September grocery challenge, week 4

I keep thinking that I’m actually going to get less busy and manage to post here more often, but then the week runs away with me. Again. I also imagined that with both our teens sons now having licenses and cars, my driving load would be less.  And it is– except for the 7x a week driver’s ed that our 16 year old daughter has been doing for three weeks.  But that’s done today, so maybe, maybe I’ll get to stay home more soon.

But then starts another 6 months of driving with a student driver.  She’s #8 to take driver’s ed, so we’re starting to feel like campaign-hardened veterans in the driver’s ed department– harder to scare, and a bit better at predicting the typical things that kids have trouble with. This is also our 4th new driver in 2 years, so I’m starting to feel sorry that our preteen daughters once again get to sit in the car and again hear my play-by-play direction of new drivers.  Heck, even I’m getting tired of the sound of my voice pointing out possible hazards.  On the bright side, they’ll probably be excellent drivers by the time it’s their turn to learn.

Another thing that’s been taking some time lately is really fun.  I’m pulling together final plans for a Created for Care mini-retreat in McCall, Idaho in October.  Twenty ladies have signed up to attend, which is a nice number for the house that we rented, and I’m just praying the weekend will be a delight and a blessing to everyone.  We’ll be watching some really good DVD’s from the ‘big’ Created for Care event that I’ve attended for several years, plus have time for sharing and fellowship and encouragement. And chocolate.  :)

So.  On to the great grocery adventure.  I went to the store twice this week, for essentials like potatoes, Her first apple pieonions, dish soap, milk, yogurt, eggs and a watermelon. OK, the watermelon wasn’t an essential, but the affordable watermelon season is getting near its end.  Better enjoy before the prices go up. I also grabbed some peanuts for munchies for my college-student girl who’s working so hard, and probably not eating great with all the studying and early rising.

As of Thursday I was up to $290 which I call a great success for the month. I don’t really even feel like the cupboards are bare. I have been a bit more repetitive with food this week, but I attribute that to being busy as much as to the $300 budget.

Julianna made her first apple pie this past week, using the press-in pie crust recipe from Family Feasts for $75 a Week. It was yummy and she was very proud of herself.  I canned some apple pie filling which will be really yummy this winter, and I also began canning grape juice.  Lots more grapes on the vines but I don’t know when I will get to them.

Here’s what we ate:

 

Saturday

  • Breakfast-Buckwheat cereal that had been languishing in the pantry forever, canned plums from last year
  • Lunch-  Fried rice, sliced tomatoes, cookies
  • Dinner- Injera, West African peanut chicken, made with almond butter instead of peanut butter, cucumber salad

 

Sunday

 

Monday

  • Breakfast- Eggs and toast
  • Lunch-  Tomato melts
  • Dinner- Hot dogs and cheesy potato casserole

 

Tuesday

  • Breakfast-Hash brown combo
  • Lunch-Pizza rolls, pizza
  • Dinner-Pizza, apple fritters

 

Wednesday

  • Breakfast-Pancakes
  • Lunch-Ramen and Stirfry veggies, dinich wat
  • Dinner-Hamburgers and rice, watermelon

 

Thursday

  • Breakfast-Eggs and leftover apple fritters
  • Lunch-rice, quesadillas
  • Dinner- empanadas from Tango’s  (after being gone ALL day)

Friday

  • Breakfast- Scrambled Eggs, muffins (from the freezer), plums, apples and grape juice
  • Lunch- chicken veggie wraps, made with rice paper, spring roll style
  • Dinner-  Chicken and rice soup (made with bone broth)

 

How did your week go?  I’d love to hear some of your budgeting successes.  Did you make a meal that your family particularly enjoyed?

Recipes I’ve pinned that I’d like to try:

BBQ Chicken Street Tacos

Korean Marinated Pork

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

September grocery challenge, week 3

I spent $129 shopping this week, bringing our total for the month to $231. Given the fact that it’s Sept 19th, I think we’re doing great. I still have $70 to spend! This week I bought milk, eggs, oil, vinegar, cheese, butter, potatoes, oatmeal, raisins, yogurt, day-old bread, corn tortillas, onions, avocados (a splurge), and about 15 pounds of chicken thighs marked down to an amazingly low $.80/lb. We did eat at Panda Express one day this week, but a meal out every week or two is pretty normal for us.  In a less busy time I might have made my own yogurt and bread.  But– this happened instead.Canning

This week was a crazy whirl of canning and more canning.  As far as school, we did get math done most days and reading done some days, and our college kids kept up with their work.  But the rest of homeschool went by the wayside in the great apple onslaught. I think our applesauce total ended up around 78 quarts, and we still have 3 bushels of nice apples to save and/or give away. Not only was the apple harvest HUGE this year, but also the apples were good quality, with a good percentage of them being worm-free, and most of the rest only lightly damaged

This weekend we’re starting in on grape juice which is much less labor-intensive than applesauce– hooray! I also did 13 pints of sweet relish, and another 10 or so of apple pie filling. If we do any more apples, I think I’ll do them as apple pie filling because it is a yummy easy way to have dessert in the winter time and also is more interesting-looking in the pantry.

