Sunday, September 30, 2012

This Week's Meal Plan

I'm working under a handicap at present...Nothing sounds really good to me, but meal plans are necessary whether the mood is right or not.  I'm looking for all kinds of inspiration in all kinds of places and feel sure I will manage a week of menus.  Recipes abound around this house, in magazines, online, in cookbooks, etc.

I've been asked at least twice about favorite cookbooks for thrifty meals.  If I had to say I had a favorite one I'd pick my old standby: The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook by Ruth Berlzoheimer.  I am on my third copy of this cookbook, first published in the mid-1930's and reprinted periodically ever since.  The first copy was Mama's, given to her as a wedding gift and I confiscated it at age 15.  I read that book cover to cover and then started it all over again.  I still recall my huge disappointment that white sauce, which sounds so elegant, was nothing more than a thin milk gravy in country cooking.  However, my interest in reading about cooking led me to read that book again and again and it was a gift from Mama to me, when I married and went to my first home.  I wore that book out!  It literally fell to pieces and so I was thrilled to find the 1976 issue.

The book contains a monthly menu plan for each month of the year with ideas for lunch, brunch, dinner and breakfast meals.  It has a huge glossary of terms, calorie/nutritional information and such.  There are chapters related to Leftovers (my inspiration for Leftover Makeovers), all the usual food chapters plus chapters for cooking for one, cooking for two, campfire cooking, curing, preserving, table settings.  It's a chunky cookbook with a lot of illustrations and photos, recipes that are pretty straightforward and almost always turn out delicious.  The ingredients are usually basic, easily found items.

The book may be bought on Amazon or eBay and prices vary widely.  This past year I was blessed by a Christmas gift from Samuel of an original first edition and a 1955 issue that I now use as my current go to copy.  The 1976 copyright book has been put to the side, missing many pages from little ones handling the book as I worked in the kitchen, too precious to toss and too battered to be useful.

Hamburger Pizza, Salad
Today's meal is really a sort of "I don't want anything nothing sounds good what would be easy".  I know I must decide what sweet item I'll make for snacking, toast some almonds for a salty treat.  Pizza is a toss it together meal from crust to toppings and requires little or no thought on my part which suits me perfectly.

Spanish Chicken Soup, Green Salad, Mexican Cornbread
Leftovers from this weekend will become a makeover meal.  I'm still working out just how this will take place in my head but it involves extra chicken, leftover yellow rice from the arroz con pollo and chicken broth.

Turkey and Swiss Sliders, Chips, Pickle Spears
Usually on Harvest Tuesday I buy takeout for lunch but this week I want to save that bit of money and use it for another purpose.  I know we'll likely do take out of some sort on Thursday when we shop for groceries, so don't feel I'm shortchanging either of us.  I can heat the sandwiches quickly after getting back from banking, local shopping and such.

Tuna Potato Cakes, homemade Tartar Sauce, Coleslaw, Corn on Cob
I have leftover mashed potatoes in the freezer, just about 1 cup which is what this new to me recipe calls for, so I thought I'd try it.  I used to eat salmon cakes on a regular basis and would occasionally use leftover potatoes in them, but John does not care for salmon.  I know he likes tuna but it's been many years since we've had tuna cakes.  We'll see how he likes this dish.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings, Broccoli with Garlic, Soba Noodles with Bok Choy and Red Peppers
I usually make my own teriyaki sauce.  I'll pour this over the chicken wings so they can marinate as they thaw.  If I cannot find Bok Choy, I'll probably buy a Savoy cabbage which has a more tender texture than traditional head cabbage.

Sauerbraten Meatballs, Spaetzle, Red Cabbage Salad, Apple Dumplings
Another new to me recipe.  This one from the Betty Crocker site.  I can't link to it at the moment but if it turns out to be a keeper, I'll post it.  I'll make the Spaetzle from scratch.  There's a recipe in that favorite cookbook of mine. 

Homemade Corn Dogs, Carrot Raisin Salad, Apple wedges with Peanut butter
Planning a seventh meal just in case we require an extra one...provided the hot dogs are on sale!  They haven't been of late, so I may end up making sausage dogs instead. 

Our Frugal Week

Not a new lamp though it looks brand new.  John spray painted this lamp this week.  Formerly a navy blue with a '90's gold and white design on the front, this lamp is now a lovely oil rubbed bronze and looks like a 'modern' lamp instead of a leftover from another era.

In My Home:
The paintwork is pretty much complete.  This photo best shows off the new color and how well it matches my bench and shade material.
John carefully put back our things as a surprise for me last Friday afternoon.  He wanted the room to be complete by Sundown on Sabath and it very nearly was.  Complete enough at least to put back our things.
It took just 1 gallon of paint (with enough left for touch-ups) to transform this room from a floral stripe to a calming oasis.  I confess I spend time just standing in the doorway admiring it all, lol.

This room and the lamp above, as well as a towel hanger we've had for a very long time were our paint projects this week and I'm reminded yet again that a fresh coat of paint is one of the best ways to transform anything on a budget.

We shopped Monday for decorative items to go in the bath but nothing grabbed our attention.  We saw lots of pretty things, some were on sale but nothing we really felt was just perfect.  I came away with a $2.00 iron soap dish for the sink.  John bought small artists brushes to do touch ups with on some of the trimwork.  We spent less than $10 that day including tax.

I had paint on hand for the trim touch-ups.  I picked it up earlier this year from a clearance bin.

Saved water to put on the plants on the back porch.  Our weather this week has been increasingly warm and quite dry.  I was happy for the rain we got on Friday.

The petunia I dug up from a discarded pot of soil (not the little ones now growing on the front porch from the old rose bush planter) bloomed out a pale lavender which is lovely with the purple and white mums I planted two weeks ago.  Glad I rescued that plant...Now I wonder what color those on the front porch will turn out to be.

Washed and hung out a load of towels and tablecloth yesterday.

Stopped to drop off trash at the dump and discovered a stack of plates, bread and butter plates and saucers that were so cute.  They looked as though they'd been stored in a cardboard box.  I brought them home, bleached and washed them.  They are so cute and will mix well with my plain white dishes.

John continues to enjoy his Christmas gift. He watched football Monday night and again Saturday afternoon.  He plans to watch Sunday as well.

John watching football is far better than I've been this month with my single selection from Netflix.  I've sworn myself to watching the dvd and returning it now the end of September is here.  I must say that for our $10 worth of entertainment Netflix and local channels for football has been some of the best money spent despite my lack  of movie viewing this month.

Found my new set of napkins match well with three other tablecloths I have.  I was happy to pair them with a different cloth this weekend.

Did some shopping for myself this week.  I needed some new things to replace worn items from summer's wardrobe.  I was very happy to find a pair of black pants.  I have held onto several pretty tops that needed black pants and so I've just boosted my wardrobe big time.

Moved some of the shabby looking t-shirts and tops to the 'house clothes' drawer.  These are nice tops I'll hold onto until the current ones are too stained to look decent.  They then become rags and I will move on to the fresh lot of shirts.

I've had a problem with dry skin on my feet all year long.  I've tried this product and that one, some expensive and some moderate priced.  The best product to date has been Corn Huskers Lotion.  I apply it nightly, put on some knit slipper socks and let my feet absorb the lotion.  Corn Huskers Lotion is the least expensive option of all I've tried, less than $2.50 for the bottle.

In the Kitchen:
Made another entree and put half in the freezer.  I'm determined to fill my freezer with foodstuffs and to have a good supply of convenient to prepare meals on hand.

A few months ago I'd read a tip to keep just bought bananas in a plastic bag, removing only as many as you wanted to ripen right away.  I tried it with a produce bag from the grocery and it worked just okay...But this past pay period we bought bananas at Aldi, which come in a heavier plastic bag.  I removed half the bunch which ripened in two or three days and left the rest in the tightly closed bag.  I took them out Thursday, 1 week after purchase, and they were only just ripe.  I'm convinced now that I've had bananas to eat for two weeks without spoiling.

Opened the last packet of bone-in chicken breasts we bought.  Again these breasts were very large.  I cut them in half (debated cutting them into thirds) and prepared two separate meals from the two breasts.

I didn't buy pet foods this past pay period and know I'll be running low by end of this one.  I've been saving table scraps from our dinner plates in the freezer.  I'll thaw the day before they are needed to feed the dogs.  I might have enough for two days.

Saved leftover biscuit and corn breads for future pans of dressing.  I put them in a zippered bag in the freezer and need only crumble when I'm ready to make dressing or stuffing.

Washed full loads of dishes.

I am happy that I planned very well this pay period.  I ran out of milk and bread, coffee, mayonnaise, soy sauce...And all I had to do was walk to the back pantry and pick up a replacement from freezer or pantry shelf.

