Friday, December 14

12 Days of Christmas..Cookies! Day 1 -- A Classic!

I am so happy (and very thankful) to be able to say that this is my third year to get to do 25 Days of Christmas …. In Cookies! The last two years I’ve baked one kind of cookie each day as part of my 25 day celebration. It usually gets pretty hectic as the days go on and I usually get a little behind at one point or another. J But it is always a lot of fun.

I actually had someone ask me about the upcoming cookie madness a couple weeks ago – because we like to share our multitude of cookies. J This year, due to some life events that happened at the beginning of the month, I’m cutting the number of days down from 25 to 12.

So this year I am happy to present the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies! To kick off the fun, I’m baking a classic. This cookie has given me so many headaches over the years that I’ve always fallen back on using a recipe. It sounds crazy but I have never been able to come up with my own recipe for this cookie. Until this year! I made a recipe all my own and it turned out perfect! They taste so delicious to me, that it rivals the Pillsbury refrigerator-roll-of-dough cookies that I made the other day (don’t judge). Without further ado…..

My Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Wednesday, November 14

Makin' Mini Felt Boards

It's rough when your kid is sick. Then when both kids are sick at the same time, well, it's not easy either. And then as one gets better while the other gets worse is maddening because the one getting better is ready to run around like a chicken with its head cut off (even if she isn’t fully recovered) which instigates the other and creates a headache. How to keep one on the couch while giving the other a little freedom? It doesn’t make it any easier for us with both girls missing school. Thing 1 has been tracked out of school for nearly 3 ½ weeks, so she was ready to go back when she came down with a fever the night before going back.

Abby bundled up on the recliner.

Anyway, I’m sitting here on the couch during ‘quiet time’. I’m letting the girls stretch out (one on the couch and the other on the recliner) and watch a movie for their down time so long as they stay lying down and quiet. I’ve stopped working on my project so I would be less distracting.

See, for some reason I got it in my head that now was a good time to take on a new project. With two sick kids. Home. Out of school. With a husband who works late a lot really really hard. What can I say? I suppose I like a challenge. J

My workspace on the coffee table amid all the toys. :)

Sunday, November 11

Brace Yourselves...Pumpkin Flavored Everything is Coming!

Brace yourself - Brace yourself Pumpkin flavored everything is coming
photo from

I know, I’m late to the pumpkin party.

I’m chronically late for everything. I joke about how I’ll end up being late to my own funeral. haha

Despite not having blogged about anything pumpkin at all, it sure has been present in my kitchen since I first saw the pie pumpkins in the grocery back in September. We’ve been making pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin bread – LOTS of pumpkin bread.

We’ve bought so many pie pumpkins (and had some given to us) that I lost count of how many I’ve peeled, chopped and steamed. Then the day before Halloween, I took the girls to get our pumpkins for carving. While I was at the stand, I saw such a multitude of tan pumpkins all around that I bought one. I figured, at the time, that it was a good size and I should get a fair amount of pumpkin puree from it. I sorely underestimated this pumpkin.

Wednesday, November 7

Hearty Baked Potato Soup on a cooold night!

I took the dog out last night and it was cold. Like close-your-eyes-and-you-can-smell-snow kind of cold. Well, almost smell it. The sky was a cover of grey clouds…clouds that you could almost call snow clouds. This chilliness made me very glad that I made such a hearty soup for dinner. J  And the hubby loved it and asked me to write down the recipe in our notebook so we can have it again. He and I both had second helpings…but I’ll be honest, my girls weren’t too excited about it. They don’t seem to really go for any kind of soup. Period. But since there weren’t any leftovers, I’ll mark this as a success. J

Monday, November 5

Chilly Days & Steamy Mugs o' Hot Cocoa

Man, it’s chilly outside! With highs only in the mid-50’s, I think it’s safe to call it cold! Here in the South, it’s nearly normal to still be wearing shorts on Thanksgiving. And Christmas? Yea, it’s still not uncommon for it to not have reached freezing temps at night. (I do miss the snow in the winter, but man! I love living in the South! J )

However, this year, Mother Nature saw fit to cut short our fall and bring winter early. I don’t know about your families but around here, the chillier it gets the more hot chocolate gets consumed. J If we need some 5 minutes ago, I go with the quick milk and chocolate syrup. If we are relaxing and watching movies or just spending quality time together, the milk goes in a pot on the stove with cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon – the way my mom used to make it (well, I added the cinnamon part). J  But seeings how my kids always have mom make their hot chocolate and they never get the stuff from the box, the boxed stuff has become the holy grail to them….just like everything else from a box. Haha  Though I did recently let my 3 year old talk me into getting a box of Swiss Miss because it had a snowman on it. (YOU try saying ‘no’ to that face. You won’t win. Period.)

