Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bento Lunch 4-28-09

Hubby and I both love this bento box. His lunch for today is a turkey and provolone sandwich with romain on whole wheat, carrots, baby banana, pretzels and trail mix, plus those yummy bliss mints hiding in the utinsil compartment.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 4/27/09

This week, our youngest will be turning 6 and Saturday is his big day. He wanted an Army man/ BBQ birthday party, and we plan to do what we can to make it happen. Here is our menu plan for the week.

PB and Honey Sandwhiches
Bacon, eggs and grits

Turkey Sandwiches
Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Monday - Crispy Chicken Strips over a bed of lettuce and mixed veggies, broccoli

Tuesday - BBQ Chicken Pizza (didn't end up making this last week, so we moved it to this week)

Wednesday - Cheese and chicken quesadillas with salad and fresh fruit (probably cantalope -shopping today)

Thursday - Roasted Chicken, rosemary potatoes, roasted asparagus

Friday - Chicken Salad Sandwiches and fresh fruit

Saturday - Birthday party BBQ

Sunday - dining out

Click here to see my Palmolive Sample giveaway post and check out hundreds of menus at Organizing Junkie.

Bento Lunch 4-27-09

Here is hubby's lunch for today. We marinated the chicken in teryaki sauce and a little sesame oil and rice wine vinegar then grilled it. It is served with broccoli, cauliflower and rice. His main dish is accompanied by stuffed grape leaves, grapes, strawberries and blackberries and a little container of trail mix. You can also see two chocolate mints hiding in the utensils compartment.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eating local?

My parents came to visit last week and brought with them a cabbage they had grown in their garden. Does that qualify as local (we live 4+ hours away from them), or will I just have to be satisfied with the fact that I know the "farmers"?

We ate it last night with supper. Here it is before I chopped it up.

We made it into Asian Slaw and cheated by using bottled dressing :o) It was yummy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Garden Update

We were hoping that by spring, we would be in a house with acreage so that we could have a really big garden, but with the lay-off at the end of last year and relocating again, we still have not found that acreage. So this spring's garden is really, really small. In fact, this house does not have a back yard, and I feel uncomforable digging up the front yard in a rental, so the garden is in containers.

Here are some flowers, plus parsley, Greek oregano, basil and a red bell pepper plant.

This is our meslcun (lettuce). It is still at the "micro greens" stage but is growing quickly. Before long, it will have to move inside as the temps here have been as high as 85 the last few days.

This one is a little blurry, but its a cherry tomato and there is one little tomato on it (top of the picture in the foreground).

Here are both tomato plants (yellow pear tomato and red cherry tomato) and the mesclun. We may try a container of squash and a container of cucumbers if we can get to them before it gets too hot out.

Last weekend, we discovered a farmer's market in a city about an hour away from us. While it is a small market, we found a farmer selling grass fed beef there, so now we have a "local" source of grass fed beef. In addition, a new friend who raises chickens has supplied us with some eggs. Hopefully we can find a local source of chicken soon. Can't wait for all of the summer produce to start showing up at the market :o)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Laptop Lunch - Bento Style Lunch Box

I seem to be reviewing lots of products lately. Today's post is about these great lunch boxes called Laptop Lunches. We've been eying these for years and finally, a few weeks ago, I broke down and ordered. Wow! These things are wonderful. The goal of the organization, which was started and is run by some concerned moms, is to reduce the waste caused by all of the "throw away" containers used for kids school lunches. That is a goal worth supporting, in my opinion.

Even better than the goal, though, in my opinion is the boxes themselves. they are colorful, compact, well designed and fun. My husband takes lunch to work every day. Before our laptop lunches bento box, we used 5-6 sandwich sized disposable zip top bags per day, or one box of 100 per month. Here's what his lunch looks like now (this is the one we packed for today):

He's having a grilled chicken sandwich and a spring mix salad with carrots and feta cheese. That little container in the salad is a small container of dressing. He's also having strawberries and blueberries and the trail mix is for a mid afternoon snack. Not pictured is the drink container that we filled with orange juice and put in the freezer to help keep the lunch cool (we also got the insulated bag which eliminates the need for refrigeration). The juice will thaw by lunch time and be ready to drink. There is absolutely no waste in this box, nothing to throw away. I love this!

