Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 1/30/17

Okay, I'll admit I'm super proud of myself.  Not only did I sit down on Sunday and do my menu plan for the week, but I sat down on Sunday and did the menu plan for two weeks!!!!  Oh yeah!!!

I even went to the store yesterday and picked up what few things I'd need to make the menu plan happen over the next two weeks (lettuce, potatoes, eggs, sour cream).  I'm feeling all together here.  Feels great.  Now I'm waiting for the super curve ball to be thrown my way *laugh*.

I forgot my husband was going to be working weird hours this week, so he might not be home for dinner a lot (mini curve ball that got chucked my way), but after looking over my menu plan, I decided to just cook what was on it anyway.  This way there will be leftovers for lunches (and for whenever he gets home from work) and I won't be trying to figure out what to eat when he's not home for dinner.

Last night I made an Easy Potato Soup based on a recipe I found in the 5 Ingredient "Fix it and Forget it" Crock Pot cookbook.  I redid it a bit to suit our tastes and things and it turned out tasty.  My husband actually liked the soup (a rarity for him).  Lucky for me as it made a ton of leftovers too *laugh*.

I was actually worried the menu plan was going to go awry last night as my son has been pretty possessive of the kitchen of late (he likes to spin balls on the counters), but I managed to chase him out without too many temper tantrums and baked bread (I didn't get to it earlier in the day).  I made one loaf of regular bread and then quickly rolled out the other half of the dough (I used the "Bread in an Hour" recipe, so you have to work fast as the bread is raising before your eyes) and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on it, rolled it up and voila!  One loaf of breakfast bread is done too for the week.

So, yeah, so far, so good.  So, onto the rest of the menu plan!

Menu Plan for Week of 1/30/17
Monday:  Easy Potato Soup w/ham (use hash browns from freezer), home made bread

Tuesday:  Chicken Tacos (make in crock pot.  Use can of salsa from pantry to help season chicken), Spanish rice, corn (from freezer), salad.  Make pasta for son for dinner and for his lunches for school throughout week.

Wednesday:  Waffles with choice of toppings (grab different things from pantry as options), sausages, fruit cocktail

Thursday:  Chinese Savory Beef  (from the "Make More With Less" Cookbook), rice, garlic peas (use peas from freezer and fresh garlic from pantry).

Friday:  Mustard glazed ham steak, roasted carrots (from freezer), fried potato slices

Saturday:  Cranberry chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes

Sunday:  Creamy Pork Chops (from the "5 Ingredient Favorites Fix-it-and-Forget-it Crock Pot Cookbook"), Sweet and Sour cabbage (from Beatrix Potter Cookbook), herby soda bread (also from Beatrix Potter Cookbook), salad.

Desserts:  Coconut Pudding (probably switching this to vanilla so my daughter will eat it) - Tuesday, Ice Cream - Wednesday, Honey Cake (Beatrix Potter Cookbook) -Friday

To Bake (aside from menu plan items):  Breakfast Bread (Monday), Banana Bread (use over ripe bananas, Tuesday)

And there you go folks.  My menu plan for this week!  I'd post up next week's menu, but goodness knows I don't want to give the impression that I'm organized or something and help to foster unrealistic expectations or anything *laugh*.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

You know, with how hectic last week was, how depressing money has been and such...I'm really impressed with everything that I got done this last week.

I took out the terry cloth yardage I had around here to make kitchen towels.  This was one of those, "I'm going to make baby towels before the baby is born and it is going to be sooooo cute" types of purchases that I made when I was pregnant with my first.  And then the anemia kicked in and I quickly forgot that plan.  I kept thinking of things I was going to do with the terry material and since I needed kitchen towels it seemed like a good idea :).

I had some left on the end of the yardage after I cut the towels out and sizing it up quickly decided to make a quick bathroom mat for when the kids take a bath (seen above).

My son got a bad stomach bug a couple of years ago (he gets them bad when he gets them) and he ended up making a mess in the bathroom a couple of times on the mats I had in there.  After that my son developed a phobia of bath mats and won't tolerate any "semi permanent" bathmat to sit on the floor in the bathroom (I kid you not).  If I put an actual bath mat in front of the bathtub, my son regresses in his potty training and avoids the bathroom like the plague.  Poor kid.  So, I've been using a towel on the floor when the kids get out of the bath, but it's usually a bit big with a regular bath towel (small bathroom is an understatement).  So, I folded the terry material over to make a double width of fabric, sewed around the outside edge, leaving about a four inch opening one one side, turned the pouch right side out, sewed it shut and then quilted a quick "x" on it to keep the mat from getting all twisted up in the washing machine.  And voila!  A nice little mat for the kids to step out on :).
I only got two actual kitchen towels sewed up so far.  I got four more to go.  I found the width of the material wasn't big enough to get two big kitchen towels out of each row, so I made a bigger dishtowel and a smaller dishtowel out of each row.  I ended up with two different sizes, sure, but I'll also end up with six dishtowels once I get them all stitched up.  Not too shabby I'd say.

I got the chicken conversation done with my friends on Facebook (obviously from last post), got the housework nearly caught up (got a bit behind over the weekend with the kids home and we went sledding on Saturday in the backyard with some friends we had over and such), got my right arm back under control (yay!), and while I didn't get the menu plan done last week, we made it through the week without starving, so I had to do something right.  And my husband shoveled off the deck so I didn't have to (woohoo!), even with the new foot of snow we got over the weekend on top of what was already on the deck.

So, onto this week's goals!

Sewing Goals:
  • Finish sewing dish towels 
  • Fix holes in yellow comforter
  • See if white and black comforter can be salvaged (it's pretty thrashed)

General Goals:
  • Figure out Monthly Goals for February
  • Figure out shopping goals for February (if any)
  • Get W2 from husband's second employer and get taxes done (fingers crossed my husband finds time before I go crazy)
  • Rip apart knitting projects
  • Begin to plan daughter's birthday gift (ask her what she wants and then figure out how to make it)

And there you go folks.  My goals for the week.  How about you?  Got anything planned?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

First, I just want to thank the e-mails I got asking how everything was going and if my husband was recovering okay.  If I didn't reply to you yet, don't despair.  I will.  I'll get to my week in a moment, but first when it comes to the husband's recovery.  So far, in that regard, so good.  Also, thank you to the couple of people who Facebooked me and asked me if I had an e-mail or something as I guess my "page" tabs don't show up on some phones or something.  If you want to get in contact with me please feel free to e-mail me at...


I just want to say, once again, how touched I am at my readers.  You guys are great and I really thrilled that I've been fortunate enough to make some great friends through this blog :).

Now...the week.

Well, I can safely say the week didn't improve after Sunday.  My poor daughter was cycling with her stomach till Wednesday and just in a lot of pain and miserable.  She went to school basically long enough to get her homework sorted and things a couple of days (she's an old hat at this by now so we always try to make it till 1:15 because then she's just counted tardy instead of missing 1/2 a school day on the records) and then I'd pick the kids up early and let her go home, get into a tub and let her soak for hours (it's typical with CVS that baths help alleviate the pain, so she prunes when she's cycling) and just try to take it easy.  Of course, doing this also threw my son's normal schedule off and he didn't have a great week at school as a result...well Friday he had a good day anyway.

My car started having a burning brake smell through the week sporadically, so my husband checked the brakes and found that the front brakes are getting kind of warm, so it's probably time for new brakes. Not what I wanted to hear right now, honestly.

Then my husband's second job that he took over the summer sent out his W2 supposedly, but we waited two weeks for it to get here and it wasn't here yet so my husband called and found out that somehow they had sent his W2 to our neighbor across the street's address.  So, my husband went over and asked him if he still had it, but he had sent it back to the company because with the weather the way it was and him being old he didn't want to kill himself getting the W2 over here.  Can't really blame him, but I'm desperate to get the taxes done so we can get our return in with how short February is time wise and things.  I swore when I found out this development.  Now my husband is going to have to go to the company directly, I'm pushing for Monday since he's got a dentist appointment in the morning to get his last two teeth that need to be done checked out. 

I paid the various medical bills that my husband's doctor's office had consolidated into one statement and sent to us a couple of weeks ago (they just added them all together after getting things back from insurance) because I knew I'd have to pay them by the end of the month.  And then a few days later I get a collection notice from some outfit in Maryland.  Called the doctor's office and it turns out that MODA is taking so long to pay the bills that they are immediately 90 days overdue by the time I even get a statement from them in the mail, so I get sent to collections by the computer immediately upon receipt of payment from the insurance company.  Having insurance sure has complicated my life, made things a lot more difficult and cost me a lot of money because of rip off artists taking advantage of the insurance system.  I'm kind of looking forward to going back to self pay right about now.  Seriously.

And then the last couple of weeks my husband just hasn't gotten the hours in that we needed (work is kind of frustrating right now with sporadic types of things going on and such) so the mortgage is going to have to be a few days late so we have money for gas and things next week.

