Sunday, October 19, 2014

Menus and Work for This Week: October 19 - 24

                                                     The Freezer Challenge Continues...

I've been wracking my brain for menu ideas for the coming week.  I'm just so undecided and admittedly a wee bit frustrated.  You see, I cleared a bit of space in all three freezers this past week...and promptly refilled those spaces on Thursday and Friday...Uhm,  this is not working quite the way that I planned it!  My food multiplication is much appreciated, truly it is, but it does seem that I am forever trying to figure out where I'll store the leftovers.  I shall not complain.  It's a wonderful thing, truly it is to take stuff from the freezer and make more stuff to refill the freezer and all the while I'm cutting back on portions and this ingredient or that and the food just increases.

This past week we did very well following the menu up to a point.  I made the Beef Ravioli Bake and ended putting a pan in the freezer with enough for another meal.  I also ate leftovers today of the casserole dish...and I cut the beef by two thirds!  It calls for 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef.   I used just 1/2 pound and I still had more than enough to serve 5.   I made chicken and dumplings and that turned out to be a hearty meal.  I ate leftovers of that, too, earlier in the week for my supper.  But I still put two quarts of chicken/veg soup in the freezer.  Two quarts!  The pot roast was made Friday and is currently in the fridge.  We never even got round to eating that.  I will put that on the menu this week.  We stopped Thursday to buy Fried Chicken at the diner and we ate twice off that.  I cooked a small turkey breast  roast (boneless) for sandwiches, but haven't sliced it up yet.  Sure has been great eating turkey sandwiches.  Yum!

Okay, I'm planning meals from breakfast thru supper once more as it helps me stay focused and not use too much of my resources and at the same time to use ALL the foods available that might otherwise spoil.

Breakfasts:   Sausage Cheese Toast
                     Butterscotch Oatmeal, Peanut Butter Toast
                     Bagels with Cream Cheese, Cereal if wanted
                     Eggs with Cream Cheese and Chives, Buttered Toast
                     Pancakes, Bacon
                     Sausage and Hash brown Casserole, Muffins, Fruit Cups
                     Boiled Eggs, Buttered Toast, Juice

Suppers:       Yogurt Smoothie
                      Club Sandwich
                      Turkey Sandwich with Chips
                      Cereal and Toast
                      Beanie Weenies
                      Mini Pizzas with Vegetables  
                      Quesadillas with Tomato Soup

Leftovers for me
Beefy Ravioli bake...should have had a salad, but I did have crackers and cheese and grapes for an afternoon snack.  I'll have yogurt for supper tonight I think.

Roast Beef with Mashed potatoes, Green Peas, Broccoli Apple Salad, Muffins
My first planned meal with the roast beef.  I think I can stretch this to two meals and possibly sandwich meat.  We'll see.  If I do we'll likely have that instead of the Mini Pizzas.

Roast Beef Hash, Green Beans, Lettuce and Tomato Salad, Toasted Muffins
Round 2.  I have the diced cooked potatoes ready to mix with the gravy and meat, so a fuss free meal.

Burritos, Pico de Gallo Salad, Baked Apples
The burritos from the freezer.  They are huge things stuffed with rice and ground meat and cheese and beans and corn, all leftovers that I wanted to use up.  I think this will be a satisfactory meal.  I'll bring out the whipped cream for the baked apples...I may adjust this to Apple Brown Betty to use up more of the end pieces of bread in the freezer.  It's mighty good and could bake alongside the burritos.

Out with Mama

Whole Roasted Chicken with Apples and Root Vegetables,  Green Salad, Biscuits
If the roast doesn't stretch to sandwiches, I'll keep some biscuit dough out to make mini pizzas for our supper.

Kids Favorite Casserole, Fruit Salad, Biscuits, Snickerdoodles
It's really just an easy shepherd's pie.  I'll use just 1/2 pound ground beef for the base instead of a pound.

Work Plans 

I made no plans last week and said anything I got done was bonus work.  I managed to prune the roses way back, did some trimming around the Persimmon at the front porch, got my shed more or less sorted, and made another step of progress on the guest room.  Not bad for a 'vacation' week, huh?  Oh yeah, I sat down and worked out my Fourth Quarter budget sheet as well.  

This Week:

Get the pictures, sconces hung in guest room.

Take a load of stuff to the shed.

Tag and Sort items for booth.

Get Christmas stuff for booth gathered and tag it  so it's ready to place in November.

Plant Daffodil bulbs and iris.

Finish clearing empty pots off back porch.                  

Living Frugal Living Well

Sorry this is late this weekend.  I tried to send it out several times Friday evening and Saturday but blogger just wasn't cooperating.

