Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pink Lemonade Dip

OMG!  This dip is to die for ... The recipe calls for chilling, but we can never wait that long.  Ran out of apple slices?  No problem!  Grab a spoon and eat the stuff straight out of the bowl.  My favorite is raspberry-lemonade.  The Pink Lemonade is more tart, but if that is what you like, great!  To ease some guilt (but you will be in heaven when you taste it and could care less about guilt) make the dip using reduced-fat or fat-free cream cheese and cool-whip.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Snack Ideas

Like the plague of locusts they are my kiddos are always eating.  With the rising food prices even in the cheap Midwest, it is getting expensive.  Maybe it is just the increasing number of teenagers hitting growth spurts that is getting expensive around here.  The locusts children eat at least three snacks a day and try to eat more.  What is a poor mom to do?

Cutting off there food supply really isn't an option as whining is a big pet peeve of mine.  Ironic to have that and snotty noses as pet peeves with seven kids in the home and studying to be an elementary teacher.  Go figure.  Let's not dwell on snot ... haha ... sorry just giddy that school started today, and it is so quiet in the house now.

What is an option - talking about snacks now - for us?  First I have a snack station and a fruit bowl.  I will show you the snack center but not the fruit bowl.  It is full of sad little fruits that will be converted to muffins for a later breakfast.  Peaches, bananas, blueberries ... oh my!

The snack center
In the fruit bowl I usually keep apples, oranges, bananas, and seasonal fruit like peaches, plums and such.  The snack center contains usually a salty snack, a couple of cereals, animal crackers and homemade granola.  My snack center is looking a little sad too as I haven't done my grocery shopping when I normally do.  My salty snacks (far right jar) rotate between Chex Mix, pretzels, goldfish, and microwave popcorn.  It depends what is on sale or for a good price.  The cereals available vary but are usually honey-nut cheerios and honeycomb type cereals as we like the generic brands just fine.  The sweet snack can be animal crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars or wafer cookies (nasty things but my family all loves them, and they are not terribly expensive).  The homemade granola never lasts long (far right jar).  My apple cinnamon version is the biggest hit.  The recipe I use is a versatile one so the flavors will vary.

So I have a snack center which comes in very handy for those days (I will be starting school Monday - as a student not a teacher) and for the before bed snacks as I plan two snacks a day.  It isn't as much of a big deal during school year as only the youngest is home with me during the day.  The snacking guideline for our house is to eat a proper portion of the planned snack.  The center is if you do not like the planned snack, and the portion guideline still applies.  If you are still hungry, grab some fresh fruit or veggies.  The snack center is replenished each week so if you eat it all before then, too bad and now there is the worry of angry siblings.

So what are planned snacks that go over well in my house (go over well means that a majority of the kiddos like it)?  Here is my list ...

  • Nachos
  • Pudding and Vanilla Wafers
  • Gelatin with Whipped Topping
  • Muffins
  • Stuffed Celery - peanut butter or pineapple cream cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Graham Crackers
  • Cheese Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Popsicles - homemade or store-bought
  • Popcorn - kettle, caramel or white chocolate
  • Chex Mix or Trail Mix
  • Quesadillas
  • Homemade Bread
  • Baked Pretzels
  • Apples with Pink Lemonade Dip or Caramel
  • Funnel Cakes
  • Granola Bars
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Pepperoni Crescent Roll-ups
  • Brownies
  • Magic Milkshakes
  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • S'mores
  • Fresh Fruit, Melons or Berries
  • Baby Carrots and Ranch 
  • Pinwheels
  • Tortilla Chips and Salsa
  • Hot Chocolate (cooler weather snack staple)
It is a mix and match like graham crackers with yogurt or cheese crackers with fresh fruit.  Items like cookies, pinwheels, milkshakes, breads and muffins are general as I can vary flavor.  I watch the sale, check the limited coupons I might have and inventory what is available at home.  For instance, muffins will be a snack sometime soon because of the sad little fruit in my fruit bowl.  I also have coupons for tortillas chips so nachos or chips and salsa will also be on the list.  Peanut butter is on sale so peanut butter cookies, peanut butter crackers, and/or stuffed celery are snack options to come.

And that is snack time in my household ... actually the reality is you snooze, you lose which is applies to any time dealing with food.  That is what happens when you live with locusts.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Necessity: The Mother of Invention

Also known as the children ate some of the ingredients you needed ...

