Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Menu Plan - Here we go with GF

We're starting the gluten-free diet for DD#2 on Wednesday.  So I have a couple of days to figure out a GF bread (Please God!) to keep my life simple.

Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs  (Note to self: find out about the 5 grain blend I typically mix with oatmeal.  May have to make DD#2 oatmeal only if I can't find ingredients while other kids finish up the 5 grain blend)

Monday - PBJ
Tuesday - Bagels
Wednesday - Nachos (DD#2 soy cheese)
Thursday - PBJ
Friday - Finger Food Lunch (pickles, GF crackers, pecans, dried cranberries)
Saturday - Leftovers
Sunday -Hot Dogs/Beans?

Monday - Pizza (DD#2 soy cheese)
Tuesday - Pasta & red sauce
Wednesday - Chili
Thursday - Beef & Broccoli
Friday - Pot Roast
Saturday - Popcorn & Smoothies (Family Movie Night)
Sunday - Honey Lemon Chicken (if company) or Leftovers (if no company)


Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 Week 13 Groceries - $159.99

This week was full of lots of shopping trips!

First was Albertsons for more creamer.  There was yogurt on clearance for $0.25 each and I got a 4-pack for free with a MC.  The cocktail wienies were also on clearance.  I spent $14.44.

Next was QFC for the amazing deals on organic cereal & Classico spaghetti sauce.  I had lots of coupons for $0.75 off Cascadian Farms but some stores limit you to two identical printed coupons so I just got two boxes for $1.25 each.  I also found a pizza for $2.49 and 4 donuts for $1.49.  And 4 is really just the right amount of donuts.  I spent $21.39.

I went to QFC again before the sale ended for more Classico sauce and 2 more boxes of Cascadian Farm cereal.  There was also a box of organic cheerios on clearance for $1.29 so I picked those up, too.  I spent $6.74 and had all 4 kids with me so it was IN and OUT.

Target had some printable coupons for Post cereal and M&Ms so I combined those with manufacturer's coupons for some good deals.  The box of cereal was $0.71 after both coupons and the M&Ms were $1.39 each after coupons.  The snickers was another good deal.  I bought 2 bags for $1.16 each and ate one with the girls on the drive home in traffic.  Total spent: $5.81

I went to Fred Meyer Thursday to scored the $4.99 Tillamook cheese deal and also pick up the $2.98 for 2# strawberries.  I was really pleased to find organic spring mix on clearance and bacon on clearance.  I also got syrup and lemon juice at The Dollar Tree.  Total spent both stores: $34.13

Next was Albertsons for the $0.25 tomato paste and $0.50 tomato sauce.  I also got one more bag of the organic baby oranges for $2.00 since my girls had eaten BOTH of the bags I got last week.  I spent $15.50.

And I finally made it to Costco to buy gluten free flour.  I also bought eggs to hard-boil for snacks.  My fresh eggs just are too fresh to peel easily.  I buy old grocery store eggs for peeling ease.  I spent $34.82.
One last stop at the grocery store for pull-ups tonight and I wandered over to find either Tamari or Bragg's Liquid Amino.  I also grabbed cream cheese.  It was $10.29 altogether.  The Tamari was actually on sale and less than I thought so I went ahead and bought a big bottle.  I see lots of meat/veggie/rice dishes in our future and a GF soy sauce will be indispensable.

 I bought 2 dozen eggs for $4.00
Our milk was $12.87.

Total spending for Week 13: $159.99
Total spending year to date 2014: $785.19
Average spending per week: $60.40

I think we can still have the gluten-free, dairy-free diet and not spend a huge amount on groceries.  I will have to be resourceful and I intend to use what we still have on hand for the bulk of the family.  One day at a time.  Next task: figure out a GF sandwich bread for toast & sandwiches.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Concerns With Gluten-Free

DH and I decided to give a gluten-free diet a try for our kiddo.  We made the decision a couple of days ago and I've been getting used to the idea.  I asked for a week to try and get my bearings/plan a menu.  Today I broke the news to DD#2 and she cried.  She also cried when we told her we were trying out dairy-free and it only took her a couple days to adjust.  I'm hoping it will be the same with the GF.

