Wednesday, March 26, 2014

~ Chocolate Cake with Surprise Buttercream Icing Pockets ~

 Yum!!  This cake is just pure fun and pleasure, and very simple!  Again, I simply baked a boxed chocolate cake mix according to package directions except I always substitute applesauce for the oil in equal proportions.  It turns out much moister this way.  (And in a very small way, negates just a bit the buttercream icing!)

I baked this cake for my family in a large baking dish, about 12x15 inches, and let it cool.  I then placed some buttercream icing in a pastry decorating bag with the star tip and simple inserted the tip into the cake to almost the depth of the cake.  It's really just to the end of where the decorating tip meets the bag, this is single layer cake, so that worked well.  I tried to make evenly spaced rows of icing, but like my Mom used to say when I was planting rows of veggies in the garden...I can't make a straight row!!  This too, will be iced so I think the surprise of pockets of icing in the cake will make up for my crooked rows!

My kids are chocoholics, so I added a light drizzle of Hershey's Syrup directly over the cake.

I used the star tip to ice the cake also, in long zig zag rows to cover the cake, and drizzled more Hershey's Syrup at my daughter's request on top to give it a finished look.  This cake is awesome...first, very moist with a couple nice levels of chocolate taste to satisfy my chocoholic family, and is very pretty, an very simple to make.  Again, an easy and quick dessert that looks like it was harder than it was.  This was so easy, and so simple, there's not much reason to buy a store bought cake!!

Enjoy!!  'Til next time...have a great day!  :)

~ How to make a White Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb and Strawberry Garnish Easy and Simple ~

 Alright, cake decorating is a hobby of mine, I truly enjoy it, and it doesn't have to be complicated!  My brother-in-law just celebrated a birthday, and he loves strawberry-rhubarb pie, which I forgot and didn't have fresh rhubarb on hand to make the pie, so I came up with this White Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce instead.  It was easy to make, from a boxed mix...yes, boxed mix, and so pretty. 

Here's step by step instructions on how to I put it together.

First, I baked the cake according to the package instructions, but I always substitute applesauce for the oil the recipe calls for in equal proportions.  On a white or yellow cake, I will sometimes add canned or frozen pumpkin instead, and is actually one of my daughter's favorite cakes ~ pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, but with this one, I used the applesauce.

 After the cake was cooled, I sliced it half horizontally, and poked some small holes with the end of a small dowel rod, you can use the end of a thin wooden spoon too, you just want to make some holes so the sauce can creep down into the cake.  Spread strawberry-rhubarb sauce over the entire bottom half of the cake, and it will look like this.  I used a bought version from Tastefully Simple, but I planted rhubarb last year, so I should be able to make and preserve my own sauce this year.  (That is a story all in of itself!)

 I placed the top half of the cake back in the pan while I iced the bottom layer.

I added vanilla buttercream icing over top of the strawberry-rhubarb sauce and iced to just a bit over the edges.  This makes it much easier to ice the outside of the cake later.

I then placed the top of the cake over the bottom iced layer.  Now, this is where I keep it real, because these things happen...the top layer broke apart as I transferred it from the biggie...I'm icing the top layer, so I just pieced it back together.  This cake is very moist...a perk of the applesauce.  The icing covers this up, and I'm going to guess my brother-in-law didn't even realize it had cracked apart!  Again, no biggie, this is life, and there is no reason to waste an entire layer of cake when something like this happens!!

Once the top is iced, it will look something like this.  This is a great icing technique for a beginner because it is simply a swirl pattern.  You can use the back of a spoon to make the swirls and peaks, or simply the edge of the spatula used to apply the icing to the cake.  See, you can't even tell the top layer split apart, icing fixes everything!!

This step was both fun and easy.  I simply took about one tablespoon of the strawberry-rhubarb sauce and about one tablespoon of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup and warmed it until it had a nice consistency that would pour from a spoon.  This is a very sweet and rich tasting sauce, so you don't need much, since the cake is already sweet.

