Weekly Meal Plan

We are overflowing with foods from the garden and fresh produce so our summer meals are simple and easy.  I am more than happy to spend time with playing Miss. G more. Here is our quick and easy meal plan for the week.

Sun: BLTs
Mon: crockpot spaghetti sauce spaghetti with salad
Tues: burgers with sweet potato fries
Wed: pork tacos
Thurs: something from the freezer....
Friday: squash, bacon mac & cheese
Sat: family outing


(The rest of) May Meal Plan

May has been just shooting by. I can't believe it's already half gone. We have been very busy in our house. Ms. G went on her first caming trip last weekend and we have an upcoming trip to the beach.

As it happens most every spring I am now transitioning our meals around what's fresh and in season vs. the publix ad. I still use the publix ad but I am relying less heavily on it. I am continuing my goal to feed our family half of everything we eat be produce with whole grains and protein being shortly behind.

I recently read an article (I wish I could find it again) on healthy eating and the author proposed striving to eat gluten free at home since so much of the american diet relies on wheat.

Now, I'm not going gluten free, that would just kill my two folks in the household that pasta is thier favorite food. I'm just trying to move away from it.

Week 1:
Chili dogs with veggies & ranch. Ms. G loves cucumbers and ranch.
Ceasar salad with lettuce from the GARDEN! and grilled chicken
cauliflower, chicken, and oven potatoes
Sushi Night
Family Movie Night: Pizza

Week 2:
shrimp & grits with a side of broccoli
teriyaki asian medly veggies, rice, fish
Pulled Pork sandwiches
Lasagna with french bread and ceasar salad


Reading through the alphabet: (D) The Dirty Life

So, here's the gist...Basically this is a book of a woman who gave up her NYC life and found happiness on a farm. The focus is her love of food and working with the more "simple" things in life, realizing simple is not always that simple, and happiness isn't materialistic.

I read this book as part of booking it with Life as Mom and I am still working my way through the alphabet. I had honestly never heard of the book. It's funny because Jessica said she had high expectations for it and was disappointed with the book. I had never heard of it and was pleasantly surprised about the book. Now, I can tell you my mind wondered when talking about specific farming technique and there were moments she referenced cooking/eating meat that I had really hard time stomaching but it's not a huge part of the book. And I had a hard time stomaching them because she is SO descriptive. She does a great job of painting a picture of what the farm actually looks like and how's it run. I think?

I liked hearing about going back our roots and how our food comes to us. But here is where you lose me... I can get on bored with organic farming and not wanting to get too big. I understand having a purpose and a conviction and to want to farm honestly. But to compare the tractor to a monster?

I had a hard time understanding why anyone would want to give up modern technology. I don't farm. (That might be my limitation and might be the end of the story.) I don't really understand the concept of wanting to return to using horses and overworking yourself when we do have modern technology. Why draft horses? I can read the love she has for the animals in the book but it seems like they are unnecessary working too hard. Like i said, maybe that's my limited knowledge of farming but I just don't get it.

So, how do I feel about the book? Well, I liked it... a lot. Yes, I did but it no way makes me want to turn of the lights in our house and pretend they don't exists...


April Meal Plan

 Meal planning and family changes:

So, I have now officially started my new job. Yay! As I'm sad leave behind my kiddos and coworkers in Cullman, I am loving getting home at a regular time. To be honest I knew I was missing out on quality Miss G time but I had gotten so used to I didn't realize all I was really missing. I really enjoy just getting the chance to spend quality time with both her and my husband. Before we had the rule that we would eat dinner together as a family uninterrupted but I think by the time we would sit down most days we were all so exhausted that I can't say any of our moods were all that good. I'm sure there will be days that I long for my Monday off back but I really enjoy seeing both of them without constantly having the feeling that I really NEED to be doing 20 other things.  So, of course this is effecting my meal planning and cooking as well. I am starting to cook more often but I am also trying to cook simple meals that I can have done pretty quick. I don't want to replace time away from my family commuting with time away from my family cooking.

Also, Mr. C and I have started jogging together. Right now we are not on the path to half marathon but our goal is the Cotton Row Run 5K. We starting this running program together.

