Friday, April 29, 2016

May Meal Plan and Shopping Plans

Hello There.  Happy Friday!  :)

Now that we are heading into a new month I am trying to make a checklist of things that I would like to accomplish in May.  There are several things around the house that I'd like to get done before school ends so that I can dedicate more time to the kids during the summer months.  There are also some things that I would like to scour some thrift stores for.  I am already starting to make lists of back to school things since both my kiddos will be students in the Fall.  My daughter will be attending pre-K two full days a week at the same elementary school that my son attends.  She is excited.  I am a worrier, so I'm biting my nails about it.  I'm sure she'll be fine but she is a very spirited child and that makes me a bit nervous.  This momma is gonna be doing a lot of praying!  ;)

Speaking of scouring thrift stores, one of the things I am keeping my eyes open for is another percolator.  We do not brew our coffee in a coffee maker.  We have always used an old fashioned percolator that you use on the stove.  We like the coffee so much better that way.  We've had electric coffeemakers in the past but you really cant compare coffee that is made the old fashioned way. 

This is the same percolator design that
my grandmother used to have in her kitchen  :)

I have been working on a meal plan and grocery list for May.  I seem to have some trouble finding time to sit down and complete the whole thing at one time so I've been taking a few minutes here and there to work on it.  I am making it a point to be strategic in my planning by incorporating some leftovers from one meal into another meal.  I am also trying to work it out so the bulk of my monthly grocery shopping can be done in one large haul, with a nice amount leftover in the budget to spread throughout the rest of the month.  This takes some planning too- for instance, I put on my shopping list to purchase a 5 pound package of ground beef.  So while making my meal plan for the month I am including 4 or 5 meals that include the ground beef.  If I buy one boneless pork loin I can cut it in half and use it for at least 2 crockpot dinners, plus several lunches.  We still have a lot of bacon from the box I bought in January so I included some 'breakfast-for-dinner' meals that we can have with the bacon.  I also noticed that boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale for $1.59/lb. at Aldi this week so I am going to stock up on that and I have at least 3 or 4 meals planned for the month using that cut of meat.  I put on my list a whole roasting chicken, not that I have any distinct plans for it at this point, but I like to have a whole chicken on hand because if some meals get switched up during the month and I need some backup meals I know I can get at least 3 dinners from that whole chicken.  A 2 pound box of Elbow Macaroni from Aldi will make 3 dishes this month- mac and cheese casserole, a pasta/macaroni salad and a handful of it may be tossed in the vegetable soup that I plan to make.  I also saw that red grapes are on sale for 99¢/lb. at Aldi this week so I am going to get extra grapes and freeze them for a nice refreshing treat- we love to snack on frozen grapes, especially on hot summer days!  Doing my planning this way, as well as first scouring my own pantry and freezer for ingredients to make meals, will hopefully save us a chunk of money this month and provide my family with plenty of yummy dinners to enjoy.

I have been enjoying my new cookbooks (a lot!) and I've pulled out a couple of my other favorite cookbooks from my bookshelf and included some recipes from them into my May meal plan.  One of the things I make from time to time is Potato Gnocchi, though it's been a while since I made it.  This recipe is from the Joy of Cooking cookbook.  Way back when I was a teenager, I took a summer job as a nanny/mother's helper/housekeeper.  One of my daily duties was to make dinner for the family due to the parents both being professionals in the workforce who put in many long and late hours.  It was this job that really gave me my first experience cooking from many different kinds of cookbooks.  The lady of the house often marked recipes for me to prepare from The Joy of Cooking cookbook (she usually, thankfully, picked out easy ones for me) and one of their family favorites was Potato Gnocchi.  The first time I made it I messed it up because I read the recipe wrong, but they were gracious and still ate it.  The next time I made it, it was much easier to prepare and came out really good because I understood what I needed to do (the power of actually reading the recipe all the way through before attempting it!)  ;)  Years later I found this cookbook at a thrift store and immediately snatched it up and I've used it many times since I bought my own copy.  When I make the Potato Gnocchi these days for my own family I double the recipe and refrigerate them after they are cooked.  When we are ready to eat them, I fry a bunch of them in a pan with some butter and top them with parmesan cheese.  They are really good and it's a very thrifty and filling recipe.  Another way to eat them is warmed and topped with pasta sauce- that's good too.  Really, you can experiment and eat them any way you want- the sky is the limit to the possibilities!  I know that Gnocchi is sold in stores and in restaurants but I have never tried them other than the ones I make in my kitchen, so I don't really know how these would measure up to anything sold already prepared in stores or in eateries. 

