Monday, October 25, 2010

Progress!!

My little man blessed me by taking a 2 + hour nap Saturday.  During that time one of the things I accomplished was cleaning out two cabinets and filling in the pantry inventory sheet for those cabinets.



Ok so it's only two cabinets but we don't have a large pantry so things are in several different places.  I did a little thinking as to why keeping the pantry and freezer logs always fell through in the past.  The only thing I have been able to come up with is that it was inconvenient to locate the log to mark items off as they were used.  In other words, I was being lazy.  So to make things easier on myself and to ensure that I continue using this method and not just take inventory and then drop the system I have filled in and taped it to the inside of the coordinating cabinet.  At least that way when I finish something or am getting low it's right there to be marked off and when I make my grocery list and decide to check for things needed I can glance at the lists to see if we are out of anything.  An added bonus is that when I'm checking to see if we have something I don't have to rummage through the cabinet.  I can go down the list and either it's there or it's not.  I left room at the bottom of each to add on newly purchased items.  There are 5 boxes after each space so in most cases I can just add on another slash to indicate that I have another of that item but I wanted extra space for new additions.  I should be able to update this as needed based on space.  I'm hoping for monthly but will be happy with biweekly.  If I become really motivated I may make my own so that I can type thing in on the computer instead of handwriting it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Organization Series: Part 1

Part 1: Know What You Have.

I wanted to go into detail about how to really get started with lowering your food budget.  This has been a multiple year task for my family.  It started back when it was just my husband and I .  I am a person that likes organization, lists, and calendars but has trouble utilizing them. (If you could see my house then you would understand.)  So, as a challenge to myself and to help those that may be beginning the task of tackling a budget or are in need of getting back on track I am going to do this as a series.  I've talked about the importance of knowing what you have.  In that post there is a link to the pantry and freezer inventory lists that I have used in the past.  Recently, I have not utilized these items and I really should.  Why else do we have so much chicken and no stew meat...

So my challenge over the next few days is to complete both a pantry inventory and a freezer inventory.  It's not gong to be easy with a 3 year old tornado in my house but it has to be done.  I need to know what we have on hand so that I don't purchase it unnecessarily and to help with menu planning.  It's also a good way to weed out any expired items you may have forgotten about.  I've read a lot about shopping from your pantry.  I've done it several times myself and it's amazing how many meals you can create from what you already have but first you must KNOW what you already have.  See the trend here.  To start with the organization process that goes along with saving money in your food budget you have to start with what you already have.  I'm sure I will find a few surprises tucked away. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Organization and Flexibility

Organization and flexibility.  They can be perceived as opposites because most people assume that if you are organized or have systems in place it's more difficult to be flexible but when it comes to working with your grocery budget they are two things I have learned that I must have.  Without them it's hard to succeed at maintaining a successful grocery budget and feed your family for less.


Organization.  I previously wrote on knowing what you have.  When trying to save money on food you have to put in a little effort and planning.  You can save without doing these things but to get the most savings you need to invest a little time.  First, learn from my mistake and know what you have on hand.  Start by figuring out what you have in your cabinets and freezer.  Once you do that you may realize that you can skip shopping for a few weeks.  Next, menu planning, menu planning, menu planning!!  Everyone has a tendency to eat the same meals over and over.  I'm no different but didn't realize this until I started menu planning.  I know, I know, who wants to sit down and figure out what meals they are having for the next week, let alone two weeks or even the next month.  I would have to say that the first few menus are the hardest to plan.  After all the inventory and planning comes actually shopping and making lists based on your budget and in my case coupons.


Coupons are not for everyone, I get that.  Personally, I love them.  To me they are little slips of money.  I find it challenging and make a game of matching coupons up to sales to get items for as little as possible.  I've been doing this for years, using coupons that is.  I started using them when I was in college and working at a grocery store.  I don't mind clipping them or checking out online sites.  Sometimes if there is a great sale price on an item I will even search the web trying to locate a coupon that will make that sale even better.  Coupons for some are too time consuming and if you aren't sure how to match them with the best deals then it may seem like they just aren't worth it.


