Monday, September 28, 2009

Cashew Noodle Stir-fry

Since the exchange student we are hosting is vegetarian and my brain is needing some new ideas, I checked out The Clueless Vegetarian from our local library. I liked the book from the dietary needs chart for vegetarians to the recipes. My husband likes his meat even if it is for flavoring and until this past week, only liked one meatless dish. That was the Eggplant Parmesan I make. That makes things interesting (translated to make-things-harder-for-me-in-the-kitchen). I tried a new dish from the book I checked out. My husband loves cashews and Chinese so I hoped that this dish would make his list. I am an optimist.

Cashew Noodle Stir-fry made his list enough so that he called me (I was donating blood with my oldest at the time) to tell that the dish was a keeper even without meat. YES! I love it when I have a hit with the family (as all the family loved it except the kid who hates nuts and just about everything else). I had some tweaks (I always seem to cook that way) which I included after the original recipe below.


12 oz package thin pre-cooked Chinese Noodles OR
8 oz very thin pasta, vermicelli or capellini
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup cashew pieces
1 medium sweet green or red pepper, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 (14 oz) can baby corn cobs, drained and halved lengthwise
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
4 green onions, slivered
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Chinese chili paste (or less or none)

If you are using precooked Chinese noodles, open the package and place them in a strainer. Pour boiling water over them and fluff them up with a fork. That's all. They are now ready to use. If you are using regular pasta, cook it in plenty of boiling water until tender but not mushy, drain thoroughly, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. Add cashews, and stir-fry over high heat for 1 minute, until they are lightly golden. Now throw in the sliced green or red pepper, celery and baby corn, and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add the bean sprouts and the green onions, and cook for just one minute more, until the sprouts are beginning to wilt. Now stir in the noodles, and toss to combine.

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce and the shili paste (if using it), then add to the noodle mixure , tossing just until heated through. (If you're not using the chili paste, you may want to increase to amount of soy sauce.) Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

My changes:
I used vermicelli for my pasta as I already had that in my pantry. I used green and yellow pepper but not the baby corn (don't care for it). I couldn't find fresh sprouts at the stores I went to and did not want to drive all over for one item. I used canned sprouts, drained, for the recipe. Also I had doubled the recipe and just used one can. I sliced the green onions not slivered. I opted out of using the chili paste and did not increase the amount of soy sauce. I don't care for overly salty food.

I served the meal with egg drop soup and fresh fruit. As I said, it was a huge hit. I was lucky enough to have a little saved for me. I loved it as well. I like the bursts of color which make it a pretty dish to serve up.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekly Menu: September 28 - October 4

Breakfast: Donuts, Cantaloupe, Juice and Milk
Snacks: Homemade Bread and Butter
Dinner: Beef Fajitas, Refried Beans, Spanish Rice

Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos, Orange Juice and Milk
Snack: Pudding and Graham Crackers
Dinner: Barbecued Chicken, Ranch Potatoes, Picnic Beans, Coleslaw

Breakfast: Mixed Berry and Cream Muffins, Scrambled Eggs, Milk
Snack: Popcorn and Apple Juice
Dinner: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, Chips, Coleslaw

Breakfast: Rice Cereal, Juice and Milk
Snack: Cookies and Milk
Dinner: Chili, Cornbread, Fruit

Breakfast: Omelettes, Toast, Fruit, Juice or Milk
Snack: Nachos
Dinner: Meatball Casserole, Steamed Broccoli, Cesar Salad, Breadsticks

Breakfast: Pancakes, Bacon, Melon, Orange Juice and Milk
Snacks: Available Snacks
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Salsa Pork Over Rice, Tossed Salad, Peaches

Breakfast: Cold Cereal/Granola, Milk
Snack: Available Snacks
Dinner: Chicken Tenders, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli and Cheese, Carrot Sticks

Friday, September 25, 2009

$75 Challenge Week 4

Yeah, well ... I am not sure I am going to make the challenge goal. I think I did well though. One good thing about keeping track of my groceries is realizing how much this horde of locusts eats! I still think feeding 10 people (ages 2, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17 + two adults) with the 2 year having the special dietary needs on what I have this past month is great. We have tried new dishes and had plenty of fresh fruit and veggies to munch not to mention yummy homemade bread. I know I could have cut costs even more. I didn't want to though. I was comfortable where I was. I didn't start with a stocked pantry like I usually have as I have been cutting costs back all year. I have used the items but not been able to replace them.

I ran out of some staples and also bought some juice pouches for field trips as everything taken needs to be thrown away. I splurge on some chips too. So now let's see the damage done this week (shopping done 3 different days) ...

