Menu Monday-Cooking with TVP

Well it is that time again, time to plan the menu and last week I picked up some TVP! What is TVP? Well we use it as a meat extender in this house but it is a soybean product that can boost protein eating in many dishes. So how will I use it, you will have to see my menu over the next couple of months to see( yes I have that much).

Monday- Tacos( we love Tacos and by using a mix of TVP and hamburger we can really stretch this).

Tuesday-Veggie Spaghetti  (slow cooker recipe) and Salad

Wednesday-Breakfast for Dinner-Cheese Omelet and Tomato Slices

Thursday-Hotdogs and French-fries and corn

Friday-we have been invited out

Saturday-cheese pizza(bought on sale for $3.99) and salad

Sunday-Roast Chicken, potatoes, carrots, corn( whole chickens are 2 for $10 at Food Basics).One of the ways I make this really flavorful is to add some sweet onion dressing to the chicken. Makes for a very yummy bird.

Christmas Tip–Have you started your Christmas baking yet? If not this is the week to get it out of the way..This week Roo and I will make sugar cookies  for her classes. The recipe we use is on the Kraft Website and we love it…

Now go to the Organizing Junkie to see all the other menu plans every one is cooking up this week.

When Good Plans Fail

As my daughter’s illness started to come under control this year, I began to dream again: dreams like going back to work full time, of Roo fitting in. Well this week this mom got a couple of slaps upside the head and was faced with the realities that can come.

First is on the behavioral end of things, yes Roo has gotten so much better, but she still has far to go. She gets caught up in a linear thought and cant change it and then that becomes her truth, and she will stick to it no matter what. She can become stubborn beyond stubborn when in a cycle like this and until she has had time to first calm her body and her thoughts down she is stuck. At home when I see these coming I try and nip it is the bud and tell Roo to go and have some cool down time, often after this she then she can talk through any problem. In the real world though and when she is dealing with others who can have temporary authority over her some days she doesn’t fair well.

 Yesterday at her new after school program was one of those days.  Roo was playing dodge ball and was supposed to be out. She says she never felt the ball hit her, her teacher asks her to sit and it spirals downward from there. There was no hitting, no biting ( some of the things she used to d0-) just a level of disrespect and not following the rules).Resulting in Roo being asked to take a break from the program which means I at this time do not have childcare for Roo.

Finding childcare for a child with special needs in Toronto is extremely difficult if not impossible and is VERY costly if you have to do it yourself. It makes it that you have to earn at least $15 an hour minimum and then you would be back to what you got on welfare. You see a babysitter would charge at a minimum $10 for 3 hours a day=$150 dollars.  That is something that I can not afford and with Roo turning 10 on January 2nd she no longer qualifies for child care subsides and to get a space in a daycare here lets just say she will in junior high before her name got to where she would have a spot.

So basically this means that the $100 I spent on bus-fare in the last 3 weeks is for naught, as once again I have to pick her up at 3:30 every day. So my dream of returning to the work force are once again on hold.

With this said and done I really had wanted to be working by my birthday which is now 25 days away but I feel that is an impossibility so I am trying hard to just deal with the hand that is dealt.

It has also made for a change in the Christmas budget. There will be less here. We will make due, and we willing be going to less things then I had planned: There will be more things done at home like game playing, movie watching,  and crafts.

It has also changed my volunteering plans for the month as well as I am first and foremost the mom of a special child.

Part 2 of Living on Less: The Food Budget

Often we have to stretch when we choose to live on less. For me the area I find me stretching in the most is my food budget. Gone are the days of ordering in or take out so how do I stretch my money in a city where food prices are well lets put it this way: in the US I fed a family of 5 on the same amount.So what are my strategies:

1. Shop flyers for the loss leaders. These here in Canada seem to cycle about every 8-12 weeks. So that means I know I can get 24 rolls of toilet paper for $3.99 after my dollar off coupon every 8 to 12 weeks so I get it when it is at that price.

2. Collect and share coupons. I use both Save.ca and Frugal Shopper for coupons and if you are really a good collector you can trade or even get on a coupon train.