My Meal Planning Companions

So, Here's What's Cookin' In My Kitchen for May (in no particular order):
  • Lasagna, Salad, Garlic Bread
  • Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Fries, Sliced Fruit
  • Crockpot Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes, String Beans, Gravy made from crockpot juices
  • Taco Casserole (from American Cancer Society cookbook)
  • Pancakes, Bacon, Eggs
  • Homemade Stromboli, Stuffed Pizza (from Bisquick cookbook)
  • Oven Fried Chicken (Bisquick cookbook), White Rice, Steamed Carrots, Gravy made from pan juices
  • Crockpot Ham Shank, Mac and Cheese Casserole, Salad
  • Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Corn
  • Baked Lemon-Pepper Seasoned Flounder, Parmesan and Parsley Buttered Noodles, Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Sloppy Joes, Fried Potatoes and Onions
  • Vegetable Soup, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Spaghetti, Italian Sausages, Salad
  • Chicken Cutlets, Mashed Potatoes, Peas
  • Crockpot Beef Strips with Potatoes, Carrots, Mushrooms and Gravy made from crockpot juices
  • Homemade Potato Gnocchi (from Joy of Cooking cookbook), Sliced Fruit
  • French Toast, Egg Omelets, Bacon
  • Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Salad (as you know, meatloaf is this family's favorite meal!)
  • Crockpot Shredded Pork, leftover Mashed Potatoes, Mixed Veggies
  • Cheeseburgers, Fries, Applesauce
  • Baked Italian Ziti, Chicken Parmesan, Salad
  • Grilled Hot Dogs, Pasta Salad (or Macaroni Salad), Deviled Eggs
  • Rice and Beans, Corn Muffins with Honey

I've allotted 7 days of the month to eat leftovers, but I am pretty sure we will end up eating leftovers for more days than that, so some of these meals might be bumped over into the following month if they don't get made.  We always have enough leftovers for lunches during the week, and whatever else is left after that gets put out in our "Buffet" that we eat at home each week.  We are planning to have some company at the end of May/beginning of June so I am debating whether to add in to the grocery budget or split the added amount between both May and June or try to just squeeze more out of our regular and keep it the same.  We are able to add more into it, so that is not the issue.  I am just being stubborn again and deciding whether I should accept the challenge I'm dangling in front of myself of trying to keep it the same.  The jury's still out on that one, so maybe I'll just do my thing now and decide what I am going to do about it later on in the month.  Or not.  (See, that's me being totally undecided...)  :) 
What would you do- increase it, split it or try to stretch it?

So, if all works out well like it did this last month, I will get the bulk of my shopping done the beginning of May and then only have to make small grocery runs for milk, bread and fresh produce throughout the rest of the month.  My grocery list gets tweaked a bit each day so I am not yet ready to jump in the car, head to the store and do my haul because I keep finding ways to cut back here and there and I also want to stock up on some things for when our company arrives.  I may try and hold off on the shopping until Monday or Tuesday, but no later than Tuesday because I want to get the deal on the chicken at Aldi (their special deals change over on Wednesdays.)

I hope you all had a nice week in your neck o' the woods.  Our weather here cant make up its mind on whether it wants to be rainy or sunny, so we are just going with the flow on that as far as how much we get done in the yard.  But yucky days outside usually results in more work getting done inside so either way it's a win-win situation.  :)

I wish you all a very nice weekend!
Toot-A-Loo!  :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Meal Plan for the Week and Some of Last Week's Happenings

Hi There.  Happy Tuesday!  :)

We are at the end of April and I am ITCHING to go grocery shopping!  We are almost out of some things and completely out of other things.  This past weekend I started making a list for our May grocery haul.  I will probably do our grocery shopping towards the end of the week or over the next weekend, depending on when it works best for me.  My plans are to go to the usual places: Walmart, Dollar Tree and then Aldi.  I am also going to browse an ad for a store that is about 20 minutes away- the one near my grandmother's nursing home.  If I see any good deals there I may also stop there and pick up a few things. 

As you know, this last month I spent pretty much all of our grocery/household budget within the first week of April.  On one hand, this was good because I got everything we needed for the entire month and I had my meals all planned out and all the ingredients for those meals.  I didn't have to run back and forth to the store (except locally for a few milk runs) and I didn't have to scratch my head wondering what to cook each night.  Because of this I really liked the way it all worked out.  On the other hand, I didn't like the fact that there wasn't much left over from our budget, not that it was really needed, but there was a teeny tiny sense of insecurity.  I know this comes from the fact that there have been several times over the last several years where we only had a certain dollar amount to get groceries and there was no option to go over that amount because when it was gone, it was gone.  Right now we are not in that situation anymore- we could have added to our budget amount and gone over a bit without any hardship, but I am so used to staying within a set amount that it's hard to reprogram myself to think otherwise.  And truth be told, I really don't want to reprogram my thinking because it works for us to do it this way and we can still stick to a set amount.  So this coming month I am going to try to get the bulk of my May shopping done in the beginning, but I am going to try to leave a bit more than I did in April to take us through the rest of the month.

