January 30, 2012

Tena High Value Coupon

TENA_Free_Trial_small Tena has just put out one of the highest coupons for their products that I’ve seen for incontinence briefs.  Go here for a $6 off any Tena product coupon.  If you do not use these products, this is a good coupon to share with someone who does.  Thanks so much Sharon!!

If you haven’t already read it and know someone who uses incontinence briefs, be sure to check out my post on ways to save on these items. 

Meal Planning, First week of February

“Food is central to how we operate as a culture.”~Alice Waters

This meal plan is for a family of 3.  We often have at least one friend or family member over to share a meal with us during the week.  Since I factor the cost of the meal when I first prepare it, leftovers will be marked as $0.  When we dine out, it comes from a different part of the family budget and those expenses will also show $0.

This is the time of the year that I work on eating from our stores of food.  I clean out the fridge, dry storage, freezer, and pantry as much as I can to make way for the growing season.  Since we’re planning on purchasing even more beef this year than we did last, I’m also reserving a bit of our savings for that purpose.

Kid Konnection Meal

One night a week, we help with the children’s program at church.

Sandwiches on whole wheat bread
Carrot sticks, tomatoes, and cucumbers
Grapes, Pears, or Bananas

Approximate cost—$0, from church budget

Ways I saved on this meal—I caught a fantastic deal on whole wheat bread (priced at $1.35 and then I had a 35ct coupon which was doubled).  I’ll pick up some cheese and meat for the sandwiches.  We have a child with food allergies or else I would plan on a PBJ.  I’ll pick up some vegetables (BOGO at Kroger this week) and either pears, grapes or bananas for the kids.

~~~~~

Meal 2

Cottage Pie

Approximate cost--$6 (this will make enough for two meals)

Ways I saved on this meal—Using ground beef instead of lamb turns shepherd’s pie into cottage pie.  I bought the local, grassfed beef at Three Rivers during the member discount days, making a pound right at $4.  The onions came from the garden.  The organic carrots and celery, potatoes, organic butter, and peas were all bought on sale.  Using a can of cream of mushroom soup (bought for around a quarter late last year with a coupon and sale) keeps things a tad easier than making my own white sauce.  Though, really if you haven’t ever made your own white sauce/bechamel sauce, it isn’t hard.  One should try it at least a few times as a good cooking skill to master. 

~~~~~

Meal 3

Leftover Cottage Pie
Leftover Salad

Approximate cost—$0

Ways I saved on this meal—Cook once, eat twice.  Love that!

~~~~~

Meal 4

Chicken Fajitas
Black Beans
Guacamole Salad

Approximate cost—$8

Ways I saved on this meal—Hubby saw that avocados were on sale and made a request for this meal. The chicken is on sale, and the ingredients to make the fajita sauce were free.  The onions are from the garden, and the bell peppers were some that I froze from the garden.  I’ll pick up some tortillas when at the store, and I’ve found that if I look for them in the refrigerated section they are usually less than if I look on the ethnic food aisle.  I almost always make my beans from dried beans because they are SO MUCH CHEAPER than buying individual cans.  Simply soak them for about 24 hours (less will do), discard the water and rinse.  Then cover them with water and put them on the stove to cook.  You can add salt and seasoning at the end and leave the pot uncovered if you don’t want them to become mushy and split.  Also, you can add a bit of whey or baking soda to the soaking water (NOT cooking water!) if you like.  I find that they taste a little better if you add a bit of bacon grease or olive oil to the pot.  For the guacamole salad, I’ll keep it pretty simple with avocado mashed with lemon or lime and salt and pepper.  I’ll serve it on top of some chopped lettuce.

~~~~~

Meal 5

Pasta with broccoli

Approximate cost--$2

Ways I saved on this meal—The whole wheat pasta was free last year with a Mega Event and coupon.  I bought broccoli crowns for $1/lb last week, and I still have a bit leftover.  There is also a little in the garden that I’ll add to this.  I’ll cook the pasta, reserving a bit of cooking water.  At the last minute of cooking, I’ll throw in the chopped broccoli.  I’ll drain, add some organic butter, a bit of the cooking water, and parmesan cheese.  I bought the parmesan on sale with a coupon and have some leftover from when I made pumpkin pasta. 

I usually try to plan at least one meal a week that is meatless.  This helps reduce the cost per week that we spend on food.

~~~~~

Meal 6

Date Night

Approximate cost--$0, from a different part of the budget

Ways I saved on this meal—I’m not sure where we are going, but we have a free movie ticket at Regal.  I’ll look for coupons and group buying deals for reducing the cost of the meal.