Made two pints of yogurt.

Made Chicken Potstickers from scratch.  Because my wonton wrappers were so big, they were larger than usual dumplings.  I put half of them in the freezer and flash froze for a future meal.

I had leftover wontons.  Not enough cabbage on hand to make egg rolls so I froze the remaining wontons for future use.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan

A little late with my planning.  I'm having a bout of allergies and don't feel good.  My appetite is decreased (not necessarily a bad thing) which means that the idea of food in general is uninspiring.  However, this evening I went through all those magazines I've let stack up over the past month and found about as much inspiration as I need for this week at least.  Sometimes, I just need a shot of someone else' creative thinking, and a husband who decides he simply must go out for a cheeseburger...

Cheeseburger and Fries, Soda, Ice Cream Cone
Now and then, it's nice to go out for an old fashioned drive-in meal.  John and I enjoy the brown bag special at Sonic.  Our burgers had onions, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles and they really piled on the vegetables, lol.  I counted the fries as veggie too and offered to buy John an ice cream cone on our way home after running the last errands.

Tuna Melts, Tomato Soup, Ice cream
Sore throat continues and frankly I wanted something smooth and comforting.  Hit the spot!

Arroz con Pollo, Green Salad with Ranch dressing, Mexican Cornbread, Cinnamon Chocolate Pudding
 My  kids loved this dish.  I had to learn to cut it down to size for John and I, since the original recipe uses a whole chicken. I'll cook a whole packet of the yellow rice with this dish and set aside a portion for later in the week.  I'll also set aside some cornbread batter in the fridge and will use one of my mini cast iron pans to cook the Mexican bread.

Beef Bbq Cups,  Harvest Slaw, Green Beans
I'll use homemade biscuits for my Beef Bbq Cups, making a full batch and making an easy cinnamon roll from the rest of the dough.  These will do nicely for breakfast one morning this weekend.  The Harvest slaw is just homemade coleslaw with apples and walnuts added in for a seasonal change.

Red Beans and Rice, Tossed Salad, Corn Muffins
I'll use the rest of the yellow rice in this dish.  I have a bit of summer sausage I'll use in place of the usual spicy sausage.  It suits us best yet adds nice flavor to the beans.

Chicken Pot Stickers, Stir Fry Vegetables, Ambrosia
Necessity and a recipe reminded me that I have ground chicken and wonton wrappers in my freezer, both of which could be used.  I love pot stickers, but our local Chinese restaurants only use pork.  I've made my own before and they are not hard to make at all.   

Beef Short ribs with Cranberries, Smashed potatoes, Waldorf Salad 
Cranberries, carrots, onions go in the short rib dish.  It's a slow simmering really delicious meal and any leftovers will enrich the soup pot I've started in the freeze

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Thrifty Week

A diy project we tackled this month in our home.  I think we've spent about $120 total for Kilz, paint and supplies needed.  

In Our Home:  

Thankfully the whole house program of cleaning means I don't have to do a heavy pre-Fall cleaning and I am grateful for that.  Today I changed out the quilt on our bed.  The summer quilt (in pastels) went into the washer and onto the line to blow dry.

I have a small cold/allergy thing going on.  Lots of Vitamin C, zinc, and water (items we always have on hand) and Vapor rub for my chest has helped a good bit.  I was happy to find I'd stocked a few boxes of Kleenex over the summer when there were good sales.  I'll definitely be getting more to restock for the Fall and Winter seasons.

Our electric bill arrived. I'd love to claim it was our vigilance that knocked off about $20 but the truth is it was the cooler weather we've had which meant the AC ran a good deal less in the evening, night, and morning hours.

Again that 'good clearing up' theory went into play.  I gave the front porch a good going over with the broom, rearranged the plants, and just generally straightened things up.  Just as it works well inside the house, it works outside to make things look nice and well kept.  I spent less than a half hour working out there but knocking down spider webs and sweeping under things made a HUGE difference in how it all looked.

We have mostly hung clothes to dry this past week. I think John might have used the dryer twice.

I saved water to pour over plants, as I usually do. I'm also emptying out the contents of the bottles of water I keep on hand for emergencies (PETE bottles only are used) and am refreshing them.  I try to do this at least once a month. Should we lose electricity for a couple of days or so we'll have water enough to consume until power is restored.  That's especially important for us in the three 'seasons': tornado, hurricane, freezing sleet.

Combined errands and grocery shopping.

Katie went with me to shop for new foundation makeup.  I find her eye is better than mine when it comes to matching skin and she knows a bit more about balancing the yellow tones with pink tones, etc. all of which sounds too complicated to me.  Just to show how good she is the color is a perfect match for my skin right now and as I lighten up still more during this 'indoor' season, she's explained how to balance using the powders I have on hand. 

I couldn't find a sample chip of paint I liked at Lowes, but had carried along the sample chip I picked at Walmart several years ago.  They matched it perfectly.  The young man there suggested we go with a specialty paint meant for kitchen and bath and told us we could bring the paint back if it didn't suit us.  Happily it suits us very well.

We won't have to buy trim paint.  I picked up a small quart of white enamel for another project (never got around to doing that) and so we will have a savings there.

John decided it was worthwhile to begin to set aside a set sum twice a month to clean our car at the car wash that is on the grocery shopping route.  They offer free unlimited vacuum time which we need, living as we do in the country.  No driveway or sidewalk or carport floor equals a very dirty car at the end of a month.

Mr. Executive Decision Maker also decided we needed to purchase a proper cooler for the groceries.  He was unimpressed with the insulated bags I'd found to replace my old ones.  They are great at keeping things cold, but considerably smaller and far more difficult to pack groceries into on shopping days.  He says next pay period he's buying a second cooler.  The larger trunk on our 'new' car allows us more room and the coolers really do seem to be the best idea.  John chose a model that has wheels making it easier to transport from deck to indoors.

I always look at sales sheets even if I have no plans to go by the store to pick up anything.  Why?  Because of what happened on Thursday when John bought that cooler.  He determined to go into Target because it was nearest the grocery.  I happened to have noted that our favorite brand of toilet paper was on sale for $14.96/36 roll packages.  I knew I had about 12 rolls at home but this was a far better priced package of tissue than the last big purchase I'd made.  It wasn't budgeted but I bought it since we were there anyway.  

I don't think I mentioned our 'new' car.  Mama bought a new car for herself, gave us her old one, my Honda was passed to John and we passed John's work car over to our oldest son to use as his work car.  The 'new' car is a Toyota, has low mileage and is fuel efficient.  So efficient that we only put in a half tank of gas this past month!  Of course, I must remind myself that with John home every day I seldom leave the house during the work week and we're currently not driving a long distance to go to Shabat services which also makes a bit of a difference in our gasoline usage.

More fall decorating this week, though I'm not by any means doing a huge bit of it was to buy a sheaf of wheat for $3.99 (the price I've now determined fits my grocery budget best for floral purchases).  I placed it in a copper coffeepot and put that on my dining room table with a pair of creamy white pheasants either side with a dull gold cloth on the table.  So pretty and it cost me all of $3.99 and won't die!

Our bathroom 'make-over' would be a good deal pricier if I hadn't turn a blind eye to the previous wall pattern about three years ago and slowly begun to purchase towels, rugs, accessories, etc.  When the painting is complete I will be buying new sheers to drape around the  tall mirrors over the garden tub, and possibly some thrift store art if I can't find anything in the shed,  but that's about it.  Everything else is already a perfect match.

You do realize that this bathroom job has got us just longing to do a bit more sprucing up?  Fortunately I have plenty of materials and projects to work with here at home that won't require we spend money.  The few projects that need to be done for which there are no materials are inexpensive fixes that may easily be taken care of from our house maintenance fund each pay period.

In My Kitchen:

I had only a little waste this week and that was edible for the dogs: 1 cup of rice, 1/2 cup of coleslaw that got pushed to the back of the fridge.  I'm sorry I missed those two items but glad it wasn't more.

I made spaghetti sauce this week and chopped some tomatoes into that which were a bit wrinkled, grated a little bit of carrot leftover from a salad, added in a partial jar of pizza sauce left from a weekend meal.  I feel spaghetti sauce is a good bit like soup, it's not hurt by a bit extra tossed into the pot.

I used a full pound of ground beef to make the spaghetti and put a pint and a half of sauce in the freezer for another meal.

Grocery budget this past week was spent mostly for stocking the pantry.  I bought at least one more of things I was low upon, bought one or two of items I was out of and felt rather proud at end of unpacking to note how much I managed to put in storage.

