Monday, April 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Breakfasts - Homemade banana bread, baked oatmeal, hashbrown patties, cinnamon toast, graham crackers, bananas, oranges, strawberries

Lunches - Homemade chili, homemade potato soup, tuna salad sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, deli meat sandwiches, homemade pizza, mac n cheese, leftovers, carrot sticks, bananas, oranges, strawberries

Dinners -
Monday: Oven-fried chicken, rice, glazed carrots
Tuesday: Shepherds pie from freezer, mashed potatoes, oranges
Wednesday: Brown sugar chicken, steamed broccoli, oranges
Thursday: Spaghetti, strawberries
Friday: Husband works at 5pm, dinner with parents?
Saturday: Breakfast for dinner

Re-purposing leftovers

Such a good dinner tonight!

We made oven-fried chicken. Rice. And glazed carrots. Even Alex gobbled up the oven-fried chicken, which shocked me! What's even better is I washed a few of the leftover carrots to get the glaze off, diced it up along with the one left over piece of chicken and then added it to leftover rice. I have lunch for Alex tomorrow - chicken "fried" rice.

I'm going to do a slight pantry challenge this week, as we have some pre-packaged food I want to get rid of. I've been avoiding purchasing a lot of pre-packaged food (like rice-a-roni and pasta-roni) because I'm trying to incorporate healthier, whole foods. I figure we'll just eat the remaining packages and then be done with them.

Oh. And meal planning didn't work out all that well for me this week. But, we'll give it another shot.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

3-Week Challenge Update

Well, we're on our way. I picked up 2 extra hours last Saturday and 4 extra hours yesterday. Plus $15 in returnables (bottles and cans)

Goal Amount = $540
Amount Remaining to Reach Our Goal = $210.83

(-) $17 in tips made last Saturday
(-) $80 in tips made yesterday
(-) $15 in returned deposits
Amount Needed to Reach Our Goal = $98.83

So, despite the fact that we are still shy of almost $100 to pay the bill, I will be sending the check today. My goal was to find unconventional ways to pay this bill (picking up extra hours at work, using rebate checks, cashing in our coins, recycling our cans & bottles) and I think I did a pretty good job. But, I'm pretty sure we are close to our 3-Week time limit and I would like to get the bill paid. Work has been VERY busy for my husband and he has been making enough extra money during his normally scheduled shifts so that we can afford to use that money to get the bill paid.

I'm glad we didn't have to turn to our savings account to pay it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tipster Tuesday - Don't Throw That Trash Out!

So, most of what filled Alex's Easter Basket this year, will be saved and re-used for next year. Including the grass.

No, we won't be re-gifting the books and flash cards over again. But, I am saving the plastic eggs that I filled with Junior Mints, as well as the cheapo toys that came filled with jelly beans and sour candies. We have lots of grass being that both Mike and I, as well as my parents gave Alex a basket. I imagine that some of the grass will get used throughout the year to stuff gift boxes, too.

But, rest assured... I will be hitting up the drug stores for their clearance items. Because yes, I am addicted to Holiday clearance sections.

Meal Plan Monday

Breakfasts - Any combination of the following: homemade banana bread, cinnamon toast, hashbrowns, graham crackers and fruit

Lunches - Anycombination of the following: tuna salad sandwiches, bbq pulled pork sandwiches, salami sandwiches, mac n cheese, homemade pepperoni pizza, bean soup, potato soup, carrot sticks, fruit

Dinner -
Monday: Pork Tenderloin, asparagus, potatoes
Tuesday: Bbq pulled pork sandwiches, glazed carrots, oranges
Wednesday: Crockpot brown sugar chicken, rice, broccoli
Thursday: Mushroom white pasta, oranges
Friday: Mini meatloaves from freezer, rice
Saturday: Chicken enchilada casserole, oranges
Sunday: Shepherds pie

Friday, April 10, 2009

3-Week Challenge Update

My husband typically works 5 days a week, but will often pick up a 6th day if someone asks him to work for them. So, yesterday would have put him at the 6 day mark and as a result I am going to be counting that as additional income... although I would usually just add that money into our "regular" mix.

So, I will be adding $120 into our 3-Week Challenge (he makes cash tips) and probably around an additional $40 that will be added to his pay check (although I will be waiting to add that exact amount because I can't remember how much he makes hourly and how much will be taken out for taxes, etc)

So as it stands...

3-Week Goal = $540
Amount that remains to reach our goal = $330.83

(-) $120 in additional tips my husband made yesterday
New Amount = $210.83

As soon as we get our paychecks I will figure out how much to add for his hourly pay. Plus, I will be picking up 2 additional hours at work on Saturday. Not a ton, but every little bit counts. So, as soon as I figure out how much I make I will be adding that in as well.

