Sunday, June 20, 2010

Multi-Tasking Muffins

I just made a batch of Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins that will serve as breakfasts this week.  These muffins will serve many purposes for me this week:
  1. Save money - I had the ingredients on hand already (only one substitution), plus, we won't need to spend any additional money for breakfasts this week.
  2. Reduce waste - I had a ripe banana that needed to be used up. 
  3. Save TIME - a very valuable morning commodity in my commuting household.
The combination of peanut butter and banana is one of my absolute favorites.  The only substitution I made was for the buttermilk.  I didn't have any, nor did I have any white vinegar on hand to put in the milk to make an alternative.  So I took my chances and just used plain ol' milk.  Yep, I sampled one and I must say, my risk paid off - DELISH!  I urge you to give these a try. If you are a fan of peanut butter, bananas, or the fantastic combination they provide, you WON'T be disappointed.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lightnin' Bug or Firefly?

One of my favorite things about this time of year are those little glowing critters.  In preparing for the week ahead, Little A and I went to fill the car up with gas.  On the way home, I swear it looked like Tinker Bell and every single one of her friends were hanging out in our neck of the woods.  It was beautiful.  I slowed down to a crawl, just transfixed on the blinkety blinks.  So much so that I got a little honk of the horn behind me.  Guess they didn't understand I was making a memory with my girl...oops! As soon as we got home, I knew I had a job to do.  A few weeks ago I had set aside an empty salsa jar so I could use it to make vinaigrette.  Well, let's just say I won't be making any for a while.  For the first time, Little A got a jar of lightnin' bugs.  At least that's what I call 'em.  How about you?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

If You Can't Stand the Heat

It's hot.  And humid.  Really hot and really humid.  So today, Little A and I went pool shopping.  We went everywhere, looking for the just the right one.  Freds?  Nope.  Walgreens?  Nope.  Dollar General?  Nope.  So we ended up at my "love-hate relationship" place...WalMart.  She really wanted one with a slide, but I wasn't willing to pay $350 for an inflatable pool.  Yes, you read that correctly - THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS.  Of course the picture on the side of the box did look pretty darn awesome.  But alas, we spent $18 on a "snap" pool that is big enough for Little A to float in, and for me and Big B to cool off in also. 

We got it home, unrolled it, and turned on the hose for what felt like an eternity.  "What's THAT gonna do to the water bill?" I thought to myself.  But it's hot, so we went for it.  And the water...the water was cold...really cold!  And oh so refreshing.  Little A was a splishin' and a splashin' and loving every minute of it.  Which made mama very happy.

Hope you are enjoying YOUR Saturday...and staying cool!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Menu Plan (February 8)

Sorry it's a little late - but we had a pretty big weekend!  So here we go...

I am still in the process of using up what we have in the cupboards / freezer, so most of this is already on hand.  I made a few purchases this weekend, but have not hit my $75 grocery limit yet!

Monday - Sweet and Sour Chicken with Noodles and Broccoli (had it last night and it was pretty yummy - it was one of those "Semi-Homemade" type meals that was quick and easy.)  We had leftover chicken nugget type things (from watching the Saints beat the Colts - sorry Colts fans!).  So I put those babies in the oven, boiled half a box of spaghetti noodles, and some broccoli.  I had some asian dressing left in the fridge, so the noodles and broccoli were tossed together with a little dressing, plus a dash of salt and pepper.  Place noodles / broccoli mixture in bottom of bowl, top with chunks of chicken, and add a little extra dressing or sweet and sour sauce.  This could also be done with grilled chicken for a healthier meal.  

Tuesday - White Chicken Chili - I use (and LOVE)  McCormick White Chicken Chili seasoning packet.  It is soooo good, quick and very easy.  And it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.  Honestly, it tastes like you simmered it all day.  Now, let it be said that I would prefer to use my own seasonings so I can control what we are eating, but with our time constraints, it is helpful to use the packet.  If anyone has ideas for creating my own spice packets, please send them my way!

Wednesday - JOHN MAYER concert / DATE NIGHT!!!!  I am so excited about this one.  It's an early birthday present from Big it will be dinner out - yay!  More to come on this one!

Thursday - Chopped Steak with onions and gravy, egg noodles, and sauteed green beans.  We still have slider patties in the freezer, so I will use these as my chopped steak.  Onions are already on hand and I have a jar of beef base to make the gravy (Christmas gift from a vendor - score!).  I purchased No Yolks noodles this weekend with a .75 cents off coupon (made them about .50 cents for the bag) and a bag of frozen green beans for $1.69.     Talk about an inexpensive but comforting meal.  Wow, is it Thursday yet?

