Saturday, June 27, 2009

A New Freezer, and What's in Your Fridge?

We bought a freezer on Thursday night. Yup, major purchase. I've been wanting one for a few months now, particularly since I've gotten more into couponing and cooking. Oftentimes I have to pass up deals at the store because I just don't have the freezer room at home (Dreyer's ice cream was on sale for $2.37 at Kroger!) or I have to forgo cooking a big batch of something because I don't have the space to store it.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Spending a bunch of money on a freezer in order to save a few dollars at the store doesn't make sense. Yes, you're right. It will take me quite awhile to recoup the money we spent on the freezer. But we will recoup it. I'll be able to buy fresh berries in bulk when they are in season and freeze them instead of spending an arm and a leg on them in the winter. I'll be able to buy chicken when it's on sale at $1.99 or less per pound and not have to give in and buy it at $2.99 or more. I can make more pizza dough, pasta sauce, and casseroles, and ultimately have to cook less. That's appealing.

And I must admit that one of the reasons that I wanted a freezer is organization. I really like things to be organized, and my freezer right now is anything but. Yes, I try to keep veggies on one shelf and fruits on another, but in the end stuff just gets shoved in wherever it will fit. And more times than not, something falls on your foot when you open the door.

The new freezer is a Kenmore Elite-- 20.6 cubic feet, upright, Energy Star, self-defrosting, with multi-port air baffles, a door lock, an electronic display and temperature sensors. It holds up to 711 pounds of food. Whoa. (Yes, we got it on a good 20% off sale.) It will be delivered Monday, and I can't wait to fill it up. :)

I think it's very insightful to look inside someone's fridge. And since I've been writing about refrigeration, I thought I'd give you a peek at some of the things that you can always find inside our fridge. (Bear with me on the photos, as they are not MckMama quality! I took them a bit too hastily.)

On the top shelf, we always have at least 3 gallons of milk. Isaac drinks whole milk (as all kiddos should until they are 2), Caleb drinks 1%, and Scott and I drink skim.

We always have at least two large containers of yogurt in our fridge. I buy the organic whole milk kind for Isaac (he eats some every day), and the organic low-fat or non-fat vanilla kind for Caleb and me. I keep some little containers of flavored yogurt for Scott.

I would not like to live life without coffee. And we buy Yuban when it's on a good sale. It's bold and flavorful, and it's certified by the Rainforest Alliance. It would be much better for the environment and those who work in coffee fields to buy organic, fair-trade coffee, but I just can't afford it. If you know of an affordable one, let me know!

Ezekiel 4:9 are our favorite tortillas. In case you don't know the Biblical reference, here's the verse: "Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself." Well, the people at Food for Life who make these tortillas (and the other Ezekiel products) took these words seriously. They are made from sprouted grains, which are more nutrient-dense than flour. The tortillas are actually a complete protein. Interesting stuff, and scrumptious, too!

Hummus. Yummus. Scott actually won't eat it, which is a shame. And technically I'm not supposed to let Isaac have it, either, since it's made from sesame seeds. But...he has it now and then, with no signs of allergies. ;) I like hummus on carrots, celery, red pepper, and bread.

Now this is a really bad picture, but here is the applesauce section of our fridge. We always have some plain organic applesauce, which I use for baking (any time a recipe calls for oil, I nix it and use applesauce instead). I keep some sort of flavored organic applesauce as well (this one is blackberry applesauce), and I add it to Isaac's cereal (typically either rice, oatmeal, quinoa, or barley) in the mornings.

I also add a little of this to Isaac's cereal and to my own oatmeal in the mornings. It's ground flax meal. I buy flax seeds in bulk, and about every 3 weeks I'll grind up a few cups. Ground flax meal is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, especially for those of us who don't eat enough fish. It also has tons of fiber and other great nutrients. I have about 2 tablespoons each day, and Isaac has about 1 teaspoon.

Wheat germ goes in Isaac's oatmeal and mine, too. It, like flax meal, is actually very good tasting, even though it sounds strange.

I am not a big fan of juice (nutritionally speaking), but Caleb doesn't like plain water. So we mix about 2 ounces of juice with 8 ounces of water to dilute it. Caleb doesn't know the difference. He will only drink white grape or apple, though I'm trying to get him to branch out.