What was bought:
-- Day 1 --
Super Wal-Mart
Soy Milk (2 half gallons) - $5.52
Caprisun (10 pk) - $1.88
Cashews - $4.48
Flour (5 lb) - $1.88
Sugar (5 lb) - $2.14
Bananas (1.87 lb) - $1.08
Grapes (2.25 lb) - $3.11
Peaches (1.28 lb) - $1.28
American Sliced Cheese, 2% - $2.98
Baby Carrots (1 lb) - $1.78
Cinnamon - $.50
Green Onions - $1.00
Eggs (dzn) - $1.00
Bread - $1.13
Potato Chips - $2.65
Cheddar Puffs - $1.50
TOTAL: $34.38

-- Day 2 --
County Market
Kidney Beans, dry - $1.59
Bean Sprouts, canned (2) - $1.98
Golden Delicious Apples (2.74 lb) - $2.41
Gala Apples (2.41 lb) - $2.12
Anjou Pears (1.22 lb) - $1.45
Baby Carrots (2 lb) - $1.99
Frozen Vegetables (15 bags of assorted) - $11.85
TOTAL: $23.62

Mozzarella, shredded (16 oz) - $2.89
Parmesan Cheese - $1.99
Canola Oil -$2.49
Eggs (3 dzn) - $2.67
Orange Juice Concentrate (2) - $1.98
Apple Juice Concentrate - $.82
Other Juice Concentrate - $1.24
Bananas - $.74
Broccoli - $.99
Cantaloupe (2) - $1.78
French Dressing - $.99
Ranch Dressing - $.99
Iceberg Lettuce - $.99
Bell Peppers, 2 colored - $1.99
Tortillas (2) - $1.98
Graham Crackers - $1.29
Tortilla Chips (2) - $1.98
Wheat Crackers - $1.19
Snack Crackers (2) - $3.58
Pretzels (2) - $2.58
Brown Sugar (2 lb) - $1.24
Baking Powder - $.99
Pancake Syrup - $1.39
Celery - $.99
Taco Mix - $.33
TOTAL: $38.68

-- Day 3 --
Super Wal-Mart
Strawberries (2) - $4.50
Pineapple - $1.98
Cantaloupe - $1.25
Golden Delicious (2.14 lb) - $2.14
Gala Apples (2.47 lb) - $2.47
Thousand Island Dressing - $1.18
Iceberg Lettuce - $1.28
Bananas (5.73 lb) - $3.21
Tomatoes (1.82 lb) - $3.21
Olives, sliced (2) - $2.32
TOTAL: $23.39


The monthly total is brought up to $348.82 or $87.20 weekly average. Eegads! Okay, I bought more fruit than usual since my kids are eating more of it. A healthy snack for sure so I am not complaining! It helps the sweet tooth but is better for you. We had company Thursday night (hence the day 3 trip) for dinner. I made taco salad with tortilla bowls and served fruit as a side. It was a huge hit with little leftovers. County Market was having a sale on frozen veggies ($.79 a bag) so I stocked a little. I bought peas, broccoli as well as bell peppers and onion mixes to use in omelettes and dishes when my garden quits producing. Even if I am over the $75 for this week, I came in under what I usually spend. I didn't plan as well, but chalk that up to lack of sleep due to being sick with allergies and a cold.

I did cook up beans for the taco salad last night that helped the 1.5 lbs of taco meat stretch for 12 people. I usually make tortillas, but mine are thicker than store-bought. I needed thinner ones to make the bowls which made dinner fun. The kids loved it. I have made more bread much to my kids delight. The kids love the fresh fruit in the basket on the counter to grab and munch on so I keep a variety in there depending on what is on sale (lots of fruit on sale this time of year). A variety ensures the kiddos aren't bored and eat more of it. I also found baby carrots might cost more, but my kids love them and eat them up. I also find it keeps me snacking healthier too. I still use regular carrots for cooking.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekly Menu: September 21-27

Breakfast: Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake, Orange Juice and Milk
Snacks: Popcorn and Juice
Dinner: Potato Pancakes, Sausage and Eggs, Applesauce

Breakfast: Breakfast Sandwiches, Juice and Milk
Snack: Gelatin with Whipped Topping
Dinner: Cashew Noodle Stir-Fry, Egg Drop Soup, Steamed Broccoli, Fresh Fruit

Breakfast: Strawberry-Cream Muffins, Scrambled Eggs, Juice and Milk
Snack: Pudding and Graham Crackers
Dinner: Pita Sandwiches, Chips, Fresh Veggies and Dip

Breakfast: French Toast, Fresh Fruit, Strawberry Smoothies
Snack: Chips and Salsa
Dinner: Taco Salad, Fresh Fruit

Breakfast: Granola, Fruit, Juice and Milk
Snack: Cookies and Milk
Dinner: Zuchinni Lasanga, Ceasar Salad, Garlic Bread

Breakfast: Pancakes, Sausage & Eggs, Juice/Milk
Snacks: Available Snacks
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Ham, Sweet Potatoes, Steamed Green Beans, Salad

Breakfast: Cold Cereal/Granola, Milk
Snack: Available Snacks
Dinner: Split Pea and Ham Soup, Salad, Rolls

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flexibility and Creativity

I find that being flexible as well as creative in the kitchen very helpful when trying to be frugal. Sometimes those two things come into play for dinner because my brain is so fried I cannot be creative or think so Iam flexibile and serve cold cereal for dinner.

Last night I was proud of myself for being flexible and creative in a good way. It wasn't cold cereal, but rather homemade soup and fresh bread. My original menu called for Beef Stew last night, but I switched it to Chunky Chicken Soup since I had leftover over cooked chicken from the day before. I find leftovers are served best with a bit of a makeover. There was a catch though. I didn't have any of the frozen vegetables called for in the recipe.

