Monday, October 31, 2011

Cooking on a Budget - Part Six

Food Waste

I read somewhere that Americans can throw away as much as 45% of the food they buy.  That means if you spend $800 a month on food, you might be throwing away $300!!!  I have been guilty of this myself, although not to that extreme.  I have had a week just recently where we were a combination of kind of lazy with our habits, and I was experimenting with some recipes to share with you all and all of this food ended up in the frig as leftovers, but we didn't eat it all before it went bad.  We threw away a lot of food.  Had I been able to give that to someone, we could have fed another couple for almost a  whole week!  That's bad and we vowed to not do it again.  With a little planning it is possible to waste very little if any at all.

To begin with, I highly recommend you invest in a vacuum sealer if you plan to freeze foods that you buy in bulk, that you make for once a month cooking, or leftovers that you plan to warm up at a later date.  They are not all that expensive anymore, and your foods will last much longer, without freezer burn, than with the original packaging or regular zip bags.  Zip bags are fine if you are really good at squeezing out the air and you plan to use the items within a month.  Another thing I really like are those Ball brand freezing jars.  I put soup in them up to the fill line and it's better than other containers I've tried for not having a layer of ice crystals on top.

If you have a mom or a Grama (yes, that's how I spell was our thing) like mine, they have a pantry and frig full of expired food stuffs and if you say anything they'll say either "oh, it's still good, that's just a suggestion!" or "smell it....yep still good".  PLEASE DO NOT KEEP FOODS PAST THE EXPIRATION DATE!  It is on there for a reason.  Foods break down and some give off toxins as they do.  When you buy foods ALWAYS check the expiration date before putting it into your cart, and ask yourself, will I use it or freeze it by then?  If not, don't buy it.  PLUS, sometimes stores have not cleaned out the shelves yet.  I have found dairy products on the shelf that are expired and the other day I saw a premade pizza crust hanging there with a huge green moldy spot on it.  Yes, I have heard arguments about certain products still being good a week or so after the date.  Do an internet search on the particular product if you'd like to see if you can still use it, but please follow whatever directions you find even if that means you'll have to throw it away this time.  Take it from someone who has had food poisoning once ain't worth it!

So now you've checked your dates and you're taking your groceries home.  In the pantry always remember to rotate the stock.  Put items in order of expiration date, so you use up older things first.  Do the same in the frig.

Produce!  Some people firmly believe one way or the other about how to keep produce, but if you check around you'll find that Apples, berries, mushrooms and celery all last longer in the frig and that potatoes and onions should NOT be in the frig but in a cool dark place.  I keep mine in the basement in these tubs I got from Tupperware, but you can find similar ones out there.

Leftovers! This is a great way to save time and money by planning leftovers into your meals and budget.  BUT anything with meat or dairy in it should not be eaten after four days in the frig.  If you freeze it though, you can save it for six months!  So I'll repeat, leftovers are a great way to save money....take them to work and don't eat out, have them on a busier night of the week....but you need to stick to the plan so the don't get thrown into the trash 4 days later.

That's just the highlights....keep in mind, I'm no science expert.  You can find a lot more info on this topic out on the web.  My main points are watch your dates, don't make too many leftovers, but either eat them or freeze them!  These are our main areas of waste, and if you can master them, you'll be surprised at how much money you can save!

Until Next Time.....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Country Style Ribs 2 ways- Crock Pot

from "scratch"
3 lb country style pork ribs
2 c ketchup
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/3 c packed dark brown sugar
3 Tblsp brown mustard
3 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tblsp Liquid Smoke
1 Tblsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

spray 4-5 qt slow cooker with non-stick spray
place ribs in slow cooker
in bowl mix all other ingredients
pour over ribs
cover and cook on low 9-10 hours (this time was from an older recipe for older pots that didn't get as hot....the first time you try this, you might want to keep an eye on them and start checking at the 7 hour mark)

the quick and easy method
3 lb country style pork ribs
16 oz or larger bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce

follow directions as above pouring over your favorite sauce

Until Next Time.....

Thursday, October 27, 2011

$8 or Less Recipe - Parmesan Potato Chips

1 lrg Russet potato
1 lemon, juiced or 1 Tblsp of Lemon juice in a bottle
2 c canola oil or your favorite frying oil
1/2 c parmesan cheese (the best for this is in the green can)
salt to taste

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add some ice cubes and lemon juice
peel potato and cut into very thin chips using a mandolin, peeler or other device
place into water as soon as you make the chips
in large heavy pan, heat oil to 375
using a handful of chips at a time, remove from water, drain and pat dry with paper towels
drop chips carefully into oil and fry for 3-6 minutes turning with slotted spoon, until golden brown
remove from oil and place on paper towels
sprinkle immediately with cheese and salt
repeat until done
cool completely and store in airtight container for up to 3 days

This is great to try whatever you'd like to sprinkle on your chips.....
garlic salt
chipotle seasoning
garlic pepper
Krazy salt
seasoned salt

Oh, and as with most of these recipes, this one is way under $8, like closer to $2!

