Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Menu Plan, er, Tuesday - Week of January 28, 2018



Swedish meatballs - our treat after shoveling so much snow last week.  They were delicious!  I usually serve them with mashed potatoes but that night it was with rice.  Either way, this was a great pick me up after a lot of hard work.

We bought only a few things this week in the way of groceries. We had plenty in the house and only needed a few things to round out the menu this week.  I'm planning to do a pantry challenge in February and March, so this should be the norm for the next couple of weeks.  In addition to our small grocery haul, John won an apple pie at a raffle he entered, so that is being eaten as a snack this week. Yum!

We had a very eventful weekend including an ER trip and a major knee sprain.  We ended up picking up a frozen pizza at the store on Saturday after all of that.  That came out of our recreation budget rather than the grocery budget using money we had planned on spending for dinner at the Basketball Tournament this weekend. The injured party is healing and *should* be just fine in a couple of weeks.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 28, 2018:
     Breakfast: Banana-Mango Smoothies
     Lunch: Potluck at church (we brought a fruit salad)
     Snack: Zucchini Chocolate-Chip Cookies
     Dinner: Noodles with Tomato-Veggie Sauce

Monday, January 29, 2018:
     Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Clementine's
     Lunch: Spinach Salad with Chicken, Cranberries, and Walnuts
     Snack: Apple Pie
     Dinner: Perfect Potato Soup, Biscuits, Pineapple-Peach Salad

Tuesday, January 30, 2018:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Almonds
     Lunch: Leftover Soup
     Snack: Zucchini Chocolate-Chip Cookies
     Dinner: Chicken Legs, Green Beans, Rice

Wednesday, January 31, 2018:
     Breakfast: Maple Oat Scones, Peach-Pineapple Smoothies
     Lunch: Leftover Soup
     Snack: Apple Pie
     Dinner: Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Cornbread

Thursday, February 1, 2018:
     Breakfast: Pancakes with Applesauce and Walnuts
     Lunch: Leftover Soup
     Snack: Oatmeal Cookies
     Dinner: Sandwiches, Cut Veggies

Friday, February 2, 2018:
      Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
      Lunch: Leftover Soup
      Snack: Oatmeal Cookies
      Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread Sticks

Saturday, February 3, 2018:
       Brunch: French Toast, Sliced Ham
       Snack: Soft Pretzels
       Dinner: At a friend's Birthday Party (we've been invited to a 50th birthday party where dinner will be provided)

What are you eating this week?  Any good deals or new recipes at your house? 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Super Savings Saturday - $24.34

No photo again this week.  I'm slipping! Or something like that.

We have basketball tournaments all weekend, so I ran to the grocery store Friday between other things and picked up a few groceries.

We have very full freezers and a very, very full pantry, so we're eating well in spite of not buying much.  Here's what we bought:

16oz unsweetened applesauce $1.99
8oz fresh spinach $3.99
green bell pepper $1
cucumber $1
3lb clementine's $3.99
Smart Balance $3.29
1lb Cheddar Cheese $4
32oz Yogurt $3.59
1 dozen eggs $1.49

I could have bought a little more, but we have overspent what we had planned to spend this month so we stuck with this.

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 21, 2018


A summer meal - I think this was 4th of July, which we also had fruit salad and homemade ice cream for.  Occasionally we purchase really good bratwurst for meals like this. YUM!

We spent just under $40 for groceries this week.  Here's what we're eating:

Sunday, January 21, 2018:
    Breakfast: Yogurt with Chia Seeds
    Lunch: Cinnamon Biscuit Twists, Sausage
    Snack: Ginger Cookies
    Dinner: Swedish Meatballs, Noodles, Green Beans

Monday, January 22, 2018:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Toast
    Lunch: Leftover Meatballs and Noodles
    Snack: Cut Veggies
    Dinner: Baked Whitefish, Rice, Carrots, Sliced Apples and Pears

Tuesday, January 23, 2018:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal with Almonds and Dates
     Lunch: Rice Bowl with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Cranberries
     Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
     Dinner: Cabbage with Bacon and Noodles

Wednesday, January 24, 2018:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Raspberry-Banana Smoothies
     Lunch: Leftover Cabbage-Bacon-Noodles
     Snack: Cut Veggies
     Dinner: Breakfast Tacos

Thursday, January 25, 2018:
     Breakfast: Waffles from the Freezer, Triple-Berry Jam
     Lunch: Wheatberry Salad with Spinach and Cranberries
     Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
     Dinner: Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser

Friday, January 26, 2018:
     Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Toast
     Lunch: Wheatberry Salad with Spinach and Cranberries
     Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
     Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, January 27, 2018:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal-Maple Scones, Raspberry-Banana Smoothies
     Lunch and Snack:  At the Basketball Tournament
     Dinner: Vegetable Beef Barley Soup (in the Crockpot), Cornbread


We can't bring food into the Basketball tournament on Saturday or we'd pack a lunch but other than that I think we're good for this week! 