In comes creativity and flexibility to save the day. For starters, I did have onions and garlic so I sauteed those as well as 5-6 mushrooms left from Monday's Eggplant Parmesan. So I was getting creative and now I needed to be flexible. I didn't need to cook the chicken as I already had some (also I add meat last since our exchange student is vegetarian). I didn't have the frozen vegetables, but I did have fresh ones. So instead of adding the flour first followed by the broth, I added 3/4 of the broth. Then I put in fresh green beans from my garden. I added chopped carrots and red potatoes (from the co-op this week) as well as a bunch of broccoli, chopped, not used in Wednesday's dinner. I brought the soup to a boil before reducing the heat and simmering until the vegetables were tender. In a mason jar (keep one in my kitchen for this purpose), I put in the remaining broth and flour. I shook it hard (after putting on the lid) until the mixture was well mixed with no lumps. It is so much easier that way. I poured that into the soup as well as a can of kidney beans as I had no white beans. It added some protein for our vegetarian and a nice dash of color. I spooned out enough for our student into a separate pot and then added the chicken I had de-boned and chopped to the pot for the rest of us.

The result of my creativity and flexibility? It was a delicious soup with a side of hot, deliciously sweet soda bread. I was not the only one happy with the result. I like the successes so much more than the flops. Each is a learning experience that helps me be more confident in the kitchen, and my family is used to being my guinea pigs by now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

$75 Challenge Week 3

So far so good, I think. Let me add the totals first. Wednesday is shopping day, but little is on my grocery list. That doesn't mean much though. My garden is in overdrive, and I have pick up from the farmer's co-op I am participating in this summer/fall. I had signed up for it back in April.

Grocery purchases (not including tax):
Carrots (2 lb) - $1.29
Broccoli - $2.97
Romaine Lettuce - $1.99
Gala Apples (2.22 lbs) - $2.22
Golden Delicious Apples (1.84 lbs) - $2.30
Bananas (8+ lbs) - $4.82
Red Seedless Grapes (6.47 lbs) - $6.47
Seedless Watermelon - $4.00
Muskmelon - $2.50
Sweet Potatoes - $1.75
Ketchup - $1.15
Peanut Butter (40 oz) - $3.67
Powdered Sugar (2 lb) - $1.24
Wheat Crackers - $1.98
Wheat Thins - $1.29
Pretzels (2) - $2.58
Orange Juice Concentrate (3) - $2.97
Apple Juice Concentrate - $ .82
Assorted Juice Concentrate (2) - $2.48
Eggs (4 dozen) - $3.52
Cheddar Cheese, shredded - $2.89
Colby Cheese (8 oz) - $1.49
Sour Cream - $1.06
Soy Milk (4 half gallon) - $11.04
Ice Cream (2 half pints) - $2.00

Weekly Total is $70.49 plus 1% tax: $71.19

The Monthly Total so far is $228.75 or $76.37 averaged over 3 weeks. I bought more than was on my list like the sweet potatoes and melons from a farmer's stand. I also splurged on 2 half pints of ice cream for hubby and I to enjoy after the kids were in bed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekly Menu: September 14-20

A day (or two) late but hopefully not a dollar short ...

Breakfast: Banana Muffins, Milk
Snacks: Available Snacks
Dinner: Eggplant Parmesan, Spinach-Carrot Salad, Fruit, Rice Krispie Treats

Breakfast: Waffles, Juice/Milk
Snack: Available Snacks
Dinner: Taco Baked Potatoes, Salad

Breakfast: Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, Fruit, Milk
Snack: Apples and Caramel
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Squash, Cucumber Salad, Steamed Broccoli
Breakfast: Muffins, Fruit, Milk
Snack: Cheese and Crackers, Grapes

Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos, Fruit, Juice/Milk
Snack: Baked Pretzels, Juice
Dinner: Fried Rabbit, Mashed Potatoes, Pickled Beets, Carrot-Pineapple Salad
Breakfast: Pancakes, Sausage & Eggs, Juice/Milk
Snacks: Zuchinni Bread, Milk
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Split Pea and Ham Soup, Salad, Rolls

Breakfast: Cold Cereal/Granola, Milk
Snack: Available Snacks
Dinner: Sour Cream Enchiladas, Refried Beans, Soutwestern Corn Salad

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

$75 Challenge Update -- Week 2

Monday I went shopping for some needs for a few of the kids. While at the store, I grabbed 6 ears of corn and a seedless watermelon. A seeded watermelon will go to waste here while a seedless lasts maybe two days. Funny kids! oh yeah, I bought some fresh dill to make some dill pickles with yet more cucumbers from our garden. I had to get more eggs because I guess I underestimated my family. They finished off the 5 dozen in a week. The kids' had a pool party, and I made some more Munchie Mix. They also finished off our huge batch in a week as well - the oinkers!

