Our outdoor Lent decorations Sunday, Mar 8 2009 

Door 

Spring is almost here!!! Beautiful purple crocus…

Crocus 

and purple irises are in bloom.

Iris

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Saving money on our groceries with Costco Sunday, Feb 22 2009 

For the past two months I have been working on lowering our grocery bill by cutting out weekly trips to the grocery store and going every other week to Costco. It seemed like every time I went to the store for milk or fresh produce, I would end up spending between $50 and $75 worth of groceries because there was always some treat or sale item I couldn't pass up. Going to Costco every other Friday has helped tremendously because I buy enough milk, produce and bread to last us 2 weeks, so I'm not tempted to go to the local grocery store, unless I need a specialty item like canned beans, sour cream, etc. It also helps on saving gas.  

We are blessed to have an extra refrigerator and a chest freezer in the garage, so there is plenty of room for the overflow of groceries. I don't think we could do this if we didn't have the second refrigerator. I keep the refrigerator in the garage on the highest setting since we keep the extra milk and eggs and produce in it and the freezer at a lower setting than the one in the house because we don't open it as often. I store all the extra loaves of bread in the chest freezer because they take up the most room.

The first two weeks I started this new way of shopping didn't work out as I had hoped. I didn't buy enough milk, so I had to go to the store to get a few gallons to last us until Friday, which defeated the purpose. The second two weeks, I had the opposite problem. I bought too much milk and gave a few gallons to our neighbors. At least we did a Corporal Work of Mercy that week 🙂 By the third cycle, I was able to figure out how much of each item to buy so it would last until the next trip to Costco. I'm a very slow learner.

Ever since I've been shopping this way we have lowered our grocery bill quite a bit. I was spending over a $1000.00 a month for a family of 9 and now I spend  around $350 every two weeks, including cleaning supplies and toiletries. There is no longer the need to make a quick trip to the grocery store because we are out of something, so I don't get tempted to buy extras. Te only negative thing about this is that it takes forever to unload the van and put everything away. I'm exhausted by the time I get home, but I go around 11:00 in the morning and with all the samples they have, the kids are fed for lunch 🙂

Sometime this week I will put together a 3 week cycle menu using all these items. Here is a list of what I buy every two weeks, or monthly, depending on the item. The cleaning supplies and toiletries last for a month, so I don't have to worry about those items until the next month. The grocery bill evens out because I don't have to buy the big items like cleaning supplies, paper products and larger food items every two weeks. I can honestly say I don't miss going to the grocery store at all.

Every 2 weeks:

12 gallons of milk
4 dozen eggs
1 barge bag frozen breakfast sausage patties
8 loaves of bread
10 pound bag of apples
1 package of 6 red peppers
1 package of 6 Romaine hearts
2 packages of grape tomatoes
3 pack of cucumbers
bag of frozen strawberries
bag of frozen blueberries
3 pack bottle of coffee creamer
1 liter of heavy whipping cream
large bags of croutons, bacon bits and slivered almonds
2 boxes of cereal with 2 packs in each box
6 jars of apple sauce
2 bags of mozzarella cheese sticks
2 pack vanilla ice cream- 1 1/2 gallons each
2- 6 packs frozen OJ
1 large bag of tortilla chips
1- 5 lb bag of frozen chicken tenderloins
5 lbs. cubed stew meat

Once a month

Paper products- plates, napkins, toilet paper, coffee cups, trash bags 
1 case of dry pasta
10 lbs ground beef
1 corned beef brisket
5 lbs pork chops
1 large pork loin
1 case of diced tomatoes
5 pound bag of onions
1- 32 oz bag shredded cheddar cheese
1- 32 oz bag shredded mozzarella cheese
10 lb. bag sugar
1 large bottle of salsa
2 pack of strawberry jam
2 pack peanut butter
1 box of 72 slices (3-1 lb.) American cheese
10 pounds red potatoes
5 lbs carrots

