Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY - Want Some Mushrooms for Dinner???


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

KITCHEN TIP TUESDAY - Keepin' it Clean & Keepin' it Real

I have a small kitchen. I love to cook. My kids love to cook. My kids love to eat. A lot. I even used to sell a decorated cake or two from my kitchen. (If you work for the IRS, please disregard this remark.)

Did I mention that I have a small kitchen??

My small kitchen leads me to my big tip of the day. KEEP IT CLEAN, SISTA!

I struggle in this area, as I have more dishes than counterspace sometimes. What has helped me is that crazy Flylady. (See the link in my sidebar.) I have learned to unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning, after I am done getting dressed. I have learned to fill a sink with soapy water when I'm cooking so that I can wash as I go. I have learned to make sure I have a shiny sink at night before I go to bed. All these things make life in the kitchen good.

Here's my dry and shiny sink. And no, I did NOT remove all the stuff before snapping the shot!!

Now to keep it real, I'll tell you that I don't always succeed with Miss Flylady's instructions. That's okay. I figure that having an empty dishwasher, a soapy-water sink, and a shiny sink before bed 4 or 5 days out of 7 is a complete success! But when I do keep it clean and shiny, cooking is sooooo much easier!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Here's what's cookin' this week:

Monday - Peanut butter on toast, chocolate milk
Tuesday - Cinnamon Oatmeal with apple chunks, milk
Wednesday - Bean & cheese tacos, milk
Thursday - Scrambled eggs & toast, milk
Friday - Peanut butter on toast, chocolate milk
Saturday - Cinnamon rolls, bacon, fruit, milk
Sunday - Sausage 'n gravy, homemade biscuits, fresh fruit

Monday - Left over pizza, yogurt, apples
Tuesday - Deli Ham Sandwiches, brownies, carrot sticks, chips
Wednesday - Peanut Butter & Honey sandwiches, apples, brownies
Thursday - Mac 'n cheese with sliced franks, pudding cups, sliced cucumbers
Friday - Deli Ham Sandwiches, snickerdoodle cookies, carrot sticks, chips

Monday - Sausage kolaches, Salad, ice cream for dessert
Tuesday - Beans with bacon and cheese topping, homemade tortillas, fruit cup
Wednesday - Taco Soup with tostadas
Thursday - Slow Cooker Orange Chicken over steamed rice, green beans w/ fried onion topping
Friday - Family Fridge Buffet! (ada, leftover night)
Saturday - Day at Fiesta Texas! Every year we go to China Sea to pig out at the buffet after hanging out at the park all day.
Sunday - Sunday Chicken Casserole, peas & carrots, rolls


Next Sunday, October 26, will be a mini freezer-cooking day. We'll work on the Make-a-Menu system again. Join me as we do a "chicken session" and cook up some $1.29 chicken breasts into Sunday Chicken Casserole, 2 pans of Chicken Enchiladas, Stuffed Shells, and my Almost Famous Chicken Patties.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I have an announcement to make:
Don't clip any coupons until you're ready to use the coupons!

I've been clipping coupons for at least 20 years, and I've used all sorts of methods. My favorite method used to be clip, sort, file, tote entire file to store... It works, but it requires too much time spent in the store.

I've come up with the world's easiest form of coupon use: AND YOU WON'T CLIP THE COUPON UNTIL YOU'RE READY TO USE TO USE THE COUPON!

But, you ask... "How will I know if I have the coupon that's needed, when it's needed? And once I finally determine that I need a particular coupon, how I you locate it if I haven't clipped, sorted, and filed?"

Well, let me break it down for you:


Buy yourself a plastic accordian file like this one:

This one came from The Container Store, but they have them at office supply stores and discount stores like Wal Mart and Target.

It came with stick-on labels. When you set yours up, be sure to use the "month" labels.

Keep the coupon intact, just the way you pull them out of the newspaper. Using a marker, label the front of the coupons with the date and type. For example I write "ss" for Smart Source and "rp" for Red Plum.

File the coupons in chronolical order, behind the appropriate month tab.

File your local grocery store flyer in the front pocket.

** Go to
Coupon Mom and register for free.
** Click on the "coupon database" link, located on the left side of the page, in the sidebar.
** Enter your username and password.
** On the next page, Click on "coupon database". It's about the 4th choice on the list.

At this point you can do one of two things:
1. Print the entire database, staple it together, and insert it front of your file.
2. Bookmark this page/site. You will use it in the next step each time you shop.

Grab a cold drink, cup of coffee, or tea. Make sure you have scissors. You're gonna clip! Basically, you will cross reference your store sales flyer and your shopping list with the database list. Sounds complicated, but it's actually very easy, as you will see.

I'm going to teach by example:

At our Super S, Ziplock Bags are on sale this week for .75 off. I'd like to maximize this sale, especially since Super S doubles coupons! At the website, I typed in "ziplock" in the search window. Ziplock brand bags popped up, and I discovered that a coupon was in the Smart Source flyer on 10/12 (last Sunday.)

I went immediately to the "October" section of my file, pulled out the Smart Source flyer that I had marked with the date, found the coupon & clipped.


To make staying organized even easier, make a chart for all your coupon finds before you start pulling out flyers and clipping. That way you'll only pull out each flyer once, instead of going back and forth.

For example, I would pull out a sheet of paper, draw several columns then cross it with several rows so I get a checkboard. Since the database listed the Ziplock coupons being in the 10/12 Smart Source flyer, I would write 10/12 SS in one column. Underneath that date I would write "Ziplock - .75/1" In the other squares, I would write the dates and names of coupons as I find them. If I found another coupon for that date listed, I would write it down in the corresponding square.

When I'm done looking my coupons up, I need only use my chart to pull flyers and clip coupons. I'll pull each flyer only once, even though I'm looking for several coupons for several stores.

Once you follow the steps to do this, it won't seem so complicated.

Although my system is EASY, it does require a little time investment, but not as much time that's required if you were to clip ALL coupons, sort, file, and then search through piles of paper scraps for the ONE that you want. And The best thing is the payoff. It is absolutely fabulous! You save TONS by matching coupons to sales.

If you try this out, please post a comment to let me know how it goes!


I received this surprise award today from Through Thick and Thin. Go over there and look at her pics. Some super soothing pictures of the Cape Cod area. How relaxing! (Thanks for the award!!)

Part of accepting the award is:

* Displaying the awardlinking back to the person who gave it to you

* Paying it forward & nominating 7 blogs
* Adding links to those seven blogs
* Leaving comments on their blog telling them you gave them an award
* Enjoying the award

Today I pass this award on to:

Teresa at Mexican American Border Cooking. Stop by today to learn how to make Pepitas!

Tina at Mommy's Kitchen. She has some fabulous kid-tested meals to share. Also, the meals are tested on really cute kids!!

Please read Donna's post regarding Michigan's Food Stamp Challenge at her site, The Helpful Homemaker. This idea just amazes me. I'll do a similar post soon, after I discover what the State of Texas allows per person per day.

Linda at Short Pump Preppy is so funny. Hop on over for a laugh!

Simple Mom is hosting "12 Weekly Projects for a More Peaceful Season".

Patrice is the editor of a blog called Spiritual Woman Thoughts. She's a freelance writer and always has something to say that will encourage you.

