Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend Grocery Shopping $25.85

I didn't have a lot of time to shop this weekend so none of the deals were totally awesome, but I did have a balance in my "wallet" at Top Foods so I actually only spent about $20.
What I got:
Big can of formula ($7.00 instead of $20)
5 apples
5 oranges
8 bananas
2 heads of lettuce
1 pound of ground turkey ($.99)
2 packages of turkey hotdogs
3 dozen eggs
I'll post my month'o'meals tomorrow as that's the offical start to Pantry Challenge 2011!
Do you like how I bold that? I like the extra emphasis, like it's as exciting an event to you readers as it is to me. If you decide to challenge yourself, too, I'd love to hear about what you find in your pantry and what kind of crazy meals you come up.
Be back tomorrow,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday Project - Business Bookkeeping 2010

Bookkeeping may not sound exciting to you, but I am so relieved to be all caught up!

I spent the better parts of Thursday and Friday this week doing five months of bookkeeping for our at-home business and 'closing the books' on 2010. Now I'm ready to file the business tax return. I still have to prepare forms W-2, W-3, and 944 (all related to payroll), but those are all quick and I can do them in about half hour now that all the bookkeeping is finished. I am hoping to get everything wrapped up this weekend.
BTW, It is not a coincidence that DD#4 was born four and a half months ago.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Pantry Challenge 2011!

Every year I have a grocery shopping heyday in November and December. The prices are amazing and I can't resist stocking up. Last year I looked at my pantry in January and decided to have a Pantry Challenge! The idea is to shop as little as possible and use what you've already got on hand. This is what my pantry and freezer looked like at the start of Pantry Challenge 2010!

I know, ridiculous amounts of food! I was able to shop sparingly and by the end of April I had completely cleaned out and defrosted my extra freezer and the pantry was reduced to 2 shelves instead of 3.
This year, as I begin the Pantry Challenge 2011!, my freezer and pantry look like this:

Clearly I need to defrost the freezer! I am also proud to report that there is much less food in both the pantry and the freezer as I begin this year's challenge.

Goals for Pantry Challenge 2011! include:
1. For the month of February spend $20/week at the most on groceries for perishable items only. Save the other $30/week for bulk buying later in the year.
2. For the month of February plan out the whole month of meals so I can limit my trips to the grocery store.
3. Review dates of food in the freezer and pantry and identify every item.
4. Plan the month of meals to include the oldest items first.

For me, a grocery stockpiler, it has been a good practice to review dates periodically to make sure nothing goes to waste. If your pantry or freezer is also well-stocked or just has some old and/weird items hanging out, consider joining me in this challenge and use up those items!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Staple-less Stapler - Green and Frugal

Can I just start by saying that The Container Store is one of my very favorite places? Of course I can! They just come up with the coolest stuff EVER including this green and frugal idea: A Stapler that doesn't use staples!
You save cash because you don't have to buy staples, but the cooler part is that you aren't sending a bunch of staples to a landfill. And it's only seven bucks.

DH gave me one of these in white for Christmas and so far I've been impressed. A tab is punched through the pages, folded over, and tucked through slits. You can see the tab cut-out on the red paper in the above photo.
In a test designed for this blog 2 pages 'stapled' together survived a fall off the desk, but not a hearty flinging by my 5 year old.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meal Swap - Chicken Artichoke Heart Pasta

Monday night was the monthly meal swap. I have made this dish, Baked Artichoke Pasta, before and posted about it here. I usually add chicken and DH suggested I rechristen it with a less boring title. He suggests "Chicken Artichasta!" I think it's a little too weird. Any suggestions from you readers about what to call it? Ingredients are listed below the photo.

There were a few variations this time, because the cost of ingredients changed and I made a lot more.

Here's the cost breakdown:
6#ish chicken = $11.00 ish
2 costco jars artichoke hearts = $17.18
9ish cups parmesan = $5.45
1 1/2 cups pine nuts = $4.00 ish
4 cups light mayo = $1.50
8t. garlic = $.30
bread crumbs = made from free bread

Total cost = $39.50/12 pans = about $3.30 per meal which works out to just about the same price as last time.