Until Next Time.....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Proverbs 31 Wife - Week Five

Discussion Question #5: What tries your patience?  How do you typically react to things that don't go your way?

Hmmmmmmmm.  Maybe I should call this experiment off!  Do I really want to admit the truth here?  OY! What did I get myself into?!  OK *deep breath* here goes....

It might be easier to ask, "what doesn't try my patience"?  Seriously, what they say about menopause....that you are more true!  And hard to tamp down when not only is your own nature against you but then your hormones rebel as well.  Not to off put the blame, I'm responsible for my one else.  But what sets me off the most is probably when I have spent the whole day making a nice dinner, cleaning the house maybe doing laundry too, and then my husband comes home and within 10 minutes of having dinner it looks like a small tornado blew through.  AND he never said anything about how nice the place looked before he messed it up! 

Sometimes I take it pretty well.  I think, well, cleaning is a never ending job.  We will be doing it for the rest of our lives.  I'm doing it for our comfort for today.  That he comes home and feels comfortable to be, well, comfortable that was the goal I guess.  And I'm not supposed to do anything for recognition really, unless it is to glorify God.  After all, I am supposed to do my best before God not to please man.

But then there are sometimes, especially when I'm "grumpgry" that I might say something and not always in a nice way.  "Thanks for trashing the place that I spent all day cleaning"!  "Gee, make yourself at home in the pig sty....why do I bother"!  I know!  I'm soooo mean!!!!!

I also don't like it when I've got things planned for the week, like meals and maybe an after dinner activity, and then he forgets about it, or plans something else, or doesn't get home on time.  I can get really upset then too.  Mostly because I took the time and effort to plan things out and someone else comes along and just wipes it out.  Like the mean kid at the beach knocking over your sandcastle!

And what does this say about me: when there is a big emergency, or a real crisis....I'm cool as a cucumber.  I take it all in stride, I drop everything and meet the need as quickly as possible and whatever else might get ruined is no big deal. I will then take all the time it takes to fix as much as possible and make sure all parties involved are as comfortable as can be.  But I blow up over some mail and socks strewn across the living room?  What kind of weirdo am I?  OK, that's a rhetorical question, thank you very much.

This is all a part of our struggle as humans.  I've just got to get better....I know, isn't that so easy to say?  I want someone to give me concrete steps to take to not lose my patience.  But all we can do is work on it one day at a time.  Remind yourself of why you are doing the things you are doing and what is really important.  It might take a long time......a reeeaaallllllyy long time.....but with true effort and prayerfully seeking God's help, we can beat down our nature.  Try it with me; let's see how we do.

Until Next Time.....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Treasure Tuesday - Qwirkle Cubes

This is such a fun game!  I saw it on display at a really cool game store near Columbia Maryland and decided to get it.  My husband is not much of a game player but he will every once in a while and he likes it better if we have people over so a whole group is playing.  This would be a great game to get the whole family to play especially if there are younger kids, because there is no reading or really advanced strategies, you are just following a pattern of shapes and or colors.  You can pretty much tell by the picture how to play the game.  And when you place a cube you get points for the amount of cubes in the row you added to AND the row that might have branched off of it.

Anyway, it was really fun and not too short and not too long.  Definitely one of my "treasures".

Until Next Time.....

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cooking on a Budget - Part Five

recipe organization

I probably should have done this one before the grocery store and coupons....sorry.  Better late than never!

So, to do a really good job with meal planning with your recipes, grocery ads and coupons, your recipes first have to be organized.  I know a bunch of people just sighed realllllly big just then.  Just like most of what I have to say, there is some up front work, but once it's done it is smooth sailing!

If you are like most people you have piles of recipes ripped out of magazines, printed off the internet, or scraps of paper laying around.  How do you even know what you want to make?!  Let alone shop for it then make it.  So this part will take a little while....I did it over about 2 weeks, but I had A LOT of almost 20 years worth in some cases!  I have an end table right next to my chair where I normally sit in the living room after dinner or whenever I'm taking a break from something.  I put in all my magazine scraps and print outs and even those little cookbooks that you can buy from the check out line all into a fabric covered bin and put it on that table.  Then I looked at each one and got really honest with myself. (BTW, the recycle bin was also right next to my chair!) Ask yourself some questions....
1. Am I really ever going to make this?
2. Does this contain ingredients that I don't normally keep around?
3. Am I going to buy that particular ingredient just for this recipe or is it repeated in others I want to try or I will make?
4. Will my family actually eat this or is it something I just hope they would eat?
5. Is this recipe too involved for me? Will I have the time to actually make it or will I always overlook it because of the time factor?

