Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 Groceries Week 8 - $48.48

This week I went to Costco since I just couldn't live without flour much longer.  I also bought garlic salt and garlic powder because I also was tired of cooking without those.  I spent $17.47.

I went to Fred Meyer to get the coffeemate deal again and found some markdown ham I couldn't resist.  At $1.49/lb it was less than half the $3.49/lb price point I aim for on lunchmeat.  Somehow I can't locate my receipt but my bank account shows $18.14 and that's about right for this photo.

Here's the ham all sliced and bagged for the freezer with 10 slices each.

Our milk delivery was the usual $12.87 and I haven't seen my egg friend in weeks.  I think I have to buy some grocery store eggs next week.

Total groceries for week 8: $48.48
Total groceries so far in 2014: $311.44
Weekly average: $38.93


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Canned Peaches - Yucky Jar

We found a yucky jar of peaches when we were organizing the pantry.  It just looked off-color so I decided it would be best not to risk eating it.  When I went to dump it out I discovered the lid had a very poor seal.  No wonder these peaches spoiled! 

I put the yucky jar next to a normal jar so you can see how it was discolored in this photo.

I have regular canning mishaps.  The worst was a couple of summers ago when 2 jars of pears had their lids shift and gave the fruit flies a feast for MONTHS before I figured out the problem.  I thought those bugs would never leave.  Ugh!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Goodwill Finds

I had a mommy-daughter date with DD#1 last weekend.  We had a list of errands including: Victor's for coffee (a local favorite), the bank to deposit our Disney Savings from 2013, the library to pick up the next few American Girl Kit books, and finally, shopping for DH's birthday at the end of the month.  DD#1 loves to shop and she was happy to head to the goodwill to see if we could find a present for DH there.  
I was happy because I luuuurve the Goodwill and haven't been in months.  I was also happy because I found lots of bargains including some I've been searching a long time for!
  • A brand new bulletin board for a DD room.  Just $1.99 and  I'm still looking for one more.
  • A Thanksgiving wall decoration (!) for $2.99.  Thanksgiving d├ęcor is hard to find and I have the perfect spot for hanging this at the right time of year.
  • A package of 10 pair of new socks for $2.99. 
  • A big Tupperware tub for $1.99.
  • Papyrus notecards including seals and pretty box for $1.99.
  • Generic notecards brand new $0.99.
  • A photo album that holds 8 x 10 photos!  These are soooo hard to find!  Just $2.99.
DD1 was cracking me up in the store as I kept adding thing to our little pull-basket.  She was saying, "Mom, You're buying too much.  This is really going to add up, Mom.  I thought you were trying not to spend money, Mom.  Mom?"  Tee-hee.  It was a just a little splurge - even added up.  =)


Monday, February 17, 2014

Fred Meyer Coffeemate Deal

DH loves his flavored creamer so I was excited to see that Fred Meyer has a coupon for 2/$4 in their weekly ad.  It's good all week, expiring on Saturday 2/22, and limit 2.

I went to the coffeemate website to see if there were additional coupons and was delighted to find two different coupons for $0.55/1 and $0.75/2 under the 'offers' tab.

$2 is a good price for the quart-size, but $1.45 is even better.  I think this will be a stock-up week for me.



Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 Groceries Week 7 - $34.07

I'm wanted to keep the grocery spending under $20 other than milk delivery and I got close!
 My first stop was QFC on Monday and I spent $5.00.  We needed cottage cheese so we could make the spaghetti pie DD1 picked out.  I grabbed a creamer as well because DH was running low. 
Today I went to Fred Meyer for some produce and salad dressing.  I spent $16.20 after my $6.93 rewards rebate.   I was totally lured by the pita bread on clearance for $1.09 then bought hummus for $3.49  to go with it!  I can't believe I did that - my excuse is that I was hungry. 
Our normal milk delivery was $12.86.
Grocery stores and milk this week totaled: $34.07
Total for 2014 so far: $262.96
Average per week in 2014: $37.57

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pantry Challenge Challenge - No Salad Dressing

DH eats anything I make.  He isn't picky and asks very little from me as far as food goes.  So when he expressed concern over our limited selection of salad dressing I realized just how low we had become! 

Due to Pantry Challenge 2014! I don't want to buy anymore dressing.  I am pleased that some of the rarely used dressings are disappearing from the fridge door shelf.  Here's what's left in the door.  Note to self:  Don't buy fruity, berry dressings.

We've also been using samples that were hiding in the fridge.  Thousand Island from a box lunch, Honey Mustard intended for chicken nuggets, and this packet of Caesar.

