A Year of Savings: 2013

Feb. 15:  What a busy day in my kitchen.  We washed a full load of clothes this morning and hung the bulk of the load to dry.  That meant the dryer had to run only half the time it might otherwise.

I washed a dishwasher full of dishes this evening.  I ran on a shorter cycle, since I rinse the dishes well when loading.  And I turned off the heat/dry mode and let them air dry.

Was that all?  Nope.  I washed out my bras by hand using watered down shampoo.  Shampoo is gentle, as gentle as those 'special' cold water detergents meant just for hand washables.  And using that watered down shampoo instead of the 'special' stuff saved me $2.99.

I made a loaf of bread, but I've already given that savings last week when I said I would make bread.  I also made up a batch of hot dog buns.  The good sort from the deli bakery are closest to my homemade ones, so I'm upping the savings to $2.99 to reflect that rather than the mass produced big name bakery buns that don't even begin to resemble homemade ones.

Made a big pot of soup for Sunday dinner.  I used some leftovers from the fridge, canned vegetables and a bit of leftover roast.  I ended up with easily 2 gallons of soup and for pennies!  There is no canned vegetable beef soup half as good as homemade, but I reckon  using what I had compared to cans of soup at the grocery is a rather substantial savings $9.45 figuring ten cans of soup at $1.29 minus the cost of the canned veggies I used.

Put bell peppers into the freezer today, savings $3.00.

Q & A

Terri, I really enjoy reading your blog!! I was just reading that groceries are supposed to take a hike again in April due to the drought, which we are still in. I'm wondering why you do the freezer challenge instead of constantly stocking up? I've read of other gals who rotate their stock and keep stocking all 12 months of the year. It just seems to me that it would be smarter to keep stocking up while prices are as low as they are instead of waiting for them to climb higher. Just wondering, Pam

Pam, that is a great question. I have several reasons for doing a challenge.

#1.  I like to keep my stock orderly, but eventually during a quarter (which is about the average time frame between pantry/freezer challenges for me), I find myself pressed for time, forgetful or just plain slacking and I don't rotate, add or remove items from my inventory list, etc.  When the pantry and freezer are burgeoning with goods it's hard to see what we have.  This brief season of slowing down allows me to get my bearings, discover where we have failed to restock, what we need to use, etc.  For instance, just this week I discovered that I have no instant potatoes on hand.  While digging for milk in the back freezer, I found two Cornish Game Hens...That was meant to be a holiday meal which I'd forgotten and those items didn't make it to the inventory list. So you see this time of a challenge benefits me in keeping the rotation of goods.

March Pantry Freezer Challenge



We've done very well here for the first two months of the year.  I stocked up on meats the first week of January at the meat and grocery markets, we've built up our pantries.  I've got enough meat to just about carry us through the month of March...and a little extra money to restock the freezer would come in handy in April.  I think it's time to have my first Pantry/Freezer Challenge for 2013. 

I'll likely buy dairy and produce during this month but will try to keep other purchases to absolute necessities and save all I can for purchases in April.

Anyone want to join in?

Meal Plan Monday

What a long and whirlwind weekend!  We went down to visit our oldest son and family in honor of his birthday coming up this Monday.  While there we visited the zoo in Jacksonville, Florida.  Then today we rushed back home to meet our youngest two while they worked on car repairs here.  Mama stopped by to visit as we were in the midst of this, unpacking, clearing up from our hasty dinner...About 8pm this evening, I shook my head...Weekend?  What weekend?!  It went so quickly!

Chili Dogs, Sweet Potato Fries
An easy meal, quick to put together for our menu today.  It was just what we needed with all that was going on after our five hour drive.


Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Green Beans, Coleslaw
We didn't eat our chicken leftovers last week.  They went into the freezer and will be a great bonus easy meal for me.  I'm sure I won't feel like a lot of hard work after the hectic weekend.


Corn Moussaka

 
I've looked and looked online...okay not really, I'm feeling a bit out of sorts this evening.  I looked for a good bit online at my sites and could not find where I'd listed this recipe.  I found this one, which is the exact same one I use.  This was from BH&G in 1980 and was submitted by a reader.  I've been making it from the moment I first saw it in the magazine and it's remained a favorite at home and in potlucks.  
 
I have cut the ground beef to as little as a half pound at times, but 1 pound works best.  Don't skip the cinnamon even if you think it sounds odd because it's key to this dish.  It isn't overpowering or cinnamon-y tasting. It just comes across as exotic. 

Note that this says to make it in a shallow dish.  Be sure to use a shallow one.  I've made the mistake more than once of putting it in a deep dish and it takes forever for the top to cook through and firm up.
 
