Wednesday, March 28, 2012

7 Things We Don't Usually Spend Money On

I was inspired by Crystal's list of 7 things they don't buy and decided to make my own. I did add the word 'usually' because there are always exceptions from time to time!

7 Things We Don't Usually Spend Money On

1. Pop. Or soda or soft drinks--whatever you want to call them! And juice. Except for natural ginger ale for when we're sick! We drink mostly water.

2. Cleaning Supplies. I do buy dish detergent and ingredients for homemade laundry soap.  I use mostly vinegar and baking soda for household cleaning and it works great and frees up space in the budget for better food.

3. Paper Towels. We use reusable rags and cloth napkins. I do occasionally have a cheap roll of paper towels in my cabinet just in case, but not a regular purchase.

4. Dog Grooming and Bathing. Fortunately, Rock is short-haired and doesn't require a lot of grooming. But he does need baths regularly! Our kennel does a wonderful job and charges $30. While we feel that they earned every penny of that, when our income dropped a few years ago, that was one expense we chose to cut. It was a chore as Rock didn't care at all for baths and we had no idea what we were doing, but bathing him ourselves was a huge savings! He is very used to baths now and does really well. Purchasing a hand held shower head at a yard sale for $2 last summer  has made this chore so much easier and faster!

5. Magazines and Subscriptions. I receive two magazine subscriptions for Christmas each year from my mom and mother-in-law. We also get Reader's Digest as a gift. Occasionally, I'll get a free subscription that I see featured on a deal blog. While I don't subscribe to it anymore because we don't use as many coupons, All You is usually worth the cost for the coupons included, especially if you can get it a good deal on it! Magazines pile up around here so it's better that we don't get anymore!

6. Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets. I really dislike the filmy feel that fabric softener leaves on clothes and honestly, I never been in the habit of using either one of these. So not a hard thing to bypass!

7. Most Processed Foods. While there are still a few 'splurges', eating mostly meats, fruits and veggies have helped with this! We've been particularly mindful of foods containing HFCS. And while this does save some money, I believe the health benefits far outweigh the financial savings!

What about you? What 7 things do you choose to not spend your money on?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Weekly Menu

I've started planning my weekly menus from Wednesday to Tuesday instead of Sunday to Saturday. This works much better with my Wednesday or Thursday grocery trips and even a more relaxed time of the week to plan rather than cramming it into a busy weekend!

 **For weight loss and general health, we eat a diet low in grains but higher in protein, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit.  For the most part, we avoid wheat, corn, refined sugar, starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes and most processed foods. It is a work in progress--our diet isn't always perfect and we are far from eating all organic but we have both lost a good bit of weight since changing to eating this way in March of 2011 and we feel great! And for the record, we do eat a lot of brown rice and eggs and we're ok with that!**


1. Mexican chicken skillet, rice, sour cream
2. Salads with tuna, tomato soup
3. Sausage, rice and veggie skillet, roasted cabbage
4. Turkey (pre-cooked and in freezer), baked sweet potatoes, green beans
5. Eat Out
6. Finger Foods at meeting--fruit plate
7. Meeting--Salad, Italian oranges

1. Leftover ham and lentils, salads
2. Salads with chicken
3. Sausages, cucumbers and green peppers, spinach salad, cheese
4. Birthday party!!
5. Church fellowship-- Chicken broccoli rice casserole, fruit plate
6. Leftover chicken broccoli rice casserole, peas and mushrooms
7. Canned soup, hard-boiled eggs, veggies

As part of our low-grain, higher protein diet, we eat eggs almost every morning! This week, I have some sausage links on hand so we've had that with our eggs several mornings as well as some sauteed veggies some days.

It was recommended to us by our nutritionist friend to eat fruit separately from meals. This is because fruit sugars digest differently. So we try to follow this advice most of the time especially when we eat at home during the week. For this reason, our snacks are typically fruit. This week we have apples, oranges, cantaloupe, bananas and strawberries to snack on. A bit of each variety thrown into the blender today made a very tasty smoothie!

What's cooking at your house this week? 

