Grocery Challenge - August

This month it seems like we've struggled for every penny saved. Could it be that the cost of living has gone up even more than the last few months? It's always my goal to do better than the last month, and this month looks as if it's been a success, until you factor in the gift card my wonderful mother sent me when she read my "eating out of the dumpster" post (I thought I made it clear that was an experiment, but maybe she didn't get that).

We've also recently discovered the Salvation Army thrift store, and their 50% Off Wednesdays. This has been very helpful in getting Andrew ready for school (next week!). Last year I was left reeling in sticker-shock, he went from a 3T to a 5T in one year...and since he was "too good" for used clothes, it cost us a bundle! This year, outside of an investment in an LL Bean bookbag (lifetime guarantee, woo-hoo!) and two pairs of new sneakers, we really didn't spend very much on back-to-school shopping.

Side note: the boys' trip to PA...I don't think I ever realized how much it cost to take a road trip. Almost $150 in gas, $24 in Turnpike tolls, and about $10 in treats for Andrew (I packed them a HUGE lunch to see them through round-trip, but that got factored into the grocery budget). I'm glad they got their vacation out of their system, it'll be awhile before we can afford to do that again.

Also new this month is the "cash or credit" category. I was curious just how much we count on our credit card for day-to-day life. I'm pleased with the answer to that question. Aside of the new sneakers and the backpack, and some pay-at-the-pump gas, we really didn't put much on plastic. We could easily go without plastic, and that's the first step to digging ourselves out of the quagmire. Score one for the home team!

Anyway, let's get down to the numbers:

Grocery-Food: $255.34
Grocery-Nonfood: $10.62
Health: $79.76
Misc: $275.83
Restaurant: $55.22
Gas: $275.00

Trimming techniques for September?

It's going to get tough next month. Andrew has some extracurricular activities coming due - he starts dance classes, and visiting Thomas the Tank Engine, and starting AWANAS. In order to pay for this, we need to seriously conserve in other areas.

And, again, we need to limit the amount of times we expose ourselves to "opportunities to spend". We spent money 43 different times this past month. Granted, some of it was getting gas & incidentals on the trips (8 different stops), so this shouldn't be difficult to correct for September.

One last note for the month of September - Andrew will start "working" for his allowance. More on that in a future post. I will be counting paying Andrew as an expense, rather than counting what he chooses to spend his money on.

So that's it, guys. August in a nutshell. Was it a success? Was it a flop? Both, and neither. Chalk it up to another learning experience.


Requesting Prayers

Push is coming to shove. Business decisons will have to be made shortly. There's a lot going on here, and we need your prayers to help us get through this immediate crisis.



Starbucks New Breakfast Line?

An article in USA Today Tuesday reported that Starbucks is unveiling a new breakfast line, complete with higher fiber, lower fat options to encourage more wallet-dumping at the counter. While this is no real surprise, surely Fourbucks is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn at least as much as anyone else, their chosen medium left me with my mouth agape.

A fruit & nut bar? Protein shake? Apple bran muffin (with real fruit)? OATMEAL?

Okay, people, who in their right mind would buy oatmeal from Fourbucks? The cheapest, one of the easiest to make, completely customizable, a frugal staple in our kitchen...would I actually PAY for someone else to make it for me?

And, if I would ever waste a good ten-spot at the Starbucks, am I going to purchase something I can make at home for pennies, or indulge in a guilty pleasure, like a froo-froo coffee and one of those biscotti-thingys? That's a no-brainer...I would never waste the $10.

This is proof-positive that there's a sucker born every minute. People will be lining up for a basically healthy breakfast that Starbucks will be corrupting in an effort to make it taste better/prepare easier/cost less, rather than lining up at their own microwaves in the morning and enjoying unadulterated, made-to-order, uber-cheap way to start their day.

Starbucks has made a market out of those suckers and their coffee habits. Now we're adding a whole new layer of stupid.


School Daze

So many of my friends and fellow bloggers have reported that their kids are back in school, or headed back this week, and how that's influencing their lives. There's been so much anticipation...heck, I even have a friend who gleefully reports the number of days/hours until her kids start every time I see her (we won't dog her, she's got three at home and a man working over-the-road). So why don't I feel the same?