Our new plan is to jog on alternating nights with cooking nights. I also really enjoy this new routine because it is more uninterrupted family time that doesn't involve a screen.  This also has effected our meal plan.  Exercise is always good but I think I can speak for both Mr. C and myself and say that we could also benefit from some weight loss. 

I think I've said this before but I really like the USDA my plate recommendations. So, even though the veggies have been thrown in and seem random in the plan. Hey at least we are getting them.

So, no further ado

April meals:

April 1-7

- Mac & cheese, green beans, mandarin oranges, chicken nuggets (I know, not a real healthy meal to start the month off with but we were hard at work in the garden all day and this is what quickly came together. Hopefully it's a means to an end.)

- Grits, shrimp, asparagus.

-Chinese Takeout (not really all that healthy also but its our 3 year anniversary and I promised Mr. C we could get it to celebrate!)

Breakfast: Cheese toast & kiwi. I made the best sour cream bread (not a sweet bread) I'm just not sure it'll make it to Friday for mine & Miss G's breakfast.

Dessert: You know how I love southern plate. So for Easter I am making her butterfinger cake.

April 8-15:

-chili & cornbread

-Salmon, quinoa, broccoli, phil cooking creme. A meal I need to name but I'll tell you my husband said that I could make it on a regular basis 

-Crockpot: balsamic glazed carrots, baked potatoes, baked chicken

-Veggie lasagna with salad


Dessert: sugar cookies

April 16-22:

-Cuban black beans & yellow rice. From here. I haven't made it but have been wanting to for a while. 

-Pulled pork sandwiches with sweet potato fries



Breakfast: baked peanut butter oatmeal

April 23-29:

-quiche, veggies & homemade rolls
-Monterey ravioli with salad
-Stir fry with egg drop soup

Breakfast:banana nut muffins 

Now you know I won't follow this exactly all month but I really enjoy having the reference here so I can check it if I have to think on my toes and make a quick dinner


Menu Plan

So, I had written out a beautiful meal plan that focused on pantry ingredients and only supplemented from the store that was a great idea until Saturday...

Saturday I was jogging with Little J to get ready for the St. Jude's half marathon & I hit a rock and fell face forward on asphalt, thoroughly scraping my knees and hands & twisting my ankle. I'm ok but taking it slow for the next couple of days to recover. 

My meal plan is not impressive for the week with no real cooking but it'll do. AND I went to Kroger and spent $50 that wasn't planned to get easy dinner for our life group but sometimes life just happens that way...

Saturday: Mr. C cooked fish sticks and green beans. Not the best meal for us but not the worst & we ate it just fine.

Sunday lunch: Papa John's Pizza

Sunday Dinner: Sandwiches with chips and chocolate chip cookie bar (we are feeding the life group a DIY sandwich bar. Not even really cooking but I think it was slightly cheaper than pizza.)

Monday: BBQ chicken/tofu, Hush puppies, Brussel Sprouts, oven potatoes (all elements of this dinner are already in the freezer that just need to be microwaved/baked.)

Crockpot: Sweet Potato Curry

Mr C. Cooks: Ravioli with spinach salad

Next week hopefully I'll be back to cooking at full strength & here's what I plan...  

Sunday Lunch: Stouffer's Lasagna (on sale @ Publix this week)

Mr. C Cooks: Turkey/Boca Burger with sweet potato fries.

Crockpot: Rice & beans

Saturday: Cheesy Shrimp & Grits

Monday: Tilapia with homemade dinner rolls and veggie sides (haven't made it to publix yet but I'm hoping to before the ad ends on Tuesday. Right now there is BOGO Ms Paul's Fish & coupons.com has buy one get free birds eye veggies. FYI I just checked and the cpn is still there)


Wisdom from my Pantry Challenge

This is a little overdue but I would still like to share with you what I learned over the months of December and January...

So, I did the pantry challenge for both December and January and overall did not really save that much money. Can it really still be a pantry challenge? I think so. I did make a real effort to eat foods that were hanging around our house too long. I think I realized what we do and do not eat and I've started to get my couponing and kitchen more organized. Here is some things I have learned through my journey.

