Sunday, April 28, 2013

New Strategy

Thank goodness there are only a few days left of the month, because I am now left with only $2.46.  I could have had another dollar in that budget if it weren't for the server at Cheesecake Factory last night who assumed I was going to give him a two dollar tip and never returned my change from a $10.  I never thought $1 would seem like so much money.  I mean, what will $2.46 buy me?  At least $3.46 would have gotten me a Starbucks.

This weekend, I decided to try out a new strategy when my budget is nearing empty and I need something. Yesterday morning I noticed that my moisturizer and hair spray is running really low, so when Doug told me he was running to Wal-Mart, I gave him my list.  Again, this morning: "Hey, are you going out at all today?"  Doug: I'm going to go work out, why?  Me: Well, we are out of milk; oh and why don't you pick up some bananas and lunch meat too."  Sucker; I get what I need and it comes out of his pocket, not mine! (Okay, so maybe that is cheating.) Once my budget resets itself this week, I plan on going to Whole Foods again so I can get my monthly trip set to the first of the month.  Hopefully it won't be anywhere near the $400.00 I spent a few weeks ago, but I don't really need all that much since I have enough food in my fridge/freezer to last another month!

So, I made it through the month on a tight budget, and I am left to wonder what's next on my frugal journey for the month of May. I will still keep track of my monthly spending and keep the $830.00 budget, but I need some additional challenges.  Any ideas??




Friday, April 26, 2013

Bread!

Ahhh...there is nothing like the smell of fresh bread baking in your own oven!  If only you could smell the aroma filling my house right now.  Based on smell alone, I would say my first attempt at making bread was a success.  It is cooling right now, and before I finish writing this post, I am sure I will have an update on the taste.  I'm not sure I can wait until tomorrow.  I did the math and my organic bread cost around $2.30.  I pay $2.98 for Whole Foods Organic Bread and the brand names are close to $4.00!  If this bread tastes as good as it smells, I'd say I am sold.  A bonus?  It was super easy!  I mixed up the dough in about 3 minutes and let my Kitchen Aid dough hook knead it for a bit, then finished it off by hand in about 10.  Of course I had to let it rise, knead it again and let it rise again, but that was effortless.  Enjoy!


Honey Wheat Bread (taken from www.tammysrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
1 cup warm water (110-115 º F)
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant active dry yeast (active dry yeast will work also, just make sure your water is around 130º F)



Instructions: 
1. *Combine first 6 ingredients in a large mixing bowl; stir.
2. Add flours and yeast, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with a clean towel and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.
Teaching the fine art of kneading...
...or pounding

3. Punch dough down; knead for a few minutes until smooth and then form into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pan and cover. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. If loaf starts browning too soon, lightly lay a piece of foil on top.
5. Remove bread from oven and allow to rest in pan for a few minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cover with a cloth. Slice and enjoy while still warm!  Leftover bread can be stored in an airtight bag or frozen until needed.

Update on flavor:  I pulled a smidge off the end and it is yummy, but could use a bit more sweetness.  Next time I am going to try another tablespoon of honey and maybe a bit more sugar.  :) 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Happy Pinning!

Last night I figured out how to add a Pin-It  button to my blog, so feel free to pin a recipe or idea that you wish to hang on to.  If you click on the blog post that you want to pin, it will link directly to that one post.  Otherwise the button will link you to the entire blog and will eventually get lost in all the posts.  

While getting out ingredients for tonight's dinner, I realized that amount of processed foods in our pantry was really dwindling.  I stopped buying fruit snacks (we have one box of Annie's organic gummy bunnies left), the girls ate the last of the Bunny cracker mix for snack tonight, and there are a few other snack items left, so I've decided to stop buying it all together.  Lately the Monkeys have been asking for fruit, cheese or (the latest) pickles to snack on.  We do have one last bag of Goldfish left, but after hearing they use ingredients from Monsanto, Pepperidge Farm has been crossed off my list.  My alternative has been Whole Foods organic cheddar ducks, but they are still processed and contain unnecessary ingredients.  My latest idea?  Make my own!  I found several recipes for homemade cheese crackers and I can't wait to try them.  I searched for a tiny fish cookie cutter but at $8 + shipping, I decided I could probably make my own. The other night I drank a Cherry Vanilla Cream Soda (from Whole Foods and sooo yummy!) so I grabbed the can out of the recycling and cut it into strips.  I then began forming it into a fish shape and taped the edges together.  I was worried about the sharp edges on top, so I covered those in tape as well.  It isn't as sturdy as a copper cookie cutter, but it will work.  It would be fun to create different shapes for parties or special holidays.  I'll let you know how they turn out once I try them.