The Week's Grocery Bill
Fresh Dill - $2.92
Watermelon - $2.88
Corn Ears (6) - $1.25
Cantaloupe - $1.49
Green Peppers(2)- $1.49
Spinach - $1.99
Mushrooms - $1.29
Baking Potatoes (10 lb) - $5.98
Orange Juice Concentrate(2) -$1.98
Apple Juice Concentrate - $.82
Assorted Juice Concentrates (3) - $3.72
Frozen Peas - $.95
Eggs (2 dozen) - $1.96
Mozzarella Cheese - $2.89
Parmesan Cheese - $1.99
Canola Oil - $2.49
Flour (2) - $3.28
Pretzels (2) - $2.58
Saltines - $.89
Lemon-Lime Soda (2 lt) - $.69
TOTAL: $43.91

Total cost of ingredients for second batch of Munchie Mix : $21.74. Overall monthly total is now $158.26. That divides out to $79.13 each week. It's getting closer to my challenge limit. That second batch of Munchie Mix put me over ... Darnit! At least I am better than my usual grocery bill even with it on (twice) ... I've cut my grocery spending in half!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

This was a hit with the family and came together quickly and easily. That is three out of three! Dh says it is a keeper. Of course, I doubled the recipe putting it in a 9x13-inch dish. There were not even enough crumbs for a mouse let alone a picture. I served the coffee cake with scrambled eggs, tomato and cheese slices, milk and apple juice.

Cook Time: 30 minutes

•1/2 cup brown sugar
•1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
•1/4 cup butter, room temperature
•1 teaspoon cinnamon

•1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
•2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1 egg, beaten
•3/4 cup sugar
•1/3 cup melted butter
•1/2 cup milk
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping: In small mixing bowl, combine topping ingredients. Blend with fork until crumbly. Set aside.

Cake: Sift 1 1/2 cups sifted flour with baking powder and salt into a bowl. In a medium bowl, beat together beaten egg and 3/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup melted butter. Add milk and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture and mix well. Pour batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square or 9-inch layer-cake pan. Sprinkle topping crumb mixture evenly over batter. Bake at 375° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake tests done. Partially cool in pan on wire rack. Cut coffee cake into squares while still warm.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Weekly Menu: September 7-13

The way my week works is that I have a fabulous plan in place. Then life happens. Life seems to happen a lot around here. My fabulous plan gets re-arranged, meals get bumped to the next week or omitted completely. I can take consolance in the fact, that is less shopping for next week. I am already prepared or at least until life happens again and reminds me who really is in charge - and it isn't me!

Breakfast: Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Scrambled Eggs, Juice/Milk
Snacks: Available Snacks
Dinner: Foil Dinners, Tossed Salad

Breakfast: Muffins, Fruit, Juice/Milk
Snack: Nachos
Dinner: Pizza Rolls, Ceasar Salad, Green Beans

Breakfast: Granola, Milk, Fruit
Snack: Cinnamon Toast, Cantaloupe Cubes
Dinner: Fajitas, Spanish Rice, Refried Beans

Breakfast: French Toast, Ham Slices, Fruit, Juice/Milk
Snack: Gelatin with Whipped Topping
Dinner: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Carrot-Pineapple Salad

Breakfast: Biscuits and Gravy, Fruit, Juice/Milk
Snack: Baked Pretzels
Dinner: White Bean-Spinach Soup, Ceasar Salad, French Bread

Breakfast: Pancakes, Sausage & Eggs, Juice/Milk
Snacks: Available Snacks
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Eggplant Parmesan, Green Salad, Peas & Carrots

Breakfast: Cold Cereal/Granola, Milk
Snack: Available Snacks
Dinner: Baked Potato Bar

$75 Challenge Update

I went shopping last (again!). One child needed a birthday for a friend. Another needed something for school. I ran out of yet something else. While there I bought some more food. My exchange student, Jana, volunteered to make dinner for me. She is not much of a cook, but very helpful and kind. She received a recipe from her mother so wanted to make it for us. I had to buy the ingredients we didn't have (or not enough of). What sane mother would pass up the chance to put her feet up and not cook?!

What I purchased for a total of $5.87:
10 lbs russet potatoes -$2.77
Can of Sauerkraut - $.64
Can of Kidney Beans - $.82
2 lbs Carrots - $1.58

I forgot the canned beets (it had been a very long day by the time I got to the store) so that will up the weekly total as well.

Monthly Grocery Bill Total: $ 92.51

Munchie Mix Recipe

I'm a day late. I could give you the reasons and let you know how my day went yesterday, but that would take up my entire post, and there are others with just as hectic or moreso schedules. Today is promising to be more of the same.

The Trail Mix recipe was a hit. It makes an enormous amount (over a gallon) even by my family's standards. The kids loved it. Allergy-sufferers can pick out the ingredients they cannot eat. Some of my kids will not eat nuts while others will not eat raisins. There doesn't seem to be that problem with the chocolate candies. A person visiting after snack would find bowls or baggies with the remains of unwanted mix parts. When hubby gets home, he finishes off the ones with the nuts left. It all gets eaten. Pizza toppings work the same way in my house. It sounds like an auction at dinner on pizza night.

