Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: Birthdays & Goals


This week our home has been graced by family and friends, many the same who gathered on these days a year ago following the birth of our daughter.  This week we celebrated her first birthday.  She is healthy, learning things a mile a minute and such a happy little girl.  I can not imagine my world without her!  I am blessed by those who have supported us through this first year and are an active part of her life.  I'm especially blessed by the love and support and good relationships with family.

This week also has brought more sunshine and budget goals that were met.  My front porch and sewing area are stacked with supplies for bean bag chairs and I'm happy to get some sewing time this afternoon to work on them.

Tomorrow is a new month, new goals, new challenges.  Today, I have all that I need.

Eat from the Pantry Challenge Wrap-Up

freezerchallenge So back at the beginning of the month, I took on the Eat From the Pantry Challenge. This is the first time I've taken part of this type of challenge and I have to say, it was a great experience.  For me, having my goals in mind as I was making decisions regarding our groceries throughout the month was a huge challenge.  It helped me to make decisions against impulse items and against purchases of things I would normally stock, but that we really didn't need right now. I set four specific goals and here's how it worked out.  Check back tomorrow for my February Kitchen Goals!

Goal #1: Shave $50 off the Grocery spending for the month.

Success! At the end of the month, we were under budget on groceries by $51.48

Goal #2 - Only 3 grocery stops after the big shopping at the beginning of the month.

I ended up with 4 grocery stops including a quick stop for milk and a quick grocery store stop for snacks while we were out for an unexpected chunk of errands.

Goal #3 - Batch Cooking once a week.

Success! The first couple weeks it was replenishing my baked goods in the freezer, then the Corned Beef & Cabbage stew, Minestrone, Marinara & Lasagnas.

Goal #4 - Split extra grocery money between our local Food Pantry and Summer Produce Fund

Done and Done

Friday, January 29, 2010


Freezer Friday: Italian Cooking Day

freezerfridaysmI'm more of a "cook some extra" every week rather than a "take a full day to fill the freezer" batch cook.  On Wednesday, I started HV Marinara with the plan to make Lasagnas.  That went off beautifully.  I had one large Lasagna that went to the fridge to be used for a family gathering on Saturday.  Two small Lasagnas ended up in the freezer alongside three containers of Marinara.  lasagna06

I had planned to have pasta and meatballs for dinner.  But, as I finished up the Lasagnas, I had extra cheese filling.  I decided that Calzones would be the perfect destination and a much better dinner choice!  So I whipped up some dough, added sliced up meat and baked them up.  I rolled the dough a little too thin so they leaked but they were delicious! calzone3

I will post the Lasagna and Calzone recipes next week - for today is Birthday Cake Day - GBaby is 1!  Next week I do plan a Chicken cooking day including broth, "cream of" soup mix and Chicken Pot Pie Filling.  Stay tuned!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mommy-Made-It Monday: More Soft Baby Shoes

We have had fabulous luck with the first batch of soft shoes.  Remarkably, they have stretched like a good pair of jeans and still fit.  The second set I made have gotten a bit tight.  Somewhere in between I also made a fleece lined denim pair that are getting a lot of use.  So, it was time to make more shoes.

For the khaki pair, the canvas fabric was leftover from my Mommy-Bag, which was left over from long ago curtain project.  The brown fleece was just hanging around and the leather bottoms are from a leather shirt that I grabbed at a thrift store.  Since they're soft and warm and usually rather difficult for the little people to take off, my nephew was jealous.  So I made a matching pair for him.


I made these cute black pair from felt left over from a sewing project HandyMan did (yup-he sews too!)  I lined them with scrap grey fleece.  This pair was particularly simple since both fabrics are non-fraying and I didn't have to 'hem' any of the edges on the back piece.  I had pink thread in the sewing machine from another project, so I just went with it.


Next sewing project(s): Girl-kerchiefs, Bean bag chairs and t-shirt dresses.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: Family and Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This week we were blessed with multiple days of sunshine - in our rather gray climate, this is a huge blessing.  Not only does it warm the skies and lighten up the house it seems to add energy and motivation to the body too.

