Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry

Hubs and I are expecting a baby!!!!! #3 is due toward the end of April 2011. What an exciting event for us! It certainly explains how tired I've bee feeling, and how voracious my appetite has become lately.
I made this meal a few weeks ago. It was good!!!!! Several of the ingredients came straight out of our garden.

Chicken Stir Fry

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh green beans, snapped into pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 handful English peas, pods removed & discarded
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup orange juice
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 lb cooked chicken, cut in pieces
4-5 kale leaves, torn into pieces & "stem" part of leaves discarded
2 cups cooked white rice

Heat olive oil in large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Stir in carrots, green beans, bell peper and peas. Stir-fry about 4-5 minutes. Add minced garlic, chicken broth, soy sauce and ginger. Reduce heat, stir, and cook until broth is reduced, about 4-5 minutes longer. Add orange juice, green onions, and chicken. Once heated through, stir in torn kale leaves. Kale will reach a very bright green color as you cook and stir. When it reaches this state, remove from heat and serve stir-fry mixture over cooked white rice.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Grilled Steak Salad

This meal was really light & refreshing, not to mention quick & easy to make!

Grilled Steak Salad

1/2 lb sirloin or ribeye, cut into strips
2 Tbsp vinagrette salad dressing (I used Balsamic Vinagrette)
Tossed salad

Sear meat in a hot skillet until seared on all sides (I know, not exactly grilled but it worked for me!). Stir in vinagrette. Stir and cook for 4- minutes until meat is browned and cooked through and liquid evaporates. Serve over a tossed salad. Drizzle your favorite dressing on top.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 8/9-8/15

With hubs & the kids finally home, I can really dig into my cookbooks and menu plans and we can finally eat real meals again. I still have plenty of meals left from my July freezer menu that I can pull from. (There hasn't been a lot of cooking around the house for a few weeks since hubs & the kids took a vacay without me--had to work and couldn't take off at the last minute like they did).

Here's the menu plan for this week. I know it's a little late posting. Better late than never. ;)

Monday--Creamy Beef Over Noodles, Corn on the Cob

Tuesday--Creamy Enchiladas (I'm sensing a "creamy" theme), Apples

Wednesday--Baked Potatoes, Green Beans, Mandarin Oranges

Thursday--Crispy Mustard Pork Chops, Lima Beans, Cucumbers

Friday--Chicken Stir Fry, White Rice

Saturday--Grilled Steak & Salad, Cantaloupe

Sunday--Chicken Apple Salad Sandwiches, Cantaloupe

Stop by Org Junkie for over 300 menu plan options each week!

Wok's For Dinner: Creamy Enchiladas

For a little over 2 weeks, I didn't do a whole lot of cooking. Hubs and the kids took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Minnesota to visit family, and I just wasn't in the mood to cook for one. I had a bit of a dilemma, trying to figure out if I should make a menu each week, but knowing that I wouldn't be doing a lot of cooking and didn't want to feel like I was lying to you. Nor did I want to advertise that I was flying solo on the homestead. As for the few meals that I did make, I wasn't even able to take a picture & post the recipe because my husband took the camera with him.

Suffice it to say, I survived the solitude (I never knew just how lonely it would get!). The family arrived home safely & soundly.

And hubs decided that he wanted enchiladas. He had some very specific instructions for me. No corn tortillas. No homemade tortillas. No fresh peppers from the garden (the weeds kind of took over while he was gone). Lots of cheese. And not having enchiladas was not an option.

Here's what I came up with:

Creamy Enchiladas

1/2 lb cooked pork roast, shredded
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1/2 block (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
8 flour tortillas
1 cup shredded cheese, taco-flavored

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat shredded roast in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in Rotel tomatoes; simmer and bring to a slow boil. Stir in cream cheese until melted and heated through. Spoon mixture evenly over tortillas and roll up enchilada-style, then spoon any remaining sauce over top of tortillas. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Hubs loved, I mean LOVED, these enchiladas! He commented over and over about how good they were. It definitely was a boost to my ego! :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tax Free Weekend Is Here

Each year, North Carolina recognizes a sales tax-free holiday that begins the first Friday in August. Thankfully, this year is no exception.