It's disconcerting to look at our calendar for September. Andrew's only 4-going-on-5, but he's already got such a full agenda. Dance classes, AWANAS, preschool, weekly McD's mommy meets, almost-weekly outings with Riverside, Lowe's Build & Grows every other Saturday. It's enough to make a grown-up want to crawl in bed and duck under the covers, I'm anxious to see how he'll do it all. Thank God he's a far more social individual than his mom, he really thrives on interacting with others.

So I look on the month of September with mild trepidation. I'm so happy he'll be busy and doing things he loves, but at the same time I'm worried that, at the ripe old age of 4, he'll start to feel the burnout. He's always been happiest when he's busy, and much more manageable when he has something to look forward to, so I just pray that this coming month is filled with blessings for him and maybe a little strength and stamina for his mom.


What It Means to be Lonely

The house feels so empty. The cats are on edge. Nothing feels the same. It's chick-TV, or quiet. There are no dishes to do, no laundry to fold, no pots to stir. Nothing to do but....ahhhhhh, breathe.

My boys left Friday to visit family a few hundred miles away. They've made the trip safely, and are having a great time. Meanwhile, I'm a bit at loose ends. It's wonderful, peaceful with just a touch of melancholy. For someone who feels as if she's in perpetual motion, it's pleasantly disconcerting to just be still.

It'll be short-lived, to be sure. My boys are expected back tomorrow afternoon. Life will return to normal, hustle-bustle, demands and whining, hugs and kisses, purposefulness.

So I'm going to enjoy tonight.


Leftover Pies

Food Processor Pie Crust

2 cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening (not butter flavored)
1 tsp white vinegar
5 1/2 tbsp ice water
1/4 cup chopped herbs, optional

Throw into food processor. Run until dough forms into a ball, which will take about 30 seconds. Remove from processor, push into a lump, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while getting the pie stuff together. Repeat, as the following recipe will make 2 pies.

Leftover Pie
4 cups leftover meat (roast, chicken, pork)
2 lbs cooked vegetables (frozen nuked peas~n~carrots, leftover mashed potatoes, whatever's left in the fridge)
1 can "cream of" soup (compatible with meat choice)
1 pack powdered gravy (compatible with meat choice)

In a saucepan, prepare powdered gravy. Whisk in cream soup, set aside.

Roll out pie crusts to make 4 total. Layer crust in pie pan. Layer on half the meat, half the vegetables, and half the gravy/soup mixture. Wet edges of bottom crust with water, apply top crust, vent, trim, and flute. Repeat with second pie.

From here I usually cover one with plastic wrap, date, and freeze. Once defrosted, cook as instructed.

Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes. Turn off oven, but allow pie to rest in unpoened oven for another 15 minutes. Slice and enjoy.

We generally do a white meat chicken pie, with peas and carrots, and we add like to add chopped rosemary to our pie crust. these keep well in the freezer, are pretty enough for company, or make a great gift for someone.


Italian Zucchini Stew

This is what we did to consume the abundance of yellow squash & zucchini going bad in the vegetable crisper drawer.

1 large yellow squash, peeled and diced - $0.33
1 large zucchini, diced - $0.33
1 large onion, diced - $0.25
2 chicken boullion cubes - $0.25
2 cups tap water - pennies
1 can italian stewed tomatoes - $0.50
TONS of good italian seasoning - $0.50
shredded parmesan, crusty bread, optional

Combine all ingredients in a good-sized pot. Cook until vegetables are tender. You could puree this, but I like mine chunky. Serve with parm and some crusty bread for a wholesome, frugal, and filling meal.

Serves about 6. Cost per serving $0.36.



It's hard to believe that, had we not miscarried our last pregnancy, we'd have a 2-year-old underfoot right now.

These are the kinds of thoughts running through my mind right now. It's been 3 years since the miscarriage, and the distance has made it easier to look at it objectively. Would I have wanted another child? On a biological level, my hormones scream YESYESYES! I'm created by God to harbor new life, to shape and mold the future, to love a child so much it tears at your heart. People around me are fulfilling their destinies. Yes, the proverbial biological clock ticks away.

But do I want another baby? Do I want to go through sleepless nights, breastfeeding, diapers, hormone imbalance, labor and delivery, etc etc, again? You should hear the battle going on between my ears when I ask myself that question. Rational thought versus biological drive. I'm intimidating myself here.

