Sunday, October 28, 2012

This Week's Meal

I sat down to plan meals this afternoon and had no problems whatsoever...That blustery wind outdoors, the gray skies, the chilly air all proved inspirational.  I don't know that this will last but it sure was nice to not struggle to come up with warm weather foods that I'm so bored bored bored with making for a change.

I have a November inspiration list that is two pages long already.  Can we say PROJECTS?  They abound  for the month ahead.  I've already begun working on that list, but nothing major to show for it.  My incentive fell away after John asked me to go into town and get a frozen pizza for dinner.  I didn't mind postponing my planned meal since he's put in no special requests for several weeks now.  Besides there were a couple of loss leader sales I wanted to take advantage of this week.  I put 20pounds of flour in the freezer and another 6 cans of diced tomatoes on the pantry shelf.

Veggie Soup, Toasted Pimento and Cheese Sandwiches, Apple Dumplings
Cold and blustery forecast for tomorrow so I decided this is what we'll be having.  I usually have a homemade soup day in September with the first chill days, but there were none, so no soup.  I'm looking forward to this meal!

Beef Pot Pie, Fried Okra, Peach Salad
The pot pie is leftovers I'd frozen and thawed for today's meal.  I'll oven fry the okra while the pot pie heats up.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings, Rice, Oriental Green Beans, Ambrosia or Fresh Pears with Walnuts and cheese
I haven't checked the freezer yet to see if I have more frozen oranges.  If I don't the fresh pears will do just fine for us at meal's end.  I'll double up on the rice for tomorrow's meal.

Red Beans and Rice, Coleslaw, Cornbread Muffins, Baked Apples 
I keep putting this menu down on my list of meal plans and I never get round to making it.  This week I think I will.  It's a very filling, but not too heavy meal.  The baked apples are 'extra' good, those nice Winesap apples I bought in North Georgia.

break:  I went out after typing that last bit to say goodbye to John.  I noticed the ground under the back yard pecan tree was just littered with nuts so I ended up staying out there for an hour.  I didn't even begin to finish!  The pecans were raining down the whole time I was picking them up.  I usually divide the area under the tree into quadrants.  I got a bit over half done.  I'll just bet that tomorrow those pecans will be as thick on the ground as they were today.  I think I picked up about 15 pounds this evening!  There's about 20 pounds in that bag now, enough to warrant selling.  I'll start a new bag tomorrow.

Cincinatti Style Chili Three Ways, Green Salad, Cornbread Muffins
I'll make extra chili for another meal.  You'll note corn muffins here, leftovers from the Red Beans and Rice meal.

Roast Beef, Baked Potatoes, Green Peas with Mushrooms, Tossed Salad, Carrot Cake
I'll double up on the potatoes so we have extra for tomorrow's meal.  I'll make extra salad, too.  I'm just pretty much trying to give myself a bread from cooking, lol.

Chili Stuffed Baked Potatoes, Tossed Salad, Carrot Cake

I can't remember when I've had such fun planning a meal!  Nothing like the change of season catching up with the season we're in to make it fun once again.  Hope you all have a good week.  I'll post photos of projects as I get them going.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Frugal Weeks

 The most reasonably priced meal at the fair is at the VFW's booth.  We always go for their hamburgers knowing we're supporting a good cause as well as getting a hot meal...

In My Kitchen:
I had a couple of apples that were bruised or too soft to be eaten out of hand.  I cut them up and served them as caramel apples with a scoop of vanilla ice cream as dessert for one of our meals.

One chicken, four meals.  That was my goal and here's what I did.  I cut up the chicken into parts.  Meal one: Bbq'd chicken (two legs, two wings, one pulley bone).  Meal Two:  Chicken Kiev (using the two breast halves which I boned and skinned myself).  Meal three: Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole (two thighs). I didn't have enough for a fourth meal, but  I got 2 quarts of broth from simmering the thighs, back, neck and bones.

Made a pot of chili.  I set aside enough to make a second meal for us before making chili mac for dinner.

I've found a quick and easy cake recipe that stirs up in four minutes.  It makes one deep layer or a dozen cupcakes.  I opted to make cupcakes this week.  Half became Boston cream Cupcakes.  The rest were frozen.

I had a bit of leftover ganache.  I put that in the fridge to save to make chocolate butter cream frosting for the rest of the cupcakes later. I know we'll be having the rest of the cupcakes this next week, so the ganache will keep nicely.

We've had a full week and as we draw near the end of a pay period, I strive to slow or even stop spending altogether.  I shopped at home when I ran out of milk, bread, coffee, ketchup, mustard, turkey sandwich meat.  It's so nice to have a pantry/freezer with basic items like that available.

