Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Saving Money on Groceries in 2011

One of my goals (okay, resolutions) for 2011 is to try to find ways to do so in ways that fit our family, not always ways that work for others or that I read about.

For instance, last summer, I really experimented with using grocery fliers and coupons everywhere I could find them to save as much as I could.

What I found was that I ended up with a ton of granola bars, cereal that hurt our tummies (too much fiber), cans of spaghetti sauce I still haven't touched, and overall, I realized that while I was certainly saving money off the regular cost of the coupon/sale items, these items were a lot of processed foods, not so healthy for us, and I didn't like that.

Sure, it took us through December to go through all the toilet paper, deodorant, and bath soap. That was good, and we used them. One plus.

I found also, that I would still use most of my budget to try to get all the savings I could, and sometimes feel that still, I didn't really have components to make meals I normally make, or would have wanted to make.

So, I started only collecting coupons for items we use all the time and didn't obsess about not having coupons for meals I wanted to make. I felt like I tried the obsessive system, and while there is a place for it, in my busy schedule, I want to know I have ingredients for meals and I'm feeding my family in a healthy way.

I've recently started doing Bountiful Baskets, and have loved, for the most part, what I get from that each week. It has its pluses and minuses too though and I'm wondering if I should continue.

Pluses? It seems like you save a lot on produce for the week. There are also some unique items which get you to be creative and try new things (like my persimmon cookies).

Minuses? I usually do my grocery shopping on Friday late afternoons. Bountiful baskets are picked up on Saturday mornings, and I never know what I'm going to get. This causes me to either wait to grocery shop, cutting into my weekend, or I end up going back to the grocery store again, to have things that are needed for the items I get.

I guess there are pluses and minuses for everything, but I'm curious, what are some methods that work for you for saving money on groceries? My ears/eyes are open to hear all kinds of suggestions I might not have tried yet.

WILTW: This Last Week of 2010

As always, little life lessons are learned in as little as a week, and that's why it is always fun to reflect.

1. The first one I learned just yesterday, while trying to load photos from Christmas Eve in my family blog. Google only allows 1 GB for photos/images and I had exceeded my limit, starting my blog back in the fall of 2007. What? I didn't know there was a limit, and I guess with videos, that goes up quickly. So, I had to purchase 20 GB more for only $5.00. Have any of you had to do that yet?

2. I've learned too, that I dislike my method of "housing" my photos in iPhoto and folders on my desktop versus my old method of using some great Nikon software that was no longer compatible with my upgraded software. It is so much harder to resize and name my photos in one easy step. I must resort to something new. I really like all my photos stored in folders by month and year on my desktop for easy historical reference. It is going to take some time, but maybe that needs to be one of my New Year's resolutions, along with losing the 5 pounds I've gained over the holidays (since Halloween), right?

3. I learned that being 40 and getting little exercise in one's life, due to having a little one and less time definitely has its setbacks. After sitting on the floor helping to unwrap/play with new Christmas toys, lifting one's 37 pound child into a toddler swing moments later can send sharp pains in one's back, causing major discomfort for multiple days afterward... :(

4. Christmas is sure a blast with a 3-year-old. And, he can cry when he sees that Santa ate all the cookies and drank the milk that was left out for him.

5. Bean bag chairs are still really cool, and even better "lounge-size" so Mommy can also sit in it with child to read stories. It is also awesome for a great nap.

For more fun stories, check out Julie's blog.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yummy Sweet Potato Soup

Oh my gosh. I found this recipe for Sweet Potato Soup at allrecipes.com and it is amazing!
I made it last night, and will definitely be making it again, really soon.

I don't know if it was the turnip added, or all the chicken stock, or the spices, but it was...did I already say? AMAZING. I wish I'd taken some photos, but there wasn't really much to see.

I've been on break since Monday and trying to take the time to do some extra baking and cooking of things I just normally don't have time to do. While I am not much of a "pull this and this together and create this" kind of cook, I've realized how much I love learning through cooking, and all the chopping and so forth that go into making something wonderful. That's the trick though....when I do spend my time making something, it has to be wonderful.

I had a not-so-wonderful experience this week making zucchini bread, which I was hoping to give away for the holidays. I found a recipe online, and it said to cook it 80 minutes. Well, most of my bread recipes call for 60 minutes. I really doubted the recipe, peeked in the oven at 60 minutes, poked in a toothpick that came out a little wet, turned off the oven at 65 minutes even, and....well, I shouldn't have second-guessed myself. It was hard. Dry and hard, and when I tried to cut it, fell apart. Guess where it ended up? The garbage.

What is something you've made lately that you really enjoyed, or something that didn't turn out after investing a chunk of your time?

On another note, HAPPY Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WILTW: Holiday Goodies

Julie from Inmates to Playdates always has this hilarious post on Tuesdays that you have to check out, and join!

