Menu Plan Monday

I know!  I'm late again.  I have a very sound excuse though.  We've been out of the house the past two days, going to and fro.  Yesterday was purely pleasure.  We drove to Athens to see Katie and Sam.  Today was purely business: errands, meetings, etc.  Both days we left home in the morning hours and didn't return until sunset hours.  Looonnnggg days!  Needless to say, no meals were prepared except a grab and go sort of breakfast.  We've eaten out two days in a row.  Ack!  Time to rein in the budget.  February is a big birthday month here in our home.

So time to get my frugal on.  There are, as you know, many ways to save, but one of the easiest areas to save is in the kitchen, specifically, food.  Stretching meals, serving a little less meat, increasing fruits and vegetables, baking, but most of all PLANNING.

Tuna Melts, French Fries, Tossed Salad, Tangelos
I was putting away some pantry items (WHOLE chickens in a can, yet, by Sweet Sue packing company), when I spied the cans of tuna.  I thought of all the things I make with tuna in the summer months and  then I thought of how less often we eat it in the winter.  Why is that?  We like tuna.  Tuna melts are a great winter/cold weather sandwich.  They are terrific with tomato or potato soups.  I'll opt for the fries since our weather is warming up a little this week.

Black Bean over Yellow Rice, Pineapple Salad, Chocolate Pudding
Made from scratch black beans have such a nice smoky taste.  I used to use a ham bone to season black beans but nowadays it's smoked beef or turkey, just enough to season them and a tiny bit of liquid smoke to add depth.  Top with sour cream, shredded cheddar, diced green onion, fresh cilantro if you have it.

Black Bean Burritos, Corn, Green Salad with oranges and Avocado dressing
I like to have an encore dish from my black bean leftovers. While I list them back to back here, we won't eat them that way.  I'll serve this dish later in the week. I will mix the beans and rice, add in red bell peppers, a bit of sauteed zucchini and it makes for a very hearty filling for tortillas. I have avocado in the freezer that I'll thaw and mix into a creamy dressing to go over the salad.

Fancy Pants Burgers, Spaghetti, Green Beans, Salad,  Muffins
I love this recipe.  It's easy, it's vintage and it's delicious.  Two thin (very thin) meat patties are put together with a slice of cheese in between.  Seal the edges, brown on both sides, then pour over an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce.  The sauce is terrific over potatoes or rice or pasta.   

Barbeque Chicken, Sweet potatoes, Coleslaw, Corn muffins
Every now and then, when John is working, I'll bake a sweet potato for my supper.  I've always loved a hot baked sweet potato on a cold day.  I usually just eat them with butter, but a few weeks ago, I added a drizzle of real maple syrup...Oh MY!  That was awesome and I'll most certainly be serving these potatoes with maple butter.  I'll drizzle a bit into my homemade barbeque sauce as well.

Chicken and Noodle Soup, Baked Apples w/ cream
I have a good bit of chicken broth and a packet of tidbits of chicken meat.  I'll add in some of the lovely mixed vegetables we bought and make my own noodles.

Polska Kielbasa, Creamed Cabbage,  Pickled Beets,  Potatoes with onions
John loves pickled beets.  I usually just buy plain old beets and then make Harvard or pickled beets for him from those.  Potatoes cooked with onions are so simple, but put them together in a pan and people come to see what is cooking. My dad always called them 'German Potatoes' but I've no clue why.  I do know how good they are though.

Randomness - Thoughts That Wander Through My Mind

I've been busy of late, hence the majority of the posts have related to food or savings.  It's a normal enough focus for January for me.  I tend to be a bit singleminded in my pursuit of things.  In the home, I've been busy de-cluttering areas that had begun to bother me.  I haven't really begun de-cluttering, have wandered from one area to another and tackled those areas that were the most irritating.  My writing time usually comes at the end of a long busy day and I'm still super-focused on household things then.

