Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Saving Money and Eating Well as a Military Spouse

 I look back on the time before my husband and I had our first child and I am astounded on how much we spent on groceries. Our average was around 550-575 dollars per month plus eating out occasionally. Now with 2 children, a dog, and all diapers and toiletries factored into our budget we spend $350 per month or less. The thing is, I feel like I have a reason to save money and eat better now. My two sweet boys won't be babies forever and we need to save to provide for their wants and needs when they're older. This will be the first of a series in ways to save money as a military spouse. If you aren't military, don't quit reading, lots of this will apply to you too!

1. Quit buying convenience meals! Cook from scratch instead, not only is it cheaper, its also healthier! There are so many things that are easy to make yourself, but that people buy at a huge mark-up to save time. Things like pizza for instance; it costs between 3 and 5 dollars to buy a pizza, but you can make it yourself in very little time and for around 3 dollars for 2 pizzas.

2. Use coupons with judgment. If a coupon is for something you weren't planning to buy and doesn't save you a dramatic amount of money, don't bother! For instance, if I see coupons for frozen dinners, I don't even clip them. I know I can buy and make it for less than the cost of buying it pre-packaged, even with a coupon. I don't buy the paper or anything for coupons, but if I see a tear pad with a coupon I use, I'll grab a few extras for next time. Same with the coupon books at the front of the store. Unless a coupon expires today, it doesn't have to be used today!

3.  Don't assume the commissary is always cheapest! In the beginning, I bought absolutely everything at the commissary because they sell at cost. Since talking to other spouses and doing some investigating of my own, I have found lots of things have better prices elsewhere. We have a winco, so I get all of my baking supplies, pasta, and spices there. Cinnamon is $2 a POUND there instead of $2.19 for a small container at the commissary. Walmart has better prices on milk and diapers. So once a month, I make a trip to Winco and Walmart for those things. I get all my produce and meat at the commissary since the prices haven't been beat least not that I've found. If you aren't military, just check prices at your usual stores versus their competition to be sure you're getting the best deal.

4. Cut out the junk! Soda is my weakness and I'm still working on cutting it out completely. I know I could save a ton of money right there. This goes for chips, candy, cookies, etc. If your grocery budget needs trimming, look here first and see what items you can cut out.

5. Try generics. This is one people find hard to get accustomed to sometimes, but you can gradually cut in the generics with your regular brand to get used to it. I did this with cereal for my kids when we switched from Lucky Charms to the Malt O' Meal brand. I kept the lucky charms box, mixed the two cereals together and filled the box as it emptied until we had totally switched to the off brand. My kids had no idea so there was no fussing.

6. Cut your packages of meat in half. I've found most packs of meat at my store are 1.5 pounds. Most recipes call for a pound of meat, so instead of having my food extra meaty, we have just a little less meat per meal. My family hasn't seemed to mind a bit.

Hope this has been helpful to someone!


Linking up to: Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and Adorned From Above

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Failure Fajita Soup, Delicious Pumpkin Pecan Waffles, and a Pantry Clean-up

Hi everyone! It is so hard to believe that fall is in full swing when it's in the high 70s here. So I broke out the slow cooker. I really wanted to make taco soup, but I didn't have taco seasoning or any pinto beans so I figured I'd substitute in other ingredients, cross my fingers, and hope for the best.

This is what I got:

My recipe:

1.5 pounds ground beef
1 chopped onion
1 bag stir fry vegetables
2 cans of corn, with juice
2 cans of baked beans, with juice
1 can rotel
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 packet fajita seasoning
1/2 packet ranch dressing mix

1. Brown the ground beef and onion together in a large skillet. Pour the mix into a colander and cook the stir fry vegetables for 2 minutes in the remaining grease.

2. Put the meat, onions, and vegetables in the slow cooker. Add all the other ingredients finishing with the seasoning mixes. Mix well and cook on low for 8 hours. All done!

My honest opinion:

There are very few times I have disaster in my kitchen and this, unfortunately, was one of them. My advice, don't try it! Stick to my regular taco soup recipe which is the same as above except pinto beans instead of baked beans, taco seasoning instead of fajita, and NO stirfry vegetables. Ugh, one bite and that stuff went straight to the bin!

Instead, we had pumpkin pecan waffles!

The basic recipe comes from Here.

