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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Super Saver Saturday Mark Down Foods


My husband and I live very differently from your standard American family. We have five kids-we had a girl followed by a boy and people thought we were done. We kept going and had another girl followed by two boys.

Our choice to have five children led to some other non-standard choices: we live in a double wide mobile home, we moved to a semi-rural area on 3/4 acres of property, we shop at thrift stores, yard sales, and we buy clearance and markdown food items.

Many people would shy from purchasing food items that bear a large red sticker but we are actually excited to buy these products because of the HUGE impact they have on reducing our food costs. Meal planning is very interesting when the components are acquired in this random fashion.

Yogurt can be quite expensive purchased at regular price but on a markdown I can often obtain it at 75% off. Many people do not know that yogurt and many other dairy products are perfectly fine up to a week after the sell by date on the package. I actively search for mark down items in the dairy case because the savings are so great.

Meat is another item where one can realize great savings. As long as the meat is cooked soon after purchasing or frozen right away, it is perfectly fine and a huge boon to the budget. I have a lot of fun calculating the cost of a meal at times when I have created it from all mark down items.

One very successful meal I make using mark down items is Southwest Chicken. I got the three canned items at 50 cents each. I used only part of the bag of chicken tenders and the rice I cooked was from a bag that had been marked down as well. I fed 5 people for about $6.00 and we ate very generous servings.

Ingredients for Southwest Chicken

Making Southwest Chicken is very easy, too! I just brown the chicken in oil with garlic, throw in a drained can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, a can of corn kernels, drained, and a can of drained black beans. Add some powdered cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Heat through and serve over rice.

Southwest chicken ready to eat!
I think that buying markdown foods offers an opportunity for creativity while freeing up money for other expenditures. Try it-you and your budget will like it!

What do you do to live within your budget?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Super Saver Saturday Landscaping

I have to confess right now that my husband and I are scroungers. If someone has a pile of nice looking rocks, lumber, furniture, or whatever piled up on their curb for the taking, we are the folks who are likely to be carting it away to use in our home or yard.

I like to make good use of still useful objects. I also like to re-purpose items to extend their lifespan. I am not a rabid recycler type but I do like to live within my means and if that means scrounging to accomplish something I am trying to do I am not averse to doing so.

A while ago, my father-in-law had my husband help him to neaten up his yard. In the process, he showed Joe a large amount of landscaping edgers he no longer wanted. Hubby contacted me to see if I thought they might be useful to us and I agreed that we could put them to work in our yard.

Yard sale purchased lawn furniture in front of house before I began creating new garden bed.





 We have lived in our home for 16 years and we are now in the process of of
repairing and remodeling what the years and a restricted budget have done to the house.


Today I spent some time arranging these edgers in my front yard so that I could have a new garden bed. Since I am off work this week for Spring Break, it is the perfect time to get some tasks done!

Looking much improved even before adding soil and plants!



I spent about 1 1/2 hours digging the soil to insert the edgers and moving the edgers to the garden bed area. I have a bit more to do before I am done installing the edgers and can add soil and plants. I got a Home Depot gift card for Christmas from my sweet husband and I plan to finally use it to get the soil for this project. I will do a combination of purchased plants and planting seeds to fill in the area. Purchased plants will give me color right away and seeds will be very affordable and fill in around the purchased plants to make the garden bed lush and full over time. 

Just need to dig in five more edgers and the new bed will be complete!




Once the plants are in the new garden bed, we will have a nice view when relaxing around the fire pit!





I am in need of some new cushions for the lawn furniture that hubby acquired for me about five or six years ago through a great yard sale deal. The current cushions have seen about four summers here in central Texas and will be allowed to retire before much longer. I bought the current cushions one or two at a time until I had the four cushions I needed. I may try my hand at making the new cushions by using the old cushions. My favorite thrift store often has great deals on fabric and I could sew new covers for the old cushions. The firepit was a gift from my three younger sisters a few years ago for my birthday.

It may take me longer to get things done the way I would like since they need to be done with little to no budget, but when I see what I have been able to accomplish I am very happy and satisfied with the results. What are you doing on a shoestring in your home and yard?


