Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Two In One Pattern Tester for Sotak Handmade!

Oh my goodness I have excited to share this project.  Svetlana of Sotak Handmade was looking for pattern testers for her new two in one pouch and I was lucky enough to test for her!  When I saw she was looking for people I contacted her, never thinking I would get to do it and was completely blown away when she contacted me to pattern test for her.

The funny thing is, I had been wanting to make a double zip pouch for a while and couldn't find a good tutorial or pattern.  I even tried to come up with my own (a zipper compartment within another zipper compartment) and was not happy with my results.  This pattern is exactly the type of thing I had been trying to do on my own without any success.

I used Boho by Urban Chiks fabric and am quite pleased with how it turn out.

Svetlana's pattern is fun and easy to follow.  I highly recommend it!  I will definitely be making more of these for Christmas gifts.
A great big thank you to Svetlana of Sotak Handmade for letting me test your pattern.  You are like a rockstar in the sewing/blogging world and I am just little old me.  What an honor!  What are you waiting for?  Go buy the pattern and make some of these, they are awesome!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

KitchenAid Mixer Cover Using a Tutorial from Carla at My Half Dozen Daily

I have followed Carla's blog at My Half Dozen Daily for a few years.  She is such an inspiration.  The lady can budget, cook and sew like nobody's business.
I made this using her mixer tutorial.  It was easier than I imagined it would be.  I added jumbo ric rac not knowing if it would really work out or not.  It fit perfectly into the bias trim that I made with 2 inch strips.  The bias helped to keep the ric rac straight.  I then sewed on top of the ric rac, clase to the edge with orange thread to keep if from curling up over time.  You can see I have a blue countertop and orange walls, so I thought the fabrics were a nice choice.  They are DS Quilts from Joann fabrics.
If you don't follow Carla's blog, you really should.  She is such an inspiration to me!

Freezer Cooking - Lasagna Day!

Today is big batch of lasagna day!  My family is coming for dinner so the 2 metal pans are in the oven baking right now.  The other 5 pans (3  9x13 and 2  8x8) are already in the freezer.  This batch should last us through the winter months!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Met my goal!

I finished 5 things off my to do list before school started.  I actually finished Sunday, but I need to take pics and post.  I made the mixer cover, noodlehead tote, zippy wristlet, in color order drawstring bag and pink penguin lunch bag.  I also made a small pouch with an exposed lace zipper.  I am trying to figure out a way to use these zippers after I saw Carla trying to figure out what to do with them!  I also cut out all of the pieces for the sew together bag.  I am a little worried about putting it together, but I should be able to do it...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A New Sewing Machine and a To Do List Trick!

This is my new Brother 420 sewing machine and boy did I struggle with this decision!  I ordered it last Saturday from amazon and it came on Tuesday.  It is too soon to tell for sure, but I think I am in love.  Many of the super cool sewing bloggers that I follow sew on high end mechanical Jukis or super expensive computerized Janomes, Berninas, etc.  I have the means to buy what I want, but I am super practical and wanted to buy something that would not make me want to rip my hair out!  Also, sewing is a hobby for me, not my job.  Most of the sewing bloggers I follow are designers, authors or simply love to sew to supplement their income.  All of these things are admirable and fantastic, but they are also things I am never going to do.
My simple criteria - a machine that doesn't jam and have threads bunch up underneath the project, some cool stitches, a large throat area for big projects, and something without a huge learning curve. I picked this machine because I already own a brother.  The parts are interchangeable and I understand my current machine which is a brother 6000.
My 6000 was a great way to start 5 years ago, but I have put it through a beating.  It would jam and make multiple thread nests when going through thick materials.  I was hesitant because this was the same brand and not much more expensive but it had great reviews and I could always send it back if I needed to right?  I wanted to have it for over a week before I go back to school so I would have time to try it out before going back to school in the fall.  I have 6 days before I start work on Friday so I am going to play some more and I will let you know what I think then.  I have already made a Kitchenaid cover and will put pictures up soon.
This brings me to my to do list.  I have a Pinterest board of things I would like to do sooner rather than later.  I never seem to be able to finish a large to do list, there are always a couple of lone things that don't get done, which are then added to my next list.  My trick is to put more things there than I know I have time to do and set a number of things to get done from the list.  This gives me options and choices, which I need.  In other words if I have a to do list with 5 things on it I will probably finish 3 or 4 because at least 1 of those 5 things won't sound interesting to me at the moment.  BUT if I have a list of 8 or 9 things I would like to get done and set a goal of finishing 5, I will get 5 done.  It sounds stupid, but I think it is because I have a choice.  If I say I want to make a lunch bag, tote bag, wallet, car bag and cosmetic bag I won't finish because maybe I am just not in the mood to make the lunch bag, so only 4 of the five will get done.  If my list is longer I can choose 5 things that I am in the mood to make and 5 will get done.  Does anyone else have to trick themselves into getting things done, or are all of you just over achievers?
My sewing goal is to get 5 of the 9 things on the board done before the first day of school with kids on August 26th.  Do you want to know a little secret?  That goal contains not 1, but 2 tricks!
1.  I really only want to get five things done...
2.  I really want to actually be done by our 1st teacher inservice day on August 22nd.