**This post is part of Menu Plan Monday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This 'n That

  • This time change has messed me up. I don't know why it's been so rough but I have been exhausted! Maybe I need to get more sleep... I love the longer daylight though.
  • We made a quick trip to Georgia last weekend to see Andy's great-aunt. She broke her hip a couple months ago and has been declining in health. It was a good visit although not very long!
  • One of the other guests at a recent Pampered Chef party told me about a produce co-op in our area. We got our first basket this week and are very pleased with the selection and quality for the price. More on this later...
  • Baby Boy is almost one! He crawls at lightening speed, is starting to climb and can take a few steps when he desires. 
  • Toddler Girl is almost two! She has quite the personality and is talking a lot now. We understand a lot now but some days we find our interpreting skills lacking. "Wounded Cheerios" and Lego Fries" was the best we could come up with this week!  She is like a big sister to Baby Boy  and is quite the role model for him. ;-)
  • Do you have any good ideas for organizing and hanging necklaces? I have a jewelry box for earrings and other small pieces but need a better system for necklaces. Any ideas--especially something that hangs on the wall--would be appreciated. I've looked at a few ideas on Pinterest but haven't found exactly what I want yet. 
  • We've had 80 degree weather here for the past week or two. Time to switch out the clothing! My mom called me today and they had multiple inches of snow in Oregon where she lives. And it's spring!
What's going on in your life?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Toddler Activity: Sticky Collage

This is one of my favorite toddler activities ever!

All that is needed is contact paper and collage materials--anything that will stick well to the contact paper. No glue or tape needed so it's super easy for toddlers to do independently once you get it all set up for them.

Of course, no matter how independent, supervision is always advised for toddlers. Or teenagers. But teenagers will probably not be as interested in creating a sticky collage!


Tape a large piece of contact paper to the door, table, the wall or even the floor and let your little ones go to town sticking collage materials to it.

I usually use clear contact paper but any kind can be used. Clear is good if you want to carefully cover the front of the collage when it's completed.

In my years of working with toddlers, I've done many variations on this activity. This can be done with many themes or colors of collage materials and the contact paper can be cut in different shapes-- rectangles, hearts, trees, wreaths, zoo animals...

Very fun!

**For the collage on this day, we started with pieces of scrap fabric but most of them didn't stick as well to this paper, causing some frustration of the part of the toddler. So I filled a small muffin pan with small pieces of tissue paper and construction paper and this worked much better for her!**

**On a funny note: I had to stop her several times from taking the tray of fabric scraps to the trash can. She kept picking it up and saying, "Mess. Trash!" **

Lord help me!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cleaning Out The Car

Thinking of household tasks that somehow get put off indefinitely--cleaning out the car is always one of those at our house!

My excuse could be that we are a one car family and if I have the time to clean out the car, the car is gone for the day. But the real reason is that I don't like to do it!

So I put it off until I can't stand it anymore!


Since today was really nice and sunny, Toddler Girl and I went out to the car with a trash bag. We filled the whole thing up in no time at all! We also brought a small stack of things in from the car and put them away.

I had been storing two big bags of dog food in the trunk for a few weeks since we kept forgetting to bring them inside, so we brought those in too. 

Later on, I washed the windows and swept the car out.

Much better!

Could your car use a little TLC today? Or is it always squeaky clean? :-)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Soup Frozen In Muffin Tins

Just when you thought I would not find another alternative use for muffin tins, I came across this on Pinterest.

I thought this would be an excellent use for leftover soup. Especially if there's only 1 or 2 servings left.

I had an extra quart of chicken and rice soup last week so poured it into a muffin pan and froze it.

Yesterday, I popped them out and stored them all in a gallon freezer bag. Run a bit of water over the bottom of pan and they'll pop right out!

To use, just place several "soup pucks" in a mug and microwave.

I haven't actually tried the nuking in the microwave part yet but I don't see why it wouldn't work!

I'm thinking this would be a great way to have chicken soup on hand for sick season!

**And in other muffin pan news, Jessica shares how to make lemon cubes. In muffin pans!

Monday, March 12, 2012

What A Difference A Year Makes!

Recently I came across this post and noticed this picture of Toddler Girl (back when she was still Baby Girl!) a little over a year ago.

 I barely recognized that baby in the picture! So when we headed to the park today, I grabbed my camera in hopes to get a similar picture. But this time, a picture of a big girl!


Here she is at almost 2 years old already!

Where has the time gone?

Friday, March 09, 2012

A Last Pot Of Chili

March typically signals the end of soup season at our house. At least heavy hearty soups!