And last but not least, I keep my whole wheat flour in the fridge. Wheat flour goes rancid faster than normal flour, so it's best to keep it in the fridge. I use whole wheat flour in cookies, breads, pizza dough, cobblers--pretty much anything I bake. Using it in place of all-purpose "enriched" white flour is an easy substitute that greatly boosts the nutritional value of your foods.

Now it's your turn. Leave me a comment or make your own blog post about what's in YOUR fridge!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Making Walgreens Work for You

I got a comment from my friend Kristen on a previous post asking about Walgreens' Register Rewards. I started to answer her in an email, but I thought my answer might benefit others, too, so I'm posting it here. Here's the original comment:

Hey, so I got my first set of Register Rewards at Walgreens, and I'm confused about something. If I apply the RR to my current purchase (for example, a St. Ives body wash for 2.99, get a 2.99 RR = FREE), then I can't also then apply that FREE-ness to the item I bought later with my RR (toilet paper, for example).

Most of the websites consider the item producing the RR for free, but then they also talk about how they got free stuff *with* their RRs.

They can't *both* be considered free. Does that make sense?

What she's referring to is the blogs like Money Saving Mom and Southern Savers that put together a list each week of all the "free" stuff and deals you can get at Walgreens and other stores. Walgreens often has specials where you buy an item at x price and get x dollars in Register Rewards, which means that the item is basically free. But my friend is exactly right--you can’t really get the item for free unless you already have a RR in your hand.

What ends up happening is that the first time you go to Walgreens, you spend real money. I spent something like $50 the first time I went to Walgreens and got lots of stuff, but I messed up on some purchases. (Read that post to see what I did wrong--hopefully it will keep you from making the same mistakes!) I did end up getting about $25 back, which I was able to use on subsequent visits.

The way to “work” Walgreens is to use those RRs to buy stuff that produces more RRs. That way you rarely pay any real money. For example, here's an ideal situation:

Today you go to Walgreens and get item A for $3 with a $3 reward and item B for $5 with a $5 reward. You spend $8 in real money (plus tax!), but you get $8 in RRs back. Total spent: $8 out-of-pocket (OOP).

Next week you go to Walgreens and get items C and D that are $4 each and produce two $4 RRs. You use your $8 in RRs from the previous week, and get an additional $8 in RRs. Woo hoo! Now you're in business! Total spent: $0 (or just the tax on the items, if applicable), plus $8 in RR to use on your next purchase!

Of course, that's an ideal world. Usually what ends up happening to me is that I have a $3 RR and a $5 RR, and the only thing I want to buy in the store is a $4 item that produces a RR. In that situation, I can either use the $3 RR and pay $1 out of pocket, or I can find a "filler" item for a dollar or more, and use the $5 RR. I can't use a $5 RR to pay for a $4 item.

There are a few things you have to keep in mind when "working Walgreens":

  • You can stretch those RRs even farther by using store and manufacturer coupons. For instance, if I want to buy some M&Ms for $2 that produce a $2 RR, I can also use a coupon forM&Ms and turn it into a money-maker.
  • You can't have more coupons than you have items. If you have a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon for one item, you have to find another "filler" item to purchase so that you have 2 coupons and 2 items. RRs are considered coupons.
  • Try to only buy things that produce RRs, and stockpile them! When there is a really good deal on something, I hit one or more Walgreens throughout the week and stock up.
  • You can't use a RR to produce the same RR. For example, if you buy those M&Ms and get the RR for it, you can't use that RR to buy another package of M&Ms. It won't print out a RR.
  • I've used expired RRs at two Walgreens and had no problems. So don't panic if your RRs are expiring! Wait for a good deal, or use them to buy a newspaper.
I have shopped at CVS a couple of times now, and I have to say that I like Walgreens better. Here's why:
  • At Walgreens, you don't have to use a shopper card that tracks your purchases. When there is a CVS deal on toothpaste that costs $2 and gives you a $2 reward, you can only get the deal once per shopper card. I like that with Walgreens, I can do as many transactions at as many sotres as I want and keep getting the same deal.
  • At least in my area, if I don't hit CVS on Sunday night, the deals are all gone. I have yet to get any good deals at any CVS around here because the shelves are scraped clean when I get there. At Walgreens, the good deals are usually still there on Tuesdays or even later in the week.
Anyway, back to Kristen's question, the first trip to Walgreens is really the most confusing. Once you get some RRs in your hand, you really CAN get stuff for free and shell out very little money. On my last trip I spent only $.26 and got some high priced items, plus more RRs back. But you don't really get anything for FREE until you use the RRs you have. If you get the RRs and then don't go back to Walgreens, you didn't get a good deal at all. Walgreens has these RR programs to keep you coming back in the store.