Throughout all of that you have to remain flexible.  If you try to keep everything set in stone you will end up frustrated and will give in to the temptation to revert back to your old habits or to eat out.  Both of which are bad for your budget.  I've been there too.  It doesn't happen overnight but I realize that without these systems we spend so much more money.  That is money that I would rather put toward paying off debt or into our savings.  Sometimes, things will come up.  You make a menu plan and decide you really don't want what's planned that night.  Then don't eat it.  Simple as that.  Take a meal that you are in the mood for from a different night and swap the two.  Just because you planned one dish for a specific night doesn't mean that's the only night you can eat it.  The same philosophy goes for shopping sales.  There are weeks that I have no intention of purchasing meat but then the weekly ads come out and there is an awesome sale on roasts or chicken and I suck it up and buy as much as we have room for, or store limits allow.  Why? Because I would rather buy chicken at $.59 per pound than wait until I need it and have to buy it for $.99 a pound. 


The organization process for getting your grocery budget in check can be lengthy.  Throughout our process to lower our monthly food bill it's taken time and adjustments.  Sometimes we do really well.  Other times things come up and we either need a lot, there are great stockpiling sales or we get lazy and grab take out too often.  Everyone has their weaknesses.  Over the past few years we have seen how well we can do and strive to do that each month.  I've realized the past few weeks that we have gotten off track.  We are doing well with the weekly grocery shopping and sticking to an average of $40 a week or less.  We have set up our stockpile budget for the month and that has helped but we are still grabbing take out and making random purchases here and there.  Those random purchases add up.  I've decided that I need to go back to the basics and get organized again.  Since it can be a lot to get organized I'm going to do a short organization series to break things down.  Plus this is a great way for me to get back on track because I am going to go step by step along with the series as I write.  EEK!  I want to make sure that I have everything under control and back on track so that we can start the new year off right. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Homemade Challenge

When people start trying to save money, especially on their grocery budget, one of the most stated things is to cook from scratch and stop buying convenience foods.  When we really started working at our budget I  wanted to find things that we could all snack on that I could make that don't cost a ton of money.  We also needed to stop eating out as often.  I found some really good ideas here.


One of my favorites is the granola recipe.  It makes a lot, has simple ingredients and is easy to make.  Including oven time it takes a maximum of 20 minutes to cook.  After it cools it takes a few minutes to break it into pieces.  We love it dry, in yogurt and with milk like cereal.  Even my tween niece and nephew like it.  My nephew has actually requested it before.  For them, I have added chocolate chips and M&M's but there are lots of things that can be added such as nuts (not for us due to a food allergy), dried fruit, seeds, and the before mentioned sweets.  I have even been contemplating making chocolate granola by adding a little cocoa powder but I will need to work on that and tweak it but I will definitely post that recipe if it works out. 

I also found a recipe for rolls through this site that I have tweaked and we now use to make bread instead of buying it.  We made the rolls and liked them so much that we talked about how great they would be made into sandwich bread.  I gave it a shot and it worked out.  After making it we changed the quantities around a bit t suit our tastes and it was delicious.  I recently decided to make it using mainly wheat flour.  I made the recipe the same as before but used 3 cups of wheat flour instead of 2.  When the bread came out it tasted good but was VERY dense.  So we looked at the quantities of the other ingredients and upped the sugar and yeast.  The next recipe came out perfect.  

So, when trying recipes out my suggestion would be to start slow and take baby steps.  Find a recipe similar to one of your favorites that you would normally buy.  Make the recipe as directed the first time or two.  After that you can make small changes to make it more to your liking, just make sure that you record any changes so that if it turns out well you have the new recipe and if not you can go back and will know where to start.  I also recommend only changing one or two ingredients at a time when tweaking a recipe.  Some things that I purchased in the past I now make and was so surprised at how easy it is to make myself and as an added bonus I get to control the ingredients.

My challenge to you is to think about some of the foods that you purchase regularly and ask yourself, can I make this myself?  I've recreated things like the mentioned granola and bread all the way to trying my hand at making some of my favorite frozen meals and restaurant favorites.  By making them yourself you are not only saving money but can control the ingredients that go into your food, which is wonderful if you have someone with food allergies in your home.  If you like grabbing fast food once or twice a week try making it at home.  Homemade fries are yummy and not hard to make.  Plus you can add whatever seasoning you like whether it be regular salt, seasoning salt, or herbs and Parmesan cheese.  One of our favorites to make is our version of Chic-Fil-a sandwich's, or breakfast biscuits.  Plus, if we make them then our son can enjoy them. (He can't have them from the restaurant because they use peanut oil and he's allergic to peanuts.)  So, what will you be making?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Information is free

I started thinking a few days ago about how much I like to get things for free.  Then while visiting my parents one of those random things just happened that made me think.  One of my favorite meals is my dad's chicken and pastry.  It's nothing fancy just yummy food that I remember from my childhood.  When I make it at home it's never the same.  I use the same pastry strips that my dad does.  I've tried several different types of chicken but it never tastes as good.


