Back to Basics~ Menu Planning

This week I am starting our living frugally posts. I took this month to get back into a routine of school and normal life after the holidays. Now we are living on a budget and saving.

But before then there are a few things that  I have started doing just to get into the mind frame of saving.

Gather your family’s favorite recipes~

I have gone through countless cookbooks to make an easy to find list of our favorite recipes, where to find them and what page number. My list is broken down by Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Desserts. This is truly a life saver. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to sit and go through all 14 years worth of cookbooks to find what I am looking for. This is a time saver, but also gives you a starting point for menu planning.

Menu Planning~
Organization is the key to saving money especially at meal times. The best way to be organize is to menu plan. Pick a day, mine is usually Sunday, to make a menu for a week. Look at your families favorite recipes, what you have on hand and what is on sale at your local grocery stores. As a homeschooling mom, I have to serve 3 meals to at least 4 people (most days it is 6), but I try to at least have a solid plan for breakfast and dinner because those are our family meal times. Lunch I plan sometimes based on what leftovers I have, but mostly it’s a fly by the seat of your pants meal. If your kids are at school or you work out of the home then only menu plan for the meals ate at home as a family. I like to leave my weekends open for trying new recipes.
In the end, we are trying to eliminate the drive thru solution to dinner. So start small, look at what meals are ate most from fast food establishments and make that your meal goal. Plan a weeks worth of meals for that time. Then plan two weeks. Now I am not saying don’t treat yourself once in awhile or look at your menu as the bible. Life happens! But even if this helps you get dinner on the table easier 4 nights out of the week, then it’s a winner.
 

Momma’s sick week

Last week I came down with a sinus infection that just really wiped me out. All I wanted to do was sit and rest, watch TV and drink Sprite. But as a stay at home~schooling mom whose husband works from home that was not happening. Instead of trying to be Supermom and keep doing everything, I made some adjustments to our days so that I had some moments of rest. I think it is the first time in years that when I got sick I took sick days and didn’t feel guilty at all. Life still went on and school went on but without me being in the middle of it. And I honestly think it was good for the kids.

First thing was school. It was more of independent learning. I would say the lessons and activities I wanted completed and they would go about and do their thing. Now everyday I did manage to do History and Science with them and grade some papers before I was spent. And my lil man did keep on doing preschool work, just a little less than usual. Which of course he was fine with.

Unfortunately, I picked the wrong week business wise. Hubby is working on some solid surface countertops, which is like a stone countertop, and he needed me all week for moving and lifting and flipping. So that was where my focus was, helping him and resting in between. I would lay with my sprite and tv until he called, go out back, help, come back and rest.

I delegated the cooking to Cailin because she is an aspiring chef. I even drove my two oldest up to Publix with a grocery list and money and waited in the parking lot while they shopped.  All the girls helped out with the Dakota, fixing him lunch, snacks and drinks. Daddy even put him to bed one night which never happens, because he is a Momma’s boy. It was nice. My hubby tried to get me to rest more, by telling me to let the kids be kids and just rest and watch movies, but then 5 minutes later he would call for help. It was a nice thought though.

All in all, I did realize that my children are getting to that age where I can ask more from them when I need to. But I also realized that they too are becoming independent little adults and don’t need me as much. Which means pretty soon they will be off on their own with their lives and families and not momma’s little babies no more. So bittersweet.

Back to basics~ turning frugal

6 months after we moved out here, the economy tanked and my hubby’s business took a massive hit. We had to quit paying on our credit cards and let 2 cars and hubby’s motorcycle get repossessed. It was awful feeling knowing you had a very, VERY successful business and in a blink of an eye it could all be taken away. But we kept at it and Hubby’s business was one of the few small cabinet shops to pull through. A lot of friends of his had to close their doors and walk away after years and years of being in business. We did everything we could to make it through and the best part is our children never knew we were poor. Today when I talk about the bad days, they are shocked. That I am thankful for.

During that time, I found ways to be frugal and live on cash only. Something I had never done in my entire life and something my hubby had to relearn. If there was no cash for it, then it wasn’t happening.

Now here we are 2013 and I have been looking back at all the stuff we spend money on that we really don’t need right that minute. First off, my hubby loves to spoil me and sometimes it’s very hard to say no when he wants to buy new boots (my obsession) or when he wanted to buy me an expensive camera because I said I would like to photography classes. And if a computer or TV breaks, we have to replace it ASAP. These are all things that could have been bought as christmas presents and he wouldn’t be struggling to get me something now. Hubby can be very extravagant sometimes, spend a $1000 at one time and not even blink. That shocks me.

We are still on a cash system, but have not been frugal at all. We eat out too much….way too much! And every time we go to the store the kids want drinks, snacks or toys. Hubby is constantly buying tools or other things he says he needs.

So with that said we have taken another hit. Now we need to cut back our grocery spending to just $500. I was spending anywhere from $800-$1000 and still listening to everyone complain there was nothing to eat. They also are in a phase of everything needs to brand name. My family also had an aversion to leftovers. Some family members would have a cow if they didn’t have a freshly prepared meal. I don’t even want to know how much money I threw out with all the leftovers.

