Thursday, September 22, 2011

$50/week groceries - lessons learned

It's been about 6 weeks since I started REALLY  keeping myself to a budget of $50/week.  It's been super helpful for me to post this journey as built-in accountability and to be able to visually see what I'm learning!  I wanted to share 5 lessons I've learned that can help with any budget!

1)  Shop at home FIRST!  Every Monday while Kinley's down for her nap, I spend a good amount of time going through my freezer, fridge, and pantry to see what I've got on hand.  From there, I build my plan for meals for the week and ONLY buy what I need when I go to the store.  NO SPLURGING!

Now if my fridge actually looked like this, it would be a 'nuther ballgame, but one can dream...

2)  Freeze leftover ingredients: I should have been doing this long before now, because I've found that I can save a LOT just by keeping my leftover ingredients.  I've frozen leftover shredded cheese, tortillas, bread, celery, meat, bell peppers, strawberries, and of course, entire meals!  This week alone, I made beef enchiladas & the corn/black bean salsa using these recipes I posted a few weeks ago and all I had to buy at the store was a $0.99 can of enchilada sauce!  I found a GREAT blog post about what all things can be frozen...check it out here!

3)  Learn your go-to ingredients:  For me, I've realized that I'm buying Cheerios, salsa and coffee just about every week.  So now I'm on the hunt to find how I can buy these items for a cheaper per-unit price.  Keeping spreadsheets or lists of the per-unit price will also help in finding the best per-unit price!

4)  Buy what's in season:  This helps specifically with produce.  You'll save a TON by just avoiding the produce traps!  Strawberries in January, butternut Squash in July...DON'T buy out of season, you'll pay an arm and a leg for it!...(and just because something says SALE!  Or LOW PRICE doesn't mean it's actually so!).  Want to know what's in season, check out this interactive chart

5)  Coupon-&-Ad Shop Wisely:  I know couponing works miracles for some people, but I haven't found it to be so for me.  Maybe because I buy off-brands that are cheaper than the "name brand + coupon" price.  What I have found that works great it to take the weekly circulars from the stores near me and compare what their advertized prices are.

A couple more tips here:
  • Shop Wednesdays!  Wednesday are a great day to shop using ads since most stores re-do their ads on that day and will honor last week and this week's ads! 
  • Shop Walmart!  Walmart honors other store's coupons and advertized prices.  So sometimes I'll find all the best deals and then go to Walmart to get them all in one place.  My store recently updated their grocery section and the produce is actually pretty good! 
  • Don't buy just because it's cheap!  Confession...I've fallen into this trap several times in the last 6 weeks.  My "cheap but worthless" purchases included celery (I actually HATE celery!) & grape tomatoes (LOVE but didn't use enough to make it worth the purchase).  You have to know yourself - if you can make the purchase useful, get it; otherwise don't be enticed by the price!

With all that said, I'm going to take a hiatus from posting my weekly meal plans/ grocery bills.  I recognize I can't keep up with the pace I set for myself and Satan would LOVE for me to feel guilty over something that doesn't really matter!  God doesn't desire for me to place all these extra agendas on myself ESPECIALLY when they take away from my time with Him.  My aspire to first be a healthy child of God (which requires time and stillness), a good mom (time and attention to my baby), and a good wife (time and attention to the hubs!).

I do believe learning to be a wise steward of our finances in the area of grocery shopping has been a gift from God and a journey He's wanted me to be one!  But I also recognize in myself the desire to have  people's approval, and that bleeds into my desires for this little blog.  I find myself too concerned if I have a comment, and really caring how many hits there are on my blog.  yuck...I hate having to admit that!

Oh I long for the day when I get to be in heaven and truly have PURE motives in all things!  Anyone with me?!

I'll keep posting cheap recipes and great deals I find, but I want to keep a balance that's healthy! 

Chicken And Dumplings

My sweet friend Emily sent me this GREAT recipe last week!  I made it the next day and we LOVED LOVE LOVED it!

Made about 5 servings too so we had great leftovers for just the right amount of time!

Chicken and Dumplings

I'll let you go grab the recipe HERE.  Go get it, you won't be sad you did!  At Emily's recommendation, I adjusted the seasoning to 1/2 teaspoon instead of 1/4 teaspoon and I'm glad I did.

It was SUPER tasty.

Enjoy this meal!

As a sidenote, I've started "pinning" all my cheap and easy recipes on PINTEREST.  Anyone else obsessed with Pinterest?  Dangerous time suck, but also great place to get fun ideas!

Friday, September 16, 2011

10 Months Old!

Ok seriously, this last month flew by...and I'm starting to realize Kinley is going to be a year old so soon!  Here are a few updates from the last month:

  • Loves attention: I think Kinley is starting to figure out that if she does certain things - people will respond.  Last Sunday after church she started making this face and going to anyone (and I mean ANYONE) that was nearby!