Other bright spots this week included visits from two of our brothers.  I enjoy watching GBaby explore the world with her uncles.  One of the visits also included a work-day which resulted in the completion of the framing for the closet we're putting in our bedroom.  The framing was done with wood that was cut from our property that HandyMan milled last fall.  This is particularly satisfying from a 'living off the land' stance as well as making the project a little easier on the budget.

I'm thankful that another bump of swollen gums in GBaby's tiny mouth has sprung free another tooth, we're up to 9.  I was extremely grateful for a bit of personal time on Saturday morning to finish up some lingering projects.  I'm thankful for fireplaces and hot chocolate on cold winter days.

May your week be blessed and may you recognize the graces as they abound in your life!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Freezer Friday: Minestrone

freezerfridaysm This week I pulled a lot of things from the freezer (Cinnamon Rolls, Green Potato Soup, Mashed Potatoes and HV Marinara jump to mind)  The one thing that went to the freezer was Minestrone Soup.  I used this recipe and it was near perfect.  It just needs a little bit of salt.  I doubled the batch and one crock-pot full was sent to a lunch I 'catered'.  2-1/2 quarts went to the freezer and I've got more in the fridge that will be lunch today for  HandyMan and BIL-C to fill them up on their lunch break from constructing our new closet.  Add some fresh bread sticks and it will be a great fresh winter meal.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Frenzy of Family Visits, Fabulous Food & Construction Projects

I'm not quite sure how half the week got away from me but I'm not at all surprised.  Going into this week I knew it would be full of fun as my Brother-J and his girlfriend were coming through for a visit from Tuesday to Wednesday and my Brother-In-Law C is coming through to visit and help out with the Closet Construction on Thursday/Friday.  I love having BrotherJ and BILC come to visit and meeting Brother's girlfriend was great fun.  One of the perks of having them visit is that they both enjoy cooking and are both fantastic cooks.

On Monday night I cooked a beef brisket in the slow cooker with designs to have Hot Beef Sandwiches on Tuesday evening.  I started heating up the meat and making salad and BrotherJ jumped right in and started sauteing onions and making Au-jus.   As we ate our delicious dinner he started talking about making beef fried rice with some of the remaining meat.  If it was possible to become even hungrier while eating - I did!   So for lunch today, BrotherJ made Beef Fried Rice.  I wish I could say that I took notes so I could duplicate the yumminess, but I didn't.  I wish I could say I took great pictures to share, but I didn't.  I enjoyed the time of family gathered in the kitchen, preparing food and ribbing each other.  It's a fabulous treat and one not shared often enough with BrotherJ.

And tomorrow night, BILC is cooking dinner!  I love these boys :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chocolate Mini-Bundts

bundtI bought myself a mini-bundt pan for the express purpose of making and freezing desserts in smaller portions.  The maiden voyage of the mini-bundt pan was on these absolutely delectable Chocolate Mint Cakes.  We were staying at my parents and off to visit friends for dinner.  I volunteered to "whip up" dessert.  I went searching for doctored cake mix recipes since I didn't have my pantry at my fingertips.  I found a Too Much Chocolate Cake recipe.  Here's the recipe I ended up with

Too Much Chocolate Mint Cake

1-18.25 oz Chocolate Cake Mix

2-3 oz packages of Chocolate Pudding

1 cup Sour Cream

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

3 Eggs

1/2 cup Warm Water

1 1/2 cups Andes Baking Chip

Mix the ingredients up and bake according to the cake mix directions.

I glazed mine with Satiny Chocolate Glaze and used the rest of the Andes chips instead of the chocolate chips.  If you can, glaze right before serving as it did set up to be pretty firm, but the extra glaze pooled in the center of the bundts was oh-so-good!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This has been a very full week with many opportunities to remember what is important and reflect on the abundance in my life.

Tuesday I was driving alone on a slick road, and what could have been a bad, was only a skid into a snowbank.  After a good neighbor pulled me out I was able to drive away, no damage to the car. Wednesday, I got to stay home for the day and did a lot of playing in the kitchen.  Thursday brought the completion of a project and Friday some rest. Saturday brought clean bathroom and floors.

I was also blessed by a couple friends who helped with GBaby this week as I worked on some projects that went much quicker without my 'little helper'.

This afternoon we get to have some family time as a predicted winter storm heads our way.

