Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fireproof: Have You Seen It?

We went to see the movie Fireproof this weekend.

If you haven't seen it, you need to go!

We loved it!

This movie was made by the same folks who did Facing The Giants(which I also highly recommend). Fireproof is about marriage and has a strong Biblical message throughout. The story is gripping and very real to life.

It was so wonderful to be able to view such an edifying film at the movie theater.

You've got to see this movie!

If you've seen it, what did you think of Fireproof?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Here's a quick and easy menu for this week!

L-potluck with our church fellowship. I took gingered carrots and a loaf of homemade bread.

To do- write this week's menu(done!), make dessert for tonight.
B-oatmeal with chopped apples
L-leftovers brought home yesterday
D-eat at meeting. I'm bringing dessert. I'm thinking perhaps some apple pie bars?

To do: thaw spaghetti sauce.
B-pumpkin muffins(in freezer), sliced apples
D-spaghetti, steamed veggies

To do: make wheat rolls
B-oatmeal with raisins
D-sloppy joes on homemade wheat rolls, sliced pepper and celery

To do:order milk and eggs, write next week's menu plan and grocery list
B-eggs, wheat rolls, sliced apples
D-stir fry or beans served with brown rice

To do: grocery shop
B-oatmeal with dried fruit
D-salmon patties, wheat rolls, green beans

To do: Make food for tomorrow.
B-pumpkin muffins, fruit(whatever we have after grocery trip!)
D-pancakes, scrambled eggs

For more menu planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Think I Can...Can Applesauce!

I thought I'd share a few pictures of my applesauce-making with you.

We got 2 bushels of seconds when we were in the mountains several weeks ago. These are perfect for applesauce because we grind it all up anyways. Who care what the apples looked like?

I don't peel my apples for applesauce. Not only do the peelings add fiber but I think they give a better flavor and definitely a nicer color. I had several different varieties of cooking apples to use and I could tell which batches had more of the red apples because the color was slightly pinker! After cranking the apples through the Foley Mill, you cannot tell that some of the peelings got through as well.

Canning applesauce isn't hard to do but does take some time. I consider it well worth the effort. Homemade is so much better than the store-bought! And the house smells so yummy!

I had our dinner(White Chicken Chili) cooking in the crock pot that you see in the picture above. That turned out great; I was too tired to cook once I finished and there was apple peelings and stickiness everywhere!

My reward for an afternoon of work! Sixteen quart of applesauce plus I made an extra batch to eat fresh. I still have almost a bushel of apples left and I'd like to have at least 20 quart in all. ( Last year, I canned only 10 quart and we had it all eaten by February!)

I'd also like to make a batch or two of apple butter and also try drying some apples if I can get to it yet this fall!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Almost Free' Omaha Steaks Meat

We were able to order some of this meat last night -20 burgers for $1.98! We followed the excellent instructions here and it worked!

I don't know if it's still working today, but it's worth a try!

My husband is especially pumped up about this deal!:-)

Edited to add: We just received an email stating that 2 offers cannot be combined for this deal so our order of 8 burgers will be shipped without the 12 free ones. I've read that some orders are being canceled. Oh well..you win some and you lose some!:-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Bit Under The Weather

We've been a bit under the weather the past few days with what I imagine as the first colds of the season! We're definitely feeling a whole lot better now that we've had some extra rest and I've loaded up on supplements.

I used this time to try out my new bottle of Berry Well. While I didn't experience the near-instant relief that I've read about, I did feel better when I took it regularly along with Echinacea and Bromelain Sinus-Ease, both of which almost always work well for me. Plus, Berry Well tastes really really good! I can't stand any cough syrups or liquid meds because they taste so nasty, so this was a pleasant surprise!

I spent the first day of my cold both sneezing and wheezing, so I drank lots of Yogi Breathe Deep tea to help with my asthma symptoms.

Otherwise, we drank lots of water and ate plenty of homemade soup and chicken broth.

