Wednesday, April 30, 2014

May Meal Plan

On Sunday morning I made my menu plan for the month of May while the girls slept in and I enjoyed a couple cups of hot coffee.  As usual I made the plan based off of things we already have on hand in the freezer and pantry.  I plan to purchase fresh produce and dairy purchases and a few pantry items as needed in hopes of coming in under budget to make up some of the deficit I have going right now.

This is what I came up with: 
  • Taco Soup
  • Chicken Garlic Pizza
  • Italian Sausages & Peppers w/ Pasta
  • Hamburgers
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Chicken & Black Bean Burritos
  • Cobb Salad
  • Vegetarian Chili
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches & Tomato Soup
  • Spicy Black Beans & Rice
  • Tomato & Basil Pasta
  • Cheese & Vegetable Quiche
  • Baked Chicken & Stuffing
  • Steak Fajitas
  • Lentil Soup
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
  • Denver Egg Scramble
  • Sausage Calzone
  • Broccoli Lasagna
  • Grilled Steak & Baked Potatoes
  • Stir Fried Veggies & Rice
  • Cheese Omelet
  • Bean Burritos
  • Ravioli w/ Pesto 

With Mother's Day this month we have a special menu planned for that day.

Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms
Pasta Alfredo
Spinach Salad
Strawberry Shortcake

There are quite a few meatless meals planned this month for a number of reasons.  Health being number one as I try to cut down on the amount of fatty red meats we consume.  The benefit of that is we are eating more fruits and vegetables and making our freezer reserves last longer in the process.  I think it will help our budget stay on track with the rising price of groceries these days too.

What is on your meal plan next month?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Homemade Yogurt

Not to brag but, the best vanilla yogurt I have ever had is my own homemade yogurt.  It has the texture of a Greek yogurt, which I know is quite popular right now, and is pretty simple to make.  Yes it is science, but it's not rocket science.  Not to mention a fraction of the cost of buying the equivalent in the grocery store.

If you think you might want to try making your own yogurt you will need the following high tech supplies:

One picnic cooler
One large pot
One small sauce pan
One candy thermometer.
One wooden spoon
One whisk
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Four pint jars and one half pint jar with lids and rings

Prepare your equipment by filling the pot with water and bringing it to the boil.  Place your clean jars in the sink and fill with the boiling water.  Put your lids and rings in the small sauce pan and cover with the remaining hot water to just to make sure to get rid of any unwanted bugs.

Now assemble your ingredients:

1 half gallon of whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla
1/2 cup yogurt starter*

What the heck is *yogurt starter you ask?  Simple.  You just need some yogurt.  For my first batch I used a 6oz cup of vanilla yogurt from the grocery store.  After that I use my own homemade yogurt.  That is what the half pint jar is for.  You don't ever eat this one because next time you make yogurt you dump it in the new batch.  It becomes perpetual, just like Friendship Bread, only it doesn’t grow out of control like Friendship Bread.  Oh I could use a slice of that right now. J

Where was I?  Oh yes.

Put your milk in the pan and stirring constantly over medium heat bring it up to 185°.  Whatever you do don’t let it boil and don’t scorch it.  Stir, stir, stir.  This is when a kid comes in handy.

Once the milk reaches temperature remove from heat.  Fill your sink a few inches with cold water.  Carefully put your pot in there.  Don't let water get in the pot.  Allow milk to cool to 120°.  Remove your pot from sink and add sugar, vanilla and yogurt starter.  Use a whisk and thoroughly combine.

Pour your yogurt into your jars (actually I like to use a ladle because I have bad aim) and put the lids on tightly.  .  Place jars in cooler.  Fill your pot (you may want to wash it out first) with warm 120° water.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Pour water into cooler to cover up jars.  Close lid and place cooler in draft free place for 3 hours.  Leave it alone.  Walk away man, don't even peek.

At the end of three hours remove jars from cooler, wipe dry and place in refrigerator overnight.  Then enjoy your delicious yogurt. 

You can eat it as is or with fruit, homemade granola, or both.  For a plain yogurt version just omit the sugar and vanilla.  Give it a shot!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

I made two pints of salad dressing.  One French dressing and one Creamy Caesar dressing.

A friend of mine picked me up a two pound bag of yeast from Costco for $3.99.  You can't beat that price at the regular grocery store.

I filled my seven gallon propane tank at the RV store near work for 99¢ a gallon!  I was thrilled when I pulled up and saw the sign.  It is their summer promo.

I watch two TV shows on Hulu and one on Amazon.

I stuck to our meal plan once again and used leftovers for our lunches.

We gave our kitchen scraps to the neighbor's chickens.

I did not need to buy gas last week.  Yaaay!

I did not do any grocery shopping this week.  Again, yaaay!

I mended a seam in a pair of pants.

We replaced my daughter's broken E string on her violin and her teacher tuned it for us afterward saving us the time and expense of a professional repair.  I ordered the string from Amazon and an extra one for next time.  We know there will be a next time.

I used up the last of my homemade laundry detergent by mixing it half and half with store bought.  Now I am completely back to store bought detergent and cleaner, nicer smelling laundry.

I signed up for a free two week trial at to help me fill in some gaps in my family tree.