With that in our cupboard, and then quickly out of our cupboard, two things came to me: Number 1-we go through these packets too fast and it will get expensive quick if this becomes a habit. And B-what goes in to those packets? What makes those hot chocolate packets (yes the ones with the marshmallows) so darn irresistible?!?

So as a mom, baking- and cooking- enthusiast, and do-it-yourselfer, I decided to make it myself. J Get on Pinterest and search for hot chocolate mix. Seriously. Those are a lot of different ways to get to the same end result! I felt a little overwhelmed, so I stuck to the basics. Ya ever heard the saying about how some of the best things are the simplest things? Boom.

The Harned Girls’ Hot Chocolate Mix

1 cup powdered milk

¾ cup powdered sugar

¾ cup cocoa powder

1/8 tsp salt

½ package of dry vanilla pudding mix

A mason jar

In a large mixing bowl, whisk it all together. Be careful not to do it too vigorously or you’ll be inhaling that hot chocolate.

Then in batches, run the mixture through a food processor. Pulse it for a minute or two, until all the big clumps are broken up and it looks really well combined. Spoon the smooth dry mix into the Mason jar.

Once it is all in the jar, feel free to give it a test run. For a mug of warm to hot milk, we used 2 tablespoons of the mix.

The girls and I thought it was quiet delicious. And then we topped it off with the teeny tiny marshmallows that you can shake into your cup. Mmmmm!

And just like that it will be gone. Promise. ;)
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* We'll do an update with a nicer prettier shot of the full Mason jar because it will be perfect to give out as gifts this holiday season! :) *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Monday, October 8

Hot Air Balloon Festival Coming Up & Experiments too!

Coming up this month is the annual Carolina BalloonFest. I am super excited about catching it this year! Last year, by the time I remembered it, the festival had already passed. So I wrote it down on my calendar way ahead of time and I’ve been highly anticipating that weekend!
What is the Carolina BalloonFest?

The website says: “Join us for a fun-filled weekend of family entertainment with outstanding attractions. Bring lawn chairs and blankets (pets & coolers are not permitted) to bask in the beautiful Carolina autumn weather as the backdrop to all the sights & sounds of colorful hot air balloons.” The BalloonFest even made the Weather Channel’s Top 10 FantasticFall Festivals list!

Over the course of the weekend, they will have: 50 Hot Air Balloons, Mass Ascensions, a stage with live entertainment, a Balloon Glow, a competition, Hot Air Balloon Rides, Tethered Balloon Rides, All-Day Festivities, a Kids Zone, a history about hot air balloons, Tastes of NC Wines & Brews, Artisan Village & MarketPlace, Fine Arts & Crafts, an Eat Street, and a Beer Tent.

Sunday, October 7

A Date with My Daughter

Last week, my 3 year old and I took a nature walk together. It was a wonderful experience reminding me to take the time to really see everything instead of rushing past focused on a task. I was also able to connect with my daughter, which was the most precious thing.

With that connection in mind, I wanted to spend some time – really spend time – with my 6 year old. The following Saturday my daughter and I went out for a “date”. I knew I was doing a good thing because when I told her about our planned date for the weekend, her eyes lit up and she threw her arms around me. This became the thing she talked about most for the rest of the week. J

Photo from Paint Your Pot 
For the date, I wanted to find something to do that she would enjoy but that wouldn’t break the bank. (We are on a tight budget after all.) The popular choices are outdoor activities, but with Saturday being stormy, I had to come up with something else. It didn’t take too long to come up with a brilliant idea. Kyleigh is a creative child who loves drawing and painting and decorating and singing and playing pretend and all sorts of crafting. Why not find a date that speaks to her creativity? There is a place nearby that allows you to walk in, choose from a very large selection of unpainted ceramic bisque pieces, bring it back to the table and begin painting it. When you are finished painting, they clean everything up and glaze and fire it for you and you return to the store 3 to 5 days later to pick up your finished piece. This place is perfect for us! J

