Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Food Blog

For the last couple of days I have really enjoyed planning out my weekly menu, going to the grocery store and looking for deals, cooking the meals and then explaining how I did it along with showing pics and giving a review. I started to notice that my posts were starting to only be about food and I didn't want my Party of Five blog to lose focus of the family so I created a new blog:

www.mealsforreal.blogspot.com

If you have enjoyed being on this food journey with me, please click on the above link and follow me!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lately I have been trying to think of ways that I could either make money or save money. I already have a part-time dictation job but I still wanted to do something more. I have a couple of facebook friends that are really into couponing and I have been checking in on http://stlmommy.com/ for a while now for all sorts of freebies and good deals.

I have looked into the couponing thing before but it just seems so overwhelming and complicated. There are store coupons, manufacturer's coupons, register rewards, etc. Another friend of mine has really gotten into it lately and she was able to set some things straight for me and she also gave me quite a few good resources for couponing questions: http://www.thecouponproject.com/the_coupon_project/2010/01/reader-discovers-the-new-way-of-shopping.html

With all of these resources, I actually did get some really good information. The top things that I took from my reading were #1 always buy when an item is on sale #2 do not be afraid to stock up on an item #3 try to only use coupons on sale items to really bring the cost down #4 don't be loyal to any one brand or any one store #5 don't use a coupon just to use a coupon.

So after reading the on the http://couponproject.com/ I set off on Sunday and bought 2 Post Dispatches. I diligently searched through both of them and cut out every coupon that I thought I could use and I tried to organize them.
Here are the 2 stacks of newspapers:
After cutting up the papers, this is what I came out with:
After cutting out the coupons, I then went through all of the ads. The two big ones that the couponing websites talk about are Walgreens and Target. These two stores always have store sales on food items and if you can match up a manufacturer's coupon with a store sale, then you can save really big. I then went on and looked at the grocery stores and even went online to see if I missed anything.
By this time, I have put in a couple hours of work and about $4 in newspapers. I did fnd some really good deals at Walgreens on razors, Mucinex and Pepto and there coupons for those items, too, so if I actually make it to Walgreens to purchase those items, I will definitely save money.
I was a little disappointed, though, in the coupons that I cut out and the sales on those items at Dierbergs, Shop-N-Save and Schnuck's. Remember, according to the couponing sites they all say that you should really try to use a coupon on sale items but there were only 3 or 4 items that matched up and they were at different stores. There is no way that I was going to run to one store for a coupleo of things and to another for a couple of more things.
In the end, I decided just to go to Shop-N-Save and try to do some grocery shopping. I don't normally shop at Shop-N-Save mostly for the inconvenience of location but I decided to treck down Route K and try it out. I was happily surprised to find that they had a lot of sale items and I was able to stock up on quite a few canned goods. I did buy the Shop-N-Save brand on some canned goods and staple type items and when I checked out, it said that I saved $30 and some change on SRP items (items that were on sale); however, after all of my effort, I only saved $3.50 in coupons. LOL After all of that effort, I actually came out $0.50 in the hole!
I know that couponing does work for a lot of people and I know that this was just my first time but it really didn't make me want to run out and get next Sunday's paper. What I have learned from reading up on all of this, though, is the idea of stockpiling and trying to buy items only when they are on sale. I really think that I can make a better dent in the grocery bill by focusing on sale items when possible.
I think it will take a few trips to the grocery store to truly get down the idea of buying sale items and using coupons when I can but I'm going to keep at it. I may not be the best couponer but I think I will pay more attention to prices.

Meals for the Week

I am going to attempt to start planning out meals. It seems like every single day the question, "What do you want for dinner?" is asked and, of course, the answer is always, "I don't care". I get so sick of this same conversation every single day. Because we have no set plan on what we are going to eat, it means that I usually go to the grocery store every single day. Not only is it annoying but I know that I am spending more money than I have to because I'm not really looking for sale items or using coupons. I just go in and grab and go.

One of the problems that I run into, though, is that like most kids my kids are very picky. They hate trying anything new. Kanin automatically says he doesn't like something even without tasting it and Gracie usually doesn't eat until everyone else is finished and we are cleaning up. So, we'll see how the experiment goes.

Here are some recipes in no particular order that I plan on trying this week. Where I can, I have listed the source of the recipe. We usually go out to eat on Friday nights and the weekends (or we just FFY--fend for yourself) so I have only listed 4 meals.

Remember to go through your pantry and fridge and eliminate where you can:

Shopping List
2 1/2 lbs of lean ground beef
1 lb chicken breast
1lb thinly sliced roast beef cut into strips
1-2 jars of salsa (depending if you want extra for your Mexican Lasagna)
1-2 can refried beans (depending on how much you like refried beans)
1 container cottage cheese
1 box lasagna noodles
1 package of shredded Mexican style cheese
Butter
1 container fresh mushrooms or 2 cans mushrooms drained
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 package egg noodles
1 box ziti noodles
2 26oz jars spaghetti sauce
1 bottle bbq sauce
1 15.25 oz can whole kernal corn
1 14.75 oz can cream style corn
1 package of corn muffin mix
eggs
hamburger buns
2 onions of your choice
1 block cream cheese
Provolone cheese slices
1 package shredded mozzarella
1 container parmesan cheese
3 containers sour cream

*stuff for the various salads to include extra lettuce and tomatoes on the Mexican lasagna
**Various breads to serve


MEAL #1
Mexican Lasagna taken from a sorority sister, Nickie, at http://www.newleafnickie.blogspot.com/.

