Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekly Grocery Shopping (12/2 - 12/8)

This was a decent week. I ended up being almost $8 over my $45/week goal, but I stocked up on a lot of meat and toilet paper, which are always good things to have stockpiled! I was also out of a few important things since I had a semi-no shopping week last week. Fortunately, a lot of my "needs" ended up being on sale, so there were only a couple of things I ened up paying more than I like to for (like hot dog buns, a staple in Ninja Hubz diet).


Charmin TP 5.99 - 1.00 MFC - 1.00 P&G eSaver = 3.99
2x Ritz @ 1.99 - 2x $1/1 MFC = 1.98*
2x Nestle cookie dough @ 2.00 - 2x 1.50 MFC = 1.00
Hamburger buns = 1.25
Yogurt = 2.00
Gum toothbrush @ 1.00 - $1/1 MFC = FREE

Total = 10.88

Perfect timing! I just finished off the last of my oats making granola bars, then lo and behold they were listed in the sale ad the next day! Hooray :)

Lettuce = 1.69
Cucumber = .79
3.5 lbs bulk rolled oats = 2.09 (on sale for .59/lb!!)
1 lb carrots = .50
Reusable bag credit = -.05

Total: 5.02

What can I say, I'm a sucker for cheap toilet paper!

Quilted Northern TP @4.29 - 1.00 MFC = 3.29 (Gave $1 RR)
Goody Ouchless hair bands = 2.00 (Gave $2 RR)

Total = 5.84
Received $3 in RR

Fresh and Easy

~6 lbs ground beef = 9.23 ($1.49/lb)

Total  9.23

I was trying to be nice and asked Ninja Hubz if there was anything special he wanted at the store (sometimes I forget to do that), and he said 'chips or something'. Miraculously, his favorite Doritos were on sale! I guess he was good this week because had good grocery karma :) Also, I think I'm up to around 10 bags of chocolate chips now... I plan on making some goodies for Christmas gifts, but I probably have enough and should stop buying them now :)

Padrinos Chips @ 2.50 - 1.00 MFC = 1.50
2x Nestle chocolate chips - 2x $1/1 MFC = 2.00
Doritos = 1.69
Nabisco Saltines 2.00 - $1/1 MFC = 1.00*
Flour tortillas = 2.39
4x Hefty freezer bags @ 4/$5 - 2x $1/2 MFC = 3.00
3x Cream Cheese @ .99 (wyb 5 Kraft) - $1/3 MFC = 1.97
2x Kraft Shreds @ 1.49 (wyb 5 Kraft) - $1/2 MFC = 1.98
18 eggs = 1.49 (store coupon)
Hot dog buns = 1.59
Bread = .99
3.74 lbs chicken breast = 6.62 (1.77/lb)

Total: 26.71

Weekly Total: 52.66

*These also can go towards this $10 Kraft rebate

Check out more great shopping trips at
The Grocery Cart Challenge

Menu Plan Monday - 12/7/09

Well I seem to be behind on my blog posts this week. What can I say? I've been busy... I don't know exactly why I feel so much busier than I usually am, but that's the way it goes.

Last week I ended up skipping the carnitas I had scheduled because we had some leftover turkey pot pie that needed to be eaten, so carnitas is back on for this week. I'm still on a mission to use up stuff that has been lurking in the freezer. I used a couple bags of frozen tomatoes in making a large vat of spaghetti sauce, so that was dinner on Sunday, plus four more servings went into the freezer. Seems a little pardoxical, since I'm attempting to USE frozen stuff, not make more, but its one step closer :)

Anyway, here's the menu!


Beef Enchiladas
Mexican Rice (extra rice put in freezer for Saturday)

Turkey Noodle Soup

Leftovers/Fend for Yourself

Meatloaf (from freezer)
Twice Baked Potatoes (from freezer)

Leftover meatloaf
Twice Baked Potatoes (from freezer)

Carnitas Tacos (from freezer)
Mexican Rice (from freezer)

Now that I've typed the whole thing out, I realize that almost the entire week consists of some form of ground beef and salad :) I told you I've been busy!

Check out what everyone else is eating this week over at Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (11/29/09)

Well I think we're just about turkey-ed out. Seriously, we've been eating nothing but leftovers for lunch and dinner for three days now! So tonight's the last leftover night, and aside from the turkey I've stashed in the freezer for soup we're just about done with it.

So tonight I'm trying something I haven't done before and making a "Turkey Club Ceasar Salad". Which will basically be romaine lettuce, turkey meat, bacon, croutons, parmesan cheese, and creamy ceasar salad dressing (because I haven't had salad in days and want some).

The rest of the week is focused on trying to use stuff from the freezer that needs to get used - leftover pulled pork I made a few weeks ago, a whole chicken, some smoked sausage, and some of those Steamfresh lightly sauced pasta and veggies that I keep getting for $.50 a bag but haven't eaten yet so don't even know if they're any good (yet I keep buying them). I'm on the tail end of an almost no shopping week, so it should be interesting. I already know I need to bake some bread because we finished off what there was eating turkey sandwiches, but other than that we should be pretty set until my next shopping day on Thursday.

Turkey Club Ceasar Salad

Carnitas (Pork Tacos)
Mexican Rice

Crockpot Roast Sticky Chicken
Roasted potatoes and carrots

Leftovers/Fend for Yourself

French Fries

Friday (new recipe)
Sausage with Penne and Vegatables

BBQ Pulled pork sandwiches (from freezer)
French Fries

Check out what everyone else is eating this week at Menu Plan Monday.

Weekly Grocery Shopping (11/25 - 12/1)

So "officially", I took the week off from shopping. Unofficially of course, I had almost $13 left in my grocery budget for the month and $3 in RR set to expire today, so I did a little shopping anyway :) The day before Thanksgiving I realized the milk in the fridge had gone bad, and while I had some in the freezer, there was no way it would thaw in time to be used for cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So I sent Ninja Hubz out to grab a small thing of milk. Fortunately it was on sale and only cost $1. I knew we'd spend a couple bucks on fresh produce for the week (trip to Henry's), so that was another $5. I had a couple RR about to expire so I had to go to Walgreens, and managed to grab several stockpile worthy items and stay pretty much within my budget.

I've been doing the $45 per week grocery budget for a couple months now, and I'm quite sure we can eat well and live comfortably on that amount. The main issue I've been running into is just exercising self control when it comes to good deals. I just need to remember that the deals always come around again! Its just a matter of prioritizing immediate needs (like what we're going to eat this week) and padding the stockpile. Just because its a good deal doesn't mean I need to buy 10!

Anyway, here's the breakdown of what I did buy this week:

(no picture)

1 pint milk = 1.00

Total = 1.00


1.57 lbs oranges = 1.21
2.16 lbs bananas = 1.49
Romaine lettuce = 1.99
1 lb carrots = .50

Total = 5.19


2x Dawn dish soap @ .99 - 2x .25 MFC = 1.48
2x Folgers Coffee @ 2.50 - 2x 1.00 MFC = 3.00
Angel Soft TP = 4.00
Bigelow green tea = 1.79 (on clearance)
$3 RR from previous trip = -3.00

Total = 7.79

Weekly Total = 13.98

Total for the month = 201.77

My goal was $200 for the month, and even I'm not anal enough to obsess over 1.77. So as far as I'm concerned, I had a great month!

