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My First Two Week Meal Plan

August 14th, 2018 at 02:31 pm

I think I am really going to like this two week meal planning/shopping business. I just have to plan really well, but if we can stay out of the grocery store I can definitely see the savings adding up. I think next time I will do an even better job, but I am just happy I came under budget and will still be able to have some pretty delicious, varied, spectacular meals.

Day One:
Chicken Fajitas
Tortillas

Day Two
Sirloin Steak
Roasted Potatoes
Zucchini (garden)

Day Three
Teriyaki/BBQ chicken wings (Instant Pot)
Fried Potatoes
Green beans (garden)

Day Four
Chicken Shawarma
Pita Bread
Tzatziki Sauce
Cole slaw

Day Five
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Garlic Toast
Salad

Day Six
Shrimp Scampi (Instant Pot)
Garlic Toast
Baked Potatoes
Green Beans (garden)

Day Seven
Beef Kabobs
Veggie Kabobs

Day Eight
Chicken Fettucine Alfredo (Instant Pot)
Broccoli

Day Nine
Sausage
Bell Peppers and Onions
Potatoes
All cooked together in the Instant Pot

Day Ten
Cheeseburgers
French Fries
Salad

Day Eleven
Beef Cross Rib Roast
Baked Potatoes
Green Beans (garden)

Day Twelve
Penne Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Zucchini
All cooked together in the Instant Pot

Day Thirteen
Chicken Shawarma
Pita Bread
Tzatziki
Zucchini (garden)

Day Fourteen
Fried Chicken
Fried Potatoes and Peppers
Zucchini (garden)

Mattress Shopping and Medical Things

July 10th, 2018 at 05:45 pm

DD and I went mattress shopping today. We found a mattress and originally it was going to cost us $763, but we ended up getting it for $740, because the guy did not have any cash in the store. I had 10 $100 bills to pay for it and he asked if I had any other money. He asked if I had any twenties. Well, I had a twenty in my allowance envelope and I twenty in my household envelope so I told him I had two 20's. He didn't ask if I had any other money, which I did, but I wasn't going to volunteer it to see what he would do. So he ended up giving it to us for $740. Salesmen know that if you walk out of the store without buying they may not get you back in the door again.

He said usually he has cash in the store, but everyone who bought mattresses today paid in cash. He's so used to everyone paying by credit card or financing, that the small amount of cash he keeps on hand was wiped out. He even checked his wallet! It's his store so he can do that.

I wonder what he would have done if I hadn't had it. Maybe he would have knocked it down to $700. Maybe I should have hemmed and hawed, but I felt like $23 off was a nice discount already and I did have lower bills, even if I did have to rob another envelope. Now I will have to straighten that out, but I will have to break one of the $100's before I do.

We used some of the $5000 MIL gave us to make this purchase. DD has been having major back issues on the garbage bed she's been using. Hopefully the new bed will improve things. I know it did for me and for my son when we got new mattresses in the last couple of years.

We got a call from the endocrinologists office and they are getting DD in on the 24th of July. It was their first available emergency appointment and she's on a wait list for if someone cancels. Usually it takes 3 to 4 months to get into this guy, but after he looked at her test results he wanted to get her in quickly, hence the "emergency" appointment.

So even though no one has actually explained the test results to us yet, they are clearly significant. From what we were able to decipher online from our copy of the report, there is stuff wrong with her pituitary, her adrenals, and then of course the hypothyroidism. So two weeks and maybe she can start getting proper treatment for everything and maybe she can start functioning as a human being again.

Two weeks feels like a long time right now, but in medical time it is very fast. If I had gotten the message a little sooner we would have been able to get her in tomorrow, but between the time the front desk guy called and she called back it had been filled. Oh, well.

I have surgery on my toe tomorrow anyway. I am having the toenail root killed on the inside of my big toe because of all the reoccurring ingrown toenails I get. I've had one of the smaller ones done, and it destroys a small sliver of the nail bed so that the toenail just doesn't grow back along that part. It has worked wonders for the other toe. So I will likely be out of commission around here for a day or so and then be limping along for a few days before it is fine again. They do cut out the portion of the nail that has already grown, so that is why it'll mess me up for a bit.

Maybe tomorrow I'll give in and do take out. We have enough money right now to do so, I've just been holding on to it. If it is intentional spending I feel okay about it. It's the "I'm too tired or too lazy to cook," that is the problem. Not a planned for take out meal. We'll see how I feel once the lidocaine wears off.

