Sunday, August 24, 2014

Menu Plan Monday - Week of August 23rd, 2014

Fruit Salad - blueberries, strawberries, and apple.  Simple and yummy!
How did we get to the last week of August already? 

It's a busy week this week - John started his second phase of Internship (Vicarage) on Sunday, complete with a reception after Worship for all of us, and we have a meet-and-greet with the Internship Committee on Thursday this week.  The children have back-to-school night on Wednesday night which includes school photos.  We also wind up summer swimming lessons and my cousin wrote a book and is having a book signing at her local library this week!  Missy was invited to a pool party on Friday and Buddy is just hoping for a play date with a particular friend before school starts.  We'll see.  I also have two meetings at work to attend this week and another meeting with my advisor in addition to figuring out John's new schedule and what that means for childcare and school pick up and drop off!

Anyway, it's a busy week with more driving than I'd like, but it will be a good week too and we'll start school with a bang next week.

Here's what we're eating:

Sunday, August 24, 2014:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Welcome Reception at Church
   Snack: Popcorn, No-Bake Energy Bites
   Dinner: Roasted Chicken, Roasted Zucchini, Two Grape-Orange-Plum Salad

Monday, August 25, 2014:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Orange Wedges
    Lunch: At my cousin's house after the book signing (she's having a small reception)
    Snack: Rice Crispy Treats or No-Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: BLT's, Carrot Sticks, Cucumber Slices, Peaches

Tuesday, August 26, 2014:
    Breakfast: Pancakes with Peaches and Almonds
    Lunch: PB&J, Carrot Sticks, Cucumber Slices, Orange Wedges
    Snack: Rice Crispy Treats or No Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: Chicken Flavored Rice with Added Leftover Chicken, Zucchini, Grape-Plum-Apple Salad

Wednesday, August 27, 2014:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Blueberries and Almonds
    Lunch: Leftover Rice with Carrots and Zucchini
    Snack: Rice Crispy Treats or No-Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: Pot Luck at Church: Bring a Salad

Thursday, August 28, 2014:
    Breakfast: PB Toast, Banana-Blueberry Smoothies
    Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Bread, Grapes
    Snack: No-Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: PB&J, Sliced Apples
    Dessert: At the Meet-and-Greet at Church

Friday, August 29, 2014:
    Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
    Lunch: Scrambled Eggs, Waffles
    Snack: No-Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: Potato Soup, Bread, Grape-Plum-Orange Salad

Saturday, August 30, 2014:
    Breakfast: Cranberry Orange Scones, Orange Wedges
    Lunch: Leftover Soup, Cut Veggies
    Snack: No-Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks
    At-home Date Night Dessert: Apple Crisp

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Super Savings Saturday - The No Photo Edition! (And $0 OOP!)

I sadly neglected to take photos of our groceries this week because, well, there were other things that were way more urgent!  We got both CSA boxes this week and I did a quick run to one store with a gift card to pick up a couple things.

CSA #1 contained the following this week:
Patty Pan Summer Squash
Sweet Peppers - Yellow an Green
Tomatoes - big, little, Roma and yellow pear, and yellow and red grape and cherry - these literally take up a whole shelf in our fridge this week!  (And, yes, Buddy was WAY happy about this!  And I think I need to make either sauce or salsa.)
Green onions
Yellow Onion
Clove of Garlic

CSA #2 contained the following:
4 oranges
5 peaches
2lbs red grapes
2lbs green grapes
5 yellow plums
6 purple plums

At the store I purchased with a gift card:
1 gallon milk
18 count eggs
2 packages of bacon (gotta have BLTs with all those tomatoes!)

From our yard we picked;
A handful of green beans
3 purple cherry tomatoes
3 green peppers
2 purple peppers
1 red tomato
1 yellow tomato
5 strawberries (our strawberry plants are continuing to bear fruit surprisingly!)

I spent $0 out of pocket this week and we're hoping we can keep that up.  We have approximately 3 weeks until our paychecks start up again and we should be able to do it just fine.  We have some chicken, pork, shrimp, cod and a turkey along with already cooked chicken, turkey and salmon in the freezer.  We're holding fine for veggies and fruit as well as dairy and our pantry is still full of canned goods.   We'll see how creative I have to get by the end of the three weeks!
Come back Monday to see what we're eating this week!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Frugal Things We've Done the Last Few Weeks

I am pretty positive by now that I live in a time warp.  I blink and *boom* two weeks (or more!) have gone by!  Yikes! 

These last few weeks have been so busy that I feel like I've lived about a month and half in the last two-to-three weeks! They've been good, but busy!

