Garden–4/24/11

Today I clipped dill from my herb garden right into my bowl of egg yolk mixture for the deviled eggs, marking the first item I’ve used from my garden this year.

Yesterday, a baseball slammed into my summer squash marking the first item damaged in my garden this year.  Hmph.  If the squash weren’t so easy to grow I’d be a little more upset, I’m sure.  With the right amount of rain, we’re about six weeks away from this or this or just eating them raw with some garlic and salt sprinkled on top.  Really.  Summer squash =  the taste of childhood summers.

The garden is doing well, for the most part.  My pumpkins never did great.  I believe a squirrel ate the seeds.  I replanted, straight into the ground this time and won’t know for a while if they will germinate.  Here’s to hopin’.

Here are some pictures from today.

Summer squash w/ butternut squash at the bottom right

Mesclun, getting more bitter by the day. I should probably eat it!

Beautiful butter head lettuce

Corn

Tomatoes

Cucumbers

Asparagus

Eggplant--still hanging in there.

Watermelon--also chugging along slowly

More tomatoes

Strawberries--not likely to produce fruit this year.

Carrot tops

oregano, chives, dill, sage, thyme, cilantro, and parsley. Not shown--basil and the little rosemary that could. Or at least I hope it can.

CVS–$156 for $19

I’m posting quickly today so I don’t have time for the exact numbers, but I paid less than $20 for all the products in the picture. I also have left $9 in ECB to use next week!  If you want to look up how much it would have all been at Walmart this week or to get the exact amount I would have paid at CVS without the help of coupons and ECB here is a list of exactly what I purchased:

(2) GUM eez-Thru angled flossers, Just Brushed Mint 75 ct
(1) Oral-B complete Advantage toothbrush Deep Clean, small, soft
(1) Oral-B Pro-Health CrossAction, medium
(1) Gas-X Chewables, Extra Strength, Peppermint Creme 18 ct
(3) Gas-X Softgels, Extra Strength, 20 ct
(4) Dawn bontanicals, jasmine & lavender 10.3 fl oz
(2) Crest Pro-Health Rinse, Multiprotection 16.9 fl oz
(2) Right Guard Total Defense 5 body wash (1=cooling, 1=refreshing)
(2) Aussie Moist Shampoo 13.5 fl oz
(2) Aussie Moist Conditioner 13.5 fl oz
(2) Aussie Cleanse & Mend Shampoo 13.5 fl oz
(2) Aussie Cleanse & Mend Conditioner 13.5 fl oz
(1) Softsoap Ultra Rich Shea Butter Creme 18 fl oz
(2) Softsoap Raspberry Sorbet & Almond Blossom 18 fl oz
(1) Gold Bond Ultimate Deep Moisture Body Wash, softening, Shea Butter, soft clean scent 12.5 fl oz
(1) Complete Multipurpose Solution, Easy Rub Formula  12 fl oz
(1) Charmin Basic 12 Double Rolls = 24 regular rolls

I am completely happy with the amount that I spent, however, I made a few mistakes today that could have saved me even more and that might help you someday if I share them.

First, I had a $5 of $40 purchase to use on my first transaction.  My mistake was that I forgot to hand the cashier that coupon before handing him my other coupons.  Rookie mistake!  You always want to hand over the dollar amount off of a certain dollar amount purchase first!  (In my defense, my oldest was tagging along today before his clay-building class and I was distracted. Honest.)  So, I spent $5 more on that first purchase than I wanted.  I also had to take a minute before my next transactions to recalculate what I should buy and in what order.  I was able to use that $5 of $40 on another transaction.

Next, when I purchased the Aussie shampoo and conditioner I used (4) BOGO coupons and (4) $1/2 coupons.  There is a very, very patient, coupon-savvy and kind-hearted cashier at this particular CVS, but even she didn’t catch this mistake at first.  She rang up the $1/2 coupons before the BOGO coupons.  I *think* the problem is that you can’t use a second coupon on a product which you got free through a BOGO coupon deal.  The cashier forced two of the BOGO coupons for me–which I did not ask her to do!–but couldn’t force the other two through.  She explained that she should have rung up the BOGOs first and then the $1/2s.  She offered to re-ring everything, but I didn’t want her to have to do that.  That’s when she forced the 2 BOGOs through for me.  I was grateful for her effort, but hoped she wouldn’t get in trouble.  The couponing lesson here, I think, is that if you are using a BOGO to get one free product, you cannot use a second coupon that will take money off of that free product.

An acceptable coupon scenario for my (8) bottles of Aussie would have been (4) BOGOs and (2) $1/2 coupons.