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Super Savings Saturday - $37.88 with 2 Beef Roasts!

No photo today! 

John and I dropped the children and the  groceries off at home and went on an honest to goodness date for a short while!   It was just an afternoon coffee/tea at a local coffee shop with a gift card but it was wonderful.  He had a crazy busy week this last week and this one looks busy too with two funerals and several meetings in the ramp up for the annual congregational meeting next weekend.  I'm grateful to have had some time to spend together before the craziness sets in.

We stopped at one store after a trip to the local library and bought the following:

1lb Heart Candies $2.99
1lb Yellow Cornmeal $2.19
Large Fresh Pineapple $2.99
2.2lb Yellow Bananas @ $0.59/lb = $1.30
1.63lb Braeburn Apples @ $2.49/lb = $4.06 (This was NOT what the sign read and we didn't check the receipt until well after we had come home; we would normally never have bought them at this price!)
1 Gallon 1% Milk $3
10 6oz Yogurt Cups @ 5/$3 = $6
1.88lb and 1.86lb Beef Tip Roasts B1G1 = $11.26  ($3/lb which is a great price for this here)
1lb sausages x2 = $1.89 ($0.93/lb - another good price!)

Total Spent: $37.88
Total Savings: $14.16 or 27% according to store receipt

We had not planned on buying meat this week but the sales were excellent so we bought the two beef roasts and the two packages of sausage.  These are breakfast sausages and will be a nice treat - we haven't bought any in quite a while.  The beef roasts will provide more than one meal each with leftovers so we're pretty excited about those too.

Right now, I'd like to buy some fish for Holy Week but other than that we have meat and veggies to cover us all the way through Easter!  I'm pretty excited about that!  That means we can easily lower the grocery budget these next couple of months.  We haven't been doing a good job of that these last couple of weeks so the break will be welcome.

I have our menu totally planned out through Easter and I'm quite happy with it.  We have a full freezer, pantry and cupboard and I'm looking forward to using up the things in there and making the most of what we have. We have enough that the variety will be pretty good too. Please join me for a Pantry Challenge in February and March!

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

How did you do with your shopping this week?  Any amazing deals?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Frugal Friday - Week 3 of 52 - January 12 - 18, 2018


Some of the flowers from my garden last summer - I'm so looking forward to more this summer!

It was a very odd week - we started with Martin Luther King Jr Day on Monday and our daughter and I fighting a bad head cold, Missy was better Tuesday but I was not, and then I felt like we were trying to catch up all the rest of the week.  I was a bit relieved that it was Friday today!

We had several just unpleasant things going on this week but we did a very nice job of being fairly frugal - it's easy to not spend money when you're home sick, I guess.  Either way, it ended up being a reasonable week all the way around and we're looking forward to a quiet week at home and some extra rest before all the activities start to ramp up next week.

Here are some frugal things we did this week:

* We made two types of soup, biscuits, and waffles at home this week.

* John brought home leftover chicken noodle soup (homemade) and cookies from a church event.  We used those for lunch and treats.

* I cleaned out my tea stash, composed a bit that were way past usable and sorted everything else so it is more accessible and usable.  I also discovered that I have 5 tea strainers, so I put one in my bag to take up to work for my tea stash there.  I had been just letting the leaves settle before drinking.  This will be much better.

* I worked on quite a bit of embroidery this week.  All for gifts.

* We renewed library books online last weekend.  We'll return them this weekend and get a few new.

* We ate all meals and snacks at home but one, which was lunch at church for Bible Study on Sunday.

* We updated the budget book and paid the bills.  The budget will be really quite tight the rest of the month - tighter than we'd like.  But, we paid off a small medical debt and the car this month!  I'm super excited about both!  We still have several more medical bills to go, but we're making progress.

I think that's it for us this week.  What did you do this week that was frugal?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Menu Plan - Week of January 14, 2018


Sometimes breakfast - eggs with spinach, a smoothie (raspberry and banana here), and coffee.  YUM!

I didn't get a chance to post our shopping trip this weekend so here's what I bought; stopping at the store on the way home on Friday so I didn't have to go out in the icky weekend weather (well below freezing, then snow and blowing, yippie!) unless I wanted to. 

