Southwest Baked Ravioli

Ravioli

By Liz

Don’t you love one pot dinners?  After a long week of homemaking and spending most of my Friday’s house cleaning in time for the weekend, this is my favorite way of cooking on a Friday night; the only thing that would beat it would obviously be take out.

However, if you are like me, having to use many dishes to prepare dinner on ANY night of the week, is too many. Any chance to cook a one pot meal is always a win in our house, because, let’s face it, dirty dishes are not anyone’s passion.

Here is a simple, cost effective, filling, one pot dish that was a big hit with my brood:

Southwest Baked Ravioli

Ingredients

16 ounce jar salsa, mild (or hot, depending on how you and your family like it)

10¾ ounce can tomato sauce

½ teaspoon ground cumin

28 ounce bag cheese ravioli, frozen

1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 ½ cups frozen corn

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

½ cup green onion (about 1 bunch), thinly sliced

2 cup sharp cheddar cheese or Mexican blend, shredded

Sour cream and fresh avocado chunks for topping (optional)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Mix salsa, tomato sauce and cumin together in a bowl.

3. Spread ½ cup of salsa sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 11 baking dish.

4. Layer frozen ravioli over the sauce.

5. Layer black beans and corn over the ravioli.

6. Pour remaining sauce over the black beans and corn.

7. Sprinkle cilantro and green onion over the sauce.

8. Layer cheeses on top.

9. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

10. Remove cover and bake for 5-10 minute more or until cheese has melted and begins to bubble.

11. Serve with a little sour cream, pico de gallo and avocado chunks.

Due to the size of my family of 7, I double this recipe when I make it, but the above should keep a family of 4 more than satisfied.

Enjoy the printable recipe card below and give it a try and let me know what you think.

<

Southwest Baked Ravioli
Serves 4
A Tex-Mex twist on an Italian favorite.
Write a review
Print
854 calories
86 g
111 g
44 g
37 g
22 g
703 g
1652 g
20 g
0 g
18 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
703g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 854
Calories from Fat 383
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 44g
67%
Saturated Fat 22g
111%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 15g
Cholesterol 111mg
37%
Sodium 1652mg
69%
Total Carbohydrates 86g
29%
Dietary Fiber 18g
70%
Sugars 20g
Protein 37g
Vitamin A
60%
Vitamin C
43%
Calcium
71%
Iron
34%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 16 ounce jar salsa, mild (or hot, depending on how you and your family like it)
  2. 10¾ ounce can tomato sauce
  3. ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  4. 28 ounce bag cheese ravioli, frozen
  5. 1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  6. 1 ½ cups frozen corn
  7. ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  8. ½ cup green onion (about 1 bunch), thinly sliced
  9. 2 cup sharp cheddar cheese or Mexican blend, shredded
  10. Sour cream and fresh avocado chunks for topping (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix salsa, tomato sauce and cumin together in a bowl.
  3. Spread ½ cup of salsa sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 11 baking dish.
  4. Layer frozen ravioli over the sauce.
  5. Layer black beans and corn over the ravioli.
  6. Pour remaining sauce over the black beans and corn.
Notes
  1. You can make this dish as mild or as hot as you like.
beta
calories
854
fat
44g
protein
37g
carbs
86g
more
The Fort Worth Homemaker http://thefortworthhomemaker.com/


Saving $500 or More in One Month

 

shopping cart

By Liz

Living on one income, there are certain times throughout the year that make me anxious.  For one reason or another, we hit those irregular bills and I watch our account dwindle a little to the point it makes me start to wonder if leaving the work force was the right decision.  So much so, that I usually start dusting off my resume and start looking at the job boards again.

My husband will tell you that I over react during these times and that he could set his watch by them.  Looking at our books, I know we are fine, but when we hover around or we go below that “cushion” number in our account, it starts to make me lose sleep.  We have always rebounded, and brought that “cushion” back up, but there is always the looming question…what if we don’t?

plug

Summer time is one of those times of the year that make me feel financially uneasy.  I guess it stands to reason with payouts that include; increased electric bills with more people being home during the day watching T.V., playing video games, charging laptops, phones, etc…not to mention the A/C running to cool the house down in the Texas heat. Our water bill goes up, due to watering the lawn, the garden, extra showers, and laundry;  our food bill increases with hungry boys and one girl in and out of the house all summer; and then there is summer vacation and we all know how expensive that can be.

water

Now believe me when I tell you, I have done what I can to economize in ALL of these areas.  The A/C is on an automatic timer and is at a reasonable setting; laundry only gets washed when there are full loads to be done; showers are timed; and there are some years we don’t take a summer vacation, we didn’t last year, and I have to tell you, this year it is much needed. That leaves me with our food budget and while not completely out of control for a family of 7 and 4 dogs, it could still use some trimming.

