Sunday, September 6, 2015

Long holiday weekend

Hey there foodies! Hope everyone is staying safe and having fun on the holiday weekend. I am sure most of you are out having cookouts with friends and enjoying the end of summer. Luckily, I live in FL so it is always summer here so- HA HA, enjoy the upcoming snow season y'all! 

Anyway, I read an interesting article in the local newspaper today about how much food goes to waste in this country. The amount was staggering! The article also stated that something like 40% of food in your own home. Now just think about that number, 40%. Almost half of the food you cook at home goes in the trash. Stop for a minute and consider how much you spend every time you go to the grocery store. Math is hard for me so work with me here- if you spend $100 a week then $40 a week is being thrown away. WHAT?!?! I don't know about you but I do not want to throw that much money away. That money could be put somewhere useful like into a bigger dang house or college fund or name brand mac n cheese once in a while. 

So this made me take a look in my already scarce pantry. Oh, one glance will tell ya that it is in between pay weeks in this household too! What I came up with is simple but hopefully delicious. Tonight's dinner will be Pulled BBQ Chicken Sammies and what I now call Scrappy Tater Salad. Nothing fancy by any means but filling, uses up those rogue potatoes that are beginning to grow sprouts and what little bit of chicken was left in the freezer. Here are the recipes for both:

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sammies 
6-8 Chicken Tenderloins
Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce
Onion Powder
Brown Sugar(cause I like it sweet)
Crockpot liner (OK, you don't need one but they are AMAZING)

Place the chicken in the crockpot, sprinkle with onion powder, cover in Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. Cook on low for 6 hours. The chicken will easily shred at this point. I added a bit more sauce, a few tablespoons of brown sugar and a tad bit more onion powder to kick it up a bit. Stir it all together and keep on low. Serve it up on whatever kind of buns or rolls you have around. 

For the potato salad this was a total experiment. I had never made potato salad but I think it turned out OK considering I did not have any onion or celery to add to it. If you dig around on the interwebs you will see that most recipes contain both. Here is what I pulled together for it:

Scrappy Tater Salad
4 large baking potatoes
4 eggs
1 1/2c. mayo
1/2c. mustard
pickle relish plus some juice
onion powder
black pepper

Peel the potatoes and rinse off. Cut up into large, bite size chunks and place in a medium size pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, add in some salt and bring to a boil. Cook 10-12 minutes at a rolling boil until the potatoes are done but not mushy! In another pot, hard boil the eggs. Dump the potatoes into a strainer to drain the water off and set aside. Peel the eggs and dice up; set aside. In another bowl ,mix together the mayo, mustard, pickle relish and onion powder together. Mix in the potatoes and eggs until all is coated. Taste test it and see how it turned out! Cover and chill until it is ready to serve.

And once it is all assembled and plated this is what it looked like. I added a few of my Grandpa's sweet dill pickles too. 
It was a big enough hit that the teenager even came back for seconds!Hope you give it a try and let me know what you think.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

For the love of Aldi!

If you are not shopping at Aldi I am sad for you. No really- I am sad. For anyone on a budget this store is heaven! And for those not on a budget, well, I have never met someone not on a budget but if I do I will convince them to shop at this store. Just to be clear, this is not a paid endorsement from Aldi. I just love the store and want to shout its praises to all 5 of you that might read my blog.

Being cost conscious, (that sounds better than saying I am broke, right?) I have shopped around in my area for the best prices and quality and each week I scurry back to Aldi. Normally I will hit up another store for meat but I do like Aldi's ground turkey packs. Here's the thing, no they do not carry well-known name brand products that you will see advertised. But their, for lack of a better term, "generic" items are the same thing! Yes you have to put a quarter in to the shopping cart to unlock it but when you return the cart you get it back; already saving money.Yes you have to bag your own groceries. Well this is not difficult and you can keep your bread from getting smooshed. If these little facts have not convinced you to at least walk in the door of your local store let me show you my menu and weekly spending. 

