Friday, February 1, 2008

Frugal Friday

After weeks of reading other's Frugal Friday tips over at Biblical Womanhood, I have decided to jump in and participate in the fun.

This week, Crystal has some good recommendations for those that are just starting out on the frugal lifestyle. She states that starting slowly, keeping it simple and setting parameters are things that we need to do in order to start the frugal lifestyle. I totally agree! You definitely don't want to overwhelm yourself when you are just starting out. She goes on to ask us to write about how we use our time wisely when it comes to frugality? and also what methods we have found to work effectively and efficiently for saving money but still getting the good deals?

As for using my time wisely:
  • I do all of my shopping in one day! I take about 4 hours to get the shopping done.
  • I prepare myself the night before by looking through the weekly ads and making a spreadsheet as to where the good deals are and then when I am done I start to make the decisions as to what stores to go for that particular week.
  • I have made up a master grocery list that is posted on my fridge so that when I am out of something or low on stock I can circle/highlight that item so that I know to get it at the shopping trip.
  • I have made a master meals suggestion list of breakfast, lunch, dinner, sides, and snack ideas so that when making menus it is just a matter of plugging it into the day that it will work best.

As for methods I have several that I use when thinking about grocery shopping:(in no particular order)

1. Only go to the stores that have more than a half dozen items as good deals or loss leaders! This way I only end up going to maybe 3 stores for all of my shopping needs for the week rather than a half dozen or more stores!

2. Make and use a price book so that I know I am getting the best price possible.

3. Buy in bulk. I go to Sam's Club once a month and get certain items(meat, and baking supplies) that I know it is the best price rather than getting it in the grocery store.

4. If I find a good deal/loss leader, stock up!(if the budget allows)

5. Shop in the morning hours if possible, so that I can take advantage of the markdown meats and produce. For instance, one of the stores that I go to around the 10am-11am hour is discounting meats by 30%-40% that have a sell by date of that day or the next day. I usually will look through and get a few packages of discounted meat and take them home and put them in freezer right away or use them for dinner that night.

6. Make menus out of what I have on hand in the freezer or the pantry BEFORE I look at the weekly ads. This way, I can just shop the good deals/loss leaders to help fill in the gaps in the menu. Also working with what you have on hand before going to the store helps to rotate the stock that you have so you don't end up with food that you will have to throw out because it has gone bad(hence wasting money and time)!

I have found that these methods are what works best for me. For others' frugal tips, resources, and thoughts head over to Biblical Womanhood and check them out!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Garlic Chicken Lasagna

4 tbsp. butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 can (29 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. pepper
9 lasagna noodles
4 cups (1 pound) Mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 cups (8 ounces) Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1. In large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute chicken, onion and garlic in butter until chicken is cooked through. Stir in next 8 ingredients. Bring to a low boil; reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.

2. Boil lasagna noodles al dente according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water until cool enough to handle.

3. Spread about 1/2 cup sauce in a 9x13-inch pan. Top with three lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the sauce, 1/3 of the Mozzarella cheese, 1/3 of the Cheddar cheese and 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers two more times, ending with Parmesan cheese.

4. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 350ยบ for 45 minutes. Let lasagna stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Yield: 8 servings.

My Notes and Review: I got this recipe off of Steph's Country Kitchen Goodness. I changed it up a bit because of what ingredients I had on hand and time spent in the kitchen preparing it. Along with using things that I knew/thought my crew would eat.

Here is what I did...I cut up the chicken and saute it but didn't use any butter just the juices that come from cooking it. I added onion and garlic powder rather than minced. I also add the other spices to the chicken while it was cooking. Once the chicken was no longer pink, I added a jar of Ragu traditional spaghetti sauce to it rather than the 3 different cans of tomatoes.

I did up extra wide egg noodles rather than lasagna noodles. Once the noodles were tender, I added some of the cheese to the noodles.

I then layered the chicken and the noodles in a 9x13 pan and then topped it with the rest of the cheese.

If I do this again, I would not put the cheese in with noodles because it is harder to layer the noodles when they are all stuck together with cheese!

I served it with garlic toast and a tossed salad.

It tasted very good! I enjoyed it! It was nice to have a lasagna type dish! Despite there being nothing new as far as ingredients go, my picky eaters had a horrible time eating it. My dh ate it but the dish was "lasagna"...something that he can't stand to eat mostly because of the all the different cheeses! So this will go in the stack of recipes that need to be dumped because I will not make it again with only 3 out of 7 eating it without complaining! On the other hand, I might hang on to the recipe to use if I need to take a meal to someone because it would be an easy put together early in the day and stick in the oven later type meal.