So, where are we at with our April budget?  This week I bought 3 gallons of milk, one package of organic crimini mushrooms from the farm market in town (when my son was getting his free treat for the reading program at school), and some bananas from the local convenience store in the 25¢ bin.  I spent $11.16 on those items.  I also stopped at a book sale that someone was having (I know, I know- I should not have done that- but I did!)  I spent $5.00 there.  We have five days left in this month and our total spent so far, including the items I just listed has been $299.02 .  That leaves us with 98¢ in our April budget.  Talk about cutting it close!  But that's ok- we still made it!  Whoo-Hoo!  We still have over a gallon of milk in the fridge so I wont need to get any more this week. 

On my May grocery list I have jotted down a lot of produce and some meat, as well as canned items and pantry items such as pasta and baking ingredients.  I still have a lot of rice because back when we lived in PA I stocked up (not intentionally) on rice and ended up with about 25+ pounds of it, which I put in a food grade bucket and we've been going through it but there is still a lot of it in there.  I used up the last of the butternut squash I had in the house to make "pumpkin bread", which we've all been enjoying and sharing with my grandmother and our neighbors.  I am using up the last of the fresh produce this week in salads and in our meals.  I'd say things really worked out well as far as this month went and I am sure next month will go just as well if I plan correctly. 

I changed the meal plan a bit last week.  I was really in the mood for Lasagna and my family seemed to perk up when I said something about it, so I decided to switch one of our meals out.  I made one whole pan of Lasagna and gave a large piece to our neighbor, and the 4 of us finished off the rest of it!  I didn't make anything on the side so it didn't stretch as far as it usually does- usually we can get 2 or 3 meals out of one pan.  This time we were all in the mood for it, plus it came out of the oven at 3pm so everyone dug in as soon as it was done and then came back for more a few hours later.  Truth be told, I am actually still in the mood for more of it and I don't think my family would have any objections if it is one of the first meals we have in May once I pick up some more lasagna noodles.  :)

So, Here's What's Cookin' in our Kitchen this week, in no particular order:

Breakfasts: Cold Cereal, Yogurt, Butternut Squash Bread, Oatmeal, Fruit (using up the rest of the Bananas, a few Oranges, a couple of Apples)

Lunches: Leftovers (most days), Tuna Sandwiches, Chicken Wraps

  • Spaghetti, Salad, Homemade Garlic Cheese Toast
  • Cheeseburger Calzones (from Bisquick Recipe book- recipe can be found here)
  • Sausage and Peppers, Stromboli (my husband cant eat the peppers so I cook those separately)
  • Baked Chicken Legs, White Rice, Canned Corn
  • Bacon, Eggs, Fried Potatoes, Toast
  • Rice and Beans with leftover Chicken in it (never made this last week so it got bumped to this week)
  • Buffet Night @ Home (leftovers)
Desserts/Snacks: Popcorn, Butternut Squash Bread ("Pumpkin Bread" to the rest of the family), Tortilla Chips and the rest of the Salsa, PB&J on Crackers, Smores (made over the fire pit in yard), Cereal, Homemade Cookies, Chocolate Pudding (I have an instant box mix from Aldi)

Sausage and Peppers Sandwich - Mmm!!
I have been trying to get things done around here before summer vacation when the kids are both home and demanding more of my attention.  I cleared out the big plastic tote that we keep all of the winter gear in (snowpants, hats, gloves, scarves, etc.) and put those in a pile to be washed.  I cleared off the coat rack by the front door and washed all of the winter coats, as well as several sweatshirts that needed to be washed.  I went through all of the pockets, of course, before washing the coats and, Lucky Me, I found $15 and change in my own coat pocket.  I also found 2 pieces of Werther's Original candy in another coat pocket.  Whoo-Hoo!  After washing all the winter stuff I returned the hats, gloves and snow gear to the big tote and hung the winter coats in the hall closet.  I don't know if we will be using the heavy coats anymore this spring, it's hard to tell with the weather in these parts, but lately we've been just throwing on sweatshirts and sweaters and layering up our clothing and that seems to be working right now.  It's kind of crazy cause one day it's shorts and tee shirt weather and the next day we are back to hats and warm outerwear! 

I Hit the Jackpot!
Speaking of found money: we have a decorative wooden well in our front yard.  This came with the house when we bought it and I love it.  When I was a kid my grandmother had one in the front yard and I used to pretend it was a wishing well and she would give me a penny to throw in there and make a wish once in a while.  When I realized that this came with the house I was really happy and once in a while I do the same thing and give the kids (mainly my daughter) a penny to throw in the well and they make a wish.  While working in the yard I happened to pass the well and noticed all the pennies in there.  I scooped them up and put them in a mug in the living room to give to them so they can use them to go make more wishes here and there.  :)

This past weekend we had a Monopoly tournament.  We had not played that game in a while and we had a lot of fun.  My son beat the pants off of me- and I wasn't even taking it easy on him or anything.  :(  Monopoly always brings back fun memories for me.  My friends and I used to play Monopoly til the wee hours of the morning just to be able to sit at the table and hang out with each other.  I am liking that the kids are getting old enough to play games beyond Candyland and Chutes and Ladders (but I am also realizing that I am going to miss that stage terribly when they don't want to play those at all anymore.) 

