Archive for the ‘cooking’ category

Coming Home

October 10, 2008

I posted this on my Fresh Choices Daily food blog.  But, I thought I’d post it here, too, for anyone who doesn’t go to that one.

Frugal Friday- Coming Home

Lately, you can’t go a day without hearing about the economy.  I can hardly watch the news because it can be so depressing.  But, because I’m an optimist, today let’s take a look at the brighter side of life!

We live in a fast paced world.  Usually, both parents are working and the kids are involved in sports and clubs or even working just to pay for gas to get to school or activities.  Then, adults go out for dinner and drinks with friends, kids are hanging out with friends.  It seems that when one family member comes home, another is about to leave.

But, with the economy heading in the wrong direction, people are starting to head in the right direction.  They are going home!  Families can’t afford to go out for dinner all the time.  So, we are cooking and eating at home.  The reasons why this is a great thing are unmeasurable.  Home cooking is much healthier.  Therefore, we are feeling better- both physically and mentally.  And, we all know that restaurants aren’t usually the quietest places for lots of conversation.  So, now we have more opportunities to share with each other.  We are spending time around the dinner table- eating a great meal, talking, and laughing.  That’s the stuff great memories are made of! 

Still having restaurant withdrawals?  Well, that brings me to my Frugal Friday tip!  One night a week, let someone in the family pick a restaurant.  Then, get their menu- they can usually be found in the phone book or on-line.  Pick an item off the menu and have it for dinner!  You can have as much fun with it as you want- or have time for.  Create little menu’s, have someone “play waitress’, (even better- have one of the kids “play dishwasher”!).  If you’re really ambitious, you can even go on-line and try to find the “secret recipe’s” for your restaurant of the day.  I know I’m always looking for something new for dinner.  This just might be a great way to add some fun to dining in!

Saving Over $120 a Month- And Counting!

September 10, 2008

     The economy has been on the minds of many Americans lately.  Either it comes up in campaign speeches and television ads or it hits closer to home with many families feeling the pinch.  Because I am one of those feeling the pinch, I got to thinking about what I have been doing to compensate for the change in lifestyle for our family.  And, then I started wondering what others are doing to help during this time of economic struggle.  Maybe someone else has done something that I can do to save a few dollars here or there.  And, maybe something I’ve done could help someone else.  So, here are my ideas.  Please share yours, too.  And, hopefully, together we’ll all get through it!

     I took a look at every bill I pay each month.  There were some things I really didn’t need- one organization I paid fees for that I had never used.  So, that got cancelled and saved $10 a month.  Then, netflix had to go.  Thank goodness we have a wonderful library that has anything i ever wanted!  That was another $10 a month.  Yesterday, I found a car insurance company that was $30 less a month for the same coverage I had before.  So, yes, I must say, I switched to Geico! 

     In April, I got a new car.  Although that sounds like spending instead of saving, I actually broke even.  Because I drive so much, gas and my new car payment is actually the same- or less- than what I was paying in gas every month.  So, I got a better car that will eventually save me a ton of money!  When I have an errand to run close by, I really try to walk or ride my bike.  Of course, as it gets colder that will change because I hate being outside in cold weather!  But, for now, it gives me some exercise and saves on gas.

     Lately, I have been making a huge effort to make a menu and shopping list for the week.  This saves me money and also keeps me from having to think at the end of the day!  The hardest thing to do for dinner at night is decide what to make.  So, this works well in several ways.  I’ve been able to stay under our $30 a week budget and make some tasty, well balanced meals! 

     We don’t go out to eat now.  We joined the $5 club at the theatre.  But, we very rarely go.  There’s always fun things to on weekends during the summer that are free.  When winter comes, we’ll probably have to work a little harder to find things.  But, I know they’re out there.  So, I cut out our $18 a week entertainment budget.

     On the homeschool front, I’ve had some luck- I call it God!  A friend has a daughter about the same age as my ds.  So, we’ve combined some classes, shared some curriculum, and been able to save money.  I also have some other people in my homeschool group that I am swapping curriculum back and forth with.  I think this is a great thing for homeschoolers to do- either as part of a homeschool group project or just as individual homeschoolers that know each other.  It can get expensive and most people use it and then it sits on a shelf or in a box and collects dust.  I’d rather see someone else get some use out of it.

     On the good side, evaluating how we spend our money has made me become much more aware of where it’s all going.  I have always thought of us as very frugal.  But, now that we are forced to live on my income alone- and are still eating with a roof over our head- I see that we could really save a lot of money away when my husband does find a job.  So, hopefully, this will all be good for us in the long run.

     I’m sure there are other things.  But, those are the main ones off the top of my head.  What have you done?  What are you planning to do?  How has the economy effected you?  Let me know your thoughts!

