Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's Time to Simplify...Again

I'm not sure if it's that after-Christmas "where I am gonna put the new stuff?" feeling or some kind of nesting, but I'm certainly feeling the urge to purge right now. When our home is in order, I just feel so much better, more calm and relaxed, more engaged with my kids rather than focusing on the stuff, and more energetic for accomplishing what needs to be done. Physical clutter greatly contributes to mental clutter for me, so I need to be proactive on this. I made a big list of lots of areas that need a good purge and cleaning. My aim is to do about one item on the list per day and have our home refreshed by the end of January. The list is posted on our fridge so I can cross it off when each area is complete and I'm also noting how many bags or boxes are leaving the house thanks to this effort. Here's my list.

Space to Purge & Clean

DONE - Daughter's room

DONE - Sons' room

Linen cupboards

DONE - Medicines & toiletries

My closet

Husband's closet

Master bathroom

Kids' bathroom

Kitchen upper cabinets

Kitchen lower cabinets

Living room cabinet

Homeschooling shelves

Laundry room

Half bath

Kitchen & living room floors and baseboards

DONE - Christmas decorations

Coat closet


Creative space

DONE Gift wraps


File cabinet

Baby clothes / saved children's clothes

Kitchen counters

Primary email account

Items to sell



Yard & Front Porch

Are you feeling the urge to purge this time of year?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Zesty Cheese Dip

I was recently asked to submit a simple recipe that could be made by our daughter for her American Heritage Girls group Christmas party. This was honestly a bit of challenge since I do so much cooking and baking without recipes or with recipes which are too complicated for a 7-year-old to do mostly on her own. The recipe I submitted for the little cookbook for the girls is below, just made up by me. But we did make it today and it is a keeper at our house. And in this season of an overload of sweets, this bit of savory hits the spot.

Zesty Cheese Dip
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/8 to 1/4 t. cayenne pepper, to taste
1 C. finely grated cheddar cheese
1/2 C. parmesan or asiago cheese, shredded (optional)

In a bowl, mix cream cheese and spices well. Add cheddar cheese and mix. Transfer to a small serving bowl and chill. Or shape into a ball and roll in shredded parmesan or asiago cheese, cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Serve with sturdy crackers or spread on bagels. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Many of My Favorite Things

As I seek to live more simply and intentionally I have noticed that I have become a bit persnickety about items I select to use, which I'm sure is no delight to my husband as he searches for gifts for me. Sorry, my love. I just don't want to waste my time, money and energy using and maintaining products which don't serve me well. So while it may take me longer to shop for just what I am looking for, I am more often satisfied with what I do choose and keep those things which are non-consumable in use for a good long time.

Anyway, on with the list. These are just things I like to use and think are a good value for the use and enjoyment they see in our home. I'm not being paid for these endorsements, but I would welcome the opportunity. :) Since I don't want to steer you wrong, take this list with a grain of salt and consider that I am budget-and-value-minded, 30-something, family gal seeking a simple life.

Favorite things for the body:
* Kirkland Moisturizing Shampoo - paraben & sulfate free
* Kirkland Natural Citrus Body Wash - paraben & sulfate free
* SmartWool socks
* K.Bell socks - rival SmartWool in my opinion and at a fraction of the cost (2 pairs for $12.99 when Costco has them)
* Glysomed hand cream - The only thing I've really found to remedy my cracking, bleeding hands through dry Colorado winters.
* Keen sandals

Favorite things in the kitchen:
* Bosch Universal mixer and Nutrimill grain mill - The Lord provided an amazing deal on a gently used set 4 years ago and I use these all the time so even if I had to pay full price, I would definitely say it is worth it.
* Pyrex dishes with plastic lids for baking, serving and storing
* bowl scraper by Progressive - This makes managing large quantities of dough so much easier.

Favorite foods & flavors:
* Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Tea - great hot or cold
* World Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil - $6.99 for 1 ltr. in a dark glass bottle
* World Market coffee beans - We are part of their coffee perks program and often use high value coupons to get it even cheaper.
* Kirkland Saigon cinnamon
* Tillamook cheese
* Famous Dave's pickles - My current condition just might be affecting my taste for these. :)
* Jelly Belly jelly beans and most other fruity candies
* Dole Tropical Gold premium canned pineapple - to me it takes like fresh pineapple without all the work and guessing which one to pick in the produce section
* Dr. Pepper - old habits die hard

Favorite things for babies & children:
* Beco baby carrier - This was a big splurge for our fourth child, but I have no regrets. I especially love it for the back carry position when the baby is bigger.
* Hanna Andersson clothes - I've found some sweet and colorful dresses secondhand which have been well-loved by my little girl.
* Robeez slipper shoes
* Britax Blink stroller & Lands' End Little Tripper diaper bag - We were given these for our 4th baby and I've loved them for ease of use and compactness. The Britax B-Nimble model looks very similar to the Blink but is twice the price. Hmm...
* Lands' End hooded coats - I'm counting on these lasting through multiple children, they are well made and the hoods add warmth without keeping track of a hat all the time.
* Other random thoughts on caring for baby can be found in a post from a long while back here.

I'm sure I'll think of more after I hit "publish" but this list is a good start on stuff I like.

What are some of your favorite things?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving Menu Plan

As Thanksgiving is just around the corner I thought I would plan meals from now til then, hoping to use up what we have on hand.

L - lunch with my husband, used a BOGO at Pei Wei...yum!
D - beef stew served over mashed potatoes, whole wheat bread
Prep: make batch of bread & cinnamon rolls

B - cinnamon rolls, yogurt & blackberries
L - turkey cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread
D - beef stew (add chunks of potatoes this time around), garlic cheese buns, ceasar salad

B - w.w. toast or leftover w.w. waffles, yogurt, fruit
L - mac & cheese, fruit salad, carrots
D - beans & rice w/ leftover taco meat, lettuce, cheese, salsa, etc., apple slices

B - oatmeal w/berries, yogurt
L - rice bowls with assorted toppings (a hit with the kids and a good way to use leftovers), fruit
D - balsamic chicken, spaghetti squash, green salad

B - cereal, yogurt
L - soup, bread or sour cream biscuits (made w/plain yogurt)
D - chicken pot pie

B - "pumpkin" waffles - I'll use butternut squash puree I have in the freezer from this fall.
L - quesadillas, raw veggies
D - date night! It has been months, so when some sweet church friends offered to come watch the kids we didn't hesitate to say yes. I'll leave a prepped pizza assembly line for those here at home.

B - leftover waffles, yogurt
L - burritos, salad
D - buffalo chicken, baked potatoes, green beans

B - scrambled eggs, bacon, yogurt
L - chicken salad sandwiches, carrots
D - Colorado white chili, chips, sour cream
Prep: make batch of whole wheat bread (2 loaves) & cinnamon rolls(3 pans)

11/22 -
B - cinnamon rolls, berry/banana smoothies
L - birthday lunch
D - birthday dinner .....yes, I'll take full advantage of the day!

B - yogurt/cereal/fruit parfaits
L - turkey cheese sandwiches or quesadillas, chips
D - leftover buffet

For Thanksgiving Day:
green bean casserole
2 pumpkin pies & whipped cream (I'm gonna let Costco do this for me as they are delicious and big and priced close to what I would spend on ingredients alone.)
2 doz. cinnamon rolls

We have so much to be thankful for! Savor the season and count your blessings!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This Week

I'm so exited to be going on to our church's women's retreat at a beautiful spot in the mountains. It has been a few since I last attended and am looking forward to the break from routine and daily responsibility and looking forward to encouragement through the Word and fellowship. Oh, and I'm looking forward to the delicious food that requires no work from me, too. :)

We are into our 10th week of the school year and I am losing steam. So this week are doing a review of all of our previous weeks of memory work and the kids will carry on with light to moderate work with their independent work. We are not part of a Classical Conversations group, but we are using their resources and we're all enjoying the content and approach.

