Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weekly Grocery Shopping -

This week was ridiculously busy and I only shopped minimally.  Tuesday I went to Albertsons (with all the kids) to use the double coupons and to pick up a ham.  I spent $29.63.

Cereal - $1.88 ($1.00/3 MC doubled) = $1.22 each (Did this deal twice)
Cereal - $1.88 ($.75 MC) = $1.13
Apples - $.88/lb
Ham - $.99/lb
Neufchatel - $1.25
Lunchmeat - $2.99 on sale ($1.00 MC doubled) = $.99
Tillamook yogurt - $.39 each
Lettuce - $1.29
Bell Peppers - $.69 each

Then I went to Haggen Wednesday (with 3 of the kids after bedtime) because the neighbor kids were coming over to dye eggs on Thursday.  Haggen had the best sales on eggs and a few other items.  I spent $33.06.
Chips - $1.88
Jelly Beans - $1.69
Applesauce Cup - $.25 on clearance
2# strawberries - $2.99
Ketchup - $1.00
Reese's PB Cups - $.25 each
JD Sausage - $3.00 on sale ($1.50 clearance tag) = $1.50 each
Eggs - $1.50 each dozen
Pears - $.99/lb
1# Butter - $1.77 each
Garlic - $.45
Lemon - $.59

I also had our milk delivery for $11.16.

Total this week: $73.85
Total this year: $1028.79 

Must sleep now.   My brother was here all week helping with a huge landscaping job.  We have been digging, hauling dirt, lugging retaining wall blocks, and get filthy for days.  Today we took the day off from landscaping but served at church, had a fast egg hunt with the kids (including resurrection eggs), and served dinner at the Union Gospel Mission.  I am sooo tired.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Garden Starts in Progress

I am officially a fan of grow lights.  I can't believe how fast my seeds have taken off!  At 4 days I could see tiny nubs just at the edge of the soil.  At 5 days, I could see this first pumpkin seed unfurling.

 And these cucumbers all popped up on day 5.

Now I was delighted on day 5 at this progress.  So excited I dragged DH in to admire them.  Imagine my GLEE on day 8 when my little plants looked like this:



Green Onions!


Huzzah!  Flourishing baby plants!  I'm denying that I'll have to kill 85% of them in a day or two when I thin them out. 


Monday, March 25, 2013

Menu Plan and Weekly Goals

I still have so much food from the grocery-palooza of the last two weeks that meals are easy to come up with.  Also my brother is here this week so our meals need to be a bit bigger.

Monday - Waffles
Tuesday - Chicken Nuggets
Wednesday - Mac'n'Cheese
Thursday -Finger Food Lunch
Friday - Grilled Cheese
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - Packed lunch - PBJ

Monday - Ham
Tuesday - Chicken la Viva!
Wednesday - French Toast
Thursday - Seder Dinner?
Friday -Taco Soup
Saturday - Tuna Casserole

My goals last week were to finish my own tax return, and start moving the girls' bedrooms.  I did both of those, but still have to find places for a few things out of the girls' rooms.  We also dug in the mornings for 5 days and will keep that up.  Ugh.

My goals this week are to find places for the rest of the girls' craft stuff from their bedroom, and get busy on a landscaping project.  Nine pallets of landscaping rock is getting dropped off on Thursday so we'll have to work hard to get it out of the driveway.  Ugh again.



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekly Grocery Shopping

I really thought this week would be limited shopping due to last week's spending blowout, but it wasn't meant to be.  There were too many amazing clearance deals to be had.

First I made a quick stop into Fred Meyer for the eggs they had on sale.  They were out of stock.  But I picked up a bunch of other stuff for $14.81.
Cereal - $1.49 each on clearance
Carrots - $2.69 for 5# - I bought these instead of $.99 cucumbers for a cheaper kid snack.
Bananas - $.64/lb
Angel Food Cake - $1.49 each on clearance
Pineapple - $.59 on clearance
Nuggets - $4.49 on sale ($.75 MC) = $3.74

I needed frozen peas for a garbanzo bean dish I was taking to a potluck Friday night.  I hadn't been able to get to the store so we dropped in to the store on the way to the potluck.  The peas were $1.99.

