Monday, November 05, 2007

Puffed Apple Pancake

We loved this for supper the other night. Yummy! And easy to make!

Puffed Apple Pancake-serves 4 to 6

2 McIntosh or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/9 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional garnish: powdered sugar

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

Toss apples with lemon juice, brown sugar, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, cinnamon and cloves in a bowl.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a 10 inch oven-proof nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Add apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer apples and any liquid to a wide bowl and let cool.

Heat cleaned skillet in oven for 5 minutes. Combine milk, eggs, flour, remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla in a blender(I used my food processor with good results.)and blend until smooth.

*I don't have an oven-proof skillet, so I just used the skillet on top of the stove and transferred contents to a casserole dish to bake.

Remove skillet from oven. Melt remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in skillet over moderately high heat, then pour batter into skillet. Spoon apple mixture evenly over top. Bake pancake until puffed and golden and a toothpick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean., 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Serve with a side of bacon or sausages.

Menu Plan Monday

This week's menu comes completely from what I already had on hand in my freezer and pantry. I had no grocery money left at the end of the month,so I didn't go grocery shopping this past week. But never fear-we have plenty of yummy food stocked up! I will be resuming my regular shopping trip this week, though-the fresh foods are looking pretty low!:-)

This week is also the start of a few busy weeks for me so I planned ahead and had some extra meals prepared and frozen. This makes for simple menu planning! All freezer meals are marked with an *.

Monday-BLT sandwiches, lentil soup*

Tuesday-baked tilapia, sweet potatoes, steamed asparagus

Wednesday-veggie stir-fry, rice

Thursday-spaghetti pie*, French bread*

Friday-ham and cheese loaf*(ham and cheese layered and rolled up inside French bread dough), crunchy raw veggies, fruit

Saturday-with family

Sunday-grilled cheese sandwiches

Breakfasts-waffles*,honey-bran muffins, baked oatmeal, cold cereal

Lunches-leftovers, peanut butter and honey sandwiches

For more menu planning inspiration,please visit I'm an organizing junkie!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I had soft pretzels on the menu for Sunday night's dinner. I've made them before but was trying a new recipe that looked like it might have more "professional" results. We ended up being invited over to our friend's house to watch the Redskins game. I asked if I could make my pretzels there which of course was fine with them!

I made the dough at home and took everything with me. Have kitchen-will travel!!! My friend helped me which was a lot more fun than doing it alone! We were quite pleased with the results! Right out of the oven, they looked much more like pretzels from a pretzel shop than any I have ever made before. The picture above was taken the next day so the pretzels aren't quite as fresh there.

Here's the recipe I used and will definitely make again:

Start by making a sponge of:
4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups flour

After this has sponged for 15 minutes, stir in:
2 tablespoons salt
6-8 cups of flour, one cup at a time

Stir flour into your dough slowly, one cup at a time. After a stiff dough forms, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin to knead it. Let the dough rise for about an hour in a greased bowl, and then divide it into 24 parts. Roll each piece into a 20 inch rope and from there shape it into a pretzel. To do this, curve the dough in half, forming a loop in the middle. Cross one end over the other twice and then lay the ends down on top of the loop forming a "pretzel knot."

Let your uncooked pretzels relax on a floured surface or pastry cloth for a few minutes. Stretch them out a bit and fix their shape before poaching them in a simmering mixture of:
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon salt

Poach the pretzels for 1 minute(they will float). Remove them carefully with a slotted spoon and place them on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt, if desired, and bake them for 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Serve pretzels with your favorite cheese sauce or mustard.

We made this cheese sauce to go with the pretzels:

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons flour, cook over moderate heat for a minute and then whisk in 3 cups chicken stock and 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard. When the the stock comes to a bubble and starts to thicken, stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and serve!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Here are our 10 quart and 1 pint of applesauce that Andy and I made and canned together last week. It is so yummy and a good feeling to have this ready in the pantry to eat all winter!

I tied a little "thank you" tag to the pint jar to give to my friend who so kindly loaned me her foley mill! It made the job so much easier!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Another week, another menu!

Dinners for the week:
Monday- eat with friends

Tuesday-BBQ meatballs, buttered pasta, salad

Wednesday-potato soup, corn muffins, salad

Thursday-salmon patties, green beans, fruit salad

Friday-chicken & rice bake, salad

Saturday- puffed apple pancake(new recipe from my sister), bacon

Sunday-white bean dip, tortilla chips, fresh veggies

Breakfasts will be cream of wheat, frozen waffles(heated up, of course!), apple muffins, fresh fruit, toast, homemade yogurt

For lunches this week, we will mainly be eating leftovers. If there are none, we will have the same lunch items that have been on my menu for the past several weeks as we haven't hardly used them- peanut butter sandwiches, frozen homemade soups, grilled cheese.

For more menu-planning inspiration,please visit I'm an organizing junkie!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Menu Plan Monday -on Tuesday!

I had my menu made up but was a little under the weather yesterday so I didn't get it posted until now.

Here's my dinner menu for the week:

Monday-lentil soup, apple-jack quesadillas

Tuesday- spaghetti pie, salad

Wednesday-creamed eggs over homemade biscuits

Thursday-homemade pizza, salad

Friday- pork chops, savory apple roast

Saturday-waffles, sausage links

Sunday-soft pretzels with cheese sauce (I'm trying this recipe I saw on Rachael Ray's show.)

All dinners include salad or veggie even if it's not mentioned!

Breakfasts for the week will be: cold cereal, bananas and apples, eggs and toast, yogurt, cream of wheat and apple-walnut muffins.

Lunches are primarily leftovers. If needed, I have some individual servings of frozen homemade soups, stuff for either peanut butter or egg salad sandwiches and extra salad fixings.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

This week I'm taking the easy way out and baking a chicken that we can eat off of for several days!

Monday- meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad

Tuesday-roast chicken, with potatoes and carrots

Wednesday- chicken and bean burritos

Thursday-chicken salad sandwiches

Friday-chicken soup with cheese tortellini

Saturday- with family

Sunday-grilled cheese

Breakfasts this week will be eggs and toast, honey bran muffins, homemade yogurt, cream of wheat and fresh fruit.

Lunches will be leftovers, peanut butter or turkey sandwiches and salads.

For more menu planning inspiration, please visit I'm an organizing junkie!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Better Than Pam" Pan Release

I made up some of this "Better Than Pam" pan release this week. It is awesome!

I was out of regular pan spray plus I've been looking for a substitution for the aerosol spray for a long time. Just plain oil wasn't cutting it for me!

So when I saw this review on Amy's blog, I was more than happy to give it a try! It's super easy to make and takes about 5 minutes. So far I'm really happy with the results.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

My dinner menu for this week:

Monday: meatball stromboli, salad

Tuesday: nine-bean soup, French bread with herbed cream cheese

Wednesday:cheese enchiladas(from freezer), salad

Thursday: stove top chicken and rice

Friday: sandwiches

Saturday:eat out

Breakfasts this week will be cold cereal, pancakes(from freezer),honey bran muffins and eggs and toast.

Lunches will be leftovers, peanut butter and honey or ham sandwiches or salads.

