Aug 17, 2010

Farm fresh cooking

I'm about a month into my stint volunteering on the farm in exchange for a weekly CSA share and it has been FANTASTIC. I bring home about 4 bags of fresh fruit and veggies every week in exchage for my 4 hours of labor...not a bad trade off, plus the farmer and his young family are really nice people and we have good time out in the fields. Who'd have thought?

Last night for dinner I made this baked stuffed zucchini and it was DELICIOUS! Even better - all of the veggies I used were straight from the farm and didn't cost me anything out of pocket! Normally the dish would cost a little over $6 to make...but since the fresh stuff was in my CSA share, I spent a grand total of $2.54 to put that yumminess on my table.

In other news, my little guy turned 1 last week! I still can't believe it's been a whole year already. I will be posting a little "Owen retrospective" as soon as I can get a free few minutes to put it together...I have tons of pictures IN the camera, I swear :) Now that he's almost walking it's a full time job keeping him and his brother out of trouble!

I hope everyone is enjoying a fun and frugal summer!

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Jul 2, 2010

A "can-tastic" wedding!

Saw this today on MSN and just had to share - this WA couple is paying for their entire wedding with the proceeds from recycled aluminum cans - not only super frugal but also environmentally friendly!

Pete and Andrea have recycled 400,000 cans to raise the $3800 they needed to pay for their wedding day, collected by them and helped along with donations from a few organizations who caught wind of their plan. If you read the article, they are also using some great ideas to cut costs on their wedding and reception - having put on my own wedding for around $5000 a few years ago I know the value of DIY on your big day! He's having a friend who brews beer provide a couple of kegs for the reception, what a great idea!

Check out their website to see their progress, they are currently collecting more cans, both for their honeymoon and for a donation to Doctors without Borders and Rim Country Land Institute.

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Jul 1, 2010

CSA - for free?

Hi there, remember me?
Yeah, I know - it's been a LONG time since I've posted, I'm taking some time to re-evaluate what I want from this blog and spending some much-needed time managing the crazy place I call home. With me working two jobs, hubby working and going to school, and a 3 1/2 year old and 10 month old keeping me busy, there's not a lot of extra time to blog! I promise, though, that I am planning to get back on the horse soon...

But I HAD to share this little nugget of wisdom while it was fresh in my mind!

I have been wanting to participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program for a long time. The basic idea is, you buy a "share" of local farms' produce at the beginning of the season, and each week during the program you pick up a box of goodies (usually from June to October). The farmers get a nice chunk of money to carry them through the growing season, and you get fresh, local produce (and sometimes cheese, plants and other goodies) while supporting local agriculture! It's a win-win situation, but for us it has always been pretty cost-prohibitive. Around here, most full shares go for $500-650 and that's a lot of money for us to come up with.

Well I did some inquiring, and found that a few of my local farms do what is called a "workshare" program - basically, you volunteer a few hours weekly to help on the farm, in exchange for a full share of their CSA....that's a SIX HUNDRED DOLLAR value for a couple of hours of labor! It's not necessarily easy - usually picking in the fields, doing some of the hard labor, etc. But DEFINITELY worthwhile! I just agreed to help out a farm for 4 hours a week picking their crop surplus for donation to the local food bank.

It's another way to save a little money this summer! Check out this directory to find local CSA participating farms in your area, and ask if they offer a work-share type program!

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Apr 22, 2010

Planet Earth on DVD or Blu-Ray - 60% off!

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of Earth Day is offering the award-winning BBC series Planet Earth on Blu-Ray or DVD for 60% off!

You can pick up Planet Earth, the BBC series on Blu-Ray for $37.99 or on DVD for $31.99, and both are eligible for free shipping! This is a fantastic series at a great price, and only good for today.

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Apr 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Apr 19th, '10

Happy Patriots Day to my fellow Massachusetts residents! And good luck to those running the Marathon :)

Last week was a definite menu WIN! I *thought* I had made the quiche wrong (and I think next time I would make two regular pie-sized quiches, this time I poured all the batter into a casserole dish and made a big thick quiche) but it actually turned out really good! The mango chutney that went with it was divine...even though I julienned my finger while chopping the cilantro :) Our biggest success was the Crockpot Kielbasa Dirty Rice - super easy, and so good my toddler asked for seconds! Definitely going on the family favorites list.

