Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

Okay, soooo I didn't post up the menu plan for last week.  Why?  Well, because I didn't have a menu plan last week (which in all honesty was really HARD to deal with since I was constantly winging what I was doing all week).  Why?  Well...exhausted...busy...exhausted...take your pick there *laugh*.  It just seemed like such an insurmountable task to make a menu plan last week, which honestly I'm sure I wasted more energy and brain cells coming up with one meal after the other all week, but we got through it.

Alvah had another spectacular day at speech therapy today (two out of three appointments so far have been really good, so I'll definitely take it!) and had a good meeting with the psychologist this morning as well.  We're going to keep him on the meds he's on now but upping the Stretera to twice a day to see if we can get the rest of his outbursts under control and maybe help him sleep better too (at this point I'm not sure I am holding out much hope for sleep...it's been REALLY rough on that front for a long time now, but the last week or so has been really bad with like two hours of sleep a night...not fun).  We shall see how it goes.  Honestly at this point I'll deal with lack of sleep if we can get him concentrating on the world around him and not hitting himself constantly in frustration.  I'd be golden at that point.

Right, back to the menu plan.  The highlight of last week's menu plan was probably yesterday when I made a pork roast in the crock pot with oven fries and salad as the sides (with four different types of home made dressing to choose from) and made strawberry shortcake for dessert (I used the frozen strawberries from the freezer from earlier in the year to make it...I was going to save the strawberries for jam, but I have a TON of strawberry jam and preserves in the pantry, so I am good for this year I think, so I thought I'd make us a treat :).  I have to say I've never made shortcake from scratch before.  My mom always bought the shortcakes from the store (which always made me sick to my stomach...I'm not sure why, but they really get to me...probably because they are glorified Twinkies), I always just bought an angel food cake and served the strawberry shortcake on that instead and then the last few years I tended to just have it on regular cake because angel food cake was kind of hard to make (well I thought it was...I need to try my hand at making it and see how it goes).  I thought for sure that shortcake would taste like...well...like the store bought shortcake that I don't really like and got to my stomach.  Turns out, after my husband pushed me to check it out a bit, that shortcake is basically a cross between cake and biscuit (or a light and fluffy scone for those of you abroad) and I figured I'd give it a shot for dessert last night.  And it was REALLY good!  I am so making that again in the future!  And it really did go perfect with the whipped topping and strawberries.  I was impressed (seen up top before I tucked into it ;).

I also tried my own variation of red beans and rice and even my husband admitted that it was pretty good (and the daughter even liked it), so I called it a win.  I need to try making it again and write it down as I didn't really do traditional red beans and rice (I used dehydrated peppers and things so I needed to veer from the traditional formula to have enough moisture to rehydrate things) and share it as it's still a frugal recipe, but does fill you up really well (a bonus shot of it is seen above there to stand in for the menu plan that wasn't for last week *laugh*).

By the way you'll notice a considerable lack of recipes calling for eggs at the moment.  For the third time in as many months I have broody hens.  This time all three of them were good for about a week and then did the domino effect again and they all went broody within a couple of days of one another, so I have no eggs at all this time where before they managed to stretch it out so I could at least get one egg at time out of the coop as two of them would be broody at once).  I've tried everything to break them and keep them producing eggs, but they don't seem to be getting the memo (ice cubes, putting them in a make shift cage to get air under their bellies, dunking their bellies in really cold water, collecting all of the eggs...well I'd do that one if I was GETTING ANY, etc).  I'm about ready to just cull them and put them in the freezer and just BUY eggs again.  I'm getting really frustrated with the whole "raising chickens" thing at the moment.  Especially since broody hens BLOW through feed like nobody's business.  They peck around and get greens and bugs when they run off of their collective imaginary eggs, but they're still blowing through the feed like it's going out of style as they tend to make a bee line straight for the feed dish when they decide to jet off of their nesting spots.  Just...ugh. 

So, yeah, I have three hens and had to go out and BUY eggs this week (at least I got some cheap at Fred Meyer).  I gave a dozen eggs (well ten eggs because I grabbed the wrong container of eggs...it was a long week what can I say) to my mother-in-law before the hens went broody on me and then I got a call from Shani out of the blue and she told me she was staying in Alaska.  Some shenanigans happened with moving in with her daughter and she can't do it until her house sells up here now.  Which with the market the way it is right now, due to everyone not knowing if the legislature is going to try and kill the majority of the state the way they are going, she hasn't even gotten a bite on the house.  So, she has sold everything she owns pretty much (both vehicles, her bed, etc etc) at this point and now she's stuck here until...whenever, she is worried the cancer has progressed bad in the last months due to the amount of nausea and pain she's in and she can't go to California until September to start treatment as that is when they'll have the scanner she needs to figure out how progressed her cancer is.  Basically, the only thing I could think to do was to drop off the last dozen eggs I had (which three days later the chickens are all broody now).  I hope that at least cheers her up at this trying time in her life :(.  At least when I told Shani that the chickens might be chicken dinners here soon she just laughed and said if they aren't giving you eggs they should be good for something right?  I love that woman!

So, anyway, onto this week's menu plan!
Wednesday:  Leftovers

Thursday:  Chicken Teriyaki, rice, garlic peas, salad

Friday:  Pork roast with pantry friendly fig sauce, mashed potatoes, apple sauce, salad

Saturday:  Chicken in mushroom sauce, left over mashed potatoes, salad

Sunday:  Waffles (blueberry for husband, chocolate chip for daughter, plain with pancake syrup for son...whatever for me), bacon, eggs

Monday:  Fruity Meatballs, garlic toast, salad

Tuesday:  Fried fish, rice, salad

Desserts:  Renaissance Apple Pudding (believe it or not this was a recipe that was popular during that time in history.  I want to give it at try as the ingredients are simple :), strawberry shortcake, Mississippi Mud (doctored brownie mix to make it work), mincemeat cookies (made and are pretty good!)

