Friday, January 29, 2010

Frugal Tools: A Calculator

One little thing that has saved us hundreds of dollars over the past 5 years is my pocket calculator.

I keep a small calculator in my purse where it's easily accessible. It's as an important a part of grocery shopping as my list and envelope of coupons.

Why, you ask?

It's simple. Keeping a running total of what I'm spending keeps me from just throwing things in my cart, thinking that I have plenty of money to pay for everything. Because we use primarily cash, the last thing I want is to come up short at the cash register and have to put a few things back.

Some people can keep a fairly accurate total in their heads. I am not one of those people. And on those days that I'm not keeping track, I always spend more.

Over spending by $5 or less may not seem like a big deal to some, but what if you overspend by $5 every week? That's $260 a year, my friends! I bet there's something else we could be spending that extra money on, right?

Wanna know how I came up with that number so quick? You guessed it... by using my calculator!

A former place of employment handed out pocket calculators in 1997. I used that little gem until this past December when it finally gave it up. I was so lost without him, my ever faithful shopping companion, that I asked for a new calculator for Christmas. My husband came through with a calculator like  this one  in my Christmas stocking. I love that man!

Shopping with a calculator may take a little extra time over just randomly throwing items in your shopping cart. But the money saved is definitely worth it in the long run!

**For more frugal tips and tricks, please visit Frugal Fridays at Life As Mom!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Housework: Where To Start When Overwhelmed

My living room after  a  weekend away.

We all have days when there is so much to do and we don't know where to start. Where do you start when you're overwhelmed?

It's important to start somewhere. Albeit small, doing something, anything  can help to motivate and get us moving! The Nester cleans off the front of her refrigerator. Years ago, my sister would always start with reorganizing a drawer or cupboard. I don't know if she still does that or not...

Personally, I don't have one particular thing that I do when in this situation. It varies. But here are a few things that are good starter chores if I have a huge mess, am overwhelmed or just have time for one or two little tasks.

First, I often light a candle and/or turn on some worship music. Then I usually pick one of these chores:

  • Make the bed.
  • Sweep and/or vacuum.
  • Empty/fill the dishwasher; wash dishes.
  • Start a load of laundry.
  • Empty the trash.
  • Put something away.
  • Move "piles" to another room where I can't see them!
  • Write a short 'to-do list.'
By starting with something, even a little thing, my outlook often improves and I want to continue. Before long, I have a few other tasks completed and my home begins to look just a  little bit more inviting!

Where do you start when there's so much to do and the house is a wreck?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Homekeeper's Journal

What's happening in my home?

We were gone from Friday to Tuesday visiting friends and family. The main reason for our trip was to visit a close friend of ours who has been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 34.  They have 3 young boys ages 7,5 and almost 4. His wife is expecting their 4th son in March. Due to some complications she's been experiencing, they may decide to deliver him early. Please pray for The Adams Family (no joke; that's their real name!). They have a positive outlook and certainly their hope is in Christ but they are going through so much right now!

We had a really nice visit with them. He and Andy as well as two other friends sang together as a Southern Gospel band 15 years around their college years some 15 years ago. All four of the guys were able to make it last weekend and they gave a concert last Saturday night. It was so good; no one could believe that it had been 13 years since they sang together.

After visiting them, we went on to Andy's parents since they were only 2 hours away from where we were in Georgia.  Andy's grandparents from Upstate NY  are spending the winter down here so it was a great opportunity to see them. Andy's great aunt also lives with his parents. It's always A Full House.

In case you haven't noticed, I appear to be trying to use as many TV show titles in this post as possible.  I can't help it!!! I'll try to stop now.

In my kitchen... Since we've been out of town, my kitchen has been pretty quiet. A crockpot of homemade chicken stock is simmering now. It smells so good! I made another jar of elderberry syrup before we left last weekend. It's a great immune booster and has been helping to keep us healthier. (I'll be sharing more about that soon!)   I'm coming down with a cold today so I've been taking elderberry syrup, echinacea, hot tea, and lots of water to hopefully get it out of my system. I'll probably drink some chicken broth later on, too.

In my marriage... An advantage of traveling is the extra time we get to talk. I always like that!

In my sewing room... I brought home some drapery hooks, rings and casing/tape from my in-laws. I really need to make curtains for the bedroom and living room. Heavier curtains/drapes would help our energy costs. Not sure what I'll come up with or how long it will take me! First, I need very affordable fabric!

Around the homestead... Lots of laundry. General cleaning needs to be done. Getting back on a schedule after our vacation.

In my "inner man"... Same stuff as last week!

