Thursday Thoughts

I have been very slack on my posting this month. In fact, this is the 5th post and today is the 15th of the month. I do have a legit reason or a couple of legit reasons for this slackness. I am going to share these with you. Of course, the first reason was vacation. We spent a lovely week at the beach. We really enjoyed time as a family. And to be quiet honest, I just did not feel like posting. I do have a couple more post to share about our beach trip and will hope to get at least one of these up this week. We arrived home on Sunday and actually got ahead of the game by unpacking completely Sunday night.

The second reason that I have not posted a lot this month is that I have been focused on stocking the freezer with breakfast and dinners to use as I start back to work next week. I am so excited to say that I am finished with this task. I currently have 75 dinners and 50 breakfasts pre-made and in the freezer. I wanted to share a little bit about this process with you. But first the reason this has been such a focus for me this week is simple LIFE. All three of the little kids will be involved in an extra curricular activity this fall. This means that not only do we have at least one activity every evening we have two activities most evening and an occasional evening where all three kids need to be somewhere different. Kendall will have a football game to cheer at every Saturday during the months of September and October. My goal is to keep Sundays as a day of rest and day to get things organized for the week.

When we arrived home on Sunday, we found peppers, pimentos, cucumbers and tomatoes ripe in the garden. Matt was able to roast 2 batches of pimentos to use to make pimento cheese during the fall and winter. I started a batch of pasta sauce in the crockpot and with the help of Zach made 10 omelet bags. We use omelet bags for breakfast, simply add the bag contents in a cup with 2 eggs and microwave for 2 minutes. Each omelet bag contains sausage, onions and pepper. Prior to leaving on vacation, I made 20 breakfast burritos to use the eggs, milk and sausage in the refrigerator.

Monday after spending several hours/days researching and book marking recipes during our vacation, I checked in the freezers and pantry and made a list of items that needed to be purchased in order to complete different meals. I added to this list pop tarts, instant oatmeal and cereal to use as well. I made 3 batch of pizza dough and froze along with the toppings (cheeseburger and chicken) for these. The pasta sauce was used to make dinner and two additional containers were placed in the freezer.

Tuesday was a shopping day. Mom and I headed to the local Food Lion and to Walmart with my long list. I am very proud to say that by using coupons, gift cards and sticking to my list, I spending $70 total. I did add two packs of chicken thighs to the crockpot to cook while shopping. For dinner, I unthawed a package of chicken livers and added sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.

Wednesday morning, I made a double batch of French toast using bread we found on sale. I added another batch of omelet bags to the freezer as well. I used the chicken thighs to place a chicken divan in the freezer. I decided to go ahead and make chicken broth with the skin and bones as several of my recipes called for it. After our dinner of chicken and dumplings, I made two bags of slow cooker lasagna. My mom and the kids helped with bagging up the dried basil that has been hanging in my building for several weeks.

Today has been another hectic day of cooking. First I cut and hung 15 stalks of basil in the building to begin the drying process. My goal is to not only preserve the basil but allow new plant growth on the existing plants. I also assembled the chicken casserole that we ate for dinner. All the kids were recruited to help with cooking and carrying things to the freezers today. Zach is awesome at browning/ cooking sausage and meats. I assembled 2 baked ziti, 5 bags of Salisbury steak and 2 packs of hamburger patties. I also bagged and froze an additional 10 cups of chicken stock. My plan is to eat one set of the hamburgers for dinner tomorrow and the other will be a meal later in the school year.

Now that all the cooking is finished, I plan to enjoy the last few days of summer with trips to the pool and Wet and wild. I may even finish my 4 book of the summer.

Best Homemade Sandwiches

One of my goals for this summer was to stock the freezer with food that would make my life much easier when the school year starts again. I started the process during my Spring Break. As things happen and change we did not use as many of these pre-cooked meals as I thought we would. In fact, when I started checking we are really good on chicken meals with about 20 remaining in the freezer. This summer, I have been slowing adding to this usually one or so items a week. So far, I have sloppy joes, taco meat, meat loaf and spaghetti sauce as meal. I have made hot pepper jelly and even cooked up some chicken to use. On Monday, I realized that my summer is fasting coming to an end, We have plans for the next several weeks that will keep us really busy. I started a list on my whiteboard of items that I can think of that I definitely wanted to add to the freezer. Today, I decided to tackle a major lunch prep, 100 homemade no crust peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aka “uncrustables”. First the numbers, $12.48 spent for bread, jelly and peanut butter this ends up being thirteen cent each. We, 3 kids and I, spent 45 minutes to assemble and place in the freezer. This is a huge win for me!