I really need to get it together and make may plan of attack for Christmas shopping and for the items I am hoping to make for gifts, as well. I have a start but I am really in need of nice, but economical ideas for teacher gifts. Any ideas?

Really our whole house is need of a deep clean due to some neglect over recent months, but this week I'm going to focus on giving the bathrooms a good scrubbing.

I'm putting in my first order with Zaycon Foods today to order boneless skinless chicken breasts at $1.49/lb. I'm not sure how often they will come to Colorado, so this time I'm ordering 80 lbs. (2 cases). It is always nice for me to have options in my freezer and with our growing family I'm hoping 80 lbs. is a reasonable amount to stock.

Cooking For My Family
We are in a tight season right now so I am trying to get extra creative in feeding us relatively healthfully with what we have. Anyone else feeling the pinch with rising prices and growing kids?
B - cinnamon rolls, bananas
L - sandwiches & leftovers
D - pulled pork in the crockpot w/ homemade sauce on buns, green beans, garlic mashed potatoes (I bought a box of these at Costco for $9-10 and they are pretty good, especially considering how easy they are and how short the ingredient list is.)
B - cinnamon bread, yogurt, o.j.
L - quesadillas, leftover chili
D - pulled pork, spaghetti squash, green bean casserole
B - scrambled eggs, toast, o.j.
L - grilled turkey cheese sandwiches, leftover green beans & mashed potatoes, apples
D - ham & white bean soup w/veggies (I cooked the ham bone from a dinner last week so I'm starting with a quart of soup base from the freezer), whole wheat bread, chocolate chip cookies
B - oatmeal, raspberries, yogurt
L - homemade mac & cheese (make 1 extra pan), peas
D - homemade pizza (large batch)
B - granola, apple slices
L - tuna cheese melts,
Weekend options for my husband to fix. There is no budget for him to take it easy and take the kids out to eat, so I want to leave lots of ideas and options for him. I'm so thankful that he is a great dad and that he takes such good care of our kiddos. I seriously have no reservations leaving the kids in his care for a weekend.
- leftovers
- burritos (freezer)
- fish sticks & peas (freezer)
- mac & cheese (fridge or freezer)
- pizza & frozen vegetables
- spaghetti w/sauce & maybe a little pepperoni?
- turkey cheese quesadillas or sandwiches
- breakfast items: scrambled eggs, bacon, cereal, toast, oatmeal, granola

Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life is full of surprises....

...and this is a good one. Surprising, indeed, but it is good. The kids are excited and those we've shared the news with have been excited for us...and maybe if they think we are crazy or aren't thrilled, at least have been kind enough to keep that to themselves. We surely love all the kids God has blessed us with and hey, is being a family of 7 going to be all that much more chaotic than being a family of 6?! God will provide.

I am feeling so much better now at 16 weeks. The first trimester was very difficult, but we all managed to make it through, even though naps were frequent and housekeeping was, well, infrequent. I have the bonus this time of getting to be categorized as Advanced Maternal Age as of next month. Yikes!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Spicy Beans with Sausage

My friend Karen shared this recipe with me last year and a friend posted a similar one today and I'm so glad since now I know what is for dinner on this busy day.

Spicy Beans & Sausage

1 lb. turkey sausage, cut into small chunks - I'll have to use beef kielbasa today
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can great northern beans
1 1/2 C. corn
1 1/2 C. salsa
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of water (or more to make it more soupy)
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cumin

Combine in slow cooker and cook on high for a few hours or low as long as you want.

I think this recipe is pretty forgiving, or at least I'm hoping it is since I'll may need to sub in some other beans that I have cooked up and frozen from dry and may need to use some frozen mixed peppers. Now I'm off to dig through the freezer and throw this together.

Enjoy this lovely fall day!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Simplifying Meals: Master Menu Plan

I've become pretty lax this summer with menu planning, cooking and grocery shopping. As I look to the fall and the demands on our time, I want to make the most of my time in the kitchen and at the grocery store. So, I need a plan that will be a guide with lots of room for flexibility.

We'll see how it goes, but here's what I'm thinking. There will always be a fruit and/or vegetable offered with each meal, and sometimes bread.

Master Menu Plan (I have it in an easier to read chart, but unfortunately it does not transfer with good results.)
breakfast - oatmeal & fruit
lunch - sandwiches
dinner - cook's choice
prep - make yogurt

breakfast - waffles
lunch - salad
dinner - chicken

breakfast - toast & eggs
lunch - mac & cheese
dinner - pasta or Mexican
prep - baking

breakfast - cereal or granola
lunch - snack lunch
dinner - beans & rice, potato bar or leftovers
prep - clean the kitchen

breakfast - free for all
lunch - quesadillas
dinner - pizza & salad

breakfast - muffins & smoothies
lunch - sandwiches or leftovers
dinner - grilling

breakfast - scrambled eggs or omelets
lunch - freezer or crockpot meal or dining out
dinner - soup
prep - make bread

Chewy Ginger Cookies

This is a new fave at our house. Recipe compliments of my sweet friend Kristel.

Chewy Ginger Cookies

Cream together:
3/4 C. shortening (I used Smart Balance sticks)
1 C. sugar
Then mix in:
1 egg
1/4 C. molasses
1 t. vanilla
Then add in:*
2 C. flour (I've used more than half whole wheat with good results)
1 t. cinnamon**
1 t. ginger
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cloves (never added this as I never have it on hand)

When dough is mixed, roll into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place dough balls on cookie sheet (no need to press down as they spread while baking). Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. They will not look done, but as they cool they will firm up. Cool on cooling rack and store in an airtight container. Yield: 3-4 dozen


*I'm a recipe rebel and have a good mixer so I rarely do the wet bowl/dry bowl thing. I start with the wet ingredients, mix well and add the dry ingredients. If you prefer, do a wet ingredients bowl and a dry ingredients bowl, mix each bowl, then mix together.
**Tip: Costco cinnamon is awesome and economical.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weary & Worthless

I seem to be in a funk right now. My messy house mocks me. I'm lacking motivation. Time with my kids seems more difficult than joy-filled and life-giving. The budget is really tight. I'm so not ready to be starting back to schooling in just a few short weeks and fearing that I don't measure up as a teacher. I am fat and feel ugly and I am discouraged that I have always struggled with my weight. I'm really tired. I'm feeling like what is wrong with me that I just can't get it together?! Then I wonder if I'm the only one who feels this way because everyone else seems to be doing fine. And for some reason when all these feelings and circumstances are present I.just.feel.worthless. I've talked with my husband lately about this and he simply said to me, "It sounds like you're not believing the truth." The truth that God loves me. That He sent his own son for me to rescue me from sin and death. That He loves me even when I can't get my act together. Thank you, God, for love and acceptance that is not based on my performance! for some courage to hit "publish".

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Busyness is Not a Virtue! {a little rant}

We hear it so often when we ask another how they are doing. "Oh, we've been so busy!" While sometimes this truly describes their life, it is beginning to rub me the wrong way.

Why has busy come to be equated with good and presented as some kind of statement of self worth?

Hard work is virtuous.
Serving others is virtuous.
Caring for the needs of your family is virtuous.
"Busy" on its own is not what I see as virtuous.

You can be fully engaged with worthwhile pursuits, consumed with the present workload, enduring great trials or pouring ourselves out in service to others, but the value is in the activity and our faith and character in those moments, not in giving ourselves credit because of all we are doing.

