New pizza recipe, potty training, etc.

Today, Yehoshua, Eliyahu, and I went to my mom's house. First, we went for a walk. We saw two deer lying in the ditch (along with a license plate)! Yehoshua loved seeing them. (Apparently he didn't care that they were dead!) I explained all about them to him... "A car hit them. They died." On the way back he wanted to go over to that side of the road again and look at them some more. :)

Then it was haircut time for Yehoshua. My brother Richard was the barber, and it was somehow a very traumatic experience for Yehoshua (as usual), but at least his hair is nice and short and we won't have to worry about another haircut for a couple months, hopefully. :) While Yehoshua was getting his hair cut, we made ice shavings with a little snoopy doghouse sno-cone thing that my family has. Then we fed Yehoshua the "snow". He wanted to hold the Snoopy part, and then wanted Snoopy to take a bath with him afterwards... haha. Later Snoopy (the plastic part of the Sno-cone maker!) took a nap with Yehoshua. Kids are hilarious. :)

And, we've completed 4 days of potty training now... and I think we're actually going to make it! There have been two "accidents" and lots of successes... and I am loving having to use only ONE diaper per day (the one for overnight)! At this point, I don't consider Yehoshua to be "potty trained" (even though he's doing great) because he rarely will tell me he has to go. He says "no" when I ask, but I take him anyway and he goes! And occasionally he'll take himself. We'll see... :)

We got home about 5:15 pm, and I started pizza. We ate late, and I had a headache, and the house was cluttered with dishes, laundry that needed put away, etc... I got the basics taken care of and am heading off to bed. I hope I feel better tomorrow, because I have a lot of work to do around the house! :)

P.S. I'll have to take a picture of Yehoshua's new haircut. He's so cute! Tonight when I told him I didn't feel good because I had a headache, he was giving me kisses to help me feel better :)

Welcome to guest chef Jaclynn!

PastitsioJaclynn is sharing two great-looking recipes with us. The first, shown at left, is a Greek dish called Pastitsio. The second is an Italian Olive Garden Salad and Dressing recipe. Read more about Jaclynn and her recipes!
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Food Budgeting Tips: How We Eat Well On Less

homemade pizza (not yet baked)

Plan ahead

Planning ahead means we'll be less tempted to turn to expensive, prepared foods, or want to go out to eat. It's easy to get in a habit of not planning, and then at the last minute say, "Can we just order pizza?" Problem solved... until the next night's dinnertime arrives... and there's still nothing planned. When you plan a meal, start it in plenty of time. For example, season the chicken for oven-roasted chicken and have it in the fridge, all ready to pop in the oven the next day; or, make a dish of lasagna in the morning so that when your children skip their afternoon naps you don't run behind schedule.

Plan some basic menus. I have written up a few menu-planning tips here. If you're just getting started with menu planning, you can do a simple one-week menu. My main "rule" is to know what I'm making for meals at least one day in advance. I've done menu planning in a variety of ways. Try different ideas until you find a system that is easy for you. Then stick with it until you come across a new idea or system you want to try! I like variety, so I am constantly trying new recipes and methods of meal planning. :)

Shop for sales

You can also save by planning ahead and getting store specials. Find out what you use the most of, and stock up when it's on sale. It may take a little practice to not over-buy or under-buy, but eventually you will be getting just the right amount of things and be paying significantly less for your groceries than if you just shopped randomly. I always get my meat and cheese on sale. Most other items are found on sale or at Aldi's. It's not actually cheaper for us to drive to a Sam's Club/Costco type of place, plus pay membership dues, just to get lower everyday prices, since we can get sale items at local stores. But your situation may be different. The idea is to take what resources you have available and put them to the best use for your family. :)

Use more

Use more of what you -- not me, or someone else you know -- can get for less. Try to utilize ingredients that you and your family actually like to eat and that you can find affordably. For us, that means we get to eat cheese, which we love, because I get it at a low sale price about once every 6 weeks. We buy chicken breast at a sale price every 2-3 months, and try to get enough to last until the next sale.

When we have fresh garden produce, we eat a lot of whatever we have. Last year we had an abundance of onions and green peppers from the garden, and in order to use them before they went bad, I fried them with ground beef and put it in the freezer.

