Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Milk Savings and Fun on the Farm!

We go through at least two gallons of whole milk weekly and this expense adds up!  I've spent a lot of time shopping around for the best milk deals, hoping to find milk that tastes great but doesn't break the budget.  I was surprised with what I ultimately found!  The best place to get the least expensive but the yummiest and freshest milk is at our local dairy farm, Richardson's!  You may know Richardson's for their delicious ice cream or fun miniature golfing but we now appreciate them for so much more.

A gallon of whole milk costs $2.88 which is about $1 LESS expensive than buying name brand milk at Stop & Shop or Shaws!  And you know exactly where this milk came from... in fact, you can go visit the cows while you are there!

We make at least one trip weekly to Richardson's for our milk and to visit the animals... baby cows, mommy cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys!  There is no cost to visit them.  It's a totally free little adventure.  The animals are friendly and excited for visitors and we are certainly excited to see them.  We are always sure to thank the cows for the yummy milk before we leave.

You can get milk, creamer, eggs, ice cream, frappes, and yes, even hot dogs at Richardson's.

There are Richardson's locations both on 114 in Middleton, MA and inside Jordan's Furniture in Reading, MA.  If I remember correctly, the milk is a few cents more expensive in Reading, but still a great deal.  Visit the Richardson's website here, their facebook page here and plan a visit today!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Banana Applesauce Muffins

I'm still trying to use up applesauce!  Unfortunately this recipe only calls for 1/4 cup applesauce and I only had 2 bananas so I couldn't double or triple it but that just means I get to find another fun recipe to use up more applesauce tomorrow...

These are very very yummy!  They are moist, tasty, and don't use butter or oil.  You will love them... We certainly did!   It was also an easy recipe for a toddler helper which is always a plus these days.

I did not change a thing from the recipe found here at a blog called From Away.  I've copied the recipe for you below as well.  This makes 12 muffins.

Banana Applesauce Muffins

2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mash bananas and mix in sugar
Stir in the remaining ingredients until the flour is just incorporated
Pour batter into prepared muffin tins (we used paper muffin cups in ours)
Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean

Thanks to From Away for the yummy recipe!

Water Beads

I have read a lot about the use of water beads in play, particularly as a sensory activity.  I was in Dollar Tree (couponing of course) several days ago, came across a bottle of them, and decided to give them a try.  Water beads are basically little decorative, water holding beads that are meant for use in a vase with flowers.

I found them in a bottle labeled "Decorative Accents" in the dried floral, crafting area of Dollar Tree.  We love these new little toys!  You can add them to a bowl of water and they are invisible!  But put your hand in the water and you are met with soft, slippery, somewhat squishy, marble shaped little beads!  Just playing with your hands in the bowl is fun enough but add some kitchen tools like measuring cups, small bowls, spoons, etc, and the fun is enhanced.  My daughter likes to transfer things from one place to another and these are a great challenge because they slip and slide all over the place and become invisible once they hit the water again.  Can you believe this bowl pictured below is full of water beads?!

I highly recommend this activity with just a couple of added notes...

  1. Do not let your child use these unsupervised and do not let them put the water beads in their mouth.  The bottle says right on it to keep away from children and that it is not a toy (okay, hopefully this doesn't make me a bad mommy!) but with close supervision to make sure they are not eaten, you'll be fine.  They are non toxic (that is also written right on the bottle).  If you have a child who likes to put things in their mouth, this activity is not for them.  Our daughter has never been one that eats or mouths non food items so I felt confident in both her and my ability to engage safely in this activity.
  2. Beware that they bounce like crazy.  When one of these falls out of your hand onto the table, it's going to bounce and slide it's way to the floor and it will be nearly impossible to see or find!  I found it helpful to keep our bowl on another tray with sides to minimize potential escape of beads.  I would also put all pets in crates during this activity just in case!

Here are a couple of blogs where I read about water beads before we tried them...

I would like to try to get some colorful water beads next but the clear ones definitely have their benefits - the invisibility factor is a huge plus!

Have fun!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sausage Soup

This Sausage Soup is the perfect meal for a chilly day.  It's so easy, delicious, and inexpensive!

