Monday, January 30, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Mexican pizza, yum!

After doing these meal plans for a month, I have noticed two things.  One, we rarely have the breakfast or lunch I have planned, and two, we came in a whopping $100 below our food budget!  Granted, $50 of that was due to a gift card the husband won at his office Christmas party, but still that is fantastic.  Additionally we had zero nights of me calling Ken to please bring home pickup and only one unplanned trip out to a restaurant.  And I did such a good shopping trip midweek that I don't have to go shopping at all.  And our overall spending for the month was also under budget.  Hurray, it's working!

I'm going to continue listing breakfasts and lunches for another month.  We'll see how it goes.

Breakfast: Veg juice, waffles for boys, cereal and milk for me.
Lunch: Leftover egg & cheese muffin, carrots
Dinner: Fish filet/popcorn shrimp, slaw, roasted potatoes

Breakfast: Cereal and milk, fruit
Lunch: Salad with turkey
Dinner: Chicken quesadillas

Breakfast: Oatmeal, fruit
Lunch: Salad with turkey
Dinner: Beef roast w/ broccoli and smashed potatoes w/ cauliflower

Breakfast: Egg and Toast
Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich
Dinner: Turkey burgers, oven sweet potato wedges, spinach

Breakfast: Cereal and milk or waffles
Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich
Dinner: Smoked sausage w/ rice and veggies

Breakfast: cereal, waffles, etc.
Lunch: Simple salad
Dinner: out to German place with my girlfriends!
Daddy's choice for boys


A note on "Mexican pizza." There are a million recipes out there, but something we've found is that we are very satisfied using two corn tortillas as the crust, fat free refried beans as the base, a minimal amount of seasoned meat or no meat at all, canned or fresh tomatoes, lowfat cheese, and a sprinkle of shredded spinach.  We estimated it to be under 400 calories, and it was filling and delicious.  Season with the salsa or hot sauce of your choice!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fabulous Frugal Friday

(Random pic of the day....crazy weather lately. These geese don't realize they are not supposed to be in Ohio in January!)

Frugal Fabulous: free apps for my iPhone!  Some are just for fun, but the most useful thing I've found is from  It has really helped me lose weight---so far I am down 6.5 pounds since January 1st!  There are lots of apps out there that can really be useful.  I feel so much better about the expense of the new phones now that I am learning more uses for them.

Frugal FAIL: this one is only a potential fail.  Husband has been asked to relocate to a very expensive city.  Not only would we be a six hour drive away from all our friends and family, but also the cost of living is 20-30% higher.  We have yet to see the offer.  We have no idea if he will have a job once all this goes down.  We also expect that if he finds a new job he will potentially lose 20% or more of his current pay.  We never had plans of moving, so this is quite unexpected.

That said, there is a certain victory for us: no matter what happens, through our thrifty ways, we've invested for the future, paid a lot toward our home, and generally built ourselves a nice little safety net.  During times like these, it is easy to succumb to panic, upset and worry.  I've been doing my best to count my blessings---he's had a wonderful position with a good company all these years, which has allowed us to do awesome things like take nice vacations and fix up our house.  All of it is a blessing.  Whatever happens, I am confident in our ability to live on much less.  Reminds me of a story:

A friend of Diogenes visited him and found him eating a dinner of lentils.
The friend was a courtier in the court of the king.
He said to Diogenes, "If you would learn to flatter you
would not have to eat lentils." Diogenes replied, "And if you
would learn to eat lentils you would not have to flatter."
-- Unknown

Monday, January 23, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Chinese New Year!

If we were really awesome, we'd make some Chinese food tonight, but alas I didn't think of it in time.  Our meal plan last week actually went great.  The only change was that book club was postponed for weather, so the husband brought home some pizzas.  This actually worked out well because we were able to use the leftovers to fill in the gaps on the weekends.  My favorite meal of the week was bbq chicken sandwiches and slaw.  I make a fairly light slaw dressing of just a tiny bit of mayo, milk, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.  I also am loving the turkey burgers, they are so easy to make, and Aldi had 12 packs on sale for $5.69 last week!

