Friday, February 29, 2008

$40 Weekly Grocery Budget ... Part 4

Here is the menu again ...

Monday - Pancakes, Banana, Milk
Tuesday - Oatmeal, Milk and Juice
Wednesday - Banana-Oat Muffins, Milk
Thursday - Waffles, Orange Slices, Milk
Friday - Rice Cereal, Milk and Juice
Saturday - French Toast, Orange Slices, Milk
Sunday - Oatmeal, Milk and Juice

Monday - Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks, Milk
Tuesday - Ramen Noodles with Egg, Grapes, Milk
Wednesday - Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Lettuce, Carrot Sticks, Milk

Thursday - Pigs in a Blanket, Grapes, Milk
Friday - Egg Salad Sandwiches with Lettuce, Carrot Sticks, Milk
Saturday - Macaroni & Cheese with Tuna, Grapes, Milk
Sunday - Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks, Milk

Snacks: Popcorn, Celery with Peanut Butter, Carrot Sticks, Muffins, Fruit, Cinnamon Toast, Biscuits and Jelly

Monday - Bean & Beef Burritos, Orange Slices
Tuesday - Chicken Gravy over Potatoes, Green Beans, Cooked Carrots
Wednesday - Shepherd's Pie, Coleslaw
Thursday - Biscuits & Gravy, Fruit Salad
Friday - Hamburger Soup, Garlic Bread
Saturday - Scrambled Eggs, Potato Pancakes, Applesauce
Sunday - Goulash, Salad, Garlic Bread

To save money any milk used for purposes other than drinking, re-constituted instant milk is used. Buttermilk is substituted using 1 tablespoon vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup. When margarine is called for in a recipe, I use oil instead. For sandwiches, I make them open-face making the bread stretch further. Any leftovers from meals unless specified can be used for lunch or snacks.

Below are preparation instructions and recipes.

Monday: Make a quadruple batch of homemade pancake mix using half for this morning's breakfast. The other half will be for the waffles later in the week. While cooking pancakes, start bread dough to be baked and used for lunch today. When in a crunch, I like to make French Bread as it uses just basic ingredients. I use the bread machine (recipe in manual) to make mine. I do have a larger batch recipe (below).

Put the kidney beans on for a quick soak according to package directions. Plan cooking time according to the time you will have dinner allowing some leeway. Half of the beans will be used for tonight's supper. The other half will be saved for the Hamburger Soup on Friday (beans freeze well).

About an hour and a half before supper time make the dough needed for the tortillas. When you cook the tortillas, also start browning one pound ground turkey (used in place of ground beef). When adding the taco seasoning packet contents, add a can of tomatoes undrained and enough water, if needed, to equal liquid needed. Add beans and heat through. Shred some lettuce to go on the burritos.

French Bread Recipe
Tortilla Recipe

Tuesday: Mix up juice for breakfast, and cook oatmeal according to package directions for breakfast. Boil chicken to cook it for tonight's meal and tomorrow's lunch. Cool and de-bone chicken. Cut up chicken and divide it for the two meals. Save broth/liquid for tonight as well. Cool it in refrigerator so fat can be skimmed off the top if desired.

For lunch, prepare the Ramen according to package directions. I add a bit extra water and do not drain after cooking (making it like a noodle soup). Once the noodles are cooked whisk in two beaten eggs.

For dinner, peel 3 pounds potatoes and chunk. Add to water and boil for mashed potatoes. While potatoes are cooking, make a gravy using equal parts of oil and flour (1/3 cup each). In oil, first cook half an onion, finely chopped. Remove onion with a slotted spoon and add flour whisking until a paste forms. Add broth saved from this morning whisking continuously. Turn heat down to low and thicken gravy. Extra chicken bouillon, salt and pepper can be added for seasoning. Add onion and the chicken set aside for tonight's meal. Peel and slice carrots; place in a microwave-safe dish. Place enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and cover with a lid or saran wrap. Heat in the microwave for five or six minutes until cooked but firm. I like to season mine with margarine, salt and pepper (sometimes with a bit of maple syrup for sweetness). Heat green beans (2 cans). Any leftover mashed potatoes and green beans will be used for tomorrow's supper.

