Grocery Challenge - September

This month has been a bomb. I know better than to shop while hungry, yet I did it (twice) and it's reflected in our spending. Better luck next month (fingers crossed).

Edible Grocery - $308.54
Inedible Grocery - $41.17
Health - $25.49
Miscellaneous - $214.58
Restaurant - $103.87
Gas - $157.84

Our miscellaneous catagory is higher than I'd like, and I can pinpoint it down to Andrew's Thomas the Tank Engine visit and Operation Christmas Child, both of which won't be recurring (whew!). We ate out as a family once this month, and took Andrew and his friend Amanda to Chuck E Cheese (that's expensive, even with a coupon!), and still did our weekly McDonald's meeting-of-the-moms. Gas is about where I expected it to be.

I'm on the fence about next month's goals. I really wanted to try to survive on whatever's in the pantry/freezer, but now I'm rethinking that (see previous post). It would be so great to spend under $100 in groceries in a month - that's my ultimate goal. I know we probably couldn't make that a monthly occurance, but just once I really want to hit that mark.

No Bail Out? Huh?!?!?

Just when we were all resigned to giving over MORE tax dollars to Uncle Sam to bail out the Wall Street Wizards, somebody dropped a big bomb. No bail out package? It got voted down? Somewhere in my head, Toolman Tim is going "arugh???"

You'd think I'd be relieved. You'd be partially right. From all the different opinions lobbed into my Google Reader every day, this bailout plan was a necessary evil. The US economy is completely unstable right now, the bailout was a shot in the dark at stabilizing (read: no guarantees) our economy and world economy. Yes, when the US economy hiccups, it's felt the world over.

No pressure, John Q.

Anyway, now that the bill has been axed by the House, the RSS Reader is strangely quiet. No more Chicken Little theories. There's probably only 2 or 3 blogs talking about it. The silence is definitely ominous. Personally, I'm an information girl. Give me what you got, and let me work it out. I don't like this head-in-the-sand way of dealing with this situation. So I'm a little on-edge.

Do I still see bread lines in our future? You betcha. Bill or no bill, Americans are going to have to figure out a new way to live. We frugalistas are going to become more valuable. Don't believe me? Check out my Feedjit and see how many people are hitting my Angel Food Ministries entry. Some of us are already seeing the writing on the wall, and are looking for other viable options to feed our families. But, strangely, the restaurant parking lots were still full last night. Denial?

You know, my plan for next month was to limit grocery spending to the trinity (bread/milk/eggs) and see if we could eat out of the pantry and freezer. Now I'm wondering if that's such a good idea. Do I really want to deplete my stockpile when things are so uncertain? What do you think?


PepperBeef Sandwiches

Adapted from the Taste of Home cookbook, these loose-meat sandwiches are a hit at crockpot get-togethers.

1 4-lb lean beef roast ($12.00)
1 jar pepperoncinis ($1.99)
1/4 cup water (negligible)
3 tbsp Italian seasoning ($0.25)
2 tsp garlic salt ($0.25)
1 large onion, quartered and sliced ($0.50)
12 hard rolls ($1.99)
12 slices provolone cheese ($2.99)

Chunk meat and put into crockpot. Mix together peppers and pepper liquid, water, seasonings, and onion. Pour on top of beef. Cover and cook on low for 9 hours. Shred with a fork. Use a slotted spoon to serve onto rolls. Top with provolone. Enjoy. Freeze leftovers.

Makes 12 servings @ $1.66 per serving.



My neighbor is a staunch Democrat. He's got his Obama/Biden sign out on his lawn. And, every time my eye skips over it, I get alarmed. Has anyone else noticed how much Osama looks like Obama, and Biden is not such a stretch from Bin Laden?

I'm not suggesting anything, just throwing out what I've noticed.


Bail Out Fear and Frustration

These last few days have gone by in a red haze. My RSS Reader is stuffed with financial and consumer blogs, and everyone seems to be reporting on the new bailout plan the government is working on to "save Wall Street". Every single one of these new reports raises my blood pressure just a little bit.