For this week:

B: Cereal and milk, juice
L: Leftover pizza, orange slices
D: Lasagne, salad

B: Veggie juice; egg and toast
L: Chef's Salad (Turkey and cheese on Spinach)
D: Mexican pizzas

B: Oatmeal
L: Turkey sandwiches
D: Beef roast, vegetable side, cauliflower mash

B: Veggie juice; egg and toast
L: Soup and salad
D: Turkey Burgers

B: Smoothie or Cereal
L: Sandwich or leftovers
D: Husband's choice (me to book club)

B: Cereal and Milk, fruit
L: Out
D: Sandwiches or leftovers

B: Homemade waffles
L: Roast or homemade soup; rolls or cornbread
D: Leftovers

Friday, January 20, 2012

Regularly scheduled post... cancelled today due to sudden familial drama, which I will no doubt share in the coming weeks when I am at liberty to do so.

Till then, here's  a few pics from a freakishly warm Saturday two weeks ago!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

(Random photo from Saturday's Pinewood Derby)

I am sick with a bad cold, and almost didn't make a meal plan at all.  Then I realized more than ever I need a meal plan to turn to, especially for the digging out phase that comes after a few days of sickness.  If I didn't have a plan today, tonight would have surely ended with me calling the husband to bring home carryout.  So, here we go:

Breakfast: Cereal and Milk, oranges
Lunch: Toast and tea, more oranges
Dinner: Lacho from freezer (a tomato based stew with sausage) and brown rice

Breakfast: Oatmeal, grapefruit
Lunch: Tuna salad sandwiches, carrots
Dinner: Hamburgers on wheat buns, guacamole and chips

Breakfast: Egg and toast, oranges
Lunch: turkey sandwiches, banana
Dinner: Steak, mashed potatoes, spinach

Breakfast: Cereal and milk, fruit
Lunch: Chef's Salad
Dinner: BBQ chicken sandwiches, slaw

Breakfast: egg and toast
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner (Boys and Daddy) Popcorn shrimp, slaw, fruit (Me to book club)

Breakfast: Cereal and Milk, fruit
Lunch: Out 
Dinner: Leftovers or soup

I've decided to leave Sundays open, unless we have some occasion, simply because we keep changing it!  Most Sundays we are at leisure to concoct something from leftovers, thaw or roast something, make a pizza, and just generally follow our inkling for the day.  It is nice to have some flexibility along the way.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fabulous Frugal Friday

Fab Frugal thing #1: husband won a $50 Giant Eagle gift card at his company Christmas party.  So I able, with coupons, the gift card and my Giant Eagle discount card, to get all of the above for $33!   It's hard to see in the picture, but this was a full shopping cart...lots of fruits and veggies, some meat and fish, 4 boxes of Kashi cereal...all kinds of organic and specialty foods too. Score!

 Fab Frugal thing #2: Found this lovely vintage box for my son's scout things.  It's perfect for all his belt loops, pins and badges that were getting lost all the time.  He really likes it, since it's kind of manly, and not a jewelry box.  $3.99 at Goodwill.  Another goodwill find was an unopened "Apples to Apples Jr." game for $7, so I snapped that up too.

Fab Frugal thing #3: a ride cymbal for the boy.  Wow, it's like Christmas is still happening for my elder son.  We've been shopping the prices, and found a sweet deal at Music-Go-Round on a used ride cymbal in good condition for just $30.  These instruments can be very, very expensive, and usually the cheapo ones sound like you're banging on a trash can lid.  We really lucked out on this one!  Together with the stand (and a pair of Neil Peart sticks we threw in for fun) it was under $100.  Totally worth it considering the kid practices for about a half hour before AND after school each day.

Frugal Fails: Nothing.  I have nothing to report! Literally the cymbal and the Goodwill were the only things I bought this week.  And I have no plans to shop for anything in the near future, so hurray!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Use It Up Wednesday---Hobbies

Isn't it so tempting when beginning a project to run out and buy all new stuff?  Yeah, me too.  This week I resisted the temptation.  I went to my friend Erin's for a little scrapbooking, and instead of swinging by my favorite craft store I just loaded my bag with all the goodies I've already amassed over the years, figuring I could make great pages with what I have. 