Breakfasts:  Granola by itself or with yogurt, banana nut muffins, English muffins, oatmeal, toast, cranberry orange breakfast bread (mix from pantry)

Snacks:  Beef jerky (getting low, but still have a LITTLE bit left), strawberry milk (I mixed the strawberry powder that was left over at the bottom of the can of freeze dried strawberries...which there was actually a decent amount of powder...with some sugar and voila!  Way better than store bought strawberry Quick ;), apples, watermelon (got one cheap at Carrs last week when I went shopping...it's really good!).

And there you are folks.  Our menu for the week.  How about you?  Eating anything good this week?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

This has been an interesting week, in good and bad ways.  I'm going to focus on the good, though, because it makes you feel better to focus on the good.  With the bad...well money is non-existent for the next two weeks, like BAD due to a mandatory day without pay my husband had to take as part of the labor contract (they are required to take two days a year at his job, but because of when my husband started he only had to take one day) and then healthcare deductions and things started getting taken out of his check this pay period too.  I thought that the holiday pay from the Fourth of July would help to offset the day without pay, but I didn't do my math right and the Fourth will be on the next pay period.  So, yeah...money is scary tight right now.  Not fun, but we're dealing.

Good things have happened around here, though.  The son has three speech therapy sessions under his belt so far and the first two were about what I was expecting with Alvah with a new therapist...as in not a lot got done, but overall he did OKAY.  But the last speech therapy session he had last week he did really well!  He did turn taking, nodding his head "yes" and "no" at the proper times (a big deal for him) and he followed directions!  The speech therapist came out downright oozing happy and I was thrilled.  I'm praying it's because his medication is starting to do its voodoo and also his speech therapist is a really calm and friendly person, so I think it's been a lot easier for him to feel at ease with her.  The medication is definitely making a difference though.  We had to run errands a couple of times this week as well and both times he did really great when we were out compared to how he has been and in some cases he did really well for him period.  We went and kidnapped grandma for a while one day and she went running errands with us and even she noticed how well Alvah did.  It really does make the bad mood periods he is still having easier to deal with when you know that he's going to have good days too now.  I think we're finally on the right track with his medications.  And THAT makes me really happy to say.

So, now onto frugal things that happened this week!

1.  I made some un-paper towels to help make paper towels last longer around here (seen up top there).  I have another roll to make still, but you know I have to say for something that is pretty simple construction, I mean you're making basically un-stuffed pillows when you form your squares of towels and all, they are surprisingly labor intensive.  I've been staying up late after the kids are in bed, which is about one to two AM right now with them, and working on the project because I know that I won't be needed at a moment's notice.  It's taken me three days to get the two towel "rolls" sewn together and I finally got one of the rolls put together to form the actual roll (three velcro tabs per side of each square to hold the squares to one another in the roll) just a little bit ago.  The roll you see up top I did with cotton fabric on one side (that was gifted to me) and white muslin on the other side (since it's absorbent and I use it for home made dish towels a lot).  I'm hoping they work well and save me some paper towel consumption.  I used an old paper towel roll with some sticky velcro tape to secure the towels to a roll (the tape was gifted to me by my step mom) for now.  My husband has some PVC pipe that he salvaged from somewhere that needs to be cleaned up really well, but when he does that and cuts it down I'll have a more permanent roll to stick the towels onto.

I also, to stop people, *cough* daughter *cough*, from using paper towels for napkins all of the time, I decided to be a bit more forward with the cloth napkins, so I grab enough for two meals worth and place them in a little basket I used to store garlic cloves in and I stick them in the middle of the table when I make the table.  It's been working well so far :).

2. I mended one comforter this week and placed the comforters that are just beyond hope of actually being a whole comforter aside to redo into a new duvet here.  I figure the stuffing is all screwed up in those comforters and the material is going in places, so I am going to cut the comforters into squares where I know the material is still good and then I'm going to use the stuffing from the comforters to stuff the "pillows" and then just sew the little pillows together to make a puffed quilt.  It won't be quite the same as my son's beloved comforters, but I'm thinking it'll wear better, will allow me to save some of my son's favorite covers and also save me from having to buy new comforters somewhere.  I'm going to start that project as soon as I'm done with the un-paper towels.

3.  I've been using up old bottles of shampoo that I had bought for the kids and things and that I found didn't really do well with their skin or something.  I have been making sure to shower the soap/shampoo off well before I get out so I don't irritate the kid's skin with things left on mine, but I've found it's really been helping to make things like shampoo stretch by doing this. 

4.  I dug out an old glass bottle I used to make tinctures in when my son was small (among other things I studied a bunch of herbology books to try and find a way to help his eczema and also had to find different ways through tinctures to get iron into him when he was little...it's been an interesting ride through the years) and filled it with vinegar.  I found it's a LOT easier to pour out of the bottle instead of the big bottle of vinegar when filling the dish washer, so I'm glad I had the bottle to spare :).

5.  I made mini pavlovas one day for dessert and thought I could just use cherry pie filling for the topping instead of fresh fruit and then I'd use Cool Whip from the freezer.  Well it turned out WAY too sweet doing that...the recipe really needed the fresh fruit taste to counter the sweet.  So, I thought of a way to use some type of  fresh fruit for the topping (without using the limited amount of frozen fruit I have in the freezer) and cracked open the #10 can of freeze dried strawberries that came with the breakfast kit of food storage I had gotten from Amazon.  It worked well when the strawberries were mixed in with the whipped topping (to rehydrate them).  I then pulled out my vacuum sealer and used my wide mouthed mason jar attachment to quickly reseal up the remainder of the strawberries so that the high humidity we're dealing with this summer wouldn't effect the strawberries.  I ended up vacuum sealing 7 pints of strawberries that are now in the pantry.

6.  We've been enjoying as much of the sunshine as possible the last little bit.  We had a couple of days this week that were mostly sunny, so we made sure to be outside in the sun as much as we could, even if it was just riding around in the air conditioned car (any type of weather where the son gets hot and sweaty it makes his eczema go nuts on him, so he likes riding in air conditioned cars a lot).