Not including the toilet tissue mentioned earlier, I was just $10 over this pay period's budget despite all the stocking up I did. I know just where that $10 overage came from too.  I mentioned to John that we had put 3 items in the buggy which were not on the list and those were the last ones that went in.  That was our warning bell so to speak and we kept ourselves on task.

Remade leftover roast into a second dish (Beef Pot Pie) and put the leftovers of that in the freezer as a single serve entree.  I have about four of these single serve dishes which comes in handy when I need a dinner for John on those days I'm out with Mama.

Made a pizza for our dinner on Friday and split the recipe (which called for a 13 X 9 pan) between two 11X 7 pans.  I froze one unbaked for a future convenience meal.  I put the cheese required halfway through the baking in a zippered bag to go in with the pizza.  I won't have to worry about not having all the ingredients on hand when I decide to have that pizza.

Today's dinner of turkey and dressing will net us three meals.  We've eaten our dinner, will have leftovers for supper and I fixed a pie pan of turkey and dressing for the freezer which will serve 2 for another meal.  I even put a bit of cranberry sauce up with this entree to insure we have all the fixings.

We were pretty low on groceries Wednesday.  All the snack type foods were gone and I knew my husband would want something 'extra'.  I still had a bit of cookie dough in the freezer so pulled out a roll, patted into a pan and made coconut bars from it.

Made an apple pie for the weekend.  I bought a bag of apples to use in the pie because they were less per pound.

My 'savings' wasn't just buying bagged apples. I saved as well by reusing bowls.  I mixed up the pie crust and after it was ready to roll out, dumped in my struesel topping ingredients to be mixed in the same bowl, without washing in between.  I tend to do this when cooking.  Rather than mess up lots of unnecessary extras I try to reuse what has already been used.  Mind you I'd never cross contaminate items that contain egg or meat but you'd be surprised how often you can reuse something and save that extra cleaning step.  I mixed my pizza crust in a bowl on Friday then used the same bowl to mix up my corn bread batter for today's dressing.

I used the oven to serve dual purpose and baked both the pizza and the corn bread for my turkey dinner dressing.

Used the crock pot today to make the turkey and dressing.  I put the dressing ingredients in the bottom of the crock pot and then placed my turkey roast on top of the dressing.  I checked half way through cooking and added a bit of chicken broth to keep the dressing from being too dry.

I've decided that good intentions that never become fact are wasted effort and so I will no longer be 'saving' apple peels and cores, over ripe bananas etc.  Better to turn them into compost than to fill freezer space with things I never get around to using, I say.  I could use the freezer space far better for stocking with freezer entrees, extra meats, baked goods, etc. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Button, Button, the Comments Button!

Angela asked to see the quilt I'd started.  I had it out on the bed in the craft/guest room trying to determine how I wanted the next blocks to be pieced.  This is what I've done so far.  It is my intent to continue stepping the striped blocks down from the center square.  I played with it a teeny bit the other day and think I found what I would like but forgot to take a photo...Guess I'll be going back to the bed and spreading it out all over again!
Oh look!  I did take a photo after all and you can get an idea of how I mean to progress with that step down.  No clue how big this thing is going to be, lol.  I started out with the center patch idea and a vague notion of how I wanted the squares to look.

Patsy asked "How do I find Chronicles of a Thrifty Homemaker" and "Penny Ann Poundwise" blogs?  or   Neither of those blogs will contain all of the content you'll find here though. I'm merely sharing the Money Saving sorts of posts between the three blogs.  This blog remains my 'home' where I express opinions and just generally share my thoughts a bit more freely.

Anonymous asked me to share the Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe.  The original recipe was Rhonda's and I altered it just slightly to suit me.  Here you go:

Rhonda's Red Enchilada Sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, chopped fine, about 2 1/2 ounces
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons granular Splenda or Sugar
16 ounces tomato sauce 
1/4 cup water
In a medium pot, cook the onion in oil until soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic, spices and sweetener. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce and water; bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes about 2 cups
Can be frozen

Karla asked three questions:  How do you maintain your inventory?

 I put like items together, so you'll find most of the canned goods in the kitchen; paper products in laundry and bath, personal care in bathroom, and in the guest room closet we keep beverages, condiments, whole grain cereals (grits/oatmeal), canned meats, pastas and tomato products.  I check expiration dates and try to keep them in order of date, so that I never have an expired item.  It works fairly well, but occasionally I find I have too much of an item as expiration dates come up or I miss using an item before it expires.  I use common sense to determine whether I use an item after the expiration.  Sometimes I will if it's an item I know to be shelf stable while unopened and sometimes I toss.
Would you share what you purchase and at what stores?

Not to sound smart aleck but I purchase what we normally eat. I divide the majority of my shopping between Publix, Aldi and a meat market we discovered near our home provides all the beef we eat and many of the frozen vegetables I use are sold in 5 pound bags. I buy chicken wherever the best sale is as I've not found the chicken at the meat market remarkably superior to other places except their wings.   I occasionally pick up a few things in the local Dollar General and Hometown grocer.  When I want spices or herbs I make a short trek down to the next county to the Mennonite store and buy them from their bulk purchases which are far less expensive than any I've found elsewhere.

I try to shop seasonally for fresh produce and fruits.  I purchase these wherever they are the best and the best priced. I never allow cheap prices to dictate whether or not I purchase a food unless it is clearance priced, looks decent and can be consumed or frozen immediately.   Some items I purchase at Aldi (most especially long-life vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, etc) but we seldom purchase fruit there.  Usually it's too much for immediate use.  I buy apples by the pound rather than bagful due to my husband's preference, unless I am making apple pie in which case a bag works just fine.  I do buy oranges by the bagful, usually at Publix as I've found Aldi's bagged fruits inferior a little more often than not.

Canned goods may be bought wherever I find them well priced or best stocked.  I am not brand loyal but if I find a store brand inferior I'll drop it like a hot potato.  I normally try a single can purchase of a store brand before stocking up too heavily and at most four cans of some item might make their way into the pantry because in soup, even an inferior brand is okay, usually.

I typically buy in cans: tomatoes (diced, sauce, paste), spaghetti sauce (I just plain like it whether I add to homemade sauce or I use it heated and as is for a quick and cheap dinner), three bean salad, carrots, potatoes, green beans, green peas, corn (whole kernel only), beets(1-3 cans), kidney beans, black beans, red beans, refried beans (1-3 cans), pimentos or roasted red peppers; cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, cream of celery, and cream of tomato soup; Pineapple juice, bottled cranberry, grape and apple juices; evaporated milk; instant potatoes, a couple boxes of mac and cheese, pastas (various shapes but heavy on elbow mac and spaghetti), yellow, wild, and white rices; oatmeal and grits; canned chicken, tuna, Spam, turkey chili, beef stew and chicken dumplings; peanut butter; a variety of condiments, heavy on mayo, ketchup and yellow mustard, maple and cane syrups, grape, apple, raspberry, strawberry jellies; dried beans in smaller quantities of whatever variety I might choose and that is pretty much it.

I tend to stock oyster, saltines, butter, graham crackers and granola bars but try not to go too heavy on those as many of them have yeast and we must remove those from our home during Passover.  Flour, sugar, cornmeal, cocoa, chocolate chips, vanilla; dried cranberries, raisins, cherries, blueberries and tomatoes; walnuts, peanuts, pecans (from my own trees usually), pistachios, almonds (I keep nuts in the freezer as they are oily and often go rancid if kept at room temperatures).

I'm sure I've forgotten something or left something out, know that I didn't list yeast and baking powder, flavorings, etc. though I use them,  but you can see that it's pretty straightforward foodstuffs.

What I want to stock more heavily: coffee, tea, whole grain cereals, honey.  These are areas where I typically run low or out because I never buy enough to really stock up.

Frugal blogs, sites, or cookbooks?
I don't consistently follow any blog for long. I belong to a closed yahoo group of homemakers that remains small and we share a great deal and they often inspire me.  I get inspiration from all sorts of places outside of the computer though.  Magazines,  articles, ads, books I'm reading, friends, memory, restaurants, trial and error here in the home.  I had the 'advantage' of growing up in a financially unstable household, an equally bad one in my first marriage and as John likes to say we were so strapped that we were only 'po' we couldn't even afford 'poor', lol.  Experience is a grand teacher if you pay attention and learn and I did.  I had the advantage of grandmothers who grew up during the worst of the depression years and lived a rural life all of their lives.  I learned to forage, cook from scratch, and lived by that old adage, "Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without."  I do love vintage homemaking magazines from the 1930's through about 1959.  They are just chock full of using what you have to make something new.

I will say I've never turned down the opportunity to read and explore any book that claimed it would teach me to save money.  Honestly though, I find being thrifty and frugal FUN.  And I think that it is a terrific creative pursuit as well.