10 loaves of bread at $0.65 each.


We started by lining up the bread with an entire loaf on each side of our table. Kendall was in charge of placing 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter on the bread. Lily spread the peanut butter in the rough shape of a circle.
Zach placed 1 teaspoon of jelly on top of the peanut butter!
Sandwich made! Zach ended up helping the most with this step.
I used a glass to cut out a circle. A butter knife helped remove the crust. I will admit this appears to waste a lot of bread but the cost of buying is fifty cent each on sale so the waste is not an issue.
individually bagged and ready for the school year!

5 Things Friday

This is a little different this week as I am sharing 5 ways I am adding and managing my stockpile this week.

One thing that I realized during last school year especially the spring when we had multiple activities going on at the same time is that we need meals that are basically heat and eat. During my Spring break, I spent a lot of time cooking and prepping food. This summer, I have decided to try and restock and over stock our freezer with the same type of meals. A couple of weeks ago I made both taco meat and sloppy joes. This week, I have managed to add the following to our freezer stash: 1. Meatloaf muffins x 2
2. Fresh spaghetti Sauce x 4
3. Shredded Chicken Packets, (Made from chicken thighs purchased on sale several weeks ago.

I have continued to shop for sale and add to the stockpile. This week, I found chicken breast at Aldi with the price of 6lbs for $9. I came home and separated the chicken into two packets by cutting up the breast. I added a bottle of Italian dressing to each and now we are ready for grilling. I also grabbed some strawberries on sale for $1.20 a pound and froze to use in smoothies and stuff.

The fifth way, I added to our stockpile this week is probably the most satisfying for me. I was able to take a $25 gift card that Matt earned on Swagbucks and purchase a list of items that we needed. I was able to grab a total of 8 boxes of pasta, 8 cans of soup, 2 containers of mayonnaise and 1 container of Ketchup for ZERO cost!!

June in Review

I am almost in disbelief that the month of June is finished! I really have enjoyed the first two weeks of my summer vacation but it is going way to fast! In fact, we declared yesterday a chill day and I actually slept for about two hours which made a huge difference in my mood!

The garden is producing at a steady rate. We are on the verge of getting tomatoes and cucumbers! I am hoping to harvest enough tomatoes to make at least 12 batches of spaghetti sauce but will be happy to enjoy several sandwiches a week! The cucumber plants are blooming with several small cucumbers but nothing to great. We have two watermelons that are growing already! Unfortunately, we lost all but 2 of our corn plants. I have decided that corn growing is just not for me! We also lost both of our zucchini plants but were able to harvest several zucchinis first. I currently have enough in the freezer for zucchini something once a month for a year. I did discover zucchini hushpuppies which are a huge hit around here. Matt has been able to harvest enough jalapenos to make a batch for him to snack on. We are getting a steady supply of green peppers! I have only been able to freeze on batch but we are using them in a lot of things! I am trying my hand at drying basil this year in hopes to keep the plants alive and producing until the tomatoes come in. My plan is to plant pumpkins this month but need to check the almanac first!

My increase of free time has included lots of clearance shopping! I have been able to stock our freezer with both chicken and pork this month. I spent a total of $302 this month in groceries which is less than usual but more than I had anticipated. We have started to use items in our freezer and pantry and I have started a “stockpile” list. My goal is to keep spending low but also to maintain and improve the stockpile. I have realized that during the school year it is very hard to shop the sales and so I am hopeful to make huge gains in this area as well. I also am planning to attempt to cook ahead one item a week. For example, last week I made a huge batch of taco meat and froze enough for 8 additional meals. This week the goal is to make 10 pounds of sloppy joe mix.

We ended up spending $311 for gas this month. This is a decrease from previous months and I anticipate this to decrease even more for the month of July.

