Thursday, July 30, 2020

July Frugal Accomplishments

This month has been all about saving in whatever way we can.  We've made really good use of our stored food, and have enjoyed the garden too (until the deer found the green beans and tomatoes last night!).  Staying home has helped tremendously, and we've worked really hard to keep the boys' education going strong all summer.  Here are some ways we've saved this month:

  • Wash most laundry in cold and hang to dry.  
  • Night trained one boy, saving on laundry and overnight pull ups (and embarrassment/middle of the night tension)
  • Made good use of our pantry and freezer (see our July menu plan) eating all meals at home (or packing picnics when needed).  Used all leftovers well, wasting very little (though some pumpkin bars were forgotten... shucks!)
  • Saved veggie scraps and chicken bones for stock.  I made at least 4 quarts of stock for the freezer and have enough scraps to make another 4 in a few days.
  • Saved overripe peaches by freezing them.  I have 3 quarts in the freezer.  
  • Picked berries from our blackberries, raspberries from friends, and blueberries from a local PYO farm.  I canned 7 jars of mixed berry jam to use as Christmas gifts with a loaf of homemade bread.  I also froze several quarts of berries, which we'll use for snacks and breakfasts.
  • Used saved citrus peels (in a gallon bag in the freezer) and a few fresh pieces to make 10 jars of homemade marmalade to use as gifts at Christmas.  Two jars didn't seal, so they are in the fridge for us to use.
  • We were gifted some squash, cucumbers, and zucchini.  I shredded two quarts of zucchini for the freezer.  This will be great for enchilada filling, in pasta sauce, or baked goods this winter.  If we have cucumbers left after snacking on them, I will make pickles.
  • We visited the church garden and weeded for an hour one day.  We also harvested a gallon of green beans, which we ate for a meal and I steamed a quart for the freezer.  It was a great outing for the boys, and a good little service project.
  • I made two half pint jars of pesto with basil from the garden.  I used sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts, and it worked out just fine.
  • Volunteered for the food pantry each weekend, and gleaned what we could (things that wouldn't last 5 days until clients came).  I came home each week with some veggies to roast and some fruit for the boys.  
  • Continued to work in Mom's garden, mulching and weeding and establishing new beds.  She paid me, which is really nice, and the gardens are looking better for it.  (Now if we can just keep the deer out!)
  • Posted a few more things online for sale.
  • Started using a new budgeting app, EveryDollar.  It's helping us really to hone in our finances, though we're generally good at saving.  We wanted to get a better handle on things and really make sure that we were saving every dollar we could.
  • I have made it through the application process to begin teaching English online through VIP Kid!  Once I've finalized my documents and they're accepted, I hope to teach online in the evenings and weekends at least 10 hours a week, which should bring in an additional few hundred dollars a month.  
  • Continued to research moving our blog over to something self hosted so that we can use some affiliate links and maybe ads to monetize it a bit.  I would love to make this happen by the end of August.
  • We continue to work toward our goal of a significant down payment (hoping at least 10%, and maybe 20% depending on if they will use the land we own as partial down payment) for our new house (which we'll build), which has been delayed a bit due to COVID and banks being slow to get together financing for us.  Additionally, we're having to save more because our income was less than anticipated.  Even though we have stellar credit, because we chose to have a stay at home parent who works part time, it affects the whole loan.  (Which really stinks.  If we had two full time incomes, we'd be paying childcare, which they wouldn't account for...)
  • Because of how frugal we've been with groceries this month, we're able to put an extra $125 into savings.  I may use some of this to help us stock up on essentials at Costco (plain yogurt, frozen veggies, rice, olive oil, dried fruit, nuts, laundry detergent, etc.)
How did you live and save green this past month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

July Menu Plan

This month is all about using what is fresh from the garden and the CSA share.  We may also do some gleaning from the food pantry, if things come available.  We'll make use of our food storage in the freezer and pantry, mostly for our proteins.  We have chicken to use in the freezer, and we've got loads of dried beans and legumes. 