Goal Confession

March 11, 2008

After almost 4 weeks of doing very well with my goals- only a few minor slipups- I have to confess, last week I achieved none of my goals- past or current.  Instead, I did everything I could think of to get rid of a headache/ migraine/ weird spacy feeling that I’ve been suffering from for about 2 1/2 weeks.  So, that included drive-thru’s for pop, laying in bed instead of riding my bike.  Cooking and eating dinner at the table- what’s that?  I did do game night at church and I played games with my son and nephew.  So, iI guess I accomplished one goal.  As for the envelope thing, I was never able to get to the bank to get the cash  to fill them last week so that didn’t get done either.  On a good note, my dh told me several times that I really need to keep up with that so it doesn’t fall by the wayside.  I take that as a good sign that he has accepted the system!  On the other hand, he hasn’t accepted it enough to actually go to the bank to get the cash and fill the envelopes!  But, to quote Dave Ramsey, “Baby Steps!”.

So, today was a good day.  No headaches!  I went to the health store yesterday and got something new.  I’m not sure if it’s helping or if my migraine thought it had tormented me long enough.  But, either way, I’ll take it!  Ironicaly, yesterday I finally had enough and scheduled a massage for today.  (my splurge from our tax check)  So, even though my headache was gone, I enjoyed some pampering.  Actually, she put some things back inplace and it wasn’t all relaxing.  But, it was definitely wonderful!

This week, I will do my best to accomplish my previous goals and work on my new ones.  So, here is the list of old and new-

1) Use the envelopes

2) No caffeine (except for when I was suffering from my migrane yesterday)

3) No drive- thru’s (except for migraine)

4) 18 minutes on the bike at least 3 times- usually more

5) Play a game with family

6) Try the yoga DVD I just renewed from the library without even looking at the first week I borrowed it

7) Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day (this seems to be harder than it looks)

Ok.  I’m going to stop there.  Wish me luck!

Food Blog

February 18, 2008

Awhile back, I announced I was going to be starting a food blog for the company I work for.  Well, after months of waiting for our home site to get introduced, it’s finally getting started! 

I’m very excited to be writing for it and I really want it to be a success.  But, as you all know, it takes awhile to start building up blog readers and even longer to build up readers who comment.  Since at this point, my success will be based on the feedback I recieve, I would love it if you would all check out my other site and let me know your thoughts!  I would love to hear your ideas on what you think would be a good topic, comments on the ones I’ve already writtien, etc.  Here’s the link!  http://alslakeshore.wordpress.com/

Thanks!

Taco Bake

February 8, 2008

I just finished dinner- taco bake.  It was really good!  As I promised YFS, here is the recipe. http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=157947

I changed it a little.  I’m not a huge onion and pepper fan.  So, I substituted 1 of the tomato sauce cans with salsa instead- just enough pepper and onion for me.  I also used refried beans instead of pinto beans.  I had sour cream and tortilla chips on the table for anyone who wanted to top to their own taste.

Taco Bake-Weight Watchers Recipe

Poultry  Dinner 
Submitted by STACIARN01

Ingredients

 

1 lb lean ground turkey
1/2cup diced onion
1/2cup diced red/green pepper
1 8oz package Red Fat cresent rolls
1 can pinto beans,drained
1 pkt taco seasoning (red sodium)
2-8oz cans tomato sauce
1 cup fat free cheddar cheese

 

Directions

Preheat oven 375 deg
Brown Turkey,onion,pepper,drain
spray 9×13″ baking dish w/cooking spray.Unrol Cresent rolls.Pinch together to make crust.Bake for 6 min.
Add tomato sauce,beans,and taco seasoning to beef:mix thoroughly. Top crust with meat mixture and bake an additional 10min. Top with cheese and bake an addtional 5 minutes.
Yum!!! Makes 8 servings…….5pts each

Number of Servings: 8

Recipe submitted by SparkPeople user STACIARN01.
Number of Servings- 8

February 5, 2008

I just finished dinner and I have a little time to write before my dh gets impatient and wants to play his game on the laptop.

So, let me share the good news!  We have all – including dh- sat at the table for dinner two nights in a row!  I’m 2/3 on my way to achieving that goal this week and it’s only Tuesday! 

On the other hand, my exercising is not going as well.  By the time I get home, make dinner, sit down at the table and eat (yay!) and then go over any school work with my son, there is no time left to exercise.  Where do people fit this all in?  My only option seems to be to do it first thing in the morning.  So, maybe I will try that.

So, some of you have asked about my grocery shopping.  I have to admit that I get a strange joy out of spending as little as possible to get real food to make real dinners.  So, spending $20 is about usual- if not more than lately.  Alot of times, I have meat in the freezer from a good sale.  And, I had bought a lot of cans of fruits and vegetables when they were on sale.  But, here is what I bought on $20.  

whole chicken- frozen

cream cheese block

shredded cheese

pot pies- the only easy, processed food for the week

refrig crescent roll tube

2 lbs ground turkey- well, I compromised with my dh and got 1 turkey and 1 ground beef to mix together

tortillas

salsa

lunchmeat variety pack- turkey and ham

salad mix

pretzels

One thing that helps is to plan on using leftovers.  For instance, yesterday I cooked a whole chicken in the crock pot and then today I used the rest of the chicken to make my chicken burritos- which were very good!  (here’s the link to the site I found the recipe on http://momadvice.com/food/aldi_meal_plan4.aspx )  My family goes in spurts with eating leftovers.  So, since I hate throwing food away, it’s much better if I can find another way to use them up.

