Monday, March 31, 2008

Leftover Chicken + Fresh Spinach = A New Dish

My 13 yo son said once that there was a reason why leftovers were leftovers. I think it was after I announced that was what was for dinner. He's not too big of a fan of leftovers if you didn't guess.

This morning while I was thinking of what to serve for dinner (haven't been too good at menus lately ... oops!), I decided on a leftover makeover. In the refrigerator were some seasoned chicken patties leftover from when I made homemade McChickens. I happened to have some linguine and fresh spinach too. All that equates to Chicken-Spinach Linguine. I ain't too good with coming up with cool recipe names.

I put water on to boil to cook the pasta. Next was cleaning and cooking the spinach. The rabbits got any wilted or bad leaves. They love me now. After the spinach was done and set aside. I sauteed some red onion and garlic in olive oil and butter. I added chicken boullion and water. Next comes the cream, milk, and parmesan cheese. Once that was done I added the spinach (I chopped it after cooking) and chicken, sliced thinly. I seasoned it with white pepper. The sauce was served over the liguine with a salad for a side.

I was able to use up leftover chicken and try my hand not only at a new recipe but add my own mark to it. Now here's hoping it tastes as good as it looks and smells!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

$40 Weekly Grocery Budget ... Living It!

I went grocery shopping on Monday so I could try out the $40 budget first-hand. In just a week's time I noticed the jump in price for a couple of things. I edited and adjusted the shopping costs to keep it current. Since I was still coming in lower than the $40 for 4 goal, I added a couple of items to expand my choices. I added baking cocoa for $1.94, raisins for $2.63 and turkey sausage for $1.56. That put me just under $75 for the week. In hindsight, I would add another gallon of fresh milk and 8 ounces of cheddar (for sprinkling on some of the meals). That still would be in my goal range. Also, I would stick to sandwiches for lunches for my kids if they are in school. I would eat leftovers (kids would too).

Day 1: I made the bread the night before (thank goodness for bread machines). I made the pancakes, and had more than enough for breakfast. There was enough for snack too for the kids after school. Except they didn't eat them because I wasn't home, and they didn't read the note I left. I had to take a child to the doctor for an unplanned visit. That also put a kink in the works of cooking the burritos for dinner. I swapped the meals and made goulash instead for tonight. Hubby was happy as he isn't a pasta fan and had a business dinner. The kids were thrilled as they love the meal. I served grapes with it instead of a salad.

There was enough goulash leftover for lunches. BUT I was up most of the night with a baby who was congested and having trouble breathing so I let them buy pizza at school for lunch (hanging my head but not too long or I might fall asleep) if they wanted. Two wanted goulash instead. I didn't dare ask hubby. If I had been more on the ball, I would have made bread for sandwiches instead for a second option.

The first day was very do-able. I did add a can of chili beans to the goulash (I am at $79.63 if I bought/buy extra milk and the cheese). It was a quick meal which was wonderful since I was/am a bit sleep-deprived.

Day 2: We had leftover pancakes for breakfast instead of the oatmeal. I hate oatmeal so wasn't upset to switch it. I would have had some peanut butter toast with the couple of slices of bread that were left from yesterday.

Lunch is leftovers. I did finish cooking the beans last night so will have the burrito meal tonight. I am not planning on any unplanned doctor visits ... knock on wood.

Day 3: We had the burritos. They were yummy! Homemade tortillas are so much better. I had more filling than tortillas because everyone kept eating the tortillas plain. I made 2 loaves of bread for this morning having programmed my bread machines last night. I also overslept. *sigh* At least the bread was made. Having sick kiddos and not a lot of sleep makes it harder to cook from scratch because of the time factor not to mention fatigue. It would be easier if I weren't so tired. I still think it is real do-able though. I am learning as I go.

I had leftovers for lunch, and got all the kids to take a lunch to school. I made the chicken gravy over potatoes for dinner with a salad and green beans. It turned out good. It is a low cost meal and light on meat. My family can easily consume 12 chicken thighs in a meal. With the chicken gravy, I was able to use only 4. That cost savings can add up. Hubby liked the meal too which is always a bonus.

Maybe it is a good thing I did this frugal budget this as I just balanced my checkbook. Yikes!

Day 4: It was one of those mornings where the saying "Light's on, but no one is home." I made rice cereal for breakfast using 3:1 milk to water ratio to cook it instead of water according to package directions. I added a bit more milk after cooking to mix in the ingredients from the recipe.

I also decided to use up some bananas so made some muffins. I accidentally put in twice as much salt so had to double the recipe. We had plenty of muffins for snack and breakfast the next morning plus some.

I made up some soup for dinner and had it with French bread. It turned out yummy although my kids would have wanted our usual pizza for Friday if given the choice. There was extra soup, but the bread was gobbled up. So far the food stuff is holding out which was my biggest concern.

Day 5: As mentioned above, we had muffins for breakfast. Lunch was just leftovers. Dinner we are actually going out because of a last minute appointment of hubby's. We are all going, and he is buying dinner. I couldn't let that arrangement go.

I plan on pancakes for tomorrow's breakfast. Shepherd's pie will be dinner as it is quicker to put together or at least requires less effort from me. Hubby grew up with a Sunday tradition of a nicer late afternoon meal with popcorn and apple slices for dinner while the extended family gathered to chat. I am all for new traditions especially since it means less cooking. We will do popcorn and apple juice for night snack. PB & J for those hungry beyond that.

Day 6 & 7: I made it. The budget is very do-able for my family. We didn't run out of food which was my concern. Some of the spices are enough to last a while too so go beyond a week.

What would I do differently? Perhaps not do it in a week when I have a sick baby, but that isn't exactly predictable, and a shortage of money doesn't exactly wait for the best time. Realistically I would add fresh apples. That would open up fried apples, Waldorf salad, baked apples and other dishes to the menu. I would add soft margarine in addition to the quarters. I would add basil as a spice ( I like to use it in soups and other cooking). For my hubby I would add more rice dishes or have it as a side more. He felt we had lots of potatoes.

I think that the budget would be easier if extended over a couple of weeks. For example, a three pound bag of rice is cheaper than a pound bag. Two pounds of macaroni was cheaper than one pound. I would take that into account better too.

Spending $80 for a family of 9 (one being an infant but two being teenagers so it balances) for a week is feasible at least in my neck of the woods where food is cheaper. It is extremely feasible with a pantry already kept stocked with basics. I think when doing it in a two week time period the average weekly cost can be cheaper. I'm just not going to test that theory any time soon.