Monday, August 31, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, week of 8/31/09

How can it possibly be September already??? And how can it be like 70° outside on the last day of August? Life can be bizarre at times!!

I did a slightly different menu plan this week. I waited until today because I knew I was going to the store and I wanted to see what bargains I found before I planned. I also haven't figured out the weekend yet. There isn't a particular reason for this - just the fact that I simply don't know what I want to make. I have the first 5 days planned around what I purchased today and what the kids requested, and I will just decide later what I feel like making this weekend. Fair enough? :-)

Monday - French dip sandwiches, homemade macaroni and cheese, watermelon.

Tuesday - Chicken stir fry, steamed rice, baby corn.

Wednesday - Pastitsio, corn, cornbread.

Thursday - Grilled orange-apricot pork chops, baked potatoes or crunch-top potatoes, "fried" apples, biscuits.

Friday - Ham/mushroom/pineapple pizza on a wheat sourdough crust.

That's all I have! Sorry for the casuality of the menu plan this weekend, but I think that's about all my brain can handle today. I also think I need more

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, week of 8/24/09

Last week was another one that got out of control and the menu plan didn't go quite as expected. The start of school is really chaotic when you volunteer for just about everything! :-) This week I've picked some simple meals, due to school obligations I know ahead of time and just to make it easier on me. It's also my birthday tomorrow, so I picked something pretty simple. Here's the plan:

Monday - Sloppy joes, tater tots, "fried" apples (from the freezer).

Tuesday - Using the crock pot due to Parent Orientation Night. Pot roast with potatoes and carrots, homemade rolls.

Wednesday - Gotta grill something this week since we missed it last week! Grilled chicken, green rice, rolls.

Thursday - Beef-mushroom spaghetti, green beans, breadsticks.

Friday - Bacon cheeseburger pizza on a sourdough crust.

Saturday - Pork piccata (still haven't gotten it made!!!), mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits.

Sunday - Bierocks and pizza pockets (from the freezer from last week), leftover sides from earlier in the week.

Sound simple enough? Now let's see if I can stick to it - lol! For more great meal plans, visit Org Junkie.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

From Beans to Jeans

Interesting title, eh? It seemed to fit well with my current thought process, so I went with it. :-)

Yesterday, I had to visit our local hospital's lab for some bloodwork. I have a completely inactive thyroid and in order to keep my medication levels correct, I have to get a blood count done on a fairly regular basis. Usually this is a quick in-and-out process that only takes a few minutes of my day. This wasn't the case yesterday. For a myriad of reasons (none my fault), I had a lengthy wait until I was called back.

As I sat in the waiting area, it began to fill up a bit. Some people sitting near me began discussing the start of school. I wasn't eavesdropping, but they were only a couple of feet away and I couldn't help but overhear - the conversation was obviously innocuous, anyway. The woman asked the man if he had finished his daughter's back-to-school shopping. When he replied affirmatively, she asked what he had spent. He snorted and told her, "$135. And it was ONE pair of jeans!" She was shocked and asked him WHY so much for jeans. He explained that she HAD to have this particular brand, and since they cost $135, it was the only clothing they had bought for her.

The conversation continued, but just that part of it really got me to thinking. In the practice of frugality and making the most of what we have, we tend to focus on the little things that add up to save us money, such as substituting beans for meat in dinners. Washing out Ziploc bags for multiple uses and turning off lights when we leave rooms help us stretch our dollars. But in the midst of all the little things, how much do we consider the BIG things, like teaching our children that money and possessions are not the most important things in their lives?

I know I can't imagine my children even asking me for a pair of jeans (or ANY article of clothing) that cost over $100! They are perfectly happy to shop at thrift stores and garage sales and get very excited when we go to a regular retail store to buy things. None of the three of them care if they have "Tommy Hilfiger" on a shirt or the latest trendy jeans. Now, I know they are still young (the oldest is just 13), but I truly don't believe that will change. It's just the way we are raising them.....bringing them up as the next generation of savers, not spenders. We plan to continue to do this, and hopefully they will never become materialistic.