Milehimama is raising 7 kids. Yes, I said 7!! How does she do it?? Stop by her blog and take a look!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Okay the title of this post just makes me giggle for two reasons. First of all, we all know that kids are like puppies and kittens. They can never truly be tamed and organized. Second, I am not the queen of organization... I'm just your average working mom, trying to stay on top of daily chaos and clutter.

Keeping kids organized can be a huge struggle, especially when both parents work full time! There are a few things you can do to keep your busy kids organized. The truth is, you'll probably always be behind the 8-ball if they are involved in a variety of activities, and no system is fail-proof, but at least you can say you tried!

Here's what we do at our house. (Okay - we intend on doing this, we try to do this, for the most part we do this... and sometimes we're just flying by the seat of our pants!!)

* Assignment books must come out of the backpack first thing when we get home. Homework comes next. This is when I sign papers, etc.

* Soccer items stay in a soccer bag, cheerleading items in the cheer bag, etc. Just grab a bag and go.

* Children can write events on a family calendar and younger kids can give you papers with important dates. My kids know that if it doesn't go on the calendar, it doesn't exist. It's their job to make sure it gets to the calendar.

* Do it all the night before: pack a lunch (mine pack their own lunch), get the backpack ready and set by the door, choose clothes and accessories (from head to toes!).

* I keep a binder for all the important papers that come into the house. When I file papers right away, then I'm be able to my your hands on it quickly when I need to! Of course, as much as I try, the paper monster occassionally rears its ugly head!

* Clothes must go INTO the dirty clothes hamper in order to make it into the washing machine. Favorite jeans and tops can stay on the floor forever, as far as I'm concerned, but they cannot be worn if they're dirty. Amazingly, the favorite jeans end up in the hamper, just as I've asked.

Finally to make your own organizational system work, just stick to the basics:

1) Develop a routine, and stick to a it as much as possible.
2) Have a place for everything. Everything goes in its place, or it goes in the trash.

We parents have to stay on top of this and give our little disorganized mushy-brained kids a zillion nudges a day. By keeping some sort of organization system we can prevent a little frustration for everyone!

Friday, October 17, 2008


"Yay!!! Yipee!! The cold front is here!!!" Okay - it's not really a "cold" front... maybe we can call it a "cool" front. So, I'll just start over right here:

"Yay!!! Yipee!! The cool front is here!!!" Alright - so it's not even really a "cool" front. Let's just agree to call it a "not so hot as hell that it makes you wish you could wear shorts to work even though it would freak out your coworkers and all the students" front. So, here it goes:

"Yay!!! Yipee!! The "not so hot as hell that it makes you wish you could wear shorts to work even though it would freak out your coworkers and all the students" front is here!!!"

Why do I get excited about cooler air, you ask? Well, the a/c is costing me a small fortune! My September electricity bill was a whopping $450.00. I almost fainted twice ~ once when I looked at the bill and another time when I wrote the check!

Then came October. We were turning off lights, using the toaster oven instead of the oven, hanging jeans on the line, had raised the household temp to 80 degrees during the day, and generally doing whatever we could to reduce the bill. The bill had only gone down to $400.00. I almost fainted only once this time, as my head was still numb from the September bill.

Here lately, since it has cooled off just a bit, I added something new to my attempt to reduce the electrical bill: I've been turning off the a/c during the day when we're at work and kids are at school. Normally, I wouldn't do this since I've heard that by turning off the system you just cause it to work twice as hard at the end of the day when your house is heated up like a convection oven on high. But since it has been slightly not-as-hot lately, I've been turning it off at 7:00 a.m. and turning it back on around 5:30 p.m.

I have even considered not turning the a/c on at all and just flinging opening up the windows to enjoy the cooler, fresh air, but if you've ever had a dog trap a skunk under your bedroom window at 2 a.m., and if you've ever woken up to the stench of skunk all throughout your house, then you'd know why I don't sleep with the windows open. Peeeeewwwww!!! The air just doesn't smell so "fresh"!

Let's see what the November bill looks like when it arrives in a couple of weeks.

We could be sleeping with the skunks soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Blogs are awesome! So many people know so much, and they’re willing to share their knowledge with anyone who will take a minute to read their blog. I’ve learned so much from the fabulous people who hang out in The Land of Blog. THANKS!!!!

We did our part for the community on Sunday afternoon ~ we watered our lawn. Of course, that means that we single-handedly brought on the drought-breaking rain we enjoyed this week!

We bought a “new to us” Explorer in May. We had waited a long time to replace the old minivan. I’m so glad we did that when we did. The timing was just right.

I’ve complained in the past that my house was too small, furniture outdated, carpet needs replacing, etc. Well, as I look around, I’m just glad that we have a nice home to live in. We have more than most, and we have everything we need. Thank you, Lord.

I’ve received GREAT training over the past 20 years in how to make 50-cents look like a dollar! I’m so grateful that this is part of the way I shop. It is recession-proofing my grocery budget!

A good menu, combined with awesome coupon shopping, totally saves my budget! In addition, the menu saves so much time and frustration! I can’t remember the last time we ordered a pizza or ran through the fast-foodie lane. Going out to dinner is an event, and is fun because it’s not every day!

I work for an alternative school, so my job is somewhat recession proof. As long as kids continue to misbehave, I will have a job. Sad, isn’t it?

The more time I spend with kids who misbehave, the more I appreciate the kind of people my kids are becoming. One of my girls has a beautifully gentle spirit and is always paying attention to who needs help so that she can be the first to step in. My oldest daughter (by 5 minutes!) is highly spirited and is always ready to stand up for what she believes in. She has a strong nature, and a deep sense of justice. Of course, I can’t take credit for these characteristics. It’s part of their GIFT. I’m so proud of them.

When money’s tight, it could be easy to get upset with each other about how much money is spent and why money is spent. I’m so blessed that we are on the same page!


I can’t imagine going through anything, difficult or easy, fun or unenjoyable, positive or negative, without hope and faith! The Lord offers peace and comfort, rest and rejuvenation.
He is so good!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Spotneck the Goat


Hey, you... Yes, you... You've been gifted, did you know that? I have been too!

I've been reading "The Cure for the Common Life" by Max Lucado. Actually, this is the second time I've read it. The first time I read it, I sort of just skimmed and looked for the high points. I quickly got the point of the book, and I hurriedly answered the questions on the first section of self-discovery. Then I put the book and my notes away.

When I first read this book, I connected with the news that I am gifted. Cool! I discovered what I've always known about myself... I'm creative, and I like to make things, and I like to plan things, and I like to make up things that are new, and I like to get others excited about doing new things too. While I've always known these facts about myself, I didn't know I had received a GIFT.

If I'd known I'd received a GIFT, I'd have been a little more appreciative. I'd have used the GIFT more. I'd have tried to show the Gift Giver how much the GIFT means to me and how much the Gift Giver means to me.

Since I'm reading this book for the second time, I'm also working on the second section of study. It's quite an eye-opener! I've learned that my GIFT should never have been hidden away or kept to myself. Not only do I not really get to enjoy the gift, but I also insult the Gift Giver who picked out this GIFT especially for me, even before I was a twinkle in my Mama's eye.

So what should I do now? I still have this GIFT. I've unwrapped it and used it in private many times. I didn't tell anyone who gave me the gift, and I don't think I ever said "Thank You" to the infinitely generous Gift Giver for giving it to me.

