No stress holiday hosting

Happy Friday after Thanksgiving everyone! What a great day yesterday was. Focusing on family, being thankful for what we have, and enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving feast.  As you all know by now, I am all about living my life the simple, frugal, fun way. Hosting Thanksgiving is no exception. I love hosting holidays. Everyone is in a great mood and relaxed. . Our parties are never huge, but I think the principles I follow are pretty much universal no matter what size crowd you are hosting. Here are my tips for keeping stress out of your holiday hosting.

  1. ALWAYS HAVE A BUDGET AND WATCH FOR SALES – A number one source of stress for most of us is money. Thanksgiving can get out of control really fast, but if you really think about it, the basics don’t have to put you into debt. I shopped for all of the food for Thanksgiving out of our regular weekly shopping budget over the past few weeks. One of the best sales this year was the turkey! One of our local supermarkets puts out a $7 coupon off a fresh or frozen turkey. However, their competitor accepts the coupon at their store and they have a price that is well below. The competitor sells the turkeys at .39/lb. So, my almost 20 lb. turkey cost me just pennies after using the coupon. Even without the coupon, it would have only cost me around $7 and change for the turkey, which is not a bad deal. Don’t ever be afraid to ask if you see one store running lower prices if they will match it.
  2. ASK GUESTS TO CONTRIBUTE– There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking guests to bring an item for the party. It often works out nicely when someone else can help out by bringing an appetizer, drinks, or dessert to contribute. It leaves time for you to focus on the main meal both ahead of time, and during the party. This year, family brought the desserts and it worked out beautifully.
  3. PREPARE ANYTHING YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME– This is always a time and stress saver for me! This year, it just so happens we don’t have a microwave. I actually don’t mind it at all and have rarely missed it. I knew that without it I wouldn’t be able to heat things up last minute so I really had to plan everything out. Prepping ahead and putting some of my other small kitchen appliances to work helped a lot! I cut up cheese for the platter the night before as well as made my grandmother’s cranberry apple relish, yum! I made sure that the shrimp was thawed out and paired things up on my pantry counter for dishes to be sure that I had everything I needed and they would be easy to grab. In the morning, after putting the turkey in the oven, I made the mashed potatoes and put them in the crock pot to stay warm. I used a new recipe this year and they were absolutely fabulous! So creamy and delicious! You can find the recipe here. I used stove top stuffing this year because well, why mess with perfection, right? When the turkey was done, I put in the green bean casserole and a French meat pie that a guest brought, those took about a half hour or so. The baby carrots went into the steamer/rice cooker where they stayed warm until we were ready. Last, but not least, while everything else was being brought to the table, the rolls were heated quickly. Doing some of the items ahead or even in another appliance other than the oven/stove, it really freed up a lot of my time so I could visit in between instead of spending every minute in the kitchen.
  4. YOU DO YOU FOR CLEANUP – I am one that does not want to do morning noon and night in the kitchen for a party. So, when it’s dessert time, the dishes sit and I sit too! I sit back, enjoy my dessert and visit. I don’t worry about the dishes. I have a dishwasher and I know they will be done early in the morning. This has been the case every Thanksgiving for the past four years in this house. I know myself, I know it will get done, and I know it will be quick. Here are my before and after pictures. Start to finish was about 20-25 minutes this morning. Not bad at all and I didn’t have to miss out on the fun yesterday. If it makes you feel better to do it right after the meal or right after everyone leave, or at 10:00 after sitting down and relaxing, do it. The whole point here is to not stress. Holidays should be fun, not stressful.thanksgiving cleanup 1thanksgiving cleanup 3
  5. REMIND YOURSELF THAT NO MATTER WHAT, NO STRESS – This one is key! I cannot emphasize  enough that you are the one who has control over this. When something doesn’t go right, take a deep breath, figure out a solution, say ‘I will not let this throw me’, and move on. That’s it. Keep it simple.

So there you have it. My five tips for keeping your holiday hosting stress free the simple, frugal, fun way! I hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday season. Stay tuned for some fun with gift making.

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Learning to S.T.R.E.T.C.H your groceries.