This seems like such an irresponsible move on the part of the US Government. I can only akin it to letting a murdering spouse collect that hefty life insurance policy. We're basically rewarding all those greedy financial institutions for their chancy decisions. It's a no-lose situation for them. Do you know who's going to be on the losing end?

That's right. The American taxpayer. John and Jane Q. Public.

For the first time in my 30+ years, I look at America and don't feel hopeful. I feel scared. I see a bad time ahead, not just in my personal situation, but in the whole country. Bread lines. I drive down the street here and shake my head in wonder that Applebee's and Ruby Tuesday's parking lots are still jam-packed. I wonder how people can still swallow that expensive food without wondering how that $40 they're spending will affect them next year at this time. I don't understand the two new houses being built in our neighborhood - with the housing market being what it is, who would new-build a home right now?

And, my biggest question of all, why would Obama and McCain fight over who gets to hold this whole smelly bag come January? They're far braver than I. Or dumber.

Let's keep praying for our country right now.


Embarrassing Medical Exams

1. A man comes into the ER and yells . . .' My wife's going to have her baby in the cab,' I grabbed my stuff, rushed out to a parked cab, lifted the lady's dress and began to take off her under- wear. Suddenly I noticed that therewere several cabs - - - and I was in the wrong one.

Submitted by Dr. Mark MacDonald, San Francisco

2. At the beginning of my shift I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and slightly deaf female patient's anterior chest wall. ' Real big breaths,'. .I instructed. 'Yes, they used to be,'. . . replied the patient.

Submitted by Dr. Richard Byrnes, Seattle , WA

3. One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a Wife that her husband had died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a 'massive internal fart.'

Submitted by Dr. Susan Steinberg

4. During a patient's two week follow-up appointment with his cardiodoctor, the patient said that he was having trouble with one of his medications. ' Which one ?'.. . I asked. 'The patch; the Nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and now I'm running out of places to put it!' I had him quickly undress and discovered what I hoped I wouldn't see. Yes, the man had overfifty patches on his body! Now, the instructions include removal of the old patch before applying a new one.

Submitted by Dr. Rebecca St. Clair, Norfolk , VA

5. While acquainting myself with a new elderly patient, I asked 'How long have you been bed ridden?' After a look of complete confusion she then answered . . .' Why, not for about twenty years - when my husband passed away.'

Submitted by Dr. Steven Swanson- Corvallis, OR

6. I was performing rounds at the hospital one morning and while checking up on a man I asked, 'So how's your breakfast this morning?''The man replied, 'It's very good except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can't seem to getused to the taste.'. . . I then asked to see the jelly and he produced a foil packet labeled ' KY Jelly.'

Submitted by Dr. Leonard Kransdorf, Detroit , MI

7. A nurse was on duty in the Emergency Room when a young woman withpurple hair styled into a punk rocker Mohawk, sporting a variety of tattoos,and wearing strange clothing, entered. It was quickly determined that the patient had acute appendicitis, so she was scheduled for immediate surgery. When she was completely disrobed on the operating table, the staff noticed that her pubic hair had been dyed green, and above it there was a tattoo that read . . .' Keep off the grass.' Once the surgery was completed, the surgeon wrote a short note on the patient's dressing, which said 'Sorry . . . had to mow the lawn.'

Submitted by RN, no name

8. As a new, young MD doing his residency in OB , I was quite embarrassed when performing female pelvic exams... To cover my embarrassment I had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly. The middle-aged lady upon whom I was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassing me I looked up from my work and sheepishly said, 'I'm sorry. Was I tickling you?' She replied with tears running down her cheeksfrom laughing so hard . .' No doctor, but the song you were whistling was ' I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener.'

Dr. wouldn't submit his name

Thanks Joy! These are hysterical!


Andrew's First Trumpet Recital

Andrew's having such a blast with this lucky find - he sure enjoys it alot more than the keyboard we bought for him. :)


Operation Christmas Child

This past Sunday they distributed the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes at church. I was delighted, this is one ministry that, despite our current financial crisis, we're getting involved in.