KellyJo asked:  Have you ever made your own laundry soap?
I made two batches of the liquid laundry soap.  We used it for a bit over a year total and  even a little beyond.  Our water here is very soft and I found our whites became gray and dingy and our colored clothes looked faded.  A few washings with store bought detergent whitened things up once more and the colored clothes stopped looking faded.  I suspect that the soap was being used too heavily, or was wrong for our water (meaning the bar soap) or simply wasn't rinsing out as thoroughly as it needed to.  We've had trouble with certain brands of shampoo and dish soap and dish detergent clogging drains here due to their reaction to our soft water (we don't have a water softener unit it's just naturally very soft).  I've been thinking I'd like to try making it again and using a vinegar rinse but since I only do sheets and towels and John takes care of clothes, it's his preference to use store bought detergents.

Now...It's gotten quite late for me to be sitting here still writing, so I shall close for the evening.  Thanks to all of you for taking time to comment.  So many of you have commented of late, I suspect seeking to stretch those budget dollars is the reason.  I hope you'll continue to find my posts useful.

Budget Stretcher: Leftover Makeovers

Not very good photos today... I did another budget stretcher meal and wanted to share with you all.  What I had: leftover roast beef in wine reduction sauce; 1/3 of a jar of fruit cocktail, 1/2 apple, and 1 Asian pear; cooked broccoli.  I had just about enough of everything for one or two folks...and three to feed.  So I put my imagination to work.

First I made up a beef pot pie.  I chopped the leftover roast and dumped it and the wine reduction sauce into a casserole.  I took advantage of the canned foods in my pantry and added a portion of each of these to the casserole: green peas, whole kernel corn, carrots, potatoes, green beans.  I only used about 1/3 of a can of each and put the rest into a zippered freezer bag for soup making later on.  I grated some onion (more flavor less product), a dash of Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to season.

I needed the mixture to be more wet but didn't want it too thin.  I made a brown gravy using browned flour and beef bouillon (cubes dissolved in  hot water.  I poured the brown gravy into my casserole dish and topped with the easy biscuit topping we like: flour, milk and oil.  I used 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup oil and 1 cup of milk.  Honestly?  It was a little too much topping on one side of my casserole dish.  Note to self, decrease to 1/2  measures next time.  This baked at 400F for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  If I'd had cheddar cheese I'd have added that to my biscuit topping because honestly beef pot pie and cheese go terrifically well together.

Now I had an entree, I needed side dishes.  Here's where the fruit cocktail came in.  Typically I'd prefer a simpler dish to go with a casserole that is a mix of flavors but today it was all about using what I had ready at hand.  I diced the fresh fruit and added to the drained fruit cocktail along with a handful of walnuts, a splash of pineapple juice and a spoon or two of sour cream.  Again: if I'd had marshmallows...but none were on hand...I'd have added those in as well.  My kids loved this fruit hash as it was called when they were growing up and even if they normally turned down fruit they'd eat this.

The broccoli was pieced out by steaming three little 'trees' I found in the bag that weren't cooked and the rest reheated.  It proved to be just enough for three that way.

I rounded out the meal with a roll of cookie dough baked into bars.  Yes, there is one missing in that pan in the photo.  I broke that one up badly when cutting the bars and so allowed it to be cook's treat, eaten warm.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekly Menu...With a Twist

First I want to address a question posed to me by KellyJo.  She wrote:  I envy your organization in the kitchen. I really need to get more organized - do you always stick to your menu? One of my biggest struggles is lack of good planning.

Well for her benefit I'm going to do something a little different.  I'm going to copy and paste last week's menus here and then I'm going to tell you what we really ate!

1. Bagels and cream cheese, Pop-tarts, Coffee
2. Sausage and Hash-brown Casserole, Blueberry Streusel Muffins, Orange juice
3. Bacon and Egg English Muffins, Clementines
4. Goat Cheese and Chives Omelet, Sliced Tomatoes, Buttered Toast, Orange Juice
5. Apple Pancakes, Smoked Beef Sausage, Maple Syrup, Orange Juice
6. Fried Eggs, Grits, Biscuits, Grape Juice
7. French Toast with Nectarine Topping, Turkey Bacon, Orange Juice


1. Stuffed Bell Peppers, Coleslaw, Lima Beans, Corn bread
2. Cubed Steak Sandwiches with Lettuce and Tomato, Sweet Potato Fries
3. Turkey Polska Kielbasa, Steamed Cabbage, Pierogi (homemade from wonton wrappers and leftover mashed potatoes)
4.  Red Beans and Rice, Tossed Salad, Corn bread
5.  Almond Chicken, Rice, Steamed Broccoli, Clementines
6.  Vegetable Soup, Toasted Pimento and Cheese Sandwiches, Baked Apples
7.   Tuna Noodle Casserole, Lettuce and Tomato Salad, Green Beans 

These were the meals I'd planned.  Breakfast #1 was exactly what we ate....Now for the rest of the story...
2. I never made the Hashbrown casserole but we did have blueberry muffins, minus the streusel.  Instead I 
made the same Oatmeal muffins I'd made last week, skipped the apricots and added in blueberries and chopped walnuts.  I served the muffins with scrambled eggs that had cooked sausage and cheese added in.
3. No.  I never made the English muffins I'd planned to make.  I don't remember what we had...
4.  No.  Fried eggs, buttered toast and orange marmalade.
5.  Apple WAFFLES instead of pancakes, and the Turkey bacon I'd planned to  have on day 3.
6.  We had cereal and toast.  Needless to say I didn't bother making biscuits.
7. French Toast with the last of the bulk turkey sausage formed into patties and pan fried.

I never mixed up the orange juice, never made English muffins nor biscuits.  I was either busy or sleepy and that's my only excuse.  I should have prepped ahead in the afternoon or early evening but didn't.  So much for thinking I'm organized, KellyJo....sorry, lol.

1.  Obviously not a memorable meal.  I've actually been writing down this month what we really eat...and I had no clue when I came to the end of that day, no clue later in the week and no clue now.  John started painting our bathroom that day.  Perhaps the shock shook it out of my mind?
2. The stuffed pepper menu from above menus exactly as written with lacy corn cakes as a bread.
3.went out to dinner with Mama and brought home leftovers for John's meal.  My entree was a chicken and pasta dish with a supposed Alfredo sauce that was made up of some American processed cheese.  Decent but nothing to try to mimic at home.
4. I decided to fry the cubed steak (there were just 2 pieces) and served it with potato pancakes, sliced tomatoes and Italian Flat Beans.
5. Made Cashew Chicken instead of Almond chicken.Rest of menu stands.
6. Macaroni and Cheese, Creole Green Beans, carrot and raisin salad, five grain bread, and Pineapple Upside down cake.
7.  Roast beef with a wine reduction, Mashed potatoes, Green Peas, five grain bread, Pineapple Upside down cake.

So you can see how my menus do give me something of a starting point for thinking but they change.  I made potato pancakes to use up leftover mashed potatoes which we must have had on Monday with our meal because I've no clue why I had leftovers otherwise and they were still fresh leftovers.

Now I'll attempt to plan out menus for this week, starting with what we had today.

Polska Kielbasa Casserole, Fruit Cocktail, Sour Dough bread
Not a very well rounded meal at first appearance but more than you may imagine: the casserole had green peas and potatoes and onions in it.  It was a recipe a co-worker made up years ago and I waited almost 15 years to try.  It's actually very tasty, a sort of Augratin potato dish with green peas added in and a Kielbasa sausage laid on top and the whole thing cooked as a one dish meal.  So in actuality we got three servings of vegetable and fruit in this menu.  

Fried Chicken, Coleslaw, Corn on the Cob, Pineapple Upside down Cake
I'll run out tomorrow to pick up whole chickens on sale at Publix(last day) and to pay our bills and do the banking and will  pick up fried chicken for our dinner either at the grocery, KFC or the local place. John considers the chicken a treat.  I will make slaw tonight and the corn on the cob is frozen. This will be the end of the Upside down Cake which was just a small cake, not a bit huge one.

Pizza and Salad
I plan to make a pizza crust ahead then top it in the morning to bake as we unload groceries.  That's the plan...I may end up buying a pizza at Aldi's if that plan goes bust.  Either way the cost will be around the same price.

Beef Pot Pies, Baked Potatoes, Sliced Tomato Salad
Leftover roast beef from our Sunday dinner be will made up into filling for the pot pies.

Vegetable Beef Soup, Cornbread, Apple Pie
I've started my soup container in the freezer and it's got a good base of beef broth, beef bits and vegetables in it.  I'll add a few cans from the pantry of various vegetables and some onion to make up a rich thick soup.  I'll make the Apple Pie the day I make the beef pot pies, all the pastry made up at once, then bake the pie this day.

