Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your Garden Harvest: What's Left In Your Freezer?

We made smoothies this week with the last of the strawberries that I picked back in June. I was so bummed, because I am going to miss opening up that bag of frozen berries and smelling fresh, local goodness and strawberry season is a five months away.

In a panic, I ran downstairs to see how much frozen homemade applesauce is still in the freezer and luckily I have 7-32oz containers left. Although I was calculating how I will ration the sauce between now and when we have fresh, local fruit again. My kids eat homemade applesauce like it is candy. It tastes as good as candy, but better.

I really don't have too much left from our summer harvest. We have a very small garden and we get a lot of our veggies from a CSA, so we eat most of our summer harvest at harvest time. I do try to preserve, mostly by freezing, whatever I can. I have 4 containers of pureed roasted butternut squash and one container of roasted vegetable sauce, but that's it...yikes.

It is only January and garden harvest season on the east coast or at least my house on the east coast is several months away.

Whether you can or freeze, do you have much left from your garden harvest?

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Financial Goals: Do You See The Forest Through The Trees?

When it comes to your financial goals, do you think BIG? Do you allow yourself to dream about the possibilities that are out there when the debt is paid off or your income has increased?

Or is the road that leads to the forest too daunting of a task to tackle?

It's sometimes hard for me and my husband to allow ourselves to think big. But what happens when we don't allow it?

If we want to be debt free, then we have to live like we want to be debt free, not just think "oh that would be nice some day".

Our financial goals might look like yours: pay down the debt, increase our emergency savings, save money for short term goals, save money for retirement, set aside money for our kids' education, travel, renovate the house, blah, blah, blah...and buy a camper...that last one might not be on your list ;).

Our list is large, long and intimidating, but if we don't have a plan, it will just stay at what it is...a list.

What do we need to do to get to the forest ahead of us? Action steps are needed and a plan needs to be developed. We need to tackle one tree at a time and maybe the forest will be ours.

Oh honey, I know you are reading this...are you in???

To my readers: What does your forest look like and how are you going to get there?

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Chicken, Black Bean and Corn Tacos

I love tacos. They are easy and quick to make and eat. My problem though is that I can't stop myself and end up eating too many.

I found this recipe a few years ago on the back of a box of Ortega Soft Taco Kit. I didn't have a packet of taco seasoning on hand when I made these last week, so I used some fiesta seasoning that I bought at my friend's Tastefully Simple party. The tacos turned out great. Very tasty.

My new favorite taco cheese is the Sargento shredded Pepper Jack. I used a more mild cheddar for my kids.

Chicken, Black Bean and Corn Tacos

  • 1 package of taco seasoning OR 1-2 Tbsp of fiesta seasoning (season to your taste)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast - cut into small chunks
  • 1 small onion - chopped
  • 1 16oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chicken and onion and cook until chicken is no longer pink and onions are soft.

Stir in the seasoning, beans, corn, water and lime juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Load up the soft taco with cheese and the bean mixture.


Excuse me while I indulge...

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Odd$ and End$

This week's carnival:


I have ventured into Twitter and I haven't a clue what I am doing. But please follow me as I learn. I am at fambalancesheet

Speaking of Twitter, I followed a Twitter party that #savvyblogging hosted on Thursday night. It was phenomenal. I was a little overwhelmed with the whole Twitter thing, but I learned alot of useful information about blogging. Check out their site at


I love to read personal stories about how people overcome debt. FiscalGeek and his wife wrote this inspiring piece about how they paid off over $63,000 worth of debt. I love that they wrote the piece together about how they paid off the debt together.

******************************************************************** has some great coupons still available, although I am not sure how long.

(disclosure - FBS is a affiliate)


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Friday, January 22, 2010

Tackle That Tough Spot - Toys

I am beginning to wonder about this Tackle That Tough Spot series that I am doing. I am an anonymous blogger, yet I am showing the world my mess.

Toys. If you are a parent of young children, I probably don't have to say much more. They seem to multiply like bunnies. With the holidays and my oldest daughter's birthday recently, we have acquired even more toys.

We don't have one specific toy room, so we keep toys in a couple of different areas throughout the house. Our girls share a bedroom that is small and there isn't alot of room for toys, so most of their toys are in the family room and our basement.

This first picture was taken at the end of the day in the corner in our family room where we have a great shelving unit, but it is in total disarray. To be fair to my kids, this photo was taken at the end of the day, before they cleaned up. But cleaning up was usually piling the toys, because we have run out of room to store them.

This book shelf in our living room is for family pictures and knick knacks that my kids like to rearrange. Currently I keep photo albums in the shelves on the bottom and I think that is a space that I need to re-purpose. I can use that space a lot more efficiently for other things, like toys.