And then today I found out that my son's speech therapist, who is also a really good friend of mine, got rushed to the hospital yesterday with severe abdominal pain.  Prayers would be greatly appreciated for her if you have the time and thank you to anyone who can pray for her.  She's a wonderful person who would literally give you the shirt off of her back before you even asked for it and I'm really worried about her.

Overall...it was a long and depressing week.

However, some good did come out of the week, believe it or not.

1.  I decided that one way to get out of the funk of the week was to focus on things I'd like to do later when this wonder that is "Spring" finally comes, so I went on Facebook and asked my friends (who I knew at least a couple of them had a good amount of animals at their places) if anyone had a good source for buying 3 hens, a rooster and a good cold weather breed of rabbit that was also friendly. 

I started doing some research into rabbits more and weighing it with all the people who said it traumatized them as a child when the rabbits were slaughtered and things.  I came to the conclusion with my daughter's stomach condition and how sensitive she is that killing rabbits with her around could end...well badly for her stomach would be an understatement.  So, I finally decided to just get one rabbit for a pet for her and then get some chickens primarily for the eggs.  And thank you to the person who reminded me that the manure from the rabbit could still be useful as well as I quickly realized free fertilizer is always a benefit *laugh*.

My friend who has a LOT of chickens (like 24) offered me the three hens and the rooster for free as she's downsizing her flock this year.  I am so going to hug her when we go and get those this Spring as that not only saves me money, but I also know that the birds can survive out in a coop in the cold winters and survive okay (my biggest worry was buying birds that would die in the weather.  I'd feel terrible if that happened). 

I started thinking of a good way to redo the 1/2 of the barn that the hutch that my mother-in-law gave us is jammed into so it would fit the chickens, but also give them room to move around and such.  I think I've got a plan and I think I can dig out old furniture from our storage van to recycle into nesting boxes and a ramp and things for the chickens, so they'll have a nice spacious coop and I am hoping to be able to fit the rabbit hutch in there as well to keep it out of the wind, but I'll figure that out later as I'm not sure of the personalities of the animals involved at this point :).  My husband is also optimistic that he can use the raw materials from the hutch I was given to help build a rabbit hutch and coop areas that fit better in with our space.

2.  To help me battle the depressing state of things, I swear, seed catalogs came in the mail this week!  I had requested them a couple of months ago, so I was thrilled to get them in the mail (seen above).  It's like Christmas for adults I swear *laugh*.  I looked through and started circling seeds and plants that had short growing seasons and I knew we'd eat and also found a couple of new plants that I had no idea would grow in my zone.  I found a couple of different berries and things that I am hoping to be able to afford at some point in coming years.  I'd also like to get some fruit trees, clear the land around here, build some stone walls and make a beautiful kitchen and English garden type of atmosphere in the backyard and a few other animals and build my husband the big shop he's wanted for years.  And I'll find a pirate ship buried in the backyard loaded with gold coins to help pay for it all.  Ha!  One can dream can't they?

3.  I finally have, so far, been able to watch about 1/2 of "Edwardian Farm" on YouTube.  Every other time I've tried like three parts were unavailable to watch and it was kind of hard to get into as it came off disjointed.  I'm so far enjoying it a lot more than the first couple of times I've watched it because of this :).

4.  The new laundry system came in the mail this week and while I was kind of blown away with how small the magnets were (probably like an inch across and and an inch and a half tall) they stick to the drum of the washer well.  I've been using a small amount of laundry soap to help break up dirt on my husband's clothes and things, but so far they seem to be working pretty good.  The particulate matter they're picking up from the water is already apparent, so here's hoping they continue to work.   I'll keep you updated.

5.  The foam mattress cover I ordered from my family came in this week too.  And I am SO SO glad I got it!  Boy is it ever helping my quality of sleep with my arms and it really seemed to help out my right arm in particular.  It's a bit stiff now, but the masses of pain I was in are gone from that arm and significantly reduced in my left arm and I think a lot of that is just due to the fact that I was able to sleep a lot better and let my arm nest into the mattress instead of trying to figure out a way to make my upper arms kind of float with a pillow propping them up or something so they didn't hurt constantly at night.  My left arm was actually doing a lot better, but I've been stretching it out a lot playing with my son and things and I think I've been overdoing it a bit because of that, so last night I was kind of sore and miserable with that arm.  But that was also without the aid of Ibuprofen that I've been able to wean myself off of the last few days, so I'm not complaining too much.

6.   It warmed up this week!  We actually saw into the 40's one day a couple of days ago and it was wonderful.  Yesterday the temperature went back down into the 30's and it's snowing again today, but at least we're not looking at highs in the below zeroes or in the single digits.  Got my gas bill and it was as depressing as my electric bill.  I noticed that the price on natural gas is nearly 1.00 per cubic foot.  My jaw just about dropped off my head when I realized that.  The gas bill was well over 200.00 with how cold it has been, so I'm looking at 800.00 just in utilities this month.  That sucked.  Hopefully the worst of the cold weather is over, so I'm just going to be optimistic about it and pray the worst of the winter temperatures is over.

7.  I managed to get housework pretty much caught up this week, despite the sporadic school schedule and things, so that was good.

8.  The menu plan this week got blown to kingdom come with everything that happened, but about 1/2 way through the week I decided to start planning out next week's menu for the sake of having it done and hopefully working well by the time Monday rolls around.  This week's menu was kind of an odd mix of things.  We had BBQ chicken one day, french dips a couple of days, leftovers one night, Alfredo Chicken Helper one night (my "punt" meal from the shelf by the china cabinet") and stuff like that.  It was better than eating out, but not terribly exciting, so I'm hoping to do better next week.

And yeah, that's my week in a nutshell.  How did your week go?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

The best laid plans of mice and monthly goals got kind of blown out of the water the last few days.

First there was yesterday.  My husband ran the snow blower and then attempted to go into Anchorage with his brother to help a friend out, but the weather was so awful they turned around finally and barely made it back to the Valley without getting stuck.  So, he was gone during the time when I had hoped he'd be able to entertain the son so I could make towels. 

Then last night, my son kept walking by me and I'd smell something fruity.  It kept nagging at me as the smell seemed familiar, but I thought maybe he'd just gotten into some of my daughter's body mist again and spritzed his blanket by mistake.

Finally the brain kicked in and I realized where I knew the smell from.  The kid's shampoo.  Went into his room and sure enough he had wanted the squeeze bottle from the shampoo and had emptied out the last 1/4 bottle onto his carpet in different locations.  What I was smelling was probably the shampoo on his feet and the smell wafting from his room.

So, out came the cleaning equipment, including the carpet shampooer, while my husband gave the son a bath so the soap didn't burn him being left on him too long.  Once I got done running my "I hate to run on carpet even though I'm a CARPET shampooer" carpet cleaning machine for an hour...my arms were totally shot.  An hour running the carpet shampooer with normal arms would always leave me feeling like I got a workout.  This time I knew I was barely going to be able to move my arms by morning.  And hey, guess what?  I was right!

On top of everything my son refused to sleep at all last night and my daughter ended up with her stomach cycling yesterday and was still dealing with the after effects today, so both kids were home from school today (eczema flare due to shampoo incident on the son's part combined with not sleeping last night).  It was a long Sunday.  Topped off with my husband saying at dinner that he needed to get a tooth pulled today (the future extraction that we knew was coming) as it was starting to hurt in a familiar way. 

So, he ended up at the dentist today and got his tooth pulled and then had his truck die on the way home at the gas station.  Luckily, he was able to search the internet for a solution to the problem and found that in a lot of cases it had to do with the programming on the key for the truck (it would turn over, but it wouldn't stay running), so he tried it while waiting for his brother to come and tow him home and it worked.

So, yeah, it's been a trip the last few days.  Luckily, once I knew my husband was going in to get his tooth pulled, I quickly redid my menu plan, pulled out a pot roast and threw it into the crock pot early so it would be falling apart by dinner time and pulled out the last of the russet potatoes for baked potatoes tonight (I figure if nothing else he'll be up to chewing that and some canned peaches, so he'll get something to eat.  We'll have some pudding for dessert).  Thank goodness for technology that I can do things like that without worrying about having to use my arms too much.  Blessing for sure!

So, anyway, due to all of this, the towels got bumped till tomorrow in favor of sitting with a heating pad on and popping Ibuprofen while taking care of a kid with flared eczema due to the shampoo bit and a daughter who is still sore and weak feeling after yesterday.

BUT!  I did get some things done this week!  So, yay for that!

I did get the handkerchiefs made Saturday (seen up top).  I actually found I had a bunch of handkerchiefs already cut out and ready to sew (had been washed too boot) as I've been slowly, when I have fabric scraps of the right types of fabric that will work for handkerchiefs I've been cutting them out after washing the fabric and just setting them in the pile to sew later.  So, that saved time.  I ended up with a couple of different sizes, which I really don't care if some are smaller or a bit larger than the store bought handkerchiefs you can buy.  Let's face it, they're handkerchiefs!  Who cares if the size is a bit off.  You're going to use it as a tissue!

