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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Mar 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Mar 22, '10

After a gorgeous weekend, we're waking up to....rain. Well, you know what they say about New England...if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes :)

Last week we did GREAT sticking to plan. The Sue Sue's Casserole was a hit, especially with my toddler! It was a little heavy on the onions, and I *think* if I play around with it I can make it more like a creamy beef stroganoff casserole. We also managed to use up just about ALL of the leftovers - I love me a clean fridge!

This week we actually have TWO days when the whole family is home for dinner! I also had to plan for plenty of leftovers, this weekend hubby and I both work so we need enough to cover our meals on those days.

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

monday - Curried Turkey Tidbits, rice, mixed veggies - OAMC ($2.62 for 4 servings)

tuesday - Easy Taco Bake - OAMC ($3.21 for 4-6 servings)

wednesday - Fluffy French Toast, fruit, eggs ($5.04 for 6 servings)

thursday - Chicken Ranch Pizza, salad - OAMC ($5.90 for 4-6 servings)

friday - Grilled steaks, sweet potatos, mixed veg ($6.70 for 4 servings)

saturday - Leftovers (Free!)

sunday - Leftovers, hubby will be eating at his mom's (Free!)

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Mar 20, 2010

A bit of 'splainin to do...

I realize that lately my blog has been faithful to regular weekly postings (menu plan, grocery tracking) but I've been lacking in much beyond that. For that dear readers, I do apologize.

My physical health has been suffering lately, the hardest to deal with has been the fatigue and lack of motivation - I didn't know what was going on with me until I finally saw my doctor this week and added a new word to my vocabulary: hypothyroidism.

It's not a dire situation, thankfully - but it is one that requires a lot of my attention as I learn what adjustments I need to make, watch myself and become more aware of symptoms and potential problems, and try to regain some sense of feeling like myself again. I've never HAD to take a medication in my life other than the occasional antibiotic for illness. I have no history of chronic issues. While I am married to a Type 1 diabetic, I've always been able to focus on maintaining HIS I have to add my own maintenance into the mix.

I PROMISE that as I feel better and get a handle on what's going on, I will get back to more frequent posting here. If you are interested, I've started penning my thoughts about this development at a new blog, The Butterfly Effect - feel free to stop in and say hi, and for those who have firsthand experience with hypothyroidism, I'd love to hear from you.

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Mar 17, 2010

Grocery Trip - week 10, '10

Hello, payoff!

Last week's shopping was the first post-Once a Month Cooking week, and boy did it show! Total spent was $32.87, and that was INCLUDING formula, some baby food supplies, and a big container of honey. The honey wasn't TOTALLY necessary, but the Lazy Granola I made for OAMC is such a hit, I'll be making it on a VERY regular basis.

It's SO hard to resist stocking up when I know I could squeeze a little into every week till the end of the month, but I'm really trying to see the impact OAMC has on the budget! At this point I've only used one OAMC meal per week, which would stretch my freezer stash almost to June - my goal is to use 2-3 per week, but either way the extra investment last month should do my budget good at least through April!

Here's what we bought last week:

2 gallons milk - $4.96
51oz canister BJ's formula - $16.99 (got $3 instant rebate!)
3lb bag sweet potatoes - $2.49 (for baby food)
3lb bunch bananas - $1.44
3lb jar BJ's honey - $6.99

Total: $32.87

This week I got $3 in store savings!

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Mar 16, 2010

Dining deal from Adility for Boston area peeps!

This one is not to be missed if you are in the Boston area. (another group buying deal site like Groupon) has a FANTASTIC discount deal available today only - $29.99 for a multi-discount card at David's Tavern in Newburyport - the total value is up to $400!

For your $30, you get:
- ONE Dining Spectacular deal - 50% OFF your total food bill,up to a Maximum Savings of $100.00 (excludes tax, tip and gratuity)
- SIX Buy One Get One Free dinner entrees (can use up to 2 of these per visit)
- SIX 50% OFF your total Dinner FOOD bill up to a $25.00 Savings. (Valid up to SIX TIMES before expiration date. Valid SUNDAY, MONDAY,TUESDAY nights only)
- TWO Buy One Get One Free Brunch Buffets ( Valid two times before expiration date)

You can only use one type of discount per visit, and the gift card expires 6 months from purchase date. But you'd be getting your money's worth even if you only used ONE of these discounts! A little about David's:
David's Tavern is located in historic Newburyport, MA, and we offer an extensive menu, weekly live entertainment, and raw bar, all within our casual pub atmosphere downstairs and fireside dining upstairs. David's Tavern also has full function facilities and offers childcare while you dine.