I'm sure the joke will be on me, when the stick finally turns pink somewhere around my 40th birthday. I'll be one of those crazy women with a college student and a preschool student at the same time.

However it turns out, I won't forget the baby I lost on 8/20/2005. And someday I'm going to finally meet my angel up in heaven.


Walmart + 4-year-old = Total Meltdown

Yesterday Andrew and I decided to head over to Walmart to see if his preschool had submitted a school supply list for the upcoming year (it's his first year in public preschool, so I wasn't sure that they wouldn't be requesting 4 boxes of Kleenex and 2 rolls of paper towels). There was a few other things on my list, and I wanted to just cruise the aisles a little and try to distract myself from our current financial crisis.

And boy, did I ever get distracted.

Someone must have swapped my loving, cheerful son with a materialistic madman. He had the worst case of the "gimmes" I've ever seen! He was running at everything, grabbing and pulling, making me feel like the most incompetent parent ever to push a grocery cart down Walmart's hallowed halls. Finally he got to be too much, hiding inside the clothing carrals, and momma decided he'd be safer inside the cart.

From there, the situation just continued to decompose. He started jumping in the cart, swinging his weight around and making it hard to steer (ever since my tumble into the garden, my shoulder's been a bit messed up, and it hurts when it's wrenched around). He's grabbing at everything, and mouthing off, and basically making the whole shopping trip miserable.

And then he dumped a container of popcorn chicken at the checkout.

And momma snapped.

Misbehavior I can handle, wasting money is beyond my scope right now.

You know life's completely got control of you when you're ranting like a lunatic at a 4-year-old, in a hot car in the middle of a parking lot, while people walk by you and gawk.

But the punchline is, about half an hour after getting home, I couldn't stop hugging him.

Go figure.


The "B" Word

This is the hardest post I've ever attempted to write. Social stigma aside, admitting the exploring bankruptcy is basically admitting to complete failure. But despite all our efforts to change the course of our financial lives, it's obvious that bankruptcy is quickly becoming our only option.

In a nutshell, my husband purchased a pizza delivery franchise in August of 2004. About 6 months later, we made the colossal mistake of building a home (no, we haven't been stung by the ARM bug, one of my stipulations to the mortgage was a 30 year fixed rate, whew!).

I don't have to tell you what's happened to the economy...goods are getting more expensive, people are using less "expendible" income, minimum wage has increased along with gas prices. Our royalties and rent went up. Sales went down. You don't need to be a mathmatician to see where this is going.

Fast forward a few years, when we made a decision to purchase another location, only to have that one tank out in a little more than a year and put us even further behind. Now our flagship store is weighed down by debt from that defunct venture as well as all its own pressures.

So the current state is this: We've been working in the store something like 75 hours a week, the both of us, unpaid since I think May? We've gotten to the point where we can keep up with the business expenses as long as the unsecured debt is put on hold. Creditors are calling. Their threats don't even phase me anymore. Want to put a lien on my house/car/business/fill-in-the-blank? Knock yourself out! You're asking me to borrow money from family to pay you? Hahhhahahaahahaha! Never happen - they know better than to give me money! You want me to use my personal credit cards to pay a business expense? Been there, done that, and FINALLY learned that lesson. In fact, the sad thing is that we'll probably have to file a personal and a business Chapter 7 simultaneously because we've run the heck out of our personal credit cards to fund the business payroll.

I listen to Dave Ramsey almost every day, looking for some loophole, some stone we've left unturned. I read constantly about different methods of redemption. I pray about it. But our situation prevents me from getting a full time job, unless they'll pay me $12/hour so I can cover childcare and afford to pay someone to take my place in the store. I can't even maintain a steady part-time job because of DH's strange hours and responsibility to the store. I've tried to concentrate on reducing costs where I can, meaning inside the home, and the fruit of our efforts are plain to see - check out the grocery challenge links. We're still not even within megaphone-amplified shouting distance of making a dent in our debt.

And it's affecting my family on a personal level. DH has complained of chest pain at the ripe old age of 35. When things are particularly bad, I get short with DH and Andrew. Then depression sets in, and I can't get motivated to do anything but read more financial content. I've been staring down my bushy eyebrows in the mirror for the last 3 months, and cannot motivate myself to get out the wax, nuke the water, spread it on, and rrrrripppp! I obsess about finding free entertainment, clearance items at the grocery store, and a great buy at the Goodwill. And, as expected, marital relations hit an all-time low.