As I remember all that fills my life with goodness, I'm also remember and praying for those in Haiti.  We've done what we can and now we pray and hope.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Making a Memory Quilt with Photos

For Christmas, I made a photo quilt for my mom.  Mom had a section of wall that she was trying to decide whether to put photos up or a quilt hanging. She was concern by the high traffic past this wall.  So, inspiration hit and three (or four) of GBaby's nap-times later I had the project finished.  I had more photos of the construction of this project but the camera ate them.  So here was how I the photo quilt project went:

1.  Quilt design: This included the dimensions and layout for a basic quilt with sixteen- 6-inch squares to hold 5-1/2" square photos.  Then I had to gather and choose photos.  I think this was really the hardest part of the project as I was trying to get the best shots including Granny & Granddad with their three children and three grandchildren.  So after sorting and debating, I chose the photos and headed on to cutting.

2.  Cutting: I cut all the white squares and ironed on the photos.  I only had to re-do two of the photos which I though to be a great accomplishment in and of itself.  Then I cut the  bordering strips for between the photos, the longer border strips for between the photo strips and finally the wide outside border pieces.

3.  Sewing: I sewed together the strips with the alternating photo squares and border pieces.  This went quickly.  Then I sewed together the strips of photos, with the longer border strips.  This too, was not so hard.  Finally, I sewed the border on it.  I stood back and declared it good.  I was so proud of myself.


4.  Layering: Next came assembling the quilt.  The process of layering the batting, quilt front and back and sewing it in such a way that when you turn it right side out everything is in the right order.  I also worked in tabs at the top to run a dowel through to hang it by. I layered it, sewed it, went to turn it right-side out and had thoughts that would make a sailor blush.  I took it apart, layered it again, sewed it again, went to turn it right-side out and almost cried.  UGH!  Third time is a charm and I had HandyMan double check it before I sewed to make absolutely sure that it was layered right.  It was and the finished project turned out very well.  I know where the goofs are but my Mom was gracious enough to ignore them. :)


It was a fairly simple project (minus step 4) that I will probably do again sometime and is a unique way to frame your favorite memories.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Freezer Friday: HV Lemon Blueberry Muffins, etc.

The next couple of weeks are going to be bringing company to our home which means that I'm going to need to be cleaning up the house, and not cooking so much.  So, this week I did some freezer stocking.  I made a triple batch of this Spanish Rice Bake and put two batches in the freezer.  The key is the cilantro garnish - don't skimp on it,  it makes the dish!  I also put a batch of the Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew in the freezer.

Whentimesaver I browned up the beef/TVP mix for the Spanish Rice Bake earlier this week, I cooked up extra and divided it.  I used half for the Bakes and half for Taco Meat.  One skillet, washed once: I love saving time and doing less pot scrubbing!  Two containers of Taco Meat went to the freezer and one in the fridge for today.

My baking project of the week was Hidden Veggie Lemon Blueberry Muffins.  I used up blueberries and frozen squash puree from my freezer.  They were a great combination of sweet and tangy!

HV Lemon Blueberry Muffinsblueberrylemon2

1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup lemon juice

3 eggs
1 cup pureed squash

3 cups all-purpose flour (sub 1c Whole Wheat)

2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1.  Combine butter, sugar, lemon juice, eggs and squash puree until smooth.
2.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Then add milk and combine until smooth.
3.  Fold in blueberries and nuts.

4.  Bake as muffins for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees or as two loaves for 50-75 minutes.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dare to Hope

On Saturday, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook the coast of Northern California resulting in approximately 30 injuries and $43 million in damage.  The Governor promises help, and since the power's back on, the public will hear that assurance and find hope to rebuild and move on with life. (news source)

On Tuesday, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit a small island nation with a magnitude of devastation that will not be fully tolled for weeks.  Politicians promise their assurances, but who are those assurances really for?  I really doubt the people of Haiti have access to CNN or FoxNews right now.  From reports on, survival is of paramount concern.  Aid is flooding out of countries around the world, but only trickling into those who need it because runways and ports are so badly damaged.  Those in Haiti right now seem to be in a desperate situation and are surrounded by destruction and despair.

