Sunday, January 29, 2012

Food Sucks–Plan of Attack

Food prices suck and they just seem to get worse.  Back in October, I was shocked when I realized that I spend over $260 a week on food.  To put that into perspective that is $520 a paycheck – My mortgage payment is only $482 a paycheck with taxes.

Since November I have tried new things: using coupons, shopping at different stores, and having a different focus on my shopping list.  My weekly costs have gone down but with 3 birthday parties in November, Holiday parties and baking, I really can not provide a good food cost per week since my October analysis.  I do know that regardless of what that number is, I can improve.

This week I will update on my adventures of couponing, the Aldi’s redemption, shopping the sales, and provide some helpful money saving tips.


From January 20th to April 13th my goal is:

  • Spend only $200. a paycheck for 6 paychecks or 12 weeks
  • Equals $1,200 or less bring my weekly average down to $100
  • The $160 weekly savings over a year would equal $8,300

I don’t know if this is possible to spend only 1,200 but its worth the effort to try!!  My previous $260 average would cost me $3,120 over 12 weeks so anything under that is going to be a savings!

So what is included in the the $200?  This is the part of the challenge that can make it or break it.

  • Weekly grocery shopping items: food, meats, cleaners and paper products
  • Purchases from the farmers market
  • Drug store purchases
  • Food purchases from BJ’s and Wal-Mart (receipts will need to be itemized)
  • Food purchases from Nice N Easy or other convenience stores
  • Dunkin Donuts (purchases after my gift card is depleted)  and K-cup purchases
  • Eating out was the hardest part to decided about.  One dinner at Red Lobster and we are eating noodles and carrots for the rest of the week. I decided that I will count the following:
    • meals for when I am too lazy to cook
    • lunches from Ted’s at work (example)
    • If I take the kids to McDonalds or for pizza

Now some of you may say that’s cheating but really David and I don’t go out to eat that much.  We really don’t have the time.  When we do go we usually have a gift card.  But I will track all dinners out and let you know how much I spent when we do the final analysis on April 13th.

I decided that the easiest way to do this is, on payday Friday pull $200 cash from the ATM and keep it in a food only wallet.  Physically seeing my cash go out for food will help control the foolish spending we all do!  Only the hard cold cash that I had to the teller will count towards the $200.

    • If I purchase $10.00 at Rite Aid and use $6.00 in ups rewards I only charge my Grocery $200 the $4.00 I gave the cashier.

Will my family be eating beans and rice for the next 12 weeks. nope. I will cook good balanced meals for my family.  Maybe even share a recipe or two!!

Each  week will post a FS {food Sucks} update as of (Date).  It will include a break down of what I purchased that week, at which stores, any key savings, and the meals I plan to cook that week. 

Wish me Luck!!

Vanilla Baby!! (Homemade Vanilla Extract and Sugar)

If I knew all these years that making my own homemade vanilla extract was this easy and fun, I would done it long before now!  Here is how you do it, get your pen ready:

  • Pour vodka into a bottle
  • add vanilla beans
  • Let sit for a few weeks shacking it up every now and then
  • Strain and use

Seriously that is it.  Don’t believe me read here!!

Since I was buying Vanilla beans I wanted to make another fun vanilla treat.  Vanilla Sugar.  This one is a bit more complicated, ready??

  • Cut 2 vanilla beans into half inch strips
  • put in blender with a cup of sugar
  • Blend for like 5 minutes
  • Sift out the big pieces of vanilla bean and clumps of sugar (save these = see coffee extract below)

Very easy!  This is great to bake with, use in coffee or on toast!  The more detailed steps are here.

  These are so awesome to make and if packaged right are the cutest gifts!!

But wait there is more!

Coffee Extract

I was looking at the left over vanilla beans and sugar that were sifted out.  I had the idea of coffee extract.  So a quick google search and I had a few ideas to give it a try – Kristen Style! I boiled 2 cups of water with 4 large scoops of instant coffee and the left over vanilla beans from the vanilla sugar. I let it boil for about 10 minutes then turned of the heat and let it cool.  I filtered out the vanilla beans and bottled it.  I am looking forward to using it and seeing how it turned out. what kind of flavor it has.  I don’t keep that much strong coffee on hand so it not have the intense flavor I want – but I will let you know!!

