Monday, December 21, 2020

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

So, confession time.  I'm pretty much winging dinner the next couple of days.  Sad, but true.  My husband is taking vacation time for over a week around Christmas, so I'm just trying to make it through until then and go from there *laugh* (so excited to have him home for a bit and not having to worry about him commuting on the nasty winter roads every day :).  So, let's get to the menu plan as it stands at this moment!

Menu Plan for the week of 12/21/2020

Monday:  Baked fish, rice, fruit cocktail

Tuesday:  German Hamburg patties (think of kind of a cross between a hamburger and a meatball :), German potato salad

Wednesday:  Chicken Lyonnaise, rice pilaf, green beans

Thursday:  Lasagna (family tradition), home made bread, bread sticks (for the son)

Friday:  Puff pastry wrapped steaks (thanks for the tip, Mable!), greens (from freezer), roasted beets (maybe...still debating this one.  I do have beets in the freezer, but still wondering if this is how I want to use them).

Saturday:  Beef teriyaki, rice,  miso soup, edamame or broccoli (depending on family preference).

Sunday:  Doppekooche (potato casserole with bacon), applesauce (traditional side dish from my cookbook, so I'm going with it)

Breakfasts are going to pretty much compose of toast, eggs and maybe French Toast (since my husband will be home and that's one of his favorites).  Oh and orange rolls for the daughter and husband on Christmas Day (another family tradition that was on sale really cheap last week :).

And there you go folks.  Our tentative menu plan for the week.  We shall see how it all goes, but hopefully I'll be able to stick to it decently well.  How about you?  Got anything different planned for dinner and things this week?

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Frugal Friday (late and early): Money Saving Weekly Recap

 I would say, "Frugal Friday (Times Nearly 2)" but honestly the only reason I didn't do a post last week was we were busy and there wasn't a huge amount to report, so really I don't mind having to consolidate two weeks into one post here for a change :).

As previously stated, it's been super busy here, mainly with Christmastime things.  We baked Christmas cookies, both sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies (which the gingerbread have been steadily getting inhaled by my gingerbread loving son *laugh*), we attempted to make gingerbread houses with just icing and sprinkles and went sans candy decorations (they didn't last long enough to take a photo as Alvah destroyed and ate about 80% of the mini houses very quickly, much to the ire of his sister *laugh*) and we went and drove around looking at Christmas lights a few times (and plan to go again this weekend).  We've watched Christmas movies, listened to Jon Townsend read "A Christmas Carol"  from the Nutmeg Tavern (I've REALLY enjoyed having him read it as he's a lot better dramatic reader than I am *laugh*), listened to Christmas carols a ton, and watched virtual tours of Christmas lights from all over the place on's been fun I least the kids aren't complaining :).

So, let's get to other things that have been going on around here.

1.  Well, the big one (literally) was when I sent my husband to the store a week or so ago to pick up essentials (we just send my husband into the store as much as possible at the moment to cut down on the amount of people having to go into the store) and potatoes was on the list.  So, I get a call and (literally) this is how it went down.

Me (after the initial greetings):  "What's up?"
Husband:  "So, potatoes.  Do you want a 10 lb bag or a 50 lb bag?"
Me:  "Huh?"
Husband:  "Well, they have both a 10 lb bag and a 50 lb 'Alaska bag' for 5.99."
Me (completely blown away):  "So, wait!?!  They have a 50 lb bag of potatoes for 5.99???"
Husband:  "So says the sign, yes."
Me:  "Get that!!!"
Sure enough, he went to check out and the bag was honest to goodness $5.99!!!!  He brought the bag of potatoes in and I have to say I was in a "Now what?" type of mode as that's a lot of potatoes to find room for.  And then I opened the giant paper sack the 10 lb bags were in and found out why the potatoes were so cheap as every single bag had potatoes starting to sprout.  I sat and thought for a little bit and then decided there was only one place in my house cold enough and actually dark enough most of the time to keep the potatoes good as long as possible.  Luckily the produce drawers in the fridge were either pretty much empty except for celery and carrots (the top produce drawer) or was already set aside to use as a potato drawer (the bottom drawer).  So, I started hauling 10 lb bags of potatoes upstairs and decided to see how many would fit into the fridge.

And yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!  All 50 lbs of potatoes fit in the drawers (with the exception of the potatoes I pulled out to scrub and set aside for Japanese curry rice and oven fries for cheeseburgers later in the week).  I have to say it feels good having that many potatoes in the fridge as they'll last us a while and potatoes really are good things to add to meals for me because, if I'm careful with how I prepare them, they aren't too high of calorie.  That and the family likes them, so that's always good too.

On the other end of the frugal spectrum, I attempted to make a bookmark for the daughter as a small stocking stuffer.  I failed.  Miserably.  Anyone who says that bookmarks are easy to make...well you are more talented than I am *laugh*.  So, yeah, that was a waste of too many man hours and color ink from the printer to boot.  I might try again and try to get the bookmark not the size of a family sized car, but I'm leaning toward the "doubt it" end of the spectrum on that one.

2.  I received some gifts from friends of late, which was wonderful to receive (thank you, everyone :).  I had one friend who lives overseas in London, who when they found out that I had never tried chestnuts, had to do something about that.  We were having a conversation back during the summer and she started telling me about her chestnut dressing for Christmas (she was already looking forward to Christmas due to the lockdowns and all) and I was like, "Oh, you guys can get those over there?  Around here I don't think I've ever run into them at the store."   Next thing I know I get a package in the mail with, of all things, a jar of chestnuts in it.  No syrup, no water, just chestnuts, peeled, roasted and ready to go.  Made in France.  And the expiration date was like 2024 on them, which blew my mind.  I went and looked them up on Amazon and was actually impressed with the reviews so I then asked my friend what she wanted me to do with them.  She basically just wanted me to try them, in "anyway that sounds good, love".  Which has led me down a few rabbit holes trying to figure out how I wanted to try them over the months.  I finally settled on making a simple heavy syrup for them, infusing it with a cinnamon stick, vanilla and lemon (I just added vanilla and lemon extract as I didn't have any vanilla beans around here), putting the chestnuts into a bigger jar and pouring the syrup over them.  You then store the chestnuts in the fridge for at least a week and a half and then you can take them, dip them in sugar and eat them over ice cream or even as bon bons and things.  I love nuts and sweet together, so that sounded like my jam *laugh*.  The nuts, since I took the photo, sunk down into the syrup and I'll start doing things with them next week...maybe even have some with Christmas dinner.  This whole experience, so far, has been a lot of fun, so I hope I like them (thank you Aubrey!).

3.  Speaking of gifts, a friend sent me a gift a while back and I forgot to thank her here.  Thank you for the wonderful gift, Debbie!  It helped a lot!

4.  I got a Christmas card from another friend today and was happy to hear from her as I hadn't heard from her in a while.  Inside the card I found a tea bag.  An orange and clove flavored tea bag.  I haven't had that flavor in a long time and I love that flavor!  I'm really looking forward to drinking it (if my kids stop smelling it and making "that smells great" noises *laugh*).  Thank you, Paula!

I also got a Christmas card from a friend of mine that I've been friends with since, geez, elementary school?  We'll just go with "a long time" and leave it at that.  It was a surprise and also great getting an update on her kids and how everything went with their family this year.

In other news I have more Christmas cards to send out, so some people are going to be getting them late this year after all *laugh*.

5.  I have managed to make sure my husband had things to eat for lunch that wasn't just straight leftovers every day and has really helped to cut down on his expenses when he's at work.  I'm hoping to keep this up as it definitely saves us money for my husband to bring lunch every day (and is way healthier than getting fast food, too).

6.  I went through my clothes for the first time in years and started figuring out what would fit me, what wouldn't, and what would need adjustments made to them to fit me now that I've lost weight.  I not only ended up with a decent pile of clothes at the end, but by emptying out my dresser I was able to find some things that I had lost a while ago and could never figure out where they went (buried in the bottom of my sweater drawer for the most part).

