Monday, October 31, 2016

November Menu Plan

We're kind of shedding tears around here now that our CSA season is over for the year, but it also simplifies things a bit in the weekly schedule and meal planning area since we know for sure what produce we'll have each week (mostly freezer).  Once again, we're going to make the most of our freezer and pantry stash, and graciously accept overflow from the food pantry where my mom volunteers (they're only open for clients two days a week, so some produce that's donated needs to be used before then).

We'll take advantage of the sales this month on baking staples to stock up on butter, brown sugar, white sugar, Pam, nuts, sweet potatoes, and cranberries.  We love to freeze cranberries for use in smoothies, muffins, and fruit crisps.  The sweet potatoes will keep for a while and are wonderful in soups, enchiladas, and casseroles, as well as just baked and topped with black beans and sour cream or yogurt.

Without further ado, here's the menu plan for the month, with some adjustments to be made depending on what we glean from the food pantry.

Breakfasts:  strawberry coffee cake (with gleaned strawberries and marscapone cheese), winter squash baked oatmeal with raisins, figs, and pecans, egg and cheese sandwiches, egg breakfast casserole with peppers and onions, fruit smoothies, yogurt and fruit, winter squash muffins, lemon poppy seed muffins, cranberry oatmeal muffins

Lunches:  leftovers rounded out with gleaned fruit, salad, or yogurt

Dinners:  tacos with winter squash, turkey, and greens, open faced lentil sloppy joes with salad or roasted veggies, pasta with homemade pesto and salad, winter squash black bean chili, enchiladas with turkey, beans, peppers, onions, sweet potato and frozen shredded summer squash, dinner salads with hard boiled eggs and cranberry vinaigrette, loaded mac and cheese with cauliflower and sausage, homemade pizza with pesto/tomato sauce and veggies x 3, turkey pot pie, winter squash and chick pea salad with tahini dressing and sage from the garden, crock pot pasta with ricotta, corn chowder, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, black bean chili with corn bread

Putting up:  This month we'll focus on processing and freezing winter squash and dehydrating any appropriate fruits from the food pantry.  We'd love to dry some apples and pineapple for snacking, and have already dried some cantaloupe (great with oatmeal) and frozen some winter squash.

Groceries to purchase:  tortillas, eggs, brown sugar, pie crust, tahini, dried chick peas, dried lentils, canned corn, sweet potatoes, cranberries

I'd love to hear your meal plans for this month!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Updates on 2016 Goals

We're working away on our 2016 goals, but its been a while since we revisited them, so I thought this might be a good time to do so.

Saving More and Paying Down Debt:  We keep making progress toward getting the home equity line paid off, but paying for little man's specialized preschool for speech has made this take somewhat of a back seat.  With my small pay raise and having both spaces rented, we're still diligently chipping away at this goal though.  We're looking forward to next year when we home little man will qualify for preK through our very good quality public schools, which would be free and save us almost $500/month in preschool fees. (Baby would still be home with Daddy.)

House and garden projects:  This is the big list we've been chipping away at.
  • Paint trim in boys room, including closet doors by March.  (This includes new caulk, etc. where needed)  Ha!  Need to get this done...
  • Touch up trim/paint in rental spaces by end of January.
  • 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. Both spaces are filled through December!  Yay!  We're actively advertising the upstairs space for spring with several prospects.
  • Install Ecobee thermostat in apartment by January 15 (this is when our new tenant moves in).
  • Organize garage space by March 15.  This includes installing some drywall and pegboard, as well as generally sorting and storing tools, etc. Space is much more organized, but still needs drywall and pegboard.
  • 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.  Ummm, yeah... the space needs a general overhaul now from the paint and playdough debris that has overtaken it.
  • 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.) Partially done, still need to have mulched and plant creeping Jenny.  Maybe can do this fall still.
  • Mulch leaves with mower and add to compost by end of February. Now there's a new batch of leaves!
  • Have mower serviced for spring by April 30.  Thankfully, this was an easy self-repair after a chat with the friendly folks at Lowe's.
  • Paint exterior doors in chosen new color by June 30.
  • 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. Ended up freezing berries and peaches instead.  Just too crazy with two little ones for canning this summer and heating up the house.
  • 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).  Still working on this, but we've got a contractor in mind.
  • Maintain garden beds with regular weeding and trimming throughout growing season.  Prepare for fall/winter by October 30. I'm on the way to getting the garden beds prepped, the perennial beds are deadheaded and mostly weeded.  Veggie beds need to be cleaned out and trimmed back.  Just need to plant the garlic, but I have some donated straw, so won't need to purchase that!
  • 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. Purchased citrus from the local high school band, so on the way to that soon!
Try two new recipes each month:  We've done pretty well with this, especially with using our crock pot.  I've really enjoyed trying things out in my copy of Not Your Mother's Slowcooker cookbook, including the marinara sauce, pizza sauce, and granola (this was more of a miss we had to tweak).  We're slowly finding our cooking groove while balancing parenting two littles, but we've got a system that works now.  It includes at least one crock pot meal a week, meal prep in the evenings after the boys are in bed, and making one breakfast casserole (eggs, baked oatmeal, or overnight french toast) a week.

