Friday, February 22, 2008

Frugal Friday

Since I didn't have a frugal tip of my own, I decided to answer Crystal's question for this week's Frugal Friday over at Biblical Womanhood, she asks us about what are the simple things, like her example of shaving gel, that we have eliminated from our budget? Initially, I didn't have an answer! But I put some thought into the question, and realized that I have been eliminating or reducing my use of a few things and replacing them with cheaper things. Here is a few of the things that I have been doing in recent months...

Fabric softener is one of things that I have reduced my use of---I use vinegar instead esp. with my bath towels and rags. Vinegar helps reduce the soap suds and softens the towels. It also helps with the fowl odor that happens when you forget about a load til the next day and have to re-wash it. I still buy fabric softener and use it occasionally cause I still love the smell of fresh washed clothes but a big jug(195 loads) from Sam's is lasting me about 6 months! Vinegar is ALOT cheaper than fabric softener! Did you know that vinegar has many uses?

Snacks and dinner rolls are things that I have been eliminating from my budget. I am finding that baking them from scratch is cheaper and even healthier for my family of 7. Just the other day I made soft giant pretzels and french bread! If someone would have told me that I would making things like this a year ago, I probably would have laughed in their face! I also make up cookies and quick breads on a regular basis.

Like Crystal, I have eliminated using shaving gel, instead I have been using hair conditioner that I didn't like using in my hair! I have had this bottle sitting around after trying it couple times in my hair only to find that my hair seemed more oily using it. So I stopped using it in my hair and instead of dumping it and wasting it I use it while shaving my legs. Normally, I just use body wash or water.

These last six months of reading other blogs and websites on frugalness, I am slowly finding ways to eliminate or reduce the use of things that I have been using for years! I don't want to eliminate too much at once for fear of a family revolt! Slow and easy is the name of the game!

Stay tuned for other posts that I do in regards to eliminating or reducing the usage of items.

For other frugal ideas head over to Frugal Friday at Crystal's blog, Biblical Womanhood!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Soft Giant Pretzels(or not so giant!)

Yesterday along with my french bread, I made some soft giant pretzels(or not so giant!) I didn't want to make them too big for fear that my kids would try one bite and decide they didn't like them and then I would have to eat all of them! This way I have little ones where I can use them as a snack or even put them in the freezer for a later date and still not eat tons of them at once.
Here are the pretzels after putting them thru the boiling baking soda water.... Here are the pretzels after baking....
Here is the recipe(thanks to my friend, Angie)....

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. water (70-80 degrees)
3 cups flour
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. yeast(I used instant yeast)
2 quarts water
1/2 c. baking soda(used a scant 1/2 cup)
coarse salt(used regular salt because I didn't have coarse)

In bread machine pan, place first 4 ingredients. Select dough setting - add more flour or water if it looks like it needs it.

When cycle is done, divide dough into 8 balls. Roll each ball into a 20-inch long rope, then form into pretzel shape.

In a large saucepan, bring water and baking soda to a boil. Drop pretzels into boiling water, two at a time, and boil for 10-15 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Place pretzels on greased baking sheet and bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Spritz with butter and sprinkle salt on top.

Notes:I used bread flour,instant yeast, and regular salt in the recipe when I made it. I found the dough to be VERY sticky when it finished the cycle. I didn't add flour while the dough was going thru the cycle,I put the dough on a floured surface and kneaded it in while shaping the pretzels. I also sprinkled a cinnamon/sugar mixture over some pretzels.

Family likeness---youngest didn't try them, 2 loved them, 2 rated them alright, and 1 tried and didn't like(but he doesn't like hard pretzels either so no surprise there!)

French Bread(breadmachine)

Yesterday, I tried my hand at fixing a loaf of French bread! It was soooo good!! I even took some of it and made it into garlic bread!! Yummo!! I did the dough in my bread machine and then shaped it out into a loaf. Then took a sharp knife and cut slits in the dough. Placed in on a 15 1/2x10 cookie sheet(Pampered Chef Large Bar Pan) Baked in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes. Here is what it looked like after baking.....
Here it is after I sliced it using my new electric knife that I got for Christmas! Just look at the awesome texture of that bread!
Here is the recipe(2 lb loaf)....
11 1/2 ounces of 80° water(1 1/4 cups + 3 Tbsp.)
4 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast OR 2 tsp. bread machine/fast rise yeast

1 1/2 lb loaf recipe....

8 1/2 ounces of 80° water(1 cup +1 Tbsp.)
3 cups bread flour
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 tsp. active dry yeast OR 1 1/2 tsp. bread machine/fast rise yeast

Add liquid ingredients to bread machine pan. Add dry ingredients. Put the butter/margarine in the corners of the pan. Set machine on dough setting. Once done, place dough onto floured surface. Let rest for 15 minutes. Shape dough into bread loaf. Let rise for 30 minutes. Put on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 350° for 15-20 minutes or til golden brown.

Notes: I didn't grease my cookie sheet, because of using my stoneware cookie sheet. I used 2 tsp. of instant yeast(some of the 2-1lb.packs that you can get at Sam's Club for cheaper than buying the 3 packs of yeast in the grocery store!)

