Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Bare Essentials Challenge: Weekly Recap

First, I just want to say that I'm in a much better place today.  Which is definitely a good thing :).

As soon as my husband got home last night I used the, "We need to talk" line on him (which I HATE, but didn't know how else to say it).  I had thought for hours on what I needed to do to help my peace of mind and my sanity and finally decided what to do.  I told him that I just plain can't do the financial book end of things for a while.  I need a break.  I have gotten to an OCD point with trying so hard to save money that I'm obsessing about dollars and cents to an extreme.  I started realizing this was a problem when I sat down and figured out on paper how much money I'd save per cup of coffee if I switched from half and half to milk (8.2 cents for anyone interested).  My quality of sleep, what sleep I could get with my son in the house, sucked.  I was dreaming of money problems on top of living them in my daily life.  I was cracking after 15 years of being at constant war with our finances.  So, I told my husband that he had to take over for a while.

And he was okay with it, thank goodness.  It was such a relief that he's willing to do just the looking at the bank and figuring out how to make bills end of it.  I am just going to ask for a certain amount per week in an allowance and save money that way and then pay the bills as he tells me that we have the money to do it.  I just need relief from that added stress that much.

I slept better than I have in YEARS last night as a result and feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I know we're still broke, we still need to stretch every penny and have the same problems, but I don't feel like I'm going to be doing it alone now.  Honestly, this might work out well (I'm nervous, but hopeful) as my husband plays things WAY more tight when it comes to money than I do naturally as men, it seems, are more risk takers than women are, so who knows, having another set of eyes and a different mind set might get our bills paid down quicker.  Only time will tell.  And at least this way I won't be obsessing over every penny my husband is spending.  I've always been able to live within a budget if someone sets it for me, starting back from when I was a kid and my mom would let me do the grocery shopping because she knew she could give me a number and I'd make that budget work come anything and everything.  And hopefully, once we get the first set of bills out of the way at the beginning of the year right now I'll be able to start saving money with my little allowance and help to pay bills off that way, too.

So, anyway, the Bare Essentials living began this week as I was able to get bread flour on my regular grocery budget last week (and recharged my phone all according to plan...nice when things work out like that) and figured I might as well start as there is no time like the present.

So, here's a break down of some of the things I used from the pantry and freezer or as I like to call it, "Adventures in Frugality" (this sounds MUCH cooler if you imagine it said with an echo bar going in your head...just saying ;).

1.  First was enchilada night.  I only have so much cheddar cheese in the house right now and picking up more, unless cheese goes on sale cheap here in the next bit, could take up to 1/4 of my weekly grocery allotment, so I wanted to make the cheese stretch as much as I could.  So, I dug around the freezer, knowing that I had some blocks of cheese in there somewhere, and found cheese wayyyyyy in the back that had been moved from our previous house with us it turns out (I kept saving it in case we needed it and didn't realize exactly how much time had passed).  And was old...

It survived in it's original package alright though.  No freezer burn could be seen through the package, so I defrosted it to see what would happen.

I was a BIT worried as it shrank in the package a bit when it defrosted, but when I opened it no freezer funk smell met my nose and there wasn't any weird spots or anything on the cheese.  So, I cut off 1/2 the block and crumbled it as a base cheese layer for the enchiladas.

Here's a shot of the enchiladas before they went in the oven...

How did it taste?  Well, I can safely say that the cheese could stand in well for feta in dishes as it became REALLY sharp over time (which I'm wondering if a lot of that was due to the loss of moisture from being in the freezer for so long, but I'm not sure).  The enchiladas weren't bad and the cheese melted alright, but the cheese was potent.  I am thinking of using what is left of the cheese in pasta salad or something to use it up.  It's good, but sharp.

Oh and by the way, I've tried about fifteen different ways to store cheese where it wouldn't mold on me very quickly and this is the best method I've found.   I wrap the plastic from the cheese over the exposed end of cheese, take some plastic wrap and place over the exposed end too and then secure it with a large hair elastic.  I haven't had my cheese mold on me even when I have it stored for weeks at a time in the fridge this way and it does keep the end moist too.

2.  While digging through the freezer I looked through the breads that my sister-in-law had been nice enough to give us a while back and discovered a bag of hamburger buns.  I took them out, some whole wheat English muffins and some rye bread for different things, figuring that I'd give my son the hot dog buns for a meal.

Unfortunately I looked at the back of the bag and discovered the dreaded peanut cross contamination, but not before my son saw the hamburger buns.  He LOVES hotdog and hamburger buns, so I quickly had to think of a way to use them up that he would not want to touch.  The buns were freezer burned quite a bit too, so that added to the equation.  But, I didn't want to throw the buns away, so I sat down and thought for a moment.

Enter bread pudding...

My husband has been eating it for dessert all week happy as a clam while I ate the chocolate rice pudding just as happily *laugh*.

3.  I was planning on trying to make cinnamon rolls today (one of my happy foods), but looking at recipes and such and my stores I quickly realize that the amount of butter it takes to make cinnamon rolls was not going to work for me as I have four and a half pounds of butter left and didn't feel like wasting half a pound on cinnamon rolls.

 So, I decided to make cinnamon swirl bread instead.  This way I could use margarine in the bread instead of butter but still get a butter flavor and still get the cinnamon flavor I'm craving.  I accidentally used bread flour instead of AP flour in the recipe (luckily it still came out okay).

The recipe calls for milk, and I didn't want to use our fresh milk if I could help it to make the bread as I'm trying to stretch the milk as far as it will go during the week.  So, I went into the pantry and grabbed one of the boxes of milk I had in there instead....
The milk will be used for baking if it's in the box for the time being.  I'm planning on making pancakes for dinner tonight (flub up on pulling meat out of the freezer to defrost in time for fried chicken tonight), so the milk will be used for that as well.

I also pulled out a block of cream cheese from the freezer in case I got a hankering for cinnamon swirl bread with cream cheese on it.  The freezer changes the texture of cream cheese, just like any cheese, but I find it tastes just fine out of the freezer and it really isn't an issue for me.

So there you are folks.  Some of the things I've been going through on the culinary front this week.  Anything interesting happen on your end this week?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Edited)

EDIT:  Right *cracks neck*, now that I got the pity party off of my chest, I read back through what I wrote, got a good idea of some underlying issues and am working on those.  I'll follow up with that in the future, but I removed said pity party for now.  I need to get into a more positive frame of mind and I'll definitely work on that.  Sorry for laying personal stuff on you all.

So onto the money saving stuff for the week!

1.  I realized quickly this week that there wasn't going to be fabric to fix the love seat anytime in our near future and the love seat developed some holes, so it was "Make Do and Mend" week here at the Make Do Homemaker household.  I went through my fabric and found some black fake leather we'd bought to repair my husband's recliner or something a while ago and after I measured it up I figured it would be close enough.  My fingertips, I think, are pretty much gone right now from the sheer amount of times I poked myself (those are big patches), but it's done for better or worse.  Not the best looking love seat in the world, but at least it doesn't have holes.

Here's how it looked before...
And here's how it looked after...
It's an improvement anyway.  Another shot of it in it's "now final state" is up top.

2.  I kept within my significantly reduced grocery budget this week.  Extra ways I saved money in that way:  I walked away from some reduced half and half and some reduced corn flakes.  I normally try to take half and half in my coffee, but I realize that we can't really afford that right now, so I've been drinking milk in my coffee instead.  I'm trying to work myself into drinking coffee black, but just haven't been able to get there yet.  The corn flakes I kind of wanted for cereal (obviously) and for breading and things for baking, but I realized that I didn't need them and I just put them back in the reduced bin.

3.  I took 6 dollars out of ten dollars from my birthday money early in the week and bought my son three pairs of jeans at the used store in his size and the next size up.  I've been trying to jam his extra long waist into the smaller pants sizes and it just plain wasn't working and the kiddo was constantly having to pull his pants up.  Hopefully the new pants will fit him better and do him for a while.

4.  The days the kids were sick I (obviously) didn't go anywhere, so that saved money.

5.  I've kept on top of my cleaning schedule and efforts to save on utilities when I'm here alone.  By putting the heat down during the day and at night just on this month's bill, even with 5 days added on before the meter read, our bill was down 40.00 below what it normally is this time of year.  At least THAT effort is working well so far.  Wish the electric bill would start going down more, but we'll have to wait and see on that.