Apply the glaze over the cake, make sure the glaze is only warm, not hot, so the buttercream icing doesn't melt!  It will look something like this, don't worry about it being symmetrical on the cake, just so the glaze looks overall even, it doesn't have to be perfect.

This is where I garnished with strawberries.  I wanted the garnish to be symmetrical here, so I cut one large strawberry into wedges, I was able to make eight wedges out of this one, it was a huge strawberry!  Anyway, place them atop the cake in a symmetrical pattern...the garnish will end up balancing out the cake since the glaze was just drizzled on.

Take a look at your cake after the first strawberry garnishes are in place, and then decide how you want to fill out the cake.  It doesn't have to be like I have chosen, just follow your eye and add the garnishes to what pleases your eye!  I decided to add just four more wedges in between the first four, and the cake ended up looking like this.

It's beautiful!!  It's the strawberry-rhubarb that he loves, and even though it's not the pie he loves, this will satisfy his sweet tooth until I get rhubarb from my garden!  Also, a footed cake plate can make all the difference in presentation for a cake or dessert, and can be found at springtime estate and garage sales and thrift stores for a fraction of what they cost in a discount or department store.

See, this is a GORGEOUS  cake, and it was so easy to make and put together, really, once the cake baked and cooled, and the buttercream icing was made, it took about twenty minutes to decorate this baby.  That's it...quick and simple, and anyone can present this cake to their friends and family and save a ton of money in the process.

This was such a pretty cake, I made a chocolate cake for my family just to be certain there wouldn't be and icing missing and not so mysterious finger prints in my brother-in-laws cake!!

'Till next time....Have a great day!!  :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

~ What Exactly is it to Garden Organically? ~

Well, I have to honest and upfront first and foremost...I have been an organic gardener for as long as I can remember.  My Mom especially was an avid gardener of anything she could get seeds or plants to grow, and my Dad was more of a substance gardener...gardening to eat, potatoes and corn specifically, my Mom would and did grow anything, vegetable or flower.

One of my favorite sights...corn tasseling.

 Organic gardening...gardening without the use of synthetic herbicides or pesticides.  It's not as difficult as some make it.  Now, I have no formal degrees or certifications, I simply have lifelong knowledge of what I was taught by many 'mentors', and by what works for me.  It doesn't take a lot of money, and sometimes, well often, I think that organic gardening was born out of necessity.  Necessity years and years ago by people of native lands using what was immediately available to them, and now in modern times by people who either have to or want to use what is immediately available to them.  This can range from anything organic that can enrich soil, protect plant life by adding nutrition as it breaks down and moisture and insulation to their roots.  I use what's available to me...newspaper, cardboard, hay, straw, discarded weeds, kitchen scraps...yes, kitchen scraps can be added directly to the garden and it will compost throughout the growing season, and act as mulch at the same time. 

Brussels's them or hate them.  I love them!!

I don't think a weed free garden is a good thing anyway.  Certain pest bugs feed on weeds like burdock and other weeds, plus these weeds are usually native to their specific area, and wildlife depends on these weeds for food or shelter, so not all weeds are bad, just usually in a bad place when we plant our gardens.  I've never had a weed free garden...not for lack of desire, but because they are just so resilient!   I have learned over the years to be more tolerant of certain weeds, and that some weeds are edible.  Dandelions anyone?  I just read a teaser on our internet home page about how dandelion beverages are making a comeback!  that strikes me as funny, because I have always know people who love to make Dandelion wine!  The entire plant is edible.  I'm pretty sure that dandelions will populate the earth long after humans are gone, and that's just one nuisance weed!  So weeds are a bad thing next to your tomatoes and lettuce, but at the perimeter of the garden, or away from it a bit, they serve a valuable purpose.

Cockscomb of my favorite flowers and one of the easiest to grow!

I plant both vegetables and flowers interchangeably.  They often benefit each other, plus they look pretty, not to mention the pollinator's they attract right to your garden, and your plants that depend on those insects!  Several flower varieties either attract pests, such as nasturtiums attracting aphids, and marigolds and mints deterring many pests by masking the scent of desirable plants, or simply by being unappealing to them.  I personally love the scent of marigolds!

