Friday, March 26, 2010

One Room Done (Well Temporarily) And The Rest of the House To Go

I finally got the trim around the bottom of the cupboards last weekend so here are the before and after pictures on the kitchen...
(enlarge the first picture to notice the faded house & cat border from the '80s and the checkerboard floor - what were they thinking...and everything was so dirty - the stove, range hood and dishwasher were so gross even though they don't look that bad in these pictures)
In Progress
Mike and his friend did the "demolitian work" - they ripped out the cupboards between the refrigerator and stove so we could make room for our new refrigerator. Mom, dad and I painted and layed the floor. Our brother-in-law helped with the installation of the new range hood.
Our plan after we get through the rest of the updates on the house is to get hardwood floor upstairs and gut the kitchen replacing the counters and cupboards at that time...our temporary fix-up aside from the appliances was only about $100 and it looks so much better!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Meal Planner Monday: Plenty of Pierogies

On top of Mike's dinner request list is pierogies. Until recently I've lacked the time and confidence to attempt this all day endeavor. A few months ago Mike's aunt and grandma apprenticed me on the family recipe. I made a batch (7 dozen) last weekend on my own and they seemed to turn out well enough to meet Mike's expectations. Because they are very time consuming to make and they are not necessarily healthy I can't say that I'll be making them again right away, but I do enjoy making different ethnic foods for holidays or just a change in the normal routine so they'll remain on the menu as a special treat. Hopefully this batch will last a few months.
----------------Pierogies (Piroghis)---------------
4 lbs potatoes cooked and mashed (do not add milk or other ingredients when mashing)
Add: 1 package sharp shredded cheese (3 cups)
Mix together well. Let cool.
4 cups flour
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. water
1 heaping cup sour cream
Knead dough well (should be soft and just slightly sticky). Divide into 4 balls. Let sit for a few minutes. Roll dough (1/8 inch?). Cut with biscuit cutter. Add filling, fold dough in half to make a crescent shape and pinch together edges with your fingers. (Make sure edges are tightly sealed so they don't pop open when boiling.)
Lay out on a flat baking sheet and place in freezer until frozen before placing them in a bag to store in the freezer.
When you are ready to cook them: Boil a pot of water, drop pierogies (frozen) in boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes. They will float to the top when they are ready. Cook onions and butter while pierogies are boiling. Drain and pour buttered onions over the pierogies. Optional: Top with sour cream or crumbled bacon.
Mike likes them plain with butter, but other "traditional" foods to complete the meal include...
-Kielbasa and sauerkraut
-Roast beef, lamb or pork with red sour cabbage
-Pickled Eggs/Beets or Applesauce on the side

Friday, March 19, 2010

Frugal Friday: Spring Is Here

Don't miss Rita's free regular size Italian Ice tomorrow (March 20th) in celebration of the 1st Day of Spring (details here)
Other Deals of the Week:
Marcel Small Steps single roll paper towels $0.15 after coupon from newspaper (Shop-n-Save)
5 lb Red Potatoes $.99 (Aldi)
3 lb Onions $.49 (Aldi)
2 lb Carrots $.49 (Aldi)
Cabbage $.29/lb (Martins)
3 lb Organic Apples $3.99 (Shop-n-Save)
Along with Spring is "spring cleaning"...
This month's Prevention magazine has an article on "green" cleaners and the healthiest home cleaners as being DIY...vinegar, baking soda, & microfiber cloth with plain water...and an added bonus is that they are less expensive than commercial can read the article here

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Woodpecker

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10
Thursday mornings are my day to sleep in and lay in bed later than normal. In the quietness as I was still in bed this morning, I heard a woodpecker (at least that's what it sounded like) somewhere outside our house and I began to think about how amazing God's creation is. I don't know a lot about woodpeckers and I didn't get up to try to see the woodpecker (I probably wouldn't have actually been able to find it because of so many trees around our house anyway). Instead, I just stayed still and listened to this amazing creature and thought how do they do that?
Thank you, Lord, for directing my thoughts toward you in the stillness and quietness of this morning. Keep me from being too busy to "be still" and see your glory each new day. Click here to see YouTube video for "Everything Glorious" by David Crowder Band
I did a search on woodpeckers and found this's truly amazing when I stop to think about it...
Members of the family Picidae have strong bills for drilling and drumming on trees and long sticky tongues for extracting food. Many of the foraging, breeding and signaling behaviors of woodpeckers involve drumming and hammering using the bill. In order to prevent brain damage from the rapid and repeated decelerations, woodpeckers have a number of adaptations to protect the brain. These include small brain size, the orientation of the brain within the skull (which maximises the area of contact between the brain and the skull) and the short duration of contact. The millisecond before contact with wood a thickened nictitans membrane closes, protecting the eye from flying debris. The nostrils are also protected; they are often slit-like and have special feathers to cover them. Territorial drumming occurs most frequently in spring. The series of drumlike rolls are produced by rapid pecking on the resonant trunks and branches of dead trees.
Woodpeckers, piculets and wrynecks all possess zygodactyl feet. Zygodactyl feet consist of four toes, the first and the fourth facing frontward and the second and third facing back. This foot arrangement is good for grasping the limbs and trunks of trees. Members of this family can walk vertically up a tree trunk, which is beneficial for activities such as foraging for food or nest excavation. In addition to the strong claws and feet woodpeckers have short strong legs, this is typical of birds that regularly forage on trunks. The tails of all woodpeckers except the piculets and wrynecks are stiffened, and when the bird perches on vertical surfaces, the tail and feet work together to support it.
The diet of woodpeckers consists mainly of insects and their grubs taken from living and dead trees, and other arthropods, along with fruit from live trees, nuts and sap both from live trees. Their role ecologically is thereby keeping trees healthy by keeping them from suffering mass infestations.The family is noted for its ability to acquire wood-boring grubs using their bills for hammering, but overall the family is characterised by its dietary flexibility, with many species being both highly omnivorous and opportunistic. The insect prey most commonly taken are insects found inside tree trunks, whether they are alive or rotten wood and in crevices in bark on trees. These include beetles and their grubs, ants, termites, spiders,and caterpillars. These may be obtained either by gleaning or more famously by excavating wood. Having hammered a hole into the wood the prey is excavated by a long barbed tongue. The ability to excavate allows woodpeckers to obtain tree sap, an important source of food for some species.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Frugal Friday: Limited Shopping

