Monday, July 30, 2012

4th Annual Not Back to School blog hop is coming!

For the past couple of years, I've participated in the Not Back to School Blog Hop sponsored by Heart of the Matter Online. This year, the blog hop has moved to iHomeschool Network.

Starting next Monday, August 6, join other homeschoolers from around the blogosphere to share your curriculum plans, school rooms, student photos and a day-in-the-life of your homeschool.

This is a great place to find like-minded homeschoolers to learn from and encourage. I've loved it every time I've participated, so I hope you'll consider linking up. It's going to be fun!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Menu Plan July 30-August 5

Oh my goodness! It's August! Well, almost. Can you believe how quickly the summer is flying by? We'll be starting back to school in the next couple of weeks. Although we greatly enjoy our summer break, I think we're all ready for a return to routine.

I'm going to keep this week very simple. Nearly everything I'm serving is already in the freezer waiting to be used in a meal. Sometimes cooking ahead really pays off later, and this will be one of those times.

Here's what is on the menu:

Mediterranean wraps using Mediterranean couscous and steak

Chicken stew

Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Chicken burritos using chicken taco filling from the crockpot, tortilla chips

Oatmeal pancakes, sausage, applesauce

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce

Ranch veggie pizza

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic Opening Ceremonies - mixed reviews

So, did you watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics last night? We had some friends over for fish n'chips (which we ended up buying 'cause I wasn't going to fry THAT much fish!). I think we enjoyed each other's company more than the ceremonies themselves.

Here's what we liked.

The Queen is a Bond girl! Who knew? Although she didn't look very happy when she walked in, we certainly enjoyed her skydiving with Daniel Craig. Best royal entrance ever.

Chariots of Fire - Mr. Bean playing the keyboard with an umbrella was hysterical. And then his participation in the beach running - I had tears of laughter running down my face.

The scenery change - We thought it was clever to have the industrial revolution workers tear down the agrarian sets from the previous scene. And the smokestacks emerging from the stadium floor was pretty impressive.

The cauldron - Each country bringing a "petal" was unique. We were impressed with the whole thing, though in past Olympics the cauldron is highly visible. It seemed to us that unless you were actually in the stadium, you wouldn't be able to see it.

And what we didn't like:

The commercial for National Health Care. The whole hospital scene was a little screwy to us. What were those creepy black things hopping from bed to bed? I hope none of those kids who participated had nightmares after that! But we all felt they were trying to get a political message across about national health care and how wonderful it is. Just didn't like it.

The technology bit was hard to follow. We thought it was awesome that the director wanted to celebrate technology, but the inclusion of all the music and dancing didn't make sense to us. It was like they threw it all together just to get some British music in there. And how did the guy who found the girl's phone call her if he had her phone?

The IOC's decision not to commemorate the Israeli athletes killed in 1972. The IOC claims to be neutral, but not having a moment of silence in honor of those who were murdered by terrorists in Munich was a bad move. We all agreed that had it been any other country's athletes, there would have been a mention of it. We were glad to hear Bob Costas make note of it, though.

All the commercials! Why? I understand the network's need to make money, but the ceremonies were long enough as it was! Then we had to play "catch up" every time they cut back to the ceremonies. Didn't like it.

So, what did you think of the opening ceremonies?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Watermelon Lime Slushies

It's been a hot summer, hasn't it? Well, these fruity drinks are guaranteed to cool you off! And they're so, so easy.

The next time you buy a watermelon for your family to enjoy, save some of it to make these refreshing slushies. My kids have told me that it's now required to make them every time we get a watermelon. You'll need about three cups of cubed watermelon for this recipe, but feel free to use more and increase the other ingredients to serve a crowd!

Here's what you need for 2-3 servings"

3 cups cubed watermelon, frozen
Zest and juice from one lime
*1 cup coconut milk (I used just a little more to thin ours out a little, just how we like them)
1 TBSP honey or agave nectar

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth! See how simple that was?

The frozen watermelon gives this drink its slush, so plan ahead. The lime cuts the sweetness with just a hint of sour. It's an amazing combination!

*The coconut milk I'm referring to is NOT the canned kind! You want the coconut milk found in the dairy section.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Parmesan Couscous

Here I am with another couscous recipe. I love how versatile this pasta is and how quick it is to prepare. My children request it often, so I know it's a winner with them.

And honestly, this version is about the simplest I've found. It's fantastic with chicken, steak or pork. You really can't go wrong with this.

