Friday, May 9, 2008

Frugal Friday

I have found that being frugal with my meals doesn't mean that I have to eat the same old thing every day for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner! Life would be rather boring if that was the case! For me being frugal with meals means using up leftovers or making from scratch instead of buying convenience or challenging myself to use what I have on hand. Each of these ways is helping me to be frugal and at the same time not be bored with what I am eating.

In an effort to know what I need to have on hand and to streamline menu planning. I have taken the time over the last week to make up lists of meals that I use on a consistent basis. Other than the typical leftovers from dinner or that kid-friendly peanut butter and jelly sandwich, here is a list of lunch ideas that I have done for my family....

Fried egg sandwiches

Mini homemade pizzas

Egg salad sandwiches

Chicken/Tuna salad sandwiches

Homemade pita bread stuffed with any number of things (esp. homemade chicken salad! Yum!)

Salad with grilled chicken

Hot Dogs/Coneys

Grilled cheese sandwiches

Chili beans, toss some cheese, salsa and tortilla chips and you got nachos

Make up a bunch of meatballs and freeze. Get some hoagie rolls and spaghetti sauce and make meatball subs.

Make up a bunch of spaghetti and let them have at it.

Egg burritos

Salad with a bit of chicken chunks and boiled eggs

Homemade tortillas throw in some chili

Leftover pasta with whatever. I've thrown leftover pasta and chicken together. Add chopped veggies or have them on the side, drizzle with a vinagriette.

Veggie Chicken noodle soup(leftover chicken and veggies with pasta and broth)

French toast and fruit

Pancakes and fruit

Bean and cheese burritos

Chicken quesadillas(cut up leftover chicken, add salsa or taco sauce to it, put on one side of a tortilla shell top with cheese, fold over tortilla shell, melt some butter or use olive oil in a hot skillet then put quesadilla in the skillet and lightly brown both sides)

Cheese quesadillas

Baked potatoes with leftover chili or taco meat

I hope that this inspires you to think outside that same old lunchbox and try something different for a change!

**updated to answer questions left in the comments "Do you pack it the night before or the day of? How do you keep it fresh like Grilled Cheese or Mini Pizza?" Answer: Since I homeschool, I only have to worry about packing hubby's lunch right now. :) However, should I get into a position where I am having to make "bag lunches" for my kids to take to school. Most of the items, I can make a day ahead. For the egg/chicken/tuna salad sandwiches, I would make the filling and put into a small container and then put the bread in a separate baggie and make sure that I included a plastic fork or spoon for them to make their own sandwich at lunch time so the bread doesn't get soggy. I just wrap most of my sandwiches, mini pizzas, or wraps in plastic wrap or put in a plastic baggie and stick in the fridge til I pack the lunch. Then I also have small little blue ice packs that I put in my hubby's lunch every day to keep the food cold and fresh.**

For other frugal tips, ideas, or resources, head over to Frugal Friday at Biblical Womanhood!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Spent only $53.57!!!!

After last week and only spending $27.37 and also trying to spend as little as possible while challenging myself to empty my pantry!! This week proved to be a bit more challenging! First challenge was trying to set an amount that I was going to spend. I said $40.00! I went over by $13.57!!! I think I should have said $60.00!! LOL! Second challenge was not spending money to get all the good deals that popped up this week. One of my "corner/local chain" stores was having a killer 3-day sale!! Things like 3lb bags of quick frozen chicken breasts for $1.66/lb or 1dz. eggs for 99 cents(limit 4 dz.)!!! It has been forever since I have seen deals like this on those items! However, I showed a bit of restraint and didn't go all hog wild in stocking up! I limited myself to just those things that were on sale that I needed to complete next week's menu.

Since I am talking about my "corner/local chain" store(Family Fare)....

2.60lbs Fresh Ground Chuck $5.20 ($2/lb)
2-3lb bags QF Chicken breasts $9.96 ($1.66/lb)
3 doz. Eggs $2.97 (these days reg. price is $1.69/doz.!)
5.37lbs bananas $3.17 (59 cents/lb)
1-Herbal Essence Shampoo $1.97 minus $1/1 coupon = 97 cents!!

