Learning to serve the Lord and my family one day at a time.

Learning to serve the Lord and my family one day at a time.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Home Repairs

The weather is beautiful and apparently our home is falling apart in need of some repairs. Somethings are urgent and must get done and some projects are just for fun.

Install clothes line in laundry room 
Build Lilly a dog house
Fix/paint water heater cover
Paint hall bathroom (water damaged from cheap paint and no bathroom fan)
Leak in master bath sink hot water
Leak in master bath sink drainage 
Install fans in bathrooms
Paint interior trim (I might tackle a bit each weekend)
Fix dishwasher cover
Lay trim in kitchen (damaged when hot water heater broke)
Rip up and replace bathroom subflooring (rot under the house from water leakage)
Fix bathroom tiles
Hall bathroom toilet paper holder
Columns for front porch
Replace front door threshold 
Build compost bin
Paint gold light fixtures in hallway brushed nickel
Paint rusted mailbox 
Put up bird feeder
Fence vegetable garden area 
Build raised beds for garden
Start flower seedlings
Plant flowers
Paint porch
Sand and stain deck
Power-wash house
Replace kitchen sink sprayer guide
Reseal master bath toilet
Mold in air ducts
Paint AC registers

Yes that is mold. This was the worst one.

Grocery Budget Update and Shopping Trip

Photo Source

February is drawing to a close and I always rejoice when my grocery budgets starts afresh for the month. I did mediocre at trying to drop our budget down to $20 per person, per week. I suggest taking cash out all at one time so you can stock up on good prices if you see something on sale. Of course, you must exercise self restraint (unlike me) so that your money lasts all month. Take a calculator to the store with you so can how much you're spending as you shop and not have a surprise when you get to the register. 

We ate plenty of healthy, well balanced meals this month, but I have to stay we didn't eat as much fresh fruit since I ran out of money about two weeks ago! I went $5 over to get milk and lunch meat for David however. Luckily, summer produce is almost here and I will be able to get lots of produce at good prices until the fall. 

Frugal Win & Fail
The Kroger near us marks down produce, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday according to the produce worker I asked. It's generally bagged things, like bagged lettuce, herbs, spinach, and bags of apples and oranges. I had luck buying marked down apples last month that tasted great. I found organic apples marked down to 50 cents a pound so I bought twelve pounds! 

That was my first mistake. I've had trouble with organic apple being mealy, even ones from Earth Fare that aren't on sale. These apples were pretty mealy so we had a hard time eating them all. What do you do when life gives you mealy apples? Cook them of course! We had lots of crock pot applesauce, apple pancakes and baked apples this month. I'm planning on making apple muffins this weekend. 

If you ever bite into a mealy apple and decide not to eat it, you can cut of the part you bit, and freeze it until you want to cook or bake with it. I haven't tried this for applesauce apples, but it seems to work well for apples I will be adding to a baked good.

My produce win was three, 10 oz packages of organic broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. These freeze fine in the package if you eat them quickly, otherwise put them in a freezer bag. 

Ok, so I cheated a bit
Publix is having a pretty good sale this week and while it doesn't end until March 1,  I didn't want to want until the last day and risk all the deals being gone. If there's ever a great sale and we're out of grocery money I don't go, but since it's near the end of the month I convinced myself it was okay. 

I've been buying one paper every Sunday and getting extra coupon inserts from the neighbors recycling bin (weird, I know) so I was able to buy several of each item. I had a $5/30 Publix coupon that was in the paper last week. Publix is also running an Italian Days promotion and when you buy 20 selected items you get $5 off you purchase. That's like taking an additional 25 cents off each item. 

Publix tends to be more expensive than Kroger I've found, so I only buy sale items with coupons and some produce.  Check out Southern Savers for this weeks Publix ad and coupon match ups, and video tutorials teaching you how to coupon. 

I spent $26 out of pocket for $98 worth of product. That was a first for me. Here's what I got. I will admit not everything I bought was super healthy but there wasn't anything that was totally junk either. 

2 boxes L'oreal Hair Color - $3 each after sale and coupons. I was probably the most excited about this because I usually just go to CVS and buy it for $10 whenever I need to color my hair. (I just realized now anyone who reads this will know I color my hair....)

12 cans Hunts diced tomatoes-  35 cents each after sale and coupons. I make lots of pasta sauce so we go through lots of canned tomatoes. 

2, 28 oz cans Muir Glen organic tomatoes- 41 cents each.

1 can Publix organic tomatoes- FREE! Buy theirs (Muir Glen) get ours free promotion. 

2 cans Hunts pasta sauce - 9 cents each, I've never tried this stuff, but I'm thinking it will work great for homemade pizza. 

4 boxes Natural Valley Granola Bars. $1 each.