I also mended my daughter's teddy bear (photo didn't come out on that one, so I'll have to show that photo later :).  I used some off white fleece that I had and just cut out rectangles that would fit over the hands with some room to spare (to fold over the fabric to give a nice clean edge) and then I just followed the edge of the hand with the fabric, sewing as I went.  I did both hands so they'd match, for one, and because my daughter had started to pluck the teddy bear's other hand, for two. 

I got a good portion of my Amazon order in and found room for it all, but I'm still waiting on tuna salad and Hershey's Chocolate chips (not to mention my memory foam pad and the laundry system I ordered) and Amazon supposedly shipped them via USPS like Saturday and they're set to be here Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  I've never known USPS to move that quickly up here, but I guess we'll see if someone at Amazon screwed things up again with the shipping or not *sigh*.

I got a path shoveled on the deck, just in time for the temperatures to tank big time and then it snowed again, so I have to shovel off the deck at some point just for the sake of my husband being able to get to the garbage for dump day...or build a snow fort out there, which actually sounds more fun *laugh*.  I doubt it's happening within the next few days, though, as I'm pretty crippled up at the moment.

So, onto this week's goals!

Sewing Goals:
  • Work on comforters (didn't get to that last week, unfortunately)
  • Sew kitchen towels
  • Sketch embroidery onto pillow cases 
  • Darn some socks

General Goals:
  • Shovel path across deck, again, at least, and preferably start to get some of the rest of the deck shoveled off.
  • Redo menu plan for the next few days to make sure soft foods are on the menu for the sake of the husband's mouth.  Finalize and post.
  • Get right arm to start moving again (please, oh please) without a lot of pain.
  • Get caught up on housework.  Between the son having some issues one morning with not letting me know he needed toilet maintenance done (there that sounds less gross) and a sick cat Saturday, a lot of bedding ended up getting stacked in the laundry room.  As a result, I'm a bit behind on laundry...not terrible, but once the kids are in school tomorrow that is definitely a priority.
  • Start weeding through things in master bedroom closet.
  • Go through unfinished knitting projects and rip apart any that don't need to be finished to save the yarn for something else (like the baby blanket I started to knit ages ago for some birth in the family and ended up making and giving something else for...now everyone in the family has at least two kids, I'm not worrying about baby shower gifts anymore :).
  • Talk to friends who own chickens and see where a good source to get some nice, hearty, cold weather breeds would be so I can get a bead on how much some chickens might cost come Spring (I hope anyway).
And yeah, that's about it for goals this week that I wrote down anyway.  How about you?  Working on anything?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

 Wow!  It has been a week when it comes to weather.  This is a week where Delta Junction saw a whopping -74 degrees F (mind you that's North, but holy Cow!) and we saw -40 one day with a high of -27.  When it finally warmed up to -17 to pick up the kids in the afternoon it would feel downright warm to how it had been.  That's sad.

Yesterday it started to warm up and suddenly we went from below zero to above zero and snowing so now we have about five inches that my husband is going to have to snow blow before tomorrow (if my son's speech therapist makes it...she missed today because the roads were gross, so we'll see) and they are calling for snow all week.  Alaska.  Don't like the weather, wait a few minutes and it'll switch, often violently *laugh*.

So, yeah, I'm not sure how this is going to impact my electric bill, but you know, at least we HAVE the heaters in the bedrooms so the kids stayed warm during this cold snap.  Blessings are blessings, no matter how much they cost sometimes.

So, let's get onto other money saving things that happened this week!

1.  I got a birthday check in the mail from my family back East and I found that it was just enough to buy the 25.00 memory foam mattress pad I had my eye on in my Amazon cart, so I bought it (thanks, mom and sisters!).  I'm praying it will help my arms...they've been making me miserable this week with the crazy pressure changes and the temps all over the place.

2.  Amazon sent out part of my order (some Japanese rice seasoning powder) out AGES ago, like December 26th and it was set to be here January 5th originally.  I was tracking it, but it just seemed to hit Washington and stopped.  On January 10th, Amazon gave me a refund on the order.  Ironically, the package arrived the next day.  I offered to let them take the money back out for the order, since I had gotten it and they refused saying that it hadn't made it when it should have been there, so the refund was the least they could do. 

I was on the internet with my daughter that night, oddly enough, trying to track down what type of animal Timmy Willy was from the Peter Rabbit stories.  I couldn't find that right away, but I did find a BUNCH of awesome books based around Beatrix Potter on the internet, so I went to Amazon to see what they had.  I love her artwork and her stories have been part of my children's lives pretty much since they were born, so obviously we're fans of her stories too *laugh*.  I found the cookbook up top for .54, which after shipping the Amazon credit JUST covered the cost of the book and had to order it.  It was kind of surprising to me, even, that I just bought the book on a whim, as I normally don't do that and I try to stick to my "list", but something told me to buy it.

It came in super quick and I've been looking through it the last few days and I have to say I LOVE THIS BOOK!  I was kind of skeptical about the book when I got it in the mail as it was pretty thin compared to other cookbooks I've gotten, but holy moley does the author put a LOT into a thin cookbook.  On average there are about three recipes per page (with Beatrix Potter sketches scattered throughout with photos as well) and the writer collected recipes from the areas Beatrix Potter lived and visited and published the regional recipes in the book.  The book has everything from game recipes, to garden produce recipes (I'm really keen to try a turnip soup recipe I found in it), to fish, to chicken, to beef, to desserts, to preserves (no joke, that's in the back of the book, including flavored vinegars and other things).  I'm loving on this cookbook a LOT and have found a lot of cool ideas to incorporate into my meal plans.  Between that, "The More With Less Cookbook" and the 5 ingredient crock pot cookbook that I got...I'm super thrilled on the cookbook nerd front of late *laugh*.

3.  I was trying to figure out how to make money stretch to help with bills coming up and was just randomly talking to my husband and was like, "Well, maybe I should cash in the few savings bonds I have" and my husband replied, "Um, what savings bonds?"  I went and got them in their precious purple envelope that I have protected carefully since I was young.  Those savings bonds have followed me a LOT of places over the years.  Two lowly ones that my grandma had gotten for me for my first and second birthday.  My mom had always told me to keep them as they'd accumulate interest, even though they weren't high value bonds or anything.  We went online and found that the bonds had matured and that while the government had extended the interest on the bonds a couple of times through the years, the bonds had still reached full maturity quite a while ago.  So, I went in this week and cashed them in.  The bonds netted me a couple of hundred dollars, which has helped to create at least a bit of a "pad" in the bank and will hopefully help see us through the hump until we can get our taxes done and our return in.  I kept the purple envelope they were in and got a bit teary eyed when I saw where my grandma had signed it.  I know she would be pleased that the money was being used to help get us through a hard spot in our lives and was benefiting her grand kids (the kids were never great-grand kids, just more grand kids :). 

4.  I used the "tear inducing" pickled cabbage that was open and adapted a recipe in the 5 ingredient crock pot cookbook that called for sauerkraut instead of pickled cabbage to see if it would work well to tone down the flavors of the cabbage.  It was pretty good!  I also used up an apple that was past it's prime on the meal as well, so win-win.  I ended up making pork chops instead of the pork roast I was planning on, just because I forgot to pull it from the freezer and stick it in the crock pot, but they still turned out tasty!

5.  I finished "Full Steam Ahead" this week.  I have to say as the series go, I prefer the farm series to the railroad history.  It was entertaining and such, don't get me wrong, but I missed seeing Ruth in the kitchen and other domestic aspects like she did in the farm series.  I started watching "Wartime Farm" again right after finishing the series for about the fifteenth time *laugh*.

6.  One night I had a sundae bar this week and I tried out two ingredient hot fudge sauce (just sweetened condensed milk and chocolate mixed together). I used some ancient Baker's Chocolate I had to make it, a combo of milk chocolate and unsweetened chocolate.  The sauce turned out really good!  I stored what was left in the fridge and it set up into true fudge it seems, but we're heating it up a little bit at at time and using it on ice cream for dessert on and off.  I love this dessert compared to like milk shakes or something as this uses a LOT less ice cream as the fudge and other toppings help to pad out the ice cream used (which honestly is the most expensive thing to get).

7.  Grocery shopping this week went okay...not great but okay.  I decided, when I realized how out of some things we were, that I was just going to aim to do two weeks of shopping this week and try to pick up bare minimums the next couple of weeks.  I am RIGHT at my grocery budget for the next two weeks after I was done shopping, which means once I buy milk the next couple of weeks...I'm going to go over no matter what I do on my budget, but at least we have fresh produce to last us the next couple of weeks and we have meat in the freezer from the sales I managed to hit last week.  Bright side, between coupons and sales I did manage to save 68% off of the grocery bill. 

I did all of my shopping this week at Carrs, going so far as to avoid Fred Meyer and the free refried beans I had waiting there so that I wouldn't spend more money on deals I might find there.  Some of the highlights on shopping this week were huge bags of name brand dry cat food for 5.00 (I got two as those are normally about 13 to 15.00 per bag), a big container of grapes for 5.00 (2 lbs worth, which is what one pound of grapes is going for right now, so definitely a good deal), lettuce for 1.26 for a head (personalized price), bananas for .79 lb (personalized price) and sour cream for 1.16 (personalized price).  And there was a 5.00 off a 50.00 or greater shopping trip coupon you could load onto your shopping card too, so that was a nice thing to get off the bill.