Most of the items that you can buy are in some way or shape school-related, but not all. Here are just a few of the highlights:

1. All clothing items $100 or less per item, including:
  • aprons
  • baby receiving blankets
  • bandannas
  • bathing suits
  • belts & suspenders
  • coats, jackets
  • costumes (yes, Halloween costumes)
  • diapers (children & adults, including disposables)
  • earmuffs, gloves, mittens, hats, caps
  • formal wear, wedding appearal (see what I mean by not all items being school-related?)
  • garters, leotards, tights, pantyhose, socks, undies
  • insoles for shoes
  • neckties
  • rainwear
  • sandals, shoes, shoelaces, slippers
  • uniforms (both athletic & nonathletic for nonbusiness use)

2. Sport or recreational equipment $50 or less per item:

  • ballet & tap shoes
  • cleats
  • gloves
  • goggles
  • hand, elbow, mouth, shin guards; shoulder pads
  • helmets
  • life preservers
  • skates
  • wetsuits & fins

3. Computers $3500 or less per item:

  • central processing unit
  • monitor
  • keyboard
  • mouse
  • speakers

Note: must puchase the monitor, keyboard, mouse & speakers with a CPU in order to be tax-exempt.

4. Computer supplies that are $250 or less per item:

  • memory sticks, diskettes, CDs
  • PDA's & hand-held electronic schedulers, except devices that are cell phones
  • printers
  • printer supplies, paper & ink

5. School supplies that are $100 or less per item:

  • Binders, notebooks
  • Chalk
  • Backpacks
  • Calculators
  • Crayons
  • Erasers
  • Folders
  • Glue, glue sticks
  • Highlighters, markers, pencils, pens, pencil sharpeners, pencil boxes & other school supply boxes
  • Index cards & boxes
  • Legal pads, composition books, sketch & drawing pads, writing tablets
  • Lunch boxes
  • Paint & paintbrushes, watercolors
  • Paper (loose leaf, copy, graph, tracing, manila, colored, poster board, & construction paper)
  • Rulers
  • Scissors

6. School instructional materials $300 or less per item (great for home-schoolers and college students!):

  • Reference books
  • Reference maps & globes
  • Textbooks
  • Workbooks
See you at the store--I'm going shopping after work!

For the complete list of items exempt during the sales tax holiday, visit the NC Department of Revenue here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Carlie C's IGA Deals 7/19-7/25/10

So I'm a little late in the sales week posting the deals. I've had to spend the evenings working on other projects so it wasn't until tonight that I was able to get to this particular project. I haven't made it to the store yet either, so I don't have a picture to add this week.

Here are some of the deals for this week:

Starkist Tuna, 5oz in water, $0.39 (time to stockpile!)

Comet Long Grain Rice, 14-16oz, $0.79

IGA Instant Oatmeal, 10oz, 2/$3

IGA All Purpose or IGA Self Rising Flour, 5lb, 2/$3

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, 22oz Family Pk, 2/$5
Print one $1/2 coupon (you can print two coupons)
Final price: 2/$4

Honey Nut Cheerios, 12.25oz, $2.78
Print one $1/2 coupon (you can print two coupons)
Final price: $2.28 ea

Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn, 10-ct, 2/$6
Print one $1.25 off coupon (good when you also buy M&Ms candy, 9.9z-42oz)
Final price: $1.75 ea
Chex Mix Snack Mix, 7-8.75oz, $2.18
Print one $0.55 off coupon (you can print two coupons)
Final price: $1.63

Pork Loin Chops, Family Pk, $1.58/lb

Trans Ocean Crab Classic Flake Style, 8oz, 2/$3
Print two $1 off coupons (link is in upper-right corner of website)
Final price: 2/$1

Valley Dale Old Fashioned Hot Dogs or Red Hot Dogs, 12oz, $0.69

Country Crock Spread, 15-16oz bowls or quarters, 4/$5 (or $1.25 each)
Use $0.40 coupon from All You magazine (I have a subscription but you can also get the magazine from Wal-mart)
Final price: $0.85 ea

Yoplait GoGurt, 18oz 8-count, $2.59
Print one $0.75/2 coupon (you can print 2 copies)
Final price: $2.22 ea
Morning Fresh Farms Jumbo Biscuits, 10oz, 5/$5 (you can buy just 1 and pay just $1!)
Weight Watchers Yogurt, 6oz, 10/$6
Use one BOGO Free coupon from All You magazine
Final price: 2/$0.60

Rome Apples, 3lb bag, $2.59
I always weigh my apple bags and buy the heaviest bag so I can maximize my purchase

Colgate Toothpaste, 6-6.4oz, $1.88
Final price: $1.13
or save more when you buy
Aim Toothpaste, 6oz, $0.89
or save even more when you buy
Pepsodent Toothpaste, 6oz, $0.79

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Spicy Tex-Mex Roast & Vegetables

We've had an absolute over-abundance of peppers in our garden this year. I don't mean the bell pepper variety either. My husband's father gave us two flats of hot & spicy varieties, and they are thriving! I had bought a huge roast and needed a way to cook it up, and the thought occurred to me to try out the spicy peppers with this roast. And it worked! The flavor was absolutely delicious. It packed heat, but not so spicy that you would burn your tongue off (and I do not like spicy-burn-your-tongue-'til-it-bursts-in-flames food) so it definitely received my stamp of approval. The roast and natural juices muted the spicy bite so you had the heat and tons of pure, delicious flavor.

