Saturday, September 20, 2014

Super Savings Saturday - Restocking and Today's $35 Shopping Trip

Well, hello there!

Sorry for the time off!  We've had strep and various other illnesses running around our house and I've decided sleep, rather than things like blogging and grading papers, was the more important thing!   Thanks for your patience!
In spite of all the sickness, we're firmly settled into the "new" routine, at least for the most part.  John takes the children to school in the morning and I pick them up most days.  This is a complete switch from our previous years and it still feels just plain weird.   We're making it work and the children are enjoying the change!   Missy is now playing the trumpet and Buddy is playing the clarinet through their school.  Yes, our house gets loud but they are enjoying it and I firmly believe you can never have too many books or too much music in a house!  Between the trumpet, clarinet and piano it seems like there's always someone practicing something.  I have to say I absolutely love it!

Shopping is an adventure right now.  After a bit of a bummer for the summer when it came to shopping, we're going to be trying to keep our shopping budget low to make up for where we overspent.  So far I've used some of the money we got from John's first paycheck and my first paycheck to "stock up" a bit on some things.   John assisted at a funeral last week and we got an extra $50 that we coupled with some other grocery money and went to Sam's club to stock up on a few things we were either totally out of or running low on.   Here's the rundown from last week at Sam's Club last week (total was somewhere around $75 - I misplaced the receipt!):

*Toilet Paper (We were down to two rolls in the house - not good!  We decided to try a new brand with more sheets per roll.  So far so good!)
* 2 25lb bags of white bread flour (Totally out of this!)
* Ground Beef (we were down to turkey, a bit of chicken and little bit of fish that my parents had bought us)
* Lemonade Mix
* Salt (4lbs for $1.17 - this should last us a few years)
* Oregano (We were out and something ate my plant this year)
* Children's Motrin (We were out of this too.)
* One Whole Pineapple ($2.79, which is really cheap around here!)
* One Gallon Skim Milk $2.79 also

On Saturday last week we saw my cousin, Diane, and her husband, Bo, and they brought us about 10lbs of venison steaks and chops.   I was so excited!  We haven't had red meet in our freezer most of the summer so that was a blessing.  Bo hunts quite a bit and they were cleaning out their freezer getting ready for the arrival of hunting season.  We got blessed and so did their oldest son and his family.  No money out of pocket for us!

On Monday, John swung by the local grocery store on his way home and bought 6lbs of apples for 41-cents/lb and 10lbs of potatoes for 50-cents/lb.   Total Spent: $7.49.

On Thursday we picked up our fruit box.  This was already paid for so no money out of pocket.
We received a combination of apples, peaches, pears, plum and grapes this time.  We have two more of these boxes left.  Our mostly vegetable CSA is all done for the year.  We have bee picking tomatoes from our garden but that's all we have left at this point.  It's been cool at night so I may have to pick the rest of the tomatoes green one of these days.

My only photo this week - our fruit box - the plums are hiding on the other side of the grapes!  Yum!

Today John ran to the store again and bought the following:

* 1 box Rice Krispies Cereal $2.99 (my daughter volunteered to bring Rice Krispie treats for a bake sale at school on Monday - I have marshmallows and butter, so we just bought these)
* Store Brand Vegetable Oil 48oz $2.50
* 4lb Brown Sugar $1.69
* Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast 6.21lbs @ $1.88/lb =  $11.68
* 2lb Yellow Onions $1.69 (we were totally out of onions, including green onions)
* 250ct Coffee filters $1.79 (I usually wait for a $1 or B1G1 sale, but I was totally out!)
* 20 Yoplait Yogurts @ 20/$10 =  $10 (these make for easy lunches)
* Smart Balance $2.49

Total Spent today (including $0.13 tax on the coffee filters): $34.96

The receipt has stopped counting how much we've "saved" with the sale prices and I don't want to waste my time trying to figure it out.