And I live in fear. Fear of going through bankruptcy. Fear of the 8 year limit between filings (what if we have a major medical disaster right after we file?). Fear about what we'll do after the bankruptcy, if the business has to be relinquished (strangely, you can find tons of info on personal bankruptcy on the internet, but things are very hush-hush when it comes to corporate...I guess we'll get all those answers from a lawyer, huh?). What I don't fear is making the same mistake twice. We've been living basically without our credit cards for quite awhile, and I think we've got the groove of cash-money-living going on.

So, gentle reader, it's my goal to document this process in a candid and earnest way for your reading pleasure. There seems to be little real-world, see-this-is-happening-to-me-and-if-you're-experiencing-this-and-feeling-this-way-you're-not-alone information out there to be had. I mean, I've read a crapload of case studies, but they're impersonal and don't describe the stress/mental anguish/guilt/ambivalence that I'm feeling right now.

I hope this helps someone. I really do.

So la-la-la-la live out loud...... ~SCC


Saturday Weekly Weigh In

This week has been such a struggle. It seems that, no matter the amount of effort put forth, the rewards are meager. I can only attribute this to the level of stress in our home at present. While I won't bore you with details, we're looking into some pretty heavy-duty overhaulin' of our circumstances, and it's a scary picture to behold.

So this week I'm down 9.2 lbs total.

From a clean eating standpoint, our current food budget doesn't allow for the sheer amount of protein required for weight loss. I'm eating alot of rice and beans/lentils to attempt at complete protein, and I'm pleased with the combination (a little taco seasoning could make doo-doo taste wonderful!). I'm also trying to incorporate some Biblical truths regarding our food supply - one of the hardest of which is the complete elimination of pork. Can you sympathize with the difficulty of putting pepperoni on 25 pizzas a day without sticking just one little one in your mouth? It's quite a challenge!

Hopefully the coming week will be an improvement. I still intend of getting at least a 1-day fast in, but I'm not sure where. And I need to concentrate on getting in a bit more exercise than I have been - it's so much more tempting to veg on the couch than do sit-ups...can I get a witness?


Betty Crocker Refrigerator Potato Dough + Uses

Basic Recipe:

1 package active dry yeast ($0.30)
1 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 115F) (pennies)
2/3 cup + 1 tsp sugar ($0.25)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (pennies)
2/3 cup shortening ($0.25)
2 eggs ($0.25)
1 cup lukewarm mashed potatoes ($0.50 instant)
6 1/2 to 7 cups AP flour ($1.00)

Dissolve yeast + 1 tsp sugar in warm water, let bloom for about 5 minutes. Mix in remaining sugar, salt, shortening, eggs, potatoes and 4 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover bowl tightly; refrigerate at least 8 hours. Can be stored in refrigerator at 45 degrees or below up to 5 days. Keep covered.

Punch down dough; divide dough into 4 parts for Casserole, Cloverleaf, Crescents, Fan Tans, Four-leaf Clover and Parker House Rolls. Divide dough into 3 parts for Orange Butterhorn Rolls, Apricot Cream Cake, Cinnamon Braid, Rich Nut Roll, Parker House Rolls, Braided Dinner Rolls and Hamburger Buns. Divide in half for loaves.

Casserole: Shape bits of 1/4 of dough into 1-inch balls. Place in lightly greased round pan, 9x1 1/2 inches. Brush with margarine or butter, softened. Let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Bake until light brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Makes 3 dozen rolls.

Cloverleaf: Shape bits of 1/4 of dough into 1-inch balls. Place 3 balls in each greased muffin cup. Brush with margarine or butter, softened. Let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Bake until light brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Makes 1 dozen rolls.

Crescents: Roll 1/4 of dough into 12-inch circle. Spread with margarine or butter, softened. Cut into 16 wedges. Roll up, beginning at rounded edge. Place rolls, with points underneath, on greased cookie sheet; curve slightly. Brush with margarine or butter, softened. Let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Bake until light brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Makes 16 rolls.