Today's media makes it possible for us to see images of that destruction and despair in real time.  It's easy to be caught in the drama of the newscasters and the quick messages floating around our online social networks.  When inundated with images and stories of catastrophe, it is hard to see hope. Tonight, I'm closing the internet news browsers and with the images of the devastation still fresh in my mind, I'm taking a moment to hope and pray for miracles - large and small -  for the people of Haiti, for the aid workers and for the days to come.  Will you join me in stepping out of the despair, and hoping?

Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew

When I was making my January menu I wanted to try to use up some of the things that have found a semi-permanent home in my freezer because they’re things that I’m not particularly fond of.  One such thing was a 2 pound hunk of corned beef brisket.  I saw “beef brisket” and missed the “corned” part.  Straight up, I’ve never been a fan of corned beef, but I took this recipe for Caldo de Res (Mexican Beef Soup) as inspiration and concocted a stew that I have to admit I won’t mind seeing come back from the freezer for another meal.

Corned Beef & Cabbage Stew
3 c. chopped carrots
6 beef bullion cubes
8 c. water
3 c. frozen corn
2 chopped onion
2 pounds Corned Beef, trimmed, cubed, browned and drained
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes

1.  Brown corned beef cubes in a large skillet over medium heat.
2.  Combine all ingredients in a large slow-cooker.

3.  Let cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until meat and vegetables are tender.  Serve with you favorite bread.


Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Souffle Variations

Buttery Garlic Croutons

With my January mission to use up food that is in the house, it only seemed natural to also work to preserve what food I had and to minimize waste.  Enter the stale rolls.  We had some rolls that had been accidentally left out overnight and they were nice and hard on the outside and beyond stale.  Normally, these would have gotten thrown out the front door to provide an easy meal for the birds, squirrels and other wildlife that share out land.  But not this time!  I was planning salads for dinner and decided to make croutons.  It was SO easy I’m wondering why I haven’t done this sooner!  Here’s the quick directions:

Buttery Garlic Croutons

1.  Chop the bread into cubes, about ¾-1 inch square.


2. Melt ¼ cup of butter and sautéed in a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic.  This was for about 3 cups of cubes.


3.  Toss the bread and butter and then spread the cubes on a cookie sheet.  Pop them in the oven at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes.


The finished croutons were melt in your mouth, buttery, garlicy perfectnes!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Sunshine - Cookies, Fire, Family & Dripping Water


Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

Noon on a Sunday and I'm sitting here, my senses inundated by things for which I am thankful.  The house is quiet as GBaby naps.  My washing machine is running and is doing the hard part of laundry for me.  The drip of the cold water faucet in the kitchen is the beginning sign that the pipe is beginning to thaw.  The pellet stove roaring heat into the house, the smell of warm cookies for a meeting this afternoon.  And that's just from the last five minutes.

I wish I could say that I was as quick to recognize all the graces the rest of the week, but I can't.  I was thankful to have a work day on my website - I'm getting there. We got to visit with my brother and his family on Friday night which was great.   It was great fun to watch GBaby play with her cousins. It's also fun to see GBaby passed from one set loving arms to another, giving my arms a break.  By the end of church I feel like I've gotten quite a workout!

I look forward to some down time this evening after GBaby goes to bed as HandyMan has a meeting.  Our house is warm, our bellies are fed, and we are healthy.  What more could we really need on a bitter, winter day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fail, Fail, Success!

On Thursday afternoon I realized that I had planned on stretching my monthly menu meals a little too thinly this week.  It was a crazy week and I had planned on surfing through the nutty weekend on leftovers, but I hadn't quite planned enough meals to make that work.  Oops, monthly menu fail!

Looking to remedy the situation and also to experiment with a new toy I got for Christmas, I thought I'd set out to make pasta.  I got the pasta plates for my MamaMixer for Christmas.  I thought homemade spaghetti or macaroni would be great and GBaby was giving me a good day so onward to pasta project.  I mixed up same pasta dough recipe that I used when I made the Spinach Linguine except I made it a little dryer and with tomato puree instead of spinach.  I dropped the dough in the dough into the food grinder and waited to see beautiful noodles come forth.  And waited.  And then watched noodles come out and promptly join and stick to all the other noodles coming out of the extrusion plate.  I tried adding more flour to  the dough.  Didn't work.  I tried a different plate.  That didn't work either.  Finally I gave up, vowing to tackle it another day when I had a bit more energy and had done a bit more research.  Pasta fail.

