Thursday, November 29, 2012

When hubby grocery shops alone...

November 29, 2012

My kids were sick for a week. Now I have been sick for five days. I feel like there is no end in sight...along with no groceries in my house! I gave my hubby a detailed grocery list even listing how many of each item I needed. His response, "Do I have to just stick to the list?" Ha. Poor guy. I told him that he could get a couple impulse items but not to spend like $60 on it. Here is what happens when I send my hubby to be surrounded by deliciousness, all on his lonesome (and doing so while he was hungry).

Keep in mind our pre-challenge weekly average for groceries/toiletries/cleaners was $175. He spent $81.68 on food,  $35.63 on toiletries/cleaners, and $7.98 on gossip magazines. Hey, that is already a plus because I usually buy four magazines but he only bought three. Good start hub! He spent a little extra this week because he stocked us up on a few items such as kleenex and paper plates. He found a great deal on plates. Normally we buy a 40 pack of plates for a little over $2. He saw that they had 95 packs for the same price (just a slightly smaller plate, but still plenty large enough). I had given him a coupon for buying two packs of plates so he went ahead and got two of the big packs. I think we will be good to go for awhile on them! Ok, now on to the impulse items. Remember he was hungry. Remember this is his first shopping trip alone since we started this challenge. Also, he has been eating a ton of leftovers and I'm sure he is kind of tired of that and was wanting a selection of items to have at home. How did he do?? He spent $6.16 on impulse items. I should say "item" because the only thing he bought that wasn't on the list was a bag of giant grapes. There is no way that you can be upset if the only impulse item he went for was a fruit! After adding in the commissary's surcharge and taking off the coupons, he spent $133.72 today. We actually needed quite a bit of stuff for our cupboards seeing as we haven't been eating at restaurants lately. He saved $41.28 at the store today. We have not gone out to eat this week seeing as the flu has been rotating through our house. That equals a savings of $80. Adding together our grocery and restaurant savings for this week, we have saved $121.28. Our previous savings was $750.68. This brings our grand total savings to $871.96 in 43 days.

"Saving" money when shopping or not going out to eat isn't really saving unless you take that money and set it aside. Each week, once I tally up our totals I put the weekly amount into our savings account. This is excellent motivation to continue. It keeps us from just spending that money on something else. I've noticed that the food challenge has spilled over into other shopping areas of our life. When debating about buying any item now, I think "Hmmmm. Do I really need this item? What will happen if I don't buy it? Do I rather have that money in our bank?"

On to today's food. Hubby had a leftover grilled chicken breast with some onions and buffalo sauce. He made a taco out of it. Surprise, I had chicken soup. He decided on regular tacos for dinner. I'm still not feeling quite ready for normal food so I basically had a tortilla with some leftover chicken flavored rice a roni in it. Ha. Not quite the taco I wanted, but still better than yet another bowl of chicken soup. A very good challenge day. Way to go hub!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hubby's birthday dinner

November 28, 2012

After what feels like eating applesauce, soup, and popsicles forever, my fever is starting to ease up and I finally felt up to attempting to eat a normal dinner. I would have liked to go out to eat seeing as it is my hubby's birthday, but I'm still sick. So we took out some local steak out of the freezer. My daughter didn't want steak so my hubby also cooked up some chicken that was leftover from the pack he opened yesterday (he made a buffalo chicken dip for his dinner). I figured that rice would probably be a good choice for me so I raided my rice a roni stash. The cupboards are getting empty. There is maybe a glass full of milk left. A slice or two of bread. No paper plates (yikes, at my house that is unacceptable). I made a detailed grocery list today so that if I am not feeling better my hubby will be able to shop but stick to the challenge. I'm not sure what day we will be able to get to the store though between him working and me being sick. Poor kids. They probably feel that there is "nothing to eat".

Monday, November 26, 2012

If you can't stand the heat (fever), get out of the kitchen

November 26, 2012

We did good at lunch. I packed my hubby a beef roast sandwich on a sub roll and some homemade hot pickles to take to work. I was craving noodles for lunch but decided that I should eat up the last piece of the turkey pot pie.

I was going to have my hubby cook something with the leftover roast for dinner but he called and said he had to work past dinner. Ugh. My fever is still 101 and I do not feel like cooking. I told the kids to make a sandwich (yay using up the bread) and to pick a fruit. My son had a peanut butter and jelly with some blackberries. My daughter had a peanut butter sandwich with an orange. I figured that I had to make this meal fun somehow otherwise they would probably be grumpy that dinner was so plain. I got out the cookie cutters again and made them gingerbread men out of their sandwiches. However, I'm not all fun...they did have to eat the scraps too. Ha. I just wanted some comfort food from growing up so I made a pot of Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup and added a jar of home canned tomatoes. The kids are upset that they had to miss their after school activities since I am sick, but that's nothing some ice cream can't fix. They are making some ice cream sundaes using up some of the ice cream toppings (gummy worms, crushed candies, and sprinkles) that my friend who owns an ice cream shop sent them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Uh oh. I'm getting tired of leftovers.

November 25, 2012

It's my turn to wake up with a fever. My first thought was how will I keep the challenge going if I am too sick to cook? Hubby to the rescue. He said that as long as I could still blog, then he would cook challenge-worthy food for us. Yay!

Evidentally he liked the turkey pot pie from yesterday because he had it for breakfast and lunch today. It was also my turn for some chicken noodle soup.

