Sunday, December 9, 2012

Meal Plans for This Week

Another week is gone and that means we're one week closer to both Christmas and the end of the year.  Yikes!  We'll be singing "For Auld Lang Syne" before we know it!

I sat down last night and began to try and plan meals for the holiday season starting with weekend before Christmas which is when I expect my family to come if they can make it at all.  I've got a couple of meals planned out but need to work on the rest of them.  For the most part I'm planning to make and freeze and then thaw and heat that weekend.  It seems the best way to manage company and holiday moods and food to me.

In the meantime, it occurred to me last night after I'd gone to bed, that I'd been better prepared if I'd planned this week's meals first and then taken something out to thaw.  Oh. My.  Well I wasn't getting out of bed once I'd hopped in, so I waited until this morning.  That worked out the best anyway, since John came in, got called out to go back to work and I was home alone all morning long to do housework and make plans.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken, Potato Salad, Steamed Broccoli
I've made this in the past with mayonnaise but followed a Pinterest recipe that called for Greek yogurt (using my own homemade yogurt).  I liked it much better I think but it did stick to the pan a good bit more than the other.  I used pan spray but just a heads up if you try this recipe: it sticks.    I certainly was glad when John finally got home and we could have a meal.

Pot Roast with Vegetables, Squash Casserole, Biscuits
My roast is very small, just about 1 pound or so, making it perfect for us and perhaps a sandwich for John's work lunch.  The biscuits will be welcome with jelly for a dessert and the leftovers can be toasted for breakfast (or my supper).

Turkey and Rice Soup, Grilled Pimento and Cheese, Chocolate Pudding
I made a batch of broth from our Thanksgiving turkey breast. We'll want a lighter meal today after two days of heavy meals, I think.  The budget wants a lighter one too, lol.  This meal is supposed to coincide with the return of cooler weather.  Fingers crossed!

Steak, Baked Potato, Salad with Blue Cheese dressing
This is actually a dinner out for us but it's all home cooked food.  Yum.

Red Beans and Rice, Orange and Onion Salad, Corn bread
All I have to cook is the rice and the bread.  The beans are frozen leftovers, just enough for two.

Sweet and Spicy Wings, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Coleslaw
I'll make my own sauce for the wings, a combination of a homemade bbq sauce and honey and hot sauce.  It's so good and only gets better as it bakes.

Homemade Lasagna, Green Salad, Garlic Bread, Easy Tiramisu for Two
Meat and sauce are in the freezer, I'll just layer cheeses and noodles to make the dish and prepare it ahead, same for the salad, and dessert.  I'll just slide lasagna in the oven that morning and then add garlic bread later.  

Using What I Have Celebration

I am so pleased to be featured at Hibiscus House for Farmgirl Friday with my Christmas pillows!  I'm joining up again this week, linking through Hibiscus House. 

I'm also linking up with Sunny Simple Life for  Sunny Simple Sunday.

I spent a little time creating this past week.  I wanted new wreaths for my doors.  I stripped down an old wreath and decided to use what I had to make a new one. I will be working on the second wreath this weekend.  In the meantime, I'll show you what I came up with for my front door:

I used pinecone picks to add a little more interest to the wreath.  I fashioned a new bow from old ribbon.  The little bird box was truly a 'use what you have' craft.  It used to be a little shadow box that hung on my bedroom wall, but I tired of it long ago.  I recovered with fresh paper inside and out, then used moss to cover the edges of the box.  A bird figurine that normally resides in the curio cabinet was placed in the box.  He sits upon a pinecone which I thought appropriate for my theme.

I did spray the wreath with faux Snow but it appears more frosted than snowy white.  That is so appropriate for Georgia, lol.  We're far more prone to have frost than snow most years.  I'm very happy with my wreath.  It's not glitzy and flashy but then neither is my country home, though a bit of glitz is bound to slip out here and there.  I think the gold is just enough color here with the red door and ribbon.

Thanks for joining me in my Farmgirl Friday craft.  Stop by and see what others have been up to as well!

My Frugal Week

My little 'Christmas' project, using just what I had on hand...

In The Kitchen:  

We went a full pay period without purchasing groceries.  I picked up milk and bread and a snack item for us for here at home, but we skipped the whole grocery store experience entirely for one whole pay period.  I spent about the same amount I'd normally spend on one of those 'in between' trips to the store, right at $40.

Second grocery frugal:  we bought a few grocery items while we were on vacation because we always cook most of our meals while we're away.  Does that sound like  I spent grocery money, and didn't really have a savings?  Wrong!  I had money set aside for vacation foods.  It's planned into our budget for the trip.

We planned to visit with the grandchildren (it was the twins first birthday) on the way back home and because that was another over night stay we didn't want to pack up a lot of food to try and keep cold for 36 hours.  We decided Friday to go out to eat for our dinner meal and opted for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our supper.  I think we spent about what we probably would have at the supermarket for snacks and food for Friday on our dinner, so it was an even swap.  And the bonus was not having leftovers to haul about.

I spent about the same amount as always this pay period, no more.  I didn't try to make up for not shopping two weeks ago.

After I came down with the flu, I scratched our plans to go to meat market this pay period.  I did a quick scan of the freezer and we can manage fine for two more weeks on what we have on hand.  That's another bit of savings, too.

One reason why we could postpone the meat market: a big turkey breast we roasted for dinner.  That should net us several meals.

After the big meal I put the carcass on to boil and got 2 quarts of broth and another 1 cup of meat off the bones.

I put a pan of turkey and dressing in the freezer for a heat and eat meal for later in the month (or even next month).

We ate lots of leftovers for our supper this past week, mostly turkey and dressing, but I can't say it was a hardship. 

Boiled eggs to make egg salad sandwiches for work lunches and snacks for John.

I didn't have many 'ready to eat' foods on hand, with this illness which broke my own rules.  I did use a container of chicken pot pie filling, a jar of chicken broth (homemade and frozen) and a container of leftover frozen rice to make soup the day I felt the very worst.  We had takeout day two and John brought home a frozen pizza on day three.  I'll be sure to put a few new entrees into the freezer as soon as I'm well enough to manage it.  We had to shop for groceries on day four and did our best to keep it short and sweet, but John insisted on buying dinner so I wouldn't be overtaxed that day.

An easy cupboard/leftover meal: Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo, using bought sauce, leftover chicken breast, and broccoli that I steamed while the pasta boiled.  Super easy, tasty, filling and quick to clear up after. 

Later in the week, I wanted a cup of coffee but coffee was running low and I didn't want to go to the grocery right away.  I opted to use the single cup coffeemaker we were given a few years ago.  It's handy to make a single cup of coffee instead of a 4-cup pot.

I feel much better but have been pressed for time, trying to make up for the lack of housework last week.  I didn't have time or excess energy to bake this week.  I had a chocolate poundcake in the freezer.  Weekend baking taken care of, thankfully.

In the Home
Necessity almost always leads to creativity in my home.  I wanted new wreaths but alas, the funds just weren't there, even though I looked at half priced items.  So I made my own. Dusted off an old wreath and then used pine cone picks, an empty wooden box and a bird figurine to make something entirely fresh and new.  I've a few more tricks up my sleeve, but I haven't yet had time to employ them all yet.

I did purchase two boxes of half priced ornaments.  I got 20 new ornaments for the price of 1 box.

I bought three floral picks at half price, too.  I was disappointed however when I arranged them because they lacked that Christmas cheer.  I found four glittery poinsettia blossoms in the shed and three of those proved to be just what that arrangement required. Perhaps after Christmas I'll just use the greenery by itself but I think the red punches things up for the holidays don't you?

The wax warmer on the buffet was a gift from my daughter-in-law.  She sold some items at an online party back in the autumn.  One of the scents I ordered was called Aspen Pine.  Oh my gracious does that smell good!  We really enjoyed that fresh pine fragrance (NOT like Pinesol but more evergreen smelling).  I love these melts as it takes just a tablespoon to scent a room and it lasts quite a while.

I did say I wouldn't buy any decorations until Christmas gifts were all bought.  Well they are all bought, we finished up on Monday.  I spent a whole $18 on my purchases for decorations.  I may buy a few more, but I don't foresee big expenses in this area.

My mantel decorations cost me NOTHING...I'm quite happy with it.  While digging in the Christmas bins out in the shed,  I found a bundle of garland I forgot I even had.  One piece of that garland, the last of the glittery poinsettia blooms and my two poinsettia hurricanes look just right on that mantel.

I can't name the amount of pleasure the flowers on my front porch have given me.  There are just two of them there, but economy and pleasure DO mix that's for sure.  The geranium I bought in late spring when it was very hot and the plant sort of limped along, but has decided it likes cooler weather very well indeed.  And the petunias rescued from an old bucket that held a dead rosebush where they had self sown are blooming away, too.  I smile every time I look at them.  I can't name the luxury I feel to smell those petunias on these cold evenings either.