As for dinner tonight...another fantastic meal.  The original recipe called for bass, but I always use cod because it is mild, less expensive and the girls love it!  This would also be great with chicken.  I listed the ingredients as I used them, but obviously they do not need to be organic.  (Beware..this is NOT a low-fat recipe!)

Cod with Mushroom Sauce

3 Tbs. unsalted organic butter
2 shallots, chopped
1/2 Tbs. dried Thyme (or 2 sprigs fresh)
Fresh ground pepper
8 oz mushrooms quartered or sliced
1 # wild cod fillets
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. organic vegetable oil
3/4 cup organic chicken broth (or use dry white wine if you prefer)
3/4 cup organic heavy cream

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots, thyme and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and saute until browned, about 8 minutes. While the mushrooms are cooking, heat the oils in another skillet over medium heat.  Add the fish and cook for a few minutes on each side, just until browned; transfer to a plate.  Add the broth to the skillet and scrape up any bits.  Boil over high heat until reduced, about 3 minutes.  Add the cream and simmer another 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms to the cream sauce then add the fish back to the skillet.  Simmer until the fish is cooked through, 5-7 minutes.  

I served this with mashed potatoes (organic instant...I was lazy) and a salad.  







Budget Update:  $12.50 remaining, 6 days left

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Meatloaf Muffins

Tonight's dinner was a big hit with the entire family, so I wanted to post the recipe.  I have been hungry for meatloaf but every time I try to make it, it never really turns out quite like "mom's."  So I opted for a slight alternative.  I found a recipe that sounded good and altered it a bit for my taste and baked it in a muffin tin.  The girls each ate a whole one (calling them muffins certainly helped), and Doug was begging for more. (Sorry, dude. The leftovers are going to lunch with the Monkeys.)  They were delicious, and I have to admit that I was slightly wishing for more to magically appear as well.  I served them with homemade sweet potato fries.  If you already have most of these ingredients on hand, it is a very inexpensive meal!  (And next, time I plan to double the recipe so there are leftovers and some to freeze)

Maybe they don't look so good on the screen
but they are delicious! 
Meatloaf Muffins

1/3 c. breadcrumbs (I used Italian style)
1/3 c. milk
1 egg
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 Tbs. dried onion (use fresh if you prefer)
2 Tbs. dried parsley
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste
grated parmesan cheese (I used about 1/3 cup)
1# ground beef (preferably grass fed and no hormones)

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix all ingredients except the beef in a mixing bowl. Add beef and and mix until combined. Divide mixture evenly among the cups of a muffin tin.  Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.  (An alternative would be to shove a ball of fresh mozarella in the middle of each "muffin" before baking.)

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potatoes cut into fries
Olive oil and vegetable oil (non-GMO)
Paprika
Salt
Pepper

Toss the fries in enough of the oils to coat.  Sprinkle the seasonings to taste and toss.  Lay on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 425, turning halfway through.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Has to be a First!

Happy Earth Day!!

I am rather proud of myself as I start this week off.  I had fifty dollars in Gymbucks (reward money at Gymboree if you aren't familiar) that expired yesterday and I actually let it expire without using it!  We went to the mall on Saturday and I stopped in with every intention of using them...I had my hands full of stuff the girls didn't really need. As I looked down at the armload of clothes, my mind wandered to the piles of clothes they already had at home; I reluctantly put down the colorful summer pieces and walked out.  It might sound crazy, but it was hard to do.  I love shopping for new clothes for my kids.  When I got into the car I very proudly showed Doug my empty hands; he gave me an impressed, "Congratulations."  I had done it...for the first time I walked out of Gymboree with Gymbucks still in hand, knowing they would be worthless the following day.  Not because I couldn't find anything cute, but because I for once had self-control.