1-1/2 lbs ground beef (she is a vegetarian so she used Meal Starter Crumbles)
1 jar salsa
1 can refried beans
1 package cottage cheese
lasagna noodles
shredded mexi-cheddar cheese

I think that I am also going to add:
shredded lettuce
diced tomatoes
chopped onion

Nickie suggests to just soak the lasagna noodles in hot water while you are preparing the other stuff so I think I will try that to see if the noodles remain a little crunchier.

1. Brown ground beef. Drain.
2. Put back in the pan and add salsa and refried beans. Mix together until a good consistency. After it is hot, take off and add cottage cheese.
3. Layer in a 9x13 Noodles, meat mixture, lettuce, tomato and onion and cheese until the pan is filled. I think I will top with some more salsa and cheese.
4. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Take foil off and bake for another 5 minutes.

Since my kids both do love Mexican food, I'm hoping that this will be a hit.

MEAL #2
Easy Chicken Stroganoff taken from http://momswhothink.com/

2 Tablespoons butter
1lb chicken breast cut into strips
2 cups mushrooms
1 med onion, chopped
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
4 cups egg noodles

Cook chicken in 1 T of butter. Remove. Cook veggies in remaining butter. Stir in soup and sour cream. Heat until boiling. Return chicken to pot. Heat thoroughly. Serve over cooked egg noodles.

Serve with tossed salad and French bread.

Meal #3
Baked Ziti taken from http://momswhothink.com/
1lb dry ziti noodles
1 chopped onion
1lb lean ground beef
2 (26 oz) jars spaghetti sauce
6 oz provolone sliced cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add ziti and cook about 8 minutes, until al dente.
Brown ground beef in a large skillet. Add onion. Add spaghetti sauce and simmer 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 9x13 baking dish and layer a follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 meat-sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese, remaining meat-sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with salad and bread.

Meal #4
Barbecued Beef Sandwiches with Baked Co rn
from http://momswhothink.com/ (modified a bit)

BBQ BEEF
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ Sauce
1 lb thinly sliced roast beef cut into strips (about 3 cups)
hamburger buns

Warm bbq sauce in a sauce pan. Add roast beef until hot.

BAKED CORN
1 (15.25 oz) can of whole kernal corn, drained
1 (14.75 oz) can cream style corn
1 (8 oz ) container of cream cheese
3/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 (8.5 oz) package of dry corn muffin mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Pour into 9x13 baking dish and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

How Can You Tell When a 6 Year Old Is Really Tired?

When you go through the hassle of bringing the trundle bed mattress into the playroom so you can jump on it and you end up crashing out. If you notice, he also moved the beanbag up there, too.

When I told him to move the mattress back to his room he informed me that "It took like 2 hours for me to get it in here". Guess all that effort was just too much.








You've Come A Long Way, Baby

Caleb has learned a couple of tricks in the past week or so:









video

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Beginnings-Again

Well, it is that time of year again, the time when everyone promises that this is going to be the year that they (fill in the blank). I'm no different than everyone else. Each year I say, this year I'm going to be in the best shape since high school. I always start off full force and then inevitably it gets too cold, kids sick or I get pregnant-LOL.

This year, though, I actually started my "new beginning" in December that way I couldn't say that it was a new year resolution and, therefore, I will feel none of the guilt if I can't make it to the gym on such and such day. I have to say that this ridiculous psychology has actually been working! Since joining the gym in December, I have either gone to or exercised at home at least 4 days a week.

One of the things that has helped me is a "fitness" pole. Yes, it looks an awful lot like a "stripper" pole but since I'm not a stripper, I choose to call it a "fitness" pole. For as long as I can remember, I have always thought it looked like fun to be able to do all of those twirls, spins and turns but, of course, I certainly wasn't going to become a stripper just to be able to do it. Well, lo and behold, one night I'm watching some infomercial and this thing called Flirty Girl Fitness comes on and it is a whole workout program that actually uses a "fitness" pole. After that, I could not stop talking about how the people kept saying what a great workout it was and how much fun it looked. So, for Christmas Scott finally gave in and bought it for me.



Let me tell you that it is one of the hardest workouts that I have ever done. Because you are using your own body weight, you really get a burn in all of the exercises. It comes with 6 videos, dancing instructions, etc. Of course, now that it is installed all I hear from Scott is that he thinks that I should do a dance for him--Ha! I told him that is definitely not going to happen, at least not until I have the body those girls have and I don't look like a new giraffe learning to walk while trying to mimic the moves. I should record myself one day trying to do one of the dances becaues I'm sure it would be great comic relief.

