Friday, February 28, 2014

March Meal Plan

Last week I made my menu plan for the month of March.  I had the girls help me this time with the brainstorming portion of the project.  I love it when they give me ideas.  Sometimes I just get stuck and they were great inspiration.

This is what we came up with: 
  • Swedish Meatballs with Rice
  • Grilled Cheese & Tomato Basil Soup
  • Pasta & Spicy Sausage
  • Egg Scramble
  • Thai Noodle Soup
  • Hamburgers & French Fries
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Taco Soup & Cornbread
  • Spanish Rice
  • Cheese Omelets
  • Tomato & Basil Pasta
  • Nachos
  • Pizza
  • Corned Beef & Cabbage
  • Split Pea Soup
  • Reuben Sandwiches
  • Mushroom Alfredo
  • Black Bean Quesadillas
  • Corn Dogs & Tater Tots
  • Meatloaf & Baked Potatoes
  • Clam Chowder
  • Pesto Pasta
  • Grilled Tuna Sandwiches
  • Fish & Chips
  • Pork Chops & Rice Pilaf
  • Sloppy Joes 

I can hardly wait to get cooking and dig in.  How about you?  What is on your menu for this month?

Thursday, February 27, 2014


There is no doubt that meat can be very expensive and it seems that prices rise all the time.  I know I've talked a lot about using less meat in recipes and adding meatless meals to your menu plan in order to save money.  But sometimes you just want to sink your teeth into some flesh.

When it comes to grocery shopping I feel I'm a bit of a "hunter and gatherer".  Now, admittedly, I'm not going to go out and hunt for game.  I sometimes go fishing but that is the extent of my skill set.  I've gone hunting with friends many times, but only as a set of extra hands.  I've never even bought a hunting license.  Personally, I really don't want to shoot anything.  That being said I "hunt" in other ways.  Primarily at the supermarket.
The two packages at the bottom had
 $1 OFF reduction coupons attached.
Whenever I go to the grocery store I troll the meat department first for any items that have been marked "Reduced For Quick Sale" or have been re-priced and hit the markdown bin.  If I find some good buys on cuts of meat I want then I get those.  I've never had a problem buying marked down meats.  The stores I shop at always guarantee them for freshness and on the few occasions I've made it home with something past its prime they’ve always given me a refund and profuse apologies.  They don’t want to sell me rotten meat any more than I want to buy it.

Next I check out the items on sale.  I try to purchase packages either small enough for one meal so I don't have to re-package, as long as the price is right, or large enough to be easily divided into multiple meals.  Once home I'll divide and place it into zipper style sandwich bags, then mark it with the type of meat it is and the month and year so I know how old it is.  Then into the freezer it goes.
Larger packages are divided and
wrapped in meal size  portions.

Often I will cook up a pound of ground meat and "skim", or remove, a small amount to add to another dish I plan to prepare such as pizza or an omelet.  I've done this for years and find it is a wonderful way to stretch our food dollars.

When I make things like spaghetti or chili I only use about 3/4 of a pound of ground meat instead of a full pound.  If I use something more flavorful like chorizo or Italian sausage I can easily get by using only a half pound.

Portion control is key too.  We don't realize how much we overeat until we look at what a true serving size is.  Most chicken breasts are so big they are actually two servings instead of just one.  The same can be said for pork chops and steaks.  Quite often two pork chops is plenty for the three of us while one steak, although I'd like to eat the whole thing, is more than enough for all of us.  The reality is we don't need to eat so much.
Thick cut of sirloin steak
Butterfly cut to divide in half.
Two portions perfect for the 3 of us!
Buying from the reduced section allows me to buy leaner, choicer cuts of meat too because it is so much more affordable.  And don't overlook your freezer section for the flash frozen bags of chicken parts, turkeys, and lean ground beef patties.

Many people have suggested I look into purchasing a half a pig or a quarter of a cow, but the reality is I don't have the freezer space and I don't think with my size of a family it is necessary.  Based on the price per pound I can often find meat for less too.

Purchased on sale for less than
the fresh options in the meat department. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Grocery Budget Update - February

Another month, albeit the shortest one of the year, has swept by in rapid fashion.  I can't believe it is already time to do this post.

Because I "overspent" in January I had to carry over a negative balance.  I began our month with $112.98.  Nonetheless, I am exceptionally pleased with everything I managed to acquire and still stay on budget.