This week's in particular cracked me up, on the theme of the Cookie Exchange. I am so glad I have not EVER been under the pressure of attending a cookie exchange with there being a contest, like Julie's. That would be just toooo much! Especially when this year, I actually selected my recipe at 5:30 in the morning and had it made by 6:15 to make sure we had enough time to make my friend's cookies as well, who was visiting for the weekend, and also attending the luncheon/cookie exchange at noon. We had a lot to do! Anyhow, that pressure of having the most (or not having the same as another's would have been too much for me). I was also under the pressure of not having any cardomom (seriously...I'd never heard of that!) for my friend's spritz cookie recipe, so I was also on the search for an alternate for her. The things we do for friends, right?

Anyhow, I ended up making Blondies, a super sweet bar cookie, which was delicious and easy, since I only had to throw it in the oven once. We had a great time making my friend's cookies though, all morning, with the help from my son.
So, for this week, I wanted to reflect on what I've learned about holiday goodies:

1. The 2-3 extra pounds one gains around Halloween and Thanksgiving has no hope of coming off during the Christmas season.

2. One CAN have too many Christmas cookies through cookie exchanges and friends. Okay for a little while, then the husband starts complaining about the temptation.

3. One can think one has all of his/her baking done, only to find an amazing recipe at a cookie exchange, for these cake balls, and just HAVE to make them. Good excuse to have the hubby take them into work, right? I am currently in the process of making the chocolate/cream cheese ones and the white cake/cherry ones. Did all the batter yesterday and it is in the fridge waiting for me today to make the balls and dip today.

4. If you're like me and you love wrapping presents, it can take keeping your child in daycare/preschool just so that you can get those holiday presents actually wrapped. Otherwise, he'd sneak in while you're doing it or you'd be up 'til midnight. (Okay, some of you do that midnight thing...but not me.)

5. One's credit card bills can increase during the holiday season when one didn't start with any sort of holiday budget, due to this crazy economy. I'll take that as a goodie though, in that I could at least do that. Some aren't so lucky.

Wishing everyone a really wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 20, 2010

You Know You're the Mother of a Three-Year-Old When...

You Know You're the Mother of a Three-Year-Old When...

*You say, out loud, in your own office, "I gotta go potty."

*You threaten your child with, "Are you going to be good for Santa, or do you want him to bring reindeer poop?"

*You run at the cry of "Mommy, I gotta go _______," to make sure no messes need to be cleaned up.

*You feel like you have a bipolar child, "I don't wanna do that!" (That's him, not me.), so you move on, then he bursts into tears, "I wanna do that!" (Or maybe he's a 40-year-old woman in disguise?)

*You giggle when your child is handed bells for his holiday performance and he shouts, in the quiet, "Mommy, I got bells!"

*You can no longer read a paper, or even have a moment of thought on the potty (or in the bathroom) before your child needs something in the other room.

*Your most relaxing time is the 30 minutes you have to spend each week in the allergist's office, waiting on your allergy shots.

*You contemplate moving into the spare bathroom so that everything you need is in one place for those early morning wake-ups.

*Your idea of downtime is when you are in the shower.

*You can no longer watch any more than 34 minutes of a movie with your child (and it is a kid-type movie) before he shouts, "Mommy, wanna watch Mickey!"

And of course, the list goes on....
How would I know who you are the mother of?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sad News

Here I just did a post on Fun Times, and at the same time, have some sadness. My coworker that I wrote about in this post, well, she passed away last night. The cancer just overtook her body and the tumor in her lungs kept bleeding into her lungs.

I don't want to think about it much. That's the easiest way for me to cope right now. It is just that she has a husband and three children, ages 6 or 7, 10 or so, and 13 or 14. How do they deal with all of this? It is one of life's terrible, terrible tragedy.

She was one of THE most positive, beautiful, and happy people I have EVER met, and she leaves a mark on everyone's heart who knew her. May her family and friends just feel comfort, comfort that she is not suffering any more.

WILTW: Fun Times

I love thinking about what I learn each week, and it is even funner when I have a moment and I think, "I have to blog about THAT one." Had one of those this morning. See #1.

This week I learned:

1) Arguing with your 3-year-old about who is going to empty the pee filled potty bowl into the toilet, pulling it back and forth, won't get what Mommy is after (her emptying it). Instead, said bowl will be pulled out of Mommy's hands and child will quickly, somewhat "toss" the filled bowl toward the toilet, resulting in pee NOT in the toilet, but rather all over bath toys, magazines, potty seat, floor rug, etc. and Mommy ranting and raving about the situation doesn't change it. Hey, at least he wants to help, right?

2) You may be concerned your 3-year-old won't want to sit on Santa's lap. Instead, you have to be careful that he doesn't pile drive himself into the side of Santa's leg, running so hard to get to him.