Here's what I purchased:
2 1lb packages sliced lunch meat 2 @ $2.69/ea = $5.39
1 1lb sausage $3.69
1 packaged prepared hummus $2.99
2 1lb packages coffee 2 @ $5.99/ea = $11.98
1lb fresh blueberries $2.50
3lb Gala apples $3.69
3lb Anjou Pears $3.99
2lb bananas $1.39
10 cups yogurt $5

Total Spent: $40.62

This is more than I wanted to spend, but we are pretty well set except for milk and maybe some more fruit for the rest of the month now.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 14, 2018:
     Breakfast; Toast with Peanut Butter
     Lunch: At Church (Bible Study)
     Snack: Popcorn
     Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Monday, January 15, 2018, Martin Luther King Jr. Day:
     Brunch: Breakfast Biscuits (Biscuits, Eggs, Ham)
     Snack: Popcorn
     Dinner: Soup from the Freezer, Crackers from the Pantry

Tuesday, January 16, 2018:
     Breakfast: Toast with Peanut Butter
     Lunch: Leftover Soup
     Snack: Cut Veggies
     Dinner: Gingerbread Pancakes, Blueberries, Bacon

Wednesday, January 17, 2018:
     Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Oatmeal Muffins
     Lunch: Wheatberry Salad with Spinach, Cranberries, and Almonds
     Snack: Cheese and Crackers
     Dinner: Sausage, Potato, and Corn Stew, Cornbread, Sliced Apples and Pears

Thursday, January 18, 2018:
     Breakfast: Pancakes, Blueberries and Strawberries
     Lunch: Leftover Stew
     Snack: Cut Veggies
     Dinner: Ham or Turkey Sandwiches, Cut Veggies

Friday, January 19, 2018:
     Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
     Lunch: Wheatberry Salad with Spinach, Cranberries and Almonds
     Snack: Gingerbread Cookies
     Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, January 20, 2018:
      Brunch: Potato Spinach Frittata
      Snack: Soft Pretzels
      Dinner: Roasted Root Vegetables with Chicken-Flavored Rice, Sliced Apples and Pears

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Frugal ...er...Saturday - Week 2 of 25, Week of January 6, 2018


My children at the beach this past summer. John and I have been planning a real Summer Holiday for this year.  My parents are celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary and we're celebrating our 20th, so we all decided we need to take a Holiday together.  We're pretty excited!

It is COLD here again - the temperature this morning was listed at -12F (-24.44C).  Early this week it was almost +40F (4.4C).  It almost felt like spring was on it's way. Of course, it's way too early for that but we enjoyed the short warm-up and are now bundled back up for the weekend again. I deliberately went and ran errands yesterday Friday evening so I don't have to venture out on Saturday if I don't want to.

Here are some things that we have done this past week (Saturday 1/6 to Friday 1/12):

* At home we made soup, bread, pancakes, and muffins.

* I enjoyed treats - muffins, fruit, cookies - and a very delicious lunch at a workshop this week.  There was way too much food for lunch and the workshop coordinator brought out zip-top bags at the end of the lunch for people to take the extra home. I brought home enough salad with chicken for our evening meal on Friday evening.  It was a delicious treat - something I wouldn't have made at home due to so many expensive ingredients.

* Did ,my own ironing rather than paying for someone else to do it.

* Reattached a hook and eye to a skirt, a button to a blouse, and tacked up a fallen hem on a pair of pants.

* We put together an updated list of items we need to complete on the house.  I have already completed two small projects and hope to tackle a couple more this weekend.  These are interior projects we can do while the weather is unpleasant outside.  We will make a separate list of outside projects once the weather warms up, sometime April or May.

* Used a deal at Target to stock up on Vitamins and now we have a $5 Target gift card for use later.


How did you do this week?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Work, Home and Family - Our Schedule (sort of)


I'm dreaming of summer and warm evening fires, like the one above.  We're supposed to get rain and then snow and then cold again through tonight (Wednesday) into Friday.  Sigh. I'm ready for winter to be done and it's only the beginning-ish of January. 

One of the things that people are doing this time of year is posting their "schedule" for their days.  And since I often get asked how I "do it all" (trust me, I definitely don't do it all!), I thought I'd jump on that bandwagon, at least in a way.  We have more of a routine than a set schedule, though we do have times to be places and the like.  This is our weekday schedule.