In the greater scheme of things, both the little things we do (the beans) and the big things (the jeans) are equally important. Just some food for thought. Here's hoping you never "have to" buy a $135 pair of jeans!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week of 8/17

Back to school week has arrived. Blah. Time to get back into routines and get up early and do homework and projects and deal with teachers and..... you know how it goes. I guess the alternative is homeschooling, but if you know me at all, you know I don't have the patience for THAT! :-)

As I mentioned in my previous post, there will be some repeats from last week, since I didn't stick to the menu plan at ALL. I'm hoping things will be much calmer this week. So here's the plan:

Monday - Lasagna (already in the fridge from yesterday), salad, Pillsbury French Loaf. I made this lasagna with regular noodles, put in UNcooked, and it turned out great! I will most definitely make it this way again as it saved me a lot of prep time.

Tuesday - Bierocks (I make mine sort of similar to THIS recipe) and pizza pockets (the kids don't like cabbage so I fill some of them with pizza sauce, ham, and mozzarella), salad, glazed carrots (but I drain all the water!)

Wednesday - Skillet chicken supper (delicious with bone-in chicken breasts), biscuits.

Thursday - Rotisserie chicken (I'm cheating...I have to go to Sam's for flour and I plan to pick up a chicken while I'm there), steamed rice, corn, homemade rolls.

Friday - Pizza night - chicken alfredo pizza on a sourdough crust.

Saturday - We are spending the morning on a parade float supporting the Watch D.O.G.S. and probably a lot of the afternoon downtown at the Parkville Days Riverfest, so I'm thinking grill night! Sirloin steaks, either baked potatoes or crunch-top potatoes (depending on my energy level and time), green beans, rest of the rolls from Thursday.

Sunday - Ham and scalloped potatoes (my daughter is STILL begging for this), corn, cornbread.

It's a plan, anyway. Hopefully I can actually stick to it this time around! For more great menu plans, visit Org Junkie!

Life Threw a Curve Ball

I'm so glad that it's almost football season, because I've grown tired of life's little curveballs, and I'm choosing to believe that baseball season is to blame! Hey, it works for me, anyway.

I haven't blogged this week, but my life has been a little off kilter. On Tuesday, a dear friend ended her battle with liver cancer. I am so blessed that I visited her that afternoon and got to spend some time with her, because only hours after leaving her side, I received the call that she was gone. As you might imagine, that completely threw off my week. We didn't even make it to my son's back to school night festivities. I think we ordered pizza that night and stayed home. It's been a tough week.

As a result of the lost sleep, required school outings, and visitation and funeral events, I haven't stuck to my meal plan for most of the week. We've eaten out entirely too much and my stomach and checkbook are all the worse for it. Today I'm trying to get back into my usual routine, including laundry, cooking, and cleaning the house, which has also suffered greatly this week.

I'll be posting a menu plan later today that will most likely reflect last week's missed meals. I did manage to get a lasagna done last night, and about 3/4 of the way into its bake time, we lost power. It was off for an hour and a half, and I let the lasagna sit in the oven for about the first 45 minutes. It came out fine, and we ate by candlelight with no side dishes - I didn't know when the power would come back, so we didn't open the fridge. You can make Kool-Aid with no power, so the kids loved that! We have enough left for another meal, so that will start off my Monday night. I'm helping with a New Parents' Breakfast at school in the morning, so an easy dinner will be great.

I can't believe school starts tomorrow. I'm so not ready to give my kids back to the school district all day. I'm also not ready to deal with all the nasty germs that come home with them. I'm prepared.....just not ready. :-) I'm sure it won't take long to setting back into the usual schoolday routine and it will all feel normal again, but I really like having my kiddos home with me all day. I'll miss them!