My last mistake was that I calculated incorrectly (don’t get your coupons ready in rush after soccer practice while trying to feed and shower three children, catch up emails from school/work and watch the weather for the impending severe storms) and when I tried to use my ECB on my first transaction, I had too many.  Iow, my purchase total would have been negative by less than a dollar.  Now, the cashiers CAN override that and make your order come out even (plus tax–ECB are applied to the sub-total and do not cover tax–although there is a way around that, I think) but apparently the cashier didn’t know that.  I had to pay that $3 out of pocket instead of using my $3 ECB.

The same thing happened in my last transaction (different store, different cashier) and I chose to loose $.12 of my ECB instead of paying $3 oop because my ECB made my subtotal negative.  Ideally, you would calculate your transactions so perfectly that you would be able to use exactly the ECB you have without losing a cent of them.  That’s usually how it goes.

I hope at least some of this made sense as I was typing it while helping ds5 and ds7 string together a necklace and wasn’t giving this post my full attention.

Couponers, if you have anything to add to help this make more sense, please comment!

Shopping my pantry update

This week I didn’t do as well as I hoped.  I stayed within my $70 per week budget, but that’s because I barely spent anything at the drug stores.  I spent $68.00 at Publix.  I saved nearly $75, but I still went over my plan for $50 total for grocery store shopping.  Looks like I’m going to have to get stricter with myself about how much I can spend.  I’ve got my menus for the next six weeks planned.  (I’ll share those when I have time.)

I think I can do this for $30 per week.  It’s so tough to pass up the sales.  However, it’s wasteful to continue to stocking when I don’t have the space to do so.  In addition, if I continue to stock at this rate I will eventually not be able to use everything.

So, the new plan is still $20 per week at the drug stores ($10 at each store) and $30 per week for groceries.  There is a little fear that I’ll miss some great sales, but the truth is that these sales come around over and over.

CVS–$50.57 for $1.35

Now, that certainly doesn’t look like $50 worth of product, does it?  Well, you know drug stores mark up their products more than a little bit.  Of course, it would probably only be $35-40 at Target or Walmart and you could always buy generic.  But I promise you wouldn’t get all of those items for $1.35 unless you know a thing or two about couponing.

Thanks to 13 coupons and $18.42 in ECBs, and less than $2 left on a CVS gift card, I was able to purchase all of this stuff for $1.35.  And that’s not all.  I walked away with $5 in ECBs to spend next shopping trip.  If my stores would have had Band-aid 8 count packs in stock I would have 10 packs of band-aids and another $5 in ECBs for $3.90 more.

This makes two CVS shopping trips in a row where I was essentially paid to go in to their store and take products home to try.  (Last week I bought four cans of Pledge for a a total of four dollars after coupons, used ECB to pay and received $4 in ECB.)

Garden 2011-Phase II

About a week ago I took these pictures of my veggies and realized that it was time for Phase Two of the garden:

This part of the garden adventure requires the most work.  I began the work on Thursday and today my whole body is protesting any energy output.  My hands are sore and a bit dry.  My back is painful.  And I’m not finished yet.  When I am done I will hold my breath and begin the waiting.  Will these plants grow or will they stay the same size they were the day I planted them and eventually wither away?  Some will.  Some will grow amazingly well.

In the ground I have corn, butterhead lettuce, mesclun, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, summer squash and butternut squash.

The squashes are going to have to work hard this year. I started to dig an area for my squash garden (’cause these puppies need their own area to sprawl or they will take over everything else in the garden.  Lesson learned.) but my back was not cooperating and I had to stop.   I threw some garden soil on top of the grass and planted away.  So, they may have some weeds to contend with this summer.  Not that it’s a problem for them. Ever.  In fact,  in the winter of 2009 I tossed butternut squash remains over the backyard fence for the birds.  In the summer of 2010 I had the most beautiful squash plants growing among the weeds, right there on my fence line.  In fact, it was so thick I had trouble finding the squash and, since this area of our yard tends to get a lot of run-off water and mud, most of them rotted before I could harvest them.  (It also took me a while before I noticed what I had growing there!)  I have no doubt my little squashes will grow well despite my lack of ground prep before planting them.

So far I have two separate garden beds.  One for squash and one for everything else.  Eventually I will add a third for pumpkins and watermelons.  Here is garden number two:

And some of the plants:

Strawberries

carrots

herbs, eggplant, watermelon, and a pumpkin or two . . . still growing slowly

precious peppers, hanging in there, waiting for warmer weather

more watermelon

My experiment this year.  Will the lettuce and mesclun grow better in the ground or in containers?

container lettuce

container mesclun

container tomatoes

Ds5’s radishes from preschool.  They are doing very well.

