Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving pt. 2

Good morning everyone! Man, it was a busy weekend and is leading into a short work week so this chic is kind of excited about it. It feels like it has been FOREVER since I had a long weekend off. But the over-scheduler in me is already filling up my "off" time cause.. that's just what I do; I get antsy.

Anyway, yesterday was shopping day for all of the Thanksgiving fixins. My friend offered to host Thanksgiving if I would cook it... Hhhhmmm, let me get this straight, you are asking me to slave over your full size, fully operational oven in your nice open-air kitchen surrounded by people I love? OK! We both have something to be thankful for here folks: they are thankful I can cook and I am thankful to not have to use my easy bake broke@ss oven- winner winner turkey dinner! 

SO, here is the menu I put together for the six of us to eat. It is pretty basic but the recipes, well, some of them have a special meaning to me because of who they came from. And if you are really quiet while reading this I will share my favorite recipe at the end. OK kids, gather 'round...

  • Relish tray- this is pickles, olives, etc. Not actual relish; some people have never heard it called this before so I felt the need to explain.
  • Cheese & cracker tray- you have to snack on SOMETHING while cooking and waiting. This tray also has pepperoni and summer sausage on it- YUM.
  • Turkey- my tip on cooking this, make a paste of butter, garlic and sage. Lift the skin up and rub it all over ol' tom turkey and it is incredibly moist. I also put him in an oven bake bag. Super simple!
  • Stuffing- use chicken stock to mix this up. I do not add anything to my stuffing because, well, people are picky so they get the Pepperidge Farm bagged stuff. I also do not put it inside the turkey because it takes longer to roast the bird.
  • Gravy made form drippings, of course
  • Cranberry sauce- I buy fresh and cook my own down.
  • Cranberry jelly- the husband like that canned blob.
  • Sweet potato casserole- my favorite in the entire world. This was staple at my Grandpa's turkey dinners and thus I love it. 
  • Baked Pineapple- a close second! It is so amazingly simple and delicious to make. It is like a casserole or maybe a custard.. Whatever it is I enjoy it immensely.
  • And a fruit salad that I don't even know what to call it but it has fruit cocktail and mayo in it. Don't judge until you try it!
  • Mac n cheese- nothing fancy here just crackin' open a box.
  • Corn
  • Kings Hawaiian Rolls.
  • Apple pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Cheesecake
Like I said, it is a pretty basic menu. 

Now for the recipe. My Grandpa was the cook in the family. At one point he even had a restaurant in Ohio, I believe, called The Dinner Bell. And Thanksgiving was always a big deal in the family when I was growing up. But it seems that after he passed away everyone grew distant or maybe it is because everyone is scattered among different states. Whatever the reason, its sad.  Anyway, my Grandpa used to make this every year and I always thought it was amazing but it could have been because it was his. So every year I make it too (but with a few tweaks of my own).

Grandpa's Sweet Potato Casserole
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

Note, I actually buy the canned candied yams in syrup instead of sweet potatoes. Personal choice only. Either way they are delicious!

Combine the first 6 ingredients. I use an electric mixer to kind of whip them up. Pour into a buttered 13 x 9 baking dies. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl to use as topping. It should be dry-ish and crumble easily; sprinkle all over the top. Sometimes I top with marshmallows too just because I can. Then bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (oven times vary! If this was in my easy bake it would be at 275 for 15 minutes, LOL)

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving however you choose to celebrate it. And feel free to post some of your own favorite, special recipes. I'd love to see them!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving- pt.1

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday because I love food. Not fancy schmancy food just traditional, warm, fond memory invoking food and spending time with friends/family. But the whole premise of the holiday irks me; it always has. Her is my version of Thanksgiving.

We celebrate a day of giving thanks to the Pilgrims who settled on this land. These Pilgrims stole the land from the Indians after befriending them. The two groups broke bread together and the Pilgrims just kept on eating. I am pretty sure the saying "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" was coined from this feast. Thousands of Indians died because the white man took their land, their homes, their food- why exactly is that a day of celebration?? With that said, I do not give thanks. I do not thank you Pilgrims for being liars and thieves. Yet I still have a Thanksgiving dinner because that's what we have been trained to do. Just like Black Friday (don't get me started on that hot button!)