Whenever I tally up how much I spent at a store, I calculate how much was actually out of pocket, and I note how much I got back in rewards or gift cards that I can use next time.

I hope that helps a little. It definitely is a confusing thing to write about!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vacation Bible School

Hello, dear blog readers! I have missed you!

Last week was Vacation Bible School, so I had little time or energy to post. We recently lost our wonderful preschool coordinator, so I ended up filling that spot for VBS week. It was super fun! I got to work with some fabulous people and meet about 300 three-, four-, and five-year-olds. :)

The theme for the week was the armor of God, so each day the kids learned about a new piece of armor. The kids had an assembly time each day where they sang songs and watched puppet shows. I got to attend a couple of times during the week, and I sat with Caleb and his class. I am so glad that Caleb is at the age where he doesn't get upset when he sees me and then I have to leave. I had to hide all week from Isaac, covering my face with my notebook each time I passed his room, because he'll wail if he sees me and I don't come get him. Caleb was fine with seeing me come and go all morning. He absolutely loves it at church and feels at home there.

I got a whopping one picture during the entire week. I took this at Friday's preschool assembly. I intended to take several pictures, but my camera batteries died after this one! So I have one goofy pic to remember the week by. :)

We had an amazing turnout at VBS, with somewhere around 1300 kids attending. From what we know, at least 23 kids accepted Christ during the week. Yippee!

Menu Plan, Week of June 22

Monday: Banana Pancakes

Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce

Meatball subs

Thursday: Grilled chicken, zucchini, and squash

Friday: Chicken tenders and mashed sweet potatoes

Saturday: Pizza (Caleb's been asking for it--I'll try to post my recipes later)

Sunday: Eat out?

I made a big pot of red sauce tonight which should last us for a few months, and I made a big batch of meatballs so I was able to freeze enough for an extra couple of meals. I also made some "breakfast cookies" for Caleb following this recipe (more or less) from Ellie Krieger. On Wednesday I plan on making some more bread and maybe even try a recipe I found (but cannot for the life of me find right now!) for bagels.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Gah isso goo!"

First of all, here is my view as I write this:

I keep my laptop on a counter that overlooks the living room. When I'm checking my email in the morning, Isaac loves to climb up on the couch and watch me from there. Today, he brought his police car up on the counter. I don't particularly like him climbing, but to tell him no is like telling a fish not to swim. He just loves to climb, which is all new for me because Caleb never did. Caleb is much more cautious (he's careful, like me); Isaac is the risk-taker (I honestly have no idea where he got that from).


On a typical night, I bathe the boys while Scott cleans the dishes. Then Scott takes Isaac and puts him to bed while I do the same with Caleb. Last night, for some reason I just wanted to switch and so I took Isaac. Isaac's routine is simple, but it takes a long time. We read him Goodnight Moon a couple of times (he adores that book), then rock him until he falls asleep. Last night he was a little antsy, so I started to sing to him. When he was younger, I'd sing "God is so Good" to him a lot. I haven't sung it in a few months, and for some reason it came to me last night. So I rocked him and started singing. After a few minutes, I had just sung "He's so good to..." and Isaac picked his head up off my shoulder, looked me in the eyes, and sang out, "Meeee!" I just laughed at him, he was so cute and earnest. Then he surprised me more. I kept singing, and within a few minutes he was singing most of the song with me. His version is this: "Gah isso goo a me!" I was just humbled and amazed, hearing a toddler version of a simple Biblical truth. When I heard Scott leave Caleb's room, I called to him to come and hear. Beautiful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009





Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yummy Turkey Burgers

We had a neighborhood party on Saturday. It was held at our community pool (which we have never used--I'm a little frightened of how well it's taken care of--or not taken care of), and the HOA board had arranged for the folks from Mooyah to cater it for us. I'd never had a Mooyah burger before, and I'm not really a big burger fan to begin with (I probably have a real beef hamburger about 3 times a year), but boy howdy it was good. We filled out a slip of paper indicating what kind of toppings we wanted on it (Scott and I both chose a burger with cheese, sauteed mushrooms, lettuce, and A1 sauce), and they made it to order with the mondo grills they brought to the poolside. I don't think I've ever put sauteed mushrooms on a burger before, but I loved it!

