Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekly Meal Plan: Pantry Freezer Challenge Week IV

Wow what a Week End!  Grandbabies and their parents arrived Friday afternoon.  Dear DIL made dinner.  I don't know how she does it, drive 5 hours to our house and then make dinner, but then again she'd been in close confines with the kiddos for 5 hours so maybe that was a huge break for her!  She spoils us a bit, always has a new item or recipe she wants to try.  Friday evening was a fancied up meal of Artisan tomato soup and Panini style Grilled Cheese that was grown-up sandwiches: Havarti and Gouda on three cheese Italian bread.  Campbell's tomato soup suddenly seems so...I don't even have words.  Let's just say that I'd much much rather have the Artisan soup, but I'll probably have another can or two of Campbells soup before I give it up and admit that I've been turned into the worse tomato soup snob ever born. 

It was a rollicking weekend.  It was stormy outside with rain and thunder and lightning and inside it was just as noisy and loud.  Sleepy babies, babies thwarted in their intent to do exactly what they know they oughtn't, parents and grandparents shouting a warning to the nearest adult to prevent the disaster just milliseconds away, and a wee older brother who has just discovered the lack of freedom when twins become mobile enough to follow  you every single place you go.  Yes.  It was awesome.

I made a bunny cake.  I haven't made one in years upon years and no there will be no pictures forthcoming.  It was the oddest looking thing and I didn't think ahead before I got it made.  I used a recipe I'd found late last year and wanted to make for my own birthday cake back in February.  For one reason and another I didn't get to make it then.

I made the bunny cake that starts with a single round layer, cut in half and set on the cut ends to form the body. Then I had this brilliant idea to use a tiny portion of the batter in a regular cupcake tin and another tiny portion in a mini muffin tin to make the head and tail portions, an addition of my own that I thought was brilliant.  Heaven help me.  I got the thing assembled and frosted and it was a right mess with a wobbly head and droopy tail. I used a cut plastic straw to hold the head and tail in place, fashioned ears from a white paper plate and shoved them in.  At this point I was down to eyes and nose.  Only I forgot to buy the candy I'd meant to use to decorate it with.  So I used two pastel blue peanut M&M candies for the eyes and a pretty pink one for the nose.  At that point I decided I'd best stop the decorating.  It was pretty weird looking.

But it gets worse.  I couldn't cover the thing because with the addition of the head and tail it was too long to go in my cake carrier.  That's not the worst thing that can happen.  I knew the frosting would 'dry' somewhat and protect the cake from drying out.  I didn't know that it would also dry out the M&Ms which cracked so my rabbit had chocolate bloodshot eyes and a funny looking nose.  But it gets worse.  Because you see, in my lack of thinking ahead, when you cut into my bunny cake there inside was the cake...a cherry nut cake so the whole thing ended up looking rather macabre.  Thank goodness my grandson is three and thought it just fine.  The rest of us sort of shifted our eyes away from one another and let it rest.  It did taste pretty good, though.

Well, enough of my foolishness.  I am a woman blessed.  Our pantry and freezer are still full-ish, our home is pretty much ready for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread.  The weather report is that the cold is blowing in once more on another blast of Arctic air.  I've just the meals to remedy that cold spell.

Leftover Baked Spaghetti, Green Salad, Toast, and the Unfortunate Rabbit Cake
I made the spaghetti dish Thursday.  Somewhere in between there and Saturday when I first served this meal, the sauce 'disappeared'. It had been so nice and thick, a real meaty layer in the middle of the spaghetti dish.  The pasta must have absorbed the sauce.  It tasted good but it came across as flavored pasta.  We finished off the casserole today.

Flank Steak, Hashbrown Casserole, Spring Salad, Muffins
Dear DIL provided the main course Saturday night of a marinated flank steak.  It was very tasty and John was pleased as punch when he heard that she'd left the leftovers in the fridge for us.  (I discovered a container of that awesome tomato soup, too as I rummaged about.)  Spring Salad: green peas, green onions, thinly sliced radishes in a green salad.

Pot Roast with Root Vegetables, Corn Casserole, Coleslaw
There should be enough roast for two meals this week.  The corn casserole will make enough for two casseroles for us.  I'll pop one in the freezer.

Arroz Con Pollo, Black Beans,  Iceberg Wedges
I love this hearty rice casserole that cooks on the stovetop.  I've learned to cut the rice packets in half.  I suspect we'll have leftover black beans as well, so two meals from one here.

Black Beans and Rice, Salad with Avocado, Pico de Gallo, Flour Tortillas 
If the black beans and rice looks a little small for two servings, I'll add in some of the roast pieces from  Tuesday.  We'll shred it and roll in the tortillas with some enchilada sauce and cheese, add in rice and beans to 'fill it out'.

Cheese Omelet, Grits, Fried Apples, Biscuits
I read a tip today to add 1/4tsp baking soda for each egg you use in your omelet.  The soda will combust when the eggs begin to heat and create a lighter and fluffier omelet.  I'll be trying that tip this week.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings, Steamed Pea Pods, Fried Rice, Eggrolls
I have the rice and eggrolls, and the chicken wings plus a bottle of marinade on hand.  At most I'll purchase 1/2 pound of snow peas or pea pods for us for this meal, only because I know I'm running low on vegetables.  If I decide against even that purchase, I'll steam green peas or heat green beans.  We'll se ehow I feel at the end of the week. 

A Year of Savings: 2013

Mar 15:  Received in today's mail: 1 Worship Cd.  It was an unexpected courtesy gift for a gift we made.  We never expected that!  The Cd is top rate and we enjoyed it greatly.  Savings $15, the retail value of the item.

Clipped coupons from the ALL YOU magazine issue I'd finished reading.  I clipped enough usable coupons today to pay for the subscription...if I'd paid for it myself!  As it is, I got my subscription using Coke Reward points.  Savings $22.

I love to do Suduko puzzles.  I have several books on hand here at home.  Lately I've been systematically working the puzzles. I began at the beginning and worked them in order of difficulty.  I confess that the HARD puzzles are still a bit beyond my thinking skills at this point but using the whole book instead of just those puzzles I think might be my skill level or a challenge means I'm getting full enjoyment from the books.  I have about six books on hand averaging $5 each.  Fully enjoying them nets me a savings of $30, because it's not savings if you're not taking advantage of what you have, is it?

Mar 16:  Lovely easy day at home.  I was so totally relaxed all day long.  Dinner was pizza: HOMEMADE.  And we had enough leftovers that I put some in the freezer for a future meal and some in the fridge for a grab and go supper meal.  Savings $10 over the cost of takeout.

Mar 17:  No big corned beef dinner today but we had a lovely meal all the same.  I made my own Thousand Island dressing for Reuben sandwiches.  Savings $2.49 for a bottle of dressing.

I didn't need all of the corned beef I had, even though I thought I had only enough for sandwiches.  Hash for breakfast tomorrow will be a nice bonus meal.  Savings $2, a bonus breakfast entree.

Potato soup...It's easy to make, delicious and so inexpensive to make.  Homemade broth brought the cost down and the flavor up.  savings for homemade broth: $1.

Sunday paper netted me more than enough coupons to offset the cost today. Savings:$2.

Mar 18:  Not feeling well today.  I have a problematic tooth and today it was making itself felt in a big way.  No dentist open either so it was make do the best you can.  When Katie had a problem following her wisdom tooth surgery the orthodontist had her swish her mouth with peroxide.  I didn't have the higher strength solution on hand that he prescribed but I did have peroxide.  And I had over the counter pain relievers.  That and a moist heat pack helped get me through the day.  Here's to home remedies!  True the tooth will eventually need to be seen but to manage reasonably well at home on my own made life bearable.

Mar 19:  What's the best way to SAVE money overall?  Don't spend it!  I thought long and hard to day about my plans to spend, picking up a few items at several different stores.  They were good buys and with coupons they would have been even better buys.  But honestly?  I'm in a pantry/freezer challenge.  I have plenty of stuff in the house and these were all just extras, not filling in holes in the stock.  I cut out one store and then two and then three...My savings was $35.

