stretchingcents

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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Fruit Smoothies! Fun, frugal and full of fractions :)

Alice got Usborne’s “Start to Cook” cookbook for Easter and she decided the first thing we were goingstart-to-cook to try would be fruit smoothies.  First- let me rave about this book! This is truly a beginners cookbook! It is full of pictures and super simple directions.  The best thing though is that it actually teaches HOW to cook.  For example-  In the fruit section you learn how to cut, peel and zest different fruits! You also learn how to pick out good fruit at the store and the difference between natural and added sugar.

 

For our fruit smoothies we needed strawberries, bananas and pineapple juice.  I didn’t give her ANY help in choosing what we would make, but she happened to pick a recipe that had all its ingredients either on sale, or were already in our freezer 🙂

The price breakdown:

  • Strawberries: $2.00 at Food Lion and we used probably 50 cents worth.
  • Pineapple Juice: $2.99 for 6 cans and we used 50 cents worth
  • Bananas: FREE out of the freezer.  We never seem to be able to eat the last banana on the bunch, so I peel it and stick it in the freezer.  They are perfect for smoothies!!

The total for 3 kid-sized smoothies: $1.00!!! Beat that Smoothie King!

How did I slip in a fraction lesson?? After teaching middle school math for 8 years I had plenty of experience with kids being totally lost with fractions.  I have decided my kids will know their fractions and LOVE them! I try to show them examples of fractions whenever possible.  In this recipe we had to cut bananas in half so I talked about how 1 whole banana when cut in half makes 2 equal pieces.  We talked about where I should cut to make the 2 pieces.  We needed 1 cup of strawberries we so talked about where “1 cup” is on the measuring cup.  We also needed 2/3 cup of pineapple juice so we talked about how that is less and 1 cup, and that 1/3 plus another 1/3 gives us 2/3.  If we needed another 1/3 we would have 3/3 which would be equal to 1 cup!  That’s not so scary is it???

smoothies

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Groceries for the week under $55 at Food Lion! Plus my weekly menu

Today I did my grocery shopping for the week, but the planning started several days ago.  My weekly routine for menu and grocery planning starts on Wednesday mornings over coffee.  Each Wednesday the Food Lion, Kroger and Martins ads come in the paper.  While drinking my morning coffee, I take a pen and circle anything I think looks like a good deal.  If I think I have a coupon for the item, I write “coupon?” next to it.  Whichever store ends up with the most circles is typically where I shop for the week.  Sometime over the weekend I figure out what our week looks like. I then make my menu plan and add anything I need to buy onto my grocery list.  The morning of my grocery run I check my lists, the ads, and then check the store website and Ibotta for coupons.  Yes, it takes me several days to plan my grocery run, but I really only spend a few minutes each sitting.

I’m a little crazy about how my list is written (you can see it below).  I write my list in the order I shop the store, and I include an estimated price next to each item.  As I shop, if an item is more or less than I estimated, I make a little note so I know if I have money at the end for ice cream 🙂  This week I ended up under budget, but we’re saving the extra so we can go out to eat at the end of the week.  (Last week, my groceries ended up being just under $30 so we should have plenty!)

My list:

list.jpg

Things I bought because they were on sale: Strawberries, ham and McCormick spices (they were buy 1, get 1 plus food lion had a load to card coupon for $2.25 off 2. I got garlic powder and chili powder for under a dollar for both!)

Other notes- I didn’t buy the coffee because it was $6. We are running low, but I don’t buy it unless its under $5.  The LUVS diapers would have been a great deal but I left my coupon at home (They are $6.99 and last Sunday there was a -$2.00 coupon).  Food lion wheat bread was on sale for $1.09!! I also didn’t get peas because the kids decided they hated peas and would only eat broccoli. I ended up buying 2 things not on my list: cupcake liners and birthday candles because I forgot I needed them.

The final total: $54.80 ( I paid $49.23 because the milk is covered by WIC) This is for a full week of groceries…I shouldn’t have to go back to the store until next Monday or Tuesday.

Here’s this week’s menu: There’s a lot of ham…

Breakfast- PBJ, cereal, juice fruit

Lunch- nuggets, leftovers, pbj, fruit, crackers, cheese Today we did go to McD’s for Tommy’s last day of spring break…it was in the budget though!

