Thursday, October 28, 2010

Update: 30 day Spending Fast, Both a Success and a Failure

Wow. I have not been a very good frugalista these days. Lately, I have been consumed by the need to spend green.  However, it has been on useful items... like Halloween Decorations. Hmmph... On a different note I have been able to slim the down the grocery budget significantly by only buying what is necessary and using what we already have. I have come up with some interesting food combinations. It's a good thing my husband isn't picky.

As far as my picky toddler? Well she is still picky. I have found the Mac and Cheese recipe from Deceptively Delicious to be just about the easiest and tastiest thing in the entire book. It has however

Deceptively Delcious Recipe - Pita Pizzas - Succes/ Fail

Wow, I didn't really expect this. However, I didn't expect M to be in the mood she was in. I also couldn't locate 4" pitas and thus when I cut through the cheesy goodness the spinach oozed out. She started shaking her head no immediately. What is with the color green? Why does it scare some kids so much?

I also think that M wold pick these Pizzas apart anyhow, as she usually picks at her food.

I loved them. I will make them again for myself anytime. Happy that I found this great idea!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Confessions of a Couponholic - Either I Can't Stop Spending... Or Stuff Really is Exspensive.

So I have been putting off updating the ol' blog this week. I guess it's because I am so ashamed of the fact that I could not adhere to the very goals that I established and set forth. I blame two realities in the failure of my plan. A) I really do have a spending problem. Ouch. That hurts to say. B) In order to purchase healthy, wholesome food for your family a budget of $25.00 is definitely not realistic. Who in the heck was I kidding?

The shopping list was compiled in advance as I stated and a majority of the items were fresh produce which was prepared in order to achieve my secondary goal of sneaking veggies into our daughter's diet.

I spent $61.94 on fresh items for the week but this did also include broccoli and cauliflower to be steamed and butternut squash and sweet potatoes to be roasted. These items are for the Deceptively Delicious recipes and will be used throughout the weeks; so it's hard to say that this upfront cost will be consistent. I also spent an additional $18.32 on items that Maddie likes to eat since she seems to be very particular and not taking to my new take on her menu. Yes, this does include cans of Spaghetti O's and Campbell's Soup. A kid does have to eat!

So a grand total of  $80.26, roughly $5.00 over what our usual budget is. I attribute this to the additional pantry items that we had to purchase. However, if I truly was a person that could only survive on a $100.00 a month food budget I just don't see how it could be done in a manner where you could eat healthy too.  I am so thankful and grateful that my parents are the urban farmers that they are as well. I highly doubt that I could obtain organic produce and still maintain my family's budget of $300.00 per month for food.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deceptively Delicious Recipe - Grilled Cheese - Success/Fail

Again, another attempt at a child friendly dinner that happens to have a hearty does of veggies was a semi-success - semi-failure again.

I used a little less margarine and a little more cheese. I also used hearty wholegrain for ours, and regular wholegrain for M's sandwich. My husband probably took 3 bites before he stopped and asked, "What kind of cheese is this? " It paired nicely with Muir Glen Creamy Tomato soup.

M stuck her fingers in the cheesy goop a few times and licked her hands off. She then opened up the center of the other pieces. This may have been because I burned the bread using margarine to toast the bread instead of olive oil. whoops. Maybe I will have better luck next time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Deceptively Delicious - Macaroni and Cheese 1 - Success & Fail

Success? I loved everything about this recipe. From the texture of the noodles, (al dente - Barilla) , to the creamy sweetness of the sauce.

Madeline somehow KNEW there was something other than Cheese in it. However, she did scoop in a few bites. The next day I melted a slice of Kraft American cheese in it and she ate a few more bites than she did the day before.

I portioned out the servings in freezable containers. I hope they freeze well and that she will give it another shot soon.

Next time I try to make Mac & Cheese for her I am going to do Great Northern Bean puree in good ol' Kraft Macaroni. I think we may be able to better trick her that way.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Household Budgeting: When Budgeting is a Bore

Who can say that they enjoy budgeting? Me? Nope. I even hold a finance degree and have held several Accounting roles in the past. I did have my spreadsheets and I knew how much we were SUPPOSED to be spending. However, neither my husband or myself actually adhered to the guidelines that had been set.

The key to having any type of household budget is to pay yourself first. What does that mean? We set aside a predetermined amount to be transferred to savings via a payroll transfer. The remainder is used for household bills, mortgage payments, and household expenses. My husband and I keep separate accounts and each pay for bills separately but evenly. For example when my daughter was in daycare he paid the mortgage and insurance, I paid for daycare and utilities. My advice to all women is to have their own account. You never know when you will need to have your own money.

Using a spreadsheet from sites such as 10 Free Budgeting Spreadsheets  helped us determine what bills are revolving and what we really are paying for everything.  Browse what you think will work for you. Then, the kicker is for you to save ALL your receipts. At the end of the month separate the receipts by type and enter into the spreadsheet of your choice. That should help you determine where you need to adjust your discretionary spending.