For more menu plan inspiration, please visit I'm an organizing junkie!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cracked Wheat Bread

I made a new recipe of cracked wheat bread today. I was planning to make my regular honey-wheat bread but noticed I was almost out of whole wheat flour!(Time for grocery shopping!)

I looked through my Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Cookbook(a recent thrift store find for $1) and found a recipe for Cracked Wheat bread. I had some cracked wheat in the freezer so I decided to give it a try.

I made several changes to the original recipe and it turned out really yummy! I will definitely be making this bread again. Here's the recipe just as I made it...

Cracked Wheat Bread

2 cups warm water
2 packages or 2 T. active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup cracked wheat(soaked for a few minutes in warm water; I soaked mine for maybe 20 minutes-it just seemed like the right thing to do-LOL!!!)
4-4 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2-3 tablespoons ground flax seed-optional
8 teaspoons Vital Wheat Gluten-optional but makes a softer and better rising bread)

Directions(with a mixer):
In mixer bowl, combine water and yeast. Let set for about 5 minutes; then add sugar, butter and salt. Beat on low speed for a minute or so; add drained cracked wheat, 2 cups white flour,whole wheat flour, flax seed and gluten. Mix for several minutes at low to medium speed. Scrape bowl if needed and add the rest of the white flour-a little at a time, mixing and adding flour until dough is stiff but still slightly sticky to the touch.(You may need a bit more flour-use your own discretion.)Mix for about 8 minutes total until thoroughly mixed and a nice dough.

Place dough in greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover and set in warm spot to rise until doubled- about one hour. When doubled in size, punch down and let rise until doubled again. After second rising, punch down and divide into 2 loaves. Let dough rest for about 10 minutes. Shape loaves and place in greased bread pans. Cover and let rise until doubled in size-again!

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes. If crusts brown too quickly, cover with foil for the last 15 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire racks or towel. Brush tops with butter if desired.

Makes 2 loaves

Works For You Wednesday

This week for Works For Me Wednesday, it's Backwards Day! Instead of giving a great idea,we are asking for answers/ideas/advice for a specific question we may have.

My question is this:

I buy Tupperware at yard sales and thrift stores. Much of it, especially the older styles, has a musty smell inside. The smell doesn't go away after repeated baths in the dishwasher either. I know I'm not the only one who buys used Tupperware. How can I get rid of the smell?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Three Years

Happy Anniversary, Andy! I love you!

"I promise I will love you all the seasons of my life and be thankful for the beauty of just sharing them with you." -from a card given before we were married

More of our pictures and wedding details can be found here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Here is my dinner menu plan for the week:

Monday-creamed eggs on toast

Tuesday-baked tilapia, sweet potatoes, steamed green beans

Wednesday-barley "risotto"(new recipe)

Thursday-BBQ meatballs served over rice

Friday-Mexican pizzas(from kit)

Saturday-eggs, bacon, cheese grits

All dinners are served with either a salad or veggie on the side.

For breakfasts this week, we have cold cereal, eggs and toast, cream of wheat, and pumpkin muffins.

Lunches are usually dinner leftovers. For days with no leftovers, we have vegetable soup(frozen in individual portions) or peanut butter sandwiches.

For more menu planning inspiration, please visit I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Monday- chicken and rice(top of the stove dish)

Tuesday-tuna pasta salad

Wednesday-beef tips(bought on super sale a while back!), gravy, mashed potatoes

Thursday-sloppy joes

Friday-sweet and sour pork with rice

Saturday-leftover buffet

For more menu ideas, please visit I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What To Do With 10 Pounds Of Ground Beef

When ground beef was on sale last week for $.97 a pound, I bought 10 pounds. It was packaged in 5 pound packages, so I bought 2 of the big trays.

I used 2 pounds(with 1 pound of sausage) to make a huge batch of meatballs to freeze. I cut the rest of the beef into approximate 1 pound portions and froze 6 pounds in 1 pound bags. I browned the remaining 2 pounds and froze that already cooked in 1 pound portions as well. (This will be great for quick meals!) All this meat should last us for several months!

I'll share my recipe for meatballs and you can check out this article for many ways to use them!


2 pounds ground beef
1 pound sausage(can use all ground beef if desired)
1 can evaporated milk
2 cups oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2-3 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup chopped onion

Mix all ingredients together and shape into small balls(I use my cookie scoop). I usually make around 80 meatballs with this recipe. Place meatballs on waxed paper lined cookie sheet.

Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid. Remove from pan and package in meal-sized portions(I like dozen size packages for us).

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

We love these baked with BBQ sauce and served with rice or pasta. Easy!

I have also put partially cooked meatballs in cooked jumbo pasta shells and then layered them with spaghetti sauce and cheese- one of my husband's favorites!Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so.

The newest Taste of Home has a recipe for meatball calzones which I plan to adapt for us.

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Making A List

No, I'm not talking about Christmas right now, even though I am already planning fun gifts!

I'm trying to do better at planning and projecting as to what I need for groceries and household items. So this month I decided to make a list of items that we frequently use that I need to be looking for ahead(before I am completely out) on a good sale. It's such a simple idea, but it has already helped me so much!

I use a clipboard (hanging in my kitchen)with a pad of paper that I write my grocery lists on as I notice I am running low. This month I simply kept a list on the front left hand side of items I wanted at a great price. So often I forget what I want to stock up on as I go from week to week so this is a simple thing that really helps me!

When looking at the sale ads, I kept an eye out for some of the items that I had on -my "sale" list. Either this was a good month for sales or my list really helped to remind me of what to be looking for.:-)

On my list this month:

-Brita filters
-liquid Tylenol
-canned salmon
-ziploc bags-all sizes-(bought for 99 cents a box)
-ground beef-(bought at 97 cents a pound)
-fish-(found some tilapia for a good price in the ads this week)
-mayo-(bought at 70 cents a jar with sale and coupons)
-whole chickens
-chicken breasts-(bought at $1.77 a pound)
-ranch dressing
-whole wheat pasta-(Harris Teeter has some spaghetti advertised)

Of course, not everything was found yet, but I was able to get several of these things at very good prices! I'm also trying to do better at keeping some of my husband's favorite foods on hand and this will help me to remember to look for things that I normally wouldn't think about.:-)

Who would've guessed that such a simple idea would help me so much?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: BBQ Chicken, corn on the cob, salad

Tuesday: Spaghetti & Meatballs

Wednesday: Calico Bean Bake(a new recipe)

Thursday: London Broil with roasted potatoes and carrots

Friday: homemade pizza

Saturday: leftovers

For more menu ideas, please visit I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Frugal Fridays: Spaghetti Pie

Today I'm sharing my new favorite make ahead freezer meal. Not only frugal and easy to make, it's also a cinch to mass-produce these to freeze. These make a wonderful hospitality meal to have on hand to either bake for unexpected guests or to take to someone who needs a meal brought to them. This has a "lasagna taste" to it and is so much quicker and less expensive than lasagna! I've figured that each pie costs about $3 to make.

My sister shared this recipe with me and we love it!

Spaghetti Pie

(Amounts given are for one pie; multiply according if making more than one)

Cook half of a 1 pound box of spaghetti(4 cups cooked pasta; approx. 1 1/2" diameter of uncooked)per package instructions.

Mix 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese with 2 beaten eggs and a little butter. Add to the hot noodles and mix well.