We brought home three of the boxes available (this year Samaritan's Purse is providing the boxes, no more scrounging for leftover shoeboxes!). Andrew had a bunch of questions. Rather then answering them, after lunch we sat down at the computer and watched the 10-minute movie on the website. About halfway through, Andrew turned to me and asked why these children had no toys, and to my surprise I started sobbing. Every year this ministry shows me exactly how greedy I am. I kind of go through a personal crisis, like that scene in Schindler's List where Schindler starts removing his jewelry and saying how that watch could have bought another Jew. I look at all we have around us, yet we're still on the fast track to moremoremore. I feel deprived, when I have a roof and clean water and plenty to eat. I have the love of my family, and the love of Jesus. I am wealthy beyond my imagination.

So Andrew and I set off to fill the boxes. We've chosen two girls 5-8 years old, and one boy 9-12 years old. Andrew was very excited, choosing items to put in the boxes, from markers and Hot Wheels cars, to My Little Pony figures and Littlest Petshop pets. We bought puzzles, toothbrushes, and candy; bookmarks, Silly Putty, and bubble gum. And we've imagined the faces of the children when they open the boxes and enjoy the toys. We see their mouths reading the words of the books on Jesus. We pray they will feel the love from our family and from Jesus.

To me, this ministry embodies the truest meaning of Christmas. And we're so grateful to be a small part of it.


Homemade Cheese Danish

This recipe comes via my sister, Beth. Trust me when I say, it's divine. Definitely company-worthy. A hit at brunches. Mm-mmm!

2 packages crescent rolls (Walmart brand $1.29 each) - $2.58
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened - $0.99 each on sale - $1.98
1 cup sugar - $0.50
1 egg yolk - $0.15
1 tsp vanilla - $0.25 homemade

Line ungreased 9x13 pan with one pack crescent rolls, press seams together. Cream together cream cheese, sugar, yolk, and vanilla. Spread onto rolls. Top with second package of rolls.

Mix together and sprinkle on top:
1/2 cup AP flour - $0.25
1/4 cup margarine - $0.25
1/4 cup sugar - $0.15

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 375 for 20 minutes. Cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, refrigerate leftovers. And save me a piece.

Total recipe $6.11. Serves 18 @ $0.34 per serving.


Could Hurricane Ike be an Answer to Fervent Prayer?

We went to church yesterday as usual. And, in one part of the message, Pastor Shawn was talking about someone he knew who was being tormented in the workplace by a coworker. The group got together and prayed that God remove this influence from his friend's life. And, within the week, not only was the coworker terminated, but the friend was promoted into that person's position. When God is with you, who can be against you, right?

Some of you may remember my rants about the situation we're in with the pizza franchise and debt and the economy and yadda yadda. Well, Yasar and I prayed fervently for God to intervene in our situation. And boy, did He ever!

Ohio was hit with monsterous winds that were leftovers from Hurricane Ike yesterday afternoon - gusts in Dayton recorded at up to 75mph. This went on for about 4 hours, then it started to drizzle, and it all went away. We, along with 100,000 other DP&L customers, lost power here at the house. Many traffic lights here in Troy are still dark as we speak, mostly from the huge trees in this town taking down power lines.

Also, our top 2 competitors in the Troy pizza game were (and still are) without power.

So yeah, the store got BOMBED last night. We had record sales. It's almost a curse, this was unplanned so we're trying to figure out where we can get extra dough, cheese, pepperoni, etc. to get us through until our next delivery. Yasar was disappointed that he didn't get to watch his beloved Steelers on national TV last night (the power was out anyway), but he was ecstatic to be busy makin' money at the store.

Moral of this story? When you pray for deliverance, be ready for God to deliver you in a BIG way! Pray with expectations!


Cannie Shapiro Made Me Cry!

For the record, I'm not an overly emotional person. Though known to cry ay the occasional movie, books generally leave me unfazed. I enjoy them, but when I'm done with one I put it down and move on to the next one. Until this week.
I read Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner a few years ago. It's a great book, about plus-sized Cannie Shapiro and her larger-than-life life. She meets the man of her dreams, gets spurned, gets pregnant by him, hobnobs with a bunch of movie stars, comes home to Philly to meet the man of her dreams and have her baby. In this book, I cried out when I read the circumstances surrounding her delivery of her daughter, Joy. This book haunted me, and left me shaking.

