Monday, July 29, 2019

Menu Plan Monday 7/29

Chicken Fries, Homemade Fries and Tater Tots
Chicken and Rice
Salsa Sloppy Joes with mac and cheese

Last week I did my meals in order just like I planned with nothing planned by the time that I got to the weekend.  We did a easy chicken parm on Saturday which was super tasty.   Sunday I took out chicken to grill which turns out that I took out the smaller chicken that was supposed to be breaded so it was a little smaller but tasty!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Becoming Book Review

I was at the pool and another mom recommended this book so I grabbed it when I saw it on the new release section at the library.  I decided to grab it and see if I could read it before leaving for vacation because it was due the day we get back so I didn't think that I could make it to the library before it closed.  Becoming by Michelle Obama was a huge and heavy book at 426 pages but it was a great story that had me having trouble putting it down.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

I didn't have any expectations going into the book but I thought it was quickly interesting to start with Michelle Obama's early life and see where she came from.  It is interesting that all of our families lives form who we become later in life and it was very interesting to see where she came from and what was important to her family.  I thought it was great to follow her life all the way through the White House and after to see the things behind the scenes that we didn't see before.  I was excited to share in some of the things that she experienced.  It is crazy to see how much the public affects people because of the things that they say.  It makes you think twice about what you say and how it affects others in all circumstances.  I hope that you check it out and enjoy it as much as I did.  I promise it is well worth reading and I think that you will enjoy it regardless of politics.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Love Letter Book Review

I thought I reserved this book at the library but I actually got another one.  I had to go back and reserve this one to actually get to read it.  Super glad that I did because it was a great read that I enjoyed.  The Love Letters by Beverly Lewis was a great book about letters that Marlena was writing to her beau and letters that the visitor has to uncover the truth to his past.

Marlena needed time to let things sink in. It was beyond her how all this could possibly work out--adding the care of an infant to her daily routine. Fortunately, it would just be until Luella returned home from the hospital and was stronger.No more than a couple weeks, surely.

Marlena Wenger's life takes an unexpected turn on the day she learns she must care for her estranged sister's baby. Spending the summer in Brownstown, Pennsylvania, to assist her Mennonite grandmother, and miles from Marlena's Old Order Amish beau, she feels out of her element in nearly every respect. Yet Marlena determines to do her best and stay focused on her future, even as those hopes become drastically altered.

Marlena goes to her grandparents house to take care of her grandmother after her grandfathers death and then ends up getting her niece to take care of too.  She finds out that her estranged sister is dead shortly after loosing her grandfather and she feels very sad about the time lost with both of her loved ones.  Marlena is surprised how much she loves this little girl and becomes very attached to her.   She doesn't want to give her up when her father comes back for her but she wants what is best for the little girl so she does what she has to do.  In the process, she learns a lot about her beau who she was supposed to be marrying because she forbids her to go to the more progressive church with her grandmother and refuses to let her keep her niece to care for her.  It is a great book with a lot of strong emotions because of all the lives lost and pressure to do the best with the precious baby.  I hope that you pick up this book and enjoy it as much as I have.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Menu Plan Monday 7/22

Chicken Fries, Homemade Fries and Tater Tots
Chicken and Rice

I haven't published my menus for the past two weeks which I had in draft form and just didn't finish.  Life has been a little busy.  We were on vacation and then transitioning back to a busy week.   I did have a menu plan and mostly got everything planned on the table but I have moved to the list form which has helped to pick what works best for the day based on what we are doing and how late we are at the pool.  I guess we will see how this week works out.  How has summer menu planning changed for you?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

California Girls Book Review

I had reserved California Girls by Susan Mallery before and not gotten to read it before it was due back last time.  I kept the sticker and said that I would reserve it again so that I could finally read it.  The great thing is that it came at a time when I didn't have any other books and it came in paper back instead of hard back so it was even lighter to carry around.  Of course, I didn't need to do that for long because I finished it quickly.

The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters

who get dumped in the same week…

Finola, a popular LA morning-show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by the news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.

Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.

Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancĂ© sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.

But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.

