Meal Planning

Meal planning is an essential part of being frugal and staying on budget. Recently, after looking over our finances on mint.com (A website that helps you keep track of your spending and see exactly where your money goes), we saw that we had spent $700 on groceries that month!  And the month wasn’t even over!! WHAT?? Where the HECK did we spend $700?? Now, groceries do include diapers, toiletries, and anything we spend at the grocery store, but still. That’s just nuts. We do not have that much to spend on groceries.

I decided to be really strict about meal planning. It’s something I’ve done occasionally, but I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t think asking Rob to pick up something small here and there on his way home from work was a big deal, but as you can see- that adds up!

So, I printed out this super cute, free menu sheet: http://ollibird.com/images/scribblemenu.jpg   <- I use #2, the one with the pots and pans.   Check out more free organizational printables here: http://www.designfinch.com/2011/07/31/sunday-planning/

I slipped my menu planner into a plastic page protector and keep it on the front of the fridge, so everyone knows what’s for dinner. I just use a dry erase marker to write the meals down. I have a similar one for groceries- any time we’re out of something, I write it down on the dry erase sheet on the side of the fridge. They’re cute and it saves paper keeping them in the plastic sheet. You can also get really fancy and put them in a picture frame with glass and keep it on the counter.

Every weekend, I sit down with my menu planner and my laptop at the kitchen table, and I search for the flyer at my local grocery store’s website. (you can search for yours at www.flyerland.ca if you’re in Canada)  I scan the flyer for the deals they have that week, then I base my meals on that. I try to cook meals that will give us leftovers for lunch as well.

Another thing, believe it or not, that has saved us money is cooking from scratch! Everyone always says that healthy food is expensive (and yes, organic food IS more expensive) but Healthy, home cooked meals don’t have to be. All those premade, microwavable meals LOOK like great deals, except you’re really only getting one meal out of them, and you don’t have any ingredients left over to make other dishes. Often I can make a couple meals out of the brocoli I buy, as well as the bag of potatoes and carrots. (buying in bulk is a great tip too!) I was inspired after reading http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ to cut out processed food from our diet, and although its’ a little more work in the beginning, baking snacks and cooking from scratch has become second nature and it’s not as hard as I thought. And our grocery bill is way cheaper.

Last night for dinner, we had homemade burgers, fries, and salad using lettuce from the garden!

I used this recipe for meatballs to make the burgers- http://allrecipes.com/recipe/the-best-meatballs/ (minus the veal- I just used half and half beef and pork) and tonight we’ll have the meatballs and pasta. This recipe makes a LOT, I find. So there’s enough for both! These are things I try to keep in mind when meal planning, is to stretch ingredients across a couple of days.

I’ll let you know how the meatballs turn out!

Advertisements

Frugal Gardening

What can be more frugal than growing your own food? Gardening is something I’ve always been interested in, although I’m not great at it yet. Do you ever feel wasteful tossing out all those seeds that come in red peppers, or watermelon? I do. So this year, I thought I’d plant some. We don’t have a lot of space on our deck, but it gets a lot of sun, so this spring, I started some seeds in hopes that they’d be ready to go outside by May.

I found a cool tutorial on Pinterest to make my own paper pots! I recycled last years Flylady calendar (The paper isn’t glossy) and planted some seeds! Bk had fun helping scoop the dirt into the pots.

My only complaint about these, would be that they decompose rather quickly. Next time, I don’t think I’ll clump them so close together, because they started getting a bit moldy between the pots :/ So some plants didn’t make it, and the rest I transplanted into bigger, plastic pots I had.

Also, I learned that dill apparently likes being planted straight into a pot in the hot sun and forgotten about (oops) I tried growing it inside and watering it frequently, and they’d grow ok, but then they’d get so skinny and fall over and die. The dill I planted on the deck and totally forgot to water? Fantastic! (same goes for the cilantro, apparently)

Here’s what I have on my deck at the moment:

Lettuce

This is the mixed green ‘bowl’ I received from Rob for Mother’s Day. As you can see, we’ve been eating from it, and after just a couple of days, it’s already starting to grow back!