I have really been wrestling with the whole idea.  I guess I have several concerns that I'm trying to reconcile:
  • The expense of GF/DF - Certainly alternatives are expensive, but I don't have to switch the whole family nor do I have to dump the contents of our existing pantry.  I can still bake our regular bread until I use up our bread flour and whole wheat flour.  I can bake GF bread just for DD#2 while we're conducting this test.  
  • Using any 'fake' food - I don't feel good about baking with margarine in order to avoid butter.  I don't like giving DD#2 'fake' cream cheese and 'fake' sour cream.  I have a lot to learn about what constitutes fake re. how altered are vegan or tofu foods.  I am not big on soy either so there's just a big learning curve here.  Ugh.
  • Finding new good meals - I've spent my entire adult life building a repertoire of great meals that I love to cook and am proud to serve to guests.  Now many of those meals are just not going to be options and I'm just plain sad.  It's also really disappointing to DD#2 even though I don't think she really grasps yet that I won't be making baked potato soup or macaroni & cheese pie for her because both would require too much 'fake' dairy.
  • Almost no eating out - I'll admit I enjoy running through the drive through when we're in a hurry or when we're on a road trip.  I am not looking forward to having almost no options with GF.  With dairy-free we could at least still have plain burgers, nuggets, or french fries.
  • My extended family disapproves - I think they understand that we're trying to help DD#2, but my close cousin has recently chosen a GF/DF diet and it's been inconvenient at family gatherings to say the least.  I just don't want to cause drama and I don't want to seem ungrateful/demanding when the kids all stay with extended family in a few weeks when DH and I have a getaway.  I'm hoping to make things as easy as possible for everyone, but I suspect I will hear about it . . .  
All of that said, I'm preparing this week.  I bought some GF flour at Costco.  I bought a dairy-free probiotic on the recommendation of DD#2's OT whose first degree was nutrition.  I am trying to find 10 dinners and 5 lunches that are DF & GF and not terribly labor intensive or expensive as a solid starting base.  I am searching for a good DF & GF bread recipe and will need to buy at least one box of GF Rice Krispies or Chex for our occasional cold cereal mornings.

So that's what's been consuming my mind lately.  I am thankful we can afford to buy alternates.  I am thankful that the increase in GF consumers has led to available and affordable GF choices as well as abundant resources to learn about it.  I am thankful DD#2s occupational therapist also has a 7 year old and had a career in nutrition before she became an OT.  I am thankful DH is so involved and committed to helping DD#2 be her best.  We can do this thing.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dairy-Free Dinner - Beef Stroganoff & Zucchini

So I tried beef stroganoff the other night with dairy alternatives.  We found a nice texture tofu sour cream and I thought it might work.  I used flour with the meat's juices to make the sauce start and added almond milk.    I didn't like how it tasted but my kids all ate it without complaint.  I got a recommendation to try rice milk in creamy sauces for a flavor closer to milk so I'll give that a go next time. 

I also made sauteed zucchini with onions, corn, real garlic, salt & pepper.  DH lurrrrves sauteed zucchini and I love to make it for him.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Disney "Year-of-Saving" Update

This year DD#2 and I are doing the same "Year-of-Saving" plan that DD#1 and I did last year.  So far, so good:

We're at $208 and I need to try and do some bigger amounts in the $27 to $52 range . . .


Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Menu Plan

And I'm back to Mondays for the menu plan.

Monday - Taco Salad
Tuesday - Turkey Casserole
Wednesday - Sausage Soup
Thursday - Beef/Broccoli/Rice
Friday - Potluck, Salad for 10 adults & 15 kids
Saturday - Leftovers
Sunday - Enchiladas

Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Bagel
Wednesday - PBJ
Thursday - Nachos
Friday - Waffles
Saturday - PBJ
Sunday - Bagels


Sunday, March 23, 2014

2014 Week 12 Groceries - $105.75!!!

 I spent a lot this week!  But it was so fun to actually shop and hit several stores again after taking a couple of months off!

This was delivered with an Amazon Fresh order this week.  I REALLY wanted to get a Frozen DVD so I ordered it via Amazon Fresh in the afternoon and it was delivered the next morning before 6am.  Whoo!  Anyway, the chips were a last minute add on for $2.07.

We were out of cream so DH picked some up for $2.49.

I had a pretty big trip to Fred Meyer.  It's in two pictures.  I was pleased to find some dark chocolate chips that don't have milk in them!  I paid full price - $2.69 so I'll have to keep my eye out for when they're on sale.  Altogether I paid $27.86.

This was a quick stop at Target.  I spent $6.22.
I went to Albertsons for chicken, creamer and pickles.  And look at all this!  I generally avoid the bag cereal, but it was only $2.00 on clearance so I picked the 'healthier' Raisin Bran &  Honey Nut Cheerio alternatives and left the Cap'n'Crunch & CocoPuffs behind.  The 2# bags of organic oranges were only $2.00!  And all the Greek yogurt was on clearance for $.75 each that I combined with coupons for prices ranging from $0.42 to $0.55.  I spent $28.67.

