Monday, February 29, 2016

March Menu and Grocery Shopping Plan

This month will be a little different for us since we're expecting baby #2's arrival mid-March.  So, we're stocking the freezer and hoping some friends bring us some meals.  We're also trying to stock the pantry with easy to fix meals, such as pasta and stir fry.  And, we're able to take advantage of Harris Teeter's Super Doubles this week, which is really helping to save.  So, we're hoping to keep this month's grocery budget to under $100.

It's really helping out that my mom is volunteering at the food pantry and able to bring us some items that would otherwise be labeled as "waste"  (they only are open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so what's left on Thursday in terms of fresh produce is usually tossed because it won't hold until the next week, but it's still good.).  Most of this, we end up processing for the freezer or dehydrating and using at our leisure.

Just a few of the items we've been gifted from the food pantry include:  Panera bread and bagels, jalapeno peppers, potatoes, pomegranates, kiwi, citrus, bananas, fresh herbs, turnips, carrots, mushrooms, and many others.  It's not like we get a whole crate, but even a small grocery sack helps to offset our grocery bill and round out our meals.

Here's the menu plan for the month, including some gifted items:

Breakfast:  bagels with cream cheese, quiche with gifted eggs from friends, gingerbread muffins with dried cranberries, banana breakfast bars, oatmeal with dried fruit, lemon poppy seed muffins, smoothies, egg and cheese sandwiches, homemade yogurt with cereal and fruit, and "big boy breakfast" of eggs, grits and sausage or bacon.

Lunches:  leftovers, egg salad sandwiches, fruit and hard boiled eggs, pasta salad with olives, canned salmon, and veggies

Dinners:  lasagna soup with bread and salad, baked potato soup with fixin's, beans and rice with fixins and corn bread, veggie stir fry over rice or noodles with egg rolls, bean tacos/quesadillas with fixins, lentil sloppy joes with cheese and steamed veggies, hot dogs/sausages with sauerkraut and oven fries, Asian ginger chicken with rice, breakfast casserole with smoothies, waffles with fruit and sausage, open faced meatball subs over homemade bread with oven fries, pizza with pesto and veggies, pasta with pesto, and any gifted meals from friends/family once the baby comes.

Snacks:  popcorn, dried fruit, yogurt, fresh fruit, carrot sticks and dip, tortilla roll ups with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa, smoothies, crackers with peanut butter

The plan is to make the more labor intensive meals (waffles, lentil sloppy joes, stir fry) early in the month and save the "quick and dirty" ones for once the baby arrives.  Many of the easy meals are crock pot meals or one pot meals on the stove, so they will come together quickly.  Unlike many of the "recommended" ideas for when you first bring baby home, we will not be doing paper plates, etc.  I find this really wasteful on so many levels, and am blessed to have a wonderfully helpful husband who does dishes and knows his way around the kitchen (sometimes more than I do!).  So, we'll use our regular stuff and run the dish washer like we always do.  We are hopeful that having some meals from friends and family will help to ease the kitchen cleanup, so that it's just plates/silverware we're cleaning up and not the whole kitchen.

Here's what we'll need to purchase this month to make this menu work:

  • salad greens (we'll use a gift card so we can buy organic and in bulk)
  • avocados/guacamole (HT has this on super doubles this week, so we'll stock up)
  • whole grain hot dog buns (I usually make these, but am too tired right now to think about that!)
  • organic milk or almond/soy if it's on sale with a coupon
  • canned tomato products if they're on sale or have a great coupon
  • 5 lbs potatoes (these are on sale at Lowes Foods this week, so I'll probably get them there)
  • paper towels (these are on sale at HT)
  • onions
  • diapers (not a food item, but necessity before baby fits into our cloth ones... on sale at HT w/ super doubles)
  • large bag of popping corn (still can't find this locally in bulk... ideas for online?)
  • kefir (for smoothies and general health in recovering after the baby arrives)
  • yogurt (if deeply discounted, there's some at HT this week for less than 20 cents a carton)
And here's what we'll be making from scratch:

  • whole grain sandwich bread (I may cheat and use a gift card to buy a loaf from the local bakery, if I'm too tired)
  • yogurt
  • cooking dry beans (lentils and either black/pinto beans) for easy use later
  • of course all our regular meals, as mentioned above

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week was a little different for us, since Benny's mom came with our two year old nephew.  It was great fun for little man to have them here, and it definitely helped out with groceries, since she brought a bunch of stuff from Costco for us.  Here's what we did to save this week:

  • I made pizza dough in the bread machine twice to make pizza on Sunday night when they got here, instead of opting for a Domino's deal.  (Takeout would have been easier, but more expensive, and not as healthy.)  We used homemade pesto and veggies we had in the freezer for the toppings.  I added slices of meatballs to one.
  • Monday night, we got to have a date night while Benny's mom watched the boys.  We used an Applebee's giftcard and took advantage of their burger special, so we had enough to order dessert too.  We didn't have to pay anything out of pocket, and we really enjoyed the time together.  (Though, for the record, there are other places in town we'd much rather go for a really good local burger, but this was free.)
  • Tuesday night, I had a Wesley Foundation board meeting, so dinner was provided.  I got to bring home a few of the leftovers.  Benny cooked at home with his mom, and they had French toast and fruit.  During the day, they went to the Playhouse, and had lunch out, which Benny's mom treated for.  They all had a great time and the boys were wiped out.
  • Wednesday they left, and Benny and I helped out with serving dinner at the Wesley Foundation for church that night.  This meant that not only did we get a free meal of tacos after the students were served, but we also ended up coming home with some things that the students wouldn't eat (leftover sour cream, extra salsa, and taco shells).  This gave us at least three extra meals this week.
  • Thursday and Friday were snow days for us, so I didn't go to school, which saved on fuel.  These days gave us a little bit more time to catch up on prepping for baby, and general cleaning.
  • We made a double batch of quiche last night with the last of the pie dough we had in the freezer, plus frozen broccoli and cauliflower and a few chopped tomatoes.  We used cheese that had been purchased on sale and frozen, and some powdered and evaporated milk, since we were out of regular milk.  I used saved butter wrappers to grease the pie dishes.  Little man loved the quiche and requested a piece of "pie" for breakfast this morning, which I happily gave him.
  • Benny's mom brought a boatload of stuff from Costco for us, including a lot of fresh fruit (most of which is gone, thanks to two hungry boys and a pregnant mama), organic cereal, yogurt (which is also gone), crackers, quinoa and kale mix which they didn't like (and we love), dried fruit, and some cheese.  She also brought some stuff for our Greek day at school, which I'll probably end up with some leftovers of.  There were also some things in there to stock our freezer when baby arrives, such as soup and whole grain bread.
  • Mom gave us some bagels from the food pantry (they were going to be labeled "waste" otherwise), and a jar of bacon grease (we are currently out because I haven't been doing as much bacon) that we like to use for frying eggs and greasing pans for corn bread.
  • We made our list for Super Doubles, which starts tomorrow.  I've budgeted about $30 for this trip.
  • I found a deal on Vitacost, so I'll be able to save about $10 off my probiotics this month.
  • I made this salad dressing recipe to take with our salad to a friend's house for dinner tonight.  I've made it once before, but was out of some of the ingredients, so I substituted some things.  I hope it's good.  I reused an old salad dressing bottle to take it in.
  • We continue to cut down on our waste and are filling a kitchen trash bag about every 2 1/2 weeks, which is including night time diapers.  (This would be much less if we weren't using these.)
  • We used scrap paper for little man's collages and scissor practice this week.  He had a great time doing that today, which made my artist soul happy.
  • I found a few more crockpot recipes to try out once the baby arrives.  My mom is graciously filling some freezer bags with the ingredients for these, so that all we have to do is thaw, dump it in, and cook.
  • We finalized our Barnes and Noble list, so we'll place that order using gift cards.  It will be nice to have some new books for us and puzzles for little man once baby arrives.  
  • Benny found a way to repair the sink top in the apartment, so we're thinking if it works out (he did the first step today), then we won't have to pay for a whole new top or entire vanity.  (It was damaged when the mirror inexplicably fell off the wall, while our tenant was out of town, so we're not charging her for the damage.)
  • Someone is coming to check out the upstairs rental space on Monday (hurray!).  She sounds very nice and normal, so we're hoping this will work out.
  • Because I did have school earlier this week, I did get to tutor two days, which meant that I did get paid for that this week.  That extra money will go towards the baby fund, I think, at this point.  I also offered to tutor over the summer, so we'll see if that pans out.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did pretty well.  I limited grocery spending to $10, including a pack of diapers.  We also had a few snow days, so that limited travel, which saved on gas.

