March 2017 Low-Budget Grocery Challenge-End of Week 2

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This past week turned out great with the pantry challenge.  I was able to use up quite a few things, and was actually able to re-stock some items.

So, on week 1, we spent $11.50.  We got some cheese and some 1/2 and 1/2.

On week 2, which ends tonight, we bought more groceries.  We spent $16, $18, and $4.50 at 3 different stores, totaling $38.50.  I’m not sure how, but that totals exactly $50 for the 2 weeks, a nice round number. So, since I put $50 in an envelope twice, I now have an extra $50.

I got lots of basics like celery, carrots, 1 head lettuce, 25 lbs potatoes, 4 tomatoes, 6 lemons, milk, 1/2 and 1/2,  6 bagels, 6 English muffins,  2 dozen eggs, onions, 40 tortillas, 3 apples, the bananas, and a few other things.  I hit a Friday sale at a store near my house and got 2 bags full of groceries, plus the bananas for the $18. Rob did Cash and Carry  for large packages of tortillas, onions, carrots and 1/2 and 1/2 for his $16 and the $4.50 was spent at a discount store.  He went in there to get some gum for the kids in his classroom and found the fabulous deal on potatoes.

The items that were put back into the pantry were frozen bananas–there was a bag of very ripe bananas at one store for $2.28 and I got it. We ate a bunch and I froze a quart bag for smoothies.  Rob came across potatoes for 50c for 5 lbs–10c/lb.  I had him grab 25 lbs and am now wishing I had said 50!

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Meals:  There were muffins, cereal, eggs, some bacon and sausage for breakfasts. When Jake is here, he eats bagels a lot.  In fact, the entire bag I purchased on Friday has been eaten by him and some others.

Lunches:  I ground turkey with bread and butter pickles and Miracle Whip for sandwiches and we ate that several times. This was the end of a bag I found in the freezer. Rob always packs a lunch to work and he takes leftovers, sandwiches, fruit, crackers–whatever he can round up. He also takes coffee in a thermos every day.  Patsy packs a peanut butter sandwich daily, and takes fruit, etc. as well.  J and I ate a lot of soup, burritos and leftovers. I made rice and stir-fry on the day my mom came for lunch.

Dinners:  We ate a lot of turkey-rice soup, chili-mac casserole,  chili, a lot of tacos/burritos and refried beans.  We had pizza.  We ate broccoli, green beans, baked potatoes, rice, and lots and lots of beans.  Rob cooked some steak one day while I was gone.

Extras:  I made cookies and Patsy made Rice Krispie Treats for when we had company.  We had popcorn and corn chips.  We also used several odds and ends like partial bags of chips and crackers and the kids had some popsicles that were in the freezer.

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Items used:  Canning: Several jars of home-canned items including peaches, tomato products, green beans, pickles, salsa, jam, applesauce, and more.

Frozen:  hamburger,  steak, turkey from Thanksgiving, chocolate and white chocolate chips, butter, several kinds of peppers from 2015’s garden in re-fried beans, 3 chicken tenders for stir-fry, frozen corn from 2015’s garden, broth, bread, and more.  We carried in several loads from the freezers in the shop throughout the week.  I can start to see a little space in the freezers.

Pantry:  Several pounds of pinto beans, white rice, cereal, marshmallows, baking ingredients like gluten-free flour, sugar,cocoa powder,  etc., spices for cooking such as chili powder and poultry seasoning, gluten-free noodles, coffee, tea, hot chocolate (packets), corn chips, popcorn, peanut butter and more.

We had a church event. My sister was in charge of feeding 40-50 people.  She chose taco bar. I made a lot of refried beans as my contribution, and then enjoyed a taco lunch there. I made 2 crock pots full, and served them to our company as well as church, plus we ate them several times.  J and I ate over at my sister’s house a bit, and we took a few food items over there.  My brother-in-law took J, me and Alissa (his daughter) out for lunch after our homeschool meeting on Friday (we finally had our 1st semester grade meeting).  We took Jake for happy meals a time or 2.  (This is a different fund than my regular grocery budget)    My mom came for lunch one day.  On Sunday, we had friends over and there were 13 of us in all.  We served taco bar for them.   We got the kids a burger and some fries one day while we were out and about.  The funds for that came out of another fund–entertainment, but I thought I’d mention it to keep things real.  Also, sometimes the kids pitch in for something they want that’s not in my budget, such as french fries or a $5 pizza (which they promptly eat) and one day Jake’s mom sent him with money so we could stop and get him something on the road since he had not eaten yet.  Lovana swoops in on the weekends and cooks enough food for the week ahead as she prefers to eat a certain way.  At her new job, she can eat whatever she wants while she is there, but this is the first weekend where she didn’t cook it all ahead of time–just took a box of ingredients from here.  (From here being the pertinent  phrase in this case)