Wednesday: For breakfast make muffins using this muffin recipe. Instead of sour cream, I use the substitute for buttermilk in the muffin recipe. Also add in some oats and a mashed banana. If bread is needed for lunch, begin making it now using the French bread recipe. You can also make the chicken salad with the reserved cooked chicken or wait until lunch. For stretchers in my chicken salad, I add shredded carrot, thinly sliced celery and/or chopped hard boiled egg.

For supper, brown one pound of ground turkey; drain if needed. Add a can of tomato soup and pepper to taste. Place in the bottom of an oven-safe dish. Place a layer of green beans on top of meat mixture (be sure to use any leftovers plus the one can left, draining first). Mashed potatoes go on top of the green beans. Make more if needed to add to any leftovers from last night. Place in oven and heat through. I use a round Pyrex dish because it is smaller on the bottom so to hide I might have used less meat. ;) While Shepherd's pie is heating, make coleslaw using the recipe below.

Coleslaw Recipe

Thursday: For breakfast, make waffles using what is left of the pancake mix. It is prepared the same way, just cooked differently of course.

For lunch, make biscuit dough using the buttermilk substitute instead of real buttermilk and oil for the shortening (7/8 cup of oil per 1 cup of shortening). The recipe is below. Cut hot dogs into thirds. Wrap each hot dog piece in a biscuit. Place on a greased cookie sheet and cook at 400 until biscuit portion is lightly browned. This will make 24-30 pigs in a blanket.

For supper, make more biscuits. While biscuits are baking, make up gravy similar to Tuesday night's supper but using milk, the reconstituted kind, instead of broth. Season with salt and pepper. Make a fruit salad.

Biscuit Recipe

Friday: For breakfast, make rice cereal using below recipe. Remember to use reconstituted milk for all cooking. Mix up some juice. Start a batch of bread dough for today's lunch and dinner.
For lunch, hard boil some eggs for the egg salad adding diced celery and/or shredded carrot for nutritious fillers if desired.

For supper, brown a pound of ground turkey with some chopped onion; drain if needed. Add peeled and sliced carrots, potatoes, celery along with enough water to cover. Add in pepper and bouillon to flavor. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Diced cabbage may be added as well. Before serving, add reserved kidney beans and heat through. While soup is simmering, slice a loaf of french bread. Butter one side of each slice and sprinkle with garlic powder. Place on a cookie sheet margarine side up. Toast at 350 until margarine is melted and bread is lightly toasted.

Rice Cereal

Saturday: For breakfast, I dip slices of bread into a mixture of egg, milk and some cinnamon. I then cook them on a greased electric griddle (350) until cooked.

For lunch, make macaroni and cheese according to package directions. Add can of drained tuna after having mixed in cheese.

For supper, start the potato pancakes. While the potato pancakes are cooking, make up some scrambled eggs.

Sunday: For breakfast, cook oatmeal according to package directions. Mix up some juice. Begin making bread dough for lunch and supper if needed.

For supper, cook macaroni according to package directions. Return to pot after draining. While macaroni is cooking, brown ground turkey and some diced onion. Drain and add to macaroni after it is cooked and drained along with spaghetti sauce and canned corn (undrained). Season to taste with pepper. Heat through. While goulash is heating, make garlic bread (see Friday's instructions). Can serve with any extra vegetables, salad or fruit.

*Note: Some of the ingredients for the recipes are not included. The recipes turn out fine without them so were not include for the sake of saving money for my budget experiment. I left the recipes in their entirety so they can be used at any time.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

$40 Weekly Grocery Budget ... Part 3

Not that the previous budgets were bad, the menus just were not to the tastes of my family. I put together a menu that my family would eat or at least the majority of them. It is hard to please everyone. You ought to see pizza night. It sounds like an auction around here. "Mushrooms! Who wants my mushrooms?" "Me! I'll give you my pepperoni for them."

