Friday, February 25, 2011

~this moment~

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda, aka Soule Mama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


In gratitude this week for:
  • A snow storm
  • Garden Planning
  • Fresh baked bread and hot soup
  • Simplicity

Wishing you all a glorious weekend!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feeding your Family - Menu Plan

Since I first mentioned feeding my family of five on $80.00 a week I've had lots of people ask how I do it. So I thought I would do a little series here and share some of the tricks that have helped me reduce our budget.

The first and most important thing is to menu plan. Did you all hear that? Menu Plan. This is such a crucial step, that I honestly don't think you can skip it, and here's why.

First, menu planning gives you a plan. Wow! That was simple, but seriously a plan will save you money, time, and stress. And who doesn't want that?


  • Making a menu plan enables you to use the food in your house. It's there, you own it. Why not serve it up before you need to throw it out because its spoiled?

  • Grab your local store's flyer and fill in your menu plan with items that are on SALE. These meals will cost you less this week than if you make them when the ingredients are full price.

  • Know what you will serve your family for dinner puts an end to the "oh no I forgot to thaw the chicken, let's order pizza" dilemma.


  • A menu plan will save you last minute trips to the store. Fewer trips to the store = time saved as well as money. We al know that when we run to the store for one thing we come home with six.

  • Working a menu plan will save time wondering around your kitchen trying to figure out what to make at 4:30 in the afternoon.


  • More money + more time = less stress

I hope this gives you some ideas about why menu planning is an important first step to saving money one your grocery bill. And I am sure there are many more reasons, but this should at least get you thinking about giving it a try.

So now that I have convinced you to give menu planning a try (wink) let's talk about how to get started. First you need to decide what type of plan will work for you family. You can plan just dinners or you can plan three meals a day and snack. Of course there is everything in between as well. You can plan a week or a month at a time. If you are new to menu planning I would strongly suggest you start with just a weeks worth of dinners. This is a smaller tasks and one that I just know you can succeed at. Once you get the dinner menu planning down, adding in other meals will be a snap.

In order to make planning you dinners easier you need to think about a couple of things. First what does the family calendar look like? This is important because you don't want to plan to cook a roast if you are flying in the door from Johnny's violin lesson to scarf dinner and fly out the door to Susie basketball game. You are setting your self up to fail and we truly don't want that. So with calendar in hand plan quick or crock pot meals on nights that are busy and save the roast for a night you will all be able to enjoy it. Next you will do well to have a list of your family's favorite dishes. Your tried and true recipes are the ones you want to put on your meal plan. Beginning meal planners should NOT fill their plan with all the mouth watering recipes they have been clipping and dying to try. Sticking to what you family knows and likes will make success well within reach. Once you get the hang of meal planning you can add in those new recipes, but I strongly suggest adding just one a week. Nobody wants to eat a week's worth of somewhat strange or disappointing meals. Familar meals = comfort food. that's a good thing to remember.

Now in order to save the most money, you will want to add meals to your menu plan that you already have in the house. This is what I term SHOPPING FROM YOUR PANTRY. So if you have a chicken in the freezer put roast chicken on your menu. Remember to then add a second meal that uses up the leftover chicken - think soup, casseroles, pot pie. Keep adding meals using up the food you have in the house. If you still have days without meals, grab your store's flyer and see what's on sale and fill in the remaining meals. Hopefully you will be able to plan 7 dinners with what you have in the house and what's one sale. If not, no fear. You will still have saved money and time. Work your plan and enjoy the savings and peace that a menu plan can bring.

As most of you know I post my menu plan here. It is also on my fridge. I love that everyone knows where it is so no more having to anwser "what's for dinner?' and if I get called away Sarah can easily and successfully take over dinner.

As a little gift for all of you, I thought I would share my menu planner. It has a place to plan breakfast, lunch and diner to the week, as well as a column for your shopping list and baking list. Enjoy!

We will talk more about building your pantry and grocery shopping in future posts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yarn Along

Wednesdays are becoming one of my favorite days. I just love participating in Ginny's weekly Yarn Along. It's a time to share what we are knitting and reading. Oooo two of my favorite things. And the best part is to sit down with a cup of tea and visit all the other lovely ladies and be oh so inspired. My project list as well as my reading list has grown almost out of control from all the wonderful suggestions. You really should take a minute to see what these creative ladies are up to.

And so for my contribution this week: another pair of socks! I didn't get to try two at a time but at least one sock is done and the other has a toe, well sort of. This is a simple pattern I contrived myself. My first attempt to really write a pattern and it, or at the the first one, turned out just the way I wanted. We'll see on the second if what I wrote down, is really what I did.