Read at least 26 new books this year:  Ha!  Who was I kidding?!  I did get to skim a new book for small group, read a few memoirs while home on maternity leave, browse two new cookbooks, and am now reading Farm City, Grounded, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  So, for a year with a new baby and a three year old finding his way in the wide world, I'd say that's pretty good!

Take at least 26 dates with Benny:  We're doing well to average at least one a month, whether out or at home.  Mom has been wonderful in helping to make this happen since little man is now excited about slumber parties at Nana's house.  We are getting some time with a cup of tea and some conversation after the boys go to bed most nights of the week, so this is great for us.  We know we're on our way to raising two awesome boys and we won't get this time when they're tiny back, so we're savoring the moments, grabbing time for just us when we can, and calling it good.

I feel like overall, we're doing pretty well with our goals and habits to cultivate for 2016!  There are still plenty of house projects left to do, but I'm loving where we are as a family right now.

How are you doing with your goals and habits for 2016?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week we're still trying to keep the grocery budget low, but I did pick up a few staples we were out of (canola oil, sugar, salt, and dried parsley).  We're doing a great job of keeping our weekly expenses low in general, so hopefully that'll help out with the home equity line and saving for a new car.  (My 10 year old one is starting to rust out thanks to our winters, so we're starting to save for purchasing a new-to-us late model, used car sometime next year.)  Here's how we kept our expenses low this week:

  • Continued to make all meals at home.  Enjoyed three shared meals with family and friends that were pot luck.
  • Used the crock pot for several meals, saving energy.
  • Accepted bread, mushrooms, kale, 2 lbs of strawberries, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes from the food pantry that were going to go to waste.  
  • Used pantry and freezer items to plan meals for the week including lentil and sweet potato soup, kale salad with sun dried tomato dressing, hot German potato salad with sausages, veggie stir fry over rice, winter squash baked oatmeal, and winter squash waffles with fruit smoothies.
  • Processed peppers from CSA for the freezer.  Chopped tomatoes and froze them for later use in chili.
  • Purchased canola oil and sugar in bulk to save overall.
  • Took leftovers for lunch each day, saving on prep time and money.
  • Made most of our meals meatless, saving on the cost of meat and choosing more nutrient dense foods like beans, lentils, potatoes, and greens.
  • Composted as usual including tea bags, coffee grounds, and kitchen scraps.
  • Washed laundry in cold water (except diapers and towels) and hung clothing to dry inside or on the line outside when weather permitted.
  • Swapped desserts with our housemate, giving us more variety and a fun shared experience.
  • Gleaned apples from an apple tree on commercial property this week, with the owner's permission.  Plan to process apples tonight for making applesauce.
  • Continue to make do with hand-me-down clothing for the baby, even with the changes in seasons, we're able to make things work with short sleeves and a few jackets.  (Most of our things from little man are the wrong season for the size that the baby's at right now.)
  • Carpooled to work four days, saving on fuel.
  • Combined errands and planned our route as much as possible to save on fuel and time.
  • Continued to advertise the upstairs rental space to be filled in December.  A few promising leads, but nothing firm yet.
  • Weeded out a few things in the closet to donate to Goodwill for a tax receipt.  Will try to do more before the end of the year.
  • Ordered two Christmas gifts for the boys using gift card money, so no funds out of pocket.
  • Began planning little man's Halloween costume using things we already have.  He wants to be a fireman this year, so his fireman raincoat and gifted fire hat will be taking on starring roles.
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October Menu Plan

This month is all about using seasonal ingredients and making use of what we have.  We have a huge stockpile right now, and we're trying to make a dent in the home equity line loan, so this month I'm focusing only on purchasing absolute necessities (usually milk, cheese, pie crust (it's just too hard to find the time to make it with two littles) and maybe yogurt or fresh fruit).  I'm also working to use our crock pot to its fullest potential, which means using it for roasted veggies, large batches of beans from dried, and soups/stews.

Here's the basic plan, recognizing that some things may shift and change if we are gifted items, especially fresh produce.

Breakfasts:  french toast casserole, banana nut muffins, zucchini flax muffins, pumpkin nut muffins, egg and cheese sandwiches, steel cut oatmeal with fruit, smoothies, baked oatmeal  (we have a lot of fruit, winter squash, and shredded summer squash in the freezer that needs to be used)

Lunches:  leftovers, roasted veggie sandwiches/wraps with hummus, bean and cheese quesadillas

Dinners:  veggie quiche, kale and chick pea stew with toast, lentil sloppy joes, winter squash waffles with bacon and smoothies, black beans and rice with fixin's, macaroni and cheese with tomatoes and green beans, black bean tacos, black bean chili and corn bread, chicken salad sandwiches with side salad, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, crock pot roasted veggies over rice, homemade pizza x 2, pesto pasta with side salad

Snacks:  roasted squash/pumpkin seeds, popcorn, winter squash pie, fresh fruit, hummus and carrot sticks

Batch cooking/putting up:  process winter squash and freeze puree, make applesauce/pear sauce and freeze, dried tomatoes, chive and sage herb butter

I'd love to hear how you're living and saving green in the kitchen this month!