I loved meeting Finola, Zennie, and Ali in this great book that follows the sisters through their horrible breakups at the same time.  Finola's life is totally changed when she finds out that her husband cheated on her and she is trying to find a way to put her life back together to move forward but putting all the blame on her husband.  Zennie has decided that she doesn't really think that pairing up with anyone is for her.  Her fourth date ends up with him walking out after realizing that she isn't really into him.  Ali is engaged to be married and she is broken up with by her soon to be ex-brother in law.  Ali has to pay for calling off a wedding that is right around the corner and only does it with the help of Daniel, her ex's brother.  All three sisters are dealing with their mother really wanting grandchildren and none of them in relationships to give her one.  It is a crazy ride with these relationships but you will see that all of the sisters come out the other side in a better place.  I hope that you check out this book and enjoy it as much as I did.  It was a great summer read with lots going on in each sister's life so that you were really hoping that things would work out for each of them.  You have to pick up the book to find out for yourself but I hope that you will enjoy the great writing and amazing characters.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Secrets of Great Second Meals Book Review

I was looking through the library catalog to find new cookbooks.  Secrets of Great Second Meals: Flexible Modern Recipes That Value Time and Limit Waste by Sara Dickerman was one that I found and it sounded pretty interesting.  I decided to reserve it and it came in on my reserve shelf shortly after.  It was a huge and very heavy cookbook so it took me a little while to get through the beginning but only because it was hard to hold and not because it was hard to read.

Learn to cook smarter, save time and money, and enjoy great meals crafted from leftovers in this practical and creative cookbook that teaches you to plan and prepare great “second meals.”

When it comes to cooking and leftovers, James Beard Award-winner Sara Dickerman believes that there is nothing better than figuring out the right way to reframe a good meal into another, potentially great meal. Second meals aren’t just reheating last night’s dinner. For Sara, there’s excitement in introducing new flavors and textures at the next meal—that eureka moment of fitting ingredients you have into a delicious new framework. In Secrets of Great Second Meals, she inspires use to create fresh, delicious meals using what’s in those containers in the refrigerator.
At Sara’s house, re-invention might mean pureeing roasted vegetables into a quick soup, crafting a beautiful salad with some second-day salmon, or stuffing cooked rice into roasted poblano peppers. But unlike other cookbooks that emphasize thrift, Secrets of Great Second Meals focuses on creating inviting, sophisticated, and healthy recipes that are open-ended enough to adapt to what you have on hand.
Sara shows how to make the most of your food the way chefs do: by thinking of meals in a more modular way. With a little thoughtful planning, you can look at extra food from one dinner as components to another meal that has already been prepped. Sara provides a list of the top ten most versatile dishes for multiple meals, offers advice on food storage (how to wrap it, when to put it in the fridge, when to freeze it, and when to throw it out), and includes tips on adding freshness and flavor using salt, acids, herbs, and texture. Most importantly, she gives home cooks the tools they need to learn how to improvise confidently.
The recipes in Secret of Great Second Meals are meant to be flexible, and Sara gives home cooks plenty of cues on how they can be adapted to fit what in the fridge and pantry for dishes such as:
  • The Frittata: Meatball Frittata with Mozzarella and Tomatoes (extra ingredient: meatballs)
  • The Quinoa Bowl: Quinoa Bowl with Greens, Sweet Potatoes, and Turmeric Cream (extra ingredients: cooked quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, and cooked greens)
  • The Chicken Salad: Ginger-Scallion Chicken Salad with Cucumbers (extra ingredient: roasted chicken)
  • The Chunky Chile-Laced Soup: Turkey-Vegetable Tortilla Soup (extra ingredients: shredded turkey or chicken and roasted vegetables)
  • Deli Sandwich with a Twist: Hot Ham and Cheese with Dill Pickle Relish (extra ingredient: cooked ham)
  • The Fish Cake: Black Cod Cakes with Cilantro, Scallions, and Tomato Salad (extra ingredients: cooked fish and cooked potatoes)
  • The Pesto Pasta: Parsley and Celery Pesto with Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Sausage, and Broccoli (extra ingredients: cooked Italian sausage and broccoli)
  • The Rice Pudding: Saffron Rice Pudding (extra ingredient: cooked rice)
Illustrated with full-color photos throughout, Secrets of Great Second Meals makes re-imagining food for a second meal not just a good, cheap, un-wasteful thing to do, but way of making everyday eating more inventive and enticing.

