Saturday, February 26, 2011

I bake everyday.


I don't particularly like baking.....okay I am going to be honest with you I hate it. I am 7 mths pregnant and spending that time in the kitchen baking leaves me with swollen legs, aching feet, and the overwhelming urge to take a nap. So why am I in the kitchen everyday baking up a storm? Because my kids like to eat, they are odd that way, and my youngest two can't have any processed baked goods due to their allergy to milk protein.

For a while we tried just reading the labels on things and buying baked goods that didn't have milk on the label. The result? One of them ended up head to toe hives and the other one ended up with such a bad digestive reaction her bottom was bleeding. Come to find out companies only have to list a ingredient if it is more than a certain % of the ingredients. So a product can have milk in it and not have it on the label. What a crock!

The result is that all the baked goods for the twins have to be made at home. You would think a dozen muffins would last a while right? Wrong, these kids can go through a dozen muffins in one day. One of these days I am going to get smart and make up 5 dozen at a time, but right now I am just too tired to spend that kind of time on my feet.

Anyways I thought I would share some of my kids favorite treats. Yes, they are all dairy free but you can change any listing of soy milk to regular milk. I am not crazy about the banana oat drops and the kids have yet to try them so I will hold off on sharing that recipe.

Here we have a picture of today's baking results:

Apple Muffins, Apple & Blueberry "wheat thins", and Banana Oat Drops.

Apple Muffins

***This recipe can be for any type of sweet muffin you like, just change the puree used. We have made this using applesauce, bananas, apples and carrots, etc. Just make sure you keep the amount the same***

1 1/2c Flour

3/4c. Sugar

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1tsp. Baking Soda

1/2tsp Salt

1 1/2c applesauce

1 egg

1/3c Vegetable Oil

1/4c Plain Soy milk

1 tsp Lemon juice

*Heat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients and pour into muffin pan. Bake 25-30 min.

Homemade "Wheat thins"

***You can make these any flavor you want by changing the plain oatmeal to a flavored one. I used Apple & Blueberry granola and they were a big hit***

3c. uncooked oatmeal

2c. unbleached white flour (or 1c. white and 1c. wheat)

1c. Wheat germ

3Tbsp. sugar

1tsp. Salt

3/4c Vegetable oil

1 c. water

*Heat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients together and roll out on to two cookie sheets. Cut into squares or diamonds using a pizza cutter. Bake for 15min.

Fruity Puree Cookies

***Again you can make these using any fruit puree you want, also I didn't have soy flour so I just replaced it with a equal amount of wheat flour and they worked out great***

3/4c Brown Sugar

3/4c Vegetable oil

1c. Applesauce

1/2tsp salt

1tsp Vanilla

1/2c. Oat bran

1/2c. Wheat Germ

1 1/2c. Wheat flour

1/2c. Soy flour

*Heat oven to 350. Combine sugar and oil and mix till smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and chill for 30min. Make into little balls and place on a greased cookie sheet, flatten slightly with a fork. Bake 12-14 min.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Frugal websites

I know most of the people reading my blog are doing so to get ideas for living more frugally. To help each of you with finding some more frugal ideas or motivation I thought I would post some of my favorite websites and forums. Each has tons of great ideas and motivation to keep going.

Eat at Home Cooks Amazing site for simple eat at home meals, how to freeze meals, cooking in bulk, etc.
Frugal Families Seriously a little bit of everything. Frugal holidays, pet care, cleaning, organizing, cooking, etc.
Down to Earth A lovely lady who does just about everything from scratch and lives pretty much totally self sufficiently on her farm.
Hillbilly Housewife lots of info on eating cheaply but with your health in mind.
Life. On a Budget Blog dedicated to living on one income successfully.
Money Saving Mom Site dedicated to helping you find deals and stretch your income.
Owl Haven A mom of 10 talks about how she makes the most of her grocery budget.

Down to Earth A forum from the same site as above. Dedicated to the pursuit of living simply.
Living Like No One Else A forum dedicated to people following Dave Ramsey's financial advice. Tons of financial help and advice.

So there you go a list of sites that give me my inspiration to keep going and find the next frugal challenge!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The time it takes to coupon.

Many people I know have told me that they just don't have the time to coupon. It takes to long to look through all the websites, print the coupons, cut them out, and organize them. Plus then there are the newspapers to buy and go through, then more clipping and organizing. I personally do not buy any newspapers, I can get better inserts for free at my local commissary so I will be talking only about the time it takes to do printable coupons.

My kiddos take a 2-3 hour nap every day, those that are too old for a nap have "quiet time". I normally use this time to bake muffins for the next day or catch-up on my vacuuming (one of my little ones is terrified of the vacuum). One day a week however I use this time to do my couponing. Today decided to track how long it took me to get everything done from start to finish.