This apple tree was planted by my mom when  I was a kid, and now my kids harvest the apples!

Organic gardening can come in many shapes and sizes too.  Fruit and nut trees are often grown along tree lines, and abundant wild berry bushes, at least around here, and can be harvested by humans and animals alike.  Another thing about gardening organically, or living on an organic farm, be prepared to share with nature.  It's bound to happen anyway, so making it a more pleasant experience for all involved is best.  Now they can't devour your entire crop, but native animals are just as crucial to an ecosystem as plants.  Animals eat and scatter seeds and the loot they leave lying uneaten, either gets eaten by another animal or insect, or acts as a fertilizer where it was left, or new plants sprout.  I personally enjoy watching wildlife, so the thought of trying to completely keep them away is counterproductive to me.  If a food source, such as an apple tree and wild berry bushes are planted far enough away from the garden, most critters would prefer to feed away from humans anyway!

Flowers grow harmoniously in my garden along with vegetables.  Here sunflowers are dual task, they are beautiful to look at, plus great at attracting bees and butterflies to pollinate other plants, and birds to eat and spread the sunflower seeds.  The birds eat slugs and garden pests too!

So in a nutshell, it's not hard to garden organically, it just requires the desire to do so.  Once the desire is there, it's possible.  Once the understanding is there that gardening this way is time consuming, it shifts from being a task to being a thing of leisure.  It's best to start gardening small.  Plant what you will be certain to eat first.  Once you have success at what you will eat, think about something you like to eat and consider growing that.  For instance, most people don't have any idea of how much goes into planting and harvesting broccoli or cauliflower, it can take a few trys to get it right, so don't get discouraged.  Don't overwhelm yourself, if you do, you'll never get the part of gardening that is leisure instead of a task. And doing things for leisure is a lot more fun that task oriented work!   It's still work, but all good things require work.  The reward is wonderful, healthy food to enjoy by family and friends.

I'll post more on specific areas of organic gardening, but is there something specific you would like to know? If I have an answer or solution, I'd be happy to share my experiences!  None of us know everything, so gardening and farming is a community task sometimes, we rely on the knowledge of many for our successes!

'Til next time, have a great day!  :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

~ How Do YOU Save? ~

Okay...First, I'm showing all of the photos on this post in the 'xlarge' option because it's cold outside, and it's February 12th, and at least in Pennsylvania, winter should be letting go of it's tight grip by now, but that hasn't happened yet, so, extra large summery pictures to tie in with 'How do you save'! I'l touch on a few things I do at the farm in this post to save money and put healthy food on our table.  In future posts, I'll focus on specific money saving tips and ways I've found to stretch a dollar, but this post is a 'memory post', something to look forward to in the months to come!

Cosmos growing my my garden at our family farm.

This might be one of my biggest long term goals:getting myself back to the country full time!  I grew up on this farm, and love it, country life is in my blood.  In order to make this possible, I have to get very serious about saving money and paying down debt, and make a lifestyle of frugal living.  That will involve several steps, and I think sometimes that can seem overwhelming, but taken one at a time, with a short term AND long term goal in mind I think will help to keep me focused.  The short term goal to set up and achieve to have small successes along the way to keep my focused and going and moving towards my long term goals.

These are 'Ruth's Perfect' heirloom tomatoes from my garden.  They are a beautifully, almost perfectly round slicing tomato is both delicious and a good keeper.  A very good choice for the garden.  I ordered this variety because it shares my Mom's name.

Growing a lot of the food my family eats in my garden, preserving and freezing enough to last through the winter is both short and long term success.  It's actually a lifestyle, much like some of the other things I'll learn as I strive for financial health that is easy for me since I've gardened all of my life.  Just like gardening, discipline with spending, spending responsibly, and the wonderful habit of saving will become my lifestyle too.  They will be automatic, and I look forward to that so much!

Mason jars that I use for canning...some very old, some new.  All contain fresh garden goodness from my garden!