This deal is ON and will expire tonight, so if you live within travel distance of Boston's north shore (or know someone who does), this is a great deal op!

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Mar 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Mar 15th, '10

So last week was going strong, following the plan, loving on my freezer meals....until Thursday. I forgot to take the Sloppy Joe out to thaw, plus I had a bunch of veggies in the crisper that were getting ready to turn, so I made Vegetable Soup instead. Then on Friday we ended up visiting my dad and an aunt from out of state, so dinner was on them :) At least it means my freezer stash will stretch a little further!

The one OAMC dish we got to, the Black Bean Salsa Chicken - WOW! Not only was it DEEEELISH, but we had a TON of leftovers. I'm reworking it into enchilada filling this week, but that is after making a couple of burritos over the weekend. Mix it with rice and it stretches FAR - that's the best kind of dish!

Here's our table for the week, drop in on Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie for tons more menus and recipes!

monday - Leftover veggie soup, grilled cheese ($2.00 for 4 servings)

tuesday - BBQ Pork Tortillas, Mexican rice ($4.45 for 4 servings)

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

thursday - Homemade Pizza, sliced peppers ($3.50 for 6-8 servings)

friday - Leftovers (Free!)

saturday - Enchiladas using leftover Black Bean Salsa Chicken ($3.68 for 4-5 servings)

sunday - Dinner at the in-law's (Free!)

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Mar 13, 2010

How does your garden grow?

I killed a Chia pet in college. No, wait - TWO chia pets, and a bonzai tree. To say that I have a black thumb is an understatement...when it comes to growing things, I am the Angel of Doom. I'm lucky that my kids don't get planted!

But regardless of my inadequacies in the past, I think this is the year I'm going to take the plunge. I can't deny the financial benefits to having a garden, and we finally have room to make it happen.(Having a helpful toddler who likes dirt is just an added bonus!) I have many fond memories of growing veggies with my mom as a kid, I just wish I had paid more attention to what she was doing and less time playing with the caterpillars...

I've been doing a lot of reading, and have settled on Square Foot Gardening - the basic idea is that instead of planting in a big area, you plant in an organized grid, with one item densely planted in each square. It's a raised garden bed so there's no tilling or treating the soil necessary. And because of the way you are instructed to plant, there's less weeding and it's easier to rotate plantings. I found the book All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space! at my local library, but you can also purchase it on Amazon or the main website.

There's a small area of my yard where we can set up a 2'x8'grid, but I've read a few people who did container gardens on their deck/patio with each pot being an individual area of the "grid". What appeals to me is that there's minimal weeding (my back prevents me from being hunched over for long periods of time), and I can deal with the whole IDEA of gardening in small chunks - I wanted to plant last year, but the whole process of starting a garden in the "traditional" way really overwhelmed me...I'm sure being pregnant didn't help either!

And how timely is hero Erin over at $5 Dinners just posted a couple of great links - one about getting free seeds and another about free printable garden planners!

I signed up for my free seeds, and I'll be plotting my garden and making my supplies list this weekend - spring thaw is finally hitting Massachusetts, and I'm going to TRY not to kill my plants this year! Wish me luck!

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Mar 10, 2010

Grocery Trip - week 9 '10 Once a Month Cook-off shopping bled into the first week of March - I had hoped to get more done up front but I was able to get ALL of my freezer meals done before the end of the week! Total spent last week ended up at $86.56, but very little of that was non-OAMC shopping. It also included wipes and Ziploc bags for my OAMC! The good news: I finished last week with 21 dinners and a lot of granola for breakfast in the freezer, so my biggest challenge for the rest of March will be to resist the urge to pad my stockpile.

I also did a CVS ExtraCare Bucks deal last week - first time in a LOOONG time! But we needed body wash and the milk was $1.99/gallon after the ECBs! I also came across two loaves of whole wheat bread at Shaw's for $0.45 each because they were close to the sell-by date...those went straight into the freezer!