Spicy Ketchup

They way I cook is simple, unless you want to duplicate what I did!  I find a recipe that I like and I start following the directions.  Then I quickly deviate without measuring anything or writing it down.  It’s a dab this and a dash of that style of cooking.  And that is what happened with my spicy Ketchup.


It started with this recipe I found on pinterest.  Simple enough right.  Well the recipe call for 28oz of puréed tomatoes.  I had over 96 oz….let the deviation begin!

This made 12 jars of ketchup.  Obviously you would need to try to cut this in half for a more reasonable use but this was perfect for a swap.

what you need (if I remember correctly Winking smile)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of roasted Garlic
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon of Horseradish
  • 1 96-oz can tomato purée
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar (I think, I really didn’t even try to measure this)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 little can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard (I used mustard seed)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon Chipotle pepper powder



  1. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion until for 5 to 8 minutes until translucent. Halfway thru cooking the onions add the horseradish, red pepper flakes and garlic and finish cooking Onions.
  2. Add the tomato purée, brown sugar, vinegar, tomato paste, salt, mustard, nutmeg, pepper,and chipotle pepper and stir to combine.
  3. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 90-120 minutes (Smaller batches will take less time) until it is thick like ketchup.
  4. Using an immersion blender, food processor or blender, puree the mixture until smooth.
  5. Adjust seasonings if needed and pour ketchup into a container and seal. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.

I really liked it, it taste like normal ketchup but then you realized it had a kick. It was like an after thought!  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2nd Westmoreland Food Swap

Last night was the 2nd Westmoreland food swap held at the firehouse.  This time I actually went, I dragged Brenda with me because I really wanted to swap her for some French Onion Soup!  She is a foodie so I knew she would get into it!


First of all it was so great that so many people took part.  There were 4 full size tables full of food to swap.  Each table had about 4 people with tons of goodies.  My Swap items:

This is how my part of table looked:


Here are just some of the things I could of swapped for:

399857_239593342785029_118329564911408_535344_1767705372_n[1] Fresh Egg, Syrups, homemade breads


Bacon Popcorn, BBQ sauces, apple butters, seeds, Tomato pie



and so much more!

The first hour we went around sampling things and talked to the other people about their food items. I signed up for a lot of different things! Then we all sat down and enjoyed a multi course dinner put on by Bernie, Denise and Tony as part of the wandering fork dinner for Slow foods.  Normally a full on dinner is not served with a swap.  Westmoreland just likes to change things up a bit!  Here’s some of the photos of the food:



I only took photos of the first course. Sorry I am easily distracted!  So after eating we swapped.  I have very little time to take photos here. This was the go time!  I took a quick look at my swap sheets, a few swaps were easy. Denise signed up for something of mine and I signed up for her salty seeds, The pizza lady wanted my vanilla and so did the maple syrup girl.

  I had no one signed up for my Vanilla sugar, so I went looking, I found some cookies and offered the vanilla in trade! then I took my jam to another lady with cookie pops and she was willing to trade for them.  The swap sheets are great to figure out some of your swaps. but the rest are up to negotiations!  If there is something you really want, when the swap opens you go after that product. I walked up to a lady and said would would you like for that mustard?  She wanted spicy ketchup! it was great lots of fun.  I came home with tons of new things:


That would be 2 jars of Carmel bacon popcorn, cookie pops, Maple syrup, onion soup and 2 other kinds of soup, 3 jars of BBQ sauce, English muffin bread, tomato pie, honey mustard, salty seeds, and more!

I look forward to future swap, in the summer it will be great to swap veggies!  the last 2 years I have had so many cuke’s and no beans!  If you have a chance to go to swap, jump on it! it’s a lot of fun! 

More information about the Westmoreland food swap can be found here on the FB page

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Garlic Bread Seasoning


this was fun to do.  I just mixed everything and poured it into a salt and pepper shaker.  If you want garlic bread you butter your bread and shake this on top.  This is great even sprinkled on chicken and pasta!