This next photo is in our basement. Can you tell I only have girls?

And so I tackled...

I went around the house and pulled together all of their books. I kept a few upstairs, but most of them were placed where they should be - in the book shelf. The baskets in the unit are for smaller toys, dolls, doll clothes, etc.

In the basement, I collected all of their kitchen and doll house toys and put them in bins under the table. I also set up the train set around the doll house.

I moved all of the family games, the kids' games and puzzles to the book shelves in the living room. Every thing is easily accessible for both the kids and we have definitely been playing more games since we have pulled them all together.

I used this big bin to hold my toddler's toys. Her toys seem to be bigger and bulkier. I keep the bin in the garage and pull it out every couple of days or so. They seem to hold her attention more if she doesn't see them every day.

Things to consider:
  • I separated the toys by category. I found doll house toys all over our house and they are now all pulled together in the basement. The same with puzzles and games; they are contained in the living room. Kitchen toys, train set, instruments and books all have a new home.

  • Rotate toys. Like I said above, I am keeping a bin of toys in the garage that I'll bring out every few days. After a few days of not seeing them, the toys seem to hold the kids' attention longer.

  • At the end of the day, everything goes back home. My oldest likes to sing, "Clean up, Clean up, Everybody Do Their Share". The problem wasn't the kids not cleaning up after themselves, although they do have to be told, but they are only 4 and 20 months. The problem was lack of space to manage the toys. We were running out of space. Honestly, we were acquiring too many toys too.

  • The best thing about organizing and straightening up the toys...the donation box that I now have with toys the kids have both outgrown.

What tough spot did you tackle this week?

Check out the previous Tackle That Tough Spot Post:

Stay tuned for my next Tackle That Tough Spot post. I will be tackling my home office and I'm probably going to need longer than a week to tackle that one, so I can't promise that I'll have it done by next week...yikes!!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

About Family Balance Sheet

Welcome to Family Balance Sheet, my name is Kristia and I am the Founder and Publisher of this site.

A little about my background:

My interest in personal finance started many years ago out of necessity. After I graduated from college in the early 90's, I moved out on my own. My parents lovingly suggested that I live with them to save money, but I knew better...or so I thought. I wanted to be an adult and I wanted to have my own place.

So I moved in with some roommates and WOW, the bills started rolling in. Rent, utilities, car payment, gas, school loan, professional wardrobe, and I guess I should eat. I was stunned at how expensive being an adult was and how my entry level, adult salary didn't go very far. I got myself into a little bit of credit card debt, about $2000 worth.

The credit debt, along with my new car note and student loan weighed on my conscious. Who knew adulthood would be so stressful. It was always on my mind and I had trouble sleeping. I realized quickly that to decrease my debt I needed to do two things: to increase my income and tighten up on the spending.

I spent the next 13 years climbing the corporate latter and working as a buyer for a department store chain. When I started making fairly good money, I was able to pay off that credit card debt, my student loan and my car note. I started investing in my company 401k with its match program and profit sharing. I set aside money and my husband and I were able to pay cash for our wedding.

At the same time I lived a somewhat frugal life compared to some of my counterparts in the retail industry. I drove my first car for nine years. I didn't buy $400 boots. I packed my lunch. I read, devoured and absorbed anything that was written about personal finance. A girl who was once afraid of math in high school, now loved numbers. Number crunching was part of my career and part of my new hobby.

All of that number crunching came in handy with what happened next. After thirteen years in my retail career I was burning out and ready for a change. One Monday morning, my husband called me at work to tell me that his third assistant had quit. At that very moment, I knew what we needed to do.

We spent the next two weeks crunching numbers. Could we afford for me to leave my well-paying job to join him in his business full-time? It was going to be tight, but we were definitely feeling a message from a Higher Power that this was the right time. Although it didn't feel like we were taking a leap of faith. It felt more like we were jumping off the Empire State Building. It was a very scary, yet thrilling time. So we leaped, I turned in my resignation and we started working together full-time. We survived and his business flourished.

It wasn't always easy, but it was the best decision we have ever made as a married couple. After working full time together for two years, we found ourselves pregnant with our first child. And two and half years later, our second child was born. We decided together that it would be best for our family if I stay at home with our kids full-time. My role in the business switched to a behind the scenes business manager position. Currently, I work part-time and mostly from my home computer.