My tricks give me room to breath and actually give me a chance of reaching my goals!  My big summer goal was to deep clean my house from top to bottom and I only have 1 room left to go so that goal is going to also be easily met!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Open Wide Pouch, Lace Zipper Pouch and More Penn State Items

One of my best friends recently celebrated her birthday.  We don't normally exchange gifts, but she has had a rough year and I felt the need to do something.  I made her a Noodlehead wide open pouch, a tiny boxy pouch with an exposed lace zipper, a Noodlehead Penn State wristlet ( I didn't actually put pleats on this one) and a Penn State key fob.  I also threw in a couple tubes of Almay lip gloss that I got on sale at rite aid!

Sewing is a great stress reliever for me.  I do it at my leisure and am not really interested in doing it to make money.  I feel that making items to sell would put me on the pressure of a schedule and take some of the enjoyment out of my leisurely activity.  I spend a good bit on fabric and supplies, but I feel that it is offset by the fact that I am making gifts for a fraction of what it would take to purchase a ready made gift.  I think that people are very receptive to the items and are touched by the fact that I didn't just go out and purchase a ready made gift.
I also feel that the prices I would need to charge to be fairly compensated for my time would make the items cost prohibitive to buy.  I live in an economically depressed area of the country.  I enjoy my hobby and I want to keep it that way, so sewing for leisure it is!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Penn State Graduation Gift with Noodlehead Gathered Clutch

My friend's daughter just graduated from high school and is headed to Penn State.  This is what I gave her for a graduation gift.  Upper left is a basket that I made following this tutorial.  Lower left is a Noodlehead gathered clutch.  I also included a key fob, 2 pillowcases (from this tutorial) for her dorm room and a little bit of cash.  I think it was well received.
This is how it looked all bundled together.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Simplest 3 Steps to Organization Ever!

1.  Pick a room in your house and get rid of half of the stuff in it.  Be ruthless.  Don't save it for a yard sale, just get rid of it!  This will bring you to a normal amount of stuff that will actually fit in the room.
2.  Once you have completed step 1, go back into the room and get rid of half of what remains.  Take it out of your house, off your property and completely get rid of it!
3.  Now that you completed step 2 you have only 25% of what you started with in the room.  It will now be easy to put away in an organized fashion!

Repeat steps 1-3 for each room in your house.  You will now be a minimalist with much more time for family, friends and hobbies and much less stress in your life!  This might sound like a sarcastic post but I have been doing this all summer and it is very freeing...  I have shifted to this thought - If my house burned down or blew away in a tornado, what would I really miss?  For me the answer is "not much".  Mostly photos and a few sentimental pieces.  The rest of it is just stuff.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday to do list!

I have Thursday and Friday this week and Monday next week off from teaching for our  mini spring break.  Yesterday we went out of town to Kohl's and to the Beef 'N Barrel in Olean, NY for a fantastic lunch.  I went to visit my mom to try and firm up some plans for Atlantic City this summer and we also made a trip into a warehouse club for some necessities and a few frivolous purchases.
That first paragraph might leave you wondering if I am really a frugalista or not?!?!?  Some explanation - lunch was definitely a splurge, but we do eat out once or twice a month.  It is something we like to do as a family.  We always take our 2 teenage sons with us and enjoy bonding over some yummy food.  If you recall I broke up with Sam's club a while back.  We received a notice in the mail that we could have a free 60 day membership to BJ's, so that is why we headed to Olean.  Honestly I am going to have to cave and rejoin Sam's Club.  I didn't like BJ's as much and there is only one within a couple hundred miles of where I live.  It would be a waste of money.  Although I will use the free BJ's membership until it expires so I can wait on ponying up the money for Sam's Club until later in the summer.  I wish we had a Costco, but I need to get over it and not whine.  What a first world problem to have.
We went to Kohls in search of nice sandals for the boys Easter baskets.  They always get sandals, a hat and a very small amount of candy.  That's Easter at our house!  As far as Atlantic City goes, as long as you are not a gambler, you can't beat the price for an oceanfront room in the middle of summer.  For a little over $100 a night we will be able to stay in a casino right on the boardwalk.  Win, win, win!