 I made another trip to Fred Meyer for those eggs on Saturday.  I was amazed at the clearance deals I found and really stocked up.  I spent a whopping $76.63.
Eggs - $1.50 each qty 18 carton
4 packages of Whole wheat english muffins - $.69 on clearance (love these for kid pizzas)
2 loaves Vitabee bread - $.79 on clearance (for the freezer in case I haven't baked any)
Bailey's - $1.99 on sale ($1.00 MC) = $.99
Pita bread pockets - $1.09 on clearance
2 bags of Chicken nuggets - $4.49 on sale ($.75 MCs) = $3.74 each
Grape Nuts Flakes - $1.29 on clearance
4 tubs cottage cheese - $.99 on clearance
3 huge pork roasts - $1.49/lb on clearance
6 lbs ground beef - $1.99 on clearance
3# onions - $1.99
Bananas - $.64/lb
Gorgonzola wedge - $1.99 on clearance
2 packages of sandwich thins - $.79 each on clearance

I also had a "customer appreciation $1 off your next purchase" coupon.

 Finally I went to QFC today and I had a big list.  I spent $33.85.
Mountain High Yogurt - $1.49 "Buy5/Save$5"
Mountain High Yogurt - $1.49 with "B5/S$5" ($.40 MC) = $1.09
3 Classico Pasta Sauce = $1.69 with "B5/S$5" ($1.00/3 MC) = $1.36 each.  This purchase also produced a $1.00 catalina coupon for my next shopping trip.
LaVictoria salsa - $2.00 on sale
2 OreIda microwave fries - $.99 on clearance ($1.00/2) = $.49 each
Cool Whip - $.99 on sale
Bananas - $.39/lb on clearance
Powdered Sugar - $1.99 on sale
Romas - $.99/lb on sale
Ham - $.99/lb on sale
Oranges - $.99 bag on clearance
Ragu pizza sauce - $1.25 each on sale
Butter - $1.79 each on sale (limit 2 or I would have bought much more)

So I spent way more - again - than I anticipated. 

This week's total was $127.28.
Total in 2013 so far is $954.94


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

No More Plastic Grocery Bags?!?!

Issaquah recently implemented a new law that charges consumers for each bag they take from the grocery store.  I don't live there, but from all the Facebook commenting it seems like some people were pretty inconvenienced or disappointed.

I have been using grocery totes for years, but there are certainly times when I forget and I am glad I don't have to pay for the grocery store bags.  I also have reused those plastic bags for many things over the years included trash can liners, smelly diaper sacks, and even rope.

A ziploc or small plastic sack would do most of the jobs a grocery bag does, but then you'd have to purchase bags.  Instead I suggest you put some other free, but often overlooked, plastic bags to work.

1. Plastic produce bags.
These work excellently as small trash can liners.  Here's my bathroom trash can.

2. Cereal bags are nice and thick.  These also line cracker and cookie boxes.  I use these a lot when sharing garden produce with friends and neighbors.

3. Newspaper bags have long been my favorite smelly diaper bags.  They are long and skinny and mash down nicely in the diaper bag.  We only get a few each week, but it keeps us well stocked for those time we use disposables. 

4. Roll/Bun bags are useful for packing lunches and are roomy enough for muddy shoes, wet clothes, or other larger items.
5. Bread bags are great for my own homemade bread.  I also use them for shampoo and other toiletries in a suitcase.

6. Tortilla bags are my very favorite because they usually have a resealable top.  The Costco tortillas are my favorite because they have clear plastic ziplocs inside the printed outer packaging.

So take a second look at those plastic bags you are throwing out and think of how you can put them to use! 


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dry Ranch Mix

Someone asked about the ranch seasoning I used in the Zucchini Ranch Meatloaf.

I found a couple of recipes on All Recipes.  This one called for buttermilk powder, dried chives, and dried celery flakes.  I don't have those things and I thought they might not be in the grocery store spice aisle so I chose this one instead because I had most of the ingredients.  I modified it for size and left out a couple things I didn't have.