Keep in mind that I already had what I call my anchor items, i.e. stew meat, chicken breasts, etc. and all of my meals are done for 3 people. So this weeks dinners will be tacos, enchiladas, chicken philly sandwiches, pasta and sauce, and turkey burgers with fries. Lunch is either sandwiches or I take leftovers to work. And breakfast is either toast, eggs, oatmeal or cereal; everybody chooses their own.

Here is my list from Aldi:
8" Soft tortillas (10/pk)  $1.99
Iceberg lettuce $1.39
Frosted Flakes (17 oz. box) $1.59
Coffee K Cups (12/box) $4.79
Taco mix (1 envelope) $0.35
Taco shells (8 shells)  $0.99
Brown sugar (1 lb.) $1.19
Wheat bread  (1 loaf) $0.99
Colby jack shredded (3 cups)  $2.46
Deli cheese slices (11 slices)  $1.99
Ground Turkey (1 lb)  $3.29
2% Milk   (1 gal)    $3.29
Italian Sweet Cream coffee creamer (32 oz)  $2.19

Total $ 27.52

Now I did forget to buy hoagie rolls for today's chicken philly sandwiches but those will be less than $3 to grab. But seriously, $30 for a week of decent meals? Not bad, admit it. They are not extravagant by any means but it gets us thru and we are by no means starving. I highly recommend that you just take a few minutes to visit your local Aldi and check it out! Buying K cups alone will save you $5 and the coffee creamer- it is running $3.99 at my local chain grocery store.. C'mon and give it a whirl. You have nothing to lose but cents.. (see what I did there??)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Falling off the wagon

That is a funny saying isn't it- "falling off the wagon"? It sounds quite painful to me. Well, I have fallen off of the wagon but not in regards to drinking (which is what the phrase originally meant). I am actually not a drinker at all. The wagon that I have fallen off of is my budgeting and organizational wagon. The holidays kind of steamrolled over me and I just have not had the determination to get back up on the wagon until now. And let me just tell you it was a true labor to do this. Once I get back in the habit of doing it again life will be fine but I really struggled to focus on it. 

So I began by checking the inventory in my little kitchen and then I checked out Pinterest for some new recipes. I am not good at creating my own recipes but I sure can follow a recipe with the best of 'em! After all that business I set out to make my menu and grocery list. I find it easier to do it at the same time but everyone will have their own method. The menu I came up with for this week is as follows:

Breakfast- everyone chooses what they want each day.
Breakfast burritos

Turkey roll-ups & chips
leftovers (this will be eaten most days)

Baked ziti
Black bean & rice quesadillas
Chicken mozzarella pasta with sun-dried tomatoes
Creamy vegetable soup
Chili and cornbread

Cheese cubes
Fruit cups

Now I already had quite a bit of stuff on hand so my trip to Aldi was quick and I spent $86 which included a few extras that were not on my list. But that's OK because I know I can use them later on. For example, they had their loaves of whole wheat bread on sale for $.79 each which is half price! So I bought 4 loaves because, well, it's bread.

Once I got home and situated I started my meal prep. I have found that buying blocks of cheese, cutting and portioning it up not only saves money but is super easy to grab for my lunches in the mornings. So i set out cutting up 4 blocks of cheese and putting it into individual snack size baggies. Then I worked on the breakfast burritos. This was a new recipe for me but I gave it a whirl. The true test is when the boy eats them and let's me know how they are! Once the burritos where finished and in the freezer I started working on the creamy vegetable soup for dinner. Again, this was my first attempt at this recipe and I am not enjoying it but the boy is. I made a large pot of it so I think it will get divided up and frozen for later meals too. I really need to invest in a chest freezer.

Now it is time to get my beans soaking for the chili and quesadillas later this week. Have a great week friends! Feel free to leave me a comment too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving pt. 2

Good morning everyone! Man, it was a busy weekend and is leading into a short work week so this chic is kind of excited about it. It feels like it has been FOREVER since I had a long weekend off. But the over-scheduler in me is already filling up my "off" time cause.. that's just what I do; I get antsy.