Added another item to my freezer: 1/2 recipe of Corn Pudding (unbaked) which will make a nice addition to a meal in the future.

I've been looking at recipes over on Pinterest.  Even though I won't pin food, I do love to look at the recipes friends have posted.  Well I broke down this week and tried one of those recipes: Chicken Kiev.  It seemed simple enough for a 'fancy' dish and the recipe has been around long enough to be a classic.  I halved the recipe to serve just two.  I also crushed some leftover croutons I'd made to  use as breadcrumbs.  Fancy dish that turned out to be economical as well as super tasty.  I'll be making this dish again.

Leftover wild rice from the Chicken Kiev meal was mixed with the leftover chili.  I'll make burritos with the rice/bean/meat mixture and some shredded cheese.  The rice is a nice 'stretch' for the chili. 

We were out on Friday all day long.  I didn't do any food prep for Shabat dinner.  No matter.  I pulled  prepared meatballs from the freezer and made a Spaghetti and meatball dinner.  Preparation on Saturday took only about 15 minutes.

We had some leftover tomato sauce from the meatball dinner.  I figure it's just enough to cover a pizza dough for sauce.  Put the leftovers in a jar to freeze.

Planning menus, I came across a recipe I set aside last autumn.  It calls for lasagna noodles as the pasta in the dish...aren't there always leftover noodles after making a pan of lasagna?   The 'sauce' is a combination of beef cubes (supposed to be sirloin.  I thought I had sirloin but it turned out to be stew beef. Worked just fine!), mushrooms and grape tomatoes.  I happened to have the grape tomatoes in the freezer, too, some we'd failed to touch when I brought them home. 

Cooked twice as many potatoes as I needed for potato salad.  Half were set aside for breakfast hash brown potatoes.

At the fair, John bought coffee and used a pump bottle of Coffeemate Hazlenut creamer to flavor my cup.  I found it very tasty, not too sweet which I've always found offputting with flavored creamers.  I have an allergy to Cargeenan which is used as a thickener in these creamers so must keep it to very occasional use...Sad to discover that Coffeemate has that too.  But at the grocery,  John's quick eye spied a Coffeemate NATURAL BLISS creamer which is nothing more than sugar, cream, milk and flavoring.  Imagine that!  Now I can have my flavored coffee, lightly sweetened as I like it,  and enjoy it.

Put a roasting chicken in the crockpot while we were gone the other day.  It was a Friday and I had no desire to greet another Saturday with the need to spend time in the kitchen.  I had planned to make a green salad and warm leftovers of Corn Moussaka but we had company.  Next easiest meal was chicken sandwiches and apples and chips.  We used only one breast from that chicken to make sandwiches.

A frugal meal I love to make is chicken fried rice, a great use of leftover chicken.  Today I cut the 'cost' just a wee bit more.  I always have to cook the fried rice a little longer because I also use leftover rice, which is usually cold.  Today I used my microwave to pre-heat the cold rice, tossed it in the pan and cut the cooking time by about 8 minutes.  

Made a batch of yogurt. I decided to use the stovetop method. It took only a few minutes.

I sterilized jars for the yogurt. Then I used the warm water in my cooler to incubate the yogurt. I added cool water to bring it down to the right temperature.

Used the remaining cool water (from the cold water bath to cool the milk down) to water plants.

Brought out the reserve cookies we'd set aside last pay period when we had a glut of sweets on hand.  Nice to skip the baking.

In My Home: Hung a load of sheets on the line to dry. I washed a full load of clothes and hung the remainder of that load to dry indoors. (Since I first wrote this  I've hung a number of loads of clothes on the line.  That sunshine and breeze does wonders for drying quickly).

The dogs and cat have not been overly hungry lately.  I stacked food pans with uneaten food in the covered bins to keep ants away from it and served at next mealtime.

The cat simply did not want the dollar store food...The dogs could care less, so I mixed that bag in with their food and opened a fresh bag from the grocery for the cat.  Lesson learned via that cat.  No matter how much money I think I save buying the food at the dollar store, she simply does not care for it.  I can smell a difference myself, even though it's the same brand and no, it's not my imagination.  I even did a side by side comparison of the aroma and there's a noticeable difference.  Glad the dogs don't care about the cat food but I will note here they stopped eating the food I was buying at the dollar store for them, too.

Washed and dried a full load of clothes one misty morning.  I timed it for 35 minutes, took out the two slightly damp towels at the 30 minute point and hung them to dry but let the sheets finish drying on their own for the last five minutes.  Perfectly dry.

Now that this is dragging on for a span of a couple of weeks or more, I can say honestly that we've washed a lot of clothes by the full load.  And when it wasn't a full load but John was antsy to do a load he lowered the water level.  We've hung them indoors and out to dry and occasionally run a short time in the dryer, but for the most part they've hung to dry.   

