Saving Money–April 30, 2017


The rain has continued to pour down around here.  Once in a while, it stops, and I am able to squish and slosh my way out to the back yard.  I love how pretty the apple tree looks, blooming cheerily through all the sogginess! We will see if we get apples.


Lots of cooking got done this week.  Alissa and Ja’Ana made baked gluten-free cinnamon sugar donuts.  They were so good.  There recipe was from the Gluten Free and More Magazine. Yum!  I had gotten 2 donut pans around Christmas time, using a gift card I had, and had not used them yet, so I was glad they used them.  We will make them again.


These meatballs were a group project.  The girls started them, and I finished.  The carrots were supposed to be grated, but they worked this way.  There are lots of veggies in them (onions, carrots, celery), along with turkey burger, and a little beef burger that was left over from another project.  They were bulked up with gf bread crumbs and 2 eggs.  Then I baked them.  I made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, using all odds and ends of tomato products in the fridge along with some marinara sauce I had on hand.  Then, I froze the rest for easy meals later.

I cooked for the week ahead.  I made chili and cornbread, cookies, and enchilada casserole.  I have plans and ingredients for more.

We took the kids bowling.  We took Alissa, Ja’Ana, Ja’Ana’s friend, Patsy, Jake, and Michaela.  We used the Kids Bowl Free tickets.  I did not know it was started already, but once I figured it out, we signed ours up and my sister signed hers up, and Rob and I took them bowling.  You still need to pay for shoe rental, but it’s a good deal and a great way to spend a day off of school.   Some of the crew went to the YMCA afterwards.   We also accomplished a couple of errands, and I took Jake to the library.  I was sure glad Rob did not have school Friday.  It took us both!

I used my new white board to keep it all straight, although changes were made as the day went along.  I am so happy Rob finally found one that would work and ordered it.  It’s magnetic.




Of course, there were french fries involved.  When do we go anywhere with this crew without french fries?  One day those children will turn into french fries:)

My aunt and I, along with a couple of friends, took our kids to the Northwest Children’s Theater production of Robin Hood.  We did the school performance, so the tickets were very reasonable, and we loved the play.  It was a great field trip.

This has been a strange couple of weeks in some ways, mixed with all the fun memories.  It seems like almost everyone is getting sick.  Some people have gotten sick more than once.  Both my aunt and brother-in-law ended up on antibiotics.  Rob’s been crawling out of bed each day and heading to work, then crashing on the couch as soon as he gets home.  Ja’Ana ended up getting a fever at the bowling alley.  We had to take her friend home, and since she had been fighting a bad cold for 2 weeks, I ran her to the doctor. We thought she was better, and I was not excited when that fever showed up.   She now has a virus.  The doctor says she probably has had 3 different things in 2 weeks.  Yikes!  Yesterday, Jake popped a fever.  And, he’s already had the cold for a week.  I had to pick Michaela up from school Wednesday.  She’s been sick for a couple of weeks, and couldn’t make it through her first day back.  Alissa is toughing it out.  Lovana has a headache today.  Patsy had it, but feels good now.  My sister can barely talk, she’s so hoarse from her awful cold.  Do you notice whose name has not been mentioned?  Yep.  Mine.  I’m kind of worried, to be sure, but I’m sure I’ll have enough healthy people to take care of me when its my turn.  Or, maybe I can skip my turn…….

I hope to work in the garden a bit this week.  I’m hoping it dries up enough to do that.  I do have little seeds up, and bought 3 herbs I want to plant.  Fun!



Saving Money April 23


We have enjoyed the last of the Easter food.  This gluten-free angel food ice cream cake turned out wonderful.  I just made the cake from a recipe from Taste of Home, added softened rainbow sherbet, froze, then pale green whipped cream that was lightly sweetened.  After Easter dinner, I sliced it all and froze the slices.  They have been great all week!  I also had some cupcakes my daughter made, that I also froze, and am loving one once in a while.  They were chocolate with caramel frosting.  They were gluten-free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, and… tasted amazing!  We also ate ham, lots of potatoes, etc. from the large meal.  It made cooking and meal planning easy this week.