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
 1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup pumpkin butter
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1. Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls.
2. Mix the two together slowly until just barely combined.
3. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes to thicken before pouring into waffle batches! Not all at once. Fill bottom side of waffle maker until it is barely full, not heaping, otherwise it'll just leak out when it cooks.
4. Cook until waffle maker isn't steaming a lot and the top is crisp. Then you eat!

Oh, and finally, a before and after of my pantry. Before it was a mess and I had no clue what we had. So after months of just throwing more stuff in there, I finally decided to clean it out and organize it. Surprisingly, it only took about 30 minutes!

After, I found out we had 17 jars of peanut butter, 5 bags/boxes of rice, 20 cans of tuna, and 7 boxes of cereal. But it's clean!

How exactly does one use 17 jars of peanut butter? If you have any recipes, I'd be so grateful!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Hi everyone! I hope you and your families had a wonderful Sunday! I will not be posting on Sundays as that day is specially reserved for my husband, my children, and my Heavenly Father. We had a wonderful day. It was open house weekend at my church so we got to meet our mayor and chief of  police. Then we had a family lunch and played outside until my husband had to leave for work. As an air traffic controller, my husband has a different schedule every week, so this was the first Sunday morning he was able to come to church with us. It was a fantastic day! Now, on to the post..

My husband loves breakfast burritos, but for 2 at a dollar apiece on 2-3 different occaisions per week, it gets a bit expensive. So I decided I'd try to make and freeze them at home. It really is incredibly easy.

Just take a roll of sausage (I use the hot variety of Tennessee Pride sausage) and push the whole tube into a large pan. Brown it and put it in a big bowl.

Next, crack a dozen eggs into a bowl and mix them. It's much easier if you do this two at a time so they get thoroughly combined. Add a splash of milk, some pepper, and a little bit of Italian seasoning (I'm talking a small pinch, not.much.).

Scramble them in the pan you browned the sausage in so they absorb the yummy flavor. Do about a quarter of the eggs at a time so you can be sure they're all completely cooked.

Mix the done eggs with the sausage.

Put about 1/4 cup of the mixture onto a medium tortilla and fold the top and bottom inwards. Then you roll it up. Repeat until all of your sausage/egg mixture is gone (or you run out of tortillas like I did my first time). As you finish, lay them on baking sheets.

After they've all been made, put them in the freezer for 30 minutes. Take them out and wrap them in foil before putting them back in the freezer.

My husband puts 2 in the fridge each night to eat in the morning before work. This is a huge money save for us. It costs about $6 to make an entire batch (about 20 burritos). That would cost about $23 to order from McDonald's and that doesn't include the gas it takes to get there and back multiple times. My husband loves them and I love saving money, so it's definitely a win-win situation!

Right now, I am praying for all the people who are being affected by Hurricane Sandy. While i'm living in California now, I still have lots of family and friends on the east coast. I truly hope everyone comes out of this okay.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pumpkin Butter

I told y'all I'd be back with a yummy recipe today. We made pumpkin purée yesterday and today we'll be turning it into pumpkin butter. It's similar in consistency to apple butter, so it can be used as a spread (and it is delicious that way!) but one of my favorite ways to use it is to replace the oil in muffins and cakes with it. It gives them an awesome flavor. This is an easy recipe to make and it is flipping delicious if I do say so myself.

This is adapted from a recipe at Oh She Glows

I had 2 pumpkins worth of purée, so this recipe will assume you do too.

You'll need 10 cups of purée:

1/2 cup apple juice and 1/4 cup cranberry juice (I had a bit of cranberry cider from Trader Joes I wanted to try!)
2.5 cups of granulated sugar + 3 T molasses (you can use brown sugar, I just personally prefer the taste of freshly made brown sugar so I don't keep it on hand).
1/4 cup pancake syrup
3 T cinnamon
1.5 T pumpkin pie spice
1 good shake of nutmeg
1 T lemon juice
1 T almond extract (this was a happy accident, I realized halfway through that my vanilla was empty! But I am so glad, the almond definitely gives it a delicious, distinctive flavor.)

1. Mix together your sugar and molasses if you're making your own brown sugar. It will get clumpy for a minute, but I swear I'm not crazy! Keep mixing it up and it's brown sugar very quickly!