Saturday, October 6

Mom On a Mission -- Dinner Updates

 Time for some dinner updates! :)

Monday 9/24 -- As all Mondays are, it was Mexican night! :)

Tuesday 9/25 -- Creamy Homemade Mac & Cheese w/ Hot Dogs (recipe follows)

Wednesday 9/26 -- Spaghetti with tomato sauce & butter and cheese

Thursday 9/27 -- Chicken Fried Rice (recipe follows)

Friday 9/28 -- Pizza and a movie!

Saturday 9/29 -- Leftovers

Sunday 9/30 -- Sunday Chili


Creamy Homemade Mac & Cheese with Hot Dogs

Part II of Transforming a Goodwill Dresser

Last time I posted about this little dresser from Goodwill, I left off at having spray-painted the dresser. But I hadn't gotten to the handles.

I laid out a bunch of newspapers on the table so that Thing 2 and I could decorate the dresser pulls. We started by taking the pulls apart and swabbing them off with rubbing alcohol to get all the dirt off. Then we each coated a pull in a nice layer of mod podge.

Thursday, October 4

Handkerchief Dolls Craft

Here's an activity that I did with my girls at the end of July. I took all the pictures while we were doing it together, I just never got the time to post about it. 

My girls at the time were 3 years old and 5 years old. Both of them were able to do the activity and still sleep with their dolls. :) 

     This would be a great stuck-indoors-day activity. Or even a good sick-day activity since it gives the little ones something to do without getting themselves overtired. And then they have something to cuddle up with after.

Handkerchief Dolls

To get started:
- a handkerchief or square piece of fabric
- small styrofoam ball or tennis ball
- 3 or 5 rubber bands
- ribbon
- fabric paint and/or sharpies
- glue
- different colored yarns cut into pieces for hair

Wednesday, October 3

At least Wednesday is over...

Oh goodness, where do I start? Ever feel like you have a week where everything just starts coming at you from all sides and you are just waiting for it all to stop raining down on you? We may not have really bad, but it’s been rough. And guess what! It’s only Tuesday. Haha

Ya know how times are tight for everyone? Yea, things are tight for us too. So there’s always that in the back of my mind…especially since I’m the one that does the household budget. And my husband told me last week that he worries about his car making it to and from work. (He’s had this thing since before we met.) I know it’s old and literally falling apart, but I didn’t know he worried about the car’s ability – or inability rather – to get my hubby to work and back. So now we’ve got that to worry about, too.

We seemed to be busy all weekend. It seems like within the last few months, our weekends are no longer about relaxing and resting up from our weeks but seeing how much we can do while we are all home. So Sunday night rolls around and I’m starting to get ready for bed around 11…which for me these days is early a decent time. Then Abby started crying so Nate went to check out what was wrong and I followed. She was softly crying in her sleep and couldn’t really be consoled. While not pleasant, this isn’t unheard of but then she started scratching at her knee. Really scratching. When I reached out to caress her to comfort her a bit, I found that her knee felt really bumpy. And I’m not talking impressions from the blankets and pajamas bumpy. We brought her into the living room where it was brighter and found her little legs were red and covered with light bumps. And so were her arms. And patches on her belly.  I really could keep going with this story and tell about frantically calling my mom at midnight on a Sunday (she’s a nurse and the first person I call whenever anything happens) or my hour-long adventure at one o’clock in the morning on a Sunday night to find somewhere open 24 hours where I could buy children’s benedryl. (Yea, I know, shame on me for not having it on hand already.) Nate and I slept sitting on the couch that night with Abby stretched out between us so that we would know if anything more serious happened. (Both my mom and the pharmacist at the 24 hour Walgreens warned of the possibilities of her airways closing up and need to go to the ER in that event since we didn’t know what in the world was going on.) Our pediatrician holds walk-in appointments first thing in the mornings Monday through Friday so we were there by 8 o’clock Monday morning to get an appointment. The doc’s best guess was hives. So we’ve been keeping an eye on Little Abby and her itchy bumps that come and go. L They go away, then come back – just not as bad as initially.

