Saturday, July 8, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments: Vacation Edition

This past week was fabulous!  We went on vacation, to the beach no less, and managed to do it for close to $150.  So, without further ado, here's how we did it....


  • Stayed with family.  We're blessed to have family who has waterfront property, and they invited us to stay for the week.  It is their full time home, so they were there to host.  That meant there was no hotel bill for the week.
  • Drive, taking advantage of low gas prices.  We had always planned to drive, but the historically low gas prices certainly helped out.  We also tried to get an early start to miss the holiday traffic.  We loaded the boys in pjs and ate breakfast of homemade muffins and fresh picked blueberries in the car.  The car was packed the night before, making that much easier.
  • Planned stops.  Though we couldn't plan all our stops (sometimes the kids just need a break from car seats), we do generally try to stop at places that don't encourage spending.  We stopped at a Lowe's hardware on the way down, which has nice restrooms and free entertainment for little man in the form of the riding lawnmower display.  It's a place to stretch our legs and we can browse and not feel guilty.  We also like to stop in grocery stores this way, and we can pick up a bag of pretzels or something for the same as a tiny bag would cost at the gas station.   There are a couple of really nice rest areas along the way too, and these serve the same purpose, especially if we have a Frisbee in the car to play with a bit in the lawn. 
  • Cheap car entertainment.  I picked up several books at the library, a tablet we can check out there, and printed some alphabet bingo sheets to take.  We had things to do in the car, some books to read, songs to listen to, and games to play.  Overall, it was as good as could be expected with little ones on the road.  We packed car snacks from home (air popped popcorn, dried fruit, crackers, pretzels, nuts, muffins, etc.)  We all took reusable water bottles or cups that could be refilled at stops.
  • Eat out only once.  We have a special nostalgic restaurant we like to visit each year (the same place I grew up going as a kid), so we enjoy taking the boys for breakfast when we go to the coast.  We budgeted for this, and every other meal was eaten with family.
  • Keep entertainment cheap.  Most days, we played on the water, either taking the motor boat over to the beach or kayaking on the water, or just swimming off the dock out front.  We did splurge and spend $40 on going to the aquarium, but it was a morning well spent, and little man loved every minute of it.  We took snacks that morning, so we staved off hunger and didn't have to buy snacks at the aquarium.  We also took bikes, and the cousins had some there, so the kids had a big time riding bikes in the carport.
  • Meals at home.  I already mentioned this, but we took our CSA veggies to contribute, and I made a batch of cookies and homemade granola, homemade pesto, frozen homemade pizza sauce, and a pound of coffee to share as well.  I also picked up some cold stuff at the grocery store there to share (yogurt, half and half, etc.).  My other cousins brought some casseroles, homemade chicken salad, and homemade meatballs to share.  Fishing off the dock, and the crab pot, yielded a yummy seafood dinner one night.  We all shared kitchen duty, and cleanup, so meals were pretty easy, even with having eight kids under the age of 5 in the house!  
  • Planned laundry.  We kept clothes to a minimum, knowing that there would be laundry facilities.  We were able to take our cloth diapers, meaning that we had to rely on disposables only on the road.  We took our cloth wipes too, so we used these too.
  • Break up the trip.  We were fortunate to have family along the road about halfway, so we stopped overnight both directions.  This really made the trip more manageable with the boys, and it gave us a little visit time too.  My in-laws kept our dog, which was really nice, so that was a stop.  We also stopped to stay with my cousin and her family, which gave the boys some extra time with those cousins.
  • Budget entertainment.  There were plenty of toys and lots of kids around, so entertainment for the kids was easy.  The town put on a nice Fourth of July fireworks display, and we enjoyed a free Sunday evening concert in the park.  I did purchase sparklers for the kids ($2), and my cousin bought glow sticks for them.  
  • Little splurge.  We budgeted a little cushion, and we went to one of the thrift stores there.  We knew our oldest would need a new life jacket soon, so we found one there for $2 for when he outgrows the current one.  (They are rated by weight, and are understandably very specific, so we want to be prepared when he's ready for the new size.)  We knew that finding a used one there would be much easier than where we live, because they're much more used in a coastal community.  We also found a $0.25 Halloween pumpkin bucket for baby boy, and a few dresses for me.  They had a great holiday mug selection, so I picked up several at $0.10 each, knowing that we always make homemade hot cocoa for teacher gifts at the holidays.  All told, we probably spent $20 there, and it went toward a great local ministry.
So, I'd love to hear from you!  How do you live and save green on vacation?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

Wow, I cannot believe that we're halfway through May already!  We have only three weeks of school left, and then it'll be summer!

My boys were so wonderful to me this past weekend for Mother's Day.  We totally broke out of our routine on Saturday and had both breakfast and dinner out (dinner was courtesy of gift cards).  It was a fabulous day, complete with a little bit of garden work to keep me and little man happy (he did help, but mostly just enjoyed being outside).  It's a great day with your kiddos when there are little to no meltdowns or power struggles!

This week is all about using up what we have in the freezer and pantry, so we're skipping a trip to the grocery store (though I might need to pick up some yogurt).

Here's how this past week went, frugally speaking:


  • Kept up with our usual kitchen routines of making meals at home, including salmon pasta salad with peas and cucumber, grilled cheeses, salads, banana chocolate chunk muffins, egg and cheese sandwiches, and baked ham.  Snacks included fresh fruit, nuts, homemade croutons, and hard boiled eggs.
  • I was out of chocolate chips, so I chopped up part of a chocolate bar in the cabinet for the muffins.  Yum!  And a good use of what we had.
  • Gleaned spinach, arugula, mushrooms, kale, two gallons of milk, two pounds of strawberries, two containers of blackberries, and several containers of cut up fruit from the food pantry.  They have started gleaning from the farmer's markets at the food pantry, so they have loads of fresh produce.  The clients often don't take the greens, so they tend to go to waste.  We enjoy them a lot, so it's nice that we can use them.
  • Continued with composting, even bringing home our fruit and paper scraps from the church coffee bar on Sunday (I take my own coffee cup, so I just put the leftovers in that to bring home.)  Our compost is much more balanced since adding some spent hay with each kitchen scrap addition, which is great.
  • Hung much of our laundry, including some sheets and towels, on the line to dry when weather was conducive.  We continued with our regular cold water washing, except for towels, cloth diapers, and sheets.
  • Making a renewed effort to put water left in water glasses on plants, rather than down the drain.  This will really help with our container plants outside.
  • Used the dry mop for floor dusting rather than the broom vac, saving energy.  
  • Kept the windows cracked, and ran ceiling fans when necessary, to keep the house cool instead of running AC.  We will start needing to close front curtains soon during the day to keep the southern facing sun out (this is an advantage to us in the winter with our cold weather).
  • Planted asparagus crowns in the garden, hoping they will come up.  We also planted two bean plants that little man started at preschool and brought home.  It looks like at least one of them will make it, so it will be fun to watch with him.  
  • Split irises and hostas for other spots in the garden.  Purchased a few discounted bedding plants (marigolds, coleus, petunias) to fill planters, but also filled them with black eyed Susans and creeping Jenny ground cover from the garden.  Hoping they will fill in nicely in a few weeks and be a nice pop of color on our porch.
  • Hoping to find some cheap starts of basil for our garden so that we can make our annual supply of pesto for pasta, pizza, and sandwich spreads.
  • Benny talked to a local painter who has agreed to professionally spray some chairs with white paint for us for downstairs.  We purchased these from Craigslist for $10 a piece (a steal because they're so sturdy), but we know we'll get a better finish if they are professionally sprayed. The painter will do this in his spare time, so he's not going to charge us his regular fee. It will be nice to have these done and out of our garage space and into our craft room for regular use.
  • Did some free entertainment on Saturday with the boys at the library and the Children's Playhouse.  We also combined errands that day, meaning that we only had one car out, even with Benny at work and me being out with the boys.
  • Used gift cards for our Mother's Day celebration.  We ate out at Panera, which was a real treat for us.  The boys enjoyed it immensely, and we did a little window shopping at the mall (didn't even buy anything off the clearance rack!).  Benny also purchased my Mother's Day gift of a new cook book (The Food Lab) using gift card money from Barnes and Noble.  It is going to be a great book, written in much the same style as Cook's Illustrated, pairing science with cooking (two of my favorite things).  Little man made a cute card for me, and a fun hand print painting at school for Mother's Day.  
  • Finished up a year of professional mentoring, so I will be receiving a stipend for that in a few weeks.  We're planning for most of that to go toward paying off our home equity line, but a little of it will pay for a new pair of sandals for me for the summer.
  • Excited that our solar eclipse party was funded through Donor's Choose for school!  I have another project posted to fund new books for our classroom library, so check it out! Good Reads Make Great Readers!
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

