Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kitchen Adventure...

Last week I decided to make lasagna for dinner tonight. Then, when I went to the store, I forgot the lasagna noodles. Don't ask me how, they were on the list. So I thought all weekend about running to the store to buy some But, one $1 purchase just never justified going. Bright idea: why not make them from scratch?

I Googled "lasagna noodles whole wheat recipe." Guess what I found? Nothing. Interesting, because I had recently seen a recipe in a book I got from the library. After much pondering, I decided to take a recipe that called for all-purpose flour and use that, but sub in whole wheat flour. (Side note: I had a LOT of extra flour this week when I ground my wheat, so I figured that even if they failed, I could spare the expense...)

The recipe I decided to use was extremely simple:
2 1/4 C flour
3 whole eggs

I threw the ingredients in the Kitchenaid, and finished putting the granola into the oven. When I got back to the mixer, I noticed that I needed to add some water. Not a lot, maybe 1/8 C. The dough ball formed like it was supposed to (according to the recipe, remember, I had NEVER made any type of pasta before!). I let it get glossy, well, as glossy as I thought whole wheat pasta dough could get. And then I wrapped it in a damp towel and let it rest for 15 minutes (necessary, per the recipe).

Here is the adventurous part... Rolling! Goodness, I had no idea how much work it would be to roll, fold, roll, fold, roll, fold, roll! And, I had to do it 4 times (rolling the dough in quarters was actually a good thing, for lack of counter space). I think I will have sore muscles tomorrow! My arms were limp for an hour afterward.

In the end, I had some noodles left over, so I rolled them into a log sliced it into small pieces and boiled them like regular noodles. Man, were they tasty! I am extremely excited to taste the final product of the assembled lasagna.

After tasting my homemade noodles, I had the thought... It is really pretty sad that we consider these home-made whole-wheat noodles to be gourmet. 100 years or so ago, it would have been all you got! The things we take for granted.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Menu Planning Monday

This week was an easy one for us.

Sunday: We had 15 people over for a family Birthday dinner: Spaghetti, salad, homemade meatballs, and a Boston Cream Pie.

Monday: My husband's Birthday, and he got pizza as a present, so we baked that up.

Tuesday: Brown Jug Soup from fix-it-and-forget-it cookbook.

Wednesday: Mexican Dip, tortilla chips, and carrot sticks

Thursday: Baked Asian Chicken, rice, Green Beans (Asian Honey Chicken recipe from recipezaar)

Friday: Leftovers/MYO

Saturday: Grilled Cheese and Vegetable Soup

I subbed Tuesday and Wednesday meals. Tuesday was supposed to be tofu stir-fry, and Wednesday was supposed to be Hamburger Helper. The Brown Jug Soup was supposed to be on Monday, but the pizza pre-empted it. My husband loudly complained about the Hamburger Helper (I am honestly trying to use up what we have, but I might end up donating it to the food bank...), so we couldn't have that.

Find many more Meal Ideas on Menu-Planning-Monday here: Orgjunkie.com!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Menu Monday!

OK, Here is the dinner menu we had last week. (My weeks will always start on Sunday and end on Saturday. It's just how I do it. I will also be a week behind, because I do my meal planning on Tuesday in my routine.)

Sunday - Baked Turkey, Mashed potatoes, broccoli, cornbread (this is a very budget meal, since the turkey was bought for .22/lb LAST thanksgiving, and was in my freezer all year!)
Monday - Taco Night
Tuesday - Chickpea Cutlets (See the recipe at Recipezaar.com), green beans, rice
Wednesday - Turkey Tetrazzini (modified recipe from the miserly mom), corn
Thursday - Pizza at Papa's Pizza (Son's football party) Disclaimer: only my son ate the pizza there, the rest of us ate leftovers at home beforehand. The prices are crazy there!
Friday - leftovers/MYO
Saturday - Frozen Pizza (Was supposed to be homemade pizza, but got short on time...)

Check out more menus at Meal Planning Monday

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Schooling Our Kids in "Internet?"

Question: Why does my 12-year-old (7th grader) think he needs to go online every night to do his homework?

Answer: His teacher told him to.

I don't know about this. From talking to him, I learned that in his science class, the teacher literally uses an "in-focus" type projector to beam websites onto the screen to teach about everything they're learning. So far, I know about the cell website, and the skeletal system website, however, I know there are others!

When I asked him if they have textbooks, his answer was "yes, but we don't use them."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because the website is better."

WHY ARE WE TAXPAYERS BUYING BOOKS IF THEY ARE NOT RELEVANT? I don't know about you, but for all the talk about the school-budget being too tight, and needing to cut waste out so we don't have to lay off teachers, etc., there is something here.

#1 - WHY do teachers have infocus machines? What happened to the good, old overhead projector?