Speaking of the pantry, I’m seriously running out of space.  I already moved all my less-used small appliances out the the garage shelves, and the pantry is still packed.  I may need to put some jars on laundry room shelves this year.

Potato Pancakes

 

Saturday
Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: ?? I forgot to write it down and that was AGES ago

Sunday
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Chicken fajitas with homemade flour tortillas (yum!)
Dinner: Pizza

Monday
Breakfast: French toast
Lunch: Leftover pizza
Dinner: Vegetable pancakes, cucumbers, tomatoes, applesauce

Tuesday
Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Takeout tacos and burritos (thanks, Eldest!)
Dinner: Sandwiches and applesauce

Wednesday
Breakfast: Eggs, toast, apples
Lunch: tomato melts
Dinner: Panda Express (a splurge after a long day canning
Thursday
Breakfast: Eggs and toast, apples, pears
Lunch: Tacos with ground beef, sauteed veggies and guacamole
Dinner: Chicken and veggie stir-fry

Friday
Breakfast: French toast
Lunch: Costco pizza
Dinner: Cheesy enchilada rice

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September grocery challenge, week 2

birthday time

This week I went to the store twice, but didn’t spend too much either time. Saturday I bought milk, butter, potatoes, onions, coffee creamer, and Kleenex for a grand total of $37.

Sunday we had the family over for dinner to celebrate Lidya’s 19th birthday.  We had barbecued hamburgers, salad, pickles, cucumbers, watermelon, jello ice cream, and two kinds of birthday cake, lemon and chocolate.  I already had everything except hamburger buns, which my momma very kindly brought.

Thursday evening I went to the store again and got milk, cheese, chex, yogurt, oatmeal, oranges (5 lbs for $1.25), a few peaches,  chicken ($1.37/lb chicken breasts), vanilla, chocolate chips, and toilet paper.  Grand total on that trip was $65 which brings our total for the first 11 days of the month to $102.  I’m trying not to run out of things that my husband really cares about, since that leaves him very dubious of the virtues of this spending challenge idea.

I still have lots of meat and the garden continues to overflow with veggies.  So I’m hoping that getting by for the rest of the month on only $200 more should work just fine.

Here’s what our food looked like this week.

Saturday
Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Turkey sandwiches
Dinner: Ham and bean soup, zucchini muffins

Sunday
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Corn dogs and tater tots, cucumbers
Dinner: Hamburgers, jello, salad, watermelon, birthday cake

Monday
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch:  Baked potatoes with bacon, cheese and sour cream. Watermelon, cake
Dinner:  Rice, turkey, sauteed cabbage, cucumbers

Tuesday
Breakfast: Pancakes, apples, milk
Lunch: Turkey noodle soup
Dinner:  Hamburger enchiladas (from the freezer, basically this recipe but with ground beef)

Wednesday
Breakfast: Cereal (we’re low on eggs) and apples
Lunch: Leftover corn dogs and hamburgers, rice
Dinner:  Hamburger zucchini stir-fry, pickles, pears

Thursday
Breakfast: Hash brown combo with peppers and tomatoes
Lunch: Tomato melts, cucumbers, apples
Dinner: Baked chicken, potatoes, sauteed zucchini and eggplant, angel food cake

Friday
Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Leftover fried rice, cucumbers,
Dinner: Pizza and garden cantaloupe, apple pie

Our tomatoes are already slowing down– it’s a cool September here– but today I think I have enough tomatoes and peppers to make some salsa. Our apple trees are still groaning with fruit.  We made and canned applesauce twice this week.  Once the younger kids and I worked through it together, and another time my oldest married daughter came over and helped us get a lot done.  I’m hoping to cut more apples today and freeze a few apple pies, and maybe even some baked apple donuts.  We love applesauce, but it is soooo labor-intensive.  Plus it will be fabulous to have some ready-made dessert in the freezer.

Are you doing the spending challenge?  Do you have any frugal wins to share today?

