Friday, September 30, 2016

The Last Time

EDIT: I want to be perfectly clear that Momma loves Jesus Christ and is more alive today with Him than she ever was here on Earth.  And when I take my final breath here, after I thank/hug/bow down to/worship my Lord and Savior, I will run to her and hug her hard and never live apart from her again!

  

Her name was Elaine (Momma, to me) and I was infatuated with her from Day 1!! I always wanted to hold her hand, play with her hair, be near her, watch her play the piano and listen to her sing.  I'm sure I was quite annoying at times but the older I got, the closer we were.  We couldn't stay mad at each other for 5 seconds before apologizing and moving on.  We were the absolute best of friends. (That first pic is Momma holding me and my twin around 4 weeks old)  And if you think I have a southern accent, you should've heard hers.   Our favorite thing to do together was to go shopping during the holidays and then eat junk food...especially milk shakes.  She and I used to share the peach one from Chick Fil A. 





       Christmas 2015.  Adam and I were getting ready to leave that evening for the hotel when I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to go back in the house, look her in the face, and tell her everything she means to me.  I will never forget that conversation. I walked over to her, placed her hands in mine, looked into her eyes and poured out my soul (and cried harder than I ever had at that point in my life).  

I said, "Momma, I just want you to know that you are my very best friend. I am so thankful you're the woman God picked to have me.  I am so grateful you taught me about Jesus, about true faith during the hard times, about marriage, about modesty, about being a good southern hostess, about how to fix my hair, about how to forgive and about how to handle tragedy when it lurks into my life.  I know that you're not perfect and now that I'm a Momma, I know how much we all screw up. But I just want you to know that's not what I remember when I think about you. I remember how much you sacrificed for all of us and how much you tried so hard to be the best Momma you could. I love you so much it hurts."

She was mad at me at first for making her cry.  Oh my word, she hated to cry in public. She used to say she had an ugly cry.  Thinking about that makes me giggle.  She apologized for all of her mistakes and I immediately shut that down knowing how satan loves to remind us of our sins.  I wasn't going to allow her to think on that for a second. 

We should always say what we mean and mean what we say.  Now, as I face my earthly life without her, I have zero regrets about how we left things.  She knew without a shadow of a doubt how much she means to me.  And I feel good inside knowing I allowed myself to feel the pain of saying "goodbye."  I thank Jesus ALL THE TIME for impressing on my heart to go back and say those words to her. 

In the posts to come, I'll describe more the process of grief and how it has affected me personally.  I know there aren't many bloggers my age who discuss this topic and I'd like to help people understand better how to comfort others going through grief as well. 

Once a Month Cooking Details

Okay Okay. I've heard the pleas of my people.  SO MANY of you have asked me to do a blog post on freezer cooking. I do this once a month (in the middle of the month I'll spend time making muffins and pancakes since our freezer gets pretty full quickly).  EVERY recipe you'll see can be found on my Pinterest Board titled "Easy Cooking." Feel free to follow me and pin them all.

My EASY COOKING Pinterest Board

I can usually make about 24 meals in about 3 hours which includes cleaning the kitchen after I'm finished. I pick about 8-10 recipes and double them to make shopping/cooking/cleaning easier.

As always, I begin with a clean kitchen.  Notice the black fan in the lower right hand corner. It's 79 degrees in our house (hey, gotta save $$) in the summers here in Miami.



Then, I head to my "stash" of pre-purchased items using sales and coupons.


I then grocery shop for all the items I still need but I do so also sticking to sales and using coupons. I was able to buy everything I needed for this month's cooking only spending $175!!



I then make a quick list of the recipes we want for that month and how many I'm gonna make. 



Then I begin setting everything out according to recipe. 

   



Then I start browning my ground chicken (Pasta E Fagipoli) and browning the ground beef for the pasta sauce.  Then I put the sauce on to simmer and cool while assembling other recipes. 

  

  


So today I made 21 meals some of which we'll eat leftovers.  We eat out about 3-4 times per month (usually either on Sat night or Sun after church).  The other nights we make homemade pizza, roast chicken, or have eggs/bacon/pancakes.  I then take all the meals I've made and fill in our monthly calendar.  This has been KEY in helping me stay organized all month long.  Plus, the children never ask me what we're having.  WIN WIN! 


After I'm finished I usually only have to do the dishes and empty the trash twice. That's worth it to me to have ALL our suppers done for the entire month!   Then I veg out, take a long shower (I'm usually sweaty by the end of this), and relax the rest of the day knowing I'm doing a good job handling our finances and schedules. 



