Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Money Tips: utilizing your groceries

One important aspect of sticking to my grocery budget ($325/month for a family of five) is utilizing every part of my groceries. I don't want any of my groceries (or my money!) to go to waste. The best example I have of this is my homemade crockpot chicken broth. This is so easy, you'll never need to buy chicken broth again!
I never throw out the vegetable scraps when I'm prepping dinner. Celery stocks, onion scraps, asparagus ends, garlic bulbs, they all get tossed in a gallon size bag that I keep in the freezer for making broth. Then, when I make slow cooker roast chicken (bone in chicken pieces rubbed in olive oil and sprinkled with seasonings, cooked on low for 7ish hours), I save the bones and the broth that's left and add the vegetable scraps to the crockpot. I fill the rest of the way with water and add whatever herbs strike my fancy (oregano, rubbed sage, rosemary, garlic) and cook on low over night. In the morning, all I have to do is strain out the solids and freeze for later use. I fill muffin tins with the broth and then pop each 1/2 cup disk out and keep them in freezer bags. Then, whenever I need broth, I can just grab the amount I need out of the freezer!
Another thing I touched on in my grocery budget post was finding multiple uses for each (especially expensive) ingredients. If I need to buy blue cheese for hamburgers, I use it on salads, in mashed potatoes, or on crusty french bread slices with fig preserves (yummiest snack ever!) to make it worth the purchase and get my money's worth. With Pinterest, food blogs, and Google, it's really not that hard to find multiple recipes using similar ingredients!
Next up: clothes.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sample meal plan :)

After my last post, I had quite a few requests for a sample two week meal plan. This works for our family of 5 (Pearl doesn't count, because she doesn't eat yet). Also, Jason packs a lunch (usually leftovers) and has snacks at work, which come out of our monthly grocery budget. During the school year, I pack lunches for the girls a few days a week and they buy lunch once or twice, too.


  1. Hamburgers with bacon and blue cheese, corn on the cob, watermelon slushies
  2. Grilled shrimp tostados, lime cilantro rice, Brazilian lemonade
  3. BLT pizza: I used romaine lettuce instead of arugula because that's why my family likes.
  4. Leftovers/oatmeal and toast
  5. Roast chicken, twice baked potatoes, cornbread: I lucked out a year and a half ago at Walmart and found 10 lb bags of fresh chicken thighs and drumsticks for $1 each (they were expiring soon). I bought 4 bags (wish I had bought 10!) and threw them in my freezer. They're perfect for slow cooker roast chicken! I still have 15 lb left, too :)
  6. Grilled chicken drumsticks, veggie skewers, watermelon slushies
  7. Greek chicken, hummus, flatbread, lemon butter rice, lots of veggies: I marinate chicken in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and oregano, then grill it and cut it into pieces and serve with lots of vegetables in flatbread.
  8. Egg stuffed baked potatoes, crusty bread, smoothies, hash browns
  9. Chicken salad wraps, chips, fruit
  10. Deep dish pizza, salad with tomatoes and cucumber
  11. Leftover/oatmeal and toast
  12. Morgan's homecoming dinner at Jan's
  13. Chick Fi La knockoff nuggets, oven fries, homemade lemonade
  14. Homemade chili, corncakes, and tomato salad
  15. Sweet and tangy chicken quesadillas, black beans and rice
  16. Cool tomato basil soup, crusty french bread, salad

Breakfast
  • Scrambled eggs and toast
  • Egg in a hole
  • Granola
  • Oatmeal (quick cooking with brown sugar, honey, frozen mixed berries, craisins/raisins, etc)
  • Pancakes/waffles
  • Parfaits (yogurt and frozen fruit slightly thawed in the microwave)
  • Smoothies
  • Mixed berries with homemade meringues on top
Snacks
  • Popcorn (air popped with either melted PB, or melted butter and cinnamon sugar, or melted butter and Italian spices + Parmesan cheese)
  • Graham crackers and milk
  • Crackers and PB or cheese
  • Yogurt/frozen Gogurt
  • String cheese
  • Fruit/veggies
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Hummus and pita chips
  • Cinnamon chips
Treats
  • Pioneer taffy
  • Berry meringue mess
  • Samoa brownies
Coming next in my Money Tips: Meal Planning series: a good example of utilizing your groceries to get the most bang for your buck!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Money tips: groceries!!

