Archives for September 2009

Day 30: Last Blast from the Garden

I posted a McLinky this morning so that if you’d like to share a final post about your progress with the $75 Grocery Spending Challenge, you can go ahead and link directly to your post there. I’m going to give myself a couple more days with the challenge because of our weekend, and will post a final update on Friday.

It’s supposed to freeze around here tonight, so this afternoon we went through the garden and picked anything that looked useful. We got a huge haul.

  • 1/2 bushel of red/orange tomatoes
  • 2 bushels green tomatoes (see what we do with them here!)
  • 3 watermelons
  • 2 cantaloupes
  • a dozen beets (and their greens– useful for stir fries)
  • 7 cabbages– some red, some green
  • 4 dozen or so green and hot peppers
  • 10 cucumbers (lots more in the garden are too big for us, and will go to cows)
  • 6 pumpkins


Breakfast: Yogurt, apples, OJ, and toast

Lunch:  Leftover pasta with chicken, cabbage salad with tomatoes, pumpkin pie

Dinner: Lasagna ( no cottage cheese– ah well– and pepperoni along with a bit of ground beef- we’ll see how that all turns out), spinach salad, watermelon

$75 Grocery Challenge Final Link-up

Sign in here to post how you did for the month! I’ll be sharing my update on Friday!

Day 29: Seattle recap

Friday afternoon John and I took off on a plane to spend a couple days in Seattle, to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary. Though it was definitely more of a splurge than the rest of our month, I was still reasonably successful pinching our pennies. Our plane tickets came from frequent flyer miles (mostly adoption travel). Our hotel and rental car came from is an interesting service. You plug in three parameters for your hotel: max price you want to pay, the number of stars you want the hotel to have, and the general vicinity where you’d like to stay. (For example, we wanted to stay within a mile of the Space Needle.) Then—and here’s the part that feels a bit like a slot machine — you plug in your credit card information, and they randomly assign you to a hotel that meets all those requirements. Payment is up front, with no refunds. So you truly are stuck with whatever they give you. But if you make your parameters specific enough, theoretically, you should get what you want.

I asked for a 4-star hotel in downtown Seattle, for no more than $82 a night. From the looking I’d done online, I knew that nice hotels downtown charged $150-$200/night. I figured that worst case scenario, priceline would tell me it wasn’t possible. Best case, we’d get what we asked for. It was a little nervewracking putting in our credit card number and wondering what we’d get. What if it was a dump? But we ended up with a room at the Westin Hotel, a really nice hotel (that usually costs $199/night!) less than a mile from Pikes Market and the Space Needle. Priceline also produced a rental car – an adorable Ford Focus — for $20 a day.

To complete our plan for the weekend, I visited, and scoped out the restaurants close to the hotel. I was able to buy $25 gift certificates to four different ones. Usually the price is $10 for a $25 gift certificate. But there was a sale a couple weeks ago, and I was able to buy $25 certificates for $1 each. Most of them have a $35 minimum purchase, plus an 18% tip. But still, it makes for a fairly reasonable dinner. We ended up using 2 of the gift certificates, and paid about $20 out of pocket per meal. Not bad considering one meal was on the 5th floor terrace at the Red Lion, and the other was wonderful Italian food — and live opera! — at an adorable little restaurant called Cafe Amore. Other meals were even more affordable: McDonald’s breakfasts, clam chowder on the waterfront, plus wonderful stumbled-upon Korean restaurant called Cafe Bee, tucked almost under the foot of the Space Needle.

When we weren’t eating, we filled the weekend with miles of walked, visiting Pikes Market, the Space Needle, and two malls — I can’t believe all the window shopping we did! We visited two cooking stores– I have now been acquainted with the beauty that Crate and Barrel– I could have stayed another hour, but my husband was ready to escape in 20 minutes. I signed books at three bookstores, and on the last afternoon, we had a perfect blue-sky ride on a ferry boat on Puget Sound. Lovely weekend!

Breakfast: Pancakes, peach jam, orange juice
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, with tomato soup and apples
Dinner: Beef stew with potatoes, homemade corn muffins, apples, and pumpkin pie for dessert

Day 26, 27, 28: Off the wagon

This weekend was an incredibly bad weekend for tallying food costs. For several weeks John and I have been planning a mini-getaway to Seattle. We planned to eat out, of course, but I didn’t include eating out in my $300 budget for the month, so I figured it would still work to keep track of what the kids are eating. Except as plans shaped up, the grandmas, bless their hearts, got involved in the cooking while we were gone, which decreased my food costs and very much pleased the kids. Hooray!! To keep it a little more true to a MONTH’S worth of meals, I decided to keep track of expenses through Friday, October 2nd. That will make up for the 2 days we were gone. But I have to tell you up front, we’re up to $315 for the month already– we ran out of flour! I’m out of a bunch of other stuff, and I haven’t had a chance to figure out meals with what I have. So we’ll just hang in there for the rest of the week and see how things turn out.


Breakfast: Pancakes (cooked by my 14 year old)
Lunch: Ramen noodle soup (cooked by my 11 year old daughter)
Dinner: Grandma’s Mushroom Chicken (cooked by Grandma Ostyn)

Breakfast: Cereal (self care! 🙂 )
Lunch: McDonald’s (Grandpa Ron)
Dinner: ??? (cooked by Oma, my mom)

Breakfast: Eggs and Ham, (Grandpa Ron)
Lunch: leftovers and peanut butter sandwiches (kids)
Dinner: the rest of Grandma’s Mushroom Chicken, served over pasta, with cabbage salad and watermelon from the garden (Mom’s home!)