Friday, March 15, 2013

Food Restrictions/Food Freedom



Many of you know that I eat gluten free and dairy free (except for lactose free yogurt, butter, some cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese). When I meet new folks and have to share this info, they always look at me with pity.

"What? You can't eat bread? No ice cream? I can't live without cheese!" It seems almost incomprehensible to people that there is anything available to consume. Believe me, I have plenty to eat. Though I eliminated gluten in late 2006 and dairy in early 2012 I still have plenty of variety in my diet.

Last night, we had a delicious meat loaf made in the crock pot with cut up potatoes and baby carrots. No gluten, no dairy and all five of us devoured it. The other four people in my home can eat gluten and three can eat dairy. Since I am the main chef though, they all eat gluten free and dairy free often without really noticing that is what they are doing.

Sunday evening's dinner was shrimp creole served over rice and salad for those who wanted salad. Dessert was a gluten free pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting.

Right now I am eating roasted red pepper hummus with baby carrots. Yummy!

Since I am the only one in my home that has to eat gluten free, I don't buy a lot of gluten free (GF) ingredients. They can be pricey and I won't eat enough of them to justify the cost most of the time. So instead I make naturally gluten free foods. The gluten eaters can always grab a slice of bread if they want it.

I make about 95% of the meals we eat for many reasons: it is cost effective, the food is fresh, and  I like the security of knowing my food is not contaminated with gluten or dairy products.

I am currently working on a 30-day gluten free dairy free menu with recipes that I will have available as an inexpensive download, hopefully sooner rather than later. Even if you don't have to restrict your diet as I do, you may know someone who does that is struggling with how to do so.

One of my goals this year as I forgo full-time employment is to develop ways to create an income for me and my family that allows me time to enjoy my life. Creating useful, helpful products and publishing articles are two of the ways I hope to do this.





Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Break

Rose bush hubby bought as an anniversary gift a few years ago in bloom. 


Here in central Texas it is Spring Break week. The weather has been heralding spring's arrival for a few weeks, kids have all had ADD at school, and parents are talking themselves out of calling in "sick" to work. A break is definitely needed for all.

Today I am enjoying a leisurely visit to the library to work on my blog and other writing projects.
My library has a really nice lobby with Wifi for their patrons. My son and I brought some drinks and snacks and we are both relaxing with my laptops. I made some Raspberry Zinger iced tea and brought it in some small canning jars. I love using canning jars for transporting snacks and drinks-so cost effective and easy to do.

Canning jars aren't just for jam at my house.


Anyway, back to Spring Break-I am going to combine getting lots done at home with having some fun this week. Several of my jobs are in the education field so I have off today, Tuesday, and part of Thursday. Get ready to see some before and after pictures of my home if all I have planned is accomplished.

I want to get some new flowers planted in the front yard. I so crave lots of color in my landscape! Here we have the challenge of being in and out of drought conditions so plants have to be chosen carefully.

I have two living room chairs begging to to be reupholstered. Sad thing is that our staple gun has gone to staple gun heaven. Good thing is that some very nice husband gave me a Home Depot gift card for Christmas so perhaps I can get a new staple gun and make those chairs look refreshed during my week off.

I have my dining room table covered with books that I need to sell (books have been there for ahem...several weeks). I need to photograph the books and list them for sale.

I just realized that I have only detailed chores that I need to complete! All work and no play does not a spring break make!

I need to schedule the fun stuff posthaste...I just remembered that I am going to meet with a friend for dinner and get together with another friend to hit up our favorite thrift store. Maybe a trip to the dam would be relaxing too.

Stay tuned for my Spring Break adventures....

What are you doing for your Spring Break?




Friday, March 8, 2013

Time Management

I can't believe it is already Friday! The week has gone by in a whirlwind. Writing projects got short shrift, the house is begging to be cleaned, and meal planning has been by the seat of my pants.

I need to get a better handle on my time. ; )

I am out of the house a lot right now- Mondays I leave at 7:15 a.m. with my two youngest sons to head to two different places. We don't get home on Mondays until 9:30 p.m.!

Tuesday we again pour out of the house early (7:30 a..m.) to get my youngest son off to his college  class (he is finishing his senior year of home schooling and is dual enrolled). I then go to tutor a sixth grade home schooled student. We get back home around 4 p.m.