 

September spending challenge, update #1

Almond ButterAfter just 6 days of eating out of the pantry and freezer, I can already find things in the freezer SO much more easily. I hadn’t realized how often I’ve been frustrated trying to find things in my overly crammed space. We’re eating much more variety than usual, just because I’m trying to use things that have been ignored for awhile.  Tuesday we had enchiladas for dinner made with trout.  Odd, but pretty good.  The trout was caught by some of the kids in June and has been languishing in the freezer ignored since then.  About time we did something useful with it.  I confess, however, that I gave the last dabs of the trout to the chickens, and they gobbled it down, little omnivores that they are.

For Wednesday dinner we had turkey dinner.  John’s mom is in the process of moving, and while cleaning out her freezer, gifted me with a turkey.  It was the most enormous bird I’ve ever cooked– 30 pounds.  We’ve had sandwiches several times since then, I froze several baggies full of cooked meat, and still there’s turkey in the fridge to eat.  A nice problem to have!

For quite a while at breakfast we’ve been in the habit of eating eggs, but as the weather cools a little, the hens are slowing down in their laying, and since I don’t want to go to the store too soon, I’ve been doing some alternative breakfasts.  Wednesday was french toast made with multiple bread loaves that had been stuck back into the freezer with just a few slices left on them. Thursday morning we had polenta with flax seed and cranberries.

I’ve also been making a concerted effort to can a lot this week  (that and school account for my almost-absence around here).  So far this week we canned 22 quarts of applesauce and about 8 quarts of tomatoes.  And still there are so many apples to deal with.  I think I’ll be asking our grown kids to do a bit of picking off the trees to help me out.

Here’s what we ate.

Sunday
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Tacos
Dinner: grilled pizza and watermelon

Monday
Breakfast: Pancakes and apples
Lunch: Tuna sandwiches and cucumber-tomato salad
Dinner: Hamburger veggie chowder and watermelon

Tuesday
Breakfast:  smoothies and eggs
Lunch:  Veggie chicken stir-fry
Dinner: Trout enchiladas

Wednesday
Breakfast: French toast
Lunch: fish sticks, leftover rice, carrot sticks, apples
Dinner:  turkey, sweet potatoes, cuke-tomato salad

Thursday
Breakfast: polenta with flax seed, cranberries and apples
Lunch:  turkey veggie wraps
Dinner: turkey fajitas

Friday
Breakfast: Eggs, toast and apples
Lunch: Turkey sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken sandwiches, grilled cabbage, fresh applesauce, fresh raspberries

I have to say, it’s been a dog of a week.  Tons of driving kids everywhere, plus we started school again, and with the canning and our fair share of cranky kids, it has been SOOOO very tempting to grab a pizza or burgers or something easy several different evenings.  But we’ve resisted so far- haven’t even been to the grocery store yet.  So far we’ve run out of milk, potatoes, bananas, peanut butter, cinnamon, and sour cream.  The milk and the potatoes are the first things I’m buying when I next go to the store, I think. 

As far as peanut butter  (which hubby is really missing) I decided to try something new– making almond butter, since we have a lot of almonds from my sister whose husband grows them.   I roasted about 4 cups of almonds on a flat skillet, then tossed them into the food processor with half a cup of olive oil, a half a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 cup of honey.  Lo and behold, it made perfectly excellent almond butter.  My hubby is now at peace with the lack of peanut butter in the house.

How did the week go at your house?  If you’re doing the spending challenge, I’d love to hear how your week went.

Join my spending challenge?

small treasure

It’s Frugal Friday today, and  after rassling with the contents of my fridge, pantry and freezer this past week,  I decided it’s time to give myself another spending challenge. I usually spend around $700 on groceries in a month and during the month of September, I’m going to try to get by on $300. Honestly, I think we should be in pretty good shape– I have LOTS of meat in the freezer right now and the produce is pouring out of the garden lately.   I’m going to start by challenging myself to see how many days I can get without shopping at all.  7 days?  10 days? 2 weeks?  We’ll see.

Would you like to be part of this challenge? Pick a dollar amount that seems doable yet is a decrease from what you usually spend.  If a whole month seems too intimidating, you can challenge yourself for a shorter time– maybe just two weeks?  But the goal is to use what you have as much as possible, and decrease your spending for the month in the process.  If it goes well, you’ll have a bit of cash left over to tuck away, maybe for Christmas spending in a couple months?

I’ll report every Friday how I’m doing. I’ll share what we’ve been eating and how I’ve been making do when we run out of things here and there.  I always find it to be an interesting challenge. If you want to play along,  comment each Friday and share a report of your own.