Check out everyone else's shopping trips at:
The Grocery Cart Challenge
Southern Savers
Money Saving Mom

Friday, November 27, 2009

100% Black Friday Savings!

For those of you who braved the madness and went shopping today, I hope you got some good deals on things you needed! Me? I don't do Black Friday. I've found the best way to save money is to just not buy stuff.

I avoided the stores and spent my much needed extra day off work volunteering, napping, cleaning, and now I'm finally going through some of my old books and listing them on Amazon. I don't need more stuff... I need less stuff and more time, so that's what I'm working towards.

Oh, and eating lots of leftovers, I did that too!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (11/22/09)

Well the big week is here. Our wedding anniversary is Monday. I have two really good steaks stashed in the freezer that I've been saving, and this seems like the perfect occasion for them. And Thursday, of course, is Thanksgiving. Its just the two of us this year, but I'll still be doing the big meal and then relaxing for a couple of days while we dine on the leftovers.

BBQ chicken legs
Leftover Crockpot Honey Wheat Bread

Monday - Our Anniversary!
Ribeye Steak
Leftover Crockpot Honey Wheat Bread
Twice-Baked Potatoes (from freezer)

Spaghetti and Meatballs (from freezer)

Pizza (Homemade or frozen, depending on how tired I am)

Thursday - Thanksgiving!
Roast Turkey
Sage and Onion Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes



Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Check out what everyone else is eating over at Menu Plan Monday

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Crockpot Honey Wheat Bread

I got this recipe from the book 101 More Things to do with a Slow Cooker a while back, and finally got around to trying it.

I have to admit, I was a tad skeptical since I've never baked using the crockpot before. But I decided what the heck and gave it a shot. And you know what? It came out really good! And it was easier than the traditional kneading and rising and rolling method of making fresh bread. I like this crockpot baking!

Crockpot Honey Wheat Bread

2/3 cup powdered milk
2 cups warm water
2 Tbs canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
3/4 tsp salt
1 envelope or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup flour

In a bowl, dissolve powdered milk in warm water, then combine with oil, honey, salt, yeast, and half of both flours. With an electric mixer, beat on low speed 2 minutes. Add remaining flour and beat on low until combined. Place dough in greased 4 to 5-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours.

Remove stoneware from slow cooker and let stand 5 minutes. Invert bread onto a serving platter while still hot.

Check out more great crockpot recipes at Dining With Debbie's Crockpot Wednesday!

Weekly Grocery shopping (11/18 - 11/24)

Well this was a pretty light week as far as shopping goes. The only thing I really "needed" was some fresh produce and a couple of small things for Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving's a lot easier on the budget if you can spread the shopping out over a few weeks and cherry pick the best deals from each store!

Pretty much everything else I bought was to pad the stockpile - I don't think I'll ever have enough coffee and cheese :)


Lettuce = 1.69
Apples = .49
Radishes = .50
Cucumber = .50
Bulk ground ginger = .23
Bulk ground cumin = .18
Bulk ground sage = .46
Reusable bag credit = -.05

Total = 4.00


2x Stove Top stuffing = 1.76
Brown N Serve Rolls = 1.25 (A Thanksgiving must-have!)
Lawry's Taco Seasoning .69 - .50 MFC (doubled to a full 1.00!) = Free w/.31 overage
Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes 1.00 - .40 MFC (tripled to a 1.00) = FREE
Rotel Tomatoes 1.00 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = FREE
Reddi Whip 2.00 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = 1.00
Baby Carrots 1.00 - .45 store coupon = .55
2x celery .69 = 1.38
2x Fresh Gourmet croutons 1.00 - $1/2 MFC = 1.00
2x Farmer John sausage 1.00 - .75/2 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = 1.00
2x white bread = 1.98 (For turkey stuffing!)

Total = 9.40

I've nevery actually gone into this store before, but I saw it mentioned on another blog and decided to check out their sales ad online just for the heck of it. I'm glad I did because they had Coke 2-liters on sale for $1! I browsed through the store while I was there, and wasn't overly impressed. They sell mostly store brand, and while the regular prices are a lot less than the regular prices of the larger stores around here, I still get better deals using coupons and shopping loss leaders. Still, I think it will be worthwhile to check out their ad each week. If they have good loss leaders, the store is right on my "ralph's-henry's-home" route, so it might be worth the extra stop now and then.

6x Coke 2-liter = 6.00
2x Jiffy corn muffin mix = .50
2x canned pineapple = 1.98

Total = 9.01


Red Start Yeast 1.29 - .35 MFC = .94
2x Yuban coffee 4.99 - 2x $1/1 MFC = 7.98
4x Kraft cheese 1.77 - $1/2 MFC = 6.08
2x Red Bell Peppers .79 = 1.58

Total = 16.58

Weekly Total = 38.99

So far my monthly total is 187.79. I'd like to keep it under $200 or so for the month, and I don't think that will be any problem. I intend to take a weekend off from shopping after Thanksgiving. I might need to run out for some fresh produce but that should only be a few bucks.

Check out everyone elses' shopping trips at:
The Grocery Cart Challenge
Southern Savers
Money Saving Mom

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Impulse Purchase

Saturday morning I went to the library, as I often do. I use their online catalog to reserve books and CDs that I want over the Internet, and when my items come in, I get a nice email telling me to pick up my stuff. So most every Saturday I go return my current items, head to the reserve shelf, grab my new items, and check out. Its quick and easy - I'm usually in and out in under 5 minutes.

But this time on my way out, I paused a moment and glanced at the "for-sale" table. And that's when I saw it...

The book I must own.

No coupons, no B1G1 sale, no nothing, I just bought it right out.

That's how cool it was.

How much did the unplanned purchase of this treasure set me back, you ask?

Five cents.

You go Bill!

(I totally would have paid a quarter!!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Monthly Update - October

The bottom line for October was good! I was able to make a sizeable extra payment on our mortgage at the start of November. My long term goal is to have the mortgage paid off in another five years, if not sooner!

Total groceries for the month was $217.90, while the goal was $180. That's almost $38 over... practically a full week of groceries! As I explained here, this was pretty much entirely due to having house guests with special dietary needs. I probably went overboard to accomodate them, but I rarely have guests over and its important to me to make them as comfortable as I can when they're here. So, this likely won't be a frequent problem for me, however I will try to remember in the future to plan for these things earlier so I can look for better deals on the special items I want to get, and hopefully spread it out over more shopping trips.

The good news is I was way under on "household" (spent about $20, budget is $75) so overall it worked out.

I spent $21 at the thrift store and got Ninja Hubz and I each a new pair of jeans and two shirts, plus a mixing bowl and extra measuring cup for the kitchen (for simplicity that all came out of the clothing budget). I'm really happy to have gotten that much for so little, and all in a single trip! Some thrift stores have a disappointing selection, but the one nearest my house rarely lets me down. I was actually finding even more clothing items I liked (a rarity indeed!) but decided to exercise some restraint.