7.  We ended up filling up our reusable advent calendar (it's a lighthouse wooden advent calendar that LL Bean has sold on and off over the dad bought us one when the kids were born to remind me of New England and it is one of those Christmas heirlooms I treasure) with some Andes mints I bought at the beginning of lockdown to use as reinforcers for the son during schoolwork.  Luckily I haven't had to fall back onto the bad school habit of using food to get work out of him, so we had them and I knew both kids loved them, so I just pulled those out and let my daughter fill up the calendar with them.  I have to say the kids have been really good at checking the calendar every day for a change and it didn't cost me anything out of pocket this holiday season to do something a bit special for them :).

8.  I went through the various scheduling and phone conferences with the various people from the homeschool to get Alvah's IEP scheduled for early next year.  I have to say, this is going to be weird.  I haven't done a phone IEP meeting since I was down with the flu when Alvah was a wee tyke in preschool.  So, yeah, it's been quite a while since I've had anything but in person IEP meetings.  We tried to schedule the meeting early to avoid Alvah listening in on the meeting and to avoid it interfering with homeschool.  We'll see how it goes.

9.  My husband asked what I wanted to do for my birthday as it falls right around Christmas.  I thought on it for a second and just told me that I really just wanted to stay home and save money.  He felt bad, but understood.  I am going through my cookbooks to see if there is something I'd like to try and cook for my birthday...maybe something fun and different to eat, but preferably with ingredients I already have around the house.  I have to say, being a huge cooking nerd, I am having fun doing that part if nothing else :).

10.  My daughter wants to give a friend of hers a Christmas gift, but since we don't know if the family will want anyone really stopping by with everything that is going on, we didn't really want to spend a bunch of money that could potentially go to waste.  My daughter suggested making extra cookies and maybe making a cookie tray for the family.  That way if they didn't want to accept it we could just bring it home and eat the cookies and nothing would be lost.  I agreed that was a good idea, so that's what we are hoping to do (if we can get the cookies made, which the son has been really busy, so it's been a bit more problematic than I had hoped to get it done).

And there you go folks.  Some of the stuff that has been happening around here of late.  I'm a bit late getting the menu plan worked on, so I'm hoping to get that up tomorrow.  Hope you are all doing well and life is going okay this holiday season for you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

When it comes to menu plans of late...well there hasn't been one.  I've been basing a bunch of my dinners on just what we have in the freezer (spoilers it has been a lot of thin sliced beef dishes and pork chops or thin sliced pork roast as those have been on sale the cheapest) and just going from there.  I have finally found the energy to try and get back into menu planning here as we NEED to pay off debt this winter as next year we have a bunch of expenses we are going to have to wrack up in the way of home repairs from the earthquake (including new windows it looks like), so I need to save every single penny I can.  Not that we didn't need to before with how the price on everything just keeps creeping up, but that just piles onto the need to save money.

You'll notice kind of a lack of fresh produce on our menu plans right now.  Part of that is cost as fresh produce tends to go up in price and down in quality up here in the winter time and part of it is due to lack of supply.  This time of year we don't have a lot of variety in fresh produce in the stores (like I laugh every time I see a recipe that calls for like fresh ginger this time of year, as good luck with that!), so I tend to just switch over to mainly frozen, shelf stable or canned goods during the winter.  I might buy some lettuce every once in a while, but other than say apples, potatoes, cabbage and carrots, our fresh produce consumption just cuts way back in the winter.  Bright side is that this winter at least I have a bunch of different veggies frozen from our CSA that we had over the summer, so those will come in handy.

When it comes to food, I have tried to expand our horizons on what we are eating without breaking the bank, so be prepared for some dishes that weren't on our menu plans before here.

So, onto the menu plan for this week!

Menu Plan Week of 12/9/20

Wednesday:  Pork Schnitzel (basically just thin cut, spiced pork) with mushroom gravy (use dehydrated mushrooms for gravy), leftover mashed potatoes (we had meatloaf night before last for dinner), green beans, sourdough bread.