Remember In The Kitchen, when I mentioned that 1-2 cup coffeemaker we have?  Good thing!  The Bunn died Wednesday night.  I tried what I refer to as a 'Rhonda repair' which consists of unplugging it and walking away but alas that didn't work either.  Then I tried running vinegar through it just in case it was calcium buildup even though our water here is very soft.  No good on that repair try either. Then John took it apart yesterday and looked inside it but we didn't find the source of the problem.  However, that only made it flood even worse than before.  So it's certifiably dead.  We'll be getting another but won't have to rush it with the spare coffeemaker on hand.

Picked up pecans again this week.  Unless we get a good hard windy day there won't be many more to pick up before I sell them one last time.  I'm praying for a windy day!  There are lots of pecans in that tree yet.  This last batch will fund the extra meat I want to buy for the freezer when we do visit the meat market next week.

Went into CVS this past week with my Extra Cash bucks and spent them all.  I picked up four bottles of ALL detergent on a very good sale, and a handful of needed cold remedy items.  I earned 4 more ECBs to use on my next visit to the store.

Mama and I were out shopping Wednesday.  My expenses were $18 for the Christmas ornaments and picks, and $20 for our dinner.  I paid for the dinner out of my allowance, so no cost to the household for that. Mama provided a coupon to help cut down on the costs for our meal.

I harvested seed from the basil in the pots on the back porch.  I hope to replace those worn out plantings with some pansies soon, but in the meantime, I've left the dead stems of the basil. They smell so fragrant when you brush past them.  It's a nice surprise. I like knowing I'll  have more basil next year courtesy of these seed.

John suggested we look into buying a small greenhouse.  He explained his reason: disliking that I bring plants indoors for wintering over.  I explained to him that I would love a greenhouse, but his reason was misguided.  The plants that winter over here are plants known for improving air quality in the home: ivy, spider plants, palms and ferns, etc actually reduce toxins in the air.  I don't know if he means to still consider that greenhouse purchase or not...

We need rain badly, but I can't deny the sunshine is a huge bonus for us this time of year.  It not only warms the house but fills it full of light as well, which means that we seldom need to use a light for reading or any other work we might be doing indoors.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weekly Meal Plan - Gobbleish

I came to a conclusion this weekend: a whole turkey breast is an awful lot of turkey for just two.  Next year I mean to have my turkey on Thanksgiving Day regardless of who has planned to claim the day.  I mean to have my feast on the feast day and if it's the second time I eat or the first, it will be just as tasty.

I am recovering well from the flu.  IF I stop pretending I don't feel a little weak and keep pushing myself to do just two or three things more.  John has been a wonderful help, doing the bulk of the meal planning and such this past week, but I roused myself Saturday and cooked Thanksgiving dinner for two.  I kept the menu simple, no need of four sides and two salads and three desserts for just the two of us.  I made Turkey, stuffing, Mashed potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie.  I put a pie, half a turkey breast, stuffing and a prepared entree of turkey and stuffing in the freezer.  We still have plenty for turkey salad sandwiches, plus two quarts of broth from the carcass and another cup or more of meat bits.  John's mentioned having numerous favorite turkey dishes.  For my part, I'm starting to feel gobble-ish.

Leftover Turkey, Stuffing, Gravy, Cranberry sauce, Potatoes and Pie

Chuck Roast with Root Vegetables, Green Beans, Pear Salad

Polska Kielbasa, Steamed Cabbage, Cheesy Potatoes, Baked Apples

Tamale Pie,  Orange and Onion Salad, Chocolate Pudding

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings, Coleslaw, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Mayo Muffins

Macaroni and Cheese, Broccoli,  Apple, Walnut and Lettuce Salad, Gingerbread

Philly Cheese Steak Burger Pizza, Green Salad  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Menu Plan

It's been two months of vacation and off time and very little work time for us.  And I say this quite sincerely...If we could just figure out how to have an income and no need of heading out to work, I'd enjoy this on a more consistent basis, lol.  Well it all ends this week, the day before the holiday starts to be exact.  From here until well into next year it's routine work weeks and squeeze in what we can during the off week.

So what did we do this past week.  Rather than sit here at home we took off to go to the beach!  Yep, went to the beach and then we stopped off to visit the grandbabies, so we could have our family Thanksgiving and celebrate the twins first birthday and wish a happy anniversary to their Mama and Daddy.  We came home yesterday and as I said it's pretty much routine for the next several months.  Well, truly, life is anything but routine with my husband around.  He likes to shake things up routinely, so who knows what routine is really all about? lol

Meals come around regular enough though, as does laundry and dishes and any other form of housework.  It's one of the few jobs that knows no season.  It's work all year round, isn't it?

You'll note there is no Thanksgiving day menu for our house.  We had our family dinner with the grands' and their parents Saturday.  Mama is having dinner at her house on Thanksgiving day and is NOT having turkey (she dislikes it, sigh).  John has a promise of a proper Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday though Lori did as good a job as any could.  John just wants the stuffed turkey (I bought a breast) and I'll make a pumpkin pie.  We skipped that at Jd's since birthday cake abounded and Mama has also NO PUMPKIN PIE, sigh, just as she said NO to turkey, sigh.  I do not understand this prejudice that she has against turkey. Oh well...Meals:

Lasagna, Salad, Bread and butter, Ice cream
Frozen lasagna from the store at that.  Yes, really.  John had jury duty today (cancelled last week but we were out of town) and I had errands to run in town since we did not shop for groceries this pay period.  I can easily get buy with what we have here but I had needed the trinity: milk, eggs, bread and a turkey breast and while I was at it, soda and something for supper and a few snacks.  We also happen to need fruit but will use canned until we can do our regular grocery shop.  There's plenty of lettuce and cabbage and carrots for raw veg this week.

Taco soup, Corn bread, Pineapple Salad
I'll attempt a leftover makeover and  use some of the leftover chili liquid base with additional ingredients to make our soup.  I'm thinking a bit of corn, perhaps some black beans, a little scrambled hamburger, some cumin.  That should make it taste like taco soup.  Fingers crossed on this experiment!

Alfredo Chicken and Pasta, Green Beans, Green Salad, Garlic Toast
I'm going to slice the boneless skinless chicken breasts the way I did the other day, so two breasts  should net me two meals worth of meat.  I'll make the Alfredo sauce from scratch and I'll check to see if I've got any broccoli before I commit to the green beans.

Thanksgiving Meal at Mama's, I am taking Jiffy Corn Pudding.

Oven Fried Chicken Fillet Sandwich, Oven Fries, Carrot Raisin Salad
My second chicken meal. Ha. Technically the THIRD since Mama is serving chicken for Thanksgiving.  Seriously.

Porcupine Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Coleslaw, Corn Muffins, Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Yes, I am making a lot of cornbread this week.  It's a ruse to get plenty of dry crumbly cornbread to make that stuffing next week.   I'll use up the pineapple I opened to make salad and my Lazy Day Yellow Cake recipe to make a small upside down cake.

Macaroni and Cheese, Creole Green Beans, Oven Fried Okra, Pear Salad 
I've found that having a mac and cheese main dish can be a satisfactory thing if I am careful to make a rich cheese sauce, balance the macaroni and cheese with savory side dishes with plenty of texture and make things as colorful as possible on the plate.  This menu will hopefully hit all those marks.

And there we are,  a week's worth of meals planned to please, and not a single bit of turkey in the week. Boo!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

This Week's Meals

I love my husband and I'm pleased as punch that he has thoroughly enjoyed football this season...but I definitely think I might as well stop talking to him until this season is over.  Even when he initiates a conversation his attention drifts back to the television before I get my reply started, sigh.  I think I've got this thing figured out, the football thing I mean.  He is available Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.  Football is on the other four days, lol.

Meals this week are more iffy than usual.  We've a busy week ahead that involves more fun, our last opportunity to enjoy ourselves freely and fully until next May or so when John will again begin using up vacation days.  We have certainly made the most of these lovely autumn days this year. John surprised me Thursday night saying we were going out on Friday.  This was a subtle ruse on his part as well as an attempt to squeeze in a bit more fun.  He was distracting me from working too hard on the housework while we awaited the arrival of the eldest son and family.  I'll devote a post to that lovely day here in a while.  In the meantime, meal plans for the week ahead.

I don't plan to shop for groceries this week, though it is our Harvest week.  I'm sure I'll pick up a few things next week like a Turkey breast to stuff for John's favorite Thanksgiving Meal but that's next week.

Cubed Steaks, Oven Fried Okra, Potatoes with Green Beans, Tomato and Lettuce salad

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches, French Fries, Apples and Fig Bars
I'll use the burger buns left from our burgers this weekend for our sandwich buns today.  Leftover roast from last week that I froze will be sliced and cooked with onions and peppers and Italian seasoning.

BBQ Chicken, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Harvest Slaw, Corn Muffins

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese sandwiches, Waldorf Salad, Caramel Popcorn

Lazy Day Beef Stew, Corn Muffins, Gingerbread with Applesauce
I'll have to find this recipe once more, but it bakes in a slow oven and calls for tomato sauce.  It's chock full of good root vegetables and green beans, too.

