Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Month of Doing More with Less - Week 3

Week 3

Day 1/July 19
No shopping today. A friend had given us a can of lentils so I whipped it into a soup tonight with garlic, onions, broth, and a can of rosemary oregano tomatoes.  Quite tasty with homemade rolls.  The rushed dinner time and the promise of pudding for dessert probably didn't hurt in getting the kids to eat it, either.

Day 2/July 20
Posted 9 things on Craigslist and 2 have already sold. I'm glad to be freeing up some space around here and generating some funds for our curriculum.

My husband met with our insurance agent to review our policies and was able to increase our coverage for only a few dollars more than what we had been paying.  He inquired about a cash discount, but they don't offer that, so we'll be happy to take the credit card points.
Humbled and blessed by the mail today.  Thankful!

Day 3/July 21
I rose early to volunteer at our Bountiful Baskets site.  3 conventional baskets this time yielded 4 cantelope, 5 bunches broccoli, 3 bags black grapes, 13 ears red sweet corn, 3 lbs. carrots, 3 lbs. strawberries, 3 - 6oz. packages raspberries, 8 English cucumbers, 15 plums, and 3 living butter lettuce.  The total for this portion of the order was $46.50.  I also added 5 loaves of sourdough ($10) and approx. 18 lbs. Rainier cherries ($25).  I contributed for this on Monday, so that expense came from last week's tally.  Our fridge is now very packed! 
Safeway - ham and turkey for sandwiches

Sold another 3 items today.  Clearing out what we no longer need plus some extras funds is a win-win in my books.

I'm thankful for health insurance and that we had the option of urgent care vs. an ER visit tonight.  Our little guy needed staples after taking a tumble on the coffee table.   I'm also thankful for a steam cleaner.  That $100 purchase many years ago has certainly paid for itself.  :)

Day 4/July 22
Missed church due to a child's sore throat and wanting to protect our little guy's head from rambunctious play at the nursery.
Target - 16 oz. coffee creamer, 11 notebooks, nail polish, ream of paper, 8 boxes crayons, 2 6-ct. glue sticks, 4 manual pencil sharpeners, 4 pads drawing paper, box of pasta, gummy bears, 8 erasers, 2 sets flash cards, nail clippers.  Many of these items may make it into Operation Christmas Child boxes or last minute birthday party gifts.

Day 5/July 23 - no purchases today

Day 6/July 24
This month I've been trying to use up the bits and pieces that we in the fridge and freezer (condiments, little bits of meats, one of this and one of that) as well as the bathroom.  I'm not sure how we've ended up with so many little hotel soaps and shampoos, but I've been using them up which seems to be freeing up some space and reducing clutter.

Day 7/July 25
We were out to the gym today and for a quick errand and drove through Chick-Fil-A on the way home.  The sandwiches were free with a food bank donation. 
Chick-Fil-A - 5 sandwiches, 2 large fries to share, 1 Dr. Pepper (coupon)
$3.97 + food donation

Tonight we were given lots of food from sweet friends who are moving away soon. Lots of frozen fruit, canned chili, oils, baking supplies, shortening, canned goods, chicken, tea and a lot more.  We could probably eat for a week to 10 days just on what they gave us tonight.  Such a blessing!  I am again humbled and grateful for God's provision for us, right down to the little details of life. We've been out of regular white flour for a few weeks and I was considering purchasing a big bag of brown rice and we were out of meats, and those things were among the bags of groceries we received. 