I like to always add a little fresh parmesan cheese to my dishes when I used this. It helps bring out the flavor.  This does contain powdered cheese that I buy at Tom’s Food in Clinton.  I am not a fan of using a food like this, but I think they have the best quality and its only 1/2 cup.

I found the recipe here, it’s a great website with other great recipes I want to try!

what you need:

  • 1/2 c. powdered Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 2 tsp. marjoram
  • 2 tsp. parsley

Mix all together and pour into shaker bottle!

To make mine look cute for the food swap last week I covered the top with a cupcake liner and tied it with a ribbon.  Using my scrapbook circle punch I made the label for the top.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cherry, White Chocolate, and Almond Biscotti

During Sundays Swap, I never took a photo of my Biscotti.  This is the best photo I have {photo credit to the cookie lady!}


See it right here  in the bottom left corner.  Yeah to make it pretty I wrapped the ziplock bags in scrapbook paper and tied them with yarn!

Guess what else I actually followed a recipe!  Okay no not really!  I based it of this Pistachio Biscotti recipe by Tyler Florence. 

Here is what the basic Biscotti calls for:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  { I used almond to complement the almonds I was adding to the biscotti}
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Then I really did follow his instructions which read:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, gradually add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla; mix until creamed. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dough until smooth. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the {Here’s where I made the change= see “filling” below} until evenly distributed.

FILLING :  So he called for 1 1/2 cups of Pistachios.  I used about (yes I just dumped these in so now I am guessing on measurements):

  • 1/2 cup of dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup of White Chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of Raw Almonds

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut in half. Roll each half into a log, each 12 inches long by 1-inch high. Place the logs on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 35 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly brown. Let the logs cool for 5 minutes and then place on a cutting board. Slice each log on a diagonal into 12 1-inch thick pieces. Put the cookies back on the cookie sheet and bake 5 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake the other side for another 5 minutes. Store cookies in an airtight container.

These are so fabulous with Coffee or hot cocoa!  At Christmas time I did make some with Pistachios but that to I altered! {wink!}

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vacation Never Ends Freezer Jam

So I really love this Jam. Its Fab!  It reminds me of a great vacation, it will make you think about being on a beach or Oceanside with a great drink!


But that’s not the best part!  It can be used for more then toast and a sandwich!

I came across this recipe in Ball’s complete book of Home Preserving.  It was call Tropical Breeze Freezer Jam.  (You can see the original recipe here).  I made some minor changes (I know you are not surprised that I didn’t follow the directions!).

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 package of freezer Jam pectin
  • 2 cups finely chopped pineapple –Fresh or canned but drained
  • 1-2 Medium sized banana (about 3 medium)
  • 3/4 cup  mandarin orange segments

Here’s how simple it is!

Step 1) in a food processor blend the Oranges, bananas and Pineapple till finely chopped

Step 2) add sugar and pectin to food processor and blend

Step 3) Remove blade from your food processor and stir for 3 minutes.

Step 4) Poor in to freezer safe jars leaving 1/2 inch for headspace.

Step 5) Let jar stand until thickened, about 30 minutes. Label.
REFRIGERATE up to 3 weeks. FREEZE up to 1 year.


My double batch filled about 7 containers.   So here is where it gets good. 


Slice French bread 1/4” thick, Lightly toast them on a cookie sheet in a 350 oven for 3-5 minutes.  Once cooled, spread jam on the slices and top with sliced strawberries and toasted coconut!

If you don’t like French bread you can use mini bagel slices, or toasted Pita bread.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Food Swapping