Oh, it's good to feel better again!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Autumn Centerpiece

Before cooking and eating beautiful produce, use them for a simple and pretty seasonal centerpiece!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yard Sale Saturday

We set out to go to a bunch of yard sales this past Saturday. We hadn't been for a while so it was really fun!

I found a nice selection of fun things to bring home. One of the first sales we went to was a moving sale where the prices were amazing! I got the village(17 pieces) pictured above (The Cat's Meow) for $1. It looks really cute on the mantle!

Other fun finds-
2 baskets- 25 cents each
white summer shirt- 50 cents
black slides(for next summer)-$2
beautiful Tasha Tudor book-50 cents
Madeline book-25 cents
Veggie Tales coloring and sticker book(new)- 50 cents
large roaster with lid-50 cents
2 wooden puzzles(one Melissa & Doug) -$1 each
brand new box of favor boxes(100 count)- $1 (I'm sure I can find some cute ways to use these for tiny gifts!)
brand new box of 5 small spools of ribbon in pinks and browns-$1

Here in the South, yard sales continue on into November and a few in December or January. If you've been to yard sales recently, what fun things or great deals did you find?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Grocery Report

As a follow-up to this post, I decided to share my progress in getting back into using coupons and being a bit more pro-active in looking for great deals on groceries.

I share all of this with a bit of hesitation as I feel that sometimes posts such as these can breed feelings of inadequacy, discontent, negative competition and even pride among us women. I know that many women post their deals and grocery lists regularly and I have also done a little of that in the past. I have learned a lot through posts like this, but I also do not want anyone to feel that they are just not making it as a wife or mother if they don't spend as little as so -and- so on a blog somewhere. Each family has specific needs and circumstances to take into consideration, so each homemaker must do what works for her!

I'm going to try posting about my shopping trips for a few weeks and see how it goes. I think this will keep me a bit more accountable as I get back on track with more careful menu planning, staying within my budget and getting the most for my money in order to stock my pantry and give to others.

My grocery budget these days is $250 a month for two people. (This includes a lot of sharing food/ meals with others as well.) I usually spend $150 at the beginning of the month and then $100 for the second shopping trip. We try to eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and buy some organics as we can so that's why the amount may seem a bit higher for two people. We would like to be able to switch to mostly local organic meats but still haven't made that step. Hopefully soon! We do go to a local dairy about once a month and purchase raw milk for $5 a gallon and fresh eggs for $2 a dozen. Both are worth their weight in gold and the price really isn't that much different than the conventional milk and eggs sold on the supermarket. I wasn't able to get out there this week so I just picked up two dozen regular eggs at Aldis.

My grocery budget also includes all personal care items, paper products and dog food.

For six months last year, I had a $100 monthly grocery budget while we saved extra money to get us through a rough spot financially. This was possible because of a very well-stocked pantry and freezer and also because the garden was very successful during this time.

Currently, I am able to spend a larger amount on groceries. Eating for health is becoming more important to me as well. (I'm still taking baby steps towards this and will probably never be too extreme!) I'm also trying to restock my pantry so that we will be prepared during a tough time as I was last year and to have plenty to share.

I had $100 to spend for this two week period. This is what I bought:

Food Lion
2 pounds red grapes 99 cents a pound =$2.02 (Sale)
3 packages chicken thighs(approx. 15 pounds in all) $8.63-approx. 60 cents a pound (Reduced for quick sale)
Small package of lamb chops $2.15 (Reduced for quick sale)

Total- $12.93

Super Bi-Lo
Fiber One cereal $1.00 (sale+coupon)
2- 5 lb. bags unbleached flour $5.00(sale)
1 pound bag kidney beans $1.89
1 pound bag chickpeas $1.69
2 boxes Green Giant veggies $1.00(sale+coupon)
1 bag Green Giant Steamers veggies FREE (sale + coupon)
Organic celery $1.69 (sale)
1 pound bag organic carrots $1.29
1 pound kale $1.46
1 acorn squash($.99 lb.) $1.87(sale)


