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Wednesday, August 31, 2011


This, this, THIS is the cookbook that I have been looking for in our life!

I remember my aunt showing this to me years ago and I read through it but must not have been in the mindset to let things sink in. I was smart enough to put this book on my wanted list at:
Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.
That was over three years ago and I finally became #1 on the list (out of 800 people waiting for it!) and received it in the mail today. I have been reading it all day and know that this is going to help change our diet and eating habits! Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is "The cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats". I wanted to put it out there because so far this is by far the most interesting cookbook that I have run across and has the neatest information on what to eat, how to prepare it, and why we should eat it. Just a heads up for those of you who may want to purchase the book yourself and follow along with me, as I plan to highlight many of the recipes in the upcoming months. This is a cookbook that you have to have!

Artfully Done

Art: their favorite subject in school.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feeding a Family of 5 for $75 Weekly

Yesterday's post asked you to leave any questions about my budget or your own. I'm answering one today and will continue to answer the others throughout the month of September, so feel free to continue to add your own questions to the list.

Anonymous said:

How on earth do you only spend $300 a month on groceries for a family of 5? I'm impressed!

My grocery budget is roughly $75 a week. Sometimes I go over and sometimes I go under, which means that it does average out to about $300 a month. While the price of groceries does depend on the area where you live, the type of food that you eat, and the meals that your family likes - it is the best area in your budget to save some money. Just cutting your food budget by $25 weekly will save you $100 a month!

First and foremost: make a menu and a detailed shopping list. You have to know what you are buying before you walk into the store in order to stick to your budget.

Stock up on great sale prices. When something is a loss leader, on clearance, or just a spectacular sale which you know you won't see for quite some time, stock up! These are the weeks that I spend a bit more on groceries but it evens out in the long run when I can pull these items out in later weeks to use for meals. One recent example is Hebrew National hot dogs. I'm not a huge fan of hot dogs but since my kids like them I compromise and buy the "higher quality" hot dogs. Super Target one day had the 24 packs of Hebrew National hot dogs on sale for $4.99, typically $9.99. I stocked up on a couple packages and stuck them in the freezer. If it's something you typically buy and it's at a price you've never seen it at before...buy as much as you think you will use before the expiration date.

Use coupons. I've fallen off the coupon wagon as I no longer purchase a newspaper so have no source for coupon inserts. Yet, company Facebook promotions are everywhere and it is so simple to sign up for free coupons. I keep track of where to sign up at Hip2Save and get many free food and beauty coupons or samples this way.

For an example of my shopping, I am giving you a picture of this week's grocery trip and my menu. Be aware that my menu is paired down to my easy and quick meals this week as I am preparing for a garage sale at the end of the week and therefore chose things that would be quick to prepare once home from the long sale day, or something that my husband can cook. I only plan out our suppers. Breakfast is always something simple such as cereal, toast, oatmeal, pancakes, cocoa wheats, or even just a yogurt parfait. Lunches are leftovers, sandwiches, pasta, cheese and crackers, and other easy and simple foods. I don't feel the need to plan these and fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to breakfast and lunch. Lately it's been a lot of tomato sandwiches, sliced peppers, sliced cucumbers, and mixed fruit.

Menu for the week:

Roast chicken, potatoes, and vegetable

Hot dogs, potato salad

Pepperoni rolls, salad

hamburgers, corn, baked beans

Tuna on toast, vegetables

Beef Stroganoff, homemade rolls

spaghetti, garlic bread, vegetable

The vegetables listed are frozen, canned, or most recently - fresh from our garden. Fresh or canned fruit is added to our meals, along with a glass of milk. We often have popcorn later in the evening for a snack.

With this menu in mind, I went to the store and bought:

(The orange juice, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, and Dannon drinkable yogurt was all free with coupons.) I spent $64.45. This includes ingredients to make several desserts, kitty litter, and dishwasher detergent. That leaves me with $10 left for the week to buy milk, which I get at a different store in town which sells non-homogenized milk.

