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Updates

January 23, 2010
 

Its been a while since I’ve actively written here but I havent forgotten about it completely. Since it’s been so long I’d like to do an update on how things are going and what’s going on here.  

Monthly Cooking:  

The biggest thing that I’ve done was the monthly cooking. I’m going to continue to do that for the forseeable future. I missed an opportunity to do it in January, but things are working out just fine. Having done it for a few months now I have a better grasp on how it works and how to customize it to our family. I really like that too because I can use tried and true recipes for our family and I can make meal sizes that are more correct for us too. We aren’t a huge family by any means, however, there is an awful lot of the male persuasion in this household. Because of that, there is a lot more eating involved at mealtime. So instead of the 8×8 pans that you have seen me use in the past, I’m going to start using more of the 9×13 pans for the meals.  

One thing that I really need to focus on outside of the freezer part of the meals is the side dishes. Having the meals already in the freezer should give me more creative power to find sides that are apealing to smaller children and adults alike. Things like fresh veggies prepared with herbs and spices and fresh fruit to give a slightly sweet aspect to the meal. My kids LOVE fruit so that would be a hit at dinner time. There is one really nice thing to having the meals thought out and prepared already, and that is that I have more grocery money to think about getting fresh foods to put on the table. (The table is another conversation altoghether!)  

My new freezer!

Freezer:   

I GOT A FREEZER!!!!!! Im so happy about that! It was a super great deal too. I was very blessed over the holidays and was finally able to buy the freezer that I need for all the food Im cooking up. Its fairly large too. It’s about 13.5cuft inside and its a stand up freezer. We had originally purchased a 5 cuft chest freezer. We got it home, unwrapped it, plugged it in and …… nothing. It didnt work! To top it off, it made a funny sound when we plugged it in. So we called up Lowes and asked if they’d take it back. Of course, because it was just that morning when we bought it, they had to take it back. So we did. Got it back there, got the refund, and looked around at the freezers again. This time, we didnt have the kids. I took my Father in Law with me both times, because he has a truck and we dont at the moment. The first time, I had to take the kids because I didnt have anyone to watch them. The hubs was home the second time so I left them with him. Anyway, all that to bring you to my story of the freezer. When I got a chance to look around the second time, I decided to take a closer look at one that was with the scratch and dent stuff. I didnt take a good look the first time because I had the hellians wild things children and couldnt really get a good look without having to scream yell ask them to not get into things. It definately belonged in the scratch and dent stuff! It had a large indent on the lower part of the back (where no one will see it) that really didnt matter much because it didnt hit any vital parts of the freezer and it had scratches on the side and top of it (again where no one sees it). So we got ahold of a sales guy for the appliances and asked him about the price. It was quite steep for my budget originally. Retail was something like $430, and the discount was $375. We had asked him what his price point was and he told us $250. Unfortunately that was still out of my price range because after taxes it would have been a lot closer to $300. So I told him straight, I have 200, what can you offer? He decided that he needed to check with his manager and so he left for a few minutes and came back. When he came back he let us know that the lowest he could go was 225 and that was because it was at cost. So, not wanting to walk away from a great deal, I took it. After taxes, it was closer to the 250 but it was manageable. Never underestimate the power of negotiation! Honestly, I think its fun.  

Sewing:  

There really hasnt been a lot of that going on here. Partly because of lack of motivation, and partly because I dont have a great space to work on it. I’d love to be able to start a project, and leave it there to go work on something else (like making lunch for the kids) for a while to come back to. Currently I only have my kitchen table to work off of and it’s a bit of a hassle to set everything up, get started, tear everything down, eat, try to get started again … and on and on like that. Not condusive to real work! So I really need to find a permanent solution for that. Until then, the sewing will probably be a rare occurence.  

Baby Bootie

Knitting/Crochet:  

Now here’s a craft that I’ve been able to get into! I hadnt posted about it because I started right around the time I stopped blogging. Coincidence? Im not sure. There was a lot going on in November and December. In November sometime, I taught myself how to knit. I had done some with crochet in the past (by ‘some’ I mean I made a scarf in highschool) but I had never picked up knitting needles. I decided that it was time to figure it out so I grabbed a thing of yarn, a set of needles that looked like it was about middle of the road. It seems to me that you can make the very basic stuff with any size needle so long as it’s not the tiny knitting in the round needles or the super big needles for massive scarves or heavy sweaters. I got started with a simple pattern for a baby bootie and I think it turned out great! Then I did a pot holder/dish cloth. It works better as a pot holder or a pot coaster for the table. Anyway, it turns out that it was super easy to knit! I love it! All that you ever need to know about knitting is online. Just go to the websites for some of the more popular brands of yarn and they have the abbreviations and instructions on how to get started. If that isnt good enough, you can always go to youtube to find anything you need. So, between knitting and crochet, I think I have found a new hobby. I really enjoy both of them and wish I had a bit more money right now to get all the different things that I’d love to get for my use in this hobby. Alas, I just have to wait. Did I ever tell you how much I hate waiting?  