Friday - Ham, Broccoli and Cheese Omelettes (or a quiche / not sure yet!) - breakfast for about an inexpensive way to get the job done.   I have a can of biscuits on hand, so we'll probably have those too.

Saturday - Spaghetti Dinner.  I think I'm going to pull a fast one on Little A this time and add some carrots to the sauce.  I have some baby carrots that need to be used up...I would eat them all myself, but I really need to make sure she is getting a variety of veggies.  So I will put them in the pressure cooker (trust me, there is no better way to cook and enjoy carrots!), puree them and add them to my sauce. 

Sunday - we'll see what all is left and play it by ear. 

Hope you all have a fantastic week!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Menu Plan (February 1)

Well, I learned a few very valuable lessons during the month of January.

1 - Planning our meals for the week is a practice I am going to continue.  It was a tremendous help to me not to have to worry about what's for dinner.  It also saved us a lot of money.  (I didn't have a written plan for the last week of the month, and our budget took a hit because of it.)

2 - I need to include weekends in the written plan.  While we were very good about not going out to eat very much, we let it slide a little bit toward the end of the month - again, no written plan. 

3 - I didn't make the $75 budget I'd hoped for in January.  I'm not going to consider it a failure per se, but a learning experience. I will strive again for $75 for the month of February and we'll see what happens.  Better grocery store and coupon planning is a must.  Milk was probably the biggest budget buster for me in I need to get creative on how to get more milk for less money and figure out how to make it last longer.

I won't keep you in suspense any is our meal plan for the week.

Monday - Scalloped Potato / Ham Casserole, Sauteed Green Beans
Tuesday - Ultimate Chicken (based on a local restaurant fave), oven fries
Wednesday - Leftovers (Big B's night out)
Thursday - Chili
Friday - Homemade Chicken Lo Mein
Saturday - Girls Night Out (more to come about this!)
Sunday - Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I am still in the process of using up all that is in the pantry and freezer.  So hopefully for the next few weeks, my only grocery purchases will be for milk and bread.  We'll see how THAT goes!  Have a great week!

Pancake Makin'

Sometimes, a girl's just gotta have some pancakes.  And what better way to enjoy those pancakes than with giving Little A the opportunity to learn how to make 'em too!  I love the opportunity to bond with her when it comes to the kitchen.  She even has her own "tools"...

There are many lessons and skills one can learn when making 'cakes...

1.  Measuring - that's math, right?

2.  Stirring - builds biceps!  (Do you like my one-eyed pancake batter stirrer?)

3.  And my personal favorite...clean as you go!!  (Instill this habit EARLY!  Now if we could just work on her bedroom!)

4.  Last but not least, pouring.  Does this help with hand-eye coordinatation?  I think so!  This was as far as Little A was allowed to go in the process, much to her chagrin.  Armed with my bright orange Rachel Ray spatula, she assumed she was going to be allowed to flip those babies, but I had news for her.  Her feelings toward me by not letting her flip put a smidge of a damper on the bonding experience, but we prevailed.  So much so that we shared a plate of delicious Oatmeal Pancakes - and I was so immersed in their deliciousness that I forgot to take a picture.  Oh well, you'll just have to trust me...they were awesome.

Because we HAVE to eat, spending time together in the kitchen is one of the ways I like to spend quality time with Little A.  Now mind you, there are times when I am so tired when we get home at night that I have absolutely no desire, energy, strength, or patience to make it a bonding experience.  But the weekends, those are the best!  I'd love to hear from you about ways you incorporate bonding and learning experiences together with your little ones...(or your big ones for that matter!) 


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

God Knits...Who Knew?

As I've mentioned previously, we have a long car ride each morning and each evening.  One never knows what the topic of conversation will be on these journeys, but today's was extra special.

Little A: "Look Mommy, that cloud looks like a dolphin!"

Me:  "It sure does...what else do you see?"

Little A:  "That one looks like a snail!  And LOOK!  There's Jesus over there behind that cloud!"

Me: "How cool!  Is he waving at us?"

Little A:  "Yes... (while waving at the sky) and look over there...there's God!"

Me: "Really?  What is God doing over there?"