When I got home today the first things I did was put my change into the savings jar.  I added $6 towards that vacation shortage fund today.  So far I've saved $38.

I made a second meal from my dinner.  We had chicken breasts today.  I set a portion of mine aside, along with a roll.  This evening, I made  sandwich from my dinner leftovers.  It was a perfect supper portion for me and so good that I think I might have to have a chicken sandwich dinner one day soon.  Two meals from one isn't news in this house, lol, but I'm always amazed that my foodstuffs continually 'expand'.

Mar 20:  Grocery day.  Not my usual day nor store.  Necessity this week demanded that we change our day and place.  And I discovered something.  I'm very spoiled by Aldi prices.  I had to buy what I had to buy today, mostly dairy and produce and we didn't walk down too many aisles besides those.  Our sole splurge was a dozen donuts.  I spent every single penny I had in my budget.  NO savings there.  I'm more determined than ever to attempt an ALL ALDI month in April.  Officially I have a pittance set aside for the beef purchase I meant to make.  Good thing I decided to wait on that meat purchase.

Okay it might sound like a splurge but it wasn't really.  It was a little spot of joy in the midst of my frustration: I had a Starbucks coffee.  I indulge only once a month.  It's my treat to myself and lately I've discovered that I can buy a gift card with my Swagbucks.  Now I usually use my Swagbuck dollars to purchase Amazon gift cards which we use towards household and personal care purchases but every fourth or fifth time I earn points enough I'm purchasing a $5 giftcard to Starbucks instead. Today I treated John and I to coffee and we didn't pay one penny of cash for it.  Savings: $5.46

John needed a desk to work at and we've looked for one at thrift and yardsale over the last few months.  We had an idea of about what we'd pay if we found one we liked.  He cleared out his music room today and moved a lot of equipment and stuff and low and behold...A table that had been laden with other things suddenly presented itself as a desk.  Savings: $40.

Mar 21:   We didn't spend any money today...Always a good thing.  I spent the morning preparing foods for the weekend, getting the guest room prepared, etc.  We went out that evening to the Region 7 EMS dinner.  It's a wonderful dinner hosted by two hospitals honoring the EMS.  Awards, door prizes, dinner, gathering with friends and acquaintances; it's a lovely evening out.  Very nice evening out with people we like.  You can't beat that!

Savings: $180.95

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekly Meal Plan: Pantry Freezer Challenge Week III

I've decided that I'll probably sail through next week without a care as my pantry/freezer are holding up very well to this challenge.  Even the meat that I had on hand has gone further than I thought it might.  I think this is wonderful and am really pleased.  I was fortunate last week that Mama shared some fresh produce items with me.  This meant I could extend our produce items by choosing the ones less likely to keep well and those that would keep longer.  No need to use up all of the broccoli right away, since it will keep well for another week.  Apples will keep, but the grapes won't, so we've had grapes this weekend and will have apples for the beginning of this week.

Baked Ruebens, Creamy Potato Soup
I put the rye bread in the freezer when we got home from the grocery almost two weeks ago.  I couldn't get another corned beef as the store was out and I thought this menu would do nicely for a St. Patrick Day meal. We should have leftover corned beef and bread so there will corned beef sandwiches for supper one night later this week.  

Chicken Fried Rice, Egg Rolls, Tangelo
I put so many vegetables in the fried rice (mushrooms, onion, celery, carrot, peas, broccoli stems) that I feel with the egg roll we're safely getting two servings of vegetables each and possibly more.    This will be the last meal from our whole roasted chicken.  I'll put the carcass in the freezer to make broth with in the very near future. 

Cubed Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Broccoli Apple Salad
I moved the broccoli apple salad from last week to this week.  I really like this salad.  It's a fresh alternative for a winter salad bowl.  You can add raisins, craisins, a bit of onion, toasted nuts or sunflower seeds to this salad to extend it.

Homemade Sausage Pizza, Tossed Salad
The last time I made pizza, I made the dough ahead and put in the fridge.  It rose there overnight and was the best dough I've made to date.  I plan to do the same this time.  I'll won't use vegetables on my pizza this time.  I plan to have a salad filled with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, olives

Quiche, Hash Browns, Green Salad, Biscuits
I froze the leftover asparagus last week instead of using in the egg dish and will thaw to use in the quiche today.  I'll make my own pastry from scratch.  The remaining Swiss will be used in this dish, too.  Hash browns will be made from scratch as well.

Tortilla Towers, Corn with Cumin Butter, Salad with Ranch dressing
I have corn tortillas in the freezer.  I'll make a batch of homemade chili, use half for this dish and freeze the rest for a future meal. 

Smokey BBQ Sandwiches, Coleslaw,  Sweet Potato Fries 
Smoked turkey meat, homemade bbq sauce on whole wheat rolls.

Corned Beef Hash with Fried Egg, Cornmeal Pancakes, Applesauce
I had enough corned beef left for another meal.  With rainy cool weather predicted for the weekend I think this meal might just hit the spot for us.  I've a jar of applesauce that needs to be used up.  Some for dinner today and some for a dessert later in the week.

A Year of Savings: 2013

March 8 (cont'd):  John washed a mixed load of clothes today.  That consisted of colors, whites, towels, etc.  We seldom separate our clothes preferring instead to wash a full load two or three times per week.  John hung clothes to dry today, forgoing the use of the dryer.  When he came indoors later with the towels he did something I've done many times myself: he held them to his nose and inhaled deeply, "GOOD!"  That's one thing the dryer is not going to give us, that lovely line dried aroma of clean laundry.  Fresh air and sunshine are FREE and no artificial perfume will ever duplicate that aroma try though candle and freshener manufacturers do.

Peaches to Beaches yard sale  stretches for about 250 miles from the start of the peach growing district to the coastline of Georgia.  I've attended this yard sale regularly for the past few years but this year I'm skipping it, as much as I've enjoyed it in the past (and the weather is lovely today!).  In years past I've spent about $40, my personal limit for the yard sale. I have that amount in my purse at present, but I'm saving $40 and the gasoline usage.  I don't have room for more 'stuff' at present and I need other things I never find at yardsales or thrift stores.  In the meantime, I figured I'd hold onto my money for a bit.

Made sloppy joes from scratch today.  I made up my own sauce.  A can of sloppy joe sauce costs $3 these days.  I saved $2.50 making my own sauce.

Made my own BBQ sauce, too.  Savings $2.59 the cost of one bottle of sauce.

March 9:  No expenses connected with this day except the small amount of electricity used.  We stayed home, didn't do any work aside from heating our dinner and putting it on the table.  John watched Rugby, which I'd never seen before and rather enjoyed watching, too.  I now know the word "Scrum"...knowledge free, lol.

Filled my Swagbuck quota today doing searches.  I had enough points at day's end to order another gift card.  Savings $5.

March 10:  Spring Forward today for Daylight Savings Time.  We set our clocks back last night prior to going to bed.  I'll appreciate the later evening hours, especially now that the cold weather will soon be passing.  It will give me extra time I can spend in the yard.

John had an errand he wanted to run today.  It took us over an hour away from home.  We were both surprised that it was so much further than we'd thought it might be.  On the way back home again, now well into the afternoon, he decided we'd stop for lunch.  $5 for a footlong sub, $3 for two drinks and eating al fresco under the big covered patio at the place enjoying the warm late winter afternoon, FREE.  We had many options, all of which would have cost a good deal more than our $8 meal, but you can't beat atmosphere.  We overlooked a city park and a row of lovely old houses opposite.  The birds sang, it was reasonably quiet for an area near a highway and was so pleasant we lingered for over an hour after eating!