Our non-food spending came in at $14.11 (of our allotted $25 budget) for a 20 lb bag of cat litter, a bottle of fabric softener, a bottle of dish soap, plastic wrap, kitchen sized trash bags, sink cleanser, canning lids, a bottle of aspirin and a lint roller.  Sales, coupons and a stop at the dollar store once again helped keep these expenses to a minimum.

This is what I bought for groceries this month:




Ground turkey (4)

Ground turkey sausage

Salsa - 16 oz (2)

Olives (4)

Store Coupon
Pork chops

Tomatoes (3)

Teriyaki sauce

Seasoning packets (6)

Fish fillets

Cheese (4)

Store Coupon
Taco shells (2)

Tater tots



Bread (2)


English muffins

WW Hotdog buns


Lettuce (2)


Cole slaw mix


Parmesan (2)


Peas & carrots (2)


Rice - 5#


Pinto beans - 2#


Black beans - 1# (2)



Tomato juice


Canola oil

Brown sugar




Milk - gal

Store Promotion
Soy sauce




Mixed veggies


Bacon - 1# (3)

Italian sausage (3)

Milk - gal


Chocolate spread

Ice cream

Tortilla chips



Orange juice (2)

Store Coupon


Bell peppers (2)



 $      109.43

$109.43 ÷ 28 days ÷3 people = $1.30 per person per day!

What great bargains did you find this month?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Extending Taco Meat - Healthy & Thrifty

There was a time when a pound of ground beef was plenty for the three of us to enjoy a taco supper and still have leftovers.  With the girl's becoming teenagers with healthy appetites those days are long gone.  I decided it was time to get creative.

In order to extend our taco meat I add things that not only fill you up but make it healthier too.  The last time I made tacos I took a pound of 85% lean ground turkey and browned it with half an onion I had finely diced and half a green bell pepper also finely diced.  Then I added a heaping cup of drained black beans I had cooked in my slow cooker.

Next I sprinkled the mixture with a half packet of taco seasoning and for the liquid I added about a half cup of bean broth from the slow cooker in place of the plain water.  The starchy broth helped bind everything together.  After simmering for about five minutes it was ready to serve with flour and corn tortillas, grated cheese, shredded lettuce and sour cream. 

Delicious, nutritious and very healthy.  Another great satisfying meal that didn’t look or taste thrifty at all.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Last Week’s Thrifty Moves

After frying bacon for Sunday breakfast I saved the rendered fat in my glass collection jar.  I used a small amount of that fat when I fried our steaks later that night.

My girls gave me their heart shaped candy boxes in hopes I could come up with something clever to reuse them for.  I'm sure I probably can.  Since I have the room I put them in with our gift wrap supplies.

They also gave me two glass jars that a friend gave them candy in at Christmas.  I can definitely reuse those.  In fact one is already in use.

I baked two loaves of whole wheat bread.  I've not only been missing fresh baked bread but also the act of making it.  I find it very satisfying and comforting.  I plan to do it more often.

I finished my grocery shopping for the month.

I had extra pancakes after Sunday's breakfast so I reheated them in the microwave and served them to the girls for breakfast before school.  They don't often get pancakes on a week day.

Because of leftovers I only prepared half the meals I originally intended to.

I mended a tear in my youngest daughter's jeans.  I also reinforced the knees of another pair of her jeans with iron on patches as they were wearing thin.  I put the patches on the inside so they don't show.

I made two batches of homemade salad dressing.

I made a batch of homemade pancake syrup.

I used up a very ripe banana by making a loaf of banana bread.  I plan to use it next week for breakfasts.

I made homemade Hershey's syrup for ice cream.

I listed and sold more items on eBay.

I was very conservative with my gas.  I put less than twenty miles on my automobile this week. 

How was your thrifty week last week?

Friday, February 21, 2014

When Leftovers Morph

When leftovers morph it is a good thing.  Seriously!

Last week I had to veer off course from our planned menu a bit because I had food in the refrigerator that needed to be used up.  Primarily pork sausage and a bowl of black beans.  I would have no problem tossing these things into the freezer for later use but I needed to make spaghetti for Sunday dinner so I was sure the sausage was going to get used.  Vegetarian black bean burritos were calling to me too so I thought "Why not?"

Sunday I put a plastic container of leftover spaghetti sauce from the freezer in my smallest slow cooker.  I added a can of Italian style diced tomatoes and 3/4 of a two cup dish of the leftover sausage.  My slow cooker was FULL.  I put the lid on it and allowed it to cook on low all day.  The house smelled terrific.  Later that day I boiled up a pound of rigatoni, stirred in the sauce from the slow cooker and ended up with leftover sauce.  I also ended up with leftover pasta after supper.  Plus I still had leftover sausage.

