Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chicken and dumplings

My favorite food as a child was chicken and dumplings at my grandmother's house. We only had them on Thanksgiving and I always went back for several helpings leaving everything else on the table untouched. It was always my job to get there super early in the day to help stir the pot while my grandmother dropped the dumplings into the boiling stock. I get a bit nostalgic when it comes to dumplings!

Besides being yummy they also happen to be extremely cheap and easy to make for a large crowd...I am sure that had something to do with making them for Thanksgiving every year! I do it a bit different from my family as I don't add any actual chicken to my chicken and dumplings. I am a rebel like that!

Chicken and Dumplings

20 cups of water (I just fill my massive stockpot up about 3/4 from the top)
12 tsp chicken base $1.08
2 cups milk $0.40

Fill pot with water and stir in chicken base. Or make your own stock from chicken or turkey bones and get free stock. Bring to a boil while you make your dumplings.

6 cups water
6 tsp chicken base $0.54
12 cups flour $0.84

Combing water and chicken base then add in flour till a soft dough forms. You may need more or less flour, just add a few cups at a time and go from there.

Once the dumpling dough is smooth and not sticky start pinching off and dropping small marble sized chunks of dough into the boiling stock. Make sure to stir from the bottom often so they don't stick and burn.

After all the dumplings are in the pot let simmer for 10min to cook all the dumplings through. Once the dumplings are cooked add 2 cups of milk and stir well. Continue simmering till heated through. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.

My children always end up going back for 3rds!

Total for a massive pot: $2.86

Serving a hot homemade breakfast when you are not a morning person!

When looking through our grocery budget and trying to find areas to cut breakfast items stood out significantly. I am not a morning person. I hate waking up and usually am not really awake for about an hour after I stumble out of bed. Obviously I hate cooking for 8 people while I am still trying to wake up. So to combat the problem I had been buying a lot of convenience foods for breakfast. Things such as frozen sausage biscuits, frozen waffles, and cereal were our go to meals for several years. This however was getting crazy expensive!

4 boxes of frozen sausage biscuits: $13.96
3 family sized boxes of frozen waffles: $12.99
3 boxes of cereal: $12.50

Totals for one weeks breakfasts: $39.45
Total per month: $157.80
Total per year: $1,893.60

So how was I going to combat the need to stop buying convenience foods and still  maintain my sanity at 7am? I decided to try making breakfast at night before I went to bed. It seemed simple enough to make up a batch of something and stick it in the fridge for the next morning. I decided on a rotating menu of items that could handle being cooked, refrigerated, and then reheated the next day.

Rotating one week menu:
Baked Oatmeal
French toast casserole
Sausage biscuits
Biscuits and gravy
Breakfast cookies
Cinnamon toast

I broke out my receipts, calculator, and cookbook to calculate the total cost per meal.

Baked Oatmeal

 6 cups oatmeal $2.58
1 1/2 tsp salt $0.01
2 tsp cinnamon $0.02
3 tsp baking powder $0.02
4 eggs $0.43
2 1/2 cup milk $0.50
1/2 cup honey $0.40
1/4c applesauce $0.10
1 tsp vanilla $0.03

Mix together and spread in a 9x13in pan. Bake at 350 for 30min. Let cool and slice into squares. Store in refrigerator.

Total $4.09


9 cups flour  $0.71
3/4 c sugar $0.13
1/3c baking powder $0.10
4 1/2 tsp salt $0.03
6 eggs $0.64
6 cups of milk $1.24

Mix together and cook as normal. Layer in a 9x13in pan and refrigerate.

Total $2.85 plus $0.44 for syrup

French Toast Casserole

1/2 loaf of bread  $0.44
1/2c butter $0.47
1/2c brown sugar $0.29
4 eggs $0.43
2c milk $0.40

Melt butter and stir in brown sugar. Spread mixture on bottom of 9x13in pan. Cut bread in half and layer 3 high till the pan is filled. Beat eggs and milk together and pour evenly over bread making sure all the bread is wet. Bake 350 for 30-45min till set. Cover in tin foil and refrigerate.