That little patio made us think hard about what we like.  We've always enjoyed picnics and eating outdoors.  we frequently plan a picnic into any long roadtrip from home.  John mentioned twice how much he was enjoying himself and I said the same at least two times myself.  I finally looked at him and said, "At home we have a front porch, a deck and a patio...Why don't we make our own outdoor areas more attractive for use?"  I think we're going to be working on those areas this Spring.   We have almost all the furnishings we need to do this.  Our only expense might be the purchase of an umbrella for shade for the patio.  Inspiration FREE.

Bought the Sunday paper while we were out.  Coupons galore this week, more than enough to offset the cost of the paper.  Savings $2.

March 11:  Morning spent in the kitchen.  I made 1 dozen egg rolls.  Savings $1 each or $12.  That's what they cost at the Chinese restaurant and mine are just as good.  Perhaps even better, as we bake them.

Cleaned the top of the stove.  No fancy cleaners required, even though there were 'baked on' stains from the past month's meals.   I used baking soda, a bit of Dawn detergent and a green Scouring pad.  I buy the pads in 8X 4 sheets at the hardware store for $1 each.  I cut them down into four 2X4 pads. I'll get more use from the pad yet and have three fresh ones in reserve.  Not buying a special cleaner is a savings of $4.

Roasted a whole chicken for our lunch today.  I'd planned to BBQ it but didn't.  While I was prepping vegetables for the egg rolls, I made up a nice coleslaw.  That finished off 1/4 head of cabbage that likely would have languished and been tossed (savings $.30) and 1/2 an apple (savings $.50) that had been in the fridge since Thursday and was obviously not going to be eaten otherwise.

Made up 16 slider type sandwiches.  I used Smoked turkey legs and wings from the freezer for the meat, dinner rolls we'd bought and put in the freezer, and my homemade BBQ sauce.  Having that convenience meal on hand for 'heat and eat' meals saves $8 (the cost of 1 dozen White Castle Burgers), and every bit as convenient to microwave.

John has new suspenders, the sort with teeth that grip the waistband of the pants rather than hook onto his belt.  The teeth bit hard into the fabric and to prevent wear he asked what I could do to help save the material.  His pants only come in one length when he orders them and so I typically cut off about 5 inches of fabric from the bottom and re hem to his length.  I save this material as it comes in very handy.  I've used it to patch pockets, repair tears, etc. over the years.  Today I took some of the material, cut into strips and made tailored patches that I sewed to the waistband in the spots where he hooks the suspenders.  This should be an effective way of extending the life of his pants.  It took about an hour or so to do but his work pants cost $50 a pair.  I'm counting this as a savings over purchasing a new pair next year...savings $50.  And by the way, that means my hourly 'wage' for that task was $50.

March 12:  Plundered through the fridge and freezer for this meal: 1/2 package Kielbasa (7 ounces these days, since the packages have been reduced from 16 ounces to 14 ounces.  Yep they got us again!).  I found 1 cup of Green Peas left from a meal late last week.  I dug about under the counter and came up with a sprouting onion, three potatoes  that were beginning to age a little...One casserole later I'd used all the ingredients to make a meal.  Savings: $2.00 for items that nearly weren't used.

John did a home repair job.  The facings inside our double windows have been looking steadily worse over the past two years.  He removed the inner windows, cleaned, spackled, sanded and painted the interior framework and then replaced the windows when it was all dry.  To do two windows took just over an hour of real work time.  Our goal is to do one room every other week until all are refurbished.  It cost us the price of a new tub of spackle ($6.97) which will do all the remaining windows as well.  We had paint on hand.  We figure a handyman would have charged us $20 an hour and would have added in the cost of waiting on the spackle to dry etc.  Our DIY job saved us $50.

March 13:  John washed a full load of clothes, hung to dry.

I've been waiting to wash a load of dishes until the dishwasher is full.  I thought I'd have enough after breakfast this morning but no, there's still room in there.  I'll hold off until tomorrow.

Out with Mama today.  I spent $3.   I skipped going into the temptation filled store and stayed in the car.  My expense was the cost of ice cream (our usual dessert when out) for the two of us.  I used a $5 and put the change aside to add to  my savings account deposit $2.

Mama shared produce she'd bought yesterday.  A half pint each of yellow and red grape tomatoes, 1/2 a stem of green grapes and 1/3 of a pound of radishes.  These are bonus foods for us and saves her having them spoil.  How I wish she could buy just what she needed loose, but I am the one who benefits from her overage.  It will extend our fresh produce here and means we can eliminate some of the pantry items from our menu this week.  Savings to me: $5.

New pantry shelving arrived this morning.  John had it together in about five minutes time.  It's light enough to move easily when empty and sturdy as can be.  I think we got really good value for that $42 purchase.

Came home this afternoon and put the new pantry shelving into order.  We're very pleased with the shelving we purchased.  It fits the space perfectly and we now have MORE storage room for further stocking.  That's one bonus we hadn't planned for, doubling our storage space for free.  Because the length is shorter I can now stack the resealable buckets at the end of the unit, freeing up floor space in front of the freezer.  That's another added bonus we didn't plan for but are certainly grateful for. 

March 14:  Prepped vegetables for chicken fried rice for tomorrow's dinner, the last meal from this roast chicken.  The chicken cost me $3.20.  We will have had 4 meals from that chicken and I've not yet made broth from the bones and skin.  That works out to about $.80 per meal. I expect we'll have enough chicken fried rice for TWO meals.  That will reduce the costs even further.

Used the last of the potatoes that were getting older.  Savings $.50.

Refilled two water bottles for John's work supper.  Savings $1.50.

After dinner today, I finally had the dishwasher filled to capacity.  I waited two full days beyond the day I thought I might wash dishes.  Since the water must be hot when you start the machine, I filled a measuring cup and the coffee pot for later use while the water was still cool, and when the water was warm, I ran some in the sink to handwash a few items. I washed them quickly and had hot water just in time to rinse those dishes from the sink.  Then I turned on the dishwasher to begin it's cycle with really hot water.

I've recently followed another blogger's example and reduced the amount of soap I put in the dispenser.  I've found that the 1 tbsp she uses is sufficient for thoroughly cleaning our dishes. I should double the usage I get from this bottle of detergent, a savings of $2.29.

Total $186.18

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Year of Savings: 2013

A new month and a new opportunity to save.  I'm ready for this!

Mar 1:  I started the pantry inventory yesterday and today, I decided I needed to use some of the surprise ingredients I found: frozen chili, a can of pineapple (one of several that will expire come May), a box of just expired macaroni.  Determination to salvage was strong after tossing those two long expired items the last day of February.

So I made up TWO entrees from the box of macaroni, with a bonus single serve entree.  Chili Mac for dinner today, along with Pineapple Upside Down Cake with a single serve casserole of chili mac for the freezer was the first meal.  Entree Two: a freezer main dish of Macaroni and Cheese with a lovely homemade cheese sauce.  A frozen entree of mac and cheese at the grocery goes for $9.  I know because I have bought them on occasion, gasp...  I used 1/2 and 1/2 that had just reached the expiration date to make my cheese sauce, saving half a bottle from spoiling  which increased my savings in making this dish.  Savings: $11 (not tossing the macaroni or the half and half and NOT buying frozen mac and cheese).

Made up my favorite little cake recipe and poured over drained crushed pineapple, brown sugar and melted butter.  Yummy!  I thought of a dozen ways to use those five remaining cans of crushed pineapple.  Now I just have to choose which ones I will make.  In the meantime I saved $.50 making a conscious effort to use the pineapple.

Here's a bigger savings:  $32...  How so?  I noticed an ant on the counter top where I do baking early this morning.  I killed him and then found two more.  Then I noticed what looked like three or four 'bodies' lying about.  We've had a little spider that came in on the houseplants who has made it her personal business to kill ants this year.  Honestly she's the best pest control I've ever had!  She seems to track down all those little scouts and has no mercy whatsoever.  Natural pest control at it's best, lol.