Week 1 purchases - $172.44
Week 2 purchases - $165.87
Week 3 purchases -  $35.48
Total after week 3 = $373.79 of $375

This week:
- I felt a sense of accomplishment with getting dinner on the table early each evening that our kids attended VBS. Our time to get out the door was very limited, but we did it!  Hooray!
- We've still been eating well with lots of fresh produce.
- We committed to getting a 1/4 of beef which will be ready sometime in August.  We had not been preparing for this large purchase, but we're thankful for the opportunity to get good meat closer to the source at a good price.
- I still did not defrost the freezer, but we'll continue eating down the freezer and I'll need to defrost it before we fill it with beef in August.
- We had some challenges in the parenting department with a child who is unable unwilling to keep their room clean.  We ended up removing almost every last thing from that room for a time and have been taking the time to go through the stuff which will be allowed back in.  This process has made me realize the true excess of this American life.  I don't think our kids actually have an excessive amount of toys or clothes compared to their peers, but it is just.too.much.stuff.   Sometimes I think it would be easier if we had a play room, or more than one living space.  But the problem remains, and I'm owning it.  We simply need to live well in the space we have, even if that means getting rid of more. 

Goals for Week 4:
- Finish the challenge without going over...too much. I know I will need to spend more than $1.21 which remains in the budget I set.  Needs: milk & produce co-op order  / Wants: Dominos $3.99 pizzas
- Finally get our school shelf sorted out and organized for the coming school year.
- Make a skirt from a dress.
- Take a full load of stuff to Goodwill.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Month of Doing More with Less - Week 2

Week 2

Day 1/July 12
My husband stopped at Costco on the way home for the needed spacer for an inhaler from the pharmacy.  Yikes!  That came to $51, with a discount.  The good, healthcare was not part of this limited spending challenge.  The bad, whether it is part of this challenge or not, that money is gone, gone, gone.  He also picked up more prints for the passport project.
Costco - 3 prints

Today we also opened up a box of home supplies and toiletries which my in-laws generously sent us from Melaleuca.  The products are very nice, but not what we could afford on a monthly basis.  We especially like the the laundry supplies, soaps and multi-purpose cleaners.  We're thankful for this gift.

Day 2/July 13

Dressing like a cow for free food?  Yes, indeed.  Thanks, Chick-Fil-A!  But before that we went to the gym, and then the grocery store.  Yes, with 5 kids.  By providential timing, we were at the grocery store where Starbucks was also offering free energy drinks.  That was very handy since I was thirsty after my workout and the kids had been tearing up the gym, too, and it was noon and we were just beginning our shopping.  I made the list and pulled out my coupons the day before, but it still took too long to navigate the store.  And they there was some mix-up in that once I had swiped my card, for an amount that seemed way too high, the cashier called me back to give me a refund for the value of the coupons I had handed over.  Except none of the manufacturer coupons had doubled, and none of the mailer coupons made it into that refund, either.  But what proof do I have to stand on?  Anyway...letting that $5 go.  Had I been there without children, I could have pulled aside and gone over the receipts right then and there, but I just couldn't manage that with the kids this time.

King Soopers -toothpaste, shampoo, leave-in conditioner, 3 tubs flushable wipes, 3 packs baby wipes, 2 jumbo packs Pull-Ups, 1 jumbo pack diapers, 4 pkgs. chicken sausage, 3 cream cheese, cilantro, radishes (my girl's request when I was making the list), 2 jalepenos, 3 dozen eggs, 4 Propel waters, 1 Sunny D, 1 bag pretzel Goldfish, 1 pkg. girl stuff
I'm growing increasingly annoyed with normal grocery stores (too many choices, more difficult to navigate with many children, needing to pay so much attention to every detail to get the lowest price, etc.) and favoring Bountiful Baskets and Costco more and more.

Day 3/July 14
No shopping today. There was victory in making a frugal lunch for the family to be consumed in the 20 minutes they were home between activities.
Day 4/July 15
We stopped by the store on the way home from church to conserve gas and time.  Ice cream cones after lunch at home sure hit the spot.  By my calculations, 6 of us could enjoy a treat of ice cream for less than 1 serving of Cold Stone.  I think I need to plan a treat each week or so since we are not going out. We are pretty open about economics here and took the time to explain the comparative value to our kids. I also put a bunch of chicken breasts in the crockpot this morning before getting out the door and served shredded BBQ sandwiches for lunch and chicken pasta salad for dinner, with enough chicken for a couple more meals in the next few days.  I need to do this more often to make meal prep more manageable while still being frugal.   For breakfast we had cold soaked oats (oatmeal, yogurt, milk, mango, raspberries, honey) which is becoming a preferred breakfast because everyone likes it, I can mix it up and stick it in the fridge the night before and there is no work in the morning. We change up the fruit based on what we have on hand.
Safeway - hamburger buns, (3) 1.75 qt. ice cream, 1 gallon ice cream