And these are the meals I received in the swap: White Chicken Chili, Ham/Bean Soup, Chicken Barley Soup, Creamy Chicken casserole, Chicken casserole with stuffing on top, Pulled Pork, America's Test Kitchen Meatloaf, & Ham Quiche.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

FREE Book: Dads and Daughters by Dobson

I saw this deal on the Thrifty NW Mom blog and wanted to pass it along.

James Dobson's new show, Family Talk, is giving away copies of the book, Dads and Daughters. Here's a direct link to their site where you can sign up for your copy.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Menu Plan

We were out of town for 8 days and just got in yesterday so the groceries are sparse. I am so happy the meal swap is tonight so I'll have lots of yummy options to feed my family this week!

Monday - quesadilla
Tuesday - chicken nuggets
Wednesday - macaroni & cheese
Thursday - leftovers
Friday - meat/cheese/crackers/fruit

Monday - Artichoke Chicken Pasta (making for meal swap)
Tuesday - hamburgers
Wednesday - Freezer meal (non-chicken)
Thursday - Chicken Tetrazinni (freezer meal)
Friday - Turkey dinner (one of four still in the freezer from Thanksgiving)
Saturday - Freezer meal (I'll be away from home)
Sunday - Freezer meal or leftovers (I'll be away from home)

I know this is probably a boring post to read, but it's easy for me to write and my life is so much easier when I plan out our meals in advance. If you don't meal plan, give it a try for a couple of weeks and see how you like it.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Groceries this week - $34.52

I went to Safeway because round steak is on sale this week and to QFC for 4 items that were on awesome sale. Then 3 weren't available. Grrr. Overall $35 is pretty good, especially considering over $10 was meat!
Other notable sale this week - butter for 3/$5 at Fred Meyer. I'll probably drop in sometime I'm out without the kiddos to snag this great deal.
Yes, that's my Christmas tablecloth - I still haven't gotten my decorations down . . . No judgement, people!


Goldfish - $.88 each
Organic whole wheat spagetti - Clearance $.99
Organic baby food jars - Clearance $.32 each
Gerber baby food containers - Clearance $.90 for 2-pack
6# Round Steak - $1.79/lb
Bagged lettuce - $.99 each

Yoplait - sale $.33 each ($1.00/10 MC) = $.23 each
Rice Pilaf - $1.00 each
Peanuts - $1.50 each
Bananas - $.59/lb
What I didn't buy, but wanted to: $.50 Hormel Little Sizzlers sausages, $.50 4 oz. cans diced green chiles, and $.99 dozen eggs

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Groceries this week: $71

Last night I met a friend for coffee just as the snow started falling. When we wrapped up I headed out to two grocery stores, Red Apple in Bridle Trails and Safeway. I had a $5/25 coupon at Red Apple and Safeway had some good coupons.

Here's what I bought for $26.49:

Red Apple - I spent $25.08 to use the $5 off coupon. Groceries including 20% discount included $3.20 for 2# cheddar, $.20 each for yogurt cups, bananas for $.40/lb and mac'n'cheese for $.35/box. I also bought diapers, but these are the grocery part of the purchase.

Safeway - $.99 salad dressing, 3/$1 kiwi and $1.69/lb boneless skinless chicken breast.

This is a Top Foods trip from over the weekend where I spent $44.86:

Yes, those are 2 hams and No, I didn't need them. I bought them because I love ham and it was only $.99/lb. I proably should have skipped it to save the budget . . .
  • I bought milk here because their organic brand was 25% off so it was only $4.11 a gallon.
  • Gogurt was $1.67 and I bought it because one of my kiddos will only eat frozen tube yogurt and I haven't found organic on clearance in a long while.
  • Progresso soup was $1.25 on sale with an additional $.50 off if you buy 10. I also had MC for $1/4 so I ended up paying only $.50 for each can.
  • Bananas are $.59/lb regular price
  • Eggs were $.99/dozen and I bought 2 dozen because that's such a great price lately.
  • Tomatoes were on sale, but looking at the receipt now I realize I got charged for tomatoes on the vine instead of romas.

