Monday, February 29, 2016

Menu Plan Monday: Menu Plan for Week of 2/29/16

I don't know why, but I am getting a huge kick out of writing the menu out for the week of 2/29.  Won't be able to do that for another four years!  Ha!

Anyway, the ability to humor myself aside, if people are wondering where the weekly goals update is...well...I got none of the goals for last week done.  I was so out of it with my jaw that sitting at a sewing machine or cleaning out a furnace room and such just was not going to happen.  So, I'm going to just wing it this week and see how much of that list I can get done, which is going to be fun as I have a lot of appointments to make this week for the kids and such.  Then I'll move on to March's goals and some of the goals (like sewing a dress) are getting transferred onto next month anyway.  So, we'll see how this week goes.  May it go better than last week on getting things done!

And now onto this week's menu!

Menu Plan for Week of 2/29/2016

Monday:  Pork chops with pantry friendly fig sauce, apple sauce (leftovers from dinner the other night), roast potatoes with garlic and Parmesan

Tuesday:  Beef and vegetable stew

Wednesday:  Pancakes with Blueberries (to use up rest of canned blueberries I opened last week), eggs, peaches (if have time use crepes instead of pancakes)

Thursday:  Chicken salad sandwiches (home made bread), pears

Friday:  Ham and Eggs, fruit cocktail, cornmeal pancakes with fig jam

Saturday:  Leftovers

Sunday:  Fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans
To Bake:  Bread, fig sandwich cookies, chocolate chip cookies (baking days:  I have no idea.  Whenever I have time as I've got numerous appointments this week *laugh*).

Desserts:  Bird's Nest Pudding (recipe coming tonight or tomorrow), apple pie, chocolate chip cookies and milk (daughter and MAYBE son if I can get him to try them), pumpkin pasties

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Bare Essentials Challenge: Weekly Recap

First, be prepared.  Meals this week were all over the place compared to the menu plan.  Or at least I think they were.  Honestly I forgot to write it down Monday on my dry eraser board and was so out of it, I didn't even really check it until tonight to compare everything *laugh*.

This week we officially, finally, ran out of cheese, but luckily I was able to get a 2 lb chunk of cheese, not our usual preferred brand but any port in a storm, for 5.00 yesterday as part of 5.00 Friday.  I'm down to my last four pounds of butter, so I'm wondering how long that'll stretch, but we'll see how it goes :).

Hey, actually looking at the menu plan I'm not doing half bad, really.  Sure the days were messed up for me and we're not having chicken pot pie until tomorrow, but still...I actually did halfway decent.  Excellent!

1.  Taco Soup Night

I used the leftover taco chicken, threw about 2/3 of a container of salsa from the fridge into it, through in leftover olives from taco night and some frozen corn and some chicken stock and 6 hours later on low and we had taco soup!

I served mine garnished with a little sour cream in the middle and some corn chips.  I then ended up eating a LOT of taco soup this week for lunches as it made a huge amount and no one in the family but me liked it all that well.  I used it up, though, so that's all that mattered.

2.  Roast Chicken Night

About the biggest thing we used up that night was an older chicken in the freezer that was just in the "needs to be used up" phase.  I found the container of cranberry relish that was in the freezer from Thanksgiving and so we used a part of that for the roast chicken night as well as the subsequent leftover eating meals.
Tonight I decided I needed to do something with the leftover relish, which equaled out to about a cup and a half or so and decided to turn it into jam/marmalade.  I added another 1 cup of sugar to the relish and boiled it till it sheeted from a spoon.  I then poured it into jelly jars and sealed up the lids.  I didn't put these through a water bath canner, mind you, as I just didn't feel like pulling out the canner for 2 jars to get properly canned, so I'll be waiting until they are fully cooled and then storing them in the freezer.  The jam came together REALLY well considering how much natural pectin cranberries have.  I'll be using the jam for things like puddings and as a filling in orange flavored cakes or something in the coming months.  It came out pretty tasty and no relish was wasted this way :).

3.  While digging through the standing freezer to pull out meat for the weekend and next week, I found a bonus I had nearly forgotten about.  Pumpkin Pasties!  These were left over from my Halloween adventures.  They aren't freezer burned yet, more is the miracle, so I'm defrosting them and will be packing them as a treat into the husband's lunches this next week as well as using them as dessert.  They need to be used up and are tasty, so we might as know...use them up!
4.  French Toast Night

Well I used up the rest of a loaf of home made bread that was going stale and for a change I made JUST enough french toast mixture to do the entire loaf.  I was proud of myself.

We not only ate the french toast with eggs one night (home made canned blueberries on top, obviously), but I also ate french toast as lunch the next day and this morning my husband ate the rest of it for breakfast, so it pretty much worked flawlessly for 3 meals the last couple of days.  Love it when that happens :).
5.  Pork steak and "use up" night.

While digging in the freezer I pulled out one of the last bags of home made applesauce from last year (February of last year to be exact) and a bag of apple pie filling to make into a pie later in the week.  The applesauce I served up with some pork steaks from the freezer.  I also used up the last little bit of our cheese, the rest of the left over black olives from taco night and the lettuce that was starting to go a little wilty and we had salad.  I also used up one of the potatoes that was kind of going wrinkly already and mashed it in with some mashed potatoes from a mix.  This really helps to improve the texture and taste of mashed potatoes that might not live up to your expectations on what they should taste like.  I then mixed in some garlic powder and some Parmesan cheese and we had some nice flavored mashed potatoes for dinner (that tasted a lot better than the original really really kind of "meh" mashed potato mix I had).
6.  Beef Bourguignon night.

I took the short ribs I'd gotten at Carrs cheap the other week and used a recipe from The Galloping Gourmet I had, but with a lot of deviations as I used pantry staples a lot to replace his ingredients.  I'll post up the recipe for this soon, but needless to say it was super delicious, is rich so a little goes a long way and we have leftovers we can eat for lunch tomorrow.

7.  Chicken Pot Pie Night

I took a couple of little bags with turkey from the freezer that definitely needed to be used up, picked every bit of chicken that was left off the carcass from early in the week, took some SOS mix and made up the consistency of 2 cans of cream of chicken soup and then added a bunch of frozen veg med and let it simmer in the crock pot for four hours.  I then let it cool and put it into a casserole and put it into the fridge.  Now the filling is ready for a pie crust on top and the oven or I can make up some biscuits and we can have chicken and biscuits for dinner is pretty much the limit on that one.  It's great having a dish I can just pop in the oven tomorrow, no prep and it'll take care of itself for a while till dinner time.  Woot!

So there you are folks.  My culinary fun for the week.  You use up anything fun this week?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Before I start I wanted to share this picture.  Isn't it cute?  My daughter was at the window on her birthday and ran over all excited, "Mom!  Someone made hearts in the driveway just for me because it's my birthday!"  I went and looked and found the above hearts looking back at me.  Whoever turned around in my driveway (we get a lot of people doing that during the day) had a REALLY small turning radius on their car, but still left some cool looking evidence of their turning around.  And hey, maybe my daughter was right.  Maybe God was, in His own way, giving her a happy birthday shout out.  Kind of cool to think of that.  I just had to share as really that's probably a one in a million shot right there ;).

Well, another week has come and gone on the money saving front.  Luckily, by decreasing my grocery budget by so much I have been able to save some money, not much, but some.  It always seems like as soon as you start saving money things happen that make you spend some of it, which is what happened to me.

I got dental work done on Monday.  I'm not sure if it was getting the big fillings in my teeth, thus the dentist had to kind of rebuild the top of one of my teeth or the grinding to get the bite right, or (my theory) the Novocaine shot in my jaw, but my TMJ flared worse than it has since my nephew passed away back in 2004.  I have had a constant pain in my ear, can't open my jaw all the way and had a constant migraine.  Not fun by any stretch of the imagination.  So, I finally called my dentist yesterday and asked if there was anything he could recommend to help as I'd been taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen every four hours for days just to function and chew alright.  He prescribed me a muscle relaxant.  Which was great until I had to pay for it.  AFTER my insurance was applied, which thank goodness I had some, it was still 113.00 for a one month supply (and I'm only taking one pill at bedtime).  Ouch!

