Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bigger city, better grocery store options

Since our move I have been grocery shopping twice. I have gone to a employee-owned store that has incredible prices. I am so excited to actually save real money when I shop. Example, milk is $2.29 instead of $2.59. My daughter's soy milk is about 10 cent cheaper. Produce is incredible -- $1.99 for 5 lb bag of potatoes versus $2.50 or more, apples 99 cents a pound instead of $1.50. It all adds up and when you are buying a lot of items it adds up fast. I have saved a lot of money and am glad to have this store for an option. They are many other stores in the area that I haven't visited yet, but I think I'm going to be able to work the deals really well. I was really limited where I was living before.

Dairy Free Blog

I started a new blog sharing the experiences of life with my toddler who can't have milk and eggs due to an allergy.

Check it out HERE! Pass it along to anyone you know who might enjoy! Thanks!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Hamburgers

I've made these hamburgers for years. They are similar to how my mom makes them. We don't even buy pre-made burgers anymore.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs (I use crushed saltines)
1 egg (this can be omitted if egg allergy)
salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp BBQ sauce
1 -2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Mix all together.
2. Make into patties. Makes 4 large or 6 small.
3. Press thumb in center to keep the burger from being too round while cooking.
4. Grill, bake or make on stove top.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Toddler Game

I found this idea at an Early Childhood Conference a few years ago. When I went back to school, I had extra time to make it and it has gotten lots of use. Ironically, when I was student teaching in a toddler room, the director told me it was not developmentally appropriate. Of course this was the same director that told me I could sing counting songs with toddlers because they can't learn that yet. Oh and the book I made with colors had to focus on the leaves not the colors. Whatever I said. I still sang counting songs, talked about colors and definitely played this matching game. My philosophy is to stand up for what you believe in.

With that all said, here are the directions for making this fun matching game.
1 yard fabric (try to find something with simple repeating patterns)

1. Cut fabric to size you want to use. I cut mine in half. I usually fold my over a couple times when playing because otherwise it's too big.
2. Cut out the shapes or patterns for each item from extra fabric. I cut out many of each since there are only four patterns -- frog, bee, bird, dog.
3. Then iron each pattern and use starch spray to make it really stiff.
4. Laminate each pattern piece.
5. Play the matching game.

Ideas for this matching game.
  • Practice animal sounds.
  • Put cards behind you and ask child what will be next (great for predicting)
  • Make a pattern without the fabric piece
  • Have child help pick up and put away
  • Encourage them to place the pieces on different spots, really young kids like to put all the dogs on the same dog place, etc.
  • Helps with patience and following directions
  • So many ideas, do what works for you!!

$5 Dinner Challenge

You have to check out $5 Dinners for more ideas for cheap meals. I love all the ideas I get from reading this site.

Here's my recipe for the $5 Challenge this week. I always have a hard time figuring exact cost. My prices are estimated. I have posted this recipe before here.

Potato Casserole

1 head green cabbage of 15 oz can of sauerkraut (I use cabbage -- .75)
1 1/2 lb ground beef ($2.25)
1 small onion chopped (.30)
5 cups potatoes, sliced ($.75)
1 (10 oz) can cream of mushroom (.50)
1 (10 oz) can cream celery (.50)
1 can of water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut cabbage and boil for 15 minutes in large pot. (if you use cabbage otherwise start with step 2)
2. Brown ground beef with. Drain.
3. While beef is browning and cabbage boiling, peel and cut potatoes.
4. Lay potatoes on bottom of greased casserole dish.
5. Place ground beef on top of potatoes.
6. Place cabbage (or sauerkraut) on top of beef.
7. Mix soups and water together, then pour on top of everything.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours

** You can use an combination of cream soups. **

Be sure to check out this week's giveaway -- free box of Kashi Cereal Bars!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reorganizing after a move

We are still tripping over boxes at our new home. We moved a little over a week ago and are waiting for a few items to help our organization. The newest challenge for me (as a SAHM of an almost 18 month old) has been reorganizing our routine.