Carrs was also having a big case lot sale this week, but when I looked at the prices they weren't that great.  On average for canned goods you had to buy 24 cans of something to get the case lot price on them and when I looked at that price...basically you were getting regular sale prices on the canned goods, or you might save .10 per can past sale price on some of the higher valued items.  So you'd end up buying 24 cans of whatever on average and save a whopping 2.40 per case.  It just didn't seem cost effective to me, especially when I already had everything they were selling in the pantry already for as cheap, or cheaper than those prices and I certainly didn't need to pick up 24 of the item to get the price.

The one exception was that they had good tuna on sale for .69 per can on the case lot.  If you bought 48 CANS at one time.  Yeah, I walked on by that one.

8.  I darned a hole in a dish towel this week.  It's not pretty, but it'll work still.  I'm hoping to get some more dish towels made tomorrow (I have terry cloth material in my stores and am just going to use an old dish towel as a guide for how big to make the towels), but we'll see how it goes.

So, there is my frugal adventures this week in a nutshell.  How about you?  Good week on the money saving front or bad?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Yearly Goals: 2017

Man, this post was harder to put together than I thought it was going to be.  It was one of those things where you go and make a list, don't like how it comes together, rewrite said list, again it doesn't seem to be just right...rinse lather and repeat.  Finally, I just crumbled up the list and threw it over my shoulder in frustration (and then immediately went, picked it up and threw it away *laugh*) and just decided to write the post without bullet points as things this year...well it's kind of a philosophy vs. a physical goals type of year for me.  So, allow me to introduce you to...

Survive and Thrive Year here on "The Make Do Homemaker"

When I thought of my goals for this year they were kind of all over the place.  There were the usual, stress and immediately heartburn up in the throat, panic inducing goals of trying to get bills paid off or down, getting the rest of my husband's teeth done and blah blah blah.  And then I realized that all I was doing was immediately stressing myself out for the long term.  And the year hasn't even really STARTED yet.  Not a good way to start a year.  So, I tried to redo my thinking a bit and came up with some goals that I think I can accomplish, or at least hope I can, and not freak out about them all the time.

So, let's get to the goals!

1.  Focus on Hearth and Home
This was a big one for me to come up with, believe it or not.  Once I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to do gifts beyond my immediate family (and possibly my family back East) this year...it was like a tremendous weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  I didn't realize how much of my energy was going into thinking of gifts, what materials I needed to buy to make said gifts, what would people like, how to keep costs down as low as possible while making the gifts nice, etc etc.  You have no idea how liberating it was to walk through the used store a couple of weeks ago to go and get some snow pants for the kids and walk by the craft and material section and realize that I didn't need to buy ANYTHING this year to make gifts.  Nothing.  I think they could see my smile in Seattle.

A giant wave of, not quite relief, but more an uplift of energy, washed over me when I thought of not having to worry about all of it.  To be able to focus on doing things like embroidery for my family, for my house, heck for me.  To go through a canning book, not with a discerning eye for possible gift giving potential, but instead thinking in more pragmatic terms of what I could use in the pantry and not worrying about giving away jars and things.

So, this year I've decided is one where I'm going to focus my energy on my home and my family.  I have some plans for small projects to make things more comfortable around the house, working on gifts for my family for Christmas, slowly throughout the year and things. 

I want to continue spending more one on one time with my husband, probably once the kids are in bed, watching movies, maybe playing some board games and things like that.  I'm hoping to focus a bit more on making sure I spend time with him as I know he tends to take a back seat because of my son taking so much of my time and energy and then my daughter taking what is left.  

2.  Smile More.  Spend Less.
The struggle to keep cost of living down, for us (and I know many others) is tough.  It's so tough.  It's like you go through your day, not seeing the forest for the trees.  Or, more accurately, not seeing the dollars for the pennies.  Bills feel like a ship you are dragging by it's anchor around with you.  All day long.  Every single day.  You get the bills paid and feel a split moment of relief and then immediately start worrying about the next month's bills.  It's a pretty depressing and disheartening cycle to live in.

I'm hoping this year to weather the storms of financial hardships better.  I know there are other areas I can cut costs in...I just haven't thought of them yet.  So, I'm going to put brain power into doing that a bit and also I'm going to try to not stress myself out so much (which MIGHT be impossible, but we shall see) and try to enjoy life one day at a time.  It's worth a shot :).

The one area I see myself being able to cut back costs a LOT this year is not going to the used stores as much.  I don't go half as much as I used to anyway, due to lack of funds and all, but also I found that I was indulging sometimes in my own form of retail therapy.  Sure, it was on the cheap, but I was just spending money on something that was neat looking or something I thought was cool to basically cheer myself up.  And, while it works in the short term to cheer one up, the money could be spent better elsewhere and I really don't NEED any more stuff that doesn't serve a good purpose.  Now if needs present themselves (clothes, something breaks, etc) sure I'll go shopping for that stuff, but now that I don't have to go the used stores with an eye toward Christmas gifts for a lot of people...I think my trips will go way down in that area, which will also keep temptation to spend money to a minimum.  Same with yard sales.  I just don't see the need to spend money on that stuff anymore.
I'm hoping, instead, if I really want to cheer myself up and such, to just create something out of materials I have around the house that we could use (like say a new pillow cover for throw pillows or something), but would also make me feel better in my general environment.

3.  Become more self sufficient.
Ideally I want to expand the garden this year, which might or might not work, depending on how well I can dig by Spring with my arms kind of a mess, but if I can do it, I'm going to do it.  Even if I have to dig a couple of rows out of the yard, plant some seeds and see what happens, at least than I can say I tried.

I also, ideally, would love to find the money to build some coops for a few chickens and at least one rabbit  for the daughter for a pet...she's never asked for a pet before, but she really wants a rabbit.  I figure if I get her a pet female of a good breed for meat production, she can have her pet rabbit and it'll be one step closer for me to start a small rabbit concern.  Terrible of me, I know, but if you're going to get a rabbit, it might as well be with a bigger picture in mind.

Mind you all of that is hinging on money, so I'm definitely going to keep an open mind about it.  Expanding the garden I can see making it work no matter how much money we make, but the chickens and rabbit...those require food and so you need to be able to afford to feed them.  So, yeah, we'll see how that goes.

4.  Start a future journal.
This is one of the "philosophical ideological" goals for the year.  I was reading in a magazine (always a great source of universal knowledge *laugh*) that when people would start writing a journal like you would be writing it at some point in the future and start writing as if the goals or dreams you want to come true are already a reality that it seems to help guide people in the right direction and help reality kind of mold to those goals.

I liked this idea, honestly as just writing about how everything is going groovy, the son is talking and acting like he's never going to shut up again, how we're paying off our mortgage early and other things...it immediately made me FEEL better just kind of fantasizing about it all.  So, why not write it down, cheer myself up about life in general and make myself realize that the NOW is here yes and it might be a bogged down mess, but the future is yet uncertain and everything might work out just fine?  It seems like a neat project, so I want to do one this year.

5.  Start Rotating Canning all Year Round
This is one that is going to be hard to start.  I'm so used to doing "canning season" during the summer and fall that it seems odd to me contemplating doing more of it in the winter and spring.  My biggest inspiration when it came to doing it, though, was trying to find room for empty jars all over the place and while I could stack them back down in the pantry, I don't see the point in the jars just sitting around if they could be holding food in them for future use.

Now I know I'm not going to be able to can all the time just because sales won't be there or the idea of sitting canner sitting for an hour and a half just doesn't fit into the schedule.  But, I'm hoping to find the motivation to do things like can my own chicken when I find a really good sale, instead of going and shelling out way too much money for canned chicken that always tastes a bit metallic from the tin can.

6.  Bake More
I want to expand my knowledge of cooking and baking, but mainly baking.  Cooking I expand my knowledge on constantly and I really do get a kick out of it, but man...while cooking is fun and shouts "mess with me!  Create!", baking is science.  And work *laugh*.  But, I do want to get better at it and make food more fun and interesting around here.  I'm hoping that I can incorporate culinary adventures into the menu plan and just keep trying new things.  One of the biggest problems with being broke is that food becomes monotonous and just so boring because you just are so tired by life in general you just kind of throw food on the table and eat it.  I want to keep the joy in cooking and baking for me, so for me that means messing with things :).

7.  Cherish Time With My Kids
Sometimes you really just get hung up on being mom.  I've found myself spending more time lecturing the kids than I do laughing with them and while I KNOW that lecturing them is important to getting them to that all important goal of "independence" someday...I also want to enjoy the time I have left where my kids are...well..kids.

I'd love to have money this summer to go see things like the "Sea Life Center" in Seward and other outings, but we shall see, once again, how money goes.  If nothing else I hope to at least be able to picnic with them at our nearby lake and things (it's a fee to get into the federal park, but I'm hoping not too much).  I'm hoping to see a year with more fun in it this year.  I started getting better about being broke and finding some fun, but free, events to go to in our area last year and I'm hoping to find more this year to go to.  I'm optimistic that it's going to be a good year :).

