Friday, December 31, 2010

Philadelphia Fettuccine


My family really loves fettuccine, but I had never made it before because I'm really picky about the sauce. I like it to the thick and stick to the noodles. I hate runny cream sauce. Anyway, this was perfect. Everyone ate it and loved it. I'm thrilled because it was super easy and really inexpensive. (Of course, I bought almost all of the ingredients on sale, which helps!)

Philadelphia Fettuccine (adapted from allrecipes.com)
  • 1 lb fettuccine, uncooked
  • 1 can (2 cups) chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 6 oz PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Spread
  • 7 tablespoons 100%  Parmesan Grated Cheese, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 steamable bag of broccoli cuts, prepared

Directions

  1. Cook pasta as directed on package.
  2. Meanwhile, combine broth and flour in medium saucepan. Stir in cream cheese spread, 5 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese, the nutmeg and pepper; cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly with wire whisk until mixture boils and thickens.
  3. Drain pasta. Toss with sauce and broccoli. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and the parsley.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Popsicle Bribery

We managed to scrape by the Christmas holidays without going over budget. I made two quick runs to the grocery store. I'm sorry I didn't share them. I just didn't have time! Go figure! I also am feeling like a dummy because I made three new, wonderful dishes that we ate without me ever taking a picture of! So silly! The picture is the easy part! Oh well!

We stopped by Hy-Vee today. I've been able to avoid it for awhile, but I had both girls along this time. I bribed my little girl to stay in the cart by allowing her to pick a box of popsicles at the end. I bribed my big girl to let the little one pick the popsicles by telling her she could have whatever special treat I chose for myself. It worked brilliantly. Only problem being that popsicles consumed about 10% of our grocery budget for the week.

I still am not pretty low on appetite. I don't care so much right now about stock piling, coupons, whatever. Heck, I even bought a few things that were FULL PRICE. I just need good healthy food that either myself or my husband can prepare easily and will definitely get eaten. AND, I really need to stay on budget. This week we got:

4 half gallons of generic OJ
1 dozen eggs
1 box of Fisher Boy fish sticks
1 package of Green Giant broccoli Steamers
2 Jacks pizzas
1 can of generic Toffee peanuts
1 lb of generic fettuccine
1 can of black beans
4 jars of Jif PB (Thank goodness this was on sale because I was FRESH OUT of PB for the tiny PB monster.)
2 boxes of Town House crackers
1 package Pepperidge Farm gingerbread men
1 loaf of Sara Lee 100% whole wheat bread
1 box of Bomb Pops
1 box of Cappuccino Fruit a Freeze (Somehow I always have an appetite for these!)
1 bag of frozen Tyson chicken breasts
10 lbs of Braeburn apples
1 lb of Navel oranges
1 can of Kraft grated Parmesan

We came in right at $50 before tax.

I don't have an elaborate menu plan for this week, but I do plan on making a new fettuccine with broccoli recipe tomorrow night for our NYE dinner. If I can manage to take a picture, I'll definitely share! Of course, you know with that 10 lbs of apples that I also have a batch of baby's favorite coming. (Apple/Pear this time, and it's already in the crockpot!) I may also throw together some of my mom's chicken and rice casserole. It's such a great recipe for my husband and the girls to reheat while I'm at work. I'm also definitely feeling like I should make some cranberry orange scones! It's been a long time since I broke out the old scone recipe!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Green Rice Casserole

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We really love broccoli cheese rice casserole, but I'd never made it before. I decided I'd try it for our Christmas Eve dinner, and it turned out really good! I adapted a version from www.allrecipes.com.
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen or fresh chopped broccoli
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
  • 16 oz Velveeta (melted)
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked regular long-grain white rice ( ie Measure 1.5 cups dry and prepare.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I thought it needed A LOT.)

Directions

  1. Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir the broccoli in the skillet and cook until it's tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Stir in the milk, soup, cheese sauce and rice. Cook and stir until the cheese is melted. Pour the broccoli mixture into a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling.
In hindsight, I would not use a 10 inch skillet for the preparation next time. It would have been much easier to use a large saucepan. Regardless, the rice turned out great, and I got a lot of compliments! I'm excited to have a new side dish recipe in my repertoire.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Edition

Christmas has really creeped up on me this year. I knew that with Christmas Eve being on a Friday, our usual shopping day, I probably will not make it to the grocery store before the big events. I didn't have a whole lot of extra money to put towards holiday food. I ended up spending about $65 before tax, which I think is pretty good. That being said, I found myself wishing that I had about half of the next 8-10 weeks budget available to me so I could stock up on non-perishables and send my husband to the store once a week for perishables until we have this baby. I'm having a VERY hard time keeping up with the duties of my normal life. Adding Christmas on top of it has just about done me in!

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I'll be making a new broccoli cheese rice recipe, Red Hot Jello and a birthday cake for Jesus. As far as the rest of the week is concerned, I think I'll make Chicken and Rice at some point and also Mexican Crockpot Chicken. We'll fill in the gaps with turkey sandwiches, bagels and cream cheese, fresh fruit, etc.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pumpkin Pudding



My family really likes pumpkin treats, so when my mother in law showed up with this on Thanksgiving Day, we were happy! She got the recipe from a Silver Dollar City cooking class, and it is a good one!

Pudding -

2 15 oz cans of pumpkin
1 can of Eagle Brand milk
3 eggs
2 tablespoons of pumpkin piespice
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all of the pudding ingredients together and spread in a 9x13 pan

Topping -

2/3 box of spice or yellow cake mix (I saved my other 1/3. Make it twice, and you have enough to make a third time without buying cake mix!)
1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted
1 cup of chopped walnuts

Sprinkle 2/3 box of cake mix and nuts over pudding. Pour over melted butter. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Under $50!


I can't believe it! I managed to stay under $50! Truth be told, as I'm creeping on 31 weeks pregnant, I've lost a lot of interest in food. Nothing at the store looked good, sounded good, etc. None of my meal ideas were anything exciting. I just kind of grabbed what I knew we needed/would serve our body's well for the week and got out of there. I still think I did pretty good though!

Here is what I picked up:

 2 Suave body washes
1 Caramel Chex Mix
1 bag of chopped walnuts
2 boxes of Honey Nut Chex
3 cans of generic corn
1 lb of generic flour
1 bag of generic brown sugar
2 cans of generic chicken broth
1 loaves of 100% whole wheat bread
1 bottle of Old Orchard juice
2 cans of Rotel
1 bag of Sara Lee bagels
1 jar of Smuckers Orchard's Finest jam
1 gallon of Blue Bell ice cream
1 big tub of Belfonte vanilla yogurt
1/2 gallon of 2% generic milk
2 bricks of generic colby jack cheese
3 package of Kraft singles
1 2 liter of Canada Dry ginger ale
3.07 lbs of pears
3 packages of blackberries
1 lb of organic baby carrots
2 package of celery

My pre-tax total was about $43.00. 