That is how I feed a family of five for $75 a week. Any questions?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cutting Back

This year I haven't had much time to think about saving money. My grocery store trips haven't always been well planned, laziness (or is it tiredness?) has made me more apt to use the dryer, get take out, or buy something new rather than wait and look for it used. I knew it was more imperative to my own mental sanity to let some things go and not focus on frugality as I had much more important things to focus on. Besides, I wasn't going into debt because of these new habits so it wasn't hurting us.

Just this month our phone bill went up, I've noticed prices at the grocery stores continuing to rise, and even clothing prices have been steadily increasing. Then Ben got word from work that due to cut backs he will not be on call every other weekend any longer. That was an extra $100 each month for us, and while that may not sound like a lot, it equals out to $1,200 yearly, or roughly 4 months worth of groceries for us. Yes, that $100 a month will be felt. With rising prices of everything around us, and a lowering of income, things will need to be changed.

It won't be the end of the world but it will be a necessity that I cut back that $100 from the budget. It's true that we are already down to somewhat of the bare minimum...no cable, pre-paid cellphones with no contract, no cable, no car loans, no credit cards but there is always room to improve.

Which means my Frugal Friday posts will be back with some more helpful hints and I'm thinking of bringing back my Budget Challenge. And I'll gladly answer any questions about my budget, or ways for you to cut your budget, if you want to leave your question in the comment section or e-mail it to me. Because with the economy in trouble and the country in enormous debt, the only thing we can take control of is our own financial issues. And that time to start is now!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy Day

We had a long day of tests, doctor appointments, and lots of waiting. Grandma and Grandpa watched Joe and Becca so Ben was able to go along with Jacob and I; moral support is HUGE when waiting for test results.

The test results show a clear scan!!! Praise the Lord - Jacob has reached the end of his treatment with scans coming back clean. We are thrilled!!!!! We spoke with a surgeon and he will be getting his port out within the next couple weeks.

I'll be honest, while it's the end of the treatment, it's not the end of the worry. Jacob will have scans every three months for the first two years and then every six months up to the five year mark. Thinking positive is the only way to go though and Jacob is so strong that I just know he beat this cancer. Cancer should fear us!

God has been so good to use throughout this trial and truly has shown us that when we aren't able to walk He will carry us. Our faith has strengthened because of this ordeal and while I can say that cancer is a curse, within it can be found blessings. No matter what, always look for the blessings which God bestows upon you! This is a happy day!

Family Fun

While I share photos of the fun
we had at a church festival
this past weekend,
I just wanted to ask again
for you to keep Jacob (and us) in your prayers
today as he goes for his end of treatment scans and tests.

I'll update later!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't Forget!

If you are a homeschooling family with grades in K-6th, don't forget to sign up for the Pizza Hut Book-It program! You have until September 1st to do so.

While my kids enjoy reading and don't need an incentive...it is nice to have a little reward once in awhile. It also means a meal that mommy doesn't have to cook! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunny Schooltime

I remember one of the worst things about starting back to school was being cooped up in a building on those beautiful end of summer days. And we've had plenty of those types of days recently.

One of the pros of homeschooling is being able to adjust our day to the things around us. Snow days? Never heard of them! Vacation to Disney coming up? Double up on work the week before so you don't fall behind! Beautiful weather? Take your classes outside.
We took our science books outside yesterday; what better place to learn about science than in the beautiful outdoors?! We have been seeing (and hearing) Cicadas a lot recently so we learned about them. We also learned about two of the five senses: smelling and tasting. Science has always been one of my favorite subjects so I love making the subject interesting and learning new things along with the kids.
We will be heading back to the library today to get this weeks Science books. The rain just stopped and the skies are clearing, so we just may be having another outdoor lesson today!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Beary Tired

Joe gave up taking regular daily naps a long time ago. Even he knows when he has reached his limit though, and there are days when he is tired enough that he will succumb to a nap.