#2 - WHY do we have textbooks that no one uses? I remember how much a science book cost me when I went to college 10 years ago. Times that by how many kids are in 7th grade at our middle school - I think I just found a few thousand dollars to put back into the budget.

#3 - WHY is this particular teacher even using the internet in the classroom? This may seem crazy for me to ask, as I sit here on my laptop typing onto a website myself, but seriously. I am all for using internet in your free time. (In moderation of course...all things...) But, children need to be taught. Not shown a web page, and sent home with a link to click when they need to review notes. Pencil and paper, and WRITING information down is how people have learned for hundreds of years. Before that, people had to memorize things. MEMORIZE. Not read from a web page.

To top this off, this morning, this same 7th grader, who is 12 years old asked me to help him set up an account at a website that is an "internet-radio" type website. You know, one that plays songs on-demand, but you don't have to buy them. Yes, the website is free. I went to the website to check it out, and noticed that there is an element of "social-networking" in this particular website. So, I questioned why he wanted an account there. It turns out that in his computer class, the teacher allows this children to go to this website, queue up a bunch of music, and then listen to the music while they are doing their work. I HAVE AN ISSUE WITH THIS! Am I the crazy one? How is this teacher watching 30 or so students to make sure they are actually not spending the entire class period on this website checking out the latest and most popular songs rather than doing their work? How can she even fathom ensuring that these kids are not using the social networking features during class? Isn't it against the rules to use these kinds of websites on school-owned computers? Why not just let these kids play on Facebook for the whole class. Might I even ad that these children are now being exposed to additional ADVERTISING during SCHOOL hours. These are impressionable young minds. Is this what we are sending them to school for?

At our house, we have a very strict policy about internet/computer use. It is limited to 30-60 minutes per day (governed by a timer) depending on what activities we have that day. That is the end of it. 30-60 minutes for all of the video games, emails, homework, etc. After that, they must find something better to do with their time (playing outside, reading a book, playing with each other!). I feel like putting all of this computer time into the school day is conflicting with our house rules and that somehow we're being overruled by the teachers.

I'm not taking this lying down. I have one email to that particular teacher sent. If I don't get a positive response, the principal gets the next one. As parents, we need to be aware of this kind of thing, and work to change what's not right. Don't make these kids "grow up" faster than they already are.

*** UPDATE *** 11/22/09

I won. Well, I would like to think I won anyway. This website has been disabled in the middle school computer lab. =)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Menu Planning "Frustration"

I'm always open for new meals. My kids like to try new things. Some are hot, others, not so much. We add things to "Make again" and the "well, the recipe sounded good" lists.

Here is my rant: I search online for budget-friendly meals, and recipes. I am exasperated by people who feed a family of four on "barely $200 per week." Am I crazy? I spend WAY less than that for our family of FIVE and we eat "like kings," as my husband puts it. I generally spend about $100/week, and that includes stocking up on things, not just what we are eating that week. If you count what I pull out of my pantry each week, we are eating for about $50/week.

So, here's what I plan to do about it. I will start posting what we eat. Starting with my generic meal plan, you'll see how people who really have a budget eat and eat well.

First, we have a strict breakfast menu. My kids follow it. It's posted on the fridge. We don't vary from it.

Rotating through 2 weeks (the weeks are governed by our chore chart system, but that will have to be saved for another day...), the menu is as follows.

Breakfast - Week 1
Breakfast - Week 2

Monday Mom's Choice Monday Pancakes
Tuesday Cereal
Tuesday Oatmeal
Wednesday Eggs and Toast Wednesday Cereal
Thursday Oatmeal
Thursday Peanut Butter Toast
Friday Cereal
Friday Cereal

Notice that the cereal is not as frequent as the kids would want. What kinds of cereal do I buy? 100% cheap-y cheap, whatever is in the bag and costs the least. Often, it's generic frosted mini-wheats. Kids don't want it? Too bad. They learn to eat what's there. And, this menu has a lot less sugar than grab-and-go snack-y breakfasts like poptarts, cereal bars, and toaster strudels.

Pancakes are made from pancake mix, and the toast is made from homemade bread (from wheat that I grind myself, that I buy for roughly $.26/pound). I allow oatmeal packets on oatmeal days, but they're only the store-brand (unless by some random chance I have a coupon and the name-brand is also on sale, causing the per-packet price to be less than the generic brand). They always have the option to use regular quick oats and add bananas, walnuts, and cinnamon to make "banana-bread oatmeal."