In the middle of all that we're still trying to stretch the budget until we get paid again - which won't be until the middle of September by our calculations.   That means frugal is still the name of the game around here!  Here are some of the things that we've been doing lately around here to save money and live more frugally:

* Ate almost all meals at home.  Exceptions have been: The weekly potluck at church on Wednesday nights (we've brought food we already have in the house), a dinner out with a gift card for our 16th anniversary, and the coffees I bought myself with a gift card while on the other side of town.  We also used a refund to treat ourselves to our favorite Chinese Takeout after our camping trip.  I had grand plans for dinner that night but we were pooped and since we got a refund that would be more than the meal, we decided to go for it.  The rest of the refund was put away for groceries over the next couple of weeks.

* We've been to the library 12 times in the last three weeks.  We decided to see how many books we could read over our camping trip and then that continued with the children wanting to see how many they could read before the start of school. 

* I used online sale promotions to order the rest of the children's school clothes (my son needed pants that weren't available through the swap at school this year).  I got them for 30% off with free shipping and used a gift card to pay for part of it.

* We have been blanching and freezing the extra veggies from the CSA and the garden. So far we have beans, peas and broccoli.  It's been a tough year for gardens this year so I have no illusions that we'll have a stuffed freezer but every bit helps!  I also diced and froze the green, yellow and purple sweet peppers from the garden.  My "pea" plants turned out to be beans instead and we have had enough for two meals of those.

* Made homemade breakfast sandwiches with homemade biscuits and leftover ham and cheese and fried eggs.  We have enough in the freezer for two meals for the four of us this fall sometime. 

* The children attended two weeks of VBS  - one week at each of two different churches.  They brought home some neat craft projects and I got some "free" time to work on my school work and class preparation.  Both weeks included a program with treats and fruit afterward.  I brought home a bag of shredded lettuce from one that was leftover from the morning snack (some type of salad). 

* We attended my husband's graduation from his first phase of internship and enjoyed a really nice ceremony with treats afterward.  It was super fun to meet his classmates and instructors. 

* Took the children to watch a local parade and came home with a plastic grocery bag full of candy.

* Attended a free two hours of swimming at the place where our children take swimming lessons.  It was their way of saying "Thank you!" to all the families who have swam with them over the past year.  My husband taught the children how to do a flip turn while we were there.

* Used food we had for most of the food on our camping trip.  I did buy a bag of potato chips (on sale), and a box of graham crackers (also on sale) just for the camping trip but everything else came from our regular grocery shopping we've done over the last few weeks or from our CSA or the garden or all three! Some things (like the marshmallows for S'mores) were purchased with that idea in mind several weeks or a month or two ago.  I had also deliberately saved two boxes of Girl Scout cookies for the camping trip.  I had bought a box of juice boxes earlier this summer that we took along and then we drank water for the rest of the time.  I did have my morning coffee - made over the fire by my sweet husband with coffee grounds from home.

* Had friends over for lunch one day and made homemade pizza and a salad for lunch.  The children played and I got to have a nice visit with the other Mom.

* The children had one of their cousin's over to play one day.  They had a blast and allowed his Mom and Dad (who both work from home) to get some appointments/meetings taken care of without hiring a sitter.   My husband took them to the local Splash Pad while I made dinner. 

* Downloaded a couple of free ebooks for my Kindle for PC.

* Played a lot of card games and board games as well as charades.  The children have been really enjoying this and I have to say I have too!

* Used our parks pass to go swimming, hiking and playing on the large playgrounds they have.  We've done this few times and the children thoroughly enjoy it.  We've had really nice weather which has been helpful.

* The children brought home candle holders from one VBS and I put them on the kitchen table with candles I already had and a spray of roses from the garden.  It looked lovely and the children were so proud of their creations!

* We've been doing quite a bit of cleaning out as we moved John's things into his office for this next year.  We donated several books and put lots of paper in the shredding and recycle bins.  I decided to wear some things from my closet that I rarely wear and decide whether to keep or donate. So far I've donated everything - they either fit funny or I don't feel comfortable or I don't like the way they look on me.  I'll keep that up until I've worn everything in there. 

* Used a rebate credit to buy the rest of the mulch we needed for the yard.  Finally done with that project! Yay!

I'm sure there's other things that I can't remember but that's the highlights.  We've been trying to restrict the driving, dryer and light use, and have been continuing to wash and reuse plastic bags and other containers.   Going camping always makes me come home and look at what I have and wonder why I have it.  If I can live for a whole week without it, it might  just be a candidate for letting it go!

