stretchingcents

$79.31 for a week of groceries (plus diapers) and my menu for the week.

IMG_20170424_121757108This week I went I spent a little more than I would have liked, but if you subtract out the cost of diapers (about $9 for 2 packs) which comes out of the “kids” portion of my monthly budget I didn’t do too bad.  Here’s what I got at Food Lion this week:

  • Carrots- $1.79
  • Watermelon- $2.99 It rolled behind the chips in the picture
  • Lemon- $0.79 Why? Because Alice insisted she wanted a lemon with her lunch and didn’t believe men when I told she wouldn’t like it I thought I’d go ahead and let her try…she no longer likes lemons (unless they are in water)
  • Lettuce- $1.59
  • Mushrooms- $1.59
  • Dried Cranberries- $5.59 Cheaper than fruit snacks!
  • Coffee x 2- $4.99 each
  • Juicy Juice x 2- $3.10 for both They were B1G1 
  • Green Beans x 9 – $0.50 each
  • Canned corn x 2 – $0.50 each
  • Canned peas – $0.50 Again Alice insisted she likes canned peas but I’m pretty sure she won’t.
  • Large can of beans- $3.59 I need this for an event this week
  • 5 boxes of cereal- $11.13 total This is NOT a good price on cereal but I get 27 oz free a month on WIC.  Unfortunately the cereals I am allowed to chose are not very healthy so we eat the free cereal for snacks instead of breakfast.
  • Peanut butter x 2- $2.17 each It is cheaper to get the larger containers, but this is the size I have to get for WIC
  • Tortilla chips- $1.97
  • Sour Cream chips- $1.49
  • Store brand wheat bread x 2- $1.06
  • Nature Valley wheat bread- $3.39 Free on WIC, otherwise not a good deal!
  • Cupcake liners- $3.48 Why are they so expensive?!?!
  • 1% Milk- $1.39
  • Whole Milk – $1.49 Both milks are free on WIC
  • Luvs- $3.99
  • Huggies- $4.99 I had a -$3.00 coupon

Total after tax: $79.31 Total after WIC- $57.03

My Menu for the week: Note- many of our dinners do not appear super healthy, BUT my kids eat crazy amounts of fruits and veggies during the day as snacks so at dinner my goal is to get protein in them.

We ate out at our favorite Mexican Restaurant Sunday night (El Paso). We always have leftover rice and beans which we bring home and incorporate into our dinners during the week.

Monday- Nachos, Corn, and fruit.  We use the leftover rice and beans from Sunday and top with cheese to make a yummy nacho dip.IMG_20170424_172320892

Tuesday- Big Salads- Lettuce, ham, hard boiled egg, cranberries, sunflower seeds, cheese, carrots &  homemade croutons.  The kids usually eat just the “toppings” for dinner. See my recipe for croutons below.

Wednesday- Spaghetti and Salad (leftover from Tuesday night)

Thursday- Quesadillas, corn, and salad.  Quesadillas will be made with cheese mixed with the rest of the rice and beans from Sunday

Friday- Carnival at the school- We will either eat dinner there, or have a frozen pizza at home.

Saturday- PBJ, fruit, and chips picnic at the playground since we have a late Tee Ball game

Sunday- Homemade fried chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes.

Homemade crouton “Recipe”:

My kids refuse to eat the heals of bread, and frankly I don’t like them either! I save all the heals in a bread bag in the freezer.  Once the bag gets full, I either make croutons or french toast casserole!

To make croutons:

  1. Cut bread into squares
  2. Season with olive oil and spices
  3. Toast in oven set at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes flipping every few minutes.  Careful! They go from not done to burnt super fast!
  4. Store in tupperware container or freeze in a gallon size ziplock.  To use from frozen- pull out what you need and toast in the toaster oven until warm.

 

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Ham and Broccoli One Pot Pasta Dinner, plus other tips for getting the most out of a ham (or turkey)!

IMG_20170419_170828373I posted awhile ago that Easter is the time of year to stock up on hams.  Well I did, and this week my little family of 5 is eating one!  If you have ever tried to eat an entire ham or turkey with just your family, you know you tend to get sick of it before it’s all gone.  Here are a few ways we like to stretch the meat as far as possible without eating the same thing every night for 2 weeks.  Almost all of these ideas work for hams or turkeys.

Dinner #1: Cook the ham following the package directions and serve with sides.  For our ham I cooked it for 25 mins per pound in a casserole dish with a little water and covered with foil.  For our first dinner we just eat the meat sliced off the bone.

What to do with the leftovers: First, cut all the meat off the bone into a mix of sandwich slices and cubes and place in fridge.  Next, for ham I take all the juices and put them in a mason jar into the freezer to use as ham stock or bean juice later.  I wrap the bone and freeze it to use in pork and beans, or soup later. (Once its been boiled for soup or whatever I give it to the dog!).  Save the fat to use in green beans if you like to eat your beans that way.  For turkey, I take all the juice, fat and bones and put them into a large pot and boil for about an hour.  Then strain the juice and freeze in mason jars to use as stock later.

