Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A week of dinners for 5 for under FIFTY BUCKS!

I simply do NOT have the energy to list out the entire cost of each dinner.  I'll try to showcase the items that I can remember, but much of what we are having this week is from the freezer last week (and perhaps the week before).

I scored BIG-TIME at Kroger this week with these simple meal bags.  It's an Italian dish with shrimp, asparagus, peppers, linguini, and a scampi like sauce.  Nutritionally- I'm sure it's high in fat, but I love that we get to sneak in some asparagus in our diet.  I know my girls will LOVE it- simply, because it has shrimp in it.  Yum.

Pre-Prepped meal bag (normally cost $8.98 each)  $4.88 this week.  I bought two bags, making dinner number ONE a whopping $9.76.  It will feed all 5 of us, meaning that per person, each meal cost less than $2 each.

In our freezer we have another bag of the pre-cooked grilled chicken.  I've decided to make a simple

Chicken, Broccoli, Rice, and Cheese Casserole
Grilled Chicken ($3.50)
Rice (pennies)
Broccoli (Trader Joe's Organic less than $2)
Cheese ($1.99)

Total cost for this meal: $7.49.  Per person cost $1.49

Salmon, Sweet Potatos, and Green Beans
Salmon (about $5 because I'm certain I found it on sale)
Sweet Potatoes ($1.68 from Trader Joes)
Green Beans ($1.50 at the most)

Total cost for this meal: $8.18.  Per person meal price: $1.63
I cook the salmon in a baking dish, drizzled with olive oil, garlic powder, a bit of paprika, salt, and pepper.
I also use olive oil to boil the green beans in (us country folk typically like to use bacon grease- but I don't)
And- yummy of all yummies, I bake the sweet potatoes in the oven for about an hour, sitting them atop an open cookie sheet.  After they are all soft on the inside, I mush them up with a little butter, honey,  and cinnamon and re-bake them for an additional 15 minutes.
Another favorite place to shop is Trader Joes.  They have pre-bagged frozen veggies for a great price, and fresh fruits and veggies, organic and not, for an even better price.  I always spend less there on fruits, veggies, and snack items.

Texas Road House Tuesdays

There are some days that I would just rather have a meal outside of the house rather than deal with the cooking and cleaning that is associated with eating at home.  I love Texas Roadhouse, as does the rest of the family.  On Tuesdays they have a Kids Night, and on this night- they kids eat for $0.99 (including their drink!)
We went last week, and my husband and I shared one of their monstrous hamburgers and fries.  Can you believe that our total bill was only $12.75 (and that included the extra $0.79 cost for getting a sweet potato with my 6 year old's meal, and a sweet tea for my husband).  Potentially- it could have only cost $9.96.   We left a 40%  tip (it's not the waitresses fault that our meal was so cheap), making our meal that Tuesday cost $17.75.  Can you believe that we even had left overs to bring home (Texas Roadhouse doesn't mess around on their kids meals!)  Total meal cost for a night out- at a steak house- per person $3.55

We were still able to eat (somewhat?) healthy.  Having sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes instead of the deep fried french fries, and choosing the grilled hamburgers over the hoped-for Kraft Mac 'N Cheese allowed the girls to bypass the processed-food-dyed options.  They got treated to chocolate milk, and the baby ate the Chicken Fingers (real chicken breast) instead of the burger meal.  All-In-All, MUCH better than McDonald's on cost, taste, and nutritional content.

Chicken Spaghetti
The name says it all- but I'll break down what I do.

After heating a pan lightly coated with olive oil, I put in the chicken, and season with my favorite Italian flavors.  Garlic Powder, onion, pepper, oregeno, basil, and salt.  After the chicken is mostly cooked, I put in a can of tomatoes, and then a jar of Spaghetti Sauce.  All that simmers while I boil the pasta- which I try to make sure is organic, and whole wheat.  Breaking it down to a guess, the pasta is usually only $1.50, the chicken maybe $3, and the sauce no more than $2.  One of the cheapest of the dinner options but also one of the favorites for the girls.