Spark:  

I will give you more information on this one in the future as I find out more about it. Like I had said in the last post, I have tried it and failed before because I never really got into it. This time, I am going to try to actually put more effort into maintaining myself on the site. So if you are part of SparkPeople and found me thru there, you might find some duplicate posts between my sparkblog and my personal blog.  

Coupons:  

This year I am going to try to use coupons a lot more for the toiletry items that we need here in the house. I’ll be using them for food too, but selectively. I really want to get into buying more fresh foods and eventually getting my garden going but for now, this is what I have.  

Kids/homeschool:  

As some of you know, we homeschool the oldest. Technically all of them but the oldest is actually school age. We seem to be doing well with the basics. There are a few tools that I’d like to get to enhance things like his penmanship and grammar. Also, I would love to get some flash cards for his addition and subtraction skills. He knows and understands all the lower numbers and is starting to understand adding double didgets, but I’d like to see him be able to just add in his head without having to use his fingers or a number line for the basics. He seems to be doing well with it all tho and he’s very excited to learn things. He usually does some sort of school work every day of the week. Not because I make him, but because he enjoys it that much. We have a lot of workbooks for his own personal use and he really enjoys those. As far as the two little boys, they seem to be doing well too. The youngest likes to count to 5 and sort of hum along with the abc’s and the middle boy can count to 20 without much difficulty and can sing the abc’s almost completely in order. I think I’ll be getting some flash cards for them as well to work with. I think that the middle boy is a visual learner and might actually need the cards to help him put the letters in order. That’s the short of it. I’d go on more, but I’ve already written a novel. ;)  

There’s a not so brief update on the goings on here. I know it’s been a long time and now that the holidays are over, I hope to be posting a lot more regularly. Thank you so much for being so patient with me.

Benefits of Monthly Cooking

November 14, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Mix 

It’s only been two months now, but I can already see a lot of benefits that monthly cooking has to offer.

Im sure you are aware of the cost benefit of cooking once a month. Its no surprise that when you buy food solely to make preplanned meals, you will spend less in the long run. There’s two ways that you can go about purchasing for your monthly cooking adventure. You can make your list and go to your grocery store with the intention to buy everything you need for the Big Day, or you can watch sales and pare the sales with the items on your list making sure before your day that you have aquired all the needed items.

I prefer at the moment to do my shopping all in one day. It takes a while to do it, but for me it’s a lot easier and less stressfull because I can get my husband to watch the boys while I take the time in the store. It’s definately not something you can rush through.

Another way that you save money with monthly cooking is in the fact that you tend to acumulate necessary ingredients that can be used for more than one recipe. Spices are a great example of this. If you buy a spice that only requires a small portion for the recipe, you have that spice for more in the future. I like to buy a little extra of some ingredients when I do my shopping so that I have them to work with when I dont feel like using the premade meals. Noodles and sauces can be used in a lot of recipes for example. Canned cream soups are a good thing to have on hand just in general (unless you are good at making your own that is). They make great sauces for casseroles and starters for soups. You can use your imagination when you use cream soups.

Pumpkin Ravioli Casserole

A great benefit to this style of cooking is that there is a LOT LESS wasted food. Period. You make the meals, freeze them and cook them when you are ready to. There is no food sitting in the fridge going to waste because you didnt get to it in time. I cant tell you how much I have done that! Freezer meals can sit in the freezer for up to 3 months depending on the ingredients. When the meals are put together, they are put into containers that are more of an appropriate size for your family to consume. You know how much your family eats and so you cook the amounts apropriately. I have found that my family could get by with an 8×8 pan of a main dish item plus two side dishes (usually a veggie and bread or fruit) I have 3 small boys that are just now finding their appetite and this still feeds us all. There usually isnt much in the way of leftovers!

The best benefit of this style of cooking is the health aspect. I have noticed, because of the portion sizes Im assuming, that my clothes are fitting me much better since I’ve started this adventure. I can tell you for sure that I have NO cravings for fast food anymore. I do still like a good sit down restaurant tho. I have to admit that I gave up McDonalds over a year ago and havent had cravings for them for a long time. But we have gone out to other fast food restaurants in the recent past and I can definately see, feel, and taste the difference in the quality of the food. A hamburger is just not the same anymore. I can feel my arteries closing up after eating fries from Burger King, and I wont for the life of me touch a sandwich from Sonic (I might have a drink from there every now and then tho).

Islander Pork Roast

I can say that when I eat the meals I make this way, I am eating a much healthier portion size. Im not overloaded with fat, salt, and extra calories. Im full after one serving. I cant tell you the last time I had that feeling every time I ate a meal (probably because I have never felt that way!). I dont feel deprived at all either. The meals are flavorful and exciting. Most of the time they dont need a lot of extra salt because there is actually flavor to the dish.