It took me 2 hours to go through all my websites and get everything printed out, clipped, and organized into my coupon binder. Granted I did take a few timeouts to resettle a little one who didn't want to nap and check my facebook messages. Plus this week I took the time to add up the amounts from the coupons I clipped so I could give you the total. I would say on a day when I have no distractions I could get it all done in a hour and a half, but who are we kidding I am a mother of 4 children 6yrs and under, my life is rarely distraction free.

So this week I printed and organized coupons totaling $67.30 that would be $33.65 per hour. I don't know about you but I think my time is worth $33.65 a hour! Now that is just printing the coupons I will use: the granola bars, yogurts, toilet paper, crackers, etc that we actually use on a weekly basis. Added to those coupons are the ones that we may use: laundry soap, medicine, cleaning supplies, etc. that are normally cheaper when buying a alternate brand. You never know though when something is going to go on sale and be cheaper with a coupon than the product you normally buy without a coupon.

I need to get a picture of my new coupon binder up. I outgrew my previous coupon organizer and had to go to a three ring binder to keep everything organized. My binder is not quite as detailed as The Krazy Coupon Ladies (check out her day 5 for coupon virgins to get her details on her binder), but it works for me.

February's Grocery Totals

It is that time once again where we total up how we did on our grocery budget. This month we used quite a bit less in coupons, but we also bought less groceries total this month.

Total spent on groceries: $200.20
Amount budgeted: $250
Total Remaining: $49.80

Coupons Used: $10.45

Now is also the time of the month when we decide what our next challenge is going to be. What will we challenge ourselves to do in March? I think March will be a savings account challenge.....

March's goal: $500 extra into our savings account for our upcoming overseas move.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Grandmother's Potato Soup Recipe

I am a strong believer that we can learn a great deal from our ancestors. Both of my Grandmothers lived through tough times and as a result learned a great deal. They both passed down some really frugal yet wonderful tasting recipes that they learned through out their lives. Who would I be not to take their knowledge and apply it to my life? My paternal grandmother raised 7 children, 6 of whom were growing boys, on a single seasonal income. She has a recipe for Potato Soup that is super cheap and I find to be the ultimate comfort food. My mother began making this soup when she married my father but being a true southerner she added my maternal grandmother's recipe for cornbread. Add the two together and you get a super filling dinner that costs next to nothing.

Potato Soup
Bring a pot of water up to a boil and add as many cubed bite size chunks of potatoes as your family will eat. Once the potatoes start to get tender add in 1/2 a stick of butter, 2-3 cups of milk (depends on the size of your pot, you want the water to turn white) and some salt and pepper. Continue boiling until the potatoes are tender.

Corn Bread
1 1/4c All purpose Flour
3/4c. Corn meal
1c Milk
1 egg
1/2tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients and bake at 400 for 25min.

I know not the most nutritious dinner in the world but it is hot, filling, and yummy! I find myself craving this dinner any time the weather gets cold or I am starting to get sick. I guess this is my version of Chicken Noodle Soup for colds.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meal planning and Grocery Breakdown 2/19 - 3/2

This week is a little different around here. My husband's father is not doing well so he flew home to be with his family. Leaving me one less mouth to feed till he comes home. Also since he is gone I am able to make cheaper meals that he is not crazy about (he hates soups) and make them last for 2 days instead of one. We had a total of $83.41 left of our reduced grocery budget this month. This week we spent $34.51 leaving us with a total of $48.90 for the rest of this month. We *should be* done with our grocery shopping for this month though!

Meal Plan
*French toast sticks
*Vegan muffins
*Biscuits and scrambled eggs


*PB&J Sandwiches
*Turkey Sandwiches
*Ham Sandwiches

*Chicken Pot Pie with Spinach Salad
*Chicken with tomatoes and Basil
*Chicken and Egg Drop Soup
*Chicken Fajitas
*Sour Cream and Enchilada Casserole
*Turkey Taco Salad

Grocery Breakdown




Baking Supplies:


Total with Surcharge: $38.26
Total Coupons used: $3.75
Total Out of Pocket:$34.51

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meal Plan and Grocery breakdown week of Feb 14th

We are still trying to operate on a bare bones grocery budget and so far so good. You will notice that this weeks grocery bill was kept low by using the stockpiled chicken that I got on sale last week. We have $84.31 left out of our original $250 budgeted amount.

Meal Plan:

*Scrambled eggs and biscuits
*French toast sticks

*Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches
*Turkey Sandwiches
*Ham Sandwiches
*Grilled Cheese

*Greek Fish Bake
*Chicken Potpie
*Chicken Teriyaki with rice
*White Chicken Chili
*Chicken with tomatoes and basil, green beans, and potatoes

Grocery Breakdown:





Snacks/Junk food:



Total with surcharge: $43.17
Total Coupons used: $5.20
Total out of pocket: $37.97

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The best homemade pizza EVER!