Once every two months

Toiletries
3 pack salt, large jars of garlic powder, oregano, pepper, etc.
10 lb. bag flour
1 gallon Canola oil
51 oz bottle olive oil
1- 64 fl oz jug pancake syrup
large bottles mayo, catsup and mustard

Not as often

20 lb. bag of Basmati rice (once every 4 months)
large jar of yeast (once every 6 months)

Tour of our unfinished basement Wednesday, Dec 10 2008 

For the past few months or so Bernie has been working on finishing our basement. My brother helped with the framing and plumbing and Bernie wired the whole basement. He put lots of accent lighting in the study and the family room. He also built the hearth from scratch and we had the wood stove installed. He has spent a lot of late nights down there and every weekend getting ready for the inspection. He passed inspection yesterday and today the contractors are here to install the drywall. This is what the basement looks like before the drywall:

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Organizing/ decluttering the kitchen- part 2 Tuesday, Nov 25 2008 

Saturday afternoon I continued organizing the kitchen cabinets. The only ones left to organize are the cabinets with our dishes, the coffee and tea cabinet and the bills cabinet right above the computer desk. That one is going to take me a few hours to do, so I'm leaving that for another time. It's very overwhelming right now. I need to get a few folders and label them before I start with 3 years worth of paperwork. Here is what I did this weekend.

This is where I keep the cookbooks. I only kept 2 La Leche League cookbooks, a Rachel Ray cookbook which my kids gave me 2 years ago for my birthday and an Emeril cookbook which Bernie gave me for Christmas. I'm going to donate the 2 cookbooks on the right to our local thrift store. I couldn't bear to throw those away.

Cookbooks 

This is our spices cabinet. I don't have enough items to put on the top shelf. It's a good thing, since I'm so short.

Spices

There's not much left to stoe above the microwave oven- just a lonely little serving bowl.

Spices microwave

This is our medicine cabinet. This is where I really threw a lot of stuff away. We had way too many old vitamin bottles. This was probably the biggest improvement in the kitchen.

Medicine 

Oh, I still have not organized the cabinet where I keep the glasses and plates and also under the kitchen sink, which is where I keep all my stone baking sheets and serving platters. I also store the kitchen linens under there. I hope to finish this weekend.

“It’s All Too Much” Friday, Nov 21 2008 

That’s the name of the book I’m reading this week. My favorite part about the book so far is where he says, "The trash bag is your friend." I love going around the house with trash bags and throwing stuff away. Our house is not cluttered, but I’m not a very organized person, so there are things out of place. I like to have as much open space as possible, especially in the kitchen. I don’t keep much out on the kitchen counters because luckily, we have a lot of cabinets. On our largest counter space I keep my KitchenAid Stand Mixer and our Vita Mix. On the other counter by the sink I keep our coffee maker, coffee grinder and a kitchen tool caddy. The kitchen island is bare, which the kids sometimes use for school, and I have our antique pot rack above it. So this week I decided to go room-by-room amd organize all the cabinets and closets and throw or give away as much as possible. I try to go to the thrift store once a month to drop off extra clothing that doesn’t fit the kids. I don’t keep the clothes that don’t fit. I give them away and we always get blessed with more. Here is what Marygrace and I did in the kitchen today.

This cabinet has all our storage bowls, salad bowl and large mixing bowls.

Storage_bowls

This cabinet is under the kitchen island. It has all our small kitchen appliances.

Cooking_appliances_2

This cabinet next to the stove has our bakeware, although I have our stone baking sheets under the kitchen sink.

Baking_supplies_2

We also have a lazy susan, but the hinge is broken, so we keep it empty. Tomorrow I’m going to try and tackle the upper kitchen cabinets and under the kitchen sink. This was exausting, but it was worth it! Now I’m going to have a cup of tea and relax with the kids.

Homemade baby wipes solution Wednesday, Jun 4 2008 

Ever since I’ve been using these adorable cloth diapers, which you can see the baby wearing here, I have been wanting to make my own baby wipes, but I wanted to become comfortable with cloth diapers before using homemade baby wipes. I am making the baby wipes by cutting up some extra pink flannel baby blankets into small wipe-sized squares. If I had a surger I would surge the edges to prevent fraying.