Cucumber

Red Pepper

^These I planted after everything else, directly  into a pot…so we’ll see if they get big enough in time to grow some peppers!

Basil

And …a carrot? I forget what this is, but I guess we’ll find out!

That’s all I have on my deck at the moment (well, and parsley that amazingly lasted through the winter!) On Mother’s Day weekend, BK helped me plant tomatoes, carrots, and cucumber in my mom’s backyard. I’m excited to visit and see how they’re growing!

 

I’ll keep you posted on how everything is growing, and lets hope we can eat some of this stuff! If all goes well this year, next year I’ll plan on an even bigger garden.

 

 

 

P.s. – Tip I learned about growing tomatoes. When you’re ready to transplant your baby tomato plants into a bigger pot, pinch off the bottom two ‘simple’ leaves and bury as much of the stem as possible, right up to the bottom of the ‘fancy’ leaves. They’ll apparently sprout roots higher up on the stem and will give the plant more strength so they don’t flop over as much.  Cool, huh?

Frugal Cleaning Solutions

This may be a little late for ‘Spring’ Cleaning, seeing as summer is almost here, but with this gorgeous weather, it just makes me want to deep clean everything!

So I thought I’d share some of my eco-friendly and very frugal cleaning solutions!

All Purpose Cleaner:

– Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap (I like lavender) http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/LS.htm  just pour 2Tbsp of the soap into a spray bottle, and fill with warm water. Shake and use! I use this on EVERYthing!

Messy cook?

Spray some Homemade All Purpose Cleaner on the spot, and depending on how nasty your spill is, either wipe right away or leave it on for a few minutes while you tidy the rest of the kitchen. Seriously, you don’t need all those fancy ‘scrubber’ cleaners. This stuff gets even dried pasta sauce off the stove. And if you DO need scrubbing power, sprinkle some baking soda on the spot too.

TA DA! Clean and sparkly.

Glass Cleaner:

This one I struggled with. Windex? Yuck. I hate the smell and it gets pricey, and who wants the kids to get into that stuff? Everyone says to use a vinegar spray, but I found just vinegar and water left streaks. Well, search no more, because I found the perfect recipe!

  • 1/4cup white vinegar
  • 1Tbsp corn starch
  • water.

Mix the vinegar and corn starch into a spray bottle and then fill with warm water. Shake, use. This will look like its going to be streaky, but I promise, when it dries, it dries streak free.

Diaper Wipe Solution:

After going through an entire pack of wipes in the hospital when my son was born, I realised that wipes will not only be expensive, but wasteful. So I tried this recipe I found in Amanda Blake Soule’s book (Don’t know Soule Mama? I LOVE her blog- check it out www.soulemama.com ) Her books are great, and this one I found in The Handmade Home.

  • 1Tbsp Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Baby Castile Soap
  • 1Tbsp Almond Oil (I use Olive oil)
  • 1 Drop Tea Tree Oil
  • 1 Drop Lavender Oil
  • Approx 3/4Cup warm water.

I mix these up in an old honey jar (holds about a cup of liquid) I make sure the lid is on tight and just give it a quick shake before I use it. I dip a baby wash cloth in and squeeze out any excess liquid. I have’t had to re-buy any of these ingredients yet and my son is 17 months old! Talk about frugal!

As far as dishes, we don’t have a dishwasher, so we go through a LOT of dish soap. Lately, I’ve been trying to squeeze a bit of soap into a bowl of water and dip my clean scrub brush into that, rather than squeeze a ton of soap on the brush, only to have to reload after a couple of dishes. I find it does the job wonderfully and saves on soap. I also try to buy soap whenever it’s on sale.

Another cheapie trick, for tough jobs, is Baking Soda. I’ve recently switched from coffee to tea, and I found my mugs are harder to get clean.

Long weekending.