Thursday:  Japanese Chicken Curry Rice  (this is a GREAT way to use up different veggies from the fridge and freezer I've found and it is really tasty.  Does not taste like Indian style curry.).  Use some leftover Thanksgiving turkey from freezer to make it.

Friday:  Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks.  I double the pizza crust recipe and then use 1/2 of it to make bread sticks.  I then found a couple of copycat Pizza Hut breadstick recipes online and make a topping for the breadsticks from that.  The son is finally eating the tops of the breadsticks, so that makes me feel good.

Saturday:  Beef and barley stew, leftover sourdough bread.

Sunday:  Cheeseburgers on home made buns, oven fries (husband's request as he's having a long week).

Monday:  Spaghetti with garlic toast (make bread and use leftover tomato sauce from making pizza)

Tuesday:  Spiced German Pork Roast (pressure cooker), leftover bread, roasted carrots and potatoes.

Desserts:  Sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies with milk.

And there you go folks . Our tentative menu plan for the week.  Here's hoping I can stick to it with any degree of success!

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Monthly Goals: December, 2020

 I was kind of worried doing monthly goals this late in the month and then looked at the calendar and realized that it's only the 5th.  So, really, I'm not doing too bad.  Go me!

Of course, it being December there's a lot going on this month.  We still haven't gotten Christmas cookies started.  The son's eczema went nuts the last bit and he's not sleeping again and so neither are the rest of us.  I really feel for my husband who gets up at 4am on work days to be into work on time, so with the son going to sleep late and then being up at different points in the poor husband isn't getting much sleep at all.  I'm at least functional...for the most part...despite not getting much sleep.  

When it comes to goals, it's a miracle I finally settled on a certain list.  Some goals got nixed from my original list.  Like I was going to make a gingerbread house again this year, but the cost just wasn't in the cards this year.  I'd rather save that money for regular grocery shopping or, in the least, to use the money to make gingerbread cookies for the family to eat instead.  The daughter was a bit disappointed, but agreed that making cookies to eat was a better option and would definitely work better for the son (gingerbread cookies are his favorite and he'll actually eat them versus just eating the sprinkles or the frosting off the top of the cookies).

So, anyway, lets get to the goals for this month. 

Goals for December 2020

1.  Divide up what is left of the Thanksgiving turkey and the cranberry relish and freeze (done).  I'm thinking I'll be able to get quite a few meals out of the turkey with how much we had left over, so that was an upper.

2.  Paint master bedroom.  I would LOVE to get this accomplished as it is the last official room I have to repair and paint and fix the earthquake damage (all that is left is the stairwell and the downstairs hallway after that, which is all going to be white), but I'm not sure if it is going to get done.  We'll see how the month goes.

3.  Dig out the little bits of sprinkles from the cupboards to use on the Christmas cookies (trying to save money by using up what we have).

4.  Read "The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits" to the kids.  We've already started this since the story begins December 1st.  The daughter loved this story so much last year and Alvah seems to really enjoy it to, that I'm seeing it becoming a Christmastime tradition.

5.  Make skirts for the daughter and put them under the tree.

6.  Make son a new scarf (I don't have yarn right now, so it'll probably have to be flannel that I sew together) for warmer weather.

7.  Make husband a few new tool rolls out of old torn jeans (this is an experiment on my part, so hopefully it turns out).

8.  Make Christmas cookies with the kids.

9.  Work on getting back to menu planning.

10.  Work on getting the den cleaned out and organized (one day I'll get this done, I swear).

And there you go folks.  It's not a long list, but still a ton to do.  How about you?  Got anything you need to get done this month?

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Frugal Friday (Times nearly 2, again): Money Saving Weekly Recap


I want to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who follows my blog on Facebook.  Facebook changed their format about, what, a month ago or so (I'm not on Facebook much, so I don't really have a good time table here) and since they changed their format I've posted up links to my blog post from last time about, oh, fifteen times, and it has YET to show up on the blog feed on Facebook.  Facebook has been e-mailed and they are working on it, I guess.  I finally got Facebook working on my new cell phone, so I will try to link to this post and last time's post (I haven't been able to post as my blog either) together and we'll pray that something works here.  So, yeah, sorry we are experiencing technical difficulties on social media at the present time *sigh*.