Total $2.03 plus $0.44 for syrup

Sausage Biscuits

2lbs pork sausage $5.78
2 cans biscuits $2.38

Slice sausage and lay out on baking sheet. Lay out biscuits on a separate baking sheet. Bake sausage and biscuits according to directions on biscuit container. Let cool then assemble sandwiches for fridge. Pour drippings into container and refrigerate for next meal.

Total $8.16 for 16 biscuits

Biscuits and gravy

Sausage drippings  $0.00 (saved from meal above)
1/2 cup flour $0.03
4 cup milk $0.80
2 cans biscuits $2.38

Warm drippings in large skillet. Once liquified stir in flour until smooth. Let cook while stirring continuously for 5 min to cook our the flour taste. Add milk and whisk till mixture starts to thicken (this can take a bit).  Season with salt and pepper. Bake biscuits according to package directions. Place cooled biscuits and cooled gravy in separate containers and refrigerate.

Total $3.21

Breakfast Cookies

2 cups flour $0.15
2 cups oats $0.87
1/2 cup oil $0.31
1/2 cup brown sugar $0.29
1 1/2 cup milk $0.30
1 tsp baking soda $0.02
1/2 tsp salt $0.01
1/2 tsp cinnamon $0.01

Mix together like any cookie dough. Bake 350 for 15 min. Let cool and store in air tight container.

Total $1.96

Cinnamon Toast

1 loaf of bread $0.89
2 tsp cinnamon $0.02
1/4 cup sugar $0.40
1/4 cup butter $0.23

Line bread on baking sheets. Spread with butter and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Broil for a minute or two till golden brown. Cool and store in air tight container inside fridge.

Total $1.18

Total for 1 weeks breakfasts made from scratch: $24.36

That is a savings of:
  $15.09 a week
  $60.36 a month
 $724.32 a year!

Our New House: Kitchen and Dining Room

Today's Our New House post is going to be a pretty simple one.

 First up the kitchen. I continued the same Silver Sheen paint throughout the room.
 Added a hanging plant ($10), a violet in an adorable rabbit planter ($10), and three light blue pots ($15) planted with Basil, Parsley, and Cilantro.
 I love how empty my counters are!
 Total for the kitchen: $35

Next up is the dining room. For the sliding glass door I took down the ugly vertical blinds and replaced them with custom made curtains. I went with 4 yards of this yellow and grey diamond pattern and added a half a yard strip of dark grey material through the center for a color block effect.
I purposely kept the walls bare in the dinning room since there is a lot of things going on in the adjoining playroom.
I like the simplicity of the room and especially the ease of clean up!

Total for the dinning room: $35 for fabric

Saturday, August 30, 2014

This weeks frugal accomplishments

My favorite blogger (The Prudent Housewife) does a weekly update on her blog about the frugal accomplishments she has made throughout the week. I liked the idea so much that I have been writing down my own accomplishments this week to share.

Built a clothes line for our backyard out of scrap wood I found buried under leaves along our fence line.

Hung out several loads of laundry as weather permitted

Built a vegetable bed frame from scraps.

Planted lettuce, spinach, parsley, cilantro, basil.

Hit a buy one get one free sale for strawberries. Made strawberry jam, and froze berries for smoothies.

Made homemade bread

Made several batches of soup for lunches

Bought 30 packets of seeds for $3

Paid $20 for an almost complete winter wardrobe for oldest daughter (coats, tops, and dresses). Still need jeans and shoes.

 No eating out  this week

Two no spend days

I made two herb beds using materials I already had on hand

We turned off the a/c in the afternoon and over night for three nights this week

I planted rosemary and gourds.

I used the sod from putting in my new beds to fill the free flower pots I found in the junk pile to plant the gourds (75% filled with sod then added three inches of topsoil on top)

We had leftovers for dinner one night this week

 I stopped at acme on my way home from physical therapy for some dill I needed, so no wasted gas.

I canned 12 pints of dill pickles

2 batches of homemade rolls for sliders for lunch

homemade tortillas for dinner one night

 3 qts of homemade soup made from our overripe tomatoes and past its prime basil

 Picked up a free load of firewood

Cloth diapers through out the day

 I canceled our ooma service and got a refund of $10

Returned 2 sheet sets to walmart that I decided not to use for a project and received $21 on a gift card. Then spent the money buying items for this weeks grocery list. Including the bottled water and juice boxes for our homeschool co op back to school picnic.

