Thursday, February 28, 2013

Monthly Meal Planner – March

Today I posted our monthly meal plan on the side of our refrigerator giving our family a glimpse into their culinary future.  I thought I would go ahead and share it with you as a source of inspiration, if nothing else.  I enjoy checking out other’s meal plans to give me ideas too. 

For my own personal dietary needs I’ll tweak things a bit here and there.  I may not get everything made depending on how the leftovers work out.  Here is a list of what we will be enjoying next month: 

·         Pizza
·         Lentil Stew
·         Beef Stroganoff
·         Omelets
·         Chicken & Rice
·         Tomato Bisque
·         Sloppy Joes
·         Pasta Primavera
·         Pork Chops
·         Thai Noodle Soup
·         Tacos
·         Denver Egg Scramble
·         Stir Fried Rice & Veggies
·         Salmon
·         Corned Beef & Cabbage (St. Patrick’s Day)
·         Macaroni & Cheese
·         Reuben Sandwiches
·         Vegetable Soup
·         Corned Beef Potato Hash
·         Sausage & Peppers
·         Turkey & Dumplings
·         Red Beans & Rice
·         Pea Soup
·         Quesadilla Casserole
·         Chicken Pot Pie (Easter) 
It all sounds pretty tasty to me.  What’s on your menu plan this month? 

You may also enjoy revisiting Breakfasts.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Household Replacement List

At the beginning of the year I made a list.  Nothing unusual in that statement, if you happen to know me, as I tend to do that.  I’m a list maker.  In fact, I made several lists. 

One of the lists I made is what I call a Household Replacement list.  I make notes of all the items that are wearing out or needing replacement or upgrade.  Then I organize it in order of priority.  I keep this list in my day planner so I always have it handy and when I run across a great sale I can tick something off. 

Some of the things on the list are things like the girls needed new tennis shoes for school, we all needed a new set of sheets for our beds, my leather coat is shot, I would like a new watch (low priority), etc., etc., etc. 

Good thing I was able to cancel our No Spend Month because I have been able to tick quite a few items off my list in February: 

·        Fred Meyer had a great sheet sale.  I was able to get really nice sheets sets for all of us including a set for each of the girls at $9.99 each and a set for my bed at $16.99.  They are soft and feel so nice to sleep in too.
·        Tennis shoes off the clearance rack at ShopKo back in January.
·        A leather coat to replace my old worn out one for $50.20 off eBay.
·        Brand new winter coats with the tags still on for the girls at $9.99 each at a local thrift store.
·        Several canning jars I’ve picked up for 35¢ to 65¢ a piece at a local thrift store. 

That is what I’ve managed to get so far and I only have a few more items left on the list.  I plan to continue working on it throughout the year and will post updates on my progress.


Do you do anything like this?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Homemade Salad Dressings

Here are a few more delicious salad dressing recipes to enjoy: 

Asian Style Vinaigrette 

¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. sugar (optional) 

Place ingredients into a pint jar.  Secure with a lid and shake well to combine. 

Caesar Style Dressing 

¼ cup lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup grated parmesan 

Place ingredients into a pint jar.  Secure with a lid and shake to combine. 

French Style Dressing 

¼ cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
½ cup catsup
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup olive oil 

Place ingredients into a pint jar.  Secure with a lid and shake to combine. 

For a Creamy French Style Dressing substitute 1 cup mayonnaise for the olive oil.  In a small mixing bowl whisk all ingredients together until well blended.  Pour into a pint jar and secure with a lid. 

Buttermilk Dressing 

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbs. homemade Italian Salad Dressing mix 

In a small mixing bowl whisk all ingredients together until well blended.  Pour into a pint jar and secure with a lid. 

What is your favorite homemade salad dressing?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Last Week’s Thrifty Moves

I made two batches of soup for the freezer. 

I didn’t shop much this week.  On Wednesday I did shop for produce, which has now become a weekly occurrence, using a store coupon that gave me $4 off a $20 produce purchase at Fred Meyer. 

I purchased a brand new Dolce & Gabbana top from eBay for $13 using funds I already had in my PayPal account.  It is a pretty lime green, white and black paisley print that I can wear with a number of items I have in my closet, including my suit. 

