Balanced health on a budget

Well, I am at a crossroads here…Budget girl meets girl who wants to make a switch to a healthier diet for her family. Why is this so hard? Why do I have to think so much about this? So many of us either choose or are forced to stick to a lower grocery budget. I hear opposition to healthier eating all the time such as  ‘I can’t afford to eat healthy’ or ‘It would be nice to buy organic, but there’s no way’. Well, it is becoming my mission to show that we can.
I am not saying everything will be organic, I am not saying that you will be able to buy huge carts full of food. I am definitely not saying that I am any kind of an expert in this area. What I am saying is, I am learning and it is my goal to find a way to eat a healthier, well balanced diet on a budget and to share that information with you!

Continue reading “Balanced health on a budget”

Advertisements

Routine is everything

When I sit back and think about the one thing that keeps me sane, that enables me to accomplish things, that is my saving grace, it is hands down, without a doubt, ROUTINE. I have written about this a long time ago and I have probably mentioned it a zillion times in previous posts. I honestly feel that is it just that important.

It’s funny. I love quotes and I am always searching for them. I see quotes about routine that say “the less routine, the more life” and I just chuckle. I think about it and live it exactly opposite of that quote. I whole heartedly feel that the more routine you have, the easier it makes things on you and you can enjoy life a little more.

This does not mean that the routines that work for me are for everyone. This means that you have to set up your own routines that work for you and your family, your schedule, your life.

Having a routine means that when you stray, when you have an off day or an off week for that matter, you have that base to come back to. It happens to all of us.  Life can get in the way, things get busy and you may get off track a bit. If you have a normal routine in place it is so much easier to get back on track than it is in the absence of one. Without a routine, chaos can just build and build and you can feel like there is no getting out of it.

I am going to give you a few examples of some of the routines we have in our home. Again, this doesn’t mean that my specifics will work for everyone, but it is just meant to give you some ideas.

Bedtime – For us, this is really important. We do stray occasionally from this, especially lately with Cole’s baseball. All in all, our routine is the same, it’s just the time that gets moved back a bit. Our normal routine is at about a half hour before ‘in bed’ time, which is 8:00 for us, the kids brush teeth and we head upstairs for getting settled in, chatting,  and reading time. They are typically in bed by 8:00pm and then they can read a bit more with a flashlight for a while. They each have a tv in their rooms, but it is not allowed on during the week. They know the routine on Friday and Saturday nights is that they can stay up and watch a movie at bedtime.

While the routine itself has evolved since they were really little, there has always been a routine. Honestly, as far as I am concerned, there always will be. They are both great sleepers, they never give us a hard time about going up. Occasionally they will make the trip down for the bathroom or to ask a question, but for the most part, when they are up that is it.   

Early evening/Dinner – This time of day can be extremely crazy! If you have been following my blog for a little bit, you know that I typically have a menu plan for the week so I know what we will be having for dinner. The kids usually will do homework and take showers while I am getting dinner ready. Once dinner is done we can all sit down and eat and then after have some quiet time to just enjoy each other before bedtime. Having an outline of what is for dinner is extremely helpful for me. It means I know ahead of time if I have to thaw something or prep before hand so I am less tempted to stray and order out. Every once in a while we get off track with this, mostly I do, and it just feels so great to get back to this regular routine. It makes our evenings go much smoother.

Everything has a home-  If you have ever seen pictures of my office, you would probably not believe me about this one, but it is true. When everything has a place, it is so much easier to do tidying up that it almost doesn’t seem like a chore.  That home may just in fact be the junk drawer in the kitchen, or it may be a basket in the bathroom, but as long as you have a regular place for things to go, you are doing great! I can’t tell you how much time this saves when you are looking for something. When one of the kids says “I left x in the pocket of my jeans” we don’t have to go searching through dirty clothes left all over the place. They are all in the basement in the dirty laundry basket. I can tell you that I have never lost my keys. They are either in my pocket book or in the kitchen cabinet by the back door.

When it is time to pick up at the end of the day, it literally takes at most 5-10 minutes to put everything where it goes. Our kids are 7 1/2 and 9 and we don’t have to micromanage when it is time to pick up. That doesn’t mean we may not have to remind them to keep moving, but they know where everything goes! I could go on and on about this one and how helpful it is, but you just have to get into the habit yourself to fully appreciate it.

