Looking for something to do with your kids? Maybe some great recipes or crafts? How about home management, healthy and frugal living tips, or organization and work/life balance ideas?
Let me do the problem solvin' for you - click here to subscribe! _____________________________________________

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun and mess free toddler snacking

Sweetpea has always loved applesauce and yogurt, and we would frequently order one one or the other as side dishes when we were eating out. As she became a more independent eater, this became particularly messy! One day when we were eating out she dropped her spoon on the floor after one or two bites of applesauce. The wait staff was particularly busy and I didn't expect we would be able to flag someone down for quite awhile, so I improvised - giving Sweetpea my straw to finish her applesauce.

Not only did she think it was fun to use a straw, it was a much quicker and less messy way to get her snack from the bowl into her mouth! She requests a straw now whenever she eats applesauce or yogurt. I love that she enjoys eating these healthy snacks and thinks of her straw as an extra special treat. We purchased a big bag of extra wide straws for $1.50 to make it a little easier for her to "drink" her snacks.

What untraditional feeding methods have you come up with to help your toddler or preschooler have fun eating healthy sometimes messy snacks? I'd love to hear your tips!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Six ways to serve pumpkin pudding

I've been making "pumpkin pie" pudding lately - not quite exactly like pumpkin pie filling, but close to the same flavor - instant, frugal, healthy and versatile! Sweetpea loves to mix it together for me and she's able to do a pretty decent job!

1 small box butterscotch pudding
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
~1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Follow directions on pudding box as if you were going to make regular pudding. Add the pumpkin puree and spice after the pudding is well mixed but not yet set. Once you add the puree the pudding will set up almost instantly, even without refrigerating.

Here are some tasty ways to serve this pudding up:

* simply as pudding with a little whipped cream on top
* crumble some graham crackers underneath for an instant pumpkin pie
* serve as a pumpkin pie dip, great with graham crackers, pretzels, apple slices and the like
* layer with vanilla wafers and whipped cream for a tasty parfait
* layer with pound cake and cheesecake dip for a fabulous fall trifle
* use as the filling ingredient for the easiest cobbler ever

Any other ideas? I could seriously eat this every night, but I do like to try and mix things up a little bit...

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 26, 2009

Our last week of no spend month - what's on the menu?

So we're winding toward the end of no spend month, and I have to say there were very few times that I actually felt like I wanted to spend money on something and "couldn't" because of our budget challenge. I think we're going to come out almost exactly on target, as I've purchased our groceries for the week and we have just a little wiggle room left. Here's the menu plan for this week:

Monday: Steaks, mashed potatoes and green salads
Tuesday: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans and potato chips
Wednesday: Grilled chicken salads and smoothies
Thursday: Pork chops, baked potatoes and peas
Friday: Pulled pork tetrazzini and corn bread
Saturday: Pizza and breadsticks
Sunday: Mexican casserole and corn cake

How are we affording such a yummy meat filled menu? As I mentioned last week, we shop the "reduced for quick sale" section at our local IGA - they have a terrific meat case and if you know when to shop you can get a super deal. All of the pork from this week's menu is from a pork loin I bought when it went on sale for $1.69/lb - I'll slice some meat off to pan fry and the rest will become pulled pork in the slow cooker to be used in several other meals this week. Normally when pork loin goes on sale I'll buy two. I freeze one for later and generally freeze half of the pulled pork after I make it.

In addition, we'll be having cake, brownies, baked oatmeal, and carrot cranberry muffins. In order to help make sure we don't feel deprived (and to help clean out the cupboard!) we've been making more desserts than we usually do. Thank goodness for those extra calories I'm allowed since I'm nursing so often! :)

If you're looking for more menu planning inspiration, visit OrgJunkie. Come back next week for a summary of no spend month!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1 month old, almost 1 month late!