Grease a pie pan and nest in the noodles, bringing them up on the sides to resemble a crust.

Put spaghetti sauce with meat or leftover lasagna sauce on top. You can add mushrooms to this if you would like.

Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

If freezing, double wrap and freeze until ready to use. (Thaw in fridge overnight.)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly!

Cut in wedges and serve with garlic bread and a salad.

For more frugal ideas, please visit Biblical Womanhood!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two Small Cleaning Jobs-Done!

It seems there are always relatively small cleaning tasks around the house that seem to continually be put off. I've tackled two of these this week: cleaning the microwave and the ceiling fans.

I used this easy tip from Paula to clean the microwave. Hat tip to Mrs. U!

To clean the fans, I simply spray my dust rag and wipe all the blades down. Some people use special dusters to do this-which is fine. The important thing is that the job gets done!

Both of these tasks took only a few minutes each to complete. I love that there are no dust bunnies lurking on my fans and my microwave is sparkling clean-if only for a little while!

Blessings to everyone as you care for your family and home today!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Here's my menu for the week.

I have chicken breasts that needed to be used baking in the oven right now and my menu for the week reflects that!It will make for an easy cooking week. I'm all for that!

Monday- chicken salad wraps, sliced avocado, green salad

Tuesday-chicken and dumplings

Wednesday-baked potatoes, veggie medley, rhubarb dumplings

Thursday- White Bean and Chicken Chili, cornbread, salad

Friday-Homemade pizza

Saturday-eat out

For more Menu Plan Monday inspiration, please visit I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Freezing Fresh Lime Juice

I found a tray of organic limes on the marked-down shelf at the health food store a couple of weeks ago. 5 limes for 89 cents!

They looked so pretty in my fruit bowl, but it was a very busy week so I didn't get around to using them. To make use of the limes before they went bad(remember, no deal is a deal if you end up not using it!),I squeezed them and froze the juice in ice cube trays.

After freezing, I popped out the lime juice cubes, put them all in a ziploc bag and stuck them back in the freezer. About 3 cubes equal 1 lime, so I wrote that on the bag as well for when I'm using the fresh lime juice for a recipe. Just thaw how ever many you need and the fresh-squeezed juice is ready to use!

This can be done with lemons and limes and is so nice to have ready to pull out for recipes!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Here's what's for dinner at my house this week. I planned mostly from my pantry and freezer for an interesting variety this week! A can of oysters that I've been storing for a looong time was begging to be finally used! All meals will include either a salad or extra veggies on the side.

Monday- hot dogs, corn on the cob, fresh fruit

Tuesday-lentils and rice

Wednesday-sausage cooked with peppers and onions

Thursday-oyster dressing, veggie

Friday-sweet and sour chicken over rice

Saturday-tuna melts


For more meal-planning inspiration, please visit- I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fleece Blankets

I've had a big bag of fleece scraps sitting in the house for over a year now. Finally, out of disgust for continuing to store them and not doing anything with them, I decided to put them into the yard sale pile and just get rid of them.(I am constantly torn between decluttering and resourceful frugality!!!) These scraps were from several service/sharing projects I helped to do with the kids at church last year.

I felt really good about getting rid of them, but since they were still setting in my house-by the back door this time- I was still walking past them every day. Last week, while thinking of some easy projects to work on while recuperating from my wisdom teeth extractions, I remembered the fleece and decided to go ahead and cut squares out of them and make a throw blanket or two to give away.

With about 2 hours of work, I had all the squares cut out and arranged into 3 different throw blankets-one clearly for a girl, one for a boy(Andy loves how this turned out to be Redskins colors! It wasn't planned this way-that's just how it turned out.:-), and one smaller sized blanket to use up the rest of the blocks.

I got these out last weekend and was thrilled with how fun they were to put together. This turned out to be the perfect project for learning to use my new sewing machine which I have had for a year now without using it!

I will be backing these with a solid piece of fleece;hopefully bought on sale or with a 40% off coupon at Hancock's. Instead of quilting the blankets, I just plan to tie them instead. These will be so warm and cuddly when finished-I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Banana-Carrot Bread/Muffins

Ruthie asked for the recipe for banana-carrot bread/muffins. Here it is!!! I'm sorry that I don't have a picture to post, but I can assure you these are extremely delicious!

This is actually a plain banana bread recipe that I added shredded carrots to on a whim a couple of weeks ago. Yummy! It added a nice touch to an old favorite.

As with all quick breads, these can be made into either loaves or muffins.

Banana Bread

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
4 T. milk
2 cups flour(I use mostly whole wheat pastry flour and it works great.)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mashed bananas(appox. 2 bananas)
1-2 cups shredded carrots(optional)
1 cup chopped nuts(optional, but walnuts or pecans are really good!)
a handful of wheat germ (optional)

Mix sugar, oil and eggs well. Add milk. Mix dry ingredients together and add to sugar mixture. Last, add bananas and any of the optional ingredients desired. Pour batter into greased bread pans or muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. (Muffins won't take quite as long to bake-check after 25 minutes or so.)

This recipe will make one large loaf(regular bread pan size), about 4 mini loaves or about 18 muffins.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

This Week's Menu

Here's our dinner menu for the week!

Monday-ham slices, steamed zucchini, green beans and tomatoes, dinner rolls

Tuesday-leftover sloppy joes from lunch with guests

Wednesday-chicken & rice, leftover green beans and tomatoes

Thursday-spaghetti pie(from freezer),salad

Friday-spinach quiche, fruit slush, banana-carrot muffins

Saturday- chicken patties on rolls, pickles, salad or fresh veggies

Friday, July 27, 2007

Little Blessings

This afternoon, my husband and I went to look for a new belt for him. The one he is currently wearing is ripping and will not be usable much longer. He wears a hard-to-find size so after much searching at all the "cheaper" stores, our only alternative was to buy a $35 belt at Belks. We were not tickled about that price at all! Especially considering that his current belt is from Belks and has lasted only a year and a half!

Right before we left the house, I had the feeling that we should stop at Goodwill and check to see if they had anything. At first, I felt very foolish about this and thought I was just imagining. Our local Goodwill isn't known to be that great most of the time, so I don't make the trip that often.

But I couldn't shake the feeling that we should at least stop and check so we went over to Goodwill just in case. If they didn't have anything, then at least we would know that we had covered our bases.:-)

We walked in and went directly to the men's section. They had 2 (not one, but 2) belts in his size. One black and one brown. For 99 cents each!

Wow! We saved over $30 by shopping second-hand. I think my husband may finally be becoming a believer in the true savings of thrift store shopping. :-)

This is just another small example of how God cares and provides for us even in the small things. We are so thankful!

Frugal Friday: Lots Of Zucchini

This week, I will share some recipes and ways to use a lot of the zucchini that may be coming your way this summer! We like zucchini a lot, but after a while, we start to grow tired of the old standbys and want to try some new ideas!

For starters, you can freeze shredded zucchini in recipe-sized portions. This can be frozen alone or with the amount of oil needed for your zucchini bread. I freeze mine in 2 cup portions. If using for zucchini bread, leave the liquid when thawing and using-it is part of the zucchini.