Our average monthly food budget is approximately $600 for 7 people and 4 dogs, that breaks down to roughly $6.75 per person, per meal. Some would say this is to high, some will say that is low. Personally, I think it is too high and I want to start cutting back in this area in order to help reach some financial goals.



This past winter, I instituted “no spenduary” during the month of February.  After the holidays, I took inventory of our pantry, freezers and fridges and did a little bit of stocking up on staples that we plow through, things like potatoes, flour, sugar, coffee, pasta, rice, etc… Also, during the month of January if I saw rock bottom prices on meat, chicken or fish, I bought an extra pack or two then during the month of February, I did not do any grocery shopping.  We made do with what we already had in our inventory.  I did give myself a very small cash budget for the month to purchase some perishables such as milk, eggs and some fresh produce like lettuce, onions, bananas (since these things don’ t keep well for an entire month), but there were no large hauls, no overspending and in fact we wound up saving about $300 that month.

With summer just about to start, and having that “irky” feeling about our account again, I have decided to take the same action and I am instituting penny pinching June in our house. I have gone through our inventory, and have concluded that minus those perishables we have more than enough in our stash to make it through the month of June.  I am also giving myself a VERY strict, cash budget of only $80 to buy perishables for the month (crazy…right?).

beans

Now you might be thinking that, I will be feeding my family a steady stream of rice and beans, peanut butter and jelly, eggs made up, six ways to Sunday, but I want to be able to show that with a little creativity, we will have a variety of menu options by making do with what we already have on hand.  For the next 4 Mondays, my entries will be about my accountability and what we are eating and how far I can make that $80 stretch.

 

money

My goal is to be able to save $500 for the month of June.  This may not seem like a lot in today’s economy for a family of 7, but just like in February, I found myself and the rest of my family trying to save and economize in other ways as well, such as using the library more, car pooling with each other or friends, not buying that much “wanted” new video game (obviously, that one was for the kids), finding free or low cost entertainment, ditching the sodas for water, finding the locations for the lowest gas prices, etc.. It did my heart proud as the family followed my lead and took their own initiative to save some of their hard earned cash.

I know there are going to be times that myself or a family member will have a craving for some fast food or take out, or I will be tempted to pick up that amazing deal at the store when I walk in with my tiny amount of cash, earmarked for only the few perishables I will need and I will want to give in and take out my credit card, but I am hoping my resolve will be strong. In fact, I will be leaving the credit card at home. So follow me on my penny pinching June journey and see if my goal is truly reachable.



Five Frugal for Friday

By Liz

Did you ever have those times when you felt like you were in a fog, and it lasted for a long time?  That was us this week.    At the beginning of the week, I got to meet up with an old friend for lunch and that was great. However, the rest of the week just seemed to have a heaviness to it that felt like it just would not go away which made the week seem endless, but thankfully it is now Friday and the weekend is upon us.

Here are my 5 frugal accomplishments for this week:

1. We flipped a car. This accomplishment was not intentional. We had purchased a used, “first car” to help a close relative over a year ago. At the time, they could not afford the car out right, and was considering a loan with a very high interest rate.  We were in the position to help out by purchasing the car in full, and the arrangements were, they were to pay us monthly, for the cost of the car (no interest or fees) until the car was paid for.  Unfortunately, that did not work out, so my wonderful, more than handy, mechanically inclined husband, did some minor repairs, buffed out scratches and touched up paint, detailed the car top to bottom and we flipped it for a profit that will pay for our summer vacation this year.

2. I made Saturday morning pastry. I always treat my family to some kind of pastry on Saturday morning, whether it is bakery bought donuts, bagels, or pan dulce. However, some Saturdays if the conditions are right and the motivation is there, I will bake. This past Saturday, I made both strawberry and cheese Danish.