Last weekend my parents invited us over for lunch.  It just so happened that my dad made chicken and pastry.  My mom also made banana pudding (another of the things that I try to reproduce and can not figure out why mine is never as good as hers).  After tasting the banana pudding I told my mom that I just made one a couple of weeks ago and it didn't taste nearly as good as hers.  As simple as that she told me how she makes hers and you know what?  She uses an extra ingredient that completely changes the way it tastes which is why hers is so much better.  All I had to do was ask.  After talking to her about this and having yummy chicken and pastry I told my dad that ours never tastes as good as his.  He had me tell him how I make it.  I started by telling him that I steam the chicken.  He stopped me right there and informed me that he boils the chicken in the water, removes it to cool and shred and starts cooking the pastry in the same water.  Again, all I had to do is ask.


I know that everyone has had situations where they wondered how someone made something, where they got it from or how to do something.  I know that personally a lot of times I wonder these same questions but don't ask.  Why is that?  Information is something that is free and available to anyone.  All we have to do is ask.  If it's not something that we can simply ask someone then research it.  For weeks I kept saying that I really want to learn to knit.  I don't know anyone that knows how to knit that could each me.  Finally I realized that I needed to do the research and teach myself instead of repeatedly stating that I want to learn.  So the next time I was at a craft store I found a learn to knit kit purchased it and some yarn.  After getting home and reading through the instructions I realized why I always ask people to show me how to do things.  I am definitely a visual learner.  So, after a little frustration I decided that I needed to do more research.  I jumped on the computer, went to You Tube and searched for knitting.  After viewing several videos I found some that were easy to follow.  I watched the video all the way through, got my knitting needles and yarn and watched again while doing what was shown in the video and practiced.  I am now almost finished with my first scarf.  It's not perfect but I learned and am getting better. 


Information whether found from people, books or the internet is generally free.  So what is it that you've wanted to learn or find out but never do?  What's the worst that can happen?  You ask and someone says no or you find something and try it but it's not quite what you were looking for.  Well, then you move on and keep looking or ask someone else.  Along the way you may find some really great things.  There have been many times when I've  been looking for a recipe and tried one out and it wasn't what I was looking for but was delicious and became part of our menu rotation.  Sometimes we need to revert back the the 3 year old in us that asks a million questions.  You may just get some really great answers.        

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Menu for October 16th-31

I got sidetracked with completing our menu for the remainder of the month after my whole house came down with a bug.  No one felt well and the last thing I wanted to do with free time was plan meals and rummage through the freezer and cabinets.  Any free time usually consisted of laying on my bed.  But inevitably, a menu must be formed before we get too far off track.  I know us and if we don't have a clear plan set out it will result in last minute menu picks or take out.  So in an effort to keep our overall food budget in check and to eat healthier meals I NEED to have this plan.

10/16/10- Dinner @ my parents
10/17/10- Chicken soup with baked potato (leftovers from crock pot chicken and potato's)
10/18/10-Shrimp with rice and carrots
10/19/10- Rotisserie pork loin with roasted potato's and carrots
10/20/10- Leftovers
10/21/10- Baked tilapia with steamed veggies and baked potato
10/22/10- Citrus chicken salad with Mandarin oranges
10/23/10- Sandwich's with chips and fruit
10/24/10- Cheeseburgers with salad and fries
10/25/10- Pasta with chicken and veggies
10/26/10- Waffles with fruit and bacon
10/27/10- Soup with baked potato
10/28/10- Burritos with salad
10/29/10- Dinner with the in laws
10/30/10- Low country boil
10/31/10- Chicken pot pie

I'm still working on using up some of our stockpile of chicken.  I didn't realize how much of it we had until the stew incident.  I'm thinking that a big pot of chicken and pastry is in order too.  I feel like we've been eating the same meal so I may need to brainstorm and search for new recipes....hmm I feel a mini meal project in the making.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Crock Pot Chicken and Potato's.......the meal that keeps on giving