Here's what you need:

2 cups chicken broth (most recipes use water as the liquid, but broth gives it so much flavor)
1 TBSP butter
1 1/2 cups dry couscous (you can use a 10 oz box of plain couscous for this)
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP olive oil
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, combine the broth and butter. Bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Fluff with a fork to serve.

It just doesn't get any easier than that!

I'm linking up with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday over at Blessed with Grace. Click over there and check out some more yummy recipes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Menu Plan July 23-28

It's the last full week of July! Can you believe how quickly this summer has flown by? This week we're going to enjoy visiting with some friends from Iowa and Florida, so I've got a really cool theme dinner planned for Saturday -Chinese night! We've also got a theme night planned for Friday to celebrate the Olympic opening ceremonies. I'm going to serve fried fish.   And I'm going to fry up some potatoes just like the fish.

Now here's the rest of the plan:

Chicken fried steak fingers, mashed potatoes

Chicken sandwiches, Parmesan zucchini

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce

Tasty tilapia, broccoli

Fish n'chips - I'm going to use the same batter for the "chips"

Saturday - Chinese night
Beef and broccoli, baked egg rolls, sweet and sour chicken, fried rice


  For more menu ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Praying for Colorado

By now, we've all heard about the horrific tragedy at a movie theater in Colorado. People doing an everyday activity, living their lives like normal, were caught up in an unimaginable act of evil.

Please take a moment to read this amazing testimony of a survivor, a Christian mom who explains the sovreignty of God and how we can trust Him even in the midst of tragedy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Green Chile Cheddar Bread

I saw this recipe at Lazy J Bar C Farm and knew I had to try it. I switched out the jalapenos for mild green chiles because that's what I had on hand and I didn't want the bread to be too spicy for the young'uns. They ended up loving this bread and wanting me to make more! I gave the second loaf to friends, and they loved it, too.

When I saw cornmeal listed as an ingredient, I worried a bit about the texture. No need to worry, though, because the texture was amazing! It was slightly chewy and grainy but still moist. This bread is the perfect accompaniment to soups or stews or any kind of Mexican/Southwest dish. And since it makes two loaves, you can give one away or freeze one for later. One prep, two loaves - yeah, that sounds good to me!

Here's what you need:

1 cup warm water
2 teas yeast
1 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP melted butter or olive oil
3 cups flour (I used half white wheat, half unbleached white)
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus a little more for the top of the bread
1/2 of a 4 oz can of mild green chiles, plus one or two more TBSP for the top
1 1/2 teas salt

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the topping cheese and chiles) and mix well. With a stand mixer or by hand, knead the dough for 5 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Shape into round loaves and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. With a sharp knife, slash an X into the top of each loaf.

Put the extra chiles on top, then cover with the extra cheese. Let the loaves rise for one hour.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove to a wire rack to cool. Then slice and enjoy!

I'm linking this recipe up to Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday. Go on over there and take a look at some more delicious recipes!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tea Party Favors and Games

When the Princess decided she wanted to host a tea party for her birthday, I immediately started brainstorming what kind of favor we could make or buy. I didn't want a typical goodie bag but something unique that would last.

I finally thought about giving every girl a real teacup and saucer to take home. So we began scouring thrift stores to find cups and saucers. It took some searching, but we finally had as many as we needed.

I filled the cups with chocolates and raspberry tea bags (the kind we served at the party). Then I placed each one in a clear plastic bag and tied them up with ribbons.

Turned out rather well, don't you think?

To entertain our young guests, we played charades based on children's books and movies. We also enjoyed pass the bean bag (think, hot potato) while playing classical music, perfect for a tea party. Our favorite game was Tea Party Bingo. I found free templates for the bingo cards here. We used glass gems from the Dollar Tree as the bingo markers instead of chips or coins.

The Princess also wanted to do a craft with her guests. I racked my brain for weeks trying to come up with something unusual. Then it came to me! I asked my husband if he could cut some teacup shapes out of wood for the girls to paint. He agreed, that sweet man!

He used 1/8 inch craft wood. They were roughly 3x5 inches. The girls really enjoyed painting and embellishing them. So they got another little memento to take home from the party!

The Princess and her guests declared the party to be a smashing success. I'm glad they enjoyed it, but whew! I'm glad it's over! LOL

If you missed my post on Tea Party Treats, you can find it here.