Family likeness--I should have fixed more than one loaf!!! Definitely will be doing this bread again!!

Looking for more breads, pasta, or potato recipes, head over to Jen-Frugal Upstate's Frugal Food Series--breads, pastas, or potatoes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday

I don't like to spend hours and hours in the kitchen preparing meals(I love baking over cooking!). I thought that freezer meals was my answer to my problem. BUT after trying several and finding that no one in my family liked them, I needed to figure out something else. So I worked at developing a plan of attack that works for me where I don't have to spend much more than an hour getting a meal ready and served to the table. My plan of attack is this...making menus every week; having master meal lists for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and preparing items ahead(mainly meat!).

Here is what I do after my bi-monthly shopping trips or after one of the grocery stores has a good sale on meat.

For 10-15lbs of ground beef I take and make burgers and meatloaf with the raw meat and freeze them. The burgers get stacked with wax paper between them in a freezer bag. Each freezer bag has the number I need for one meal. I also make meatballs but I cook them and then flash freeze on a cookie sheet and then transfer to a freezer bag. I also brown some of the ground beef and put in plastic containers/freezer bags the amount that I need for a meal of spaghetti, chili, goulash, and sloppy joes.

For chicken meals, I normally just get the Quick frozen boneless chicken breasts/tenders because they are usually on sale more than fresh chicken. So I just take a bag out the night before for the dinner meal the next day. If I get fresh chicken I still make sure that I get it on sale and I get the boneless/skinless breasts....When I get home I clean and de-fat them and put them in a freezer bag in the number I need for a meal(usually 5-6 breasts do it for my family of 7). If the breasts are thick I will butterfly them to make the meat stretch a little more. It also helps to butterfly them when you know that you are grilling them! I also will cut up the raw chicken to pull out for using in soups and such. I also make sure that I get a couple of whole chickens when they are on sale to have to pull out of the freezer for the next day for a drop in the crock pot and forget type meal! LOL

For pork chops...I get one of those half boneless pork loins and bring it home and slice it into pork chops(or you can have the butcher at the grocery store do it too!) and once again make sure that I put wax paper between the chops and divide it into the meals in freezer bags.

I found doing things this way I am not tied down with the precooked meals in the freezer. If I want to try something different/new for a meal I can without having to go to the store to get other meat to use. I also found that doing my meats ahead and putting them in freezer, I have been able to cut the time in the kitchen preparing the meal in half! Most of meals I can get done in an hour or less, unless of course I am using my crock pot! When I had a new baby in the house, I was able to nurse baby and put down for a nap and then prepare and eat dinner before baby would need my attention again. If I am using my crock pot I would just put the items in the crock pot when I had about 5 minutes in the morning before lunch. And then take a 1/2 hour when baby is napping to finish up the meal in the afternoon.

I found with having five kids and homeschooling that sitting down and planning out my meals for the week helps a lot. After planning and writing those down I would post them where my hubby or munchkins can see what was going to be for the different meals and they help me make sure that the next day's meat is out thawing the night before we needed it! LOL

The other thing I do is have a baking day where I get a bunch of quick breads/muffins, cookies, and other snacks in the freezer. The quick breads/muffins can be used for breakfast along with some scrambled eggs. The cookies are just nice to have for that sweet tooth! LOL Another thing for breakfast that I have made ahead for my boys(including hubby) is "Mom's Egg McMuffins" toasted english muffin with scrambled egg patty, sliced american cheese, and bacon or ham or sausage patty. Wrap the individually with plastic wrap and then put in a bread bag. When you want one take it out microwave for 20 seconds and then turn it over and microwave for another 20 seconds, if still cold in the middle microwave for 10 more seconds. Let set for 2 minutes and eat! You can use croissants or Grands! biscuits for the same type of sandwiches.

This is what has worked for me! To find out what works for others, head over to Rocks in my Dryer . (Shannon is back from her trip to Africa!! Welcome back!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Savings Total--$100.10!!!!!

That is what is what I saw at the top of my grocery receipt from shopping at Meijer yesterday!!!

It pays to plan ahead your shopping list, coupons and overall plan of attack!

I stacked coupons on top of sale prices and walked out of the store with almost $200 worth of groceries and HBC items for $94.13!!

Just to give you some idea....

Dayquil 20ct capsules is regularly $5.89 and was on sale for $2.94 and I had a $1.50 off coupon so it cost me $1.44.

Nature Made Vitamin C tablets 250 ct was $7.99 regularly, they were on sale buy one get one free plus I had a $1.00 off on one coupon so I got 500 count for $6.99.

Bayer Aspirin 81mg-120ct is usually $6.14 it was on sale for $3.99 plus I had a $1.00 off one coupon so it only cost me $2.99. (I realized after the fact that I could have gotten a 500 count of the 81mg Member's Mark brand at Sam's for $3.32!!! so overall this wasn't the greatest deal but still a good deal.)

Crest Pro Health Mouthwash normally is $3.99, it was on sale for $3.39 plus I had a $1.00 off one coupon so that made it $2.39.