I went to Albertsons again today because they didn't have any chicken out early yesterday morning.  I got more creamer since the store coupon and MCs are making them hit my $2.00/qt stock-up price.  I spent $23.57.

I bought one dozen eggs for $2 and our milk delivery was $12.87. 

Total spending this week: $105.75
Total spending year to date: $625.20
Weekly average in 2014: $52.10  (compared to $79.58 in 2013!)


Saturday, March 22, 2014

What Happened to Our Emergency Fund?

This feels like a confession.  Truly I am dumbfounded that our whole emergency fund is gone.  We worked and saved for almost 2 years to reach our goal.  It feels pretty bad.  I don't have a better word.

So here's what happened:
  • 56% - We REALLY needed to replace our family vehicle.  It was a 1995 Suburban with 237,000 miles on it.  It still ran OK, but it was pretty tricky to start. Also the power windows didn't work anymore so I had to open my door at the drive-thru.  Also the front driver's side door didn't latch easily so I would sometimes pull over multiple times at the beginning of a drive to try it again and again.  I had the most success by getting out of the vehicle and slamming my ample backside against the door.  Then I'd crawl in the passenger side, over the console, and back into my seat - sometimes this happened at stop lights.  The last straw was one day when we had a terrible downpour when I was out running errands.  The door wouldn't even close poorly, so I drove with my right hand across my abdomen holding the door semi-closed while I steered with my left hand.  There was a big enough gap that my hand was getting pretty wet trying to hold the door closed.  Anyway - I was so frustrated that we agreed to go car shopping even though we'd only saved $700 so far.   We ended up with a 2001 Yukon XL which is basically a Suburban with 117,000 miles on it.  It was an excellent price, and my brother the car-guy, went with DH for a test drive.  Anyway, I love having a CD player, window that work, a door that closes, a starter that works every time.  I am very thankful but I am bummed we had to use our emergency fund even though this was kind of an emergency because the old car was so, so, so, so bad.
  • 25% - We totaled our second car about six weeks after we purchased the Yukon.  DH found a great replacement and a great price.  After taxes & licensing it was another 25% of the emergency fund gone.
  • 4% - We hadn't planned to travel for Thanksgiving but found out a week ahead of time that DH's Dad was ill.  Of course we changed our plans, but we hadn't budgeted for the long drive.
  • 15% - Sweet DH wanted to surprise me for our 10th wedding anniversary.  We were in good financial shape before the car issues, so he splurged for our 10th.  And I love the custom designed charm bracelet he had made. We just had to use the last of our emergency fund to cover it.  
 So there you have it.    *sigh*

Friday, March 21, 2014

GF/DF Shepherd's Pie

I made a meal for my sweet friend, Ruth, a couple weeks ago to help out when she had a new baby.  Her whole family is no gluten or dairy so I flipped through my new gluten free cookbook and decided to make her Shepherd's Pie.

The recipe called for a large onion, chopped.  I only had half an onion so it had to do!

Next, the recipe called for 1 to 2 large carrots, peeled & chopped.  I went for 4 because I had less onion and thought I might as well plump the recipe for a small second pan.

The recipe also called for a zucchini, chopped, but I didn't have one so I opted for celery instead.  You might be wondering why I chose this recipe when I didn't have the ingredients!  Meh - It's what I do.  Being resourceful, right?

I sauteed the veggies in 2 T evoo.

Then, I added 20 oz lean ground beef.  The recipe only called for a pound, but my package was 20 oz and more meat would add to the bulk.

Next I was to add: 1 cups chicken stock, 3 T tomato paste, 2 T Worcestershire, 1 1/2 t. dried parsley, & 1-2 T all purpose gluten-free flour.  I don't have an GF flour (yet) so I used cornstarch after checking to be sure it was gluten-free.

Here's the chicken broth

And I added 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch.

I ALSO didn't have any tomato paste, but I did have some tomatoes.  So I mashed up three and used my immersion blender to puree them.  

The beef was lean and didn't produce substantial grease to drain, but those tomatoes added a lot of liquid!  I drained it out.

 Then I poured some of it into the pan bottoms

I had some green beans in the freezer from our summer garden so I decided to mix those in as well.