Last month we were at our friends' house in Pittsburgh celebrating their daughter's birthday.  As food was being set out I noticed that Jen had put ranch dressing into a wonderful class jar.  It was the perfect size and shape to put dips, candy, olives, etc. into for parties. When I asked her where she got it, I was shocked by her response: it was the container from a Bath & Body Works candle.


After the candle burns all the way down, simply peel off the label, put it into the freezer overnight and the remaining wax will pop right out.  Rinse with warm water to clear out any residue and toss it in the dishwasher.  Who knew??  I usually throw stuff like this in the recycling, but repurposing is even better!  You've already bought the container, so why throw it away?  I could also see them being used for mini parfait or truffle dishes.  Here it is all cleaned up:



Thank you for the tip Jen!  (Now everyone needs to pass me their empty candle jars!)

Last night I posted about my attempt at pita pockets, so here is a photo of tonight's dinner. I used left-over chicken from last night, mixed it with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and homemade poppy seed dressing (recipe below) and stuffed it into a pita.  They were delicious!  I highly recommend them over store bought pitas any day.  I plan on freezing the rest to use another night.





Poppy Seed Dressing

Heaping 1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. milk (use less if you want it more creamy)
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. poppy seeds
2 Tbs. sugar (add more if you like it sweeter)

Mix together.  It is hard to mess this up.  Adjust ingredients to your taste.

Enjoy!




Sunday, April 21, 2013

What's Gotten Into Me?

I'm beginning to wonder what has gotten into me.  I mean, I have, for the past 15 years, been on the organic side of living, but I think I have reached a crazy high...chickens in my backyard? Really??  Hopefully that is the craziest idea that slips through my mind!  Today I roasted a chicken in the slow cooker, and the plan is to use the leftover chicken for chicken salad pitas tomorrow.  After looking at the ingredient list on packaged pitas, I decided to try making my own. (I can't believe the stuff they put in bread!) I hate the idea of making bread though because of the time involved, but I have to say these were super easy and super delicious!  (Recipe is below.)  I then began to think that maybe homemade bread wasn't really all that tedious.  I found a recipe that I hope to try next weekend.

As I was making the dough for the pitas, my mind began to wander as I pictured myself in an old farmhouse kitchen making bread, looking out the window at my free-range chickens roaming around the yard and the Monkeys sitting at the table doing their school work.  Doug then came into the kitchen and woke me up out of my daydream and asked what I was doing.  I told him I was making pitas and then asked him once again if we could move out in the country to a farm, where I don't have to work, can make homemade bread every week and can homeschool our girls.  I got the look again.  His reply: "I'm not a farmer."  Yea, no kidding.  Anyone who knows my husband knows how true this is....he refuses to eat outside because of the bugs, if that tells you anything.  **Sigh**  I guess I'll have to make the most of my suburban palace.

Budget Update:  After a quick trip to Giant Eagle today, I only have $22.50 left in my monthly budget. The challenge is on!

Pita Pocket Bread
Makes 8 whole pitas

Ingredients:
1 c. warm water (110º-115º)
1 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar (or honey)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast

Instructions:
In a large bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients.  Add 1/2 cup of each of the flours, along with the yeast and stir to mix.  Add remaining flour gradually and knead until it comes together in a soft dough.  Put the dough back into the bowl and lightly oil the top and cover.  Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour.

Punch the dough down and turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and form each into a ball.  Roll each ball into a 6 to 7 inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Set each round aside on a floured surface and cover with a towel.  Allow it to rise for about 30 minutes.  The rounds will still be flat but should be slightly puffy.  




Preheat oven to 500º.  Place two rounds on a baking stone and bake for 4-5 minutes until puffed up and slightly golden.  (Do not brown too much or they won't flex for filling.)  Remove them from the oven and immediately wrap and layer pitas in a damp towel.  Continue baking all of the rounds, layering them in the towel as soon as they are done baking.  Allow them to cool in the towel.

        






Cut pitas in half and fill as desired.