I love mason jars as much as the contents I fill them with!  I have mason jars that were my Mom's and the other ladies of the house at our family farm.  When we moved in in the mid 1970's, there were many jars on the shelves in the basement.  I still use them today, holding them is like reconnecting with the former ladies of the house, who amazingly we were in close contact with until their deaths years ago, those ladies taught me so much.  A farm wife is a frugal and resourceful woman. Mason jars can be found pretty easily at garage and estate sales, for a cheaper price than the grocery stores or online.  Some great deals are to be found at those places, but I have the best luck on Saturdays while wandering around!  Actually, this Saturday, my Valentine's Day gift will be heading to an auction near here that is advertising 30 dozen canning jars!  My kind of present!!

You can put all sorts of things in a canning jar too.  The apples pictured above are from trees my Mom planted years ago and were almost forgotten. While my Mom was alive, most of my time was focused on her care and taking care of my kids, since her death, I have been able to visit and in the process of resurrecting these wonderful trees!  After all these years, they still produce wonderful and delicious apples!  We made 10 pints of applesauce this past fall, my first attempt, and it was a huge success!  Homemade applesauce is wonderful, and I control how much sugar is added...if any!  We ended up with delicious sweet/tart applesauce.  We'll double our canning goal for this year too.  I use applesauce not just for snacking, but we add an equal amount in place of oil in cakes and quick breads...less fat, healthier option, and a fraction of the cost of oil.  The taste is wonderful too, you'll never know the difference, except that your cake will be more moist!

I don't really have any reason for showing this picture above, except that it's green and lush!  This is the view of the woods behind our house from the backyard.  It's wonderfully peaceful back here any time of day, but the sun hits a special way in the late afternoon.  That's a good time to reflect on my day, to figure out what  I accomplished, and what the next day holds.  I guess it's a good thinking spot for assessing short term goals. This is how I relax and think the best.  I guess to keep a clear mind is crucial in keeping goals and keeping discipline in order.  So make a point of finding time to relax.  That's sometimes the best time to think and assess how your life plan is going, taking time to breathe, allow your mind and body to rest, can do a world of good for you and those around you too.  I already feel relaxed just looking at this picture and imagining myself sitting on the swing listening to the birds in the trees.  Ahhhhh.  :)

'Til next time...have a wonderful day, dream of the future, and your place in it.  :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

~ Weekly Grocery Shopping Trip Totals ~

 So this is real life.  I'm trying to make the most of my household budget.  I'm already a pretty thrifty shopper, so sometimes I wonder where on earth am I going to cut back to make my family's hard earned dollars stretch farther?  That's where taking a picture of what I'm buying will help, with any luck.  We all buy unnecessary stuff.  We all buy things we should have passed on, and should quit all together, I guess that's were being totally honest with your spending and keeping things in balance comes into play.  I hope I can get better!

First off, this picture is from two weeks ago, the week BEFORE Superbowl Sunday, the deals were pretty good.  The week of the Superbowl, not so much... didn't really buy much last week and my hubby and kids put the groceries away immediately mostly since it was perishables, so I didn't get a picture, but it was mostly meat from our local packing house which is always a great buy!  I don't always feel as though I'm saving $$/lb. there, but the quality is unmatched, and it's local beef, pork, and chicken, and bought from a small business. And I'm buying a larger quantity of meat, often times two or three months worth.   Their prices are still much cheaper than the grocery store though, so buying quality meat in bulk is a good deal for me.

Now, two weeks ago, there was a pretty good deal on boneless center cut pork loins at our local grocery store, Giant Eagle, $2/lb., and I had them cut a smaller loin into all chops.  Aldi had the $5 off hams again, and still had some of the hams at about 10 lbs., so I picked up two more for the freezer, ham can last for months, so I'm not worried at all about this purchase, and at about 50 cents/lb. for ham, that I will slice for sandwiches and omelets...I can't go wrong there when deli ham is usually about $5/lb. on average!  Aldi also always has a good price on frozen ground beef and pepperoni for our homemade pizzas.  Homemade pizza can't be beat, and is SO much cheaper than buying or ordering take out!