A while back a friend shared a crock pot chicken recipe that tasted similar to a rotisserie chicken.  Intrigued I thought I would give it a shot.  Boy was I pleasantly surprised.  I made the mistake of over cooking the chicken the first time I made it.  The meat gets so tender that when you try to remove the chicken from the crock pot it literally falls off the bone.  The potato's are delicious and soak up a lot of the yummy broth that accumulates in the bottom of the crock pot.  They are so good that when making this I have never had to add butter or salt to my potato's.  The longer you leave everything in the crock pot the more flavorful the potatos become.  The bonus, the bottom of the crock pot is left with chicken stock which I then add water, carrots, celery and some of the chicken to for a yummy chicken soup.  I've done this several times and have never been disappointed.

To start, wash and poke the potato's and then wrap in aluminum foil.  Place in the bottom of the crock pot.  I keep this to one layer so that there is room for the actual chicken.



Trim and clean a whole chicken.  Pat dry and sprinkle generously with seasoning salt inside and out.  Once seasoned place the chicken breast side down on top of the potato's.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.  Once this is going I chopped an entire bunch of celery and about 6 carrots.  They went into the fridge for later.  Today mine was fully cooked in about 4.5 hours.  The chicken was beginning to come away from the bones and was moist.  I've left it in longer in the past when I cooked it while not at home and it still tasted great but the chicken meat started to fall apart.  Here's the chicken with 5 potato's.



Here is the broth left in the crock pot.



I added about 6 cups of water(the first time taste the broth after every two cups of water until you get it to your personal liking; 6 works for us but may be too strong or too bland for others) and the celery and carrots.  I made sure to scrape the sides where the chicken touched to get all the good stuff.

 

This will stay in the crock pot an additional hour or two until the vegetables are tender.  I have added the chicken at varying times and don't think it makes a difference.  This is one of my favorite chicken meals because it stretches so far.  Not only do you get the original meal of chicken and potato's, you get chicken soup, and leftover meat that can be used for sandwich's.  Tonight I had the chicken and potato's, tomorrow night I plan to have chicken soup and baked potato and the following day for lunch I will probably have a chicken sandwich.  All made from the same thing but different enough I can eat it that often.  The soup itself is very versatile too because you can add whatever veggies you like or have around.  Plus when you warm it if you want to make it noodle soup just warm it on the stove and cook the noodles as the soup warms.  You could do the same with rice.

I love that I paid approximately $6 for the ingredients that went into this and we will get so many meals off of it.  Whenever whole chickens are on sale I buy at least 4.  They can stretch so far.  We are big chicken eaters here so I always have it on hand.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Have I mentioned how much I love Aldi????

I know that I've mentioned that our weekly shopping is generally conducted at Aldi.  I've had coworkers in the past rave about the place and just kind of brushed it off.  A few months ago I decided to give it a whirl. What could it hurt?  After gong once I was hooked.  If you haven't been, they don't carry many name brand items or accept coupons or credit cards.  Its a totally different shopping experience with the layout and that if you want bags you have to bring them or purchase them.  After working in a grocery store for 4+ years I really don't mind.


This week we had several things on our list.  I try to keep ou grocery list updated throughout the week with everything that we either run out of or are low on.  I also add things that will be needed for meals the upcoming week.  I was a little worried going in that we would be getting the list and nothing else to stick to our $40 weekly budget.  The hubby needed snack items for work that I was not aware of until I was about to leave which added several items to the list.


Here's a picture of all items purcased.


Then I decided to break things down a bit because it was hard to see everything.





The pictures are a little fuzzy for some reason but you get the general idea.  I finally remembered to take pictues before putting everyting away!!  We had  little surplus in the budget so I added a few extras like the cinnamon swirl sticks with icng, the cotainers of orange and balck icing for Halloween cookies and soda.  Even with the extra's we came in under budget!  Our total was $36.69.  I will need to get creative and plan some meals with potatos.  That's a 10 lb bag.  I couldn't resist though because it was $2.99.  I am already thinking baked potaos, french fries, fried potatos, seasoned and roasted potatos.  I may go ahead and chop potatos for fries and roasting and freeze them for later.  Any other ideas are greatlyappreciated.  :) 

I'm really happy with this trip.  Looking at our freezers and cabinets I think we may be able to skip a week of shopping this month. (happy dance) 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Inexpensive Fun