Let me know if you try these out!  Enjoy!



Friday, April 19, 2013

Another Recipe

A favorite meal in my house, especially with my husband, is "Bubble Pizza."  I used to make it a lot when I was living at my parents house using refrigerated Pillsbury biscuit dough, but eventually I began to discover all the horrible ingredients slipped into our food supply.  I eventually stopped making it  because I couldn't bring myself to use the doughy stuff crammed into a can, and let's face it, who has time to make homemade biscuit dough?  However, my recipe was reborn when I came across a very simple drop biscuit recipe.  The time it takes me to throw this recipe together is about the same amount of time I spent trying to open those darn cans!  I usually use half this recipe when making the bubble pizza.  The great thing about this recipe is that it is easy to get kids involved in its creation and mine love to choose the toppings that go in.  (These are great with a bit of shredded cheese thrown in and eaten by themselves as well!)

* I use organic flours, sugar, butter and whole milk.

Drop Biscuits

1/2 c. wheat flour, 1/2 c. white flour, 1 T baking powder, 2 tsp. sugar, 1/4 t. salt, 1/2 c. melted butter, 1 c. milk

Heat oven to 450º.  Combine dry ingredients.  Stir in butter and milk just until moistened.  Drop on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-12 minutes.

or use in the following recipe:

Bubble Pizza

1/2 lb. ground beef, sausage or turkey
1 jar of pizza sauce
1 can diced tomatoes, drained (optional, sometimes I don't add)
1/2 recipe drop biscuit dough, not baked
Your favorite toppings for pizza (we use pepperoni and mushrooms)
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450º.  Brown the ground beef.  Add any additional pizza toppings you are using and saute a bit with the ground beef.  Stir in the pizza sauce and tomatoes if using.  Pour into a greased 8 x 8 baking dish.  Drop the biscuit dough by the tablespoon on top of the pizza mixture and gently press into the sauce.  Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until biscuits are cooked through and golden.  Top with cheese and bake long enough to melt.  Serve with a salad or cut veggies and dip.  Enjoy!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Have I Lost My Mind?

So my husband thinks I have lost my mind.  While he was out running errands the other night I was thinking about how I might plan a garden in my small, suburban backyard.  I am anxious to be able to walk out my door this summer and grab fresh tomatoes, lettuces and maybe even some berries.  In my search for different small-space set-ups, I got to thinking about how nice it would also be to have a few chickens so we could also have fresh eggs every day.  Big Monkey is always asking about a pet, so they could serve two purposes.  My search of gardens turned into a search for "suburban chickens."  I found many different chicken coops that are inconspicuous that would work perfectly in our yard.  When Big D got home I excitedly told him about my desire for chickens and he looked at me with this blank stare.  I kept going on about how great they would be and how easy they are to take care of.  He continued to stare at me, gave a long pause and then asked, "Did you totally lose your mind while I was gone??"  No matter how I tried to explain it, he couldn't be convinced.

I have been doing so much thinking about my life lately...my career, my family, our food supply, the horrific things that are happening in our society...and I just want to move my family out in a remote, country landscape, grow a huge organic garden and have a whole yard filled with free-range chickens.  I would be at home with my kids and find serenity in a quieter, slower-paced life.  I have been reflecting a lot on my profession and where the state of education is going.  All over the media "I" am being slammed and told that I am making too much money, that I don't do my job, that I have it easy and only teach so I can have the summers off (which by the way is laughable)...the list goes on and on.  It is very disheartening and wears me down.  So what does this have to becoming frugal?  My hope is that I can save up enough money to one day be able to work part-time and be available for my kids.  It breaks my heart thinking about Big Monkey starting kindergarten next year and not being able to be a room-mother or help out at class parties or go on any field trips.  I hope that neither one of the girls looks back on their school years and feels cheated that their mommy wasn't more visible at school; I know I will have enough guilt of my own to last two lifetimes.

For now, though, I will find the happiness and blessings that are around me, be thankful I have a job, plan my little garden on the patio, and do the best I can to find my sanity.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Budget Buster!