The prices I used are normal, everday prices. If it happens to be on sale, I'll stock away the savings for another week's groceries or more likely lunch for me, myself and I. It is hard work saving money so I like to treat myself. First things first though which is the menu.

Monday - Pancakes, Banana, Milk
Tuesday - Oatmeal, Milk and Juice
Wednesday - Banana-Oat Muffins, Milk
Thursday - Waffles, Orange Slices, Milk
Friday - Rice Cereal, Milk and Juice
Saturday - French Toast, Orange Slices, Milk
Sunday - Oatmeal, Milk and Juice

Monday - Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks, Milk
Tuesday - Ramen Noodles with Egg, Grapes, Milk
Wednesday - Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Lettuce, Carrot Sticks, Milk

Thursday - Pigs in a Blanket, Grapes, Milk
Friday - Egg Salad Sandwiches with Lettuce, Carrot Sticks, Milk
Saturday - Macaroni & Cheese with Tuna, Grapes, Milk
Sunday - Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks, Milk

Snacks: Popcorn, Celery with Peanut Butter, Carrot Sticks, Muffins, Fruit, Cinnamon Toast, Biscuits and Jelly

Monday - Bean & Beef Burritos, Orange Slices
Tuesday - Chicken Gravy over Potatoes, Green Beans, Cooked Carrots
Wednesday - Shepherd's Pie, Coleslaw
Thursday - Biscuits & Gravy, Fruit Salad
Friday - Hamburger Soup, Garlic Bread
Saturday - Scrambled Eggs, Potato Pancakes, Applesauce
Sunday - Goulash, Salad, Garlic Bread

Now the grocery list. I have a pretty well stocked pantry, but for this exercise I am listing everything I need to buy.

Grocery List
$1.99 -- 3 lbs Oranges
$4.00 -- 3 lbs Grapes or 2 Melons
$1.85 -- 3 lbs Bananas
$ .99 -- Celery
$ .99 -- Lettuce
$2.07 -- 6 lbs Carrots
$1.89 -- 10 lbs Potatoes

$ .69 -- 3 lbs Onions
$4.17 -- 15 lbs Flour
$1.86 -- 2 3-pack Yeast
$ .82 -- Baking Powder
$ .49 -- Baking Soda
$2.02 -- 5 lbs White Sugar
$ .99 -- Powdered Sugar
$ .99 -- Maple Syrup

$ .99 -- Jelly (32 oz.)
$ .99 -- Vanilla
$ .33 -- Salt
$ .50 -- Cinnamon
$ .50 -- Garlic Powder

$ .99 -- Black Pepper
$ .29 --Taco Seasoning Packet
$ .99 -- Chicken Bouillon
$ .99 -- Beef Bouillon
$ .54 -- Vinegar
$1.79 -- Vegetable Oil (1.5 qt)
$1.49 -- Mayonnaise-type Salad Dressing (32 oz)
$2.30 -- Gallon Milk (fresh)
$5.99 -- Instant Non-Fat Milk Powder(20 qt)
$ .58 -- Margarine (1 lb)
$2.61 -- 3 Dozen Eggs
$2.55 -- 3 cans Apple Juice Concentrate (12 oz)
$1.50 -- Unsweetened Applesauce(50 oz each)
$1.14 -- 3 cans Green Beans(15 oz each)
$ .38 -- Corn (15 oz)
$ .49 -- Tomatoes (15 oz)
$ .47 -- 1 can Tomato Soup (10 oz)
$ .92 -- Spaghetti Sauce (48 oz)
$ .48 -- 4 Ramen Noodle Packages
$ .99 -- 3 boxes Macaroni & Cheese
$ .88 -- 1 lb Macaroni
$1.34 -- Popcorn (32 oz)
$ .50 -- 1 lb Rice
$ .94 -- 1 lb Kidney Beans
$1.29 -- Peanut Butter (18 oz)
$ .54 -- Tuna (6 oz)
$4.00 -- 4 lbs Ground Turkey
$1.56 -- 2 lbs Chicken