I finished two afghans this week.  The one for my aunt and the other “scrap” one.  I decided to make the scrap yarn afghan much bigger than I originally intended and ended up buying four more skeins to complete it.  It now resides on my youngest's bed.  I am really happy with both of them and that I was able to get them completed so quickly. 

I finished watching the first two seasons of Downton Abbey with a free one-month trial of Amazon Prime.  Now I know what all the buzz is about.  I plan to cancel the trial before the month is up. 

Because gas has risen 75¢ a gallon in the last month I’ve limited my driving and combined errands to save as much gas as possible.  I only ran errands one time this week. 

The chickens blessed us with 12 eggs this week.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Christmas All Year Long – Gift Tags

We used up all the gift tags we made last year so I decided to make more.  Last year I made my gift tags with my girls using Christmas cards and scraps of this and that in our craft box.  We even stamped some. 

This year I made it a little simpler since we also made Christmas cards this year.  I went into word and formatted some self adhesive Avery 8160 labels for our gift tags.  It only took me a few minutes.  On each label I placed a Christmas motif from Clip Art, then in a “text box” I put the words “To:” and “From:” in a nice font. 

When I am ready to start wrapping I will print the labels and in the meantime I will keep them stored in my “Christmas” file on my computer. 

I know gift tags are pretty inexpensive to buy, especially at the after Christmas sales but it is a fun little project and I like the idea of using what I already have.  Plus I get to personalize them the way I like.

Do you need to make some Gift Bags or Tags this year?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Homemade Salad Dressings And A Veggie Dip

Homemade salad dressings are quick to make with just a handful of simple ingredients.  Most likely everything you need is already in your pantry and spice cabinet. 

Italian Salad Dressing Mix 

1 Tbs. garlic salt
1 Tbs. onion powder
1 Tbs. sugar (optional)
2 Tbs. oregano
1 Tbs. parsley
1Tbs. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. thyme
1 tsp. basil
¼ tsp. celery salt 

Place all ingredients in a clean dry half-pint jar.  Secure with a lid and shake until well combined. 

Italian Style Vinaigrette 

¼ cup cider or red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. Italian salad dressing mix 

Place ingredients into a pint jar.  Secure with a lid and shake to combine. 

Creamy Italian Style Dressing 

1 cup milk
1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. Italian salad dressing mix
1 tsp cornstarch 

In a small mixing bowl whisk all ingredients thoroughly together.  Pour into a pint jar and secure with a lid.  If mixture is too thick add 1 Tbs. of milk and mix well until you reach desired thickness. 

Veggie Dip 

4 oz. cream cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. milk
1 Tbs. Italian salad dressing mix 

Whisk ingredients together until well blended.  Serve with a large assortment of crisp fresh raw vegetables. 

This mix and these recipes are easily one of my most versatile “go to” dressings.  I use the Italian Style Vinaigrette to marinade steak and chicken too.  It is also wonderful to dress a pasta salad or a chopped salad.
You may also enjoy revisiting Chopped Salad and Salads.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Best Buy This Year So Far

Last month I had planned to dye my black leather jacket, again.  However, as I was preparing to do so I discovered that I had worn a significant portion of my right cuff away and the left cuff was starting to look almost as bad.

Now I like distressed leather as much as the next girl but we are talking beyond distressed.  We’ve hit ratty and ratty isn’t a fashion statement.  I guess after 12 years of constant use it is to be expected.  I love my jacket so I will keep it to use for camping and working outside in the yard or cutting wood with my Dad. 

This latest turn of events has had me hunting for a suitable replacement and I don’t have to tell you leather coats aren’t cheap, but surprisingly not more expensive than what I paid for my jacket originally. 

This week I was able to get one.  I found a brand new Nine West leather coat on eBay and was able to get it with a winning bid of $36.00!  After shipping my total price was $50.20.  I am thrilled! 

I now have a lovely new coat to wear to work and out and about that looks nice regardless of what else I’m wearing and for a fraction of what it would have cost at Nordstrom or Dillard’s.  I wonder if it will last me for the next 12 years.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dietary Changes

At Christmastime I was feeling the effects of too many sweets and rich foods.  I told myself after the New Year I was going to get back to eating healthy foods and lose the few pounds I’d packed on in recent months.  I made it to December 26th and said “Enough!” 