Anyway, yesterday was shopping day for all of the Thanksgiving fixins. My friend offered to host Thanksgiving if I would cook it... Hhhhmmm, let me get this straight, you are asking me to slave over your full size, fully operational oven in your nice open-air kitchen surrounded by people I love? OK! We both have something to be thankful for here folks: they are thankful I can cook and I am thankful to not have to use my easy bake broke@ss oven- winner winner turkey dinner! 

SO, here is the menu I put together for the six of us to eat. It is pretty basic but the recipes, well, some of them have a special meaning to me because of who they came from. And if you are really quiet while reading this I will share my favorite recipe at the end. OK kids, gather 'round...

  • Relish tray- this is pickles, olives, etc. Not actual relish; some people have never heard it called this before so I felt the need to explain.
  • Cheese & cracker tray- you have to snack on SOMETHING while cooking and waiting. This tray also has pepperoni and summer sausage on it- YUM.
  • Turkey- my tip on cooking this, make a paste of butter, garlic and sage. Lift the skin up and rub it all over ol' tom turkey and it is incredibly moist. I also put him in an oven bake bag. Super simple!
  • Stuffing- use chicken stock to mix this up. I do not add anything to my stuffing because, well, people are picky so they get the Pepperidge Farm bagged stuff. I also do not put it inside the turkey because it takes longer to roast the bird.
  • Gravy made form drippings, of course
  • Cranberry sauce- I buy fresh and cook my own down.
  • Cranberry jelly- the husband like that canned blob.
  • Sweet potato casserole- my favorite in the entire world. This was staple at my Grandpa's turkey dinners and thus I love it. 
  • Baked Pineapple- a close second! It is so amazingly simple and delicious to make. It is like a casserole or maybe a custard.. Whatever it is I enjoy it immensely.
  • And a fruit salad that I don't even know what to call it but it has fruit cocktail and mayo in it. Don't judge until you try it!
  • Mac n cheese- nothing fancy here just crackin' open a box.
  • Corn
  • Kings Hawaiian Rolls.
  • Apple pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Cheesecake
Like I said, it is a pretty basic menu. 

Now for the recipe. My Grandpa was the cook in the family. At one point he even had a restaurant in Ohio, I believe, called The Dinner Bell. And Thanksgiving was always a big deal in the family when I was growing up. But it seems that after he passed away everyone grew distant or maybe it is because everyone is scattered among different states. Whatever the reason, its sad.  Anyway, my Grandpa used to make this every year and I always thought it was amazing but it could have been because it was his. So every year I make it too (but with a few tweaks of my own).

Grandpa's Sweet Potato Casserole
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

Note, I actually buy the canned candied yams in syrup instead of sweet potatoes. Personal choice only. Either way they are delicious!

Combine the first 6 ingredients. I use an electric mixer to kind of whip them up. Pour into a buttered 13 x 9 baking dies. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl to use as topping. It should be dry-ish and crumble easily; sprinkle all over the top. Sometimes I top with marshmallows too just because I can. Then bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (oven times vary! If this was in my easy bake it would be at 275 for 15 minutes, LOL)

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving however you choose to celebrate it. And feel free to post some of your own favorite, special recipes. I'd love to see them!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving- pt.1

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday because I love food. Not fancy schmancy food just traditional, warm, fond memory invoking food and spending time with friends/family. But the whole premise of the holiday irks me; it always has. Her is my version of Thanksgiving.

We celebrate a day of giving thanks to the Pilgrims who settled on this land. These Pilgrims stole the land from the Indians after befriending them. The two groups broke bread together and the Pilgrims just kept on eating. I am pretty sure the saying "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" was coined from this feast. Thousands of Indians died because the white man took their land, their homes, their food- why exactly is that a day of celebration?? With that said, I do not give thanks. I do not thank you Pilgrims for being liars and thieves. Yet I still have a Thanksgiving dinner because that's what we have been trained to do. Just like Black Friday (don't get me started on that hot button!)