$ .65 -- Hot Dogs
Total: $68.50

That total is for my family of nine (one who is nursing). My family eats these meals. Yes, I might have to be food police a bit to make sure that night's dinner isn't snack. All bread items (biscuits, breads, tortillas) are homemade as are soups. I probably could get away with a spaghetti sauce packet and such, but like the can because I can get the chunky version for some extra vegetables or cheesy which is usually what I do. I also tweaked a couple of my recipes to save costs. Since the total is less that I thought (my brain hurts too as that is a lot of hard thinking on little sleep), I might get more fruits for snacking as well as raisins (for cinnamon-raisin bread and the oatmeal). Adding cocoa will allow me to make milk shakes and brownies.

In Part 4 of $40 Weekly Grocery Budget, I will give some of my recipes and how I prepare the meals with what is on my grocery list.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

$40 Weekly Grocery Budget ... Part 2

So I spent the day at my local Aldi and Super Wal-Mart as those are the two cheapest places to shop around here. I used those two stores because unfortunately being without money doesn't wait for a sale to make it easier. Those two stores offer the lowest prices on a continual basis. The question: "Is a $40 weekly menu feasible today?" (10+ years after two of the articles were printed)

Yes ... sort of ... it depends.

First, the prices today as compared to the old prices.

Price List #1 from Cheap Eating

Price List #2 from Hillbilly Housewife
1.92 - 10 lbs all purpose flour @ 96¢ for 5lbs ($2.78 @ $1.39 for 5 lbs)
0.62 - 3 pack of yeast ($.93)
0.77 - Baking Powder ($.82)
1.77 - Oatmeal ($1.69)
0.99 - 3 lbs long grain white rice ($1.19)
0.88 - 2 lb bag of cornmeal ($1.00)
1.88 - 5 lbs sugar ($2.02)
1.50 - Vegetable Oil ($1.79)
1.76 - 2 cans frozen orange juice concentrate @ 88¢ each ($2.58 @ $1.29 each)
8.87 - 20 quart box of instant nonfat dry milk ($5.99)
1.20 - 2 pounds lentils @ 60¢ a lb ($1.24 @ $.62 a lb)
1.30 - 2 lbs pinto beans @ 65¢ a lb ($1.18 @$.59 a lb)
0.60 - 1 lb black beans ($.82)
0.60 - 1 lb lima beans ($.92)
1.00 - 3 boxes Macaroni & Cheese ($.99)
0.30 - 3 packs of Ramen Noodles ($.36)
1.38 - 2 dozen eggs @ 69¢a dz ($1.74 @ $.87 a dz)
0.96 - 2 lbs margarine @ 48¢ ea ($.98 @ $.49 ea)
0.89 - 1 lb hot dogs ($.65)
0.89 - 1 28-oz can tomatoes ($.97)
0.50 - 1 15-oz can tomatoes ($.49)
0.42 - 15-oz can green peas ($.38)
0.45 - 15-oz can corn ($.38)
0.40 - 15-oz can greens ($.52)
0.42 - 15 oz cans spinach ($.38)
2.00 - 5 lb bag carrots ($2.48 @ $.69 for 2 lbs)
2.00 - 3 lb bag onions ($.69)
1.20 - 1 bunch celery ($.99)
0.44 - 6-oz can tuna ($.54)
1.50 - 18-oz jar peanut butter ($1.29)
1.00 - Jelly ($.99)
1.00 - Pancake Syrup ($.99)
0.50 - Vinegar ($.59)
0.50 - Cinnamon ($.50)
0.50 - Garlic Powder ($.50)
0.50 - Chili Powder ($.50)
0.25 - Salt ($.33)
0.50 - Pepper ($.99)
1.00 - Bouillon Cubes ($.99)
1.00 - 100 Count Box of Tea Bags ($1.49)