Little A:  "She's knitting."  Now mind you, she didn't sit there and think about that for any length of is what automatically came to mind.  (And have I mentioned before that Little A thinks God is a woman?  Well, she does...anything that isn't very obviously of the male species is in her mind...a girl.)

Me:  "She's knitting huh?  (smile in my voice and on my face because that was the very last thing I expected Little A to say)  What is she knitting?"

Little A:  "She's knitting a rock-n-roll T-shirt for Jesus!!!"

So there you have it.  God was knitting a rock-n-roll t-shirt for Jesus.  This is what my 4-year old precious child said to me this morning.  I can't begin to tell you how incredibly awesome it was for me to start my day off this way.  Rock on!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan (January 18)

We did a great job of following the plan last week, it's getting easier and easier.  Although, I must admit I've gone over my $75 budget.  I didn't plan ahead for subsequent trips for milk, bread, and cheese.  But now that I know, next month should be a little easier.

Here's the menu plan for this week...

Monday - Hungarian Goulash over noodles, broccoli
(I made the recipe listed almost exactly as written - except that I had some sirloin steaks that needed to be dealt I substituted there.  I also cooked mine in a pressure cooker, so it was cooked in 20 minutes, NOT 9 to 10 hours!!!)  It was awesome and so tender...

Tuesday - Italian Sausages (turkey) with peppers and onions, roasted potatoes

Wednesday - leftovers (Big B's night out)

Thursday - Homemade Cheeseburger Pizza

Friday - Breakfast for Dinner (pancakes, ham & cheese omelets, potatoes) - honestly this one will be whichever I feel like making!

Looking at this on paper, it might not be the healthiest of weeks, but we'll add greens and veggies or fruit to each meal to round it out.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

And on the 7th Day...

I can't quite believe it, but I FINALLY put all of the Christmas decorations away today. One corner of our living room has been stacked (more like strewn) with my nativity collection, snowman collection, ornament box, wrapping "stuff", etc. It has been hanging out there, staring at me, calling to me to just put it away for weeks now. I avoided it like the plague. I'm really not sure why. I'd like to think that it was because I was longing to hold on to the joy that the holiday season brought us this year, and I choose to ignore the notion that I might have just been plain lazy about it all. That being said, I must admit I do feel a little bit of accomplishment - wow! Is that all it takes these days?

Do you have something that you know you should just go ahead and do but haven't? Well take it from me, just do it. Get it out of your hair so you don't have to dread it anymore. You'll feel much better.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Menu Plan (January 11)

Well, I made it through last week, although Friday night's meal moved to Saturday night, and we strayed from the plan on Friday night.  Both Big B and I gave in to our burger cravings...'nuff said about that.

So, on to this weeks menu.

Monday - Chopped "Steak" with Sauteed Onions and Brown Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, & Green Beans

Tuesday - Baked Chicken Spaghetti

Wednesday - Leftovers - Big B's night out

Thursday - Chicken Quesadillas w/ Mexican Rice

Friday - Beef and Broccoli Lo Mein

What's on your menu this week?

It Only Takes a Spark to Get a Fire Going

Yesterday I got a little little inkling that the plans and dreams which occasionally swirl about between all the commuting, working, meeting deadlines, commuting some more, making dinner, giving baths, cleaning kitchens, doing laundry, worrying about finances and loving my peeps, might just actually materialize one day.

You see, I needed to get out for a few...a little "me time" if you will.   I started driving around my little country town - my sweet, quiet, a little rough around the edges, too far from the city where I work town.  It was snowing (ok, flurrying), the fields were covered as far as the eye could see, and there was quiet.  Just me and the jazz station.  Ahhhhh....

On the edge of town there is a consignment house that I have passed many times, it was just never the "right" time to stop in.  But yesterday was different, so I decided to stop in and see what was up.   I walk in, and the most pleasant woman (Beth the owner) was behind the counter.

The great thing about the consignment house is that it's just that...a house.  Each room has different items, and there are even "kitcheny" things in the kitchen.  But to me, the greatest thing was the sense of community I felt when I walked in.  A woman in town who runs her own business, supporting other women in our town.  There are items from women who create jewelry, women who make the most deliciously scented homemade hand sanitizers and lotions and really unique artwork, in addition to the usual consignment type clothing items. 