Then Nate had to go to his already scheduled doctor appointment while I ran Kyleigh to school. We had scheduled a Parent/Teacher conference for Monday afternoon, but the teacher had to cancel. But Nate came home early anyways because Abby’s bumps had come back pretty bad. But we’ve been doing ok now that we are expecting it. (The doc said with hives this could go on for a couple weeks. This is my excited face. K )

And now it’s Tuesday. We were doing alright. More bumps, but we were expecting them so not as scary. Then it was dinnertime. And Kyleigh thought she found a pee spot in the girls’ hallway. I went to check it out. Nope. Not pee. No, it was something sooooooooooooo much more fun!! The air conditioner was leaking again and flooding their hallway! Let me show you my excited face! K You see I said ‘again’, right? Well our a/c has done that before. Followed by our hot water heater completely flooding our bedroom. Oh yes, flooded. As in move all yo’ stuff out the way!

Anyway, it’s Wednesday evening now and we think the air conditioner problem is fixed but they can’t call the carpet guys to come out until maybe Thursday – Friday at the latest. Our living room is upside down and we’ve got two loud industrial carpet drying fans running. But at least it’s looking like I’ll be asleep before midnight tonight! Haha Last night Nate’s parents were sweet enough to let us crash there. The girls and I didn’t get there until 10 o’clock and Nate followed about an hour later. Tonight we are back at our place since the water won’t be freely flowing into the apartment all night.

So as you can see, we have been a little crazy around here and I haven’t been able to post anything. And forget taking pictures of anything! I would say I’m looking forward to the weekend, but we have one regularly scheduled soccer game Saturday with a make-up game on Sunday (from a rain out last weekend) along with whatever else we have going on or want to get done.

Let’s just hope that nothing hits us in the next few days….my nerves won’t be able to stand it. J I will try and post about some stuff I’ve done with the girls and never got around to writing about. J

Tuesday, September 25

A Walk with My Daughter

....this is the stuff the Mom Life is made of....

Abby and I took a walk around the lake today after lunch. It is a gorgeous fall day – chilly in the shade, and warm in the sun. It was the perfect weather for a nature walk and that is exactly what we did.

Abby donned her pink light jacket and her kitty helmet and grabbed her Harley. We hooked her netted bug house to the rope on her motorcycle and I carried the plastic bug house. I grabbed my phone, camera, and keys and we headed out.

Monday, September 24

Daily Dinners

Thursday was Two Squashed Soup....well, originally it was called simply Butternut Squash soup but I added an acorn squash to the butternut squash.

Okay, first up, the butternut squash needs to be peeled and chopped. Then it gets tossed in the steamer. (I have a really small steamer basket that sits on top of my rice cooker, so I had to steam the squash in 2 batches. If you have a bigger steam, save yourself some time and steam it all at once.) While this is steaming, I peel and chop the acorn squash. Then set it aside.

Dice up about a third of a cubanelle pepper. Toss it in a pot with 2 Tbsp of melted butter and stir it up. Mince up about 5 cloves of garlic and stir it in the pot.

I grabbed out the baggie of shredded carrots left over from Mexican night and added that to the pot. Stir this often to keep it from burning. We are trying to brown the garlic and coax as much flavor as possible from the pepper and carrot.

Friday, September 21

Transforming a Goodwill Dresser Part 1

After tackling my bathroom and the hall closet, it was time to move onto bigger things. Remember the dresser I found at Goodwill for $30? I took the drawers out of it and moved it onto the patio. I slid some newspapers underneath it and grabbed my can of spray paint and started spraying.

With the first spray, I was bummed. The color that came out was a lot darker than the color of the cap. It was supposed to be a pretty blue-green sea color. What came out was a dark blue. And it was taking quite a few passes before any of the color seemed to stick. I kept going because I didn’t want to go back out or stop mid-project. (Hah, wait and see how that worked out for me. ::rolls eyes::) It’s not that it was an ugly color, but I just didn’t see how well it was going to work in a little girl’s light purple room without being too overwhelmingly dark. But hey, I could make this work….right?