 

3. I made bread crumbs. We seemed to have a variety of breads with our meals last week. We had sourdough, Italian, baguette, and pita ends and pieces sitting in bags on top of the fridge. So I took all of them and dried them out in the oven and ran them through the food processor.  It yielded me almost 2 cups of crumbs, which I then used to make a double batch of meatballs.

 

4. I made a batch of homemade pesto. We love pesto in our house. We use it on pasta, sandwiches and on meat, fish and some vegetables.  Our micro garden is in full bloom, so I used the basil from our garden to make a batch of pesto sauce. Making pesto does require a lot of basil and we only have to planters in our garden, so I basically wiped out our crop, but I am hopeful the plants will regenerate.


5. I gave myself an overdue pedicure.  I do my own pedicures at home every 2 weeks, keeping my toes looking fresh, however time got away from me this month and I had finally reconciled that I had the time to do it.  I set up shop on my back patio, with my pedicure kit, a book and a very large, icy glass of sparkling water and spent an hour of pampering time.

So those are some of the ways I saved some money this week. How were you able to save some of your hard earned cash this week?



Easy Cheesy Danish Recipe

danish

By Liz

Our Monday through Fridays are rush, rush, rush but thankfully come Saturday mornings, our vibe in the house is relaxed.  I treat the family with some sort of continental breakfast one day a week making it interesting and tasty for them, and really easy for me.

On this day of the week, our breakfast usually includes fresh coffee, juice and some sort of pastry that was either store bought or just really easy to make.  Here is the pastry I made this past, dreary, rainy Saturday.

I doubled this recipe for my large brood to make a total of 16 Danish, however, the recipe below is for 8 Danish.

cheesy-danish

Easy Cheesy Danish

*Makes 8 Danish

Ingredients:

1 can of crescent rolls

4oz cream cheese (softened)

¼ cup Granulated Sugar

½ tsp. lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Fruit jam or jelly, optional

Instructions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

cheesy-danish

2. Beat together the cream cheese, lemon juice, sugar, & vanilla.

3. Remove the crescent dough from the tube. Do not separate into triangles! Slice the roll of crescent dough into 8 rounds. Place the rounds on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

cheesy-danish

4. Press an indentation in the center of each crescent round with your fingers. Fill the indentations with a big dollop of cream then a small addition of jam or jelly if desired.

5. Bake at 350 for 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pan during ½ time of cooking (8 minutes).

cheesy-danish

6. Serve warm or at room temp.

7. Store any leftovers in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Enjoy the printable recipe card below.


Easy Cheesy Danish
Serves 8
Delicious and easy morning pastry.
Write a review
Print
88 calories
9 g
17 g
5 g
1 g
3 g
26 g
64 g
7 g
0 g
1 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
26g
Servings
8
Amount Per Serving
Calories 88
Calories from Fat 46
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
8%
Saturated Fat 3g
14%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 17mg
6%
Sodium 64mg
3%
Total Carbohydrates 9g
3%
Dietary Fiber 0g
0%
Sugars 7g
Protein 1g
Vitamin A
4%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
2%
Iron
1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 can of crescent rolls
  2. 4 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  3. ¼ cup sugar
  4. ½ tsp. lemon juice
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. *Fruit jam or jelly, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat together the cream cheese, lemon juice, sugar, & vanilla.
  3. Remove the crescent dough from the tube. Do not separate into triangles! Slice the roll of crescent dough into 8 rounds. Place the rounds on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Press an indentation in the center of each crescent round with your fingers. Fill the indentations with a big dollop of cream then a small addition of jam or jelly if desired.
  5. Bake at 350 for 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pan during ½ time of cooking (8 minutes).
  6. Serve warm or at room temp.
Notes
  1. Store any leftovers in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
beta
calories
88
fat
5g
protein
1g
carbs
9g
more
The Fort Worth Homemaker http://thefortworthhomemaker.com/

 

Airing my Dirty Laundry

ironing

By Liz

When I first meet people and tell them that I am a full time homemaker with a household of 7, I can almost see their faces turn into posters of pity, thinking that I must be buried under loads of dirty dishes and laundry; that my house must surely be perpetually messy and I spend my time chasing after young, disheveled, banshee like children about to climb all over the furniture or take crayons to my walls.

Thankfully, I have paid my dues in that area and those days are long behind me.  My brood is mostly made up of teens and young adults now, but that doesn’t mean that the chores for this full time homemaker cease to exist anymore.