It was great having the insurance though as that cut the price by over half for the pills.  Without insurance, which would have been my situation a couple of months ago, the pills would have cost me 260.00.  So yay for insurance!

And at least I'd saved some money, which made paying for the pills hurt, but wasn't devastating to the point of panic.  Not ideal, but could be worse.

Anyway, now that I got to tell how I blew 100.00 in one shot, let's share how I actually saved some money this week.

1.  My son's speech therapist has been having pow wows with the assisted technology gurus that she deals with and they have supported her that she should be able to get a dedicated device for my son with his adaptive communication application on it.  She has to run him through a few more evaluations to make Medicaid happy, but I'm just thrilled that we might be able to get him a device with his communication app on it by the end of school.  I am still saving money up to get him the app installed on his I-Pad mini we bought, but I've still got a ways to go because we have so many bills due in the next couple of months.

2.   My sister-in-law gave us a 25.00 gift card to our local sporting goods store for Christmas.  My husband found out that the store was in financial trouble and might be going down at any time, so we figured we'd better go and spend said giftcard while we could.  So, we took an outing.  And then my husband says as soon as we get in the door, "Hey, do you need anything here?"  I asked why as I figured he had an idea of what he wanted to spend the giftcard on and he said something to the effect that he wasn't sure if there was anything he really needed there right now.

So, I went looking around and had a ball spending the majority of our giftcard (my husband bought himself some hard candy which took up the remainder, but it's not pictured because he kept it out in the garage).

I got myself a meat tenderizer!  Remember how I kind of made due with a knife to tenderize cheap steaks the other day?  Well the device above is what I was KIND OF trying to simulate.  Alton Brown uses a bigger one yet, but this one will definitely get the job done on cheap cuts of meat for me and it fits in my drawers in my kitchen.  I've heard these are really good if you are going to marinate meat too as the marinade will seep into the holes created by the tenderizer and flavor the meat throughout.  Sounds good to me!

I also found a big ball of butcher's twine, which will come in handy when making meat rolls or steamed puddings in a dish towel or other cloth (since you need to tie the cloth shut of course).

And I also found a new spice rub to try.  I've never heard of "tequila powder" but am curious to see what it tastes like.  I'm really hoping this will taste good on chicken and veggies as that will be a nice new flavor to introduce to the chicken monotony *laugh*.

3.  Instead of eating chicken strips and fries here for my daughter's birthday, my in-laws offered to take all of us out to eat at Red Robin.  Red Robin is like one of a very limited number of restaurants we can eat at with my son's allergies, so we were more than happy to accept (since it's out of our budget for the time being for sure).  The kids had a blast and got free balloons on our way out of the door and then we came home and ate birthday cake.

My daughter LOVED the bath set, thought the embroidery was pretty enough that she argued with me that she should be able to wear the nightgown as a dress (gotta love kids) and really liked the robes as well.  My mother-in-law got her a couple of nightgowns, some underwear and some socks (as she put it with the underwear, "Sorry hon.  Grandma's do that."  *Laugh* the look of "really?" on my daughter's face was priceless though ;).  Overall my daughter declared it, "The best birthday EVER!" which cracks me up because she says that about every birthday.

4.  The menu plan took really curvy roads this week.  I had such bad headaches that I really didn't want to do things like stand and make cornmeal pancakes for dinner, so we ended up eating leftover chicken and the fixings for a few days straight, which thank goodness my husband was okay with that as we also ended up eating chicken sandwiches for lunch as well (creativity this week was NOT my strong suit unfortunately).  I'm finally feeling better so I'm thinking a nice beef stew (cooked in the thermal cooker because...well it's a new toy and I want to try it out *laugh*) and big thick loaves of bread are on the menu for tomorrow night, but we'll see how nice my jaw is to me at this point.  I'm praying the worst is behind me as my ear still hurts, as does my jaw (obviously), but the radiating pain encompassing the right side of my head seems to be subsiding, which is definitely a good thing.  But anyway, by having leftovers to use we at least didn't spend a fortune eating out or buying frozen dinners this week.  Always nice.

5.  I watched as much as I could find of "Edwardian Farm" and really enjoyed what was available.  I then have gone back and started to watch "Wartime Farm" again as honestly I really really like Ruth.  She's always got such a positive attitude in the show, which I'm sure we get to see her at her best and all, but she explains things in such a wonderful way and I've learned  a lot just from watching her work.  And "Wartime Farm" of course is the period of history I'm the most interested in, so between that and the 1940's house I have fun :).

6.  I got a couple of Amazon giftcards this week by cashing in Swagbucks and I got 20.00 for having my story published on One Hundred Dollars a Month. I have so far used part of this money to order my coffee for next month for free, have ordered a year's worth of vacuum bags (nine of them) for my Kirby (plus a replacement belt) for free (13.00 for the lot plus free shipping!), and I ordered several books including the companion book to "Wartime Farm".  I would like to say that I LOVE the companion books to the BBC shows.  They are as good, or better, than the shows themselves and are just packed full of information in my experience.  I love the companion book for "The 1940's House" and am really looking forward to getting "Wartime Farm".  I love getting new books anyway, but when it is in an area that I love it's all the better :).

And I still have some money left over, which I'm saving in case I need it to order food (honestly we're good on canned goods and allergy friendly dried fruits and stuff right now, so I'm not seeing me needing it, but if nothing else it'll pay for my coffee month after next as well).  It's amazing how if you shop Amazon REALLY carefully and watch prices like a hawk how good of a deal you can score on things.  For instance "Wartime Farm" the book normally is pretty spendy, but I found one seller who was selling it for less than a dollar on a new listing and quickly jumped on it.  It's great when that happens!

7.  I mended a door frame this week.  We have hollow core doors around here which we keep hoping to one day replace (the list of "wants" never ends does it?) and the door frames are really cheap in that they are two piece floating frames.  The one in my son's room never has sat level so the frame will pop apart and then the door won't open and close right.  With a kid that will only sleep with the door closed and when you have to get into said room multiple times a night, without cursing a door that you have to force open, it becomes somewhat of a challenge.  So, I took a pry bar to level the door up where it needed to go (as the frame separated the door fell a little) and then nailed the tacks back into the wood where they needed to go.  I'm really thinking of saying to heck with aesthetics and sinking some screws into the door frame, but we'll see how long my patience runs *laugh*.

8.  My friend asked if she could send me some coupons in the mail and, of course, I didn't turn that down.  She sent me some really nice high value coupons on cat litter and even some freebie coupons for wet cat food and Propel water.  I used both yesterday to help cut my costs down on groceries.  It doesn't seem like much but that one bottle of water will stretch my daughter's current stores of flavored water to last through next Thursday, which stopped me from having to purchase a six pack this week (thanks so much for the coupons, Stephanie!).

9.  After much calling and fighting I finally got a bill allocated correctly so that part of our dental debt is paid off and won't come back to haunt us.  About four more parts to go, but progress!

10.  Despite not feeling well this week I was still able to keep on top of my cleaning schedule.  I was thrilled to get my gas bill in the mail and find that despite running our dryer once or twice a day (gas dryer, obviously) by lowering the heat during the day when the kids aren't here I still lowered our bill by 30.00 and this is after a rate hike last month.  I was pleased to say the least :).

So, there you are folks.  Some of my money saving endeavors this week.  How did you do?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bare Essentials Challenge: This Week's Shopping Trips

So, when it came to groceries I went over this week by 6.00 about, but really since it's AROUND 50.00 I'm shooting for, I'm good with that amount.

Shopping for this week actually started last Friday as I needed to run into town to put my husband's paycheck in the bank and I figured I'd head to Fred Meyer to get milk.  And I hit pay dirt!

I got 1/2 gallons of milk on reduced for 1.09 each (2.18 per gallon if you add that up :).  I got three gallons worth as we do go through a decent amount of milk per week.