It was an interesting book but I don't think that it was the cookbook for me.  I found two recipes that were seemingly interesting but others that took a lot more cooking then I was willing to do for leftovers.  These two were the most interesting and I am not even sure if I would make them.  If you are looking for detailed recipes, I think that this book has some amazing recipes but I don't like eggs or seafood so it took a bunch of the recipes out of the running for me.

Although the introduction to the book was enough to make the book worthwhile.  I thought it was interesting to say that you need to take inventory of your kitchen just like you do in a restaurant.  I used to work in a restaurant and find that I had to help with inventory there and often do it similar in my kitchen because there are things that need to used up and the meal plan is based around finishing up those items.  Leftover night often means using the last of one cheese, little bit of something from the fridge and something from the freezer to make a complete meal.  I think that the message in the beginning of the book was amazing and I highly recommend reading it.  I think that part of the book might change how you plan and shop which helps with the way that you can carry out all the things in the plan.  I hope that you find something useful in this book and enjoy at least one recipe!!  Let me know what was your favorite part if you read it!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Month End June Budget for Groceries and Eating Out

I work every month to keep my grocery spending under $160 per month.  I use sales, coupons, and any means that I can to keep expenses as low as possible so that we can enjoy other things in our lives.  I do most of the cooking from scratch which is harder in the summer months but things have gotten a little more complicated recently because I had to shop for my son's school parties and I have been planning a family vacation where I am in charge of all the food.

I normally do a better job of preparing for all these things ahead of time and not counting the right things in my budget but I did include some things over the last few months that shouldn't have been counted now looking back.  Because I included those things, I might not have gotten a get a few things that I needed for the coming months.  I know that things might look a little crazy this month and I am okay with it.  I calculated things that came out of previous months budgets and did some complicated math to say that I had $66.77 extra to spend this month so this months budget is going to seem crazy high to me!

Even with a crazy high budget, I went a little crazy with the quantity of ice cream.  We got 10 gallons of ice cream this month and enjoyed it all.  There are only 3 left for after vacation!!  The great thing is that it was on sale for super cheap and our favorite kind but I was also trying to get as much calcium into my son as possible after all the broken bones.  It means that we don't have to deal with complaints of ice cream at the pool because my son knows that we don't get it and he gets as much as he wants at home.

Below are all the things that we got for the month and the breakdown of the items.

Harris Teeter $12.97

We were really low on breakfast cereals so I went to get a whole bunch of them even though they were still more then I normally pay.  The great news is that the Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios were really big boxes so I think that they are going to last longer then the normal boxes so probably worth the added amount.  I also got a deal on the Gerber and my coupons were expiring so I thought it was best to use it.

Safeway $0.33

My husband went to the store to get a free bag of rice and to use up the rest of my gift card so he got a special treat of doughnuts for my son and myself.

Aldi $8.47

I went to Aldi while the rest of my family was playing mini golf and I got some things for my son's party at school and got a few things for us at home.  The Nacho cheese Chips were $0.75 which is way lower then at our stores closer to home and the rest of the items were about the same but I wanted to make some Rice Krispie Treats and we were out of the other things.

Harris Teeter $3.08

I went to try to get some last minute Super Double deals but there weren't many left.  I got the Advil for $0.99 each and then got a $2 saving star rebate back.  The Kool Aid was $1 for all of them.  The bacon bits were free with my remaining coupons.

Giant $2.06

There was a great deal on cereal at Giant that was three days only and I had a coupon that made it a great deal.  I got two boxes of Frosted Flakes and two boxes of Corn Pops.  They ended up being around $0.50 per box which was way better then I got at Harris Teeter.  It was the first stop of my big shopping day.

Safeway $0

I had two freebies on my card so I downloaded them both and stopped at the store to get them on my big shopping day where I hit four stores in one day.

