Friday, January 8, 2010

Weekly Shopping Trip--Savings $55.45

This week was my first grocery shopping of the new year and I must say that looking at the savings total it doesn't look like I saved a lot, even though it was a 69% savings!  However, I did spend under $125 for the week which isn't too bad to feed 7 people when I have not done significant shopping for two full weeks.  I did not joined the "eat from the pantry challenge" this time around because I have been doing it since last month and am still working at getting many things in my pantry used up this month!  One of my goals for 2010 is to only shop twice a month and since I haven't done any major shopping(other than milk and fresh eggs & produce) since December 17th, I thought it would be wise to restock a few needed items.  However, after paying the bills from hubby's last paycheck I found that I needed to be very conservative in my spending so I had to make some decisions of not getting a few items just because it was on sale and I had a coupon for the item.  I also went to several stores to get the items I needed for the week.

So here is the breakdown of my shopping this week: (sorry no pics--hopefully I will remember next time to take pics before my kids help me put everything away!)

Save A Lot: 

  • 2.47 lbs bananas 82¢
  • 56 oz bag brown & serve sausage $5.00
  • 2 lbs carrots 59¢
  • 10 lbs potatoes $1.79
Total OOP: $8.20

  • 1 bag pretzels 25¢
  • 1 grapefruit 39¢
  • 1 cantaloupe 99¢
  • 1 bag chopped walnuts $1.89
  • 2 gallons milk $3.38 ($1.69/gallon)
  • 4 cans cream of chicken soup $2.36
  • 4 cans beef broth $2.36
  • 1 bottle yellow mustard 69¢
Total OOP: $12.31

Dollar General:
  • 2 pkgs Kotex maxi pads $4.00
  • 2 bottles family size Suave shampoo $3.50
  • 1 Suave deodorant $1.00
  • 1 bottle Lysol bathroom cleaner $2.50
  • 1 box mini moon pies $1.00 (treat for hubby)
  • 1 box Cocoa Puffs $1.25
Total OOP(with 84¢ sales tax): $13.84
Total savings: $4.00
Total without coupons: $17.84

Family Fare: 
  • 3 boxes Kleenex $3.97
  • 4 bottles Juicy Juice $4.67
  • 1 family pack bag Banquet chicken nuggets $3.99
  • 18 ct eggs $2.19
  • 1-6pk applesauce 79¢
  • 2.06 lbs beef stew meat $5.13
  • 2.02 lbs chicken drumsticks $1.05
  • 6.92 lbs ground beef $13.77
  • 5.64 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts $10.09
Total OOP(with 27¢ sales tax) $45.92
Total Savings: $25.78
Total without sales & coupons: $71.70

  • 1 pk Hostess chocolate cupcakes FREE!
  • 24 ct Eggo waffles $4.49
  • 10.62 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts $19.01
  • 4 cans Red Gold tomatoes $2.16
  • 1 bottle Suave hair gel $1.67
  • 1 box Touch of Honey Corn Flakes $1.00
  • 2 bags Nature Valley Nut clusters $3.00
  • 2 pkgs Eckrich smoky links $5.38
  • 1 box Finish dishwasher tabs 99¢
  • 1 family pack bag Tyson chicken nuggets $3.99
Total OOP(with 31¢ sales tax): $42.00
Total Savings: $25.67
Total without sales and coupons: $67.67

Grand Total OOP(with $1.42 sales tax included): $122.27
Grand Total Savings: $55.45 (plus the savings for shopping at the discount stores)
Grand Total without sales and coupons: $177.72

This post is linked to:

Pumpkin Sheet Cake

Its the Monday before Christmas and I am scurrying around like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter trying to get a Christmas day dinner planned for a crowd of people!!  When the planning first started, there was a good possibility that I would need to have food for 24 people!  So when it came to thinking and planning the desserts that I wanted to serve I decided that I would find desserts that I didn't have to make two or three batches in order to serve the crowd the dessert.  So when I came across Tammy's pumpkin sheet cake, I knew this would do the trick and then some!!  However, I can not seem to do a recipe without changing a few things!