Some things to keep in mind:

Our children are tweens, so plenty old enough to sleep through the night, do all their own grooming, and help with the household chores.  Most days we don't have to keep reminding them to do their homework and practice instruments (they both play two).  I'm so grateful!  Having twins was so difficulty and energy draining when they were tiny, but now they keep each other company and work very well together.  The children do take dance lessons and play sports, so we have competitions, games, and practices.  They also attend Confirmation (Affirmation of Baptism) classes at our church and participate in a few church activities as well.
 
John and I both work outside the home, though our schedules are more flexible than many.  John, as a Pastor, pretty much sets his own schedule and has one day off during the week (in exchange for working on Sundays).  My schedule, as University Faculty and as a Graduate Student is kind of all over the place, though I get to choose what I do with my time when I'm not teaching class.  I typically do my work for my class I'm teaching at work as much as I can (fewer distractions, more resources) and I learn my Jazzercise routines at home. My schoolwork is more nebulous - between and around other things and I try to take some time to spend at the school I attend at least once a week (sometimes that works, sometimes it's doesn't). 

So, here we are: Our weekday schedule

530/6am: Lea wakes up
             Make and drink coffee and personal quiet time, which includes reading, devotions and anything else that I feel like doing.
              One day a week, I wake the children and John up at 6am because they need to leave at 630am for piano lessons.  The children eat breakfast at school that day.
              One morning a week I teach an early Jazzercise class so I'm out the door by this time - I'm dressed and ready to go, I usually pack a breakfast to eat after class but I eat a banana before so I have something in my stomach.  I take clothes and toiletries with and get ready for work after class.

7/730am: The children wake up, Lea makes breakfast
               Buddy wakes up on his own sometimes in here (often earlier), usually Missy has to be woken up.  I start making breakfast about 7am. If I'm making baked good (muffins, etc.) I'll start those at about 630am.
                If Buddy wakes up early, he reads or watches the tablet while I'm doing my thing.  If he wants something to eat or drink, he will get it himself.

730am:  John wakes up (except when there is piano lessons)
             By this time, everyone is either eating breakfast or getting ready for work/school or both.

8am: Everyone out the door!

830am: Children dropped off at school

9am: Lea's workday starts
         This is almost always at my office at work or in the library at school.  Once in a while if I really need to get away from everyone, I'll work at our really nice local public library.  This is when I spend time working on the things I need for both my teaching and my schooling and my classes are scheduled somewhere in this time. Depending on the semester, I may need to leave earlier in the morning with John finishing the morning routine due to schedule of my courses.  I'm very fortunate most of my sections don't start until 915am or later!

330/4pm: Lea heads home. 
          Three days a week, I try to leave work by this time, or I get stuck in the traffic coming out of the state and city offices in downtown St. Paul on my way home. 
         Two days a week I leave at a only slightly different time because I teach Jazzercise classes and it's out of my way to go home first.

315pm: The children finish school
         Two days a week we meet them at the door to pick them up at this time.
         Two days a week they have sports practice after school at school.
         One day a week they stay for a bit at after school care until John can get there to pick them up.
         After school care includes a snack and a drink, time to do homework, and a fun activity (playground time, games, occasional video, etc.). The two days with sports practice they receive the snack offered at after school care.
          I pick them up 2-3 days per week and John picks them up the other 2-3 days, depending on our schedules..

4pm - 9pm:  Afternoon and Evening
         What we do here varies depending on the day:  Three nights a week have sports/dance and one night has Confirmation.  We do manage to have dinner together at home at the table these nights but are all not home together before and/or after that.  Sometimes John or I will run errands or exercise while someone is at practice.  The other adult and child remain at home, working on homework, instruments, chores and anything else they want or need to work on.  Our one free night of the week is family time and we all stay home together and do something together (puzzle, game, movie, etc.).
           
9pm: Children's Bedtime Routine/Family Devotions
          Most nights this is when the children are getting ready for bed.  One night a week we have a child at an activity until 9pm and this is usually when everyone arrives home from confirmation due to John being the Pastor and having to clean up, etc. 
          For devotions, we typically read the Bible verses for the day from the Revised Common Lectionary and the church devotional entry for the day as well and pray together.  If we have time, one of us will read a chapter of a book first (we are finishing up the Chronicles of Narnia right now - a reread for us and super fun!).

930pm: Children to bed.

10/1030pm: Lea heads to bed. 
          My bedtime routine starts most nights as soon as the children are in bed.  Some nights I'm tired enough I go to bed before the children do. 

11pm: John heads to bed
          John usually uses the time between when I go to bed and he goes to bed as his quiet time for the day.  He's a night owl so it works perfect for him!  He's a very restless sleeper so this also gives me time to fall asleep before he joins me; it can be difficult for me to get to sleep if he falls asleep first!