I found the Trail Mix recipe in an e-mail I received from Taste of Home this month. I tweaked it for my family and to save costs. I used larger packages than called for in the original recipe (i.e. 19 ounce bag of M&Ms instead of 14 ounces). I purchased the raisins in a 25-ounce container and used the leftover for cinnamon-raisin bread for breakfast the next morning. Instead of the mixed nuts called for in the original recipe, I bought the same amount for less money in cashew pieces and unsalted, roasted peanuts. It saved money not to mention cut back the salt. The cashew and peanuts are what gets picked out the nut mix anyway. I deleted the granola (without raisins) called for in the original recipe. It saved money, and I forgot to make some homemade before making this. That saves time too. The mix was still good, and this is what I came up with after all my edits ...

Munchie Mix
Serving size: 3/4 cup

4-1/2 cups nuts (cashews and peanuts used)
1 package (17 ounces) raisins
1 package (19 ounces) peanut M&Ms
1 package (19 ounces) milk chocolate M&Ms
1 package (17 ounces) Honey-Nut Cheerios
1 package (13 ounces) Cheerios

Directions: In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in a covered container or large resealable plastic bags. Makes 5+ quarts.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

$75 Challenge

I was looking up one thing and just kept clicking links until I ended up here. As I was reading through the blog, I found the $75 Challenge. I was game. I enjoy things like that, the things that bore my hubby to tears to discuss or make my children roll their eyes. I am just waiting until they end up just like me.

A challenge ... hmmm. I like a good challenge especially one involving saving money. Hubby likes saving money too even more when I manage to do it although he claims that I spend money to save money. So back to the challenge and setting my rules for myself...

We are a family of 10 (two adults and 8 children ranging in age from almost two to 17 years old). There are some dietary concerns as the youngest is allergic to dairy, eggs and red dye. The 17 year old (our exchange student) is allergic to chocolate as well as a vegetarian. Food costs alone run about $150 a week not including the raw milk we get from a dairy and our SHARE Foods units we buy once a month. Those two things will run $90-$110 a month. I also participate in a farm co-op where I get fresh produce bi-weekly. I already paid for that back in April. With that as my guideline and basis, I have decided on taking the challenge name at face value. My goal is $75 a week spent on groceries. Of course, I am always free to spend less as I am sure hubby would like to remind me.

I started off the week with good intentions. I made a menu for the family, and one where they would not ask if I was cutting back on the budget. (I started on Tuesday as that was the beginning of the month for the challenge.) Weekday lunches are just leftovers or sandwiches as it is just Eric and I at home now school is in session. Available Snacks are ones that I always keep on hand. They include pretzels, animal crackers, fruit, microwave popcorn and leftovers from breakfast/previous snacks (if any).

Tuesday (1st)
Breaskfast: Berry Crumb Bars, Hot Chocolate
Snack: Available Snacks
Dinner: Ziploc Chicken, Fried Potatoes, Baked Beans, Watermelon, Broccoli (had company for dinner)

Wednesday (2nd)
Breakfast: French Toast, Scrambled Eggs with Ham, Bananas, Juice
Snack: Trail Mix
Dinner: Leftovers

Thursday (3rd)
Breakfast: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread, Fruit, Milk/Hot Cocoa
Snack: Cheese Nachos
Dinner: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, Peaches

Friday (4th)
Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos, Fruit, Juice/Milk
Snack: Rice Krispie Treats
Dinner: Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas, Spanish Rice, Refried Beans, Fresh Fruit

Saturday (5th)
Breakfast: Pancakes, Sausage, Juice/Milk
Snacks: Available Snacks
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Homemade Pizza, Ceasar Salad, Breadsticks

Sunday (6th)
Breakfast: Cold Cereal/Granola
Snacks: Available Snacks
Dinner: Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup, Fresh Fruit and Veggie Tray

So there is the menu for the week. I made my grocery list and did the shopping. How did I fare?

What I bought:
5 dozen eggs - $5.78
Half gallon soy milk (2) - $5.52
Baked Beans (2) - $ 2.44
Tomato Soup (4) - $ 2.40
Mandarin Oranges (15 oz)- $ .72
Roasted Peanuts (16 oz) - $2.68
Canola Oil (3 qt) - $2.84
Raisins (25 oz) - $2.58
Cashews (16 oz) - $4.48
Cheddar Cheese Soup (2) - $2.88
Orange Juice Concentrate (2) - $2.36
Cinnamon - $ .50
Vegetable Broth (5) - $5.00
Pineapple Chunks (20 oz)- $1.08
Cheddar Cheese (2 lb) - $5.98
Broccoli Cuts (1 lb) - $1.87
Apple Juice Concentrate (2) - $2.26
Apple-Cherry Juice Concentrate (2) -$2.54
Wheat Gluten - $1.84
Bananas (5 lbs) - $2.93
Generic Cheerios - $1.84
Generic Honey-Nut Cheerios - $1.98
Generic Rice Krispies - $2.34
Regular M&Ms (19 oz) - $3.98
Peanut M&Ms (19 oz) - $3.98
Tortilla Chips (2) - $4.00
Romaine Lettuce (2 heads) - $3.00
Miniature Marshmallows - $ .92
Total (with tax added): $81.51

I had to make a run to a second store for forgotten tomato paste. I bought 4 12-oz cans for a total of $4.40. That brings the total grocery bill to $85.91.