Really, some goals to spending more time with my kids I've already gotten done so far this year.  Things like, "Drink cocoa", "Watch 'Simon's Cat' with kids on YouTube" and other things are easy to do, give me quality time with the kids and I HOPE create some good memories for them.  Oh yeah, "Finally figure out how to get a decent selfie with the kids" was one of the goals I had and am getting better at too (as seen above...well I think it came out pretty good anyway).
Oh and to anyone who wanted to see an updated picture of me...you asked for it *laugh*.

8.  Declutter and Get Organized
This is one that has been tying into some of the things I've been doing already this year.  I really am hoping to organize, weed and get things in the house running more smoothly.  It makes it easier on me, of course, but also makes the family happier having things clean and mom knowing where stuff is (ha, I nearly said "knowing where all the crap is"...yup, I'm tired *laugh*).

So, yeah, I could probably ramble on for about five more pages about things I want to do, like *flips through pages on notebook* I know that "Taking naps" is in that mess somewhere and "making healthier meals", but I won't bore you for hours with the somewhat boring aspects of my personal goals for this year ;).

How about you?  Got any goals for this year?  Lofty, small or otherwise?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 1/17/17

Right, I AM working on getting the yearly goals post up, so hopefully that will be finalized and posted tomorrow (fingers crossed there as I've been busy).

So, in between working on the house, I managed to get the menu plan figured out for this week.  So, onto the menu plan!

Menu Plan for Week of 1/17/17
Monday Sloppy Joes (I rolled this over from last week as I had one night go sideways on me.  They actually turned out well and my daughter even ate them without complaint!).

Tuesday:  Pizza Night

Wednesday:  Leftover Sloppy Joes on home made bread (want to get them eaten since they were made with leftover meatloaf) with baked potatoes.  Dessert:  Sundae bar with two ingredient hot fudge sauce, strawberry preserves, golden syrup (from pantry), cherries (from pantry), and chopped up nuts (I'm thinking blue diamond almonds and some peanut free pecans).

Thursday:  One Pan Garlic Ranch Chicken and Veggies

Friday:  Pork Loin with Cabbage and Apples (use canned cabbage slaw and apples in fridge past their prime).   Dessert:  Grape Custard Dessert (might not be the exact name...it's from Alton Brown's new cookbook)...use canned grapes from pantry.

Saturday:   Picnic Chicken (recipe from "Fix-It and Forget-IT 5-Ingredient Favorites Slow Cooker Recipes"), potato salad (use frozen potatoes as base), freezer slaw (from freezer, obviously).

Sunday:  Leftovers 

And there you are folks.  My menu for this week.  How about you?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Winter is definitely here in full swing right now.  I'm not looking forward to the twenty below temps they're calling for this week (when your highs are going to be ten below you know you're in for an awesome week).  We're definitely getting some snow this winter too (as you can see on my back deck above there), so hopefully it'll warm up decently quick so the kids can enjoy some serious sledding sometime soon.  Today we're curled up under blankets, enjoying some hot cocoa and cherry pie and watching the snow fall. 

Looking at my list for last week, somehow I got like nothing accomplished on said list for the most part.  I DID get a couple of things done on it, thank goodness, but not as much as I'd hoped to get done.

I got the laundry folded, put away and most importantly CAUGHT UP!  I have been making sure, no matter how exhausted or cruddy I'm feeling to keep the laundry rolling and get it washed and put away in the same day.  Yes, I still have bedding I'm having to do, but it's slowly getting there in the caught up department as keeping on top of the clothes means I have one load of clothes per day, one load of bedding per day pretty much a given with my son and then I've been getting about two loads of bedding done on top of that, so I'm getting there.  Slowly but surely.

I didn't get my sewing done this last week just because my arms started aching worse at even the THOUGHT of it, but I did manage to get my bedroom really mucked out and looking good.  Amazing how much paper accumulates over a couple of years just from junk mail you put in a pile or papers that were important at the time, but once the year is over...not so much.  So, I got all of that weeded out and thrown away or filed into the "important to keep" category. 

Some things that weren't on my goals, but am proud that I've been keeping on top of is making sure all the dishes get done and put away and the table gets cleaned off and a new tablecloth put on everyday again (it gets hard keeping on top of my son when it comes to getting crumbs and things all over the table, so I've just found it easier to change out the tablecloth every day).  I've also been just mucking out and reorganizing the kitchen more to get it more streamlined to make my life easier (one of my goals this year...I've REALLY got to post those *laugh*).  I've also been proud to send my daughter to school with home made treats (like this week was cookie bars and rose hip fruit leather) instead of having to worry about throwing in some packaged thing that I really couldn't afford and the home made stuff probably tasted better anyway :).

And I managed to stick to my menu plan this week!  Only one day ended up getting kicked down the road because of my husband not feeling good (so we're having sloppy joes tonight instead of last night), but I feel really good about sticking to my plan instead of deviating.  The shelf I put up by the china cabinet with the materials I need from the pantry and things is working FABULOUSLY well so far, so yay for that :).

This week's goals...well there's a lot of sewing goals on here.  I want to get the towels and handkerchiefs sewn this week as we need them so I can throw out the truly "there is no saving these" thrashed ones (or, more likely with the old towels I'll be sending them out into the garage to be used as rags).

So, here are this week's goals.

Sewing Goals:
  • Continue to work on mending comforters and requilting when I have time
  • Mend daughter's teddy bear (she plucked the material in the hand and now there's a hole.  Kids.  What motivates them sometimes?)
  • Sew new towels
  • Sew handkerchiefs

General Goals:

  • Sketch out embroidery designs onto pillow cases (also links in with yearly goals...promise I'll get to posting those, probably today or tomorrow :).
  • Confirm PFD applications went through okay (already done)
  • Get menu plan ready for this week (nearly done)
  • Get massive order from Amazon put away when it gets here (they FINALLY shipped the majority of my orders that I ordered from my family for Christmas and they're supposed to be here today.  Just a LITTLE excited as things I need like paper towels are in this order!)
  • Shovel off deck (we have a foot of snow on there right now and I have to walk over it to dump the garbage.  Oh and it's snowing again today so yeah...deck is getting shoveled off pronto here).
  • Continue to work on cleaning master bedroom and getting things mucked out and better organized throughout the house.
  • Clean out car well.
  • Make appointment to get oil changed on car.
There are other things I'm hoping to get done this week, but I'm going to leave my list there to keep it realistic.

How about you?  Got anything planned this week?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

You know as money saving weeks go, this one actually worked out to be a good one, although it started out so depressing.

First thing that happened was me getting a bill in the mail from my husband's doctor office.  Basically my husband didn't realize what was and wasn't covered by insurance when he went in earlier in the year and we owe for a nebulizer treatment and then the follow up visit the week after that he didn't realize that the insurance was an 80.00 copay no matter what you went in for, so we owed money toward that as well.  I'm not looking forward to the newest doctor bill that the one doctor's office he went to will eventually mail us as they were convinced we had a 20% copay on doctor's visits so charged my husband a minimal amount, so we'll owe them another 45.00 or so when that finally comes back from insurance.  But, yeah, I've got to come up with 76.00 this month that I wasn't planning on to get the doctor's office paid off (nice part, though, is that they combined what we owed them previously with the new bill, so I won't be late paying them the 55.00 we owed them from last month).

Then my electric bill came in the mail and I just about had a heart attack as with how cold it has been, even WITH turning off the electric heat as much as I could, with the holidays on the bill where the kids were home for two weeks...the bill was over 400.00.  I cried.  I'll admit it.  I went on Facebook and went on a depressive rant, not knowing what else I could do to lower my bill, and found out that pretty much everyone in the area is in much the same boat just because of how cold it has been.  Somehow it didn't make me feel much better, but at least I felt like I wasn't utterly failing at trying to get my electric bill down as low as I could.

Bright side, I have two more weeks in the month to come up with the mortgage and my husband had a full week last week, so at least things are looking up at being able to make the mortgage next month without a full fledged panic attack (I hope).

So, let's get to the money saving things that happened this week, shall we?

1.  I went shopping yesterday and hit major, and I mean major pay dirt and that was after finding a really awesome sale earlier in the week!  I ended up spending over my weekly grocery budget by about 40.00 or so, but it was worth it for what I got for meat.  I was starting to panic as our freezer was getting REALLY empty when it came to meat.  We were completely out of pork with the exception of three things of pork ribs and we had exactly two packages of chicken thighs left.  Past that the freezer had a lot of vegetables and things from the garden and some beef and the one turkey I bought for Thanksgiving this year.  And that was IT.  I knew that I had to run into some super awesome sales on meat or we couldn't afford to buy much and I actually did! 