So last night while I was watching a TV show I had an epiphany about the Thanksgiving holiday. I do not celebrate the historical value of the day. I celebrate actually being thankful and as I get older I find myself appreciating the little things more and more. And because I know you are all anxious to know what I am thankful for; I will tell you :).

I am thankful for:

  • My boys. The husband and son are the reason I get out of bed every single day and push through. Sometimes it is just to get away from them, I won't lie. But I love them.
  • A job. Without it I would have to turn into a Pilgrim and steal from others.
  • Our animals- the unconditional love is something I wish humans had for one another but the fur babies, they just know things...
  • Our friends. My words cannot describe how incredible our gaggle of friends are. No matter what time of day, what state, what the situation is you are always there with an open mind, words of wisdom, logic, a smack in the head- everything. And most of you I have known for over 20 years. Thank you guys for being our framily. (cue The Golden Girls theme here)
  • Our family. Even those that are dearly departed you are still with us. Each of you has taught us something in life whether you realize it or not.
  • Eyes. I really, really appreciate having my eyesight. Don't laugh- think about it.
  • Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. The best movie ever for those that ever wonder about life. If you haven't seen it, watch it. 
  • Books. Reading takes me to places and situations I will never be in. I can live vicariously!
  • Sunsets. Every night on my drive home I get to watch the sky change. EVERY.NIGHT. How many of you actually notice it while you are sitting in traffic? Look up people! You are missing some fabulous sights. 
  • A sense of humor. It might be twisted and immature. But ya know what, if I didn't laugh I would be hospitalized. Life knocks you down and sometimes all that you can do is laugh at it. 
  • Coffee. This needs no explanation.
  • Cheetos! My list would not be complete without Cheetos. I love them so..
And last but not least, time. I am thankful I have time in my life. I have had time to meet my husband, to have a baby, to visit new places, meet new people. To see the sunset in Key West multiple times! To learn how to cook and sew and be a clown; to volunteer in my son's youth group and drink coffee and eat Cheetos. We don't have an infinite amount of time here on this earth (no, I am not being religious or sappy here). So as you are all gathering with your families and friends this Thanksgiving please think about what you are really thankful for. I know I will be.

Happy turkey day!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Every week is different

In the last few weeks, OK this last year really, life has really been kicking us in the teeth. In the grand scheme of things we are fine, sure. But when you break it down instance by instance, each little thing is one more kick in the finances. My goal now is to figure out how to bring in some kind of additional income. It's not as easy as grabbing a part-time job because I have tried. Maybe I just do not have any skills anymore because I'm old- who knows. I will figure something out; I always do. But for now, let me get back on topic.

My last post complained described how I spent about $56 on groceries. Well, we survived on that but come the following week we had crumbs in the fridge. My husband had a family emergency and was out of town so the groceries took care of myself and the child. My birthday also fell in that week so there were some very thoughtful treats and lunches. (thank you dear friends!) Needless to say what I had planned went to hell in a hand basket right off the bat but that's OK! It means I just have to rearrange my plans and move along. I am like one of those little wind up toys that goes so far, hits a wall and bounces in a different direction...<boing, thud, boing, thud..>

This week is the child's birthday and he wanted a backyard party with all of our friends. As I have said before, my house is the size of most people's garages but watch out when you step into my backyard! It is huge in comparison so most of our festivities usually end up out there. So this entire project took some planning because parties are not necessarily cheap to host, however, with some price comparing and my trusty crockpots for cooking I believe it turned out pretty well.

I did need to make a few investments for lighting and activities. Big Lots (my fav store of all!) has 50ft strings of Christmas lights for $12 and I purchased a couple of lawn games from Walmart: lawn darts/bocce ball set for $14.98 and legit horseshoes for $19.98. And a friend brought over their corn hole boards so there were activities too! There was also a fire going in the fire pit for smores making fun!! Thank you to another friend for letting me borrow the bales of hay for seating around the pit and the firewood!

Decorations were simple: streamers and a happy birthday banner- $3

Paper products: I over bought so there will be plenty left over for the holiday season. $12 for cups, plates, forks and napkins.