I continue to dream about spring gardens, which I think every gardener does.  I'm having to keep myself in check though, and think realistically about what I can do after a c-section and with a newborn and three year old in tow.

So, here are the details for this past week:

  • Made all meals from scratch.  Was thankful for some leftovers that Mom gave us after Sunday night dinner, which made several lunches this week.  We used the crockpot to make another batch of "lasagna soup" with a partial box of pasta we had, and it turned out really well.
  • Graciously accepted some gifted potatoes.  Our 25 lb bag we purchased at the end of market season is almost out, so we're glad to have a few more for baking and roasting.
  • Made banana breakfast bars and lemon poppy seed muffins for the freezer for when baby comes.  (Our church is far less organized about providing meals than a few years ago, so we really don't know that we can count on that this time around.  We do have a few friends who have offered.)
  • Continued to compost and recycle, as we usually do, and took recycling off with other errands this week.  Now that we've almost got little man out of diapers (he's only in them at night time), and we're buying more in bulk, we're filling a kitchen trash bag about every two weeks.  (Yes, this will change when baby #2 arrives.)
  • I cut up a torn brown paper bag to use for cooking bacon in the microwave, instead of paper towels.  (We are on our last roll of paper towels, which I think we purchased back in August as a six-pack, but I'm hoping to try out a paper towel-free kitchen.  We're already really close.)
  • Washed all clothing in cold water and hung to dry.  We only used the dryer for towels.  It was even warm and breezy enough yesterday to hang a few things out on the clothes line (it was in the mid-40s).
  • Continue to look for deals on laundry detergent, as we are on our last bottle.  I only use the Seventh Generation stuff, or All free and clear, or Charlie's Soap.  I've considered making our own, but just don't have the time or energy to go there just now.
  • Made more homemade shower spray using dish soap and white vinegar and a re-purposed spray bottle.
  • Made use of a free online printable chore chart for little man, so he is now helping regularly with feeding pets, putting his clean clothes away, putting away toys, and dusting.  He also get stickers for doing his speech homework.
  • Spent a total of less than $10 at the grocery store for a cantaloupe, two bags of frozen veggies, two boxes of frozen egg rolls, and a pack of diapers.  
  • Was tempted to order Domino's pizza for when Benny's mom comes into town, but have opted to make a double batch of our own dough and make our own.  It will be cheaper, and healthier, and the boys can help to put toppings on, which is always fun.
  • Had a doctor's appointment, and had to get yet another prescription, but thankfully it was only $12.  
  • Picked up two books from The Children's Playhouse, which loans out books on parenting, kids activities, etc.  The local library has a lot, but the Playhouse has more in terms of parenting books, which is really nice.  We also took little man to the Playhouse two days this week to play, which he really enjoyed.  (Thanks to my mom for the membership for the year.)
  • The snow early this week was perfect snowman snow, so little man finally got to make a snow man with Daddy, which was super cute and he really enjoyed.  Hurray for free entertainment at home!