Monday I made two pizzas.  One pizza is plenty for the three of us but I decided to make the second one for the girl's lunches to take to school.  They love cold leftover pizza in their lunch.  Who doesn't?!

I used leftover pizza sauce from Friday and made a veggie pizza.  I also used pesto and the leftover sausage to make the other pizza.  Two simple and thrifty pizzas all made from leftovers, except for the dough.

Tuesday I cooked a cup of rice.  I saut√©ed some leftover onion and bell pepper, then added the black beans.  Then I tossed it in with the rice, some taco seasoning and about a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce leftover from when I made pizza sauce the week prior.  I warmed up flour tortillas and served it along with shredded lettuce, grated cheddar cheese and salsa I already had on hand.

On Sunday I had made a nice salad.  On Monday I added shredded cabbage and a diced Roma tomato to the leftovers and served it again.  On Tuesday I finished the salad for lunch.  Even the salad morphed a couple of times.

Wednesday I reheated the leftover rigatoni and made a fresh salad.  The girls had leftover burrito filling in their lunches.  I just heated it up and put it in their thermoses.  I had a burrito for lunch.

Thursday I took all the leftover pasta sauce, tomato sauce and pizza sauce and combined them with leftover bell pepper, sliced olives and mushrooms.  I added freshly boiled pasta and made a pizza pasta dish.  I put it in a square dish with a lid and popped it in the freezer for a future meal to enjoy later.  After all, one can only enjoy so much pasta in one week I think.  That evening I used the last of the burrito filling to make quesadillas.

After making the pizza pasta I ended up with two cups of leftover boiled pasta.  The leftovers just kept morphing.  I put the pasta into a two cup freezer container and put it in the freezer as well.  Next time I make soup and need some pasta for it all I'll have to do is add it right in.

On Valentine's Day Friday night I was a "good mommy" (fingers crossed) and let my girls have frozen fish fillets and French fries for supper.  It had been a very long time since we'd had that and they were absolutely thrilled.  They kept saying how good it tasted and remarking about how long it had been since they'd had that.  I personally thought it was a little salty.

Saturday we were back to our healthier and more appetizing meals.  I made more rice and used up some bacon, the last of a green onion, some peas & carrots from the freezer, eggs and soy sauce to make a batch of fried rice.  I served it with a salad using up the last of our shredded cabbage, a roma tomato, some lettuce and baby carrots.  I served it with homemade dressing.

So after a week of terrific meals we managed to use up all the leftovers in the refrigerator.  There was absolutely no waste and I put meal away in the freezer as well as the start of another one.

Do you ever do things like that?  How are some ways you use up leftovers and avoid food waste?

You also might enjoy revisiting Use It Up - Leftovers.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Food Storage Containers - Pyrex (Repost)

I wanted to repost this article I wrote back in November of 2011 when I first started this blog.  It is still very much relevant.  I really do love my Pyrex. J

I have had a long time love affair with vintage Pyrex.  I just love it!  I have some modern pieces too but my favorite, by far, is my vintage collection of refrigerator jars, casseroles, baking pans and pie plates in various shapes and sizes.

I collect mostly the blue Amish Butterprint and pink Gooseberry patterns.  I also love the flamingo pink from the late forties and early fifties which complements the Gooseberry pattern very nicely.

It is wonderful if you are able to collect something you love but if you can use it to enhance your life on a daily basis then that makes it a truly worthy collectible.  I really do use my vintage collection every day.  I bake, serve and store leftovers in it and as a result I am able to thoroughly enjoy it.

I gave up on plastic storage containers for a variety of reasons.  Mostly because they stain, hold flavors and odors and don’t reheat well in the microwave.  They don’t last long either, the lids warp and then you end up contributing to the landfill.

I do use plastic Glad and Ziploc containers for freezing because they are flexible for expansion and contraction, you can write on them, they stack nice and you can recycle them when they wear out.

For everyday use I go for my Pyrex.  It is pretty and practical.  I also like that I am buying and re-using items from the past as opposed to regularly purchasing new.  I find great pieces at thrift stores, yard sales, antique shops and my favorite place - eBay.

Do you have a favorite piece (or pieces) you love to use in your kitchen? 

You also might enjoy revisiting Some Of My FavoriteThings - Food Storage Containers.

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