Sliced zucchini is great steamed with a bit of olive oil, onion , garlic and salt & pepper. Throwing zucchini into a stir-fry alone or with other veggies is also delicious! My mother-in-law sautees zucchini and then adds a sauce of soy sauce and hoisin sauce(mix to taste). It is really good! We enjoy chunks of zucchini threaded on skewers with chunks of meat, peppers and whatever other veggies that we have on hand. These are good marinated in your favorite dressing or sauce and then cooked on the grill.

Tiny baby zucchinis are really crisp and yummy cut up into sticks and served raw on a fresh veggie platter.

Add a layer or two of shredded zucchini to lasagna. I did this a couple of weeks ago and it was really tasty!

You can google for zucchini recipes. My husband's grandmother gave me a great little zucchini cookbook when we visited her home a couple of weeks ago. There are so many ways to use this plentiful veggie!

Now I will share a few of our family favorites for using zucchini:

Zucchini bread- Here's my recipe. For variety, you can add 1 cup of shredded carrots. Some folks put crushed pineapple in theirs, too. My mom purees an orange with the oil in the blender to add to her zucchini bread.

Zucchini Soup-
1/2 pound sweet or hot sausage, remove casing; crumble as you fry it; drain well.

Add to pot:
1 pound thinly sliced zucchini
1 (14 oz.) can beef broth
1 onion, chopped
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce(I use 2 cans)
1 cup water
2 T. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil

Cook on low heat and simmer until zucchini is tender. Serve with crusty bread. This freezes well, so make up a big pot to freeze and enjoy later!

Zucchini Fritters-

Vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 of 1 oz. package ranch dip mix(I just add my own combination of spices)
2 cups shredded zucchini

Fill a skillet with oil to a 2 inch depth. Heat to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, combine milk and egg in a mixing bowl. Stir together dry ingredients and add to egg mixture; blend well. Fold in zucchini. Drop batter by rounded teaspoonful into hot oil. Fry until deep golden brown, turning once. Drain thoroughly on paper towels.

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 dozen fritters.

Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini-

4 medium zucchini(6 to 7 inches)
1/2 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Place cut side down, in a large skillet; add 1/2 inch of water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until zucchini are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove zucchini and drain water. In the same skillet. cook sausage, onion and garlic until sausage is browned. Drain fat. Add oregano, corn and tomato. Cook and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in 2/3 cup cheese; set aside. Scoop out and discard seeds from zucchini. Divide the sausage mixture among zucchini shells. Place in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 4-5.

Baked Zucchini Casserole-

3 cups sliced zucchini or yellow squash
1 1/2 cups coarse saltine cracker crumbs(about 20 crackers)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (4 oz.) jar of diced pimento, optional
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Mix all ingredients. Pour into greased 2 quart casserole. Bake uncovered at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. (May need to bake longer until eggs are set.)
Serves 8.
This is really good for any meal-even reheated at breakfast! Yum!

Enjoy your zucchini harvest this year!

For more frugal ideas, please visit Biblical Womanhood.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Scratch Paper

We always end up with lots of papers around here that have only been printed on one side. I use these for coloring papers for my child-care kids, but I end up with way too many for even them to go through!

Yesterday, I cut a pile of paper into quarters and placed them in a small basket with a couple of pens by the phone to use for scratch paper.

While I am making an effort to not print out so many things, not throwing away perfectly good paper(on one-side anyways!) is just one small way that I can reduce the amount of paper waste in my home.

Do you have any other ideas on this?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Frozen Green Beans

The fruit of yesterday's labors-7 quarts of green beans for the freezer! I will probably will do some more beans later this week; there were so many still hanging on in the garden. I would like to preserve 20-25 quarts in all.

I followed the easy instructions for blanching and freezing in my Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving. This is an invaluable resource if you are serious about canning and preserving-it tells you everything you would ever need to know!

If you don't have access to this book or any other canning instruction manual or wealth of knowledge(like a mom, aunt or grandma), here are the instructions for freezing your own green beans.

You can freeze any amount of beans-a little or a lot. Snip ends and break beans into halves or thirds or leave whole if you like it that way. Wash beans in cold water.

Meanwhile, put on a big pot of water to boil. Having a strainer or colander that fits in the pot to hold the beans under water while boiling will really help. I used my large metal strainer.

Prepare either one side of the sink or a large dishpan with ice cold water. Using large ice chunks is a better idea than little ice cubes because they don't melt as fast. (Plan ahead and freeze plastic or stainless steel bowls of water the night before.)Keep extra ice cubes and chunks back as you will need to replenish as the ice melts and water gets warm again.

When your water is at a full boil, immerse a small batch of prepared green beans in the water(keep in the strainer or colander for ease in removing quickly). Time for 3 minutes. When time is up, remove from boiling water immediately and dump beans in ice water. (It is very important that the water is icy, icy cold!)When beans are completely cool, remove to another bowl to continue cooling.(You can put ice in this bowl as well.) Drain beans well and pack into freezer bags or containers.

Repeat process with remaining green beans. As you work, you will get your own rhythm. I keep the beans going and package them all at the same time at the end.

Happy freezing!

Edited to add: I've had questions about how I cook these after freezing. I steam them for about 15 minutes or until soft. Remember they are pretty much still raw so they need to be cooked well. We like them this way. Frozen beans have a different texture than canned. We prefer frozen to canned but not everyone does, including some of our family members! Feel free to add your personal preference for cooking frozen beans.

This Week's Menu and Shopping List

I thought I would post this week's menu as well as my shopping list for those interested. I am working off of a very well-stocked pantry and freezer and the menu and short shopping list reflect that! The garden is also in full swing, providing us with piles of yummy fresh veggies. It is such a blessing to my grocery budget.:-)

Breakfasts this week will be granola, oatmeal, whole wheat toast with peanut butter and pancakes. Lunches are mainly leftovers or peanut butter sandwiches. All dinners include either a salad or fresh, steamed or sauteed veggies to round them out.

Here is my dinner menu:

Monday- Chicken Salad in pita pockets, fruit slush

Tuesday-Lentil and Rice Casserole in crockpot (pantry mix)

Wednesday-Stuffed Zucchini

Thursday-Creamy Chicken Burritos, Spanish Rice (both already prepared in freezer)

Friday-dinner with friends; take green salad to share

Saturday-Layered Mexican Dip, Hummus, tortilla chips, fresh veggies


Now on to my grocery list. I am still working on mainly a $100 a month grocery budget in order to save a little extra money and pay a few things off. This translates into $25 a week, but normally I buy enough groceries to last several weeks and just spend more at one time. This month, I'm making an extra effort to shop once a week and stay at $25 a week to stretch out the grocery budget and hopefully have a little money left for good buys toward the end of the month.

This week, I took my list to Aldi's and did all of my shopping there. For what I needed, Aldi's was the best option price-wise. Then I stopped at our garden(at our friend's house) and did the rest of my "shopping" for free! This week,we have fresh zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, cucumbers, peppers and okra.

I was very pleased to get everything that I needed for the week's meals and stayed just under my $25 budget. Yeah!