The curious me started asking Beth how the business came to be, how business is considering the pace of our town, etc.  The more we talked the more encouraged I became that one day I will have my own photography business.  I started divulging to Beth that "when I grow up" I want to make pictures for a living.  As I browsed the racks of gently used shoes, I heard a voice coming from the other room.  "Hey Dee..."  "Yes ma'am?"  "I have an idea!"  "Oh yeah?"  "Do you take pictures of just people or other things"  "A little bit of everything, actually."  "Why don't you bring me a few of your pictures.  I'll hang them around here...that way people will see them and you can get your stuff and your name out there."  "Really, are you serious?"  "Yes, totally!" From there, we continued to talk for about thirty more minutes about stuff as I continued to browse throughout the house - and I was VERY excited about my new opportunity.  (I bought Little A's valentine's gifts too!  Supporting the local small business!!) 

As I brought my purchases to the counter, Beth gave me papers explaining the consigning policies.  Then she said "Dee S, I'm going to remember're fun!"  And with that, a dream just got a little bit closer to becoming a reality.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Menu Plan (January 4)

I never in a million years thought that planning a week of meals from my own pantry (and fridge and freezer) would be this difficult.  I mean, for those of you who know me, I LOVE to cook.  Never mind the fact that my job revolves around an industrial kitchen for crying out loud.  So, WHY, I ask you, is this so darn difficult?

It's because I am forcing myself to take the time and actually plan what we will do. I know that in the long run this is going to make things so much easier - especially considering that one hour commute I have to take each evening. 

I am only posting dinners for now.  With that commute, breakfast is usually a bowl of cereal right before leaving or a grilled cheese sandwich in the car.  Lunches for Big B are usually leftovers or a sandwich.  I usually am able to grab a bite at work (perk of the job).

So, deep breath goes!
Sunday - Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, Green Beans
Monday - Spaghetti and Meatballs
Tuesday - Crockpot Chili
Wednesday - Voila Package (Big B will be playing drums, so no need to really cook!)
Thursday - Navy Beans and Corn Bread
Friday - Tex Mex Rice and Beans

Whew - done.  I can't believe looking back at this list that it took me so long to come up with it - how silly is that?  But it's great to know that I can rest easy this week when I get home each night.  I might even make a few of these dishes a little early and not have to worry about it at all!

Hope you all have a fantastic week!   Cheers!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I Love a Good Challenge!

One of the blogs I follow regularly, Money Saving Mom, is hosting an "Eat From the Pantry Challenge" for the month of January, and I have decided to give it a try. 

As I posted earlier, one of my own goals is to only spend $75 per month on groceries.  Well, this weekend I went to the grocery, grabbed some really great deals and spent $77.47 (darn tax!)  I purchased a ton of stuff that will hopefully last us the month.  I will have to buy more milk, as that is pretty much all Little A will drink.  I have lots of spaghetti noodles, so if you have any great recipes that call for noodles (other than traditional spaghetti) I would love for you to share them with me.


So there is a peek in my pantry. I'm going to give the ol' meal planning a try, so I'll be sure to update you as we go along.  I really believe that planning out our meals on paper will be a huge help - especially since I never get home until after 6:00 each night. Look out crock pot and pressure cooker, I think we're about to become close friends!

A Little Goal Setting

Last night I started thinking about my first blog post of 2010, and reflecting on 2009 immediately came to mind.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don't want to focus on the past.  Now I am all about learning from our past wins and losses, but I am ready to get started MOVING FORWARD!

With that, here is a list of goals I've made for 2010...

1 - Only spend $75 per month on groceries and food. Yes, that's right 7-5.

2 - Before the beginning of each month, spend all of our money on paper before we actually SPEND all of our money.

3 - Sit down with Big B (at least) once per week to discuss our budget.

4 - Take the debit cards out of our wallets and use only cash.  This one scares the dickens out of me, but I know we can do it.

5 - Find a church that Big B, Little A, and I all love and attend regularly.

6 - Menu plan either for the week or for the month (not sure which is going to be more doable at this point, and I need to figure out my $75 a month approach.  I really haven't decided if I will try a once a month grocery trip, or shop the deals each week.  It's just so time consuming to go each week.)

7 - Find a "me" activity outside the house.  Big B is a drummer in a band, and he gets out once a week with the guys.  I really need to find something for me, too.

Ok - that's it for now.  I've never actually set goals like this for myself and my family, and I have never, ever put them out there for the world to see - can you say accountability?

I must say that I am truly looking forward to all that 2010 has to offer.  I am more determined than ever to get out of debt and to begin living the life I know I was meant to live.  My prayer is that each of you reading this has a happy and healthy 2010.

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