Thanks to Christian HomeKeeper for hosting The Homekeeper's Journal every Wednesday!

Menu Plan Monday and Eat from The Pantry Progress #4

We've finished the third week of our pantry challenge. I only spent $4.00 this week and that was for a pound of butter and some cheese. This is only a partial week on the challenge since we were out of town for the weekend.We just returned home yesterday!

The last week of January signals the end of the pantry challenge, but I may extend it one more week. While some items are low or gone, we still have plenty to choose from. I feel like we really haven't gotten to "scrounging around to find a meal" yet. Not that I want to get to that point, I'm just saying. :-) The savings has really been nice. I've already used a little for some grass-fed beef.

Here's what we ate this week:

Breakfast-peanut butter toast, apples
Lunch- beef stroganoff and peas were my contributions to our fellwoship's potluck.
Supper-leftover stroganoff, peas and homemade bread

Breakfast- eggs and toast for him, leftover millet for me.
Lunch- leftover stroganoff, bread, peas
Supper- ate at church meeting. I took some French bread.

Breakfast-  muffins for him, toast for me, apple slices for both of us
Lunch- leftover bean soup, pizza bread( slices of French bread topped with tomato sauce, sprinkled with Italian spices and Parmesan cheese and broiled for a few minutes), grape tomatoes and green pepper slices
Supper-Rotisserie-style chicken, baked sweet potatoes, mixed veggies

Breakfast- cold cereal, milk, banana
Lunch- BK chicken sandwiches with coupon
Supper- chicken pot pie, salad

Notes: I ended up with enough extra pot pie mixture for a small one for us when I was cooking for a friend. So we had that tonight instead of the chicken and gravy that I had planned. It worked out well since I'd used the last of the milk on my cereal at breakfast and didn't want to buy more milk (to make the gravy) before we left for the weekend.

Breakfast- green smoothies, toast for me, pumpkin bread and cream cheese for him
Lunch- pasta salad with leftover cooked pasta, grape tomatoes, chicken, green peppers, mozzarella cheese, and oil, vinegar and basil, fresh homemade bread
Supper- leftovers(mixed veggies, chicken, sweet potatoes)

Breakfast- green smoothies, toast
Lunch- pb sandwiches, carrots and green peppers, oranges and cookies while traveling

The rest of the weekend until we got home yesterday was spent either eating out(while visiting friends) or eating my mother-in-laws delicious meals while visiting Andy's parents. She makes very delicious spaghetti with spicy sausage that I love and this time she also made a wonderful vegetable pizza. I brought that recipe home with me and can't wait to make it here! I always feel so spoiled when we visit my in-laws since my MIL cooks such wonderful meals for us!

For more pantry challenge updates, visit Money Saving Mom!

We were out of town until Tuesday evening but this is what we're eating from then on.
** denotes freezer meals.

Tuesday- spaghetti pie**,green beans
Wednesday- fish packets**,  brown rice
Thursday-Chicken, veggie and rice soup, homemade bread
Friday-lasagna**, french bread**, roasted garlic, salad
Saturday- chicken gravy on toast, veggies, fruit smoothies

**Visit Organizing Junkie to read more menu plans!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homekeeper's Journal

What's happening in my home?

In my kitchen... I love to cook and bake and my kitchen's been cranking out some yummy foods this week. It makes me so happy! A few things I made this week are: crockpot chicken, chocolate chip cookies, 2 freezer meals for a friend (chicken pot pie and spaghetti pie). I plan to bake bread tomorrow!

In my marriage...Talking through some issues and praying over some things  lots this week!

In my sewing room...Made a diaper bag and some burp cloths as a gift for a friend. My first attempt at simple to come next week on my sewing blog. I've accumulated a nice stack of thrift store fabric over the past two weeks. I love looking at fabric and figuring out what I want to make.

Around the homestead...Raked leaves today, getting ready for a weekend trip to visit friends and family.

In my "Inner Man"...Working on the same character traits as last week. Something tells me it'll be a while. :-) I'm also praying for specific direction in the next few days.

Thanks to Sylvia for hosting the Homekeeper's Journal every Wednesday!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eat From The Pantry Report #3 And Menu Plan

We've been eating from the pantry for 2 weeks now. We still have plenty to eat in the house. I went out for a small amount of fresh produce, sour cream, a box of spaghetti and a few cans of diced tomatoes. (I'm making a couple of freezer meals for a friend who's going through a very stressful time right now. I needed the pasta and tomatoes for one of the meals.)

Grocery costs for the week: $14.43.
Grocery spending for month so far: $29.31.
My goal is to spend only $50 on groceries this month, so I have $20.69 left. We'll see if we can make it!

