Monday, June 29, 2009

Menu - June 29th

I've been MIA for the past couple weeks, but I'm trying to get back on track. In that spirit, here's this week's menu.


Shredded Beef Tacos
Mexican Rice

Baseball tonight so super-easy supper rules.
Hot dogs
Veggies with Dip

Grilled Rosemary-Salmon Spedini
Fresh Fruit Salad with Pineapple, Kiwi, Strawberries, and Grapes

Grilled Chicken
Fettuchini Alfredo
Garden Salad

Marinated Steak
Baked Red Potatoes with Butter and Chives
Fresh-from-the-farm Corn on the Cob

Homemade Pizza

Chicken Caesar Salad
Tomato Basil Soup (see below for recipe)

For even more menu ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Tomato Basil Soup

1 small-medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 T. olive oil
4 cups crushed tomatoes (I used Hy-Vee Italian canned)
4 cups chicken broth
14 washed, fresh basil leaves (I cut out stems)
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. butter

First, heat olive oil in stock pot or large saucepan. Saute diced onion until soft (about 10 minutes). Add tomatoes and broth. Simmer for 30 minutes. Using a blender, puree in small batches (about 5), along with basil leaves, until desired consistency. Return to pan. Add cream and butter and heat until hot over low heat, stirring frequently.

This soup is so good! It makes me extremely grateful that I planted basil in my teeny-tiny garden.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chocolate + Peppermint = Cookie Heaven!

Anyone remember the bag of peppermint baking chips I picked up awhile back for $0.29? They've been sitting in my cupboard just waiting for the right recipe to come along. Last week, I saw this recipe and saw my opportunity to put them to good use.

I replaced the 1 2/3 cups of mint chocolate chips called for in the recipe with a little over 1 cup of these peppermint chips and 2/3 cup mini-chocolate chips.

They were delicious! In fact, they taste a lot like Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. I'd like to say they are better for you too, but that would be a blatant lie. Did I mention they were really good though?

Frugal Finds - Groceries

Since summer started, I've gotten more lax about stocking my pantry. This week, I noticed that things are looking a little bare in the pantry so I picked up duplicates of a few things. Here are my good grocery store deals for the week.

First, up was Hy-Vee:

Bananas - $0.39/lb
Pineapple - $2.77 used $50 off coupon FINAL COST: $2.27
4 Bags Shredded Cheese - $0.99 ea.
3 Cereal - $1.99 ea., used $1/3 coupon FINAL COST: $1.66 ea.

Next was Dillon's where they are having the Daytona 500 event, meaning that if you buy 10 participating items, you get $3 off. I haven't been getting the Sunday paper lately so I didn't have coupons for some of the items. For those of you who do, you'll be able to get some of these even cheaper!

Daytona 500 items (I'm showing the price after the $3 off those 10 items):
3 Cereal - $2.36 ea., used 3 $0.55 coupons doubled to $1 here FINAL COST: $1.36 ea.
3 Kraft BBQ sauce - $0.69 ea.
2 Manwich - $0.70 ea.
1 Ragu Alfredo Sauce - $1.36
1 Hotdogs - $1.49

Other items:
Chex Mix - $2.19 $0.50 cellfire coupon here and $0.50 coupon doubled FINAL COST: $0.69
Yogurt 4-pk - $2.56 used $1 cellfire coupon here and $0.50 coupon FINAL COST: $0.56

Friday, June 26, 2009

FREE Paint

Here's a great giveaway - the Glidden National Paint Giveaway! Go here, choose a color, and you could get a FREE quart of paint. And while you wait for your free paint, you can start planning those endless summer paint projects.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Experimenting with New Tastes

For the first time, we are participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year. For those unfamiliar with CSAs, it is basically a farming cooperative. Traditionally, participants pay for a share of the harvest at the beginning of the growing season, thus sharing both the risks and benefits of the growing season. Ours is a bit different in that the risks are pretty much eliminated. Instead of paying for the share up front, we pay a deposit and then a weekly amount (paid at the beginning of the following month). Our cost is $16/week.

One thing I like about participating is that it forces us out of our routine and into trying new foods. Instead of a steady rotation of a few vegetables that we love, we’re suddenly incorporating a variety of produce, some of which we’re tasting for the first time. The challenge, however, is adapting my menu to accommodate foods I have no idea how to prepare. Or what to pair them with. But I’m working on it.

Last week was our first week participating. As we learned, we’ll receive 6-8 produce items each week. Many of these are presented as a choice. For example, we could pick rhubarb or strawberries, asparagus or radishes. That first visit, I let my son do all the choosing. His strategy seemed to be, if it looks weird and I can’t recognize it, choose that. It’ll be fun watching mom try to figure out what to do with it. This week, I did the choosing. Variety is good, but too much is overwhelming!

