Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Better Late than Never - January Daring Bakers

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

I suppose everyone should know (if you do not already) that I am a Southern gal.  Biscuits are a Southern tradition so one would think a Southern gal could make them.  That is not always the case and certainly is not when the Southern gal is me.  I can make yeast breads all day long.  My biscuits are described by my husband as "hockey pucks".  I would be offended if he were not merely giving an accurate description.

That is one reason I put off this challenge.  I did not know at the time that other things would come up at the end of the month.  All things combined I found myself well past the reveal date and the biscuits still not attempted.  The ingredients and steps were simple enough.  I mixed the dough, rolled it out a bit, and cut it into pieces.  I put it in the oven all the while expecting more hockey pucks. 

What did I get????

I got actual fluffy biscuits!  I do not know who was more surprised - me or my husband.  If this is what I got from a first try of the recipe, I will certainly make them again.  I might actually be able to hold onto my title of Southern gal after all.  Thank you, Audax, for a wonderful challenge!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hmmm....I Beg to Differ

I was wasting spending time online last night and came across an article on MSN that stated eating out is usually cheaper than eating a similar meal at home.  That might be true if you go into the grocery store willy-nilly and just grab whatever. 
An example was a steak dinner with a national restaurant chain price of $17.99 and grocery store price of $20.52.  The at-home steak price was $9.55.  I recently bought rib eye steaks on sale at my local grocery store.  I paid $2.50 per steak.  The soup price was stated to be $2.99.  I could make potato cheese soup for two as a main dish for that price.  Salad price was $3.99.  I do grow my own in a my greenhouse, but a $4 container of organic salad mix would give me four or five servings.  Asparagus price was $3.99.  I do have this in my garden.  Otherwise I would probably just cook a homegrown vegetable from the freezer.  I could serve steak dinners for two with sides, fresh bread and a dessert for around $10 total.  I can also control what goes into my food when I cook at home.  This is important to me as we eat a lower sodium diet.

I should add that I am not against eating out.  I do not particularly enjoy it as I rarely feel the quality beats what I can make at home.  If you enjoy it and can afford it, then by all means go ahead.  I simply feel it is inappropriate to try to convince people eating out is a good way to save money.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weekly Spending, but No Menu

I do not have exact numbers for my spending, but I know that I have $10 of my grocery money remaining.  The change went into my Sunday newspaper fund.  I spent about $5 at Dollar General on a scrub brush and foaming bathroom cleaner after watching a few episodes of Hoarders. (It makes me want to clean.)  I spent another $5 on bananas and a Healthy Choice frozen dinner.  I will take the $10 that I had left and put it toward my garden seed bill.

I confess that I have made no menu this week.  I know that today we will be having hamburgers and either chips or fries.  We have plenty of food on hand and I want to focus on using up what we have.  Honestly I have not really been hungry, and I find it hard to plan what to eat when I am not interested in eating much. 

This past weekend I was bitten by something.  Thankfully I was able to call my (wonderful) doctor at home Sunday morning, and he called in a prescription for antibiotics.  This is improved over Saturday when my entire foot and ankle were swelled.  I sure wish I knew what bit me so I could avoid it in the future though.  Thankfully the area is improving daily, and the doctor said it should be gone by next weekend. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crafting Bug - Part 3

Hmmm....Is anyone getting the idea that I have spent way too much time crafting recently?  I promise I have done some housework and cooked for my husband.  I just took some time for myself.

One thing I have wanted to do for years was learn how to crochet.  Warren tried to teach me, but he was not the most patient teacher.  I looked at books but could not get the hang of it.  Earlier this month I decided to check out YouTube.  After watching a few videos I decided that this one from AllFreeCrochet and Naztazia was the most helpful.  My first two attempts were sad, but then I started to get the hang of it.  The last three dish rags look more like they should.