In the area of finances we are holding our ground right now. I did sit down and figure out my new salary. I also am actively pursuing several additional job opportunities to increase our income. This is always a hard decision and one that requires lots of prayer. Join me in praying that we follow God’s will in our financial life even if it is not easy!

I have been able to exercise at least twice a week this month. I actually increase my walking to two miles this week. This has not translated to the scale but I do notice a difference in the way some of my clothes are fitting which is always a nice thing,

This is post number 14 for the month! I am surprised at how difficult it is to reach 15 post in a month!

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month, we were able to gain $75. I also have enough sitting in my account for another $25 gift card but am waiting so I can get it without a delay. My plan for this first gift card is Lowes to buy filters and plywood.

PLANS: July will be a busy month. Zach has 2 weeks of camp to attend. Lily will be at an International Youth Conference for a week. We will all be involved in our church Vacation Bible School the third week of the month. Followed by our family missions trip to Clarkston Ga. Spending should be minimal as everything but the mission’s trip is prepaid!

Saving on Saturday

I officially took a break from my Summer break today! Both myself and the kids were exhausted and really needed a down day! Today was the day! I even managed to get a nap this afternoon, which makes me feel and react so much better!

We did make a trip out of the house to one of our local discount stores “Ollies”. Matt let me know that he is down to his last 10 K-cups so that is what I was on the lookout for. We have found the cheapest to be 26 cent a cup when we order online at Costco. This is our standard price. Today was a good day to shop. The first thing we noticed was a 15% off everything sale! We ended up finding a variety pack of K-cups for twenty-one cent each! We stocked up with a total of 160 K-cups. I also found Pop Tarts on sale which will be awesome once school starts back and we are in a huge hurry in the mornings! The kid found Dippin Dot cereal, I caved and purchased one box which should feed them and Matt in the morning! We also found Christmas Candy and Cookies at 75% off. These lead to an interesting discussion at dinner about use by and expiration dates on food. It is no surprise that everyone decided that eating the Hershey Kiss Candy cane flavor kisses would be the best option. In total I spent $55 which included the coffee, cereal, poptarts, cookies, 4 bags of candy, a bag of twizzlers, 2 boxes of Kool-Aid drinks and 2 bags of chocolate chips!

The second purchase of the day does not sound like much saving but in the long run I think it will be. First the background, I purchased a Rainbow vacuum probably 14 years ago and we continue to use on a weekly bases. It is a huge pain to set up and take apart so once a week is the limit. This year we have moved a large carpet/rug to the kitchen in order to cover some of the more obvious/ugly problems with our floor. It becomes dirty quickly and I wanted to get something easy to pull and use at least several times a week. One of the chores that the kids do daily is to Swiffer either the kitchen/dinning room or living room. I have been amazed at how much this is reducing the dirt in the rest of the house. Swiffer cloths are awesome but can only be used on time and they do get expenses. I looked at “Ollies” for a stick vacuum but had no luck. We decided to head to Walmart. We were able to find a small stick vacuum for $35. Since it can also be used on the regular floors, my goal is a cleaner floor with less expenses! I will let you know if that works out!

Grocery Budget Fail

I was doing so well sticking to my $150 grocery budget for the month of June. I was at $144 on Thursday, June 27th. Just three days to go and I had been able to grab some muffins and donuts on sale, so no one was complaining about the limited spending. Innocently, I decided to go to a different Food Lion near our community pool, while the kids were at swim team practice Friday morning. My mom had gotten a $5 off $30 coupon out of the local newspaper so my first stop was to verify with customer service that they would except the coupon. This turned out to be the best move because of course as I am checking out the first thing the cashier says is “We don’t except those.” Another sign of my budget fail was the fact that half way through the store, I had to switch out for a larger buggy. But on the bright side, I am pleased and excited with my purchase.

First, I grabbed a watermelon on sale for $2.99. Next stop was the clearance rack where I found LED light bulbs to fit in our bathroom bar for ninety- six cents each, I grabbed all four! The clearance rack was very interesting and my next find was 4 pound bags of corn bread mix for forty-three cents. I grabbed two just because. My usual routine is to walk past all the meat just in case I can find a good deal. Today, I hit jack pot! First I grabbed two packs of pork chops both containing at least 6 chops for around 3 each. Next up chicken, chicken livers were ninety-five cent for a one pound container, grabbed 4 of those. Chicken thighs at ninety-five cent a pound, I grabbed 6 packs at around 2.5 pounds each. These should be good for crock-pot meals. Finally chicken wings, pre-cut at 2.10 for 10 wings. I ended up with 6 packs of these. My total was around $55 but that includes the meat for at least 10 meals. This definitely puts me over my budget for the month but I know it will be well worth it in the end.