Here's the recipe I landed on:

1/2 cup dried parsley
1/3 cup garlic salt
1/3 cup dried onion
3 T. cup onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
1 T. dill weed
1 T. black pepper

I put everything together in a small plastic container, put the lid on, and shook it up.  Then I measured 5 teaspoons for each meatloaf.  I did a little research and best I can tell a package of ranch mix is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 Tablespoons.  I figured 5 teaspoons was a safe 'in-between' measurement to approximate the "one ounce package of ranch dressing mix" my meatloaf recipe called for.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Menu Plan and Weekly Goals

I spent so much on groceries this week meal planning is super easy.  There is so much to choose from!  It's another busy week ahead with taxes.

Monday - Nachos
Tuesday - Quesadilla
Wednesday - Macaroni & Cheese
Thursday -Finger Food Lunch
Friday - Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
Saturday - Mac'n'Cheese
Sunday - PBJ

Monday - Leftovers
Tuesday - Macaronada
Wednesday - French Toast
Thursday - Mexican Dip
Friday - Potluck Dinner - Garbanzo Bean side dish
Saturday - Easy Chicken Pot Pie
Sunday - TBD Company

I managed to finish my Aunt's tax return and my friend's business tax return.  I did not finish my own return, nor did I manage to buy the supplies for our basement project.  DH convinced me I didn't need the supplies I thought I did for the project so we're moving forward without them.

Goals for this week are to do my own taxes and start the project of moving the girls' bedrooms.  I also am going to be busy with DH moving a bunch of dirt in our basement.  We are hoping to put in some time EVERY day this week so that is a big goal. 


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekly Shopping - A Whopping $209.42!

Wowie, it was a big week.  I had a little post-pantry challenge splurge, I guess.

I went to QFC on Monday.  I had seen some things in the ad I wanted to pick up but somehow missed those things were only a weekend sale.  I get pretty irritated at myself when something like that happens.  It's hard enough to get to the store without having my anticipated prices screwed up.  At least I found some other good deals for $18.46.

Soy sauce - $1.59 on clearance
Sparkling cranberry juice - $1.49 on clearance (I love these for post-baby meal deliveries!)
Crackers - $2.00 each on sale ($1.50/2 MC) = $1.25 each box
Quorn 'meat' dinner - $2.25 on clearance ($1.00 MC) = $1.25
Powdered sugar - $2.00
Flour - $2.29
Lunchables double packs - $1.19 on clearance
Foster Farms lunch meat - $1.49
Mandarins 6 packs - $.99 clearance

I went to Albertsons later in the week for some of their weekend deals. This time I made it on the weekend! I spent $30.97 on food.
Chips - $2.50 (for company)
Flour - $1.99
Ken's salad dressing - $1.50 ($1.00/2) = $1.00 each
Tuna - $.50 each
Salad bags - $.99 each
Yakisoba bowl - $1.25 ($.50 MC rounded up to $1.00) = $.25
Cucumber - $.79
Banana - $.74/lb
Twix minis - $.75 (for Easter)
Snickers minis - $.75 (for Easter)
Whipping cream - $1.39 (for company)
Pound cake - $3.99 (for company)
Yoplait - $.50 each ($.40/6 MC rounded up to $.75) = $.38 each
Yoplait greek - $1.00 each ($.50/2 MC rounded up to $1.00) = $.50 each
2# bricks of cheese - $3.99 on clearance

Then I had a huge trip to Fred Meyer spending $52.79 but I had my Rewards certificate that took $9.43 off the total.  My cash outlay was $43.36.  I took a picture and managed to delete it so this is a picture I took the next day after we'd already used some things. 

