Monthly Archives: April 2013

Menu Plan Monday – April 29

cucumbers-graphicsfairysmbSpring finally feels like it has arrived in the Midwest! I am looking forward to warmer days and a week without appointments after school.  This week’s menu has a lot of vegetables…must be the spring weather!

Monday – Make your own big salad night with leftover Tandoori Grilled Chicken from Sunday as a topping choice.  I am trying a new home-made salad dressing – Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette

Tuesday – Egg Fried Rice – giving the extra vegetables from the salad on Monday a home

Wednesday – The Amazing Broccoli Cheddar soup (less fat) from the cookbook Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen.  This is my favorite soup recipe.  Don’t skip the whole grain mustard in the soup – essential!  I love this cookbook!

Thursday – Frittata with roast potatoes and kale.  Yogurt fruit parfaits.  I loosely follow the recipe from Cook Yourself Thin but use whatever you like in terms of veg and meat.

Friday – planning to go out.  Husband has a birthday this month and we may take advantage of some of the birthday BOGOs that arrive.

If you are looking for more menu inspiration, head over to Menu Plan Monday on!


What I Did This Week to Save Money

Each week we have a set pool of money budgeted that we draw from for food, gas, dining out, entertainment, clothing or hair cuts, household goods, and so on.  We like to come in under budget so we can put more money into savings.

This week we knew we would have some gift expenses, so we tried to save in other areas.  It worked!  We were able to save about 40% of our weekly funds towards saving because we:

  • planned meals using some ingredients we already had on hand
  • ate at home every night
  • planned a fun low-cost Saturday at home going to playgrounds and working in the yard.  It’s finally nice weather here!
  • made some Chex Mix for Saturday night snacking using ingredients I already had at home
  • started running our dehumidifier in the basement during time of use rate to save electricity expense

IMG_3448-privateLong-term planning to save money:

  • ordered some seeds from Seed Savers Exchange (shipping is minimal) to get ready for planting the vegetable garden.  Trying some new colder-weather crops this year like golden beets and bok choy.  
  • setting aside some money in the coming weeks for the inevitable garden expenses that seem to crop up by the end of May.

What did you do this week to keep your spending in check?

If you have a moment I recommend heading over to The Frugal Guru Guide for a wonderfully funny SNL clip with Steve Martin called ‘Do Not Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford.”

Food Waste Friday

I have been thinking about the amount of food we are paying for that gets thrown out, so I am joining in Food Waste Friday.  This week I need to toss: a bottle of Kefir (not the first time we have wasted this item); buttermilk (again, not the first time to throw this item out); some extra home-made cole slaw dressing; and a 20 oz soda that someone drank out of and didn’t finish.

That said, we ought to have a big salad tonight or that list will be longer!

ImageHow are things looking in your fridge this Friday?

SavingStar – Another Tool in Your Money-Saving Kit

Do you belong to SavingStar?  I have found it to be another convenient way to save a little money here and there.  You enter your loyalty card numbers for select grocery and drug stores (CVS participates, Walgreens does not), and periodically SavingStar sends you an email and you can click e-coupons that you would like to be added to your account.  When you buy the product, the e-coupon is deposited into your SavingStar account within a few days (2-22 days).  Once you have 5.00 in coupons redeemed, you can select a payout such as an Amazon Gift Card, Paypal, or bank deposit.  No clipping!

When I receive the periodic emails from SavingStar, I click coupons I might use and frequently I end up redeeming the coupon without realizing it.  It’s a happy surprise!

One deal I took advantage of today is the Cheerios deal at CVS.  Assorted flavors are 3 for 8.00, plus 2.00 in ECBs (Extra Cash Back).  So, 3/$6.00.  There is a manufacturer coupon out for 1.00 off 2 assorted Cheerios.  Also, Saving Star has .75 off a multi-grain or peanut butter Cheerios.  Total cost then is 3 for 4.25 or 1.40 each.  Not too bad!

Getting out of Debt: Part 1 – The Zero Net Worth

Our journey out of debt begins a long time ago in the early 1990s.  My husband and I were just out of college and we had a nice two-bedroom apartment with no living room furniture because we were too broke to buy any.  We did, however, have a Sega Genesis!  Just thinking of Sonic the Hedgehog brings me back to those days.

We were lucky to have no school loans, but we both had some credit card debt from school expenses and “lifestyle maintenance.”  See Sega Genesis above.  We were both interested in investing and had a few investments apiece.  When we weren’t playing the Sega, we were watching the movie “Wall Street.”  What the investments showed us was that the gains we were making in stocks were vastly overshadowed by our debt:  we had a negative net worth.

Our first financial battle was to get to a zero net worth.  We worked together, tracking finances in various notebooks and paying down some of the debt, and within a year or so we hit the point where our debts and investments balanced to a zero net worth.  It felt like a cause to celebrate!

We would need these foundational planning skills in the years to come as we zig zagged between making good financial choices and buying the things we thought we deserved.  Stay tuned for part 2….