Thursday, September 20

Let's Redecorate This Apartment! Part I

     On Tuesday, I was super busy....which is probably what lead to exhaustion on Wednesday. haha Seriously though, it was a productive day. After dropping Abby off, I hit a local Goodwill store, then AC Moore, then Lowe's, and finally finished up with Target. Then I went home to unload everything, then it was time to get Abby.

     What possessed me to try to fit so much in to one day? I'm so glad you asked because I've been wanting to share! Lately, our small apartment has started feeling even smaller. I think it's due to clutter. And on top of feeling more cramped, we've noticed an increase in unwanted's part of apartment living though and I'm told we live in a bad building anyway. Joy. But moving isn't in the cards for us so I was able to talk the hubby into letting me re-do our apartment in a way that maximizes the space we have while de-cluttering it. This should help the apartment feel a little bigger and help to keep the unwanted pests away. (Have I mentioned that I loathe apartment living? Because I do. I really really do.)

     Back to Tuesday. I went out with a few things in mind that I was looking for second-hand and things that I new I needed to buy new. Here's my haul:

I stopped at Goodwill first. I scored big!

Mom On a Mission: Dinner Updates

     Hay y'all, I'm up and about again. Seems I may have been doing too much without resting enough....isn't that the story of the Mom Life? I mean, really. :) But my body completely gave up and I woke up feeling not-so-good Wednesday morning and could barely get out of bed. So my wonderful hubby stayed home to take care of everything. (Have I mentioned lately how wonderful this man is? Because he is wonderful and I'm so lucky to have him.)

So let's catch up on dinners, shall we?

     Monday, Thing 1 had soccer practice. So after picking her up from school, we ran home to do homework and have dinner before the 6 o'clock practice. Dinner this evening was leftover spaghetti and tortellini (by request). This worked out fabulously and we were able to make it to practice on time. Woohoo! :)
     Since Monday was leftover night, Tuesday became our Mexican Night for the week. Whether we are having tortillas, nachos or even tacos, we like to have a variety of fillings/toppers on the table so that everyone can make what they like.

     First thing I did was to dice up an onion and toss it in my skillet with 2 Tbsp of melted butter over medium heat. Then I minced up 4 cloves of garlic and added it to the skillet. Stir it up and let it go. When you notice the onions are translucent, turn the heat down closer to medium-low. Stir it occasionally but the idea here is to cook it low and slow so we can get that sweet caramelized flavor.
     Meanwhile, I went ahead and chopped up the fresh cilantro that I got at the Farmer's Market and then I finely shredded up a carrot. I left the cilantro on the cutting board (because it was going to get added to the cheese sauce) and then I put the shredded carrot into a ziplock bag. 

     Then I drained and rinsed a can of black beans. Put those into a bowl and covered it and microwaved it for 3 minutes. When it was done, I drained it and those were ready for the table, too. I pulled out some leftover rice we had in the fridge and added a tablespoon or so of water to it. Cover it and heat it up for about two minutes and its fluffy and tastes like you just cooked it up for the first time. (This is how I get away with re-using leftover rice without it tasting like leftovers.) I pulled out the light sour cream, already-sliced black olives (I buy them whole and slice them up myself, it saves money), green olives and spoons for serving it all out.

     All this is on the counter so the girls can help set the table; to get them more willing to help, I set everything out on the counter that needs to go on the table and they actually fight over who gets to bring it to the table. :)
     Not pictured is the cheese sauce (made using store-brand Velveeta, milk, the chopped fresh cilantro, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, dried basil and a dash of pepper). Below is a picture of the finished onions and garlic, which was the very last thing to get put into a dish. 

     Instead of putting everything into bowls with spoons so that it looks all picture-perfect, I serve everything from the tupperware containers that they are going to be put in after anyway to make clean-up a lot easier...and there is a lot less to wash after! My husband loved this idea. ;) The girls love getting their tortillas and picking out what goes in them and then rolling them up to eat. Mexican Night is very popular in our house. :)
     Wednesday I was out of commission. :(  But since I had already planned out dinners, it made dinner a little easier for my hubby. He made our Breakfast For Dinner: Whole Wheat Pancakes! The girls were jumping up and down when Daddy told them he was making pancakes. :)

Hubby was relieved to find that this is a recipe I have actually written down. :-p

Whole Wheat Pancakes
1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. milk
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice

     In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
     In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, oil and vanilla.
     Add the egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; batter will be lumpy.
     Pour about 1/4 cup or so, depending on how large you want your pancakes, into a pan that has been heated over medium heat; you may need to turn the heat down a bit after your first pancake. I use a bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan (I use a silicone pastry brush to coat the bottom of the pan with a teaspoon of oil) or you can use butter or cooking spray -- this is to keep the pancakes from sticking.

