Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chocolate Crinkle Cookie Recipe

As I mentioned in my previous post, I used some of the breathing room in our grocery budget to pick up some baking supplies. Since some friends of our invited us over for dinner on Wednesday night, I offered to bring dessert. I had found a recipe that I desperately wanted to try because it looked absolutely delicious. Unfortunately I don't remember where I saw it...someone tweeted about recipes (from Italy?) with a link, I clicked the link and found this recipe. So kudos to the original poster...I'd give due credit if I remembered who you were!

1 cup Almonds
2 whole Large Eggs
⅓ cups Granulated Sugar
2 cups Chopped Bittersweet Chocolate
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
½ cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ cup Powdered Sugar For Coating
½ cup Granulated Sugar For Coating

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Toast the almonds in the oven until light golden brown. Once cool, grind finely and set aside. (I don't have a grinder, so I just smashed them up as finely as I could.)
- Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat, stirring frequently. Once completely melted, remove from the heat.
- In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and sugar. Beat on medium speed about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is pale and frothy. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the eggs mixing well to blend. Add the flour, baking powder and almonds to the chocolate and eggs and mix just until a smooth dough is created. Refrigerate the dough for two hours.
- Reheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and take small pieces about the size of large olives and roll into a ball. Roll each ball first into the granulated sugar, then into the powdered sugar and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Continue to use up all of the dough in the same manner. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes or until they expand and begin to crack. Cool to room temperature and serve.

Mine didn't look nearly as pretty as the picture, but they were scrumptious! :)

Weekly Savings #8

Since I've been so good at stocking up the freezer and pantry lately, this week's grocery list was pretty minimal. And since the drugstore deals weren't phenomenal, I opted to just hit HEB. I hadn't bought baking supplies in a while though, so I used the extra money on that, plus a Brita filter (ours was at least 5 months old).

My total savings at HEB is never very high because they don't have coupon match-ups (most of their in-store yellow coupons are just a scam to get you to pay more, except the meal deals and combo locos) and many of the items I purchase there are store-brand goods (bread, paper plates) or non-coupon items (potatoes, fresh produce, meat). However, this week I had my highest savings to date there so that was pretty exciting. :) Here's a breakdown of the deals I got (not including regularly priced, non-coupon items):
- 2.07 lbs. red seedless grapes: $2.01 (on sale for $0.97/lb.)
- 2.91 lbs. Dole bananas: $1.34 (on sale for $0.46/lb.)
- Borden whole milk: $2.68 (after $1/1 mf coupon)
- 5 lbs. russet potatoes: $1.99 (sale)
- two 4.75 oz. Glade soy candles: $0.99 each (after two $2/1 mf coupons)
- 6 Beachnut Homestyle Stage 3 fruit baby food jars: FREE (after 6 Get-1-Free mf coupons)
- 2 French's mustard: $0.77 each (after two $0.50/1 mf coupons)
- beef shoulder roast: $6.53 (on sale for $1.99/lb.)
- Brita replacement filter: $5.98 (after $2/1 HEB mf coupon)
- Best Mail dill relish: $0.44 (after $0.55/1 mf coupon)
- Jif peanut butter & Smuckers jam: $3.35 and $2.09 (after $1/PB&J mf coupon)
- Meow Mix cat food: $2.99 (after $1/1 mf coupon)

Total OOP: $54.75
Total savings: $24.86

Once I found out about the great baby coupons Target has HERE, I also made a special trip there to stock up on some diapers and such. As I checked out, I was excited to notice the sign that said they are now price-matching other stores' ads! That should make for some really good deals after coupons pretty soon (even if it does mean more prep work for me). Anyway, here's the breakdown of what I got:
- Jumbo pack of Target UP diapers: $6.34 (these weren't on sale, but I've never tried them and have heard great things about them...we'll see if they can beat the pee-machine that is Shiphrah at night)
- Jumbo pack of Huggies: $6.74 (after $1.50/1 store coupon & $1.50/1 mf coupon)
- Jumbo pack of Pampers & small pack of Pampers wipes: $6.49 and $0.72 (after $2/1 mf coupon & $2.50/diapers & wipes store coupon)
- Jumbo pack of Luvs: $6.49 (after $1/1 store coupon)
- Purina One cat food: $2.99 (after $2/1 store coupon & $1/1 mf coupon)
- 2 10-packs of BIC pens: FREE (after $1/2 store coupon & $1/2 mf coupon)
- Huggies wipes refill: $3.99 (after $1.50/1 store coupon & $0.50/1 mf coupon)

Total OOP: $36
Total savings: $16.50

Total Weekly Grocery Spending: $54.75
($5.25 under budget)
(Disclaimer: diapers are not included in weekly grocery budget.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

10 Things I'm Thankful For

Recently it was brought to my attention that I complain too much. Actually, I already knew that, but it's always nice and convicting to hear someone else say it...even if it is my darling husband. So, in an effort to find joy in the circumstances (which really aren't that bad, being tired just makes them seem bad), here are a few things I'm thankful for:

  1. A healthy family. Seriously, other than a few colds here and there we've had nothing to complain about health-wise.
  2. Two beautiful children. I mean, come on, they're freakin' adorable!
  3. A husband who adores me. He always makes me feel loved and desired. I still get butterflies even though we've been married for 2 1/2 years and together for 4 1/2.
  4. A home of my own. No more apartments, great location, an affordable mortgage, and friendly neighbors.
  5. A cute little house that's easy to clean. Not at all meant to be a thinly veiled is SO easy to clean a house that's only 986 square feet! I can do a decent clean of the entire house in an hour or two!
  6. A steady income. God has always blessed us with enough to live on (and now we have some cushion!) and I've never once had to consider going to work.
  7. A secure job for my husband. Unless something drastic happens, Avery is pretty much guaranteed this job for life.
  8. The great state of Texas and the city of San Antonio. What are we, like the third most economic-resiliant city in the country? And come on, Texas is just stinkin' awesome. :)
  9. Amazing friends and family. Seriously, you guys ROCK. And most important...
  10. A God who loves me and will never turn His back on me!!!

I could go on and on, but my tired brain is a bit fuzzy right now and I'm having a hard time forming sentences. So I'm off to finish cleaning the bathroom (I think it's only been cleaned four times since we moved in over a year ago...yikes!) and making the rest of the delicious cookies from Wednesday (recipe and pictures coming soon!).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Menu Planning & More...

Currently I'm ignoring Shiphrah while she pulls clean laundry out of the basket and attempts to either wear it or mop the floor with it. The dirty floor, I might add. I'm ignoring her because it's easier than telling her no. :) She's tired and ready for her nap but Kirk is asleep in her room and I just know as soon as I put her in her crib she'll yell "KIRK, KIRK!" until he wakes up.

I had an epiphany last night as I was trying to get Kirk to fall back asleep after his bazillionth feeding: he stopped sleeping well around the same time I pulled the pillow out of his bassinet and made him sleep on the uber-thin mattress. I don't know why it took me so long to see the correlation, especially since he naps so much better when he's in his crib in the nursery, but for right now the pillow is going back in the bassinet to see if it will make a difference. (Most nights he's been waking up every 2 to 3 hours, nursing for 5 minutes and falling back asleep.)

And without further ado (in no particular order):

- homemade biscuits with jelly
- eggs & bacon
- French toast
- waffles
- egg sandwiches

- hamburgers & ranch style beans
- Mac 'n' Cheese with sausage
- chicken salad sandwiches
- hot dogs & chips
- leftovers
- meatball subs

- smothered burritos & rice

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Impromptu Photo Shoot

I pulled out my camera a few minutes ago to snap some pictures of the kids playing and Shiphrah decided she wanted to pose for pictures with Kirk. My camera is on it's last leg so the lighting is off and the red eye is horrible, but I think I got some cute ones.

Kirk's not quite sure how he feels about this...

My camera could never catch both of them looking at the same time.
Then Shiphrah decided she wanted to roll around next to Kirk.
Time for a Mommy-daughter shot.
One more try...
Here Shiphrah was entertaining Kirk by dancing in front of him.
And then I attempted a picture of all three of us.
Shiphrah started dancing again.
"Mom, no more pictures, PLEASE!"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Weekly Savings - 8/16 thru 8/22

Four stores this week: CVS and Walgreens on Tuesday and HEB and Wal-Mart on Thursday.

CVS deals were a bit slim this week, but they were running an excellent Pepsi deal (an essential for a sleep-deprived mama) through Tuesday (buy 4/$12 get $4 ECBs, like paying $8 for 4 12-packs). I also had $4 ECBs from my purchases last week so I used those to purchase the sodas. After my purchase, two coupons printed with my receipt, a $2/1 Huggies wipes coupon and a $1/1 shaving cream coupon. I got a 64-count tub of wipes and Barbasol shaving cream (the cheapest they had there), used the coupons that had just printed plus a $0.75/1 Huggies wipes manufacturer's coupon.
Total OOP: $10.32
Total savings: $14.56
ECBs received: $4
[YTD CVS Savings: $234.16]

At Walgreens, on the other hand, the deals were a-hoppin'. :) I started with $4 in Register Rewards from last week's interesting trip. This week I went to a different store and it was so much easier. Here's the breakdown of what I got:

- 2 Super Stack cans of Pringles = $2 ($1/2 manufacturer's coupon + 2/$3 in-ad coupon)
- 4 Velveeta Shells & Cheese cups = FREE (after $1 RR, $1/4 store coupon, + 2 B1G1 coupons)
- Softsoap bodywash = FREE ($3.99 with $4 RR after purchase)
- Tub of Huggies wipes = 79 cents ($2/1 store coupon + $0.50/1 manufacturer's coupon)
- 2 Twix bars and 1 Snickers = 47 cents (49 cents ea. in-ad coupon + $1/2 manufacturer's coupon)
Total OOP: $3.77
Total savings: $14.59
RR received: $5

Shiphrah accompanied me to the stores on Tuesday and Kirk came with me on Thursday. This would have been fine except he was asleep when we got to HEB, so I put his carrier in his stroller and then tried to fit all the groceries in the basket under the stroller and in the reusable bag I brought. My arm was killing me by the time we were done. :) Once again, I didn't take a picture of everything I bought...mainly because it was so hot that I needed to get the cold stuff put away right away, but I did take a picture of all of the items I either had coupons for or got for free with a meal-deal (minus the ice cream, which was melting, and the ranch style beans). Here's the breakdown:

- Mott's applesauce = 79 cents (after $1/1 manufacturer's coupon)
- Velveeta Shells & Cheese = $1.02 each (after $1/2 manufacturer's coupon)
- Blue Bell cookies 'n' cream 1/2 gallon = $3.50 (after $5 sale + $1.50/1 manufacter's coupon)
- Kraft shredded cheese = FREE (after purchase of 2 packages of Oscar Meyer hot dogs)
- Knorr pasta side & Ranch Style beans = FREE (after purchase of Eckrich sausage)

I also picked up yogurt, eggs, bread, honey, salad fixings, bananas, lighter fluid, oregano, brown sugar, hot dogs, sausage, tortillas, italian salad dressing, coffee, and a few other random items.
Total OOP: $50.88
Total savings: $14.36

I also made a quick run to Wal-Mart because I noticed they had their Huggies Pure & Natural diapers for $9.72 (most places have them priced at least $3 or $4 above regular Huggies diapers). So I bought three Jumbo packs and used three $3/1 manufacturer's coupons to make them $6.72 a piece. I also found four jars of Beachnut Homestyle fruit and used four '1 free jar' coupons (most places are sold out of these because of the far Wal-Mart is the only place I've been able to find them).
Total OOP: $21.80
Total savings: $12.25

Total Weekly Grocery Spending = $64.97
(And no, my numbers don't match up because diapers are in a different budget category. :) But other than that, all paper products and most personal care items are included in "grocery spending.")

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Lovely Shower

My middle sister's wedding shower was this past weekend and I was the hostess. I had plans to go all out with cute decorations (the theme was "1950's housewife") and a fun game, but with the two munchkins time got away from me and I ended up procrastinating on most of it until the night before. So opted for a few small decorations (copies of old bridal magazine covers), simple refreshments, and only the costume contest for a game. I stayed up really late the night before finishing the prize for the costume contest - a pink and black dotted apron. It turned out really cute, if I do say so myself. :) I also got up early the next morning to put out the refreshments and finish straightening up the house. Thankfully the kids (and Avery) slept in a bit so I had an hour or so to myself. My sister-in-law came over around 8:30 to fix mine and my sisters' hair to go with our costumes and then my sisters and mom showed up around 9. The rest of the guests came at 10 and it turned out to be a wonderful time! Considering my procrastination and overall tiredness I was very pleased with how it went.

Here's the refreshment table and my few decorations (my mom brought the flowers):

I was also thrilled to have nearly everyone dress up for the costume contest! I was so worried that it would just be me, my SIL, and my sisters dressing up. Everyone looked fantastic!

The beautiful bride.

My mom with Kirk.

The three sisters (I was the glamorous housewife-hostess).

The winner of the costume contest wearing her prize...literally everything she had on was vintage, down to her pantyhose and garters!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dinner on a Budget: Beef Stroganoff

One way to save money on meals is to utilize leftovers. Leftovers can be frozen and served weeks later, taken to work for lunch the next day, or used to create a new meal that will fool your family into thinking they aren't eating leftovers at all!

Grilling steaks one night? Don't just throw those leftovers in the fridge to be forgotten or begrudgingly eaten a few days later (everyone knows that steak reheated isn't very tasty at all), turn them into a delicious meal that the whole family will love.

I am a huge fan of Beef Stroganoff. However, for months I was unable to find a recipe that I loved. They were all either too bland or too complicated. Finally, I stumbled across one at that was provided by Campbell's Kitchen. It was perfect! Just the right flavor and it complemented the leftover grilled top sirloin perfectly. I've altered the recipe a bit to make it work with pre-cooked steak, but for the most part it was just right:

1 lb cooked boneless beef steak (whatever leftovers you have)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (you can substitute onion flakes)
1 (10.75 oz) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup sour cream
seasonings as needed
4 cups cooked egg noodles
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Slice beef into thin strips; set aside.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until tender.
Add soup, paprika, and seasonings as needed. Heat to a boil. Stir in sour cream and beef strips. Heat through. Serve over noodles. Sprinkle with parsley (optional).

Originally posted at

Menu Planning - Week of Aug 17th

I didn't do so well on my meal schedule last week, although much of that was through no fault of my own. Both of Avery's nights off we were invited over for dinner by friends and family and then a couple of other things happened that prevented me from cooking several of the meals I had planned (like forgetting to buy tomato puree at the grocery store, ergo no homemade pizza).

So here's this week's tentative menu plan:

Eggs & toast (M)
Cereal with milk (T)
Pancakes with syrup (W)
Homemade biscuits with jelly (TH)
Egg sandwiches (F)
Cereal with milk (S)
Leftover pancakes or biscuits (SU)

Chicken salad sandwiches & chicken flavored ramen (M)
Kym's Parmesan chicken strips with broccoli (T)
Grilled ham & cheese sandwiches (W)
Tuna salad sandwiches & beef flavored ramen (TH)
Beef stroganoff with leftover grilled steak & dinner rolls (F)
Hamburgers & French fries (SA)
Lunch out after church (SU)

Dinner at the Martin's? (W)
Grilled steak with mushrooms, dinner rolls, baked potatoes, & peas (TH)

(The rest of the dinners are when Avery is at work so they usually consist of hot dogs, sandwiches, or burritos for Shiphrah and I.)