~~~~~

Meal 7

Super Bowl Food

Potato Skins
Crudités and Ranch
Deviled Eggs
Chips and Salsa
Buffalo Chicken

Approximate cost--$8

Ways I saved on this meal—I saw a pretty simple recipe for buffalo chicken in the last edition of All You, and I think I’ll try it.  Hubby loves buffalo chicken, and so I’m hoping this is a good one.  I tried to think of other finger foods that I already have on hand, hence the potato skins and deviled eggs.  I have some sour cream that I bought on sale, and the Ranch dressing mix was free after coupon and sale.  The salsa is locally made, and we buy it by the case (10% discount) at TRM.  Whenever I am trying to make a special meal, I think about one stand out recipe (in this case the buffalo chicken) and then using sides that will go with it but are less expensive.

~~~~~

January 29, 2012

Challenge for the week—Money Saving Mom’s Budget and Removing Clutter

Update from last week--

A few weeks ago I started writing about how I set weekly goals for myself, and thus far, posting about the progress has been a great way for me to stay accountable and keep on track with my goals.  Not sure if anyone else is getting anything out of this, but I hope so.

Last week, I wrote the goal to exercise using the 30 Day Shred DVD daily for a full week:

I started a new exercise regimen that is a lot more fast paced for me.  Normally I do a little yoga here and there, some walking with jogging mixed in, and stay active in our yard.  I’d been reading from other bloggers the progress that they had made with Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, and I decided that it was worth trying.  I started the daily DVD a week ago.  The first exercise practice kicked my tushie.  I have worked out with trainers before, and they have pushed me but never like this.  I was so sore after the first day and then pulled a muscle the third day.  If it hadn’t been for the support of my Hubby also using the DVD daily, I might not have lasted.  I have stuck with it, and I’m starting to see some positive changes.  My legs and arms are feeling stronger and more toned, and I notice that I have a little more energy. 

I want to keep the momentum going because I know that if I stop for a day then one day will become three and eventually the DVD will have dust on it.  As part of my goals for the week, I’m planning to:

1.  Make sure that each day on my calendar includes “workout” listed on it as a priority.  All too often I’ll plan a day packed full of activities, chores, and other priorities without ever thinking about exercise.  If I don’t prioritize it, it won’t happen.

2.  I want to workout using the DVD every day this week.  Yep, every day—no days off.  If I can find a way to adapt to the exercises after a pulled muscle then I can find a way to do them even when I  have a packed day or am “too tired”.  If I allow myself an excuse, guess what?  I’ll use it.

How did I do?  I did really well for a full week.  I worked out daily, even when I didn’t feel like it.  I was always happy when I completed the workout and felt better for having done it.  Then, I caught a bout of bronchitis and that set me back for a bit.  (Hence the lapse in my posts this last week).   I was out 3 days, and when I started back, I wasn’t at full force.  Coughing and not being able to breathe really well definitely impacts how well you can do cardio!  Even though I’m still coughing a bit, I am finally feeling like I’m back to enjoying the workouts. 

What did I learn from this?  I think that the biggest challenge in any kind of goal work is what to do when you have an outside (or in this case very internal!) force that impedes your progress.  Had I been working out alone, I’m not entirely sure if I would be back to my daily routine.  Having my husband working out daily with me and someone to talk to about the progress and challenges has been inspiring.  His encouragement helped me to jump back on the exercising train. 

In a way, you readers have also been a sort of accountability partner for me.  Even though I’m not entirely sure anyone is actually reading these posts, posting these goals and then writing the follow up helps me stick with the goals that I set. 

Goals for this week--

msm I recently purchased the new book Money $aving Mom’s Budget by one of my favorite bloggers.  I still remember the day that I heard Nancy Twigg, local author and savvy saver, on a local news station talking about Money Saving Mom.  It was as if the sky had parted and angels were singing.  I never even knew that coupon bloggers existed, and when I learned about these things called “matchups” I was hooked. 

I’ve been reading her blog for years now, and I was thrilled when I learned about her new book.  I purchased a copy, even earning a free Dayspring platter for doing so, and I’ve started reading it this week.  Chapter 2 of the book focuses on reducing clutter in your home and life. She talks about how reducing clutter not only saves you time and energy, but it also saves you money.  How true!

While our home isn’t terribly cluttered, I can definitely do better with organizing, and I’ve decided to focus my goal for this week on doing just that.  I realized that even before I read this chapter, we have been in the mindset of cleaning out clutter for a few weeks.  As I have said before, the first of the year tends to be the time when we do more spring cleaning in our home.  I had decided to clean out our daughter’s closet, removing any clothes that she had outgrown.  This began a cleaning frenzy, mostly initiated by her, in her room. When we finished, I looked at the piles of toys, games, and such and realized we might have enough to host a garage sale in the spring.  That momentum kept rolling, and in the next few days I cleaned out my coupon files, a filing cabinet, the office shelves, and two of the bathroom drawers, adding even more to the pile.  I want to keep up the progress in hopes that not only will I notice less clutter, but it will also help to streamline our lives a bit.  When I’m not fighting with all of the lids in the pots and pans cabinet, the suppertime routine becomes easier and more enjoyable.  When I have my closet better organized, it makes my morning routine easier—you get the picture.

This week, as part of organizing, adding to the yard sale stash, and de-cluttering our home, I will:

  • Go through all of the storage areas for dishes, silverware, pots and pans, and glasses. 
  • Spend at least 30 minutes organizing the linens and removing any that we do not need.  (Side note here—KARM is in need of twin sized blankets and sheets.  I’ll be donating any that I find to them.)
  • Spend another 30 minutes going through the house and looking for items out of place.  If they aren’t needed or wanted, I’ll find another home for them or add them to the  yard sale pile.

If you haven’t yet picked up a copy of Money $aving Mom’s Budget, I recommend you give it a read.  Because I’ve been couponing for a while, I wasn’t sure how much I would get out of it.  Yet, as an inspirational tool alone, it has been well worth the purchase. 

January 18, 2012

Little Red Hen Consignment Tagging Service—New Suggested Pricing Guide!

little-red-hen I’ve told you about Little Red Hen Consignment Tagging Service previously, and how awesome Kristen is at making the consignment process so much easier for folks here in East TN.  I was excited to recently hear about her new pricing guide resource from Family Friendly Knoxville:

This guide, specific to Knoxville, offers a comprehensive pricing guide and is being offered for free.  Well organized and categorized, consignors will learn how to price items based on tiers such as Bargain, Basic, Better and Boutique, with suggested pricing ranges in each category.  There are also helpful hints included in the guide.

Check out the full post for all of the scoop and be sure to visit the Little Red Hen Consignment Tagging Service website for more info on how Kristen can make your life a little easier (and profitable!).  The spring consignment season is upon us—be sure to contact her soon to inquire about how her services can help you.

January 15, 2012

Meal Planning, Week of January 15th

“Cooking gives you control over what you put into your body and it’s cheaper than eating out or taking in. Food you make yourself tastes better, and it’s better for the environment, for your body, for your family. It’s just plain better.”~Mark Bittman

This meal plan is for a family of 3.  We often have at least one friend or family member over to share a meal with us during the week.  Since I factor the cost of the meal when I first prepare it, leftovers will be marked as $0.  When we dine out, it comes from a different part of the family budget and those expenses will also show $0.

This is the time of the year that I work on eating from our stores of food.  I clean out the fridge, dry storage, freezer, and pantry as much as I can to make way for the growing season.  Since we’re planning on purchasing even more beef this year than we did last, I’m also reserving a bit of our savings for that purpose.

Kid Konnection Meal

One night a week, we help with the children’s program at church.

Spaghetti O’s
Green Beans
Corn
Carrots and dip
Milk and juice to drink

Approximate cost—$0, from church budget

Ways I saved on this meal—This year, my goal is to feed the kiddos healthier meals.  Right now I’m in the process of cleaning out the shelves and using up some of the more processed foods.  Tonight I’ll counterbalance the Spaghetti O’s with vegetables, and milk and juice to drink.  The green beans were donated from a church member who canned them from the veg she picked out of her garden.  The last time I made these for the kids they were a huge hit!  I’ll pick up some corn and carrot sticks to serve as well.

