Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 15-31: Buying and Eating

We started August with a monthly allocation of $381.61 and a cushion of $178.94, giving us $560.55.  The first half of the month we spent a total of $70.74.  That left us with $310.87 of the monthly allocation and the $178.94  cushion.

What we ate:
Hummus, crackers, grapes and brownies; Greek salad, pasta salad with turkey, watermelon, grapes; leftover hamburger from the freezer, pasta salad with mozzarella, shortbread cookies; Greek salad with hamburger and blue cheese on top; Pulled pork sandwich, corn, potato chips;  baked potato bar, peas, sauteed cherry tomatoes with onions and mushrooms, garlic cheese bread;  Alfredo noodles with ham; smoked sausage with baked beans and corn; beef, bean and rice taco boats with rustic tomato salad and fruit for dessert; tuna chowder with crackers, tomato sandwiches, peaches with blackberries; chicken salad stuffed tomatoes, grapes, corn on the cob; orange glazed pork, potatoes Anna, steamed broccoli, watermelon; eggplant Parmesan with pasta, rustic salad and garlic bread; leftovers; spaghetti squash with Asian peanut sauce, peaches and peas

As you have noticed, meals were simple while I was in the hospital and recovering.  Nothing wrong with simple meals, but I do like to throw in a  "Sunday dinner" on a regular basis.  Maybe soon.

What we bought:
CSA:  lettuce, peaches, tomatoes, potatoes (5 lbs), beets, colored sweet peppers, cucumber, green beans, acorn squash $12
CSA:  potatoes ( 10 lbs), cherry tomatoes, strawberries ( about half were frozen), cucumber, cantaloupe,  Hungarian peppers, yellow sweet peppers $12
CSA:  strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, peaches, blackberries, corn, spaghetti squash, onions, eggplant. $12
CSA:  peaches, tomatoes, raspberries, butternut squash, broccoli, green peppers  $12

SaveaLot:  grapes( 2.5 lbs. ) , ground turkey ( 3 lbs) .    Total: $4.52

Bread Store:  cinnamon raisin English muffins, regular English muffins, Monk's rye bread, cracked wheat and oats bread, seasame seed bagels  $ 5.35

Aldi:  crackers; sliced cheese (3); deli ham, turkey; shredded cheese (2); cream cheese (2); eggs (2); Parmesan cheese; Greek yogurt. $28.01

Giant Eagle:  goldfish crackers  $0.99

SaveALot:  bologna $0.99

For the second half of the month we spent $87.86.  So, the total spent for the month is $158.60.  That averages out to $5.12/day this month.  Thank heavens for stockpiles.

 We are left with $223.01 of this month's allocation to add to the existing cushion.  So, our cushion now stands at $401.95.  Love it!  I see turkeys, hams and baking ingredients being added to our stockpile in the near future.  :)  That's my happy face.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pickles, Pickles, Pickles

Here are some great and easy pickles to use up your extra cucumbers and/or zucchini.  You may never buy pickles again.  Also, these make great gifts.

Dill Pickles:
2 c water; 1 c vinegar; 1 Tbs canning salt-  bring to a boil
In each sterilized jar place 1/2 tsp alum; 2 Tbs dill seed; 3 cloves of garlic
Leave small cucumbers whole or cut larger clues into spears or slices;  pack cucumbers into hot sterilized jars;  fill with the hot liquid and top with sterilized seals and bands; water bath seal
If there is one that doesn't seal, refrigerate and use first.  If you don't have cucumbers use zucchini.

Candy Dill Sticks:
Cut cucumbers in sticks and cover with boiling water; Let stand in water for four hours;  drain; pack cucumbers into serialized jars with 1 Tbs dill seed;
Cover with the following mixture that has come to a boil:
3 3/4 c vinegar; 6 c sugar; 3 Tbs canning salt; 4 1/2 tsp turmeric; 4 1/2 tsp celery seed;  3/4 tsp mustard seed
Top with sterilized bands and seals; water bath seal
Aunt Evelyn's tasty pickles.

16 cups shredded zucchini, skin on
2 cups chopped onion
5 Tbs canning salt
Mix together in a large bowl.  Let stand overnight, covered, on the counter or in the refrigerator.  In the morning, drain and rinse well.  Let drain thoroughly while , in a large pot you mix together
2 chopped sweet peppers, I like to use red for contrast but green is cheaper
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1 Tbs nutmeg
1 T turmeric
1 Tbs celery seed
1 Tbs mustard seed
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbs corn starch
Bring mixture to a boil, add zucchini mixture, let simmer for 15 minutes.
Pack into sterilized jars and top with sterilized lids and bands.
Process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.
Makes 8 pints.
I shred and freeze the zucchini until I have enough to make the relish.