While I was there I decided to see what I could get for free with a coupon that Kelloggs sent me.  I'd written to them about problems I had with Pringles being mis-colored and when the coupon came in the mail I was surprised to find that the coupon was good for pretty much every Kelloggs brand of item and maxed out at 5.00!

Instead of buying a 2.00 container of Pringles that my son would blow through in a couple of hours, I decided to look and see what else I could get.  I was going to get corn flakes, but then realized that the Frosted Flakes, one of my husband's and daughter's favorite breakfast cereals, was not only cheaper for the big box, but it also contained a decent more amount of weight in the box compared to the corn flakes.  So, I got those instead.

I also found that there were carts of mark downs out in the isle so I looked through them.  I was able to score cans of beans for .39 per can, packs of pudding for .69 per box, a thing of Capri Sun fruit punch for .69 (the box was dented, but no leaking of pouches!) and a boxed cake mix for .69.

I also got a thing of orange rolls as they are one of my daughter's favorites because it was her birthday week and because they were decently cheap there :).

All totaled:  12.86 spent at Fred Meyer
Early this week I went to Carrs (Tuesday since that is the last day their sales run) because I wanted to grab Coke while it was on sale for 2.00 per two liter bottle. I got a combo of Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero to see which one would work best with my son (basically which one he would be satisfied drinking but not guzzling).  The Diet Coke won the contest, so I'm going to start buying that for a while with a few bottles of Coke Zero added in (the son unit is getting pudgy from all the empty calories, so it's time for some weight maintenance).

I also desperately needed bottle liners, so I got those too, which are a pricey item when I have to buy them.  The bread was on sale for 1.79 per loaf.  My son loves hot dog buns, hamburger buns and soft "containing 97% air bread" so I got him a loaf as it was cheaper than buying hot dog buns this week.  Doritos were on sale for 3.50 per bag, so I got those as well while I was there as we needed them for his lunches and such.

My biggest find while I was there was finding Pillsbury pie crusts on reduced 50% off.  I looked at the shelf tag and found they were on sale for 2.50 per box, so once the 50% got taken off at the register they were 1.25 per box.  I'm seeing some meat pies (pasties) and such in my husband's near future to take for lunches (I am NOT great at pie crust.  I try, but I'm just not a great pie crust maker).

Not shown in the picture is a 20 pack of Diet Coke I had to get for my son's lunch coke as I didn't feel like hauling it up the stairs *laugh*.

All totaled I spent 43.49 at Carrs.

Total for the week:  56.35

Bright side, though, is that the milk, on top of what we already had in the fridge, definitely lasted out the week so I didn't have to pick up any extra milk during the week (yay!).

So, yeah, I picked up some extras this week with the pie crusts and such and that's what sent me over my grocery budget for the week, but I still think it was worth it.

How did you do on shopping this week?  Get any good deals?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Menu Plan for Week fo 2/22/16

 This post always seems to get delayed *laugh*.  This week's reason is because I am one of the unlucky folks in the universe who was not only cursed with sub-par teeth, but I am also cursed in that Novocaine tends to give me terrible migraines.  So, I was down with a head ache most of yesterday and really didn't have the energy to think of a menu plan.

This week is kind of going to be centered around chicken because I have a whole chicken (a pretty big one in fact) that should get used up and I don't want to shove cooked meat BACK into the freezer, so I'm just going to use it up.  But, the meals will not be boring!

So, anyway, let's get this party started in here!

Menu Plan for Week of 2/22/16

Monday:  Taco soup (used leftover chicken taco meat)

Tuesday:  Roast chicken, cranberry relish, stuffing, mashed potatoes, salad (this is another meal that got kicked down the road due to the chicken refusing to defrost until was impressive *laugh*).

Wednesday:  Leftover roast chicken slices, cornmeal pancakes with fig jam, fried eggs

Thursday:  Chicken pot pie (use rest of leftover roast chicken) or leftover roast chicken dinner croquettes (depending how much meat we're talking about).

Friday:  French Toast with canned blueberries and powdered sugar, sausage patties, eggs

Saturday:  Beef Bourguignon style short ribs over noodles (I'll try to remember to take pictures and share this recipe as it's tasty and really not that expensive to make overall), steamed carrots, salad

Sunday:  Leftovers (because I am sure there will be some).

To Make/bake:  Crepes for dinner next week (didn't get to make these last week, but I have some ideas for crepes, so it needs to GET done), bread, steamed pudding.  Baking Days:  Tuesday (crepes), Friday (bread),  Saturday (steamed pudding).

Desserts:  Leftover birthday cake, cookie bars (those are nearly gone), steamed pudding/cake

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

I have my dental appointment this morning to get my cavities drilled.  Have you ever noticed that no matter HOW old you get the idea of going to the dentist still brings about near panic.  Times like this I really relate to how nervous the poor animals get when they go to the vet.

I feel pretty good about how last week went.  I didn't get near as much done as I wanted to due to being busy with birthday preparations, a three day weekend for the kids (with the parent teacher conferences that went with it) and just plain trying to keep on top of things while being just so burned out TIRED with my son not sleeping well.  But, I did get some things done and I feel really good about what I did get done.

I got "stage one" of my vintage-y Spring tablecloth done (seen above).  This is actually a giant cotton curtain panel someone had cut down and dropped off at the thrift store.  I got it for 1.00 thinking it might be vintage fabric, but nope it's a vintage repop if the modern tag from Target was any indication *laugh*.  So, I finally sat down with the fabric last night, cleaned up the edges to make it square (well as close to "square" as I make anything ;), washed it (again as my cat had been sleeping on it) and voila!  One really nice bright tablecloth.

I am going to do a square panel to sit in the middle of the tabletop on top of the tablecloth to make it look more like a traditional vintage tablecloth.  I was, originally, going to make the panel and then sew it permanently into the tablecloth, but then thought better of it as I want to make the center panel white with some embroidery designs or a cute light colored panel in a contrasting pattern (anyone who looks at vintage table linens will quickly get what I mean here), but I really want to be able to wash the two fabrics separately as with my son being able to spot clean fabrics of different types is definitely a good idea. I have some ideas sketched out and I think that the final product will look really cute.  But, really, I think the tablecloth doesn't look too shabby right now either and makes the house a bit brighter as we wait for Spring to get here :).

Oh and as another monthly goal that I'm working on, proof is in the pudding here.  That's my ice water on the table.  The soda on the table is my son's (I pushed his tushy out of the frame to take the picture before he potentially messed up the tablecloth *laugh*).

I sewed up four cloth napkins and am going to work on designing embroidery designs to place on them to match my new tablecloth.  This will be good practice for me to further hone my "floral embroidery" skills, I think, and will also lead to some cute napkins to use with the tablecloth.

I got my son's air purifier completely changed out with new filters and with it all nice and clean (and dusted as I did that too) it seems to be helping his skin a little bit (at least I hope it is).

I did get some windows washed and some closet doors cleaned, but still have a ways to go around here.  I'm hoping to get "deep scrubbing" done slowly so that I'm not rushing when Spring cleaning gets here, but the way my son is sleeping I might be deluding myself.

So onto my goals for this week!

Sewing Goals:
  • Finish or at least accomplish, some of the sewing goals that are leftover from last week.
  • Make square panel for tablecloth and start working on final touches for that.
  • Make new bag holder (I know I can find the time to do THAT no matter what).

General Goals:
  • Clean out and scrub fridge (phase one of this is pretty much done.  I got about 90% of the stuff pulled out, situated in new locations or otherwise taken care of.  Now it's just a matter of actually taking shelves out one by one and scrubbing them nice and sparkly).
  • Finish washing windows and mirrored surfaces in house.
  • Start to clean out furnace room.
  • Go through fridge freezer.  Process what needs to be used, clean out anything that can't be used, etc.  Move any meat that doesn't need to be used ASAP to standing freezer.  Move ice cream and other everyday used items up to fridge freezer.
And there you are folks.  My goals for this week.  What are you up to?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Bare Essentials Challenge: Weekly Recap

You know I have to say that I'm really pleased with how this is going so far.  I never expected that I would be able to buy meat on a grocery budget reduced by 2/3, but it's worked out that I could get a few things on so little money.  So far stores are still holding up okay, although I grated the last little chunk of cheese up tonight for dinner, so I'm, once again, going to be using about 10.00 out of my 50.00 for groceries to get more cheese in the next week or so.