Aldi $1.93
I stopped at Aldi and decided to only grab milk because it was the only thing that we needed at the time.  I looked for a few other things but they still didn't have celery and the potatoes and lettuce were too expensive so I decided to get them at Harris Teeter.

Harris Teeter $12.91

I went to get the deals on the soda $2.47 each and the ice cream $1.97 each.  We were also out of turkey lunch meat and it was on sale and I had a coupon to get it cheaper them Aldi.  I also added the coupon for the A&W because it was free after coupon but I didn't think about it because I would probably be the one to drink it so I should have gotten diet but maybe we will use this for something else like the beach so it will get used.  I got the potatoes and the lettuce because it was cheaper then the Aldi price and was fresher.   The sale pricing didn't work and the customer service people had to fix everything on the receipt which took two tries to get it right.  Forgot to put the lettuce in the picture when I took it...opps!  I was obviously exhausted after the long run of errands that day!

Harris Teeter $17.45

I had to take my son to a birthday party and I stopped at the store and got the soda for $2.47 and the ice cream for $1.97 because it was a great stock up price.  It was a good deal and I totally stocked up on lots for the summer so fingers crossed that it lasts!

Wegman's $50.80

I stopped to get the ground beef because we were totally out of everything and I saw that the chicken was on sale for $1.79 so I grabbed three packages.  I packed up the meat for the beach and for our meals for the coming months.  I also started doing the same with the chicken.  I packed up lots for the beach and some for the coming months in different marinates so we can throw them on the grill.  I have to do a better count to find out what I came up with but I know that we are getting close to ready for the vacation meals.

Aldi $18

I went to the store to get all the things that we were out of including milk, turkey, pepperoni, stick margarine, and bananas.  I also got another bag of Chicken fries because we are down to the end of our bag.  We have been out of celery for awhile so my husband will be excited to have that back in the house for all the fried rice in the coming weeks.

Safeway $0

I went to get my freebie and I ate it for lunch.  I would have eaten it on the drive home if I remembered my spoon!!  It was just as tasty as my normal pick of Key Lime Pie.

Harris Teeter $15.14

I went to the store to get the Dixie Crystal Sugar which was on sale for $1.97 and I used a coupon to get them for $1.17 each.  I got the lunch meat for $2.49 so that we have that for my husband's lunches and the rest will go to the beach for lunches there.  I got the deal on the Nivea where you buy two and get $4 off which makes them $0.12 each!!  We were totally out of popcorn and it was on sale for $1.69 per bag which is the same as Aldi so I was glad to stock up on a few.  The Boomerang Pot Pie was on sale for $1.89 and I had a $1 coupon and there was a Ibotta rebate and any item rebate and bonus so I got $2.25 back in rebates!!

Harris Teeter $0.24

I did a second transaction to get the super cheap Nivea.

Giant $3.33

I know that I broke and bought more ice cream but we were almost out of cookies and cream and my husband wanted chocolate which was amazing!!  They were on sale for $1.99 but there was an electronic $0.75 off coupon that came off so I was even more excited.  Both eaten and gone already!

Harris Teeter $3.98

I realized that I forgot to get the juice boxes that were on sale at Harris Teeter when I went over the weekend.  I didn't add them to the list and I didn't think about anything else when I was there.  I went in and grabbed them and quickly checked out on the way to my appointments.  They will be great to have for vacation and other quick trips out to the pool this summer.

Aldi $6.29

I went to grab a few things we needed before my doctors appointment but they were out of shortening.  I got corn tortillas and another box of sugar cones for vacation.  I got a box of Cocoa Rice cereal for my son because he wanted some different cereal and he used to eat this one.  I grabbed some chips because I know that we will enjoy them this summer and I was at the store where they are $0.75 per bag which is cheaper then the small bags.

Aldi $12.11

I went in only for the shortening and realized that we were running low on milk so I should grab one while I was there so I didn't need another stop and it was a little cheaper then the stores close to us.  I know that I have a lot of baking to do before vacation so whatever doesn't get used will go into the baking.  It is also a lot cheaper on cheese so I grabbed a bunch that we really didn't need but I know won't go to waste.

Harris Teeter $3.00

I had a rain check for the oil and I got the extra tortillas for vacation in case we used up all the ones that I had already purchased.