My husband and I work as a team, but it is my responsibility in our home and our business to manage the finances. At the office, my title is Business Manager and at home, my title is Family Office Manager. This includes everything from balancing our checkbook and paying our bills to tracking our spending and managing our retirement accounts. We try to live responsibly and through home-management I am trying to reduce our debts, increase our savings and improve our Family Balance Sheet. I am constantly trying to find new ways to tweak our budget, but at the same time not feel like we are making huge sacrifices.

Posting Schedule
  • Monday's Recipe -Each week, I post a delicious recipe that is not budget-busting. I also try to use fresh ingredients and items that are usually found in any pantry.

  • Tuesday through Friday - I will post 2-3 articles about family finances, frugal living and home managment.

I would love for you to follow along on our journey.

If you have any questions, comments, ideas, or opportunities for me, please email me at familybalancesheet at gmail dot com.

Oh and one other thing, I am not a financial professional, just a wife and mom who would rather read personal finance blogs than watch Desperate Housewives, so please consult a professional if you think that you are in need of professional advice.

Read the highlighted article, if you would like to learn about How to Create Your Own Family Balance Sheet.

If you are interested, The FBS Disclosure and Privacy Policy.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

Okay, so now you have roasted a chicken...

you have made some delicious homemade crock-pot chicken stock...

What are you going to do with all of the leftover chicken? The possibilities are endless, but this past week I made Easy Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner and my kids asked for seconds. Music to a mama's ears!

I call it easy because the ingredients are basic kitchen staples: carrots, onions, garlic, celery, chicken, stock, noodles and seasonings.

After I roasted a chicken a couple of weeks ago, I stored about 2 cups of diced chicken in the freezer for future use.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 1 medium onion - chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves - minced
  • 2 medium carrots - chopped - I chop mine up into tiny pieces, because I have a toddler.
  • 2 medium celery stalks - I chopped fine also and I include the tops because they hold so much flavor.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Italian seasonings or your favorite seasoning - You can be creative here.
  • 2 quarts of homemade chicken stock - You can use store-bought too.
  • 6-8 oz egg noodles - I used about half of the bag.
  • 2 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken
  • salt and pepper
Over a medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a soup pot. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and Italian seasoning and stir until the vegetables are softened. About 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Add the noodles and simmer about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken and simmer for a few more minutes.

Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Discard bay leaf before eating.

I served this soup with delicious salad. An addition of some homemade bread would really round out this meal.


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Friday, January 15, 2010

Odd$ and End$

This week's carnival:

Kelly at The Centsible Life is giving away over $600 worth of prizes to celebrate her 1 year anniversary.

Hopefully we'll never need this article, but it is one that I'm going to save anyway:


I am having a hard time watching tv this week with all of the devastating pictures coming from Haiti. If you find it in your heart that you want to make a donation, I found a list of charities to choose from. Be cautious when choosing a charity and make sure it is a reputable one. Unfortunately in times of international crisis, there are scumbags out there that like to take advantage of every one's giving heart.


Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tackle That Tough Spot - Garage/Mud Room/Pantry Area

This is the first post in my new series, Tackle That Tough Spot. I have identified several places in our home that cause me much stress, annoyance, and exasperation. I will tackle, de-clutter, clean and re-purpose the areas and report my results back to you.

This all started one day when I realized that I had house envy which made me very embarrassed and annoyed with myself. I also realized that maybe if I just cleaned up some of the mess that we have started, maybe I could find all of the space that I really need.

The first area in our home that I am tackling is our garage specifically the part of the garage that leads into our home. We have a one car garage that hasn't had a car in it for years, if ever. Over the years, the garage has been taken over by bikes, outdoor toys, beach chairs, etc. We have come to terms with the fact that we will probably never be able to put a car back in the garage because we truly don't have any other place for those items.

We tend to come into our house through the garage and it has become a place where everything gets dumped, like shoes...

...coats and bags. I also use shelves for overflow pantry items from my kitchen.

We have an extra refrigerator.

This is a corner where my husband keeps some tools, car supplies, extra batteries and light bulbs and other misc. stuff.

This wooden shelf is supposed to be used for kitchen appliances and items that I use occasionally, like crock pots, baking pans, storage containers, etc.

As you can see by the unorganized clutter and piles that we simply weren't using the space wisely and efficiently.

My husband and I took a few hours to clean up this portion of the garage and had some fabulous results.

Our shoes and hats are now organized. We removed any shoes that were out of season, out grown or not worn. The out of season shoes went to our bedroom closets. The out grown and not worn shoes went to the donation box.

Much better...

We decided that where the refrigerator had been was in the way and blocking my entrance into our laundry room, which you can see in the right side of the next picture. We moved the refrigerator and my husband hung a coat rack that he salvaged from the garbage near his office. He added some lower hooks for the kids to hang their coats.