Only buy the foods you know you like. Seems like a no brainer? I have a habit to purchase foods that I think I might like that I find a great deal on and think I'll probably use this... and then never cook them. Now I am throwing them out which is KILLING me but teaching me a lesson. My new mantra only buy the new food if you have a recipe and you put in the next week's menu plan. If you cannot do that then don't buy it. Sounds simple but has been a lightbulb moment for me.

Some convenience foods are ok to purchase and some we can live without. I have learned that there are some foods I could easily make from scratch like pancake mix but with Mr. C being the primary waffle maker it's so much easier for me to grab the box in the morning before I head out. However bread, which most people would say is much more involved, I primary make in my bread machine. Bread in the bread machine is SO easy and the benefits of doing it homemade by far outweight the extra time. Really admitting to myself what I have time to make from scratch and prioritizing what I do and do not want to mess with has been a huge burden off of me.

Having a set list of meals to build off my meal plan is a great way to save me stress and money. I don't really want to eat the same thing all the time BUT having a list of meals we rotate about a month...now eating something once a month isn't really all that often and saves me stress of coming up with new meal ideas constantly.

I also like the idea of the monthly meal plan just as a general idea board of what we are going to eat AND THEN being flexible if I find a great sale or coupon on something I know we like.

Having your significant other on board with the plan. I can honestly say this is the most successful pantry challenge I ever did. I think a huge part of that was Mr. C being on board. There were days where he would say "Pantry Challenge." In that I think we did as well as we did because we did it together.

When meal planning look at my panty FIRST before looking at the sales flyers. Sometimes I only need 1 or 2 ingredients to make a meal instead of building a whole meal from the ads. This does save money because 1 ingredient will always cost less than a whole meal, even a really cheap one. I had the habit, I think with a lot of other couponers to be enticed to "stocking up" on something that I am already well stocked on. Build from the pantry first and then buy from the sales ad.

Do you see an overarching theme here? Meal planning! I think there is a learning curve to it but honestly I think our family would be (food wise) lost without it.

Finally, in our lives it's ok to step back from couponing and saving money for more important things. I started my challenge in December so I could concentrate on my time with my family. I continued in January to hope to get control of our food clutter in our house. I think it's important to put priority on things other than essentially money at times to make sure that it's not becoming a false idol.

That's it. There is wisdom from my pantry challenge...

I am linking up my post to Frugal Friday over at Life as Mom. Hopefully others can learn from my experience of couponing not to save the biggest percentage but to make it fit for me!


Reading through the alphabet: (M) Money Saving Mom's Budget

As I am reading through the alphabet  I am following Booking it over at Life as Mom. Booking it is an online book club that each month we link up a selected read. This month was the Money Saving Mom's Budget. 

I think only Crystal Paine, the Money Saving Mom could make budgeting inspirational and exciting. I have been reading her blog regularly for a couple of years now. When I saw she had a book coming out I said to myself "I should read that."

But THEN I saw she is donating all of her profits to Compassion International and I thought. I'm going to preorder that book instead of waiting for it from the library. 

I did enjoy the book and found it was easy read. Yup, an easy read on budgeting. She really is a great writer. Who can make such a dry subject of budgeting interesting?

I though I would know most of what was in her book because I do religiously read her blog and usually do pretty good with finding deals/coupons but I did learn some things. 

Some things I did love:

"Saving money is going to take time and hard work. If living beneath your means or saving sixty-five percent on your grocery bills were effortless, everyone would be doing it."

"Contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances."

Things I am implementing. Shopping every 2 weeks. I have already failed implementing this from the get go but I'm going to try it for at least 3 months and see how it goes.

Things I already do: Coupon, meal plan around the sales ads/what we have on stock, we never spend more than we have, we have small savings accounts set up for non-monthly expenses.

I coupon by the whole insert technique. I do miss the occasional amazing deal but it takes WAY less time and time is precious when you are a full time working mom with an infant.

Things I want to implement: Creating a realistic budget. We have one but we don't greatly stick to it. Decluttering. The time budget.

Things I don't think would work for me: Envelope system & Garage sales. I fear I would blow the money in the envelope system and fall back on the credit card. Since we live so far out I'm not convinced that we would bring in much money from a garage sale. I'm not 100% I might not try it this year but I'm on the fence.