6.  I've been re-watching Wartime Farm on You Tube and am thinking about watching the other farm series that the group who did Wartime Farm did.  It's entertaining and also helps to inspire me to find news ways to make do watching wartime living.

7.  I had some food money saving things, but I'll save that for the Bare Essentials weekly recap over the weekend.  Food usage gets interesting when you're broke.

8.  I loaded coupons onto my shopping cards and shopped from a priced list to make the most of my money this week.

9.  I cooked dinner at home, sick or not, all week long, and stuck stubbornly to my menu plan.

10.  I used warm up water from the shower, collecting it in my scrub bucket, and used that with a squirt of soap to wash the floors.

11.  I made a big pot of soup early in the week that my husband and my daughter didn't want to eat, so I've been eating it all week for lunch.  It definitely worked out to be a cheap lunch alternative (I love soup that way).

And there you are folks.  Some ways I saved money this week.  How did you do? 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Bare Essentials Challenge: This Week's Grocery Shopping Trip

As part of the "Bare Essentials" Challenge, I knew that I would have to post up pics of my grocery shopping to help keep myself accountable for what I'm spending.  I normally try to shop for the following week on Friday, but this week I had to run in to Palmer to drop a time sensitive piece of mail off at the post office, so to get the most out of my gas and time I just picked up groceries while I was there.

I'm aiming for 50.00 or less spending on groceries per week during this challenge, so we'll see how I do as time goes on.

How I do my grocery shopping is this.  I'll figure out what I need/want to get between Fred Meyer and Carrs (our Safeway affiliate) because they are within a block of each other where I shop.  I then sit down with the ads for both stores, figure out what sales, if any, will help me out for that week and then I'll cost out sale items line item wise on my shopping list, estimate my regular shopping items (usually at non-sale prices just to be safe) and allow myself wiggle room in my 50.00 for milk later in the week and such.

So, between the two stores, what I got is above.

To break down what I bought...

Fred Meyer:

The Uncle Ben's Flavored Grains and the popcorn were free with E-Coupon freebie downloads (thanks again for the freebies, Stephanie!).  The cat food I needed, but I found that a couple types were on discount for .34 a can.  So, I bought a couple more cans than I had scoped on my shopping list, which still wasn't bad.   The Pringles are normally 2.00 or more per can pretty much everywhere anymore, but they were on sale for 1.79 a can, so I got two to put in my son's school lunches next week instead of Cheetos for a change for him.

All totaled I spent 6.26 at Fred Meyer.


My son has been blowing through Coke the last bit because he's always demanding fresh, so I end up buying a ridiculous amount of soda, a good portion of which goes down the drain.  Carrs has Coke on sale this week that if you buy 5 2-Liter bottles you get them for 1.49 per bottle.  For Alaska this is an excellent price.  I had originally planned to get 10, but decided against it as I didn't feel the need to stock up ridiculously on Coke.  I found, though, when I went to check out that the two "odd man out" bottles I got actually did ring up for 1.49 too along with the other five.  It was a cool find.

The ginger ale was .99 for the bottle after E-Coupon.  I've been battling a sore throat this week and my husband fought a stomach bug one day, so we drank the bottle of 7-Up I had in the pantry.  I bought the ginger ale to replace the 7-Up.  I actually bought this separately from the rest of my groceries, believe it or not, and used my very small amount of pocket change (now 1.25 left.  This is what is left of the birthday money my family sent to me that I kept 10.00 of for personal use.  I'm ridiculously scroogy when it comes to cash) to pay for it.  I felt less guilty that way as I really didn't feel like it was part of regular groceries, but more of a luxury item.

The Doritos I had a personalized price on for like 3.32 per bag.  Still kind of ridiculous for chips, but my son will eat them, so I just choke on the price as I put them in the cart.

The diapers were 9.49 after a 2.00/1 E-Coupon was applied.  Noticed the price on diapers went up and adjusted my mental cost book accordingly.

The flavored water was kind of depressing as I had an E-Coupon to get the water for free at Fred Meyer.  I checked three different stores and none of them carry it anymore, so I ended up buying it, like usual at Carrs.  I put these in my daughter's lunch instead of juice boxes as they keep her better hydrated.  3.49 for the six pack.

The eggs were a really cool circumstance.  I have found that the Jumbo eggs at Carrs are MUCH better at staying fresh than the large eggs and they are really reasonable in price, if you can find them in stock.  They are normally 2.49 a dozen, but as I was checking out a cashier was walking by to put some cheese back someone didn't want and it had a coupon stuck on it for 1.00/1 Lucerne product on it.  Without saying a word to me, she double checked the coupon, tore it off the cheese bag and stuck it onto my eggs.  That was so very cool of her that I can't even begin to say how awesome she was for doing that.  I'm going to be sure to get her name totally right the next time I go in and write a nice letter to corporate about her.  She's always a wonderful cashier that goes above and beyond the call of duty :).

So, to make a long story short (too late, I know) I spent a total of 36.43 at Carrs (plus the .99 I spent out of pocket change, but I'm not counting that on the groceries) after taxes.

Total for the week so far:  42.69

This should give me enough left to get two gallons of regular priced milk later in the week and still be right around 50.00 total for the week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How to Implement (and Keep on Top of) a Cleaning Schedule: Real World Style

Pinterest is a wonderful resource.  It's also, in my opinion, the root of all evil when it comes to unrealistic expectations on what your home should look like.

"Clean Your Home in Two Hours"
"A Easy to Do Cleaning Schedule"
"It Slices! It Dices! It Will Clean Your House in 20 Minutes!"

Okay, so I might have made up the last one there.  Really, though, look at your feed on Pinterest just ONCE after typing in "Cleaning Schedule" and you'll be deluged with beautiful, immaculate, pristine homes with pictures that guarantee your home will look exactly like that if you follow their cleaning schedule.  So, you look at the dirty floor, the dirty dishes, the piles and piles of laundry and think, "Wow, my home can look like that?  I'll give it a shot!"

Forty cleaning schedules later through loads of different websites and your home is still a mess and you're just discouraged with life in general.

So, I am here to give you some imput on what worked for me to get a cleaning schedule in place and how I'm keeping my house clean.

Let me make this perfectly clear, though.  This post is not about making your home "Pottery Barn, Pinterest, Pristine, Pretty Perfection" (say that five times fast.  I dare you ;).  Nope, this is how I am keeping my house CLEAN, nothing more.

So, allow me to wow you with an epiphany I had one day a couple of weeks ago as I was, once again, reading through cleaning schedules to try and find some miracle that would help me out with getting my house cleaned and keeping it that way.  Warning:  I'm about to wreck some people's illusions and wreck some people's days, so ahead of time I apologize.

Right?  Ready.  Here's the breakthrough.
A cleaning schedule isn't going to help you get your house clean.  It will help you keep that house clean ONCE it's clean.
And this was a real "duh" moment for me, trust me.  I'd tried so many systems and would do the whole "2 hour speed clean" method and the "do a load of laundry from start to finish" method and loads of others and my house was still a mess no matter how hard I tried.  And then it dawned on me that these systems just weren't going to get the house clean.

So, step one for me in my new "system" is this...

1.  Clean your house from top to bottom, including dusting even if you can.
This is ground zero from which your cleaning schedule is going to work, so get your house as clean as you want it to be before you start.  Like me?  This time of year I could not care less if my windows have finger prints on them because we still have so little light, so I just left the windows to do later on (an extra chore to add to my daily list later).  I did, however, dust the ceiling fans as that, I feel, IS important with my children's allergies.

How do you accomplish this monumental task?  Well, if you're me you work like a demon for about a week straight to get things as clean as possible and yell at anyone who makes the house a mess again (Disclaimer:  This process MIGHT make you grumpy *ahem*).

Got children?  Make them work.  Whether they like it or not.  My daughter vacuumed my upstairs and cleaned her room with lots of argument, but she did it.  My son even cleaned up blocks with some help from me to show him how, but he did it.

Have others who can help?  A husband who can help split the work, a friend who will work for a meal and companionship?  Someone else?

Can you afford a maid service to come in and clean the house for you if you don't have time?  I know that sounds counter productive in a way, but at this point anything to get your home to ground zero clean is the goal, so if you have the money to do it and don't feel like you can accomplish it without it, do it!
Right, so once you get the house recovered/cleaned up, the rest is actually relatively easy.