Earlier this week I began to feel a bit irritable and antsy.  Nothing seemed to satisfy me, everything was a source of frustration in some way.  I came to the blog three, four, eight times to post and went away without writing so much as a word.  And then it occurred to me the source of the trouble:  I was out of balance again.  I hadn't had a coffee chat or written a post on my spiritual observations.  I was all one thing and one thing only.  That's why I originally gave up Penny Ann Poundwise and why I found her so constricting and uncomfortable.  But I see now it's not that old persona that is the trouble, it's me.  I can be too single-minded at times, too focused on one thing and nothing else.  It's that little edge of obsession that creeps in now and then.

Now, of course, I recognize that what I need is to post random bits.  So here goes:

A Year of Savings:2013

January 15:  I had a kitchen prep day today.  That's when I take time out of my schedule to spend extra time in the kitchen.  When I chop vegetables, I chop double the amount needed.   When I pre-cook meat for one dish, I go ahead and pre-cook extra meat for a second dish, etc.  Today, I made Sweet And Sour Chicken for our dinner.  I diced a second chicken breast for another meal and stir fried it, since my second dish starts with cooked chicken.  Chopped broccoli to steam for our dinner and chopped extra to go in that second chicken dish.  Chopped onions for three meals, chopped carrots, peppers, etc.  There isn't a monetary savings in this but there is a time savings.  I may be a full time homemaker but I stay full time occupied and where I can save time, I've saved myself a little stress or created a little room for reading, spending time with John, or watching a favorite show without multi-tasking.

January 16:   Sold the last of the pecans.  I had 13 pounds.  I've already added this savings into the budget for last week, but I wanted you to see that follow-thru is the most important part of any savings.  If I had just let them sit on the deck I wouldn't have had that last bit to add to my annual income.  And this was true savings, it's going right into the bank for vacation. Earned $9.75.

Are Coupons Worth It?

I had a question from Karla this week:    

I notice from your menu plan that most of the foods you prepare/cook/plan are not processed foods (which is very helpfully inspiring). What percentage of coupons do you say you actually use from the paper since so much of it is processed foods? That's the only reason I stopped getting the paper but I'm thinking of signing back up for it to use the savings. 

You're perfectly right that we eat more whole foods/basics than we do processed.  That's because I like knowing how to pronounce the majority of what I eat, prefer to control our sodium and sugar (I'd rather have a handful of homemade cookies or a handful of chips than sugar/salt I hadn't planned to eat).  But make no mistake there are many ways to save with coupons besides food, like those other things that tend to get lumped into our grocery budget (pet food, cleaning, paper products, personal care items, etc.).

I confess that my current interest in coupons is three-fold: #1. I'm inspired by "Extreme Couponers" even though I don't think I'll ever have the stockpile that some of those folks have.  I just can't imagine it.  I do understand that many of these ladies also provide for shelters and foodbanks in their areas or send care packages to soldiers, but I just don't believe I see a need in my life for dental cream when I don't have dentures, etc.  I can't fathom the number of products they buy...BUT I learn a few things every time I watch that program.

Menu Plan This Week

I have been so happy to spend so much of my time at home this week.  I've accomplished something every day except Wednesday when I was out with Mama and that was just sheer 'I don't wanna', because I had plenty of energy and time to have done anything I wanted.  January to me is the perfect month to declutter and re-organize and re-think what isn't working.  So far I've cleaned out more stuff than I thought possible, considering I pretty much have de-cluttered twice a year at least.  I'm not a pack rat, but...well, things do accumulate and now and then it's good to see what you have, discover what you'd forgotten, think about what you own and what you're letting own you, etc.

I can't say I'm anywhere near done, because I've only done a bit here and bit there, not even finished one entire room yet (scarey thought!) but I can say that what has left the house hasn't hurt my feelings one little bit.  I look forward to continuing this project until I've been through every room in the house. 