Typically the only thing I need to buy to prepare this meal is the sausage which if you stalk the meat department pretty regularly you are bound to find for pretty cheap.  Unless it's an absolute emergency, I almost always purchase meat that is nearing the sell-by date because it has a nice meat department coupon on it.  Sometimes I get the name brand if I have a manufacturer's coupon to combine with the store coupon but a lot of times the store brand sausage with the store coupon ends up being cheaper.  You could probably get a pack of sausage for $1 or $2 and either make the soup that day or put the meat right in the freezer for another time.

8 cups beef broth (I use 2 or 3 bouillon cubes dissolved in hot water)
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 package (16- 19.5 oz) italian sausage
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup dry macaroni

Put the broth in a large pot with the basil and both cans of tomatoes and heat to a simmer.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan.  Squeeze the sausage out of the casings and brown it in the pan.  (Okay, this part is kind of nasty for those that don't like handling raw meat!  You can cut the casings open and just let the insides plop out or you could just start with ground sausage if you prefer but it's probably going to be more expensive that way).  Cook it like you would ground beef.

Add browned sausage to the soup mixture.

If you don't have enough oil left in the pan, add another teaspoon and sautee the onions until they start to get soft.  Add the garlic and cook them together for just a couple of minutes.

Add the onion and garlic to the soup mixture.

Deglaze the frying pain with about a cup of broth from the soup and add it back in because why would you want to lose any of this yumminess?

Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.

Add the dry macaroni to the soup and continue to simmer until the macaroni is soft; about 15-20 minutes.

If you don't want your macaroni to "grow" while sitting in the leftover soup, you could always just cook it separately, put some in a bowl and then pour the soup on top of it and mix together.  I think this is how my sister does it.  I like to dirty less pans...

You can store leftovers in the fridge or freezer and add water or broth when you reheat if it has gotten too think.


Adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen's recipe found here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Floating and Sinking

My toddler daughter loves to play with water.  I decided to try introduce her to the concepts of floating and sinking one day and she understood it immediately.  I was shocked and very pleased!  What a fun (and educational) way to pass the time!  

All you need is water, a bucket, pool, tub, etc and then whatever random things you find around that float or sink.  When we are outside this usually includes leaves, rocks, acorns, bugs, dirt, or pine cones.  When we are in the bathtub it includes every toy and bottle of shampoo or body wash within reach.

Don't ever underestimate those toddler minds! I learn daily that my daughter is a sponge, taking absolutely everything in, and understanding the world around her in amazing ways.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nature Bracelets

This is a super easy and fun project for a sunny day!  All you need is packing tape, or really any kind of tape would do.  Wrap it around your arm with the sticky side facing out, go on a little nature walk, and stick on whatever treasures you can find!  If you're doing this project with a toddler you might need to model it first.  My daughter was kind of panicked at the thought of me taping her arm until I put it on my own wrist first and she figured out what we were doing.

I originally read of this idea here.  When you're done you could take the tape off and attach it to a piece of paper to have a keepsake.  I thought this was a great plan however my daughter prefers to leave things where they belong and when we were done she chose to take all of the treasures off and put them back.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Homemade Fruit Roll Ups

Earlier this year I did a major stock-up on applesauce.  I love stockpiling things that we use often!  Basically, when something is free after using a coupon (or cheap if it's something we use regularly) I will stock up on it as much as I can.  The benefits to this are always having on hand what we need, having plenty to share or donate, and not having to spend money on this again (ever, or for a long time).

So, we had tons of applesauce (I mean tons and tons, like tons and tons of actual cases with many boxes of 4-pack cartons of applesauce).  TONS.  Despite giving a lot away, eating a lot, feeding a lot to my daughter, putting a cup in my husband's lunch each day, and constantly making recipes using applesauce, I still had some leftover that was close to expiration.  The timing of this coincided with using our last box of fruit snacks (also a staple in my husband's lunches) and my lack of enthusiasm over current fruit snack sales.  So, it was time to come up with a new plan.

I researched homemade fruit roll up recipes for a while before settling on this one and giving it a shot.  I was not disappointed.  I took tips from these two recipes - Easy and Fun Fruit Leather and How to Make Homemade Fruit-Rolls Ups.

