Saturday, July 31, 2010

2 week cooking update

Wow.  It's the day after cooking for the 2 week cooking challenge and I think I'm still worn out from it.

Since Justin and Elijah were out of the house yesterday morning, I just decided to go for it.  I did all of my shopping and all of the cooking/preparing for the 2 weeks.  And I was so tired afterwards.  I don't think I sat down from 9:00 to 3:30.  Because I was crazy and stood in the kitchen for about an hour double checking my shopping list and adding to it for a few recipes that I swapped out.  Should have sat down!

I did have a few items on hand already, so I had to figure all of that out, then I headed out to shop!

I shopped at our Ingles where the boneless chicken breasts were at least supposed to be $1.98 a pound, but they were all out.  Rain check in hand (which will be nice for my next shopping trip), I bought the chicken at our local butcher shop where I can always count on it to be inexpensive.  In total, I spent $106.62, which included several other things that I already needed to buy, on top of the 2 week cooking ingredients.  I was pretty pleased with this, because our weekly budget for groceries is $60.00 and I ended up with 2 extra quart size bags of chicken and 2 bags of ground beef in my freezer for later use!

I followed the FANTASTIC outline that Jennifer at Saving and Giving so graciously provided.  I'm not sure if I would have dove into this project if she hadn't done all of the work of preparing a meal plan, recipes, shopping list, and even detailed instructions for the cooking order.  How much easier could it get?  I definitely suggest starting this way if you are thinking about trying out some freezer meal cooking!

I did change out a few meals because Justin and I don't eat (most) beans.  I know we're weird, but before you judge, we were brave and are trying out the Southwest Chicken Roll-Ups with refried (gag me) beans.  I'm being daring!  A recipe for Crockpot Bean Casserole, however, was NOT going to happen!

Anyway...I digress.  I checked out some recipes from my friend Terra's blog and added them in the plan.  I think the most daunting part of the whole project (although the most helpful because someone else planned it!) is that every recipe was new for me.  So I had/have no idea what to expect.  And I'm not the best cook in the world, so I completely misunderstood directions for Terra's Chicken Junks recipe.  This almost caused a breakdown in the overall easy cooking system.  But I persevered!

Here is our meal plan for the next 2 weeks!  (only changed slightly from the original)

I've linked the recipes of Terra's to her blog.  All of the other recipes, you can find here.

Sunday, August 1 - Stouffer's Lasagna (Already in my freezer, so I'm including it! haha!)
Monday, August 2 - Fried Chicken Salad (Tyson fried chicken strips also already in my freezer!)
Tuesday, August 3 - Mini (Italian) Meatloaves (doubled this recipe for later, too!)
Wednesday, August 4 - Chicken Junks
Thursday, August 5 - Chicken Parmesan (doubled 'cause we're planning for company that night)
Friday, August 6 - Southwest Chicken Roll-Ups
Saturday, August 7 - Ground Beef Stroganoff

Sunday, August 8 - Homemade Pizza
Monday, August 9 - Baked Ziti (This looked so yummy, it was hard not to taste test!)
Tuesday, August 10 - Chicken Stir Fry
Wednesday, August 11 - Popcorn Shrimp, Salad, Baked Potato (Again, shrimp was already in freezer)
Thursday, August 12 - Chicken Fettucini Alfredo
Friday, August 13 - Grilled BBQ Chicken
Saturday, August 14 - Homemade Pizza

Sunday, August 15 - Eating Out because it's Justin's Birthday!  ...And I'll be celebrating all these great meals I made for my family (and my husband's birthday)!

Overall, I thought this whole cooking experience was great because of how well Jennifer had it planned out for me.  Yesterday morning, as I was going through my freezer to see what I needed to use, I was re-inspired to make some food for Elijah, which I hadn't done in months.  Now he has some yummy pureed "fruit medley" and peas and carrots to enjoy.  

Also, I realized how simple it would really be just to do this on an ongoing basis.  I'm not sure if I would do the bulk shopping/cooking/prepping again (I'll let you know in two weeks).  But I definitely know I could make things easier by doubling meals to freeze or just prepping stuff the night before.  Great experience!

