Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Men Don't Know...

I've been known to use a pound of hamburger for up to four separate meals, which is quite a feat considering my red-blooded husband is as carnivorous as the next guy. Now, some might argue that this is no accomplishment since it is just the two of us, but keep in mind that the Man still eats like a 17-year-old boy.

Granted, I can't pull that trick when it comes to meals like meatloaf, where cutting back on the meat would be very obvious.

So, introduce lentils and rice. In theory this concoction can be substituted for ground beef in nearly any recipe. I made some a little while ago, and had my doubts as how successful I would be at sneaking it in undetected. I am not trying to fool my husband, but men like him (and most Midwestern farm boys) are going to form opinions about ideas like this before hand and be unwilling to even try it.

Thus began my experiment. I added some to beef for stuffed peppers, and then for California tacos. Both recipes called for rice anyway, so I figured this would be a good place to start. No complaints from the Man. Then I used some in beef stroganoff sandwiches, which would be comparable to tavern, not a lot because I wasn't sure how noticeable it would be. Success. Next came the ultimate test. Last night we had meatloaf, and I wanted to use some of the ground beef for tonight's supper. The mixture ended up being about 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 lentils and rice, and even I, who knew half of it wasn't ground beef, could hardly tell when it was cooked.

So, now I have one more way of stretching meat without just reducing the amount of meat in recipes. My next batch of lentils and rice is on the stove right now. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The (No-)Coupon Lady

I've never been good at using coupons and find them to be a hassle most of the time. Most things I buy the generic or store brand anyway, but thought I could start trying to use coupons. Granted, I had no desire to be the lady that gets $60 worth of groceries and only pays like $10 after coupons.

Today I needed a few things from the store and had coupons for some stuff that was already on sale. The Man likes the "sweet 'n salty" chex mix, and it was on sale for 3/$3. I had a coupon for $.60 that would make them $.80, compared to $3.19 regular price. The Tank is slowly getting ready for finger foods, and multi-grain cheerios were on sale, 2/$4. I had a coupon for $1 off, so they would have been $1.50 compared to $3-3.50? - I didn't check the regular price. And the candy was right across from the chex mix, so I saw that those new Hershey Bliss chocolates were on sale, and I had a coupon for $1 off, which would make them close to half price. I didn't need it, but what woman can resist cheap chocolate???

Go to check out, all excited about my saavy bargain shopping, only to have them tell me store policy won't let them accept internet coupons. These days, where else do you get coupons?

It irritated me, but I couldn't let it really get to me - there are plenty of other things that need my energy more right now. Yeah, I would have saved $2.60, which won't break us, and normally I wouldn't care. I think I just got so excited figuring out exactly how much I was saving by using coupons on sale items.

So much for coupons. I'll use the 1-2 they have in their weekly flier, but back to my usual buy what I need, when I need it, and keep my eye out for sales.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Recession or Depression?

I found this article, which sort of helped me learn a little more about the Wall Street mess.
The Bubble Economy

I won't even pretend that I understand the financial implications of what's going on in the economy right now, or the steps that led up to the "sudden" falls of these financial empires.

From what I've understood, the fall of AIG would have a drastic impact on many nations, not just the US. For instance, almost the entire fleet of airlines would be grounded due to lack of insurance. The fall of AIG would be devastating to the nation, especially those insured through them, and in that sense I can see the benefit to the government using taxpayers' money to bail them out. (I didn't really look into how the fall of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have affected the economy, so I'm just referring to AIG right now.)

BUT. Besides the general "unfair" attitude since the government has been picking and choosing which companies to bail out (why not the Lehman Bros?) - and the basic fact that they needed bailing out because the company was irresponsible and gambled with money they didn't have - was it really a good decision for the long run to bail out these big companies?

Is the existance of a single company with this much control over the world's economy a good thing?

Supposedly the government's bridge loan will force the company to sell off some of their branch ventures and the senior management has already been let go which will lead to restructuring, but why would they change their M.O.? They've already discovered that they are so important to the economy that the government will save them from their risky/greedy business practices.

I also don't understand how the Bush administration is responsible for all the things gone wrong in the recent economy, since what I've read says the lending crisis is fallout from deregulation of the mortgage industry, which started in the 1980s and got approval from both parties in Congress.

Chech out this article - The Origins - and scroll down to "And it All Started With Deregulation."

Normally I have the typical Republican view, laissez faire, which is that the government shouldn't have to regulate business practices and doesn't need its nose in every part of our lives. But if the government decides not to regulate an industry but then steps in to save greedy investors and not-so-smart borrowers, why not regulate it from the start? Either "protect" the economy from the start or let the natural cycles evolve, but don't jump in and out!

Alright, enough political rants. I'm not sure I succeded in doing anything besides confusing anyone who read this even more!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Deals and Dilemmas

This is the weekend for city-wide garage sales. Some people love garage sale-ing, but not me. However, having a little boy that's outgrowing clothes almost as fast as he gets them changes things. In order to save my sanity, I picked a few from the descriptions that came in the newspaper flier and ruled out any that only opened on Saturday. I picked 4, went to one on Wednesday and hit 3 more yesterday, and I made out quite well at all but one.