John mowed grass but didn't have quite enough gasoline to finish up the job.  He went for more but only bought a gallon.  It's doubtful we'll mow again this year and we don't want the extra gasoline sitting about and getting moisture in the gas can.

We ate at the fair but I carried along water with me.  One bottle from home vs. one bottle from a vendor for $3.  That's savings!

It's very unlikely we'll buy a new home, no matter how much in like we fell with that home at the fair.  However, culling inspired ideas for furniture arrangements, colors to use, built-ins to replicate, are blissfully FREE.

Using what I have: I hung the sheers (from the master bath mirrors) in the living room behind the curtains.  Just the touch needed to dress up those windows said my husband.  It really does look well and adds a much needed bit of color.

Created a new look in the guest/craft room as well, combining elements I already had with like colors.  It looks rather nice if I do say so. I left the green dust ruffle and curtains from summer.  I put a maroon spread on the bed, folded a wedding ring quilt (maroon, green, gold on a cream background) over the foot and then a rusty red/maroon/green/cream print pillow sham I made last year for the master bedroom on the pillows.  The room looks quite nice with my 'on hand' items.

Followed my new mantra: A good clearing up makes a world of difference.  That's what I did with the guest room this afternoon after I got the bed made up fresh.  I straightened the room and the mess of curtains, quilts, etc. I'd dragged out this week and had been piling up in the spare room.

Then I followed it further and took the last of that good cleaning solution (vinegar and dish soap) and began to clean the kitchen walls, cabinets and counters.  I'm just doing one section at a time to keep from being overwhelmed but I'm very pleased with the results.

Followed a friend's share link on Facebook and received a coupon good for one free bag of Lindt chocolate truffles.  We picked this up this past week at Publix while we were doing our grocery shopping.  I think Lindt chocolates are pretty good, but seldom indulge.  I am sure, however, that FREE chocolate tastes even better than bought chocolate.

Completed a survey and agreed to try a dish-washing detergent in exchange for my honest opinion.  Full sized bottle arrived yesterday in the mail.  I can't share the name etc at present.  I am obligated to use for two full weeks and then fill out a survey about my opinion of the product.

Checked an email from Jcp (Penneys) and discovered a printable $10 off $10 or more in store coupon.  Printed that one out, too.  I'll use to cover cost of a Christmas gift I plan to pick that up this week.

John steam cleaned our carpets with the Bissell cleaner we bought a few years back.  I asked him to do the two rugs in the kitchen (a runner and a mat that are in front of the sink and stove).  Those two rugs look brand new all over again thanks to that cleaning.  I laid the two rugs outdoors to dry in the sun.

As the previous pay period panned out we ran out of snacks.  It would have been easy enough to stop while running errands and buy more but my budget has been whacked the past two months.  We drew a line in the sand and said to each other, "Nope.  No more chips, no more bought snacks until pay period." (We have a 1 bag per week rule and we'd overeaten the previous week).  We stuck to our guns. John got paid on Monday and we went down to the workplace to pick up his check and deposit it.  Then we drove to the store and bought chips and chocolate, lol.  It was sooo good and I told John I'm pretty sure making ourselves wait as we'd done meant it tasted just that much better.  BTW that money came out of our pocket money, not our checking.  We don't buy anything from the paycheck until we write our tithe check.

Harvest night I was a bit downhearted over how the money dwindled.  Normally I get a certain amount from the bank for groceries and my allowance.  This week I did something I seldom do: just used the debit card.  I'm so happy to report that we came in UNDER budget for groceries this week, which means we're spot on budget for this month.  After two months of a whacked out budget I'm very very pleased indeed.

John and I both had the same idea.  We want to replace our carpet but at present we're just not able to do so.  We'd thought a rug to go under our feet at our chairs would help prevent further wear.  Then we saw a small rug at Aldi for $39 that we contemplated.  At John's suggestion we went to Lowe's and discovered one for $19.  That fit right in with our house account balance, so we bought it.  It just fits the area between our two chairs and covers the places that were bearing the worst wear.

I think we have a new world's record for our least expensive trip to Walmart.  Total: $12 and change.  I bought two packets of incense and two sheer curtain panels for the dining room area to go behind our curtains.  It was not so very hard to be frugal on this trip as we had just been to talk to a flooring specialist about new carpet and kitchen tile.  By the way, paid for those Walmart items out of my 'found' money.