Over the summer I learned that we use a lot more canned diced tomatoes, bread flour and vegetable oil than I thought we did.  I also learned that I really like to have something crunchy to snack on in the house (crackers, pretzels, cereal).  We also use quite a bit more honey and maple syrup (the real stuff) than I thought we did.   We bought a case each of corn and green beans before summer started and we have most of those left due to the fresh veggies from the garden.  We didn't get quite as much produce as we usually due this year so I know they will get used this fall.  We also really don't like canned fruit other than mandarin oranges and applesauce.  I think that's a texture thing.

We go through about 5lbs of flour per week - two or more loaves of bread or two loaves and a batch of biscuits; muffins or quick bread; waffles or pancakes; and the crust for two pizzas plus breadsticks each week.  That's a lot of baking I realized!   Anyway, at 5lbs a week the two 25lb bags of flour should last me until the holiday sales on flour start.  I've been trying to bake bread on either Saturday or Sunday, but sometimes that doesn't work out.  

I'm hoping at this point I can just start stocking up on things when they truly go on sale.  That's my plan so we'll see how that goes!
Come back Monday to see what we're eating!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Menu Plan Monday - Week of August 31, 2014

Aren't these cute?  A friend got them for us last week to celebrate John's first week of Internship!
This is a busy week - first week of the semester! I'm not sure who it's busier for, the teachers or the students!  Anyway, the children and I start this week and the church switches from summer programming to fall with Rally Sunday (our big kick-off for school-year programming) on the 7th.  Some of the children's activities start this week, some start next week.  I'm not sure if that's easing into things or not.  Either way, I *think* we've come up with a reasonable plan to get through the semester without overspending our grocery budget! 

A couple of quick notes about this week:   We have a tradition of serving doughnuts on the first day of school - this started when the children were 3 years old so I don't think we're going to quit any time soon!  We also meet some friends for ice cream after dinner that evening and we will be using a gift card to pay for that.  Both John and I are taking our lunches now and we both have refrigerators and microwaves at work - such a HUGE blessing!  John is also eating breakfast at home now - something he didn't do before so we have had to adjust our menus to accommodate his breakfast taste too! 

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, August 31:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: BLT's, Cut Veggies, Tiger Melon
   Snack: Homemade Sugar Cookies
   Dinner: Lebanese Lentil and Rice Pilaf with Blackened Onions, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and Orange Wedges

Monday, September 1, Labor Day:
     Breakfast: Buttermilk Coffee Cake
     Lunch:  Hot Dogs, Corn on the Cob, Potatoes (all on the grill), Grape-Plum-Pear Salad
     Snack: Leftover Coffee Cake
     Dinner; Eggplant Parmesan, Bread, Plums

Tuesday, September 2, First Day of 4th Grade:
    Breakfast: Doughnuts, Banana-Blueberry Smoothies
    Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for the Children
    Snack: Sugar Cookies, Goldfish Crackers
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks
    Dessert: Ice Cream

Wednesday, September 3:
    Breakfast: Breakfast Sandwiches (Biscuits with Ham and Egg)
    Lunch: Turkey Sandwich, Cut Veggies, Plum
    Snack: Sugar Cookies, Goldfish Crackers
    Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup in the Crockpot, Bread, Sliced Pears

Thursday, September 4:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Orange Wedges
     Lunch: Leftover Soup, Bread, Cut Veggies
     Snack: Sugar Cookies, Goldfish Crackers
     Dinner: Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, Plums

Friday, September 5:
     Breakfast: Spiced Pancakes with Applesauce
     Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for Children
     Snack: Sugar Cookies, Goldfish Crackers
     Dinner: Vegetarian Chili, Cornbread, Pears or Plums

Saturday, September 6:
     Breakfast: Maple Oat Scones
     Lunch: Baked Potatoes with Leftover Chili, Cut Veggies
     Snack: Sugar Cookies
     Dinner: Fried Tilapia, Couscous, Roasted Summer Squash