As you can imagine we generate a lot of laundry in our house.  This may come as a shocker and I am probably going to come off as a discredit to my fellow homemakers, but I do enjoy doing laundry.  I know many others may despise this necessary chore, but I find a certain relaxation in it.

First of all let me say, that even though I do the majority of the laundry, the rest of the family does help out and does what is necessary. Secondly, we do not have a designated “laundry day”(with the exception of bedding, that gets done every Sunday) where all the laundry is completed in one day. We do laundry just about every day.  I guess you could say it is done in moderation, just like any successful, diet, exercise, or budgeting program.

I read and hear all the time how exasperated people get when they talk about doing laundry.  This always makes me laugh. What is it about laundry that gets people so beat down? You dump the load into the machine, close the lid and press a button. It’s not like the old days where you had to drag your clothes down to the closest river and beat your clothes on a rock, or even more modern, pull out a bucket, washboard and the most skin irritating soap known to man and scrub until your fingers bleed.

sorting

Our system is a pretty easy one.  Everyone has a clothes hamper in their rooms, when it starts to get full, they are to empty their items into our clothes sorting system, kept in our garage. Our sorting system is made up of 4 large plastic hampers that are designated, one for whites, one for jeans, one for towels and one for colored clothes. When those hampers are brim full, it is time to wash that load.

detergent

We do save some money on our cleaning products. For many years, we had used commercial products, but then I started reading about more cost efficient, homemade products. I was very reluctant and skeptical to try any of these, but one weekend, I decided to make a batch and experiment for a week, if we didn’t like it or it did not do a sufficient job, we could always switch back to the commercial brands. I am happy to say, that it worked out and we now use a homemade version of laundry detergent, thereby, slashing our cost on detergent, “thanks Mary Hunt of Everday Cheapskate”.

washing-machines

Our machine’s are high capacity, energy and water efficient brands and we wash everything in cold water (unless hot is really needed to get something sterilized). I would love to be able to tell you that with all that laundry for 7 people that we save a ton of money by line drying. I love line dried clothes, it was the method we used when I was a kid in the Northeastern part of the country there is nothing like the smell of sun bathed, crisp linen sheets or clothes.  However, here in Texas, it is just not feasible. While yes, we have plenty of sunshine, we also have plenty of dust and allergens being blown around most of the time.

I remember the first time, I insisted to my now husband that I wanted a clothes line in the backyard of our old house.  With some reluctance on his part, I finally got my way. When the day came that the line was up, I could not wait. I did a batch of towels in the morning, got them out and up on the clothes line before I headed off to the office (back in my working days).  Later that day, when I had come home and proceeded to take the clean, dry clothes off of my line, I noticed there was a sticky green/yellowish film on each and every towel.  Turns out, spring pollen had thwarted my efforts that day to try to save on energy, because now I had to re-wash the load and run it through the dryer.  That is how it is here in the Metroplex, there always seems to be something floating in the air.  If it’s not pollen, mold, ragweed or other allergens, then the dirt and dust from all the construction in the area certainly will hamper this kind of effort.

dryer-balls

So our dryer gets used on a daily basis as well and while we know that this appliance is a money sucker, we do what we can to minimize the monetary sting.  We have invested in a set of wool dryer balls to help with static and minimize wrinkles, instead of using fabric softener or dryer sheets; we dry back to back loads as to ensure maximization of residual heat; we clean the lint trap at the beginning of each load; and every 6 months, we pull the machine out away from the wall and clean out the venting system in the back of the machine.

After the machines are all done doing the hard work, I then get in some much needed down time.  I bring my baskets of dried laundry into the living room at a time when no one else is occupying it and start folding and making individual piles for each owner.  Depending on the time of the day, I may turn on the T.V. and catch up on the news while tending to this chore, but more often than not, I do it in silence and use this as my reflection time with my life and with God.

folded-clothes

 

When all the piles of clean, neatly folded laundry is completed, they sit for a short time in our living space.  Before dinner hits the table, each owner has come to get his or her piles and they are responsible for putting them away, just as on Sundays, each person is responsible for re-making their own beds once the bedding has been laundered. Believe it or not, and I am not making this up, when each kid comes to collect their piles, they do genuinely thank me or I get a kiss on the cheek.  And I don’t even pander for it, maybe that is part of the joy I get from doing this task.