Do you ever want to just shake people who are lamenting that they are too busy? Look, we all have choices! There are times that we all have obligations that can not and should not be avoided, so I'm not saying we should shirk responsibility. There are seasons that are truly demanding. But there are many times we willingly choose to get caught up in running the rat race a little faster by refusing to say "no" to another request for our time that doesn't really work for ourselves or our families (yes, even good things), going with the flow and putting our kids or ourselves into XYZ activities just because that is what everyone else is doing, and working harder to earn enough to keep up with the Joneses, whoever they are.

I want to be engaged in life. I desire to work hard and serve well. But I don't just want to be busy!

Summer to Simplify

The "Summer to Simplify" is in process at our house, a good time to catch my breath after the homeschooling year and go through the house top to bottom to get rid of the excess and give some thought to how to make things more manageable. With a family of 6, there just tends to be a lot of stuff....books, clothes, shoes, toys, craft supplies, sporting goods and the list goes on.

I want to make the most of what we have been given, including our possessions. What we do own I want to tend well and use and enjoy fully. If we have too much, we don't seem to manage much of it well, so this is my motivation as we make choices about what stays and what goes.

So how are we doing?

On the "stuff" front, I'm about halfway through the house and things are feeling better. I still need to tackle the garage, the basement desk areas and the kitchen. The kitchen is always a challenge with papers and random bits of the comings and goings of life. Our cupboards are quite full which makes putting things away more of a chore than it needs to be. But I do cook a lot so we need the equipment to be able to do that. So I'll tackle the kitchen next and try to find a balance. As we've gone through the rooms, we are selling what we can and donating lots because when I decide I'd like something to leave the house, I want it gone today, not being stored for months to sell for a couple bucks at a garage sale that consumes our family life for the better part of a weekend. Every time we drop a load at Goodwill, return things we've borrowed from others for a season, or sell something on Craigslist it just feels good to have a lighter load of stuff around to manage.

As far as summer activities go, we've also stepped back from activities for the most part. No organized sports this summer. No swimming lessons. No weekly commitments. No big garden. And it has been good. The kids have played and read and been outdoors a lot. We've enjoyed some outings in our area and hope to hit more of the things on our summer fun list before school is in full swing again. We've simply enjoyed a slower pace, with weekends where we are blissfully uncommitted to being at any specific location for any specific activity at any specific time. feels good.

Cooking has been rather basic, but we haven't gone hungry. I'm shopping far less and using things from the cupboards and freezer. No chasing down all the deals this summer. Frugality and simplicity seem to collide on the grocery shopping front. While I want to make my pennies scream for the way I stretch them, it requires a ton of effort to buy every single item for life at the lowest possible price. So I've found my happy medium with being content to pay good, not best, prices on basic foods and spend far less time bringing home the goods. I'm hoping we'll have some garden produce to use soon, too. I planted rhubarb, a few tomatoes and a pepper plant and we seem to have some volunteer plants growing, too, potatoes?, zucchini and watermelon. I'm evaluating whether I really plan to go back to the level of couponing I was doing a few years ago. For now, hitting Costco once every couple weeks and a grocery store about every week seems to be working out for us.

The slower pace is also allowing us to work on some things with our kids, namely training them to work diligently and cheerfully. Unfortunately I haven't been very good and patient about involving the kids in everyday household duties, but that is changing for the better. It is a process, but we'll get there. Just today I was encouraged by this post on children and chores and hope to implement many of the ideas. And even with all the unstructured time for play, I am finding a peaceful hour every afternoon when we all retire to our own spots for some quiet times while our little guy is napping. They balked at first, but it really seems to refresh us all.

So, while we may not be experiencing the "lazy days of summer" we are, in fact, enjoying the simple days of summer.

How do you like to spend your summers? What are you working on in this season?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Upcycled Pillow Cover

Start with a button-up shirt. Use your former pillow cover as a guide for how big you'll need to cut the new pieces. Cut through both layers of the shirt. An Olfa ruler and cutter makes it easy to get things nice and straight, but scissors will do. With wrong sides together, sew your pieces together. Turn, push out corners, iron. Sew around your shape again using a bigger seam allowance this time. Turn and push out your corners again and you have a nice French seam. Stuff with your pillow form.

And there you go, a pillow refreshed with a shirt saved from the Goodwill pile.

No cost + 10 minutes of work = my kind of project!
Bonus! I still have enough fabric from the sleeves for another little project.

Yep, I know it is a little too snug on the pillow form. The shirt I was working with was a tad bit small and I only had this big pillow form, but I'll take done over perfect any day.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation...or How to Stay Sane with Your Family in the Car for 53 hours

We decided on a whim to visit my husband's family in British Columbia earlier this summer. While we love to visit and the destination is gorgeous, getting there is not for the faint of heart. It is about 27 hours of driving each way. Here are some tips for a successful trip.

1. Pack your own food. Having food with you in the car allows you to stop whenever the mood or opportunity strikes rather than waiting for an exit with something you'd like to eat. Instead of spending time trying to find a place to eat and sitting down to eat the meal, we're able to let our kids get out and run and play and then before we buckle up again everyone gets their plate of food to eat while the wheels are rolling to the next stop. For us, this also means that we eat much healthier than eating fast food and we save a ton of money. On the way out, we were able to just clear out a lot of things from our fridge at home and we had a good variety of food to eat along the way. Snacking also provides a little something to do along the way and a motivation for kids to sit tight.

2. Know your travel style and goals. In this season it is actually easier for us to put in really long days and stop overnight fewer times. It is a challenge to get the kids really settled in a hotel room and is actually not all the much fun to stay in hotels right now. As our kids get older we look forward to making stops to see things along the way, but for now putting the pedal to metal just works out better for us.

3. Consider entertainment. We don't want our kids zoned out to videos for hours on end, but keeping them engaged with something is helpful. Our kids love to listen to Adventures in Odyssey and Radio Theatre. They also had books to read and notebooks to draw and color in. And yes, they watched a handful of videos along the way, too. And the grown-ups enjoyed some podcasts also.

4. Pack for your stops. I packed just what we needed for the hotel in a laundry basket so we were not hauling everything in and out of the car for each stop. So helpful!

5. Let them run! Since we try to eat while driving we really encourage active play during our stops. We brought a ball to throw around during stops and did some laps of rest areas and some races. If we are able to tire them out a bit, our kids ride better.

6. Allow for some splurges. Starbucks coffee, Krispy Kreme donuts, and some road trip candy. Why not? :)

7. Travel different routes coming and going. We love the variety and seeing more of the country. And taking a road trip reminds you just how big this country is!

8. Make the most of the miles. In our case, we were able to stop at Wheat Montana to get a couple hundred pounds of wheat that is very reasonably priced and far more difficult for me to source here. What do the areas you are traveling to or through offer uniquely?

9. Leave early. For us the hours before noon are really easy in the car. Some may be able to pull the through the night drives, but that just isn't the way we roll. Use your good times of day to your advantage.

10. Enjoy the ride! Seriously, these moments in family life fly by and before we know it we'll be the empty nesters that can spread the journey out over several days, making many interesting stops along the way. I so enjoyed the time, too, to talk with my husband about our life and goals and plans for the coming months and years. The time in the car certainly was not wasted.

Considering a long trip with your family? Go for it!

Stanley Park 2011

On our recent trip to British Columbia we took a day to enjoy Stanley Park. It is truly a must-see if you are in Vancouver! We hadn't visited since our oldest was 1, almost 8 years ago. We took a walk around part of the sea wall, had a picnic and took in a playground. A delightful day, despite children being disappointed that the splash park wasn't open for the season yet and hearing many complaints from children that they were too tired to walk anymore.

the totem poles

playing on the same fire engine that Grandpa played on when we was a boy

hooray for a moment of brotherly love!

you're never to old to play

so many things to look at!

the mermaid wearing a Canucks jersey....the Canucks being in the Stanley Cup final did, indeed, have something to do with the timing of our visit

this sweet girl loves to explore

a happy photo of us taken after we put our grumpy kids back in the van
...real life still happens on vacation

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Grass is Greener...