Why I like this book: Makes budgeting interesting. Is there a drier topic? All the proceeds go to Compassion International. 

If you have considered wanting to budget but feel overwhelmed this book combined with a couple of the coupon blogs are a great place to start.

I haven't finished either yet but will report back when I do. 

My first thoughts about The Happiness project are it's a good read but she basically did CBT on herself to boost her mood. 

The vegetable gardening book is SO dry but I am learning a lot and it is very helpful with setting up my garden (and it was free!)

Menu Plan

Last week I spent $90 between Publix and a fabulous deal I found on real maple syrup on amazon.

I know it's a lot of money BUT

I did save 60% AND.

In my reading the Money Saving Mom's budget one of the ways she says to save money is to shop for 2 weeks. You will do much better with spending in one week and planning ahead. I thought this is something I could implement easily and actually might give me more free time. Also, it breaks down to about $45 a week, which is a savings of $15 a week compared to the $60 I have been averaging.

I was super pumped.

I then saw the BOGOs for this week and now I'm going to the grocery store. Sorry I just can't stay away when there are things I have been holding out on to go on sale, like dog food, diapers, cake mixes, Morningstar Farms. So, I will be running to publix and will be shopping for this and NEXT week. I'll try this again. Anyway here's my menu plan for the week. Everything but the steak I did purchase ahead of time, so I am sort of sticking to my goal of every 2 week shopping...

Saturday: Broccoli Cheese Cassarole & Breaded Chicken or Fish
Sunday Lunch: Papa John's Free Pizza!
Monday: Valentine's Day Meal. Steak. Yup, Mr. C it says STEAK
Crockpot: Potato Soup
Kyle Cooks: La Choy Teriyaki Chicken with asian veggie medley, chick'n
bridget's breakfast: peanut butter baked oatmeal


Week 4 Wrapup

I DID IT! I passed my test. I'm now a LCSW and I think it's a pretty big deal. I really have to thank my husband and Miss G's baby sitter because they both really stepped up to help and watch her more so I could study. I am really proud of that. AND on Thursday night instead of going out to eat Mr C and I actually made dinner. Look at us sticking to the pantry challenge.

I'm also really proud of my pantry challenge this week. I did really well with it. I did spend $60 at Publix on Sunday like I said in the meal plan. Further since this was month 2 of the challenge we were really getting to a point that we needed things. So, I did stock up on Publix BOGOs that I knew we would soon need.

I have to tell for frugalities sake we didn't save so much money over the month but when you look at our pantry we did make an effort eat up some food that had been hanging around too long.

So my goal for February is to ax everything is going that I know we don't regularly eat.  I hope to post when I finally get it organized. I also hope to do this project while organizing the freezer. I love it.

What we did eat. Well, we stuck to the plan for once. Mr C and Miss G had the barbeque on Sunday. I had corn chowder.

Monday: we had baked spaghetti pulled from the freezer.

Wednesday: Mr. C cooked black bean burgers w/ french fries.

Thursday: We together made pad thai.

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: We ate lunch out. I headed to Nashville and Mr. C ate boxed pasta.

So, as we are about to end out this adventure I think we are finally getting the hang of it. =)

We are not done with odd foods. I am going to make my meal plan for this week out of odd foods and then next weekend I'm axing what we don't eat. I know Good Cheap Eats is ending this week but I'm continuing until next weekend. This will be hard for me. I have some hoarding tendencies but I know we'll be better off if I do declutter.


Pantry Challenge Week 3

So, even though this month's goal is to clean out and organize our pantry for the Pantry Challenge at Good Cheap Eats my mom decided to contribute by cleaning out her pantry and sending food home with us. I did tell her it was ok and let her know that anything that wasn't eaten in the next couple of weeks is going to the food bank and she agreed. Therefore we got a large influx of food. I tried to build some of the meal plan around it.

The theme of the next 2 weeks is quick meals. I am taking my LCSW exam next Thursday, which was goal 1 of 2012. I am talking quick and easy foods to make.

Normally, I really try to make sure we're eating well balanced healthy meals with a variety of flavors along with plenty of veggies and with as many organics as we can afford. But this and next week the emphasis is on quick!