School Project: Solar Eclipse Party--Your Help Needed

Many of you know that I am a school teacher.  I rarely post here about that part of my life, but right now there's something very exciting going on that I'd like to share.

On August 21, the first day of school for next year, we have the chance to experience a solar eclipse with our students.  I am in the process of designing a school-wide event for students grades K-8 to teach them about the mechanics of an eclipse, types of light, the scale of our solar system, and how to view an eclipse safely.  We're incorporating science, math, literature, social studies, the arts, and many kinesthetic activities.

In order to make this project happen, there are some supplies that we need to purchase, especially to make safe solar viewing possible for our 300+ students.  Through the link below, you can make a donation to make our project possible.  Currently, we're about halfway to our goal!  Any gift you can give would be helpful, and for the next three days, your donation would be matched up to $50 if you include the promo code LIFTOFF.

https://www.donorschoose.org/project/solar-eclipse-school-wide-party-august-2/2546809/

So, I'd like to challenge my readers to consider donating over the next three days to have your donation doubled.  If you believe in my project like I do, would you consider sharing this with friends who might also support our project?

Thanks for considering!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

Spring has officially arrived!  We've had beautiful weather, mixed with showers.  It's been really nice for outside play, yard and garden work, and hanging clothes outside.  We've had cool enough evenings to enjoy the windows being open.


  • Cooked all meals at home including egg and cheese sandwiches, homemade granola (added pumpkin seeds and dried coconut), lentil sloppy joes, egg salad sandwiches, homemade pizza, and crock pot lasagna soup with salad.
  • Enjoyed a date night, thanks to Mom for keeping little man, with baby.  We used a gift card for a local restaurant, and then did dessert at home of brownies and ice cream.  
  • Salvaged several containers of berries, pears, apples, lemons, mushrooms, several loaves of bread, bagels, yogurt, and half and half from the food pantry.
  • Gleaned several snacks, milk cartons, and cheese sticks from the school cafeteria.
  • Kept up with all regular cold water laundry activities and hanging clothes to dry.
  • Kept up with composting activities, adding more hay to the compost.  This seems to be helping the fruit fly situation we had.
  • Planted free basil plants in the garden.  The parsley we planted has been eaten by rabbits (anyone know an easy way to keep them away?).
  • Spent a little time weeding the garden.  Need to split irises and hostas, so will relocate these to another garden area where they can multiply.  Might also split hellebores, as they're doing really well in the back garden.
  • Purchased new sandals for 50% off.  They are really good quality, so should last several years.
  • Carpooled to work two days.  Should be able to carpool most of next week, and the following weeks.
  • Enjoyed some time outside with little man on walks and playing "egg hunt" in the yard/garden.  He also helped some with weeding.
  • Enjoyed the cool air and having the windows open.  Will substantially save on the electric bill this month too.
  • Stayed away from the local kids consignment sale this time.  The boys can make do with what we already have for summer, so we didn't need anything.  
  • Met with our financial adviser to set up automatic savings for the boys, contribute more to retirement funds, and a little more to mortgage.
  • Accepted a curriculum writer position with DPI for the summer.  It will be a substantial amount of work, but the stipend will be worth it.
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments Easter Break Edition

This Easter Break was definitely an exercise in the "stay-cation" mentality for us.  It was an opportunity for Benny to pick up some extra hours at work, and a chance for us to have some more family time.  We took advantage of some local attractions, within an hour's drive, and splurged a bit on treats, but generally kept things cheap and easy.

It ended up being a blessing that we'd planned to keep things low-key, since both boys ended up being sick, though not too sick to slow them down majorly.  It also gave us a chance to do a little yard and garden work before the rains came.