...on our side of the fence, at least this week.

A couple of years ago we started to let our backyard go. It all started with severe watering restrictions. I recall a July when no outdoor watering was allowed in our district. When we were allowed to water again, enough of it had died that we just gave up the fight. Then we were given a trampoline which has proven to be such a blessing for our kids in our small backyard, but surely didn't add anything to the aesthetic.


But this past fall we decided to reclaim the area with the first step being an automatic sprinkler system installed by my handy father-in-law and youthful husband. This spring we applied some effort and moolah to the situation with new sod, fresh mulch, moving the trampoline and playhouse and one garden bed, removing another garden bed and trashing all the yard clutter that happens so easily with young kids. And now it looks like this.

loving the lilacs we planted our first summer here!

We're really looking forward to enjoying time at home this summer!

Late June Menu

We're back from two weeks away so I'm jumping back into domestic life, complete with a trip to the grocery today with my precious kids. I was reminded of why I usually wait until the evening and leave them in the care of Daddy so I can give my full attention to finding good deals and using coupons. And I still need to stop at another store for a few more things. Anyway, here's what I plan to fix for my family in the coming days.

Grilled chicken sandwiches w/gouda & havarti on sourdough, bananas
Burgers, baked fries, steamed peas & carrots
Orange chicken, brown rice, broccoli & carrots
Creamy garlic bowties with mesquite chicken, green beans, breadsticks
Mesquite chicken sandwiches, pasta salad w/veggies & cheese
Emeril's pulled pork (& lots extra to freeze) on buns, baked fries, peas or other veg
Salad bar (greens, chicken, cheeses, croutons, dressing, peppers, cucumbers, etc.), bread
Brats, chips, big green salad
Macaroni & cheese (make 2 extra to freeze), raw veggie platter
Meat & cheese pockets, broccoli, carrots
Out - likely Chick-Fil-A as we have lots of coupons from a family festival we attended

Creamy pasta with grilled chicken, carrot sticks
Ham & cheese paninis, cucumbers
Tuna melts, berries
Leftovers - several times
Quesadillas, fruit or vegetable

Egg & cheese sandwiches
Oatmeal & yogurt
Steel cut oats, berries & yogurt
Cold cereal & yogurt
Pancakes & peach syrup (time to clean out the freezer for summer fresh produce)
Cinnamon rolls, green smoothies

Monday, June 20, 2011


I'm trying to stay ahead of the hunger of my growing family, but it is getting to be more and more work. Some days it feels like I've spent over half the day in the kitchen and they still come around after dinner saying, "I'm hungry!" While I don't do a lot of freezer cooking, I do like to have meal components (cooked beans, browned meat, grilled and shredded chicken, etc.) and burritos at the ready. Unlike frozen casseroles, you can easily decide how many servings to pull out for baking on the day you need them and they don't take 2+ hours to cook. And they're really handy for my husband to grab to take for lunch at work if we don't have leftovers from the previous night or to take as freezer meals to families in need. I usually freeze them in packages of 5 or 6 burritos (1 meal for our family) and reuse the zip bags from the tortillas. Sometimes I wrap the bunch in foil and then place the foil packet inside the zipper bag so when I bake them I can toss the whole foil packet in the oven which keeps the tortillas softer. I don't use a recipe, but do include some or all of the following on any given batch based on what I have around and what needs to be used.
- ground beef
- taco seasoning
- bell peppers
- Rotel
- corn
- brown rice
- salsa
- cheese
- black or pinto beans
For variation, I'm going to try a meal of these baked in a pan and smothered with enchilada sauce. Here is an enchilada sauce recipe we like.

It only takes a bit more time to make 4-5 meals vs. 1 meal and I save a lot of time on the clean up. And then when I've had a crazy day with other needs, these are a snap to pop in the oven with almost no effort.

What are your favorite meals to prepare ahead?

A Bag Full O'Fun

I'm always surprised at how creative kids are in making fun out of whatever is around them. A few weeks ago I picked up an order of grain and after transferring it all to storage containers, had the sacks left to recycle or reuse. The kids wasted no time in putting them to good use. A good evening was had by all.
love this freckled girl!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Menu Monday - Putting Food on the Table

I have really been lacking in the menu planning department. While we have been eating at home in a reasonably healthy manner, my life just works better if I plan it out. So this weekend I did a lot of prep work which included cooking and portioning two big pots of beans, making a batch of bread that produced 2 pans of buns, 1 loaf of bread and 2 pizzas, cooking meat for 2 meals, making up 2 dozen burritos for the freezer and forming 2 meals of hamburger patties. With that work done, I'm hopeful that we'll be able to stick to the menu until the end of the month and avoid making any more trips to the grocery store. You may notice the menu this time incorporates quite a few beans and regular leftovers, too. We are doing a bit of a staycation over the long weekend so we may eat out a couple times also.
B – cereal & yogurt
L – french toast, green smoothies
D – Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli, cheese bread, watermelon/ I keep the pasta and soup separate so each person can choose their amount of pasta, and it keeps the leftovers from getting mushy.


B – blueberry muffins (made w/whole wheat flour & leftover s.c. oats), yogurt
L – leftovers, veggies & dip
D – Colorado White Chili, carrot sticks, chips & sour cream / I think the soup is from this book.


B – oatmeal, berries, yogurt
L – ham sandwiches, veggies & dip
D – beef & pinto burritos, spinach salad, chips & salsa


B – cereal & yogurt
L – leftovers or tuna wraps, fresh veggies
D – spaghetti & meat sauce, spinach salad, bread?


B – w.w. pumpkin waffles, yogurt
L – school's out celebration lunch - out
D – burgers on w.w. buns, chips,veggies


B – waffles, fruit, yogurt
L- brats, pasta salad with peas/carrots/cheese
D – orange chicken, broccoli, brown rice, rhubarb berry crisp


B – steel cut oats, berries, yogurt
L – leftovers or out
D – homemade pizzas (buffalo chicken & pepperoni)


B – cereal & fruit
L – hot dog rolls (make w.w. bread: this meal, cinn. rolls, ham & cheese pockets, 1-2 loaves)
D – pork loin, rice, green beans, rolls

B – cinnamon rolls, yogurt
L – ham & cheese pockets or out
D – burritos with whatever odds & ends we have left

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seeking Shelter

Yesterday afternoon the sky grew dim and the wind and rain came. I pulled out the weather radio which had been unused for a season and within 5 minutes the warning came with a tornado warning, one had been spotted on the ground and we were advised to take cover immediately. This threw my children into a frenzy and got this mama's heart pounding as I got us all to the the basement. We had sort of settled into our positions of safety when the phone rang and my husband reported that there was one spotted on the ground at a junction just a little over a mile from our home. We prayed and sang our Bible memory songs and I kept reminding the kids that God is our refuge. It was good to seek shelter, but even better to consider the strength and sovereignty of our God. To be honest, our basement is in a bit of disarray and while we made do, we should give a little more thought to its function as a shelter and clear out some space for that purpose for times like these. And I see an application in my relationship with God. I need to prepare my heart with His word and trust in Him during the calm so when the storms of life rage it is second nature to cling to Him.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April Grocery Check-In

I've been slow to post this because:
a) I know it is likely boring to anyone who may stumble across this place
b) I've been disorganized and receipts have been left all over the place
c) the recording is getting a bit tedious and I know I'm no extreme super shopper
d) I don't want to face reality that I've spent.too.much yet.again.

Ah, well, moving on.