However, she was unable to keep up with this infiltration.  And they discovered the baking cupboard where boxes of dried fruit, and more importantly two tubs of Ghiradelli melting chocolates were stored.  Hence the 'bigger savings'.  I discovered that the bottom of the dark chocolate tub was cracked just before the ants got into that container.  The cupboard was emptied, the chocolates and fruit repackaged...and disastrous loss was avoided.  Thankfully because...

I inventoried the bottom pantry cupboard this afternoon.  Oy.  Three cans of black beans, two of peaches and two cans of coconut milk went into the garbage.  Expired months ago.  Losses of -$5.77.  Not good.  I felt ill even though the monetary amount was small.  And I came up with a possible solution.  I'm buying some brightly colored dot stickers.  I'll color code to highlight those that need to be used immediately, soon, or simply first.

Mar 2:  I wanted to make a real Shabat dinner this week.  But I hadn't done prep work.  Solution was to use what a container of cornbread dressing from the freezer, leftover mashed potatoes, canned green beans, cranberry sauce.  All I needed to do really was to bake the chicken to go along with the easy side dishes.

When I opened the package of breasts this morning I found two large breasts.  Only one was XL and the other was XXXL.  I cut the biggest in half for our meal today, put the second breast on to boil with homemade chicken broth (from the freezer) for a second meal.  That allotted me two meals from one package of breasts.  Savings: $2.23

The potatoes were initially meant to be potato soup with Reubens but I lacked ingredients essential to a Reuben.  I added some half and half to the potatoes to moisten them and then put in a casserole to reheat.  It kept them nice and fluffy and didn't dry them out.

Leftover gravy, mashed potatoes and the meat I stripped from the second breast went into the leftover broth.  I will make meal from this tomorrow.  That is a NO WASTE couple of meals.  Love it!

Our midday meal was so hearty that we ate our dessert as a late snack this afternoon.  Neither of us wanted supper.  Savings there: $4.

Mar 3:  It's been cold cold cold all weekend long.  We ran the little propane heater nearly all day long yesterday and it's been on all morning thus far today.  The floors are chilly cold to the barefoot, so I've had on slippers all day long, too.  Not complaining.  It's the first time this winter we've had the heater on for the full length of the day.  It cuts down on how often the electric heat pump must come on, saving us electricity.

I made chicken and dumplings today...I used the leftover gravy and mashed potatoes from yesterday's meal, the meat from that XL breast, and added in chicken broth leftover from making the gravy.  All I really needed extra was two cups of those lovely frozen mixed vegetables we bought at meat market and two bay leaves, a handful of chopped onion.  Voila.  I added in a can of evaporated milk that was expiring this month, and made dumpling batter.  One hot and delicious meal for one cold gray gloomy day.  Bonus savings: $4 my allowance for meals...We have enough leftovers for another meal later this week.

Preventative maintenance this morning.  The ant scouts were out on the other counter where we keep foodstuffs in the cabinet above.  I moved everything out, wiped down the shelves, sprayed a line against the back walls and sorted through items so that all was nice and neat (and well away from the ant spray even though it had dried by the time I put things back in.  I tossed only two items.  I'll count my loss for only one as the first was a bottle of dill that I know was several years old and all but crumbs had been used.  The other items a loss at - $1.79.

I wasn't inclined to do too much today except play about on the computer.  Occasionally I take a day out to follow all the blog links within whatever blog I'm currently reading.  This week it was Tracy's Enchanted Cottage wherein she was so kind as to list my own blog here as one of her favorite frugal sites.  Well I checked out her other favorites.  Gems!

John offered to buy me a subscription to one of those genealogical sites so I could happily pursue my new hobby.  Kindness itself that man...but one of those favorite bloggers made comment on her blog that she was doing research and she could access those sites free through the Family Search website (Latter Day Saints has a huge genealogical database that links to other archival paid sites) at the public library!  Now and then I luck upon info that is free through that site but I get frustrated when 'evidence' is just a credit card charge away, lol. Per this young lady, I can access those paid sites without charge through the site via library systems.  This is truly savings! $98 a year for one of those sites and some were pricier.

Mar 4:  Fashioned a new wreath for the back door.  I spent NOTHING.  I used just what I had on hand and it's cute as can be.  I'll try to get a photo of it to post later this week.  I'd have liked it to be a bit wider and a big more this or that but to have used just what I have...well I'm pretty satisfied and it certainly did cut out that desire to go buy which can bring hardship to a budget.

I worked on the wreath while sitting out on the back deck.  I find that moss is such a messy medium to work with indoors and I learned my lesson at Christmas when I made that moss covered sphere to use on the dining room table.  Ugh!  The bonus of my work space, aside from fresh air and sunshine and a certain red dog sitting adoringly at my side (and snitching flowers as it happens, the little scamp!)?  Getting to see hundreds and hundreds of geese winging their way northward and hearing their lovely calls as they flew.  Sometimes saving money just has benefits that are beyond cost.

Made a meal from some leftover roast beef.  That beef roast cost me $18.  We ate from it twice last week (and I will include the fact that both kids ate from it while we were gone) plus I put up two packages of meat in the freezer before we left on our trip.  I used one of those packets, frozen bell peppers, a sliced onion (that had sprouted so I wanted to use it up right away before it spoiled) and made Italian Pepper Beef for our main meal today.  We had enough leftovers from that dish to make two more hearty servings.  Wow.  That 'expensive' roast is looking less pricey by the minute. Safe to say that we just had an additional savings of $3.

I replicated those Mc breakfast sandwiches again this morning, this time I used sausage.  Savings: $5  for two homemade sandwiches with coffee.

Mar. 5  Harvest Day in our home.  I broke the news gently late last week that we were going to have to buckle out belts a tad tighter with the new budget.  No complaints from my husband, though he likes it no better than I do.  We will survive, however, and bills want paying no matter what else goes on, just as people want to eat come meal time no matter if the world is ending.  I explained my hard and fast grocery budget and suggested some treats would be better halved in the amounts (we should eventually start to lose weight we've cut so many of our treats in the past three years, lol).

Our new routine is that I take the check to deposit, the bills to post and pick up local purchases from local stores.  I gather any trash that needs to go to the dumpster, too.  Trying to make this trip to town count as much as it can, just to save on gasoline.

I did do one thing you might think foolish, especially in light of the other thing I did today...There's a branch of our bank in three towns within 15 miles of us.  Personally, I like the one in the town to the west, 11 miles away.  It's simple really: they call me by name when I come in, even at the drive thru.  In the town to the east, where I've banked for nearly 20 years, they still ask for my I.D.    I had to go to the town on the east of us today, but I drove to the bank in the town to the west first.  Yes, I know, with gasoline costs and what they are, but I just LIKE having someone treat me as though they KNOW me.  I paid about $1 for that trip over to the bank and back again.  Loss -$1.

And then I drove to the town to the east and bought gasoline because it's $.10 a gal cheaper than it is here in this town.  Mind you I also went by the pharmacy.  Savings for 11 gallons of gasoline $1.10.

We also do take out for dinner on this day, our little treat for the pay period.  Right now it comes from the grocery money, previously from the entertainment budget (which took a header this past budget cut).  Today I wanted Mexican.  I went through a half dozen options and eventually decided that this was the only thing that would do.  I was pleased to discover that I could order a Burrito plate (with three sides! and free chips and salsa!) for the same price as a chicken dinner with two sides.  Not such a hard 'hit' on the grocery budget at all and nice to know.

Went to the pharmacy drive thru.  There's nothing tempting at the drive thru window.  No pretty new nail polishes or rosy lipsticks or pastel colored candies for Spring.  Sure does make it easy to avoid impulse buys.

Mar. 6:  Leftovers for our dinner today.  That's like a free meal in my opinion. Our salad today was Ambrosia.  I used orange segments I froze in January, a can of that 'gotta use it or lose pineapple' (savings $.50) mixed with some coconut and a few chopped maraschino cherries.  It was a nice cold contrast to the hot chicken and dumplings.

