Monday, August 31, 2015

Holiday Grand Plan: Week 1

I like to spend Sundays setting up my plans for the coming week.  I had started to make changes to my usual plan for the first week of the Holiday Grand Plan.  Click here to go to the official information for week 1 with printables.  Week one is List Week, and the cleaning area is the front porch.  I have a front porch, and it definitely needs cleaning.  The problem is the weather.  Yesterday morning the forecast for my area included a 60%-70% chance of rain.  By the time I got home from church it was down to 30%-50%.  I am going to list my plans including cleaning the porch.  If the weather turns wet, I will postpone the porch until later.

Cleaning - Front Porch:  I am only cleaning rather than buying anything new since we are focused on saving for the new house.

~Declutter Porch
~Remove Dead Plants
~Sweep Down Cobwebs
~Sweep Porch
~Wash Trash Can
~Clean Front Door
~Sand Mailbox
~Change Wreath

Holiday Prep
~Work on Gift Lists:  Family, Friends, Church Children, and Mail Carriers/Delivery Drivers
~Update Christmas Card List & Decide on Postage Needed
~Make List of Freezer Meals
~Work on Christmas Cards

~Finish Grey Baby Blanket
~Work on Casserole Carrier
~Start Felt Paper Dolls

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes:  I am the coordinator for my church and need to organize things for the packing party in November.
~Finish Notepads:  I make these from copy paper cut in half and stapled together.
~Sort Stuffed Animals
~Count/Sort Toy Cars

~September Menu
~Plant Lettuce & Radish Seeds
~Move baby chicks

I expect that this will keep me very busy this week.  Are you taking part in the Holiday Grand Plan this year?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Weekly Savings

I am posting this a day early since I will be sharing my Holiday Grand Plan lists on Mondays.  I am not sharing a menu as I am going to update my monthly menu for September.  I will do my best to share that on Wednesday if I get it finished.  Now on to the savings....

*I found some summer items on clearance at CVS for the shoeboxes.  I bought watches and balls.  The watches will be a nice addition to the older boy boxes.

*I needed some wire to cover the tops of my raised beds to keep the chickens from scratching up the seeds I plant.  We checked the price on a 50 foot roll of wire and a 100 foot roll of wire. It turned out that we could get twice as much wire for just $10 more.  I do not need all 100 feet now, but I will use it in the spring when I grow more.

*I shopped around for some supplies to finish up a handmade gift for my mother-in-law's birthday next month.  I found the best price online with free shipping.

*I stuck to my modified grocery budget.  My plan for September is to eat mainly from the pantry and freezer so I have some extra money to stock up on any great sales.

*I cut back a large amount of lime basil while cleaning out the raised beds.  I used part of it and some zinnias to make a nice arrangement for the living room.

*I downloaded several free books onto my Kindle.  I try to download anything that I might be interested in if it is free.  Removing a book takes just a few seconds if I find that I do not care for it.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekly Savings, Menu, & Plans

Weekly Savings
*I sliced and froze more peppers from the garden.
*W and I did a big shopping trip to Sam's Club to stock up on some basics (flour, dried herbs, almonds, contact solution, etc).  This will save us in the long run as I got 25 pounds of flour for about the same that 10 pounds costs at the grocery store.
*I ordered another Christmas gift with a coupon code from Amazon.  It ended up being under budget after the coupon.
*Somehow I lost the cap to my favorite salad dressing bottle.  It is not an expensive item, but I hated to buy another just for lack of a lid.  I decided to look at the disposable condiment bottles in refrigerator.  The lid on the barbecue sauce fits perfectly.  When that is empty, I will have a replacement lid for free.

After the big shopping trip this past week, I plan to limit my grocery purchases for the next 5 weeks.  The menu will focus mainly on the freezer/pantry.

*French Bread Pizzas - I will make my own French bread and plan to make extra pizzas to freeze.
*Honey Barbecue Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, & Peas - I got a good deal on potatoes so want to do my best to use those up.  The meatloaf is a favorite of ours.
*Spaghetti Pie, Breadsticks, Salad - The spaghetti pie is from the freezer.  I will make breadsticks and homemade salad dressings.
*Taco Salads - W requested these.  I bake wheat tortilla shells into bowl shapes.  My plan is to make a double batch of taco seasoned meat and freeze the extra for a future meal.
*Fish Sandwiches and French Fries - This will be a simple meal for errand day.
*Pancakes and Turkey Sausage - Breakfast for supper is an easy and filling meal.
*Pork Chops, Au Gratin Potatoes, Peas

I have just one week to finish up this list before the start of the Holiday Grand Plan.

*Organize recipe books ~ Done.  I took out a few recipes and added in a bunch of our new favorites.

*Knit 12 hats for the Christmas shoeboxes. I did not get as many done last week as I had hoped.  I need to try to make two a day to stay on track.

*Prepare garden for fall planting. ~ I am definitely going to finish this week and plant a squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and radishes.  It is still too hot for the usual fall crops.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book Review: A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets

A little known fact about me:  I used to be terribly afraid of yeast.  I would not attempt a recipe that had yeast listed among the ingredients.  Fast forward to now and you will find me buying yeast in bulk and flour in 25 pound bags.  I am comfortable baking breads and was thrilled to have a chance to try out a book of pastry recipes.

A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets by George Greenstein with Elaine Greenstein, Julia Greenstein, and Isaac Bleicher is a wonderful guide to yeast based pastries.  The first chapter is devoted to equipment, tools, and ingredients. The book then transitions into basic techniques and recipes for fillings, streusels, etc.  The following chapters focus on specific types of pastries.