Anyway, here's how the stores held up this week.

For breakfast lately the kids have been pretty set on eating toast for breakfast (their choice, honestly as I'd love it if they ate like oatmeal or something to mix things up) and with the home made bread that has been pretty cost effective to do.  I've been using margarine for baking period and saving the butter for the toast as my son won't do margarine on his toast.  So far I still have four pounds of butter left.  I managed to find one pound of butter I still had in the fridge, which lasted us a while, so I'm going to be pulling the last four pounds out of the freezer here soon.

With lunches the kids have been taking a lot of pasta to school (in the case of my daughter it's definitely her choice there), so that has helped to stretch the grocery budget too.  I mean one pound of pasta goes a long way for lunches with the kids, so that's been really nice.  My husband has been taking lunches on and off, which has helped to cut costs somewhat and he's been working local sometimes so he has been able to come home for lunch too, which has also helped to reduce spending.

Now onto the dinners for the week.

The menu plan went kind of awry a couple of times this last week.  My husband wasn't feeling good one night and wanted to just eat pasta and the kids will eat pasta for dinner as well so I just did a noodle bowl night instead of corn beef hash (hash will be moved to next week's menu).

1.  Shrimp Cocktail Night

I was going through the freezer to do my menu plan for the week and ran across a bag of shrimp I'd gotten on 5.00 Fridays at Carrs about a month ago and was kind of shocked to find it was pretty badly freezer burned.  I turned the bag around to find that a box from a mini-pizza had managed to punch the bottom in such a way that it separated the bag's seam, so it'd just been open to the freezer for goodness knows how long.

I tried to think of something I could do with the shrimp to use it up quickly and decided to do shrimp cocktail.

I make shrimp cocktail KIND OF like Alton Brown, but with some tweaks.  I take a pan of water and add 1/2 cup of salt (about) and 1/2 cup of sugar (about) and a couple tablespoons of some acid (in this case some white wine vinegar), mix it up well and then put the shrimp in.  I then boil the shrimp till just done in this mixture.  The shrimp come out perfectly seasoned every time when I do it this way.  It seems like a lot of salt and sugar, but trust me, only a small portion actually absorbs into the shrimp, but it's enough to help make them good!

I then took some Emeril's Baby Bam Seasoning and mixed it up well with the shrimp once I had drained them well, making sure to rub the seasoning into the shrimp with my fingers so that it got into the meat.

I served the shrimp with cocktail sauce (from the fridge) and used that up and then I used up all the little amounts of leftover fries from the freezer so those were taken care of too.

It turned out well.  I only had a couple of shrimp that tasted mildly of freezer funk, so I was grateful for that.

2.  A lot of my accomplishments for the week came from desserts, actually.  I was trying to think of different ways to make jello more exciting, so I made a three color jello in a mold (thanks to the reader who suggested that mix up :).  It was fun and unmolded like a champ (woot!), although I was the only one who liked the mango and lime jello flavors (they didn't really go together well, but I ate them separately alright...I didn't have any lemon jello or I would have used that for the top layer).  My daughter liked the strawberry jello on the bottom anyway *laugh*.

3.  I convinced my daughter (actually all I had to do was suggest it) to bring chocolate chip cookies into her class for her birthday treat.  I just used the good old Nestle Tollhouse recipe (found it online) and used that to make the cookies (which following the whole "1 rounded tablespoon" direction actually only gave me 3 dozen cookies, but it was enough for her class anyway) and when I was on the site I saw they had directions to make cookie bars.

My husband isn't a big cookie person, but I remembered that he actually LIKES cookie bars, so I made some.  I then convinced my doubtful daughter to try them, which of course she loved, so now I have a great way to go forward with cookies for dessert.  Make them into bars!

4.   My biggest accomplishment for the week was definitely that chicken from 2013.  When it defrosted I rinsed it REALLY well to try and remove any surface freezer funk (I removed the giblets and neck first, of course) and then I jammed it into my crock pot (I have a smaller crock pot).  I then took taco seasoning and just went to town coating the chicken with it, I think I probably used about 1/3 of a cup of taco seasoning on the chicken.  I then added enough water on the bottom of the pot to avoid any scorching or anything (somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of a cup) and then I cooked the chicken on high for about five hours.  I then took the chicken carefully out of the crock pot and shredded the meat that I knew would be okay (like I skipped the wings as they were really freezer burned) and placed it back into the crock pot (I left the liquid from the chicken when it cooked).  I then added yet MORE taco seasoning to the shredded meat, sprinkling it liberally over it and cooked it on low for an additional 3 1/2 hours (I did end up adding salt and pepper and a bit of chicken bullion powder to season it at that point as it was kind of bland, believe it or not).  I then removed the meat to a bowl via slotted spoon and let it sit overnight int he fridge before serving.

Final verdict?  The chicken came out tasting a-okay!  No freezer funk to be had and nice and heavily seasoned for tacos.  I call it a victory!

I now have a huge bowl of taco meat, but I'm thinking I'm going to take some of the leftovers and make taco soup out of it for next week.  Sounds good to me!
5.  I had the container of boxed milk in the fridge and I had some left that had been sitting in the fridge for a week and was tasting a bit sour.  Instead of throwing it away, I added some lemon juice to it, to sour it fully, and made Irish soda bread.  My oven has been having temperature issues (I'm REALLY hoping it just needs to be cleaned as I don't want to have to replace a thermostat right now), so the bread didn't rise very well and we ended up with a kind of doughy tasting small loaf, but we ate it for breakfast toast and it turned out alright for that.  The loaf was so small that once we all had toast that pretty much wiped the loaf out *laugh*.

So there you are folks.  My frugal adventures for the week.  You do anything interesting on the food front this week?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Hi *shoots cheesy smile at camera* I'm Erika!  Today on The Make Do Homemaker we offer some weird...errr...interesting solutions to common household problems!  Today we'll be covering potato storage!

Ahem.  Anyway, bad QVC style mental commercial aside, this solution that I came up with is actually rather humorous.

When it comes to russet potatoes I always have had this issue, which honestly probably stems from laziness, where if I keep russets down in my pantry downstairs I have to put them wayyyy in the back so that light doesn't get to them so I put them in there and forget about them.  I just end up using my mashed potato mixes or boxed products as my family likes them, use an occasional russet for a baked potato and the storage thing just starts to go sideways on me.  When I finally remember them they are happily sprouting all over the place and don't really taste that great anymore.

To avoid wasting potatoes I don't buy them that often, but I've run into recipes lately for things like hash that I wanted to try, so I figured I should buy some potatoes this last week.

The biggest issue I had was where to keep them so they didn't go to waste, thus I knew I had to keep them close at hand in the kitchen (which is why I use my Yukon gold potatoes or my new potatoes in the like as I keep those in the fridge).  I rewatched my old episodes of "Good Eats" and Alton Brown (culinary mentor of mine) said that potatoes should be stored in a drawer in your kitchen ideally (or similar environment), but I don't have any extra drawers in my kitchen.  So, I tried to think of something else I could use so I could keep the potatoes close at hand in the kitchen so I remembered know...use them.

I checked around to see if I had any lidded baskets to spare, but I didn't and I really didn't want to buy anything to use.  I had a really old crate that used to house canned corn beef products that I got ages ago, but I didn't want to park that in my kitchen for fear my son would try to stand on it and collapse it (not an ideal situation for an antique to be in).  And then it hit me as I was mending a sock (no seriously, it did).  I looked down and saw this container...

And thought, "Hey, this is wood.  It's lidded.  It's dry.  Why not put the potatoes in this?"  So, the next step was trying to find somewhere to stick my mending so it was nice and available (or I won't do it *laugh*) and so I ended up using my knitting bag and combined it and my mending things together.
Irony log on the fire here?  My knitting bag is actually an insulated tote made for picnicking.  So, I'm quite literally using a food storage device to hold my mending and a mending box to hold my food.  Ah, my warped mind works in mysterious ways!