When I get home from making a bulk purchase, I package into smaller portions immediately if possible, it's so much easier that way.  You can see from the picture will all of my purchases, I bought freezer bags for obvious reasons!  We typically eat about five pork chops for our family of four, so that's how I package them.  It's wonderful to be able to pull out just enough for a meal.  I don't mind leftovers at all, but my hubby seems to have an aversion to leftovers for dinner since sometimes he takes leftovers for lunch, so I try to plan on no leftovers if possible on meat unless it's planned.  Even then it doesn't work out so great because my hubby has considered a NY Strip steak a 'snack' at 10 pm before!  Crazy, but making just enough saves me money in the long run!

My deal of the week!!  Our local Giant Eagle had Sunbelt Bakery Granola Bars on sale for $2.50/box.  I had three 75 cents off coupons, so doubled, I got $1.50 off each box!!  These also happen to be my family's favorite store bought granola bars so getting them for $1/box was like hitting the jackpot!!  Great, and going into the 3rd week, we still have about four granola bars left!  They are huge in this house; soccer, snack for my kids to eat going to or from school, they throw one in their book bags, my hubby loves the fudge dipped coconut bars for his snack at work!

And it was a huge week for coupons!  I had coupons for the Dial Soap (we buy the glycerin bars, they don't leave that soap scum behind like regular bars), Swiss Miss which my youngest daughter is addicted, the Sunbelt Granola Bars, the Knorr Pasta Sides (which I buy for my brothers), the Wishbone Italian Dressings, and a few more...all doubled!!  And being the end of January, start of February, I feel the pressure of Old Man Winter like anyone else.  I try and try and try to keep up with muck, mud, and ice from getting into the house, but it gets the best of me sometimes!  I use a regular mop and small towels on the end of my Swiffer to keep up with the mess on our hardwood and tile floors, but sometimes I need sanity, and break down and use the convenience of a Swiffer type cloth, this one is from Bottom Dollar, and costs about $1 less than Swiffer's do.  I usually use a water/vinegar/ammonia/essential oil solution for the tile floors, and a water/essential oil solution for the hardwood, but this time of year, sometimes I need some sanity too.  :)  And of course...the cat needs to eat!

So I have to pull out my receipts from two weeks ago for my totals, and I will, but I did manage to keep close to my $100 mark.  This included five gallons of milk for the week...we went over and bought seven...I know...lots of milk is consumed in this house!!  Healthy bones!!

Till next time...have a great day!!  :)

Friday, January 17, 2014

~Weekly Shopping Travels ~

Okay!  Here it is, my weekly shopping trip for household groceries for January 16th!!  

My goal is to keep the groceries/basic household items at or under $100/week for our family of four, and I help out two of my brothers who need a bit of help making ends meet, so I do buy things in mind for them sometimes.  It's an ambitious goal, but over the course of the year, I think I can do this.  I typically buy beef, pork, and chicken in bulk at our local packing house, but sometimes run out before I get back out there for another order, or sometimes I find a great deal that it hard to justify passing up, that usually happens after a holiday.

This is what I bought yesterday for our weekly groceries.  Everything on this table cost a total of $114.75.  That was a pretty big success for me, because I bought some typically more expensive non food items this week, and a few 'treats for the family to keep them in line with my strict grocery budget'!  I was able to get the Purina One dog food, 16 lbs. for $16.99, typically it's almost $21.00/bag.  It was on special and I had a competitor's coupon for another $2.00 off.  Now the big thing here is that I got lucky, this store is not going to accept competitor coupons after January 21st, and the coupon didn't scan, and the cashier told me they would only accept coupons that scanned, but luckily, I called first to make sure they would take the coupon, then told the cashier and they had to override the system to accept the coupon, BUT, even though they accept the competitor's coupons until next week, they already had it out of their system!  ALWAYS SPEAK UP, MOST STORES ARE COUNTING ON YOU NOT ASKING QUESTIONS OUT OF FEAR OF BEING WRONG OR EMBARRASSMENT! But don't be, ask, it saved me $2.00 and the frustration of going back next month with a coupon they won't accept any longer!  I also got a much needed covered garbage can for the bathroom for $8.99 and some Loreal hair color for $3.99 with my $3.00 off coupon!  (Sometimes WE need to feel good too, and I got the better hair color for the price of the hair color that typically will do funny things to your hair!)  :)  Coupons also were used for the dish soap.  That empty crumpled baggie in the center of the pic is from a jalapeno/cheddar bagel I bought for 89 cents...not smart, but I forgot to eat and this was the first stop of three stores I was shopping at, so it prevented me from eating something more stupid and expensive later!