  • Cooked most meals at home including overnight blueberry french toast casserole, black beans and rice, chili and corn bread, strawberry cream cheese coffee cake, homemade pizza, French toast and fruit for dinner, salmon salad (like tuna but with canned salmon) and hard boiled eggs (to dye for Easter of course)
  • Made the best use of our freezer and pantry stash, even using powdered milk for the baking.  Was glad to use up a few things in the pantry that were going out of date.
  • Graciously accepted bread, veggies, and some pre-made deli sandwiches from the pantry this week.  Also stocked up on strawberries, which were 99 cents a pound, but we were limited to four pounds.
  • Picked up a bale of spent hay for free to add to our compost.  Hoping this will remedy our fruit fly situation there.  Continued to compost all kitchen scraps and paper as appropriate.
  • Kept up with regular laundry activities, washing in cold water and line drying when possible.  Diapers and "sick sheets" were washed in hot water or on sanitize.
  • Took a day trip to the science center about an hour from here.  The boys loved it, and it was nice to be able to use the gift certificate that we were given for little man's birthday a while back.  We did splurge here and upgrade to an annual membership, which the gift certificate contributed towards, because the boys enjoyed it so much.  We met my aunt and uncle for lunch afterwards.  It was a blast, and we look forward to going again.
  • Enjoyed a trip to the library with the boys for story time.  Since little man's in preschool, he doesn't get to go as much as he used to.  It's nice that we got to go, he enjoyed it, and we both got some books out of the deal.
  • The trip to Grandfather Mountain was probably the highlight of the week, and one of the least expensive.  It is only about 30 minutes from our house, and we took a picnic out there.  They have a great animal exhibit, wonderful hiking trails, and museums.  Normally, the cost is out of our price range, but for the month of April, they always significantly discount the entrance.  So, we all got in for $9.  We did splurge this day and pick up some breakfast goodies and coffee before the trip.
  • Little man and I enjoyed a date afternoon after some yard work on Saturday morning.  He wanted to go to the bakery, so I used a gift card and got each of us a treat and some bread for later in the week.  Then, we picked up eggs from the grocery store for dying later.  While we were there, we discovered a free Earth Day craft of making bird feeders, so we did that together.  They gave me an herb of my choice to plant, so I chose parsley, since I don't usually have that one in the garden.  (I already had the basil they offered.)  He also requested a trip to the carwash, so I splurged and did that (we usually don't go that often).  He loved it!  Such a fun time, and so special to have that time with just him.
  • Used coupons and freebies to fill the Easter baskets for the boys.  Little man got pistachios, mini-Nutella packs, flower seeds, and some books.  Baby got a board book and a stuffed animal.
  • Enjoyed a couple of family meals with mom and extended family, saving on overall cost.  (Though the road trip probably made up for it with one.)
  • Have played LOTS of egg hunt this week with the plastic Easter eggs we have!  It has given little man hours of pleasure, and has really stretched his thinking about hiding spots.  We've tried to begin introducing words like "camouflage" so that he is learning a little more in the process, but it's great for logic.
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, April 3, 2017

April Menu Plan

As usual, we're all about making use of what we have.  We'll continue to work down what we have in the pantry and freezer.  We're starting to get a few herbs in the garden, so these will bring some fresh flavor to some of our meals, where we're relying on pantry and freezer staples.  Making use of the ability to glean from the food pantry will also help us.  We've recently received a lot of bread and grapes from the food pantry, so some of our meals will revolve around these.

I am trying out a few new recipes this month, so I hope they work out well.

Breakfasts:

  • Overnight crock pot oats with dried fruit and nuts
  • French toast casserole with cream cheese and frozen berries
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Egg and cheese sandwiches
  • Banana muffins
Lunches:
  • Leftovers
  • Yogurt with fruit and nuts
Dinners:
  • Roasted turkey with potatoes, salad, and asparagus
  • Turkey salad (using leftover turkey, nuts/seeds, and grapes) sandwiches with fresh fruit
  • Asian salmon soup (we substitute ramen for the rice) with Asian slaw and egg rolls
  • Mushroom tartines with salad or fruit
  • Black bean chili with corn bread
  • Tomato and greens soup with kidney beans and spicy sausage served with toast
  • Sloppy joes with oven fries or roasted veggies
  • Homemade pizza x 4
  • Quiche with bacon, broccoli and mushrooms/onions served with fruit
  • Winter squash waffles or pancakes with fruit and sausage
  • Black bean, squash, and sweet potato enchiladas with fixin's
  • Pesto pasta salad
  • Asian chicken with rice
  • Hot dogs with carrot and celery sticks and dip
Prep ahead:
I will be out of town for a few days this month, so I am going to try making a few freezer meals for Benny to make life easier for him.
  • Make crock pot Asian chicken (put all ingredients in a freezer bag for Benny to thaw and cook)
  • Sloppy joe filling for freezer
  • Prepare and pre-bake pizza crust

Monday, March 27, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was kind of a whirl wind for us, since we were traveling for the weekend.  We still managed to save quite a bit and stick to our frugal ways, though!


  • Travel was primarily for school, so fuel expenses will be reimbursed.  We could combine it with a visit to family, so that was nice.
  • Radio in the "new" car needed replacing, so Benny ordered one online and he and his dad spent most of the day Saturday replacing it.  Much cheaper than paying for a new one, though we still have to figure out how to program it all.
  • Packed our own snacks from home for the road trip, so we didn't pay for snacks or drinks along the way.
  • All meals were made at home including banana bars for breakfasts, bagels and cream cheese, egg and cheese sandwiches, Thai beef over rice, and guacamole and hummus with pita chips (I honestly don't remember what else we ate for meals!)
  • Continued with our regular composting, recycling, and waste reduction lifestyle.
  • Accepted two gallons of milk, crackers, and fruit from the food pantry.  
  • Gleaned four cheese sticks, several snack packs, carton of yogurt, and three apples from school cafeteria.
  • Reused tea bags a few times for hot tea, saving on the cost of them and stretching them a little further.
  • Gratefully accepted some hand-me-downs from a coworker for little man.
  • Went to Costco with family, saving by purchasing wholesale and didn't have to purchase a membership.  We bought:  almonds, organic raisins, two large cartons of Greek yogurt, grape tomatoes, wild caught salmon (frozen), maple syrup, honey, and a set of clearance pjs for little man in a size that will fit next winter.
  • Enjoyed shared meals with family, saving on cooking and food costs.
  • Took a few walks and spent time at a park, getting free exercise and vitamin D!  Nice to have some warm spring weather!
  • Continued to breastfeed and pump for baby, compiling a freezer stash of milk to help when I have to be away in a few weeks.  This will also help when the boys have colds for a little immune boost.
  • Benny loves watches.  He offered to write a forum post for one company that he really likes in exchange for a new watch and band from them.  Win, win for both!
  • Found a headboard we like on Craigslist for $30 (much cheaper than a similar one we found online), so hoping it is still for sale.  We'd like to give it a face lift with white paint and finally get around to really decorating our bedroom.  We love the boys room the most in the house, and our bedroom has taken a back seat.  We've chosen a new wall color and hope to give some of the existing furniture a face lift with a little paint, find some new curtains, and generally spruce up the space.  
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We've been doing really well with our savings this month, even with the water leak (see the last post).  I've tried to only buy essentials at the grocery store and really work down some of the things that are in the freezer and pantry.  Our new upstairs tenant moved in over the weekend (yay!) and she is a wonderful fit for us so far.

Here's how we saved this past week:


  • Cooked all meals at home from scratch including mac and cheese with broccoli, sweet and sour veggie and chicken stir fry with egg rolls, crock pot cabbage and sausage with corn bread, chocolate whole grain waffles and fruit smoothies, veggie pizza, and crock pot Thai beef (a new recipe that needs some tweaking.. not spicy enough or enough veggies for us!).
  • Gratefully accepted six avocados, kiwi, melon, mushrooms, grapes, peppers, onions, and two gallons of milk from the food pantry gleaning.  Much of it was processed and frozen, though the fruit is almost gone.  We also accepted a whole bag of Panera bread including loaf bread, cinnamon raisin bread, and at least a dozen bagels.  I still find it amazing that many of the clients would prefer white sandwich bread to this, but it often goes bad on the food pantry shelves, so they have learned to save it for us.
  • Gleaned six packs of Goldfish crackers, two packs of Chex mix, one yogurt, one apple, and four cheese sticks from the school cafeteria.
  • Brought home leftovers from Greek Day at school including olives, cheeses, pita chips, and hummus.  I will make an olive and sun dried tomato pesto with the olives (tomatoes from CSA last year).  The cheeses were used in mac and cheese and will be for snacking, as will the pita chips and hummus.
  • Continued with all regular composting and recycling to reduce waste.