Now many of you might not have these same kinds of luxuries, such as older kids that can take care of their own clean laundry and linens.  Maybe you have to fold,  hang up and put away every stitch of clothing, maybe do some ironing and maybe you have to make every bed in your home, and while I agree this might seem like a cumbersome chore, I believe it is all part of homemaking.

Don’t forget, this has become yours and my chosen profession, because we feel it is important to sustain a well balanced, happy home and family; and like with any profession, it may come with some big and tiresome job responsibilities,  but it also has a great benefit program.



Five Frugal for Friday

savings

By Liz

This was an “off” week here at the house.  The college semester has ended for one of the boys, and he does not get any extra hours at his part time job for the summer until June, so he has been hanging around the house all week; one of our dear friends suffered a loss this week; our oldest dog was sick for a few days so this included stopping what we were doing to run around the house cleaning up after her.

My husband and I just could not seem to “get it into gear” this week when it came to getting projects done.  Needless to say, we are looking forward to the weekend and although it was a bad week, I still managed to get some thriftiness in.  Here are 5, frugal things I racked up this week:

antique-mall

1. Sunday was Mother’s day. I hope all moms had a great day. After Sunday service, I was treated to brunch at home, not made by me this week, but by my hubby and kids, which did included a fabulous tomato and cheese omelet, home fries, avocado toast and  a couple of mimosas (my fav.).   Later in the day the kids that were home for the day, took me to one of my favorite places, the local antique mall. If you have never been to an antique mall, I highly recommend it.  It is almost like going to a museum. So many things to look at, and so many trips down memory lane and the best part…no admission fee.

sasha

2. Sasha, our eldest dog, who was ailing this week, got some overdue TLC.  I took her to the DIY dog wash and gave her a good scrub down helping knock off a lot of her remaining winter coat.  Yes, I could wash her at home for free but Sasha has arthritis really badly in both her front and back legs and she is a big dog so it is hard for me to lift her in and out of the tub, not to mention ALL THAT HAIR. So I was glad to pay a fee of $10 at the dog wash, as they provide a tub with a ramp for her to get in and out of, they  also supply a variety of shampoos, towels, blow dryer and the best part…I don’t have a drain to unclog and tub to scrub down later.

3. Staying on Sasha, I found a new dog bed for her. Sasha gets a new bed once a year and by that time, it is much needed as the old one is pretty matted down and has lost its fluff and shape by the time the year is up.  Sasha is pretty particular about her beds; we have found that she prefers the beds at Costco that are size appropriate for her, they run us about $45. However, we have an open box store near us that sells many items that have come from Costco and I found a Kirkland (Costco brand) bed for her for only $25.

zuchhinni-bread

4. From 2 zucchinis that came from our micro garden, I made a wonderfully moist zucchini bread that the family enjoyed for dessert one night and breakfast the next morning with coffee.

dinner""

5. Thursday is my errand day. So I am in and out of the house for the majority of the day, I had planned on picking up something fresh to cook for dinner that night, but you know how sometimes you just get a craving and nothing will do until you satisfy it?  Well, that was me most of the week; I was craving fried chicken.  As luck would have it, I came across some discounted Walmart fried chicken that had been made previously in the day and was now over in their refrigerated case, it was still very fresh.  I picked up 2 containers, at a price of $6.22 for a total of 16 pieces; I would only need to reheat them in my oven in the evening. I also picked up some store baked cookies that were discounted as well, 6 fresh baked cookies for a total of 68 cents and I made 3 boxes of mac and cheese that cost me another dollar. So dinner that evening cost me about $8; hammering the price of any kind of take out fried chicken I was considering stopping for that evening.

So that was my frugal 5 for Friday.  What kind of great finds or savings did you have this week?






Now that I am home full time, I concentrate on many meals cooked from scratch and not rely on overpriced, unhealthy convenience items; I have the luxury of time to be able to browse loss leader and discounted items at my local grocery stores; I have stopped buying sugary, carbonated beverages, and I have found a wonderful source for fresh fruits and vegetables at crazy low prices.

The secret I want to share with you today is the 99 Cent Only Stores. This article will not be applicable to many readers as 99 Cent Only Stores, currently only operate in California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada, but for those of you who have access to one of these stores;  you are missing out if you are trying to keep your food costs down and have not taken full advantage of this gem. (*Please note, I AM NOT getting compensation for any kind of endorsement from the store).