...And it all fit in my little freezer!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

2 week cooking

So even though my friend Terra has 2 boys and one basically here on the way, I still can't seem to get my act together like her in the kitchen.  I love to eat, but I just really don't love to cook.  You should definitely check out Terra's recipe blog (I have almost all of her's bookmarked and have tried several) because she has great recipes and is great at sharing help with once a month cooking, even organizing a freezer swaps with her friends, which I think is a great idea.

I've always been nervous about jumping into the whole Once a Month Cooking Plan.  I mean, I barely like to fix one meal at a time!  But Jennifer, over at Saving and Giving is hosting a Two Week Cooking Project Challenge. I told her I'd join in and I'm sharing it here as well so that I will be held accountable for doing it.

I think it's the perfect time because Elijah is going to spend the night with with grandparents tomorrow night, so I will have some "extra" time on my hands.  I'm sure that's not what Justin has planned for the weekend, but he's going golfing, so I guess my "girl time" will be with myself in the kitchen.  We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Search & Win
Are you looking for away to start earning some free Christmas presents, or birthday presents, or just free stuff in general?

Then you should check out Swagbucks if you aren't already a part of it!  I've just "cashed in" my Swagbucks for another (free) $5.00 gift certificate because I have a few things that I need to order and it just seems so much better to get it for free.  

Swagbucks is an easy way to earn free stuff simply by searching for stuff that you would be looking for online anyway.  So sign up and next time you could be earning Swagbucks for searching for a last-minute recipe or why the #2 pencil is not #1 (saw that as a Facebook status today).  Just start earning free stuff...cause you can!

And if you click on the links in this post then you'll be my referral and help me to add to my (now nothing because I just spent it all) Swagbucks account.  Thanks!

Monday, July 26, 2010

musical monday

One of my's kind of fast (for my preference!) but I pray that it causes you to think about the Lord today.

When I Think About the Lord

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Have extra time on your hands?

(Ha Ha!) ...I have fallen in LOVE with this blog.  And if you are looking for great things to do with your kids, then you just may fall in love too!

Also, I just found this blog that I think is going to be GREAT as well!

...They both cater to my non-existent creative side that wants to have cool things to do with Elijah!

and here is another...I've got to stop looking!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

a challenge to women

A friend of mine shared a great message from John Piper with me years ago and it continually resonates in my mind.  I hope it will challenge and encourage you today.

