Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Menu Plan (not quite Monday)

A few repeat meals on this week's menu plan. Last week, Dave treated us to pizza out on Thursday, so the Garden Chowder got bumped to Friday, thus bumping homemade pizza to this Friday - makes sense right! And a big thumbs down to the Whole Foods Miso Soup in a carton. Not at all like the miso soup I remember enjoying at a Japanese restaurant a few years ago. Instead of the soup, we just had the whole wheat spaghetti, broccoli and shrimp. I'm still getting yucky shivers thinking about that soup!

Here's this week's meal plan

Saturday - Stew Beef with onions & gravy over organic hulled barley with steamed organic carrots

Sunday - Sloppy Joe's on whole wheat, organic sprouted buns with oven baked fries

Monday - Lentil Chili with homemade Corn Bread

Tuesday - Kale & Tomato Pasta Toss with organic salad mix (using recipe for Spinach Pasta Toss - subbing kale for spinach. You could also add in ground sausage or diced chicken but we're having it meatless this week)

Wednesday - Sue Gregg's Country Creole Peas n' Corn

Thursday - Sour Cream Chicken & Mushroom Pasta with steamed organic peas

Friday - Homemade Whole Wheat Veggie Pizza using Tammy's Easy Pizza dough

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Message of Hope

We certainly need more messages of hope these days!

Follow our Total Money Makeover journey

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Whole Foods Shopping

Ever have a week where the grocery budget seems to spiral out of control? I'm having one of those weeks! And that's without having gone to Harris Teeter's WEEK long triple coupon event. I bought some new items this week I normally don't purchase (grass fed beef and raw milk cheddar cheese). And a few splurges (popcorn for Dave and the kids and a kombucha for me). And two trips to the grocery store for milk this week. All together equals one blown budget!

As Dave always tells me, there's no use fretting over it. Just regroup and give it another go next week. Here's hoping for a less expensive outing next week!

Whole Foods:

1 box 365 brand organic microwave popcorn

1 Synergy Grape Kombucha (just had to try it!)

1 Pure Coconut Water

1 Nancy's 8oz cultured sour cream

16oz-365 brand unsalted hormone free butter

1 Annie's organic BBQ sauce

1-365 brand organic ketchup 24oz

5lb bag whole wheat flour

2 loaves whole wheat organic bread

1-365 brand organic mixed berry fruit spread

1-365 brand organic creamy peanut butter

1 Ezekiel's organic sprouted buns 6ct

1 Applegate Farms uncured bacon

2.5lb bag frozen chicken breasts

1 frozen organic peas

1 frozen organic corn

1lb organic rolled oats (bulk)

1 can organic coconut milk

3 cans organic tomato sauce

1 canned pumpkin

3 cans organic diced tomatoes

1 can organic tomato paste

1 container raw wild flower honey (local)

1/2lb dried organic black-eyed peas (bulk)

3lb bag sweet onions

1lb organic green bell peppers

3lb bag organic gala apples

2lb bag organic carrots

1 bunch organic Dino kale

18ct large brown eggs (local)

Total spent: $96.60

Earth Fare $25.80 (1lb grass fed, local beef, 4 bags frozen fruit, 1 brick raw milk cheddar cheese), Kroger $35.05 (organic milk and diapers), ALDI $10.12 (apple juice and white vinegar for cleaning), Harris Teeter $18.50 (more milk!)

Total spent: $186.07

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Green Clean

For the last week, a nagging earache has resulted in all but the basic homecaring tasks being put to the back burner. Needlessly to say, some areas like the upstairs bathroom are now in serious need of attention. Not to mention the mountains of laundry that need to be put away.