Creamed Hamburger, Mashed Potatoes, Green Peas and Toast

Chili, Tortilla Chips, Green Salad with Ranch Dressing, Pumpkin Cornbread
I'll split the ground beef into two portions and use half for this chili, doubling the beans and tomatoes.
I haven't tried the pumpkin cornbread in a number of years, but I figure I might as well make some to use up the lasts of the canned pumpkin I'll be using in my pie for next week (making pie ahead this week).

My Frugal Week

In the Kitchen:  I noted turkeys on sale this past week.  I'd meant to buy one because they are always a good bargain even at full price, but especially so on sale.  Aldi had a smoked Butterball turkey on sale which I thought would be good for sandwich meat.  I baked the turkey Sunday (it's a shorter time of baking but like any smoked meat must be cooked for a time to heat it thoroughly).  I divided the turkey into two breast halves, two thighs, 1 packet of legs and wings, and 1 bag containing the carcass and wing tips.  The meatier pieces will be our sandwich meats, the carcass will do nicely for soup and bean pot seasoning.

One thigh from the smoked turkey fed John and I supper one night with enough meat left on the bone to make picnic sandwiches for a day trip tomorrow.  I saved the bone and skin to add to the bag with the rest of the carcass.  I've found a recipe for a wild rice soup that calls for smoked turkey meat.

Do you do that?  Look at recipes and earmark those that call for ingredients you have on hand?  I've just made up a batch of applesauce muffins from a recipe that I set aside because I had half a jar of applesauce in the fridge that needs to be used up.  And the recipe for the wild rice soup that calls for the smoked turkey I have on hand. 

Katie made a big pot of chicken and dumplings during her visit this past weekend.  She used two of the boneless skinless breasts purchased last week.  There were enough leftovers for a second meal.

Cooked a sirloin roast for dinner on Monday.  I marinated it overnight.  While marinade may not be eaten after raw meat has been placed in it you can boil on the stove to use as au jus or freeze the marinade to use again for another piece of beef, provided you've kept it very cold and not let it warm at anytime in between removing the meat and putting into the freezer.

The leftover roast should make two more meals at least.  I put the meat away, cut into two portions for just that purpose.

Homemade just tastes best in my opinion. I made a pound recipe calls for a 10-inch tube pan which is a sizable cake.  I divide my batter between two 9 inch loaf pans.  I have to cut the baking time usually about 1 hour 10 minutes is enough) but we get TWO cakes from a single recipe.  I wrap one and put in the freezer and we have one for our afternoon coffee break snack.

Washed full loads of dishes on the shortest cycle.

Used water saved from rinsing dishes and water bottles to water plants.

Washed baggies to re-use.  

In the House:
Every now and then we're tested about our convictions.  John and I contemplated a big purchase this month.  As usual, we prayed about it and thought it out before we committed ourselves to getting an estimate.  We had a price point and we were pretty clear about it.  The 'guesstimate' was close to our price point.  However, when it came down to the time to purchase we given an estimate a bit higher than we were prepared to pay.  We thanked the company for the estimate and time but explained that we couldn't pay that amount at this time.  I think, truly, that they did their job well and we were all hopeful of the purchase, but in the end, it comes down to this: we're more committed to staying out of debt than we are to any purchase we hope to make.  Disappointed?  A little, but philosophical as well.  God knows our need and we've absolutely no doubt that at some point in the future we can make that purchase.  Now just isn't the time.

Picked up still more pecans.  I see plenty on the tree yet, but we need another  good hard wind to shake them out.  We'll take what I've picked up thus far to sell.

As a perk (pun intended) for voting Tuesday, Starbucks offered up free regular coffee to patrons.  John got his free but I had ordered a Gingerbread latte so didn't get mine free.  Wish he'd told me before I went to the counter.  I heard the clerk ask the girl in front of me if she'd been to vote yet when she ordered a regular coffee with a Gingerbread flavoring but I had no clue or I'd have gotten mine free as well.  BTW, Gingerbread Latte is a seasonal Starbucks offering and to my taste is far better than Pumpkin Spice.

We were 'out and about' as John says when we're doing errands.  He wanted a haircut, we took off trash, carried along pecans to sell, had plans to pick up a birthday gift for the twins and a Christmas present for a family member.  On the way home from our last stop, I noted that we'd have to run into town again this week just before guests arrived unless we made one more stop at the local grocery.  I should've thought to do this at Walmart when we were there but I was very intent on getting out without spending on anything except what we'd set money aside to purchase.  So we stopped locally and picked up the last of the items needed to serve dinner on Saturday.  Then we headed home.  We made the trip count that's for sure.

My last batch of pecans netted me $14 which means I now have exactly enough to book the hotel room for our stay for the twins first birthday.  Nice!
We've hung clothes to dry every single day, with limited use of the dryer on a cool and rainy day.

Affordable back ache relief:  I've had the worst time sleeping any length of time of late because my back/hip/knee ached horribly after two or three hours sleep.  That new pillow I bought was $9, formed for a side sleeper (my favored position) and is called firm medium.  Three nights I've slept on it and three nights I've had little to no pain whatsoever!  Who knew that the vast majority of my awful nights was due to a pillow not suited to my sleep position?  I bet I spent that much at least on pain relievers and night time sleep aids trying to get a decent night's sleep and the whole while a new pillow was what I needed.

Just staying home is the greatest relief, money saver and all around good place to be.  I am deeply grateful that the little things I do in my home can net me such satisfying results.  Little things  like selling pecans (we figured it netted me about $8 for an hour's worth of work) pay off, as does using fabric from my stash to make a shade and valances (the fabric was given to me).  And dear John has only mentioned at least once most evenings that he is surely enjoying his Christmas gift from last year (an upgrade that ended up saving us money because of the customer loyalty discount and the new package discount).  He's watched a ton of football. I'm beginning to understand the bare basics of the game myself.

Budget Stretcher: Wardrobe Savings

Kelly Jo is a relatively new 'friend' online and she asked me a question that I felt was a great idea for a budget stretcher item: a working wardrobe.

Although I've been 'at home' now for a number of years, I have experience building a working wardrobe and still require a few good pieces to dress for certain occasions.  I'm not much of the jammy pants and tank sort of gal for going to the grocery.  I might wear jeans these days, since I've acquired a pair in the past year but I like to look well put together when I walk out of the door. I think it's a reflection of myself as well as John and I try to look as put together as I can.

Kelly Jo wrote: My current struggle is maintaining a professional wardrobe. Our office is "professional dress" - and clothes are so expensive. Thoughts?

Quite a few, actually! lol

Clothing is indeed expensive.  In my working days (as well as in my current wardrobe) I lean hard on classic with a few trendy pieces pulled in to add oomph.  I don't think a large wardrobe is necessary but I do rely on the multiple use of pieces in my own closet.

Purchasing clothes, especially those for a plus sized woman, is not always possible in a thrift store but I've seen some absolutely gorgeous dresses and clothing pieces that friends have purchased in thrift or Goodwill stores.  Some people are iffy about purchasing used clothing and I understand that, but for the money, you can't really beat these stores.  Mind you, not every item there has been worn by someone.  Some are end of season donations from major retailers, some might be gifts or simply were never worn after purchase and will sport  the tags to prove it.  The major thing with shopping thrift or Goodwill is that it takes time to sort through racks upon racks of clothing that are categorized by color and not size.  If you've got the time and desire this might be a place to consider looking.

Consignment stores also come to mind.  Again, I've never shopped in one personally but that is due to the lack of them in my immediate range of usual shopping.  I understand the standards for consignment are higher than Goodwill or Thrift.  The prices may be higher than Goodwill, but still less than retail unless they are retro/vintage pieces.  Most consignment stores look for pieces that are in no need of repair, are in excellent condition, clean and current or classic in styling, so you can rest assured the standard is high for those stores.  I have noticed in the past year that more of these sorts of stores are popping up in areas where I occasionally shop.

For myself I lean hard upon the clearance racks of small clothing chains with a few purchases from the main racks now and then when I've waited long and patiently and fruitlessly for some basic item in my size (black pants, jeans, etc.).  In my state, most clothing is wearable almost year round unless it's woolens.   I do live in a mild climate with little variation between very warm, hot, hotter, and doggone it's hot, in most seasons!

One other source for inexpensive clothing comes to mind: swaps.  Family members or friends who wear a similar size may welcome the skirt that doesn't quite work for you while you benefit from having a jacket that never fit her shoulders quite right.  We all make fashion mistakes at times and we all have those mistakes hanging in the closet.  Why not give a friend or family member the opportunity to benefit and incidentally boost your own wardrobe at the same time?