So my family has been making a conscience effort to save money and cut expenses.  Hence, the creation of our $40 Challenge with our grocery budget.  I have transferred this thinking to our entertainment budget as well.  Don't get me wrong, there wasn't much to our entertainment budget because it was usually just our monthly Netflix subscription.  It's rare that we have the opportunity to really go out and do things.  We did plan a trip to the zoo a few months back but we do not regularly go out.  I'll go ahead and say it, we are homebodies and an old married couple at 27 and 29.  But, we have a little boy that I want to expose to learning and fun activities.  I did a little research on our area and was surprised at all of the free activities for preschoolers and children.  This past week we have enjoyed two low budget activities.  A free mommy and me activity at a local museum and nighttime adventures with glow sticks.  Here are a couple of things that I have learned in this search and activities that have been a success for us.

1) Check your library.  Almost every library offers story time for kids and even events for older children to participate in.  Not to mention that during the summer there are summer reading programs.  Just within the past month we participated in a special story time for preschoolers that was being offered.  Libraries also have cool children's sections with special computers, toys, chairs and books.  My son loves just playing the kids section because everything is his size.  There are also usually fliers with information on events within the community.  Not to mention you can rent movies.  Trust me they are not new by any means but they are new to our preschooler who loves getting to watch a new Thomas or Elmo movie.

2) Check out your local Parks and recreation Department.  Not only do they control all of the public parks and rec centers they also offer some free classes and courses for children.  Not to mention open gyms for the older kids.  There are actually some free holiday events being offered in our area.  For example this December there will be a Christmas in the Park program where you can walk a trail and see the lights and there will be a Santa's workshop.  It's not free but it's only $2 per person for the walk and if we choose to do the Santa picture an additional $5.  That's not bad at all for a family night out.  There's also  Fall Festival and a Winter Carnival being offered at one of the local rec centers, both of which are free.

3) Check for museums.  There are several museums in our area, including a children's museum.  We can go as a family to the children's museum for $5.  My son loves it and we can spend an entire afternoon there.  We lucked out when we took him and it happened to be one of the two days during the month that there is a free train display open to the public on the 3rd floor.  I did a little research and found out it's offered the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month and is free.  They also passed out activity sheets and a coloring book for free.  The other museums in our area all have free admission.  I wasn't sure how it would go over with a preschooler but he actually enjoys it.  One of our museums offers a monthly mommy and me activity.  They just began the series again and we have gone the past 2 months.  It's an hour long with a craft, story, song and then "field trip."  Our field trip this past week was making apple cider, which the kids then got to sample.

4) Go to the park.  Does anyone else remember how much fun it was when you got to go play on the jungle gym?  I loved it.  I admit that I still wish I were young enough to play on them, and sometimes I do anyway with my son.  If you already go to the park, try a new one.  I know that here each park has different toys and structures so for younger kids it's a big adventure.

5) Life size drawings.  This happened by accident one evening.  My son came out of our catch all room with a roll of wrapping paper and proceeded to unroll it and tear it.  At first I was irritated.  Then I saw the opportunity.  I got really excited and unrolled the paper until it was taller than him.  I then had him lay down and traced him with a marker.  After that was done i showed him the paper Michael.  We grabbed some crayons an drew on clothes, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and hair.  He thought it was so neat.  Then I taped paper Michael to his bedroom door and that is where he has lived for the past month.  Who knew?

6) Play dough.  Who doesn't love play dough?  Well, except when your cleaning it up of course.  One afternoon we decided to make our own.  There are tons of play dough recipes out there that are simple and usually last a few months if stored correctly.  We made it with ingredients we already had on hand.  So essentially it was free.  I dug out some cookie cutters and we spent an hour patting out the dough, cutting shapes and then doing it all over again.  

7) Sidewalk Chalk!  I love this stuff.  Sometimes I break it out because I want to play with it.  My son is still a little young and gets bored with it easily but he will ask for it and has a blast while it holds his attention.  We recently took it to our sidewalk and a road was drawn where he then drove his trucks back and forth.

8)I'm going old school on this one.  Crayons and coloring books.  Really, who didn't play with these are one time?  They sell both at dollar stores in many varieties.  I can remember sitting as a kid and coloring for hours.  My cousin and I loved to draw or color pictures and then hang them on every part of the wall we could find and pretend to have an art show.  Its a really good rainy day activity.  Break out all of the art supplies, make some finger foods and pretend you are having a gallery opening.  String some ribbon across the door frame and let there be a ribbon cutting ceremony to start the event.