~~~~~

Meal 2

One Skillet Dinner
Carrot sticks
Apple Slices

Approximate cost--$6 (this will make enough for two meals)

Ways I saved on this meal—I bought some local beef and organic apples when I was at Three Rivers Market last week, and I scored 10% off of my purchase as part of their membership appreciation days.  The rice that I’ll use for the dish was also bought there a couple of weeks ago when it was on sale.  The black beans were some leftover in the freezer and the other veggies were from the garden.  The cheese and carrot sticks were bought on sale.  The Ro*tel was on sale, and I used a coupon as part of a Mega Event sale last year around the Super Bowl.

This is one of those cook once eat twice kind of dishes.  I’ll add it to the freezer or save it in the fridge for later in the week.  The photo above is what a doubled recipe will make.

~~~~~

Meal 3

Pumpkin Pasta

Approximate cost—$3

Ways I saved on this meal—I saw a recipe for pumpkin pasta recently, and I’ve been wanting to try it ever since.  Because it is my first time to make it, I’ll use canned pumpkin, but if I like it, I’ll later experiment by using butternut squash from our garden.  Instead of cream I’ll use whole milk, which will reduce the cost and calories (and maybe the taste, but we’ll see.  I do love real cream!).  The organic butter was bought on close out sale.  It doesn’t expire for months, but it looked like the grocer wanted to make room for other products.  Bonus for me!  The canned pumpkin was bought on sale and with a coupon after the holidays two winters ago (January 2011).  I always watch for those seasonal items to go on sale and then stock up.  Canned pumpkin is a great addition to your food storage because it is versatile and full of vitamins.  It gets a bad reputation because so many people add tons of sweeteners to it when baking, but that isn’t necessary.  The pasta was free when bought as part of a Kroger Mega Event with coupons.  The Parmesan that I’ll use for this was on closeout and I had a Sargeanto coupon for it, making it around $1 a bag.  Normally I buy Parmesan in big blogs and grate it as needed, but I couldn’t resist this price. 