Peanut Butter Cheerio Bars

This is what I made tonight for the family.  It was supposed to be Rice Krispie Treats, but someone ate my Rice Krispies. I am in the melting butter stage and not too happy to find I have only 3 cups of Rice Krispies when I need twice that.  The box was in the taboo-touch-you-die cabinet and should have had enough for two batches of Rice Krispie treats.

 So what to do ... Hmmm.  The voices in my head go to town and start talking to each other.

   "I have Honey-Nut Cheerios." 

   "Oh, I think some creamy peanut butter will go with that.  

   "We aren't allergic, are we?"

   "No, it's the other stuff we can't have."

   "Great!  Let's mix the peanut butter with the marshmallows.  How much do you think?"

   "One-third cup?"

   "Nah, I like peanut butter.  Let's do one-half."

  "Cool!  That sounds good to me!"

So on the advice of my voices, I continue to the melting marshmallows stage and put in half a cup of creamy peanut butter.  I mix the two together before pouring in 6 cups of said cheerios and mix.

   "Chocolate!  Chocolate is always good."

Yeah, that chocolate?  Those are the occasional brown spots in the picture.  The kids got into and ate most of my chocolate chips too.

The results are in:  It was a hit, and the family loved it the "strange-looking Rice Krispie treats." Once mixed, be sure to place into a greased (with butter or spray) 9x13 pan and cool.  Have a glass of milk ready because they are a bit rich.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weekly Menu for August 13-19, 2012

Day One - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Blueberry Muffins, Orange Slices, Milk
Morning Snack: Applesauce and Cinnamon Graham Crackers
Afternoon Snack: Peanut Butter Cookies, Milk
Dinner: Chalupas, Spanish Rice, Fresh Fruit

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast:  Sausage Biscuits, Peaches, Milk or Juice
Morning Snack:  Bread Sticks and Sauce
Afternoon Snack: Caramel Apples
Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, Peaches, Tossed Salad

Day Three
Breakfast: French Toast,  Bacon, Melon and Strawberries
Morning Snack:  Pudding and Vanilla Wafers
Afternoon Snack: Peanut Butter Crackers and Grapes
Dinner:  Cashew Noodles, Steamed Broccoli, Watermelon

Day Four - Take Out Night
Breakfast:  Ham and Cheese Omelets, Toast, Orange Juice
Morning Snack:  Kettle Corn and Apple Slices
Afternoon Snack:  Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
Dinner: Fried Chicken, Waffle Fries, Coleslaw

Day Five
Breakfast:  Monkey Bread,  Mixed Berries, Chocolate Milk
Morning Snack:  Magic Milkshakes
Afternoon Snack:  Pretzels and Apple Juice
Dinner:  Crab Cakes, Caesar Salad, Vegetable Medley

Day Six
Breakfast:  Whole Wheat Pancakes, Sausage, Melon Cubes, Juice or Milk
Morning Snack:  Yogurt Parfaits
Afternoon Snack:  Snickerdoodles and Milk
Dinner:  Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Day Seven
Breakfast: Granola or Cold Cereal, Milk
Morning Snack: Ham and Ranch Pinwheels
Afternoon Snack: S'mores
Dinner: Sloppy Joes, Corn, Baby Carrots

I have included breakfast, snack and dinner ideas for a week. For lunches, it is usually leftovers or sandwiches. I didn't use names of the days as everyone's schedule differs. It is okay to have day seven on day one and day six on day three, omitting day four because of tastes. This menu is for ideas to help you and feed your creative juices.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

To Plan or Not to Plan ...

Plan, definitely plan.  That does not mean I always create a plan.  That is a mistake because then I have to revamp my budget because I went over in the grocery allowance.  I hate budgeting.  It makes me so cranky.  Thank goodness our paycheck is once a month (and heaven forbid it coincides with Aunt Flo - you don't want to go there with me mood-wise).  So plan it is, and how I do I do that?

When I plan my menus, I pore over the sales ads for the upcoming week.  Well, not pore but I do read them, making circles on good prices.  You have to know what is a good price.  Sale does not necessarily mean a good price.  I can find the ads on-line so I can have one more excuse not to move from my comfy chair.  I also compare the different store ads.  If Store A has chicken breasts on sale for 2 cents less than Store B who is having fruit on sale for 30 cents less a pound as well as frozen vegetables, I will go only to Store B.  It isn't worth my time or gas money to go to Store A - especially in this heat.  One less outing in the outdoors oven is fine by me.  Add kids and car seats to that and you might as well throw a bottle of pain killer in your basket for the headache you will get.