Chinese Chicken

Going back to the Trader Joes options- they have one of the YUMMIEST pre-bagged meals I've ever had.  Mandarin Chicken!  Oh YUM.  IT's a bit pricey at $6 per bag, but I get creative, and add in broccoli and whatever other veggies I happen to have in the freezer that may go with this.  I boil some rice, and toss it all together.  It's possible this meal ends up costing around $10 depending on how many veggies I use, but it's WAY less expensive than Little Peking, and honestly, just as good.

So? The total for this weeks dinner? (not including the night out) Less Than $50.

The breakfast totals are around $10 and then $10 for lunch.

I spent $80 at the grocery store this week- some items on this weeks menu were already in the freezer- so in my grocery shopping budget I also purchased laundry detergent (Purex for $2.50) and a few other essentials (Dove Ice Cream for $1.50).

I have more meals planned for next week (using what I already have at home) and will hopefully discover a way to send my husband out the door with breakfast AND lunch so we can save even more by avoiding the high cost (financially and nutritionally) of him eating fast food.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lunch: Burritos and More.....

This weeks lunch menu is SCRUMPTIOUS.  Easy.  Convenient (because I pre-made it all today).  And..... yep,  HEALTHY!

1 bag of pre-grilled chicken (Super Sale for 1 pound @ $3.50)
2 cans of organic black beans ($0.89 per can x2)
1 can of fire roasted tomatoes ($0.50 x1)
2 bags of shredded cheese ($1.99 per bag x2)
2 bags of burritos ($1.99 per bag x2)
*can you tell that Kroger was having a $1.99 sale this week?*
Fajita Seasoning
Garlic Powder

Total Cost of this week's lunch: $13.74.  It will feed the four of us (my husband is eating out this week- that will change soon, though.  I'm in the process of creatively finding a way to get him to eat from home) for 5 days, making each meal, per person, only $0.69 per person.  Now? We'll add some apples, and perhaps cottage cheese to this, but that only bumps up the price to (maybe?) $1.00 per meal on average.

I mixed all this goodness (minus the cheese and burritos) in a pan to blend all the flavors, in the oven on 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

I first made 12 (nice sized) burritos using the cheese and mixture.  I crisped each burrito on my griddle to sort of seal them, and bagged them individually.   These will feed us for the entire week, because they're large enough to cut into half and serve alongside some wedged apples.
I also made a few quesadillas to serve for today's lunch.

My girls LOVED this meal.  I served it with cottage cheese today. (Kroger brand container was only $1, it serves 4)

And? Who wants to eat the same breakfast and lunch ever-single-day-of-the-week?  From the reaction I got today- it's likely my girls and I will want to; but we may (or may not) stick a few of those burritos in the freezer and go with a good ol' fashioned PB&H (honey).

That meal choice cheapens our lunch dramatically- though it's still healthy.  I buy organic peanut butter (Kroger brand for $3.59 usually last through PLENTY of sandwiches) and served with honey takes out the high sugar content of the jelly (Although we do purchase the brand that is strictly fruit and juice, no sugar or corn syrup is added)

Frugally Healthy

I'm really excited to start incorporating the thrifty in with the healthy in my meal planning.  I've been practicing this "art" for quite some time; but I had found that I was wearing myself out trying to find coupons that matched sales and making sure that those sales were attached to the "whole foods" approach to our eating.

It all started when I was listening to a Focus on the Family broadcast featuring Jonni McCoy's book Miserly Moms.