I also accidentally picked up 2 cans of soup that were not included in the Buy 10 deal, but I caught that at the register and was able to make a quick swap. And I just called TOP and they refunded me the full price of the tomatoes! Very cool and very easy.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Quick Notes - Albertson's & Safeway

Albertson's has double coupons in their regular mail ad this week! They are good Wednesday through Saturday. If your Sunday paper is still lying around have a look at those coupon inserts and see if you can get an awesome deal by doubling.

I was at the 85th street Safeway in Kirkland tonight (yes, in the snow) and they have lots of organic items on clearance. There are about 8 different kinds of cereal & granola (on dry goods clearance shelves near the orange juice) and a big selection of frozen organic food including Quorn chicken nuggets (in end cap freezer case, clearance on bottom shelf). So if any you local organic shoppers like to find bargains, all those things are 50% off.

It was a busy weekend and I've done my Bible study at the end of the day the past few days. Hoping to manage to get up early tomorrow so I can make several posts! Including my snowy shopping trip from tonight!


Friday, January 7, 2011

November & December Wrap-Up

I have been putting off this post because of the negative things I have to reveal, but there were many positives as well and reasons to rejoice in the Lord. I might as well just get it over with, first bad, then good.

The goals for November included:

  • Pull garden out
  • Clean & vaccum both cars - inspired by something I read that suggested taking care of your cars will help you feel better about their age and ugliness.
  • Groceries $200 - this will be a challenge because of Thanksgiving and because I already committed $60 for bulk food purchases with a friend.
  • Make the budget work to include lots of things that have come up for November without using DH's raise which we've committed to the timeshare debt.
  • Get Christmas cards and baby announcements completely finished before Thanksgiving so I can enjoy the rest of my holiday season.

The disappointing news is that I didn't accomplish a single one of these goals in November or December.

  • The garden is still in, the pumpkins were never picked and now sit as frozen lumps in the backyard. I have to remember to toss them in theyard waste bin before they turn to disgusting mush.
  • The cars have not been cleaned or vaccumed. They still feel old and ugly - but they're paid for!
  • I completely blew the grocery budget in both November and December. I spent a combined $788 dollars those months. I bought 5 - 20+ pound turkeys, 2 hams & 60 pounds of boneless, skinless, chicken breast. I also bought a dozen boxes of stuffing, 25 pounds of kidney beans, 25 pounds of black beans and about 20 cans of creamy cooking soups. And a bunch of other stuff. It was major stockup season with all the awesome sales and I justified the spending.
  • Clearly, I didn't stick to the budget. I also didn't make it work with the unexpected expenses. These included: Over $200 for camping next summer, a studen't loan payment almost doubled, our water bill that comes every 8 weeks happened to fall two months in a row, and Nutcracker tickets that were more expensive than I had planned for. Including the extra grocery money we had to dip into our savings - which is always a disappointment.
  • I also didn't send Christmas cards. In fact I still have 'New Year Letter' on the agenda. I hope to get those rolling over the weekend.

Now for the good news! And praise God for good news!

  • We paid off the timeshare! DH had some stock hanging around and did a little research last summer resulting in the decision to sell in the fall. We actually dipped a little futher into savings to pull this off, but with the unexpected increase in the student loan payment we thought it made sense to eliminate the timeshare payment so that cash is free to cover the increase plus pay extra. Now the plan is to replenish the savings and then start paying off the student loan. We are committed to using DH's fall raise and the old timeshare payment to speed this process.
  • My microwave stopped working properly in November and a good friend gave me an almost new one she had in her garage. Not only does it make my kitchen life easier, but it's a significant upgrade in looks than the old model.
  • We were anonymously given some grocery gift cards totalling $200. They arrived last week and we were so blessed to find them in our mailbox!
  • Our family and friends were generous in their Christmas giving as well. The girls had many, many packages to open. One of our favorites was from a great-aunt whose husband passed away a couple years ago. Apparently he had started collecting the state quarters thinking of his grand-nieces and his wife finished for him and sent the collections to our daughters. I thought it was a wonderful way to honor his memory and give the girls something connected to him.
  • There is always more and I never remember it all, but we are so blessed all the time and so thakful for our wonderful, supportive community.