This summer he has gotten into the habit of wanting to wear his bear suit (from Halloween last year) when feeling tired. He brings the suit to me to dress him in, then finds the oddest places to fall asleep. Sometimes it's in the playroom, other times it is at the bottom of the steps. One day it was laying near the front door and today it happened to be underneath the table near the door.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a headless bear body sticking out from underneath the table. Kids are funny and strange. I'll take what I can get; a nap is a nap, after all.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Update, Update, Update!!!

Jacob had his very last chemo yesterday. He also had another blood transfusion, as his hemoglobin was down to 7.3. But from here on out I hope to watch his little body get stronger and stronger every day. He should be able to stop the G-CSF shots soon. His hair will be starting to grow back, along with his eyebrows and eyelashes. His color should be returning. I can't wait to see that healthy boy emerge once again!

Next Friday (the 26th) Jacob has an ECHO and CT scan. If all looks good (please pray for that!) than he will meet with the surgeons about getting his port out. Then he will have check-ups every three months for the first two years.

We just found out on Thursday that Jacob's wish has been granted through Make-A-Wish, which means we will be heading to Disney World in October! The kids have never been on an airplane or on a week long vacation, or anywhere near as fun as Disney so I am looking forward to them just being able to enjoy life and be kids again - all together after a nine month roller coaster ride.

This is where we are at now. It feels good.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Brothers and sister playing together...
Older sister helping younger brothers...

Dirty faces after a day of hard playing...

Children using their imaginations for building bird nests and eggs...

Jacob's last day for chemo...


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Poppin' Up a Healthy Snack

Several years ago we used to eat microwave popcorn on a regular basis. I then heard about all the chemicals and additives in microwave popcorn and stopped buying it, except for when my husband would put it in the cart.

We had switched to a hot air popper but never enjoyed it as much as the microwave popcorn. Hot air popped pop corn is healthier, but it is also dry and in order to make it taste buttery you must pour quite a bit of butter on top, thus making the popcorn somewhat soggy and a lot less healthy for you.

Then, I heard about the Whirley-Pop. It is an old fashioned type popcorn popper which is a pan for the stove top with a lid equipped with a turning lever which scoops the seeds at the bottom so they don't burn. It takes longer to make popcorn (about 10 minutes) but tastes amazing and is healthy for you. We eat this as a snack often and everyone in the family loves it - we equate it to tasting much like movie theater popcorn - but healthy movie theater popcorn! It also saves you money in the long run as it is cheaper than buying microwaveable popcorn.
The one thing I have found is that oil for popping is not created equal. I have tried vegetable oil and it was not good. I have tried olive oil and it was a bit of an improvement but not by much. A fellow homeschooler mentioned Safflower oil so we tried that - BINGO - it is the perfect oil for flavoring the popcorn. It is a bit more expensive (about $7 per bottle) but you only need a little for each pot full of popcorn and we aren't even half way through the bottle after months of making popcorn. This is the golden ticket oil for popping popcorn. I've also heard about using coconut oil to make it more of a sweet popcorn; I will be trying that soon.
It can get annoying standing at the stove turning the lever for close to 10 minutes but luckily the handle is long enough that I feel comfortable letting Becca or Jacob take turns, which they love to do, so I am able to wipe down the kitchen counters or prep other food while they help make the popcorn.

For us it requires no special seasonings or spices, we like it with just a sprinkle of salt.

I know that General stores (such as Lehmans) carry this popper. I bought mine on Amazon though and found it to be one of the cheapest prices.

(I was not paid, nor asked, to do a review of this popper. We just love it so much and wanted to share!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hitting the Books...

Another school year is upon us! The school district starts so early here and we always start when the school district does, so guess what you will find us doing today? First day of school!

Becca is in 2nd grade, Jacob in 1st, and Joe is doing some pre-school work. It's an adventure, that's for sure!

When does your school year start? Do your children go to Public, Private, or Homeschool? What grades are they in? What is the biggest pro and the biggest con for the education route that you have chosen?

Monday, August 15, 2011

How To Use Up That Garden Produce...