I asked Andy this morning if he minded having chili for dinner even though the weather has been somewhat warm.

His response: "Not at all!"

Chili is one of his favorites and it seems I don't remember to make it often enough.

As I prepared dinner, I realized that this may be one of the last pots of soup for this winter!

We'll soon be moving from heavier hot foods to lighter and cooler choices. Salads and 'cold plates' will be making more of an appearance on our table once again.

I don't have a recipe for chili. I brown a pound of ground beef and then just dump ingredients in until it looks and tastes right.

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped green pepper
  • Diced onion
  • Tomato sauce
  • Lentils
  • Pinto beans
  • Sometimes kidney beans
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic or garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Water for right consistency
 When beef is almost done cooking, I like to throw the peppers and onions in with it and let them saute a few minutes. Combine all ingredients with cooked ground beef. Bring to boil on stove and then turn heat down to lowish and let simmer for an hour or so.  Or cook it in the crockpot like I did. Turn on high for 1-2 hours and then on low for 3-4.

Don't you love my exactness? :-)

Serve with cheese, sour cream and green onions for garnish. I had some fresh avocado, on sale at Bi-Lo this week, which we sliced and ate on our organic baby lettuces, also on sale this week!


What springtime foods are you looking forward to eating?

    Tuesday, March 06, 2012


    Today, I had "scrubbing the high chair and booster seat" on my list as a chore to do during nap time. It's one of those tasks I tend to put off and we all know how awful those chairs get if not scrubbed down often!

    I like to use dish detergent and warm water in a spray bottle for this task. Just spray it on, let it soak for a  minute, then wipe down with a wet rag.

    But my spray bottle wouldn't work for me today so I dumped the soapy water into a bucket and just scrubbed with a rag. This worked just as well!

    A toothbrush specifically set aside for cleaning works wonders for cleaning edges, corners and any other spot that needs extra friction to get the job done!

    The high chair and booster seat looked so nice and shiny after just a few minutes of scrubbing that I decided to go ahead and wash down our table and chairs while I was at it.

    Nice and clean!

    What have you been putting off that you can do today?

    Monday, March 05, 2012

    Expensive Free-Range Chicken Challenge

    We were totally excited to discover that our grass-fed beef source was now also offering free-range chickens. I ordered two with my recent beef order to try them out.

    These birds are BIG. Of the two I purchased, one was 6 pounds and the other 8 pounds. At $3.00 a pound, this means that these chickens average about $20 each. The health benefits and superior quality are totally worth the price of course, and we feel that making strides towards purchasing as much local grass-fed and free-range meat as possible is important. But still... yikes!

    I took the 6 pounder out of the freezer a couple weeks ago and decided to challenge myself to getting at least 6 different meals out of this expensive bird. Six low-grain, healthy meals.

    Hmmm... could I do it?

    Well, I do love me a good personal challenge! So I cooked up that chicken, and kept notes on a slip of paper hanging on my fridge so I could remember the details of how I used it.

    Here are my notes and how this challenge played out. I share this in hopes it will be an encouragement and give some fresh ideas for stretching your grocery budget!

    Goal: 6 meals for the 2 of us from one chicken.
    Chicken details: 6 pounds; approx. $20.

    Meal #1: Rotisserie-style crockpot chicken served with baked sweet potatoes and steamed green beans.
    Amount of meat used: Each of us had two moderate portions. Conservative but not stingy. Meaning we were well-fed!

    After this meal, I picked every little bit of chicken off the bones and stored it away in the refrigerator. Also drained off the cooking broth and saved that in a jar. The juices from the Rotisserie-style chicken makes the BEST gravy. The bones were also set aside for making homemade chicken broth.

    Note: We did not eat all these chicken meals one right after the other. Although it probably wouldn't bother us that much!

    Meal #2: Chicken gravy, green bean and rice casserole served with broccoli.
    Amount of meat used: A generous cup chopped chicken plus approximately 2 cups pan juices from cooking the chicken.

    To make gravy: Melt 1/4 cup butter over low heat and whisk in 3 T. flour. When smooth and bubbly, slowly add broth, stirring constantly and cooking until thickened. Milk can also be added, if desired.

    To make casserole: Combine gravy, chopped chicken, cooked green beans(leftover from Meal #1) and approx. 3 cups cooked brown rice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread into greased 9 inch square baking dish. Top with a little reserved gravy, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.
    This casserole made enough for 2 meals. 