Today's sermon was from Matthew 6:19-21.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (ESV)
In discussing it later at home with my husband we are as prone to greed as folks with far more.  It is not so much the actual stuff others own but the ease with which it seems they can carry out their lives in regards to money and the experiences they can pursue. When eating out is not an option, when we have to plan how and when basic purchases can happen, when outings become exhausting because I am combining many errands to save gas, it can be discouraging.  I confess that my heart has been hardened and I have not been exercising gratitude and that I have coveted ease when I should be embracing hard work. Dear Lord, change my heart!

Day 5/July 16
It was an expensive start today as we applied for 4 new/renewed passports.  Hooray!  The postal worker didn't question the homemade passport photos.  I ended up using the State Department's sizing tool, saved each image to our computer, then put the 4 images into a collage with a random photo in the middle to get the necessary size on a 4x6" print.

To make the most of the gas used to get to the post office, we also went to the Y.  We already pay a fixed rate per month, so we are trying to get more use out of it.  Sometimes I have to chuckle at the chaotic and non-efficient state of this crazy life or I might cry.  We pulled into the parking lot and I fed our sweet babe.  In we went and she required a change just as soon as I had checked the little kids in.  I picked her up again and she spit all over me.  Then I checked another child in and took the older two to get oriented in the fitness room, still wearing my lovely spit-up shirt.  The kids and I worked out and I went to pick up the other 3.  The staff picked her up out of a swing and discovered a massive blow-out.  10 wipes, a new outfit and a diaper later, we were good to go.  But not so fast.  1 mile down the road a child remembered he had forgotten his watch at the facility.  Back we go.  With great tension in the decision I opted to leave the children in the car for 1 minute to retrieve the watch rather than unload and reload them all again which would have easily taken another 15 minutes.  With all of that behind us, it was all I could do not to find the nearest drive-through for lunch on the way home.  Leftovers from the fridge have never been so satisfying.

Bountiful Baskets ordered today - 3 baskets, 5 loaves sourdough, approx. 18 lbs. Rainier cherries.
With almost 5 full days to go, the only produce we have left are some grapes, a few nectarines, 1/2 head of romaine and some potatoes, and that was with ordering 2 baskets last time.  I'm glad we're eating lots of produce, but I wonder if ordering 3 baskets will lead to waste.  I'm using this next pick-up as a trial (and hoping there isn't too much squash included this time).

I'll need to be at the top of my game this week with dinners as we have commitments every night.

Day 6/July 17
The children and I enjoyed a lovely morning at one of our favorite regional parks with friends.  The gas getting there was an expense, but beyond that, a free outing.
I had some time out this evening with only our baby so  I did a quick erran.  We need to provide 1 ream of paper and a supply fee for each of our school age children who attend a charter school program once a week.  If they were going full-time I'm pretty sure I would be overwhelmed with the supply lists these days.
Staples - 2 reams of paper, 3 composition notebooks with cool covers for my pupils, 3 large paper cover journal books, 3 small paper cover journal books, 2 packages of tab dividers.
$22.55 (-11.98 rebate on the paper) = $10.57

Day 7/July 18
The fridge is quite bare now.