The library and Paperback Swap have been fulfilling my reading and CD listening needs. Other than cable and NetFlix, we really don't have much in the way of entertainment related costs. We took a day trip out to the desert to explore, and packed a lunch to keep it cheap (and I found two aluminum cans to recycle!)

Extra Income
These little bits don't seem like much, but it all adds up:
I need to get back in to selling some of my old books on Amazon. Many of my books will not make a big enough profit there to bother with (Amazon takes a noticeable commission on sales), but I know I have a few that will be worth the time. I need to sort through them all, post the worthwhile ones, and donate or recycle the rest.

Around the House
I've been focusing on yard work, now that the weather is tolerable. I pruned one of the giant overgrown trees in the back yard, leaving two to be done. I've also been chipping away at the weeds in my plants in the front yard. I'm pretty sure I did some other stuff too, but now its been so long I forget. Anyway, yard work continues into November :)

See how others are doing with their financial goals at
Money Saving Mom

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I Buy Extra Turkeys

Just because turkeys are only on sale once a year, doesn't mean you can only eat them once a year! My local grocery stores usually offer incredible deals on turkey around Thanksgiving, hoping they can sucker you into buying all your other holiday items there.

If you have room in your freezer, now is the time to stock up. Last year I bought SIX turkeys, all for $5 - $8 apiece. I probably get a week's worth of food out of each turkey I cook. What else will feed you for a week for $5? Of course it helps that I'm only feeding two people, but if you have a larger family, you can always get larger turkeys!

Besides the initial roast turkey feast, we usually have several days of open faced turkey sandwiches for dinner, and turkey sandwiches for lunch. When we're sick of that, I make turkey pot-pie, turkey noodle casserole (recipe below), or salad with roast turkey on top.  I also boil the carcass for turkey stock, and usually end up with enough for two batches of soup (like this Turkey and Wild Rice soup) - each of which makes enough for several days.

If you don't want to eat turkey for a week straight, just portion it out into freezer bags and stick it in the freezer. You can use it just about anywhere cooked chicken is used.

If you don't have room in your freezer for a full turkey, consider just getting a frozen turkey breast. They are a little more expensive per pound than a full turkey, but it is still pretty economical. Plus, turkey breasts can usually fit in a crockpot, which makes for a super easy meal.

And even the Ninja Pups get a treat when I make turkey! Giblets and the neck get mixed in raw with their kibble for an extra special treat! (Dogs can eat RAW poultry bones - but don't give them cooked poultry bones because the cooking process dries out the bones, making them brittle and liable to break into sharp shards which can injure their digestive tract).

A freezer full of cheap turkeys works for me!

Turkey Noodle Casserole
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, diced (white meat is best for this recipe)
  • 1 cup white sauce (or a can of your favorite cream soup)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 cups egg noodles, cooked and drained
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  1. Stir the white sauce, milk, black pepper, vegetables, turkey, noodles and Parmesan cheese in a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish
  2. Bake at 400°F. for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Stir the turkey mixture. Top with the Cheddar cheese.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Easy Chuck Roast and Potatoes

This is a recipe from my Mother-In-Law. It is a great way to make an inexpensive cut of meat into a very flavorful meal. It is also super easy because your potatoes cook with the meat, so you just need to throw together a salad or some veggies for a complete meal.

Easy Chuck Roast and Potatoes
  • 2 - 3 lb chuck roast (bone-in or boneless)
  • 1 packet Lipton dry onion soup mix (or homemade equivalent)
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  1. In a shallow dish, lay down aluminum foil
  2. Place roast in center of foil
  3. Top roast with the soup mix
  4. Arrange potatoes around sides of roast, put some on top if you need the space:
  5. Wrap foil around roast and fold ends together to form a packet:
  6. Cook in oven at 325 for approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. Time will vary based on the size of you roast, whether it has a bone or not, and how well done you like your meat. Use a meat thermometer for best results!
And yes, I forgot to take a picture of the finished roast. It was yummy though :)

Check out more great recipes at the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap!

Menu Plan Monday (11/15/09)

I never got to the homemade chicken noodle soup last week. We decided to go out ot Applebee's on Veteran's day to get Ninja Hubz a free Veteran's day meal, but it was too crowded (over an hour wait at 3:30 in the afternoon!) Fortunately, we still had some leftover casserole in the fridge that needed to get eaten, so it all worked out :) Anyway, hopefully I'll be getting to the soup this week!

Since I did a pretty gigantic shopping trip last week, I'm making a point of planning meals from things I have on hand in abundance (like the 4 dozen eggs in the fridge and the 10 lb sack of potatoes on the counter...) and hopefully only grabbing a few items at the store this week.

Chuck Roast with potatoes

Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry
Brown Rice

Tuesday - Breakfast for dinner
Homemade hash browns
Fresh Fruit

Fend for yourself

Spaghetti with Meatballs (from freezer)

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Crockpot Bread

See what everyone else is eating this week over at Menu Plan Monday!

Weekly Grocery Shopping (11/11 - 11/17)

I started out this week thinking I wasn't going to buy very much, but ended up proving myself wrong. That's ok though - I was able to stock up on a few items I've been needing and for some reason have a hard time maintaining a good supply of (coffee, freezer bags, croutons, and saltines). Despite buying a couple of the wrong items and consequently not getting the deals I was hoping for, I still squeaked in just under my $45 weekly budget.


Lettuce = 1.69
2 lbs carrots = .99
Apples = 1.60
Reusable bag credit = -.10

Total: 4.18

I ordered some extra Folgers coupons last week and they showed up just in time to make an extra trip to Wags and stock up before the sale ended. Yay coffee! In trip #2, I got the olives and cranberry sauce to bring to my parents for Christmas dinner. I don't like either of those foods very much, but they are staples at our family holidays so I went ahead and grabbed them.

Trip #1
4x Folgers Coffee 2.50 ea - 4x $1/1 MFC = 6.00

Trip #2
2x Olives .99 ea - $1/2 MFC = .98
Cranberry Sauce = .79
2x Stove Top = 1.98
Ricola = 1.00 (gave $1 RR)
Aussie Conditioner 2.99 - $1 MFC = 1.99 (gave $2 RR)
Razors 7.29 - $2 MFC = 5.29 (I bought the wrong ones :p )

Total (both trips) = 19.02 ($3 RR for next trip)


Tortilla chips 2.50 - $1 MFC = 1.50
2x Quaker granola bars .99 ea (store coupon) - $1/2 MFC = .98
Yakisoba noodles 1.00 ea - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = FREE
2x Nabisco Saltine crackers 1.29 ea (store coupon) - $1/2 MFC = 1.58
Guittard chocolate chips = 2.50 (I bought the wrong brand, thought it was the Ghiradelli :p)
Ghiradelli chocolate chips = 1.89 (store coupon)
4x Hefty OneZip Freezer Bags @ 4/$5 - 2x $1/2 MFC = 3.00
Land O Lakes butter 1.99 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .99
4x C&W frozen veggies @ 4/$5 - $1/3 MFC = 4.00
Sara Lee bread 1.99 - .55 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .99
Apples = 1.15
Fresh Express salad 1.99 - $1/1 store coupon = .99
2x Fresh Gourmet Croutons 1.00 - $1/2 MFC = 1.00

Total: 21.52

Weekly Total: 44.72

 Check out more great shopping trips at
The Grocery Cart Challenge
Southern Savers
Money Saving Mom

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork

This was super easy and SOOOO good, I can't believe I've never done it before!