Here's what to do:
  • Wake up early in the morning
  • Combine 6 cups of applesauce with 1 box of Jell-O (I used strawberry sugar free)
  • Line baking sheets with plastic wrap (loose on the edges because they kind of curl up in the oven)
  • Cover with applesauce mixture (thin but covered and not too see-through), leaving some space on the plastic around the edges
  • Put in the oven on the absolute lowest setting (170 degrees for our oven)
  • Bake until dry and not sticky to touch on the top or the bottom.  The thinner it is, the faster it will be done, but by fast, I mean more than 6 hours most likely so plan this on a day that you don't need your oven for anything else!  I put my trays in at about 7:00 in the morning and took the last one out at about 7:00 in the evening.
  • If you have a dehydrator, that's even better.  We have one however it only has one fruit roll tray (apparently you can buy more separately but I haven't done it yet).  I made one tray in the dehydrator which took about 5 hours.
  • When mine were done, I peeled them off the plastic wrap while still warm and put them on wax paper, cutting them into strips with scissors and rolling them up to store.  We've been storing them in the fridge.  I would not recommend using wax paper because it is really a pain to peel off.  I do it every morning so that my husband doesn't have to deal with it at lunchtime and I will never do it again!  All the recipes I saw called for parchment paper but I didn't have any.  Lesson learned.  I will either use parchment paper next time or just keep it on the plastic, or leave it with no lining at all.

This stuff is the real deal.  It tastes just like the real thing and is cheaper and probably healthier too!  The price of fruit snacks can be high when you figure you probably get less than two weeks worth of pouches per box.  I know I'm kind of cheap, but I don't like to pay more than 50 cents per box if I can help it!  If you can stock up on jello and applesauce and spend a little extra time (but very minimal effort) you can have these on hand instead.

Ignore the old, dirty oven, k?

Painting with Ice Cubes

We are always looking for new and exciting outdoor activities when the weather warms up.  Here's one of our favorites:
Ice Cube Paints!

A quick Pinterest search will give you lots of different ways to make these. There are versions floating around that include mixing paints with water and mixing food coloring with water. We always have food coloring in their cabinet so we went with that option and it has been perfect! Apparently washable paint is the best option to reduce staining but we've been using food coloring and have had no issues (although we usually do this activity in a bathing suit or birthday suit...).

Just mix 2 or 3 drops of food coloring with water in an ice cube tray with some popsicle sticks (no need to even stand them up straight) and freeze.  When they are frozen, they are ready for painting!

We've been painting plain paper, rocks, shells, tree stumps, whatever we can find.  This makes for a great outdoor activity on a warm day.  A little messy but very fun!


Life can be chaotic!  As a wife and mother to a 3 year old, I am reminded of this daily.  The hours of each day fly by.  I wake up in the morning, get through the daily routine, and before I know it, the sun is setting.  I've been trying to remind myself to not get so caught up in the chaos, or worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, but treasuring each minute as it comes along.  I've been trying to remind myself regularly to enjoy each moment; to take time for today.

There are a few things I've been focusing on to help bring more order to our family.  They take a little bit of time and effort but have been totally worth it.  These are the things I plan to post most about in my new blogging venture.

Fun things to do (primarily with a toddler!) ~ Yummy things to eat ~ Important ways to save

As I have increased my focus on these things, I have absolutely fallen in love with Pinterest (thank you to my sister for the initial introduction)!  I would describe myself as creative but I could not possibly come up with all of the fantastic ideas that get us through each day.  You will find lots of links in my blog to other blogs with lots and lots of wonderful things.  I will confess to being a pinning addict.  For example, I have 554... yes 554... pins on my Recipes to Try board.  This is a problem!  Where do I begin?  I'll try them all someday, but in the meantime, I'll be posting on my blog what I have tried, what has worked and what has not.  My biggest pinning interests are recipes and children's activities.  If you are interested in all of my pins, rather than the scaled down version that I will post here, feel free to follow me on Pinterest!

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my biggest priorities in life is finding ways to save money.  When my daughter was born, my husband and I were committed to finding a way for me to stay home with her rather than returning to full time work.  We figured that if we could save even a small percentage of what we would have been making with me working, it would make a difference.  And it certainly has!  I hope to share some of my favorite ways to save here with you.  And be forewarned that many of the activities and recipes will including saving as well because they are all intertwined for us.

Okay, enough of the boring background info.  I'm tired of writing my introduction.  Let's get on with the good stuff!

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