Total: $45.16 (then) $46.65 (now)

Price List #3 from
5 lbs all purpose flour .89 --> 1.39
5 lbs sugar 1.89 --> 2.02
2 cartons eggs 1.78 --> 1.74
l lb cheddar cheese 3.00 --> 3.78
2 gallons milk 3.98 --> 4.60
2 lbs regular margarine 1.68 --> .98
2 lbs hamburger 1.98 --> 3.66
1 lb lunch meat 1.29 --> .99
3 28oz cans tomato sauce 2.67 --> 2.34
10 lbs potatoes 1.79 --> 1.89
5 lbs carrots 1.29 --> 1.73
5 lbs apples, medium size 3.00 --> 4.88
1 cabbage .60 --> .99
2 lbs dry navy beans .60 --> 1.29
2 lbs elbow macaroni 1.00 --> 1.29
1 lb spaghetti .50 --> .88
1 yeast 3 pack 1.29 --> .93
Total 29.23 --> 35.74

*Note: I can buy 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce cheaper for the same amount saving another 34 cents off and not getting Italian ones.

So yes, it is possible to feed a family for $40-$45 a week. You can feed your family for that price if ...

One, you live in central Illinois and shop where I do. I am fortunate that I live in an area with low cost of living. What I noticed is that wheat, dairy and produce are what increased the most. Although I might be Eric's personal dairy cow, that is one area that I make sure my children get enough servings. They are growing and growing and growing and growing .... Still even in this area the same chain store varies in price depending on location.

Two, you have four in your family, meaning two adults and two young children. Any teenagers automatically nulls and voids any attempt at a frugal grocery budget. My three teens/pre-teen can eat as much as the family of four. Since I have nine in my family, I can pat myself on the back if I can shop for $80 for the week (usually do it for $120 or so my budget hopes).

Three, you would need to make several items from scratch. Notice the absence of baked goods in the menus. Speaking of cooking and baking, the menus are also based on the recipes given not ones you might use. For example, I bake my muffins using fat-free yogurt. I also make my pancakes differently. So there is the time and preference factors.

Four, you would eat the food on the shopping list. My hubby doesn't care for tuna dishes much. He isn't a big pasta eater either but loves rice. He will not eat canned peas, and we agree to nix the canned spinach. So add taste to the reasons why these lists might not work for you.

Location, time, preferences and tastes let alone family size (& members' ages) can alter the total spent. Since I have seen it can be done though and because I like to show off, enjoy a good challenge and just don't like being told no ... I am going to make a $90 weekly grocery budget for my family. That would translate to $45 for a family half the size of mine. $40 Weekly Budget ... Part 3 will be coming soon (pardoning the excuses of more snow, sick kids, busy hubby and worn out mom).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

$40 Weekly Grocery Budget ... Part 1

I am always game to finding out how to save money on food. My grasshoppers are always game to just finding food. I have checked out books and websites with tips and even frugal menus. One I found was the $30 menu for a family of four. That four-letter F-word, four, eliminates my family by a little (like 50%). Still the idea is a good one.

One problem I have come across is that the prices are from the 1990s. Food prices have gone up since then and are still going. So I decided to to update the price list first. The second problem is my family wouldn't eat some of the things on the menu (hubby isn't a big tuna fan). That is another chapter though so stay tuned.

I found three different $45 or less weekly menus. One is from a book called Cheap Eating. The price tag it quotes is $30.39 for a week of meals. Here are the shopping list and menu excerpts from the book:

Another site is called Hillbilly Housewife. Two menus are offered for a family of 4-6. One is the $45 emergency menu complete with price list as well (& downloadable).