She approached the grocery shopping budget (GASP!) coupon-less.  I know.  Phew.  I know!!!  It's hard to fathom.  Don't get me wrong.  I give much props to The Coupon Mom- this chick helped me save MUCHO deniro- but I found myself wiping the sweat from my brow after tirelessly searching through coupons and matching them with the store I was going to shop at.  There were times I scored freebies through the coupons and the sales, and EVEN times that I actually "made" money buying the sale item with my coupon (example: 50 cents off a can of tomatoes- the tomatoes were on mega sale for 25 cents).  These freebies and money maker sales were rare, but offered a "shoppers high" that created a coupon shopping addiction.  I ended up finding myself buying things we wouldn't normally buy.  Example: "Toaster Strudels for ONLY a dollar?!?!  And they're normally $2.50?  I'll take 4 boxes and save TEN DOLLARS.  Whooo HOO!"  It is a great deal- for sure- but?!- eating toaster strudel things are NOT on our health conscience menu.  The purchase should not have been made- because we ate them- and we LIKED them.

It was too easy to buy junk food and conveniently packaged-processed, nutritionally void items while I was getting a "fix" on my "money saving addiction".

 Sure.  I'll still use coupons.  I can't stop cold-turkey, you understand?  (Not without a full detox, that is.)

Let's get on with this week's Frugally Healthy meal plan.  Have I mentioned that I'm SOOOO excited about it?  I'm going to do my best to break it down to the "cost per meal, per person".  Let me see if I can dust off the math-minded portion of my brain and get this right.


Yogurt Smoothies

Plain Yogurt  (50 cents per container x10)  I switch this method up- because there are times when I find the 32 oz. containers on sale and at a lower cost.  Dannon's brand is my choice- it's about as natural as it gets.  I would use organic if I could find it on a big enough sale, that would be preferable.
Strawberries  (16 oz. fresh container for $1.88 x2)
Bananas (money saver- I always freeze the bananas that I would normally throw away due to them browning)
Orange Juice. (64 oz. carton for $2.00 x1) To make this as healthy as possible, look for the "Not From Concentrate" kind.

Instructions- Put 2 containers of yogurt, 2 cups of orange juice, one super ripe (mine are always frozen) banana,  and less than half of the container of strawberries in a blender and blend until well mixed.

 *I chose to purchase a smoothie maker  blender (it's the same as a blender, it just has a spout on it.)

The weeks total for this breakfast option is $10.76.
This will make 4 smoothies per day for five days, making the "per meal" cost a whopping $0.53.  It could end up costing more depending on the variation of fruit you use.  Typically- the meal cost no more than $1.00 per person.  

It incorporates a protein and essential antioxidants within the fruit.  My kids think they're getting icecream when I use ONLY frozen fruit.  There is no added sugar- the fruit and orange juice are used to sweeten the plain yogurt.  A person could use frozen blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, bananas, or most other fruit mixes to change it up.  WE love peach smoothies the best.

Egg and Cheese Sandwiches (or McMuffins)

It seems so simple- and really- it IS!  This is a great breakfast item!  If a person is pressed for time- I would HIGHLY recommend a griddle (I found mine on sale for $15).  It is super easy clean up and has enough cooking space to quickly cook the food all at once.

Eggs                           (36 pack for $2.79- price will vary)
Whole Wheat Bread   ($1.50 per loaf x2)  I prefer Nature's Own, but I did find a great brand that doesn't have the high fructose corn syrup and preservative ingredients added to it. If my brand isn't on sale, this one usually is.  I can also sometimes find (whole wheat) English Muffins on a good enough sale that it would make it worth the purchase.  Switch it up when you can.  Add ham or some other lean meant if you can find it on sale.  
Cheese                      ($1.99 pack x2)

On the griddle, I use a little butter and fry the eggs. After one side has been cooked, I flip the egg and top it with cheese.  To save time and (energy), I also toast the bread on the griddle, picking up my fried egg once it's been fully cooked and sandwiching it on the griddle top like a grilled-cheese sandwich.

The weeks cost for this meal is $9.79.  It will feed the entire house of FIVE breakfast for five days.
Surprisingly- VERY surprisingly, this mealis a whopping  >40 cents per person, per sandwich.

These breakfast meals can be switched up and/or combined.  My husband won't go NEAR anything with yogurt, but he'll happily eat the egg and cheese sandwich (or two).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Educational Woes

It's been a full year of anguish over HOW to educate our daughters.