I've been  more on target with my menu this week.  I think because I really thought about what I'd like to eat this past week.  I didn't take into account exactly how much some of these meals make, for all that they were low on meat.  There was enough Sweet and Sour Chicken for John to have a portion for his dinner on Wednesday.  I still have rice left (it's very good stirred into pancake or muffin batter by the way).  Then the Shepherd's Pie we had today for dinner is definitely going to serve us again.  Instead of making Chicken Gnocchi Soup, I made Spaghetti Diable with the second chicken breast and half that went into the freezer for a future convenience meal.  There's enough Cheeseburger Soup for another meal despite my eating it for supper.  Amazing, truly, how food can stretch!

A Year Of Savings: 2013

January 8:  Pancakes from scratch are easy peasy to make.  I do keep pancake mix on hand (nice to have for those emergency mornings when I have no milk or eggs) but for the most part I make them myself.  I freeze extras for other mornings when time and hunger command a super fast breakfast.  I can  microwave or toast as I choose.  A box of frozen pancakes costs about $2.50 on sale.  From scratch pancakes cost less than $.75 to make.  That's a savings of $1.25.  And note that $.75 price nets us TWO meals.

January 9:  I really don't remember doing it but I did and I'm glad, because my husband decided it proved how very smart I am.  What did I do?  Last spring we had to replace the tires on the Honda.  John was working at the time and I was alone when the purchase was made.  Apparently I opted to purchase a warranty/insurance on the tires.  Normally I wouldn't do any such thing.

Just before my roadtrip I asked John to check air in the tires on my car.  While he was doing so, he went ahead and checked the tires on the Honda as well.  That's when he discovered a four inch slash on one of his tires.

Weekly Menu Plan

I felt like such a slackard last week coming up with a menu plan so late...and then we barely even followed it.  I don't think we ate more than one or possibly two of those meals.  Some weeks it is just that way.  This week I've put more time and thought into it and I hope that indeed we do stick to the menu plan.

I didn't get to make my potato soup, but Patsy asked especially if I'd post my recipe.  It's really not a recipe per se, just my tossing things into a pan, but here goes:
Potato Soup:
 Boil four cups diced raw potato in chicken broth to cover until tender.  Salt well.  Add a little minced garlic (1tsp or so), 1/2 cup diced onion (or skip and add in green onions later) to the potatoes while they are cooking.  When potatoes are tender, add 1 can of evaporated milk and four ounces of cream cheese.  Smush and mash potatoes around in the liquid as the cheese melts.  Depending on how thin the mixture is you can add instant potatoes to thicken slightly.  Serve as is or add finely minced green onions, cooked crisp bacon, shredded cheddar, sour cream, etc.  I usually end up with just enough soup for three servings (we eat big bowls and very little sandwich, lol).

Now, that done, let me get busy with this coming week's planned menu.  It's very warm and pleasant here in Georgia at the moment, but supposed to turn off cold once more, so I've planned two soup meals this week ahead.  We'll see how that goes.  If it remains warm we probably won't have soup but once.  I'll figure out an alternate meal using the same ingredients.

Leftover Makeover- Lasagna Rolls

I haven't done a Leftover Makeover post in a while.  This was not my idea, but one I found on Pinterest and in the interest of not just pinning but DOING, I realized this would be a great way to use up a bit of homemade spaghetti sauce.

A few weeks ago, I made spaghetti sauce while John was sick. It was cold and blustery outdoors and he was sick with a cold and what is better than homemade spaghetti, loaded with vitamin C and the good carbs and rich sauce that make a hearty meal?  So while the sauce was simmering, I was pinning...and I saw this pin on a friend's board.  It occurred to me that I had a partial box of lasagna noodles in the cabinet (a leftover from a previous meal) and that I'd definitely have leftover sauce because I always do.

