Monday, June 28, 2010

adventures in frugality (alternate title: maybe sweetened condensed milk isn't so expensive after all...)

So it's Menu Plan Monday, and I don't have much of a menu plan OR shopping plan yet. We did do a run to Food City last night. We were out of cheese (an emergency around here, to be sure!), and Natalie had no rice milk.

We, um, ended up buying a bit more than cheese and rice milk. We actually spent $31.22. We bought eggs, and butter, and napkins, and sandwich meat, and bananas.

Oh, and ice cream. Because that is such a necessity of life, isn't it?

So...I thought I'd see how much of a menu plan I could come up with what I have on hand at the moment. And then I'll plan a shopping trip for the rest of the week. It probably won't be pretty, because I'm going to have to buy diapers, and wipes, and sugar. Sigh.

I am making French bread at the moment (using up the last of my sugar supply, which means I can't make sweet tea, which is another crisis around here). But I figure the bread can do double duty. Tonight we will have panini press sandwiches for supper (along with applesauce and maybe yogurt). Tomorrow we can have French toast for breakfast.

Tomorrow evening we will have chicken enchiladas. I can't wait to try this recipe. It's the "no cream soup" that sold me on it! (I will be using homemade chicken stock in place of the can of broth.) Green beans can be our side dish.

Wednesday's breakfast will either be leftover French toast or cereal. I don't have time to make breakfast on Wednesdays because of our morning Bible study class. For supper, I may do breakfast-for-supper. Nelson makes killer omelets, we have bacon, and I can easily make muffins or pancakes or something with fruit.

Thursday morning I will either do smoothies for breakfast--Sarah and Natalie both love these, and we have bananas! :) Supper will either be curried lentils or sweet and sour lentils with rice. I would do lentil tacos, but I'm out of chili powder...and garlic.

I can do Amish baked oatmeal for breakfast Friday, but now I'm fresh out of ideas for Friday's supper and for the weekend. So I'll report back once I've done that diaper-wipes-sugar-chili powder-whatever else shopping trip.

Oh, and if you've made it this far and are still wondering about the title...well, a couple of weeks ago I came across a recipe for iced coffee. You simply combined 6-8 cups coffee with one can of sweetened condensed milk in a pitcher. Cool, refreshing, and delicious.

I was craving some this morning, but I had no sweetened condensed milk. I have a wee bit of powdered milk though, and I remembered that my beloved Tightwad Gazette had a recipe for making sweetened condensed milk out of powdered milk.

I only had half the powdered milk called for, so I halved the recipe. I also didn't have enough sugar, so I used Splenda. And, well...I'm less than thrilled with the results. The coffee tastes okay, but it keeps separating and it looks weird. I think I'll hold off on making the beverage again until I actually have sweetened condensed milk on hand (although Sarah assures me the drink is delicious! I think she just wants to make sure she gets some).

So, a bit hit and miss in the frugality department this week...more miss than hit, honestly. :( Surely I can improve from here, right???

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I really am trying to get back in the habit of blogging more regularly...if for no other reason that I can't remember anything that happens if I don't write it up and post it! I had a running list in my head for this post, and I'm not sure now that I even remember it all. :-p

Sunday of course was Father's Day. On Saturday, I told Sarah she could pick out a gift for Nelson. She went to Dollar General and chose not one, but two foam toy swords. Why two? Well, one for her and one for her daddy, of course! Why did they each need a sword? So they could have a sword fight! Hmm, you think Sarah's love language is spending time together? ;)

She is reading over my shoulder a good bit as I write these days, so I may have to practice being discreet as I phrase things--especially if it concerns her!

My gift to Nelson was a dinner at O'Charley's--Louisiana sirloin! YUM!

I kind of dropped the ball on the whole grocery/menu plan thing. I was working on a menu plan and a grocery list, but it kind of never came together. Then Nelson did a grocery run with Sarah and Natalie. I love that I didn't have to do the shopping, but we did end up with a few impulse purchases. :) So I'm going to start again next week.

We did have a very frugal meal of quiche (cheap entree!) and turnips last night. The turnips were free and fresh from our neighbors' garden. The turnips themselves were all right, and I'm going to mash some of them like mashed potatoes later. We did discover, however, that Sarah is the only one who likes turnip greens! Sorry, there's not enough vinegar in the world to make those palatable!