First thing I noticed this week was that Carrs had milk on sale for 2.76 per gallon with a limit of two per shopping trip.  I ran in first thing Wednesday to at least get that as cheap milk was definitely something I could use.  We didn't have much money, at all, in the bank to last us to Friday, but I decided to stop by the meat and see if I could get anything decently cheap.  Heh.  I ended up spending gas money I had been planning on putting into the car that day (I still had 1/4 of a tank of gas till Friday, mind you) on a whole ham.  I noticed that they had a certain type of ham on sale for .87 per pound, but the slot was empty.  So, I asked the meat guy who was stocking some steaks if they had any of the ham left.  "Oh," he exclaimed, "You want one?  I've got one left!  I'll be right back!"  and he practically skipped to the back and came out carrying what turned out to be a huge, whole, bone-in ham.  He put it in my cart and then I, in a kind of panic (not wanting to let a good deal like that go to waste as the ham would work out to be about 17.00 for the entire ham), texted my husband and asked him if he had anything that would cut up a ham.  I figured, worse came to worse, that I could ask the butcher if they'd do it for me, but us doing it worked better with my "I have no time as this was supposed to be a super quick trip" schedule.  Luckily my husband said, "Sure, we can do that" and I somehow managed to shove my prize into the fridge, taking up an entire shelf in the process *laugh*.

My husband ended up using a brand new 12" saw blade and put it in his sawzall and we cut up the ham today.  I originally was going to just cut the ham in half and make two hams, but quickly decided against it as it would make HUGE hams, for one and for two whenever I make a ham we have a bunch of leftovers and I end up refreezing the meat, which makes it kind of watery and grainy when I cook it again.  So, I asked my husband to cut the ends off and make small hams and we cut 1" ham steaks from the center of the ham.  So, instead of 2 big hams we got 6 ham steaks and two hams out of the one ham, which will last us a lot more meals...and we won't burn out on ham having to eat one all week long or something.  The final cut up results are above (and bonus shot of my 10 boxes of canning lids that came in the mail yesterday *laugh*).

I then went shopping yesterday and the week got even better.  I went in to get just the essentials for the week when it came to feeding the son and I stopped by the meat section.  I found pork loins were on sale for 1.18 lb!!!!  I got three (wish, in retrospected I'd just shot the wad and bought more, but I was trying to be conservative with my money :) and they were about 4.00 a piece each.  Then I found that they also had giant bags of frozen chicken leg quarters.  10 lbs per bag.  For 5.00 per bag!!!!!  I got three bags.

Then in the reduced meat section I found packages of pork chops.  They were reduced and they were also on sale this week buy 1 get 1 free.  So I grabbed two packages marked that they were part of the sale.  When I went and checked out and looked at my receipt I found that the computer had taken the mark down on the meat (30% off of both packages), but had also deducted the ENTIRE full priced amount off of the free package of meat.  So,  two packages of pork chops (6 meals worth total for us) ended up costing me 4.00 after mark downs and sale. 

So, between that and a couple of packages of cod marked down, life on the meat front was good this week!  Now to make it stretch as much as I can :).

2.  A blog reader was nice enough to send me a copy of "The More With Less Cookbook" as she had an extra copy and I've been having a lot of fun reading through it, getting ideas, bookmarking recipes and the like.  She also sent me, in the same box, a "Fix it and Forget It" cookbook with five ingredient crock pot meals, which has been really neat to read through as well.  Thanks, Amanda!

3.  I mended yet another comforter this week (the holes don't seem to end with those).

4.  I found that the new pillows that I got for my husband and I with my family's gift cards just weren't a good fit for either one of us.  The pillows were fluffy and supportive, yes, but mine was overly fluffy and not supportive in the right areas and my husband likes his pillows nearly flat anyway, so I found that the pillows were getting shoved up against the head board and not being used.  Instead of letting them go to waste, I went up and checked the kid's pillows and found that I could trade out a couple of their really flat pillows with one of the new ones.  Both kids are very happy with their new pillows.  Double bright side is by trading out pillows I have a couple more kind of flat pillows that I can stack around my arms and try to stop them from hurting at night.

5.  As you probably gleaned reading the above comment I said, "arms".  The stupid bicep tendonitis has decided to try and spread to my right arm as well.  I was kind of in denial about it as the pain started like it did in my other arm, but finally yesterday both arms were giving me a LOT of grief and the loveliest part of it was when something in my arms pinched a nerve in my bad shoulder, which gave me a heck of a headache all week.  I refuse to be too inactive with all of this going on, though, as I know from experience with my left arm that if I don't use the arm and try to rest it the pain just settles in and gets worse, which is NOT going to happen with my dominate arm.  No way, Jose.  I can't let it happen.

I've been taking shots of apple cider vinegar with ground ginger and tumeric in them a couple of times a day  on top of ice and heat packs and my husband massaging me a couple of times a day. Thanks for the advice on the ACV shots, Dorothy!

6.  I was on Amazon and checked their daily deals and found a lightening deal on a laundry system that is supposed to work as well as laundry detergent (but doesn't require that you use any in the laundry), has lab reports to back up that, in fact, it does work as well as laundry soap, and it has a lifetime guarantee on it.  It's based around magnets of all things, but it made sense when I read about it as basically they'll attract anything with metal in it and will basically work as another solvent on dirt that way.  I ordered it as it was 20.00 down from 70.00 (I used the birthday check my mom sent me to pay for it) and had really good reviews from people (and the creators were honest saying that pre-treatment soaks for heavily soiled clothes and things WERE necessary with the system and weren't acting like it was magic, which was a nice change of pace from some other systems out there).  I am hoping that it will work for my son and hopefully improve his eczema.  Fingers crossed.  If I had a dime for everything I've ever tried for him that didn't work, I'd be rich right now, but if it does work it'll be worth it for sure.  And hey, it has the potential to save me money on laundry soap too, so double bonus.

7.  It snowed last night and today, which my daughter took great advantage of and went sledding today in the back yard.  She's hoping her best friend can come over tomorrow and go sledding with her and so am I.  We're hoping to have some fun in the snow because the weather report is calling for it to be REALLY cold next week...like twenty below cold.  My electric bill is already giving me hives and the weather hasn't even hit yet *flinch*.

8.  My husband ended up getting sick to his stomach earlier in the week, probably due to eating gas station food as he was trying to save money on his lunch (he had to leave earlier than normal so I didn't have time to pack his lunch) and even though he wasn't feeling well, I just made him some plain pasta for dinner and made the regularly schedule menu plan item for that night anyway.  My daughter and I ate the manicotti and then ate leftovers the next night as well as my husband wasn't up to eating what had been on the menu.  Overall the menu plan will be 1 day behind schedule, but for the most part I've been able to stick to it pretty well this week.  The new system is working out really well for menu and meal prep, so woohoo for it working so far!  It has made it so I can function and get dinner on the table despite not feeling great at all the last little bit.  Organization will set you free ;).

9.  I am still watching "Full Steam Ahead" on You Tube.  Watching this one has taken me a lot longer than my previous binge watching of the farm series Alex, Ruth and Peter did just because I've been so busy with things around the house, but I'm enjoying watching it for sure.

10.  I cut up some old computer print outs to use as scrap paper.

11.  Spent more time reorganizing this week (more on that later).  It was free, allowed me to declutter a LOT of areas in the house (especially my "catch all" bedroom) and is making me feel a lot happier in my space because of it.  My husband is happy with the progress as well and he's actually helped neaten up a few areas to help me get room to vacuum and things.  So, yay for progress!

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Menu Plan for Week of 1/09/17

One of these weeks I'll actually get this up on Monday.  In the meantime, though, let's get to this week's menu plan.

First, I wanted to share the cookie recipe I made that I put fig jam into the middle of (as well as the raspberry the recipe calls for).  It was this one and I have to say that when we first got the cookies all put together and put the sugar on top...they were weird.  Good, but weird.  My husband called them "ponuts" as a cross between a pie and a doughnut and actually...he was spot on.  That's kind of what they tasted like.  Now, if you leave them overnight and eat them the next day?  The moisture from the jam absorbs into the cookies and all the flavors meld and they just...they're really good!  We've found ourselves kind of addicted to these *laugh*.  Just a warning though?  This dough was awful to work with.  If you let it sit in the fridge and it sets up it takes FOREVER for it to work it's way back to a workable state and the dough is so soft that it loves to fall apart.  But, if you can get it to work it's worth it :).

I'm planning on working into more "variety menu plans" probably next week as this week I have a pinch nerve in my shoulder and I've had a constant headache for four days straight due to it.  I'm still getting stuff done because I refuse NOT to, but it's making being creative on the menu planning front kind of hard as thinking is at a premium the last little bit.  And with all the stuff I'm working on getting done around here this week, I just wanted to keep the menu plan kind of simple for the sake of my energy levels and sanity.

So, here you are folks.  This week's menu!

Menu for Week of 1/09/17
Monday:  Baked lemon pepper fish, lemonade (from the lemonade concentrate from the pantry...the lemonade came out tasting good once reconstituted), french fries (for son) and tatar tots (for the rest of us).