I mentioned somewhere above that I had stopped at a book sale someone was having.  I think I have a book addiction.  Particularly a cookbook addiction.  I have the largest collection of uncooked recipes that you've probably ever seen.  I just love recipe books and when I decided to drop in to this sale I was immediately drawn to the table with the cookbooks.  I found 4 books for $1 each and the kids checked out the table with the children's books and chapter books, which were marked from 10¢ to 25¢ each.  The books they got only came to $1 total, so we spent 5 dollars at the book sale.  I was pretty thrilled about this because one of the books I got is The Tightwad Gazette, which I've borrowed from the library a couple of times.  Another was a cookbook that I have eyed on Etsy, The Farmer's Wife Cookbook.  Another cookbook was put out by the Cancer Society, which looked like it had good recipes.  The other cookbook is one that I am really glad I got, Farm Recipes and Food Secrets from the Norske Nook.  I started reading it and it is very interesting.  If you notice I don't usually give too many opinions on books and on music, because I feel those things are very personal.  I read reviews and enjoy them when other people do them, but I always think that something I think is good may not be good to someone else so I usually just don't say much about those things.  But I will say that I am enjoying this book.  This lady owns a restaurant in the Midwest and she has put recipes from her restaurant as well as her own personal kitchen in this book and she tells the history of how her restaurant came to be.  I've already marked a few things I'd like to try to make.  So those are the books that I got, well worth the dollar each to me.  :)

This week we are busy as usual.  My son has those week long exams that they give in all the schools.  He is happy that they don't have any homework this week but I think they are talking too much about the exams and making the kids a little bit nervous.  I told him to just do his best and not make too much out of it, just think of it as any other test.  He is a good student and his grades have always been very good so I am sure he will do fine.  I keep him in prayer throughout the day and hope he stays focused.  I remember when I was in school and we did big exams like this, after a while my comprehension would start to wane- I guess I kind of got waterlogged after sitting so long doing the same thing.

The yard is coming along.  The grass is starting to grow faster, the flowers are starting to come up.  I am realizing that there are going to be surprises coming up all over the place, so I am looking forward to seeing what is planted and where. 

Another area of the yard where flowers are coming up
We spotted a toad on one of our outdoor patio chairs.  We almost missed it cause it blended in with the chair.  Sorry if the picture is a bit blurry.

I hope you all are enjoying your week!  :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April Budget Update

Hey There.  Happy Wednesday!  :)

Yesterday we went to the library and stocked up on a bunch of books and movies for the weekend.  I know I've said this before, but I just love the library!  I checked out 2 cookbooks and I am looking forward to gleaning some yummy recipe ideas from them.  On the way out of the library there was a box of books sitting out that are free for the taking.  There is a limit of 3 so I found 3 books that I will read and then I'll probably donate them to the little free library on the corner by the school.  Have you ever heard of those little free library boxes?  They are pretty nice.  The one on the corner was bought in memory of a lady in town who passed away, I assume it was her family who may have purchased it.  It is a box sitting on a pole that contains a couple of bookshelves.  When the little free library is purchased it is stocked with books and used as an exchange library.  You can take a book or two and when you are done you either return those same books or you can exchange them for other books that you would like to share with others.  I like this one because there is usually a variety of both children and adult books.

So, for anyone who may be wondering how I am doing with staying within my grocery budget for the month, here is an update:  I'm still within budget.  Whoo-Hoo!  We've had to make a few runs to the store for milk and a bag of potatoes and I also picked up some clearance Easter candy (which was definitely not part of the plan but at 5 cents a piece, I wasn't going to walk away from them.) 
So, here are the April totals so far:
Grocery trip #1 $118.12
Grocery trip #2 $154.88
Milk and fresh produce runs (and clearance candy) $9.86
Total this month: $282.86
Left in Budget: $17.14

I spotted the clearance easter candy when I ran into Dollar General to pick up a gallon of milk.  I didn't feel like running into the regular grocery store in town and I was passing right by DG, so I thought it would be quicker (and I wouldn't be tempted to browse and get other items if I just got it there.)  When I saw the easter candy at 90% off, well, I caved and I will admit out loud that giving in never tasted so sweet (literally!)  ;)  Almost all of the pieces of candy were 5 cents each, except for the box of peeps, which was 10 cents, and the bag of "Jesus Promise Seeds", which was 30 cents.  It contains 17 mini bags of pastel colored candy corn and each mini bag has a different scripture promise printed on it.  I have never seen anything like those and I am so glad I found them.  :)