Aunt Millie's 8 count Hotdog and Hamburg Buns are usually $2.99 each. They were on sale for buy one get TWO free!!

Cheerios Snack Mix is usually $2.59, it was on sale for $1.00 and I had two coupons for 50 cents off so for 2 bags it only cost me a $1.00

Cooked Shrimp(36-40 count) is normally $12.99 for a bag but I was able to get it for buy one get TWO bags free!! This freezes well too!

Grands Biscuits are normally $1.50, they were on sale for a $1.00, I got 6 tubes, and then I had coupons for 55 cents off 2 and 50 cents off 2. That isn't bad right, well several of the tubes that I got had coupons on them for 30 cents off 3 and the cashier took two of the coupons off and used them as well!!!

I had other coupons as well for other coupon total came up to $9.90! Then they have a category called Meijer Promotions which I think is the buy one get two free items. Then my non-coupon savings so what I saved buying the sale items...$84.22!

I am mighty proud of myself! And to think that with all the shopping at Meijer, Sam's and Family Fare(local Spartan Store) which total around $275 and then what I have on hand in my pantry and freezer, I will probably be able to skip a payday with grocery shopping(other than getting milk, eggs and WIC). In other words, no major grocery shopping til March 15th.

Off to go plan the meals and get some of the things in the freezer!

To find other great deals from this week, go over to Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom!

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Time again for Kitchen Tips over at Tammy's Recipes. I was having a little trouble thinking of something to write about today! So was looking at other's who already posted their tips to see if someone would spur any thoughts. Guess what??? Someone did spur my thoughts this week...thanks to Debbie J!!!! She decluttered one of her cabinets today. I left her comment about heading over to the local dollar store for plastic baskets. So instead of keeping the "secret" between the two of us, I am going to share what is so fantastic about having plastic baskets in your cabinet or pantry!

Like Debbie, I don't like opening my cabinet door and have something fall out at me! I also got tired of having several(make that MANY) open boxes of snacks sitting in my cupboard, or bags of homemade goodies sitting on top of my toaster. And then to top it off, having the munchkins asking me "What's for snack?" Or them asking for something and then trying to find it in the cabinet.

So I decided it was time to get a little inventive and clean out the cabinet!(sorry I don't have any before pictures!) I got myself a basket and emptied all the different boxes into it. AHHHH!!! There is space in my cupboard! It doesn't look too cramped now AND the best part my munchkins know what is available for snacks. I don't get that nagging question, "What can we have for snack?" They know where the snack baskets(I also use a crisper drawer in the fridge) are and what is in them is what is available for a snack.

I use other baskets for other things besides snacks in my cabinet. I have a wicker one is for all the open bags of rolls, muffins, and bread. Better known in my house as the "bread basket".

The smaller green one that you see in the picture is for those small individual size containers of bbq sauce, salt, or sweet n low that you get when the drive thru gives you too many or for those 1/2 bags of marshmallows or dry beans!(basically that green basket has become a little catch-all for open packages that are not snacks. That is where I "throw" those 1/2 bags of things rather than all over in the cabinet.

There is also a black index card container without its lid(cause it broke off) that I use for my koolaid packets.

That reminds me, I need to get a bigger 5x7 index card container for putting all those bigger packets of taco seasoning, sloppy joe, onion soup mix or gravy mixes. Right now those packets are in slid in the side of the green basket.

For more kitchen tips, head over to Tammy's!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

**This is just a plan and plans have the ability to change at the cook's discretion! I am so glad that menu plans are JUST PLANS because last week's plans got changed more than once!

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, cinnamon rolls, and sausage links
Lunch: sandwiches and chips
Dinner: homemade burgers and fries
Snack: snack basket

Breakfast: waffles, canadian bacon, and fruit
Lunch: pizza rolls
Dinner: Saucy Pork Chops, rice, and green beans
Snack: brownies & milk

Breakfast: cereal and toast or leftover cinnamon roll
Lunch: sandwich, chips, baby carrots or applesauce
Dinner: “Soup Night”/Leftover Makeovers—homemade chicken rice soup, and veggie beef soup with homemade rolls
Snack: trail mix

Breakfast: pancakes, eggs, and sausage links
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and biscuits
Snack: snack basket

Breakfast: cereal, poptarts and yogurt
Lunch: chicken nuggets and macaroni & cheese
Dinner: spaghetti and garlic texas toast
Snack: snack basket

Breakfast: cereal and donuts
Lunch: leftovers or sandwiches, chips, applesauce
Dinner: “Homemade Long John Silver’s Night”---oven fried chicken, fish, and shrimp, fries, and corn
Snack: ice cream sundaes

Breakfast: "Cook's Choice"
Lunch: ?????
Dinner: baked lemon pepper chicken, buttered noodles, peas, and homemade rolls
Snack: cookies, bbq smokies, and popcorn (church small group night)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Singing Sunday

I Stand Amazed
Words:Charles H. Gab­ri­el, in Prais­es, by Ed­win O. Ex­cell (Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois: 1905)

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: “Not My will, but Thine.”
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

In pity angels beheld Him,
And came from the world of light
To comfort Him in the sorrows
He bore for my soul that night.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!