I was plundering in the shed and discovered a couple of sets of sheets I'd put away two or three years ago when Mama gifted me with new sheets on my birthday.  As it happens, those 'new' sheets are showing a bit of wear and these will nicely work into rotation to prolong their life. I washed and hung to dry today.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

This Week's Meal Plan

We've just a few days of this vacation/off period left and then it's back to work for John.  I caught myself slipping into the work week routine one evening this week when John was working in the music room.  I dashed about the house and got a few chores done so we could have a free day the next day.  I'm ready for a bit of routine again, I reckon.  All these 'free' days begin to wear a bit after a while and routines look pretty good.  That's probably why I've been slowly working on deep cleaning the kitchen, one small area at a time.  Oh the woes of a desperate housewife, sneaking in a few extra licks at her housekeeping.

One thing we've not missed much of: home cooked meals.  I've been cooking and/or preparing three meals a day most every day.  It's a good thing I really enjoy cooking and don't mind clearing up either.  However, inspiration is wanted/needed.  I've turned to cookbooks, former menus and Pinterest many and many a time over the past three weeks.

I didn't find a whole chicken nor breasts on sale this past week.  Instead I bought a whole roasting hen...which got left at the grocery store, ack.  We had to go back the next day to get another but the store was very nice about it.  I put that in the crock pot when we went out Friday because I didn't want to greet another Shabat with the necessity of cooking a meal.  Glad I did cook that bird.  I had thought we'd have warmed leftovers for dinner, but we had company.  That chicken, meant for supper sandwich meat and a few other meals, came in handy at dinner.  We only used one breast for that meal (sandwiches, chips, apples and caramels).  Now to plan how I'll use the rest of that chicken.  While I'm listing all three meals right up front, they won't be served that way at all.  I will mix the menu up so that we have chicken one night and another meat  or entree the next night.  No need of making anyone in this house feel they might cackle and lay an egg from eating so much chicken.

Chicken and Dumplings,  Coleslaw, Apple Sauce, Gingersnaps
I had a quart of broth in the crock pot as well.  Perfect to make a nice cool weather treat with.  I usually add some mixed vegetables to my broth mixture, and John prefers the big fluffy drop dumplings rather than the rolled out dumplings I grew up.

Chicken Enchiladas, Yellow Rice, Lettuce with Pico de Gallo
I know I have tortillas, chicken, cheese, etc.  I also have a can of diced green chilis which will add just a hint of warmth to the dish.

Chicken Fried Rice, Pear and Lettuce salad with Ginger dressing
I expect to have leftover rice from the enchilada meal since the packets I have on hand are larger than the ones I'd normally buy.  Plenty of celery, onion, broccoli stems, green peas and carrots to toss into the pan with the rice and chicken.    I'm not just sure how I'll make this ginger dressing, but I mean to play about and figure out something.

Sausage Veggie Calzone, Green Salad, Ranch dressing
I'll make my own pizza dough, brown some turkey Italian sausage and mix with cottage cheese (I'll employ an accidental discovery.  Freezing the cottage cheese makes it more 'dry' so it's perfect for a dish such as this), use some tomato pesto as seasoning.

Chili Bean and Corn Tamale Pie, Pineapple Salad, "Fried" Ice Cream
A chili sauce seasoned dish of kidney, black and red beans and corn with a  cornbread topping for the main dish.  A long time ago I figured out a way to have a faux 'fried' ice cream: roll scoops of ice cream in toasted coconut, graham cracker crumbs, shortbread crumbs etc.  I happen to have some shortbread cookie crumbs in the freezer.  I'll top with some of my homemade hot fudge seasoned with a bit of cinnamon powder.

Pot Roast with Vegetables, Harvest Cabbage Salad, Corn Muffins
Just a small portion of roast to cook with a potato or two, carrot and onions.  The salad is sliced cabbage with walnuts, craisins, and diced apples, with a mayo dressing.

Potato Soup, Hot Dog with Sauerkraut, Caramel Apples
It's my plan to get two meals from this package of hot dogs (the brand we use only has 7 per package)...I think John will be happy enough with this meal that I can carry that off quite well which will leave four for a meal later on.

There...That should do us this next week, and is not so heavy on the meat end of things.  You'll note most of these dishes rely more on the added ingredients than on the meat.  My goal is to be on target with the next month's budget so I'm planning hard to stretch out our meat supply.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan

Weekly Meal Plan

Last week was such a great week. I was pleased with what was accomplished at home and because I didn't tie myself down so hard that I couldn't enjoy the week.  John's extra time off was plenty of fun.  We've a few more days to enjoy, work, and relax and then it's back to routine for a bit.

This morning just flew by with routine housework.  I've been planning meals and checking out recipes, making out my grocery list, checking my budget (yikes!), looking over the pantry/freezer listing, etc. this afternoon.  That's a good half day of work right there.

