28 April 2010

HT Triples!

Harris Teeter started their Triple Coupon event today, where they will triple any coupon up to $0.99. So if you have a $0.75 coupon, you'll actually be saving $2.25! This is a great way to get a lot of free stuff.

Here is my loot!

I paid $15 and saved $40 - not bad! Best of all, it's all stuff that we will use. I am NOT into buying stuff just for the good deal of it, we really have to like and use stuff before I'll even clip the coupon.

In other coupon news...I went to Walmart yesterday to use up a bunch of my P&G coupons before they expired on the 30th. Josh is pretty particular about razors, only Gillette will do. And they have to have at least 3 blades. This does NOT provide me with a chance to get cheap razors often. However, yesterday I hit a great deal. I had 2 BOGO coupons w/o a price limit, so I bought 4 packages that were $12 each. That saved me an immediate $24. Then, I had two more $3 off coupons which could be applied to the two packages I did pay for. So, I basically got $48 worth of razors for $18. Not bad in my book! I ended up saving $50 in coupons yesterday at Walmart on things like dog food, shampoo/conditioner, razors, etc. I've had a pretty good "couponista" week! :)

25 April 2010

For the Bible tells me so...

If you read this post, then you'll remember that one of my reasons for wanting to eat locally is because the Bible tells me so. I've been thinking about this and thought I'd at least share the verses that I was referring to.

"Dwell on the land in which the Lord has given to you." 
-Jeremiah 25:5
I don't want to take this verse too literally, because we live on less than an acre in a suburban neighborhood that doesn't allow livestock and probably not even regular row gardens (container gardens are perfectly acceptable). Therefore I know we could not produce enough food to sustain our family on our little piece of suburbia. However, I do think this verse means to dwell on land that is near you rather than that which is far away. I would consider (1)supporting the local economy and (2)cutting out millions of miles of fuel usage, two reasons for being good stewards of what God has given us. God has placed us here, in North Carolina, and I think we should try to eat as much that is produced here as possible.  The more "It's Got to be NC" products, the better!

"Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce." 
-Jeremiah 29:5
This verse is plucked out of a passage where God is telling his people to go back to their land (that they were kicked out of) and basically settle in for the long haul. I have an incredible desire to do this. I would LOVE for us to be able to buy some land (that isn't absurdly expensive), build a house in the country, have room for a large garden, fruit trees and bushes, a clothes line, and maybe even room for some animals. However, that is not in the cards for us right now and I'm incredible fortunate that my in-laws live only 10minutes away with that set-up, which works out great for me.

Certainly, I understand the Bible was written not in our modern era, so times were different. Very different. Food transportation all across the world was basically impossible for any perishable items given the time it took to cross such distances without adequate refrigeration. However, I do believe the Bible was written through God's divine words to be applicable across generations. So, I'm still thinking about these words and how we can apply them to our life.

Little Man and I love to eat grapes, yet they always seem to be transported from some foreign land in Central or South America. Could we learn to eat another fruit that we could get closer to home? Could we learn to do without fresh fruit throughout the winter months? How much sacrifice are we willing to make? That's the question I'm continually pondering.

On this journey we're making small changes...one at a time...they're more likely to stick that way.

22 April 2010

Recipe Review: Granola

I love granola, but not all "fru-fru"-ed up. I don't like all the mix-ins such as coconut, almonds, etc. So I was ECSTATIC to find this yummy recipe. It has been a hit with all three of us and my gallon size bag is almost all gone. I LOVE to watch Little Man eat this - he's too funny trying to eat every last oat. I'd definitely recommend trying it out - it's super easy to make and delicious!

If I feel really wild next time I make it, I may throw in some Craisins. :)

21 April 2010

Perfect Swim Bag

Check out this entry into the "So You Think You're Crafty" Competition. It's the winner for Season 2 and I think it's so cool!! Here's the tutorial. I really want to try this, but I am a little overwhelmed...

Food, Inc. airs TONIGHT!

A few months ago, I wrote a little review on Food, Inc. Well, tonight it airs at 9pm on PBS and I HIGHLY encourage you to watch it (or DVR it - my favorite thing to do!). We had some issues with the political aspects that were presented (mainly because we're conservative and it is definitely on the liberal side), but after sifting through the politics, I still found it quite informative and eye-opening. We've definitely changed our thoughts about food and our eating habits as a result of watching this. 

Check it out!!

18 April 2010

Our newest additions...

My in-laws picked up four new additions last week. 

Meet Leeroy, the donkey. He's pretty cute (for a donkey) and is getting fairly spoiled. He loves to come to the fence and be petted. He'll even bow his head down low for Little Man to be able to give him a little love. He has a job - keep the coyotes away. From what, you ask?