Fan Tans: Roll 1/4 of dough into rectangle, 13x9 inches. Spread with margarine or butter, softened. Cut lengthwise into 6 strips, 1 1/2 inches wide. Stack strips evenly, one on top of the other; cut into 12 pieces, each about 1 inch wide. Place cut side down in greased muffin cups; brush with margarine or butter, softened. Let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Bake until light brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Makes 1 dozen rolls.

Four-leaf Clover: Shape 1/4 of dough into 2-inch balls. Place each ball in greased muffin cup. With scissors, snip each ball in half, then into quarters. Brush with margarine or butter, softened. Let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Bake until light brown, 13 to 15 minutes. About 1 dozen rolls.

Parker House Rolls: Roll 1/4 of dough into rectangle, 13x9 inches. Cut into 3-inch circles; brush with margarine or butter, softened. Fold so top half overlaps slightly. Press edges together. Place close together in greased round pan, 9x1 1/2 inches. Brush with margarine or butter, softened. Let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Bake until light brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Makes 10 rolls.

Orange Butterhorn Rolls: Divide 1/3 of dough in half; roll each half into 10-inch circle. Spread 2 tablespoons Orange Glaze (below) on outside of circle, leaving 2-inch circle in the center without glaze. Cut into 12 wedges. Roll up, beginning at rounded edge. Place rolls, points underneath, on greased cookie sheet. Let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Bake until light brown, 11 to 13 minutes. Spread remaining glaze on hot rolls. Makes 24 rolls.
Orange Glaze: Mix 2 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened, 1 tablespoon grated orange peel, 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar until smooth and of desired consistency. If necessary, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons additional orange juice.

Apricot Cream Cake: Roll 1/3 of dough into 15-inch circle; place over greased 9-inch ring mold. Fit dough into ring mold (outer edge of circle will come to rim of mold). Spoon Cream Cheese Filling (below) on dough. Lap edge of circle over filling; seal to inside ring of dough. Cut a cross in dough which covers the center of the mold. Fold each triangle formed back over ring and pinch each point to the dough to seal securely. Let rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Heat oven to 350F. Bake 30 minutes. Remove Apricot Cream Cake from pan; place top side up on serving plate. Heat 1/2 cup apricot jam until melted; spoon on ring. Sift 1 tablespoon powdered sugar on top.
Cream Cheese Filling:Beat 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened, and 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in 3 tablespoons flour, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Cinnamon Braid: Divide 1/3 of dough into 3 parts; roll each part into strand, 15 inches long. Mix 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Roll each strand in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place strands close together and braid gently and loosely. Seal ends securely and tuck under. Place in greased loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches. Brush braid with milk; sprinkle remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture on top. Let rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Heat oven to 375F. Bake until loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes.

Rich Nut Roll: Roll 1/3 of dough into rectangle, 12x10 inches. Spread Nut Filling (below) to within 1/2 inch of edge. Roll up tightly, beginning at 12-inch side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal securely. Stretch roll to make even. Place on greased cookie sheet; seal ends securely. Let rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Heat oven to 350F. Beat 1 egg white slightly; brush roll with beaten egg white. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons chopped nuts on top. Bake 40 minutes. While warm, drizzle mixture of 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon half-and-half on top.
Nut Filling: Beat 1 egg white until stiff. Fold in 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts.

Bread Loaves: Increase salt to 2 teaspoons. Roll each half into rectangle, 18x9 inches. Roll up, beginning at 9-inch side. Press each end with side of hand to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place loaf, seam side down, in greased loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches. Brush loaves with margarine or butter, softened. Let rise until double, about 2 hours. (Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.) Heat oven to 375F. Place loaves on low rack so tops of pan are in center of oven. Pans should not touch each other or sides of oven. Bake until deep golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from pans. Brush with margarine or butter, softened; cool on wire rack.

Braided Dinner Rolls
1/3 Potato Refrigerator Dough (above)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
3/4 teaspoon poppy seed
3/4 teaspoon sesame seed.
Divide dough into 18 equal parts. Roll each part into rope, 7 inches long, on lightly floured surface. Place groups of 3 ropes each close together on lightly greased cookie sheet. Braid ropes gently and loosely. Do not stretch. Pinch ends to fasten; tuck under securely. Let rise until double, about 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 375F. Beat egg and water slightly; brush over braids. Sprinkle each of 3 braids with 1/4 teaspoon poppy seed and each of remaining 3 braids with 1/4 teaspoon sesame seed. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Makes 6 rolls.