Double Yikes! I forgot to post this to the blog this week.  Sorry, truly, I am.  John was on vacation and I purposely left my time free for whatever he might want to do.  We had plenty of fun!  Check out and see how we had fun.  We've been busy this week as well.  Monday morning John shampooed the carpet.  My job was to stay out of the way.  That afternoon we went down to deposit his pay check, do banking and made the most important stop of all: potato chips and chocolate shopping, lol.  I'm telling you, my husband is one man who understands the sweet/salty connection for a woman!

Yesterday we shopped for groceries and I came in under budget, hooray!  Mind you  I did manage a bit of stocking up (canned pumpkin, canned sweet potatoes, cat food) but I got everything on my list and still saved money this pay period.  I was so happy over that.

Today we worked about the house.  I started the big seasonal wipe down of the kitchen cabinets and walls.  I only got a portion of that job done.  After dinner we went out to vote and to pick up a chicken that missed getting put in our cart at the grocery yesterday.  Gracious, I thought once those things were packaged up they were safe from running off, but that fellow flew away!  Not sorry I had to go back to grocery.  Today they had Kraft caramels as a bogo.  Score.

So here you are: menu and update and stop by Blue House to see the pictures of our little trips.  We've got another one planned...

Beef and Noodle Toss, Whole Green Beans, Crusty Bread, Pears with Walnuts and Blue Cheese
This is a simple recipe really but a 'different' sort of pasta dish.  Lasagna noodles are used for the pasta, topped with a slow simmered beef, grape tomato and mushroom sauce with a rich stock.  Very earthy and suitable for Autumn meals I think.  I plan to buy a nice wedge of blue cheese for the dessert tray.  If I find a bottle on sale, I might add a Moscato to finish off this meal.  Yes, it is a fancy sort of meal, but it's economical, too.

Warm Italian Sandwich, Potato Chips, Easy Tiramisu
I found this recipe in one of the magazines.  The recipe calls for a sliced Italian loaf but I will make individual sandwiches for us.  It has Provolone, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, olives, sundried tomato spread.  It made me think of a sub sandwich we used to purchase from an Italian family when I was a child and I'm anxious this sandwich.  I think it will be a great meal to prepare ahead and heat when we're ready to eat.

Corn Moussaka, Mid-East Red Cabbage salad, Pita Bread
I first made this dish when I was a new bride...It's remained a favorite for autumn/winter meals.  The ground beef is seasoned with a bit of cinnamon and garlic in the tomato sauce.  It's unusual and tasty, as is the salad.  A friend of mine shared this a couple of years ago.  He mixed raw sliced red cabbage, carrot slivers, red bell pepper strips with a cumin flavored red wine vinaigrette dressing.  I like to toss on a few shelled pistachios after plating.

Cider Braised Chicken with Pan Roasted Vegetables, Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce
The recipe calls for cider.  I'll probably use the apple juice I have on hand and I'll use Tracy's trick of adding a bit of vinegar for the acidity cider has.  Another new recipe to try this week.  I do need to add chicken to my grocery list.  I can't believe I'm OUT!

Stuffed Bell Peppers, Mashed Potatoes, Fried breaded Okra, Slaw
Peppers from the freezer, I've got cooked potatoes to heat and mash in the fridge...Easy peasy and filling for that cold weather we've been promised is coming in.

Chili and Rice Burritos, Corn on Cob, Green Salad
A meal moved from last week to this week's menu. I didn't double the chili recipe as planned last week so we just had Chili Mac.  That left me about 1 1/2 cups of chili.  I added in the wild rice from the Chicken Kiev menu.  I think that will make a nice hefty burrito for us with possibly a couple to go in the freezer for another meal.

Corn Dogs, Sweet Potato Fries, Slaw, Caramel Apples
We didn't indulge in Fair food last week.  However, I thought I'd do a homemade version for fun.  This is another meal that we can make easily at the last moment if we have other plans.

Now just a quick bit of chatter...IM asked if I dress right away each day.  Sometime I do and sometimes I don't.  The truth is I'm more inclined to get busy and get things done if I'm showered and dressed first thing and far more inclined to piddle and take things leisurely if I don't.  I broke the first thing in the morning habit after Katie graduated and Granny was in Assisted Living.  Since John went to night shift I've been trying to get back into the habit of showering and dressing right away each day and again I find I get loads more done.

Have you all noticed that I've added comment moderation?  I've had a problem with lots of Spam especially on the older posts.  I finally got sick of these freeloaders who are using my blog to garner searches for their stuff, hence the moderation. 

Karla asked about the source I use for my yogurt recipe.  I follow this one
It turns out well for me 9 out of 10 times and when it doesn't I can usually trace it to one of three things: failure to sterilize the jars and lids, not watching the temperature of the water, opening the yogurt starter too soon.  I don't usually have any homemade leftover to start a batch.  It's so good I'm greedy with it, lol.