I am the money manager at our house and let me tell you, our budget is tight. It takes a lot of effort on my part to make it work, and I've accumulated a lot of tips on how to live well on a small budget. It is possible!
First up, grocery shopping. 
I've got a small budget here: $325/month. I just bumped it up from $300 because I kept going over, no matter what I did. I was at $300 for many years, though! 
First, some disclaimers:
  • I don't coupon because I never see coupons for things that I actually buy: most seem to be for name brand, convenience items.
  • I don't even bother price matching often because Walmart seems to always have the lowest price anywhere.
  • I do all my grocery shopping at Walmart and no complaints from me. I feel like the produce is just fine (I've had worse luck with Costco produce, as far as freshness goes)
Now the tips:
  • Limit your trips to the store. I shop twice a month, and that's it. If I run out of something before shopping day--oh well, we go without. My produce keeps just fine for two weeks. We usually eat up the produce that doesn't last as long the first week of my two-week menu, and then eat the heartier produce the second week (tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas, spinach, peaches, strawberries, etc first week; apples, carrots, oranges, Romaine lettuce, etc second week)
  • MENU PLAN. I can't stress this enough. Do not go to the store without a plan. I plan out our dinners for two weeks (we always eat leftovers or oatmeal on Saturdays), plus breakfast and snack ideas, and a dessert for each weekend. When I make my menu, I think about what's in season, what's on sale, and what I already have at home. If I want to buy an ingredient that's more expensive than I normally spend, I try to find several recipes that will use it so it's worth the purchase.

  • Take the time to prep foods the same day (or soon after) grocery shopping. I chop green onions and put them in the freezer, rinse strawberries in vinegar to make them last longer, things like that. If you let your food spoil because it wasn't properly stored or prepared, it's like throwing money away!
  • Eat healthy food. My cart is probably 50% fresh fruits and veggies. I could probably save some money by cutting those out, but to me, it's important that we have lots of fresh produce.
  • I make some kind of chicken almost every night. Really. Sorry, family, but it's cheapest, and I make it allllll the different ways, so it's not repetitive. 
  • Go meatless a few times a week (pizza is good for this, or breakfast for dinner! I also like grilling a ton of different vegetables and serving it with poached eggs, shaved Parmesan cheese, toasted pecans, and crusty bread). Or use meat more sparingly and let veggies be the star of the 
  • dish.
  • We cut way back on milk and are down to a gallon a week--we drink it at breakfast and with treats, and that's pretty much it.
  • Speaking of breakfast, I don't buy cereal. It's expensive, it's empty calories, and it's full of preservatives and junk. I do make homemade granola and we also have eggs and toast, quick cooking oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, yogurt with frozen berries on top, things like that.
  • Steer clear of convenience and processed items. Make that stuff from scratch if you have the time! You can make all kinds of stuff from scratch, trust me.
  • Snack foods are a budget killer. Here, we snack on fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt (I splurge on Gogurts to freeze), roasted chickpeas, pita bread and hummus, air popped popcorn, smoothies, homemade tortilla chips, etc. I do usually keep a box of graham crackers around, too.
  • Splurge on some things. Everyone needs a treat once in a while. I always have tons of baking supplies on hand to make goodies--chocolate chips, coconut, craisins, marshmallows, PB chips. That is one thing that I will always make room for in my budget! 
What do you do to save at the store?

Monday, July 21, 2014

I miss my blog!!!!!!

I have really dropped off the blogosphere after getting a smartphone a few months ago. I'm loving Instagram (follow me @younghipstercoolgirl) but I miss sharing my thoughts and keeping a record of my life on my blog. Part of the problem is that I'm still not sure the best way to get pictures from my phone to my blog, and I've stopped using an actual camera now that my phone takes such good quality pictures (btw, it's a Windows phone, so a lot of the Android/iphone apps won't work. I've tried just plugging it in to the computer, but it's still not working right. Anyone have a Windows phone out there??? This is my ONLY complaint, otherwise I LOVE my new phone!)
So the thing that has been on my mind a lot lately is envy. I have found myself slipping into the pit of envy. No details necessary, just the fact that I've found myself wondering "Why them! Why not me!" way too much lately. I'm trying so hard to change my attitude from envy to gratitude. I am a firm believer in feeling rich vs feeling poor, and I usually do a great job, but everyone slips once in a while. Right now I am struggling with a "poor" attitude. I know that people can feel "poor" no matter what their income is, just like people can feel "rich" at any income--it's all about attitude! My kids recently asked me if we know anyone who is rich, and I told them that anyone who lives in America is rich (for real, by the standards of much of the world, we are rich beyond imagining!) 


Whenever I start feeling envious, I go outside and stand on the sidewalk and look at my pretty little home. It's far from fancy, far from large, but it is so happy and filled to bursting with healthy, bouncy, beautiful kids. It was a dream come true when we bought this house, and even if we could afford something larger, I don't know if I would have the heart to leave it yet!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June goodness!