2.  Set your goals on what is important to you when it comes to a clean house.
I read on a lot of cleaning schedules to never leave dirty dishes in the sink.  Right, this I would fail at.  Once my husband is home and we eat dinner my family likes to spend time together.  Dinner dishes, if I do them immediately, tends to make the husband think that I don't want to spend time watching a movie or whatever family time we have and he'll go down to the bedroom and play on the computer.  The kids will take off to parts unknown in the house and I'll have a pristine sink, but no family time.  To heck with that.

I do the previous night's dishes the next morning after breakfast.  This, I've found, gives me pretty much a load of dishes in the dishwasher right on the money with a few dishes to wash by hand (sometimes).  I was doing dishes by hand, but found that the savings not using it were minuscule, so I just started using it again (the rubber gasket fell off the other day completely, but it's still working okay, so we'll see how that goes).  This process is one that a lot of people dread, but have you ever timed yourself doing it?  I timed myself for three days straight and was able to unload and reload the dishwasher in 10 minutes.  And that's with having to wash a few dishes by hand.  That is not long at all to get your dishes done for the day.

Before breakfast I strip the table cloth off the table, take it outside and shake it and then throw it into one of the children's hampers to remind me to haul it downstairs to wash.  I then switch it out with a clean one for the day.

After the kids are off to school (on weekdays obviously) or are done with breakfast and I have the dishes on to wash, I then go through the kid's rooms and grab their dirty clothes from the day before, the dirty tablecloth and my son's bedding (because he usually toasts it by morning) and head downstairs.  I grab my husband's and my dirty clothes from our hamper and just wash all of the clothes from the day before together minus the tablecloth and bedding (which is my second load).  While they are washing (usually takes about 20 minutes or so), I pull out the vacuum and do my downstairs (where the laundry room is) and quickly sweep the laundry and the bathroom.  By this time the laundry is ready to switch over and I'll throw my son's bedding into the washer, set the alarm to let me know when the dryer is done on the dryer, fold the laundry (putting away my husband's and my clothes while I'm at it) and head upstairs.  I put the children's clothes away and put toys in the rooms where they belong and clean up any bigger garbage off the floors. 

I quickly sweep my kitchen and bathroom and then vacuum the upstairs, sweeping down the stairs if I need to (which is usually about every three days or so).  When the dryer beeps I either fold the bedding and put it away (if I switched the bedding) or I put it onto my son's bed.
And voila!  I'm done for the day.  This is when I'll add dusting or cleaning closets or deep cleaning bathrooms to my list for the day if I need to.

This seems like a lot of work to read it, but seriously it's not.  I am now done with my housework for the day in about an hour to an hour and a half.  And that's with changing my son's bed every day.

So, let me walk you through what I do to make my house clean (not pristine remember) every day.

1.  Son's Room
  • Floors cleaned of surface toys and vacuumed (the toys are not necessarily put in a perfect location or anything).
  • Bed changed and made for the day (I found making the beds just makes the rooms look better and keeps things a bit cleaner.  Just a personal preference on my part).
  • Dirty clothes washed and clean clothes put away.
2.  Daughter's Room
  • Bed made. 
  • Dirty clothes washed
  • Clean clothes put away
You'll notice the mess.  That's because my daughter cleans her floor when she gets home from school before I vacuum it.  She throws a fit, but I feel it's important that she do for herself.  She also cleans it before bed, which shows you how well and how quickly children mess up their rooms *laugh*.

3.  Kitchen
  • Clean dishes from the day before put away.
  • Dirty dishes cleaned.
  • Floor swept
  • Tablecloth switched out for new and clean
  • Dish towel switched out for new (if needed)
  • Counters washed down.
You'll notice some clutter.  This is how my kitchen looks from day to day.  No sugar coating here.  Remember, clean, but not pristine.

4.  Living Room and Den (den not pictured)

Floor de-cluttered and vacuumed and throw pillows and throws put back onto furniture (my son is busy).
Piles of books and other things hopefully more securely stacked so they won't fall over (set the bar low so you can stumble over it, I say ;).

The master bedroom still has some trouble areas I'm tackling as the days go by, but it's slowly coming together.  I'm overall very happy with the house.

So, there you are folks.  My real life, every day, cleaning schedule and how I'm keeping my house clean.  Good luck with yours!

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 1/25/16

It's "comfort food week" here on The Make Do Homemaker as I am officially not feeling well, my husband is really tired (not a good sign) and the kids are still fighting their colds.  So, my family is going to LOVE me as we eat things like soup (which my husband and daughter both don't care for) as I try to get us all back on our feet again.

So, onto this week's menu!

Menu for Week of 1/25/16
Monday:  Enchiladas (didn't make this last week as we ended up having ham one night with the ham I got cheap before I sliced it up), Spanish Rice

Tuesday:  Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup (crock pot)

Wednesday:  Pork steaks with pantry friendly fig sauce, green beans, rice

Thursday:  Lemon herb chicken, leftover rice, peaches

Friday:  Noodle Bowl Night

Saturday:  Fried Chicken, pasta salad, baked beans

Sunday:  Ham and Beans

To Bake:  Bread

Desserts:  Chocolate Rice Pudding (this stuff is awesome and pantry friendly), bread pudding, leftover muffins

Monday, January 25, 2016

The "Bare Essentials" Challenge: The Main Menu Options

Well, so much for my dental appointment tomorrow.  Between my daughter sneezing all over me the last two days (seriously?  It's like you raise children in a barn the way they act sometimes.  Geez!) and my son sneezing on me among other things, I woke up this morning with a sore throat that has quickly gotten worse as the day progresses and I've got the "getting a cold" ucky feeling.  So, I had to cancel my dental appointment until I'm feeling better.  So, there's one anxiety that can continue to haunt me for a while *sigh*.

Anyway, onto the point of the post.

I've been asked (by some people I know locally) a bunch of questions when it was found out that we've had to live off our food storage, mainly about how we went about doing it.  Sounds like an odd series of questions to ask, but I get what they are saying.  I mean you have a pile of food stuffs staring at you, but how do you translate that into meals from day to day?

My advice is this.  Go through what you have.  Make a list of everything you have (no you don't have to write down exact numbers if you don't want to be that OCD), so you know where to start.  Then, figure out what your family will eat, what they might eat and so forth and then figure out how to translate what you have into what you can use.

A BIG help when you need to live off what you have is, I have found anyway, to make a main "Menu List" of basic items to give you ideas in the lean times ahead.  You'll get an idea of what I mean here in a minute.

So, here is the main menu list that I'll be referring back to for inspiration in the coming months for my weekly menu plan.  This took some planning on my part as I wanted a list that was lengthy, to give me ideas, but also realistic in the items I came up with so my family would, you know, eat them!

  • Blueberry Muffins (dried blueberries)
  • Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
  • Chocolate Chip Muffins
  • Cranberry Orange Muffins (dried candied peel, dried cranberries)
  • Pennsylvania Dutch Muffins
  • Rhubarb Concentrate Poppyseed Muffins
Crepes (fillings for)
  • Jam
  • Ham and Cheese
  • Cream Cheese and Jelly/Jam
  • Cinnamon Sugar and Melted Butter
  • Chocolate and Rehydrated Fruit
  • Blintz type application
  • Canned fruit
  • Same as crepes for fillings.
  • Maple Syrup or Blueberry syrup on top
  • Layer pancakes with filling in between for a kind of cake application
  • Dutch Baby/Puffed Pancake
  • White
  • Whole Wheat
  • Cinnamon Sugar
  • Cinnamon Swirl (from Cinnamon Swirl Bread)
  • Egg in a hole
  • French 
  • Eggs Benedict on toast instead of an English muffin
Granola:  Can be used as cereal, a snack, on top of yogurt