Lunches. EASY. They pack their own. EVERY DAY. The price of school "hot lunch" is way too much ($1.75 each!), especially when you look at the quality of the food (too much sugar, not enough whole grains, they always have the "option" of the hot-dog choice...). We have a chart on the fridge again. It says:


Sandwiches are usually peanut butter and jelly, again, homemade bread which they slice themselves, by choice. Not because we don't have lunch meat. Often they will ask if I can make chicken salad for their sandwiches. How great is that?! The vegetable is usually cut up carrots (I buy one 5-lb bag per week, and peel and cut them up into a container in the fridge, which is WAY cheaper than buying baby carrots). Sometimes they even take celery. For fruit, they can take canned fruit (to rotate through our food storage), or apples, pears, bananas, or whatever fruit I can buy that is on super-sale that week. The "snack" is something like animal crackers, goldfish crackers, pretzels, etc. For drinks, they often take water. Yes, water. In their own refillable water bottle. I refuse to buy kool-aid-y sugar drinks for these boys. They DON'T need the sugar.

My Dinner Menu Plan varies from week to week, but follows the same basic plan.

Sunday - Crockpot
Monday - Soup/Salad/Sandwiches
Tuesday - Vegetarian (NO Meat)
Wednesday - Casserole/One-Dish Meal
Thursday - Fancy Dinner
Friday - Leftovers/MYO (Make-your-0wn)
Saturday - Cook's Choice

Sunday-Wednesday are pretty self-explanatory. I like all of these to be easy, cheap, and fast, but still from scratch. Thursday can be anything, but it's served at the table with full place settings, and candles, and cloth napkins. This developed out of a need for my children to "practice fancy manners." It works. Now they are pointing out flaws in each-other's manners, as well as in other people's manners (not always such a good idea...). Friday is my "day off," meaning I don't want to plan a huge dinner which causes a lot of stress. It's also a great way to get rid of what's in the fridge, that my husband did not take to work for his own lunch.

We live by the standard of "eat meat sparingly," which means that it's not the main focus of the meal. That reduces our grocery bill by an awful lot. If I make a casserole, I put in half of the meat. One 12 oz can of chicken can feed the whole family.

I hope this helps out some others that must feel the same way I do about feeding a family on a budget. I will start posting what we eat each week as well. Then my work can benefit others!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BePrepared.com Food Storage Analyzer Review

Things I like about this FREE analyzer:
1. It's FREE
2. It gives you the USRDA Nutrient Percentages quickly and easily so you can see what nutrients you are missing, i.e you need more calcium-containing products, or you need more iron
3. It tells you how many days your food storage would last, if everyone got exactly the serving size of each product for each meal/snack per day, and you calculated out how many calories each person was eating exactly.

Things I would like to see improved:
1. It's cumbersome. I would like to see an upload function from some of the more popular food storage inventory programs (i.e. trackmyfoodstorage.com or the FSP software from revelar.com)
2. In the grocery store foods section, I didn't see where I could enter things like "1 lb of macaroni." Allowing people to enter things that they have on had by the pound instead of in a can would be immensely helpful. Now, I realize that it takes a lot of programming and data entry to put all of this in, but it would make it much more helpful for people who don't have all of their food storage in #10 cans (like me!).

What I found out is that I personally have more than my 3 months food storage, and I only entered a portion of what I have (refer to that cumbersome to enter point)!

If there was anything worth dreaming about to make this the MOST AWESOME tool in the world, is that once you entered all of your food in, it took the ingredients and spit out a menu plan to follow to use it exactly up in that number of days. =) It would be a miracle if that were possible!

Thanks for reading! Click the link below if you want to try the Analyzer for free.

Gift Card Giveaway

Thursday, October 1, 2009

FREE FEMA Preparedness Course

I stumbled across this today online, and thought it worthy to pass along. There are free citizen preparedness course credits available.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Price Books?

This week, one of my projects has been to update my food storage requirements and create a price book. If you haven't heard of a price book before, it's just a listing of things that you have in your pantry and what the best price you've paid for them is. Some are very elaborate, and some are very simple. Mine is on the simple side, really. I use a food storage program to inventory and track the usage in my pantry items, and it will generate my shopping list for me, if I have all of the quantities and usage entered in correctly. It was a big project to get everything entered, and turn off all of the pre-loaded pantry items that I don't use or store. I've been working on it all week! But, I honestly feel that I will benefit from this now, since I can now literally just print of my list and go. I even put my list into a three-pronged folder, and used the folder pockets to hold my coupons so I didn't forget to use them! How handy!

The point of the price book is that it will save you money. How?
1) You have a list of things that you know you use routinely, so you don't impulse buy new things.
2) You know the best price you've paid for an item, so when you see the item on sale, you kow if it's actually a sale or not.

For the first week I used it (this week), I did find that there were multiple items that I had bought at higher prices in the past on sale for cheaper this week. I also found a few that looked like they were being sold for a good price, but when I consulted the book I had with me, I found that it wasn't the best price after all, so I can wait until next week to buy the item (Or whenever it's on sale again!).