What have you been doing to save money and live more frugally lately?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Menu Plan Monday and a Little Shopping

Our CSA boxes have looked pretty much like this the last two weeks - though in varying amounts and this last week we got green onions too.  Here we have in the front row: Broccoli, raspberries, green & purple beans, and peas.  Back Row: Lettuce, cucumbers, cauliflower, a mutant cross between a zucchini and a patty pan squash, green and purple kohlrabi and a clove of garlic.  We'll see what we get this week!  I blanched and froze the peas since we have a ton of those and we can't seem to eat through them fast enough.  I have a whole head of cabbage leftover from a few weeks ago in the crisper drawer too.  Two weeks ago we got 5lbs of cherries - they're all gone now (I was hoping to freeze some) having been eaten by my parents and my children!  I can't eat cherries so I was okay with that!

I went to the store this weekend with a gift card and spend $22 on milk, peaches, apples, carrots (those aren't ready yet in the garden) and some frozen meatballs that were on killer sale.  We spent another $1 and a few cents on a large bunch of bananas marked 38-cents/lb at a gas station this week!  They were pretty green so we're hoping they make it most of the week (bananas seem to age a TON in our house!).

We've got 2 more weeks of this phase of internship left then one off and then into our placement for the next year of internship.  We're excited to see what this transition holds!  My parents went back home early due to some medical issues my Mom was having - if you have a minute can you please say a prayer or three for her? Thanks.  So that means we're back to just the four of us.  I'm hoping to eat mostly from the pantry and the freezers as well as the CSAs for this month.  I will be buying some things this weekend to make some freezer meals for a family whose husband and father is waiting for organ transplant.  I think that's going to be grocery money well spent!
I sat down yesterday afternoon and put together the menu for the next three weeks, assuming we get what we're expecting in our CSA boxes!  So here's this week:

Sunday, August 3, 2014:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Salad with Peaches
   Snack: Crackers
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza

Monday, August 4, 2014:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: PB&J, Peaches, Sliced Veggies
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, Sliced Apples

Tuesday, August 5, 2014:
    Breakfast: Pancakes with Almonds and Peaches
    Lunch: Calzones
    Snack: Cookies
    Dinner: Couscous with Roasted Squash and Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, Apple-Peach-Banana Salad

Wednesday, August 6, 2014:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
    Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Bread, Apples
    Snack: Cookies
    Dinner: Pot Luck at Church: Bring Cole Slaw

Thursday, August 7, 2014:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas
    Lunch: Apples with Peanut Butter, Sliced Veggies
    Snack: Cookies
    Dinner: Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, Waffles with Sliced Peaches or Nectarines

Friday, August 8, 2014: Our 16th Wedding Anniversary
    Breakfast: Leftover Waffles
    Lunch: Tuna Lettuce Wraps, Sliced Veggies and Apples
    Snack: Cookies
    Dinner: Out for Mom and Dad, Chicken Nuggets and Sliced Veggies Fruit for the Children

Saturday, August 9, 2014:
    Breakfast: Cranberry Lemon Scones
    Lunch: At a Church Function
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

We are so blessed to have an incredibly stuffed refrigerator right now with all the veggies we've gotten through our CSA - I've been eating salads with lunch just about every day and John and has been taking them to work for lunch as well.  I'm starting to run low on white flour but I have plenty of whole wheat flour so we've had wheat bread and wheat biscuits rather than white.  The children like those, just not as much as some white bread types, so that's been fine!  I will be doing a mix of white and wheat flour for the waffles and pancakes this week.

John and I are celebrating our 16th Wedding Anniversary this week and are planning on using a gift card to eat a nice dinner out someplace.  If we can't find a sitter in our price range, we'll go to breakfast instead (also with a gift card) during the time the children are at Vacation Bible School in the morning.  I'm so amazed that it's been 16 years since we were married and even more amazed that we've been a couple for 21 years!  I don't feel like I'm that old.  I also had a birthday last week (as did my mother-in-law and one of our nephews!).  I'm hoping to do a post on that later this week!

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Super Savings Saturday - Two Weeks and Thank Goodness for Gift Cards!

