Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Feeding a Picky Eater


I have mentioned a few times recently about my 1 year old becoming a bit picky as an eater. I have some struggles with this, as I have often thought to myself that a kid will eat what you give him/her and if you don't try new things or always give them the animal crackers they ask for or give in too easily, then it becomes more of a parenting issue than a kid issue. At this stage, my son has to get his food from me (since he can't get it for himself yet) so it is up to me to get him a variety of healthy foods in his diet. And he was doing amazing at eating lots of variety and at trying new things, until about a month or so ago.
He started this thing where he would clinch his mouth as a new food was coming toward him, allow it to touch his lips, and then make a nasty face as if it was the worst thing in the world (even though it never made it into his mouth!). I think Thanksgiving was the first we tried some new foods, got this new response, but were determined to not let him make the decisions about what he was eating. We tried the same foods about three times throughout the day, never offering another option. He never took them. He had some milk, and went to bed fine that night. When he woke up the next day (hungry for sure) he ate all the same foods he had refused the day before.
This is when I decided I would try any new foods (and also foods he was not as excited about) first thing in the morning. This has worked great!
I have also decided that I am not giving up on getting new and different foods into his diet, but I have decided that I will make healthier versions of some of his favorite foods (like oatmeal) and will add ingredients he wouldn't normally eat into foods that look more familiar (like muffins and pancakes). In this way I still feel like I am the one in charge of what he is eating, I still do not offer alternatives if he refuses to try something, and I feel that he is getting a wider variety of foods without making every meal a fight.
So, the lessons I have learned and tips I would share (and I am happy to accept other tips and lessons learned):
1. Try the less exciting foods in the morning.
2. Hide the foods I want to save for later in the day or special occasions (he loves bananas SO much, but once he sees them he won't eat anything else!)
3. Add new and different fruits to yogurt since they become slightly hidden, but also get eaten in the mix with a favorite food.
4. Add more fruits, proteins and vegetables to foods that seem more familiar but include different ingredients: oatmeal from scratch, muffins with fruits/vegetables, pancakes with fruits/proteins, breads with fruits/grains, etc.
5. Don't give in and offer alternatives when he won't try something new or makes a face. I keep trying the same food at another time, but know that if I back down and offer a favorite after he rejects something, we will quickly learn this easy pattern in how to get what he wants and then he will be in charge.
This is what Works For Me. For more great ideas and posts, check out We Are That Family.
What have you learned in feeding a toddler? What other things can I try as my toddler continues to grow and as I am planning for my next son who will join us in a few short weeks?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

I wrote here about some of my struggles with finding healthy foods my baby will eat. Foods that may seem like ones he is used to and has become partial to, but ones that contain a healthier and wider variety of ingredients. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Excited for the challenge, nervous to make food that could possibly not be eaten. But alas, success!!



I found a recipe for apple and cheese pancakes. I knew my son would eat pancakes, and this version has main ingredients of apple and cottage cheese. A bit healthier and getting some fruit, calcium, and protein (and no sugar) at the same time! Unfortunately, I didn't write down where the recipe came from, but have it on hand if you are interested.






I found another recipe called "easy baked oatmeal" that I made today. Again, success! I have been using packaged oatmeal because it is quick and simple and fairly inexpensive, but wanted to find something similar that I could have on hand and would have better ingredients for my son. I was excited for the oats, wheat germ and flaxseed especially. It was thinner than I imagined, but turned out quite well when I reheated a little and then added some milk (for softness and for cooling it for son) and cinnamon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - December 28


A little late with posting, but thankfully I did actually get up early yesterday to plan this week. Which made it possible for me to get to the store last night after my husband got home so I could purchase everything and be ready.
We just got back from a few days visiting relatives for the holidays and now it is time to get back on track with eating healthy, simple meals regularly.
My son recently turned 1 and with that is entering a picky eating stage. This makes it a little more challenging than just cooking for all of us, but has also been a fun challenge for me to find things he likes to eat (like pancakes) and find recipes that add main ingredients I would want him eating more of, like fruits, vegetables and proteins.
Although I am trying to "get us back on track" my husband is out a couple of evenings this week, we have a New Year's Day party to go to on Friday, and I still have a few random things in the freezer to eat before I can start restocking...so, it is still a light week here for food planning.

Apple Cheese Pancakes: I made these for my son today and he tried to turn his nose up at first and spit it out, but once I let him feed himself, he made his "I love these" noises and ate 1 and a half! success!! Unfortunately I do not remember where I found the recipe (I need to get better at tracking this info) but I have the recipe and will post my success story soon.

Easy Baked Oatmeal: My son loooooves his oatmeal, and this will be my attempt at making a healthier, cheaper, more filling version of the dish. Fingers crossed...

Pear Oven Pancake: Making this one for a breakfast meeting.

Creamy Corn Chowder: It's been very cold lately and this will be a warm and comforting meal a couple of nights this week.

Cabbage Sloppy Joes: I like an easy lunch that is also healthy and I'm excited to try this version that has cabbage in it.

Thai Appetizer Pizza: This one is to take to the New Year's party.

Also bought extra fruits and vegetables that both looked good and were on special this week. Trying to make this a very healthy week going into the new year!

What's on your menu this week? Need even more ideas? Head over to orjunkie.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - December 14


I've got to get back on track!
We've been eating out of our freezer A LOT the past couple of weeks since our main freezer broke and we've needed to get the freezer cleaned out some to make room for normal everyday use...but now it's time to really start cooking again. And I am ready! I have a new desire and excitement when looking for recipes since I have a toddler who is starting to eat more of what we are eating and this makes cooking for all of us more fun. Also, my husband has been having a huge problem with heartburn and I know we could eat even healthier than we already do sometimes, but this makes it even more important that we are eating foods that are good for his stomach.