My point is, it all averages out.  If I serve 15 meals per day for 7 days, I am serving 155 meals per week, plus snacks.   I’m putting out ingredients for that many or more even though every one of us does not eat here every single meal.   I am using lots of pantry ingredients, and spending very little money while still stocking up a little bit, so I’m feeling very successful. I’m making a dent in my stockpile, while still grabbing that great deal on potatoes.   I have had to hold myself back from my usual habits of stocking up a lot when I find a great deal–but so far, so good.

I’m going to plan some meals for the week ahead in the next couple of days.  Until I get it done, I’m going to fly by the seat of my pants and plan one day at a time.  I have a busy week, so hopefully, I’ll have some inspiration quickly when I do write the list out.  Until then, there are lots of tortillas and refried beans left:)

 

 

 

My Low-Budget March Grocery Challenge

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There have been some extremely interesting grocery challenges going around on the internet lately.  I love reading what others do and how they experiment.  For instance, Terri, at The Blue House Journal, did a challenge where she bought $20 worth of groceries and cooked with them for a week, on certain days, sometimes skipping a day here and there, but managing to keep within her budget for an entire 7 days.  Then, she did another slightly different challenge.  Jane, at Hope and Thrift, bought $20 worth of groceries and ONLY ate from them for 7 days in a row, without skipping any days in-between.  Brandy, at The Prudent Homemaker, went for the entire month of January without buying any groceries, and ate entirely from her stockpile. She used her menus that she has developed using stored food, for this purpose, and has these menus listed on her website.

So,  of course, I wanted to join in on the fun, but knew none of these options would be exactly right for my family.  I have given quite a bit of thought to what would work for us.

  1.  I want to use up things I already have. I have a huge pantry full of ingredients, home-canned food and frozen food that is getting older each day since I did not preserve last summer, and space needs to be made for fresh garden produce this coming summer.  I have quite a bit of meat as well.  This is my main motivation for this challenge.
  2. I don’t want my family to feel deprived.  Some of my kids suffered greatly when they were little, due to lack of food or whatever, and the “game” is not fun for them, if I don’t be sensitive to their needs. In fact, I may not even tell some of them I’m doing it.  No need for anxiety here.
  3. I want to eat healthy, including lots of fruits and vegetables and staying lo-carb for myself.  It also needs to taste good.  I want meals to stay joyful for the most part, and a time when we can focus on each other, and not be wondering “what is it?” as we watch a few beans swim in a mystery broth with no flavor.  So, I am glad I have a lot of spices, etc. to perk things up with.  I won’t be able to please everyone all the time, but plan to please all of us part of the time, as usual.
  4. It needs to be gluten-free. I cannot tolerate any gluten at all, and so don’t even have regular flour in the house as I get sick when they let the flour puff out onto things and it gets into my food.  After one child cooked a few years back, and I was very sick for 3 days, I threw away the wheat flour.  I do, however, buy wheat bread, etc., and have trained the family to not leave crumbs around that would cross contaminate my food.
  5. I want to be able to take the kids (mine and nieces and nephew) for an ice cream, Coke, etc. on occasion, if I am in the mood.
  6. I want to be able to go to the store and replentish items if I run out, such as milk, eggs, etc.     Although I greatly admire people who can run out of things and creatively manage, our family is pretty stuck in our rut.  For instance, I eat an egg or some other protein almost every day for breakfast and so does Rob.  Patsy eats a peanut butter sandwich every single school day for lunch.  EVERY SINGLE DAY!  So, we don’t want to run out of peanut butter!  Ever!    Also, if I see a really good sale for one of our “items” I will buy more than one so I don’t have to buy at full price later.                                                                           img_4067 I was able to manage nicely during my challenge last summer on $50 per week.  The garden was in full force, though, and that helped a lot.  So, I’m going to put $50 in an envelope each week, and see how it goes.  When I looked through my food items, I was able to find many, many meals that could be made from what I had on hand and many more that would only need 1-2 small items to finish the recipe.  So, I anticipate that my end total will be much less than the $50, at least some weeks.  I will then save the rest of the $50 at the end of each week.  That savings will go towards re-stocking staple items, if I run out, or be saved as cash for summer grocery shopping.  Although we have poured over Rob’s pay stubs, looked at the internet, and he has asked people, no one can tell him exactly how much money he will be paid for summer, so we are preparing now in case it is less than he gets each month now.  Because he works for the school district, they save out some each month now and give it to him in the summer.  We don’t think it’s going to be an issue if we get more than expected.  We can probably figure out a way to spend any extra within the first 5 minutes, should that happen:)

I started this challenge last Tuesday.  I will probably go for 1 month, so through the 3rd week of March, but I’ll see how it goes–I may go longer.