I have a garden and freezer full of meat (bought a side of beef a couple of months ago). My pantry shelves are kind of sparce of canned goods although I have plenty of spices and herbs as well as the basics like flour, pasta, rice and beans. That is why you will not see certain items plus with what I get at the co-op and SHARE in conjunction with my garden.
The tomato paste was to make pizza sauce (with tomatoes from my garden) for Saturday with extra pints canned for a later). The trail mix recipe makes enough to store half for next week. The eggs and cheese will last into next week. Those items were the higher cost items on my list so I don't expect my grocery to be as high next week. So yes, I spent more than $75 this week, but I am hoping it will average out.

Tomorrow I will post some of the recipes for my menu items ...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weekly Menu Plan: March 16

Cababge-Sausage Skillet
Fruited Gelatin
Corn Muffins

Fried Chicken
Mashed Potatoes

Ham & Bean Soup

Chicken & Noodles
Green Salad

Fried Rice
Garlic Green Beans
Egg Drop Soup

Salisbury Steaks with Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Green Salad

Ice Cream Sundaes
The Sundaes on Sunday is a fun family tradition we have. The children (& husband) enjoy it. It also keeps me in the cool mom category.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Apologies ...

I'm sorry to those who read this. Life has been catching up to me and passing me on by. I haven't kept up on this (or any of my blogs) really well. I hope to be back in control and on the ball this week.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Southwest Salad

This an easy salad that comes together in 15 minutes. It is what I like to call a dump recipe. You just dump everything in a bowl. Okay, you might need to mix it a bit. Technicalities.

The recipe calls for red onion. I didn't have any in my house. I had plenty of yellow onion so I used that. It made for a stron flavor. Next time I will use red onion. It is a healthy recipe and quite colorful which makes a pretty setting for the table.

Southwest Salad
Preparation time: 15 mins
Serves: 4 servings

1 cup Whole Kernel Corn, drained
1 cup Red Bell Peppers, chopped
1 cup Green Bell Peppers, chopped
1/4 cup Red Onion, chopped
1 cup Reduced Fat Mild Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Toss together all ingredients and serve.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekly Menu Plan: February 9, 2009

Ravioli in Sauce
Tossed Salad with Dressing
Vegetable Medley

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
Southwestern Salad
Refried Beans
Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Cheesecake

Roasted Orange Chicken
Steamed Broccoli
Tossed Salad with Dressing

Roast Ham
French Onion Soup
7-Layer Salad
Acorn Squash

Chicken Fajita, Sausage, Cheese Pizzas
Bread Sticks
Caesar Salad

Pork Roast
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Glazed Carrots

Bean and Ham Soup
Green Salad

Monday, February 2, 2009

Weekly Menu: February 2

Greens, Beans & Ham
Tossed Salad with Dressing
French Bread

Apricot Chicken
Brown Rice
Broccoli Spears
Tossed Salad with Dressing

Grilled Ribeye Steak
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Tossed Salad with Dressing

French Onion Soup
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Fresh Fruit

Pizza Rolls
Tossed Salad with Dressing

Fried Rice
Egg Drop Soup

Turkey and Noodles
Carrot-Radish Salad
Green Beans

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Here is the tip for today: be flexible. If you noticed, there are some dishes that made a return on this week's menu from last week. I should put a disclaimer on my menu. The thing is that out of last week's menu I had only ONE dish that was scheduled. We had Sunday's chili last night because on Saturday, I was able to grab two turkeys on sale for 50 cents a pound.

I cooked one up for dinner on Sunday and put the other in the freezer. From that turkey (15 pounds) I was able a meal of roast turkey. Monday lunch was turkey salad sandwiches. There is still enough meat that I can make a pot pie or two and turkey and noodles. Because of my find I needed to re-arrange things. Things were also re-arranged because my children were out of school Wednesday due to snow. Then they were out Thursday and Friday due to the extreme cold. Our high was -13 on Thursday. Let's not get started on that nasty windchill. I had to be flexible with what I had on hand which was dwindling fast since the children were all home.

Another way to be flexible is when you run out of something only you didn't know you ran out of it until you start making a recipe and then remember you ran out of it. Hubby had a sweet tooth last night so I made an apple pie. I then made a pumpkin pie with the extra crust dough I had left. The only catch is I didn't have any evaporated milk. That was poor planning on my part. So it is getting late with the filling all mixed together except the milk. I turn to my trusty friend Google and look up substitutions for evaporated milk. I could make my own. Nah, not enough time. It was getting late. I could reconstitute dry milk. That didn't appeal to me. I could use buttermilk. I didn't have that either.

Wait! Buttermilk ... I used yogurt once with some added water to substitute for buttermilk once. Or was that the other way around? So the gears start turning in my head. A few might need a bit of oiling, but they are going. I do have some vanilla non-fat yogurt which would add a nice taste over the plain (also had that). Cool, I even got an added bonus of less fat. So I used 8 ounces of the vanilla yogurt plus 4 ounces of water to substitute for the 12 ounces of evaporated milk. The pie turned out so purty and yummy. There are times recipes have to be changed due to allergies, tastes or lack of available ingredients. You have to be flexible and having Google or other search engine is rather helpful. A bit of blind faith that it will turn out is nice.