You guys! This last week was tough and rewarding all at the same time!  With major goals in mind, we have been very focused on our budget. Trying to squash some old habits that have held us back instead of moving us toward our goals. One of those bad habits has always been grabbing food in between grocery shopping trips. I would head to the store if I forgot an ingredient, if I didn’t feel like cooking what I planned, if we wanted a different lunch than what was packed, if we wanted a sweet treat, you get the idea! Anyway, for the last month we have been laser focused on not doing that. The budget is the budget and we have been sticking to it. Most weeks it honestly has been easy peasy. Until last week. I had a great shopping trip last weekend, but it was less than I typically have budgeted because I needed a few non food items that also come out of the same budget. Anyway, I had a good shopping trip, you can see that here, but for some reason, it just didn’t last.  By mid week, our lunches were whatever I could find, breakfast items were dwindling, dinners were ho hum, but we made it! Mike and I did get a little dinner out the other night, but we figured out where the money was coming from and were ok with it this one time. It had been a whole month!

It was an excellent exercise in patience. When we ran out of cereal and nobody wanted eggs, I Googled applesauce recipes to see what I could make since I knew I had a lot of it. I found applesauce muffins and they were yummy! When we ran out of eggs, (WHAT?! We never run out of eggs), I Googled egg substitutes and found a helpful chart and explanations from sheknows.com.

baking-without-eggs_rez1ik

It was awesome! I found out I could mix ground flax seed with water as an egg substitute and we were back in business with pancakes to finish out the week! The kids are good with peanut butter and jelly most days for lunch, they don’t tire of it and it is always paired with some type of fruit or vegetable and then usually some crackers, pretzels, etc., and a water.  I managed to squeeze out their lunches just fine through the end of the week. Lunches for Mike and I are always a bit harder because we have such a physical job we need something hearty to sustain us for the afternoon. There were a few days that were lighter, but we did it and it didn’t ruin us. We may have had dinner a little earlier those evenings, but that was fine too!

My snack cupboard was as bare as it’s ever been ,we were creative in what we snacked on, and my freezer is desperate need of a refill, but we kept on budget. We didn’t starve. We found what we needed right at home. We were able to sneak some treats in there as well since I had what I needed in the cupboard to make brownies.  I made those a few times and the kids had Halloween candy!

I tell you all of this not because as a boo hoo us, we had no food, feel sorry for us story. Absolutely not! We had food. Plenty of it, actually. What we didn’t have is the urge to go to the store simply because the food that we had at home wasn’t our top choice. THIS is what kept us on budget. THIS is what will get us to our overall goals. THIS is how we move forward!

I created a visual to share my thoughts on sticking it out and stretching your groceries for the week. I hope you will find it useful!

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Weekly Shopping and Food Plan – November Week 1

Well hello there friends! It feels like it has been forever. I have been kind of out of sorts for the past week and didn’t post for October week 4. Then on top of that, somehow my very long and in detail post for October week 3 somehow disappeared! Anyway, here we are again back on track. I shopped yesterday for this coming week and all went very well. We did things a little differently this week. We were already going to Greenfield for a visit and it really didn’t make sense for me to bring the family home and then come all the way back down to go shopping so we made a plan that I would drop them off at a playground and go do shopping. It worked well except they were ultra tired by the time I got through stores one and two so I picked everyone up and they just stayed in the car for the last quick stop at store three.

This week I did my usual scan of our freezer, pantry, and fridge and found that I really didn’t need an meats. I still had chicken legs, ground turkey, ground beef, chicken patties, and some chicken left from the roaster I cooked. I knew I was pretty good for dinners and that I would be focusing on some basic items I needed like peanut butter, flour, bread, etc. as well as a few snacks and fruits and veggies. I knew that I was working with a smaller food budget because I also needed to get a bag of dry cat food that I need to buy every two weeks so that takes a little chunk out. My total spent on this trip was $77.49. I will try to upload the video to my Facebook page, but I have been having some troubles with that. Technology! This is what I found….