On to dinner... My hubby slow cooked a local beef roast all day. The house smelled so good. When it came time to serve dinner, we all had different variations. My son wanted the roast on a sub roll. Fine with me. We had one foot left of the four foot package that I found for 98 cents. My daughter wanted a chunk of the sub roll but wanted her roast on some leftover mashed potatoes. Done. I had roast on potatoes and some leftover green bean casserole. My hubby added some leftover stuffing to his plate. Not too bad a day of using up leftovers. It really helps to add in a different protein because then the meal doesn't feel quite so much like leftovers. What will I (oops, I mean hubby) turn the roast into for dinner tomorrow?! All I know is that I think it may be about time to throw out the rest of the side dishes from Thanksgiving. I don't think I can take much more of the leftovers.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hide the turkey leftovers

November 24, 2012

Day 2 post-Thanksgiving. How do I get the kids to eat leftovers again? Ah. By not telling them it is leftovers. Turkey quesadillas sound good. I used a christmas tree cookie cutter and cut out tortilla trees (tortillas needed to be used up in the next few days). I put some chopped turkey, cranberry sauce, and mexican cheese inside the "trees" and used my indoor grill pan. Turkey tree-adillas comin up!

I had a pie crust that I got for free (because I had purchased a previous crust that was opened inside the package and the company sent me a replacement coupon). Turkey and pie crust. Yep, here comes pot pie. I filled it with potatoes, corn, and carrots all from local farmers. I put in some green beans that I had frozen from my garden. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme from my garden. When it was time to vent the crust, I let my hubby take over. He certainly made it "turkey" pot pie! :) There were some scraps that he cut off from the edge of the pie plate. Throw them out? Oh no! Turn them into elephant tails by spreading butter, sugar, and cinnamon on them. A day full of leftovers wasn't so bad.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Leftovers, schmeftovers

November 23, 2012

I asked my hubby if he would make us waffles this morning. Surprising because I think it has probably been over a decade since we have used our waffle maker. He noticed that we had some blackberries that needed to get used up so he made some blackberry waffles and some plain waffles (per my daughter's request). We topped them with blueberry syrup. Mmmmm. I am not going to wait another decade to have those again. Ha!

Seeing as it is the day after Thanksgiving, I bet you can guess what we had for lunch. Leftovers. They were delicious. What kind of saver would I be if I didn't try to eat up some of our leftover dessert? I didn't leave the pumpkin dump cake out.

My daughter decided to share her fever with her brother so neither one of them wanted much for dinner. Chicken noodle soup and then back to their rooms they went. So what do hubby and I want? He asked if I wanted to order a pizza. Ah! No. But then that made me think of ordering chicken wings. Uh oh. Stay strong. Think of something! Aha. Spread some of the leftover homemade spinach artichoke dip in a pan and top it with more freshly grated parmesan cheese. Stick it under the broiler and then serve it with the leftover beer bread and some tortilla chips. Hey, artichokes are veggies. And now, it is almost time for dessert again.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving on a budget

November 22, 2012

I wanted to start off Thanksgiving with a special breakfast: cinnamon rolls. I know it is hard to believe but yes I actually woke up and got myself right to the kitchen. No cereal or frozen muffins for my kiddos today! Hurray for a quick coffee pot! I found a recipe on Pinterest for easy cinnamon rolls. I used a can of seamless crescent rolls. Spread butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon on it. Rolled it up, cut it, and put it in muffin tins. The glaze is powdered sugar, milk, and my father in law's homemade maple syrup. Yum!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of all the yummy food. There are a lot of traditional dishes. As I planned our menu this year, I still tried to stick by the challenge to spend less money. Will Thanksgiving be ruined if I do not make a pumpkin pie? Do we really need to have so many side dishes? I am thankful that we have plenty to eat and very thankful that my husband is not deployed this year and we get to spend the day together. I want to show my kids that this holiday isn't about the food.... it is about family and appreciating all that we have. I think I may have spent around $25 for our feast and the rest is from ingredients that I already had at home.

Items that I bought: turkey, dinner rolls, stuffing, ceasar salad, cool whip, cake mix, evaporated milk (and items that I would have bought anyway such as milk, butter, sour cream). Items that I had already: potatoes from farmers market, packet of gravy mix although my hubby ended up making gravy out of the turkey drippings, homemade pickles, olives (I love black olives and always have some at home), home canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, french fried onions (I have half a container leftover from when we made mini meatloaves), cranberry sauce (I bought this several months ago when we had a "holiday" meal for no reason but then forgot to use the cranberry sauce), beer bread mix, and ingredients to make a dip for the beer bread. The point is that you can have a holiday meal and just plan the menu around what you have at home. There is no rule saying that you must make certain dishes.

My plan was to make spinach and artichoke dip with a container of fresh spinach. Well, that is not going to happen. My spinach is past its prime and I need to throw it out. Boooo. Do I need to run to the store? Nope. I am going to make do with what I have. I found a shaker of spinach dry mix from Tastefully Simple. I still have half a bottle of it because we preferred the bacon mix so we pushed this bottle to the back of the cupboard. Some cream cheese, sour cream, artichokes, and freshly grated parmesan cheese combined with my bottle of spinach dip mix and we were good to go.

So what does a $25 holiday meal look like? Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, ceasar salad, pickles and olives, cranberry sauce, a jar of my parents' homemade christmas pickles (pickles that taste like spiced apples), beer bread, homemade spinach and artichoke dip, and pumpkin dump cake with cool whip.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shopping was egg-cellent; also dinner is breakfast

November 21, 2012

Today was my first attempt at grocery shopping with my kids since trying to cut back on how much money we spend on food. I told them ahead of time that they could not ask for a ton of items. I was sticking to my list.