This week's menu I am DETERMINED to get the Pork Roast cooked! Every time I try to put it on the menu I either forget to thaw it, or our plans change. We're both working this weekend too, so the menu will include stuff that makes for easy leftover dinners.

Here's our table this week, don't forget to visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for tons more great menus and recipes!

monday - Black Bean Salsa Chicken over rice - OAMC ($5.32 for 6-8 servings)

tuesday - Pork Roast with Apples and Pears, peas, rice - OAMC ($5.37 for 4-6 servings)

wednesday - Homemade Pizza, salad ($2.95 for 6-8 servings)

thursday - Honey Balsamic Chicken on the grill, baked sweet potatoes, veggies ($6.95 for 4-5 servings)

friday - Dinner with friends (free!)

saturday - Both of us bringing leftovers to work (free!)

sunday - Dinner at the in-laws (free!)

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Apr 12, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Apr 12, '10

I am SO ready for the good weather! We had a little rain last week but enough good days to rev me up - I love being able to spend the day outside, watching my toddler play. We're getting ready to put up our square foot garden, I'm pretty sure we're finally beyond the frosty nights and my hubby should have a day free this week to build the raised bed :) I found out that I can get FREE leaf compost from the town! Mixed with some of the manure from my mother-in-law's horses, and that should give us some good, rich, FREE planting soil!

The menu last week went really well! The Tandoori Chicken was SO GOOD and EASY!! My toddler was scarfing it down, and we even let the baby try some of the curried couscous. We never got to the Pork Roast, so that's making a return appearance this week. I'm also going to try a few new recipes, I've got kielbasa to use up and I scored some REALLY fresh tilapia for $2.99/lb - it pays to live in a fishing town!

Here's our table for the week, don't forget to visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for tons more recipes and menu ideas!

monday - Quick Curry Quiche (using leftover Tandoori Chicken) with mango chutney(from The Once a Week Cooking Plan), canteloupe slices (cost tbd)

tuesday - Crockpot Kielbasa Dirty Rice ($4.40 for 6-8 servings)

wednesday - Dijon Crusted Tilapia, green beans, rice (cost tbd)

thursday - Pork Roast with Apples & Pears (from The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook), peas, rice - OAMC ($5.37 for 4-6 servings)

friday - Sloppy Joes on homemade rolls, green salad ($4.62 for 4 servings)

saturday - leftovers (Free!)

sunday - Dinner at the in-laws! (free!)

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Apr 9, 2010

Walgreens photo deals - FREE 8X10 today!

Wags is at it again, with a free 8X10 friday! Go to Walgreens Photo center and upload the photo you want, choose an 8X10 print, and use the code BIG8X10 at checkout - this is good for delivery OR in-store pickup! (shipping charges may apply for delivery).

If you'd rather go to a store, click here for a printable coupon. This is ONLY good for today, April 9th!

If you still have a ton of Easter photos to print up, you can get 50 prints for $5 until tommorrow, April 10th! (additional prints are also only 10 cents each, you just need to order a minimum of 50!) Just use the code BUNNY5 at checkout! These are for the 4X6 photos but do not include collage prints.

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Apr 6, 2010

Wacky Wednesday at Trucchis!