A new-to-me blog find, Down to Earth, offers a guide for Green Cleaning the Bathroom. I've got my rags, vinegar, baking soda and elbow grease ready to tackle this feat! I would take before and after pics, but (1) the before would be highly embarrassing and (2) the camera battery is dead :)

More this Old House drama - Now on top of the broken dishwasher and the owl taking residence in the side of the house, the heat stop working! In my non-expert analysis, it seems like it might just be the thermostat (it's blowing cold air while the heat is on). But it will be a few days before we can get someone out to look at the unit. The house is not too terribly cold during the day, but the mornings are still brisk. I think I need a Snuggie LOL!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Missing A Friend

It's pretty gloomy out today and that fits the mood of our hearts around the office. We learned this morning that a dear friend and former colleague passed away yesterday afternoon. I worked with her for about three years. In fact, when I returned from maternity leave after having Ashleigh, I stepped into her position as she retired. She was funny and enjoyed life. And was the wise Mother Hen that looked over us in the department. For two years, she fought Stage 4, inoperable lung cancer. I can imagine those words hit like a ton of bricks when she was first diagnosed. But she didn't let it stop her, didn't let those frightening words get her down. She embraced life as she always had, even taking that Alaskan cruise with her husband she dreamed about before she retired. We're glad her suffering is over, but our hearts are very heavy today. She'll be greatly missed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - March 23rd

As I mentioned in my Whole Foods post, some of the items of my grocery list would be playing "double duty" in this week's menu. Which means I'm taking some items and stretching them into two meals. Just a small and simple way to make the most out of those hard earned grocery dollars!

For dinner this week...

Saturday - Red Beans & Brown Rice with pork andouille sausage (using 1/2lb of the sausage)

Night Before Prep - soaked dried, organic black-eyed peas
Sunday - The Nourishing Gourmet's White Bean and Kale Pasta with Smokey Bacon (using 1/2 bunch of kale)

*Instead of white beans, I used black-eyed peas since I already had those on hand!

Monday - Shrimp Scampi over whole grain spaghetti (using a portion of the bag of frozen shrimp)

Tuesday - Kale & Tomato Pasta Toss (using the remaining kale and 1/2lb of pork andouille sausage)

Wednesday - Miso Soup with Shrimp, Broccoli & whole grain spaghetti (using the remaining frozen shrimp)

Thursday - Garden Chowder

Friday - Homemade Whole Wheat Veggie Pizza using Tammy's Easy Pizza dough

Menu Plan Monday is hosted by Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Whole Foods Shopping

I'm starting to get in the rhythm of making the most of a limited budget while shopping at Whole Foods. Not so much sticker shock anymore! I'll share my tips in a future post, but you'll find it's probably things you're already doing.

Whole Foods

2 loaves organic whole wheat bread

1 bag organic russet potatoes

2lb bag organic sucanat

1 Lakewood organic pure lemon juice

1-32oz 365 brand organic miso soup (was initially looking for miso paste, but settled for boxed instead - maybe homemade miso soup next time!)

1 can 365 brand organic tomato sauce

2 cans 365 brand organic diced tomatoes

2 cans 365 brand organic dark red kidney beans

1 bag frozen organic blueberries

1 bag frozen organic green peas

1 bag frozen shrimp 41ct

1lb fresh pork andouille sausage

1lb Applegate Farms Uncured bacon

1lb organic bananas

3lb organic broccoli bunch

1 bunch organic dino kale

2lb organic rolled oats (bulk bin)

1/2lb organic raisins (bulk bin)

1 bunch organic green onions

Total spent: $72.16

Other shopping - Earth Fare $24.19 (organic milk & eggs), ALDI $8.51 (apple juice)

Total spent: $104.86

Check back for my menu plan post to see how some the items from Whole Foods are doing double duty this week!

Super Saving Saturday is hosted by Money Saving Mom

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting Our Greens

We got a green start to St. Patrick's Day with this delicious green smoothie! For the liquid, I used the Nourishing Gourmet's coconut milk tonic. And then blended in a banana and some frozen peach slices. The kids got a kick out of having a green colored smoothie and were none the wiser of its nutritious green (spinach) contents!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Late getting this posted, but here's our menu for the week!