Hot Italian Sub Sandwich, Chips, Pickles
I have an idea for a sandwich I'd like to attempt...No clue how it will turn out but it's a stretch of the imagination to try to recreate a childhood favorite from an authentic Italian Pizza/Sub shop.  I can make the sandwich up on Friday and then heat on Saturday.

Turkey and Dressing, Brussels Sprouts, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Apple Pie ala Mode
I don't have a whole turkey, just a wee little turkey breast roast.  Leftover cornbread and chopped onions and celery will go in the crock pot with the turkey breast roast on top.  I don't know why but come early autumn I want a turkey dinner and it just seems a Sunday sort of meal doesn't it?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Frugal Week

 Entertainment from the plastics bin suited the babies and their 3year old brother just fine. 

In My Kitchen:

In the interest of saving time, I spent all day Friday prepping food for our company dinner Friday night and then went right on and prepped as much as I could for our meal on Saturday as well.  It certainly was nice to walk into the kitchen, spend five minutes tops putting things together, sliding them into the oven and serving later.

Made a pan of homemade brownies...I can't tell you this is frugal in the sense that I could easily buy a boxed mix far far cheaper than I can make brownies from scratch, BUT it's frugal in that I had all ingredients on hand, bought on sale and I didn't run into town to pick up something ready made.  I can mix up this recipe with one hand behind my back and one eye closed, I've used it so many times over the years.

I planned well for the weekend, but I had NO plan for Sunday lunch.  Honestly, I thought it would be just John and I for that meal and meant for us to have chicken salad plates.  Fortunately, we had a few leftovers and I just set them out but at the last minute I put the chicken salad back in the fridge.  We had more than enough food to feed us all well.

And I'm happy to say that chicken salad came in handy as Katie showed up just before suppertime and we had company for supper as well!

One of the dishes I made this past weekend for our guests was a plate of crudite vegetables. I thought twice before using the broccoli which was more pricey than the carrot and celery sticks.  I knew the carrot and celery could be diced and frozen for future use, but am no fan of frozen broccoli.  Well as expected there were leftovers of the carrot and celery even though I was cautious about putting out too much.  I chopped all at once, set some aside to use in Cashew Chicken and then froze the rest.

Mixed up homemade Ranch dressing to dip the vegetables in.  I do like the homemade dressings so much better than the bought ones.  Can't say all my family is as fond of them, but I find them far more digestible.

Katie always wants to make dip and eat chips when she visits. I had the dry onion soup mix and lots of sour cream.  I suggested she just make a cup or so but she used half a packet instead of a couple of tablespoons as I usually do.  We had to double the amount of sour cream and that meant we had LOTS of dip.  I ate a bit each day, but honestly, I wanted to see the backside of the stuff by the end of this week.  I made some mashed potatoes to go with our roast today and dumped in the rest of the dip as my 'wet' ingredient.  It was a nice tasty side dish and I happily saw the end of an item I was beginning to think would have to be tossed.

While preparing potatoes today, I cut them in cubes instead of slices.  I removed about 1 1/2 cups to make potato salad as a side dish tomorrow, then I mashed the rest. 

I had a few leftover mashed potatoes earlier in the week, about 1 cup.  I made potato pancakes.  I added 1 egg, 2 tbsps flour, a tiny bit of grated onion and a little shredded cheddar, stirred it all together and then fried on my cast iron griddle.  I got six nice sized potato cakes from that 1 cup of potatoes.  That was enough for three servings, 1 serving more than I'd have gotten if I'd simply reheated and served as was. 

I have almost completed my food inventory.  I did the back pantry, Friday afternoon, and the baking pantry this morning when I saw an ant sneaking about.  I took everything out of the cupboard, wiped it down, sprayed it with a tiny bit of ant spray, put dried fruit and such in jars and then rearranged after the spray had dried.  I never let the spray touch my foods, but it is necessary to let it stay in the cabinets or I'll have a full infestation.  I caught that cupboard with three or four scouts only in it, so no damage done.

Noted while doing the back pantry that I had Ketchup and cooking oil expiring in the next few weeks, before I could possibly use it up.  Asked Samuel today if they could use those items and he happily took them home.  I'd so much rather pass them on before they expire than have to toss them out because I failed to pay attention to expiration dates.

Was careful to use all the produce this time around.  I have a wee bit of broccoli to use up and a pear and then we'll use our canned fruits and vegetables to piece out the week until we shop again.

I'm out of lettuce, but we've managed salads just fine: Carrot raisin, Coleslaw, and fruit salad stood in well for our 'raw' food quota for the last few days. I'm looking for ideas for salads for the rest of the week but don't expect to find it too much of a challenge.  I still have frozen oranges that will make ambrosia, and feel sure I can slip in another coleslaw with a slight variation as well.  I confess I rather like the challenge in finding salads that aren't just lettuce based.

Drained an almost empty bottle of ketchup into a newly opened bottle.

In My Home:

Fact: babies (and toddlers) do NOT require purchased toys to be happy.  What made babies and a toddler happy in my home this past weekend?  An empty wipes packet (nice crinkly plastic), a little plastic bowl that once contained cheese and has served as storage multiple times, the popsicle mold tops (HUGELY popular as they were bright colored and had the added bonuses of a straw and a handle attached), an empty gallon sized ice cream bucket, and the washcloths drying on the folding laundry rack.  No kidding the kids played with those things far more than they did with the books, puzzle, tractor, rattle or stuffed animals provided for their amusement.

Mama and I cruised through Target this week. I love those clearance end caps on the aisles.  This week I bought a tablecloth and a set of napkins for under $12.  These are huge oversize napkins that have several colors that will go with other tablecloth or place mats I have already.  The tablecloth also is a versatile color, which will go well with other napkins I own.  I couldn't beat the price.

Not on sale but as versatile as could be: a Teal satchel purse, just the thing to replace a too small turquoise purse I have and a nice punchy color to bring life to my older clothes.  I don't do 'investment' purses, because I like to change when I feel like it, instead of feeling obligated to use a pricey bag.

Continued clearing up outdoors.  This week I worked on the front yard some more.  It's looking much nicer out there now and I note yet again that sometimes cleaning and clearing is a huge savings in itself.

I decided to empty out a bucket that previously held a rose bush that died...Much to my surprise, the thing was full of petunias that had apparently come up from seed that fell from my plants in pots above the rosebush. I scooped them up and re-potted them.

Used one of those 'found' green pots to pot up the purple and white mums I bought last week.

John and I keep finding ants in our cars this week, as well as in our children's car after it sat all weekend in our yard.  I spread some granular ant poison in the areas where we normally park.  I figure they are coming up on the tires and I could clearly see (the carport has a dirt floor) where we stop, so just put the granules in the tire tracks.

Just to be on the safe side, I sprinkled a few granules around the pump house perimeter as well.  Ants like to eat copper and I do not want them to mess up our pump again.

Best money spent last week?  Blue Painters tape.  Oh the hours of scrubbing that little roll of tape is saving us as we put a coat of Kilz on the bathroom walls.

Talk about inexpensive  I made it into the shed to look for fall wreaths.  Found them just fine, reached them with only a slight bit of struggle. Thankfully I'd stored them in a nice out of the way spot on a high shelf which kept them from being crushed over the past year. I switched them up and hung them on different doors than I have in the past and subtracted the scarecrows from the one.  I like the wreaths very well and they didn't cost me a thing this year.

John has been telling me repeatedly these past two weekends how much he's enjoying his Christmas present.  Last year, I changed our Directv package to include local channels.  He watched football Saturday, Sunday and Monday last week and has had it tuned to a game all weekend this weekend as well.  That package change ended up costing us just $5 a month more after the first six months (which were free).  So for $30, I gave him a gift that he's enjoyed repeatedly.

The rate is due to rise here in a month, will cost $10 a month more, but I'll pay for that out of my allowance, so it won't be coming out of the household budget and will be my gift for him for the coming year.  No, I'm not a fan, but my husband enjoys this football season tremendously and I can't think of a thing that would give him as much pleasure as this gift.

Hung out clothes to dry all but once this week.  That load was for the kiddos pajamas while they visited.

Used saved water to water plants.

Seems the grandson takes bubble baths.  I don't keep bubble bath on hand.  I did, however, have plenty a huge almost empty bottle of shampoo that had been difficult to empty.  I just filled that bottle with water, shook and poured into the tub.  Instant bubble bath and he was happy as could be.

I've been slowly accumulating Swagbucks and exchanging them for Amazon gift cards.  I had enough this week to buy more of my fave perfume to replace my nearly empty bottle and a book my son mentioned wanting.  I'll try to build up points more rapidly now that Christmas is nearing.  It was awfully handy last year to have those extra Amazon credits.