7. Grocery shopping went okay this week.  Highlights were getting some dried cherries and a pork loin from a local food pantry and getting a thing of hamburger for 2.77 lb on sale at Carrs this week.  We were out of a lot of stuff (like hamburger), so I got only what was on my list at the store and ended up walking away from more than a few deals that I would have jumped at the chance to buy a bit ago, but now a days I'm more careful and do not regret walking away.

8.  I ended up exchanging Kindles with my daughter.  I loved having my new Kindle, I really did and I used it for a bunch for things.  The ONLY thing my daughter really uses her Kindle for is to watch cartoons online, or lately, to look up art tutorials and things online, which made me happy that she would want to do that, but it was really problematic for her.  Her Kindle was so old that it wouldn't run a bunch of the videos online as they were a format it didn't recognize (we got her Kindle when we bought my son an I-Pad years ago so she could have a computer too...it's like the FIRST generation Kindle Fire).  I was really hoping to be able to buy her a new Kindle on Prime Day if the money situation was doing alright, but I decided to be cautious and not buy the on-sale Kindle that I wanted to get her when we hadn't gotten paid yet (thank GOD I did that!).  When I realized how tight we were and how much it would stretch the budget, I loaded all of the videos and apps my daughter watches onto my Kindle and traded with her for her smaller and slower Kindle.  Now she can watch her art tutorials and her Kindle won't freeze up all of the time like it was doing.  I have to be careful with the older Kindle on what videos I watch and things, but once I ripped all of the downloaded materials off of the Kindle so it's running as streamlined as possible, at least it's running okay for now.

9.  I made cinnamon rolls with the left over cinnamon sugar I had from making graham crackers last week.  Instead of pulling out one of the few things of cream cheese and making cream cheese frosting (which is what I would normally do), I instead looked up a Paula Dean cinnamon roll recipe and used her frosting/glaze topping recipe on top of the cinnamon rolls instead.  It worked out well and was a LOT cheaper overall to make than the cream cheese frosting would have been (and it still tasted good).

And now onto a garden update!
I have PEAS!!!  They are still small, but popping up all over the place =D.  I'm watching them like a hawk, ready as all get out to start harvesting them.   So happy that those are, so far, growing really well!

I was thrilled that the weather forecast I read on NOAA was actually accurate this week.  I was so scared that it was going to be like last year where the weather would call for temps in the upper 70's and then you'd end up with temps in the upper 80's instead, but nope, it was beautiful out and the garden LOVED it!  I think everything shot up about three inches each day we had sun (honestly I think the kids did that too *laugh*).  Everything is growing well, overall.  I am having problems with bugs eating holes in things, but I also realize that putting insecticidal soap and things on the plants just plain isn't going to work with the wet weather we've had all summer, so I'm just watching it and praying that the plans grow fast enough that they can survive the onslaught (so far, so good).

When weeding the garden this last time I noticed that I have some volunteer carrots popping up in a few points in the garden.  I am thinking the cat running through the garden when it was still newly planted probably had something to do with this, but who knows.  I thought it was funny that the one carrot I found actually ended up in a nice straight row (well almost) with the beets.  So, yay for a few more vegetables growing in the garden :).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Monthly Goals: July 2017

Man, I'm almost half way through the month and NOW I finally get to doing monthly goals.  That's just sad.  The son has definitely not been helping with my ability to think of late, though, so I'm definitely going to give him credit where credit is due. 

When it comes to July, usually my goals end up revolving around getting ready for back to school and things.  This year really is no different, except I'm just going to look up the school supply list online, figure out what I have and get the bare minimum needed to see the kids through school for a while.  I am not going to kill myself to get a lengthy school supply list when I'm barely getting by.  I'll have pow wows with teachers if need be, but if I can't fill the list with what I have, what I can get from friends and what I can afford...we'll deal with it.  I'm just not stressing about it.

This month we'll be celebrating my husband's birthday.  It's going to be a frugal and simple one, but I do plan on making him his favorite type of cake to celebrate.

So, anyway, onto the goals for this month!

Sewing Goals:
  • Make "un-paper towels" (figuring it'll save on using paper towels, but I'll still have the convenience of having them in the kitchen as needed for quick scrub downs on the counters and things this way)
  • Make reusable food wrap cloths (another project in the works.  This is an idea I'm working with for Christmas gifts...not sure how well it'll work, but I am curious)
  • Work on new comforter tops to salvage what is left of some of the comforters
  • Continue to work on embroidery for tote bag projects (this is so problematic as with the other projects I can steal a few minutes here or there, but with the son melting down at a moment's notice I'm having a really hard time concentrating enough to do embroidery)
  • Darn husband's socks

Cleaning/organizing Goals:
  • Reorganize freezer and figure out what we need in the way of meat (I'm thinking we're down to pretty much chicken at this point, so I am going to have to find money in our limited budget to get more beef and pork at some point)
  • Shampoo the carpets (got the son's carpet done today)
  • Clean up den and get recycling out of the house
  • Clean windows and closet doors

Garden/yard Goals:
  • Expand trellis for peas and (hopefully soon as they JUST started popping up) pole beans
  • Replant spinach and lettuce seeds
  • Harvest chard when big enough and replant seeds
  • Watch rose hips and harvest when ripe or as needed (in the case of bugs eating too many of them)
  • Harvest fireweed petals, make juice, put in freezer to make jelly with at later date
  • Harvest rest of rhubarb, if and when it's ready
  • Continue to harvest lettuce

General Goals:
  • Make husband foot cream for birthday
  • Make angel food cake for husband's birthday

And there you are folks.  My goals for the month.  How about you?  Working on anything this month?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Shopping Goals: July 2017

Seen above, home made snacks at it's best.  Home made cheese crackers.  Made these last night as my son was asking for cheese balls/puffs (which we didn't have in the house).  The son turned his nose up at them, but the rest of us liked them, so they're definitely going into the "make again" category.  I used medium cheddar instead of sharp called for the in the recipe and omitted the Cheyenne pepper (for the sake of the daughter's mild loving palette) and they still came out tasty!