3. Menu Plan: I like to plan on Monday mornings for my week, using what I have in the house..things bought from flyer’s or my staple list.So how does $200 get spent:

1 have 4 basic areas

  • Meat and eggs: here I spend no more then $50 a month and it stretches for about 20 meals, and includes deli meat for lunches
  • Fruit+Veggies: here I spend about $40 for a mix of fresh and frozen( I usually buy seasonal and on sale).
  • The Basics: or as some would call them dry goods..here I spend about $60
  • Leaving $30 for the fillers: cookies, chips, baking supplies etc.

With $20 left over for milk!

So that is how I live on less in the grocery store.

Today I am thankful that up here the school week is over and I get some Roo time in yeah!

Living on Less

Some of my regular readers know that I live on really what is very little in Canada’s largest urban center. This is what has forced me to be cheaper later maybe I can then be Cheap and after that maybe I can graduate to frugal. This week here in Toronto a study came out about poverty in Canada and more specifically here in To and the number of children. Did you know that 1 in 8 children live in hoseholds that are well below the poverty line, and that gap is growing rapidly here in the city..

I am going to give you some facts:

A single mom who is forced onto welfare( and many are because of unfair IE rules here in Canada) who has one child receives $874.00

She will then receive $ 266.00 for Child tax on the 20th

If she is volunteering she will receive another $100 for a bus pass.

So a mom with one child lives off of $1240 at the most…this is the amount that I receive.

How does that get spent here in the big city?

Here is my budget:

Rent $700 ( for a small basement 1 bedroom that is actually an illegal apt)

Phone and Internet ( the net is my only luxury but it is also a tool for job hunting and school work for Roo) $74.10

Food-$200 ( tomorrow I will write about how I make $200 stretch)

Busfare- $75

Laundry-$40

Personal Grooming and Cleaning Supplies -$15

After School Program for Roo-$10

School Expenses(field trips, pizza lunch, scholastic etc) -$20

 Clothing $25

which leaves me with just over $100 for anything else that may come up like the dentist which is not covered properly here in To for poor adults.

In 10 years Roo has never been on a vacation – she doesn’t know what they are. She has never spent a holiday with my family who live in Nova Scotia. These are the realities. Does this bug me? No it is my reality for now..

I am job hunting and luckily I have been given the tools that most months I can squeak by. I will admit with things like Christmas and 2 birthdays around the corner I do worry. I have never wanted Roo to know how poor we are so I don’t talk money with her. I try and teach her that some times mom can say yes to a request and some times the answer is a no. I am trying to teach contentment with what we have.

With that said and done I am really trying hard to live with less. I do this most months by shopping well and entering lots of contests which have given Roo and I some fun times in the city, however we would love that trip to Whistler to play in the snow, or one of the computers , which are only a couple of the contests I am entering all the time right now.

So any ideas for living on less but living well?

Save Money on Your Holiday Grocery Shops

Okay did anyone else notice that right after Halloween, not only the malls pulled out their Christmas finery but so did the grocery store!

Since when is the local grocery store the place to buy presents?

Here are some suggestions to save money in this season that seems to grab for your wallet…

 1. Plan your Dec meals NOW! Menu planning and then shopping with a grocery list of needed items only has helped me so very much. It hinders that impulse buy of that box of chocolate that is so conveniently located at the end of an aisle.

2. Bake and freeze now for your holidays needs it will stop you from the mad dash to pick up something to take or have on hand when guests stop by and we all know this is the month for visiting right..

3. Continue your flyer shopping for those loss leaders( hopefully this is something we all do), but only buy what you normally would and can and will use.

4. Shop during the week and day if you can, if you cant shop early in the am after a good breakfast. This stops the tiredness of the holiday line ups.

5. Only shop once or twice for your Dec groceries..I for some reason find December a hard month on my grocery budget so this helps me keep things in check.