4/1 - Costco - $76.47
24 ct. box Sunchips - individual bags*
32 cans Dr. Pepper - old habits die hard*
1 gallon dill pickle spears
2.5 lb. Tillamook cheddar cheese
2 large bags tortilla chips
6 ct. frozen OJ concentrate - these are larger than the normal size at the grocery store
1 pkg. corn tortillas (100)
48 oz. Ritz crackers *
3 lb. fresh garlic
42 oz. shaved honey ham
3 lb. bananas
36 ct. flour tortilla
4 boneless pork roasts - slightly less than 2 lbs. each, $1.99/lb.
Also purchased on this trip: 6 pk. of socks, 2 pillows.

4/1 - King Soopers - $18.94
3 boxes Rice Krispies
2 boxes Corn Flakes
2 gallons milk
2 packages clear cups (for party)
2 packages foam cups (for party)
4.2 lb. grapes

4/9 - Walmart - $16.47
4 toothbrushes (needed due to packing error...yet another sign that I do not have it together)
1 toothpaste
1 floss
1 box girl stuff
13 jars baby food
6 - 2 pks. baby food (away from home and needed the variety and convenience)

4/12 - King Soopers - $13.80
15.7 lb. organic apples

4/14 - Costco - $89.27
25 lb. flour
2 lb. yeast
*2.13 lb. Jarlsberg cheese
2 lb. mozarella cheese
*3 lb. Hebrew National beef franks - might have been 4 lb.
*2 - 96 oz. white grape cherry 100% juice
36 ct. flour tortilla
2 gallons 1 % milk
10 lb. organic carrots
1 lb. organic spinach
3 lb. bananas
*4 - 12 oz. cans Pam cooking spray
2 lbs. croutons
6.5 lb. individually frozen chicken breasts ($2.46/lb. but no waste since they are very well trimmed)

4/14 - King Soopers - $30.31
2 boxes Chex cereal
2 boxes Fiber One bars
1.75 qt. ice cream
4 lbs. 93% lean ground beef patties (markdown)
3 toothbrushes
2 - 55 yd. floss
1 deodorant
2 - 6 oz. blackberries
10 lb. potatoes
1 fresh salad dressing (markdown)
8 ct. donuts - Oh, the perils of shopping with no willpower! The kids were just asking today for donuts, so their wish is granted. (markdown)
1 bunch parsley
3 Oroweat HealthFull bread
3 small packages M&Ms - 1 free w/coupon
2 Dove chocolate bars - free w/ coupon
2 Joint Joice single serve bottles - free w/coupon (markdown)

4/18 - King Soopers - $43.34
2 gallons milk - marked down
16 oz. sour cream
1/2 gallon buttermilk - marked down
1 gallon chocolate milk - marked down
1 single-serve yogurt - marked down
1 loaf french bread - marked down
12 oz. turkey bacon
8 oz. pepperoni
2 large hams (15 lbs. total) at $.99/lb.
9.53 lb. spiral sliced ham at $1.49/lb.

4/20 - Costco - $47.94
1 big bottle Naked juice smoothie
1 really delicious strawberry cheesecake
2 lb. good herb roasted deli turkey
12 ct. croissants
1 big bag Kettle chips
1 lb. organic spring mix
This was definitely a splurge trip. Someone in our home turned the big 3-5 and that was worth celebrating. Also purchased on this trip: lots of CFL light bulbs which were a good buy after the Earth Day promo from the local utility company.

4/23 - Whole Foods - $5.00
2 - 32 oz. organic yogurt
also purchased 2 pizzas with the dining out budget

4/27 - Target - $30.47
6 lbs. Challenge butter - about $2/lb. w/coupons I had
1 qt. coffee creamer
4 big jars baby food
2 2pks. baby food
2 lb. rice
6 ct. English muffins
7 - 4 pks. yogurt

4/28 - Costco - $12.97
2 gallons milk
1 lb. organic spinach
large bottle of Panda Express orange chicken sauce (birthday meal request)

Grand total for April = $384.98

I {think} this is an accurate total, but like I said, I was really disorganized so maybe some receipts have gone missing. This is not bad considering that we had two birthdays this month, traveled a bit, helped host a party, hosted friends for Easter and took a dinner to another family. On the other hand, we were also staying with family for a few days, so that could have reduced our expenses, too. I am not including a big purchase of vitamins for the family. I'm not sure what budget these should be coming from. Where do you put vitamins and supplements in your budget?

How is your grocery budget going?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Upcycled Bibs

Sometimes crafting out of need is a good thing. Our little one has had access to lots of great hand-me-downs from his brothers and friends, but the bibs we have left are shot. So I took an hour one night to make some to meet the need.

old t-shirt
scraps of thin fleece
random buttons
pattern made from tracing a full coverage big

Getting to work...
One of the finished bibs
While they aren't going to win any baby style points, they are quite functional and the fleece is very stain resistant which is a bonus in my books.

Of course, use your safety common sense with buttons and babies. As they go through the wash, I ensure that the buttons are still fully secured and won't be a choking hazard.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Living Room Mini-Makeover

After living here for seven years, I'm ready for some simple and inexpensive updates. Last month I wanted to lighten up our living room, so it was out with the old....

and in with the new....

The new curtains are drop cloths I picked up compliments of a Plastic Jungle giveaway I was blessed to win via Half Pint House. I washed them up on hot with lots of fabric softener and sewed casings for the rods to slip through. They are not perfect as the dropcloths were not exactly the same size or the same weight and a couple had flaws, only visible after I had washed them. But I think the change opens up the room and the neutral tone will allow for other little updates down the road. Because at this stage in life, time and money just allow for incremental changes, not whole room makeovers done in a day. Next step: blue accents. Further down the road: one really comfortable couch.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March Grocery Check-In

This is not the most riveting post you'll read all day, but I've decided to keep a clear log of my grocery shopping activities in hopes of improving that area of life this year. The last few months have been eye-opening and I hope by the end of the year I will see some progress.

3/4 - Costco - $94.30
5 lbs. organic frozen green beans
1 bucket animal crackers
75 ct. Good Earth tea
3 ct. English cucumbers
1 large can tomato sauce (gallon?)
3 lbs. bananas
4 pk. large jars organic applesauce
8 lbs. butter
1 package deli ham
2 large bags tortilla chips
1 lb. organic spring mix
3 bunches celery
1/2 gallon organic half & half
5 pk. avocados
33 oz. sulfate & paraben-free shampoo - This is the Kirkland brand and I think it has been good for my hair. **

3/5 - King Soopers - $7.74
2 - 24 oz. cartons cottage cheese
1/2 gal. organic whole milk
2 deodorant
1 bodywash
1 toothpaste
8 lbs. sugar

3/5 - Safeway - $30.77
12 boxes of non-sugary cereal
4 boxes Simply Fruit roll-ups
3 lbs. cheese sticks
3 packages breaded fish
2 cartons ice cream

3/5 - Whole Foods - $11.76
1 organic green leaf lettuce
1 carton organic chicken broth
9.5 lbs. organic apples

3/7 - Safeway - $13.27
8 boxes cereal
3 individual size frozen Asian entrees
1 bunch of bananas
32 oz. yogurt
4 100% juice cranberry concentrates
1 individual CPK pizza
1 family size bag chimichangas
2 rolls Mentos (free)
1 box flushable wipes (free)

3/10 - Costco - $15.45
2 gallons milk
18 ct. Yoplait
2 jars pumpkin maple butter

3/12 - Whole Foods - $9.10
organic apples & minneolas - $1/lb
1 bakery cookie - We were on a rare date.