This past week, I made a good start.  I made a gallon can of diced tomatoes into marinara sauce and chili.  I made shell pasta (like lasagna) with meatballs for our family dinner Sunday and Rob packed the leftovers for his lunch today.  I used more poppy seeds in the muffins. I have a bulk bag that is almost gone now.  The poppy seeds are getting old and need to go.  I boiled a frozen mystery bag of meat.  It ended up being a turkey drumstick and thigh and a few bits.  I made soup for dinner last night and will grind the remainder of meat bits in the food processor with some relish to make sandwich filling. I made chocolate chip cookies and used a small handful of pecans I found in them.

In the last week, we have purchased some 1/2 and 1/2.  That’s all we’ve needed so far.  I feel like we are off to a great start.

If you are doing any kind of grocery challenge, feel free to leave a link about it in the comment section so we can all read about it!   Or, just tell us about it.  It’s always encouraging to hear about what others are doing in the fight to make the best of our resources in a joyful, happy way.

Time To Clean the Fridge and Menu Plan

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I made a menu plan a couple of weeks ago.  That week, I cooked a lot of food, and then cruised along on the leftovers this past week.  For instance, I ate the last piece of lasagna last night for dinner along with some green beans.  I did have to cook some things, but it was minimal.  Today, when I went to make a menu plan, I quickly realized I could not make a grocery list because there was NO WAY to tell what I had or didn’t have in that over-stuffed, disorganized fridge.

So, I spent the morning cleaning it out.  I found things to toss.  I found lots of yucky stuff that had gotten tipped over, ran down the fridge, and settled into unidentifiable masses on the bottom.  There were crumbs, smears, and what looked like relish all over the shelves, and plastered to the door, even.  The leftovers were piled in stacks in no apparent order, random things like bowls of rice were piled onto mostly empty bowls of chili…..you get the idea!  So, I sorted, discarded, put contents of bottles together when people had opened new ones even though there was still some in the old one, washed and scrubbed, and ended up with a clean fridge.  Now I know exactly what I have to work with and I had a feel-good morning.  There’s nothing like clearing up a big mess to make me feel virtuous. Then,  I made a menu plan.

I am continuing with the theme I’ve had for the past couple of weeks–clean it out and use it up from the freezers, pantry and canning cupboard in preparation for summer, when I will grow a garden.

Breakfasts are choice of:  oatmeal, muffins, eggs with ham bits, homemade granola, cereal

Lunches are: leftovers such as soup, scalloped potatoes, salad, etc.

Dinners:

Today:  Rob barbecued chicken drumsticks, veggies, brown rice I cooked last week

Sunday:  Not sure yet–my sister and I still have to decide, but I’ll take whatever she tells me to bring

Monday:  Sausage and beans, using frozen pinto beans Rob cooked a few weeks ago, veggies

Tuesday:  Enchiladas, using some meat and bean mixture that was leftover from the chili-mac I made Thursday, veggies

Wednesday:  Roast beef, carrots and potatoes in crock pot

Thursday:  French Dip from leftover roast beef, carrot sticks

Friday:  Beef soup/stew with remaining beef–in Crock Pot

Saturday:  Home-made chicken nuggets, green beans, home-made fries

Veggies consist of my home-canned and frozen veggies, plus a huge bag of carrots I have.  I also have some salad greens and a cauliflower

To Make:  muffins, scalloped potatoes with ham (for lunches when there are not enough leftovers), big container of cut-up carrot and celery sticks for people to munch on, apple crisp with some apples that are getting a little wilty, roasted hazelnuts (from a bag I discovered in the freezer), and Chex Mix.

I need to buy:  1/2 and 1/2, milk, French dip buns, celery, look for potatoes on sale, and a few non-grocery items.  If I see something I regularly use on a super good sale, I may get a few more things, but I’m very pleased with the shortness of this list.  Any extra grocery money I may save will be put towards a Costco trip in a week or so.   It’s not hard to use up excess money.

So, here’s your challenge!  Does your fridge need cleaning?  Why don’t you go see what treasures you discover when you do?  It’s a feel-good job that you can accomplish in a couple of hours and you will feel “oh-so-successful” and thrifty when you do.