Spinach Tortellini Soup I've made this once before (it freezes great!) and it was delicious.
Making this Chicken Tortilla Bake when we have company over next weekend.
Cheese and Spinach Tart with Glazed Carrots (found this recipe in the January 2010 issue of Parents magazine, but can't seem to find it online to link to it)
A Pea and Potato Soup made similar to the recipes given here (to have some extra easy food on hand for my son).
Making this Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole for a meeting.
Trying out this Pumpkin Cake recipe on some company next weekend.
Some other snacks/breakfast foods I plan on making to have on hand for all of us, but mostly for my son: Lemon Yogurt Snack Cake, Banana Oat Muffins, and Applesauce Muffins.

For even more great menu ideas, head on over to orgjunkie.com.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 30


Head on over to Laura's site for some great menu ideas for this week!
Today is a somewhat sad day in my menu planning arena. Simple. But sad.
Over the weekend I went to grab some baby food from by deep freezer to add to my freezer upstairs for convenience. When I did this I realized that the food (the applesauce I was grabbing) was mostly thawed! Bummer! Not sure how long it had been, not sure if things had been thawed and were refreezing or was in the process of thawing for the first time. The weird thing is there were some things that were still solid frozen. Those things were the only things I was willing to keep. Sadly, I dumped a lot of food this past weekend, voting for safety and security over the time and money spent on the food. What a sad weekend. Still not sure what is wrong with the freezer. We emptied it all out (salvaging the little we could in out normal freezer) turned it off to defrost it and turned it back on to see if anything had changed. It is cold. But more like a refrigerator than a freezer.
So this week we will be eating the things we were able to salvage. I had just gotten myself all pumped and found a bunch of recipes for a cooking/baking day to get my freezer stocked, and now I am doing the opposite. Just thankful I had not already done that big stocking the freezer day yet!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Colorful Yard Sale Trip!

My excitement is not conveyed well by the fact that it has taken me 4 days to post some of my pics from a recent trip I took to some great yard sales. I was afraid the best of the season was done, but I was wrong and very glad I ventured out...even with my 11 month old in tow.
I love to find bigger yard sales, like ones that churches or other organizations put on since there is a bigger selection and I can almost always find something! This past weekend was no exception.

A stool that matches my son's room colors.
A toy box (bought this past summer at a yard sale) full of large sized legos.
My son's new FAVorite bath toys! He keeps one in his mouth and one in each hand pretty much the whole bath. And he likes to stay in a lot longer than he used to. And yes, our house is old and we have a blue tub!
An assortment of other colorful toys, not all of which are pictured, but all of which have been very exciting to my son! About a million of the rings to attach things to other things (will be great for the next little one as well), noise makers, mirrors, etc...
I got all of the above (including the toy box from last summer) plus some of the toys that are in bags and in the car already, for $11. I think this is great! Some people would spend $11 on any ONE of those items, but I got them all, plus some, plus I know I will get more use out of all of it since I am having another boy in March.

On top of these buys for my son, I also stopped by a yard sale that was put on by a younger couple and I got 3 nice shirts and two very new looking purses for a total of $5. It was a great morning for both of us!
Cheers for great buys!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 16


I'm a little ahead of things these week as I have already done my shopping! I've got some meetings this week that involve meals and I wanted to get a head start. Feels Good!

Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie

Cauliflower Mac 'n' Cheese I'm going to add some cooked chicken and make it a meal instead of a side dish.

Citrus Salad with Bacon and Red Onion

French Toast Sandwiches I've made these before and they are wonderful! I have made them with the eggnog and also with soy milk. They are good either way, but the eggnog definitely adds some good extra flavor.

I haven't decided if I am going to make this recipe this week or not. I got all the ingredients at the store to make for a friend that loves pumpkin and is coming over, but then I saw pumpkin flavored ice cream and bought that too. Either way, I will make it soon and I am excited for it!
Crunchy Pumpkin Dessert Squares

It's gonna be a good week for food! Head on over here for even more great ideas!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 9


I have been a slacker with making meal plans the last couple of weeks. Our nights have been busier and it has been easier (and more expensive!) to eat out on the go. Gotta stop the madness!

Monday: Lasagna Stoup
Tuesday: Cincinnati Chili (I am all about finding the BEST chili recipe this year!)
Wednesday: Quick dinner on the go, not sure what yet.
Thursday: Possible we will be out of town for dinner, but if not, Creamy Potato Soup it is
Friday: Most likely leftovers from the week
Saturday: Another possibility that we will be out of town for dinner (we are in the playoffs for High School volleyball and it is all dependent on how far we make it now). If we are in town, I think we might make some burgers.
Special Breakfast: Cheddar and Chile Egg Casserole and Mini Spiced Pumpkin Muffins
Special Treat: Apple Pie

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crockpot Wednesday

I am linking to Crockpot Wednesday over at Dining with Debbie today.
I love using my crockpot. I love it in the summer so it doesn't heat up my kitchen too much, but I also love it this time of year for making simple soups that can simmer and blend all day, creating an aroma that gets me very excited to eat dinner!
One of my more recent favorites comes from Stephanie from A Year of Slowcooking: Creamy White Bean and Apple Chili. A great way to use some extra apples that were picked at the festival and a great blend of flavors!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - October 26


I have been slacking about posting my menu plans, but luckily I have not been totally slacking in creating them. The weather has been perfect here for soups and that is most of what I have been making lately. There are some great recipes to allow the slow cooker to do all the work, and soup is also very easy to send to work with my husband! Plus my son has been able to eat some of them with us too!!
So, for this week, my husband will be making his favorite chili recipe call Quick Turkey Chili.
Also trying this Apple-stuffed Chicken recipe with a few apples I have from picking a while back. And we have fresh green beans from our garden to go with it, just like the picture scrumptiously depicts.
Also making a Cheesy Broccoli and Potato Soup that we will all be able to eat. Includes onions, potato, broccoli, vegetable stock and monterey jack cheese. Can't remember which magazine I cut the recipe out of.
And, finally, making a creamy chicken noodle soup. I just go by memory with this one, but includes water, chicken bouillon cubes, pasta, chicken and sour cream, and it is very delicious!