Attention Southern MA peeps - it's time for another Wacky Wednesday at Trucchi's TOMORROW 4/7! This month is the "breakfast" edition - here's what I'll be picking up:

Plumrose Bacon 1lb - $1.99
Bananas - $0.33/lb (banana muffins at my house!)
Trucchi's English Muffins - 3/$1 (last time this was a limit of 9)
Post Cereas (Raisin Bran, Cocoa Fruity or Cupcake Pebbles) - $1.69
use $1/2 off any Pebbles cereal from 3/14 SS
Dozen eggs - $1.29

MYSTERY ITEM - Trucchi's Raisin bread - $1.39

The last time this WW deal came around, I made Bacon & Egg McMuffins for the freezer for SUPER cheap! Butter is on sale for $1.99 at both Shaw's and Stop & Shop so this is a great time to make quick freezer breakfasts! Here's how I do the muffins:

-Scramble 1 egg per sandwich, fry 1-2 pieces of bacon for each sandwich as well. (I do these in batches of 12)
-Slice and toast the english muffin, butter both sides lightly with 1 tbsp pat of butter (hey, I never said these were health food!)
-Layer a 1/2 cup scoop of eggs, bacon, and 1 slice of cheese on the bottom half of the muffin, top with the other half.
-Wrap individually in plastic wrap, store in gallon freezer bags.

To heat: Thaw, then wrap in a paper towel (keeps the muffins moist) and microwave for 30-40 seconds. I usually take a couple out the night before and put them in the fridge!

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Apr 5, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Apr 5th, '10

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Easter weekend! We did a lot of running around, but we managed to see both sides of our family and the kids were sufficiently exhausted by last night :) I'll share some photos later this week!

Menu planning went OK last week, things got a bit messy mid-week and we had to shuffle a few things around. We did FINALLY get to the Chicken Ranch Pizza and it was GOOOOD! My hubby was a little reluctant to try it because it uses ranch dressing in place of tomato sauce - he's a believer now! I never got to the Sloppy Joes or the kielbasa dish, we ended up eating out of the house unexpectedly one night, and just did leftovers another night. And I STILL have a bunch of leftovers to weed through!

This week I'll be trying a new dish, and working on emptying the rest of the leftovers. I think I have been counting on my husband bringing some to work, but he's been making PB sandwiches instead...will have to see if I can prep his lunches ahead of time to make it easier.

Here's our table, don't forget to visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for tons more menus and recipes!

monday - Leftovers (free!)

tuesday - Sue Sue's Casserole - OAMC ($4.62 for 6-8 servings)

wednesday - Tandoori Chicken with Couscous (from The Once-a-Week Cooking Plan) ($6.60 for 4-6 servings)

thursday - Homemade pizza, green salad ($4.50 for 6-8 servings)

friday - Pork Roast with Apples and Pears (from The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook, peas, rice - OAMC ($5.37 for 4-6 servings)

saturday - leftovers (free!)

sunday - dinner at the in-law's (free!)

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Apr 2, 2010

Going "Au Naturale"

I promise, it's not what you think - heck even I don't want to see that! :)

I've been making a real effort over the last year to make a lot more from scratch, both for the sake of my budget and for the health of my family. When it comes to food, I balk at how many ingredients are listed on pre-made meals and sides - I like knowing what is going into my family's bodies and if I can't pronounce it or identify it on the periodic table, I get worried. And so many things are cheaper when you take the time to make it yourself! I talked a little about this in this Bricklaying series post along with some helpful links.

Over the last couple of months I've been branching out to homemade household cleaners too - and kicking myself for not trying this sooner! Here are my new household must-haves:

Vinegar is my new best husband will make jokes about the house smelling like an easter egg, but actually once vinegar dries there is no scent left behind...just clean! Vinegar is also a natural antiseptic. I use it for:

  • General household surface cleaner - mix 2 cups water, 2 cups vinegar and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle - voila! All-purpose cleaner for LITERALLY a few pennies per 32 oz
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner - I sprinkle baking soda on the dry surfaces and in the water, then pour about a cup of vinegar into the water. My bowl stays much cleaner and mold-free than when I used the Clorox with Teflon stuff...AND there's no chemical residue for the kids to get into...not that my kids EVER touch toilet water...really.
  • Window Cleaner - an alternative to rubbing alcohol - use 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water.
  • Drain deodorizer - pour baking soda down the drain and chase it with vinegar till it bubbles. I swear it gets the drain moving faster too!
  • Fabric Softener - Yes, you read that right...I haven't bought dryer sheets in FOREVER, I put 1/4 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle and my clothes are fine. A bonus - fabric softener can reduce the fire-retardant in infant clothes, something you don't need to worry about with vinegar!