I planted the mending box with the potatoes in the corner of my kitchen.  I think it will work out well for the potatoes and once they are gone, if I don't want to buy any more russets for a while, I can go back to using it for a sewing box.  Got to love the ability of an item to multi-task :).

And now onto other ways I saved money this week!

1.  Believe it or not my husband forgot it was Valentine's Day last weekend.  We've both been pretty distracted with money things and he just didn't think about it.  He normally does get me something for Valentine's Day, so he quickly came up with the perfect thing to give me.  A nap.  I haven't slept much at all lately with my son, so he basically let me sleep all afternoon on Valentine's Day, even taking the kids out to play to give me peace and quiet in the house.  Best Valentine's Day gift ever as far as I'm concerned!

2.  My daughter's air purifier in her room started to bog down and make horrible grinding noises, so I quickly turned it off and asked my husband to tear it apart and see if he could clean the motor as I thought that is probably what was wrong with it.  Sure enough he ripped it apart, cleaned it, oiled it and blew out the filter and it's working great.  He did that with an old one of the same model that was completely seized up (which is why we replaced the air purifier for my daughter's current one a couple of years ago) that had been sitting in the garage and got it up and working good as new too. So, I put that one up in my daughter's closet so we now have an extra air purifier if we need one.

3.  My Kirby's vacuum bag was full this week.  We bought a used Kirby when my kids were first diagnosed with environmental allergies years ago and I do love it and would use it a lot more if not for one thing.  The cost of the bags is ridiculous!  It's like 50.00 per two bags.  So, I use the Kirby to vacuum my downstairs and use the canister vacuum upstairs so I can empty it regularly with my son's ability to spread food upstairs.  Since the bag was full and it was the last bag I had I figured emptying it was the only way to go as I didn't want to spend the money to go and get new bags for the vacuum.  It worked really well actually.  Not ideal by any means, but it worked and now I've got another use out of the bag.

4.  I reviewed my Amazon order before it shipped and decided I could make up the overage from the groceries by just cancelling my gravy powders off the order.  I know I can make do without them, so I cancelled the gravy powders.  Now not only am I not over for groceries for the week, but I also made up the overage from the rest of the grocery shopping from last week as well.  So, life is good!

5.  Made laundry soap and refilled some of my windex bottles with vinegar instead.

6.  I saw our local Three Bears (our bulk store, kind of like Costco or Sam's Club but without membership fees) had gas for 1.99 per gallon.  I filled up my tank.  I took the remainder of the money that I had budgeted out for gas for the week and put it into my grocery budget to help stop myself from possibly going over in future weeks (12.00 onto groceries is always nice!  I always budget high for gas just in case).

7.  I fixed all of our dinners at home, which saved us money.  I also did some creative using up of food items (more on that on the Bare Essentials recap tomorrow).

8.  I mended a pair of socks this week.

9.  I continued to send my kids to school with pasta and with my son rice, to help stretch the food budget and get more real food into my son vs. processed foods.

10.  I used shower warm up water to wash the floors.

So, there are some ways I saved money this week.  How did you do? 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thrifty Thursday: Thrift Store Finds

This week I am sharing with you one of the coolest finds I've found at the thrift stores to date!  And that's saying something.

What you see above, my friends, is a game changer, or can be, when it comes to energy consumption with cooking.  What you are peering at is a thermal cooker!

I've been quasi obsessed with thermal cooking since I read about the hay box cooking of WWII in my British rationing cookbooks.

The concept is simple and goes back to...well probably about the time men walked upright and discovered fire really.  You take an object that retains heat, like a slab of rock, heat it up to really hot, put it in a thermally insulated environment (like in a pit or something), put your food on top and then put more insulation on top and let the heat do it's thermal voodoo.  This is just more modern and on a smaller scale than, say, a luau pit.

You heat the slab of stone with this model (the big disc there), put it in the bottom of the cooker (which is, essentially a GIANT thermos) after heating the rock on a burner for a half an hour.  You heat your food at the same time in the inner pot to brown your meat and such.  Once you put the rock into the cooker, put your inner pan on top of the heated rock, slap on the lid and walk away.  The rock and cooker will continue to cook your food for up to eight hours and will heat it for even longer.  So you can put this baby on the counter in the morning with a little prep work and just walk away and have dinner done at suppertime.  Kind of like a crock pot, but no electric involved for most of the day.

I've been wanting one of these to take on our camper for a LONG time as you can heat the rock on a campfire or you can heat it on your camper stove, but preserve a bunch of propane by heating the rock and forgetting about it.

I'm also looking forward to trying it out at home just because really as I have seen some cool recipes in my rationing cookbooks that call for hay boxes and stuff and I'm intrigued to say the least :).

These cookers normally retail for 70.00 to 80.00 on the low end of the cost spectrum and those are pretty small cookers.  This one is actually pretty big and is from, it looks like to me, the 70's.  But it's BRAND SPANKING NEW in condition.  It still had all the paperwork in it, the original cardboard insert is on the bottom of the cooker to stop the stone from scratching up the bottom of the cooker and everything.  Retail back then for this thing?  89.95 by the little insert card that came with the cooker.

Final price I paid?  25.00.

I never expected to ever run into one of these at the thrift stores.  I'd had one in my Amazon cart for at least two years to buy eventually, but 70.00 on the cheap was just out of my price range.  25.00?  I could swing that.

So, yeah, it was an awesome day on the thrift store shopping front this week.  How did you do?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Menu Plan for The Week: Week of 2/15/16

 I refuse to put "Menu Plan Monday" as it's way past then *laugh*.

I have been kind of struggling to think clearly this week to come up with a menu plan primarily due to lack of sleep, but I finally got up energy I didn't have yesterday to go through the freezers a bit more thoroughly and start figuring out what needs to be used up.

The biggest find was actually a whole chicken I found in the back of my fridge freezer drawer (how it ended up there, I have no idea).  It's freezer burned and old (2013), so I'm going to defrost it, remove the worst of the freezer burned bits and try to make it into chicken taco meat (really heavily seasoned) to make it usable.  I will let you know how that goes.  So, we might or might NOT be having chicken tacos for dinner this Friday *laugh*.

We'll be having my daughter's birthday this week, but she wants the chicken strips and french fries for lunch on her birthday, so that works for me.

So, onto the menu plan for this week!

Menu Plan for Week of 2/15/16
Monday: Shrimp Cocktail, french fries

Tuesday:  Honey Sriracha Chicken (this was pretty good.  I just baked mine in the sauce instead of marinading it due to lack of time and it was still tasty!), salad, rice

Wednesday:  Honey mustard pork chops, salad, bouillon rice (chicken tomato flavor)

Thursday:  Corned beef hash, poached eggs, fruit cocktail

Friday:  Chicken tacos

Saturday:  Leftovers (I know we'll have some with the chicken tacos IF they turn out.  If not we'll have hamburgers)

Sunday:  Roast chicken, Cranberry relish (leftover from thanksgiving), stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy

To Bake/Prepare:  Crepes (for dinner next week.  Put in freezer), cookies (for daughter's school for her birthday "treat"), birthday cake, bread.  Baking day(s):  Wednesday (cookies and bread), Friday (crepes).  On birthday:  birthday cake *laugh*.

Desserts:  Three color jello mold (we've actually had this for dessert a couple of days so far this week already), birthday cake and leftover cookies (more than enough sweets for a week I'd say).

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bare Essentials Challenge: This Week's Shopping Trip

Okay, I think officially I need to move my shopping day to Tuesday or Wednesday as lately that seems to be when I end up going shopping *laugh*.

First, I want to say that yup I ended up going over my grocery budget last week by 10.00.  I took the last bit of money out of my budget for my daughter's birthday to help cut the overage a bit and ended up being about 6.00 over budget.  Honestly, I am okay with that. 
I then ended up having to spend 38.00, mostly on my son.  His skin has been so bad all he's been doing is itching and after talking it over with my husband we decided to default him back to the basics when it came to products we KNEW would work okay with his skin.  Thus having to spend 17.00 on a thing of Seventh Generation Free and Clear laundry soap.  I've tried every laundry soap on the market and none of them worked as well as the Seventh Generation.  When my son's skin was doing OKAY (it's never awesome), I decided to switch him to the home made laundry detergent to see if it would work okay, but his skin is so bad that I just couldn't try another laundry soap on him right now.