Totally not shopping goal related, but we had our first official speech therapy session today.  So far the new med seems to really be helping the son's general ability to concentrate and not throw so many temper tantrums, so I was relieved when the speech therapist walked him out to the car and said that the session went pretty well.  I was doubly pleased that he actually worked today as Alvah is one of those kids that do NOT bond easily with people, it took him two years to warm up to Shani and actually start to get some work done, so it really made me happy that he's already warming up to his new speech therapist already and he's only seen her a couple of times.

My daughter loves the new therapist because she has a mini-farm going on her property, so we got to go and check out her chickens and got to see glimpses of her horses (they were doing work on the horse yard, so the horses were stuck in the barn and weren't overly happy about it *laugh*).  So, here's hoping against hope that progress will be steady, fast and happy with Alvah at the new therapist.   Praying hard for that as it's about time the kiddo caught some type of a break.

So, onto shopping goals.

I should be harvesting lettuce from the garden hopefully through this month (need to plant more lettuce and spinach seeds though) and might even start to get some peas and rat tailed radishes to harvest.  Since the chard is meant to be picked when it's still at the spinach type of stage, I'll be harvesting that this month and replanting those seeds as well.  So, at least those won't need to be on shopping lists this month (I hope...weather is supposed to jump from the lower to mid 60's to potentially the upper 80's by Thursday and the sun is supposed to come out when that happens too, so I might be trying to stop my garden from burning and bolting due to the shock of it all).

My budget for groceries right now stands at 160.00 to 200.00 per month (that includes my cell and any charge up it needs and gas for my car), depending on how much my son is eating through, so hopefully I can fit these things into my normal grocery budget.

Fred Meyer has tomatoes on sale this week for .99 lb.  I am going to wait and see what Carrs has for sales starting tomorrow, but I am hoping to get to Fred Meyer to pick up at least a few tomatoes if Carrs doesn't have a good sale on them.  I don't get fresh tomatoes at all often as they are normally so-so quality up here and my husband can't eat them with his acid reflux very easily, but I'd at least like to get myself a few tomatoes as I love them :).

I am hoping to pick up cheese this month.  Cheese grated off the block is a staple both of my kids will actually EAT (a rarity amongst foods with the son's super picky eating habits) and between general eating and cooking/baking we do go through a lot of it around here, so I am hoping to be able to afford a big block of it (I believe it's five pounds).  It runs around 20.00 for the block, so it's kind of tight to squeeze into the budget, but I haven't seen sales on the smaller blocks of Tilamook cheese in a while that were worth getting and it's the only cheese my son likes, so I'm going to work hard on getting that.

Bulk Store:

  • Tilamook Cheddar Cheese Block 
  • Vanilla extract (we go through two tablespoons each time I make ice cream, so we're finally reaching the bottom of the super huge bottle I bought years ago)


Regular Stores:

  • Potatoes (depending where there is a good sale)
  • Vegetable oil (when you start baking regularly, somehow this stuff doesn't stick around)
  • Carrots (baby carrots seem to going on sale regularly around here, so I'm hoping to at least get some of those decently cheap)
  • Toilet paper (need to watch for a good sale on that stuff...man regular prices on toilet paper are criminal!  I'd normally go through Amazon, but shelling out 20.00 or more just for toilet paper...just doesn't make good sense)
  • Milk (extra on top of the usual 4 gallons a week we go through...yes 4...the son will actually drink it out of a bottle, so we definitely encourage it as it's one of the "real foods" he'll consume) to make yogurt and sour cream substitute (strained yogurt is a great sour cream sub out :).


And there you are folks.  The shopping goals for this month.  How about you?  Got anything on your list for this month?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

Oosh.  What a week.  I am definitely tired right now.  Bright side, at least the son is getting better slowly but surely on his new med, but the building up in the system is slow, so he's definitely having ups and downs right now.  At least there are ups in his moods now, though, instead of just straight bad, so improvement is definitely there!

Another nice side to the week is despite trying to get Alvah's new meds dialed in right, I was able to get some stuff done on the frugal front this week!

So, let's get to the frugal adventures for the week shall we?

1.  I wanted to thank everyone who weighed in about dish washing detergent alternatives, since I didn't want to spend a bunch replenishing the dish washer supplies.  My original plan was just to do dishes ye old fashioned way, but I quickly realized with Alvah requiring so much attention right now that there was just no way I could really do it without dirty dishes piling up everywhere.  So, I started researching and found this recipe for dish washing detergent and found that I had the supplies to make it (although I ran out of lemon essential oil after about ten drops and had to substitute in sweet orange essential oil for the rest of the lemon oil).  Double bright point to using it was that it didn't have any weird chemical additives so hopefully it will help my son's skin in the long run as well.  I ended up using the H2O at Home "Oxypur" for the oxygen bleach in the recipe since it was what I had, so yeah...the dish washing detergent wasn't the cheapest to make, but I had it so I used it. 

I also made the site's recipe for home made Citrishine and am using it in the prewash section of the dishwasher.  Yes, I did actually have citric acid on hand to make it...it's even commercial food grade citric acid.  I got some in bulk years ago, on Etsy I believe, to make bath bombs for Christmas gifts and figured I'd use whatever was left over for canning.  Yeah, I never remember to use it for canning and just end up using lemon juice or vinegar, so the leftover citric acid just sat in a jar all of these years.  I ended up scraping and chiseling out the citric acid I needed for the recipe and used some sea salt I had sitting around that is more in a rock salt type of shape (got it super cheap on Amazon a few years back) and I grind it up as I am short on salt or something (which with all the free salt I got at the store won't be needed for a long while anyway).  So I ground some salt up and used that for the salt portion of the recipe.  And voila!  I now have dish washing detergent for a bit (I'm using just straight white vinegar as a rinse aid).  Thanks again to those who chimed in with the ideas.  I really appreciate it!  The finished results are seen up top there.  I add about three drops of dish soap to the dish washing dispenser on top of the detergent before closing it when I do a load of dishes to help cut grease (thanks for that suggestion too, folks!) as well.  So far it's doing a really nice job of cleaning the dishes with no white residue on the dishes to show for it.  So, I'm calling it a win so far!
2.  Grocery shopping went okay this week overall.  The highlights for the week were definitely getting bone in pork shoulder roasts for .99 lb at Carrs this week!  I hadn't seen pork that cheap in years, so I ran to the store Wednesday and got a few roasts for about 7.00 each (I purposefully found the smallest ones available in the case as we always have a bunch of leftovers when I make a bone in pork roast).  The sale came at a good time because every meat but chicken was getting low in the freezer, so it was nice to be able to add some variety back into the meat in the freezer.