  • Continued with regular laundry activities including cold water wash, line drying, and cloth diaper use.  We're glad the weather is warm enough some days to hang things on the clothes line again.
  • Did our usual cloth napkin and rag use to cut down on paper items.
  • Benny had put in his notice at work, so he worked his last shift on Saturday.  Before he left, we used his employee discount to purchase all the paint and stain we will need for the near future.  He is so grateful to not have to work every Saturday now, and we're glad to have a little more flexibility for family time.
  • We made a birthday gift for little man to take to a birthday party, our usual tie dyed t-shirt.  We included some small things of play dough we had around and some free sticker sheets from the doctor's office.  Little man decorated a repurposed store bag as a gift bag with paper punches and colorings.  The little boy was thrilled with the gift (especially the Ninja Turtles stickers!).
  • Made a bulk spice order from San Francisco Herb Company, combining our order with a friend's to save on shipping a bit.  It will be so nice to have some of these things again!
  • Made homemade vanilla using vanilla beans from the freezer and vodka we had purchased earlier for this use (we find that making one bottle will get us through about a year).  It is MUCH cheaper to make your own than to purchase the tiny bottles in the store, and so easy to make.
  • Began using chives from the garden and noticed a little mint coming up.  I will begin using up the mint in the freezer for tea so that we have room for more as this season's crop grows.
  • Carpooled to work three days, saving on gas.
  • Used our medical savings card to pay for a dentist visit and cleaning.  Three of us got our teeth cleaned, one had x-rays, so it was nice to be able to use the rest of this card (it resets in April).
What did you do to live and save green last week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We did all of our usual frugal things last week.  The highlight was probably our frugal date, which was the first in over a month, and so much fun.  (More on the date later.)  It is wonderful that my mom is close and will keep little man overnight once a month for us.

We also saved a lot by accepting gleaned items from the food pantry.  I was also able to share some of this with friends, which was really nice.  So, without further ado, here are last week's accomplishments:


  • Participated in free professional development two days.  Lunch was not provided, so I took my own instead of going out.  I also took my own drink the second day, since drinks were not provided either.  The sessions were great, though, so it made up for the lack of food! :)  The workshop was local, and actually closer than driving to school, so I saved on gas too.
  • Cooked all meals at home including banana nut muffins, overnight oatmeal, pasta bake with ricotta cheese and veggies, homemade pizza with pesto, veggies, and pepperoni.
  • Accepted another box of bananas from the food pantry (we freeze them for baking and smoothies), as well as a gallon of milk, yogurt, partial carton of strawberries, avocado, three packages of portobello mushrooms, and bagels.  
  • Gleaned three apples, three cheese sticks, and two cartons of yogurt from the school cafeteria.
  • Made homemade salad dressing with the leftover marinade from a jar of artichoke hearts and repurposed a glass bottle for storage.
  • Continued with all regular composting, cold water laundry, and cloth diaper use.
  • Made homemade shower spray cleaner with dish soap and vinegar.  Used a repurposed spray bottle for the mix.
  • Used existing supplies to make a birthday banner for baby boy!  Can't believe he's turning one this week!
  • Enjoyed a date with Benny on Saturday.  Mom kept little man so that we could go out early.  We stopped by thrift stores before meeting friends for dinner.  We used a coupon for dinner, then went home for dessert and a Netflix show.  
  • We found an $8 bread machine to replace our old one (the mechanical housing had rusted and wasn't working reliably anymore).  It seems to be a good brand, and for $8, it is cheaper than ordering one pizza out would cost, so it will have paid for itself by the time Friday night pizza night rolls around.  Benny and I each also found a clothing item, which was a nice little treat.
  • Not so frugally, we had a water line burst in the apartment downstairs.  Thankfully, it was over the bathroom, so there's no major damage to fixtures, etc.  The insulation and drywall has to be replaced,   Thankfully, Benny knows some contractors, and got things rolling quickly for replacement.  Our tenant has been super gracious about things.  We are grateful to have enough in savings to cover the repairs.
  • Enjoyed a shared meal with Mom last night.  It was pretty enough for a short walk with the boys too, which was some nice exercise.  
  • Continued to exercise with You Tube videos, saving money on gym or subscription fees.
  • Enjoyed some time in the garden seeing hellebores and daffodils coming up.  The forsythia that we split last year are starting to bloom now, which is fun.  I wish things weren't coming so early, but that is the way it goes.  I will just be grateful for a longer growing season this year.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  What are you grateful for?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March Menu Plan

This month will again be about using what we have.  We're still working on using up things we have in the pantry and freezer to make space for our CSA goodies when the shares start coming in late May.  Here's the plan:

Breakfasts: 

  • egg and cheese sandwiches
  • breakfast burritos with onions, peppers, and mushrooms (frozen)
  • banana-pecan-chocolate chip muffins
  • overnight steel cut oatmeal with raisins, flax, and pecans (crock pot meal)
  • overnight french toast casserole with freezer blueberries, pomegranate seeds, cream cheese, and pecans
  • smoothies and cinnamon toast
  • bagels and cream cheese
  • baked oatmeal
Lunches:
  • leftovers
  • egg salad sandwiches
  • turkey salad wraps
  • yogurt parfaits with freezer fruit
Dinners:  
  • broccoli and cheddar quiche (with freezer pie crust and broccoli)
  • crock pot Thai beef
  • crock pot black bean chili with corn bread
  • roasted turkey with herb butter (both in freezer), crock pot roasted veggies (sweet potato, onion, carrot, and beet)
  • homemade pizza x 4 (pesto, cheese, freezer veggies, artichoke hearts, olives, turkey, pepperoni toppings, depending on night)
  • winter squash waffles with smoothies and sausage or eggs
  • crock pot loaded mac and cheese with broccoli and keilbasa
  • crock pot tomato, bean, and green soup with sausage (using freezer greens, sausage, canned tomatoes, and dried beans)
  • beans and rice with fixins (Greek yogurt, salsa, and frozen guacamole) and corn bread
  • tacos with leftover turkey, black beans, and fixins on tortillas or hard shells (both in pantry/freezer)
  • turkey salad sandwiches with fruit
  • lentil sloppy joes with roasted broccoli or oven fries
Batch Cooking:
  • homemade veggie stock using frozen veggie scraps
  • homemade turkey stock using turkey carcass from roasting
  • banana nut muffins or banana oatmeal bars
Snacks:
  • smoothies with frozen fruit
  • popcorn with garlic salt or cinnamon sugar
  • fresh fruit
  • homemade trail mix with raisins, nuts, and dry cereal 
  • cheese and crackers
  • yogurt
How are you living and saving green in the kitchen this month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We're trying really hard to think creatively about our budget, our needs vs. wants, and how to accomplish the most with what we have.  Our big success this week was finalizing the car sale, including bartering for the exterior painting we need done, and we transferred the title of the new-to-us car from my in-laws to us.  We also are skipping the grocery store this week, primarily because my in-laws brought things for us from Costco and Mom brought us two boxes of things gleaned from the food pantry.