When the ranch was almost gone I poured about 1/3 cup of milk into the bottle, shook it really well, and got another dinner use out of it.

I also brought home a small baggie of freshly made dressing from church one Wednesday to give DH something different.

I even looked up recipes for making my own dressing.  DH likes creamy best, but many of those recipes called for mayonnaise which I also don't have in my pantry.  I found a no-mayo ranch recipe but it calls for 1 cup of sour cream which costs about $0.62 on a good sale and a whole bottle of ranch only costs $1.00 at Dollar Tree or on a good sale. 

Long story short, I'm buying a bottle of salad dressing this week as I've exhausted my pantry stores.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Cleaning Up the Canning Pantry

The girls have been struggling a bit lately at breakfast time trying to get to full jars in the canning pantry.  The shelves are full of empty jars that come out of the dishwasher and the full jars have been buried in the back and bottom. 

So this week we had the annual shifting of jars and the littlest girls were my big helpers.

 First we pulled out most of the jars.

Then we started putting the empty jars back in, but on the bottom of the stack.

The girls had nice teamwork with one sitting in the pantry door and the other passing her jars.

Eventually we got everything back in.  Here's the top shelves with full jars pulled forward.

The bottom shelves with full jars on top and empties stowed below.


I wondered just how much of our canned goods we've gone through so I consulted my records for this last summer/fall and found this:

Peaches: Canned 33 quarts, 20 remaining
Pears: Canned 35 quarts, 11 remaining
Applesauce: Canned 87 quarts, 36 remaining

We're really zipping through the pears and applesauce. Note to Self: More pears next year.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday Menu Plan

Last night we had pulled pork at church and I brought home a little bit of that, some accompanying black beans and a variety of salad bar toppings.  I'm working those into the meal plan and also continued pantry/freezer items.

Thursday - Cucumber/Chicken salad
Friday - bagels
Saturday - out
Sunday - finger food
Monday - quesadillas
Tuesday - at aunt's house
Wednesday - at aunt's house

Thursday - pulled pork & beans
Friday - Taco Soup (uses black beans, bell peppers, freezer chicken, freezer tomatoes)
Saturday - Enchiladas (uses a can of sauce in my pantry)
Sunday - Pizza & Smoothies
Monday - ham/bean soup (uses celery & carrots, freezer ham bone, pantry beans)
Tuesday - at aunt's house
Wednesday - at aunt's house

Incidentally, the Big Bird's Spaghetti Pie we tried last week was tasty, but since 3 of 4 kids didn't go for it we probably won't make it again.

Also, we've been digging to some canned pineapple in the pantry.  DD#1 is picky about fruit and she has only been eating home-canned pears (of our limited fruit selection).  When I realized there were several cans of pineapple buried in the back of the pantry she was ecstatic and dug right in.  I'm glad because I love the canned pears and they have been disappearing way too fast!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pantry Challenge Challenge - No Refried Beans!

I wanted to make my Grandma's Dip the other day, but it calls for refried beans and we didn't have any in the pantry.  I remembered my friend, Kristy, telling me she made her own refried beans so I decided to give it a try.

First, I found a recipe that I had the ingredients to make. 

I started by cooking the pinto beans.  I boiled them for about 15 minutes then let them soak for about 2 hours before I started cooking them again.  I added tomatoes & spices.

And I cooked until soft.

Then I mashed them with a potato masher.

This is how they ended up looking.
They actually tasted pretty bland so I might try a different recipe next time.  Luckily these ones got mixed with Salsa and put into the layered dip so it didn't matter too much.
Next time I also might try my immersion blender to see if I can get a smoother mixture.
Does anyone have a homemade refried bean mixture they like?  I'm also looking for a "pork'n'beans" type recipe.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Leftover Quinoa Part 2 - 4 Layer Dip

I loved the idea of mixing quinoa with ground meat for tacos, but last time I tried it I put in too much quinoa for the amount of ground beef I used.  This time around I went for a 1:1 ratio and it looked much better.

We have a recipe from my Grandma that I loved growing up.  She called it Mexican Dip, but I normally call it Grandma's Dip.  I suppose it could be called 4 layer dip, too, since that's what it is.  We like to eat it as a dinner since it's pretty hearty.

The first layer is an 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened, then mixed with 1 cup of your favorite salsa.  The second layer is a can of refried beans, warmed, then mixed with 1/2 cup of salsa.

I always put the recipe into two small casserole dishes instead of the big 9x13 so I can put one in the freezer for another dinner.