I stocked back up on produce, dairy, etc.  I had let the fridge empty out in anticipation of the big day.  I went to Grocery Outlet for some of the groceries and got turkey lunchmeat for $1.50/lb, one box of Danimal smoothie drinks for 99c, Pretzel bites for 99c, and some other stuff.  Their produce didn’t look good that day, although it is good lots of times, so I went to another store for produce.  I’ve got to say, the produce was costly, but………..I’ve got to have salads, etc.   I did get a free grocery tote bag from there since it was Earth Day yesterday, when I shopped there.


My aunt hired the girls to do some yard work.  They are saving for a big homeschool trip next year, and it’s never too early to get started.  Of course, she spoiled them rotten with drinks, snacks, and plenty of pay……What can I say?  The yard looked great when they were done.

Ja’Ana continues to clean house for a lady to earn money for her summer church activities.  She is starting to rack up a good amount in her account there.  She needs several hundred dollars if she wants to do it all.  I’m so grateful that they make this opportunity available to the kids.  Camp, for instance, is almost $300.  She should have a ball, and even more so because she put in so many Saturdays to help get herself there.

Lovana’s job will be ending in a few weeks.  The lady she helps with is failing, and will be needing a different situation.  So, her grown children are taking her back to the country where she was born, where they feel she will be most comfortable.  I think that is touching.  Lovana has saved money, and will be looking for another summer job.  This job has become pretty difficult with the lady needing constant attention even every few hours all day and all night long, and I’m proud of her for sticking it out.

A few things have sprouted in my garden.  I’m watching them with anticipation.  We have eaten more Swiss Chard, spinach and green onions, the only 3 things we have that overwintered.  I’m shocked that the family is eating the chard.  This variety is so much more mild.  It’s pale green.  Last time, they revolted and would not eat it at all–it was the red, orange and yellow kind.

I did a little more yard work on the one nice day when I had a little time.

I exercised down at the YMCA 3 times this past week.  It’s so good that I’m using that membership.

How did your week go?

Homeschool Field Trip to the Tulip Fields


We went to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Fields for a field trip (literally in a field) today:)

Alissa’s mom, Gail, has been wanting to take the girls there for a while now, and today turned out to be unexpectedly sunny, in spite of dire predictions of torrential rain.  So, the girls and I were working hard at school books when she texted me, and we decided on the spur of the moment to go today.  The girls did not protest at all when I asked them to close their science books and get in the car.


We picked our way through the mud to the field where we enjoyed a breathtakingly beautiful field of tulips.


It was quite a view from the observation platform (as seen in the top picture).  There was another huge field of tulips in the distance, a gift shop and restaurant, and many little booths of various items to buy.  There were also things like a hay ride, a huge slide and some other fun-looking attractions.   Many were closed since this was a Tuesday, but there were still quite a few people there.  On the weekends, sometimes the traffic is so heavy that it impacts I-5 where cars are trying to exit to go to the fields.  We were delighted to be there when it wasn’t so crowded.  We had plenty of space to thoroughly enjoy the flowers.  We wandered around for a while, Ja’Ana enjoyed an elephant ear while the rest of us had some food, too, admired the tulips some more, and headed back home so Alissa could do her guitar lesson and they could do math.


It was a great day!

Saving Money–April 16, 2017


I was able to buy 8 avocados for $2 at Grocery Outlet.  One of the kids “arranged” them, and I though it was kind of pretty!  I bought very few groceries this week.  Frankly, I didn’t have room for both groceries and Easter food in my fridge.  I used a ham that I got on a good sale after Christmas, potatoes I got a while back for 50c/5 lbs., home-canned green beans, mango lemonade I got for 99c/jar a while back…..things like that.  Plus, Patsy made Jello for the holiday.


She colored a dozen eggs with a kit from the Dollar Store.


One of the challenges for me this year was making Easter special.  Since so many of us get together every single Sunday, I wanted this to feel special.  First, a few more family members were able to join us, which was very meaningful to me.  I added a few decorations, and special foods, especially dessert.  We don’t always have any on normal Sundays.  It turned out very well.  Everyone had a good time, and we were able to visit more than normal.  The younger kids, especially Jake, enjoyed hiding and finding eggs.  Everyone enjoyed candy, chocolate cupcakes,  and cake.  People pitched in on the dishes, and I’m all ready to get back to normal tomorrow, which is nice, with no big mess left behind.