Saturday, September 24, 2016

Breakfast Blueberry Muffins

Is there anything better than the smell of homemade muffins baking on an early Saturday morning?!  My kids come running to the kitchen to see which flavor I'm going to make that day.  One of my dreams as a Momma was to make things like this for my family. It saves us money, it's an easy to way to love on them and the come together very quickly.


This recipe is the base for all muffins I make at home.  Strawberry, apple, raspberry, choc chip....the combos are endless.  You could also add lemon flavoring to this batter as that pairs extremely well with blueberries.  My children adore this recipe as the muffins come out more dense than the store-bought mixes.  They like feeling full after eating one muffin instead of eating 3-4 of other brands you'll find at most grocery stores.  

Feel free to make any substitutes needed for food allergies or health requirements.




Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray muffin tins (this recipe usually yields about 18 smaller muffins or 12 large ones).



2 Eggs
1/2 cup butter melted
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup milk (I use almond milk)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup blueberries (any berry would work or you can sub choc chips as well)

Mix wet ingredients and then incorporate dry ones.  Don't over-mix the batter.  Fill muffin tins 1/2 or 3/4 full depending on desired size of muffin.  Then bake for about 18-25 minutes (depending on size) or until done on the inside and golden brown.  Place on cooling rack immediately out of the oven. While they are cooling, this is when I clean the kitchen. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Banana Choc Chip Muffins


Since our son, Ethan, can't tolerate eggs or cheese, he really is limited to his breakfast options.  We are trying to stay away from cereals as they provide very little, if any, nutrition to the children.  Muffins are his favorite and we ALWAYS have bananas that need to be used instead of trashed.  

These muffins freeze extremely well and taste just as fresh/yummy.  Either defrost overnight on the counter (keep covered) or reheat in the microwave about 20 seconds.

Preheat oven to 350.


1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup semi-sweet choc chips ( I use the mini's)
5 1/2 tbsp butter melted
3 over-ripe bananas





Combine wet ingredients and bananas.  (I use our Kitchen Aid mixer since it mashes the bananas very quickly and effortlessly.  
Then mix in dry ingredients leaving the choc chips until last.  Gently fold those in.



Spray muffin tin and fill 2/3 with batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes or until done.  


Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches

My family LOVES a Saturday morning trip out for breakfast and Erick always asks for one of the fast food places that serves sandwiches.  (Ethan isn't a fan as eggs/cheese make him sick).  I decided it was time to make them in bulk since Adam and I love them, too.  But I needed a recipe that was healthy, quick and easy.

My favorite part about making these is that Adam can warm it up (from freezer, warm for 1 minute) and head off to work.  Erick gets the extra protein he needs and I get to enjoy a fresh breakfast sandwich without worrying about the calorie content.


I used turkey bacon, thinly sliced sharp cheddar, 100 calories muffins, and large eggs.
Each sandwich is 245 calories and tastes AMAZING!



Start by cooking your turkey bacon while the eggs are baking in an extra large muffin tin.  This will give your eggs the perfect shape for muffins.

  

I sprayed the muffin tin and then sprinkled a little salt/pepper on top of the eggs.  

Baked them at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

When they finish, allow them to COMPLETELY cool on a rack before assembling sandwiches.  This will prevent them becoming mushy when re-heating.


Once turkey bacon is finished and completely cooled, off you can begin assembling.


When all of your sandwiches are completed, wrap tightly and securely using clear wrap and then freeze.  They will keep for about 3-4 weeks.  Ours never last that long.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Meal Ideas


Ok so we're all familiar with Pinterest and the typical money-saving meal ideas.  But here are maybe 3 you haven't thought of that we use often around here.  

BLT's in lettuce using Turkey bacon with eggs on the side.


Avocado, corn and salsa in lettuce wraps.


Corn, ground turkey, onions and tomatoes


I think you get the point.  I try to think of our typical meals and then get creative.  So far, no one has complained and the boys actually LOVE all of these.  

Free Haircuts!


One of the ways we've begun really saving is doing all haircuts at home.  The boys are still quite okay with Adam cutting their hair (it's so dang hot and humid here in Miami that we keep it short).  I have recently begun cutting Libby's. Hers is so straight that I just trim the ends and that's it.  We'll keep this up until the children are really asking for formal haircuts. At that point, I plan on hiring girls from church that are much more skilled than we are.  For now, this works.



Because I have curly hair, I can also cut my own (I'll get it professionally done once a year for re-shaping).  I also color my own. I know, I know!!  But I'll start getting that professionally done with we meet a couple more financial goals. 