Well change is coming. I am getting back to basics. The snacking all day is out! The sodas all the time is out! The fast food lunches is out!

We are self employed! We don’t have a 401K or retirement plan. We have only what we have saved. And since my hubby turns 40 next year and isn’t getting any younger. 2014 is my getting back to being frugal and saving year.

Time to break out the Dave Ramsey book and refresh.

Not Back to School weeks 2013

Well I hate to say this but the last two weeks of summer for my homeschool kids have sucked!

The weekend before my oldest was to head back to school, my homeschool kids got a really bad cold. So the first week of what was supposed to be fun and HAHA we don’t have school consist of sneezing, coughing, dirty tissues and Mucinex. My poor babies were hit hard. But they were due. Other than a few sniffles here and there, they have been extremely healthy for at least 2 years.

Once they finally got back on their feet which took about a week, it was time for our back to school shopping. No we aren’t shopping for school supplies! We are shopping to stock up the house. I do this at the beginning and end of summer. It was time for a BJ run! At the beginning of summer I took Hubby and 2 kids with me. BIG MISTAKE!! Hubby threw everything in the cart and boom $1000 before coupons! Never again, I tell ya!

This time I had 3 kids and well……….I wasn’t much better……take a look……….

 

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That is my receipt next to my brand new table which is a 108 inches long. My receipt well over half! OOPS! But that’s what happens when you got to stock up the house after going 3 months of non-heavy duty shopping. Plus my table is now full. Yup that’s right there is a total of 8 with 4 being teenagers. Another post coming about that later.

So that being said our not back to school  week wasn’t very fun. Hopefully that’s not an omen for the school year.

If only I was a more organized mom

I feel like I have a lot of missed opportunities when it comes to my kids. And sometimes (ok A LOT of times) I think if I was more organized then I wouldn’t miss them so much. I feel like we miss out on a lot of the fun aspects of homeschooling because I am so focus on finishing the books and saying we did it. I am definitely missing out on things with my son because of being so focused on the girls and not having a plan of attack. Sometimes he will ask to do school and then I have to scramble. And to me that sucks! I feel like it is half ass done then.

I also feel like if I was more organized then we could do the experiments and the art that my kids thrive on. We could take the field trips that they drive me crazy about.

For example, this past Monday I thought I was having oral surgery done. And I had nothing planned for the kids to work on while I was recovering. I had barely any menu planned that wasn’t microwavable and processed. I felt terrible. Luckily the surgery didn’t happen and I am feel to live about my life without stitches in my mouth and with yummy solid food in my belly. But then yesterday, reality hit that I have no meal plan, no grocery list made, no homeschool plan, coupons from the last month that needs organizing and a huge TO DO pile that has deadlines.

So I am determined to get more organized this year (what’s left of it). I want to make my life easier. I want to have time to myself because right now all I do is cook, clean and try to get organize. I have no hobby or anything for me. And I realized that I need that, no crave that me time.

First things first, the present task at hand. We have to eat, so bring on the meal plan. I usually try to make a months worth of menus but decided a week was good considering everything going on.

Then grocery list!

Homeschool plan is very vague and non detailed but gives me an idea of what to accomplish so done there.

Work on coupons with the kids.

And I want my To Do list done by Friday.

So that leaves the weekend open to think of more ways to organize and make my world simpler.

Sunday dinner with the girls….and Lil’ Man

My husband is all about “man food” meaning anything that is heavy. Meat, potatoes and if there is pasta there better be some heavy sauce with bread on the side.

So when Hubby went to the Buccaneers opening day game and left me with the kids and Grandma, I decided to make sure girly food. I knew my girls would love it because of the accidental veggie tacos from the week before. It showed me that my girls don’t care if there is meat on the plate or not. And with Hubby gone it was the perfect day for a meatless meal.

We had Buttery Lemon pasta with steamed broccoli and a side of fresh organic fruit topped with homemade whipped cinnamon cream.

YUM!!

Butter Lemon Pasta~

Cook your pasta according to package and drain.

In a skillet melt 5 TBS. butter in a skillet. Add pasta to the skillet. Stir. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the juice of 1 lemon. Add lemon zest, as much as you prefer. Stir and serve.

I then added some steamed broccoli on top with some shaved parmesan.

Enjoy!

 

Cheeseburger Pizza

With my homemade pizza dough, I made this cheeseburger pizza. I was a little unsure of how my family would react to it. But it is definitely a keeper.

Start with your rolled out pizza dough. I spray my pan and sprinkle some cornmeal so the crust doesn’t stick.

Next add the sauce, which in this case is Ketchup and Mustard. I used more ketchup than mustard but it’s whatever you prefer.

Now your ready for the toppings.

Sprinkle a little bit of cheese. I used shredded Cheddar. This just helps to stick the toppings to the crust. Then I piled on the hamburger that I cooked in a skillet.