At one time I used my own photos to head these posts.  I felt it was a good way to share how we save and live in our home.  I love this little flower bed that is a good enough replica of one I much admired so I'm going to lead off with this photo this week.

Saturday:  John worked his 24 hour shift, so I made a breakfast for us.  I made Bagel Breakfast Sandwichs, which suited his need to have a heavier than usual breakfast and filled us up until well past dinner time.

Packed for a trip we'd planned for this weekend.  We've gotten to be old hands at packing and generally know just what we need so it all comes together quickly.  I keep a zippered plastic bag of trial sized items in the overnight bag as well as a single wash load of detergent, a dryer sheet, a mini sewing kit for repairs, a nightlight, and even a spare hair brush.  All we generally have to gather is our colognes, toothbrush and whatever we feel we require extra.  It's made packing a breeze in that department and we can pack a bag for travel in about 10 minutes flat.

Our hotel fees will be covered by a small fund we keep and use for travel.  We usually put money in this account at Christmas and later when we get tax returns.  We don't contribute monthly to this fund.  So when the money in the account is gone we don't travel.

I packed a grocery sack with snack foods, paper plates and bowls, plastic utensils, a couple of coffee mugs, coffee pods, a box of cereal, jar of peanut butter, crackers.  We packed an insulated bag with water, soda, milk, cheese.  We stopped off to buy ice (and milk as it happened because my bargain gallon was starting to taste 'different'.)

Nope, didn't toss the bargain gallon.  It wasn't spoiled or out of date, just didn't taste as fresh as I'd prefer for drinking.  So I'll use it to make biscuits and breads and such.

John stopped in the town nearest the interstate to fill the car.  At this point we were over an hour from home and well past dinner time.  Next door was a burger place with a 'bargain menu' and he ordered burgers from that.  We spent less than $4.  We drank water brought from home.

We made two other stops: for boiled peanuts and for apples.  Those provided snacks for us all weekend long, as well as gifts to the kids.

Our son made supper for us after we arrived.  Good food and a grandbaby who chuckles at Grampa is a happy combination, lol.

Sunday:  John walked to the convenience store next to our hotel to purchase a loaf of bread.  He came back with orange juice and a special donut I like very much but seldom can find.  We had cereal, donuts, and a piece of bread with peanut butter spread over it for breakfast.  The hotel provided a coffeemaker and coffee pods.  It was nice to have our mugs from home instead of the paper cups the hotel provided.

I spent the day with my daughter.  John was spending the day with our son.  Before I left the hotel John and I discussed money.  We'd both spent a portion of funds for the weekend as we set out on the trip.  We agreed to what we'd each take from the account to supplement if needed during the day.  Not a bad discussion to have.  No nasty surprises when the weekend is over and done.  As it happened, I got no more money, finding I still had a bit leftover at day's end and he did refresh his funds since he'd bought milk and bread and yesterday's lunch from his pocket.

I didn't buy any clothing at the first store we visited.  I'd forgotten to check to see what pieces I'd determined I'd needed and couldn't find the one item I'd knew I could use.  I wish I could list every single thing I did NOT buy, neat and useful as I thought they were.  It wasn't the cost that kept me from it either, but the idea that I had a perfectly workable substitute right at home, so why buy something I'd need to find storage place for, etc.

What I did buy: makeup.  I cut the end off the tube of primer three weeks ago.  The foundation tube screeched with air as I squirted out the last of it Saturday morning.  The blush was 'see through' to the bottom of the pan as was the brown shadow.  I really got my full use of these cosmetics but it was time to replenish so I did.  Katie has a better eye for shades of foundation than I do so I was glad to have her help.

At the second store we shopped, I did buy a beautiful shirt that was just $10.  I purchased the same shirt, different color a few weeks ago and it is so well made and so comfortable that I had no qualms about adding a second one to my wardrobe.  You can see I approach my wardrobe much as I approach my pantry and home: do I need it?  Is it useful?  Can I find it at a better price?  Will it keep until I do need it?  In this case, while I didn't need the shirt at the moment, I will most assuredly be glad to have it to extend my current wardrobe and since it's a quality item, I'll get good use from it.

The end of the day.  John was still away, so I asked Katie to take me some place to purchase food for my supper.  She suggested the grocery.  That actually turned out to be a terrific suggestion.  I purchased a frozen entree that had vegetables and protein included in the dish.  I also purchased some English Muffin breakfast sandwiches (also frozen).  I knew I had apples and other items to complete the meal at the hotel.  I spent just $20, (I also purchased a sale item I knew we were out of at home), paid for it all from my allowance.  My dinner entree was under $5.  I felt it was a very good value.