I started back to my healthier eating and was quickly derailed with a nice head cold.  After a week I was back to it.  I’ve always thought I was a healthy eater, except for my nagging sweet tooth.  I’m not overweight and I do manage to maintain my weight pretty well, most of the time.  Like most, I do struggle a bit between Halloween and New Years. 

After my visit to the doctor last month I read the information I’d been given, did a lot of research and explored all my options.  It is fair to say that for about two weeks I was consumed with research.  I discovered that the best option for my particular situation was to take a dietary approach. 
I decided to change my food consumption to a predominantly plant based diet.  There is a lot of science to back this approach up and, to me, it just made sense.  I eat very little meat, dairy, rice, pasta or bread and fill my plate with a lot of fresh raw fruits and vegetables. 

I am rethinking pretty much everything and am in the process of re-outfitting my pantry.  I want to:

·         Change the fats we use to olive oil, coconut oil and peanut oil.
·         Focus more on whole grains, legumes and lentils.
·         Significantly reduce our consumption of animal based products.
·         Improve the quality of our foods and pay closer attention to where they come from.
·         Steer clear of modified and genetically enhanced “food”.
·         Make even more homemade items so I know exactly what is in my food. 

It didn’t start out easy.  The first 2½ to 3 weeks were tough.  I didn’t feel good (as I realized later that my body was in detox mode) and I really wanted chocolate and cookies.  But now I feel so much better.  I’ve had a significant reduction in my symptoms and my energy level is back to normal. 

I got online and watch some videos on that really helped me better understand what I need to do and how to go about it.  Plus they explained the science behind it so I’d have a much better understanding of “Why”.  I’m one of these people that needs to know the “Why” of something before I am willing hop on board. 

The videos I watched are called: 

1.                   Fat, Sick And Nearly Dead
2.                  Forks Over Knives
3.                  Chow Down 

I am motivated to keep going and to see what my doctor thinks when I go back in a couple of months.  I think he’ll be pleasantly surprised.  I already am!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Health Issues Mean Some Changes

I’ve been dealing with some ongoing health issues for quite awhile that had steadily been getting worse.  I have been blessed with an over active immune system, which sounds great in that I hardly ever get sick, however my poor body feels it is necessary to constantly be battling something.  Me!  Talk about being your own worst enemy. 

People that suffer from auto immune issues are faced with a variety of different diseases and issues.  Some are serious while others are not so much.  I won’t bore you with the details of what exactly is going on with me but suffice it to say I do have some decisions to make. 

After a visit with my doctor in mid January I’m afraid I fell into a bit of a tailspin, in that I wasn’t sure what decisions I should make.  Should I do this or should I do that?  And what will that entail?  How will that affect my family?  My new business?  Our home and our financial situation? 

A lot of sleepless nights ensued and I think it is fair to say a slight depression followed around the first of this month.  Plus, I got really scared.  Fortunately, I don’t have to make any big decisions today or tomorrow for that matter, and once I realized that, I was able to settle down and think more clearly. 

I’m not a big one for sharing my personal stuff.  Some people have no problem telling you their entire life story and sharing every detail.  That’s not me.  If I have a problem I work on it and fix it myself.  I rarely ask for help, unless I really need it.  It is just how I am. 

The reason I want to share right now is that I’ve made some serious dietary changes that have had a significantly positive effect on my health.  The biggest thing for me is how quickly I have managed to turn my particular situation around and the impact that has made on my future outlook. 

So in my next post I will share with you what I’ve been doing the changes I am seeing.  If you are having any health issues or concerns perhaps this will be of help to you too. 

Until tomorrow…

Monday, February 18, 2013

Last Week’s Thrifty Moves

I found these two votives at the thrift store a couple weeks ago.
I finished a Christmas gift for one of my daughters. 

We made homemade Valentines for the girls to give to their classmates at school. I also made chocolate chip cookies for their teachers.  I used a red plate we had received at Christmas to make a plate of cookies for the principal, secretary and school counselor. 

I replaced my worn out leather coat with a new one I purchased on eBay and used money in my PayPal account to pay for it.  I will post more about this later. 

I started crocheting an afghan for my aunt.  I plan to send it to her as a surprise gift next month. 

I gave my daughter’s the chocolates I had purchased a few weeks ago with coupons at Walgreens.  I put them in paper bags and stapled Valentines I had made that were last year’s leftovers on the fronts. 