Head on over to orgjunkie.com for more great menu plans and ideas!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - October 12


Fall is officially here. We have turned our heat on, set to kick in when the house gets below 65 degrees. It kicked in this afternoon...And with fall comes even more excitement for making soup!

Sunday: we had leftover pizza we bought on Saturday (after returning from a trip to Atlanta and not wanting to cook) from Sam's.

Monday: My favorite homemade chicken fingers (that I pulled out of the freezer to make a fast meal) and some fresh green beans from the garden. Love having a garden!

Tuesday: I made this Carrot Mac and Cheese a while back and froze an extra portion. Very exciting for me this week since I haven't made it to the store yet after our trip. And it was good. I am also excited about being able to share some with my son this time around.

Wednesday: Lasagna Stoup. I haven't tried this one yet, but looks simple and delicious!

Thursday: Slow-cooker Turkey Chili. I have not had this one before but chili sounds really good right now, and so does leaving it in the crockpot to cook!

Friday: Leftovers from the week.

Saturday: Tomato Soup and grilled cheese.

Check out Orgjunkie.com for more great ideas on meals this week!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Drugstore Deals and Fears...

It has been a LONG time since I have shopped at CVS or Walgreens. I got to a point where I was very good at finding the deals, cutting the coupons, printing the coupons, making my scenarios and getting great deals!! But then it seemed for a while that there just weren't deals worth spending the time and money on. I have still looked each week to see what I could maybe get for the littlest amount of money, but after I let my RR and ECB's run out so that I wasn't rolling them anymore, I was even more picky about the deals, since I would HAVE to start by spending money no matter what.
SO...
I recently made my first trip (in a LONG time) to Walgreens...and I felt like a newbie all over again. I was diligent but nervous. I was excited about the deals, but afraid I would not find what I needed for my scenarios. I was going at a late hour so there wouldn't be as many people, but was still holding up the line...
To my surprise and delight, I found everything in my scenarios except 1 item. This threw me off a little bit, but not too much...BUT...unfortunately I forgot one of the basic, and yet very important, rules of Walgreens. Coupon to item ratio! I forgot to plan for this! How could I forget? I used to have this all down to a science, and now I am forgetting the basic steps! And the rough thing about this part is that they do not have the clearance items up by the registers!
SO...
I ended up spending more than I planned and more than I would have liked, but felt like I did better than my actual first time ever doing this. The cashier wasn't a helpful one through my forgetfulness, but I got through it, and got some nice items...and some RR to hopefully roll...

The candies became my filler items as I quickly went back into the store (between transactions when I realized my epic failure) and tried to find the cheapest items available. The blowpops were on clearance for .32 for the bunches, so I was pleased with this. As for the other items:

Vaseline Sheer Infusion Lotion 6.8oz @ $6.99, Get $6.99 in Register Rewards (did 2 of these)
Use $1.50/1 coupon HERE (IE) or HERE (FF)
Pay $5.49 out of pocket
Get back $7 in RRs (they round up)

Gillette Fusion MVP Manual or Power Razor System @ $8.99, Get $6 in Register Rewards
Use $4/1 coupon from the 9/27 P&G
Pay $4.99 out of pocket
Get back $6 in RRs

Halls Refresh Sugar Free 20 ct @ $1, Get $1 in Register Rewards
Use 75¢/1 coupon from the 9/27 SS
Pay 25¢ out of pocket
Get back $1 in RRs

Oral-B Advantage 1-2-3 Toothbrush @ $3, Get $3 in Register Rewards
Use 75
¢/1 coupon from the 9/27 P&G
Pay $2.25 out of pocket
Get back $3 in RRs

Herbal Essences Hair Care @ $2.99, Get $2 in Register Rewards
Pay $2.99 out of pocket
Get back $2 in RRs

Chapstick Fresh Effects @ $2.99, Get $3 in Register Rewards

The only thing I didn't find? Robitussin DM To Go 2 pk @ $2.49, Get $2.49 in Register Rewards

So, I did 4 transactions and ended up spending $9.74 out of pocket (would have liked to have kept this under $5) and got back $11 in RRs for next time. Hopefully next time goes more smoothly!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Doing the Dishes


I am not a fan.
It is not my least favorite thing to do. But I am still not a fan!
It's been a while since my husband and I made any kind of "rule" on this. What we've normally done is "try" to put things in the dishwasher right away (I try, and I try to make my husband) and then when it gets full run it. Then husband puts away clean dishes and I load it with anything that has had to wait in the sink while it is running.
This has failed us. Between work, coaching volleyball, having an infant, and me being pregnant, this has just not worked. We have ended up going days with clean dishes that have not been put away and a sink full of dirty dishes. We don't always give in until the sink is so full we can't do anything else with it. And this is with having other people at our house for various meetings and babysitting.
Unacceptable!
So, my husband came up with a new "rule" and thus far I am very excited about it!
We will not go to bed with ANY unfinished dishes! If the dishwasher is running then we need to wash any other dishes that could not fit in it. The sink is clean when we go to bed. And when we wake up. And this is a very nice, very freeing feeling! It's working!
This is what's working for us right now. Head on over here to find out more great tips on what's working for others.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yard Sale Find

