Thursday, February 28, 2008

Menu Making Woes...

For those of you who know me well, you know that I have trouble following directions. It's not that I can't, it's just that I don't want to! I like to come up with new ways that seem SO much better...sometimes that works well and other times it doesn't. Even when I created the instructions in the first place!

So, remember I planned a months worth of meals to get us through Frugal February? With the exception of the fish days, our family was happy with the meals I'd planned. Well, somewhere around the third week I got bored with what had been planned. There were too many "big" meals (the kind they would eat on Sundays in the 50's) and not enough easy stuff or left over days. So we 'concocted' and came up with some other meals that still fit into the criteria.

Maybe next time I'll create menus for 6 weeks, with at least one 'figure out what sounds good' day each week.

However, I am learning creative ways to use up left overs so I don't end up throwing them away or trying to figure out what the green fuzzy stuff is in the back of the fridge! Here are a few of my ideas:

Cut left over meatloaf into squares and add chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and pasta for Italian Wedding Soup

Put left over turkey in a pie crust with frozen (or left over) veggies, Southern style hash brown potato squares, leftover turkey gravy, and a can of cream of mushroom soup with garlic. Top with another pie crust for Turkey Pot Pie

That recipe works well with leftover roast or stew, too...just cut the meat, potatoes, and carrots into small pieces, put in a crust with gravy and top off for a Beef Pot Pie

Left over chicken, rice (either rice a roni or rice pilaf) and chicken broth make great soup. You can add veggies or even exchange left over stuffing for the rice for variety.

Leftover pork chops can be cut up and added to rice, fresh cut up veggies (carrots, celery, brocolli, whatever) and/or frozen peas, scrambled eggs, and soy sauce for great fried rice.

I just put the leftovers in the freezer for the future if we are tired of that kind of meat that week and I use them in the future!

What do you do with leftovers?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Free Book!

Check out my book review blog today -- I am giving away two books that help you learn to be close to God in a more tangible way!

Bunch of Stuff

Our ice storm last week made me realize some interesting things!

First, remember last Wednesday when I said I was seeing my children as my area of service and working to not see them as interruptions to my 'real work'? Guess what the first words out of my mouth were when we found out it was going to be a snow day! Oh, am I going to get everything done!!! Guess that lesson hasn't quite sunk in yet. God is laughing!

On the Frugal Front, I had been dreading my typical Thursday grocery shopping trip because it was $10 coupon day! If I spent $50, I'd save $10...but we had only budgeted $20 for the week. Was I going to pass up on 20% savings? I had planned to, but I knew I would be frustrated and would probably pout (who me????). So, enter the ice storm! We had enough to get us through and I didn't have to shop until Sunday when there were less temptations. Even saving $10 isn't a deal if you don't really need anything. Instead of saving $10 this week I actually saved $85...from our regular budget.

I usually avoid the grocery store on Sat and Sun like the plague...too many people! But on Sunday Sammi was making cookies and ran out of eggs so I decided to brave the crowd (it was either that or waste the margarine/sugar she'd already mixed!). However, with my nice short list, I didn't have to enter the main aisles at all. I got my breads (bagels, hot dog buns, sliced French bread), eggs, milk, and margarine then I went quickly through the self check out lanes -- less than $14! It's so fun to do that!

The month is quickly coming to a close, but since Thursday is the shopping day we plan, I have one more week of frugal shopping before I can spend my regularly budgeted amount. I'm starting to get a list of things we need to restock, but with the possible exception of green beans/corn (no more green beans and only one can of corn), it looks like we are going to make it just fine. Guess I'll just have to get fresh produce to make up for that slight...our bodies won't know how to deal with it!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cool Video

Check this out! ">

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

God Is So Smart...

Sometimes I look at what I've accomplished (or haven't accomplished is more like it) since I've been off work (almost three years now!), and I get a little frustrated with myself. Surely I should have more to show for all this 'leisure' time, shouldn't I? If you would have asked me a couple of years ago, I would have expected to have a perfectly organized/clean house, amazing gardens, completed scrapbooks, and a ton of published articles or maybe a book by now. For the most part none of these things happened.

Most days the house is MUCH better than it used to be, we eat real meals, and the grass is actually a little greener. I have a few rejection letters to show that I wrote a little bit, but not nearly as many as I should have if I'd been writing/submitting the way I expected to. And scrapbooks? I've organized some photos, but haven't made any progress on the 8 - 10 scrapbooks I have in various stages of completion! This lack of accomplishment really had me bummed for a while...I didn't feel very successful in this new role.

But God is showing me some very important things. It's not the 'things' that get done that are so important. In this time I have learned a lot about myself, my family, and my God. Some of these things I knew before but didn't really admit, like the fact that I'm not very good at completing the really cool things I start. So much so that I will actually take on more things so I have a good excuse not to finish the old ones!