I heated my supper in the hotel room microwave.  It was very tasty but not quite enough.  I wished I'd bought a salad but opted to add an apple and crackers which made it all just enough.

John also purchased a newspaper while at the convenience store this morning.  I read the paper, worked on the puzzle, gathered sales sheets and coupons to take back home.  I caught up on a tv series I enjoy (Alaska, the Last Frontier), read...I enjoyed myself alone as much as I'd enjoyed my time with my children.

Monday:  We heated two of the English muffin sandwiches in the microwave for breakfast, drank coffee we prepared in the room with the courtesy coffee provided, drank the rest of our juice (we shared a bottle yesterday morning).  I figured the cost of our breakfast was about $.90 each which is far less than breakfast out would have been.

We packed up to head home.  John put ice in our insulated bag using the courtesy ice from the hotel ice machine.

Home looked so good!  I wasn't worried about dinner even though we arrived just at noon.  I had food in the freezer that I knew could be reheated easily: turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce.  I put the turkey and dressing in the oven.  I added a little water to a covered pan, put in a crown of broccoli and popped that in the oven, too.  It was all done in about 40 minutes, which gave us enough time to unpack, feed the pets, start a load of laundry and hang it to dry.  And just that quick everything was done.  We only had to eat, clear the dishes and the afternoon has been ours to relax and exult over our terrific weekend.

Tuesday:  Wasn't in the least sorry to hear the rain this morning.  It meant I didn't have to water the potted plants!

I didn't take anything out to thaw last night after planning menu for the week, and was a little late with it this there I was with frozen meats and dinner an hour or so away.  I opted to boil the chicken to make chicken and dumplings.  I used my larger steamer basket to hold the chicken pieces and the frozen onion tops and root ends, carrot pieces and half a root end of celery.  Made awesome broth and all was easily lifted from the pot when I was ready to make the dumplings.

I removed the last two  dumplings and set them aside for the dog tomorrow.  I had two quarts of chicken soup left over.  I put those in the freezer.

food waste:  Today I tossed two romaine hearts and 1head of ice berg lettuce.
Having leftover salads from John's work lunches to use up has made my usual purchases too much.  I think I'll limit myself to one head of lettuce per pay period rather than throw away any more foods.  As for John's leftover salads, I'll let him eat them.  I really do loathe the bagged mixes.  I'll eat the regular lettuce insuring that it does not go to waste.  I'd rather run out and buy more if needed than toss it in the trash.

I overfilled the coffee carafe this evening as I set up coffee pot for breakfast.  I used the excess to water violets rather than pour it down the drain.

I set aside chicken skin for Maddie's meal tomorrow.

Made pie crusts from scratch.

Made an apple pie.  I save apple peels and cores to use to make a future batch of jelly.

Made pimento and cheese for sandwich filling.

Wednesday:  I was up earlier than usual this morning.  I slept really well last night so the added hours to my day were most appreciated.

I sorted things in the shed.  Result: 1 bag of trash, 1 basket of stuff to come indoors to be placed in the booth and 1 basket of things to help along the fall decor for the house. 3 cardboard boxes for future use in mulching flower beds. Sorting things out meant I could find all my fall decor stuff.  I was about ready to go buy more floral picks!

We had a big breakfast this morning.  Nope, it wasn't a work night for John but we'd eaten very light meals the past few days and I was pretty sure my husband would appreciate a good breakfast.

Balancing a heavy breakfast with a smaller lunch is a saver as well.  I saved me time as well.

We had Harvest.  We are a little late.  John's check was supposed to be mailed to him.  We were waiting for mail delivery (mid-afternoon here) so were surprised by a phone call from John's partner saying he was bringing John's check to us on his way to do an errand.  Apparently it had mistakenly been sent to the office and missed being mailed twice.  We'd thought the delay was because of the holiday.  So glad that his partner realized it hadn't been mailed and brought it to us.

We made a trip into town to drop bills off at the post office, then on to the bank.  At the bank we got cash for groceries and allowances.

My morning's work did a number on my knee.  I put some lentils in a sock, heated in the microwave and put a heat pack on my knee.  It felt great and really reduced the pain.

Worked on my grocery list for tomorrow.  I looked over sales sheets and checked online ads for those stores for which I had no sales sheet.  I checked coupons as well this evening and clipped all the new coupons from the weekend.

Thursday:  I made breakfast, keeping in mind that we were shopping for groceries I opted to go a little heavier.