It's been a while since I had any good yard sale finds...but this past weekend I scored!
It was my last stop, and was not on my list of places I was even headed. I was frustrated about a house I struggled to find (and then realized was not a good one at all!) and saw one more sign that made me want to stop.
There were lots of bricks, a few pieces of furniture, lots of books, etc. But a little coffee table got my attention. We have often thought it would be nice to have one, both for us and for our son who is learning to walk so he can have more in the living room to practice standing/walking. Then I saw the price tag. A joke? Only $5? Must be something terribly wrong. Must be weak, or maybe I am not seeing a crack or the damage that it has? I lift it a little to see if it is really light and flimsy. Nope. It's actually pretty heavy duty! Really, only $5?
Call husband to see if he is ok with it, then try to figure out how in the world I might get it home. I have my car with me (and I don't know if it would have fit if my car were totally empty) and forgot to take things out before I left the house, so the trunk was packed full, the back seat had the car seat and base, plus some car toys and a toy box I bought at another house...yeah, not so much room.
Maybe I should just forget about it?
Not meant to be?
Maybe I'll ask the owners and see if I could possibly come back later to get it?
Score! Hand over my $5 bill and I am on my way to go find a bigger vehicle to borrow. And I am SO glad I got it. Still can't believe it was only $5, and that I almost didn't even get it!

The clear plastic corner pieces were added by us as precaution for our little guy. It fits nicely, it's a good height for the little one, and it is nice to have something to put our feet on after a long, hard day!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - September 14


I have had high ambitions each week for the past month or so to really get cooking! I fin great recipes, sometimes I even get ambitious and get the ingredients...but finding the time...and energy to make these meals seems to slip right by. My husband has been great at helping with some of them, or helping to come up with quick alternatives (since we get home around 7 most evenings, spend time putting the kiddo to bed, and then have nothing left for ourselves...).
Today seems to be no different. I spent some time yesterday watching football and picking out recipes that look good and easy...but I have not taken further steps to make these meals happen. It doesn't help that I am 14 weeks pregnant with little energy and at times little desire for food. And it doesn't help that I woke up with a sore throat and running nose...just what I need right now! More excuses to not get things done!!
So, alas, though I would love to be making soup all week because it sounds good and the weather is getting a bit cooler...I don't have all my recipes and ingredients quite ready to go yet...thus, my life at the moment... I think I'll go see what's in the freezer...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Meal Update

I did find a little motivation tucked down deep the other day. I picked some recipes, made sure of what we have going on in the next couple of weeks, planned my trip and even took my 8 month old with me. The one thing I would change about taking him with me? I would make a cart that allows him to sit facing where I am going. He doesn't want to look at ME while I am shopping! He is constantly trying to turn around and look at where we are going and what I am doing when I am getting stuff off the shelves. Why don't they make legs holes going the other direction...at least as an option??

Yesterday I thawed out some chicken I had in the freezer and cooked it in the slow cooker with a bbq mixture. When it was done, I shredded the meat and we now have chicken bbq for sandwiches for lunch for a few days.

For a breakfast meeting this morning I made Sausage and Cheese Crescent Squares. Simple and delicious!

Tonight for dinner we are going to have this Oh-So-Easy Tomato Cream Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. The weather has cooled off a little here, very much on the way to truly being Fall, and I am very excited to start making more soups again!

Tomorrow I am going to make these Apple, Cheddar and Turkey Meatballs (I have made them before and they were great!) to have a few but mostly add to my freezer stockpile that has been depleting lately.

If I stay ambitious tomorrow, I am also going to make these Flaxseed Morning Glory Muffins to have in the freezer. They are really healthy, but they are really good too!

Hopefully this new motivation sticks for a few days so I can get all this made like I have planned. And with the holiday weekend I don't need meals planned as we will be away. Yay!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Organizational Bliss or Doom?


I am often told I am a very organized person.
And I would often describe myself this way.
But I don't really think I am.

Clue #1
I work mostly from home, but do go into the office once a week. This means that most things that I use on a regular basis or still need to do follow-up with are kept in my computer bag that is always around the house and also goes in with me. I have a folder in that bag labeled "follow up needed." As I currently look through it, there are things from spring still in there...What if I need it tomorrow? What if someone asks me a question about it I was not expecting? What if's keep the things in my bag growing...

Clue #2
If you ask me a question about something I have on my computer, I may "know" exactly where it is, but it may take me a while to find it. I remember doing it, or taking notes on it, but then not sure where I put it from there. If there is something I need to get to on a regular basis, I keep it on my desktop for ease...but as I keep adding things, the "ease" of finding things starts to wane.

Clue #3
I know there is something I am supposed to do this month to change my voice-mail on my phone since my cell phone company got bought by another...just can't find that piece of paper that told me what I needed to do...

Clue #4
There are random papers, receipts, folders, magazines, etc, etc, all around the house. Piles here and there of papers that I have kept for some reason, and although I am not sure of the reason anymore, I know there was an original reason, so I am not sure about trashing them just yet...

Clue #5
It was so easy to come up with the first 4 clues...I'm afraid if I allow myself more time on the subject I may start to think I am really not organized at all...

I know I need to start small. I know I need to start with the non-essentials and just start getting rid of things. I know that I need to de-clutter more often. I know I want my house, car, and work environment to be more minimalistic and organized. I just need to do these things now. If you have any great tips on how to get motivated, I think that is what I am lacking in most right now. That, and maybe a little better understanding of what it really means to be organized!

To read about people who really do have great ideas about organizing (I may spend the rest of my day reading) head on over here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Meal Plan......

Right about now is when I should be double checking my plans for the week, double checking my recipes to see what else I need to get, and finalizing all meals for this week.
I am slightly uninspired to do this at the moment.
But I am slightly inspired to try and see what all we can make from things we already have on hand. Don't know how long this will last, but my husband is great because it gives him a challenge, and he is great because he is willing to make things up and try new things!
We started today with an amazing potato leek soup, and I'll let you know how the rest of the week turns out. Got any great "pantry" recipes to get my mind wandering?