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork
  • 3 to 4 lbs pork roast
  • salt and pepper
  • water
  • 1 - 2 bottles BBQ sauce
  • Hamburger Buns
  1. Season roast with salt and pepper
  2. Place roast in crockpot, add enough water to cover roast about halfway
  3. Cook on low 8 - 12 hours
  4. Remove roast from crockpot
  5. Pour out liquid and fat from crockpot
  6. Using two forks, shred pork
  7. I had a TON of pork at this point, and only 2 people to feed. So I decided to only prepare what I needed for one meal now and freeze the rest (figuring it would freeze better without the BBQ sauce). So, if you're going to freeze some of the pork for a future meal, separate that amount now.
  8. Return the pork you're going to eat now to the crockpot, add BBQ sauce (probably about 1/4 cup sauce per sandwich size portion of meat), and mix well. Leave in crockpot until heated through (30 minutes or so).
  9. Spoon BBQ pork onto toasted hamburger buns and enjoy
  10. To prepare the frozen pork, just thaw, pour some BBQ sauce on, and heat in the microwave or stovetop. Mix it up real well and then serve.
Check out more great crockpot recipes at Crockpot Wednesday!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weekly Grocery Shopping (11/4 - 11/10)

Once again Vons is having a deal where if you spend $25 you can get a turkey (16 lbs or less) for 5.00 (7.00 for a turkey over 16 lbs). Last year, I found so many good turkey deals around Thanksgiving, I ended up buying 6. Yes, SIX turkeys :) I still have two of those in my chest freezer, so I am not buying anymore than 2 this year, I don't care how cheap they are. But the number of meals you can make out of a $5 turkey makes this one of the most frugal food investments I can think of!

This week Vons also had store coupons for free eggs, bacon, OJ, and english muffins if you spent $50 or more - the catch is that it was $50 AFTER coupons. Now this would obviously put me over my weekly $45 budget goal, but I decided to go ahead and do a big shopping trip this week and make it up over the rest of the month. I've found that the weekend of Thanksgiving (and Christmas too) is not a big shopping week. There are usually no coupons out that weekend, and often my stores won't even put out a new ad and just run the same sales for 2 weeks in order to give their staff a holiday break. So chances are good I will just take a week off of shopping this month anyway.

I used to spend $70 - $80 in the grocery store without even batting an eye, but now... it was actually a challenge to spend over $50! I had to add everything up to make sure I could get that high of a total. Interesting how things have changed :)

In addition to Vons, I made a small trip to Ralph's for some more Mega Item deals, and Henry's for some produce.

I was sooo happy when I saw Coke added to the list of Mega Items! We can never have to much soda on hand to feed Ninja Hubz' addiction. I needed the tortillas for dinner that night (fajitas), and actually paid FULL PRICE *shudder*.

1 can Ro-Tel @ 1.00 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = FREE
Tortillas = 2.19
7x Coke 2-liter @1.27 - $1/4 MFC = 7.89 **
2x Smart Balance @2.49 - $1/2 MFC = 3.98 **
Betty Crocker potatoes @1.99 - .40 MFC (doubled to .80) - .40 cellfire = .79 **
- 5.00 for buying 10 Mega Items (denoted with ** above)
- 6.00 Ralph's Rewards certificate

Total: 4.55

My cupboards, fridge, and freezer are extremely well stocked after this trip!

2 lbs Brown Sugar 1.69 - .45 MFC (doubled to .90) = .79
5 lbs flour 1.50 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .50
2x Peanut Butter .99 (store coupon) = 1.98
2x Canola Oil 2.29 (store coupon) = 4.58
2x Nestle White Chocolate Chips 5.00 - $1/2 MFC = 4.00
2x Progresso High Fiber Soup 1.25 ea - 2x $1/1 MFC = .50
Corn Tortillas = 1.59
3x Cream of Chicken Soup .80 ea - .25/3 (doubled to .50) = 1.90
2x Cheddar Cheese Soup 1.35 ea - .25/2 = (doubld to .50) = 2.20
2x Ground Pepper 1.57 ea - $1/1 MFC and .50/1 MFC (doubld to 1.00) = 1.14
3x Dreamfield Spaghetti 2.00 ea - 3x $1/1 MFC = 3.00
Friskies cat treats 1.99 - Free Coupon = FREE
Bird's Eye Steamfresh Veggies in Sauce 1.50 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .50
2x Gallon Milk (2.29 ea wyb 2) = 4.58
Smart Balance Butter Blend Sticks 2.50 - $1/1 MFC = 1.50
Smart Balance Heart Right Spread 2.50 - $1/1 MFC = 1.50
1 lb butter 1.49 (store coupon) = 1.49
8x Yoplait Yogurt (.50 ea wyb 8) - .50/6 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = 3.00
3x Arm and Hammer toothpaste - $3/2 MFC = 1.49
Hamburger Buns = .89
2x Wheat sandwich bread = 1.98
15.07 lb turkey = 5.00
2x Farmland sliced ham = 5.00
Chicken breast = 5.63
2 lbs bananas = 1.39
10 lbs potatoes = .99
3 lbs onions = 1.99
16oz bacon = FREE with $50 purchase
English Muffins = FREE with $50 purchase
Orange Juice = FREE with $50 purchase
1 dozen eggs = FREE with $50 purchase

Total: 59.22

NEEDED coffee!!

Chocolate Chips 1.79 -.50 MFC = 1.29
Folgers Coffee = 2.50
Baking Powder = .50

Total: 4.29

Weekly Total: 68.06

So I'm $23 over for the week, but I don't think I'll have any problems making that up during the rest of the month.

Check out more great shopping trips at
The Grocery Cart Challenge
Southern Savers
Money Saving Mom

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (11/8/09)

I'm trying to keep it pretty easy this week, so I'm planning on leftovers for several meals. Yay leftovers! And Wednesday is a holiday for me (yay holidays!), which I would rather not spend in the kitchen so I'll try to find an easy soup recipe to try.

Ground Beef Tacos (with cheese and lettuce)
Mexican Rice

Chicken Salsa Casserole
Leftover Mexican Rice
Carrot Sticks

Leftover Chicken Salsa Casserole
Leftover Mexican Rice
Carrot Sticks

Chicken Noodle Soup
Crockpot Bread

Crockpot Pulled Pork sandwiches
French Fries

Leftover Pulled Pork sandwiches
French Fries
Homemade Pizza
Salad or carrot sticks

See what everyone else is eating this week over at Menu Plan Monday!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crockpot Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Don't look now, but there's only a few weeks left until Thanksgiving! This recipe is one of my favorite ways to used leftover turkey - it is a nice change of pace from the usual turkey sandwiches and pot pies, and is loaded with veggies to help you recover from too much pie :) My version is based on this recipe from the Year of Slow Cooking site, I just make a few little tweaks. I like to use Uncle Ben's wild rice for this, I think the extra seasoning adds a lot of good flavor, but usually I just use whatever is on hand (or is on sale).