And finally a last option is sewing or using a tailor to make pieces just for you.  I had a friend who never bought anything except her underthings from a store.  Every piece of outerwear she had was made just for her.  She found a woman in our community who sewed very well and knew the art of tailoring patterns to fit.  The benefits of this is that your clothing will fit beautifully and be uniquely yours. A pattern may be reused many many times over so if you find one that suits you and fits well, you'll never again have to look for that perfect dress (or slacks or jacket or blouse). The downside: having to choose the fabric (so hard to choose when so many options are so beautiful!) and the patterns, and waiting for the pieces to be made.  It would mean planning ahead if you needed items for special events. It's not necessarily the least expensive option, as it once was, but it does mean that higher end looking pieces might be acquired for less than retail simply by choosing a pattern and good quality fabric.  I'm always amused by Project Runway (yes, I am a fan) when they buy $90 worth of material and finishing pieces (buttons, thread, zippers, etc) and then say the dress would easily retail for $650.  My mother was an excellent seamstress and for amusement often spent a Saturday looking through retail stores, then trekking over to the fabric store to purchase similar looking fabrics and patterns and making a dress or coat or pantsuit for half the cost.

Now, for a short check list of other savings:

Buy classic colors and classic styles.  If you want to be trendy, do so with accessories which often remain a trend far longer than trendy clothing.

ANY color can be a neutral.  In the 1950's  neutrals were brown, black, navy and gray.  But a deep emerald green or royal blue or red or khaki can be your neutral. 

Use the Fashion Math option of buying a few pieces and mixing and matching to create several outfits.  One of the women's magazines offered such a feature recently based upon a Little Black Dress.  The dress was a sleeveless sheath type.  A blouse under it created a jumper.  A cardigan or jacket over the dress changed the look entirely, as did a loosely draped scarf.  If you purchase a suit look at it with an eye to using the pieces separately with other pieces already in your wardrobe.

Let trends be accessories while keeping the classics as the base pieces.  Much better to have a handbag to donate at the end of a year than a wardrobe.

So there are the options I know best of how to dress professionally on less.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This Week's Meal Plan

This past week we bought a Butterball Smoked Turkey at Aldi.  At $1.89/pound it is pricier than most turkeys, but I thought it far less expensive than most turkey sandwich meats and bound to taste superior.  I 'heated' the turkey yesterday (sort of like a 'fully cooked ham' this turkey required about an hour and half of baking to be 'safe' eating so be forewarned on that score), we sampled the meat and all proclaimed it delicious. We're thinking we might buy another one and store in the freezer for the future. Now is the time to stock up on turkey and holiday meal items for the rest of the year.  Turkey will keep (whole) up to a year in the freezer, so feel free to buy as many as your budget will afford and your freezer will hold.

Sunday:  Chicken and Dumplings
Yes just chicken and dumplings.  Katie came down to visit and offered to make the meal.  She said she'd made it earlier in the week but her dumplings hadn't turned out well and she needed to 'redeem' herself, lol.  Her dumplings are full of vegetables and boy was this good!  Not to mention my clever girl messed up one knife, one stew pot, one bowl.  I was really impressed with that.

Monday:  Roast Beef, Oven Roasted Smashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Waldorf Salad
The roast was the only meal I didn't make this past week and that's because I spent Friday out of the house and didn't 'cook ahead' for our Sabbath.  I opted to use one of my freezer entrees instead (time to restock those!).  It's cooler today and the heat from the oven is most welcome.

Tuesday:  Pinto Beans, Cornbread, Coleslaw, Apple Brown Betty
I'll use the wing tips from the turkey to season the pinto beans with smokey flavor.  Confession: I've never made pinto beans (or Cowboy beans) ever in my  life but I know a couple of Oklahoma and Missouri cooks who make them and my mouth waters each time I read their menus.

Wednesday:  Burgers and Fries, Milkshake
A planned out meal.  I don't know that we'll go on this day but it's planned for this week.

Thursday:  Beef Fajitas, Yellow Rice, Refried Beans, Green Salad
I'll use leftover roast beef, browned onions and bell peppers for the fajitas.  The refried beans will be leftovers from my pinto beans.

Friday:  Spaghetti Diablo, Green Salad, Italian Green Beans, Garlic Bread
I want a make ahead meal for this night.  The eldest son and his family are coming up to spend the weekend.  I can make this and just slip the casserole into the oven to heat while I admire the growth and new skills of the twins and their older brother.

Saturday:  Grilled Burgers, All the 'fixin's', Chips and Dips, Chocolate Poundcake
John planned this menu (all except the poundcake that's my contribution) for the kids' visit.  I'm not sure what dips we'll have and we still need to purchase chips but this meal is planned to suit the man of the house who says that I let meals get 'too complicated'.  Nothing fussy about this one and all I have to do is set up the food and drinks and yell 'Start!'. 

My Frugal Week

In the Kitchen:

Made cookies for the cookie jar (and a tin too as it happens, lol).  I used some graham crackers that had just expired.  It seemed a good way to use up most of the box.  

Bought a family pack of boneless skinless breasts this week.  I had 7 (why odd numbers in these packages? 3or 7?  Why not 2 or 6?).  I cut the last breast into three thin fillets and oven fried them for a chicken sandwich.

My soup this week was a mix of leftovers that I'd been popping into a container and ziploc bag.  Broth from a roast or two, some au gratin potatoes, mushroom stems, vegetables left from side dishes.  It was rather tasty with hot cornbread and all the better with the blustery day outdoors.

Bought flour while on sale at the local store.  It was priced lower than the flour at Aldi (which I think is the same). I got 20 pounds and put in the freezer to kill any bugs or larvae in the bags.

I talked myself out of stocking up further on two items: pumpkin and evaporated milk.  They are very well priced just now but facts are facts.  I'm only going to use those two items on occasion and any more on my pantry shelf would likely expire before I used them.  By the same token I mean to really stock up on cranberry sauce because I use it all through the year for various dishes. 

Brought out a 'hidden' bag of candy when we were low on sweet items in the house.  It is a help to have a little something put back for those between pay periods, haven't got time to make cookies days.

Perhaps not strictly a kitchen savings but the ingredients are kitchen staples: I made more of the baking soda/dish detergent cleaner to finish cleaning the kitchen cabinets and walls.  

Made 3 pints of yogurt.

Fed the dogs the rest of the soup (all from leftover leftovers) after our dinner.  John's not a big fan of my toss it in soups but he ate his fill from this pan.  I thought I'd be merciful and not make him eat it twice.  The dogs thoroughly enjoyed it and it was just enough to make a meal for each of them.

Skipped luncheon meats this pay period.  I've a roast beef I can slice for sandwiches and bought a whole smoked turkey to slice for sandwiches.

Watered houseplants and outdoor potted plants with water saved in the kitchen from glasses, bottles and dishwater.

Made french toast from the last of the Challah loaf.

Shopped from the pantry and freezer several times during the week as I ran out of ingredients in the kitchen.

 In My Home: 

Nothing like rearranging accessories to make things look fresh and new.  It all LOOKS new in different position.   

Those lanterns I bought at Marshalls were on the porch but when that heavy hard wind started blowing this week I brought them indoors.  That inspired me to make a simpler look for my buffet.  It looks very nice I think.

That wind shook the trees hard and stripped many of their leaves.  It also rattled pecans and they fell to the ground.  I sold over 40 pounds the other day.  That money will pay for our stay at the hotel when we go down for the twins first birthday party.  I have plenty on the ground again and noted many more still in the tree.

I painted the trim in the bathroom this week and suddenly just felt I had to DO something new in that room to match that pretty paint.  I went through my fabric stash and found a large piece of fabric that appeared a nice match.  Sure enough, the color legend on the selvage had the exact shade of green that we'd used in the bath.  I made two valances and a shade for the room.  I have a bit more to do (need sheers to go under the valances and a new cover on the bench seat).

The houseplants stayed outdoors all summer long and thrived.  I have the most beautiful Snake Plant in the bathroom, as well as a small palm.  Perfect accessories for that room.

Trudy is a short haired dog...she also has white hair and she shivers mightily these cold mornings.  John wanted to put something warm in the dog house for her but Maddie claims blankets and such as HERS.  John bought hay for the pet bedding, much less expensive than doggie blankets and nice and cozy.

Christmas shopping is underway in our home.  We sat down earlier this week and made a list, wrote out what we thought each would like and about how much we thought it would cost.  Now we know what our budget is we're doing all we can to come in UNDER budget.  Coupons, sales, direct shipping all help.

Ate out at a favorite Chinese place. I only get there about twice a year, because it's out of the way.  Today, when the plate was set on my table I realized it was a LOT of food.  I boxed up half of it right away.  The cost was reasonable before, but it's even better now that I have two meals from one.

I put back a couple of items today as I walked through a store.  It wasn't that I couldn't afford the items, it was more that I realized they weren't perfect for me.  Money spent on things that are wonderful is one thing.  Money spent on items that are so so...not a good buy at any time.

I saved a bundle today at CVS.  I combined sales, store coupons, manufacturers coupons and ECB, as well as my extra care card to reduce my total by over $30.  I like doing that.  I get a huge kick too when the clerk is astonished as my total goes down.

Clipping and sorting coupons was on my list of things to do this week.  You can see from the above that bit of time paid off.

John took an extra shift this week.  It was an especially long shift but we'll appreciate the extra pay on the next check.

Free this week: a sample of dishwasher tablets, a cd of praise music sent as a courtesy gift after we made a donation, a coupon for a free 12 pack of soda I 'bought' with coke reward points, a gift card 'bought' with points earned doing online surveys.