Literally, it was delicious! And since it was a large roast, I have plenty of leftovers for another meal.

Spicy Tex-Mex Roast & Vegetables

1 large beef roast, 6-8 lbs
4 med. potatoes, peeled & quartered
4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
4 hot banana peppers, seeded and chopped
2 sweet banana peppers, seeded and chopped
4 cayenne peppers, seeded and chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Place potatoes on bottom of 6-qt slow cooker and add roast. Cover roast with remaining ingredients. Add lid and slow-cook for 8-10 hours.
If freezing: After slow-cooking the roast and vegetables, divide the roast up into meals. Serve roast for first meal, and place remaining meals in freezer bag or food saver, then freeze. I got 8 meals out of my roast. I probably would have gotten a 9th meal, but the roast was sooo good! We definitely ate our fair share. :)
Visit Dining With Debbie for lots of creative ideas for dinner!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July Monthly Menu

I've still been doing freezer meals, although on a smaller scale. I have not had a free Saturday to do a complete months' worth of meals, but I have created a menu to work with, and I have made several freezer meals. We went on vacation in June, and I even made freezer meals for that week, so we were able to avoid eating out the entire time, excluding one lunch trip to a seafood restaurant (we were, after all, in the Outer Banks of NC, so of course we had to go out for seafood).

Here are the meals that I have planned for July.

Chicken & Turkey (the turkey is leftover from a turkey I cooked earlier this year and froze the leftovers)
Grilled Chicken Salad
Turkey Mushroom Tetrazzini
Garden Ranch Chicken Pasta Salad
Chicken Apple Salad Sandwiches
Chicken Spaghetti
Chicken Divan
Chicken Stir Fry
Herbed Chicken
Chicken in Sour Cream
Grilled Chicken
Honey BBQ Chicken Leg Quarters
Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken & Rice)
Chicken & Egg Noodles

Ground Turkey
Turkey & Bean Tostadas

Ground Beef
Meatballs & Gravy
Pizza Casserole (I made this for a church potluck and got rave reviews!!)

Ground Sausage
Sausage & Zucchini Skillet (over rice, not mashed potatoes as shown in the linked post for this recipe)

Honey Garlic Shrimp
Pasta Scallop Casserole

Crispy Mustard Pork Chops
Apple Pork Kebabs
Mu Shu Pork
Family-Size Baked Burrito (with pulled pork instead of chicken)

Beef Roast
Spicy Tex-Mex Beef Roast
Slow-Cooked Beef Tacos
Beef Medallions
Creamy Beef Over Noodles
Pineapple Beef Kabobs
Grilled Steak Salad
Hungarian Goulash

Menu Plan Monday: 7/12-7/18/10

Perhaps I should call this one Menu Plan Thursday! haha Better late than never. :)

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday--Meatballs & Gravy, Mashed Potatoes

Tuesday--Party Pizzas

Wednesday--Apple-Cherry Stuffed Pork Chops, French-Style Green Beans

Thursday--Spicy Tex-Mex Roast & Vegetables

Friday--eating out
The kids have been attending Vacation Bible School at their grandparents' church this week and their program is this evening with a hot dog supper afterwards

Saturday--Slow-Grilled Pork Picnic, Fried Eggplant, Stewed Okra & Tomatoes

Breakfast: Fresh Cherry Muffins
Dinner: Salad Shrimp & Orange Salad

Make sure to visit Laura at Org Junkie for over 300 menu plan options!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Carlie C's IGA Deals 7/12-7/18

As promised, I am posting the deals for the local grocery stores for the benefit of my friends in the area. Now I know a lot of you do not live in Eastern NC. Never fear, because I am including links to coupons since I am matching them up with the sales ad, so you just might find something that you can use! :)

For this week's sales ad, visit the Carlie C's website.

Here's what I found to be the "best of the best" and worth investing my money into.

my Carlie C's purchases this week, total cost $27.83 after coupons and before tax--not too bad! Oh, and do you like my new counter top? It is soooo much better than the fake wood laminate I used to have!