On to the to do list:
1.  Finish up capri sun wallets, pencil pouches and bags.  I have made enough for all of my students, but I want to make a couple extra of each in case something happens, or if a couple are defective.  Always have a backup plan!  I want at least 5 extra wallets and pencil cases and 1 more bag.
2.  Make 2 pillowcases for Konkerr Cancer.  I made 6 last weekend.  I would like to make at least a dozen before I donate.
3.  Cook some comfort food - no plan yet.  I need to go to the store.  We have been eating from the freezer and it is looking a little sparse!
4.  Actually book the rooms in Atlantic city.
5.  Order some new bobbins.  I never seem to have enough to match all my different yummy colors of thread I have.
6.  Sew 2 bibs - I like to have a few on hand for gifts.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Goals and a Menu Plan

OMG - isn't all of that vintage pyrex dreamy?  I love it so much, but I will NOT start a collection because I have spent the last several years trying to downsize our junk belongings.  I do not own this pyrex, I simply found the image on the Internet.  My collection consists of 4 pieces.  I have a tart dish with napkins in it on my countertop from a yard sale 2 years ago.  I paid either one or two dollars for it.  I also have a set of three mixing bowls that I picked up a a yard sale last summer for 5 bucks.  When I brought them home I put 3 old mixing bowls into my goodwill pile, following the 1 in, 1 out rule.  I actually use the pyrex bowl set and that makes me happier than sitting them on a shelf for worship.

Onto the rest of the post!

Menu for the week:
Sunday - homemade vegetable beef soup for lunch, homemade wontons for a snack later in the day
Monday - tuna noodle casserole - one dish meal full of veggies - son #2 will fend for himself as he is a tuna hater!
Tuesday - chicken parmesan
Wednesday - canned soup and grilled cheese - we have tons of soup that I got for almost nothing with coupons and we need to use it up!
Thursday - pancakes, fruit, bacon
Friday - order out - my husband is gone Thursday and Friday for work
Saturday - ?  I am not sure if we will be home or not!

Goals for today:
*Lesson Plans for the week - it took 2 hours!
*8 juice pouch pencil cases for Earth Day next month - this is all I can make until the rest of the pouches are dry!
*sew at least one thing beyond the pencil cases
*local taxes
*cook soup and wontons the boys loved the wontons!
*visit my mom - not home

I just don't think the rest is going to get done today.  I am just not in the mood.  LIsts help me, but sometimes I just have to let it go...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March STINKS!!!!

The poor little piggy bank is really hurting this month.  It is time to kick in a new plan!

The big bills for March were -
Semi Annual car insurance $742
Country Club - $900ish
Semi Annual  Property Taxes - $1000ish
New roof - $9500ish

Some explanation - we have one teenage driver (in May we will have 2).  We used to pay about $900 a year before son #1 started driving.  My husband needs to stop at the country club and pay in person.  We aren't sure what we owe because the kids are getting older and might need junior memberships which could add a couple hundred dollars.  We live in a small town.  I know this is probably very low for golf compared to what other readers might have to pay.  I am mailing out the property taxes on Friday.  The bill is on the desk but I am not going over there right now to see the exact amount.  The roof is not done yet.  The initial estimate was $8350.  Things keep creeping up.  We are at about $9300 right now.  I am hoping not to go over $9500, but I will not know until the job is done.  I have already paid $8000 of it and have enough in the checking account to cover the rest.  This is actually a good price in my opinion.
In the last year we have also replaced our washer, the dryer and the dishwasher.  Both vehicles are aging at the speed of light.  My husband's car has over 140k miles.  Mine is older with less than 100k, but they are starting to show their age.  We took 5k from our car replacement fund for the roof.
It is hard trying to do all of these things without going into debt.  I am not sure we can stay the debt free course but we certainly are going to try.  Several years ago we started sending $100 a pay (every other week) to a credit union savings account for annual bills which worked great for us.  We kept upping the amount and now direct $400 a pay ($200 a week) and have tagged  it as a car replacement fund.  We stopped paying annual bills from it and try to let it grow.  It became easier to just pay those annual bills as we received them and not touch the account, but this month has sucked the life out of me and the money out of our bank account!  Hopefully we can save the money to pay for a car outright, but there is never a guarantee about how long an older car will last.  Time will tell.  If we need to take out a loan it won't be the end of the world, but we will try our best to avoid it.  I keep telling myself that a few years ago I wouldn't have been able to do the roof without a loan, so we are moving in the right direction.
The new plan is to keep saving the $400 biweekly for replacement cars and to start a new account for annual bills.  Property taxes, car insurance, golf membership and homeowner's insurance total roughly 6k per year.  Starting this Friday I am going to send $120 per week to a separate account for annual bills.  I have a spreadsheet of bills for the entire year and need to go in and make the adjustments.  It will take $120 each week from the income but it will make March, June, August and September easier months.  Previously we saved little or nothing in those months and a great deal in the other months.  Not only will the pain of big bills be spread out better now, so will the joy of saving.  I will let you know how it goes!