It was asked if all was well with us: YES!  John went back to work this week after some time off and I took advantage of it and worked hard.  I've been busy finishing up projects, starting projects, cleaning and picking up pecans.  I spent two days this week running errands and another day buying groceriesNow John is off again and we've got a month FULL of appointments, visits, and projects to work on.  I'm working on a post, have lots of ideas, but time is premium just now.  



Give me a home that two have built
    With dreams and sacrifice and song,
Where youth and age have laughed and wept,
     And love has mellowed every wrong.

Whose walls have echoed with the ring
     Of children's voices in and out,
The merriment of festive board,
     And human kindness 'round about.

Give me a home where selflessness
     Is spent in doing little things
That rate so high in happiness
     The whole house breathes the peace it brings.

Then give me grace to understand
     That men may build from house to dome
With all the art of masonry
     But only love can build a home!

- Eleanor Scates Dulany
as published in the 1934 November Better Homes and Gardens Magazines

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This Week's Meal

I sat down to plan meals this afternoon and had no problems whatsoever...That blustery wind outdoors, the gray skies, the chilly air all proved inspirational.  I don't know that this will last but it sure was nice to not struggle to come up with warm weather foods that I'm so bored bored bored with making for a change.

I have a November inspiration list that is two pages long already.  Can we say PROJECTS?  They abound  for the month ahead.  I've already begun working on that list, but nothing major to show for it.  My incentive fell away after John asked me to go into town and get a frozen pizza for dinner.  I didn't mind postponing my planned meal since he's put in no special requests for several weeks now.  Besides there were a couple of loss leader sales I wanted to take advantage of this week.  I put 20pounds of flour in the freezer and another 6 cans of diced tomatoes on the pantry shelf.

Veggie Soup, Toasted Pimento and Cheese Sandwiches, Apple Dumplings
Cold and blustery forecast for tomorrow so I decided this is what we'll be having.  I usually have a homemade soup day in September with the first chill days, but there were none, so no soup.  I'm looking forward to this meal!

Beef Pot Pie, Fried Okra, Peach Salad
The pot pie is leftovers I'd frozen and thawed for today's meal.  I'll oven fry the okra while the pot pie heats up.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings, Rice, Oriental Green Beans, Ambrosia or Fresh Pears with Walnuts and cheese
I haven't checked the freezer yet to see if I have more frozen oranges.  If I don't the fresh pears will do just fine for us at meal's end.  I'll double up on the rice for tomorrow's meal.

Red Beans and Rice, Coleslaw, Cornbread Muffins, Baked Apples 
I keep putting this menu down on my list of meal plans and I never get round to making it.  This week I think I will.  It's a very filling, but not too heavy meal.  The baked apples are 'extra' good, those nice Winesap apples I bought in North Georgia.

break:  I went out after typing that last bit to say goodbye to John.  I noticed the ground under the back yard pecan tree was just littered with nuts so I ended up staying out there for an hour.  I didn't even begin to finish!  The pecans were raining down the whole time I was picking them up.  I usually divide the area under the tree into quadrants.  I got a bit over half done.  I'll just bet that tomorrow those pecans will be as thick on the ground as they were today.  I think I picked up about 15 pounds this evening!  There's about 20 pounds in that bag now, enough to warrant selling.  I'll start a new bag tomorrow.

Cincinatti Style Chili Three Ways, Green Salad, Cornbread Muffins
I'll make extra chili for another meal.  You'll note corn muffins here, leftovers from the Red Beans and Rice meal.

Roast Beef, Baked Potatoes, Green Peas with Mushrooms, Tossed Salad, Carrot Cake
I'll double up on the potatoes so we have extra for tomorrow's meal.  I'll make extra salad, too.  I'm just pretty much trying to give myself a bread from cooking, lol.

Chili Stuffed Baked Potatoes, Tossed Salad, Carrot Cake

I can't remember when I've had such fun planning a meal!  Nothing like the change of season catching up with the season we're in to make it fun once again.  Hope you all have a good week.  I'll post photos of projects as I get them going.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Frugal Weeks

 The most reasonably priced meal at the fair is at the VFW's booth.  We always go for their hamburgers knowing we're supporting a good cause as well as getting a hot meal...

In My Kitchen:
I had a couple of apples that were bruised or too soft to be eaten out of hand.  I cut them up and served them as caramel apples with a scoop of vanilla ice cream as dessert for one of our meals.

One chicken, four meals.  That was my goal and here's what I did.  I cut up the chicken into parts.  Meal one: Bbq'd chicken (two legs, two wings, one pulley bone).  Meal Two:  Chicken Kiev (using the two breast halves which I boned and skinned myself).  Meal three: Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole (two thighs). I didn't have enough for a fourth meal, but  I got 2 quarts of broth from simmering the thighs, back, neck and bones.

Made a pot of chili.  I set aside enough to make a second meal for us before making chili mac for dinner.

I've found a quick and easy cake recipe that stirs up in four minutes.  It makes one deep layer or a dozen cupcakes.  I opted to make cupcakes this week.  Half became Boston cream Cupcakes.  The rest were frozen.

I had a bit of leftover ganache.  I put that in the fridge to save to make chocolate butter cream frosting for the rest of the cupcakes later. I know we'll be having the rest of the cupcakes this next week, so the ganache will keep nicely.

We've had a full week and as we draw near the end of a pay period, I strive to slow or even stop spending altogether.  I shopped at home when I ran out of milk, bread, coffee, ketchup, mustard, turkey sandwich meat.  It's so nice to have a pantry/freezer with basic items like that available.

Added another item to my freezer: 1/2 recipe of Corn Pudding (unbaked) which will make a nice addition to a meal in the future.

I've been looking at recipes over on Pinterest.  Even though I won't pin food, I do love to look at the recipes friends have posted.  Well I broke down this week and tried one of those recipes: Chicken Kiev.  It seemed simple enough for a 'fancy' dish and the recipe has been around long enough to be a classic.  I halved the recipe to serve just two.  I also crushed some leftover croutons I'd made to  use as breadcrumbs.  Fancy dish that turned out to be economical as well as super tasty.  I'll be making this dish again.

Leftover wild rice from the Chicken Kiev meal was mixed with the leftover chili.  I'll make burritos with the rice/bean/meat mixture and some shredded cheese.  The rice is a nice 'stretch' for the chili. 

We were out on Friday all day long.  I didn't do any food prep for Shabat dinner.  No matter.  I pulled  prepared meatballs from the freezer and made a Spaghetti and meatball dinner.  Preparation on Saturday took only about 15 minutes.

We had some leftover tomato sauce from the meatball dinner.  I figure it's just enough to cover a pizza dough for sauce.  Put the leftovers in a jar to freeze.

Planning menus, I came across a recipe I set aside last autumn.  It calls for lasagna noodles as the pasta in the dish...aren't there always leftover noodles after making a pan of lasagna?   The 'sauce' is a combination of beef cubes (supposed to be sirloin.  I thought I had sirloin but it turned out to be stew beef. Worked just fine!), mushrooms and grape tomatoes.  I happened to have the grape tomatoes in the freezer, too, some we'd failed to touch when I brought them home. 

Cooked twice as many potatoes as I needed for potato salad.  Half were set aside for breakfast hash brown potatoes.

At the fair, John bought coffee and used a pump bottle of Coffeemate Hazlenut creamer to flavor my cup.  I found it very tasty, not too sweet which I've always found offputting with flavored creamers.  I have an allergy to Cargeenan which is used as a thickener in these creamers so must keep it to very occasional use...Sad to discover that Coffeemate has that too.  But at the grocery,  John's quick eye spied a Coffeemate NATURAL BLISS creamer which is nothing more than sugar, cream, milk and flavoring.  Imagine that!  Now I can have my flavored coffee, lightly sweetened as I like it,  and enjoy it.

Put a roasting chicken in the crockpot while we were gone the other day.  It was a Friday and I had no desire to greet another Saturday with the need to spend time in the kitchen.  I had planned to make a green salad and warm leftovers of Corn Moussaka but we had company.  Next easiest meal was chicken sandwiches and apples and chips.  We used only one breast from that chicken to make sandwiches.

A frugal meal I love to make is chicken fried rice, a great use of leftover chicken.  Today I cut the 'cost' just a wee bit more.  I always have to cook the fried rice a little longer because I also use leftover rice, which is usually cold.  Today I used my microwave to pre-heat the cold rice, tossed it in the pan and cut the cooking time by about 8 minutes.  

Made a batch of yogurt. I decided to use the stovetop method. It took only a few minutes.

I sterilized jars for the yogurt. Then I used the warm water in my cooler to incubate the yogurt. I added cool water to bring it down to the right temperature.

Used the remaining cool water (from the cold water bath to cool the milk down) to water plants.

Brought out the reserve cookies we'd set aside last pay period when we had a glut of sweets on hand.  Nice to skip the baking.

In My Home: Hung a load of sheets on the line to dry. I washed a full load of clothes and hung the remainder of that load to dry indoors. (Since I first wrote this  I've hung a number of loads of clothes on the line.  That sunshine and breeze does wonders for drying quickly).