99-cent

Many of you reading this might be thinking to yourselves, that you have a Dollar Tree located near you and it is all the same…right?  We do shop for some food items at the Dollar Tree as well, as I have mentioned before, but Dollar Tree stores are limited with their grocery offerings, whereas, more than over half of any 99 Cent Only Store is dedicated to food, produce and grocery items that are ever rotating.

99-cent""

We are fortunate enough to have 4 of their stores within a 15 mile radius of our home. Of the 4, we have a preferred location, due to the other merchants in that vicinity. Every two weeks, my husband and I will head out to this area and generally make a “date day” of our outing. We may start at one or two garage sales in that area if any are offered, then head over to one of the many restaurants for lunch, maybe followed up by browsing around the local book store that is right next to our destination, before we finally finish our outing by shopping in the 99 Cent Only Store for some great deals.

The main purpose of our visit is to stock up on fresh produce. While there are many other great items and closeout deals in the store, and yes we do pick those up as well, our main focus is always the produce. On our “date day” we will stock up on about 2 weeks of fresh produce to feed our brood with.

99-centOnce we get our produce home, we will take the time to prep our haul to last us for the upcoming weeks until we go shopping again.  We will wash the appropriate fruits and vegetables, slice, dice and cut them into the portion sizes that we will need for various dishes, then store them either with our Food Saver bags, if going into the freezer or in zip lock bags in the fridge to be used in the next 3 to 5 days.

Many have argued and thumbed their noses up at the very idea of being able to get anything fresh from this store. They are thoroughly convinced that the produce is otherwise unworthy to purchase from here as it has to be the cast offs, or “recovered” produce that the fancier and pricier grocery chains would not accept and that these items surely must be unattractive, rotted, shriveled, soggy, and not fit for consumption.

99-cent

These kinds of preconceived notions could not be farther from the truth.  Let me reassure you that as with any merchant, the 99 Cent Only Stores have to follow the same laws and regulations that all the other grocers follow, so it would be illegal to sell food items that were not up to par. As far as the produce being “recovered” and/or unattractive….you do realize that some of these now trendy subscription based produce boxes sell the same kind of “seconds” to you, right?, but at a much higher price.

99-cent

If you don’t want to take my word for it, just ask Billy Vasquez, also known as the 99 cent chef who has been blogging about his 99 cent ingredient recipes for years:   The 99 Cent Chef

So if you are fortunate enough to have a 99 Cent Only Store in your vicinity and you are trying to reign in your food budget, I highly suggest stopping in at one of these stores, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer and what you will come home with. And if you have stopped in to shop…share it with me; I would be interested to learn about what your particular location has to offer.




Do you have to much Stuff?

 

chaos

By Liz

“Everybody’s gotta have a little place for their stuff. That’s all life is about. Trying to find a place for your stuff.” — George Carlin

When I was making my first cup of coffee this morning, I went to retrieve a coffee mug from my see through glass paneled pantry cabinet and as I looked up, noticed that these cabinets were housing an array of coffee mugs, vases, cookbooks, pitchers, popcorn bowls and several other items that don’t get used on a regular basis and while my coffee was brewing, I thought to myself, “I really need to weed out all the junk in these two cabinets”. After I poured my coffee, I thought about the cabinet space directly below it that is closer to the floor.  That space is occupied by more cookbooks, large serving trays that only come out on holidays, old food storage containers and place-mats.  I realized that we only really use 2 of the cookbooks on a regular basis that occupy the space in these cabinets and maybe 2 or 3 sets of the place mats come out into regular rotation.

stuff

So I started to make a mental inventory of what I could get rid of from that space, but as I was making that list in my mind, I would veer off to the unused tablecloths and tea set in my dining room sideboard and the pile of refrigerator magnets in my junk drawer and some of the Christmas presents that I received months earlier still sitting in their original boxes on a shelf in my bedroom closet. All of a sudden, I was feeling completely overwhelmed and my head was spinning with thoughts of where I should start this purge?, and when do I have the time?,  and just like that, it usually gets put on the waaaay back burner and this exercise is in jeopardy of not getting accomplished.

