Friday, March 30, 2012

Coupon Sources and Links for How To Save Money on Groceries

Dear friends,


I haven't gotten too organized
with my coupons and sale flyers yet...
I really don't do couponing, but I'm just about to start dabbling!  Y'all have any tips or favorite web sites for me?  Do you use a notebook for yours?  Do you trade with friends?  How do you combine coupons with sales?  Inquiring minds want to know!










You'll see several links related to the Publix grocery store.  I don't normally shop at Publix because the prices are generally higher than Aldi or Super Walmart, where I usually shop.  However, apparently if you are a smart shopper, Publix can yield a lot of bargains!  According to one friend, Esther Wadley, who co-writes the Coupons Make It Free site) Publix can be consistently cheaper than the others if you use coupons and combine deals.  Hmmm.  I guess I'll have to look into that!  I already occasionally stop into a Publix  when I drop my boys off for youth group to grab their great Buy 1 Get 1 offers.   Yesterday, I clipped a newspaper coupon for Mrs. Smith's or Edwards pies, and found a sale flyer ad for 50% off the same pies at Publix and another one for Buy 1 Get 1 Free at Walmart.  Sounds yummy for Easter!


I think it's good advice to only use coupons for something you are really going to use, and only if the discounted price is a bargain compared to either another store or another brand.  You can always pass your unused coupons along to friends.  Or, if you see a really good deal on basic products, stock up and donate them to a food pantry or homeless shelter!


Happy couponing!  And leave me a comment with your tips and web sites!  There are already two very informative comments from my friend Mandy Reel, an avid couponer, so even if you don't have a comment to add, be sure to click the comment button below to see them.


Virginia


Couponing Information Sites
Grocery Store Chain Coupons

On-Line Printable Coupons
More of My Articles on Saving Money on Food


Since couponing is only one strategy for pinching pennies, check out my article Saving Money on Groceries.  More recent posts in my food series include...

Other Articles on Saving Money on Food


Other links from moneysavingmom.com that might help you save money on groceries:


I hope this helps someone save money!

Virginia Knowles

www.ComeWearyMoms.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Menu Planning Tips & Links

Dear friends,

I'm trying to be more effective and efficient around the house.  One of the areas where I always need work is in menu planning.

I recently compiled a list of all of the different dinner entrees that I might prepare.  Most of them are standard ones that I've fixed for years, but I have also been looking for new recipes on-line via www.allrecipes.com and the Food on Fridays links at  www.annkroeker.com.  Here is my current list:

Menu Ideas

Beef

v Spaghetti
v Tacos & burritos (sometimes as a make your own buffet)
v Chili
v Beef stir fry
v Beef potpie
v Beef stew
v Roast beef
v Beef strogranoff
v Hamburgers
v Lasagna
v Stuffed shells
v Sloppy Joes
v Meatball subs
v Meatloaf

Chicken

v Baked chicken with rotisserie seasoning
v Baked chicken with BBQ sauce
v Baked chicken with oriental sauce
v Stir fry chicken
v Chicken potpie
v Chicken noodle (or rice) soup
v Chicken Alfredo and noodles
v Chicken potato casserole
v Chicken tortilla casserole (layered with refried or black beans, cheese)
v Chicken salad sandwiches
v Confetti chicken with penne, peppers & squash

Eggs

v Quiche
v Scrambled eggs
v Eggs in a basket
v Deviled eggs
v Egg salad sandwiches
v Strata

Pork

v Pork chops
v Pork ribs
v Ham and potato casserole
v Sausage and biscuits
v Hot dogs and baked beans
v Bacon and potato soup
v Kielbasa and noodles

Other

v Macaroni and cheese
v Pizza
v Calzone
v Chef salad
v Taco fiesta salad
v Lunch meat and cheese subs
v Turkey burgers
v Tuna salad
v Quesa dias

My goal each week is to sit down on Saturday and choose a meal for each night of the week.  Then I can go grocery shopping based on what we need to make these meals.  I try to choose a variety of chicken, beef, egg, and other dishes each week.  We try not to have red meat more than three times a week.