These three  ladies gentlemen (my MIL originally told me they were heifers and I had no desire to confirm that reality for myself, so I trusted). Coyotes (and any other predator) better stay away because these will become lots of good beef for us to eat in a few months. Local (extremely), grass-fed beef for our family and a few friends. Delightful!
These ladies don't really have names. You really shouldn't name an animal that you're raising to slaughter. Just not good form to be thinking about "Bessie" as you are enjoying a cheeseburger.

They'll be keeping us company in the pasture as we start our gardening adventures this week!

16 April 2010

Update on "The Project"

We're coming along on our "project". Every last spec of shrubbery around the front of our house/retaining wall is gone and a few new things have been planted. My hopes for Hydrangeas in front of my house are dashed. They look so promising in the morning, but buy the afternoon when the sun starts to shade them, they look like death. I'm glad Lowes has a 1-year gurantee!

Last weekend was exciting because we took off all 18 shutters for me to paint BLACK! That's been quite a project this week. Trying to find time and space to paint with a very active little boy has not been easy. I think the last 12 shutters will get their final coat tomorrow in between my front door drying. The door meets its destiny and will finally become RED! I've been wanting to do this for 3.5 years!!

While our shutters were off, we decided it would be a great opportunity to power wash the house. It was in desperate need. The front of the house went fairly well with my hubby up on a ladder power washing my my FIL made sure he didn't fall off and kill himself supervised. The garage side of our house was a bit tricky. You see, it is 4 stories high on that side (basement/garage, first floor, second floor, full-story walk-up attic). That is a bit too high for my hubby (or anyone else for that matter) to be up on a ladder. Luckily, my FIL came to our rescue by bringing over his bucket truck!

This was the scene in my nice, suburban neighborhood Saturday. We had an awful lot of people walk slowly by!
What a sight! (Do you notice how EMPTY it is along the retaining wall?!?!)

Look at all that grime going down our house!!

15 April 2010

How I salvaged Taco Night

My Meal Plan called for Tacos on Monday night. Well that didn't actually happen until Tuesday night (we're flexible with our meal plans). I decided to get creative and make a burrito bake - just a twist of boring tacos. After browning/draining my hamburger, I put about half a pound in with black beans and taco seasoning (that I scored for FREE at Harris Teeter on a coupon deal). After I stirred that all up and got it going, I glanced at the ingredient list on the seasoning. To my dismay, the first ingredient was YELLOW CORN FLOUR. 

Ugh! I'm pretty sure flour is NOT a seasoning (in my opinion) and was really frustrated considering my corn allergy. I went ahead and filled the burritos with the meat/bean mixture and some shredded cheese, but now I had seven burritos and my hubby was the only one who was going to eat them. I knew he would get sick of them this week before all seven were eaten, so I cooked three that night and rolled up the other four individually in foil to freeze. Now my sweet hubs can take out one or two for lunch (on days that we have no leftovers to take) or a quick meal if he's on his own for supper. 

YAY! No wasted food and future meals ready to go!

Please ignore the random painting supplies drying behind the pan of burritos...this is Real Life.

By the way, hubby really enjoyed this variation on our Taco Night - he thought it was delicious! He is typically not a fan of black beans. It was also pretty frugal since I used half the amount of ground beef I usually do and pulled the black beans from my freezer (made them from dried beans in lieu of canned). A win-win despite the fact I couldn't eat any of it.

11 April 2010

Meal Plan Monday

I didn't meal plan last week (mostly because I was still too full from Easter food to even think about meals!) and I got really frustrated figuring out what we were going to eat each night - reminded me that I DEFINITELY needed to get back on track for this week. I did use up a lot of food we had around here and I'll be doing the same thing this week. I must have stockpiled lots of items from loss-leaders, coupons, and other sales in the last few months because I have bought VERY few groceries lately. Great for the budget!

Here's what we're eating this week:
Monday: Taco Night (w/ Rice)
Tuesday: Chicken Pie, Green Beans, Roasted Carrots
Wednesday: Pork Chops, Roasted Potatoes, Broccoli
Thursday: Roasted Peppers & Pasta
Friday: Pizza (may try out a dough recipe in my new bread machine!)

Even with 5 dinners planned, as well as breakfasts & lunches in and snacks, here's my grocery list for the week:
Tri-Color Peppers
Goldfish Crackers

    Seriously...how much food did we have on hand?!?!

    Check out lots of other meal plans at OrgJunkie.

    Can you eat local & be frugal?

    I've been doing a lot of reading, thinking, and even taking a few "baby steps" to have our family eat more locally. Why do I want us to eat locally? A few reasons, not necessarily in order of importance...