We've been busy around here, so I haven't had a lot of opportunity to blog the last few weeks.  I was busy putting up Christmas decorations, wrapping gifts and putting them under the tree (more on that down a bit further), getting Thanksgiving out of the way and wrapping up our current concepts in homeschool.  We are now officially on Christmas break (I love homeschool for reasons like this :), so I will hopefully have more time to blog this month (as well as get some Christmas gifts made for my family).

Right, so lets get down to some nitty gritty on what has been going on around here.

1.  Our state is in basically voluntary lockdown at the moment, so I have been avoiding going anywhere, which is saving us money I suppose.  The downside of it, though, turned out to be wrapping paper.  Turns out after using the same rolls of wrapping paper for years, they all decided they wanted to run out at the same time.  I managed to make it work.  If you flip some of the boxes over under our tree at the moment you might find some creative patches of mismatched wrapping paper, but hey, if you look at them from above you can't tell, so I am calling it a win *laugh*.  We'll definitely have to purchase more wrapping paper next year, though.

2.  We had a nice, simple, Thanksgiving at home.  Besides the turkey the side dishes ended up being more simplified than in previous years for the sake of my diet (the family was insistent that I didn't need to make the dishes just for them :), so that saved us some money.  I have been busy and was just really tired before Thanksgiving so I got as much done the day before as possible to cut down on dishes on Thanksgiving and we didn't bother pulling out all of the "fancy" dishes that survived the earthquake like we did last year.  I did pull out our nice turkey platter and used our new roasting pan (which worked great by the way), but otherwise we went simple this year.  And it was a lot of fun and everyone had a good time, I think :).

3.  When the husband took his car in for a recall he found out that his fuel filter needs to be replaced.  Instead of having the dealership do it and pay them the labor costs (which wasn't cheap) he went online and ordered the fuel filter and will replace it himself.  Thank goodness he got the garage cleaned out so he'll be able to work on his car in the comfort of a heated building as it has gotten cold here.

4.  Speaking of heat, I got our electric bill and gas bill in for the month.  I'm not sure how much gas we are saving by putting the plastic panels up in the windows, but I definitely noticed a reduction in the electric bill from them.  I think the electric baseboard heaters aren't cycling as much with the plastic blocking the wind blowing in through the windows.  Normally this time of year our electric bill is up well over 300.00 and this month it was 279.00, which is definitely a savings.

5.  I did end up taking advantage of Black Friday sales this year.  The son needed a new winter coat as he's shooting up like a weed (I saw him next to his dad's nearly six foot frame and he's nearly as tall as his dad!), so I went on Land's End and took advantage of their 60% off sale for Black Friday to order him a new coat.  It's a small men's, so it should last him a while and it is rated at -7 degrees Fahrenheit for comfort, which is pretty good.  Hopefully it is will be as good of quality as I am used to with Land's End and will last him a while.

The other sale I took advantage of was Amazon had Puriya Mother of all Creams on sale for nearly half price on Black Friday.  I like to keep an extra tub of it in the fridge to put on the son's eczema cold (it seems to help kill the itch better), so I ordered a tub of the cream on sale as it saved me over 10.00 buying it on sale.  

6.  My brother sent us an Amazon gift card for Christmas.  I used it to buy clothes, mainly for myself I'm sorry to say.  It has been years, and I mean YEARS since I bought myself clothes brand new (with the exception of like sneakers), so it is kind of a weird feeling to be getting new clothing in the mail, not for the family, but for me.  I've lost enough weight that my old clothes are fitting odd and the used stores don't have much that I've been able to find that isn't all stretched out and such (I think a lot of people gained weight this last year), so new it is.  I'm praying everything fits alright so I don't have to return things.  I comfort myself that the fitting rooms everywhere are closed anyway, so even if I went to the stores I'd still be guessing and having to return things if they didn't fit *laugh*.