And with that, I'm going to see if I can't take a short nap. Believe it or not, I went to bed at 8:30 last night and slept until 8:30 this morning. So I'm not sure why I'm so tired now, except that Kirk did wake up every 2 hours (after his one 4-hour stretch) last night.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Weekly Savings - 8/8 thru 8/15

While there weren't any especially amazing deals this week, I did find a few good buys. Of course, they were all at different stores so I actually went to five different stores this week. I don't usually do that, but Avery was gracious and the stores are all within a 5-minute drive so it's not too much extra gas (that's one of the great things about living in a big city).

I always do the bulk of my grocery shopping at the H.E.B. a few minutes from my house. Their deals run Wednesday-Tuesday though so I usually wait until mid-way through the week to do any shopping. With Avery's days off being Wed/Thurs this works out quite well for me...I usually go during the kids' nap time or take one kid with me and Avery watches the other. (I can take both babies with me, but it's exhausting and takes twice as long...especially when I'm trying to sort through coupons.) Anyway, since I had stocked up on meat last week, my HEB run was mostly made up of coffee, fruit, toilet paper, orange juice, and a few other essentials. My total was $30.73 and I saved $5.86 with coupons/sales. (Sorry, no picture.)

I actually took Kirk with me on that run (wore him in my Mei Tai) but brought him home before heading to Wal-Mart because he was getting too hot (that boy sweats like a little pig and hates being hot). I went to Wal-Mart for just two items: charcoal (we were out and I had a coupon) and Flintstones gummy vitamins (on sale for $5). The charcoal was $7.50 and I had a $4/1 coupon and I had three $1/1 coupons for the vitamins.

Total before coupons/sales: $22.50
Total OOP: $15.60
Total saved: $6.90

Those two trips were on Wednesday. Thursday we packed up the kids and headed out for shopping and lunch as a family. We went to Lowe's first where Avery picked up some sandpaper inserts for his sander (boat project) and then to Target. At Target I got a Jumbo pack of Pampers Sensitive diapers for $6.89 with a $2/1 Target coupon and a $1/1 manufacturer's coupon (it was supposed to be $2/1, but apparently it was coded wrong because it only rang up $1 off), ten boxes of PopTarts for $1.02 each with five $1/2 coupons (and I have submitted my receipt for the $10 Kellogg's Fuel for School rebate), two bottles of Coffeemate creamer for $2.29 each with two $0.50/1 coupons, and two bags of Kraft shredded cheddar cheese for 89 cents each with a Target $1/2 coupon and manufacturer's $1/2 coupon. We also picked up a loaf of bread, a bottle of 7-UP (for the punch for my sister's wedding shower), and a 12-pack of razor refills (I'm not including those though because my husband is picky and buys very expensive products...separate budget category anyway).

Total before coupons/sales: $43.33
Total OOP: $23.24
Total saved: $20.09

After lunch at Chili's, the kids went down for their naps and I headed out to CVS and Walgreens. I had a $5/$25 coupon for CVS that I wanted to use but other than their Huggies ECBs deal (buy 2 packs at 2/$18 get $4 ECBs), I wasn't sure what else I was going to buy to meet the $25 mark. No fear, CVS to the rescue again! I think Bounty is doing away with their Basic 8-packs of paper towels because everyone has them on sale this week. CVS blew away the competition though by pricing them at $1.99 each!!! (That's 25 cents a roll, y'all!) So I picked up four and that easily pushed me past the $25 for the coupon. I used two $1.50/1 Huggies coupons, $1 ECB, and the $5/$25 CVS coupon.

Total before coupons/sales: $57.32
Total OOP: $18.34
Total savings: $38.98
(ECBs received: $4)
[YTD CVS Savings: $195.18]

Finally, I headed over to Walgreens. I could have done without this trip, but we have a brand new store that opened a few minutes away and they mailed us a $3/$10 coupon that I wanted to use. Plus I had heard of a pretty great Huggies wipes deal that I wanted to try. This was my first couponing experience with Walgreens and I was a bit skeptical because I have heard of so many bad experiences with cashiers and such. Well, those fears were well-founded. Although I did score some pretty great deals, I had to convince the cashier to push through several coupons. She couldn't understand the whole free-after-coupon concept and the need to override the price UP so that the coupon would match (another cashier ended up doing it for me) and she was downright grumpy about the whole thing. They were also out of stock of a lot of the items I was looking for, and I hear this is pretty typical of Walgreens in general. (They were stocking when I got there though so at least now I know their stocking day is Thursday.) Anyway, the Campbell's soups were 29 cents each after a 1 @ 79 cents Walgreens coupon and $1/2 manufacturer's coupon, I bought 2 boxes of Bandaids at $1.99 each after a $1/1 manufacturer's coupon ($4 Register Rewards with purchase), one bottle of Women's One A Day for $3.49 and Flintstones vitamins for $2.89 after two $2/1 Walgreens coupons and a $3/2 manufacturer's coupon, and one package of Sharpie Accent highlighters for free after $1/1 manufacturer's coupon. They were all out of the 64-count of Huggies wipes, but I went ahead and got a refill pack because it was still a decent deal. (I say that, but now that I'm looking at the receipt, I think they left off the $2/1 Walgreens coupon, so nevermind, the wipes were $6.24 after a $0.75/1 manufacturer's coupon.)
Total before coupons/sales: $27.61
Total OOP: $15.44
Total saved: $12.17
(Register Rewards received: $4)

Taking out the non-grocery items like the vitamins and diaper products, that brings my total grocery spending for the week to $58.95, just under our $60 weekly budget amount.