Other Dinner ideas:

  • Sandwiches
  • Toast meat with slices of cheddar on triscuit crackers for a yummy snack.
  • Combine meat, noodles, veggies and stock for soup
  • Quesadillas
  • Salads
  • Omelets
  • Stir fry
  • Fettuccine or some sort of pasta dish See my recipe below

Once you are sick of eating ham or turkey, freeze whatever you have left into family serving sizes to use later.  Already cooked meat is great for a quick dinner night!

My Ham, Broccoli and Cheesy Pasta “recipe”- Done in under 30 minutes and made in 1 pot!

I say “recipe” because I hardly ever use a recipe.  I made this up as I went along tonight so nothing is really exact.  Feel free to message me or comment if you need more details.  It took me about 30 minutes to make this, but that included completely stopping everything so I could go referee an argument over legos, plus several short breaks to stop Isaac from eating blocks, an argument over who had the red cup, and a discussion on why we don’t jump on the back of the sofa 🙂

  1. Boil noodles (I used garden rotini) in a pot with about 2 cups of stock and enough water to cover noodles.  I used a half a box of noodles (about 2 cups) for my family of 5, but you can adjust this amount by adding more or less noodles, stock and water.
  2. Add frozen broccoli in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking noodles. I used chopped broccoli because it cooks quickly.
  3. Strain liquid into a large measuring cup and set pasta and broccoli in a serving dish.  I placed my colander over my big 4 cup pyrex measuring cup to separate the liquid from the noodles.
  4. In your now empty pot, add about 2 tbs of butter and about 1 tbs of flour to create a roux.  Heat until bubbly and then slowly pour in the liquid you saved.  Boil until thick and add about 1 large handful of grated cheddar cheese.  Stir until all melted.
  5. Return the noodles and broccoli to the pan.  Add chopped ham (I used about 2 cups).  Stir until all combined.
  6. Pour everything back into the serving bowl or just leave in the pot!

I served this with buttered wheat toast.  Everyone ate it and liked it so its a keeper!

 

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My Menu for the week.

This week is spring break for my son and the last thing I want to be doing is going grocery shopping with 3 kids, so we are pretty much eating from the pantry and freezer this week. I will probably run out and pick up the few things I need, along with Easter basket stuffers one night after they all go to bed.

Breakfast: PBJs, cereal and milk, juice (My kids ask to eat PBJ sandwiches about 99% of the time, but I keep a box of cereal on hand just in case) Saturday morning we’ll have cinnamon rolls I made a month or so ago and froze.

Lunches:

  • Me & the kids: chicken nuggets, pbj, noodles, clementines, green beans, ham & cheese crackers, leftovers (I’ll let them choose from these choices for lunch) 
  • Hubby: Always takes a PBJ, apple and chips and this week we have leftover brownies so he’ll take those too

Dinner:

  • Monday- Breakfast for dinner- eggs (free from a neighbor!), bacon, canned peaches, and either pancakes or waffles (kids pick)
  • Tuesday- Chinese stir fry (made with speg. noodles, frozen veggies, and stir fry sauce) and homemade cabbage/carrot/chicken egg rolls. (I made a huge batch of egg rolls a few months ago and froze them.)
  • Wednesday- Corn Beef, Cabbage & Potatoes in crock pot (Around St. Patricks day I stocked up on corned beef)
  • Thursday- Fast dinner because we have a church event- Cheese quesadillas, salsa, sour cream, frozen corn. (This is my go-to cheap/fast dinner!)
  • Friday- Fast dinner b/c of T-ball game: Frozen pizza, and green beans (or salad if I still have lettuce that looks good from this weekend)
  • Saturday- Hot dogs, homemade french fries or chips (kids pick) and apples (Hot dogs are from freezer.  We buy the big ones from Costco which are more expensive but so yummy!)
  • Sunday- Easter dinner at my Moms

Other– Plan on dying eggs with the kid and making peanut butter eggs.  Thursday I need to take egg salad sandwiches for an event at church.

Grocery List: clementines, apples, milk, bread, powdered sugar, coffee creamer, hot dog buns, juice

I will probably be under my grocery budget this week, and will most likely use the extra money to buy sale items once the new sales ads come out on Wednesday.  I will also try to save a little back since we have a birthday party to shop for next week 🙂

 

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Red White and Blue cupcakes

      

I made these for the 4th of July.  They are chocolate cupcakes from a box mix ($1.00 at Martins) topped with homemade butter cream frosting (about $2.00).  The white are just plain vanilla butter cream.  The blue are vanilla butter cream with 3 blue berries ($3.00 for the box).  The red I made with a thicker butter cream and mixed in strawberry jam (maybe $1.00?).  Very yummy and it probably cost me only  around $7.00 to make!