We really enjoy eating these little sausage links made from beef or turkey.  We enjoy them so much I have to be careful that we eat only a serving and not a whole box!  Fair warning this morning to my husband when I did cook the whole box.  "These are being saved for another meal..."  savings: $.50, insuring that we do get two meals from the box.

I managed to finish that freezer inventory (last of the big inventory for this quarter) this morning.  No surprises in the big freezer.  I was pretty sure of what I had and I didn't have to toss out too much.  Some beans and rice had slipped to the bottom and were undated, so I'm sure they were older than six months, and 3 hamburger buns. Not sure when we had those nor why they were at the very bottom of the freezer.  I tore them into bits to feed to the birds, though Trudy has decided I really meant her to sit guard over them, sigh.

There's an ant trap in the bathroom, the sort filled with an attractive poison.  Those always make me nervous. Not because I'm afraid of contamination but because it becomes a regular "Party Like It's 1999" for the ants who trek to and fro and come in droves.  I fought my instincts and left the thing in place.  Lo and behold this morning I found the trap devoid of poison, dead ants littered the counter and floor.  It does work if you leave it alone instead of panicking at the site of the ants the way I normally do.  Letting the ant trap do it's job and getting good use from the trap saved $1.50.

Sat down with my inventory lists, the grocery store sales sheets, and my coupons today.  I made out a 'short list' of items to purchase, mostly fresh produce and dairy items, but a few really good sales items that will benefit pantry and freezer next month.  I figured what I mean to spend and I should save half of my budget.  I'll actually post my savings tomorrow.  Planning ahead is only half the battle.  Fighting impulsive urges and sticking to the list is the harder half.

Mar 7:  Grocery day.  I planned carefully and kept on task.  Savings today: $24 below the balance I've set in stone.  Not a huge savings, but I filled the holes in our pantry.  Next pay period, I hope to just spend the bulk of my money at meat market.  Any leftover this pay period will help cover costs of produce/dairy products needed.

Mar 8:  We had to run to town to pick up pain reliever for John who was experiencing some allergy problems.  We made the trip count: took off trash, took an article to the post office to mail.

Shopped at home this evening...What is the point?  It kept me on task and I wasn't distracted by sundry other "oh I could use this!" items.  I bought a new set of pantry shelves.  Researched several options and determined I could use a set from Walmart that are made from a resin type material.  Final cost with delivery here to the house was $42.   That is a savings of $30 over other options.  I made sure to measure my space, and to check on the weight capacity of each shelf (250 pounds) which should work beautifully for me.

Bonus of having new pantry shelving?  I now have shelving I can use in two other areas where I wanted to put shelves.  Neither requires a heavy load capacity and no damage will be done if they do come apart. I can use what I have in the pantry now.  Savings:  $60 at the least, based upon pricing of the lowest quality options.

Total:  $268.57

Q & A

 Not to criticize your meals, because they do sound delicious... but I am not sure how adding a rice dessert to a meal with baked beans makes a "complete protein"? There's a lot of carbohydrates and sugar in that meal, but I don't think the "complete protein" theory applies here... although, the meal sounds amazing and I would eat it in a second, protein or not! :)  Anonymous

Good question! I'd love to address you personally but since you didn't leave your name and chose to remain anonymous that's impossible.  However you know who you are...

My posted menu:  Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Corn Muffins,  Orange Wedges, Rice Pudding

I looked this up to be sure of straight facts, because I've always 'known' it and can't remember where I learned it.   I believe my knowledge came from reading a magazine article back in the early 80s when the U.S. was in another recession.  Or it might even have come from an older cookbook or WWII era magazine when meats were rationed.  Nevertheless  rice, beans, and/or corn do indeed form a complete protein when combined in a meal.  You can click on those words to lead you to a link that confirms.

In our poorer days we often used the method of combining beans and corn or beans and rice (or even all three now and then) to stretch our dollars and feed our family of 7 a balanced diet when meat/money was in shorter supply.  WIC programs now offer beans and rice on their vouchers, as well as peanut butter and cheese, all good sources for protein alternatives. You'll also find this combination in use in many underprivileged countries where fresh meat is not always an option.

Other foods may also be combined.  I found this article interesting for vegetarian/meatless meals.

Reading back over the menu itself I can see where one might think it full of sugar.  In the South we do not sweeten our cornbread nor coleslaw.  The beans would have sweetening from molasses or brown sugar but not much is required, nor does the rice pudding have a ton of sugar. I use a recipe that calls for a low sugar amount and  I'll be making only 2 servings!  My recipe calls for lemon zest, but were I to add raisins I'd have need of even less sugar since raisins are naturally sweet.

The meal may well be heavy on carbs, but heavy on fiber as well, which offsets the carb counts somewhat.  With the beans, cabbage, cornbread, orange and rice we will be getting almost all of our daily requirement of fiber in this single meal.  Just one serving of each food would net us almost 24 grams of fiber.  Had  I leftover brown rice instead of white rice,  the fiber content would be right at the recommended daily allowance for fiber. So this meal would be a very filling one and satisfying on several counts.

We certainly would not be having a cereal based breakfast this day. I'd be far more inclined to serve bacon and eggs and keep toast to a single slice.  Supper too might well end being a big salad or a bowl of tomato soup rather than relying heavily upon carbs.

I do try to balance meals throughout the day and the week so that we get a good variety of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs and fibers.  I'm not a nutritionist but I apply the knowledge I've gained over years of reading and making menus.

And thank you for the compliment! I think our meals will be tasty this week, too.

Karla wrote:  Everything sounds delicious! Your menu plans are always very inspiring and mouth-watering. I do have a question - do you have any tried and true resources for knowing what will freeze well and how you rewarm it all back up to taste good? Or is it just from experience and know-how? on Weekly Menu Plan - Pantry/Freezer version

Jillee compiled this list of things that you can freeze.  I thought it rather interesting. 

University of Georgia offers this guideline for freezing basic foods.

But I think what you're asking me, Karla, is how do I freeze things like mac n cheese and some of the other entrees that I will make ahead.  It's really been a matter of trial and error and reading suggestions on blogs.

For the most part, the less an item is cooked the better it freezes in my opinion.  For instance, the Macaroni and Cheese: I cook the pasta to a hard al dente stage, just barely even suggesting it might be almost cooked and then combine with a white sauce based cheese sauce.  The sauce is usually enough moisture to finish cooking the 'macaroni as the casserole bakes.  If I choose to prepare a pan of lasagna and freeze, I don't bother to cook the pasta but I will layer with a wetter sauce so the noodles have more moisture to become tender. 

Most all frozen entrees will cook best at 350F adding extra time for thawing/cooking if you are freezing.  I used the directions from Stouffers boxes of entrees (lasagna, mac and cheese, etc) which require you to keep the food covered for the first hour, uncover and continue cooking for an additional 30 minutes or so.  Of course, the lesser amounts of food (say an 8 inch square pan as opposed to a 9 X 13) would require less cooking time.  Unlike baking cakes, there is NO harm in checking an entree as it is baking.  If I have a special meal planned and I'm uncertain how to time foods that have been frozen, I find that thawing them overnight in the fridge and then for an hour or so on counter if still frozen (on mild days!) is sufficient to thaw and I can bake as per usual instructions.
I will experiment with most entrees at least once.  That said, some of the things I'm less fond of freezing include any sort of cooked poultry unless it's going into a casserole or soup.  I'm not fond of it at all as an entree.  However, Roast beef tastes very well once cooked, frozen, and thawed.  I seldom freeze fully cooked items though, except as single serve entrees meant to be thawed and heated in the microwave.  I do like to make up spaghetti meat sauce or chili and freeze as the flavors tend to be so much better after that additional time. 