Here's the plan for the month:


  • Smoothies with greens, frozen fruit, and almond milk
  • Scrambled eggs with greens and onions (maybe occasionally ham or breakfast meat, but we're low on that) and fruit or toast
  • Overnight oats from Not Your Mother's Slowcooker
  • Baked pumpkin oatmeal 
  • Gluten free waffles from America's Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free?
  • Yogurt parfaits with plain yogurt, berries, and nuts/seeds
  • Leftover roasted veggies with eggs or breakfast meat
  • Leftovers
  • Tuna salad and tortilla chips/gluten free crackers
  • Snack plate (nuts, fruit, veggies and homemade ranch, etc.)
  • Occasional school lunches (free for pick up M-Th)
  • Chili with ground meat and black/pinto beans with GF cornbread
  • Loaded beans and rice (think taco bowl with lettuce, green onions, maybe cheese, salsa, avocado, etc.)
  • Lentil sloppy joes over quinoa with salad
  • Sausage and cabbage sautee (I do a variation on this with cabbage and slice the sausages to stretch the meat some.  If  I have red onion, that makes it really pretty) with GF cornbread
  • Sweet and sour chicken stir fry with Asian slaw (I leave the ramen out to make it gluten free, but if you like it, it does add a lovely crunch)
  • Potato and greens soup from Simply in Season with side salad or veggies and dip
  • Tacos, nachos, or taco bowls with chicken, greens, sauteed zucchini and squash and other fixin's
  • Grilled balsamic chicken, grilled squash and onions, and side salad
  • Gluten free lasagna with side salad
  • Homemade popsicles (using frozen fruit, milk/yogurt, etc.  The favorite this summer has been vanilla peach popsicles--using the frozen peach cups from school lunches, vanilla yogurt, flax, chia, and some gelatin powder for the gut health benefit.)  We also like blueberry cheesecake ones, mixed berry, banana-chocolate-peanut butter and a request has been made for cherry vanilla ones.  
  • Homemade gelatin wigglers (made with gelatin and fruit juice)
  • Air popped popcorn with melted butter and salt
  • Homemade trail mixes with popcorn, dried fruit, chocolate chips, and nuts
  • Berries from the garden (currants are in right now, blueberries will be coming in next week I hope)
Batch cooking:
  • Popsicles
  • Black beans in crock pot
  • Pumpkin baked oatmeal
  • Citrus marmalade (I've been saving peels to make marmalade)
  • Blackberry jam
  • Rice or quinoa
  • Spiced nuts
Purchases to make this month:
  • Veggies to roast (cauliflower, turnips, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots--some may come from food pantry)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Potatoes
  • Potato flakes
  • Gelatin
  • Gluten free flour blend
  • Nuts
What are your plans this month?  What's up in your garden?  I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

June Menu Plan

This post is overdue, but things were crazy at the beginning of the month.  We finished out school (aka remote learning) and grades, packed up the classroom, and helped my mom through a very unexpected surgery.  I was grateful for the flexible schedule remote learning allowed so that I could be of more help to Mom, who is our primary child care right now when I'm not available.  I've been making great use of gleaning from the food pantry, and really trying to inventory our freezer and pantry.  We've made some compromises with our diet, trying to save our budget, but both me and little one are feeling the effects of the compromise, so we're switching back.  The savings is not worth our gut health.

We're grateful for our credit card which is offering for us to use the usual travel credit towards groceries or gas.  Since we're not driving much, we opted for groceries.  I made a detailed list and Benny went this morning.  We spent a little over half the credit to restock some staple items, including frozen veggies and berries, olive oil, popcorn, organic peanut butter, and some pantry items.

Here's how our menu has shaped up this month:


  • leftover roasted veggies with eggs or breakfast meat
  • breakfast burritos with eggs, veggies, and tortillas
  • breakfast hash with leftover potatoes and sauteed veggies
  • fruit and greens smoothies
  • overnight steel cut oatmeal
  • occasional gluten free muffins
  • leftovers with salads or roasted veggies
  • snack plates with cheese, meat, veggies and homemade ranch dip
  • school lunches on occasion for the boys (they will run this through July 4)
  • Potato and greens soup from Simply in Season with roasted veggies or salad
  • Lentil sweet potato stew with salad
  • Pork roast and potatoes (from America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution) with salad
  • Grilled pork chops with Chinese five spice
  • Pork stir fry with veggies (using leftover chops) over turmeric rice
  • Yellow pea curry from Joy of Cooking served over rice/quinoa blend
  • Thursday night dinners from church (many have been gluten heavy--pasta, etc., so we may have to cut back, even though it's incredibly nice to have them for the budget)
  • Breakfast for dinner (for Father's Day) with scrambled eggs, breakfast hash, and homemade pumpkin muffins
  • Loaded black beans and rice
  • Gluten free pasta with homemade meat marinara sauce (I load in the veggies like mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions too.  Sometimes finely chopped greens go in as well.)  Topped with fresh basil from the garden.
  • popcorn in the air popper
  • trail mix the boys put together (nuts, dried fruit, leftover popcorn or pretzels and a few chocolate chips sprinkled in)
  • homemade popsicles (we tried banana/chocolate/peanut butter and some blueberry cheesecake ones using leftover cottage cheese, whole milk, and vanilla)
  • rice pudding
  • hard boiled eggs
Batch cooking:
  • Overnight steel cut oats (from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker)
  • Veggie stock (I save all veggie scraps in a gallon zipper bag and freeze them.  When full, I toss it all in the crock pot and cover with water.  Cook all day and it makes great stock from things that would have gone to the compost.  It's rich in vitamins and minerals, and adds lots of depth to soups and stews.  I sometimes add bones if the meat I use has them.)
  • Gluten free muffins
  • Two sheet pans of roasted veggies each week (or sometimes more).  I try to mix up what we roast, and it often rotates with the seasons.  I almost always include some onions and potatoes, as those are favorites, but we also love mushrooms, carrots, okra, and winter squash/sweet potatoes.  Brussel sprouts and asparagus are also lovely.
I continue to be grateful for a stocked freezer and pantry.  I have many dried beans to use up, including pinto, black, chick peas, yellow and green split peas, and lentils.  It's summer, so I'll make three bean salad some, using cilantro and green onions from the garden.  I have several cans of beans I can use, so if I make a batch of one type in the crock pot, I can use a can of the others to round it out.  I have loads of canned corn right now too, and that will be good there too.

I've also been experimenting with sprouting mung beans and alfalfa, which has been fun and they've been a great addition to salads and toppings for stir fry.  I used up a large pork roast this month and plan to focus on using some chicken that I have in the freezer next.  

I'm also grateful to the local farm we get our CSA share from each week.  They provide all organic produce, even though they're not certified.  We love supporting them, and their stuff is always top quality.

I've been trading homemade bread with a friend for eggs.  I don't eat the bread anymore, but I found that I missed making it, so they get to enjoy it and we get high quality eggs from it.

What are your menu plans for this month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Frugal Accomplishments for May

We've been staying in, obviously, so we've saved quite a bit in commuting costs.  We're missing our Children's Council groups, but are grateful for the Zoom sessions.  They're not the same as in person, but they are something to look forward to during the week.  Here are just some of the ways we're saving right now:

  • Meal planning around what we have on hand.  I'm still cooking at least one time a week in the crock pot, and we're often sharing a few meals with Mom over the week.  
  • Trying at least one new recipe a week.  This week was BBQ chicken drumsticks that started in the crock pot and finished under the broiler.  The adults loved them, my boys wanted all the meat pulled off the bones!  So much for a fun, messy meal... but at least they ate it.
  • Worked from home, saving on at least a tank of gas a week.  Since gas prices are down, this isn't a huge savings, but probably $25/week.  It's something at least.
  • Boys are doing homeschool with Nana while I teach online.  We're saving on preschool costs right now too, so that's something.  Very grateful to have a mother with teaching experience, though 1st grade is a stretch for her since high school was her expertise.
  • Our grocery spending is up right now, but that is probably because we're eating more at home.  We're ordering groceries online to save going into the store.  I do like the time savings, but don't like that I can't use my reusable bags.  
  • We planted several seeds including onions, spinach, mustard greens, chard, basil, tomatoes, pole beans, white cucumbers, and more.  All were from things we had on hand saved in the freezer, so we'll see what comes up.  The boys are enjoying pulling the first few radishes.  We had those with eggs this morning for breakfast.
  • Graciously accepting a weekly meal at church and a box of food there.  We don't eat all the food in the box (being gluten free), but we send what we don't eat to the food pantry.
  • Enjoying trading homemade bread for eggs with a friend.  I like having the farm fresh eggs, and it gives me a chance to make homemade bread while not having it around to eat.  It's a win-win.
  • Trading puzzles with family and friends to stay busy.  It's fun to have new ones to do, and it's really good for the boys.  It helps to limit screen time too.
  • Trying to take a daily walk or do yoga each day.  The walks are great when the weather is nice, and yoga works well for us all when the weather isn't so great.  The boys love Cosmic Kids yoga on YouTube.
  • Keeping the motivation going with reading for little man by trying to set up weekly Zoom/FaceTime, etc. sessions with family or friends for him to read to.
  • I've been enjoying finding creative ways to re-purpose items from the school breakfast/lunches.  For example, we used the ketchup and orange juice to make a sweet and sour stir fry sauce.  I've used the raw veggies to roast the next night, or the rolls the kids don't want as the basis of a French toast casserole to gift to neighbors who just had a baby.  (We also used some of the bread for egg sandwiches for those in the family who still do gluten.)  I also used the milk from the milk cartons to make a rice pudding.  It's something I haven't made in years, is total comfort food, and gluten free.
  • We kept up with our usual hanging of laundry, etc.  
  • We moved into Mom's basement, which is saving us a few hundred dollars a month on utilities.  Our hope is that by saving what we can over the summer, we can save several thousand to build up the savings fund.  
What have you been doing to save over the past several weeks?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