  • Made plans with friends for a shared meal next week, which will save on prep, and be a lot of fun.
  • The chickens are laying again!  That means that we don't have to purchase eggs from the grocery store, and that we'll get healthier eggs.  This is super exciting... we'll have hard boiled eggs for snacks, quiche for dinner, dinner salads as spring greens come in, and yummy breakfasts!
What about you?  How did you live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Update on Habits and Goals for 2016

I felt like it was time to revisit the earlier post from this year on habits we wanted to cultivate or goals we wanted to accomplish.  Some things we're really working towards, others might just have to wait until later in the year when baby is a bit older and we're getting a bit more sleep.

Know Where Every Dollar Goes:  We're steadily working toward this.  We continue to look for a deal on YNAB.  We've also contacted a new financial planner, as our current one just isn't really serving our needs.  We look forward to meeting with this new planner in April.  We're also in the process of finalizing our taxes, so that's helping us assess last year's spending.

Invest More for Retirement:  Meeting with the financial planner will give us a clearer picture of exactly how much each month we need to invest.  Once we have the upstairs space rented, this will be easier, as well as having the home equity line paid off.  Currently, any additional income we make is going toward the baby fund or the home equity line.

Intentionally Work on our Home Improvement Projects:  This year, we've got several things on the list that we'd like to tackle.  Many of them are small projects, but they're also the type that we tend to put off just for that reason.  We'd like to be very intentional about checking these off each month so that they're done by the end of the year.  A lot of these projects will be tackled in the evenings after little man is in bed, or while he is at preschool, or on weekend afternoons.

  • Paint trim in boys room, including closet doors by March.  (This includes new caulk, etc. where needed)  Maybe we'll get this done.  Right now it's up to Benny, and I know painting is his least favorite thing to do.
  • Touch up trim/paint in rental spaces by end of January. Yay!  This is done!
  • Advertise upstairs rental through Samaratin's Purse and have rented by February, if not sooner.  Advertise both spaces for August/when lease runs out and have filled by April for upcoming season.  We've got the apartment rented, but are still advertising the upstairs space.  We're hopeful that some of the recent inquiries we've had will pan out.
  • Install Ecobee thermostat in apartment by January 15 (this is when our new tenant moves in).  This was done on time, hurray!
  • Organize garage space by March 15.  This includes installing some drywall and pegboard, as well as generally sorting and storing tools, etc. Ha, this is a mammoth task, especially with a three year old and pregnant mama.  We are going to try to tackle another small corner this weekend.
  • Have new mulch spread and gutters cleaned by March 15 (this is a job we will hire out).
  • Paint shelving and trim in craft room downstairs by March 15.  Paint chairs to go around table in craft room. We are thinking that once the home equity line is paid off, we might have the funds to pay a painter friend to spray these with his industrial sprayer.  It would get the job done faster, and with a more professional finish.
  • Move forsythia bushes to front bed and plant creeping Jenny ground cover.  Have this done around the same time as mulch is spread so that mulch and compost can go here.  (March-ish, depending on soil workability.)
  • Mulch leaves with mower and add to compost by end of February. If the ground and leaves are ever dry enough, we'll get this done by the end of the month.  We may also just add a few handfuls of leaves here and there as we add kitchen scraps.  Hopefully they'll break down this way.
  • Have mower serviced for spring by April 30. The local hardware place is running a 20% off labor for spring service right now, so I think we'll try to take advantage of this soon, maybe after payday.
  • Paint exterior doors in chosen new color by June 30.  I'm hoping this will be able to be done well before June, since it's a small job.  Maybe it'll be something we can tackle while I'm home on maternity leave.
  • Have new front porch railings installed and bead board on the ceiling of the porch.  Maybe an outdoor ceiling fan installed over the table area?  by June 30
  • Can at least two batches of peach salsa and two of berry jam for Christmas gifting and personal use.
  • Have both porches re-stained (we're thinking of hiring this out to a contractor who Benny does a lot of work for at the paint store).
  • Maintain garden beds with regular weeding and trimming throughout growing season.  Prepare for fall/winter by October 30.
  • Make curtains for craft room shelves to hide some supply bins by November 30.
  • Make reusable coffee sleeves for Christmas gifts by November 30. (And learn how to use new sewing machine)
  • Make at least one batch of citrus marmalade by December 15 for Christmas gifting.
Have at least 26 dates with Benny:  This works out to be at least two a month, which I think it do-able with a newborn being around.  We're working towards this.  Weather and Saturday school have gotten in the way, but we've had a lot of family time thanks to snow days.  So, maybe it evens out.  We are sure to have one date this coming week when Benny's mom comes up and has agreed to hang out with little man while we do an early dinner out with a gift card.  Maybe 13 dates in a year is ok...