  • Steel cut oats/porridge (not many left)
  • Rolled Oats, as oatmeal or cookies
  • Quick Oats, microwave oatmeal or baked oatmeal
Cinnamon Rolls/Orange Rolls:
  • Yeast raised
  • Biscuit based
  • Bread and Jam
  • Peanut Butter/WOW Butter and Jelly/Jam
  • Ham Salad sandwiches
  • Tuna sandwiches
  • Egg Salad sandwiches
Beef a Roni
Dinners (Meats to Use):
Chicken (whole, thighs, drumsticks)
Turkey (1)
Ham (1 whole, 1 sliced)
Pork (steaks, one large shoulder roast that can be cut up, loin chops)
Ribs (beef, very few)
Fish (some)
Beans (substitute for meat)
Canned Meats:
  • Beef
  • Pork 
  • Chicken
  • Spam
  • Crab
  • Shrimp (not much)
Side Dishes:
Green Beans
Frozen Vegetables
Rice dishes
Mashed potatoes
Potatoes Au Gratin
French Fries/Tatar Tots
Beans (various)
Spiced and candied nuts
Crackers (see crackers list), with cheese, meat or jam
Bread and butter/jam
Iced Tea
Rhubarb Concentrate (reconstituted)
Juice (various, from pantry)
Hot Chocolate
Soda (primarily for son)
White with bread flour
Whole Wheat (grind wheat)
White with all purpose flour (requires milk.  Use powdered)
Cinnamon Swirl (made with white all purpose flour recipe)
Corn Bread/Corn dabs
Cinnamon/Orange Rolls
Nun's Puffs
Soda Crackers
Branch Bread
Graham Crackers (pantry)
Oat Cakes
Ice Cream (while it lasts)
Pancakes/Crepes with Sweet fillings
S'mores (use chocolate chips instead of chocolate bars)
And, of course, "Things as I come up with them/other" could be added onto each category *laugh*.

The "Bare Essentials" Challenge: An Introduction

So, you read online all the time how you should create a stockpile of food storage for the lean times.  And then you watch things on hoarders and think, "Really?  Does this even make sense?  Why would you want to stockpile food?"

Well folks, here's a good start for you as I'm going to be documenting what it's like to actually live off of a working stockpile for as long as I can.  A "living lesson" as it were.  This isn't due to my husband being unemployed at the moment,which I've been there in the past, but because we desperately need to save money to use towards bills.  Basic situation we're in right now is that yes, we were able to pay off debt last year despite a lot of financial problems, but to do it we're also down to 13.00 in savings and are living very very VERY tight and hand to mouth right now.  So, once again, I'm in the depressing situation of having to live off the stockpile I have painstakingly built up over the last year by using my grocery budget to it's fullest extent.

So, before I officially started this period on our lives, I thought I'd quickly take some pictures of my stockpile so you'll be able to see how it changes over time as we live off of it.  Now this is JUST my stockpile.  I am not counting what is in my cupboards right this moment or what is in my fridge or the freezer attached to said fridge.

So, here you are folks.  A quick photo tour.

First is a shot of the pantry when you first walk in.  This picture does not include a subscribe and save order that I budgeted with some of this month's grocery budget.  That order will include coffee, a container of powdered country gravy mix and a container of chicken gravy mix.   Exciting, I know, but I started brainstorming and realized I can actually do quite a bit with the mixes.

Now also note:  This is a challenge built on my own personal set of circumstances.  You are going to see processed foods in these photos no matter what because that is what my son will currently eat regularly.  I refuse to not buy these for him as he would starve without them (and no, I'm not kidding), so no matter what my normal grocery shopping is going to have to include Cheetos, Doritos and the like until we can get him further in feeding therapy.  It's just the way it is.  But, I am going to be dialing in EXACTLY how much chips he goes through in a week and only keep that much in the house with an extra bag of each "just in case" (we have to worry about shipping delays and dock workers strikes and things, so it just pays to be cautious).

Below are some of my five gallon buckets of flours and rice.  I have another five gallon bucket with sugar and all purpose flour upstairs in my hallway closet to make it easier on me when I have to refill my containers in the kitchen.

My buckets full of white beans and black beans.  I bought these in bulk years ago from the LDS cannery and they are still going strong.

Boxes of home canned goods.  They are still doing well so far.  I'm seeing a lot of bread and jam in my future for lunches.

Canned and dried goods continue around the corner.  Behind the flats there in front is some more canned veggies and fruits on the metal shelf behind.  They are getting kind of thin, but we have frozen veggies in the freezer and honestly other than canned potatoes and canned green beans we don't use a lot of the canned vegetables.

Canned meats, soups and bulk flats of canned tomatoes and fruits are in this area (the condiment shelf is off tot he right there with the exception of a milk shelf on top).  On the shelf on the left is where I'm keeping dried fruits and veggies and baking supplies (thus the container of chocolate chips and brown sugar).  I also have some containers of nuts on the shelf itself and off to the right there (ran out of room on the shelf).

And here's a shot of the inside of our standing freezer.  It's basically all chicken and pork with a bit of fish and beef scattered throughout.  The third shelf down is basically a ham and a turkey with what is left of the home made apple sauce and apple pie filling I made jammed in around them *laugh*.

The bottom drawer area (which you can't really see that well) contains more margarine, a few small containers of beef ribs and my frozen vegetables.

So, there you are folks.  This is what I have to start to work with.  So, let's see where this challenge takes us!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

 Well, this week was a productive one on the getting goals done front.

1.  I managed to get the house cleaned, the floors scrubbed, the laundry caught up and I started to implement a cleaning schedule.  It works and I'm super happy with it so far!

2.  I continued to take inventory of the pantry and have that much better of an idea of what I have in it.

3.  I did not get any of my sewing goals done this last week, but have found that I didn't need to make some dish towels even with having to get rid of ratty ones due to the fact that keeping on top of laundry has made it so we always have clean dish towels.  Definitely a secondary bonus to getting a cleaning schedule in place.  The rest of the goals will hopefully get implemented this week, but the kids came down with colds, so we'll see how it goes.

4.  I did make chocolate chip muffins, but still haven't gotten the granola made (this is HOPEFULLY on the list for tomorrow if the kids go to school).  Instead of beignets I decided to make lemon poppyseed muffins instead using The Prudent Homemaker's recipe.The muffins are yummy, but I didn't grease my muffin tins well enough so some of them stuck on the bottom.  Ah well, they still taste good (seen above).

5.  I started to go through my cookbooks and started pulling the ones that I don't use, but I haven't finished that task.

And now onto this week's goals:
1.  Accomplish some of the sewing goals from last week.

2.  Finish pantry inventory.  Take inventory of freezers to get a good idea of what I'm going to be living on for the next bit.

3.  Make granola.

4.  Finish going through cookbooks.  Put aside ones I'm not using.

5.  Go through son's clothing and pull any that are too small for him.  Place aside to donate.

6.  Clean up china cabinet and get it reorganized.  Do the same with children's closets (some things fell in the earthquake last night.  So tomorrow is clean up day).

7.  Pray that my dentist appointment on Tuesday goes well (I have a cap that is coming loose and they want to do x-rays.  I haven't been to the dentist in four years so I'm more than a little bit nervous about this since I can't afford to do much of anything).
I'm calling that good on the goal front for this week as the rest of the goals for the week are revolving around the "Bare Essentials Challenge" (finalizing lists and the like) I'm starting soon.  I'll get more into that later in the week.

How about you?  Up to anything this week?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Tired of seeing pictures of groceries yet?  *Laugh* Sorry about that, but I've been mainly busy cleaning this week (more on that later) and I didn't get to do much satellite things, thus you get to see a pic of the freebies my friend gave me from the week of freebies Fred Meyer did last week.

So, onto money saving endeavors for this week!

1.  My friend gave me her freebies she'd gotten from Fred Meyer during their week of freebies (deja vu ;).  Thanks again for the freebies, Stephanie!

2.  I found a way to cut costs when it comes to my beloved coffee.  I have a coffee cone vs a coffee maker as I don't have counter space (for one) and I like the taste a lot better in the coffee cone system (for two).  Unfortunately, though, this goes through more filters then a coffee maker and I got through 2 TBS of coffee every time I make a cup.  I tried a permanent filter, but I have a colon condition that doesn't take sediment in coffee well, at all (learned that the hard way), so I have to stick with the paper filters.

So, I decided to boil more water and see if I could get two cups of coffee from the same grounds.  This has never worked if I tried to make a fresh cup after the coffee grounds had cooled and settled, but I've found this week that it does work if I immediately make a second cup as soon as I finish the first (I just quickly scoot the cone to another mug as soon as the first one is filled and continue to make coffee with more water).  This makes a slightly weaker second cup of coffee (and I think it gives me less caffeine, honestly, as I've noticed the difference), but it works and will cut my coffee ground and filter consumption in half.  So, win win!