I made homemade Valentine cards and gave them to my friends.   

I made homemade dip and a veggie platter from items I already had in the refrigerator to take to a friend’s house for Pinochle. 

The chickens blessed us with 14 eggs this week.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Mission – Our Garage

One of the things I have worked on really hard the past couple of years is to not allow our garage to become a dumping ground.  When I went out there to work on it I had to pat myself on the back a little because the garage was in pretty good shape. 

Dirt and leaves had accumulated since I swept it out last so I made quick work of that.  I also wanted to organize some feed bins for the chickens which I did using an old Rubbermaid tote I had been hanging onto.  It had been empty for quite some time.  I had even offered it to my Mom but she didn’t think she would use it.  It isn’t very big and it is tall like a trash can so an odd shaped tote but, as it turns out, perfect for storing chicken feed.  Glad I still had it. 

I keep our cat food in a plastic tote with a lid that snaps closed and the litter in an old 5 gallon laundry soap bucket with a lid. 

In another 5 gallon bucket I keep all my wood scraps tucked into the corner with the extra fence boards I’ve kept for future repairs.  That supply is dwindling with all the projects we had over the summer.  Our ladder and reel lawn mower also resides there and next to that is our HUGE recycle bin.  I used to not like having it in the garage because it takes up so much space but we fill it up regularly so I know we need it.  A small cardboard box holds my glass items that go in to the recyclers periodically. 

We have a lot of shelving for storage too.  I even have a section for my canner and empty jars.  Right now most of those jar boxes are empty because my jars are full of home canned goodies. 

I did have a big pile of bagged up items to go to the thrift store but those have been taken in for donation. 

Next I plan to work on those boxes on the shelves to see if I can eliminate some of them.  I got rid of quite a few of them last spring and another one last week but I think I can do better.  I also want to clear the tops of the refrigerator and freezer so there is nothing on top of them.  Just wide open spaces.
Are you tackling any big organizational projects this year?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thrifty Homemade Candles

As a Thrifty Mom I save my leftover candle wax.  I keep a tote in my hall closet to store my candles, candle holders and Scentsy supplies.  Inside I also keep a plastic Ziploc bag filled with leftover candle wax or what remains in a candle after the wick completely burns down.

Once the bag is full I melt it down and make new candles out of it.  It is a simple process that allows me to use up something that otherwise would have ended up in the trash.  Plus it doesn’t cost me anything but a little time. 

To melt wax you will need some sort of a double boiler set up.  You should never melt wax over direct heat or it will catch fire.  This time I used a glass candle jar that already had some wax left in it and I dumped the rest of my wax leftovers into it.  I allowed the wax to melt over low heat and a gentle simmer in a pan of water. 

I found this 80ct box of birthday candles at the $ Store.
In the meantime I assembled a few votive cup candle holders I happened to have on hand.  All clean and dry.  Dry is important, by the way.  I also set out three birthday candles to use as wicks. 

Once the wax is completely melted I filled my votives up leaving a ¼” space from the top.  After the wax begins to cool and solidify along the bottom and edges of the votives I set my birthday candles in place, pressing the ends into the soft wax at the bottom of the votive cup and making sure they are straight and centered.  At this point if they want to lean you can prop them up by laying a pencil across the top of the votive. 

Allow the candles to solidify then top with your remaining wax for a nice even pour along the top.  You can certainly cut your birthday candles to length so they don’t stick up above the top of the votive, but since birthday candles tend to burn quickly I choose to just leave them. 

I use this same method for larger candle making and use tapers, cut to length, for my wicks.  I sometimes add a square or two of Scentsy wax to my melted candle wax to add fragrance. 

Pretty simple really and fun too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sunday Morning Solitude

I love my Sunday mornings.  For as long as I can remember I have risen early on Sunday mornings, long before anyone else, fixed my coffee and settled in to a certain routine of planning, goal strategizing and reflection. 

The house is so peaceful while everyone is busy sleeping in.  I usually end up with a cat in my lap as I read the Sunday paper, clip coupons and peruse the ads.  I map out a shopping strategy so I can take advantage of sales to fill my freezer or pantry, spending as little money as possible in the process.  I check over my future shopping lists and make any necessary adjustments. 