My husband, myself and our brood moved into our current house, only a few short years ago.  Our previous house was approximately 1600 square foot, and as the kids started to get much bigger, we always seemed to be on top of one another. So we moved into our current house that has approximately 2800 square feet, much better when it comes to breathing room and personal space for all of us. When we were getting ready to move from our old house, we needed to get rid of a lot of stuff, after all, there were many years of accumulated crap.  We had at least two garage sales, donated countless boxes of clothes and household items and threw out bag after bag of trash, and this was all before we even packed our first moving box. At the time, it was overwhelming and a huge hassle.  I never wanted to have that undertaking again.




I dislike clutter and as I have mentioned before, my home decorating style is minimalist. There are not a lot of knick knacks donning the flat surfaces in the rooms of my house, simply because I despise cleaning all of it.  However, it appears as though my closet and cabinet spaces area a different story. So, because I didn’t learn my lesson during the time of our move, we apparently, still have a huge abundance of stuff.

The problem is the thought of spending the time to go through it to get rid of it.  When I think about it; I get discouraged and feel completely overwhelmed.  I know I have to do it, but it becomes something I procrastinate on. However, then it becomes this double edged sword, and then seeps into my thoughts, day and night and I think…”yeah…I really have to get to that”.

Yes, I am aware of the “one in…one out method” and I really do try to adhere to that, and I also am very aware of designating a specific day to tackling this clutter dilemma. The problem is working up the ambition to do it, because that feels like such a massive undertaking.

So I have decided to take a slightly different approach.  This upcoming weekend, I plan on picking up at least 2 moving boxes, assembling them and come Monday afternoon, plop them down in the middle of my kitchen, bedroom closet or in the middle of my living room.  I am going to start my timer and give myself 30 minutes to physically touch items and determine if it is something that has seen the light of day in the past 6 months and if it stays where it is, goes into the box designated for donation or the box marked for trash.  When my 30 minutes is up, I will be done with this exercise for the day and I will put the boxes into the garage and if they are not full, pull them out on Tuesday, Wednesday, etc…until the two boxes are full.

car

Once I have filled the two boxes, they will go to their final destinations either out on the curb on trash day, or dropped off to the donation bin at our closest Goodwill.  Then I will repeat the process the following week.  Even though it is going to take me quite some time to go through my house using this method, I know that I will still feel a sense of accomplishment and I will be achieving my goal of decluttering my “stuff”, albeit 30 minutes at a time, and I will certainly be making a more contentious effort, while I am out….not to bring home more stuff!




Five Frugal for Friday

moneyBy Liz
This week was supposed to be an easy week, but it wound up being busier than anticipated, such is life…right? As busy as it was though, I did find time here and there to sit out on my back patio and read and relax before the weather starts to become unbearably hot and humid.

I hit 2 stores on grocery day this week, and even though this blurb is about saving and not necessarily spending, there were some pretty awesome deals that I could not pass up.

Here is my frugal five for the week:

strawberry

1. Strawberry shortcake. I love angel food cake; it’s light, sweet and low on fat and calories (a dieter’s dream).  I found this discounted cake, strawberries were on sale for 95 cents and whip topping was 86 cents. Total for dessert for the family = $4.16 (or 59 cents per serving), and I did not have to fire up the oven to do it.

spatula

2. Silicone spatula. While at Walmart, I spotted this cool looking, silicone, wooden spatula still in its package (I did take pics in its packaging along with a copy of my receipt, but I could not locate the original pics on my camera). It was not priced, so I located the nearest price scanner in the store and it scanned for a whopping 10 cents…SOLD! I don’t think you can buy anything for 10 cents nowadays.  I think the only reason it was priced so low, was because the packaging had pictures of bunnies and said Happy Easter on it and since Easter was a few weeks ago, the store had marked it down, but my family does not care if I make cupcakes in August with an Easter themed spatula.

3. Almonds. On my way to the checkout at Winco, I passed a cart with some marked down almonds. Each one pound bag had been marked down to 98 cents.  When the cashier originally scanned them, they rang up for $4.26 per bag, until she noticed the discount sticker, she then changed the price to the 98 cents, I picked up 3 bags for a total of $2.94.

almonds

4. I rescued a lemon. On Tuesday, I had made a batch of blueberry, lemon scones. The recipe only called for a small amount of lemon zest only. Even though the lemon only cost me about 20 cents, I could not throw it out. It sat in my fridge in a zip lock bag for a couple of days. Then I decided to make a quick side dish with our chicken on Thursday, which only consisted of these 3 ingredients a little salt.

breakfast-sandwiches

5. Breakfast sandwiches. My kids love breakfast sandwiches and when I had checked my bread freezer,  I had noticed that it is almost time for me to do my monthly shopping at the bread store outlet.  In my freezer was a couple of packages of everything bagels that had been in there for awhile and I did not want them to get freezer burnt, so I pulled them out and made 2 batches for a total of 12 breakfast sandwiches for a total cost of $4.34 or 36 cents a sandwich.