 Corn Moussaka
 
1 (17 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 c. cream style cottage cheese with chives, drained
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 (4 oz.) pkg. shredded Mozzarella cheese (1 c.)
Slivered almonds; optional
 
Spread corn in an ungreased shallow 1 1/2 quart casserole or a 10 x 6 x 2 inch baking dish. In medium skillet brown ground beef; drain off excess fat. Add flour; cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in tomato sauce, garlic salt, and cinnamon; pour over corn in dish. Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine eggs and cottage cheese; spread over meat mixture. Top with Parmesan and Mozzarella; sprinkle nuts over, if desired. Bake 10-15 minutes more. Makes 6 servings.

Weekly Meal Plan

Brrrr!  A deep cold front came in this weekend and it's about as cold as it will get here.  Yesterday the wind shook the house and rattled the windows it blew so hard.  Today, thankfully, the wind is quiet.  However, it was a perfect weekend for the meal my girl Katie requested for her visit.

One meal down...six to go for this week.

Vegetable Beef Soup, Cornbread
I'd thought I'd make a dessert but John brought in boxes of chocolate yesterday, one for me and one for Katie, so we let chocolates suffice.  The soup is a bit of leftovers (roast, some beef stew) and a few cans of vegetables.  Not a pricey meal to make but it really did hit the spot today.  Since the majority of it consists of leftovers and my family doesn't much care for leftover soup, I expect the dogs will eat well for a day or two, but I'm not aggrieved over that.  Their food costs more than that pot of soup did.  

Tacos, Whole Kernel Corn, Green Salad with Ranch dressing
I've been craving tacos for a week.  I don't have tomatoes to top these with but lettuce and cheese and sour cream and green onions will do well enough, right?


A Year of Savings: 2013

February 8:  Grocery day.  I came in well under my budgeted amount this week, as well as under the usual amount I spend.  I'm sorry to say that while I have a set budget we typically are about $30 over it at the end of a day's shopping.  So you'll understand that I'm especially proud to have come in under the $10 under my budgeted amount.  That's a savings of $40.

I earned enough Swagbucks the last week to acquire another $5 gift card.  That's $5 I can spend on household or personal needs that didn't come from our budget!

Put $3 into the vacation/call time fund after we returned home today.

Came close to buying a bottle of French salad dressing but after questioning John, we decided I'd make more of my own.  Bottled dressing at the store cost $2.29.  I figure my savings $2.00.

Paid $2.00 for Bleu Cheese today. The packet of cheese will make two jars of Blue Cheese dressing.  The jar of a similar dressing in the refrigerator section goes for $4. I save $ 5 making two jars at home.

 I prefer to buy bread at Publix, but this week I just plain forgot.  We picked up two loaves at Aldi ($1.29 each, a savings of $3) and I told John I'd make a batch of homemade bread (a savings of $4.50) to make up our usual four loaves per pay period.  He was agreeable to that, as he really likes the homemade bread, just finds it a bit too tender for making sandwiches for work lunches.

Coffee Chat: Everything and Nothing


Hello there.  I know it's been a good long while and here it is very damp and very cool outdoors, so come on in and let's have a hot cup of coffee.  There's cookies in the cookie jars, so help yourself.

February is almost half over. No really, half over tomorrow and I haven't done a thing all month long.  I seem to have slipped back into that mode of waiting for a bit:  a bit more money, a bit better weather, a bit more time, a bit more energy.  I'm restless as can be but can do nothing until there's a change. Sigh. I should be used to this, really I should.

John went back to work tonight.  I do miss him, more I think on these Wednesdays than at any other time.  I know it's partly because I was gone a good portion of the day.  I'll slip into my own routine once more tomorrow but in the meantime, I miss him.

It's been raining here.  And raining and raining and raining.  Did I mention rain?  I have two inches just from the past two nights and it barely rained at all compared to how much rain we got Sunday.  It rained hard all day Thursday of last week as well.  There's water standing in the yard.  Lake Cheney, as Katie used to refer to the top of the hill  here, is filled once more.  Should I wander out there to wade, the water would come to mid-calf on me.  The ditches are running like streams.  The river is as high as the banks and rather fearsome looking though I've seen it much higher and swifter in years past.

Weekly Menu Plan

Here it is time to plan meals all over again.  I've made a pretty good start thus far.  I have at least two meals in the fridge and a third one planned, so minimal effort on my part to finish off the week.  Let's see how well we can do with that last bit of planning.

Chicken Pot Pie, Coleslaw, Coconut Cream Pie
Leftover chicken, broth, frozen mixed vegetables and a pourable crust.  It's an easy enough meal to put together on the first day of the week.  Mama made the pie for my birthday last week.  It's homemade and tastes pretty good, much better than that frozen one I was going to buy myself!

Bones and skin from the chicken went into the freezer to make broth with later on.

Beef Stroganoff, Noodles, Green Salad with Beets and Egg Yolks, Russian dressing, Dark Rye Rolls
I'm making stroganoff from scratch using sirloin I bought on sale last month and froze.  I plan to use baby Portabella mushrooms which have a meatiness all their own that will allow me to cut down on the amount  of meat the recipe calls for.  The dressing will be homemade.  I've got a recipe in my file that I plan to try, since the homemade French and the homemade Blue Cheese dressings have been such a hit. 