What I bought: green peppers, bananas, tangerines, spinach, grape tomatoes, spaghetti, 4 cans diced tomatoes, and sour cream. I got a free bag of frozen blueberries at Earth Fare.

I didn't keep any detailed notes from last week. I fought a headache all week and really didn't have the energy to think of one more thing! It turned out that my very simple menu plan was just perfect for the week. We stuck to it almost to the letter with very few changes.

Breakfasts have been very simple. I'm still not eating eggs due to a rash I've been wanting to clear up. Not sure if eggs were the culprit or not, but the rash is pretty much gone! I've eaten a few things that I'm pretty sure included egg ingredients(it's difficult to know exactly especially with processed foods)  while we've been with other people but have stayed away from all eggs or any recipe with eggs in it at home. Breakfasts have been the most difficult because not only can I not have a simple meal of eggs and toast but all muffins, pancakes and baked goods include eggs. In the future, I will try making some things with an egg substitute if I continue to avoid eggs, but for now I've been trying to clear out the breakfast items I already had in the freezer. Anyways, all that to say, I've been eating a lot of oatmeal, millet, or toast for breakfast along with some fruit. I've been giving Andy his choice of pancakes and muffins for a little variety for him and some days he eats the same breakfast as me.

Lunches have been mostly leftovers. Last week we had peanut butter sandwiches and salmon salad sandwiches when there were no leftovers. I made the salmon salad based on a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens. It had an oil dressing rather than mayo (eggs) so I thought I would try it. I changed a few things that I didn't have and it was very good! I know I'll be making this again. I cooked a large pot of bean soup on Thursday. Normally, I wouldn't serve a bean recipe  for too many days in a row, so I had planned to freeze some. But since I wasn't feeling well, it just worked so well to heat it for lunches instead of trying to scrounge up something else! We'll eat the last of the soup for lunch today, getting 4 meals out of it. I also gave a container of the soup to some friends. Just sharing the love! LOL!!!!

For more pantry challenge updates, visit Life as Mom.

This week's menu plan will be short since we'll be visiting friends and family over the weekend. But here's what our suppers will be...

Sunday- leftover beef stroganoff  from lunch, peas, bread and butter

Monday- church meeting. I'm baking some bread to take.

Tuesday- Rotisserie-style chicken, baked sweet potatoes, mixed veggies

Wednesday- chicken and gravy over toast, salad

Thursday- chicken, veggie and rice soup, bread

Friday- Picnic lunch while traveling; eat out for supper or I'll bring some food along.

 For more menu planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Framed Initial

I've been in a crafting mood the last few weeks just enjoying making little things for the house and sprucing things up around here.

We have this cover for what I guess was a old stovepipe or something over the fireplace which isn't the most attractive decoration ever but is kind of the centerpiece of the room, regardless. I've gotten in the habit of covering it with seasonal decorations and found it looks a whole lot better and adds another little spot for something decorative. For Thanksgiving, a wooden turkey covered the eyesore and for Christmas, stockings.

So when I took the Christmas decorations down around New Year's, my thoughts immediately turned to what could be hung there. I tried several pictures but nothing was quite right.

I then remembered this cute framed initial idea that I had bookmarked a little while back. This would be perfect! I love monograms and initials so I thought framing a 'C' (for our last name) would be really cute for that spot.

First, I had to find a frame that was the right size. I put it on my thrift store list and looked the next time I was out thrifting. On my second trip, I found just what I was looking for. A wooden frame for an 8 x 10 picture. A plus was that this frame looked brand-new and was already black which was the color I was going to paint the frame. And it was only $2! Plus it came with a mat that I can use for another project!

The cast of characters.

I was determined to only use fabric from what I had on hand so I  rummaged through and came up with a combination I liked. The tan linen was a thrifted skirt bought for sewing projects and while I was working, I remembered that the red check fabric was a yard sale find a while back. Not bad!!! I already had a roll of Heat-n-Bond on hand so the frame was the only item I needed to buy.

This was a really quick and easy craft. Finding a font and adjusting it to the right size was the hardest part! The letter 'C' can be funny to find just right, some were too skinny and others looked too plain or like I was teaching kindergarten printing. I printed off one I liked, then adjusted it a bit by cutting some parts a bit wider.

The finished project.
This whole project was done in less than 30 minutes. I love it and can see many more of these types of projects in the near future. I think it'd be cute using scrapbook paper instead of fabric, too. Or with whole words instead of just letters.

So fun!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home Keeper's Journal

 Today, I'm joining in with Christian Homekeeper's Homekeeper's Journal!