 

Weekly Menu for January 31, 2017

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I’ve been away from home a lot lately.  It’s been very fun.  But, now it’s time to get back to reality and get things organized at home.  Yesterday morning, I decided to tackle the menu planning.  I haven’t done any formal menu planning for a while, but trust me, we’ve still been eating.  However, I haven’t been using as much of my frozen, canned and stored food as I would like.  This week is different.

I went out yesterday morning and pulled broth, broccoli, and hamburger from the deep freeze.  I cooked the ham bone I brought home from the retreat, first chopping any little bits off that I could and freezing them for future use.  I then made split pea soup in my Instant Pot with that ham broth.  I still have a lot of split peas from a while back when I bought 25 pounds.  Rob cooked hamburgers with grilled onions for dinner, and saved me some for when I got home from work.  That also used some buns we had.  I had soup for lunch and he took it in his lunch today.  There’s lots left, so I may freeze some.

This morning, I roasted a chicken with lemon and rosemary.  I cut it up for dinner for both our family and my sister’s family.    Then, I cooked a large batch of rice in my Instant Pot, and put the chicken bones in the Crock Pot to make broth.  Chicken and rice is what both families will have for dinner tonight.  I’m eating over there, as I’m going straight to exercise at the Y after work, but left plenty for Rob here.  I made a batch of broccoli soup for lunch, and there is a little left over.

Tomorrow, I’d like to make chicken and dumplings from the broth.  There will be both split pea and broccoli soups available for lunches for the rest of the week, then the leftover chicken and dumplings.  Of course, there is sandwich stuff, salad stuff, and ramen noodles if people would rather have that.  (Some of the kids would, but most of us prefer other choices).

On Thursday, there are some potatoes that need to go, so I’ll do either mashed potatoes or baked french fries.  I’ll do meatloaf with those.  Friday will be leftovers or odds and ends.  On Saturday, I’d like to make a hash brown crust with an egg casserole inside, either for breakfast or lunch and have pizza for dinner. Frozen hash browns were another leftover item that I was given after the retreat.    Sunday, we will eat at my sister’s and we haven’t chosen our menu yet, but everyone will bring something.

With every dinner meal, I will either use home-canned or frozen veggies and/or salad to round it out with plenty of veggies.  I’m not sure if I will bake any desserts or not, it depends on how much time I end up with during the week.  Most weeks, I don’t, but Rob has still not had his birthday cake, due to his tooth issues, and we usually have brownies with football…….Super Bowl is Sunday, after all.

I may change it up a bit, but it’s a good plan and uses things I have on hand, for the most part.  I’ll go get the parts and pieces as needed to round it out. We live so close to stores now, one is only about a block away.  I actually saw a large gap in my freezer, which is great because I have lots of gardening plans for the coming summer!  I’d better keep making room, for sure.

Menu Plan–Week of September 19, 2016

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We’ve had a few rainy days this past weekend, and it’s put me in the mood for chili and other comfort food.  With my life settling down into a routine, I’m also in the mood to plan menus.  When I don’t, I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants every day, and we also tend to spend more money on groceries.   The good news is that we are cooking at home now, as compared to grabbing a bite here and there, as we did during the end of the summer as we fixed up the new house and moved in.  My crock pots are unpacked and have already been put into use and I plan to use them a lot this week.

Monday:  Leftovers (choice of roast beef, lasagna, and some meatballs from my sister) I also made football brownies–a long-time family tradition for Monday night football, which Rob enjoyed for the first time in over 10 years tonight!  We get t.v. now:)

Tuesday:  Beef stew–made from home-canned beef broth and the small amount of leftover roast, veggies.  I will put it into the crock pot early in the day. I work early in the morning for 2 hours, then 4 hours after school, so I need a crock pot meal.

Wednesday:  chicken wings, rice, green beans:  Ja’Ana has some frozen wings she had us pick up, since she likes to make sticky wings on occasion.

Thursday: Home-baked fish sticks (I have some tilapia in the freezer), tater tots, salad

Friday:  Chili

Saturday: Leftovers.  If there are not enough, I’ll pull out a mini tuna casserole I froze when I made it last week.

Sunday:  I’ll organized that with my sister closer to the day as I have a chance to see what we come up with together.

 

 

Menu Plans–June 23, 2016

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I feel like I’m finally getting adjusted to living in the camper and am ready to make some menu plans.  So far, I have been flying by the seat of my pants–eating and using whatever needs to be used next.  To some extent, I will continue to do that because space is at such a premium.  If there are any leftovers, they have to be used before I cook more food or there is no where to put it.  So, here’s a tentative plan for the next week.