The bulked-up mixture didn't fill two pans entirely so I switched to a slightly smaller second pan.  You can see in this photo I also added a can of corn.
 Finally the topping: 2 pounds of potatoes!
I was really excited that these leftover potatoes from church were just about two pounds, but then I realized I had better not use them just in case they had been prepared with butter or something else with dairy or gluten.

So I peeled two pounds of potatoes instead.

I mashed the potatoes with 1/2 cup almond milk and some salt.  Then I spread them on the baking dishes and Voila!
I took the big pan to my friend along with some sparkling cider and I fed my family the small dish.  It bakes at 375 for 30 minutes.  And you can crisp the top under the broiler for a couple minutes at the end.    My family loved it! 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quick Update/News

I've been busy so not blogging much.  Other priorities as my kids gets older, but I'm loving the comparison of last year's groceries to this years - Mostly because I'm spending so much less this year.

  • I've done a few tax returns the last month.  
  • I think my job at the church kitchen is over as far regular work goes but I'm still on the list for special events.  It was a good try, but awfully hard on our family for me to have to find childcare for some, bring some with me, and just lose all those hours at home!  I will miss the early afternoon  commute though, instead of the 6PM that I'm back to.  Ugh.  I am so thankful the church found a permanent hire in a really talented gal.  And I was able to step back gradually and finally just confirmed Tuesday that I don't need to come anymore on Wednesdays.  So that's a welcome change! 
  • It is not reasonable to expect myself to read a book a week and also do the rest of my life well.  I'm adjusting to try and read one every TWO weeks.  I just don't have a lot of interest/discipline when it comes to non-fiction . . . 
  • Our one daughter with sensory processing disorder has been having significant challenges the last few months.  We are spending a lot of emotional, time, and financial resources trying to get her back on track.  Key word ***emotional***.  I'm barely keepin' it together.
  • I'm spending some time trying out recipes that at GF/DF or have dairy alternatives.  I will likely post about some of that process, but right now I'm just overwhelmed stepping into the change and I have little margin.
  • Homeschool is going well.  I am planning next year and thinking about how our life will be different.
  • I haven't started my garden plants.  Poor little things will likely on have 5 or 6 weeks to grow before I transplant them.  And my garden is a whole other thing.  I still have landscaping to finish from last year and I have lots of prep before planting.  I just don't even want to think about it yet.
  • I'm very stressed about money lately.  I have mentioned that our whole emergency fund was gone, but I haven't felt up to detailing how that happened.  Maybe another post.  On top of that our rental property has had some big, expensive repairs/maintenance this winter to the tune of $5,000!  Ouch!  We are still recovering from that and anxiously awaiting our tax refund to pay off what we still owe.
So that's where I'm at if anyone out there is reading . . .


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 Week 11 Groceries - $65.77

This week I made an unusual purchase from Amazon Fresh.  Usually their prices are high and it pains me to use them.  However, I needed a homeschool book in a hurry and Amazon Fresh delivers next day.  Sure enough, the book was one of the many available through Amazon Fresh so I looked to see what else I could get.  I was out of salt, worcestershire, and eggs so I got those.  Then I bought some non-dairy items so I could still make my DF kiddo 'normal' food.  All told I spent $18.98 on food.

I also was at Fred Meyer because I need fritos for a potluck.  I hate paying full price for junk food.  It was $3.50!  Then I bought a bunch of produce because we're low.  I spent $12.43 all together.  I also popped into TJ's for some vegan cream cheese I heard about.  Everyone I've talked to says it gross, but my kiddo was really happy to have some schmear for her bagel.  It was $2.49.

DH requested baked potato soup for a potluck at work so I asked him to bring home the bacon . . . . and potatoes.  He spent approximately $9.00.

I got eggs Sunday from my friend!  I'm already over halfway through the 5 dozen. - $10

Milk - $12.86

Weekly total for Week 11: $65.77
Total year-to-date 2014: $519.45
Weekly Average so far:  $47.22


Sunday, March 9, 2014

2014 Week 10 Groceries - $110.13!

One of our girls has sensory processing disorder and she has hit a spot in normal development that is just making the sensory challenges especially rough.  I may write a bit on this later, but mostly it just makes me sad and I'm not into soul-baring too much on this blog lately.  Anyway, we are attempting to make her diet diary-free so we can ascertain if diary is affecting her behavior negatively.  Mostly I am trying to prepare meals that don't call for dairy because the substitutes are expensive, but there are a few things we bought to help her adjust to the idea.