9) Glow stick fun!  This is  current favorite at our house.  I found glow sticks in the $1 section of Target.  I got 25 for $2.50.  Once it's dark we take a couple and go outside.  We toss them around or put them on and chase each other.  After a certain point it's so dark that they, and my son's light up shoes, are all you see.  Maybe older kids could make an interesting game of hide and seek after dark using them.

10) Build a Fort.  One of my favorite things to do during the summer as a kid was clothespin a sheet to the box fan in the hall and hide under it.  This of course turned into moving the fan close to a door, confiscating all of the sheets in the house and making tunnels and rooms.  We have made several bedroom forts. 

There are so many things that you can do inexpensively with your family that are a lot of fun.  There's even a place here that offers outdoor movies on Saturday nights with free popcorn and it's always a family friendly movie.  I never noticed how many opportunities there were until I started looking.  I think the key to finding free or inexpensive activities is to look for them.  A friend even mentioned that during the summer movie theatres offer days where kids see a movie for free or $1.  After looking into it I found that several local theatres offered some type of summer movie deal.  All it really takes is a little planning ad creativity. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Know What You Have

It has been one of those days to say the least.  Little man decided to keep me up for about 2.5 hours last night, which happened to be the 2.5 hours right after I layed down, and then still get up early.  I was working with about 3.5 hours of sleep today.  According to my menu dinner was supposed to be beef stew in the crock pot.  (Are beef stew and stewed beef the same thing?  Random sleep deprived thought.)  Well after inhaling a couple of mugs of coffee I started to pull out my ingredients.  I chopped the celery and carrots a few days ago, tossed them in a freezer bag and then into the freezer.  I wanted to make sure I could use them before they were bad.  As I start rummaging the freezer for the stew meat I realized that we didn't have any in the freezer.  My next stop was our chest freezer in the garage.  After cleaning it up a bit I realized two things.  1) We have 4 whole chickens, chicken nuggets, boneless chicken breasts and bone in chicken breasts, 2 bags of shrimp, a pizza, 5 pumpkin pies, 2 packages of toaster strudels and an assortment of other frozen items. 2) We have no stew meat.  EEK!  I already had all of the other ingredients and was set for a stew so after going back into the house I settled on a boston butt pork roast.  Well half of one anyway.  We have started cutting roasts in half before freezing them because we found that when we cooked a whole one, unless we had dinner guests, we end up with more leftover meat than we can eat before it goes bad or we are just burnt out on it.  I tossed it into my crock pot completely frozen and set it to high.  I still needed to chop the baking and sweet potato's so while the roast was thawing and starting to cook little man and I peeled potato's and I chopped away.  I decided it would be a good idea to let the roast cook by itself an hour or two since it was frozen.  Once the roast looked thawed I dumped the potato's on top and then the frozen carrots and celery on top of that. 

I have to say that in spite of it not being the planned dinner it still tasted delicious.  It was somewhere between a soup and a stew.  I think the big lesson for me today was that I have to do a freezer inventory.  When we lived 45 minutes from the closest Sam's Club I was very good about my freezer inventory.  If we were going to drive that far to by meat in bulk I needed to know that we didn't have 4 packs of pork chops already in the freezer.  This is the freezer inventory check sheet I use.  They also have a pantry checklist on this website as well which can come in handy if you like to stockpile.  Meal planning can really save time and money.  It has helped a lot since we started doing it regularly.  However, if you don't know what items you have on hand you cannot effectively meal plan.  I lucked out today because we had a roast that could be used as a substitution.  I could have scratched this meal as a loss and made something else that's on the list but after last night and going on mainly caffeine I just wanted to throw some ingredients in the crock pot and be done.  

Lesson learned.  When I have the opportunity I will be doing a freezer inventory and I do plan to make SEVERAL chicken meals over the next few weeks since we seem to have an abundance.  I feel a crock pot chicken and potato's coming soon but more on that later.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wal Mart 10/3/10

This was a completely unplanned trip.  We rode to Wal Mart with my parents and I realized it was the perfect opportunity to purchase a couple of things that I can't get at Aldi.