I tried to take the week off from grocery shopping since we are pretty well stocked up in the kitchen and toiletry closet. I did some shopping at Rite Aid and CVS (pictured below) because there were some deals that I couldn't pass up, but I have not been in the grocery store yet this week. I am going to allow myself one trip to the grocery store this weekend (no more than $10) for milk, OJ and produce.
I'll try to remember everything...
4 boxes Kelloggs cereal $2.50 each
Dawn $.97
- (2) $1.50 off coupons for the cereal = $8.03 & $5 back in ECB
Jet Dry $5.99
Nivea Lip Balm $2.99
- $.75 off coupon for the Jet Dry - $5 ECB = $3.23 & $2.99 back in ECB
(2) Pantene 2/$6.97 - $3 coupon
(2) Dawn $.97 - $.25 coupon - $.50 coupon
Dial bar 8 pack $2.88 - $1 coupon
- $2.99 ECB = $4.29 & $2 back in ECB
Rite Aid
Bubble Bath $4.29
Pantene (2) at $3 each - $2 coupon
Prevacid 42ct $28.99 - $10 Rite Aid Video Values
- $5/$20 purchase = $22.48 - $24.99 mail in rebate for the Prevacid = $2.51 profit
Gilette Fusion cartridge refill 4 pk $15.99
Gilette Fusion razor $9.99 - $9.99 = Free with coupon
Oral B toothbrush $2.74 - $.75 coupon - $1 rebate
Oral B toothbrush $2.74 - 2.74 = Free with BOGO coupon
Cover Girl blush $4.39 - $4.39 = Free with BOGO sale
Cover Girl blush $4.39 - $4.39 = Free with BOGO coupon
- $3 off $15 coupon
- $10 Rite Aid gift card rebate for $30 in P & G purchases = $5.17 including tax for all of the above items after rebates
So, all in all, for what is pictured above (22 items) I spent $54.20 but will be getting $24.99 + $11 back in mail-in/Rite Aid rebates & have $2 ECB to use next time = actual cost for everything $16.21...what do you think?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meal Planner Monday: Breakfast & Brunch - Hot Oatmeal

I grew up with most mornings having either oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast. I've started making oatmeal for myself in the mornings now that I don't have be at work until later in the morning. It is very healthy, inexpensive and simple.
This is how I've been making mine:
Make oatmeal in microwave according to directions on the box (I add a couple tsp of wheat bulgur to vary the whole grains that I'm eating). Add cinnamon (Did you know that cinnamon is considered an antioxidant?) I still have to add some brown sugar or maple syrup although I'm trying to work on eliminating that. The hardest part is watching it in the microwave so it doesn't boil over.
Sliced banana and chopped walnuts
Chopped apple
Diced peaches or other fresh fruit
Nutrition Information:
Oatmeal (without the brown sugar) 150 calories, 3 grams total fat, 4 grams fiber, Fruit Juice (or equivalent serving of fruit added to the oatmeal) 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, + fiber if fresh fruit is added to the oatmeal, Milk 110-130 calories, 0-5 grams of fat depending on skim vs low-fat, Total = just less than 400 calories (which is exactly what is recommended for each of the 3 meals) or 6 Weight Watcher points (2 points each), 1 serving each of whole grains, fruit and dairy. And, it's a minimally processed whole food (which I've talked about before on the Nutrition the way, I hope to go back to more of those)
Cost: *I have in the picture Quaker Oats only because I got those for $.50 on sale recently (normally Aldi or a bulk food store would be the best price), the wheat bulgur is something new I've been trying - bought it at the bulk food store for $1.57 for the bag, cinnamon was $.50-$1 at CVS.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thaw Out

The snow is melting this weekend and we have what feels like Spring with temperatures in the mid 40s. We got the ice cleared off of the front walk and driveway from where it drips down off the roof (putting up gutters is on our home improvement list for the Spring). We got both cars washed inside and out. I cut Mike's hair. The sun is shining and brightening the inside of the house as well. I enjoy each of the four season but it has been a long snowy winter and I am very grateful for the blue skies and warmer temperatures this weekend - what felt like the icy snow-covered Narnia for so long feels like the melting that came at the end of the movie now - it sure has put me in a happy mood. Spring is just around the corner...I think...and, spring cleaning will be a good thing...