DH did another little bit shopping for me this week when we were having company and he was out with a kid.  He picked up fake sour cream and rice milk sorbet so our kiddo could still enjoy the tacos and ice cream we were serving our company.  He spent $6.18.

I went to QFC to pick up almond milk because it was on sale this week.  I also wanted to check out vegan cheese options for the DF adventure (spendy!).  I found several clearance items, too.  I spent $15.41.  I'm kinda excited to decorate shamrock sugar cookies with green & white frosting and candy google eyes.  =)

We made a Costco run because we were out of lettuce.  I was SUPER excited to find DF cheese at Costco for an OK price.  The shredded 'cheese' was about 60% of the price for the same brand at QFC.  Whoo-hoo!  And a test run sprinkled on chili proved OK for melting.  I picked up garlic and feta because I was running low and splurged on a big jug of organic olive oil.  I also decided to buy beef base and cumin.  It was really too much unplanned picking stuff up for my budget but I had all the kids with me, it was pouring rain out, and it just wasn't a normal shopping kind of day.  I spent $55.28 - eep!

I went to QFC again for the cheese sale and also bought creamer (we were out) and tomatoes to go with the Costco lettuce.  I was pleased to find apples & lemons in the $0.99 produce markdowns, too.  I spent $20.39. 

We also had our usual milk delivery for $12.86

This is my biggest week of spending so far in 2014.  I spent $110.13!
Total year to date spending: $453.68
Average per week: $45.37


Saturday, March 8, 2014

New Bathroom Strategy for Kid Flotsam

All You had a  list of "7 Ways to Simplify Your Life" that I read a couple of weeks ago.

Sometimes they have great new ideas & information and sometimes it's all stuff I've heard before, but I really liked a couple of the ideas on this list.

One was to have personal laundry baskets for each person in the house.  My kids already have their own hampers and I try to do their laundry one kid at a time so it's easier to fold and get put away.  But I like the idea of each kid having their own, smaller "put away" basket that maybe they have to empty every day or two?  My mom used milk crates when we were growing up and it worked pretty well. My challenge is a very small laundry room and nowhere to put individual baskets.  So I'll have to consider how I'd make that work.

The other idea I REALLY liked is to give all the kids their own bathroom bag and a place to hang it up in the bathroom.  My girls already have their own cosmetic bags for their hairbrushes, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.  We instituted that back in the summer of headlice.  But those darn bags are forever left on the counter or on top of the toilet tank.  I've tried to institute and under-the-counter home for them, but that only works about 60% of the time.  Additionally, the girls end up squabbling when one needs to get her bag out from under the counter and another is standing in front of the cabinet door.  So I think hooks on the wall are genius and I'm planning to implement this idea sometime in the next few days . . . or months.  =)


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thursday Menu Plan

I went to church Wednesday night and was delighted to find the volunteer force was abundant!  I was able to take the night off and enjoy some much needed fellowship with some old friends.  I didn't bring home any leftovers last night so I'm actually hoping to dent my freezer this week!  Yahoo!

Thursday - bagels & fruit
Friday - Beef & Broccoli
Saturday - Pizza
Sunday - Sandwiches
Monday - Out
Tuesday - Bagels & fruit
Wednesday - soup

Thursday - French Toast
Friday - Nuggets
Saturday - Company for dinner - Beef Enchilada
Sunday - Company for dinner - Ham/Bean Soup
Monday - Company for dinner - Steak Strips
Tuesday -  Waffles
Wednesday - at church


Sunday, March 2, 2014

2014 Week 9 Groceries - $32.11

I forgot about a shopping trip DH made last week, so I'm including it in this week's total.  We were committed to bring salad to a potluck and I was coming in from out of town at the last minute.  While I had all the ingredients at home there simply wasn't time to put a salad together between my travel and another appointment.  I suggested to DH that he pick up a veggie tray or something and he had a great idea to buy bagged salad.  It was 3 bags at $2.50 each so $7.50  altogether.

I made one trip to Fred Meyer because we needed eggs for baking.   I picked up carrots & cream cheese because we were out of those and the sour cream was on a great sale.  I spent $11.74.

And our milk delivery was $12.87.

We have continued to be blessed with leftovers from the church kitchen as I also try to use food from our freezers and pantry.  I'm very thankful for small grocery spending this week.

I also try and post my grocery week on Sunday evening but the last couple of weeks have been very busy with working at church and trying to get stuff done at home, too. 

Total groceries Week 9: $32.11
Total for 2014 to date: $343.55
Weekly Average: $38.17