You get the idea.  You might think of some more specific questions to ask yourself.   Now put it into a pile or a folder.  Make for "yes" one for "maybe".  The "no" pile is the recycle bin!  The maybe folder you will revisit one day after you get better at planning and in the kitchen and more comfortable with the routine.  More than likely most of the maybe's will get recycled, but you might find some that you really want to try then.  Do not be surprised....if you are completely honest....that the recycle bin is now very full and your 2 piles are very small.  That's actually kind of a good thing.  Unless your are a chef and cooking a variety of things every day, you do not need hundreds of recipes.  It's actually best to have a very few that you are very good at.  In fact, you might want to go through your yes pile and select your top 10.  Master those.....if your family even gets past the first run (can't tell you how many times that has happened to me!) once they are mastered pick 10 more.  Or maybe you only want to start with five.  Whatever you feel you can do.

Now let's organize all of those ripped pages and print outs.  The picture above is a 3 ring binder that I have.  It has sheet protectors in it and it came with some fancy papers with a cooking border around it so that you can type out recipes and then print them onto this paper.  I still have a good part of my yes pile that hasn't made it into the binder yet.  I don't want to waste my time typing it out if it is not going to be a keeper.  To me that means I have to make it at least three times (if it was good the first time) and my family says yes they really like it.  THEN it will make the binder!

In my binder I like to keep like things together.  Meaning, first I have any snacks or appetizers.  Then comes soup.  Then sides.  Then I break down my main dishes....beef, chicken, pork, meatless.  Then last but not least desserts!  And yes, I alphabetize within those categories.  You can take the girl out of the library.....

You might have a different system.....there's no right or wrong.  I have a friend that keeps hers together by Mexican, Asian, etc.  Whatever works and makes sense to you and that you'll be able to EASILY find when you want it....that's the way to do it.

I do not always type out my recipes that are keepers.  Maybe the magazine did a great job with the layout plus there is a picture of the end product that I like to look at.  All you need to do is put that in a sheet protector in your binder.  Another thing I like to do when I print off the computer is copy and paste into a Word document and add my own picture.  For example, say that you like my Taco Soup recipe.....and it is really good! can copy and paste it into Word.  When you make it, take a picture of any part that you want to stand out.....the brand of something you used, the pot full, the end product in a bowl.....and add that to your document.  Then print out the whole thing and place it in a sheet protector.  BTW you want a sheet protector so you can wipe off any spills.

Now that you have a binder....or maybe working from your top ten from your yes pile....grab those grocery ads and coupons and start planning your trip to the store.  You might actually be surprised at how little you'll need to buy depending on your recipes.  You might already have a majority of the ingredients in the pantry you cleaned out a couple weeks DID clean out your pantry didn't you?

Until Next Time.....

Friday, October 21, 2011

Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole for the Crock Pot

4 slices of bacon diced
1 lb fresh turkey tenderloins cut into 1 inch pieces
     you could also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chicken tenderloins, or leftover turkey
1 c carrots chopped
1 med onion chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1 c uncooked wild rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
2-1/2 c water
2 Tblsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp dried marjoram leaves (optional)
pepper to taste

in skillet cook bacon until almost crisp
add turkey and vegetables and cook for 2 min until browned (if using left over meat, no need to brown)
place all ingredients into 3-1/2 to 4 qt crock pot and mix well
cover and cook on low 5-6 hours until rice is tender, fresh meat is no longer pink, and liquid is mostly absorbed

Until Next Time.....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

$8 or Less Recipe - Cowboy Soup with variations

1 lb ground beef
1 onion chopped
2 green chilis minced (or small call green chilis)
4 cloves garlic minced
2 Tblsp flour
1 can tomato soup
2 Tblsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 c beef stock
1-1/2 c frozen corn
1/2 c long grain white rice
1 c cubed American cheese (optional)
1 small can black beans (optional)

in stock pot, cook beef onion, chilis and garlic over medium heat, until browned
add flour and stir about 3 more minutes
add soup, spices and beef stock, bring to a boil
cover and simmer 5 minutes
stir in frozen corn, bring back to a simmer
stir in rice and beans if using, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until rice is tender
Stir in cheese if using until melted, then serve....or serve cheese as garnish

brown first ingredients as in stove top version OR if you've browned your ground beef ahead of time and then froze it...
place all ingredients EXCEPT rice in 6 qt crock pot and stir well
cover and cook on low 8-10 hours
turn up to high and stir in rice
cover and cook 20 -30 minutes or until rice is tender
stir in cheese and serve or use cheese as a garnish

total cost around $6.50, less if you buy ingredients on sale and/or with coupons!

Until Next Time.....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Proverbs 31 Wife - Week Four

Discussion question #4:
What is your definition of a homemaker? Growing up, what was your perception of a homemaker? What about now? Do you consider yourself a homemaker? Why or why not?

For most of my life, the definition of a homemaker was a woman who stayed home and didn't have a paying job.  She cooked, cleaned, took care of the kids and was room mother and general errand runner.  She was the one who watched your kids after school until you got home, etc.  My perception of a homemaker was colored by my mother's opinions.  It was someone who was "rich" enough to do that.  It wasn't necessarily a life choice, but a product of circumstances.  As a child of the 70's, I wasn't too far removed from "women did not work outside the home", yet in the middle of "we can if we want to".  My mother's opinion was that success was based on a career and money in the bank.  She was a hard worker and penny pincher and taught me a lot of great things, but it was the lady next door who taught me to tie my shoes and to chew with my mouth closed and let me put makeup on her and do her hair.