Bread and Butter Pickles:
5 1/2 cups thin sliced cucumbers
2 1/2 cups thin sliced onion
1 1/2 Tbs canning salt
Combine and chill for 1 1/2 to two hours
Drain, rinse, drain
In a large pot mix the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup vinegar
1 1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp turmeric
Add cucumber mixture and bring back to a boil
Pack in sterilized jars with sterilized lids and bands
Process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes
My grandmother's favourite pickles.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Freezer meals the super easy way

The idea of freezer meals has always appealed to me.  But, traditionally, you need to set aside an entire day for cooking and freezing.  Therein lies the problem.

I can't seem to find an open day to cook combined with the ambition to do so.  More often than not it is the ambition that's lacking.

But by inadvertently over cooking (I seem to be unable to just cook for two) I can put extra meals in the freezer for quick meals on busy night's.  These meals are also good for when money in the budget runs out before the month does.  :)

Mooshu, fried rice, partially cooked burgers, salmon burgers, cheeseburger scalloped potatoes, soups, chili, stew, refried beans - they all end up in my freezer awaiting their turn to reappear on the dinner menu.

Over made breakfast items can also be frozen for quick meals later.  Think muffins, pancakes, coffee cake, scones and breakfast burritos.

I make extra inadvertently but you could do it on purpose and reap the same rewards.  Sound good?  Happy cooking.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Make Them Thrifty

When manufacturers make something for you, you will pay a high premium over the cost of the ingredients.  A bottle of salad dressing or a jar of meat rub to season your ribs costs MUCH more than the cost of the ingredients alone.  So why not try making some of these things at home.  Here are some definite money saving possibilities.

Memphis Dry Rub for meat:
1T paprika, 2 tsp chili powder,  3/4 tsp salt,  1/4 tsp dry mustard,  1/4 tsp garlic powder,  1/8 tsp pepper

Kansas City Dry Rub for meat:
2 T Brown sugar,  1T white sugar,  1T  chili powder, 1 tsp cayenne, 2 T paprika, 1 T garlic powder, 2 tsp black pepper,  1/2 tsp dry mustard

Chocolate Syrup:
1/2 cup cocoa powder,  2 cups sugar, 1 cup water,  1/8 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients but vanilla.  Heat and boil 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and stir

Catalina Dressing:
2/3 cup ketchup,  1/2 cup sugar,  2/3 cup oil,  1/2 cup vinegar, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 T finely minced onion

Bleu Cheese Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise,  1/4 cup buttermilk (or rev milk with a small amount of vinegar added),  1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 c cottage cheese, 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 tsp salt, 1-2 ounces bleu cheese

Ranch Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup buttermilk ( or milk and vinegar mix), 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 Tbs minced onion, 1/8 tsp cayenne, 2 tsp dried parsley, 1/4 tsp garlic powder

10 Second Mayonnaise:
1 egg, 1/2 tsp salt,  1 cup oil, 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 2 Tbs lemon juice
Mix with an immersion blender for ten seconds until thick

Friday, August 18, 2017

Make Overs for Leftovers in Your Budget

Almost everyone has turned leftover baked beans and grilled hotdogs into beans and franks.

Or turned a little of this and a little of that into a comforting soup or stew.

Recently, I made applesauce BBQ chicken,a  Taste of Home recipe, using leftover cinnamon applesauce from the freezer, leftover chicken and BBQ sauce I got for $1.00.  I served it with the leftover potato salad from the night before and a simple vegetable.  Three leftovers made another different and delicious meal.

Another time, I used flour to thicken leftover vegetable soup and turn it into a pot pie.  With a little extra onion for added flavor, this leftover made a new meal.

I made kale salad with lemon vinaigrette recently.  The next night, I sauteed the leftover salad in oil with some garlic to turn it into a great side dish:  garlic sauteed kale.

Leftover green salad with Italian dressing was recently  pureed and became the flavorful base for Italian vegetable soup.

Leftover rice and meat regularly becomes either a rice pilaf or fried rice.

Leftover veg  and meat, with some added milk and eggs, turns into quiche.

Leftover corn or baked potatoes or both is turned into a chowder.

Coleslaw leftover from your picnic meal can go on top of pulled pork (or chicken) sandwiches.

Once piece of ham becomes a family meal when cubed and tossed with pasta and peas in a light cheese sauce.

One or two leftover hamburgers can feed a family of four when turned into cheeseburger scalloped potatoes.

Small amount of leftover roast beef can be a family meal when you turn it into a cheese steak pizza.

Get creative with recipes.  Improvise if you don't have the exact ingredients listed.  This gets easier the more you cook.

Eat more makeovers and have some leftover money in your budget at the end of the week.  That's a win.

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 1-14: Buying and Eating

With August's 31 days, our monthly allotment is  $381.61.  Our carryover is $178.94, for a total available of  $560.55.