Monday, March 3, 2014


I would just love to give a shout out to all the great bloggers out there!  I think we are always learning and moving forward, but I want you to know how much you inspire me.
I am usually terrible about updating my blog with how my challenges turned out, but I do 90% of what I set out to do because of all of you!  When I think back over some of what I have completed because of the kick in the pants and inspiration many of you have given me, I am amazed.  I would have gotten around to some of this eventually, but I am much more organized and with it because of all of you!

Some things that I can think of right off the top of my head....
1.  We finally created a will and assigned legal guardians in case of our untimely demise about 3 years ago.  My kids were both already in middle school at that time.  Who knows if I would have ever completed it otherwise.
2.  We purchased term life insurance to supplement work policies and policies that we had from childhood.
3.  I menu plan.
4.  I finally opened a Roth Ira last year.  We have been saving for retirement since our 20's but neither of us did it through a Roth.
5.  I got my couponing groove back.
6.  I bought a sewing machine about 4 years ago and taught myself to sew using youtube videos.  I just wanted to be able to make the cool stuff that I was seeing all over the Internet.
7.  I continue to sew mostly because of following Carla.  Her creations are GORGEOUS and really inspire me to continue creating.
8.  I save $$$$$ for the future because of MANY of you.  I was always a saver, I am just much better now.
9.  I am much more creative in my cooking because of CT Mom.  Wow can that woman stretch a food dollar while making a wide variety of yummy food for her family!
10.  I decluttered my house majorly about 3 years ago.  I had so much junk at the curb that people inquired about whether or not our house was for sale!  My house didn't even really look bad.  We have several walk in closets and we simply had useless stuff in every nook and cranny!  Some junk has crept back in, so this can be an ongoing process.
11.  I have redone my porch.
12.  I saved my mismatched kitchen table instead of buying a new one.
13.  We became COMPLETELY DEBT FREE including our mortgage.  Hopefully we can stay that way.
14.  I have donated money and things to a greater extent than I would have without being inspired by all of you.  I have always given, but I have stepped it up.

Some of my absolute favorite blogs/bloggers:
My Half Dozen Daily
CT Mom
Hawaii Plan
The Simple Dollar
Midlife Mom Musings
Frugal Queen
Frugal and Thankful
Nova Frugal Family - fairly new to me
The Ripples Affect - a really new blog

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dear Sam's Club, I'm Breaking Up With You

Every time I see you, you pressure me.  I don't like to be pressured.  I live 1 hr and 10 min from your closest location, so I don't get to see you often.  I live in the snow belt and my trips to see you might only be a few per year.  When I am there, I stock up.  Sometimes I drive the distance just to see you even when I don't have other commitments in the area.  I have tried to keep up my end of this long term relationship, but every time I see you, you just try to take everything you can from me.
Please don't pressure me into buying your plus membership when I am ringing up my current purchases and opening my wallet to give you my hard earned cash.  If you care about me, please accept my answer of no graciously and drop the subject.  When I try to explain that I have been done this road before and it didn't work out for me, don't tell me all the reasons that you are right and I am wrong.  When I tell you that I was made to open a credit account and was told the plus membership wouldn't auto renew, but it did anyway, please don't tell me that it won't happen again.  I fell for that a second time a few years later and it did auto bill to my account a second time.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Both times, I had to drive 1 hr and 10 minutes to your closest store to resolve the issue and have the plus membership charge removed.
The last time I saw you a few months ago, one of your young trainees tried to dupe me again.  He was very persistent.  It was obvious that he had been well trained in the area of upselling.  Poor guy, it was like he was under tremendous pressure too.  I understand the art of upselling.  I also understand the customer/retailer relationship.  I have never really caved to pressure.  It is a huge turnoff for me.  It always has been.  As a result, I let my membership lapse this month.  I enjoyed what you had to offer me.  Unfortunately, the good doesn't outweigh the bad.  Sam's Club, I am breaking up with you.  It is over for good.

The Painful Filing of Taxes and Other To Do List Items - UPDATE - ALL DONE!

The To Do list for today looks short but the few things I have to do are painful and take a great deal of time.