My menus probably won't work perfectly for your family, because things that are easy to get or inexpensive for me might cost a lot for you. Try to think of (tasty!) uses for things that don't cost you much. :)

Don't waste

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it actually takes some planning. I can't even remember the statistics for how much food the average family in the United States wastes every year, but it's a lot. I never intentionally waste food. I always tell myself that if YHWH provided food for us, I need to be a good steward and not waste any of it... not even a bite! But, neglect and lack of planning can lead to waste. We've probably all cleaned out the refrigerator and found a container of mold that, two weeks ago, could have been a good portion of a meal, or at least been some part of lunch. Sometimes I put off using something until it goes bad, and then I don't feel so guilty about throwing it away.

But developing some good habits can reduce waste. For example, first, notice what it is that you are wasting.

Are you simply forgetting what's in your fridge, and then finding rotten food weeks later? Then try labeling your containers (use a  thick black marker and some masking tape, and CLEARLY label your leftovers with name and date). I try to "clean out" my fridge just about everyday. I know that sounds extreme, but it's really not a big job. I just look through what's in there and try to make sure it's organised. Personally, I have leftovers and opened jars of things (the most easily-forgotten things) on the top shelf; the middle shelf holds eggs, tortillas, lunchmeat, etc., and the bottom shelf has produce, milk, and butter. If a shelf looks dirty, I wipe it down. I also wipe down the door handle if it needs it. I usually do this after dinner each night, and use my dishrag. It only takes a couple minutes and helps me remember what we have already open to use up. It's a habit now... when I wash dinner dishes and put away the leftovers, I clean out the fridge. It's amazing how disorderly it can get in just one day's time!

Sliced peppers and onions (for fajitas)

Do you shred too much cheese at a time, and it gets moldy before you get it used? Shredding a lot of cheese or cutting extra lettuce all at once saves time and dishes, but be sure to balance it with how much you can realistically use before it goes bad. The same goes for making large batches of meals. If you don't want to eat bean soup every day for lunch one week, make a smaller batch. Or, freeze some. Look to see what you need to use up before it spoils, so you can incorporate it into your meals. If you have a gallon of milk that is about to expire, make a big batch of corn chowder, and freeze the leftovers.

Use your freezer for leftovers! Freezing leftovers has been one of my main tickets to reducing waste. I love the convenience of making large batches of soups or taco meat, and then just freezing the leftovers in meal-sized (or two-meal-sized) portions. Then it's like a whole new meal, 3 weeks later, with basically no work. Yay! Now, a freezer can easily get as disorderly as a refrigerator (especially if you have a large one), so be careful. I always CLEARLY mark what I'm putting in. For example, "2 cups cooked ground round, fried with garlic, green peppers, and onions 8-1-06". Then there are no "mystery packages" that have to be made into soup. ;) I have also been known to write things like "GOOD!!!" or "Very Good" on a container of soup, to remind myself that I wasn't just freezing it to get rid of it... it was actually a delicious meal. :D

Another thing to do with leftovers is to make "new" meals from them. For example, leftover meat from taco salad can become chili, or incredibly easy taco pie, or enchiladas, or burritos, or... Leftover chicken meat can be cubed and used in meals that call for cooked chicken. Leftover grilled chicken can be used to top a lettuce salad. This way, you don't "feel" like you're eating leftovers at all! :) Here are some great ideas for meals you can make from leftovers.

homemade wheat bread

Cook from scratch 

And lastly, cook from scratch whenever possible. So many things are cheaper this way. Dried beans are much cheaper than canned ones... but you just have to plan ahead and soak and cook them in time. :) Make "real" oatmeal for breakfast rather than instant. Make homemade breakfast cereals, which are so tasty and would cost several dollars per pound if you were purchasing them. Make your own version of canned condensed soups, stuffing mix, taco meat seasoning, onion soup mix, and whatever else you buy that you use frequently, is expensive, or, is full of MSG!

This is just some of what we do to try to save money while still enjoying nice meals. I'm sure I've forgotten things... it's just such a huge topic! I'd love to hear some tips from those of you who are interested in budgeting and meal-planning!

Garden Pests: Tomato Hornworms & Tobacco Hornworms

Tomato HornwormYou get up one bright and shinning morning and decide to go out and pick some fresh tomatos... only to find this horrific sight: Your formerly beautiful tomato plants have been ravished by giant, four inch long worms. This bad dream can be a reality in many parts of North America, and unfortunately our garden was recently introduced to this menacing creature -- the Tomato Hornworm and Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata L.