Here's my list:
-seedless watermelon: $3.49
-celery: $1.29
-can of olives:$.99
-2 pounds carrots:$.99
-bag of fresh spinach:$1.49
-Roma tomatoes:$1.39
-canola oil: $1.89
-bag of onions:$1.69
-yellow mustard: $.59
-freezer quart bags: $1.99
-dozen eggs: $1.19
-refried beans: $.49
-orange juice concentrate: $1.29
-brown sugar: $.99
-white sugar: $1.98
-tortilla chips: $.99

Grand total(with tax included): $24.73

Monday, July 09, 2007

From The Garden

Any guesses as to what I'll be doing this morning?!?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Oregon Pictures

We are headed to New York state to spend the 4th of July with family. In the meantime, please enjoy browsing these few pictures from my recent trip to Oregon!

I pray that all of you have a safe and happy holiday as we celebrate the wonderful freedom God has given us in this country!

Graduation Day: My brother Nathan. We are so proud of him!

Agate Beach along the Pacific coast.

My mom and dad.

It was the perfect day for flying kites on the beach!

My little nephew, Knox, playing on the beach. As you can see, one must often wear jackets when visiting the Pacific coast!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dill Pickles

Thought you might like to take a peek at my first canning experience of the season- 6 quart jars of dill pickles!

These were very easy to make. From start to finish was just under 2 hours. Some I put in the jars whole;others were sliced in chunks and spears. We'll see which ones we like the best!

I'll be sharing more of my canning days with you as the summer progresses. Canning is a fun and useful art to learn and while I've helped my mom and sister do a lot of canning, I've never done a whole lot by myself! So I am excited about learning more about canning and preserving this summer.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Blessing My Neighbors

As a stay-at-home wife, it seems that I really do not come in contact with too many people on a regular basis. So in the past several months, I've been praying that God would show me who to build relationships with and bring me into contact with those that He would like me to reach out to. How interesting that in the past week or so, I've had a real desire to get to know my neighbors!

We've lived in our neighborhood for almost 3 years. In that time, I have met a few people on our street and that is pretty much it. We live at the very end of the street with no neighbors directly across, so it's almost impossible to see when people are out in their yards. For us, it requires a more intentional approach. Yes, we can stop and chat if someone happens to be out when we are walking by but otherwise, we don't see that much of our neighbors.

As often happens when I am dealing with a certain subject, other friends in the blogosphere are discussing the very same thing: how to get to know your neighbors.

I am really quite introverted and even if I feel strongly about doing something, I will try to get out of doing it if it's out of my comfort zone. I've thought for a long while that I should share some goodies with my neighbors when baking. While baking zucchini bread yesterday morning, I knew that it was the day to reach out! I had no excuse but that I was too shy and I would feel uncomfortable. I asked God to show me 2 houses to go to and He brought to mind a new family down the street as well as an elderly gentleman who moved in this winter. (We had met the man and often speak with him when he is out walking his dog.)

I am a very friendly person in passing but knocking on someone's door totally unannounced was another story! I thought about waiting until my husband was home to go with me but realized that I would be using his outgoing personality as a crutch.:-)

So in the afternoon, I wrapped two small loaves of zucchini bread in plastic wrap, and tied a cute bow with a simple little card attached that read, "Welcome to the neighborhood."

Both were very appreciative and surprised. The new family immediately invited me in to meet the whole family! I didn't realize but they have a 2 week old baby as well as two other little ones. I am so glad that I got to meet them! Now I am excited about sharing with the others in my neighborhood!

Here's the zucchini bread recipe that I used. It is a wonderful old-fashioned Amish recipe that I love to make each year!

Zucchini Bread

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups grated zucchini squash
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins, optional
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Sift first 5 ingredients together. In large mixing bowl, combine eggs, oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Beat until well-mixed. Stir in flour mixture until smooth. Stir in raisins and nuts, if desired. Pour mixture into greased bread pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Makes about 4 small loaves or 2 larger loaves. (Adjust baking time for larger loaves.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Works For Me Wednesday: Trash Cans In Every Room

This week I'll share a very simple idea that helps to keep my home neater and works for me!

It's so easy- keep a small trashcan in almost every room. This way there is a quick and immediate way to dispose of trash instead of leaving it out waiting for when I go into the other room where the trashcan is.

I have a tiny plastic one with a lid on my dryer for dryer lint and other laundry and pantry trash. A small lined wicker basket works in the dining room for when I am sewing, sorting mail or paying bills-I just move it to right beside me and the trash goes right in where it belongs. I also have one in the bedroom and of course, the bathroom and kitchen! The bulk of our garbage goes in the kitchen trash can, so that one is larger. I keep a smaller lidded one beside the kitchen trash can for recyclables. It just keeps everything looking neater and eliminates small piles of trash and reduces steps in the long run.

The several lined wicker wastebaskets that I have came from yard sales for only 25 or 50 cents each. The plastic ones are mostly from the dollar store. I used a cardboard box for my recyclables until I found a nice white one at a yard sale.

Keeping trash where it belongs- that's what works for me!

For more WFMW posts, please visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Get Out All Your Ingredients!

When getting ready to cook or bake, I get every ingredient that I will need out of the cupboard. I set them all out on one side of the bowl where I will be working. Then as I use each ingredient, I either move them on the other side or put them right back in the cupboard. I get appropriate measuring cups and spoons out right at first too, so I have everything that I need right at my fingertips.

This tip accomplishes two things: I always know what ingredients I already put in the recipe(sometimes I just forget!) and before starting to cook, I can take stock of my ingredients and make sure I have everything before I am in the middle of mixing and realize that I don't have enough of something! This really reduces quick trips to the store.:-)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Frugal Fridays: Eating Well On A Very Small Budget-Part 2

Today I will share some more about eating well on a small budget. This post will include the stuff that I forgot when writing this grocery post and will include some info about meal ideas, menu planning, using leftovers and showing hospitality on a budget.

There are so many things to learn when it comes to living frugally and on a budget. I love knowing that the grocery budget is one category that I am often able to cut a little when money gets tight. And money is often tight, isn't it? That's just life!

The first step to eating well on a small budget is to cook foods that are not as expensive. It is very hard to "eat cheaply" when one must have steaks or other more expensive items at least once a week. We like our special dinners just as much as the next person, but they are the exception, not the norm. For the most part, we eat very simple meals and meat is an ingredient much of the time instead of being the main part of the meal. My husband loves meat, while I could almost be a vegetarian.:-) I try to cook plain meat about once a week. This is often pork chops,a roast or fish bought on a good sale or roast chicken. I will often stretch a large piece of meat out over a couple of days, especially with chicken, a roast or ham. This week I baked a ham( bought on sale at Easter) so our dinner menu looks like this:

Monday- Make-Your-Own Salad with grilled chicken, herb bread
Tuesday- baked ham, sweet potatoes, steamed asparagus
Wednesday- ham bundles(a yeast dough with a ham mixture inside), leftover soup, salad
Friday-white beans cooked with ham bone, corn muffins
Saturday-Waffles with creamed eggs and ham

Even after these meals, I will still have enough ham leftover to freeze enough for another casserole or two to use later. Soups, stews, rice and pasta dishes and other casseroles are a great way to stretch meat. I read somewhere that when making soup, only 1/2 to 1 cup of meat is really needed as it stretches so far! Yet many recipes call for 2 cups or more. It depends on the recipe or dish as to how much meat I will use, but as a general rule, I will use less than the recipe states. Meat is expensive so by stretching it out and not eating as much at one meal, I am able to save money.