Total with tax $22.39
Total Savings $16.71

Onto Meijer....

2 Aunt Millies Honey Buns $3.19--one was free!
2 bags Lays Potato Chips $3.79--one was free!
1lb Strawberries $1.34
3 Mott's Apple Juice $5.00 minus $1/2 coupon = 3/$4 or $1.33/64oz bottle
2 Tropicana OJ $5.00 minus $1/2 coupon = 2/$4 or $2/64oz carton
4 boxes Kleenex $5.00 minus 50cents/3 coupon = 4/$4.50 or $1.13/200 count box
2 tubes Crest Pro Health Toothpaste $4.88 minus 2-$1/1 coupons = $2.88 or $1.44/tube

Total with tax after coupons $24.29
Total Savings $19.94
(side note I got the Crest Toothpaste here rather than going to CVS or Walgreens because I was already there getting other things so it made it cheaper than using the gas to make another stop going the opposite direction to where I needed to go!)

Last stop....Aldi's

4 boxes corn muffin mix $1.16
2 bags baby carrots $1.98
2 lb bag carrots 99 cents
4 cans evaporated milk $2.67
(I have in my pantry instant pudding so now I can make my "lunch box dessert" for my hubby and munchkins!)

Total $6.89
Total Savings...priceless! LOL!


My evaluation of my shopping this week... Despite going over my projected amount that I threw out as a possible weekly grand total, I think I did quite well! Only spending $80.94 for two weeks worth of food, household, paper, and HBC products, I think is fantastic! IF you consider that just two weeks ago, I was spending on average $150/week for food, household, paper, and HBC products!!! I am a work in progress!!! I will find that happy medium to spending money to keep my family fed and keeping a pantry stocked of goodies to use to help keep my spending to a minimum.

To find out how others did...head over to MoneySavingMom's Super Savings Saturday and BeCentsAble's CentsAble Show N' Tell!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Answering Questions...High School Government Unit Study

After reading thru my Government Unit Study, Donna asked me this question…

My oldest is 9th grade and I would like to get in a good American History/Government/Founding Fathers study in, but I don't have a gazillion dollars to buy a billion books nor do I have time to research a billion places and hope I find one that's not liberal bent.Do U know of one something? One book or one site? (a free site would be great and I've already marked one or two on other topics from your blog).Thanks!

I love a challenge! I didn’t have an answer for her right away so I gave it some thought and took some time to ask questions of friends and do a little investigating. I have now come up with an answer for her!

If you want to go with a book/curriculum type item, I have been told that Notgrass is the way to go! Thanks ladies over at TeachingMom!!

You remarked that a free site would be great….I was given a link to American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc where you can get FREE lesson plans. It looks like they send to them to you on a CD if you want printed ones there is a fee. I am excited to look further into this site and use their resources! Thanks to Juditupp for giving me this link!

After talking with my friend, Joann, Our Homeschooling Expedition, she gave these thoughts along with websites on what could be done for a study. “She should be able to give him an outline or course description for him to do. She could simply list what she expects as far as notes, timeline, sites visited, and books read. I would have him do it in a notebook format. I personally like to have them read some of the old history books because they are closer to the time of the actual events and I think they give you more of a feel for the time period. Some ideas for requirements would be to write a short biography paper on each of the founding fathers, keep a timeline of events, notebook about things read from text.”

History of the United States (free)

American Government and US Constitution Guide ($14.95)

Story of the Constitution

Now for the investigating that I did on my own….welllll I didn’t come up with anything new to add, like websites or books to what the other ladies have said or offered. However, I will say that if you need some help in figuring out websites to find notebook pages to do a notebook format for this study…I have some websites that might help, one being Notebooking Pages over in my sidebar.

Donna, I hope that this helps to answer your question about a High School Government Unit Study! Feel free to ask more questions if you need more help!