If I take my children, I have to orchestrate that more than my meal plan.  I cannot take #5 and #6 together because they like to shop and go to a zillion stores - they feed off each other and quadruple not just double each other's need to shop and ask for everything.   #3 likes to shop too so nix that child.  #1 isn't always home (college kid now), and #2 would rather be on the computer.  He is a big help carrying in the groceries though as is #4.  #7 can go ONLY if my phone is charged enough so he can watch a movie (thank you Netflix app) and not in a french fry mood.  So I like to go alone and assign a sitter in charge of #7 if possible.

So what is on sale around here?  Chicken and ribs - hence the chicken dish and a meal of ribs.  We have over 200 pounds of beef in our freezer so I am good in that area.  I also try to plan two meatless/low meat meals a week.  It saves money.  Have you seen the cost of meat lately?  I remember when I didn't have to pay more than $1.69 a pound except for special meals.  Now, I am lucky to find meat for under $2.69 a pound (I prefer lean cuts).  That is why we bought a side of beef a couple of weeks ago.  It balances out cheaper than the regular store.  I also get the added bonus of helping a local farmer who happens to be certified organic for their livestock and produce.  When I do buy meat at the store, I try to buy the reduced price ones.  That means shopping about 9:30 a.m.

SQUIRREL!  I am not doing too hot about staying on topic am I?  Now that I have an idea what is on sale, I plan my meals according to my family's tastes, what I have that needs to be used, and what my home store aka pantry has in stock.  If I need an expensive item, I cut somewhere else.  Buying a gallon of oil because #2 made fried bread without checking if I needed the oil for a meal means cutting back on say a ready-made item and cooking it from scratch instead.  For example, I usually have a take-out night but that was nixed and replaced with breakfast for dinner.  So I have a list of ideas for the meals and added a new recipe or two to try out.  It gives me something to learn and helps the monotonicity of the same-old-same-old meals.

Sales - check!  Ingredients - check! Schedule comes next.  I look at our schedule for the week.  If we are super busy, then simple 15-30 minute meals or the crock-pot are my friends.  A slower week means I have more time to cook.  Now I set out my meal ideas, create my menu, and write out a shopping list.  I pin any new recipes to my Pinterest board and locate the others I need.  Tossing recipes everywhere as you search the recipe drawer at a quarter to five knowing it was just right here is not cool (BTDT).

So that is how I plan my meals.  I am comfortable enough and familiar with what food I have at home that if I find another meat - say, pork steaks - cheaper than the chicken breasts, I can whip up some pork fajitas or salsa pork chops over rice instead.  It also pays to keep some simple things like a can of chili on the shelf and hot dogs with buns in the freezer. Because we all have those days when ... SQUIRREL! ... it's 5:00, and we need something super fast and easy.

Weekly Menu for August 6-12, 2012

Day One - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Apple-Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas and Oranges, Milk
Morning Snack: Veggies with Ranch Dip
Afternoon Snack: White Chocolate Popcorn
Dinner: Nacho Cheese Chicken Chowder,  Melon Cubes

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast: Blueberry Waffles, Scrambled Eggs, Milk
Morning Snack: Cheese Crackers, Apple Slices
Afternoon Snack: Rice Krispie Treats
Dinner: Lazy Day Lasagna, Tossed Salad,  Garlic Bread

Day Three
Breakfast: Rice and Raisins, Mixed Fruit, Milk
Morning Snack: Cheese Stick and Grapes
Afternoon Snack: Snickerdoodles and Milk
Dinner: Fried Rice, Melon Cubes

Day Four - Breakfast for Dinner
Breakfast: Granola, Berries, Milk
Morning Snack: Fruited Gelatin with Whipped Topping
Afternoon Snack: Baked Pretzels with Cheese Sauce
Dinner: Biscuits and Sausage with Gravy, Melon Slices, Eggs, Juice/Milk

Day Five
Breakfast: Chocolate Chip Muffins, Strawberries, Milk
Morning Snack: Watermelon Wedges
Afternoon Snack: Brownies, Milk
Dinner: Shepherd's Pie, Peaches

