Frugal Living, Recipes

Cream of Tomato Soup

Tonight I cleared out more of our overflowing pantry and made cream of tomato soup.  I served it with grilled cheese sandwiches because tomato soup does require grilled cheese in order to achieve that perfect comfort food balance.  We received a cheese box (we are from Wisconsin) for Christmas, so our cheese options are plentiful.  My recipe is really easy and frugal . I would guess that the grand total for this recipe is $3.00.  It also feels perfect for this evening, as it is 12 degrees tonight and soup really does warm the soul.

I feel obligated to mention that the fires in Australia are a catastrophe that the rest of the world needs to pay attention to.  An entire continent is on fire, species of animals will be wiped out.  The devastation cannot adequately be conveyed to those of us not there.  My thoughts are with those who are living with this as their reality right now.  The world is watching and I hope paying enough attention to make meaningful change.

Now, on to soup.


Cream of Tomato Soup

2 tbsp olive oil

2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes

1 cup vegetable broth

12 oz can evaporated milk

1 onion finely chopped

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tsp basil

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in pot, add onion and saute until translucent.  Add tomatoes with juice, garlic powder, basil and vegetable broth.  Boil 10 to 15 minutes.  Turn of stove, add milk and with immersion blender blend to desired consistency.  Serve with grilled cheese for the ultimate comfort food.

Household, Recipes

Meal Plan January 5th-11th


We are trying to use up the irrational amount of food that we have stockpiled in the pantry and freezer during the month of January.  I have been reading blogs where the family has decided that they are absolutely not going to go to the grocery store.  We already have, we ran out of bananas.  But, I think we are going to be able to cut back on the grocery bill a lot this month.  Below is this week’s meal plan that utilizes food on hand.

Sunday 1/5 – Trader Joe’s Tofu turkey (this is REALLY good) and root vegetables

Monday 1/6 – Broccoli quiche and chicken breakfast sausage

Tuesday 1/7 – Crockpot chicken chili with tortilla chips

Wednesday 1/8 – Homemade cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese

Thursday 1/9 – Orzo risotto with sun dried tomatoes, broccoli and artichoke hearts

Friday 1/10 – Cod and cauliflower tots

Saturday 1/11 – OUT!  We have been invited to a potluck and all I am responsible for is dessert.  I will be bringing brownies and ice cream.

Breakfasts will be oatmeal, eggs, cereal bars or smoothies.  Lunches are usually leftovers from previous dinners.  Snacks are usually fruit, nuts, crackers, etc.

aroma chili condiments cook
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Winter 2020 Books To Read

I have compiled my list of books that I would like to read this winter.  I came up with this list from a variety of sources including Goodreads, friend recommendations and my local newspaper book reviews.

  1. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger – I received this book for Christmas and was told by the giver that it was her favorite book of 2019.  That is a pretty strong endorsement.  I can’t wait to get started.
  2. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – I loved the The Handmaid’s Tale and have avoided watching the tv show.  Given today’s political climate, the tv show feels a little too real.  But, The Testaments won best 2019 fiction on Goodreads, so I will put it on my to read list.
  3. The Call of the Wild by Jack Wolf by Jack London – This is the next book on my pile.  I want to finish this in anticipation of the movie that will be released soon.
  4. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell – I have been on the waiting list for this one for months.  I can always depend on Lisa Jewell to write a great mystery and is also an easy read.
  5. The Institute by Stephen King – Another dependable author.  I have read so many Stephen King books and know that I have not even scratched the surface of the great stories he has written.

That’s about it for planned reading.  I like to keep my options open.  Working in a library, I see so many great books come through circulation that I never knew existed.

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on
Family Life, Frugal Living

My 20 Goals For 2020

This year I have decided to try a new approach to personal changes in the new year, instead of resolutions, I will have goals.  When I set a goal for myself, I usually do accomplish it.  When it’s a resolution, I fail miserably.  This year I have 20 personal goals set for myself.

