October 19, 2015

7 Ways Going Green will Save You Money!

saving money, save money, thrifty life, thrifty habit,

You would be surprised how frugal going green can be. There’s a pun here somewhere, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it.  Here’s a list of a couple things that we have done around our house to go green AND save green! (There it is.)

  1. Ditch Paper Towels: Okay, so we still have paper towels for the GROSSEST messes that need to go directly into the garbage, but for everything else, we use rags or sponges.  
  2. Cloth napkins:  With six kids we go through lots and lots of napkins. The best thing I ever did was hem a bunch of fabric scraps and turn them into napkins. One more load of laundry a week is worth it.
  3. Reusable dryer sheets:  Another way to use up those fabric scraps, but this time, you don’t have to hem them. Get your scraps, soak them in fabric softener and hang them to dry.  Throw one into the dryer with every load.  Each sheet should do 15-20 loads. They’ll gradually lose their stiffness and you can kind of gage when they become less effective and just repeat the process.
  4. Jars instead of zip top bags: Jars are great for leftovers, for veggie dip, and for storage. Rather than pouring out your inconvenient bag of chia seeds into a zip top, use a jar for storage.  
  5. Get energy efficient: If you live in a cold climate, or even a hot one, this one can be really effective. Make sure your furnace or AC can keep your house comfortable without having to do extra work.  Try a reusable filter that can be cleaned every so often, rather than buying them every couple of months.  Make sure that any drafts are blocked to keep the expensive air in.  Open the windows when you can.  Insulate outlet covers.  Recaulk your windows. Your utilities bill will thank you.
  6. Compost: If you garden, this is a great way to keep your soil healthy without having to purchase fertilizer. Keep a bucket under your sink for food scraps.  Everything but meat and dairy can be composted.  Just mix it in with green matter, grass and leaves, and brown matter, like shredded paper, and turn it often.  It is great for productive gardens.
  7. Walk: if it’s within walking distance, don’t drive.  You’ll save money on gas, help keep the air clean and get a little exercise.

Did I miss anything? Let me know! I'd love to save more money too!

October 15, 2015

Can I Freeze That?

can I freeze that, safe to freeze, food that I can freeze

We have all had those days.  There’s a soccer game, piano lessons, a book report due tomorrow and the school choir concert. There is absolutely no time to make dinner, not to mention energy.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could just pull something out of the freezer and stick it into the oven, instead of stopping for expensive takeout?  Freezer cooking is a great money saver. It does require a time commitment in advance, but it pays off dividends on the days you want to pull your hair out.

There are dozens and dozens of websites and blog posts out there devoted to freezer cooking.  Most of them recommend choosing three or four meals to make all at once and doubling or tripling them. My advice to you is this: don’t double or triple until you’ve made, frozen and cooked it.  Some meals don’t freeze well, some meals don’t taste quite the same after you have frozen them and some recipes just won’t suit your tastes at all.  To start, find a few recipes that look good to you, make it, freeze it and see if you like it.   

In addition to freezing entire meals, there are dozens of things that can be frozen to save money.  When shredded cheese goes on sale, stock up and freeze it!  (Just make sure it’s shredded. If you’re buying blocks, shred it first.) When fruit is in season and cheap, buy a bunch and freeze it.  Berries can be frozen without any kind of prep other than washing.  Peaches should be blanched, bananas should be peeled.  Grapes can be frozen, but eat them frozen, they don’t thaw well.  They do, however, make good ice cubes that don’t water down your drinks.  Mango needs to be peeled, pineapple needs to be cut, strawberries need to be hulled.  Freeze apples to use in pies or applesauce.  

Did you know you can even freeze milk?  Check out the list for other ideas:
Cooked Rice
Cookie Dough
Bread Dough (pizza, rolls, loaves)
Cooked Bread
Cooked pasta
Fresh Peas
Mashed potatoes
Chili  (Don’t freeze milk based soups, soups with celery)
Chicken Broth
Breakfast burritos
Fruit Juice
Onions (chopped)
Chilies (chopped)
Peppers (chopped)
Eggs (out of the shell)
Cooked chicken
Leftover Ham (chopped works best)
chopped steak
Cooked ground beef
Lime and Lemon Juice (freeze it in ice cubes to keep it pre-portioned)
Fresh garlic (also in ice cube trays. Pebble ice trays are perfect)
Buttermilk (ice cubes)
Whipping Cream (Ice cubes)

Corn on the Cob
Cooked Pumpkin

October 12, 2015

How to Make Meal Planning Work for You!

meal planning tips, eat at home,

So, we're buying a house. Which means it's time to tighten down the wallet, so I'm busting out all of my best money saving methods once again and I thought I might share.