Priced our proposed vacation stay last month and decided to wait before booking. After Labor Day the price dropped by nearly $50/night.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Weekly Menu: Breakfasts and Dinners

I finally was able to get the postings done to the other two blogs.  For a solid week, my copy and paste option has fought me hard and won, but not today! lol  For those of you on the PennyAnnPoundwise or Chronicles of a Thrifty Homemaker pages, I'm sorry that you've gotten a glut of postings at once.

Do I appear a day late today?  Well I am.  We've pushed hard all week long, ever since John got off last Wednesday.  We've had errands and shopping and company galore and then we started painting our master bath yesterday...This morning, after we awoke at 9am, we realized that we might just be tired and the day is unfolding in a very leisurely way.  We talked and chatted until 10 in bed, then had coffee, showers, a light breakfast of bagels (for John and Poptarts for me).  I put a frozen (homemade) entree in the crock pot for our dinner, listened to John rock the house with Praise music, did my Bible study...We're calling this our week 'end' quite literally and treating it as such because tomorrow we're right back to work as usual!

Last week I planned menus for breakfasts only.  I was soooo bored with our morning time fare and since breakfast is typically our second largest meal of the day I wanted more variety.  Nothing has changed this week either.  I'll be posting breakfast and dinner menus together.  As for our suppers: they are usually simple sandwiches, perhaps fruit and cheese or crackers.  Supper in our home is the lightest meal of the day.  It suits us very well as John hates to go to work with a heavy meal on his stomach and I usually get busy in the evening after he leaves and forget to eat.  I don't want a heavy meal prior to bedtime, just something to tide me over through the night.

I'm not going to list the days of the week. I'll likely mix and match meals as I choose.

Breakfasts: 1. Bagels and cream cheese, Pop-tarts, Coffee
2. Sausage and Hash-brown Casserole, Blueberry Streusel Muffins, Orange juice
3. Bacon and Egg English Muffins, Clementines
4. Goat Cheese and Chives Omelet, Sliced Tomatoes, Buttered Toast, Orange Juice
5. Apple Pancakes, Smoked Beef Sausage, Maple Syrup, Orange Juice
6. Fried Eggs, Grits, Biscuits, Grape Juice
7. French Toast with Nectarine Topping, Turkey Bacon, Orange Juice

Dinners: 1.  Stuffed Bell Peppers, Coleslaw, Lima Beans, Corn bread
2. Cubed Steak Sandwiches with Lettuce and Tomato, Sweet Potato Fries
3. Turkey Polska Kielbasa, Steamed Cabbage, Pierogi (homemade from wonton wrappers and leftover mashed potatoes)
4.  Red Beans and Rice, Tossed Salad, Corn bread
5.  Almond Chicken, Rice, Steamed Broccoli, Clementines
6.  Vegetable Soup, Toasted Pimento and Cheese Sandwiches, Baked Apples
7.   Tuna Noodle Casserole, Lettuce and Tomato Salad, Green Beans 

My Frugal Week

I decided to change up my Thrifty Thursday and re-package it.  From now on I'll split the week between my home and my kitchen...

Frugal Home:  The weather has been less hot but not less humid.  Instead of moving the AC temperature up and down for day and night, I just leave it alone.  John sleeps best in a slightly cooler house and I don't care to have it any colder at night, so one temperature does it all.  Should we leave home for an overnight visit to the kids I'd certainly plan to turn it up to about 80F or so.

I washed two full loads of clothes myself this week.  John generally does the clothing but I take care of most of the household laundry.  I washed the mattress pad that was on our bed as well as all the dishcloths (ants, blast 'em, were being particularly bothersome and got all over the cloths in my handy sink-side bowl) and towels made one load.  The next load was our sheets and a few pieces of lingerie.

Watered plants with reserved water, but just the houseplants.  All the outdoors plants got a really good soaking from the rain. I watered those plants on the front porch with dishwater.

Went to an estate sale on Saturday.  I went with an open mind and an idea of finding beautiful and useful items.  I came home with a new in the package pair of pillowcases, a second pair that obviously matched the brand new ones but were gently used, an embroidered table topper, a Ball canning jar and three wire IN/OUT baskets with a sort of aged look about them that appeared 'Industrial Chic'.   Not a big haul but every item will be well used in my home. That and four books came up to $8...I think I got my money's worth!  I used my allowance to purchase those items, so no cost to the household budget.

Satisfied with my estate sale items, I came home and skipped visiting the once a month yard sale held on the outskirts of our town.

Began my fall wardrobe planning, pairing this and that to try to find new outfits using what I already have.  There's no fall wardrobe money set aside this year so I'll have to plan very carefully, hence my earlier than usual start on the task.  So far I've come up with 2 new to me outfits, that are nothing more than pairings of tops and bottoms and accessories I've not tried before.  Also discovered a common color in two other shirts.  I'll be looking for a tank in that particular shade to wear under them so I put that on my list of things to look for.  I don't always find the items I have on my list but writing them down and reading over the list before I do go shopping helps me to be mindful of what I would like to have.

John and I plotted out the small jobs list that we'll be hiring out.  We do this about once a year, noting those things we can do ourselves and those which require a more experienced pair of hands to do.  It's also good incentive for us to begin to tackle those things that we know we CAN do.

Used the money set aside in the House Fund to begin purchasing materials needed to begin the project of painting the interior of the house.  It will be a slow progressive task, one room at a time as funds become available, but I'm okay with that.

I've spent time working on the quilt top I'm making. I've been careful to save the scrap pieces for two reasons. I adore scrap quilts and these would be a nice addition.  And...because I noted that when Big Mama needed a square for her quilt top and didn't have a big enough piece of fabric she would sew two smaller pieces of  fabric together to make the square.  I might just need those scraps if my quilt keeps growing!

Painted a wastebasket for the guest bath.  It was a wire mesh in turquoise.  I paid a whole $1 for it several months ago at a thrift store and finally decided it was time to paint.  I used leftover paint from another project and it now coordinates much better with the bathroom.

Sometimes the least expensive fix is just a good clearing up.  That's what I did for the deck one day this week. I just picked up the odds and ends and rearranged the furnishings and made the deck look a bit cozier and nice.  New plants will finish off the look.  I'll keep my eyes open for a sale on potted mums.

Bought Daffodil bulbs ($4.99 at Aldi) and Mums ($2.59 each at Lowe's).  I noted that two other perennials were also on sale.  Perennials are a good buy in my opinion (as are Daffodils and Mums) because they will bloom year after year.  I'm trying to invest in more perennials and reseeding annuals.

Have been saving seeds from the basil I allowed to bloom.

That 'good clearing up' principle was applied to the front yard.  I didn't quite get through but it certainly does look spruce and neat in the areas where I was able to work.

I have started a Christmas shopping list of ideas for individuals as they come to me.  A few may be purchased on clearance at end of summer sales.

Frugal Kitchen:  The cookie jars were empty.  I dug about in the cabinet and found the second sleeve of Fig Bars from the package we bought three weeks ago.  That took care of cookies for one jar.  Then I pulled out a roll of cookie dough from my freezer and baked Cappuccino cookies for the second jar.

Opened a can of peaches to make a salad to go with dinner...I poured the juice from the peaches into my simple syrup jar.  It adds an interesting note to frozen lemonade or iced tea to use that simple syrup.

Made an old fashioned roast (cooked the way Granny used to make it) and discovered that my small roast didn't shrink nearly as much as I'd expected.  I saved a portion of it for a second meal. 

Easy meal on Saturday came straight from the freezer.  My habit of doubling the occasional recipe or storing in the freezer those entrees that don't morph into a planned leftover makeover stood me well today.  I might have been more seriously tempted to pick up take out on my way home.

Fed the dogs a meal of food scraps.  I prefer to save scraps all week then feed them one meal of nothing but foodscraps rather than give them a bite or three daily.

Creative thinking cap was on this week and I jotted down ideas for breakfasts.  No need to be so repetitive because my mind doesn't work well in the early morning (prior to coffee).  Now I have my handy list to help me determine what is for breakfast the next day and to plan ahead.  With any luck we won't repeat a breakfast for over 2 weeks and since I'm the one who gets bored with the same old repetitive routine, that's good news!  I like the part where I can prep ahead the night before on several meals, cutting down further on the need to think before coffee has taken effect.

Made up two leftover makeover recipes this week, Beef Enchiladas used up the last of the oven pot roast and Twice Baked Potatoes were a nice side dish from a single leftover potato.

Put up single serve entrees of various meals in the freezer.  Those will be handy to choose from and reheat in microwave later.