My pre-challenge average was $175 per week at the commissary. Today I spent $7.23 on toiletries and $10.53 on magazines. I spent $3.37 on impulse items. I'm happy with that amount. 79 cents of it was on guacamole. Uh, who can pass up guacamole for 79 cents?! Not this girl. I also got a container of cool whip for $1. I figured Thanksgiving dessert probably needs it. I found a package of deli sub rolls for 98 cents. It has 4 feet of sub rolls!! My son did ask for several items but he didn't whine when I said no. However, when he asked for a sweet potato I certainly didn't turn that down (only 60 cents too). Cutting back on spending doesn't have to mean cutting back on nutrition. Alot of people buy packaged food for its convenience (I admit I do buy some of that too); my son's one impulse item was a vegetable and he was so excited that I said yes. My daughter never asked for anything. I asked her after shopping if it was because she didn't see anything that she wanted or if it was because of the challenge. She said the challenge. I couldn't believe how easy it was for my kids to stick to it. I have great kiddos! After adding in the commissary's surcharge and taking off my coupons, I spent $69.01 out of pocket today. I saved $105.99 today! While having my kids with me! Unreal. I feel a little like I can do anything now. Ha. Our restaurant savings for the week were good too. My pre-challenge average was $80 per week. My hubby had to work a different shift for 8 of the past 9 days and didn't get to eat dinner with us. That kept us out of restaurants so our weekly savings were $80! My son packed leftovers for lunch one day so that saved $2. This week I saved $187.99 which brings my grand total to $750.68 in the past 35 days!!

Finally my hubby got home at a decent time so it was his turn to make dinner. We all agreed that breakfast sounded good; although I wanted an omelette, my daughter and hubby wanted eggs over medium, and my son wanted french toast (probably because my hubby tops them off with powdered sugar) and some of my father in law's homemade maple syrup. Of course all of us wanted bacon. I sat back and hubby cooked us all a delicious breakfast. I mean dinner. Oh yeah, and he used up the rest of the pumpkin egg nog in the french toast batter.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Don't lose your food self

November 20, 2012

My little buddy decided he would pack his lunch today and he wanted to bring the leftover pasta from last night! Score. After I added in the last of the kids' yogurt and some mandarin oranges, I threw in a pack of fruit snacks. I can't believe how many partial boxes of fruit snacks we have. Ugh. My daughter had to stay home from school again today due to fever so she finished up the jar of homemade ginger pears from my parents. Perfect sicky food. I had another bowl of leftover chili soup. Not sure if I will be able to do another day of it or not. It is delicious and reminds me of my grandma making it for me but more than three days in a row is probably pushing it.

I went through the cupboards and tried planning out our Thanksgiving meal. Last week I bought a turkey, stuffing, crescent rolls, and ceasar salad. I still have potatoes from the farmers market. I have a cupboard FULL of homemade pickles. I even happen to have everything to make green bean casserole. I tried finding an appetizer and discovered that I have everything to make a homemade spinach and artichoke dip served with beer bread. What? Who actually has a can of artichokes just laying around (My daughter's words!)? Evidentally I do even though I have never used them before! The only thing that I need to buy is a few ingredients so that I can make dessert. Here is my problem....I am going to the store tomorrow and I have to take the kids with me seeing as they are out of school for Thanksgiving break. This will be the first time since I started the challenge on October 18th that I will have to grocery shop with them. I'm a little nervous. I have my list and it is short. I only need 19 items. Wish me luck!

Dinner time. I looked in the freezer and down at the bottom, buried under steak, roasts, and ribs was one lonely package of salmon. It hit me today that most of our meals since starting this challenge have been casseroles, or cheese covered, and mostly beef (simply because we have a ton of beef in the freezer). I'm tired of it. I need seafood! I buy our seafood at a different store than the commissary and seeing as I am cutting back at going to other stores, I guess I forgot to buy it. I seared the salmon then finished it off in the oven. I found some baby potatoes in the fridge. I got them at the farmers market awhile ago but always skip over them and use the baking size potatoes because these are so small. I decided to chop them up and do a pan of roasted potatoes with thyme from my garden. I steamed some local carrots but finished them off in a sautee pan with butter, salt, pepper, and thyme. Delicious!

Lesson of the day: do not forget who you were prior to starting this challenge. Yes, some change is good. You still need to keep in mind that you may need to take your kids with you to shop at some point. You need to be able to do well even if you have kids begging for different items. Also, don't get into a food rut while trying to use up stuff at home. I still have a bunch of beef in the freezer, but I think it will be fine if I buy seafood for one night a week.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Food magic

November 19, 2012

My daughter woke up not feeling well. Normally, I would ask my hubby to run to the store to get some sicky food (jello, applesauce, juice, etc.). Today I figured we must have something here that she would like. I found two jars of homemade goodies from my parents: ginger pears and orange applesauce. She picked the pears. It was nice that even though my parents live over 1,000 miles away, they were able to help my daughter to feel better today. After a quick lunch of leftover chili, I got to work figuring out what recipes to use for dinner.

Have you heard of Amish friendship bread? You have a bag on your counter for 10 days and each day you add ingredients to it and mix it up. The thought of it sitting out for that long kind of grosses me out (although the bread is delicious!). I found a recipe called "Amish Cinnamon Bread" on Pinterest and this recipe requires no sitting out! I pulled the loaf out of the oven at 3pm and it is already half gone. I had to tell the kids they couldn't have anymore because it would ruin their dinner. Definetely a keeper recipe.