I have been trying out tons recipes over the years to try and find the right homemade pizza recipe. Either the crust was to thin and breakable or the sauce was to runny. Nothing seemed to work out right. Last night though we hit on the perfect pizza! If you like a thick and chewy crust this is the recipe for you!

Pizza Crust:
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp sugar
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil, plus 1 to 2 Tbsp for the pans
5 to 7 cups of all-purpose four
1/2 cup cornmeal

*In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and water; let stand for 5 min to allow the yeast time to start working. If it is active it should start to foam.
* Add 1/4 cup oil, 4 cups flour, and cornmeal; stir. When the mixture gets too heavy to mix effectively with a wooden spoon, sprinkle about 1 cup flour onto a clean counter and oil your hands. Turn dough out onto the counter and begin kneading. Continue to knead adding more flour as long as the dough feels sticky.
*Rinse out your bowl and lightly oil. Place dough in center and cover with a clean cloth. Allow to rise for 20 to 30 min.
*Preheat oven to 550. Oil 2 pans. Using oiled fingers press dough gently out across pan. Spread desired toppings on crust and bake 10 to 15 min.

****I only wanted to make one pizza so I put the second dough ball into a freezer bag and froze. To defrost just leave it on the counter for a few hours and you are good to go. It works just as well if it has been frozen or not.****

Pizza Sauce:
8oz can of tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and use to cover one pizza crust.

Grocery Challenge Progress

We set a goal this month of cutting our grocery bill in half and only spending $250 for the entire month. So far we are doing pretty well. Stocking up on a extra 8lbs of chicken breasts while they were on sale sure isn't going to hurt! We also got our WIC checks changed over so the twins are now getting the soy milk they need so that will no longer be coming out of our budget. I also did a inventory of our chest freezer and we have 10 loafs of bread, and 9 boxes of waffles/pancakes all which were bought last month on sale, thus lowering our Breakfast and Lunch categories.

Our progress this month:

2/3: $30 for Soy milk (before the WIC change over)
2/7: $94.78 Groceries as listed in post below
2/10: $2.94 for WIC shopping (went over $0.94 on my WIC fruit and veg check and gave a $2 tip to the bagger)

Total left: $122.28

Our goal is to not go to the grocery store until the 14th when we get paid again. As you can see by our meal plan below I only worked out 6 dinners to get us through the 7 days till pay day. My plan was that the 7th day would be a leftover clean out dinner. It is pretty simple you serve all the odds and ends of leftovers at one meal. Everyone gets a different meal, your fridge gets some space, and your budget gets a little breathing room!

Meal Plan and Grocery list, week of Feb. 7th

I am a little behind in posting this weeks meal plan and grocery budget (oops!). This weeks grocery bill was done without WIC so our Dairy and Fruit and Veg categories are higher than normal. Also they had a killer sale on chicken breasts so I added a stockpiling category to this weeks budget.

Meal Plan

*French toast sticks
*Biscuits and scrambled eggs

*Turkey Sandwiches
*Tuna Sandwiches
*Grilled Cheese

*Spaghetti and Romain Salad
*Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans
*Homemade Pizza
*Chicken Fajitas with Fried rice
*Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas
*Meatball subs and green beans

Grocery Breakdown:




Snacks/Junk food:


Fruit and Veg:

Stocking up:


Total with Surcharge: $96.28
Coupons used: $1.50 (We were having printer issues this week)
Total out of pocket: $94.78

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This months progress.

This month we had some pretty lofty goals.

1.) Pay off the van loan and be officially DEBT FREE!

2.) Add enough to our savings account to fill our travel fund halfway.

Good news is we PAID OFF OUR VAN! So exciting! I have never been so excited to see a $0.00 balance in my life! I don't think it will really feel real until I have the title in my hand and the loan is gone from my banking page. Also we were able to fill our savings account past halfway! As you can see from our progress chart we are getting pretty close to filling up our travel fund! It will be so nice to accomplish a PCS without encountering any new debt along the way. Can't wait till our next paycheck when I get to color in some new lines :)

Creamy Mexican Pasta


A few days ago we tried another new recipe, Creamy Mexican Pasta. It was super yummy! Super simple to put together with cream cheese, salsa, chicken, some milk and chicken stock. The kids were SUPER excited to have macaroni for dinner and even hubby ate this twice in one day :)
As you know this week I am doing reviews of my new cookbook. So far we have like 3 out of 4! I think we would have liked the Jazzy Ramen more if we had used a different type of noodle. Something with a little bit of a bite would have been nice with all the soft veggies, I may try it next time with a spiral cut pasta instead. The chicken tortilla soup was incredible. I didn't get a pic of it but man was it good! Tonight I am making Chicken Fajitas and fried rice, I will be using the fajita seasoning recipe and the fried rice recipe out of my new cookbook. I am really hoping they are both hits :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Attempting some new cheap meals