~~~~~

Meal 4

Leftovers

Approximate cost—$0

Ways I saved on this meal—At least one time a week I try to pull something out of the freezer or use up any leftovers that are in the fridge.  This not only reduces waste but it makes mealtime a little easier on busy nights.

~~~~~

Meal 5

DSC_1490Breakfast for dinner

Egg Scramble
Hash brown potatoes
Fruit salad
Either whole wheat toast or some kind of homemade bread (popovers, some sort of quick bread, biscuits, or whole wheat bread from the bread maker)

Approximate cost--$3-$4, depending on the type of bread

Ways I saved on this meal—I like to plan at least one of our weekly meals as a breakfast type of meal.  This reduces cost, and the dishes are usually a cinch to make.  I’ve been in the mood to bake lately, and I suspect that the bread for this meal will be a whole wheat loaf from the bread maker.  Super simple, inexpensive and yum! The wheat is some that I’ll mill from grain that we bought a few years ago as a bulk purchase.  The yeast is some that I need to use before it expires, and the honey was bought from Pratt’s Market.  I get it by the quart and it is right at $10—the cheapest I’ve found local honey.  The eggs are from a local farmer and the veg will be from the garden and from what we froze from the summer garden.  I recently read the idea to use your waffle iron to make hash browns, and I’ve been tempted to try it.  I almost always overcrowd the pan and the hash browns end up steaming instead of developing a nice golden brown crust.  I’m hoping this cooking technique will help.  The potatoes were bought on sale.  The fruit will most likely be assorted berries from those we picked last summer and froze.

~~~~~

Meal 6

Venison Tenderloin
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Peas

Approximate cost--$2.50

Ways I saved on this meal—The venison is some that my sister and brother-in-law gave us from a deer he took last year.  I’ll top it with some dijon mustard (on sale with coupon), and onions and rosemary from the garden.  To make full use of the oven heat, I’ll roast some potatoes (bought on sale) with a big of olive oil (organic, bought at TRM on sale with coupon) and rosemary (free from the garden).  The peas are some that were bought in the freezer section for $1 a pack.  How I look forward to fresh peas in just a few months!

I know game meats aren’t for everyone, and I know not all of us  have access to them but they are a great money saver!  See the link above (“venison”) for some of my game meat tips.

~~~~~

DSC_2429Meal 7—Repeat from last week. My dad took us out for Asian food last week, and I never made this meal.

Arroz con pollo—note that I have a very Americanized version (or maybe I should say Gabrielleized version) of this recipe included in the link

Approximate cost--$4

Ways I saved on this meal—I bought the chicken on sale at Kroger and froze a few extra packs.  I’ll cook the chicken in water at a very low heat (almost as if poaching it).  This keeps the meat tender.  Normally one would poach in a flavorful cooking liquid, but since I want to reserve the broth and freeze it to add to other dishes, I’ll keep the cooking liquid as water with a little salt and pepper.  Once cooked, I’ll debone the chicken and cook the rest of the recipe as noted in the link above.  The organic brown rice was bought recently at Three Rivers for just under $1.50/lb.  The onions are free from the garden, and the bell peppers were some from the garden that I froze last year.  The peas and carrots were on sale at Kroger.  The garlic was free from my dad.  The coconut oil was bought in bulk for a deep discount at Mountain Rose Herbs.  I’ll top it with a bit of the sour cream and salsa I mentioned above in the baked potato meal, and some of the jalapenos I put up last year from our garden.

~~~~~

Challenge for the Week—Exercise, exercise, exercise

Update from last week--

A few weeks ago I started writing about how I set weekly goals for myself, and thus far, posting about the progress has been a great way for me to stay accountable and keep on track with my goals.  Not sure if anyone else is getting anything out of this, but I hope so.

Last week, I wrote the goal to start a weekly practice for our family of learning Bible verses:

I was inspired to start a tradition in our family of having a Bible verse of the week.  I’ll write out a Bible verse each week and will keep it at the dinner table.  Whenever we sit for meals (which is pretty often in our household), we’ll read over the verse together and learn it by heart.  This week’s verse will be from Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  This is one of my favorite verses from the Bible.

How did I do?  I am so glad we started doing this!  Thus far we’ve memorized two verses—Philipians 4:13 and Romans 8:28 (two of my favorites).  Hubby has picked the verse for this week, and we’ll start practicing it tonight.  As part of introducing the verse, we talk as a family about what it means and how it relates to the Bible as a whole and other Biblical stories.  Then, at each meal, we practice the verse together.  We will most definitely continue this as part of our meal time conversation for weeks to come.