We were so grateful this week for our CSAs and a couple of gifts we received food-wise.  We thankfully had gift cards and used them to purchase a few things for groceries  - mostly milk, eggs, and fresh fruit - these last two weeks.  Here's our "shopping" for last week:

First up: Our mostly veggie CSA:

Here we have (clockwise from back left): Cabbage, Beets, Swiss Chard, Sage, Garlic, Green Onions, Raspberries (YUM!), Lettuce.  In the middle: Purple Kolrhabi, and Parsley.
Here's what we got with our Fruit CSA: 

An entire case of blueberries!  Twelve Pints.  I've frozen six.  If you have any good blueberry recipes, please share!   I'm looking for something new.....
Freebees this week from friends and church:
Two bags of buns leftover from the church potluck on Wednesday night.
We also received cupcakes after our 4th of July fireworks party we attended (someone else didn't want to take them home.
A friend gave us a pint size Ziploc of raspberries from her garden (those are in the freezer).
Grocery Shopping last week(Sorry - I totally forgot to take photos of these!):
Store #1 with gift card:
      2 gallons store brand milk $3.09 each = $6.18
      1 tub Smart Balance $1.69
      Total Spent: $7.87
Store #2 with gift card: (we wanted some variety of fruit this week - we love blueberries, but...)
     1 dozen eggs $1.89
     4 cans Mandarin Oranges 4/$3 (coupon) = $3
     Grapes (1st pound free)
     Two bottles of Laundry detergent on sale for $2.99 each
      Summer Sausage (John totally splurged on this for himself!)
Here's what we got in the mostly veggie CSA this week:
Clockwise from back corner: Lettuce, Red Lettuce, Cabbage, Green Onions, Zucchini, Garlic, Raspberries, Broccoli Crowns.
Across the Middle: Beets, Dill, Kale
I went to the store with a gift card on Thursday night and bought the following:
A gallon of milk
One dozen eggs
One Pineapple
Gala Apples
Baking Powder
Crisco Butter Flavor Baking Sticks
I spent: $15 and change from gift cards that I already had.  No money out of pocket!
We have previously unplanned company coming this weekend that will stay with us for approximately 3 weeks.  We're excited to have them visit but I honestly don't have any idea of how the budget is going to work with our company here.  I did put together a menu for the next week based on what we have so that's good to go and we'll just have to see what happens! 
I don't think my "no spend" month is going very well. Sigh.  At least we haven't spent much out of pocket for groceries this month.  I'm hoping to do better as the month progresses but we'll see how it goes with our company here.
How did you do this week?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Frugal Things We Did This Week

It's been one of those weeks - you know that kind.  The kind where you have several things started and almost nothing finished and then several other things popped up too.  I have two other posts half done - hopefully they'll get up next week!
Here are some of the things we did that saved us money this week in the midst of all the half-finished, half-started and additional things that came up this week!
* We went to a friend's house to see the fireworks last Friday for the 4th of July.  They have a get-together every year - sometimes a full-blown BBQ, other times just dessert.  We didn't bring desserts since I didn't get any made and they usually have way more than we all can eat anyway.  We did bring glow in the dark bracelets and necklaces that we already had (we bought them in packages of 20 for 2/$1 earlier this spring) to share with everyone.  We came home with a 16 mini-cupcakes that another guest didn't want to take home.

* The children and I made homemade stepping stones using a kit I bought a few years ago.  We should be able to put them out in the yard this week! I'll put them in a "low traffic" area.  That should be fun.  I'll take a photo to share when they're in place.

* We made homemade ice cream using my parents old hand crank ice cream maker.  That was fun and the ice cream was delicious!  We have enough cream left over for another batch this weekend.

The ice cream maker - getting ready to go! (It needs more ice!)

* The children played with the slip-n-slide we received from a friend for their birthday a couple of years ago and then in the sprinkler to cool off both on the 4th of July and another hot day we had.

* I finished painting the kitchen walls and John and I cleaned the vents for the oven/stove and the fridge.  Then John (bless him!) scrubbed the screens for the exhaust fan over the stove - boy were those gross!  Everything works so much better now and the fridge is so much quieter!  We try to clean all those things at least twice a year anyway but since we had to pull everything out to paint we thought we'd do it again.

* Enjoyed a free outdoor concert with free coffee.  The we bought two slices of a delicious blueberry-blackberry-raspberry pie to share for $2 total (the money went to Habitat for Humanity).  I asked around for the recipe it was so good!

* Made homemade yogurt (for the first time!), puppy chow (pb and chocolate cereal snack), and sugar cookies.

* Brought home two bags of buns that no one wanted from the church pot luck on Wednesday night.  I had been planning on baking sandwich bread but we used these instead.

* A friend gave us a quart size Ziploc bag of yellow raspberries from her garden.

* We picked up our two CSA shares this week - lettuce, cabbage, green onions, beets, garlic, Swiss chard, red raspberries, sage and parsley from the one and twelve pints of blueberries from the other.  I froze six pints of blueberries.   I hung the sage and parsley to dry.