Like I stated earlier, our meals tend to be simple. It is just more practical that way and we always get plenty to eat! Some examples would be soup and bread, a casserole and salad or a piece of meat accompanied with a vegetable side dish and either bread or a potato. We eat dessert once or twice a week as I do like to bake a sweet treat every now and again! Growing up, we ate home-canned fruit with almost every meal, but rarely a sweet dessert.

One of our favorite frugal dinners is rice cooked in chicken broth(in place of water for flavor) with diced chicken, onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic added in. I add it all together at the beginning and cook it just like regular rice and it turns out really well. We also enjoy breakfast for dinner about once a week.

I love planning my menus for a week at a time. It is so freeing to be able to look at the list and know what you are having for dinner. It is also a great way to be sure that you are using up food that you already have, if you plan your menu by "shopping" in your refrigerator, pantry and freezer first.

Some like having 4-6 weeks of menus and then just rotating them over and over. I prefer the creativity of using leftovers and trying new recipes with what I have on hand so making a menu a week at a time works well for me. Neither way is "wrong"; the important thing is to come up with a plan that will help you to efficiently feed your family and maximize your grocery dollars. And keep in mind that a written menu is not set in stone; it can be changed every now and then!

Here's last week's menu:
Monday-Chicken gravy over rice, steamed carrots
Tuesday-tortelloni with marinara sauce, mixed veggies
Wednesday-cheese quesadillas, tomato soup
Thursday-hamburger steaks, scalloped potatoes(free with coupons), salad
Friday-Israeli spice chicken, tabouli, hummus and pita bread
Saturday-salad bar( we ended up having some pizza at a friend's house, so moved the salad menu to this week!)
Sunday-burritos(from freezer), fresh strawberries

In my house very little food goes to waste. Often little bits of meat, veggies, rice etc. can be thrown together to make a nice soup or casserole. One lady I've read about keeps a coffee can in her freezer. Every little spoonful of leftover "soup" ingredients goes into the can. When it is full she makes soup and has pretty much a free meal! I often use my freezer to store extras that we just can't use up before they go bad. Instead of making one large casserole, I'll make 2 smaller pans and freeze one for later. It just makes more sense money and time-wise.

I still have a lot to learn about maximizing my use of leftovers and extras of certain items. Some things that I already do: leftover lentil and rice casserole gets tossed with some fresh veggies, an oil and vinegar dressing and chilled for a yummy salad the next day. Leftover bread can be used for croutons, breakfast casseroles, bread crumbs,bread puddings, and making your own Stove top stuffing mix or just your own dressing from scratch. I keep a baggie in the freezer to add a piece or two of leftover bread until I have enough to make something out of it. Leftover veggies can be thrown into quiche, as well as used for soups, casseroles and stir-fries. I cook the carcass whenever I roast a chicken and make delicious broth to either use immediately for soup or to freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions for later use in recipes. Some cooks freeze the broth in an ice cube tray for when a small amount is needed. A tip I got from my mom is to save the broth from steaming veggies and add it a little at a time to a freezer container. When you have collected enough, this makes the most flavorful base for veggie soup!Leftover baked potatoes can be shredded and fried for hash browns or used to make potato salad. I go to different cooking sites and often google "how to use______________" to get more ideas on what to do with what I have. Not very recipe or idea will be your taste or work out but chances are that out of several tries, you'll find at least one that will become a dish that your family enjoys. I'm trying to compile a list of different foods that I might have leftovers of and different ideas on how to use them. This way leftovers are often fresh and different and are something your family may look forward to instead of dreading.:-)

My husband and I really enjoy having friends over for meals and I also enjoy taking meals to families who are in need-whether because of sickness, a new baby or whatever. This can sometimes be difficult on a small budget. Hospitality and sharing with others is so important. What a blessing it is to be able to share your resources with someone else! I may not always have enough money to buy the very fanciest food, but I can give the best that I do have.

We have others at our home for a meal at least 2-3 times per month. Often this is a spur-of-the-moment decision and I generally will serve whatever I already had on the menu. If I have advance notice, I'll plan something kind of nice for that night. This is not to impress but in realization that not everyone may enjoy beans and rice as much as we do! In this day and age, it is uncommon for many to eat a home cooked meal regularly, so I've found that even serving simple homemade soup and fresh bread along with a salad or relish tray is well-received. I usually try to serve a small dessert, like cookies, brownies or pudding or fresh fruit with whipped cream. I try not to focus so much on the food that is served but the welcoming aspect of our home and just enjoying time spent building relationships with others.

Another option is inviting friends and asking them to each bring something for the meal. Most people do not mind this at all. In fact, most will ask if they can bring something. Sometimes I take them up on the offer and suggest a salad, bread or dessert and sometimes I know that I have everything I need. As a hostess, use your own discretion in this area.

In taking food to others, I try to just double what we are having that night. Again, simple dishes, such as pasta or rice, are not expensive and pretty much liked by all. Always be sure to check for definite food dislikes and allergies before deciding on a menu. Keeping a well-stocked pantry and a few pre-made main dishes in the freezer will mean that you almost always will have a little extra to share with others should the need arise.

When going to potlucks, I normally take either bread or a baked dessert as these are inexpensive for me to make. If I have a lot of something, like chicken, I'll do a crock pot of that. Having a giving spirit while still staying within your budget requires a very fine balance.:-)I love to cook for others so this is something I could easily go overboard with!

I hope these suggestions and ideas will be helpful to someone. We can all learn more so please leave any of your own ideas in the comments!

For more frugal ideas, please visit Biblical Womanhood.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fresh Lettuce

I gathered this small amount of fresh lettuce from my container garden yesterday. It was so yummy added to the spinach I had on hand for last night's salad!

Homemade Peanut Butter

Yesterday, I tried making my own peanut butter. It was really easy and fast using my food processor. I enjoy replicating store-bought items, not only for the potential money-saving or health benefits, but to have the knowledge of what all I can actually make in my own kitchen!

I used 1 pound of unsalted dry roasted peanuts and the finished amount of peanut butter was an almost-full pint jar of peanut butter! I followed the instructions for making peanut butter as stated in my food processor's owner's manual. I processed the peanuts in two batches(2 cups at a time), letting the peanuts mix and grind for around 2-3 minutes. Every so often, I stopped and scraped it down and then let it go again. At the end of 2 minutes or so, some natural oils began to form. I continued to mix until the peanut butter was the desired consistency. I added a little salt to taste and a little honey for sweetener. I will store this in the refrigerator.

It tastes very fresh and good, but doesn't have as strong of a flavor as I expected plain peanut butter to have! It will be delicious with honey and my homemade wheat bread.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Spring Cleaning: Bathroom

Yeah! I finally got back to my cleaning yesterday and spring cleaned the bathroom. This is an itty-bitty little room with no windows, so it isn't too hard to clean! While I did a few things that I don't do during weekly cleanings, I felt for the most part that I just scrubbed everything really well. It didn't really feel like spring cleaning to me. But just the same, I'm glad to have this room out of the way as well!

Here are some pictures of my bathroom from last year, just in case someone is dying to see it! LOL!!!