Stayed on budget for groceries at $95/100. The last $5 will go towards our tithe for this week.

I was starving while we were out shopping since my lunch consisted of just homemade tomato soup (no carbs or protein). Instead of eating out I ate a banana and drank some water that dh left in the car.

I made a strawberry smoothie for everyone for snack today with half milk half water. No one can tell the difference but it seriously ups the volume.

Made a homemade crust for our chicken pot pie for dinner. It was yummy.

I had a new friend from church over to our house which saved on gas.

I pulled down the rotten sections of the split rail fence in our front yard. Most of the rails will be used in the back yard as framing for my vegetable beds. What isn't used for that will be used for fire wood.

I pruned our rose bushes and brought some blooms inside to decorate the table (The girls always ooh and ahhh over the roses at Aldi so I thought this would be a nice thing for them ).

Our New House: School Room

Continuing with the "our new house" theme I thought I would share the information about our new school room! One of the deal breakers for me when looking for a new house was that it had to have a room dedicated to homeschooling. When teaching 4 children at home there is a lot of paper, books, pencils, art supplies, etc that is involved. I was getting overwhelmed with trying to keep up with everything and I very much wanted my bedroom closet to be school book free again. When we decided to rent this house I immediately claimed the formal dining room as the new school room.  It was the perfect size, had hardwood floors, and a massive window seat where I could picture my kids curled up with a good book for hours at a time. reality it is used for a stage and playing my little ponies but a girl can dream can't she?!

As I mentioned in my previous post we painted the entire downstairs Silver Sheen. Pretty simple to do the planning for and I was able to use the leftover paint from the adult living room. Total for paint: $0 (already counted it in the budget for adult living room).

The curtains were another waverly design, this time Fun Floret Spa. This fabric was a bit pricer then the living room fabric but it was so pretty I had to get it. Since it is a large picture window I bought 4 yards and made panels for each side of the window. At $15.14 per yard that is $60.60 for custom curtains.
 Next up was storage. I needed a lot of storage! I decided to checkout what ikea had to offer and found this massive shelving system for only $139. You seriously can't beat that price!
I also had a small wall in the corner of the room that I didn't want to leave bare. I fell in love with this hanging bookshelf. It was a bit pricier at $49.99 but it took care of a need and fit a wonky location so I went for it.

Of course we needed a table and chairs for the room as well. We went with an unfinished pine table that seats 4 for $69 and then painted the legs light blue and the top in a chalkboard finish. I love that the kids can write on the table instead of using scratch paper. It saves on paper usage and the preschoolers especially love to write their ABC's on there. The short stubby pieces of chalk seem to be easier for them to hold correctly versus the long pencils. For chairs we again shopped on ikea and found these chairs for $12.50 per chair. Seriously you can't get a folding chair for that these days! I think they are adorable!

The big splurge in the room was the cabinet for storing art supplies and the printer and laminator. I didn't want to be looking at this stuff everyday and needed closed door storage to keep little fingers off of things. I looked everywhere and was about to the point of building something myself when I decided to check out our local Amish furniture store. They had this amazing solid wood unit with punched tin doors. I had to have it. The color is a bit off (I would have really liked a white one) but it works in the room and I love the detail in the doors. At $400 it was the most expensive thing in the room for sure.

With the furniture taken care of it was time for the little decorative touches. I found a large white frame at a discount store for $20 and turned it into a chalkboard. I pulled two perfectly good cork boards out of the bulk trash on base to use for displaying artwork, brought our girls easel and "special things" cabinets into the room, and hung our  history timeline and project posters. All in all the room meets all our needs quite nicely.

Total Spent: $788.59

Not too bad considering the large storage pieces!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Our new house: Adult living room

As I mentioned in my last post we are officially all moved in to our new house! I am thrilled to have the move and the unpacking all behind us. As a military family this was our 9th move in 10yrs of service. I however think this was the hardest because it was the first one in 10yrs that didn't have professional movers doing all the heavy lifting!

