Monday, January 19, 2015

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 18, 2015

Our Christmas Eve Dinner Table!
I had hoped to have pictures of the cake I made this last week for you but it stuck to the pan and came out in crumbles.  So much for doing what I thought was a good job of greasing the pan!   The crumbs tasted good though and I guess it doesn't matter if you eat cake with a fork or a spoon!

The children are off school two days this week for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and a teacher in-service and I'm teaching 5 Jazzercise classes this week, instead of my usual 2-3, but John mercifully has a quiet week this week with only Confirmation on Wednesday night.  That means a lot of easy and/or crockpot meals this week!

Here's what we're eating:

Sunday, Jan 18th:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Sliced Fruit
    Lunch: Potato and Sausage Frittata in the Cockpot, Baking Powder Biscuits, Orange Wedges
    Snack: Homemade Bread with Butter
    Dinner: Chicken Divan, Homemade Bread, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

Monday, January 19th:
     Breakfast: Waffles from the Freezer, Blueberry Sauce (also from the freezer)
     Lunch:  PB&J, Cut Veggies, Sliced Apples
     Snack: Nuts
     Dinner: Chicken Flavored Rice, Roasted Root Vegetables, Oranges

Tuesday, January 20th:
     Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
     Lunch; Veggie Fried Rice, Orange or Grapefruit
     Snack: Ice Cream
     Dinner: Potato Pancakes, Sausage, Bananas

Wednesday, January 21st:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas
     Lunch: Leftover Chicken Divan
     Snack: Leftover Muffins
     Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup, Tossed Salad

Thursday, January 22nd:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Walnuts and Craisins
    Lunch: Leftover Fried Rice
    Snack: Nuts
    Dinner: Sauteed Shrimp, Rice, Green Beans (from the freezer), Oranges or Grapefruit

Friday, January 23rd:
     Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Oranges
     Lunch: Leftover Soup
     Snack: Nuts
     Dinner: Venison Gravy in the Crockpot, Mashed Potatoes, Tossed Salad, Sliced Apples or Pears

Saturday, January 24th:
     Breakfast: Cinnamon Breakfast Biscuits
     Lunch: Soup from the Freezer, Tossed Salad, Fruit
     Snack: Leftover Biscuits
     Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Super Savings Saturday - $34.68 in Groceries

Since we were out of almost everything, we spent more than we had planned today but I think just about everything in the photo, with the possible exception of the fruit, will last well into next week.

Buddy and I hit one store after my workout this morning and here's the run-down:

Butter Kernel Canned Whole Kernel Corn 4 @ $0.69 = $2.76
Buddig Lunch Meat 5 @ 5/$3 - $1 coupon = $2
3.92lbs Red Grapefruit @ $0.99/lb = $3.88
2.31lbs Gala Apples @ $0.99/lb = $2.29
2.30lbs D'Ajou Pears @ $0.99/lb = $2.28
1.1lb Red Delicious Apples @ $0.99/lb = $1.09 (Buddy asked if he could get one for him and one for Missy since they love this kind and John and I definitely do not!)
2lbs Whole Carrots $0.99
Fresh Express Salad Greens B1G1 2 @ $2.99ea = $2.99
Kemp's Vanilla Ice Cream B1G1 2 @ $4.69/ea = $4.69
Smart Balance Spread $2.49
1 dozen Grade A Large Eggs $1.99
Kemp's Skim Milk 2 @ $3.99 - $0.75 coupon = $7.23

Total: $34.68
Total Saved According to Store Receipt: $9.83 (22%)

We had $80 to last us for the next 5 weeks.  This was week one.  So I now have $45.32 for the next four weeks.  As I said above, almost everything should last us into next week. I'm anticipating having to buy some fruit and maybe another dozen eggs next week and then I hope to buy flour and popcorn then too - since I have enough flour for this week and we're out of popcorn.  We'll see!
Come back Monday to see what we're eating!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Frugal Friday - January 2015 So Far

We've been so busy here since school started again last week!  I've made a huge amount of progress on getting some things crossed off my to-do list too, which I love.  I'm definitely a list-type person and it makes me feel good to cross things off my to-do lists.

We are in the penny-pinching mode again for a while - between beginning of term expenses, a break in paychecks, and a few other things, I am trying NOT to shop unless I already have the cash or a gift card in hand.  I'm also hoping to defrost our chest freezer before summer comes  - I had hoped to do that this fall but that didn't happen so spring it will be!  That means we need to eat out the freezer before then.   I'm also hoping to refine our spending habits so we can work on some big goals we have coming up!