Baking Soda

I NEVER KNEW you could clean with it - until one day I saw my mother-in-law sprinkle it on her stovetop. Now I buy the jumbo bag from BJ's! See above for the many ways vinegar and baking soda make great cleaning partners, PLUS:

  • Mild abrasive cleaner - just sprinkle baking soda on the surface, let it sit for a little while, and then gently scrub with a dampened sponge. It's great for countertops with buildup, stovetops (even glass ranges!), sink surfaces, bathtubs, etc. (a bonus - if you clean your sink with baking soda then rinse with vinegar, it'll disinfect and deodorize the drain too!)
  • Grease spot remover - if you've spilled something greasy on a surface, even a fabric surface, sprinkle baking soda on it - the granules are grease sponges!
  • Carpet deodorizer - skip the stuff with perfumes in it - just sprinkle plain baking soda on your carpet, let it sit for a little bit, and then vacuum it up.

Here are a few other natural options I've used to replace commercial cleaners:

Wood furniture polish - combine 2 cups olive oil with about 1/4 cup lemon juice in a squirt bottle. Pour a small amount on a soft cloth and buff your furniture gently - wipe clean with a dry soft cloth. Works great and smells fresh!

Silver tarnish remover - line a bowl with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Add 3 Tbsp baking soda and 1 Tbsp salt. Pour boiling water in the bowl and toss in your silver - make sure it's touching the tin foil! Let it sit for about a half hour (or go clean something else!), rinse with water. No rubbing, no tarnish! For bigger jobs, use a baking pan and use 3 parts baking soda to 1 part salt depending on how many/what size items you're cleaning. Use enough water to cover the items you're cleaning.

What's you're favorite frugal cleaning solution?

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Mar 31, 2010

Grocery Trips - week 12, '10

I did GREAT with the shopping last week! Total spent was only $26.67, we hardly needed any groceries and I was able to pick up a big jug of dish soap. The bad news, next week will be a little rough - both kids ran out of diapers! Must tell them to coordinate better :)

2lbs strawberries - $3.98 ($4.00 in store savings)

Total: $3.98

90oz Dawn dish soap - $7.99+tax
1 gal milk - $2.45
3lb sweet potatoes - $2.49

Total: $13.43

Price Rite
Box PR Raisins - $1.49
1 loaf Texas Toast - $1.49
3lb apples - $2.99
1 canteloupe - $1.50
1doz eggs - $1.79

Total: $9.26

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Mar 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Mar 29th, '10

Happy Easter! We're looking forward to a GORGEOUS weekend here, which should make for some fun egg hunts on Sunday :)

Last week's meal plan was going really well until Thursday - I had a lot of leftovers so we had some for dinner instead of making pizza, and then Friday I forgot to take the steaks out to thaw. That worked out ok though, since the rain would have made for some soggy grilling :) We have a fun grill pan from Ikea, but it just isn't the same!! Going to try AGAIN to have that steak dinner this week, barring any unforeseen issues.

The Curried Turkey was REALLY good - even my toddler gobbled it up! The Taco Bake was another big hit, the Bisquick batter on the top baked up great in spite of being frozen! And just for the record, Fluffy French Toast made with Texas Toast is my new favorite snack...when it's re-toasted and then loved on by some butter and strawberry jam...yummmmm...

Here's what we're eating this week (including a few repeats that we missed last week!) Don't forget to visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for tons more menu ideas and recipes!

monday - Chicken Ranch Pizza, salad - OAMC ($5.90 for 6-8 servings)

tuesday - Asian Pork Roast ($5 Dinners cookbook), rice, veggies - OAMC ($4.96 for 4 servings)

wednesday - Grilled steaks, baked sweet potatoes, green beans ($6.70 for 4 servings)

thursday - Sloppy Joes on homemade rolls, salad - OAMC ($4.62 for 4 servings, plus lots of leftover buns!)

