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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Frugal February

Image: http://www.thewannabeathlete.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/frugalfeb.jpeg

Borrowing this moniker from Pru http://prudentspending.blogspot.com/ as I close out January in great shape, and move to February. The weather has turned frequently stormy, which I can work around, with eating down the pantry, which is very common for me, this time of year. While there is PLENTY of food still on hand, I am noticing some significant reductions and space is opeing up. I only have one cabinet (besides the tea/coffee cabinet) where I keep dry goods, including snacks, in the kitchen. I've refused to buy more until the older stuff is gone. This is a good thing, IMO.



All of the bills are paid, I anticipate no extra expenses this upcoming month, just the usual ones, which I budget for. In an effort to pinch back a bit until I receive monies owed to me, I'm trying to significantly reduce my grocery expenditure this next month, save essentials, and an unbelievable bargain. In 2 weeks, I'll be off work for February break, but will not be traveling. Instead, medical appointments, taxes, decluttering of clothing and :stuff," and some sewing will keep me out of trouble. Staying home will also translate into reduced gasoline expense, not that mine is high anyway, as I drive a hybrid car. Still, I'll take what I can get.

Menus are set http://ctonabudget.blogspot.com/2015/01/february-2015-menus.html , I will review them and add to the ongoing grocery list on the fridge, as needed. When I create my menus, it's with the principal of incorporating food stuffs already on hand, with minimal additional ingredients required, except for the usual staples that are constantly replenished.

How are you approaching the new month?

Bulk cooking

I like to keep a very watchful eye on my refrigerator contents. What is on hand, what needs to be used up before it spoils, what is lingering such as a more non perishable item like a condiment. Having recently done 2 quick top ups this week, our stapes are in good supply. We had run out of butter, eggs, stick margarine and were almost out of soft margarine, OJ, etc. A rummage through this afternoon, reminded me that I have amassed the ingredients needed to make lasagna. Last minute change of plans this weekend, translated into the youngest 2 remaining here vs going to Dad's. A good opportunity to work on the lasagna it seemed.
 For those curious, here's the door side of the fridge with multiple jars of condiments, jams, spices and on the bottom shelf, OJ, chocolate syrup, a container of generic "koolaid."
This was also an opportunity to rid the pantry of some ingredients, including 2 boxes of no bake lasagna noodles that I buy at Dollar Tree. $1/box for American made pasta-an awesome deal. I also needed to make a quick sauce. I grabbed the 2 lurking cans of crash n burn tomato paste, added some water, spices, beef bouillon and 1/4 of a lb of hot Italian sausage that I browned off first; then I let this simmer while I mixed the ricotta-cottage cheese and spinach (used 2 cans that I drained)filling. I finished the open wedge of Parmesan and the fzn baggie of home shredded, deli end Provolone. I have about 8 one lb blocks of Mozzarella that I recently got at an awesome price. Some were 99 cents, some were $1.99. Still even cheaper than the $2.79/lb deli ends.
3 lasagnas: 2 metal trays are now frozen assets, the glass Pyrex was served to "the kids" who consumed the entire thing, along with a tossed salad. I don't eat lasagna, so I grabbed the lurking frozen burger patty, a frozen lurking hamburger bun and some frozen asset Calico beans for my dinner.

I had planned on working late, but got "the phone call"

Image: http://www.wikihow.com/images/e/e3/Fake-a-Cell-Phone-Call-Step-12.jpg

Staying late at work yesterday to catch up, it has been a crazy week: one early dismissal, one snow day, 2 delayed openings and we're bracing for more storms, including one on Monday that looks like another Nor'easter that will shut everything down. Plowing through the work, making some great progress when I got the call, "Mom, I fell on some ice and I hurt my knee." Sigh. Ok, grabbed my stuff, got a call into the orthopedist's office, and headed home. I left instructions with kidlet to change into loose sleep pants, elevate the leg, put an ice pack on it.

Got home, looked at knee-not good. OK, still no call back from the knee specialist, so I called the appointment line and asked for whatever appointment they may have, as it's obvious that minimally he needs to see an orthopedist, get Xrays, an most likely, a RX for a MRI. He was given a pair of crutches.

Ended up seeing my orthopedist (hand/shoulder), and he agrees that it's a serious injury. May be the MCL (let's hope) or the ACL-that may require surgery. Now it's just about closing time, so naturally the imaging center has already moved the phone to the call center. So, I get a copy of the RX for the MRI, the secretary faxes it over to the imaging center, and I call this morning, hoping to get in. No luck, they are booked. We do have a 7:45 for next Tues (Mon is the storm day), and hopefully they won't have a delay and postpone us as I have just put in (done on line) for a personal day Tues. To take a personal day and not use it-not a plan.