I stood in the kitchen looking at the pile of dough that wasn't going to work for extrusion pasta and didn't want to waste it.  I added more liquid back into the dough and ran it through the trusty pasta rollers.  Voila: tomato linguine!  Then I needed a sauce.  So I went to the freezer and pulled out a tub of pesto that I had frozen from fresh basil.  I added the pesto to a basic white sauce (flour & butter rue with milk) and we had a delicious dinner of Tomato Linguine with Pesto Cream Sauce!  Pantry/Freezer Challenge Success!

tomato pesto

Friday, January 8, 2010

Freezer Friday: Orange Cranberry Muffins & Dinner Rolls

freezerfridaysmWith the Eat from the Pantry [and Freezer] challenge underfreezerchallengeway, I’ve done baking this, but not much cooking.  I had grocery shopping and meetings on Monday, my monthly work day at Made in Chenango on Wednesday and heading to my brother’s today, my freezer meals made this week much easier!  We had Shepherd’s Pie with Garlic Cheddar Smashed Potatoes on Monday night and Turkey Butternut Squash Soup on Wednesday as our meals from the freezer this week and plate salads took on the fading produce from the veggie drawer on Tuesday.

So, I didn’t get to the batch cooking for a main meal this week but I did get some baked goorollsds to the freezer.  My freezer was empty of breakfast breads so I worked on taking care of that.  I made a batch of Orange Cranberry Bread (a variation of the Orange Chocolate Chip bread: more orangey, fruit and whole grains) and made it as muffins and mini-bundt cakes.  I also made a double batch of dinner rolls and sent some of those the freezer as well.  I'm working on a post for my favorite roll recipe - stay tuned!

How were your meals this week?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Savings Tracker

I am a numbers person and I like to save money.  When I was trying to explain my delight in saving money to HandyMan, he had a hard time wrapping his head around it.  He's also somewhat convinced that I have a pointy hat and magic wand stashed to get some of the deals that I get.  Finally he narrowed it down to the equivalent of opening his paycheck and thinking "Sweet! Money!"  I do the same thing for money that doesn't have to come out of our accounts for things we need (or want).  I like tracking our budget to see where we're on track and where we need to make changes.  I love to see the little line at the bottom of a receipt showing how much I saved because I used the [stupid] store loyalty card or coupons I went out of my way to print.

So imagine the pitter-pat dance my heart did when I stumbled upon The Coupon Project: Savings Tracker!  I know - I'm such a geek!  But, if you want to have an idea of how much you're saving throughout the year using discounts and coupons, check it out.  It is a great excel sheet that's easy to use.  Take a couple minutes and enter the information from your receipts and it will calculate it out for you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Goals

january-2010I'm really not one for new year's resolutions.  They've struck me too rigid and better markers for where I'm not meeting my own expectations.  Then I get discouraged, then the resolutions fade and are forgotten, usually before it's time to even turn the page on the calendar in the kitchen.

The beginning of the new year does encourage me to examine my life, my business and the life of my family and recognize areas that I would like to/need to change.  Here are a few things that I will be working on this year (some with the help and involvement of HandyMan) as a blogger, a business owner, a wife & mom and just for me.  What are you working on this year?


1.  Work on changing out our chemically based cleaners for more natural alternatives.  I'm currently working on make your own dishwasher soap :)

2.  Work to keep the grocery bill under budget through Monthly Menus and batch cooking.

3.  Continue to find ways to make favorite recipes healthier for us by hiding vegetables and whole grains.

Business Goals:

1. Craft Fairs: I have five craft fairs that I attended as a vendor in 2009.  I am hoping to add 3 more to my 2010 schedule including the Owego Strawberry Festival, and two others.  I'm currently researching for fairs in the Cortland and Delhi NY areas -if anyone knows of anything, please let me know!

2.  WebSite: I was a slacker on my website last year-and I've only linked it so that you can skim it over and truly appreciate the make-over that is coming.  It is my goal to update the site monthly and to have the make-over done by January 25th.  Stay tuned for more info on that!