While the boys and I don't work or go to school every day, I did get boxes for us, too. We travel at least once a week during the lunch hour and these are so nice for packing a lunch that we can either picnic at the park or that the guys can eat while I drive. And I love that they eliminate the temptation to run through the drive thru or buy "lunchables" type products, eliminating both expenses and waste.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chemistry Lab

We just started Chemistry with our 3rd grader. We are using R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey -Chemistry by Pandia Press and although we are just starting, we already love it. We've used other R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey books before and my kids love the hands on approach and the overall "fun" factor. So do I. Today's lab illustrates the different types of tests a Chemist might use, physical and chemical. Here are our supplies:

Note that we are still using "camping" style for our decor as our "household goods" have not been packed and moved yet, lol.

For the physical test, the students were to observe the three "chemicals" which were visually very similar and notice their physical characteristics (look, smell, and touch. Students were warned never to taste an unknown substance.).

Following the physical test, the students did various chemical tests to notice the way the substances reacted with water, oil, and vinegar. The blue food coloring added a nice cool factor to the test.

It was also sufficiently messy to keep two boys happy for almost 45 minutes, but not so messy that Mom could not keep up. A definite success in my book :o)

Menu Plan Monday - 4/20/09

I have a cold this week and am not feeling well, so the menu is simple and will be mostly from the pantry and freezer.

Waffles with yogurt and fruit
PB and honey sandwiches
baked oatmeal
eggs, bacon and grits

Turkey Sandwich
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Chicken Salad Sandwich

Hummus and chips
Carrots with ranch dip
cheese cubes

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches, mixed roasted veggies
BBQ Chicken Pizza, salad, breadsticks
Shrimp Scampi, broccoli, sauted eggplant and summer squash
Turkey Sloppy Joes, fresh fruit
Lassagna (from the freezer), salad, corn

Organizing Junkie has lots and lots of menus. Check them out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some Thoughts on Rising Grocery Prices

A good friend recently mentioned on Facebook that while getting ready to prepare their taxes, she discovered that their family was spending much more than she had imagined on groceries. She was asking what other's grocery expenses are and was receiving nice responses and advice. I started to reply there, but realized that I tend to ramble and the reply would probably be very long. So I decided to respond here.

First, I'd like to point out that you probably already know everything I'm about to write. I'll post that our average grocery bill ranges from $100 to $130 per week ($400 - $520 per month). I can sometimes get it down below that if my pantry is stocked, but with all of our recent moving (and the fact that we're in temporary housing right now), the pantry is bare except for the items necessary for that week's meals and snacks. Also, our bill tends to be higher than a lot of the "queens of frugality" who post their $45 per week grocery bills online because we buy local as often as possible and "clean" meat is usually at least twice, sometimes three times more expensive than grocery store prices (but I believe its cheaper in the long run, and definitely worth it).

If you have recently looked at your grocery expenditures and wondered, "what happened?", here are a few thoughts. In the last 18 months or so, prices for basic items like bread, milk, flour and sugar have gone up quite a bit. I used to be able to get 5 lbs of flour for $1.00 every day, and less if I watched for sales. Now its $2.50 every day and $1.50 on sale in our area. Bread used to be $1.50 and now its $3.00 for 100% whole wheat. These are just a few examples. Prices for almost everything have gone up.

Before prices went up, our groceries averaged $80-$90 per week. With prices on most items doubling (or tripling), our weekly grocery bill would be closer to $160-$180. We've kept it lower with a few strategies. The strategies with the highest impact, in my opinion are 1) plan a menu for the week, 2) shop for groceries weekly, and 3) cook a few quick and easy meals to freeze for those rushed evenings when cooking is not an option. This requires some organization, but it can be done in just a few hours a week. When you plan your menu, you can take into account your family's preferences so that your more particular family members will have something they like at every meal. Our menu plan includes breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, and a little cushion of a few extra items (in case the kids are hungrier than usual or their hungry friends come over a lot), so that we can try to get everything we need in one shopping trip. With a written plan, its also easy to make a grocery list based on this plan. I just jot down everything we need to make each meal on the back of my menu plan, then transfer over the items we need to buy onto a list based on the layout of the store (so that I can hit each isle only once - I tend to add impulse items if I stay in the store too long). If I can plan well, and not forget anything, I can usually get all of our shopping done with one trip, which saves us a ton of money (and time, not to mention frustration - the boys are not eager or willing shoppers). If I do forget something, I end up at the store, spending $30 or more (for the one missing item and a bunch of impulse purchases). Shopping weekly, groceries cost our family less than $130, but if I shopped daily, at $30 per shopping trip, we'd spend $210 or more a week.