  1. That all of your life—in whatever calling—be devoted to the glory of God.
  2. That the promises of Christ be trusted so fully that peace and joy and strength fill your soul to overflowing.
  3. That this fullness of God overflow in daily acts of love so that people might see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.
  4. That you be women of the Book, who love and study and obey the Bible in every area of its teaching. That meditation on Biblical truth be the source of hope and faith. And that you continue to grow in understanding through all the chapters of your life, never thinking that study and growth are only for others.
  5. That you be women of prayer, so that the Word of God would open to you; and the power of faith and holiness would descend upon you; and your spiritual influence would increase at home and at church and in the world.
  6. That you be women who have a deep grasp of the sovereign grace of God undergirding all these spiritual processes, that you be deep thinkers about the doctrines of grace, and even deeper lovers and believers of these things.
  7. That you be totally committed to ministry, whatever your specific role, that you not fritter your time away on soaps or ladies magazines or aimless hobbies, any more than men should fritter theirs away on excessive sports or aimless diddling in the garage. That you redeem the time for Christ and his Kingdom.
  8. That, if you are single, you exploit your singleness to the full in devotion to Christ and not be paralyzed by the desire to be married.
  9. That, if you are married, you creatively and intelligently and sincerely support the leadership of your husband as deeply as obedience to Christ will allow; that you encourage him in his God-appointed role as head; that you influence him spiritually primarily through your fearless tranquility and holiness and prayer.
  10. That, if you have children, you accept responsibility with your husband (or alone if necessary) to raise up children who hope in the triumph of God, sharing with him the teaching and discipline of the children, and giving to the children that special nurturing touch and care that you are uniquely fitted to give.
  11. That you not assume that secular employment is a greater challenge or a better use of your life than the countless opportunities of service and witness in the home the neighborhood, the community, the church, and the world. That you not only pose the question: Career vs. full time mom? But that you ask as seriously: Full time career vs. freedom for ministry? That you ask: Which would be greater for the Kingdom— to be in the employ of someone telling you what to do to make his business prosper, or to be God's free agent dreaming your own dream about how your time and your home and your creativity could make God'sbusiness prosper? And that in all this you make your choices not on the basis of secular trends or yuppie lifestyle expectations, but on the basis of what will strengthen the family and advance the cause of Christ.
  12. That you step back and (with your husband, if you are married) plan the various forms of your life's ministry in chapters. Chapters are divided by various things—age, strength, singleness, marriage, employment choices, children at home, children in college, grandchildren, retirement, etc. No chapter has all the joys. Finite life is a series of tradeoffs. Finding God's will, and living for the glory of Christ to the full in every chapter is what makes it a success, not whether it reads like somebody else's chapter or whether it has in it what chapter five will have.
  13. That you develop a wartime mentality and lifestyle; that you never forget that life is short, that billions of people hang in the balance of heaven and hell every day, that the love of money is spiritual suicide, that the goals of upward mobility (nicer clothes, cars, houses, vacations, food, hobbies) are a poor and dangerous substitute for the goals of living for Christ with all your might, and maximizing your joy in ministry to people's needs.
  14. That in all your relationships with men you seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in applying the Biblical vision of manhood and womanhood; that you develop a style and demeanor that does justice to the unique role God has given to man to feel responsible for gracious leadership in relation to women—a leadership which involves elements of protection and care and initiative. That you think creatively and with cultural sensitivity (just as he must do) in shaping the style and setting the tone of your interaction with men.
  15. That you see Biblical guidelines for what is appropriate and inappropriate for men and women in relation to each other not as arbitrary constraints on freedom but as wise and gracious prescriptions for how to discover the true freedom of God's ideal of complementarity. That you not measure your potential by the few roles withheld but by the countless roles offered. That you turn off the TV and Radio and think about...
You can read the rest of the article here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

musical monday

Yesterday at church as we sang Jesus Messiah, I was overwhelmed (again) with the fullness of the song.  It's another great song that Chris Tomlin wrote and it points you straight to the power of the cross and the tremendous debt Christ paid for our sin.  This song is one of my favorites, drawing me into a deeper worship.
The lyrics are below, in bold, with my own expansion of the words in parenthesis.  May this song lead you in to worship today.  Not sure what or how to worship?  Check out a recap of our pastor's Worship Made Simple message below the song.

He (Christ) became sin (belonging to this world)
Who knew no (not in any degree or manner) sin 
That we might (have a chance to) become His 
Righteousness (declared innocent and guiltless)
He humbled (lowered in condition, importance, or dignity)

himself and carried (bore the weight, burden of) the cross 

Love (being patient, kind, and not envious or proudso
Love (not behaving rudely or seeking its own) so (very) 
amazing (astonishing)


Jesus (Son of God) Messiah (promised Deliverer)
Name (renown) above all names 
Blessed (worthy of adoration) Redeemer (Restorer)
Emmanuel (God with us)
The rescue (liberator) for sinners (evildoers)
The ransom (redeemer) from Heaven 
Jesus Messiah (expected Savior)
Lord (Master) of all (everything)

His body (substance) the bread (sustenance)
His blood (vitality) the wine (drink offering)
Broken (crushed) and poured out (flowed forth) 
all for (with the object or purpose of) 
love (not being provoked or seeking any evil)
The whole earth (not heaven) trembled (shook from fear)
And the veil (something that covers, separates, screens, 
or conceals) was torn (permanently divided)

Love (rejoicing in the truth and bearing all thing) so amazing
Love (hoping, enduring, and never God
so amazing (awe-inspiring)yeah (yes!)