Wednesday I don't usually need to leave early (hallelujah!) but it is a jam packed day. I do an hour or so of a combination of stretch class, yoga, and fitness activities and clean the house. I attend a Bible study Wednesday night. I pick up the college boy at 9:30 p.m. and head home.

Thursday I take this same child back into town for another class (leaving again at 7:30 a.m.) and his brother comes along to get  a ride to his job. I then head to two jobs and we return home finally by 7:00 p.m.

Friday I can sleep in until 7:30 a.m. and enjoy a long, leisurely workout. I love Friday! Hubby and I use Friday to get household and gardening tasks completed. We call this our Friday projects. In warm weather we sit outside together in the front yard enjoying our breakfast and coffee together.

Saturday my middle son and I are off by 9 a.m. to the martial arts and fitness center. Where he is in three different Kung Fu classes plus instructor training and I do child care for the Yoga participants' children.



I have been working at keeping Sunday as a relaxing day. I generally don't work on Sunday, I try to stay home, make an early dinner, read my Bible, and enjoy my family.

So, perhaps part of my time management process needs to be to realize that I am using a lot of my time productively right now and I am getting a lot done. I just think I can always get more done. Once the two youngest boys graduate in May, get their drivers licenses and buy their cars, my life should be more manageable...until I fill the time once again.




Monday, March 4, 2013

Funday!

We were just a few feet away from the drivers at the start of this race!


I took a little trip with my hubby on Sunday to Lockhart, Texas. We went there to watch the Lone Start Grand Prix (www.lonestargrandprix.us).

When I got up on Sunday, I had no plans to go to watch super fast go-karts, but an idle comment by Joe that he wouldn't mind going had me saying, "Well, let's go!"

My husband loves watching Nascar and thanks to him I know more than I ever planned to about Jeff Gordon so I thought that if he wanted to go see these races, why not? The races were free so they were certainly within our price range! After a few moment's discussion we packed a cooler with drinks and snacks and off we went!

Lockhart is only twenty minutes from where we live and very familiar to us. We had a resale store there from 2003-2008. It is a charming small town well-known for their excellent barbecue. My favorite place there is Smitty's, but I digress (as I so often do).

Back to the races-some of these go-karts go up to 130 miles per hour! They are quite loud! Check out my very amateur video.



I met a seven-year-old boy who was racing in the Cadet division (ages 6-11 if I remember correctly). We saw a boy and girl in the next age division have a little wreck where they hit the plastic barrier so hard it moved a good 4-5 feet!

I was surprised how fast these go-karts went!

It was nice to get out of our rut and do something different for a change. I encourage you to find some free or inexpensive activities to do with your husband or family. It isn't the money you spend, it is the memories you make that your loved ones remember.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Super Saver Saturday

Ingredients for Chicken Santa Fe purchased on sale and markdown at my favorite grocery store. 

                                                     Home Cooking Saves Money!
I made an enjoyable meal last night that was delicious, healthy, and inexpensive. We had a pork stir-fry with rice. My hubby had bought two packages of pre-cut stir fry vegetables that were marked down to 99 cents each and a package of thin sliced pork for $3.00 and it was my job to turn it into a culinary delight.

The vegetables in the stir fry were chopped cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and snow peas. I added a bit of broccoli, carrots, and onions, and garlic that I had in the fridge. I made my own sauce from cornstarch, soy sauce, water, and seasonings and served the stir fry over medium grain white rice that had been purchased in bulk.

The whole meal cost around $6.00 and fed three of us very generous helpings. If there had been any leftovers, they would have been recreated as fried rice for the next day's lunch.

Being able to cook and bake has been a huge boon to my budget! It allows my family to eat a variety of healthful foods. I am constantly adding to my skill set in the kitchen. Just this past week I made hummus, which is pricey to purchase but quite affordable to create at home.

If you do not currently cook for your family, I encourage you to start. You will quickly see an impact on your food bill and free up funds to use in other areas of your budget.

I will be sharing more on this topic of cooking from scratch in coming posts. Not only does cooking at home save money, homemade food promotes health which saves on trips to the doctor and lessens healthcare costs.

Chicken Santa Fe ready to eat. I serve it over rice with tortillas and a salad or garlic green beans.