We were able to teach 2 classes at a 4H workshop on Saturday, to a total of 21 kids.We had them make beef stew in a Dutch Oven, make fire starting kits, and roasted marshmallows.  We talked about fire starting and safety, how to care for cast iron, and a couple of ways to cook over the fire–open fire and charcoal.  We were able to use very inexpensive ingredients, and had some stew left over for our dinner that night.  It was a class where the kids that were 7th grade and up were encouraged to help teach classes to younger members at a county-wide event.  So, Rob and I had Patsy, Ja’Ana and Alissa help us with the classes, and they were wonderful help.


We roasted Peeps in honor of Easter.

Then, we packed it all up, took it home, and put it all away.  Rob and I both enjoy doing this kind of thing, so we were both happy at the end of the day.


The week ended up both frugal and fun, which is a great kind of week to have!  How about yours?



Make Ahead Easter Dinner

When Easter comes on Sunday, I plan to spend as much time with my family as I can.  First, we will attend church, then come home to dinner.  5 of my children will be here, along with some of their families, along with other extended family.  We are planning on 18 this year.  Because I want to spend time at church, then come home and visit, I am doing some things ahead of time so I will not be stuck in the kitchen for too long.

I am serving ham.  I will defrost one I got for a really good price after Christmas, and pop it into the Crockpot Sunday morning.  I may put some glaze on it, I haven’t decided yet.

Potatoes will be on the menu as well.  I will likely serve them mashed with ham gravy I make from the juice from the ham.  Or, I will make scalloped potatoes (what Alissa wants), twice-baked potatoes (which we all love), or ???  Both of those last 2 could be made tomorrow and just warmed up, so I’ve done both of them in the past as make-ahead alternatives.


Vegetables will be plain green beans.  One of my daughters is allergic to many, many things and that’s what she would like and can eat.  They are already home-canned.  It doesn’t get easier than that.  I prepped them 2 summers ago:)  Sometimes we will have a veggie tray, or pickles on a tray.  I may do that if I’m in the mood or end up with extra time, but we are having salad, and no matter how big our eyes are, our stomachs can’t eat too much, and that kind of thing is often leftover.

Salad:  My mom is bringing it.  Now, that’s pre-preparation for me.  Just ask her to do it!

Fruit:  My sister is bringing it–either chunks, or salad, or whatever she wants.

Rolls:  I made gluten-free rolls this morning and froze them.  I used a recipe from the magazine, “Gluten Free & More.”  I got it from their website.  I will probably buy a package of wheat rolls.

Candy in Eggs:  My Easter bunny Aunt Janet will bring that as she has done for many, many years.  She fills the plastic eggs with candy.  The kids know that after we play “hide the eggs” a few times, they have to empty all the candy into a bowl and share it.  I also heard one solemnly explaining to someone recently that then they have to give back the eggs so she can fill them next year.  And she does.  Such a fun tradition.  They find and hide them multiple times, usually.

Other allergy friendly food:  My daughter will bring some things she can eat, and we are all welcome to dig in, too.

Other things:  People can bring, or the kids can cook, whatever takes their fancy, so I’m never sure what is going to come, but it’s all good.  Patsy is making green Jello in fancy little dishes.  That can also be made ahead.  She will do it today, Friday, and they will wait in the camper fridge until Sunday.


I hope I get around to Deviled Eggs.  We love them.  I boiled some eggs yesterday.  We will probably have Patsy color 1 dozen and I will make these from the other dozen.  They also will wait for Sunday in the camper.

Tables:  I got the table in the garage enlarged, tablecloth on, and put pansies along the middle.  I will sprinkle wrapped candy down, and that’s it.  The table is set up already.  The candy is not, or there won’t be any on Sunday!  Ja’Ana purposely picked pastel shades of pansies and Patsy put foil around the cartons to keep water from leaking through, and to make them look better.  We may add ribbon if we can find any.  We will bring a table for food in and put it in the dining area against the wall so people can move freely, while the food is served buffet style.  We will put the regular table in the living room, and many will eat there.  It may be nice, so I dug out an outside tablecloth for the table on the deck and several will eat out there, hopefully.  So, that’s almost all done, already.