As of Sunday, my pantry was getting pretty bare and a few of our basic items that I get at Whole Foods were gone.  I probably could have gotten another week's worth of meals out of what I had, but I can't go without my 365 Strawberry Cereal Bars, which happens to be my breakfast every morning.  I only make this trip once a month (even though I got a month and a half out of my last trip), so I decided to stock up on everything.  I looked at my inventory, calculated how many of this and that I would need for the next month and made an extensive list.  I estimated that I would be spending around $300.  I decided to try buying a few things in bulk this time: oats, brown rice, orzo pasta, and raisins.  I also buy spices in bulk because I found myself throwing away nearly full bottles of different spices that had been hanging out in the pantry for years...some probably from my single days!  I only pay $.25 or so for just the right amount of seasoning.  Once it was all said and done, my bill was just shy of $400!  I couldn't believe it...this was going to bust my budget for sure!  It killed me even more to think that I had to then go to Giant Eagle for lunch meat, cereal, creamer and fruit (Whole Foods' organic fruit is more expensive than theirs).  After another $40 there, I was pretty much over my budget for groceries.  All I can say is I hope these groceries last a lot longer than a month.  I guess that will be my next challenge.  

I went from having only spent $160.00 to $607.00 in a matter of 24 hours.  Not what I was hoping for! Now I am off to pay my Sprint bill...so that will leave me with only $140.00 left for the month.  We'll see if I can pull this off!  So much for that purchase at Gymboree...on the other hand I do have Gymbucks to spend...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Frugal in an Organic World

Before I get on topic, I am going to get off-topic..."Blogger" has a way of tracking the countries my "audience" comes from.  Most recently, I discovered that several people who have read my posts live in France, Germany, Russia and Great Britain.  Pretty neat that people all over the world have access to my worthless knowledge!  I'd love for people to start leaving comments so I know who you all are :)

Now on to my topic.  I may have scared a few away by my last post.  Hopefully you don't think I am some nut-job, but I am truly concerned about Monsanto's power.  Anyway, I have found a few resources that I plan to refer to as I continue to do my shopping.  I have discovered that as long as I stick with Whole Foods store brand organic foods (labeled as 365), I am avoiding GMO's the best that I can.  By sticking with store brand, I am technically saving...typically paying the same price as I would for a conventional name brand.  If Whole Foods brand isn't an option, there are shopper's guides out there that can help you choose non-GMO brands.  (Most grocers have their own brand of organic foods now.)  Here are links to a few if you are interested:


                                            
                                                     


                                            
                                                           (NonGMO Project's website)


As well as eating organically, I also make sure that my cosmetics, soaps and shampoos (especially for the girls) are free of yucky stuff.  If you are interested in getting rid of the toxins lingering in your make-up bag and shower, there is a website for that too!  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a database that rates the safety of thousands of beauty/cleansing products for adults and children.  It has an easy search option, so plug in your favorites and see how safe they are.  As for me, my morning make-up routine involves six things:  BASIC mild cleanser, giovanni Organics moisturizer and foundation, mineral veil, blush and mascara all from bare minerals.  In the shower, I use Whole Foods brand body wash (grapefruit citrus) and a variety of shampoos and conditioners.  The photo below shows the selections I currently have in my closet (do I have a problem or what?)  Oh, and not to forget the most important part of my morning routine, my deodorant.  I haven't used an aluminum-containing brand in years, and this is by far the best one I have found.  The only down-side is I can only find it at Wal-Mart. 


     




Are these more expensive that conventional brands?  A bit, but not necessarily.  As for my cosmetics, the moisturizer is around $5.50 and I always make it last twice as long by wetting my fingers a bit before applying it.  It stretches the cream quite a bit further.  I use it full strength when my skin is super dry.  My make-up is $25 a pop...YIKES!  But, again, I use it sparingly.  It is all powder form, so I find I don't need nearly as much as I was using other products.  Also, I use more on special occasions and less on an every day basis.  I buy it once a year because my parents always stock me up at Christmas time!  My shampoo and conditioner costs around $6 each but again, I try to use less and went back to washing my hair every other day.  The deodorant isn't quite $3. 