friday - Something with kielbasa in the crockpot - I'm experimenting! (TBD)

saturday - Leftovers (Free!)

sunday - Easter! Meals with famiy (free)

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Mar 26, 2010

Tools of the trade

I spend a lot more time in the kitchen than I used to. A LOT. Most of my family knows this, so it's inevitable that I get kitchen tools and gadgets as gifts all the time. More than a few times, I've unwrapped a gift and given a little eye roll when I'm faced with something that I've seen pitched on TV for "only 9.99 plus shipping!" (buy now and we'll double your order!). But surprisingly, a few of those items made my list of must-have kitchen tools - they save me time, and money when they help me avoid convenience packaging of fresh items.

Here's a little list of my favorite kitchen tools!

Vidalia Chop Wizard
This little tool came my way via my husband's grandmother. I definitely did my best Billy Mays when I unwrapped it, and expected that it would gather dust before eventually making its way to a yard sale. How wrong I was. I use this little gem DAILY. It has two attachments, one for larger cuts and one for small dices, and the food drops into a container that doubles as a measuring cup! It works FAST too, and cleanup is really easy. I haven't manually chopped an onion in forever, let alone peppers, carrots, celery, boiled eggs...

One Touch Can Opener
Ok, maybe this is just a convenience thing, but I LOVE my One Touch. When I'm doing big cooking sessions, it helps keep things moving because I can set it on a can, hit the button, and then do something else while this little guy does his work. Yeah, it's a few seconds here and there - but if you've got a lot of cans to open (especially when doing bulk cooking sessions) those moments add up fast. Plus my toddler is enthralled by it, and a captivated toddler makes for a happy mommy :)

Good Grips Apple Corer and Divider
I like the whole OXO line because of the chunky, padded handles - and my apple corer/slicer gets daily use. Getting snacks to the table is that much faster. But I also use it to make onion wedges for roasting, and potato wedges for homemade fries.

Oxo Good Grips 4-Inch Pizza Wheel
Even if you NEVER make a homemade pizza, a pizza wheel is a must-have tool. Crusts to cut off your bread? No problem. Quesadillas? Perfect triangles in seconds. Need to make bite-sized pieces for your toddler? 1-2-3 done. I use it when baking breadsticks to cut the dough evenly and quickly. And yes, we use it on homemade pizza too :)

What's your most prized kitchen tool?

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Mar 24, 2010

Grocery Tracking - week 11, '10

I didn't do too bad last week, total spent was $43.29 but that included some jarred baby food and Gerber puffs for the babe to snack on. It turns out that buying the 6pack from BJ's for $9.99 was cheaper than buying individual containers of the Wal Mart brand at $1.79 each! I will have to watch out for coupons, especially since the little guy LOVES them. I realized that I can't really get meats to the right consistency for him, so for now I'm going with jars of baby dinners...but he's getting better at chewing so it won't be long before I just mash up what we're having for dinner anyway.

I don't know how we'll do in the next 2 weeks before the end of the month - we need diapers and probably more formula, plus some cleaning supplies...I will really have to stretch what we have in the pantry to keep on budget, but it's not impossible!!

Here's how the spending went down:

18-pack Beech Nut stage 2 dinners - $6.79 (got $1 instant rebate)
6lb bag Broccoli,carrot,squash frozen veg mix - $5.99
3lb bananas - $1.44
6-pack Gerber Puffs - $9.99
1gal milk - $2.45

Total: $26.66

1 loaf Whole Grain White bread - $0.65 (near sell-by, original price $2.50!)
6-pk whole grain English Muffins - $0.55 (near sell-by, original price $2)

Total: $1.15

Price Rite
14oz box PR cheerios - $1.59
32oz jar PR Strawberry Jam - $1.99
42oz canister PR quick oats - $1.79
1 loaf PR wheat bread - $1.19
.58lb green pepper (1) - $1.27
.57lb red pepper (1) - $0.96
2.76lb pears (6) - $2.73
3 avocados - $2.97
16oz Int'l Delight Fr Van creamer - $0.99

Total: $15.48

This week I had $1 in store savings!

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