I can say honestly that cakes frosted with butter cream frosting will freeze well, too, but I'm not an expert when it comes to baked goods.  You'd want to check out  Rhonda who often freezes baked goods with success.  She makes up biscuits to freeze and I believe that she freezes them unbaked.  She also freezes cookies after they are made and will make several pies.  Please check her blog for these posts, or drop her a comment.  I believe that Clarice at Storybook Woods freezes muffin batter in cupcake papers and bakes right from the freezer.   

I have made eggrolls and burritos (as well as breakfast burritos), sausage and biscuits, uncooked biscuits, mac and cheese, lasagna, enchiladas, etc from scratch and frozen before and after cooking.  Cooked rice will freeze well for a time, but does tend to lose moisture and dry out, so plan to use it within a few weeks time.  I know many cooks who freeze cooked dried beans to keep on hand for casseroles, soups and stews.  Not quite as convenient as a can, but you can control the seasoning yourself when you prepare at home and thaw as needed to reheat.

I guess about the very best advice I can give you is to check the store freezer aisle and look at what they have frozen as entrees and if you can make it yourself, go on and give it a try! You could keep a notebook handy and jot down what you liked and what didn't work for you, something I began to do earlier this year.  Good luck!

Week 1 Menu Pantry Freezer Challenge

I'm a little late this week.  One of my March goals was to be cyber free during Monday DAYS...but I just didn't have time to do all I wanted to do online last night.  I'll plan better next week.  For now, here's the menus, some meals already eaten and some to be prepared still.

I haven't finished my inventory of foods quite yet, but what an eye opener!  The little freezer in the closet?  I found a whole chicken and a pint of homemade chili in there I didn't even realize I had.  I won't tell you how many packets of chocolate chips I have either, but it's enough to last me a little while, lol.  That's the good part of inventorying your foods.  The bad: finding that foods have expired, sigh.  And discovering that the little freezer is roughly half full of fruit that I have been storing for far far too long in the hopes of making jelly or jam.  Apparently it's not going to happen and if it does, I'll definitely want fresher fruit than the freezer burned ice encased bits I found.

The third advantage: I've caught a few foods that are nearing expiration or which I've a quantity greater than usual that will expire in a few months.  Like 6 cans of pineapple.  Hello?  Guess whose eating pineapple at least every other week for the next couple of months?

Well here's to planning meals with what you have.

Baked Chicken, Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
I found a container of dressing from Thanksgiving (our dinner was in the first week of December).  The mashed potatoes left from corned beef dinner end of last week. I added half and half and piled in a dish to reheat in the oven.  Even the green beans went into a pan to heat in the oven.  I thawed a package of two chicken breasts and discovered one XL breast and one XXXL breast.  I halved the biggest one and put in a heavy stainless skillet with a little butter after seasoning with paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and sage.
I put the breasts in skin side down so they browned and crisped up, then turned after 25 minutes to finish cooking.

In the back freezer I also had chicken broth, and I thawed a packet planning to make potato soup...but I lack the ingredients to make a Reuben sandwich (like Rye bread and Swiss cheese).  So I made gravy with some of the broth and the rest was used to poach the XL chicken breast.  That will show up in another meal.

Chicken and Dumplings, Peach Salad
Ta Da!  Breast #2, broth, leftover mashed potatoes, leftover gravy...It's all in the pot waiting on an addition of mixed vegetables, milk,  and light fluffy dumplings.  For milk in this dish, I'll use an about to expire can of Evaporated Milk.  With the salad, I think I've covered all necessary food groups in this meal.

Chili Mac, Green Salad, Cornbread Croutons, Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Freezer chili, about to expire macaroni, cornbread muffins from the freezer, and the first use of the glut of pineapple that will expire in May.  How's that for a meal from the Use It Up aisle?  John loves chili mac, but I've more than enough macaroni in this box to make that dish and have leftover pasta.  I'll cook to just al dente, make a thick cheese sauce and put a casserole of Mac N Cheese in the freezer for a future ready to cook entree.

Pepper Steak, Rice, Green Salad, Tangelos
I'll use leftover roast beef for this meal, though I normally use sirloin steak.  I'll slice the cooked meat into strips and toss with my cooked bell peppers (from the freezer) and onions.   The rice is in my pantry, the lettuce one of two heads in the fridge and the tangelos, sitting on the counter where they've been for three weeks.  They are still nice and fresh, one of the bonuses of citrus fruit.

I have some of nearly every single meal made leftover, 1 serving here, 2 servings there.  We'll add salad, a bread and fruit and call whatever we choose a meal.
Quiche, Asparagus, Orange Rolls
I know it's a pantry/freezer challenge week but here's the deal: it's spring...well almost, close enough that we're getting fresh asparagus in our area already and last time we were at Aldi I was able to buy some.  If I see it in the market when we go in to pick up eggs and milk and lettuce this week...Well I'm buying more.  Love the stuff.  And it's so good with quiche, which is a good excuse to buy the Swiss cheese I'd like for the Reuben sandwiches we didn't get to eat last week.

Reubens, Potato Soup, Apple Pie
I've been looking forward to this meal and a grocery trip is my excuse to have it. We'll buy apples anyway, as we've no fresh fruit at home.  I only need Rye bread (small loaf) and some Swiss cheese to complete the meal otherwise.  I expect to add a nice chunk of money to my 'beef fund' this pay period.

Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Corn Muffins,  Orange Wedges, Rice Pudding
Does it sound odd to have rice pudding following baked beans?  I thought, since it's essentially a meat free meal that the rice would be a nice addition to the beans to make that complete protein.  I'm not sure how John will greet this meal.  He may have me break out the hot dogs to boil to go alongside, but I'll try him and see.  The beans are in my pantry and I figure if I bake them and then freeze the leftovers I will be more inclined to using them. That's the theory...

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Year of Savings: 2013

Feb. 25:  We spent the day watching it rain...and doing very little else.  I read that Sunday paper that we bought the day before, made dinner and watched it rain.  There doesn't seem to be any savings in a day like this but there was.  We RESTED.  Rest is very underrated.  It boosts the immune system, it relieves stress, and it allows the body to go into deep sleep at night.  I could buy vitamins and supplements and energy drinks and take them day and night but nothing restores energy like rest.

Feb. 26:  I doubled up today and planned two meals from one.  I had a corned beef in the freezer that I put in the crockpot and then I doubled the amount of potatoes.  That's one corned beef dinner and one meal later in the week of Reubens and Potato Soup for the weekend ahead.  I'm willing to wager that we get two meals off the second meal.  The corned beef dinner cost us about $10 which some non-frugal sorts might think is pretty good, since it's still less than take-out for two, but getting three meals  means we're down to $3 per meal.  That suits my frugal self very well.  Savings of two future meals: $16

I wanted a simple dessert.  John and I discovered our apples were no longer crisp but leaning toward the soft/mushy side.  I know he won't touch them when they get to that stage of ripeness, so I cut one of the apples in half and cored it.  Filled the center with a pat of butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar and then used wonton wrappers from the fridge (using what I had) to wrap the apples.  I put in a dish and poured a 1/2 cup of apple cider around the 'dumplings' and baked them in the oven.  They were soooo good and the whole amount of sugar and fat was minimal.  I'd priced apple dumplings in the freezer section a few weeks ago and decided not to purchase.  My homemade version used what I had on hand and made good on an item that might well have ended up being wasted.  I think my version might have cost $1 to make.  Compare that to $4 for two.  Savings: $3

After last month's electric bill hike I was determined it would go no higher.We used the dryer a little less, used the propane heat a little more, cut off any unnecessary lights no matter how dull and gray it was outdoors.  All to the good.  The last bill decreased, a savings of $25.

Feb. 27:  Mama and I skipped the usual shopping part of our day out, but I can't say I saved money today either.  It was my turn to buy lunch.