Day Six
Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos, Orange Juice
Morning Snack: Stuffed Celery
Afternoon Snack: Crescent Pepperoni Roll-ups with Sauce
Dinner: Barbecue Ribs, Coleslaw, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob

Day Seven
Breakfast: Granola or Cold Cereal, Milk
Morning Snack: Yogurt and Graham Crackers
Afternoon Snack: Apple Pie Dip and Cinnamon Chips
Dinner: Slow Cooker Tortellini and Spinach Soup, Salad, French Bread

I have included breakfast, snack and dinner ideas for a week. For lunches, it is usually leftovers or sandwiches. I didn't use names of the days as everyone's schedule differs. It is okay to have day seven on day one and day six on day three, omitting day four because of tastes. This menu is for ideas to help you and feed your creative juices.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Remember those tomatoes I mentioned in my previous post?  This is what has become of most of them ...

If you get close enough, you might even be able to smell it because it smells better than it looks.  Just be careful not to leave a nose print on your screen.  I used a basic recipe I found HERE to give it a try.  I figure if I don't like it, I can tweak it to my preferences when I make some more.  Although I am tomatoed out right now.   (I had a cut on my arm that I remembered every time the juice form the tomatoes ran into it.)  I do most of my new recipes that way.  I follow the recipe the first time, and tweak it the following times until I like it.  Of course, that is if I tasted potential in it.  That is why I stick to higher rated recipes with plenty of comments when googling recipes.

Back to my sauce since that is why you are reading this post, right?  What is simmering is a double batch - 35 cups of chopped tomatoes plus garlic and seasonings. The above picture is misleading how much sauce this is.  That pot is my largest stock pot - like 3-meals-for-my-crew-and-leftovers-sized stock pot.  Some sauce will be for dinner tonight.  The rest I will freeze for later meals. 

Dinner tonight
Tossed Salad (with fresh cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden)
French Bread
Garlic Butter

Mmmmm ... 5:30 cannot get here soon enough.  Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A New Look and Same Old Chaos ...

So as I was avoiding my chores - one area I think I have perfected - and re-vamping the look of my blogs.  Yes, I have more than one.  I have one for each area of my life that is most important to me and focus pretty much on caring for my family, my faith and teaching children.  This blog is about my family and I how I care for them - food.  When you have 7 children, believe me - it seems your life revolves around food 24/7.  Mine is more the planning, buying and cooking aspect of it while theirs is the consuming part.

So now that my blog looks better ... I want to share a tip to saving costs in the area of groceries (and other areas).  Bartering.  Yup, bartering.  Last week I received a call from the butcher that our side of beef was ready (will last us about 9 months).  In that order was some liver.  My family won't - or claim they won't - eat it.  Is that a challenge?!?  Anyway, I have a friend whose family will.  This friend also makes some yum-a-licious bottled peppers.  I teased her that I would trade the liver for some of her bottled peppers.  Guess what?  She did get the liver, and I got some HUGE batches of tomatoes in return.  I have 5 quarts of tomatoes ready to can and a crock-pot full of tomatoes and spices simmering into a spaghetti sauce I will freeze from the first batch.  I would never have gotten that out of my garden as we went small, and the drought is bad.  I had something my friends could use but didn't need.  They were going on vacation and had tomatoes that would waste, but I could use.  That is how bartering works. 

I have bartered livestock - rabbits for ducks.  The duck became a part of this past Christmas Eve's dinner of plum roasted duck, wild rice, steamed broccoli, and salad.  It was so good.  Bartering does not have to be food for food.  We got out of raising rabbits a few months back.  We knew someone who did though.  We had a trailer needing repair and knew this individual could fix it.  Guess what we bartered?  There used to be a lot more bartering back when money was in short supply.  I think it a fabulous idea.  I paid a baby-sitter in rabbit meat once when I was short on cash. Free is good, but sometimes I like to feel I am able to be self-sufficient and independent and bartering allows me to do that. Now I doubt I could could go to my local Wal-Mart and trade some homemade bread for toilet paper, but finding things and areas in which I could barter and cut costs helps other areas of the budget like paper goods.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Weekly Menu for February 6-12, 2012