"Pantry" Soup


I don't think I am always the best at figuring out things that I have on-hand and making them into something delicious.
The internet helps.
And my husband is great!
We had some leftover potatoes and leeks from a meal I made for my son, some homemade broth from roasting a whole chicken a while back, and some other simple ingredients that are normally around the house.
The result? A delicious Potato Leek Soup!
Tasty, Frugal, and Simple!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - August 23


Once again, as I look ahead to make sure I have all our meals planned for the week, I quickly realize that tonight is our only night without something going on...makes it hard for making and planning meals...
I am also quickly realizing that I need better on-the-go options for us, better than a turkey or PBJ sandwich in the car. I am thinking about reversing our meals, making lunch a bigger meal for us like I would normally do for dinner, and make dinner more like a lunch meal, and more mobile. I just haven't totally figured out the more mobile meals. I would LOVE feedback and ideas if you have some great "road" food for your family!!!
Also, once again, we did not get to all our meals I had planned for last week (and I am way OK with this since it is keeping my grocery budget low this month!!).

Monday: We never got to the cashew chicken from last week, so hoping to make it tonight and then have for lunches one day this week.

Tuesday-Saturday: Still trying to figure out lunches vs. dinners and how to eat on the go a lot. I am making egg salad for sandwiches, making a cold pea salad I did not get to last week, and may also make this pasta salad.

Friday: I am having people over and still deciding on a finger food to share with the gang (instead of one big meal).

I did make the pork and apple curry last week and my husband and I loved it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Week of August 16


Last week ended up being a great week of food! We ate out once (but it was paid for, the best!) and stretched our meals great! My husband has always been the type that if a meal is good, he will continue going back for more until he is stuffed. But he has been trying to eat more healthfully lately, and thus it is working out better to portion out the meals before we eat, knowing that we will have a certain amount and we will have leftovers! It is working to stretch our meals.

Sunday: Leftover Raspberry Chicken with green beans
Took the leftover chicken, topped it will homemade basil pesto and melted mozzarella cheese. So good. And had a side of green beans from our garden, sauteed with onions, salt and pepper in a little almond oil (out of olive from making the pesto) and they were so good! Great dinner created and prepared by my husband!

Monday: Cashew Chicken (not sure if i will find the hoisin sauce, so not sure what i will substitute if not)

Tuesday: Will be at the gym from 4 pm on for multiple scrimmages and will have to take a sandwich or grab some pizza at the concession stand. Sandwich will be healthier, but will also take more planning....

Wednesday: On the go between volleyball and Small groups. Not sure what I will do for this yet. I need better on-the-go dinner options without considering fast food an option.

Thursday: Slow-Cooker Pork and Apple Curry

Friday: Pasta with fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella

I'm also planning to make this cold pea salad to go with some of the meals and/or lunches.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gradual Shift to Drinking Water


My husband made the comment this morning "So, I guess we've totally stopped drinking crystal light, huh?" "Yeah, pretty much. Water seems to be working fine for me, how about you?" "Yep. Wow, how much are we saving now?"

This has been a gradual process for us. I wrote another WFMW post about simplifying. One thing I mentioned was having less drink mixes in the house. I was just trying to reduce clutter and use space better then. But as I started this process, I also started paying a little more attention to just how much we were spending on drink mixes. Not the name brand kind even, we just liked flavored water, and drank A LOT of it! We would make pitchers of it, and could easily go through 2-3 pitchers a day, if not more! And we would have the smaller packets to mix into water bottles when we were out. And these are even more expensive, comparitively.

So, I stopped buying the stuff. Cold turkey. But we had enough of a stock that it took us a while to make it through. We began to get more conservative on how often we would drink the flavored water. We started mixing in drinking more water on some days, and more flavored on other days...

And then, all of a sudden, we were ok with just drinking water. I don't know how long it has been. At least a couple of weeks. And the conversation just came up. It's healthy, easy, takes up less space in our cabinets and our fridge, and costs MUCH less!

It worked for us to make it a gradual, non-shocking process, and it's working for us to drink more plain water. What works for you? Head on over here to find more great success stories!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - August 9

The weeks seem to be flying by way too fast lately. We are full swing back into volleyball season, making our days, and weeks get away from us quickly. We are not getting home most nights until around 7, and this leaves us just a few minutes to get the little one bathed and in bed. And then we want something quick to eat for dinner. Quick, but not take out, or boxed, or unhealthy...This can be tricky, but seems to be going well. At least week 1 did. And speaking of week 1, the Thai Chicken with Basil was awesome!!

Sunday: We were at a pool party and had hotdogs, chips, brownies, etc.

Monday: Dinner on the go for husband, quick sandwich for me.

Tuesday: Grilled Raspberry Chicken, corn on the cob

Wednesday: Dinner on the go between volleyball and church group

Thursday: We will have to eat out or pack sandwiches since we will be at the gym for pictures and a game from about 3-9

Friday: Turkey Cabbage Bake

Saturday: Leftovers

I didn't realize it was such a crazy, on-the-go week until I wrote it. Meal planning definitely helps!! It's nice to see the big picture, even if it is a little bleak this week.

For more great menus and ideas, head on over to visit Laura.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - August 2


I am sorry that I have been MIA for a bit now. I hadn't noticed quite how long it had been until I looked at the date of my last post. Last week I didn't have much of a menu. I pulled some stuff from the freezer, made a dish from the pantry, and the rest was provided for us at a volleyball camp we were working. Yep, volleyball is now officially in session (although it never seems to actually end) so life will only get busier around here. But we love, and that's why we do it!
So, for this week, with volleyball tryouts and practices not ending until 630 at night and likely not getting home until 7 or 730, I am trying to make meals that are VERY quick, or that can be prepared ahead of time.

Monday: Garlic Zucchini Pasta, sliced tomatoes (from mom's garden!!)