4 Boxes Crunchy Nut Cereal - $1 each. Not 100% whole grain and definitely doesn't meet my standards for breakfast cereal. I normally don't buy things that don't meet my food standards but I was trying to get to $30 so I could use my $5/30 coupon. It's not full of chemicals and sugar but it's not all whole grain either and doesn't have much fiber or protein. 

2, 8 oz blocks Cabot Natural cheese.  $2 each, I love good cheese! My buy price for cheese is $2 for 8 oz or less. 

2 cans of wheat biscuits.  45 cents each. Not a health food for sure, I can't tell you the last time I bought canned biscuits. 

2 cantaloupes and 1 pound of oranges. 

These prices are my best guess from looking at my receipt and trying to remember which coupon I had for each item, I may be a bit off. 


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I didn't meal plan last week. We had Valentine's dinner out, then David had a bible study dinner and we had dinner at a friend's another night, so I just pulled a few things out of the freezer for the meals in between. I'm much more organized this week however!

I don't generally plan breakfast or lunch. For breakfast we have a wide variety of things, depending on what's I've made or bought that week. Milk, fruit, eggs, deviled eggs, sweet breads or muffins, homemade bread with honey or peanut butter, baked oatmeal, bagels, hot oatmeal, cottage cheese, granola and yogurt, and the occasional bowl of Kashi when I can find it on sale. There are lots of easy breakfast foods besides cold cereal that won't bust your budget or keep you in the kitchen all morning.


  • Chicken Parmesan, whole wheat spaghetti with homemade red sauce and broccoli. 
  • Chili, veggies, and cornbread
  • Homemade pizza, veggies. I'm working on getting all of my recipes on the site soon. For now check out Jessica's post on homemade pizza.
  • Date night out!
  • Roasted boneless pork chops with apples and veggies. 
Linked up to Meal Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie. 

Egyptian Lentil Soup

Egyptian Lentil Soup 

You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Part of learning to be a frugal cook is learning to alter recipes to fit what's in your cupboard and fridge. 

Serves 2-4 ( I found it made much more than that) 
1/4 cup butter or olive oil (feel free to use less)
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrot, sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup dried lentils
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Optional: 2-3 cups spinach, finely chopped and loosely packed (can also use cooked kale since it’s usually in season during the winter
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish
In a large saucepan melt butter. Add vegetables, garlic and bay leaf, sauté until vegetables are tender. Add lentils, chicken stock, tomato, pepper, and cumin to vegetable mixture. Pour enough water into saucepan to cover. Simmer until lentils are tender, approximately 30 minutes.
Add spinach (or kale) and salt, and cook on low for 5-10 minutes, until spinach has wilted.
Serve immediately and garnish with cheddar cheese. 
Serve with whole wheat bread or brown rice to make complete protein. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

No Fry Chicken Parmesan

I love this recipes because you don't have to fry the chicken before baking. One less step and much healthier!

Recipe by Jessica at Good Cheap Eats

Chicken Parmesan

1 cup buttermilk (substitute by adding 1 Tb vinegar or lemon juice to milk let set for 5 minutes)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (made from the heels of a loaf of bread)*
1/2 teaspoon each salt, dried basil, dried oregano*
nonstick cooking spray
2 cups heated spaghetti sauce
1 pound pasta, cooked according to package directions
grated Parmesan cheese
steamed broccoli

*If you have seasoned bread crumbs you can omit the salt, basil and oregano and substitute the seasoned bread crumbs in place of the plain bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 375°. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In shallow dish, combine buttermilk, garlic powder, and black pepper. Rinse chicken breasts and allow to marinade in buttermilk mixture. Meanwhile, combine bread crumbs, salt and spices. Dip chicken breasts in bread crumbs to coat. Place chicken breasts on baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes until coating is crisp and chicken is cooked through. Juices should run clear. Serve with pasta, pouring sauce over top and sprinkling with cheese. Serve broccoli on the side.

Freezer Marinades for Chicken

Sorry for the terrible font discrepancies, I can't seem to fix it. 
I try and cook enough meat for a large serving for David and I plus enough for leftover. Usually about 3 breasts or thighs in a freezer Ziploc bag and add a marinade. Freeze flat. Once frozen they can stay flat or be stacked vertically likes books to save space.
I pull one bag out and let defrost in the fridge for about two days and bake. For bone in breasts bake at 350 for 45 minutes. I turn the oven up to about 425 for boneless breasts and cook 20-30 minutes. I'm not the best at keeping track of how long things actually take to cook. The juices should run clear when the chicken is done.