Caprison Pouch Water (2) @ $1.97 each 
Nesquick Chocolate Milk $1.08 (treat for the little one)
Libby Pumpkin Puree (5) @ $1.50 each
Bread Flour $2.14
Whole Wheat Flour $2.78

Total= $18.03
Remaining this week= $21.97

I was sad that I didn't have cash but instead of pulling our my normal $40 I will probably just grab $20 for my Aldi trip later this week.  I think I mentioned before about the shortage on pumpkin puree and I check EVERYWHERE for it when out shopping in the hopes of coming across a can or two.  I was down to 1 can after making a double batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and crock pot pumpkin spice lattes.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a few cans.  As for the flour, since I make our bread I have to keep it on hand and Aldi never has bread flour or whole wheat flour. 

October 1st-15th Menu's

Here's our menu for the 1st-15th.  Anything that does not get made will be bumped down to the second half of the month.

1st- Kielbasa with man and cheese
2nd- Cheese sticks, crab legs and cheesecake (don't judge it was our anniversary dinner)
3rd- Grilled chicken, mashed potato's, green beans and corn
4th- Cheesy chicken and broccoli rice
5th- Cinnamon puff with bacon and fruit
6th- Cheeseburger pie with salad
7th- Chicken nuggets with fries and fruit
8th- Crock pot beef stew with biscuits
9th- Rotisserie pork loin, mashed potato's and salad
10th- Leftovers
11th- Chicken Alfredo with broccoli
12th- Crock pot pork roast with salad and rice
13th- Sandwich's with fruit
14th- Tilapia wit rice and veggies
15th- Leftovers

As you can see when it gets cold I love my crock pot.  It's easy and I get hearty warm meals with very little work from me.  The carrots and celery for the stew are actually going to be chopped up today, bagged and frozen.  On the day of I will pull them out before I sear the meat and then toss it all together with some potato's in the crock pot. 

October...a fresh start

After posting a few blog entries last month I realized that it wasn't the best idea for me to start posting mid month.  I had already had several shopping trips and it was too much catch up.  So I am starting fresh with October.  Until the past few months my husband and I have been sticking to our budget of $40 a week on groceries.  As a reminder, this does not include any takeout or the purchases he makes for us at work.  I tried to include those purchases in some of my previous posts but it didn't fit budget wise.  So we re-evaluated our budget and most of the spending that we were doing outside the grocery budget and came to the conclusion that we just need to limit how much we allow ourselves to spend for our stockpile.  So, we have $40 per week on groceries and $40 per month to use toward stockpiling.  I just can't pass up free, or almost free, shampoo, body wash, toothpaste and so on.  To us it makes more sense to allow some money in our budget toward purchasing those items when they are at super low prices. 

So our month of October we are really trying to get back to the basics of our budget.  We strayed a little the past few weeks due to my birthday and our wedding anniversary.  We have started October with a bang, in the form of a shopping trip to Sam's Club.  EEK!  Oh how we love Sam's.  At one time, we were making a trip there every other month.  However, Friday was a our first trip there in SEVERAL months.  We had very specific things in mind to purchase and for the most part we didn't stray too much.  We went in knowing that we needed pillows, crab legs (anniversary dinner), dog treats, and dog food.  Well, $234.58 later we walked out of Sam's.  Yep, we spent over $200.  That's what we normally spend an entire month on groceries!!!!  After doing the $40 challenge for a few months it really put it into perspective.  We ended up purchasing dog food and dog treats( both will actually last at least 3 months), 4 king pillows, fruit cups (for the hubby's lunch), ketchup (my boys eat it like it's a food group in itself), moist wipes, cheese balls, paper plates, chicken nuggets, bacon (this will last 2-3 months), cheesecake (part of the anniversary dinner and considering it was Cheesecake Factory not a bad deal for $15 we got 12 slices), magic erasers (10), Naked fruit drinks, syrup (another of little mans food groups- he asks for waffles or pancakes at least once per day), crab legs (anniversary dinner), frozen chicken breasts, and mozzarella sticks (one word--YUM).  Not the best trip but definitely not the worst.  The majority of the items we purchased are long term items.  The fruit drinks and cheesecake are fading fast but we were able to get 2 meals off of the crab legs.  On Saturday for the actual anniversary and we are saving the rest for another night.  Also, I don't see another Sam's trip in our future until at least after the new year.

So summary of October so far.....we've spend way too much money but we have a plan for our stockpiling expenditures and we have had no problems doing the $40 per week for groceries.  I just know that Harris Teeter will end up doing Super Doubles or Triple coupons this month since we made that Sam's trip.  It would be just my luck.