I was down in the basement last night and realized that we have enough tomato soup to eat grilled cheese and tomato soup for every meal for the test of the week.  If all else fails, the girls probably wouldn't mind. Ha! I'm also going to make homemade chicken noodle soup, whole wheat banana bread, and I hopefully will actually get to my new pumpkin pudding recipe tonight. Later in the week, I'll probably make salsa soup because we haven't had it in a really long time. It's also a great recipe for moving through some of the staples I have in my pantry. Tomato soup isn't the only thing I have an abundance of! While I'm in the mood to get using some stuff up, I think I'll use some of my fresh blackberries and frozen blueberries to make my own version of fruit salsa. I have SEVERAL tortillas that didn't get closed up and are a little crusty, so it sounds like cinnamon chips are in order too! YUM!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hopelessly Over Budget Again

I am once again frustrated by where my $50 got me this week. We made a trip to two different stores this morning, and I had an impossible time with coupons. Very few sale match ups that I could come up with. I also had an inconsolable 2 year old screaming through the majority of my trip to Hy-Vee. Not fun! I even tried to bribe her with hot dogs, Pringles and a balloon. Didn't work.

Our first trip to Price Chopper was pretty successful! We really only went there because I needed apples to make baby's favorite. I needed a LOT of apples. My new crock pot is BIG. I picked up the other really good deals while I was there. I got:

1 BC cake mix
10 lbs of apples
2 jars of organic Ragu
1 24 oz bag of American Beauty pasta
1 bag of Gold Medal flour
1 bag of generic sugar

My pre-tax total was $15.29. I saved $17.56. Not bad!

Really, my problem was having $35 at Hy-Vee. Knowing that we actually needed food that we could eat for meals, and that I didn't have all that much cash left was frustrating! I needed to be able to think things through really clearly, but with the screaming little one, it was totally impossible. We got:

1 dozen eggs
2 1/2 gallons of generic OJ
1 lb of frozen peaches
1 Jack's piza
1 Carnation evaporated milk
1 Earthgrains 100% whole wheat bread
1 Hunts ketchup
1 generic raisin, nut and seed trail mix
1 lb of generic spaghetti
1 can of generic tomato sauce
1 can of black beans
2 bottles of Old Orchard juice
1 can of Pringles (expensive baby bribery)
1 package of Sara Lee bagels
1 Sobe Life Water (free)
1 package of Oscar Meyer hot dogs
2 bags of Tyson frozen chicken breasts
1/2 gallon of generic 2% milk
2 tubs of Robert's cottage cheese
2 bags of generic shredded cheese
7 lbs of bananas

All in all, we should be able to eat just fine this week. The problem is just that we went overbudget at $46.00 pre-tax on this trip alone. There are definitely a few things I could have and should have put back, but I just didn't have the clarity of mind to do so.Oh well!

I did make a huge batch of baby's favorite last night. It took all 10 lbs of the apples and 1 lb of frozen peaches easily. Evan with apples at $.69/lb, it got expensive! I miss my free apples! They just eat SO much of it, but I can't justify not making it when it's so healthy and they like it so much.

Our other meals this week will include Mexican crockpot chicken and cranberry crockpot chicken. I'm also going to share a recipe for Pumpkin Pudding that I got from my mother in law. Hopefully we'll make that tonight! We'll otherwise be snacking on hot dogs, cottage cheese, bananas, scrambled cheesy eggs, etc. I have. We're also thankful to have a few events going on this week where we will be fed! Love that!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Strasburg Mommy and Me Apron Set

I really am not a huge fan of posting deals on here, but I thought this one was too good to pass up. (Alas, I'm not buying it because we already have Mommy and Me aprons that my mom made.) It would be a great gift to mom/daughter, grandma/granddaughter, etc. Heck, it's really TWO gifts. Strasburg clothing is heirloom quality, so this price is amazing!

Deal is:



http://www.strasburgchildren.com/product.asp?lt=d&deptid=8736&sec=girls&pfid=SBC01067

The regular price for the apron set is $19.99.

Use code Holiday25 to save 25% through Dec 28th. Your total would be $14.99 + shipping.

Late to the party...

I'm running a little late to the party on groceries this week. I did make one stop earlier this week for Thanksgiving perishables for my broccoli salad and cinnamon cider apples and a few other holiday sale items, but I just didn't have time to share it. Sorry about that! Truth is, I really didn't WANT to go to the store again, but we were out of juice, milk and pop, and that just doesn't fly around here. Plus, I wanted to pick up some frozen chicken breasts that were on sale. Of course, they were out of the frozen chicken breasts, and I still spent my entire $50. At least I got a rain check!

I've also been thinking a lot this week about how my grocery budget results look so much more sparse than some people's. I just really have stopped caring at all about having 80 bags of chocolate chips that I paid $.25 for and far prefer to have healthy and fresh foods that my family (especially my children) love. Yes, I paid nearly $2/tub of cottage cheese, and $1 per avocado, but they will get eaten! I feel better about that than having a pantry full of processed foods that I would prefer none of us eat.

Since I wasn't able to pick up my chicken breasts at the store, I'm a little short on meal plan ideas! I will probably make cavatini on Monday or Tuesday night. We've also been making and loving burritos out of our favorite black bean dip. We'll be snacking on Thanksgiving leftovers, homemade guacamole, cheese and crackers, bagels and cream cheese, etc. Sounds like good eatin' to me!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holiday Broccoli Salad



I had this salad for the first time at a Thanksgiving work potluck. I REALLY liked it, and while it wasn't traditional for our family, my friend that brought it said they eat it EVERY year. It's nice because it's pretty darn simple, but it's delicious. I also think it's really nice to have something fresh and crunchy on the Thanksgiving table. I've made it for the last few years now too, and my family really likes it. I hope you do too!

Salad -
4 crowns of broccoli, chopped very small
1/2 red onion, chopped very fine
1 cup of grated cheddar
4 strips of bacon for bacon bits (I use a package of bacon bits instead.)

Dressing -
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
Dash of pepper

(Place ingredients in sealed Tupperware and shake to blend.)

Just a little tip, I always serve the dressing on the side. It's VERY zippy, so I feel like people should be able to control how much they want. Plus, then your salad leftovers don't get soggy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Advent Conspiracy

We've had a lot of stress about Christmas at our house lately. The only gift we intended on buying for the girls (or for ourselves) was a bunk bed and dresser set, but we just can't afford to buy what we had been hoping for. So far, we haven't come up with a good back-up plan, and we have stumbled on any helpful deals either.  It's hard for me to know that my girls are not going to have anything other than a small gift from us at Christmas time because we haven't been able to figure this bedroom set out and can't afford to be out the money on other gifts.

Anyway, we decided as a family this morning that we want to give half of what we have set aside for that bedroom set that we can't afford anyway and give it to the Africa Water Project. In the mean time, we'll get prayin' about where our kids are going to sleep once this baby comes!

Free to WORSHIP, LIVE, BREATHE, GIVE, LAUGH, CELEBRATE, CONSPIRE.

