Menu Plan Monday

I can not believe it is the last week of January already. Where did this month go. 2010 is already 1/12 over. Wow!

We have been moving so we ate out a couple times last week (it all fit in the budget though). Regardless these meals are in addition to what I have left to make from last weeks menu.

Bean and Bacon Soup
Philly Cheesesteaks
Orange Chicken
Dirty Beans and Rice
Chicken Pasta Bake
Stovetop Chicken Bake
Meatball Subs
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Hamburgers and Pasta Salad (ground beef was on sale .99 a lb at Safeway)
Beef Enchiladas
Beef Stroganoff
Baked Honey Lentils and Winter Squash

To see what other people are indulging in click here.

Safeway Buy 4 Get $4 off

Last night I was reading all about how people saved money at Safeway this week. Everyone was able to get fruit snacks and cereal for cheap or FREE!!
It got me all excited and I had to try.
Heres how I did:
9 Honey Nut Cheerios (1.50 ea)
2 Life (1.00 ea)
2 Cinnamon Toast Crunch (1.00 ea)
1 Instant Oatmeal (1.50)
6 Fruit Snacks (1.00 ea)
6 Fruit Rolls (1.00 ea)
2 Fruit Stickers (1.00 ea)
1 64oz Half and Half ($3.49)
1 32oz CoffeeMate ($3.79)

Total Before Sales and Coupons $96.70
Total of Coupons and Cats used $80.22
Total After Sales and Coupons (OOP) $16.48
Total Percentage Saved 82.9%

Sounds like a success to me. 2 things I would like to note about this trip. 1-I stuck to my list (no straying at all!!!) 2-We needed CoffeeMate and Half and Half (without it we would have spent only $9.20 and Saved 89.7%)
I have not posted many of my trips this month because we were moving and things were hectic. I set our budget for $200 for this month. Even with all the eating out we did during the move we still came in under $200.

If you would like to see how others did shopping this week click here or here.

Menu Plan Monday

We have such a stocked pantry right now that I feel the options for dinner are endless. With that said, because I am so creative with what we have I find it hard to be able to quickly narrow it down to what we are going to have for dinner.
Here are the options I have come up with for this week
(We do breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at home)

Biscuits and Gravy
Swedish Meatballs and rice
Chicken Alfredo
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
Chili Beans and Rice
Sloppy Joes
Philly Cheesesteaks
French Dip
Orange Chicken
Chicken Pasta Salad
Breakfast Scramble
Breakfast Burritos
Beef and Barley Stew

I never specify breakfast, lunch, or dinner because we just have no idea what we want when. It seems to work better for me if I just have a list to choose from.

Not So Great....But not too bad either

This week I went to Walmart for a quick trip of "staples" shopping.
Nothing exciting and no coupons either. Just basics.

1/2 & 1/2 - $1.38
Creamer - $2.48
12pk Rolls - $1.50
2 Loaves Bread - $1.88ea
2 4pk Toilet Paper - $1.26ea
2 Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage $2.68ea
1 Yellow Onion .50

I spent around $20 for this week and will not need to go back to the stores until this weekend. Thats pretty exciting for me. Now if only next week can be as good.
I am finally done moving (not yet unpacked, but moved) maybe I will be able to focus on some coupons next week as well.

Keep Cooking.....

I am always running into this problem in my kitchen…

Every time I make a recipe it turns out different.

Here is a wonderful excerpt from my favortie cookbook More-With-Less:
“Recipes are not sacred canon. They exist only to lure us into the kitchen. The real recipe writing begins when I check what is in our own cupboards, how much time I have, what we are prepared to spend, what we feel is responsible, and what we like. Substituting what I have on hand for a missing ingredient not only is more economical, but far more creative then running to the store. Great recipes are born this way.” Doris Janzen Longacre (1976)

This is so true and should be followed by everyone. Not always do you need to follow a recipe to a tee. When I am baking I find it more important to follow exactly, but when I am cooking every day, I let my pantry be my inspiration. Cooking should be fun. It should not be stressful. Have you ever noticed that when you cook and are angry the food is never as wonderful as when you are relaxed and calm. If you are ever out of an ingredient think about what you do have that you can use that will taste just as good. Do not worry about it and give up just because you do not have shallots (for example). Just pull out an onion and use some instead. If you do not have fresh garlic used powdered. If you have no garam masala use a blend of spices in its place. There are many uncommon ingredients that we just do not carry. I use my own ideas to create substitutions, or if I am really stumped I go online and do a basic search. I find so many handy things like how to make buttermilk when you have none, or what to use in place of an egg when you are out.

Keep an open mind and do not be overly ambitious when starting out in the kitchen and you will find that it becomes easier and easier. After a few substitutions and mix ups you will be a natural. After much more time you will wonder why it is not second nature to everyone. And whatever you do, do not stop cooking!

New Years & Grocery Shopping

I am going to try much harder to shop wisely this year. Not only am I going to pay more attention to prices, I am going to buy more simple ingredients and cook much more from scratch. I find that it is going to be much healthier for us as I can see exactly what every meal is made up of. I know I will keep on hand many convenience items such as: scalloped potatoes, stove top stuffing, hamburger helper, rice o roni, but I will use these only very occasionally as a way to stop us from eating fast food. They will be there for nights that we are super starving or just way too tired to cook.

I am determined to become a more creative cook and be able to come up with meals we love. I am going to create meals that we are able to freeze and just pull out and bake. My life in the kitchen will be simpler over time once I come up with a menu standard, but until them I am super determined not to give up. I am doing this for my family, our budget, our waistlines, and our happiness. I plan on posting more successes along the way, and also disappointments when they occur.

This weeks shopping list

Milk (Gallon) $1.99
Bread $1.79
Cheese 2lbs $5.99
Canned mushrooms .99 (x3)
Lunch meat $4.99 (B1G1 Oscar Meyer 16oz)
Cucumber .59
Bell pepper $1.50
Half and Half 1 Qt $1.99
Coffee-mate 1 Qt $3.29
Canned Chili Beans .80 (x2)
Canned Kidney Beans .80
Gallon Water .95 (x3)
Total Spent $31.01

I was amazed. I stuck to everything on my list. I did not buy extra, and I have a meal plan for this week. I hope that I can keep this up.

Mozzarella Cheese Disaster!

I tried following an instructables to make mozzarella. It looked fairly easy and I had all the ingredients so I set out to try.
I sterilized everything, I used the stainless pot, I had a thermometer, my milk was not Ultra-Pasteurized, and my cheese did not work.
I could not get it to solidify enough. The thickest it got was about like runny sour cream or thick yogurt.
In further reading on other sites (mainly the one with the cheese queen) I think I figured out what I did wrong. The highest temp that you can pasteurize milk used to be around 90 degrees, now it is closer to 105 degrees. Because of this when heating the milk it needs to be brought to a higher temperature when adding the rennet for the chemical reaction to work.

After much disappointment and online research I think I am ready to try again. I just need to buy more milk from the store. I will post my next try with pictures and update on my progress. I am going to sucessfully do this, I just hope it is sooner rather than later.