And what I have is a lot. Papers, markers, stickers, embellishments, vintage bits and bobs, paints.  You name it, I've got it.  And yet I don't always see it or appreciate it.  Something I want to work on this year is the idea of "cultivating contentment."  Like many, I spend too much time envying; trying to keep up with the Joneses.  I see what someone else has and somewhere in my mind I think, yes, I must have it too!  Life will be perfect if I just had one of those!  Those urges get so strong that they can completely blind me to the plenty I have all around me.

I'm also motivated by a fellow blogger, Pam, to create wider margins for myself.  That is to say, open up some time for fun, for personal projects, and for just knocking around the house.  So I'm thinking I'll be spending a bit more time using up my craft supplies this week.  It kind of brings up another point: how often do we go buy stuff, like craft supplies, with the dream of creating me-time or self-expression, only to pile those things in a heap in the spare room?  If you're me, then it can be a lot.  And further, there can be that awful moment where that craft project turns into the ugliest of the ugly: another thing on the to-do list.

Do you have something lying around the house that you've been itching to work on?  Why not give yourself the gift of an hour or two to rediscover it? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday, picky kids, and a recipe

Chicken Burrito---recipe at bottom

How it went: first week was a success, huge!  I've never been a big menu planner, and I'm seeing the error of my ways.  Having that list to turn to each day at 5pm has lifted a burden I never realized was there. Usually 5pm is the worst time of day.  When the kids were little we called it the "witching hour."  Everyone was cranky and I was pulling out hair to think up something to cook.  It was really handy on evenings that we had events. The only switching we did was to do the chicken burritos on Sunday because we had a portion of chicken that needed to be eaten.  Also, we stuck to the plan because it all looked good, and to only ate out once.

B: Cereal, Grapefruit (must eat 15 pound bag of grapefruit!)
L: Chef's salad
D: Steak*, baked potato, broccoli
*How we do steak: we get our beef from a farmer in bulk to freeze; we pull a decent sized steak for the 4 of us so that we are each only eating a palm-sized portion.

B: Veggie juice, oatmeal, grapefruit.
L: Leftover burritos
D: Veggie burgers, homemade sweet potato fries, fruit

B: Cereal, fruit
L: Choice of tuna salad or turkey sandwich, carrot sticks, apples
D: Soup and bread

B: Breakfast burritos (egg and salsa) fruit
L:Choice of tuna salad or turkey sandwich, carrot sticks, apples
D: Tilapia, brown rice, spinach salad

B: Cereal, fruit
L: Spinach Salad w/ turkey
D: Grilled cheese, fruit, veggie sticks (one kid to a party)

B: Whole grain waffles, yogurt, fruit
L: Potluck at Pinewood Derby!
D: Out

B: Sausage, egg and toast.
L: Making our own egg rolls
D: Leftovers, fend-for-yourself

Easy Chicken Burrito Recipe
1 can Campbells Fiesta Cheddar soup
1 can milk
1 can diced tomatoes (use the kind with chiles for more heat)
2 slices pepper jack cheese (or any cheese you want to use up)
1 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut up into small pieces
1 small diced onion
1 Tbsp oil

Cook up your chicken pieces and onion in a hot skillet with just a little oil to prevent sticking.  This should only take a couple of minutes.  In a separate cook pot, cook your soup and milk as directed.  Add the diced tomatoes.  When you've reached a simmer, add your cheese.  You could also add any other type of seasonings such as salsa, chili powder or hot sauce to kick up the heat.  Add half the sauce to the chicken.  Scoop the filling into burrito shells and roll up.  Place in a greased baking dish.  Cover the burritos with remaining sauce.  Bake in a 350 oven for just 10-15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.  The great thing is you can add things or amend to your tastes: ground turkey or beef would be great, peppers, chiles, spices.  Really you can't mess it up!