I think we did really well this week. I did run to Publix and spend about $65 but a lot of that was Miss G and food for our life group (bible study). Yup in my disorganization I volunteered to feed our life group the weekend before my big test. So, even though it was painful and I had to do a lot of cognitive rehearsing I threw frugality to the wind for this meal.

I did see that Boston Butt was at Publix for $1.99 (which is actually decent for publix recently but sounds really expensive) and went from there. I definitely focused on quick rather than cheap but I think it'll pay off in the long run. I think the meal is going to cost me about $35 total. I told Mr C I probably could have just pizza for that price. Oh well.

Other than my expensive Sunday night meal all of our dinners did actually come from the pantry this week which makes me happy. =)

Monday: Sesame oven baked tofu and chicken with broccoli, mixed veggies, and brown rice

Kyle: Waffles a la Kyle ie. the best waffles you have ever eaten! Recipe coming next week

Crockpot: Thursday night soup with pintos, kale, carrots, mushrooms, and green beans. This was really GOOD!

Sunday: EASY Cooking for the life group Southern Plate style BBQ Sandwiches, chips, coleslaw, and Butterfinger Cake.

By the way Mr. C says he hates pulled pork but liked this one.

Look at how everyone else is doing over here.

Pantry Challenge Meal Plan Week 4

It's here. The week of my LCSW exam so this won't be a long blog. I spent $60 at publix on Sunday and $20 at CVS this week. Not a great week for savings but I guess that's about average for us now. At publix there were things that I thought about not getting but if I would have waited for another week well they wouldn't have been on sale so I just decided to go ahead. I am still planning our meals from the pantry but we are really starting to actually run out of things around here. Which honestly is a good thing. So my shopping is really centered around things we need. And I'm proud that while at the store I worked on controlling stocking up on stuff that wasn't a great deal. I got what we needed and left. As far as cooking:

Baked Spasagna with broccoli from the freezer.
Lentil Cassarole from $5 dinners
Mr C is making Turkey burgers and sweet potato fries.
I made pumpkin yeast bread in the bread machine for breakfast. Since it really wasn't very good I'm not going to link it.

That's it. I told you that we are doing simple and quick. And everything here was from the pantry. yay! Wish me luck on my test.


Pantry Challenge Week 2

So, we are still theoretically on the pantry challenge. I am really trying to eat from the pantry and follow my meal plan but life has been throwing me some serious curve balls this week. For example, I ate out twice on Friday...so here I was going to type to you an excuse about it being a long week but even sounded pathetic while I was formulating it.  I honestly was not accountable to myself or you about my challenge.

Let me tell you about the shining star at our house, Mr. C. He followed the plan, cooked entirely from the pantry on his night, and stayed at home all day with Miss G when the sitter couldn't watch her on Friday. Yup, he's husband of the week. =)

 (No sarcasm I really mean that he is I just LOVE this picture. I know that little people model big people but even at this age?)

I can tell you that I spent about $40 between the organic grocery store and Target and it was because I was stocking up on foods for Miss G. She doesn't eat exclusively organic but follows the contaminated list from the environmental working group.

Basically if it's in the clean 15 I will purchase at Aldi but if it's the dirty dozen I go ahead and get it at Earthfare or Publix's greenwise line. I can tell you that this has effected our budget and anyone who tells you differently is just not telling you the truth.

Isn't funny how much your priorities change when you have a kid? Do I care if I'm eating pesticides? A little but not enough to pay the increased price for organics. Do I care if Miss G eats them? Oh yes. Yes I do.

So, how do I navigate this process of buying smart organics? Well, I was carrying the list with my coupons and that worked but I would keep searching for it. Then I made a list on my phone BUT now I have recently seen on the environmental working group's website they have apps for your phone. LOVE IT. This will streamline the necessary shopping SO much.

Back to the challenge I will say that this week cooking wise was kitchen disasters. I'm talking ruining meals and breaking multiple dishes. I'm proud during this I actually adapted and made Pasta Roni from our pantry rather than run for the border like I wanted to.

I did make this kale soup which was really good and I will definitely make again.