And I'm proud to say that the one gallon of milk Nelson purchased will stretch into two. We usually drink 1% milk (well, Nelson and Sarah drink 1% milk. I occasionally use it on cereal, but I'm not a milk drinker. Natalie drinks rice milk). Nelson bought a gallon of whole milk this time. I divided it into two separate containers (half a gallon in each one). Add water to fill up the rest of the way and voila! You have two gallons of roughly 1 or 2% milk. (I froze one of the gallons so it wouldn't go bad while the other was being used.) Instant savings of 50%!

Saturday we will go out for our anniversary (ten years!). It's our yearly date. That's about all we manage! (Although we did have a date in January this year, so there you go. For your tenth anniversary, you celebrate by having two dates that year! Ha!)

Oh, this is too cute. Natalie can't eat ice cream. We've bought her frozen yogurt a few times. Once at the store we noticed rice milk ice "cream." It was super expensive though. I joked with Mom that it would have to be a special birthday/Christmas kind of treat--certainly not anything we could do often. On Monday, I went to a woman's book club at church. Nelson took the girls out to Chick-Fil-A (when I am not there, Sarah likes to go places where I can't eat, like Chick-Fil-A, KFC, or Pizza Hut). He bought himself and Sarah ice cream for dessert. He felt guilty though that Natalie couldn't have any. So when he did his grocery shopping afterward, one of his impulse purchases was "rice cream" (I think I just coined a new phrase!) for Natalie! Isn't he sweet? Natalie loves it, by the way!

That's all I can think of for now. Very random post!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

teeth? teeth? teeth?

Natalie currently has twelve teeth (including four molars), and I think she's working on one or two more. Quite the mouthful! And you have never seen a child absolutely adore her toothbrush as much as this one does! If she's upset, handing her the toothbrush can calm her down. If she's getting into something, handing her the toothbrush will distract her. She doesn't really brush with it; she just kind of chews on it. But boy, does she love it!

If she sees me or Sarah or Nelson brushing our teeth, she immediately starts reaching her hand toward where her own toothbrush sits and starts begging, 'Teeth? Teeth? Teeth?" If she's in the bathroom and just happens to see the toothbrush, it's the same. Occasionally, she make a whole sentence and say, "Brush teeth?" But usually it's just the refrain of "Teeth? Teeth? Teeth?"

She doesn't actually like when Nelson or I brush her teeth though--she only likes to hold the toothbrush herself and chew on it! I think I find that funniest of all. With all this toothbrush love, you'd think brushing her teeth would be easy. It's actually a battle though, because she wants to do it herself and do it her way.

P.S. She tried to eat a crayon today. That toothbrush was handy for getting bits of red crayon out of her teeth! (And she definitely does have at least two more teeth coming in!)

a few more...


Two of my favorite blogs are Money Saving Mom and Grocery Cart Challenge. Both of these women do a phenomenal job of feeding their families on a tight budget. Their methods are not quite the same, but they both work and I learn so much from each of them.

Every week each blog posts a recap of the grocery trip--where they shopped, what they bought, what they spent. They give a chance for other bloggers to "link up" and post their own grocery shopping successes. I am in the process of trying to apply some of the tips from these ladies to lower our grocery bill. I thought if I participated in the shopping recap each week, it would hold me accountable to my goals and also allow me to chart my progress (at least I hope there's progress!).

I don't have pictures of my haul like they do, so this will just be a summary. Maybe next week I can add the photos. I also did not browse store ads or use coupons this week; I will try to add that in next week, as well as perhaps participating in the menu planning prior to shopping that GCC hosts. I'm just winging it this week (for the record, so far this week we've had country ham, lentil tacos, and pasta bake. Tonight it's pork chops).