1.  Write lesson plans, and prepare items for the the school week.  I did end up getting these done and submitting via email this morning.  
We have a deadline of 8 am on Mondays, but this is one thing that I can't put off until the least minute.  The state of PA changed our formula sheet that the kids get for the math test with only a month to go before the tests.  It also seems as though it will contain a great deal of new content as we move toward the common core.  We were originally told that the test would be almost all of the former content as we are not to be fully transitioned to common core until next year.  It looks as though they are not holding up their end of the deal.  Imagine training your whole life for down hill skiing and making it to the Olympics for skiing...  BUT 3 weeks before the Olympics you are told you will be a figure skater and not a skier.  The whole thing is so frustrating!
2.  File our state and federal taxes via turbo tax.  I did finish this up about a half hour ago.  I need to look into what I need to do to file the local.  I can't remember what I did last year.  Last year was the first year I didn't use H & R Block.  They do a great job but $68 for turbo tax beats the heck out of $200+ for H & R Block.
3.  Cook dinner.  I did this between the lesson plans and taxes.  It was hamburger helper so it's nothing to write home about.  Quick and easy was the order of the day.
4.  Sew at least 3 items for Earth day in school.  The kids collect capri sun pouches and we make wallets, bags, pencil holders, etc.  We need about 80 items so it takes some time, but this is something that I really enjoy doing for the kids.
5.  Sew a wristlet.
6.  Cut open and wash another round of capri sun pouches.  This is my least favorite part of number 4 above.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Menu for the Week and Some Flops!

Chicken Spinach Lasagna
 This is what I made today after a friend recommended it and can I just say, YUCK?!?!?!?!?!  I hate to be so frank, but it was terrible.  I had 6 people for dinner and only one liked it.  I am not even sure if he was telling the truth, or just being polite.  My husband and kids eat almost anything but not this.  I followed the recipe exactly but we simply did not like this dish.  My friend said that she, her 2 picky kids and her husband all loved it, so I gave it a whirl.
My other flop for the day was a potholder I was making.  I didn't take a picture before I threw it in the trash.  Maybe I have just lost my groove today!  On to the menu for the week...

Sunday - Chicken Spinach Lasagna - I also threw in a 9x9 pan of regular lasagna from the freezer in case the recipe was a disaster.  I am glad I planned for that possibility.
Monday - leftover wedding soup from Friday, leftover Italian lasagna (the chicken spinach lasagna went home with the only person that claimed to like it)!
Tuesday - spicy cheeseburger soup
Wednesday - tacos
Thursday - spaghetti with meat sauce
Friday - omelets, bacon and toast
Saturday - cheesy bacon and ham chowder with corn

I need to buy 1 large tomato, lettuce, 1 cucumber, 1 jalpeno, hard taco shells, and taco sauce to complete these meals.  I will batch cook the hamburger on Monday for the next 3 days and I will make extra bacon on Friday for Saturday's soup.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tablet or Kindle Pouch

I made 2 more tablet pouches but only one is shown.  The other was the same outside fabric with a royal blue zipper, red end tabs and royal blue print interior.  My son took off with it before I could get a picture!  These are so easy to make and the recipients really seem to appreciate and enjoy them!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tula Pink Birds and Bees Zipper Pouches (Squirrel fabric)

So I needed a pouch for my medicine to keep in contained in my purse.  I was diagnosed with asthma last week and was given 2 inhalers and an antibiotic for an ear infection.  I needed a decent sized pouch and I knew fussy cutting the squirrels in this fabric would yield a pouch with good dimensions for my supplies.  I love how they turned out!  The one on the left has a bold, blue zipper and the one on the right has pale aqua. I had a friend that saw it and wanted one for someone, so that is why I made 2.  I am very happy with the results!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tablet Zipper Pouch

We have 2 tablets that needed something to make them cozy and warm so I whipped up these pouches.  It was a fast and easy project.  I have made quite a few small zippys and I just increased the size to fit the tablets.

Sick Day

I am home for the second day in a row and I feel like I am scraping death's door.  My entire body aches from coughing...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chicken Tortellini Soup and a Menu Plan for the Week

Cooking soup was the plan for today and this is for dinner on Monday.  I am the only one home, so I thought I would get ahead for the week!

Even though it is for tomorrow, I had to cheat and have a little bowl for lunch.  It was delicious if I do say so myself.

 Carol from CT on a Budget gives me a great deal of frugal inspiration.  If you haven't checked out her blog yet, go right now!  Add it to your feed and you won't be sorry.  Just by incorporating SOME of her strategies, you will save a great deal of money!  Most of my ingredients are pictured, but I did add a few other things.
I chopped the whole onion pictured above with 5 carrots and 2 stalks of celery in my small food processor so it was all in little bits.  That is the way my family prefers their soup.  I cooked it in about 2 or 3 Tbsp. of olive oil until soft.  When I went to return the rest of the veggies to the refrigerator a saw a sad little 8 oz. package of mushrooms so I chopped them up and threw them into the pot.  The beauty is that my mushroom hater won't be able to pick them out from the chopped chicken, so I am safe and the mushrooms didn't get wasted!

 I added 6 cans of broth, 2 1/2 cups of water, pepper to taste and a little bouillon and let it gently boil a few minutes to make sure the veggies were tender. 
I chopped about 1/2 of that bag of precooked chicken and onions (qt. sized) 2 pictures up in my food processor and threw it in with the spinach and let it cook 2 or 3 more minutes.