What's happening in my home?

In my kitchen... The Eat From The Pantry Challenge is in full swing! I am in week 2 of the challenge and it is going really good so far. It's a good workout for my creativity to  plan meals from what I have on hand without purchasing very much extra each week. Comfort foods and yummy homemade soups are the main theme these days. Chicken pot pie is baking as I type this.

With my marriage... I can only speak for myself here! Working on better communication and being more faithful in prayer for my husband. We have a happy marriage, but of course, it's not perfect! We're learning to rely on God and trust Him more in many areas of our lives.

Around the homestead... Inside, candles, throws and cups of hot tea add a warm and cozy feel to our cottage. With the beginning of the New Year comes the urge to clean out and simplify. I'm working on a better and  more productive schedule for myself and purging items no longer needed. Feels great! One box of cast-offs has already been collected. Outside, leaves need to be raked!

In the sewing room... Mending for myself and a pile of alterations for a friend have been finished. I have some patterns out to make a few things for myself. I'd also like to work on some "scrap projects" with all the small pieces of fabric I have leftover from other projects.

In my "inner man"... Cultivating contentment and true joy in all circumstances. Becoming a woman who is kind in her words and gentle in action. I am so far from perfectly attaining these things, but continue to pursue them with God's help. One of my New Year's goals is to just be myself, to be as God made me, without worrying what others think so much. Not sure what all that will hold for me, other than being a life-long process, I'm sure!

What's going on in your home today?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The To-Do List

Over the past few months, I've noticed a decrease of productivity and an increased level of disorganization in my home.

Ever the list and schedule-lovin' freak maven, this frustrates me.

I finally figured out that I haven't been making regular to-do lists. Sure, I have all kinds of chores and plans in my head. But it seems that unless I have it written down right in front of me, it's difficult for me to stay on task and therefore be more productive.

So I'm starting the new year off with a to-do list for each day. At least for every weekday.

These lists are not long. I love crossing things off lists so I have to keep my to-do lists pretty realistic so I don't get discouraged. I generally  keep my daily to-do lists to 5 chores or less. That seems about right for my days and activity level. Some days may be less and some days a few more. Five seems to be a pretty good average for me.

My 5 chores do not include all the tasks in my morning routine or meal preparation. Rather, it's things that I may do once a week, phone calls or appointments to be made, etc.

My to-do list looks like this today:

  1. 2 loads laundry
  2. clean kitchen
  3. clean bathroom
  4. sewing project-alterations for friend
  5. 15 minutes decluttering in office
To some this may not look like very much to accomplish in one day. But I know that the cleaning jobs will take most of the rest of the morning. Laundry will be worked in and doesn't require much hands-on time. The sewing project will likely take most of my afternoon. Once I get started decluttering, chances are that I won't want to stop after just 15 minutes.

Being realistic with my to-do lists helps me to stay focused and be productive! That, my friends, is a very good thing!

What about you? Do you like making to-do lists? How do you stay focused and productive throughout your day?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday- The Challenge Continues!

The first full week of the Eat From The Pantry Challenge went well. We haven't gone hungry yet, so that is a good thing!

Now on to week two...

I'll probably have to do a little grocery shopping this week. I did shop a little last week but spent more on non-food items than food and got some very good deals at CVS and Walgreens. I'm thinking that  I'll actually need some fresh items this week.

Last week, I only planned supper menus and left breakfast and lunch to what I had on hand and planned that a day or two at a time. That worked really well so I'll do that again this week. Why fix something if it's not broken?

So here's the plan... I have had a really bad headache all day and haven't been able to think clearly. Because of this, my menu plan is pretty basic. I may change some things as I go along, but for now, easy and basic sounds pretty good to me!

**indicates freezer meals

Sunday- hamburgers, pickles, steamed mixed veggies

Monday- church meeting

Tuesday-chicken pot pie**, peas

Wednesday-spaghetti sauce** over noodles, mixed veggies

Thursday- French Market Day Bean Soup cooked in crockpot with ham bone, biscuits**

Friday- homemade pizza(crust is pre-made**), salad or veggies and dip

Saturday- leftovers or grilled cheese sandwiches

For more menu planning inspiration, head on over to I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Eat From The Pantry Challenge Progress #2

Time for an update! Money Saving Mom has her update up today as well as asking all of us who are participating in the challenge to link up with our progress as well.

Our week went well. To be honest, I usually plan most of my meals from the pantry anyways, but keeping to my goal of spending only $50 this month is helping me to be even more creative. And that is good. 