Now comes the fun part. Stop and think about what you love on a cheeseburger. Is it pickles, onions, or tomatoes? Great now get those items out. Chop them up and sprinkle on top.

My family is a little picky and were skeptical of the idea of pickles on pizza, so I just used pickles this time.  Next time I am gonna add some tomatoes and maybe sprinkle some lettuce after the pizza has cooked.

Then finish with some more cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. If you prefer you can add some extra ketchup or mustard on top but my family didn’t request any.

YUMMY!

Homemade Pizza Dough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days ago I tried my hand at something I have dying to make. Homemade Pizza Dough. I see it ready made at the stores and have always wondered can I make it at home cheaper. And the answer to that is YES!!!!

I have this wonderful machine called a bread machine. A lot of people have complained about theirs but I love mine. I have had it about 10 years and have never had a problem with it. And it makes homemade yummy bread easy.

I used a recipe for a 2 pound pizza dough. And this was enough for 2 pizzas for my family of 7.

The dough process takes about 1 1/2 hours.

Ingredients:

3/4 tsp salt

4 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups water (it called for 1 3/8 and I don’t have a measuring cup with that measurement. LOL so I used 1 3/4 cup and it was fine)

3 Tbs oil, olive or vegetable

I put liquid ingredients in first.

Then comes all the dry ingredients except the yeast.

I then make a little hole in the center of the flour and put the yeast in there.

Put the machine on Dough setting. And go about your life until it beeps.

I then flour my cutting board or countertop.

Knead the dough a little.

Cut in half and roll out half of it until it somewhat resembles a pizza.

Now at this point you can use both halves to make 2 pizzas or you can freeze the other half for another day.

Don’t fret if it’s not perfect it will still taste good.

I spray my pizza pan with cooking spray and sprinkle some cornmeal to keep the crust from sticking.

Not add toppings and bake at 400 degrees for 15- 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Giving freezer cooking a try?

Recently two of my favorite blogs did a serious of post on freezer cooking. And just from reading a couple of post I become OCD and decided I had to find out everything I could cook and freeze.  Freezer cooking is basically where you have ready to go meals in your freezer. Waiting for that day of appointments, errands, school pick-ups, followed by little Jimmy’s baseball game and then precious Patty’s dance recital. This could be my family’s answer to our fast food obsession. I mean the least little thing and I am reaching for a take out menu: late afternoon doctor’s appointment, last minute errands, a day full of cleaning the house top to bottom. It needs to stop but the only way is to have a great back up plan.

So during my “research” I found out that someone has a very similar oatmeal recipe that they freeze. PERFECT! I am making oatmeal this week and I will make up a double (or in my family’s case quadruple) batch and try to freeze it.

You freeze it before cooking it, so all you have to do one morning is thaw and bake.

I have in the past froze leftover Lasagna Casserole. And that was great! Just thaw and I added some extra cheese and little extra sauce, then bake.

Most people assume freezer cooking means taking a day and cooking a ton of food. That can work for some people. But for me making an extra batch or taking an hour a day and whipping something up for the freezer would better fit my life right now. This is the perfect activity during my son’s nap time and my girls independent study time.

The important thing to remember is make things easier on yourself, don’t stress yourself out more. The world will do that for you. Make your home life fun and easy.

I will let you know if this works for us. Who knows in a few months, I may ditch it?

Jeanette

 

Earth Day 2012~ a new beginning for us

There was a time a few years ago that we were extremely frugal. During the early recession years, my husband’s business barely existed at all. We were barely making it by. Well in the last two years are business has picked back up a little more every year. There was a time when I would see my husband watching TV everyday to now when I barely see him because he is working SO much. Don’t get me wrong I am not complaining!

But with the increase in income has come the decrease in frugality. We buy fast food all the time. We buy little snacks and toys for the kids every time we’re out. I use to be very good about reducing waste but that seems to have stopped also. We are big recyclers around here but that is limited to newspaper, bottles, cans and cardboard, even though we can recycle more.

Grocery shopping use to be extremely tight. I fed a family of 7 for about $400 a month, that was 4 adults and 3 little kids. Now I have 3 adults, 3 teens and a toddler and can’t seem to spend less than $600. I want to get back to homemade and less processed no matter how good of a deal it is.

So beginning Earth Day 2012 our family is making changes!

I am stepping up our recycling to include envelopes, cans and anything else I can recycle.

I am pledging more homemade and less processed.

I am also going to try homemade cleaners to reduce the amount of chemicals in my home.

Reduce energy use. Less drying clothes in the dryer. Less wasting water. Lights out in an empty room (that’s mostly my kids). Open windows on a nice day. And push the air up a few more degrees and set out fans instead.

Less paper plates. I have to admit we use paper plates every day for lunch and sometimes for dinner or breakfast depending on what we are having.

We are also bad about wasting food. I always make too much and then most leftovers get thrown out. I am trying to work on reusing them in other recipes and not throwing out so much.

This is a huge challenge since a lot of this falls on me and with a family of 7 nothing is ever easy but I am ready and really excited to get started!