When I made the enchiladas I put up four jars of homemade enchilada sauce for future uses.

I did a freezer inventory this week even though October is my next fiscal quarter.  I simply had no clue what was in my freezer and needed to know in order to better plan meals.  So glad I took the time to do this because I realized just which things I haven't used.

Planned grocery shopping including guest meals for this weekend.  I purposely planned foods that were easily prepared ahead.

It seemed silly to spend extra money buying celery sticks and baby carrots when I was buying celery and had plenty of carrots at home.  I cut them myself and saved a small bundle.  I think I paid just $.29/pound for my carrots.  Compare that to an 8 ounce bag of 'baby' carrots for $1.59.

I tried several new recipes this week.  I didn't have a bottle of dressing for one of the recipes but did have a recipe for homemade.  It was rather tasty dressing, too.  I'll be using that for future salad as well.  I like having a repertoire of homemade dressings.

Budget Stretcher: Eating Seasonally

full fridge

In my home, the kitchen is seasonal.  What we eat in summer we don't eat in autumn, nor do we eat in winter what we might eat in spring.  That is because we tend to lean on seasonal foods.  What's in season now?  According to my seasonal chart these foods: 
Fall- September, October, November
Brussels Sprouts
Chinese Cabbage
Celery Root
Head or Iceberg Lettuce
Leaf Lettuce
Mandarin Oranges
Chile Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Winter Squash
Star Fruit
Sweet Potatoes

As you can see there are a variety of fruits and vegetables, enough to allow plenty of variety in any diet.  Remember that seasonal foods are usually locally grown and provided by growers in nearby surrounding areas and are always the better priced foods because they are available in quantity

Budget Stretchers: Leftover Makeovers

 I made a simple pot roast the other day and had a small portion of it left after our meal.  I'd made roast beef sandwiches and a Shepherd's Pie and Hash in the past month and I just didn't want any of those things from this piece of roast.  I thought and thought about what to do with it and I finally decided upon Beef Enchiladas.

I started by making the enchilada sauce.  I use my friend Rhonda's recipe for Red Enchilada sauce, but I do one thing differently.  I add a cup of chicken broth to it to thin the sauce out a bit more.  The pan you see here is a double recipe of the sauce.  I like it very well and like to keep it on hand.

I chopped the roast beef and opened a can of refried beans.  I didn't season the meat or add anything to it.  The meat was very tasty already and the sauce was well seasoned.  I dipped corn tortillas in some of the enchilada sauce.  I find it makes the tortillas more pliable and less likely to break or tear.  I then filled each of 5 tortillas with about 3 tablespoons of meat (about 1/4 cup) and some sharp cheddar and rolled.  I put half a can of refried beans in the bottom of my pie plate and the filled tortillas on the beans.
I guess at this point I guess I just got busy.  I swore I took a photo of the dish with enchilada sauce and shredded cheese over the top...but nope, I didn't.  And it looked so pretty, too...Nor did I take one of the finished dish, sigh.  We didn't eat all five of these.  Two each was plenty and I put the last into the fridge for a supper entree.

And here's the rest of the enchilada sauce.  I'd like to can it (I'll have to change the lid on the one jar if I do can).  This sauce freezes well, too.

Leftover Makeover:  Twice Baked Potatoes
 This is NOT my photo.  I found it on the web and I'd love to give credit where it's due but there was no credit info.

I had a very large baked potato left from earlier in the week.  I split in half and then scooped out the insides and mashed with a fork.  I mixed in a little grated onion, some sour cream, salt, pepper, and shredded cheddar.  I topped with more cheese and some crisp turkey bacon bits and baked at 350F for about 20 minutes until  the cheese was melted.  I served this as a side dish but if you use a whole potato per person it would do as an entree.

Breakfast Menus

The week stretches ahead of me...and it's breakfast on my mind, not dinner!  Before John began working nights I had every other week off as far as breakfast was concerned.  There were just one or two things he wanted to eat during a work week and he was quite happy.  I, on the other hand, could eat or not, as I chose.  I usually did choose to eat, because I like breakfast. I'd often make something for myself that I knew John might not like so well: boiled eggs with hot buttered toast and orange marmalade, breakfast burritos, pop tart, smoothie...

Now I am making breakfast nearly every single morning that comes along ( I think we've eaten out twice in the past six weeks for this meal) and it's grown stale, truly it has.  I need to add some oomph to that morning meal.

So this week, I'm not going to share dinner menus.  I'm sharing breakfast menus.

Monday:   Raisin Bran cereal, Toast with peanut butter and honey
Why peanut butter and honey?  I confess that I'm on a bit of a honey kick of late.  I'll eat my way through this jar and won't touch the stuff for months.  The combination of wholegrain toast with peanut butter is a nice protein/fat combination to help make us feel full longer.  I find cereal seldom lasts as well, unless I add nuts to the bowl.  Since John poured my cereal this morning, I didn't 'dress' it up in any way.

Tuesday:  Scrambled eggs with sausage and cheese, Hashbrowns, Caramel Apple Muffins
 The muffins are an experimental take off of one I saw in the September issue of Southern Living.  I plan to chop an apple, some walnuts and use some of those caramel bits Mama bought and insisted I have a package of in the muffin batter.  Not so fancy perhaps as the roasted apple, caramel dipped recipe but should be easier to manage on an early morning.
I have about a patty's worth of sausage left in the fridge.  That's not enough for two people, but I'll break it up into bits and brown then stir in eggs and cheese and scramble.

Wednesday:  Pumpkin Spice Pancakes, Crisp Turkey Bacon, Maple Apple Syrup
You could substitute butternut squash or sweet potatoes for the pumpkin if you'd like.  I think I have some pumpkin in the cupboard.  I'll check and if not I'll bring out the squash I froze last winter to use instead.  I season my pancakes with ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg.
The syrup is just a mix of maple syrup with a bit of apple juice.  It's thinner than you might be used to, but very tasty.

Thursday:  Croque Madame Muffin Cups, Sweet Potato Fries, Orange Juice
 I saw a video of  "Little Paris Kitchen" on Youtube and she made these muffin cups.  I thought it a marvelous breakfast idea.
Flatten a large piece of bread (minus the crusts) and put into a muffin tin.  Then line with thin luncheon meat ham (I'll used smoked turkey).  Plan on splitting one egg between two muffin cups (multiply according to your own household).  Beat egg well, season with salt and pepper and divide between two muffin cups.  Top with a bit of shredded Swiss cheese and then top that with a tablespoon or so of Bechamel sauce and bake until just set.  This chef liked the eggs runny.  We don' I'll adjust my cooking time to allow them to get more done.  You can leave off the bechamel sauce and just top with a spoonful of cream or sour cream if you choose.

Friday:  Biscuits with sausage gravy, fried apples
I'll be doubling the biscuit recipe because I want to make easy cinnamon rolls for the weekend breakfast.  I'll just roll out and cut a few biscuits for our morning meal.
Sausage gravy is easy peasy to make.  I brown a bit of sausage (I like Honeysuckle White Turkey Breakfast Sausage) in a little oil, season with salt and pepper, douse with a handful of flour and stir about in the pan, then add about a cup or so of milk to the pan and stir until thickened. A splash of Worcestershire Sauce does not hurt a bit.
I'll slice an apple and saute in butter over low heat until tender, sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar.  The apple is a nice accompaniment to the sausage gravy.

Saturday:  Dad's Eggs, Grits, Cinnamon Rolls
We're expecting the family to come up to spend the weekend with us provided our son doesn't have duty over the weekend.  John fries the best eggs to order, however we want them.  I'll make grits, which Lori likes and I don't think cooks for herself.
I'll make up the cinnamon rolls Friday morning.  I'll roll out biscuit dough (made with egg for richness) into a rectangle, slather with melted butter, sprinkle with a heavy dose of cinnamon powder, brown sugar and as a surprise a few walnuts and perhaps caramel chips, then roll like jelly roll and slice.  They can be put on a pan and kept in the fridge overnight.  I'll frost with a caramel glaze.

Sunday:  Bagels and Cream cheese or peanut butter, sliced apples or bananas
An easier breakfast this morning.  The family will be packing up to go home just about the time the twins are ready for their morning nap.  We can visit and not bother with breakfast clean-up before they leave for home.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thrifty Week

I posted this photo earlier this week, but look a little closer...Notice all those glass jars?  All salvaged and all re-used multiple times now.  I like glass jars for storage for several reasons: but mostly I like that I can have varied sizes for varied uses and they are I can see through them and that means I'm less likely to forget what is IN them and will use up my leftovers in a timely manner.

Friday:  We traveled to see the kids.  I made my reservations earlier in the week using Priceline and saved a couple of dollars over the hotel's website prices.