Growing up like that it was just understood that I would go to college, get a degree, and make enough money to take care of myself if I needed to, or have enough stashed away if I didn't.  I worked multiple jobs, a combo of full and part time.  Then God started to change my heart.  If I had enough time to tell you my whole story you would completely understand that it was most definitely God that changed it!

Long story short, I recently quit my job and now I am what I always considered to be a homemaker.  Mostly.  I don't have human children, and I don't watch any of the neighbor kids.  But I do all of the rest.  But you know what?  You don't have to be a stay at home....whatever to be a homemaker!  A homemaker is just what the word seems to be.  A person who makes the home.  You cook and clean maybe only on the weekends.  You make your family feel safe at home.  You create a cozy environment not just through decor but your personality.  You see I was actually a homemaker all along.  I just have more time now to do it at a slower pace.  But someone who has a paying job isn't any less of a homemaker....unless of course you are never there.  That's something to think about.  I was getting close to that and decided that wasn't what I wanted.  Trust me, making this decision wasn't easy.  The budget is so tight I could bounce a quarter off of it....if I had an extra quarter.  But for us right now, it's just right.

I'm not trying to tell you to be one thing or the other.  The only thing I am saying is to search your heart and ask God to reveal His will for your life.  He might tell you that "you are in a career that I need you to be in right now".  He might tell you "I need you to slow down to part time so that you have more time for ME".  And He might be telling you that He wants you to stay home for whatever reason.  Just don't let others try to define you.  If you have a home and take care of it and the people there in any way, you are a homemaker.  Are you the best one for your family right now?  Only God, you and your family can decide that.

Until Next Time.....

And The Winner Is.....

Before I announce the winner of the crock pot and the crock pot cookbook, let's talk about the next giveaway that I'm planning.....

It will be announced in 2 weeks and hopefully by then we will be at 1000 "likes" on will just make it more fun!  So spread the word and send your friends, because the more the merrier!

The winner is......Patricia Terrell Morse!  Congrats!  Please email me at and send me your mailing address so that I can send this to you by UPS.

Thanks so much for all the likes and telling your friends.  I'm getting some good feedback so it looks like my little idea to share some things with the world is actually helping some people. I'm a teacher at heart so this is great fun for me.

Please feel free to leave comments and questions on the wall at Facebook as I check it often and I'll do whatever I can to help.

Until Next Time.....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cooking on a Budget - Bonus: Coupons

This will be brief....and let me say there are a ton of websites out there about couponing that will say it much better than I can....this is not a full course on the subject.

If you like to coupon at all, you have probably seen the extreme couponers on TV.  I'm not that kind of girl.  To get all that stuff for free or close to it is a full time job, and let's be honest....some of them are getting things that they cannot possibly use.  Now I'm not judging!  I'm just saying be careful.  Unless you are donating 100 bottles of Tylenol to your church's medical missions team, I don't think you'll be able to use them all before they expire.

And ask yourself this: is my goal to save money for my family or is it to play a game where I come out on top?  Trust me, just saving money for your family can be fun too.

That being said....and remember, I'm not judging anyone....this is how I recommend you use coupons.

There are some great coupons out there, especially when there is a new product on the market.  But you don't have to use every coupon you come across.  Ask yourself some questions first:
1. would I have bought this product anyway or am I only buying it because I have a coupon? (now, let me say, that if you have wanted that item, but never would have bought it because it cost too much, but now you have a coupon, give it a shot!)
2. does this coupon make the item cheaper than a lesser known brand or is it still more expensive?  I had a coupon for a certain type of was 75 cents off...but if I would have used that coupon, the bread was still a dollar more than another wheat bread that we like just as well!
3. does your family like this food and will they eat it?
4. will I be able to use this before it expires?
5. can I easily use this food in my regular meal and snack planning?

Like I said, this would be brief.  There is a ton out there about couponing, but sometimes you can actually spend more when using them.  I would only use coupons on things you know you will use, and especially at the same time they are already on sale....that's where you really save!  I've said it before....get your grocery ads out and match them up with your coupons and then plan your meals and snacks around that as much as you can.  THEN you'll really be saving money!

Until Next Time.....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cooking on a Budget - Part Four

At The Grocery Store

Grocery stores are just like any other retail store; they are designed to keep you in there for awhile and for you to spend as much as possible.  They make things look really good to pass up, but once you are aware of the "tricks" they use, you'll be able to pass them by.

Many stores offer rewards plans like a savings card, digital coupons, money off gas based on how much you buy in a month, punch cards that can be redeemed for particular items, etc.  Get to know your store and what rewards programs they have and use as many as possible.  And be sure to fill out all of the information when signing up for a rewards card.  Most stores will mail you coupons based on what you buy the most.

Know the layout of your store.  The more you wander, the more your apt to put into your cart.  If you cannot find something quickly, ask an employee....that also goes for an empty shelf.  They may not be out, they just might not have restocked yet.