Well, I think it's time to play with my GIFT. But this time I won't use it in private, instead I'll remember to invite others to play with me! And I'll definitely remember to say an appreciative "Thank You" each and every day to the Gift Giver. (I'm so glad that the Gift Giver loves me enough to forgive me for forgetting to say "Thanks".)

Lastly, I won't worry about whether or not I think I'm equipped to have the GIFT. I won't hide when I use it out of fear that someone won't like it or will judge how I use it, I'll just take a risk and use it wherever I'm at!

So what about you? Like I said, you received a GIFT too. What'd ya get? And what are you doin' with it? It's time to go out and show it off and tell everyone Who gave it to you!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hello Again!

Well, hello old friends!! I'm sorry I haven't posted in such a loooonnnnggg time, but this busy life of working mom to two tweenagers just has seemed to leave me no extra time! I thank the good Lord for my menu... It has SAVED me over the past 2 months!

What has captured so much of my time lately, you ask? I have been driving and driving and driving. I have waited at soccer fields and church parking lots. The calendar is BURSTING, life is GOOD, and here is the Fall line-up:

* FFA - Goats arrived in late August. Our girls, the Tweenkies (okay - they are twins and they are tweens. I'm being clever and corny and dorky all at once!), work with their animals daily and they have already participated in their first all-day prospect show of the year. Tweenkie #1 came in 4th place, and Tweenkie #2 came in 3rd place. I'll post pictures of Spotneck and Buddy soon!

* Soccer - WOW! All our games are at 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays. Practices are on Mondays and Thursdays. Those games, though, are WAY too early!!! I need a nap!

* Pep Squad - The Tweenkies are having so much with Wednesday afternoon practices and Thursday football games. They get to ride the bus to out of town games and cheer at the games, and the fact that they have grown old enough to do this just takes my breath away. Where has the time gone?? ((Sigh))

* CCD - The CCD year is off to a running start and Tweenkies have lessons every Wednesday night.

* Youth Group - My friend, Red, and I have started a Junior High Youth Group at our church. We had a blast at our first meeting! The group named their group the "J'Town Saints". They are too cute!

This crazy life is so awesome! I wouldn't trade it for the world. It is a blessing to be able to share all the excitement and thrills that my girls are experiencing as they grow up.

So what about that Make-a-Menu stuff, you ask? Well, I'm still at it, and what a life saver (AND A MONEY SAVER!!!) it has been!!!

Here's the line-up for this week:

Sunday - Pan sausage & scrambled egg breakfast tacos, juice & milk
Monday - Peanut butter on toast, chocolate milk
Tuesday - Cinnamon Oatmeal with apple chunks, milk
Wednesday - Bean & cheese tacos, milk
Thursday - Scrambled eggs & toast, milk
Friday - Peanut butter on toast, chocolate milk
Saturday - Fried eggs, bacon, fruit, biscuits, milk

Monday - Left over pizza, yogurt, apples
Tuesday - Deli Ham Sandwiches, brownies, carrot sticks, chips
Wednesday - Peanut Butter & Honey sandwiches, apples, brownies
Thursday - Mac 'n cheese with sliced franks, pudding cups, sliced cucumbers
Friday - Deli Ham Sandwiches, snickerdoodle cookies, carrot sticks, chips

Sunday - Savory stroganoff-style beef stew over steamed wild rice mix, peas, asparagus, rolls, Grandma's cheesecake
Monday - Beans with bacon and cheese topping, cornbread, fruit cup
Tuesday - Pancakes, sausage, applesauce, scrambled eggs
Wednesday - Crockpot roast chicken, homemade mac 'n cheese, garden salad, garlic toast
Thursday - Family Fridge Buffet! (aka, leftover night)
Friday - Chalupas, fruit cup
Saturday - Kids go to Nana's, Mom and Dad go on a date!!!

Now that I've got my blogger hat back on, I promise more Make-A-Menu lessons real soon! We'll be entering the world of using the FREEZER for our menu planning. Stay tuned!!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

END OF MONTH TO-DO - Working on your notebook

Wow, where did the month go??!! Well now that it's over and you've finished with the month's menu calendar, DON'T throw it away! Take it, three-hole-punch it, and put it behing the My Menus tab section of your Make-a-Menu notebook. You might want to refer back to it sometime to review a recipe, you might want to remember what worked and what didn't work, or you might want to bronze and polish it to a shine!

Monday, July 28, 2008


Want to challenge yourself to save a buck and help another family all at the same time? Then head over to Be Centsable. The girls over there also have a great workshop if you are new to saving and couponing. Remember the story about my friend Red... Believe me, clipping coupons in the parking lot and having them blow out the window isn't the most organized method!

My challenge this week will be to stay under $50.00 for all household and grocery expenses. I will have to be creative! I am well stocked on lots of items, so my needs are very few. The challenge will be to walk away from a deal unless it's totally awesome. I'm so impulsive when it comes to good deals!

I'll post my results at the end of the week.

If you're going to join the challenge, please post to let me know!

MENU MAKING - What's on Sale? Time to fill our Make-a-Menu Calendars...

What "main ingredient" (meat, cheese, etc.) is on sale at your local grocery store this week? I notice that my HEB sales flyer lists Tyson Chicken Breast Tenders for $1.99/lb. and HEB Chicken Thighs Sesasoned Fajitas Value Pack for $1.49/pound. They also list pork tenderloin for $2.99/lb., and even though I don't like to pay more than $2.50/lb. for meat, I'll buy one.

So, my Menu Making Friends, what do I do with this bit of sales information? Drumroll, please...

STEP #1: Check out the Make-a-Menu Notebook's Family Favorites List. I notice that my gang loves the following:

* Oven-Fried Chicken Fingers
* Crocked Saucy Chicken with noodles
* Chicken Cordon Bleu (from a computer cookbook)

The Chicken Fingers recipe is already in my "chicken" section, but the other recipes aren't. I quickly print the Chicken Cordon Blue and write out the Saucy Chicken recipe on a blank sheet. Then I add the recipes to the "chicken" section. (Wow! My cookbook of family favorites is really starting to grow!)

STEP #2: Jot the ingredients for all recipes. I'd like to put a couple recipes of each in the freezer, so I'll be sure to write down the correct amounts on my shopping list.

STEP #3: Jot the recipes on my Make-a-Menu Calendar, remembering not to serve the same meal twice in one week. I really like to wait two weeks between serving the same meal. Even if it is a favorite, they don't want too much of it! I notice that I'm already printing out a September calendar!

STEP #4: Plan to prep the chicken after I shop. I'll shop tomorrow. When I get home, two packages of chicken tenders will go straight to the freezer for the Saucy Chicken. I'll use two more packages of tenders to prepare easy Chicken Cordon Blue and flash freeze. On Thursday, I'll prepare 3 recipes of Oven-Fried Chicken Fingers. I'll serve one recipe for dinner and freeze the rest.

Keep trying and you will get the hang of planning, shopping, and cooking this way. Soon enough your menu will be planned, your freezer will be full, your wallet will be fatter, your evenings will be easier, and you will experience No-Brainer Nirvana!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

MENU PLAN MONDAY - Is July almost over? Say it ain't so!!!

Is July really coming to an end?? Say it ain't so!!!! That means I only have two more weeks of summer left. Yep, it's back to work for me.