I'm sharing what we ate each day along with my notes as to changes I made or leftovers I used. The amount of money I spent this week for grocery items is at the end of the post.

Breakfast-leftover oatmeal, apple with peanut butter
Lunch-leftover beef stew, bread and butter, marinated mushrooms, hummus and tortilla chips
Supper-ate at church meeting

Notes: I love using leftovers. The beef stew was left from church yesterday. I added a little water to thin it out a bit and make enough for 2 people.

Breakfast- oatmeal, applesauce
Lunch-grilled cheese sandwiches made in the waffle iron, oil and vinegar slaw
Supper- baked fish chowder, homemade bread, carrot sticks and green pepper strips

Notes: I used the leftover 1/2 head of cabbage to make some slaw. I peeled the broccoli stalks and shredded them along with the cabbage. I also added one shredded carrot. The fish chowder was a new recipe and very tasty! I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but it was easy and delicious!

Breakfast- blueberry muffins for him, oatmeal with blueberries for me, sliced apple for both of us
Lunch-leftover fish chowder, bread and veggies
Supper-Breaded pork chops, sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli

Notes: Remember the stuffed mushrooms from last week? I had leftover filling and used it to bread pork chops for supper tonight. Yum!

Breaded pork chops, baked sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Breakfast- cold cereal with milk
Lunch- leftover buffet. All kinds of odds and ends from the fridge!
Supper- Monterrey beans with rice,salsa and sour cream,  carrot sticks

Notes: We really needed to use up the last little bit of milk before it went bad, so we had cold cereal this morning. I had plain  beans and rice on the menu for tonight. But it seemed so plain and I didn't feel like making or eating it! Then I remembered one of our favorites, Monterrey beans. Yum! I had a few strips of cooked bacon in the freezer from what I cooked up when I cleaned out the fridge last week. Monterrey beans is awesome with bacon added! I didn't have fresh tomatoes or peppers so I added salsa instead. I also added the cooked rice to the skillet and mixed it together. We both enjoyed this meal a lot!

Breakfast- apple-carrot muffins for him, oatmeal with applesauce for me, grapefruit halves for both of us
Lunch- leftover Monterrey beans and rice wrapped in tortillas with extra salsa and sour cream
Supper-Ham bundles made with this dough, tomato soup

Notes: The leftover beans and rice were delicious wrapped in homemade tortillas I had in the freezer. I'll have to do this more often! I made the ham bundles into crescent rolls and they were just as good as ever. My husband really loves these and can't get enough whenever I make them!

Ham bundle crescents.
Breakfast- leftover ham bundles
Lunch-leftover ham bundle mixture made into quesadillas, apple slices
Supper- leftover brown rice mixed with some peas, broccoli and tuna, bread and butter

Notes: We were out and about all morning and were tempted to go out for Chinese for lunch but decided against it. (We do not use our grocery money for eating out, but instead have a budget category just for that. ) We were starving by the time we got home. Leftovers were pretty scarce. I tried to think of something quick. I took another bag of tortillas out of the freezer and made quesadillas with the leftover ham mixture. They were surprisingly good! I wasn't really in the mood for pizza tonight which was what I had on the menu. If you'll notice, we have had a lot of "bready" meals lately! So I took some leftover brown rice and added a pouch of tuna, some leftover broccoli, a handful of peas. I heated it altogether and served topped with shredded Parmesan cheese. Not bad for something thrown together!

Breakfast- ham bundles, applesauce
Lunch- potluck with church fellowship. My contribution was cookies and mixed veggies.
Supper- hamburgers, sliced avocado, leftover mixed veggies, pickles

Notes: Not really anything to report for today. Pretty easy cooking day! Hamburgers and homemade dinner rolls were in the freezer.

Snacks this week consisted of:
cream cheese on Ritz crackers
marinated mushrooms
chocolate chip cookies
mixed nuts
pretzel rods

This week's spending:
I did a little shopping this week but spent most on non-food items at CVS and Walgreens. I had some Extra Care Bucks that were expiring and there were some very good deals on things we either needed or will need soon. Walgreens had a few coupon deals that required very little out of pocket expense so I got a few needed items there too.

Walgreens(2 trips): $2.51 for 2 packages of Stayfree pads and 2 Electrasol dishwashing detergent plus received $2 Register Rewards.

CVS(2 trips): $4.78 for 2 Colgate toothpastes, 2 Irish Spring body wash, 1 Colgate toothbrush, 1 GE CFL light bulb, and 4 cans of Oust. I used a good amount of ECB's to pay for these items and now have $10.50 in ECB's to use in the next month.