Here's the breakdown for this week.  I'll be back later this week with our March menu plan.


  • Cooked all meals at home.  This included crock pot lasagna soup, Asian chicken (yes, this has been a new favorite), steamed lemon pepper tilapia with roasted veggies, lentil and sweet potato stew (see comments for adaptations), breakfast egg casserole, and banana chocolate chip muffins.  The in-laws did treat us to pizza out one night, and lunch one day.
  • Gleaned three bunches of bananas, strawberries, two cartons of mushrooms, a bag of oranges, three loaves of bread, six small cartons of yogurt, half gallon of milk, and a pint of whipping cream.
  • Enjoyed a shared meal with Mom.
  • Continued with our regular composting and recycling.
  • Washed all laundry in cold water except towels, sheets, and diapers.  Line dried everything except sheets and towels.
  • We did go by the grocery store for a deal on diapers and I got 4 packs for $20.  This will last us several months since we only use disposables for night time.
  • Carpooled to work three days, saving on gas
  • My inlaws graciously brought some things from Costco, including blueberries, frozen broccoli, cheese, and rice.
  • Ordered a bulk order of black beans, steel cut oats, and grits.
  • Enjoyed seeing my chives and garlic coming up in the garden (though this is unseasonably early)  Plan to use them in meals this coming week.
  • Benny and I decided on direct deposit amounts to contribute to his retirement, the boys' 529 accounts, and our savings.  He is going tomorrow to set these up.
  • Weeded out some clothing and toys to send to Goodwill.
  • Called the library to renew books, rather than stopping by.
  • Planned a double date with friends.  Mom will keep little man, saving us on babysitting.  We will go to the restaurant early to miss crowds and will use a coupon we have.  Will get water to drink to save money.  Will enjoy dessert and a movie at home.
  • Tried making homemade Hershey's syrup, and it worked!  We now have two bottles of it in the fridge for use in coffee drinks, desserts, etc.
  • Worked out with You Tube videos at home
  • Had to laugh a little when little man reminded me to turn out a light when I left a room.  Glad he's already getting it!
  • Enjoyed reading books at home to the boys and watching baby boy pull up on everything in sight!
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did really well, frugally speaking.  I manage to stay away from the grocery store for two weeks, except we did buy bananas.  The weather was reasonably warm, so we were able to hang clothes outside a few times, and have some outside play time and family walks.  The warm weather also meant that we were able to conserve on energy bills, with heat not running.


  • All meals were cooked at home.  These included potato soup with homemade turkey stock (in the crock pot), black beans and rice, black bean hummus with carrot sticks, waffles with sausage and fruit smoothies, loaded mac and cheese with broccoli and sausage, french toast casserole with cranberries and pomegranate seeds, and banana chocolate chip pecan muffins.  
  • We enjoyed a shared meal with family of baked ziti and salad.  Mom also sent an extra serving home with us, which made a nice lunch portion.
  • Composted all appropriate kitchen scraps.  Enjoyed our new stainless steel compost bucket that Mom gave us for Valentine's Day.
  • Really appreciated salvaged items from the food pantry, including two milk crates full of produce.  We salvaged two cups of strawberries, a few raspberries, a pear, a nectarine, two bags of snow peas, asparagus, two packages of green beans, four packages of mushrooms, jalapenos, chopped onions, two large cartons of yogurt, and a gallon of milk.  We also salvaged a whole produce box of overripe bananas, which we froze for use in smoothies and baking.  (The boys also like to eat these frozen as a snack.)
  • Continued to hang all laundry up, either inside or out, saving on drying costs.  All clothes were washed in cold water.
  • Used items at home for some basic science experiments with little man (baking soda and vinegar in a bottle to fill a balloon, etc.).  He really enjoyed these, so we're going to try to do a family science night at least once a week at home.
  • We also used items at home to do some fun water color paintings with salt.  They turned out really neat, so we'll frame a few.  Some will hang at home, others will be gifts.
  • Took the boys to the playhouse on Saturday, which was really fun.  They both had a blast and it was nice to visit with some other parents too.  The free coffee and tea was a bonus for me!
  • Enjoyed a last minute invitation to a birthday party.  The friends requested no gifts, so we just made a card by re-purposing the front of a previous birthday card.
  • Finalized plans for the car sale. Will hopefully get the title transferred on Friday.  Looks like we'll be able to barter for our outdoor painting needs, which means it will benefit both of us in the long run.
  • Found out the in-laws are coming this weekend, so have to get things ready for them.  They will likely pick up dinner for us one night, which will be nice, and we will fix breakfast and lunch for them while they're here.  I am thinking a breakfast casserole with sausage, mushrooms, peppers and onions that I have in the freezer.  
  • Since the weather is nice, we're hoping to do our next round of bug spraying outdoors for pest control.  Doing this ourselves with a concentrate we found online has saved us hundreds.
  • Also want to take advantage of the nice weather to try to get some garden chores done.  I'd like to cut back the raspberries and asparagus while they're still dormant.  I might also try to rake and chip some leaves for compost.  (This might not happen with hosting in-laws this weekend, though.)  
  • I might try to order some tri-color sage plants too.  I've been wanting to try them as a foundation planting along one bed of the house.  If I order, I will find a coupon code.
  • Benny has picked up some more side work with technology.  We will continue to try to pick these up.  These funds should go directly toward Benny's retirement fund.
  • We have a lead on the upstairs rental!  She's coming up early next month to take a look at the space, but sounds super sweet and should be a good fit for us.  If she signs, it sounds like it will be a year lease, which will be nice.
  • I continue to look for professional development opportunities with a stipend, but am also exploring options for tutoring.  Hoping to be able to earn an extra $20-$40/week tutoring.  
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was pretty frugal for us.  We ended up with one snow day, so I was able to work from home.  That day was nice because we were able to get some extra house work done also.  The weather has been a bit crazy, because later in the week, it was almost 65 and warm enough to take a really long walk with the family.

We're working on selling our Subaru because my father-in-law is selling his car to us.  It is in better shape, though just a year newer, and has four wheel drive, which we need.  He is selling it to us for a significant discount, so its definitely a step up for us.  We're hoping that the sale of the car will allow us to make a bit of money to pay for some staining/painting to be done in the spring.  (This is the kind of work that we can do, but Benny really doesn't like doing and its hard to carve out the time with two little ones.)