There you have it, my top three routines that save me! I hope you found it helpful. Share with me what routines keep you sane in your world, I would love to hear from you!!  

routine 

 

How to tame crazy….

Hello there! I know you are used to me posting about my grocery trips and menus, etc. and I love those, but I thought I would just take a minute to chat about this crazy thing called life! Everyone has their own craziness whether it’s work schedules, kid schedules, sports, etc. Our work schedule is normally crazy anyway, but lately it has been exploding and is crazier than ever! Continue reading “How to tame crazy….”

Grocery Trip and Meal Plan – March 2018 Weeks 1 & 2

Happy Sunday everyone! Well, I am week behind in getting this to you, but smack dab in the middle of the two week plan so we’re all good! We have had some crazy weather here in New England and boy am I glad I did prepping last weekend after shopping. I am improving little by little with each 2 week shopping trip with regards to what lasts, what doesn’t and what to try and focus on next time.

This shopping trip I did stray a little bit from the ‘Aldi/Walmart only’ goal that I set for myself, but when I went to the other stores I really did just stick to what I was there for, mostly.

I have found that planning and prepping are two of my favorite things. I am trying to work on a video of some of my prepping, but it is taking some time. It sure is fun form me, though. I stay in my pj’s, set up my little dvd player and watch some favorite shows or movies, and spend a good part of the day prepping. It’s always nice when the kids play together nicely and I don’t have to referee too much.

Ok, now on to the shopping trip. I had to cut it back a little this trip because I think I had spent a little from my grocery budget during the previous week on something else. Overall, I spent about 169.00 for two weeks of meals, which wasn’t too bad at all! Here it is:

Aldi – 97.45
Crisp rice cereal 1.19
Frosted flakes 1.49
Drink mix (2) 1.19
Sharp cheddar (2) 1.79
Honey nut oats 1.39
Crackers 1.69
Salmon (1lb) 3.79
Beer battered fish fillets 3.19
Black forest ham (1lb) 3.19
Saltine crackers .85
Yeast 3 pk (2) .95
Popcorn kernels 1.49
Flour (2) 1.19
Eggs (3dz) .99
Dino nuggets 6.99
Chicken spinach pizza 3.99
Milk (4) 1.91
Roma tomatoes 16 oz. 1.39
Butter 2.99
Hot dogs .99
Pasta sauce 24 oz (2) .99
Tomato soup .49
Sweet relish 1.29
Hot dog rolls .85
Carrots 2lbs 1.29
Rice cakes 1.49
Vegetable oil 1.85
Iceburg lettuce (2) 1.39
Cucumbers (2) .55
Pancake syrup 1.49
Ketchup 38oz 1.49
Peanut butter 40 oz. 3.19
BBQ sauce .99
Mayonnaise 1.89
Cadbury mini eggs 2.95
Half Pork Loin (5.17 lbs) 8.74
Boneless skinless things (3.75 lbs) 6.35

Walmart – 13.54
Water 35pk (2) 3.98
Marinated mushrooms 6.58

Big Y – 8.66
Sugar 2.19
Crisco sticks 4.49
Red potatoes 5lb (2) .99

Stop & Shop 37.07
Soda (5) 1.00
Solid white tuna (5) 1.00
Reduced chocolate bars 10.09
Sweet sausage links (2.88lbs) 5.73
Ground beef (3.68lbs) 11.00

Dollar Tree – 12.31
Parchment paper
Penne pasta 24oz
Frozen blueberries 10oz (2)
Shampoo
Dawn dish soap
Dial soap 3pk (2)
Toothpaste
Pretzels (2)
Hair elastics

Here is a look at the menu items for the next two weeks. With my shopping and prepping this week, I was actually able to plan out these 14 dinners and I still have 1 lb of hamburger left, 2 large chicken thighs, American chop suey, as well as a second chicken pot pie. Well, the insides of the chicken pot pie to which I will add biscuits or dumplings to at meal time. Not bad! This will definitely help with the beginning of the following week.

Meu plan

So, there you have it! Another two weeks down. Like I said before, I am getting more used to the idea of the every two week shopping. It will definitely help once we get into baseball which is coming up soon. We will have two nights of practice a week this year as well as a Saturday morning game so less shopping and more prepping is definitely in the plan! Have a great week. Enjoy the sun if you are seeing it and I’ll see you soon!

 

Grocery Trip and Meal Plan – February 2018 Weeks 3 & 4

Has it been two weeks already?! I have to say, as much as the shopping trips for two weeks have taken longer, I thoroughly enjoyed having the weekend off last week.