Here's what we've done since the beginning of the 2015 year in terms of frugal things:

* Spent New Years and John's Birthday with the in-laws this year.  We used a credit for a hotel room and enjoyed just spending time with family.  It was terrific! 

* We used the pool and the weight/workout room at the hotel to exercise while we were at my in-laws.  They came "free" with the room and we got a great workout! 

* We draw names for Christmas presents in my husband's big family and I got three bags of gourmet coffee and an iTunes gift card for Christmas as well as a pastry cutter from my brother-in-law this year. All will be used and I'm honestly pretty excited about the gourmet coffee, since I rarely splurge on that myself.

* We ate most of our meals at home or took lunches.  John and I were each treated to one meal at work and John and I had one meal out.  I was also treated to wonderful snacks - fresh fruit, muffins, and other pastries - during a workshop at work. I was tempted to ask where they got the delicious pineapple from!

* For John's birthday we used tickets to a special museum exhibit we had gotten through a fundraiser raffle at church.  We paid $6 for parking and then treated ourselves to lunch at the museum too for about $25 for both of us.  A friend watched the children for us.  We had budgeted for everything (including paying the sitter!) and we had a very lovely time. We spent about 5 hours at the museum total, including lunch. This museum is one we don't go to often but it was a wonderful change of pace and a nice Birthday date for us.

* I made biscuits, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, waffles, cake, and pizza from scratch.

* We used a pre-paid punch card to get a loaf of bakery bread.

* I attended a sale at my favorite consignment store and used my Christmas gift card to buy a pair of slacks, three tops and a necklace and earring set that I can wear to work.  I have $12 of $50 left on my gift card that I will use at a later date.

* My daughter made birthday decorations for my husband using things we already had on hand.

* I cleaned out several drawers and cupboards in the kitchen, washed the shelves and drawers and put down new shelf paper that I already had (leftover from last time - I had purchased way too much!).  We threw away some broken and unusable things and donated several others.  We did end up with short list of things we need to replace, which we'll do as we can, but mostly we are just enjoying the extra shelf space!

* I updated our Budget Book and my husband and I redid our budget for the next few months.

* I used a new option to direct pay my student fees from last semester rather than having to put them on a credit card and then pay the credit card.  I love that new option!  And no interest paid!

* My children have been playing in the snow and I'm really enjoying that!  They have Monday off school and we're hoping to go sledding at a nearby park!  I'm so glad it's warmed up and we can go outside without fear of getting frostbite quickly.

* I cleaned out and donated some Christmas decorations I don't think we will use again.

* A colleague brought in workout wear she no longer wanted and offered to anyone who could wear it.  I brought home two new workout tops and a pair of workout capris.  I'm particularly excited about the capris because I need new ones! 

* I've been finishing up some sewing projects that have been half-done for far too long.  A birthday present for our nephew, pajamas for me, and a new curtain for the bathroom.  Hoping to have some photos of those for you soon!

* A friend moved overseas and gave Buddy his guitar.  He hasn't played it in years and didn't want to ship it. Buddy is ecstatic!  He's wanted a guitar for years.  Now he just has to find the time to learn how to play it!  We offered to pay for it but our friend refused.  He's just excited that someone will actually play it!  John has wanted to learn the guitar too and can have free lessons through the seminary.  So, the plan is for John to take lessons and then come home and teach Buddy. 

* We went back to the cash envelope system at the beginning of the year.  We had done this in the past but we'd gotten lax about it this past fall.  The fancy paper envelopes we had used were falling apart and I hadn't had time to make the fabric ones I wanted.  So we just kind of threw the cash in the desk drawer and pulled out what we needed.  We didn't overspend but there were a lot of "Oh, I was planning on using that for..." moments.  Stressful!  Hopefully we can avoid that now again!
What have you done lately that's frugal?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Healthy Habits - One Change Per Week: Week #2

So, how did you do with last week's challenge?

Me - I actually have to laugh. 
I started the challenge on Monday and the only day this last week I didn't do it was Tuesday. Um, yeah.  The day I posted here.   ***BLUSH***

So for this week:

Habit #2: Take "the long way".