When I was at the register checking out the milk and candy there were 2 bins that had winter hats and gloves at 70% off.  We didn't really need any of those things but I noticed there was one blue coat on top of the bins- the only coat that was in the whole store, I'm sure.  I asked the lady about it and she said that it was the last one left and it was also 70% off.  After I was done paying for my purchases I walked over and looked at the coat and realized it is probably the next size up for my son and it was a nice warm fleece-lined coat.  There was no tag on it and I asked the lady how much it was.  She said she figured it to be between 6 and 7 dollars.  I likely couldn't even find a coat at a thrift store for that price and this one was brand new!  I hesitated for a minute but decided that I would be crazy to not get the coat.  I didn't count it in with this month's grocery/household budget, but I think I would still stay within even if I did.  I am really happy that I got the coat.  I am pretty sure that the coat my son has been wearing will still fit him next winter, but this one will be waiting in the wings in the event of a growth spurt or if he just needs a backup for some reason or it will be hanging in the closet for the following year.  Either way, that is one expense taken care of and something I don't have to be on the lookout for.  Great deal in my opinion!

So, all in all, I feel we are doing okay and I am still confident that we can stay within our budget for April.  As I said before, I will not lose any sleep if I go a little bit over, but I am determined to stay within just because I know I can.  There is only a week and a half left in the month and we still have plenty of stuff in the house, including produce, so I am tickled that everything is working out well. 

On a different note, this is something that brought a huge smile to my face and I thought I'd share it with you all.  One of my friends, who also happens to be a reader of this blog, went to the store last week and spotted this magnetic notepad and surprised me by sending it in the mail.  To say I was delighted is an understatement!  Thank you again, my friend!  That was such a nice surprise and really made my week!  :)

We are busy as usual but I am finding some time here and there to take a few breaks and goof around with the kiddos.  This picture is not very bright, the lighting was pretty bad in the room because the window was behind us, but here is a "selfie" (Hee Hee- I'm giggling because I've never used that word before!) of me and my little ladybug.  :)

I hope you are all enjoying your week!  :)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Meal Plan for the Week and Some Gardening

Hello There.  Happy Sunday!  :)

Today is a "Sunny Sunday" in our neck of the woods and we are lovin' it!!  :)

I got a lot of outside stuff done this week.  I cleaned out the flower garden that was already here when we bought the house.  I don't know exactly what will pop up from there but I cant wait to find out!  Someone obviously put a lot of work into this and I am going to do my best to maintain it. 

Not sure what this is going to be.  Any ideas?

Daffodils, perhaps?  Tulips, maybe? 
Whatever it is there are LOTS of them.  This picture only shows a small portion of them.
I'm pretty sure this is Rhubarb! 
I know nothing at all about Rhubarb, growing it or cooking it, so I have quite a bit of research to do.
Rhubarb Pie- Here I Come!  :)

We also got our seeds planted to try to grow some of our own veggies this year, so we are excited about that.  My husband has been working on things all over the house and found some time to make one of the boxes so we can get the strawberries started.  I think it came out really nice!  As for the veggies, we are not planting a lot this year, it's kind of a test run for us.  If it works out well then next year we will plant a lot more.  My husband also surprised me and bought seeds for chamomile (he thought they were seeds for my favorite flower, which is a daisy, but it's the thought that counts!!) so I am going to try to grow some chamomile, which is great because I drink chamomile tea sometimes before bedtime.  I wanted to try my hand at growing an herb garden but I am going to wait until next year to do that.  Right now we have too many things going on and I don't want to overwhelm myself with too much.  Next year we will be more settled in and I will give it a whirl.

Making one of the planting boxes

Finished Product.  This one is for the strawberries.


I got a lot of inside stuff done this week too.  Aside from all the usual chores I did some things that don't usually get done as often, as well as some deep cleaning in the rooms that we use most.  I am liking the weather we've been having and the ability to hang my laundry on the clothesline again, although I am only hanging blankets right now because my whole bucket of clothespins disappeared!  I know I hung things up in the fall and had the bucket out then, I just cant imagine where that bucket disappeared to and I have looked everywhere.  Crazy, right?!  If I cant find it soon I will just pick up a package of clothespins the next time I go to Dollar Tree and when I eventually find the bucket I'll add them in with the rest.  You can never have enough clothespins, can you?

The kiddos have been enjoying the outside weather too.  They spend a good part of their day playing in the yard, eating lunch outside and they even are enjoying most of the chores we are giving them to do in the sunshine.  This weekend we have been blessed with temps in the 70's and today it is in the low 80's, which is wonderful because we have no humidity so we can really enjoy it.  We built a fire the other day (using our wonderfully frugal homemade fire starters!) and we made Smores with the easter marshmallows I got on clearance at Aldi- I didn't realize they are flavored marshmallows and I was surprised to find I made a lemon flavored Smore and it didn't taste too bad at all.  It was interesting.

