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Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu Plan Monday Week of 11/30

Going to be working ahead on this week's meals as I did last week, as I'll be out of town Wednesday and Thursday, and want to make life as easy for hubby as possible. Boys are already begging for McDonalds while I'm gone, so I've just written off Thursday night, knowing that while Mom's away, the boys will play :) Besides, better they eat it when gone than to be tempted by French Fries.

No price breakouts this week (gasp). I'll get back on that wagon next week :)

Monday 11/30
Potato salad
Sliced apples

Tuesday 12/1
Slow Cooker chicken tacos

Wednesday 12/2
Spaghetti and meatballs
Wheat rolls
Green beans

Thursday 12/3
Boys eat out

Friday 12/4
Homemade Pizza Night

Saturday 12/5
Smoked sausage
Sauerkraut and potatoes

Sunday 12/6
Slow cooker chili

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Getting the house decorated

This is my favorite part of Christmas...getting the house decorated! We've done quite a bit this weekend, with more to come. I will share pictures as we go, including the tree, which is almost done. Here's the mantel-

Mexican beef and rice

Last night we had originally planned to have leftovers from the week's "non Thanksgiving" meals. I apparently underestimated the impact my inlaws would have, though, because we ended up with just a few odds and ends, and really not much to speak of. Still plenty of Thanksgiving stuff, but I knew hubby would balk if he had to eat stuffing again.

I did have half a can of black beans leftover from a nacho lunch we enjoyed Tuesday, along with half a bag of leftover steamed corn, so I kicked into action and started pulling things together that I could make a skillet dish out of. I used sliced sirloin steak that I had already prepped in the freezer. You could use ground beef or even chicken, I think. This would be very flexible for what you have on hand. If my family liked olives I think I would have put sliced black olives on top. Heaven.

  • 3/4lb. sirloin steak, or whatever meat you have, chopped into small bite size
  • 1 cup rice ( I used white basmati, normally we would use brown)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen's new petite diced adobo tomatoes and that was perfect. You could use Rotel or any other tomatoes you have)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I used the turkey stock I just made)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
In small saucepan, bring rice, broth, tomatoes and salt to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer according to the cooking time on your directions.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent. Add steak and continue to cook until beef is browned. Add corn and beans. Once rice is completed, add to skillet, and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup of sour cream and stir in thouroughly. Turn off heat, sprinkle cheese, cover, and let sit 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Eat. Then eat seconds (I did, anyway!)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Using up cranberry sauce

We ended up with a TON of cranberry sauce this year! My step MIL wanted to make cranberry orange relish, which was fine, but I wasn't sure if the boys would eat that, so I made a batch of cooked cranberry blueberry sauce as a fall back. Which means we've had lots of leftovers. I find the easiest way to use up cranberry sauce is in baked goods. The leftover cranberry blueberry sauce is now baked into a batch of yummy muffins for the boys' breakfasts. Just use your favorite muffin recipe or baking mix.
That relish is going to be combined with a box of orange cake mix I've been wanting to use up. I'll probably bake it in loaf pans.

Our Christmas Tree

We got our tree yesterday. Today we will trim, decorate and add the tree skirt. I'm especially excited as we have not had a tree for the past 2 years. After Big K showed his ability to eat glass ornaments (!), I was more than a little reticent. (Although we did learn you can eat a piece of glass the size of a quarter and it won't hurt you. Info I wish I didn't have)

This year we're confident he's old enough, and the dog is more mature as well, so I think we're safe. (I hope!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Time to start freezing up the leftovers

We feasted yesterday! Wonderful turkey and all of the fixins. Today, we start the process of freezing and using up all the leftovers.

Tonight we'll have a repeat of yesterday's dinner. The rest of the turkey is already in the freezer, and the frame is in the stockpot with veggies and herbs making a nice broth that I will freeze. Leftover mashed potatoes will be made into mashed potato rolls that I can bag and freeze for multiple meals. I'm pondering using the stuffing in eggrolls, and turning the leftover cranberry sauce into a dipping sauce for the eggrolls.

This is always the time I start experimenting, so I will certainly share the results as I go!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fully Belly. Happy Heart.

I hope that you've had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We were so blessed to have Hubby's Dad and Stepmom here for the holiday. We've enjoyed the week together, and hubby's dad helped him finish a long overdue project in the garage. Today we made entirely too much food and now we're being lazy while contemplating all the things we have to be thankful for.