3.  I have, triumphantly,  gotten my house FINALLY cleaned, got my laundry caught up and have started to implement a cleaning schedule.  So far it is working great.  So, be prepared for a post on how I did it as I learned a lot via trial and error this time around.

4.  My daughter got a slip for Christmas that she has officially decided to cling to as her nightgown.  Since she only has one nightgown now she's wearing it constantly, which it seems that a slip really isn't meant to take that kind of usage.  So, when folding it yesterday, I found that the shoulder straps were  all messed up from the seams letting go in the wash.  I mended them by hand and my daughter is none the wiser that it ever had an issue.

5.  I also fixed an elastic waistband on some jeans of my daughters as the waist desperately needed to be taken in for her.

6.  I have been unplugging anything that goes into "stay on" mode during the day (TV's and the like) to cut down on electricity.  I've also been turning off lights as much as possible. 

7.  Instead of turning on our overhead fluorescent lights in our den when I leave the house to go somewhere, I've started turning on our hallway light instead.  1 LED light bulb, I figure, is going to consume less electricity than a bank of overhead florescent lights.

8.  I've been turning down the heat by two degrees during the day and turning off the electric heat in the bedrooms.  I have an alarm I programmed into my cell phone to remind me to turn it all back on before I pick up the kids from school.  This warms the house up before the kids get home, but still allows me to save the electricity and gas during the day.

9.  I found ham for .99 lb at the store yesterday (this is in Palmer Carrs to anyone interested) as they are liquidating their overstock of Christmas hams.  I got a 10 lb ham and am going to slice it thin for deli meat with my electric knife, cut any odd shaped pieces off and mix that with Spam, grind it up and use it for ham salad.  And of course the ham bone goes without saying as that just makes beans so yummy!

I also got 3 lbs of ground sirloin (90% lean) for 7.48 on reduced.  I'm going to use that and mix it with my lesser quality hamburger I bought last week to make it last longer.

After buying said items and getting regular groceries I am, so far, 80.00 under my regular grocery budget.  I'm hoping I can keep close to that as I want to put 40.00 of that aside for the "Living off Essentials Challenge" and then put another 20.00 toward getting my cell phone recharged.

10.  Continued to take inventory of the pantry and organize it for the coming months.  Made a quick list of the few essential items I need (bread flour is at the top of my list right now).  I'll pick those up next week on my regular grocery shopping trip so once February rolls around I'll hopefully be prepared to not go to the store much.

And there you have it folks.  My money saving endeavors this week.  How did you do?  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 Financial Goals

I know this is kind of late, but in reality it isn't.  I am a person who usually waits until taxes are done for the year before I worry about planning forward for the year ahead.

A couple of things this year, however, stopped me from this normal pattern.  One:  I found my husband's last pay stub for last year in with a pile of paperwork I found in the car (I'd been searching for it), so while I'm still waiting on the "official" paperwork I was still able to get online and do a preliminary tax return (once I cross reference said pay stub with the tax return and make sure everything jives I'll finalize and submit online).  So I now have a realistic, and depressing, idea of what our tax return is going to be and I can move forward from there.

So, here's what needs to get done for financial goals for this year.

Financial Goals for 2016:
1.  Get first bill paid off for husband's teeth to avoid incurring deferred interest charges and high interest rate (due in April.  Tax return just covers this bill plus about 20.00.  Thus the "depressing" part).

2.  Pay off second dental bill for husband's teeth by December to stop from incurring deferred interest charges and high interest rate.

3.  Pay off daughter's braces as soon as possible to lose the 15% interest rate on said bill.

4.  Pay yearly car insurance for husband's car (due in April/May).  This is about 400.00 every year. 

5.  Pay husband's continuing education and licensing fees, about 400.00.  Due in March.

6.  Pay vehicle registrations on my car and husband's truck.  These are our daily vehicles, so both are needed.  Both are due by June.  440.00 about for both vehicles.

7.  Pay for son's communication app as soon as possible to load onto his communication device, this will be 300.00.

8.  Two winter tires for my car for next winter.  I'm estimating about 500.00 to be safe.
All totaled I have about 9800.00 in residual bills on top of our normal monthly bills and that's after our tax return is applied to the total.  This, to put it simply, sucks.

And the final goal, which I honestly don't know how to do it right now, but "put money back into savings" has got to go on this list even if it seems like a pipe dream at this point.

Some plans I have to combat this and hopefully see the bright light at the end of the tunnel.

1.  Continue to consolidate bills. 
I am going to add my cell phone recharge bill (about 30.00 every three months) to my grocery budget.  This is going to be stretching my grocery budget something fierce with everything else I have on it, but every little bit counts.
2.  Cut down grocery budget.
Yes, I'm doing this AFTER I'm putting my cell phone onto the budget too.  This is going to be hard, but it's one of the only areas in which I have absolute control, so I'm going to see what I can do to save money in that area.
3.  Continue to cut back on utilities.
I've started working hard to keep lights off around here when everyone is gone but me.  I also turn down the heat and bundle up in a sweater or something to stay warm while I do housework.   I make sure to make a nice little nest for our old feline when I do this to help her stay warm and keep her arthritis from bothering her too badly.  I have been unplugging TV's, DVD players and the like during the day and once everyone is asleep for the night when possible to stop those items from consuming energy.  I also have been trying hard to unplug tablets and my laptop when they are fully charged to stop them from drawing energy when not necessary.
4.  Until bills are paid for beginning of year (about 900.00 approx), live off pantry and freezer  as much as possible.  Only pick up bare necessities.
This leads into my "bare essentials" challenge I'm going to be doing around here.  I'll be posting up a basic meal "list" that I'll be drawing from during this time to draw my weekly menu plan from (so far I've got breakfasts and lunches done, but dinners are more dependent on what I have for meat, so I'm trying to figure out how to finalize that). This isn't a pantry challenge, really, as it's just necessary to do to save money to pay bills, but I'll be posting up grocery shopping totals and how it's going as it goes on and giving a pantry update to see how my pantry and freezer hold up during this time.  It might get interesting, but I see no other way around it.  This, honestly, is giving me anxiety as I just got my pantry BACK after living off of it for so long, but at the same time I just plain don't have a choice.  And really that's why we have food storage, so best to use it when you need it.
So, there you go folks.  My goals for this year.  Hopefully the Good Lord will help me work all of this out and help me get by.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sauerkraut Croquettes

 This is actually a WWII rationing recipe that was originally hailed as a possible meatless meal. I found that it doesn't really work as a meal for us, but it makes a good side dish.  And it uses up left overs, which is always welcome!

I adapted the original recipe for the croquettes.  For one, it calls for sauerkraut, but all I have is home made sauerkraut, which isn't...well mushy and water logged the way the store bought stuff is, so I ended up having to use two eggs instead of one and the croquettes still come out a bit dry to my husband and I.  But, serve this alongside some pork and some apple sauce?  Match made in heaven!

The second thing I adapted is that it called for the croquettes to be coated in corn flakes and deep fat fried.  Well, I didn't want to yank out the old cooking oil just yet this week as fried chicken isn't on the menu for a few more days and with the corn flakes...I don't have any.  So, I improvised, breaded with some bread crumbs and baked the suckers.  It worked just fine :).
Sauerkraut Croquettes

  • 1/2 cup corn flake crumbs (or 3 broken taco shells, crushed)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, drained 
  • 1 cup leftover rice
  • 1 egg (if mixture is dry or won't stick together when mixing use two eggs)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs (for breading)
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Mix all ingredients, with the exception of the 1/3 cup bread crumbs in a bowl and mix together well.  Form into eight croquettes and coat in remaining bread crumbs.  Place on a greased baking sheet and then coat top of the croquettes with cooking spray (if you don't have cooking spray, drizzle lightly with oil). 

3.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until croquettes are lightly golden and are hot in the middle.
Serve alongside pork with some applesauce.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 1/18/16

When it comes to this week's menu you are going to notice a couple of repeats from last week.  This is because I didn't get to making them.  One day we ended up eating leftovers as I made the meat pie as big as I could to make the meat stretch as far as I could, so it lasted me four meals (two dinners for the family and two lunches for me) and then the meat roly poly ended up being kind of dry the first go around so we didn't eat much of it, so I tried to figure out a way to salvage it, so yesterday I cut it up into chunks, covered it with tomato sauce and we made meatball subs out of it.  It worked well and used up the meat before it went bad and it did, indeed, keep the meat moist.  So, win win!