Weblink Wednesday

The link I am going to share today is from me going thru my favorites looking for sites to help Val build up her collection of "Special Education" sites over at Weblink Education!

The site is called do2Learn.

I initially found this site when I was looking for some pictures to use for chore charts for my little ones. I found that the site has more to offer than just pictures for doing chores, or naming objects. You can take those pictures and make them into picture cards or picture story strips. They are very basic but realistic pictures. There is also games, songs, information, and print resources for special needs people or for early childhood education. Overall, there is just a wealth of information at do2Learn!

For other links to more resources, check out Weblink Wednesday at Homeschooling with Encouragement!

Works for Me Wednesday--Doesn't Work for Me!!

This week over at Rocks in My Dryer it is a themed Works for Me Wednesday. Instead of what works for me, I am to write about something that doesn't work for me. I am sure that there are many things that don't work for me! One thing though sticks out this morning!

What doesn't work for me is afternoon appointments at doctor offices or where ever I have an appointment! I would rather be the first appointment of the day than to have to remember that I have a 2:00pm or 4:00pm in the afternoon appointment. OR have to wake a napping baby up to take to an appointment!

Having the morning appointments helps me to get started on my day and not waste my day sitting in an office waiting. Also with homeschooling, it is easier to get appointments for my kids in the morning rather than waiting til an afternoon time. Granted I get lots of people asking me if my kids should be in school but I have been able to share the joys of homeschooling with them.

So there you have thing that just doesn't work for me. To read about other's just doesn't work for them....head over to Rocks in My Dryer!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Grocery Gathering Review

About a month ago, I came across this blog called, BeCentsAble, it is done by a couple of stay at home moms whose goal to share ways to make shopping and saving money just a little simplier for everyone.

Along with participating in some of bloggyland's carnivals, they have a few different carnivals of their own along with giveaways that one can participate in on a weekly basis. One of the carnivals that they do is called the Grocery Gathering.

What is the Grocery Gathering??

Basically it is a list of many(not all) grocery stores around the country. That list is linked to other blogs who write about the weekly deals that you will find at a particular store. So instead of trying to find all the different blogs that write about your favorite stores, you can find the stores of your choice all in one place! Also, they do TWO gatherings, one on Monday for the store ads that come out on Sunday; and one on Thursday for the stores who have Wednesday ads.

What I think about the Grocery Gathering?

I love it! I think it is a brilliant idea! I have been able to find the deals at stores that I need to make my grocery list. It has changed how I handle making up my grocery shopping list and where I go to do most of my shopping. I have even started saving all of my paper insert coupons so that I can find the coupons I need to complete the deals. I have even started posting some of the deals that I find at my local Meijer store on my blog trying to help Beth-Tea and Thee because my local Meijer stores do not double coupons and I have found that sometimes the deals at her Meijer are just a little different than what I have at mine (like this week my Meijer has strawberries 3lbs/$4 and her store has them 2lbs/$3!).

What would I change about the Grocery Gathering?

One thing I would change with the "gathering" is maybe work at getting a couple of blogs involved with each store. That way if the sales/deals are different based on the region or area, a person would not be mislead in what deals are available. Or maybe instead the featured blogs could state that these deals are only good in this particular area.

Another thing I would change is those that do the Monday gathering need to have their posts up for others to see early on Monday because then I am able to check them before making up my shopping list.

What I would NOT change about the Grocery Gathering?

Other than the couple of things to change that I mentioned above, I would not change anything else! The layout is very easy to navigate through on a weekly basis. I just click on the links of the stores that I need and follow the links to the various blogs. I think it is great that other blogs are involved so that "many hands make light work".

Overall, I think the Grocery Gathering is a great resource and I will continue to recommend it to others!! Thanks ladies for all your work!!

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Having a pantry/stockpile is a good thing, especially with rising prices. However, knowing when to use that stockpile so as not to waste good food is a fine line that I have been learning over the last few months.

