assets.  Sophia was left in another country with no money and no way home and no idea where her husband was.  What is worse is she had to go home to the small town where many invested with her husband and many turned against her and her daughter.  Although different from many of the others in the series, it was a great read that had you on the edge of your seat to find out what is going to happen next.  I hope that you check out this book and the other books in the Whiskey Creek series.  I think that you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Hearts Afire Book Review

I have read a few books by Marta Perry and I grabbed this while I was at the library.  I was hopeful that this is one that I haven't read before.  I was excited when I found out that I haven't read Hearts Afire (The Flanagans, Book 5) (Love Inspired #380) by Marta Perry.

Firefighter paramedic Terry Flanagan saw her clinic for migrant farm workers as the perfect way to make a difference. But when Dr. Jacob Landsdowne was assigned to oversee her project, she wondered if her dreams would go up in smoke.

Two years ago a tragedy had touched both their lives and almost destroyed Jacob's career. Now he was intent on rebuilding his reputation, and Terry's clinic was an unwanted distraction. Yet, with the well-being of women and children hanging in the balance, maybe it was time Jacob put aside his trust in himself…and turn to God.

Super cute and quick read.  I read another book in the past about the Flanagans and remember looking at the library to see if there were any other books in the series and they didn't come up.  I saw this on the shelf so I grabbed it.  I was excited to meet another Flanagan that I hadn't before.  This book followed Terry who was a firefighter and paramedic.  She worked hard to open a clinic for the migrant farmers so that they could get medical help.  With help from other volunteers in the town, the migrant camp is up and running well.  The biggest problem is that Jake is the person who has to oversee everything from the hospital and he and Terry have a rocky history from their time in Philadelphia.  You have to pick up the book to find out what happened in the past and what that is going to change in their present situation.  There is a few times that God is put in where it didn't really have a place but it passed quickly and didn't impact the story line.  It I hope that you check out this book and all the other Flanagan series books and enjoy them as I have.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Tinderbox Book Review

I was super excited to read another book in the Beverly Lewis series but I didn't know which series it was part of.  Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis was the next book in the pile to read.  I didn't know it was a stand alone novel until after I read it but most of the books still seem like a part of a big series.

With her Amish parents' twentieth anniversary approaching, eighteen-year-old Sylvia Miller stumbles across a surprise--the old brass tinderbox her clockmaker father keeps in his Lancaster County shop has been left unlocked. Against her better judgment, Sylvia opens the cherished heirloom, not realizing that what she is about to discover will splinter apart her happy life. Sylvia's bewilderment grows when her father confronts her about snooping in the box. To her amazement, the respected convert to the Old Order reacts as if he has something to hide.

Burdened by the weight of his deception, Earnest Miller decides he must reveal the details about his past to his beloved wife, Rhoda. The long-kept secret alters everything for the close-knit family, jeopardizing Earnest and Rhoda's relationship, as well as threatening Sylvia's recent engagement to the preacher's grandson.  Can the Millers find a way forward through the turmoil to a place of forgiveness and acceptance?

I thought that this was an interesting book with lots of ups and downs because of the choices that are made.  Sylvia is cleaning up her fathers shop and finds a key to his special box where he keeps his memories of the English world before he became Amish.  The problem comes when she finds a watch with engraving on it that was from another woman.  She tells her father that she will keep his secret which is very hard on her so her father tells her mother the truth about his past.  There are tons of things that happen because the truth is finally revealed but even knowing that, there are many surprises that happen.  You have to pick up the book to find out what happens for yourself.  I hope that you check out this book and see how amazing the characters and writing of Beverly Lewis are but if you already like her, add this one to your list.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Menu Plan Monday 5/27

Monday- Chicken Fries, Chicken Wraps and homemade fries
Tuesday- Chicken Parm with spaghetti
Wednesday-Frozen Pizza and chopped salad
Thursday- Grilled Chicken with rice
Friday- Simple Fried Rice and Egg Rolls
Sunday-Whole Roasted Chicken with potatoes or rice

I have done an amazing job clearing out the freezer and I have gone through almost everything in the freezer but it is still really packed full with chicken broth, sausage, meatballs, chicken nuggets and a whole turkey!!  I was trying to thaw it out but still haven't gotten there yet.  I guess I might try but it is starting to look like it might be easier to give up and wait until after the summer months.  I guess I will see what sales are coming up to see if I have more things going in the freezer!  How does your week look??