I don't know about you, but making my own tea party favors and crafts works for me. Head over to We are THAT Family for more tips and hints.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tea Party Treats

The Princess decided months ago that she wanted to host a tea party for her birthday. So we pulled out cookbooks and pored over them to find recipes that would be appropriate. She chose about twenty treats to serve! I asked her to pare it down to three or four, since we'd only be serving 5-6 guests.

We decided that cupcakes were easier to serve than cake, so my dear friend Suzanne made those for us. We found flower petal wrappers, which fit well with our theme.

Then came the hard part - the rest of the food! The Princess just could not decide! So I asked her to choose one type of finger sandwich. She wanted cucumber sandwiches because she read in a magazine that those were often served at teas. They are very simple and elegant, so I agreed.

Here's what you need:

1 English (seedless) cucumber
10 slices wheat bread
10 slices white bread
1 carton garden vegetable cream cheese

Wash the cucumber well. Then slice into three or four long pieces. Take a fork and scrape the sides of each piece firmly. Then cut into pretty little slices.

Remove the crusts from the bread. I used kitchen shears to do this. Using a rolling pin, flatten each piece of bread. With a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut 4 rounds of bread from each slice.

Spread twenty wheat rounds and twenty white rounds with the cream cheese. It's much easier to do this assembly line style than one sandwich at a time. Place one cucumber slice on each round. Put just a dab of cream cheese on the remaining bread rounds, then press each onto a cucumber slice. The little bit of cream cheese keeps the top of the sandwich from sliding around.

These sandwiches were a big hit with girls and parents alike! We didn't have any leftovers.

The Princess also wanted some kind of fruit to be served. So I prepared fruit tarts. These were so easy! The hardest part was dicing the fruit small enough to fit on the tart.

Here's what you'll need:

2 boxes of mini fillo shells (found in the freezer section) - you could make your own
1 box (3 oz) white chocolate pudding, prepared according to the package directions
2 or 3 different kinds of fruit, diced small - we used strawberries, peaches and kiwi

Place the fillo shells on a cookie sheet. Fill the shells with pudding. I used a teaspoon to do this. Mix the diced fruit together. Top the pudding with a teaspoon of the fruit mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For our last treat, we made pretzel butterflies. The Princess loved doing this one!

Here's what you need:

Mini pretzels - you'll need two for each butterfly
3/4 cup chocolate chips, melted
Two or three colors of candy melts
Sprinkles, coarse sugar or other decorations

On waxed paper, place two pretzels together with the two "humps" facing out. Put the melted chocolate into a ziploc baggie and snip off one corner. Pipe a line of chocolate to join the two pretzels. Repeat with the remaining pretzels until you have as many butterflies as you want. Refrigerate until set.

Melt the candy melts according to the package directions. Using the same ziploc baggie method, pipe the melted candy into the pretzel holes. Sprinkle with the desired decorations. Refrigerate until set.

The pretzel butterflies resting at the top of the treat tower.

All of the treats were tasty and fun! The Princess was so proud that she had helped make them for her friends. So, if you're planning a tea party, keep the treats simple. Let your daughter help as much as possible. The whole experience will be that much more special to her.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Menu Plan July 16-22

Yesterday we hosted a Tea Party for the Princess' birthday. She had an earlier joint party with her two cousins who share her birthday, but it was out of town. She understandably wanted to be able to include her friends, so she chose a tea party theme.

We served cucumber sandwiches, fruit tarts and pretzel butterflies. Come back later this week for more pictures and recipes! I'll also share some game and party favor ideas.

Now on to this week's menu:

Chicken shawarma, Provencal peppers

Ground beef gyros on flatbread, Mediterranean couscous

Sausage veggie calzones

Pizza pasta, Parmesan zucchini

Steak bites, baked potatoes

Toscano soup, pretzel rolls

Crockpot lasagna

For more meal planning ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Disney with Kids - How to Prepare Them

So you've decided your kids are old enough to go to Disney World. You've chosen a place to stay and you know when you're going. Not only that, but you've started your packing list so you know what to bring. But have you ever thought of how to prepare your kids for Disney?

Now, if you're planning a surprise for the kids and aren't going to tell them until you're on your way, don't follow these tips. You just might give it away. ;)

Our kids have three trips under their belts, so they know what to expect. But on our last trip in February, our best friends went with us. Dad and kids had never been, Mom had been as a teenager and things had changed a lot since then. They wanted to know everything about everything! So here are some suggestions we gave them to help prepare. These ideas can work for your family, too.