Nothing is as it seems today. My parents "took care" of my daughter today. I made "friendship" bread. Why not keep with the theme and make beef stew minus the stew?! I love how tender stew meat gets after simmering for two hours, but I didn't feel like having stew tonight. So I made the meat as if I were making stew and then just pulled together some other side dishes to go with it. I made garlic and olive oil vermicelli. Ok, ok. It was a box of pasta roni! I still need to use up most of my stash. What about veggies? I just had some leftover home canned green beans. I used my apple slicer and cut up an apple for the kids. I had some strawberry yogurt that needed to be eaten up. I gave the kids their "fruit dip" and told them that if they ate dinner well then they could eat the graham cracker topper that came with the "dip". Seeing as their dinner was a tad more fun than mine, I took a picture of one of their plates for tonight's photo.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Creative with comfort foods

November 18, 2012

I gave everyone two options for lunch. You can eat leftovers or pick something random from the freezer (corndogs, quesadillas, pizza rolls). I couldn't believe it. Two out of three of us had leftovers (hubby had a sandwich before he headed to work).

I wanted to make a fun snack for the kids this afternoon. I saw a recipe on pinterest. Basically it is rice crispy treats but you make it with cheerios and add peanut butter. I had about 10 marshmallows left in the cupboard (leftover from smore's). I cut the recipe in 1/4 and just made a small portion for today. I used up the bottom of the peanut butter container. I tossed in a handful of butterscotch flavored baking chips. It was a fun snack just using up random stuff I happened to have on hand. My daughter loved them. I think for next time they need more marshmallow to peanut butter ratio though.

I was indecisive about what to make for dinner. Why not continue with the childhood comfort food and make some chili soup. My grandma would make it all the time. I lived across the street from her and some of my fondest memories are walking over for a bowl of her chili soup. Uh oh. How do I make her soup when I am out of tomato sauce?! I was down to one can of tomato paste too. After browning the hamburger (local) with onions and celery, I used a jar of home canned tomatoes, my one last can of paste, and then noticed something in the fridge. I had made a sauce for last night's meatloaf using tomato paste, water, worchestire sauce, brown sugar, and parsley. Hmmmm wonder how that would be in the chili? In it went. I also grabbed a handful of chopped green pepper that I had frozen from my garden. I asked my kids if they wanted it with saltine crackers or my homemade croutons. One opted for saltines and the other asked if we could use my homemade breadcrumbs. Um, sure. Ha.

Lesson learned from today? Take your favorite recipes and don't be afraid to change it up with whatever ingredients you have at home!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Less is Less

November 17, 2012

Whoever said less is more was wrong. Less is less. After completing the 30 day challenge to spend less on food (and waste less), I have less in my cupboards. However, more isn't always better. I'm happy with less (well, for the most part). I have decided to continue on with this food challenge. I made it 30 days. Who is to say I can't make it for another 30? A year? I saved $562.69 during my first month. If I continued with that amount of savings, I would have saved $6,752.28 in a year. That is pretty good motivation to keep this challenge going.

My kids had leftover spaghetti for lunch (there may have been a little candy bribery in there). My hubby had leftover tacos, although his love of tacos makes him totally ok with having those leftovers. He had to work late tonight so I packed him a dinner of leftover tortellini with homemade alfredo sauce. I just had a ham sandwich. Not too bad of a start for today.

I had half a loaf of bread that needed to be used up. I decided to try to make croutons and breadcrumbs. It was actually pretty easy. Toast up the bread in the oven and then stick it in your food chopper. Now you have breadcrumbs. For the croutons, I melted butter and added garlic powder, parsley, and a little salt. I cut off the crusts and then cut the bread into cubes (the crusts I added in to the tray baking up for breadcrumbs). Mix the bread cubes with the melted seasoned butter and spread onto a baking sheet. About 30 minutes (turn half way through) at 300 degrees and you will have golden croutons. The kids tried the croutons out tonight and loved them.

I made mini meatloaves for dinner using some of my homemade breadcrumbs. Remember my addiction to pasta/rice a roni? I decided to use up a box of beef rice a roni. I still have quite the stock pile in my cupboard. I wanted a quick veggie side and opened up a jar of my home canned green beans.

Friday, November 16, 2012

30 day challenge, day 30

November 16, 2012

I can't believe today is day 30 of the challenge. I thought I would be happy for today to be here so this could be over with. However, I think I am going to stick with the challenge. After changing up my spending and cooking habits over the past 30 days, it feels like this is something I can incorporate into our lifestyle. I may not stay quite so hard core with all of it. I know there are a few things that I will definetely continue.

This morning started out great. The kids loved last night's dinner of octopus (hotdogs). See picture in day 29's post. They even asked me to make them some to bring to school for lunch today. They brought the leftover macaroni/broccoli/corn and I made them each an octopus. We were down to one set of candy eyeballs so they each had a cyclops octopus. Ha. I guess anytime I need to use up hotdogs before they go bad I will just need to tell the kids it is time for octopus! This saved us another $4.

My hubby was home for lunch and we made one of our favorite lunches. Broiled sandwiches. I found a jar in the back of the fridge with one giant pickle. That pickle must have been waiting in there a long time for us because I don't think I bought any since my garden started spitting out cucumbers (I have a cupboard FULL of homemade pickles). My sandwich had ham, sliced pickle, and muenster cheese piled onto a sub roll. Put it under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Delicious lunch plus we used up a random jar from the fridge. Wohoo!