One of the best ways to save money is by eating at home. But there are days when 5:00 rolls around and I still don't know what we're having for dinner, and all of a sudden Little Caesar's is sounding pretty good. But, if I have put together a meal plan for at least the week, the chances of me running out to pick something up at the last minute drop dramatically. It took several years and half a dozen failed attempts to get down a meal planning rhythm.  But all that time and effort was worth it. Today, I sit down every other week and plan out the next two, write up a shopping list and by doing that, I only have to go to the grocery store twice a month. 
Here are a couple of things that I learned over the course of my trial and error.
  1. Shop your pantry first. Go through your fridge and freezer to see what needs to be used up.  Go through your pantry to see what you already have.  Then make the shopping list.
  2. Check the weekly ads.  Super awesome sale on chicken?  Use that in your menu.  Pasta for a dollar? Lasagna it is!
  3. Don’t forget about leftovers.  It you’re making something like teriyaki chicken and rice, make a little extra rice and use it in a casserole that calls for already cooked rice the next day.  Or get creative.  How can you use up that italian chicken that was leftover?  Could you make a pasta salad from the spaghetti that didn’t get eaten?
  4. Take into account your schedule.  Don’t plan on making that long and complicated meal on the night that you have to be at a PTA meeting and your kids have a baseball game and a dance recital.  Save the freezer meals or sandwiches for those nights.  Granted, things are always going to pop up, but don’t start the week by shooting yourself in the foot.
  5. Keep your menu where you can see it.  Some people like to keep it on a bulletin board in their kitchen. I find that the less time that my children know what I’m making for dinner, the less amount of time they have to complain about it.  I keep my menu on the calendar on my phone.  It’s easy to access and almost always at hand. Plus, I set reminders for myself, which really come in handy when I'm planning a crock pot meal.
  6. Don't try a new recipe every night. You want to save the new stuff for a slow night, when you have time to fix mistakes. I usually throw a new recipe into the mix about once a week and that's plenty.
  7. PINTEREST!! Keep a board of recipes that you have tried and loved. You can also do this the old fashioned way, with a notebook or a recipe box, but Pinterest is my favorite way to do it. It's easy to refer to when you're putting the next couple of weeks together, and easy to add to when you do try a new recipe and it's delicious!

Menu planning has a direct effect on my grocery shopping. It cuts down dramatically on the last second runs to the grocery store, when I inevitably spend more than I need to and walk out with ice cream or cookies.  By menu planning, my impulse purchases are limited to twice a month, and when I’m buying the store and running out of room in the cart, I’m less inclined to throw something extra in. One more thing that I’m sure you have heard before, but is oh so true, don’t, I repeat, DON’T go shopping hungry. You will spend more money, you will buy things that you don’t need and you will regret it after lunch.

Do you have any tried and true meal planning tips that I missed? Leave them in the comments below, I would love to hear about it!

May 11, 2015

Summer Reading List: First Grade

first grade, reading list, summer reading, summer reading program

For my six year old, I've tried to put together a list of books that appeal to him, both to read and to have read to him. I've tried to make a good mix of things that he will like to read on his level and things that he will sit still and listen to.

summer reading list

Go, Dog, Go

Interrupting Chicken

summer reading list

There are No Cats in This Book

There are Cats in This Book

summer reading list

The Cat in the Hat

Green Eggs and Ham
summer reading list first Grade

elephant and piggie summer reading

I Love My New Toy (and really all Elephant and Piggie books)

Scaredy Squirrel

Summer reading list first grade

Click, Clack, Splash


summer reading list

What if You Had Animal Teeth 

Mike Mulligan and More 

summer reading list

I am an Artist 

Do you have any favorite First Grade Readers that I've missed?  I would love more suggestions!  
Happy Reading!

*all images via Amazon

June 27, 2014

Just a Small Town Girl

I moved to Rexburg Idaho when I was 18 and small town life caught me off guard. It sank into my bones until I didn't want anything else.   I spend my daydreams on land and skies and stars, rows of fruit trees and my children running barefoot through the garden.  However, I'm married to a man whose chosen career path and aversion to commute keeps us tethered to cities.  We currently sit firmly in suburbia, with neighbors closing in on all sides and a backyard the size of a postage stamp.

And I find myself with a new affection for my grandpa. He wanted, all his life, to leave the the cities, the suburbs, and move out to a small town away from everything else. My Grandma, however, wouldn't have it. They lived their whole lives only a few miles from where they grew up, with homes and churches and shopping centers popping up all around them.

I think, though, it must have been more than just a dream. It must have been in his blood, this need for open spaces. His son, my uncle, moved his family to a tiny town in Southern Utah and relished every minute of it spending his days exploring the nearby mountains and caves and his nights camping under the stars.

I like to think that someday I'll get my wish.  I'll find a way to move away from it all, somewhere I can fall asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees and not the sirens.  Somewhere that the air smells like sage and pine and soil, instead of exhaust.  Some where I can sit outside and see the horizon, and not just the houses surrounding me on all sides.  But until then, I'll just be here, longing for clear night skies and complete quiet.