Crockpot Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
  • 8 - 10 cups turkey broth (substitute chicken broth if you don't have turkey)
  • 1 box of Uncle Ben's wild rice, prepared as directed on package
  • ~2 cups cooked turkey (I usually use dark meat)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 2 tsp sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Put everything in your crock pot. Cook on low 8 - 10 hours.

Experience more crockpot joy over at Dining with Debbie's Crockpot Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Filling the Freezer!

Money Saving Mom is hosting a "Freezer Cooking Day" and stocking up her freezer, so I thought I would share the results of my most recent freezer cooking fest I did a few weekends ago.

First of all, let me just say that the thought of cooking for 8 (or more!) hours straight makes me want to curl up in a ball, crawl under the table, and cry. Seriously! I just can't do that much. I am so impressed with all the ladies out there that regularly do full day cooking sessions, but I am nowhere near that level. The best I can usually do is about 4 to 5 hours before my lower lip starts to quiver. But I love love LOVE the convenience and flexibility I get from having a freezer full of meals ready to go. My solution is to do half day freezer cooking sessions, spreading it out over a few days if neccessary.

My main goal this time around was to get some easy LUNCH items stashed for Ninja Hubz and me to bring to work. I'm usually pretty happy with a sandwich, yogurt, and some fruit, but Ninja Hubz likes something closer to a real meal for lunch. If there isn't something easy and ready to go in the fridge or freezer, he will end up eating out. And I admit I do like having something different now and then.

I also had bags full of chicken bones, turkey bones, and old veggies waiting patiently to be made into stock. Since I needed to make room in the freezer and I would be in the kitchen all day anyway, I decided to get that going as well. I had a big bag of potatoes sitting on the counter, so I added twice baked potatoes to the list, and threw in some meatballs and muffins just because they're nice to have on hand :)

So my freezer weekend went something like this:

Friday Evening
Bake Blueberry Oat Muffins (1 dozen)
Bake Orange Raspberry Muffins (1 dozen)

Put Chicken Stock on stove, let simmer all day
Put Chicken Taco Meat in crockpot, let cook most of the day
Make twice baked potatoes
Make home made Hot Pockets (recipe below)
Cook Mexican Rice
Prepare Chicken and Rice Burritos (recipe further below)
Cook Chicken Tortilla Soup

Put Turkey Stock on stove, let simmer all day
Make meatballs

It all made for a busy weekend, but it was totally worth it!


Home-Made Hot Pockets (Beef & Veggie)
This was my first time making these, I got the idea from the blog "Our Best Bites".

I think that any french bread recipe would work great for these. I chose french bread instead of a pizza crust or other options I've considered because I knew these would end up being microwaved and would not be crispy. I think french bread is still pretty tasty when its warm and soft, but pizza crust just isn't the same without the crispiness.

Here's the recipe I used (if you don't have a bread machine, you can make the dough by hand or maybe buy some Pilsbury dough):
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
Combine all ingredients in your bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Set on dough cycle.

I wanted to do something that would incorporate some vegetables, always a challenge! So I went with sort of a pot-pie like filling. I used about 2 lbs of ground beef and ended up with a lot of extra filling, so I think 1.5 lbs would be better. My amounts here are estimated... sorry but I just kind of made it up as I went along :
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup mixed veggies (I used some frozen peas and fresh chopped carrots)
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • salt and pepper
In a large skillet, brown ground beef with onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add vegetables and cook through.

Making your pockets
Roll dough out flat and divide into 16 equal rectangles (I divided the dough in half and did 8 at a time, it seems easier to work with this way). Place a couple spoonfuls of your filling and a spoonful of the mashed potatoes in the center of each section of dough. Fold the sides of the dough in so they overlap and cover all the filling, then fold a bit of  he top and bottom up to make your pocket. Pinch the edges to form a good seal so your filling stays in. It may take a few to get the hang of it... even if they're not pretty they will still taste good :)

Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes (until golden brown). Let cool completely, wrap in foil, place in freezer-proof Ziploc and freeze. To heat up, allow to thaw and microwave for 2-3 minutes. If you take them out of the freezer in the morning, they will be ready for nuking at lunch time.

Other Filling Ideas
We both liked this meat and veggie pocket, although next time I will probably add a little cheddar cheese. Some other ideas I would like to try are:
  • Pizza: spaghetti sauce, pepperonis, mozzarella and parmesan cheese
  • Meatball: same as pizza but with meatballs instead of pepperoni
  • Ham & Cheese: diced or sliced ham, shredded cheddar
  • Taco: Seasoned ground beef or chicken, cheddar cheese, maybe some salsa
  • Spicy Chicken: diced or shredded chicken, cream of chicken soup, pepper jack cheese
I think there's all sorts of great possibilities for these.


Chicken and Rice Burritos
These are really quite easy, they freeze well, and they are super yummy!

Prepare Chicken Taco meat
Prepare Mexican Rice

To make burrtios:
Take a flour tortilla. Place a couple spoonfuls of chicken taco meat in center of tortilla, add a couple spoonfuls of rice. Top with grated cheddar and monterey jack cheese. Roll up burrito, wrap in waxed paper. Repeat until you run out of tortillas. Place burritos in freezer-proof Ziploc and freeze. Heat in microwave when ready to eat.

Use any remaining chicken taco meat and mexican rice in Chicken Tortilla Soup.

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekly Grocery Shopping (10/28 - 11/3)

It was yet another round of "Mega Event" at Ralph's this week, coupled with an 8-hour "midnight madness" sale. Lately I've been less than impressed with the mega items, but this week there were some great deals to be had on items I actually wanted to buy! The sale continues this coming week, although from a quick look at the new ad it looks like there are some different items.

All in all, I managed to come in well under my $45 weekly target and fill a lot of space in the cupboards.

You know you're doing it right when the manager is checking you out and comments on your coupons "making it practically free"! (He said it in a nice way :) I told him I loved their Mega Events!

2x Taco Doritios = 1.98 (Midnight Madness Item)
Snapple Iced Tea @1.00 - .55 MFC (doubled to $1) = FREE
Cream of Potato Soup = .79
2x Uncle Ben's Ready Rice @1.99 - $1/2 MFC = 2.98 **
2x Carnation Evaporated milk @ 1.29 - .50/2 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = 1.58 **
3x Bumble Bee Tuna @ 1.25 ea -2x $1/1 MFC - .55/1 MFC (doubled to $1) = .75 **
Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter 2.49 - .40 MFC (doubled to .80) = 1.69 **
YoPlus Yogurt 2.99 - 1.00 MFC - 1.00 shortcuts e-coupon = .99 **
6x Hormel Chili @ 1.38 ea - 2x $2/3 MFC = 4.28 **
5x Del Monte diced tomatos @ .99 ea - $1/5 = 3.95 **
Radishes = .50
Apples = .54
-10.00 for buying 20 Mega Items (denoted with ** above)

Total: 10.08

Fresh and Easy
Cheap tuna in large quantities: that's worth an extra stop on the way home!