I didn't feel much like cooking tonight so I wanted something quick. I found six cheese tortellini in the freezer. Instead of the usual marinara sauce, I thought I would attempt to make alfredo. Who knew it could be so easy? Melt butter and cream cheese (used up half a block I had open), add milk and freshly grated parmesan cheese. I thickened it up a bit with some cornstarch. Simple seasonings of salt and pepper and topped off with thyme from my garden. I was going to put carrots in the dish but was too lazy to peel them. I went with a little of the leftover corn and broccoli. I also hid something else in it but didn't say anything to the kids until they had finished eating. I thawed out a cup of shredded yellow squash that I had froze from my garden. I stirred it into the cheese sauce and they had no clue it was there!

So what have I learned by doing the 30 day challenge? I learned that we previously spent way too much money on food. For the most part, we really haven't felt deprived this month. I asked my hubby if there was anything he was missing. He said no. The only thing he could think of was that our kids would complain if they ran out of pop tarts or cereal bars. They still had plenty of breakfast options to choose from: about five different types of cereal, two types of homemade muffins, french toast, toaster strudels, oatmeal, and if daddy was around he would make eggs, bacon, or pancakes. So did it really matter if they didn't have every single breakfast item that they like?

This challenge made me realize how much food we were wasting. Each week I would clean out the fridge before I went grocery shopping. I would throw out a bunch of veggies or fruit that went bad. I would throw out leftovers because nobody wanted to eat them. Don't get me started on bread items. I buy hamburger buns, hotdog buns, dinner rolls, and a loaf of bread each week. I would throw out what was left prior to going to the store. Now I make french toast, stuffing, or garlic bread out of it before it goes bad.

This challenge has saved us alot of money. I used my weekly average of $175 at the grocery store and $80 in restaurants and compared to how much I spent during the challenge. I saved a grand total of $562.69 during the past 30 days! I had read that once you "save" money, whether it be with coupons or a challenge like this, that you should pay yourself that money and set it aside. I never did that with my couponing before. With this challenge though, I set that money aside in our savings. It is so much more motivating to keep on with this type of lifestyle if I can actually see the money sitting there for us. If you don't set it aside, you are way more likely to just spend that money on something else; hence, not really "saving" it. This challenge has helped us to cut back on other spending as well. By not going out to lunch as often as we used to, we were not tempted to go shopping just to pass time. I looked at our overall spending (groceries, gas, shopping, everything) and it was about half of what it was the month prior! I'm a stay at home mom and this challenge has made me feel like I am contributing financially to our family. If I can keep up this type of savings, it would be as if I had a part time job but didn't have to pay taxes, gas money to get to my job, and I don't have to spend time away from my kids.

Some downfalls of the challenge. I love going to restaurants and I did feel like I was deprived for some of this past month. It takes me longer to grocery shop because I use a calculator and add up each item as it is going into my cart. It is easier to say no to impulse items when I know my total is already up to a certain amount. There were a few meals that we had leftovers and I just didn't want to. I don't think I will ever fully get out of that way of thinking. There is stirfry in the fridge right now and I bet that won't get eaten.

My 30 day challenge was a success. Now to see if I can stay with it beyond the 30 days. I guess I will need to rename my upcoming posts! I'd love to hear about your experiences if you are trying the challenge!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

30 day challenge, day 29

November 15, 2012

The day started out great for the challenge. I was out of my refridgerated coffee creamer. Instead of running to the store yesterday, I decided to use up some coffee creamer my mom had left in my cupboard during their last visit. One container down (probably a few more to go). I  knew better than to grocery shop on an empty stomach so I heated up some of last night's spaghetti. After gathering my list and coupons, off I went. Braving the commissary (military grocery store) on pay day. What was I thinking?!

Keep in mind that the weekly average of the month prior to this challenge, I was spending $175 on groceries, cleaners, and toiletries. We would also go out to eat a couple times and our weekly average for that was $80. Here is how this week's spending breaks down.

Let me start with the most unbelieveable part. I spent $0 on impulse items. I seriously can't remember if that has ever happened. Yay me! I spent $21.20 on toiletries/cleaners. I spent $88.78 on food. I spent $7.98 on gossip magazines because we all know those are a necessity. Ha. The commissary had a special coupon booklet today. Each coupon in the booklet would save you a certain amount off of the purchase of your turkey. I only used the coupons for items that I had been planning on buying anyway because I was getting low on them at home (peanut butter, cooking spray, cheese,etc). I also bought the turkey for $15.48. After adding in their surcharge and taking off my coupons, I spent $127.12 out of pocket today (including our thanksgiving turkey!). I saved $66.40 this week on groceries.

We went out to eat a couple of times during the past week and spent $61.48, which is a savings of $18.52.

Taking my previous savings of $492.29 and adding in $66.40 and $18.52, I now have a grand total of saving $558.69 in the past 29 days!! Are you kidding me?!

