TN Family Trip

Earlier this we week made a trip to TN to see family.  I got caught up in visiting and neglected to take pictures, so we only have a few. I have been making mental notes to do better in that regard.

We had a wonderful (if limited) time with family, and that was the important part. I got to see two younger cousins that I haven’t seen in a long while and got to know their spouses and kids. I found that I am quite proud of the people they have become as adults! I wish that we could have spent more time with everyone, but we were limited in what we could do since a couple of the kids got sick with really bad allergy attacks.

We did get to spend a day at a local park. What fun! Here are some relaxing pictures of the kids playing in the creek. Thanks goes to my cousin Kendalyn for pulling out my camera and snapping away! 🙂

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Grandma Reed’s Chicken and Dumplings

This week we have been in TN having a wonderful time with family! Of course one of the things we like to  do on vacation is eat and try new foods and recipes. 🙂 There are a lot of phenomenal cooks and bakers in our family and it is always a blessing when they share recipes that are special to them!

My cousin Kendalyn wanted to share a recipe with you that is special to her: Grandma Reed’s Chicken and dumplings. She remembers her mother making this meal often on Saturdays spent around the house. As the broth for the dumplings slow simmered, they would fill the house with a delicious aroma that is a comfort to Kendalyn and her family as they continue the tradition of making this meal.

To make this you will need:

1 whole chicken

Bisquick

1 cup buttermilk

1 onion

3 celery stalks

3 medium carrots

3 bouillon cubes

Salt, pepper and sage

Sprinkle the entire chicken with sage, pepper and plenty of salt

Place the chicken, onion, carrots, and celery into a large stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil then lower to simmer for at least an hour until the chicken is cooked.

Remove the chicken and veggies.

Strain off fat then reserve 4 quarts of broth. Add bouillon cubes to broth and salt to taste. Cut a small amount of the veggies boiled in the broth into small pieces and pull the chicken off the bones into spoon-sized pieces. Return them to broth then bring the broth back up to a good simmer.

Fill a 16 oz Pyrex measuring cup (approx. 20 oz) to the top with Bisquick

Then measure out just under 1 cup buttermilk (to make this extra special you can double the dumplings)

Combine the Bisquick and buttermilk into a thick dough

Drop by large spoonfuls into the broth

Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes (occasionally ladle broth over the dumplings as they simmer).

I love sharing family food traditions, especially when they are foods that are warm, hearty and remind you of home!

Thank you, Kendalyn, for sharing with us! 🙂

 

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Our Anniversary

My husband and I nine years ago, right after he proposed.

I mentioned the other day that my husband and I were celebrating our ninth anniversary. Today we decided to go on a picnic at the park where he proposed to me. Here are a few pictures from our day. 🙂

Us nine years later at the same location.

Teacup bird feeders

Ew! Is that a spider?

I’ll take care of it for you!

The Tin Man

Old friends

Tin Man needed a little oil.

OK…A little cheesy…I know 😉

Cute mural in the kid’s garden

My husband says “Hi!”

My serious pic…It was either this or the one with my tongue sticking out, lol

Sweet hubby! 🙂

This is actually attached to the greenhouse.

Of course, I’m curious…so I peeked in.

We had such a fun day reliving old memories! Thanks for sharing our day with us 🙂

Cilantro Shrimp Scampi

Today, my husband and I are celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary! Nine years ago we met online and fell in love. After a two month courtship (yes, you read that right…two months) we eloped. Here we are nine years later enjoying life in our happy little house with five beautiful children and 130 lb dog running around! I can honestly say that I have never regretted  the decision to marry him even for a second! 🙂 He is a loving husband, a great dad and never fails to earn my respect over and over again!

Me and my sweetie, nine years ago. 🙂

Anyway, I suppose that’s enough mushy stuff…on to the recipe! I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner tonight and he asked for shrimp scampi. So here is the recipe I came up with.

You will need:

53-68 medium shrimp, fully cooked, deveined and tails pulled off

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 onion, minced

1 bell pepper, minced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

3 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup butter

1/8 cup olive oil

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

black pepper, to taste

Angel hair pasta, spaghetti or linguini

fresh chopped cilantro and black pepper to garnish

You won’t need both bags of shrimp…I thought I would need more

Melt the butter and olive oil together

Stir in the onions and garlic and saute

Add bell peppers and lemon juice

Stir in green onions and cilantro

Last add shrimp, onion powder, salt, pepper and sugar and stir until heated through.