For example after using the same method we determined that we could not afford pet insurance. Though we love our pets very much we just knew that we could not afford the $90 + per month payment and cut it out. We exercise our pugs and feed them well, so they have remained healthy. Their shots are taken care of at pet clinics that run on the weekend at the local pet store.

Confessions of a Couponholic: The Goals and Rules of the 30 Day Spending Fast

The 30 day spending fast is to commence on Monday, September 20th. A full inventory has been done of the kitchen and pantry and recipe plans have been made.

Fresh items will be purchased on a weekly basis. This includes milk, yogurt, and such. If making a recipe from Deceptively Delicious changes to the recipe will be determined on a case by case basis and. If an exact ingredient is needed it will be added to the weekly budget along with the other items to be purchased. A weekly budget of $25 dollars for such necessities has been set. Any surplus of the budget will be transferred to savings at the end of the 30 days.

Recipe plans have always helped us budget in the past. However, in the past we budgeted $75 per week for food. I guess that number was part of the reason that I felt so compelled to spend!

I hope to learn to make weekly meal plans and stick to what we need rather than what is on sale! I also hope to learn to feed my picker toddler in a manner that enables her to meet her taste and nutrition needs!

Deceptively Delicious Recipe : Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - SUCCESS

M ate the Deceptively Delicious cookie with her lunch today. She didn't touch the raisin's or walnuts which I had expected. I may chop them next time.

She however did not like my own recipe for cheesy mashed potatoes. I used instant, because that is what we have! I should have known she wouldn't like instant potatoes, however, real potatoes have been added to the shopping list.

I didn't do an exact calculation on the cost to prepare the cookies. However, I had all of the ingredients. The Zucchini was from my parents garden. I estimate I spent 0. Since we are starting from here on out with a clean slate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - Deceptively Delicious Recipe

Tonight I made my first recipe from Deceptively Delicious : Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They were fluffier then I wanted them to be. It may because I used quick oats instead of old-fashioned oats. Everything else I used ingredient for ingredient. Besides being fluffy the taste of zucchini was undetectable. Based on my personal taste I don't think I would use walnuts next time. I intend to try these cookies with her breakfast tomorrow. M will usually only eat bananas if they are newly ripe. As in just turning yellow from green. I'm the same way. Funny how our children pick up on our own picky eating habits!

However, we shall see how she likes them.

I give this recipe a thumbs up!

The 30 Day Spending Fast : The Contents of Our House

I did a rough inventory of the contents of our refrigerators, freezers, and cabinets. I have determined that we probably would survive longer than 30 days. Which in the back of my mind kind of makes me happy in case aliens invade, or zombies emerge tomorrow.Then again I have to I ask the same question, who am I kidding?

The pantry, you will note that I have 4 bottles of BBQ sauce.
As my husband is from Kansas City and we do dine on something covered in BBQ sauce at least once a week. 

I hid the Hamburger Helper in this picture!

A fridge full of condiments and no food. How embarrassing.
Actually, there are 16 eggs and a gallon of milk in that fridge too. Oh, and 2 old lemons, 2 cucumbers, and a bell pepper.

The kitchen freezer. The bananas are for banana bread.
So much better if you freeze the bananas first!

The refrigerator that we used to refer to as the "party fridge" in the garage.
As you would probably suspect from the empty Taco Bell bag, and old sushi.

The garage freezer. Note when you have extra space in a freezer fill that space up with ice.
It will help you conserve energy. This is where I am storing my purees for the Deceptively Delicious recipes that I intend to try over the next 30 days. There are also 2 large bags of vegetable broth.

The other garage freezer. This is the freezer that husband refers to as his "hunting" freezer. Most of that meat is game meat. It is true, and I like it. Lucky for my husband!

Pretty sure I can handle any spill that could possibly occur.

I must have a large family.
Nope, just a lot of back stock of cleaning products and toiletries.

Frugal Strategies : How to Blanch and Shred Zucchini

I'm a girl who loves her sweets. So is my darling M. She really, really likes zucchini bread. I really, really love Zucchini Bread, the recipe I found here at, with 700+ reviews you really can't go wrong!

I also Blanche and shred my zucchini first. I feel that it increases the moisture content of the bread and it doesn't come out so tough and hard as my bread often did in the past.

I usually use the larger zucchini for this purpose since the yield is obviously greater with a bigger squash!


Wash, but do no not peel. Cut zucchini into 1”- 2" slices

Blanching :

Water-blanch for 3 - 8  minutes or steam-blanch for 1 to 5 minutes. It depends on the length and size of the zucchini that you are using. I usually blanch until the squash has just lost it's firmness.

Promptly cool in an ice bath and and drain.


Steam-blanch for 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Shred with a cheese grater or food processor. Cool while draining.

Pack measured amounts into freezer bags and seal leaving at least 1/2 " of space.
Label and freeze.

Preparing Frozen Vegetable Puree from Deceptively Delicious

Using the methods that Jessica Seinfeld outlines in her book Deceptively Delicious I prepared the following :

1.                    A total of 5 1/2 cup servings and 1 1/4 cup serving of zucchini
2.                    A total of 2 1/2 cup servings of spinach
3.                    A total of 2 1/2 cup servings and 1 1/4 serving of of yellow squash

It was definitely a long project and lucky for me M took a 3 hour nap. I also still have a sink full of dishes. I hate having pots that you have to wash by hand!