Friday, May 24, 2019

Crashing Heat Book Review

I put a bunch more books on reserve and they all seemed to be coming in at the same time but I luckily had enough time to read them this time.  The top of my list was Crashing Heat (Nikki Heat) by Richard Castle.  I was excited to see what trouble Nicki Heat got into in the latest saga of the book!  After reading it, I was surprised when I went back and found out it was the 10th book in the series! 

Marriage. It's a double-edged sword, or at least it is for Nikki Heat. Her husband, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jameson Rook, infuriates her in a way no one else in her entire life has ever done. He also takes her to heights of pleasure she has never experienced. But most of all, she loves the man with all her heart and she'd do anything to protect him. Which is just what she had done not so long ago. It had almost cost them everything.

Now, Rook is given the honor to be a visiting professor at his alma mater, and he can't pass up the opportunity to mentor bourgeoning writers at his former award-winning college newspaper. Shortly after his arrival on campus, a female reporter for the paper is found dead?naked?in Rook's bed.

Dealing with betrayal from any man is not Nikki's style. She and Jameson have had plenty of conflicts during their complicated relationship, but none like this. Is her husband keeping secrets of his own, or can she really trust him? In order to find out, Nikki gives Jameson the benefit of the doubt and digs into Jameson's theory of a secret society within a secret society. What she finds puts her investigative skills, and her marriage, to the test.

In this book, Nicki is dealing with her husband, Jameson Rook, going to his alma mater to teach writing.  It is far away and this will be the first time in their marriage that they spend this much time apart.  Nicki isn't happy to be sleeping by herself while her husband is away.  It all changes quickly when she gets the call that Rook needs her help.  She drops everything and goes to help clear his name.  It is a crazy mystery that they unfold together and I think that you will enjoy the interesting journey.  The mystery is one that you will never believe.  I hope that you check out this book and enjoy it as much as I have.  The series was a great addition to the show that I already loved.  Just make sure you keep the two separate because the characters are very different. I hope that you start at the beginning of the series and work your way through but that is just how I like to read them so enjoy them as you like!!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Menu Plan Monday 5/20

Monday- Chicken Fries, Chicken Wraps and homemade fries
Tuesday- Ground Stir Fry Chicken with Jasmine rice
Wednesday- Spaghetti with meatballs and zuchini
Thursday- Frozen Pizza
Friday- Simple Fried Rice and Egg Rolls
Sunday-Whole Roasted Chicken with potatoes

Last week we were doing great except we threw the chicken on the salads on Tuesday instead of making sandwiches.  We had great chicken parm on Wednesday but I totally didn't have the time to make the zucchini so planning on making it this week.  By Thursday, I barely got dinner on the table.  Friday was the end to a long work week and I hadn't even taken the chicken out.  I decided to go with leftover rice and then we did three different kinds of tacquitos...only one of them being chicken but it was easy and tasty and I thought it was super successful that I got the meal on the table at all.  Then Saturday came, we decided to have frozen pizzas for lunch so there was nothing in the plan for dinner.  My father was visiting and we decided to get take out Chinese.  Sunday was leftover Chinese for lunch and then the rest of the leftovers in the fridge for dinner.

I thought I posted this Monday but realized that I didn't!!  Oops!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven Book Review

I had a bunch of books on reserve and this one came on my shelf.  I didn't know that there was a new book in this series but I was interested in seeing what it was about.  The Next Person You Meet in Heaven: The Sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom was the next book in my pile to read.  I was interested in finding out what this book was going to be about.

In this enchanting sequel to the number one bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie’s heavenly reunion with Annie—the little girl he saved on earth—in an unforgettable novel of how our lives and losses intersect.

