Friday, January 31, 2014

February's Money Plan

*When I do my budget, I only allow for Hubby's income since I try to put all of mine into savings. I had been trying to put $200 of Hubby's into savings each month, too, but we just have all of the occasional life things come up (i.e. new phone, gutter cleaning, new tires, etc.) that come up that the $200 needs to go toward that kind of thing, so I rebudgeted again.

For January:

End of Month:   $199.35 over budget.  

We did well on the grocery and eating out budget.  Go us!

I did not include the $490 I spent on the Disney trip since it was supposed to have happened last November.

We also had 2 oil changes, 2 haircuts, gutters got cleaned, and I finally finished my half bathroom decorations.

Hubby's student loan accidentally got paid twice because his automatic payments finally kicked in but I also paid it manually since it didn't automatically get paid last month.  We also had to pay for his ACLS certification to be updated.

Of course the natural gas bill was astronomical being winter, but hopefully that will even itself out over the spring and fall months when we don't use the allotted amount on it.

I also dropped my phone in the toilet (thankfully it was way past due for an upgrade) and paid half of a new one.  The second half will come out in February.


September:  $1,024.55 over budget
October:  $271.72 over budget
November:  $1,037.86 over budget
December:  Quit keeping up...
January:  $152.18 over budget (not counting the $490 I spent on the Disney trip)

So if I hadn't have paid Hubby's loan twice, we would only be about $77 over the new budget...wahoo!.

February's Plan

In February I will have the second half of my phone payment.  I also need new tires on the front (I only replace two at a time because that's how they wear and I don't have to worry about rotating them.  Not sure if it's better, but at least it's not a whole set coming out at once).  The natural gas bill is even higher than it was last month...yikes...

We also need a new set of gas logs for our fireplace, but the more I think about it the more I think about it maybe we'll wait until next season.  Maybe they'll go on sale in a month or so.  I had already purchased a set but they were too big.

March and April are not going to be great because we are both in a wedding which includes a bachelor party, bachelorette party (both big weekend trips), and tux rental.  Thankfully I have already bought my bridesmaid dress.

The thing is, we can afford to go over budget.  I don't budget for as much as we take in (my paycheck, miscellaneous credits like the escrow refund check we got this week, etc.), and when we get those extra surprises I don't add them to the budget or keep things from it "because the escrow check paid for it."

However, even though we have the money, I'm trying to save as much as I can because our savings is pitiful.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

February's Dinner Plan

I got on a roll this weekend and planned out all of my meals for February.  Whoo hoo!

When I meal plan, I come up with 4 meals per week.  Two of those meals include leftovers, and that leaves one night for eating out.  I vary easy meals with more time-consuming ones, but I do not specify a day for each meal; I put the meat out a day ahead with the next day's plan in mind.  It is very flexible.

I also wrote out my grocery list and will probably go on Friday.

February's Meal Plan

February 2-8

1. Cheesy tortellini bake, salad {this will provide leftovers}
2. Roast beef (crock pot), rice, green beans {this will provide leftovers}
3. Honey mustard chicken, roasted squash, roasted potatoes, salad

February 9-15

1. Pizzadillas (a new idea!)
2. Swedish meatballs over rice, lima beans {this will provide leftovers}
3. Chicken thighs and onion (crock pot), rice, green beans {this will provide leftovers}
4. Chicken pasta verde* 

February 16-22

1. Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup
2. Bourbon street chicken, rice, stir fry veggies {this will provide leftovers}
3. Spaghetti, salad {this will provide leftovers}
4. Tacos (with homemade seasoning), Mexican rice, black beans

February 23-March 1

1. Chicken tetrazzini, salad {this will provide leftovers}
2. Sausage, roast potatoes, green beans
3. Chili (crock pot) {this will provide leftovers}
4. Chicken parmesan over spaghetti, salad

* This has been our special Valentine's meal for several years.  I can't find the recipe because I got it on a message board probably 10 years ago, but basically it is chicken and pasta in a basil cream sauce.  Maybe I'll post it after V-Day!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Chicken Marinara Casserole

A year or so ago, I had half a jar of leftover marinara sauce that I was trying to figure out what to do with.  I also had half a box of penne pasta.  I decided to try my hand at coming up with a recipe, and the result was a super easy and delicious casserole!

I am not good at coming up with titles or names, so when I wrote it down, I named it "Chicken Marinara Pasta Bake."  For the blog I realized it's a casserole, so I simplified the name.

This dish only has four ingredients to be delicious:  chicken, bite-sized pasta (this is actually an amazing pasta that friends brought me back from Italy...I told them they needed to go back and get me some more), marinara sauce, and shredded mozzarella cheese.

To save money, I only use one chicken breast for just my husband and myself.

Cook the pasta, drain, and add marinara sauce.

Cube and cook the chicken with a little bit of olive oil in a frying pan.  You can optionally season the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, and oregano.  I do that sometimes (just sprinkle a little bit over the cut up chicken; I don't measure), but I didn't this time.