Hamburger Buns
Divide 1/3 of Potato Refrigerator Dough (above) into 12 equal parts. Shape each part into smooth ball on lightly floured surface with lightly greased fingers; flatten. Place about 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Brush buns with margarine or butter, softened; sprinkle with sesame seed or poppy seed. Bake until golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Makes 1 dozen rolls.

Whole recipe $2.55, serving size depends on use. This is the moistest, most beautiful bread dough ever made in my kitchen, and my family really enjoyed it. We hope yours does, too!



Okay, David, darling brother, when I asked if I'm that pathetic, I didn't expect you to answer me!!!

"OOOh -- pick me!

In the past 2 weeks, the topics have been (in descending order):

- Lack of fiber intake
- Sprained ankle
- Dumpster Diving
- Make your own dryer sheets
- Saltine-based snacks

(You know, I belong to the selective reading club, right?) :)

[By the way sis, keep living out loud!]"

Touche, David. Thanks for that little slice of sarcasm that I soooo look forward to. I was wonedring how long it would take to get flamed for the urban foraging experiment.

Now off to figure out if canned cat food can truly find a place on the food pyramid. :D

Monday Funny Adendum

Okay, I need to specify that the previous post is a joke my BFF Joy sent to my email. My mother just called and asked if it's true that I called Lifeline.....

Do I seem that pathetic to y'all?

Monday Funny - Or Is It?

Mental Health Outsourcing:

I was depressed last night, so I called Lifeline.

Got a call center in Pakistan.

I told them I was suicidal.

They got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck.


Saturday Weekly Weigh-in

Today's weigh-in wasn't as good as expected. I've been bouncing up and down weight-wise all week, and I'm still trying to figure out what's my magic formula to melt away the blubber. At this point, the "Thou Shalt Not's" are more clearly defined, LOL!

One of the biggies I need to work on is fiber intake. This isn't easy, considering our budget is limited and I can't afford the fruits and veggies than were once common in our home. This week I'll be boning up on oatmeal and canned beans, with a lentil or two thrown in for flava.

Another hurtle for me is good old H2O. I'm not a fan. Period. And it's weird, I find as I get older that drinking water makes me choke fairly often, like going-down-the-wrong-pipe choke. Yup, in my wrinkly, decrepit early 30's, I'm already seeing the signs of aging. Sigh. Anyhoo, gotta work on the water intake.

Oy, and my twisted/sprained/possibly broken foot. Yeah, that's going to make for some easy exercising this coming week. Thank God I can walk on it, barely, by stamping on my heel. I'm soooo looking forward to lowing my calorie intake to compensate for the lask of exercise.

I also had a bad moment last night. Maybe it's a fat girl thing, but every time I read a book about changing to a healthy diet (currently reading What The Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex Russell) the devilish imp in me starts grabbing naughty foods. And it's not just reading, I used to get lots of guilty pleasure by plopping in front of The Biggest Loser with a half gallon of Breyers. Sad, sad, sad.

So as we stand right now, from the starting point I'm down 8.8 lbs. And contemplating a 3-day fast to maybe cleanse all this glunk out of my system and pray for God to get me on track.

Happy weekend, all!


Oh, Misery!

What an idiot I am! I took a tumble into the garden this afternoon and now I'm layed up with an ice pack on my ankle. Good thing there's a huge backlog on my Google Reader to keep me occupied for a few hours, and after that a dessert of Dave Ramsey podcasts. Sudoku anyone?

Oh, and the urban foraging concept is lost on DH. Maybe he'll change his mind, maybe not. But I'm not holding my breath. :)

One more thing, before you go...please join us in sending our warmest congrats to Ryan and Sharon on welcoming their new arrival, Zechariah Emerson. Welcome to the land of the living dead, guys. 3am feedings, spit-up stained t-shirts, haven't-had-a-shower-for-three-days, ah, the joys of parenthood! (grin) You guys will be great parents, Ishmail is a lucky little fella. :)

Adventures in Urban Foraging

Okay, so I'm attempting to dignify my nocturnal activities. It's Dumpster Diving, Baby! And, being the frugalista I (cl)aim to be, I can't exactly not explore all aspects of frugality, right? So I'm giving this a week, to see if it's at all beneficial to our budget and lifestyle. Dare to come along?