  • Made all meals at home including tomato basil soup (we leave out the cream), meatball subs (we use leftover tomato basil soup as marinara) with oven fries, homemade pizza with veggies and pesto, crock pot black beans with rice, black bean dip with crostini, whole wheat waffles with blueberry pomegranate syrup (homemade), and blueberry muffins.
  • Shared one meal with family of rice and beans.  We did use a Chipotle coupon to get free chips and dip to go with this meal.
  • Gleaned several bags of Chex mix and Goldfish crackers from school, as well as yogurt and cheese sticks.
  • Composted all kitchen scraps we could including brown paper bags and paper towels.
  • Made a large pot of coffee and used it for cold coffee drinks for the rest of the week.  Flavored it with baking cocoa.  This saved on the cost of heating water multiple times and filters.
  • Made a crock pot of turkey stock using a turkey carcass that we had in the freezer.  Will freeze some stock and use it for a meal this week.
  • Made crostini from bread from the food pantry, making it free.
  • Treated a sick dog over the phone with the vet, rather than taking her in.  She had some sort of stomach bug, but seems just fine now after a day or so of rice, beans, chicken, and chicken stock.  Hoping she won't turn up her nose at her kibbles now!
  • Treated baby for pink eye over the phone using an existing prescription we had for eye drops.  Thankful that we caught it early and that the drops worked, saving a doctor visit copay and time waiting.
  • Exercised at home using YouTube, saving on the expense of classes.  We also took a long walk one day, which was good exercise for all of us.
  • Washed all laundry in cold water, except towels and diapers.  
  • Hung all laundry to dry except towels.
  • Used homemade cleaner to clean the bathroom and old washcloths as rags.
  • Took advantage of Harris Teeter Super Doubles event to save on stocking up.  Spent about $30 and saved over $40.
  • Meal planned for the rest of the month trying to take into account what we have on hand that needs to be used up.  This should save us overall this month.
  • Called about getting funds directly deposited to the boys' 529 accounts.  Kind of got the run around, so will try to do this through our local bank after my check is deposited.
  • Used existing supplies to make cookies and Valentines for little man's preschool class.  He helped bag them and make tags.
  • Took the gifts from little man's birthday party (he asked for items to donate to the humane society in lieu of gifts) to the humane society.  He loved visiting with the dogs and cats!  It was a fabulous afternoon, and we hope to go back again soon.  (It was so nice to not do the gifts thing at the birthday party and just have it about having fun with friends.  We did do gifts at our family birthday dinner.)
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 10, 2017

February Menu Plan

This month is all about using up some of what we have.  I did take advantage of Harris Teeter's Super Doubles event, but aside from that, we're really going to try to stay away from the grocery store except for absolute necessities.  I plan to use some of what we have in our freezer and pantry, including some things like powdered milk, frozen veggies from our CSA, frozen bread, and scraps that have been saved for making stock.  We're also going to continue to take advantage of gleaning from the food pantry to stretch our budget too.

We're also going to try to save some money on our electric bill with cooking too.  We'll work to use our crock pot to do the heavy lifting and use the microwave or toaster oven for reheating.  We'll only use our upper oven, which is smaller, for baking when necessary.

Here's the plan:

Breakfasts:  egg and cheese sandwiches, overnight oatmeal in the crock pot, smoothies using frozen fruit, french toast casserole with frozen blueberries, bagels and cream cheese, toast with jam, and whole wheat waffles with fruit and hard boiled eggs, winter squash muffins, strawberry cream cheese coffee cake, blueberry muffins, cappuccino chocolate chip muffins

Lunches:  leftovers filled in with fresh fruit or yogurt, egg salad sandwiches, PBJ

Dinners:  tomato basil soup (we make it without cream so it has other uses too), meatball subs with tomato basil soup as marinara, fajitas with rice, leftover turkey, and frozen peppers and onions, corn chowder with garlic toast, potato soup with homemade turkey stock and garlic toast, waffles with fruit and sausage, black beans and rice with fixin's and corn bread, black bean chili, homemade pizza (x4), french toast with smoothies and sausage, jambalya, crock pot Asian chicken over rice, veggie stir fry over rice with egg rolls

Batch cooking for freezer:  homemade turkey stock, homemade veggie stock, black beans, muffins

Special Meal:  We will celebrate Valentine's Day later in the month, so that my mom can keep little man overnight.  We'll do a dinner out and make some peppermint brownies with icecream as our dessert at home.  We'll do an early dinner and take advantage of a coupon we have, so that we can have time for an at home movie with dessert.  The cost of this meal will come out of our regular grocery budget, if possible.

Snacks:  popcorn, chocolate mint cookies (we have some cookie dough we purchased from a fundraiser that we need to use up), fresh fruit, nuts, toast and jam

Drinks:  water, hot tea, hot cocoa, maybe iced tea made with loose tea

What are you cooking up this month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We continue to try to find new ways to save money, and increase our income, as we work toward our budget and savings goals.  We did pretty well over the past two weeks (yes, got behind last week with posting).  Here are our successes, since we had very little in the way of unexpected expenses.


  • Cooked all meals at home, including corn chowder, veggie stir fry, crock pot Asian chicken, fajitas with leftover turkey, French toast and smoothies, crock pot overnight oatmeal, and cream cheese strawberry coffee cake.
  • Tried to cook mostly from the pantry and freezer.  Only one grocery trip for some staples totaling $10.
  • Took advantage of lots of things from the food pantry including:  two gallons of milk, four loaves of bread/bags of rolls/bagels, five containers of cut up peppers and onions, four whole bell peppers, one avocado, five tomatoes, two apples, two kiwi, one onion,  several zucchini, package of green beans, three packages of strawberries, package of brown rice, two packages of mince meat filling, nine cartons of yogurt, and a soft herb and garlic cheese.  
    • Froze many peppers and onions for later use.  Used some to make fajitas.
    • Processed strawberries (many were too soft or moldy) to yield three cups for coffee cake.
    • Froze two loaves of bread for later use.
    • Used three tomatoes for fajitas, and one for homemade guacamole using the avocado.  
  • Gleaned from school cafeteria again:  three apples, two cheese sticks, two cartons of yogurt, three packages of Goldfish, and two packages of Chex mix.
  • Composted all kitchen scraps, including paper towels, tea bags, coffee grounds, and brown cardboard tubes.
  • Recycled anything possible, keeping household trash to about one kitchen bag every two weeks.
  • Had a day of professional development with lunch provided.  Brought home enough leftovers to provide another lunch.
  • Enjoyed a few shared meals with family, saving on dishes and some food cost and prep.
  • Used a gift card to take little man on a morning date to the bakery.  Took my own coffee mug and used the discount card to save on the purchase.  Also got to take him to school, which was a fun treat for both of us.
  • Continued with unseasonably mild weather, allowing us to hang some clothes outside to dry.  Washed all clothing in cold water.
  • Used cloth diapers, washed at home, and hung to dry.
  • Showered every other day, saving on hot water, shampoo, and soap.  Also saves my skin, since the air is dryer this time of year.
  • Enjoyed a fun social event of a birthday party.  Food was provided, so dinner wasn't really needed that night.  We took a handmade tie dye t-shirt as a gift, with a card and bag decorated by little man.
  • Met with our financial planner and set up 529 accounts for both boys.  We will have the $50/month deducted automatically from my paycheck.  With our savings from the changes in health insurance, we'll never miss the money.
  • Plan to contribute an additional $100/month to Benny's retirement account to try to make up for some of what we haven't contributed over the past few years since he's been home with the boys.
  • Exercised at home using You Tube and my yoga mat (we have not had cable since building the house almost nine years ago).  Walked with the family after work on pretty days.
  • Benny earned some extra money doing some online advertising for a painter.  This helped to pay for new shoes he ordered, which he really needed for work and for home since his others were worn in the soles and had holes in the canvas tops.
  • Considering purchasing a new to us car, which we're having looked at by our mechanic today.  I dropped off the car and walked to school, which is convenient and provides me some good exercise.
  • Working on a professional development fellowship application.  I am hopeful that this will provide me with some good networking and publishing opportunities, as well as a stipend that would really help us to pay down the rest of our home equity line debt.
  • Continue to advertise the upstairs bedroom space for rental.  We are hopeful that our current downstairs tenant will stay on with us, but should know in the next day or two if we need to advertise.
  • Continue to post items on eBay for sale, decluttering our closets and helping us to pay for our CSA share this year.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We've been working really hard to stick to our budget this month.  January is a long month for teachers, since we get paid before the Christmas holidays in December and don't get paid again until the end of the month in January.  This is also a birthday month for us, so there could easily be some extra expenses there.