This week I am attempting some new recipes that are supposed to help you feed your family well on a budget. I started by finally reading a cookbook I have had in my pantry for over a year! I got this book "Family Feasts for $75 a week" back in November 2009. Needless to say I got a little busy soon after buying it since the twins were born in January 2010. The first half of the book is a breakdown of the authors methods for saving money. Since I have been working on cutting back my grocery bill for so long there really wasn't much there I didn't already know, but I could see how it would be helpful for someone just starting the road to cutting their grocery bill. My favorite section of the book was the chapter on making your own Sauces, mixes, dressings, etc. I am sure I will be looking through there more to pull out seasoning mixes to try! There were several recipes inside that I thought would be fun to try for our dinners this week. So far I have made a few of the recipes and thought I would share my experiences.
The first recipe I decided to work on was Pizza roll ups. Basically a Cinnamon roll made with pizza fillings instead of sugar and butter. We used cream cheese, tomato paste, mozzarella cheese, peperoni and seasonings. As you can see my homemade pizza dough rose very well! No need to worry my yeast wasn't fresh! For my personal taste the tomato paste was a little pasty. Next time I think I will either thin it out a little with some water or try a spaghetti or pizza sauce. The kiddos were not too sure of the rolls, my oldest was game and ate most of hers since she could see the peperoni, my 4yr old on the other hand was not too sure and didn't eat any. I personally liked them and had some for leftovers today. Hubby seemed to like them as well and even though I thought I had a ton leftover the container is almost empty.

Next up we have Jazzy Ramen. Now I am not a fan of Ramen, honestly I have not had Ramen since I was in college. I have never though of Ramen as being a healthy option so I don't cook with them. This recipe had a ton of veggies in it so I was willing to give it a try. In this recipe we had: carrots, onions, cabbage, and broccoli. It used 3 Ramen packets but only one of the seasoning packets mixed with some corn starch, soy sauce, and ginger. I made a vegetarian version for myself and the kiddos and added some ham to my husbands. I think I cooked to noodles for too long, they were kind of mushy and the texture just didn't work for me. I would be willing to try it again cooking the noodles for 2min instead of 3.... As for the leftover test no one was willing to eat the leftovers the next day.
So far we are one for two. Tonight is Creamy Mexican Pasta with Chicken....we shall see...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Making your own baby food.

Okay, well really toddler food since my youngest are 13mths. I am not a big fan of those little jars of cut up carrots, apples, and "meat sticks" that they sell in the grocery store. The prices are just nuts when you compare it to 'real' food.

Take one of those little jars of chunked up carrots. At the commissary one of those little jars will run you $0.80 now that isn't unreasonable in itself but if you walk over to the produce department you will see you can get a whole pound of carrots for $0.80! Do you know how many of those little jars you would have to buy to make a pound of carrots? It gets even worse if you look at the 5lb bags of carrots... $0.78 a pound! How hard is it to peel, wash, and chunk up your own carrots? Yes you have to cook them to what I call smoosh consistency but really that time is all hands free. Set the carrots to steam set the timer and walk away. If you have a half an hour you can process up the whole 5lb bag of carrots, separate them into several freezer bags and freeze them. When you run out of carrots in the fridge just pull a baggie from the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge overnight or drop them in some boiling water for a few seconds and they are ready to go. This works great for all types of veggies and your little ones will get tons more variety and nutrients than if you only served them the little carrot chunks! Some options include broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, peas, squash, etc.

Don't get me started on "meat sticks" I am sorry but meat is not supposed to come in stick form! I shudder to think what is in those overly processed sticks. I am adamant that my girls get protein at every single meal. I would go broke real quick buying all those little jars of "meat". My solution is to throw several frozen chicken breasts in my crock pot and cook on high for 6 hours. I then shred the meat and stick it in the fridge. Done! Another option is beans. Beans are cheap, easy, full of protein, and perfectly mushy. Again the crock pot is my friend. I soak the beans over night and then toss them in the crock pot on low for 10hours (smaller beans get done faster). Just like with the carrots and other veggies you can portion them out between baggies and freeze any that will not get used in a week. They are the perfect finger food. Eggs are also a great option. I like to scramble up a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week and then dole them out for breakfast in the mornings. Easy peasy! Also great options are turkey burgers, beef burgers, ham, shredded turkey, etc.

Fruit I do a little different. For things like apples that are hard and need some softening I like to saute them in a little bit of 100% fruit juice just like you were making applesauce, just stopping them before they turn into mush. I personally don't freeze fruit it never quite turns out the same consistency as it went in.

My girls are also allergic to milk in all shapes and forms so if I want to serve the girls any type of baked goods it has to be made from scratch by me with soy products. Again the freezer is my friend :)

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