Tammy's Pumpkin Sheet Cake(with my modifications)

Cake Ingredients:
16 ounces (2 cups) canned solid-pack pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cups powdered confectioner's sugar
2-4 teaspoons milk
chopped nuts, for topping

1. Beat pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add eggs, mixing well.

2. In another bowl, combine dry cake ingredients and stir to mix. Add to pumpkin mixture and beat well.

3. Pour batter into greased 15 x 10 x 1-inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool on a wire rack (in the pan); cover with a towel after about 15 minutes of cooling.

4. To make frosting, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until smooth. Gradually add sugar, mixing well. Add milk until frosting reaches desired thickness. Frosten cooled cake and sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.

I am not sure what the purpose of covering the cake with a towel after 15 minutes of cooling so I didn't do it and I still had a moist cake. I found that when making the frosting, I only needed 3 teaspoons of milk for the right consistency for frosting the cake.  Also, the frosting will thin out if the cake isn't completely cool!  This cake definitely serves a crowd!  I was able to even freeze a few pieces and they froze and thawed wonderfully!

The remarks of those that ate the pumpkin sheet cake:

  • "Can I have the recipe? This cake is so moist and the cream cheese frosting isn't too strong and tastes just right with the cake."
  • "Where did you find the recipe for this cake?"  I would like to have the recipe so that I can make it too!"
  • "This is soo good and moist! Can I take some home with me to have later!"

The other dessert I did with my Christmas dinner was Chocolate Mousse Torte, which was also another new recipe!  You can read a review here!

This post is linked to: 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Homemade TV Dinners aka Leftover Lunch Buffet

Ever have just a little bit of leftover but really don't want to throw it away?  What about having several bits of leftovers sitting in your fridge and you are just not sure what to do with it? Are you wondering how to make meals stretch through the month during the eat out of the pantry challenge?  What about doing homemade TV dinners?  I do them on a regular basis for my hubby's lunches and at least once a week for the kids and me.

I have heard of people taking those bits of leftovers and putting them in the freezer until they get a bunch of little bits and then either making a soup or casserole out of all the little bits.  Well since my family isn't big on soups or casseroles, I don't save much in the way of little bits in the freezer because I know that they would get lost in the bottom of the freezer! Instead of freezing the little bits I keep them in the fridge and make homemade TV dinners for the kids(and me) at least once a week for lunch time.

Lunch time seems to be the best time for the homemade TV dinners because then if they are bit on the light side it is okay because I know that my dinner meal will be a hearty meal.

I usually don't end up with leftover veggies so when I do the homemade TV dinners I let the kids chose either apple slices or raw carrots or both to have with their meal.  I also let them have a slice of buttered bread(if they are not eating a sandwich already). I also let them have a sweet treat like a mini candy bar or a cookie, if there is any baked.

When it is time for lunch, I take the time to go through the fridge and find all the containers of little bits that are available and need to be eaten before their fridge time has expired.  I fix up the plates with the different combinations on them, put a piece of plastic over the plate and heat it up in the microwave.  I leave the plastic on the plate to keep the food warm while I heat the other plates up.

I love to hear my kids come up to the counter and exclaim "homemade TV dinners"!!  Yum!

Homemade TV dinners are easy, nutritious, money-saving and 100% kid friendly!

This post is linked to: 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chocolate Mousse Torte

Shortly before Christmas, I was alerted by Meijer that they are getting ready to partner with Katie Brown in the spring with a new product line in stores. If you don't know Katie Brown, she is a “lifestyle maven”, current PBS host and Oxygen network alumnus. She has also authored several books focusing on lifestyle and entertaining, and is a syndicated lifestyle columnist as well. She has a motto that I just love and already work to instill in my house and that is "keeping things simple!"
Anyway, Meijer sent me a Katie Brown kit containing one of her recipes, a 10" Anchor Hocking serving cake plate, the non-perishables, a nice big canvas bag and a $10 Meijer gift card to get the rest of the ingredients to do up one of Katie Brown's recipes and I must say that it could not have come at a better time!  I was really struggling to figure out a dessert to have after Christmas dinner that was something simple but yet elegant.  I really didn't want to fix what I call an everyday dessert like chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies. I wanted something more but didn't take me all day to put together.