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Easy Skillet Chicken and Rice Dinner for under $5.00

This dinner took about 50 minutes to make, but most of that time involved me doing nothing.  It also probably cost me under $5.0o total to make. The chicken comes out super moist and the best thing about this recipe all you have to wash is the skillet and a cutting board!!!

Chicken Skillet Dinner (for 2):

Ingredients

  • 2 Chicken Thighs
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup cooked corn
  • 1 cup salsa (I used peach and mango salsa from costco mmmm)
  • 1 small red pepper
  • flour
  • salt and peper
  • olive oil

To Make:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Coat the chicken with flour and a little salt and pepper.  Place in cast iron skillet with a little olive oil and brown on both sides.  Remove from skillet and set aside
  3. Put brown rice and chopped red pepper into the hot pan and lightly toast.
  4. Add chicken stock to skillet and bring to boil.
  5. Place chicken on top of rice and put in oven for 45 minutes
  6. After 45 minutes, top the chicken and mix corn into rice. (You may need to add a little water to rice if all the stock has been absorbed)
  7. Return to oven for about 5 minutes.  Taste rice to be sure it is cooked- when it is cooked remove skillet from oven and serve.
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Bacon, Tomato, and Green Bean pasta…and a way to use up baby rice cereal

If you are someone who needs to follow an exact recipe…don’t bother trying to make this meal!  Zack was away last night so I was only cooking for one (and a half) and my main goal was to make something that included bacon, and used up the leftover tomatoes and green beans I had.  Instead of a recipe, I’ll walk you through my thought process and tell you what I did since I was making this up on the fly.

Whenever I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to make, I start by putting a pot of water to boil on the stove since just about everything I make includes boiling water at some point. I then hunted through the fridge and pulled out 4 strips of bacon (hard to believe we had leftover bacon!), about 2 cups of diced tomatoes, about a cup of green beans, the half and half, and marsala wine.  I chopped the bacon up and put it in a skillet to fry up.  About half way through I poured off some of the grease so the bacon would continue to crisp up.  About this time my water was boiling and I added 3 handfuls of penne pasta.  Once the bacon was done I drained off almost all the grease, but left a little in the pan to fry up the beans a bit.  After I let the beans cook for a bit, I added the tomatoes and marsala to the pan (enough to cover the bottom).  I let that bubble until it was mostly reduced then added enough 1/2 and 1/2 so there was a layer of it in the skillet.  I realized I was going to need something to thicken the sauce and have found one of the best ways to do this is by using baby rice cereal.  (I have about 3 boxes left and I’ve been testing out all sorts of ways to use it.)  I sprinkled a little over my sauce and stirred until I had the thickness I wanted.  Once my pasta was done I dumped it on my pasta plate and poured the bacon sauce over the noodles.

This may be one of my favorite pasta dishes so far! Even Tommy loved it!

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Easy Chicken in Foil

This is another one of my Mom’s recipes.  It might be one of the first things I learned to cook!  The great thing about this dinner is you can make a dinner for each person in case you have a picky eater (eh hem…my sister)  Mom used to let us decide what went into our foil packets then she would bake them with our initials written on the foil in sharpie.  This dinner also makes an easy freezer meal to keep on hand, or to pass along to someone in need of a meal.

Ingredients you must use:

  • 2 large chicken breasts or 4 small ones
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

Optional Ingredients:

  • Potato slices
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  • anything else you want 🙂

To Make

  1. Place 1 chicken breasts, the veggies and 1/4 the can of soup on a piece of foil.  Top with any seasonings (I use pepepr, paprika and garlic salt)
  2. Wrap foil around food to seal and place in a baking dish (some juices usually leak out)
  3. Bake at 400 for 1 hr 15 mins
  4. Serve over rice

We usually make 2 to eat that night and freeze 2 for later.  To cook the frozen dinners: Thaw in fridge then bake as normal.

 

 

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Dinner tonight: Ham, Applesauce and the easiest homemade Maccaroni ever

Tonight’s dinner was somewhat of a “yellow dinner”.  Growing up we ate this meal frequently so even today I can’t eat ham unless I have applesauce and macaroni with it!  The applesauce was some homemade sauce by my mom so it was FREE 🙂  The ham was an 8 lb spiral ham I got on sale at Martins originally priced at $14.89 in the clearance meat section for $5.21!!!  I plan on slicing some of it thin for sandwiches and then freezing the rest.  The ham had some fat that I’ll freeze and use for cooking green beans later this summer…mmmm.  My macaroni is a recipe I adapted from something I saw in pinterest.  Here’s the recipe:

Easiest and Yummiest Mac and Cheese: Serves 4, done in under 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of uncooked macaroni
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1 cup of whole milk and 1 cup of 2%) +plus a little more milk
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (or 2 handfuls)

To Make:

  1. Put the macaroni, 2 cups of milk, butter and garlic powder in a sauce plan on high
  2. When it just starts to boil, turn the heat to low or medium low (don’t let the milk boil)
  3. Stir frequently for about 7 minutes (until noodles are soft)
  4. Add cheese.  Add more milk to get your desired consistency (I think I added maybe a 1/2 cup)

 

Variations:

  • Use skim milk and less butter to make it a little healthier
  • Use a mixture of cheddar and other cheeses
  • Hide some veggies like broccoli or cauliflower

 

 

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Beef and Noodles with roasted veggies

Tonight’s dinner was not part of my monthly plan but I had some mushrooms and tomatoes that I needed to use up.  Here’s what I made:

Beef and Noodles:

  1. Start pot of water boiling
  2. Dice 1 small onion and 1/2 package of mushrooms.
  3. Heat a skillet of olive oil with 1 clove of crushed garlic over med high heat.  When garlic starts to sizzle add onion and mushrooms.
  4. When water boils add wide egg noodles and set timer for 7 minutes.
  5. Add diced meat to onion mixture (we used deer steaks)  Cook until most pieces are brown.
  6. Add about a cup of marsala wine to skillet (enough to cover bottom) and let simmer about 2 minutes
  7. Add 1 cup of water and 1 tsp of beef bullion to skillet and let simmer about 5 minutes.
  8. Drain noodles when timer goes off and set aside.
  9. Add instant potatoes to skillet to thicken sauce.  We like to have a little of  the mashed potato taste and texture with our beef and noodles, but if you don’t like this idea just thicken with cornstarch.
  10. Add noddles to beef and stir.

Roasted Veggies:

  1. Cook frozen broccoli in microwave about 4 minutes (until hot all the the way through)
  2. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place broccoli and grape tomatoes (cut in half) on cookie sheet.
  3. Drizzle about 1 tbs melted butter over veggies and sprinkle with garlic salt.
  4. Broil until the broccoli just starts to brown.

Dinner took me about 20 minutes to make tonight (but that included unloading the dishwasher at the same time, so I could have gone faster).  It fed two of us and I have enough left over for two lunches.

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Valentine’s dinner for 2 for under $20 made in under 20 mins

One of our favorite things to do for a special occasion is to go to Martins and get really nice steaks from their meat counter.  We had been planning to do this for Valentine’s day for a while, and the rest of the meal actually came together while I was driving to Martin’s.  We had Ribeye steaks with a homemade spice rub, Pasta topped with a portabello marsala cream sauce, and green beans on the side.  We also bought a cheesecake for dessert!  I was able to spend less than $20 making dinner, and it only took about 20 minutes!  I KNOW the two of us could not have had a dinner this nice in a restaurant for this cheap, and I know the wait time would have been longer than 20 minutes! I also personally think the steaks we made were much tastier than many you get in a restaurant, and I know our meal overall was much healthier.  Here’s how you can make it:

Ribeye Steak:

  1. Preheat oven to BROIL
  2. Rub steak with a spice blend.  I used my own pork rub mix which has paprika, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic salt, cumin and pepper.
  3. Place steaks on broiling pan and broil (with door shut) about 4 minutes.  Take them out, flip them, and rub the other side of the steak with more spice mix.  Place back in the oven for another 4 minutes.
  • We like our steak medium rare, so cook a little longer if you want.  You can also have Martin’s marinate your steaks for no extra charge!

Portabello Marsala Cream Sauce: (so much easier than it sounds!)

  1. Slice 1/2 an onion into very thin slices.  Cut portabello mushrooms into slices until you have about 2 handfuls of mushroom pieces.
  2. Place onions and mushrooms into a skillet with a few drizzles of olive oil.  Cook until mushrooms just start to get soft (maybe 1 minute) on med-high heat
  3. Pour marsala wine into skillet until the bottom is coated with about a centimeter of wine.  Cook until it is almost gone.
  4. Put 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1/4 cup water, and 1/4 cup of cream (or milk or 1/2 and 1/2) into skillet.  Mix well.
  5. Bring to a bubble then reduce heat.  Add more wine, or more tomato paste to either thin or thicken sauce.  You may want to add salt and pepper too.

The cost:

Steak: about 2 lbs for $14.22

Mushrooms: $2.99 and I used half so $1.50

Tomato Paste: $0.75 and I used about $0.10 worth

Green Beans: $0.69 for a dented can

Cheesecake: $3.99 (I had no idea they were that cheap…this could be bad!) and we’ll eat about $1.50 worth

I already had the wine, noodles, and onion, but I’ll add $1.00 for those

Total: $17.51!!! And we have enough leftover for 2 lunches

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