I am hoping to get some pictures from our Seattle trip posted tomorrow– John and I had a really nice weekend away. And if you happen to want a signed copy of Family Feasts, try the Barnes and Noble or Borders in downtown Seattle, or the Barnes and Noble near University of Washington. There wasn’t an official signing organized, but it seemed too good a chance so miss, so I just popped in and autographed what they had! Very fun.

Day 25: The start of a busy weekend

A very busy weekend of travel, along with some computer trouble kept me from posting as I had planned. I’ll share more details soon, but for the moment I wanted to catch up a teensy bit by telling you about Friday’s food!
Breakfast: Migas and toast
Lunch: Tomato soup, peanut butter sandwiches, apples
Dinner: Hominy casserole, fresh bread, carrot sticks, rice crispie treats

More coming later tonight after I get unpacked and cook dinner and hug on my kiddos!


Why I keep making time in my busy life to read other people’s blogs

(And today, it’s all about grace.)

Day 24: Sugar fix

Are you tired of reading about our meals? Because I am getting a little tired of posting about them. But we’ve almost made it to the end of the month–hooray! Today my hubby stopped at the store after work for the teeniest list ever: OJ, chocolate chips, and marshmallows. Essential items, all. We have to have our calcium-fortified OJ for breakfast, and we NEED chocolate chip cookies and rice crispy treats this weekend! I really think that one of the things that keeps frugal food interesting is the regular appearance of dessert! We’ve spent $295 this months, so we have 5 bucks left to last til next Thursday.

After school this afternoon we chopped up, cooked and pureed some pumpkin that I’m planning to use in muffins tomorrow. We roasted pumpkin seeds with a bit of taco seasoning, to eat as snacks. And we made about 6 dozen cookies for weekend munchies.

Breakfast:: Apple pancakes, bananas, OJ
Lunch: Fried rice, cucumbers, pears
Dinner:: Panda-Style Orange Chicken (Family Feasts p. 134) with peppers, onions, and squash, served over thin spaghetti noodles, kind of like chow mein. Cookies for dessert

Day 23: Essentials (and book winner!)

I’m too darned busy this week, but am having a hard time figuring out what I can skip.  Am sick of canning, but the tomatoes keep coming– 14 quarts canned today. Soon it will be cold enough that we’ll have to pick the green ones and wrap them in newspaper to ripen in the garage.  Not this week, I hope!

There’s homeschooling to do, as always.  We made it through almost every subject today except science and history.   Not bad.  Except for the 7 year old and 4 year old, who spent most of their school day building tents outside in the fort.They were on such a lovely play streak today and the weather was so nice that I just let them play.  Time enough to do school when the weather gets bad, especially considering they can do their whole ‘day’ of school in an hour.

Our pool is so green that I’m afraid someone is going to report us to the health department.  One mandatory trip today was to the pool store, to get a shock kit and an algaecide.  It’s too cool to swim and we’ll be closing the pool soon, but I want to get the water clear before we cover it up for the winter.

Another pressing order of business involves my 17 year old SENIOR.  He has a yearbook picture deadline coming soon– which requires we actually GET pictures in our hands.  Soon.  Am hoping they turn out good.  Plus he needs me to finish his high school transcript and a lengthy form because — (proud mom-moment:  forgive me?)  — he’s a National Merit semi-finalist!

Then of course there’s cooking and breaking up arguments and tossing laundry in the washer and….oh, sleep would be nice at some point too. I stayed up til 2 last night.



Breakfast: Oatmeal, apples, OJ

Lunch: Beef stew (leftover, added 2 cups of shell mac), french bread, and bananas

Dinner: Hominy casserole, carrot sticks

Snack: Cookies, bananas


Before I finish for the day and yawn my way to bed, I wanted to announce the winner of Ann Kroeker’s book  NOT SO FAST. has decreed it to be Carrie Callahan, commenter #40.  Congrats, Carrie!

Day 22: The annual clothes-sorting

Today we only did a couple hours of school: Bible, history reading, journaling, and grammar. Then we got down to the real order of business for the day: clothes-sorting for fall! For quite a few hours today, 6 kids had ALL their clothes spread all over the floors of three bedrooms. At one point I was doubting my ability to finish the task, and thinking I’d be lucky to just have paths through the rooms by bedtime. Forget completing the job. But we all worked like chickens, sorting and tossing and trying on item after item, until finally around 7 pm we had things neatly folded into amazingly spacious drawers and 5 garbage bags of clothes to pass on to others. Feels really good to get that done, even if I am a limp noodle tonight.

Today I headed to the store again, to take advantage of that great sale on apples at Paul’s. I bought 13 pounds for 33 cents/lb. Paul’s also had 7 ounce bags of tiny adorable Mexican pasta for 20 cents each, using Paul’s ‘points’. I usually pay between 80 cents and $1/lb for pasta, so this was a good deal. I bought about 4 lbs. I also got a gallon of milk ($1.78), a loaf of garlic bread ($1), 4 lbs of pears for 50 cents/lb, and 5 lbs of still-green bananas that were marked down in the bargain bin for 33 cents/lb. Altogether I spent $18– great considering I got 22 lbs of fruit and several other things for that price! I’ve spent $287 this month on groceries– $13 left to last one week. I think we can do it.

Breakfast:: Yogurt (I made more this morning) with raspberry jam, OJ, and cereal
Lunch peanut butter sandwiches and apples, eaten quickly in the middle of our clothes sorting chaos
Dinner: Beef stew with potatoes and carrots, made by the kids while I ran to the store, with cookies for dessert.