You have to be flexible sometimes in menus as well. There are those days where everything seems to go wrong. There is no way that you can prepare that certain dish. Or perhaps like in my case this past week, you find an unexpected deal on a meat other than what is planned. Swap, substitute and switch if you need too. There might not be meatloaf because child A had practice after school that wasn't scheduled, child B came home sick with the flu and child C invited a friend over. Neighbor 1 has an emergency and needs someone to watch her two children. All of the sudden Sloppy Joes, Soft Tacos or Hamburgers seem a lot easier not to mention quicker.

(Now here is the disclaimer ...) My menus seldom stay as written. I have done well when I fix 50% of what was listed on the day it was listed. It is merely a guideline so I don't go shopping blind. That always costs me more money. I like to make meals that use basic, easy-to-find ingredients and can be changed up if needs be. It helps with the sanity which I find at times in shorter supply than time or money.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekly Menu: January 19

Monday: Chile con Carne, Cornbread Muffins, Fresh Fruit (Pineapple & Grapes)

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken-Spinach Alfredo, Green Salad, Breadsticks

Wednesday: Shrimp Stir-Fry over Rice, Egg Drop Soup, Orange & Pineapple Slices

Thursday: Turkey Pot Pie, Green Salad

Friday: French Onion Soup, Grilled Chicken Salad, Breadsticks

Saturday: Sausage Gravy over Toast, Peas, Peaches

Sunday: Turkey and Noodles, Green Salad, Steamed Broccoli

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday's Tip: Substituting for Butter

I won't argue that cooking with butter makes food taste real yummy. The biggest problem though is not my waistline (although I am trying to fix that) but my youngest's allergies. He cannot have anything with dairy among other things. That leaves out butter or anything similar.

We do use a dairy-free margaine like spread that he can have. There are foods out there but many times what doesn't have dairy products was made in close proximity of milk products or on the same equipment. That is a no-no too. Seeing as I do not like having a little boy with a upset tummy, congestion & blow-outs, I avoid the causes.

One thing that it makes difficult is having bread in the house, homemade or store-bought. He can't have eggs either, by-the-way. The other day I made some mashed potatoes from scratch. Instead of throwing out the potato water, I use it to make potato bread. It is already warm so works well with the yeast as does the sugars and starches in it. My potato bread recipe calls for milk and butter/margarine. Since both are no-nos, I substitute. I just use the potato water for the milk and oil for the butter. I use oil to replace butter in my bread recipes, preferring canola as it is a healthy oil.

Using those substitutions brings down the cost of making the bread and all in my family can enjoy it. (Which we did!) Here is my recipe that I use. It can be made in a breadmaker that can handle a two pound loaf. I have made that way and by hand with both working just fine.

Potato Bread

1-1/2 cups warm potato water
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour (use bread flour or add gluten to all-purpose)
1/3 cup potato flakes
2 tablespoons sugar
2-2/3 teaspoons yeast

If using a bread machine, add all ingredients in given order. Select white or normal cycle with light crust (if option is available).

If making by hand, disslove yeast in warm potato water. Add sugar, salt, potato flakes and oil. Mix well. Add flour gradually until all has been added. Knead dough and let rise in warm place. When doubled, knead dough again and place in lightly greased loaf pan(s). Let the dough rise again until about doubled. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or lightly browned.

By hand, this will make one large loaf (10-inch or larger loaf pan) or two medium (9-inch or smaller) loaves. In the bread machine, this makes a two-pound loaf.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekly Menu: January 12

Monday: Faitas with Homemade Tortillas, Refried Beans, Apple Slices

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Breasts, Seasoned Rice, Steamed Vegetables, Green Salad

Wednesday: Seafood Stir-Fry over Rice, Egg Drop Soup, Melon & Pineapple Slices

Thursday: Grilled Chicken-Spinach Alfredo, Green Salad, Garlic Bread

Friday: Steamed Fish with Vegetables, Seasoned Rice, Peaches

Saturday: Breakfast - Muffins, Scrambled Eggs with Ham, "Fried" Potatoes, Orange Juice

Sunday: Chili, Cornbread, Fresh Fruit

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Roasted Garlic Potatoes

I made this dish earlier this week for my family. I had a meeting so left it in the oven on warm. All during my meeting, I was afraid my family wouldn't leave me any. I had never made it before so wanted to see how it turned out (especially before posting it on a blog). I got home ready to eat. I couldn't find the potatoes anywhere and was a bit miffed. I was tired and hadn't eaten in awhile. That isn't a good combination.

I checked the dishwasher and drainer for the container I cooked it in and couldn't find it. I then asked my oldest where the potatoes were. Her response? "What potatoes?" I head straight for the oven. Sure enough, there are my potatoes. Luckily, I grabbed some to go with my dinner before my potato-obsessive daughter heard I had found them. They turned out yummy! I did tweak the recipe I originally used to accommodate what I had on hand with personal tastes both before and after the taste test.