As my little big girl closes in on 2 months {{gasp}} I realized I never posted this 1 month photo of her with the bear I chose to document her growth. And always aiming to please, she threw in the first hint of a smile! Those that know me IRL are probably tired of hearing me say I'm amazed at how Sugar Plum can look so big and so little at the same time. This sleeper she's wearing is one of my favorites gifts that Sweetpea received when she was born (thanks, Julie!) and Sweetpea was able to wear it for at least 2 months...this was the last time I tried to stuff Sugar Plum into it, as her little legs were barely able to extend at this point. Yesterday at her 8 week checkup she was just shy of 12 pounds, more than 2lbs above where her big sister was at this early stage! I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I took this photo...does anyone else spend there days wondering how their babies got so big and seriously how it got to be nearly Thanksgiving when we just celebrated New Years?!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 19, 2009

My few minutes of fame

I was asked to showcase some family health related items on a local morning news show today. Sugar Plum and I were there bright an early with a friend of mine that came along to help (Thanks, Jayme!). We had fun and amazingly my nerves weren't too bad. Tomorrow it's back to reality in a big way, as I head back to work for a few days before they close our facility November 1.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The great pumpkin(s)

We made our first pumpkin patch trip of the season last week! There are several great pumpkin patches in our area, and we love them all. This one is the closest, so we usually end up visiting multiple times. Each year we've taken Sweetpea here for pictures. I love comparing the photos from each year to see how much she's grown, and I'm excited to start doing the same with Sugar Plum.
Sweetpea had fun wandering around looking at all the pumpkins. She wanted to take all of them home, but on this trip we were just buying gourds for our front windows. In addition to a sea of pumpkins, there are lots of fun displays to pose with!

For more Wordful Wednesday fun, stop over and see Angie at 7 clown circus.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 12, 2009

Frugal cooking, even with meat!

Week one of no spend month found us with $246.52 remaining in our budget. With some creative menu planning I cut our grocery budget by 35% last week, but we ate very well - I found some great frugal recipes and pulled out some old favorites. We've cut back on convenience snacks and Sweetpea and I are cooking snacks from scratch instead. This coming week I know we're going to spend more overall because we're going to need diapers - when I chose $300 for our monthly budget it was with the fact that we have 2 in diapers in mind. I do have $6.50 in coupons to use for each big box of diapers but it's still going to be a large portion of the months budget.

This week's grocery bill was almost identical to last weeks - $46 for our family of 4 (though one of us only drinks mama's milk, so I'm not sure she should count when it comes to groceries?). Here's what's on our menu this week:

Monday: steak stirfry and baked potatoes
Tuesday: tuna noodle casserole with green salads
Wednesday: baked spaghetti and garlic bread
Thursday: chicken tetrazzini and buttered peas
Friday: breakfast casserole and pancakes
Saturday: leftover buffet
Sunday: creamy sausage and potato bake

Here are some of the strategies I've been using to keep our food budget low - even though we're eating quite a bit of meat throughout the week:

- shop the reduced meat section - one of our markets has great reduced meats, some of the others I definitely stay away from. Find a market in your area that has good meat and determine the markdown schedule! I purchased the steaks we're eating tonight that way.

- plan your menu so you use ingredients in multiple meals - that way you use up all your ingredients and you can possibly buy larger containers at a lower price per unit. Tuna noodle casserole and chicken tetrazzini use several of the same ingredients. The ground chuck in our spaghetti bake also went into sloppy joes for lunches (on sale for $1.67/lb) Sausage was on sale and will be featured in both the breakfast casserole and the sausage potato bake.

- speaking of potatoes - stretch your meals with non meat "fillers" that add flavor and texture to your dishes, like potatoes, rice, or beans. I added black beans to our spaghetti bake, which might sound unappealing to some, but my daughter loves it and it adds fiber to the meal. The original recipe for Sunday's sausage bake didn't include potatoes, but they add a nice flavor and texture and increase the overall portion size.