 I then stirred the tortellini into the pot and removed it from the burner.  There was enough residual heat for the tortellini to be fully cooked when I returned in 10 or 15 minutes.  This step actually has nothing to do with frugality (that is just an added bonus) it has to do with not wanting the tortellini to turn to mush!

This is the final result in my Tupperware 17 cup servalier bowl!  It had to be close to 20 cups of soup when you count what I had for lunch in my red soup crock above.

This recipe could be made much cheaper than I made it.  I look to be realistically frugal, but still make things that my family enjoys with ingredients we love.  For example, some people make their own broth and freeze it after roasting a turkey or chicken.  Sometimes I get a great deal on packaged broth with coupons.  That was not the case with the broth I used today.  As I already mentioned, you could use a different pasta, my boys just happen love soup with tortellini.  I will say though that my spinach was free after gas points at my local store and my chicken was bought on sale and I precooked it with onions and froze it for later use.  This whole frugal, domestic path has to be what works for you and your family or you won't stick to it for the long haul.  I often wish I could be more like some of the other bloggers I follow, but I have to do what works for me.  Keep this is mind as you read other peoples blogs.  There is not one clear way for us to do things.  We are all at different places with career, income, lifestyle, age, debt (or debt freedom) and there isn't a one size fits all solution.

Onto the menu plan for the week:
Sunday - nothing- the rest of the family went to see the hobbit and out to eat.
Monday - chicken tortellini soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Tuesday - ham and cheese omelets with toast
Wednesday - hamburger helper (yuck - I will eat leftover soup, but the rest of my family actually likes this and asks for it) and carrots
Thursday - rigatoni with meat sauce and some type of frozen veggie
Friday - fried fish, parsley potatoes and a mixture of peas and corn
Saturday - roasted turkey (I have a 20 pounder that I want out of my freezer as it is taking up too much room), mashed potatoes, stuffing (just stove top) and a mixture of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.
Sunday - turkey pot pie

Busy Stay at Home Day Today

This is what I want to get done today and I plan on trying to get done fairly early in the day.  Let's see if I can accomplish it all!
1.  Cook soup for tomorrow night's dinner.
2.  Organize coupons
3.  Make a simple tablet cover.
4.  Lesson Plans
5.  Figure out a menu for the week.
6.  Tally the damage from shopping and eating out yesterday.  It was bad, but could have been much worse.  We had a good time and it was well worth it.

I might be home alone today.  My husband and one of our sons are going to see the hobbit with a friend and some family.  They have been planning this for over a month and are excited.  The other son seems to not be interested.  Maybe he will change his mind and go.  If not, I will enjoy having him home with me!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I have hit 7/10 no spend days!

I have hit 7/10 no spend days.  Yesterday I bought $41 worth of gas and $36 in groceries.  I also bought 2 zippers and a crochet hook at the Salvation Army thrift store for a total of $2.01 and Vaseline and a bottle brush at dollar general for a total of 2 something.  Not bad.  I carry a thermos of coffee to work every day and I wan to be able to clean it really well, thus the bottle brush.  I had one, but it bit the dust.
Today will be my worst day of spending for the month, but that is ok.  It is planned and it is needed.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Progress on No Spend Days So Far This Month

So I am very excited about my progress so far this month, but have mixed feelings about this upcoming weekend.  I have hit 7 of my goal of 10 no spend days for the month.  I will be able to make this goal easily now, so why the mixed emotions?
This weekend is going to be VERY expensive for us.  We are going to Erie to treat my nephew to dinner for his birthday and my son needs a suit for a mock trial, so that is on the purchase list.  Sunday my husband and sons are going to see Lord of the Rings and out for dinner with some of the extended family.  I will need to fill my car up twice this weekend (I haven't had to purchase gas for my van in over a month)!  The last time I filled up it was the Monday before Christmas and it was free with grocery points.  Also, the van went in for an oil change yesterday and I need 2 front tires to the tune of $257.  We just put 4 new tires on my husband's escape.  OOPS - I just edited the amount - thanks Sluggy!  It was a typo.  The tires are $257 NOT $2507!
Such is life.  All of this is normal, but it seems to really offset the progress I have made with the no spend days.  We also need some groceries.  This weekend is going to be $500 to $700 even without the tires yet.  This is why we budget.  That way we can afford things as they come along and still save some $.  I have serious doubts about hitting my $1500 extra savings goal for the month, but even coming close is way better than the days where we didn't budget and save.  Extra savings goal means that it is on top of what we have automatically redirected for retirement, a new car and the boys college funds.  Right now we are trying to save for a new roof in the spring, some of which I am guessing will end up coming out of the car fund.  This is going to be a very expensive year!
Don't get me wrong.  I am not complaining.  My life is good, our income is strong and I am happy.  I am just trying to set lofty goals and journal my progress.  Becoming debt free was awesome.  Trying to stay debt free is an interesting process!  Who was it that said "Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will still land among the stars?"