Day One - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos, Bananas & Oranges, Juice/Milk
Morning Snack: Cheese & Crackers, Apple Slices
Afternoon Snack: Pudding, Vanilla Wafers
Dinner: Chili, Grapes, Cornbread

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast: Blueberry Muffins, Hot Chocolate
Morning Snack: Trail Mix, Apple Juice
Afternoon Snack: Veggies with Ranch Dip
Dinner: Salisbury Steaks, Mashed Potatoes, Peas & Carrots

Day Three
Breakfast: Biscuits & Gravy, Scrambled Eggs, Juice/Milk
Morning Snack: Grapes, Cheese Stick, Almonds
Afternoon Snack: Rice Krispie Treats
Dinner: Fried Rice, Melon Cubes

Day Four - Take-Out Night
Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls, Hot Chocolate
Morning Snack: Goldfish Crackers, Apple Juice
Afternoon Snack: Apples with Pink Lemonade Dip
Dinner: Pizza, Salad

Day Five
Breakfast: Rice & Raisins, Fresh Berries, Milk
Morning Snack: Gelatin with Whipped Topping
Afternoon Snack: Brownies, Milk
Dinner: Chicken & Dumplings, Broccoli, Peaches
Day Six
Breakfast: Pancakes, Sausage Links, Melon Slices, Juice/Milk
Morning Snack: Stuffed Celery
Afternoon Snack: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread, Hot Chocolate
Dinner: Cashew Noodles, Garlic Green Beans, Spinach Salad

Day Seven
Breakfast: Granola or Cold Cereal, Milk
Morning Snack: Graham Crackers, Yogurt
Afternoon Snack: Baked Pretzels with Cheese Sauce
Dinner: Zuppa Toscana Soup, French Bread, Salad

I have included breakfast, snack and dinner ideas for a week. For lunches, it is usually leftovers or sandwiches. I didn't use names of the days as everyone's schedule differs. It is okay to have day seven on day one and day six on day three, omitting day four because of tastes. This menu is for ideas to help you and feed your creative juices.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year, Measure your Feet, National Handwriting and Pie Day

That's a lot to celebrate and four great excuses to have fun. A couple of years ago I created this post. I talked about creating mealtime fun using some wacky ideas - the kind of ideas that make my teenagers roll their eyes. But hey, I know deep down they love it because they throw in a couple of ideas here and there.

You got to check out all the wacky holidays that are out there. Not really, but I know you will click on the link anyway. Tonight we will be celebrating National Pie Day with a couple of pies for dessert. There were no complaints about that one from the family.

For the Chinese New Year cook up a Chinese meal. There are several simple ones out there to suit any taste and skill. This Broccoli and Beef is quick, easy and yummy - great combination. Cashew Noodle Stir-fry is another yummy and easy dish which happens to be vegetarian. There is always Fried Rice that can be made a multiple of ways with a variety of ingredients. The only problem with it would be is someone not liking rice.

For National Handwriting Day, how about using frosting in a bag to write on graham crackers. The kids (and adults) then can eat their creations. For the frosting in a bag, place room temperature frosting -flavor of your choice - in a ziploc baggie. Snip one bottom corner just enough to allow the frosting to be squeezed out in a thin line - perfect for writing. It is a great snack idea.

Measure Your Feet Day can provide a couple more fun ideas for snacks. What about foot shaped sugar cookies with milk or Fruit by the Foot rolls. Kids can use the latter to measure their feet, but I say ick especially since I have a couple of smelly feet kiddos.

Other holidays and ideas for January 2012

  • On the 25th (Opposite Day) or the 31st (Backward Day) serve your meal in reverse order. Who is going to complain about eating dessert first?
  • For the 26th (Spouse's Day), cook a candlelight meal for just the two of you or cook your spouse's favorite meal or dessert.
  • Does the 27th (Chocolate Cake Day) really need any explanation?
  • On National Puzzle Day (29th), cut your child's sandwich into a puzzle for lunch. If they take their lunch to school, put a note in the lunchbox wishing a "Happy National Puzzle Day." I have seen a puzzle cutter for sandwiches or just freehand it.
  • National Cornchip Day (29th) will most likely find my family and I eating Frito Pie for dinner. Any excuse for the not-so-healthy meal will suffice for me.
  • Need to Inspire Your Heart with Art on the 31st? Decorate cookies with your family and enjoy your inspired creations.
I plan on celebrating Compliment Day (24th) by having my family tell me how great I am. Yeah, that idea earned me another eye-rolling. Enjoy a wacky holiday, create some memories, and Happy Thanks for Reading my Blog Day!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekly Menu: 23-29 January 2012

Links for some of my recipes are include in the menu. Be sure to check them out!
I will include additional recipes throughout the week.