I have to admit that when I heard about this (over 6 months ago) I was a bit afraid of it. I was excited about it, but I was afraid that it would be too much energy, or that I would not have enough space, or not enough money, or the food would taste bad. More than anything I was afraid to start. I started out of necessity two months ago. It does cost a bunch at first (especially if you are bulk buying all at once) but it saves a tremendous amount in the long run. Not just in money but in time. If I put together all those meals on separate nights instead of doing them all on one day, it would take me nearly 30 hours or more instead of the 8-12 hours it takes when I do them in bulk. I can say that I am no longer afraid of monthly cooking. I plan to keep the recipes that my family really liked and put it all in a binder for future use. Im currently using www.onceamonthmom.com for the recipes. It’s a great resource. Tricia puts great effort into the menu’s. She pulls together spreadsheets for not just the recipes, but the grocery list, lables, and instructions on how to do the Big Day with your friend.

Apple Pie Kits

I hope you gain the courage to try this out. I was very surprised at the results. I will definately continue to do this and make it fit better for my family as we go along.

Learning to Sew

October 23, 2009

I’m not the greatest seamstress in the world. I’m barely a beginner, but Im willing to try. It’s not about ability. It’s about courage to try something new. I have a sewing machine. I bought a nice one because I thought it would help me. And it has. It’s been a blessing to have a machine that doesnt have tension issues as my last one did. It also has some really pretty stitches.

None of those things matter if Im not actually using the machine. I was given a few really nice vintage patterns a while ago, but I have not done a thing with them! Why? Because I was not confident in my self and my abilities. It was also the wrong size.

So do I get rid of them? Sell them maybe? No! Im going to use them anyway. I can make a lot more money off a completed dress than I can off a pattern that’s already been cut. Granted vintage patterns can be quite pricey, I can still make more off a finished product.

I bought a random lot of fabric that a very nice woman was getting rid of from her stash for a nice price. And with it was a super pretty flower print that I figured would make a nice dress. It’s a polyester fabric but hey, Im throwing caution to the wind here!

Simplicity3821

Simplicity3821

There’s only one view with this pattern .. the difference is that the green dress has the jacket on and the brown dress has it draped on her arm. Also it has a detachable collar and neck trim (shown in white on the green dress). It’s a beautiful dress and I wish that I could have found some nice polka dot material but you work with what you have right?

As of now I have the pattern cut from the fabric and am going to start the rest of the process tomorrow. I cant tell you how confused I was with some of the simple steps, so what am I going to do with the rest of it? I guess you’ll have to wait and find out! I did get the very basic thing figured out tho. In the instructions for laying out and cutting the fabric it says to pin the pattern to the wrong side for double thickness and on the right side for single thickness. I was a bit confused even tho it seems like this is very basic instructions. The problem I was having was that the images that show where to pin the material were conflicting (or at least it seemed like it to me).  There were a few pictures that showed Crosswise fold and Lengthwise fold.  Those pictures that had Crosswise folds also had a portion with single thickness, and if you aren’t paying good attention, you could mistake that part for being double.

I decided at this point to go on a wild goose chase for better instructions. It took me until about 1am, but I found it! SEW-lutions has a set of guidelines for Basic sewers. It was a MIRACLE!! I couldn’t believe it! I’ve been searching for instructions on how to sew for YEARS!!! I could never get an older woman who knew how to sew to commit to teaching me. And then there’s those who are great with quilting and crafting, but arent comfortable sewing garments. It’s been hard. I want to sew. I want to be able to sew my own clothes. I know for a fact that there are others out there my age that can and can do so with great skill. But coming from a family that didnt value those things, I was never educated in the art of sewing.

On to my experiment with sewing. I hope to blog the process as it gets done, but dont expect a whole lot. I promise there will be a lot of frustration involved. I hope you dont mind.

Once a Month Cooking

October 21, 2009
 I’ve talked to you about once a year shopping before on my other blog, but what about once a month cooking? It’s something that I have wanted to do for a while. The idea is fairly simple.
 
(Hamburger for chili)
 
Onceamonthmom.com does an excellent job of preparing the way for you to have a very easy cooking day.
 
 
 
 (Paprika Parmesan Pork Chops … say that five times fast! LOL)
 
The method that is used here is that you have a partner to work with (and presumably all the tools between the two of you), gather the materials either throughout the month or an all in one trip, then on cooking day you split the process between person A and person B.

 

(Egg and ham muffins .. so much better than mcdonalds!)

The directions are spelled out along with the ingredients list and the recipes to use. She even has predesigned lables with the directions for the frozen dishes. All you have to do is print them out onto sticky lables and stick them to the dish before throwing it in the freezer.

 

(Baked Zitti)

I finally got around to doing a once a month cooking day. It took me three days to actually accomplish it and I still didnt get all the recipes made, but I also was doing this by myself. The good news is that I have a ton of food in my freezer ready to be used for dinners.

 
 
 
 

(This picture always makes me cringe … it makes me want to go make sure my freezer is shut!)

That’s corndog muffins in the bag in the front and a whole lot of bacon in the door because the hubs decided to buy a 10 lb box … you read that correctly … 10 lbs!!!! I have to give him credit tho … it was only $14 for the box and its really good bacon.

 

Now all I need is a bigger freezer and I’d be set! (I did much more than what is actually shown and ALL the recipes that I made were REALLY GOOD!)

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