Discount Store – $13.25
Spaghetti (2) 1.00
Flour 2.29
Green Beans (2) .99
Peanut Butter .99
Mozzarella 1.99
Bagged salad/veggies (6) .67

Stop & Shop – $36.46
Bread (2) 1.00
Half and Half 1.49
Butter 2.99
PB Cheerios (4) .37
Goldfish Crackers .99
Cat Food (2) 1.69
Water (3) 2.00
Deodorant (2) 1.50
Deodorant 3.19
Sausage (3) 1.00
Apples (5lbs) 3.41
Cucumbers 1.58
Apples 1.81
Tomatoes 1.53

Big Y – $18.26
Ham (1/2 lb) 1.09
Pepsi (5) .88
Vegetable Oil 2.49
Pull Ups 8.99
Shampoo (2) .49

Circle K Gas Station – $5.00
Milk (2) 2.50

Like I mentioned, I was pretty good for dinners, and actually I was pretty set for breakfasts as well with the usual oatmeal, eggs, and knowing I was getting the cereal. Lunches will be pretty boring this week, but that’s ok. It’s all worth it when we know that we are meeting our goals for the future. This is what our week of meals will look like.

DINNERS
Chicken and Corn Chowder w/Italian Bread
Turkey Meatballs in Gravy over Egg Noodles and Green Beans
Chicken Legs w/Rice and Steamed Veggies
Chicken Noodle Soup w/Homemade Bread
Meatloaf w/Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
Chicken Patty Sandwiches
Whatever

LUNCHES
PBJ Sandwich
Soup and Crackers
Tuna Sandwich
Leftovers

BREAKFASTS
Cereal
Oatmeal
Eggs
Toast w/Peanut Butter
Pancakes

This week was pretty quick and easy. I will do some baking to fill in the gaps as well. I made some new muffins yesterday with applesauce that turned out delicious so I will probably make more of those since I still have lots of applesauce. I also plan to make a few treats such as brownie and chocolate chip cookies. I also found a recipe for some oatmeal cookies using the applesauce and it is topped with a little bit of a glaze. Those sounded yummy as well. I always have grand plans to try lots of baking recipes throughout the week, but I usually end up with just a few. I love to use Google and search for recipes using things I have on hand, which is how I found the applesauce muffins.

I hope you all have a fantastic week! I am going to try to start posting some other content other than just groceries so stay tuned! Let me know if there are particular topics you are interested in.

 

Food Plan – October Week 3

Ok. Having technical difficulties! I have no idea what happened to the text of this post and, of course, I have gotten rid of my receipts!! Grrr…..

Let me give you a quick recap. I went out shopping with a basic plan and ended up buying for two weeks. This leaves me just a few dollars for next week to get in between items like milk, bread, fruit, etc. Week 4 will be updated and I will try to recap some of week 3. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

 

 

Clearance and Coupons

Hi everyone! I typically try to stay out of the grocery store in between weekly trips, but I just couldn’t resist this special trip. I had gotten a coupon the other day for $25 off of my next purchase at my local grocery store when I transferred or started a new prescription. Now, I typically fill my prescriptions right here in town at our small pharmacy and I will continue to do so, BUT free money is free money so I had to take advantage since I have a prescription to be filled right now anyway. I will probably switch it back again next time.

My first thought when I knew I had free money to spend is to figure out how to make the most of it. So I hit my coupon book and the sales flier again and started matching them up. Thanks to my mom who gave me a few I was looking for I was able to get some great deals for next to nothing and I added to the list from there.

In the end, once I pick up the prescription and get the $25 back with my receipt, I will have paid  a whopping $1.26 for all of the food here. I know, right?! Here is what I got.

English muffins
Original price is 4.39 and they are buy 1 get 2 free, which makes them 1.46 per package. I had three .55 off one coupons that double to 1.10 each coupon. Total price paid is $.36 each package

Cheese Sticks
Original price is 4.99. Coupon for 2.00 off makes it $2.99 for a bag of 12.

Instant Mashed Potatoes
These were on sale for $1.00 each and if you bought 10 you got a free 8 piece fried chicken pack from the deli. Paid $10 for the 10 packs

8 Piece Fried Chicken
This was free with the purchase of the instant mashed potatoes. We had the chicken for lunch when I got home.

Granola Bars and Fiber Bars
These were 1.50 each when you bought 4 packages. I also had two .50 off two packages, which doubles to 1.00 off two packages. Total was 6.00 for the four boxes minus the two coupons worth 2.00. Final price was $1.00 each box.