I think it looks like it should anyway.  I welcome any input.  I am still working with the single crochet stitch.  I want to do a few more dishrags before watching the second video and learning more stitches.  I know it will take much more practice.  This is the best I have ever done though.  It feels good to progress from just wishing I could do something to actually doing it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crafting Bug - Part 2

In July for my birthday, I received a Hobby Lobby gift card which I finally got around to using.  Among the items I bought was a Sizzix Texture Boutique for embossing.  I used some other gift cards buy a few of the embossing folders and decided to try it out.  I love how the embossing dresses up the cards.
I thought these two would be nice for either wedding or anniversary cards.

This is a birthday card option.  On the inside it has "Birthdays are good for you.  The more you have the longer you live!"

I am having fun playing around with different designs.  I have a couple more embossing folders on the way to me.  I can see more card making in my future. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Crafting Bug

Recently I have been bitten by the crafting bug.  All I want to do is work on fun projects.  That is not exactly good for the housework I need to do.  Winter has that effect on me.  I decided to take advantage and work on some stuff. 

First up is burp cloths for my sister-in-law who is expecting her first child.  My SIL loves ladybugs.  When I was ordering fabric from Joann's in November, I saw some adorable ladybug material and knew I had to buy.  The baby shower is just a couple of weeks away so I figured I had better get them done. 

The colors are bright and cheery.  I am only halfway done with them and plan to finish this week.  I hope my SIL will be pleased.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Menu Plan and Grocery Spending

First up the menu plan...again this will be a mix of meals that we did not eat last week and a few new ones.

Workday Meals
I have deli meat as well as several homemade frozen options that can be prepared quickly.  These include the French bread pizza mentioned yesterday as well as homemade pocket sandwiches.

Non-Workday Meals
Brunswick Stew
Cubed Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Butterbeans
Waffles, Turkey Bacon, and Fruit
Crab Egg Salad Sandwiches
Leftovers - This may be a clean out the refrigerator type meal.

Now for the spending...I started off with $60 to last me two weeks.  One dollar of it was in quarters which went into my paper for coupons money jar.  That left me $59 and a bit of change in my wallet. 

First stop was Harvey's.  I have pictures this week!!
The cheese and sugar were stock up items due to the sales.  The goldfish were a good bargain for the snack cabinet.  I needed the ketchup for the as yet unmade Brunswick stew.  Sour cream and bacon bits rounded out my purchases.  I spent $21.95 on these items.

Second stock was Save-a-Lot. 
The milk is for yogurt making later this week.  The chips are for snacking and along with sandwiches.  I decided to stock up on butter since I was down to my last pound. Tortillas are for chimichangas.  The mac and cheese was an impulse purchase because I was hungry.  It was lunch along with a salad when I arrived home.  My total here was $16.19

I have $21 left for next week.  I should be able to stick to it unless there are some great sales. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Freezer Cooking - French Bread Pizzas

I decided to combine my menu and shopping trip into one post for Thursday.  Today I am sharing some homemade freezer cooking.  Convenience foods are great except for the preservatives and expense.  I am not one to refuse them completely.  If I can make my own, I will gladly do so. 

I had a small loaf of homemade French bread and needed to use it up.  I decided to make French bread pizzas.  I sliced the bread in half and then in smaller pieces.  I mixed up my own sauce to spread on top.  Next I chopped up turkey pepperoni.  In the fridge I had mushrooms and bell pepper which I chopped and added.

Then I topped each one with mozzarella cheese and put them into the freezer.

Once frozen I wrapped each individually.  They bake in a toaster oven for 15-20 minutes. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Yard Sale Find

I cannot take credit for this find.  My dad is actually the one who found and bought it.  I needed ~ well mostly wanted ~ a large tube pan.  I planned to use it for making homemade monkey bread.  The one I have with a non-removable bottom is only 2 inches tall.  I needed one twice that tall.  Finding a pan of that size with a non-removable bottom was harder than I expected.  I found one online for $18 and kept putting off buying it.  My dad called me Saturday and he had found this.....