6. If you can shop without kids…

7. Use what you have on hand: empty out that freezer because we all know that January brings better food prices right..

8. If you live in an urban area like I do here in Toronto I love to use certain food/treat warehouses. This too helps me to save. First I always hit the Peek Freans warehouse outlet on OConner, and did you know there is a Lindt/Lindor one now on Markham Road as well. Both of these will keep my chocolate spending in check!

With all this said and done hopefully we can keep some of our loonies and toonies in our wallets where they belong! Consider this my Christmas tip of the day!

Today I am thankful for a sister who I love to call my friend who is turning the big 40 this week!

Menu Monday–

We are having company in this week- got to practice hospitality right! So what are we having this week:

Monday- Slow Cooker Lasgna ( I use just regular Lasgna Noodles for this–and it is yummy!) and a salad

Tuesday-chicken nuggets, french fries and corn

Wednesday- Breakfast for Dinner- Eggs, Toast and Bacon, sliced tomato

Thursday- Turkey Tacos ( a good cheap meal)

Friday- leftovers

Saturday-Chicken/Broccoli Bake( makes enough for two days) and it comes from a Campbell’s Label

Recipe: 

Cubed chicken breasts ( we use pieces)
1 1/3 cup of water
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken
3/4 uncooked rice
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups frozen broccoli florets (we use fresh broccoli sometimes, both are great)
1 cup low fat cheddar cheese

Mix water & soup . .add pepper & onion powder
Mix in rice, broccoli, and chicken.

Pour mixture into baking dish. Cover and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Add cheese after you remove from the oven.

This recipe is great because you can really play around with the ingredients.
Campells has tons of recipes that you can easily modify to fit a healthy diet. We love Campbells here in this house!

Sunday-leftover bake!

 Christmas Tip Number# 14–Okay folks we have less then a month to go, if your decorations arent out, and up this is the week to get going on that! Mine are up and we can feel the Christmas spirit here at home!

Today I am so very thankful for a returned wallet! I lost my wallet on the street yesterday and late last night a kind stranger returned it! Can you say honesty in Toronto is alive and real! Thank you Ali!

Now if you want to you can find more meny planning over at the one and only organizing junkies blog

About The Golden Compass Debate

Okay first we all know the movie The Golden Compass is about to be released this holiday season. The movie is based on the first book in a series of fantasy novels. Up here in Ontario, 2 of the Catholic boards have removed the books from the shelves saying they are anti God. They say this because the author doesn’t believe in God. They removed the book after one rate payer( that means 1 tax payer complained). They even went so far as to say because the Scholastic forms for December which have the book as one that could be ordered by students and their parents they would not be handing the December forms out. When I first heard of this I got angry for several reasons but it really does come down to freedom to choose. It seems from what I have heard much of the religious right want the book banned.

I personally don’t think a movie could reduce my faith in God, either could a book, my faith is based on my belief in God not based in the world of utter fantasy. The book is just that a fantasy novel. It has won many awards and is worth the read according to this parent. By the way if you want to pick up the book on the cheap see the Scholastic order form.

Would I allow Roo to read it? Yes! Just as I let her read Harry Potter, and the Narnia series….they are well written books and don’t we as parents want to our children to be well rounded.Yes the imagery points to a struggle of the good verses the evil. Is the Catholic church that anal? To take away and say don’t read this, and oh by the way you can’t even have an order form where the book is listed because we don’t want it in your homes either,  what do they think it is going to do ? Rob kids of their faith? I think not. By banning a book that is well written we are robbing our children of a good read. We are raising smart children. Children that know what fantasy is, that know what faith is..Even at 9 Roo knows this and I trust that she will not lose her eternal soul for reading a really good fantasy book just because the author doesn’t believe. What happened to Canadian diversity and sharing with our children what is out there so they can tell right from wrong, so we can have dialogue. By taking the book off the shelves they stop dialogue and there is so much that we can learn from one another when we talk about what things ( including books mean and what they don’t). The Catholic boards have gotten it wrong this time and big time. This from a mom who loves God and wants Roo to know there is other ways to think too or how else we she ever come to a FAITH that is truly hers.

Today I am thankful for a faith that can question and be questioned and that is still real after it all. I believe in a loving God that gives us the choice to embrace him or not, and to even believe that he does not exist.