Night Before Prep - soak organic black beans
Saturday - Cheese Quesadillas (whole wheat tortillas) with Black Beans, Brown Rice & Corn on the side

Night Before Prep - soak organic hulled barley
Sunday - Barley Soup with Beef & Mushrooms

Monday - Lentil chili (I haven't gotten into the habit of soaking/sprouting lentils yet. Part of my love for them is being able to quickly rinse and cook)

Night Before Prep - dice organic potatoes and onions
Tuesday - Crockpot Potato Chowder & homemade cornbread

Wednesday - Cheeseburger Casserole (using ground chicken)

Thursday - Turkeyburger Soup (using ground chicken)

Friday - Salmon Patties (using my Momma's recipe!) with salmon, scrambled eggs, diced onions over brown rice

Menu Plan Monday is being hosted by Erin at $5 Dinners this week!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Warming Scents

Last week's warm and pleasant weather, has taken a turn towards cold and rainy. While the outside maybe gray, the inside is being warmed by the scent of homemade chicken broth on the stove.

For homemade broth - Keeper of the Home: Homemade Soup Broth

Friday, March 13, 2009

Telling Ourselves No

At the beginning of February, we finally kicked our last debt (excluding our mortgage) to the curb and began Baby Step 3 of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover! Our goal for Baby Step 3 is to build up an emergency fund in the range of 3-6 months of our expenses. In light of the current economic conditions, I can't think of a better step towards financial peace.

What we are learning in this step is how to tell ourselves as Dave Ramsey jokes, the ancient word that is hardly used these days, NO! Just as we paid off our last debt, our dishwasher died. Using the emergency fund was out of the question since we both agreed it wasn't a true emergency. But we did go back and forth for a few days about whether or not we should use our anticipated February snowball towards buying a new dishwasher. That would mean of course delaying the start of Baby Step 3. When we (actually Dave came to this conclusion quickly, it took me some weeks of whining about not having a working dishwasher to come to this conclusion) compared having a fancy, new dishwasher to building up our emergency fund, which would keep us in our home, food on the table and lights and heat on in the event of job loss or other emergency, there was just no question the dishwasher would have to wait!

Our latest challenge has us currently weighing getting needed exterior repairs done to the house or waiting until our savings is fully funded. The exterior of our 30+ year old house is starting to look shabby - but without the chic! A small owl has even taken residence in a bird hole in the side of the house (I think it's kind of cute in a way, Dave is not so amused!). We've been quoted a great price that might not be available later in the year as business picks up. And I love the idea of using a small company based in town, which uses crew guys from surrounding neighborhoods and frequents local businesses for supplies. BUT...can we really afford to delay building up our emergency fund?

Get Your Finances In Line in 2009 Monthly Check Up - Money Saving Mom

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thrifty Find

For awhile now, my closet has been lacking what most consider to be a basic essential - a pair of nice, black dress pants. So imagine my joy when on a recent lunch time outing to Goodwill I spotted a pair of size 2 New York & Company stretch black dress pants! With tags still on!

Retail price $39.50. Goodwill price $3.39 - a perfect fit for our $25 monthly clothing budget!

Thankfully my mother is a very gifted seamstress and kindly took up a little bit in the waist and a few inches off the legs. Thanks Ma!

My Tips for Thrifty Shopping

1. Thrift store shopping is sort of like a treasure hunt. Some days you'll come home with great gems. Other days, you'll leave empty handed because somebody got to the treasure first! I go into my thrift store outings hopeful of finding treasure but expecting nothing!

2. Location, location, location! I tend to frequent the thrift shops located near shall we say "expensive" neighborhoods. I just seem to have more luck finding name brand items at those locations than others.

3. Right on Target! In our area, you can often find NEW items, with tags still attached from Target at Goodwill. I'm not sure if Target donates or sells these items to Goodwill. But the thrift store price beats even the Target clearance price.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Child's Play

Reedy and Ashleigh getting a ride from Clayton in the same Radio Flyer Town & Country wagon I played in as a little girl.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How Far Can I Stretch?