     We cook them all up and keep them in a covered dish to keep them warm. The dish goes onto the table along with the toppings we like: peanut butter, Nutella, butter, mashed up bananas, the syrup the rest of the family likes, and the awesome real maple syrup I like that is straight from Canada.


 So far so good this week! Today's menu for dinner is Butternut Squash soup and sandwiches...mmmm! This is going to be good! :)

Sunday, September 16

Football & Sunday Chili

     Ahh football. For most people, football is a sign that fall is near with its cooler weather and colorful leaves and lots and lots of pumpkins. In our house, football means that and something else. Chili. Every Sunday my wonderful husband makes his chili. I don’t think it is ever the same twice. J It would probably help if we actually wrote it down as he puts it together…but we never do. We are two peas in a pod…I never write down what goes into my dinners as I’m making them in case we want to have it again. Ya know… now that I’m thinking about it, I really doubt that we have ever had the exact same thing twice. Wow, that’s kind of funny when you think about how many meals I’ve made and no two are exactly the same. J

Anyway, I’ve gotten off topic. I was talking about my hubby’s soul-warming chili on this chilly rainy day. :-p 

Most of what he needed was purchased either Friday or Saturday (as listed in my previous post) and the rest we already had in my pantry.

Sunday Chili   makes 6 servings, cook on low for 6 ½ hours

1 small can of tomato paste
2 cans of chili beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped
Most of a yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, chopped
½ can black olives, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
½ Tbsp salt
Salt and pepper


1.       In a pan over medium heat, brown the ground beef seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper.

2.       Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients into the CrockPot.

3.       When the beef is completely browned, add that to the slow cooker as well.

4.       Cover and cook on low heat for 6 ½ hours.

5.       When you are ready to eat, ladle the chili into bowls and top with shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream. *We use a low-fat cheddar cheese and a light sour cream.*

6.       We also like to eat ours with some Fritos crunched up on top of it all. The Fritos scoops are really good too, and you won’t need a spoon! A couple less things to wash never hurt! J



Mom on a Mission: Meal Planning on a Budget

I'm a Mom On a Mission!

     I've been on Pinterest a lot lately. It gives me something to do while being a good way to zone out at the end of a long day. Along with tons of fun ideas for crafts and Halloween decor that I will never be able to do that are super cute, there are tons of pins of CrockPot meals and budget meal planning. So I click on them, read through it, and then close it out. To me, they read the same: stock up on meat when it gets unbelievable cheap, spend not-a-lot of money, then come home, spread everything out on your expansive counters and spend hours prepping and cooking and bagging and then putting it in your expansive freezer and refrigerator. Hay, this sounds fabulous. I think the moms that are able to do this are wonderful and fabulous!

     But for me, around where I live, I don't have the stores that they shop at and I can never find meat deals like they do and I'm not going to spend my days clipping coupons. Then the problem with coupon clipping is that it doesn’t take into account fresh produce and everyday essentials like milk, eggs, creamer, etc. I like buying fresh produce instead of a ton of freezer foods and canned foods. And by prepping a month’s worth of dinners at once, the creative in-the-moment element is lost. I thrive on that part, it’s what keeps making dinners fun instead of a chore.  And then there is the whole space issue. I live in an apartment. Space is a big issue.

     So here is another budget meal planning blog. But this is an ordinary soccer mom with a 1st grader, a preschooler, a husband, and a dog all living in a small apartment on a tight budget. I don’t scour the sale flyers or hunt out mind-blowing deals or clip coupons. But I do cook my family dinner every night (even on nights with soccer practice) after sitting with my 1st grader to do her homework together and we read before bed every night.