The third one I have found on a another website is located here. It also contains the shopoping list and menu ideas.

All these sites/book have great ideas on how to cut expenses in the grocery budget and are helpful. My curiousity lies in how much grocery prices have gone up. Can a family of 4 really manage a $45 or less grocery budget? My goal because I have nothing better to do is take those lists to my local Aldi and Wal-Mart to see just how much prices have changed. I will post my findings in Part 2. I was going to do it in one blog posting, but it snowed. As I am rather warm in my home and want to stay that way, I will venture out tomorrow when it quits snowing and the streets are plowed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekly Menu with SHARE Foods

Once a month I get a unit from the local SHARE foods program. Actually I get two or three units. SHARE is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of foods for low cost. SHARE Food Program

I use SHARE for a few reasons. One is to be frugal since the distribution site I use is half a mile from my house. I save on gas since it normally takes me 15 minutes just to get to town to shop. That means it saves time too. Time and money, gotta love 'em. Also I get a variety of products which introduces my family to new foods. For February I purchased three units. Below is all the food in those three units which cost me $51.

This month one unit included:
Broccoli (1 bunch)
Grapefruit (2)
Oranges (5)
Apples (5)
Celery (1)
Carrots (1 lb)
Potatoes (3 lb)
Onions (2 lb)
Cabbage (1 head)
Tilapia (1 lb)
Shaved Roast Beef (8 oz)
Dijon Turkey Tenderloin (about 2 lbs)
Breaded Pork Patties (5 ct)

Using the foods from the units ...

My Weekly Menu
Monday - Tilapia with Seasoned Rice, Steamed Broccoli, Green Salad
Tuesday - Breaded Pork Sandwiches, Coleslaw, Apple Slices/Celery Sticks
Wednesday - Cabbage-Sausage Supper, Waldorf Salad, French Bread,
Thursday - Beef & Cheddar Rolls, Ceasar Salad
Friday - Pizza Night (Cheese, Supreme, Sausage)
Saturday - Turkey Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
Sunday - FFY Day

This will leave some extra fruit to be used for breakfasts and snacks. The carrots will become carrot sticks for lunches and snacks. A nice crock-pot stew sounds like a delish way to use some of the onions, potatoes and carrots. Perfect for these winter days around here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Re-making Leftovers

Sometimes there are leftovers here even with the plague of locusts I call my children. Spaghetti is one of them. I can never get the right amount of noodles versus sauce it seems. (I serve the noodles then pour the sauce over the top.)

My family doesn't hate leftovers unless of course, you serve it to them more than twice in original form. Since putting down a mutiny isn't high on my list of priorities, I get creative. Re-making leftovers into a "new" dish keeps the natives fooled and happy and doesn't waste food. That saves me money. I could always use a bit more money, couldn't you?

We'll use the leftover spaghetti as today's re-make example. The poor spaghetti already had been made over once. However, since this particular spaghetti dish appears to be vain and wants a second makeover. That is rather pointless since I know what it look like after it has been chewed since my kids only like to talk to me when their mouths are overly full. Our spaghetti we had last week had its beginnings as leftover marinara sauce for Italian Herb Chicken, leftover canned spaghetti sauce used for pizzas and leftover tomato paste from making above mentioned chicken dish. I mixed all that together with a pound of Italian sausage I had browned (actually asked oldest child did). I then had my sauce to go with the noodles I had cooked. I like to use the whole grain (not brown whole wheat type though) pasta since my family is getting more fiber and can't tell I am cooking healthy on them since it looks like the less nutritious version.

Re-Make #1 saw some leftovers made into the spaghetti sauce. Luckily, just sauce was leftover this time (my hubby isn't a pasta person but humors me). With leftover sauce, I make pizzas either for my lunch, kids' snack and/or a dinner depending on the amount. My family never says no to pizza even if it was served four times in one week. There is an exception to every rule, I guess.