Looking back, it seems that the month of May just ticked by. Yes, it went t-i-c-k, t-i-c-k, t-i-c-k. Finally June arrived and by mid-month I was away from the office with the promise of summertime freedom and fun. Weeeeee!!!!! The third week of June was spent driving the girls an hour each way to art classes and packing for our week-long camping trip.

July has just seemed to float by. We camped, swam, slept late, went to more art classes, crafted, baked, played with friends, enjoyed some much needed rain, and even had a few moments of "I'm bored". And now it's almost over. "Oh, July... please slow down!"

August means back to work and back to school. It means I need to hurry up and finish remodeling the bathroom. (A project that I thought would just take a week and, well, just isn't!) August means it's time to shop for shoes and clothes and school supplies. August means that new FFA animals will arrive and we'll be rising early to feed them. August means training myself to get to bed on time and rise-and-shine early.

But for now it's still July. For now I will savor the last two lovely weeks of summer. For now my mantra will be "t-i-c-k, t-i-c-k, t-i-c-k".


The menu at our house for the last week of July is:

Sunday - Chuck roast with carrots, sticky white rice, green peas, brownies (Yes, this is last Friday's meal cooked today instead.)
Monday - tortilla soup, tortillas, lemonade
Tuesday - Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti, steamed fresh broccoli, garlic Texas toast, chocolate pie
Wednesday - Cowboy Ham Beans and cornbread
Thursday - Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders, corn-on-the-cob, mashed potatoes, cookies
Friday - Hot Dogs, left-over beans, tray of veggies and pickles, chips, ice cream
Saturday - Meatball calzones, salad

Blessings and have a great week!

~~Leslie, aka The Menu Maker Mom

Friday, July 25, 2008

FRUGAL FRIDAY - Looks like Play-Do, but isn't...

This is sooo easy that an 11-year old can do it!! In fact, an 11-year-old did do it! While she only made one color of play dough, it was the coolest blue play dough ever on the face of the planet. This recipe is softer than commercial play dough, smells better, and molds so much better. And you can make it in a jiffy!

Here's the recipe:
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
food coloring

Mix all the ingredients in a 1-1/2 quart saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, cook this over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until it forms a ball, stirring constantly.

Turn it out onto a cutting board or roulpat and let it sit for 5 minutes to cool.

Using a bit of flour, knead it until it is no longer sticky, but remains very soft.

Look! You've made play dough!
Now make something cool!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Wednesday night 7/23/08:
We're inland far enough to look forward to the rains that a Gulf of Mexico hurricane might bring yet not be frightened of the damage that a hurricane winds might bring. In the case of Dolly, we've been promised a good drenching for our parched land. In hopes of being touched by Dolly's arms and fingers (thank God we won't get her eye!), we even strapped down the trampoline. Finally, some dark clouds lined the eastern sky late this afternoon. We were getting all giddy and excited about the thought of puddles and mud. Things were looking promising, but... far we've only had a drop or two. And a few gusts of wind.



Thursday, 7/24/08 ~ 7:01 A.M

Woke up to rain and wind. "Good Morning, Dolly!"


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MAKE-A-MENU SAMPLE - The Rubber Chicken

Do you remember my post about the Pilgrim's Pride chicken that I purchased with my coupons? I bought 10 of them. Wow... That's a lot of birds! What does one do with that many cluckers? Well, you follow the steps to Make-a-Menu and make cooking a no brainer! (Or, should I say, a "bird-brainer"?) Okay - enough with the bad jokes...

Step #1:
I found 5 recipes on my Baby Step #1 Family Favorites list that use cooked chicken pieces as a main ingredient. I then made a page for each recipe by either printing out the recipe or making a copy. I put the pages behind the "chicken" section of my Make-a-Menu Notebook. Here are my 5 recipes:

* Almost Famous Chicken Patties (From The 30 Day Gourmet)
* Crispy Chicken Tacos
* Mom's Chicken and Rice Soup
* Ree's Chicken Spaghetti (from Confessions of a Pioneer Woman)
* Stuffed Shells (From The 30 Day Gourmet)

Step #2:
I then wrote those 5 recipes down on 5 different days of my calendar:
July 16 - Mom's Chicken and Rice Soup
July 24 - Almost Famous Chicken Patties
July 29 - Ree's Chicken Spaghetti
Aug 3 - Stuffed Shells
Aug 6 - Crispy Chicken Tacos on Aug 6

Step #3:
After I wrote these recipes down on my Make-a-Menu Calendar, I took a look at each recipe and jotted down any ingredients that I'll need on my grocery list.

Step #4:
Now comes the time to do a little prep work. It will pay off when I have a busy night!
The last thing I did was boil 3 of the chickens. After cooling and chilling overnight, I threw away the layer of chicken fat, and set aside 10 cups of chicken broth for freezing and using in the chicken spaghetti at a later time. Then I picked the meat from the bones (I HATE, HATE, HATE this part of the job!!) I packaged 4 bags with 2 cups of chicken each.

The remaining 2 cups of chicken and defatted broth was used to make the chicken soup that night. It was sooo yummy, and I had enough left over for the next day's lunch and to freeze 2 large containers of soup for two other meals, which I wrote on my calendar on August 4 and 25.

Let's review:
3 Chickens for around 3 bucks each so my budget will be preserved...
8 Meals each for 4+ people (my kids always have a guest, it seems!)...
My menu already made out so my sanity is saved...
Half the cooking done and in the freezer so my nerves won't be frazzled at dinnertime...

Those chickens stretched a loooonnnnngggg way. Don't ya just love a rubber chicken???!!

Monday, July 21, 2008


Here's what on the menu for this week:

Monday - Left over grilled venison sausage, funeral potatoes, spinach salad
Tuesday - Grilled marinated pork steaks, twice baked potatoes, garden salad
Wednesday - Pulled pork soft tacos with homemade salsa
Thursday - Almost famous chicken patties, cheesy potatoes, boiled peas and carrots
Friday - Crockpot chuck roast with carrots and potatoes, gravy, steamed green beans
Saturday - Sirloin & Shrimp Kabobs, Rice Pilaf, Steamed Broccoli, Watermelon Margaritas
Sunday - BBQ Beef Ribs, Boiled Squash, Sliced Tomatoes, Corn on the Cob, Pinto Beans


Quick notes on the Make-a-Menu plan:

1. Have you printed out a calendar for August? If not, be sure to do that soon. You should be filling it in as you grocery shop. Remember to make menu planning a no-brainer!

2. Are you checking your menu ever evening after you're finished with the dishes? Are you checking it again before you get your morning started? Again - by using your menu, you make cooking a no-brainer.

Obviously, the goal here is to use our brain as little as possible!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

TIME WELL SPENT - Making time for each of my daughters...

I love planning a little one-on-one time with each of my twin daughters. Now that they are in their tween years, I can sense when one or the other is feeling a little removed, a little moody, or a little bit of a "pair" and not occupying a special place in our family all of her own. This is when I like to plan a special project for us to work on together, just the two of us.

Well, Sam and I have spent some great quality time together lately, but it seems that Miss has been doing her own thing. I could feel the need for us to connect. Since both the girls adore any kind of craft making, I thought a good craft session is what was in order.