Menu for 
March 17-23
Ingredients
Considerations
Sat:
baked potato buffet,  green cupcakes
potatoes, bacon, sour cream, shredded cheese
St. Patrick’s Day
Sun:
confetti chicken,  salad
chicken, penne pasta, yellow squash, broccoli, red and green peppers, corn, whole milk, flour, butter
youth group for boys
Mon:  
sub sandwiches and chips, salad
lunch meat, sliced cheese, rolls, chips
PHE classes until 4
Tue:  
chicken thighs (BBQ and teriyaki), herbed veggies
chicken, sauces, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, olive oil, herbs
Dad at class
Wed:  
lasagna, salad, garlic bread
ground beef, sauce, lasagna noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, French bread
Dad & Rachel home
Thu:  
strata with ham
eggs, bread, ham
Dad at class
Fri:
chili, salad, corn bread
turkey burgers, beans, seasonings, spaghetti sauce, corn bread mix
field trip to LegoLand



Confetti Chicken
So how did we do that week?  Saturday went as planned, though I should have bought more bacon for topping the potatoes. After Sunday's dinner we had plenty of leftovers which I recycled into a casserole on Monday to supplement the planned sandwiches (on sale-priced bagels instead of sub rolls) and chips. On Tuesday, I had forgotten to take out the chicken to thaw, so I substituted stuffed shells (frozen bags from Aldi) which I had bought  instead of lasagna ingredients for Wednesday.  We had the chicken on Wednesday.  On Thursday, I got a late start at dinner, so we heated up two boxes of pierogies (potato and cheddar in pasta) and a few cans of beef soup. On Friday, my husband fixed tacos and burritos (instead of the chili) since we were getting home late from a field trip.  There you have it!  We didn't stick to the menu plan, but it sure helped as a guideline anyway.  At least I had the recipe ingredients in the house, as well as some backup convenience foods.


One more tip:  As long as you plan your menus for the week, you can set aside specific foods for each night so no one will take them for other purposes.  For example, if you are making chili using canned beans, rice, corn, sauce or salsa, a seasoning packet, or whatever, you can put the food packages in a plastic grocery bag, tie it up, and label it with the day you plan to use it.  You can store this bag on your pantry shelf.  You can do the same with the refrigerated ingredients such as ground beef, shredded cheese, tomatoes, onions, etc.  If you buy shredded cheese by the bag, you can take out enough for that one meal and put it in a zip lock bag to include in your dinner bag.

Other related posts:

More menu planning resources on other sites:


This blog post is cross-linked at:

(my new blog carnival!)


 Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays

fof


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Weekly Blog Carnival: Equip & Encourage



Dear friends,

I'm trying something new on my Come Weary Moms blog!  I've been participating in a few blog carnivals with different themes for the past several months, and now I've decided to start my own!  My theme is "Equip & Encourage."
                  
Here's how it works: Each week, I will put up a new Equip & Encourage blog carnival post.  Then you link your blog post using the convenient tool provided by Simply Linked.  At the bottom of your post, please link back to my blog so your friends can join the fun and visit the blogs of our other contributors.  Your posts can be of anything interesting to the target audience, which is generally Christian moms.  So posts could be about mothering, marriage, homemaking, education, crafts, devotional, missions and outreach, what life is like at your house, something new you've been learning, something you're frustrated about, a book review, etc.  It doesn't have to be a recent post, so feel free to dig into your archives and bring out a favorite!

How about it?  Link up, ladies!  Then check back later to see what others have posted!




Simply Linked ~*~*~


 Please copy and paste the blog button below and include it in your post so it will link back here.


 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hope, Joy, and Pineapple Coconut Bundt Cake

Dear friends,



Last night, Lake Baldwin Church's women gathered for an encouraging evening called "Drinking from the Well." Monica Taffinder, a Christian counselor who is co-founder of Grace Clinic, shared on the topic of "Celebrating Hope and Joy in the Midst of Our Realities." Many of the thoughts I am writing here are ones she expressed, while others are my own observations.  Then there is the silly little story of the pineapple coconut bundt cake I brought.

Celebrating hope and joy? The reality is that many Christian women experience disappointment, disillusionment and depression. Many of us face multiple simultaneous stresses, whether taking care of young children or elderly parents, marriage crises, infertility, wayward teens, church conflicts, financial distress, loneliness, or even general anxiety about what it going on in our communities and the world around us.

Hope and joy can be hard to find, especially when we confuse hope with expectation and joy with happiness.


A hope is something that we want to happen, that could possibly happen.  We all desire healthy families, nurturing friendships, personal significance, and meaningful work. We are supposed to hope for and work toward these things! And yet our hope is not to be in these things or in our efforts, but in God, who is the good giver. We must trust that he will provide what we need, but not always what we want, and that what he gives us will be not only sufficient, but what is best.