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - The August Wrap Up Edition

August was a very busy month for us with two weeks of Vacation Bible School (VBS) - each at a different church, camping and then John starting Internship.  In there we also had back-to-school night, my cousin's book signing and a few other things as well.  It was a good month and I'm so grateful for so many things.  Here are a few of the things I was grateful for in August this year:

My mother-in-law, me, our nephew, my father-in-law, two of my cousins, and my youngest brother-in-law all have August birthdays.  That means lots of cards and gifts being sent around.
The children and I made my mother-in-law a necklace using things we had on hand as a gift. It turned out cute but I totally forgot to take a photo.  She liked it, which is the best part!
My mother-in-law sent me these cute kitchen towels as a gift.
John bought me these beautiful flowers (only $5 at the farmer's market!) and some super decadent chocolate.  That's all I wanted this year!
And this hysterical little guy was my cake - its actually just a regular cupcake with a TON of frosting.  Super Yummy!  This made me laugh so hard when I saw it.

Ignore the fingerprints on the table please!

I didn't get many photos from VBS and most of them were pretty crummy.  I did get a couple of videos of the children at their final programs for John, who couldn't make it to either program. He really appreciated being able to see what the children were up to even though he couldn't be there.
My daughter's best friend was able to join her for VBS again this year - she was thrilled!
Listening to my children sing their VBS songs whenever they feel like it.
The super cool decorations that both VBS's had - they were AWESOME!
Getting time to get ready for the semester while the children were at VBS.
I had purposefully bought two gift cards last spring so I could work at a coffee shop while the children were at VBS at our Internship church.  It was such a blessing to enjoy some fancy coffee and work in relatively distraction-less space for a couple of hours each day that week!  The coffee shop is just a couple of blocks from the church, so it's nice and convenient and I got a short walk in too!
That week meant that I am basically ready for the semester start - other than last minute stuff (copies, uploading items, etc.).
My cousin's book signing went really well and it was SO good to see her.  It was a lot of driving for one day, but we felt it was worth it.
Her Dad, my Uncle, was finally admitted to a memory care facility. This is a HUGE load off her mind and she was looking forward to doing some things that she hasn't been able to now that she doesn't have to worry about her Dad so much.  I'm so happy that she doesn't have that stress anymore!
We've gotten to eat outside so many times this August - always love that!
Digging in our garden.
Finally getting the mulch laid in all the flower beds.
Making freezer meals for a relative who really needs them.

Being able to take a week and go camping with my family.
This is always a highlight of the summer and we had a good time this year too. 
The weather was not quite as nice as we would have liked overall and we spent one day reading and napping because the weather was icky.  We did get to go on a couple of hikes and got to do a little swimming - after the icky weather the algae was so bad we didn't dare actually go in the water.
Here are some of the other highlights from our camping trip:
This amazing little fort-thing on the beach near where we were camping.  The children want to build one in our back yard now!
The children were jumping over the waves when we went to the beach on the first day.  This is great photo of Buddy, I'm not sure what Missy is doing though!

Hiking!  We always enjoy hiking and this day was BEAUTIFUL for hiking.  Mid-70's F with a nice breeze.  Can't beat it! 

John trying to teach the children to skip rocks.  I'm not sure they succeeded but they sure had a good time!