Tuesday:  Tacos (leftovers from Sunday)

Wednesday:  Pancakes with choice of syrup (rose hip syrup, blueberry syrup or pancake syrup, from pantry), grilled ham (leftovers from Christmas from freezer), sliced pears.

Thursday:  Easy to stuff manicotti, garlic toast on home made bread

Friday:  Meatloaf (use combo of ground turkey and ground beef), mashed potatoes and gravy, corn (from freezer)

Saturday:  Creamy Tuscan Garlic Chicken (use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream, use diced canned tomatoes instead of sun dried tomatoes, use some spinach from freezer instead of fresh).

Sunday:  Sloppy Joes (use mainly beans and veggies for mix, but add a bit of leftover meatloaf for added substance), fruit cocktail.
Desserts:  Chocolate chip cookie bars (just kind of a "grab if you want" type of dessert), vanilla pudding (Thursday), cherry pie -- using one jar cherry pie filling from pantry (pad out filling with buttered bread crumbs...old WWII rationing trick that works pretty good)...Saturday.

And there you are folks.  My menu plan for the week.  I'm hoping to get my feet wet making things like steel cut oats in my new pressure cooker this weekend for breakfast, but we'll see how my head and me in general feels :).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

First, thanks for all the advice on the ranch dressing and all of the nice feedback people have been giving me about the blog.  I really appreciate it :).

I have to say as weeks go this one was productive if nothing else.  The one thing I didn't get done was doing my post on what my yearly goals are going to be this year (I've added and deleted a few as I thought of them and finally I THINK got my goals figured out), but I got some other things accomplished.  So, let's get to those!

This week was kind of a Domino effect to get  things better organized.  See, it started with the cabinet above.

By the way, notice the lack of a hood vent?  Yeah, the previous owners literally just took a hood and butted it up against the underside of the cabinet and didn't bother to put a vent anywhere, so I really don't have a hood to speak of...unless I want to blow smoke into my face when I grill steak on the oven top.  At least I have a window in the kitchen right? 

Anyway, this cabinet being kind of awkwardly placed (obviously) I had actually started out with my cookbooks up in the cabinet.  Well, then I found myself stacking new books when I'd get them in other places, including a bookcase by the deck door in my kitchen, and then the books kind of started getting stacked under my coffee table because I wasn't sure where to put some books that didn't really belong with a certain subject and such.  In short it became kind of a mess and I got tired of the stacks of books around the house.
So, I decided the best place to put the books was going to be in the china cabinet on the bottom shelf (because I can't really put books anywhere else in the china cabinet because of the glass shelves held in place with tabs).

So, that led me to having to move my collection of Blue Cornflower Corelleware because I needed the space they were (really crappily, honestly) stacked.  So, the loaf pan and the tea pot (both of which I use quite often) went up on top of the oven where the cookbooks used to go and the rest of the Corelleware ended up here...

Which the picture doesn't do how nice it looks justice, really, but you get the idea.  I moved the things that were on top of the cabinets in the corner to other places on top of my kitchen cabinets and voila.  After about a day's worth of work I got my cookbooks moved *laugh*.

And bright side the pressure cooker is right at home above the stove now and it will be nice and sequestered there.

Today I spent most of the day rearranging my son's room, for what, the seven millionth time in the last five years?  In this case I had three main objectives.  One:  Get the small dresser I had in his room for sheet storage OUT of his room because he was wrecking it by standing on it all the time.  Two:  Move his barrel somewhere more protected so he wasn't constantly knocking it into the wall when standing on it (the paint on either side of his bed is definitely showing the wear and tear he's subjected it to).  And three:  Move his bed out from under the fan so that he couldn't mess with the fan all the time (he loves to turn it on high and then his heater cycles constantly.  Um, no).  So, I jammed his barrel into the corner of his room, with a piece of plywood I had on one side of the barrel against the wall and then on the other wall I placed a large amount of folded up cardboard to act as a buffer for the wall.  I then placed a piece of yellow flannel I had in my material over the top of the barrel as one more layer of protection for the wall.  As a further deterrent to not stand on the barrel I grabbed the lamp I normally use for extra light when sewing and put that in his room (he loves lamps).  Remember.  Sacrifice for your children and then one day when they want to put you into a home you can lay on the guilt and shame to dissuade them ;).

I moved the sheet storage dresser into the living room/dining room area for now until I can figure out somewhere better to place it.

I also removed the extra mattress we were letting him bounce on and put it down into the den so that I can move it out into storage (in preparation to taking it to the dump on the Valley clean up day later in the year) after I put the Christmas decorations in storage for the year (it's been too cold for my wussy butt to go and mess around in the storage van lately).  The mattress was just one more obstacle to get in my way when vacuuming and it blocked the closets, so it had to go.
I was wondering what my son would think of everything when he came home from school.  If the happy shrieks I heard from upstairs and the fact that he hasn't been out of his room since he came home...I'd say he's content.  I even managed to get all of his bedding cleaned well and put back on his bed before he got home from school, so he wrapped himself up in his furry throw he got for Christmas and has been having a blast.  He was so cute I had to include him in the picture *laugh*.

Oh and we found the missing movies we couldn't find (well most of them), so yay!!!

So, goals for this week are going to be kind of mixed.

General Goals:
  • Get PFD's filed for year (done!  I got it done yesterday).
  • Get Christmas decorations moved out into storage
  • Get extra mattress moved into storage
  • Get rest of Christmas decorations taken down in preparation of going into storage (got that done today too)
  • Continue to go through things and figure out what can be donated to used stores
  • Get laundry folded and put away (no comment on the sheer amount of clean laundry that needs to be put away at this point...everything took a back seat to making Christmas gifts so I'm behind.  Bad). 
  • Start working on reorganizing master bedroom.

Sewing Goals:
  • Continue to mend comforters (got a couple more holes mended in some comforters today...getting there).
  • Sew handkerchiefs
  • Sew kitchen towels

And there you are folks.  My goals for this week.  How about you?  Up to anything this week?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

This was a week where saving money was really easy, since we didn't have any to spend.  This coming week is going to be the same.  So, saving money was a necessity.  So, here's what I accomplished this week.

1.  My mother-in-law gave me a 25.00 Fred Meyer giftcard for my birthday, so I went in today armed with it, a list, and a plan to get off as cheaply as possible for groceries.  I had to get back to school stuff for the kids since they start back to school Monday and all, so I tried to think of ways to get off as cheaply as possible.  Overall, since I needed milk and things, I ended up spending 9.00 out of pocket on groceries this week (after the gift card had been applied).

While at Fred Meyer I also got my freebies I had saved up from Freebie Friday and a bonus free coupon that was on the digital coupon site when I loaded the tortilla chips onto my card for the snack bar (seen above).  The ranch dressing only had one day left on it and luckily they at least had the lite ranch in stock today, so I grabbed it.  Oddly enough I'm like, "Man, what do I do with ranch dressing?" as we're far from fanatics with it.  I've read recipes where you can use the powdered ranch dressing on potatoes and things.  Can you use the actual dressing on potatoes and stuff too or not?  Anyone know?

2.  I have spent a good portion of my time this week cleaning and reorganizing.  It's free, helps me feel good about the house getting more organized and it makes things easier to find (which is doubly nice).

3.  I started my baking today and got some cookies made.  They were sandwich cookies that required jam for the filling and half of the cookies I filled with fig jam, hoping that they would taste kind of like fig newtons (my husband loves those cookies).  And hey, it paid off :).  Tomorrow I will make chocolate chip cookies to put in my daughter's lunches and bread to send my husband into work with chicken sandwiches next week.

4.  One of the canning groups I am a member of on Facebook posted up a deal where Amazon was having a really good deal on canning lids (1.44 per box of wide mouth lids).  I used some of the giftcards my family sent for Christmas to get 10 boxes and some spring loaded tongs (the lids were an add on item).  That pretty much used up the rest of the giftcards my family sent, but it was worth it as I kept thinking, "Man, I'll so use those lids!"  And I will.  The tongs will definitely be used as well.

5.  I've been taking advantage of free Kindle books on Amazon to read things late at night when my son's not sleeping.  So far I'm taking advantage of just the free cookbooks, but am looking forward to expanding my horizons to other types of books later on.

6.   I cleaned out the rest of my cupboards in my kitchen that I have been meaning to clean out for ages and luckily managed to find some items that I had been planning to buy.  I managed to dig out a box of instant miso soup of indeterminate age that doesn't have an expiration date on it anywhere, so I'm HOPING the soup is still good, but since it's powdered I'm kind of hoping it's like Ramen noodles with the shelf stability of uranium about. 

6. I printed off some free "Finding Dory" coloring pages from Disney Movie Rewards for my daughter to color.  She loves the movie, so I thought it might give her something fun to do.  This break has been kind of disappointing on the fun front because after my daughter and the rest of us got over the colds we had the weather hasn't been very nice.  We've gone from getting snow (which is good since we wanted to go sledding in the backyard) to frigidly cold (which stinks)

7.  I mended a couple holes in some comforters this week.  Next week I'm hoping to get to the redoing the quilting of said comforters to hopefully extend their life a bit.