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I hate to Tell You the Lasagna Freezer Cooking Secret!

Ok - the secret is out.  I make lasagna on a large scale, but I do not make the sauce from scratch.  The truth of the matter is my mother always used prepared sauce.  It is what I grew up on, what I am used to and what I like.  Of course, you can definitely make your own, but I don't.
I am going to give you the rough amounts that I use to make 2 pans of lasagna that are 9x13 in size.  I don't go by exact recipe amounts unless I am baking.  That is just the way I learned to cook.
For 2 9x13 pans:

3 - 3.5 lbs. of ground beef - brown in a large skillet with 1 large onion, finely chopped
Add 4 cans of sauce (or your own homemade if you are a saint)!
Add 1 or 2 Tbsp of white sugar and simmer on low.  If it gets 2 thick, add a little water.

Ricotta mixture - in a mixing bowl combine:
16 oz of ricotta
3 eggs
salt, pepper and parmesan to taste
Set aside.

You also need
9 cooked lasagna noodles per dish (18 total) - I always cook a few extra
shredded mozzarella - 1-1.5 lbs per lasagna (2-3lbs total)

Spray the bottom of each pan with pam and layer in the following order:

3 noodles
Ricotta (1/6 of the mixture-just eyeball it)
3 noodles
Ricotta (1/6)
Ricotta (1/6)
Sauce again (you need sauce between the last layer of ricotta and mozzarella)

Each pan will have 3 layers of noodles, 3 layers of ricotta, 3 layers of mozzarella and 4 layers of sauce.  Try and plan accordingly when you are dividing up the ingredients.
I bake a thawed out lasagna, covered in foil, at 325 for about an hour and a half.  The last 10-15 minutes I remove the foil so it browns a little bit.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

My mom went to work 2 days a week when I was in high school and I cooked, or at least started supper on those nights.  I didn't mind at all and liked cooking right from the start.  She was able to call me from her work and talk me through getting dinner started over the phone.  As a result, it was more coaching by her verbally, than actually showing me.  Perhaps that is why I don't really measure and just kind of make it work.  You don't need to be a math teacher (like nerdy little me - lol) to figure out how to divide the ingredients up!  Just run with it.  If you are really concerned about having enough ingredients, buy a little extra mozzarella and a jar of extra sauce in case you need it.  If you don't need it, you will still have it on hand for another meal.
Cooking is individual.  I used ground beef, you might make meatless or add sausage or a combination of meat.  I add a little sugar to my sauce and you could skip that.  I like the ricotta thinned with egg, you might like chunks of ricotta.  Lasagna can be made a million different ways and still taste good.  Tweak it to your taste.

Frugal notes - try to stock up on ingredients when they are on sale or at least buy the cheese and sauce at a warehouse club in bulk.  I bought 9 cans of sauce at 99 cents each, but had I picked it up the last time I was at Sam's club, I could have bought a jumbo container of sauce.

Can you see how OCD I am from this picture of a shelf in my freezer?  I have to have all Pyrex dishes with glass lids so they stack neatly.  Honestly, it bugs me immensely that they are not all the same color.  Buying those dishes actually has saved me a lot of money.  A few years ago I had coupons for $3 off any Pyrex.  Walmart had sets with a 9x9 and a 9x13 for about $15 less the $3 coupon and I invested in a few sets.  I have used those dishes over and over for freezer meals which ends up being way cheaper than throw away pans from the dollar store over time.  I would hate to go to all the trouble, use a flimsy foil pan and have a fiasco!  You could also pick up dishes at a thrift store, but you aren't likely to find them with lids which saves on the need for foil.
Do you know what is to the left of the Pyrex on the same shelf?  Another freezer secret...  Boneless, skinless chicken that was purchased on sale.  I cut it into bite sized pieces sautéed it with onion and then portioned it into small freezer bags.  Ready to go for a quick dinner on the fly.  I do the same thing with ground beef.  I buy it on sale and cook it with onion before I freeze it.  You can make tacos in about 5 minutes with precooked ground beef and that is exactly what we did last night!
This is the first time I ever made 4 lasagnas at once.  I used to do 2, then I upped it to 3 and this time I made 4.  I don't see ever going beyond 4.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chicken Broccoli Penne Pasta Freezer Meal - Freezer Cooking Groove

 We were off for a snow day yesterday so this is one of the little things I did.  I made chicken broccoli penne pasta for dinner.  We baked the large 10x15 pan on the far right.
The blue and pink 9x13 pans went into the freezer.
I started by cutting 5 lbs of boneless skinless chicken into small pieces and cooking it with 2 chopped medium onions.  I then added 5 jars of Alfredo sauce.  It sounds like a lot, but remember this is for 3 dinners in a house with teenage boys. 
I cooked 2.5 lbs of penne and added 2 1lb packages of broccoli during the last minute of cooking.  I put it all in my 42 cup thatsa bowl, added the chicken sauce and combined it well.