The dogs and cat have not been overly hungry lately.  I stacked food pans with uneaten food in the covered bins to keep ants away from it and served at next mealtime.

The cat simply did not want the dollar store food...The dogs could care less, so I mixed that bag in with their food and opened a fresh bag from the grocery for the cat.  Lesson learned via that cat.  No matter how much money I think I save buying the food at the dollar store, she simply does not care for it.  I can smell a difference myself, even though it's the same brand and no, it's not my imagination.  I even did a side by side comparison of the aroma and there's a noticeable difference.  Glad the dogs don't care about the cat food but I will note here they stopped eating the food I was buying at the dollar store for them, too.

Washed and dried a full load of clothes one misty morning.  I timed it for 35 minutes, took out the two slightly damp towels at the 30 minute point and hung them to dry but let the sheets finish drying on their own for the last five minutes.  Perfectly dry.

Now that this is dragging on for a span of a couple of weeks or more, I can say honestly that we've washed a lot of clothes by the full load.  And when it wasn't a full load but John was antsy to do a load he lowered the water level.  We've hung them indoors and out to dry and occasionally run a short time in the dryer, but for the most part they've hung to dry.   

John mowed grass but didn't have quite enough gasoline to finish up the job.  He went for more but only bought a gallon.  It's doubtful we'll mow again this year and we don't want the extra gasoline sitting about and getting moisture in the gas can.

We ate at the fair but I carried along water with me.  One bottle from home vs. one bottle from a vendor for $3.  That's savings!

It's very unlikely we'll buy a new home, no matter how much in like we fell with that home at the fair.  However, culling inspired ideas for furniture arrangements, colors to use, built-ins to replicate, are blissfully FREE.

Using what I have: I hung the sheers (from the master bath mirrors) in the living room behind the curtains.  Just the touch needed to dress up those windows said my husband.  It really does look well and adds a much needed bit of color.

Created a new look in the guest/craft room as well, combining elements I already had with like colors.  It looks rather nice if I do say so. I left the green dust ruffle and curtains from summer.  I put a maroon spread on the bed, folded a wedding ring quilt (maroon, green, gold on a cream background) over the foot and then a rusty red/maroon/green/cream print pillow sham I made last year for the master bedroom on the pillows.  The room looks quite nice with my 'on hand' items.

Followed my new mantra: A good clearing up makes a world of difference.  That's what I did with the guest room this afternoon after I got the bed made up fresh.  I straightened the room and the mess of curtains, quilts, etc. I'd dragged out this week and had been piling up in the spare room.

Then I followed it further and took the last of that good cleaning solution (vinegar and dish soap) and began to clean the kitchen walls, cabinets and counters.  I'm just doing one section at a time to keep from being overwhelmed but I'm very pleased with the results.

Followed a friend's share link on Facebook and received a coupon good for one free bag of Lindt chocolate truffles.  We picked this up this past week at Publix while we were doing our grocery shopping.  I think Lindt chocolates are pretty good, but seldom indulge.  I am sure, however, that FREE chocolate tastes even better than bought chocolate.

Completed a survey and agreed to try a dish-washing detergent in exchange for my honest opinion.  Full sized bottle arrived yesterday in the mail.  I can't share the name etc at present.  I am obligated to use for two full weeks and then fill out a survey about my opinion of the product.

Checked an email from Jcp (Penneys) and discovered a printable $10 off $10 or more in store coupon.  Printed that one out, too.  I'll use to cover cost of a Christmas gift I plan to pick that up this week.

John steam cleaned our carpets with the Bissell cleaner we bought a few years back.  I asked him to do the two rugs in the kitchen (a runner and a mat that are in front of the sink and stove).  Those two rugs look brand new all over again thanks to that cleaning.  I laid the two rugs outdoors to dry in the sun.

As the previous pay period panned out we ran out of snacks.  It would have been easy enough to stop while running errands and buy more but my budget has been whacked the past two months.  We drew a line in the sand and said to each other, "Nope.  No more chips, no more bought snacks until pay period." (We have a 1 bag per week rule and we'd overeaten the previous week).  We stuck to our guns. John got paid on Monday and we went down to the workplace to pick up his check and deposit it.  Then we drove to the store and bought chips and chocolate, lol.  It was sooo good and I told John I'm pretty sure making ourselves wait as we'd done meant it tasted just that much better.  BTW that money came out of our pocket money, not our checking.  We don't buy anything from the paycheck until we write our tithe check.

Harvest night I was a bit downhearted over how the money dwindled.  Normally I get a certain amount from the bank for groceries and my allowance.  This week I did something I seldom do: just used the debit card.  I'm so happy to report that we came in UNDER budget for groceries this week, which means we're spot on budget for this month.  After two months of a whacked out budget I'm very very pleased indeed.

John and I both had the same idea.  We want to replace our carpet but at present we're just not able to do so.  We'd thought a rug to go under our feet at our chairs would help prevent further wear.  Then we saw a small rug at Aldi for $39 that we contemplated.  At John's suggestion we went to Lowe's and discovered one for $19.  That fit right in with our house account balance, so we bought it.  It just fits the area between our two chairs and covers the places that were bearing the worst wear.

I think we have a new world's record for our least expensive trip to Walmart.  Total: $12 and change.  I bought two packets of incense and two sheer curtain panels for the dining room area to go behind our curtains.  It was not so very hard to be frugal on this trip as we had just been to talk to a flooring specialist about new carpet and kitchen tile.  By the way, paid for those Walmart items out of my 'found' money.

I was plundering in the shed and discovered a couple of sets of sheets I'd put away two or three years ago when Mama gifted me with new sheets on my birthday.  As it happens, those 'new' sheets are showing a bit of wear and these will nicely work into rotation to prolong their life. I washed and hung to dry today.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

This Week's Meal Plan

We've just a few days of this vacation/off period left and then it's back to work for John.  I caught myself slipping into the work week routine one evening this week when John was working in the music room.  I dashed about the house and got a few chores done so we could have a free day the next day.  I'm ready for a bit of routine again, I reckon.  All these 'free' days begin to wear a bit after a while and routines look pretty good.  That's probably why I've been slowly working on deep cleaning the kitchen, one small area at a time.  Oh the woes of a desperate housewife, sneaking in a few extra licks at her housekeeping.

One thing we've not missed much of: home cooked meals.  I've been cooking and/or preparing three meals a day most every day.  It's a good thing I really enjoy cooking and don't mind clearing up either.  However, inspiration is wanted/needed.  I've turned to cookbooks, former menus and Pinterest many and many a time over the past three weeks.

I didn't find a whole chicken nor breasts on sale this past week.  Instead I bought a whole roasting hen...which got left at the grocery store, ack.  We had to go back the next day to get another but the store was very nice about it.  I put that in the crock pot when we went out Friday because I didn't want to greet another Shabat with the necessity of cooking a meal.  Glad I did cook that bird.  I had thought we'd have warmed leftovers for dinner, but we had company.  That chicken, meant for supper sandwich meat and a few other meals, came in handy at dinner.  We only used one breast for that meal (sandwiches, chips, apples and caramels).  Now to plan how I'll use the rest of that chicken.  While I'm listing all three meals right up front, they won't be served that way at all.  I will mix the menu up so that we have chicken one night and another meat  or entree the next night.  No need of making anyone in this house feel they might cackle and lay an egg from eating so much chicken.

Chicken and Dumplings,  Coleslaw, Apple Sauce, Gingersnaps
I had a quart of broth in the crock pot as well.  Perfect to make a nice cool weather treat with.  I usually add some mixed vegetables to my broth mixture, and John prefers the big fluffy drop dumplings rather than the rolled out dumplings I grew up.

Chicken Enchiladas, Yellow Rice, Lettuce with Pico de Gallo
I know I have tortillas, chicken, cheese, etc.  I also have a can of diced green chilis which will add just a hint of warmth to the dish.

Chicken Fried Rice, Pear and Lettuce salad with Ginger dressing
I expect to have leftover rice from the enchilada meal since the packets I have on hand are larger than the ones I'd normally buy.  Plenty of celery, onion, broccoli stems, green peas and carrots to toss into the pan with the rice and chicken.    I'm not just sure how I'll make this ginger dressing, but I mean to play about and figure out something.

Sausage Veggie Calzone, Green Salad, Ranch dressing
I'll make my own pizza dough, brown some turkey Italian sausage and mix with cottage cheese (I'll employ an accidental discovery.  Freezing the cottage cheese makes it more 'dry' so it's perfect for a dish such as this), use some tomato pesto as seasoning.

Chili Bean and Corn Tamale Pie, Pineapple Salad, "Fried" Ice Cream
A chili sauce seasoned dish of kidney, black and red beans and corn with a  cornbread topping for the main dish.  A long time ago I figured out a way to have a faux 'fried' ice cream: roll scoops of ice cream in toasted coconut, graham cracker crumbs, shortbread crumbs etc.  I happen to have some shortbread cookie crumbs in the freezer.  I'll top with some of my homemade hot fudge seasoned with a bit of cinnamon powder.