Making a Price Book + Request for Lentils Recipes

May 26th, 2018 at 05:00 pm

One of the things Amy Dazcyzan recommends in the Tightwad Gazette books is to make a price book. I have never done this and I really never considered doing it before today, but it would have really come in handy these last two weeks when making up the grocery list, so today I sat down with as many receipts as I could still find and started making a spreadsheet with the prices of everything that would fall under either groceries or household expenses.

This way when I make up my grocery list I will know approximately how much everything costs so I can make sure I am coming in under budget, give or take a sale or two. I will also know which store has the better price on what, though I pretty much have that in my head already. It will also let me know if I need to bump a staples purchase to a different week or if I have enough in the household budget for whatever purchase I want to make that week.

I always thought it would be a tedious process, and it probably would be if I were doing it by hand, but typing it into a spreadsheet is easy enough. I put everything in alphabetical order, and then if I need to add anything new I can just insert a sheet row in the appropriate spot and still keep it in order. I do love modern technology.

I think it may be time for me to put the Tightwad Gazette books on hold again at the library. I am in a way different place than when I've read them each time before, much more heavily focused on the food budget and budgeting more tightly in general. I've learned something new with each read and I think that was because I was open to something different each time.

Oh, also, I am going to venture into cooking with lentils. I am looking for some good recipes that do not have beef, lamb, or pork in them. Most of them seem to be made with ham and she can't eat that much fat. Chicken or turkey or fish are okay and so is vegetarian. Lentils are a protein my daughter can eat (and likes) without fear of it upsetting her gall bladder, or in the aftermath of having it taken out. I just found out that Thrive Life has lentils, too, so I added a #10 can to my monthly order. If she likes those ones, then I'll get a bucket.

I Finally Opened the Door and In He Walks

May 15th, 2018 at 11:20 am

I don't usually buy books, but I made a book purchase on Saturday. Yes, my library does have this book, but I was 13th on the waiting list. High demand books mean that people can only keep them out 2 weeks instead of 3, but that was still looking at a possibility of 26 weeks before I could read it, assuming people turned it in on time. Most people don't.

So I handed over my cash, $27.51, to the young man at B&N, who tried to sell me a membership card, but no. I don't buy books often enough to earn back and then benefit from the savings. What book did I buy, you may be asking by now? Well, I finally gave in and decided to read Dave Ramsey. I bought The Total Money Makeover.

I have been avoiding Dave Ramsey for the last 12 years, to be honest. Yes, I did do a debt snowball, but I didn't know about it from reading him. I just figured doing it like that would make me feel like I was making progress faster. Yes, I did build and keep a $1000 emergency fund before doing it, but that was on advice from people here, not based on his method. Although it probably was, since a lot of you have read him. But I wasn't going to.

It wasn't that I thought he was bad or anything. I just didn't want to give up my paid off credit cards. Well, I did give up some of them, but we still have 5. We pay them off in full each month. But...oh, and here's the big but, I've been feeling for a while that we weren't using them responsibly enough, because they are just too easy to use.

But my chiropractor's office plays Dave Ramsey and I kept hearing him on my visits. And then he came up in my suggested videos on youtube. God has been putting things in my path right now that I have been struggling to deal with. Dave is just the last in a line.

First I was struggling with tithing while still in debt to my mother and my internet preacher answered a question on tithing. Then I was concerned that I lacked motivation, but in getting the spending back under control and in doing my five times a week Bible study. Then I was struggling with forgiveness for DH's sister and nieces over the stuff they pulled at Thanksgiving.

Forgiveness was in the next lesson and in such a way that it heals the person who forgives, not the one who holds on to the anger. Doesn't mean I'm willing to have holidays with them, but I might be able to at least see them now. So I asked for help about the budget and in walks Dave Ramsey, so to speak.

So I just finished reading the book last night. It took me 3 days. And I figured out how come I felt that way about credit cards. It's because we just buy what we need with no thought to it. And because I know we will pay it off each month in full, I haven't really been sticking to a budget when it comes to groceries and household expenses or clothing or eating out.

And with these bad habits getting out of hand, things felt tight every month and I didn't feel like I could possibly make payments on the loan to Mom, the only debt we have left. So I sat down and made up a better budget and if we actually stick to it, then yes, I can start paying Mom at least $500 a month.