    (1) I think our diet will be healthier if we eat locally. Our meat, fruits, and veggies would all be much fresher and would retain more of its nutritional value by the time it got to our plate. I don't really see myself going crazy and being a total "locavore" because there are just some foods that are pretty convenient. We don't eat a lot of processed foods (mainly because I have an allergy to corn, so no corn products like HFCS in our household), however we still have some processed food in our house that I probably just can't part with (It's handy to reach for the carton of Goldfish for Little Man to snack on and I would probably throw a fit if I couldn't have BBQ potato chips with a pimiento cheese sandwich).

    (2)  For the Bible tell me so. (Flashback to your childhood days singing Jesus Love Me anyone?)  Ok, well this point I'm still up in the air about. I've been reading through the book of Jeremiah and I've encountered several verses to make me stop and think about this. I'm still pondering...

    (3) Our money would stay in the community. I really like the idea of our money staying right here in our community to support our friends, neighbors, and local farmers. Farming is a hard life and generally not very lucrative. I'd much prefer my money (well, my hubby's money if we want to get technical about it!) stay here to support their livelihood, rather than go to large corporations who keep most of the profit.

    Speaking of money...we're not made of it. There's not a Money Tree in our backyard and we only have one income since I SAH, so I have to be careful about what I spend on my portion of the budget, which obviously includes groceries. While I'd love to eat mostly locally grown fruits and veggies, it's not always in the budget. Here are a few things that help our grocery bill be a bit more frugal.

    (1) A helpmate to the budget is our garden. I have very generous in-laws who fund the garden, so this is free food to us - I just put in my "sweat equity" and get a great return on my investment. I use the garden goodies to freeze and can food that we can eat throughout the year.  I'll be honest, it's a lot of work, but it is cheaper, healthier, and tastes SO much better than store bought items. I also use our canned goods as presents which are always a big hit since they are so darn tasty! Not only does it save money in my "grocery" budget, but it saves in the "gifts" portion of our budget, too!

    (2) Farmer's Markets, local farmers & Pick-Your-Own. Even though our garden last year produced a lot of veggies, we didn't have any fruit. We (and by "we" I mean my FIL) planted a few fruit trees, some blueberry bushes, and muscadine vines, but none of those are producing yet. Just because we don't have fruit doesn't mean it's not around. PLENTY of local farms have delicious strawberries, peaches, blueberries, apples, and other fruit. It's still typically less expensive than the grocery store, definitely tastes better, and keeps your money in your community (have you seen where the strawberries in your grocery store are coming from these days?). If you want a fun outing with lots of people and beautiful food, check out your local Farmer's Market. I absolutely LOVE going to the Farmer's Market where my parents live - it's really big and there is so much to see and EAT! If you're willing to work a little and "pick your own" on a farm, you can usually come out even cheaper. Either way, you can buy enough for just that week or you can buy a bunch to put up for the rest of the year - it's up to you!

    (3) Coupons! I clip coupons weekly (only items that we'll actually use). I'm not great at using these during my weekly shopping trips, but I stock up and use them when we have Super Doubles and Triple Coupon weeks at Harris Teeter - then I can really see some savings! I especially use coupons for non-food items that I still consider "grocery" items, like personal products, household items, etc. This is a big money saver for us so that I can put that money into better quality (and hopefully local) food.

    Well, there are my thoughts about local eating while still being frugal. They may be a bit scattered, as I'm still trying to work out my thoughts on this matter. We're not perfect...we have grapes in our fridge from Chile bought at Sam's Club, strawberries from California bought on sale from Harris Teeter, but also a bowl of peach slices from the freezer that I help pick last July from right down the road. As our MOPS Mentor Mom tells us, remember that a 2-degree change can make a world of difference in your final destination.

    09 April 2010

    Bread Machine Love & Recipe Review: Cinnamon Rolls

    As part of my domestic cooking endeavors, I've been wanting to make some homemade baked goods, especially breads and doughs. Not only is it less expensive to make your own, but you're free of the weird chemicals and preservatives too. I've found out that I'm not the best at doing that by hand...too impatient and not precise with water temps & yeast. So I decided I wanted to try a Bread Machine.

    My MIL let me borrow her machine that was collecting dust somewhere in her basement. I liked it and had some success, but I rarely wanted to make something and actually bake it in the bread machine. Mostly I was finding recipes for doughs to be made in the machine, then pulled out and baked in a different way (pizza dough, rolls, cinnamon buns, etc). Many bread machines have a "Dough" setting, unfortunately MIL's did not so I had to constantly check on it. So I decided I needed wanted a bread machine with a Dough cycle.