So, here's this week's menu.

Menu Plan for Week of 1/18/16

Monday:  Pork Roast (crock pot), potatoes au gratin, salad

Tuesday:  Leftover pork roast, sauerkraut croquettes, apple sauce

Wednesday:  "Ham Salad" sandwiches, chips

Thursday:  Chicken and Biscuits (crock pot)

Friday:  Tacos (use ground beef and turkey)

Saturday:  Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, baked beans

  Enchiladas (use leftover taco meat), Spanish rice

To Bake/prepare:  Bread, granola, biscuits, chocolate chip muffins, beignets, crock pot refried beans.  Baking days:  Monday (chocolate chip muffins...done!, maybe beignets if I find time), Tuesday (bread & granola, refried beans), Wednesday (biscuits)

Desserts:  Apple pie (leftovers from last week) with whipped topping, jello.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Okay, so reviewing my goals for this last week, I have come to realize that the only one I came close to getting accomplished was cleaning the house.  Other than that, due to exhaustion, not a lot got done on that list.  Now I did get some things done.  Naps.  Naps got done *laugh*.  And other things, but honestly the most important one for me was the naps.  I needed those.

I gutted and cleaned out my hallway closet (shot seen above).  I still need to clean off the top shelf completely to make room for more blankets, but I'm making good progress getting it all turned over to a linen cabinet.  All of my material got moved downstairs so it's all in one area now and I even managed to herd in my yarn from it's various locations, layer it into a tote and put it into my closet for the time being, so it's not out in open baskets waiting for things to get dumped onto it.  I pray that I remember where I put it, though, so when I need it I'm not searching for it, but we shall see.

I got my pantry cleaned up a lot more than it was and started a preliminary inventory so that I'm more ready for a "no spend" month next month (which isn't QUITE no I'll get to that later in the month :).

I finally started to finalize my financial goals for the year.  It's one heck of a mountain to climb that I'm building, but it has to be done, so I'm sharpening my financial pick axe to start climbing the summit.  I'm trying to make sure I look toward the sunny side of that mountain, though, instead of getting stuck in the dark and dreary side, as that's not going to do me much good getting things done.  So, upwards and onwards!

I went and downloaded about 20 different budgeting programs onto my new android tablet to see if I could find a program with a good fit for me and I think I might have finally found one.  Now to sit down and start seriously imputing things into it.  I usually do ledgers and balance sheets and such by hand, but I'm hoping that using a budgeting program has gotten easier since we used one in high school *laugh*.  I think if I can find a good fit it'll really help me to keep better track of expenses and figure out where we really could afford to cut back.  It'll be a good exercise if nothing else to see if doing it via computer beats doing it by hand with an adding machine.

I got more creative with my son's lunches this last week.  I decided to try him on penne pasta vs. angel hair and his teachers love me for it as he's not only eating one noodle at a time but he's also used a fork to eat some of it the last week.  You can not BELIEVE how excited I am to hear about him using a utensil to eat!  And I managed to smuggle spinach powder into his Parmesan cheese alongside the beet powder, so now he's getting two veggies in his lunch instead of one!  Bwahahahahaha!!!  I'm thinking carrot powder might be next or I might try tomato powder because if I can get him used to tomato spaghetti might be in his future.  So, so excited!

I made good head way getting caught up on laundry this week, so that was a definite bright side to the "where am I?" form of exhaustion I found myself lost in.  It felt good having a place to stick some of the bedding once it was clean by having the hallway closet cleaned out, so I'm really hoping I can get the top shelf cleaned off tomorrow and ready to go for when I have the other blankets all nice and clean.

I made a quick sketch of my garden dimensions and tried to figure out a way to get as much possible out of the space come summertime as possible.  I'm really REALLY hoping to get another space, somewhere, that I can use for extra garden space, but I'm thinking that maybe a couple of deep pots might be the way to go to expand the garden a little bit.  Still kind of torn on that one, but we'll see how finances go.  At least right now I have seeds.  Seeds are good :).

So, now onto this week's goals, which you'll notice things like "make muffins" are still on the list.  Baking is getting done tomorrow, if my daughter is good (she's going to help me make her muffins for this week as I'm trying to get her interested in cooking and baking right now).

Baking Goals:
  • Chocolate Chip Muffins
  • Bread
  • Granola (this one I keep messing with as I want to get a good variety of stuff into it for my son, but not overwhelm him)
  • Beignets (for breakfasts for a few days)
Cleaning Goals:
  • Deep clean master bathroom (hopefully this'll get done tomorrow too)
  • Finish laundry.  Fold and do ironing.
  • Go through catch all paper pile in bedroom.  Organize and throw away anything that can be.
  • Continue to take inventory of pantry.   Work on pantry/items on hand only menu plan for February.
  • Mop floors 
  • Polish wooden furniture
Sewing Goals:
  • Sew cloth napkins for everyday use (white).  Make a few to embroider (Spring designs)
  • Sew 2 dish towels to replace ones that are getting too ratty
  • Look through material and see if there is a nice material to make skirt for daughter for her birthday.
  • Look and see if I can find a pattern in my stash to make some night gowns for my daughter.  If not try to make a new one from the one night gown I have for her.
General Goals:
  • Finish organizing hallway closet to store more blankets.
  • Go through cookbooks and weed out ones I don't use.
And there you are folks.  My goals for the week.  How about you? 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

What an exhausting week!  My son, who normally sleeps about four hours a night now a days (it used to be a lot worse on the sleep schedule front) has been waking up with his eczema bothering him at anywhere between midnight and two o'clock in the morning and then he's up all night long.  My daughter has been fighting going to bed and staying in bed as well, so between the two of them I'm getting anywhere between a half an hour to two hours of sleep at night right now.  It's been hard to think the last couple of weeks, let alone get much done.  I was so, SO thankful when the kids went back to school so at least I can get a nap while the kids are at school most days, but man it's still hard to find energy to get around.

I was able to get my behind in gear enough, though, to save some money this week.

1.  I went to town today and redeemed some of the Freebie "Friday" week of free stuff that Fred Meyer is giving away this week.  They are giving away one free item via E-Coupon on their site per day this week (so be sure to check their website every day till Sunday folks).  My friend told me about it and I wasn't up to reading her message till Tuesday, but since than I've been loading my freebie coupon on my card every day.  So, I went looking for the four items I had loaded.

Which, the only thing I couldn't find was a free 50 ct. thing of Trident.  The other three things are seen above.  I'm actually the most excited about the mac and cheese just to try it on my son and see what he might think of pasta with real cheese powder on it.  If he likes it, I have cheese powder I purchased last year, so it'd be cool if I could try that on him.

While at Fred Meyer I was able to get cat litter for cheap as I had a 2.00/1 E-Coupon loaded and the cat litter was on sale for 7.99.  Compared to normal prices on cat litter, 5.99 for a large container of cat litter was definitely a nice find.

While I was there I was also able to find a couple of dented cans of kidney beans for .35 a piece and a dented can of green beans for .34.  These were moved to the front of the rotation "line" in the pantry to make sure they get used first since the cans are dented, but woohoo for cheap canned vegetables!

I was also able to find some cheap prepared frosting this week.  My son doesn't like home made frosting, but LOVES Pillsbury chocolate frosting (which is the one type of commercially available frosting he can have).  I found some chocolate marshmallow flavored frosting for .99 a container at the store.  There were like eight containers there and that is SUPER cheap for frosting, but I only got three as I was worried that he might not like the chocolate marshmallow flavor.  My daughter I'm not too worried about as if it contains sugar most times she's good when it comes to frosting, but with my son...I went conservative and didn't stock up that much on that find.

2.  Kind of a frugal fail.  I actually ended up going over my grocery budget last week.  I was 10.00 under as of Friday and was super proud of myself, but ended up going back to the store to get diapers for my son (he's blowing through double the amount as normal due to being up so much more at night) and while I was there I was weak and got some fresh produce, which is gold plated this time of year, but I desperately wanted some salad with fresh veggies in it.  So, all totaled I was 20.00 over last week.