Getting there!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Organic on a budget?

So, one of my goals is to start incorporating more whole foods and organic foods. And less processed and pre-packaged foods. My dad recently had a very mild stroke and he has started eating and living a lot healthier. It has inspired me to do the same. It was definitely a wake-up call for the whole family.

As we all know, it's difficult to eat organically on a budget. Really difficult. Fortunately, the Kroger I shop at frequently often has organic markdowns. And I have also decided that it's worth it to me to add a little bit more to our grocery budget in order to get some organic food. Not all organic. But, some.

I came across this really helpful list. It gives a rundown of the fruits and vegetables that have the highest and lowest pesticide load. So, when I'm at the grocery store thinking about which fruits and veggies to buy organic, I refer to this list... knowing that it's ok to buy non-organic produce that has the lowest pesticide load.

Pesticide Load

Toddler Tip Thursday - When Wasting Water is Good!

So, I recently discovered this... have I been in the dark? Is this something all mothers know about? Where have I been?

Today I was able to clean the kitchen from top to bottom, all while my toddler hung out with me and played. The. Entire. Time. I put the sink on a low trickle, plugged it up and added a little dish soap. Throw in some plastic cups and a spoon, and you've got an hours worth of toddler fun!

I even got to scrub down the appliances and cupboards!

Now, normally I don't condone wasting water. Especially since I just posted about how I have been able to reduce our water bill by $50. But, I promised myself I would work even harder (is that possible?) to save more water to make up for what we went through today while Alex played.

It was great. My only problem is not having a sink in every room! Well, thats probably actually a good thing or we would be wasting tons of water. But, as you know you should never leave a small child unattended when playing in the sink. So, while my kitchen is sparkling, the rest of my house is still a mess.

You win some. You lose some.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tipster Tuesday

So, one thing I have been trying really hard to do, is re-purpose leftovers... as in, not just eating the same 'ol meal twice. But, instead taking the leftovers and turning them into something new and delicious :)

On Sunday I made this delicious roast. I used a 1.75# roast, so we had a big hunk leftover... and I turned it into a super easy Beef Stroganoff for dinner tonight.

Here's what used:
Leftover roast, diced into small pieces (less than 1#)
Can of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of diced onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
Pinch of thyme (mainly because my husband likes to add a pinch of thyme to EVERYTHING)
Olive oil

I sauteed up the onions in some olive oil. Then I added the garlic and the diced beef. I let it saute for a minute or so to heat the beef through then I added the can of soup and milk. I eyed the amount of milk to get it to the consistency I wanted for the sauce. Then I added a bunch of pepper (we like pepper), salt and thyme. Voila! If you let it simmer for a bit, it will thicken up (if you prefer i that way) or you can add more milk to thin it out before serving.

It was SOOO good. I am always proud of myself when I try to make something new and my husband likes it, because he can be quite the critic (he likes everything to be prepared the way his mom made it growing up). This dish was certainly a hit!

Anyways, my tip for today is to re-purpose your leftovers whenever possible. I took a roast that cost less than $4 and stretched it into two frugal meals. In addition to that, it makes meal planning easier! Next time we make a roast, I know that I can always use the leftovers to make stroganoff... it'll make another dinner a no-brainer.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Meal Plan Monday

Breakfasts, any combination of the following: homemade buttermilk banana bread, hashbrown patties, cinnamon toast, bagels, fruit

Lunches, any combination of the following: homemade pepperoni pizza, tuna salad, egg salad, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, pasta salad, deli meat sandwiches, fruit, leftovers


Monday - mini meatloaves from the freezer, mother-in-law's brown rice, strawberries
Tuesday - beef stroganoff (from Sunday's leftover roast), oranges
Wednesday - shepherd's pie, oranges
Thursday - something my husband will cook that is yet to be decided, asparagus
Friday - potato soup from freezer, rye bread, oranges
Saturday - brown sugar chicken in crockpot, green beans,
Sunday - easter dinner with grandparents

$3.50 Bras!

I have been desperate, I mean DESPERATE, for new bras. It's just so hard to shop for them when you have a toddler!

I came across this deal on Lane Bryant Catalog has a code for 50% and free shipping on orders $40 and over. Now, most of their stuff is not my style at all... but their bras are excellent deals if you're a big busted woman!

Check out the bras on clearance, some as low as $6.99... take an additional 50% off and you've got a bra for $3.50! I just got 5 bras for $30... can't beat that at Kohls!