Mix the chicken with the pasta, pour into a casserole dish, and cover with mozarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Chicken Marinara Casserole

  • 1 chicken breast, cubed (optionally seasoned with salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and garlic powder)
  • 1/2 a box of bite-sized pasta (i.e. penne or farfalle)
  • 1/2 a jar of marinara sauce
  • mozarella cheese

Cook the chicken with a little bit of olive oil in a frying pan until browned.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and return to pan.  Mix with marinara sauce and chicken.

Pour pasta into a sprayed casserole dish and sprinkle mozarella cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted.

Side Note:  If you are visiting from a blog hop, check out my February Menu Plan!

Linked up at Thrifty Thursday and Love of Family and Home's "Inspire Me Please" blog hop!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Craft Shelf

I am not a hardcore crafter.  I will occasionally make a wreath, painting, sewing, or building project, but I don't have a need for an entire craft room.  In fact, until recently I only had three craft bins:  painting box, sewing box, and craft materials.  

I was cleaning up my classroom closet and pulling out materials that I want to use as I nanny, and found all of my craft boxes from school.  I decided to pool all of my craft materials since I sometimes do craft projects with the girl I keep and the chances of me going back into the classroom are slim anyway.

I kept trying to figure out how I wanted to organize my crafts.  At the time, there were a couple of boxes in my downstairs closet, my sewing materials were in a different closet, and my gift wrap was under the bed.  I decided I wanted it all in one place, so I went in search of an inexpensive shelf.

I scored this bookshelf at the Salvation Army for just $10!  It even matches the guest bedroom furniture.

This was my grandmother's sewing box.  It is so special to me because sewing is what she was known for.  I need to take on more sewing projects besides mending clothes and the dog's bed.

Craft Box 1:  Generic craft materials
  • markers
  • crayons
  • glitter
  • magnets/velcro
  • glue/ hot glue gun
  • scrapbook scissors

Craft Box 2:  Kid's craft materials
  • googly eyes
  • jingle bells
  • beads
  • buttons
  • pipe cleaners
  • pom poms
  • felt

Craft Box 3:  Various types of string
  • yarn
  • ribbon
  • raffia

Both painting boxes (I had a lot of tempera paint from teaching).

Thank you cards, note cards, etc.

Craft Box 4:  Wood craft materials
  • popsicle sticks
  • clothes pins
  • finials

Mason Jars (with a canvas on top)

Gift wrapping supplies:  Gift bags, tissue paper, ribbon, tags, etc.

I would like to get a towel rack to attach to the side of the shelf to hold the wrapping paper tubes up, but for now they are just fine leaning against the shelf.

I cut up an old wrapping paper tube to hold the paper in place.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Casual Outfit: Disney Outfit!

I was able to go on an amazing girls' trip to Disney World this weekend.  I am absolutely a kid at heart and it definitely came out on the way to and at Disney.  I was excited.  I was giddy.  And I am almost 29 years old...

We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and went to Downtown Disney, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot.  It was crazy busy but we were able to see almost everything we wanted to at those parks thanks to my bachelorette friend and her sisters.  They go to Disney a lot and know how to do the parks most efficiently.  We arrived at Magic Kingdom when it opened, rode Space Mountain, selected our Fast Passes, then went on to ride more rides.  We barely had to wait in line at all!

It was a long 16-hour day (8am until midnight), but worth every penny.

The temperature ranged from mid-30s to high 50s.

I wore a white t-shirt, dark pink (almost red) cardigan with a wide belt, jeans, and tennis shoes (a must when walking for 16 hours!)

We all bought different mouse ears to wear around as well.

Monday, January 20, 2014

"Brown Rice" with French Onion Soup

My recipe box is one of my most prized possessions.  I have been collecting recipes for years from my grandmother, Hubby's grandmother, my mother, friends, and the internet.  I should probably scan in my recipes just in case something were to happen.

Today I am going to share one of Hubby's favorite side dishes with you; a recipe from his grandmother.

Don't you just love those handwritten recipes?  Most of the recipes I have from family members I copied myself, so this one is special.

Contrary to the name, this recipe is made with regular old white rice.  (Side Note:  In December I tried to make the switch to healthier brown rice, but I just can't get over the texture.  I ended up throwing it away and buying more white rice.  Oh well.)

This recipe uses five simple ingredients:  white rice, a can of French Onion soup, a can of beef consumme (although I have messed up and bought beef broth before and it worked just fine), Worchestershire sauce, and butter/margarine.

In a frying pan, melt the butter together with the Worchestershire sauce.

Add in a cup of rice and saute until the rice turns brown (hence the recipe name!)

Add the contents of both cans to the pan.

Bring contents to a rolling boil.

I spray every pan I cook in (except for cookies) with cooking spray.  It makes cleanup soooo much easier.  Pour the rice mixture into a casserole dish and cover.  Covering is very important!  When I first began cooking this, I could never remember if it needed to be covered or not and Maw Maw's recipe didn't say either way.  After a few batches of sort of dry rice, I definitely remember to cover it now.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  When you take it out it looks like this!