Fast forward a few years. I just got done reading Certain Girls, which is the story of Cannie and Joy thirteen years later. Joy's going through the struggles that involve a coming-of-age girl, with the added bonus of the hearing aides she's so self-conscious about. When she discovers Cannie wrote a novel based loosely on her past, Joy decides she's going to finally learn the truth about her history for herself. Things finally fall together so that a happy ending looms....

And then the crushing blow. I won't give it away, in case you decide to pick up this book for yourself, but I couldn't contain my hurt and outrage, then sadness, when I finished this book. I thought Cannie was finaly going to get the happily-ever-after she's surely earned by now, but the author had other ideas.

For the record, I've read everything Weiner has put out (that I know of - since one of Cannie's jobs has been as a ghostwriter, I have to wonder if Weiner hasn't been dabbling in that arena, too). I love her writing. In Her Shoes was a good book (and a not-so-good movie), Goodnight Nobody was a spicy little thriller, and Little Earthquakes was a sweet, touching read that I truly enjoyed. The Guy Not Taken, well, I'm not too fond of the short story, and many of these stories seemed incomplete, which further drives me nuts.

Jay-Dub, I just wanted to say how much I love your work. And I hope there's another Cannie book in you. One where she will arise victorious, her prince will come, and she'll head off into the sunset, happily ever after. Please. Because the ending of Certain Girls is making me lose sleep!!!!


Letter A

Just thought this was cute, and wanted to share what Andrew's learning in preschool.

Bed Bath & Beyond Common Decency

Just got done reading a blog entry from the Consumerist, which told the disturbing story of a customer who spotted an unresponsive toddler locked in a hot car in Bed Bath & Beyond's parking lot, requested that a sales rep inside call 911 or use the in-store PA system, and was turned down flat.

BB&B corporate backed up that employee's decision.

My blood pressure just spiked and the rants are going on in my head. I have alot of trouble understanding why any decent human being would knowingly jeopardize a child's life. But for a corporting to condone that type of behaviour is inexcusable. You can believe that BB&B will never again see a single one of my consumer dollars, and I hope you'll join me on this.

And justice was served...the manager was charged with failure to report neglect of a child, which carries a fine and jail time. I'm glad the law prevailed where the corporation failed.

The child will be okay. BB&B, I sincerely hope your bottom line will not fare so well.


Thermos Lunch

1 lb ground meat of choice (we use chicken breast)
2 cups water
1 21-oz can pork & beans
1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 envelope sloppy joe mix
1 1/2 cup macaroni, uncooked

In a dutch oven, brown meat completely; drain if necessary. Add water, pork & beans, tomatoes, and sloppy joe mix. Bring to a boil, add macaroni and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Ladel into thermoses. Makes 8 servings

Notes: this looks soupy upon completion, but it's designed for the macaroni to continue to cook in the thermos (or fridge). It's a very good, hearty, low fat lunch. Many days this was the lunch I looked forward to at the nursing home, and it fuelled me through the rest of my shift, and then some.

Enjoy! :)



Spotted at the grocery store today:

Rachel Ray is now making dog food. Not a joke.

Now it's official, the "White Oprah" is trying to take over the world in ways O.G. never dreamed. Oprah only had aspirations for presidential office, while Ray-ray is striving for COMPLETE WORLD DOMINATION. A few Food Network shows, a daytime talk show, a magazine, commercials spots, and now puppy chow.

Any comments as to what her next conquest will be? A theme park? A line of automobiles? Ray-Ray Airlines?


Does This Sam's Club Membership Make Me Look Bulky?

A recent post in Quest for Four Pillars discussed the bulk-buying experience, if it's economically sound, and the ins-and-outs of storing large amounts of consumables. This got me thinking about our Sam's Club membership and if it's really worth the money we pay for it every month.

As a small business, last year our Sam's Club membership cost us $35, probably the same it costs anyone else - the big perk with a small business membership is extended hours. And from a business perspective, we probably recoup about half of that amount just in buying thermal credit card paper there (it's ridiculously expensive at Staples!). But other than the tiny paper rolls, there's no business-related purchases made. I guess we just get the benefit of having the business absorb our membership fees.