This year- we chose an online "homeschool" (which in reality is an online-public-school, but we'll get to that later.)  This online course (k12) offered an excelled curriculum and a hair-pulling-agony-inducing amount of stress for the parent that is to teach said curriculum.  Log in. Use the webpages, and work books, and teacher book, and...... JUST FOR ONE SUBJECT we have to fill up our dining room table.  Can you imagine?  It'd be achievable with maybe one child in the home.  Maybe.  But?  With a 2 year old that grabs and tears and destroys anything with in her reach?  HAH!  No.  It doesn't work so well.

I chose to stick with it nonetheless.  Just for the sake of sticking it out.  We chose to modify the k12 technique.  My amazing 6 year old is a book worm.  So?  I gave her full access to whatever book she wanted to read through out our house (thankfully- our house is filled with children's books, classic tales, and Christian authored "life skill" books).  In a typical day, one would find our eldest hidden in a corner, laying in her bed, sitting on the potty, or snuggled up on the couch- book in hand- nose in book.   With all of this reading brings many questions.  Many.  Many.  Many questions.  And thanks to Google and various other online resources, she gets answers.  Many.  Many.  Many answers.  We found cool ways to use the rocket-science curriculum to suit us- with out having to go through the motions of using the k12 material in a way that would sink us into pure exhaustion.

We've opted to do away with as many worksheets as possible.  And save the always dreaded MATH- we are primarily learning through a very non traditional method; and it's working for us THIS YEAR as a means to an end.

However.  I got a reminder last week that we would need to participate in the CRCT testing.  I had heard about this testing- put not a lot of thought into it, assuming  it was an hour (or two) long test.  Uh.  Wrong.

These crazy k12 people think that I am going to bring my daughter to a "place" where many other k12 (homeschool-public-schooled) students will sit in a big room, with people they've never met, being instructed by a "teacher" they've never met, and take a 3 day long test.

Really?  REALLY!!??  How is it possible for these people to assume that anything about that is ok?  "Here ya go.  Here's my 6 year old for the ENTIRE day +2.   She won't be scared.  She won't get nervous.  She'll sit perfectly still for x number of hours and fill in bubbles.  And pass the test with flying colors to boot.


Home school'd kids need to take a test every few years- for the sake of the state- to ensure the kid is being properly educated.  Totally fine.  Kyla has until 3rd grade to take that test.  And guess who'll give it to her??  NOT A STRANGER.

So..... the CRCT blow was the last-crap dish that k12 served The Anderson Family.  4 weeks left to finish the school year----  Just. 4 weeks. Left. (P.S. taking the CRCT is totally acceptable for a standard class room setting- the problem in THIS situation is that my oldest has NOT been in familiar class room setting, with familiar faces, and a teacher she KNOWS)

I don't know what we're going to do next year.  

My daughters want to go to 'regular school'.  I don't know that we can do that.    But the rule that I made with our family is this: Whatever we decide for this coming up school year- that's what we're going to do.    No teeter-tottering.  No second guesses.

Lord help me, I am hoping for consistency.  Something constant.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Popeye the Sailor Man

There are times that I've thought to myself   "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?!?!  HAH!"  (insert scoff) I've often rephrased it to "What doesn't kill you, makes you wish it had."

Having been faced with many unenviable life challenges, I have to admit that in the moment, I found myself begging God to just "take me out".  Sad, but true.   Of course, like He promised, the challenge was never more than I could handle, and it did, IN FACT, make me stronger.  (At this point, I should be a body builder!)

The Word says to ALWAYS stay on guard.  Always!  Why?  Because the enemy wants to KILL us... (or make  us wish he had).

It's during those hard fought circumstances that I am made aware of just how weak I am when my eyes are not on JESUS.  When my focus is on ME (or somebody else) I'm Popeye with out his can of spinach.  Weak. Puny.  Feeble.  Lame.  