Read at least 26 new books this year:  I've been doing really well with this one.  So far, I've read a few books on toddler/preschool games for speech and educational growth, am working on my annual reading of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I've put together a Barnes and Noble order for some new books to read while I'm nursing the new baby.  We'll purchase these with Christmas gift cards.

Try at least two new recipes a month:  This one has been going really well and has definitely added some new things to our menus.  We've enjoyed breakfast banana bars, crockpot lasagna soup, crockpot Asian chicken, crockpot quinoa tacos, and baked pumpkin spice oatmeal.  I still have another muffin recipe I want to try this month.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week was pretty good for us in the budget department.  It was snowy all week, so there was no school for kids, and I got to work from home most days.  We also made great use of our pantry and freezer, so we saved quite a bit on groceries.  There were a few things we "splurged" on, but they were also things we would really use in the long run.

  • All meals were cooked at home.  We did two crockpot meals this week, so that saved on energy.
  • Turkey stock was made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass in the freezer.  We used the meat  and some stock to make turkey noodle soup.  The rest of the stock was frozen for later use.
  • Black bean chili was made with dried black beans from the pantry, and all other ingredients were in the pantry/freezer.  We made cornbread to go with this.
  • We made banana chocolate chip muffins, foccacia, and banana breakfast bars (I added raisins and nuts to these bars) for breakfast treats using ingredients we had on hand.
  • Our Valentine's treat was homemade cheesecake brownies, a new recipe.
  • Because of the snow, the food pantry didn't have many clients this week, so we graciously accepted extra bagels, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and oranges.  We'll process the peppers for the freezer.  This was extra nice, since we had already used all of our frozen peppers from the CSA this summer.
  • All clothes were washed in cold water, towels and sheets on warm.  Everything was hung to dry.  We continue to have success with potty training, and are doing much fewer loads of laundry because of it.
  • On Thursday, little man had preschool, Benny had to work, and I had a workday.  So, we took one car out and combined trips.  I was able to drop them off, and I took the car to work.  I also combined this with a doctor's appointment and a quick grocery run for some cheese that was on sale, kefir, and bananas for our weekly fruit.  (We find that having fresh fruit around keeps little man eating healthier snacks.  Prior to little man, we made do with our frozen stash of fruit or winter veggies to eat more seasonally.)  Combining all this saved on gas.
  • Little man helped to make all the Valentine's cards for his friends at school.  We saved by not having to purchase any, and didn't give any candy.  (At least in our house, this causes more grief/meltdowns than anything.  So, we chose to not give candy to others.)
  • We did venture out on Friday for some errands.  We "splurged" on the cheapest birdseed to refill our bird feeders (it is fun winter entertainment).  We planned the most efficient route so we were conservative with our fuel.
  • We also went to check out the new Goodwill, which had some awesome finds.  I found a new straw cup for little man (his previous one had broken), discounted egg dye for 75 cents, and some brand new fun tights for after this baby is born for five dollars (they would have normally been over $15).  They had a fabulous teal storage ottoman that I really wanted to snatch up for extra storage in the living room, but because it was still brand new, the price was more than normal Goodwill prices.  Benny and I gave it the 48 hour wait test, decided we could sell a few more things on eBay and trim grocery spending a bit more, and call it Valentine's Day present (we hadn't done anything for each other).  We picked it up this afternoon. Little man has had a ball filling it with his toys, and it emptied the smaller basket for the baby toys, and forced us to go through the current toys and weed out a few things he no longer plays with.
  • Because we didn't have school, I didn't tutor this week, so no extra money from that this week.  I did manage to sell some Mary Kay, so I made about $60 from that.  It also helped to clear out some more of the closet space.  And it will help to round out the baby fund.
  • We continue to advertise the upstairs rental space and hope to have that filled for the coming academic year.  Our current downstairs tenant is really sweet, and we hope she likes it enough to stick around beyond her year long lease.
  • Ebay items continue to be posted, and we probably have a few more things we need to put in the mail.
  • After signing up for Ebates, we received our first check in the mail.  We plan to put that toward the home equity line.
  • We received our explanation of benefits from the recent round of testing for the baby.  It was more than anticipated, but maybe in the long run with other medical expenses this year, it will be a wash because it will help us reach our deductible sooner.  We'll wait for the bill from the hospital and see if there's any room for negotiation if we agree to pay it in full.
  • I made another batch of orange cleaner for the bathrooms, and we mixed up some citrus vinegar cleaner to use on the floors and windows.  Little man really enjoys helping clean, so this is a cleaner we can feel ok about him using.
  • I cut little man's hair at home, saving on the cost of a haircut.  
  • We're beginning garden plans, thinking that we'll keep things easy this year with mostly herbs.  I may try to start some from seed, but with the baby coming, we may just opt to purchase plants this year.  We go through a lot of basil and cilantro, so we know we'll have those.  We planted our garlic in the fall, so it will be ready to pull in June.  All other herbs are perennials.  We're also looking forward to hopefully a bigger berry harvest this year, perhaps including raspberries (free from a friend) that we planted last year.
What about you?  I'd love to hear how you're living and saving green this week!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week, I feel like we've done really well with our frugal accomplishments.  We haven't had any unexpected expenses, and we've been able to take advantage of some great savings opportunities and a few small earning opportunities.