I was also able to get a big can of store brand coffee for 5.00 (I've learned that the Carrs "Signature Select" coffee and my stomach actually get along, so I've just switched to that as it's cheaper than the coffees I had been buying) and a thing of cat litter for 5.00 as well (they're having a thing called "5.00 frenzy" at Carrs this week).  It was nice getting things I needed for cheap for sure!

While in town running around I ran by Fred Meyer and got the few freebies I had on my card.  Most of the freebies of late have been candy, so I ended up just skipping those as it was candy the kids really wouldn't eat and I didn't see the point of running into town just to get candy and wasting the gas and such.  The two freebies I was happy to get though were the free jerky and the free BBQ sauce.  I was thrown through a loop when I found that a 2.5 oz thing of jerky was on SALE for 3.99!  Glad it was free as there is no way I would pay that much for jerky.  Yeesh!  The freebies are seen above.
3.  We currently have lettuce and spinach coming out our ears around here.  Since it's really the only vegetable ready in the garden right now, I decided to make the "salad with every meal" thing a bit more tolerable so I made a bunch of different salad dressings from scratch.  I made creamy french dressing, ranch dressing and a honey mustard dressing (which needs a "try two" as it's not that great) and I am planning on making Italian dressing.  Anyone else got some ideas for different dressings to make that will keep in the fridge okay?

4.  I got a personalized price on heavy cream at Carrs last week and bought four containers (they gave me a little over 2.00 a pint on the heavy cream!  I was thrilled!) and made custard ice cream again this week.  I've found making custard ice cream is a great way to not only increase the volume of the ice cream I make, but I can also add a few more egg yolks or something to the ice cream base and use up more eggs.  We haven't had "premium" ice cream in years, so it's been really nice to have good ice cream in the freezer.  And better yet with the home made ice cream my son will actually EAT some of it!  Since he normally hates anything the least bit soft in texture, especially cold and soft textures, this has been a really nice side benefit to making the ice cream :).

5.  We got up late yesterday and the whole day was just kind of like one of those days where you think, "Why did I get up today" types of days.  I didn't get to the make the stew I had planned for dinner as getting up so late and the day just being delayed one thing after the other, it just wasn't going to happen.  So, instead of going out to eat (which we can't afford right now and my husband and I both know that) I dug in the freezer, found some bratwurst and we had brats with home canned sauerkraut and mustard.  It worked.

6.  We've been mixing up Tang and other powdered drink mixes to help add variety to drinks around here in an effort for me to veer the family away from drinking soda so much.  So far it's been working pretty well and bright side is that Tang has calcium added and vitamin C.  You can't say the same for soda.

7.  I've definitely been baking up a storm around here, which is definitely saving us money as it gives a regular supply of snack food for the family and stops them from eating so many of the prepacked convenience foods that cost so much at the store.

8.  One thing I've definitely been getting better at is saying "no" to a "good deal" on something that I might need later but certainly do not need now.  It's hard walking away from marked down foods sometimes, but worth it.  I've made sure to hit the clearance foods first so I have the entire shopping trip to think about if I REALLY want to get a certain item or not and 9 times out of 10 I think on it and realize that I might still have some of that certain thing at home, or I figure out a way of not needing it at all because I can make "A" to substitute for "B", etc.  It might not save us much money me doing this, sometimes a dollar here or there even, but those dollars will certainly add up over time, so I am glad I'm learning to walk away sometimes :).

9.  We got our insurance cards and binder from the new health insurance so I called and got off of The Affordable Care Act insurance we were on, which required a call to Healthcare.gov and things.  Glad to leave our old insurance behind, honestly, as the more I realized the insurance didn't cover, it was depressing, so I'm glad we'll at least have decent insurance now.  I also called the daughter's insurance and am getting that updated as well with the new insurance.  I also called payroll for my husband on a tool allowance my husband is supposed to get at his new job, but wasn't showing up on his paycheck and got that straightened out and he'll be getting the back pay on that.  It's only 20.00 a month, but that's still 20.00 a month.  I hate weeks where you have a lot of phone calls to make, so I was really glad to get all of that straightened out and behind us for now.

And now onto the garden update for the week!
I ended up harvesting all of the lettuce from the cabbage bed this week as it was shortening to bolt quicker than the Road Runner running from Wylie Coyote.  I'm not really sure WHY it was bolting this fast, honestly, but my theory is that the cabbage bed is the one bed that is pretty much in direct sunlight all of the time and I think it was just too much sunlight for the lettuce.  Kind of sad it was bolting so fast as I had just started harvesting decent amounts of lettuce from it, but ah well.  We still have plenty of lettuce left in the other two beds and those plants are doing just fine, so we won't be hurting for lettuce anyway. 

I also ended up harvesting a bunch of the spinach this week as it was definitely ready to be harvested.  There is still some left, but there are holes, so one of my monthly goals this month is definitely to plant more spinach seeds where I harvested spinach so that I can keep the harvest rotating as much as possible.

But, yeah, due to both of those things as well as the other lettuce in the garden producing well, we have a LOT of lettuce to eat!  So, yeah for that happy circumstance :).  You would not believe how much lettuce I got into the basket that you can see up in the list above there.  There's a LOT more lettuce than it looks!