The third layer calls for 12 oz ground beef, 1 and 1/2 cups salsa, and 2 T cumin.  I used a half pound beef and cooked quinoa if about the same mass instead of the 12 oz ground beef.   Here's how it looked before I added cumin and salsa.
Finally, sprinkle shredded cheese on top and bake for about 10 minutes at 350, just enough to melt the cheese since the other layers are warm already.

We ate this with some chips that were hidden in the back of our pantry and it was delicious.  The quinoa was completely hidden and the dish tasted almost the same as usual. 


Monday, February 10, 2014

Leftover Quinoa Part 1 - Mexican Casserole

On of the perks of my small job is getting to bring home leftovers.  Recently that included quinoa which is not one of our family staples.

We reheated it one night as a side dish but none of the kids went for it.  Then I saw a friend asking on Facebook for new quinoa recipes and was inspired by one of her friends' ideas to cook it up for the protein in tacos. 

I cooked up 1/2 pound of hamburger, added a can of tomato sauce, and mixed in the cooked quinoa.  I estimate that it was 2 quinoa:1 ground beef.   I spiced it with taco seasoning for soft tacos but it looked more like quinoa than ground beef so I decided to put it into a casserole for visual appeal.

I put some tomato sauce in the bottom of a glass casserole dish and put a layer of corn tortillas on it.  Then I scooped half the quinoa/beef mixture in and topped with shredded cheddar/jack cheese.  I repeated tortillas, meat mixture, and cheese and baked at 350 for 20 minutes.  I forgot to take a picture, of course until much later.

Here is the last piece and the quinoa is completely camouflaged.  What a great way to stretch meat and get a great alternate protein into our meals!  I'll definitely be doing the ground beef/quinoa combo again.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

2014 Groceries Week 6 - $34.53

I did just a little shopping this week.  I didn't want to miss out on the Tillamook for $4.99 so I stopped at QFC and was tempted by the Kettle chips for $2.50 AND Doritos for $2.50, too.  So bad.  $14.98 spent. 

I also picked up a half-gallon of coffee creamer and bananas at Costco for $6.68.

Our milk delivery was $12.87.

Total groceries Week 6: $34.53
Total groceries to date 2014: $228.89
Weekly Average for 2014: $38.15 

I feel pretty good about the low spending this week, especially since I'm trying to use what I have on hand.  We are using up lots of our canned peaches, pears, and applesauce.  We are also having smoothies at least twice a week to use frozen blueberries and peaches.  We're still using the yogurt for those that I bought about a month ago

I really wanted to keep my spending under $20 before milk, so I'll aim for that again this week. 


Saturday, February 8, 2014

New Little Job

I've mentioned my new little job a couple of times so I thought it was about time I explained.

I have had a very part-time job for 8 years with my church in the children's ministry department.  This mostly consisted of childcare for Bible studies, membership classes, and other events.  About 3 years ago I started working in the church kitchen doing whatever needed doing.  At the time it was a huge blessing because we were experiencing significant financial trouble and a small paycheck here and there helped tremendously. 

Fast forward to current times and I'm really comfortable now in the kitchen.  I know the routine, where almost everything is, and how to turn on/off all the machinery.  Long story short, I was asked to consider coming in regularly on Wednesdays to help prepare for our Wednesday night Family Dinners last November.  It wouldn't be all day, just about 2:30 through dinner and clean-up.  After praying about it, DH and I decided to give it a try and see how it worked out.  So far, so good.  It's been a blessing on many levels:
  • My older girls have had the opportunity to serve by doing age-appropriate tasks when they come along
  • I am getting to know some of the other "kitchen ladies" better and am so enjoying time with them
  • On my third regular Wednesday my boss ended up having emergency surgery and the other gals and I managed to get the dinner served - Hooray!  I was so glad to have been available and actually helpful
  • DH is going to Wednesday night church to bring & pick up our kiddos
  • I do get a little paycheck
  • I get to bring home some leftovers
  • Our family gets a yummy dinner on Wednesdays
  • DH and I often eat after 3 or 4 kids are in their classes so we are able to have an actual conversation, even if it's short.  =)
This week an official "Kitchen Assistant" was hired so I may end up working much less.  We will see what happens and I will be thankful for even this month of fun if I don't continue regular Wednesdays.  I do really miss my job in the children's department, too.  So we'll just wait and see what God does here.