Fifteen years ago, in Mitch Albom’s beloved novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, the world fell in love with Eddie, a grizzled war veteran- turned-amusement park mechanic who died saving the life of a young girl named Annie. Eddie’s journey to heaven taught him that every life matters. Now, in this magical sequel, Mitch Albom reveals Annie’s story.

The accident that killed Eddie left an indelible mark on Annie. It took her left hand, which needed to be surgically reattached. Injured, scarred, and unable to remember why, Annie’s life is forever changed by a guilt-ravaged mother who whisks her away from the world she knew. Bullied by her peers and haunted by something she cannot recall, Annie struggles to find acceptance as she grows. When, as a young woman, she reconnects with Paulo, her childhood love, she believes she has finally  found happiness.  As the novel opens, Annie is marrying Paulo. But when her wedding night day ends in an unimaginable accident, Annie finds herself on her own heavenly journey—and an inevitable reunion with Eddie, one of the five people who will show her how her life mattered in ways she could not have fathomed.

Poignant and beautiful, filled with unexpected twists, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven reminds us that not only does every life matter, but that every ending is also a beginning—we only need to open our eyes to see it.

As all books by Mitch Albom are, this is a big tear jerker.   I didn't remember the last book because I read it so long ago but this book stands alone as a great novel.  When you die, you go to heaven and meet five people who shaped your life.  Annie starts the book by getting married to the love of her life and through flashbacks, you see glimpses into her childhood.  On her wedding night, she decides that she wants to go on a balloon ride and her husband Paulo saves her life.  When they get to the hospital, Paulo needs a lung and Annie donates her's.  The trip through the people who have changed her life including dealing with her surgery, her childhood move and more.  It is amazing to see all of the things that change Annie's life and how it made her into the person that she is today.  I think that you should pick up this book and make sure you also pick up your tissues but you can see how Annie's life changed with just a few people.  The book makes you appreciate your life and all the people who have helped you through yours.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Home to Whiskey Creek Book Reiew

I was excited to get to the fourth book in the series Home to Whiskey Creek by Brenda Novak.  I have enjoyed getting to know all the people who live in this small town.  There has been a new person introduced every book so I was interested in learning about the newest person to come back to Whiskey Creek.

Adelaide Davies, who's been living in Sacramento, returns to Whiskey Creek, the place she once called home. She's there to take care of her aging grandmother and to help with Gran's restaurant, Just Like Mom's. But Adelaide isn't happy to be back. There are too many people here she'd rather avoid, people who were involved in that terrible June night fifteen years ago.  Ever since the graduation party that changed her life, she's wanted to go to the police and make sure the boys responsible—men now—are punished. But she can't, not without revealing an even darker secret. So it's better to pretend…. Noah Rackham, popular, attractive, successful, is shocked when Adelaide won't have anything to do with him. He has no idea that his very presence reminds her of something she'd rather forget. He only knows that he's finally met a woman he could love.

Addy was living in the big city and came back to her small home town to take care of her grandmother who raised her.  Her grandmother is getting older and having trouble running the restaurant that she has always taken care of but Addy is in the restaurant business so she comes back to help.  It is clear from the very begining that this is the hardest thing that she has done because she has to confront the past.  She has been running away from what happened in high school since she left but when she gets home she is quickly reminded that small towns never forget.  She goes through a lot but Noah seems to be the shining point except she is keeping the secret from him.  There was lots of stressful parts with uncovering the mystery of what was happening as well as sad parts as Addy works through her past but it was an amazing book that kept me turning pages needing to find out what happens next.  I hope that you check out this book and the rest of the series and enjoy it as much as I have.  I think that you will enjoy these quick reads that draw you in and have you not being able to put them down as much as I have.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Homemade Chicken and Rice Casserole (Copycat Campbells Chicken Casserole)

I decided that I was going to try to make homemade Chicken and Rice Casserole just like the Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup one that my husband loves.  In case you like it and want to make it from scratch or even if you haven't, it is way easy and this tastes the same or better then the original with a can of soup.