For one reason and another we were late leaving home, the morning nearly over before we ever made it to the first grocery.  While I waited about, I worked on organizing the coupons I'd clipped yesterday.

 I insisted on sticking hard to my list.  I had a set amount of money to spend and any overage was coming from my allowance...Well that allowance is sort of spoken for already.  I sure didn't want to have to give it up!

When we left grocery one and headed to Aldi, I made sure John knew exactly how much money I had left to spend.  That helps him cut back on his little splurges.  He never put a thing in the buggy this week without asking if it was okay.  Result: I was over but not by much and he split the difference with me since the overage was extras.

Despite my little overage today, I pointed out to John that we had successfully cut our grocery budget to $260 this month.  That is down from $450/mo just a bit over a year ago.

He offered to buy fried chicken from the local diner, if I'd go in to get it.  I called ahead to order and here's a bit of small town living for you.  We arrived at 1:33 and the diner was closed. I thought they closed at 2pm but they close at 1:30.  However as we sat before the place, one of the employees opened the door and asked "Are you Miss Terri?  We still got your box fixed up for you, come on in!"  Love small town living!  We'll get two meals off that box of chicken.

Friday:  My rake fell apart this morning as I worked in the yard.  John fixed it for me by putting a screw in the thing.  The rake won't see another year I don't guess, since part of the problem is rotting wood,  but it's good enough to finish out this one.  I'll be sure to look for a sale over the next few months.

Busy kitchen day.  I started out by making french toast from the off cuts of the huge loaves of bread we buy.  The slices are too big for a sandwich but not enough to cut into three pieces so I essentially end up with two and a half pieces from the slices.  I used the half pieces to make french toast this morning.  It was really good too.  The bread is coarse and fresh and slightly dry and soaked up the batter really well, so the outside got crispy and the inside was creamy and nice.

Put a boneless turkey breast in the crockpot for sandwich meat.  I dressed it with the last bits of the cane and maple syrup (not enough for a breakfast serving) and dijon mustard.  That emptied both syrup bottles.

Browned a chuck roast in the frying pan then made gravy from the browned bits in the pan and put over it.  That went into a slow oven to bake in a covered casserole dish.

Used the same pan to brown ground beef and make sauce for a Tortellini casserole for dinner.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of beef.  I use only 1/2 pound.  It is plenty and there's protein galore with the cheese tortellini and the cheese called for in the recipe.  I split the recipe after cooking and put an equal amount into a pie pan for the freezer.

I baked the other casserole in the slow oven with the roast beef.  It took a little longer but the oven was already set.

We ate the last of the apple pie today.  I debated making another dessert but reasoned we've plenty of things in the freezer (poundcake and gingerbread) and could make do at least through the weekend.

We carried off trash and picked up mail this afternoon.  I don't normally run to take off trash unless we're going to town, but I had all those meat wrappers in the trash and didn't want them in the house over the weekend.

We had turkey sandwiches for supper.

Living Well

We had a lovely weekend and a lovely week, full of wonderful blessings and good things.  I'm going to do a gratitude list this week of things that moved me, inspired me, pleased me all through the week just past:

A 4 month old laughing at his Grampa

Surprised look on same 4 month old's face when Gramma let him slide down her lap, lol.  He wasn't in the least scared, but he definitely had an opinion about it!

Warm boiled green peanuts.

Conversations with vendors.

A rose garden in a tight little gas station parking lot.  Sometimes sacrificing a parking space truly is inspiring.  There must have been a dozen blooming roses and they were thriving.

An old fashioned cider apple.

A heart to heart conversation that clears the air.

A weekend worthy of comment even into the next weekend.

Leaves slowly drifting down.

A kind gesture.

The luxury of having breakfast made for me.

Rearranging things I have and finding I am inspired to stop and admire them because they are so fresh and lovely looking.

When making do, turns out better than I thought it might.

The realization that we're not solely dependent any longer on a paycheck.

A Shabat evening prayer that moves to tears as we speak our hearts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Questions, Answers, & Comments

Well here we are in another new month...they do seem to come around regular don't they?  I am not going to go on about how quickly time passes.  It does and it doesn't, if you know what I mean.  I like staying busy which makes time pass quickly, but I can be pretty relaxed at times and time seems to pass just as quickly. And the few incidents where time passed slowly, had little to do with boredom and a lot to do with awaiting news in illness or for test results and only occasionally did it slow down for good things...I'd much rather time passed at it's usual pace!

September ended being a pretty good month for me where projects and tasks were concerned.  I feel it was a productive time overall and I am happy with the results.