Thanks to the library and some good friends I have a stack of books to read. America's cheapest Family was lent to me after I taught a class on how I feed my family of 5 on $80.00 a week. I'm always looking for ways to pair down the spending and increase the living! Can't wait to delve into this one.

Another friend lent me, or should I say I absconded with, The Backyard Homestead. Oh dreaming of my little slice of heaven on earth, a little farm with oh so much going on. Well, I am hoping to add a little bit more reality to that dream, pigs I hope. A few fruit trees would be nice too.

Easy to Love Difficult to Discipline was recommend by another Yarn Alonger, is that what we call ourselves? We've been having some rough spots around here as of late and thought I'd at least thumb through this book and see if it offers any insight.

And of the little one, The Princess in the Forest. We are big fans of Sibylle von Olfers! Love, just love her books.

So looking at the list above, if you don't hear from me for a while you can bet I'm curled up in front of the wood stove with my knitting, pile of books and a cup of tea. Ok so even if it only happens in five minute bursts it sounded lovely. And a girl can dream.

Don't forget to join in the fun and share what your knitting and reading. We'd all love to know.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Soul Restoration Giveaway!

Life has been a little crazy around here as of late. There seems to be a little more stress, a little more turmoil. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it is just that New England winters are long and cold and gray and we are all in desperate need of spring arrival. No matter what it is, I was so excited when I stumbled upon this wonderful giveaway. This is so generous and just what my soul is needing. So please go and take a look, but don't enter. Ok just kidding you can enter, but you can't win, that's my job. Thanks MJ for the chance.

Friday, February 18, 2011

~this moment~

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda, aka Soule Mama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.



In gratitude this week for:
  • A finished pair of hand knit socks
  • A few Sunny Days
  • Reading to my little bookworm, when she's not being a monkey
  • Simplicity

Wishing you all a glorious weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sewing Bee ~ Snack Mats and Baggies

So excited to be joining in the fun of the Sewing Bee sponsored by Adirondack Mama. This has been just the inspiration I have needed to get back to the sewing machine. Last week I shared the quilt I am working on. Thank you for all the kind comments~I truly treasure them. I didn't get time to work on the quilt this week. A hard job in our little house. There is only one spot large enough to spread it out and that spot was never available - well except at about 3am.

And with Valentines Day I thought I would sew up these lovely little snack mats for the girls.

These were such a quick and fun project. And there is something so special about having your afternoon tea and biscuit on a special little mat. We have also taken them to the ski mountain to have our lunch on. trying to keep some of those nasty cold germs away.
And while we're talking about lunches at the ski mountain, here are the little snack baggies I sewed up. They are great for packing everything to a sandwich to cookies. You can find an amazingly easy tutorial for these little baggies here.

Hopefully, next week I'll be back with some progress on the quilt. I have a quiet day coming up ~ I think.

Don't forget to stop by the other Sewing Bee participants and see what they are working on. It's inspiring.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yarn Along

Joining in the fun of another week of Ginny's Yarn Along. A time and place to share two of my favorite things ~ Knitting and Reading.

This week on the needles is the same pair of socks. At least this is the second sock and it really is almost done! These socks have been really fun to knit. They are the first pair of toe up socks I've knit and the first time I use the magic loop technique. The next pair I am really going to try to knit two at a time. Need to do a little research first.

As for books, I just finished Made From Scratch. It was a very fast and enjoyable read. I was hoping to learn a little more, but this book really is for the beginner. Not a problem, the writer style is down home comfy. I thoroughly enjoyed her tales of success and disaster on her way to learning how to homestead. the reference section in the back looks quite good as well.

We are starting The Willoughbys as a read aloud. And the Tomten books are for Bekah!

Don't forget to hop on over to Small Things and join in this week's Yarn Along. Or at least be inspired to knit and read ~ it's so much fun!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Menu Plan ~ Week of February 14th

This week's menu is a little crazy. Dad is taking the big girls skiing for a couple of days. That leaves Rebekah and I to fend for ourselves. Don't tell, but I am looking forward to a little down time for just my baby and me. And I am sure that when the rest of the tribe rolls back into town I will have missed them terribly and eagerly hear about their escapades.