Cooking a few extra meals to freeze can also be easily done if you simply double a recipe and freeze half for later. I like to do this with lasagna, especially, but it works nicely with lots of other meals, too. It takes almost no extra time to do this and saves lots of time later. I also like to have cooked chicken in the freezer to quickly heat and eat for the kids when one of them doesn't like what's being served for supper (one of my kids is extremely picky and has texture issues and a high gag reflex - we encourage him to try everything, but also respect the fact that there are just some things he cannot eat).

The Zoo

The kids and I took a ride yesterday to a galaxy far, far away (felt like it anyway, lol) to visit the zoo. Here are a few pictures.

This adorable little guy ran over to the food and seemed to pose for the picture. What a cutie.

Right here, the oldest is telling the youngest about how he knows the giraffe is a mammal. School is everywhere :o)

In this one, our oldest has made friends with a prairie dog. So cute.

Nice catch little penguin :o)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Mom, I'm Bored"

Click here to see my Bzzz Agent Giveaway.

Pictures from Military Park Outing

Our boys are military fans, especially the youngest, so they really enjoyed our trip to a Civil War Military Park yesterday. Here are a few pictures.

They enjoy pretending to take part in a battle, but thank God we didn't live through that time where kids as young as my oldest son accompanied the military to serve in other areas besides infantry.
See the sign? Yes, I did have to tell them, a few times, not to climb on the cannons. What is it about cannons that just screams, "climb on me"?

It has been really eye opening to live near some historic Civil War sites. The town we moved to is right in the middle of an area where many important civil war battles took place. The boys and I have been reading books about the civil war from the library and wandering around the military parks absorbing all we can about the history of the area. It has been such an amazing experience for them and for me.

Click here to participate in my Bzzz Agent Giveaway.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bzzz Agent Campagne: Palmolive Pure and Clear

I have had the opportunity to participate in a Bzzz Campagne for Palmolive Pure and Clear (pictured above in our new kitchen) and I have to say that after using it for a few weeks, I'm totally hooked. I love this stuff. It has a nice fragrance, but not an overpowering one, plus it works! And I love that it is not filled with yucky chemicals that might leave a residue on our dishes. I have 5 samples and 5 nice, high value coupons of Palmolive Pure and Clear to give out. If you would like a sample and coupon, please leave a comment on this post with your name and email address and I'll email you to get your mailing address.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 4/13/09 - The "I'm Back Edition"

Life "got in the way" of the blog for a while (a move, a lay off, a "surprise" surgery and another move), but now I'm back and plan to try to post at least a few times a week. I decided to jump back in with Menu Plan Monday (Check out Organizing Junkie for lots of menus). So, here's our plan for the week:

Baked Oatmeal - 2x's
Waffles with yogurt and cherry sauce 2x;s
Eggs, Bacon and grits 2x's
French Toast

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches

Carrots and ranch dip
Herb cheese on crackers
Her bread dipped in olive oil
cheese cubes
banana nut bread


This week, I asked the guys to each plan a meal (and the kids will help prepare their meal).

(N's Choice) Muffaletto's on homemade bread (these are soooo yummy!) with a green salad and strawberries

(A's Choice) Boiled crabs (with bacon, he said, lol), boiled potatoes and half ears of corn with grilled asparagus on the side (you should see that kid eat asparagus! You'd swear it was candy.)

(B's Choice) Meatloaf with steamed broccoli and a salad

Crockpot BBQ ribs and tomato basil soup

Fish tacos with chipotle mayo and fresh fruit

Asian Salad (any leftover protein on a bed of lettuce with chow mein noodles, manderin oranges, sunflower seed and bottled asian sesame dressing).

Grilled chicken sandwiches with yummy grilled mixed veggies (red pepper strips, asparagus, squash, cauliflower).

We are also going to make a practice cake for A's birthday which is coming up in a few weeks. He wants a cake shaped like a tank (curse you, "Ace of Cakes"). We'll see if I can pull that one off. I'll try to post a picture if my ego can take it, lol.

Click here to participate in my Bzzz Agent Giveaway.