Friday, February 7, 2014

February Buying Tips

I was reading an article earlier this week on Dave Ramsey's website discussing February topics.  I liked this bit with things to buy because they are reduced in price this month:

"Electronics. After the Consumer Electronics Show in January, stores start selling their older models of phones, DVD players, cameras and so on at a discount. It’s good chance to get a great deal.
Outdoor furniture. Everyone thinks about buying patio chairs, tables and outdoor items when the weather starts to warm up. To help you get into that mindset, many stores discount such items (and more) in February. Keep a lookout for them.
Bathroom fixtures. Going from outside to inside, home improvement stores can really give good prices on do-it-yourself stuff such as bath fixtures and vanities this month.
Perfumes. Once Valentine’s Day is passed, don’t be surprised if you find good deals on a lot of the perfumes that are out there."

And I loved that they tied Valentine's Day into a budgeting/marriage pep talk:

"During this month of love, take advantage of your time together to talk about money and your family budget. . . Talking about money could be one of the healthiest aspects of your marriage. It shouldn’t be foreign, and it shouldn’t be restricted to special occasions.
As Dave has said many times before, the number-one cause of divorce in North America today is money fights and money problems. Money is a big issue, but when you get down to it, it’s a stupid reason to break up a marriage. The issue really boils down to trust.
Trust and responsibility go hand and hand. By making a budget together every month, you open the doors of communication and transparency. So don’t look at it as a chore to do; look at is as an opportunity to strengthen your marriage."

Don't you just love that?  Budgeting is "An opportunity to strengthen your marriage." 

I have another great book, Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon, that talks about the best time to purchase things.  It recommends February for buying:
  • a winter coat
  • a motorcycle
  • a boat
  • a camera (particularly President's Day sales)
  • an air conditioner ( if you can find any in stores)
  • video games
  • grapefruit & oranges
  • cauliflower & rhubarb
  • a snowblower
  • a prom dress (shop early for best selection)
Happy February Shopping! 


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thursday Menu Plan

Thursday - Chicken Nuggets & Tater Tots
Friday - Pizza
Saturday - Out?  Or sandwiches
Sunday - Sausage Soup
Monday - French Toast
Tuesday - Bagels
Wednesday - Cheesy Bread

Thursday - Couscous, Green beans, Garlic Bread (leftovers)
Friday - Pulled pork sandwiches
Saturday - date night - kids eat hamburgers
Sunday - Leftovers
Monday - Spaghetti Pie
Tuesday - Teriyaki Chicken
Wednesday - at church


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pantry Challenge 2014!

Hi friends!  I'm finally posting about my annual Pantry Challenge.  This year it is less-than-creatively titled: Pantry Challenge 2014!  Whoo! 

In short, I generally try to spend very little on groceries in January and February in an effort use my stockpiled pantry and freezer stores. 

Here is a photo of my pantry around January 12th, when we got home from all our holiday travelling.  You can see my pantry is huge.  The very top shelf isn't pictured where I keep small appliances and odd, large Tupperware.  You can see the next shelf with linens, serving trays, sandwich bags, my griddle, etc.  The next shelf is the primary food shelf and the one I will work at emptying.  Below that is the secondary food shelf with lots of baking items, backup spices, and behind those rectangle Tupperware on the right are lots of cereal boxes.  Below that is the 'craft shelf' with lots of supplies organized in plastic shoeboxes, but hidden behind are stockpiles of coffee, soup, and canned fruit.  On the very bottom are big bins of dry goods: flour, sugar, whole wheat flour, bread flour, oatmeal, mixed grain cereal, dried cranberries, black beans, pinto beans, & millet.  You can see of the white, square lids of those buckets in the photo.  Clearly, there's a lot to use!

My freezer is also pretty packed.  We bought a 1/4 cow this summer and frankly are nowhere near having used it.  I estimate we've used only about 1/4 of our 1/4.  Those are the white paper packages and honestly, I don't even know how to prepare some of the cuts.  On the very bottom shelf are frozen blueberries.  I froze something like 40 pounds this summer and we're slowly and steadily using them.  Otherwise there are some frozen dinners, lots of broccoli, some cheese, some pork roasts, and some bread.  There are also a few containers of green beans and tomatoes still from our summer garden.

And this is the inside freezer, also packed to the gills.  There's lots of shredded zucchini in the door, lots of soup stock, a little bit of chicken, a lot of gallon bags of peaches, lots of leftovers to be incorporated into other dishes and lots of individual portions of leftovers I package up for Ed to eat when I'm out of town or to take for lunches, etc.  
Wow.  As I write this I realize I really have so, so much food to use.  I shouldn't be buying any groceries other than milk & lettuce.  Seriously I just need to use what I have and get creative otherwise I won't even make a dent.  Especially because of the new job and the leftovers I bring home.
OK - new rule.  I'm going to try and stick to $20/week at the grocery store plus our milk delivery.  If I can limit my spending that much, hopefully I will be forced to use more of our stockpile.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February Update

I still have little time to write and so I am reserving a big blog post about financial goals for a later time.  However, I wanted to make a few goals for February to keep myself on track and productive.