So off to the local Wal Mart went Miss and I to hang out at the fabric department and look at the pattern books. The plan was for her to pick out something that she could start the new school year with. I really thought she'd find a cute top to make...

Instead she chose this messenger bag.

And here's the fabric we picked up, along with finds from my stash: buttons, ribbon trim and an American flag patch. This fabric is sooo her personality! She's all spunk!

We still need to pick up red trim to bind the edges, and we'll go to the fabric store in San Antonio to purchase it this week since we'll be there for art classes anyway. I really wish that we had a fabric store in our small town, and I really wish that I was brave enough and had the money to open one myself, but that's for another post!

While we're at the fabric store, Sam will pick out her fabric too. She's so excited about making a messenger bag as well and has some awsome ideas about what will make a really cool bag for her books. She has been busy picking out buttons and looking at color combinations. She's really a very creative designer!

Both of my girls have already learned to do some basic hand sewing and machine sewing. Now it's time to learn how to use a pattern. I can't wait to work with them individually and spend some special mom-and-daughter time together before we get back into the busy routines of school and fall activities. (Seems like that's just 'round the corner!)

Friday, July 18, 2008


I am a consumer. I am frugal.

Can I honestly include those two statements on the same line and in the same paragraph? If I am a consumer, can I truly be frugal? Is frugality an ideal that I can never really reach because I will always be at odds with the polar opposite of frugality, which seems to be consumerism? Or, do I just accept the fact that true frugality might merely just be the personal management of consumerism.

To begin to answer my own question, maybe I should examine what I consume. I consume electricity, water, gas, television, wireless telephone, land-line telephone, internet service, food, vitamins, water, clothing, furniture, toiletries, household cleaners, shoes, medical services, public school services, and so much more. I continue to bring in new stuff at a discount, then either sell the old stuff at a garage sale or give it away. And most of the time the old stuff is in pretty good shape.

I’m not the only one. My neighbors are consumers. The people in my community are consumers. The thousands of folks who own the cars that I see lined up at the mall are consumers. You are a consumer too.

We are a nation in debt due to the funding of our habitual consuming. Most of us work hard at one or more jobs just to fund this machine. Sometimes we even do without sleep or quality family time so that will be able fund the desire or need to consume and collect more and more stuff.

We love to say we “need” a new couch or car or whatever. But how much of our consuming truly falls into the category of need? The folks at Wal Mart are so convinced that we believe we “need” the items in their store that they’ve stocked it to the roof with everything imaginable and cheap. They know that we’ll walk through the door and just HAVE to spend $19.98 on a neck warmer shaped like a cow. Can’t live without it. And it’ll take an hour on the job to earn the money to buy it, but that doesn’t ever enter our mind.

It amazes me that during this time of economic tightening us consumers haven’t really slowed down. We all talk about it. We all complain about the prices. We clip coupons and raise the thermostat and tell the kids to keep the doors shut ‘cause we’re not air-conditioning the world. Yet we still purchase all kinds of useless things, things that we have to sacrifice time and energy in order to bring it into our home. We buy things that we will sell for ten-cents-on-the-dollar at our next garage sale or just give away. This "stuff" is an ever-growing pile that causes us to stress over how to organize it and manage it. Some of us even build outbuilding to store it or rent storage units to house it. Sounds kind of crazy, huh?

When I think about it, it all seems so ridiculously silly and like a gigantic waste of time.

This makes me realize that I have been focusing all my frugal habits on a tiny area of my life. I clip the coupons. I cook from scratch. I conserve my gasoline. I keep my air conditioning turned up. I line dry most of the clothes.

But what else can I do? What else can you do? For example, is cable TV a necessity? Do we have to have a television in each room? When I replace my fridge, do I need a brand new one when I know there is someone out there who just bought one but now has to move and can't take it with them? What about that new pair of shoes or that new couch? And if we decide that we actually need something, is it better to spend more on quality or spend little on cheap?

The answers to these questions are not always clear cut. It’s not all black and white. It requires that we stop being a nation of impulse consumers of useless stuff and start thinking more clearly about the impact of our consumerism on our pocketbooks, our families, our communities, and our world.

The final question here is: How can I start to be more responsible and better steward of all that God has given me and my family? As far as I’m concerned, I know that when I truly start addressing this question, I’ll really be on the path to being truly frugal.

FRUGAL FRIDAY - Hot Air Ain't Cheap

Hi there! I'm sorry I haven't been around during the last week. Seems that around our house we've been in a dog-days-of-summer, spinning-our-wheels, being busy with a whole lot of nothin' kind of time warp!
Before we discuss the high cost of hot air, let me tell you about what we've been doing lately. The past week has been full of all kinds of frugal family activities! Here are just a couple of the things that have filled out time this week:

We've made bird houses...
painted pots and repotted plants...

Shopped for tennies and school supplies, and did our weekly coupon-bargain grocery shopping...

We played with our food!!...

We had the thrill of new kittens, visited friends and had friends visit us, and we've done a whole lot of other wonderfully mundane things!

In addition to these summertime activities, we have unfortunately been the victims of "The Horrible Unspeakable Invasion of the Slimy, Nasty, Hopping, Green Amphibious Creatures from the Murky Netherlands". More about that later...

Aaaahhhhh, don't you just love summer???


NOW... On to Frugal Friday and the fact that Hot Air Ain't Cheap...

Today our task is to clean this house - the place where we have been doing so many mundane and messy things! Of course on the top of the list (on top of every day's list!!) is to do a load of laundry. While I have never calculated how much the dryer costs, (I don't have time for that!) I do know is that jeans take a really long time to dry, and while the dryer is running the electrical meter is spinning faster and faster! And the faster it spins, the louder I hear "ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching"!

Believe it or not, it is so hot and dry out here in South Texas that a load of jeans can actually dry faster on the clothesline than in the dryer! The only items that I won't dry out on the line are towels and socks/underwear. I really like my towels to be fluffy and I guess I'm just too darn lazy to hang out all those little socks and underthingies.

So, in honor of Frugal Friday, and to save a little "ka-ching" on hot air I will... And no, I do not mean that I will stop talking!!!

Back to what I was saying... To save on hot air, I will hang the jeans on the line today!

Have an awesome and Frugal Friday!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

THURSDAY'S TOP TEN - Ten ways to save!

10. Take a camping vacation! An entire week of family vacation fun can be had for less than $400.00 in a nice RV park, and for even less in a state park! (including gas for transportation, food, overnight fees, and all the incidentals!)

9. Plant a square-foot garden. Read Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew from your library. It is the best gardening book out there!

8. Look for free and low cost entertainment in your city. Museums often have free or low-cost evenings, movies are discounted on certain days, picnics in the park don’t cost more than the gas to get there (you were going to eat anyway!), libraries, swimming in rivers or lakes… Don’t forget to plan weekend activities like family game nights. Enjoying life doesn’t have to be expensive!

7. Go to the bread thrift store! You can fill your freezer with a month’s worth of bread, English muffins, rolls, chips, fried pies, and other treats for about 10 bucks!!!

6. Start a gift box! I keep a box in a closet with lots of little bargains that I come across. When I need a gift for a friend, I go shopping in my closet! Sometimes, of course, when I find just the right thing for someone, I label it with their name so that I don’t accidentally give it to someone else.