An expectation is something that we think must happen for us to be satisfied. A desire becomes a demand. Unmet expectations can lead to anger and depression, so we feel like we have to control things and people to get what we want. (In some cases, this need for control is a survival function left over from a chaotic or dysfunctional childhood.) Many of our expectations are tied to our ideals and to our identities: "If I were a really good mom, I would...." or, for those who educate at home, "The children in godly home school families should turn out like this..."  And when we don't, or when they don't?  We try to force it!  Or we become judgmental, grumpy, guilt-ridden, spazzed out, or worse. Besides our own expectations, we also need to be aware of how we respond to the expectations that others have for us. Do we allow our ability (or not) to satisfy unreasonable demands from others to determine our sense of value?  Do we strive for perfect performance because we crave approval, or do we evaluate what is sensible, set our healthy boundaries, and choose to live as God himself has called us? Just because someone else thinks you need to do it doesn't mean that you should do it. Just because someone says that this is what good Christians do, doesn't mean that it is.  Learn to listen to God for what he wants you to do.

Back to our own hopes and desires, what are we to do when we want something out of life? I like the picture of holding my desires before the Lord with an open hand, waiting to see what he will do. That doesn't mean passivity.  We are still supposed to do our part!

What about joy? It's not the same as happiness, which is wonderful but fleeting. Joy is connected to a sense of gratitude, as well as acceptance (not complacency) and forgiveness (not a denial of the hurt). Joy and grief can co-exist. In fact, if you don't allow yourself to acknowledge and properly grieve what is wrong in your life, you can get stuck. Then it is harder to move on toward embracing and appreciating what is right in your life, even though the bad stuff doesn't go away.  

Through it all, we need to stay connected to God, the source of joy. Unfortunately, some of us equate religious activity with an authentic relationship with God to the point where piety becomes a substitute for intimacy. Merely going through the motions on the outside depletes our inner joy instead of replenishing it. White-washed tomb, anyone? Yet if we really truly knew how much God loves us and is for us, how much he rejoices over us in Christ, wouldn't we want to listen to him, trust him, and grow deep in him? I don't know about you, but sometimes this is a struggle for me.

If our hope and joy are in God rather than in our circumstances or our performance, then we are also free to be bold. We can move forward with confidence and not worry about a bit of failure or disapproval along the way. We can take risks, starting with little ones like pineapple coconut bundt cake...


Pineapple Coconut Bundt Cake with Glaze
(the dark spots on the inside 
are hollow pockets -- oops!)
I had signed up to bring a sweet treat to the Drinking from the Well gathering.  Wanting a dessert that is a little out of the ordinary, I decided to make a pineapple coconut bundt cake. The complication is that I didn't have a recipe! I could have looked one up on the Internet, but I like to experiment on my own. I figured it would be easy enough to combine two boxes of yellow cake mix (along with the eggs, oil and a reduced amount of water), a can of crushed pineapple, and a cup of shredded coconut.  I poured most of it in the bundt pan, and then the rest into a loaf pan. I pureed a little more pineapple, mixed it with brown sugar, and boiled it down to make a glaze to spread over the cake after it cooled. When I took it out of the refrigerator the next day, I was surprised to find that it had sort of collapsed in the middle, and that there were some large hollow pockets inside. It looked a little... weird! I guess I had used too much batter in the pan!  Certainly not the perfect bundt cake. Hmmm. Was it good enough to take to the ladies' gathering, or should I buy some cookies instead?  I scraped off the uneven parts from the middle and tasted them. Very very gooey, but definitely delicious! Did it really matter what it looked like? No! I knew that my friends weren't going to judge me on my cake's appearance. I didn't need to feel insecure, so I was more than willing to take the risk. As it turned out, my friends all raved about how it tasted and laughed with me about my "cake wreck" story. Honestly, by the time I sliced it, you couldn't tell that it had "issues" to begin with!

Seriously though, I want to say more about my friends at church. It's not just my cake that they accept. I have experienced their warmth toward me ever since I stepped out of my car in the parking lot that first Sunday morning in September 2010. I hadn't even gotten to the building yet before a dear lady heard my car door close, turned around, noticed a new face, and walked back to greet me. The friendliness from people in the church continued, and it wasn't just the "love bombing" hype that some newcomers experience.  Whether it is inviting us over for a meal, or picking up our kids for youth group, or giving them a partial scholarship to summer camp, or dropping everything to come be with us in a time of need, or taking the time to tell me they liked my latest blog post, we have felt their kindness, hospitality, and generosity. Over the past year and a half I have found them willing to listen and help when I've shared some of the less-than-perfect places of my life, some of the hard situations with no easy answers.  And you know what? My stories don't alarm them, because many of them have already been-there-done-that, and aren't afraid to say it. My gratitude for them gives me great joy. Their acceptance gives me great hope and comfort.  And that is becoming my new reality.

