Gettin’ busy in the kitchen

I am in love with the prices at the commissary! When we first got here, I was really skeptical about whether the prices and service would be better. We try to plan to go every other week, on the non payday weekends since it’s less busy. It was pretty busy today, but there’s a four-day weekend for a lot of soldiers.

We got all of our food and household items (including toilet paper, paper towel, etc) for $125. That’s not bad considering we got a ton of produce and a few packages of meat. We get the 18-roll toilet paper and it lasts us like six weeks or something crazy.

So, we went to the store and then went and saw “Dream House”. It was pretty good! We bought the 2011 bucket of popcorn last time, which was like $15, but you get refills each time you go back to the movies for only $2.50. We got a large drink to share, so all in all, concessions were $8. Movie tickets are $5/person for military, so we spent $18 at the movie theater. We had been planning to go to the “Bodies Human” exhibit, but tickets were $15/person AND honestly, the preserved bodies creep me out. I know I’m a grown woman, but still.

After we got home from the movie, we found that someone had stolen our pumpkins from in front of our house! We picked them last weekend at the corn maze and were going to paint or carve them. đŸ˜¦ That made me sad and upset. Who the frig steals pumpkins?!

I let out my frustrations in the kitchen.. I got a LOT of food prep done for the week, and even tried my hand at crockpot freezer meals. Well, one.

Pinterest has been my go-to place for recipes and ideas…

cantaloupe, strawberry & kiwi salad
ready-to-eat veggies for lunches or snacks
freezer to crockpot

I got the freezer-to-crockpot idea here. On the left are veggies, spices and bouillon prepared to go in the crockpot with a roast. On the right are some of the leftovers of veggies and bouillon to start a homemade veggie broth. I can use it for vegetable beef barley soup or chicken noodle soup. Really, the possibilities are endless. And it’s a great way to use up that celery that’s kind of too flexible. I also hate throwing out the celery leaves.. great for flavor!

I also cut up potatoes, onion and garlic and they’re ready for cooking and mashing.

cheese, egg & bacon "muffins"

I got this idea for an easy breakfast here. I mixed up 12 eggs, cooked and crumbled bacon, cheese, milk, salt and pepper and cooked in muffin cups for 25-ish minutes at 350. Ready to freeze and heat up one-by-one, or two-by-two.

I got this idea for homemade chai from this site. I guessed on measurements, and tried it without the cardamom. It was pretty expensive, so I went without. It still turned out great! I would love to can this stuff and give as gifts. I’ve also found a dry instant mix version that I want to try sometimes. Mix the liquid concentrate with milk and/or half&half and done! I think next time I’ll try using less water so it’ll be stronger. I also need a very fine strainer. I rednecked it this time and used my flour sifter.

homemade chai tea concentrate

 

I guess I should also add to this post that I’ve accepted a full-time position at the tutoring place I’m at now. I interviewed last week for a teaching job at a charter school, but I doubt I got the job as they haven’t called me but said I’d know in the next couple days. It’s okay. We’ve been praying for a full-time job for me since the extra money is nice for saving and paying off debt. My prayers were answered, just not the exact way I wanted it. Oh well, as my dad would say, You can’t have everything!

In conclusion, I’m looking forward to two more days off with Aaron, and enjoying our time relaxing in this beautiful “autumn” weather… 75-ish for the high, 55-ish for the low. Perfect!

Revisiting the budget

So, as if you couldn’t guess this, my husband and I love food. A lot. In fact, we love it so much we spent waaaay more than is necessary this month. It did include camping, cooking for small group and getting food for my craft night, but still. There is no reason we should have spent that much.

We’ve been trying to stay on track with Dave Ramsey’s plan to pay off debt. However it’s been tough over the last almost-three years since we gave up credit cards forever. With visiting while we were long distance, moving and my four different jobs in the past 15 months (ugh) it’s been tough to budget consistently. Dave Ramsey says to have $1000 in the emergency fund, but with two older cars and wanting to travel back to Illinois after the new year (by plane), we really need more than that.

We have an Excel spreadsheet set up. We went over the budget for when we moved to Texas over and over and over again. The goal was whatever money I was bringing in, we’d apply it to our next loan that we have to pay off. The balance is only $7600 out of an original $12,600. I can’t wait to pay this one off, because the payment is almost $200 a month. That’s a lot of money to be freed up! We bought Aaron a car, we bought a washer and dryer and other household items.

We sat down this weekend to look over what we spent in September. Gas wasn’t bad, only $270 for both of us. Both of our cars get almost 30 mpg. He drives back and forth to post twice a day, and I drive to the east side. So, not bad! Food, though, was redonkulous!! Groceries alone were almost $500 and eating out was almost $200. THAT IS CRAZY! We’re only two people.

October is a new month! That’s the best part about the budget; we always have a clean slate every 30 days. Our goal is to stay below $350 for groceries and eating out. Now that we shop mainly at the commissary, we seriously save so much money! I’ve been going out to Starbucks with friends about once a week, which I think is still doable. We’ve been taking our lunches. This morning, I made homemade hummus with my friend Kim’s recipe. Easy and yummy! I used an entire bag of dry garbanzo beans and soaked them overnight. I used also almost a whole can of chicken broth, a head of garlic, tahini and lemon juice. But, if you just want to make one batch….

Ingredients:

1 can garbanzo beans

1/4 c chicken broth

3 tbsp tahini (finally found this at the commissary, the most expensive ingredient)

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 cloves garlic

Mix all ingredients together in a blender or food processor.

So, with the entire bag of garbanzo beans and can of chicken broth, it made about 42 ounces of hummus! WOW. It filled this large Cool Whip container and a little Rubbermaid one. It’s so much cheaper than buying it, and more fresh.

We also save money around the house. Like I posted on a previous entry, I also make my own laundry detergent. After our ginormous container of dishwasher packets is gone, I’ll make my own soap for that, too. I also use a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar to water for a general cleaner. It works well on glass, too. Baking soda and vinegar work well for a drain cleaner.

We don’t pay for a gym membership since it’s free to go on post. We don’t have cable, or even a TV. We don’t pay extra for data on our phones. (It’d be $60 extra a month! That’s a lot.) We got a deal on the internet.. we pay $30/month. That’s only for a year, so we’ll have to negotiate with Time Warner Cable when the year is up.

Don’t be deceived; we still enjoy being at home! Haha. We subscribe to instant streaming from Netflix, so that’s $8/month. We both love to read. That’s cheap with lots of unread books around the house and the library down the street. I sew and knit, and use coupons when buying materials for that. We also enjoy the occasional movie (only $5/ticket anytime for military!).

Now that it’s getting cooler… or, kind of (90 degrees in late September, anyone?) we won’t use as much electricity. I was happy to see that even after getting a washer and dryer, our electric bill didn’t go up very much.

Car insurance.. well, that went up after adding Aaron’s car. However, with raising our deductible and getting rid of a few extras, we have a $726 premium for both cars for six months. That’s not bad at all. We figured we’d keep full coverage so that if our cars are totaled out, we’ll at least get something so we can buy another cheap car. Not everyone would agree, but $1500 is better than nothing after a collision!

All in all, I think we have our ideas about the budget under control, we just have to implement it so that we can have some in savings and save for our trip to Illinois.