How was your thrifty week last week?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Grocery Budget Update - April

I did much better staying on budget this month.  I was even able to chisel away a little at our deficit created last month.  Not much, but a little.

Our beginning balance was $79.50 due to last month's big spend.  As predicted I wasn't able to stick to that amount as our whole budget.  Next month I will try to come in under budget so that in a couple of months we'll be back on track.

I spent a total of $122.26 for food this month.  Our non food budget came in at $7.64 of our allotted $25.00 for bleach, fabric softener, shampoo, a tooth brush and a hair brush.  Not bad in that department.

Our freezer and pantry are nicely stocked and we enjoyed some great meals throughout the month.  This is what I bought:

Fish fillets

Store Coupon
Corned beef roasts (3)

Bread (3)

Store Coupon
Broccoli (2)

Store Coupon
Ground turkey - 1# (2)

Tortilla chips (2)

Mayonnaise (2)

Milk - 1 gal.







Bagged cereal



Lettuce (2)


Hamburger buns





Steak fries

Pepperoni (2)




Half & half


Hot cereal




Olives (2)


Bell pepper (2)


Bagged cereal

Rice - 5#


Ramen (6)


Mandarin oranges (2)

Mushroom soup (2)


Cream of chicken soup


Baking powder

Tuna (4)


Cheese (3)

Cream cheese (2)


Store Coupon





Potatoes - 10#

Milk - 1/2 gal.

Store Coupon
Orange juice

Store Coupon
Lettuce (4)


Cole slaw mix


Green onions

Snap peas


Crystal Light lemonade mix (2)

Eggs - 3 dozen

Crackers (3)

Store Coupon/Coupon


 $   122.26

$122.26 ÷ 30 days ÷3 people = $1.36 per person per day!

How did you do with your grocery budget?  Hit any great sales?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Christmas All Year Long - Gift Wrap

This year I do not plan to purchase any gift wrap, gift bags, bows or ribbon for wrapping presents this year.  I still have plenty of stuff leftover from last year.  In fact, I still have two brand new rolls of paper still untouched.  I also have plenty of gift tags left too.

Last Christmas I collected all reusable bows and gift boxes.  I put them in my bag of supplies and they are waiting patiently for me in the storage bay under my bed.  In addition to all the regular gift wrap supplies I also have a lot of ribbon in with my sewing supplies.  One thing I have always wanted to do is use artificial poinsettias to decorate packages with.  If I do I'll most likely get them at the dollar store.

I always want our wrapped gifts to look really nice and pretty.  It is my goal to make sure they don't look like I'm reusing stuff or being cheap about it.  I think if we get really crafty around here we'll be able to wrap up our gifts and they'll look fantastic. 

How important is the wrapping part of gift giving to you?  Do you enjoy it or is it more of a dreaded chore?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How I Make My Whole Wheat Bread

When it comes to bread baking I am all about thrift, ease, efficiency and success.  Not to mention tasty.  Here is how I make my bread, step by step.

For ease and efficiency I let a bread machine do most of the work for me.  I just plug it in and select the dough cycle.

Take the pan that comes with the bread machine and put the paddle in it.  I only mention this because it is a real pain to put it in after the fact once you realize you forgot to do it in the first place.

Add your dry ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Place the pan in the machine making sure it is properly seated.  Hit the start button.  While the paddle rotates and begins to mix the dry ingredients fill up your measuring cup with:

1 cup hot water
1 Tbs. olive oil

Pour your water and oil into your flour mixture.  Watch it as it combines.  If it seems too dry and can't from a ball add water a tablespoon at a  time.  If it seems too wet and sticky add flour one tablespoon at a time.  It doesn't take much flour or water to change the consistency so take your time and allow each addition to thoroughly combine before adding more.  Once your dough ball forms close the lid and walk away until the machine summons you at the end of the cycle.

After the machine beeps to signal the dough cycle is complete sprinkle your surface with about a 1/4 cup of flour and dump the dough out of the pan onto it.  Remove the paddle from the dough if it is no longer in the pan.  Usually it comes out with the dough.

At this time I usually drop the paddle back into the pan and fill it up with warm water to start soaking for easy clean up.

Gently pick up your dough with your floured hands and roll it in on the floured surface just until it is easy to handle.  Shape it into a round or log shape, depending on what type or pan you plan to bake your bread in.  Spray your pan with pan spray and place the dough in it to rise.

You can cut a slice along the top of your loaf or in this case I did an X.  You don't have to but sometimes I like to get a little crazy with the creativity.  Now rinse out your bread machine pan and clean all the dough out of it and off the paddle.  Dry them and put them back in the machine.  I tuck my cord inside my machine.  It allows the lid to stay propped open for air flow between uses.  No one wants a funky bread machine.

Once your dough has risen to double its original size place it in a pre-heated 400° over and bake for 20 to 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and butter the top, if you like.  I always like. J  After a few minutes remove bread from pan to cooling rack.

Note:  If you do not have a bread machine and think you want one check out the thrift stores.  You can find plenty of them there in the $10 to $15 range.  Garage sales are another great place to look for them too. 

You may also enjoy revisiting this old post on Bread Machines.
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