The Chocolate Mousse Torte of Katie's in the kit was the answer!! It was easy to assemble, and even though I missed putting the melted chocolate into pudding mixture it didn't ruin the taste or presentation of the dessert.   I liked the fact that several of the needed ingredients are items that I keep in my pantry so I could have made up the dessert without making a special trip to the store.

Chocolate Mousse Torte

37 Nilla Wafers, divided
4 Squares Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
2 Pkg. Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
2 Cups + 2 tbsp. Cold Milk, divided
1 Tub(8oz) Cool Whip Whipping Topping, thawed, divided
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup(6 oz pkg) Raspberries, fresh

1. Stand 16 wafers around inside edge of a 9-inch round pan lined with plastic wrap. Melt 3 chocolate squares as directed on package.

2. Beat pudding mixes and 2 cups milk in medium blow with whisk, 2 minutes. Add melted chocolate; mix well. Stir in 1 cup Cool Whip; pour into prepared pan.

3. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and remaining milk with mixer until well blended. Stir in 1 cup of remaining Cool Whip; spread over pudding. Top with remaining wafers.

4. Refrigerate 3 hours.

5. Invert torte onto plate. Remove pan and plastic wrap. Shave remaining Chocolate Square into curls. Top torte with remaining Cool Whip, berries, and chocolate curls.

Notes: I used a pie pan since I didn't have a springform pan or round pan with straight sides. I think it would be better because I had a hard time keeping the wafers on the side of the pan. However, putting some of the pudding mixture in the bottom of the pan and spreading it to the edges helped to "stand up" the wafers on the side of the pan. I forgot the melted chocolate squares in the pudding mixture, I think it would have been more "airy"/mousse texture and less sloppy and pudding like in consistency.  However, the end result of the torte still tasted yummy.  Instead of refrigerating the dessert for 3 hours, I stuck in the freezer for 1 1/2 hours before inverting the torte on the serving plate. Once inverted on the serving plate, I placed the torte in the fridge until serving time. Most of my family doesn't like raspberries so I probably will omit them the next time I make this torte (esp. if they are $3.49 for 6oz) and just use the chocolate curls for the garnish.

Review: I give this torte a 10 out of 10. It was a simple dessert although it takes a bit of planning ahead to allow for "chilling" of the torte. I had all but 2 ingredients(raspberries, and chocolate squares) in my pantry at the time of making up the dessert. I definitely will be making this torte again for my family.

The other dessert I served with my Christmas dinner this year(that is shown on the picture above) was Tammy's Pumpkin Sheet Cake!(watch for another post on the cake!)

This post is linked to: 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 1/3-1/9

It’s a new year…time to get back into doing menu planning rather than “flying by the seat of my pants” like what I did for most of December!  I can definitely say that not making menu plans definitely wrecked havoc on my day and my stress level, esp. those days when I was scrambling at 5pm to get something on the table. Thankfully there weren’t too many days where I was a “cop out” and got take out for dinner. 

The last time I did grocery shopping was TWO days BEFORE Christmas!!!  I still have food in the house to use so that is what we will be using this week.  One of my goals for this year is to only shop twice a month so you will be seeing many menus where I am using what I have on hand rather than going grocery shopping.  It should be an interesting year as I am sure that there will many weeks that creativity will prevail during the week.  Along with only shopping twice per month, I am going to work at trying TWO new to family meals each month so that I can increase our family favorite meals list.  Some of the items on the current list are becoming not so favorite any more due to overuse.

This week’s meals are some of the family favorites.  I asked the kids what they wanted to eat for dinners this week and the list below is what they picked. Granted I had to give them parameters as to what I had on hand because I wasn’t going to the store to pick up the meal fixings.