The new house has 7 rooms on the ground floor and 6 rooms on the second floor. I decided to use the same color scheme throughout the ground floor for uniformity and started with the adult's living room.  I based the entire downstairs color scheme off of the fabric for the curtains. I had found these amazing panels on that I fell in love with instantly. The price........not so much. They were $450 for *ONE* window. There are 4 windows in the adult living room! No way I could swing that kind of price. I was heartbroken but knew that if an item was on etsy the fabric had to available commercially. So I spent about 1 hour looking through fabric choices on several different online retailers. I almost screamed out loud when I found it! It is called Waverly Pom Pom Play Spa and sales for $8 a yard! I needed 2yards per window, so total cost came in at $64 for curtains that I adore!

From there it was pretty simple to decorate the downstairs. I chose a paint called silver sheen and did the entire downstairs  the same color leaving the white baseboard as it was. I love the effect of the silver and the white together.

Once the painting and the curtains were in place it was time for furniture.

 I decided due to the awkward layout of the room that I wanted two large chairs on either side of the fireplace instead of a sofa. I did some searching for the perfect chairs and was a bit flabbergasted at the prices of furniture these days. The last piece of furniture I bought was 8yrs ago at an Air Force base in England. Times sure have changed! The cheapest I could find for the chair I wanted in a local store was $800 PER CHAIR! No way I could swing that! I decided to search on and see what options they had and sure enough they had the perfect chairs for $350! I ordered 2 chairs for $700, that is $100 less than one chair from a local store.

While I was on ikea's website I decided to look for an entertainment center and some floating shelves. I found this metal locker system with keyed doors that was perfect for the space (and for keeping little fingers off of our electronics). Along with these big chunky floating shelves for displaying all our pictures and my father-in-laws flag.
Add in a few bits and pieces from walmart like the $15 storage ottomans and the $20 metal wall hanging over the fireplace and the room was starting to come together. I found however that I really wanted some side tables for beside the chairs. I wasn't seeing anything I liked so I went to our local Amish furniture market and found these unfinished tables for $40 per table. I painted the legs white and stained and sealed the tops for a cute little table.

I really love the way the entire room came together and can't help but to smile every time I walk in to the room.

Total cost for the entire room: $1,134

Which just happens to be $766 LESS than the cost of the pre-made curtains I was drooling over to start with!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A crazy two months!

Things in our household have been crazy busy! The first week of July my husband came home and announced that he had given our 30 day notice for our current house. This was beyond stressful for me since we had been looking for a new house for 6mths and had no where lined up to move to at the end of the month. My husband felt that the company that owned the house we were living in was behaving unethically and he felt he needed to make a moral stand against their practices. He refused to give them even one months more rent. We obviously went in to overdrive looking for a new house and did a lot of praying during this time period. I spent a bit of time every day looking at the online housing listings and trying desperately to find something that would work for our family.

 One day towards the middle of July I saw a listing that looked familiar. It was a house that we had very much loved on paper a few months before but that we were unable to view  in person due to the one and only open house being on the date my husband graduated with his Associates Degree in Avionic systems. Obviously we felt the children seeing their father get the degree he had been working on for so long trumped looking at a house. We were a bit shocked to see it listed again since we knew that someone signed a lease at the open house. When my husband call to set up a meeting he found out that the perspective tenant that had signed the lease had had his orders resended and wasn't moving to the area after all.

We arranged to have a look at the house and after seeing it felt it was a perfect fit for our family. It obviously helped that we were about to be homeless!

We moved in officially August 1st and have spent the last three weeks getting everything unpacked and settled in. While moving boxes during the move I managed to injure my back and be placed on bedrest for a week. I was VERY lucky that I am healing on my own and having physical therapy 3 times a week is helping the process along quite nicely. I am hoping to be back at 100% soon.

We have finally unpacked the last box and the house is finally feeling like home. We gained double the square feet, a two car garage (had none before), a basement (had none before), and a massive yard. We are in a quite country location and my kids are thrilled with the wildlife surrounding us. As I sit here on our back deck writing this post I just had a humming bird come say hello. We have a deer that likes to stand in our front flower beds and eat our plants (obviously less thrilled about this), frogs, chipmunks, etc.

It has been an adventure to say the least!


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