Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Money Saving Monday: make your own hummus

(I know it's a little late, so this is Money saving Tuesday.)

I make a lot of our foods from scratch. Not only do I feel that it's healthier for our family and that we're getting more whole foods in our diet, but it also saves us a lot of money. A lot of things you buy in the store can be made at home for less money.

We like to eat a lot of hummus in our family. It was one of the first foods that Dallin would eat.
Oddly enough, he hasn't really touched it in 2 years. But Connor loves hummus.

It's a great snack that's high in protein and fiber, and it encourages more healthy eating because my favorite foods to dip in hummus are vegetables and whole grain crackers like triscuits. The down side?
Hummus is $3 for a 10oz container, and this is a pretty good deal for store bought hummus.

So I often make my own. Especially with the way Connor eats it by the spoonfuls (just like Dallin did), it's a lot more cost effective to make it myself. And it uses ingredients I always have on hand, so I can whip up a quick batch for an afternoon snack.

If you haven't made hummus before, here are some good, kid-friendly basic recipes to get you started. Hummus usually has tahini paste in it. I don't use it because I don't have any, but we all like the taste of tahini. If you aren't a fan of tahini paste, this is one more reason you should make your own hummus. I don't really follow a recipe anymore, I just eyeball amounts and season to taste. Here's another recipe that sounds tasty and smooth.

My basic ingredients: 
a 15 oz can of chick peas (also called garbanzo beans), drained
minced garlic
lemon juice
olive oil
For this particular batch, I added roasted red bell pepper. It gives the hummus a nice sweetness.

Step 1: Roast a bell pepper. (To roast: place a whole pepper under the broiler, rotating occasionally to roast all sides, for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and wrap loosely in foil. Let sit til cool enough to handle. This sitting and "steaming" helps the skin come off easily.)
Skin and core the pepper. Blend in a food processor.

 Add the beans and seasonings, blend.
Then slowly drizzle in olive oil while processor is running. I also add a few tablespoons of warm water after the oil to thin out the consistency of the hummus. Once the hummus is blended and smooth, scoop into a bowl and serve.
 It's amazing how quickly a can of chick peas turns into yummy dip.
This made 1 3/4 cups of hummus.

$1 pepper + $0.69 chick peas + estimated $0.30 for other ingredients = 
$1.99 for 14 oz. (or 14.2 cents per ounce)
Compare to $3.00 for 10oz (or 30 cents per ounce)

It costs twice as much per ounce to buy hummus from the store. Granted, adding the price of tahini paste would up the cost of homemade hummus, but taking out the red pepper would also reduce the price.

Money Saved:
I make hummus about once a month, sometimes more, so we'll say 14 times a year.
196 ounces of hummus per year from the store: $60
196 ounces of hummus per year of homemade: $27.86

That saves you $32 a year!

 If that hasn't convinced you, look at how much your children will enjoy eating hummus.
 Connor's favorite lunch: cold leftover rice, hummus, apple slices. 
And sometimes a hot dog thrown in there.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Cookie Party

To celebrate Valentine's Day, I hosted a Valentine's cookie party at my house.
I made lots of cookies and my friends brought frosting, sprinkles and candies for toppings. I do mean  A LOT of cookies: 103 to be exact. 

 As soon as I started putting out cookies and toppings, Connor climbed into his seat. 
He was sooo ready to start eating cookies.

He was very good with spreading the frosting.
And we only had to remind him a few times not to lick the knife.

The kids made some really clever creations. My favorite was the cookie sandwich.

And the "everything" cookie.

Some of the kids avoided the chaos in the kitchen and played with toys.

 There were lots of happy faces.

And lots of messy faces too.

She reminds me of the Joker from Batman.

Connor, after shoving his third cookie entirely in his mouth.

 Dallin was really upset when I cut him off from eating frosting.
He's whining and saying, "I want more frosting!"

Remember those felt hearts I was cutting out earlier?
I made a heart garland to hang in the kitchen. I sewed one long line of pink embroidery floss through the felt hearts and hung it up. Super easy and super cute!

I hung some felt hearts from the ceiling by the front door.

I also made cute Valentine pictures of the boys.
These were really easy to make using PicMonkey, my favorite picture editing website.

I'm so in love with this picture of Dallin.