Freezer-Friendly Marinated Chicken

Honey and Soy
3 whole frozen chicken breasts
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup liquid sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave)
1/4 cup soy sauce
Put chicken breasts and garlic clove in a freezer bag. Mix together sweetener and soy sauce and pour over chicken in the bag. Seal bag air-tight (use a straw to remove extra air, if necessary). Stick in the freezer (or you can cook immediately).
To cook: Thaw on the counter top for a few hours or in the refrigerator overnight. Cook in the crockpot on high for 3-4 hours or in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

Serve over rice, if desired. May also chop and add steamed veggies and serve over rice. Makes 3-4 servings.

The following marinades are enough for about six pieces of chicken. It makes enough for three meals for us.

Asian: Life as Mom
6 Tablespoons rice vinegar

3 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 cup oil

1 Tablespoon sesame oil

Spicy Southwest (Blend in food processor or blender):Life as Mom

1 tomato, quartered

1/2 onion, cut into chunks

1/4 jalapeno pepper

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 Tablespoon lime juice

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Dijon: Life as Mom

1/3 cup Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup oil

Friday, February 18, 2011

Toilet Paper Price

A few months ago I ran across an article explaining the buy price for toilet paper. At the bottom of each package there is a total square foot amount. Take you price (after coupon if you have one) and divide by the total square footage and if it's below $.01/ square foot then it's a good price!

For more money saving ideas check out Frugal Friday at Money Saving Mom.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Managing Laundry

My housekeeping habits have changed dramatically since college, including the way I wash and manage laundry. In college I would do a load and more than half the time I would leave the clothes in the basket for days getting wrinkled and stale. I quickly realized I couldn't managed a home's laundry with this sloppy method!

Now I have a basket for each person, and one for white rags and dish towels and am committed to always doing a load from start to finish. Whenever my or David's basket is nearly full I run a load of clothes, dry and fold/hang them up in the same day. Otherwise I end up needing to iron and I hate ironing. Laundry isn't as an arduous task now for several reasons.

Number one, I keep each person's laundry separate. This prevents me from going back and forth hanging up and putting away clothes in different dressers once the laundry is done. 

Two, I only use cold water to wash our clothes thus eliminating the need to sort darks and whites. This is also better for your clothes, and helps slow color fading. I do wash rags and dish towels with bleach and warm water. 

Thirdly, I don't sit down and fold a basket of laundry. Once I pull the laundry out of the dryer, I simply take it to whichever closet it belongs in. Since our house is 80 years old, we only have two rather small closets in the entire house. I have a closet and dresser in our room and David has an armoire in our room and a small closet in the study. I stand there and hang up clothes and quickly fold t-shirts and socks. I grab some extra hangers for any clothes that need to go in the study closet and hang then up when I'm done in our room. Life's too short to fold underwear and so it goes in a bin in the dresser. I can hang, fold and be done with a whole basket in 5 minutes if I move quickly. 

A few more laundry tips. While I can usually get a bottle of All detergent for about $1 with sale and coupons, I still like to stretch my detergent. I use about 2/3 to 1/2 the recommend amount and my clothes smell just fine. You can also cut dryer sheets in half to make the box last longer. I have not tried line drying yet, partially because it seems very time consuming and I'm not convinced it saves very much money with as few loads I do a week. 

I have noticed our dryer is rather slow and read that dryer sheets can leave an invisible film on the lint trap, causing it to not catch lint as efficiently. Supposedly you can wash the lint trap with soap and water to remove the film. I'll have to try this out later tonight and see if it makes a difference. 

How do you do laundry?

Check our more Works for Me Wednesday at We are that Family

Sunday, February 13, 2011


We traveled to North Georgia this weekend to celebrate Mamma Whaley's 100th Birthday. Here's a few of my favorite photos from Saturday.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Frugal Optometry

I had been putting off going to the optometrist for months, mostly because of the bill at the end of the visit. I also knew I needed several new boxes of contacts and a pair of glasses since I lost my glasses about three years ago. 

David said I could go ahead and spend the money so I did some comparison shopping. Prices for a contact lens eye exam ranged from $70-150! America's Best Contacts is just down the road from us and had the lowest price. After researching various offices on the Better Business Bureau's website I decided to take a chance with America's Best. They got a "C" rating but it was better than the "F" rating a few other stores had received and they were the cheapest.

Overall, I was very pleased with my experience at America's Best. The doctor was kind and prompt as was the staff. My only concern was that he didn't dilate my eyes and when I asked at the end he said he still could but of course I said no because I hate having my eyes dilated. Since I don't have any eye diseases, I'm assuming he could still get a thorough exam without dilation.
Now here's the frugal part: The eye exam was $70 but for $100 you can join their "eye club" which gives you free exams and 10% off glasses and contacts for the next three years (including this exam). I was hesitant at first, since we will be moving after dental school, but they have locations all over the country. Four years of eye exams is $280, so I paid $100 for four eye exams! That's 64% off! Plus, they price match contacts so I can get my contacts cheaper than from 1-800-Contacts.