This week I got pork steaks at Carrs as they are B1G3 this week for the seasoned ones.  I got the BBQ seasoned ones as we tried some of the seasonings last week on the other loin chops I got cheap and I discovered that we didn't like the seasonings, so I just washed the seasonings off.  I did the same with the pork steaks today, so now we are stocked up on pork again (yay!).  I got my son's chips that he eats all the time for B1G1 this week and was able to stack a manufacturer coupon and a personalized price on top of it, so I was able to get four bags of Cool Ranch Doritos for 7.99 (sad that is a good price, but what are you going to do?).  All totaled I got gas and groceries and am still 10.00 under my grocery budget.  Luckily the produce I bought last weekend should last us through most of next week, so hopefully I can remain strong and not spend another 12.00 on produce *laugh*.

3.  I've been trying to catch up on bedding and laundry this week, so instead of running the comforters through the dryer twice to get them dry, I just run them through on medium heat and pull them out still a bit damp and hang them up on my upstairs landing railing.  There they dry actually pretty quickly and it saves gas and energy to do it that way.

4.  I started planning fiscally for a "near no spending" month next month (so be prepared to read about that as it goes along) to challenge myself on how much I can really save by not spending any money for anything other than necessities.  I desperately need to slap every penny I can onto the dental bills right now, so this is part of that necessity.

5.  Managed to re-attach a zipper pull that came off in the wash by some creative bending with some jewelry wire and some J-B Weld.  Luckily it's a hidden zipper in a sweater, so I'm not too worried about if it is pretty or not.

6.  Despite being tired I have, so far, stuck to my menu plan for this week completely!  I was rather impressed by this as the last couple of weeks my menu plan has been just that...a plan...and it's gone wayward the way plans do from time to time.  The only thing that happened this week was I had to switch meals one day (yesterday) because the planned meat roll wasn't going to happen because the frozen turkey was refusing to defrost in time, so we had meat pie instead and will have the meat roll tonight.

7.  I baked salvage pudding and used up about 1/2 of the cake disaster from my birthday, which felt good.  I also baked an apple tart to use up one of the few bags of apple pie filling I have left in the freezer.

8.  Instead of running my dishwasher today I did my dishes by hand, which saved me from having like three or four left over large dishes once the dishwasher was loaded.  I got all of the dishes done and the counters washed down and rearranged a bit.  This saved electricity and made me feel a lot better about how my kitchen looked for sure.

9.  My husband and I have been watching old MST3K episodes on You Tube while we are waiting for the kids to fall asleep upstairs. It's been a lot of fun.

10.  I've been making sure to take my vitamins every day, which has definitely been helping my mental clarity and my ability to function, which definitely keeps me more on my game when it comes to being frugal.

11.  I did make a "splurge" purchase this week and got some hamburger (today, so it goes on next week's groceries).  It worked out to be 2.99 lb, which was more than I wanted to spend on meat, but at the same time my husband and I talked about it and decided we really needed to eat red meat at least once a month for the sake of our taste buds, our sanity and for the iron content.  So, I got a big container (cost 20.00) and will break that up into 1 lb packages to use in tacos and other meals over the coming months.  I did work this into my normal grocery budget for the week, so at least I haven't gone over budget.

And there you are folks.  Some ways I saved money this week.  How did you do? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Salvage Pudding

When I started getting into WWII and the rationing involved, one of the things I became utterly fascinated by was the difference in rations between the US and Britain.  Of course, Britain had it off much worse than we did over here, but things like "Meatless Monday" and recipes like this one that used up normal food waste to remake it into something different so that budgets could stretch and rations could stretch right along with it, were normal over here. 

One of the things rationed over here was sugar.  So, you'll notice that the original recipe here calls for corn syrup.  In the US, corn syrup became an invaluable replacement for sugar because...well we had the corn crops to make it!  Thus why you'll see marshmallows in so, so many 1940's era onward recipes.  Marshmallows were made with corn syrup, would keep a long time in the pantry and were versatile, so they became an American housewives secret weapon.  It was really easy to add marshmallows to say, a cup of otherwise bitter hot chocolate, and voila you had a sweetened drink.  Neat huh?

And now that I've "wowed" you with my little jaunt into food history (har) allow me to share with you one recipe (and there are many out in the world for things like this) for "Salvage Pudding".  This is a recipe that calls for cake and cookie crumbs to be used as replacement for part of your flour and believe me it does work well.  This isn't an American pudding (milk and starch custard basically), but actually refers to the British term "Pudding" which means a cake or dessert that is traditionally steamed in a mold.  This one, however, can be baked or steamed, so take your pick :).  And it comes out tasting like a mild gingerbread.  Works for me!!!
Salvage Pudding
  • 2 cups crumbs of vanilla or spice cookies, or cake (for this particular recipe I used a combo of cake crumbs from my birthday pound cake, some going stale Pepparkakor and some shortbread cookies that were also going stale on me)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (unsifted)
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup, or golden syrup, or maple syrup, or honey OR 1/2 cup sugar + 2 TBS water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup softened vegetable shortening or butter (or a mixture), melted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional...I omit these as we don't like raisins in cake)
  • Vanilla ice cream, vanilla custard or whipped cream, optional (this is AWESOME with custard/pudding.  Just saying :)
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 6 cup ring mold (if you have one.  I do not, so I used a 1 1/2 quart Pyrex casserole dish for this).  Combine crumbs and milk in a medium sized bowl.  Set aside for 10 minutes for the crumbs to absorb the milk.

2.  Add flour, corn syrup/sweetener of choice, egg, shortening/butter, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt to crumb mixture.  Stir until just combined.  Fold in raisins, if using.  Transfer to greased mold/dish.  Cover with greased aluminum foil.

3.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and the center springs back when gently pressed.  Remove foil and cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Invert onto a serving platter and serve warm with ice cream, custard or whipped cream if you choose.
Leftovers the next day are just as good if you reheat the cake in the microwave for 20 or so seconds. 

Also note:  If you wish you can steam this is in a covered 1 1/2 quart pudding mold for 2 to 2 1/2 hours instead of baking it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 1/11/15

Sorry I didn't actually post this on Monday.  My son is in a "hey let's drive mom to the brink of insanity by not sleeping at ALL" phase, which has led my brain to leak out my ears when it comes to anything requiring organization skills.

Sadly, this led to us, once again, having baked chicken last night.  My husband and I both looked at it like we were about to eat an alien dish of some disgusting looking food just because we are so tired of just eating baked chicken all the time.  It's just been so hard for me to be creative with my son not sleeping.  I mean I put off making French toast last week until the weekend just because it seemed like so much work.  Sad, very sad, state of affairs there.

I got home from dropping the kids off at school today and while my  husband worked on paperwork I went upstairs in our living room and I took a nap, so at least I feel like my brain is working again.  So, I think I am ready to tackle the menu plan for this week.

Menu for Week of 1/11/15
Monday:  Baked Chicken, Rice, apple sauce
Tuesday:  Curried Chicken Fricassee, salad 
Wednesday:  Fish Casserole (use freezer burned fish in freezer), rice
Thursday:  Meat Roly Poly (use ground pork and turkey in freezer), green beans
Friday:  Meat Pie, corn bread
Saturday:  Pork steaks, sauerkraut croquettes, apple sauce
Sunday:  "Ham" salad sandwiches w/lettuce, chips

To Bake:  Bread, muffins, fruit tart, granola, spiced nuts.  Baking day:  Tuesday (supposedly...we'll see if I'm up to measuring things tonight and reading a recipe) and Thursday.

Desserts:  Fruit tart, salvage pudding (I'll try to remember to share this as it's a neat trick to use up leftovers) with custard, jello with whipped topping.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Ha!  Went to check off the weekly goals for this week and realized that I didn't write them online.  Sorry about that.

But, anyway, when it came to monthly goals this week it was kind of a mixed bag.

1.  I started work on my yearly financial goals for this year and abandoned it until I can do some more number crunching.  So far we've got WAY more money going out than is coming in (if I use the average of the last three years of income as a guide, which is what I normally do to figure out current year financial figures) than I want to deal with, so I'm trying to figure out more ways to cut spending down.  We've got vehicle registrations due on my husband's truck (his work rig) and my car (which is needed for day to day operations as well).  We have continuing education classes (16 hours worth) to pay for as my husband's Journeyman's License has to renew this year and then we have to pay for said license on top of it (200.00).  On top of dental bills and day to day expenses.  And I have a yearly insurance payment to make on my husband's car coming up.  Can I breath into a paper bag now?  I'm still in good spirits and determined, it's just a matter of thinking outside the box on how to make all of this happen.  It might get interesting here.