Dinner: I decided to do something fun for the kids. Well, little did they know it was also due to the challenge, but I'll get to that in a bit. I made macaroni and cheese. During the last half of cooking time, I added a handful of broccoli to the noodles. After adding the butter, milk, and cheese packet, I added a few scoops of leftover corn. One dish done. Next, I took some hotdogs and turned them into octopus.Octopi. Octopus'. Whatever. I cut legs. Then, I rummaged through the cupboard. I found a baggie with eyeballs in it. Yep. My friend owns an ice cream shop and she sent us some toppings for the kids to make some fun sundaes at home. I dipped the eyes in the cheese and pushed them onto the hotdogs. Voila. Dinner. The kids thought this was so much fun. Little did they know that I came up with this meal because the hotdogs needed to be used up in the next couple days. It was also a nice distraction for them. They knew I went grocery shopping today. The second that they got off of the school bus, they both asked "did you get us a surprise?". No impulse buys = no surprises. However, I was able to reply "yep, dinner is a special surprise." I usually won't let them have macaroni or hotdogs for dinner because they aren't the healthiest options. Tonight will be just our secret. Shhhh. Don't tell daddy what he missed by working tonight!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 day challenge, day 28

November 14, 2012

Lucky for me the "toss together soup" from yesterday was yummy as leftovers for lunch today.  One meal conquered. What next? How about some cookies!

I talked to my mom this morning and she was making no bake cookies. Mmmmmm. I looked in the cupboard and saw I had a canister of quick cooking oats. What? When did I even buy that? I pulled out pumpkin, baking cocoa, peanut butter, and a few other goodies and got to work. I made three different types of no bake cookies. The first was just pumpkin. The second was pumpkin and chocolate. The third was chocolate and peanut butter. I was hoping to use up the canister of oats but there is still a good amount left. Oh well, more cookies another day!

I had a friend and her two kids over for dinner. I made spaghetti. I used local beef and my home canned spaghetti sauce. I still have about 1/3 of the can of pumpkin left. I was going to stir it into my spaghetti sauce (I had seen it in many online recipes) but figured I wouldn't scare my friend by hiding crazy stuff in her meal. Ha. I'll figure out what to do with that pumpkin tomorrow. I went to my noodle stash and was about to reach for my typical box of angel hair (man I love that stuff) but noticed another box of spaghetti. I bought a box of spaghetti rigati on clearance awhile back but never used it because once again it is a shape I don't normally use. It is kind of like a square and ridged spaghetti noodle. Odd. Tonight is as good a night as ever to give it a shot. Uh oh. I didn't have any garlic bread. No problem. A little butter, garlic powder, and half a loaf of bread will do. Gotta use it up anyway because tomorrow is grocery shopping day! A side of corn (frozen from the farmers market) to finish the meal off.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

30 day challenge, day 27

November 13, 2012

I spent way too much time playing around on pinterest, facebook, and on here this morning. Before I knew it, I was starving for lunch. Have you heard of dump cake? The recipe where pie filling and a cake mix are dumped together? (It is amazing by the way). Well, I made dump soup for lunch. Ha, that sounds awful. Maybe I should call it toss together soup.

I had a small container of leftover hamburger gravy and about 3/4 of a can of beef broth. I wanted to use them up but didn't want it to feel like leftovers. I dumped  (oops, I mean tossed) them into a pot. I added a big scoop of the jasmine rice with edamame leftover from last night. There was a tiny bit of corn in the fridge. In it went. I grabbed a bag of green beans that I had frozen from my garden. I just broke off a little handful of them and threw them in the pot. I found a half of a bag of frozen carrots. Ugh. I hate store bought frozen veggies. When will this bag of carrots be gone already! In went a handful. It just had to simmer for a few minutes to heat everything through. It was so delicious! I'm actually excited there are leftovers of it for my lunch tomorrow!

Yesterday we made chicken marsala. I bought a pack of three chicken breasts but we only used two. I figured I would make a stir fry tonight with the other piece. I used up the end of a bottle of teriyaki marinade. I chopped up half of the broccoli that is in the fridge, the rest of the cauliflower, the end of the bag of carrots, the rest of last night's edamame, and some celery. I love stir fry because you can just use any veggies you need to use up. My kids love the little baby corn on the cob in stir fry. I didn't have a can of them for tonight. However, I tried to get sneaky (notice I said tried). I had bought a jar of pickled baby corn from an Amish store. We weren't really thrilled with them. I thought maybe if I rinsed them it would take away some of the bitterness. Once they are covered in teriyaki sauce, the kids won't know the difference. Right? My daughter took one bite of her corn and asked,"why does this taste like a pickle?" Ha. Oh well. They ate it for tonight but I doubt I'll ever put it in stir fry again. We put the stir fry over a bed of the jasmine rice with edamame from last night. We topped it off with cashews and rice noodles for some crunch.

One of the biggest parts of this challenge is for me to use up leftovers. None of us in my family like them. Looking over at my counter, I see the cake pan of leftover raspberry brownies (made with raspberry pie filling in the middle of the batter). It's a dirty job, but I guess we better eat some more leftovers! Yesterday we had it with extra pie filling and ice cream. Tonight we changed it up and had a piece with fresh berries. Yum.


Monday, November 12, 2012

30 day challenge, days 25 & 26

November 11 & 12, 2012

Day 25: We went out of town to do some Christmas shopping on Veteran's Day. Seeing as we were out, lunch really didn't conform to my challenge. :( However, I did consciously order water (my hubby did too) even though I was craving a soda  so that saved $5 even while we got to fill our faces with delicious Red Robin!

And fill our faces did we! When it came time for dinner we really weren't hungry.

Day 26: The four of us enjoyed our day off together. Usually when we have a day off, we like to go out for lunch. Today we opted for homemade burgers (made from local beef). Using up those pesky hamburger buns that I always feel the need to buy but hardly ever use. Score!