It now contains a small amount of cheese, 2 gallons milk, condiments, homemade yogurt, limited produce (onions, cilantro, radishes, limes), eggs, leftovers, cream cheese, homemade salsa. We quickly stopped at the Costco pharmacy tonight and picked up a few essentials while we were there.
Costco - 4 gallons milk, 2 lbs. sharp cheddar,
$12.89 (+$6.18 for a 32ct. Dr. Pepper from my allowance...for the sake of honesty)

Today we rehung a clothesline and put the cloth diapers out to dry.  I did go buy diapers this week, but we've been using a lot of cloth diapers, too.

Week 1 purchases - $172.44
Week 2 purchases - $165.87
Total after Week 2 = $338.31 spent of $375

This week:
- I feel a little discouraged about how much has been spent so far, but it simply takes quite a bit of food to feed a family of our size.  We could certainly live and eat on less, but I'm not sure how much lower we want to go. There is something about not having good food in the house which makes one feel deprived.  And that then backfires because then we are more susceptible to caving in and going out to eat, which has defeated the whole purpose of saving money.
- I will be trying not so shop in the coming weeks, which should be made easier by having so much fresh produce which we'll pick up on Saturday. I do anticipate another produce order at the end of the month, though.
- I haven't reached any of the goals I set last week, but photos have been taken to list some excess items we have.
- Good accomplishments have been taking and printing the passport pictures for 4 of our kids, eating at home even with very rushed dinner times and evening commitments, and getting back to using cloth diapers part of the time.

Goals for Week 3:
- List 10 items for sale.
- Defrost and inventory deep freeze.
- Organize our living room shelving unit.
- Start a gratitude journal.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Birthday Celebrations on Small Budgets

I marvel at the moms I know who give great themed birthday parties year after year and I truly appreciate that my children are included in those celebrations.  But as I'm getting worn out older and wiser, I realize I'm not the gal that is naturally able to pull off such events.  And that's okay.  I'll try to embrace who I am and most of all, enjoy my children, on their birthdays.  Sometimes when we have had parties I spent so much time and energy on the party itself that I feel like the birthday child got the leftovers of my attention.  I also realized that as a child I never had a big birthday party with friends and I haven't been in any way scarred from that.  As our family has grown, simple celebrations seem to make more sense for us.   But that doesn't mean we don't celebrate.  Instead, I'm trying to build in traditions that I know I can execute consistently for each child's birthday.  Here are some components of our birthday celebrations.

Snapping a photo of the birthday child by their gifts with their name and age in Scrabble tiles. Our birthday spot has become the corner of our kitchen next to our china cabinet.

Hanging the birthday banner.  I made a birthday banner a couple years ago using scrapbook paper and our home printer.  I chose an aqua blue and a font that could work well for a boy or girl.  Then I laminated each letter at Mardel.  {Tip: In our area, Mardel has the best price on laminating at 25cents/linear foot, and their machine is about 3' wide, making laminated crafty or educational things totally economical.} We hang the banner on the finials of our curtain rods across the living room windows. The banner is hung on a long ribbon or string appropriate to the child (girly or boyish trying to match the cake or napkins) with clothespins.  And once the birthday week is over, we take it down, put away the ribbon to use again and store the laminated letters in a ziploc bag until the next birthday. It takes no space at all in our kitchen cabinet.

Serving the child their dinner and treat or cake of choice.  I can usually make these from items we have normally stocked in our panty and freezer, but if not, I'm willing to buy a couple ingredients to accommodate their requests.   Depending on our grocery budget that month, I might give them a choice of 3 or 4 different kinds of cake or dessert which I know I already have the supplies for.

Using what we have to decorate the cake or make the atmosphere more festive.  Small toys washed well are a fun addition to an otherwise plainly frosted cake. Legos, miniature figures, Little People,  letter blocks, etc. are easy to incorporate. Bright paper napkins (often from Target clearance or the big packs from IKEA), drinks served in fancier glasses, fresh flowers set out, balloons blown up or a colorful tablecloth, add a little punch to the birthday dinner.