Breakfast: Homemade Vanilla Yogurt and Granola (plus Elderberry syrup)
Lunch: Ski Day Picnic
Dinner: Apres Ski Party

Breakfast: Poached Eggs on Wheat Toast
Lunch: Almond Butter Sandwiches and Apple Slices
Dinner: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Bread and Salad

Breakfast: Oatmeal Bar
Lunch: Mac & Cheese with Pears
Dinner: Sloppy Lentils with Artisan Bread

Breakfast: Homemade Vanilla Yogurt and Granola (plus Elderberry Syrup)
Lunch: Tortillas with Hummus and Veggies
Dinner: Cheese Omlettes with Oranges

Breakfast: Cinnamon Toast and Smoothies
Lunch: Black Bean Dip
Dinner: Homemade Pizza

Breakfast: Waffles and Sausage
Lunch: Tuna Melts and Carrot Sticks
Dinner: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Breakfast: Banana Muffins
Lunch: Roasted Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Dinner: Pork Roast, Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans and Applesauce

Looking for some more meal inspiration head on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Black Bean Burritos

I am always on the look out for healthy, frugal meals that my family will more than eat, love. Mexican food is a favorite here, or at least our take on Mexican - Tacos. However, one can only eat tacos so often. First I get board preparing as well as eating the same food over and over. And secondly, we can eat A LOT of tacos. It never seems to be a frugal meal. The first solution to the taco eating frenzy was Taco Pie. All the yummy flavors of tacos and for a reason I still can't understand we don't eat as much. Next up on the Mexican meal plan was to make burritos. After playing around with our favorite ingredients we have a yummy, healthy, and frugal meal that EVERYONE loves!

  • 2 cans refreied beans or equivalent homemade
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 3/4 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 TBSP homemade taco seasoning
  • 2 TBSP cumin
Mix all ingredients well. You can heat these on the stove top or you can heat the finished burritos in the oven.
Tortilla - we make our own. You can find the recipe here. I usually make about 8 tortillas from my recipe, they are a little large so you can roll the burritos. Or you can use your favorite brand.
Spoon a good size amount onto the center of the tortilla. Roll and fold in the ends. Place folded burritos in a hot, buttered griddle. Cook until brown and then flip to brown the other side. I place the finished burritos in the oven until I have then all grilled.
Serve with your favorite toppings: salsa, sour cream, lettuce, more cheese, black olives and jalapenos!
Remember this is definitely just a starting place. Adjust the spices, toppings, kind of cheese, heat of salsa to your family's tastes.
I hope you enjoy our take on Mexican - New England style.
This recipe is included on Full Plate Thursday. You really should hop on over there are lots of fabulous recipes.

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda, aka Soule Mama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


In gratitude this week for:
  • One sock done, one more to go
  • Be witness to the wonders and joy of a four year old
  • Good, warm food
  • Simplicity
  • Co-op Mom's who step up to the plate and help

Wishing you all a glorious weekend!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sewing Bee - Colorblock Quilt

I was so excited when Julia announced she was going to be hosting a weekly Sewing Bee. I enjoy sewing, but have a hard time getting to it. Without a place to sew, except for the kitchen table, sometimes it seems to much work to get everything out just to have to put it away in time for dinner. I'm hoping that joining the weekly sewing bee will be just the motivation I need to keep me sewing.

My project for this week and a few more I'm sure is my Colorblock Quilt. The top is done except for trimming the two sides. Then to sandwich the top, batting, and backing and baste. I'll admit this has me a little nervous. This is my first quilt other than the little doll quilt I made Rebekah for Christmas. And I know I have been putting off working on it, because I'm scared I am going to mess it up. So wish me luck. Hopefully, by next week I will have gotten beyond this step and will be machine quilting it or even putting on the binding.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yarn Along

Once again joining Ginny and others in her weekly Yarn Along. A place to share two of my passions, knitting and reading.

On the needles is the second sock! Finally! Anyone else have a hard time knitting the second sock? It seems after I finish the first I should be finished, but no that second sock. I think I will have to look into knitting two at the same time.

I'm reading a lovely magazine - The Mother. I had heard wonderful things about this magazine, but had never actually seen an issue. I was blessed to win this copy from a fellow blogger. Thanks Starr.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Menu Plan - Week of February 7th

Thank you for all the wonderful comments regarding our $80/week food budget. Many of you asked for tip to help control your food budget. That is a hot topic and one for another post, which is coming soon. Promise. And for those of you who are local, I am teaching a food budget/couponing class on Monday, February 21st. If you would like more information on the class please contact me. Now on to this weeks menu.