Pot Roast with Vegetables, Harvest Cabbage Salad, Corn Muffins
Just a small portion of roast to cook with a potato or two, carrot and onions.  The salad is sliced cabbage with walnuts, craisins, and diced apples, with a mayo dressing.

Potato Soup, Hot Dog with Sauerkraut, Caramel Apples
It's my plan to get two meals from this package of hot dogs (the brand we use only has 7 per package)...I think John will be happy enough with this meal that I can carry that off quite well which will leave four for a meal later on.

There...That should do us this next week, and is not so heavy on the meat end of things.  You'll note most of these dishes rely more on the added ingredients than on the meat.  My goal is to be on target with the next month's budget so I'm planning hard to stretch out our meat supply.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan

Weekly Meal Plan

Last week was such a great week. I was pleased with what was accomplished at home and because I didn't tie myself down so hard that I couldn't enjoy the week.  John's extra time off was plenty of fun.  We've a few more days to enjoy, work, and relax and then it's back to routine for a bit.

This morning just flew by with routine housework.  I've been planning meals and checking out recipes, making out my grocery list, checking my budget (yikes!), looking over the pantry/freezer listing, etc. this afternoon.  That's a good half day of work right there.

Double Yikes! I forgot to post this to the blog this week.  Sorry, truly, I am.  John was on vacation and I purposely left my time free for whatever he might want to do.  We had plenty of fun!  Check out and see how we had fun.  We've been busy this week as well.  Monday morning John shampooed the carpet.  My job was to stay out of the way.  That afternoon we went down to deposit his pay check, do banking and made the most important stop of all: potato chips and chocolate shopping, lol.  I'm telling you, my husband is one man who understands the sweet/salty connection for a woman!

Yesterday we shopped for groceries and I came in under budget, hooray!  Mind you  I did manage a bit of stocking up (canned pumpkin, canned sweet potatoes, cat food) but I got everything on my list and still saved money this pay period.  I was so happy over that.

Today we worked about the house.  I started the big seasonal wipe down of the kitchen cabinets and walls.  I only got a portion of that job done.  After dinner we went out to vote and to pick up a chicken that missed getting put in our cart at the grocery yesterday.  Gracious, I thought once those things were packaged up they were safe from running off, but that fellow flew away!  Not sorry I had to go back to grocery.  Today they had Kraft caramels as a bogo.  Score.

So here you are: menu and update and stop by Blue House to see the pictures of our little trips.  We've got another one planned...

Beef and Noodle Toss, Whole Green Beans, Crusty Bread, Pears with Walnuts and Blue Cheese
This is a simple recipe really but a 'different' sort of pasta dish.  Lasagna noodles are used for the pasta, topped with a slow simmered beef, grape tomato and mushroom sauce with a rich stock.  Very earthy and suitable for Autumn meals I think.  I plan to buy a nice wedge of blue cheese for the dessert tray.  If I find a bottle on sale, I might add a Moscato to finish off this meal.  Yes, it is a fancy sort of meal, but it's economical, too.

Warm Italian Sandwich, Potato Chips, Easy Tiramisu
I found this recipe in one of the magazines.  The recipe calls for a sliced Italian loaf but I will make individual sandwiches for us.  It has Provolone, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, olives, sundried tomato spread.  It made me think of a sub sandwich we used to purchase from an Italian family when I was a child and I'm anxious this sandwich.  I think it will be a great meal to prepare ahead and heat when we're ready to eat.

Corn Moussaka, Mid-East Red Cabbage salad, Pita Bread
I first made this dish when I was a new bride...It's remained a favorite for autumn/winter meals.  The ground beef is seasoned with a bit of cinnamon and garlic in the tomato sauce.  It's unusual and tasty, as is the salad.  A friend of mine shared this a couple of years ago.  He mixed raw sliced red cabbage, carrot slivers, red bell pepper strips with a cumin flavored red wine vinaigrette dressing.  I like to toss on a few shelled pistachios after plating.

Cider Braised Chicken with Pan Roasted Vegetables, Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce
The recipe calls for cider.  I'll probably use the apple juice I have on hand and I'll use Tracy's trick of adding a bit of vinegar for the acidity cider has.  Another new recipe to try this week.  I do need to add chicken to my grocery list.  I can't believe I'm OUT!

Stuffed Bell Peppers, Mashed Potatoes, Fried breaded Okra, Slaw
Peppers from the freezer, I've got cooked potatoes to heat and mash in the fridge...Easy peasy and filling for that cold weather we've been promised is coming in.

Chili and Rice Burritos, Corn on Cob, Green Salad
A meal moved from last week to this week's menu. I didn't double the chili recipe as planned last week so we just had Chili Mac.  That left me about 1 1/2 cups of chili.  I added in the wild rice from the Chicken Kiev menu.  I think that will make a nice hefty burrito for us with possibly a couple to go in the freezer for another meal.

Corn Dogs, Sweet Potato Fries, Slaw, Caramel Apples
We didn't indulge in Fair food last week.  However, I thought I'd do a homemade version for fun.  This is another meal that we can make easily at the last moment if we have other plans.

Now just a quick bit of chatter...IM asked if I dress right away each day.  Sometime I do and sometimes I don't.  The truth is I'm more inclined to get busy and get things done if I'm showered and dressed first thing and far more inclined to piddle and take things leisurely if I don't.  I broke the first thing in the morning habit after Katie graduated and Granny was in Assisted Living.  Since John went to night shift I've been trying to get back into the habit of showering and dressing right away each day and again I find I get loads more done.

Have you all noticed that I've added comment moderation?  I've had a problem with lots of Spam especially on the older posts.  I finally got sick of these freeloaders who are using my blog to garner searches for their stuff, hence the moderation. 

Karla asked about the source I use for my yogurt recipe.  I follow this one
It turns out well for me 9 out of 10 times and when it doesn't I can usually trace it to one of three things: failure to sterilize the jars and lids, not watching the temperature of the water, opening the yogurt starter too soon.  I don't usually have any homemade leftover to start a batch.  It's so good I'm greedy with it, lol.

Now, the cat is tapping at the window and it's starting to get dark.  I'd best hurry on outdoors and feed those pets of mine.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekly Menu

The Autumn breezes are blowing and the leaves have that tissue paper sound they get this time of year.  I've been listening to it all day long, winding it's way down from the North and bringing a slightly cooler air to us.  Mind you, it's plenty warm in the sun yet.  I've aired pillows today and dried the load of sheets I did early this morning.  I took down the summer curtains in my bedroom and hung a pair that better matches my quilt.  I've contemplated the possibilities for the guest room's autumn/winter look and piddled about the house looking at the work I might be doing if only I felt like settling in to do something that takes more than twenty minutes tops.  But not even planning holds my interest for long.  I'm up to do a quick task, sitting down once more to think about the quilt's next portions, dreaming of the next quilt I'll make, then up again to do another chore or to plunder amongst the craft items to see if something inspires me.

I'm also contemplating the shelves of books.  I feel strongly it's time to start spending some quality time with one of my old dear friends but which? Or should I make time for a new one?  Or just stack books by my chair and read a bit here and a bit there until I feel I'm ready to settle in for a long long spell?  There's a tall stack of vintage magazines from 1925-1959, all from past Octobers to peruse as well.  Of course, I'll have to streamline meals, because we can't have cooking interfering with reading!   Slow cooker or quick and easy meals?  It does depend on the weather (doesn't lt? so changeable in our neck of the woods), but I feel it, the cozy season is coming nearer and I'm ready to feather my nest anew in preparation for it.

The housework is done for the day, time now to turn my attention to the meals for the week ahead.  I should note here that about half our meals were never made at all last week.  We ate take out once, and ate out once.  I had leftovers to use up, John had mentioned a steak dinner and since we went to the meat market I prepared that.  So you might note a few items turning up this week in different menus that were meant to be in meals last week.  A couple of meals required ingredients I'd planned to pick up but didn't in an effort to keep costs down.

I'll start out with what we had today:

Cubed Steak, Mac and Cheese, Steamed Broccoli, Panfried Caramel Apples over Vanilla Ice Cream
The mac and cheese was frozen leftovers, just enough for two servings and since we had only one piece of cubed steak each (and they were only about 3 ounces each) I didn't mind having two protein servings in this meal.  I had one apple from the bag bought to make apple pie three weeks ago and one apple that had a good sized bruised spot on one half from last pay period.  I knew John wouldn't eat either of those two apples, cooking for a dessert entree seemed the best solution.

Bbq'd Chicken Wishbone, Legs and Wings, Black Eye Peas, Oven Fried Okra, Coleslaw
I want to get as many meals from this chicken as I possibly can so I plan to cut it into serving pieces.  One of the items I discovered I had plenty of in my freezer: black eyed peas.  These are fresh peas, not dried.  I want to start using them.  I may pass along a bag to Katie.

Chili, Green Salad, Cornbread
I'll make a large batch of chili.  Enough for this meal, enough for a leftover makeover meal and a bit to freeze for a future meal of chili.  The salad may be plain, but the cornbread will be dressed up with jalapeno, red bell pepper, cheddar cheese.