And with that, both babies are being very fussy tonight so I think I'm going to put them (and myself!) to bed early tonight.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cutting Costs 101: The Grocery Budget

In a day and age where the cost of living is rising and companies are making cuts in personnel and salaries, saving money is essential.

So you've dropped your cable subscription, sold one car, refinanced your house, sold some old clothes on eBay, and now might be thinking, "what else can I do? Everything else is a necessity!"

Have you looked at your grocery spending lately? Yes, it's vital to feed your family and that's definitely not discretionary spending, but do you really need to spend that much? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006 the average American family (2.5 people) spent $3,417 per year on food prepared at home. This averages to $285 per month or $66 a week. That may not seem like much at first glance but remember, that is $66 per week on food items: fresh produce, meat, dairy, etc. Don't include your household products or dining out when figuring your average spending.

Once you know how much you spend, analyze your shopping habits and see what can be changed. Depending on how much you spend, you can save up to 50% of your weekly grocery spending just by following some simple guidelines.

  1. Never shop hungry! This may seem like a strange tip, but research shows that individuals will inevitably purchase more than they need when shopping on an empty stomach.

  2. Make a list. Again, seems basic, but this simple step will save tens of dollars in unneeded food products.

  3. Shop the deals. Take the time to peruse your local grocery ads before heading to the store. Find out what's on sale and see if you can't match those deals with coupons to save even more money. As a basic rule, see if you can't avoid buying anything unless it's on sale or you have a coupon (other than your basic items such as milk, eggs, bread, etc.).

  4. Shop at multiple stores. Obviously this needs to be done within reason. If you're spending more on gas than you're saving, cut back on unnecessary trips. However, oftentimes by comparing prices and specials at several different stores, you can save even more. For instance, CVS Pharmacy regularly has milk on sale for $2.69 a gallon, which is much cheaper than you'll get at H.E.B.

  5. Stock up. When you find a really good deal on something, buy as much as you can! Like I mentioned in my previous article, Stocking the Freezer 101, pretty much anything can be frozen and most foods can be frozen indefinitely. Steaks on sale for $2.88 a pound? Buy four, keep one in the fridge to use that week and freeze the rest.

  6. Plan your menu after you shop. Planning a menu in general can help you save money, but believe it or not, you can save even more money by planning your menu after you go grocery shopping. If it helps to have an idea beforehand, check the grocery ads, make a list, and then plan a tentative menu based on the list and what you already have at home.

  7. Avoid over-processed, pre-packaged foods. Sometimes you can find good deals on easy-prep foods, but for the most part you'll save more if you focus on fresh produce, raw meats, basic dairy, bread products, etc. Typically, the fewer the ingredients, the cheaper the product, and it's much healthier as well.

  8. Don't buy what you don't need. Again, this seems simple enough, but even the most seasoned shoppers fall into the trap of buying something extra just because it appears to be a great deal. Remember, if you don't need it you're not saving money by buying it.

  9. Freeze leftovers. If you cook too much in a meal, don't throw it out or give it to the dog, freeze it in single portions and save it for a "leftovers" night. This works especially well if you wait a couple of weeks to serve the leftovers because then it feels like a brand new meal (as opposed to serving it two nights later).

  10. Drink water. Flavored drinks such as soda, juice, and alcoholic beverages are terribly expensive. Drink more water during the day and your grocery bill is sure to drop.

And that's just a few ways to lower your grocery spending. Find out what works for your family and put it into practice!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cold symptoms on top of exhaustion = NO FUN

Constant headache, fatigue, dizziness, congestion, sore throat, weakness. All of these apply to me at this moment and most of them have plagued me for the past couple of days.

Kirk seems to go through weekly cycles. One week he'll sleep really well: 5 to 6-hour stretches at night followed by two 3-hour stretches. The next week he'll refuse to sleep any longer than 3 hours at a time and he'll fuss in between eating and falling back asleep. We just wrapped up one of the bad weeks. Last night he did pretty good so I think he's swinging back to the good side. I am dead exhausted though. With Avery's schedule the way it is, I don't get to sleep until midnight or so most nights and then Kirk is wide awake around 8-o-clock the next morning. Which means I get about six hours of broken sleep at night. And with the way Kirk's sleep schedule is, his long stretch is from 8:30 to 1:30, and I'm awake for most of that.

Because of my current state of exhaustion, I feel like I'm just existing. You know, going through each day doing the bare minimum and feeling like I'm in a daze the whole time. It's a terrible way to live. Each day feels like it's a million hours long and each night only serves to give me just enough sleep to survive through another day. I will be so happy when Kirk is sleeping through the night!

In other news, my sister's wedding shower that I'm hosting is this weekend and I've done squat in getting ready for it. I had all these big plans and great ideas for decorating and activities and yet I have the energy for none of it. *Sigh* I'm sorry, Rachel, I promise I'm trying! Oh well, as long as there are refreshments and the house looks decent, I'm going to consider it a success. Oh, and I have to finish the prize for the costume contest...since I promised a prize and already spent nearly $30 on the material.