Breakfast: Yogurt and Granola
Lunch: Ski Mountain Picnic
Dinner: Apres' Ski Party

Breakfast: Oatmeal Bar
Lunch: Mac & Cheese with Apple Slices
Dinner: Meatball and Veggie Soup with 90 Minute Rolls
To Do: Make Bread & Soak Beans

Breakfast: Poached Eggs on Wheat Toast with Oranges
Lunch: Roasted Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Dinner: Black Bean Burritos
To Do: Make Tortillas

Breakfast: Sour Cream Coffee Cake and Grapefruit
Lunch: Tuna Melts and Carrot Sticks
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Brown Rice and Broccoli
To Do: Make English Muffins and Soak Rice

Breakfast: Egg McJette Sandwiches
Lunch: Chicken Quesadillas
Dinner: Calzones and Salad
To Do: Make Chicken Stock

Breakfast: Pancakes and Sausage
Lunch: Spinach Salad
Dinner: Creamed Chicken over Biscuits

Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls
Lunch: Orzo with Pesto and Tomatoes
Dinner: Tourtiere with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
To Do: Make Yogurt

Don't forget to stop by Menu Planning Monday hostde by I'm An Orgainizing Junkie.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Homemade Lip Balm

So far so good with my goal of making one new health and beauty product a month. Last month was hand lotion. A month later and we are all loving this. It works fabulously and this mama know what is going on her family' skin. And on top of that it is quick and frugal. Who could ask for more?

This month we are making lip balm. Between the cold temps outside and the dry heat of our wood stove we are definitely a family that goes through a lot of lip balm. And while you can pick up lip balm cheap, the cost isn't the only thing that is cheap. Personally, I don't want all that stuff on my family's lips, especially if you have little ones who eat almost as much as they get on their lips. We have purchased a few high quality lip balms that we have been pleased with, that is with their ingredients and performance, not their price. It is hard to swallow paying upwards of $5.00 of a lip balm. There had to be a better answer. So we began playing with lip balm recipes. Here is our favorite so far - not to hard, not too soft and so yummy smelling, and you could eat it without any ill effects.

Cocoa - Coconut Lip Balm

1 1/2 tsp Cocoa Butter
1 7/8 tsp Coconut Oil
3 tsp Olive Oil
2 tsp Bees Wax
5 drops Vitamin E
6 Containers - Lip Balm Tubes or Little Pots

You are going to melt all the ingredients except the vitamin e together. I like to use a glass measuring cup and place it in a simmering pot of water. You could also put the measuring cup in the microwave. If using the microwave set it for short periods of time 15-20 seconds and check it often. When everything is melted add the vitamin e.

Carefully pour into your tubes or pots. Wait for the lip balm to cool and solidify. Your lip balm is ready! Easy peasy.

Come back next month when we try our hand at making goats milk soap.

Friday, February 4, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda, aka Soule Mama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


In gratitude this week for:
  • Family coloring
  • Snow, lots of beautiful white snow
  • An extra day off for hubby
  • A finished sewing project
  • Little girl giggles

Wishing you all a glorious weekend!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Color

All the grayness outside has me looking for little spots of color inside. Lemons, Pencils, and Sewing Projects. Photographed and edited by my daughter Sarah.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Yarn Along

Joining Ginny for her Yarn Along. In her words:

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a single photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

Inspired by so many of you these last few weeks crocheting little hearts, I thought it was time to attempt crocheting myself. Thanks to a few little pointers from a friend and this wonderful tutorial, I think I crocheted a few not so bad looking hearts! I strung them a long a crochet chain and they are gracing my large kitchen window. I am pleased but I wont tell anyone I crochet yet. I'm making a few more for little Valentine's Day surprises. Hopefully practice will make them better.

On the knitting needles are the socks from last week. I had to frog and start again. I should have known better than to knit such a pattern while chatting at the ski mountain. I need to remember to bring a project that doesn't involve so much counting.

I did manage to finish Rebekah's little purse from last week. It came out wonderfully and she loves it. An added bonus. I think I will be making a few more of them changing the size and style a bit. I would love to make on with a zipper closure to keep my colored pencils in.

Also off the needles are Hannah's toastys. Then knit up so quickly and the Cascade Superwash 220 was wonderful to knit with.

Beside crocheting for the first time, I also knit me first icord! How cool and simple! As a relatively new knitter I try to learn a new technique with each pattern. Icords scared me. I had visions of knitting tiny tubes on four double pointed needles. Well boy was I wrong and I'm glad I found this little video.

As for reading I'm still enjoying Casting Off. I really haven't had much time for reading. Rebekah has been asking to read the Snow Children over and over. And I know we will be reading it a lot today. We are having a doozy of a snow storm - predictions of up to 20 inches! So hopefully there will be lots of reading and knitting and of course shoveling out and snowball fights!