We have been eating a lot of tacos, BLT's, cucumber salads, and plain tomato sandwiches in order to make the most of the bounty from our garden. August is such a hot month (except for this past week which has been in the 70's and perfect) that the perfect food is something fresh and light.

I wanted to change it up and bit so came up with a healthy pizza using the odds and ends of produce that we had around the place. I started with some flatbread and added a handful of spinach leaves. I then sprinkled that with chopped onions and peppers. Next went the slices of tomato which was then sprinkled with chucks of fresh mozzarella cheese.
I baked this in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes. The smell while cooking was divine and my mouth watered as I pulled it out of the oven.
This will become a new summertime staple in our house! I may have to try it on the grill next time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


With only 4 entries on the Spectrum Essentials free coupon, the odds of winning were good! Random.org drew #3 which was:
Elizabeth said...

My new favorite love is peppers. I have never really liked them, but my daughter does so we grew some this year and I can not stop eating them.

Please e-mail me at babys_mama1 "at" yahoo . com with your address and I'll get it sent out!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Frugal Friday

Jacob and I are hanging out in the hospital library as we wait for the pager to go off to tell us that his blood is ready. He has his second to last out-patient chemo today but his blood counts show his Hemoglobin is down to 6.5 so he will be needing a blood transfusion as well. That takes two hours once the blood has arrived so we will be spending a good part of our day here at the hospital. Otherwise, he is doing great and has been spending much of his time outdoors this week with the arrival of this wonderful weather. He gained a little weight, even, so that is great news! He is up to 44.6 lbs. , which is small for a 6 year old but back to where he was last December when being diagnosed (without the 2 lb. tumor in him). His little body is amazingly strong!

With all that said...it's Frugal Friday time again! With the economy in such an uncertain time it is a time when we should all be aware of our own money and how we spend it. I've heard people complain about "not being able to get by" and yet they will balk at some suggestions on how to save money. Some won't use coupons because they say they don't have the time. Some won't hang out their laundry because they feel that is for poor people. Some won't drive a used car because it is beneath them. It made me wonder about my own readers. Whether you read my blog to get updates on Jacob or to read frugal hints or to see pictures of my adorable kids is unknown to me. But, is there anything that you would not do in order to save money? What is one money saving tip that you have heard that you feel you would never resort to? Is there something that would save you money but is so far fetched that you would never consider it? I'd love to hear it and the reasons for it!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sneak Peak

The past two days have been sneak peaks into the cooler days of Autumn.
Days spent mainly outside. Blue skies. Soft breezes. Lovely.

The cooler weather also makes my new hobby much more bearable.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Wash?

If I had hoped to save money gardening this year I think I may have failed. We needed to redo the raised beds as the lumber we had used before was rotting. We spent $30 on untreated cedar boards just to replace the old wood. I did not grow any plants from seed this year (except for the cucumber plants which I sewed directly into the soil) so I also ended up spending about $15 on plants.

That was all good as I thought that I would be saving hundreds of dollars in produce. I have grown gardens every year that we have lived in this house and while we have had our successes and our failures I expected a pretty nice haul this year.

With a cool wet spring and a hot dry summer the garden has not fared well. Most of my tomato plants got the blight or wilt and just shriveled up and died. The ones that are left are only producing a handful of tomatoes on each plant, except for the cherry tomatoes which are, in fact, doing well. We had one tomato plant which I was keeping an eye on. It was growing one (yes, just one) tomato...but it was a whopper of a tomato! We could see that giant tomato turning redder by the day. Finally, it had reached the point where it was ripe and I told the kids we would pick it for supper. Not more than three hours later, Jacob and I went out to pick it and half of it was bitten or pecked open! We missed out on that one tomato that the plant produced! That, my friends, is the luck that I have had with my gardening this year.

That's not to say that it has been a complete bust. While the tomato plants aren't doing well, we have had a few stragglers left behind - enough to eat some tomato sliced a few times a week with our meals, or to put on our tacos like we did tonight. I'm hoping we will have a few more later this week when I plan to make BLT's.