Another happy thing has been the number of comments, especially from long time readers who said it was their first time posting...Thank you!  Thank you all for making my ordinary day to day life appear to have some import to others.  Thank you for taking time to comment.  It means a great deal to me.

Now let's see what you had to say this past month...

Rutabagas or Swedes: An Autumn Bonus

This my dears, is a rutabaga as it is known in the U.S. or Swede, as our neighbors and friends from around the world call it.  It is from the Brassica family (cabbage) and is a root vegetable.  It takes far longer to mature than a turnip and the flesh is a pale yellow.  Rutabagas are largely grown in Canada which exports them.  You've likely seen them in the grocery store and thought they were rather ugly with their mottled and heavily waxed skin.

I've eaten rutabaga for all my life in the autumn and winter months.  In my family they were a much looked forward to seasonal food. 40 odd years ago a rutabaga was a strong tasting, almost bitter root but not so much anymore.  Katie, my most picky of all children, loved when I'd cut a rutabaga into sticks and make oven baked fries from them.  I like them served mashed with butter and pepper.  Look on your grocery shelves and you'll likely find cans of diced rutabaga which might be heated and served as they are.

Monday, October 13, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan and Jobs

I think, after this year, I should get a bumper sticker for my car: I SAW Georgia! lol  We're just back from a weekend in Athens in which we traveled many miles further with our two children (John with Sam and I with Katie).  It was a great weekend and as with every time we've traveled I've learned a thing a two that we might do differently to best suit our comfort and save a smidge of money.  But that is another post for another day.

We arrived back home today and I immediately started a meal when we came in, using freezer items so I'll lead with that meal and we'll go from there.

Turkey, Dressing, Broccoli with Cheese, Cranberry Relish
Turkey and Dressing from the freezer.  It took only about a half hour to thaw an dheat in the oven.  I steamed the broccoli in the oven, too.  I didn't leave it for the full half  hour.  And no salad.  I was unpacking while dinner heated.  We did eat ALL of the cranberry relish which was about 1/4 cup each.  It counts as a fruit, really as there was no sugar just cranberries, orange and apple.

Beef Ravioli Bake, Italian Green Beans, Green Salad, Garlic Bread
I have beef, ravioli and green beans in the freezer as well as bread.  That should help make somewhat of a dint in the freezer...And that's good as I bought an item while on our trip that I packed into the freezer, lol.  It does seem that no matter how much I take out I put as much back in but I am truly seeing some room in both freezers, so I must be making headway.

Chicken Dumplings, Apple Pie
I'll use chicken and broth and mixed veg from the freezer.  John likes the big fluffy type dumplings.  I grew up with the flat noodle type dumplings that Granny taught me how to make...So if there's an extra lot of chicken stew left, I put in the freezer and then make my sort of dumplings a little later. The apple pie will be made from scratch.  I bought the most beautiful Winesap apples in North Georgia this weekend.  I shared some with the kids and brought home extras for making a lovely pie. I have my favorite Dutch apple Pie recipe, but I was thinking of trying this recipe.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Living Frugally, Living Well October 4-10

                                                     An old photo of my smaller freezer

Saturday:  No cooking for me today, at least not until after sundown this evening.  We are participating in Yom Kippur today.  I have something out to make up quickly tonight into a hot meal.

I heard the breezes start this morning and ran to open the windows.  The first really cold air of the season is coming in.  We have all the windows open and are letting the cool fresh air blow through the house.  John always says we're blowing out the germs.  There's something to that theory.  After years of pooh poohing the advice of our great grandmother's day, a recent study suggests that fresh air and sunshine are two of the greatest disinfectants for any household.

I got chilly as the morning progressed but I didn't close those windows!  I went and put on a sweater and socks instead.  I'm training myself for winter days when I get cold but the heat is really turned up quite high enough.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Coffee Chat: Total Eclipse

Come on In!

We were up especially early yesterday morning, somewhere between 4 and 5 and again around 6:15 for me, which is when John came to fetch me to watch the lunar eclipse with him this morning around 6:30.   We were up at 5am  peering out door and window looking at the moon but besides being huge and blindingly bright, nothing extraordinary about it.  I went back to bed.  It's dark and I don't do morning dark as well as I used to and the bed had felt pretty comfortable over all.  I left the curtain at the window pulled back and was watching the moon but my eyes would drift shut...and I went to sleep and dreamed I was riding about with the two teen daughters from "Modern Family" and the youngest, Alex had just indicated I really needed to put on my seat belt...Weird dreams after going back to bed are standard form for me, so not at all surprising that something totally unrelated to anything I know would be in my dream. John came in and flung open the door and said "Come watch this.  It's so cool already!"