DH's mother just gave us $1000. We had thought to put it in the Emergency Fund, but I think instead, we will use it to get current. The next two paydays will pay off what we have left on the credit cards before they are due and then we will go down to simply charging the auto pays, which total $407.50. It might be a little lower, but I am allowing $50 for Ting. We don't always go that high, some months we are lower, but we have never been above it, so that is what I put in the budget. But we won't use the credit card for anything else. Nothing but the auto pays. And we will use paypal from our bank account for online purchases, but not until we've had a moratorium on online purchases for six months or so.

I have also budgeted $1000 for groceries/household. I do think I can keep it lower than that, but I haven't been. Since I track my spending, more or less, I know I haven't. We are switching to cash for that. I will start with putting $250 in the groceries envelope. I figure $200 for groceries and $50 for household. Maybe I should break it down into two envelopes, except I usually buy household stuff when I go grocery shopping. We'll see. I know I need to get toilet paper, deodorant, and quart size Ziplocs, which will take up a good share of that $50.

I have transferred all the auto pays to one card, and as soon as the last little bit on the AMEX is paid off, I am going to cut it up and cancel it. I was just using it for Netflix and Hulu. I am also going to cancel my Best Buy card and no longer do any 18 or 12 month same as cash deals. I paid off the last one with part of our tax return. Instead I will be saving up money in a computer fund, though that won't start for a while.

I am not sure I am ready to cut the cord completely with credit cards, but I can't see having more than 3. One is the miles card, which DH will need if he starts working in Alaska again and has to fly all the time. He usually got 2 free flights a year, sometimes 3, so it definitely was worth it. Then there is the one my daughter is a signer on. Then there is the Costco Citi card, but I am not sure if that is going to be worth keeping yet. Without charging all of our groceries and gas, the amount of cash back will dramatically drop, and that was the only reason I got it in the first place.

My head knows that the best thing for us to do is to get rid of all but one card, but I am scared to do it. Mostly because the EF is not where I want it to be. I know you aren't supposed to use credit cards as a back up EF, but you know what 2016 and 2017 were like for us. If we had run out of money at least we would have had those cards to fall back on, which of course, is exactly that attitude I'm not supposed to have.

I knew Dave would let me have it over these ideas and I wasn't wrong. It sure has shown me what I need to work on and try to not rely so much on my security gland ruling what I do.

So next, I go back to an envelope, pay with cash system, except for those auto pays. I am looking into whether or not there are ways to pay them without paying by card. I think you can pay both Netflix and Hulu through paypal, but I'm not 100% sure. I think we can put storage on direct withdrawal, but I don't know about Ting. I haven't been able to find anything about Ting. But one of the reasons I really like doing auto pays on the credit card is so that I only have one due date to worry about, not an additional five. Right now I only have two to worry about and they come out on the same day.

So I will fund this coming payday's grocery/household envelope with $250.00 from the gift money, so all the money in the paycheck can go for the tithe and the Citi card.

I have already handed DH an envelope marked vending for the vending machines at work with $7 in ones that I had in my purse. He is to get $25 a month to use in the vending machines at work (he's been charging them). This gives him a little over $1 a day and the charge is 85 cents, so anything left at the end he can spend or set aside and save it for something he wants. Or he can save it all and quit using the vending machine altogether.

I will also have my own $25 envelope for something I want to do. I have no idea what I want to do with it, but sometimes just saving makes me happy.

I really would like to be able to squeeze out more than $500 a month to pay Mom. It might be $100, it might be $25, who knows? But whatever I can throw at it. She won't like getting weird amounts, but I don't care. It is not up to her how much I pay back at a time. It is up to DH and me.

As soon as we know what is going on in June with the job, I can decide what to do with the Emergency Fund. If I want to bump it down to $1000 and pay Mom with the rest or if we need to keep it there in case of possible job loss. It is scary to keep it at just $1000, but Dave says it keeps you more driven to pay off the debt so you can build the EF up to 3 to 6 months of expenses.

I get it. I get everything Dave says. I think I'm in the stage where I am not yet drinking the Kool-Aid, but I have read the ingredients and directions on the package and started preparing the beverage. He has his baby steps and I have mine. I do want to get there. And I want to get there fast, so time to put our heads down and start pushing that stone uphill.