Here's what I did:
-washed mirrors
-scrubbed toilet, sink, tub and shower
-cleaned baseboards and walls
-cleaned trashcan(also did kitchen trashcan)
-cleaned bathmat(I washed the shower curtain and liner not long ago, so didn't do them this time.)
-swept cobwebs
-swept floor
-mopped floor

Only one more room to do in this little house-the office. I hope to get to that next week!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Frugal Fridays- Eating Well On A Very Small Budget

Updated on 1/30/09: We were able to eat for $100 a month for about 6 months in 2007. During this time, we experienced some unexpected financial difficulties. By cutting expenses wherever possible such as the grocery budget, we were able to save for these bills and pay them off without me needing to work full-time outside the home. Keep in mind that we started with a well-stocked pantry and freezer and utilized lots of free garden produce during this time. God is good! Although I currently spend around $250 a month on food, I still use many of these principles in my cooking and food shopping. My hope is that this post will encourage you to always look for new ways to save and to stretch the resources that God has given you to work with.

Today, I will be sharing some of the ways I have been able to feed the two of us for $100 a month or $25 a week. I have only been doing this for two months now, since finances have been tighter than usual. This is half of what our regular grocery budget usually is and I thought it was tight before!

Now, I know everyone has different situations, incomes and lifestyles. I am sharing what is working for us. To some this may seem really high for groceries and for others, it may seem extra low.

All of our married life(well, all two and a half years of it!), I have worked on a $200 a month grocery budget. This includes all cleaning supplies, paper products, personal care items and of course, groceries. Prescription meds come out of their own budget category as do clothing and office supplies, such as stamps. I have found this to be rather tight at times, especially as a new bride who was not only figuring things out, but also working full-time. One of the first things that I discovered when I stopped working outside the home was that while I may not be able to lower my grocery budget much further, my $200 was stretching much further. I was able to do more with the ingredients I had on hand, cook even more from scratch and more creatively use leftovers, because I was at home to do it! My pantry and freezer shelves were much better stocked as I was able to include sale items and a few extra canned items each month.

Living well on a very small budget has become a real passion of mine. So when we were cutting our budget 2 months ago, I was almost excited about the challenge of grocery shopping and cooking good meals on $25 a week or $100 a month. I knew it would be difficult at times, but I was pretty sure I could pull it off-at least for a few months or until we were able to put a little more money into the grocery budget each month.

One advantage I have is that I was starting with a well-stocked pantry and freezer. So the first month, I hardly had to buy anything except fresh items. As the months go by, however, my pantry will not be as full, so I'm interested to see how it all plays out.

I already cook and bake almost exclusively from scratch. I am continually looking for new recipes to utilize ingredients that I have on hand and learning to make all kinds of different breads and baked goods for variety. This really saves money in the long run and can be fun and keeps me from getting bored with the same old-same old.

I am used to and actually prefer buying the bulk of my groceries at one time, usually toward the beginning of the month. But I am finding that working with a very small budget, it is helpful to shop each week for that week or the following week(whichever it turns out to be!). This way, I "shop" from my pantry first to plan my menus around what I have and only buy the items that I need to round it all out. I can also take into account any great sales and coupons and either use those for my menus or to stock up if I have a little extra money.

I use the Walgreens rebate system and always get my rebates on gift cards so that the money gets "recycled" over and over. I am able to get almost all of our personal care items this way. We are not brand-specific for the most part, so I've been able to stock up on the different items when they are free-bates or nearly free with great sales and coupons. This really helps when we are in a tight spot to be able to go to my extras shelf and get another bottle of shampoo instead of having to go to the store and buy another.

I have really cut back on my use of disposables. Toilet paper is a necessity in our house(and more than one square, Sheryl Crow); paper towels are not. I will probably buy another pack of paper towels soon on a good sale, since one pack will last me for months, but for now, I am getting along fine without them. I've been using newspapers to wash the windows and mirrors and it is working great! We already use cloth napkins and I limit the amount of ziploc bags that I use. I do wash out some to reuse, but I am careful with those that have held meat. I try to use more reusable plastic and glass containers instead of bags all the time. Of course, there is a time and a season for using disposable plates, napkins and so-on; each family is different in this regard. I use the plastic grocery bags to line my small trash cans and I buy regular garbage bags for my kitchen trash can. One large box lasts me at least half a year! I have found that even without trying to save money, it is much more responsible and a better use of my resources to limit the disposable items.

In the past year, I have learned to use many home made cleaners instead of buying so many. I have changed them many times as I am still learning what works best for me. Maybe one day I will have a great post about it! I buy a large bucket of laundry soap at Sam's Club. Cleaners for me include bleach, borax, ammonia, dish detergent, vinegar, baking soda, Windex(I've been using the same huge bottle from Sam's since we got married!) and furniture polish.

I think that pretty well covers most of the non-grocery part of the budget, so let's get on to the food!

We try to eat pretty healthy, so that has been my main concern with such a small budget. I am not apt to buy hot dogs, baloney, processed cheese, ramen noodles and lots of boxed mac and cheese dinners. Even though these foods are "cheap", I try to buy wisely, spending our money on foods that are the best quality and are as healthy as I can afford. While I would love to buy as much organic as possible, unless organic produce is on a really great sale, it is really not possible on my small budget(in my area, anyways). So I buy the best stuff that I know how on my budget.:-)

Some things that I don't scrimp on are whole grains(flour, rice, pasta), olive and canola oils and some fresh veggies and fruits. While these items are more expensive than their more-refined counterparts, the health benefits are much greater. Now if white rice, pasta or bread is all I have, then by all means we will eat it, but that is the exception, not the rule! I try to have a small selection of salad fixings and fresh fruit on hand at all times. Like I said before, I cannot afford all organics right now but I choose the best looking stuff for the best price, and try to buy in season produce, if at all possible. Bags of fresh spinach from Aldi's and loose bunches of dark green leaf lettuce are not expensive and provide awesome nutrition. Cabbage is also cost-effective and so good for you! I have found that celery, carrots, onions and potatoes are almost always good buys, so I keep those on hand and have many main dish recipes that call for these vegetables. Every time I shop, I choose 2 or 3 veggies to put in salads. Our local Aldi's has very nice produce so I usually get grape tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms and cucumbers at very reasonable prices. Sometimes, I may only be able to afford 1 or 2 different veggies, and we just deal with it.:-)(We are planting a garden with friends this year, so I hope to harvest plenty of fresh veggies this way for a small price!) For fruit, I like to have bananas on hand. If they get over-ripe, I can freeze them for baking. I usually choose one other fruit,too, to have on hand. Often that is apples. Or something on sale or in season like grapes or strawberries.