But we've worked really hard, and we're skipping the grocery store this week, so I think we'll be in good shape.


  • Cooked all meals at home.  This included a new crockpot BBQ chicken recipe, lentil sloppy joes, pizza, roasted veggies, muffins, and overnight steel cut oatmeal (recipe coming soon!).
  • Enjoyed two shared meals with my mom, one using some of our BBQ chicken as the base of some yummy black bean tacos.
  • Ate leftovers for lunch each day.
  • Composted all appropriate kitchen scraps.
  • Gleaned from the food pantry and school.  Pantry included:  two gallons of milk, fancy cheese, eight cartons of yogurt, two loaves of bread, avocado, two pears, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli stir fry mix, and holiday brownie mix.  School cafeteria included:  three apples, two cartons of yogurt, cheese stick, five packs of Goldfish crackers, and three bags of Chex mix.
  • Took advantage of sales and coupons, saving over $60 on groceries.  Kept grocery budget to $150, including two packs of diapers and stocking up on canned tomatoes and shredded cheese.
  • Carpooled to work most days, saving on gas.
  • Used rags and homemade citrus cleaner for cleaning.
  • Started bathing baby in the shower, saving on some water.  He loves it!
  • Continued washing clothes in cold water.  
  • Hung all laundry to dry inside or out on the line (its been ridiculously warm)
  • Continued with cloth diapers and wipes, only using disposable at night.  Washed diapers in hot water or on sanitize cycle.
  • Used handkerchiefs, washed on hot water with towels, instead of tissues.
  • Used cloth napkins for each night at dinner.
  • Enjoyed new books from Imagination Library for the boys; they come in the mail each month for free.
  • Took little man on a date to the Playhouse and to the grocery store to pick out his icing for birthday cupcakes for school (I know I could make it cheaper and with less junk, but it was one thing that could make my week a little less crazy.)  He asked for pistachios while we were at the grocery store, and since he helped find the ones with the lowest price, and we had wiggle room in our grocery budget, I caved and spent the money.  (At least he's asking for nuts and not something sugary sweet, right?!)  Going to try to make Mommy and little man dates a regular thing, maybe twice a month, because we both had a lot of fun and it was special time.
  • Made birthday cupcakes with little man for his preschool class this week.  Made them on Sunday, he decorated, and we put them in the freezer til tonight so they'd be fresh for tomorrow.
  • Using presents purchased with gift card for little man's birthday presents.  He'll get a new puzzle and a book from us, and a few other things from family.
  • Will use the birthday banner made a few years ago to decorate for birthday party on Saturday (more to come on birthday party next week).
  • Did a bulk toilet paper order through Staples (about $7.50 for 24 rolls, ordered 7 packs).  This should be enough to last us at least a year and maybe longer.  Using family cloth and cloth wipes helps to save on toilet paper.
  • Began rereading a book I had on our shelf at home instead of making a special trip to the library.  Might make library my next date with little man.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, January 20, 2017

5 Crock Pot Recipes to Save You Time and Energy in the Kitchen

If you've been reading for any length of time, you know how much I love my crock pot.  I made it a goal last year to try out some new recipes, and crock pot recipes were some of those.  I ended up purchasing Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook after I checked it out quite a few times from the library.  I also browsed several websites and found recipes that we love.

I'm a fan of prepping ingredients the night before so that its easy to throw things in the crock pot in the morning.  Even though my husband is a SAHD, its tough for him during the day with two small boys to prep ingredients and get a meal put together.  So, the two of us come up with a meal plan for each week that includes at least one crock pot meal that will provide several leftovers worth of meals.  When the boys go to bed, one or both of us is busy in the kitchen chopping ingredients, making a quick sauce, or measuring out spices for the crock pot meal for the next day.  This makes it easy to dump ingredients in the slow cooker before I head off to work, or before they boys get busy with their days.

Here are some of the recipes we've come to love that we can just about make with our eyes closed.

Basic Black Beans  This one is so easy, it's almost not worth posting.  But I get asked so much about how we cook our beans (because so many people rave about them), that I thought I'd post it here.  The night before, I measure out three cups of rinsed, dried black beans (sorted and picked through) into the bottom of the slow cooker.  I cover them with six cups of water.  Then we add about a tablespoon of cumin, tablespoon of salt, 1/4 cup dried onion, 3-4 cloves of crushed garlic, and sometimes a teaspoon of chili powder or tumeric, depending on what we're using them for.  In the morning, we leave them in their stock, cook on high for about two hours, and then low for the rest of the day.

There are many nights when we fix these for a simple meal of beans, rice, and cornbread with fixins (cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.).  The next night we might use them for black bean tacos.  We usually just put the stoneware crock in the fridge, because we like to use the last of the beans and stock as the basis of our chili.

Black Bean Chili  As mentioned, we use the black beans and stock as the basis for this.  (You could certainly mix up the beans and do pintos, red beans, kidney beans, etc.)  We add about 1 1/2 cups of chopped bell pepper, one chopped onion, 1 cup corn kernels (canned or frozen), 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, and about 1/2 sliced jalapeno.  If we have it, we also like to add ground beef or ground sausage that is browned, but it doesn't always happen.  For spices, we add about 1 T chili powder, 1 T cumin, 2 tsp salt, and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  This cooks on low all day (7-8 hours).

To serve this, we like to have corn bread or tortilla chips.  We top each bowl of chili with shredded cheese, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, and maybe some hot sauce.  If I have cilantro or avocado, I like that as well.  The boys both really like this, especially if we have fresh corn bread.  To stretch this even further, you can serve it over rice.