3/15 - Costco - $22.53
4 gallons milk
9 lbs. bananas
18 ct. Yoplait
1 lb. organic spinach

3/17 - Safeway - $19.42
6 boxes cereal
8 boxes simply fruit roll-ups
6 baby food 2-pks.
15 jars baby food
1 canister DHA rice cereal

3/21 - King Soopers - $16.51
12 boxes pasta
1 cherry pie - marked down to $1.49
1 package bakery cookies - marked down to $1.49
4 - 16 oz. cottage cheese - marked down to $.59each
2 - 12 pks. soda - marked down to $1.19 each
3 - 32 oz. yogurt
3 - 4 pk. yogurt

3/21 - Costco - $116.92
all were items were on coupon except for the water bottles & sweet potatoes
96 oz. honey
72. oz. chocolate chips
400 ct. beverage napkin
32 - 14.5 oz. cans organic diced tomatoes - stocking up for the year
40 ct. Rice Krispie treats
212 ct. size 3 diapers
900 ct. baby wipes
3 stainless steel water bottles - $6.97 total
10 lb. sweet potatoes

3/22 - Costco - $16.75 - Having a sick baby necessitated going to the pharmacy for a prescription and finding a quick dinner.
1 rotisserie chicken
2 loaves sourdough bread
2 ct. infant pain reliever

3/26 - Safeway - $32.54
2 bags Doritos
1 hot sauce (free)
2 bags Wheat Thins
1 kleenex hand towel
4 lbs. frozen vegetables
4 Grands biscuits
3 Freschetta pizzas
3.75 lb. green grapes
1 4-pk. yogurt
8 oz. bag pistachios
1 lb. beef franks
3.7 lb. lean ground beef

3/26 - King Soopers - $28.04
5 lb. clementines
3 lb. Smart Balance sticks
39 ct. Band-Aid
3 lb. brown rice
18 boxes pasta - most whole grain, at 49 cents/box this is likely one of the lowest prices of the year so stocking up seemed prudent
1-2ct. Dole fruit crisps
3 - 4ct. yogurt
1 - 24 oz. yogurt
4 - 32 oz. yogurt
1 small pack Skittles

3/27 - FarmCrest -$12.00ish
4 gallons milk

3/30 - World Market - $25.96*
8 - 12 oz. bags whole bean coffee
*This was a one-day sale, otherwise I totally would have delayed this purchase. This amount of coffee will last us a good long while.

total for March = $473.06

A few realizations in reviewing purchases for this month.
1. I'm still shopping too frequently.
2. I need to keep at least a couple easy dinners in the freezer for days when there are sick kids and other extenuating circumstances.
3. I am spending more than I think I really need to because we are budgeting more than the bare minimum. We do use a cash budget for groceries but whatever cash we get out of the bank does get spent. If I want to spend less, I need to have less cold hard cash in my hand when I am shopping, plain and simple.

I'll keep plugging along.
- - - -
**Very much off topic, but I just wanted to mention that as I post about grocery shopping here, that is only a sliver of what is happening frugality-wise in our home. Yes, I spent about $9 for a really big bottle of good shampoo. And yes, I likely could have picked up some acceptable shampoo for pennies if I still played the drugstore game. But I get about 3 haircuts per year at a place like Supercuts, with coupons whenever possible. So I'm spending at most $45/year on haircuts, not $45 for a haircut and style every 6 to 8 weeks. Every person and family needs to go with what works for them in that season and with the resources they have available. So all that said, I won't feel the least bit guilty for that $9 bottle of shampoo.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Steel-cut Oats in the Rice Cooker

Recently one of my husband's co-workers shared how she makes steel-cut oats in a rice cooker, so I thought I would pass that along. It makes getting them on the table in the morning a little quicker and easier than fixing them on the stovetop.

In the evening, add to rice cooker:
3 C. cold water
1 1/4 C. steel-cut oats
pinch of salt

Give it a quick stir.

In the morning, start rice cooker on porridge setting. (My rice cooker doesn't have this, so I use the white rice setting.) Let cook for about 20 min. or however long it takes for your rice cooker.

When oats are cooked, add in frozen fruit, maple syrup, honey or brown sugar as desired, and stir.

Makes 3 good servings. I double the recipe for my family. The leftovers are good reheated the next day, too.

I'm happy to get more use out of an appliance that might otherwise only serve one use. What other things have you tried making in a rice cooker?

Early March Menu Plan

Here's what I'm planning to make in the next week or so.

D - spaghetti & meat sauce, wheat garlic bread, spinach salad
B - cereal & yogurt
L - homemade tomato soup & grilled cheese sandwiches, apples
D - beef stir fry & brown rice
B- steel cut oats, berries
L - veggie burgers on biscuits, apples & oranges
D - chicken, fries & peas
B - cereal, yogurt, toast
L - sandwiches, carrots, crackers
D - shepherd's pie, spinach salad, rhubarb-strawberry crisp w/ice cream
B - oatmeal, berries, yogurt
L - beans & rice w/cheese, sour cream & salsa
D - homemade pizza (make batch of bread - crust, cinnamon rolls, 1 loaf, 1 pan of buns)
B - cinnamon rolls, fruit
L - macaroni & cheese (freezer), smoked sausage, broccoli
D - mesquite chicken on homemade buns, baked beans, peas
B - steel cut oats, berries & bananas
L - orange chicken, rice, stir-fry veggies
D - leftovers, popcorn, apples & oranges, cheese
B - scrambled eggs, toast, fruit
L - soup & bread
D - beef stew, cheddar biscuits

I'm trying to vary breakfast and get my kids out of the expectation of cold cereal each morning. Oatmeal and steel cut oats are much cheaper per serving and I think a lot more filling. I'll share how I do steel cut oats in a future post.

What's on your menu?

Monday, February 28, 2011

February Grocery Check-In

After January's alarming grocery totals, I knew I needed to get a better handle on that area of our my spending. So I've committed to keeping close track of the numbers in the coming months. I think I did a bit better for February. Typing it all out shows me again where some of the weaknesses are, namely frequency of shopping trips, lack of planning and some impulse or processed food buys.

2/6 - Costco - $15.24
1 take & bake pizza
3 lb. bananas
1 gallon pickles
1 36ct. flour tortillas

2/5 - King Soopers - $37.45
1 ice cream
4 chocolate bars
1 pkg. lunch meat
1 tube toothpaste
2 smoked sausage
2 juice beverages
2 cans Ro-tel
4 cans tomatoes
1 deodorant
1 bottle mustard
1 cookie dough
7 lb. organic apples
4 jars salsa
2 boxes Ritz crackers
4 4-pks. yogurt
2 cans soup
2 pizzas
1 I Can't Believe It's Not Butter

2/4 - Safeway - $7.96
4 lbs. cheese

2/6 - Safeway - $58.63
4 2-ltrs. soda
2 jars salsa
4 bags Tostitos
5 cans beans
2 jars peanut butter
6 bags cereal
2 cans soup
1 box baby rice cereal
2 boxes cereal
4 lbs. Tillamook cheese
1 aluminum foil
4 12-pks. soda
2 4-pks. yogurt
2 individual yogurt
1 coffee creamer
2 pkgs. Italian sausage
6 avocados
1 red onion
2 bags pistachios
1 valentine plate - so our youngest could have one as our other children do for the holiday

2/7 - King Soopers - $13.02
8 cans Ro-tel
2 boxes Ritz crackers
1 cottage cheese
5 4-pks yogurt
2 marked-down flower bouquets - One for a friend and one for me which lasted 3 weeks!)