1. Watch videos about the parks to build excitement. Netflix offers several Disney park videos on their instant streaming option, some of them with behind-the-scenes footage. If you don't have Netflix, go to the Disney website's planning section. You can order a free planning DVD that features tours of the parks and an overview of the resorts. Even though we've been several times, we still order this free DVD and enjoy watching it. It's just fun to think about the good memories we're about to make!

2. Find out ahead of time what attractions your kids can ride - and the ones they can't. Believe me, this will save a great deal of disappointment if you already discuss ahead of time whether your child is tall enough to ride a certain attraction. Disney offers fantastic descriptions of all their attractions, including height requirements. For safety reasons, they are very strict about those requirements and will not care if your child is begging and pleading to go on Space Mountain. If they're not tall enough, they're not tall enough. But you can definitely play up the ones they CAN ride and get them excited about those! Several of the thrill ride descriptions feature videos to give you a taste of the adventure awaiting you, so watch those and get ready for fun!

The Tower of Terror is one of my favorite rides.
3. Get walking - now! Even if you're vacation if planned for next summer, start exercising with your family today. Even your small kids can walk along with you to get used to it. We didn't do any kind of pre-trip exercise and we regretted it! But we learned from that experience. We walked as a family through our neighborhood, and then when the weather got colder, we used a treadmill. Trust me, your feet and legs will thank you after your first day walking at Disney!

4. Give your kids opportunities to earn spending money. In the months leading up to our last trip, we started offering chores the kids could do to earn some extra money. These were not their regular, day-to-day chores like unloading the dishwasher or taking out the trash. If the lawn needed mowed, one of them could do it for cash. If hedges needed to be trimmed and cleared, they could step up beside Dad and help. They don't get a regular allowance, so this was a way they could get rewarded for their work and save for souvenirs. It was really interesting to see what they chose to spend their hard-earned money on. They weighed their options carefully, I can tell you that. And they've taken very good care of their souvenirs since they paid for them themselves. Amazing!

The Princess poses with one of her treasures, a parasol from China.

 5. Discuss with your children what they should do if they get separated from you. No one ever wants to think about losing their child in a crowd, but Disney World is a really big place. In fact, it's twice the size of Manhattan! Which means there are plenty of opportunities for a child to wander away. And if you have more than one child, you know how hard it is to keep them in view (or in hand!) all the time. So prepare them for what to do just in case they lose you in a crowd. There are cast members all over the place. Each attraction has several at beginning and end. Every shop is staffed with multiple cast members. Point them out to your children when you enter the parks so they'll know who to look for. Instruct your child to find a uniformed cast member and tell the cast member they're lost. Disney trains their staff to handle these kinds of situations and they do it well. Literally within seconds, word will go out via two-way radios and steps will be taken to reunite you with your child.

You also need to find the nearest cast member as soon as you realize your child is missing. They will ask for a description of him and her, including what they were wearing. Here's a little hint - if you have a digital camera, take a picture of them every morning as you're entering the park. That way you can show a cast member exactly what they look like and what they're wearing if the need arises.

On our first trip, when the kids were four and five, we tucked a 3x5 card into their fanny packs. It had our names, their names, our cell phone numbers and the resort where we were staying. We told them that if they got lost, find a cast member and give them that card. We never had to put them to use, but I felt better knowing that if my child was upset and unable to tell a cast member that important information, they could just pull the card out of their packs and hand it over. There are tons of other ways you can "tag" them with essential information - lanyards, dog tags, even temporary tattoos. Find whatever would work best for you and your kids.

I have to admit, I'm getting excited for our next trip as I'm writing this post! Just thinking about the fun we've had in the past makes me want to go again. I think I'll go watch a Disney park video on Netflix to get my Disney fix!

If you've ever been to Disney World, did you do anything special to prepare your kids? Share with us in the comments.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Popcorn Cupcakes and other Carnival Party Food

This past weekend the Princess celebrated her 10th birthday with her two cousins (one who is 8 and one who is also 10) at a carnival party. My lovely sister-in-law did most of the planning since it was held in her backyard. I did help with some of the food prep and game prizes, though.

We made popcorn cupcakes that were a huge hit. I say "we" because she baked 'em and I decorated 'em. If you only knew how "outside the comfort zone" decorating a cupcake is for me. But this was so easy, even Marsha can do it!

You'll need 20-24 cupcakes, depending on how many your recipe makes. Let them cool completely before trying to decorate them.