Now, the cat is tapping at the window and it's starting to get dark.  I'd best hurry on outdoors and feed those pets of mine.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekly Menu

The Autumn breezes are blowing and the leaves have that tissue paper sound they get this time of year.  I've been listening to it all day long, winding it's way down from the North and bringing a slightly cooler air to us.  Mind you, it's plenty warm in the sun yet.  I've aired pillows today and dried the load of sheets I did early this morning.  I took down the summer curtains in my bedroom and hung a pair that better matches my quilt.  I've contemplated the possibilities for the guest room's autumn/winter look and piddled about the house looking at the work I might be doing if only I felt like settling in to do something that takes more than twenty minutes tops.  But not even planning holds my interest for long.  I'm up to do a quick task, sitting down once more to think about the quilt's next portions, dreaming of the next quilt I'll make, then up again to do another chore or to plunder amongst the craft items to see if something inspires me.

I'm also contemplating the shelves of books.  I feel strongly it's time to start spending some quality time with one of my old dear friends but which? Or should I make time for a new one?  Or just stack books by my chair and read a bit here and a bit there until I feel I'm ready to settle in for a long long spell?  There's a tall stack of vintage magazines from 1925-1959, all from past Octobers to peruse as well.  Of course, I'll have to streamline meals, because we can't have cooking interfering with reading!   Slow cooker or quick and easy meals?  It does depend on the weather (doesn't lt? so changeable in our neck of the woods), but I feel it, the cozy season is coming nearer and I'm ready to feather my nest anew in preparation for it.

The housework is done for the day, time now to turn my attention to the meals for the week ahead.  I should note here that about half our meals were never made at all last week.  We ate take out once, and ate out once.  I had leftovers to use up, John had mentioned a steak dinner and since we went to the meat market I prepared that.  So you might note a few items turning up this week in different menus that were meant to be in meals last week.  A couple of meals required ingredients I'd planned to pick up but didn't in an effort to keep costs down.

I'll start out with what we had today:

Cubed Steak, Mac and Cheese, Steamed Broccoli, Panfried Caramel Apples over Vanilla Ice Cream
The mac and cheese was frozen leftovers, just enough for two servings and since we had only one piece of cubed steak each (and they were only about 3 ounces each) I didn't mind having two protein servings in this meal.  I had one apple from the bag bought to make apple pie three weeks ago and one apple that had a good sized bruised spot on one half from last pay period.  I knew John wouldn't eat either of those two apples, cooking for a dessert entree seemed the best solution.

Bbq'd Chicken Wishbone, Legs and Wings, Black Eye Peas, Oven Fried Okra, Coleslaw
I want to get as many meals from this chicken as I possibly can so I plan to cut it into serving pieces.  One of the items I discovered I had plenty of in my freezer: black eyed peas.  These are fresh peas, not dried.  I want to start using them.  I may pass along a bag to Katie.

Chili, Green Salad, Cornbread
I'll make a large batch of chili.  Enough for this meal, enough for a leftover makeover meal and a bit to freeze for a future meal of chili.  The salad may be plain, but the cornbread will be dressed up with jalapeno, red bell pepper, cheddar cheese.

PoppySeed Chicken Casserole, Green Peas, Waldorf Salad, Biscuits
I'll boil the back and thighs, the bones and skin from the chicken breasts to make broth.  The cooked chicken will go into this casserole.  I expect I might have leftovers from this dish for another meal.  Do you ever make Waldorf salad?  It's really a sort of old fashioned salad but I love it in apple season.  My kids liked this salad as well and it was a good way to get them to eat their fruit.

Black Bean and Yellow Rice Burritos, Xochitl Broiled Corn on the Cob, Pico de Gallo and Green Salad
Serving a meatless meal this day, but it won't feel  like a meatless meal with all this flavor.  I found two ears of corn in the freezer and this meal offers me the opportunity to use it and try a new recipe, too.

Chicken Kiev, Wild Rice, Green Beans, Fresh Pear Salad, Butter Nut Cake
The boneless/skinless breasts are the last of this chicken.  I think I'll have about 5 meals from it (there should be enough chicken bits and broth for chicken rice soup for supper one night). I haven't made a Butter Nut Cake in nearly two years.  I love to make it this time of year.  It's really just a pretty yellow cake flavored with a butter nut flavoring and a butter nut flavored cream cheese frosting.  I'll sprinkle nuts over the sides I think.

Chili Mac, Orange and Red Onion Salad, Cornbread Muffins
John loves Chili Mac and I know he'll enjoy this meal.  There will probably be a few leftovers of this too.  I've yet to figure out how to make just enough for two, but it's no hardship to him to have to eat this twice, lol.  The oranges are frozen segments I sectioned and froze a couple of months ago when no one was eating the oranges I'd bought.  They thaw just fine and will be nice sprinkled over a green salad with the onion (and if I have them, some sliced black olives).