Honestly, when I was trying to come up with a good title for this habit, it was really hard.  So "Take "the long way."" it is!
The goal for this is to build a little more activity into your day without doing anything drastic. I find that typically these things take very little extra time. And, now that I've done them for a while they are a habit - something I do without thinking!
Here's what I mean:
* When I'm at work and need to go use the restroom, I walk the long way.  In my old building, unless I was really desperate, I used the restroom one floor up and took the stairs.
* When I need to throw something away, unless it's drippy or messy, I throw it in the one farthest away.
* If I need to change the load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, I will take each piece out individually and rather than in bunches.
* When I am baking or cooking, if at all possible I mix by hand rather than with my beautiful, new mixer (love the mixer, by the way!).
* If I'm only going a couple of blocks, I walk unless it's completely beastly out.
* In the parking ramp at work, I park one floor up and take the stairs rather than parking on the ground floor or taking the elevator.
*And countless other things in a similar manner....
Now, not all these things are practical all the time.  For example, the weather these last two weeks has been well below 0F here with wind chills in the negative double digits, which means I'm driving more short distances and parking as close as I can!  Drippy egg shells go in the kitchen compost pail next to the sink, no exceptions!  If we need that shirt dry in 45 minutes, I'll grab everything out of the washer and get it in the dryer as quickly as I can.
A colleague of mine can't walk up and down stairs without great difficulty so she always takes the elevator, but she always uses the garbage and recycling cans at the opposite end of the hallway rather than the ones in our office just so she has to move a bit more.
What does this mean for our challenge this week? 
The challenge this week is to pick one small thing and do it the long way. 
It doesn't have to be big. 
It can be very small:
...chop those veggies by hand,
...mix that recipe by hand, 
...walking to the far elevator at work rather than using the closest one,
...parking one row away from where you usually do in the parking lot,
...and a whole host of other things.
I'm going to work on walking up and down the stairs at work rather than taking the elevator. I rarely go up more than one floor and I've gotten in the habit of taking the elevator when I really don't need to (the exception will be if I am pushing a cart full of equipment).
What will you pick this week?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 11, 2015

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls - Before Frosting, that is!

It's another cold week here in Minnesota - I guess it's cold all over the country!   Brrr.  Either way, I'm thinking of hibernating until spring!  Warm food is the key here this week.  We've been drinking a lot of hot chocolate, coffee and tea around here.

John has meetings or events at church Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week so I asked the kids what they wanted and they voted on pizza twists and chicken noodle soup.  My go-to on Wednesday nights when John has Confirmation at church is waffles - then I can make an extra batch and freeze them for later!  So that's the game-plan on Wednesday night this week.  The kids have gotten into scrambled eggs lately so that's an inexpensive, easy breakfast that we all enjoy now.  I like that!  Not to mention some protein is good for breakfast...I like that!

Here's what we're eating:

Sunday, January 11:
   Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Yogurt and Sliced Apples
   Lunch: Cinnamon Biscuit Twists, Orange Wedges
   Snack: Cinnamon Rolls
   Dinner: At a church function

Monday, January 12:
   Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Cinnamon Rolls
   Lunch: Leftovers
   Snack: Nuts, Leftover Cinnamon Rolls
   Dinner: Fish Tacos, Orange Wedges (we didn't eat this last week, so tonight it is!)

Tuesday, January 13:
    Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
    Lunch: Leftover Tacos
    Snack: Leftover Cinnamon Rolls
    Dinner: Pizza Twists, Tossed Salad

Wednesday, January 14:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Oatmeal Muffins, Apple Slices
    Lunch: Leftover Soup from the Freezer
    Snack: Sukkarkakke (Sugar Cake - a type of pound cake)
    Dinner: Breakfast for Dinner: Waffles, Sausage, Blueberry Sauce (from the freezer)

Thursday, January 15:
    Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
    Lunch: Cut Veggies with Hummus, Oranges, Yogurt
    Snack: Sukkarkakke
    Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup (in the crockpot), Homemade Bread, Apple Slices

Friday, January 16:
   Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Bananas
   Lunch: PB&J Sandwiches, Cut Veggies
   Snack: Sukkarrkakke
   Dinner: Spaghetti with Tomato/Veggie Sauce, Tossed Salad

Saturday, January 17:
   Breakfast: Cinnamon Breakfast Biscuits, Oranges
   Lunch: Soup from the Freezer, Tuan and Veggie Sandwiches
   Snack: Sukkarkakke
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

We still have a lot of soup in the freezer from December and we're trying to eat through that.  I also have three turkey carcasses and a ham bone that I want to make soup with some time soon.  I do need to empty and defrost the freezer before summer rolls around again.  Right now that seems so far away but I know it will come quickly!  I made a huge batch of granola this past week so if I get really stuck for snacks, I will serve that with yogurt that I have in the fridge. 

