Grocery Totals 7/28/11 and Weekly Menu

Today was one of the last grocery shopping Thursdays before the kids head back to school. I went easy on them and we only hit 2 grocery stores, Publix and Kroger. Here are my grocery totals for this week.  I am starting to stock up on some items for lunch boxes but luckily I had lots of coupons so that always helps!

Total Spent: $98.50
Total Value: $175.74
Total Saved: $77.24

Here is my dinner menu for the week:

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Sandwiches     Asian Slaw    Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Homemade Pizza (using leftover BBQ Chicken and canned pineapple, yummy!)

Grilled Chicken Panini     Watermelon

Spaghetti and Meatballs    Steamed Broccoli   Garlic Toast

Unbelievable Grilled Chicken    Fried Okra   Creamed Corn

Crockpot Cheesy Potato Bacon Soup     Homemade Rolls

Here is a recipe from this week’s menu:

Asian Slaw
courtesy of my neighbor Kelly Hays

Dressing:

2 Tbsp. sugar
½ c. oil
3 Tbsp. vinegar

Whisk together in a glass measuring cup.

Salad:

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
½ c. sliced honey roasted Almond Accents
1 Bag of angel hair cabbage or cole slaw
4 green onions, sliced
1 pkg. ramen noodles, chicken flavored

Mix the cabbage and onions. Crush the noodles and sprinkle on top.  Add almonds, sesame seeds and the chicken flavor packet. Pour the dressing over it all and let sit overnight in fridge. Toss before serving.

How I buy school supplies…

Ok, it is that time of year again and as one tired mom, I am kinda glad. I love having the kids home for the summer but it can wear you out with all the activities that keep them busy. So, cheers to school starting again in a few weeks, even if I have to go back to getting up before the rooster again…

Since school will be starting soon, it is time to start looking at school supply shopping. Actually, I started back to school shopping a week or two ago when the deals started to come out. But, here are some tips to help you out as you tackle this project:

1) Take an inventory – There is no need to buy what you already have. Every year the school supply list show up with items that can roll from one year to the next. You do not need to buy new scissors each year or a new ruler, since the one from last year should still be in good enough shape to move on to this year.

2) Make a list of what you really NEED, not WANT – I take a look at the school supply list and figure out what the kids really NEED. It says they NEED a 3 ring binder but it does not say they need a $15 Trapper Keeper in the latest fashion.

3) Pay attention to the sales – I peruse the ads each week in a casual way looking for a good price on what the kids need for school. I do not buy everything all at once but gradually over a few weeks as the sales come up. I was at Kroger today and saw that they had Folders w/pockets and prongs for $.15 each. I knew the kids each need 3 for school so I picked them up while I was there. I was shopping at Publix last week and glue sticks were $.67/3 pack so I picked up a few packages. I will keep looking for deals like this for the next few weeks and pick them up piece by piece until I am done.

4) Stock up for later in the year or even next year – As you find good sales on things that the kids will use a lot of, like glue sticks, you can stock up on them for replenishment during the year. This will save you money 6 months from now when the kids need glue sticks and they are full price at the store. This works even better if you can scoop up a lot of after back to school clearance when supplies go super cheap. I still have 8 boxes of crayons that I got for free last year from Kroger when they were clearancing them out.

5) Coupon – There are coupons to be had for school supplies. I recently bought 8 dry erase markers and 4 highlighters for $1 because they were on sale and I had a coupon for $5 off expo/sharpie products. I have also gotten lots of free or almost free supplies this way but the key is to combine the coupon with a sale. There are times when I have had to hang onto a coupon for months waiting for the right time to use it. I have the belief that if you see a coupon that you think there is even a remote chance you will use, grab it and see what happens.

6) When it matters, buy quality – My last tip has to do with saving money in the long term by buying something that will last. My kids have had the same book bags for years because I bought ones that will last.  Both LL Bean and Lands End are great for purchasing book bags and lunch boxes that will keep going from year to year and they even guarantee their products. Even though these items cost more on the onset, not having to replace them every year (or even more often than that) is a real money saver.

Using these tips, you should be able to get your school supplies for relatively little money. I have not added it up but I would guess that I have spent less than $10 for school supplies and I only have 4 items left on the list. So, grab your list and go get your kids their school supplies. There are only 16 days left until school starts but hey, who’s counting?

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

On the way home from South Carolina yesterday, we stopped at a fruit stand and bought some beautiful locally grown peaches and blackberries. We have been eating them in their natural state since buying them but today I felt that the blackberries were calling out for a companion – Angel Food Cake. I have never made an Angel Food Cake before but my grandmother gave me a pan when I was at her house this past week and thought it was a good time to give it a try. Boy, am I glad that I did! This tastes nothing like the Angel Food Cake that you can buy at the store – velvety, rich and with a hint of almond – I can see how it got it’s heavenly name. Give this a try and see what you think, it was very simple to make and tastes amazing!