10x tuna = 5.00 (.50 ea wyb 10)
Hot dog buns = .88

Total: 5.88

Well props to Ninja Hubz for this trip, because I realized at about 8:30 on Halloween night that the good soda deals at Vons ended that night, so I sent him to the store with coupons and a detailed list. Sometimes that doesn't go well, because he occasionally decides to stray from the list. But he did perfect this time - nothing extra, and he didn't lose any coupons. Yay Ninja Hubz!

Goldfish crackers = 1.00
Yakisoba noodles @ .88 - .50 MFC (doubled to .88) = FREE
Friskies cat treats 1.99 - Free MFC = FREE
4x Coke 2-liter @.88 = 3.52
3x Coke 12 pack 6.99 (wyb 3) - $2/3 MFC = 4.99

Total: 13.11

Well I didn't realize this until I started typing in my receipt here, but apparently I got my bulk white pepper for free. I think that sometimes if their bulk codes don't go through the register right, they just skip it. I remember seeing the casheir put the pepper on the scale, then take it off and do the paprika, but I was focusing on scanning my debit card at the time so I wasn't really paying attention. I imagine that with the number of times they forget my reusable bag credit, it comes out even in the end :)

Green Leaf Lettuce = .99
2 lbs carrots = .99
Spinach = 1.19
Cucumber = .50
Apples = .79
.77 lbs wild rice blend = 1.53
.12 lb Paprika = .96
white pepper = free

Total: 6.95

Weekly Total: 36.02

Check out more great shopping trips at
The Grocery Cart Challenge
Southern Savers
Super Savings Saturday

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (11/1/09)

I've been looking forward to fall, and figured I'd start November off with a nice hearty stew. And then of course it was about 85 degrees out today. We still had stew! I refuse to submit to this warm weather, and am planning two different soups this week. I made the potato and ham soup last week - it is soooo good that I'm doing it again this week. I have all the ingredients already, plus it makes a ton which we have for lunches and leftover nights, always a great convenience. And talk about frugal! I estimate this probably costs about $.50 a serving using home made chicken broth, and it really fills you up.

Crockpot Beef Stew (I was going to post the recipe for this but it really wasn't that great, maybe next time!)
French Bread Rolls

Ham and Potato Soup
Leftover French Bread Rolls

Spaghetti and Meatballs (from freezer)
Leftover French Bread Rolls

Fend for Yourself/Leftovers

Crockpot Chicken Fajitas
Mexican Rice (from freezer)

Pork Fried Rice

Crockpot Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

See what everyone else is eating over at Menu Plan Monday!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

SoCal Ralph's Mega Event Coupon Match Up

I don't usually do coupon match-ups here, mainly because I don't have a lot of time for it. But I got some great deals at Ralph's today during their Mega Event, so I thought I'd go ahead and post the deals I have found. This is NOT a comprehensive list - if you know of any deals I have missed please leave a comment and share. Deals may vary by region or store so always be sure to check your local ad, and double check the shelf tags at the store!

10 Item Mega Event: Buy any 10 participating items, get $5.00 off instantly at check out with your Ralph's Rewards card. Limit 10 offers per household. Prices listed below assume you are buying 10 participating items and receiving $5.00 off (ie .50 off each item).

Hormel Natural Choice Lunchmeat - $2.49 ea
Use $0.75/1 here (doubles to 1.00)
Final Price = $1.49 ea

Del Monte Canned Tomatoes $.49 ea
Use $1/5 in 9/20 Red Plum
Final Price = $.29 ea

Bumble Bee Pouch Tuna 2.5oz $.75 ea
Use .55/1 from 9/13 Smart Source (doubles to $1), or $1/1 internet printable that was available a while back (looks like printable is gone now?)
Final Price = $.25 OVERAGE

Yoplait Yo-Plus 4 pack $2.49 ea
Use $1/1 from 10/4 General Mills insert or
$1/1 from or
$1/1 from
Final Price = $1.49 ea

Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter $1.99 ea
Use $.40/1 from 10/18 Smart Source (doubles to $.80)
Final Price = $1.19

Hormel Chili $.88 ea
Use $2/3 in 10/18 Smart Source
Final Price = $.22 ea

Carnation Evaporated Milk .79 ea
Use $.50/2 here (doubles to $1.00)
Final Price = $.29 ea

Whiskas Temptations Cat Treats $.99
Use $1/2 from 10-25 Red Plum
Final Price = $.49 ea

Uncle Ben's Ready Rice $1.49 ea
Use $1/2 here
Final Price = $.99 ea

Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts 2.50 ea
Use  $.50/2 from (doubles to $1.00)
Final Price = $2.00 ea

Hall's Cough Drops $.99 ea
Use $.35/1 from 09-27 Smart Source (doubles to $.70)
Final Price = $.29 ea

Welch's Fruit Juice $2.49 ea
Use $1/1 from
Final Price = $1.49 ea

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chicken (Crock)Pot Pie

This recipe is derived from a Campbell's Soup can label. It's pretty quick and easy to do in the oven, but that's no reason not to crockpot-ify it :) So here goes:

1 can cream of potato soup
1/4 cup milk
1/8 tsp ground pepper (I also add a dash of salt)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 cup of cooked chicken (diced or shredded leftovers works, as does canned chicken)

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all purpose baking mix (ie Bisquick)

Grease the inside of your crockpot (4 or 5 quart works best). Combine the filling ingredients in your crockpot. In a separate bowl, mix the topping ingredients, then carefully pour on top of the filling. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

(To cook in the oven, prepare as above using a pie dish instead of the crockpot, and cook for 30 minutes at 400˚F).

And look! I remembered to take a picture, after dinner that is:

I like this recipe because if you keep a can or two of chicken around, this makes a great "oh crap I forgot to take anything out to defrost" meal :) You can also substitute turkey or beef - I often use leftover roast or steak.

Check out more crockpot fun over at Debbie's Crockpot Wednesday!

And even more recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap!

Sign up for the RecipeLion Quick & Easy Recipe newsletter and receive the '33 Hearty Slow Cooker Recipes' e-book free!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (10/26/09)

Better late than never! Even though I've been on a blogging hiatus I have been diligent about my menu plans. I'm at the point where I can't even remember how I survived my pre-menu planning days... oh yeah, it involved a lot of Taco Bell!
  • Sunday: Grilled chicken ceasar salad
  • Monday: Ham and Potato Soup
  • Tuesday: Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas (similar to this, but with pre-cooked taco seasoned chicken instead of beef)
  • Wednesday: Leftovers/Fend for Yourself
  • Thursday: Orange Chicken, Rice with veggies
  • Friday: Pasta Bake
  • Saturday: Leftover Pasta Bake
See what everyone else is eating over at Menu Plan Monday!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekly Grocery Shopping (10/21 - 10/27)

OK I am still getting back on track after a few weeks off. I picked up a bunch of Halloween candy while grocery shopping - I didn't want to buy it too early since that increases the chance of me eating it all ahead of time, but I didn't want to wait until the last minute and then have to desperately grab whatever I could find and paying full price. Apparently I'm screwed no matter which strategy I choose because it put me way over budget. So I decided it doesn't count! It's not real food, so it doesn't come out of my grocery money. Haha, take that, budget killing holidays! I will count Halloween candy in my mysterious "Household" category, which ends up catching all sorts of weird things that don't fit anywhere else. With that executive decision out of the way, I came in quite close to my weekly goal of $45!