Picnic Lunch in the Yard
PB& J on Crackers and a Snack Tray

This past week we went a bit off track with the meal plan.  I had planned one day to eat leftovers but we ended up eating leftovers for 3 days instead.  Our appetites were smaller this week and we ended up stretching the food much farther than I thought it would go.  I am not complaining about this at all!  I feel like we had a few free meals in the week and some of the meals I had planned can get carried over into another week, so that is a nice way to save some money and also saved me a lot of time that I didn't have to spend in the kitchen.

So, Here's What's Cookin' in our Kitchen this week, in no particular order:

Breakfasts: Cold Cereal, Yogurt, Fruit, Farina with Raisins, Oatmeal, Eggs and Toast

Lunches: Leftovers (most days), Cold Cut Sandwiches or BLT's, Salad, Raviolis (Spinach and Cheese flavored- I got this bag of Ravioli's on clearance at Aldi a while ago)

  • Lo Mein, Pork Egg Rolls (I didn't make this last week)
  • Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Carrots
  • Baked Chicken Cutlets, Rice, Sautéed Green Beans and Onions
  • Rice and Beans w/leftover chicken added in
  • Crockpot Vegetable Minestrone Soup, Biscuits
  • Pancakes, Fruit
  • Buffet Night @ Home (leftovers)
Desserts/Snacks: Popcorn, Rice Cakes (the caramel corn rice cakes I got from Aldi are really good!), Cookies, Fruit Tray, Veggie Tray, Fig Bars, Smores, Cheese and Crackers, PB&J on Crackers, Banana Bread

I have been trying to incorporate a few strategic types of meals in my weekly plan.  For the plan above here are those types listed out:
  • a crockpot meal Vegetable Minestrone Soup
  • a pot of soup/stew with biscuits or sandwiches on the side Vegetable Minestrone Soup
  • a meatless meal (usually breakfast for dinner or homemade pizza night) Pancakes/Veg Min Soup
  • a leftover night Our Buffet Night at Home
  • a quick/easy meal (20 minute or less prep time- such as tacos, burgers, rice and beans, etc.) Lo Mein meal/Rice and Beans meal
By the way, I have been meaning to mention this for a while now.  I like shopping at Aldi very much (as you well know!) and I have always made it a practice to regularly check their product recall page on their website.  I have done this for years for whichever store I frequently shop in, and there have been a couple of times where I did buy a product that was recalled.  I just mention this because I am not sure how many other people do this type of thing, but I always feel it is a good safe habit.  Anyway, I thought I would put that out there.  :)

So, what is on your menu for the coming week? 

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend and you have a week ahead filled with many blessings!  :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Grandma's Baked Zucchini Recipe

Hi There.  Happy Wednesday!  :)

I've been wanting to share my Baked Zucchini recipe for a while now, but I always forget to take pictures of the finished product whenever I make it.  (Note: I took most of these pictures the last time I made a double batch of this to share with some neighbors, which is why it is in an aluminum pan and it looks like there is a lot in there.)  So, here we go:

  • Vegetable Oil to coat bottom of baking pan
  • 2 medium Zucchini, sliced very thinly into coins (it really does not matter how many or the size- it's all about how much you want to make)
  • half a sliced Onion (again, it's all about your taste and how much you want to use)
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning (I am somewhat generous when seasoning this dish, but you don't have to use much to make it tasty)
  • 2 Eggs, beaten (the more zucchini you use, the more eggs you may want to add)
First, I coat the bottom of a 13 X 9 inch baking pan with some oil.  Then I layer half of the sliced zucchini in the pan.  Then I layer the sliced onions on top, followed by the other half of the zucchini.  Then I season with salt and pepper.  I cover this with foil and bake it at 350 degrees F for about 50 minutes, or until the zucchini is completely tender. 

When the zucchini is baked I take the pan out of the oven, drain as much liquid as I could out of the pan, and then stir it all up with a spoon.  Then I pour the beaten eggs over the top of the zucchini.  Without covering it this time, I put it back in the oven and bake it for about 5 minutes or until the eggs are set.  When the eggs are cooked and set I take the pan out of the oven and stir it all up again with a spoon.
This baked zucchini is very tasty all on it's own, as a side dish or to eat in a sandwich.  I can make a whole meal just out of this and be very satisfied.  This is a dish that my grandmother (my father's mother) used to make often and it took me many years to work up the courage to try it.  As a child, it didn't look very appealing to me.  But once I did taste it for the first time I was a goner and I'm pretty sure my grandmother had to double the recipe from that point on because of me.  :)
This, along with making Zucchini Bread, is one of my favorite ways to use Zucchini.  With summer coming and this being one of the things we hope to grow, I am very excited and looking forward to making this easy and frugal dish more often.
How do you like to cook Zucchini?
Happy Cooking!  :)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Meal Plan for the Week

Hello There.  Happy Monday!  :)

Do you ever have a day where you feel unbelievably productive and it seems that you get more done in that one day than you did the entire week before?  Today is one of those productive days for me.  I am on such a roll today that I even managed to post a meal plan for the next week.  Another thing accomplished today!  So, here goes:

Meals for the Week (in no particular order):

Breakfasts: Cold Cereal, Bagels with Cream Cheese, Waffles, Oatmeal, Yogurt, Fruit

Lunches: Leftovers from dinner (most days we have this for lunch), Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches, Egg Salad (we're still eating up the easter eggs we dyed)

  • Baked Italian Sausages, Seasoned Potatoes and Carrots, Baked Zucchini (will post a recipe soon for the zucchini- it's my grandmothers way of making it and it's been a favorite in my family since I was a little girl)
  • Crockpot Chicken Thighs, Mashed Potatoes, Spinach seasoned with some butter and salt
  • Lo Mein, Pork Egg Rolls, Sliced Oranges
  • French Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Strawberries
  • Cheeseburgers, Oven Fries, Salad
  • Chicken Pot Pie (I have chicken pot pie on the meal plan but we still have leftover pork from last week so if nobody finishes that off for lunch in the next day or two I may just use that in the pot pie instead of chicken.  Or I may dig up whatever else I can find, like leftover veggies, and make a pork stew instead.  We'll see what happens.)
  • Buffet Night @ Home (a fancy title we use for cleaning out the fridge and eating up all the leftovers.  We line everything up, buffet style across the counter, and everyone grabs a plate and fills it with a little bit of this and a little bit of that and heats up their plate.)
Desserts/Snacks: Strawberry Shortcake (I made a pound cake on Sunday to use for this), Sliced Fruit and Cut Up Veggies, String Cheese Sticks, Popcorn with Cheddar Powder Seasoning, Ice Cream, Peanut Butter on Crackers, Smoothies, "Pumpkin" Bread (it's actually made with the leftover mashed butternut squash from last week, not pumpkin, but I put in the pumpkin pie seasonings and call it pumpkin bread because nobody will eat it if I call it butternut squash bread.)

So, remember when I said I am trying to incorporate a few strategic types of meals in my weekly plan?  For the plan above here are those types listed out:
  • a crockpot meal Chicken Thighs
  • a pot of soup/stew with biscuits or sandwiches on the side Possibly making Pork Stew instead of pot pie
  • a meatless meal (usually breakfast for dinner or homemade pizza night) French Toast, Eggs, Fruit
  • a leftover night Our Buffet Night at Home
  • a quick/easy meal (20 minute or less prep time- such as tacos, burgers, rice and beans, etc.) This could be either the Burgers night, the Breakfast night or the Lo Mein night since all of those meals are pretty quick and easy to put together
So that's our plan for the week.  I wrote out a plan for the whole month of April and, as you know, I did all my shopping for April so I am diligently sticking to the plan and so far things are working out very well.

I hope you are all having a nice week and some yummy meals are in your plan too!  :)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

April Grocery Shopping and Budgeting

Hi There.  Happy Thursday!  :)

Yesterday was a spendy kind of day.  I didn't plan to get as much as I did, but sometimes that's how it goes.  Although I did more than I originally wanted to, I am happy with the things I got so I cant really say I regret anything.  I now have to be SUPER careful to not spend unless absolutely necessary if I want to stay within my budget for the month. 

Although I had already gone shopping this month I knew I was going to have to get more groceries besides what I had already bought.  We have been eating up a lot of our pantry and freezer the past couple of months, so restocking groceries here and there has been helpful in replenishing what we've been using.  The first shopping trip I did this month found us getting a lot of things that we were out of/in need of and this current shopping trip provided us with everything else we need to complete all the meals I have planned out for the rest of April and a little beyond. 

My first stop was Walmart.  This stop was mainly for household items and personal items.  In Walmart I purchased: Folgers coffee, parmesan cheese, lasagna noodles, 2 boxes Ziti, a box of instant oatmeal packets, zip-top storage freezer baggies, trash bags, razor blades, a few personal care items (which I think was the majority of what I spent at this store), a package of socks for my son and I was thrilled to find a clearance rack of boys sweatpants for $1.00 a pair!  My son is in a stage where he does not care about style, he cares about comfort and he only wears sweatpants to school.  As long as he looks clean and neat for school I don't mind this at all.  When I saw this rack I scoured for his size and came up with 8 pairs of sweats for him to wear next school year!  I was also thrilled that they were not all the same color so he has black, light grey, dark grey and dark blue to rotate.  I had mentioned this bargain to my grandmother on the phone and she verbally smacked my head and said I should have thought to scour the rack and get some in the next size up as well.  Yeah, she's right, I should have.  I just didn't think about it at the time.  Oh well, what can ya do.  While at Walmart I also picked up seeds in the garden section for Butternut Squash and my daughter talked me into getting the Pumpkin seeds so she and her brother can try to grow their own pumpkins.  :)
Total spent at Walmart $63.15.