So last night while I was watching a TV show I had an epiphany about the Thanksgiving holiday. I do not celebrate the historical value of the day. I celebrate actually being thankful and as I get older I find myself appreciating the little things more and more. And because I know you are all anxious to know what I am thankful for; I will tell you :).

I am thankful for:

  • My boys. The husband and son are the reason I get out of bed every single day and push through. Sometimes it is just to get away from them, I won't lie. But I love them.
  • A job. Without it I would have to turn into a Pilgrim and steal from others.
  • Our animals- the unconditional love is something I wish humans had for one another but the fur babies, they just know things...
  • Our friends. My words cannot describe how incredible our gaggle of friends are. No matter what time of day, what state, what the situation is you are always there with an open mind, words of wisdom, logic, a smack in the head- everything. And most of you I have known for over 20 years. Thank you guys for being our framily. (cue The Golden Girls theme here)
  • Our family. Even those that are dearly departed you are still with us. Each of you has taught us something in life whether you realize it or not.
  • Eyes. I really, really appreciate having my eyesight. Don't laugh- think about it.
  • Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. The best movie ever for those that ever wonder about life. If you haven't seen it, watch it. 
  • Books. Reading takes me to places and situations I will never be in. I can live vicariously!
  • Sunsets. Every night on my drive home I get to watch the sky change. EVERY.NIGHT. How many of you actually notice it while you are sitting in traffic? Look up people! You are missing some fabulous sights. 
  • A sense of humor. It might be twisted and immature. But ya know what, if I didn't laugh I would be hospitalized. Life knocks you down and sometimes all that you can do is laugh at it. 
  • Coffee. This needs no explanation.
  • Cheetos! My list would not be complete without Cheetos. I love them so..
And last but not least, time. I am thankful I have time in my life. I have had time to meet my husband, to have a baby, to visit new places, meet new people. To see the sunset in Key West multiple times! To learn how to cook and sew and be a clown; to volunteer in my son's youth group and drink coffee and eat Cheetos. We don't have an infinite amount of time here on this earth (no, I am not being religious or sappy here). So as you are all gathering with your families and friends this Thanksgiving please think about what you are really thankful for. I know I will be.

Happy turkey day!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Every week is different

In the last few weeks, OK this last year really, life has really been kicking us in the teeth. In the grand scheme of things we are fine, sure. But when you break it down instance by instance, each little thing is one more kick in the finances. My goal now is to figure out how to bring in some kind of additional income. It's not as easy as grabbing a part-time job because I have tried. Maybe I just do not have any skills anymore because I'm old- who knows. I will figure something out; I always do. But for now, let me get back on topic.

My last post complained described how I spent about $56 on groceries. Well, we survived on that but come the following week we had crumbs in the fridge. My husband had a family emergency and was out of town so the groceries took care of myself and the child. My birthday also fell in that week so there were some very thoughtful treats and lunches. (thank you dear friends!) Needless to say what I had planned went to hell in a hand basket right off the bat but that's OK! It means I just have to rearrange my plans and move along. I am like one of those little wind up toys that goes so far, hits a wall and bounces in a different direction...<boing, thud, boing, thud..>

This week is the child's birthday and he wanted a backyard party with all of our friends. As I have said before, my house is the size of most people's garages but watch out when you step into my backyard! It is huge in comparison so most of our festivities usually end up out there. So this entire project took some planning because parties are not necessarily cheap to host, however, with some price comparing and my trusty crockpots for cooking I believe it turned out pretty well.

I did need to make a few investments for lighting and activities. Big Lots (my fav store of all!) has 50ft strings of Christmas lights for $12 and I purchased a couple of lawn games from Walmart: lawn darts/bocce ball set for $14.98 and legit horseshoes for $19.98. And a friend brought over their corn hole boards so there were activities too! There was also a fire going in the fire pit for smores making fun!! Thank you to another friend for letting me borrow the bales of hay for seating around the pit and the firewood!

Decorations were simple: streamers and a happy birthday banner- $3

Paper products: I over bought so there will be plenty left over for the holiday season. $12 for cups, plates, forks and napkins.