What tricks do you use to stretch a buck when planning your menus?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Growing is hard work

How can she look so little and so big at the same time? Does what I just said make sense to anyone but me? ;)

Sugar Plum spent almost all day Monday sleeping...at first I thought I was going to be in for a really long night, but she even slept reasonably well overnight. Tuesday she used all that rest to stay up almost all day. What did she want to do all day? Eat - and I mean all.day.long. This girl is a serious milk connoisseur as it is, but when she hits a growth spurt, let me tell you, she can take it to a whole other level. What a fabulous excuse to put my feet up, snuggle into the couch with her and just soak in that baby love...in between playing in her kitchen and her new "store" (a huge cardboard box that quickly became her favorite toy) Sweetpea would climb up on the couch, put her head on my shoulder and pat Sugar Plum on the back while she was nursing. Can someone please tell me how to bottle this up so I can savor it over and over again?! Too bad we had someone here fixing our leaky well and someone else here not hooking up our new cable internet *sigh* It was a long, crazy day, but one that was filled with many sweet special moments along the way.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kid Friendly Cooking - pumpkin black bean soup!

I try and involve Sweetpea in the kitchen as much as possible - even when I think something isn't well suited for cooking with a toddler she begs to help, so I'm always thinking of ways she can help. I whole heartedly believe that kids are more adventurous eaters when they get involved in the cooking process. Sweetpea is so proud of herself and our meal when she helps - how could she not at least try something she helped create?

This particular recipe is perfectly suited for little hands. It's based off of Rachael Ray's recipe with a few adjustments.

  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (1/2 palmful)
  • 2 pinches ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, drained
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Mix all ingredients into a large pot. Transfer pot to the stove and cook over medium low for 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the beans and thicken the soup. To stretch the soup a little further, you could add another can of beans or a cup of cooked rice after blending the soup. This is great served with broken pieces of tortilla chips!

To follow the original recipe (found here) with your kids, saute the onion, garlic and chipotle in a pan on the stove and add the beer to let it cook down before starting with the remaining ingredients. Reduce the chicken broth to 3 cups. Let your little helper mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and then add it to the sauteed ingredients. This adds an extra bowl to clean, but it separates your child from the stove.

In addition to having fun, we're sneaking some learning in as well. Sweetpea practices her motor skills as she holds the measuring cups/spoons and dumps them into the pot and when she's mixing all the ingredients. We practice counting as we're adding ingredients and as we add more recipes to the rotation she's becoming familiar with a variety of foods and flavors.

Do you cook with your kids? I'd love to hear your suggestions and recipes!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 5, 2009

Budget Friendly Menu Planning

This is our first full week of menu planning during the No Spend Challenge, and just to make things more interesting, we have a leak in our well. Nothing like trying to do your normal day to day activities with limited or no water. Yesterday I cooked three of our meals, so I'm hoping we can stick to the menu and that everything is fixed by mid week.

Monday: Beef Stroganoff and mashed potatoes
Tuesday: Sweet and sour chicken over rice, buttered peas and carrots
Wednesday: Carribean chicken stirfry over rice, lettuce salad
Thursday: Pumpkin black bean soup over rice, corn bread
Friday: Pulled pork with mashed potatoes and rolls
Saturday: Leftover buffet
Sunday: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans and lettuce salad

For more menu planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy Happy Day Cake

Do you need a reason to make cake? I am a big believer of cake for no reason, but if I had to come up with one, I guess it would be because I had several of the box cake mixes in the pantry and thought it was about time to use one.

Sweetpea was more than happy to sit on the counter and help me mix everything together (when she is helping we mix by hand) and pour the batter into our baking dishes. While the cake was baking she suggested (multiple times!) that we put sprinkles on the cake. She loved shaking the container to get just the right distribution of sprinkles across the cake. Then she insisted on candles - why not? Just for good measure, she thought we should sing happy birthday to everyone in the family...while none of us was having a birthday, it certainly made for a happy day and a funny memory!

Stumble Upon Toolbar