Deals That I Bought

17oz Cinnamon Toast Crunch $3.15/ea
print two $0.60/1 coupons
Final price: $2.55 ea

5.4oz Betty Crocker Fruit Gushers $2.14/ea
print one $0.50/2 coupon
Final price: 2/$3.68

20oz IGA Squeeze Mustard 2/$1

14.5oz IGA Canned Tomatoes $2/1
The ad says "Diced" tomatoes, but stewed and whole tomatoes are also included in the sale

9.8-10.9oz Totino's Party Pizzas 4/$5
print two $1.00/2 coupons after referring 3 friends when you Share & Save
Final price: 2/$1.50 or $0.75 ea

6oz Assorted Breyers Yogurt 3/$1
Carlie C's also has "bonus" cups of yogurt that are 6oz+10% free or 6.6oz so you can really maximize the savings

7.25oz Betty Crocker Suddenly Salad $1.77
print one $0.50/2 coupon
Final price: $1.47 ea

25ct Finish Gel Pacs BOGO Free
print two $1/1 coupons
Final price: $2.49 ea

4-6oz Colgate Toothpaste 2/$5
print one $0.75/1 Colgate Total coupon
Purchase one box of Colgate Total paste 6oz+1.2oz Free
Final price: $1.75/1

1lb Oven Fresh Bread $0.99 ea

Other Great Deals (I did not buy any of these bought thought they were really great bargains)

24pk 12oz cans Coca-Cola Products $5.00

36oz IGA Squeeze Ketchup $.88ea

100oz Better Valu Liquid Laundry Detergent $1.99ea

Pork Picnic $1.18/lb

50ct IGA Foam Plates 5/$5

16oz Blue Bonnet Margarine Quarters $0.58

Limes 4/$1

Kiwi Fruit 2/$

Wok's For Dinner: Apple-Cherry Stuffed Pork Chops

I've waited all year to make these chops. Waiting for the time when bing cherries are in season and their price drops to super low affordable! Last weekend, I picked up a bag of bing beauties for $1.99/lb. And that meant making some Apple-Cherry Stuffing, a delicious way to prepare baked pork chops.

Apple-Cherry Stuffed Pork Chops

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks, chopped coarsely
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups water
1 6-oz pkg stuffing mix (I used low-sodium chicken flavor)
bing cherries, slicked in half with pit removed, enough to make about 1 cup
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
4 boneless pork chops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in chopped celery and onion; cook until just tender. Add butter and stir in water; bring to a boil. Stir in stuffing mix, cherries, and chopped apple; cover and remove from heat. Let sit about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place chops into a baking dish. Cover chops with Apple-Cherry Stuffing. Place baking dish in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Balancing Act Changes

You know how you get so far behind doing something, that you subconsciously ignore it because it becomes too overwhelming to handle?

Like sweeping and mopping the floors. More often than not, I sweep then mop, and admire the shine of the floor surface and the fresh clean scent. And the next day, the floor's dirty again. So rather than clean up the dirty floor, I prefer to ignore it at least a few weeks, knowing that to clean the floor would again cause it to get dirty once again.

I guess that's how me and blogging have been lately. I've been really bumming with working super long hours the past two months. Within the last few weeks, I've been working 10-11 hour days, sometimes longer, without the luxury of a lunch break. I finally broke down and told my boss today that I need to get a company laptop so I can work from home in the evenings. Not the preferred choice for me, but a necessary thing so I can at least be at home with my family.

As much as I have wanted to blog, it's been soooo hard to get the motivation! I'm afraid to commit to it again, knowing how tied up work is keeping me. This has been weighing on my mind more than you might believe. I really miss blogging! But I'm trying to maximize the precious few minutes I have with my family each evening.

So I have to make some changes in the blog. No, I'm not quitting. (hooray!!) I've been weighing my options, debating and arguing with myself, adding to & crossing off my list of ideas. There have to be changes so I can keep my sanity and my commitment to my family.

I'm going to keep blogging really simple, posting recipes here and there, but probably not every day. I do have a freezer menu for July that I've been working from and I will I'll try to get it posted for you all.

I have a lot of friends in my area that constantly ask me, "How do you do it?" when it comes to grocery sales and deals. So I've set a goal to match the sales & coupon deals for the local grocery stores and post those in the blog. I'm hoping to have a weekly post for this, but again that will depend on how I'm able to balance work/family.