5. Check out your land line phone bill. Do you really need call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, metro service, etc.? If you have a cell phone, as most of us do, you probably use it for most of your phone services. Consider reducing your selection of phone services to the very basic ones. Or maybe you can get rid of that land line phone all together!

4. Plan your errands! Gas is just too expensive these days! Choose a day to run errands, plan your best route that creates the least amount of backtracking, and make the most of your gas. Also, don’t forget that now is the time to discover how to buy the things you need locally instead of traveling to another community. This is really important for those of us who live in small towns! You’ll save a buck on gas and support a local business!

3. Share with others! What can you trade or share? You can share a movie that you’ve purchased, and you can borrow one too! You can share an evening together playing games. You can trade plant clippings to landscape your yard. You can trade babysitting services with other families. It’s possible that the economy will force us into being good neighbors towards each other and find new ways to entertain ourselves and shop for the things we need.

2. MAKE A MENU!!! What more can I say???

(drumroll please!....)

1. PLAN YOUR WORK AND WORK YOUR PLAN! It’s an old saying, but oh, so true. A little planning of your work and playtime will make it all work out! With a plan, life just "clicks"!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

ODE TO THE COUPON - Everyone is singing praises of coupons!

Heard this on NPR. Enjoy listening! "Coupons Make a Comeback Online"

KITCHEN TIP TUESDAY - Make a List, Check it Twice!

I’m a list maker. It’s a problem. Sometimes my lists have lists. Sometimes I need to include “checking a list” or “making a new list” on my daily To-Do list. It’s embarrassing. It's a sickness. Somebody help me, please.

Anyway, my most valuable Kitchen Tip is: Make a list… Check it twice!

Here are the lists that rule my life:
1. Grocery List – this is a check-off form that hangs on my fridge. It lists all the things we ordinarily use. When I run out of butter, I just put a check next to “butter”. The best thing is that the grocery list is arranged by department. When I’m at the grocery store, I check off the entire department on my list when I am done. That way I don’t forget anything. People look and stare, but I never forget the butter.

2. Menu – well, you know the story here.

3. Weekly To-Do List – Nothing fancy here. On Sunday, I open my spiral to a new page, list the days of the week with enough space beneath each to accommodate my To-Do’s, I get out my calendar, and I start listing. Each day, I love crossing things off as I accomplish them. Sometimes when I’ll realize that I've accomplished something that wasn’t on the list, I’ll add it, just so I can cross it off. Call me crazy.

4. Yearly To-Do Lists – These are major To-Do lists that really resemble goals. I make these lists at the beginning of the year. And no, they are not resolutions. They are things I’d like to do, hope to do, want to do, or need to do. Periodically I check out these lists and add them to my calendar, which will eventually end up on the weekly To-Do List. I call this system "Trickle-Down Home Economics". My husband calls this system "My Wife's a Nut".

5. Camping List – I never start loading my camper without looking at this list, which is stored on my computer. It lists everything that should be in the camper, and everything that I need to add at the last minute. It turns packing into a “no-brainer.”

6. Gift Lists – This has three parts: first I have a list of what I intend on giving, then I have a list of what I have in my Gift Box, finally I list what I gave people so that I won’t give the same gift to someone else or give it to them again. Now, this list does not guarantee that I'll give a gift on time. But, when I do give the gift I'll have it on the list!

7. Fun Stuff Wish List – I keep a list of places we’d like to go and events we’d like to participate in. I look at this periodically and add the info to my Calendar, which eventually ends up on the To-Do List. I call it "Trickle-Down Home Economics". This list usually leads to being awarded THE MAMA. (Most Awesome Mother Award)

Lots of lists, but it makes life so auto-pilot!

Do you have a system that absolutely makes your life work? Please share!

Monday, July 7, 2008


The week is off to a great start! Why, you might ask? Well, after arriving home from our vacation I had a filled out menu waiting on my fridge door, and all the ingredients in the fridge/freezer/pantry just waiting to be prepared. Ahhhh... the comforts of a well-made menu.

How are you doing with your menu? Stay tuned to this blog for the third segment on how to Make a Menu. It will be on this site next Monday!

On the menu this week:

Sunday (yesterday) - Hamburgers and all the fixin's at the home of BNL & his family. Ben (that's his wife - my SNL) is an awesome and old-fashioned cook.
Monday - Grilled cheese sandwiches, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, ramen soup. (Quick and easy... going to the matinee movie tonight!)
Tuesday - Spaghetti with meatballs, steamed broccoli, garlic toast. Pudding cups for dessert.
Wednesday - Super nachos made with refried beans, cheese, chicken, lettuce, tomato and guacamole. Yum!!!! Ole'!!! Ice cream for dessert.
Thursday - Boiled Polish sausage, German kraut, steamed rice, boiled English peas. It's a European extravaganza!! Brownies for dessert.
Friday - Fried catfish, baked potatoes, cabbage slaw, hushpuppies. Mississippi Mud Cake for dessert if the brownies are gone.
Saturday - It's date night! Kids can have frozen homemade pizza and ice cream floats.


Well, hello there! We're back from vacation, and boy do we need a vacation from our vacation! We're pooped from having so much fun. Last week was full of relaxing times and loads of laughter with great friends, old and new, and family. We "Tubed the Frio", played games, drank margaritas, cooked over a fire, drank wine, went to dances at Garner State Park, drank cold beer, watched catfish by snorkeling, drank pina coladas, swung off rope swings, took a break and drank cold iced tea, rode our bikes, drank mudslides, did a little shopping, and generally had a very busy time doing absolutely nothing. Ahhh, the good life...
Flying from a rope swing hung from the branches of an ancient Cypress and dropping into the cool, cool Frio is loads of fun! This is, of course, an activity for the young and under-100-pounds group. My 43-year-old arms don't quite hold my swinging body from a tiny rope too gracefully!

This huge rock was perfect for acting like a flying squirrel. Teenagers and grown-up teenagers took turns taking a flying leap into the air. Also, the fourth tree from the left had boards nailed into it to form a ladder. People climbed the ladder to top branches and flung themselves from 60 to 70-feet high into the air, plunging into the deep water below. I'm such a scaredy cat. I could imagine every accident possible. Several of us older folks were forced to drink lots of beer just to numb any preoccupations with death by tree jumping. Personally, I could barely watch! Of course, I let my daughters know that they were never ever to climb that tree, or any tree like it, or climb any rock, or leap like a flying squirrel off of any tall object, or do anything that involves making their body airborne. Never ever ever ever ever ever. Ever. Ever. Or else.

TUBIN' THE FRIO! The river was pretty low this year, as we haven't had too much rain. Still we found places to float. We're very dedicated tubers!!!!

Monday, June 30, 2008


We've been on vacation since Saturday! We're camping in our RV with good friends, and having so much fun floating down the cool, cool river!

Here's what we're dishin' up:

For breakfast:
M - Bacon, potato & egg tacos
Tu - Sausages and pancakes
W - Fried eggs, hash browns, bacon, & biscuits
Th - Repeat Monday
Fr - Repeat Tuesday
S - Repeat Wednesday

sandwiches, fruit, chips, pickles - anything you can pack up and take to the water for the afternoon.