I spend some time on my computer updating my Facebook pages, reading and answering emails, researching for information I may need, paying bills, typing letters, reading the news, or watching a video or two on Youtube.  Whatever I feel like doing at that particular moment. 

By the time my rear end is tired of sitting I’ve moved onto the kitchen to begin whatever food preparation plan I have set up for myself.  Usually this entails getting a loaf of bread dough started in my bread machine, trying a new recipe, baking dessert for Sunday supper or breakfast breads for the coming week. 

While things bake I take the opportunity to clean up the kitchen, maybe organize something that needs sprucing up or start a load of laundry.  Usually the phone is attached to my ear as I chat with my mother at this point. 

By the time my girls are up and rambling around it is time to prepare brunch and start whatever I have planned for supper.  It is time to begin our day and spend time together as a family.  I am energized and ready because of the time I was allowed to spend by myself beforehand. 

I heartily recommend that you carve some alone time for yourself out of your busy schedule if you don’t already do so.  And if you do, how are some of the ways you spend your alone time?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Last Week’s Thrifty Moves

Washed zipper bags hanging to dry. 
Strategically placed over the dirty clothes basket to catch drips.
Sunday morning I used up a bunch of leftover wax I had saved from spent candles to make three new candles in votive cups I already had. 

I made turkey broth from a turkey back I had in the freezer. 

I made a loaf of rye bread. 

I finished the gift I started last week. 

I knitted myself a hat out of yarn I already had in my knitting bag. 

I sold two dozen eggs to a friend. 

I purchased five wide mouth quart size canning jars from the thrift store for 65¢ each plus a vintage square half pint jar for 65¢.  I plan to use the half pint jar for storing homemade salad dressing. 

I darned a pair of socks. 

I worked on my other afghan I started with yarn scraps. 

I started a Christmas gift for my one of my daughters. 

The chickens blessed us with 15 eggs this week!  Way to go ladies!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February – 28 Things to Do This Month

Every day this month I am going to pick one thing from the list to do and then mark it off.  Some I can do quickly and some I will need to schedule time for. 

1.                   Make Valentine cards
2.                  Make school Valentines with the girls
3.                  Make Valentine cookies
4.                  Sew something
5.                  List something to sell on eBay and/or Etsy
6.                  Try a new recipe
7.                  March meal planner
8.                  Clean, vacuum and dust the entire downstairs
9.                  Super clean and organize downstairs bathroom
10.               Make a gift
11.                Family Movie Nite
12.               Have someone over for dinner
13.               Family Game Nite
14.               Send a letter or a card to someone
15.               Do something unexpected for someone
16.               Have a craft day with the girls
17.               Bake two loaves of bread
18.               Make Christmas gift tags
19.               Investment cooking day
20.              Manicure party with my girls
21.               Take in the glass for recycling
22.              Brew a new batch of beer
23.              Clean up the front yard (weather permitting)
24.              Clean up the back yard (weather permitting)
25.              Wash the vehicles (weather permitting)
26.              Vacuum the vehicles
27.              Sweep the garage
28.              Make tortillas

January – 30 Things to Do This Month 

1.                   Make Christmas cards
2.                  Update Christmas card list Nope, didn’t get it done.
3.                  Make my preliminary Christmas plans
4.                  Sew something L
5.                  List something to sell on eBay and/or Etsy
6.                  Try a new recipe
7.                  February meal planner
8.                  Clean, vacuum and dust the entire upstairs
9.                  Super clean and organize upstairs bathroom
10.               Make a gift
11.                Family Movie Nite
12.               Have someone over for dinner
13.               Family Game Nite
14.               Send Thank You notes
15.               Do something unexpected for someone
16.               Go through and re-organize my work wardrobe
17.               Waterproof the winter boots
18.               Dye my leather jacket
19.               Buy new tennis shoes for the girls
20.              Bake two loaves of bread
21.               Make a candle I made three votives on February 2.
22.              Go through and organize the glove and hat bin
23.              Completely clean, dust and vacuum the living room
24.              Completely clean, dust and organize my home office
25.              Go through and organize my greeting and Christmas cards
26.              Make six birthday cards I didn’t get this done and I really wanted to.
27.              Investment cooking – granola, salad dressing, pancake mix
28.              Bake some cookies
29.              Date night with my girls
30.              Update my resume 

Do you make any lists like this?  What do you put on your list?
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