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Canning Tomatoes

I spent the morning doing my tomatoes. Yehoshua helped me by washing them all! I cored and cut out any bad spots, and then poured boiling water over and peeled them. Then I diced them into large chunks and open-kettled them. Joshua took a little video of me as I was canning.

Tammy's Video Blog

This is a Windows Media Video (WMV) and is almost 2 minutes long (~5MB). Click here or on the photo to watch!

Full intructions, notes, and tips can be in our recipe for Open Kettle Food Processing.

New recipes, new poll...

Homemade Crouton recipe

...Can you tell I'm putting off doing the tomatoes? :)

I added our recipe for Steak and Egg Omelettes, which was another meal we made with leftover steak from Joshua's Grandma's visit. Those are Joshua's favorite omelettes. (I prefer meatless ones.) The more tender the steak, the better the omelette! :)

I also added the recipe for homemade croutons, which I made earlier today. I hadn't made those for years, and had actually forgotten how well I like a salad with them. :)

And, I decided it was time for a new poll, so I decided to make a poll about kitchen duty preferences. :)

We also have a new "Recipe of the Week": Homemade Granola. If you haven't yet checked out the recipe (or better, made some!), now's the time! And if you were one of the three people who received a package of granola as a result of our contest, I'd love it if you went and left a review for others to see! (Don't worry... I won't be offended if you didn't like it!) :)

Now, I really must be getting things wrapped up for the night... or I certainly won't feel like doing tomatoes tomorrow any more than I feel like doing them tonight!! :D

Apple Crisp, Sabbath activities, and Tomatoes (again)

As I was saying, earlier this week, I received an email from a lady who saw our names on a fellowship directory. (For those of you who are familiar with No Greater Joy Ministries, it was "their" directory.) We talked on the phone on Tuesday and I invited them over for the afternoon and evening on Saturday.

I don't think we have had such an enjoyable evening of discussing Scripture and YHWH's blessings and workings in our lives since... well, some time ago. It was refreshing and fun! It made me realise how often the people we have over say things like, "Well, I don't know and I don't think it really matters" or "Well, my church believes..." and really have no interest in discussing Scripture.

And Yehoshua even had a playmate -- ten year old Esa read him books and played puzzles with him. :) We all talked, played music, went outside, played with Eliyahu, ate stuffed shells, garlic bread, peas, and apple crisp, etc... It was a great relaxing day. I wish more people would come over. :D I didn't take the time to snap any photos... or you might be seeing one! :)

And, though I actually got a good night of sleep afterwards, I still took a nap this afternoon. I seemed to be "behind" on everything today, and was just getting my diapers hung out at 5 pm. Oh, and they're still out there on the clothesline... I hope it isn't raining or anything!

There were mountains of dishes today, because I did some cooking. My mom brought over some tomatoes, which I really need to do up. I was thinking I would can them tonight. And it's already 10:20 pm! But I really don't want to save them for tomorrow. I suppose I'll go get busy doing them. :)

The first of the tomatoes, ramblings about beans, and more about my day

Have you ever noticed how many of my blog entries include the words "about my day"?! I guess I am sometimes (okay, usually!) lacking great thoughts or intellectual ponderings and find it easiest to just write about what we've been doing. :)

Friday was one of those days where I wasn't exactly working at top-notch-speed, but had a lot to get done. So, I worked all day. :) I made the tomatoes and black beans over pasta for lunch, and a new recipe for dinner (added next week, prayfully), and did three loads of laundry.

Yehoshua and Eliyahu got to spend a fair amount of time outside, which was nice. The neighbor lady (the one who mows the lawn for me on occasion) was out trimming her little trees, and Yehoshua walked over to help her. He helped gather up the trimmings and pulled them around on a wagon until it was time to dump them. He had a blast and I think the neighbor enjoyed having him for her helper. ;)

I also made up a dish of stuffed shells and put it in the fridge, to have for dinner with our guests. And, Joshua made a new dessert, blueberry cheesecake bars, and we together made a big dish of apple crisp! I love apple crisp. It was one of my favorites as a child. Joshua prefers pies, and so we hadn't made apple crisp for years!

So Friday ended with pretty much everything being accomplished (except adding anything worthwhile to this website!)... and then Sabbath. I am thankful for a weekly rest day. I may spend most days working hard, but I am certainly not super-woman and it's nice to have a break. :)

Using leftovers creatively

I think I am finally caught up on updating the Leftovers Page... at least for now! Next time you have some leftovers that need used... check it out! :) Anyone else have any good ideas for using leftovers?

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