Here's how it went down:

BJ's wipes - $10.99 (got $3 in instant rebate)
5lb bag Mozzarella cheese - 11.99

Total: $22.98

Ziploc quart freezer bags - $2.67+tax
Ziploc gallon freezer bags - $3.26+tax

Total: $6.30

Price Rite
42oz Price Rite old fashioned oats - $1.79 (for OAMC)
14oz box Price Rite cheerios - $1.59
20oz box Price Rite baking mix - $1.79 (for OAMC)
2 24oz jars salsa - $2.98 (for OAMC)
10 oz can Price Rite corn - $0.49 (for OAMC)
1 packet PR brown gravy mix - $0.29
24oz PR honey - $3.99 (for OAMC)
24oz PR yellow mustard - $0.89 (for OAMC)
15oz can PR peas - $0.69 (for OAMC)
12oz PR dijon mustard - $0.99 (for OAMC)
PR cinnamon - $0.89
box PR raisins - $1.49
1 loaf PR wheat bread - $1.19
1 bunch scallions - $0.59 (for OAMC)
1 bulb garlic - $0.45 (for OAMC)
1 bunch celery - $1.49
4.78lb onions (8) - $4.25 (for OAMC)
0.7lb zucchini - $0.69
16oz Caramel Apple Coffeemate - $1.29
2 dozen eggs - $2.98 (1 for OAMC)
4 24oz bags PR frozen corn kernels - $5.16 (for OAMC)
42oz canister PR quick oats - $1.79
4 pkg PR cream cheese - $3.96 (for OAMC)
1 bag PR tater tots -
1 pkg Bar S hot dogs - $0.99

Total: $36.91

0.64lb green pepper - $1.91 (for OAMC)
2 8oz packages white mushrooms - $2.00 ($2.38 in-store savings) - for OAMC
2 loaves whole wheat bread - $0.90 (no instore savings but these are usually $2.50 ea!)
Strawberry pie filling - $3.99 (for OAMC)
Blueberry pie filling - $4.29 (for OAMC)

Total: $13.09

2 Gallons milk - $5.98 ($0.80 in store savings before ECB)
1 Suave body wash - $1.99+tax($0.80 in store savings)
1 Irish Spring body wash - $4.99+tax
received and used $6 in ECBs

Total OOP: $7.28

This week I got $8.54 in store savings and ECBs!

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Mar 9, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Mar 8th, '10

Yeah yeah, I know it's Tuesday. We had one of those weekends where it seemed like there was more work than hours in the day, and we got buried - but the air has cleared a bit, the birthday party for my toddler went off with just a few minor hitches, and the weather is getting nicer :) Good things ahead!

Last week was a menu plan FAIL. I had so much to do all week, that most days I either forgot to thaw the meat or just didn't leave myself enough time to prepare the meals. Fortunately, we have plenty of *alternate* supplies on hand - between frozen food items, grilled cheese and soup fixins, and leftovers, we muddled through.

On the bright side, thanks to the phenomenal ladies over at Once A Month Mom, I have a freezer brimming with prepared meals! This will be the first week of diving into the stash, and I plan to try using 2-3 freezer meals per week (marked as OAMC in my menu plan). This week we actually have a WHOLE DAY when both hubby and I are off from work, so we're going to try and do a fancy-schmancy dinner...I might even let HIM cook for a change ;)

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

monday - Party Pizza leftovers! (free)

tuesday - Shepherd's Pie (made with leftover mashed potatoes), green beans ($2.70 for 4 servings)

wednesday - Black Bean Salsa Chicken - OAMC ($5.32 for 6 servings)

thursday - Sloppy Joes on homemade buns (will make buns and dinner rolls for Friday), veggies - OAMC ($3.70 for 4 servings)

friday - Petit sirloins (got on sale for $2.50/lb), green beans almondine, homemade rolls ($5.90 for 4 servings)

saturday - Leftovers since we're both working (free!)

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

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Boston Groupon - half-price oil change and interior cleaning!

It's official, I am a Groupon groupie! This little gem of a deal posted today and I had to pass it along for my Boston/west of Boston peeps!

Today's Groupon deal is $35 for an car Oil Change, Car Wash and Super Basic Interior Cleaning at Clean Machine in Framingham! This package is normally valued at $68, so this is a great deal. Van and SUV owners get the same package for $45, a $78 value. The interior cleaning includes: vacuum the carpets, wash the windows and dash, shampoo the mats, empty the ashtrays. Rugs or seats can undergo a gentle shampoo and scrub, and detailing also includes an exterior car wash.

The great thing about this Groupon, it doesn't expire until 12/31/10 so this makes a FANTASTIC gift - they limit one Groupon per vehicle, but this could save a lot of cash for multi-car households or folks with several practical-minded people to buy for this year. The deal is ON - so get your Groupon on before the end of today!

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Mar 8, 2010

Once-A-Month Cook-Off - my results!