I'll say it again- because it's worth repeating- I am PRAISING God for the hardship I am going through. I've had a continual awareness of JUST how imperative it is that my eyes are on THE LORD- always.  ALWAYS!

I'm thankful that He has BOAT LOADS of spinach for me to take as I need.  I may have to plug my nose to get it down.  I may have to puree it so that I don't choke on it.... but it's there when I need it.  Always.

I'm praying for the day that I have (not only) acquired a taste for it, but that I CRAVE IT.  That I hunger for it.  That I can't get enough of it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's Me....

.......all tenderness is gone; in a blink of an eye all good will has withdrawn... and we mark out our paces, and stare out from our faces... Baby you and I are gone, gone, gone....

Incomprehensible layers of isolation; now you're the man with a heart of stone.. making me pay by being here alone....

Now I'm a woman who holds on to pain; looking for someone else to blame....

We hold all the keys to our undoing
Cutting me down in small degrees
You know my worst insecurities
I'm making no effort to understand
No one can hurt you like I can
Deep down inside the girl is waking up
She's calling out to the boy she loves.....

It's me.   Oh, Baby IT'S ME.....  

How in the world can tenderness be gone?  In a blink of an eye.....  Oh HOW in the world can tenderness be gone.... In a blink of an eye.....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


If this is what it takes to get my attention back to You- You have it.  I'm paying attention now.

Like a parent disciplining their child in an effort to instruct them in The Way that they should go; that is what You are doing in me.

James instructed us to count it a JOY to encounter these struggles.  And I am.  I wouldn't have chosen them; these struggles.  And I first, I was so angry.  "Why would you let this happen!??!"  Having children has allowed me to get a better comprehension of who You are, as my Father.  When I tell my daughter "I am not choosing to punish you.  You have chosen to disobey, which has led to your punishment", I have an understanding that You are saying the same thing to me....  

I should have never taken my eyes off of You.  I should have chosen obedience.
You gave me sweet, tender reminders to come back.
So gently You called my name.  But I dismissed You.  I put You aside.
 I convinced myself that I would come back to You later.....  
and still You pursued me, though I ignored You.

I ignored Your insistence that I set aside a time to be with You.  I chose me.
I ignored Your reminders to open my Word.  I chose other things.
I ignored You time and time again.....
And I drifted further and further from You.

Thank You for telling me that I'm Worthy.  Thank You for loving me enough to discipline me.  Thank You for pursuing me.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I'm not sure what to write about.  It seems that I should.  It's my outlet.  It's what I do when I need to unscramble the jumbled up mess in my head.

God is doing some major renovations on "Amber".  And?  I don't know how to react to it.

I keep asking Him why I have to face all the drama, and uncertainty in life.... though it seems like "everyone else" has the ability to "keep it together".  How is it that they are "happy" all the time?  How is it that they don't have to deal with the hard stuff?  Wisdom tells me it's mostly a facade.  They (all) don't have it together. We ALL have to deal with the hard stuff.  I suppose the bigger question is:  How is it that they seem to handle it better than I do?

At the end of a long journey through trials and tribulations; does everyone come out on top?  Does everyone reach the tip of the mountain after wandering around in the valley?

Perhaps I am in the grieving process?  At every turn (lately), it seems that I am viewed to be "the bad guy".   Through everything that seems to have gone wrong, certain fingers are being put in my face saying "This. Is. Your. Fault."

I can not ignore the finger pointing.  If I'm being rebuked- I need to accept it.  Maybe not in it's entirety; that would be naive.  When I say that I need to "accept it", what I mean is that I need to accept the possibility that  this could be my fault.

I had to drop my pride.  I had to choke on it, gagging and spitting, and then swallow it WHOLE.  It's bitter.

What good would come out of "proving" to myself that I am NOT wrong?  It won't change the opinion of the person(s) that believe I am.  Facts are facts.... but to each his own- because one man's fact may NOT belong to another's.  And these may be better described as opinion... but the man calling it a "fact" isn't aware of that.