Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spaghetti Saurus Rex

I know I've mentioned this before but my husband LOVES spaghetti. Our youngest, Lucy seems to be following in his foot steps. :) My father in law calls my husband "Spaghetti Saurus Rex" if that gives you any idea how much he likes it and how long his love for it has been growing. haha
Tonight I made his favorite version of it and a friend of mine asked for the recipe so I am sharing!
I made a couple of substitutions based on what we had on hand that I will list at the end.

1 lb ground beef, 1/2 C chopped onion, 1/2 C chopped green bell pepper, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 - 16 oz cans of diced tomatoes, 1 - 6 oz can of tomato paste, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme and salt and pepper to taste. 

Brown meat with onion, pepper and garlic then drain.
Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or desired consistency.

We just picked up our basket of fresh fruits and veggies yesterday morning from a food coop that has drop off locations in our town,, among this weeks ingredients were green peppers, onion and tomatoes!
So my substitutions were that I used fresh diced tomatoes and then added some tomato sauce and a small can of tomato juice that we had on hand. It turned out perfectly! 

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A little about how I do what I do with our money

Hi all--
After my post the other day I got to thinking maybe someone out there somewhere would be interested in how (more detailed how) I've been making changes in our home to help save money and pay off debt.
So, today's post will be about our budget. A couple of strategies (if that's the right word) we are currently using are from a course I took several years ago through our old church in WA, it was Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. The pieces we are mainly using are trying to budget for anything we are spending money on. The idea is that most "surprise" expenses aren't a surprise at all. For example, we didn't used to budget for dog food but every month we buy it or we didn't have a real plan for sports or school photos but they aren't surprises, we knew they were coming. So now, we track where our money is going and budget accordingly for these expenses.
Another piece of Dave Ramsey's course is to start by getting money in your savings for emergencies so that you aren't struggling when those emergencies/unexpected expenses to come up. His course recommends $1,000 in that fund at all times while you're working on paying debt down.
After completing the emergency fund our goals are set on paying some debt down as fast as possible. Dave Ramsey's course talks about snowballing debt starting with the smallest first and then rolling those payments into the larger ones as you get them paid off. Our debt is a little different because we have a few that are small but aren't gaining interest and the larger ones are so we have decided to start with one that is costing us a lot extra in interest/penalties and then when that's paid we can focus on the smallest to the largest from there.
Another Dave Ramsey principal (looks like we are following his guidelines more than I realized!) is to budget to 0, if your bills and expenses are all accounted for and you have $5 extra at the end of the month it shouldn't get spent but paid toward whatever you are working toward getting done. This one is hard for me and I am working on it, my instincts want a cushion in our account and if we have extra I want to spend it! Gotta keep your eye on the prize. My prize is being able to be an at home mom and I just keep telling myself that's what my hard work is for.
Here is an example I found online that is similar to how we budget...

I have also started utilizing our online banking bill pay option and a free website called that helps you budget and categorize your expenses easily. Another Dave Ramsey principal is to use cash. I do use cash for our groceries but using cash for everything in our family isn't doable. But this is helpful to be aware of what you have and not using more than that. I think that covers our budgeting, if you have questions don't hesitate to ask. I'd be happy to help anyone else trying to make the same changes we are! I'm not sure what the next post will be about, maybe how our meal planning is going and saving us money.
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Watching the $

A few weeks after the new year and my resolution is going strong. We have a budget that could have us mostly debt free in about 6 months, planning a vacation home (to WA to visit my family and friends!) and eating our meals at home!
Aside from our lack of energy from spreading ourselves thin (me working and maintaining our home and family and the hubby working 2 jobs) our plan is working well. We are seeing where our money is going and how we can get it going where we WANT it going. Hubby is keeping me on track and me him. 
We had a flu bug run through our home last week and I lost 4 pounds, I've noticed with eating our meals at home though I had already lost a pound or two and am maintaining the 4 pounds less weight! This is great motivation for me to keep up the work and energy I'm putting into keeping our meals at home. 
In review, we are making a budget and trying our darndest to stick to it in order to pay off our debts quickly (requires great restraint), preparing and eating our meals at home and keeping our receipts so we know what we are spending our money on. Already we are seeing the rewards of our hard work! 
If anyone out there is interested in more detailed explanations, let me know and I'd be happy to share. 
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ideas... Ideas...