Organized Thursdays

It is the last Thursday in January and that means that Organized Thursdays over at Between the Worlds is coming to an end. It has been fun participating and reading about how others organized different areas of their life, from calendars, to laundry, to chores and on to this final Thursday's topic about Computer Time. The question has been asked: How does one keep up with everything around the house, plus home schooling kids plus taking care of little ones plus spend time on the computer blogging, or chatting on message boards or just surfing??

In this high-tech world, it really can be hard to control the amount of time that one sits in front of the computer or even the television for that matter. I really think that it comes down to setting boundaries or goals and then having the self-discipline to carry them out. I think too that as parents we need to be good examples to our children in every part of our life(including the amount of computer time we do on a daily basis).

It really is hard to be disciplined in this area of my life when I am married to a "computer guru", who has successfully put together enough computers for each of the older four kids to have their own computer and also for me to have my own. Then dh has several that he uses most of them are for work purposes. You also add to the mix that I use the educational resources on the internet to provide the majority of the curriculum for the schooling my kids. And that I also use the computer to stay up to date with education reforms(like reading on the No Child Left Behind Act) and other educational insights/aspects. You also add into the mix that we have more computers in the house(at current we have 8, sometimes that number goes to 12) than what we have cars! It really makes my household seem that our life revolves around the computers! Anyone want to take over my electric bill!?! LOL

I have tried all different types of things to regulate my time on the computer. I have tried the "setting the timer" routine, only to ignore the timer and continue on surfing. I have tried "fasting" from the computer for several days only to find that when the time was over I was back on computer for even more time than I was before the "fast". I have tried not going downstairs to the office for the whole day til my work is done only to find that I end up staying up way too late surfing and then lack sleep. Needless to say, I really have worked and thought hard to get this area of my life organized and under control to a managable level.

So what I have found to work the best for me is to do my computer time similiar to how I exercise during the day.....Do 15 minutes of exercise...Do 15 minutes of computer time. In a day's time, I try to do a total of 45 minutes of exercise. So usually within the day I end up with also 45 minutes(sometimes 1 hour) of "fun" computer time. You are probably thinking only 15 minutes at a time!! WOW! she is really disciplined! LOL I am working at making this system a habit! I have found that this system really only works the best during the week when dh is at work and I am home with the kids. How I usually do my time is while the kids are eating breakfast, I will check my email and make sure that I have everything I need for the day's school work. In the afternoon, the kids have a quiet time where the little ones are napping and the older ones are reading. During that time, I will take 15 minutes to check the two message boards that I frequent or write a quick blog post. In the evening, after dinner and it is wind down time for everyone, I will take the time to read other's blogs. Now that I have added a blog of my own to the mix, I will sit down in the afternoon while the kids are finishing up their school work on their own to work on my blog. I never would have imagined that having a blog would be so educational for me!

Also, I have one day were I focus on office type duties(pay bills, do lesson plans, filing papers, etc) and usually that means that I am on the computer more than any other day of the week!

As for the kids and their time on the computer, dh and I have set rules for them. The main rule is they get one hour of computer game time a day. This only happens when they are done with their schoolwork and responsibilities for the day. The time they spend on the computer for school work does not count towards their one hour of game time. My boys love to play the multi-player type games with their dad so usually on the weekends they end up with more game time on the computer than what they do during the week. However, should there need to be a consequence handed out for bad behavior or a unrespectful attitude, computer game time is the first thing that is lost.

Well there you have it, how I try my best to organize computer time at my house. For other's tips/ways of organizing computer time, head over to Organized Thursdays at Between the Worlds

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Taco Soup

Well I am suppose to be making Taco Soup for dinner tonight BUT dh saw the recipe that I had made up with combining a few recipes that I had read for Taco Soup that he doesn't think it will taste that appetizing! LOL Most of the Taco Soup recipes that I read had Ranch salad dressing mix(dry) in it but I knew that none of my family would eat it with that so I decided to omit it from the recipe and just use taco seasoning as the majority of the "spice" in the soup.

Sooooo I am going to post it and see what everyone else thinks!