2 bags spinach $3.98
Green Peppers $1.49
Roma tomatoes $1.29
Very green bananas $1.13
3 pounds butter $6.57
2 cans mushrooms $.98
1 pound bag frozen berries $2.89
2-8 oz. mozzarella cheese $3.98
1 pound sausage $1.99
3 bags frozen veggies $2.97
1 pound bacon $2.69
Canola oil $2.79
1 can black olives $.99
2 dozen eggs $2.70
Garlic powder $1.09
Cottage cheese $2.29
Sour cream $.99

Total $41.22

Petsmart(not pictured)
48 pound bag of dog food $18.99
1 bag doggie treats $2.09
Dog collar $5.94 (I would normally not use the grocery money to purchase this but rather take out of the dog category of savings. He needed a new collar and it was just as easy to pay for it out of the same fund as his food.)

Total $28.91

Grand Total for 2 weeks worth of groceries- $99.14

As you'll notice, I only had a few coupons to use this week. Hopefully that will change as I add to my collection! Also we had a fairly significant amount of pantry basics already on hand so I focused mostly on getting fresh produce.

If you're wondering about fresh produce keeping for 2 weeks, my general rule of thumb is that we eat fresh salads the first week, and rely mostly on cooked or frozen veggies the next.

I had chicken breasts on my list at yet another store(on our way) that were on sale for $1.78 a pound. But when we spotted the marked down chicken thighs at Food Lion, we bought those instead, getting a much better deal at $.60 cents a pound and being able to buy more this way. I also splurged on the package of lamb that was marked down instead of getting a package of Johnsonville sausages like I had originally planned. Flexibility is a good trait if you are a frugal shopper!

This week I probably won't be doing much shopping. So far, none of the CVS deals have jumped out at me as something I really need so unless that changes, I won't be shopping there this week. My out of pocket total at CVS is usually under $2, so that comes out of our loose change that's leftover every month.

My next grocery report will be in probably 2 weeks.

In the meantime, happy shopping or not shopping -whatever fits your lifestyle and budget!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Simple Apple Recipe

(Kitchen Tip Tuesdays is up a day early, so I'm going ahead and posting it now!)

With fresh apples in abundance, I've been trying to come up with a few new ways to use them. I found this easy recipe for Sauteed Apples and Bacon in the Joy of Cooking. I'm glad I tried it! It was simply delicious and went great with our pancakes for Saturday night supper. I will definitely be making this again. It would be wonderful as a side dish to really any kind of meat.

Sauteed Apples and Bacon

Peel and core:
Tart cooking apples
Cut in cubes, about 4 cups in all.

Saute in a heavy skillet:
8 slices bacon

Remove bacon when crisp. Keep hot. Leave about 2 tablespoons of fat in the skillet. Add:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I left this out. There was plenty of oil in the pan in my opinion!)

Add the apples. Saute uncovered over high heat until translucent. Sprinkle with:
2 tablespoons white or brown sugar
I also added a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Place the apples on a hot platter. Surround them with the bacon.

Garnish with parsley if desired.

Serves 4.

Please visit Tammy's Recipes for more kitchen tips!

Menu Plan Monday

Last week, I played the "How far can you stretch a hunk of beef?" game.

This week, I'm doing the same thing with chicken. I'll be roasting two chickens on Tuesday and then eating off of one most of the week. Most of the second chicken will be chopped up to freeze for easy prep later.

Without further adieu, here's what's cooking at Mary Ann's House this week:

B-leftover pancakes from Saturday night
L- I took an apple spinach salad and a homemade apple pie for lunch with our home fellowship.
D-Nachos while watching the Redskins game.

To do: Make pizza, thaw chickens, mix baked oatmeal for tomorrow.
L-leftover beefy veggie soup
D-Church leadership meeting. I'm making homemade pizza.