    Meal #3: Chicken and Broccoli Crustless Quiche served with tomato soup. (Broccoli leftover from Meal #2.)
    Amount of meat used: 1 cup.
    One meal plus 2 slices leftover. 

    Meal #4: Chicken Patties served with sweet potato fries.
    I used this recipe for salmon patties substituting chicken for the salmon. I left out bread crumbs and added 2 eggs instead of one. Also added some finely chopped onion and celery.
    Amount of meat used: 2 cups finely chopped chicken.
    One meal--every bite was gobbled up!

    Meal #5: Vegetable stir fry with chicken served with rice.
    I used a variety of vegetables I had on hand--broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bell pepper--and seasoned with soy sauce, salt and garlic powder.
    Amount of meat used: 1 scant cup.
    One meal plus one lunch portion leftover.

    Can we make it to 6 different meals? Let's see...I have only 1 1/2 cups of chopped chicken left.

    Oh wait... remember those bones we saved? Let's throw those into the crockpot overnight and turn them into chicken broth! Then we can make soup.

    Meal #6: Lentil and Chicken Soup served over rice.
    Amount of meat used: 1 cup chicken plus 2 quarts broth.
    Used lentils, onion, canned tomatoes, celery, 1 quart water, spices.
    One pot of soup made enough for 3 meals!

    Yay! I made it to 6 meals!

    But wait... what's that lurking in the fridge? 

    Another 1/2 cup chicken plus 1 cup broth!

    What can I make with that?

    Meal #7: Baked rice with chicken and veggies added in.
    Amount of meat used: 1/2 cup chicken plus 1 cup broth used as part of the liquid.
    Made enough for 2 meals-- one shared with friends and enough for another meal for the 2 of us.

    Verdict: 11 meals plus several small leftover portions!

    Disclaimer: This was for a family of 2 healthy eaters. A family of 4 with smaller appetites may be able to come close to equaling this. Otherwise, tweak to fit your family and individual needs and tastes. A whole chicken is a great way to stretch your grocery dollars as it can usually be made to last several meals!

    How do YOU stretch a chicken? 

    Friday, March 02, 2012

    Celebrating The Ordinary Days

    Life is just so daily. 
    Mary Engelbreit

    In the spirit of celebrating the ordinary, the mundane, the daily.... I'm sharing pictures from one day last week. I enjoy getting a peek into the routines and lives of other homemakers; maybe you'd like a glimpse of mine. 
    On this day...

    The little ones were here.
    Rag wreath info here.

    Like I said, the littles were here!:-)

    Laundry soap was made. 
    Doesn't the grated Fels Naptha bar soap look like cheese?

    My "personal shopper" made a CVS run for me to pick up a few good deals. 
    He even used some rain checks and coupons!

    Toddler Girl loves wearing my shoes around the house. 
    Love the dolly blanket hanging down here!

    What ordinary simple moments are you treasuring today?

    Thursday, March 01, 2012

    What's For Lunch? Meatza!

    It's been nearly a year since we started on a serious diet change which eliminated most grains, especially wheat, starches, sugar and processed foods.  It's been almost that long since we've had homemade pizza. Which is something we ate a couple times per month previously.

    We still do eat pizza and some other carbs occasionally but that is typically when dining in the company of other people.

    We've made adjustments to a lot of sandwich and bread type meals and haven't looked back. Want  a burger? Eat it bunless! Want a sandwich? Try a lettuce wrap! Or eat deli meats and cheeses plain without the bread. Sloppy joes are delicious on rice with lots of toppings. Taco meat and fixings can be made into a salad forgoing the tortillas and taco shells.

    But pizza... it just isn't the same to eat the toppings without the crust. And wouldn't that be sort of like soup?

    So I was we were excited when I ran across this recipe idea for Meatza, a pizza with a meat crust!

    This was the first time trying it out. I didn't have bacon on hand so left that out. I added Italian seasoning and some onion powder to the meat/egg mixture and topped our Meatza with green peppers and green olives.

    Can you say, "Delicious!" It was awesome. And I'm quite impressed that it did indeed look like a pizza coming out of the oven and the meat crust held its shape when cutting and serving.

    Like. Like. Like.

    We are Meatza fans!