Here's what I bought:

Dollar Tree:
dishwasher detergent
oxygen stain remover
women's shaving cream
men's body wash
2 tubes toothpaste
Total: $7.67

Food City:
Dannon vanilla yogurt $2.99
1 doz. eggs $1.29
extra sharp cheddar $3.99
rotini pasta $.89
spaghetti sauce $1.67
Lay's potato chips $3
Valu Time frosted flakes $1
Valu Time honey nut oats $1
vegetable oil $2.19
Hillshire Farms roast beef $3.99
omeprazole $7.65 (normally this is a separate purchase from groceries, and normally we buy Prevacid, but we needed it immediately and this is what they had).
Total: $32.15

Nelson had gone on a quick run to Food City the day before because I was completely out of coffee (very bad thing). He bought coffee and orange juice. He spent $9.48 on that trip (coffee is expensive).

Grand total: $49.30 We'll see if I can lower that as the weeks go on!

This post linked to GCC Shopping Roundup.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Natalie's first birthday

We did Natalie's first birthday at my parents house. Since Nelson's parents weren't able to come, we also had a web cam visit with them briefly. Natalie had a great time opening up and playing with her gifts (well, when she could get them away from Sarah, anyway). So without further ado, here are some photos from the occasion!

Natalie is not the poser for the camera that Sarah is...

Sarah, ahem, "helping" Natalie open her gift...

Hmm, what is this?

Natalie on the web cam with Grandma and Grandpa...

Sarah chatting with Grandma and Grandpa...

Monday, June 14, 2010

a few more pictures and other random stuff

Time keeps marching on, whether I blog or not, doesn't it? Funny how that happens. Those on Facebook know we've been watching a family of birds (Carolina wrens to be exact) on our patio. The mama bird built a nest in the ash can to Nelson's grill, and the baby birds have (mostly) hatched. We see the mama several times a day arriving with food in mouth for the babies.

Natalie is walking all over the place, chasing after Sarah, and talking up a storm. She especially likes to say, "How are you?" She says it a LOT. She's also fond of taking all the DVDs out of the cabinet and scattering them all over the living room!

Sarah is loving reading and today discovered some of Nelson's and my old comic strip books (Garfield, Peanuts, U.S. Acres). She's looked through the pictures in these books before, but she was thrilled to be able to read the words now.

She's very literal. She asked Nelson to help with a problem on her computer. He said, "Give me just a minute." She counted to sixty then informed him his minute was up!

Apparently we need to talk about money though. Sarah knows we have to have money to buy food and pay bills, but she doesn't seem to understand what money is. She thinks if she just writes an amount on a piece of paper, this is acceptable currency. She plans to pay our insurance bill for us in this manner.

Nelson recently acquired a used John Deere riding lawnmower. He had a push mower we had bought at the other house, but it was taking him upward of three or three and a half hours to mow our much larger yard here with that. He found a good deal in the local classifieds last week. His first attempt to mow with the riding mower took under two hours--quite the time savings! He thinks it will get faster as he gets better at it too.

Okay, okay, the pictures you've been waiting I warn you, these aren't the greatest. They're from my cell phone. But with all the clamor, I figured blurry, low-quality photos were better than no photos at all, right? ;)

This is from last week. Sarah decided to style Natalie's hair for her, and these are the results. With the little bit pulled up on top like that, we thought she resembled Pebbles Flintstone!

These next three are from Cinco de Mayo (May 5). We went to a local Mexican-ish (think Subway-style taco/burrito bar) restaurant. Some friends of ours were the live musical entertainment for the evening. Sarah really, really wanted a margarita. We weren't sure they would be able to accommodate her on that (this is a fast food-type place, so I figured they might just have pre-mixed margaritas that they blended with ice and therefore no way to make one sans alcohol). But they were able to whip up a virgin one after all, and Sarah was thrilled.

It pays to know the band--our friends let Natalie play an instrument too!

Natalie really wants to get the camera/phone...

That's all for now! But Nelson tried again to send me pictures, so if it worked this time, I'll post more later!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

we have a picture!

Okay, so it's been a really long time since I posted a picture here. I've had all kinds of trouble trying to photos onto my computer....whether said photos were on a camera, a CD, or a thumb drive. Just couldn't get it to work. Very frustrating, to be sure, especially since I had some really good pictures I wanted to share!

Nelson finally got a bunch of pictures off the camera last night onto his computer. He tried to send a bunch to me in a zip file.

Apparently something is seriously messed up on my computer when it comes to pictures. I got one.'s the one! This is from Natalie's birthday back in March. She's opening one of her gifts. Enjoy! Hopefully we'll be able to get more on here soon!