Goals for this week--

unnamed This week’s goal doesn’t really relate to anything I’ve been reading. I’ve become increasingly aware lately about what a gift of love it is for those you care for to take care of your health.  Eating right and exercising always were a self centered activity for me up until the point when we became pregnant.  (Note that when I say “self centered” I’m not referring to narcissistic.  I’m referring to how we perceive our own health—it is for the good of self).  Then all of the sudden someone else was dependant upon me to take care of myself.  What I put into my body and how I cared for it mattered to someone else, and I paid attention to every little part of that.  Then after our daughter weaned, I became a little more lax.  I still tried to eat healthy and exercise because she was watching me, but it was easier to slack. 

Because I work with older adults and because I help to care for my dad, I have a reminder of how important it is to take care of your health.  It wasn’t until I my dad started to have some problems with his health and I was taking a more active role in his care that it hit me that one day our daughter might be in the same role.  I realized that it is an act of love to her, to my husband, to my friends and family to take care of myself.  The longer I stay strong and healthy, the longer I’m able to be there for them. 

I started a new exercise regimen that is a lot more fast paced for me.  Normally I do a little yoga here and there, some walking with jogging mixed in, and stay active in our yard.  I’d been reading from other bloggers the progress that they had made with Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, and I decided that it was worth trying.  I started the daily DVD a week ago.  The first exercise practice kicked my tushie.  I have worked out with trainers before, and they have pushed me but never like this.  I was so sore after the first day and then pulled a muscle the third day.  If it hadn’t been for the support of my Hubby also using the DVD daily, I might not have lasted.  I have stuck with it, and I’m starting to see some positive changes.  My legs and arms are feeling stronger and more toned, and I notice that I have a little more energy. 

I want to keep the momentum going because I know that if I stop for a day then one day will become three and eventually the DVD will have dust on it.  As part of my goals for the week, I’m planning to:

1.  Make sure that each day on my calendar includes “workout” listed on it as a priority.  All too often I’ll plan a day packed full of activities, chores, and other priorities without ever thinking about exercise.  If I don’t prioritize it, it won’t happen.

2.  I want to workout using the DVD every day this week.  Yep, every day—no days off.  If I can find a way to adapt to the exercises after a pulled muscle then I can find a way to do them even when I  have a packed day or am “too tired”.  If I allow myself an excuse, guess what?  I’ll use it. 

Did any of you start a new exercise program as part of your New Year Resolutions?  If so, how is it going?  Have any of you used the DVD I mentioned above?

Independence Days Update, December through January

DSC_7074 For those of you who don’t know, these posts are inspired by the work of Sharon Astyk.  They have become a sort of garden/sustainability/living simply journal for our family.

Since I last wrote in December, we’ve had a few snows here in East TN.  The first was just a few snowflakes and then it was gone, and the second was enough to delay schools for an hour and then by around 10am had mostly disappeared.  With the winter weather, we’ve been enjoying warm evenings by the fireplace with occasional roasted marshmallows as a nightcap. 

I put the garden to rest—FINALLY—and feel much better when I look outside the window.  I still need to buy a little more straw to add to the large garden bed, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I didn’t add it.  It isn’t too much longer until I’ll be planting the first wave of peas (I usually plant them as a succession crop, beginning the last week in January if I can manage it).  And speaking of waves, waves and waves of seed catalogs are arriving in the post each day and are making me feel as happy as I did as a kid when the big Sears toy catalog would arrive around Christmas. 

This time of the year is usually a break for our family.  While we’ve been a little busier than we normally are in January with a more active work schedule, school resuming, and caring for my dad, we’ve enjoyed the sense of stillness that January brings.  There is something peaceful about this month—the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, there are fewer household responsibilities with the garden and yard, and our calendars are a little less packed with activities.  We have a sweet excitement about what this year will bring and what goals we have set to accomplish. 

This is the season for sipping on a pot of tea and relaxing with a good book.  This is the season that I plan and make lists—where will I put rhubarb this year?  How can we open up more space for more fruit trees?  When can we start the big bathroom renovation project?  Normal people purge, organize and deep clean in the spring, but January and early February is the time of the year that I do those tasks.  This is the time for fresh starts, snuggling with loved ones, staying in your pjs until your good and ready to get dressed, and taking a lovely, decadent break.  January, how I love thee!

The notes below are based on the last few months--

What did I plant?—Nada, zilch, zip. 

What did I harvest?— You’ll see the photo of carrots above.  This is the first year that I’ve had a fairly successful crop of carrots, and I’ll definitely be planting more and a few varieties next year.  I had no idea that they would last throughout the heat of summer into winter and still be tender and juicy and sweet.  Who knew!?  I’ve also picked a bit of kale that rejuvenated itself, some broccoli that decided to flower, lots of green onions, and a few herbs. 