My mom and I sent Rob shopping for paper plates and napkins, etc.  None of us wanted to wash all the dishes for 18 people by hand.  Neither did we want to drop our dinners.  He got really nice, sturdy plates and pretty Easter designs on the paper goods.  We will use regular silverware, and have plenty of other dishes to wash, but people will pitch in.

Dessert:  I made a gluten-free angel food cake from the Taste of Home website.  Then, using another idea from that website, I cut it into 3 layers and put rainbow sherbet in between the layers.  It’s in the freezer, waiting for me to “ice” it with whipped cream, and pop it back in there.  It will be waiting for Sunday, as well.  My oldest daughter is bringing some dessert, and we will all get candy.  We will not go hungry for sugar, or anything else.  I’ve never tried the sherbet/angel food cake before, but I wanted something make-ahead that looked special for the holiday.


Drinks:  I will make lemon-water and serve some Mango Lemonade I got a while back.  I may serve soda, coffee, and tea, as people desire.

It’s shaping up to be a great day, with much of the work done ahead of time.  Do you have things you make ahead?  After all, we’ve still got most of 2 days left–there’s still time for ideas!




April, 2017, Low-Carb Food Challenge–Stuffed Dover Sole


Recently, Dover Sole was on sale.  I remembered a simple recipe a woman at a fish counter had told me years ago, and I thought I’d try it again.  It’s very simple, but elegant.

I bought 1 lb Dover Sole, and laid it out flat.  I took my garlic-salt grinder and ground garlic/salt all over the fish.  Then, I sprinkled it with thawed salad shrimp, probably about 1/4 lb in all.  It was not a thick layer of shrimp.  I then took some habenaro cheese I’d gotten at Grocery Outlet a while back and sprinkled shreds sparingly over that.  The original recipe called for pepper jack cheese, and I think that would have been better.  Even the sparing layer I added made it pretty spicy!  I then rolled it up, placed it on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkled it all with Lowrie’s Seasoning Salt.  The smaller rolls-ups took about 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.  The larger ones took about 17 minutes.  This made 7 roll-ups.  The yield would depend on the size of your fish fillets.

For our family, that was more fish than we needed for one meal.  Since only Ja’Ana likes fish , we were really only feeding 3 people with this, and I think I could have gotten by with 1/2 of a pound of fish.  Because it was so spicy, a little went a long way:)  Also, Dover Sole is a soft fish, and I was very careful to not over cook it, as the butcher warned me that it would be very easy to over-do.  It was a nice change from our usual fare.


April 2017 Low-Carb Challenge-Eggs In A Bag



Eggs are a wonderful, nutrition-packed, inexpensive low-carb food.  I use a lot of them in my meals.  One way I love to eat them is hard boiled and dipped in salt and pepper, or made into egg salad sandwiches.  Another thing I like to do is make Deviled Eggs.


In testing some recipes for an upcoming class Rob and I are teaching for 4-H (outdoor cooking),  I tried making eggs boiled in a bag.


There were lots of recipes on the internet for these, and Rob had made them before.  So, I combined the recipes, and chose one to print for the hand-outs we are going to give the kids.  We will actually be making beef stew, a fire-starting kit, and roasting marshmallows with the remaining time.  I will give out recipes for additional things they can do when camping, and this will be one of them.

I put 2 eggs in a gallon-sized freezer Ziplock bag and squished them up.  Then I added 2 Tablespoons cheese, 1 Tablespoon chopped onion, 2 Tablespoons ham bits and about 2 teaspoons salsa.  I mixed by squishing the bag and dropped into the pan of boiling water.  I left them in there for 13 minutes, as instructed, but part of the eggs needed a little more time.  I ate the cooked ones and just left the uncooked eggs in the bags in the hot water with the burner turned off and they were cooked just fine when Rob got up and ate them.  Basically, you can add any mix-ins you want, such as peppers, green onions, mushrooms, etc.  They were good, and did not need any salt added, I think because my ham was pretty salty.


I’m going to remember this for one of our camping trips.  It could be made outside on the outdoor stove our camper has, or over the fire, or on a camp stove on the picnic table.  I even saw that some people on the internet had pre-cracked the eggs and put them in a plastic bottle, then just poured some in the bag.  Then, you just throw everything away–no pans to wash.