Earth Fare: $.59 Earth fare sent me a coupon for 2 free grapefruit and a free 8 ounce container of almonds with any purchase. I bought a box of tissues which I had a $1/1 coupon for.

Mexican Market: $3.00 for 6 avocados.

Farmer's Market:$4.00 for 1 dozen farm fresh eggs.

Total week's spending: $14.88

Spending goal for month: $50.00

Amount remaining: $35.12

Edited to add: I failed to mention  that I did purchase some grass-fed beef this weekend with some of the money that I am saving by doing the pantry challenge this month. The farmer was running a great special that I really wanted to take advantage of. I am not planning on using the newly purchased beef until February so that's why I'm not counting it in this month's total. The money saved would be used for some beef anyways and it worked out to get it at a much better price now. I'll be using it for next month's freezer day!

For more pantry challenge updates, click on over to Money Saving Mom!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Recycle Your Christmas Cards!

I love to save our Christmas cards to use for crafting. I especially like to use them for decorating packages and as gift tags, either whole or cut into cute shapes.  But it seems like I never use them all!

Thanks to Katie of Kitchen Stewardship, I found out about sending my old cards to the St. Jude's Ranch . The children there take cards for all occasions, not just Christmas, and turn them into new cards to sell.

Last night I sorted through my stack of Christmas cards (several year's worth!) and kept a small stack of my favorites to use for gift tags next year and got the rest ready to donate!

This is a really easy way to donate to a good cause! And you're recycling at the same time!

How do you reuse or recycle your old Christmas cards?

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Pantry Challenge Progress Report #1

 January's Eat From The Pantry Challenge started January 1st in our household. Today, Jessica from Life As Mom is asking us to post our progress thus far.

 Over the weekend, I took inventory of all the food in the house and I'll be crossing things off the list as we use them. My general goals are here. 

I'll be making  a supper menu plan weekly and lunches and breakfasts will be planned a day or two at a time to make the best use of my resources. Keep in mind that I am feeding 2 adults with these menus and not a large family, so my goals, recipes, and amounts of food may look vastly different from yours!

With each week's progress report, I'll be sharing the details of what we're eating each week, changes I've made to accommodate the pantry instead of going out to buy more and how much I spent at the store that week.

Being that this progress report is only from Friday through Sunday, there is no grocery shopping to report. But here are the juicy details along with a recipe or two.

Breakfast: toast, clementines
Lunch: lasagna, salad, french bread, roasted garlic for spreading on bread, marinated mushrooms
Supper: Football Snacks while watching the Rose Bowl with friends. I took chocolate peanut squares and some stuffed mushrooms.

Notes: I found 12 ounce boxes of mushrooms at Bi-Lo on Wednesday marked down to 89 cents. I purchased four of them, immediately thinking of sauteed mushrooms and stuffed mushrooms for a football snack. That night, I added one box of mushrooms into the stir-fry. I had found a recipe for marinated vegetables that called for mushrooms, so I used only mushrooms and used 2 boxes in the recipe. The last box I made into Stuffed Mushrooms for the game. I had never made them before so I did a quick Google search for a recipe. After browsing several recipes, I came up with my own:

Mary Ann's Stuffed Mushrooms

12 ounce box mushrooms
3-4 slices of whole wheat bread-used leftover day-old slices I'd stored in the freezer
Italian spices-garlic powder, basil, oregano
1/2 can tomato sauce-leftover in fridge
about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese- keep a little out for topping

 Wash and dry mushrooms. Remove stems and place mushrooms(stuffing side up) on a greased baking sheet. Make breadcrumbs by pulverizing bread in food processor. Mix in remaining ingredients, being careful to keep a little cheese out to sprinkle on top. I just sprinkled the spices into the mixture-just do what looks about right or tastes good to you. I mixed it really well to allow the tomato sauce to moisten the entire mixture. Spoon the mixture into each mushroom, mounding it up a little. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted.

**These turned out really good and our friends loved them!  Not bad for something I just whipped up! My mushrooms were on the small side so I had a good amount of filling leftover. Look for that showing up on this week's menu!

I was browsing through my What Would Jesus Eat Cook Book the other day and a recipe for marinated vegetables caught my eye. I was excited to try it with my good deal on mushrooms. I adapted it slightly by using only mushrooms and by changing the ingredients a little.

Marinated Mushrooms
2-12 ounce boxes fresh mushrooms

1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
couple tablespoons balsamic vinegar- I did not measure this but it added so much to the flavor!

Pour mushroom into a plastic bag. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour marinade into bag with mushrooms; seal bag. Turn and mash bag to coat mushrooms. Let marinate in the fridge for 8 to 10 hours, turning occasionally.