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

Via: Allrecipes.com

Prep Time: 10 Min
Cook Time: 40 Min
Ready In: 50 Min

Ingredients

  • 10-12 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Separate eggs; discard yolks or refrigerate for another use. Measure egg whites, adding or removing whites as needed to equal 1-1/2 cups. Place in a mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, sift confectioners’ sugar and flour together three times; set aside. Add cream of tartar, extracts and salt to egg whites; beat on high speed. Gradually add sugar, beating until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Fold in flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time. Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan; cool completely before removing cake from pan.

Saving for our next car

What do you do when you are 200 miles from home and your car breaks down? You pray and ask God for a miracle, exactly what he gave me this past weekend. Imagine this – me sitting in my minivan with 2 kids and a load of luggage heading to a family reunion. A truck stop in the middle of nowhere and I can’t go anywhere. In someways it was both comical and nerve wracking. I was scared but I couldn’t help but laugh – who else would this happen to but me?

So, there I sat and began to pray and asked God to help me out. First blessing was that I had been following my mom and step dad on the way to Virginia so I had some backup support and a lift if I needed one. Second blessing was that God had placed a mechanic next door to the I-77 truck stop that had a tow truck and specialized in transmissions. It only took him one drive to realize that I was going to need a new transmission.

What is a girl to do? The only thing that made sense to me – I called my husband and asked him. He took care of the situation, he rented a trailer and truck and towed my minivan back to Georgia. He dropped it off at the shop that put in the original transmission and we began to pray again. They called us shortly after they inspected it and let us know that it did indeed need a new transmission. Here comes the third blessing, since it was only a few months outside of the warranty, they agreed to split the cost with us. So, that will get me back on the road but what do I do now? So begins the journey to saving for my next car.

How do you know when it is time to cut your losses and get another vehicle? For us, it is the fact that the van is worth $5200 and this is the second transmission that we will have to put into it. The normal cost of a transmission is $3000 so if we had to pay full price for each, that would put us over the amount the car is worth. Our plan is to fix the car for now and sell it before the warranty expires in 12 months. The plan hinges on a few things – being able to sell the car and saving everything we can for the next car.

As you have read in previous posts, we do not believe in taking on debt so we will have to pay cash for our next car and that requires a savings goal. Lucky for us, we are expert savers, it might be the thing that we do best. Saving for the next car will require us to move backwards in the baby steps and temporarily cut back our 401k savings. It is not in the plan but it seems to a requirement for us to move forward in life. We will suspend the kids college savings accounts and our current Roth IRA but still contribute to the Roth 401k in order to maintain the company match. This was not in our original plan but it will work for us and we can move past this episode with only a few adjustments. It is such a comfort to know that having an emergency savings account and a workable plan will make a situation that could have been an emergency and turn it into an inconvenience.

Now, the real question is – what should my next car be? It will be the automobile that will take me through the kids tweens and teens, so I want to make sure it will fit our lifestyle as well as our budget. At least I have almost a year to figure it out, it might just take me that long.

Cashew! God Bless You Chicken

I have been trying some new recipes lately and have had a particular bent toward Asian food. Last week I made the Sesame Noodles for lunch and tonight we had the Cashew Chicken, both from Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals Cookbook. This was so good! It also seemed to make a lot of food so there is enough left for John and I to have lunch tomorrow. The recipe is below but be sure to read my notes, I can’t seem to follow a recipe exactly as it is written, it just isn’t in my genes.

Cashew! God Bless You Chicken
Rachel Ray
30 Minute Meals

Steamed Jasmine Rice

1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced

Combine chicken in bowl with:

1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed
2 Tablespoon rice wine, rice vinegar or dry sherry
A couple of shakes crushed red pepper
Black pepper, to taste

Set it aside and let it hang out.

1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 large carrot, peeled and diced into small pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can diced water chestnuts, drained
3 heaping Tablespoons hoisin sauce
A couple handfuls unsalted cashews
3 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat oil in wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat until it smokes. Add carrot and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the coated chicken and cook another 3-4 minutes. Toss in the bell pepper and chestnuts. Heat through for 1 minute. Add the hoisin and toss to coat evenly. Dump chicken out over a bed of jasmine rice and top with cashews and green onions. Feeds 4 well.

Tiffany’s Notes:

  • My grocery store was out of rice vinegar so I subbed regular white vinegar. Next time I make this, I will try to find the rice vinegar although I can’t imagine it making much of a difference
  • I used about 2 chicken breasts and there was enough for my family of 4 plus leftovers for lunch
  • I had a portabello mushroom and leftover pineapple in my fridge so I added both to the recipe. It seemed like it needed more veggies to me and this helped a lot. I chopped up the mushroom and added it along with the chicken. I added the  the pineapple toward the end, after the hoisin sauce.
  • I keep green bell peppers in my freezer so I used that instead of red
  • My cashews were salted because those were on sale and I know we will eat them
  • I served this with the Jasmine rice and steamed broccoli but since there were a few pieces of broccoli left, I added them to the leftovers. It gave it more color and I think the broccoli with absorb some of the sauce which was very flavorful.