Jesus (the Christ) Messiah (anticipated Redeemer) 
Name above (higher in rank, authority, or power) all names 
Blessed (Holy) Redeemer (Savior)
Emmanuel (Jesus)
The rescue (Redeemer) for sinners (you and me)
The ransom (the sum or price paid or demanded) 
from Heaven (perfection)
Jesus (God) Messiah (expected Liberator of a captive people)
Lord (King) of all (each of us)

All (every) our hope (confident expectation) is in You (Savior)
All (the sum total of) our hope (trust) is in (founded in) You 
All the glory (adoration, praise, worship) to You, (the one true) God 
The light (source of illumination) of (found in) the world (darkness)

Worship Made Simple (John 4:20-24)

1. Worship is DIRECTED to the Father 
There is only one God and he is the object of our worship.

2. Worship is DESIGNED for any location 
If you are a Christian, then you are a sanctuary for worship!

3. Worship is DISCOVERED through Jesus Christ 
You need a relationship with Christ, then he enables you to worship.

Any questions?  Feel free to e-mail me!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

great giveaway

If you are at all interested in making your own baby food, then there is a great giveaway here.  It's a Fresh Baby baby food making kit!  I have two of the Fresh Baby storage trays and I would LOVE to win so that I could have two more.  It also comes with an instructional dvd and a cookbook.  I love making Elijah's baby food and when I finally ran across these storage trays online, it made it even better!

Friday, July 16, 2010

free stuff!

As I wrote in my last post, one of my "go to" websites is Southern Savers.  Mostly because it is a "one-stop" place on the internet to compile my shopping list for the week and it helps me immensely to stay within our grocery budget.  I follow this blog and a few others that have writers that are really doing the behind the scenes hard work to help me find some great deals each week.  I really appreciate that!

One thing I have found by following these "frugal savvy" blogs is that there are lots of free items available - just waiting for someone to grab them.  Because of this, it has become quite a treat to go to my mailbox each day.  Just by simply filling out a few random forms each week that these frugal blog writers round up, I now receive at least 3 coupons or free items in the mail each week.  I love that the free items I get are now starting to put a dent in the bills and junk mail I receive! (And no, I have not noticed any more junk mail because of these freebies I have received).

I have received samples of haircare items, coffee, sweeteners, granola bars, crackers, body wash, and diapers, just to name a few.  I have also received lots of coupons for free stuff.  That's the kind of mail I enjoy getting!  Just the other week, I opened my mailbox and was surprised to find these items:

Pretty impressive mail items!  And these were free! Here's what was inside: 

3 Pampers diapers of a new style and a few packets of Crystal Light.  Also, there were about $11 worth of coupons in these packages!  I was quite surprised.  And did I say that they were free!!

I say all this just to let you know (if you don't already) that there is free stuff just waiting to be claimed!  These items above are both from Vocal Point where you can join to be "in the know" about free stuff and other offers.  Other blogs I like to check out for free items and good deals are:

So, go grab yourself some free stuff.  If you get it and you don't need it - give it away.  You can make someone else's day!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

i heart cvs!

I haven't told many people, but I have definitely become the "Zippered-Folder-with-a-Ton-of-Coupons-Grocery-Shopping-Lady."  Yikes!  It's not that I'm ashamed of what I've become, I have just not quite mastered or figured out how to handle my new self.  There are days that I do revert and go back to my "No Menu Plan, No Shopping List" persona, but I honestly don't like her very much.  Then there are days that I become "No Menu Plan with a Shopping List" Woman and I think I get even more frustrated with her!

All that to say - I love coupons and the amount of money I can save, but the hassle is sometimes more that I am up to handling in a week!  When I do stay on top of couponing (cutting, filing, using), then I feel quite at peace with my new self.

One place that makes me completely fall in love again with my zippered folder is CVS.  I leave there feeling as if I am making money and that is just a good feeling!  I've tried to hang in there with Walgreens and Rite-Aid, but I just can't deal with them any longer.  CVS is where my heart is.

For example ...I have done so well there lately with coupons, ECB's (Extra Care Bucks) and sale prices, it's just incredible.  One week I got Justin 4 deodorants for free.  Then I got him 4 body washes for free.  Then a free razor.  This boy is seriously clean, good smelling, and smooth!  I have also made some pretty good getaways with cheap diapers on my CVS trips, which is a HUGE deal for a Mama who HATES to buy disposable diapers!  I don't feel like digging out past receipts to prove this or tallying up my savings over the last months, but just TRUST can do really well shopping at CVS.