Going into January I am trying to be more realistic about the budget. I am going to make my spreadsheets much more detailed so I can more efficiently track a whole year's worth of expenses so that in 2012 I can budget better so (for example) I don't get surprised by a $200 camping reservation, the car tabs, or the fees for website hosting and domain names (DH has many).

Goals for this month:

  • Get a more detailed budget set up
  • Close DH's business books for 2010
  • Groceries $140 (to try and make up for crazy Nov/Dec)
  • Blog 3 times a week
  • Consistent Bible study - 5 times each week

Wish me luck! And FYI - It'll be time for a pantry/freezer challenge in February so start thinking about if you want to join me in that project!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Resourceful Tip - Marshmallow + Brown Sugar?

Have you ever seen one of these before? It's a Brown Sugar Bear and it's purpose is to keep your brown sugar from hardening in your cupboard.

It will cost you a few bucks at the grocery store or more than a few bucks if you buy a more stylish design at an upscale kitchen store.

Instead, why not try tossing a few marshmallows in with the brown sugar? According to Real Simple (OCT 2009), a couple marshmallows in the bag or cannister will keep your brown sugar soft. I'm willing to give it a try ~ few things put a damper on my morning, but a brown sugar rock in my oatmeal bowl would do it.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Resourceful Tip? - Ceiling Fan Seasonal Switcheroo

Usually we just run our ceiling fan in the summer to make the heat more bearable in our lots-of-daylight-so-it's-like-a-greenhouse home. I have heard, however, that you can also run a ceiling fan in winter to circulate warm air.

This doesn't really sound legit to me because a fan in summer doesn't really cool things down, but the movement of the air makes you feel cooler. Why would air movement in winter be any help?

I saw this idea again in the December issue of All You, suggesting that if the blades run clockwise (instead of counter-clockwise like in the summer to keep cool) that the updraft will recycle heat throughout the room. The magazine also said that most ceiling fans have button on the base that changes the fan's direction.

Has anyone tried this? Does anyone with a more scientific mind than mine want to weigh in on whether or not this actually would work?


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Friday Project - Craft Room

This Friday project was completely back before Thanksgiving, but I might as well show you the pictures . . .

We moved our office upstairs to the formal dining room over a year ago when we had some water issues in our daylight basement. There was room to put a kids' table in here, too which I was excited to get into the house. It had been in the garage for over a year where it sat waiting for me to repaint it. I finally got over that unrealistic expectation of myself and brought it in.

Little did I know the havoc a craft table could create! Have a look at this photo (that's DD3 showing off her mess-making prowess).

I expressed to DH my great frustration with this room and how embarassing it was going to be when his family came to visit on Thanksgiving. I also told him how I hoped to contain the mess. I went out that weekend for my regular time away and came home to this sparkling gem!

Hooray! It was very nearly perfect. The horrible, messy craft supplies were packed into their clear, lidded shoeboxes and put out of the kids' reach (foam stickers, ribbons, stamps, glue-on gems). The less messy things were put in the bookshelves where the kids could access them independently (like markers and scratch paper). The kids have to ask for the messier supplies and I make sure they get put away quickly, so it's working out well so far. We also moved an old CD player into this room and all the kid music so they have their own place for tunes.

Huge thanks to Ed, my dear, dear, DH.

On a craft-related note, has anyone discovered a good glue for kids that isn't too messy? I thought I had found a hit in O-Glue, but they keep leaving the lid off and drying out the sponge tip.