Here's looking forward to a good week this week!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pac-Man Pork

Okay, first I definitely have to explain the name of this recipe. My kids named it! I threw it together tonight and asked them what I should call it. My son declared it "Pac-Man Pork" because "we gobbled it all up!" The girls agreed, so thus it has been named. This was a Crock Pot dinner I made up tonight, and as you can tell, it was quite well received.

Pac Man Pork

4 thick-sliced pork chops
1 c. orange juice
2 peaches, sliced
1/2 c. half-and-half
2 T. cornstarch
1 t. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Place pork chops and orange juice in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-7 hours (I put mine in frozen). About an hour before serving, add the peach slices to the cooker and continue to cook on low. Half-an-hour before serving, stir the cornstarch and seasonings into the half-and-half. Remove pork and peaches from the cooker with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping warm. Stir mixture into juices in cooker and turn up to high. Just before serving, return pork and peaches to cooker and stir gently. The sauce should have thickened and taken on a nice creamy color.

I served it with rice as you can tell, but next time, I will make mashed potatoes to more thoroughly enjoy that rich and creamy gravy!

This was very yummy, and if I named it, I'd probably call it Peaches and Cream Pork Chops. I'm looking forward to having the leftover gravy on a biscuit for breakfast tomorrow! Yummmmm!!!!

Menu Plan Monday, Week of 8/10

I've had a hard time menu planning this week. I think it's because I'm not looking forward to the last week of having my kids at home for the summer. I hate that school is starting next week! I've also got a lot of things going on this week, which just further complicates matters. But after much contemplation, I think I have finally decided on an acceptable menu. Here goes:

Monday - Jack's Ranch Chicken, rice, sliced fresh peaches, butternut squash, biscuits.

Tuesday - Ham and scalloped potatoes (layers of potato and cubed ham with a simple white sauce and some shredded cheddar, baked in the oven), corn, cornbread. This might end up being cooked in the slow cooker instead because I will be running around most of the day.

Wednesday - No dinner plan, because we will be attending a back-to-school night where they will be feeding us a wonderful meal of hot dogs and potato chips. Can you say "heartburn"??

Thursday - Another weird day, due to yet another back-to-school night. We'll be eating later than usual, so the Crock Pot will be put to use again. I'm going to try making lasagna in the Crock Pot for the first time. Hopefully it will come out okay! We'll have salad and probably Pillsbury French Loaf with it.

Friday - Pizza night! I'm thinking ham and pineapple on a sourdough crust this time around.

Saturday - I'm sure we will have leftover lasagna from Thursday, so I'm planning on having it again tonight with green beans and homemade rolls.

Sunday - Skillet Chicken Supper (I make it with bone-in breasts and it is sooooo good!), salad, the rest of the rolls.

If nothing else, at least it's a plan! :) For more great menus, visit Menu Plan Monday at Org Junkie.

Cutting Your Grocery Bill - The Series - Episode 11

I'm getting back on track with the grocery bill series, and hopefully I'll wrap it up soon! :) How about two more tips today? Here they are:

Use your Crock Pot! Even the cheapest cut of beef comes out of a Crock Pot tender and moist. You can also spend 10 minutes in the morning putting everything in the Pot and when you come home that evening, dinner is ready to go. This is another way to avoid the temptation to go out and grab a meal.

Make ground beef go further than you thought - if the recipe calls for 1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef, chances are you will be fine with just a pound. Another trick is to mix healthy fillers into the ground meat to stretch it further. I've made sloppy joes and pizza pockets with cooked bulgur mixed in with the beef and the kids never even knew! Rice is another great way to stretch ground meat, and makes chicken taco filling go further, too.

I've got my Crock Pot going today, and plan to use it at least once more this week. While cooking in the Crock Pot is incredibly convenient (throw your ingredients in early in the day and it's ready at dinner time), using the slow cooking process also allows you to make wonderful, tender meat from much less expensive cuts. I frequently take inexpensive cuts of steak and cook them all day with a can of diced tomatoes or a can of cream of mushroom soup. We have incredibly moist meat for dinner that just falls apart!

