Saturday, May 31, 2014

Garden Update

I'm still working away at the garden and planting a little bit more as I clear more space.  Here are current pictures:

From the side, almost all the tomatoes have cages

From the end, down the length of the fence.

My beautiful bell pepper!  It totally paid off to buy a plant that already had a blossom on it.

The first tomato is growing - on the smallest plant of all!

Corn is springing up.

A little broccoli has sprouted

Broccoli plants

New spinach
I also just planted green beans from a packet I found of last year's seeds.  Hopefully they'll still sprout.  I also just transplanted a mini bell pepper plant, but it sat for about 3 weeks before I found a spot for it.  We'll see if it adjusts to its new home.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Gluten-Free Menu Plan

Monday - BBQ
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Spaghetti (GF Noodles)
Thursday - Beef Stew
Friday - Asian Ribs/Rice
Saturday - Pot Roast
Sunday - Mexican

Monday - BBQ
Tuesday - Grilled  Cheese (GF Bread)
Wednesday - Quesadillas (Rice Flour Tortillas TJs)
Thursday - Hot Dogs
Friday - PBJ (GF Bread)
Saturday - Leftovers
Sunday - Finger Food Lunch


Sunday, May 25, 2014

2014 Week 21 Groceries

We had a few trips to Albertsons this week because it was the end of the Monopoly game and we had a bunch of game pieces to turn in.  I spent $14.46 on this GF pasta, sugar, and the 3 bags of chips not pictured.

This was another trip where I spent $11.34.  The cheese & deli meat were on clearance.

Albertson's again and I found all this meat on clearance.  I really wrestled with buying it because of lack of freezer space, but seriously!  Under $2/lb for lunch meat and ground sausage!  I spent $26.80 and now that I look at my receipt I was totally overcharged for one of the lunchmeats!  Bah!  Seriously, when I shop with the kids I'm terrible about watching items ring up and reviewing my receipt.

This was another quick trip, but this time to Fred Meyer.  I spent $15.90 on all this.

Milk delivery was $12.87 and I didn't get eggs today.

Total Groceries Week 21: $81.37
Total Groceries Year-to-date: $1,381.30
Weekly Average: $65.78


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Disney "Year of Savings" 20 Week Update

I've been working with DD#2 on a 2014 Savings Plan for our Disneyland trip planned for January 2015.  At 20 weeks we have saved $421, which is just about 30% of the eventual $1,378 we will save.  I should be around 40% at this point so I'm definitely behind and need to contribute some of those bigger numbers!

Unfortunately that means I can't spend as much of my weekly budget.  And that's a bummer because I have some other bills to catch up on, too.   Oh well - Keep Calm and Carry On, right?


Friday, May 23, 2014

Freezer Defrosted! - 2 Days Ahead of Schedule

Back on April 24th my freezer was getting pretty frosty.  I knew I'd have to empty it, but it seemed like a pretty huge task.

A couple of weeks later I had moved a few things to the small freezer attached to refrigerator, but the frost was only getting worse out in the garage freezer.  It was so bad I couldn't even get something out because they were covered in ice!

Yesterday I was home the whole day and decided to go ahead and start the defrosting so I could monitor the melting water all day.  I unplugged about 10AM and this is how the freezer looked by 1PM.  All of those items still on the shelves are frozen solid under ice.

The girls were big helpers and loved trying to loosen ice bits.

By 5PM only the most frozen bits were still stuck to the shelf.

Today it's empty of food, but needs a scrub!

And my inside refrigerator is packed!  Even the ice maker . . . 

Hooray for an unplugged old dinosaur of a freezer!  I love the lower electric bills all summer long with the no heat, no freezer, and very little use of dryer!  I am thankful to live in a place that doesn't require running an air conditioner all summer!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Menu Plan

Oh Menu Plan, menu plan - I have to unplug the freezer in 5 days.

Monday - Taco Salad (beef)
Tuesday - Taco Soup (chicken) - bell peppers & beans in freezer
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - Pot Roast - beef in freezer
Friday - Potluck
Saturday - BBQ Beef sandwiches
Sunday -  Egg/Ham Casserole

Monday - Chicken & Rice
Tuesday - Ham Bone Soup - didn't make it over the weekend as planned
Wednesday - pbj picnic
Thursday - Nachos
Friday - French Toast
Saturday - Leftovers
Sunday -Sandwiches


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Week 20 Groceries - $84.42

I did lots of shopping this week.  The first trips were Albertsons and The Dollar Store Monday while one kiddo had an appointment.  I spent $9.50 at The Dollar Store and about $11.10 at Albertsons on chicken breast & beans.

I swung into Fred Meyer for the cheese & butter on sale and picked up a few other things.  I spent $11.72.

Another trip to Fred Meyer for the cheese and butter (which I forgot) and brown sugar for the kids' oatmeal. I found a few other things on clearance - Whoo! six zucchini for $1.00.  I spent $14.16.

A trip to Costco was $17.57.

And finally, a trip to Target where lots of condiments were on clearance and I scored the 18-pack of candy bars for $0.41 average per bar.  I spent $16.37 altogether with clearance prices & manufacturer's coupons.

I cancelled the milk delivery this week and I didn't get eggs.

Week 20 Groceries - $84.42
2014 Groceries to Date - $1,299.93
Weekly Average Groceries - $65.00


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Storing Winter Blankets

I converted my linen closet to a canning pantry two years ago.  I got rid of many towels and sheet sets, but we do need spare blankets to bulk up our own beds in the winter and for making up extra beds for company.