To prepare, use a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour all the ingredients in, cover the jar and shake to blend the ingredients. Place your homemade wipes in a container, preferably this one, which I received as a baby gift, add the solution, and invert a few times to make sure the wipes all get sufficiently moistened. Store any extra solution in the refrigerator. It should stay fresh for a long time, especially if you use distilled water.

  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1/2 cup Aloe Vera gel– The gel from the Aloe Vera leaf is great for healing and relieving burns and rashes.
  • 2 tbsp. calendulated oil– This herb is commonly used to soothe the skin and reduce inflamation. 
  • 2 drops tea tree essential oil– This oil penetrates the skin and is useful for treating burns, scrapes, bites, and various skin irritations. It may also help to prevent and treat yeast infections. Very effective antibacterial and antiseptic.
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil– Lavender may promote healing and as an aroma eases tension.
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar–  It may be used to prevent mold.

Bedroom comforts Tuesday, Apr 22 2008 

      Ever since I read Elizabeth’s post on Laundry, Linens and Love, I have been very excited to implement the same ideas in my home. I also love clean sheet night. I always have. It cheers me up when I’ve had a difficult day. Right after I read the post one night after the baby fell asleep, I went to my linen closet and emptied it out, got rid of all the extra curtains and table cloths I had from our previous home, and that was the beginning of a major project. I found "Home Comforts" at the library, and I have gotten many great tips from it. It has many different chapters, from food to cleanliness to daily habits. My oldest daughter read some of it, and asked me to get her a copy for when she is out on her own. I loved the book so much that I ended up buying it this morning. The only part I didn’t agree with is what she said about the family bed.

      Right now I am focusing on the sleep chapter. There is so much in this chapter that I never knew about. I’m happy to say that as far as furnishings in the bedroom, we have very little of it. We have a king size bed, which is very helpful with the family bed. We also have a dresser, a chair, a TV for watching videos at night, and my nightstand.

Curtains_bedMy husband likes to keep the room dark when he is home, but I like it open and bright. I usually open the blinds just before I come downstairs for the day. The author of  "Home Comforts" suggests opening your windows in the morning, if possible, to let air in and bring in fresh oxygen. You should also pull your bed covers down for at least an hour to keep the bed smelling fresh until you change the sheets.

      She writes about the daily, weekly and monthly bedroom care. For the daily care, you should open the windows, air out your bed, and put your laundry away. I think laundry would be much easier to keep up with if I put it away before coming to bed at night. I usually do laundry in the morning since my laundry room is upstairs, but I get side-tracked when I come downstairs and forget all about it.

      For the weekly care, She suggests vacuuming the floors, blinds and mattresses. We always vacuum the upstairs at least once a week, but it never occurred to me to vacuum the blinds and mattresses as well. Since the sheets should be washed and changed at least once a week, this would be a good time to vacuum the mattresses.

      The monthly care of bedrooms will add a little more work to your laundry routine. You should wash your pillow covers, mattress covers and comforters. With four bedrooms in our house, I think I will do one bedroom per week.

      I wasn’t sure how many sheets and pillow cases would be enough, but after reading "Home Comforts" I learned that three sets of sheets per bed is enough. You’ll be using one set, one will be in the wash and the extra one will be kept in the linen closet. You should have two comforters for every bed. All the kids have two comforters each, but we only have one. Before we moved I got rid of all the extra ones. I find I only need one, since I can wash it and dry it and have it back on the bed the same day. I just leave the beds unmade airing out on this day.

Freeze Yer Buns! Tuesday, Jan 29 2008 

Freezeyerbuns

Ever since I read about the Freeze Yer Buns challenge at Elizabeth’s blog, we have been keeping our thermostat a lot lower this year. We are keeping it at 65 during the day and so far we’re at 69 at night. Tonight we’re going to lower it to 67 since I found our warm blanket I purchased last year. We’ll see how we do tonight.