As for my girls,  I use BabyGanics Moisturizing Therapy baby wash (it's super creamy and makes their skin so soft!) and they are now using the same shampoo and conditioner I use.  When they were babies, I used Burt's Bees wash and shampoo which smells heavenly!  Here is the link to the Campaign for Safer Cosmetics database:




Questions, comments or suggestions?  I'd love to hear them!

Monthly expenses thus far: $162.66...feeling success!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Taking a Break From Frugality...


...to bring you a very important public service message!  This is a documentary I came across recently.  While the country and media was focused on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, Obama signed a bill that basically allows Monsanto to continue to harvest and sell genetically modified crops even if courts have deemed it unsafe for consumption.  It puts them above the law! But we the American people heard nothing of it.  


I have to admit that I watched it in its entirety Wednesday while I was home sick.  I have highlighted the important details but I encourage you to at least watch the last 45 minutes!  If you care at all about the future of the food you are putting on your tables and into your children’s mouths, take the time to watch!  Monsanto is a huge company who is setting out to purchase all seed companies which in turn allows it to control all the world’s food supply.  They are greedy liars who only think about their pocketbooks but they are POWERFUL!  Former Monsanto employees manage to get jobs at the FDA, falsify research and silence anyone who questions their actions/research.  Even the media has been silenced by their power.  What they do should be on the front page of every newspaper and the top story on the nightly news.  If you aren’t aware, this is the same company that created DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, Aspartame and more.  The company was caught in lies about the safety of these chemicals and no long-term research was completed.  The research that was completed is even questionable.  We now know the dangers all of these have on the human system.  Are we really going to take their word that GMO’s are safe??  Here are the highlights from the video:

  • Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is a genetically engineered hormone that is injected into cattle to increase milk supply.  Along with this comes mastitis, or inflammation of the milk glands.  This introduces PUS into the milk.  Because of the mastitis, cows need to be treated with antibiotics.  There is a substantial increase IGF-1 growth hormone which has been linked to an increase in some cancers. Young girls getting breast cancer?  Could this be why?
  • Monsanto employees have been known to obtain jobs within the FDA, EPA and other high power positions in our federal government.  In one instance, Monsanto employee Margaret Miller oversaw a report on rBGH only to take a position in the FDA to aprove her own report!  
  • Monsanto has a way of silencing those who question their actions and any media who attempts to write stories that may reveal who Monsanto really is.  They have fired people, moved them from positions and have threatened them/tried to buy them out to silence them.
  • If you were a food producer and decided to add a drop of natural food coloring to your ingredients, you would have to go tests and research to prove your food is safe and then that ingredient would have to go on the ingredient label.  Ingredients that are GM DO NOT have to be labeled on the ingredient label.  
  • Genetically modified seed has had its DNA changed...this may result in a similar crop, but is it natural?  These seed are modified so that they can resist pesticides/herbicides or produce their own insecticides.  When you bite into that corn, you are biting into an insecticide producing organism....there is no way of removing this! GM organisms are also susceptible to invasion species and super weeds which can withstand the pesticides.
  • GM crops are labeled as “substantially equivalent” which means they are almost identical to their natural counterpart, therefore they do not need to be identified as GM.  Substantially equivalent?  Is that like saying an orange is substantially equivalent to a tangerine, so we don’t need to let consumers know exactly what they are consuming?
  • NO conventional cotton seed available to farmers in many parts of India.  Monsanto controls nearly all the cotton seed market in India.  Farmers are forced to buy their seed at 4 times the cost of conventional cotton, forcing them to take out loans to purchase the seed, which have high interest rates. This is ruining many Indian villages.  Between 2005 and 2006, India reported that 600 cotton farmers had committed suicide because their farms went bankrupt. That number continues to increase. In another year, they saw another 682 suicides. Monsanto is making farmers dependent on their company.
  • Monsanto controls most of the seed manufacturers.  They are setting out to control all food.   “If they can control seed, they can control food.”  Indian author Vandana Shiva is working to help India free themselves from Monsanto
  • MOnsanto is also creating a fear in American farmers.  Those who plant Monsanto GM crops, are required to sign contracts and cannot reharvest seed.  They must purchase new seed every season.  If they are caught reseeding or are to have reseeded, they will be questioned and sued.  Thus causing many to go bankrupt. 
  • Organic crops can no longer be trusted due to transgenic contamination, which is the cross pollination of GMO and organic crops.  Pollen can spread a kilometer or more.
  • GMO’s have already contaminated Mexican corn in isolated areas where it was assumed the corn was pure. Mexico has banned GMO crops but they cannot stop the trade from US crops because of the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement.  This corn brought in from the US (which is genetically modified) cost half as much as traditional mexican corn, so mexican consumers will likely go for the cheaper, thus putting Mexican farmers out of business.  If Monsanto is successful in taking over the seed market, Mexicans will be forced to not only use Monsanto’s corn but also buy their fertilizers and herbicides because the crops won’t grow without them. Traditional Mexican corn doesn’t need any fertilizers or herbicides to grow effectively.  Traditional corn will be uncontrollably affected. Monster plans are surfacing in Mexico and invading the fields that have been used to grow pure corn for centuries.  Farmers in Mexico, as in India, will certainly suffer.  
  • Monsanto collects royalties on each ton of soybeans produced in Brazil and Paraguay.  While Monsanto claims their GM crops will help with problems such as deforestation, and other environmental issues, there has been no let up in Paraguay’s deforestation. They have instead seen an expulsion of many small farmers. Insecticides are sprayed right up to peoples front doors and are killing livestock and other valuable crops, not to mention causing health issues, especially among children.
  • Countries all over Europe, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico among others have banned the harvesting/selling of GM seed and crops.  
Scary?  Yes, indeed.  What is to become of our food supply if Monsanto is successful in monopolizing the food industry?  Consider signing a petition and telling Obama enough is enough!  Click the link below to sign and find out how to get involved...and consider sharing this post or the link below on Facebook.