That's a run down of my day.  How about yours?



Monday, January 8, 2018

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 7, 2018


Yum - Pancakes!  Both of my children can make delicious pancakes and I'm so grateful! One thing they have both asked to do this year is to learn how to cook better and to cook more often.  So each week, they will be helping with a meal and we have a few specific recipes that we are planning on working on as well.  This week Buddy is helping with Pasta with Veggie-filled Tomato Sauce on Monday and Missy will help with the Crock pot Beef Gravy on Thursday. 

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 7, 2018:
    Breakfast: Peanut Butter Toast
    Lunch: Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Cinnamon Biscuit Twists
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Vegetable Barley Soup, Biscuits

Monday, January 8, 2018:
     Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
     Lunch: Leftover Soup
     Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
     Dinner: Noodles with Veggie-Filled Tomato Sauce, Spinach Salad with Strawberries

Tuesday, January 9, 2018:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal with Almonds and Dates
     Lunch: Leftover Soup or Pasta with Sauce
     Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
     Dinner: Pork and Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, Orange Wedges

Wednesday, January 10, 2018:
     Breakfast: Zucchini Bread, Strawberry-Mango Smoothies
     Lunch: Leftover Stir Fry
     Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
     Dinner: Kielbasa, Cabbage, Apple-Strawberry-Banana Salad

Thursday, January 11, 2018:
     Breakfast: Waffles with Jam
     Lunch: Salad with Leftover Kielbasa
     Snack: Zucchini Bread
     Dinner: Crock pot Beef Gravy, Noodles, Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Oranges

Friday, January 12, 2018:
    Breakfast: Strawberry-Mango Smoothies, Scrambled Eggs
    Lunch: Leftover Beef Gravy and Noodles
    Snack: Zucchini Bread
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, January 13, 2018:
     Brunch: Egg Bake with Spinach and Potatoes
     Snack: Popcorn
     Dinner: Any Leftovers from the Week or Soup from the Freezer

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Super Savings Saturday - $29.61



The photo above is the red velvet cake I made John for his Birthday last year (2017).  This year (2018) a friend made a BEAUTIFUL two-layer red velvet cake with cream-cheese frosting.  Sadly, I didn't get a photo of it since only three pieces came home (one for me and one for each of the children).  The rest was eaten at Bible Study and John had a second piece as an afternoon snack that day before coming home.

John and I spent a little more than half our typical monthly grocery budget at Sam's Club stocking up on some things earlier this week, so my goal is to cut back on the grocery budget this week and a few more weeks going forward to even things out a bit.   We did end up spending about $10 more today than I wanted to but that just means we have less later on this month.  That money was spent to fill a vacancy in our pantry and should last us a while.

Missy was on the ball when we got home and put the groceries away before I could take a photo.  I wasn't about to pull them out just to get a photo, so imagine in your mind what we purchased!

Here's what we spent at one store:

56oz Vegetable Oil  $2.49
Baking Powder $1.69
10oz Fresh Spinach $4.99
Green Bell Pepper $0.79
2.54lbs Pink Lady Apples @ $1.49/lb = $3.78
3.41lb Navel Oranges @ $0.99/lb = $3.38
1lb Strawberries x 2 @ 2/$3 = $3
2.53lbs Yellow Bananas @ $0.59/lb = $1.49
Crystal Farms Cheese 6oz x 3 @ 3/$5 = $5
Yoplait 5oz Yogurt Cups x 5 @ 5/$3 = $3

Total Spent (According to Receipt): $29.61
Total Savings According to Receipt: $2.50 (8%)

A note about the savings on the receipt:  This only includes deals, such as the cheese being 3/$5, or coupons that were used.  The savings on the strawberries, for example, were not included because the 2/$3 is considered a "normal" price by the computer, even though the typical price for a pound of strawberries here in January is somewhere around $4.  The yogurt price of 5/$3 is also a "normal" price, so that was not included also.

The cheese, baking powder, and vegetable oil will last us far longer than this week.  We will probably eat all the produce and the yogurt this week. Fruit is a favorite snack for the children and John likes a spinach salad with his lunch every day, so we eat that much produce pretty quickly.

Come back Monday to see what we're eating!  How did you do with your shopping this week?




Friday, January 5, 2018

Frugal Friday - Week 1 of 52, December 29, 2017-January 5, 2018


I keep looking at the photos of my flowers from last summer and reminding myself that our super cold spell WILL eventually pass - a high of +2F (-16.6C) today, and it was -9F (-22.8C) when I left the house this morning.  SO glad I own a down parka, lamb's wool hat and warm gloves and boots!  Garden planning is on the agenda in January, so I guess the photos are more than just a lovely reminder.