I really want to keep this blog going strong and stay in contact with all of my readers. It has certainly been a struggle for me to figure out how I'm going to do this. As much as I want to do a daily post, it is next to impossible given my work and family schedule at this time, so I have to keep things real.

All part of the Balancing Act! Thank you to each of you for your patience as I try to iron out all the kinks! :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm An Idiot

Yes, here I am. Alive and well. And feeling like a complete idiot.

My blog is called Balancing Act Basics. And as much as I try to maintain balance in my life, it doesn't always work out.

May was an absolute killer month. The stress was unbearable. It was a good month, but busy, busy, busy! Between work and home activities, there wasn't room to do a lot else.

Chores? Only the absolute barely essentials were done, like dishes, socks & underwear. Let's just say that the house got a little nasty. I was truly embarrassed at the thought of any visitors coming. The whole family did manage to scrub the house clean before the end of the month arrived, and I'm much pleased with the results. We were even able to invite guests into our home for dinner!

Work has kept me extremely busy. We had a safety & environmental audit in the middle of the month, which turned out well. But I've been working 50-60 hours each week, even after the audit, trying to get caught up. We've been recruiting, interviewing, hiring, bringing on temps, and the business is doing very well. Lots to keep me & everyone else busy. Job security, right? :)

My son's baseball games were in full swing, and thankfully that's winding down. He's got one last baseball event, an end-of-season barbecue. It was supposed to be today but got postponed until next weekend. My daughter also had her first dance recital, and she did fabulous! She was so adorable in her ballet tutu, and she was even the line leader guiding all her classmates out onto the stage. Hubs has gotten back into the kitchen remodel phase, and built a new cabinet. Yesterday, he replaced the old kitchen window with a brand new one, and then he put down new formica on the new cabinet and one of the old cabinets. That's just a small sample of how life has gone in the Boren household.

There's just been A LOT going on, way too long a list to go into details. And unfortunately, because my time was so limited, I had to cut out a few activities, like cleaning the house, checking my email and Facebook, doing surveys & other points-earning opportunities, grocery shopping (seriously, I only went one time in the month of May and that was because we had run out of milk & bread), and sadly blogging, too. :( That's how busy we were!

Please, oh please, forgive me. June is looking much, much better as far as home activities go (far fewer!!). Work is just as busy as ever and no telling when things will balance out there. I'm hoping to have a better month that's not so stressful so I can get back into my usual routine, like posting recipes! :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Better Breakfast: Strawberry Muffins

When you've got over 17 1/2 lbs of strawberries, you tend to come up wth multiple ways on how to use them. Aside from making homemade jam, slicing them on top of cereal, having them on the side at dinner, and snacking on them during the day, I also made a double batch of Strawberry Muffins. These are so yummy! I've made them several times over the past year and they're always a hit with the whole fam. Plus, they're fun to make with the kids. :)

Strawberry Muffins


1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups chopped strawberries
3 tsp sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse, hull and chop strawberries, then place in a medium-size bowl.

Line muffin pan with paper cups.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer.

Mix in egg.
Measure the flour (note, we used the knife to level off the measuring scoop and scraped away from us, not toward us as it may look like in the picture below!).

Place flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl; mix well. Add some of the flour mixture into the butter mixture; beat together gently.

Beat in some of the milk, then alternately add the remainder of the flour and milk, beating on low speed until incorporated.
Don't forget to lick the beaters! :)
Using a spatula, gently fold in strawberries.

Using an ice cream scoop, measure and spoon batter evenly into muffin cups, about 2/3 full.
Gently sprinkle cinnamon/sugar mixture over top of muffins.

Place muffins in oven and bake for 16-18 minutes.

Wok's For Dinner: Mediterranean (or Cobb) Wrap Sandwich

These turned out WAY better than I could have imagined, and even my husband was impressed. I also had been concerned that hubs and I would be hungry 30 minutes after supper was over, but that wasn't the case at all. So success on my first attempt at wraps! The only drawback is that they were less "Mediterranean" and more "Cobb" style. I didn't really follow my recipe too well and instead threw stuff together. Still, they turned out great, and I'm happy with that!

Mediterranean (or Cobb) Wrap Sandwich

6 wraps (I used "low carb" version but you could use flour tortillas)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1 tomato, diced
1 avocado, chopped
3-4 Romaine lettuce leaves, torn in pieces
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese
Salad dressing such as Italian, Ranch or Honey Mustard (your choice! :)

Evenly divide up all ingredients into each wrap. Roll-up wrap tightly, enchilada-style. Serve and enjoy!