     I plan out, on average, two and a half weeks’ worth of meals at a time and do as much shopping for that menu as I can every payday – which is twice a month. I plan on sharing my meal plans with you, as well as how much I spend at the grocery. 

     Before I give the dinner menus and grocery bills and such, I also want to add that I make a lunch for my family every morning to send with them. Nate gets a container of carrot sticks (that I cut up from whole carrots), a container of cut up apples, a baggie of pretzels, a baggie of another snack (i.e., Cheez-Its), a fiber bar, and a Greek yogurt. Kyleigh gets a water bottle, a sandwich (or pasta), a fruit or veggie, and either a granola bar or a string cheese for lunch and something for an additional snack (a banana, dried edamame, grapes, cut up apples, or a crunchy granola bar). Abby gets a juice box (because she doesn’t have a water bottle for her lunchbox that doesn’t leak), a sandwich, a granola bar, a baggie of pretzels, and a couple carrot sticks when she goes to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Oh! Kyleigh is allowed to buy lunch on Fridays when she also gets extra money to buy a special treat of her choice.

September 14th – September 30th

Chicken Meal
Leftover Spaghetti
Butternut Squash Soup & Sandwiches
Pumpkin Waffles
Homemade Mac & Cheese
Tortillas/ Nachos
Broccoli & Cheese Soup w/ Sandwiches
Crowd-Pleaser Chicken


     First, I know you are going to notice things repeating and the reason is simple. We have days that are the same every week and the girls have really come to look forward to these days. For instance, every Monday night is Mexican Night; except for the 17th because Kyleigh has soccer practice that night. We switch it up between tortillas, nachos, and taco. When I am making out the menus, I let them decide which we will do.

     Second, every Friday night is Pizza & a Movie Night. There isn’t a whole lot of tv watching that goes on in our house during the week (not because I forbid it, but because we simply don’t have time for it) so Kyleigh gets stoked about movie night. I think it is safe to say that this is the girls’ favorite night of the week because if something comes up that keeps us from having our homemade pizza and eating it in the living room while watching a movie (eating in the living room is a HUGE treat), they actually get very upset. Even if we are eating with Gramma and Grampa, they still get upset about missing Pizza & a Movie – this is a big deal. J

     Thirdly, football season for Nate and me means chili every Sunday. Nate makes this late in the morning and it cooks in the CrockPot all day and is absolutely wonderful. I think it’s my favorite part of football season. J The girls, I’m sad to say, don’t get nearly as excited about this and their treat so far this year is mac & cheese from the box. The leftovers of which get sent with Kyleigh one or two days during the week for lunch.

     Lastly, I try to do a Breakfast for Dinner night once a week. The girls really enjoy this too since our breakfasts are cereal and a banana or oatmeal. We have a nice variety of breakfasts we switch it up with: Banana muffins, a variety of pancakes, a variety of waffles, crepes, and French toast.

     My shopping for this menu took me to three places.

     The first of which was the Farmer’s Market.  There I bought 4 onions, 3 bell peppers (one red, one yellow, one purple), 2 cubanelle peppers, 1 butternut squash, 1 acorn squash, 1 bunch of cilantro, and 7 or 8 apples. Abby was beside herself with excitement when she saw the stalls of pumpkins (most of which were bigger than her) that we splurged and bought 2 school-time pumpkins, too. I spent $14.70.

     The second place I went shopping was Kroger. (There are a couple things that are sold here that aren’t available at WalMart, which is going to be the third place I shop.)


Quilted Northern (12 double rolls) 5.99
Triscuts 1.49
Peanut Butter Cheerios 1.99
Chocolate Cheerios 2.69
Block Cheddar Cheese 2.19
Block Mozzarella Cheese 2.19
Sliced Havarti Cheese 2.29
Sliced Aged White Cheddar Cheese 2.29
Snack Square Cheeses (x4) 1.34
Philly Low-Fat Cream Cheese 1.29
Laughing Cow Cheese 1.99
Daisy Small Curd Cottage Cheese 1.38
Dannon Coffee Yogurt 4pack 1.00
Tub Greek Yogurt 3.29
Capri Sun Pack 1.49
Juicy Juice juice boxes 2.59
Nutella (x2) 2.99 ea
Dried Cilantro 1.59
Dried Basil .79
Onion Powder 1.00
Peanut Butter (x2) 2.50 ea
Small Pitted Black Olives, can (x2) 1.39 ea
Frozen Strawberries 3.09
Fat-Free Half & Half 1.79
Quaker Old Fashioned Oats 3.00
Thomas Bagel Thins 2.49
Paper Towel Roll 1.00
3-pack Active Dry Yeast 1.19
2-lb bag Carrots 1.57