Harris Teeter $1.99

I had a rain check for my mom's oil so I got those too.

Harris Teeter $44.77

I went to the store to get Cran Grape that was on sale for $2.14 each.  We have been out for a long time so I grabbed some so that we would be stocked up but I don't know how long that will actually last so I might have to buy more.  I also got 10 boxes of Big Chewy Bars because we were almost totally out of our stockpile and they were on sale and there was a coupon so they were $1.17 each.  I got the Cheez-It Snapped Jalapeno ones for vacation for $1 each.  I also got the sour candy for free and put it in the vacation bag.  I got 6 more Kool Aid because they were still on sale for $1.  The Queso Fresco cheese was on sale for $2.77 limit 4 and I had a coupon to get $0.60 off so they were $2.17 less $0.50 Ibotta rebate.  I thought that it would be nice to have one for vacation and the other two for after vacation.  The rebate for Boomerang Pot Pie reset so I got another one for $0.89 and did the rebate for $1 so I had a total of $2.50 in the rebate for this order.

Giant $0.07

I kind of amazed the cashier when the total went down and I he said that he had never seen that happen.  I told him that I would check out with him more often!!  I ate the yogurt for lunch and going to use the baby food in some apple sauce bread this week.

Total Retail $517.78
Total Savings $298.24
Total OOP $219.54

I know that my total was high this month but planning a vacation with dinner for 9 was outside the budget by far.  Although I normally stock up a little each month for vacation and set aside, I am normally only planning for my family and now I was planning for 9 people.  I think that I did a great job staying as low as I did although I am totally pointing at the crazy ice cream, soda and granola bars expenses as the problem. With the extra $66.77 added into the budget, I actually came $7.23 below that new budget amount.  I got a lot of stuff this month but not a lot of deals that saved me over 50%.

I am looking for some deals and hoping to find lots more next month to cut back the spending. I know that I am going to be on vacation during super doubles so 
probably missing it so whether that means more spending to make up for the savings or other deals available, I know that I will get lots of deals next month and use what is already in the house.

Eating Out

I didn't think that this month was too bad but it did add up quickly.  We got Pizza Hut early on in the month for $10.60.  We got another pizza to eat at the pool but we used points instead of money from all the previously purchased pizzas so we got it free!!  We went to Delia's with my in-laws and they paid for the dinner there.  The rest of the family went to mini golf and then ice cream.  My husband paid for ice cream and said that cash was faster then credit so he paid and got no receipt but thinks that he paid $16.  I went out to eat lunch one day when running errands that took way longer then I thought and used a Panera gift card for a half of a sandwich and bagel and only paid $0.25 out of pocket.  We did pizza with friends one night which was $15.90.  The total was $42.75 which is only $2.75 over budget.  Summer is the time for pizzas!!  At least that is how it works out here whether dinner at the pool or rushed because we were doing to much or having dinner with friends, we eat lots of pizza.  I know that I had the overage to use for the month so part of it went to our extreme pizza month.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Menu Plan Monday 7/1

Chicken Fries, Chicken Wraps and homemade fries
Grilled Chicken and Rice
Chicken Wraps
Chicken with mac and cheese

Last week was a little turned around but we went with Chicken Wraps on Monday with Homemade fries.  Tuesday was Taquitos with rice and Wednesday was Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken with mac and cheese.  Thursday was Pizza that was going to be at the pool but moved home because it started to thunder and the pool closed.  Friday it was thundering again but we did pasta at home.  Saturday was leftovers as planned to use up some things in the fridge and clean it up.  We were invited to our neighbors house on Sunday for dinner so I made cookies to bring over since I didn't know what we were having.  Super easy week and got dinner on the table every night without a lot of problems. 

I went through the freezer quickly to do a little inventory and throw all the things that I need for vacation in on area.  I don't have all the ideas for dinner next week but my rough plan is above.  I am going to move to my list instead of the days because the summer schedule is so crazy so it is easier to have a list of the meals and just pick what we are going to have the next day.  I hope that this works better for the rest of the summer so that I can have some easy after the pool meals and other meals that we are home to fix.