From Scratch


One of the best ways for us to save money is for me to start making things from scratch.  We go through lots of pancakes, muffins, and bread.  I got into a bad habit of buying the pre-mixes.  Sure, they are cheap enough, but we have financial goals and the budget had to be cut.  I began searching on Pinterest for ways to make my own baked goods from scratch. Turns out, it's actually cheaper to make things the way MawMaw (Grandmother) did.  

So now, I make muffins and pancakes enough to freeze in between finding cereals on really great sales.  We tend to rotate between bakes goods and cereals for breakfasts since they need to be fast and fit the budget.  (My kids HATE oatmeal no matter what I do and I don't have time to cook per their schedules).   This is also how I use up bananas that are over-ripe.


I have also begun making my own chicken broth from the left overs when I cook whole chickens.  IT IS BETTER THAN ANY STORE-BOUGHT, I promise you!  It freezes very well.  Just make sure you leave room for it to expand. Don't ask me how I know this. ;-)


I then use this broth to cook our rice in or for soup. It came in handy this weekend when I came down with the summer cold that's been going around. Oh my word it was sooooo good!




Small Steps


It's amazing to me that one of the ways we stay more organized and save money is for me to stay on top of house chores.  Yes, the children have chores they are responsible for and they are huge helps.  But there are daily things I do to help us feel less stressed.

I begin every single morning putting away dishes from the night before and clearing the counter tops. Is it just me or does your counter collect E V E R Y T H I N G from everyone??  Like we are all allergic to putting away anything and it all accumulates on the kitchen counters. And it drives me bonkers!  So my goal is to get up early every morning and clear them off as much as I can and get dishes put away.  (And notice dinner already going in the crockpot)


I then put on at least 1 load of laundry by 6AM. It's ready for the dryer around 7AM when I leave to start taking kids to school (s). Yes I have 3 kids in 3 DIFFERENT schools with all DIFFERENT schedules. It's maddening but what can ya do?! 

Anywho, I try very hard to get it all dried by 8AM and ready for folding after they are all gone and the house is quiet. I cram in my workout between 8 and 9, then shower, and get started on folding mine and Adam's clothes (the children do their own, PRAISE THE GOOD LORD).

This pic is from this morning. I have a terrible summer cold and was in bed all weekend - hence the mountain of laundry. Usually it's only 1 load.


I then go through the house picking up odds and ends and putting them away. Usually my house is clean by 11 AM. I then relax, read, have lunch and enjoy the quiet knowing my chores, workout and budgeting are done for the day.  I am definitely a morning person so I work very hard from about 6AM-11AM and then I am done the rest of the day.  








Coupons 101


Okay so let me begin by saying there are TONS of blogs, Youtube channels and more dedicated to everything involving coupons.  I won't try to explain it all in one post but I'll give you the tips that have really helped me lately.

www.southernsavers.com is the BEST WEBSITE to learn tips. Watch her videos and have a pen ready.  She's amaze balls! 

#1 Groceries are on a 6 week cycle.  So when an item goes on sale, buy 6 weeks worth to get you to the next sale cycle.  I hope that makes sense.  Yes you'll spend extra at first but I'm telling you, you'll start saving fast!  Add coupons to the sales to make the sales even better. Your best bet is to eyeball the Buy1Get1 deals. Check your store policy because here at Public in Florida, you have to buy 2 items in order to get the sale price.  This is a great tip because this will help you plan your freezer meals since you'll be buying more of the same item anyway.

#2 CVS is the BEST drugstore for earning cash--back toward future in-store purchases (called Extra Care Bucks).  You can combine CVS coupons WITH manufacturer coupons for great deals.  When you learn their system, you begin getting things like toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and toilet paper for FREE!  Follow Jenny at Southern Savers (website above) and print off your CVS list -- easy peasy.



#3 Buy the Sunday Paper.  Yes you can purchase coupons but having the paper delivered to me is much easier and stresses me less.  I got a SWEET Target coupon this past Sunday along with the usual Ulta one and many more. I was so happy. It makes my early Sunday mornings even more enjoyable. I go through them while sipping coffee while everyone else is still sleeping. 


#4 Don't be loyal to just 1 brand unless you have allergies and it's required.  
#5 Walmart is NOT always cheaper.  Without coupons or sales, yes head to Walmart. But, if you coupon and combine with those sales, you'll save money shopping at Public, CVS, Harris Teater and lots of others. 
#6 Club Warehouse Stores aren't always cheaper either. 
#7 START SMALL!  Don't go all in until you learn your local store policies and get the hang of it. TAKE YOUR TIME! RELAX. You don't need to snag every single deal.  
#8  Have fun with this! Enjoy the sales/deals and then move on to other things in life. :-)