Ask for help at the meat counter.  Most stores will cut larger pieces of meat for you or repackage things at no extra cost.  The butchers can also give you idea on how to prepare certain cuts of meat.  That way you can purchase something cheaper that you might not have simply based on that fact that you're not sure what to do with it.  I like to get the large pork loins on sale and then have them cut into smaller roasts and pork chops.  It's also great to get whole chickens on sale then have the butcher cut them into 8 serving pieces.  Bone in pieces are more tender and juicy when cooked "low and slow".

Always check your receipt.  This might shock you, but computers can make mistakes....or things might scan twice, or your coupon might not have doubled.  If you see a problem, go straight to customer service.  They can give you your money back, you'll not hold up the line and they can fix any computer errors right then.

Try to shop only once a week.  Get the ads and the coupons from your newspaper and think of your recipes.  Plan your meals for the week, and also plan snacks such as baby carrots and dip.  Buy only those things...unless it's a great stockpiling deal (that's for another day!) But basically stick to your list and don't fall for beautiful displays and big signs.  Remember to divide the price by the ounces to see what is really a deal!

Until Next Time.....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Easiest Chili Ever - with variations


1 lb ground beef
1 small onion (optional)
1 small can tomato paste
1 14 oz can tomato sauce (8 oz is pictured)
1 can tomato soup
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can Bush's Chili magic chili starter
1 can kidney beans (optional)
1 12oz can tomato juice (optional)
worcestershire sauce
chili powder to taste (I probably use about 3 Tblsp)
garlic salt to taste

In skillet, brown ground beef with worcestershire sauce and garlic salt. (add chopped onion if you are using)
Put ground beef in dutch oven or very large saucepan
add remaining ingredients
bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer until desired thickness

1.  I've said it before....when it comes to soup, I like to cook it low and slow.  I add a can of water for every canned ingredient, bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 3 hours.  I like for the flavors to meld and the ground beef to really take on other tastes.

2. VEGETARIAN - use vegetarian crumbles instead of ground beef and be sure your beans are vegetarian.  You could also use black beans in place of the ground beef.

3. CROCK POT - use the tomato juice but do not add any water.  This can cook on low for anywhere from 8-12 hours.  I have heard of people putting the ground beef in raw, but I've personally never tried this.  If your crock pot tends to run hot, you might want to add a little water then keep any eye on it after about 6-7 hours until you know how it will turn out. are opening a bunch of cans....that's why it's called easy.  But with seasonings you can make it your own.

Until Next Time.....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Steak and Potato Soup

photo from betty crocker

1 lb beef round steak cut into inch pieces
1 lb small red potatoes cut into 1/4 inch slices (about 4 cups)
2 med carrots chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
1 6oz jar sliced mushrooms drained (or fresh!)
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp pepper
1 32oz carton beef broth (or 4 cups of your own)

in 5-6 qt slow cooker, combine all ingredients
cover and cook on low 8-9 hours
if you would like it thicker, in a small bowl combine flour and water, or cornstarch and water
mix into soup, cook on high 30 minutes or until desired thickness is reached

Until Next Time.....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

$8 or Less Recipe - Breakfast Pizza

4 whole wheat pita breads
1 3oz pkg cream cheese softened
2 Tblsp butter
4 eggs, beaten
2 Tblsp milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 sausage patties, cooked and chopped (or a few slices of bacon, crumbled)
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
you could also add mushrooms, or any vegetables you might like

preheat oven to 400
place pita breads on a cookie sheet and spread each with 1/4 of the cream cheese
heat butter in small skillet over medium heat
combine milk, eggs and salt and pour into skillet
cook until eggs are just set
divide eggs among pitas
top with sausage and cheese
bake for 10-15 minutes or until pizzas are hot and cheese melts
let cool for 5 min before serving

total cost around $4.50 less if you can get ingredients on sale and/or with coupons!

Until Next Time.....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Proverbs 31 Wife - Week Three

Discussion question number 3: How do you prepare to receive your husband when he walks in the door? Do you notice a difference with him when you are happy or cranky? What are some things you might do differently?

Until I wasn't working anymore, I never really thought about it.  When I was working, I was cranky most days and he would be the one coming through the door trying to cheer ME up.  I knew when I would be at home, I wanted to make a nicer environment for my husband.....have dinner ready, have a clean house, etc.

So now we are here; how am I doing?  Some days, not so good!  It's really the little things that set me off.  Maybe I have been cooking for a couple hours on a nice meal and then he's late coming home.  When things don't go the way I planned, initially I don't take it all!  I also have low blood sugar and I REALLY need to remember to have a snack when things like this happen.  If I wait to eat anything until I can eat with him it could get ugly.  When I am "grumpgry" I can be mean!

This past week I have to say that it went pretty well.  Of course I think it helped that twice I made soup....chili and taco soup....and so if it cooks a little longer it's no big deal.  I also made him fudge so that made him pretty happy to come home to.  And I have decided to vacuum everyday.  HUH???  Weird, I know, but there are the two of us and two dogs, one of which is quite the shedder.  My husband hasn't complained as much in the last three days about being so stuffed up! 