And that my friends is my frugal five for the week. Did you manage to have some frugal moments this week?




My Menu Planning System

 

schedule

By Liz

I often get asked how I come up with a variety of nutritious, delicious, cost efficient meals for me and my family of 7. Unlike most meal and money saving plans, we really, really like to have variety. So one thing that you might notice here, is we don’t have pizza or rice and beans on our menu once a week, each of those is more like once a month.

My system maybe old school, but it is what works best for us.  On our fridge, there are two empty, monthly, block style calendars.  One is for the kids to post their work schedules and school hours and any kind of extra activity that may arise that is out of the norm.  The other is used for dinner planning, as it is the main meal in our house. Also on our fridge is a note pad to be used when I do our weekly grocery shopping.  This is a running list of items that we are either out of, or we are low on.  I have tried to challenge myself to go grocery shopping once a month, but our family goes through a lot of milk, fresh fruit and vegetables.

For our family of 7 we have the fridge in our kitchen, however, its design lacks optimal storage space on the inside, but it came with the house, so it is ours until it dies. We also have an extra fridge that is in our garage that holds mostly beverages, overflow of milk, eggs, juice and coffee creamer as well as meat that needs to be thawed or cut to portion size pieces; the top freezer portion contains bread, rolls, bagels muffins and buns.  In addition we have a 12 cubic foot chest freezer that holds primarily meat, batch cooked meals, ice cream, frozen vegetables and any kind of convenience food that we found worth our hard earned dollars and passes our personal, nutritional guidelines. Also worth mentioning is that we have a good size walk in pantry for all of our dry goods and staples.




Once a week, I will sit down with the kids’ and menu planning calendars and start filling in my dinner menu. I will browse my chest freezer for meat, chicken or fish, check my vegetables and dry goods to pair it with and start building my week of menus. Since the kids’ schedule is ever changing, I do this on a weekly and not a monthly basis, but it is nice to see what we had to eat in a month’s time. It also helps me fill out my running grocery list. If I am in need of an ingredient or will be using the last of a staple, then up on the list it goes.

I don’t plan out our breakfasts. Our house contains mostly adults and not all of us are morning people. I myself, rarely eat breakfast, I know it is the most important meal of the day, but I have always struggled with eating in the mornings.  I am good with just a cup of coffee or two. Some of the family however does like eating early in the morning and because of that there is always a supply of eggs, fruit, bread, jam, peanut butter, oatmeal, yogurt, premade muffins, breakfast sandwiches or burritos (that I make up in batches every two weeks).  We do share a weekly breakfast together, after Sunday service; I will cook brunch for the family that usually consists of a meat, toast, potatoes and eggs made to order, fresh hot coffee, juice and or milk. Once a month I will make either French toast or pancakes served with fresh fruit in place of the toast and potatoes.

Lunches are not planned out either, due to different schedules.  Our house has a revolving door between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to midnight, between work, school and socialization. So our lunches tend to be mostly leftovers, either as is or reworked a little. For instance, if the previous night we had chicken or steak, lunch then becomes either fajitas or quesadillas or if we have leftover baked potatoes from the night before, this easily becomes a broccoli and cheese stuffed potato for lunch.  We also, always have tuna, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese on hand in case someone wants a sandwich.

market

My system makes it easy for me make the most of the money we spend on groceries. Since we have a freezer full of bread products, I only shop for this once a month. Since we have a freezer full of meat, I only pick more up if I come across a great deal (and I usually do) during my shopping trip. Since we have extra fridge space in the garage, I can stock up on milk, juice and eggs for the week and since we have pantry space, I can stock up on dry goods when they have reached rock bottom prices.

I love to cook and even though I have a formal education in culinary arts, it is not always very practical when operating a large household.  My menu planning contains mainly easy, healthy dishes that require minimum ingredients, time and most important….minimal clean up. Again, it might not work for all, but this is what works for us.