I can't end this post without sharing a music video of Sara Groves singing "Less Like Scars."  (If you are reading this via e-mail or blog reader, you'll have to visit the post on-line to view it.) Honestly, when my husband gave me this CD many years ago, I listened to it a few times but just didn't really "get" it.  It wasn't until later, in the storms of life that it sank in.


"Less Like Scars"
by Sara Groves


It's been a hard year
But I'm climbing out of the rubble
These lessons are hard
Healing changes are subtle
But every day it's

Less like tearing, more like building
Less like captive, more like willing
Less like breakdown, more like surrender
Less like haunting, more like remember

And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like character

Less like a prison, more like my room
It's less like a casket, more like a womb
Less like dying, more like transcending
Less like fear, less like an ending

And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars

Just a little while ago
I couldn't feel the power or the hope
I couldn't cope, I couldn't feel a thing
Just a little while back
I was desperate, broken, laid out, hoping
You would come
And I need you
And I want you here
And I feel you

And I know you're here And you're picking up the pieces 
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad, bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars 
And more like character

~*~*~

Hope and joy!
Virginia Knowles


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why I Shop for Groceries More Than Once a Week

Dear mama friends,


I know that many of you have read the advice to shop just once a week or once a month for your groceries, in order to save time and money.


I don't do that.  It is not uncommon for me to buy groceries a few times a week, though not what I would call a "full run" each time.  Here's why:
  1. I have a huge family with eight of our ten children still living at home.  I can almost completely fill a shopping cart, our refrigerator, and our cupboards with food for only a few days.  I personally don't like dealing with more groceries than that at one time anyway. And it's amazing how fast it disappears once its in the house -- or even on the way home!  For example, we go through a gallon of milk every day, I don't like to freeze it or use powdered, and our fridge only holds three gallons.
  2. I shop at several different stores depending on what I am buying.  I try to get most of our staple foods at Aldi, which is a discount grocery chain, but their selection is quite limited, and there is a lot that we need that they don't carry. I try to buy most of our bread at the local Entenmanns/Arnolds bakery outlet for about a dollar per bag.  (I think today I bought about 20 packages of wheat bread, bagels, french bread, sandwich things, English muffins, etc.) I buy most of our other groceries at Super Walmart.  I also stop in at Winn Dixie occasionally to see what they have for Buy One Get One Free, or Publix if I am picking up a prescription, or Sam's Club if I am getting photos.  I also buy snacks and toiletries at the Deals dollar store which is right next to Aldi.
  3. We live within a mile or two of most of the above mentioned stores, and the rest are on our regular routes to other places.  It doesn't take me any extra gas to pull into a parking lot, or even much gas at all to drive from home for a solo errand.
  4. Grocery shopping gives me a chance to get out of the house and clear my head for a little bit, or to take just one or two children along for Mom time.  Sometimes that is just what I need after being at home all day.
  5. It is not uncommon for us to run out of something that I need to make a certain meal.  It does help when I label things for their intended use, but in real life, this stuff just happens.  I find a child snacking on the "oyster" crackers I was saving to use for chili, or a container of sour cream turns out to be half empty when I thought it was full.  Sometimes I just switch out the menu until I can get the needed ingredient, and other times I will just go out and get it.  (Usually if, as in item #4, I want to get out of the house, or if I have already started making the recipe.)  
  6. My most common impulse purchases are snacks, but I usually buy cheap ones, and they help us to avoid extra trips out for fast food if we're out and about and get a little hungry.  If a $1 box of crackers can tide us over, we can save $10 that we might have spent at McDonald's.  (We still do hit the drive-throughs and order from the dollar menu once in a while if I only have two or three kids along around lunchtime.)
So how does this affect my food budget?  Am I blowing the bank going to the store that often?  Hardly!  I looked up the USDA average monthly food bill for January 2012, and our family doesn't even come near to spending as much as their "thrifty" level!  Do you want to know how?  Read: Saving Money on Groceries.


Should you shop more than once a week?  That depends on how much food you buy and how close you are to grocery stores.  What will work best for your family?

$8 for $46 worth of bread at bakery outlet in 2009
Read here: Bread, Building, and Other Eclectic Thoughts on Thrift & Creativity 

Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!