When I boiled my spaghetti for the meal, I let inspiration lead me to a 'savings'.  I laid out the lasagna noodles in a 9 X 13 pan.  When I drained the spaghetti, I set the colander in the pan with the lasagna noodles, removed my colander, covered the pan with a cookie sheet and we had dinner while the lasagna noodles soaked in the water from the spaghetti.

My Frugal Week/ A return to A Year Of Savings

(c) Blue House Journal

A few years ago, when I was still Penny Ann Poundwise, I spent a full year totting up the savings I made.  I did this for two reasons.  First, I was inspired by a January magazine article that said if I followed every single step I could save $5000 in a year's time.  I discovered that I already DID do everything on their list.  And second, I was doubting my value as a homemaker at the time. I had to see on paper exactly what my being at home meant to our household.  There were some huge savings that year, once in a lifetime type savings, but also lots of little things that I didn't even count as a daily or weekly occurrence but as a one time only thing.  Still, the figure at the end of the year surprised and delighted me and really boosted my confidence in my skills as a homemaker and a frugalite.  I saved  about $27,000 by my skewed figuring back in 2008.

Menu Plan? Oh Dear

I've been missing in action here and at home this week.  Gone for two days and spent today recovering (and catching up on the bare basics).  It wasn't until John mentioned grocery shopping that I realized I hadn't even made out a list...and that's when it hit me that I hadn't even made out a menu!  I'm three days behind and I feel every single bit of it.

Well, no problem menu wise at least. I can manage meals just fine, only need fruit and salad makings for those.  In fact, my pantry/freezer situation at present is such that I no longer plan  meals around the grocery list,  I just go by the pantry/freezer inventory lists.  It's only when I'm trying a new or seldom used recipe that calls for a special ingredient that I make out a grocery list that is meal specific.  I really like this way of planning meals!  There's seldom a panic as I gaze at our basic ingredients and goods because all of them translate right into meals.

I cooked a roast Saturday in the oven while our dinner baked alongside.  I like doing things in the frugal way.  It was so cold that the warmth from the oven was most welcome in the house (score two on frugal).  I was still so travel weary today I forgot the roast sitting in the fridge, so that's definitely going on the menu right away...and we'll build the menu from there.

Roast Beef and Gravy Open Face Sandwiches, Oven Fries,  Coleslaw

Turkey Kielbasa, Steamed Cabbage and Potatoes, homemade Applesauce
The applesauce uses up some apples that have been lingering instead of getting eaten as I'd like.

Cubed Steak, Mac and cheese, Mixed Salad, Breadsticks
John brought home the bread sticks for us.  I have just enough macaroni cheese in the freezer to use as a side dish.

Chicken Fried Rice, Broccoli, Clementines
I will have to buy chicken to prepare this dish, but I've plenty of broccoli and clementines on hand from last shopping trip.

Creamy Potato Soup, Toasted Rueben Sandwiches
I saw a menu plan in a magazine and they used turkey in place of the pastrami or corned beef that is normally in a reuben.  My first thought was that I'd like that very well:  it's so much less salty than either of the other two meats.  And we always have turkey sandwich meat on hand, so no special purchase required.

I discovered the trick to a really creamy potato soup quite by accident last year.  I was using up odd bits from the freezer and dumped in  partial block of cream cheese.  Katie was visiting with us at the time and it was agreed by all at the table that it was the best potato soup I'd ever made.  I happen to know there's a partial block of cream cheese in the cheese basket right now, so potato soup is definitely on the menu.

Veggie Pizza
I have planned to purchase tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach, have tri color bell peppers, onions on hand.  I won't make a salad.  I consider this a complete meal as is with the vegetables, cheese and bread.

Cincinatti Style Chili, Green Salad, Corn Muffins
One of my favorite ways to extend chili and make it seem less soup more meal.  It's a great budget meal anyway you look at it.  I'll offer chopped green onion, shredded cheddar and oyster crackers to top.  It's also a great meal to prep ahead and serve later.

Diary for July: Week Two

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