I guess I have done a better job, because last night as we were falling asleep he thanked me for the cooking and cleaning I have done this week and that it has been nice for him to come home to this.  Some people might say that he is sexist and I'm falling for it.  I say that he has a stressful job, with our only income, and that I'm taking pride in MY job which is the house.  It is also what I feel God has called me to do....which is a huge statement if you had known me growing up or in my early twenties.

I still have a ways to go, but in three weeks I already see a slight improvement.  There might just be hope for me yet!

Until Next Time.....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tool Tuesday - My Williams-Sonoma Spatula

I got this all purpose spatula at Williams - Sonoma after attending one of their free technique classes.  The instructor was using one....but the one she was using, the handle was all stainless steel and cost $5 more.  One of the things I've learned in doing all the research for my blog is that you're not supposed to use metal utensils in stainless steel cookware.  Which makes one ask, when can you ever use metal utensils?

I really love this one because you can get right up into the edges with the straight side.  Just like a good spatula gets all the cake batter off the bowl, this one does the same with whatever you're cooking. You can use it to separate things that have gotten stuck together, and it's still flat enough that you can flip some things with it too.

I might need to get another one....or two since I cook with it all the time now.  (Did you hear that Santa!?)

If you're looking for some kind of all purpose cooking tool, you can't really go wrong with this one.

Until Next Time.....

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cooking on a Budget - Part Three

Lists, the pantry and your recipes.

Lists are imperative in sticking to a budget.  It's when we go off list, go by our emotions or stomach, or have poor planning that we spend way too much on the food budget.  Start with lists and keep them up and you'll be saving every day!

First let's start in the pantry.  You need to know what you have on hand before you know what you can cook and what you need to shop for.  I don't have a pantry with a door like some of the newer houses do. I don't even have enough cabinet space for a good stock of groceries, so what I did was make my own pantry downstairs.  I simply put up some of those restaurant type wire shelves in the entry from the garage.  I can see at a glance what I have....and of course it's pretty organized.  All the cereal is on top.  Next shelf is boxed goods. Next is canned goods.  Next is goods in jars and condiments, and the bottom shelf is for drinks....bottled water and pop.

To get your pantry in order, go to the "save time and money" page and go through the posts about the pantry.  Then once it's in order, if you have a door, place a list of everything you have on hand (since you have to stack things five deep sometimes and can forget what's there) you could use paper on a clipboard and hang the clipboard, or maybe you already have a corkboard inside that you could pin it to.

You also need to know what you have in the freezer.  Clean it out and only put back what you will eat and isn't totally ruined by freezer burn.  Have a list on the outside here too.  I have a magnetic white board on the big freezer downstairs so I don't open the door and stare and it's easy to wipe something off once I've used it.  Upstairs I use a magnetic shopping list tablet.

Now you need to look at your recipes.  Take some time to go through them.  What are you really good at making?  What does your family really like?  Keep those recipes.  Have a bunch in there that were epic fails or maybe you always wanted to try but haven't in the last ten years?  Get rid of them!  Unless you are going to be the next Iron Chef, you don't need a ton of recipes.  Have a smaller amount and get really good with them!

Now compare.  What is in your pantry and freezer that will make some of your recipes?  Items that are missing to complete those recipes are what should go on your grocery list.  I know that may sound like a lot of work, but once your pantry and freezer are organized you simply need to keep it that way, which is actually very easy to do when you put your groceries away neatly. Once this up front work is done, making weekly, bi-weekly or monthly grocery lists are a breeze!

Let me know if you have any questions!
Until Next Time.....

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Taco Soup with variations

This is a very versatile soup that can be made low sodium, vegetarian, and in the crock pot.  It can be quick or slow simmered. Variations will be listed after the original recipe.
*made with only first 7 ingredients, this makes about 9 cups, or 9 servings at only 158 calories per*

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
32 oz beef broth
1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes (or equivalent of fresh or canned from your own garden)
1-1/2 c picante sauce medium or hot
2 Tblsp chili powder (2 tsp if you don't want too hot)
Shredded cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream, etc for serving

In large saucepan, cook onion and garlic until translucent
add beef, brown and drain
add rest of ingredients and bring to a boil, stir occasionally
reduce heat and cover, simmer 15 minutes

Now when it comes to soup, I'm a little old school.  I like to simmer mine for a while so that all of the flavors intermingle and everything gets really yummy.....

1. add 4 cups of water and simmer for at least two hours or until it is the thickness you prefer

2. CROCK POT: Take recipe as is, add 1 cup of water, place in crock pot after browning (if you brown your ground beef ahead of time and freeze it, you are ready to go) cook on low 8-10 hours

3. VEGETARIAN: replace ground beef with vegetarian crumbles, and replace beef broth with vegetable broth

4. LOW SODIUM: use low sodium beef broth (or make your own), tomatoes, and picante

Until Next Time.....