What did I preserve?—Other than soup and freezing some extra green onions, I haven’t preserved much. 

How did I work to reduce waste and live more simply?— Friends have passed a few more bags of clothes to our daughter,which is so nice!  We’ve been composting more regularly.  I’ve found that it works best for me to keep a dish with a lid on the counter for about a week and then dump the contents in the composter.  We’ve added some basic staples to the stockpile. I added about a 6 month supply of organic US brown rice from  Three Rivers Market and a few varieties of beans. 

How did I work at building and strengthening community food systems?—  I am so proud of the way that the food pantry at church looks with the new Shelf Reliance cansolidators.  A friend kindly donated another 2 to the pantry, giving us a total of 7 of them.  Boy has it made a difference!  A church friend and I spent a couple of hours getting everything sorted by date and food type and making up boxes for the next month.  The pantry is so much better organized.  The consolidation of the cans in a more compact space gives us more room to store other items.  I can’t tell you how many people I have dragged into the pantry to see how beautiful it is.  I will try to post a photo here so you can see, too. 

Did I try any new recipes or were there any special meals at our table?—  Tis the season for soup!  I’ve enjoyed making a few different types of soup, using foods that we added to storage from our summer garden.  My favorite by far has been seeing the fat, big as your spoon, Christmas lima beans in the broth with the other vegetables.  Yum!  For recipes, you can look under the “recipe” label on the left hand column.  The beauty of soup is that you do a little work, have a huge pot full of goodness, and then you have extras in the freezer when you want an easy supper or have a friend who is sick or could use a little comfort. 

January 8, 2012

Meal Planning, Getting Back to School

“If we had some eggs we could have eggs and ham, if we had some ham.”--Groucho Marx

This meal plan is for a family of 3.  We often have at least one friend or family member over to share a meal with us during the week.  Since I factor the cost of the meal when I first prepare it, leftovers will be marked as $0.  When we dine out, it comes from a different part of the family budget and those expenses will also show $0.

This is the time of the year that I work on eating from our stores of food.  I clean out the fridge, dry storage, freezer, and pantry as much as I can to make way for the growing season.  Since we’re planning on purchasing even more beef this year than we did last, I’m also reserving a bit of our savings for that purpose. 

Kid Konnection Meal

One night a week, we help with the children’s program at church.