For this week’s lunches that are for the kids and me! Unless we are having leftovers, our lunches are served with apple slices or carrot sticks along with fruit juice or water.  Hubby usually takes a dinner leftover along with various snacks for his work lunch so I don’t take the time to plan his lunches.  

A special thanks to Laura-Organizing Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday! Need help with your menus; go check the over 300 other delicious meal plans that have been linked at Laura-Organizing Junkie's site or look down in my right sidebar for my menu suggestion lists!

Sunday (1-3)
Breakfast: eggs, sausage, hash browns, and donuts(freezer)
Lunch: grilled cheese & turkey sandwiches and chicken noodle soup
Dinner:  beef gravy served over egg noodles and peas as a side and leftover rolls
Snack: snack basket

Monday (1-4)
Breakfast: cereal and donuts
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: saucy chicken served with rice and green peas and homemade bread(freezer)
Snack: snack basket

Tuesday (1-5)
Breakfast:  waffles and sausage
Lunch: homemade turkey lunchables
Dinner:  spaghetti served with garlic toast
Snack: snack basket

Wednesday (1-6)
Breakfast:  bagels and cereal
Lunch: leftovers--pizza
Dinner:  oven fried chicken, fish, and shrimp served with French fries and green beans
Snack: snack basket

Thursday (1-7)
Breakfast:  French Toast and sausage
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner:  roasted chicken served with mashed potatoes & gravy, corn and biscuits
Snack: snack basket

Friday (1-8)
Breakfast:  cereal and toast
Lunch: sandwich & chips
Dinner: homemade bacon burgers, French fries and carrots
Snack: ice cream night

Saturday (1-9)
Breakfast:  Your Choice
Lunch: ????
Dinner: pizza subs
Snack: popcorn

Homeschooling Hands On: Writing Thank You Notes

I wrote this in Dec. 2008 as a contributing article over at Happy to be at Home, and decided that I would repost it on my blog for my readers as the first article in my series "Homeschooling Hands On".

The holidays are now over and gifts that the kids received are still the “in thing” and not sitting on a shelf somewhere or thrown into the bottom of the closet and buried. It is time now to start getting back in the groove of doing school-related things. It usually takes us a few days to get back into our routine and schedule, so I take it slow and start our school week with some fun learning activities.
One activity that we do that is fun and a great way for getting the kids writing again is thank you notes. Yes, the kids take the time to write thank you notes to their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other people that they received gifts from over the holidays. I know what you are thinking: But they said thank you already along with hugs and kisses. Isn’t that enough!?
Well, actually it can be enough, BUT why not have the kids write and send thank you notes? Think of the learning that is taking place without them even realizing it in doing the thank you notes…writing sentences (along with going through the writing process), creative writing, signing their name, addressing an envelope (just my older kids do this as their writing is legible enough for the postmaster), and just the act of showing gratitude(a great character quality to instill).
Did you know that writing thank you notes are not just for the older kids? The younger kids can get in the fun as well with drawing pictures and scribbles and having an older child or parent help them with the writing by asking them about their picture or what they would like to write in their thank you note. This interaction is good because not only are the younger ones feeling a part of things, but it is showing the younger ones that “scribbles” have meaning. They are also learning that learning can be fun!
As for the materials we use for our thank you notes, I pick up a pack of 10 thank you cards from the dollar store for the older kids to use if they choose. However,they usually just like using a piece of printer paper or a half-sheet of construction paper and make their own cards using markers or crayons.  And sometimes we will even print off clipart pictures for them to cut out and glue on to their cards. I also have a collection of old greeting cards that they use for some of their pictures. They love to use their imagination and creativity to make their own unique cards.
This is just one of the ways I teach my kids without always having to use a textbook or workbook. There are many other ways, of course, but I will save those for another time and post!
I would love to hear from you! Do you have your children write thank you notes or letters to relatives or friends?