Wrapping gifts up nicely with basic supplies.  I never run out to buy wrapping supplies for a specific event, but keep a reasonable supply of paper and bags and ribbons on hand which can be used for almost any need. I usually replenish the supply of wrapping paper after Christmas when it is drastically discounted and go for the colors and prints I can use all year, solid red, silver, gold or kraft paper and plaids or prints that are not Christmasy when paired with a contrasting ribbon.

Writing homemade cards to the child.  The cards I make are usually simple but we do take the time to write at length what the child means to us, how we see them growing and excelling in certain areas and communicating our love for them.

Doing special activities as opportunities arise. Last year my husband was offered free tickets to a Rockies game on our son's birthday. He went with the kids who were old enough to enjoy it and I know it was a memorable time for our son who loves baseball. Another time, a free family fun festival was happening on the day before our daughter's birthday and we all had a great time.  We've also used our zoo membership to have fun family birthday outings there.

Keeping parties smallish and simple when we do host them. Do a few special things and keep them busy with fun activities. Activities that have gone over well here are paper airplane folding and flying contests, water balloons on the trampoline, making folders and bookmarks using scrapbook supplies, jumping on the trampoline and just having free play time. I admit I need to do better and plan more activities than I think we'll have time for.  Some guests seem to need more entertainment than we are accustomed to.

Singing to the child.  This is pretty standard, but adds to the day.

I'll bet our celebrations will change over time and as our kids get older, but for right now these simple and frugal celebrations really suit us.

What are your favorite ways to celebrate with children?

Linking up to Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Month of Doing More with Less - Week 1

Day 1/July 5
Made bread today.
Starting this month off with a bang, by going shopping. :) I had the opportunity to get out to Costco, Salvation Army and Target tonight alone.  We needed milk and a few other staples since we were away for the 4th.
Costco - 4 gallons milk, pancake mix, 3 lbs. brats, 10 lbs. oats, organic corn tortilla chips, 18 ct. eggs
Target - 2 lbs. pasta, pepperoni, big Odwalla smoothie, 2 bags of gummy peaches, Tom's kids toothpaste, 26 oz. Redmond RealSalt
Salvation Army - Talbots dress, tank top, khaki shorts for our 9y.o.  It was a 1/2 off day so the total was just over $5, but from my allowance, so I'm not including that in the running total. 
Walmart - My husband made a stop for deodorant and other things he needed.

Day 2/July 6
No expenses today.
As I was folding laundry I was realizing that the kids' pjs are in sorry shape, but still functional.  I think we get full use out of most clothing in this house.  Those pjs will be hitting the garbage bin at the end of the summer, though.
I rearranged the boys' room and removed a dresser to eliminate a hazard to our youngest son and give them more floor space.   While I was at it I went through some clothes and found some that are outgrown that I was able to put in the Goodwill bag.  I also did some cleaning, sorting and organizing in our master bedroom, too.  It feels good to purge.  We may not have the best of anything, but keeping areas clean and clutter free less cluttered is its own reward.

I hope to sell the spare dresser and some other things to offset some of our curriculum costs.

Day 3/July 7
Picked up 2 baskets of produce from Bountiful Baskets which I ordered on the 2nd.  I am so pleased with what we are getting from them every other week.  This week included lots of peaches, lots of potatoes, lots of plums, several large mangoes, several bananas, 8 organic tomatoes, 2 heads of cauliflower, 3 lbs. strawberries, 2 heads of romaine, 2 bags of green beans, 2 bags of green grapes and 10-12 limes.
While I was picking up our produce it made sense to stop at the grocery store for some meat and other stuff.  I was happy to find some dairy markdowns, including some yogurt that the kids thought was a great treat after months of the homemade stuff around here.
Safeway - 8 4-pks. greek yogurt, 2 pints organic sour cream, small jar stone ground mustard, 1 box pasta, 5.7 lbs. beef roast, and 4.75 lbs. peaches.