3) Your child can wake up and insist you are too, because he needs to take care of things (see #1), and you have to get up at 4:55 AM, 3 days in a row (including the weekend!). Then, comes a school day, and YOU have to wake HIM up. What's up with that?

4) You can want your child to make a cook Christmas decoration, but when he's had enough, he'll stick the foam glitter stickers ANYWHERE but where you want them to end up.

5) Lastly, children sure make our lives more interesting, don't they?

For more, see Julie's blog.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Keeping up with the Holidays

Phew! Is there a moment to breathe during this holiday time with preparations, family responsibilities, getting the house ready for guests that will be visiting, keeping up with work....wow!

How do you all do it?

I'm off starting the 20th, which will be nice. I can at least get presents wrapped then and under the tree, get doctor's appointments out of the way, hair cut and colored, lunch out with the hubby...oh, you see? It all just fills back up again, doesn't it?

Life must have been so much easier back in the olden days when all a woman had to do was get up at the crack of dawn (I'm already doing that), collect eggs, make food for the family, do the wash by hand, start making a big lunch for the men working the field, tend to the children, make a pie, shuck some corn, kill the chicken for dinner, call everyone in, eat, do all the dishes, get baths...oh.....lots of work then too, just different.

Anyway, I haven't been posting much at all, just focusing on getting the to-do's done. Sorry if I haven't been to your blog lately too, but I'll be back! I hope you are enjoying the season and not feeling under too much stress.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WILTW: Illness

Some weeks are busier than others when it comes to learning, and this week's, well, it was interesting. If you are sensitive to sickness, you may want to skip this post.

Here are a few:

1. Husbands do not, I repeat, DO NOT like it when your son vomits in the back of their nice car (and of course, some hits the front too, as his carseat is positioned in the middle of the backseat.) Julie, picture this happening in your new Saturn. Wouldn't you just DIE?

2. They like it even less when they too, spent the day home sick with a cold as well.

3. You can receive "I need you at home," text messages while you are in an important meeting about 30 minutes away. You try with all your might to hope it can be managed without you.

4. You can receive more insistent texts, and calls, upon the second "getting sick" as soon as the two of them start eating dinner together (while the mess is still in the car) and you really shouldn't leave your meeting.

5. The 30 minute drive home can seem like forever as you call your boss and coworker and plan the following day's work together, as you know you will be staying home with said child.

6. Children of the age of 3 can learn quickly, how to use a bucket when sick.

7. Pulling up the floor rug, sleeping on the sofa, and making a bed for your child on the living room floor can save a lot of mess in the long run. (I did do that, not learning the hard way).

8. In the process of all of this, your husband, while sick with a cold, can also come down with pink eye. (Oh, did I also mention you have a cold in the midst of all of this?)

9. 15 days after having a sore throat, it might be best to get in to see the doctor (going today).

10. Your family (or you) tend to get sick on important days, i.e. meeting, and missing seeing Christmas lights at the zoo. It never fails.

To see other interesting adventures, see Julie's blog!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Rush

Anyone else feeling the rush of the holidays? While I am so excited for this time of year, I feel like every cell in my body is on overtime. It wasn't until 1:00 this afternoon that I was able to stop for a moment, put my feet up and read the newspaper that I'd brought in at 6:00 AM.

Do you feel a little like my son in this photo with Santa, a little skeptical that you'll get all of your own Santa work completed? (Really, he was so happy to be on Santa's lap, and my husband caught him in a moment of thinking about what he'd like from Santa. It was a pondering look.)

I have a few things to check off my list:
1. Cards that I want to mail have been mailed.
2. Presents that need to be shipped are all wrapped and boxed and have their mailing labels ready to be taped on.
3. Our spare room is just about ready for guests.
4. My son got a photo with Santa. (We were supposed to go see lights and Santa at the zoo this week, but he got that terrible stomach flu-my son, not Santa, that is.) Sure, it was at a pancake breakfast, but Santa is everywhere this time of year, you know.
5. Cookies will soon be decorated with Grandma in a few hours.

How are you feeling about your preparedness about this time of year? 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yummy Persimmon Cookies

I purchased my first Bountiful Basket about 3 weeks ago and split it with a friend. What an amazing selection of produce and it was all so good!

One of the items we received were persimmons. At first I didn't even know what they were. Once I realized they weren't ripe yet, I knew I'd have a little time to look around for a recipe. I had my heart set on cookies once I saw that might be a good idea.

I found this 4 1/2 star Moist Persimmon Cookie recipe that sounded so good! Indeed it was.

I had never even touched a persimmon, but had heard you needed to make just the right thing with it, and mostly likely not eat the peel. This recipe has you peel them and puree them. As a side note, the recipe mentions using 2 persimmons and I used three. Here's how they look pureed. (Of course many of you may already know that...but I'm pretty inexperienced.)
In any case, with all the spices, walnuts and raisins, these tasted like wonderful fall cookies. Great for this time of year, if you even find yourself with some persimmons!