What we ate:
Tuna macaroni salad; pasta with peas, chicken and pink sauce; leftovers as we prepare for a vacation;  family prepared meals while on vacation;  grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with chips and fruit; leftover pork, pasta salad, corn, toasted bread;  pasta salad with turkey and peas, cheesy bread, brownies

What Groceries We Bought:
Eggs, 8 lb. turkey breast, 7 lb. boneless pork loin. $22.39. (We saved $25.31 by shopping the loss leaders.  Fifteen pounds of meat for $22, the eggs were 39 cents.  On average, $1.47/ lb.)

Meals Out:
Lunch at Ruby Tuesday between doctors appointments. $5 (used a coupon and shared)
Lunch with Pat, our  $14.54
Dinner at Subway on way to lake  $3.94
Mike lunch after golf. $6.99
Lunch at Taco Bell on way home from lake. $5.28
Lunch with Ginger. $12.60
 Total meals out:  48.35

We spent $22.39 on groceries and $48.35  for a total of $70.74.

We have $310.87 of our monthly allotment left, plus all the cushion of $178.94.

I'm posting this a day early since I am having surgery tomorrow.  I didn't want to not post.  See you later.  Shop well, Eat well.  :)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Extreme Frugality

Some frugal ideas may sound too extreme for some to try.  But, others need to be a little more extreme to balance their budgets.

Below are some ideas some may embrace but others will say no way.  It's up to you.  Frugality is different for everyone.


1.  By hand, empty and reuse your vacuum cleaner bag.  I have been doing this for years and have never had a problem.  On occasion I have even reused it twice.

2.  Wash and reuse your Ziploc bags, except those that contained meat.  I wash mine with my kitchen towels and add some bleach to the load.  A box of bags lasts me a LONG time.

3.  Save cereal bags and reuse them as you would waxed paper.  I haven't bought waxed paper in years.

4.  Wash and reuse barely dirty aluminum foil.  It really isn't hard.

5.  Reuse coffee grounds a second time by adding an additional half of the usual amount on top of the used grounds.  You can get two pot for only 1 1/2 the usual amount of coffee.  And truly, unless your taste buds are really sensitive, you will never taste the difference.

6.  Cloth bathroom paper and intimate articles that are washed and reused.  You stop buying toilet paper and feminine hygiene products.  But, you have to deal with the washing of these items.  This was a step too far for me, but maybe not for you.

Now you decide what works for you and your family.  And remember, little savings will, over time, add up to big dollars.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Homemade Extracts for Baking

Extracts are flavorful but expensive.  Why not try making your own?  They are easy but do take some time to age.

Vanilla Extract:
10 vanilla beans split down the middle (I buy mine from Amazon)
1 liter vodka, go for the cheapest
Put beans in the vodka and sit away to age at least three months

Orange or Lemon Extract:
Zest three average sized pieces of fruit, add to 1/2 cup vodka
Age for three months

Almond Extract:
15 chopped blanched almonds, 2 cups vodka
Let age three months.  Strain before use.

Mint Extract:
1 cup mint leaves of any variety, 2 cups cheap vodka
Age for three months

Chocolate Extract:
1 cup vodka, cheap,  1/4 cup cocoa powder
Let age for three months.  Strain before using.

Remember, homemade extract can make great gifts for those who love to bake.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Cook Once, Eat For the Week

If your family likes Mexican food this menu plan is for you.  I use it when every square of the calendar is jammed with commitments.

First, make a HUGE pot of chili using your family's favorite recipe.  I start with dried pinto beans because they are the cheapest.

I usually use half the meat called for in the recipe.  When money is squeaky tight, I leave the meat out entirely, add some beef bouillon, and make sure there are plenty of beans.  If I have them, I use more than one type of bean.

For the first night, serve the chilli as is.

Night two:  cook some pasta, dice some onion, grate some cheese.  Serve the chili over the spaghetti, top with onions and cheese.

For the third night:  puree a scoop or two of the chili to make the filling for burritos.  You may have to strain the chili some so it isn't too moist.

Night four:  strain some chili to use the beans or beans and meat for filling tacos;  Serve with your favourite accompaniments.

Now we are at night five:  Make or buy a pizza crust; slightly strain some of the liquid away from the beans and meat and then puree; spread the puree over the crust;  If desired, dot with salsa;  sprinkle with onion and cheese and bake.

Day six:  We will be using the chili liquid to cook eggs in.  Put the needed liquid into a broad bottom container such as a deep dish pie pan.  Crack eggs into the liquid and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake in the oven at 350 until the eggs are cooked.

And finally, cook the necessary amount of rice needed for your family.  Mix the remaining chili with the rice.  If you want to, stir in some salsa.  Add some onion for added flavor.  Top with cheese and bake until warmed through.

If you have some cornbread, green salad, fruit, tortilla chips and salsa, with some sour cream you are all set.

There you go, a week's worth of meals from one pot of chili.  Happy eating.