Have not heard about food swapping yet…That must be a big rock you have been hiding under! just kidding but it is the big trend in food land right now!
Here are some references for you:
The From Scratch Club describes a food swap as:
How it works: You can trade an item you made for another item that someone else made: items are swapped 1-for-1. You bring as many items as you’d like to swap; for example you could bring 6 of one item (6 loaves of bread) or 6 different items (1 jar of blueberry jam, 1 loaf of bread, 1 jar of vanilla extract, 1 tomato transplant, 1 jar of granola, 2 pints of pickled beets). Participants have time allotted to grab a spot on one of the many swap tables, set up their items & samples. Once everyone has their swap items on the table, and “swap cards” filled out, it will be time to sample and place your name on the card of the item you would like to swap. The last hour of the event will be the “live action swap” where the action takes place!
My Mother in law hosted the first Westmoreland Food Swap in the Fall. I made some cupcakes that I sent down to swap but I couldn’t attend the swap because I had 2 other appointments that day.  So today I went with Denise to a swap hosted by someone else.
Here is what my swap table looked like:
  • Fresh eggs from our Chickens
  • Homemade Cherry, white chocolate Almond Biscotti
  • Garlic Bread Seasoning
  • Vacation never ends freezer Jam
I will try to post the recipes this week for these.  I had samples of my biscotti and my jam.  There were so many things to trade for:  Fudge, cheese, meats, homemade pasta, muffins, body scrubs, oils, jams infused vodka, pottery, salsa, cookies and so much more. 
This is what I came home with:
2 pieces of pottery, 2 bags of fudge, cream cheese, Hamburg, homemade Twix, salty seeds, lilac jam, muffins, salsa, zucchini marmalade, body scrubs

This swap was different where you got what you signed up for.  Most are done where you write you name on the list of what you want trade and the item you want to trade for. So I could trade my eggs for someone's salsa.  Then during the trading hour I go find the salsa person to find out if they accepted my trade offer. 

It was pretty cool experience and I look forward to the 2nd Westmoreland Swap on January 21.  Its going to be a pretty cool event!  Denise is teaming up with Slow Food Mohawk Valley for a Wandering Fork Dinner.  Here's the details:
Tapas style Dinner made with local food from our farmer friends. But there's audience participation, as well! You get to bring with you food to swap, and don't skimp on the eye candy!! Pretty wrapping is always a hit! Your swap item(s...) must be made, baked, grown or foraged by you!! Check out the Westmoreland Food Swap NY FB page for swap ideas and inspiration

Where can you go for $20.00 and eat a meal like this in CNY in the middle of winter, help out Slow Food Mohawk Valley ( half of your fee $10 - goes to Slow Food Mohawk Valley) , swap great food made by friends to take home, that you could never find in any store? Enjoy a wonderful evening with friends who share your commitment to local foods.
The menu and more information can be found on the FB page located here.  Now I just have to figure out what I am making for that swap in a few weeks!  What would you like to swap?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In progress

Dont mind the blog appearance but I am in the middle of changing the layout

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 here we come

Last night I recapped 2011, here is my too do list for 2012

  • Finish losing weight (Hit the 100 pounds lost mark )
  • Run the boilermaker 15K and maybe a half marathon
  • Overcome my fear of heights at Adirondack Extreme
  • Climb Mt. Marcy  and one other mountain we have never climbed before
  • Vacation in White Mountains
  • Go to the Museum of Play in Rochester
  • See a Live NHL game
  • Camp at least 8 times
  • Make homemade raviolis
  • Have regular date nights with hubby
  • Go out one night all dressed up
  • Run the warrior dash
  • Have an adult only dinner with the Szahulski adults
  • Spend the night in Lake Placid
  • take the kids to see NYC during Christmas time
  • Remember to plan my garlic in the fall
  • Take one item off the bucket list
  • Try to read more
  • Drink less coffee
  • Hike the entire trail around Nicks Lake
  • Try to live off our garden more, and less off the supermarkets
  • Go Kayaking for a day with no kids
  • See a Bear not at a zoo
  • Learn photoshop
  • be better about folding laundry
  • Challenge myself monthly: do one unexpected nice thing, try a new receipt and spend one night with no internet, no TV, no interrupts – just play as a family together
  • Get more organized
  • Go Snowshoeing
  • Get more sleep each night (yeah with this to do list on my mind!)
  • Master big girl push ups
  • teach the kids to ice skate
  • go to lake george in the summer
  • Keep my blog up to date in December!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking back


I know I should of posted this yesterday but its never really late to look back on a wonderful year.  We were busy during 2011, these are just a few of the events in our life.

  • Went Camping, a lot


  • Had fun with Friends


  • Enjoyed the Adirondack


  • Enjoyed our garden






  • Climbed new mountains





  • Cruised to The Bahamas305371_10150371919975847_563920846_8350496_1878889062_n[1]
  • Played Tee ball! and scored goals





And now onto 2012………


Happy New Year!