Day 4/July 8
No shopping today.  Most of us were under the weather so we stayed in all day. We had a nice roast beef dinner which would have been quite a treat if not for all the dishes and the fact that by the time we got the dinner on the table we had one miserable screaming toddler and one screaming baby.  Real life.

Day 5/July 9
I went out alone in the evening to take a look at some flooring options for our bathroom. I've wanted to fix our bathrooms for years.  Who puts carpet in a bathroom?!  We bought a spec house and the builder used carpet by the tub and vanity in our bathroom and by the vanity in the kids' bathroom. Oh, how I wish we would have had the option to upgrade that for a couple hundred dollars at the time the house was built to have tile or something more appropriate!  Instead, this item has been put on the back-burner for years and I'm not sure it'll be happening anytime soon.

While I was out I was planning to get dinner from my allowance money, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to part with my limited allotment on food that will not be as good as I can fix at home at about 4-6 times the cost.

When I returned home we did the budget and it is pretty bleak.  A LOT of big expenses are coinciding this month and on a rather modest single income, there is really nothing to cushion the blow.  We both know the reality, but it kind of knocks the wind out of my sails each time we do our budget because I feel like it shouts out at me, "Stop dreaming, stop hoping, you'll never replace that flooring or take that trip or finish the basement or get back to funding the college fund or get nice furniture or afford a regular date night. Who are you kidding?!  You are barely scraping by!"  Most days I feel like I can stay in the moment, making frugal choices and not being consumed by the weight of it all.  But other days, not so much.

Day 6/July10
I gave 4 kids haircuts today so they'd be looking good for passport pictures.  They've never had haircuts by anyone but mom, so that seems like a frugal victory.  We met at Costco to pick up prescriptions from an allergy appointment today, get passport pictures and some basics.  I ended up taking photos at home to hopefully meet the passport photo specs but then the camera battery was dead so I couldn't transfer to the computer and edit.  I printed some from the card, hoping they would meet the requirements, but nope, I'll need to resize.  Passport photos at Costco are only $5 each, but since we need to get or renew 4 passports this summer, I was hoping to save the $20.  I'm trying to look for cheaper ways to do most everything these days, but I'll admit, it does create some additional headaches.

Costco - 4 gallons milk, 2 lbs. coffee, 9 4x6" prints
Dinner at Costco - pizza, hot dog, drinks
+5 prescriptions - Ouch!...but not part of this limited spending challenge
Safeway - Hoped to pick up more beef roasts before the sale ended, but had to get a rain check.

Day 7/July 11
Back to Costco today to get something more from the pharmacy, a spacer for an inhaler, which they didn't end up having. We also picked up more pictures that I was hoping would work for the passport situation, but that turned out being strike two on that frugal endeavor.  I might try one more time and then be ready to bite the bullet and shell out the $20 to get them completely done at Costco just to be done with the headache of it all.  I really don't like wasted trips to the store and coming home without what I was going for!
Costco - 8 prints that won't work

End of Week 1 - $172.44 spent of $375
- I haven't made a dent in our using our freezer food at all, but that's okay since I've been focusing on using the fresh produce and meat we have so it won't go to waste.
- We have been eating well and the meal plan is helping to keep me focused. From the 2 Bountiful Baskets I picked up, a majority of it is already gone.  I guess we are consuming lots more fresh produce than we used to and that is a good thing.  I'm thankful that the Bountiful Basket assortment usually seems to include a few things that keep longer, grapes and cauliflower and potatoes this time.
- Diapers for our 2 year old are in very low supply, so this week we started potty training and pulled out the stash of cloth diapers to make the disposables we have last as long as possible for outings, etc.  The cloth we have are very nice, but I've just never seemed to stick with it. Perhaps I need to make more of an effort on this front.
- I've spent more than I had hoped to by this point, but I still holding out hope of meeting the goal.  Then again, it is the season to buy school supplies, too, so it is anybody's guess whether I can pull this off.