Here's a mishmash of our June! Every single of these is from Instagram so if you follow me (@younghipstercoolgirl) you've probably already seen them. 


Helena lost two bottom teeth and one top tooth!

Cutest baby in the world

Polly and Daddy.


Polly and Mommy.


Big smiles.


Naptime on a blanket in the yard.


Naptime with Mommy.



One afternoon when Tempe was coloring on the driveway, it started to rain and Helena went and held her umbrella over her. So sweet!


Finally jumped on the Fiiz, Swig, Guzzle, Sodalicious, etc bandwagon. Yummy and cheap family treat!

Summer activities

Fairy garden on our front steps.


Giant frozen ice cube with arctic animals trapped inside.


On the train at the zoo with Grandma Lisa!


Allan/Anderson/Crandall/Pool/Fleischman gathering at the cabin.


We welcomed summer with our fourth annual sidewalk chalk party for neighborhood kids!


Juno helped Grandpa K replace a doorknob at our house and here she is concentrating very hard on putting the old one back together.


Art journals!



I've given up on making the girls do yoga in the morning (really bummed about that, because I think it's such a great way to set the tone for our day!) but Tempe still bends every which way.


Our fun friends hosted a neighborhood movie night for 100+ neighbors!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Two months of Pearl!


My sweet, darling Pearl Diana is two months old now! She is still a doll but she is growing up way too fast for this mama. 
Stats: 10 lb, 4 oz, 22(?) inches long. She seriously looks so much bigger to me all of a sudden. While I love her chubby cheeks and that she's too long for her swaddle blankets now, I already miss her little newborn body! 
Milestones: smiling and learning to coo--even a giggle in her sleep now and then.
Sleep: not as good now as it was a month ago. She's hit or miss with napping in her crib, but I am trying my best to be flexible and just follow her lead instead of obsessing over trying to get her to nap on demand. Nighttime--eh, could be better, could be worse. She will eventually sleep all night in her own bed, so I am not worrying about it for now!
As for me, I am really doing great. I thought having a fourth would be much harder than it has been (maybe I'm jinxing myself), but Pearl just fits into our family so well and we've been able to jump right back into our normal routine with her in tow. Love her, love my kids, love staying home with them (well, most days), and love being a mom!
PS you might have noticed I am really not on here that much anymore... party because I have finally joined the rest of you in 2014 and gotten a smartphone, so now I'm on Instagram... I post there at least once a day, so follow me @younghipstercoolgirl!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May goodness!

Pearl overload!
I took way more pictures of Pearl than I did of my other kids in May. Sorry, other kids. Just check out these cute little cheeks. She's already lost that newborn look that she had at the beginning of the month.



I love love love this picture of my snugglebug. She has very blond eyebrows and strawberry blond hair and you can really see it in this picture!


First sink bath after her belly button healed! She has an outie!!


 Moms and Muffins in first grade
I got to visit Tempe's classroom for their special Mother's Day program. I haven't spent much time in her class this year, so it was fun to be with her!



Mother's Day
My four girls and me on Mother's Day! New favorite picture ever.


Measuring and tracing practice with Juno


Juno loves to do projects with me and I do my best to come up with something several times a week. For this one, I traced her and Pearl on butcher paper (and she traced Ah Ah, her toy monkey, shown above) and then we measured with a few different measuring tapes and block towers.



Helena can't keep her hands off Pearl!

Sidewalk chalk festival
We go to the sidewalk chalk festival in Bountiful every year and the girls love finding a favorite drawing to pose with.






Helena's new talent
She can cross her eyes super crazy and also turn one eye in while looking straight ahead with the other. Don't worry, I asked the pediatrician and she said as long as she is controlling it, it's nothing to worry about.


and now a beautiful smile from a beautiful girl!


and one from Juno, too!


Kindergarten graduation
Helena graduated from kindergarten and is first grade bound!



Tossing her graduation cap in the air!




Helena and her wonderful kindergarten teacher!


Welcome summer!
We are so ready for summer (I'm so ready for summer). I made this banner for the girls to burst through when they got home from school, a tradition we started last year.



Quick trip to Tennessee
I took Juno and Pearl to Tennessee to visit my parents over Memorial Day weekend. It was a quick trip and it was really fun. Flying alone with 2 kids isn't the most fun, but it wasn't awful (no one threw up on me this time) and I'm so glad I took Juno! My family rarely sees her without her older sisters overshadowing her and she really got a chance to shine this trip. My brother Josh took these sweet pictures of her (plus about a hundred more).


The Allan family in front of the Nashville Temple!



Birthday date
For my birthday date this year, Jason and I had a picnic on the roof of the SLC library (main branch) and then explored the library, one of my favorite places in SLC!