In our old house we had a kitchen on one end of the house and the living room on the other. In the new home we have the living room and kitchen right next to each other so I can be in the kitchen and she can be playing. We made it work in the old house, but I never was completely happy with letting her "play" in the kitchen/dining area while I was cleaning and cooking. Seemed like we spent too much time in there. So that adjustment has gone well. Also, in our old house we had several dangerous areas and had to set up pretty strict boundaries. Our room had a dangerous water filter that not only made lots of noise all day long, but was not a safe item for a toddler to close to. We had little closest space, so my daughter's room inconveniently became storage instead of a place to play. Again it wasn't safe. The living room had a stone fireplace that ironically didn't have a chimney or electric hooked up. And that had to be blocked off. Our computer desk was in the kitchen and our little daughter seemed to be getting taller by the minute as she reached for every button she could. In our new home we have her room set up with just a crib, changing table, toy rack and rocking chair. All safe to keep her door open. Our bedroom is a little small, but if the door is open she will be safe. Our 3rd bedroom (funny how you name rooms) has the computer and will have an area where she can play or take items off the bookshelf -- still working on that room. If I were to worry about that room, the door can be shut. I feel that this house is much better for functioning with an "explorer." I do have enough room in the kitchen to put her play kitchen set in. Last week I gave her a dish rag and told her to do her dishes while I was cleaning.

Speaking of dishes, we do not have a dishwasher. It was a compromise I was willing to make to have so many other items this house offers. (Functional space mostly) It's been a little challenge getting back into the routine of doing dishes. Last time I didn't have a dishwasher I didn't have a family. But I've done without before for many years, so I don't see it as an issue. I did have to problem solve how to keep our dishes separate from my daughter's due to her milk allergy. It was a pretty easy solution, but took me a little thinking to get there. I just wash her dishes first. I do the breakfast and lunch dishes after lunch. Then I do the supper prep dishes right before supper and then the supper dishes after. We are using a few more disposable items again, but I think occasionally is okay.

So that's where we are at right now. There's still lots to do, but I am so happy we can have a place that gives us the space we need for a reasonable rent. Oh, and that toddler -- she adjusted so well. It amazed me how comfortable she is. She's excited when she realizes an old toy found it's way to our new home! Doesn't take much!

Coming up this week!

Organizational Monday -- reorganizing a routine after moving
About the Kids Tuesday -- one of my favorite matching games for toddlers (hint: it uses fabric)
What's Cookin' Wednesday -- recipe for hamburgers
Thrifty Thursday -- my new grocery store
Anything Goes Friday -- anything goes

Friday, January 23, 2009

Giveaway - Free box of Kashi Cereal Bars

I am giving away a coupon for a free box of any Kashi TLC Soft Cereal Bars. The coupon expires 2-28-09.To qualify to win please take a look around my blog and give me some feedback. Leave a comment with what you like, what you don't or anything else you would like to share about my blog. Please leave either your blog with contact information or an e-mail to contact you. (You also may e-mail instead of comment at

**As a bonus, two runner-ups will receive a $2 off coupon for Kashi TLC Soft Cereal Bars.**

Winners will be selected at random and will be sent an e-mail on Feb. 1, 2009. Check back soon for other giveaways!

What Supermarkets don't tell you

I just read this article on AOL and it was pretty interesting. Most of it I knew. I thought it was interesting that those cards that are suppose to give you savings are really used to track your spending behavior. And that get's used on how they plan their store and how they raise prices.

Check it out here!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why I love our Foodsaver

A couple years ago we received a Foodsaver as a gift. It has been so helpful in keeping leftovers and for freezing extra food. Today I wanted to share a couple of our recent uses for saving food.

We make a double batch of hamburgers (oh, that's a recipe I need to post soon). Then we freeze half after my husband grills them. This is great for weekend lunches or dinners when you don't feel like doing all the work. They even have the same off the grill taste.

Today I saw some leftover roast in the fridge that normally gets tossed out. I cut it up into small pieces and saved it in to portion sizes with my Foodsaver. One bag has enough meat to add to vegetable soup (making it beef vegetable soup) when I get around to it. And the other has just enough for a quick meal for my daughter. She loves meat. It is so helpful to have some extra in the freezer because with her milk allergy I might make a casserole that she can't eat, but this gives me an option for her.

Yesterday, I put a large package of drumsticks in the crockpot. I just added a chicken bullion cube, water, salt and pepper. Sometimes I use Mrs. Dash for flavor. I paid $5.69 for 12. They had so much meat on them, my mind starting thinking of all the meals I could make. Last night we had pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches. Then today I froze a large portion for a future meal for the whole family and a smaller portion for my daughter using the Foodsaver. I could use it for enchiladas, soup, a casserole. Lots of options for a night when I don't want to make the chicken the same day as the meal. I also saved enough for either a couple sandwiches or chicken pasta salad for the next couple of days. So I got at least 5 meals out of the $5. 69 package of chicken.

If you don't have a Foodsaver, I highly recommend one if you toss leftovers or like to make food ahead of time. It is very easy to use and preserves food extremely well!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Meatloaf

I don't have a lot of time right now to do a lot of posting, but I wanted to share our favorite meatloaf recipe. I froze half the recipe last time I made and it was our first home cooked meal in our new home. Boy did we miss eating homemade meals for a couple days.