I also headed to Aldi, because we were down to our last three eggs! Total spending for the month is at $253! One hundred above my goal but still at least $200 below our usual spending!

Eating out of our Pantry

I enjoying reading about the lives of others and often wonder if I could learn something to make life easier or better. This, my friends, is the reason for this post. One of major goals for this Summer, is to spend less than $150 a month for June and July on groceries. To achieve this goal we must start to use up items that we already have on hand.

I will first share why we have so much in our pantry and freezers. We purchased a whole cow of 800 pounds in March 2017. We have been enjoying it since then, we currently probably have about 1/4 of the meat left. I like to shop sales, I usually will buy the limit of items on sale at the grocery store. At Costco I often grab one extra of things on sale. I do shop smartly and usually only buy items that I know my family will eat and . However, it is much easier to purchase and use items that are more convenient and often I buy items that we really don’t need just because they are on sale. I will be the first to admit that I should not have purchased 25 cans of Spam at the same time. We have lots of food around this house. Eating out of the pantry will not be difficulty but it will mean trying some different things and using things up until they are finished before replacing if and only if it is something we NEED in order to cook or prepare a lot of different items such as sour cream. I have spent some time making list of food in the freezers and other pantry items I need to use.

Now, here is what eating from our pantry looks like around here. I am going to try and add ideas or things we do to this list for the next couple of weeks.
1. BLT sandwiches on buns instead of bread.
2. Making pizza dough and bread to slice instead of purchasing. (I found an entire food storage container, large bucket of bread flour and 10 packs of yeast.)
3. Using link sausage in sausage gravy instead of bulk sausage.
4. Breakfast for dinner, even breakfast for lunch.
5. Adding tuna and/or Salmon to noodles/pasta packs to increase the amount of protein.
6. Trying different recipes to use only the ingredients on hand.
7. Grinding up the remaining “roast” into hamburger meat for taco meat. For some reason, my family does not like roast. I have tried different recipes and always end up with left-overs that usually go bad or have to be repurposed to get eaten. This way we have at least 3 meals out of the roast that we really enjoy.

Do you have any secrets to using food? Ideas for Spam?


Thursday Thoughts

I must admit that I was wrong. I assumed that with school ending for all three kids last week, things would slow down. Nope, we are still moving at what feels like full speed ahead. I am off work today, using a sick day because all three kids have dentist appointments and our first swim meet is this afternoon. I return to work on Friday for my final day of the school year! I am exhausted and looking forward to spending some quality time at the pool this weekend!

Lily and Kendall will be attending our church camp next week. Zach decided he would prefer baseball camp instead. I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday and plan to spend at least part of the week, catching up on shopping. Zach and I should have some fun as well.

I am doing awesome on limiting my grocery spending for the month. So far I have spent $71.53. I do need to pick up several items at Costco so I am sure this will end up closer to $300 by the end of the month. One of my new favorite things to do is check the “clearance” sections of Food Lion. I have been able to find sausage patties and links for under $2 a package. Other finds include candy, juices and baked treats. I have also discovered that Aldi discounts baked goods on Wednesday. I am hopeful that we will be able to keep our grocery spending to a minimal by simply eating out of the pantry and shopping the sales as often as I can.

Another area that should have a huge decrease is gas. We have spent $127 so far this month. I am anticipating that with tomorrow being my last day of driving to work of the summer. I should be able to reduce the gas by one tank a week. The only problem is that we live in the middle of nowhere so any trips involve gas.

Month in Review

May has come to a flying finish. I went in to the month knowing that it would most likely be one of our busiest as a family. May did not disappoint in this for sure. We should be finishing up baseball next week after a 2 week break. Swim team has started with a goal of attending at least three practices a week. We have birthday parties, graduation parties and end of the year activities that all seem to be keeping our calendar full.