**These were very good and reminded me a lot of the jars of marinated mushrooms that we used to get at Sam's Club. We ate some after about 2 hours of marinating and they were good but the ones we ate the next day much better because of the marinade having time to soak int the mushrooms. We still have quite a few left. I can see myself making this recipe with lots of of different veggie combinations. For our New Year's dinner, I threaded the mushrooms on small skewers for a nice presentation.

Breakfast: oatmeal, grapefruit
Lunch: leftover odds and ends from this week
Supper: leftover lasagna, roasted garlic, French bread, salad

Notes: Easy cooking day! My fridge was pretty full of leftovers so we ate those instead of making anything new.

In an immune-boosting frenzy, I picked up a 2 pound bag of fresh garlic on my last trip to Costco. Not until I returned home and began to use them- and used one garlic in over week's time- did I realize just how many garlic bulbs are in a 2 pound bag. I cook with a good amount of garlic and we've been eating some raw for it's immune-building properties, but a little goes a long way. I began looking for ways to use more garlic. I had never roasted garlics before and that sounded yummy so I tried this recipe. It was very easy and quite delicious. Roasted garlic has a more sweet and earthy flavor than fresh garlic and doesn't make your breath stink as much as fresh. I didn't know how many garlic bulbs to roast for the two of us, so I did two. We ate about 1 1/2 at the first meal spread on fresh French bread. I'll definitely be roasting garlic again.

Breakfast-buttered bread, clementines
Lunch- beef stew in the crockpot. We eat with our church fellowship each Sunday and this was my contribution today.
Supper-Chicken chimichangas with salsa and sour cream, rice with salsa and cheese

Notes: Another easy cooking day. I typically keep it pretty simple on Sundays. The chimichangas were a freezer meal. I had leftover rice in the fridge which I mixed with a little salsa and shredded cheese for a simple side dish.

So far the challenge is going very well. No spending so far. I have seen some great grocery deals and have had to say 'no'. This will take some discipline since I am so trained to jump on good deals! I'm still doing a little non-food drug store shopping but am being careful to buy most items that end up being FREE or are needed items that will not cost me a lot out of pocket.

The deals will be there again when i start back to regular shopping in February!

**Check out Life As Mom for more Eat From The Pantry Challenge Progress Reports!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Menu Plan Monday-Starting The Pantry Challenge

Happy New Year!

It's another week, another menu and the first week of the Eat From The Pantry Challenge! I'm excited and ready to begin. I've taken inventory of all the food that's in the house and made a simple plan for my grocery goals this month.

My menu plan this week only includes suppers. I'll be planning breakfasts and lunches a day or two at a time to make the best use of my resources, leftovers, etc. At the end of the week, I'll post a recap of the week with what we ate 3 meals a day  along with my notes, recipes,changes to my weekly menu and any crazy concoctions I've come up with to serve my husband and I. It should be interesting! Especially after the first 2 or 3 weeks. :-)

I'm using a couple meals from last week's menu that we just didn't get to. We picked up some wings on New Year's Eve and then on Saturday, I realized that we had plenty of leftovers to feed us for both lunch and supper.

Items marked with ** indicates freezer meal.

Sunday- Chicken Chimichangas** with salsa and sour cream, leftover rice with salsa and cheese

Monday-Church Meeting. As far as I know I'm not contributing to the meal this week.

Tuesday-Baked Fish Chowder (new recipe), homemade bread, carrot sticks

Wednesday- Breaded Pork Chops(using leftover stuffed mushroom filling for breading), baked sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli

Thursday- Kidney beans** and rice, steamed carrots

Friday- Ham bundles, tomato soup

Saturday- Homemade pizza with premade crust**

For more menu planning inspiration, head on over to Organizing Junkie, the home of Menu Plan Mondays!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Pantry Challenge: Inventory

 The Pantry Challenge has begun! To start with, I took inventory of all the food that I had in the house: the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  This helped me to see exactly what I had to work with. Having it all written down will assist with meal planning. On one hand, I don't feel like I have that great of a variety but on the other hand, I found out I had more than I thought. After doing the inventory, I feel more confident that I can do the challenge for a full month. Time will tell!

Each person gets to set their own rules for The Pantry Challenge. I'm aiming to only purchase dairy, eggs and produce and therefore would like to keep my grocery spending to $50 or less for the whole month. This may be a bit unrealistic, I don't know. But I'm willing to give it a try! In fact, I went ahead and took out $50 to put in my grocery cash envelope and stashed the rest away so I'm not as tempted to overspend. The money I save this month will be put aside for bulk food purchases.