Leaving the orthopedist at 6 p.m. meant dinner plans had changed. Kids will be with me now, for the weekend. Just a few leftovers won't cut it, and everyone (all 6) will be looking for dinner. We don't have any bread (making some today) so not even sandwiches or eggs on toast. We stopped at Aldi's (kidlet waiting in car) and I went in for 3 take and bake pizzas, and 2 jugs milk (impending storm, kids now here this weekend instead of at Dad's), $23.14 out the door. Far cheaper than take out pizza, so I am ok with this plan B.

The good news is DS inherited my pain tolerance, he's fairly comfortable on the squishly Den couch, leg up on some pillows placed on the ottoman, ice pack in place. No OTC pain meds requested. Fine. Additionally, none of these medical charges (orthopedist, Xrays, crutches) nor any of the upcoming charges (MRI, surgery?, PT?, follow up visit with a different orthopedist who specializes in knees) will incur any financial obligation on our end, as we've hit our deductible. Financially speaking, it's a wonderful position to be in.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday: a family favorite

Normally, I plan a vegetarian dish for Thursdays for health as well as family finances. Another aspect of watching my pennies, however, is avoiding food waste, which is why tonight's dinner menu is being tweaked a bit.

http://ctonabudget.blogspot.com/2011/02/mac-and-cheese-recipe.html




I tossed in some extra ham slices from the other morning (originally Christmas ham that I sliced and froze)that I cubed up.



 Side is a nice big tossed salad of organic Romaine, the rest of the organic CSA dilly beans, 1/2 of a cucumber, some grape tomatoes, some sliced purple onion, some sliced CA black olives. There will be a choice of dressings to serve on top.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A quick top up on some basics

Iage: http://personal-finance.thefuntimesguide.com/images/blogs/aldi-grocery-store.jpg

This afternoon found me back in the city, so I took advantage of my proximity, and ran into Dollar tree for some items, finding the shelves very picked over. I bought 2 pkgs each of sunflower seeds and batteries.

Next door, is Aldi's where I bought: 2 gallons milk, 4 doz eggs @ $1.55, 2 lbs butter, 1 lb stick margarine, 1 tub soft margarine, celery, 2 lbs bacon, 2 qts 1/2 and 1/2, 2 cnas fzn OJ, 2 bottles juice, 2 blocks sharp Cheddar, 4 cans mushrooms, steak sauce, vanilla ice cfream 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, 2 bags choc chips, 2 bags tortilla chips.  $53.76 debit card.

We're anticipating a storm Thurs into Fri and again Sun into Mon. This is New England, after all!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Some rental woes

Image: http://lgcdn.220-electronics.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/w/h/whirlpool-as2626gegw-fridge-220-volts.jpg

We were very fortunate to have had all new appliances installed (exception being the washer and dryer which we were told were barely used and would be replaced if anything happened)just prior to our tenancy. Of concern is that the right side, refrigerator door makes a loud "pop" or "cracking" noise, only when it's about to be shut. No noise while opening, just while closing. From what I've researched on line, it may be a simple hinge part that needs to be replaced.

Image: http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Projects/FH02OCT_WAVALE_01.JPG

A while back, I noted that the wooden shelving over that cellar oil tank had what appeared to be water stain marks on them. I store my extra cleaning supplies there, tools, that sort of thing. I assumed that the water marks dated to sometime during which the landlord resided here. I noted what appeared to be fresh, damp stains in the same particular spot. I placed a rag down, returned later, and the rag was naturally damp-but where was this coming from? It appears that a faucet valve fitting, much like the one pictured, but part of the boiler system that carries water to the living room baseboard heaters is a bit moist, dripping? overflowing as there is a pressure release component? I don't know, it's not my area of expertise. I do know that the LL also had extensive work done on the heating sytem, and it is under warrenty. She told me that she didn't bother with a service plan as she has a 1 year (or more?) warrenty. The company would come out and fix whatever issue developed. This value seems to only sporadically drip, but should be addressed, IMO.

 These things are coming in threes: the dishwasher is on the fritz as well! Twicw a code has appeared after running only a few minutes and the initial rinse goes thru and drains. According to the manual the LL left behind, this code means that it's not draining properly. It does drain below the kitchen sink, which gurgles whenever even just the sink is used. Was it installed properly? is something clogged? So, I emptied a completely full dishwasher and set to washing it all by hand. I had purchased an extra large, draining mat when we moved here as the corner sink configeration makes it hard to set up a dish drainer. I find, however, even with the little that we hand wash (prior to the DW breaking down), the mat is always wet and hold the moisture. Sigh. So back down cellar I went . .
 retrieving my old, plastic dish drainer and plastic board underneath. A much better set up, the dishes dry quickly. The kids are all on KP duty to wash anything they use. My hands really require that I use a dish washer, due to my OT issues, but also because of my eczyma which really flares come Winter. I use Playtex living gloves as a result when I do what I'll call marathon washing. I've got to discipline myself to use them even if just washing a cup. My skin will thank me. I recently developed a hole in the right glove of my blue pair. No worries, I saved the "good" glove from a prior pink pair, and I worked with 2 different colored gloves for a while, until the pink one also developed a hole. These gloves are not inexpensive, so I try to get them on sale, and sometimes I can use a coupon as well.
I wanted to contact the LL on Sunday, when I discovered the DW issue, but knowing the forecast of a blizzard would severely impact getting anyone out here, I've held out on contacting her, but will do so tomorrow. I need to see the kid's work hours to figure out when someone willbe home, in case they want to come while I am at work. I don'e expect the LL to be happy when I call, but I know that the valve should be covered, and I assume (no idea how this works) that the 6 month old appliances would have some sort of a warrenty. I do know that they were purchased through a small, independently run, family appliance shop in the city. I hope that they stand behind these. If the DW problem ends up being a clog, that may be our responsibility, but honestly, I am very careful and treat this rental as if it were my own. Anyone have experience with basically new appliances breaking down?

