Taco Rice

1              14.5 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes

1              15.5 oz can of beans, drained

2              stalks of celery, diced

½             onion, diced

2              cloves of garlic, minced

1 ½         cups of rice

1 ½         Tbsp of taco seasoning

5              cups of  Water


In a pot cook the onion, celery and garlic with 1 cup of water over medium low heat until soft. When vegetables are softened, add the remaining ingredients. Stir and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to low. Stir several times over the next 10 minutes. Add more water if needed to cook the rice. Shut off heat after 10 minutes to let the rice complete cooking.


Homeschooling – Curriculum

I have homeschooled for over a decade. I’ve tried many different methods and find that there is no one right fit or way to do it. Each child has different interest, strengths and challenges. I will try to break down different things I have learned over the years in separate posts. This one will be about curriculum.

Before the year begins, I research what the state expects each child to know at the end of their current grade. I am not required to test my kids in this state but we still do periodic testing to make sure I am not missing exposing the children to content. I print out the standards at the beginning of the year and check it once a quarter to help keep us on track.

We are using the Oak Meadow books as the backbone of our school year. We do not participate in their teacher assisted program. The Oak Meadow set has the teaching guide and all the student texts. It isn’t the cheapest nor is it the most expensive. I don’t buy the art kit because I can buy the items locally cheaper. If you have never homeschooled, these books are great because the entire year is broken down into weekly lesson plans. You could strictly use their guidance and be fine.

I also pick up workbooks from Sam’s, Costco or Barnes and Nobles for each grade. This helps guide some of learning that isn’t covered at grade level in the Oak Meadow books. I also find it helpful for assisting the children to understand that at other schools they will be required to sit and complete work to turn in. I don’t plan to ever put my children in school but I’m also aware that circumstances change and it might be necessary at some point.

We also work on a theme for a few weeks at a time. This work is used to give them the chance to explore a subject that interests them more deeply. For example we are studying bats this week. I find bat worksheets and art on line that I can print out. I reserve bat themed books at the library. I cue up YouTube videos on bats as well. If we lived near a bat colony we would take a trip to study them in real life.

When my older kids were homeschooling, I did purchase grade appropriate text books either locally or on line. I have also used distance learning on-line during the high school years. Both worked well but it doesn’t let you completely step back from teaching. It required me to make sure they were completing work and tests when they did the on-line studies. With the text books I had to do hands on planning of the year.

Food Budget Taming

I’ve notice that a ton of people advise making a meal plan before you go to the grocery store. I tried this for years and never managed to stay on budget with it. It isn’t that we were eating steak and lobster every night. We eat simple things. It has taken me years to figure out why it didn’t work for us.

When I buy for my meal plan, that left no money to build up a pantry. That meant I spent too much trying to get ahead by buying things that were “loss leaders” or on sale. For me the only way to get the cost under control was to flip how I was doing things. I now meal plan after I shop.

The first step in my meal planning is to get a clear picture of what I already have on hand. I have a piece of paper on the fridge that lists what meats and leftovers are in the freezer. I also have a master grocery list on the outside of the fridge. Whenever the last of something goes into use (or low in the case of toilet paper) it is marked on the list.

Both the inventory and shop list can be cute as you like. There are tons of people offering free printables for both. I keep it simple and often reuse envelopes or note paper for my lists. Envelopes from junk mail are awesome for this as you can easily stuff them with coupons for your shopping trip.

On Tuesday I check my cabinets, fridge and freezer for what I have to double check if things are getting low. It is easy when things are busy to forget to mark something on the list. It also refreshes my memory to what I really have on hand.

On Wednesday (and Sunday) I check the sales fliers. I write down all the items we need and want on a sheet of paper with the store name and the price. Writing down the price is important because there have been so many times something is in the flier but not marked correctly at the store. It’s easier to either choose to not buy or have the cashier correct it or get a rain check if it is something you can verify the price and product.

I highlight the items we are out of on the list of sales prices I have written down. This lets me see that the cost of items we are out of and lets me know what I have left to spend. I then use another highlighter color of the sales things I would like to buy if the money is available. Those items we are out of but that aren’t on sale, get the priority over building up my stock on hand of sale items.

I also only use cash when I shop. It helps cut out impulse purchases knowing you only have so much on hand. I find it makes you a bit more discriminating. If the lettuce that week looks a bit dodgy you don’t want to part with your cash for something that is going to into the compost instead of eaten.

Once I am home, I use the receipts to update my inventory lists. Once those are complete, I know exactly what I have in the house. I then make my meal plan based on that. I do try to avoid serving the family the same thing over and over so I have themes for each meal.

Colorful Weekly Meal Planner Menu



Getting Motivated – Watching YouTube

There are several things I do when thinking about money or the strain of dealing with the messes get to me. In this post I want to share some of my favorite youtube channels.

The first one I would like to share is Anarchist Kitchen (don’t get scared by the name). They are some interesting and colorful folks. Most their videos are food oriented but the ones I watch over and over are about how they live on next to nothing cash envelopes. The food videos are always sparking ideas (watch with the sound off if curse words are bothersome).

When I feel like I am the only one who has hit the very bottom I watch Lydia Senn. She is honest and no nonsense. She is also very warm and encouraging. Her videos cover a wide variety of ground from work at home to getting your finances straight. Her video detailing one of the worst situations she has been in gives me hope because you can see and learn how she got to where they are now Hope.

Another favorite is Budget Girl. She is a single woman who found herself with tons of student debt, laid off and no family to bail her out. She is a fun young adult who shares what it is really like to go from heavily in debt to (recently) debt free over the course of a few years. Her shopping haul videos are awesome Food Haul .