Because I didn't want to be left with tons of extra cookies, I had plastic bags out for people to take home their creations.

Between the 27 people, we managed to polish off the cookies pretty well. I have less than 2 dozen leftover:

I would have taken a picture of the glorious, pink aftermath in the kitchen, but my wonderful friend Deidra cleaned and swept up all the mess. It's nice to have friends. And it also helps to use disposable plastic table covers.

 Dallin was looking forward to this cookie party all week. I told him we were having a party and his friends were going to come. He loves a good party.
And he loves his friend Millie. They love each other a little too much. We have to keep an eye on them or else they get a little *too* close and comfortable. And we have to break them up when they try to kiss in the middle of church.

Ahhh, young love!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


January 2014 in Indiana broke all kinds of records for cold negative temperatures and snowfall. School was cancelled several days. Even Purdue cancelled for 3 days. Universities RARELY cancel class so this was a big deal. Our January was spent like this:

We shoveled a lot of snow.
We got about this much snow every week, and it never melted in between so it's really piling up on our grass.

Dallin and Connor love playing in the snow and we've found that sand toys (shovels, pails, etc) also make great snow toys.

And then sometimes I just give them a spoon and cup from the kitchen. Equally as fun.

 One time after shoveling, Mckay used the snow to cover our big green electric box and cable box in the front yard, and he made a cool sculpture out of it.
Connor was amazed.

It was a snow train!

Mckay wins best Dad of the year award.

We've spent a lot of time indoors and I'm running out of fun activities for the kids. We've done Play-doh a lot. 

I'm not good at selfies so I had Connor take a picture of me and Dallin.
We're working on his photography skills.

 Dallin's picture-taking was a little better.

We've also done a lot of art projects. Sometime they are as structured as using glitter glue and making cards for people. And then sometimes I just let the kids cut up junk mail with "fancy" scrapbook scissors.

Dallin and Connor still manage to get a little exercise while being trapped indoors.
Connor is saying "Come on Tookie." I don't know how he came up with it or why he's calling Dallin "Tookie." Connor is entering a fun stage where he makes up words. We never experienced that with Dallin.

You might also be wondering what Dallin and Connor were carrying in that video. That would be foam insulation tubes for water pipes (which they played with like pool noodles or light sabers). These frigid temperatures (-13 degress F was the coldest in January) are causing our water pipes to freeze. Luckily, the pipes are plastic so they don"t burst, they expand with the ice. But having no hot water (or any water at all) in the winter really stinks. We've been spending a lot of time here in the garage:
Running a space heater on the pipes for a while usually does the trick. And hopefully the foam insulation will help, because waking up to take a shower or make breakfast only to find no water comes out is not fun. It's happened about 10 times now. I'm SO ready for spring.

Other fun thing we've been up to:

 The Denver Broncos made it to the Super Bowl. (Yes, I know this was actually in February.) We don't really watch football, but we're fans of all things from Denver, so we had to show our support.
Conveniently, orange and blue happen to be the only nail polish colors I own...

Connor really didn't want to wear this adult size orange shirt. We made him keep it on for a picture, but it was ripped off seconds later.

Too bad the Broncos didn't win the Super Bowl. There's always next year!

We're hoping February is a warmer month. Even just above freezing would be welcome. I'm working on some Valentine's decorations to brighten things up. I'll let you see them all when I'm done.
Any guesses as to what I'm making?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Money Saving Monday: Weekly Planner

You may have noticed I've been in a little of a blogging rut lately. The month of January was cold and miserable snowy, and I felt little motivation to blog. 
In an effort to blog more this year and to share some of the great ideas that I have, I'm going to start a series of posts on the same topic. This particular series is called "Money Saving Monday" in which I will blog on Mondays about some of my money saving habits and practices. Mckay has been a college student for all 5 1/2 years of our marriage, so I've learned how to keep to a budget and stretch our money. Now, this will not replace our regular child-cuteness posts or ones about our exciting adventures in Indiana. And I'm not going to promise any sort of weekly regularity with these posts, but occasionally, on a Monday, you might find some helpful tips here to save you some extra cash.

My first tip is to get a weekly planner. Planning ahead and writing things down can save you a lot of time and money. I'm mostly going to talk about how using a planner saves me money on groceries, but I also use it for other things as well.