Other random blessings from this August:
John's graduation from his summer program.  So nice! 
And it was so nice to meet the people he'd worked with all summer.
My daughter making cookies with me.
Clean laundry! And a clothes washing machine.  I'm SO thankful for these!
Central air conditioning.  Summer finally kicked in for about a week here. And it was brutal.  I don't think we could ever live in the southern half of the US - the heat bothers John way too much and I have trouble with humidity.  Good thing we live in Minnesota!
Sore muscles from working around the house and my Jazzercise classes.
Waiting for a friend's baby to be born.
My son making dinner and washing dishes with my husband.
My husband's stress level going way, way down.  LOVE THAT!
Hot coffee in the mornings.
Sunflowers brought home by the children from a children's sermon at church.
Herbs drying in my kitchen window.
The baby birds in the nest on the downspout next to the garage.
My roses blooming like crazy.
The children being so excited about the start of school next week.
My daughter finally learning how to wash her hair (this has been a huge struggle!)
My son's morning cuddles with me.  I hope he never gets to big for this!
Tomatoes ripening in our garden.
Thirty-eight gladiolas with buds in along my fence.
What have been your blessings this August?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Super Savings Saturday - CSA, $39.95 shop with $13.48 spent OOP

We had a surprise yesterday - John got paid!  

We totally were not expecting to get paid - either one of us - until September 15th so that was a very nice surprise. 

He gets paid very little and almost all of it goes to pay for our medical and dental insurance, we only have a little left from his paycheck for other things.  So that's what I took to the stores today - a little! 

I took $30 and bought hose for me to wear to work next week (I had one pair left and that had a huge run in them - I'm not someone who likes to wear dress shoes without socks of some sort), Q-tips and a package of index cards that we needed.  I also took $1.50 from an envelope of cash that I'm using to buy supplies for 6 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and bought 6 notebooks, one for each envelope for $0.25 each.  That leaves me with $5.67 to spend on goodies for the boxes (I started with $20 back in May). 

I had $15 left after that to spend at the grocery store along with $26.45 in gift cards.  We both felt it was important to buy a couple of particular things (flour, butter and shortening) that we hadn't planned on buying so that was what that money was to go towards.

We also picked up our mostly veggie CSA this week.  Here is what we got:

Clockwise from top left: yellow, orange and red cherry tomatoes and yellow pear mini tomatoes  (all in the basket), purple and green kohlrabi, three softball size heads of cabbage, eggplant, green onions, Swiss chard, a large zucchini, yellow bell pepper, green bell pepper, broccoli (in the bag), a tiger melon, tomatillos (in the bag) and cucumbers in the middle.

My son is so happy about the tomatoes and my daughter is delighted with the cucumbers!  I'm just delighted that their eating garden-fresh veggies!

Here's what I bought today at the grocery store:

Sorry about the picture quality - we had a cloudy day today and the lighting in our kitchen was abysmal! 
Here's what we have:
Store #1:
Goldfish Crackers 3 @ 3/$5 = $5 (for the children to take to school for snacks)
Total store #1: $5
Store #2:
Dakota Bread Flour 10# $6.19
Crisco Butter Flavor Shortening Sticks $3.79
Hot Dog Buns $1.59
Oscar Meyer Turkey Franks 2 @ 2/$3 (with store coupon) = $3
Dole Celery $0.89
2.65lbs Bartlett Pears @ $0.99/lb = $2.62
1.92lbs Large Black Plums @ $0.99/lb = $1.90
6 ears of Corn @ $0.25/ear = $1.50
Gallon Kemps Skim Milk $3.99
Smart Balance Spread $2.49 (my husband's doctor asks that he use this)
2 Bags Shredded Cheese (one mozzarella and one cheddar) @ $1.99 ea = $2.98
18 count Eggs $2.99
Total Store  #2: $34.93
Used $26.93 in gift cards
 Paid: $8.48 out of pocket (OOP)

Total Spent Out of Pocket: $13.48

I'm hoping to buy only milk next week! We'll see - it hasn't been working so far this summer.

Honestly, I haven't been that happy with my grocery shopping this summer but I have learned A LOT about our shopping habits and what things we needed to buy.  I'm hoping to write a post on that next week since John will have an "extra" $50 in his pay in the next week or two that we can take to Sam's Club and stock up on a couple of things.    I had felt pretty confident going into this summer that we wouldn't need to buy much and I totally miscalculated on a few things.  Fortunately, we did have the gift cards to get us through (we had planned that!) and going forward we're going to have to plan better since we won't have that extra to give us a boost.    More on that later though.