This week’s CSA haul, much if which you’ll see incorporated into my dinner menu, included red potatoes, salad greens, lettuce, bok choy, sugar snap peas, radishes, and garlic chives.

Menu - June 8th

Here's my Monday menu plan on Tuesday!

Tator Tots

Grilled Chicken Breasts
Bok Choy Braised with Garlic

We're packing a picnic so we can enjoy Wednesday night's city band concert in the park.
Tuna Cups (popovers filled with tuna salad)
Bowtie Pasta Salad (bowtie pasta tossed with Italian dressing, diced red onion and red bell pepper, grated carrot and parmesan cheese)
Sugar Snap Peas, Baby Carrots, and Radishes with French Onion Dip
Watermelon Slices

Kids' activities make this a dinner on the go night.
Apple Slices

Garlic Bread
Salad Greens tossed with Italian Dressing and Toasted Almonds

Out of town for a wedding.

Marinated Steak
Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic and fresh-from-my-garden Thyme
Corn on the Cob

For even more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Frugal Finds

First, for the usual good deals. This week, I found several good deals at Dillon's as well as a couple more at both Hy-Vee and Target. Here's what I got:

4 Knorr Pasta Sides - sale $0.87 each, used two $0.75/2 Cellfire coupons here FINAL COST: $0.50 ea.
Betty Crocker frosting - $1.59, used $0.50 coupon here (doubled to $1) and $0.50 Cellfire coupon here FINAL COST: $0.09
Betty Crocker Warm Delights - $1.99, used $0.50 coupon here (doubled to $1) and $0.50 Cellfire coupon here FINAL COST: $0.49
6 Yoplait Yogurts - sale $0.50 ea, used $0.45/6 coupon here (doubled to $0.90) and $0.50/6 Cellfire coupon here FINAL COST: $0.27 ea.

2 Kraft BBQ Sauce - sale $1, used two $1 coupons here FINAL COST: FREE
2 Kraft Shredded Cheese - sale $1.50, used $1/2 coupon here FINAL COST: $1 ea.

2 Bliss candybars - $0.99, used two $1 off coupons (expired today) FINAL COST: FREE

In addition to the run-of-the-mill grocery deals this week, I also got myself a little pretty for next to nothing. About a week ago, we bought my husband some much needed shorts at Kohl's and got $10 Kohl's cash that was expiring on the 10th.

These pretty flip-flops were on sale for $10.99, which after the Kohl cash, was $0.99 plus tax. Go me!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nature Journaling

Gearing Up

When contemplating making a nature journal, the choices can seem endless. Big or small? Buy a tablet or make your own? Lined or unlined paper? There were several factors we considered when making ours.

  1. Cost – Let’s face it, I’m all about the cheap. If I wanted to spend $20, I’m sure I could have found countless beautifully bound journals complete with illustrations and instructions geared toward children. However, half the fun is in the making. Originally, I thought we’d make our own out of typing paper and cardstock, but then I ran across these wonderful drawing pads on clearance for $1. Who could pass that up? A few embellishments, and we had our journals ready to go.
  2. Use – What sets a nature journal apart from an ordinary run-of-the-mill journal is the melding of sensory observations. It’s not just about writing about nature. It’s also about sketching/painting what you see and recreating the textures of the natural world. Lined paper seemed too restrictive so the drawing pads were a perfect alternative.
  3. Durability – To up the durability quotient of our somewhat flimsy drawing pads, we used twine. Although the pages were bound like a tear-off pad, I knew that the binding wouldn’t hold up to rugged outdoor use. Tying them with twine just gave us an insurance plan against wind-scattered pages.
  4. Portability – The size of the journal shouldn’t be so unwieldy that it becomes impractical, particularly for little hands to tote around. And in our case, since we were already adding twine, I figured we might as well add a simple loop so the kids could slip them over their wrists for easy carrying.

Once you’ve got your journal figured out, you need to consider other supplies. Here are some things to consider adding to your journal.

  • A small tote or backpack to keep everything together and easy to carry
  • Pencils with erasers
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencil sharpener & ziplock bag (for the shavings!)
  • Watercolor paints & brushes
  • Magnifying glass &/or binoculars
  • Camera for capturing wildlife photos
  • Envelope to store flowers/leaves for later pressing

Aiding Your Child’s Journaling

First, find opportunities to record nature. Hikes and nature walks are obvious choices. But don’t limit yourself to just the obvious. Going on a picnic? The zoo? Take the journal along. Even a morning in the backyard will uncover a wealth of opportunities to record the natural world.