Feb. 28:  I started planning for the new month today and began work on the inventory of the pantry and freezer.  I 'found' a whole chicken I didn't know I had, plus a pint of homemade chili and a big container of chicken broth with vegetables and meat bits suitable for a future chicken dumpling day.  That was the good side of the day.  The bad: I had some expired items. Namely one bottle off cheap syrup and 1 can of baked beans.  They weren't recently expired items either, like the box of macaroni that we will use tomorrow to make chili mac.  Losses today: -$2.25

I organized things while I was in the back pantry and put them in order of need to use.  I thought about it all afternoon long and decided what I need is a package of bright colored round labels.  I can put a label on each item that needs to be used FIRST. 

I made a good dinner today of leftover fried chicken, hashbrown casserole and peas.  Cooked the peas in the oven, letting them steam alongside the chicken and casserole.    

We didn't need all the casserole recipe for one meal, so I put up three smaller casseroles for future meals.  I like having these sorts of things in the freezer for future use.  You can buy these little side dishes in catering and cafeteria type restaurants already frozen but gracious goodness it cost next to nothing to make it here at home.

Decided to rework the budget based on a no overtime/no holiday pay/increase in taxes took all of our raise basis.  It's a tight budget, what is known as a Zero balance budget, meaning every single penny is accounted for, but it's do-able.  I'll have to toe the line with my grocery budget that's for sure. 

When we were at the hotel this past weekend, they put out single serve pod packs of coffee for our use.  As we left Sunday morning, I picked up the decaf packs (just two) and put in my food bag.  I thought they might come in handy and so they did.   John wanted a cup of coffee late in the afternoon, after I'd emptied the big carafe.  I used one of those courtesy pod packs to make him a cup of coffee.  Savings: $.25

Savings: $42.00

Total February 2013: $ 1,580.85

A Year of Savings: 2013

Feb. 15:  What a busy day in my kitchen.  We washed a full load of clothes this morning and hung the bulk of the load to dry.  That meant the dryer had to run only half the time it might otherwise.

I washed a dishwasher full of dishes this evening.  I ran on a shorter cycle, since I rinse the dishes well when loading.  And I turned off the heat/dry mode and let them air dry.

Was that all?  Nope.  I washed out my bras by hand using watered down shampoo.  Shampoo is gentle, as gentle as those 'special' cold water detergents meant just for hand washables.  And using that watered down shampoo instead of the 'special' stuff saved me $2.99.

I made a loaf of bread, but I've already given that savings last week when I said I would make bread.  I also made up a batch of hot dog buns.  The good sort from the deli bakery are closest to my homemade ones, so I'm upping the savings to $2.99 to reflect that rather than the mass produced big name bakery buns that don't even begin to resemble homemade ones.

Made a big pot of soup for Sunday dinner.  I used some leftovers from the fridge, canned vegetables and a bit of leftover roast.  I ended up with easily 2 gallons of soup and for pennies!  There is no canned vegetable beef soup half as good as homemade, but I reckon  using what I had compared to cans of soup at the grocery is a rather substantial savings $9.45 figuring ten cans of soup at $1.29 minus the cost of the canned veggies I used.

Put bell peppers into the freezer today, savings $3.00.

Opted to rethink the meal plans I had in mind for the weekend meals.  I 'saved' myself one meat meal with that bit of thinking.  Savings: $4.99.

I really have found a trick for 'saving' bananas from ripening too fast.  We bought a very green batch of bananas last week at Aldi.  Brought them home and I divided the bunch in half.  I put three to ripen next to our apples.  The other three went into a sealed plastic bag.  I used the bag the bananas came in, making sure the bananas were thoroughly dry (and bag, too) then I closed up the bag tight, wound a rubber band around the top of the bag.  This morning we ate two ripe bananas from the first batch.  My second batch?  Not quite as green as when we brought them home, but still not quite ripened either, 8 days later.  That little trick saved $.98 the cost of half that batch of bananas.

Feb. 16:   I spent all day long researching family history.  I have so enjoyed this hobby and I must say that so far it's cost me $5 for a big notebook where I write down information. I thought, towards the end of last year, that I'd join one of the websites that specialize in documentation and connections, but I confess that looking at the prices I just couldn't bring myself to spend money on it right now, not when I can and do find so much information free.  I won't count it savings since I haven't spent it and was only considering it, but the least expensive website I've come across so far is $80 a year.  Compare that to my $5,  but it is worth mentioning that if you dedicate TIME to research you can find information.  If you don't have time to devote to long hours of reading and seeking then by all means, join up.  It's one of the least expensive hobbies I can think of!

Feb. 17:  No savings today...and no spending either.  It was plenty cold, perfect soup and cornbread weather.  John brought home the paper and we played with the crossword puzzle.  I found two coupons to use towards grocery shopping this week, which will cover the cost of the paper.  Others went into my coupon stash.  I spent time with my daughter (the reason for the soup) and finished the day off with that final episode of Downton Abby.  It was a good day.

Feb. 18:  Cleaned out the refrigerator.  There were losses but minor ones, 1/3 of a bag of spinach, some packets from take out (duck sauce, ketchup) (WHEN did we last eat takeout?!).  Cleaned and organized, I know for sure that nothing will spoil or is lost and lanquishing.  I'll take my loss on the spinach (-$.49).

Dinner plan for tomorrow is takeout fried chicken.  I know my husband prefers KFC but honestly I'm into savings this week. I made potato salad and black eyed peas tonight.  Tomorrow I'll just heat when I come in with the chicken.  A 1/2 pint of potato salad at the deli (another favorite of that husband of mine) is $2.99.  Homemade cost me $.85 for a pint and a half.  That's quite a savings, five times as much potato salad for less than 1/3 of 1/2 pint!  My savings:  $14.10

Feb. 19:  I love the internet.  Trudy has a cough.  She feels fine, you can see that in her bright gaze, shiny fur, perky ears, lack of fever,  and complete and total interest in every meal and treat put before her, not to mention loving to run the fields with Maddie.  But that cough...  I looked up doggy coughs online and sure enough I found one that sounded exactly like my Trudy's.  It seems that this particular sort of cough is produced after a bit of grass or a tiny leaf gets lodged in the lung.   All that was needed per the online vet, was an expectorant (NOT a cough suppressant nor a decongestant) and I know of a really good one that is safe.  Since Trudy weighs 55 pounds a child's dose would work just great for her.  I picked up a store brand expectorantThat cost me $4 and is more medicine than she'll require.  It just so happens it's safe for humans as well and is a common cold medicine ingredient so we can use it as well.  That sure beats the basic Vet visit of $65. Savings $61   (update on Trudy:  The cough is looser and more productive just 36 hours into dosing her.  Go internet!) (later note as of 2-24: still a little cough now and then but worlds better.  She can now bark and growl without coughing).

I had a plan today that involved a lot of stops and a few hours away from home.  Well rain puts me off errands and I don't mind saying so. I had a hair appointment and initially meant to leave home just in time for that but I realized that if I left early, cut out two or three stops and streamlined my morning, I could be home in two hours instead of four.  So I went to the bank, hurried into the dollar store with a 24 minute drive and 10 minutes to shop.  Knowing you have a limited amount of time to be in a store is a HUGE savings.  I never walk out of the dollar store with less than $40 of stuff.  I got two items (the cough remedy and a mascara) for $12.  Saved $28 simply by not walking around and 'just looking'. Those two items I picked up may have cost me $12 at the dollar store but they would have cost $20 at any other store.  I saved $8.

I changed hairdressers in the past couple of months.  I really really like working with this young lady and she works hard to give me a great experience in her chair.  She listens to every thing I say, tries to work on any problems I might have had with the style, etc.  The bonus of this is that she's $5 less expensive than my former stylist.  My former stylist was good but was a bit afraid to 'cut'.  She preferred to do your hair every two weeks.  That doubled my costs. What a choice to have to make!  A decent haircut for $44 a month or look shabby for two weeks a month and pay $22.  New stylist knows how to cut hair just right.  I pay the lesser amount, can easily go four weeks without a cut (she even suggested I might go five!).  I'm saving $60 a year, $5 a month.