Check out Frugal Fridays at for more frugal tips and tricks.

Have a blessed weekend!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grocery Budget

I thought I had lowered our grocery budget to a nice frugal amount but I was recently challenged by what Crystal at Money Saving Mom had to say about your grocery budget. I've decided to cut the budget back another $40 this month while still eating healthy meals and keeping my husband full. Crystal has begun a video series entitled 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget that I found very informative. Coupons can be very helpful, however, many things I buy don't have coupons, such as meat, fresh produce, dairy and grains. Instead I shop the sale and know what my buy price for a given item is.

For example, I only buy boneless skinless chicken breasts when they are $1.99 a pound or cheaper (although I've never seen them cheaper here). I will buy enough to last us until the next sale and chicken goes on sale quite frequently.

Cooking from scratch is another way to save money at the grocery store without using coupons. Taking the time to make it myself is almost always cheaper and healthier! Check out Good Cheap Eats for how to stock a frugal pantry.

Happy Shopping!

Happy Birthday David

Happy 24th Birthday to my dear husband, David! He is a wonderful man of God who loves the Lord and me with all his heart and I am incredibly blessed to be married to him.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Valentine's Day Wreath

I don't normally decorate for Valentine's Day but I was sick with the stomach virus last weekend and decided to pass the time making this rosette wreath from Our Best Bites Blog.  I ventured out to Jo Ann's Saturday night. I was still feeling pretty awful but I had to get out of the house!

I bought felt by the yard instead of in sheets 

Swirls cut out to be shaped into rosettes

I was mindlessly watch Hulu while doing this

I hung mine on the inside of our front door

Menu Plan Monday

I haven't been consistent with menu planning lately so I thought joining others for Menu Plan Monday  might give me a little motivation. Here's what we're eating for dinner this week

Monday - Mexican Junk. An Ensley family favorite I've never made or eaten before.
Tuesday - David's birthday
Wednesday - Lasagna casserole. I made two this weekend and froze them. Pull out two days before and defrost in fridge.
Thursday - Sticky Chicken, Spanish rice (already cooked in freezer) and veggies. A whole chicken in the crock pot, falling off the bone delicious by the end of the day.
Friday- Sloppy Joes and steamed veggies. Also made these this weekend and froze them in muffin tins.
Saturday- Mamma Whaley's 100th Birthday
Sunday - Roasted pork loin and veggies.

I'm terrible at coming up with sides. We generally eat whatever frozen vegetables I have on hand, a whole grain such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta and maybe some whole wheat bread.

Lilly at the Dog Park

We are blessed to live about five minutes from a great dog park and have enjoyed taking Lilly there the past few weeks. 

Lilly loves riding in the car

Mastiff puppy Lilly played with

A friend's super fat English Bulldog, Jake 

Freezer Cooking and Meal Planning

I absolutely love to cook. What I do not like however, is coming home at 5 pm, opening my fridge and wondering what to make and then spending the subsequent hour in my kitchen preparing dinner. I’m moody anyways and I’m not always in the mood to cook. Menu planning and freezer cooking, also called Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) or batch cooking, has really revolutionized my grocery budget and the way I make meals.
I first came across this idea six to eight months ago while browsing blogs. Jessica at Life As Mom has many fantastic resources for learning how to meal plan and freezer cook. I don’t do a marathon weekend of cooking partially because it’s exhausting and partially because I don’t have a chest freezer, just the freezer above my fridge. 
When the freezer starts to get low or when we run out of marina sauce I will start cooking whenever I have time and am in the mood. I might make a big pot of pasta sauce one night and that's it. After it's cooled off, I pour two cup portions into quart sized freezer bags and freeze flat. Once they're frozen I stack them vertically like books. I've found this to be very space efficient. Another helpful and time saving practice is to buy ground beef in the big packages when on sale ($1.99/lb is my buy price) and cook it all up at once. I will do two pounds of plain, 2 pounds of taco meat and 1 pound of sloppy joes.
You don’t have to love casseroles (I don’t) or eat processed, canned food to prepare simple, frugal and healthy meals for your family. Here are some things currently in my freezer. Granted there’s only two of us (David eats for three though)

I haven't quite finished up from this weekend's cooking. The muffin tin has sloppy joes that need to go into a bag. The pyrex dishes contain lasagna casseroles that need to be moved to a bag as well. 

  • mariana sauce with meat
  • marina sauce
  • diced onions
  • cooked brown rice
  • spanish brown rice
  • season taco meat
  • lasagna
  • lasagna casserole
  • shredded chicken meat
  • plain cooked ground beef
  • enchiladas
  • sloppy Joes
  • chicken breast in marinade

In the coming weeks, I will begin posting recipes for these dinners and more. Thanks for reading my first post!