I got this planner for $8. It doesn't have to be a super fancy, expensive planner. In years past, I've usually gotten cheaper planners around $4-5, but with this year's selection, I found this planner to fit my needs the best. You can easily find one at Target or any similar store. It's about 5x7 inches and fits easily in my purse/diaper bag.

What specifically do I look for in a planner? It needs to have a monthly view so I can see an entire month on one (well...two) page.
On this monthly calendar, I write down Dr. appointments, any activities or meetings, birthday parties, times I'm babysitting for friends, etc. Pretty much anything that varies from our regular daily routine is written on here. Many people have a big family calendar at home to keep track of such things. I like that I can take this with me on the go and write things down as they come up.

My planner must also have a weekly view. I chose this planner because I liked the way this weekly view was arranged. And the boxes are lined to keep my crooked writing on track. Very important.
Every week (usually on Monday), I sit down and plan our dinner menu for the week and write the menu in the "Saturday" box on this weekly page. I plan our menu around food we already have that needs to be used up and foods that are on sale that week that I plan to buy. I also plan it based on our activities that week. For instance, I'll plan a crock pot meal for a really busy day. Or you might notice "fondue" planned for this week pictured above because of Valentine's Day. Mmmmm, I'm excited about fondue. I write down the ingredients we need to purchase as well as any other items in the grocery sales ad that we need to stock up on. My grocery list goes in the "Monday" box. 

Then, because "Monday" is usually entirely full of groceries, I write down coupons I might use on this trip in the "Tuesday" box. I do almost all of my shopping at Kroger, and they have lots of great online coupons that load directly onto your shoppers card. Most of these coupons are the same as ones you would see for printable coupons on other couponing sites, so it saves me the trouble of printing out coupons. And the digital coupons are redeemed automatically when you scan your shopper card and purchase the qualifying product, so there's no chance of forgetting to hand over your coupons at check out. The downside is that because the coupons are digital, I don't have them all in front of my to verify product names of sizes, so I write down the digital coupon information to help me remember. If you can see in the picture above, one of my coupons is written as "$2/1 Bounty 6 roll big." This coupon was for $2 off 1 pack of Bounty paper towels, a 6 count package of big rolls.
(I'll write more about my couponing habits in another post.)

Now I'm organized and ready for a shopping trip! I always have at least one child with me at the store, so it helps to plan as much as possible ahead of time so my grocery trips can be faster and the kids don't get hungry/grumpy, need a bathroom, or get lost looking at toys and candy machines.

Throughout the week, as I'm cooking and run out of an ingredient or notice something we need, I write it down on the next week's Monday. Then when I go to shop the next week, the needed items are already on the list.

 Other features I like in a planner: tabs for each month.
It makes finding each day a lot easier.

 My planner for 2013 didn't have tabs. 
It got pretty beat up with all the thumbing through pages to find dates. And the kids touched it. And I'll often write recipes from online in the planner because it's easier to keep the planner by the stove while I cook than to bring the laptop into the kitchen to read the recipe. So yeah, my planners look well-loved by the end of the year.

 For non-grocery purposes, I often use my planner for writing down lists. 
It might be a list of things I need to do that week (pay water bill, schedule appt, mail birthday card, organize closet). When we're planning a trip, it helps to have all my lists in one place. I make lists for food/snacks to bring, clothes to pack, toys for the boys, things to do before we leave, odd items not to forget like phone chargers, etc.

Having a busy schedule and two kids/pregnancies that have sucked all my brain cells, I often forget things I need to do, so I really like to have my planner with me at home and away to quickly write something down when I think of it. If you don't already have a planner, get one! I bet they're discounted right now with it already being a month into the year.

Cost: $8 per year.
Money Saved: $52 per year
(Ok, so it's hard to measure so this is totally a guess, but I'd say I save at least a dollar a week by being organized and having a planner, whether that's money saved by less gas spent on driving to the store several times, or through saving me time.)

Mckay, the book lover, upon seeing my new planner purchase at the beginning of January, said, "I should get to buy a new book too if you got to buy one." I tried to explain how much money this planner saves us each year and that my purchase was really getting us money back. I don't think he believed me and he's been spending a lot of time at the bookstore...