I waited until I tested a couple of recipes before writing my review.  I started with the first dough in the book - bundt dough.  I love that one batch of dough can be divided to make several different pastries.  I made the streusel cake (crumb cake) twice.  I also made the beesting cake twice with some adjustments.  I left out the pastry cream.  I made two of the cakes with dough that had been frozen.  Both baked just as well as cakes made with freshly made dough.  W liked the beesting cake so much that I only got one piece of the first one I baked.

One downside is the lack of photos.  I have come to expect this from more technical cookbooks.  This can be a slight problem since I am not familiar with how some of the finished pastries should look.  The recipe directions are clear, and the cakes I made tasted delicious.  In the end I guess looks are not all that important.  I know that while this is a minor inconvenience for me it will be a much larger problem for others.

The book was well-written.  The baker's secrets sprinkled throughout help boost my confidence.  I can already tell this will be an often used cookbook.  This book made me add George Greenstein's other baking book to my wish list.  Give Mr. Greenstein a chance to share his secrets with you!

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Weekly Savings and Plans

This week is a bit up in the air so I am going to skip planning a set menu.  We have plenty of options on hand.  Meals will most certainly be simple.

Weekly Savings
*I sliced and froze an assortment of peppers from the garden.  I will use these in fajitas during the winter months.

*I took advantage of a free shipping code to order the yarn I need to finish a baby blanket.

*I made rolls to take to a family dinner.  It was inexpensive but much appreciated.

*I write many letters and make my own stationery.  I use rubber stamps and a nice weight of copy paper.  One pack of paper gives me enough stationery to last for 15 months.

*I took advantage of an Amazon sale and discounts to order a large pack of baby wipes for just over $2 for our new nephew's Christmas present.  He will be just 6 months old at Christmas so I think this will be more useful than a toy.

The start of the Holiday Grand Plan is only two weeks away.  I am working on a few projects that I want to work on that do not fit in the plan.  I am going to do my best to finish these within the next two weeks.

*Clean golf cart ~ Done  I have no intention of letting it get in such a mess again.

*Organize recipe books ~ I plan to focus on this item this week as I am a bit under the weather.  It will be a good task for sitting and resting.

*Knit 16 hats for the Christmas shoeboxes. I finished 8 last week.  I still need 80 but will have some help with those.

*Prepare garden for fall planting. ~ I made some progress before I got sick.  This will wait until next week.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Weekly Savings, Menu, and Plans

I decided to combine everything in one post since none of the three areas are very long.  Up first:

Weekly Savings!
*We did new house things while out running errands.  We filed some paperwork at the court house ourselves rather than going through a lawyer.  We paid $12, but I know paying a lawyer to do the same thing would have hundreds of dollars.  Good credit saved us another couple hundred dollars at the electric company.

*I ordered a used book that I will need from Amazon.  Buying used rather than new saved $40!

*I made three thank you cards and four birthday cards using items that I had on hand.

*I bought large flower pots on clearance at half price.  I am always on the lookout for huge pots for planting vegetables in the greenhouse or for our pineapple plants.

*I saved all of my change and added it to a jar.  This money goes into savings for the new house.

We ended up eating leftovers and some lighter meals on our own so I did not cook everything I had planned last week.  My meal plan for this week includes:

*Taco Salads ~ W requested these.  We will skip adding fresh tomato and use homemade salsa instead to keep this meal more frugal.

*Big Salads

*Balsamic Pork Roast, Macaroni & Cheese, Peas/Corn

*French Bread Pizza & Salad

*Spaghetti Pie ~ The spaghetti pie will be from the freezer. I will make either breadsticks or garlic toast to go with it along with side salads.

*Breakfast for Supper ~ This will most likely be omelets since we have an abundance of eggs.

*American Goulash ~ A new homemade "helper" type recipe that I will serve with cornbread.

In just 3 weeks I will start the Holiday Grand Plan.  In the meantime I have a few projects that I want to work on that do not fit in the plan.  I am going to do my best to finish those within the next three weeks.

*Clean golf cart ~ It needs decluttering to remove some of the stuff that gets piled on it. I also need to repair two small holes in the seat before they get worse.

*Organize recipe books ~ I need to add in some new favorites and remove some things we no longer love as much.  I plan to organize the recipes I have torn out of magazines and either make plans to cook them or toss them.

*Knit 24 hats for the Christmas shoeboxes.

*Prepare garden for fall planting. ~ I have started cleaning out the raised beds but have a long way to go.  I want to lay out a plan of what to plant in the garden and what will go into the greenhouse.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Weekly Menu

My weekly savings were pretty much routine and boring so I am skipping over those this week.  Having a set menu last week worked out well.  We did not eat everything I had planned so I will carry a few dishes over into this week.

Taco Pasta, Salad I have precooked ground meat in the freezer so this will come together quickly

Crockpot Stroganoff, Mashed Potatoes, Peas  This is a definite make this week since I need to use up some potatoes

Fajitas  I will slice a steak that was gifted to us and add in onions and peppers from the garden.  I found tortillas on markdown which helps keep the cost of this meal way down.

Big Salads These did not get made last week.  I will add in whatever vegetables I find in the refrigerator and some baked chicken tenders.

Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes  We love this fresh.  I doubled the recipe last month and froze half.  While we know we enjoy this dish, I need to see how it will work as a freezer meal

Balsamic Pork Roast, Macaroni & Cheese, Peas/Corn  This meal should provide leftovers for either a second full meal or at least sandwiches

French Bread Pizzas  I will bake the French bread and double the pizzas.  Half of them will go into the freezer for a future meal.