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Super Savings - $39 and change shopping trip

So that isn't even close to being the best picture in any way, shape or form!  It's a photo anyway and I'm okay with that!

John rand to two stores late last night on his way home from another commitment to do the grocery shopping for this week.  We spent more than I wanted to so we'll have to hold back for while -  I don't get paid again until February 20th - yikes!

Anyway, here's what we got:

Store #1:
Lysol Toilet Cleaner x 2 @ $1.50 each

Total Store #1:  $3 plus tax  (I misplaced the receipt)

Store #2:
4 boxes Cheerios @ 4/$9 - $1 = 4/$8 ($2 per box)
Kellogg's Nurtigrain bars 2 @ $1.99 each = $3.98
Old Orchard Juice 3 @ 3/$5 = $5
Progresso Soup 2 @ 8/$10 - $0.50 = $2  ($1 each)
Starkist Tuna 2 @ $0.69 each = $1.38
Hunts Tomato Sauce (almost not in the photo) 2 @ $0.89 = $1.78
Baking Powder $1.59
Yellow Bananas 3.54lbs @ $0.59/bl = $2.09
4lb Navel Oranges $3.99
2lb Yellow Onions $0.99
Nature Sweet Tomatoes $2
Gala Apples 2.36lbs @ $0.99/lb = $2.34
Kemp's Skim Milk Gallon $3.99

Total Spent Store #2: $36.25
Savings Store #2 (according to receipt) $11.06 (23%)

Come back Monday to see what we're eating this week!

What did you buy this week? 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

John's Birthday

John had another birthday this last weekend and we were so blessed to celebrate three times!  First, with his family last week, second with a small special dinner just the four of us on his actual birthday and then a date for the two of us and then our "traditional" birthday dinner here at home on Sunday.

Missy has been all about homemade decorations this year and he did a whole bunch of decorating with the help of their babysitter while we were on our date.

I don't have any photos from our date, but I'll leave you with some photos of our "traditional" birthday dinner and some of the decorations that Missy made.

A few years ago John asked for a crab leg dinner as his birthday present.  Since crab legs are typically on sale for New Years, it works out well!  We had a local grocery store (it's a high-end one we rarely shop at) that had a buy one pound, get one free sale and we bought this whole plateful with our Birthday fund as one of John's birthday gifts.  We bought John a new clerical shirt - this one in light gray - for his present. He received a really nice travel mug, a new water bottle, a t-shirt and lots of small packages of peanuts from his family for his birthday.  And my parents got him some new and needed items his computer.

Missy hung balloons and streamers in the doorway from the back entry to the kitchen.  Fun!  We had the streamers and balloons from previous parties so she just had to blow them up and hang them.

And she made this sign using computer paper, markers and clear tape and hung it between the cabinets. She also hung balloons and streamers on the cabinets themselves and made the bathroom door look like a candy cane with the words "Happy Birthday" written on it. (We have a huge reusable birthday banner we bought several years ago but where we usually hang it has Christmas decorations still.  So, this was Missy's solution!)
How do you celebrate birthdays at your house?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Healthy Habits - One Change per Week: Week #1

In 2015 I'm hoping to implement one healthy habit per week.  Care to join me?

Since we're on a tight budget this year, I'm hoping to have these habits be things that are either free or inexpensive or things that are definitely worth the effort and financial contribution.

This week's habit:


Week #1:   Drink a glass of water first!

I always, always start my day with coffee.  During the Christmas break from school, I started going out to the early morning Jazzercise class a couple mornings a week.  On those mornings I didn't start with coffee, I started with water.

And, um, yeah, I felt more refreshed for the day too. 

I'm not sure if it was the workout or the water, but I'm pretty sure the water helped.

So, for my first habit in 2015, I'm going to work on drinking a glass of water first thing each morning.

I figure that way, even if I don't do a good job of drinking all the water I should each day, at least I started the day well!

I'll let you know next week how I did with this challenge!

If you'd like to join me, please leave a note in the comments.  I'd love to cheer you on!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 4, 2015

Lefse - an essential at holidays around here!