7.  Our bed frame fell apart.  And no, I'm not kidding.  The son sat on our bed and it just collapsed.  

The bed frame has been giving us problems since the earthquake.  It was an old frame given to us by my husband's grandfather years and years ago, and it had these lock nut things that went around the frame to hold the thing in place and then we just screwed it to the headboard my brother-in-law gave us later on.  Well with everything collapsing onto the bed in the earthquake the locknuts bent and wouldn't stay where you needed them so we were always fighting with this or that cross frame collapsing and having to be repaired.  I honestly think, after taking the bed apart, that the frame was over half of our problem with the bed giving us back aches and things as all the cross frames were shot and just would not stay put.  I threw the old frame away and put the mattress and box frame on onto the floor.  Since it was lower than it used to be, I went and grabbed our old mattress out of the den (yes, it is still sitting in the den *sigh*) and put it onto the pile of mattresses and box frames.  It ended up coming out the perfect height that way and so far it's a lot more comfortable than it has been the last month or so. 

The husband has decided he's going to build his own frame for the bed and make it with drawers under the bed.  If this gets done I'll be thrilled as any new storage, especially for sheets and things, is always appreciated around here :).

8.   I sat down and talked to the family about Christmas dinner.  I normally try to buy a really nice rib roast for Christmas, but we just plain don't really have the money for it this year and, I explained, we really don't need anymore beef in the house as we still have a bunch of beef in the freezer.  So, I asked, if we could just cook the few fillet steaks we have in with our beef and make a "fancy" dinner with the filet mignon steaks instead of worrying about getting a beef roast.  The husband and daughter didn't have a problem with that idea.  So, at least I don't have to worry about that added expense this month, which honestly is a relief as prices continue to climb and money gets tighter.

9.  I have been really enjoying Townsends on YouTube (been a fan for years, honestly).  Right now we are watching him read "A Christmas Carol" on his YouTube channel, which is really enjoyable as he's MUCH better at dramatic reading than I am and so the daughter is enjoying it a lot more and not getting caught up in what this or that word means *laugh*.

10.  We put our noses to the grind stone the last few weeks and managed to get our schoolwork buttoned up for this month as of yesterday.  So the kids are officially on Christmas vacation for the month and we are officially half way through the school year.  I am feeling a major sense of accomplishment in that :).  I have lots of fun activities planned for the kids this month, including (hopefully) making Christmas cookies tomorrow (the first batch.  I want to make sugar cookies and then make some gingerbread cookies for the son as well).  I'm determined that even with the just plain crazy this year has been that the kids will get to enjoy themselves this holiday season!

11.  I needed new cutting boards.  I had bought some cheap ones from Amazon a long while ago, which worked OKAY, but were wearing out and honestly I never used the smaller sizes of board as they were too small to be of much use.  Instead of ordering new ones, I remembered that my husband still had some heavy duty commercial grade cutting board material that he had bought to make a platform for my son's race car bed out of (it doesn't mold like the particle board that was in it originally did).  I asked him if he could cut me a few cutting boards out of the material and gave him the sizes I would like.  He was able to use the scrap pieces of cutting board material to cut me a few new cutting boards and I am GREATLY appreciating them as they work wonderfully!  And it didn't cost us a penny, which is right in my price range :).

12.  One of the things I was able to sign up for this school year was the Doodle Crate through the Kiwi Crate company (Kiwi Co) for my daughter.  This was taken directly out of our school allotment and counts are part of her art grade.  She had gotten aa soap making kit as one of her boxes and we saved it to make during the month of November (we made the candles and the soap as part of our "pioneer crafts" fun unit I put together for the kids).  My daughter gifted most of the soaps in with family Christmas gifts (along with most of the candles we made) as gifts from her and Alvah, which I thought was very cute and we had a lot of fun exploring different melt and pour techniques.  

And there you go folks.  Some of the things we've been up to the last few weeks.  I hope you are getting things done and that life isn't too hard for you right now.  I hope you are all having a good holiday season so far!