I'm going to be washing my son's clothes by themselves when I do the wash (with his bedding) and then I'll wash everyone else's laundry in the home made laundry soap to keep the costs down, for one, and because the rest of us do just fine on the home made laundry soap (for two).

With my son's severe eczema, one thing I learned to do a long time ago, though, is to make a monthly budget just for that.  So, the above actually came out of the "son's needs budget" as I like to call it.  I budget 50.00 per month for things he might need.  The Zyrtec he has to take every day, as well as liquid Benadryl and such come out of this budget too.  If I don't use the entire 50.00 I roll over the rest of the money onto another bill, like the bills we're trying to pay off right now, or I use part of it for my husband's weekly cash allowance.  This month, I'm thinking, the entire 50.00 is shot once I buy my son Zyrtec toward the end of the month.  I included the stain remover in his budget this month as well because he's the one who created the numerous oil stains on my tablecloths that I am trying to remove, so I got kind of snarky and included means to try and remove some of them in his budget *laugh*.

The Balmex was one of those "new" products that I ran into and I thought maybe it would help his eczema.  I was one of those parents before my son came along that believed Balmex could fix pretty much everything, so I was impressed when I ran into this new product when I was walking by the isle.  I was hoping it might help my son with the eczema that he has broke out on the inside of his thighs and maybe sooth his cracking feet, so I bought a tub (the 10.99 price tag made me flinch, but trust me...I've paid a lot more for new products to try on him).  Overall?  I'm really happy with this stuff so far.  It's really thick, but once smeared into the skin it really does seem to reduce the irritation and itching, which is helping to stop my son's eczema from cycling so fast.  Any improvement when it comes to eczema, is a good thing.

I'm sharing this part of the grocery shopping really as more of a "head's up" to anyone who suffers with eczema or knows someone who does that maybe the Balmex stuff might be worth a shot to get some relief.  And also to prove, once again, that my son is platinum plated *laugh*.

So, anyway, onto the groceries that actually fit into my normal grocery budget!

This could be called the, "Hey look, Erika doesn't just buy processed crap" edition.  I did the math and figured out that I could finally fit some fresh things into the budget this week.  So, I went to the store to get some Cheetos (on sale B1G1 at Carrs ending today), some Chip's Ahoy cookies (on sale 2.50) and other things (like the flavored water for school lunches).

I did end up going 8.00 over budget because I found a bunch of beef on clearance for 50% off.  I knew that I could do a lot with the ribs, the short ribs and the thin cut steaks, so I bought them knowing full well I was going to go over my weekly budget.  And I was okay with that.  I have enough of my son's food to last till past pay day and milk might get tight, but worse comes to worse I can raid my cash cushion to get us through for the week for milk (as I don't want to spend any MORE on groceries this week out of the checking account), so I'm feeling pretty good overall.

Honestly, there comes a point when you cut your grocery budget by 2/3 when you're going to have to go a bit over from time to time to get things that are more expensive, like meat or produce (which is more gold plated than it was the last time I bought it *sigh*).  I figured on this ahead of time, so I'm not beating myself up for going over.  I didn't go over by 100.00 or something (which would have equaled out to my normal weekly grocery budget...weird thinking about that), so I'm just not worrying about it too much.

Some highlights of my trip.

I got Beef ribs for 3.74 per container on the 50% off.  I got three thin cut steaks for 5.45. 

The biggest find this week was two packages of Valentine's (32 Valentine's per package each!) for 1.39 each on Valentine's Day clearance. These will be put into the holiday reserve things for Valentine's next year.  And no, I don't care if my daughter has outgrown My Little Pony by then.  She's stuck with them ;).

I also got produce, which I really did need to help my canned good stretch as well as to just introduce some more variety to our diet.  I tend not to buy russet potatoes as I don't really have a good spot to store them to stop them sprouting before I use them, but I think I might have solved that problem (hopefully), but more on that odd solution on Friday.  So, I got some potatoes, a rutabaga (I like to keep them around for stews, casseroles, roasted veggies or other uses), an onion, some lettuce, a couple of apples and some bananas.  I knew that wasn't going to be cheap, so I figured this was a good week to invest in produce as I didn't have a lot to buy this week since I ended up getting the majority of the soda we would need and a couple of gallons of milk late last week.

I still have a bunch of oranges in the fridge as well as some apples, so when I got a couple of apples I knew I was just supplementing my stores and not actually replacing them.  I found that oranges and apples will last months in the fridge, so it's nice to have a good store of them around.

Not shown is the free chocolate bar I got from Fred Meyer (yup, I only got that one thing there today).  I put that in the pantry out of sight of my son as it's not safe for him to eat (I wanted to do that before I forgot).

Oh and my biggest reveal of this week?  We are 100% officially potty trained!  My son finally lost the nighttime diapers over a week ago and has been doing great without them.  You can not believe how thrilled this makes me :).  This will allow me to lower by monthly grocery budget, once it goes back up, by 50.00 (mind you with inflation driving prices up that might be a bit off).  No matter what it's definitely a good thing!

So, all totaled I spent 58.61 on groceries this week. 

A couple of people in the store, my cashier being one of them, couldn't believe my total and everything I got for that much money without a single coupon to help (well, except the reduced stickers).  The guy behind me even asked me how I did that and I smiled at him and said, "By watching things carefully.  Very carefully."  And it was the absolute truth.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Well, be prepared for things being late (like this post for instance) as I'm running behind this week.  I'm dragging something fierce.  My son slept 2 hours a night the last three days.  It's been utterly miserable on my energy levels, so I haven't gotten near as much done as I would have liked.  I managed to keep the house as clean as possible with a cranky and destructive some running around and that was about it (house is completely cleaned this morning, though, which is good).

I did manage to get a few things done, however the sewing machine didn't get pulled out this week.  Between my son not sleeping and then his skin just being terrible, it's been a struggle just to get normal things done around here, let alone satellite items.  I'm hoping that I can get some of those done this week as I changed some things to help his skin out (more on that bit later).

First up I got the master bath changed over to the new rugs and shower curtain.  Everything was black in the master bath before and it darkened the room more than I wanted, but that was all I had for rugs other than what I had in the kid's bathroom.  Well, my son, after he had the stomach flu, gets freaked out if I have any rugs in the kids bathroom (why, we're not really sure), so I just moved the rugs downstairs along with a shower curtain that just darkened the kid's bathroom a little too much (they have a TINY bathroom).

The final results on the bath mat and shower curtain are above.  I'm not sure what I think of the floor pattern with the green in the rugs and such, but at least it lightened the bathroom up a bit and gave it a nice shower curtain.

And I obviously got the Valentine's for my son's class made and sent off, so at least that got done.

The fridge I started to clean (overall so far not too bad.  Found about three containers of sour cream I get to use up, but I don't mind that at all :), but haven't gotten through it yet.  I still want to pull everything out and scrub the shelves nice and sparkly and such and then I want to start emptying out the fridge freezer just to see what else I have buried in there that might have to be used up.

Oh and I FINALLY got my granola made!  I don't know why I put off making granola as it's so simple to make, but I just always think it's going to be way more work than it ends up being.  It's kind of like making bread.  You're like, "Ah man, this is going to take forever" and then when you actually make it it doesn't really take that much time at all in the grand scheme of things.  Weird the way that works.

So, here's this week's goals.