There are several 'things' I have accomplished, but in reality it's the fact that I'm available to my family that has made the biggest difference. While I love them immensely, in the past I think I saw them as distractions to the work I thought was supposed to get done...the housecleaning, memory preserving, and service opportunities. I know now that my family IS the place I am to serve. I can sit and watch a movie with Christopher when he wants to cuddle (heaven forbid he just sit on my lap without a good reason!), to sit with the girls when they don't really have anything important to do or say...for a while (it always pops up after a period of time, but I never waited long enough before), and to just be available to pick them up, cart them around, or be here when they are sick. I can't imagine how we would have made it through the last six months if I were working 60 hour weeks and travelling every other week!

My perceptions of 'success' are being turned upside down, or maybe rightside up. God is telling me that this year is to be one of decluttering (life and home) and finding peace among the busyness. I'm learning to be still, and I'm starting to like it!

They say that the best way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans! He knows what the future holds for me, and he will get me prepared in advance. I want to just trust Him because I know He knows best -- and that is what real success looks like.

I Love a Great Deal!

I went into Walgreen's today to pick up a prescription. I planned to take a look at the left over Valentine's day candy to see if there might be anything that would work for Easter. I saw a big bin with a sign that said all Valentine's candy was now $1.00, so I figured I'd dig through it. As I was looking, the cashier came by and said that they had just reduced the price to .25 per item!!! I got about $35 worth of candy for only $4.50! And there was some cool stuff...large chocolate bees filled with sweet-tart type bees, crispy chocolate playing cards, and some spongebob things. Almost all of it could apply to any holiday, not just Valentine's Day. And, besides, Easter is all about love, too, right?

Just a note...I paid for these out of our 'Target' envelope, where I usually purchase gifts and things related to holidays, so I didn't dip into our grocery money for this.

Walgreen's also has good deals on makeup on occasion. When one color goes out of style or packaging changes, they sell the 'extinct' stuff for 75% off. Unless you are picky about brands you can get a great deal on cosmetics AS LONG AS you don't buy something just because it's a good price! Just watch for orange tags along the cosmetics wall.

So run, don't walk, to your local drugstore to see if you can get similar deals!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Frugal Doesn't Mean Stingy

It's been a crazy week because Sammi had her surgery (which went well, by the way), but things have been a little off kilter.

I did go to the grocery store on Thursday last week for $10 coupon day. In retrospect, I'm glad I waited to spend the rest of the stock up money until the middle of the month...I ended up getting much less than I originally thought I really needed to get through the month. After spending the $50 for stocking up, I only needed about $15 of the 'regular' money I'd set aside for this week (milk, oranges, apples, potatoes).

I found that I had a lot of difficulty sticking to my plan...there were so many great things on sale this week. I really wanted to buy 50% off Valentine's candy, and I actually put something yummy in my cart (ha...I can't even remember what it was now!) that I made myself take back out before I checked out.

I had a horrible moment of selfishness the other day. We have always had an 'Open Pantry" policy...for the most part the kids and their friends are welcome to anything they can find to eat. I got home and found that some teens had had pop tarts for a snack and I almost panicked...we wouldn't have enough for the month! Luckily I caught myself before I said anything. I do NOT want to be legalistic or stingy during this...and I hate that I felt that way. When I re-evaluated, I found that I have more than enough for the rest of the month, and I know that the boys won't die if their systems get something healthier for breakfast a few days! So, y'all come on over for some poptarts!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

To the Store

Well, I never made it to ShopNSave on Thursday. Kevin was home sick with the flu, Alicia was trying to find ways to help with the storm damage in Union and I didn't want to be too far away from the phone, and Doug was in California. But really, the only thing we were out of was bananas.

Friday night we had breakfast for supper and I used up the eggs. Sunday we heard that the weather was going to get bad, so I decided to hit the grocery store quickly. It was kind of fun! I went in with just milk, bananas, sour cream, and eggs on my list. I know how tempted I can be in the store, so I just grabbed the little hand-held basket instead of a cart. I was pleased -- I just got what was on the list (although I have to admit that I looked closely at the meat to see if there were any great 'Manager Special' deals...gee, I wonder how our freezer got so full!!). So, for week one I spent about $9.

This Thursday is $10 coupon day, so I'll get the rest of the 'stock up' stuff I didn't get in January with the $50 I have left from then. But honestly, I haven't looked at that list and I can only think of one or two things that are on it. I may be able to get by without spending much of this week's money!

For all practical purposes, the girls are unaware that anything is different. They know what we are doing, but the only thing they are missing at the moment is a case of water (one of those things on my stock up list), which I'll get for them on Thursday. AND it won't hurt them to just refill their plastic bottles...

I am really liking the monthly menu planning process. While we don't necessarily eat what I had planned for that night, I just move things around on a weekly basis. I know what I have to defrost in advance, and meal prep is so much easier when I'm not staring at the pantry trying to figure out what sounds good.