Dinner:

Monday- Ham, Green beans, Mac and cheese

Tuesday- Deer BBQ, left over mac and cheese and green beans. Given to us by a friend! Can’t wait to try it!

Wednesday- Ham and Broccoli cheesy pasta. No recipe for this…I’m just gonna make it up

Thursday- We have Tball at 6, so the plan is to have a picnic at the playground with ham, cheese, crackers and apples

Friday- Chinese stir fry and homemade egg rolls This was on the menu last week but we ended up going to my Mom’s for dinner 

Saturday- Tommy’s bday! Pizza!!

Sunday- Tball pics during our normal dinner time, so the as long as we stay on budget this week our plan is to go out to dinner after pictures

Other- Alice got a cookbook for Easter and has decided we need to make smoothies this week.  I also need to make cupcakes and cake for Tommy’s bday.

 

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A simple way to save money…

A simple way to save on sports drinks...

Right now on Amazon you can get Gatorade mix for $11.93 ($12.01 for lemon lime).  The prices fluctuate from about $10 to $13 BUT it is always cheaper than buying the smaller drinks.  My husband mixes up a big jug for him employees, but we also mix smaller batches in water bottles to take on the go.  (The kids actually call it baseball drink because we only let them drink it when they have a Tee Ball game)

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How to Budget: Getting Started

Updated from January 2012

The number one rule to saving money is not spending more than you have.  The number two rule is knowing how much money you have at your disposal! The best (and maybe only) way to do this is by creating a budget.  It can take months to get a working budget for you and your family, and you will constantly have to update it as life changes.  Tonight I’ll walk you through a few steps to get started.

The first thing you need to do is get an idea of how much you typically spend and create a few categories of spending.  If you are paid monthly it is a little easier to set up a monthly budget.  If you get paid weekly, you may want to start just budgeting for a week, but once you have enough saved where you could hold your checks and cash them at the end of the month the budget process will be a bit easier.  I think the monthly budget is easier since most bills are due monthly.

  1. If you use online banking, go back about 3 months and start making list of what your spend your money on, and how much. If you don’t have a way to look at the past month, just write down everything you spend your money on starting now. You will want to create categories for each expense.  The categories in our budget are:
  • Groceries
  • Fast Food/Eating out
  • Bills
  • Gas/Car
  • Clothes
  • Pet
  • School
  • Medical
  • Baby/Kids
  • Church
  • Savings
  • Other (for us this is usually household type stuff like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc)
  • One Time Expense (when something random happens, like you need to buy someone a gift)

Calculate the average (total for category/ # of months)  you spend on each category,

2) Next make a list of things that cost money that happen only once or twice a year.  Ideally you will put away a little each month so these are covered when the bill is due. Our list includes:

  • Vacation
  • Car insurance
  • Property Tax
  • Christmas
  • Amazon Prime
  • Kids sports (ballet, basketball, and t-ball)

Figure up how much you need to set aside each month in order to have the $$ available when the bill will be due.  (Example- Amazon Prime is $90 per year so 90/12=7.50 so we set aside $7.50 each month to cover this expense)

3) Add it all up, and see if it is equal to or less than your monthly income.   If it is less than what you make celebrate!! If it is more than what you make, see if you notice any areas you can cut your spending, and keep reading my blog for tips on how to get your spending down.  Remember- your only choice if the numbers don’t balance is to spend less or make more!

Attached is a great document to use when calculating your monthly expenses.

Cash Flow Plan

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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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My Top 10 Ways to Save on Groceries

Friday I posted on Facebook that my family spends about $65 a week on groceries.  I received so many comments from people asking “How?” that I decided it was time to revive this blog.  A few disclaimers about our grocery budget and my methods though

  • I don’t stick to my budget every week sometimes I’m under and sometimes I’m over but I do average $65.
  • We do receive WIC for my 2 youngest, so really my out of pocket money per week is about $55.
  • $65 is only for groceries.  I buy all my paper products, diapers etc at drugstores and off amazon.
  • My tips will only work if you want them to.  I would love to spend more per week on groceries, but my motivation is knowing that when I spend less, my husband can work less and we get more time together as a family.
  • Don’t freak out if your budget is way over $65 a week, set a goal to maybe save $20 this week. (You do have a budget right??? If not- I’ll post about that later)
  • I’ll go into more depth about each of these tips later.