Picky kid tip of the day:
My kids have gone through varying degrees of pickiness.  My husband and I have spent the last four years undoing the chicken-nugget-addiction we created with our older kid.  I will try to add things that worked for us to add to your bag of tricks.
We love Tex-Mex type foods because everything is made with only a few basic components: meat, cheese, rice, beans, tortillas, chips, lettuce, salsa and other accompaniments.  When I do a dish like this, I typically reserve some of the cooked meat to the side and let the boys assemble their own concoctions, making sure to have at least two things available that we know for sure they like.  What I like about this is they are still more or less eating the same thing we are eating, and getting used to the same family of flavors.  Additionally, they seem happier when they feel they have a bit more control over what they are eating.  In this instance, I actually had a bit of cooked ground beef and not enough chicken for everyone, so I heated the beef and allowed them to make their own burritos without the sauce.  My younger guy who likes things plain, just ate beef in a tortilla, though we encouraged him to try a taste of the sauce. My older guy had a burrito with meat as well, but took a small portion of the sauce, as well as some salsa, to dip into.  We've found with our kids that this approach greatly reduces their stress, and we have an enjoyable meal.

Happy eating!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fabulous Frugal Friday

I'm baaaack!  The house has been reclaimed from Christmas and life is back to normal. (And no the whole house doesn't look like this; it's photo-magic, lol.)

Frugal Fantastic: first, we didn't do any shopping or purchasing this week.  Additionally, I didn't run out and use my Christmas gift cards either.  Also, I learned how to set my credit card up to get extra cash back on gas, groceries and other mundane purchase. We pretty much use the card for all the expenses, then pay the balance at the end of the month, though I personally believe we'd spend less if we used cash. Husband disagrees, and well, compromise is part of marriage, is it not? Finally, our meal plan went fantastico and we didn't stray from it.  We even cooked up a Thai noodle dish last night that rivaled going for takeout.  All good!

Frugal Fail: not much to report.  Yes, major food waste in that we had to toss *a lot* of holiday baked goods because honestly they came at us from all directions.  Next year I'm hoping for fruit baskets and nuts.  Also, I did take my younger son out to lunch one day this week  (to Bob Evans with a coupon. ) He was pretty down about the tree and decorations going away and Christmas being over, so I surprised him after Kindergarten pickup.  I'd call it more of a splurge than a fail, really.

Happy weekend!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

(With gratuitous photo of the MIL's pineapple upside down cake)

I am going to attempt to plot out our weekly meal plan, so as to try to eat better and waste less in the new year. I'm going to plan easy meals for nights when we have activities, like scout meetings, and I'm going to try to incorporate one dish per week that is new or unusual for us.  And of course I am going to make the list after I've scanned the contents of the fridge, freezer and pantry, but BEFORE I shop, to reduce waste. So here goes...

Breakfast: Cereal and fruit
Lunch: Turkey burgers, tots, and salad
Dinner: Tacos, made by Zack for scout acheivement

Breakfast: Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie
Lunch: Turkey Chef Salad
Dinner: Steak and asiago cheese and spinach wraps

Breakfast: Fresh Veggie juice (Celery/Cucumber/Carrot/ginger/grapefruit)
Oatmeal for kids
Lunch: Turkey wraps and fruit
Dinner: Fish, rice and veggies
(The Wednesday dinner is a bit vague, to keep on 
doing Use It Up Wednesdays.)

Breakfast: Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie
Lunch: Chef's Salad
Dinner: Thai noodle dish w/ Tofu and peanut sauce (kids will have chicken 
and *hopefully* try one bite of the tofu. ;-)

Breakfast: Fresh Veggie Juice/egg with spinach
Lunch: Salad or leftovers
Dinner: Hot mini-subs with carrots and fruit (scout meeting night)

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Going-out day
Dinner: leftovers, soup or salad

Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Roast, potatoes, carrots
Dinner: leftovers, soup or salad.

My Holidays in Instagram!




I am loving Instagram, a little too much!  We had fabulous holidays over on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve.  Needless to say, we are ready for a bit of quiet!