Food: hot dogs in the Crockpot $9 for 60 dogs, buns $8, baked beans doctored up just like my Momma taught me $5, veggie plate (carrots, cucumber, green pepper) $6, variety of chips $3, veggie dip $2, ice tea $1.98 and punch $1.98, cake via Costco $18.99. Now the expensive part (aside from the cake) and the best party food ever was the buffalo chicken dip. That alone cost about $17 to make a 13x9 dish full and every scoop of it was gone by the end of the night. OH, i almost for the smores! But most of that was brought by guests so I do not have a real price on that one. 

So for around $100 I was able to put on a real hum-dinger of a party! HA! Cole was happy at least and that's what really matters to me.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Let's get started, shall we?

So, the point of my blog is to show realistically how I scrape by in life. Let me be clear, our choices have us in the financial situation that we are in and we are well aware. This is not a "whoa-is me" blog. This is me being honest and not ashamed so you judgy judgertons just move on down the road because I do not have time for you.

With that all said, let's get started. Knowing that I am not the only human being feeling financial pressure to survive I do what everyone else does- I turn to the Internet for answers! But what I found while searching was a bunch of hog wash. People claiming that their family of 5 survives on $18K a year (I call bullsh!t) and so on. Then there are the extreme couponers who are saving money but seriously I do not have the space to stockpile. My house is only 800 square feet and has exactly 1 storage closet. And while I would love to empty the store shelves and turn my savings over to a charity I have to feed my family first. Call me selfish if you want. And another thing, I suck at math and coupon math is just as jacked up as Common Core math! All of this leads to my tiny little brain chugging away for answers and everything keeps coming back to one thing- plan it out. 

Thankfully, I love to plan things. I would honestly rather plan it out and buy the groceries then have someone else cook. Most days the husband does cook dinner and usually I take over on the weekends. It works. Now to explain how my little brain works... On Saturday mornings I sit down with my coffee and make 2 list. One for my groceries and another has the days of the week, duh. Then I consult my Google calendar to see what is going on that week. Did I promise to cook something and take it somewhere? What nights will we actually be home? How many meals will need to be quick for me getting off of work and running someplace? These meals keep us from spending money on fast food since we really don't have it to spare. From here I consult the kitchen which works out well since the caffeine has now lifted my brain fog. 

What basic kitchen items do I need? People I highly, highly, highly recommend keeping a stock of these items at all times because they always come in handy or are a meal filler:

  • flour
  • sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • eggs
  • butter
  • oil
  • pasta
  • pasta sauce
  • rice
  • dry beans
  • canned veggies
  • tea bags (if you like iced tea)
  • various seasonings of choice
Now this has been an incredibly fiscally challenging week for us but it is my off pay week so.. well it sucks. After shopping in a variety of stores around me, sadly, Walmart has proven to be the cheapest. Not to mention the new Savings Catcher app, I've earned a whole $1.98 back- woo. Given all of this into, today I spent $56.33 on groceries which included dog/cat food and trash bags (so really aprx. $36 on groceries for humans). Also, I really suggest visiting the discount bread rack. Bread is freezable people. Do you know what you can do to fancy up a loaf of bread? That might just be another post in itself!

So mixing in what I already had at home with what I needed to complete our meal plan here is what I came up with for us to eat for dinner this week:
  • potato chowder
  • bbq country ribs & corn
  • quesadillas with beans
  • breakfast for dinner
  • chili mac over rice
  • baked chicken & broccoli
Not too shabby, right? We'll see. I am sure someone is noticing a distinct lack of fruits and veggies. Yeah, well it may not be 3-4 servings a day but they are in there somewhere. For breakfasts there is always cereal, eggs, toast or oatmeal. I hate oatmeal but have found it to be really good for my glucose levels so i choke it down. And that sh!t is cheap to buy in bulk. Lunches will be either leftovers (at least for me to take to work), sandwiches, or ramen noodles which I already had. 

It is challenging to come up with a variety of meals that appeal to all three of our appetites. And I have learned that pre-packaged, processed foods are not cheap. Buy the ingredients and make it yourself- that's how the F I do it!