Monday - Marinated, spiced up, grilled chicken halves, green salad with home grown tomatoes, baked potatoes with all the fixin's
Tuesday - Make-your-own foil packet meals! Cobbler for dessert!
Wednesday - Fajita kabobs, guacamole salad, spanish rice, tortillas
Thursday - bbq'd pork ribs, cheesy potatoes, grilled yellow squash, green salad with home grown tomatoes
Friday - JULY 4TH!! - Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, chips & dips, pickles, corn on the cob. Home-made ice cream for dessert!
Saturday - time to go home - Pizza & salad night

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

MENU MAKING PROBLEMS - Blood, Sweat & Tears

Sometimes you do the blood, sweat & tears work of making your menu, only to have your loving family sabotage your efforts with their demonic plans to "help" you in the kitchen. How dare they!!! Didn't they see the blood, sweat & tears? Here's an example of this problem:


Teresa at Mexican-American Border Cooking made this comment:

"Leslie, menu planning is so hard but you make it sound so easy. I've tried it before, you know to make grocery shopping a little easier, but two days into the week my husband and daughter start making other plans and there goes the menu. I'm determined to keep trying. Thanks for the great ideas."


Menu Maker Mom's answer to this problem is to go back to the lesson in Baby Step #1. Make sure you have each family member's input before you make the menu. If you are making their very favorite foods, they'll be less likely to interfere and more likely to give you kisses! Just remember not to just tell them "NO!!" to their request as if you were the Soup Nazi. When daughter or hubby announce that they want to try something new, promise to put it on the next menu.

Another way to solve this problem is to ask them to make the menu with you. If they are involved at the core of the process, they might be able to control themselves a little more!

Also, it's time to talk moolah to both of them. Explain how the menu will save money... money that could be spent on beer for hubby and overpriced, paper-thin t-shirts from Aeropostale for daughter!!

No, on second thought don't do that. That's a cruel joke. They will roll on the floor and cry and beat their chests with their fists when they finds out that the money will really be spent on gasoline and air conditioning. sigh.


Please go visit Teresa. Her blog is awesome and has the best recipes! Mucho gusto!!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


My biggest kitchen tip in concerns your menu planning and staying on track.


If you have gone through all the trouble of making this menu, then make your hard work count. Don't stick your menu in a drawer or on a pile of papers that will swallow it forever. Stick it in a prominent place. Make it shine, make it noticeable, make it ever-so-important. It is a life-and-death situation!! Okay, that might be pushing it a little. Well, it's a "save-my-sanity situation" for sure!!!

Just remember the old saying, "plan your work and work your plan."

Now when it comes to checking your menu, you should do it twice a day. For example, before you finished your kitchen chores this morning and before you left for work or wherever you go... you should have checked the menu for tonight, making sure that everything is ready to go when it comes time to start supper.

Tonight, after you finish up dishes (or after kids and hubby finish dishes...), check out tomorrow's menu. Take out the meat, set up the crockpot, pre-chop a couple of things, just do whatever you can to make things go smoother. Chances are you won't have to do anything, you'll just feel relieved that supper will go on the table just as planned.

All the checking and prepping will ensure that you get the meal made just as you planned. If you skip the checking step in the Make a Menu sequence, you might end up with the shame of eating at fast foodie land. Eeeewwww!

Monday, June 23, 2008


This is what'll be dished up at my house this week:

Sunday - Roasted chicken with gravy, cheesy mashed potatoes, peas, sliced tomatos, rolls

Monday - BLT Sandwiches on split rolls

Tuesday - Crocked chicken tenders in soup-sauce, egg noodles, steamed broccoli

Wednesday - Chalupas with guacamole

Thursday - Lasagna, salad, garlic toast

Friday - Hot Dogs, Chips, Mac 'n Cheese, Veggie Dippers

Saturday - VACATION BEGINS!!! - Taco salad for first night.


BTW, here are some cute menu forms that you can download for FREE, made by Heavenly Homemakers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


One of the best things about having a menu and having all your ingredients on hand is that you can be very flexible. What I mean is that even though you have a calendar, and everything is written down, it is NOT written in stone! If you discover that your family would be happier with Thursday's dinner on Sunday, well by all means cook the Thursday meal! After all, you probably have all the ingredients on hand anyway because when you made your menu, you transferred all the needed ingredients to your shopping list and then went to pick them up.

I had planned on frying a chicken on Thursday and making lasagna today. But we ate homemade pizza last night. The kids ate ravioli for lunch. If I stick another spaghetti sauce-type meal in front of them they will revolt, roll on the floor, and swear that I am The Soup Nazi.

So, because I love them; and because I have my trusty, flexible menu; and because I have all the ingredients on hand; and because I love them... I will take pity on them and do a Make a Menu switch-a-roo. We will have Thursday's meal on Sunday and Sunday's meal on Thursday. And I will get the Most Awesome Mother Award (better known as the "MAMA").


(Of course, no one actually said this to me, or raised an actual pom-pom in my humble honor. If they did, I would have a photo of an actual human child or husband (or nephew or friend-of-child) waving thankful arms in my direction. So, pathetic as I am, I posed this very overpriced American Girl doll in an appreciative pom-waving stance.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

FRUGAL FAMILY FUN - the snacking frenzy begins

Now that we are into the full swing of summer, it's time to keep the kids busy, otherwise they turn into lazy, bored, argumentative aliens! In addition to keeping the kiddos busy, keeping the kitchen stocked with ready-to-eat, healthy, frugal snacks is a challenge too! The aliens have huge appetites and are never satisfied!! They want more and more and more and.....

I keep my fridge stocked with yogurt, string cheese, grape and strawberry jelly, homemade refried beans, corn tortillas, lots of seasonal fruit found on sale, sandwich meat, and cut up carrots, cucumbers, celery, and broccoli. I also keep ranch dressing in the fridge to use as dip for the veggies.

The freezer has frozen french fries, hard-boiled eggs, home-made hot pockets, ice cream, popsicles, frozen pizzas (some homemade and some purchased), pizza rolls, ready-to-bake homemade biscuits, home made waffles and pancakes, battered mozzerrela sticks, and whatever bargain treats I find at the grocery market.

My pantry holds bread, cereal, crackers of all sorts, peanut butter, chips and pretzels, ramen cups (I know this is not the healthiest..., but they really like it!), ravioli (ditto on the last comment), boxes of mac-n-cheese, raisins, peanuts in the shell and canned nuts.

There is a bowl on the counter with fresh fruit and the cookie jar has homemade cookies. (I make up several batches at a time and freeze.)

I don't ever hear "there's nothing to eat," and my girls have pretty healthy snacks for the most part. They don't use the oven yet, but do use the stovetop and microwave. They are capable of making things like grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, mac-n-cheese, and scrambled eggs. They love to make green salads and fruit salads.

Currently I'm looking for a deal on a good toaster oven. That way they can heat up frozen snack foods, biscuits, etc. (If you know of a great deal on a toaster oven or have a review you can share...Please comment!!)

Now with all this munching going on during the day, there are two problems that creep up: 1) The Mess!!; 2) "But I'm not hungry!" when supper is served. Here's how I tackle those two problems:

For Problem #1 - Sweet Pea's chore is to empty the dishwasher in the morning. The rule is that everyone is responsible for putting their dishes into it if they dirty a dish or two. Any cooks must put away what they have taken out and clean up the counters when they are done. If they forget, then they may not have any more snacks until it's done or until the next meal is served. Simple and it works. As the Soup Nazi said, "No soup for you!!" (One of my favorite Seinfeld characters!!)