Into 3 baking pans it went...
 Two of which were destined for the freezer.
 You can see that I now have the 4 lasagna I made last week (red lids) and the 2 penne pasta I made today in the freezer.

I don't think I will add broccoli again unless it is fresh.  It wasn't as crisp as I would have liked.  We also had more veggies on the side as it wasn't quite a full lb. of broccoli in each casserole.  Some of you asked about my lasagna recipe from last week.  I with give details in the next few days.  It isn't a recipe as much as a process because I cheat and use sauce from a jar!



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

End of the First Week of Carla's Challenge
So the first week went pretty well.  We did not eat out at all and we stuck to our menu plan!  Friday I spent $37.50 as you can see in this post.  It was for milk and other staples, so that was good.  On Sunday I spent $67.50.  This money was all spent on necessary items except I did buy some diet pepsi which I know is not a necessity.  The rest was more milk, fresh produce, 8 pounds of chicken and sale items paired with coupons.  This isn't bad, but I don't think I am on target to spend only $250 for the month.
The bad news, we had to purchase a new toilet for $89.04 and will pay to have it installed.  We are also down to one computer so I ordered 2 small $59 tablets for the purpose of watching Netflix.  That isn't something I do, but it is something the rest of my family enjoys.  We have never owned tablets, so they may be keepers, or we may send them back.  Time will tell.  We are still on track and will be able to save some more $ this week.  We have already set aside $140 this first week.  It isn't too hard when it is so cold that I don't want to leave the house!
My goals for the month revolved around saving a total of $1500 and menu planning using a lot of what we have on hand.  I feel that I am on track with those goals.  This is a 5 pay month for us, and I only planned on being able to save $90 the first week according to when bills were due, so I am good so far.  The bulk of my savings was to come from our pay on the 10th and I am worried about that now.  We need to buy my oldest a suit this weekend for school and take my nephew out for dinner for his birthday.  It isn't going to be a cheap week!
EDIT - Most importantly, I forgot to mention, I have had 5 no spend days out of 7!  I am very happy with that.  I only spent money on Friday and Sunday.
Additional EDIT - I don't keep my groceries to $250 a month, it is just part of a challenge for this month to try and eat down some of what we have on hand.  Sorry for the confusion!

What can you do on a snow day?

We are having an artic blast here in NW PA that might make Siberia shiver.  It is not the kind of day where kids can go sledding riding to celebrate having the day off school.  It leads to the question, what can we do on a snow day?  Because of where we live, we go to school pretty much no matter what.  It is a cultural thing here, strange but true.  To have the day off is unheard of in my town.
I am a teacher home for the day and my kids are high school boys that want to celebrate by playing video games, so I am going to focus on what people without small children can do to pass the time.  I didn't spend hours thinking about this, I am just writing what pops into my head.
Here we go!

1.  Make homemade soup and/or bread.
2.  Make a batch of freezer meals - I am making chicken penne pasta today and will make some extra for the freezer.
3.  Call your TV provider and ask for the cancellation department.  You might be surprised at what they will do to try and retain you as a customer!
4.  Try and find XX number of items to toss or donate.
5.  If you have credit card debt, call and try to negotiate a lower interest rate.
6.  Make a meal plan based on what you have on hand, write a grocery list filling in what is needed to complete the menu and STICK TO THE LIST next time you go to the store.
7.  Go online and transfer some money from your checking to a savings account.  How much might you have spent if you would have left the house instead of staying home today.  Would you have gone to the movies, eaten out, etc.?  Estimate an amount of money and transfer it!  It would have been gone had you left the house and you would have figured out how to live without it, so transfer it to your savings!
8.  Watch a movie with your family at home.
9.  Play a board game.
10.  Make an appointment with a lawyer to start the process for a will if you don't have a will.
11.  Research term life insurance if you are underinsured.
12.  Find some blogs that will improve your life based on your interests and start following them.  Make reading them a habit.  Blogs have improved my life immensely!  Finance, cooking, homemaking, freezer meals, sewing - anything that you are interested in.  There is a wealth of information out there.  Just be careful with finance!  You want to read to improve your life, not to become a captive audience to someone that is trying to sell you something!
13.  Watch a few old episodes of Suze Orman on
14.  Organize a room - or start small and organize a couple of cupboards or junk drawers.
15.  Watch a youtube video that teaches you how to do something useful.

The list can go on and on, but you get the idea.  I better life starts with a few small changes made one at a time that eventually turn into habits.