For me-

-they caught my Mom's lymphoma at an early stage and it's Hodgkins, which is very treatable
-she's handled the chemo incredibly well
-I have two incredibly sweet, smart and healthy little boys
- I have a very caring and loving husband
-I am blessed to have a great job and good job security
-I am able to provide for all of our monetary needs as the sole earner in the household.
-we had family here to share our day with
-we have a wonderful home and many good friends

So many things to be thankful for. Hope you enjoy your time to reflect as much as I have.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nice Walgreens trip today

I actually had taken a bit of a Walgreens break. There wasn't anything I really needed and the prices weren't that great. Back today though with the $5 off $25 coupon, along with capitalizing on some other great deals. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Coffeemate Creamer- $2.49 BOGO and I had $1/1 and $1.50/2 coupons, so I got 6 for $2.49.
  • Vanity Fair Paper Plates- $3.79 BOGO. I also had the BOGO coupon from All You, so got them both for free!
  • got a bunch of really cute tins for 2/$1 to put gifts in
My final tally was $51.35 worth of stuff for $25, and I got $8RR. Not too shabby.

My to do list- Part 2

Yesterday, I laid out the menu plan for Thanksgiving and started outlining my to do list for today and tomorrow here. Today the house smells of roast, turkey and pasta sauce. I have a lot of the cooking and chopping done for the quiche as well. If I get all done and ahead of myself, I may go ahead and do that today as well. We'll see how it goes.

Make mashed potatoes
Make cake bars
Make green bean casserole

Make stuffing
Make pumpkin pie
check turkey and make sure it's thawed

Menu Plan Week of 11/23

This weekend I'm working full steam to get meals done for early in the week so that I can turn my attention to Thanksgiving foods on Tuesday and Wednesday. This is a TON of food and I suspect we'll be eating off of it well into next week, along with extras that get stashed into the freezer.

Sunday 11/22

Steak $5.00

Potato casserole $2.50

Salad $1.00


Monday 11/23

Italian pasta bake $3.50

Salad $1

Dinner rolls with butter .75


Tuesday 11/24

Italian beef sandwiches $5.00

Fries .75


Wednesday 11/25

Sour cream chicken quiche $3.50

Asparagus $1.50

Salad $1.00


Thursday 11/26 Happy Thanksgiving!!

See this post for the menu plan

(cost of the dinner and desserts just over $28)

Friday 11/27

Leftovers .00

Saturday 11/28

Leftover pasta bake and Italian beef sandwiches .00


Turkey croquettes $1.00

Potato casserole (in freezer from last Sunday) .00

Corn .40


Grandma's Pumpkin Pie

This is my husband's Grandma Elsie's recipe.  It's the family favorite.  

1/4 stick butter melted
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup pumpkin (fresh or use 1 can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon ( I use a little more)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups milk

Mix ingredients. Turn into pie shell and cook at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 375 degrees
and cook for 45 minutes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Busy Week- My to do list, part 1

This is going to be one of those weeks where I have a LOT to accomplish, and I find that I have to write it all out day by day to stay on top of it and not feel stressed out. My in laws will be here on Tuesday, and R's buddy will be coming over for dinner on Monday, so it's even more important that I stay on task. Here's the Thanksgiving Menu:

Sausage Stuffing
mashed potatoes
sweet potato souffle ( Nonny making)
cranberry and orange salad (Nonny making)
waldorf salad (Nonny making)
green bean casserole
pumpkin pie
chocolate chip cake squares

Here's the next couple of days...I'll post the to do list through Thanksgiving when I post my menu plan for the week.

Make Bakers, Walgreens and Aldi trips
bake extra turkey
cook italian beef in slow cooker for Tuesday
make pasta bake for Monday
make potato casserole
freeze turkey in portions
save carcass for Monday


Make chicken sour cream quiche for Wednesday
make turkey stock

Sausage Stuffing

This is my favorite way to prepare stuffing. The recipe has evolved over the years and reflects both my mother's love for decadence and flavor, and my desire to trim excess calories and fat when I can, without losing flavor. You could cut back fat even more by using just egg whites or egg substitute.

I am cooking an extra turkey this weekend. With the carcass I will be making a ton of turkey stock for both this recipe and my gravy. You can also use chicken stock, either homemade or canned. (I have to say, though, it's worth making your own. More flavorful, and much less salt!) I will freeze the turkey for meals later this winter. At 29 cents a pound, it's worth stocking up.