March Menu Plan

Hello friends!  It's been a while (way too long) since I've posted.  We're moving in a couple of weeks into the basement apartment at Mom's while the house construction is completed.  This will save us some in rent (though we'll still pay her some rent to cover utilities, etc.), and will put us at least 10 minutes closer to town, school, etc. which will save on time and fuel daily.  We're excited about the move and about being able to watch the house construction daily.  It's a short move, so we're hoping to be able to do it with some friends who have pickup trucks and not have to rent a truck.

Since we're moving soon, we're focusing on eating what is in our fridge, freezer, and pantry mostly.  I'm supplementing with fresh produce, but trying to use up a lot of what we have so that we don't have to move it.  Here are some of the things we're trying to use up:
  • Canned items (heavy to move!):  tomatoes, canned beans, tuna, coconut milk, olives, pickles, peanut butter
  • Flours:  whole wheat, bread flour, corn meal, almond flour, paleo pancake mix
  • Pantry:  dried beans, oatmeal, dried fruit, gluten free pasta, onions, sweet potatoes, dried mushrooms
  • Frozen items:  popsicles, beef, frozen veggies, frozen fish, frozen fruit, nuts and seeds, broccoli, bacon
  • Fridge items:  condiments, 3 dozen eggs, pie crusts, cheese
Keeping this in mind, here's our meal plan for the month:

  • overnight crock pot oatmeal with dried fruit
  • Paleo waffles with blueberry syrup and eggs/bacon
  • Fruit and eggs
  • Smoothies
  • Gluten free banana muffins with eggs or fruit
  • tuna salad with crackers and veggies/fruit
  • leftovers with a side salad or steamed/roasted veggies
  • big salad with hard boiled eggs
  • roasted veggies and eggs
  • Crockpot lasagna soup with cheese and steamed broccoli
  • Sweet potato lentil soup with salads
  • Breakfast for dinner with waffles, eggs, fruit, and bacon
  • Quiche with dried mushrooms, sausage, onion, and broccoli and roasted veggies (likely sweet potatoes and onions)
  • Shepards pie with beef and frozen veggies
  • Beans and rice with fixin's (cheese, salsa, olives, Greek yogurt)
  • Chili with black beans and corn with fixin's and almond flour corn bread
Community meals:
  • Tuesday at Children's Council yoga class
  • Possible Wednesday lunch at Chilren's Council group, if schedule allows
  • Thursday dinner at church
  • Sunday dinners with Mom
These community meals are things we look forward to weekly and really save us when it comes to cooking some nights.  It's a nice way to mix things up and make things feel special without the expense of eating out.

Batch cooking:
  • make double or triple batch of waffles to freeze some for easy breakfasts
  • make double batch of banana nut muffins to freeze some
  • double batch of roasted veggies
  • veggie stock using the veggie scraps I've collected in the freezer
  • gluten free birthday cupcakes 
What are your meal plans for the month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

November/December Menu

So, I'm getting this out a little later than planned, but better late than never!  This season is all about making use of what we have and capturing the flavors of the season.  I'm using up a lot of our freezer stash (broccoli, tomatoes, winter squash, applesauce, and meat) and pantry staples.  We're incredibly grateful for at least three community meals a week, which really eases the hectic nature of our lives.  We're also trying to keep things healthy and on the Paleo/Keto side of things with loads of veggies, which does mean we're probably spending a bit more at the grocery store for things like avocados and coconut milk.