Use code L04069 at http://

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Beef in the Crockpot

My husband often gets sick of eating chicken and ground beef at most meals, so I try hard to come up with frugal ways of serving beef. I do this by purchasing meat on sale, or on Manager's Markdown at Kroger. My mother-in-law taught me this recipe using a chuck roast, a fairly frugal cut of beef. I usually try and find the smallest cut, being that it's just my husband and I that will eat it. Or, if the cuts are on the larger side I will take them home and divide them into meal size portions.

Keep in mind this recipe is for 2 adults, but can be EASILY adjusted for more people.

1# of chuck roast
2 potatoes peeled and diced
1 small onion cut into chunks
3 carrots peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
2 cloves of garlic smashed or finely chopped
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Trim chunks of fat from roast. Put the cut potatoes, carrots and onions on the bottom of the pot. Plop the roast on top. Sprinkle Worcestershire sauce on the roast (about 6 shakes). Top roast with garlic, salt and pepper. Squeeze a layer of ketchup on top of the roast. Pour about a cup or more of water into the bottom of the pot. You could also use beef broth instead of water.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Note: I try not to make the chunks of potato too large for fear that they won't finish cooking in time (a tip from a woman in the grocery store). I personally haven't had issues with potatoes being undercooked, but she has and it has made me paranoid.

My husband LOVES this dish. He is really into comfort food.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saving on Utilities

We pay our water bill to the city quarterly (is this normal for most areas?). This last quarter I managed to shave off about $50 from our bill!

I simply paid close attention to the amount of water I was using to wash our dishes. Mainly making sure not to leave water running while I was scrubbing. I also started using a different setting on our dishwasher. I'm not sure if it uses less water but it certainly is washing our dishes faster than it used to. I have also been doing less laundry. I work very hard at re-folding clothes that aren't dirty. My husband has a tendency to wear clothes for only a few hours before he has to go to work each night, then tossing those perfectly clean clothes in the dirty laundry.

This summer I would really like to look into coming up with a rainfall collection barrel. We didn't water our lawn last year because we moved into our house too late in the summer and our lawn was already a field of dandelions. No point in watering the weeds! This year we have already been working hard to improve our lawn and make it gorgeous... but I don't want to spent a ton on watering our lawn and garden.

Unfortunately, the start-up costs for a rainfall collection system are higher that I'd like. And possibly a bit complicated for us... we're not handy people. But, it's something I've started researching and I would really like to have.

We'll see I suppose.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finding more money for the 3-Week Challenge

So, today I managed to find $59 more dollars to put towards our 3-Week $540 Challenge.

Mike's Grandma, a very generous woman, sends us $200 each month. Generally, all $200 is used to pay our car payment, although we technically only owe $161.00 each month. I just always pay the extra $39 to get ahead a little bit. So, I used the extra $39 to instead put towards our $540 Challenge.

Also, I randomly found $20 underneath the basement stairs! Gotta love it! I was TOTALLY tempted to use that money for more groceries, but I held strong and forced myself to find something to make from what we already have on hand... and dinner turned out just fine and more of all, Alex loved it.

So there. $59 more dollars!

Total Goal Amount = $540
(-) $146.17 in found change
(-) $4.00 SCR from Rite Aid
(-) $39 from Mike's Grandmother
(-) $20 found in the basement
New Total after all deductions= $330.83

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My 3-Week Challenge - Updated

A few months back, my husband took a trip to the emergency room and yesterday we received a bill for the portion that was not covered by our insurance... $540, yikes! Now, I could just write a check and take the money out of our savings account, but I have decided to challenge myself to come up with more creative ways rather than just taking it right out of savings. I figure 3 weeks is a good amount. The bill doesn't have a due date but I would like to pay it in a timely manner... treat it like a utility.

Some ideas I've come up with already:
-Cash in on our various piles of change around the house. I estimate this will be around $80
-Cash the Rite Aid rebate checks that have been sitting around the house - $14
-Return our bottles and cans - Estimated $7
-Ebay. We have a few giftcards we are unable to use, AMC and TGIFridays because we don't have any locations near us. Plus I might look into selling some of Alex's old baby stuff.
-Have a Pantry Challenge where I stay out of the grocery store for a week and instead put that $60 into this challenge
-Ideas? Obviously this isn't going to cut it but I hope to come up with new ideas as we go along.

Amount = $540.00

(-) Change collected around the house $146.17
(-) Rite Aid rebate check (could only find one) $4.00

Amount left til we reach our goal = $389.83