Cheesecake Bars


1 boxed yellow cake mix
1 stick margarine or butter - melted and cooled
1 egg - beaten

1 lb powdered sugar
2 eggs - beaten (for gooey-er texture only use one egg)
8 oz cream cheese - softened
1 tsp vanilla

preheat oven to 350
mix ingredients for crust together until moistened
press into a greased and VERY lightly floured 9x13 pan
in another bowl, beat together rest of ingredients until smooth
spread over crust layer
bake 30-35 minutes

Until Next Time.....

Easiest Fudge Ever

1 16oz can frosting of your choice
1 12 oz bag of chips of your choice

(I used chocolate frosting and peanut butter chips)

Put frosting and chips in microwave safe bowl
microwave for 45 seconds
microwave for another 45 seconds
stir until smooth and well mixed
repeat if necessary
pour into lightly greased 8x8 pan
refrigerate until set

I found this while page hopping one day and write it down on a scrap of paper.  I decided to try it not really thinking it would work, so I do not know exactly where it came from, but to whomever posted this somewhere on Facebook.....thank you!  I do remember her saying that she did it with a white frosting and chopped up Andes mints, hmmmm!

Until Next Time.....

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steak Fajitas in the CP

1 EACH: med green, sweet red, and yellow pepper cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 sweet onion cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 lbs beef sirloin cut into thin strips (or similar cut of meat, like round) or chicken
3/4 c water
2 Tblsp red wine vinegar (I have actually left this out before)
1 Tblsp lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
8 flour tortillas, warmed
salsa, cheese, cilantro, and other toppings as you wish
(increase cumin and chili powder to taste)

place peppers and onions in 5 qt slow cooker
top with beef
combine water, lime juice, and seasonings
pour over meat
cover and cook on low 8-9 hours or until tender
use slotted spoon to make fajitas

Until Next Time.....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

$8 or Less Recipe - Chocolate Oatmeal Pie

1/2 c butter
1-1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips, divided
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c corn syrup
3 eggs
2 Tblsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 c toasted chopped walnuts (try 1 extra cup of oats instead if allergic to nuts)
1 c quick cooking oatmeal
1 ready made refrigerated pie crust, unbaked, placed in pie pan

preheat oven to 350
in large saucepan combine butter with 3/4 cup chocolate chips, brown sugar and corn syrup
cook and stir over low heat until butter and chips are melted
remove from heat
add eggs one at a time, beating well after each
stir in remaining ingredients
pour into crust
bake 40-50 minutes or until pie is set and crust is golden brown (40 for me)
let stand 45 min before serving

total cost around $6.00 less if you can get ingredients on sale and/or with coupons!

Until Next Time.....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Proverbs 31 Wife - Week Two

Discussion Question #2 : How would you describe yourself as a cook?  Are you gourmet, short-order, or fast food?  Do you love it or hate it?  What's your favorite thing to cook?  Who taught you to cook?

Well, let's see.  I don't think I'm gourmet by any means.  I don't like frou-frou food, so therefore I don't make it for anyone else.  I do make quite a few things that are mostly from scratch, it's hard to avoid a can of something here and there.  Short order?  to me that implies people sitting around the table telling me they each want a different thing.  Yeah, that ain't happening either!  Fast food? Sometimes, but not often.  So where do I fit?  Not sure what you would call me.  My recipes are mainly simple, sometimes using canned or packaged things. But I am stirring and warming them up myself!

I do love to cook, but my body doesn't always.  Standing for a long time is impossible some days.  That's where the occasional fast food comes in, though usually it's pizza.  When I'm feeling good, I love to cook.....but I hate to clean up after it!!

My favorite thing to cook is my vegetable soup.  I cut up all the veggies myself from fresh.  I do use canned tomatoes and sauce and juice, but the rest is all me.  It cooks for about 4 hours and you feel like you've really accomplished something when it's done.  And people just love it, that's probably what I like the most, that people like something I have created.  

Lucky for anyone who eats at my table, my dad taught me how to cook. (sorry, mom)  He was great at meat and vegetables.  I kinda wonder if that's why I don't do much with fruit, because he didn't.  And there were no bakers in my family.  Supposed to be a Grandma thing right? yeah, not mine.  Guess that's why I don't bake much!

With all of this in mind, this past week I tried to be  a better wife by planning meals and cooking more.   I wrote out the days of the week and what I would make each day and even planned a leftovers day so nothing would go to waste.  So how did I do?  How's 3 out of 5?  I have to say that one of those fails was not my fault.  The nature of my husband's business makes it difficult to plan meals.  He might call when I have already started and say he's in a town 2 hours away and will be there for awhile.  Not good for a meal that takes 2 hours from start to finish but you don't know when the people will be there to eat it!  Then the other fail was all me.  I didn't feel well, so I didn't cook.  We had fend for yourself. *sigh*  Well, I can't expect to turn into the Proverbs 31 wife in one week right?  RIGHT! So, I won't give up, but I won't beat myself up either.  I will continue to plan as best I can, and we'll see how it goes.  The Hubby did love what I did manage to make, so that's something, right?