To do: prepare chicken and veggies for tonight, debone chicken and measure into freezing containers.
B-baked oatmeal
L-leftover pizza or soup
D- roast chicken, potatoes and carrots; salad

To do: Make biscuits for tonight plus extra batch to freeze, cook chicken bones for broth.
B-baked oatmeal
D-chicken a la king( a new Taste of Home recipe but substituting chicken for the turkey in the original recipe), fresh biscuits, salad

To do: Divide broth into portions to freeze and use the rest of week, make a batch of rolls.
B-eggs, leftover biscuits, fruit
D-chicken salad on wheat rolls, cut-up veggies, fresh fruit

To do: Bake a batch of muffins or quick bread, thaw beans for chili, write menu for next week.
B-fruit and yogurt smoothies, peanut butter toast
D-white bean chicken chili with cheese and sour cream, tortilla chips, salad

To do: Prepare food for Sunday.
B-cottage cheese, fruit, toast
D-?? leftovers or something quick since we're going away in the evening

For more menu inspiration, please visit Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Coupons, Coupons

After about a year of either little or no couponing, I've decided it's time to get back into it. With rising costs, it has become harder to squeeze everything on my grocery list into the budget. I worked hard at couponing and bargain hunting last spring and summer. Then when I started doing full-time childcare, it just seemed to take too much time when the only time for grocery shopping ended up being in the evenings when I was extra tired and the marked down items were already taken. I've still used a few coupons each trip and of course, my eye is trained to spot the best deal from a mile away.:-) But still it seems that I could possibly do better with adding more coupons into the mix again.

I was buying 3 Sunday papers each week for the coupons but I let that go by the wayside about 2 months ago. I plan to start buying the papers again as well as checking with some friends who get the Sunday papers to see if they use their coupons. Following my sister's advice, I cut the coupons together in stacks. This saves time in cutting and organizing!

I've found that using a binder to organize my coupons is the best for me. I use baseball card sheets and most coupons fit well into those. Some have to be folded to fit but that doesn't bother me. It's so easy to see at a glance what I have rather than shuffling through envelopes. I was using a regular notebook binder until I could find a zippered one. I found one at a yard sale for 25 cents! So now I just need to transfer everything into it. What I like about the zippered binder is that I can keep a small pair of scissors, multiple sales fliers and pens inside and they won't fly out.

We don't eat many processed foods. A lot of the coupons seem to be for more processed food items. I plan to go ahead and buy these items if they are really inexpensive. Some things will be good for stocking our pantry and others I will donate. I'll keep my eyes open for good coupons for organics and meats and produce. There are a few out there; since I have used them before! Money Saving Mom is an invaluable resource for all kinds of grocery coupons and deals. I still want to eat relatively healthy(as we do now) but still be a good steward of what God has given us. I cook with a lot of less expensive ingredients such as beans, rice, pasta, frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, etc. I plan to continue with that and add some coupon savings in order to add to the pantry.

I also want to get back into going to CVS and Walgreens regularly. Lately, I've been hitting CVS about once a month and Walgreens less than that. I was getting tired of Walgreens as they often were out of whatever sale items I had gone in for. I've noticed lately that they are better stocked and there are also three Walgreens stores in the area now instead of only one. By going to CVS even just once a month, I would get the free(after ECB's) items which would often be donated. By being more intentional, hopefully, I can get the free items plus get personal care items that we regularly use at a better price by watching the sales.

With gas prices as high as they are, I really have no intention of driving all over creation to save a few cents. So I'm going to see how I can do with the couponing by just going twice a month like usual (choosing two or three stores with the best deals) and then making a CVS and Walgreens run on a weekly basis if the sales are particularly good. CVS and Walgreens are conveniently located a block away from each other and only 5 minutes from my house. Another option is going to CVS on the way home from church on Sunday since there is one on the way.

I've already scoured the sales ads and have come up with a tentative game plan for this weekend's grocery trip. I'll keep you posted on how it goes and what works for me!

I'm excited to get back into the coupon game!

Menu Plan...Thursday???

With being gone for the weekend and having guests the weekend before, I've been really lax about the menu plan. I've written one up or followed one in my head; I just haven't taken the time to post it here.