Meal Planning for the Week

March 25th, 2018 at 06:26 pm

I have gotten away from meal planning lately and I do think it is a big factor on why we are getting too much take out, so I am going to get back to it. If I hadn't gotten my Power Pressure Cooker for my birthday I think we'd be getting even more take out. That thing makes it so easy to cook. I couldn't afford the Instant Pot that I wanted, but I could afford the 8 quart Power cooker that I got.

So far I've been quite happy with the decision and Instant Pot recipes are easily converted. I do want to get some of the inserts, though, so I'm saving up for those. I also do want to get the $400 Instant Pot one day, but that day is not going to be any time soon.

I think at least four meals a week are being cooked in the pressure cooker. Sometimes the full meal or sometimes I'll make baked potatoes or some other vegetable in the Nuwave oven. These two products alone have really simplified my life, not having an actual oven or stove to cook on. The electric skillet and the crock pot get some use as well, but the first two are my go to machines right now. Well, that and the microwave for steamer bags or canned veggies.

Discovering I can make spaghetti and other pastas in the pressure cooker has just simplified my life so much. Not to mention cooking a roast in less than an hour. Or a lava cake using Swerve instead of sugar. Anyway, I hope making a meal plan again will snap me out of some of the bad habits I have fallen back into.

Sunday:
Spaghetti and Meatballs (PC)
Salad

Monday:
Rabbit Stir-fry
Stir-fried Rice

Tuesday:
Enchiladas (Freezer Meal)
Cole Slaw

Wednesday:
Pork Roast (PC)
Fried Potatoes
Broccoli and Cauliflower

Thursday:
Chicken Fajitas (Crockpot Freezer Meal)

Friday:
Air-fried Duck Breast (NW)
Fried Potatoes
Broccoli/Cauliflower

Saturday:
BBQ Pork Chops (PC)
Baked Potatoes (NW)
Brussels Sprouts

Sunday:
Lamb Roast (PC)
Baked Potatoes (NW)
Green Beans

Frugal Breakfasts

March 20th, 2018 at 06:13 pm

Laura was asking about frugal meals. For breakfast we eat a lot of egg variations, because eggs are still the cheapest thing we can buy, really. Or get for free from our ducks.

Right now I'm on a baked omelet kick, where I just spray a mini-meatloaf tin and add two beaten eggs, 3 tbsp of vegetables, 1 to 3 tbsp of cheese and 2 tbsp of meat. I use up a lot of leftover veg this way. You can make them in large size muffin tins (not cupcake size) if you are making multiples.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes. It really depends on your oven for the time. In my Nuwave it takes 20 minutes and in my gas oven it takes 30 minutes. I imagine an electric oven is somewhere in between. Stick a toothpick in the center and check that it comes out clean and that is when it is done.

My favorite variations:

2 eggs, 3 tbsp pico de gallo, 2 tbsp sausage, 1 tbsp sharp cheddar, salt and pepper

2 eggs, 3 tbsp chopped broccoli and cauliflower, 2 tbsp diced ham, 1 tbsp sharp cheddar, salt, and pepper

2 eggs, 1 tbsp chopped tomato, 1 tbsp diced green bell pepper, 1 tbsp diced onion, 2 tbsp diced ham, 1 tsp Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper

2 eggs, 1 diced green onion, 2 tbsp leftover or canned salmon or tuna, 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper

2 eggs, 3 tbsp leftover taco meat, 2 tbsp Mexi-blend cheese

2 eggs, 2 tbsp ground beef seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper, 1 tbsp diced Anaheim chili pepper, 1 tbsp diced red bell pepper, 1 tbsp diced red onion, salt and pepper

To make this easier on me, I will dice up a bunch of ham or cook a pound of sausage or ground beef and then flash freeze them flat on a cookie sheet for a couple of hours so they don't stick together, before bagging them up and leaving them in the freezer. That way I can easily measure out as much as I need the night before and it will be thawed by morning. I also have my containers of chopped veggies done up, so I can just mix and match in the morning. I am watching my carbs, so this is basically what I always eat, sometimes with additional veggies. For the rest of the family I have other options.

Another cheap breakfast we do is breakfast burritos. It is rather simple to do up a huge batch. It requires 24 eggs and 2 pounds of sausage. Brown the sausage, beat the eggs (I use my stand mixer because this is a lot of eggs), and pour the eggs over the sausage. Stir until done. If you don't have a large enough skillet for this, cut the recipe in half and do two batches.