Serve over cooked pasta and garnish with fresh cilantro and black pepper.

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Frugal Tips – Feeding Our Family of Seven For $150 a Week

The only thing that seems to be a certainty these days is that gas and grocery prices are going up. While my husband has a good job in a reliable field, we are working on becoming debt free, so every penny counts. Frankly, even if I was filthy, stinkin’ rich I wouldn’t want to spend more money than I had to. So, here is how my family saves money on groceries each month without scrimping on the quality or healthfulness of our food.

There are seven people and one very large (130 lbs) dog in our family. That means diapers, formula, and dog food along with the regular groceries for meals and snacks. For all of this we spend approximately $150 a week on average.

1. The first thing I do is make a menu for two weeks worth of meals and a list of desserts and snacks I want to make for those two weeks. Here is a sample of our  Menu and a Desserts and snack list.

2. I try and incorporate at least one meatless meal per week into the menu. I try to make it a fun and healthy meal that I know my kids will like, for example, broccoli ranch pizza is a kid favorite around here.

3.I make a lot of homemade breads and other baked goods.While there are a few convenience items that I do regularly purchase, I try to keep them to a minimum…like one or two items.  Not only does this save money but it is healthier.Especially where bread is concerned. Bread prices are creeping up, and most breads still have high fructose corn syrup and an ingredient called L-cysteine which is derived from human hair and bird feathers (yuck). Read more on that  here or simply type it into a search engine and see what comes up…it’s gross.

4. Drink water, iced tea, lemonade that you can make yourself and avoid sodas and other beverages that can add extra cost to your bill and aren’t very healthy anyway. We do purchase fruit juice (100 % juice…not juice blends) if they are the frozen kind you mix yourself or if it is on sale.

5. I make a grocery list from my menu and lists (I also keep a running list on the fridge where I can jot down items that I need throughout the week). I try and incorporate meals into my menu that I already have some ingredients for in my pantry.

6. Try to keep the pantry stocked with staples like flour, sugar, yeast, cornmeal, etc. I have two ways that I accomplish this. One is to pick up an extra item or two for the pantry on each shopping trip to keep from running out. We also make the occasional trip into Sam’s Club for bulk items. We try to make those trips only once every three months which keeps our overall grocery bill lower (but is higher than normal for that particular month).

7.Shop “no frills” stores like Aldi and use coupons when you can. Typically, we use coupons for items like toothpaste, soap and razors. Coupons are difficult to use in the town in which I live.  Our local retail managers seem to have acquired the unsavory practice of watching the circulars to see which coupons are out and raising the prices accordingly so that we do not save any money. This is why my money saving methods do not rely on coupons.

8. Shop every two weeks. This works well for us because my husband’s workplace is on a bi-weekly pay scale. Also, the less times you run to the store, the less money you will spend overall.

9. I have a dog breed that must have some amount of meat in her daily diet and cannot rely on plain dry dog food alone. However, feeding only canned dog food would cost a fortune for a dog her size. So we mix can food with dry food which makes it go farther, and keeps her healthy and happy. We buy dog treats in our bulk shopping trips and they usually last until the next bulk shopping trip.

10. You can cut cost by buying generic formula from Costco or some other warehouse club. If you have a baby with digestive issues (like we do) and must use a brand name formula (like Enfamil) you can usually sign up on their website and they will send you a stack of coupons each month for about $5 apiece usually about $20 worth  each month.

Also, this doesn’t really help save money, but I find it useful to keep my shopping list fairly well organized. This keeps me from getting confused and missing items on my list, or from buying duplicates by accident and also saves me time in the store.

These methods have drastically reduced our grocery bills. It takes a little time to find all the methods that will work for you and your family, but you can work on one small area of your grocery bill at a time until you get the bill down.

I’m sure there are a lot of other ways to save money and I’m interested in hearing yours! 🙂 So…how do you save money on groceries each month?

The Prettiest Bird Churches Ever

On Easter Sunday we spent the day with our church family. After the service there were lots of fun activities for everyone to participate in. Three of my five children painted bird houses…I mean bird churches. After all, (according to the 7 and 6 year-old) even birds need a church to go to. 🙂

This pretty one was painted by Happy Q, my seven-year-old.

He said the egg was so that the birds would come and lay their eggs in the little house and he would be able to see the babies when they hatch.

Happy K, my six-year-old, painted this one pink because he thought I would like it. I like it very much! 🙂

He added the cross so the birds would know it was their church.