Annie's Mac 'n' Cheese - $1.00 each
Starburst candies - $1.50 each ($1.00/2 MC) = $1.00 each (for Easter & not pictured)
Brach's jelly beans - $2.19 (for Easter & not pictured)
Bay leaves - $1.29 on clearance - not pictured
Butter - $2.89 ($.40 coupon) = $2.49
Tillamook Cheddar - $4.99
Tillamook White Cheddar - $4.99
Tillamook Pepper Jack - $4.99
Cottage Cheese - $1.25 ($.40 coupon) = $.85
Sour Cream - $1.25 each ($.40 coupon off one) = $2.10 for both
Chicken Breast - $2.59/lb (I have Zaycon chicken coming at $1.79/lb in a few weeks, but I needed this for company.  Not pictured as it was already cooked and shredded in the fridge)
Fresh Garlic - $.33 each
100 Grand candy bars - $.25 each
4 bags of 2# apple produce markdown - $1.00 each (to make applesauce)
Apples - $.88/lb (to eat)
Organic Yogurt - $.25 on clearance - not pictured.
Organic Greek yogurt - $.50 each on clearance
Parsley - $.79
Bananas - $.44/lb

I forgot to buy olives on that big shopping trip so I went back to Fred Meyer and spent $32.68 because I found markdown ground beef and my kids' favorite kind of Annie's that was out at the other store.

Milk - $1.00
Colby Cheese - $4.99
Chips - $2.00
Cucumber - $.79
Annies - $1.00 each
Olives - $1.19 each (it kills me to pay more than $1.00 for olives)
Ground Beef - $2.59/lb

I picked up another can of olives for $1.19 and paid for 40 pounds of chicken this week for $71.60.

$18.46 + $30.97 + $43.36 + $32.68 + $1.19 + $71.60 = $198.26

I also had our weekly milk delivery for $11.16.

This week's grand total was $209.42.
Annual total is $816.50.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Starting Garden Seeds

I FINALLY started my seeds.  I'm not very hopeful that they'll be big and healthy come transplanting time, but I'm giving it a try!

I bought a 4 foot grow light that puts out a small amount of heat and gives the plants more 'sunlight.'  I'm planning to have it on 16ish hours per day since that's how much sunlight they will get on the longest days of summer.

Here's a photo of the grow light setup.  It's also in our brightest, warmest room that already acts a bit like a greenhouse.

And here is a closeup of the seeds.
There are two kinds of cucumber, 5 kinds of tomato, 2 kinds of pumpkin, and green onions. 

I planted 3 to 5 seeds in each 'pot' and I'll thin them out liberally in about two weeks and then choose the best of each pot in 3-4 weeks.  I'm hoping the tomatoes go crazy and I have excellent, substantial plants to put in the ground.  I've put cucumbers right into the ground in the past and NOT had great luck so I'm hoping bigger starts might help?  We'll see.

I used some potting soil that was in my garage.  Some was Miracle Grow and the other had 'added fertilizers' or something that was supposed to be good for seedlings.  I don't think I purchased either myself.  My friend, Ruth, who introduced me veggie gardening likely knew what she was doing.  =)

Next up - start my journal so I can keep track of what is happening with the seeds!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Albertson's Deals

I went to Albertson's last night for a few groceries and found some unexpected good deals on non-grocery items, too.

  • Something is going on with my dishwasher and all my dishes are cloudy, some worse than others.  I finally decided to bite the bullet and try some of the 'special' dishwasher detergent.  Luckily I found it on sale for $3.99 and I had a $1.25 MC so I only had to pay $2.74; much smaller than I had anticipated.
  • Irish Spring deodorant was on sale for $2.00 and these had peelies on them for $1.00 off.  I was so pleased to find deodorant for DH for just $1.00.  Irish Spring is one of the few brands that is deodorant without antiperspirant and I sometimes have to pay more than I like.
  • There were significant clearance markdowns in the small make-up section.  I used a $1.00 off any Cover Girl product to get this clear mascara for just $2.00.  It was marked down to $3.00 before my coupon.
  • The Maybelline mascara was one of about 8 different kinds on clearance.  The 'classic' pink/green was the lowest priced at $3.25 so I used a $1.00 Maybelline mascara coupon to get it for $2.25.  I'm a little weird about replacing my mascara regularly, but I'm not brand loyal so I pick it up whenever I find it for around $3.00 or less.
  • Finally, the little applicator sponge/wands were on clearance for $.95.  I am forever losing mine out of my car compact.  I figured a few extra wouldn't hurt and would certainly keep my finger tips more clean! 
I may hit up another Albertson's tonight to check for more Irish Spring and makeup clearance.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Update on Small Savings Projects

I started the year with several small savings projects and have been diligently trying to make them happen.  Some have been more successful than others.