Frost with plain white icing of your choice. To speed things along, we used Duncan Hines frosting in a can, but you can make some from scratch if you choose. We were in a hurry, so we took all the shortcuts we could.

Now here comes the fun (as in messy) part. Take a bag of mini marshmallows and snip each one with kitchen shears. If you don't have kitchen shears, use a sharp knife. Don't cut them in half, just about midway through.

Pinch the uncut ends between your fingers. They will burst open, just like popcorn kernels.

Set aside and repeat with the remaining marshmallows. You can store in a Ziploc bag until ready to use.

Now frost the cupcakes with the plain white icing. Dip the tops into a bowl of the popped marshmallows. Press down lightly. This is so much easier than trying to individually place each marshmallow on the cupcake.

To give the appearance of butter, dilute a few drops of yellow food coloring with water. With a paint brush, lightly dab the color onto the marshmallows.

Digging in!

In addition to the popcorn cupcakes, my sister-in-law made flavored popcorn.

The pink is watermelon, the blue is berry blue, and the red is strawberry

To make the flavored popcorn you need:

10 cups popped corn
1 box (3oz) flavored Jello - we used watermelon, berry blue, and strawberry
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 TBSP corn syrup
3 TBSP water

Place the popped corn on a greased baking sheet - very important because the flavored syrup you're about to make will stick to everything if the pan isn't greased or buttered!

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the Jello and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over popcorn and stir to coat. Bake at 250 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Check often to make sure it's not burning.

The strawberry and berry blue flavors tasted just like crunchberries from Cap'n Crunch cereal. I'm not kidding. It was like a sweet blast from the past since that was one of my favorite cereals growing up.

We placed the popcorn, along with some regular buttered popcorn, on a snack table alongside roasted peanuts in the shell and a jar of large pickles. We were trying to keep the carnival theme going.

So, have you ever hosted a carnival? What kinds of foods did you serve?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mediterranean Couscous

Couscous is a staple food in North African countries like Morocco and Tunisia and has been for centuries. It is a teeny, tiny little pasta made from semolina. Most couscous varieties sold here in the US are pre-steamed, then dried and packaged for easy preparation. It takes very little time to cook, usually 5 minutes or so.

The beauty of couscous, besides how quickly it's ready, is how many ways you can serve it. It can be used in place of rice in stews. Or you can flavor it with sauces or cheese. In North African countries, it's sweetened with honey and topped with cinnamon, raisins and cream.

This couscous takes on the flavor of the Mediterranean with cucumbers, mint, tomatoes and feta cheese. Lemon juice provides a nice tang. It is a fantastic accompaniment to steak and chicken.

Here's what you need:

1 box (10 oz) plain couscous (If you buy in bulk, this will be about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups chicken broth
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP olive oil
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2 TBSP chopped fresh mint
1 TBSP chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous and stir well. Cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.

When the couscous is tender, transfer to a bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients. This can be served warm or chilled. Once it has been refrigerated, though, it might become a little dry. Just splash with a little more lemon juice and olive oil until it's a moist as you like.

One of my favorite ways to use the leftovers is to add grilled chicken then wrap in flatbread or a tortilla. Super yummy!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Menu Plan July 9-15

Last week we went to pick up the kids who spend two weeks with my parents, so I'll be cooking for the whole family once again. The break was nice, but I think all of us will be glad to get into our normal routine.

We've also got a tea party coming up for the Princess' birthday. She was able to celebrate yesterday with her cousins that share her birthday, but they live out of town. She wanted to spend some time with her friends, too, and we agreed. She and I are getting her menu and decorations together now that she's home.

In the meantime, I still have to prepare meals for us, so here's what I've got planned this week:

Ladies Night Out at church, family will have homemade pizza

Mexican pasta skillet, green chile cheese bread (recipe to come)

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce

Lentil and rice burritos

Grilled red snapper, Mediterranean couscous

Flatbread wraps to use up leftovers

Roast and potatoes in the crockpot

For more menu ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of inspiration there from hundreds of home cooks like yourself.

While you're here, check out my review of Your Grocery Toolbox, an e-book designed to save you money on your grocery bill. My readers can get a special 20% discount, so check out the post for more details.

Happy Birthday, sweet Princess!

Today my princess turns ten years old.

Where has the time gone? I'm so proud of the sweet, considerate young lady she is becoming. I can't wait to see how the Lord uses her life for His glory.