Little Happy H, my three-year-old had some assistance with the painting, but according to him  “I did it all by myself!”

He was so excited to tell me about all the things he did to make such a cute little bird house.

I think they all did a wonderful job!  🙂

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11 Money Saving Ideas

Yes, I know…most people would have posted 5 or 10, or some easily divisible number. I’m just weird like that. 😉

Some of these ideas have been around a while. And not all of them will work for everyone. But, they have worked for my decent sized family so far.

1. Cut your family’s hair at home. We save up to $288 a year cutting our own hair! This is figuring a trim for 6 people every three months at $12 per trim. I keep my hair fairly long, but I trim my own bangs. My husband and boys all have hair that grows very fast, so someone is always needing a trim. It takes a little practice to cut hair, but there are lots of tutorials on Youtube to show you how. If you invest in a decent pair of clippers it makes it easier. Plus, the money you save will pay off the clippers in no time. (And yes, the little shaggy haired kid in the picture got his haircut shortly after the photo was taken 😉  )

2.  Utilize online deal sites. We use slickdeals.net This site keeps an updated list of deals at different stores and websites. We saved over $200 on our tv by utilizing this site. I have found Izod shirts for $4, shoes for under $2, baby clothes for $2 -$6 etc… all at reputable stores like Best Buy, The Children’s Place, Kohls, The Gap and Old Navy.

3.  Plan a menu. Planning a menu really does save a lot of money. First of all, you know exactly what you are going to make each night. It forces you to actually look in your cupboards and freezer to find out what ingredients you already have and which ones you need. This prevents buying excess or duplicates. Also, menu planning keeps you from having to run to the store as much. I don’t know about you, but the more I’m at the store, the more things I see that we “need.” This inflates our grocery bill. If I have everything planned out, I can usually make do for a while and determine whether I need item “x” or not.

4. Make it yourself. You can save a lot of money making your own breads, puddings, candies, cleansers and laundry detergents. Plus, there is the added benefit of cutting down on the less than desirable ingredients that the store brand versions have.

5.  Shop Thrift. Shopping thrift stores and Goodwill are a great way to save money. We often find great deals at Once Upon A Child (click the link to find a location near you), You can save money on books movies and games at Half.com. Another great source for used games and equipment is Gamestop.

6.  Cut down on disposables. This one is a bit more difficult for me. There are some time saving conveniences to disposables that are worth the money for me. But I have managed to cut down on the number of paper towels I use by using bar towels instead. You can also use re-washable dish sponges, cloth napkins and cloth diapers to save money. Diapers is one area that I prefer disposable, however. I don’t particularly care for the idea of having to hand rinse the poopy ones…blech!

7. Cook outside in the summer.  OK, so that might sound a little weird. This last summer I was pregnant with my daughter and dealing with very bad morning sickness. We had a countertop convection oven that my husband moved outside onto our porch. This way I could continue to bake and cook foods, but not have to smell them cooking. The added benefit was that it did not heat the house up. This saved money on our electric bill in two ways…one,  the smaller oven used less electricity. And two, the air conditioner didn’t have to work overtime to cool things off.

8.  Go meatless. Incorporating a few meatless meals a week into your menu plan will not only save money, but it’s healthy, too!

9. Wash laundry at night. Washing  laundry at night  is another way to keep the air conditioner from working overtime. And, if you can hang things on a line, you’ll save even more money!

10. Look for alternatives. Simple substitutions can save you money. For example, I often substitute sausage ($1.30lb) for ground beef ($2.39lb). I like the L’Oreal face creams but don’t like the price at $8 – $12 per item. I substitute the Aldi (Lacura) brand (which is high quality) which is only .99 cents to $3.99. Most Aldi brands are made by the brand name companies anyway, so you get the same item at a significant discount. Plus, if you add in Aldi’s double money back guarantee if you are dissatisfied…how can you lose? We also prefer aluminum free deodorant. Burt Bees is approx. $8. Expensive! Axe has several aluminum free varieties for about $3.

11. Don’t substitute quality items. There are some brand name items that just work better than others. For me, Dawn dish soap is one of those items. When I tried switching to less expensive brands I ended up using so much more to get the job done. I found that I saved more money by using the brand name in this case. Another brand name items that I find work better are Purex Crystals vs. fabric softeners. Also, some generic drugs are not worth your time. My husband suffers from migraines and takes Excederin. So far we have not found a generic excederin that works as well.

These are just a few of the ideas that I incorporate into our home to save money. What money saving ideas work for you?

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