One week of 2018 is already done.  That is hard to believe!  I took this week "off" from work and spent the time "working from home" on both work and school items as well as doing a few things around the house and running a few errands.  I did teach Jazzercise and take the children to school but otherwise I stayed home!  I enjoyed it very much but now I'm ready to get back to work.  That will come Monday!

We're tightening our belt this year to pay off some debts - being very deliberate (my word for 2018) and intentional about what we're doing with our money.  So here's the frugal things from this week:

* Celebrated New Years Eve and New Years Day at home; though I did attend our New Year Kick-off class at Jazzercise.  Everyone else stayed home!  We play games we already own, eat chocolate "fondue" (melted chocolate with fruit and other treats to dip), drink sparkling juice, and watch the ball drop in Times Square via television.  This year John brought home a giant bag of mixed type popcorn (plain, caramel and cheddar cheese flavored) to add to the mix.  New Year's Day I make Buttermilk Coffee Cake, a fruit salad and bacon and we watch the Rose Parade on television.

* We flew home from my parent's house on Friday the 29th and packed water bottles and snacks for the plane rather than purchasing them on board (the flight is too short to provide a meal).  We bring empty water bottles through security and then fill them up.

* We ate all meals at home this week.  We made two types of soup, potato fries, muffins, pancakes, pizza, and cooked crab legs at home this week. 

* I sewed John a birthday gift for his birthday this week and the children made John gifts at school in their art class.  He did ask for a specific small food gift, so we bought that as well.

* We watched several movies on line and one from the library.

* We read books from the library and one we borrowed from a friend, that the library did not have.

* We spent just under $100 in groceries at Sam's Club, stocking up on several things we were out of including canned diced tomatoes, peanut butter, bread flour and almonds.  My goal for the rest of the winter is to spend only a small fraction of our typical grocery budget each week and eat form our over-loaded freezers and the pantry. I'm planning on keeping you posted!

* I peeled, sliced and froze 8 mangoes we purchased for 80-cents each.  We will use these in smoothies, baking and to eat as snacks over the next few months.

* I froze leftover soup for later use.

* I wrote thank you notes using cards we already owned for the many and generous Christmas gifts from our congregation: candied almonds, two loaves of zucchini bread, Danish sausage, Swedish meatballs, a gift card to Applebee's restaurant, a gift card to A&W restaurant, a gift card to the local grocery store, many cookies and several donations to charity in our honor.  We've eaten the cookies, candied almonds, the sausage and the meatballs already.  The zucchini bread went into the freezer for later.

* I worked on embroidery for three wedding gifts and The Big Gift that I have been working on for a while (that one is almost complete - and I can't wait to share!).

* I mailed two birthday cards that I already owned to family members celebrating birthdays this month.

* I inventoried the freezers and made a basic menu plan through the end of March.  I'll add a few things as we go, but the bulk of that is done. I'm hoping to clean out the freezers before summer so we can purchase a quarter of beef or pork in the fall as well as store our typical garden produce.

* I used sour milk to make waffles for the freezer. 

* We attended our son's basketball game for entertainment this week.  No cost since parking and admission were free. Unfortunately they lost, but the game was good.

* While home this week, I did the ironing (I'm actually caught up - YAY!), scrubbed the walls in our daughter's bedroom in preparation for painting once the weather warms up, and sorted through a large amount of accumulated detritus in our entry and entry closet. 

This year I'm trying very hard to not purchase anything that isn't necessary.  As such, I only went to Sam's Club with a list and my husband and stopped at the grocery store once to purchase the small food gift for my husband for his birthday (the crab legs came from Sam's and he picked them out).  I'm hoping to only go to the store once this next week - for groceries and another errand on Saturday and then stay out of them the rest of the week. 

What did you do this week that would count as frugal?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Work, Home and Family - Two Sets of Specific Goals for 2018

These were a new addition to my garden this year - dwarf iris.  SO beautiful!

Over the tail end of 2017, John and I spent quite a bit of time on what we wanted to accomplish in 2018.  We came up with two areas to focus on:

FINANCES and FAMILY

Here's what we're hoping to accomplish in these two areas in 2018:

Family:  More deliberate time together and being intentional in being in touch with our extended family, including my husband's eight siblings.

Finances: To pay off two specific debts that we're starting this year with (something very unusual for us) and to complete a specific list of household repairs.