So delicious!

Brown Rice


2 T Worchestershire sauce
2 T butter/margarine
1 c. white rice
1 can of French Onion soup
1 can of beef consumme


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a frying pan, melt the butter and Worchestershire sauce together.  Add a cup of rice and saute until brown.  Pour in the soups and bring to a rolling boil.

Pour the mixture into a sprayed casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 40 minutes.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Closet Organization Part 3: Bedroom Closet

Hubby and I share a closet.  We also have a chest of drawers that holds his white t-shirts, our socks, underwear, and pajamas, and my shorts/jeans.  Our closet isn't exactly pretty, but it is functional and I use nearly every inch of the space.

I posted the tutorial for my Easy Jewelry Organizer, and I purchased the radiator grate earring organizer from Etsy because it would have cost me just as much to make one.  This is on the right when you enter the door.

I use pool noodles to hold up my boots.  I also don't have many clutches, so they just get to sit on the top shelf.

Hanging on the back rack are my scarves, skirts, dress pants, and dresses.  We also keep our laundry hamper below my jewelry.

I use two hangers to organize my scarves.

Below my dress clothes are my workout clothes (you can barely see them folded on top of my shoe shelves; pants/capris/shorts on one side, shirts on the other).

I prefer to store my shoes with both heels facing out so I can grab a pair, set on the floor, and put on.  It is more space efficient to store them this way, though (so you can see the left heel and right toe).  I store flats on top, heels on the second shelf, sandals on the third, and other shoes on the bottom.

There is a lot of wasted space at the top, but even with a step-stool, this area is difficult to reach so I don't try to make it more efficient with more shelving.  It only stores our suitcases and a bin of seasonal clothing (swimsuits, gloves, hats).  

Hubby's pants hang up first in the closet.  His shirts are on the top bar; my shirts are on the bottom bar.  His sweaters and shorts are folded on the middle shelf, and his shoes are on the floor.

Our shirts are arranged first by sleeve length (so for me that would be tanks, sleeveless, short-sleeved, 3/4 sleeved, long sleeved, sweaters, and suit jackets).  I know you are not supposed to hang your sweaters but I don't really have anywhere else to put them right now.  Hopefully we will eventually get a bedroom set with some extra drawers.

Here are my shirts, first arranged by sleeve length, then by color.

I also recently splurged and bought all of the same hangers.  It just looks so much better.

Here is the step stool I use to reach the top shelf, and my yoga mat lives here, too, since I do that upstairs.  It is one of the things in my house that is not stored with similar items (the rest are in the garage).

I generally only keep one purse at a time and right now I'm using a black one--that I scored for $3 at a thrift store!--but I really like my red one.  Eventually I want a light brown Coach purse, day!

These hooks were here when we moved in, and hold my nightgowns, robes, belts, and hubby's toiletry bag.

Hubby's belts and ties lack in organization.  I guess they are organized enough (his belts hang over the top of a hanger and his ties also on a hanger.  Maybe one day I will better organize them, but it suits the purpose.

This concludes my closet series (for now!).  Here is the post to see them all.  I hope you found some easy, inexpensive ideas for organizing your closets!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Closet Organization Part 2: Linen Closet

Our linen closet is in the hallway beside the guest bathroom, so a lot of items that are normally stored in linen closets (cotton balls, wash cloths, extra toiletries, etc.) are under our bathroom sink instead. This closet houses mainly linens and medicine.

The top shelf holds large blankets and quilts (I only have two, haha).  The quilt is so special because my grandmother made it for me for my college graduation, but she had been in really poor health.  I had no idea she was making it, and my parents had me open the box at Christmas.  I just bawled.  I used to display it on a quilt rack in our bedroom, but the stand broke.

The second shelf holds the two extra sets of sheets we have; one set for the air mattress and the other set for the guest bed (just in case we have unexpected guests and don't have time to wash the usual sheets).  I found it was easier to store them vertically.

The second shelf also holds our throw blankets- two of which are in a basket in the living room for the winter.

The third shelf holds first aid supplies and medicine.  We used to store all of our medicines in that basket, but I got tired of having to practically dump the basket just to find sinus medicine, so I decided to splurge on plastic bins to sort them.  The bins really need to be a little smaller, but the store was out of the next smaller size so I settled on these.

The labels are:
  • Cold/Cold/Allergy
  • Eye Drops (Hubby has had a lot of problems with his eyes so there are a lot)
  • Itch Relief (and I have had poison ivy a few times...)
  • Pain Relief
  • Prescriptions/Vitamins
  • Stomach Medication
The basket hold first aid supplies such as hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, bandages, and gauze.

I just noticed Hubby must have folded the white towel.  Oh well; we all have imperfections, right?  We do have a TON of extra towels, and I should probably get rid of some.  

I keep several extra rolls of toilet paper in each bathroom, but any extra go on the floor in the linen closet.  I also keep my space heater and humidifier in there, too.

To see the other posts in this series, click here.