This week's Sunday supper, and what's been cooking otherwise






Looks like  I forgot to share this past Sunday's supper menu: a Crock Pot pork stew with my last 2 stalks of celery, potatoes, my last baby Bella mushrooms, the rest of the recently cobbled together gravy (mix of pork, chicken, turkey that I used over a vegetarian, Shepardess pie), a pkg of fzn pearl onions in cream sauce, Penzey's Bavarian spice, black pepper, a Bay leaf, and the last 30 minutes of cooking: 1/2  a bag of fzn organic peas. Came out sooo good!


 Since supper was all set, I started to bake in anticipation of the upcoming (current) work week. I am using what is on hand, so this guides my choices. First up: a mixed berry crisp (fzn blackberries/blueberries/raspberries, additional fzn organic blueberries, the rest of the fresh strawberries that were a bit long in the tooth. Smelled so good.
 A batch of Magic Cookie bars, but I substituted 1/2 of a bag of dark chocolate M & M's for the chocolate chips that I am out of.
A strawberry-rhubarb pie using fzn organic rhubarb and fzn berries. Smelled awesome while baking!
 We were all sent home early Monday, due to the impending blizzard. Early that morning, I got a Crock Pot out again, making a batch of beef-kidney bean-black bean chilli. House smelled so good when I got home.  Tuesday found me at home as well, so choice of leftovers was offered. I had the rest of the cobbled together, canned soup for another day. I had mixed a can of Progresso macaroni and bean with a can of condensed bean and bacon soup from Aldi's. I mostly keep "cooking soups" on the pantry shelves, perhaps an emergency sick person can of chicken rice, and these 2 aforementioned cans were lingering. Good to use those up. Crackers served on the side. Speaking of crackers, someone* likes to open a sleeve of crackers and return it to the box. Next visit to this same box, they grab a "fresh" sleeve of crackers. @@ Not happy with this practice. So, I've combined all of the opened sleeves into a clear, plastic, gallon sized baggie. I now have one with just saltines, and another with an assortment of crackers: veggie, whole wheat etc. Need to use all of these up before I purchase any more.
 The Magic Cookie bars were gone very quickly. Since I was home, I made both a box of brownies as well as a second batch of the aforementioned Magic cookie bars, using up the last of my pecans from SC relatives, turning to purchased (geez! those ARE expensive!) walnuts from Aldi's. I used some crushed graham crackers up, as well as my last 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk.
 Today (Tuesday) found us all home, due to the state wide, travel ban so breakfast found me pan frying some frozen ham slices, and making a double batch of scratch, buttermilk pancakes, using up the rest of my buttermilk in the process. Lunch was  as assortment of leftovers, with me polishing off the soup referenced above, the twins finished the chilli. Supper was a large dish of hamburger and macaroni, substituting a lb's worth of hot Italian sausage for the ground beef (I found a marked down deal recently and froze the sausage so we're eating a lot of that at the moment). Fed 6 again, with a leftovers container for my lunch tomorrow.
 A large tossed salad of organic Romaine, cabbage, grape tomatoes, red onion, sliced black olives (to stretch them further rather than using whole olives), organic dilly beans from our CSA. Choice of dressings including homemade Italian vinaigrette, Newman's own raspberry vinaigrette, homemade HV ranch (DS #1 finished that tonight, but I made my last envelope of it aftersupper, replenishing the ranch dressing jar), a bottle of Kraft Dijon Ranch dressing. I am very much focused on using what we have, making substitutions, using what is on hand. No real grocery shopping recently, beyond milk.
We were down to a few remaining slices of Aldi's Rye, so I made 2, 2 lb loaves of potato bread, finishing off the remaing, gifted to us, potatoe flakes that were stored in a huge, plastic tub that originally held pretzels. I've recycled that container, as I much prefer storing food in glass. I still have my large coffee can sized, metal container of Idaohan potato flakes that is still full. We were gifted approx. 8 large boxes of instant potato flakes a few years back, so I am glad to see that these are almost gone. Good for a back up, when in a rush, for casseroles, baking as I did today. I much prefer to use fresh potatoes, if possible.