American Thanksgiving Memories

Today as I watched the Macy’s Parade my mind was taken back to two American thanksgivings that I celebrated in..

First was in 1988 and I was living in LA, well actually Venice CA was my home. I was spending much of my time for a wonderful little church called Bible Tabernacle that houses and feeds many homeless people each and every day in LA. One thanksgiving day they do it big..they really show Christ like love for their neighbours and the homeless. Every year they set out to feed about 5,000 on the beach…For those who don’t know Venice Beach has always had a huge homeless population. That year I got to be part of the solution. I was thankful to be there to see the service of so many that give up their traditions to serve: many that served that day were household names every day of the year, we watch them on tv or in the movies. It was exciting to watch people serving people..it was humanity in action. So often on most days these are the people we walk past, and this day and well actually every day, those that volunteer at BT well are some of the most Christ like people I have ever had the chance to meet..and I am thankful for that chance.

Fast forward to almost 10 years later and it is 1997 , I am now living in Carlsbad NM, I am pregnant with Roo, and I am alone. My Bishop had asked me to house-sit while his family was out of town. I did so …it was a chance to be out of the battered woman’s shelter that was my current residence. I was so very alone that day, everyone was off celebrating with out of town families and well my family was falling apart. A month earlier my now ex had asked me for a divorce. I was in a state of depression that I have never experienced at any other time in my life. That day as I watched the parade on tv I thought of ending all the pain that was inside me that day. I figured out how to do it, and even wrote a letter, and then I started thinking of my dear child that was growing inside me, and how I would be not only ending my life but theirs and I couldn’t do that so that day I had to decide to live if not for me for them…I am thankful for that choice that I made that day and for the fact that I had Roo there with me even when I felt so alone.

Where to Watch Thanksgiving Day Parade

Just wanted to put up a quick link to Earth Cam and their link so all us international types can watch the parade…Just choose what camera you want to watch from and you get streaming video from all over Time Square! It makes my Roo feel American, and she should after all she is!

She gets to skip school today, watch the parade, eat turkey and tonight we go and see “White Christmas” down at the Sony Center..

Christmas tips and gratitude will come later today…Enjoy the parade and for you Yankees don’t eat too much!Happy Thanksgiving my friends!

Works for Me Wednesday

Another of the news stories that got me yesterday was one about going green…we are all trying to do our part right? Now do you purchase green products? This is the part 2 of yesterday, and since it is Works for me Wednesday let me tell you what works for me in regards to this news story.

First the story was this. Ninety nine percent of all GREEN products that are on are shelves have some sot of falsehood or misleader attached….99% what a figure right?

How do they lie? Lets use paper products produced in a sustainable forest, yes the forest was sustainable but the milling practices were very bad for the environment so they forget to mention the trade off. Others lie about what they can do..Others are a good thing put are packaged in stuff that are bad for the environment.So what are we as good consumers and people want to do leave a lesser carbon footprint? Well here is what works for this cheap environment friendly mom:

  • We get meatless twice a week or more…this is not only good for the environment but good for our health and our pocketbooks.
  • We use CFS light-bulbs…..again helping the environment and my pocketbook.
  • I clean with natural products alot that I can make myself no need to buy green here when I can make it at home
  • We recycle and use freecycle as much as we can, this includes shopping at second hand stores..( again I am being a good cheap mom)
  • I walk everywhere I can get to within 30 minutes otherwise I take the TTC.( again good for the environment and the pocketbook). I may use a taxi about once a month.

With these things done I save money, and my environment and all without having to go near the “green” goods….so you might want to try one or two…and check out what you are buying before you do…

Now if you are looking for more Work for me Wednesday posts go over here to Shannon’s…and read..

Christmas Tip#13–Got someone on your naughty list? I really liked this idea from Organized Christmas for Snowman Poop…so get your baggies ready to pick up this yummy stuff that is a favorite of Roo’s.

This morning I am thankful that the rain has stayed away this morning as dear Roo has an outdoor field trip all day…so let it be gone till at least 4 pm.