Food: hot dogs in the Crockpot $9 for 60 dogs, buns $8, baked beans doctored up just like my Momma taught me $5, veggie plate (carrots, cucumber, green pepper) $6, variety of chips $3, veggie dip $2, ice tea $1.98 and punch $1.98, cake via Costco $18.99. Now the expensive part (aside from the cake) and the best party food ever was the buffalo chicken dip. That alone cost about $17 to make a 13x9 dish full and every scoop of it was gone by the end of the night. OH, i almost for the smores! But most of that was brought by guests so I do not have a real price on that one. 

So for around $100 I was able to put on a real hum-dinger of a party! HA! Cole was happy at least and that's what really matters to me.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Let's get started, shall we?

So, the point of my blog is to show realistically how I scrape by in life. Let me be clear, our choices have us in the financial situation that we are in and we are well aware. This is not a "whoa-is me" blog. This is me being honest and not ashamed so you judgy judgertons just move on down the road because I do not have time for you.

With that all said, let's get started. Knowing that I am not the only human being feeling financial pressure to survive I do what everyone else does- I turn to the Internet for answers! But what I found while searching was a bunch of hog wash. People claiming that their family of 5 survives on $18K a year (I call bullsh!t) and so on. Then there are the extreme couponers who are saving money but seriously I do not have the space to stockpile. My house is only 800 square feet and has exactly 1 storage closet. And while I would love to empty the store shelves and turn my savings over to a charity I have to feed my family first. Call me selfish if you want. And another thing, I suck at math and coupon math is just as jacked up as Common Core math! All of this leads to my tiny little brain chugging away for answers and everything keeps coming back to one thing- plan it out. 

Thankfully, I love to plan things. I would honestly rather plan it out and buy the groceries then have someone else cook. Most days the husband does cook dinner and usually I take over on the weekends. It works. Now to explain how my little brain works... On Saturday mornings I sit down with my coffee and make 2 list. One for my groceries and another has the days of the week, duh. Then I consult my Google calendar to see what is going on that week. Did I promise to cook something and take it somewhere? What nights will we actually be home? How many meals will need to be quick for me getting off of work and running someplace? These meals keep us from spending money on fast food since we really don't have it to spare. From here I consult the kitchen which works out well since the caffeine has now lifted my brain fog. 

What basic kitchen items do I need? People I highly, highly, highly recommend keeping a stock of these items at all times because they always come in handy or are a meal filler:

  • flour
  • sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • eggs
  • butter
  • oil
  • pasta
  • pasta sauce
  • rice
  • dry beans
  • canned veggies
  • tea bags (if you like iced tea)
  • various seasonings of choice
Now this has been an incredibly fiscally challenging week for us but it is my off pay week so.. well it sucks. After shopping in a variety of stores around me, sadly, Walmart has proven to be the cheapest. Not to mention the new Savings Catcher app, I've earned a whole $1.98 back- woo. Given all of this into, today I spent $56.33 on groceries which included dog/cat food and trash bags (so really aprx. $36 on groceries for humans). Also, I really suggest visiting the discount bread rack. Bread is freezable people. Do you know what you can do to fancy up a loaf of bread? That might just be another post in itself!

So mixing in what I already had at home with what I needed to complete our meal plan here is what I came up with for us to eat for dinner this week:
  • potato chowder
  • bbq country ribs & corn
  • quesadillas with beans
  • breakfast for dinner
  • chili mac over rice
  • baked chicken & broccoli
Not too shabby, right? We'll see. I am sure someone is noticing a distinct lack of fruits and veggies. Yeah, well it may not be 3-4 servings a day but they are in there somewhere. For breakfasts there is always cereal, eggs, toast or oatmeal. I hate oatmeal but have found it to be really good for my glucose levels so i choke it down. And that sh!t is cheap to buy in bulk. Lunches will be either leftovers (at least for me to take to work), sandwiches, or ramen noodles which I already had. 

It is challenging to come up with a variety of meals that appeal to all three of our appetites. And I have learned that pre-packaged, processed foods are not cheap. Buy the ingredients and make it yourself- that's how the F I do it!