Breakfast Menus

I admit it.  I hate cooking breakfast.  Not because I hate cooking.  It’s because in the morning I hate doing anything other than drinking coffee, playing the latest Zynga “Ville” game and growling at anyone who dares to talk to me.  My children love when I cook breakfast.  Every Saturday I do just that.  Bacon, eggs and oatmeal are a Saturday staple in this house and have been for years.  If we have to be somewhere on a Saturday morning and I won’t have time to cook, I make bacon, eggs and oatmeal for Friday night dinner.  It’s just what we do.  And now, in attempt to be a better mother I am vowing to cook breakfast for my little family every most mornings.

The breakfast menu will cycle.  I know what my family likes and I know the children enjoy the predictability.

So, without further rambling here are the breakfast menus:

Sunday: Biscuits and Gravy
There are other whole wheat biscuit recipes to be found if you google.  I’ve never had much luck with straight whole wheat flour biscuits, so I sacrifice some healthiness in this recipe for nice texture.  The gravy is . . . well . . . gravy.  No healthy eating here, folks.

Monday:  Scrambled Eggs and Grits
I have six containers of Philadelphia Cooking Creme to use by July so I added some to the scrambled eggs and it was very nice. Creamier and tangier than when I use plain cream.  Yum! Another yum is adding garlic (or garlic powder) to the eggs.  The hubby protests that, so I don’t do it often.  As for the grits . . .  there are a hundred different ways to prepare grits.  My personal favorite is a lovely, rich, delicious grits casserole.

Tuesday:  Belgian Waffles
Currently I use a Krusteaz Belgian Waffle Mix that I stock piled during a sale.  It’s not as healthy, but it is quick and yummy.  Btw, Log Cabin brand syrup does not contain HFCS.

Wednesday:  Oatmeal
Plenty of recipes for this one!  My tried and true recipe is as follows:
I cup of Old Fashioned Oats (if you’ve never tried Irish or Steel Cut Oats, you should.  Amazing!  Unfortunately, they are also expensive, never go on sale–so it seems–and don’t offer coupons.)

1 cup of whole milk (it’s fine to use Almond, coconut, etc milk here)

1 cup of cream (if you don’t have cream, simply double the milk)

3 Tbs of brown sugar

1/4 stick of butter

2 tsp of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (my personal fav)

1/4 tsp of salt

I usually microwave the oatmeal in a glass dish because it’s faster, but you can cook it on the stove top as well.  I’m giving the microwave instructions.

Place oats in a microwave-safe dish.  Add milk and cream.  Stir slightly.  Microwave for 5 minutes.
Add butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir.  Microwave for 2-3 more minutes.  Stir.  Serve.

You might also add fruit jelly or whole bits of fruit to this.  Yum!  If you add jelly, use less brown sugar.

Thursday:  Eggs and Sausage
Yeah, this is pretty much it.  Eggs to order and a box of sausage links.  Sometimes just eggs and toast if I’m not stocked on sausage.

Friday:  Pancakes
There are some lovely for-real-whole wheat pancake recipes out there.  My family prefers for me to sneak in the whole wheat when it comes to pancakes and biscuits, though. *shrug*  I do use unbleached all-purpose flour if that earns me any brownie points with the health police.

Saturday:  Bacon, Eggs and Oatmeal
Scrambled eggs, bacon on the griddle and my oatmeal recipe.  It’s a tradition.

I’ll be posting my dinner menus when I can find time.  It’s taken me most of the afternoon so far just to do one blog post.  Five minutes here, three minutes there . . . if you have children, you get it.  Completely.

 

Shopping in my pantry and freezer

This is going to seem like a copycat post if you’re a Southern Savers reader but I promise I was thinking about this before I read her post!

I am going to shop my own pantry and freezer for the next six weeks and budget only $40 out of pocket per week at grocery stores and no more than $20 out of pocket at drug stores.  It will be difficult to pass up deals but the truth is that I’m running out of space.

I have enough meat, chicken and fish in my freezer to last at least six weeks.  We eat meat only about 2-3 times per week.  I have plenty of sides such as brown rice, cous cous, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, etc.  There are lots of frozen veggies in my freezer.  We have snack foods like cereal, crackers, cookies, yogurt, cheese and dessert ingredients.  We have more cleaning supplies, paper products, and toiletries than we have space to store them.  It’s time to take a break from stockpiling.

So for the next six weeks (from 3/27-5/1) I will not be spending more than $60 per week on necessities (fresh produce, milk, bread, etc) and sale items.

The first step is to make menus for the next six weeks.  When I get around to that I’ll be sure to post.  😉