 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Shopping

 (It's so hard for me to believe this is my "LITTLE" girl!)

Ok, I may be one in a million, but I LOVE Holiday grocery shopping.  We had room in the budget this week to allow for $100 in groceries, and I'm very thankful. I will probably hit all three of our major local stores between now and Thankgiving. I picked up some general things today, and I'll definitely have to make another stop the day before Thanskgiving for some perishable items. If I have time and budget, I'll hit the sales at Hy-Vee before then.

This is what we picked up today -

Finish Powerball tabs
2 boxes of Jello
6 cans of Chicken of the Sea tuna
4 2 litres of various pop
1 generic apple juice
1 can of Eagle Brand milk
1 PAM vegetable spray
1 Bakers chocolate
1 Nature's Pride 100% whole wheat bread
2 cans of Planters cashews
2 tubes of Pillsbury Simply buttermilk biscuits
2 tubes of Pillsbury crescent rolls
1 Roberts french onion dip
1 Roberts Eggnog
1 dozen Land O Lakes brown eggs
1 big tub of Yoplait strawberry yogurt
2 lbs of Land O Lakes butter
1 lb bag of frozen spinach
2 Pet Ritz pie crusts
1 package of Reames noodles
1 package of Mariani yogurt raisins
1 package of Mariani dried cherries (My favorite!)

My pre-tax total was $42.67. We saved 49%.

I have lots of things on the Thanksgiving menu this upcoming week! I'm taking Olive Garden Spinach Dip and chips to our work potluck on Monday. On Thanksgiving day, I committed to green bean casserole, broccoli salad, French Silk pie and Double Spiced Pumpkin Pie. I think this weekend the girls and I will also make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies and test out a new recipe I saw for pumpkin empanadas. I will definitely be sharing the recipes for French Silk (it's a good one!) and my special broccoli salad. Of course, I'll let you know how the pumpkin empanandas work out. Should be fun!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Amish Baked Oatmeal

I wanted to make something different and special for breakfast on Saturday morning, so I whipped up a recipe I had been planning on testing for a long time, Amish Baked Oatmeal.


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It made such a nice breakfast, and was so easy to put together first thing in the morning. I was thinking it would be a great Thanksgiving or Christmas morning breakfast! I think for the holidays, I will adjust the recipe with apricots and dried cherries to make it extra special. Yum!

The adjusted recipe is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (I subbed raisins.)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Beat in milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Stir in dried cranberries and walnuts. Spread into a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Over Budget

 

(Crazy crooked picture! My camera is broken, and you have to SQUEEZE the front and back together to get the picture to take. Makes it hard to hold the camera still while you push the button!)

We made a super rainy trip to Hy-Vee last night. We were really, really low on groceries, to the point where it was getting really frustrating. I almost went crazy being out of cheese for a whole week! I also really wanted to stock up on pumpkin since it was so cheap! I've not been doing a great job of buying in bulk when things are a great price, and my pantry has been suffering a little bit. The next few weeks before the holidays, I'm going to try to make a purposeful effort to stock up on some of our non-perishable favorites! Aside from that, we just needed some food in the fridge! This is what we came home with:

1/2 gallon of Dole orange pineapple juice
1/2 dozen generic eggs
4  Freschetta pizzas
4 Campbell's cream of chicken soup
1 Betty Crocker cake mix
1 Bettery Crocker frosting
1 cans of generic mandarin oranges
1 can of generic black beans
6 cans of generic pumpkin
2 cans of generic chicken broth
3 boxes of Halloween macaraoni
1 huge jar of Musselman's applesauce
1 Newman's spaghetti sauce
1 package of Quaker old fashioned oats
1 bag of Sara Lee bagels
1/2 gallon of generic 2% milk
2 loaves of 100% Earthgrains bread
1 Yoplait Splitz
1 Yoplait Plus
10 bags of generic cheese
1 package of Kraft Singles (accidentally paid full price. hate that.)
1 Kraft whipped cream cheese
1 package of tortillas
2.7 lbs of pears
5.5 lbs of bananas

My pre-tax total was about $71.00. I will take our overage from one of our other budgets this week.
This morning when the little one and I got up, we threw a pan of Amish baked oatmeal in the oven. (She is so cute! She is thinking it smells pretty yummy! I can't wait to try it either!) I'm also planning on making some whole wheat pumpkin bread to have around to snack on this week. I also keep having a craving for blueberry slump, so I may have to dig some blueberries out of the freezer and cook some up!

I don't have any official meals planned this week. As I'm creeping in to my third trimester, I've gone back to loosing some interest in food. It's so hard to meal plan when nothing sounds good! Lucky for me, my husband was so happy to see the American cheese that it seems as if the family might be content to eat grilled cheese for the next week. I'm so lucky they're so easy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

My mom's chicken and rice...


I guess it is a vintage recipe kind of day! I was trying to think of a favorite recipe I could throw in the oven and have around for leftovers this week. I haven't made my mom's chicken and rice in really long time, so it sounded like a good option. Now, I said this is a FAVORITE recipe, not a HEALTHY recipe! Ha! Incidentally, I don't eat the chicken, just the rice. It's soooooo good!

For the rice you need,

1 2/3 cup of regular cook white rice
3 cans of Campbell's cream of chicken soup (You may be able to get away with 1 family sized can.)
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 small onion, diced
Pepper to taste

(I doubled the rice.)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and spread in to a buttered 9x12 pan. Then, all you have to do is place some bone-in, skin on chicken pieces on top! Pour an additional 3 tablespoons of melted butter over the chicken. Cover with foil. Bake at 300 for two hours. Then, remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes at 350.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies from my childhood...





I haven't had much of a sweet tooth lately. In fact, sweets have been making me completely nauseous for weeks. SO not like me. However, for some reason this week, I (or maybe the baby) really wanted a chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream. I decided to break out the box of recipes my mom gave me and make the recipe she used to always make when I was a kid. I'm not sure exactly if there is a "story" behind them, but she has always called them "Aunt Janice's Chocolate Chip Cookies." I'm sure she got the recipe from my Aunt. I'll have to see if I can get some more details on that event later.


In the meantime, here is the recipe:

1 cup or margarine (I used butter.)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups of oatmeal (I used old fashioned.)
1 package of milk chocolate chips

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Of course, I was looking for some additional instructions, but I didn't have any. I just dumped everything in the mixer in order and mixed it as I went along! Worked out just fine, and the results were delicious!

Hy-Vee and the Cost of Commodities



I am 100% less than thrilled with my grocery purchase last night.  I had a screaming 2 year old, and I forgot my list. Oh well? What can you do?

In reference to last week's post about the price of groceries going up, did anyone else hear all the buzz about the rising price of commodoties in the news this week? Booooooooooo. The groceries items where I am really noticing an increase are butter, milk and bread so far. Pasta has been a little hard to find at my normal low too. Has anyone else noticed anything? I'm expecting to see more grain  products and also clothing made from natural fibers to follow. Gas also jumped as much as $.12/gallon here yesterday too.