Aside from a ding or two, it is in very good shape.  It is exactly the same size as the one I was considering buying.  The best part is that he only paid $1 for it!!!  I was extremely happy with his bargain shopping.  I am thinking I should give him a copy of my kitchen wish list. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grocery Spending

I did a big shop with week with the husband along to help out.  I needed to pick up church supplies so I needed a second person to push a shopping cart.  He added a few things to our cart that I would not have bought.  Still the damage was not too bad and the overage can be spread out over the next two week.  Also I had not done a Big Shop since the week before Thanksgiving.  

Harvey's  - $17.68
Pickles (B1G1)
Mayonnaise (B1G1)
Toilet paper

CVS - $2.24
Washcloths (Operation Christmas Child)
Chips (DH's impulse purchase)
Bath pouf/sponge

Wal-Mart - $100.53
I will not list everything here.  A good potion was items for Warren's lunches at work.  For future meals I bought canned crab, tuna, and frozen shrimp poppers.  I had coupons for some items that needed to be used.  Those included herbal tea, coffee creamer, and chocolate milk powder.  I should be able to wait six weeks before my next big shop. 

I went about $40 over budget this week.  I will spread that out over the next two weeks.  Sometimes the budget requires some juggling.  As long as it works out in the end, then I am happy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Menu Plan

Two weeks in a row of menu plans.  That must be a record for me.  I am going with a more laid back plan this week and will list meals but not days.  Some meals are carryovers from last week since the chicken was stretched into three meals and we also had other leftovers.

From Last Week
Beef Stew & French Bread
Cubed steak, Mashed Potatoes, & Peas
Pizza & Salad

Workday Meals
Chicken Sandwiches
French Bread Pizza (homemade)
Tuna or Deli Meat Sandwiches

New This Week
Hamburgers & French Fries:  I have homemade buns in the freezer.  I have frozen french fries to serve with them.  I should be able to harvest some lettuce from the greenhouse and one of the tomatoes from the garden might last until then.

Brunswick Stew:  Each winter I make a big pot of Brunswick stew and freeze in meal size portions.  I am a bit behind schedule in getting it made, but this is the week I plan to get it done.  It is an all day process so this will be our meal at the end of cooking day.

Ham, Brown Rice & Tomato Gravy, & Peas:  I have cooked rice in the freezer.  I will use home canned tomatoes  and peas from the freezer to round out the meal.  My only purchase for this meal will be a ham steak.  I will freeze half to use for a later meal.

Waffles & Turkey Bacon with Fresh Fruit:  I have plenty of waffle mix on hand and turkey bacon in the freezer.  I will make a small fruit salad with whatever fruit is in the fridge.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Use it Up: Orange Marmalade

One of my goals this year is to be less wasteful.  I had some oranges that were getting closer and closer to the compost pile.  Five were already shriveled and past being useful.  I did find six that were still in fairly good shape.  I decided to try making orange marmalade.  I pulled out my copy of Put 'Em Up  and found a recipe.  The steps were divided over three days.  The first step was to wash and slice the oranges.

 Then the oranges went into a pot to sit overnight.

On the second day water is added and the oranges are boiled until the rinds are tender.  On day three the oranges are measured and an equal amount of sugar is added.  This mixture is boiled until it gels.  The jars are filled and then placed in a water bath.    I was rewarded with jars of beautiful orange marmalade. 

For just a few minutes of time over three days and some sugar I saved six oranges from the compost pile.  I also have yummy marmalade for my toast and a bit more confidence in my canning abilities. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

My New Favorite Gadget

Stainless Pineapple Slicer with WedgerI love fresh pineapple.  While I am not fortunate to find the great prices that I see others reporting, I still gladly pay $3 for a fresh pineapple.  The one downside was cutting it up.  I admit that I have let one or two go bad because I kept putting it off. 

For Christmas one of my gifts was this little gadget.  I bought it for myself from Amazon.  This Stainless Pineapple Slicer with Wedger is my new favorite tool.  Normally I am not a fan of items that have only one use.  This is completely different.