Now, if I could only get my pantry under control and organized so I can find everything! That's a big job I'll have to leave for another day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Green Cleaning and Household Hazards

Today I found this great link to a free Household Hazard & Green Cleaning Alternative Handbook from Oregon Metro. It's a great resource, and has all kinds of cleaning recipes.

I'm posting this link for everyone, because I think it's a great thing to use cheaper, greener cleaning products.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

New Computer

An amazing day, my first personal laptop has arrived. Along with it, all new software to learn. Windows Vista is quite different in appearance from XP, and it throws me off when I am trying to configure something! I have not decided if I like it or not, but I got online and that is mainly what matters.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What's for dinner?

Tonight, in honor of the fresh raspberry syrup I made, we had Oat-nut pancakes with Fresh Raspberry Syrup for dinner. Very tasty.

I'm pretty proud of the syrup, it tastes really good. And, it's seedless. Mmmm.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Responsibility For Kids

Responsibility starts in the home, and follows you throughout your life. When you have kids, it seems that they either intuitively have it or it's impossible to teach! But, the best we can do is continue teaching, reminding, and repeating, and teaching, reminding, and repeating.

Some of the things I've found to help in this arduous task are:
- Chores (with chart and Accountability, maybe I'll post more on my chore system later)
- Allowance (work-based, not just get for free)
- Routine (if you don't always make your kids do their chores, they'll never remember)
- Expectations (it's expected that things are done before they have their fun time)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On Teaching Kids the Value of a Dollar

I don't know how well it's working yet, but teaching my boys about personal finance, budgeting, and general money management seems to be working. We have a system where the boys can earn up to $5/week for good behavior. There are also additional chores that they can do to earn additional money.

One of my sons has taken to it pretty well, and generally finds ways to make more money, another one seems to simply whine when his brother can buy something and he cannot! I suppose that is a great life lesson, something that will haunt them for the rest of their lives if they don't learn it now.

Now, teaching them to not squander it all away with candy and junk food will be another lesson entirely!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Food Budget Maximization

Last week, my total grocery bill was $28.27. I fed my family of 5. Well, ok, ONE of them is still nursing…but the rest of us all ate well for that amount. I was asked by a few people how I did it, so I’m giving some advice. My only qualifications on this are experience, so take what you want from this and leave the rest!

1. Use Meal Planning to Organize Your Needs

Start with a Breakfast Menu. We have two weeks (M-F) of menu that we flip back and forth. There is no question of what’s for breakfast for the kids, and it takes stress out of the mornings.

Next, plan your dinners. Dinner is the most expensive meal (usually), so take that to heart when you’re looking at what you want to cook (or eat!). I usually plan mine a few weeks or months out, but you can do it week by week too.

2. Incorporate a Vegetarian Day Each Week

Beans are cheap! Learn to cook and eat them! I hated beans growing up, but now that I see the price of meat, I am broadening my horizons. Buy a pound of different kinds until you see which ones you can stomach (I can’t do pinto!). Buy them dry, since they are even cheaper than canned ones, and they don’t have the added salt and potential preservatives.

3. Make EVERYTHING from Scratch

Don’t buy pre-packaged anything. This includes Hamburger Helper, Uncle Ben’s, Bisquick, Pancake Mix, etc. All of these things can be made with the staples you probably already have in the cupboard, for pennies on the cost of their packaged and preservative-laden counterparts. Plus, buying ingredients instead of packages is better for the environment!

4. Buy Generic!

There are not many things that I buy that are name-brand. Does flour, sugar, and oil really need a brand name on it? I’m not saying that you have to give up everything that you like here, I mean, if you just have to have Kraft Singles, buy them. But when you can, buy the generic version of everything. You’ll find that couponing becomes impossible because stores don’t publish coupons for their own brands usually (Target is the exception here). I still look for coupons though, because there are some things that I like to have the “real thing” on, and if you can combine a sale with a coupon, then you can get the name brand for the price of the generic or less.

5. When Shopping, Use a List

This is easy when you have a meal plan in place! Make your list from your plan, and stick to it! Don’t buy anything that’s not on your list. If you want a candy bar, it better be written down.

6. Use Your Reusable Bags

It sounds piddly, but you get a refund at most stores! Even if you get $.50 back, hey, it’s better than nothing at all. And, you’re being “green” too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Purpose of This Blog

The purpose of my Blog is to give out information that people request of me!

Some of the recent requests include recipes, budget tips, food storage, organization, Cub Scouts, and more!

If you want to know information on something that you think I can help with, leave a reply and I will get back to you!


New Blog

Good Morning!

This is my new Blog. I haven't had one of these before, so bear with me as I learn as I go!

Welcome, and thanks for reading along!

- Jessica