Anyway, our groceries for the week included:

2 lbs of generic butter
1 Lipton sweet tea
2 big cans and 2 little cans of Campbell's cream of chicken soup
3 boxes of Creamette pasta
1 generic salsa
2 cans of generic black beans
2 bottles of generic apple juice
1 package of Nestle chocolate chips
1 loaf of  Sara Lee 100% whole wheat bread
1 bag of Tostitos
1 box of white rice
1 gallon of generic 2% milk
1 tub of Philadelphia cream cheese
1 pint of Belfonte ice cream (not pictured)
2 lbs of Bartlett pears
5 lb bag of Russet potatoes (not pictured)
1 Marzetti's apple dip
3.25 lbs of Golden Delicious Apples
1/2 of a bone in, skin on chicken

My pre-tax total was around $44.00. I should save a little bit with UPromise as well.My small balance will go to cover the garlic bread that I said I'd bring to my nephew's first birthday party tomorrow.

My daughter is having dental surgery on Monday, so we will be home a lot this week. I'm planning on making my mom's chicken and rice recipe tonight for dinner. I also promised the girls that we would make chocolate chip cookies today. Other meals on the agenda are burritos filled with our favorite black bean dip, whole wheat pancakes and homemade hashbrowns. I'm not quite sure what else will make the list! We're super low on cheese, and that is a tough one around here!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mexican Crockpot Chicken


I picked this recipe up from a friend on a online "mom" community that I am part of. It's sort of a no brainer, but I hadn't heard of it before! Incidentally, my family LOVED it. My half pint nearly 5 year old ate this whole burrito, and my 2 year old ate THREE bowls with tortilla chips crushed up in it. Hubby loved it as well, so that means it will be a staple around here. (Of course, I don't eat chicken, so next time I need to remember to save some beans for a bean and cheese quesadilla for myself! I was jealous they were having yummy Mexican food, and I had an apple. It's hard being the mommy!)

Here is the recipe:

4 -5 FROZEN boneless chicken breasts
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans (I used 2.)
1 (15 ounce) can corn (I omitted.)
1 (15 ounce) jar salsa, any kind (I used two 1/3 full jars from my fridge.)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese (can use low fat/fat free)

Add all ingredients except cream cheese into crock pot.  High for about 4-5 hours or until chicken is cooked. Shred the chicken and add cream cheese (just throw it on top!) and let sit for about 1/2 hour.  Mix it up and enjoy.

It can be served over rice, in a tortilla, over tortilla chips, etc. So yummy!

Stretching the Tight Budget...

Since we're on a biweekly pay period, we're still working with the other half of last week's tight grocery budget. Surprisingly, we still have a pretty good stock of stuff in our fridge. I'm not quite sure how we did it, but I'm not complaining!

Last night, we stopped at Hy-Vee. I was really happy because I had re-discovered a fundraising coupon book I had bought for Hy-Vee, and I had a $6 catalina. Since we're still in all right shape around the pantry, I knew we could squeeze a few extra things that we don't usually buy in to the mix to help make our Halloween special. Here is what we got:


1 Bic Soleil bonus pack (happy mommy)
1 16 oz Roberts cottage cheese
1 box of chopped frozen spinach
1 bag of Lays potato chips
1 box of Ritz crackers
1can of generic black beans
1 can of generic chicken broth
128 oz bottle of generic apple juice
1 box of Ritz whole wheat (I guess these weren't on sale. Oops.)
1 package of Sara Lee bagels
1 loaf of 100% whole wheat Sara Lee bread
2 pints of Belfonte ice cream
2 AE french onion dips
2 Coffeemate creamers
1 Activia yogurt
1 bottle of generic bleach
2 bricks of generic cheese
2 12 packs of Dr. Pepper
4.82 lbs of apples
1 green pepper
1 container of Marzetti's caramel dip
1.14 lbs of bananas

My pre-tax total was about $35.00. I left a little room due to going over budget last week. I also am going to have to pick up milk today or tomorrow. I'm going to try to check the regular prices at CVS and Walgreens to see what their rates are looking like. Hy-Vee is just seeming so high to me right now!

AS usual, I don't have a super elaborate meal plan for the next week. I'm going to try my new Mexican chicken recipe for dinner tonight. Tomorrow, we're having pizza and caramel apples at my mom's house before we go to our Halloween festival at church. On Monday or Tuesday night, I plan on having confetti chicken casserole with spinach and green peppers. Other than those things, we'll be eating as simply as possible like we usually do -- PB&J, cheese and crackers, frozen pizza, chili from the freezer stash, quesadillas, etc. The good news is that we won't be in a terrible situation come next pay period as my husband worked 7/8 anticipated shifts rather than the 6/8 I was planning for. Thankfully, this week should come and go quickly with plenty of food to go around. We're going to be alright after all! ; )

Saturday, October 23, 2010

$50/week grocery budget project...is the cost of groceries going up???


Things here are going great! I'm feeling pretty good for being 24 weeks pregnant. We're enjoying our girls and the beautiful fall weather, and we can't wait for our new little addition. Only one problem -- my husband has started not receiving full-time hours at work again. UGH. It's so "feast or famine" around here. It could definitely be worse, but it sure isn't fun! Anyway, I try to make our $50 budget count EVERY week, but this week I REALLY needed to make it count because there is just no flexibility in the budget for a quick $1 cheeseburger drive-thru, run to the store for milk, etc. We don't do a whole lot of that anyway, but with our busy schedule it does happen sometimes! This week, we'll probably go out to eat for a cheap lunch after church on Sunday, and that will be about it! Everything else we'll have to come from the fridge or pantry!

I made two trips to the store this week. The first was to Hy-Vee (pictured above.) It was a really good trip, but I was really unimpressed (and have been for a few weeks) with the price of staples like bread and milk. I couldn't get a decent loaf of bread for much under $3 on sale (forget about full price,) or a gallon of 2% milk for much under $4. Not such great prices, especially since I'm still trying to stomach our tax hike in KS! I typically think that Hy-Vee has the lowest full-price prices, but that was not my experience this week. Here is a list of what I got:

2 tubs of generic cottage cheese
1 Palermo's pizza
6 boxes of GM cereal (Free after coupon and catalina)
4 cans of generic tomato sauce
3 jars of unsweetened generic applesauce
1 5lb bg of generic flour
1 can of beef broth
4 boxes of Kraft mac and cheese
1 tub of Planter's cashew halves
2 boxes of Rice A Roni
1 pint of Belfonte ice cream
1 bag of Tyson frozen chicken breasts
1 package of 8 tortillas
2.14 lbs of Cortland apples
1 package of Hormel pork chops

My total at Hy-Vee was about $37.00 pre-tax.