First, I'm doing a 52 week savings plan with DD#1.  She is 7 and very interested in money.  We decided to save toward our Disneyland trip that is planned for January 2015.  The homeschool mom in me loves that I can do this project with DD#1 for calendar year 2013 and with DD#2 for calendar year 2014.  The financial planner in me loves that we'll have $2,756 saved in two years and DH and I won't have to try and figure out how to pay for vacation.  So far the savings plan has worked well, but I had hoped to have more of the 'expensive' weeks checked off by mid-March.  In the first 10 weeks we've saved a total of $100.  DD#1 was beside herself counting up that much money.  It'll be kind of fun to see her counting up $1,000 and the thought is an excellent motivator.

Second, DH has been super-frustrated with me when I overspend at Christmastime the last two years.  He is a huge Dave Ramsey fan and likes to remind me that Christmas is not an emergency.  It doesn't sneak up on us.  Yeah, Yeah, Yeah - He's preaching to the choir.  I like Dave Ramsey, too.  Last year DH asked me to plan out what I thought Christmas would cost overall so I figured out gifts, travel, Christmas cards & postage, tickets to holiday events, and even baking.  It was about $1,400 and that was being frugal.  He suggested saving $100/month all year, but there was zero wiggle room in the budget.  This year we were able to squeeze a Christmas line item in the spreadsheet and have been able to save $100 each of the first three months.  I'm hoping it continues!

Finally, I'm trying to set aside $10 each week for the occasional bulk purchase of groceries.  I particularly want to plan for big purchases of summer produce.  I've only been able to set aside that $10 about half the time, but it's a start and I'll keep trying.  I'm finding that when I don't have much cash left at the end of the week, I'd prefer to save in the Disneyland fund and skip the Summer Produce envelope.

I feel pretty good overall, but am wondering how things will progress now that the pantry challenge is over and I'll be spending more on groceries.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

End of Pantry Challenge 2013!

I'm officially ending the pantry challenge.  I was already considering it but the absence of butter cemented the decision.  Seriously, I must use butter frequently because we've only been out about a week and I have missed it many times.

I am also completely out of cooking spray, white flour, popcorn, cold cereal, powdered sugar, hot cocoa, and olives.

Here's what the pantry looked like 7 weeks ago.  There were also some items (cans of coffee, diced tomatoes) behind the art supplies on the bottom shelf.

And here's what it looks like today:
Does it look much different?  Organizing helped and I used a lot of stuff, but I was somehow hoping more would be gone.

These are the bulk bins I keep on the floor of the pantry.  The green line marks the levels 7 weeks ago.

And these are the bins today marked with a red line.  You can see the flour is completely gone and the red beans haven't been used at all.  
I am really looking forward to buying flour, too.  We haven't been able to have pancakes or those new amazing waffles for weeks!

So back to regular shopping this weekend.  Hurrah! 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Freezer Meal Zucchini Ranch Meatloaf - Lots of Photos

I had my my monthly-ish meal swap last week.  I chose zucchini ranch meatloaf because I had most of the ingredients and I would be able to use a whole bottle of steak sauce.

Here everything is gathered with much preparation work ahead of me before I cold begin assembling the meals.

First things first: Bread crumbs.  I needed six cups and I didn't want to buy two containers of bread crumbs when bread is so cheap to make.   So I sliced up some of a fresh loaf and got it ready to pop into the oven.

 While the bread was toasting I chopped up onions.

Then I chopped up bell peppers.

Next I took the toast out of the oven.

I broke it up a little and put it into the food processor.

Then we blended and ended up with just about 3 cups of crumbs.  I had to make a whole second batch to get 6 cups.  I wasn't keen on using nearly a whole loaf of bread because then I had to make bread again for sandwiches the next day.  Oh well.

I also made some dry ranch mix because I didn't want to buy 6 Uncle Dan's Ranch packets.

I grated some cheese and FINALLY it was ready to assemble.

My largest bowl is a huge Tupperware cake-taker and it's currently full of bread flour.  Instead I used these two other containers to mix 3 loaves at a time.