Total -- $68.50
Total savings from in-store sales -- $21.14


     Since Kroger is having their “Mega Sale” where you buy 10 participating items and save an additional $5 after getting a sale price on top of it, I bought a few things I wouldn’t normally buy – all the name-brand stuff. Haha Otherwise I buy all store-brand items. I went ahead and bought some Capri Sun for Kyleigh since Abby got Juicy Juice for her lunch (it was on sale after all) and her school collects the empty Capri Sun pouches as a fundraiser. So why not support the school while I’m at it?

     My next, and last, stop is WalMart. I would prefer to do all my shopping at one store, but WalMart sells things that I can’t find at Kroger…and Kroger sells things that aren’t available at WalMart.


WalMart 9/15
Potato Chips 1.98
Bite-Size Tortilla Chips, really big bag 2.98
Bakery Bread, Italian Loaf 1.68
Flour Tortillas, large 1.18
Flour Tortillas, small 1.28
Brown Rice .78
White Rice .78
Spaghetti 1.08
Cheez Its 2.88
Store Brand Velveeta 4.58
Elbow noodles 1.08
Chocolate Chip chewy granola bars 2.00
Oats n’ Honey Crunchy granola bars 2.00
Tissues .86
Rigatoni 1.08
Fiber Bars (x2) 2.00 ea
Canned tomato sauce (x3) .68 ea
Fat Free Cream of Chicken soup (x2) 1.25 ea
Chili Beans (x4) .68 ea
Canned black beans (x2) .68 ea
Canned mushrooms .72
Juicy Juice Orange Tangerine (bottle) 2.98
Leek Dry soup mix 1.42
Tomato paste (x3) .44 ea
Frozen cut broccoli .98
Frozen blueberries 3.23
Frozen peach slices 2.48
Celery 1.38
Kraft Light Sour Cream (x2) 1.48
Ben & Jerry’s 3.48
TCBY Frozen Yogurt 3.98
Dannon Greek Yogurts (x6) 1.00
Fig Bars .98
Garlic .78
1 lb ground beef 80/20 (x2) 2.98 ea
Tyson Whole Fryer Chicken 5.32
Paper Towel 2-pk 2.97
Ibuprofen 4.00
Fels Naptha (x2 bars) .97
Crest Kids Toothpaste 2.50
Suave Conditioner 1.46
Mr Bubble bubble bath 3.72
Suave Kids Shampoo 1.88
Total -- $ 105.56


     We buy frozen fruit and bottled Juicy Juice (sometimes SunnyD) for fruit smoothies that we have as a snack when Kyleigh gets home. I also splurge on Ben & Jerry’s every now and again…hey, a girl’s gotta have her own pint of really delicious ice cream just for her. And also, I buy the Fels Naptha bars because I make my own dry laundry detergent. Lastly, while I buy everything all at once (food, toilet paper, etc), it comes out of different areas of my budget.

     I almost forgot. Thursday night I had to make an emergency trip to Kroger for diapers…and ended up buying other essentials (and some not-so-essential things) that we were out of.


Kroger 9/13
Ruffles chips                                  2.99
Wavy potato chips                         1.97
Granola cereal                               2.29
Gevalia coffee                               7.49
Muller Yogurts (x3)                    1.00 ea
Dannon Yogurt                             1.00
Black grapes                                3.20
Golden delicious apples              1.20
Bananas                                       2.20
Red grapes                                   4.05
Diapers                                         5.99
Milk                                               2.59
Total -- $39.61


The total spent is $228.37. My grocery budget plus household/hygiene (for paper products, shampoos, cleaners, etc) and diapers all combined gives me $ 240.
     Wow, I think this post is long enough. Next post I'll go into the individual meals and ingredients. Thanks for sticking through to read this whole thing! :)
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