I made a second trip to Price Chopper. I got a much better deal on "whole" foods at PC. This is definitely not the usual case, so I'm going to have to start watching for a trend. It may be that we need to do less shopping at Hy-Vee for awhile. Anyway, I went a little bit over budget, but I figured going over budget would go further at the grocery store than anywhere else, so it's not that huge of a deal. I will borrow the extra few dollars from somewhere else this week. At Price Chopper, I got:

2 dozen generic eggs ($.79/dozen)
1 gallon of hormone free 2% milk (Full price at $3.55)
1 Nature's Pantry loaf of 100% whole wheat bread ($1.99)
2 bottles of Old Orchard apple juice ($.99/bottle)
1 small package of blackberries ($2.00)
1 lb of strawberries ($1.50)
2.5 lbs of Anjou pears ($.99/lb)

I spent $15.05 pre-tax, and I saved $8.99. The milk will kill me every time. Ha!

Since I know we have to eat at home this week, I did some meal planning accordingly. I already tried a new recipe for caramel apple pork chops (not that great,)  and I have a new recipe for chicken burrito filling that you make in the crock pot. I'll also probably make a big pan of cavatini and an extra big batch of tuna noodle salad. My family has also been WAY in to Red Hot Jello lately, so I'll stock the fridge. : ) Later in the week, we will probably have breakfast for dinner, and we'll fill in the gaps with leftovers, sandwiches, cottage cheese, baby's favorite, fresh fruit, frozen veggies and cereal. I always feel a little overwhelmed at the beginning of a tight budget week, but it usually flies right on by!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Easy Calzones

(Who spilled the basil ON the calzones??? Yes, yes, that would be me!)

This is one of my favorite quick dinner recipes! It's so easy! The only thing you HAVE to have is pizza crust. I buy the Pillsbury refrigerated tubes (when they go on sale of course) and cut it in to 5 big triangles. Then, you place your filling (cheese, pepperoni, salami, sausage, black olives, whatever) on the biggest end of the triangle and fold it over. You can tuck the open corners under and roll the rest of the way. To dress them up a little, I spray PAM on top and sprinkle on garlic, oregano and basil. Bake as directed for the pizza crust. The only important part is to make sure it's well sealed so any cheese doesn't leak out in the oven. See, told you it was easy!

This post was linked to:
Tasty Tuesday Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace, Tuesday at the Table with All the Small Stuff,  Hearth N' Soul with the Girl Chef.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What real food tastes like...


My big girl's Silver Dollar City snack of choice. She makes it looks so good!

Halloween Muffins


Welcome to the second edition of my preschool snacks series. (See my no-brainer first edition idea here.) I am writing this as I grow increasingly frustrated with the complete junk that moms send for snacks to my girl's school. Last week, someone sent Gummy Lifesavers! Are you kidding me?!?!?! My kid has NEVER had those in her whole life, and it really bothers me that someone else thinks they can feed those to her. I have a hard enough time getting my 36 lb almost 5 year old to eat, but when she does eat I really encourage her to eat something healthy. She is well aware of the difference between healthy and not healthy, and I love that. She likes her sweets as much as any kid, but she also loves beans, whole grains, veggies, ALMONDS, and tons of fruits. She knows that "real" food comes from the ground, and that anything else is more or less "special." (Score 1 for mommy!)

So yes, I'm writing a preschool snacks series. I don't think I'm an award winning mom, but I DO think I have some good, easy ideas. I'm always trying to think of creative and fun snacks that they kids will like and actually eat. For my oldest's October snack day, I decided to send an adapted version of my mom's pumpkin muffins.I will admit sending snacks for 4 and 5 year old does post a particular problem! It takes a little bit of backbone ("No, you can't take Gummy Lifesavers,") and a little bit of consideration for your kid! If it were MY way, I'd send broccoli and green beans, but no one wants to be that kid that brought something weird for snack, right? The pumpkin muffins are a snack Evangeline can be proud of because they're delicious, and she helped make them. We also dressed them up a little with some sprinkles. (In spite of my better judgement!)

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

Mix together -
2.5 cups sugar
5 eggs
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup canola oil
1 small can (2 cups) pumpkin

Add -
2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
3 tsps baking soda
1 1/4 tsps salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup of raisins (I omitted due to 4 year old's request.)
1 cup of walnuts (I omitted due to 4 yer old's request.)

Beat well.

Makes 36 muffins. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

***

Easy enough, right?!?! I promise your kids and their classmates will enjoy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hy-Vee


This was somewhat of a tricky grocery week. We came back from vacation completely cleaned out of groceries. I also came back exhausted and sick. To top things off, there was a death in the family. I spent the better part of the week trying just told hold the basics together. Thankfully, my husband was able to take some time off work to make things a little bit easier for me.

The sales weren't great this week. Ideally, I would have saved some or all of my money for a better sale week or for the holidays, but we just honestly had an empty fridge.(I had $60 this week as I only spent $40 on groceries on our trip. ) I made two quick trips this week. My first trip was to Price Chopper on Wednesday morning where I grabbed 4 bottles of various Minute Maid juices, a green pepper for chili, some Dr. Pepper and some tortillas. I spent about $10. My husband also picked up a gallon of milk out of pocket. I was aiming to be able to make a dinner with leftovers and have enough things in the fridge to get us through until I could make it to the store over the weekend. Mission accomplished.

Pictured is my trip to Hy-Vee. I was really lucky to only take one kid with me! Even though the sales weren't great, I think we did pretty good! I spent right at $50 after tax. The best part was just having some food in the fridge again!

Stay tuned because this week I plan to share a healthier version of my mom's pumpkin muffins in my preschool snacks series, and I'm also going to share one of our favorite and super, SUPER easy calzone recipes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vegetarian Chili


(Pictured is the non-vegetarian version.)

Several years back, we had a chili cook off on Christmas Day. My husband made this recipe, and I reallllllllllly liked it. However, I'm not a big meat eater, so I adapted it to a meat-free version that I make when my husband isn't home. : )

The recipe is as follows -

Ingredients

  • 1 (46 fluid ounce) can tomato juice
  • 1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 (ounce) can of corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chili powder

Directions


  1. In a large pot over high heat combine tomato juice, tomato sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, corn, onions, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, oregano, ground black pepper, salt, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. (Note: If using a slow cooker, set on low, add ingredients, and cook for 8 to 10 hours.) 

One of the things I love most about the recipe (other than that my kids will eat it) is that it's SUPER healthy, and it makes A LOT. I usually have enough for everyone to eat until their stuffed for dinner dinner + lunch leftovers the next day. I usually freeze a second big container which is enough for me and the girls for dinner.

Also, I plugged it in to a recipe analyzer, and it got an A! Pretty awesome! Where else can you get 31 grams of fiber and 42.8 grams of protein???

For another family favorite that freezes well, see my cranberry orange scone recipe!

Fore more vegetarian recipes, see Vegetarian Foodie Friday!


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Vanilla Dutch Baby

I saw this recipe on $10 Dinners several weeks back and finally got around to trying it. Here is the recipe, from http://www.foodnetwork.com:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk, heated 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Directions

"Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the butter in a large saute pan and place in the oven to melt.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the eggs, flour, hot milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, vanilla extract, and pinch of salt, and blend on medium-high speed until uniform. Cook's Note: If mixing by hand, combine the eggs with the milk until the mixture is light yellow and no longer stringy, about 1 minute. Add the flour, sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt, and whisk vigorously to remove the lumps, about 30 seconds.