Another appeal to the Crock Pot is its versatility. You can just throw together what you have and out comes dinner. If you discover you forgot to thaw your meat, no problem! You can simply throw the frozen meat in the crock and allow a little extra time for cooking. When I worked, I almost always put in frozen meat and allowed it all day to cook to perfection. Tonight's dinner is an experiment. I have pork chops and a cup of orange juice in the pot right now, and about an hour before dinner, I plan to add sliced peaches and thicken the orange sauce with a bit of cornstarch and cold water. It's a non-recipe dinner, but I know we love orange-apricot pork chops on the grill, so I bet we enjoy this, too!

Last year, a blogger named Stephanie O'Dea committed to using her Crock Pot every day for the entire year. She has a blog filled with wonderful and unique recipes. Check it out here. The recipe she has that I use most frequently is Rotisserie Style Chicken. I generally wrap potatoes in the foil that goes under the chicken for an easy meal.

If you don't use your slow cooker, you really should try it. A few minutes in the morning can result in a lot of time saved in the evening, and we all know time is money. :) Check out Stephanie's blog or do a Swagbucks search for Crock Pot recipes and get started!

Now, let's briefly visit ground beef. The tip, as written, has most of the information, so I will only elaborate a bit (shocking for me, I know!). I never use the amount of ground beef called for in recipes. Generally speaking, I use between a half-pound and a pound per full meal, even if the original recipe calls for a pound or more. Meat loaf is an exception, but even that gets stretched with uncooked oats when I prepare it. I love making sloppy joes and bierocks with cooked bulgur mixed in with the hamburger, and Minute Rice has a wonderful recipe for chicken taco filling that I have used with great results even substituting shredded chicken for the ground. Chances are, your family will never think twice about the ingredients being "filler." My kids, who "hate" bulgur, don't even know that I sneak it into some of their favorite dishes!

So, now you hopefully have some new perspective on cutting your meat budget. What other tips can you share? Please leave a comment!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I'm Back!!

I've finally returned to my poor neglected blogs. Did anyone actually miss me? Yeah, I didn't think so! :)

I can't believe it's almost time for school to start. The kids only have NEXT WEEK before it's back to the grind. That's terrible! I had great intentions going into summer of having "school time" with them several days a week and working on handwriting, math, grammar, etc. Guess what? That didn't happen. Not at all. We've just been having entirely too much FUN this summer to do that educational stuff! I have to admit, I have really enjoyed the past couple of months and I really am not looking forward to the start of a new school year.

One of the recent fun things we've done is we've visited a farm for peaches and blackberries. We had planned on picking the peaches, but there weren't enough on the trees to pick what we wanted, so we got already-picked ones. It was still a good deal, as it was only $40 for about 50 lbs. of peaches! I spent most of my morning today canning most of them. We still have plenty to eat because we LOVE them, but I have 12.5 quarts of pretty slices all canned up and ready to eat. Seriously, if you've never had a fresh-picked peach, you simply MUST find a farm near you! The difference between fresh peaches and those awful ones you get in the store is unbelievable. My kids don't like store-bought peaches much since I've introduced them to the real deal. Very good stuff!!

The blackberries are all in the freezer, and I'm sure we will soon have a cobbler out of them. I have 14 cups of berries, which should last at least a little while. Last night for dessert, I made a trifle out of yellow cake, peach slices, sliced strawberries, and French Vanilla Cool Whip. It was divine! Trifles just look so pretty that my kids think they are about the coolest dessert out there. I think there's enough left for dessert tonight, but I'm sure they will be asking for more than I have! :)'s good to be back to blogging. I will get back on my grocery savings series very soon with Episode 11! Thanks for hanging around and waiting for me to get back! Have a wonderful weekend!!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Blogging Break

I just wanted to post a quick note to let my readers know that I will not have internet access most of next week, so I am going to be on a bit of a blogging break. Please don't think I've disappeared - I will be back soon! Thanks for reading! :-)