In my research/planning phase of the shower, I discovered an interesting book that I purchased for a few dollars from Amazon. It's called Fascinating Womanhood and it was written by Helen Andelin in the early 1960's. I am loving it so far! Feminists would probably decry the book as a disservice to women everywhere, but I see it as a breath of fresh air (or old air, as it were) in a world filled with all the wrong ideas about marriage and being a wife. In her introduction, the author states that "To be loved and cherished is a women's heartfelt desire in marriage. This book is written to restore your hope in this desire and to suggest principles to apply in winning a man's genuine love." I'm only about a quarter of the way into the book, but already I am in agreement with everything the author has to say (which is impressive for me) and have been convicted, inspired, and encouraged all at the same time. Personally, I think this book should be required reading for every woman who thinks her marriage is doomed and I definitely think that every married woman in the world would do good to read it. One of the main themes thusfar is accepting and loving your husband for who he is without trying to change him. So important to remember...and something I struggle with on a regular basis.

Well, Kirk needs me so I'd better go.

"Instead of trying to make him over, try making him happy." - Fascinating Womanhood

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Menu Planning - 8/9 thru 8/15

I've been meaning to get back into the habit of planning our meals just so I won't be scrambling come mealtime every day. Keep in mind that Avery works afternoons/evening so that is reflected in the type of meals we have for breakfast and lunch. Dinners are whatever I throw together for Shiphrah and I, so there is less structure and variety to those (except on Avery's days off, obviously).

SUN: eggs & bacon
MON: waffles with syrup
TUES: cereal with milk
WED: pancakes with syrup (DAY OFF)
THURS: biscuits with jelly (DAY OFF)
FRI: egg sandwiches
SAT: French toast

SUN: eat out after church
MON: Italian chicken & potatoes
TUES: lunch with Kelly
WED: grilled cheese sandwiches (DAY OFF)
THURS: tuna salad sandwiches (DAY OFF)
FRI: beef stroganoff
SAT: sister’s bridal shower

SUN: burritos
MON: sandwiches
TUES: hot dogs
WED: homemade pizza (DAY OFF)
THURS: grilled steak with mushrooms (DAY OFF)
FRI: burritos
SAT: hot dogs

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cutting Costs 101: Homemade baby wipes

Ask any parent and they will all say the same thing: babies are expensive! From disposable diapers to pureed baby foods to buying new clothes every three months, costs definitely add up.
Despite the apparent expense, however; there are several ways to effectively lower your baby-related spending. One of these ways is by making your own baby wipes.

For a typical 64-count box of Huggies baby wipes, you'll pay about $2 and they will be gone before you know it. For about 50 cents you can make your own tub of wipes that will last nearly twice as long.

First, buy a package of nice paper towel rolls. I prefer Bounty, but any good-quality brand will work. A 6-pack of double-roll basic Bounty paper towels usually runs about $6. Don't scrimp and buy a cheaper brand though, the wipes won't hold up as well. Cut one roll of paper towels in half using an electric bread knife or a band saw. (You can use a serrated knife but it will be a bit messy.)

Next, mix two cups of water with two tablespoons each of baby shampoo, baby oil, and rubbing alcohol. (You can adjust the amounts as you see fit; I like to use less baby oil and more shampoo.) Find a container with a lid that will hold your half-roll of paper towels. I used a tea bucket from Bill Miller's and cut two slits crosswise in the middle of the lid. Remove the cardboard insert from the middle of the paper towels (you can do this later if it won't come out), place the half-roll in the tub, and pour the water mixture evenly over the roll. Don't worry if there appears to be too much liquid, the roll will soak up whatever is left over.

Seal the container and let it sit for several hours to fully absorb. Feed the first paper towel from the middle of the roll up through the slit in your lid. Use as needed!
(For those of you without babies, this method could easily be modified to make your own cleaning wipes with your favorite cleaning solution!)

Originally posted at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stocking the Freezer 101: Meat

One of the best ways to stay within a monthly budget is by taking advantage of grocery sales and specials. To do this, you must be willing to buy ahead and store or freeze what you won't be able to use within a few days or weeks.

An experienced deal-shopper will be able to practice this on all types of items on her grocery list: paper goods, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, bread products, etc. However, if you are just delving into the world of "buying ahead" for the first time, one of the best (and easiest) items to start with is meat.

According the the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service's fact sheet on safe food handling, most food products can be frozen indefinitely without any risk of spoilage. To retain the best flavor, freeze your raw meat as soon as you buy it and use it within 4 to 12 months. Again, frozen foods remain safe for an indefinite amount of time, so all you are really concerned with is quality of taste.

Meats can be frozen in the supermarket wrapping they are purchased in, but for best flavor retention freeze them in heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, freezer paper, or freezer bags. Make sure to write the date frozen on the outside of the package as well as the type of meat packaged. It is also handy to freeze the meat in meal-sized amounts so it isn't necessary to thaw two pounds of ground beef if you only plan on using one. Unlike you may have heard, however; it is completely safe to re-freeze meat.