We are stocked on deodorant, shampoo, body wash and razors for quite a while, so I can now put my energy into purchasing other things or things for other people.  If I am walking into CVS and there is a sale that will allow me to use a coupon and get back ECB's in order to get an item for free, then I will still buy it, even if we don't need it.  BECAUSE I have a bag filling up nicely to take to the local women's shelter - of stuff I got for free!  It feels really good to have an ever-growing stash of stuff that I may not use, but may bless another person.

Just when I thought I couldn't love CVS any more...I got sick.  You see, CVS sent me 2 coupons for a $25 gift card when I bring a new or transferred prescription to them.  Well, I usually NEVER have a prescription to fill, but just in case, I filed them away in my *Zippered Folder*.  And...I thought about them on my way to the doctor Saturday morning.  And... for the price of being sick and then having to fill 2 prescriptions at CVS, I walked away with $50 in gift cards Saturday afternoon.  It made me feel better already.

THAT is why I love CVS and feel as if I am making money when I shop with them.  I hope you can experience this someday too!  The reason I feel this way about CVS and couponing in general is mostly due to my ongoing relationship with  You can be kept up-to-date with the best online deals and the weekly sales at most of the grocery stores and drug stores around.  I don't have to look at a store ad, website, or even write down my own shopping list.  I do it all from this website, which also tells me the available coupons to make store deals even sweeter.  You can learn how to shop for name brand items and get them for next to nothing or free!  I don't think I'll ever go back to shopping my "old way" again.

I'm in love!

Monday, July 12, 2010

worship or waste?

[Hello again blogging world!]

Justin just got back from a mission trip to Ecuador.  I was so excited that he was able to go!  He and his team worked with pastors and their wives and children who gathered in a small village for a pastor's conference.  Many of them walked for days just to attend!  Justin helped lead the music, play with children, and even spoke to the pastors for a little while.  I'm so proud of him and really wish I could have been there.  We didn't get to communicate much while he was there, but in one e-mail he wrote that he wished I could be there with him, but he definitely didn't wish Elijah were there because it was just so dirty.  It's amazing the conditions others live in daily.

There were lots of new things Justin discovered on this trip.  In fact, he didn't know much of what to expect, but he did know beforehand that he would be eating a rare delicacy prepared by the villagers - the "food of the gods" - guinea pig!  Yes, I can't even believe it.  My husband has eaten a guinea pig.  (I have been sick basically the entire time since he's been home so we've hardly kissed. -boo-  But I think that's been good because surely the guinea pig aftertaste is completely out of his mouth by now! Ugh!)  

*Another side note if you want an idea of the dish he had - just Google "fried guinea pig."*

As amazing as it is that Justin has eaten guinea pig, the generosity of the people who prepared and served the guinea pig is even more amazing to me.  Before going, Justin learned that a meal of guinea pig costs about $10 for the people to serve.  These are people who (for those who actually make money) make about $40 a month!  Imagine that - taking a 1/4 of your monthly income and blessing a stranger with a meal that you don't even splurge on for your own family.  Think about that right now.  What would a 1/4 of your monthly income be and would you even fathom preparing a meal that costs that much?  We experienced this generosity on mission trips we took to Mexico as well - the giving out of their limited funds to welcome those whom they have never met.  What a picture of hospitality and service!

I'm reminded of an account of such generosity in the story of Mary as she pours out a great offering on Jesus.  In Matthew 26 we read the following:

And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor." But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."

As I think about the people who served Justin and his team last week, I am just amazed at their generosity.  But I admit, much like the disciples, I find myself questioning the gift. Why did they spend this money on food that may or may not even be enjoyed by people they don't even know?  In order not to see this treatment as an incredible waste, I have to view the meal as Jesus viewed Mary's gift - as an amazing act of worship.    She knew her Master as Provider, and chose to lavish upon Him, her Savior, ultimately knowing His promises to care for her.  These villagers who prepared such a sacrificial meal for Justin's team truly worshiped, showing their reliance on an unchanging Savior instead of reliance on their measly income.  

I am challenged to seek greater ways to worship my Savior through extravagant service.  I think that acts of service that are ultimately gifts of worship to our great God show the world that we serve a worthy Savior.