Tell me what you think in the comments and share links to your favorite Frugal youtubers.




Where did the month go?

I had planned for May to be the month we deep cleaned the house and decluttered the first floor. There was another medical emergency in the first few days that totally smashed that idea to bits. The person is fine but this was life changing for him and the rest of the family.

Within a few hours of the event I made sure that my husband and I and our adult son redid our wills and our medical directives. I did them through legalzoom (not sponsored) because we had used them in the past and our family lawyer said the products were just as good as what she would be able to provide us. This week we will finally sign them and that is one less thing to worry about.

I have managed to get the boys back on track with school work so they will be wrapping up this grade’s work in just a few weeks. We will take a short break then start on the next grade’s work. I’ve already purchased their books so the only thing I am missing is some components for their science and wood working projects.

My father came for a visit this month as well and helped with several electrical issues and installed a fan for us. That took care of a few to dos without too much expense. He has saved us money because he’s and electrician and has been able to correct a (huge) number of issues we’ve had because the builder of the house did things incorrectly.

This brings us to the last few days of the month and a slight pause in the chaos. I need to regroup and reset my goals for June based on what didn’t happen in May. Hope everyone is enjoying the blossoming spring.

Lead me not into temptation

Part of my efforts to get back on track is to be totally honest with myself. I know I’d like to be one of the folks who feed their large families on under $300 a month, but I am not there yet. I need to separate my ideal life from my real life.

What exactly are my budget busters? My weaknesses are being too tired to do things that need to be done and not having discipline to stick with plans (be it a budget or a project). How can I deal with being too tired? I know I need to have some meals in the freezer that can be set out on those days we are rushing around. I do this by cooking extra when I make soups or beans.I also allow room in the budget for those things that can make a near instant meal that will help me avoid the temptation of drive thru food.

I also wake up early so I can get work done first thing in the morning. My energy seems to leave in the afternoon. On days where one or the other children have been up (multiple times) at night, I give myself permission to do only the one or two things that really need to be done and take it easier during the day.

To combat not following plans such as my budget, I’ve slowed my purchasing of things for my pantry and focused on immediate needs. A sale isn’t a great deal if it causes you to bust your budget. I also toss sales fliers and catalogs straight in the recycle bin instead of daydreaming about buying things. I also use cash only for local purchases. If you don’t have it you can’t spend it.

To get to where you want to be you need to sit down and have a heart to heart with yourself. Where are you messing up and what can you do to fix it?


Two Week Meal Plan

Here is my two week meal plan.

Sun – Slow cooker stew
Mon – Au Gratin potatoes with broccoli
Tues – Leftover beans and rice
Weds – Turkey loaf with sweet potato fries
Thurs – Potato soup
Fri – Greek Salad
Sat – Tuna Casserole
Sun – Shepherd’s pie (using leftover stew)
Mon – Leftover potato soup
Tues – Leftover Beans and Rice
Weds – Shrimp scampi, noodles and broccoli
Thurs – Spanish rice
Fri – Baked chicken, mashed potatoes and peas
Sat – Fried tofu, corn and green beans

The leftover beans are from a huge batch I had made last week. I try to make a double serving of soup or beans when I cook to enable me to have something I can just pull from the freezer.

First Quarter Update 2017

I noticed it has been two months since my last post. There is so much going on and I am still not sure how much I want to share. It isn’t that I am ashamed by what we are dealing with, however it involves others so I want to respect their privacy as much as possible.

Financially things are getting a little better. We have cut our expenses and are beginning to see some breathing room because of it. I am always looking at “side hustles” that don’t take away from the family. My main one is reselling items bought at auctions. This quarter there has only been one and nothing I wanted to bid on.

We tried a few classes with the homeschool co-op we belong to. The class that was under thirty minutes went great. The boys could stay focused and then got to join other kids in the gym for free play. The two hour class is just a little too much instruction for my little guys so it was more a lesson to me that they are not ready for it.

The instability caused in our daily life by several large changes has been very tough on the boys. There have been days that the tears and tempers have been the norm and not the exception. Add to the emotional changes the fact we did an elimination diet and you can imagine how grumpy folks have been.

I plan to makeover this blog in a better format and to be more active. I am increasing what I post on Instagram and Facebook as well.

How are things going for you this first quarter?

Harmony House TVP Product Review

Please note there are no affiliate links or referral codes. I will only review products I purchase for my own use so I can keep the reviews honest.

We use TVP (textured vegetable protein) for a number of reasons. It is a shelf stable meat substitute. That makes it easy to store and keep on hand. I use it to make some of my traditional meals in a way that both the vegans and everyone else in the family can enjoy. I use it to pull together a meal when I forget to set something out to thaw. It is also very inexpensive in the cost per meal category.

I originally purchased the sample pack of TVP from Harmony Farms in November. These are gluten free except for the beef-ish bits. The ham-ish bits were fantastic in bean dishes and as topping on salad. The fail I had with them was trying to use them in fried rice but I think that was more to blame on my technique rather than the product.

The beef-ish chunks I used in everything from stew to tacos. They do best in something with a sauce or in a soup and are a huge improvement over some of the plant protein substitutes I have been buying from the frozen section. There is no funky or off putting flavor that I have found with some other products.

Chicken-ish bits have worked splendidly in both soups and chicken and pasta or rice dishes. The greatest compliment was the fact there were no complaints from the non-vegans in the family. We enjoyed the sample pack so much that we purchased larger containers of the TVP in the chicken and beef chunks and in the ham bits. We also purchased some of their dehydrated vegetables and look to buy some of their fruits with our next order.

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