Now that you have a basic idea of what you're going to do, go put it into practice! This week in San Antonio, both H.E.B. Grocery and Sun Harvest are running some excellent deals on meat. Top sirloin steak is only $2.88/lb and boneless skinless chicken breasts are only $1.88/lb at Sun Harvest. H.E.B. has split chicken pieces in a 3-lb bag for only $0.99/lb and whole chickens for $0.79/lb. My freezer is full, what about yours?
This post is a part of LifeasMom's Frugal Friday.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Munchkin Update

Babies change and grow so quickly it's almost necessary to keep a daily log of their developments. I was reminded of this by Shiphrah today when she and I were able to carry on a mini conversation at the dinner table this evening. It went something like this:
Shiphrah: Daddy? Daddy night-night?
Me: No, Daddy's not sleeping, he's at work.
Shiphrah: Brudder brudder night-night?
Me: Yes, Kirk is sleeping right now.
Shiphrah: (notices a fly buzzing around the table) FLY!! Fly, shoo-doh (sandwich) NO! Bye-bye fly!
Me: (Shiph becomes increasingly bothered by the fly so I get out a flyswatter and kill said fly.) The fly is gone, Shiphrah, eat your food.
Shiphrah: (decides she all of a sudden likes the fly, holds her sandwich out in front of her) Shoo-doh fly eat!

Ah, I love that girl. :) She's really been starting to talk a lot lately...stringing words together and trying to carry on conversations with us. Although she gets SO frustrated when we don't understand what she's trying to say.

She has twelve teeth now with four more coming in. I will be soooo glad when she's done'll be nice to see what her normal personality is. Still not much hair, but the one ponytail in the back keeps getting longer. She's still growing very slowly, but I just know that one of these days she'll hit a growth spurt and shoot herself onto the growth chart. She's still hovering around 20 pounds and hasn't hit 30 inches yet. She's 20-months-old and is still in 12-18 month clothing, but Mama's not complaining...means less clothes shopping for her!

She still sleeps like a champ (13 hours at night and a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon) and is still the pickiest eater in the world. Her foods of choice are canned carrots, grapes, cheese, and PB&J sandwiches. She'll eat fruit like there's no tomorrow, but only bananas, strawberries, grapes, and watermelon. No luck at potty-training yet but she's pretty good at letting us know when she needs her diaper changed. (Lately she's been telling me that Daddy needs to change her poopy diapers, not me. :) Haha, fine with me!)

She's still stubborn, obstinate, and opinionated. We're working on obedience, but that's going to be a long, tough road. I have a feeling her "Terrible Twos" will be sticking around for several years to come.

And here's our little drama queen posing with her crown. (Sorry about the clothesless's South Texas, y'all, and it's HOT!)
Kirk Micah is nearing 5 months old and is developing quite the personality as well. He's a bright and cheerful little boy as long as someone is paying attention to him. He's really started "talking" as well...he oohs and ahhs and blows bubbles with his mouth constantly. He also seems to have quite the short temper as he can go from grinning one minute to screaming bloody murder the second if I dare set him down and walk away. His little face turns dark red and he looks oh-so angry. He also fusses/cries himself to sleep most naps and nights, as much as Mommy hates listening to his pitiful cries.

He still isn't sleeping through the night, but he usually sleeps about two 4-hour stretches or a 5-hour and a 3-hour stretch which is an improvement from the every-3-hour routine. He takes two to three naps a day, his first around 11 in the morning and his second around 2 in the afternoon. If his second goes long (which it often does) there's not usually a third nap since bedtime is around 8:30.

Kirk is growing out of clothes in a typical baby fashion, which throws this Mama for a loop because she's not used to having to pull out the next size up so fast. He's just under the 50th percentile so he's fitting into most of his 3-6 month clothes. Thankfully we had two other moms give us hand-me-downs from their little boys so we're pretty set for his first year.

No solids for the boy yet...I've given him rice cereal on a few occasions but he's not too keen on it. He likes sucking on fruit, so I'm sure he'll love the pureed foods when I start him on them though. Since he's doing so well on breastmilk though and seems happy to eat every 2 1/2 hours, I'm not in a hurry to add solids. We'll wait until he's 6 months and then only add a feeding or two a day. Shiphrah was too eager to stop nursing and I don't want to run into that problem with Kirk.

Here's my boy on his first day in the jumparoo. He loves it as long as he has his sister to watch while he's in it...he's not much for playing with toys unless there's no other option.

They grow up too fast, don't they? It seems like just yesterday I was headed to the hospital to have Shiphrah. And now I'm a mommy of two!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekly Savings - CVS - 8/3/09

This is certainly the week of great grocery deals! I browsed through the circulars and coupon inserts last night and was thrilled with how much I found! This morning Shiphrah and I headed to CVS and I plan on making trips to Target and Walgreens later this week.

To see which deals you might be interested in, check out your local CVS store circular. They're usually in the Sunday edition of your local paper or you can find them on the CVS website.