Is anyone else just genuinely surprised at how fast the new year got here?  I am completely shocked.

I am also ready to make some changes in how I do things.  For one thing, while my weight has held steady, I've gained inches around my waist where I have never gained weight before.  That means my stress levels are high so I need to do something about that.  John and I have been talking a lot about how we can make our lives simpler and less stressful and I'm hoping to implement some of those things going forward here in our lives.  I don't think food will change much - we're pretty happy with what we're currently doing and, quite frankly, our budget isn't going to allow for much change at this point.

So, what are we eating, this first full week of 2015?

January 4, 2015, Sunday:
     Breakfast: Fruit and Milk
     Lunch: Leftovers
     Snack: Cereal
     Dinner: Crab Legs (for John's Birthday), Orange Wedges

January 5, 2015, Monday:
      Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Oranges
      Lunch: Leftovers from Saturday night
      Snack: Chex Mix
      Dinner: Venison Gravy, Rice, Orange Wedges and Apple Slices

January 6, 2015, Tuesday:
      Breakfast: Oatmeal with Maple Walnut Cream
      Lunch: Leftover Rice and Gravy
      Snack: Chex Mix
      Dinner: Chicken Divan Casserole, Biscuits, Apple Slices

January 7, 2015, Wednesday:
      Breakfast: Breakfast Biscuits  (Egg, Bacon & Cheese)
      Lunch: Leftover Chicken Divan
      Snack: Chex Mix
      Dinner: Waffles, Bacon, Bananas

January 8, 2015, Thursday:
       Breakfast: Oatmeal with Craisins and Walnuts
       Lunch: Hummus Wraps, Carrot Sticks, Oranges
       Snack: Yogurt
       Dinner: Potato-Corn Chowder, Homemade Bread, Apple-Orange-Banana Salad

January 9, 2015, Friday:
       Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Bananas
       Lunch: Leftover Chowder
       Snack: Yogurt
       Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks (Buddy has a friend over overnight so we opted for this on Friday rather than Saturday)

January 10, 2015, Saturday:
       Breakfast: Pancakes, Bananas
       Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Tossed Salad
       Snack: Popcorn
       Dinner: Fish Tacos, Tossed Salad, Fruit

The meat all comes from our freezers this week.   I totally forgot to mention that a co-worker bought all of us 2lbs of really nice bacon for a Christmas gift this year.  YUM!  We're working hard to stretch it out and use it for several meals.  Each breakfast sandwich will have 1/2 piece of bacon (it's wide, thick bacon so this is plenty) and the Potato-Corn chowder will use a couple of pieces for topping.  After using some for Christmas earlier, we will still have about 1/2 lb of bacon left after this week.

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Super Savings - First Shop of 2015

Happy New Year!

We've had a whirl-wind week or so with time visiting John's family out of state, my parents visiting for two weeks and John assisting at several worship services!  This week gets us back to "normal" around here and I'm grateful for a fresh start with 2015 and the quiet after all the hubbub.

My parents had bought a few groceries while they were here - mostly things like ice cream, olives and chips, pretzels and the like.  Since we spent much of this week with John's folks some of what they bought is leftover. We do have oranges, apples, and yogurt left from when they were here last week so we decided to just do a top-up on everything necessary and then go forward from there.

I don't get paid again until February (mid-month) so we are going to try to keep the shopping to a minimum.  

Here's what we did for shopping this weekend:

Store #1:
Bananas 3lbs @ $0.59/lb = $1.77 - 1st lb free coupon ($0.59) = $1.18

Total store #1: $1.18

Store #2:
Worcstershire Sauce $1.19
2 large bunches broccoli 2/$3 = $3
3.11 lbs Fuji Apples @ $0.88/lb = $2.74
1 Cucumber $0.59
Tribe Classic Hummus $2 (with store coupon)
1 Gallon Skim Milk $4.39

Total Store #2: $13.91

Total Saved: $0.59 (store #1) + $0.99 (store #2) = $2.58 (15%)  according to store receipts

John celebrated his birthday this week too and from his parents he received everything to make Chex Mix and two cans of mixed nuts.  His sister gave him a bunch of snack packages of nuts as well.  He wanted to have some nuts in his desk at work for a snack so this works out perfectly!

We also have plenty of food in the freezer and pantry along with some romaine, green pepper and carrots in the fridge that we'll be trying to eat through in January. 

Come back tomorrow (Monday) to see what we're eating!