First, I started by getting out the ingredients to make the Cream Soup base.  If you have time to do this early, you can make it early and refrigerate before or you can make it hot and put it straight into the casserole.  I found it was super easy to cook up in the morning and I actually stuck the whole pan in the fridge to cool.

First step is to put in milk and cornstarch.  I used a whisk to mix everything together but since I use a nonstick pan, I do it with a plastic whisk which actually works great.

Next is to add the seasonings needed to make the soup and the seasonings I like to add to the casserole.  It was super flavorful and the main difference from the canned soup as well as there aren't weird chunks of meat in it which I don't like in cream of chicken soup.

 I added the butter and you can see that it is thickening and sticking to the whisk.

After the butter is melted, it is wonderfully coating the whisk and it was wonderful.  At this point you have a condensed cream of chicken soup.

The important step that makes it easier then the canned soup and adds the chicken flavor which way better then the canned soup, is to add chicken broth.  It needs 1 1/3 cup chicken broth which I did over heat and mixed it together. 

 It ends up the consistency of soup because it basically is ready to eat.

In the 7x11 pan, I add 3/4 cup of rice.  The first time I made it, I added the seasoning to this instead of soup but the second time I added everything to the soup.  This can also be measured beforehand so that it is ready to go at dinner time.

When it is time for dinner,  you add the pot of soup to your rice.  I stir back and forth to combine.  My husband swears that I do something differently here because he could never get this to work without me but I swear I move a fork around until it seems thicker.

The next step is to bread the chickens which is great to do with just wet chicken into the breadcrumbs to make it easier.  During this process, I press the chicken tenders very thinly.  I can normally only fit 5 pieces of chicken across the top so if you need more you can bread and bake on another pan.

Each on is lightly placed on top of of the rice mixture and I get them to float (my husband only gets them to sink). 

I go across the whole pan and try to fit my 5 chicken pieces across.

There are a few different ways that you can do the next step but I used to spray with cooking spray but I don't use that any more. I frequently just drizzle a little canola or vegetable oil on the chicken to help crispy up the breadcrumbs.  This time I mixed a little melted butter into the remaining breadcrumbs.

It made it nice and chunky to add a little more bread crumbs because the chicken didn't seem to hold the crumb as much.  I wanted a little more crunchy topping.

I sprinkled it on the top of the chicken.

It is funny how different the coloring of the two breadcrumbs showed up but it wasn't super thick just a sprinkling.

I baked it until the top browns and the rice comes together.

It is super easy to see in my pans because it sort of goes up the sides and gets less liquidy on the sides.

 You can see here how the soup sticks to the chicken and to the edge of the pan.

We scoop it all out together on to our plates and enjoy the tasty dinner.  There is an option to put a veggie in the pan like peas or broccoli but we like our veggies separate so we don't put any into the casserole.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 1/3 cup chicken broth 
  • 3/4 c rice
  • 5 chicken tenders
  • Breadcrumbs
  1. In a small saucepan whisk together milk and cornstarch. Add butter, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and parsley.  Add more seasonings to taste.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, simmer for 30 more seconds to thicken.
  3. Add chicken broth and stir until combined. Set aside to cool or use right away.
  4. Preheat over to 375 degrees
  5. Mix soup with rice in a 7x11 casserole dish until combined with a fork.
  6. Bread wet chicken tenders and flatten.  Place chicken on top of the rice mixture in the casserole dish.
  7. Use cooking spray, canola or vegetable oil, or melted butter to coat each chicken tender.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until brown and serve.
Super tasty and easy meal to make with things that we always have around the house.  Super flexible to change to what ever seasoning you prefer.  The original soup recipe can be found here and the Campbells Chicken and Rice Casserole original recipe can be found here.  You can see from these recipes that I have changed these recipes and added my own take on it over the years and the recipe just keeps changing.  I hope that you try this recipe and enjoy it as much as we do and feel free to change it up to fit your families needs.