Come back Monday to see what we're eating!
What did you do for shopping this week?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Frugal Things We did this Last Week

Boy, this week has just flown by - starting internship, back-to-school night, a meet-and-greet, and getting ready for all the "stuff" that goes into teaching a new semester.

Here are some things we did this last week in the "frugal" category:

* I  made chicken broth in the crockpot using the carcass from the chicken we roasted on Sunday night for dinner.

* I made Irish Soda Bread, biscuits, and pancakes from scratch.

* John and I blanched and froze green and purple beans, broccoli, and yellow and purple beets.

* I hemmed 7 pairs of pants for my children for school.  I ordered them unhemmed (5 for my son and two for my daughter) which is slightly cheaper so I could order them for the sale price early in the summer and still have them fit length-wise when school started.

* I added ribbon and decorative patches to a uniform skirt that had glitter glue spilled on it.  Someone had brought it in for the swap and it had been put in the "throw out" pile because the glitter glue doesn't wash out.  It was all around the front left side and hem and up across the back from hem to waist on a diagonal.  My Aunt gave me a whole bag of sew-on flower patches a few years ago that I haven't used.  I made a shower of flowers across the skirt and added ribbon to the bottom and along the button tabs.  It didn't turn out quite as cute as I had hoped but my daughter likes it and that's what counts!  She can't wear it to school but she can wear it elsewhere.

* Used a coupon to get the children's hair cut before back-to-school night and school pictures. Their pictures always turn out good and it's a relatively inexpensive way to get photos of the children to share with my husband's large family (around $50 total for enough photos).

* Accepted two split melons from our CSA - the melon is still good but others didn't want them because they were split. It did mean we had to eat them in a short amount of time, which was fine.  I made popsicles with the flesh of one that we weren't sure we would finish in time by pureeing it and putting it in molds.

* We attended a church pot luck one night and I took a salad using what we had in the house.

* The children were given 8 mini-cinnamon rolls to bring home after our meet-and-greet on Thursday. John and I got two really delicious apple-strussel muffins.  I will have to ask around for the recipe!
* I froze several large tomatoes for making sauce later this fall when I have a spare second.

* We picked several tomatoes and two purple sweet peppers from our yard.

* I made up a menu for the next few weeks with what's in our house.  We will be buying milk - a gallon or so a week and we have one $25 grocery store gift card left for anything else (flour is at the top of my list right now!).  I needed to revamp the way I was doing menus since John is now eating breakfast with us in the mornings (he used to eat them at work) and his breakfast tastes are vastly different than mine and the children (big one - he hates oatmeal!) so I have had to be inventive!  He doesn't like most "breakfast" foods so we'll see what we can do over the next few weeks!

* John took a few canned soups and a bag of crackers to his office for days when he's rushed or forgets his lunch or gets stuck.  He packed a lunch every day - this is huge! He was used to buying lunch at work and we had spurts of him packing but since he could buy, usually he did.  Now, he doesn't have the cafeteria so he needs to pack a lunch every day. 

Our schedules are changing drastically this fall from what they have been.  John's schedule is much more flexible in some ways but it also means more evenings and weekends.  I am teaching early rather mid-day or afternoons, so John will be getting himself and the children breakfast and taking them to school.  This is something I have done since the children were babies in daycare and I am definitely going to miss it.  I will be picking up every day which is also a change for us - John's previous job ended at 3pm and he worked five minutes from their school so it was his "job" to pick them up most days.

I'm hoping that we can ramp up our frugal-ness some more once we get into a routine this fall.  We have a couple of things we would like to save up for. Also, this is our "practice year" for what being a Ministry family is like and I'm hoping I can learn a lot going through this before having to do it "for real"!  Not just with being frugal, but being frugal will be a great help with ministry salaries being what they are.
What did you do this week to live frugally?

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!