Oh, not food related but definitely frugal, and I got some Fabulous prices at Target Toy Clearance, not too much for Miss G but all the other kiddos I buy for are set for 2012 birthday and Christmas gifts. YAY!

*One last but not least thing. Happy Birthday Mom!!!! It's my mom's birthday today and I have to say this year I definitely have a increased appreciation for all the time when I was young she spent taking care of us. My mom worked, made sure my sister and I were loved, and couponed before it was cool. I think I'm now in awe about how she juggled all of these things. Happy birthday to my mom and aunt. she's a twin you know. =)

For them I made Southern Plate's Chocolate Velvet Cake with Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Icing. Not as good as Christy's but hopefully it'll do. =)


Reading Through the Alphabet in 2012

As I mentioned in my goals that I would really like to read myself through the alphabet. I think it would be a fun challenge for me to put down my computer and increase my time reading. This is going to be the post I update with my progress. =)

Reading Through the Alphabet.

A- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
C- Clinical social work licensing examination study guide
D- The Dirty Life:A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love
H- The Happiness Project & Home Vegetable Gardening -a Complete and Practical Guide to the Planting and Care of All Vegetables, Fruits and Berries Worth Growing for Home Use
M- The Money Saving Mom's Budget
O- One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler
P- Preparation for the Social Work Licensure Exam 2011
R- Revelations (with my bible study)
S- Southern Plate
T- Twilight

Reading Through the Alphabet

 Part of my reading through the alphabet is follow Booking it over at Life as Mom.

One bite at a time

I really went into this book thinking I wasn't going to like it. I am horribly unorganized at home and work. I wish I was better about it but really came away with a couple of things that I think I'll work on changing. For example, Eat that Frog, week 1 is really great...essentially you do the thing you most dread everyday in the morning and get it over with. I am really working on eating that frog...I'll let you know how it goes. I can tell if you were to follow the book for the whole year you would come out the otherside much more on top of things. I can already tell you I'm probably not disciplined enough to make 52 changes this year. I will try a couple of them like:

*Setting a morning routine

*Being a lifelong learner

*Starting a garden

and (attempting) *to have a daily to do list

And I've been reading on my own...

Southern Plate

Love, love, love her. Christy Jordan is a local food blogger of the same name from here in Huntsville. When I do my grocery shopping I hope to run into her because she seems like the kind of person that would welcome you even though she doesn't know you. Her recipes are not for dieting but every one I've made have been really good. She tells stories of her family before each recipe which are charming. Now, this book is a loan from the library but I would love to have it for real (hint, hint, hint kyle).


Eating from the Pantry- Week #1 Fail

Since this is my second month of eating out of the pantry I knew I was going to have to go to the grocery store and shell out more than I did last month. Honestly we were out of pretty much out of everything at our house that is a staple, you know milk, produce, even our poor dogs were out of dog food. Even my husband, who thinks I have a grocery store addiction said it was time to go.

So, I went I have to tell you it wasn't pretty.

We ended up going to Walmart, Target, Aldi's, and Publix. My grand total was about $130.

Now, I NEVER shop that many places, you can chalk all of that up to poor planning. Yeah, not a great week for eating from our pantry or saving money.

I will tell you that this was the first time I went to Aldi's and was excited about produce and milk prices there. I think I'll be stopping by there more regularly.

I also really didn't follow the meal plan at all.

So, all in all, total failure.

I can say is there is always next week...


Goals for 2012

Yes, I know these are a little late to put out there but hey if I'm serious about them, they can be a little late.

So, I had quite a few goals that I wanted to do this year. I just got really inspired by everything I read on every blog and decided that I wanted to do that too...for example: reading, crafting, photography...things that I think are super pleasurable but not for me and this season of my life, i.e. having a toddler and working full time, pretty unrealistic. So, I sat down and though what are some things I actually want to accomplish this year... My overall goal is to get better control of myself. I know there is a learning curve to this working mom thing but man this is hard. It has been much harder to adjust to than I ever could imagine. I think if I set some goals for myself that force me to allow downtime then I think I will be better able to better accomplish my ultimate goal...be a better wife and mom.

This is how I'm going to do this:

1. My LCSW. This is the license for social workers and it's a big deal. I've been working towards it for almost 3 years now and I'm really hoping this resolution will come to fruition in January. When it does it will make a BIG impact on my life.