* We picked a small handful of strawberries from our plants.  More coming but not quite ripe yet - next week!  We have "baby" peppers and tomatoes now too.  My pea plants and my squash aren't looking too good but they're looking better than they were so we're hoping!  I should be able to harvest some sage, oregano and thyme from my herb garden soon.

* I mixed some paint I already had with the paint we bought for the living room - once I got the color up on the walls I didn't like it so I used what I had to change it.  So far, so good!

* Checked out several books and a few videos from the library for all four of us.

* Downloaded a few free Kindle books for my Kindle for PC.  (I have several already that I haven't read so I'm trying to hold back on this one!)

* I checked out several decorating books since we are trying to figure out a way to make our living room more comfortable for hosting guests.  We found and idea that might work and that we don't have to buy any furniture for - just rearrange things we already have and borrow from other rooms in the house!  We're excited to try it.

* Used our Science Museum membership to visit the Science Museum of Minnesota.  The kids had a blast and we ended up spending $5 for parking only.

* Made a list of Christmas gifts I want to make this year.   Now I just have to make sure I have what I need  - I think there's only one thing I need to buy and maybe a spool of thread but I want to double check before I get started on things.

* Finished embroidering my sister-in-law's wedding plaque. It turned out lovely and now I just have to take it in and get it framed!  I have a coupon and will do that this weekend.   I then worked on finishing an embroidered Bible cover I started a long time ago and never finished.  It will fit Missy's Bible for school so I may give it to her for Christmas.  That was another project that is so close to being done, I need to just finish it!

* Cleaned out our desk that stores our extra paper and some miscellaneous office supplies and found a few things that I didn't think I had anymore (mailing labels, graph paper). Hurray!  I found two things on the children's school supply list this year too.   The desk is much neater and I know how much I have of a few things that need to be used up now too.  I donated a few things that we didn't need anymore - several unopened packages of tabbed binder dividers and a travel file are two of the items we donates.

* We kept the ac turned up to 80F, tried not to have the lights on during the day since I've been using the dryer.  It's been so damp that nothing dries in a reasonable timeframe on the drying racks.

That's all I can remember right now.
How did you do this week?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Goals - Week of July 6, 2014

Some of the BEAUTIFUL flowers we saw earlier this year at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at the Como Zoo.  I wish my flowers at home looked this good!

As I said earlier this week, it's been a rough week and continues on that vein.  UGH.  I've already decided that life is never "normal" and that God is still good no matter what.   

We decided that this summer was a perfect time to deep clean the house, do a lot of cleaning up and do some relatively simple and relatively inexpensive updates that we've been hoping to do for a long time.  So I've been doing a lot of cleaning and painting this last week.  The kitchen is basically done (I might have to do a second coat but I'm not sure yet) and now on to the living room!  We're hoping to tear out the carpet in there this week - that's been on my agenda for 14 years now!  There are hardwood floors under there so we're hoping those are in good enough shape to toss an area rug over them and call it good.  Eventually we'll get all the hardwood floors refinished (our main floor except the kitchen and bathroom) but not this year.

Here are my goals this week:

Do one item on my list for getting ready for fall classes.

Do two items on my list for graduating!
Talk with my advisor via email.

Teach 2 classes
Learn 2 new routines
Attend at least 1 class, preferably 2

Swimming Lessons
Piano Lessons (we didn't have these last week)
Dance Lessons (we didn't have these the last two weeks)
Go to the library
Play date for Missy
Buddy has a birthday party to attend
Schedule an appointment for a family photo

Finish weeding the flower bed around the patio (I actually only have one small spot left now on Tuesday).
Finish weeding the front flower bed.
Transplant the rhododendron from the front flower bed to a better spot in the back yard.
Transplant two columbine.
Wash and polish the kitchen cabinets.
Wash, prep and paint two walls in the living room. (I'd like to get all four done, but I'm aiming for 2.)
Wash the living room curtains and furniture slip covers.
Clean out the living room bookcases, the roll top desk, the key stand, and the book baskets.
Recycle 1 recycle bin full of paper/magazines/newspaper.
Drop off one trunk load of donations for the school rummage sale.
Tear up the carpet in the living room (if I get the whole thing painted).
If I get two walls painted and the furniture I want cleaned out in the living room, I'll clean out the china cabinet and the library box too.

Proofread John's sermon for this weekend.
Wednesday night potluck and worship.
Help John make arrangements for phase two of Internship (which starts in August).
Keep up with my Gratefulness Journal (I've fallen by the wayside with this!)

Paint toe nails again.
Get to bed on time five nights this week.
Finish the embroidery for my sister-in-law (I'm SO close with this one - I just need to finish the date!) and take it in for framing.

What are you up to this week?