    I started perusing and found out that these machines are NOT cheap. I found some for more than $200 - yikes! The cheapest I found was a $60 machine on sale at Walmart for $45. I almost bought it. Came thisclose. But I had a hard time justifying spending $45 when I had a perfectly good machine at home (just no dough cycle).

    Exactly one week later, the heavens shone down upon me in a Goodwill. I found this perfectly good, compact bread machine for $7.99 and it had a DOUGH CYCLE!!!

    After plugging it in to make sure it still worked, this baby went home with me. I cleaned it up this week, downloaded the manual online, and decided my first endeavor should be Cinnamon Rolls. I used this recipe from Good (&Cheap) Eats. FishMama is a big believer in Bread Machines and has a great post with quite a few recipes here. Here the Cinnamon Rolls are before I baked them this morning. No after photos...I don't want to display the carnage that went on! Needless to say, they were TASTY!

    Surprise! These are made with wheat flour and old-fashioned oats in them. Gotta do something to amp up their nutritional value with the butter and sugar that's in these!

    The icing calls for Powdered Sugar. I don't keep Powdered Sugar on hand and don't use it because it has corn starch in it (I'm allergic to corn). I found a great post over at the Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen on how to make you own Powdered Sugar. It is SO EASY and CORN FREE!

    After seeing many recommendations for The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook on various blogs, I checked it out from the library this week. I plan on trying out a few recipes to decide if I buy it - want to make sure it's worth it. I'll let you know how some of those go!

    I've linked up to Frugal Friday over at Life As Mom since I'm so proud of my frugal Bread Machine Purchase!

    06 April 2010

    Project update: Exterior Paint Idea

    My Mother-in-Law decided to show me how my house would look in my dream colors of black shutters & a red front door by doctoring up this picture. What do you think?

    I loved it! So while I was buying some shrubs today I bought red & black exterior paint. Hopefully I'll have a real "after" picture to show you soon!

    01 April 2010

    I've got a project...

    As my sweet hubby was getting the yard ready to be mowed for the first time last weekend, I looked around at the shrubbery and decided it needed to go. ALL OF IT! Before you think I'm crazy for ripping out 15 year old shrubbery, let me give a little back story. Our yard was very pretty when we moved in 3.5 years ago. In fact, here's a picture.

    The previous owners must have been into yard work because there are were lots of plants. Aside from the fact I thought there were too many, I also didn't like any of them.  I like a clean, simple look with classic Southern plants. Give me azaleas, hydrangeas, and a Crepe Myrtle please. I want a yard that is nice, but doesn't require a lot of maintenance. We aren't really into yard work, so the low-maintenance thing is REALLY important to me. I also like flowers and color, something our front yard was surprising lacking. 

    Here's where my project comes in...we are removing everything along the front of our house and along the retaining wall. We will replace with pretty, simple bushes and plants. We'll also have some COLOR! In the meantime, we definitely have the ugliest yard in the neighborhood. I feel like I need to have a sign up like this in our yard...

    Monday, our yard looked like this...I'm sure I don't have to point out there are significantly less bushes and one less tree than in the previous picture. Many have died off over the years and we've taken them out slowly.

    Side note...I'm hoping to paint our shutters black and our front door red during this project for an entirely new look.

    Left side of our house...

    Right side of our house & the retaining wall...

    During naptime Monday, I removed 7 bushes all by myself (the soggy ground made that much easier & I was quite proud!). The trailer we borrowed was full, so I stopped. Wednesday during naptime, I cut back 3 bigger bushes along the retaining wall and then tried to remove their root ball. Um, not easy. Not easy AT ALL! Frustrated that I couldn't do it myself, I called my husband and he said that he would take care of it. So I removed some really heavy pavers and dug up two yellow rose bushes (those poor things somehow thrived on lots of neglect). Again, the trailer was full and I was pretty much at a stand-still with what I could accomplish alone.

    My Father-in-Law stopped by today to haul the trailer full of yard debris away. While he was over, I showed him my root problem. He thought he could help. No surprise there, he's the handiest man I know. He started digging, an axe became involved at some point, and then a heavy strap and motor vehicle were the last resort. Yes, he and my hubs put a strap around the root of the former bush and tried to drive away. The first two worked well, came up with little trouble. Due to the slope in our driveway, a short strap, and the brick retaining wall, the third bush won and broke the strap.

    That's OK...I hear my brother-in-law's wrecker may make an appearance tomorrow to pull out the final four bushes with a chain. Sounds a little redneck & I feel like I should be out there cheering, "Git-R-Done!" I don't care - I'm just happy it will be ready to till once the rest of the bushes/roots are up!

    More pictures and updates to come as this saga project continues...