I will still shop at CVS at least once  using ECB's and as little as possible out of pocket expense. Most of that will not be food purchases. But it will still come out of my monthly goal of $50. I have yet to decide if I will take advantage of any coupon sales.

My goal is not to use everything up that's in my pantry but to create as many meals for a month as I can from what I have on hand to minimize shopping and spending.

So without further adieu, here's my pantry, freezer and refrigerator inventory and the main cast of characters in what we'll be eating this month! I'll be crossing things off as we use them.

I'll be posting about what we're eating and how I'm doing with the challenge and my goals at the end of each week during the month of January, so stay tuned!

1/4 gallon milk
1 pound Parmesan cheese
1 pound mozzarella cheese
2 1 pounds and 4 oz. cheddar cheese
2 1- 16 oz. sour cream
ground flax seed
1/2 bag coconut
1 1/2 bags chocolate chips
1/4 bag white chocolate chips
3 2 boxes cream cheese
1/2 dozen  4 eggs
2 1 pounds butter
1/2 head cabbage
3 celery stalks
Most of 10 pound bag carrots
3 broccoli stalks
1/2 green pepper
1/4 onion
1/2 jar applesauce
peanut butter

mustard- several kinds
3 2 salad dressings
apple butter
hot sauce
soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
maple syrup

stuffed mushroom filling
roasted garlic bulb
mushroom stems
baggie of carrot/celery sticks
1/4 package of bacon ( cooked and put in freezer)

red pepper hummus
marinated mushrooms
1 cup cooked rice
chocolate peanut squares

Pantry (includes contents of kitchen cupboards):
Loaf of French bread
Basic baking/ cooking ingredients including vinegars, spices, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, etc.
2 containers honey
olive oil
coconut oil
unbleached flour
dried elderberries
fruit basket- apples, oranges, lemons
pumpkin seeds
bag of garlic
2 1 onions
sunflower seeds
kidney beans, white beans, lentils- approx. 1 pound of each
10 6 3 potatoes
3 1 sweet potatoes
mashed potato flakes
rolled oats
brown rice
whole grain pasta- approx. 2 1/2 boxes
2 boxes lasagna noodles
brown rice
arborio rice
bucket of hard wheat berries
bucket of soft wheat berries
1 box chocolates
variety of teas
2 sea salts
2 baking cocoas
6 boxes gluten
baking powder
2 cans coconut milk
1 can pumpkin
2 Worcestershire sauce
3 mustard
2 cans mushrooms
2 hot sauce
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 bean soup mix
3 A1 sauce
3 tomato sauce
5 4 diced tomatoes
instant cappuccino mix
microwave popcorn
saltine crackers
3 cans pineapple
1 can mandarin oranges
2 peanut butter
open package pretzel rods
8 7 tomato paste
3 cans salmon
3 2 pouches tuna
Ritz crackers
mixed nuts
Betty Crocker Warm Delight
graham crackers
7 boxes cold cereal


Freezer Meals/ prepared foods
1 lasagna
1 chicken pot pie
1 hummus
1  meal chicken chimichangas
1 meal fish packets
1 bag cooked kidney beans
1 spaghetti pie
1 spinach quiche
1 meal chili
3 bags spaghetti sauce
1 sweet cheeseball

chicken bones for broth
chopped ham
6 burger patties
2 sirloin steaks
2 strip steaks
2 filet mignon
2 1 stew meat
1 ground beef
2 1 meals pork chops
ham bone
1 beef ribs
1 whole chicken
several containers chicken broth
pepperoni-enough for 1 pizza
1/2- 5 pound bag white fish
1 eye of round roast

Baked Goods
container Christmas cookies
2 bags pancakes
2 bags pie dough(approx. 2-3 crusts each)
3 pizza crusts
3 slices chocolate truffle cake
3 1 bags homemade tortillas
6 dinner rolls
2 mini pumpkin bread
3 mini whole wheat bread
3 2 whole wheat bread
10 unbaked biscuits
1 dozen 6 muffins

fresh lemon juice
2 1 bags broccoli
3 bags peas
1 bag California blend
1/2 bag corn
2 bags green beans
1 big bag mixed veggies
2 baggies mashed sweet potatoes
2 cups pumpkin puree
3 baggie shredded zucchini
3 baggies chopped celery

tiny bit of ice cream
2 cans o.j. concentrate
container veggie broth
2 cups freshly ground pastry flour
1/2 gallon milk
lots of spices
buckwheat flour
rye flour
cracked wheat
brown rice
rolled oats