I decided for 2014 I want to read more/better/worthwhile books so I'm making that part of my goal-setting.

Week 1 Goals:
Christmas completely away and stashed appropriately in garage
Read a marriage book - Every Woman's Marriage by Shannon & Greg Ethridge

Week 2 Goals:
File all business taxes & paperwork
Read a financial or homeschool book - Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (review)

Week 3 Goals:
File personal taxes
Read a parenting book - Mom After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George

Week 4 Goals:
Family Room organized/purged/rearranged
Read a spiritual book - 31 Days of Prayer by Ruth Myers   (reading all month)

I also want to get in the habit of making my thankful list again.  Just off the top of my head, here's a list of January gifts: My renewed friendship with an old friend - I am loving having her near again, my new, very part-time job in the church kitchen, a supportive and loving children's ministry at our church, a big bill to pay and a stock award within a day of each other and within one share price of each other, a great anniversary trip with my husband, the gift of family to care for our kids, and a pretty healthy January as far as germs and colds go.


Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Groceries Week 5 - $33.68

This week was light shopping - I felt like I mostly stuck to the rules of the pantry challenge.

Monday we stopped at Fred Meyer because we needed Pull-ups and napkins.  While there I picked up a mango and a hand of bananas.  I also bought a box of graham crackers because my kids were starving and I had forgotten to give them a snack before  racing out the door to DD1's ballet class.  the 3 food items cost $4.70.

Our milk was delivered Tuesday.  It cost $12.87.

Today I went to Safeway for a few items.  2# cheese and gallon organic milk were $5 each.  I also picked up clearance turkey lunchmeat and a package of cream cheese.  I spent $13.49.

 I went to Target to checkout new clearance and picked up coffee cream (we were almost out) and sour cream (for dinner topping).  I spent $2.62 on these grocery items.
Overall this week I spent $33.68 on groceries.

Total for 2014 to date: $194.36
2014 Weekly Average: $38.87 
Last year my weekly average was $49.58 so I'm feeling pretty good.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

2014 Groceries Week 4 - $87.35

This week I totally cheated on the pantry challenge.  Sometimes, when the deal is just ridiculous, I can't let it pass by.  I'd feel like I was being a poor financial steward just to play my game. 

Costco was at the top of our list this week.  We spent $40.35 on organic chips, 5# shredded cheddar/jack cheese, lettuce, 5# mozzarella, and 5 dozen eggs.  My friend and I had been missing each other at church so I went ahead and bought a big package since I signed up for 3 dozen deviled eggs at an event next week.

This was the big splurge (or cheat on the pantry challenge): I found corn flakes for just $0.59/box; at Fred Meyer.  There was a whole cartful and I would have bought more if not for the pantry challenge.  I LURVE Cornflakes, but I only bought 10 boxes.  I also bought the cheese I went in to buy, a few apples, a couple cucumbers, and a 5 pound bag of onions that the checker couldn't get to scan.  She keyed in the 3 pound bag price and even though I told her the correct price she just said, "Oh, it's OK."  I spent $21.19 this trip.

After I bought the 5 dozen eggs at Costco, of course I saw my friend at church!  I bought 4 dozen eggs from her for $8.00.

And my other big splurge was at Target.  I had a wandering "alone time" late night visit with no real purpose other than seeing what was on clearance.  I hit the jackpot with these beef pot pies for just $0.26 each.  My husband loves this kind of junk food and the fact that it was beef instead of a white meat prompted me to buy the entire stock of 19 pies.  It was $4.94 altogether.
Milk was $12.87.

Total for Week 4 was $87.35
Total 2014 to date: $160.68
Weekly average: $40.17


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Big Shopping Bags Make Great Trash Can Liners

This week as I was trying to get my life organized I emptied some tall shopping bags that had been full of after-Christmas finds.

I thought they would work for packing up clean bedding after I got all the guest linens washed, but I already have thicker plastic bags with zippers for most of that.  Then I realized the big bags were about as tall as my kitchen trash can so the next time DH took the trash out I check out the fit.

Worked like a charm.

Now don't look too close at my nasty trash can.  =)