I’m Back!

hello-im-back-2

At least I hope I am!  Life had gotten extremely crazy last July and I found that I just couldn’t keep up with blogging and family, so blogging had to take a back seat.

So what have we been up to?

  • Fawning season:  We had a busy summer with babies being born, deer getting sick, and trying to get some bucks sold in the fall.  I know that this is only going to get take up more of my husband’s time (not mine and you’ll see why below in the “What’s coming up” section) come March/April when it starts to warm up and he can get out there to do more work on the pens before fawning season rolls around again in June.
  • Pre-K: My (now) 5 year old started Pre-K in September and he rides the bus to and from school each day.  He absolutely LOVES it and is ready for Kindergarten this coming August.
  • Potty training: My 3 year old is potty training!  Hallelujah!  He is about 90% there but he is doing SO awesome.  He needs to be 100% potty trained so that he can go to Pre-K in September and ride the bus too.
  • New Job:  My husband started a new job and he works an odd 2nd shift.  He can start any time from 10am to 3pm and end anywhere from 6:30pm to 11:30pm.  It varies day to day so we had to adjust to this change.  We are still trying to find ways to balance everything out, but we are almost there.
  • Teen update:  My daughter (14) was attending an online public school up through December 2016.  This was to allow her to have some flexibility to attend doctor appointments and such without missing too much school.  She has started back at public school this week and is LOVING it!  For now, I’m having to drive her back and forth to school because we are out of the district, but hopefully that will change soon.
  • Chickens:  My chickens are doing great!  They started producing like crazy last July, but have slowed down come October when the days began to get shorter.  We have a larger coop built for them right now, and are adding on a outdoor run this spring.

 

What’s coming up?

  • Gardening:  I ordered this book and am beginning to learn about straw bale gardening.  I have never had a garden before and I have no idea what I’m doing.  I’m hoping that this book, and this method, will help me have a successful garden for canning and eating this year.  I also have some seeds that will get started inside in March so that I (hopefully) will have some plants ready to put in the garden come mid May.
  • Canning: I need to can jellies and jams this year, as I’m almost out of what I canned in 2015.  Hopefully, my roma tomatoes will grow nicely and I can get some tomato products canned as well.
  • Landscaping: The front of our house has been greatly neglected.  I’m hoping to put in a simple, low maintenance flower bed along the front of the house.

 

And on top of all this……


…Yep!  We are expecting a new baby girl late May/early June.  This was totally NOT planned and was quite a shock to us.  She’s the best little “oops” that has ever happened to us.

What are my plans for the blog?

  • Continue posting weekly meal plans, with links to recipes
  • Share my journey with gardening and landscaping (this should be amusing)
  • Share the ways I’ve been cutting costs in preparation for a new baby
  • Continue to post about random family and life experiences as they occur

I don’t want to completely overwhelm myself with blogging on a daily basis, so I’m setting a goal of 3-4 times a week.  Some weeks it will be less, some weeks it will be more.  I look forward to sharing again with you all!

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Chicken enchilladas

This is a GREAT way to get more than one meal out of a whole chicken.  When I plan on roasting a whole chicken, or having a store made rotisserie chicken, I always have to plan a second chicken meal a couple days later with what I pick off the bones.

Have you ever picked a chicken carcass after you get a meal out of it?  I never realized how much meat there is left on those bones!  Easily enough for a second meal


These chicken enchiladas are a favorite of ours for a couple different reasons. Not only are they delicious (I wouldn’t be sharing with you if they were gross), they are very easy and quick to put together.  This is a key requirement to cooking in this family. I don’t have the time or patience to spend hours prepping dinner, unless it is a special holiday meal.

You can top these with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and salsa like we do…. or you can leave them plain and pair with some refried beans and rice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans condensed nacho cheese soup
  • 2 cups cooked, diced chicken
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 8 inch flour tortillas

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 1 can of soup and milk. Set aside
  3. In another bowl, combine 1 can of soup, chicken, salsa and chili powder.
  4. Spread 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture into each tortilla, roll up, and place seam down in a 9×13 baking dish. Repeat until all the chicken mixture is used.
  5. Spread the soup and milk mixture over top of the enchiladas.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.

 

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Meal plan for week of 7/10 (week 5 of the pantry challenge)

Sorry this is a little late going up!  We have been very busy this past week with new jobs, dog sitting, and various appointments. Better late than never right??

Let start with a quick recap.