Goals for Week 2
1.  List at least 10 items for sale.  The sooner the better.
2.  Make a written inventory of the contents of our deep freeze.
3.  Organize everything on our living room shelving unit. We have the Expedit 5 x 5 from IKEA and love it!  It is home to toddler toys, kids books, homeschool materials, scrapbooks and more so it really need a reboot before we start back to school.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July Menu & Pantry Challenge

The execution of last month's menu plan went really well, with just a few meals omitted and a couple frozen pizzas thrown into the mix for good measure.   I'll just admit right now that some days I just don't feel like cooking, and while I usually just push through that feeling and make dinner anyway, it is good to have an option or two that can be thrown in the oven without any work or mess.  And as a family we did not eat out even once!  

For July I'm hoping to do a bit of a pantry challenge and reduce our budget for groceries, household goods, diapers, clothing & shoes, and dining out to $375 for our family of 7.  We had some minor expenditures for an anniversary date last weekend and Starbucks on the road yesterday, but I'm starting this challenge today so I'm not including those expenses.  We have been blessed with a variety of foods from a friend who is preparing to move, with many bags of frozen corn from my family and with meals from my family as we were with them for a few days recently.  We're continuing on with Bountiful Baskets produce pick-ups and have been very pleased with the variety, freshness and quantity of what we have gotten so far.

The game plan for this month:
- Use up lots of stuff from the pantry and freezer.
- Eat lots of produce from our Bountiful Baskets orders and stock up and freeze in-season fruits that I might find at super low prices.
- Minimize grocery shopping trips. 
- Empty and defrost the deep freeze. I got a great start at the cleaning out part when I brought 70+ bags of milk to the milk bank last week.  I'm so thankful that some benefit came from all that work with our baby girl.
- Avoid food waste.
- Enjoy a family splurge (from our budgeted amount), maybe in the form of a meal or ice cream out.

Dinners - served with vegetables from our produce pick-up unless specified
1. ham & pineapple pizza, spinach salad
2. hot dogs, baked beans, carrots & celery
3. balsamic & feta chicken pasta salad
4. spaghetti & meat sauce, garlic parmesan bread sticks
5. chicken quesadillas
6. chicken & wild rice casserole, green beans
7. buffalo turkey meatballs w/mashed potatoes
8. omelets, cranberry orange scones
9. homemade baked beans w/ham, cornbread
10. beans & rice w/lots of toppings
11. lentil soup, fresh rolls
12. chicken soup w/homemade noodles
13. vegetable pasta skillet
14. IKEA meatballs, mashed potatoes & cream sauce, lingonberry sauce, green beans - a little indulgence from a trip to Denver last month
15. beef enchiladas
16. shredded chicken sandwiches w/ tangy sauce, baked beans 
17. carmelized garlic chicken, roasted potatoes
18. hamburgers, chips, fruit salad
19. pizza, veggie platter w/homemade ranch dressing
20. beef roast, mashed potatoes & gravy, peas
21. BBQ beef sandwiches, rice
22. taco salad 
23. bratwurst, potato salad
24. chicken and cheese white spaghetti 
25. Clean out the fridge or eat out!

Lunches - served with fruits and veggies
leftovers Always my first choice since they seem to be less appealing with age, so I try to use them up quickly.
whole wheat ham and cheese braid
egg salad sandwiches
chicken salad sandwiches
salad bar
mac & cheese
snack lunch

Breakfasts - served with fruit and/or homemade yogurt
homemade granola
soaked oatmeal w/fruit
pancakes w/fruit syrup
toast w/jam
green smoothies
whole wheat cinnamon rolls
yogurt granola parfaits
English muffin bread w/jam
egg sandwiches on English muffin bread

Baking, Snacks & Treats
whole wheat bread - 1 batch/week
caramel corn
key lime bars
oat fudge bars
chips & homemade salsa

ice cream cones
pudding, fruit, graham cracker parfaits

This month of making better use of what we have has been inspired by the Pantry Challenge at Good Cheap Eats and No Spend Month at Small Notebook.