Family Goals

1. Friday Night Family Nights - I had begun to notice that when we were all home, life was a game of shuffle GBaby back and forth so we could each get stuff done, and very little time away from the meal table was being spent together-all three of us.  So, we are instituting Friday Family nights.  This will mean that we cook dinner together, do bath and play time together with GBaby and once she goes to bed, HandyMan and I will have our own time together to watch a movie, talk about the week, etc.

2.  Work Down Debt-We are on track to pay off HandyMan's student loans this year. The next stop is our mortgage.  We really don't have any idea how much we'll be able to put towards the mortgage principle, but plan to put the excess from our frugal lifestyle towards paying off our home.  When I did the numbers and realized that by paying an additional $50 a month to our mortgage, we'd save $2,075 in interest over the life of the loan, it put the return on investment in black and white.

Personal Goals

1.  RAFT the Inbox - HandyMan has this knack for keeping his e-mail inbox empty.  I've always been amazed and just this last week he spilled the secret.  With every message that comes in you do one of four things as soon as you open it: Reply-Act-File-Trash, RAFT.  I'm a bit hesitant to admit that when I started RAFTing my inbox there were over 650 messages, some read, some not.  It is my goal to have my inbox cleaned out before we leave for vacation in February.  With a bit of work, I've managed to get it down to 550 messages already ;)

2.  Begin exercising again, for real.  The last year since GBaby entered my world, I've called her my workout routine, and she does require me to be on the go a lot.  But now she's heading for walking which means those upper body mommy muscles won't be used quite as much, and I'd kind of like to keep them in shape.  So, I plan to start exercising again and HandyMan has agreed to continue the "AM Shift" before he has to go to work so that I can do this.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.  (Particular points of thankfullness are bolded.)

Well, I'm back on track: posting the Sunday Sunshine on Sunday! I had some time to get myself organized for the new year this past week while visiting with family.  We and a wonderfully relaxing time watching my parents love on and enjoy GBaby, playing cards, sharing time and laughing until I couldn't breath.  All marks of a great week!  As a bonus, GBaby and I both kicked our colds while we were away, so we all came home healthy again!

We were blessed with a date night from my parents for our anniversary.  We happily let them babysit while we went out and enjoyed an evening out of fine food and a non-infant centered meal.  As a bonus, GBaby was even asleep when we got home!

I got home and GBaby amused herself while I unpacked, baked and settled back in to my household chores.  I love to play with my little girl, but self-entertainment is priceless at times!

I was particularly psyched with a couple of gifts that came my way over the last couple of weeks.  One was a new hairdryer. The on/off switch on my old one fritzed out and I hadn't replaced it yet.  Now it can go away and be replaced by the new cord-keeper, sleek, high power, dry-my-mane of hair in minutes hair dryer!  The other is the pasta press plates for my Mama Mixer.  I can't wait to make homemade lasagna and spaghetti noodles!  The third favorite gift is one that I purchased for HandyMan and myself that will include a night away next summer.  It will be a great retreat for us that I am already looking forward too!

So many blessings to kick off 2010.  Look around, find the small things and focus on the best in your world this year!

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Eat From the Pantry Challenge

freezerchallenge In my area of rural living, I love online community.  Often I stumble up on great online 'activities' that throw me in the same cyberspace as a ton of other folks all taking on the same challenge or goals.  In my skimming of blogs today, one such event:  the Eat From the Pantry Challenge.  The goals of this challenge are to plan meals for the month of January based on what is already in the pantry and freezer, to limit the number of trips to the store and to only buy fresh items like dairy and produce. It also allows you the freedom to make up your own rules so that the challenge works best for your family.

I've already done my grocery list and menu for January and had taken into consideration much of the contents of my freezer and pantry, so I'm jumping on board with this challenge.  Here are the goals I've personalized for us:

1.  Shave $50 (1/4) off our January grocery bill.

2.  Only 3 "odds & ends" stops after the Big Grocery Run at the beginning of the month.

3.  Maintain one Batch Cooking project a week.

4.  Extra money in the grocery budget at the end of the month gets split 50/50 between our local Food Pantry and the Summer Produce Fund.

I'll be linking up my progress here as the month goes on.  Looking to empty your pantry and freezer or get your grocery budget under control this year,  consider a monthly menu or  joining this challenge and see how much a little time and planning can save your pocketbooks.