Also checkout more recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge. She has a great website with thrifty ideas for feeding a family of 6 for $60 a week.

All American Meatloaf
This recipe is from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. In true Test Kitchen fashion it looks like a more complicated recipe than it really is. Very tasty!!

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tsp cider vinegar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk, plus extra as needed
2 tsp mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp Tabasco
2 pound meatloaf mix (I either use all beef or 1 lb beef and 1 lb pork)
2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley (I use a Tbsp of dried)

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees
2. Heat oil over medium heat and cook onion for about 5 min.
3. Stir in garlic and thyme until fragrant for about 15 seconds.
4. Cool for 5 minutes.
5. Mix ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar and set aside. (I do this in a measuring cup)
6. In separate bowl mix eggs, milk, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and Tabasco.
7. Then mix meatloaf mix, crackers, parsley, sauteed onion mixture and egg mixture until evenly blended. Mix until it doesn't stick to bowl. If it sticks add extra mix.
8. Turn meat mixture on a foil lined cookie sheet and shape into a loaf. (Don't use a loaf pan)
9. Brush half the ketchup mixture on loaf.
10. Bake for 45 minutes.
11. Brush with remaining ketchup mixture and back for another 15 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We've moved

Just a quick post to let you know that we have moved. It was 40 below with wind chill the day we moved. It was challenging, but we are finally getting unpacked and back into a routine. I'll be posting more come the later part of the week.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cute video and song

My daughter is obsessed with the moon. The other day I found this on YouTube and my daughter loves it. It's a cute story about how the moon and sun were friends until the moon stayed out to play while the sun went to sleep.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Posting Absence

My husband is being transferred to a nearby city, which we are really excited about. We have lived temporarily for more than a year. It will be so nice to have functional space and closets! We will be renting a 3-bedroom home with an attached garage, basement, and large backyard. There are several parks within walking distance. The city has lots to do and has tons of kid's activities. Now I really can't wait for spring.

I will try to continue to post as I find time, but I probably won't be back to posting every day for a couple weeks.

Monday, January 5, 2009

$5 Dinner Challenge

You have to check out $5 Dinners. There are some great ideas posted every day. Each week she has a challenge for her readers to come up with even more $5 dinners. Here's my selection for the week.

Vegetable Soup
Cost is hard to break down, but is easily less than $5.

1 can of beef broth (beef bullion and water works too)
1/4 cup fresh potatoes (cut up)
1/4 cup fresh carrots (cut up)
1 stalk of celery (cut up)
chopped onion to taste
1/4 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 to 2 Tbsp barley (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pour broth in medium size pot.
2. Place fresh vegetables and barley in broth and bring to boil.
3. Let simmer 10 minutes on medium low.
4. Add frozen vegetables.
5. Let simmer another 10 minutes on medium low.
6. Serve up.

**Any combination of fresh or frozen vegetables works. Keep in mind frozen vegetables don't usually need as much time to cook. You can always add more of one or the other, too. Leftover meat, such as steak can be added. Also a can of water can be used to thin out the broth. **

Clorox Anywhere Spray

A while ago I posted on how I use Clorox Anywhere Spray. Recently I read a post on Deal Seeking Mom on how to make your own Clorox Anywhere Spray really cheap. Check it out here!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Toddler Trail Mix

Finding snacks for toddlers can be challenging. I like making a simple trail mix for my daughter. It really can consist of anything. Here's an example what our trail mix looks like today. I will follow with other suggestions.

Toddler Trail Mix
I like this because my daughter discovers the different flavors and she can eat the container.

Apple Strawberry Gerber Puffs
Dried Apricots
Ice Cream Cone

1. Use about a tablespoon of each and mix together. (This of course is an estimate, you can more if you would like)
2. Put in an ice cream cone.

Other Trail Mix suggestions
Other flavored puffs
Rice Puff cereal
Wheat Puff cereal
Any type of cereal (Chex, Kix, etc)
Dried fruit (Gerber or other brand)
Chocolate chips

**Try to give a good balance of grain and fruit. Try to limit the sweets. **

Happy New Year!

I saw this posted on a couple other blogs and decided it would be fun to do.

Favorite Posts of 2008

Organizational Mondays
Meal Planning -- This post gives some good tips on planning meals.

About the Kids Tuesdays
Appreciation -- I have taken this matching game idea and adapted it to several games since. So much fun!

What's Cooking Wednesdays
Chai Tea -- I love this tea. It's a nice little treat that doesn't cost too much.

Thrifty Thursdays
Target markdowns -- Do you wonder when Target puts their holiday items on sale? This breaks it down.

Anything Goes Fridays
A reflection

Happy New Year!


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