I also re-organized and straightened up the shelves. What is left is mostly kitchen pantry over-flow, cookbooks and miscellaneous kitchen items.

I can breathe...

We bought the three wall cubbies years ago at IKEA. They are awesome and if I remember pretty inexpensive. We use them for our hats, gloves, scarves and extra re-usable bags. They also make a great landing place for phones, keys, wallets, sunglasses, etc.

We now have a place to hang our coats and bags. The kids can hang up their own coats.

It's working...

We moved the wooden shelf to a place in the basement where we had some room. I'll keep the kitchen stuff on it that I use occasionally. The refrigerator is now where the wooden shelf was. It is out of the way, but still very accessible.

We de-cluttered, re-organized, cleaned-up and re-purposed a space in our home that just wasn't working efficiently. We also filled up a big trash bag and a box to donate. In the end, we created a mud room and pantry area in a space that we already had and with supplies that we already owned. No money involved.

Also...who knew that we had a dance floor under all of that stuff.

Did you tackle a tough spot this week?

Come back next week for another installment of "Tackle That Tough Spot" Series.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

How To Roast A Chicken

When I find roasting chickens at this price, I stock up and pop them in the freezer. If you have trouble reading this picture, this Perdue bird is on sale at 79 cents a pound. The total price for the 7.4 lb bird is $5.85. I was able to use the chicken for 3 family dinners and about 3 days of lunches for our family. (I never tire of homemade chicken salad for lunch)

Are you ready to roast? Let's get started!

I didn't take a picture of the bag of giblets that is inside of the chicken. It is not pleasant to look at, simply remove and discard in your trash. Honestly, I'm not sure what they are used for. Does anyone know??

I use the following simple ingredients to roast a chicken:
  • roasting chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • salt
  • pepper
Cut the lemon in half. Cut one of the halves of the lemon into slices.

Cut the head of garlic in half. I remove most of the outer papery skin, but it is okay if it still had some of the paper on.

Mix together about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Stuff the cavity of the bird with both halves of the garlic, one half of the lemon, about 15 sprigs of parsley, and the salt/pepper mixture.
One of the main reasons why I like Perdue Oven Stuffers is because of the pop-up thermometers(see picture below) that they have on their roasting chickens.

Note the wings sticking out, simply tuck them under the chicken to avoid burning.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up. On this particular night, I roasted some vegetables that I had on hand: potatoes and carrots. If you would like, spread the vegetables around the chicken.

Rub the butter all over the chicken.

Take knife and slide it under the skin to separate from the meat. Insert lemon slices under the skin on each side of the breast.

Break the leftover butter into tiny pieces and sprinkle over the chicken. Sprinkle additional salt and pepper over the chicken.

If you have kitchen string, tie the legs together to hold the garlic and lemon in the cavity. If you don't have kitchen string, no worries, I have roasted many birds without tying the legs together.

Bake the chicken at 375 degrees. The time will depend on the size of the chicken and the temperature of your oven. It took this 7.4 lb chicken exactly 2 hours to roast. The nice thing about Perdue is that their roasters come with pop-up thermometers that let you know when the chicken is done. Otherwise I would use a meat thermometer and roast the whole chicken until it reached an internal temperature of 180 degrees. The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the cut of meat without touching the bone, per Perdue's guidelines.

When the chicken is done, let it rest for 20 minutes under some foil before cutting into it. If you cut into too early, the juices will run out and dry out your chicken.

When it is time to cut into the chicken, take a knife down the center breast bone and cut the breast out of the chicken. This is my favorite part. My kids and husband like the legs.

Cut as much meat of as possible. The evening I roasted this chicken, we had it for dinner with the roasted vegetables. I cut up 2 cups of chicken for a pot pie, I froze 2 cups to be used for soup at a later date and I used what was left to make chicken salad for lunches.

I did make gravy for dinner, but things got crazy as dinner was approaching and I didn't get photos of the gravy making process. I'll plan that for a later post.

After you have picked the bird clean of all of the meat, DO NOT throw the carcass away. Use it to make homemade crock-pot chicken broth. It really stretches that $5.85 chicken even further.
Side Note: To rinse or not to rinse...That is the question. I have read that rinsing a chicken is counter-productive and can cause cross-contamination. The USDA does not suggest that you rinse chickens. There is a chance that you are just spreading the harmful bacteria all over your sink and kitchen and you are not really getting rid of it on your chicken. The bacteria is killed during the roasting stage. It is very important to roast the chicken to the recommended internal temperature. I choose NOT to rinse the chicken. Although, I still scrub the sink thoroughly after the bird is in the oven.

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