So, if any of you happen to pop over to my house and see my bedroom don't start thinking all dirty and think that there are some "wild times" going on in there, it's just me trying to get in shape!! LOL
(First fireman's twirl--I was sore for 2 days after doing this a few times-LOL)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting What You've Always Wanted

Ever since I can remember I have loved pictures. When I was in elementary school I used to take a camera to school and take snapshots just on ordinary days. I have hundreds of pictures from my school days, church camp, goofing off in the backyard, family functions--basically, a chronicle of my life.


This passion increased exponentially when I had Kanin, GracieAnn and Caleb. I want to chronicle every second of their lives. It's as if I feel like if I capture this moment then that little piece of them will be here forever, even when they aren't. Since meeting Scott I have gone through 3 different cameras. All of them have been the point and shoot kind but good cameras, nonetheless. I have been able to take some pictures in black and white, pose the kids and do some light editing but it still hasn't satisfied my desire to take better pictures of them.


If you come to my house you will see almost exclusively pictures of my familiy on the wall that I have paid several thousand dollars. Engagement pictures of Scott and me, pictures of us when I was pregnant with Gracie. Newborn pictures of Gracie and Caleb and some really great pictures of Kanin when he was about 3 years old. While these pictures are all wonderful, my problem is that I truly think that if I had the right camera and knowledge I could have done it myself.


Scott has heard my argument over and over for a "good" or "real" camera for the past 2-3 years and this year he finally broke down and bought me a camera for Christmas. There was a lot of research and debate in buying this camera but I finally decided on a Nikon D5000, against 19 comments from Facebook friends--LOL
So, "What's the problem?", you ask. Now that I've gotten what I've always wanted, it is a little intimidating. I try to read up on photography or the camera every single day but I know that I will never truly get the results that I want until I take some type of class. The camera, itself, is compliated enough without adding in all of the jargon about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, lighting, bouncing, etc., etc. I have to admit that it is a little overwhelming.
I know it is kind of silly to go back through your life and play the "I wish I would have done . . ." game but I honestly do wish that I would have realized that photography could actually be a career all of those years ago. I know that I would have taken a different direction in college. But, then again, I probably would never have gone into the Army and would not have Kanin (or probably Gracie or Caleb) so I'm glad I did the things I did back then.
So, now here I sit, playing with this fantastic camera and, hopefully, one day I will understand how to use it well enough to take great pictures of my kids. LOL I'm going to start, though, with a camera specific class offered at Creve Couer camera (where I bought it). After that, who knows? I'm hoping to be able to take some other classes, too. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2009 Year in Pictures

My sister did A Year in Pics and I thought it was super cute!

JANUARY

The new year brought our beautiful great niece,
Kenzie Michelle McCabe. What a great way to
start 2009!


Can you believe that it was nice enough for the
kids to play hockey outside?

FEBRUARY


We had a Super Bowl/Paul Home from Iraq party.



Paul got to meet his niece, Kenzie, for the first time.


Kanin and Gaga surprised me with
a birthday cake they made that said
"I Love You This World".



We were able to spend the day at the zoo in February.



My love and I took a trip to Las Vegas in February.
Can you see the belly bump? Here we are in front of
Bellagio.

MARCH

We had some really great weather in March.


The weather was so nice that we were able to
take some pics.

APRIL



Kanin started Learn to Play hockey in April.



Kanin's first Learn to Play hockey session.



Easter 2009




GracieAnn, Kenzie and Kanin



GracieAnn, Ben, Aidan, Kanin and Alison

MAY

Doug and Susie came in from Chicago for Kenzie's
Baptism. Here they are with Pastor Hoehner at
Chapel of the Cross-St. Peters.

JUNE


We went out to the Reggae Festival in New Town.


Aidan came over and the kids played outside.

JULY



After 22 hours of labor, Caleb Scott James Westerhold
finally made his appearance on July 3, 2009, at 5:12pm.



We had quite a scare with Caleb. He was in the
Special Care Unit for 4 days because of his breathing
and lack of eating. He had an IV in his head and heart
and breathing monitors. Thank God, he came home and
was perfect.


Because of the addition of Baby Caleb, GracieAnn's
2nd birthday party was a day late. Gaga made this Mickey
Mouse cake for her.

Our baby doll turned 2 on July 1, 2009.




Scott and I went to the All-Star Game in July.







Caleb went to his first Cardinals game at
3 weeks old.

AUGUST


Alison Paige turned 10 in August. We had
her birthday party at Great Skate.


Kanin met his teacher, Ms. Byrnes, at
Meet the Teacher night at Progress South.


My baby started kindergarten this year.



We went to Six Flags for the first time
summer.

SEPTEMBER


We had Ben's 2nd birthday party out at Grandma
and Grandpa's house.



Sherri's 50th birthday party in Springfield, IL.
We were so excited to share in this event and to
finally get to see Still Kickin'!


Gracie had her first big girl haircut at the
Hairy Elephant.

OCTOBER


Caleb's Baptism at Chapel of the Cross-St. Peters

Halloween 2009

NOVEMBER

Kanin turned 6 and wanted a cherry pie.

DECEMBER


Caleb, Alison, Aidan, GracieAnn and Caleb at
Mama and Papa's.


The Westerhold's at Deb and Dave's.



New Year's Eve 2009 at our house.