Menu Plan Monday – April 22

Happy Earth Day!  This week I have a heavier work schedule so I am looking for quick, healthy meals that won’t require a lot of trips to the grocery store.

Monday – Make your own Taco Salad Night… made fresher with choices of black beans, oven roasted corn kernels, avocado, salsa, crisp Romaine in addition to the usual suspects of cheese and chips.

Tuesday – Appointment after school so it will be Frozen Pizza and salad from Monday’s leftovers.

Wednesday – Alton Brown’s Split Pea Curry Soup    This is a new recipe for me, but it looks easy, healthy and economical.  Any smooth soup is usually an easy sell at our house

Thursday – Turkey burgers with mozzarella and salsa on top.

Friday – Omelettes with deli ham, muffins and fruit


See more great meal plans over at!

Family Finance – Debt Free Anniversary

French-Roses-GraphicsFairy2pkToday is a special day in our family – it’s our 2 year debt-free anniversary.  We track the date in our calendar to remember the day we put away our last debt – our home – and pledged to do whatever we can to never borrow again.

While we certainly fought hard to get there by doing things like dropping cable, eating at home, and taking a part time job, one particular thing was the key to making it all happen.   The key was working together on setting financial goals and tracking the goals weekly together.   Working in total partnership with your spouse or life partner is like giving your finances a triple espresso every single day.  Working together gives you the focus, energy and accountability you need to keep chipping away at the goal.  Accomplishing huge financial feats is possible, but you have to both be pulling on the same end of the rope.

I will look forward to sharing this journey with you in posts to come… but today, we are off to celebrate as a family!

Quick Pickles – Making Meals at Home Lively

IMG_3434-privateI’m smitten.  It’s Liana Krissoff and her addictive book Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry.  If you have ever been drawn to Mason jars, you must check out this book!

One tidbit in the book is a super easy, no hot water-bath canning needed, recipe for Indonesian Quick Pickle, or ‘Achar Segar.’  It’s so simple that kids can help and it only takes about 10 min.  What I love about the quick pickle is that it is something that you can put out with a simple meal like grilled cheese or leftovers, and it makes everything more perky.  My husband has taken them to work with his leftovers as well.  Many cultures have a recipe along these lines – such as escabeche in Mexican cuisine.

The original recipe called for shallots, sliced lengthwise.  To me, they are too powerful.  Try a Vidalia onion, snap peas, maybe even cauliflower florets.

Indonesian Quick Pickle from Canning for a New Generation

1 cucumber, julienned (I use an English cuke)

1 carrot, peeled and julienned

Shallots, snap peas, Vidalia onion, cauliflower florets, sliced

4 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)

In a measuring cup or bowl, combine the sugar, salt, vinegar, and 1 1/2 cups warm water and stir until everything is dissolved.  Pack vegetables in your jar and pour the solution over them.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  This will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.  Makes 1 quart.

Time of Use Rate – It’s Lonely Saving $200.00

I save $200 a year on my electric bill, and I don’t have to forego central air conditioning or sit in the dark at night.  I’ve been preaching to friends to check out the electric company’s  time of use (TOU) rates, and, so far, I have yet to sell anyone on this amazing way to save.lightbulb-Vintage-Image-GraphicsFairy

The low-down: during the weekday when electricity demand is high, we pay MORE than a regular customer.  At night and on weekends and holidays, when demand is lower, we pay far LESS.  So much less that from 7 pm to 7 am we pretty much can air condition, de-humidify, launder and dry to our hearts’ content.

Last bill:  On peak we used 127 kWh at .27 per kWh = $34.00.  Off peak we used 336 kWh at .05 per kWh = $17.00.  The electric company sends us a summary every year of what we would have paid using the standard rate vs the time of use rate.  This past year we saved $200. using time of use AND we had ample air conditioning, dehumidified the basement, and kept the lights on at night!  We just did everything after 7 pm.

I know my electric company isn’t the only one who offers this – just google your local company and “time of use rate” and see if it’s available. In Wisconsin, see  Drop me a comment if you are on a program like this.  What kind of savings do you see?

Menu Plan Monday – April 15

orgjunkie_bannerThis week’s menu uses very little meat.  I will use 2 chicken breasts divided between the Monday and Tuesday menu items.

Monday – Jamie Oliver’s Fajitas – a family favorite I serve with black beans

Tuesday – Sesame Peanut Noodles  from the book Cook Yourself Thin: Skinny Meals You Can Make in Minutes (Voice) – I serve them warm, not cold.  I am able to re-use some of the same ingredients as the fajitas.  I add lots of extra veg!

Wednesday – Soup night!  Daughter requests Sheryl Crow’s Warm Hummus Soup – I never bother with the pesto or the croutons.  The coriander is a must though!  Super easy.

Thursday – Baked Ziti (vegetarian)

Friday – Night off for me – we will dine out somewhere budget-friendly

See more great meal plans over at!