2x Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent @2.99 - $1/2 MFC = 4.98
3x Nature's Valley Granola Bars @ 2.50 ea and
1x Chex Mix Bars @ 2.50 ea
  -.40 Shortcuts e-coupon
  -.40 Shortcuts e-coupon
  -.50/1 Chex Mix bars MFC (doubled to 1.00)
  -.40/1 Nature Valley bars MFC (doubled to .80)
  -.70/2 Nature Valley bars MFC (doubled to 1.00)
  -4.00 buy 4 Nature Valley/Chex bars get $4 off
  = 2.40
4x 8oz tomato sauce @ .25 ea = 1.00
Hot dog buns = 1.19
5 lbs potatoes = 1.99
2 lbs carrots = 1.29
1.28 lbs bananas = .86
Cucumber = .89
2x Ball Park hot dogs @ .99 ea (manager's special) - $1/2 MFC = .98
Multi Grain bagette french bread = .99

Total: 16.16


2x Kit Kat snack size = 4.00
2x Reeses snack size -2.50 B3G1 free coupon = 1.50
Combo Candy bag = 9.99
2x Whole Grain Wheat Thins @ 1.38 ea - $1/2 MFC = 1.76
Canola Oil = 5.79
Olive Oil = 5.99 - .50 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = 4.99
Lean Pockets breakfast @1.79 - .75 MFC (doubled to 1.00) = .79
8x Yoplait Yogurt @ .60 ea wyb 8
  -.50 e-coupon
  -.40/6 MFC (doubled to .80)
  -.60 B6G1 MFC
  = 2.90
4x Tombstone Pizza @2.50 ea - 2x 1.50/2 MFC = 7.00
2x Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage @1.99 ea - $1/2 MFC = 3.98

Total: 41.70


1.93 lbs Rome Apples = .64
Romaine Lettuce = 1.19
Green Leaf Lettuce = .99
Celery = .99
Garlic = .67
Onions = .29
Reusable Bag Credit = -.05

Total: 4.72

Weekly Total: 62.58
Halloween Candy: 15.49
Regular Groceries: 47.09

So if we don't count the halloween candy, I was only $2.09 over budget. Stupid candy :)

Check out more great shopping trips at
The Grocery Cart Challenge
Super Savings Saturday
Southern Savings

Grocery Shopping Catch-Up

I've been derelict in posting my shopping trips this month. I will be back on track for the current week with pictures and and a full price break-down, but I wanted to do a quick "catch-up" for all the shopping I've done so far this month so I cant keep track of the totals.

I had one CRAZY overbudget week as you'll see below. This is entirely due to having my parents down for a visit for several days. My dad had a heart attack a while back and has consequently become VERY conscious about what he eats. I wanted to be able to provide meals that everyone could enjoy and would be ok for him to eat. So I ended up buying a lot of "special" items for him (no cholesterol butter spread, fat-free mayonnaise, egg substitute, etc) and a few other items for new "healthy" recipes I planned on trying out. So that week just quickly spiralled out of control.

9/30/09 - 10/06/09
This week I made two trips to Food for Less just to stock up on staples and get a head start for a few things I knew I would want for my parents' visit.

Weekly Total: 44.84

10/07/09 - 10/13/09
OK this was my last trip out before my parents came down to visit, and I ended up paying full price for a lot of things I normally wouldn't buy at all. I could have done a lot better if I'd planned for this a month or two ahead of time, but life happens. This week was GROSSLY overbudget, the worst I have ever done since I began couponing and being a Savings Ninja. Again, life happens. It was a special occasion so I'm not losing sleep over it. But it is certainly a good reminder of why we coupon and put so much effort into planning our purchases!

Ralph's: 33.98
Henry's: 7.88
Vons: 39.41
Walgreens: 10.59

Weekly Total: 91.86

10/14/09 - 10/20/09
This was my "back on the wagon" week. I managed to make up a little ground and stay about $10 under target!

Ralph's: 15.92
Vons: 14.54
Walgreens: 3.65

Weekly Total: 34.11

I'm Back!

Yes, I kind of disappeared for a few weeks. Nothing major, just got busy with real life and something had to give. Never fear, I did a lot of couponing, shopping, cleaning, and cooking during my little hiatus, and have lots of material for some upcoming posts. Onward!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (10/4/09)

Okay before I get to the menu, I'm hoping to get some ideas from you all. My parents will be visiting next week and my dad is on a low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet since he had a heart attack a while back. So, I need some ideas for healthy meals to make while they are here. So far I have thought of pot roast, chicken & brown rice soup, and maybe beef stew or a roast chicken. I'm not a huge fish person so that's not really a good option - I'm hoping to stick with items I already have on hand, which would include some lean cuts of beef, whole chicken, and chicken breast. For breakfasts so far I'm thinking of egg substitute, whole grain toast, and maybe these Applesauce Oatmeal Pancakes. If you have any ideas or recipes for low cholesterol meals (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) I would be grateful if you shared them. Thanks!

Last week I tried several new recipes (menu with links is here), so I thought I'd give a quick verdict on each:
  • Spicy Honey Glazed Pork Chops - not spicy at all, but really yummy anyway. They were easy to prepare, and I just threw them in the oven with some baked potatoes for an easy and tasty meal. Ninja Hubz loved them.
  • Asian Chicken and Noodles - pretty good. I thought they were a lot better after adding a bit of soy sauce.
  • Chicken (Crock)Pot Pie - an experiment I tried. Came out quite good! I will post the recipe when I get a chance, probably tomorrow.
And at last, this week's menu! A couple repeats that we didn't get to last week. Ninja Hubz volunteered to make home made macaroni and cheese on our usual "fend for yourself" night, and the pasta bake casserole  lasted for several nights of leftovers, so we just didn't get to some of our planned meals.
  • Sunday: Roast beef, noodle stuff, mixed veggies
  • Monday: Beef fried rice with veggies
  • Tuesday: Crockpot vegetable beef soup
  • Wednesday: Leftovers/Fend for yourself
  • Thursday: Italian breaded chicken, noodle stuff
  • Friday: Homemade Pizza
  • Saturday: Carnitas
Check out what everyone else is eating over at Menu Plan Monday

Friday, October 2, 2009

Monthly Update - September

This was an awesome month for us.

Last month I explained that we had achieved our 2009 savings goals. So I approached Ninja Hubz to discuss what we should start doing with our "extra" money for the rest of the year. I expected at least some sort of battle. See, Ninja Hubz likes stuff. Usually, its expensive stuff (with blinky lights and lots of buttons - usually it makes a lot of noise too). I hate stuff. I've been working all year to get rid of stuff. Stuff needs to be cleaned and stored and dusted... I hate stuff! I wanted to start putting our extra money towards paying off the mortgage. Paying off the mortgage is good, because it doesn't require extra dusting :) Anyway, to my complete astonishment Ninja Hubz was 100% completely totally in agreement that extra money should go to the mortgage. Seriously, it was about a 12 second conversation. (I think I know why this was so easy, but that will be another post on compromise and budgeting.)