Roasted Veggies  We love roasted veggies, but in the summer, we hate to heat up the house by cranking up the oven.  The crock pot is the easy solution to this.  We have several methods, but the basic one is to chop a variety of root veggies (potatoes, onion, carrot, beets) into 1-2 inch pieces.  Then we drizzle them with olive oil, shake on salt and pepper, add some dried rosemary, and cook them on low for about 4-6 hours until they are fork tender.  They don't get the pretty golden color that they do in the oven, but they taste great.  Its also a nice way to prep a side if your oven is busy with a main course.

You can also do corn on the cob or baked potatoes in the slow cooker.  Just wrap in foil and let them go (no liquid in the bottom) for about 4 hours on high, again, until fork tender.

Asian Chicken with Ginger  We love this method for cooking chicken, and the yummy sauce it creates.  We have made some tweaks to the original recipe and double the carrots it calls for, add a sliced onion, and chunks of pineapple.  I think it would also be fabulous with broccoli thrown in.  Cook up some brown rice and it's an easy one pot meal!

We also like to make my aunt's recipe for Asian coleslaw (similar to this) if we have time.  It's a great side dish with this meal.  One of the best things about this is that the boys love everything in the meal, so its a crowd pleaser, and it provides enough leftovers for several nights.

Lentil Sweet Potato Stew  This is a really simple vegetarian and vegan friendly recipe.  Again, we tweak it some from this original source and add more carrots and sweet potatoes than it calls for.  (We tend to like things more of a stew consistency than broth-y soup)  But if you're on a tight budget, then make it as the recipe calls for.  Toss it together in the morning, and its done in the evening for you with only one dirty pot to wash!

Served with some crusty french bread, this is a great meal all in its own.  The boys both like this one as well, and the lentils are a great source of protein and folic acid (great for pregnant and nursing mamas too).

I'll be back soon with another crock pot series!  I hope you enjoy these and find that they fit your budget and help you live a little greener!



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments First Week January

This past week we did pretty well with the budget category, until my car started flashing the check engine and AT oil temp light.  We took it in to get checked out, and a sensor needs to be replaced, which is generally not cheap in Subarus.  We're trying to make this one limp along until we can get enough saved up for a new to us AWD vehicle, but we'll see how the repair bills keep coming.

Here are the rest of last week's accomplishments:

  • Cooked all meals at home.  Had a few shared meals with family and friends, which was fun.
  • Composted all kitchen scraps.
  • Used veggie stock, frozen tomatoes, frozen beef, and gleaned veggies to make a pot of soup in the crock pot, saving on electricity.
  • Accepted gleaned items from the food pantry:  yogurt, bread, green beans, mixed veggies, snack packs of almonds and cheese, and fresh fruit.
  • Gleaned from school cafeteria:  three string cheese, two apples, one milk, five bags of Goldfish crackers, two cartons of yogurt
  • Picked up a few items on Harris Teeter's Super Doubles event, totaling about $15
  • Tried a new overnight porridge recipe.  Needs some tweaking on the cook time, but the flavors were pretty good.
  • Did some organizing and cleaning out.  Filled a paper grocery sack with items to donate to Goodwill.
  • Washed all clothes in cold water and line dried things.  Found dryer balls stashed away, so will try to use these for drying towels to cut down on drying time.
  • Continued to use cloth diapers, cutting down on cost.
  • Little man had several dry nights, so that saved on laundry.
  • Hand delivered thank you notes for Christmas gifts as much as possible, saving on postage.
  • Sent out evite for little man's 4th birthday party, saving on paper invitations
  • Found cake mix in cabinet to use for said birthday party
  • Found another tie dyed t-shirt little man made that we can use as a birthday gift for another party to attend this weekend.
  • Showered every other day to save on hot water, and keep skin from drying out.  This also saves on shampoo, soap, and hair products.
  • Used both sides of a cotton ball for makeup removal, saving on cotton.  (Tip:  if you use natural products, you can then compost your cotton balls)
  • Used cloth wipes and family cloth when possible.  We wash these on the sanitize cycle or with diapers, so they are always very clean.
  • Took advantage of being snowed in for a few house projects such as spackling and sanding dings in walls, cleaning out behind the fridge, and catching up on laundry.  Being snowed in saved on fuel.
  • Made homemade powdered citrus cleaner from dried orange peels to use for cleaning bathrooms and kitchen sink.  Repurposed a large spice container to make using the cleaner easier.
I'd love to hear from you!  What did you do to live and save green last week?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January Meal Plan

This month we're going to continue to work down what we have in our freezer.  We were also gifted several things over the holidays that will help round out meals, and we made a trip to Costco for a few things.  It is my hope to do very minimal grocery shopping for staples only (we already picked up corn meal, baking soda, and milk).  Hopefully next month will be our annual bulk spice/herb order, so next month's grocery budget will be less too.

We also plan to make use of the leftover items available to us through the food pantry.  This week I put up a quart of collard greens in the freezer, used two bags of fresh organic green beans, saved two gallons of milk, and we took several apples and cut up fruit that would have gone bad before the pantry reopened for clients.  This gleaning really does save our grocery budget and help cut down on their food waste.

My grandmother gave us a new crock pot for Christmas, which we're super excited about.  We're planning to use it a lot, as we have come to rely on it with the boys keeping us so busy.

Breakfasts

  • Cranberry bread (gifted over holidays)
  • Egg and cheese sandwiches (using croissants or rosemary bread from Costco)
  • Leftover holiday egg and cheese casserole
  • Overnight oatmeal in the crock pot
  • Muffins:  lemon poppyseed, cranberry orange, molasses muffins, marmalade muffins, and winter squash muffins with nuts or pumpkin seeds
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt parfaits with frozen berries and pumpkin seeds, nuts, or dry cereal crumbs
Lunches
  • Leftovers rounded out with fruit (citrus, bananas, or gleaned from the pantry)
  • Smoothies with frozen fruit and smoothie powder from Costco
Dinners
  • Crock pot Asian chicken with carrots, pineapple, onion, and candied ginger over rice
  • Baked sausage, apples, and sweet potatoes over rice with greens
  • Tomato basil soup in the crock pot with grilled cheeses
  • Pasta with tomato basil soup as marinara
  • Black beans (crock pot) and rice with fixins
  • Black bean tacos with winter squash or enchiladas
  • Homemade pizza x 2-3 with homemade pesto
  • Homemade mac and cheese with steamed/roasted veggies
  • Veggie stir fry over rice with egg rolls
  • Breakfast for dinner:  French toast or French toast casserole with fruit and yogurt parfaits
  • Tuna casserole with roasted veggie sides
Snacks
  • Chex mis (gifted)
  • Hot cocoa (gifted)
  • Gingerbread house pieces
  • Holiday cookies
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit (apricots, prunes)
  • Dried fruit and nut trail mix
  • Cashews (gifted)
  • Almonds (gifted)
  • Pistachios (gifted)
  • Popcorn (gifted)