I also plan to purchase sweet potatoes and my Mom is bringing over beets from her garden. I plan to roast and bake all at the same time in the next couple of days. I bet my house will really smell like fall!

Here a few tips based on what I learned from the process. Small zucchini work much better for pureeing. Larger squash will have larger firmer seeds.

The slices are about 1" thick.

I measured the puree into a measuring cup and then poured in the freezer bag.
I stretched the freezer bag over a clean coffee cup to avoid spills.

You know how they shake the blenders around a bit at smoothie shops? I discovered that it really helps when you are pureeing too.

My most important tip for you is not to overcrowd the vegetables. Ensure that each piece has ample space to be steamed evenly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How to Deal with a Picky Eater : How I USED to Deal

How did I deal with my picky eater? Well has of right now I still allow her to be a picky eater. I give into her requests and demands. As a result she eats mostly fruit. In her entire "schedule" of food is usually: strawberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, blueberry waffles, eggs, strawberry cream cheese, gold fish crackers, honey nut Cheerios, yogurt, milk, macaroni and cheese, Spaghetti O's, and cheese. Cheese! Oh my does she love cheese. Which brought me to Deceptively Delicious, my pediatrician mentioned that one of the recipes called for white bean puree in the macaroni and cheese. That alone sold me on the book. I thought about buying it several times but as usual the book fell into my hands.

I am convinced that I can sneak the foods that we love and want to share into what our daughter will actually eat. I can remember really not liking the texture of some foods that I LOVE today, so I think if she can get used to the flavor of some of the vegetables we can eventually bring her around! Oh and meat too, M will not eat meat either. Unless you consider meat to be lunch meat. Because she will take a few nibbles of ham here and there. So I intend to sneak some meat into her diet too!

Lucky for me most of my vegetables that I steamed and pureed were grown in my parent's organic garden, however, the vegetables that used are readily available right now!

My first attempt at sneaking beans into M's food was a complete fail. I used an entire can of garbanzo bean puree in a box of Annie's Organic Macaroni and Cheese. M knew immediately that there was something up with her favorite dinner time dish. She refused to even scoop one spoonful. My husband said she even called it "caca" Spanish for poop! After I actually READ the recipe I found that it only called for 1/2 cup. Voila! That probably would have gotten her to eat her beans. Next time!

However, my variation on the recipe in Mrs. Seinfeld's book will be based on what I have on hand at home. So most of my takes on her recipes will vary!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Confessions of a Couponholic : When "Saving" Becomes Spending

I desperately need to confess. I'm addicted to saving money. I scour the Sunday paper for deals. I can't wait to save 40% on my grocery bill, or my daughters clothes. We have a good supply on pretty much everything and anything in the house and my cabinets are stocked full of food. Yet, something compels me to continue to buy, buy, buy. Am I stocking up for the Apocalypse here? Hopefully not, yet I buy even when I already have something on hand at home. I'm not really sure why. It's not as if I am not going to be able to run to one of the many stores within short driving distance if I run out of Italian dressing!

I'm on a mission to cut the waste out. I vow for the next 30 days that I will not buy a single thing unless we truly are in need of the item. This goes for ALL shopping including quick items such as drinks at the grocery store and the gas station.

I had to go on medical leave  recently and as a result I REALLY need to watch my spending since short term disability does not give you complete pay. So I VOW not to spend for the next 30 days! I have done a rough inventory of the items of our pantry, 2 refrigerators (It's true), and 2 freezers (Yes, really we have that much food in this small suburban abode.)

I estimate that I will be able to complete several meals with the items I have on hand. However, while I am doing the best to empty the contents of my kitchen I will ALSO be doing my best to maintain a healthy menu and one that my daughter will actually eat. Thus, I picked up a copy of Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld and steamed and pureed a large amount of vegetables today. I'm going to give her strategies a whirl since I have concluded that I can not allow Madeline to be a picky eater when there is so much good food in this world to be eaten!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fab Grocery Deals!

It's a deal gone by.. and one I should have shared. I came across a coupon for $5.00 off 5 Healthy Choice meals at I don't usually eat frozen meals since they are pricey and I prefer to take leftovers to work but I printed it.

I was shopping at my local King Soopers store yesterday and came across the Healthy Choice French bread pepperoni pizzas on close-out for $1.75 each. Of course I bought 5! With my coupon it was $3.75 for all of them! Hooray!! Perfect for those days when I'm running around like crazy!

There is a coupon for $1.00 off of two at their website now!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'm Back!!!!

Life has been incredibly busy for us over past few months. I do wish I would have shared our holiday money saving ideas. There is always this year!

Plans for this year: (I'm not going to call them resolutions as they are almost 1 month late!)

Organize closets
Clean out Garage
Spend more time outside
Give more
Expect less
Eat 1 piece of fruit per day
Save $$ for our BIG trip

I also hope to live each day inspired, and to give Thanks to our Lord.

Here is to blogging in 2010!