For $34 I got:
6 t-shirts
6 shirts
6 pants
5 jeans
2 jackets
1 sweater
1 sweat shirt
1 pair of shorts
1 sleeper
2 pairs of shoes
3 books

Most of it is 18 month stuff, which he should be in by mid-late winter, but there was some 12 month and 24 month stuff. Now I'm going to avoid garage sales and stay off the road for the rest of the weekend.

Now for my dilemma. I know we need to get our wills done. I've called for estimates. I've researched. Two things are holding me back:

1) I found Quicken WillMaker on the Nolo website, and have heard that they are as legitimate as any will a lawyer will draft. It's a lot cheaper (by $250+) than a lawyer, and I have confidence in my ability to complete it accurately, but I want someone to tell me its success rate of holding up in court. Saving that money would be nice right now, but not at the expense of H's future.
2) Picking a guardian. In doing some research I found a tip: admit that no one is good enough. I know he will be loved and cared for by any of our choices, but I need to remember that I won't be around to nitpick someone else's parenting style if it comes down to this.

Either way, D and I need to get this done. Well, I need to get this done - D will just tag along and sign the papers.

On a side note, I find it amusing that our lives have come full circle. In September, 2002, D and I met while working at the same place. 6 years, (almost) 5 years of marriage, 3 houses, and a baby later, we are now working together again. :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spreading the Wealth

I may be trying to keep to a stricter budget, but there's always room to give a little bit more.

The amount of food Americans throw away has always bothered me, especially when it's me who has to throw out moldy food because I got sick of left overs. And then you hear statistics of how many children (and adults) starve to death each day around the world.

So I signed up here: Kids Against Hunger

For not a substantial donation, I figured I can give a kid 3 meals a day for half the month.

Every little bit helps!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Kiss the Cook

Some say the kitchen is the heart of the home, but that doesn't mean I want to spend all my afternoons there.

I enjoy baking and cooking, but I think that I started the week off wrong. Tuesday I was in the kitchen from 2:30 to 7:30, and yes, supper was in there too, but 5 hours was too much! Mom had stopped by to watch H while I got groceries and helped with with some food prep when I got back. I did get a casserole made for supper, cleaned chicken breast, made some into bacon wrapped chicken, left some plain, flash froze them, and canned 9 pints of pickle relish. Although I will probably give some to our families since it would probably take us 3-4 years to use all of the relish.

A while ago I learned about once a month cooking, and have considered doing it for a while now. I think I've put it off because it seems overwhelming, but I've been meaning to try once a week cooking. I've been slowly making some changes in this direction, like making double batches of some meals and doing prep work for later meals while making a supper earlier in the week. When starting out, I'd like to keep it as simple as possible, like all chicken recipes, and I don't know if D would be real impressed with that - he's already complained about all the new recipes lately.

I do have to say I've made a lot of progress since H was born. Instead of having 5 meal ideas for the week and sometimes having produce go bad by the time I got around to making a meal, I started assigning meals to days. It doesn't matter what we're in the mood for anymore. :) After a few weeks of doing that, I realized I often had partially used ingredients that would spoil because I forgot about them, so now I'm taking that into account when choosing meals.

A while ago I was at the grocery store and realized how much my habits have changed over the past few years. I used to stop at the meat counter, get 5 lbs. of their ground beef and continue shopping. Now I get 1-2 lbs. and not even every week. I'm not a big meat person, and thankfully D doesn't have an issue with me using half the amount of meat called for. I've even managed to use 1 lb of ground beef for 4 meals.

I've also noticed my "path" through the store. I hit the produce section, grab 1-2 loafs of bread, maybe some dressings, condiments, and a few canned goods, get a decent variety of meats at the meat counter, go down the pasta and baking isles, hit the dairy section (maybe a little too hard), grab some frozen veggies and I'm good to go. I'm always amazed when I stand in line and see so many moms with carts full of packaged and processed foods. Granted, I have afternoons off and I am not judging anyone for taking advantage of convenience items, but wow. Although D does often complain that I don't get enough "snacks," meaning all that packaged, processed stuff. I bake something pretty much every week - I can't help it he has like 4 bars at a time and doesn't care for fruit (more for me!) as a snack.

My goal a while ago was to cut back on meat and dairy and increase the amount of fruits and veggies we eat. I've done pretty good at scaling back the meat and getting a better variety; I definitely have more fruits and vegetables, but I can't force them down D's throat. But dairy is a little harder. We both love milk, and I don't see a problem with that, and I think we've both cut back a bit on cheese and sour cream and the like, which is funny because I've never mentioned anything to D about trying to cut back, so he must just be following my lead. :)

Right now my goal is to try a "mini" cooking session, and then just spread the meals out so D isn't stuck with chicken for a week.

As far as last week's goal, I've been to work by 7:30 once last week and once this week. Better, but plenty of room left for improvement.