  • What is a pantry challenge? It is when you plan your meals based off of what you already have, buying only dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables.  I am doing a modified pantry challenge in that I am allowing myself to buy 1 additional ingredient per meal if I need it.
  • Total spent during the first 4 weeks: $94.24.  I know that in last week’s post I sad a total of around $63, but I did go to the store on Tuesday last week for a few things. (milk, blueberries, strawberries, apples, mac & cheese (my 4 year old had a filling done that morning and he wanted mac and cheese for lunch), chocolate bars for s’mores, coffee, tortilla chips, sour cream, lettuce, cucumbers)

Here’s what’s on the plan this week:

  • Sunday: BBQ chicken, au gratin potatoes, veggies
  • Monday: Hamburger helper, veggies, bread and butter
  • Tuesday: Spaghetti with chicken sausage
  • Wednesday: Leftovers or Pizza
  • Thursday: Tacos
  • Friday: Beer battered fish, rice, veggies
  • Saturday: Creamy chicken, egg noodles, veggies

What do I see myself needing at the store this week? Aside from the basics (milk, eggs, fruit, veggies) all I need is sour cream for the tacos. Everything else is already in the house.  I may need a pack of lunchmeat and a couple things for my husband’s lunch, but that’s about it.  I’m pretty confident I can keep the total for these next 4 weeks under $100 again easily.  My goal is to come in under $75.

Who else is doing a pantry challenge?!

 

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Oven roasted smoked sausage and potatoes

If there is a meal that you can’t make often enough…..this is it.  I found the original recipe during an epically long Pinterest browsing session.  You know the kind I’m talking about.  Its when you have maybe 30 minutes of free time and a cup of coffee so you figure you will look through Pinterest.  All of a sudden, it’s 5 hours later.  Don’t lie.  I know you’ve done it too.

We’ve had this recipe a handful of times and as delicious as it is right out of the oven, it’s even better the next day.  I have modified the original recipe slightly.  First off, I double it.  Second, I add extra onion.  Third, I omit the cheddar cheese.  The next time I make this I’m going to add a green bell pepper chunked up and some minced garlic (thanks for the suggestion hunny!).


Ingredients:

  • 1 package of smoked sausage
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch bites
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • sweet paprika
  • dried thyme

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a large baking dish with foil and coat with a layer of olive oil. Don’t use too little because the potatoes will stick.
  3. Cut the smoked sausage into bite sized pieces.  I find its the best to cut into quarters and then slice.
  4. Put the sausage, potatoes, and onion in a large bowl.
  5. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil on top and use the salt, pepper, paprika, and thyme to taste. (the more thyme the better!) Toss with your hands until everything is coated, adding more oil and spices if needed
  6. Spread the tossed mixture out in the foil lined baking dish into a single layer.
  7. Cook for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and golden brown.

 

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Meal plan for week of 7/3 (4th week of the pantry challenge)

Another successful week on the pantry challenge!  I was able to stick to the plan and do minimal grocery shopping.  I did go over my goal of spending only $50 for these 4 weeks, but I still did pretty dang good!

I went shopping last Thursday for the onions and corn I needed for last week, and I did the shopping for this week as well.  Here’s the breakdown….

Aldi:

  • 2 dozen eggs ($0.68/dozen) $1.36
  • 3 pound bag of yellow onions $1.79
  • 1 head of lettuce $0.89
  • 10 ears of sweet corn $1.00
  • 16 oz bag of roma tomatoes $0.89
  • 2 pounds of strawberries ($1.49 each) $2.98
  • 3 pound bag of apples $3.29
  • sliced swiss cheese $1.79
  • sliced pepperjack cheese $1.79
  • 2 pounds of smoked ham ($3.49 each) $6.98
  • 2 gallons water $1.58
  • 1 seedless watermelon $2.99

Total out of pocket cost: $27.33

Total spent for 4 weeks of groceries: $62.33

$62.33!!!  4 weeks, 28 days, 84 meals (plus snacks)….and I only spent $62.33.

I’d say that is a HUGE success!  So huge in fact….that I decided to continue to do a modified pantry challenge for another 4 weeks.

Here’s the menu for this week:

  • Sunday: Oven roast chicken, noodle side dish, veggies
  • Monday: Oven roasted smoked sausage and potatoes, veggies
  • Tuesday: Chicken enchiladas with Mexican rice
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
  • Thursday: Tater topped casserole
  • Friday: Spaghetti and meat sauce/meatballs (undecided!) and bread
  • Saturday: Crockpot beef and noodles, veggies

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

*EDIT*

The total spent had to go up to $63.69. Why? I’ll give you one guess…..

hint:he’s 3.


I made the mistake of using the bathroom alone. The 2 new doze eggs ended up smashed on the carpet. So, my husband had to get 2 dozen eggs on his way home. 

PSA: if you have kids…don’t pee alone.