Day 1
Spent the day "researching" my intended targets. Meaning trolling different grocery stores to see how they dispose of their refuse. And, I'm sorry to say, most of the larger retailers no longer use dumpsters...they use these completely-enclosed, pass-it-down-the-chute-and-straight-into-the-garbage containers. Only three locations looked as if they had potential.

Day 1 Later
Okay, one of those locations (grocery store) is directly under a streetlight on a fairly heavily-trafficked street. And, as noble as my intentions, I'm still unable to get by the stigma of being a trash-picker, and I'm not really interested in being publicized. The second location (also grocery store) was great, even had a pretty great find of a perfectly intact bag of hamburger buns in the dumpster, but alas, I was ill-equipped. I couldn't reach the darn thing! Got to fashion a stick with a hook on the end! And the last location (fast food), well, the employees were still there pretty late, so I didn't even try.

Day 2
Couldn't drag my behind out of bed. Will try again tomorrow.

Day 3
Hooked stick in hand, I checked out second location. I guess they get their trash pickup on Sundays or Mondays. I'd still love to get into that dumpster, even tonight, there were a bunch of tomatoes and a watermelon in there, but that thing is so deep, if I jumped in I'd never get out! And, since I'm doing this O Solo Mio, I'm not looking to get into a jam I can't get out of (I can't think of a more embarrassing situation than calling 911 from inside a local dumpster, the Troy Daily News would have a HEYDAY!).

(sidenote: if you Google "Dumpster Diving Troy Ohio", you come up with a MeetUp website with a bunch of people here in Miami/Montgomery County who are interested in starting a meeting about this. Hmmmm, is there like a whole subterranean culture of people who do this?)

Location 3 was paydirt! It wasn't the goodies I was wishing for, but definitely some usable stuff. The fam will be eatin' good tomorrow!

Day 4
Another cop-out night. I'm just an early AM person, and it's hard to drag my albeit smaller fanny out of bed when DH gets home from work at 1am. Tomorrow's another day....

Day 5
I feel weird, shopping at a store during the day, then hitting their dumpster for freebies by night. And it's getting so that handing over cash for what I know will be gratis in a day or so feels wasteful. Could I be moving over to the dark side? Hmmmm.

Anyway, we'll save the psychoanalysis for later. Location 2 was a hit tonight! I probably walked away with 15 lbs of barely-unsellable green grapes, and a beautiful loaf of Italian bread. The grapes are currently soaking in a sink full of mild bleach solution, since they were open in the dumpster. Once we're done picking through and eating the best of the bunches, I'll be turning the rest into raisins. There were also some pretty sexy beef roasts in the bin, but there has to be limits to this experiement, and we don't want to be human Petri dishes.

Not hitting third location tonight - hopefully I'll be visiting with Mr. Sandman by the time that location is ripe. Maybe tomorrow....

Day 6
I know I said this was going to be a week-long experiment, but DH is going to be working very late the next few nights, way too late for me to get up and forage safely. So I'm calling it off now.

You know, this wasn't as painful as I'd feared in the beginning of the trial. I found a grocery store with a very accessible dumpster, and a penchant for acting in true "wasteful American" fashion. On that note, I'd like to send out snaps to Meijer, who not only clearances their meat department, but also takes the time to do it in both their produce and dairy department. Truth be known, these clearance carts are always regular stops on my grocery journies, and I rarely walk away without buying. With the economy being where it is, surely second location could benefit by adopting this practice - but please don't, because then I won't benefit from your freebie dumpster fodder!

Another thing - dumpster diving inspires creativity. You can't walk into a dumpster knowing what's going to be awaiting you, but you have to be prepared to think outside the proverbial box to use what you get. The Great Grape dilemma last night taught me that. It was really an A-HA! moment when the raisin idea popped into my head, since my first thought was tossing then browning grapes into my own trash can.

Am I going to continue doing this? Absolutely! It's a very attractive source of food, it's free, and with a little forethought, the time investment isn't that great at all. The one thing that would make this soooo much better would be company. A little teamwork could go a long way, both in prosperity and safety. I'm debating starting a Yahoo Group about urban foraging - we'll see where that thinking takes us.