So along with my new years resolution has come brainstorming, seems like I can't stop it lately...
The other day I did our weekly grocery trip and went over by $40 and this has been plaguing my thoughts!
It is AMAZING how quickly $40 adds up, 3 things alone made us go over. So that got me thinking, how can I prevent going over in the future on items like these. The 3 extras were a gift card for my nephew for Christmas (late!), a clearance toy and a splurge on a new years eve "party pack" (which wasn't even worth it because it didn't come with all the promised items! Goes without saying, I plan to return this one!!).

So, some ideas I came up with to avoid these items in the future... May seem obvious to some but maybe helpful to others.
1) Only buy gifts if we've planned and budgeted for them! (sigh) Other ways we can cut back is by maybe getting a less expensive gift or gift card or making something homemade...
2) Don't buy things on clearance, even if it's a great price. If you didn't PLAN to buy it then it's too much (may be easier said than done).
3) Research ways to decorate for holidays with things we have at home, I am sure a quick trip to pinterest would have resulted in much better stuff then the junk I have to return anyway.

So there are a few recent $ saving thoughts of mine.

Thanks for reading!

Beep Beep!

That, my friends, is the sound of me tooting my own horn! lol

Tonight we made Lylli's dinner pick which was hamburgers. Believe it or not, I have never made a burger on the stove top before. We BBQ them in the Summer but I just never had the urge to cook one inside. Since this was Lyl's pick I had to find a recipe and look up instructions so that I didn't mess it up. Let me just say that my research paid off and our homemade burgers were a SUCCESS!
I used this gal's recipe:
We have tried a few of her recipes and have found that her tastes are right in line with ours so I have come to the conclusion that if she has a recipe for what I am wanting to make that the odds are I will like it! Her burger recipe didn't disappoint. We cooked them on the stove top over medium heat and I'd say we ended up doing about 7 or so minutes on each side (maybe more). I like my meats cooked through but I like them to still be juicy. I found that one of the keys to this is a good meat thermometer  I was reluctant to get one because they aren't super inexpensive but the difference is amazing. Not having to cut open what we're cooking to check for pink means the juices stay in and keep the meat deliciously moist. That has been the case with 2 turkeys, baked chicken and pan fried burgers (so far!). So if you've been considering purchasing one but have been dragging your feet like I was, take it from me... Well worth the $$.
Here is the recipe in case you don't feel like clicking the link above, we didn't use step 9 and our burgers were still wonderful. I also mixed the ingredients and formed patties and let them sit int he fridge for a few hours before cooking which I am sure didn't hurt the flavor. :) **UPDATE: We also didn't have an envelope of dry onion soup mix so I just used the same amount of onion powder as I did garlic powder.

2 lbs ground beef
1 egg, slightly beaten
0.5 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix (can use the whole package if desired)
2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic (or use 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (or crushed soda cracker crumbs, more if needed) (optional)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 -2 tablespoon Frank's red hot sauce (or 1-2 teaspoons crushed chili flakes, or can adjust to heat level) (optional)

In a bowl crumble the ground beef with clean hands.
Add in the dry soup mix, egg, garlic, breadcrumbs or crushed soda cracker crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and hot sauce (if using).
Using clean hands mix until combined, add in more breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs if needed to just hold the mixture together (do not overwork the meat or it will be tough).
Divide the ground beef into 6 equal patties (or make 8 small patties).
Using your large finger or the back of a small spoon make a shallow dent into the center of each patty (about 1-inch wide).
Place the patties onto a large plate or a small cookie sheet; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours or up to 24 hours to blend flavors.
Grill or pan fry the burgers as desired until cooked through (if desired sprinkle a small amount of seasoned salt on top while cooking the patties).
Serve burgers in toasted buns with choice of condiments.
TIPS FOR EXTRA JUICINESS; shape the hamburger into a ball, press 1 tablespoon cold butter into the middle then seal the meat around the ball then flatten into burger shapes ----or add in 2-4 tablespoons raw finely grated potato into the hamburger mixture then shape into patties, use no more than 4 tablespoons for 2 pounds of ground beef or the burgers will take on a meatloaf texture.

Thanks for reading!