My next stop was Aldi (of course!)  This is where I got the rest of the groceries for the month (with the exception of occasional purchases for fresh milk, bread and produce.)  At Aldi I bought:

Meat: package of (12 count) burger patties, package of deli-sliced ham, bag of frozen chicken tenderloins

Produce: baby carrots, bag of gala apples, bag of naval oranges, 4 containers of strawberries, mushrooms, 2 blocks of frozen chopped spinach, cantaloupe

Dairy: package of string cheese sticks, butter, margarine, gallon of whole milk, 8 Greek Yogurt cups, cup of Rice Pudding

Bread: loaf of white bread, bag of corn tortillas, bagels

Snacks: 2 cake mixes, bag of rice cakes, fig bars, carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream

Everything Else: tarter sauce, soy sauce, jar of spaghetti sauce, frozen steak fries, yellow mustard, 2 packets Taco seasoning mix, a box of frozen pork egg rolls, bag of sugar

Drinks: none

Household Items: 1 roll of paper towels, 15 cans of cat food

There were a few things in this trip that I probably will not need for this month (such as some of the meat) and there were more splurges in this trip that we didn't really need, but I have been wanting to try the caramel corn rice cakes for a while now and I thought I'd get the rice pudding for my husband to try out.  I also wanted to get a box of the egg rolls to try out as a side when I make lo mein (it will feel more like a Chinese restaurant dining experience- haha!)  The kids have been asking for homemade chicken nuggets so I got the bag of boneless, skinless tenderloins to make that easy on myself- all I have to do is cut them up, bread them and fry them.  Honestly, there were several items that I felt I could have gotten at a better price, but I wanted to just get the bulk of my shopping done and over with.  I have some target prices and I know several items I did not get at those target prices, but I counted the cost of either getting them now and getting it over with or waiting until they go on sale and going back at a later time.  If the store was closer to my home, I definitely would have waited it out, but in the end I decided it wasn't worth it.  And I am relieved that I don't have to think about shopping much more for the rest of the month.
Total spent at Aldi $73.53.

My daughter and I were hungry after this shopping so we stopped at Burger King on the way home and got the 5 for $4 deal.  It included a Bacon Cheeseburger, 4 piece Chicken Nuggets, a Medium Drink (we got Root Beer), a Box of French Fries and a Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I had the burger, she had the nuggets, we split the fries and the drink and she got the cookie.  We were stuffed when we were done.  I thought we got a good deal and a decent amount of food.  Total with tax was $4.22.

After all of this, my husband had an appointment and stopped at Walmart later in the day, since he was passing right by it.  He needed a hair cut and beard trimmer for himself (which I am not counting in my grocery budget!) and while he was there he bought a bag of strawberry plants to grow (which I will count in the grocery budget, since it technically is food.)  We had a small strawberry patch in PA and always enjoyed it so we wanted to have one again here in WI.  My husband (who I had also told about the sweatpants deal I got, as well as the conversation with my grandma) took the time to scour what was left at that point on the sweatpants clearance rack and came up with 2 pairs of sweatpants in the next size up for our son, plus 2 more pairs in the size after that.  Hooray!  He made my grandma (and me) very proud.  Haha.  :)
So, between the strawberry plants and the sweats he spent about $14 total.

Okay, so total spent for yesterday was (drumroll...) $154.88.  YIKES!!!  Okay, so where does this leave me?
Total spent first shopping trip in April: $118.12
Total spent this shopping trip: $154.88
Total spent for groceries and household items in April (so far) $273.00

You know what, I'm really not worried.  Even though we are only one week into the month, I am okay with it.  I guess I should be worried about going over the budget but I'm really not because I don't think I will.  The reason I am not at all concerned is because I have a carefully thought out meal plan and I now have everything I need to carry out that plan.  If I didn't have a plan I would probably be biting a few of my nails, but I am confident in what I put together for the month.  That really is a great feeling!  I still have almost 30 dollars for milk and fresh produce and bread and I am sure I can stay within that amount.  If I end up going a little bit over, which I am determined not to, I am not going to lose any sleep over it- I will just deduct it from next month.  So, whoo-hoo!  My grocery shopping is pretty much done and I can focus on other things.  :)

While planning my menu this month I made sure to leave at least one day a week open for eating leftovers and I tried to match the meals to what we have going on during the month- on busy days I planned on crock pot meals or dinners that are quick and easy to prepare.  On days we didn't have much going on I planned on meals that I can devote more time to cooking.

Each week of my meal plan I try to include one day of each of these:
  • a crockpot meal
  • a pot of soup/stew with biscuits or sandwiches on the side
  • a meatless meal (usually breakfast for dinner or homemade pizza night)
  • a leftover night
  • a quick/easy meal (20 minute or less prep time- such as tacos, burgers, rice and beans, etc.)
So, that's my April shopping update.  Do you have many months where you cut it close or go over?  Do you usually deduct it from the next month or do you just shrug it off?  Please share- I'd love to know.

I hope everyone is enjoying their week!  :)