Here is my suggestions based on what I have learned....
  • only stockpile items that you know your family will eat or use.
  • put the items that are going to expire first towards the front.
  • do not buy any more items once your space is full. It will just become and look like clutter if you overfill the space!
  • take the time to use up the items before buying more items.
  • take inventory of everything so you can plan meals and snacks easily.

I am in week one of three(at least) in using up my pantry/freezer stockpile challenge so that I am not having to throw away food that is past its prime for usage. I am only purchasing fresh items(fruits, veggies, milk and eggs) and *need* items. I am not doing any stockpiling or deal shopping for the next few weeks so that I can get my stockpile to a more manageable level.

Part of my challenge is giving away/blessing others with my stockpile....I am planning on giving at least a bag to Stamp Out Hunger Campaign that the Postal Carriers are doing this Saturday, May 10th! I want to challenge you as well to do the same!! Set out a bag of non-perishable goods for your carrier to pick up to then donate to your local food bank! With rising costs of groceries, the food banks nationally have had an increase of families looking for food to help get food on the table! If you don't give to this campaign, think about donating food to your local homeless shelter or your church's food pantry.

For other kitchen tips, ideas, or resources, head over to Tammy's Recipes!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Homeschooling with Little Ones--Part One

How do you homeschool your kids with having a baby or little ones in the house? Homeschooling with little ones can be challenging! However, having a “game plan” always helps me to overcome the challenge.

Here is my “game plan” with a new baby in the house…

First, I decided when I was going to start school. Do I wait till after baby is born (which was the beginning of November) or do I get a head start? I decided to get a head start and we officially started our school year the week after the 4th of July. Needless to say, my kids were not too happy that they had to start working on school work again especially since none of the other neighborhood kids had started school. However, I told them when baby came they would be getting at least a six week break! They seemed to lighten up on the complaining when I told them that news.

Yes, you read correctly…at least six weeks!! Sometimes I have gone for as many as 8 weeks without doing “formal” schooling with my kids after a baby. It basically is a time of adjustment for everyone. It gives me time to rest after having a baby. It gives me time to get into a routine with a new addition. It gives me time to plan. It gives me a relaxed time with my family without any pressures of meeting any goals. It is also a time where I can fit in field trips, errands, and other things (like read alouds, board games, and art/craft projects) that I normally can’t fit in during our school year. I figure that my kids are learning even by playing Legos or K’nex, watching videos, playing with each other and helping me out around the house that doing “formal” schooling is not a necessity while trying to adjust to the new addition.

Once we get back into a routine, ie knowing when baby is going to take naps or needing to be fed, I start working back in the “book work” starting with Math. You probably are wondering why I start with Math? We start with reviewing basics and work back up to where we were before our new addition. Math seems to be the subject that my kids seem to lose the facts the fastest.

Once we get going on a routine, it looks like this at first….Reading and Math usually ends up only taking us an hour at first to get thru those subjects. Then as the weeks progress we add back in Writing/Language Arts/Spelling, History and then Science. Science is the last of the subjects that I add back in because usually I find it harder to keep up with doing experiments and such. Usually Science is added into the mix at about week 3 of getting back into the school routine.

The bottom line is to take the amount of time that you need to take to get yourself and your family into a routine that works well with everyone.

Next week, I’ll be giving some suggestions as to how to handle having that toddler pulling at your leg or begging for things while trying to school the older children.

Part Two of the series--keeping toddlers occupied

Meijer Deals 5/4-5/10

After a difficult week last week, I think I am going to jump back on the wagon this week and bring you the deals I have found at Meijer. I am also doing a challenge of sorts for the next few weeks so I won't be getting in on the deals too much! Also, you can find Meijer deals at Beth's blog--Tea and Thee!! Anyway without further ado, the deals are....