Carefully, remove the hot pan from the oven. The butter should be melted. Swirl the butter around the pan to coat completely, and then pour the remaining butter into the batter and whisk to blend. Pour the batter into the hot pan and return the pan to the oven. Cook the pancake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pancake is puffed in the center, and golden brown along the edges.

Using a spatula, remove the entire Dutch baby from the pan and place on a cooling rack for a few minutes to allow the steam to escape without condensing along the bottom and rendering the pancake soggy. Slice the pancake into wedges on a serving platter or cutting board and sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar through a sieve."

 I zapped some apricot jam and spread it over each piece individually. It was REALLY good. It taste like a crepe but of pancake thickeness. I really liked the jam touch too. It reminded me of the crepes we got in France when we were at Epcot. Even still, there are probably about 1000 great ways to dress a Dutch Baby up -- Nutella, fresh strawberries, country store fried apples, and tons more! It will be a fun recipe to have in our repertoire.

Hope you enjoy this recipe!

For more recipes, see www.balancingbeautyandbedlam.com.

Grocery Blunders...

I had a bad week of grocery mistakes this week. First, I accidentally bought organic apples for $1 a piece. Then, I hit up Hy-Vee a day early for their 1 day sale. I supposed we'll go back today to pick up a few things we'll use. So far, this is what we grabbed -

Hen House -



This was actually a SUPER great trip except for the apple debacle. I spent $25.00 pretax and saved $28.01. If I had bought the apples for $.69/lb we would have done so much better. Plus, they charged me kind of funny for the dried plums, so that savings didn't show up either. I strongly considered taking the apples back since the cost 10% of my grocery budget this week, but I just didn't have the time or the energy.


This was my trip to Hy Vee (where we missed the 1 day sale, as mentioned.) My pre-tax total was about $17.50. I was really happy with my savings, but goodness the milk was $3.85. I try to only buy brands that I know are hormone free, but it is so expensive when I don't have a coupon or there isn't a sale! Is the price of milk going up???

I still have a few recipes I'm going to try to share this week -- my meatless chili and an apple crostada. I also tested out a recipe this morning for a Dutch Baby that is really fun and delicious. It's a good recipe because it's REALLY cheap! The cost for making it comes in easily at under $1.

Also, we'll be out of town next week. Our grocery budget will be coming with us for groceries at our destination. I'm also going to be taking some things from our pantry to help with our vacation expenditures. I'll share some easy ideas for things to pack and take along.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Aveda Birthday Gift - $25 value...

Have you joined the Aveda Birthday Club yet? I don't buy many Aveda things these days, but I have been a birthday club member for YEARS. Every year, we pick out either a Personal Blends™ Pure-Fume™ or body care product offer (worth up to $24) in fragrance #9. It's so great! To join, you can click on the following link:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A new one on me...

Remember ALL that juice I bought last week? Yup, it's GONE. Barely made it a week. Of course, the little ones are not the culprits here. It's is the big one -- the 6 foot, 200 lb one. Aside from realizing the need to hide my stash of certain items, I've also been working on a little bit of innocent trickery.

I don't know why it never occurred to me, but I recently read a tip online about diluting laundry soap IN the bottle. Now (until recently,) I've never done this (or even thought of it) because I don't have a volume consumption problem. On the other hand, my husband, along with lots of others, I'm guessing, is not so cautious. I've started noticing that after a few loads of laundry, he's killed a significant portion of a bottle of detergent. (Not a good time to notice this as my stash is running low!) Diluting doesn't absolve his usage problem, but it does at least stretch the soap a little further! Not only have I been using this technique on laundry soap, but I've been using it on bottle juices too. Of course, I always dilute juice in the girl's sippy cups, but my husband conveniently forgets EVERY TIME. Diluting in the bottle solves that problem, and guess what, he hasn't complained that HIS juice tastes watered down. I don't think he has a clue. Works for Me!

See other tips here at, Works for Me Wednesday!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

UPromise

(I do apologize because I'm having some trouble with the HTML on this post.)

I got a nice comment from a reader that I thought I would share and reply to...

 Lauren said,
         
          "Hey,
I've been starting to get into reading "frugal blogs" (for lack of a better term), and I wanted to say that you are the first person I've seen mention college savings. I think it is really great to see a blogger drawing the full picture and considering costs which others might consider "splurges." I am curious if you know of/use UPromise. It's a college savings site that hooks up to your grocery savings cards, and helps you save money toward college with the products you already buy. It's usually just 1-2% of what you spend (on particular products) but your kids are young enough that it could be a chunk of change by the time they reach college years. I didn't start until late MS/early HS and we still had about $200 saved. I'll look forward to reading mroe of your blog." Thanks for noticing the detail about college savings! Our situation is a little unique in that we are a frugal 2 income family. A lot of frugal bloggers are SAHMs, and that's great! It just so happens that our situation won't allow that. I work because we think it is most responsible for us at this time to carry health insurance. My husband's income is reasonable, but without decent health coverage, it would be a very scary way to live. (Before anyone takes the time to fill me in, I know about co-op opportunities. Thanks though!) So, even though we are working hard on college savings now, there is NO WAY we would have the extra cash if we were a single income family. It just wouldn't happen other than few nickles and dimes there and there. I can't blame anyone else who can't get there either! And yes, I do use Upromise. It's definitely not a fast way to earn $$$, but as you said, it's something! In about 4 years, I've saved $150.88. It doesn't sound like a lot, but I figure by the time our youngest goes to college, we should have easily earned $1,000. $1,000 is a lot any day of the week! If there are any readers out there who are already not saving for their children or grandchildren, there are ways you can help out other members! The easiest is to do any of your online shopping through this link: With this method, you don't have to register any of your debit or grocery cards, you can just help out once or twice by moving through the UPromise stores link when you make a purchase online instead of going directly to the online retailer. It's really easy and a brilliant way for parents to rack up some extra savings by utilizing their contacts lists.

http://www.upromise.com/guest/2118326863

You can also join another account members family and friends. With this arrangement, you can register your credit, debit and grocery cards to rack up savings on more every day purchases. It's pretty easy! If anyone would be interested in joining our family and family, let me know, and I'll email you an invitation! Long story short, if you're trying to ramp up your college savings, UPromise certainly doesn't hurt, and I definitely recommend it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Groceries and Preschool Snacks

We never made it a second trip to the store after last week's first trip. I ended up going the middle of this week to pick up preschool snacks, which did end up coming out of the grocery budget. I also used what was left of last week's money towards this purchase along with a little bit of cash from this week's budget.

Our total came in at right around $30 before tax. I was so excited to get all of the juice and chocolate milk for $1 a bottle. What a deal!

I don't have another shopping trip planned, really. We're going to Target later today because my girls need new fall shoes. We'll probably pick up what we can find for a good price, and that we'll be it for the week.