Friday:  We will eat the lovely crab Rob caught.  I will probably make Crab Louis with it, as I have lots of lettuce, eggs and Thousand Island dressing on hand. For dinner, I am making a small pork roast in the crock pot.

Saturday:  Pack a lunch for the road, as we are traveling back to the valley again, this time to stay at my sister’s for 10 days.  For dinner, we will eat leftover pork roast and whatever garden produce is ripe when we get back, most likely lettuce salads.

Sunday:  I need to make a plan with my other sister for our family Sunday dinner.  For the evening meal, we will have something light, such as salads or leftovers.  If there are not enough, we can make burritos or tacos from frozen refried beans I have.  I need to put beans on to soak for Monday.

Monday:  I want to make a pot of refried beans in the crock pot.  I have all of the ingredients.  I use soaked pinto beans and water, jalepenos (or whatever peppers I have), and onion, and cook all day, then mash.  The onions and peppers add flavor, but not much heat.  I salt and pepper to taste.  My kids love them and will eat beans and cheese constantly.   Lunch:  soup  Dinner:  Beans, cheese and salad–maybe leftover meat if there is any left

Tuesday:  Chicken:  I made a new marinade this week and we grilled it at the beach.  It was so good, I want to make more:)

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Wednesday:  Lunch:  leftover chicken, sandwiches or salads   Dinner:  trout, potatoes, salad  (we still have 1 meal of trout left from our fishing trip–frozen, of course)

Thursday:  Lunch:  leftovers or soup   Dinner:  grilled steak salads.  I saw a recipe in the Pioneer Woman cookbook I’d like to try.

This week will be busy, but not too busy–just perfect.  Ja’Ana is going to be a junior counsellor at a day camp, ran by the church we are attending.  She will need to be driven down to church (about 1/2 hour trip each way) every morning and picked up each evening.  That will mess with dinner, but if I have things marinading, Rob can barbecue while I’m driving, or I can cook while he is.  We are excited for her to have this opportunity, so it’s worth the driving to us.  We also have a few appointments, but thankfully, not many.  I hope to work on the garden some more, and might pick some blueberries at an u-pick patch.  I will also be watering flowers for someone on a few days when I drop J off.  We will probably go house hunting some more as well.  This menu plan will help on those busy days.

 

 

Menu Plans-May 27, 2016

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For the last week, since we’ve moved, we have tried to eat all of the extra food that was in the fridge and the freezer connected to the fridge at the old house.  At the last minute, at my direction, all extra food was crammed into 2 coolers and brought over to the camper.  I purposely left extra food in the freezer to defrost for this past week, but I misjudged and left too much out.  Things went very smoothly, so if that’s the worst that happened, I’m satisfied.  Some of the meals included meatloaf, beef brisket on the barbecue, chicken marinated in zippy sauce, and lots of salad from the garden.  Also, strawberry spinach salad was yummy, made from garden spinich and strawberries I u-picked.

Thursday:  Macaroni and Cheese (this was some my sister gave me–yummy!) Sandwiches in the car with some chicken thighs I had cooked before we moved.

Friday:  Tacos with the turkey burger that was thawed.  Other leftovers in fridge.

Saturday:  Hamburgers (there was a pack that finished thawing a couple of days ago)  Also, clam chowder with the clams we caught.  We had not clammed for over 25 years until this morning.  We had great success, had to watch U-Tube to figure out how to clean them, and can’t wait to cook them.

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I have to say, mine is the bucket with only 4 clams in it.  J limited out, with 15, Patsy 10, Rob 10, and me—4.  What a great outing:)

Sunday:  Turkey soup.  I boiled the bones of the turkey legs my sister gave me and have the broth to use.  If Rob wants to cook over the fire, he can, or I will do it over the stove.  It also could become turkey and dumplings. There is also some leftover beef that could be turned into stew or soup.  We may have a potluck for the 4H families that are camping with us.

Monday:  We will travel this day, back to my sister’s.  So, sandwiches for lunch in the lunch pail while on the road.  We never go through drive-throughs while pulling the camper–doesn’t work:)  Dinner:   Leftovers from the weekend.

Tuesday:  Pack dinner.  We need to pick Patsy up from school and will kill the time between school letting out and her band concert by me getting my hair done, and everyone else having a little picnic at the library park.

Wednesday:  Chicken strips.

Thursday:  We will pack food for the road.  We are off to see our very dear friends who live about 8 hours away.  I will take some food, but she will feed us all weekend.

I am still adjusting to the small space of the camper kitchen.  I still can’t find much of anything, but seem to have way too much stuff sitting around.  I’ll figure it out.  We are all eating, and it tastes great, so that’s what matters!