 

Notes from other years I’ve done this challenge

A funny post from our 2006 Spending Challenge

Start of the 2009 Spending Challenge

Day 1 of the 2013 Spending Challenge

 

Frugal Friday

swimming

I’ve got almost nothing for you this week.  It was a very busy erranding/soccer practice/school prep kind of week which always results in eating fast food more often than is strictly necessary.

  • One day when the fast food craving hit, we did go with McDonald’s instead of Jimmy John’s which would have been twice the cost.  So I guess that was a victory, kinda.  Another day we had Chinese food at the restaurant where my daughter has worked all summer. Not the most affordable but I’d been wanting to try her restaurant out for awhile, and it was fun to see her there, hard at work.
  • This week I canned 25 quarts of tomatoes and 15 quarts of pickles.  I also did about 8 pints of raspberry plum jam. And still there are cukes in the fridge and tomatoes and plums on the counter.  Yikes!
  • I stocked up on school notebooks on sale.  I still need to get more though.  I think I only have a couple dozen, and that’s not enough to get through the year.
  • Our pool pump broke this week, so new parts are being ordered.  Bah humbug.  Definitely a ding in the budget, but I guess we should just be glad we got nearly 6 years of use out of a pump that was old when we got it.  (Hooray, Craigslist!)
  • I combined a whole bunch of errands several days this week, so at least we got good use out of all that gas and time in the car!
  • We are opting to go to the fair on the very last day this year, which means half price admissions.  We are giving the kids $10 each to spend, for food or rides or whatever, and the rest is up to them.

That’s all I have for you this week.  I’d love to hear more successes from you!

 

Free online resources for school

Free Online Resources for SchoolWith school just getting underway, I thought I’d share some online learning resources that are out there for folks who don’t have a lot of money to spend.  Twenty websites, all free– what a beautiful thing!  If you know of other free online resources for homeschooling or for enrichment learning, please share them in comments, below.  And if you find this post to be helpful, please feel free to pin it so that others can find it.

 

  • Starfall — an online phonics learning website, complete with lots of games
  • Young Minds — free printable handwriting pages
  • Arcademics– this site combines math learning with the fun of arcade games.
  • Calculation Nation — here’s another math learning website
  • The Teacher’s Corner- offers free printable worksheets
  • Seterra — This is a great free geography learning resource
  • Youtube Primary & Secondary Channel– ] learning videos on scads of topics appropriate for elementary school learners
  • Music Appreciation, Charlotte Mason style- hints on teaching music appreciation to children
  • Patrick Math — this is a website devoted to math tutorials, some on very complex topics
  • Free Rice Grammar- English grammar drills for junior high and high school kids
  • Free Rice Vocabulary– vocabulary drills for kids and teens
  • Free Rice Math — review of pre-algebra skills
  • MOOC—lists classes you can take online for free.  In some cases you may need to pay to earn actual credits.
  • MIT Open Courseware- offers many different college level classes for free
  • Textbook Revolution — has many textbooks available in pdf’s or other forms online for free.  Check here before you buy a spendy book.
  • Spreeder.com — free online speed reading course–what college student doesn’t need that?
  • Khan Academy — bills itself as providing a free world-class education for anyone.  Many topics.
  • Duolingo — is a great little language learning website that offers 14 different languages.
  • 8notes.com/ –offers free sheet music and instruction for a variety of instruments
  • Code Academy — teaches basic beginning computer coding step by step.

 

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frugality this week

Time for frugal Friday again! We’ve had a busy week.

One of my sons (Josh) started soccer practice this week and had two-a-day practices ALL week long, so I deliberately avoided most activities besides that, but I still had at least a couple days wheresoccer practice I probably drove 80-100 miles in one day alone. Thankfully I was able to drive John’s tiny car a few times, which helped decrease our gas use a bit. Josh has been hunting for a good used car to buy for when he gets his license in September, but hasn’t had too much luck yet.  I guess we’ll keep looking.

When uniform shopping with my daughter who’s doing a dental assisting program this fall, after buying the required scrubs, we checked the thrift store for the required white leather work shoes.  Found a very nice lightly worn pair for $6.  She then was fortunate enough to be given another scrub top for free by a student who’d finished the program.  Hooray!

From the garden we got at least 30 cucumbers,  a dozen zucchini, several dozen tomatoes, a cabbage, and about 12 cups of plums.  For lunch I made this pasta salad with long thin shreds of zucchini as some of the ‘noodles’. We are definitely moving into the season of garden abundance, and I need to get serious about using those veggies!  Today I canned 7 quarts of pickle spears using this recipe and still have a heap of about 15 cukes to use.  I also have a huge bowl of tomatoes sitting waiting to be canned.

