Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thinking Forward to Fall

     Fall isn't in the air, but it is in my mind when it comes to the garden.  Originally,  I had just planned just on planting some pretty fall flowers, because they are much lower maintenance that anything that produces food.  Through researching what to do to prepare for next spring, I have convinced myself to plant one or two things just to see what happens. Most people think of summer as being the only time you can grow your own food, but if you plan properly you can extend your growing season through most of the year.
     What you can grow, and when you need to plant it depends on where you live.  I suggest your state or county extension if you need help with finding your zone and plants that work well with your climate.  Here in TN the UT Extension has a free publication on fall vegetable gardens you can download.   Make sure you research what you want to plant because not all cool weather plants are created equal.  Many crops planted in the spring prefer cool and moist conditions, and if you have been outside lately you know that's not what goes on this time of year.  There are other precautions you must take as well, like keeping the seeds moist. One tip in improving your germination success, is planting the seeds 1/4 inch deeper than you would in the spring.  Compared to spring and summer crops you may also need to give your fall garden a little more TLC.  This is the one thing that seems daunting to me.  I spent  A LOT of time this spring hand picking insects off my tomatoes and I'm not sure I am up to the work this fall.
    I have been thinking about what I might want to plant for my fall garden. I have been thinking something simple like greens or lettuce and a few flowers.  I really need to think about it some more and see what seeds are available. SO as your summer garden starts to wind down, will you be thinking about a fall garden?  What will you plant?  Do you have any tips?  Happy gardening!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Menu Planning SavesTime and Money

     I used to be the Queen of Run to the Grocery Store.  It seemed like almost every day I there was something.  After I had Thing #2 going to the grocery store became exponentially more difficult.  I'm not sure how my friends with large families ever make it through the store in one piece and with their sanity intact.  There are several small changes I made to make my life a little easier.
     One thing I have done to make my life a little less complicated, and save a ton of money is menu planning.  In it's simplest form all a person has to do is sit down and spend a few minutes jotting don what meals they want to eat for the week.  I know some of our city friends don't have the ability to shop for a week at one time because public transit and a cart full of groceries to carry wouldn't work, just plan for whatever span fits your lifestyle best.  If you have transportation and the storage space by all means plan for a month.  I personally plan for a week, because that's what I can fit in my car, lug up a flight of stairs, and store in my house.  Once you have your meal plan completed you need to make a list of the things you will need to buy.  It is always good to check out what you already have in stock to avoid buying many duplicates.  The most important part of shopping with your menu plan is actually using the list you brought.  As long as you buy everything you have on your list  you will be able to avoid unnecessary trips to the store.
     Once you have mastered the basic menu planning, and you feel like you have a little more time to spend on it, you can move on to reducing your grocery budget.  Now, I know you're thinking, "I've already reduced my bill by sticking to the list why should I do any more?"  My answer is, YOU CAN SAVE EVEN MORE!  The next step is shopping sales.  If you get the local newspaper,  the Sunday paper usually has the grocery stores' inserts.  Take out the insert from your favorite store and look through it. You can start by circling things that are on sale that you would typically buy.  Don't go out and buy things that you won't use just because they are on sale, you will be wasting your hard earned money.  Finally, using these sale items build your menu.  For example: While browsing through your ads you find turkey 49 cents a lb at Store X.  You think this is a great deal (you might even buy 2 of them) and you choose this as the foundation to your meals.  One day you might have a roast turkey with the trimmings, the next day you might have turkey pot pie, another day you might have turkey stir fry, and turkey tacos, and freeze the rest for another time.  So you don't get turkey phobia you could space the turkey days out with vegetarian meals.  Pasta and beans are always a cheap way to make filling meals.  Add coupons to sales for an even bigger bang.  If you have a garden take your fresh veggies and fruits into consideration too! 
  So try menu planning!  It will save you from running to the grocery store four times a week with screaming children or pet monkeys in tow!  It might eve make you improve how you eat!  Now make sure to stick to your list and you are ready to go.

If you want a great simple menu plan printable you ca go to Organized Home .  I knwo you can also find templates to use on the Microsoft Office website.  I prefer to use a weekly planner note pad I picked up at the Dollar Store.


Chicken Corn Chowder (using leftovers) with crackers
Three Cheese Broccoli Stuffed Shells with garlic bread sticks
Poor Man's Dinner (we use ketchup instead of spaghetti sauce and add garlic, salt, and pepper)
Hot turkey and Cheese Subs with shredded carrots
Breakfast Casserole
Grands Deep Dish Pizza
Spaghetti with meat sauce and greenbeans

Lunch (all served with fruit or veggie)
Sandwiches (PB&J, turkey)
Chicken Nuggets
Grilled Cheese
Chicken Noodle Soup

Cereal (I let the kids chose a box and I pick the other)
Frozen Waffles
Homemade Pumpkin Muffins

Snacks and Treats
Kroger brand cheese crackers (like Cheez it's but better)
Chex Mix
Homemade Sugar Cookies

I let the kids pick the fruits and veggies out at the store unless there is a a super deal.The current faves are watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, apples, shredded carrots, and cucumbers(which are now free from the garden) .

     In other news my in the ground garden is amazing.  This is the haul from yesterday.  I picked 4 huge cucumbers and half enough green beans for dinner. This is from a 2X4ft garden plot!  and I pick 3 times a week.  My poor container garden is pathetic. It is so depressed it refused to have it's picture taken this week.  I'm already planning how I am going to improve the container garden next year.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's July Already?

     Wow! When did July happen?  It seems like the kids were just having their last days of school. Now, my oldest has less than a month before his great adventure in middle school begins!  This summer hasn't gone quite how I had planned it.  I imagined swimming at the lake once a week, fun crafts with Thing #2, and playing outside together.  Instead, Thing#1 has spent massive amounts of time hanging out with friends and having sleep overs.  I am really glad that he is old enough to spend time with his friends independently of me, but I miss him a little.  I have actually had to tell him to stay home just so I can see him. My little guy seems to be content as long as his big brother is home.  After about a month, the crafty mornings stopped because I ended up chasing him around the house with paintbrushes.... and if he gets one solitary minute alone he will be creating the best toddler graffiti art ever all over my walls and furniture.  So now in the lull of summer vacation we sit a lot.  I get up and do my "Morning Routine", I attempt to make my 11 year old do some of his chores, and Sage plays.  By the afternoon it's too hot outside to play and we have quiet time.  By this time the say is 2/3ds over we are all lazy and tired from doing not much.  They need to call July the Doldrums of Summer. 
     As for me I'm STILL trying to find a job.  I never remember it ever being this hard EVER.  I have been in school and at home with my children for the last 3 1/2 years so I have no recent job history which probably doesn't help.  Maybe I should put that I am a freelance writer Ha Ha!  I'm still tending what is left of my container garden.  We added our tomatoes we grew into our sloppy joe's last night.  We haven't had enough to make an entire dinner!  I am getting ready to pick a cucumber in the next day or two from the container garden and I might have a few more at my "in the ground" garden.  We have had plenty of green beans from this garden as well, and  I hope to go out this weekend and pick some more.  I'm also still using my FlyLady routine with quite a bit of success.  I have even managed to get all my morning chores done before lunch the past two days in a row!  This is quite a feat with 2 children in the house.  It has made a huge difference in the house even if I only get part of my list done.  I have also started requiring my oldest child to put in 5 minutes a day in the living room.  This is a huge burden reliever for me. Next week is going to be crazy around here and I can use all the help I can get.
     I hope everyone is having a great summer no matter what you are doing.  Remember, Don't worry be happy!