June 25, 2014

The First Stone

I found this comment by Jodie on the Mercy River blog, and it sums up my thoughts of the past few days better than I can articulate. 
"This morning I woke to see the post about Kate Kelly being excommunicated passed around and liked over 3400 times (and still counting). I started to think about how many times I click “Like” on a post and why I do it, and the meaning behind it. And I thought to myself do I have those reasons to click “Like” on this post?
I have followed this case with an open heart and open mind. And even though I have my own beliefs in how this should be conducted, I do however have a strong issue with what we are all doing now. To “Like” something (specifically in the FB context) is to agree with a portion of the comments or the article, or even photos posted. Why would we “Like” any of this, especially those of us who call ourselves LDS?
We have a lady who, regardless of rhyme or reason, has been excommunicated. And I can not help but be brought to the scriptures and think about John 8:7 where it states “He who is without sin, cast the first stone."  Are we saying we are each without sin? Isn’t clicking “Like” right now kinda like throwing a stone?
Are we saying that we “Like” that she has been excommunicated because that’s what she had coming to her? Or that we “Like” the councils decision in this specific instance, or that we “Like” that a stand has been taken? Either way what is there to actually “Like” right now?
I have been raised in this gospel for most of my life, and one of the teachings I have learned is that the Atonement and Love of Christ applies to everyone. I do not for a minute believe that those bishops, councilmen and even our Prophet and and the members of his quorums are sitting there today thinking to themselves that they “Like” this situation, or “Like” that this daughter of God has been excommunicated.
So as someone who is raising children and who proudly teaches on a sunday will stand up today in front of many who will read and say. I do NOT “Like” any of this situation, especially its outcome. And I do not feel that we are being any better people by “Like”ing it."

Thank you, Jodie. Whoever you are. 

June 24, 2014

I've had a lot swirling around in my head in the last days, weeks, maybe even months.  Things that don't quite make sense until I say them out loud or write them down.  And I was missing having this as a place to write things down.  Well, let me try that again.  

I was missing this as a place to have a conversation.

I have a small life.  I feel like I've said this before.  Meaningful, but small.  And really, if I'm completely honest, I'm okay with that.  But being a part of the blogging community, interacting with women from all over the country and even the world made me feel a little bit bigger.  We shared so much, as mothers and women, that suddenly, my life didn't seem quite so small and the trivial that wasn't so trivial to me was validated.  And I miss that.  

Anyway.  This is just to say.


May 7, 2014

To each her own

I've decided that I'm weird.  No, really.  Well, my tastes are anyway.

Raise your hand if you haven't heard of a dirty diet coke.


Now raise your hand if you've ever met anyone that didn't LOVE dirty diet coke (or dr. pepper, whatever your poison)


Put your hands up, ladies and gentlemen, because you have now.  I hate coconut.  I hate shredded coconut. I hate coconut syrup. I hate pina coladas.  And I hate dirty diet cokes.

Now, raise your hand if you get excited about all the pumpkin flavored stuff that starts appearing in September and sticks around through Christmas?

Yeah, I hate that too. Pumpkin is gross.

See? But what I really want to know is this:  is there anyone else out there like me?  Anyone?  Or am I all alone in my coconut, pumpkin hating world?


April 28, 2014

Shove a Stick Up It

So, you know in decor, there was the whole "stick a bird on it" trend?  Well, apparently the food bloggers wanted to get in on that and just left the bird out of it.  They stuck to the stick.  You know what I'm talking about. Shove a stick in any kind of dessert, or honestly, food, call it a pop and watch your hits skyrocket.  And really, I mean anything.  And to tell you the truth, I don't get it. I honestly don't get it. Does it taste better with a stick in it? Uh, no.  Does it take longer to make? So much.  There's the argument that kids love it.  And you know what, maybe some do.  But to tell you the truth, my kids prefer the mini, stickless corn dogs (really the only thing that should have a stick in it) to the larger, skewered version.   I think were getting out of hand with this people.  No, seriously.  Just scroll down for proof.  (and all I had to do was search 'pop' on Pinterest.)

And the thing is, it's not just limited to dessert. 

Okay, this is the one that I really don't get. By the time you get all of those sticks up in there, all of the pancakes are cold. And really, who wants to eat a cold pancake? 

Nothing is sacred.  And you know what I say? Stop the madness.  


April 23, 2014

If you're reading. . .

I don't know if anyone reads this little old blog anymore, but if you are, I'd like to ask your advice.

I wrote a story.  I wouldn't call it a book, it's not quite long enough. A novella, maybe.

I'm seriously considering self publishing this through Amazon.  I would really like to in fact.

And my question is this: does anyone out there have any experience with this? Any do's and don't's you would like to share with the class?

Also, I wouldn't mind a few beta readers.  I'm sure it could use a little polishing, so if you're willing leave a comment or shoot me an email.

And if I do eventually go through with it, I'll let you know.

Copyright Trapped Between a Scream and a Hug

Meaning all content on this blog is mine. So you better not steal it. Seriously.