Deal of the day!!  I was thinking of buying a ham from the first store, Giant Eagle, but decided against it because it was a whole ham and we don't eat a lot of ham, so I thought I could save that 99 cents/lb. for something else.  Another thing I always do while shopping is LOOK FOR UNADVERTISED SPECIALS IN THE STORE!  As I mentioned above, sometimes certain meats or seasonal items will be drastically reduced after a holiday.  At Aldi, one of my favorite stores to shop at, I always look for their tags that just simply say 'Manager's Special' usually with a red tag. As I was walking past a freezer, I spotted the ham and the $5.00 off sticker!  I bought two for just under $10.00.  That was an exciting buy, because I put one in the freezer as soon as I got home, and the other I've cooked and already sliced for sandwiches, maybe some ham barbecue, and saved the bones for some split pea soup I'll make on Sunday or Monday!  I'll freeze most of the sliced ham too, I've found that it defrosts quite nicely!

Now, none of the stores around here offer the 'bring your own bag' discount anymore, it used to be 2-5 cents, depending on the store, but that nice little reward for not wasting plastic has gone away, but I love my shopping totes!  Totes in general, they can be used for almost carrying anything, not just groceries!  I haven't been to Joshua Tree National Park (in California), but my daughter and son in law have.  They have a lifetime goal to visit every National Park, and currently live out west, so they are getting a bunch off their list!  A perk for me is that they buy me a bag at most of the parks they visit!  I also have one from Yellowstone, and two from the Grand Canyon. One I got myself when we visited last year...awesome place, but that's another post!

My tally:  Total spent: $114.75
               Food:        82.00 (I still have enough to buy five more gallons of milk for the week)
               Non-food: 36.75
               Gas:           75.00 ~ so far, I'll probably have to add another $25. (I decided to keep track of this too, since gas prices are crazy.  This will help me stay on track with the cost of driving too!)
'Til next time, have a great day!!  :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Weekly Shopping List ~ Scanning Through the Weekly Ads

My main resolution/goal for 2014 is to become financially healthy, and that is a big task that will require big commitment on my part.  I have always shopped the weekly ads looking for specials, but have often wandered and bought unnecessary or items that weren't on sale several times.  It usually has to do with family impulses!  I have to be on a mission to keep the rest of the family on board, and sometimes that will require me to buy things I might not have bought otherwise, but I will check for sales on their 'treat' items, and when I can buy them in bulk, I need to find a better hiding place!  I'll explain why further in the post ~ you'll spot the 'treat' items right away!!

Every Tuesday, we get the sales circulars in the mail, usually along with the coupon pack just like the ones that are in the Sunday paper.  I usually look through the new coupons before I check out the sales for the week.  I have three major stores I look at each week, they are Aldi, Bottom Dollar, and our local grocery store chain, Giant Eagle.  Here's what I'm looking at buying this week:

Aldi has a very nice produce section which I utilize in the winter and non-gardening months.  During the growing season, I grow most of my own veggies.  Anyway, Aldi has nice and very affordable produce.  I like that the handling is minimal too.  this week I'll be buying some pineapple to make some pineapple jam, grapefruit, bananas, and the organic spring mix lettuce mix, it comes in a plastic container which keeps the tender lettuces and swiss chards from bruising and being crushed, that's a big plus in decreasing waste of food, and the container can be either used for another purpose or recycled.