I don't stuff the turkey because of health reasons, so you might be able to cut back the liquid just a bit if you plan to. I make this the day before, and it keeps just fine in the refrigerator.

1 french bread loaf from grocery store bakery, cubed
1 bag of stuffing mix, like Pepperidge Farm
3 eggs, beaten
7 cups stock
2T olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
8oz. mushrooms, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. turkey breakfast sausage, crumbled and browned
1T dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

Place bread cubes and stuffing mix in large bowl, In skillet over medium heat, add oil, then saute onion, celery, mushrooms and garlic until onions are translucent and vegetables are tender. I like to sprinkle my sage in here, along with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add veggies to bowl, along with sausage, broth and eggs. Mix together with spoon, or get in and get dirty with your clean, ringless hands. Place stuffing in a greased 9X11 casserole dish, cover with foil and put in refrigerator overnight, or bake in 375 oven for 40 minutes, removing foil for the last 15.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Baby Steps Challenge- Baby Step 1

Over the weekend I blogged here about making changes one small step at a time. So here's your first baby step. I know you can do it. If you don't already menu plan, I'm not asking you to. I just want you to write down everything you eat for the next week. Can you do that? Just try to jot the main entrees down before you forget each day. We're going to use that information next week for our next baby step.

Tomato Avocado Salad

I crave fresh salads, vegetables and fruits all year round. Since I grow so many things fresh in my garden during the summer, it can be pretty rough making the transition in October and November back to store purchased tomatoes. You do find some yummy ones from time to time, and when this happens, I celebrate with a simple favorite- Tomato Avocado salad

3 ripe medium sized tomatoes, chopped ( I used romas)
2 avocados, peeled and diced
1/2t sea salt
2T lime juice
2T red wine vinegar
3T olive oil

Toss. Eat. Bliss.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Menu Plan Week of 11/16

We ate very well this week despite the fact that I was very sick with a sinus infection. No eating out, but because of ease and cravings, I did alter the menu for a few days, so you will see a few repeats from last week that we didn't get to.

Sunday 11/15
Pork Fried Rice (using leftover pork and rice) $1.00
Asian Coleslaw $1.00
Potstickers $2.75

Monday 11/16
Tostadas (this recipe, no chicken, add black beans and veggies) $1.25
tomato avocado salad $1.25
corn .35 (thank you great sales and coupons!)
mango $1.00

Tuesday 11/17
Spaghetti and Meatballs $3.00
green beans .40
salad .75

Wednesday 11/18
Turkey Sausage $1.50
Sauerkraut w/ potatoes $1.50
apple slices .50

Thursday 11/19
Chili Beer Pot Roast (from freezer-no potatoes-serving on noodles) $4.00
noodles .25
salad .75

Friday 11/20
tacos $3.00
cinnamon apples $1.00

Saturday 11/21
cheeseburgers $3.00
fries .75

Sunday 11/22
Lil Cheddar Meatloaves $2.50
baby carrots w/ cinnabutter .75
garlic mashed red potatoes $1.00

Freezing asparagus for later

I love asparagus. Love love love it. The boys call them "trees", and I love using them in soups, pasta, salads, and on their own roasted or tossed in a lemony vinaigrette. What I usually don't like is the price. So when it goes on sale at a decent price ($1.99/lb at Target this week), I like to stock up.

Thank you Schwans for inspiring the way I freeze them. First, add about 3-4 inches of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. While that is heating, prep your asparagus. Wash, dry, and take 1 stalk of asparagus, holding each end with one hand. Bend the asparagus until it snaps. That is the place where the stalky part ends and the yummy part starts. I just put that shorter piece next to the rest of the bunch, and cut them all to that length.

Once the asparagus is prepped, and the water is boiling, coat a cookie sheet with a piece of foil or wax paper. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water for 1 minute. After a minute, drain, rinse in cold water, and let drip dry for a few minutes. Arrange the asparagus on your cookie sheet and place in the freezer.

After the asaparagus is frozen, drop into a zip bag and label. Now, whenever you want asparagus, you can grab the exact number of spears out that you want because they won't all be stuck together. Reseal and place the bag back into the freezer for the next time!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Incorporating frugal changes into busy lives

I am the breadwinner of my family. Since my position is a management position over several departments and around 30 people, my work week is often 60+ hours. 13 hour days can (and do!) make other family responsibilities difficult. Despite this, I manage to sit down with my family 7 days a week for a home cooked meal (we typically only eat out for special occasions, and almost never eat fast food). I menu plan, coupon, stockpile, garden, can, and make many meals ahead of time and freeze for easy reheating later. I have managed to purge many items, like canned chicken broth, from our house completely. Foods like macaroni and cheese are made from scratch here, not out of a box.