Hello there! Has it been two weeks already?! I have to say, as much as the shopping trips for two weeks have taken longer, I thoroughly enjoyed having the weekend off last week. This go around I actually shopped on a totally different day than normal because I had to head to WalMart anyway so I figured I would get everything out of the way and really free up my weekend.

Initially I planned my trips as two week shopping trips this month because I had cut my budget for the month and it is easier for me to shop a larger trip to save on meats, etc. However, with both shopping trips I am convinced even more that shopping at Aldi and Walmart really does work for me because everything is always low cost and I may just continue it going forward! I mean, a gallon of milk for $1.48 and a dozen eggs for .63, how can you go wrong? I would love to be able to buy local eggs and milk and still stay on budget, but it just isn’t in the cards right now.

Shopping these two stores, I don’t have to worry about what is on sale that week or that I am missing out on a sale during the ‘off’ week. That doesn’t mean that I won’t still pick up a deal here or there if I see it in the local grocery store sales flier. There are sometimes those loss leaders that may be a fantastic deal and something I want to stock up on. I did stop in at Dollar Tree this week as well because I wanted to pick up some of the tins for freezing meals. I ended up picking up a few grocery items while I was there.

This week I was slightly over my max, but it was almost all groceries with very little non grocery items so I really feel good about what I was able to buy and stock our kitchen with for the next two weeks. Here is a peek at what I purchased. Sorry the lists are so long to page through. I am trying to explore other ways of setting this up so they are easily viewable, but that aren’t one long list. Stick with me!

Dollar Tree $19.19
Chunk white tuna (4)
Hunts ketchup
Pineapple chunks (2)
Mandarin oranges (2)
Baked beans
Pretzels (2)
Snack containers
Food storage tins
Dust pan and brush
Ginger snaps
Animal crackers
Vanilla extract

Walmart 36.09
Reeses Cereal 3.64
Marinated Mushrooms 6.58
Whole baby clams (2) 1.58
Chicken boullion 2.28
Large olives (2) 1.54
Coke (3) 1.60
Bottled water 3.98
Elbow macaroni 1.00
Dish detergent .97
Bakery hamburger rolls (2) 1.19
Red velvet cake mix 1.00
Milk 1.48

Aldi 146.97
Oranges (4lb) 2.79
Apples (3lb-2) 2.69
Cucumbers (3) .47
Flour tortillas .99
Avocado (2) .99
Diced tomatoes (2) .69
Red grapes (2.56 lbs) 4.58
Green beans (2) .49
Ranch mix .49
Corn .49
Rice krispies 1.19
Drink mix (2) 1.19
Roma tomatoes (2) 1.39
Baking cocoa 1.89
Kielbasa 1.99
Hot dog buns .85
Turkey burgers (3lbs) 5.99
Eggs (5) .63
Solid white tuna (2) 1.15
Corn squares 1.79
Tortilla chips (2) 1.49
Potato chips 1.49
Canned cat food 4.90
Milk (4) 1.48
Cheese blocks (4) 1.79
Sliced ham 3.19
Sliced turkey 3.19
Butter 2.99
Corn muffin mix .47
Canned pumpkin .79
Shredded wheat 1.89
Bananas (4.5 lbs) .29
Baking powder .99
Coconut flakes 1.29
Mushrooms (2) 1.29
Frosted flakes 1.49
Broccoli (1lb) 1.49
Applesauce 1.89
Lettuce (2) 1.39
Flour 1.19
Chicken breast (9.33lbs) 1.69/lb
Hot dogs .99
Ritz crackers 1.69
Saltines .85
Yeast (2) .95
Tomato soup (4) .49
Chicken noodle soup (4) .49
Croutons .89
Cheez Its 1.49
Yellow onions 1.49
Chocolate chips (2) 1.79
Dill pickles 1.49
Large olives (2) 1.49
Salsa 1.49
Mustard .65
Vegetable oil 1.85
Mayonnaise 1.89
Oatmeal 2.39
Pudding (2) .49
Potatoes 10lb bag 3.49
Heart marshmallows .44

Here is the plan for meals for the next two weeks. As always, simple, simple, simple. Breakfast and lunch choices week to week are pretty similar. Dinners I am trying to have a few different options. This week I am going to use the pizza dough I typically make and we will have homemade calzones instead. I am also going to try a few difference chicken recipes so it’s not the same old, same old. Here they are!