  • 1 More tooth!: Kinley has 6 teeth now. And she LOVES to show them off =).  Kinley has the biggest grin and shows all her teeth when she smiles!
  • Understands "eat":  I've been doing a little bit of sign language with Kinley and I think she's starting to understand some things...most of the time she just stares at me with a peculiar look, but the second I ask her if she wants to eat, her eyes light up!  A girl after my heart!!
  • Standing up:  Several times now I've caught Kinley standing up without any support.  I'm SOO curious if she'll be an early walker!  This isn't the best picture, but you can see what I mean:
  • "No":  Kinley not only understands when we say no (and for the most part obeys right now!) but she's figured out how to communicate no by shaking her head from side-to-side.  She does this a lot when she doesn't want any more vegetables and when she sees we're trying to take her to bed.
  • Kisses: My baby girls LOVES to give kisses!  Mostly to all her stuffed animals, but she'll give us kisses too.  The funny part is that she's very picky about when she WANTS to give you a kiss...if she's not in the mood, she'll wrinkle up her nose and shake her head "no" with a big silly grin on her face.
  • Memory: I'm starting to see Kinley remember things!  For example, one day I had a headband on and Kinley thought it was so much fun to play with.  All day, she kept looking on top of my head for the headband.  The next morning when she woke up, she grabbed my face and pulled my head down to look for the headband again!  Even 2 mornings later, she was still looking for the headband.  So funny =)
Here are some pics!

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Teryaki Chicken Salad

    This is a GREAT summer recipe - lots of fresh ingredients, light, but still very filling!

    Teryaki Chicken Salad

    Doesn't that just look yummy?!  It IS yummy!!  Now I do have to say, it's not exactly cheap considering that it's 100% fresh ingredients plus a marinated package of chicken.  

    (But did I mention it's yummy yet?!)

    It IS, however, relatively cheap if you find the ingredients on sale like I did this week! =)

    Here are the ingredients:
    • Romaine Lettuce (or really whatever type of lettuce you like, I've used mixed greens before too)
    • Teryaki marinated chicken (so sorry if this is an HEB only product...maybe you could marinate your own chicken in a teryaki sauce?  haven't tried this)
    • Cucumber - diced
    • 1 cup corn
    • 1 cup black beans
    • 1/2 avocado
    • Handful of grape tomatoes (you can substitute another type of tomato for this, just dice it up)
    • Honey mustard dressing
    The prep is pretty simple, just takes a bit of time.  Basically, you chop everything up, cook the chicken and assemble!  

    First rinse and cut the lettuce.  P.S.  I found a great deal for $0.88 for the bundle!  I did the price matching deal at Walmart.  I was a little skeptical if the produce would be gross at Walmart, but it was just great!

    Then cut up the cucumber (I like cutting slices and then in 4ths)...

    Next comes the corn...

    And the tomatoes...when I saw that Sprouts had a pint of these guys on sale for $0.99 that's actually when I decided to make this meal.  Seriously $0.99 for an entire pint!

    Dump in the black beans (rinsed) along with everything else

    Finally cook the chicken breasts,  It's honestly so much better to cook it outside on the grill.  But where I live, it hasn't rained in what seems like YEARS!  So everyone is advised not to use outdoor grills - even gas-powered.  So being a responsible citizen, I cooked my chicken on a skillet.  

    Once the chicken breasts are fully cooked, cut them in strips like this.

    While they are still warm, add them to the salad.  I usually wait till this point to add in the avocado as well so it's fresh.

    Serve it up and drizzle the honey mustard on top.  The combination of teryaki flavor + honey mustard is simple amazing.  You really have to try it!


    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Salmon Patties

    This is a recipe from my MIL's kitchen!

    Salmon Patties

     I like this recipe because it's one of those you can stock and make whenever, since it's made using 2 ingredients and canned salmon (which lasts forever in the pantry!)

    The ingredients:

    2 6-oz cans of salmon
    1 egg (not sure why I got out 2 for the picture?!)
    10 saltine crackers

    That's literally it =)
    You can also add in some onion and bell pepper if you like.  I had frozen some from last week so I put about 2 tablespoons of chopped green bell pepper in there!

    I'm a little picky when it comes to the canned salmon.  You can buy it SUPER cheap in a big tall can but it has the bones and skin included.  It. grosses. me. out.  So I spend an extra few cents and get the boneless skinless kind.

    Here's what you do.  First drain the juice from the cans and dump them in a bowl
    And the crackers - make sure to crumble them all up...

    Then add your egg...

    If you're adding green bell pepper, throw that in now too.