Tuesday: Thai Chicken with Basil, Fresh corn salad (sour cream, worcestershire, salt, corn, red pepper, green onions)

Wednesday: Crock Pot Applesauce Chicken, rice, green beans

Thursday: Sloppy Joes (good and simple, but don't remember where the recipe is from), Corn salad (from above)

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: More Leftovers or Pizza

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ways we are saving money


Since March, my husband and I have really been trying to spend less/save more money. We have done the usual:
But there are also some more "outside of the box" things we have been working on that have really helped. I know I am not the first to come up with these, but they are simple and small things that can easily be overlooked, but can make a big impact!
  • homemade dish detergent
  • using the dishwasher less. it has been easy in the past to just throw everything in. and it has been easy in the past to run 2 loads a day. with just 2 of us! that had to stop! we are better about washing bigger things and things that were hardly used, things that are just easier to wipe clean in the same amount of time as rinsing and loading.
  • using washcloths instead of paper towels to clean messes
  • recycling (this saves money because we do not have to take our trash to the curb as often)
  • composting (same as above, as well as both being environmentally friendly)
  • using a deep freezer to cook in bulk and stockpile foods when they are on special.
  • reusing paper towels. we do still have them on hand, and I like to wash and dry fresh lettuce before making a salad. then I dry the towels and use them a few days later when I get more lettuce from the garden.
  • reusing dryer sheets for dusting
  • making my own baby food
Things I have thought about doing to save money, but am not totally convinced yet to do (I do believe that time and effort equal money too):
  • cloth diapering
  • drying clothes outside on lines
  • making all my food from scratch

WFMW - Homemade Dish Detergent


So, I have only used this twice, but I am really excited about it. And impressed.
I don't remember now where I found this recipe. I looked for a while at different recipes and feedback before deciding on this one. I think it originally called for Super Washing Soda, but I haven't found this anywhere yet, so I used plain old baking soda*.

The ingredients:
Baking Soda*
20 Mule Team Borax
Distilled White Vinegar

The first time I simply added 1 Tbsp of each powder to the dispenser (wasn't sure if I wanted to make a batch before I had tried it out for myself) and about a Tbsp of vinegar for the rinse cycle. I was expecting things to be dirty and cloudy, and was thinking I may have to make a fast run to the store to get the old faithful liquid detergent. But alas, I was pleasantly surprised!

Then I made a batch to have ready in a container so I wouldn't have to go around and find each ingredient to add. The second time I just added 2 Tbsp of my mix and the vinegar to the rinse cycle. This time I had left a few things in with a little more built-on mess to test the power. It is good, it is not super. There was a little residue on the things that had more set-on dirt when they went in.
Lesson: Rinse a little better before adding to the dishwasher.
Why I am OK with this: I find that rinsing a little more than usual doesn't take much longer, and often means that I have cleaned the dish well enough to set out to dry, thus making my time between running cycles even longer. Even less detergent I have to use.

This helps me to be more frugal. And environmental. And "Martha." I feel like a better wife and mother and homemaker!
This is what works for me. For more great ideas on what works for others, head on over HERE.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bananas for Baby Food


Bananas are so cheap!
Especially when they are a little older at the store and they get marked down even more. That is a good time to buy them for baking. And for baby food.
Last time I saw some like this I bought a bunch, brought them home, and broke them up into smaller pieces and froze them on baking sheets before putting them in baggies to store in the freezer for future use.
Now all I have to do is pull out the amount I want, let them thaw a little or put them in a warmer, mash them and serve them.
Simple. Cheap. Good!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gardening is Easy and Good!

This has been our first year trying to grow a garden. It has been a nice, rainy spring and summer, and this has helped our crop greatly! I have not been good about posting updates and pictures, partly because it is all so good that I eat it and then think "I should have taken a picture of that first!"

Here is a picture of some of the produce we are getting about weekly now. Our garden is not huge, so it is not a ton of crop, but it is a good amount for us to get fresh salads and sides a few days a week without having to buy the ingredients!

The crop has been good, it has been nice to save, and it has been a productive experiment! Can't wait to keep getting more great food to eat!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - July 19


Got a little behind again this past week with meals. I guess it's a good thing, really, because that means the food I bought to last the month is stretching further than I thought it would. This is partly to recipes being bigger, but partly because of the great vegetables we are getting from our garden and from others. I thought I stuck fairly close to my menu, but now looking back, there were a lot of meals we never got to.

So, for this week...

Sunday: finally had the Sticky PB&J Wings They were good. Not too strong on the flavor, but good, and moist, and turned out great on the grill! And this was fabulous with some fresh green beans from our garden!
Monday: Lemon-and-Herb Pasta Salad I ran out of eggs on the day I was going to make this, and then ended up having enough food to last all week, so I am planning on making it tomorrow. Already boiled the eggs for it.
Tuesday: Long day at work. Cookout for lunch. Something simple for dinner. Maybe a BLT with fresh tomatoes from my mom's garden. Thanks Mom!
Wednesday: Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cheese Going to try again this week to get it in. Having company and I think it will be a nice, easy dish that will go well with salad from our garden!
Thursday-Saturday: Leftovers, Pizza, something from the garden, something from the freezer...whatever is easy and around the house already.

If you want more great menu ideas, head on over here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

FREE Starbucks Coffee and Pastry!!


First, I used to work at Starbucks. It took me a little bit to get used to the coffee. It wasn't bad, just a bit stronger than I was used to. That said, I am now a BIG fan of their coffee. To the point where I may be called a coffee snob. But as our budget would have it, I cannot continue to be a snob about it. So deals like this get me really excited!!

First, this coming Tuesday, July 21, Starbucks will be giving away a pastry when you buy a coffee. It doesn't have to be an expensive specialty drink, it can be plain old drip coffee. Print this coupon to take with you. But you might want to go early because it says it lasts until 10:30 am or until pastries are gone (at participating stores). And I have to say, they do have some great pastries. No bias! They're just good!