Breaking it down further, here's what we'd like these things to look like on a monthly basis in 2018:

* One evening per week spent as a family.  We used to do this regularly, but it's been sporadic for the last year or so and we've all missed it!  Time to get back to it!

* At least two dates per month for John and I.  While at home dates are great, we've realized that in this season of our lives, we need to actually leave our home and all the types of noise it offers in favor of someplace else.  These dates don't have to be fancy or expensive (a walk together would be just fine!), but they need to happen regularly.

* Talking on the phone - not via email, text, etc. - to our parents at least once per week and with at least one of John's siblings each week.  Visit in person at least four times this year. Both sets of our parents and all of John's siblings live out of state so four times per year is a do-able number for us without making our lives too hectic.

* Connecting with extended family through real letters, email, text or the internet at least once per week.  Visit with local extended family at least four times per year.  While we do have extended family in area, none are what you would call "close", taking at least 1 1/2 hour each way (most are 3 hours each way) in travel time to visit.  So, here again, four times per year makes this do-able for us.

* Track spending, using excess each month to pay off the debt.  According to our current plans, we should be able to knock one of these debts off with no problem. The other one is going to be tight - right now we're scheduled to pay it off in early 2019.  We'd like to pay that off too but it's going to take careful planning to do so!  We currently have few options for making extra money at the moment, so we need to be careful with what we have and use it as wisely as possible.

* Complete at least 2 household repairs or projects each month.  We have many repairs or necessary replacement purchases and projects for our yard and home we've put on hold since John went into Internship in May 2014.  We simply did not have the money or time to do these so we made do, mended, and went without.  Now that our finances and time have stabilized, we need to catch up!  

That's more than enough, don't you think? 

I do have a few other things I'd *like* to have happen this year, but being deliberate with my time and energy and the above goals should be more than enough to keep me busy.

I'm currently planning on taking the first Wednesday of the month to recap how we did on these the previous month.  Will you all please hold me accountable to this?

What are your goals for 2018?  If you'd like to share, I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

DELIBERATE

Deliberate

(Adjective): Done consciously and intentionally

Looking back over 2017, and quite frankly, since John started Seminary so many years ago, I've spent a lot of time living in a manner that left me feeling at loose ends.  I had to pick up a lot of things that John had to leave behind and drop a lot of things that meant a great deal to me - like my degree work (though I never dropped out, I had to take time off from the program).  In 2017, John settled into his First Call as a Pastor and our lives relaxed quite a bit on many, many fronts - schedules, finances, and family health (this last having nothing to do with John's Call).  We're now been more than a year into First Call and it's been wonderful - the congregation is everything we could ask for and more, we've established a routine, people have been gracious and kind, and we've been definitely blessed.
 
During this time I've allowed myself to heal, both physically and mentally. I still have PHN.  I still have a couple of other medical conditions that need to be kept in check.  I ramped up both my exercise and sleep as much as I am able and now I'm working on eating as well as possible within the limited budget we have and all the rising food prices this past year.  I am so grateful that I am feeling more energized and my health is more consistent, rather than the roller coaster it sometimes seemed to be.  I'm still often tired and sleep 10+ hours on more than one day a week but I'm getting to a point where I can sleep 7 1/2 hours (what my body appears to actually need when everything is right) all week and not be completely exhausted by Sunday.  After years of wondering if I'd ever be able to have a "normal" sleep schedule, this is a definite improvement!  I had dubbed 2017 "The Year of Taking Care of Me" and in many ways it was. 
 
The funny thing about resting though, is that you have plenty of time to think and ponder.  I realized that I've been drifting - living reactionary rather than intentionally - and this causes enormous stress to me.  My husband has always lived that way and doesn't see it as stressful but, for me, it is a huge cause for anxiety and worry and makes me feel very, very uneasy about both today and the future. 
 
That's a really long introduction to how I chose my word of the year for 2018.  I've never done this before - I've tried, but I wasn't clear about defining what my word actually meant so the word kind of fell away after a couple of weeks and life went back to mostly normal.  This year, I decided it's time for a real change.
 
My word for the year is DELIBERATE.  The adjective form: done consciously or intentionally.
 