Mixing with my very clean hands.

Six loaves, each over 2 pounds.

Then I printed and attached labels.  We put the names of the swap members on meals to avoid confusion regarding who has gotten what.  This is especially helpful if the swap member isn't actually attending the meal swap and has sent her meals with one of us.

The final step was to make small bags of the topping and label them.  Of course I didn't take a picture.

Here's the actual recipe.
Combine and mix well:
1# ground beef
1# ground turkey
3/4 cups shredded zucchini (from my last summer garden)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 diced bell pepper
1 egg
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1 1 oz. package of dry ranch mix

Shape into a loaf on a greased cookie sheet or put in a large, greased bread pan.  Prepare topping of:
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup steak sauce

Pour topping on meatloaf and bake at 350 about an hour until the inside reaches 160 degrees.

My husband likes this one so I'm hoping the meal swap likes it, too.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Menu Plan

I am super busy this week with tax preparation so meals will have to be simple.  So thankful for Freezer Meals this week.

Monday - Quesadilla
Tuesday -Meat/Cheese/Crackers
Wednesday - PBJ
Thursday - Chicken Nuggets
Friday - Grilled Cheese
Saturday - Mac'n'Cheese
Sunday - PBJ

Monday - Chili (freezer)
Tuesday - Sausage Soup
Wednesday - Pork/Sausage Ragu (freezer)
Thursday - French Toast
Friday - Baked Pasta
Saturday - Asian Pork Stew (freezer)
Sunday - TBD - something for company

Oh my goals, my goals for the week . . . I didn't get those tax returns done.  I got one business tax return done and I'm working on another. The family member's return should be finished tomorrow and our own tax return is still sitting unfinished.  So my NEW goals for this week are:
  • to finish the friend's business tax return
  • to finish the family member's tax return
  • to finish my own tax return
  • to buy lumber for a basement project

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Weekly Grocery Shopping

It was an unusual shopping week because I was out of town this weekend, but I had a couple of pop-ins early in the week.

I found a couple clearance items at QFC when I dashed in for yogurt.

$2 - Yogurt
$.99 each - quart size egg substitute
$.99 - produce clearance bag.  There was a great variety in the produce clearance that day with bell peppers, apples, oranges, even an eggplant. But I had already purchased the peppers for the freezer meal swap (doh!) and had bought enough fruit the previous weekend that I didn't need to buy more.  I love that my QFC does the produce markdown bags!  I spent $4.97 this trip.

I made trip to Fred Meyer because I needed ground turkey for my freezer meal swap and I know its regular price is OK there.  I also picked up Coffeemate because it was such a good deal.  I spent $34.61.
$8.37 - 3# ground beef for meal swap
$8.79 each - 2 qty. 3# ground turkey for meal swap
$.79 - cucumber
$1.79 - leafy lettuce
$.39 - M&M candy on clearance
$.39 - Starburst candy on clearance
Coffeemate Deal $2.00 with store coupon.  I had 2 MCs for $1.50/2 and $1.10/2 so I got these 4 quart-sized creamers for $1.45, $1.45, $1.25 and $1.25.  Awesome prices! 

The price for Coffeemate was so good, in fact, that I went back for more.  I spent $9.88 this trip.
$1.45 each for Coffeemate
$2.99 1# strawberries
$.64/lb bananas
$.89 clearance salad
This week's shopping adds up to $49.46.  I also bought Girl Scout Cookies from our neighbor for $8.00 and our milk was $11.16. 

Total grocery cost this week: $68.62
Total grocery cost this year: $607.08 for 10 weeks. 

That's an average of $60.71 per week and I'm kind of disappointed because much of these weeks were supposed to be my pantry challenge.  A small consolation is that $40 was for Girl Scout cookies and certainly the cost of food in Hawaii contributed.  I AM glad to be recording truthful figures, so thanks, Kracinda, for this suggestion.  I aim to keep it up!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cool Uses for Everyday Things

My mom sent me this cool article she saw compiling 18 cool ideas to use common household items in uncommon ways.  The article is from BuzzFeed.  I thought these were great and have already implemented number 8!