Skipped going into the local grocery.  I'd meant to go in to purchase a certain brand of shredded cheese that was on sale.   I don't normally buy shredded cheese, but this brand has a shredded Gouda.  I never pick up just the Gouda because I buy into that sales promo of  Two for $4.  As I scanned my memory for any other items I might want, I knew that I was only going in for the cheese.  I can buy an 8 ounce package of Gouda for$2 at Aldi.  That's 3 ounces MORE than the sale promo cheese.  That would be a savings of $2.40 at the cost per ounce of 1 package of the other brand.

Picked up chicken at the local diner.  It costs $8 for 8 pieces, which is a savings of $6 over the 4 pieces of KFC.  They threw in an extra breast today.  We'll get 3 meals off that box of chicken.  I've frozen and reheated this before with very good results.  So for $8 I get a meat entree for today and two future meat entrees.  We never have leftovers of KFC to make a second meal.

Today was Harvest Day, when we pay our tithes and bills from John's paycheck.  The propane truck came to refill the tank yesterday but we didn't need any gas this month.  I budgeted $30 a pay period for propane.  That's $60 we can apply to our car loan which will mean we make an extra payment on that loan amount. 
We'll save some interest.  Don't ask me how much, I don't figure such, but it's a little money that adds up.

Feb. 20:  We moved up our grocery day to coincide with some errands John needed to run today.  It just made sense to save the gasoline by combining the trips.  I went into one grocery while he got his hair cut next door.  The grocery has a Starbucks and because I registered a gift card that Katie gave me at Christmas I qualified for a free coffee this month.  I got the coffee today.  Savings $4.35.

Although I went over the grocery and Target fliers repeatedly dog food was not on sale in any of them. I was really disappointed.  I was out of dog food.  I looked over the shelves really well and discovered that while the brand wasn't on sale, the particular flavor they prefer WAS and for the same price I paid January 4.  I figured then that buying four bags essentially netted me a free bag.  I bought four bags today.  I should have dog food enough for 6 weeks and hopefully will find another sale at that time.  I saved $10.99, the cost of the fourth bag and a single mfr. coupon for that brand.

Walked around the deli cheese section and I'm glad I did.  I  found a 5 ounce block of good blue cheese for $1.79.  Savings of $1.29 over the okay cheese I normally buy to make dressing.

We bought a 12 pack of water for a future trip.  I realized as we headed home that I was really thirsty.  John offered to stop and  buy me something to drink.  I asked if he'd just stop and take a bottle of water from the trunk.  Savings: $1.49.

Feb. 21:  John and I planned a trip for this weekend.  We've traveled enough in the past year or so that we've about got packing down to a science.  The hotel we'll be staying in serves a continental breakfast but the place is packed out from 6a until 9a when it closes.  We picked up cinnamon rolls and string cheese for breakfasts and I brought along our own coffee to brew in the room coffee pot.  We'll save the cost of breakfast two mornings (savings $12).

I cooked a rump roast for dinner. It weighed four pounds.  I knew we'd be gone this weekend but the roast had been thawed and needed to be cooked.  It served us for dinner, and then I sliced and divided up the remaining meat and put into the freezer.  I could have safely left in the fridge over the next couple of days but I happened to think of the two kids meeting us at the house on Sunday.  They rummage through the fridge and eat things sometimes.  I left just enough for them to make a sandwich or two.  Savings: two meat entrees for four for future meals, about $12. 

While I was packing foods away, I decided it might be best to freeze half of the two packets of luncheon meat we'd bought.  That allows us to have sandwiches NEXT pay period and insures we don't have leftovers to spoil.

Feb.22:  I made a homemade rendition of a popular breakfast sandwich and served prior to our journey.  Savings $6.  I used super sale priced English muffins, thin turkey ham, a slice of cheddar and a single cooked egg.  I think my version cost us a whole $.30!

We booked our room via online 'bargaining site' that lists prices from the hotel website and several other travel sites at once, allowing you to choose the best price.  This saved $20 for our stay.

Feb. 23:  We had to balance our budget on this trip since we were staying an extra night and so we did what we could.  We packed breakfast foods and snacks.  We bought a pack of bottled water at the grocery.  At convenience stores, we'd have paid $1.49 a bottle.  The packet of 12 bottles cost us only $2.99 and we had enough water to last us all weekend long, even to share with family for the trip to the zoo we made.  That's a savings of  $15.

Feb.24:  The two youngest kids were waiting for us here at the house.  Katie's car needed a repair and her brother was doing the work, using dad's tools.  A meal would be needed and after five hours driving home?  Not likely to be a happy moment for me, lol.  We noted at the grocery earlier this week that hot dog buns were just $.35 a pack.  We have hot dogs in the freezer, canned chili on the pantry shelf, sweet potato fries in the freezer...A meal.  Savings $20, the cost of a take out meal for four. 

Savings this week:  $337.55

Why a Pantry/Freezer Challenge?

Terri, I really enjoy reading your blog!! I was just reading that groceries are supposed to take a hike again in April due to the drought, which we are still in. I'm wondering why you do the freezer challenge instead of constantly stocking up? I've read of other gals who rotate their stock and keep stocking all 12 months of the year. It just seems to me that it would be smarter to keep stocking up while prices are as low as they are instead of waiting for them to climb higher. Just wondering, Pam

Pam, that is a great question. I have several reasons for doing a challenge.

#1.  I like to keep my stock orderly, but eventually during a quarter (which is about the average time frame between pantry/freezer challenges for me), I find myself pressed for time, forgetful or just plain slacking and I don't rotate, add or remove items from my inventory list, etc.  When the pantry and freezer are burgeoning with goods it's hard to see what we have.  This brief season of slowing down allows me to get my bearings, discover where we have failed to restock, what we need to use, etc.  For instance, just this week I discovered that I have no instant potatoes on hand.  While digging for milk in the back freezer, I found two Cornish Game Hens...That was meant to be a holiday meal which I'd forgotten and those items didn't make it to the inventory list. So you see this time of a challenge benefits me in keeping the rotation of goods.

#2.  If I'm taking a time out from our regular spending, I can take better advantage of sales or set money aside to stock up in other areas.  The purpose of the March challenge is to save money to put towards a bulk purchase of beef from the meat market.  We've found this beef to be superior to any at the stores where we shop and the prices are comparable to non-sales prices on most items.  Since the store is some distance from home we don't go there often.  We found it difficult to manage once a month as we'd originally planned, but the cost of a two or three month supply is a bit higher than we can manage on our usual budget.  So you see the savings the challenge will allow me to make a bulk purchase that I might not otherwise be able to make.  I hope to make this purchase at the end of this month, just prior to that expected price hike.

#3.  It's a good way of testing my supplies.  What I mean by that is that in doing a pantry freezer challenge I can see how well my stock holds up if I'm not actively adding to it.  That will give me a clearer idea of about how long my supplies will last.  I've said before that my pantry and freezer stock are an emergency fund.  My goal is to have at least six months and up to a year's worth of food.  The last time we did a pantry/freezer challenge, I realized that I really needed to push harder to build up my stock. That gave me the impetus to fill that small freezer, something I'd put off doing.

#4.  That small freezer is my final reason for this particular challenge.  There are several items in that freezer that I've hoarded for far too long.  Odds and ends I've kept with good intention.  It's time to empty it out and make space for edible foods.  And since I hate to waste, I can any of  those items that are still viable for use (like the buried Cornish Hens which I purchased in early December) and get rid of those  that have been kept for far far too long.

So long answer to a short and nicely put question.

The First 2013 Pantry Freezer Challenge

We've done very well here for the first two months of the year.  I stocked up on meats the first week of January at the meat and grocery markets, we've built up our pantries.  I've got enough meat to just about carry us through the month of March...and a little extra money to restock the freezer would come in handy in April.  I think it's time to have my first Pantry/Freezer Challenge for 2013. 

I'll likely buy dairy and produce during this month but will try to keep other purchases to absolute necessities and save all I can for purchases in April.

Anyone want to join in?