BREAKFASTS
Cereal
Eggs/toast
Omelet
French toast
Oatmeal
Banana bread
Apple bread
Pumpkin muffins

LUNCHES
Soup and crackers
Chef salad
Sandwiches (Pbj, ham, turkey, tuna)
Kielbasa/veggies
Leftovers

DINNERS
Turkey burgers/chips
Homemade calzones/salad
Baked chicken breast/garlic ranch potatoes/green beans
Buffalo chicken dump bread/salad
Chicken soup/homemade rolls
Corn chowder/corn bread
Potato latkes/applesauce/broccoli
Hot dogs/homemade fries/fruit
Pizza/fruit
Ham mac & cheese
Chinese chicken fingers/fried rice/carrots
Turkey burgers/baked beans
Shredded bbq chicken (sandwich or over rice)/corn
Whatever night
Whatever night

Have a great week!

Simple Yumminess

I realized the other day that I have twelve saved recipe pages on my phone. Twelve. I use Google and Pinterest all the time to look up recipes. However, I have not come up with a sure fire way that works for me to save them and access them quickly. Other than printing them and putting them in my trusty recipe binder. I know I could put them in my favorites on my web browser. I know I could create yet another board on my Pinterest account. I think it all comes down to the fact that, as much as I like using the internet for things such as this, I still get information overload and I feel like I need to do so much ‘clean up’ already with files I have online that I don’t want to add to it.

In the past few weeks I have looked up and used so many great recipes. I thought I would share some of them with you today. I hope you try out a few! Most are quick and easy and they are all delicious! I will warn you, I am not a professional at taking photographs of food. They are what they are. Hopefully you get a sense of how the prepared food looked. Let me assure you, they definitely tasted delish!

PANCAKES – This pancake recipe from Inspired Taste has been my go to pancake recipe for a while now. I am surprised that I have not memorized it since I make it so much. Although, I am always making different amounts so it’s tough to keep that straight. Sometimes I make just a single batch for one quick morning breakfast or if I am getting low on ingredients. Most times I make a double batch which gives us enough for one breakfast then I store the rest in the fridge to reheat. The pancakes are the fluffiest I have ever tasted and they are so simple with just a few ingredients. I would not recommend skipping the sifting. I think this definitely has a huge part in getting them so fluffy.

SPAGHETTI SAUCE – Now, I normally buy a jar or two of sauce and doctor it up.  The week before last I was stuck for a meal. I realized I had some hamburger and veggies and pasta, but no sauce. I did have tomato paste, though. Even thought I hadn’t done it before, my favorite saying is, “There HAS to be a recipe for that”. And there was! This spaghetti sauce from Epicurious was so super easy. I had all of the ingredients in my cabinets so it worked out perfectly. Now, I will say that I often don’t have every ingredient necessary, but I don’t sweat it. I am always subbing ingredients or just skipping them altogether, if they don’t seem essential. You can see in this post here how I stretch things when necessary, including finding new substitutions.

GRANOLA – No need for fancy here! I needed something to sub for cereal and had all of the ingredients necessary to make this deliciously simple granola recipe from Genius Kitchen. The kids gobbled this one up very quickly as snacks dry and as cereal with milk. I will definitely be getting more oats and honey to make more. I asked and got some advice from a meal planning group I am a part of and will probably try different variations as well, maybe using maple syrup or some other syrups as well.

granola

STUFFED CHICKEN – This stuffed chicken breast from I Wash You Dry, was DELICIOUS! There is simply no other way to describe it. It looks like it may be intimidating to make, but it really was super simple and it all cooked in one pan. I used a mix of broccoli and cauliflower since that is what I had on hand. I will absolutely be trying other variations of this with different vegetables and cheeses in the future.

stuffed chicken

PIZZA DOUGH – This is my go to pizza dough recipe that I make pretty regularly. It is very, very easy. I actually double it and makes two large size pizzas. Last weekend when I made it as part of my prepping for this week, I put it in the freezer and it was just as great. This is a thin crust pizza and everyone seems to enjoy it. We have made the pizza with all kinds of toppings, Hawaiian, pepperoni, veggie, chicken and broccoli, and more! I don’t usually purchase pizza sauce. Instead, I just simmer a can of diced tomatoes until it thickens and add some spices. I also have a recipe for traditional greek style pizza dough, which is actually my favorite style, but I haven’t tried it yet. The process looks like it would be a bit more involved, but I believe it will be totally worth it. I will let you know when I try it out. For now, this is the one I will most likely fill my freezer with to simplify the process even more.