Froze bottles of water, a bottle of milk and a bottle of grape juice.  These did double duty.  The frozen bottles kept our insulated bag nice and cold,, replacing the need of taking ice with us.  The milk and juice were a planned ahead savings.  Last trip we had to buy juice for our Shabat kiddush.  I thought it unnecessary when we had a big bottle at home.  I just refilled a well washed soda bottle.  Milk, ditto.  I like milk at night before bed.  Why go out and buy milk when I had to pour milk from the jug I was about to freeze?  I just poured into a well washed re-used soda bottle and froze.

Packed a lunch and snacks for the road trip.

We plotted a new route we hoped would save time if not miles.  I think we did very well, since the new route avoided the one big city we had to drive through with multiple red lights and turns.

Checked into hotel room when we arrived in town, planning to turn on AC and allow the room to cool.  I unpacked the insulated bag and put the water bottles in the room fridge.  Those frozen bottles remained frozen!

Our first trip to view the kid's home, we were down on a Friday evening.  I made up a portable Shabat kit: votive candles, a small box of matches, a sherry glass, and napkin to cover our bread.  It's all kept in a 3x5 box and easy to pack up.

Saturday:  Water bottles were still frozen.  We repacked the insulated bag with the same bottles, knowing they would thaw on the way home so we'd have ready water to drink.

My smart daughter in law sent home a portable highchair, and potty seat with us.  She picked them up at thrift stores.  I'm proud my family thinks the way we do. 

 We headed home after lunch.  Another alternate route was attempted.  I loved this one as it went across coastal waterways and marshland for the first part of the journey.  We made really good time and will likely use that route from now on.

John stopped for supper just before we arrived home.  We'd talked about getting pizza and opted for small ones from Subway. Did you know that you can choose whatever toppings you'd like?  I opted for chicken, spinach, bell peppers and red onions.  Cost of that personalized pizza was $5 each (we ordered two).

We ate only half the pizzas and stored leftovers right away.

When we left home we'd turned the AC up to 80F.

Sunday:   John washed a full load of clothes and hung to dry.

We bought fried chicken Thursday while we were out shopping.  Meal two was a mix of dark meat peices, potato salad, green peas and corn muffins.  I like to make potato salad at home rather than buy it from the deli.  I cooked all six of the potatoes I had in my produce basket, but set aside half for later use.

Washed by hand (using a shampoo I didn't find suitable for my hair) several bras and hung to dry in the guest bath shower.

Planned the month ahead, since August is fading fast.  This included setting up a calendar sheet of known events, personal and household goals.  I'll take time towards the end of the week to plan a month of menus.  I'm going to jot down some ideas for supper and breakfasts as well. 

Monday:  Errand day for us.  John wanted to clean the car after our trip.  We'd run into mating love bugs in the southern portion of the state and the front of the car looked fuzzy.  We used the same car wash with the free vacuum that we like so well.

John went for a hair cut and I went into the grocery next door.  We haven't visited this particular area in several weeks.  I like Honeysuckle White Turkey Breakfast Sausage.  Along about October it is nearly impossible to find.  That's because the holidays are coming up.  I bought ten rolls of sausage to store in the freezer.

Splurged on a $4 clearance bouquet.  Lovely pink and green combo that lifted my spirits mightily (due to the overcast skies).

Spent the last of my gift card on Starbucks coffee.  It's not a once a month treat any longer (more like once every two- three months lately) but I sure did enjoy that coffee.  

John had offered to take me by Aldi to finish my interrupted grocery shopping trip from last Thursday but I decided against that extra trip.  I bought dog food and fruit, cheese and sausage at the one grocery and felt that was sufficient spending.

We were out rather late that day.  However, after we bought gasoline, I looked at the checkbook balance and warned John we were done for the pay period.  We each checked our wallets and put ourselves on a self-imposed money diet.  We'll limit spending to gasoline.

Hungry as we were, late as it was, home we went.  It was tempting to stop for takeout but we didn't.

Watered the basil with saved water from hand washing and rinsing dishes.

Once home, I transformed a leftover into a meal.  

While I was occupied with preparing a meal, John was attempting to fix a problem with our car: he'd discovered while vacuuming that a plug was missing from the trunk.  We'd gone by the dealership to buy  a replacement but they would have had to special order.  A home grown fix that worked for us: a flat pop off cap from a gallon milk jug and a piece of foil tape.

Supper for this evening was leftover pizza.

Tuesday:  I was ready to work this morning.  I bought bell peppers last week on sale at the local grocery.  A half pound of ground beef, mixed with rice, onion, seasonings and tomato soup filled the four peppers nicely.  I made a divided pan from a foil pie pan and aluminum foil, put two peppers on each side and then slipped the whole thing into a freezer bag.  I put that into the freezer for two future meals.

The last piece of fried chicken (one very large breast half), half a jar of pizza sauce, a couple of other items from the fridge were used to make a meal for dinner

I put a bunch of fruit from the fridge on to boil with sugar for jam...and burnt it badly!  No savings there and my pan was horribly burned, too.  I put it to soak with dryer sheets.

Contemplated doing a load of dishes but there were two spots where I could put something else. I decided to wait until the dishwasher was completely full.

Fed the dogs a meal of food scraps and skipped dog food.

Wednesday:  John did a small load of laundry on a short cycle and hung clothes to dry.

Loaded and ran a full load of dishes.

Off to spend the day with Mama.  After stopping at a friend's home for Mama to get a free facial, we went out to eat at a favorite Mexican restaurant.  I knew I'd never eat all the food in my order so I made up three burritos using a portion of the foods and asked for a to go box before I started to eat.  That food served John and I supper this evening.

Mama had to go into the grocery.  I knew I was on a self-imposed money diet but...No, no big splurges but I did allow myself a $20 (what I had in my purse) 'spree'.  I picked up some things I like a lot but seldom indulge in: croissants, orange marmalade (store brand), plain yogurt (to use as starter) and a couple of sales items (one to put up for the twins when they visit next weekend.  Cabot's Vermont Seriously Sharp cheddar blocks for us).  My total was $21.  I think I did very well and I avoided the obvious impulse purchases (cookies, candies, junk foods and overpriced magazines).

Thanked Mama for the magazines she'd set aside for me.

Packed John a work supper of leftovers.

Thursday:  'Shopped the pantry' and brought out coffee, bread and milk from the pantry/freezer in the craft room closet.

Took a friend's advice and tried the baking soda and simmering water method of reviving my burnt pan.  It worked beautifully!  I was so pleased to not have to toss that pan.

Refilled washed soda bottles with water.

Although I baked two potatoes for our dinner, they were so very large that I felt one halved was more than enough for this meal.  I'll make twice baked potatoes with the other one.

Put a small roast into the oven to bake in a covered casserole.  Placed potatoes in oven alongside.  It is so much cooler that having the oven on was no hardship at all.

Made a salad and decided to warm the leftover Garden peas from Sunday's dinner to use in the salad.  I thought it would be a fun twist on peas and carrots to put them both in the salad.

Made homemade dressing to go on the salad.

With the potatoes and salad I found we only needed about 1/3 of that roast (about 1 1/4 pounds before cooking) each.  I'll make another meal from the leftover portion...Another leftover makeover to feature!

Fashioned a dessert from graham crackers, the lone banana, a box of vanilla pudding mix and some of the homemade chocolate fudge sauce.  I called it Banana Sundae pie.  It was very tasty and we've enough for two more servings tomorrow.

John showed me a trick this afternoon that made my task (cleaning out the broom/trash closet) easier.  At some point gum had gotten stuck to the floor and I'd ignored it forever, but couldn't stand it any longer.  John sprayed the hardened gum with WD40 and I let it sit for about a half hour.  Then I went back and used a putty knife to scrape it up.  Wonderful!  It saved a lot of labor on my part.

Just a quick glance as I walked past a kitchen counter and I saw the beginnings of an ant infestation.  I looked hard enough to note their point of entry and sprayed  the area down.  I find the natural stuff we bought requires a couple of applications to really work.  I went back about two hours later and sprayed it again and yes there were a few ants there again.  I'll check again before going to bed tonight.

Stripped the bed and flipped the mattress.  I marked my mattress with permanent marker when we got it so I'd know just which side was "UP" every three months.  I figure two days away from September is not a bad time to flip to the September position.

Washed the mattress pad.  Made sure to set the timer on the microwave so I wouldn't forget I'd put it in.  Why the microwave?  Because our timer broke on the dryer a long time ago...and because I can hear that microwave go off just about anywhere in the house, making doubly sure I don't forget I've got an item in the dryer.  I couldn't hang outdoors to dry due to the heavy humidity and occasional sprinkles this evening.