The cucumbers started off with a bang but then the horrendous dry spell and heat wave descended upon us and the plants seemed to wither and die, even with the extra watering we gave them. Now we are lucky to find a couple a week and those are odd shaped, though yummy tasting yet! The only real success from the garden has been my rhubarb (which just won't stop!) along with the pepper plants. I planted 4 bell peppers and 4 gypsy peppers and they are doing fabulously! We like them best warm from the sun, sliced up, with salt sprinkled on top. What a delicious treat they are! I've eaten several green ones but now we are leaving several more to turn red for us. While I still think the gardening this year has cost us more than we saved...maybe I'm wrong. After all, red peppers sell for about $2.50 each here when not on sale...so 20 peppers later I've already broken even.

It does make you wonder how the pioneers did it - depending completely on their gardens to feed them fresh vegetables and fruit all summer and putting it up for winter. A year like this would have made them cry.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How To Help During An Illness

As Jacob nears the end of his treatment I can't help but recall all the help that we received during this long journey. Help that truly lifted a burden from our shoulders and helped us focus on the most important thing: helping Jacob get better. I also can't help but remember the times before that I heard of someone being sick and wanting to help but not knowing what to do. I now know exactly what makes a difference during a trying time and I wanted to pass along a few tips for those of you who know of someone who is sick or going through a difficult time. This does not relate to those just with cancer, but also anyone facing frequent trips to the hospital, surgery, or a lengthy recovery. This is not just for those who have children with an illness...adults with illnesses need support as well and often don't get as much as they could use. So with that said, these are all ideas of ways to help greatly and make a difference in the life of someone who is sick.

*Money. While it may seem like such an impersonal gift it is one of the most needed at a time like this. Instead of focusing on bills and trying to make ends meet your gift of money can literally lift that weight off of some one's shoulders and help them focus instead on healing. Not only are there bills to be paid while dealing with an illness but the money can be put towards meals at the hospital, meals on the go, gas, prescriptions, babysitting, housecleaning, and a whole host of other issues that this person/family now has to deal with.

*Food. It is a life saver!! Whether it is a mother trying to deal with her sick child or an adult not feeling well because of their illness, the last thing anyone wants to think about is preparing three meals a day. Home cooked food is like a warm hug when your plate is full of responsibilities. Even if you are too busy to cook a meal, just dropping off anything that is edible is a lifesaver. Cans of soup, frozen pizzas, peanut butter and jelly. It is the thought that counts and every piece of edible food is greatly appreciated. I can attest to the fact that the last thing you want to be doing while dealing with an illness (especially a newly diagnosed illness) is making meal plans and shopping. There were times when I walked through the supermarket in a daze only to realize once home that I didn't buy anything worth making into a meal. We had the cooks at Ben's work sending him containers full of food almost every single day for the first several weeks. We had a woman from Jacob's Tae Kwon Do organize everyone to fill our freezer with frozen casseroles and food...several times. A neighbor brought complete homemade meals to us on busy days - there is nothing like homemade vegetable soup and brownies for Valentine's Day or Steak, potatoes, and a cherry pie on President's Day! :) Even a gift card to a local take-out joint is a welcome gift.

*Gas cards. Unless you live close to the hospital, there is a lot of driving involved with an illness. Whether it is a preemie having to stay at the hospital or a little boy needing radiation daily...the gas adds up. Gift cards for gas are an incredible help. Gift cards to grocery stores and Wal-mart or Target are also helpful. All of the household necessities still need to be purchased and having a gift card helps lift the burden.

*Cleaning. If you know the family fairly well or feel comfortable with them...pitching in around the house is a God send. What helped me the most at times was coming home to a completely clean house, thanks to my mom and a local homeschooled girl. I did not need another thing to decide on or another list to make - they didn't ask what needed to be done...they just did it. Some people won't want people in their house touching their things, other people will be hesitant asking for help or admitting that they need it. If you sense that someone can use the help...insist on it...as long as you feel they will be okay in the end with you touching their things and being in their house. My mom cleaned while I was gone at appointments with Jacob - I don't think I would have wanted people around while I was home. Just washing a few loads of laundry and folding it, or getting the kitchen cleaned can be a tremendous help for someone who is too tired to do it themselves.