To make these more "Mediterranean" style, use cucumber and red pepper, slicing both into strips, and omit the carrot, tomato and avocado.

Monday, May 3, 2010

To-Do Tuesday

I've missed out on my weekly To-Do List for a couple weeks now. It's silly to admit that I have to remind myself to do my To-Do List so I can remind myself of the things that I need to do, and even then I have trouble doing that. Oh well! :)

I'm keeping this week as light as possible. I'm stressed to the max between work and home activities, even though this is a light week for home activities.

  • Plan May freezer meal list. Once A Month Cooking day is now officialy May 15. It's on the calendar and not going to change this time! :)

That's all!

Don't forget to take a quick peak at To-Do Tuesday at Crazy Adventures in Parenting! :)

Menu Plan Monday--5/3-5/9/10

Last week was crazy, I mean CRAZY, busy!! If your spouse tells you that he's thinking about coaching a baseball team, I strongly suggest you tell him "no". We had 4 games in 3 days, plus 2 days of practice, on top of everything else that was going on. I had a couple days where we were simply unable to stick to last week's menu plan. Sad, but true. And although this week is a snooze-fest as far as activities go, I'd like to say that I'm in "recovery mode" this week, but it just isn't so. I've got a huge audit at work coming up in 2 weeks, and it just so happens that I've been called to jury duty that same week.

So not only am I busy & stressing on the homefront, I've got to deal with hectic & stressful hours at work as well. Not good. It is very likely that my postings may be a little light for the next few weeks. Please bear with me as I try to keep things prioritize and balance all the tasks that need to get done while trying to maintain some level of sanity. Baseball season is over at the end of this month, and the calendar is looking MUCH better starting June 1. Hooray!

Here's the menu plan for this week. I intended on posting this last night, but my kids did not cooperate at bed time and we spent a good 2+ hours battling out the "I can't go to sleep"-"I'm thirsty"-"He's talking"-"She keeps waking me up" routine, so I didn't get a chance to get this out when I wanted to.

Monday--Hot Dogs, Cantaloupe
My husband was smart and picked up on my not-so-subtle clues that I've been dropping--no baseball practice on Monday nights! So there was no practice this evening, and we were able to have our weekly Family Home Evening activity. I prefer to have it on Monday evening. After a really hard day at work, there's nothing like spending really good, quality time with the family. For our activity, we sang karaoke-style, singing songs the kids have been learning at church. Afterwards, we made Strawberry Muffins to use some of the strawberries we picked last week (did I tell you that we picked over 17 1/2 pounds? there really is such a thing as TOO many strawberries, believe you me!). The muffins are for our breakfast in the morning.

Tuesday--Hot Pork Sandwich With Gravy
I have a meeting at church this evening, and hubs and our Little Man have a baseball game. Hubs gets to prepare supper so it's ready when I get home from work so we can all eat together before heading our separate ways for the evening.

Wednesday--Mediterranean Wrap Sandwich, Oranges

Thursday--Beef Macaroni
Another meal for hubs to prepare since we have a ball game this evening.

Friday--Chicken Pasta Stroganoff, Salad

Saturday--Meatloaf Pie, Green Beans

Breakfast: Caramel Rolls
Dinner: I have no idea...literally, no idea. It is, after all, Mother's Day, so do I really have to cook? My brother-in-law's birthday is Saturday, and my mother-in-law says she's planning "something" for the whole family so we can celebrate the birthday, but didn't mention if it will involve a meal for everyone. So right now, it's kind of up in the air.

Need some menu planning ideas? Visit for over 300 ideas!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Making Your Own Sale Part 2

Also known as How to Make Your Own Sale. :)

So if you missed my last past, let me catch you up to speed. I live in a semi-large town that has a military base. The stores in my area do not like to compete with the commissary, so we don't get all the good deals that so many other bloggers seem to get. I feel so robbed!

Buying every single thing on sale here is not an option, neither is using every single coupon that I find.

I've had to work around my challenges. Using the resources that are available--and there definitely are a LOT of resources--has helped me keep my spending in check. I can still get some great deals without putting a big dent in my budget.

