Day At The Zoo

Wordless Wednesday.

(And in case you’re a person who likes words… we took a trip to the zoo this weekend. Us and half the population of the city. Nice, spring weather will do that. We are fortunate enough to have a free zoo here in town, so we can always go back, and it isn’t like we’ve lost money because there wasn’t enough time or space between sardine-packed kids to see the exhibits.

Franny insisted on taking pictures of the giraffes who were “humping” – they weren’t really, they were cozing up to, or had finished, couldn’t tell. He then took a picture of the rhinos. At the end of our visit, the boys played at the new play/park area. Franny climbed the rock structure and I snapped a couple pictures.)

Gmail email emoticons

Call me a dork, but I’m totally excited that Gmail has (finally) added Gmail emoticons. Hoorah. I love my gmail, having had it when you needed an invite to get it. I use it for work and personal use, but it has lacked some of the traditional bells and whistles of rival web-based email (Yahoo, Hotmail). It is nice to see these little improvements coming along. Hopefully we continue to see improvements being made in Picasa as well. Keep it up, Google.

Reusable Grocery Bags

Another day in the land of Grocery Shopping…

Last week I buckled down and did some BIG shopping at the store I specifically use for BIG shopping. Frank was working overtime and we were in desperate need of some groceries. I had to be done. I didn’t have all the elements set for a large shopping adventure (missing: meal plan and list – and husband or helper to push 2nd cart), but I had time, some money and the kids were all in school. That counts for something.

I grabbed every reusable bag I could find in my van (missed 2 actually) and headed in the store. Woodmans doesn’t have the best paper bags (no handles), and when you’re loading oodles of bags in the car and carrying them into your home, handles are nice. ‘Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a Woodman’s bag rip in my arms as I lug it into my house.

I tried to keep a mental note of what I wanted, what I needed and what I could stand to stock up on. I took my time, which was an indulgence I don’t always have. I could spend 5 minutes comparing prices on toilet paper, if it tickled my fancy. Lucky me. Normally I’ve got at least a couple kids and a husband in tow. Between the Can I get _______ and Hey look at this!! I get very little done and always end up spending more than intended and having not a whole lot to show for it.

About 3/4 through the store, about the time when I hit the meat and dairy isles, my cart was about to explode. I tried to balance the 2 jugs of vinegar, 2 bags of rice and 4 gallons of milk in precarious places, but had to move the cart so slowly it was ridiculous. Even at the slow pace I lost an item every 10 feet. A man walked by me as I picked up my milk and said, Why you need 2 carts. I laughed and blathered something about my husband being the 2nd cart pusher and hewasatwork, blabla, laugh laugh, curse under breath.

And then I gave in and made the turtle-walk to the other end of the store to grab my second cart. I needed it if I were to:

1.) Make it out of the store without killing a gallon or two of milk
2.) Finish my shopping, getting what I needed

I transferred some items from Cart 1 to Cart 2 and finished out my trip in the frozen foods and bottle drinks section, then made my way to the checkout line. I wondered if I’d have enough bags, and then for a split second, wondered if I’d have enough money. I wanted to stay under $400, and it was looking close. Usually I can guess within $10 of the total, but my mind was to weary to even try that day.

I checked the total after the first cart and it was low enough that I was safe to continue on my second cart. I was fearing the big “$400” but hoped for a lower amount. Total? $300. Score. $300 was just dandy. And I only went over my wonderful reusable bag limit by 2 bags.

“Drive up?” They ask.

“Nope.” Momma likes a challenge.

Wouldn’t you know when I got to the car, there were 2 more reusable bags that I had missed? Perfect!! I double-bagged my handle-less paper bags into the reusable ones, emptied 2 carts full of groceries into my van and headed home, hoping Lootie would be there to meet (and help me carry the groceries in) me. Sure enough he was. God love the kid, he’s a workhorse (not to mention he’s happy to see groceries come into our house). He helped carry them up for me with no complaints.

Some of our groceries:

Deflated bags:

I finally got to use my Earthbound Farms bag. I had a couple Bratfest bags thrown in there as well. But I have to say, as far as reusable grocery bags go, the Whole Foods bags are my favorite. I use them before any others. They’re only $1 each, too, when many I’ve seen sell for 3x that (or more). I love my reusable bags. Only drawback of using the recyclable bags is the lack of paper bags to put our household recyclables in.

Stuffed Green Pepper Casserole

I had all intentions of making Stuffed Green Peppers. But, time ran away from me. And the peppers were beginning to give me the now or never look. So I improvised. And it was good. So I wanted to make sure I wrote down what I did so that I could do it again.

“Stuffed” Green Pepper Casserole

A double portion of Hillbilly Housewifes’ Yellow Rice Mix (prepared)
7-8 green (red, too would be pretty) peppers, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces (about the size of a quarter)
1 medium onion chopped into dime-sized pieces
1 pound ground turkey or beef, cooked
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella and/or cheddar cheese (more if you’re a cheese-lover)
1tsp. of garlic powder (couple shakes)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare rice as directed (best would be to prepare the day before and it be cooled, but we’ll take what we can get). Place peppers, onions and tomatoes in a casserole dish, sprinkle with salt & pepper, garlic; stir. Mix in turkey/beef and yellow rice to the vegetables; top with shredded cheese. Cover and bake @ 350 for about 30min. Remove cover and bake until cheese is golden and bubbly. Server with some biscuits.