Photo by Evie Shaffer on
  1. I was recently diagnosed with VERY high blood pressure.  Until November, it was always normal.  Out of nowhere, it has gone up a lot.  I am now under the care of a cardiologist who has put me on medication and he is starting a round of tests to try figure this out.  So, my number one goal is to get my pressure back to normal.  Several of my goals have been set to help bring it down with the help of medication.
  2. Lose 20 pounds.  Truth be told, I could stand to lose more than 20.  But, small goals are best and 20 seems like a good start.  When I hit that, I will add 10 more to lose.
  3. Continue to get 10,000 steps a day in.  This has never been a problem for me.  But now, more than ever, I need to keep this habit in my daily routine.
  4. Go to the gym 3 days per week.  I need my daughter to hold me accountable with this one.  She is so good about getting herself to the gym on a regular basis, I need to follow her lead.
  5. I have spent a lot of time reading about the causes of high blood pressure and what I can do to bring it down.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  I eat a lot as it is, but it’s time to add more, especially potassium rich produce.
  6. I downloaded the Simple Habit app to encourage meditation on a daily basis.  I keep hearing that meditation helps calm the mind.  I do meditate, but not daily.  Time to start trying to meditate at least 2 or 3 days per week.
  7. Get back into the yoga habit.  Several years ago I went to yoga 3-4 days per week.  I was in great shape, but I fell out of the habit as my kids got older.  Since they are now adults, I probably shouldn’t continue to use them as an excuse for not going.
  8. Cut down on the alcohol.  I really don’t drink very much. I have wine with dinner some nights and enjoy a cocktail when in a restaurant.   But, until I get my blood pressure under control, I need to eliminate alcohol.
  9. Now on to other goals.  Pay off the house.  We had every intention of paying it off December 31.  A couple of unexpected expenses put that on hold.
  10. Read 110 books in 2020.  I sign up for the reading challenge every year on Goodreads.  I don’t think I have ever missed my goal.
  11. Read 3 classic books this year.  I am starting small because in all honesty, I don’t always enjoy the classics.  But, my mom and I agreed to start with Call of the Wild in anticipation of the movie.  It seems easy to add 2 more to 2020.
  12. More dates with my husband.  In the past I told myself we would have a date night once a week.  That proved to be difficult to achieve some weeks, making it easy to just forget about it.  Date night once a month seems easier.
  13. We have a membership to the Milwaukee Art Museum that I plan on utilizing a lot more this year.  I really do need to spend more time taking advantage of the cultural activities my city has to offer.
  14. Spend more time outdoors.  It’s not always easy in the winter to be outside.  But in the spring, summer and fall, I need to spend a lot less time indoors.  I recently read an article that encourages 1000 hours per year which is about 2.5 hours per day.
  15. Throw away 20 items per day.  We have too much stuff in this house and some of it needs to go.
  16. More no spend days.  These are so easy to accomplish and the benefit can be seen in your checking account.
  17. Spend more time with my friends.  This is another one that I am pretty good about following through on.  I enjoy meeting friends for lunch, dinner and potlucks.  In 2019 I reconnected with several old friends that I have spent time with.
  18. Finish a knitting project I started in November and start and finish another.  I learned how to knit in 2019 and really enjoy it.  I hope to find more time in the coming year to year improve this skill.
  19. Learn how to can!  We usually have a prolific vegetable garden (2019 was a failure).  My husband is the one who usually preserves the bounty.  But, more job responsibilities means that I should take this one over.
  20. Go on 2 weekend getaways with my husband.  A full blown vacation is not going to happen, but a couple weekends away should be attainable.

That’s my list.  What kind of goals have you set for yourself as you start a new year and a new decade?

assorted color yarns on brown wicker basket
Photo by Surene Palvie on
Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Happy New Year!  I have a feeling that 2020 is going to be my best year yet.  This will be the year that my youngest graduates from high school and oldest graduates from college.  We are starting the year with a new puppy, which has been so much fun.  We have wonderful friends and family who we see on a regular basis.  We both have jobs we love and aside from the typical conditions associated with getting older, we are healthy.  Life is good.

Even though the last few weeks are generally very expensive, we still found some ways to save money.

  1. I had all of my Christmas shopping and wrapping done before Thanksgiving.  This was intentional.  I do not enjoy last minute Christmas shopping and the crowds associated with it.  I enjoyed the month of December without the pressure of preparing for the holidays.
  2. We spent New Years in, separately, which was kind of sad.  I was with my parents for several days and spent New Years with them and some of their friends.  Eric enjoyed the silence that comes with having the house to himself.  My understanding was that he watched a movie and enjoyed pizza.  Neither of us made it to midnight.
  3. We have enough food in this house to feed an army.  January is going to be devoted to shopping the freezer and pantry.  I will need to purchase fresh produce, but it will be easy to spend very little at the grocery store this month.
  4. I have started the long process of decluttering this house.  We have so much stuff.  Too much stuff.  My goal is 10 items a day, out of the house.  I appreciated that so many of our gifts this year were either consumables or items we can actually use.  We received a very large bottle of local maple syrup and lemon olive oil, among so many other things.
  5. I found some very old gift cards.  Make sure to look up the balance because some do not expire.  I found an old theatre gift card from 2014 that still had $10 on it.  I used it while visiting my parents.  Proof that the small things add up.

I plan on sitting down in the next few days and really figuring out our 2020 budget.  Fall 2020 will be an expensive one for us, all 3 of our kids will be in college.  We are going to need to do even more belt tightening this year.  As always, I look at it as an adventure and not something to stress over.  What are some of things you plan on doing to save in 2020?


One of my gifts this year.  My daughter had a portrait made of Luna in the  attire that proves her royalty in this house.