One day this week I bought two chickens for $1/lb, and roasted them in the turkey roaster on the back patio so that the house would stay cool.  $9 of meat gave us two different dinners for 8 people:  one of roast chicken, and the other being a very hearty chicken noodle soup, complete with zucchini, carrots, garlic, cilantro, ginger, and lime– yum.

Today I spent awhile talking with the banker at our newly merged bank about checking account options for our young adults.  It seems the only option for folks who don’t keep at least $750 in their checking account is one that charges a $6.50 service charge each month.  The good news  (according to the bank) is that for every time you use your debit card in a month, 25 cents is taken off that service charge.  So if you use your card almost every day, you don’t pay a service charge.  That might be an okay option for me– I probably use my card almost that much.  But it’s not so great for my daughter who uses her card maybe 3 times a month.  So we may be bank shopping.

How did the frugality adventure go this week at your house?
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recipes you know by heart

The winner of the book Waking Up White is commenter #8 Lynda.  Send me your address, Lynda, and I will get the book headed your way!Make Your Own Pizza

I read a couple of interesting articles about food yesterday, the first titled Why So Many Low-Income People are Overweight and the second The New Face of Hunger. Reading those stories with my ‘momma-goggles’, I got thinking about the types of skills that my own kids would need to make wise food choices later on in times when budgets are tight.

Obviously being able to walk into a store and know what types of foods give you the biggest bang for your buck is a huge part of being successful.  (Here are a few of the ways I save at the store.)  Each time I bring my kids along with me to the store, I encourage them to check unit prices and be on the lookout for good deals. I’ve also talked with them about the kinds of foods that are best for budget-stretching and for our bodies. Sure, they’ll cave in to spendy and unhealthy junk at times as adults– don’t we all?  But hopefully shopping with me now will give them a basis for shopping affordably and in healthy ways later on.

Another component of success in the kitchen, especially, especially when life gets busy, is being in the practice of cooking efficiently.  Brown that ground beef and chop that chicken as soon as you get home from the store.  Double recipes and freeze part for another day.  Habits like these decrease overall time in the kitchen and make meal prep much less intimidating.   I’m guessing that a lot of people who struggle to make their grocery money last all month do not habitually do these types of things.   I’m hoping that involving my kids in these types of tasks as kids will help them be more likely to remember these huge time and money-savers as adults.

One final skill that’s huge in my mind is the ability to make at least a few meals without a recipe. Sure, it’s easy to google recipes these days, and I’ve been told by my kids that anyone who can read, can cook.  That’s true to a certain degree.  But there’s something really empowering about having a few recipes right in your head– a few simple meals you can just do, without resorting to any reference books.  It is a huge step toward feeling truly capable in the kitchen.

My quick and cheap favorites include pasta carbonera, Molly’s 10 Minute Chicken, and Thai chard wraps.  In addition, my ramen-loving kids have all mastered Veggie Ramen Stirfry. (I make them add veggies if they want to eat ramen.) They also can make their own pizza, including crust from scratch.

That’s a great start, but this school year I’m going to work on helping them expand their ‘know-it-by-heart’ cooking repertoire even more. I’m going to ask each of them to choose 2 recipes they enjoy, and then have them each cook one of those recipes once a week during this school year. I’m interested to see what they’ll choose to make, and it will be neat to see them gaining competence in the kitchen.

What are some of your favorite by-heart recipes?  Which meals do your children enjoy the most?

 

Also of interest

103 Family Friendly Recipes

Can Africa’s Fertile Farmland Feed the World?

Frugal Friday

Just a few quick notes from this week!  Frugal wins this week included:

  • Bought a vinyl remnant at Lowes for the bathroom floor– got double the vinyl for the same cost– enough for two bathrooms.  We do have another project in mind one of these days, so that reduce the flooring cost to $45/bathroom!
  • Instead of buying a new vanity, we reused the vanity from the old bathroom, and freshened it up with dark stain (like this) and a fresh pair of door handles.
  • Spent 10 minutes hunting down coupon codes on a clothing website- tried a bunch before successfully saving 20% plus getting free shipping– $16 savings for 10 minutes of work.
  • Eldest spotted a GREAT sale on ground beef $1.79/lb, and bought me 30 pounds.  The kids browned some and made some into hamburger patties.  So we are all stocked up at a great price.

That’s it from here.  How’d you do?