Friday, October 30, 2009

Shopping trip

Had to make a shopping trip for our Halloween Festivities...okay so the only essential was fresh milk to feed our Seminary class.

Fred Meyer

Gallon Milk $2.99
Cups $1.69
Whole Chicken $5.00 ($.79/lb)
(5) Kidney beans canned $.99 ea. - 3 for $2 store coupon = $.67 ea*
(4) Black beans canned $.99 ea. - 3 for $2 store coupon = $.67 ea*
Kashi Cereal (reg $5.79) sale 4.99 - 40% store coupon - $2 sample coupon = $.99
All Bran Cereal sale $3.50 - $1 store coupon - $2 sample coupon = $.50
Always Infinity sale 4.39 - free coupon = free

Total 18.45

I decided to use the cereal coupons, since I knew that the kids at Seminary wouldn't drink the whole gallon of milk during class. It'll be a real treat to have cold cereal.

I'll have to see what kind of a menu I can come up with based off this shopping...

*This is the best deal they've had this fall on canned beans. Anyone else notice this?

The cashiers have started saying, "good job" to me. That's sort of gratifying.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hot Food Stamp News: Costco to accept Food Stamps

I spotted this headline in the Seattle Times here which I thought was appropriate for the final days of the food stamp challenge.

Apparently Costco will begin accepting food stamps in at least half their stores by Thanksgiving.

Previously Costco said they didn't think their customers were using food stamps and didn't want to invest in the equipment to process food stamps.

The change in policy resulted from 1) opening a Costco store in East Harlem, 2) pressure from politicians representing Queens and Brooklyn AND 3) the general state of the economny (a 30% jump in food stamp usage in WA state alone).

Monday, October 26, 2009

I won: Little Debbie Cupcakes Giveaway

I'm so excited! Little Debbie was giving away 1 million boxes of cupcakes. I just got an email that they're sending me a coupon for a free box.

Thanks Little Debbie!

Weekly Menu Oct 24 - Oct 30

Banana Muffins
Eggs on toast
Oatmeal, banana
Pancakes or waffles
Breakfast burritos

Leftovers from dinner
PB and Jelly sandwich

Taco Salad
Spaghetti, green salad, toast
Beef enchiladas, rice, beans
Chicken and Rice, frozen vegetables
Beef Stroganoff, frozen vegetables
Dinner at Friends’ house

Shopping list
Sour cream
Herbal tea
(2) bagged salad
Grape Tomatoes
Tortilla Chips
5 dozen eggs
Halloween Candy

Total (with tax) $41.57

Additional Pretend Shopping
Baby carrots
Canned black beans
Black olives
Pasta sauce
Enchiladas sauce pouch
Peanut butter
Parmesan cheese
Brownie mix
12 lb ground beef (stock up)

Total (with tax): $48.76
Total groceries: $90.33

This was a better shopping week. I was able to find sales on apples, pears and Halloween candy (and pretended for bread, carrots, peanut butter, jam, and ground beef). The herbal tea was on sale for $3.00 + it had a $1.00 peel coupon. The bagged salad and tomatoes were reduced for quick sale.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Food Stamp Review: Mr. X

One of my reservations with joining the Food Stamp Challenge was getting Mr. X to agree to it. He's not a fan of online projects, or creative shopping so I wasn't expecting his support. Imagine my pleasure when he called me yesterday:

"I just called to ask if we could have chicken pot pie every day. Thanks for lunch, it was really good."

Or how about on Wednesday. We got home from work and he asked, "What's for dinner?" Then raised his hands and shouted, "Halleluah!" when I said, "Grilled Cheese."

We're eating well, though I'm looking forward to "buying" some ground beef on Saturday. One of the challenges I've had is snacks. I didn't buy much of anything for snacking. Last night I mixed up some oatmeal cookies for a treat. Mr. X asked for chocolate chips and didn't argue when I said I didn't have any even though he knew there were two full Costco bags in the cupboard!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cheese and Spinach Quiche

One of our favorite meatless meals is Cheese and Spinach Quiche. I just use a basic quiche recipe and throw in spinach.

Step: 1 Make a pie crust. You can use what ever recipe you like for this. I prefer one with shortening but you can also use this recipe from

Prick the pie crust with a fork, and bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Step 2: the quiche filling
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour

Mix together the eggs, milk, onion, salt. Next fold in 1/2 cup cheese.

Step 3 Spinach:
Defrost spinach, chop. Stir in to spinach to milk/egg/cheese mixture and pour into hot pie crust.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 35 - 45 minutes. Serve warm. YUM!

Tip for Make ahead: You'll notice that my spinach is frozen in ziplocks. I buy fresh spinach when it's on sale. We eat all we can, and then I blanch and freeze the rest to use for quiche, dips, etc.

One of the nice things about quiche is that it freezes well. Rather than freeze the pie in the pan, when the quiche is fully cooled, I carefully peel the pie out of the pan and slide into a gallon sized zip lock. I then can just stick the quiche in the freezer for a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tip: Mini-Cooking Day

Since our schedule this fall takes us away from home for 11 hours Monday – Friday (5:40 am – 4:40 pm), I’ve started having a mini-cooking day each week. Depending on what’s on the menu for the week, this may be Saturday or Monday evening.

Typically, I cook up the meat needed for the week. I’ll also get any rice/millet ready to go. These items are either refrigerated or refrozen until needed later in the week. Pre-cooking saves us valuable time in the evening, because we just need to reheat the base items, and prepare a vegetable/fruit.