This long weekend has been awesome so far, I love it when we’re all home together. Yesterday, we all had a fun time in the park. BK is getting really good at running around on his own and going up and down the slide (And I’m getting really good at letting him). After the park, we took a little stroll over to Christie Pits and got ourselves some ice cream- 2 for 1, how frugal is that? 😉

BK is a huge fan of strawberry frozen yogurt! (I like Gold Metal Ribbon ice cream myself) 🙂

Today, Rob took BK to the park on is own for a little bro-time and that let me get some deep cleaning done around here. The deck still hadn’t been cleaned and organized from this winter, so I did that and re-planted some of my seedlings into bigger pots. I’m hoping to grow some veggies this summer. We don’t have a yard, but we do have a nice sized deck. So far, I have cucumber in a coffee tin growing nicely, cilantro, dill, basil, and parsley, and a nice lettuce bowl that Rob bought me for mother’s day. I’ve been loving all the fresh salads from it! If you snip the leaves off a few inches from the ground, apparently they keep growing back, which is great, because I loooove salads in the summer. At my mom’s house, I’ve planted my tomato plants and some more cucumber. (and I *think* I have some red peppers growing {tiny plants still} , but I can’t remember…sometimes, I just toss seeds into a pot and see if it’ll grow. Next time I’ll label things better :/)

Hope you’re all having a great weekend! (I totally missed the solar eclipse by the way…bummer)

Curbside finds and free organizing!

Yesterday, on our way to the park (for the 2nd time that day- yay for great weather!) I spotted a bin someone put out on the curb, filled with wooden Melissa and Doug puzzles! Score! At first I just grabbed a puzzle board thing, where you move the animals around the maze to different locations, but then I went back and just took the whole thing! I figured I could sort through it at home and see what puzzles are missing pieces. So far, so good!

These are some of my favourites:

How cute are the 3D Animals?

The puzzle board has a bit of crayon on it, but nothing a little Magic Eraser won’t fix!

I had been hoping to add some more puzzles to BK’s collection, but that just wasn’t in the budget, so I had been praying to spot a good deal somewhere! And what’s better than free?? The Lord provides, even puzzles 🙂

And speaking of free, I made some cute labels for BK’s toy bins using supplies I already had on hand. I finally organized all his toys and sorted like with like, and I wanted to make sure we would all remember where things went. Since BK can’t read yet, I drew pictures as well as words.

First, I gathered up the toys I wanted to draw: some trucks, play food, animals, etc. These were the bins I wanted labelled.

Then, I took out my sketch book and measured out card sized rectangles and drew the images on each one.

Then, I covered the whole thing in packing tape as a way to ‘laminate’ the paper! This gives it a little extra strength against spills and a strong toddler.

After covering both sides carefully and making sure there were no air bubbles, I cut out each card.

Then, I poked holes in the card with a hole punch and tied them onto the appropriate basket using embroidery thread (I didn’t have string, and it’s thicker than thread- use what you have!)

I think they turned out super cute!  I think I have some blank recipe cards laying around, they’d be perfect for some flash cards!

 

A little introduction.

So, I had planned on learning everything about this ‘blog’ site and having a super cool page to open with, but I’m apparently not awesome at finding my way around here yet..so here goes.

Hi! My name’s Heather! I’m a wife and a mother. My husband, Rob, is a Realtor here in Toronto and my son (For the purpose of this blog, we’ll nickname him ‘BK’), is a busy toddler who is almost 17 months old.

I’m a stay at home mom, which I absolutely love, although I’m soon going to be taking on another child part-time during the day for a little extra income. My husband became a realtor just over a year ago (he went back to school and changed careers when he found out we were expecting a baby), and things are starting to pick up business wise although, I’m sure as you can imagine, being in a commission based job requires a lot of budgeting and planning ahead! This was (..ok, still is) something I’m not great at. We’ve never been rich, but we’ve always had a reliable income so we at least knew approximately what to expect to come in each month! Well, not with this job.

So this is where the blog beings. This is our journey into a frugal lifestyle. I’m really excited, actually, about this new challenge in our lives! I didn’t think I would be, but I’m a creative person, and I’m enjoying trying to find new ways to save money but also life a full and fun lifestyle. I hope to document things here and share with you my ideas and discoveries, so please enjoy!

~Heather.