pizza

CINNAMON QUICK BREAD – This was one of the easiest and yummiest quick breads ever! If you need a break the standard banana, zucchini, or pumpkin, try this one out!  In the instructions at A Whisk and A Prayer, you will see that you are supposed to cover it with foil and let it sit over night. Ummm…yeah, that didn’t happen! When I made it, my intention was to fill the freezer. One loaf was gone by the next morning and the second never made it to the freezer either! I have since made it again and, it didn’t make it to the freezer the second time, either. The recipe uses the most basic ingredients that we all probably have in our pantry so it is a definite must to have quick access to in a pinch.

cinnamon bread.jpg

MASON JAR SALAD DRESSING – Now, this is hands down the recipe that I am thrilled to have made recently! You will notice it does not have a link attached, because it didn’t come from the internet. It came from somewhere even better, my beautiful mom! After all these years, I finally asked her for the recipe! I literally could taste it in my mouth before I even made it. Honestly, I think I wouldn’t need much more than lettuce to put this on. It is THAT good! If you couldn’t already tell, this is the dressing that was always my favorite growing up. Why it took me so long to get the recipe from mom, I will never know. I do know that it will always be in my rotation forever more.

salad dressing

salad dressing picture

 

There you have it! A few of my favorites from the past few weeks. I hope you enjoyed reading through these recipes and that you get to try some of them out. If you do, drop me a comment and let me know how it turned out. Until next time, keep things simple, frugal, and fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practical Prepping

Wow, it’s been a while! I haven’t done an actual blog post in so long. Life gets so busy sometimes, I often will do a lot of quick posts on the Facebook page. Check them out here to see what has been happening.

I must confess, I stayed in my pajamas ALL day today! They are new, I got them for $3.00 on clearance at Walmart yesterday and they were so cozy I just couldn’t part with them when I woke up.  As cozy as I was in my jammies, it was anything but a lazy day. Yesterday I did my shopping for two weeks, which is rare these days. I knew I had to do some prepping this weekend to make sure things go as planned. I typically shop once per week and I really prefer that. I mean, it’s one week. Easy peasy. If the food starts to run out by the end of the week it isn’t a problem because we usually can stretch a day or so then I restock again. Shopping for two weeks isn’t like that. It seems like the food gets eaten just as quickly, but then there is an entire week left.  To combat this, I prep! And I may hide some food, shhhh!  Not completely hide, but some items do go waaayyyy up in the pantry cabinet out of sight for a bit.

My first step is to look at my meal plan for the next two weeks and see what I can prep ahead of time. You can check out the meal plan here.

Today, my prepping began with a loaf of sandwich bread, which I make just about every other day. It is super soft and so delicious. I haven’t heard one complaint from anyone, so it’s a keeper! I separated the 5 pounds of hamburger into several meals. One pound just went into the freezer in a plastic bag.  About 1.5 pounds I made into a meatloaf that we will have tomorrow evening. Another pound was made into hamburger patties and frozen. About 12 ounces was sautéed with onions, peppers, and mushrooms and used to make a big batch of spaghetti sauce. The remainder was made into meatballs, which I baked, added to some of the spaghetti sauce, and put in the freezer for meatball grinders.

20180204_161447[1]
What my kitchen looked like most of the day.
I made a double batch of banana bread. One was already cut into, the second I managed to wrap and add to the freezer. Tonight’s dinner was a spiral ham and once we were all done with that I cut up the remainder. Some went into the fridge for another dinner this week, some smaller pieces we will use for omelets, and then about  a cup and a half was cubed and frozen for a future meal, probably mac and cheese with ham.

I made a batch of pizza dough in the bread machine and that went into the freezer as well. Last, but not least, I made a small batch of quick peanut butter cookies. They are sinfully full of sugar, but they are quick, don’t require much, and I needed to have something a little sweet to start of the week!

20180204_200121[1]
Yummm…..
It was a great day all around!  The kids played, fought, laughed, bugged me, helped me, a pretty typical Sunday here! I hope you enjoyed this post. Do you plan and prep at all for your weeks? Do you have any tips to share or questions to ask? I’d love to hear from you. I hope you all have a great week!

20180204_190825[1]
The after…..back to normal!