2/11 - King Soopers - $8.71
4 cake mixes
1 tub frosting
2 pkgs. organic blueberries

2/15 - Costco - $8.08
1 lb. organic spinach
2 gal. milk

2/14 - Albertsons - $16.90
5 large canisters oatmeal
1 box pasta
2 bakery breads
1 box of cereal - cheerios for our little one
3 rolls tape (a Valentine treat for our kids...the simplest things make them happy)

2/17 - Target - $50.22
2 12-pks. baby food
2 large boxes baby cereal
1 large box diapers
1 large box wipes
4 pkgs. pasta
2 boxes cereal

2/19 - King Soopers - $9.29
2 pkgs. Rice Krispy treats
2 boxes drink pouches, all for team snacks

2/21 - Target - $16.26
10 lbs. rice
1 lb. brown rice
4 pkgs. valentine candy
bundle of cilantro
5 lb. dry beans

2/21 - Safeway - $6.69
1 can chipotle peppers
5 avocados

2/27 - Farmcrest - $12.00
4 gallons milk

2/28 - King Soopers - $27.45
3 toothpaste
3 boxes zip-lock bags
1 smoothie mix
2 coffee creamers
4 refrigerated biscuits
1 jumbo pack diapers
1 box wipes
1 natural sour cream
3 4-pks yogurt
2 big tubs yogurt
1 box tea
1 box instant coffee packets
1 tub spreadable butter
4 dozen eggs
1 large tub margarine (..sigh...butter is getting so expensive)

2/27 - Safeway - $93.69
1 large box diapers
48 double rolls t.p.
2 boxes kleenex
2 bags coffee
1 box tea
1.5 lb. beef
1 bag french fries
3 bags meal-ready chicken
1 2-pk. individual pizzas
1 vanilla ice cream
2 loaves whole wheat bread
1 pkg. lunch meat
8 lb. oranges
3 4-packs yogurt
1 6-pack yogurt
2 lb. mozarella
1 box zipper bags
1 pkg. flour tortillas
2 pkgs. rice side dish mix
1 pkg. veg. soup mix
4 lb. baby carrots

2/28 Alberstons $0.00 - I used a catalina expiring today to pick up a couple free items.
1 big container yogurt
1 wheat french bread

Grand Total for February = $381.59 or $13.62/day or $2.27 per person/day.

We did also eat a few meals out, both budgeted and thanks to our generous parents.

Kitchen victories for February:
1. Defrosting the deep freeze, taking an inventory and putting some of those items to use.
2. Making several batches of homemade fresh-milled whole wheat bread.
3. Cooking up a 20 lb. turkey, which yielded 2 roast turkey dinners, 4 meals of soup, 8 quarts of homemade stock and at least 4 meals worth of chopped turkey for future meals. While I definitely see that this makes good use of resources from one $7 bird, it is quite time consuming and remains one of my least favorite jobs.
4. Trying out a new recipe, these Barbacoa Chipotle Burritos. Yum! And now that Meredith passed on the tip about dried crushed chipotle pepper in the spice aisle I'll be able to make this with less cost and waste than using a can of chipotle peppers in the future.

What I'll be working on for March:
1. Menu planning.
2. Showing hospitality. We've gotten out of the groove of inviting folks in and this is definitely something we want to get back to. We're created for community, not to be loners.
3. Considering ways we can cut back with groceries.
4. Continuing to work more "normal" foods into our little guys diet so we stop buying baby food completely.
5. Considering going to cloth diapers. I have no good excuse except that I just don't want to mess with it.

Bit by bit, I'm trusting that I'll be able to bring it down.

Friday, February 11, 2011

{Fabric Jingle Ball} project #1 - 2011

With our little one's birthday quickly approaching I was on the look-out for an idea for a gift for him. All the suitable ideas I was coming up with would be redundant here because of his three older siblings who have left him well supplied with toys and clothing, as well as all the fresh things he has just received at Christmas. Then I remembered a fabric rattle ball that we had seen at a friend's home while visiting at Christmas. A Google search yielded this link (scroll down to the free patterns on the bottom right). I followed the directions, but went my own way on a few things. I used up some scraps of fabric left from other projects and some upcycled denim from baby overalls. I sewed in a piece of cotton batting with each fabric piece to give it a smoother finish when completed and because I had some scraps of that available and was concerned that the stuffing material I had would run short. I also added two 1.5" bells. It has been a hit with all the kids as it is the one ball that is okay to be {gently} thrown about the living room. Out of pocket cost for this gift = $.52 for the bells. All other materials came from my stash of supplies. And the satisfaction of him loving it is icing on the birthday cake!

Monday, January 31, 2011

January Pantry Challenge Wrap...I Can Explain

For the sake of "keeping it real" here, I thought I'd just quickly post about the second half of my grocery challenge for this month. On January 17th, I had about $10 left to work with. Later that week a friend alerted me to a big grain order that needed to be placed that week. Since I haven't been able to find a good source for grain locally, I jumped at the chance to be part of this order at a co-op in a nearby town. And thus began the lack of motivation to follow through with my grand plans. My shopping opportunities are usually on weekends and I didn't want to wait until February 1st to improve my numbers. Also, there were several coupon match-ups this past week which seemed worth stocking up on for future needs.

Anyway, adding to the $165 from earlier in the month:
1/21 Taste of Life $160.90
150 lb. wheat, 25 lb. corn, 50 lb. oat groats, 1 bucket lid
This supply will last the better part of a year at least.

1/22 Target $9.34
baby food - I do make baby food, too, but for the sake of variety and some ease, we bought some.

1/22 Whole Foods $26.34
bulk oats, 1 pkg. organic whole wheat pasta, 1 bag tortilla chips, 2 amazing* pizzas
*Whole Foods is becoming our favorite place for prepared pizzas. They make them to order for a great price on weekends.

1/24 Target $23.09
3 packs of diapers, 4 lb. dry beans, 1 lb. barley, 1 pkg. pasta, 1 lb. butter, 2 pumpkin pies ($1.07 each after coupons)

1/28 Costco $13.96
4.5 lb. cheese, 3 lb. sour cream

1/29 Safeway $39.04
9 jars pasta sauce, 4 cans soup, large pack of t.p., 9 individual yogurts, 3 4-pks yogurt, 3 small loaves bakery bread & bag of chips (for an easy Saturday lunch), 8.5 lb. boneless skinless chicken

1/29 Albertsons $19.98
4 dozen eggs, 1 bag tortilla chips, 5 boxes cereal, 24-pk bottled water (for team snacks in a few weeks), 2 bottles salad dressing, 1 shave gel, 1 loaf bread

1/29 King Soopers $52.89
9 boxes Kleenex, 4 pkgs. dishwasher detergent, 6 jars salsa, 1 pkg. rice, 1 can Ro-tel, 3 cans tomatoes, 1 yellow pepper, 4 avocados, 2 boxes pasta, 3 pkgs. sliced cheese, 5.5 lb. organic pears, 9 lb. organic apples, 2 tubs yogurt, 4 individual yogurts, 2 lb. organic baby carrots, 2 bottles soda

Grand total $511.17 {She hangs her head in shame.}

So I see it this way.
Stumble: going WAY over what I had planned.
Success: still finding items at their lowest prices.

Stumble: take-out - 2 meals of Chick-Fil-A, 1 meal of Chipotle (Burr-tio deal that fed us for 2 meals), and the 2 Whole Foods pizzas (again, food for 2 meals)
Success: getting through most of the month without boxed cereal or much yogurt for breakfast

Stumble: not planning ahead that made Chick-Fil-A the easiest option on a busy night
Success: cooking up dried beans and a crockpot full of mesquite chicken that made lots of meals

Stumble: not taking a full inventory before I started so I would remember what I had to work with
Success: baking lots of whole wheat bread and zucchini bread

Stumble: needing a better plan to make the most of sales while not going to the store too often...I simply need to plan better.
Success: getting a few meals put away in the freezer for busy nights and delivering a meal to dear friend.

Stumble: lacking contentment when certain items ran low
Success: keeping on keeping on....I'll keep trying.

I think lately we have been right around $400/month for groceries and household needs, but writing it out provides some clarity and motivation to streamline and keep searching for what is going to work for our family in this season.

I think I'll try again for February!

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Pantry Challenge Update

The January pantry challenge is going okay, though I have made a few observations.