2. The Country Music Half Marathon. I imagine I will be wogging this one (wogging is a term i stole for Little J. walking+jogging=wogging). I know for myself personally that physically activity controls my stress.

3. Continue to save money (coupon/bargain hunt) BUT here's a new twist...resist those great bargains that I don't need. I LOVE good bargains but spending $2-3 here and there really adds up. I am working on being happy with enough. I know lots of people put dollar amounts in the goals but I think this one will make much better impact on our overall budget. Sticking to what we need will actually give us more wiggle room than any great deal ever will.

4. Start a garden. I have been talking about starting a garden for the longest time. Last year Mr. C actually did one but i can't take any credit. It was his from conception to produce but this year we are starting a modest garden in the back yard. I envision this to be a large project that will help with stress and frugality.

5. Read through the alphabet. Now, I know this sounds strange but I am planning on reading a book for each letter of the alphabet this year. I will tell you that I'm not going to be terribly disappointed if I don't accomplish this one BUT I think that this is a fun one that will keep me motivated to read for pleasure throughout the year. Reading really helps me get out of my own head and definitely assists in stress management.

That's it...Like I said I have so many other hopes that I would like to do but I want to set realistic expectations for myself because my ultimate goal for the year is be a good wife and mom.


Pantry Challenge Part Deux

So, last month I told you I was giving myself a break from couponing so I could focus on my family and celebrating the season (and to save a little cash). I decide to do this by only buying necessities at the grocery store. I have to tell you it went really well. We a lot of meals that had been hanging around too long and made a dent in our pantry. We are just about through our veggies both canned and frozen and mid month I actually had to go buy flour but other than that we actually still have lots of foods hanging around here. So, I'm going to go at it again and at the end of January I'm donating everything that's still in our pantry that we won't obviously use. I am this month going ahead and buying this I know we need but my hope is to make a meal plan for the whole month and stick to it. Last month I was doing this alone but this month I am following Good, Cheap, Eats blogger, Jessica Fisher as she feeds her family of 8, yes 8 on the pantry challenge.

I can tell you as I spent my day taking inventory I already know I'll be spending more money this month and there will be some food we say goodbye to forever come Feb. 1 but that's ok. I'm ready to get this place tidied up. Our pantry isn't full to the brinks but is so disorganized that food falls on you. At the end of the month I'm going to clean out and organize all of our food supplies and finally put into action our Cansolidators, a gift from my sister in law that I LOVE because I've wanted them for a while but am WAY too cheap to purchase them. Anyways, here is what we are eating...

Monday: Tilapia, balsamic glazed carrots, oven roasted potatoes, bread machine rolls

Kyle Cooks: La Choy teriyaki chicken

Kyle's Lunch: sandwiches

Bridget's Breakfast: slow cooker oatmeal

Friday: Cream cheese kale lasagna with focaccia

Saturday: Falafel, greek chicken, hummus, & tabbouleh

Sunday: Homemade pizza with ceasar salad

Monday: Jambalaya & Cornbread

Crockpot: Chili

Kyle Cooks: Turkey Burgers/ Boca Burgers, sweet potato fries, fruit

Kyle's Lunch: hot dogs

Bridget's Breakfast: pumpkin bread with fruit

Monday: Spaghetti with breadsticks and salad

Crockpot: Sweet potato/chicken Curry

Kyle Cooks: Corn Chowder

Kyle's Lunch: leftovers

Bridget's Breakfast: cheese toast

Monday: Baked Ziti from the freezer

Crockpot: Rice and beans

Kyle Cooks: waffles, scrambled eggs, fruit

Kyle's Lunch: hot dogs

Bridget's Breakfast: Pumpkin Oatmeal from the freezer

Saturday: Fried rice, egg drop soup

Sunday: chicken fingers, french fries, green beans

Monday: shrimp with grits and salad

Crockpot: Crockpot Chicken with black beans and cream cheese

Kyle Cooks: sloppy joes

Kyle's Lunch: leftovers

Bridget's Breakfast

*Just an FYI I work full time Tuesday-Friday so I leave off the days I don't cook or know we already got stuff planned.