Here are some of the resources that I use to try to find the best deals:
  • Bloggers such as Melissa's Bargain Blog, Money Saving Mom, Moms By Heart, and Attention Target Shoppers may not have the same sales ads that are in my area, but they certainly are an inspiration and a great place to start. Melissa posts scenarios to help you get started with your "extreme couponing," Crystal and Lori both post links to all the best coupons and free samples, plus Lori has a great weekly post on $0.50 or Less Shopping (love it!). And Ginger provides some of the most comprehensive Target deals you can find.
  • Coupon generatorating sites, like Organic Grocery Deals and Hot Coupon World let me know some of the Target web coupons that are available, and I can print innumerable copies of as many Target coupons that I think I might need.
  • The forums at Startsampling are also really great for letting me know about all the free samples and Internet coupons, taking out a lot of guesswork and hunting around. I love knowing that I can get something for free if I can't actually buy it for cheap (every little bit helps, right?). And, I just have to repeat this, no guesswork! They've done all the hard work for me and posted everything right there in the forums.
  • All You magazine has been another excellent resource. I took the plunge last Summer and paid $16 for a two-year subscription. Not only are the articles and recipes great and full of frugal living tips, each edition is also loaded with coupons, even Free purchase coupons. You can click here to receive a free two-month trial for All You and check for yourself just how many coupons there are.
  • Friends and family. My mother-in-law and husband's grandmother will occasionally give me a stack of coupons that they doesn't plan on using. And likewise, I'll share coupons with them or other friends who might be able to use them.
  • And don't forget the store sales ad! Most stores post their sales online, which saves me from having to get an ad to the local paper, or driving across town picking up a sales ad from each store. This is another area where my mother-in-law is a life saver. My in-laws have a paper subscription, so they usually send the flyers home with my husband or one of the kids each week, which gives me a hard copy to work with as I plan my shopping.

Where do you go to find the best deals? Do you have a no-fail-go-to site that you visit? Share your tips with a comment below. :)

Coming up next, Part 3, or Putting It All Together!

Note: These are suggestions that I find works for me and my family's situation. The important thing is to find what works best for you, and sticking with it, or finding a way to improve upon it. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Making Your Own Sale Part 1

I live out in the boonies. At least, sometimes it feels that way. The town I now live in here in Eastern North Carolina is much larger than the college town in Central Texas that hubs and I lived in when we were first married. In Texas, we had two grocery stores to choose from, HEB and Walmart. Here, we have Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, IGA, Save-A-Lot, Super Target (which, by the way, does not carry produce or fresh meat) and Walmart, plus Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid. Food Lion also has several convenient locations to shop at, so there's always one nearby no matter what part of town I'm at (no wonder they're so expensive--gotta pay the mortgage!! lol).

So with so many options, it would stand to reason that the stores here should be really competitive, right?


We have a military installation located in the heart of the big city, smack-dab in the middle of town. And the stores here just will not compete with the commissary on base.

So while I follow a couple blogs that match sales ads with coupons, like Melissa's, I rarely get to utilize their extreme couponing methods because the stores here, including Target and the 3 pharmacies, don't always have the same sale. Or, the stores have the sale, but the coupons aren't available in this area.

That means that I have to resort to extreme measures, like creating my own sale!

When I first started serious couponing a year ago, I felt as though I had to use every single coupon that I got my hands on, and felt like I had to buy everything that was on sale, whether I needed it or used it or not.

That meant, if an item was "on sale" in the posts according to other bloggers, but not on sale here in my area, I still bought the item. OR, if I couldn't get a coupon, I still bought the item.
*GASP!* What was I thinking??

Let's just say that train of thought didn't last very long!

It's taken some self-discipline, but I've come to learn that I don't need every single thing that is on sale. And I don't need every single coupon either.

If I miss a sale item because it's simply not on sale in my area, that's okay! That means that something else is on sale here. We're not brand specific either, so I'm perfectly ok with buying store brand or generic. And if I do manage to clip "the perfect coupon," then I'm happy to buy a name brand item.
Coming up next, Part 2! Also known as, How to Make Your Own Sale!
What shopping challenges do you have? Are you in the big city, college town, small town, or military town, and do you have to get creative with your shopping? Please post a comment below and share your tips! :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Sausage & Zucchini Skillet (with meal price!)

This is really tasty and inexpensive meal. My husband really flattered me by cleaning his plate, getting seconds, and cleaning his plate again! I normally serve this over white rice, but I was strapped for time, so I made some potato flakes instead. It was like having Shepherd's Pie.

Sausage Zucchini Skillet

1 lb mild ground sausage ($1.19)
2 large zucchini, chopped (free from our garden, last year's crop that's been in our freezer)
1 large onion, chopped ($0.10)
2 garlic cloves, minced ($0.20)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained ($0.50)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper ($0.03)

4 servings prepared potato flakes ($0.20)

1 16oz bag frozen mixed vegetables ($1)

Total Cost = $3.22!!