Thanks to the ladies over at Once a Month Mom for sponsoring this cook-off - I love freezer cooking anyway but making it a challenge certainly egged on my competitive spirit. (And if you have any inklings of trying out once-a-month cooking, you MUST visit their site. Now. I'll wait.) For me, this was more of a "Several-times a Month Cook-off" - Our schedules are such that it's almost impossible to schedule one entire day for cooking. And no offense ladies, but if hubby and I have a day off together, I'm kind of inclined to hang out with him eating Cheez Doodles and catching up on LOST :)

I planned things out kinda loosely, and arranged my days so that I was prepping stuff for two or three dishes the night before, and then assembling the next day. For example, I browned all the ground beef, and then put together the Sue Sue's Casserole, Taco Bake and the Sloppy Joes over the next two days. Another night I tossed the chicken in the crockpot overnight, and the next day put together the Chicken Ranch Pizza and the Black Bean Salsa Chicken (I pre cooked the chicken for that dish, it's a personal preference). That night I tossed the Lazy Granola together so that it cured in the oven while I was cleaning up. It worked out well because the littles keep me VERY busy during the day, but once they were in bed I usually had time to make a few dishes. I also got some help from the Boy Wonder when making the Stuffed Pancake Cupcakes :) I made a few adjustments to some of the recipes, based on what I had on hand and what would make the overall recipe a little cheaper for me.

PhotobucketThe nice thing about doing a freezer cooking month gradually is that I never did more than an hour or so of work in a night. Some things, like the Pork Roast dishes, took all of about 20 minutes to throw together! All told I probably did about 6-7 hours over the course of the month, but when you break it down into small groupings, it's not even noticeable.

We hit a bit of a snafu with the Pancake Cupcakes - the first round I made leaked out the bottom, and the gel around the fruit melted down so much it just left caverns inside the ones that did stay together. With the second batch, I used paper liners (which solved the leakage beautifully!) but I still had the big holes in the middle. I ended up scrapping them - but made more Lazy Granola to make up for the missing breakfasts. I also only ended up with three Taco Bakes instead of four, but that's because I bought 8X11 lasagna pans instead of worked out fine, I'll just have more leftovers when they appear on the menu!

Since I always price out cost-per-meal on what I cook, I did the same for the OAMC dishes that are now happily tucked away in the freezer (these are based on the actual cost of what I bought...I'm a total nerd and did the math out for individual ingredients. It's my OCD.) I actually used a lot out of my existing pantry, and included what I paid for those items in the cost-per-meal. But I also tracked what I bought new just for OAMC, or what would replace pantry items that got used up this challenge. The grand total for my OAMC spending was: $97.96!! As I've done my Grocery Tracking I made notes on anything that was bought for this cook-off. Since this whole blog is about my monthly spending and grocery budgeting, I'm really looking forward to seeing how spending that money ahead of time saves on my overall budget!


Here's what I ended up making, along with the cost-per-meal for each dish. We have 21 dinners(most will leave us leftovers) and a lot of granola to carry us through March and probably the beginning of April!

2 Pork Roast with Apples and Pears - $4.47/entree
2 Asian Pork Roast - $3.56/entree
2 bags Curried Turkey Tidbits - $1.32/entree!
I used a bunch of leftover turkey that I had in the freezer, so technically that's FREE!)
2 Chicken Ranch Pizza Toppings - $4.65/meal including dough
used 1 can of diced tomato drained instead of fresh tomato
4 bags Black Bean Salsa Chicken - $5.32/meal
I used a 1-lb bag of dried black beans (cooked) and 2 cups frozen corn per bag instead of the canned
4 bag Lazy Granola - $4.44 for all!
3 pans Taco Bake - $3.21/meal
again, used frozen corn kernels in place of canned, also used canned crushed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce
4 pans Sue Sue's Casserole - $4.62/meal
2 bags Sloppy Joes - $2.62/entree

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Mar 6, 2010

Another great Boston Groupon!

Need to do some gift shopping? Want to pick up some good quality art or sterling silver jewelry for half price? Then check out this weekend's deal for $60 gift certificate to Baak Gallery/Abrano Silver for $30! This deal is ON and will be sold through tomorrow. Limit 1 per visit, expires09/08/2010.

The Baak Gallery is an independent art gallery where the finest works from area artists have been on display since its inception in 1976. They also deal in fine gold jewelry. Adjoining them is Abrano Silver,where they merge the best aspects of art and wearability to create upscale accessories catering to all tastes. Use your certificate in the Gallery towards a piece of local artwork, or pick up several items at Abrano Silver, where many items are priced below $20!

Not living in the Boston area? Go to and click on the "Visit other cities" tab at the top - Groupon has deals around the country, so check out what they're offering in YOUR city!

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