If you've spent any time on this blog, you know I love to be frugal. It's a necessity for us, as we're not in the financial position to be otherwise. And it's also become a hobby, hopefully one that will last throughout our lives and be passed on to our son. So Sam's can be a little tricky for us, since we thrift shop for clothes, have no need/extra cash for new electronics/jewelry/furniture/etc, and we don't gernerally buy name brand consumables.

So what I try to concentrate on when we do make our bi-annual restocking trip to Sam's is staples. A 25 lb. sack of flour, a 12 lb. sack of rice, frozen fish fillets, giant rolls of plastic wrap, and the like. We also gravitate towards the clearance rack in the back of the store, sometimes they have great deals there - but these will mostly be used for gifting. I love to look through the book section, if only to jot down ideas of books to reserve at the library. And usually we allow for an impulse buy in the produce section, this seems to keep Andrew behaviorally on-track and doesn't leave him reeling from sugar shock on the 12-mile ride home.

And, on that train of thought, I'd like to stop and backtrack a moment. Just down the street from Sam's is our family's favorite restaurant, the Golden Corral. One thing I absolutely refuse to do is to walk in to Sam's Club hungry (unless it's Sample Saturday, when we encourage growly tummies - can you say "free lunch"?). So, if Yasar's along for the ride, we're stopping to eat first. I'm convinced the $25 we'll spend at a restaurant will be money saved on impulse shopping later.

In the past we've purchased electronics at Sam's, two different printer/scanner/fax's and a few paper shredders come to mind. I'm not impressed with their electronics. You're basically forced to buy one of two or three models, and you're probably not versed on the pros & cons of those models. Out of those four purchases listed above, only one worked as expected. We've learned an expensive lesson, and generally purchase off the internet now. We may not save money, but at least we get to look at others' reviews of the products before we hand over our hard-earned cash.

And that's my last point about Sam's. We bring cash. Period. Sam's can be a money-sucking void if you go in there without parameters. One of ours is that we have a limited amount to spend. And Sam's helps this effort, in a way, since they only take Mastercard and Discover, and debit cards. Since we only carry Visa, and our check card isn't worth the plastic it's made of, we don't really run into too many unplanned purchases.

So is Sam's worth it? In our family, definitely. When you weigh it out, it's one place where Yasar doesn't mind shopping, there's usually lots to look at, the food quality is great, and savings can be generous with a little forethought. I wish we had a Costco to compare it to, but they haven't reached our area yet. It's okay, the moral of this story is sometimes less options are better.

Unless you're talking electronics.



100 Must-Have Foods (with a strong PA Dutch influence)

Inspired by a little blog called SlashFood, I thought I'd try to sum up a uniquely American culinary experience. From my own perspective, these are the must-try foods to complete your own personal gastronomic journey.