Pizzas
Cucumbers
Carrot sticks

Approximate cost—$0, from church budget

Ways I saved on this meal—I bought the cucumbers and carrots at Kroger.  They were “on sale” at $1.25 for a bag of carrots and 59cts each for the cukes.  I am making an effort to give the kiddos at Kid Konnection more fruits and veggies this year, and since I didn’t want to make a separate trip elsewhere, I decided that price was good enough.  The pizzas are from Little Cesar’s with our tax free status, and per pizza this is the best price we’ve seen ($5 each).  We’ve made them in the church kitchen before, but since we feed to many kids and only have one oven, buying out makes more sense.

 ~~~~~

Meal 2

Sausage
Sautéed Spinach
Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Approximate cost--$5

Ways I saved on this meal—I bought sausage at Kroger when they were running their last Carolina Pride BOGO sale.  With coupons, they were around $1 for a pack.  In truth, I’m trying to clear this out of the fridge as I’m a little over it. I bought a bunch of sweet potatoes at Kroger right before Christmas when they were 50cts/lb.  This isn’t nearly as good as the price last year (right at 30cts a pound if I remember correctly), but it was the best price I’d seen in a while.  Whenever I see a discount like that,I buy as many as I can store and can spare in the budget.  I bought a very large pack of organic spinach on sale, and we used it for salads and added to sandwiches for half of a week.  When it gets near its expiration, I through it into a pan with a little olive oil (organic, bought with coupon and sale at Three Rivers Market) and garlic (free, given to me by my dad) just until it wilts.  Then I add a little lemon juice (bottled, as I don’t have any fresh).

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Meal 3

Pasta and Sauce

Approximate cost—$1.25

Ways I saved on this meal—Since this week will be pretty packed, and we’ll be accustoming ourselves back into the school schedule, I planned a few easy meals this week.  This is one of the easiest.  I still have a few boxes of whole wheat pasta from Ronzoni that we picked up as part of a Mega Sale at Kroger with coupons for free.  I’ll add to that some sauce that I bought on sale with coupon for less than $1.  We’ll top it with just a bit of parmesan cheese that I bought on clear out with a coupon at Kroger.  Sometimes I’ll add a few veggies to the mix—sautéed green onions and fresh parsley from the garden, a few handfuls of shredded zucchini that I froze from the garden this summer, and maybe a few frozen peas.

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Meal 4

Leftover soup and either sandwiches or crackers

Approximate cost—$3

Ways I saved on this meal—Another one of the easy meals for this week.  I made a large pot of soup this weekend, and I had plenty leftover to freeze.  I’ll defrost it and add a few crackers and slices of cheese to the side, or if the family prefers, we can do some grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches.

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Meal 5

Baked potatoes with all of the fixings

Approximate cost--$3

Ways I saved on this meal—Again, a super simple meal.  I’ll set up a little bar with cheeses, sour cream, butter, slices of meat, steamed broccoli, green onions and salsa.  We’ll add any leftover soup from the container that I defrosted the previous night in cups on the side.  The green onions are free from the garden. The salsa is locally made and was bought in bulk from Three Rivers (10% case discount for being a member).  The organic butter was marked down, and I had a coupon (love that!).  The cheeses and sour cream were on sale, and I had coupons.  The broccoli, potatoes, and meat were on sale.  Notice a theme?  I rarely buy items that I don’t get some sort of discount on. 

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Meal 6

Lamb Roast
Irish soda bread?

Approximate cost--$9

Ways I saved on this meal—I have a small lamb roast in the freezer bought from a local farmer when I last purchased lamb.  I am trying to clean out the freezer and do not want such a delicacy to go to waste!  I’ll cook it in my Dutch oven, seared in olive oil then reduced down to super low heat for most of a day.  I’ll add onions, potatoes, and carrots to the pot.  Near the end, I’ll thicken the drippings with a blond roux to make a gravy.  If I get really industrious, I’ll make a bit of Irish soda bread to go with it.  Notice the price of this meal is significantly more than other meals?  One of the reasons I enjoy couponing is because it allows me to buy more of our foods from local sources.  I can save from our budget by purchasing something for free, say pasta, and then can use that money for other foods that we enjoy like lamb.

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Meal 7

Arroz con pollo—note that I have a very Americanized version (or maybe I should say Gabrielleized version) of this recipe included in the link

Approximate cost--$4

Ways I saved on this meal—I bought the chicken on sale at Kroger and froze a few extra packs.  I’ll cook the chicken in water at a very low heat (almost as if poaching it).  This keeps the meat tender.  Normally one would poach in a flavorful cooking liquid, but since I want to reserve the broth and freeze it to add to other dishes, I’ll keep the cooking liquid as water with a little salt and pepper.  Once cooked, I’ll debone the chicken and cook the rest of the recipe as noted in the link above.  The organic brown rice was bought recently at Three Rivers for just under $1.50/lb.  The onions are free from the garden, and the bell peppers were some from the garden that I froze last year.  The peas and carrots were on sale at Kroger.  The garlic was free from my dad.  The coconut oil was bought in bulk for a deep discount at Mountain Rose Herbs.  I’ll top it with a bit of the sour cream and salsa I mentioned above in the baked potato meal, and some of the jalapenos I put up last year from our garden.

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January 4, 2012

Locked out of Facebook

Please excuse my absence from Facebook for the last few days.  I’ve been locked out of my account, and I’m trying to get it reset.  Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but since Facebook wants to send me a text, and I do not receive texts, I’m stuck.  They have a prompt that they will send me a code as a phone call, but unfortunately, I keep getting a message that says that they are busy and unable to send the code at this time.  If you have any ideas for me, I welcome them.  Until then, you can e-mail me if you have any questions or need to reach me.  Thanks for understanding!

Challenge for the week—Memorizing Bible Verses

Update from last week--

A few weeks ago I started writing about how I set weekly goals for myself, and thus far, posting about the progress has been a great way for me to stay accountable and keep on track with my goals.  Not sure if anyone else is getting anything out of this, but I hope so.