Also, go here to register for a chance to win free coffee for a year. And if you don't like Starbucks, feel free to still register to give me your prize if you are the winner!! Contest ends Sept 15.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Using a Whole Chicken

A while ago I posted about cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot. And I was SO excited! It smelled good, and tasted good, and it was so simple!!

Well, this time I decided to go even further with the chicken! After cooking it for about 8 hours in the slow cooker (making the house smell scrumptious!) I let it cool for just a bit. Then starting pulling off all the meat.

I put some of the meat into a soup that was on the stove-top waiting. I also had some more meat left over that will go great on a salad with the fresh lettuce from our garden!
Then I took everything else, everything that was left after I got the meat I wanted. Kinda gross, but my husband did this part, so that made it a little easier for me. All of that went into a pot, along with a bunch of celery leaves and a few stalks, a couple of whole (including the skins) onions, a couple of bay leaves, and water. I would have put in some carrots (unpeeled) but didn't have any left after my carrot mac and cheese and making baby food.

I brought all this to a boil, then turned it down and let it simmer for an hour or two (don't totally remember, didn't set a timer, just checked on it occasionally and then eventually decided it had been long enough).
Then poured it through a strainer so all the pieces and veggies and such would stay separate, of course! And poured and poured until I got all the broth out I could get.
I have these containers in the fridge for now. I will go back and scrape off the top (fatty part), then used some to make some homemade pea soup for my little one, some will go in the freezer for a later date, and some will stay in the fridge to have on hand.

SO, I got (A) meat for a soup (B) meat for salad (C) broth for pea soup (D) broth for the freezer (E) broth for now and (F) a wonderful feeling knowing that I did it all myself (with husband's help, of course) and made the best use of a whole chicken that I could! And the cost of all of this? The whole chicken was $3, the celery leave and inside stalks I probably would have thrown away otherwise, a few cents for the onions...by far under $5 for all of this!!

I'll post more about the pea soup later. For now, this is what works for me, head over to We Are THAT Family for more great ideas!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Week of July 12


Last week was a good week. Some meals that I made lasted longer than I had planned, thus stretching our food. We also went out to eat one night (graciously provided for us).
I just got to make the Carrot Macaroni and Cheese last night. It was really good, although my husband said it should not be classified as mac and cheese, since it wasn't ooey and gooey and cheesey. But it was good.
My favorite meal, though
, was the Creamy Slow-Cooker Chicken! It was fabulous!

Breakfasts
: Grilled Cheese-and-Chicken Sausage Waffles; cereal; homemade bread

Lunches: Lemon-and-Herb Pasta Salad; Chicken and White Bean Stew; Fresh Salad (from the garden)

Dinners: Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cheese; Turkey and Wild Rice Salad (I am planning to use chicken), Sticky PB&J Wings

Head on over to "I'm an Organizing Junkie" for more great meal ideas!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Homemade Baby Food is Cheaper!


I've been reminded again today why it is that I take a little extra time to make my own baby food for my infant. Not only do I know exactly what he is getting, but it is SO much cheaper!

I bought 2 lbs of carrots at Wal Mart for $1.66.

The whole process took me maybe 30 minutes (I don't count the time while the carrots were cooking and I could be doing other productive things).

I got about 40 oz of food out of this!

That is $.04 an oz! Can't buy pre-made food in the store at that price.

This is why I choose a little extra time in the kitchen. My son is worth it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

WFMW - Using Fewer paper towels


It is so easy to have a small spill in the kitchen, grab a paper towel, wipe it up and throw the towel away. As I have been on a journey to find simple, yet meaningful, ways to save money, I have found I can be very wasteful with paper towels...
So i bought a package of 18 plain, inexpensive white washcloths for about $4 at Wal Mart. And I bought 2 small painter's buckets for about $2 each.

In one of the buckets I add a little bit of Oxi Clean powder (you can use any cleaner you might want) and some water. I add a handful of washcloths and let them soak. Then, when I need to wipe up a spill or wipe down my counters, I just grab one that has been soaking. If the mess is not bad, I rinse off the cloth and put it back in to soak for next time.
If the job was a bit bigger and I do not want to add it back to my bucket o' clean water and Oxi Clean, I use my other bucket to hold the dirty ones until I wash them all in the laundry.
I store them both right under the sink, so they are accessible and ready to go. I still buy paper towels, but use them for things like getting the grease off the bacon before I eat it and drying out my fresh lettuce leaves that I have just washed to eat...

This is something I have found that works great for me and my family! We buy and use less paper towels (good for environment and our budget) and the cleaner is stretched a lot further when in the bucket o' water! For more great ideas, head on over o We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

June Budget Review

June was a good month!

It helped that we were out of town for a week (with meals fully provided!).

We didn't stick as strictly to our "no eating out" rule that we had in May, but we definitely limited the stops we made. I couldn't pass up the Wendy's BOGO coupon they had for the coffee toffee twisted frosty. But it was worth every penny!!

I battled with myself a bit in May about my spending percentage. Well, I didn't try real hard to focus on this in June, but my saving was up to 48%. I gave myself a reduced budget since we were out of town (instead of spending the same but stockpiling) and I did very good with this. We had plenty to eat, but by the end of the month I was getting pretty lazy. I found it easier to just pull pizza out of the freezer instead of getting creative with the things in my cupboards. Oh well. We all need a little break sometime, right?

All we have gotten from our garden so far is lettuce, basil and oregano. I have found some great prices on produce at Kroger to go with the salads, and we have also had lots of corn on the cob. It is very economical and so good!

Some simple goals for the rest of July:
continue eating out only on rare occasions and with coupons (or when it is paid for by others;))
get more of a stockpile of meat and meals in my freezer
making sure I find more deals on fruits and veggies so this isn't the first to go in our diet
continue making food for my dear son
provide more meals for others by taking meals to them or having people over

What are you doing this month to help save money?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Week of July 5


I have taken some time off. I have been away. I have been lazy. I have been unmotivated. But I am back and excited for some new recipes!!