Just an mom ordered the green plastic bags from TV that are supposed to keep your fruits and vegetables fresh longer...she gave me a few and we tested them out. They work really well -- bananas stay fresh for a week! The other day I noticed that the plastic bags in the produce department at ShopNSave are a green color now. I played scientist and tried one of those bags against the ones Mom bought. Believe it or not they worked JUST AS WELL! I'll have to test it against clear bags next.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Week One -- Frugal February Grocery 'Fast'

Isn't it interesting how life intervenes in your best made plans? I had intended to make my final grocery store 'run' on January 31. I typically shop on Thursdays because our local Shop N Save often has coupons for $10 off any $50 purchase. I had $100 of the January grocery money (we spend $100/week for our family of 7, but that excludes Alicia, who is away at college).

On Jan 31 we had an awesome snow storm. In addition to having difficulty actually getting to the grocery store, I tend to avoid shopping on days when the general population gets nervous about running out of bread and milk. Not that they don't have good reason to worry around here. In the past couple of years we've had more than our share of power outages, so folks get a little skittish when there are storms of any kind.

So, anyway, I didn't go to the store that day. There were great sales on pizza (I needed to stock up about 8 for the month) at Dierbergs and some good deals on veggies at Aldi's, so I hit both of those stores on Feb 4 before the sales expired. I spent about $45 of my $100 there. I was hoping ShopNSave would have their coupon day this week, but they didn't AND I have a sick 8 year old at home, Doug was out of town, Alicia was at Union U with all the tornado mess, and Sammi still has her migraine. Needless to say I barely left the house this week. I have this internal desire to run out to the store, but in reality there isn't anything we need at the moment. We still have more than 1/2 gallon of milk and the only thing we are really out of is bananas.

My plan is to hold off on the rest of the 'stocking up' for Feb until next week Thursday, hoping there is another $10 coupon. As far as getting the milk/produce/bread, I'll wait until we need it...maybe Sunday or Monday so the bananas are fresh for lunches.

This week we had tacos, hot dogs, fish sticks, parmesan chicken legs (yum), leftovers one night, and tonight we'll have 'breakfast'. With the exception of the girls on fish night (they found other places to eat...), everyone's been satisfied with what we have.

I divided all of our stored food into four boxes so we don't devour all of it in one one knows where they are or what's in them, so I just hit the boxes as we run out of things. Our week one box is still full!

You'd think I'd lived in the depression they way I've stocked our pantry...I'm going to have to find other things to put in there in the future because it's silly to have this much saved up. I bet if we tried we could continue on well into March with just a few exceptions (like those morning poptarts....).

Wow -- this got long, but I promised I'd keep you up to speed on our little adventure. Is anyone out there joining us?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Union University Update

Several folks have sent e-mails asking how they could help the students of Union University recover from the tornado disaster.

Information has been posted at They are requesting donations of walmart/target/etc. gift cards so the students can replace their basic possessions. Most students will be heading home for a couple of weeks, but there are a lot who live too far away (or internationally) and who are unable to drive their cars.

If you are interested in helping out, please check out the website. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

In the Midst of the Storm

It's been a long night and an early morning. Alicia (our college age daughter) attends Union University. For those of you who may not have heard the news this morning, Union made headlines nationally because they were hit hard by a tornado. In 35 seconds the world changed for a lot of people.

Alicia and all of her friends are ok. If you see the pictures, it's amazing to know that not one person died...only six kids ended up in the hospital over night (five of them are considered in serious condition -- no one in critical condition). 13 students were trapped in the rubble (some photos at and at my photo blog) and had to be rescued. The women's dorms are totally destroyed, as are many of the boys dorms. The main classroom building on campus lost it's roof. Cars are stacked up like dominoes. Not a single building on campus was unscathed.

Students spent the night at professors homes and in Red Cross shelters. Alicia lives off campus, and the only damage she had to deal with was a broken windshield. They lost power for several hours, but it's back now. The kids are being let back onto campus right now, 8:00, and I imagine it is a horrifying experience.

The verse that keeps coming to mind is Deuteronomy 31:6,
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Union apparently received the brunt of the storm in the town of Jackson...a place filled with students praying desperately through their fear. Some may say that it's interesting that God would hit a Christian college...but I keep thinking about what might have happened if it were a different location where people weren't praying. Despite the damage, God protected each and every one of the students and professors on campus (night classes were in session). I know that he is there now and that he will use this disaster to further his plan.

Please pray for the students, and their families who are far away, that they will be able to deal with the emotional trauma, that they will demonstrate Christ to others through out the clean up, that they will be able to return to classes quickly enough not to cause problems with graduation plans, and that God will be glorified through this disaster.

There are thousands of people who have been impacted by these horrible storms. And apparently they aren't over -- lots of tornado warnings in eastern Tennessee/Kentucky, and Western/Central Georgia. Pray that they will be strong and courageous, and that they will know God will never leave or forsake them.