The entire bed is growing right along.  The beans are growing, I even got a few small plants that are growing in the far bed, which is impressive since that bed spend the most time in the shade.  The turnips are going insane and I've thinned them and the carrots to help them both grow better.  The turnips are actually overshadowing the swiss chard that I have planted nearest to them, although the chard is still growing okay, so I'm just going to let it go for now.  I'm hoping the chard starts to grow bigger here as so far it's on the lower end of puny, but we'll see how it goes as every time it gets some decent amounts of sunlight the chard seems to pop up more.  We just have had a lack of sunlight this summer.  Honestly, I'm really impressed with how well the garden is doing considering all of the water we've had fall.  We have clover growing all over the yard due to the lack of nitrogen in the soil because of all of the rain, so the fact that the garden is growing makes me happy!

The peas are growing awesome so far.  The second row of peas I planted are up and growing and the first ones I planted are growing all over the chicken wire and are covered in blooms.  So, hopefully we'll see peas developing soon!  I can't wait :).

In the far bed the beets are growing slowly but surely, the turnips are happy as clams and the rat tailed radishes are finally flowering as well, so I should start seeing some radishes developing.  I can't wait for the garden to start producing a lot here soon.  The excitement is real ;).  I am enjoying the fresh lettuce, though, don't get me wrong!

I also harvested off the chives in the front bed as the tips were starting to turn brown and the chives were starting to die off.  I was worried they would go to waste, so I went and harvested them.  One of the plans tomorrow (other than our first "official" speech therapy session...squee!) is to put those on the dehydrator so they are preserved and ready to use later.  I preserved some basil in ice in the freezer so I have it to use later and managed to dry some dill just by leaving it out where it got good air circulation.  For now I just put the dill in a baggie in the spice cabinet until I empty out a spice bottle at some point to crumble it into.

And yeah, there you are folks.  Some of the stuff that happened around here this week.  How about you?  Anything neat happen at your house this week?

Friday, July 7, 2017

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

Just to let you know I am working on my shopping goals (which I do have a few), monthly goals and the weekly frugal recap.  I spent yesterday just trying to catch up on housework as much as humanely possible because for the first time in...man it feels like forever but I know it's just been months, I actually was able to do so. 

My son's behavior has been BAD of late.  Like really bad.  Fourth of July I was on the verge of tears most of the day.  I had a short list of things I wanted to bake for the 4th and from the moment my son woke up, it was terrible.  I couldn't do more than three minutes worth of work at a time before he'd be bashing his head into the nearest wall and screaming bloody murder.  I'd have to scream at him to be heard above his screams and manage to get him into his bed so he could at least bash his head on something soft (thank the Lord for memory foam mattresses).  My husband (thank goodness he's a heavy sleeper anymore) woke up in the afternoon and wrestled the son.  I was able to make a mad dash to make a Fourth of July cake (I promised my daughter we were going to do something special and by God I was going to keep my promise) instead of the star shaped sugar cookies we'd planned and I made some graham crackers to make s'mores with.  Overall, I was proud of what we got done (especially considering the circumstances) and my daughter was really proud of her "space cake" design.  I then chuckled and reminded her it was the Fourth of July, so it shouldn't it be "fireworks cake".  She looked at the cake, weighing her options and then just shrugged and said, "Okay, it'll be both.  Fireworks in space!" I love the way kid's minds work sometimes *laugh*.

We went to the psychologist on Wednesday and I explained what I was seeing with Stritera (I'm PRETTY sure that's misspelled) and the improvements we were seeing on it with his ability to concentrate, but we really needed something for his outbursts and moods as those were BAD.  She was actually pleased with his progress on the Stritera and prescribed him something for irritability and outburst type of reactions on top of it.   Yesterday he was already doing better than he's been in a LONG time with a handful of outbursts and actually showing some happy moods.  His outbursts were also shorter lived and not as violent.  So far so good and we'll see how he does today.  Because of the new medication, I was able to vacuum his room yesterday without him freaking out and beating himself off of walls and things and was able to get things like ice cream made and such.  I nearly cried I was so grateful that the medication is working and with noticeable results right out of the gate.  Now if I can get him to sleep better...we'll be on the road to "yay" with him I think :).

So, yeah, now that I can actually DO things again, I'll be able to work on getting the blogging and things done here, I hope (at least I'm praying we're over the hump here on starting to get the son leveled off).  You can not imagine how happy and relieved I am to say things like that!

So, onto the menu plan for this week!

Wednesday:  Crock pot cranberry pork roast (use last jar of cranberry sauce from pantry), rice pilaf (mix from pantry), salad with thick and creamy french dressing (this was quite good.  I used a half tsp. of onion powder instead of the fresh onion so it would keep in the fridge better)

Thursday:  Tacos (using left over hamburger from Fourth of July...husband wanted burgers instead of hot dogs, so I made both), use can of refried beans to pad out hamburger (works great doing that by the way).

Friday:  Fauxtisserie chicken leg quarters (I'm going to try it and see how it goes), salad with buttermilk ranch dressing (we're out of prepared salad dressings around here...can you tell?  By the way this stuff is awesome.  My husband doesn't even LIKE ranch and likes this salad dressing...I do use powders instead of raw ingredients just to help it keep in the fridge longer), roasted root vegetables, home made multi-grain bread.

Saturday:  Farmhouse stew (basically just throwing bits and bobs of left over meat scraps and a bunch of veggies into a pot and turning it into stew...hope it tastes good), home made rolls (use other half of dough to make cinnamon rolls...use left over cinnamon sugar left over from graham crackers that is in fridge for the cinnamon sugar).