The Recipe:

3 pounds boiling potatoes, chunked
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 (scant) teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley, crushed

In a large roasting pan, toss together all ingredients. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, tossing occasionally. Cook one hour or until they are tender and golden.

Tuesday's Tip

The tip for today is healthy eating. I find eating healthy and proper portions is a money saver. It is good for you too. A rule I try to follow for meals is to think of the plate of food as a whole. One-fourth of it should be your meats or proteins. Another one-fourth should be your starches (i.e. breads, grains, potatoes). The remaining half should be vegetables. This allows for the servings from each of the food groups to be met. You can find out about those here.

Another thing with portions is the size not just ratio. You might follow the ratio but that 8 ounce-serving of steak is not the proper portion size. 3 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards is the proper portion size for meats or meat substitutes. Other proper portion sizes for food:

How does this help save money? Simple. You eat more of the foods that have fiber like your vegetables and fruits. Fiber helps you in many ways. One is making you feel full longer since it is not digested as quickly. Selecting whole grains for the starch portion (1/4) is a good source of fiber too. When you do not over-eat, you are not only healthier for it, but you do not consume as much. That means you do not need to buy as much. Buying healthier foods and cutting back or eliminating empty calorie, non-nutritional foods will help the budget.

I like sweets once-in-awhile, but they are not a main staple in my home. That includes chips, soda, sugary snacks and the like. I do not need the temptation, and my children do not need them for their growing bodies (up not out).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Weekly Menu: 5 January 2008

Monday: Potato Pancakes, Sausage Patties, Applesauce

Tuesday: Roast Chicken, Garlic Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli, Fruit Gelatin Salad

Wednesday: Broccoli Beef over Rice, Egg Drop Soup, Cantaloupe Slices

Thursday: Chicken Salad Pitas with Lettuce & Tomato, Apple Slices, Carrot Sticks

Friday: Turkey & Gravy over Toast, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans

Saturday: Breakfast - Ham & Cheese Omelettes, Hashbrowns, Fresh Fruit, Orange Juice

Sunday: Chicken Taco Soup, Tortillas

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I made this recipe this week. It was a HUGE hit. Even my picky that dislikes casseroles gave it a thumbs up when he had his polite bite. It tastes good as leftovers. I more than doubled the recipe. It is all gone 3 days later. See after the recipe for the changes I made to recipe to suit my and my family's tastes. Here is the recipe in the original form as I got it from a chat board.

Serves 6

3-4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (about 4 breasts)
4 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided (Mexican works well)
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 can Rotel tomatoes, drained (add more or less according to preferences)
1 pack of taco shells, crushed

Mix all ingredients (using only half of the cheese) in a large bowl making sure taco shells are wet. Place in a greased 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Top with other half of cheese. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until bubbly and cheese starts to golden.

*Note from Ranae - I have used diced chicken breasts, leftover cooked chicken as well as shredded chicken for this recipe. I prefer the diced chicken breasts. I also use a tomato and green chile mix for added kick but not using the full half can called for if doing it that way. Also I have used tortilla chips. About half a bag equals a pack of taco shells.

I serve the casserole on a bed of shredded lettuce and topped with sour cream and sliced black olives. Salsa is a good topper as well if that is your preference like it is my hubby's.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I found this recipe on the 30 Day Gourmet site. On the site, they have adjusted the amount of ingredients for larger or multiple batches if making all at once. You can check out the Loaded Baked Potato Soup recipe here. I have both made the recipe to serve immediately and to freeze for a later meal. It is a good way to use up any leftover baked potatoes from a previous meal. It also can be adjusted to make a lighter version by using lighter or fat-free, low sodium, etc. versions of the ingredients.

Serves 8

4 large baking potatoes
10 tablespoons butter or margarine
2/3 cup flour
6 cups milk
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon balck pepper
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces sour cream

2-3 green onion sliced
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3-4 slices cooked bacon, cooked and crumbled

Scrub potatoes and wrap each one in aluminum foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 60-90 minutes, or until they’re soft when you squeeze them. Remove the potatoes from the oven, unwrap and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the pulp into a large bowl. Set aside. Save the leftover skins to make potato skins, or discard.

Melt butter or margarine in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring until smooth. Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Turn heat up to medium and continue stirring while slowly adding the milk. Continue to stir until mixture is thick and bubbly. Add the cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, and bacon. Mash the potato pulp with a hand-held potato masher, a fork, or a mixer, to get rid of the large chunks. Add the potato pulp to the pan, stirring to mix. When it is heated through, add the sour cream and stir to mix well. Do not boil the soup. Set aside to cool.

Freeze in freezer bags or rigid containers based on your family size. Seal, label and freeze.

Thaw at least overnight in the refrigerator. Put the soup in a saucepan or microwave-safe container to heat. The soup will have the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. If needed, stir in some milk to make it more “soup-like”. But the soup should be thick, not runny. Once it’s heated through, spoon into serving bowls. Top each bowl with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar, sliced green onions and crumbled bacon as garnish.