Love you, sweet girl!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

God Bless the USA

To my fellow Americans, I know our country has a myriad of problems and political division seems be splitting us in two. But today, on her 236th birthday, let's ask for God's blessings on our great nation.
There's none other in the world like it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Your Grocery Toolbox e-book review

Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy

I want to introduce you to one of my favorite food bloggers, Anne over at Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy. And her website does just that - provides recipes that are simple to prepare while using healthy ingredients. She shares tips and hints to save money while keeping your family well-fed.

Anne has just published a wonderful e-book called Your Grocery Toolbox. It's a 150-page guidebook to saving money on your food bill and developing good spending habits that will serve you well in the future. I can tell you that after two and a half years of blogging, I've not seen a better e-book on the subject of saving grocery dollars. It's a great value at $4.99.

Here are some of the topics covered in this book: 
  1. Budget (how to make one, what you can afford on your budget, a sample $250/month budget, and more)
  2. Price List (what it is, how it helps, how to make one, how to maintain)
  3. Sourcing (a comprehensive review of sources – online and brick-and-mortar – for inexpensive healthy food)
  4. Once-a-Month Shopping (maximizing your budget by shopping once a month)
  5. Price Caps (learn how to set limits for how much you will spend on different items)
  6. Coupons (can coupons be effective when shopping for healthy foods?)
  7. Do it Yourself Foods (foods you can make yourself and save money)
  8. Take it to the Next Level (develop frugal habits that will save you LOTS)
  9. Saving Money in the Internet Era (frugal hacks from the modern age of internet and social media)
Anne also includes tons of resources, websites and printables to make your efforts to save money even easier!

Each chapter contains several challenges, like determining your nutritional priorities or creating a price book. These challenges will help you take the book's useful tips and put them into practice. And in the process, you'll start to see how following Anne's advice can save you money while still allowing you to serve your family healthy meals!

So, what did I like most about Your Grocery Toolbox? Well, I really liked all of it! The chapters were well-written and conversational, like Anne was talking to her best friends. She makes the whole process of planning to save and shopping for deals easy and doable.

But I think I learned the most from the chapter on resources for healthy food at good prices. I had never really considered online shopping as a viable option. After reading Anne's recommendations, I went to and found some amazing prices on foods I've been wanting to try but was too expensive locally. I was even able to get some bulk items without leaving home. That's important to me because we have no large warehouse stores like Costco or Sam's near us.

I also got a much-needed reminder to update my price book. I started one in 2010 but haven't kept up with current food prices. I know prices have gone up in the past two years, so in an effort to find the cheapest prices on what I need, I'm going to follow Anne's advice to keep up with it.

So, would you like a copy of Your Grocery Toolbox? You can purchase one for $4.99 or here's how you can get one for FREE!

Simply leave a comment telling me how much you spend in groceries every month for your family and how large your family is. I'll randomly draw a winner on Sunday night, July 8.

Even if you don't win a free copy, Anne is offering my readers a 20% discount good through July 10. Click here to visit Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy.

Enter the discount code "tasteandsee" without the quotation marks to receive 20% off your copy of Your Grocery Toolbox. But if you purchase the book and then win the giveaway, Anne will refund you the purchase price!

If you're looking for ways to keep your grocery costs down, you will definitely want a copy of this book!

Disclosure: Anne gave me a free copy of her e-book to read and review. My opinions are strictly my own and I was not compensated for them.

Also,  I'm a Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy affiliate, so if you click on the link above and purchase Anne's book, I receive a commission.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Menu Plan July 2-July 8

Last week was quiet due to the kids being gone. We'll be getting them back this week, after celebrating the Princess' birthday, along with her two cousins born on the same day, two years apart.

As I looked back over my menu plan for last week, I realized that because the kids were gone, we had more leftovers. So I didn't cook many of the things on the menu, and that's okay. I was able to get some items in the freezer for future meals when the kids are home.

Because we'll be traveling at the end of the week, I've kept things super simple. We've endured record-breaking heat for the past few days, as most of the country has. Simple is definitely the way to go!

Here's what I have planned - always subject to change:

Pan-seared red snapper (caught by my husband this weekend in the Gulf of Mexico!), Parmesan zucchini

Chicken Caesar salad wraps

Fourth of July!
Grilled burgers, campfire beans



Carnival Party for the Princess and her cousins

Princess' choice - it's her birthday dinner but she hasn't told me what she wants yet!

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.