I've needed this for a long time, we adopted a dog from the Humane Society last year who loves to dig in the rubbish!  I've checked out small lidded garbage cans and the cheapest I could find was for $13.96 and it seemed, well, very cheap.  I  like the $8.99 price here, and they have an amazing buyer I'm guessing who can buy quality items at a great price.  It's non food, but a necessary item for this house!

  On to Giant Eagle, our grocery store chain. There prices are higher overall, so I sale shop with coupons there.  This week is Uncle Ben's Ready Rice.  I have a coupon for $1.00 off on 4 packages, and I like to keep some of the brown, wild grain and brown, or Santa Fe brown rice on hand for days when I suddenly realize I need a side dish in 5 minutes!  I tend to forget about side dishes sometimes, and with gardening season coming up in a couple of months, I'll need to prepare meals fast!  I usually buy the bulk brown rice, but we all forget sometimes, and there's no super quick way to cook brown rice, so this is a stock up item.  I'll probably buy 10 packages since the usual price, even at Walmart is $1.74.

Dog food!  I almost usually feed our two dogs Purina One dog food since years ago, my old Sadie girl dog had allergies to the food dyes and artificial flavors in the cheaper and colorful food, and we didn't know that for years, so now, I play it safe.  The usual price for this dog food is almost $21 for the 16 lb. bag, it's on sale this week for $18.99 AND I have a competitors coupon for $2 off!!  Yay, Giant Eagle accepts competitor coupons, so I'll get it for $16.99!!

We use Ken's Chunky Blue Cheese salad dressing for our homemade wings and for buffalo chicken dip, so when I have a coupon, I'll stock up on some of the blue cheese or the Aged Romano Italian.  I have a $1 off on 2, so I'll get  them for $1 each.

I like to buy produce in season, and oranges are a good price right now.  I'll buy these if they look good.  I'm a very picky produce buyer, that comes from growing up on a farm and knowing what really fresh food looks and tastes like!  (I've embarrassed friends who have shopped with me before by inspecting each and every fruit or veggie item I buy, but I pay good money for it, so why not?!?)

 Now on to Bottom Dollar, they also have a very nice produce section where they don't 'display' fruits or veggies, but leave them in the boxes/crates so they are usually not over handled or bruised  They usually have good buys on onions and potatoes, but I have plenty of local potatoes I bought at our local ag. auction this week, so I'll pick up some onions for 98 cents/3 lbs.  We use onions in so many things around here, I never have enough

And to impulse items to keep the family feeling special and loved!   We usually make our own cookies and cakes for snacks and desserts, but every once in a while, I'll buy Oreo's or Cheez It's.  This week the Oreo's are on sale with a limit of 4 per person/per day.  I'll buy 4 packages IF I can find a good hiding spot at home, otherwise, my family can smell them and will hunt the pantry!  It's crazy how my kids and hubby can go crazy over a store bought cookie when I am a good baker, and my kids like to bake too, but they do!!
It's always like they hit the jackpot when the come home to find a package of Oreo's in the cupboard!

So that's it for the week.  I try to buy sale items, so I will add staple items that aren't on 'sale' usually from Aldi, or from a specialty store that carries the whole grain flours and bulk spices, that sort of thing.  I also buy meat in bulk at our local packing house where I get locally raised beef, pork, and chicken at a great price and get great service and support local farmers and this small business at the same time!  My grocery shopping list may seem a little 'mish mash', but since I like to shop the deals of the week, I'm able to stock up on other items that make a meal come together.  Even including the bathroom rubbish can and the dog food, and the family splurge items that I have to hide, I'll keep our weekly list at our under $100 for a family of four.  That still seems like too much, being that I want to save $$$.  I guess it's a balancing act between being frugal, and the rest of the family not feeling neglected.  My hope is that once they see money saved, it will become easier for them to willingly participate in saving every where we can!!  What do you think?  Does your family pitch in to save the family budget, or is it a hassle? Do you have to hide away snack foods so they aren't all gone in a week?!?  Till next time, have a great day!!  :)