I decided to do a little baking for two reasons. One, my son loves zucchini muffins. He eats them for breakfast, snack after school, and there have been days when he asks to have one with dinner. Two, maybe it will keep my son from complaining (again) that we are out of pop tarts and cereal bars. Ha! Ok, muffins down, what's next?

Dessert. I looked in the cupboard trying to figure out what to use up. I have three types of pie filling. The ONLY reason I buy pie filling is to make pudgy pies (kind of like a grilled cheese sandwhich, but filled with pie filling then sprinkled with powdered sugar and is cooked over an open camp fire). With winter approaching, I doubt we will be having more pudgy pies. Ok, what do I do with pie filling other than cram it in a pie crust? I found a recipe for homemade brownies that you put pie filling in between layers of the batter. Yes! Raspberry brownies topped with more of the pie filling and a scoop of vanilla ice cream (how long has that ice cream been hiding in my freezer?).

Now on to dinner. I have been wanting to make chicken marsala for a few days. Marsala sauce means that I should use rice to sop it up, right? Great, I can use one of the six types of rice that I have stock piled. Geez. I settled on jasmine rice but wanted to give it a little extra flavor. I sauteed some onions and garlic then added the rice to brown up a bit before adding in the water. It simmered with a bay leaf, salt, and pepper. I added in some edamame. Yum! Everything was so good. Plus, today's work gave me two tricks up my sleeve for tomorrow! You'll have to come back tomorrow to see what they are. :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

30 day challenge, day 24

November 10, 2012

The challenge is rubbing off on my hubby. Seeing as it is Saturday, I figured that he would want to go out for lunch. He asked, "do you want to just eat up some leftovers?" Wohoo! He had some of the taco stuffed pasta shells from last night. I had the rest of the shepherd's pie. My daughter had ramen noodles but agreed to eat up some leftover corn with it. My son had a hotdog but used a bun that is only good for a few more days. Not bad!

My son went to a birthday party at a bowling alley. My hubby, daughter, and I bowled while we waited. We got done before the party was finished so we pulled up a table next to them. Pretty soon all around me was pizza. There were two birthday parties and another family sitting next to us and they were all eating pizza. It looked so delicious. I started to cave. Maybe we should just eat pizza instead of waiting to cook when we got home. No! Don't do it. We let our daughter get a piece seeing as it was getting kind of late.

I had planned on making chicken marsala tonight, but the party went later than I expected and by the time we got home I really didn't feel like cooking. We settled on some pork nachos with green onion from my garden, pepper jack cheese, barbeque sauce, and sour cream. I can't believe what a successful Saturday we had!

30 day challenge, day 23

November 9, 2012

Dinner was a combination of one of my hubby's favorite meals with one of mine. Tacos meet pasta. 

We made giant pasta shells. The stuffing was made out of taco meat and cream cheese (a half a pack I had to use up). Placed on a layer of homemade salsa and then topped with taco sauce (used up a partial bottle), crushed tortilla chips (the bottom of a bag), mexican cheese, and green onions from my garden. After a quick trip under the broiler, the pasta shells ended up on a bed of lettuce and topped once again with a drizzling of taco sauce and a dollop of sour cream.

My daughter says it is a "make again" meal. My son says it is good and you need gigantic noodles.  My hubby says this meal is like our two fav meals mated and had a baby. Um, I guess that is a compliment. Recipe will be kept!

30 day challenge, day 22

November 8, 2012

Here we are, grocery shopping day. I had to take a few minutes yesterday to get everything ready. Since starting this challenge, I use a calculator and add up my groceries as I go through the store. I find it easier to resist impulse purchases if I can see what my total is already at. However, last week I was about half way through the store and my calculator reset to 0. Nooooooooo! I figured that I should get  a better system than trying to juggle my coupons, list, calculator, push my cart, and shop with the other hand. I dug out my old coupon binder, printed all my coupons, and even arranged them in the binder according to what aisle they are in at the store. Go me!

I did pretty well today. I spent $8.82 on impulses. However, that includes when the lady came on the loud speaker and said they had certain cereals on sale for half price. I got the kids each their favorite kinds. It also includes two packages of holiday cookies. They were clearanced out because they were halloween cookies. However, I dug through them and found one type of cookie that doesn't expire until the end of November. They were on sale for 92 cents each; I also had a coupon for $1 off of two boxes. I couldn't pass up getting two boxes of cookies for $0.84!! My big splurge of impulse items was boursin cheese for $3.69. Now if you have ever had boursin cheese you would know that it is totally worth the impulse. If you haven't had it, I highly recommend it. My food total was $65.98, $21.07 for toiletries and cleaners, and $5.08 for gossip magazines. The check out lady rushed me into her checkout lane so I only had time to grab the magazines that her stand had available. I guess only being able to reach 2 out of the 4 that I usually buy saved me about $5, so thanks checkout lady! After adding in the commissary's surcharge, taking out my coupons, etc, I ending up spending $95.33 out of pocket today. I saved $79.67.

Our restuarant outings for this past week weren't as good. We went out twice. Our weekly average was $80 prior to the challenge. We spent $83.40 this week. My son brought leftover soup one day for lunch so that saved $2. Adding this weeks lunch and grocery savings to my previous balance and then subtracting $3.40 (seeing as we went over in restaurants) my new challenge total is $492.29 saved. Not too bad for only day 22.  I can't wait to see what my final total is.
Now on to dinner... What did I have that needed to be used up? Mashed potatoes from last night. Shepherd's pie it is. Layer of mashed potatoes, farmers market corn, homemade (local) hamburger gravy, and topped off with cheddar and mexican cheese. Good god, if all leftovers tasted this good I would be totally winning at this challenge!