Well if you only knew how long this has taken to type up!  I started about 3pm and it's after 8 now.  I folded laundry, fed the dogs, made sandwiches for our supper, stopped to read a few recipes, walked to the mail box, sat on the back deck and admired the sunset, chatted with John, restrained Maddie from helping John...It was a full afternoon/early evening.  But the day is done and so is this menu at last.

My Frugal Week

 When I found this a couple of years ago at the Peaches to Beaches Yard Sale, I never dreamed it would be a money saver...But it is.  For one thing, I can only fit a small roll of aluminum foil (usually the store brand) in the thing.  And so I use less foil than ever.  I tend to cram the usual size of paper towel in the paper towel section but the cutting edge allows us to 'choose a size' of our own liking even if the roll doesn't offer that option!  I've saved the cost of this paper dispenser at least twice over in the two years.

In My Kitchen:

Used this recipe for Banana Peanut Butter muffins to use the last banana from our previous pay period.  I made them on Sunday and the cooking time really is as short as it says.  I was certain it was a typo.  Be sure to check them for doneness at the given time range if you attempt this recipe. After cooling I bagged these up in groups of 3 and put in the freezer for easy breakfast bread or snacks.

Made a pizza for Sunday dinner.  I decided that we should go for smaller portions.  John and I agreed that we were plenty satisfied and so we had half the pizza left instead of a two slices.  That will make another meal for us.  I put in the freezer so we can heat and eat for a quick dinner on a busy day or for supper on a night when I have no clue what we will eat.

I had graham cracker crumbs near expiration and used this recipe to make Blueberry Graham pancakes for breakfast.  I had to add a bit more milk.  This recipe makes a very dense, heavy pancake, so one or two is more than enough for a serving.  I put the remainder in the freezer for another breakfast.

It's pure love of leisure that drives me...A half day spent in the kitchen preparing three or four entrees at once usually means I get a few free hours each day to do something else while dinner cooks or heats.

Ran out of dog food two days prior to shopping. Local stores don't carry the brand my dogs will eat.  I used saved tablescraps for one meal for them.

Oddly, the dogs think cat food is a huge treat.  I fed the dogs a meal of cat food.  The cat was unimpressed with their eating her food.  It meant she had to go without the few pieces of dog food she likes in her bowl.

Made croutons from bread end pieces I'd stored in the freezer.  I had a variety of breads which gave us a variety of textures.

Made soup from leftovers that simply didn't appear to be worth saving due to their appearance.  Soup masks a variety of faults.  I posted my recipe here .  We had leftovers of the soup, too.  John didn't want it for dinner on Friday because it was warmer outdoors than it had been.  I heated them up Saturday evening while Samuel was visiting and served with the frozen pizza slices.  They had football on and would have eaten just about anything put in front of them, lol.

Another weekend without baking prior to the Sabbath.  I whipped up a pan of brownies once I was sure that Samuel was indeed coming to visit.

When we visited the meat market this week, I asked for part of my ground beef order to be packaged in a big bulk (I think it was 5 pounds).  I made up burgers and meatballs from that bulk amount.  I ended up with 14 burger patties and 2 dozen or so meatballs.

I used bread end pieces I'd saved in the freezer as crumbs to stretch the meatballs.  Because I wanted to use them in various recipes (Swedish, spaghetti, etc.) I seasoned simply with grated onion, salt and pepper.  I can add other seasonings appropriate to the dish when I prepare them for a meal.

We wanted steak.  I bought the Chuck steaks last time we visited the meat market and it was good but not so tender.  We looked over our options: Ribeye, T-Bone, New York Strip, Chuck Steaks, Sirloin.  We opted for Sirloin.  It's just one price step above Chuck Steak but as tender as Ribeye.  We could cut that steak with our forks.

One sirloin steak is sufficient for three generous servings.

I noted that meat prices were up at the market, but they were not scary higher.  I opted to buy more of the lesser priced meats: ground beef (80/20) and Chuck roast and fewer of the higher priced ones.

This meat market also carries 5 pound bags of many frozen vegetables.  I bought green peas, french fries, and breaded okra this time. Next visit (in about six weeks) I'll buy three more vegetables.  I find it handy to have these larger bags in the freezer.  I can use just what we want for a meal, keeping waste to a minimum.

Fruits that were especially good buys this week: pears, apples, and grapes.  All were right at $1a pound.