Without a closet where do I store these blankets?  Usually flat, between the mattress & box spring of various beds.  This year the job was very easy as the kids' beds are unbunked and I was able to put ALL the blankets under one mattress.  It now sits several inches higher, but the guard rail around the bed hides the awkwardly raised mattress.

Pile O' Blankets lingering on my dresser

One peed & stripped kid's bed begging for hidden blankets!

Afghan #1!
Afghan #2, wool blanket, regular blanket
Afghan #3 hiding in the crib
Maybe I should have taken Afghan #3 out of the crib before I set the mattress on it.
Afghan #3 made it!  And Afghan #4 fished out of a kid's room..
The mattress is several inches taller now and the big blankets are out of sight for the next 5 months or so.
 Yay for a job done!


Friday, May 16, 2014

This Just In: Garden Loves Sun!

My garden is doing great with all this sunshine!  I wish I had gotten more into the ground before our crazy 80 degree weather in May, but I'm thankful for what is already flourishing.

Regular Tomatoes

Bell Pepper!!!

Grape Tomatoes
I also got some spinach in the ground this week.  Next up: beans & more weeding!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Menu Plan - Freezer Focus

My freezer looks terrible!  Look at frozen mess:

I just need a plan  for the next few days to feel like I can actually accomplish this defrosting 9 days from now.  

Baked Pasta
Ham/Bean soup (ham bone, beans in freezer)
French Chicken - Crockpot (whole meal in freezer)
Ham Mini-Loaves (ham, sausage in freezer)

French Toast (bread in freezer)
Mac & Cheese Pie (in freezer)
Finger Food Lunch

Stuff to try:
Cheese/Broccoli Soup (broccoli in freezer)

Smoothies (fruit in freezer)
Chocolate muffins (in freezer)


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2014 Groceries Week 19 - $74.68

I needed chips in a hurry on Friday so I dashed out to the store that morning and also picked up eggs, bananas, cucumbers, and a bunch of clearance yogurt.  I spent $19.11.
I dropped into Albertson's Saturday morning for celery.  I also found this almond milk markdown for $1.99 and I had a $1.50 off coupon.  Also the cottage cheese was clearance priced for $1.99. I spent $3.99  total.

 This was also a Friday shopping trip.  I had some unexpected time to kill so browsed around Albertson's, the nearest grocery store.  I found all this markdown sausage.  I  had $1.00/2 coupons for the Johnsonville and a $0.25 store coupon so I spent $7.70 altogether.  I know I'm trying to use freezer stuff, but I couldn't turn down breakfast sausage for under $2.00/lb.  Seriously.

 Finally, I went to Fred Meyer Sunday for the Founder's Day Sale.  Milk for $3.99 and butter for $1.50 - yes!  I also got more breakfast sausage on clearance for $1.59 and some quinoa pasta for $2.19 each!  This will help a lot with my GF little lady!  I spent $31.10.

Our milk delivery was $12.87 and we didn't get eggs from my friend this week.
Total for Week 19 - $74.68
Total for groceries year-to-date 2014: $1,215.51
Weekly average so far 2014: $63.97

I plan to hit Fred Meyer a couple more times to stock up on cheese and butter so costs might be higher than usual.  I'm also trying to use what's in the freezer, so maybe I won't have too much of buying other stuff.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Canning Tomatoes - First Time Ever

You might remember that 25 pound box of tomatoes I bought last week? 

 I canned them after a couple of days.  I sorted them out first - good, starting to go, and gone.  Luckily there were only 2 that were gone.

Next I looked up ho to can tomatoes in my handy canning cookbook.
There are really a lot of ways to can tomatoes!  I jut went with a cold pack of diced tomatoes for simplicity.  No cooking, no blanching/peeling, just dice and stuff in a jar.

The cookbook was really clear about using nice, firm fruit.  You don't want to heat anything yucky that might be growing on your tomatoes to a high temperature and let it grow inside the jar.  We had a run-in with a mysterious substance on the surface of an applesauce quart earlier this year.  I just tossed the whole jar out, better safe than sorry.  I opted to dice and freeze all the 'starting to go' category.

For the raw pack I just diced the tomatoes, packed them into hot jars, poured boiling water over the tomatoes, sealed, and put in the pressure canner.  Some of the jars leaked out lots of their liquid, as  you can see in the photo below.  I did a little research online and found out it's pretty normal to lose some liquid, but you lose more if you try and cool the jars too fast.  Maybe that was my problem since I was racing to finish and get somewhere on time. 

So I put fresh, boiling water in those jars, resealed, and put them in the pressure canner again.  They came out much better the second time around with their nice, slow cool down. The final result was 16 pints with about 8 tomatoes left in the fridge for salads this week.

I'm not sure how economical this process really is.  I paid $15 and a lot of labor to get only 16 jars of tomatoes.  I could have bought 14.5 oz cans of tomatoes at Fred Meyer last week for $0.50 each.  At least this week I know the jars really only contain tomatoes and they are in glass jars.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Resourceful Broccoli & Cheese Soup

I have 4 gallon-size Ziplocs of frozen broccoli stalks so I thought I'd try some broccoli & cheese soup.  I didn't bother with a recipe and I'm thinking that was a mistake!

Frozen broccoli stalks
Broccoli & cheese for the soup

I heated a can of cream of mushroom soup and added the cheese.

Chopped broccoli

Some ground ham
I added salt, pepper, and garlic because I add that to everything.
It looked OK, but was about the saltiest thing I've tasted in a long time.
I don't know why I added salt.  Canned soup certainly has plenty, not to mention the ground ham.  Oh well. 

I'll try from scratch next time.