Chicken Gravy
This was on sale for $1.59 and I got it to go with lunch.

Chicken Nuggets
These were on sale for 1.99 and I had two coupons (thanks mom) for .75 off one package that doubled to 1.50. In the end, I paid $.49 each for the two packages.

Reduced Produce
This is always a stop I have to make during my trip to this store. There was a great deal on apples and plums so I grabbed those. Plums were $1.94 for about 1.5 lbs and the apples were $1.56 for about 2 lbs.

Cole Slaw
This was not on sale, it was a deli item that I got to go along with the free chicken! It was $2.11.

So, there you have it! Sometimes all stars align and you end up with some tremendous deals such as this. Now, even if I didn’t have the $25 coupon for transferring the prescription, I still would have only paid $26.26 for all of these items and the regular price, not that I would EVER pay it, would have been $68.49!! That is still a 62% savings!

As I have said before, I am not a crazy couponer who gets every week’s groceries for pennies, I do see the value in using them to purchase foods or items that you would already purchase. These are the items I generally focus on as well as clearance items and I usually can save some money in both categories to stretch our budget just a little bit more.

I hope you enjoyed this! Do you have a deal that you got once that made you so happy? I would love to hear from you.

 

Parmesan Baked Fish

One of the things I love about frugal meals is that you can often make dinner for one night and have a second meal left over to have another night, either that same week or later by freezing it. Although, not all meals have to be like that in order to stay on budget.  This is the first post in a new category I am going to call Frugal Family Meals,  where I will share some meals  to hopefully give ideas and to show that frugal eating can be very delicious and home cooking isn’t always as time consuming as you think.

As most of you who follow along know, I don’t cook very elaborate meals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t taste good. If you have kids, you know that no matter what you put in front of them they typically say ‘eeew’ and then proceed to try and bargain about how much they need to eat. This is not an indication of whether you are a good cook or not or how good the food tastes. This is just kids. I tell you this because nine times out of ten they say it first and then they eat it without complaints.

This particular meal is very easy, very versatile, and very delicious! Although the fish cooks rather quickly, I make this on a night where I have more time if we are going to have it with baked potatoes to allow them enough time to cook in the oven. You could easily pair this with mashed potatoes or rice, both are quicker options. Really you can serve it with any side that you like.  I used up the salad that I got at the discount store last week since we hadn’t used it during the week at all and I didn’t want it to go to waste.

To cook the meal, preheat the oven to 425° and line a shallow baking sheet with tin foil. You can spray it with cooking spray if you’d like, but I have never had a problem with it sticking. Mix 2TBSP of Mayonnaise with 3TBSP Freshly grated parmesan cheese. Spread over the top of the fish and then sprinkle a bit more parmesan on top. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until the fish is flaky.

If you are serving with baked potatoes, put the potatoes in for about 40minutes and then add the fish in for the last 15-20.

That’s it! I said it was easy, right? I have also made this with chicken. You may have to adjust the cooking time for chicken or other types of fish.

Now, as for the cost of this meal. This one is probably on the higher side than a typical meal for us because of the fish, but it is still very reasonable. I only used one pound of the haddock. It usually works for our family with the kids ages and I am not a big fan of fish so my portion is pretty small. Even if you added another half pound, it is still very reasonable for a nice Sunday dinner.

Baked Haddock – Baked Potato – Salad 
1.5 pounds potatoes .39
1 pound haddock filet 4.99
3TBSP Mayonnaise .09
2BSP Parmesan FREE (https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsimplefrugalfun%2Fposts%2F1919144475012632&width=500“>What?! See how here!)
Lettuce .66
Tomato .30
Mushrooms .12
Fresh Mozzarella .48

TOTAL COST: $7.03

Please note that these prices are based on my actuals for what I paid. If you live elsewhere or if you are not a sales shopper, your prices may be different.

I truly believe that you can have wonderful home cooked meals on any budget! It just takes some planning and a desire to keep things simple, frugal, and fun! Have a great week everyone.