So, here's where we stand:
  • NO non-mortgage debt
  • Fully funded emergency fund
  • Retirement savings on-track
  • Enough in savings to buy a new car when we need it
  • Working on paying off the mortgage early
Today I scheduled our extra mortage payment with our leftover September money... it was nearly 2 months worth of payments, all going towards principal! I keep an amortization spreadsheet to track how my extra payments affect our loan balance. This one payment just shrunk our loan term by THREE MONTHS. See, once the mortgage is paid off, as far as I'm concerned, me being employed is OPTIONAL. This is like getting 3 months of my life back.

That's why I coupon, and shopt the thrift stores, and wash/re-use zip-loc baggies, and bring my lunch every day when all my co-workers go out. I want financial freedom, and we just got 3 months closer to it :)

Well we did quite well controlling our spending. Total groceries was $174.70. I'm still budgeting $50/week ($200 for the month), but aiming for $45/week ($180 for the month). And I did it! My "other household" category actually showed a profit due to almost no spending and some rebates coming in.

As usual, we had some unplanned expenses come up - one of the Ninja Pups went to the vet for a dental cleaning, and we paid for half of rebuilding the fence between our house and the neighbors. These are the types of expenses I know are going to come, I just don't know exactly when. In last month's update I talked about trying to budget for these types of expenses, but I've decided not to worry about it for now.

Here's why: we have the monthly income to deal with most of these expenses without impacting other things. Basically, when these expenses come up it just means there is a little less for the "extra" savings or mortgage payment. I could set aside a little every month so it was already allocated for these costs, but here's the thing - I don't want any more money sitting around in low-interest accounts than I have to. If I have extra money this month, I want it all going towards the mortgage. If I have the extra expense next month, I can pay for it then, and just put less towards the mortgage that month.

This tactic probably won't work for everyone. If I had concerns that I would NOT have the extra money available when the expense occurred, I would start saving now. If I was less disciplined and thought we might blow the extra money on shiny things with blinky lights instead of putting it towards the mortgage, I would save it now. But basically, the money will do the most good right now if it goes to the mortgage (lowering future interest payments). I know I'll have more money when I need it, so its all good. This means I have to give up some of my control freak desires to know EXACTLY where every penny I ever earn will be spent for the next 10 years, but I should probably get over that anyway :)

We've found a lot of cheap and free activities to keep us entertained without spending a lot. We went hiking one Saturday, and took advantage of free museum day to visit the local botanical gardens. I've been faithfully using the library and Paperback Swap for all my reading and music needs.

Extra Income
Every little bit helps! Most of these things only take a few minutes here and there - just keeping track of receipts, washing out Coke cans, and goofing on the Internet during commercials. The extra money either goes for "wants" I would otherwise do without, or gets put toward the mortgage payment.
  • Took in the recycling: $30.40
  • Online surveys and other sites:
  • FLEX spending reimbursement: $89 (my employer provides me with a certain amount of money for health benefits and lets me choose from several insurcance options. Since I choose the lowest cost insurance plans, there is leftover money each month that goes into a flexible spending account, and from that account I can get reimbursed for out of pocket medical spending like prescription co-pays and over the counter medications. And its all tax free!)
Around the House
I've managed to take care of a few things that have been bugging me - I've done a DEEP cleaning on about 1/2 the bathroom (the really bad half - got the blinds and walls near the window clean), and some deep cleaning in the kitchen. I totally cleaned the inside of the fridge and reorganized my food cupboards so I could see what was in there. I found a lot of things that need to get used up and moved them to the front of the cupboards so I will SEE them. My goal is to plan at least 1 meal a week using boxed items that need to go! I think what has happened is that I've been moving towards preparing things from scratch as opposed to using boxed dinner kits or side dishes, so those items have languished in my cupboards. I will get them used up, and keep this all in my mind when I go shopping - I like to have one or two such things on hand for when I am rushed, but there is no need for 10 boxes of cheesy noodle dishes and 6 boxes of potato dishes when I usually use fresh potatoes or rice or make my own pasta sauces!

There's still more to do... there's always more to do. I will likely focus on yard work in October since it is now actually cool enough to go outside without fear of bursting in to flames.

Other Stuff
Saving the best for last... I had my annual performance review at work and if all goes well with the HR gods, I will be getting a merit pay increase! Yay! This is especially good since we did not get a cost of living increase this year due to the economy. Not sure of my math after taxes, but this should mean a couple hundred dollars more a month to put towards the mortgage!

Good luck in October!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (9/27/09)

Its been over 100 degrees here almost every day this past week, so needless to say I've enjoyed being lazy and eating meals from the freezer and crockpot. Thankfully the heat is supposed to end this week, and it should start cooling off considerably. I'm glad because I've been itching to try a few new recipes which require actually being in the kitchen, and some even turning on the oven!  Here's what's in store:
  • Sunday: Spicy Honey Glazed Pork Chops - this is a new one I'm trying, it's from the e-cookbook "America's Favorite Pork Chop Recipes" - you can download it here (requires signing up for a free newsletter).
  • Monday: Asian Chicken and Noodles - another new one
  • Tuesday: Pasta Bake
  • Wednesday: Leftovers/Fend for Yourself
  • Thursday: Carnitas (from the freezer) - I had a TON of leftovers when I made these last week, so I put some in the freezer to enjoy again this week.
  • Friday: Homemade pizza from freezer (I use this recipe when I make dough - it makes enough for 3 pizzas - I cook one and freeze 2 for future use)
  • Saturday: Chicken (Crock)Pot Pie - I haven't done this before, but I'm going to experiment and try my favorite chicken pot pie recipe in the crockpot. I'll post the recipe if it comes out good :) If it comes out bad, we'll just never speak of it again, deal?
See what everyone else is eating over at Menu Plan Monday


This was my first year growing a vegetable garden. It started out as more of an experiment, but to my utter astonishment, I actually managed to grow quite a few things! Then I was left trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do with all this stuff. Pumpkins, for example:

I was very proud of the 2 whole pumpkins I managed to grow. I put too much effort into them to carve them up for Halloween... these were going to get carved up and EATEN darn it.

So I turned to the trusty Internet and tried to figure out how to cook a pumpkin. I found this University of Illionois Exension site that had all kinds of great information, including how to make pumpkin puree.

So I cut up my beautiful little pumpkins....

And scooped out all the seeds...

Then they looked like this:

I used a little paring knife to scrape out all the fibrous goo...

All the pieces went into my big stockpot, with 1 cup of water...

I steamed them for about 30 minutes, until the flesh was soft (you can see the little holes where I pricked one piece with a fork to test).

After the pieces had cooled off, I used my trusty paring knife to separate the peel from the flesh

When everything was peeled...

I put all the fleshy parts in the food processor and processed away!

It took a little while in the processor, but eventually I had a smooth puree. I measured it out in 1 cup increments and put it in plastic containers for freezing:

Those 2 little pumpkins yielded 5 cups of puree.

Here's a couple of my favorite pumpkin recipes:
Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (I change this one and use 1 cup of pumpkin and omit the water)

I'm going to try this recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds tomorrow, and this Pumpkin Cookie recipe as soon as I get a deal on white chocolate chips!

Happy fall :)

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