Sunday:   Leftovers (because I know we'll have some)

Monday:  Chicken Alfredo (use jar of Alfredo sauce from pantry that needs to be used up) with Peas and bacon

Tuesday:  Black Bean Burgers, salad with choice of dressing (note:  Make Italian dressing too), fries (or chips or fried potatoes...depending on what we have in the freezer)

Desserts:  Space Fireworks cake, s'mores (using left over Easter chocolate for chocolate part), home made ice cream with easy home made fudge sauce

Breakfasts:  Cinnamon rolls, cereal, toast, English muffins

Snacks:  S'mores (okay, not the healthiest choice, but still yummy!), apples, cheese slices on crackers (note:  Make crackers), home made beef jerky


So there you are folks.  Our menu for the week.  How about you?  Making anything good this week?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

June: A Month in Review

Right, so the whole "Monthly Goals Update" has been MIA for two months in a row.  But, hey, you get to see a pic of the son looking far away and visionary as we contemplate the events of the last month! 

By the way this is the look you get when you ask your daughter to look far away and visionary...

 *Laugh*, so, let's get onto some of the things that got done in June around here!

Right when it came to actual goals last month, I celebrated my anniversary and that was well...it for the goals I had in mind.  But, at least I got other things done.
1.  I got some templates cut out for tote bags and got started on some embroidery! 

This is NOT going as fast as I would like as my son has been high needs the last bit, but overall I am happy that I was at least able to start it and am making progress.  Slow progress, but progress none the less!  I also learned to appreciate electric lights a lot more as trying to work on embroidery in really dim light at midnight (we have a lot of sunlight this time of year)...it gets to your eyes!

2.  I gutted the pantry, rearranged things and got food storage better sorted so I could start to use things as needed to pad out normal supplies and have been working things into meal rotations that I need to use up before they go past their "use by" dates.  I got the two food storage kits from Amazon (after some stumbling blocks) and got them out of the boxes to put away.  I ended up gutting my fabric cabinet in the sewing cabinet I have in the den due to needing easy access for my husband to be able to fix the shelf that collapsed, so I just put the food storage into the den cabinet for now or I put it on the other shelf I created in the den, which is this one... 

Overall, I am happy with it as it gives me easy access with good visibility to the food storage I currently have.  As soon as my husband fixes the shelves in the cabinet I'll be able to stack my fabric back in the cabinet on the middle and top shelves of the cabinet, but for now it's in stacks in the den (so, once again, the den is a mess).

3.  I tended the garden.  I planted more seeds when I realized that the corn wasn't going to go far this year.  I planted pole beans and more peas, watched the garden grow before my eyes and am hoping to start harvesting things big time this month, including hopefully peas!

I got the flowers planted in the front bed finally, wrote off the mint plant for dead, gloried in the wonder that was the chives growing and am looking forward to harvesting those tomorrow and dehydrating them with the basil and dill I managed to harvest from the hydroponics garden this week.

4.  I worked hard to make dinners not boring around here and made a real effort to make different things for dessert or snacks.  I think I'm having DECENT success with that, anyway, especially considering the tightness of our income.

5.  Speaking of money, I started to dial in how to live within our new means that came with the new job.  It's been challenging, but we're making it!  And my husband is really happy in his new job, which is worth it's weight in gold!

6.  We started summer school, I finally got an appointment with a speech therapist (thank the Good Lord!), we went to the psychologist to try and work on autistic behaviors to try and make my son's life more bearable for him, and us.  Progress is SLOW, but we'll get there.  I have faith.
7.  I got peaches cheap and canned them and also managed to get a ton of peach juice out of the peels and pits left over after I canned the peach pieces themselves and it made really good jelly!  I had heard of apple scrap jelly, so I thought I'd give it a shot with the peach leftovers (mind you, you do have to strain through cloth a few times to get all the hairy bits out of the mix, or you could use nectarines instead), and it worked fabulously.  I even used home made pectin for the first time and managed to get it to work.  I have to say as accomplishments go, I was rather proud of that one.

So, yeah, as month's went, I would say that June was busy, but at least I got things done during it!  How about you?  Get anything done worth noting in June?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (and Garden Update)

 Advanced warning.  I didn't get any pictures of the garden this week.  It's been pretty rainy and today while it was sunny (which is definitely rare this summer) my husband was out mowing the lawn and by the time he and the daughter got done with yard work (she even drove the lawn mower for quite a while!), the rain moved in, so yeah...pictures of the garden didn't get done this week.  But hey, it'll seem extraordinary when you see the photos next week right?

This week could be symbolized by a coffee pot full of coffee like the one seen up top that I brewed up this morning.  We had two appointments this week, the allergist and the dentist for the kids, on top of summer school, running multiple errands and other things.  And then Thursday night the son decided not to sleep.  At all.  He took a half an hour nap from 11:00 to 11:30 at night.  I, dumbly, thought he was down for the night and so I got some house work done before going to bed myself.  I never got there.  Clark, bless him, actually got home from work, slept for three hours and then went with us to the dentist as I was pretty certain there was no way I was up to driving.  Bright side, no cavities!  That's always a relief.  The allergy shot got done with minimal drama, which was good as well.  But yeah, between the running and the son not sleeping well BEFORE his stint of 24 hours on 1/2 an hour of sleep, I was just beyond exhausted yesterday and today, even though I got seven hours of sleep last night (the husband woke me up at seven and I couldn't get back to sleep) I'm still really really tired.  Today I spent just getting as much laundry caught up as possible and getting my kitchen cleaned and things.  I ran into a bag of coconut in the pantry today that I looked the date and realized it needed to be used up, so I ended up making coconut lemon bars (it was a recipe on the back of the coconut bag, but instead of a coconut crust thing they wanted you to make, I made a graham cracker crust instead...it turned out pretty yummy!) and I spent most of the day just juggling housework while also keeping up with the son unit.  I can't wait till he crashes (please let him crash) for the night so I can hopefully get a decent amount of sleep tonight.  I can hope anyway.

But, yeah, in between everything that happened this week, believe it or not I was able to get some frugal things done!