Many of my friends, family members and co-workers are constantly surprised at some of the things I have incorporated into my schedule to help our family save money, eat healthier, and be more organized. It is a common assumption that couponing, meal planning and cooking meals from scratch are very time consuming.

No lie. Some things are. But many are not, and even a few of the things that take a little more time might make sense to do if it helps substantially in another area. The key is to find what works for YOU. And to start small. It's kind of like a diet. You are much more likely to succeed in changing your eating habits if you start small, like cutting out soda, or adding one more vegetable every day. I've tried those no fat, no calorie, no fun, nothing like your regular lifestyle diets before, and yes, I've lost weight, but I couldn't keep up with the changes because there were too many at once, and I gained the weight back.

Making changes to be more frugal are exactly the same. It's incredibly unrealistic to think if you have a monthly food budget of $1000 a month for your family right now, that you can suddenly cut it to $300. If you eat out 4 times a week, cutting to zero might feel like that diet. No fun.

What you can do, though, is begin adding small steps that you can live with, one at a time. Instead of trying to cut back all eating out, just make a decision to eat out one less time a week, and STICK TO IT. If you spend $25 on your family that one night a week, and can instead feed them at home for $10, you just saved $15 a week. That's $780 a year. Pretty cool, huh?

You find the things that work for you. I make many things from scratch, but one thing I'll probably never do is make all of our bread from scratch. Not that I wouldn't love to, and not that I haven't from time to time, but this is one thing I find time consuming and very difficult to fit into my schedule. It's not worth the time I lose for other things, like family. That's just what works for me.

When I started this blog, I wanted to be able to show people that you can work, spend time with your family, and still be able to do things like cook, coupon and eat healthy unprocessed food. In the coming weeks and months, I will be posting a series of articles on very small changes you can make one at a time, just as I did.

If you have posted any articles on subjects like this on your blog, or would like to guest write on a topic you are passionate about, please reach out to me! I would love to show lots of different ideas, and spotlight some of the amazing blogs out there!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I've been battling a sinus infection all week...and it's crazy, because it's truly the sickest I've been in a long time. Overnight fevers of 103+, along with all the other unpleasantries.

Hubby today was suggesting foods I might like since I've been feeling so bad. I tend to crave certain foods when I feel this bad, and NONE of them are good for me :) Usually it involves a greasy Culver's cheeseburger or something along those lines. No surprise then, that I altered this week's menu to include a variation on nachos. Not on chips. On tater tots. I'm so naughty. And happy.

Bake tater tots according to directions. When close to being done, spread 1 can of already warmed turkey chili with beans across the top. Garnish with finely chopped onions, peppers, olives and any other veggies you might like. Then top with 1 cup grated cheddar cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, or whatever else you crave when you feel like crud :)

Not proud. But content. Oh, and shocker. The boys ate all their dinner.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Creamy Spinach Orzo

This is one of those moments where I get to feel like I'm Sandra Lee. fWe have progressively moved to having fewer and fewer processed foods, but I do keep some things on hand for when I really need to cut the time down, but still have real nutritional value.

This side dish is sooo yummy and easy! The boys eat it up, too.

1/2 box orzo pasta
1 bag fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup of prepared alfredo sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2T lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
3T fresh grated parmesan

Bring water for pasta to a boil. Add pasta, and cook according to directions for al dente. With 4 minutes left in cooking, add spinach to pasta. Drain pasta and spinach, and return to pot. On low heat, add alfredo sauce, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Heat through, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with parmesan, and serve.

This recipe is linked to Our Krazy Kitchen's Simple Saturday. Check it out!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Menu Plan Week of 11/9

This week's menu utilizes some leftovers, make ahead pieces and things like chicken bones, celery tops and broth that I keep stored in my freezer. Total for 7 meals for 4 is just over $28.