For each entry in the journal, remind your child to first record the date. When your child finds something (an animal, plant, or setting) that he or she wants to record, ask your child questions that prompt full descriptions. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Can you touch it? What does it feel like? Don’t forget to have the child record environmental information also. Where are we? What does the animal or plant’s habitat look like? What is the weather like?

Be sure to allow adequate time for the child to gather information and record observations through drawings and/or descriptions.

Want to really jumpstart your child’s ideas? Be more than a cheerleader; create a nature journal of your own so that you can compare ideas and observations.

Don’t Stop There

Once you get back home, don’t forget to follow up. A huge component of a nature journal is learning. Take a few minutes to research what you’ve found. If you have field guides, you can do this on the spot. But if not, you can find virtually anything courtesy of google these days! Add notes, facts, and interesting tidbits as you uncover them. You’ll not only be teaching your child about that specific plant or animal but also fostering valuable research skills.

Helpful Resources to Get You Started



Thursday, June 4, 2009

Free Fishing Weekend

No fishing license? No problem! Grab your pole, dig up a worm, and enjoy free fishing this weekend. Most states are allowing anglers to fish without a license this coming Saturday and Sunday, June 6 & 7. For more information on Kansas' free fishing weekend, go here. If you're in Missouri, check out this site. For those in other states, a quick google search should tell you if your state is participating.

50 Free Photo Prints at CVS

Here's yet another great freebie, just in time for capturing all those summer memories. CVS is offering 50 FREE photo prints, 30 for opening a photo account (no charge) and 20 more for adding your Extra Care card number. Happy picture-taking!

National Parks Offer Free Weekends

A visit to a national park is a great way to enjoy some outdoor family time and can make for a great mini-vacation. Combine that with this summer's fee-free weekends, and you've got a winner. The National Park Service is offering three fee-free weekends in which they waive the entrance fees to over 100 national parks. The dates for the free weekends are:

  • June 20-21
  • July 18-19
  • August 15-16

For more details or to locate a park, go here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kids' Nature Journals

One of my summer goals is to keep both my kids engaged in learning without the trappings of a classroom. Luckily, both are avid readers, but I'm always on the lookout for fun, educational activities. About a week ago, I came across an article about nature journaling and immediately added it to my summer must-do list.

Here's what we did. I found these blank drawing/painting pads today at Halfprice Books for $1 each (thank you, clearance). Now I'm thinking I should have grabbed a couple spares!

To transform the cutesy books into more rustic looking nature journals, we started with a couple paper lunch bags from my stash. I crumpled them to make them more interesting, reflattened and traced a cover, and then glued them onto the fronts. Then I set the kids loose with the two leaf stamps we had and some green and gold paint.

After labeling them (my daughter still confuses the d for a b in her name), I decided to reinforce the binding with some sort of tie to help make them sturdy enough to withstand our outings. We used some jute twine that we already had, and as an added bonus, we created loops the kids could slip over their wrists for easy carrying.

The kids can't wait to take these on a nature walk, and I can't wait to see all the brilliant observations and illustrations sure to come. On Friday, I'll pass along some good sites and tips for nature journaling for anyone interested in trying it.

Strawberry Jam

And here is the results of our labor. I managed to wrestle enough strawberries out of my 5-year-old's fingers to make 10 jars of strawberry jam. We also froze three small bags of sweetened berries for later shortcake.

It is amazing though how much bigger those berries looked when we were plucking them off the plants than they did halfway through cleaning and cutting the tops off!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bountiful Berries

This morning, we all headed out to a nearby strawberry patch and came home with almost 10 pounds of these delectable little beauties. Tomorrow, we'll dig out the canning supplies and make up a batch of strawberry jam. That is, if I can keep enough of them away from my kids! Here's a great site for anyone who wants to find a local farm to go berry picking at. Next up: raspberries. Yummmm.

Menu - June 1st

Take me out to the ball game!
- Yup, it's dinner on the go courtesy of a ridiculously timed baseball game tonight.

Chicken Tacos
Easy Mexican Rice

Chips & Salsa

Marinated Steak, Baked Potatoes with sour cream and fresh chives from our garden, & New York Deli Coleslaw

Tator Tot Casserole
Fresh Fruit Salad

Homemade Pizzas

Date Night
- Which means sandwiches for the kids and Dave and Buster's for us. Can you tell it was my husband's turn to plan the date? BUT, I did find a coupon for $10 of free game play at least!

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Vanilla Ice Cream w/Grilled Pineapple and Crushed Peanuts
- If you haven't tried grilled pineapple, you should. It's delicious!

For even more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.