I am finding that our boys are going through more fruit than usual, so maybe that indicates a growth spurt?  Or maybe it's just the fruit is lower calorie than most other stuff, so since we're eating more whole foods, they're just hungrier because they're eating more of the good stuff?  I'm grateful to be able to glean from the food pantry when we help out there.  It really helps to supplement our grocery budget.

So, here's the plan:


  • Smoothies (1 cup greens, 1/2 banana, 1 cup berries or winter squash, liquid and flax seeds)
  • Baked pumpkin oatmeal
  • Eggs, sauteed greens, and breakfast meat (bacon, liver mush, sausage)
  • Roasted veggies and eggs
  • Energy bites and fruit
  • Hard boiled eggs and fresh fruit
  • Yogurt parfaits with frozen berries and chia seeds
  • Leftovers
  • Fresh fruit, cheese, and gluten free crackers
  • Salad with protein (leftover chicken, hard boiled eggs, nuts)
  • Chili with ground beef from the freezer and beans from the pantry
  • Beans and quinoa with fixin's
  • Crock pot Asian Chicken with roasted veggies and Asian slaw
  • Breakfast for dinner
  • Paleo dressing with chicken sausages and sauteed greens
  • Turkey soup and salad
  • Turkey taco bowls
  • Beef and cheddar pie with salad or sauteed greens
  • Popcorn with cheddar powder and butter
  • Roasted spiced nuts
  • Homemade trail mix
  • Fresh fruit 
  • Veggies and dip
  • Gluten free crackers and cheese
What are you making and eating this month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

October Menu Plan

As usual, this month is all about keeping costs low while staying as healthy as we possibly can. That means that we'll use our freezer and pantry stash, glean where we can, and purchase produce on sale (and locally when possible).  We're grateful to have a pretty well stocked freezer, which will be the basis of a lot of our meals this month.

Here's the basic outline:


  • baked oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts and applesauce from the freezer
  • hard boiled eggs and fresh fruit (likely citrus, apples, or pears)
  • leftover roasted veggies with eggs or bacon
  • weekend "big boy" breakfasts with Paleo pancakes and fruit or yogurt parfaits
  • smoothies with frozen fruit, non dairy milk, and any seasonings (ginger and cinnamon are seasonal favorites)
  • banana bars with fruit
  • leftovers (sometimes remixed over rice, pasta, or inside tortillas)
  • ants on a log (celery spread with peanut butter or almond butter and topped with raisins)
  • hard boiled eggs
  • fresh fruit
  • sliced veggies (peppers, carrots, cucumber, or whatever we have around)
  • deli meat and cheese roll ups
  • homemade energy bites (with almond butter or peanut butter)
  • Thai chicken crock pot soup
  • crock pot potato soup with fixin's (bacon, cheese, chopped onion or mushroom) and salad
  • community meals at the Children's Council 2x week and Sunday dinner with Mom
  • Friday night pizza night (homemade pizza dough in bread machine or almond flour pizza dough)
  • sausages and roasted veggies
  • crock pot pork roast and potatoes
  • chicken stir fry with Asian slaw and egg rolls
  • crock pot chili and almond flour "corn bread"
Batch Cooking:
  • energy bites
  • roasted veggies (I try to make a double batch over the weekend so that we can reheat them throughout the week)
  • Asian slaw (it's one of my favs and keeps well)
  • hard boiled eggs
  • crock pot meals
Freezer stash (i.e. what we'll use from our freezer)
  • ground beef (for chili)
  • chicken breasts
  • tomatoes from last year
  • pesto
  • pork roast
  • corn
  • sliced almonds
  • frozen fruit
Pantry stash:
  • oatmeal
  • flax meal
  • chia seeds
  • honey
  • chocolate chips
  • almond flour
  • dried beans
  • onions
  • potatoes
  • sun dried tomatoes
  • olives
  • dried fruit (this varies, but can include raisins, dried coconut, apricots, prunes, currants, etc.)