                   Bring Monsanto Down



Monday, April 8, 2013

Extreme Couponing?

Have you ever tried being a coupon clipper?  I mean, a real coupon clipper?  You know, like the women who spend hours going though multiple Sunday papers, organizing them in binders, searching endlessly online for more to clip and then comparing grocery fliers to match what's on sale with the coupons they have to basically get stuff for free?  Whew!  God Bless 'em for having the patience and the time, but that is NOT for me.  I am a full-time working mom (a teacher, non-the-less) so if I am not working, I am cooking, bathing kids, packing lunches, grading papers/lesson planning or cuddling with my Monkeys. Time to clip coupons?  PLEASE!  Part of me loves the idea of getting food for free, but I value my time with my family a lot more than a few saved bucks.

So, what do I do to save money on groceries? Not a lot, but I partially let the coupons come to me.  I shop at Giant Eagle, except for my monthly trip to Whole Foods.  Giant Eagle has recently replaced their "food perks" program with another one, which I kinda like.  Every so often they will send me "Golden Rewards" based on my spending.  In the last 2 months, I have received 3- $10 cards along with several other coupons for free drinks, flowers and a deli sandwich (interesting combination, I know).  In addition, I also receive coupons from them for things I typically buy. Just last week, I used most of my most recent coupons on one trip and saved $9.00, plus I used a $10 "Golden Reward" card.  I saved $19 without doing anything but check my mail.  As I mentioned in a past post, I am very finicky about food.  I mostly buy organic foods, especially produce, meats and dairy.  It is difficult to find coupons for organic foods, so it's nice to get coupons that can be applied to any purchase, not just specific brands.  (One of my coupons was for $3 off a fresh veggie purchase, another for $2 off a deli purchase.)  Another perk of having a Giant Eagle Advantage card is that I can go on their website and "clip" coupons that are sent right to my account.  All I have to do is scan my card and any coupons are automatically applied to my purchase.  I love the idea of these e-coupons because I am always forgetting my envelope of paper coupons.  Did I also mention my Giant Eagle card ha also saved me over $700 in gas over the course of the year?!    

I also recently discovered a website, www.organicdeals.com.  I found some good coupons, for both organic and non-organic foods and they even list special sale items for various health food stores (Earth Fare, Whole Food and Traders Joe's included).  Some of the links for coupons take you right to the coupon for printing, others make you go through hoops and register before accessing.  This site also includes articles and other topics of interest in addition to savings from Target and online marketplaces. It's worth a look!

