Monday, February 25, 2013

Menu Plan

It feels like I just made a menu plan.  This past week flew by, and I am not sure where it went.  This coming week I will be teaching two classes so I am planning a couple of easy meals. 

Turkey sandwiches & tomato soup - We did not eat the tomato soup so we will have it this week with the leftover turkey.

Chicken, macaroni & cheese, green beans - A local grocery store offers a special on fried/roasted chicken.  This will help me put a meal on the table quickly.  The macaroni & cheese will be homemade from the freezer, and the green beans are home canned.

Breakfast for supper - waffles or pancakes, turkey bacon, eggs, and fruit make a good evening meal.

Chicken Leftovers - We always have chicken leftover so we will have it in a different way either as sandwiches, quesadillas, etc.

Salsa Mac - a leftover meal idea from last week.  I will add a salad on the side.  I can prepare this in advance for a simple meal after church.

Turkey Ranch Burgers & Fries - Another work day meal.  This will be easy to put on the table in less than half an hour. 

Pizza & Salad - This is a weekly staple on our menu as it is one of W's favorite and will be his birthday dinner.

Chili, Brunswick Stew, & Potato Cheese Soup - Okay these will be served on separate days - not all at once.  We have two cooler days at the end of the week, and I wanted several options for W for our evening meal. 

I am sure I will have to reorganize some things.  I hope for the most part that we stick to the menu.  I need to dig in the freezer this week and see what I have that can be used for next week's meals. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Money Saver: Compare Prices

One should not always assume that an advertised sale price is the best deal.  One of the convenience items I wanted to pick up was frozen french fries.  This is something that W can put in the oven and help make dinner or supper prep easier.  The grocery store offered bags of frozen fries for $2.  I originally planned to purchase two bags for $4. 

I had already put them in my cart when I decided to check the price on the larger bag.  I noted that I was getting 64 ounces for $4 with the sale item.  The larger bag of fries was 80 ounces and cost $3.99.  If I had not taken a few seconds to compare prices I would have essentially given away a pound of fries. 

I do realize that the whole potatoes I also purchased will make cheaper fries, and I do plan to use those for baked potato wedges.  The frozen fries are a convenient alternative.  Remember just because something is on sale does not make it the best deal!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Weekly Menu

With an upcoming return to working part-time, I am trying to get back into the habit of making a weekly menu.   I want to make the most of what we have on hand but will still stock up on a few sale items.

Pizza and Salad - The crust recipe I have makes a double batch so one crust will go into the freezer for a future meal.  Rather than a sauce I saute fresh chopped tomatoes with olive oil and garlic.  Our pizza gets loaded with veggies only.

Barbecue Stuffed Potatoes - I am using up the remaining barbecue to top baked potatoes along with sour cream, cheese, and chopped veggies.

Cheeseburgers & Fries - I have two homemade buns left and will cook frozen fries to go along with them.  This will be a quick alternative to take out after grocery shopping.

Taco Salads - I make my own seasoning and tortillas. We will top them with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, and homemade salsa instead of taco sauce.
Salsa Mac - This is a homemade version of the boxed version.  I have not made it in a while so it will be a nice change.  I will serve it with cole slaw or a salad. 

Omelets - Our hens are laying well so we will have breakfast for supper one night.  I will add in some fruit for a nice evening meal.

Pork & Beans with Hot Dogs, Au Gratin Potatoes - I will make my own pork and beans in the crockpot with plenty of extras for the freezer.  The au gratin potatoes will be from scratch and are a simple mixture of spices, potatoes, and cream.

Baked Fish, Slaw, Sweet Potato Fries - I am trying homemade frozen sweet potato fries. If they are good, I will put the rest of the sweet potatoes into the freezer.
Tomato soup & grilled cheese - The tomato soup is homemade from the freezer.  It is much better than canned soup and just as easy. 

Turkey Sandwiches & Chips - Sunday nights are busy here and call for a simple meal.  I will be having sprouts with mine. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Baking Day

Saturday was a cold day - well cold for the south.  I planned a baking day so the oven could help keep the house warm.  I also wanted to stock the freezer with a few items since I have several teaching jobs for the upcoming weeks.  We have an older, airy house so I needed all the extra heat I could get.  I started the morning off by baking some more banana oat cookies.  Once again we were left with one overripe banana so it was the perfect time to make some. 