In other news, I did get some things accomplished on my monthly goals list.

2.  There's not been hide nor hair of W-2's yet, so taxes aren't done, which I'm earnestly awaiting said form so I can pre-file the taxes to get our refund as quickly as possible.  We need it, desperately, to make the bills I need to make here in the next few months, so waiting is the hardest part as they say.

I did, however, go and file for insurance for the year, which I was happy with the results in that for the first time in nearly 15 years of marriage my husband and I now have insurance.  It's actually kind of thrilling knowing that we'll be able to get something, anything, off of medical bills when we need to go to the doctor's or something.  And it was a price we could afford to pay, which was one of the things giving me heart palpitations.  So, yay for having insurance!

I also got PFD's filed for this year (mentioned that on the monthly goal post itself, but it bears repeating as I'll forget and want to look up and make sure I did it ;).

3.  I made a Spring themed table runner out of some vintage linen I found at the used store for .50 (seen above with some stand in place mats as my light yellow ones are currently drying in my laundry room :).  I was hoping that there would be enough material when I bought it to make a tablecloth for the coffee table or something and when I opened it I realized it was actually a cut up old tablecloth that someone had used and really really hacked the fabric.  It made me sad to see it.  So, I squared everything off, was able to cobble it together and made a floral table runner with it instead.  This is the time of year where I yearn, and I mean YEARN for Spring as you quickly realize here in January that we have five months of winter left.  It can really get you down.  So, I like to bring Spring themed things into the house early to brighten the place, and my mood, up a bit.

4.  I started, but haven't finished, the hallway closet yet as I need to gut the entire thing to get the "fall out" things from all over the house cleaned out of it before I really start to organize things better in there.  I'll try to take a before picture.  You want to know what catch all spaces look like?  Yeah, it's kind of like that *laugh*.

So, now onto this week's goals:

Sewing Goals:
  • Start to sew dress together (I got a cut out dress from the used store a while ago for 1.00 in a light yellow color.  I'm curious to see if it will, indeed, fit me as it's an older pattern.  It's supposedly in my size, but we shall see).
  • Cut out robe for self (if I have enough material)
  • Cut out and sew napkins to embroider
  • Cut out and sew more dish towels.  
Cleaning Goals
  • Scrub master bathroom thoroughly.
  • Re-caulk children's tub in their bathroom
  • Get house cleaned up the rest of the way, so that I have a good start point to do cleaning schedule from.
Baking/Cooking Goals:
  • Bake bread
  • Bake chocolate chip muffins (never got to this last week)
  • Make granola (ditto on this one).
General Goals:
  • See if the boxes left over from Christmas will work to house empty mason jars.  Place in pantry if possible.
  • Weed through old bills.  Mark any updates on financial work ups for last year and then pitch if no longer important.
  • Clip cat's claws and give them both a bath (this is always a highlight of my life.  And yes, I'm being sarcastic *laugh*).
  • Give son and daughter hair cuts.  Have husband trim my hair.
  • Take inventory of milk products.  Make sure I am stocked up as dairy prices are looking to go up, possibly by a substantial amount, due to dairy cattle being impacted by the winter storms this year (something like 30,000 dairy cattle were killed I read somewhere).  Since dairy is one area where we go through a LOT of it, I'm really nervous about this as my son goes through a lot of milk and it's one of his main sources of good nutrition right now.
  • Re-do winter menu.  Try to work in more chicken since pork has gone up so much in price of late.   
So, there you are.  My goals for the week.  What are you up to this week?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

 First, I'd like to thank everyone who chimed in with advice on my monthly shopping goals post.  I took the constructive criticism/advice to heart and started thinking more thoroughly about how I did packed lunches and realized that I was, indeed, in a rut, especially when it came to my son.  I did get a big tub of yogurt to split into smaller containers for my daughter's lunches, but my son has had the same bento box lunch box format since preschool, which always consisted of things like Doritos and Cheetos and such.  And I thought of the couple real food items he'd eat and decided to just toss the bento box idea out the window.  This week I've been sending him in with noodles cooked in chicken broth (MILD chicken broth to not make him think I'm pulling anything on him), noodles with Parmesan cheese with beet powder mixed into the Parmesan cheese and white rice.  Sure, I still include baggies of his Doritos and Cheetos, but in much smaller quantities than before.  And it's been wonderful.  He's enjoying the noodles and rice, I'm sneakily getting some desperately needed nutrition into his diet, and most importantly I'm saving money as he's eating less processed foods with his lunch (and I'm cheering as eating less processed foods is always a good thing).  Even my daughter willingly took pasta and Parmesan to school today for her lunch alongside her pudding and yogurt.  So thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

Well, when it came to saving money this week things went well!

1.  I went to Fred Meyer earlier in the week to get my Freebie Friday of free bread.  I was praying that the bread would be safe for my son to eat (you'd be surprised how much whole grain anything is contaminated with peanuts) and found to my surprise that the regular whole wheat bread was safe!  So, I gleefully got the bread.  I also found storage bags on clearance for .79 a box in the quart size.  I had a coupon loaded on my card for .50/2 and when it came off at the register it came off numerous times, so I guess it was unlimited use (or at least 3 times anyway), which was great getting the bags that cheap!

I also found some bath sets on clearance for 2.49 a piece.  I bought a Hello Kitty one for my daughter as part of her birthday present and grabbed the other one for her to "earn" with chores later on.  The minion bath set I couldn't pass up as it came with two big bottles of soap (one body wash and one bubble bath).  I have found my daughter loves to go through soap and is even scratching her bar soap down (grrr) so I figured once I add the bubble bath and body wash to her body wash pump bottle it'll refill a 10.00 bottle of body wash without issues.  I also got her some sparkly hair bands (on clearance for 1.00) hoping that she'll finally start letting me braid her hair at night (she's got my baby fine hair that frizzes like nobody's business, lucky little thing).  We'll see how well that works.

I then went to Carrs and was able to score a one pound bag of cinnamon for less than 3.00.  I almost picked up a second one as they have a 2018 expiration on them, but I also realized that I only use so much cinnamon in a given year, so I stopped with the one.

2.  My friend Stephanie then gave me some freebies she's not using that she got playing an instant win game for Fred Meyer and her Freebie Friday coupons as well.  So I was able to get another loaf of bread, a box of microwave popcorn and some yogurt for free (thanks, Stephanie!!!).  I am going to divide up the one loaf of bread into 2 slice portions with wax paper in between and then freeze.  This way I'll be able to pull out two pieces of bread for my son for toast or if someone wants a sandwich, but I won't have to worry about it molding on me, which does happen with whole wheat bread around here sometimes.

3.  Carrs had pasta on sale this week for .69 per box.  I bought 20 pounds as this is as cheap as I've seen it...well for as long as I can remember and we eat pasta a LOT, so it was totally worth stocking up.  I even raided the coin jar and took a quick trip to get eight boxes while my son was in therapy.

4.  Carrs also, it turned out (and I totally missed in the ad) had value packs of pork chops on sale for buy 1 get 3 free this week (seasoned ones).  When I looked at the loin chops and measured how wide they were cut and then compared them to a big pork loin nearby I figured out that basically it was "buy 1 pork loin get 3 free".  So for 22.00 I was able to get a ton of pork, which if I don't like the seasoning I'll wash it off before I put the chops into the freezer.  Easy peazy!

5.  I did well at the thrift store this week.

6.  I mended a few holes in some comforters this week.

7.  Despite picking up extras when it came to groceries this week (including some on sale deli meat to make lunches for my husband next week), by shopping carefully, I still came in under my grocery budget (after fuel for the car even) by 10.00!

8.  By being careful (and freezing my tail off during the day some days) I was able to get my electric bill down by 80.00 this month.  Still not as good as I'd hoped it'd be, but better than it was for sure.

9.  I signed up for a free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens through freebizmags.  Every once in a while they have a subscription anyone can get for free, so I was able to get it.  

And there you are folks.  Some of the ways I saved money this week.  How did you do?