Shabat Thoughts - I Can See Clearly Now...

Remember back in November when John and I got lost and ended up sitting on a mountain side talking over our lives and resolved to let go and let God tend to the business of our lives?  And how awesomely scary it seemed?

Well...

We've had the most awesome time in the past three months. I'm not talking about no worries/no cares sort of awesome, because let's face it if there's one thing in this world that Satan doesn't like it's happy folk who haven't a care.  No, we've had our share of frustrations and concerns.  I don't mean that at all.

What I do mean is that we've faced these distractions and met these challenges with a peace that we've never had before in most circumstances.  Now and then we've flaked out over something and then we swallowed hard and moved on, remembering that we'd turned ALL of our lives over to God,  not just the portions we thought we might trust Him to handle.

A Year of Savings: 2013

February and a new month to begin saving anew.  I thought I did fairly well in January and our repayment of that car loan shows the hard work we put into savings.  We are just a few dollars shy of breaking another 'barrier'.  I want to go as far below that mark as we possibly can.  So I'm looking for ways to amp up the savings.  There are just 28 days this month to make a dent, so I'll have to work a bit harder than last month.

February 1:  I know I'll have to go to the store this weekend and it's my own fault.  I didn't buy milk nor cat food this last pay period and I knew I'd need them both.  However, I want to stay away from the store until at least Sunday  when I will go into town to buy the Sunday paper.

In the meantime...I'm out of more than milk and cat food.  I haven't got any of my favorite purchased cleaners for the bathroom.  I do however, have a decent enough substitute in three items: that powerful homemade shower cleaner (works very nicely on tubs and sinks, too) and plain old baking soda and vinegar to clean the toilets.  Worked beautifully.  Trip to town avoided.

Savings: $4 the cost of cleaners

February 2:  I like to have an easily prepared meal for our Shabat day meal.  The less work there is in putting a meal on the table, the less clearing up after, the more real rest  the day affords.  I planned ahead on Friday and made pizza dough.  I mixed it up until it was a firm ball of dough, then put in a zippered plastic bag to sit overnight in the fridge.  Cooked beef and onions on Friday, too, and had the vegetables in the freezer all prepped.  All I had to do today was to 'toss' the dough until it began to feel light and stretchable, then spread it on my pan, top with the prepared toppings and bake.  It took me a whole ten minutes today to prepare the meal.

We could have gotten take out, or even frozen for the day, but home made is always the best in my opinion and for just a few minutes work I saved $10.

This Week's Menu Plan

I'm getting an early start on this task this week.  I have company coming tomorrow and I want to have my mind free of what I should be doing.  Cold weather continues here with plenty of frosty nights (good for peach production) and cool days, perfect for hearty bone warming meals.  I love to cook this time of year when I can make long slow simmering dishes.

I'm looking forward to my company tomorrow.  Then Tuesday we begin the month of birthdays in our family.  I look forward to these special days. We've never made it a huge production, nor expensive, but we've always made it special with a favorite meal, cake/pie/dessert of choice and token gifts.  China and a prettily set table, a card and singing "Happy Birthday" always seemed to be just the right touch of festivity for us.

I haven't done much of anything today.  I ought to be busy but I'm feeling the usual weariness that comes on me as the work week dwindles down.  I'll do light work today but tomorrow morning, before my company arrives, I'll do my routine Monday work and have the house spic and span.  I hope to serve dinner to my guest as well, so here I am planning meals.  It seemed a nice quiet bit of work to attend to and gives me plenty of time to thaw foods as needed.

A Year of Savings: 2013


January 22:  Feeling splurge-y.  Well I was this day at least.  I didn't feel well, didn't have an easy meal in the freezer, didn't feel like making a meal from scratch.  Take out?  I opted for grocery freezer section which is generally less expensive than take out and marginally healthier than most options.  I needed Blue Cheese dressing but at $4 a bottle locally, I was definitely not feeling like that much of a splurge.  I came home and made my own for about $1.25 worth of ingredients, including the blue cheese, which offset the cost of my splurge a little.  Savings in making my own dressing at home: $2.25

January 23:  A dozen oranges languishing on the fruit stand...Every time I walked by them I checked them for spoilage but then I found one with the telltale soft spot.  Once one goes, they all start spoiling.  I was just not going to lose my money by throwing them out.  So I spent an hour or so this afternoon, peeling long strips of zest from the rinds.  I sectioned the oranges and put them in the freezer (along with the rind in a separate bag).  I'm sure to get my money's worth from them now.  Savings: $2.29

Living Frugally and Well: Change of Perspective

Saturday:  I made up a batch of beef fajitas for our dinner today.  I used bell pepper strips from the freezer, some thin sliced sirloin...