Monday 11/9

Grilled pork steaks $2.50

Creamy spinach orzo $.75

Leftover corn .00

Salad $1.00


Tuesday 11/10

Slowcooker chicken in mushroom wine sauce $3.50

Brown rice .50

Broccoli .75

Salad 1.00


Wednesday 11/11

Fish sticks 1.50

Macaroni and cheese 1.00

Steamed baby carrots with cinnabutter 1.00


Thursday 11/12

Pork fried rice (with leftover pork from Monday and extra rice from Tuesday) $1.25

Frozen mixed veggies .50

Fresh sliced pineapple 1.00


Friday 11/13

Tacos $3.50

Corn .75


Saturday 11/14

Chicken noodle soup (frame and broth in freezer) $1.00

Grilled cheese sandwiches $1.25

Salad $1.00


Sunday 11/15

Mini meatloaves $2.50

Roasted red potatoes .75

Asparagus $1.25


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blue Cheese Dressing

We love buffalo hot wings. That means we love blue cheese dressing. It's so easy to make it at home and I think it tastes so much better than store bought.

4oz. blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup light sour cream
1 cup light mayonnaise
1 cup milk
1T worcestershire
2t lemon juice
1/2t garlic powder
1/2t sea salt
1t fresh ground pepper
couple dashes of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients. Chill for at least one hour.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My new favorite sweetener

I'm not a fan of white refined sugar, but I've never been a fan of using chemical sweeteners for anything but iced tea. They don't do well in baking, not to mention the fact that it's fake. We use honey when we can, but it still has a lot of calories.

I decided a couple weeks ago to try something I've heard a lot about- agave nectar. It comes from a plant similar to an aloe vera plant. Great flavor, sweet, and about the same cost as honey. Best part is that it is a low-glycemic food, so it doesn't spike your blood sugar.

So far I've baked with it, used it in salad dressings, substituted it for maple syrup, and I have liked it every time! I will be experimenting with it more and will share more ideas soon.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Using my stockpile for charity

As we approach the holidays, I'm thinking about purchases for my stockpile, but also for charity. I have accrued much more through the year than we'll ever need, thankfully, so we make sure it goes to those that have a need. Right now I have about 30 deodorants, 20 toothpastes, along with shelves and shelves of food, so I am boxing up the extra for our area food bank. As I shop, I'm also putting an eye to things that might not be a need for us, but could definitely be used by others. It is very important to me that we give back to our community and help any neighbors that might be experiencing tough times.

Please think of those opportunities as you save and coupon. I will be sharing what I've acquired, and look forward to seeing your stashes as well!

My goal for the rest of this year

Between work, family, the summer garden, and my Mom's cancer, I have really gotten away from blogging, which has made me very sad. I love my blog. It's like my online diary. A place to stay organized, share my thoughts, and also to share information with others. Most importantly, the time I put into my blog is ME time. The lack of time on my blog also signifies real lack of me time, and that needs to change.

On that note, I will be much more active here. Sharing, exchanging thoughts and ideas here with you, talking about our love of food and family. Our love of organization, budgeting, couponing. And juggling it all.

Happy November!

Menu Plan Monday 11/1

A relatively easy week this week, which should give me some time to make freezer meals, some breakfast goodies for the boys and bake a roast for lunch meat. The 8 days of dinners here will work out to around $35.00.

Sunday 11/1
Baked Chicken $2.75
scalloped potatoes .50
steamed broccoli with lemon $1.00
leftover bread with bread dip .00

Monday 11/2
pizza $3.75
salad .75

Tuesday 11/3
Steak and Black Bean Tostadas $3.75
corn .35

Wednesday 11/4
ravioli casserole $4.00
steamed veggies .75
salad $.75

Thursday 11/5
Turkey Sausage with sauerkraut and red potatoes $3.00
green beans .45
baked apples 1.50

Friday 11/6
Fish sticks $1.50
carrot coins with cinna butter $.75
mac and cheese $1.50

Saturday 11/7
chicken alfredo pasta $2.75
broccoli .50

Sunday 11/8
turkey chili dogs $2.50
french fries .75

Easy Baked Bone in Chicken Breasts

I've been seeing lots of sales for bone in chicken breast at .88/lb, which is a fantastic price. I often use bone in chicken for slow cooker recipes, soup, etc. At this price, though, I like to serve it as a main course, and this is an easy, yummy way to do it.

4 bone in chicken breasts (skin on or off, however you prefer)
1/4 butter, melted
3 cloves garlic, minced
1t season salt

Preheat over to 400. Spray baking dish with no stick spray. Place chicken in dish. Place butter and garlic in microwave safe bowl. Microwave 40 seconds, stir. Brush garlic butter mixture all over chicken. Sprinkle chicken with season salt. Bake at 400 for 50 to 60 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.