Next I made a double batch of oatmeal cookies.  These went into the freezer and will go in W's lunch for a couple of weeks.  Last week I made chocolate chip cookies and froze half of the cookies.  It will be very convenient to grab some homemade cookies from the freezer for his lunch.  It is also cheaper and healthier than buying a sweet treat. 

After the oatmeal cookies were done, I turned the oven up a bit and prepped the last pumpkin for baking.  I saved the seeds this time to be roasted and put them in the oven at the same time as the pumpkin.  Once the pumpkin was baked and cooled, I scooped out the flesh, mashed it, and put it in the strainer over a bowl to get the extra juice out.  The stringy part of the pumpkin and the shells went to the chickens and ducks.  (I might have left a bit of extra pumpkin in the shells for them.) I still ended up with four 2 cup portions of pumpkin.

Once the oven cooled back down I mixed up my final baking project for the day - a blueberry pound cake.  The recipe was recommended by an online friend, and it was as delicious as she said.  Doesn't it look lovely?

Looks can be a bit deceiving....

In spite of buttering and sugaring the pan well, it stuck!  It is just for here at home so the unsightly appearance is no big deal.  The taste more than makes up for the presentation.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

I opted to make a Valentine treat this year rather than buy one.  It seems that chocolate covered strawberries have become almost as popular as roses for Valentine's Day.  This popularity has caused a rise in price as well.  While at the grocery store earlier this week, I was looking at the strawberries on sale for $2/pound.  I asked W if he would like some for Valentines.  He then mentioned that a co-worker ordered some chocolate covered strawberries locally as a gift for his wife.  The cost was $6 per strawberry! 
I am sure the seller chose large and perfect strawberries and offered a lovely presentation.  I am certain it would not have been impressive enough for me to pay that amount though.  The ones I have here cost me $1.50 to make.  That is the cost of the strawberries and the chocolate.  I only used half of the pound of strawberries I purchased and just a bit of chocolate that I already had on hand. 
I am quite happy with my Valentine's Day on a budget!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Operation Christmas Child Craft: Colors of Faith Bracelets

This year one of my goals is to make items for our Operation Christmas Child boxes.  Not familiar with Operation Christmas Child?  Check it out here!  W and I like to do a bunch of boxes which is achievable in part because our church pays for the shipping.  Still filling 50 boxes can be expensive, but it does not have to be.  I will be sharing some things that I do to keep the cost down while still providing a packed box for a girl or boy.

My first craft is colors of faith bracelets.  Here are the supplies I used:  cotton twine/yarn and pony beads.  That is it.

One of the reasons I was able to do this particular project for such a low cost was the giant roll of cotton twine.  My dad bought it for me at a yard sale last year for $2.  At the time I had no idea what to do with it, but it came in very handy for this project.  I also plan to use it for another later on.  You can also use something similar to this hemp cord.  I got two bags of pony beads for free by using a coupon.  You will need red, green, blue, white, black, yellow and clear pony beads.  I found these in bags of 500 for just $2.  That makes each bead less than half a penny!

To make the bracelets you need to cut lengths of cord 13 inches long.  I folded the cord in half and dropped down a little over an inch on one side and tied a knot.  My bracelets use an additional bead since the twine was so thin.  If you are using cording that will not be necessary.

You will string the beads on in the order shown in the photo (black, red, white, blue, green, and yellow.  Then tie a second knot just past the yellow bead.  The knots will keep the beads contained on the bracelet.  Now you want to take each end of the cording and run it through a clear pony bead on opposite sides.  You want a tail of the bracelet sticking out each end of the bead.  Tie a knot on each end of the cording.  This will allow the bracelet to be adjustable.


When I factored in the cost of the materials I used, each bracelet cost me 4 cents to make.  I did not count the cost of the cotton twine since so little was used.  Even if you purchase cording, a bracelet will cost less than 40 cents.  You can lower the cost if you get a good deal on cording.  Obviously I have enough materials to make bracelets for years to come.  I generally try to test ideas on the children in my Bible study class at church.  These were a hit with both the boys and the girls, and they wanted to make a second to give away.  Perhaps putting two in each of my boxes would be a good idea.

Not interested in picking up all of the materials yourself?  Oriental Trading sells a Faith Bracelet Craft Kit.  This is still a good value, and everything you need to make 12 bracelets is provided!