Brown sausage with zucchini and onion in a large skillet over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook an stir until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Stir in tomatoes and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 4-5 minutes or until liquid is evaporated. Serve over prepared potato flakes.

If freezing: Place cooked sausage mixture into a gallon-size freezer bag, squeeze out air, seal, lay flat and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator and heat sausage mixture in microwave. Serve over cooked rice or mashed potatoes & enjoy!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 4/26-5/2/10

I have officially decided that my life no longer belongs to me. I thought I was busy before. But after looking at the upcoming week, I've realized that my life belongs to work, baseball, meetings, dance class, and everything else that is going on. Well, I take that back. I do have 1 day of vacation scheduled this week. The kids' have a field trip to go strawberry picking, and we're going to make a family activity out of it. There is, however, something going on EVERY SINGLE NIGHT this week. EVERY night! I don't know whether to scream or cry. And I don't see much of a break in sight until June, when baseball season will be over.

So if you don't see much of me, don't panic. I'm just on stress overload and will be on a mental break. I'm going to try to keep my life as simple as I can make it for the next 5 or so weeks until some of our activities clear out. All part of trying to maintain a semblance of balance! :)

Monday--Chicken Pot Pies, Peppered Cottage Cheese
The menfolk have baseball practice this evening, so we moved our weekly "Family Home Evening" or FHE night to Sunday night. The Pot Pies are really nothing fancy--just the frozen single-serve box kind that you toss in the oven, bake & serve. Hubs and the Little Man have to head out early in the evening, so hubs chose to make this meal so they can eat before leaving.

Tuesday--Tomato Pasta Bake, hubs chooses the sides
Baseball game night! And I have a meeting at church and will leave straight after work. Because of the game, Little Miss will go with me. Hubs is playing "Meals On Wheels" and will prepare/heat the meal, feed himself & the kids, then bring a plate of food to me when I get off work so I can eat on my way to my meeting. I'll need to remin him to pack a backpack of distractions like coloring books and toys or Little Miss so she won't be bored while I'm in my meeting.

Wednesday--Taco Casserole, Oranges
This is my vacation day and our strawberry picking day. I have a ton of errands to run once we get home, but I will actually be able to put supper together for a change. Because of baseball, hubs has had to step up to the plate a little more and put together supper more & more often so he and our son can eat instead of starving themselves by waiting until they get home. Hubs also has a meeting this night, but with me having a full day of vacation, there should be no problem with me having supper made at a decent time so he can eat before needing to leave.

Thursday--Teriyaki Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Pineapple, hubs gets to choose side #2
We have another baseball game on this evening. I plan on going to this game, so hubs will need to have dinner ready to eat early. So early, that I'll probably have to take a plate with me to the game. We could just plan on taking some cash and eating hot dogs from the concession stand--and the kids would absolutely love doing that--but that means spending money, and in my opinion, taking the easy way out. I've got these freezer meals in the freezer, and hubs doesn't work, so in my opinion, we should just use what we have and save our money. However, I know that there's a lot going on, and I can foresee one or the both of us being stressed out by this night, so I'm fully prepared for my husband to proclaim, "I give!" and refuse to make any dinner this night. It happened last week (instead of cooking up supper on Thursday night, he made peanut butter & honey sandwiches for dinner before the baseball game that night).

Friday--Hubs is on his own
I'm scheduled for a girls' night out for a monthly scrapbooking crop. I just might actually get some stress relief after all. :)

Saturday--Baby Back Bash Ribs, Sweet Corn Bread, Beans
It's baseball tournament day, and the team is scheduled to play two games (yes, two games on top of the two games and baseball practice earlier in the week). I also had intended on this day being my Once A Month Cooking day, but that was before learning about the tournament that was scheduled. Now I don't know what I'll do. I might do half a month's worth of cooking, instead of a full day. I haven't completely decided what to do. There's supposed to be a trophy presentation late in the evening, so I want to make sure that I'm able to go to at least one game and the trophy presentation, assuming my son's team gets a trophy.

Breakfast: Cranberry Orange Muffins
I still, STILL have not had a chance to make these. I didn't have enough flour a couple weeks ago, and I intended on buying some this week but never made it to the grocery store.

Dinner: Church potluck, bringing Chicken Salad Sandwiches and Cantaloupe
Our church meets late in the afternoon, and choir is meeting each week immediately following. We've decided to have a potluck the first Sunday each month after choir practice is over, as an opportunity for fellowship and to give us a little break from rushing to get the family fed once we get home.

For over 300 menu plan options, remember to visit!