30 day challenge, day 21

November 7, 2012

My son and I both had leftover soup for lunch today. The container of turkey that I used for the soup still was about half full. I wanted to use it up for dinner tonight but with the intentions of not just blobbing a pile of turkey on our plates. 

After looking around the kitchen, I found a few ingredients that I wanted to use up tonight seeing as tomorrow is grocery shopping day. Yay! I had half a loaf of bread. Hmmmmm. Kiddos still have some of my french toast in the freezer. I have never attempted to make homemade stuffing before but figured today was as good a day as any.

Toasted up the bread in the oven. Sauteed some onion, celery, and carrots in butter and olive oil. Added salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and parsley. Mixed it all together with the bread and 3/4 can of chicken broth. Into the oven for awhile then under the broiler it went. I had a huge bag full of potatoes from the farmers market. Ok, mashed potatoes it is. I used up the rest of the milk (minus cups for the kids to drink) and the rest of the sour cream. Then on to the turkey. I sauteed onions in butter and olive oil. Stirred in a little flour. Then added an envelope of chicken gravy (already mixed with a cup of water). I dumped in the rest of the can of chicken broth, salt, pepper, and thyme from my garden. Oh, I forgot to mention that I cooked the gravy mixture in the same pot that I had sauteed the veggies for the stuffing. Yum, more flavor. Ok, after that thickened up a bit, I added the chopped turkey. Garnished with homemade pickles (and green olives for the kids).

30 day challenge, day 20

November 6, 2012

Today was another good day. I made a sandwich for lunch with some luau pork, red onion, and asian sesame sauce (from Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant) on a hamburger bun. Wohoooo! I'm really using up those burger buns this week. My hubby took the last enchilada to work for lunch.

I decided to dig through the freezer to find something for dinner. I found a container of leftover turkey hiding. I had about a cup of chicken broth in the fridge and a half a jar of home canned tomatoes. Soup it is. I went back to the freezer to find other ingredients: container of homemade chicken broth, peas from my garden, green beans from my garden, and corn from the farmers market. I added another jar of tomatoes, celery, and carrots from the farmers market. Ok, what kind of noodles? I found a pack of tiny alphabet noodles that really don't have a use other than soup. Perfect.
My daughter has only been home from school for about an hour and has already dug into the soup. Twice. Alright, time for the kids and I to make some apple crisp.

30 day challenge, day 19

November 5, 2012

Remember I said that we hardly ever use up our hamburger buns? I was on a mission today. I found two lonely salmon burgers in the back of the freezer. One of those bad boys become my lunch. Yum. 

I wanted to use the leftover luau pork somehow for dinner seeing as we really hadn't eaten it for dinner yet. I found a recipe for homemade enchilada sauce. Ooooooh. Tortilla (finished a pack), refried beans (found a can in the back of the cupboard), corn (frozen from farmers market), luau pork, jalapenos (frozen from my garden), mexican cheese....rolled up and topped with the homemade sauce, more mexican cheese, green onions (from my garden), guacamole, and sour cream. Oh my god. Leftovers never tasted so good. Makes me want to try this recipe with any kind of leftover meat. 

Oh, I almost forgot. The sauce was supposed to be made with tomato sauce as a base. However, all I had was tomato paste. Did I let that stop me or send me to the store? Nope, just mix with equal parts of water. The recipe also called for green chilis but I substituted our jalapenos. Yay! Today was definetely a success. My hubby and I would even say that these were the best enchiladas we have ever had. Ever. Wohooooo!

30 day challenge, day 18

November 4, 2012

Uh-oh. We felt like going out for lunch today. Chicken wings were calling my name. But hey, we went to a restaurant that my friend is half owner of (will be full owner in January) so at least I'm giving a friend my business right?! After spending the day being a lazy bum I can't really say that I wanted to make dinner. The kids got hungry first so they just had a sandwich made out of leftover luau pork and the last of the hawaiian dinner rolls along with some fruit. 

Once my hubby and I got hungry we started poking around in the fridge. Even though the luau pork is amazing even as leftovers, it just didn't sound good. How about breakfast for dinner! Eggs, toast, and bacon. Look at the pic....once you notice that the bacon isn't burned, it is totally obvious that I did not cook this meal. Ha! Bacon is my nemesis. My delicious nemesis. Tomorrow is back to school/work so I think I will spend my day cooking. Apple pie? Apple crisp? Pinterest here is your notice. I need a yummy recipe for dinner!

30 day challenge, day 17

November 3, 2012

After football practice, they had pizza and drinks for everyone. Well, I guess that decided our lunch. We did a few errands and around 3pm were a little snacky. I told the kid to only get a snack that way we would still be hungry later for dinner. Buffalo Wild Wings for deep fried pickles. Well, either the pickles were really filling or my miller lite was too big. It totally back fired cuz the kids were hungry at dinner and I wasn't. Oops. 

I made luau pork that slow cooked for 12 1/2 hours. My kitchen smells so good. I just heated up some leftover beans and threw on a hawaiian dinner roll. Kids are fed.
A while later, my hubby and I decided to have a snack/dinner. He made muchachos out of the luau pork. Pork, green onion (from my garden), barbeque sauce, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.