1. When you make a menu for a month, don't expect to follow it to the letter. We've only eaten about half of the meals I had planned to this date because of leftovers we needed to eat, a couple take-out meals that also yielded leftovers and some poor planning.
2. For a big menu plan, check your stock of all ingredients needed in your meals even if you don't need a lot of them. Ever tried to make a stir-fry without soy sauce?
3. Plan some meals you can get on the table in a matter of minutes. Everyone has days when the time, energy or schedule doesn't allow much for cooking.
4. If you're planning for a long stretch of time, sales may not come when you need them. I'm still waiting on a good sale on pork to make our favorite pulled pork.
5. If you schedule your grocery shopping for a certain day and then can't go on that day and have no opportunities for shopping for the rest of the week, the menu you had planned will likely fall by the wayside.

I've given lots of thought lately to just how much time, energy and stress (shopping with 4 children!) grocery shopping requires and am trying to find a balance between time and money. I don't need to impress anyone with how little I spend on groceries if we have enough to feed our family and have a good balance between being good stewards of both of those resources. I'm no extreme couponer. I think I may have been in the past, and that time may come again, but I really need to spend my time on things that our family values more for this season. I need to shop more strategically and less frequently.

January Grocery far
King Soopers $26.42 - milk, buttermilk, apples, potatoes, avocados, beans, eggs, girl stuff
Costco - $15.62 - lots of lunch meat, bananas, cinnamon
Sunflower Market -$62.06 lots of ground beef & chicken, yogurt, produce, vinegar
Costco - $31.95 bread, cheese, bananas, tortillas, tortilla chips, spinach, celery, snack mix
Farm Crest - $11.96 4 gallons milk
Sam's Club - $17.62 bacon bits, salsa, chips
Grand total - $165.63

So, that leaves me less than $10 for the next 14 days. We'll see how that goes. I still have plenty of options with the food we have in the house, so I'm hoping for the best. But we may need diapers, or t.p., or some other baby things. Listing out the purchases certainly highlights the impulse buys.

Here's the menu plan for this week.
Monday - buffalo chicken meatballs, mashed potatoes, carrot & celery sticks w/dip
Tuesday - Homemade mac & cheese w/a bit of diced chicken breast, steamed veggies
Wednesday - Creamy roasted tomato soup, grilled turkey cheese sandwiches
Thursday - Spinach salad w/chicken, feta, bacon, croutons, etc.
Friday - minestrone, fresh bread
Saturday - cheeseburger pizza, salad
Sunday - taco soup, quesadillas

Are you doing a similar challenge? How is it going? How do you get food on your table economically while maintaining your sanity?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the Me I Want to Be

I've been mulling over New Year's resolutions for a while now, hence the lateness in getting them posted. But really, is there something magical about setting them on January 1st? I think not. I've been thinking of these goals more in terms of who I want to BE at the end of this year, rather than just what I want to accomplish. So here's my 'be' list for 2011.

Be content with God's provision for us, with all the ups and downs of raising little ones, with my role as a wife/mom/teacher, and with myself - flaws and all, daily cultivating a heart of thankfulness.

Be rooted in God and his Word. Read the Bible through this year and take time through each day to prayer and submit myself anew to Him.

Be engaged. This year I want to invest more heavily in my kids with their hearts and with their formal education and in doing things with and for them for their enjoyment. I want to be a fun mom.

Be healthy. Strive to eat lots of fruits and veggies every day. Drink 8-10 glasses of water each day. Stop taking seconds at meals.

Be lighter. I'm working toward losing at least 27 lbs. this year.

Be active. I've made it my goal to have 300 workouts or highly active days this year.

Be organized and free of household clutter that steals away time and attention from what really matters. I'll be working through this book as a guide to help me along the way.

Be creative. Taking time to sew and craft is good down-time for me for thinking and acts as good therapy. :) I hope to finish a project per week this year.

Be a learner. I'm not sure what this looks like yet, but I do want to take some risks, invest some time and learn some new things this year.

Be resourceful, making the most of the time, energy and money that I have.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January Menu - Pantry Challenge

With the new year here, I am feeling the need to get back on track with menu planning, tighten the purse strings a bit, and use up some of the items that have been in our pantry for a while. So, here is the menu plan for January. I'm hoping I can stick to it. I've posted it on our fridge for easy reference. For the first couple weeks I planned out breakfasts and lunches, too. But for the remaining weeks we'll just be winging it based on what we still have on hand. We've already started on the plan but I haven't had time to post until now. Forgive the formatting, it looks much better on my word doc.

January Menu

M1/3 D: vegetable beef soup w/ split peas, homemade whole wheat bread

T B: cold cereal, yogurt

L: leftovers (shepherd's pie, pasta w/sauce, soup, pizza, cheese bread, etc.), veggies

D: mashed potato bake (ham/broc/cheese/onion/sour cream), bread & jam, fruit salad

W B: cereal or toast, yogurt

L: green smoothies, tuna melts

D:lasagna (make extra 1 to freeze), garlic bread, spinach salad

Th B: baked french toast, apple slices

L: leftovers & quesadillas, raw veggies & dip

D: beans & rice, sour cream, cheese, avocado, fruit salad

F B: cereal & yogurt

L: snack lunch – crackers, cheese, veggies & dip, turkey

D: beef stir-fry, rice

S B: cranberry whole wheat waffles, fruit, orange juice

L: brats, steamed veggies

D: broccoli cheese soup, crackers or biscuits

S 1/9 B: cinnamon rolls (freezer)

L: company - minestrone, cheese bread, chocolate chunk cookies

D: veggie burgers, corn

M B: steel cut oats, blueberries

*Grocery shopping & prep: make bread (cinnamon rolls, 2 loaves, meat pockets)

L: individual pizzas

D: runzas and ham & cheese pockets, peas

T B: whole wheat cinnamon rolls,

L: mac & cheese, jarred peaches, raw veggies

D: Emeril's pulled pork (make extra to freeze), homemade buns, pickles, veg. side

W B: cereal, yogurt

L: tuna melts, raw veggies

D: caramelized garlic chicken, roasted seasoned potatoes, peas

Th B: banana zucchini bread, yogurt

L: leftovers

D: creamy roasted tomato soup, spinach salad with feta & peppers, grilled cheese sandwiches

F B: oatmeal, raspberries

L: sandwiches, veggies & fruit

D: pepperoni pizza, salad

S B: cereal, yogurt

L: meal on the go – whatever odds and ends we can scrape together

D: lasagna (freezer), garlic bread

S 1/16 B: oatmeal, blueberries

L: out to lunch – gift certificate

D: beef roast, mashed potatoes (make extra for shepherd's pie) & gravy, green beans, biscuits

M D: chili, cornbread

T D: pasta, meat sauce, steamed veggies

W D: BBQ chicken pizza, salad

Th D: leftovers or beans & rice w/ fixings

F D: chicken pot pie, salad

S B: waffles, fruit

L: grilled sandwiches

D: pepperoni pizza, salad

S 1/23 B: egg casserole, toast

L: hamburgers, baked beans, fruit salad

D: shepherd's pie, fruit or veggie

M *Grocery shopping and prep: make bread (2 loaves, focaccia, cinnamon bread)

D: grilled chicken focaccia sandwiches, chips, apples

T D: scrambled eggs, sausage, zucchini bread, fruit

W D: pulled pork (freezer), homemade buns, mixed steamed veggies

Th D: honey crisp baked chicken, rice, green beans

F D: cheeseburger pizza, breadsticks, salad

S L: grilled sandwiches

D: tacos

S 1/30 L:leftovers

D: pasta fagioli soup (Olive Garden recipe), garlic breadsticks

M D: beef & bean burritos, veggies


  • Keep grocery expenditures to $175 – mostly for dairy, produce, meat & excellent deals

  • Eat well

  • Use up what we have