I spent maybe five minutes to get from fresh pineapple to yummy pineapple in a dish.  I wasted less and had a much smaller mess.  I can foresee many more pineapple purchases in my future.  If you love fresh pineapple this is definitely worth the purchase price. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grocery Spending

As promised here are my grocery totals from yesterday's shopping.  I was within my normal weekly budget so I have a bit extra again for next week.  I did stock up on a few items which will help out next week too.

Save-A-Lot : $20.21
sausage patties
milk - 3 gallons

Dollar Tree: $2.14 *Not technically groceries but the money came from the grocery budget
file folders (for coupons)
packing tape

Harvey's: $25.69
peanut butter
instant grits
cereal - 4 boxes
sour cream
whipping cream
rotisserie chicken

I apologize for the lack of pictures.  It was 2pm and past time for lunch when I returned home.  We were ready to get the groceries put away and lunch on the table. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Menu Plan

I do better when I run my menu plan from Wednesday to Tuesday as I do my shopping on Wednesday or Thursday. I spent no grocery money last week so I have $93 to shop with today. I hope to stay well below that amount however. I will share my totals tomorrow. Today here are my planned meals.

Wednesday - Rotisserie chicken, potato salad, & green beans/Chili & cornbread
I have several errands to run and like to have a quick lunch planned. The chicken is on sale. I made potato salad yesterday using ingredients on hand. The green beans will come from the freezer. Warren, my husband, requested the chili. I had no canned beans but I did have dried beans. Since I am trying to use what I have on hand I cooked those yesterday. The cornbread will be from a mix on hand.

Thursday - Leftovers/Beef stew & French bread
The rotisserie chicken always yields a minimum of two meals. I will serve chicken quesadillas or chicken salad. The beef stew will be cooked in the crock pot as a mixture of meat, potatoes, carrots, and onions. I will make two small loaves of French bread to serve along with the stew.

Friday - cubed steak, mashed potatoes, & garden peas/pizza & salad
I have a large amount of potatoes that need to be used up so we will be eating those several times this week. The pizza for supper will be easy as I have crust dough in the freezer.

Saturday to Monday - Last minute items
Warren works a weekend shift, and I never know until he arrives home if he will be hungry. I have frozen chicken fillets, frozen mini pizzas, and deli meat on hand. If he wants something to eat, I have quick meal options. Most of these are purchased frozen foods. I want to make some frozen homemade items for future use.

Tuesday - pork tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, & peas/chimichangas
The scalloped potatoes are an easy but delicious side item. I thinly slice potatoes with a mandoline. Those are layered in a buttered baking dish. I sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour cream over the top. Not exactly healthy but yummy nevertheless. The chimichangas are a meatless meal. I mix black beans, salsa and cheese together and roll up in wheat tortillas tucking in the sides. These are sprayed lightly with olive oil and baked. It get the crunch of being fried without the frying.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Coconut Cake

My husband's co-workers requested a coconut cake before Christmas. I finally took time last week to bake one. It is rather simple - a cake mix, seven-minute frosting, and coconut.

I think it turned out quite well and his co-workers enjoyed it. I was neater with it this time. The first time I made one I ended up with coconut from one end of the kitchen to the other.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year and a Big Goal

Remember Me? It has been a long time since my last post. I thought I should start off the new year with a post. My goal should probably be to post more this year. Instead I have a bigger goal with big plans for the future.

My dear husband and I have been saving to building a house without a mortgage. I will pause here as thoughts of how impossible that is go through your head. We are determined to do it though. Anyway...we have a savings goal for step one. We are $8,000 shy of that amount. My goal this year is to save $8,000. This year I will focus on cutting spending and finding little ways to add to our savings and reach our step one goal.

I will post my progress and share the little things I am doing to save. I know it will mean making some sacrifices. I think it is important to look at the long term goal rather than focusing only on the moment.