1. chicken corn noodle soup from a fire company's kitchen
2. chow chow
3. lard-cooked chips
4. red beet eggs
5. whoopie pies
6. shoofly pie
7. Spring Glen chicken pot pie
8. velveeta shells and cheese with canned stewed tomatoes
9. my daddy's tuna a la king on toast
10. falafel
11. shawarma
12. riz a fasuli
13. foul mumuddas
14. a sun-warmed tomato, sliced and sprinkled with sea salt
15. sushi
16. caviar spread on cheap bologna
17. red grapes and cheap American cheese in the same bite
18. homemade lemon curd
19. homemade iced tea
20. Laughing Cow cheese on pita bread with cucumber slices
21. fried ice cream
22. anything with chorizo
23. those green beans they serve at the Chinese buffet
24. bacon, onion, and green olive pizza
25. any kind of Indian food
26. Maxwell House
27. my brother's strawberry pie
28. Italian sandwiches from V&S
29. Chincoteague crabcakes
30. chicken & dumplings
31. fish chowder
32. blue cheese burgers
33. bacon blueberry waffles
34. buckeyes
35. Baby Ruth washed down with Countrytime lemonade
36. frozen Snickers bar
37. frozen Tootsie Rolls
38. parmesan peppercorn chicken wings
39. that dark chocolate cake from Golden Corral
40. taco baked potatoes
41. asparagus & smoked gouda quiche
42. Wilber buds
43. ramen noodles
44. chicken curry with jasmine rice
45. Italian beef sandwiches
46. PA Dutch version of chili
47. gremom's brown butter red beets
48. gremom's brown butter noodles
49. gremom's brown butter haddock (before you knock it, you should know they lived well into their 90's!)
50. grilled eggplant and zucchini
51. popcorn with Old Bay seasoning
52. rugalach
53. cardamom bread
54. mamooul
55. pumpkin seeds
56. pecan pie
57. roast chicken with rosemary
58. syrian breakfast
59. peanut butter Twix
60. s'mores
61. spiced apple cider
62. warm artichoke dip
63. guacamole
64. fried cabbage w/ caraway seeds
65. gizmos
66. buttermilk biscuits
67. fried potatoes
68. David's ranch eggs
69. peanut butter bananas
70. lasagna from Little Italy, NY NY
71. Wayfar chocolate milk
72. Hershey fudge
73. Lebanon bologna
74. ring bologna with cold ketchup
75. blue cheese stuffed olives
76. grilled pecan stickies
77. Berks fiesta dogs
78. Dietrich's smoked sausage with horseradish
79. dried beef & gravy over home fries
80. zattar
81. mommy's meatloaf burgers
82. greek salad
83. BLT
84. leftover Easter ham, sliced and fried
85. steamed clams and drawn butter
86. Sno-kist chocolate & vanilla twist soft-serve
87. Boehringer's boiled burgers
88. and their hand-cut fries with malt vinegar
89. Beth's mexican tacos
90. caramel apples
91. Lemon Nekot crackers
92. Pop Rocks
93. Icy Tea
94. turkey club sandwich
95. pastrami on rye
96. gyro
97. soft pretzels and ice cream
98. Sturgis Little Cheesers
99. the Chink's chicken chow mein

Feel free to comment and criticize/add your own opinions.


My Materialistic Son

They say 4-going-on-5 is an impressionable age. I'd say they're right, but may have the gift of understatement. Andrew's a sweet kid, but a bit of a follower. And, like most kids his age, everything advertised on TV becomes part of his wish list. I thought it was bad before, but this past week has shoved him into overdrive.

It all started with the Audi dealership. Hubby had to take his car down to the dealer to get the stereo reprogrammed. And, while they were waiting for the service to be completed, it seems that Andrew got to check out all the expensive cars in the lot. Heck, the nice receptionist even gave Andrew a little Matchbox car Audi to take with him.

Then, to add fuel to the fire, the next day Andrew and hubby headed off for the Disneyland of opulence. Hubby's family is pretty well off. They've got a huge home, expensive cars, vacation properties, yadda yadda. So after a few days of being thrusted into the fire, Andrew came home with a terrific hunger for all things expensive.

Top it all off with a husband who naturally wants to indulge Andrew and give him everything he didn't have as a youngster, and we've got a mess on our hands.

Hence, the allowance.

What we're doing is working with a basic chore chart and star stickers. Each sticker is worth a nickel. If he completes his task with minimum direction, he gets 2 stars, if he needs to be reminded it's reduced to one star, and if I have to hover over him it's a no-pay. I know some of you out there will say how harsh that sounds, or that a child Andrew's age isn't capable of understanding the foundations of finances, but unfortunately this is the life we're living.

Hubby isn't the only one who wants to indulge Andrew, you know. It tears at my heart when Andrew asks for something and I'm left to explain that we don't have the means at this time. I know it's an important lesson, and can prevent him from future heartbreak, but that doesn't make it less painful.
So therein comes Part B of the plan. The 80-10-10 plan. Yeah, yawn, haven't heard that one before, right? But it's something I missed in my childhood, and I wonder where I'd be if I hadn't. I think, if I'd saved 10% of all the money I'd ever made, man-oh-man....
So, go ahead. Flame me if you want. But maybe, just maybe, if Andrew's earning his own money, he'll start to grasp the concept of fiscal responsibility early. I'm hoping, because just today he told me how he's going to "waste all the money he wants when he grows up".