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