Sewing Goals:
1.  Get napkins done (embroidery will come later).
2.  Fix at least one zipper on husband's work jackets (more on this adventure later)
3.  Start to sew dress (maybe.  This is on a "if I have time" basis)
4.  Find pattern for robe.  If I don't have one (which, I could honestly be delusional thinking I have one), figure out a pattern for one.
5.  Finish daughter's nightgowns (got the sides sewn up, but haven't done the straps, armholes or neckline yet).
6.  At least figure out measurements for and cut out beginning of Spring tablecloth.
General Goals:
1.  Clean out and scrub fridge.
2.  Wash windows, mirrors and closet doors (dust and Vaseline fingers due to my son are everywhere right now).
3.  Clean TV screens and dust DVD players and other electronics well.
4.  Change filter in son's air purifier.
5.  Mop floors.
6.  Scrub tubs well.
7.  Try to find Spring decorations and start to clean out furnace room.
I think I might have bitten off a lot more than I can chew this week with the goals if my son doesn't start sleeping better, but we'll see.  Maybe the Good Lord will shine on me and my son will start sleeping again.  I can hope anyway.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bare Essentials Challenge: Weekly Recap

I have to say that this week went well on the using things up and being creative front and being pretty cost effective all the way around for things.

1.  Eggs Benedict Night

I want to start out with this one because really it's the prettiest picture of all of them *laugh* (seen above).  I made hollandaise sauce from scratch for the first time ever using Alton Brown's Good Eats recipe.  It worked well.  I did deviate from his recipe though in that I didn't use unsalted butter (didn't have any) and I used half butter and half margarine (to preserve my butter and also to cut costs).  The hollandaise wasn't as scary to make as I always thought it would be and turned out well.

This was also my first real attempt to make poached eggs.  All times in the past when I'd make eggs benedict I used a powdered mix for the hollandaise and then used fried eggs with still creamy yolks instead of poached eggs.  This time I did it right.  I was happy that I found my four extra eggs, that I knew I had, but they had gotten pushed to the back of the fridge, so I was able to use those up before they went bad.

I did serve the dish over toast instead of English muffins (didn't have any).  And we ate it with ham vs. Canadian bacon as we had the sliced ham in the freezer.

2.  Chicken and Rice Casserole Night

This dish was actually cited in my original notes to be a chicken and rice soup.  I used one of the free Uncle Ben's mixes in it to see if it would work well to thicken the soup into a stew.  I put it in with the chicken and veggies and then added four cups of water and cooked for four hours on high.  I had to do some last minute seasoning, believe it or not it needed salt and pepper, but overall it turned out pretty well and thickened up to the point I called it a casserole.  I ate the leftovers all week for lunch.

3.  Yankee Style Pot Roast Night

This was actually a freezer burned seven bone roast that I kept saving because beef was so expensive and I didn't realize it'd gotten freezer burned until I took some chicken out of the freezer and saw it.  So, I decided with all the lines of grisel and stuff in it that making it into a yankee style pot roast was the best way forward.

To make a yankee style pot roast is actually pretty simple.  Take your tough piece of meat and spread horse radish over it (see picture) and then slice up an onion and put that over the top as well (if you have one fresh.  I used dehydrated since I'd used the rest of my fresh onion in the chicken and rice casserole).  Place veggies of choice around said pot roast (I put canned potatoes and fresh carrots all around it as well as a rutabaga diced up into bite sized pieces).  Season roast and veggies (I like to use grill seasoning or something with a bit of flavor to help season the veggies well) and then pour 1/4 cup of water around the roast.  Cover with aluminum foil and cook at about 350 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the pot roast starts to fall apart when you manipulate it.

This pot roast, due to the freezer burn, just didn't want to get to the point it would fall apart.  I got it to the point it would fall off the bone and that was about it.  It was chewy, but with a bit of extra horse radish on top it was actually pretty tasty.

4.  The Korean style pork chops were pretty good!  I marinated my pork chops in the marinade for 20 minutes (next time I'm doing it for a few hours) and then I just baked the pork chops in the marinade instead of grilling them (I didn't want them too hot for the sake of my daughter).  I've had sriracha sauce for a long time as I got it for a certain recipe and it's been sitting around ever since, so it was nice being able to use some of it up.

5.  The Souvlaki chicken night got put on hold until probably tomorrow night as my husband and I ended up going over and helping my in-laws with computer problems.  My mother-in-law gifted us with the above bread and my husband and I both decided we wanted to eat sandwiches for dinner that night (Europa bakery makes awesome bread).  I had a ham sandwich and my husband had the one piece of leftover pork we had in the fridge.

6.  My husband didn't feel like pancakes for dinner tonight nor pizza so we ended up having some chicken fried steaks we had in the freezer (they were prepackaged ones we'd gotten at our local bulk store...I think they are the same ones available at Costco).  I made five steaks so we can have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

7.  Dessert for the week.

My husband requested something different for dessert this week as jello just wasn't exciting, so I grabbed a graham cracker crust out of the pantry, along with some dehydrated bananas, some banana pudding and some dream whip and I made a banana pudding (kind of since I didn't use the traditional Nilla wafers in it).

I re-hydrated the bananas with some boiling water and then placed them in the bottom of the pie crust.  I then made up the pudding to pie directions (you use less liquid.  I used the boxed milk that was left in the fridge from last week) and poured that on top of the bananas.  Then I mixed up the dream whip (once again with the boxed milk) and spread it on top of the pie.

It came out tasting alright, although I have to say that for really expensive banana chips the dehydrated bananas were really tasteless and I was kind of disappointed in the results.  The bananas kind of came out tasting like cardboard in the pie, but the texture was alright.  The pudding and Dream Whip came out great, though.

I think the next time I'm using the dehydrated bananas I'm going to add some banana essence to them beforehand.  It might make them taste more like bananas (sad, but true).
8.  And my last accomplishment for the week wasn't really food related, but it still has to do with using what we have, so I'm going to count it here.

My son's skin has been getting worse and worse the last little bit.  I was trying to use up what was left of the home made laundry detergent I had before I made more but when I saw how much Fels Naptha was in the powder (probably because it was at the bottom of said container) I wondered if some of his skin problems was due to that.
And then I checked the ingredients on Fells Naptha and was kind of surprised by all of the acidic ingredients in the soap.  I really started to think that the soap was what was causing his skin issues.  I had a big bar of Zote (it's like 3 bars of soap in one) that I'd bought when I first made laundry soap about a year and a half ago and checked the ingredient list on it.  Yeah, Zote?  It's soap, plain and simple.  Fatty soap, but soap.  With fragrance and some small amounts of blue dye (whitening agent) to counteract any dinginess from the soap on the clothing.  I decided that was the best step forward when it came to making new laundry soap this time around.

But, I was definitely short on ingredients yet as I hadn't been able to squeeze some more ingredients into my laundry budget.  Then it hit me.  I only wanted to make a 1/2 batch of laundry soap to try this out, so WHY was I worrying about getting washing soda when I had a 4 lb box of baking soda staring at me and I had a nearly full thing of Oxi-Clean as well as 1/2 a box of Borax down in my laundry room.

So, I got to work making 1/2 of my box of baking soda into washing soda (thank you to the reader who reminded me about doing that!).  I baked it at 400 degrees for 1 hour and voila.  Washing soda.  Got the Zote grated and added in (I put it all in, even though one bar probably would have been used in a bigger recipe, but honestly I like the idea of a higher soap to washing booster ratio anyway) and got everything mixed in a garbage bag and poured into my laundry soap jar downstairs (I emptied out the last of the old stuff into a container).  I got about 3/4 of a jar of laundry soap now and we'll see if the Zote does better for my son's skin than the Fells Naptha did.

And hey, my shopping goals for the month are pretty much met.  Woot!

So there you are folks.  My week in review.  Things are doing okay so far, I'd say!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

As money saving weeks went, this one went well I think, overall.  Yes, I'm at my 50.00 for the week on groceries, but so far I haven't gone over and I only have two days left to go before the new week (for me) begins, so if I can make it to Monday to get Coke and milk, I'll be a doubly happy camper :).

Some ways I saved money this week.

1.  I made Valentine's for my son's class. 

One of the things I went looking for when I went shopping Tuesday was MAYBE cheap Valentine's to give to my son's class.  Between students and teachers I had about 11 people I had to figure out Valentine's for.  Unfortunately the only Valentine's I could find were at least 3.00 for a package, and I refused to spend that on top of what I had already spent on groceries for the week.