Here's how we've saved this week:

  • Cooked all meals at home including potato soup, loaded mac and cheese with broccoli, bean and cheese quesadillas, whole wheat banana muffins, pizza, and smoothies.
  • Took advantage of two free meals at church (a potluck on Sunday and pizza for our kids worship service on Wednesday) and shared dinner with Mom on Sunday evening, and she generously gave leftovers for my lunch on Monday.  So a total of four free meals.
  • Purchased bananas at the cheapest location and used savings apps for cash back on them.  These were snack for preschool one day.  The other day we made trail mix using ingredients we had on hand (popcorn, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower seeds).
  • Kept grocery spending to about $20 for the week, with coupons.  There was a good deal on almond milk, but we opted to skip it, since we still have half a gallon of regular milk in the fridge, and we have powdered milk, powdered coconut milk, and evaporated milk in our pantry right now.  I did purchase some kefir and yogurt, which we don't normally purchase, since I've been on antibiotics.  The hope is that these will help to maintain the "good" bacteria in my body, keeping the "bad" ones in check.
  • Washed all clothing in cold water, but towels and sheets in warm.  Everything was hung to dry.
  • Continued to recycle and usual.  We even encouraged recycling and composting at little man's birthday party on Saturday, which really cut down on the waste.  I am trying to get better about composting our brown paper, such as toilet paper tubes and paper towels (though we use so few of them), newspapers, and flour/sugar sacks.  The added browns really help the compost, and they break down quickly.
  • Combined errands as usual for the most efficient route and to save on fuel.
  • Carpooled to school daily, saving on gas.
  • We have added one trip each week to get little man to speech, but Benny is combining errands or a fun trip for little man in with this, so it's not too bad.
  • Gratefully accepted a scholarship to fund part of little man's preschool.
  • Continue to advertise the upstairs rental and are hopeful to have the space filled for the summer.
  • Benny found some new gaming stuff he can sell online, so he is working to post this.
  • Sold a few more items on eBay, so shipping these soon.
  • Tutored twice this week for $35, which is going toward home equity line payoff.
  • Benny picked up a few extra hours at work, so that money will also go to home equity line payoff.
  • Little man got some money for his birthday, so this will go toward his savings.
  • My quarterly haircut was on Thursday.  This is a splurge for us, at $35, but I only have it cut four times a year.  It's worth it to me with curly hair to pay for a good cut.
  • To accommodate paying for my haircut, I regularly cut Benny and little man's hair.  I cut Benny's hair on Sunday using the clippers we've had for 10 years, and we hope they'll still keep going strong for 10 more.
  • Little man received some unexpected gifts for his birthday, so we opted to save what we had purchased for his birthday for his "big brother" gift when the baby comes, and for Easter.  This will save us on these expenses later.
  • Made some Valentine's cards, and will work to make more at home with little man to give to his preschool classmates next week.
  • Used handmade thank you notes to write all of little man's birthday thank you's on.  Most of these can be hand-delivered, saving on postage.
  • Found some magnets at school that I wasn't using to use to hang little man's artwork, so we didn't have to purchase these.  We will decorate the magnets one snow day as a craft project.
  • Plan to line up a babysitter (hopefully for free) to keep little man so Benny and I can have a date afternoon soon.
What about you?  How did you live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 1, 2016