Day One
- 30 Minute Meal Night
Breakfast: Waffles, Bacon, Orange Slices, Milk
Snacks: Magic Milkshakes
Dinner: Fried Rice, Melon Slices, Garlic Green Beans

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast: Cinnamon-Raisin Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Hot Chocolate
Snack: Chocolate S'more Cookies, Milk
Dinner: Lasagna, Salad, Garlic Bread

Day Three
Breakfast: French Toast, Sausage Links, Mandarin Oranges and Grapes, Milk
Snack: Apples, Pink Lemonade Dip
Dinner: Chicken and Dumplings, Steamed Broccoli, Peaches

Day Four - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Blueberry Muffins, Orange Juice, Milk
Snack: Animal Crackers, Hot Chocolate
Dinner: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, Tossed Salad

Day Five
Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos, Oranges and Bananas, Milk
Snack: Graham Crackers, Vanilla Yogurt
Dinner: Fried Fish, Steak Fries, Coleslaw

Day Six
Breakfast: Breakfast Ring, Melon Cubes, Milk
Snacks: Rice Krispie Treats, Milk
Dinner: Chili Baked Potatoes, Mixed Fresh Berries

Day Seven
Breakfast: Granola, Fresh Fruit, Milk
Snacks: Crackers, Cheese, Apple Slices
Dinner: Potato Soup, Green Salad, Broccoli

I have included breakfast, snack and dinner ideas for a week. For lunches, it is usually leftovers or sandwiches. I didn't use names of the days as everyone's schedule differs. It is okay to have day seven on day one and day six on day three, omitting day four because of tastes. This menu is for ideas to help you and feed your creative juices.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Apple-Caramel Monkey Bread

And the results are in ... drum roll ... it's a keeper! I followed this Monkey Bread recipe with a few adaptions.

Instead of coating the biscuit pieces in a mixture of 2/3 white granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, mix 1 cup of sugar with 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Peel and dice 2 large apples. I re-hydrated some dried apples pieces I had and used those this time - still really good. Fresh apples will be a little more firm. Coat the apples in the cinnamon sugar mixture as you do the biscuits. I made the bottom layer in my greased bundt pan just biscuit pieces. I layered a mixture of apple and biscuit pieces after that.

For the caramel topping, substitute 2/3 cup of brown sugar for the white sugar. I used butter instead of margarine along with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Follow the directions found in the recipe. I baked the monkey bread for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

It was ooey-gooey yumness I served with honeydew, fresh blueberries, orange slices and milk.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Preparation Pays

For the last year or so I have felt like I fallen off the face of the earth. Out there in space was and is college classes, caring for family and home, and volunteering both in my community and church. What wasn't always there was preparation. It showed in my stress level and believe it or not, our budget. It wasn't that I didn't know how. I was just lazy. Yes, even with all that going on. I really am a lazy person. Wait ... I am an efficient person. That's better. Being efficient allows me to indulge in "laziness."

My efficiency comes from organization and preparation. Part of that preparation involves meals. When I do not prepare in that area, it costs me. Lack of preparation creates pieces whereas preparation creates peace. I saw it today because we all need reminders even if we know the stuff. There were three things that reminded me I had let things fall to pieces.

First, I created a menu that included all three meals and snacks for the entire week. I like to do this while waiting for kids at school or appointments - good use of time. I took into account any sales and our family schedule for the coming week. I start school again next week. I will be gone from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. twice a week. I put all of my classes except the on-line one on just two days so I can be home (college is an hour commute one way) with my youngest and take care of the home and family.

Second, from my menu I created a grocery list making sure I knew what I already had on hand. Buying more of an item you already have is not going to help the budget. What does help the budget is sticking to the list. For an impromptu person like myself, this is the hardest for me.

Third, you need to be flexible and alert. It is rather hard when the little people have you up all night but try at least. For example, I originally had sticky chicken on my menu instead of grilled pork steaks. However, I found pork steaks reduced for quick sale. I freeze meat I buy that way if I will not be using it in a day's time so I am all about checking that area of the meat department. The pork steaks would cost less than the chicken I originally had down so grilled pork steaks it is.