I also don't have a bunch of cooking planned for this weekend. I really want to eat through some of the stuff we already have, but we might make peanut butter white chocolate chip blondies as a special treat for daddy later today. Stay tuned for that recipe! It looks like a good one!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Financial Check Up

I've been meaning to do a financial check up ever since I reported that we paid off our minivan, and I'm FINALLY getting to it! Without a big, looming debt to pay, it's been a little hard to refocus our priorities. I'll try to explain a little bit about where we're at.

Where we're at...

Let's see...

Literally, we're in a house that we're outgrowing. With baby #3 we'll lose our office, and we literally have nowhere else in our 1,200 sq feet to move it to. I had a market evaluation done on our house tonight, just to see where we were at. We were hoping (although not optimistic) that we could sell our house without a loss. I learned that we could, save for the agent's commission, so a loss it still is. Where that leaves us right now is sort of in a place of limbo where the only thing that we DO know is that we need to be socking away some crazy cash towards housing. We may hold on to this house, rent it and buy another one down the road. We may wait until the market turns upward for us a little and sell completely. We may decide to do some work to this one and stick around for the foreseeable future. Regardless, it requires capital. So, every spare dime we can muster up is going in to an ambiguous house savings fund. It's hard to not know how much we need, how fast or even really what we're saving for, but we've just GOT to do it.

Additionally, we're still doing a lot of the things we were already doing. Most importantly, a 10% tithe. Savings-wise, we're adding $50 a month to our 6 month emergency fund, $100 a month in a general  savings fund, $100/kid for college, paying a little extra towards our newly refinanced to 15 year mortgage, a temporarily reduced 6% to both of our retirement plans, and a $145 biweekly contribution towards my employee stock purchase plan. Additionally, we've added a $150 bi-weekly contribution towards a new car fund. Every extra penny from that point finds it's way to the new "house" fund. There's really not a whole lot left for that house account, which is leaving me with a new sense of urgency pinch more pennies and to create a multiple income stream. (I'm having REALLY good luck making some extra bucks with Opinion Outpost, btw.)

With our pre-budgeted spending cash, we're working on paying cash for a long weekend in Branson, Mo, buying a new bedroom set for the girls, a heated mattress pad for our new king bed and painting some rooms in our house and just generally trying to stay afloat.

So that's a little on us. I hope everything is going well for YOU! I know it's hard to make those dollars stretch, but we can do it!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preschool Snacks



As I said last weekend, I'm starting a preschool snacks series. Our school has gone from having crackers and juice every day to having a student provide a snack on a rotation basis. I like the idea of this, but in practice, I cringe when my little girls tell me what others bring to eat. There are so many wonderful, easy and healthy foods, but it seems like people just lack a little thought and creativity when their planning their child's snack day. I also think that people might get a little afraid of the expense if they consider healthier options. People just can't get past the myth that healthier food is more expensive.

I scoped out the sale ad yesterday, and I just didn't come up with much. However, I figured you can't get much cheaper (even at full price) and easier than bananas! My total for snacks for 12 kids and two teachers before tax for both the juice and bananas was $4.20. Best of all, my girl is proud to take a "helfy" snack, and she's pretty sure the kids will be excited to peel and eat their bananas! My case in point, this is AS easy as a box of fruit snacks or cookies, and quite possibly cheaper!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Just Between Friends Review

Have you ever wondered if one of these co-op consignment sales would work for you? I certainly did! Since we're getting for baby #3 (who happens to be a BOY, btw) I decided it was time to start purging some of the girl clothes that I have in order to make room for boy clothes! I was unimpressed with both of my regular consignment store and garage sale efforts, so I decided to give Just Between Friends a go. I started this project by scoping out the actual sale last Spring. It seemed like a good possibility, so I put it on my fall calendar. JBF ended up being quite the experience! In sharing my experience, hopefully you'll pick up some tips and ideas from what I learned by doing things the hard way! 

Online preparation -
A few months back, I went to the Just Between Friends website (http://www.jbfsale.com/default.cfm) and located my local sale. Next, I applied to be a consignor by signing up online, Once I'd done that, I used their interface to set up my account in order to start tagging my clothes. THEN, I spent probably a good hour reading over what exactly I was supposed to be doing and exactly how I was supposed to tag. (I should have taken notes! The instructions and supply list are quite extensive!) Even still, I learned that I could set my own prices and that I could also track my sales results every night when the system updated. Both very nice features! 

Clothing Preparation -
I started with hauling up my ginormous Rubbermaids and combing through each basket piece by piece to decide what I wanted to sell in in the Fall/Winter 2010 sale. Thankfully, everything was already clean! (This helped me a lot in the long run!) As I completed sifting through each Rubbermaid, I entered all of my items in to the online system for tagging, and I threw them in a few laundry baskets. I decided not to wash all of the items again, but I did run them through the dryer with a wet wash cloth. It really did a great job of helping everything look crisp! I pulled them out and hung them up while they were still warm. I had a hard time finding space to hang everything (or anything,) and my dining room ended up being completely overrun by clothes for about a week!The only other problem, I realized later, was that I had to sort them by size for delivery. Next time, I'll keep everything sorted by size from the get-go! It ought to save me an hour or sorting when I'm trying to get out the door for drop off! 

Tagging and Pricing-
I really did have to read through the instructions like 8 times. About the 9th time, after nearly deciding that this process was too overwhelming, I decided I really needed to write everything down. I wrote down exactly what supplies I needed and exactly how clothes were supposed to be hung and tagged. (It is more specific than one would expect, but for good reason, I suppose!) Once I got all of the details out of my brain and on to paper, I felt better, but tagging did take awhile! Once again, I think I would have been better off if I would have kept my sizes sorted from the very beginning. Just finding the clothes to tag in my stack of 100+ articles got a little irritating! I was a little concerned about over or underpricing items, but I really just ended up going with my gut. I tagged most of my individual items and pairs of shoes around the $6 range unless they were Gymboree or GAP, which I priced closer to $8-$10. I had outfits in the $10-$16 range depending on the brand, and if they were 2 or 3 pieces. Of my higher priced items, I had a Gymboree winter coat that sold for $18, 3 pairs of maternity pants that sold for $15-$18 and three Christmas dresses (one of which sold) that I priced between $28-$32. 