Breakfast: Cereal, Muffins, apples, Farmer's Casserole (I have made this before. It is very good, and very easy to make more than one at a time and freeze for future use. Which is my plan. Thanks OAMM!)

Lunches: Fresh salad (from the garden mostly), Chicken Cabbage Soup, BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Dinners: Carrot Macaroni and Cheese, Creamy Slow-Cooker Chicken, maybe eating out with family in town?

I've got menus for all month ready to go and I'm ready to be back and motivated!! Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great menus!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lots and Lots of Chicken!!

A while back I found a good deal on chicken and I stocked up! I had just gotten my big freezer and needed to fill it up!!
I was slightly daunted by the fact that it was a lot of chicken, and I also wasn't used to buying chicken with the bone in, but I knew I wanted to make good use of it...eventually...
I used some of it to make some Raspberry Chicken, enough so that we had some the week I bought it, have had some since then, and there is still one more bag of it in the freezer. Very easy and great on the grill this time of year! Thanks OAMM!

In the mix of all the chicken I bought were 2 whole chickens! I have only bought chicken this way from the store...when it has already been roasted for me, and I want to shred it for something tasty on top of a salad or in a soup...I've never bought any meat whole before!

Well, after searching for a recipe (the easiest recipe I could possibly find) I landed back at my favorite crockpotting site for a simple-and what sounded like delicious-recipe!

So, I gave it a go last night. We have next to nothing in our fridge. I've been holding off for a new month, and some new motivation for planning and shopping. So, in the meantime, I decided it would be a good idea to have some chicken on hand for meals, and what better way than to let it cook itself all night long while I was in bed sleeping. Granted, it is a little weird to wake up and smell food cooking in the house, but I have used the crockpot before and gotten somewhat used to this.

When I came down in the morning, here is what I found.
MMMMM...smelled good...and even though it was only 7am I had to try a piece! Moist and delicious! It fell right off the bone, just like she had said it would! If It hadn't been 11 at night last night when I was putting it in to cook, I may have taken the skin off first since we don't normally eat it anyway (at least I try to not let my husband eat it!) and this would have put more flavor into the actual chicken. But I am very satisfied.

And. Even Better! I spent $3.02 on this chicken. Can't get a roasted chicken from any store at that price! Unless maybe it's been sitting out all day and it is cold and dry, but who wants a cold, dry chicken when you can have one that looks like this and tastes professionally done?! It really can't get much more simple than this!

WFMW - Favorite Summer Recipe


There is a special edition of Works For Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family today. It's the 'favorite summer recipe' edition, so hop on over here to get more great ideas!

I have a new favorite recipe, at least for right now, and it's great for summer. Once our garden really starts producing, I will be even more excited because most of the recipe will come from our back yard!

Tomato Cucumber Salad

2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
3 cups chopped fresh cucumbers (peeled)
1/4 cup chopped onions (can be green onions OR regular)
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon basil
2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice
Pinch of pepper
Dash of garlic salt
Instructions:

1. In mixing bowl, toss together tomatoes, cucumber, and onions.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the seasonings and lemon juice (or vinegar). Pour over cucumber and tomato mixture, and stir to coat. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

I've made it twice and loved it!! I can't wait to use my own tomatoes and cucumbers, and I am already using my own basil. I have used basil that has been dried from our garden, but I am going to try fresh next time. I have only tried it with the vinegar, but loved it. I have never actually measured the ingredients and it has turned out great anyways. I hate to dirty all the extra dishes and cause myself even more cleanup.

Hope you try it out soon, and let me know what you think, or what variation you might try!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Comparing the cost of baby food


My son is 6 months old and he is eating about 3-4 ouces, usually twice a day.
He has tried apples, bananas, cantaloupe, pears, peaches, avocado, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes.
So far, everything has been homemade, and I'd like to keep it that way as loooooong as possible. I do not want him to realize the other stuff might be sweeter. I don't want him to learn the taste of preservatives yet.
I have been asked a few times recently if it is really worth the time. And if it actually does cost less, all factors included. For me, yes.
I have worked hard to find deals on fruits and vegetables, to buy them when they are on sale, make a lot and freeze the extra. I am not worried about buying ALL things organic, but some I do (same with our food).
I have also spent time at different stores and on line checking into what it would cost to buy baby food jars (taking into account when sales happen and how coupons would factor into the equation). I've done my research and I'm convinced. Not just from the cost perspective, but also in knowing that I am aware of exactly what I am putting in his mouth, and at least for now, I have control over that (except all the things he gets his hands on and puts in there when I am not looking...).
Here is a look at my most recent food: sweet potatoes.
I got them at Wal Mart when they were $.93/lb. I bought 2.97 lbs for a cost of $2.76. I wasn't totally sure how they would go over, so I didn't buy more at the time, but most likely will next time I go back to the store.
My husband did much of the work this time as I was out on a run and getting ready for a meeting (yes, dads can help too!).
The potatoes cook for a little over an hour (just took a few minutes to clean them and wrap them in foil before cooking at 400 degrees for a little over an hour).
They cooled for a bit. This is all time to be multitasking...
He peeled the skins very easily, chopped a little bit, added them to the processor, added some water as needed, and pureed away!
I should get about 16 feedings (comparable to stage 2 jar size amount) out of what was made. This works out to be $.04 per ounce! That is truly unbeatable! And this has been my experience. Total amount of actual work time? Maybe 30 minutes (probably exaggerating a little long here, but just in case you are a bit slower than me, not likely, but just in case).

I don't know how sure he is about it just yet, but i think I might mix it with some apples to begin with since he really likes the apples and this should help to adjust it to his likes but still get the vegetables.
I DEFinitely recommend making your own food!