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Little Amish Store in the Country

We drove down to Punxsy to look at furniture for our basement this afternoon. On our way back, which was through part of Amish Country, I spied a sign that said Miller's Bulk Foods and More...1 1/2 mile. Mike agreed to follow the signs for me to check it out and when we got there I was surprised to see that they were still open (it was about 5:30). A little Amish boy silently opened the door for me and Mike chatted with the Amish man while I browsed over the shelves. He used to live in Holmes County and we both agreed that we missed living in that part of Ohio. It was a small little place but they had some interesting items. I saw on the sign inside the store that they sell frozen cherries in a 5 gallon container (I assume just like the ones we used to get when I was a kid).
Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar $2.50
Tapioca 1 lb $1.45
Chocolate Chips 1 lb $1.33
Sea Salt 3 lb $1.70
Yellow Popcorn 4 lb $2.36
Cracked Wheat 5 lb(I think like what I've been adding to my cereal) $2.40
Hard White Spring Wheat (Whole Wheat Berries) 5 lb $4.50
I'm not sure that I have room for all of it in my cupboard but I wanted to make it worth the 3 miles out of our way. I'm sure I'll make it back (if I can remember how we got there). And it wasn't really a "for sure thing" but I asked about organic, grass-fed beef and he said an Amish man moved in just down the road and he thinks he will be having some beef available eventually and "he doesn't believe in any fertilizers." So, I may have found myself a place I can get part of a cow when I get the freezer space...and I'd like to find myself a grain mill so I can grind some flour (supposedly the flour loses the nutrients after it sits on the shelf in a bag), but they are so expensive...we'll see...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Frugal Friday: Book It, Brusters PJ Day and Other Deals

Attention parents of young children (including homeschoolers)...Pizza Hut has again started the Book It program (read about it here). I guess I'm just old enough to have missed out on that as a child but I remember being envious of my younger sister getting her free pizza. (I read that they are celebrating 25 years this year.)
Deals of the Week:
-5 lb bag of Idaho potatoes $.88 (Shop-n-Save) (I got 2 bags just in time for a big batch of pierogies that I've been planning)
-Gold Medal Unbleached Flour $1.79 - $.75 off coupon below = $1.04 (Shop-n-Save) (again, great for the pierogies that I'll be making)
-Cambells Tomato Soup $.49 each - $.40 off 4 = $.39 each (CVS)
-Grapes $.89/lb (Aldi)(I still have some from last week so I'll wait on this - it's good until next Wed.)
-Organic Rice Milk $1.59 (Aldi)
(I saw they have organic soy milk at a good price also)
-Heinz Ketchup 40 oz (2) at $1.99 each + Pompeian Red Wine Vinegar (2) at $.99 each
+ Cinnamon Toast Crunch (for Mike) (2) at $5 - $1 off - $.20 off a gallon of gas = less than $8 for all 6 items
-and, finally a Valentine's Day clearance item (a cute little item that I found just perfect for my hubby) $.09 (it was 90% off)(CVS)
Add...don't miss...
Brusters Free Ice Cream for wearing your PJs tomorrow March 6 (see details here)
Hot Coupons
Try YoPlus yogurt for free on their website
Gold Medal Flour
Become a Chic-fil-A Insider (here) for Free Food and Coupons
For next week, I'm considering a shopping fast aka "Eat from the Pantry Challenge"...I'm so blessed with a full pantry & toiletry closet right now that I should take a week off of all grocery shopping and exercise true frugality (ie: using what you have)...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Meal Planner Monday: Burger Night with Sweet Potato Fries

Burgers are not a regular rotation on our menu, but I sure do get a craving for them once in awhile. I look at burgers kind of like a tossed salad - you can have a good 'ole traditional one or you can get creative and make it gourmet or add some not-so-typical toppings (google for ideas). Mike's favorite is BBQ Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburgers. Anyway you like your burger, staying home for a burger night saves money and allows you to keep the calories under control...
-Swap a restaurant burger for one made with lean ground beef or ground turkey
-Swap a thick milkshake for one made with lowfat ice cream, a fruit smoothie or chocolate milk.
-Swap regular fries for oven baked or even better...sweet potato fries
Cut a sweet potato (or yams work fine also) into "fries" (I just leave the skin on). Rub olive oil over a baking pan and over the fries. Bake until tender and brown. (I'm guessing I put them in the oven at 400 degrees about 30 minutes but you'll want to watch them because they can get dark brown very quickly). You can experiment with seasonings if you like them spicy - you can try this recipe.