*Gifts. Children need gifts, in my opinion, to feel like people remember them and to feel special during a time like this. Adults need it too. Whether it is a warm pair of fuzzy socks or a brand new toy, it is a special surprise that reminds them that they are special. It also helps to remind any siblings or children that they are special too, as they may feel neglected when the sick person is getting all of the attention. I can not stress enough how important it is to remember the siblings of a sick child or the children of a sick parent at this time; they too are dealing with incredible stress and changes and need the support of people around them as well. Care takers always appreciate a bottle of bubble bath or chocolates to remind them, too, to relax and take care of themselves.

*Cards and letters. This is one of the most important things in the life of a sick person (or family of a sick person). Cards and letters just reminding them that they are thought of. A reminder that they are remembered as they go through this journey. Especially as the illness drags on - help often stops and people return to their lives as you are still in the trenches. Those letters and cards mean the world to you on some days! A cheerful note or colorful card waiting for you in the mailbox can make your day. All it costs is a stamp so anyone can do this...a weekly or monthly card is an easy way to make the journey a little less bumpy.

*Phone calls. Keep them short but just remind the person that you are thinking of them and wanted to check up on them. Do not burden them with your problems when you call...let them know that you are calling them because they have been on your mind.

*Visits. The days during an illness are weird. There are times when you don't want to see another soul or have to deal with entertaining someone. Then there are times when you are lonely and need to purge your thoughts or just speak to another human. Gauge how a person is feeling and play it by ear. At the beginning dropping off a meal in less than a minute is a good idea. Later on someone may be up for a visit. Give them an opening to send you away such as "I just wanted to drop this off...I won't keep you" and see how they respond. Don't take it personally if you feel someone isn't up to your company at the time - dealing with something like this is completely exhausting at times and lots of times they aren't up for the company - it's nothing against you. Other times you will find that people crave company and the support it brings. Be sensitive to what they are projecting and go with the flow.

Support, support, support. That is what anyone going through an illness needs. The ideas up above are ways to show your support. I remember each and everything that people did for us - and the blessings abounded. It makes you feel not alone in a journey that can be extremely isolating. I, literally, can not thank everyone enough for the support that we were given so I hope to spend the rest of my life paying it forward to others who find themselves in similar situations. I didn't know what to do before to help others...I do now. I hope you do too.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chia, anyone?

Remember when I wrote about chia seed being one of my new found favorite foods? I'm still loving it and eating it every morning!

Spectrum was kind enough to send a coupon for one lucky reader for ANY Spectrum Essentials Product, up to $9.99. Here is your chance to try chia seed, or use it for some flax oil or whatever may fit your mood at the time.
Leave a comment below telling me one of your new favorite food loves. Winner will drawn on Saturday, the 13th.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hot Enough...

...to fry an egg on the sidewalk. I've heard that expression often and we decided to put it to the test.

We've had over three weeks of stifling heat, many days breaking a record. We took advantage of one of the 100 degree days (with a heat index of 115 degrees).
The kids were poised, waiting for the word to crack their eggs.
The funny thing is that within minutes it did start to cook. Not fry, exactly, but turned into a glob of cooked yellow yolk, whereas the white seemed to disappear. So as a matter of fact, you can cook an egg on the sidewalk. Just ask our dog, who enjoyed three cooked eggs off the sidewalk that day.

Thankfully, this coming week it sounds like we will have a bit of a cold front sweep through, and may even see temperatures in the 70's again! What a blessed relief that will be.

Jacob and I are off to the hospital today. His counts are good and we will be spending the night for his last hospital chemo stay. The next two Fridays will be spent receiving out-patient chemo and then he will be done with chemo!!!! Just in time for school to start! I can't tell you how exciting it is to see the light at the end of the tunnel! He's also having an ECHO done today of his heart (this is done periodically throughout the chemo treatments) so prayers that the results are good again, please!


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