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 apartment-mates....it'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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