So today when I was at Kroger, I decided to pick up the "fixins" for turkey burgers. (Any time I find a recipe I like, I try to "healthify" it as much as possible, which means lean turkey and not beef.) I stayed inside and sauteed some onions and mushrooms while Scott went outside to grill the burgers (just ground turkey mixed with a bit of onion powder, garlic, and pepper). I also sliced up some zucchini and squash for him to throw on the grill, and that made a great side dish. We plopped the meat on whole-grain buns, put slices of cheese on them, piled the onions and mushrooms on top, and dug in. Mmmmmmmmmm. We'll be doing that again. Soon.

I also felt like baking today, and I made a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and some chocolate chip banana bread. These are two of my absolute favorite recipes! (Note: the bread calls for oil, which I replace with applesauce, and I use all whole wheat flour instead of half wheat/half white. Turns out great every time! I've made muffins from it, too, but I think I like the bread better.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Snippets and Ceiling Fans

Tonight Scott went out to the back porch to grill. (Yup, that wasn't on my menu plan when I posted it last night because I thought he might get bored with grilled chicken. But it's so yummy--that's what we both wanted again! I know you guys don't care about our menus, but posting them really helps me!) Scott let Caleb go out there and play while he was cooking, but he told Caleb that he needed to stay away from the grill. Caleb came in later saying, "I was good. I stayed away from the gorilla." :)

During dinner, Caleb told us about the boys and girls he played with at church that morning. I was working up there today to prepare for our summer programming, and so Caleb and Isaac had gone to child care for a few hours. Well, Caleb said that one of the boys was being too loud today, and the teacher told him to be quieter so he wouldn't wake a sleeping baby. "His volume button was turned up real loud. Not mine. I turned it down."

Whenever Scott or I are leaving the house (or even just the room sometimes), Isaac will wave and say "Bye bye. I wuv oo (I love you)." Oh, that just melts a mama's heart. We also love the way he says "Otay" whenever we ask him to do something. His vocabulary is pretty massive these days. I have no idea how many words and phrases he's up to now. He will repeat pretty much anything you say, but I don't count that because I'm not certain he understands it until he uses the word without being prompted.


Today I realized that half of our fans were going clockwise and the other half were going counter-clockwise. I had to look it up to see which way they are really supposed to go in the summer. Counter-clockwise it is! I switched all of the ones that weren't going that way--that should help keep the house cooler! Proper use of ceiling fans can save you up to 40% on your cooling costs, which is a big deal here in the south especially. (Man, I don't like the heat of Texas summers! The countdown to fall is here...) One word to the wise, which I didn't learn until a couple of months ago by watching Stuff Happens--ceiling fans don't cool a room, they cool a person by making the sweat evaporate quickly on their skin. The fan can make you feel like it's about 8 degrees cooler in the room, even though it's not. Running the ceiling fan when no one is in the room is just a waste of electricity.


I just put Caleb to bed, and now I am listening to him on the monitor singing "Jesus Loves Me." It's so sweet to hear that simple truth sung (unprompted) by a child!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Menu Plan, Week of June 1

Here is our plan for the week (I think):

Chicken fajitas (using leftover grilled chicken) with peppers, cheese, onion, and lettuce

Tuesday: Popcorn chicken and mashed potatoes

Wednesday: Girls' Night Out! Leftovers for Scott :)

Thursday: Egg scramble and toast (using some Morningstar stuff from the freezer so I can free up space, and also something quick because I have a haircut that night--first one in 6 months!)

Friday: Ravioli (from the freezer), homemade bread, and salad

Saturday: Fend for yourself--we'll have burgers for lunch (free!) from our HOA party, so we probably won't be too hungry for dinner

Sunday: Eat out?