Sweet Jenn from Blogging God and Me, was so kind to send me a copy of the book, Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom. In addition to using coupons to save for her own family, Stephanie Nelson (the Coupon Mom), also uses coupons as a way to donate much needed items to charities.

A moment of inspiration! Even though my own couponing has changed since we've begun incorporating more organic foods into our diet, what if I used my couponing knowledge to help others. So this month, I'm going to see how far I can stretch the $20 in my charity cash envelope by combining coupons with sales. I'll let you know the results of my charitable experiment at the end of the month!

The Coupon Mom

Cut Out Hunger Program

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Did I?!?

Did I just turn down 4 tickets to this Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway? Site of Kyle Busch's first win with the #18 team in 2008? Where he led a race high 173 laps and gave Toyota it's first win in NASCAR's top division?!?

Okay Mary Ellen, breathe. Think Dave Ramsey, think financial peace, think weird. Live like no one else, so later you get to live like no one else.

My Latest Frugal Experiment

Behold! My latest venture into frugality - a compost bin using an old storage container! We have enough yard space for a traditional compost pile, but I thought it would be best to start on a really small scale. I found directions for this "urban compost bin" at You Grow Girl. I guess I'm a bit of an impatient composter. Every time I add something, I slowly open the bin eagerly expecting to see some rich, earthy matter. But alas, it takes time - weeks according to the directions. So I wait and make sure everything is nice and moist, which has been a challenge with our cold weather lately. I'm also learning about acceptable "browns" and "greens" with the help of Compost This.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - March 2nd

Our meals for the week

Saturday - My Brother's Wedding!

Sunday - Vegetarian Split Pea Soup with 100% whole wheat, Artisan bread

Monday - Cheeseburger Casserole (using ground chicken)

Tuesday - Lentil Chili & homemade Corn Bread

Wednesday - Autumn Chowder

Thursday - Chicken Meatballs with Teriyaki & Pineapple Sauce, organic brown rice & steamed veggies

Friday - Homemade Veggie Pizza

Menu Plan Monday is hosted by Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Grocery Totals

Where our grocery money went for the week

Whole Foods
2 green organic bell peppers
1.6lb organic yukon gold potatoes
1 organic red bell pepper
3lb bag organic braeburn apples
2 cans 365 organic diced tomatoes
1 can 365 organic tomato sauce
1lb organic raisins (bulk bin)
2lb organic rolled oats (bulk bin)
1lb organic yellow corn meal (bulk bin)
1 bag frozen organic sweet corn

Total oop: $26.63

Lowes Foods
2-3lb bags PAWS dry cat food --- sale BOGO
1 Hefty kitchen trash bags --- sale 4.99 - 1/1 Q
2 BV bath tissue 4pk
2 Smart Balance oil --- sale 2.50 ea - 1/1 Q
1 Nature's Pride Whole Wheat bread (no HFCS) --- sale 1.39 - .55/1Q doubled

Total oop: $13.57
Total savings: $11.76

Harris Teeter (sales from last Monday; nothing purchased for the current sales week)
1 Glass Plus --- sale 1.39 - .50/1 Q doubled
1 Spectrum organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar --- sale 2.99
3 Mueller's Multi-grain rotini --- sale 1.00 ea - .55/1Q DND
5 Old Orchard Berry Blend juices --- sale B2G3F
2 Colgate toothpaste --- FREE! sale 1.50 ea - .75/1Q doubled
2pk Angus stew meat --- sale BOGO
3 gallons HT organic milk

Total oop: $33.11
Total savings: $27.20

Costco for shredded cheese and a box of Huggies Pull-Ups (total oop: $42.65). Also took the time at Costco to write down their prices for some organic foods for my price list.

Total spent: $115.96
Total sales & coupon savings: $38.96