Here is this week's simple dinner plan. I cooked up a roast beef in the crockpot on Tuesday. I used a new recipe for a marinade and it was super yummy! So for the next few days, we're having "Rubber Roast Beef". How far can a hunk of meat stretch??

Tuesday- crock pot roast beef, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots

Wednesday-beef and noodles, steamed peas and corn

Thursday-Shepherd's Pie using leftover potatoes, meat and veggies, bread and butter, baked apples(?)

Friday- crock pot beef vegetable soup, corn muffins

Saturday-pancakes, sausage or bacon

Lunches this week are roast beef leftovers and ham sandwiches.

Breakfasts are a combination of the usuals-toast, scrambled eggs, cold cereal, apple slices and oatmeal.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Our Weekend

For our anniversary, we spent the weekend at a cottage in Western North Carolina. I don't think the leaves were at their peak for color but it was still quite beautiful.

We stayed in the same place where we went last year. Maybe we'll go again next year, too! We do really like it there. The picture above is the view of the lake and woods from the cottage. The cottage is on private property next to our hosts' home. The cottage is divided into two private suites which include a small kitchen and living and dining areas. It is private and so quiet but within easy driving distance of various attractions.

We are not big into tourist traps or extreme sports so we like the quiet of a more rural area. We were able to go to the fall festival at the John C. Campbell Folk School. It was so cool! What a neat place. Many many craft booths and demonstrations. There were handmade baskets, wooden bowls,quilts, paintings, soaps, honey and beeswax candles, pottery, wood carving, etc. So many wonderful things to see! We spent a good 3-4 hours there just walking around checking everything out.

We had such a nice time just spending quiet time away from our normal schedules. I read several books while my husband enjoyed the wonders of more than basic cable.:-)

On our way home on Monday, we stopped in Hendersonville, North Carolina and bought apples. I got four big bags of seconds for $3 a bag which will be used primarily for applesauce and maybe some apple butter. Then we got two regular bags of apples for eating at $6 a bag. So guess what I'll be doing this weekend? :-) I also got 3 cute pumpkins. Right now they are serving as decorations for my mantle; next they will be cooked and put into yummy baked goods!

I've been playing catch-up from a couple of hectic weeks. Soon this blog will be back to regular programming, I hope!

Friday, October 03, 2008

I've Been Tagged And Awarded!

My friend Gail has been busy awarding and tagging me (and others!) the past couple of weeks. Thanks, Gail!

First off, she awarded me the BFF(Blogging Friends Forever) award. Now doesn't that sound like junior high!;-)

The Blogging Friends Forever Rules are:
1. Pass along to five people and five people only.
2. Four have to be dedicated followers of your blog.
3. One has to be someone new, or recently new to your blog, or live in another part of the world.
4. You must link back to whoever gave you the 'Blogging Friends Forever' award.

I'm having a hard time thinking of 5 dedicated followers of this blog(who comment so I know they're here!) who haven't done this one already. I pick Kathryn, Monica, Arlene and DarcyLee and you!

Next, she tagged me to tell 6 random quirks about myself.
For this one, I'm tagging anyone who wants to do this!

Ummm, random quirks. I think I've done this one at least once before but I'll list some stuff again! I have enough quirks to go around.
1) I love tissues. I often have one in my hand. My husband teases me about the wadded tissues under my pillow at night, too. I guess tissues are my security.:-)

2)When driving, I'll all of a sudden panic that I've left my keys at home. Duh! You're driving right? You had to have your keys!

3)I'll ask my husband if he's had enough to eat before he's hardly had time to take a bite.

4)I like to keep the remotes in the T.V. cabinet. Instead of where we are sitting like normal people would do.

5)I love sour and tart flavors. Plain yogurt, Sour Patch Kids, lemons, etc.

6) I'm notorious for grabbing the car door handle just as my husband hits the unlock button. Then the door doesn't unlock! I think that "Quick Draw" is what he calls me.

Please share your quirks(family friendly please!) with the rest of us!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I Still Do

Today we celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, sweetie!

If you'd like to see more wedding photos, go here. Enjoy!