If there are any leftover spaghetti noodles, I turn it them chicken tetrazinni. There are a variety of recipes out there to suit any tase (unless you don't like tetrazinni like my hubby who will eat just one serving to be polite). To the noodles I add diced, cooked chicken; cream of chicken; shredded cheddar cheese; seasonings; and some milk to reach the consistency I like. Sometimes I throw in mushrooms if I have some. I bake the tetrazinni at 350 (with extra cheese sprinkled on top) in a casserole dish until the tetrazinni is heated through and bubbly.

The tetrazinni also freezes well so it can be put in the freezer and used for a meal at a later date. Ditto on the pizza.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Pancakes are a easy and frugal meal and not just for breakfast. They are a good way to use up fruit that is getting past its prime. There are numerous flavors, only limited by creativity (and maybe what is in your pantry or refrigerator at the time).

I start with a basic mix that I make (below). It stores well as I found out one day when I tried to make a large batch. I really shouldn't have been doing math so early in the morning. I ended up with 50+ cups of pancake mix by the time I fixed my mistake. Though maybe not 50+ cups, I do try to keep a supply on mix so not to have to make it each time I want pancakes. I also put the preparation instructions on the mix container so even my kids (or hubby) can whip up some and not wake me up. Wishful thinking at least ...

Pancake Mix
2 cups flour
4 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup powdered sugar

To Prepare: Mix together 2 cups pancake mix, 2 eggs, 1 to 1-1/2 cups milk and 1/4 cup oil. Mix until smooth and pour on to a greased electric griddle set to 350 degrees(or skillet over medium-high). Cook until holes form on top; flip. Continue cooking until other side is done.

I can't tell you the serving amount since it varies, but a double batch will feed my family with some leftovers. I also change the recipe up by substituting whole wheat flour for a third to half of the white flour. Whole wheat pancakes are more filling so I can get away with making less.

I like to use buttermilk in place of milk in my pancakes. I even use buttermilk powder adding the powder into the mix needed and using water in place of milk. I have also used fat-free vanilla yogurt or a fat-free French vanilla creamer in addtion to either buttermilk or milk.

Various flavors I have made:
Strawberry-Banana (pictured above)
Oatmeal Banana
Peanut Butter
Apple Cinnamon
Whole Wheat
Chocolate Chip (yummy topped with whipped topping and mini chocolate chips)

If the fruits or berries are soft, mash or puree them before adding to the batter. I actually just use the beater to mash the bananas while I am mixing up the batter. Not only can you use up soft, past prime fruits that would be thrown away but increase the nutrient value of the pancakes as well.

The toppings are as varied as the pancake flavors themselves. My hubby likes peanut butter on his. We have use good ol' maple syrup (and other flavored syrups), whipped topping with additional fruit or even heating up jams to use as syrup.

And those leftovers ... Freeze them so a ready-to-heat and eat breakfast is on hand for those really chaotic mornings. It is easy to pop a frozen pancake in the toaster or microwave to heat up.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Weekly Menu

Having a meal plan or menu can help save time and money, things we would probably like in greater supply. Menus can be planned a week or even a month is advance. I prefer a week as I like to change my mind often.

A frugal way to plan is to see what is on sale in the grocery store flyers. I access the local store ads on-line since I do not get a newspaper. I then create a menu plan around what is on sale. A way I save time is to have a planned leftover meal as I call it. For example, this week I am making pork chops for Monday's supper. I will cook up enough to feed my family (has to be a large batch as my oldest grasshopper loves pork chops) and have leftovers. The leftover porkchops I will slice up for the Pork over Curly Noodles later in the week. I also place them in the freezer to discourage above mentioned grasshopper from eating them. I save on time and money by creating two meals from one. Another advantage is that the leftovers get a make over so there is less chance of mutiny.