8.  I took the leftover fruit the kids got in their stockings for Christmas and made fruit salad to go with dinner tonight by mixing it in with some leftover canned peaches.  Worked great :).

And there you are folks.  Some of the ways I saved money this week (other than not going anywhere and such).  How did you do?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017: The Menu Plan and Meal Prep

 A quick moment of triumph and happy today.  We went to the dentist for the kid's six month check up today.  Every dentist visit for the kids is just something I dread and panic about so much.  Why?  Because if they find cavities on my son they have to knock him out (he would never sit still to get a tooth drilled, period), and we've only ever had to do it once and it was still terrifying.  So, I just pray as I scrub his teeth every night that he inherited my husband's teeth versus mine (before the acid reflux my husband's teeth were perfect).  Well, not only did my son do really well today (he normally wouldn't sit still for the dentist and would fight him...thank goodness we have an awesome dentist who is always understanding and works great with him), but he sat still enough that they were able to get X-rays for the first time of his front teeth, they got a great look at his teeth and everything looks clean and good on him :).  And no cavities in either kid.  My daughter's two teeth she's set to lose are actually wiggling of their own accord and will probably fall out with no problems (we've had to have all of her other baby teeth pulled pretty much as the suckers just would NOT loosen for her).  So, it was a good day on the dentist front, even with me not doing great today :).

So, this post is actually really hitting close to home with some of the problems and stuff with menu prep tonight as I'm utterly crippled today, yet still having to function and get stuff done.  I'm typing one fingered with my right hand (and an occasional tap of the space bar with my left hand) as I did something to my bad arm last night (I think I slept wrong...just a hunch as I woke up the consistency of a human pretzel) and as a result my left side is utterly worthless to me today...it's one big knot of agony that is radiating along my back, into my neck.  And I've had to battle a migraine from the pinch nerve it's caused me all day, so yippee for being organized so dinner is taken care of tonight *painful thumbs up*.

The last bit the menu has well...not happened.  Even when I made a plan, something would come along (like me not sleeping the night before, not wanting to do prep work involved and just punting when it came to cooking), the menu would get screwed up, which would throw off other meals because I'd plan on left overs and things...and well it would just go down hill quicker than a luge team.  So, of course, lost opportunity got me thinking of ways to better improve how I did my menu plan and meal prep.  And I came up with a system, I think.

So, changes to the way meal prep and menu planning are going to be done around here?  I'm going to go through the menu plan and meal prep first and then move onto other items :).

Problem 1:  Pantry Configuration Leading to More Boring Meals
Root of Problem:  A hurt arm.  Due to hurt arm the idea of crawling around on my hands and knees in my pantry to get stuff off of my shelves to help with dinner prep has been akin to asking me to walk on broken glass some evenings.  As a result, I end up asking my daughter to go down in the pantry and get something as a side for dinner.  The result of doing THAT is we are blowing through canned peaches like they are going out of style, but still have plenty of other side items in the pantry (she's found she loves them).  So, I had to come up with another way to do things to make me more motivated to grab things to go with dinner.

Solution:  Empty the shelf in your bathroom that used to house soap bars and other small bathroom items, put those into a small set of rubbermaid drawers (like you'd put in your office on your desk kind of system), line the shelves with cardboard and shove the shelf next to your china cabinet in your hallway.  Then, go into your pantry on a good day and get the things you've marked off on your menu plan so far for the month that you want to make and pull the items you'd need for that.  Then grab a few sides to go with dinner for the week (the rest will get pulled from the freezer), a quick "punt" meal that you can put together quickly (Chicken Helper "Alfredo and Pasta" and a can of chicken) and you suddenly have a "grab it quick" shelf that is at least on the same floor as your kitchen.  As soon as I'm feeling better I'll go into the pantry and grab another box of pasta (I go through the angel hair with my son as I end up making him pasta with olive oil and Parmesan cheese at least twice a week) to stretch the chicken helper out for a few meals (an overlook on my part when I grabbed the stuff eventually).

 Problem 2:  Finding Inspiration to Make Meals Interesting
Root of the Problem:  Eating the same thing all the time.

Solution:  This one is still a work in progress, really, but I'm working on it.  Pinterest is a great resource, I've found, IF you have an idea of what you might want to make.  Looking up "Pork recipes" for instance, doesn't really net you much in the way of ideas.  Looking up, "Pork Fried Rice" and suddenly you have got a ton of recipes you could choose from.  So, for me, it has been trying to find things to inspire creativity that I can branch off of into different meals and different types of meals.

I got Alton Brown's new cookbook as a Christmas gift and it has really helped to spark some creativity in me, not to mention gave me a bunch of recipes I wanted to try.  Reading his love of pressure cookers made me think more about pressure cookers and how much time they can save and then researching it online I decided I needed (not wanted, but needed) one as it will make dinner SO much quicker to cook when I just plain forget to do things like defrost the meat or want to make steel cut oats for breakfast one morning.  Not to mention perfectly boiled eggs and things.  I got my pressure cooker in the mail yesterday and have been having fun reading up online on all the different ways to use one and bookmarking recipes (now I just need my nice, strong and mechanically inclined husband to put it together for me :). 

I've found myself expanding my selection of things like spice and herb mixes and spices period the last bit.  I've found that having more things at my disposal actually does improve my chances of making a dish.  Oddly enough, I'll sub out main ingredients without much thought in a recipe (I promise not to review the original recipe stating that I changed everything and it still came out great, though ;), but when it comes to spices and herbs...those I consider to be important parts of a recipe that shouldn't really be messed with.  So, I'm glad that I am going to have more weapons in my arsenal when it comes to cooking dinner and making it interesting (IF Amazon ever ships a lot of them, that is *grumble*).

Problem 3:  Having Easy Meal Ingredients Available (Thus Making Dinner Easy on Busy or Stressful Nights)
Root of Problem:  Affording more expensive canned goods, such as canned chicken, even though I use it a lot and would like to buy it on a rotating basis. 

Solution:  Keep my eye open for good sales on chicken (whole or value packs of thighs and things) and not only freeze it but start pressure canning it too.  I've got two pressure canners at my disposal now that I got my dials replaced.  I really need to get my feet wet again and start pressure canning more.  I used to pressure can when I first got my pressure canner all the time, but when my son required me having to take care of him more and more I kind of just stopped doing it and my pressure canner became a glorified hot water bath canner for years.  Now that the kids are old enough that they are in school for a full day...it's time to start getting back to basics and trying to save money by doing things myself versus buying it from the store.  My biggest worry is having enough jars to rotate them constantly, but I'll quickly figure out if I need to invest in more or not over time.

I mean I have two big buckets full of beans alone.  I REALLY need to start pressure canning them instead of buying canned.

Which side not to me is to find my pressure canning manual in with all of my other books and start to brush up on proper procedures and things.

Problem 4:  Baking
Root of Problem:  Finding Time to Bake More Time Consuming Things

Solution:  This problem was one that I really had to think of for a bit in trying to figure out.  See, I'm kind of at this point where I really want to bake, but at the same time I don't want to bake too much, have tons of stuff in one week, gain ten pounds and then not bake for three weeks.  Don't ask where I could have come up with that scenario or anything.

I've tried freezing my baked goods, but have found that things like muffins...I end up being the only one who eats them out of the freezer and they eventually get freezer burned, so I'm determined to keep it small in amounts that I bake this year as well.  Things that can be stacked flat, or close to flat (like waffles), I'll probably make more of and freeze, but things like muffins or bread is just going to be made on a weekly basis as I need them.

One of the things I really need to start baking more of is whole grain breads.  I mean I love white bread, and I love the bread that I can make in an hour and all, but it's not the healthiest option and I have a ton of whole grain flours I'd like to experiment with.  I tried the bread machine recipe that my "made for bread machines" flours came with and baked it according to the directions.  The loaf comes out with the consistency of a brick.  A tasty brick, but a brick.  I have an awesome cookbook for breads that my dad gave me a lot of years ago and it has a really good bread recipes in it, but it's all done "the old fashioned way" so it takes a long time with the rises and things needed to make the breads. 

So, to combat the need for time to make baked goods and things, I've decided that a baking day is going to have to be on the weekend and is probably going to have to start early in the morning before my kids get up (for the sake of my sanity as my son needs my attention about once every two seconds or so).  I might not be able to sleep in, but I'll at least be able to get bread baked, muffins made and cookies baked for the week and things.  I think it'll work out alright if I can keep up with it.

Problem: Wanting to Eat Healthier
Root of the Problem:  Weighing costs with eating a healthier diet.

Solution:  Eat more meatless meals, especially utilizing beans and lentils and things more.  This will be cheaper if I can make it fly with the family as well.  The biggest issue is that I worry about my husband getting enough meat as his body, being active outside and things, needs meat or his mood and health are effected, so it's going to be carefully finding a balance so we're both healthier in the long run for it.
I will still be posting up my menu plans for the week to keep myself on task and to hopefully share some cool recipes as I find them, but yeah, that's what is going on behind the scenes around here this year.  How about you?  Menus going well, getting stale or never started?