 As you can tell from the pictures yesterday, the garden is looking awesome, we have been able to harvest some green peppers, two very small zucchini, basil, dill and of course mint. We have blossoms on the tomato plants and the corn is over knee high. 

With all the scheduled activities for the month, menu planning has been important however we have been making changes to accommodate evening when we have literally an hour or less at home to get not only homework finished but some sort of dinner. We ended up eating out Chinese once and ordered pizza once. It feels like I am going to the grocery store every other day. However, I am starting to realize that the reason for this is that I am only buying what we are out of or what things I find on manager special. I am planning to write a post this weekend about the deals I have been able to find at Food Lion.  I have been able to keep a total of grocery spending. We are currently at $325 including the $75 trip I made on Thursday of this week. I am very pleased with this amount and plan to continue to monitor and reduce the overall spending for the summer months.  

We ended up spending around $400 for gas this month. I am not keeping a running total for this because we have to have gas to work and for most of our everyday activities. After much thought and consideration, this is really not a budget item that I can control.

In the area of finances we are holding our ground right now. I made the decision this week to sell the little red car. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took two day for it to sell. This will probably mean an increase in our gas spending but it did mean a $70 decrease in insurance for the short term. Today is the last paycheck for the school year and it was less than anticipated. I am going to have to sit down this summer and redo our budget once I actually figure out what I can anticipate for my salary next year. The good news is that I have scheduled two deposit, one in June and one in July, that will serve as my paychecks for the summer.

The area that has seen the greatest improvement during the month of May is with my weight loss and exercise. I have walked a total of 8 days with one of those being in the water. I have lost 2# this month.

I was able to increase my number of post for May to 13! I am only two away from goal.

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month, we were able to gain $80. This is again going down but free money is free money.

PLANS:  9 day of work left till Summer! I am going to focus on using our money wisely this month! I want to keep the grocery budget less than $300 again. The cost of gas should also decrease significantly this summer as well due to me not going to work. We are planning to replace the tires on the old van. This money will come from profits of selling the car.  Lots of things to think about and consider during the summer! I plan to update regularly so get ready to enjoy some summer fun and gardening.  Spending should be minimal as we have already paid pool dues, all summer camps and our Wet and Wild membership is also paid.  f

Food Hacks that Work!

Our schedule for this week includes swim team practice on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and baseball games on Wednesday and Friday.   As you can imagine this means that we are extremely busy. I anticipated this season of busy enough to try a couple of new quick and easy food tricks this week.  I am so excited to report that they worked!

Breakfast is always a big deal at our house. We all enjoy eating breakfast but also like a lot of variety. I saw that Harris Teeter had “egg in a cup” on sale for $1.67 each this week. That gave me an idea and after a little bit of research on the internet, I made my own “breakfast bags” Zach fried up a pound of sausage while I diced green peppers and onions. I placed 1/8 cup of peppers, 1/8 cup of onions and ¼ cup in a snack bag, in the freezer they went.  My plan was to stir a couple of eggs in a cup drop in the bag contents. This week we have decided that you need at least 2 and usually 3 eggs if you chose to add cheese to the mixture.  In the microwave for 1.5 minutes or you can also add the bag to a frying pan and stir. Zach was unable to eat 2 eggs for breakfast so we decided to separate his bag in half and that seems to work well for one egg.  We also have some breakfast burritos in the freezer.  These simple omelets are a huge hit.   HUGE win for quick and cheap breakfast on the run.

Kendall and Zach take their lunches to school every day, at this point in the school year, we are tired and really want something new and fun for lunch.  Both Kendall and Zach love uncrustables and we have been able to purchase on sale several times this school year, however at fifty cent each on sale this is an expensive lunch.  I had heard of several folks making homemade ones and again after some research decided to try it. I was a little worried at first about needing some special way to seal the outside, however after using one of our glasses to make the circle I was pleasantly surprised to learn that by using the glass it sealed the sandwich. Kendall says that these taste better than the store bought ones.  I spent sixty-cent on a loaf of bread for these but otherwise have the peanut butter and grape jelly already in my pantry from sales.   I was able to make 8 sandwiches at the average cost of ten cent or less each!   I am planning to make another batch of these this weekend!