Ok Here are my top 10 ways to save:

  1. Have a plan: I make a “menu” each week so I know what we are eating for each meal.  If there is a busy night I plan for a quick meal (quesadillas, salads, etc.).  If I know we’ll be out during a meal time I pack a lunch and we have a picnic in the van or at a playground.  This prevents us from being tempted by fast food!
  2. Make a grocery list and stick to it! My kids know if its not on the list we don’t buy it.
  3. Use the sale ads: Each week I scan the ads to see what’s on sale.  You need know your prices though so you know when you see a good deal. For example- I know that at least once a month Martins puts grapes on sale for 99 cents a lb, so that’s the only time we buy grapes.
  4. Stock up on sale items: When you see a good deal, buy as much as can fit in your budget and pantry/freezer.  For example- now is the time to buy hams. I will probably buy 4 or 5 and we’ll eat them until next Easter 🙂
  5. Cook! Don’t buy pre-packaged things you can make or assemble yourself.  Examples- microwave dinners, lunchables, sauce mixes.  Yes it might take more time, but cooking is so much cheaper and usually healthier! You also can have leftovers for lunch the next day.
  6. Learn to cook what you crave: Early on we realized we spent a lot on eating out, so I just learned to cook some of our favorites! Some things I’ve mastered to the point where I like mine just as much are pizza, steak, egg rolls, shrimp scampi, chicken marsala, cupcakes, friend chicken and french fries (<– my favorite food is french fries so it totally made sense financially to buy a deep fryer!)
  7. Bribe yourself: If I am under budget by the time I get to the end of my list I buy ice cream.  If we are under budget at the end of the month we use that money to eat out.
  8. Drinks: This may not be for everyone but we pretty much only drink milk, apple juice, tap water and coffee.  My husband loves soda, but we only buy it when it is less than 70 cents for a 2 liter. We do drink wine occasionally but its not a significant part of our grocery budget.  We don’t drink individually bottled juices, sports drinks, water and juices.
  9. Buffet Night- If you cook, you have leftovers and “buffet night” sounds so much better than leftovers.  I line up all the containers into groups of “meat”, “healthy” and “other” and the kids have to pick one from each category. They think its fun!
  10. Coupons: I hardly ever clip the coupons from the newspaper for grocery items but I do check the store website for “load to card” coupons.  I have found the “store brand” items often come out cheaper.  I also use the app “Ibotta” to get cash back.  It’s super easy to use and I can give you a referral code so we both get money!
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My first post after 5 years!!

Butler 5

Wow! I had pretty much forgotten about this blog I started roughly 5 years ago! I do have a draft of a post I wrote 3 years ago when I had decided to be a stay at home mom and thought I’d have the time to blog again (ha!).  Anyway, 5 years and 2 more kids later, we are still working hard at saving money!

My husband and I have been pinching pennies pretty much our entire married life.  Shortly after getting married Zack decided to go back to college and we lived on whatever he could make roofing during the summers and my teacher salary.  During this time we racked up several student loans but managed to stay free of any credit card debt.  After he graduated with a degree in Physical Education he couldn’t find a teaching job right away, and our oldest son was frequently sick, so it just made sense for him to start his own construction business so he’d have the flexibility to be at home when needed.  For the first time we both had full time jobs!! About a year later though we found out we were pregnant with child #3! After doing the math we discovered we would loose money by me teaching and paying for daycare for 3 kids.  Once again we were down to one income.  This time around though we are 5 years wiser,  significantly poorer, BUT happier than we have ever been!

My blog posts this time around will be more about how busy families can live on less.  I’ll focus on ways to save money, make money, budget and just be content with what you have!  Enjoy!

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How to get a credit if you lost cable this month in the storms…

Today is the 19th of July and so far this month I have been without cable and internet for 14 of those days (hence the lack of posts on my blog!)  We lost our cable during the June 28th storm and then got it back for a week, and lost it again due to some other problem I never really figured out.  Today I called Comcast to see what kind of a credit I could get and they said they can either give you premium channels for 3 months or a credit for each day you were without cable.  Because I like to get as much for free as possible, I asked for a credit for the first outage and premium channels for the second.  They agreed with no fuss!  I highly recommend you try and save a few $$ by seeing if your cable or internet provider will do the same!

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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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