Both my husband and I are extremely non-picky eaters. We have just never been picky and we'll try almost anything and actually like it! I am blessed to have a husband who will eat anything I fix. When money is tight, this is a trait that is very helpful! I have had to make a few changes as to what we eat to stay in budget and he has been willing to go along with it and appreciative of my efforts. I still take into consideration what his preferences are and try to accommodate them. He doesn't like black beans, ranch dressing or beets, so I don't force those things on him.:-)

During this time, I have been using a lot of whole chickens and ground turkey as these are inexpensive and very versatile as well as healthier options. I use other meats, too, as they are on sale, but the bulk of our meats have been the chicken and turkey. I have incorporated more bean-based meals into our diet. Dry beans are a better buy and healthier than canned beans. I cook a whole pot of one kind of beans at once and freeze them in meal-sized portions to make my own convenience food. I cook a pot or two of beans every couple of weeks to keep a good variety on hand. Frozen veggies are also a good buy and are convenient, too. I have not been buying milk, but rather using powdered. We are not milk drinkers and I had been finding that a gallon of milk would go bad before we could use it anyways! Milk is too expensive to waste at $3.59 or more per gallon and even though I would use the sour milk in cooking, I've found that powdered works just fine for cooking and baking and it had a long shelf life. I do buy some cheese in big bags at Walmart and then freeze in 1-cup portions. It lasts longer this way. I try to limit the extra-cheesy recipes as these can get quite expensive.

Our breakfasts consist of oatmeal, pancakes, eggs and toast or homemade granola. On weekends, I often have something fresh baked for breakfast. Boxed cereal is expensive and again, most are not that healthy. We love yogurt, but I haven't bought it since cutting the budget. It is pretty sugary, anyways. (I would like to try making my own healthier version sometime soon!)

We drink water all the time. We have a Brita pitcher which we love. I fill the empty water bottles with our own filtered water, so we have a cold drink to grab if we are going somewhere. We occasionally drink juice and sweet tea, but not often. Water is a good drinking habit to establish, not just for the great price, but also for health's sake!

I don't buy many snack items, except a bag of tortilla chips to use with a meal. Rather, we have popcorn or sliced fruit or perhaps a cookie for a snack. Since we eat three regular meals per day, we really don't snack much.

Lunches are usually leftovers or something quick like peanut butter and honey sandwiches or pasta with spaghetti sauce. (I do have plenty of sauce on hand!)

I find that it is cheaper and easier to buy various baking ingredients than to buy mixes or already baked items from the store. With a few basic ingredients such as flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda,etc. , I am able to whip up almost any kind of baked good that doesn't call for unusual ingredients.

We don't eat out much at this stage of our lives, and when we do eat out it is either some leftover money scraped together at the end of the month or from a gift card or a small money gift from family members with instructions to treat ourselves. I also keep on the lookout for free coupons to different fast food establishments. 'Buy 1, Get 1 Free' coupons are also a great way to feed 2 people when you only have a few dollars to spend and want to go out. Some months I order a box of food from Angel Food Ministries. This is a large box of food, mainly protein, for $25. Much of this food is prepared and more highly processed items, so I choose carefully as to which month I order, as the menus are always different. It can be a cheap way to stretch the budget, though, and the prepared meals can be good options for busy days or weeks when I would be tempted to just go out to eat! Another option to us going out is to keep a couple of homemade pizzas in the freezer ready to bake.

Knowing that God is interested in even the littlest things in my life-like a small grocery budget- brings comfort and confidence that I can make this work. Praying before, during and after I shop helps me to be aware of God's provision. In James 1:5, we are instructed to ask God for wisdom when we are lacking it ourselves(which is most of the time, here!:-), and He will give us wisdom generously. I believe with all my heart that even small details, such as triple coupon sales and free eggs are not mere coincidences but tangible ways that God is providing for us and helping me to be able to stretch my budget.

I hope that by sharing what I am doing within my grocery budget will hopefully inspire someone else who either is going through difficult times or just needs new ideas or encouragement for lowering their own food bills each month.

For more Frugal Friday posts, please visit Biblical Womanhood.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Frugal Fridays- Cheap and Easy Basket Filler

I love the crinkled paper shreds that you can buy to fill gift bags and baskets. Yes, they're messy, but they look cool-especially when they are going to someone else's house!LOL!

I keep all the tissue paper, shreds and stuff that I receive in gift bags and baskets to re-use. But when doing my husband's little Easter basket last weekend, I really wanted some green "grass" shreds to fill it up. I didn't have any and I wasn't about to run out to the store to buy something like that!

So I used my paper shredder(the one you use to shred important documents). I cleaned it out first and then shredded some old green paper of a couple different shades. It filled up the basket and worked great!

You can use any leftover paper for this. Used colored envelopes, scrapbooking paper, construction paper, tissue paper, even the newspaper if you so desire.

It's a great way to use something you already have on hand!

For more Frugal Friday posts, please visit Biblical Womanhood.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spring Cleaning: Bedroom

The spring cleaning saga continues...

I completed the bedroom (master bedroom, only bedroom, whatever you want to call it!) last weekend. This was not a hard job. I was so thankful!

Here's what I did:
  • washed sheets, blankets, all linens and curtains
  • washed windows
  • cleaned blinds
  • swept cobwebs
  • scrubbed base boards, walls, window frames and doors
  • vacuumed floor
  • dusted all furniture, and picture frames
  • washed strands of ivy that are draped over each window
Things I didn't or forgot to do:
  • clean the ceiling fan-OOPS!
  • change out seasonal clothing (with the cold snap that's been through the South, I figured it wouldn't hurt to leave the winter clothing in the drawers and closet for at least one more week!)
I still have not gotten to spring cleaning the bathroom. Last week turned out a little differently than planned. I'm not sure if I'll get to it this week or not! We'll see!

The good thing is- I only have two rooms left to clean.

Eggstra Great Deal

We were able to get free eggs from Super Target last Friday after I read this post. Yeah! I ran right out and bought 6 dozen. :-)The price of eggs has really gone up here, so I haven't been using as many lately. But now... we will eat creamed eggs, quiche, custard,deviled eggs, eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Along with lots of eggs, I made little loaves of white bread for communion on Sunday. Only a little was torn off of each loaf, so I've been creatively trying to come up with ways to use bread cubes and crumbs. So far, I've made 2 breakfast casseroles to freeze and a batch of homemade Stovetop stuffing mix. I still have 4 loaves left to use. Maybe I'll make some croutons, and I'm not sure what else right now. Any ideas?

Using leftovers creatively and planning meals around what I have on hand and can get inexpensively is one of my favorite things to do as a homemaker!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Spring Cleaning:Kitchen

I finally got to the kitchen today! Yeah! I'm so glad to have the worst and dirtiest rooms in the house behind me. :-)

I cheated a little and did a few of the kitchen jobs along with dining room and laundry room tasks. such as- cleaning the trash cans at the same time I cleaned the laundry trash cans and laundry baskets and washing the window, blind and curtain at the same time I did the dining room's. It just made more sense that way!

Here's my finished list for the kitchen:
  • washed out trash cans
  • cleaned woodwork, doors, walls, base boards
  • cleaned out cabinets and drawers-not many so this was an easy job!
  • cleaned outside of refrigerator, stove and dishwasher
  • wiped counters
  • cleaned sink
  • cleaned above stove
  • cleaned stove top, burner coils, burner pans
  • cleaned oven
  • washed window and blind
  • washed curtain
  • swept and scrubbed floor
  • washed rugs(with bathroom rug for later in week)
This really didn't take me that long; it's a small space and a room that I try to keep up with throughout the year. Sometimes I do better than others.:-) It's amazing how much better these rooms are smelling after being thoroughly cleaned!

Rooms I have scheduled for spring cleaning later this week:
  • bathroom
  • bedroom