February Menu Plan

This month we're again focusing on using our pantry and freezer staples, but also trying to put a few meals in the freezer for when baby #2 comes.  I'm also focusing on including more whole grains and less sugar, since I've slipped up on these a bit (pregnancy cravings) and I think that's affecting my overall health some, which in turn is getting passed on to baby.  We're also going to take advantage of as many free meals as we can through community and church events.  We know there are at least two or three this month, so that will help out with the grocery budget too.

Looking at the menu, we'll need to purchase some of the following:

  • organic milk
  • butter
  • ricotta cheese
  • molasses 
  • bananas
  • cabbage
  • apples
  • other fresh fruit/veggies on sale

So, here's the plan for the month:

Breakfasts:  egg and cheese sandwiches, oatmeal with dried fruit and seeds/nuts, whole wheat banana muffins, cappuccino chocolate chip muffins (to satisfy the chocolate craving without a lot of sugar), fruit smoothies with freezer fruit or donated fruit from food pantry, whole wheat pancakes/waffles with eggs or sausage, homemade banana bread with jam or cream cheese, gingerbread pancakes, chunky monkey muffins (a chocolate, banana, peanut butter muffin)

Lunches:  leftovers, bean and cheese quesadillas with salsa, smoothies, homemade yogurt with fruit and granola/dry cereal

Dinners:  potato soup, loaded mac and cheese with broccoli and mushrooms, veggie stir fry over rice with egg rolls, crockpot lasagna soup with ricotta and mozzarella, rice and beans with cheese, salsa, and cornbread, black bean crockpot chili, lentil and turkey sloppy joes over potatoes or homemade bread, rosemary white bean soup (we'll add some diced veggies because we found it a bit thin last time), chicken with roasted root veggies (potatoes, turnips, and beets) and brown rice pilaf, turkey and black bean tacos with fixin's, homemade pizza with sausage, onion, mushroom, or whatever we have on hand (x 3-4; this is our standard Friday night dinner), maybe tomato basil soup, open faced meatball subs with oven fries, sausage and apple skillet meal over barley/brown rice

Snacks:  popcorn, homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, fruit (usually oranges or bananas this time of year), homemade yogurt with dry cereal/granola or fruit, toast and jam, homemade hot cocoa

New Recipes to Try:  This is for my New Year's habit to break us out of the rut we sometimes get into.

These aren't really menu items, but things I want to make this month before baby arrives next month. 
What about you?  How are you living and saving green with your menu this month?  I'd love to hear from you!