Sales can be good deals, but it is NEVER a good deal if you don't have the money. Period. I saw all kinds of sales that sent my fingers itching, but I didn't have that budgeted so I kept on walking. I did find a sale on cereal that I took advantage of in the respect that I was able to buy three boxes instead of one for the same cost. It was an unadvertised sale - so be alert. Check out the day-old bakery for deals on breads. Just don't buy if it was not budgeted.

So I was reminded of how helpful those three things are when grocery shopping - plan a menu, make a list and stick to it, and keep an alert eye open. The result for me was spending $160 for the week's meals out of the budgeted $200. With other stops and shops for milk, I still have just over $20 left. Not bad for the eight of us still at home including a bottomless pit for a son.

So what did my $180 buy? It bough some junk food and some convenience items. It bought enough meat to carry over for the following week. It bought some special items like soy and raw milk. The soy is for a dairy allergy while the raw is for lactose-intolerance. It also allows me to make my own butter, cream, buttermilk and yogurt. Here is what I bought for my menu next week ...

1 lb shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb shredded Mexican cheese
3 lb pork steak
3 large boxes (21-28 oz) of cereal
2 lb frozen peas
2 lb frozen mixed vegetables
3 lb grapes
pint of blueberries
12 oz blackberries
2 half-gallon soy milk
5 lb apples
1 honeydew melon
1 cantaloupe
5 lb red potatoes
1 bunch celery
1 head iceberg lettuce
2 lb baby carrots
2 bell peppers
2 lb bananas
30 ct eggs
2 cans spaghetti sauce
1 can cream of mushroom
1 can enchilada sauce
1 can olives
5 lb ground beef
1 lb bacon
3 lb chicken breast (bnls/sknls)
5 lb boneless ham
pint of sour cream
2 cans apple juice concentrate
4 cans biscuits
20 ct flour tortillas
2.5 lb polish sausage
24 ct American cheese slices
1 lb Provolone cheese slices
1 48 oz jar Miracle Whip Light
1 40 oz jar peanut butter
2 6-ct boxes kettle corn
1 24 oz bag salad
2 12-oz bags Kluski egg noodles
1 box vanilla wafers
1 bag pretzel rods
1 bag potato chips
1 bag tortilla chips
2 extra-large take-and-bake pizzas
3.5 gallons raw milk

Remember to plan ... make a list (and stick to it) ... be alert and flexible

Weekly Menu: 16-22 January 2012

Day One - 30 Minute Meal Night
Breakfast: Monkey Bread, Orange Slices, Hot Chocolate
Snacks: Dipped Pretzel Rods, Milk
Dinner: Beef Stroganoff over Noodles, Green Beans, Tossed Salad

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast: Cold Cereal or Granola, Milk
Snack: Pudding, Vanilla Wafers
Dinner: Pizza, Salad

Day Three
Breakfast: Biscuits and Gravy, Eggs, Apple Juice
Snack: White Chocolate Popcorn
Dinner: Grilled Ham and Cheese, Vegetable Soup

Day Four - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Muffins, Oranges Slices, Berries, Milk
Snack: Ant-on-a-Log
Dinner: Crock-Pot Beef Enchiladas, Grapes and Apples, Corn

Day Five - Restuarant Night
Breakfast: Smoked Sausage Biscuits, Bananas and Oranges, Milk
Snack: Brownies and Milk
Dinner: Honey Chicken over Rice, Melon Slices, Garlic Green Beans, Fortune Cookies

Day Six
Breakfast: Wheat Pancakes, Bacon, Fruit, Milk
Snacks: Gelatin with Whipped Topping
Dinner: Grilled Pork Steaks, Roasted Garlic Potatoes, Seven-Layer Salad

Day Seven
Breakfast: Cold Cereal or Granola, Milk
Snacks: Kettle Corn and Apples
Dinner: Meatball Subs, Baby Carrots, Chips

I have included breakfast, snack and dinner ideas for a week. For lunches, it is usually leftovers or sandwiches. I didn't use names of the days as everyone's schedule differs. It is okay to have day seven on day one and day six on day three, omitting day four because of tastes. This menu is for ideas to help you and feed your creative juices.