Food Plan – October Week 2

Phew! Okay, remember when I said I wasn’t really feeling it mid week? Well, I guess that turned around when I got out on Saturday afternoon for shopping. I ended up at four different stores. I have to be honest, my motivation was to get it all done so that I didn’t have to do anything on Sunday! Plus, once I get out and I am by myself, I tend to soak in every minute of it. I love my kids more than anything in the world, but I also love the quiet times that come every once in a while.

This week was supposed to be a ‘light’ week because I really had enough in the house for dinners to last through this week. I had to go to Walmart, though for water and for Cole’s birthday, so I figured ‘while I’m out’……Needless to say, I spent my budget and maybe a few dollars over. I spent a total of $111.42, to be exact and my budget is $100.00.  However, next week I really do think I will be able to just get a few basics to start the week and some of the items I got at Aldi are stock up items for the pantry which will last for a bit.  What’s funny is that after going to the discount store, I didn’t think I would go to Aldi’s because I only had ground beef and bouillon cubes on my list there. As you can see below, I actually spent the most there! I stocked up on some items for the pantry.

Okay, on to the good stuff! As always, you can view the video for this week on my Facebook page. Hopefully it will be up soon. I am having difficulty uploading it. If you do get to see it, please accept my apologies that it was cut off when I was almost to the end! My battery ran out and I haven’t learned yet to take my charger with me to charge in the car when I am shopping. I use my calculator a lot and sometimes do videos while I am driving, which drains the battery. So, here goes….

Walmart – 14.96
Cake mix (2) 1.00
Frosting (2) 1.50
Natural PB 2.98
Water lg 3.98
Water sm (2) 1.50

Discount Store – $9.58
Ground turkey (3) 1.00
Turkey pepperoni 1.00
Fresh mozzarella 1.99
English muffins (2) 1.00
Jumbo marshmallows 1.59

Aldi – $45.52
Large eggs (4) .53
Coconut flakes 1.29
Chocolate chips 1.79
Organic coconut oil 3.99
Corn starch .89
Milled flax seed 2.19
Drink mix (2) 1.19
Chia seeds 3.29
Haddock fillets 4.99
1% Milk (2) 1.90
Sharp cheddar block 1.79
Mushrooms .79
Iceburg lettuce .99
Vine tomatoes 1.49
Yellow onions 1.49
Solid white tuna (4) 1.09
Bouillon cubes 1.49
Ziplock bags 1.99
Pears 3lb 2.69

Big Y – $12.22
Sugar 2lb (2) 1.35
Peppermint tea FREE
Cheez its (2) .69
Chips 1.69
Grapes 4.52lbs 5.83
Shampoo (2) .29

Stop & Shop $29.14
Specialty crackers (2) .69
Butter 1lb 2.99
French fries 2.14
Rolled oats 2.50
Pancake syrup 2.50
Kidney beans .50
Black beans .50
Coke zero (5) .89
Nature valley bars (4) 1.00
Chicken nuggets 1.99
Frozen sausage (4) 1.00
Cantaloupe (2) .97

Now, I know it seems like a lot of work to go to four different stores, but it really didn’t seem that bad. I wasn’t in each store very long and without the kids, getting in and out of the store and in and out of the car is a breeze! My typical plan is usually two stores, or three with the discount store, but sometimes it just works out this way and I am ok with that.

As far as meal planning goes, I was able to really take a look once I got home and I absolutely can make two weeks worth of dinners with what we have. Other than cereal, we have a good supply of breakfast items as well. Lunches We’ll see once next week comes what we actually need.  Here is the plan for this week.

DINNERS
Parmesan crusted fish – baked potato – salad
Chicken & corn chowder w/homemade artisan bread
Crock pot easy enchilada
Turkey meatballs w/brown gravy over egg noodles – veggie
American chop suey – veggie
Whatever night
Baked chicken legs – homemade french fries – veggie

LUNCHES
Tuna sandwich
PBJ sandwich
Leftovers
Soup/crackers

BREAKFASTS
Banana bread
Cereal
Eggs w/sausage
English muffin
Yogurt

How has menu planning been going for those of you who have been working on it? I would love to hear from you. The number one thing that I am always saying is “It is only ONE week” then you get to push the reset button! Have a great week everyone!