Last week, I wrote goals that related to a book I recently read, The Question Behind the Question.  

This week I want to work on asking myself how I can positively impact situations rather than becoming frustrated when something negative happens.  The book talks about how important it is to be accountable for yourself—you can’t change others and many times you can’t change situations, but you can control how you choose to interact and respond.  You can control what YOU DO. I read the book in about an hour, and while it wasn’t brand new information, it was a great reinforcement of what I already know through using cognitive behavioral therapy as a social worker—change the way you think about a situation, and you change the way you feel about it.  Those little changes add up and effect your relationships, your work, your life. 

Since this goal is a little hard to measure, I’m going to break it up into smaller goals that I can check off.  I’ll sign up for the QBQ e-newsletter so that I have little reminders as they arrive in my inbox.  When I notice myself becoming frustrated in a situation, I’ll stop and ask myself, “What can I do?”  Hopefully that use of self talk will spur me to positive action.  I’ll also make a few notes about the QBQ concepts and post them around the house.  We’ll see how it goes.

How did I do?  Pretty well.  I think that this is going to be something that I need to continuously remind myself to improve upon.  I found the intentional action of asking myself, “What can I do differently?” was helpful when I found myself frustrated or in a situation that I would normally see as negative.  For example, I used the QBQ today at the Kroger pharmacy.  I’m not a huge fan of their pharmacy, but my dad needed a medication filled and I was the gal for the job.  The clerk acted as if she was frustrated over having to help me when I asked her to make sure his insurance was properly processed.  When I noticed her storming around the pharmacy and acting frustrated, I reminded myself that I had a choice.  If first thought to myself that I wasn’t sure how her day had gone and this might be a hard one for her.  When she returned, I said, “I’m sorry that was so difficult.  Thank you for doing that for me.”  It changed the dynamic between us and her attitude towards helping me for the better. 

Last week when I wrote the post about reading the QBQ book, the author left a comment and asked for me to email him.  I was absolutely thrilled and even more so when he offered to send me a free copy of his follow up book to QBQ called Flipping the Switch!  I plan to read it next week and am very much looking forward to it.  I’ll keep you posted on what I learn.

Goals for this week--

I’m reading the book Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin.  I haven’t made it too far into the book yet, but I’m learning a lot.  At different points in the book, Rabbi Lapin talks about how important the oral tradition of telling the stories of the Torah are in the Jewish faith.  I realized that while we teach our daughter about the Bible, read from it to her, etc, we aren’t yet encouraging her to memorize verses.  While somewhat unrelated to the purpose of the book, I was inspired to start a tradition in our family of having a Bible verse of the week.  I’ll write out a Bible verse each week and will keep it at the dinner table.  Whenever we sit for meals (which is pretty often in our household), we’ll read over the verse together and learn it by heart.  This week’s verse will be from Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  This is one of my favorite verses from the Bible. 

Lapin2e As for the book, it is a longer read than some others I’ve tackled recently, though I’m finding it intriguing.  If you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend you check it out of the library or order a copy.  Part of my family is Jewish, and it has helped me to better understand some of the differences and likenesses between cultures and faiths.  I’ve had quite a few “ah-ha” moments and have gained a new insights into approaches I can use in business and life in general. 

How many of you set New Year’s Resolutions for 2012?  How are you doing with them thus far?

Three Rivers Market, Matchups and Discount Days

Discount Days Ahead

For those who lucked out and received a Three Rivers Market Membership Interest from a friend or family member during the recent flurry of holiday gift-giving, congratulations! You'll be thanking them all over again when TRM Member Discount Days happen January 12th-15th.

The four day event includes loads of in-store demonstrations, product samples, family-friendly events and (wait for it...) TRM Members can pick a day to get 10% off their entire transaction. Don't forget, TRM Members get 10% off cases, which can add up to some super savings. Just be sure to place volume orders at least a week in advance to make sure they arrive in time.

If you didn't get that Membership Interest for Christmas, don't fret, become a member now! 

Our family has been very pleased with our membership and the many discounts and benefits it has brought us.  I’ve found it well worth the money, and if you are a TRM shopper, want to eat healthier this year, have food allergies, or like to support local stores, be sure to ask a store employee how to sign up.


There are some great deals happening this sales period.  For all of the matchups, be sure to check out Money Saving Maine-iac’s post here and here.

Produce Specials: January 4 - 17

• Organic Green Cabbage - 99¢ lb. (reg. 1.19 save 20¢)
This nutritional powerhouse is insanely versatile! Eat it raw, cooked, fermented (kimchi anyone?) Possibly the healthiest green vegetable for your food dollar. A snap to prepare, just heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a sauté pan, toss in a teaspoon or two of whole cumin seed, then add 3-6 cups of chopped cabbage and sauté until it softens. Finish with soy sauce, Bragg's liquid amino, or a pinch of salt. C'est yummy!

• Organic lemons - 5/$3 (reg. 79¢ ea. save 19¢) If one of your resolutions (see above) includes a cleanse, you should stock up now. If your resolution includes making more guacamole, or seviche, ditto. (I’ll be making some lemon curd this month!!)

• Organic Orlando Tangelo - 99¢ lb. (reg. $1.49 save 50¢) A great organic juicing citrus. Members receive a 10% discount on the 20 lb. case, stop by the Customer Service Desk to fill out a special order form.

Smart Toys and Books—Huge After Christmas Sale, Knoxville

158019_109058701130_7292810_n I was in Smart Toys and Books today with our daughter shopping, and they have a TON of things marked down as part of an after Christmas sale.  Their Christmas items are 50% off, and they have a book table and back room with items marked down from 40% off to 75% off.  I noticed other sale prices marked throughout the store on various items. I spent a little less than $20 but have books and toys for 2 separate birthday gifts and more books to give as gifts next Christmas.  Love that!  If you happen to be on that side of town, you might want to check it out for yourself.