Another money-saver is a meatless or almost meatless meal planned into the week. This week it is Thursday's meal in conjunction with the planned leftovers. I also do a soup and/or sandwich night because it is easy, quick and cheap. I schedule it for the night where we are running off to the four winds. When finances allow, that is also the paper goods night so there are little or no dishes to wash.

My Weekly Menu:
Monday - Grilled Pork Chops, Sweet Potato Fries, Green Salad
Tuesday - BBQ Meatballs, Rice, Italian Spinach Salad, Fresh Fruit
Wednesday - Homemade McChicken Sandwiches, French Fries, Baked Beans
Thursday - Pork over Curly Noodles, Egg Drop Soup, Buttered Green Beans
Friday - Pizza Night (Cheese, Vegetable, Pepperoni)
Saturday - Kids' Cook Night (kids plan/cook with my assistance, if needed, for learning and one-on-one time)
Sunday - Fend for Yourself or FFY (aka clean-out-the-frig, leftovers, etc.)

Italian Spinach Salad
(taken from Simple & Delicious)

4 cups fresh baby spinach
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
8 large fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
1/2 cup real bacon bits
1 small red onion, sliced and separated into rings
3 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
1-1/2 cups Italian salad dressing
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup croutons

On eight salad plates, arrange the spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs, bacon, onion and dill if desired. In a small saucepan, cook the salad dressing and sugar over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Drizzle over the salads; sprinkle with the croutons. Serve immediately. Yield: 8 servings Prep Time: 25 minutes

Pork Over Curly Noodles
(taken from Simple & Delicious)

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
3 packages (3 ounces each) chicken or pork ramen noodles
4-5 pork loin steaks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can (14 ounces) bean sprouts, drained

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, peanut butter, soy sauce and garlic; set aside. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine bread crumbs and contents of two noodle seasoning packets (save the remaining packet for another use). Add chicken, one piece at a time, and shake to coat.

In a large skillet, cook pork in oil over medium heat for 5-6 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.

Remove prok and keep warm. Add peanut butter mixture to skillet; cook and stir until heated through. Drain noodles. Add noodles and bean sprouts to skillet; toss to coat. Serve with pork. Yield: 4 servings Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

(Note: I substitute pork for chicken which is what was called for in the original recipe. I also am using pre-cooked sliced pork from a previous meal instead of cooking it according to recipe's directions.)

Ready, Set, Cook!

The game is Ready, Set, Cook! You can read about how to play here:

This month the ingredients were chicken breasts, leeks and cauliflower. I decided to prepare this menu for the game. Join us in future games at Cooking with Anne (you can also see other game players' entries).

Italian Herb Chicken
Creamy Potato-Leek Soup
Ceasar Salad
French Bread

Italian Herb Chicken
1 pkg McCormick Slow Cookers Italian Herb Chicken Seasoning
2.5 pounds chicken parts
1 pkg (8 oz) fresh mushrooms, sliced or halved
2 cans (14.5 oz each) stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

Place chicken and mushrooms in slow cooker. Mix seasoning, tomatoes and tomato paste until blended. Pour over chicken and mushrooms. Cover. Cook 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH. Remove chicken and vegetables to serving platter. Stir sauce before serving.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 8

Creamy Potato-Leek Soup
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 quarts chicken broth
1 head cauliflower
2 Tablespoons butter
1 leek
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 cup fat-free half & half
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon basil

In large pot, place chicken broth and diced potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender. In a microwave-safe bowl, place cauliflower in an inch of water. Cover with saran wrap and heat in microwave 5 minutes until tender (but not mushy). Cut green tops off leek and chop white part. In small skillet heat over medium heat, add butter, garlic, celery and leek. Saute until tender.

When cauliflower is steamed, puree in blender all ingredients except half & half and grated carrots. Return to pot; add half & half and carrots. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors mix.

Hint: Using cauliflower as a substitute for potatoes in a soup allows for the same color and texture but eliminates the carbs.