Heading out the door, my two youngest daughters and one of their best buddies (who is fortunately our next door neighbor) announced their intention to parade around the block wearing silly dress up clothes.  Never mind that they cut the fingers off of a pair of gloves -- this is Florida!  The rain was barely spitting, but just enough to justify bringing out the frilly peach umbrella that her sister gave her for her birthday last month.  After all, girls just wanna have fun! They grow up so fast, so I just knew this was a not-to-miss photo op.  Thank goodness I always have my iPod in my pocket (unless, of course, it is in my hand)!  I'm sure the neighbors all got a smile!

It was only later that I realized how well the first picture fit in with the P52 photo theme for the week, The "Eyes" of March.  Have you ever seen such eyes of impish joy?  Check out those oversize specs!   And as for the March part, well, I guess the umbrellas say it all.  In the first photo, I like the warm glow on the peach umbrella and how the blue umbrella blocks out the pickup truck.  I can also sense the energy and movement in both pictures, especially with the placement of hands and feet.  Rock stars in the making?

Come, weary moms!  Enjoy the moment and absorb the joy!

Tell me: What do your girls do for fun?  Leave a comment!

I post a photo each week for Project 52!

project 52 p52 my3boybarians.com

This Friday's theme: The "Eyes" of March. 

I post P52 photos on two of my blogs: 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cooking Ahead Without Too Much Complication

Dear friends,

Once-A-Month Cooking: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen & Enjoying Delicious, HomemadeI know a lot of people do "Once-a-Month Cooking" which was popularized in the book by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg.  That sounded a bit much for me, so I tried just once a week cooking over 20 years ago after hearing about the concept on Focus on the Family. (Basically, you are assembling several meals in one day, combining your meats, starches, veggies, and sauces in different ways.)  It was a huge chore since I was pregnant with my third baby and had two preschoolers roaming around.  I eventually had 10 children in 18 years, and still have 8 at home, so for me to fix seven whole meals to feed that many would be quite the overwhelming undertaking.  For me, fixing a double batch of anything (which I often do) is like someone with a smaller family cooking enough for several meals.  

I know you all are busy, too.  Maybe once a month or once a week cooking would suit you just fine, but if you can't manage that, there are less complicated ways to reap the benefits of cooking ahead, even if it is just making a double batch of a dinner and freezing the extra.  

Another really easy way is to cook your meats ahead of time. We usually buy large "economy size" packages of ground beef at Sam's Club or Aldi, cook it up in our big electric skillet or in a pan in the oven, and then bag it up for later use in chili, spaghetti, tacos, etc.

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family  -              By: Steve Economides      I spotted a copy of the book Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides (gotta love the name!) on the clearance table at the Christian book outlet recently, and they recommend batch cooking and bulk buying, too.  So I've had my eye out for grocery bargains and ways to save time in the kitchen.

A week ago I noticed boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.69 at Aldi, and immediately grabbed four large packages.  The next morning, I rinsed 30 chicken breasts, placed them in four large 9"x13" glass pans, seasoned them with either garlic pepper or rotisserie chicken seasoning, and popped them in the oven.  Cooking this much chicken doesn't take much more oven energy than doing just one pan, and I only had to heat up the kitchen once.  (Yes, this is Florida, otherwise I wouldn't worry about it.)

30 seasoned chicken breasts, ready for the oven


When they came out of the oven, I poured the broth into a large bowl and was amazed at how little fat floated to the top!  I didn't even skim it this time.



Then I cut up the breasts into large chunks and stuffed them into six quart size zip lock bags.


Cut up chicken in bags

My husband made two potpies on Sunday night when I wasn't feeling well.  It was much easier for him to make dinner on short notice since the chicken was already cooked.  On Tuesday, I made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup with chicken, all the broth, a box of shell noodles, a little cream of chicken soup, frozen peas, and diced red peppers.  We had a lot left over, so on Thursday night, I added more cream of chicken soup, topped it with shredded cheddar cheese and bread crumbs, and made a pan of casserole.  Not everyone was home last night, so there are still leftovers for lunch.  



Chicken casserole


And here is the amazing thing: there are still four bags of chicken in the freezer!  So far, I have used about 10 chicken breasts far for three meals serving several people each, plus we used some of that for a few sandwiches.  And I didn't even feel like we were skimping on the chicken.  This was so much more economical than serving each person a large chicken breast.  Nutritionists are telling us that meat should be used sparingly  anyway.


Cooking a large batch of meat ahead of time saves cooking energy, time, and money! 


So if you feel like you can't go "whole hog" into batch cooking, at least try making a double batch or cooking a lot of meat ahead of time and bagging it up.


Do you have any favorite ways to save time and money in the kitchen?  Please share!


Virginia Knowles
www.comewearymoms.blogspot.com


This blog post is linked to Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays

fof