1.  Grocery shopping went...well it went this week, although really I did do well with what I spent, but I just feel bad that I spent so much.  I ended up spending way more than I wanted to, but we were out of so many things because my son is going through an "eat all food and drink all preferred liquids" phase on top of me running out of garbage bags and a few other pretty spendy side line items.  I did pass on getting dish washing detergent and rinse aid, even though I was out of both, because I realized that I had bottles of dish soap still under the sink and replenishing the dish washing detergent and rinse aid would be adding about 15.00 onto my shopping bill and that I just wasn't going to do right now (home made stuff just doesn't work with our water).  Oddly enough, even though I spent about two times what I have been spending, I still spent less than my old grocery budget used to be for one week (which this was for two weeks that I was shopping for) and I ended up with a good load of groceries.  I even impressed my husband with how much I'd gotten on so little.

I was able to massively stack coupons this week with personalized prices or sale prices stacked with coupons.  Carrs had Hefty freezer or storage slider bags on sale for 1.49 each with a coupon you could either clip from the ad or load onto your card.  I loaded it on my card and also was able to load a coupon for 1.00/2 for the bags and had a paper coupon for one dollar off another two.  So, all totaled I got four boxes of Hefty freezer bags (quart sized as they didn't carry the gallon ones in a smaller count size so they weren't on sale...I know weird) for .99 each.  That'll last me quite a while :).

I also got a package of pork chops, six total, for 3.54 as they were reduced 50% off. 

2.  When we checked out at the grocery store, I ended up going over the minimum to get four times the gas rewards than normal (the minimum on my personalized price this week was 75.00).  So my husband was able to fill up his truck for work for about ten dollars less than he normally would have.  Woohoo for that!

3.  Also when I checked out at the store a coupon printed off for a free pint of ice cream.  I had to run back into the store for my daughter to use the bathroom (as we were running to pick up my son from school RIGHT after shopping due to the way the schedule worked out), so we ran and redeemed the coupon for the ice cream while we were in the store.  We got the last pint of chocolate (my daughter was thrilled *laugh*.

4.  Instead of buying hot dogs at the store for Fourth of July, I went home after shopping and dug around in my freezer hoping I'd find a package or two of hot dogs.  I found some!  So, yeah for not spending money on something I didn't need to buy!

5.  When I ran out of paper towels upstairs, I decided I wasn't going to get another roll out of the few I had left to put upstairs.  Instead I pulled out the cloth napkins, pulled out a bunch of dish rags and things and told my family what to grab for what job.  I am reserving what is left of the paper towels for cat accidents (I'm sorry, but it's a personal thing...I just will NOT touch that stuff unless I'm throwing away the thing that touched it...too gross for me).  So far, so good.  It works when you are the only one who really knows where the paper towels are to help control paper towel usage around the home *laugh*.

6.  My mom gave me a lecture about not taking care of myself and sent me some new sneakers.  I was really touched by the gesture and really thrilled to get the new sneakers (thanks, mom!).

7.  I mended yet MORE holes in comforters this week.  And I've got to rebuild my son's favorite comforter here yet this weekend somehow (it's kind of mends on top of mends, but he loves the thing).
8.  I harvested a bunch of rhubarb and lettuce from the garden (re-showing the picture from the menu plan due to lack of garden pictures later *laugh*).  I froze the rhubarb and we've been eating the lettuce in salads and things.  I love having fresh produce this time of year!

9.  Turns out one of the bugs that we are infested with this summer is ticks.  Yes, fellow local Alaskans reading this...ticks!  People on some of my farming groups are showing pictures of the squirrels and the shrews and things that they are catching in traps and they are severely infested with squirrel ticks.  Our cat Prince has been having a field day this summer killing vermin indiscriminately, which was great, until he came home with two ticks this last week.  Seriously, it took me a few minutes to recognize a tick when I saw one as they are NOT something I've had to deal with since moving up here.  Between that and a severe bear problem that we're having this year all over the state (we've had two people in the state mauled to death by bears in the last month and a bear broke through a boy's bedroom window in Anchorage this week...we have a grizzly sighted less than five minutes from my house as well, so yeah...not a fun summer to be out camping or anything), the cats are under house arrest for now.  They aren't happy about it and are stalking me on a regular basis. 

Not buying it?  I'll prove it to you!

"Oh gee, human, you need to go out and dump the garbage?  You'll have to get through me to get there!"

"Hey, food giver.  Can I have freedom now?"

In short, they are driving me nuts.  But, it's the cheapest way to stop insect infestation and the best way to keep them out of harm's way for the time being.
10.  I was cleaning off the top of my fridge and came across a bamboo top that came with a big plastic bowl that my daughter managed to stand on and break a while back (which was a sad day for me as I really liked the bowl...it was like heavy duty melamine too, which nearly impressed me when I saw she managed to break it).  I looked at the old top for a minute and had a light bulb go off over my head type of moment.  All I have are large cutting boards and it's kind of a pain to pull out a super big cutting board when you just want to say, cut up a loaf of bread or something.  So, I turned the top (which is actually pretty thick as it was meant as a stacking type of top for the bowl for picnic gatherings) into a small cutting board.  I find myself using it more and more instead of pulling out my huge cutting boards to cut up small amounts of bread, fruits or vegetables.  Pretty great repurpose if I do say so myself :).

As for the garden update...

Well the beans are growing despite something trying to eat the really young shoots as they come out of the ground.  The shoots, once they reach a certain height or maturity, whatever it is seems to leave them alone, so I'm hoping to get enough beans to survive to make a decent amount of beans later on. 

The peas are starting to flower and are growing like mad still.

The lettuce, despite having been heavily harvested this week is almost ready to harvest again.  Which is one of the reasons I LOVE growing lettuce in the garden.  It recoups fast!

I harvested a bunch of dill and basil from the Aerogarden this week.  The parsley is growing, but still WAY far behind the other two plants.  I'm really impressed with how fast and prolifically the dill grows in the hydroponics garden.  I'm harvesting it about once every other day so it doesn't burn itself on the growth light it grows so fast.  It's impressive!

And the weather report is calling for more rain.  We're up to about five sunny days this summer so far.  Kind of depressing and bad on the energy levels for sure.

And there you are folks.  Some of my frugal adventures this week.  How did you do?