    Then make patties, just like you would for hamburgers.  If you feel like the consistency is a little too watery, just add more crackers.  You don't want too much crackers or your patties will be very dry!  Here's what mine look like:

    I make 5 patties from this amount...which is perfect for Trent and myself.  2 for me and 3 for him!

    Cook them till they are nice and golden brown with a little oil on a skillet.  They take about 10 minutes (5 minutes on each side). 

    And here's the final product!


    Tuesday, September 13, 2011


    This is a meal I grew up on and love!  It's pretty much your basic Italian meal...noodles, sauce, meat and cheese.  I love it because it's simple and easy to prepare and the leftovers taste even better than the original thing!

    So I have to admit, I actually never liked it growing up because my mom always used Swiss cheese on top and I'm just not a fan of Swiss cheese!  (Sorry mom!)  Well I tried making it once with mozzarella and I was in love!

    And here's how it is done =)

    The ingredients:

    1 bag of egg noodles (cooked and strained)
    1-2 lb of ground beef (or ground turkey if you like)
    1/2 onion if you like
    1 can (26 oz or more) of spaghetti sauce
    2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or swiss if you're a fan)
    A little sugar (yes sugar)
    and a little water

    First prep the ingredients by cooking your noodles and ground beef.  I cook the onions in with the ground beef.

    Once the meat and onions are fully cooked, be sure to drain off all of the fat

    Then you just layer the ingredients:  noodles...

    then ground beef/onions...

    then sauce...

    then add in a little bit of water...

    and a teaspoon or so of sugar...weird I know...

    and finally cover with cheese.

    Into the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and that's it!  This is what it looks like before going in to the oven:

    I actually decided to divide my batch in half.  We can never finish a whole pan of this stuff before we're sick of it (because it makes a TON of yummy leftovers), so by splitting the batch, we had another meal pre-made in the freezer!

    Here's my second dish.

    If you decide to pre-make and freeze, just add about 15-20 minutes to the cook time and you're set!

    And here's our meal once again!


    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Catching UP!

    It's been a little busy around here and as I get more and more behind on sharing the meals I've been making it's feeling more and more daunting, which has just led me to put it off more and more!

    (anyone know the feeling?!)

    Here's where we're at with the last week-and-a-half:

    I ended the week of 8/29 at $46.60 - WOHOO!  Here's the full breakdown:  Grocery List 8/29/11 

    I didn't do so hot last total was $57.97

    This included a few splurges - mainly my very favorite ice cream to make my very favorite dessert...Strawberry Shortcake with Blue Bell Ice cream.  I'm of the opinion that 99% of the time it's just not worth eating ice cream if it isn't Blue Bell.  So when I saw it was on sale, I had to buy it =). 

    I'd heard that Walmart is super great about honoring other people's coupons so I took full advantage of this and got the Bluebell Icecream for $3.99 instead of $5.50 (because it was on sale at New Flower Market) and also got a head of Romaine lettuce for $0.88 instead of $1.68!  (also on sale at the same store!).  I was surprised that the produce wasn't too bad at Walmart!

    I'm not going to bother with laying out the whole grocery bill and meal plan for last week, because they were somewhat random, but I'll post some of the recipes I did cook for you over the next few days!

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    I don't want to forget these moments

    "The days are long but the years are short"

    I'd be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time I've heard this over the past 9 1/2 months....but I'm starting to realize how true it is!!!  My sweet Kinley is just growing and changing every day!

    Kinley, I love you sweet baby girl!

    I love the nicknames we've given girl, sweet little monkey, Kinley bear, pumpkin britches (and variations of all of these!)

    I love that you LOVE cuddling!

    And get soo excited when it's time to wake up from your naps.  You always greet us with excitement and a smile.  You, my dear, get excited a lot!

    I love that you're hair is FINALLY getting long enough for pigtails...well sort of

    I love that you always want to be with us, and follow me into the kitchen whenever I leave your side.

    I love that you squeeze my arms when I hold you, even though sometimes it's really more of a pinch and it hurts!

    I love your babbling - you seriously are SUCH a girl with your high-pitched "dadadadada's".  You sound almost like you're singing sometimes!
    I love watching you explore - you're always looking for the next thing to discover

    I love that sometimes you'll only fall asleep if I'm rocking you and you've got a firm grasp on both of my arms.

    I love watching you learn to clap.

    And I LOVE the excitement on your face with you see your daddy walk through the door at the end of the day!  There is a special light in your eyes when you see him...he is a very special man!

    I love that your favorite toys aren't toys at all...the teething gel bottle, empty boxes, kitchen utensils, the remote, coasters and shoes, you'll pick any one of these things over a bright shiny baby toy!

    I love wrestling with you on the bed

    ...And finding your tickle spots

    Have I mentioned that I love snuggling with you?!

    I love bath time...special time for you and daddy.

    I love praying for you - and can't wait to teach you how.

    Girl, you have captured my heart