Until Next Time.....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicken in a Pot

2 carrots sliced
2 onions sliced
2 celery stalks with leaves cut into 1 inch pieces
3-4 lb whole chicken
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 c chicken broth or white wine
1/2 tsp basil

put vegetables in bottom of pot
add whole chicken
top with seasonings and liquid
cover and cook on low 8 hours

serve with mashed potatoes or rice

I found this recipe in an old crock pot manual....for a pot we don't have anymore :)

Until Next Time.....

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cooking on a Budget - Part Two

Your spending habits and what's really cheaper.

Budgeting 101 says that you make a budget by first looking at where you have spent your money in the past.  Just like with everything else in our lives we fall into habits here.  We tend to do what is easy, especially the busier we get.  But we need to take a close look at how we spend money on food.  You'll probably be surprised at how much you can save and eat better too.

Back to budgeting 101; just like in every other area of spending, go back through your checkbook and credit card statements for the past 3-4 months and see how much you have spent on food at the grocery and eating out.  Don't forget any stops at the 7/11 for milk and bread.  If you have kept your receipts or know what's what in your checkbook, write down how much you have spent in each category: eating out, grocery, gas station quick stops, etc.  Add it all up, and then see where you need to make the cuts.  For some people, you need to plan better and quit paying $10 at the gas station for milk and bread and be sure you get it when you go to the grocery, saving you anywhere from $3-5.  Some of you eat out twice a day.  You could save a ridiculous amount of money just by cutting that in half....of course, our goal is more!

Most Americans spend almost 50% of their food budget eating out.  While it can be more fun and easier on you to eat out, you can do most of the same things at home for less than half the cost and without tipping.  And it can be more family time if you all work together.

So, what's really cheaper?  Saving at the grocery will depend on what you buy.  For example, you can get boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale sometimes for $1.99 a pound.  Still cheaper than a restaurant, BUT you can get the ones still on the bone for 98 cents a pound.  Then when you debone them yourself, save the bones and skin and make your own stock.  4 cups of store bought chicken broth $3.98.  4 cups of chicken broth you made yourself: the cost of 5 cups of tap water.

Vegetables: Frozen and canned are cheaper than fresh most of the time.  Nutritionally they are about the same. Frozen is sometimes actually better because the vegetable are flash frozen as soon as they are picked.  Fresh comes from the farm to the processor to the store and sits on the shelf.  Canned is the same way as frozen with the exception that some add salt, you'll want to read the labels on canned.

Meat: buy a cheaper cut of round steak and then marinade it overnight to tenderize it and make it more flavorful.  Or use it in the crock pot which softens even the toughest cuts of meat.  Buy that same steak and pound it with flour to make your own swiss steak.  Buy ground beef on sale and make your own hamburgers rather than the premade ones that can cost $2-3 more per pound.

Canned and dry goods: stores now show unit pricing right on the price tag....a budget shopper's best friend.  Always check the price per ounce.  Bigger is not always better.  Know what you are paying per ounce and always get the cheapest one.  Sometimes that means two smaller boxes instead of one large one.  If your store doesn't have these tags, bring a calculator with you and divide for yourself.

Until Next Time.....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Taco Seasoning mix

Taking Robert Irvine's advice that making your own is better and cheaper, try this recipe for making your own taco seasoning can adjust anything you like for your own taste.

6 tsp. Chili Powder
5 tsp. paprika
4 1/2 tsp. cumin
2 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
3 tsp. Onion Powder
1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Combine all ingredients together, and mix well. 
Use 3 tablespoons of mix and add 3/4 cup of water, to one pound of ground beef or chicken.
Store in an airtight container.

Until Next Time.....

Saturday, October 1, 2011

And The Winner Is.....


Congratulations Jan!  Please email me at with your mailing address so I can send you the microfiber set from Tupperware.


Until Next Time .....

Tex-Mex Pot Roast

3 lb chuck roast
1 envelope taco seasoning (or make your own seasoning)
1/2 c water

spray 4 qt slow cooker with non-stick spray
place meat in pot
combine seasoning and water
pour over roast
cover and cook on low 10-12 hours

serve with spanish rice

Until Next Time.....

Swiss Steak

1-1/2 lb round steak cut into serving size pieces
1 lb baby carrots cut into thirds or fourths
1 envelope onion soup mix (or use the alternative listed under soups)
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained

spray 4 qt slow cooker with non-stick spray
place carrots in bottom
top with steak
combine rest of ingredients and pour over the top
cover and cook on low 8-10 hours

serve over garlic mashed potatoes

Until Next Time.....

Easy BBQ Pork Chops

6 pork chops about 3/4 inch thick, with or without bone
1 16oz bottle your favorite BBQ sauce

spray 4 qt slow cooker with non-stick spray
brush each chop with sauce and place in pot
pour remaining sauce over top
cover and cook on low 7 hours

Until Next Time.....