Once a month or so, I have a baking day in which I make up the breakfast muffins, breakfast burritos, pizza dough, cookies, etc. that we enjoy having on hand.

No One Cares More about Your Retirement Than You Do

Check out this great retirement post by Robert Brokamp of the Motley Fool. The post is at Get Rich Slowly.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

National Save for Retirement Week Oct 18 - 25

Don’t forget this is National Save for Retirement Week. Do something this week to celebrate! Some ideas:

  • Check your pay stub to see what, if any, is being put aside for retirement
  • Find out what your plan options are and if there have been any changes since last year. Determine whether you should make a change for 2010.
  • Pull out your latest plan statement and see where you are.
  • Read a book about personal finance, preferably one which includes a section on retirement investing.
  • Find out if your employer is offering any retirement/investment education this week (Alaska PERS/TRS is. Find out what’s available here)

Before anyone says, “But I’m a SAHM,” remember that 80% of women outlive their husbands – make sure you know what YOUR retirement will look like.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Alaska Day!

Thank heavens for Alaska Day. We had the day off work, and I made a quick trip to Fred Meyer to grab the $.79 Colgate and $.79 Speed Stick deodorant. Typically, I snag coupons and the store flyer from the Sunday ADN at the front desk of my office Tuesday morning.

Monday mornings I look at the Fred Meyer Flyer online and make a preliminary shopping list. There are a few good deals for me this week:
Ground Beef $1.88/lb
Baby Carrots $0.68/lb bag
Bread/PB/Jam $1.25
Apples or Pears $0.98/lb

On Saturday I’ll have my list, take inventory of my kitchen, and be ready to create my meal plan for the following week. So ‘til Saturday…

Weekly Menu Oct 17 - Oct 24

Banana Muffins
Eggs on toast
Oatmeal, banana

Leftovers from dinner
Egg Salad Sandwich

Homemade Cheese Pizza, green salad
Homemade Chili, muffins, sliced apples
Grilled Cheese Sandwich, tomato soup, sliced apple
Chicken pot pie (biscuit top)
Rice & Millet, green salad
Cheese & Spinach Quiche
Leftover Buffet

I assumed was working with a nearly empty pantry. I (pretended to) stock up on these items:
Baking powder
Powdered milk (we use powdered unless we are hosting guests)
Whole chicken (use 1/3 to make pot pie)

I was disappointed with the shopping on Saturday; total bust. Unfortunately, the sales were lousy and the items that happened to be on sale weren’t what we keep stocked at home. The only items I actually bought were cheese and bananas (plus some nonfood items).

You may notice that our menu is heavy on cheese this week, which was NOT cheap at Fred Meyer. Dh (hereafter referred to as Mr. X) requested that I buy cheese as we haven’t had it in the house for the last month. We bought the cheese are Costco because it’s about half the price of Fred Meyer.

(Pretend) Shopping List:
Bananas Canned tomatoes
Flour Chili mix
Sugar 1 yellow onion
Baking Powder 4 apples
18 eggs Old Fashioned Oatmeal
Powdered Milk Tomato soup
Cheese Whole chicken
Yeast Frozen mixed veggies
Tomato paste Rice
Bagged salad Millet
Bread Frozen spinach
1lb beef Kidney beans

Grocery shopping: $54.62
MFP voucher: $22.83
Total Groceries: $77.45

Friday, October 16, 2009

Alaska Food Stamp Challenge

The Food Bank of Alaska held a week long Food Stamp Challenge last month. These challenges have picked up steam over the last few years as they moved around the country, encouraging law makers to attempt to live on food stamps for one week.

Inspired by Jessica's Food Stamp Challenge at www., I've decided to join in for the two week experience. I will not, however, be following all the rules.

After consulting with my husband, we determined that we would use our stockpile for staples such as flour and rice, but provide prices as if we had purchased the items during that week. This will likely mean that we will not be getting the best "bang for our buck", but hopefully, I can create a menu plan that is consistent with sales. Additionally, I menu plan and shop for the week on Saturdays, so I will begin the challenge Oct 17th, rather than on the October 19th start date. I will provide three weeks worth of menus and deals to compensate for this difference.

Like Jessica, "my goal is to try to inspire Alaskans to learn new ways to save on groceries and thus become more self-reliant". The point of this exercise is not to judge or shame my neighbors who currently find themselves needing public assistance, and I will not support a forum which debates public assistance policies. Also, I'd like to show that a little bit of effort can help. One doesn't have to become a coupon queen or gourmet chef to provide quality, tasty meals to their family while on a budget.

I hope by entering the challenge to offer the perspective of a WOHW in Juneau, since many of the other participants likely will be 1) families with children and 2) from South Central, Alaska.

Because we are a two person household with some income our budget will be:

  • Food Stamp Benefit - $68.94 per week
  • MFP Voucher - $30 per week fresh fruit, veggies, milk, yogurt, and other perishable items, as if we received a Mobile Food Pantry distribution (Juneau does not have a MFP, but we do have several wonderful food pantries).

This budget seems pretty generous to me so I hope to be able to "stock up" during the food stamp weeks.

I will be focusing on one particular store - Fred Meyer. This will simplify the challenge for me as I gather prices to use for my stockpiled items. Also, I hope to simplify the deal finding as I represent a food stamp-er with limited transportation and computer access.