All the flavor of stuffed peppers, but less of the fuss.

Grocery Shopping

I’ve spent way too much money on groceries the past couple days. With 3 main stores I shop at (a local “warehouse” superstore Woodmans, Sam’s and Copps). Each have their own advantages. The local store’s produce is not great, but the dried goods are well priced. It is a good “stock up” store and carries a good selection of ethnic foods, organic foods and has the best selection of all stores. Sam’s is nice for bulk shopping, but I have to be careful there because bulk is not always cheaper. Copps is a chain store that has weekly advertised sales, decent meat and decent produce. Some of the Copps stores are better than others. Copps isn’t as large as the superstore, but it has many incentives to shop (free gas, money back, etc.)

I’d say I do most of my shopping at Copps, then Woodmans, then Sam’s (with random stops at Whole Foods and even rarer adventures to Aldi’s). If I had to choose one, I’d choose Copps, although sometimes I cringe when I know an item would be cheaper at Woodmans. My ultimate shopping adventure would be to get certain items at Copps, bulk up at Woodmans, and pick up some extras at Sam’s. But, I’m rarely mentally and physically prepared to do that. I could probably save myself a nice chunk of change, though, if I did.

At the Bratfest this year, I picked up 3 of their reusable shopping totes. I wish I had picked up more; they’re great.

Picasa


Mission Tortilla Chips
. Mmm. We eat a lot of chips and salsa, chips and guacamole…

Picasa

Below is part of my haul from Sam’s. We usually get our big bag of Pistachios there, some meats, shrimp, cheese, frozen blueberries. Today I have some feta cheese, asiago, sliced cheddar, pluots, Emeril sausages (can stretch those for a couple meals, will mix with rice tonight), yogurt, and a jell-O from yesterday’s shopping trip. They had some wonderful organic instant oatmeal once, but it was a special buy and they no longer stock it. I did find some at Woodman’s though. The kids love oatmeal and I like the ease of the instant kind, but Quaker puts too much sugar and fillers in theirs.

Picasa

With summer coming, the costs of food rise in our house. Since they’re home for lunch instead of school, it is one more meal to make sure to stock up for. With me at work during part of the day, the kids tend to eat through the food with slightly more abandon than if I were home. So I really need to be more diligent about meal-planning, making a shopping list, cooking ahead, etc. It is amazing what I can shave off our monthly grocery bill just by doing that. But on the other hand, $150 goes a lot longer at the grocery store than it does at a restaraunt. $150 is barely 2 meals out for our entire family at a place worth eating out at.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day, all you mothers.

The twins made this for me at school. Frank set them out on the counter before he left this morning for work, and I found them there when I came into the kitchen. Very sweet.

Picasa

He also gave me a card, a cute one with monkeys on it.

And I picked 2 tulips from my yard, a sweet blessing for a “black thumb” plant-killer like me on Mother’s Day. We’re going out for dinner (my decision and my choice of restraunt). Not sure what I’ll be craving in a little bit, but happy with the idea of dinner out.

At church today, the sermon was about love, and mothers, and how even those who have no children are mothers, too. A person who gives of herself and cares for others, is like a mother. We can be a “mother” to our own parents, our neighbor’s, children, spouses, co-workers… the list goes on and on. So Happy Mother’s Day to all you care-taking “mothers” out there who give of a bit of yourself to someone else.

FREE Gas

What it costs to fill up our tank.

Picture on Picasa

Are you brave enough to take a picture of the pump after you fuel up? I’d like to see it. If you do, leave your link here for me.

I know most people are sharing in the misery of paying for high-priced gasoline. The dent it makes in our budget is becoming more and more… tangible. We have a BIG van for our BIG family. Our van has a 30-gallon tank. Whenever I fill that sucker up, I feel the attendant’s eyes burning into my back, waiting for me to speed off without paying. I hear that’s been happening more and more.

Our little car has a 10-gallon tank and the price just to fill that little bugger up is nearly as much as the 30-gallon was (in what seems like) not that long ago.

So of coarse, the question is – What do YOU do to cut down on the impact of high fuel prices?

Some ideas to ease the blow?

Five

  1. Take less trips; plan more when we do. A gallon of milk costs $7 if I have to run out late at night to get it instead of planning ahead, or doing without until I can combine a trip.
  2. Ride-sharing. Especially when it comes to the kids and practices (mainly the older ones). Think of it as “free” gas (gas you would normally be using, but found out a way not to). That helps me remember how important being creative about saving a bit on the gas bill is.
  3. Combining errands (similar to the first tip, but if I’m simply driving somewhere, school, practice, etc. Think about where am I going, what (other stores) will I be driving by and do I really need to take this trip? If I know I have to drive D out to practice (which isn’t close, mind you), there’s a grocery store on the way. If I have my act together I can shop while he’s at practice. It is like getting “free” gas.
  4. Figuring out the cost to certain destinations. Weigh the cost against the benefit of going. This helps me put it into perspective. I figured it costs me about the same amount of money to drive to work as it would to take the bus. I was contemplating taking the bus, but since there’s no real savings (on money), and there is on time, I opted for driving.
  5. Teach your older kids to to be savvy bus riders. We are fortunate enough to have very good public transportation. Our kids can use their semester bus pass to board the buses, even when they aren’t going to school. We take advantage of that when we can. The bus that goes by our house goes right by my parent’s house as well. If Beaner’s visiting gramma, she can often take the bus. Again, it’s like free gas!!