Delivery -
As I already said, before I left the house, I had to go through all of my clothes, group them by size and rubberband them together. I was tempted to NOT do this, but you will find out soon why I am glad that I did! I had no idea what to expect for delivery other than that I knew they would inspect my clothes. The website quoted to allow 30 minutes for inspection and delivery. I had a suspicious feeling that a 30 minute quote was overly cautious, and it also occurred to me that I had no idea how I was going to get all of these clothes from my car to the huge warehouse where the sale was being held. Thankfully, I was able to coerce my husband in to going with me to help haul clothes. I was HOPING there would be some sort of help there, but I'm so glad I took my husband because there wasn't! When we got there, I was filled out some consent paperwork while my husband hauled the clothes in from the car. It was standing room only -- just lots of people with huge mountains of clothes. If you were lucky, you could catch a rolling rack from one of the people who was finishing up. We were able to do that before we went back to have our clothes inspected, thankfully! At inspection, they were very picky about what they would take (especially for shoes!) I only had two items that didn't "pass," so that was lucky! If you think you might get a few items with little spots by, you won't! NOW, the biggest surprise of this entire experience for me was that we had to hang the clothes up ourselves! It doesn't sound like a huge deal, but think of what would have happened had I not sorted them by size!!! Scary! Even still, it took my husband a good 30 minutes just to find space on the racks where we could cram our clothes in. It wasn't the end of the world, but the entire process took about 2 hours -- a far cry from the quoted 30 minutes! I wish I would have kept track of my total time investment, but I didn't at all. I'm guessing it was in the neighborhood of 5-6 hours, and the better part of that time was just figuring out what and how to do go about things. 

Sales Outlook -
I tagged about 80 pieces (outfits, individual pieces, pairs of shoes, maternity pants, etc.) worth about $626 in prices I set. The JBF website quoted that you could expect to sell 80% of your merchandise unless it was infant sized. They did not provide a quote for infant sized clothes. (I will tell you that the 0-12 month selection was TREMENDOUS. I'm talking tens of thousands of articles of clothing. It was crazy. Seeing the volume really scared me in terms of selling my clothes. I felt like finding my clothes would be a needle in a haystack!) Knowing that I would make 65% of my sales because I didn't volunteer (commission is 70% if you volunteer 4+ hours,) I decided it would be reasonable to expect half of my stuff to sell. I was really pulling for making about $300. 

Shopping - 
If you are a volunteer or a consignor, you get "special access" on the first day. Since I didn't volunteer, I didn't get in until the end, which was really fine. Honestly though, a lot of the bigger items like outdoor toys, bouncy seats, cribs, etc were LONG gone. I did spend some time combing the clothes for shoes for my girls and new baby boy clothes. I ran out of patience quickly because the racks were SO full, and it was hard to manuever around the tons of ladies with mountains of clothes. (These people take this SERIOUSLY!) My allergies also started flaring up really bad which freaked me out a little bit about where these clothes were coming from! Regardless, I got an 18-24 months new looking Gymboree flannel shirt for $4 and a Children's Place 18-24 month fleece jacket for $2, and a pair of size 10 Cherkee boots for $3. All really great deals -- especially the Gymboree shirt!             

Pick-Up-
After extensive drop off procedure I was really worried the pick up procedure would be really time consuming. I was pleasantly surprised because it was the easiest part of the process! Everything was pre-sorted by my consignor number, and I just grabbed what I wanted and left! I also was pleasantly surprised that all of my items appeared present and accounted for. I was REALLY afraid that I would experience some loss from theft. For some reason I was especially suspicious because I thought I had some really nice things that didn't sell, so I was afraid they were just "gone."Regardless, they weren't! I think it's nice to know that I can really trust my items are in good hands!
Sales Results -
I was really interested to watch my sales reports online. I thought it would be good to know what days had the highest volume and what items were really selling. As I was tagging things, I was really concerned about overpricing or underpricing things. I was also afraid that there would be some sort of pattern to what sold (everything super cheap, everything Gymboree, etc.) and that everything else would just sit. Here's the good news -- there was NO pattern to what sold. I sold a little bit of everything! I can also report that the first day (the consignor shopping day) was by far the most productive. After that, Thursday, Friday and Saturday got progressively worse. I only sold one item on Saturday! Talk about disappointing! On Sunday, sales were a little bit better as I sold some of the items that I had OKed to sell at half off the tagged price. The other factor that is a little disappointing is that because I sold a lot of everything, I also DIDN'T sell some of everything. I will be bringing home several really nice, well priced items that I fully expected to sell. The end result of my sale and hard work after fees and the JBF cut will be a check for approximately $166 -- a far cry from my hoped for $300. I only sold 33/80 some pieces. (Again, a far cry from the closer to 80% number I was hoping for from the JBF recommendation.)
Final Word -
 Initially, I said I wouldn't do it again for anything less than $300. Now, I'm thinking that I am not making any money with a basement full of clothes, and I will likely do the Spring sale as well. I think the key will be to be MORE organized, and if I'm more efficient, I won't be expecting a hefty payout. Other than that, knowing what to do is half the battle! (Which is why I'm writing this!) Also, since I was also able to set the items I never wanted to see again for donation, I also donated about $98 worth of clothes, which I will be able to claim as a tax deduction. The best news is that I cleared out a lot of space and got rid of a bunch of stuff that I will never have to see, touch, carry upstairs or organize again!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Price Chopper


I made a quick run to Price Chopper today to take advantage of all of those great Kraft coupons. I had a few match-ups, but apparently those coupons are manufacturer coupons. Who knew???!!! They say "in-ad" coupon, so I thought it was relatively safe to assume they were store coupons. I ended up putting back a few things that just were,'t that great of a deal, or we didn't need. No big deal.

This ended up being about $38 in groceries after our ginormous nearly 9% Kansas tax. Initially, I thought I didn't do very well, but now I'm looking at the picture and feeling better about it.I even have another half gallon of ice cream that isn't pictured! My standards are pretty high, so I guess I'll let it be ok.

I'll make another stop at some point this week, I think, but I'm not quite sure what's on the list. We'll definitely need milk. (My girls are drinking MORE than a gallon a week these days, which is causing me a problem!) It is also our week to take snacks to pre-K,  but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to work that within the budget this week. It may be an extra! Regardless, I'm going to start a little series about school snacks. I've been SO FRUSTRATED listening to what people are bringing at snack time. It's super important to me that my kids are getting good brain fuel for their day at school, and it just isn't happening. I think the main problem is just that people are busy and can't think of anything other than a box of fruit snacks! I'm hoping to provide some ideas that are just as quick and easy -- maybe even cheaper! We'll see!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apple Cider Scones

Ya'll know I love my basic scone recipe. I am excited to try some new varities for fall. My dad's birthday is tomorrow, so I whipped up a batch of apple cider scones for him to bake up fresh for breakfast in the morning. Here is the recipe:

Scones:
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 quarter tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup room temperature butter, cubed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1 cup Granny Smith apples (chopped)
Icing:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, spices and orange zest. Cube the butter and mix in to the mixture until the butter is pea sized. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, apple cider, milk and vanilla together. Stir into the flour mixture until the dough is moist, do not over mix. Knead in the apples. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a couple of times. Divide dough into two equal balls. Pat each ball into an 8 inch circle. (Be careful to make sure it is not too thick in the center.) Place each ball onto a parchment paper lined or greased cookie sheet. Score each circle with a knife into 6 wedges. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until done and lightly golden. Allow the scones to cool. Meanwhile, stir powdered sugar, apple cider and cinnamon together. Drizzle over cooled scones.

See also Country Store Fried Apples.

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