So I may never be casted for "Extreme Couponing," but I am satisfied with the amount of money I do save from my little effort...and I think my kids are too!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Birthday-ed Out!

Boy, am I exhausted!  Little Monkey's 3rd birthday party was today, and I hate to admit it, but I am kinda glad birthday season is over!  The girls' birthdays are rather close so it feels like I just get my house back in order after the first one and then here comes the next one!  Her theme of choice this year was an "Aloha" party (or if you ask her "oo-hi-ay pottee").  I never spend a lot on birthday parties, but this one was probably my cheapest yet.  I kept my budget in mind as I finished up the shopping.  Most of the paper items and decorations were purchased long ago, but obviously the food still needed to be bought.  Thanks to the help of my wonderful mother who made two salads (also brought a great bottle of wine) and to my generous in-laws who gave us some money, we only spent $50 out of pocket.  Even better, it came out of Big D's pocket, not mine!

On another note, I got the approval from the man of the house to get my new floors.  I know, I know...another not-so-frugal move on my part, but we need them.  The current floor is cheap laminate wood and is chipping and shifting, not to mention looks very dated along-side of our new cabinets.  We are tearing up all the carpeting on the first floor and laying bamboo throughout.  It might be an unnecessary purchase, but it is eco-friendly!  Now, I just need to decide on color...any ideas??

Total spent so far this week: $29.77  Has to be a record!




Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Budgets

Well, I am on my FOURTH week of minimal grocery shopping, and to make things even better, I didn't go the grocery at all last week. (Of course I should fess up that I didn't cook at all last week either.)  Our kitchen was torn up all week due to our cabinet project and the microwave and oven were out of commission.  So, we ate out most of the week...yuck! I was so tired of restaurants that one night's dinner consisted of Graeter's Ice Cream...the girls thought that was pretty cool.  I might possibly be able to get two more weeks worth of meals out of the stuff lingering in my pantry and freezer....yes that it how much food I had stocked up!  What was I thinking??

On our way to Youngstown over spring break, I went through my last credit card statement and once again began looking at where I was spending my money and as usual was ashamed at all the Target/TJ Maxx/Homegoods stops I made over the month.  I will say I have a slight excuse and that is most of the money spend was on new things to decorate my new kitchen.  Frugal?  Maybe not to the average reader (or my husband if you ask him) but for me it is.  The "stuff" I had in the kitchen before was very old.  Some of the stuff was in my first few apartments right out of college....that was 16 years ago! I think I deserve to treat myself to a few new things for my fabulous new kitchen.  Besides, isn't TJ Maxx being frugal?  Back to the point of this post, I decided that if I wanted to control my spending I would need to set a budget.  I have NEVER created a budget for myself; I didn't really know where to start.  I decided to look mostly at what I wanted to spend on groceries, which is the biggest expense for me besides daycare.  Once I figured that out, I added my cell phone bill and a few more bucks for random items.  I then found a simple app for my phone (Spent) which allows me to enter in my monthly budget then enter in my purchases.  As soon as I open up the app, it tells me what is left of my money for the month.  I may have gone too drastic with my goal (I cut my monthly spending in half) but there was so much unnecessary spending that I had to bite the bullet. This is day two and I have spent $9.50 (donuts for Ava's birthday treat at school).  So far so good...might be more impressive if it were two weeks into it though!

Speaking of kitchen, here are a few photos showing the before and after.  I was very nervous about the colors I chose since the existing counter tops were dark.  I loved the look of the chocolate wood, but was afraid it would make the room too dark.  To counter that darkness, we chose an antique white for the island and added oil-rubbed bronze hardware instead of the stainless that is seen on the rest of the cabinets.  I am so happy with the outcome.  Every time I walk into the room I have to smile.  A room shouldn't necessarily make one happy, but what a difference it makes when you love the space you are in!  Now on to my new floors...that is going to take some convincing!

                                    This is the "before" picture.  I feel like it looks so small!




The sign, geese, and yellow plate are a few of the old things I decided to keep.