So, I went home and got to work.  This is a fun project to talk about really as it didn't cost me anything to make it. 

Quite a while ago (five or so years) we had a scrap booking store that was in business around here that would give out coupons in one of our free circulars for a "free scrap booking kit" if you brought the coupon in the circular and presented it at the store.  Well, never one to turn down something free like that, for like six months straight (before the store closed down, that is, it was nearby) I went in and presented my coupon and got a little plastic baggie "kit" with scrap booking things in it.  It was mainly squares or circles of paper cut out with different sizes of pinking shears (the base papers you see on the Valentine's above and below), some little doo dads to stick on scrap booking pages (some of the little phrases you see used), fake flowers, ribbon and the like.  They were actually pretty nice freebies and I figured I could give them to scrap book loving relatives as part of Christmas gifts and things, but just never got around to doing it.
So, I pulled out those papers and used any pink or Valentine's looking bases for the base for the Valentines.  I then used some phrases from those little kits, as well as some from the scrap booking kit my sister-in-law gave me as gift years ago (I've used some of those papers for projects on and off on the blog here) and stuck on some little flowers that came with the same scrap booking kit from my sister-in-law to add some "ooooo" factor to the Valentine's.  I then took out my trusty glue gun and used a small dab of glue to affix a Hershey's kiss (I got a smaller bag of them for free after clearance sale and coupons a long while ago and had been saving them for a special occasion...chocolate's not white yet from age, so I was happy when I opened them) to each Valentine's.  Right before that, however, I flipped the Valentine's over and wrote the names on the bottom of the Valentine's with a little saying, either "Have a Fun Day", "You're Fun" or, my personal favorite, "Have a 'Sweet' Day" (I love a good pun ;).

I thought, overall, they turned out really cute and were kind of a nice "newer" take on the little heart candies with sayings on them :).

2.  I sent my kids to school today armed for their class parties with free cheese popcorn and free chocolate covered pretzels (for my daughter's party) and free microwave popcorn (for my son's party).  I was thrilled to have treats to send in that didn't cost me anything (and it makes me doubly grateful for the freebies).

3.  I wrote to Pringles about a problem with the chips being miscolored and even took a picture of them so that they could see what I meant.  They are sending me a free product coupon to replace the chips and apologized very nicely for the problem chips.

4.  I got a notice in the mail that my daughter's renewal forms for her insurance got lost somehow and the state didn't have them.  I, at that point, got tired of dealing with it as I was already running into road blocks left and right, so I got on the phone with the insurance marketplace at 10:00 pm one night and had them add my daughter to my husband's and my current plan instead.  At least this way she'll have insurance when her old insurance lapses and it didn't cost me much extra at all to add her, so it was a relief to have that done.

5.  I got my electric bill in the mail.  Despite running multiple appliances every day (vacuum, dish washer and washer and dryer) I was able to lower my electric bill by 25.00.  Wish it was more than that, but overall I was happy it went down.

6.  I did the usual things of baking bread, making dinners at home (and using what we have) and trying to remain frugal in my meal choices.

7.  I was sent a request to review a new book and get a review copy of said book and for the first time in years got excited about reading and reviewing a book (I get multiple requests a week) as it's a book on sewing clothing.  I'm so, so excited about getting it, hopefully soon :).

8.   I binged watched "The Victorian Farm" on You Tube, including the Christmas special they put out.  I really enjoy watching Alex, Ruth and Peter as they navigate their way through different farming ways of life :).

9.  I requested a few free samples this week.

10.  I had issues with a bill and immediately called to get it straightened out.  I'm glad I did as not doing so could have cost me a lot of money as they misappropriated my payment to the wrong account.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Bare Essentials Challenge: This Week's Shopping Trips

So, I finally went to the dentist today.  And for once I have good news (at least to me).  I was really worried as the last week my teeth have been actively hurting, sometimes badly, and it was impacting how I ate, slept and everything.

Turns out I have exactly two cavities, which one is big, but not close to the nerve and the other one is small but they want to fill it before it gets worse (I'm totally behind that).  Other than that my teeth are fine decay wise.  After not being to the dentist in five years (I was off on my time table when they checked the date of my last appointment...oops), I was thrilled that my mouth wasn't worse. 

My biggest problem, it turns out, is receding gums due to my old nemesis TMJ.  I've had it since 2004 and haven't really been taking care of it right (as in at all really...I take Ibuprofen for it when I need to and that's it), so now I'm dealing with the consequences.  So, a bite guard to stop myself from grinding and clenching at night is in my future ASAP.  But, overall, it could have been SO much worse, so to anyone who threw a prayer heavenwards for me, thank you!

As for grocery shopping this week, my entire 50.00 grocery budget for this week was shot in one day (Tuesday as a matter of fact.  Yup I shopped on Tuesday, again *laugh*).  I'm pretty sure I'm going over my budget for the week because I'm still going to need to pick up at least a few bottles of Coke for my son and a couple of gallons of milk.   So, I'm going to be looking at probably 10.00 overage on my grocery budget for the week.  Now I can grab the last 4.00 and change from my daughter's birthday money to help compensate for that (I *ahem* sold her on chocolate chip cookies for her birthday treat at school, so that will save me one throw away pan), but I'm still going to be over.  Depressing, but when you end up having to pick up about 20.00 in cat supplies (dry cat food, cat litter and wet cat food) you know you're in trouble.  And there was no way around it really.  I was pretty much out of dry cat food, the cat box needed to be changed (and no coupons to be had this week, unfortunately) and the cats were contemplating eating us soon if they didn't get a few more cans of wet cat food per week, so needed to happen.

But, anyway, here's what I got this week for 50.00.
First I went to Carrs.

Got veggie straws and tortilla chips for my son's speech therapy as his therapist wants to work those into his feeding therapy (she wants to see if he likes corn chips or ranch flavors with his Doritos, either way, she figures, we can get him some healthier options either way), which was 5.00 and some change more than I wanted to spend, but necessary.

I also got milk since it was still on sale for 2.99 a gallon with the in-ad coupon.  I got a 2 liter bottle of ginger ale as well.  I found a coupon for 1.00/1 Refreshe item in my cart last week and knew that ginger ale was still on sale through the end of the month for 1.50, so I got it for .50 after coupon (I have been mixing this in with orange juice to try and get my son to try it.  So far, no luck, but I'm still trying).

All totaled I spent 12.05 at Carrs.

At Fred Meyer I got Doritos (on sale 3.50 per bag this week) and Cheetos (same price at Carrs or Fred Meyer, so I ended getting it at the second store.  Was praying for a sale, but no cigar) for 5.29.

I also got chicken nuggets for my daughter's school lunches, on sale for 5.49 this week. Kroger brand sausage was supposedly on sale for 3.00 per package, but when I got there it was marked 2.79 per package, so it was a nice find.  I've been wanting breakfast sausage for a while and am out of ground pork in the freezer (that I can find anyway, no telling if it's hiding somewhere). 

I found Braunshweiger on reduced for 2.27 per tube so I got some for my husband to take to work for lunch or to eat on crackers as a snack (I like it too, but can't eat much of it as it is so rich).

I got some Bumblebee Tuna Salad to-go things as my son will eat the tuna salad out of these kits (crackers he could not care less about...go figure as he's always the carb loading one).  He'll eat ONLY this tuna salad (I keep trying to sell him on home made, but nope).  Since it's the only meat he'll currently eat of any type, I suck it up and buy the little boxes for 2.19 a pop (I still flinch at the price though).

My big extravagance this week was buying some Psst tea for 1.19.  It's supposedly just black tea by the ingredients, so I'm going to try using that in my beloved iced tea instead of buying some of my more expensive preferences when I have a hankering.  I hope it turns out okay.

All totaled AFTER 6.13 in rewards rebates I had, I spent 38.13 at Fred Meyer (sad, but true).

Total spent for the day:  50.18

So far the milk is holding out and so is the Coke, so I'm KIND of hoping I can make this all work until Monday and not have to worry about going over budget.  We'll see if luck is going to be a lady to me or not *laugh*.