Taco Soup

1lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 can refried beans(I have a container of homemade refried beans in the freezer I was going to use.)
2 tbsp. taco seasoning (add more to taste if needed)
1 can Rotel tomatoes(diced tomatoes with green chilies)
1 can(290z) tomato sauce
1 can tomato soup
1 can corn
2 cups of dry rice(or 3 to 4 cups of leftover cooked rice)
water to rinse out cans and for the rice

Simmer in the crockpot for 4-6 hours just basically to get all the flavors combined.

Serve with tortilla chips and shredded cheese.

So does this sound good to you?? Do you think it is hearty enough to make a good dinner meal or should I think about doing it more for a lunch(which for us is our lighter meal of the day)?

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

It is time again for Kitchen Tip Tuesdays! Like some of the other ladies that participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays, I was wondering if Tammy was going to be hosting this week due to her exciting week! However, she is on the ball and is hosting this week so I decided to go ahead and share some uses for buttermilk.

Buttermilk has a "rich" history and can be used for many different things when you are cooking and baking.

1. It can be used as a marinade for chicken, like when making Breaded Chicken Fingers.

2. It can be used also to dip chicken in instead of eggs, or mayo.

3. It can be used to make homemade buttermilk ranch salad dressing.

4. It can be used in biscuits, muffins, pancakes, and waffles in place of reg. milk. In my opinion, it actually makes the recipe taste richer.

Here is my Buttermilk Pancake recipe(it makes a triple batch!)
3 eggs
3 ¾ cups buttermilk
6 tbsp. veggie or canola oil
3 ¾ cups flour(I usually use 1 3/4 cup whole wheat + 2 cups white)
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. salt

Mix altogether. Cook on griddle till light brown.
**these freeze very well!!*

Do you use buttermilk already in your cooking and baking? If so, what are some other ways that I can use it. And if not, now you have some ideas to use buttermilk in your baking and cooking.

For other good tips, head over to Tammy's Recipes!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

**This is just a plan and plans have the ability to change at the cook's discretion! Last week's plans went well, however, I did have to do some switching around of the days. We are now going on TWO full weeks of eating at home and not eating out! Amazing!

Thanks to those that emailed me and left comments in regards to my "quest". Those of you that didn't catch it...last week I was on a three part quest to find new and exciting things to add to the menus. I am still working on that quest!! However, My quest has only has two parts because I need to go to the grocery store this week! 1. To find new recipes that my crew will eat! and 2. To try some new things mixed in with some of our favorite comfort foods. So I am looking looking through some menu plans looking for some yummy tried & true recipes and also my shelf of cookbooks for some recipes to try this week!

Lunches listed are for the kids and I as dh usually takes dinner leftovers each day.

A special thanks to Laura-Organizing Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday! Need help with your menus, go check others out at her site!**

Breakfast: eggs, hashbrowns, sausage links and donuts(got them off the discount rack Sat. night at the grocery's bakery!)
Lunch: leftover chicken rice soup
Dinner: breaded chicken tenders and fish, fries, and green beans
Snack: snack basket

Breakfast: cereal
Lunch: sandwiches and chips
Dinner: Creamy Chicken, rice, peas and leftover homemade bread
Snack: homemade cookies & milk

Breakfast: pancakes(from freezer), sausage links
Lunch: chicken nuggets and tater tots
Dinner: Taco Soup (new recipe--I blended some recipes together), and chips and cheese
Snack: "snack basket"

Breakfast: cereal and muffins
Lunch: leftover hoagie bun pizza
Dinner: baked Lemon Pepper Chicken, mashed taters, and green beans
Snack: snack basket or yogurt

Breakfast: waffles
Lunch: McDonald's--local McDonalds having anniversary celebration going for 59cent burgers/69 cent cheeseburgers, and dollar menu fries! Drinks at home :)
Dinner: Garlic Chicken Lasagna(new recipe for us), breadsticks and baby carrots
Snack: trail mix

Breakfast: cereal
Lunch: sandwiches and chips
Dinner: Chicken Veggie Stew, homemade rolls
Snack: homemade chocolate shakes

Breakfast: "Cook's Choice"
Lunch: ????? it's the weekend anything goes!
Dinner: ??????
Snack: popcorn

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Singing Sunday

God Bless the Broken Road
by Selah

I set out on a narrow way, many years ago
Hoping I would find true love, along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
wipe my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign, pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream, led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way, into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent, just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost, and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan, that is coming true

Every long lost dream, led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way, into your loving arms
This much I know, know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

Now I'm just rolling home
Into your loving arms
This much I know, know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
Yes, God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you