PoppySeed Chicken Casserole, Green Peas, Waldorf Salad, Biscuits
I'll boil the back and thighs, the bones and skin from the chicken breasts to make broth.  The cooked chicken will go into this casserole.  I expect I might have leftovers from this dish for another meal.  Do you ever make Waldorf salad?  It's really a sort of old fashioned salad but I love it in apple season.  My kids liked this salad as well and it was a good way to get them to eat their fruit.

Black Bean and Yellow Rice Burritos, Xochitl Broiled Corn on the Cob, Pico de Gallo and Green Salad
Serving a meatless meal this day, but it won't feel  like a meatless meal with all this flavor.  I found two ears of corn in the freezer and this meal offers me the opportunity to use it and try a new recipe, too.

Chicken Kiev, Wild Rice, Green Beans, Fresh Pear Salad, Butter Nut Cake
The boneless/skinless breasts are the last of this chicken.  I think I'll have about 5 meals from it (there should be enough chicken bits and broth for chicken rice soup for supper one night). I haven't made a Butter Nut Cake in nearly two years.  I love to make it this time of year.  It's really just a pretty yellow cake flavored with a butter nut flavoring and a butter nut flavored cream cheese frosting.  I'll sprinkle nuts over the sides I think.

Chili Mac, Orange and Red Onion Salad, Cornbread Muffins
John loves Chili Mac and I know he'll enjoy this meal.  There will probably be a few leftovers of this too.  I've yet to figure out how to make just enough for two, but it's no hardship to him to have to eat this twice, lol.  The oranges are frozen segments I sectioned and froze a couple of months ago when no one was eating the oranges I'd bought.  They thaw just fine and will be nice sprinkled over a green salad with the onion (and if I have them, some sliced black olives).

Well if you only knew how long this has taken to type up!  I started about 3pm and it's after 8 now.  I folded laundry, fed the dogs, made sandwiches for our supper, stopped to read a few recipes, walked to the mail box, sat on the back deck and admired the sunset, chatted with John, restrained Maddie from helping John...It was a full afternoon/early evening.  But the day is done and so is this menu at last.

My Frugal Week

 When I found this a couple of years ago at the Peaches to Beaches Yard Sale, I never dreamed it would be a money saver...But it is.  For one thing, I can only fit a small roll of aluminum foil (usually the store brand) in the thing.  And so I use less foil than ever.  I tend to cram the usual size of paper towel in the paper towel section but the cutting edge allows us to 'choose a size' of our own liking even if the roll doesn't offer that option!  I've saved the cost of this paper dispenser at least twice over in the two years.

In My Kitchen:

Used this recipe for Banana Peanut Butter muffins to use the last banana from our previous pay period.  I made them on Sunday and the cooking time really is as short as it says.  I was certain it was a typo.  Be sure to check them for doneness at the given time range if you attempt this recipe. After cooling I bagged these up in groups of 3 and put in the freezer for easy breakfast bread or snacks.

Made a pizza for Sunday dinner.  I decided that we should go for smaller portions.  John and I agreed that we were plenty satisfied and so we had half the pizza left instead of a two slices.  That will make another meal for us.  I put in the freezer so we can heat and eat for a quick dinner on a busy day or for supper on a night when I have no clue what we will eat.

I had graham cracker crumbs near expiration and used this recipe to make Blueberry Graham pancakes for breakfast.  I had to add a bit more milk.  This recipe makes a very dense, heavy pancake, so one or two is more than enough for a serving.  I put the remainder in the freezer for another breakfast.

It's pure love of leisure that drives me...A half day spent in the kitchen preparing three or four entrees at once usually means I get a few free hours each day to do something else while dinner cooks or heats.

Ran out of dog food two days prior to shopping. Local stores don't carry the brand my dogs will eat.  I used saved tablescraps for one meal for them.

Oddly, the dogs think cat food is a huge treat.  I fed the dogs a meal of cat food.  The cat was unimpressed with their eating her food.  It meant she had to go without the few pieces of dog food she likes in her bowl.

Made croutons from bread end pieces I'd stored in the freezer.  I had a variety of breads which gave us a variety of textures.

Made soup from leftovers that simply didn't appear to be worth saving due to their appearance.  Soup masks a variety of faults.  I posted my recipe here .  We had leftovers of the soup, too.  John didn't want it for dinner on Friday because it was warmer outdoors than it had been.  I heated them up Saturday evening while Samuel was visiting and served with the frozen pizza slices.  They had football on and would have eaten just about anything put in front of them, lol.

Another weekend without baking prior to the Sabbath.  I whipped up a pan of brownies once I was sure that Samuel was indeed coming to visit.

When we visited the meat market this week, I asked for part of my ground beef order to be packaged in a big bulk (I think it was 5 pounds).  I made up burgers and meatballs from that bulk amount.  I ended up with 14 burger patties and 2 dozen or so meatballs.

I used bread end pieces I'd saved in the freezer as crumbs to stretch the meatballs.  Because I wanted to use them in various recipes (Swedish, spaghetti, etc.) I seasoned simply with grated onion, salt and pepper.  I can add other seasonings appropriate to the dish when I prepare them for a meal.

We wanted steak.  I bought the Chuck steaks last time we visited the meat market and it was good but not so tender.  We looked over our options: Ribeye, T-Bone, New York Strip, Chuck Steaks, Sirloin.  We opted for Sirloin.  It's just one price step above Chuck Steak but as tender as Ribeye.  We could cut that steak with our forks.

One sirloin steak is sufficient for three generous servings.

I noted that meat prices were up at the market, but they were not scary higher.  I opted to buy more of the lesser priced meats: ground beef (80/20) and Chuck roast and fewer of the higher priced ones.

This meat market also carries 5 pound bags of many frozen vegetables.  I bought green peas, french fries, and breaded okra this time. Next visit (in about six weeks) I'll buy three more vegetables.  I find it handy to have these larger bags in the freezer.  I can use just what we want for a meal, keeping waste to a minimum.

Fruits that were especially good buys this week: pears, apples, and grapes.  All were right at $1a pound.

In My Home:

Washed two full loads of sheets/curtains this week.  John tends to use the small load wash most often, about every other day or so, but I like to do the sheets, towels and other items myself.  I waited to wash sheets and curtains until the misty rainy weather was over and the sun was shining so I could hang clothes to dry outdoors.

We seem to be using too much laundry detergent.  I noted that there were five separate markings inside the lid, but you know I had to carry it over to the window in full sunlight to see them.  No wonder it seemed it had gone fast!  We were using large load level amounts on our small wash loads.  I marked the cap and hopefully we'll be better able to see what levels we need to use.

Washed full loads of dishes each time I did them.  Am I using my dishwasher more?  Yes, I am, but I make it a habit to use the short wash load (since I rinse before loading) and air dry.  I attribute this usage to lowering my electric bill somewhat this past month.  I have a bad habit of tending to hand wash dishes with the water running.  I know, shame on me.  My pump actually runs less with the current mode of washing so I think I'll stick to it.

Remember my new motto, "Give it a good clearing up"?  Used that method on the back deck Tuesday evening after I saw John off to work.  Result: the deck looks 95% better.  All the  plants were grouped at one end of the deck and suddenly our usual point of entry looks less like a pathway through clutter and more like an intentional arrangement.

Spent an hour clipping, sorting and organizing coupons.

We shopped on Thursday.  First to the meat market and then to just one grocery after that.  I could have saved a little more money going to Aldi and Publix but Publix had everything I needed.  We'd been on the road for 3 hours at that point and honestly sometimes not pushing so hard is far better than saving an extra $10.  I shopped with care at Publix, picked up all we needed and we were headed home.

I've never had much luck washing pillows.  They lump or break apart and are never the same again.  I've been slowly replacing our pillows but in the meantime, a good dose of air and sunshine on the line does no harm.  I spritzed Febreeze on them before I hung them out.  This should freshen them nicely.  

John stopped at a local flea market Friday on our way home from our autumn morning ride.  I found a suitable 'dog house' for Maddie for winter/rainy weather.  Have yet to see her in it.  For $5 I got the house, a doggie blanket and a cat toy.  So far the blanket is the favorite item.

The hardware store had buckets with the gasket inside the lid that seals tightly.  My repurposed bucket that I've been storing dog food in had a lid that cracked in several places and was about to break apart.  I bought a new bucket and lid for $12.  John asked if that was a bit high, but I pointed out that 17 pounds of food costs us that much and if ants or rain got into the food, it was a loss.  Keeping just one bag of food from spoilage recoups our expense.  I think I'm going to get a few more of these to use for rice, beans, etc.  I have two of these in use already and they are certainly handy.

Some of the second batch of rescued petunia seedlings are big enough to bloom.  They are a lovely deep purple.

It was John who noticed the display at the grocery of discounted hardback best selling books.  I found one I'd been interested in through my bookclub flyer but hadn't ordered.  So glad...The discounted book was just $3 and the bookclub version $13.