Take a tortilla, spoon some filling in, add the cheese of your choice and roll once, fold one end up, finish the roll, and then wrap in aluminum foil. Freeze in gallon size ziplocs. This recipe will fill 4 bags. We keep one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. When we run out we take another bag out the night before. My husband likes to dip his in picante sauce or salsa. I did this one for my youtube channel so if you'd like to watch it done here it is: [url]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl9orZD6JR4[/url]

Scrambled egg sandwiches are another. You simply scramble your egg, butter a slice of bread, spoon the egg into it and fold the bread in half. It is simple, but amazingly good (even on cheap, ordinary bread).

Pancakes and waffles are something that can be made ahead and frozen individually so they don't stick together and then bagged up for the freezer. They can be warmed up from frozen or you can just take them out the night before and then warm them up. You can use mix, but they are simple and cheaper to make from scratch. Add some hard-boiled eggs and you have your protein as well. French toast also lends itself to make ahead and freeze and is very simple to large batch cook.

Breakfast is probably the easiest meal to save money on if you don't mind some repetition. I think lunches and dinners are more of a challenge, but I will go through my recipe binder and see what I come up with. Since we buy so much in bulk off of farms and raise some of our food ourselves, it is harder for me to figure what other people's costs are. But I do have some that I think will fit the bill.

Stretching Food

January 6th, 2018 at 09:25 am

Alliecat's plan with the ham this week got me thinking on ways I stretch food as well. I do this a lot, it is pretty automatic these days. So I thought I'd list what we do to stretch meals.

Chicken:

I like to build dinners around a large, whole chicken, one that is five or six pounds. The first night I will roast the whole chicken and we eat the dark meat and wings for dinner with potatoes and green beans. The second night I will make enchiladas or quesadillas with some of the leftover white meat chicken and serve that with rice and salad. Then I will pick the bones clean and take a cup of diced chicken and make chicken-fried rice, and the fourth night I make broth with the bones all day, strain it, pick any remaining chicken off the bones, and then make chicken noodle soup or chicken and dumplings soup, adding in another cup of diced chicken that I'd saved from the carcass.

Beef:

Another good one is a large pot roast where you eat regular roast the first night (save your juice from cooking) with potatoes and carrots, French dip sandwiches the second night with the juice you saved for dipping mixed with a little bouillion), then shred up half the remainder and mix it with teriyaki sauce and honey and serve over rice and then dice the rest and make roast beef hash the fourth night. I generally make extra potatoes the first night to be used in hash, so I'm only cooking them once.

Pork:

With a pork roast you can eat a third of it the first night and pull the rest of it with some barbecue sauce to make pulled pork sandwiches and then bbq pork pizza, and pulled pork with cheese in tortillas wrapped like a burrito. You can even add a can of beans and a 4 oz can of diced green chile pepeprs to the last one to extend it further and change the flavor up some more if you like those things.

Ham:

With ham, of course we eat off it one day, make warm ham sandwiches the next day, dice up the leftovers and use them in omelets, on pizzas, and in stir-fried rice. Anything we can't use in the first few days we freeze in dices. I've even made up TV dinners with ham, mashed potatoes and ham gravy, and green beans and frozen them for those nights when I don't feel like cooking.

What are ways you all stretch food to cut your grocery expenses?

Eat From the Pantry Challenge

December 27th, 2017 at 06:54 pm

I am joining some other youtubers in an eat from the pantry challenge for the month of December. My goal is to not go into the grocery store for the month of January except to buy dairy, greens, and bread. I think it is something we can accomplish quite easily based on our pantry and freezer stock. But just because we can doesn't mean it is something I want to do sometimes. However, we need to be saving up money for daughter's sinus surgery and taking a huge chunk out of the grocery budget to deposit into saving for that would be very helpful right now.

Of course this does not include the lamb we are getting at the end of January and which is mostly paid for anyway with the deposit we already put down. But that is December spending, not January spending.

I'd like to stay out of the stores as much as possible, but I know I will have to purchase prescriptions. I'll try to do that through drive-thru only. Though I may have to order some vitamins online. Still, if I can keep it to that I will be very happy. We have plenty of toiletries so I think it will go quite well.

I'll be detailing the challenge here on the blog as well as doing at least a weekly video for it on my channel. If anyone wants to join in with me for the month or even for a week or two, you are more than welcome to do so.