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Financial advice for high school and college students

Congratulations to the class of 2016!  You have graduated high school and very soon you will begin your adult life.  Whether it be college, community college, trade school, or jumping right into a job…. you will be experiencing so many new things.

Congratulations to the class of 2017!  You are almost done with high school!! This means you are preparing to apply to colleges and plan your “after high school” future!

One area of life that MANY young adults don’t have much knowledge about is money.  How many of you got your first credit card right after high school and quickly maxed it out?

I know I did.  I was never told how money works and what to do or not to do in classes in high school.  I was taught how to write a check and balance a check book.  That’s about it.  There are many things I, and countless others, wish we had known earlier so we wouldn’t make the mistakes we have.

I asked a large group of people this question:

What advice do you have for students that YOU wish you had been given?

Here’s a good variety of their answers:

  1. “When in doubt about a degree, get a business degree. As much as you say you don’t, you will one day want to have kids, and the decision you make now will affect your precious family life with them. Sure, you can be anything you want to be, but sometimes what you want to be doesn’t earn you enough livable wages.”
  2. “Every high school grad should be given and should read TMM (Total Money makeover)”
  3. “2 year community college and work. Figure out what you are good at and enjoy and transfer to a reputable state college to complete your degree. No person that does not have a trust fund or scholarship needs a private education.”
  4. ” Don’t ever use credit cards or student loans.  “
  5. “Apply for any scholarship you qualify for. A simple essay can be worth $100s, nothing is too small. Also stay with state schools for undergrad.  “
  6. “Don’t assume you will finish college or that the job you get after you finish will pay enough to easily pay your student loans…it probably won’t.”
  7. First and foremost, I would say, if you are given scholarships to specific schools, even if they aren’t your number one pick, as long as they are good schools, accept them and go there. Being in debt for 30 years isn’t worth it if you could have gotten most of your education covered.”
  8. “I wish someone had told me payments are stupid. I wish credit cards/credit wasn’t sold to me as a necessity by my parents and big business. “
  9. “Advice I’d give to a student is don’t get a loan, get a job. Get an internship in your chosen field if you can. But if you can’t get a paid internship in your field, get an unpaid one and work at Starbucks part time. One thing I DON’T regret about my college experience is that I never took out a student loan.”
  10. “Living off students loans is not a good idea”
  11. “You most likely can’t afford your parents’ lifestyle immediately after college…they had to work hard and save to get to where they are, and you will too.”
  12. “start saving now.”
  13. Planning & having a budget and having sinking funds makes a difference to how far my money lasts!”
  14. “Avoid debt at all costs, if you must go into debt, pay it off as quickly as you can. “
  15. “Invest in your first jobs 401k even if it’s just a few % to get into the habit and take advantage of compound interest.   “
  16. “Dont use credit cards. If you borrow money from family make sure you always pay them back and avoid that too when possible. Dont borrow large amounts such as over $5,000 ever, unless it’s for a mortgage. Make sure you thank them for helping you out. Mom just told me one of my good qualities is I always remember to pay people back money I owe–usually I owe small amounts $20 or less to people.”
  17. “Save & pay cash for your first car. Not EVERYONE has car loans.”

 

Many of the people that I’ve talked to that are, or have been in debt, all agree that students should be REQUIRED to take a financial class similar to Financial Peace University prior to graduating from high school.  If you start your adult life with the knowledge of how money works, what you should and shouldn’t do, and how to live your life debt free….you are starting your life with the best foundation.

As Dave Ramsey would say, “Debt is dumb”.  It really really is.  Educate yourself, ask for help, and be smart.

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Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin Roast

I love a good crockpot recipe that takes hardly any prep, but tastes like I spent hours making it.


This is one of those recipes.  I was a bit hesitant because some things with balsamic can be very overpowering.  This is not.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pound pork loin roast
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (I used minced garlic)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce

Directions:

  1. Mix together sage, salt, pepper, and garlic.
  2. Rub seasonings on the pork.
  3. Place 1/2 cup water in the crockpot and then place the pork in the crockpot.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  5. 1 hour before the roast is done, mix together the brown sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, water, and soy sauce in a small sauce pan.
  6. Heat glaze over medium heat until it has thickened.
  7. Brush the roast with the glaze 2-3 times during the last hour of cook time.
  8. Serve the remaining glaze with the pork on the side.

We’ve had this once with mashed potatoes and in my opinion, it was perfect.  The glaze is the perfect blend of sweet and savory and is delicious over the pork and potatoes.


The original recipe gives instructions to get a more caramelized crust by putting it under the broiler.  I didn’t do this and it was still delicious.

This is a great recipe to cook when you have guests coming over and you want to impress them, yet you don’t want to make a mess in your kitchen.

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