My goal for the year 2018 is to be deliberate in the following areas:
* How I use my time - what I choose to do most moments of the day
* Building in margin into my day (I'm notoriously bad at that!)
* Spending time with both my immediate and extended family
* Managing and using our money
* In my teaching (this is something I'm pretty good at, but there's always room for improvement)
 
What does that mean for daily life?
* No more random Internet or Pinterest browsing - I can still look, but not just randomly for hours
* Planned time with my family and a few close friends
* Planned time for work, relaxation and my health
* Intentional work on what is truly important rather than procrastinating (something I'm quite good at currently)
 
This makes it sound like I am not going to doing anything spontaneous or fun this year - that's not true.  My goal is to make myself more aware of what I'm doing and how I'm spending my time rather than "wasting" time, randomly doing something that isn't necessary, or just plain procrastinating. For example: Our son asked me to help him build the new Lego set his received for Christmas, so I have built extra "free" time into my week this week to help with that.  In the past I would normally say "Sure" and then it would get pushed back until it never happened.  My son is thrilled and, frankly, so am I!
 
Along with this, John and I have some big plans for this year in two areas - finances and family.  Look for another post soon about these two areas.  We have other goals too that I may or may not share as time goes on, but these I am going to share these both for my accountability and for (hopefully) your encouragement.
 
Did you choose a word of the year or a phrase of the year?  If you did, I'd love to hear what yours is!
 
  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 31, 2017




HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Anyone else scratching their head and wondering where 2017 went?  I know, right?  I'm actually excited about a "fresh start", so to speak, with the new year.  Here's to a wonderful 2018!

We spent most of the last week of December out of state, visiting family and doing a lot of absolutely nothing after a very full fall.  It was glorious!   The photo up top is of my Dad's seafood chowder - scallops, shrimp and fish with a bevy of veggies - a Christmas tradition for us. Delicious!  I'm a wee bit jealous that Mom and Dad had leftovers for a day or two after we returned home.   It was wonderful to visit and we enjoyed "warm" weather. It was well over freezing where they live but much colder than normal for them, which led to us receiving several strange looks when we went to the grocery store in jeans and sweatshirts.  The day we left here it was -11F and we returned home to -11F as well (high of +2F today - heat wave!).  Brrrr!

John ran to the store after we returned home on Saturday evening and picked up a few groceries - fruit, milk, tortilla chips and a couple of yogurts plus toilet paper and a frozen pizza for dinner.  We were all exhausted from a full day of traveling and so we splurged a little on a frozen pizza eaten with salad and fruit.   We still have full freezers (almost absurdly so) and a full pantry (including canned venison from my cousin Diane), so we have no difficulty pulling together meals!  We also received a couple of meals from parishioners as a Christmas gift - a package of Danish pork sausage and a large package of homemade Swedish meatballs and gravy.  Both are on the menu this week.

Our big splurge this week is crab legs for John's birthday on Wednesday.  Seafood is usually on sale here for New Year's so, we purchase crab legs for John's birthday.  A favorite food that we rarely buy - either for at home cooking or eating out.  This is a huge part of his birthday gift, though he does get a few little things to unwrap as well.  We're all looking forward to that splurge on his birthday!

Here's what we're eating:

Sunday, December 31, 2017, New Year's Eve
    Breakfast:  Toast, Banana-Raspberry Smoothies
    Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Carrots and Celery
    Dinner: Danish Sausage, Sweet Potatoes, Corn
    Snack: Popcorn, Sparking Juice (New Year's Eve tradition)

Monday, January 1, 2018, New Year's Day
      Brunch: Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Bacon, Sliced Apples and Pears
      Snack: Popcorn
      Dinner: Swedish Meatballs and Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Sliced Apples and Pears
      Dessert: Christmas Cookies

Tuesday, January 2, 2018:
      Breakfast: Oatmeal with Dates and Pecans
      Lunch: Leftover Meatballs and Potatoes
      Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
      Dinner: Shredded Turkey Tacos with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Olives

Wednesday, January 3, 2018, John's Birthday:
     Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas
     Lunch: Leftover Tacos
     Snack: Red Velvet Cookies (John's Birthday 'cake')
     Dinner: Crab Legs, Corn on the Cob

Thursday, January 4, 2018:
     Breakfast: Gingerbread Pancakes, Triple Berry Jam
     Lunch: Leftover Tacos
     Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
     Dinner: Taco Soup, Tortilla Chips

Friday, January 5, 2018:
     Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Biscuits
     Lunch: Leftover Soup
     Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
     Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks

Saturday, January 6, 2018, Epiphany:
      Brunch: King Cake, Apple-Pear-Mandarin Orange Salad
      Snack: Soft Pretzels
      Dinner: Glazed Pork, Rice, Green Beans, Apple-Pear-Mandarin Orange Salad
      Dessert: Star-Shaped Ginger Cookies with sparkly icing

Come back tomorrow to see some of the plans I have for 2018!  We've got big ideas and dreams and I'll be sharing some of them with you here.

What are you eating this week?