CVS is running several great deals this week that I was able to take advantage of in three separate transactions. (If you're new to CVSing you don't have to do separate transactions but I choose to use my ECBs right away in case I don't go back before they expire.)
  • Transaction #1: Bought two jumbo packs of Pampers diapers on sale for 2 for $20 and 1 roll of CVS quilted paper towels. Used 1 FREE CVS paper towels coupon (they are running a free gift with purchase special this week), 1 FREE voucher coupon from Pampers (received as a gift) and one $2/1 Pampers coupon from the August P&G coupon booklet. Used $1 ECB from previous week's purchase making OOP (out-of-pocket) expense $5.42. Received $5 ECBs after purchase.
  • Transaction #2: Bought two boxes of Velveeta Shells and Cheese on sale for 2 for $6. Used $5 ECBs from previous transaction making OOP expense $1. Received $3 ECBs after purchase.
  • Transaction #3: Bought 1 gallon of Oak Farms whole milk on sale for $2.69 and one 10.3 oz bottle of Dawn dishwashing soap on sale for 99 cents. Used $3 ECBs from previous transaction and a $0.25/1 coupon from the August P&G coupon insert for the Dawn making OOP expense $0.44. Received $1 ECB for milk purchase.

So all of this... ...cost me exactly $6.86.

Not bad, huh? How did you do this week?

Edited to add...
I guess I should have included my total savings as well. According to my receipts, I saved a total of $30.95. And before ECBs and coupons my total would have been $31.83, not counting the specials CVS was running (it would have been approximately $35 without the specials).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My [abbreviated] Weekend Vacation

The weekend didn't go quite as planned, but I had fun regardless. Prior to going, I had promised myself that I'd take a bunch of pictures to make up for the past two year when I was too sick to pick up a camera. I did alright but unfortunately the camera ended up stuck in a cabin for three hours Saturday afternoon while Shiphrah was napping so I didn't get any pictures of the lake, pool, or our UNO and Nerts games.

Upon arriving in Leakey (pronounced "Lake-ee") the kids and I met the family at a tiny Italian restaurant for dinner. Shiphrah ate a bunch of pizza and I ate one piece and then finished off Will's chicken marsala, which was to die for. I mean, what could be better than pasta with a bunch of butter and mushrooms! It was heavenly. Too bad I didn't order it for myself. :)

Friday night's activities included several rounds of volleyball at the camp's gymnasium. Shiphrah really got into cheering for the teams...
Her Grandad was pointing out what was going on and what team her Nana was on and Shiphrah started yelling "Nana! Ball! Nana!!!" It was pretty much awesome. :)

I was planning on letting her stay up late, but by around 10-o-clock she was getting rather grouchy and couldn't understand why no one would let her play volleyball. So I took her back to my parent's private cabin in the hopes of putting her to bed. (They graciously offered to keep her for the night since there's was no way she could have slept in the main cabin with all the kids.) Unfortunately she was quite freaked out by being in a strange place so we ended up heading back to the gym after 20 minutes of unsuccessfully trying to get her to fall asleep. Strike one for the weekend. She went to bed that night at 11:30 when Grandad went to bed with her.

I knew I was in for a challenge with Kirk, but I was optimistically hoping that he would be tuckered out and ready to go to sleep by midnight. No such luck. He ended up nursing for over an hour before he finally fell asleep when the cabin quieted down. Strike two. I slept a few hours before Mom woke me up with Shiphrah around 8-o-clock. Since my dad is an early riser, Shiph had woken up at 6:30. Oh and she had soaked through her pajamas. So I got her dressed, nursed Kirk, and we all went to eat a breakfast of blueberry muffins out at the picnic benches.

Nine-o-clock was softball and Shiphrah spent the next few hours playing with the extra balls and chasing other kids around. Here she is with another little boy. She started doing her silly squat-and-walk thing and he imitated her.
She was pretty much spent by lunchtime, so after lunch she and my mom went back to the cabin to take naps. I attempted to take a nap with Kirk also, but he pretty much refused and screamed for 45 minutes before sleeping for 20. Strike three. At that point I was so physically exhausted that I was shaking and I began to realize that I didn't think I could last through another 24 hours. I walked down to the river with Kirk and then over to the pool where most everyone was hanging out (since the river was too low for tubing the camp opened the pool for our group for about 2 hours). The pool looked incredibly inviting, but since I had Kirk I didn't get a chance to put on a swimsuit so I just got to stare longingly at the water.

At some point after that I was able to hand Kirk off to my dad and I played a couple games of UNO and Nerts with my sisters. I felt a little better after getting to sit down in the AC for an hour or two but I had still decided to head back home after dinner that evening. I wasn't about the try another night with Kirk and then drive home the next day. I don't think it would have been safe.

So I packed up the stuff and we hit the road around 8. I was hoping the kids would sleep the whole way back but Shiph decided she wasn't tired and Kirk started screaming an hour into the drive. So I nursed him in the parking lot of a Shell station for about 10 minutes with Shiphrah whining and telling me, "Kirk no eat! No Kirk eat!" (She's really starting to form phrases and's so cute!)

All in all the weekend wasn't a total bust. I enjoyed getting to spend time with my parents and my sisters and it was nice having other people to entertain the munchkins for a bit. It could have been much worse, after all the kids were pretty well behaved considering their lack of routine and overall tired state. Oh, and Shiph discovered that eating watermelon is just about the best thing ever:
Kirk was pretty much an angel as long as someone was holding him and he napped periodically on Grandad's shoulder. Here's my big boy with his Aunt Rachel:
I'm glad I cam home early though. I got to see my husband (who I was missing terribly) and we got to go to church this morning and hear an awesome sermon from the pastor who was my youth pastor years ago when I first started youth group at Wayside Chapel. We also were able to eat lunch and catch up with friends we hadn't been able to hang out with in over a month.