In My Home:

Washed two full loads of sheets/curtains this week.  John tends to use the small load wash most often, about every other day or so, but I like to do the sheets, towels and other items myself.  I waited to wash sheets and curtains until the misty rainy weather was over and the sun was shining so I could hang clothes to dry outdoors.

We seem to be using too much laundry detergent.  I noted that there were five separate markings inside the lid, but you know I had to carry it over to the window in full sunlight to see them.  No wonder it seemed it had gone fast!  We were using large load level amounts on our small wash loads.  I marked the cap and hopefully we'll be better able to see what levels we need to use.

Washed full loads of dishes each time I did them.  Am I using my dishwasher more?  Yes, I am, but I make it a habit to use the short wash load (since I rinse before loading) and air dry.  I attribute this usage to lowering my electric bill somewhat this past month.  I have a bad habit of tending to hand wash dishes with the water running.  I know, shame on me.  My pump actually runs less with the current mode of washing so I think I'll stick to it.

Remember my new motto, "Give it a good clearing up"?  Used that method on the back deck Tuesday evening after I saw John off to work.  Result: the deck looks 95% better.  All the  plants were grouped at one end of the deck and suddenly our usual point of entry looks less like a pathway through clutter and more like an intentional arrangement.

Spent an hour clipping, sorting and organizing coupons.

We shopped on Thursday.  First to the meat market and then to just one grocery after that.  I could have saved a little more money going to Aldi and Publix but Publix had everything I needed.  We'd been on the road for 3 hours at that point and honestly sometimes not pushing so hard is far better than saving an extra $10.  I shopped with care at Publix, picked up all we needed and we were headed home.

I've never had much luck washing pillows.  They lump or break apart and are never the same again.  I've been slowly replacing our pillows but in the meantime, a good dose of air and sunshine on the line does no harm.  I spritzed Febreeze on them before I hung them out.  This should freshen them nicely.  

John stopped at a local flea market Friday on our way home from our autumn morning ride.  I found a suitable 'dog house' for Maddie for winter/rainy weather.  Have yet to see her in it.  For $5 I got the house, a doggie blanket and a cat toy.  So far the blanket is the favorite item.

The hardware store had buckets with the gasket inside the lid that seals tightly.  My repurposed bucket that I've been storing dog food in had a lid that cracked in several places and was about to break apart.  I bought a new bucket and lid for $12.  John asked if that was a bit high, but I pointed out that 17 pounds of food costs us that much and if ants or rain got into the food, it was a loss.  Keeping just one bag of food from spoilage recoups our expense.  I think I'm going to get a few more of these to use for rice, beans, etc.  I have two of these in use already and they are certainly handy.

Some of the second batch of rescued petunia seedlings are big enough to bloom.  They are a lovely deep purple.

It was John who noticed the display at the grocery of discounted hardback best selling books.  I found one I'd been interested in through my bookclub flyer but hadn't ordered.  So glad...The discounted book was just $3 and the bookclub version $13.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Budget Stretcher: Leftover Makeover

I love Arroz con Pollo, Spanish Chicken and Rice.  It's a tasty one dish sort of meal for autumn and winter.  It has browned chicken pieces, onion, garlic, pimento, yellow rice, and at the last minute green peas are added.  It's so tasty!  Unfortunately, despite dividing the recipe in half I had leftovers of the rice portion and the rice acted weird (some not getting done, some getting overcooked) so I was reluctant to put the leftovers to the test of reheating as a side dish for another meal.

And then I got creative...What if I made soup?  I liked the idea very well and decided it was worth a try.

I had in my fridge the leftover rice from the dinner, a bit of leftover white rice, some green peas, a chicken breast half.  From the pantry I pulled a can of whole kernel corn, some diced tomatoes and from the freezer some chicken broth.  For seasoning: garlic, cumin and liquid smoke.

I chopped the chicken breast and dumped into a soup pot.  Added in my leftover rices, half a can of corn, half the peas, a whole can of tomatoes (and a couple spoons of Rotel tomatoes with green chilies.  John's not a fan of heat but if you are, I'd use the whole can and skip the plain ones).  Then I added in two cups of chicken broth, about 5 drops of the liquid smoke, 1 tbsp of cumin, 1 tsp minced garlic and 1 tsp sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. I tasted and it seemed just right for seasoning.  I wanted the liquid smoke to enhance the cumin not overwhelm the soup, so go easy on it. I let the soup simmer on the back burner for about an hour. I didn't much care if the yellow rice did overcook since it had already been such a disappointment and I was aware that it's breaking down would make the soup a bit thick.

When ready to serve the soup, I topped it with shredded cheddar and served with cornbread.  This was  a really good soup.  It had body to it (John likes soups to be thick) and great flavor.  I could easily have served four, so we've got enough soup left to have another meal this week and I am not unhappy about that at all.