  • Strawberries 3lbs/$4(sold in 1 lb pkgs)
  • Mangos 5/$5
  • Tomatoes on the Vine $1.49/lb

  • Bone In Chicken Breasts $1.29/lb
  • Whole Chicken Roaster 99 cents/lb
  • Ground Beef from Round $1.99/lb(meat counter)
  • Quick Frozen Chicken Breast Tenders 4lbs Buy one @ $14.98 get one FREE
  • Jimmy Dean Sausage Buy one @ $3.99 get one FREE
  • Oscar Mayer Bologna or Hot Dogs 3/$5

  • MorningStar Farms Products 2/$6
  • Boston Market Dinners 5/$11 (buy 5 get 6th FREE)
  • Green Giant Box or Bag Veggies 5/$5 60cents/2 coupon(box) and 65cents/3 coupon(box)
  • Weight Watchers Smart Ones 6/$11 (buy 6 get 7th FREE)

  • Tropicana OJ 2/$5
  • Crystal Light Drink Mix/on the Go/South Beach Tide Me Over 3/$6 (Buy 3 get 24pk Meijer bottled water FREE)
  • Northland 100% Juice 64oz. 2/$5 $1/2 coupon(free signup required)
  • Mott's Apple Juice 3/$5 ((Marcy linked some coupons for Motts!)
  • Coke Products 24pk 2/$10(plus deposit in some states)

  • Aunt Millie's Homestyle Bread(buttermilk or cracked wheat) buy one get one FREE
  • Aunt Millie's Honey Buns 8 count buy one get one FREE
  • Lay's Potato Chips buy one get one FREE
  • Act II Popcorn 3 count buy one get one FREE
  • General Mills Cereal(select varieties) 5/$9 50cents/1 Cheerios coupon
  • Life Cereal 5/$10 $1/1 Cinnamon Life coupon(under products go to the Cinnamon Life link to retrieve the coupon)

  • Dove chocolates 2/$5 B1G1 coupon
  • Hershey's Pot of Gold chocolates B1G1FREE

  • Tide Laundry Detergent 24-32 loads 2/$10

Have fun this week getting your deals!! You can brag about it on your blog and then head over to BeCentsAble and MoneySavingMom on Saturdays to link your "brags" for others to see!

Menu Plan Monday 5/4 - 5/10

**Another week is upon us so that means it is time for another menu plan! This is just a plan and it could change on the cook’s whim!

I made it thru my difficult week, this week is not as difficult or busy so menus should be a breeze! Last week, I finally made my Chicken Veggie Stew (#8), and homemade honey oatmeal rolls dinner that I had been putting off for several weeks! It was delicious! I remember to get pictures of the meal to put on my blog! I am challenging myself with pantry shopping for the next several weeks. This is the first of at least THREE menus that will be coming directly out of my stockpile!! I will be doing limited to no shopping for the next three weeks.

Lunches listed are for the kids and me. Hubby 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 other delicious meal plans that have been linked at her site! **

Sunday (5-4)
Breakfast: eggs, sausage links, hash browns, and chocolate donuts
Lunch: leftover spaghetti
Dinner: Kentucky Fried Chicken (after church)
Snack: sandwiches (before church)

Monday (5-5)
Breakfast: cereal and toast
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Taco bar (celebrating Cinco de Mayo)
Snack: snack basket

Tuesday (5-6)
Breakfast: pancakes
Lunch: sandwich, chips, apple slices and carrot sticks
Dinner: roasted pork loin, mashed taters, carrots, and rolls
Snack: cookies & milk

Wednesday (5-7)
Breakfast: “Cook’s Choice” (18mo to healthy check-up)
Lunch: out with grandma
Dinner: cordon bleu/chicken nuggets, fries, and corn
Snack: snack basket

Thursday (5-8)
Breakfast: waffles
Lunch: sandwich, chips, apple slices and carrot sticks
Dinner: saucy chicken, rice, green beans and biscuits
Snack: snack basket

Friday (5-9)
Breakfast: cereal and toast
Lunch: pizza rolls
Dinner: homemade grilled burgers and fries
Snack: homemade chocolate shakes

Saturday (5-10)
Breakfast: “Cook’s Choice”
Lunch: ?????(it’s the weekend anything goes!)
Dinner: grilled chicken/catfish/shrimp, potato pockets, and corn
Snack: popcorn or bbq lil’ wieners (church small group here)