For Problem #2 - At least an hour before supper is served Sweet Pea and Sugar Dumplin' know that there is a snack moratorium. The kitchen is closed! Don't even ask! Don't try to swipe a cookie! Sometimes they whine. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they swear that they will absolutely pass out if they can't have a snack because they are STARVING and they haven't eaten in a reaaaalllllyyy long time (at least half an hour). Sometimes they say the starvation is causing harmful pains and that I am a cruel kitchen dictator and possibly even The Soup Nazi.

But when supper is served, they eat it up, say they like it, smile, and kiss the cook.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MAKE IT FROM SCRATCH blog carnival

The Make it from Scratch blog carnival is originated at Our Red House . I'm new to the blog world, and the idea of going to a carnival while on the computer still hasn't made connections in my little brain. Still, I'm going to try to go to the carnival. My fingers are running over to the party via my keyboard right now!

My contribution to the Make it from Scratch carnival is the Tortilla recipe I promised in an earlier post. We made tortillas tonight with our Mexican Picadillo... Actually, my 11-yo daughter made it. While our mexican flapjacks weren't exactly round, they were totally yummy! Made me want to don my sombrero! Mucho bueno!!

1 Tbsp. baking powder

2 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup shortening

1/2 - 3/4 cup warm water

1. Put the baking powder, flour, and salt in a big gowl. Mix well.

2. Add the shortening to the bowl. Mix with a fork or pastry cutter until it is mixed together. It will be dry and crumbly.

3. Add about 1/2 cups warm water and mix to create a dough. If it is too dry, add a teeny bit of water. If it is too sticky, add a teeny bit of flour. Only adjust with minimal amounts of ingredients at a time.

4. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should not be dry, and should almost be slightly sticky. If it absolutely sticks to your fingers, about a tablespoon of flour can be added.

5. Leave the dough in the bowl and cover with a dishtowel or plate. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

6. Make little balls the size of golf balls. Roll them until flat with a wooden rolling pin. You might have to cover your rolling area with a little flour. Don't use too much, though!!

7. Cook the flat tortillas on a hot griddle until they have brown spots on each size.
8. Eat with lots of butter!
My mother frequently made us tortillas when we were growing up. We always felt so lucky! Her tortillas are so soft and just delicioso! Years ago, I asked her to tell me the secret to making such good tortillas and her answer was, "practice." I also asked the lady at our local taco joint, Rock House, what her secret was. Her answer was, "always use the same bowl."
(Actually, I make my tortillas with my Kitchen Aid Mixer, which I love so much that I want to marry it.)
So go pick out your bowl and name it "My Tortilla Bowl." Make your tortillas, then make them again, then make them again, etc., etc. You'll get the fluffiest, yummiest tortillas you've ever had!

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY - Cold watermelon, great friends, happy kids, cool river, hot sun... LIFE

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Buying a whole chicken can be quite a bargain over buying chicken pieces. Especially when you use a coupon! I recently used this Pilgrim's Pride coupon, and ended up with a chicken at just slightly over 50-cents a pound. Awesome deal! Click this Pilgrim's Pride link to print your own coupon and get the same deal!

Well, about that chicken...

I cook a lot. Pretty much all by scratch. I've done it for many years. (Okay - not that many. I'm not that old!) Instead of the usual roasting or boiling my little discount hen, I thought I'd split that bird in half, like a butterfly, and bbq it.

Due to my extensive so-called (by me only) cooking "expertise", you'd think I'd know how to cut a whole chicken in half by now. But I don't. On Father's Day I cut up a whole chicken and put it on a hot grill over smokin' coals. Tasted fabulous, was moist and tender, but it didn't look like a chicken anymore.

Wish I'd seen the following instructional video before committing the hideous poultry massacre.

How to cut up a chicken

Finally, click here for current printable TARGET coupons. And don't forget, manufacturer's coupons can be combined with TARGET Store coupons for extra savings!

Bluebunny Ice cream - $1.00 off! Print as many as you need!


P.S. For more Kitchen Tips, click on Tammy's Recipes!


Okay, Dave Letterman, move over! It's time for Menu Maker Mom's top ten.

This Tuesday's topic is:

Drumroll, please....

10. I work at a school, so I'm off for a few weeks!!

9. No homework for the girlies! Woo hoo!!

8. Catching up on cleaning, painting, decorating, gardening. I'm not a fan of the actual work of cleaning, but I am a fan of seeing my house in a somewhat clean state... So in this case, it is the product, not the process, that is important!!

7. More time to organize my coupons! (I am pathetically addicted to coupons. Please help me.)

6. Laying on the trampoline with my girls, and watching the clouds as they morph into elephants, houses, cars, donuts...

5. Did I mention that I'm off for a few weeks?

4. Swimming!

3. Doing lots of artsy crafty things with my girls. This is the opposite of #8. It is definitely the process, not the product!! Also, this is where we undo all the cleaning that is done in #8!!!

2. Vacationing in the RV is so much fun!

And the #1 thing that I love about summer... (more drumroll, please)...


Monday, June 16, 2008


Well, I had NO TIME for blogging, it seems!! My road was paved with good intentions, but my calendar was filled with so very much! Now that summer is here and life is finally slowing down, I can try to resurrect this idea.

I've been busy organizing my coupons and hitting the stores. I just love saving money, especially now that gas prices are gobbling up a larger portion of my budget. It's so much of a thrill to see those coupons add up... I feel like I'm in Vegas, baby!

In the rural community where I live we have an HEB, a Wal Mart, and a Super S. But soon we'll soon be blessed with a Walgreens! I can't wait!! I don't shop regularly at CVS or Target because I'd have to drive an hour to get there. That sort of eats up any coupon savings!

Later today, I'll be heading over to Super S to pick up a few things. I'll do a posting about my savings later on. They are the only store that offers double coupons, and since they're generally overpriced, I only use coupons combined with sale items.

Well here it is... My menu plan for this week:

Monday - Pan fried country ham with potatoes and green beans, rolls

Tuesday - Green salad with grilled chicken and black bean, corn, and lime salsa

Wednesday - Mexican picadillo with fresh tortillas (recipe to follow!)

Thursday - out to eat at the girls' softball party

Friday - We'll eat at a neighborhood party. Think I'll take a mexican layer dip. (recipe to follow!)

Saturday - Homemade pizzas! (recipe to follow!)
don't forget to visit for more ideas!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

THE MAMA - Come and get your ribbon!!!

What is the MAMA, you ask? Well, the MAMA stands for “Most Awesome Mother Award.” It is given to Mamas everywhere who cook meal after meal, who force children to eat their vegetables, who require the little darlings to brush their teeth after drinking soda, who fold five million loads of laundry a week, and who wash eighteen million glasses a day. (Well, it feels like it anyway!!)

Mothers who make young students do their homework and clean their bedrooms are often scowled at by said children, but these Moms are always awarded the coveted MAMA nonetheless by the little darlings and their dads. That’s because these are the same mothers who kiss booboos, read stories, spend countless hours driving from practice to practice, often times managing work and home as if the day had 52 hours in it, and still have time to prepare delicious meals.

These moms are given the MAMA, and I’m absolutely sure that YOU, the Menu Maker Mom reader are just that kind of MAMA!