The taco bake recipe I am going to use is one I found online, but have not tried yet.  http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=157947 I’ll let you know Thursday.

The envelope system seems to be getting easier.  I am realizing that each week should get easier because some of the envelopes accumulate each week.  So, the first week is probably the worst because there was nothing to start with except what I put in there Friday.  My dh called me today to ask which envelope to take money out of for something.  That, I feel was a step in the right direction rather than just using the bank card to get it.  As Dave Ramsey’s book says- baby steps!

Living the Simple Life- Not Starting Out So Simple

February 3, 2008

     Inspired by several people close to me, I have started a process to make my life more simple and therefore, better.  Living in the busy chaos of life in these times seems to be unfulfilling at times.  So, maybe by going back to the way things used to be before my time- simple and focused- I can become more focused on the things I enjoy and have more time to spend with those I love.

     The first goal I had was to create a better budget system.  I used to do the envelope thing and I lovrd it.  Pretty much, at each payday, money gets put in each envelope which is designated for a certain thing- groceries, gas, entertainment, etc.- and then, when it’s gone for the week, it’s gone.  I loved this system because after the initial planning and aside from the weekly “stuffing the envelopes”, there is no thnking involved.  I know how much was spent or not spent and I know where the money goes each week.  Unfortunately, my dh didn’t really get into this system when I tried it after we got married.  But, thanks to his friends recommending it to him and the book by Dave Ramsey, My Total Money Makeover, we are trying it again.  This is week one.  We started Friday with my paycheck and the begining of the month.  it seemed to be the perfect time.  The only problem was my dh was having pizza cravings and cheap pizza just wouldn’t do.  So, $30 later, he had pizza- from a place he loves and I don’t like- and our envelopes were already off.  Trying to relax and understand this is going to be a hard thing to get used to, I wasn’t very successful at.  But, by later that evening, I had refigured the weekly envelopes to add up.  We’ll see how the rest of the week goes!

I just spent $20 on groceries for the week- $10 less than our budget due to the pizza.  When I make out a menu and really plan the list, I’m amazed that I can have well balanced, good meals every day for very little money.  When I don’t plan ahead, it’s amazing how much I spend on the junk I end up buying!  This week we are having chicken in the crock pot, burritos, spaghetti, pot pies, and taco bake casserole. 

The next project for the day is what I am sitting here writing to procrastinate for.  My cousing had the idea to eliminate so much laundry and clutter by limiting the amount of clothing for everyone in the house.  I am not that brave since I have to go to work every day and need to wear different clothes.  Also, I am not worried about the amount of laundry I contribute.  My son on the other hand has two very bad habits.  The first is that he would rather put clean clothes back in the laundry than folding them and putting them away.  This is one of my biggest pet peaves!  The second is that whenever he gets something out to wear, he gets every single thing out of his drawers!  I mean everything!  And, then it all gets thrown in a pile on the floor where it stays until we have to yell at him to clean his room.  So, by giving him only a fewn options of clothing, there will be a smaller pile on his floor and he will be forced to put it away or else have nothing to wear!  I am hoping this works!

My other project for the day is to update my son’s school work.  Usually this time of year, I am not in charge of his school.  But, due to my dh having heart surgery, he has not been keepng up with it.  So, today I am going to make sure things are on track and plan for this week of school.  It will be a review week- which we have periodically to make sure he is retaining the information.  Also, at the begining of the year I created our book of goals for the year and I really need to start checking them off.  I know some of them have been accomplished and others should have been accomplished and I really need to regain my focus on his studies.  Pretty soon, it will be springtime and school will not be as easy then- too many distractions!

Focusing on taking better care of myself is on the list.  But, as most of you mom’s know, it usually doesn’t ever make it to the top of the list.  I hear people always saying you should take time out for yourself.  But, what do I take that time out of?  I get up and go to work early.  No high maintenance or prep time for me, it’s usually the get up and go look.  So, doing anything in the morning only takes time out of sleeping.  Does that sound like a good idea?  I’m thinking no.  But, then there’s the evening when I get home.  Ok.  I admit it.  I’m lucky to get dinner made before I colapse for the night!  But, I guess that seems to be my only option.  But, it just seems that since I come home so tired, I am setting myself up to fail by planning to excercise then.  But, I’ll keep you posted.   

I had thought several weeks ago about having weekly goals to accomplish.  Two weeks ago, they were to eat at the table more and to play games more as a family- or at least with my son.  I’m making an effort on both of these but fell a little short this week and didn’t make any new ones for last week.  This upcoming week here are my goals.  Although they sound easy, sometimes, they are not easy in my world.

Goal 1- excercise 3 times this week

Goal 2- keep up with schoolwork checking

Goal 3- continue the first goals- dinner time 3 times a week and game time at least once

So, I believe these are all good things- things to make life easier.  But, getting them started- making myself do them- sometimes seems to be a hurdle I’m not too sure about!