2. I simply dumped all the ingredients into a medium sized pot and got it bubbling. Mine had to simmer for about 20 minutes to reduce as much as I wanted it to. Keep your pot covered, but vented so the moisture can escape. After I took this picture, I covered the top of my pot with aluminum foil and left about an inch on either side open.

I ended up with 7 jars of pumpkin butter and I'll definitely be playing with this recipe some more.

Friday, October 26, 2012

DIY pumpkin purée...super easy, super simple!

Pumpkins are the best part of fall in my opinion! They're cheery and bright...and UT orange! :) But mostly, they are delicious. Today I'm making homemade pumpkin purée. Be on the lookout for a recipe using the purée tomorrow morning. Please excuse the lack of professional quality photos, I'm just an amateur photographer, using my iPad for now. :)

To make pumpkin purée, you'll need a sugar pumpkin, sometimes called a pie pumpkin. You could use a jack o lantern pumpkin, but I wouldn't recommend it...they are super pulpy/stringy so you pay more money for less usable pumpkin.

Anyway, start out with a pie pumpkin like these:

Then, cut them in half, like this:

Next, you'll want to scoop out the seeds (save these for roasting, yum!) and scrape the stringy pulp out. Now your pumpkin should look like this:

Place them cut side down on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil, like so:

Bake them in a 350 degree (200 celscius) oven until a fork easily penetrates the skin. For me, this was about 30 minutes. If you have a toddler, they must be sitting like this for the baking experience to work!:

Let the pumpkin sit for at least 10 minutes before touching. Speaking form experience, they're WAY too hot to handle before that.

Peel off the skin, I used my fingers. The skin should easily and cleanly pull away. You'll be left with this:

Put them in a food processor or blender and blend until puréed. Voila! Pumpkin purée!

Be on the lookout for a great recipe using your pumpkin puree tomorrow!



Russian Spice Tea...a taste of home

Some of my best childhood memories are of sleeping over at my grandma's house. Nothing especially exciting happened; we just talked and drank hot tea, hot chocolate, or in the winter, her Russian Spice Tea. I'm not sure why she called it that, but it is one of my absolute favorite drinks! We're about 3000 miles from our family now, but recipes help us keep home in our hearts. So now, from my grandma's kitchen to mine, and now to is a delicious recipe for a comforting cold weather drink!

Russian Spice Tea

1/2 jar orange drink (like Tang) ~18 ounces or more
1 box apricot jello
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 package per sweetened lemonade mix (I use Wylers) if you can't find pre-sweetened, just add a little more sugar
1/4-1/3 cup instant tea

This is super simple! All you need to do is mix all the ingredients together and store them in a jar. I know it keeps at least 6 months but could probably be kept longer!

When you're ready to have a cup, mix 1-2 tablespoons in with a cup of HOT water and stir until it dissolves.

Hope you enjoy,


Thursday, October 25, 2012


My husband and I have both been saved for a long time, but after a long discussion with our new pastor tonight, we have finally decided to take the spiritual plunge together!

I wasn't the best person when I was younger and I was certain for a very long time that God would never be able to forgive me for my sins. Recently, I gave my heart and life to Jesus fully and completely. Since then, it seems like I am seeing the blessings in all the little things that have been done to and for myself and my family.

That is why I started and named this blog! And tonight, I am ecstatic to say that my husband and I are getting baptized together soon. I pray that I can lead my children in a long and fulfilling life in Christ. If you are reading this, please say a prayer for me and my family as we begin this new chapter in our lives. And if you need prayer in any aspect of your life, you can comment here or send me an email at

This image was a wonderful reminder that God can forgive any sin and love any person...even me and even you!

Many blessings to you and your family!


*I found this image via facebook and am not certain of the original source. If it is yours, please send me an email so I can give you credit!*

A little bit about us

We are a southern family, transplanted to California by the Air Force. I'm Miranda and I have a wonderful husband (The Man) and two sweet boys. Wild man is 2.5 years old and Boo is 14 months. They have my whole heart and I am so lucky to have them! I'm blessed to be a stay at home mother. I'm a great cook, but not so great at keeping up with our laundry! We also have a 3 year old boxer who thinks he's a lap dog. I'm starting this blog to keep our family back east up to date with our daily life. I'll also be sharing my favorite recipes and cleaning solutions, and hopefully my designs once I'm more proficient with a sewing machine. If you're reading this, I thank you for finding me and I certainly hope you'll stick around.