Now I just have to come clean with DH. He's been so patient, watching me venture out in my dark outfits with a flashlight, and really he's been in the dark, too. While he's getting more open to frugal ideas, I just wasn't sure how he'd react to this. So I told him to trust me, I wasn't doing anything illegal (I hope it's not, but that still needs to be checked out), and I'd explain it all at the end of the week. Wish me luck on that, LOL!


More Tips~n~Hints

I've had the pleasure of reading two of the Tightwad Gazette books this past week, and these are the tips that have been most intriguing:

The Perseids are coming! The night sky will be alight with shooting stars between August 10th and August 14th, peaking on the 12th. Free entertainment!

Check your local health department for free or low cost immunizations. This could easily be cheaper than paying even your copay.

For those with accordion-type radiators, put some foil-faced insulation between unit and the wall, foil-side facing into the room. This will reflect the heat into the room that would have been lost through the walls.

Instead of dryer sheets, invest in some cheap sponges and some Suavitel. Soak sponges in 50/50 Suavitel/water mix, squeeze out and toss into dryer with your laundry.

Instead of washing used Ziploc bags in the sink, turn them inside out and toss them in the wash with your whites. Just remember to fish them out before hitting the dryer.

Instead of car air fresheners, stash some whole cloves in your ashtray - they last a long time and smell wonderful.

To 1 cup laundry soap powder, add 40 to 50 drops food coloring. Add water by the teaspoon until powder becomes a liquid. Stir well, pack into an ice cube tray. Set in a sunny, dry place for 2 days. Pop out and give to your kid in the bath - you just made your own soap crayons!

Marinate beef cubes in leftover pickle juice for a few days for super-tender beef stew meat.

To combat airsickness, hold some of those plastic refreezable ice cubes in your hands during takeoff and landing.

Okay, I'm done. :)


Has He Caught the Frugal Bug Yet?

I was soooo proud of my husband this past weekend. I came home from work to find a Great Clips coupon flier stuck to the fridge! Wow! I think he's finally getting it!

(though I wouldn't spend the $4.99 on a haircut I can do myself at home for free)

And then I saw that, also on the flier, was the Ohio State football schedule.

Oh, well. All good things, even proud moments, have to end, right?

And anyway, GO BUCKS! :)


Saturday Weigh-In - First Week

And the results are.....

(insert drum roll here)

Starting point minus 9.2 pounds!

I can't say this week has been difficult, food-wise. I haven't been overly hungry (probably the insane heat & humidity here in western Ohio), and there's been no my-meal, their-meal, I've just been eating limited portions of whatever the boys are having. Daily calorie counts have hung around 1400, with a standard of 50% carb, 25% protein, 25% fat. As hard as I've tried, I can't get that protein percentage to budge on our budget. Oh, and I've found my new favorite trick to deal with the late-night sweet-tooth hungries - a big cup of hot tea and 2 starlight mints.

Exercise-wise, I can't complain there, either. I find myself with bursts of energy that just won't be denied. The other day DH, Andrew, and I went to the park for a picnic, and I couldn't wait to get done so I could hoof it once around the track (okay, part of that was the big, luscious hunk of Colby sitting in front of me and SCREAMING my name, I just had to get away from it!). I've been concentrating on getting my 10,000 steps on my pedometer every day, but Andrew took off with my toy and now I'm lost without it!

Anyway, obviously something's working. Hurrah! I feel like I've won the first battle, but what about the war?

Thank God the war is nothing but a string of battles! There's hope for me yet!


Saltine Candy Bites

Completely cover bottom of large jellyroll pan with parchment paper, then tile with saltines.

In a saucepan, melt 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter with 1/2 cup sugar. Pour evenly over saltines. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle one bag of chocolate chips over them. Return to oven just long enough for the chips to stick.

Refrigerate for about 2 hours, then break apart and serve.

Super easy and yummy, too!

Saltines - $0.99 per box
Butter - $0.80
Sugar - $0.25
Chocolate Chips - $1.50

Whole recipe $3.54, and could certainly be cheaper if the chips and butter are bought on sale. Take it with you next time you go to a gathering...you'll get raves, I promise!