Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekly Shopping List June 21 and Shopping Report


This shopping trip came quickly this week due to the fact that I didn’t go shopping last week until mid-week.  I am still trying to take advantage of all the freezer cooking that I stored, and spend as little as possible.  I am working on spending less than $80 a week…and hopefully saving the $20 a week that I have been spending to pay for the times I go to Sam’s every 3-ish months.  If I can do that, then I have saved us and extra $200-$300 every 3-4 months in grocery money!!  That would be awesome!!!

Here’s my list this week:

  • Dry Pinto Beans
  • Avacados (2)
  • Potatoes
  • Tomato
  • Broccoli
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Fritos
  • Toothpaste for N
  • Huggies
  • Bananas
  • Tuna
  • Poptarts
  • Granola
  • Coffee
  • Vanilla Yogurt
  • Cheetos

Let me give you a back story on some of these items.  I go shopping every Sunday, traditionally.  This has been happening since I started staying home (about a year now).  My husband knows this is when I go.  My list was actually shorter this week.  The highlighted items are those that I was told to go get later in the week.  Needless to say, the second trip cost half as much as the first trip!! I was shocked and glad that I had saved so much money this week on my initial trip.

The extra items I ended up getting that were not on the list were:

  • Coffeemate
  • Kids Toothbrushes
  • Cereal

Then, of course—I had to go get milk yesterday.

  • Milk
  • Lactaid


That’s not bad..normally I get at least 5-6 items that are not on the list. 


Here’s the damage:

First Trip:  $40.96

Second Trip:  $18.61

Third Trip:  $8.50 ( lost my receipt, so this is an estimate)

Total:  $68.07

Not bad for a family of 4 that spent over a $100 a week just a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chicken Marsala and Veggie Fettuccini

This was a first time recipe for me last night.  I got the Chicken Marsala recipe from Mom’s Budget.  I did not have Marsala Wine, so I used White Cooking Wine instead.  I had made the chicken last week sometime and put it in the freezer, so I can attest to the fact that it is great when you cook it up after freezing it!  My husband gave this recipe a 7.0—even though my pasta needed a little more moisture.  I am modifying my pasta recipe to add some of the pasta water so that we achieve this. ;)

What you need:

1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, thinly sliced

1 cup flour

1 egg, beaten (maybe more—you be the judge)

1 stick of butter (I use reduced calorie butter by Land O’ Lakes)

2-3 tbsp. of olive oil (I added another tablespoon of oil after cooking the first batch because I used more chicken)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cup Marsala Wine ( I used White Cooking Wine)

Salt & Pepper


Fettuccini or Spaghetti noodles (enough for 4 servings)

1 Zucchini

8-10 mushrooms

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2-1 cup pasta water

salt & pepper & garlic powder


Directions: (as written at Mom’s Budget—see above link)

In skillet, melt butter and add olive oil.  Dip chicken pieces in egg, then dredge in flour to coat.  Place chicken in frying pan and fry until golden brown on each side.  Add chicken broth and remaining ingredients and simmer in skillet for ten minutes. 

While cooking chicken, start pasta water to a boil.  In a separate hot skillet, add oil for pasta.  Put in zucchini and mushrooms and season with salt/pepper/garlic powder to taste.  Cover with lid and let cook on Med-Low.  Once pasta is al-dente, drain pasta and reserve a little pasta water for your dish.  Add pasta to veggies and add pasta water.  Give it a toss.  Re-season Salt and pepper to keep flavor. 

Serve Pasta and Chicken hot.  Take a little parmesan cheese to the table and put it on the pasta for more flavor.


***Mom’s Budget is a great source of recipes and household tips.  Check it out!!  You can also get the instructions on how to freeze this chicken dish for OAMC or as I do it:  Several times a month cooking! ;0)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pinto Beans/Refried Beans

What you need:

1 medium bag of dry pinto beans.







Rinse beans. Put them in crockpot. Fill crockpot with water about 2-3 inches over top of beans. Add chopped onion, 4-5 cloves garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook on high heat. Beans will take about 5-6 hours to cook. Add soft cooked bacon to beans about 3 hours into cooking. Taste them and add more salt/pepper according to your tastes.

To make Refried beans:

What you need:

Cooked Pinto beans





garlic powder

Put beans into pan (undrained) on medium-low heat. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Use a masher and mash beans. Add water to make them the consistency that you prefer. If you add too much water, let them cook a little longer to let the water evaporate. Check seasoning after adding water…adjust if necessary.

I have discovered a wonderful website dedicated to running your home.  They have an awesome section on freezer cooking and also on free downloadable printables.  This is definitely a site to peruse and take the best from.  It is called:

Definitely check out the freezer meal section.

I have been utilizing some of the downloadable/printable lists in my own kitchen now for a couple of weeks.  I use the freezer inventory and the monthly menu planner

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shopping Tip: Use a Calculator

One thing that has kept me from overspending in the past few months is actively using my calculator as I shop.  I use my graphing calculator since I don’t own a regular 4 function calculator.  The nice thing about my spiffy calculator is that I can keep a running total of my purchase and not have to remember what number I was on last.  Also, mistakes are easily fixed.  Every few aisles I total out my calculator and make sure I am staying on track.  It helps me to make better decisions about all of those items I am putting in my cart that are not on my list.

Case in point:  This week.  I forgot my calculator and added way too many extra things to my cart.  I was hoping my bill would not be as expensive as it was.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shopping Report: How’d I do this week?

If you read my list before, you will notice that a lot changed.  I spent more money than I intended, but I did not go over budget for the week…actually I was/am still a little under budget by about $30! 

I added these items to my list: 

  • dishwasher detergent ($3.42)
  • Flour ($1.88)
  • Bread flour ($2.28)
  • Zyrtec-generic ($17.97)
  • Zyrtec-generic for kids ($7.83)
  • Cold Medicine for kids ($2.96)
  • Tootsie Rolls ($1.97)
  • Eggs ($1.84)
  • Cherries—instead of apples--($5.91)
  • Yogurt ($2.98)
  • Juice ($1.87)
  • Coke (2@ $1.50)

Oh, and I also bought 2 father’s day cards, but those come out of the Father’s day budget.

You can see that the meds really hit me hard.  This always happens…either it is medicine or toilet paper or diapers or wipes.  I’ll be so glad when my youngest is out of diapers…I will save so much money!!

Anyway, my total came to:  $68.70 when you exclude the Father’s Day Cards.  Not bad!!  I obviously could have done better.  The boys didn’t need more tootsie rolls…I stocked up on flour and bread flour because I’m almost out of both.  The good news is that I postponed actually going to the store for almost 3 days, so I probably won’t need to buy eggs or yogurt or coke next week!!


Oh, shoot!---  I forgot my frozen broccoli.  Shucks!  I guess we will do without this week and just have chicken, rice and cheese casserole---I’ll serve salad on the side. ;)

Tangy Hummus

This is definitely not traditional, but it didn’t matter to me because I have never had more than a bite of hummus in my lifetime, so I didn’t have any expectations.  Without knowing what it should taste like, I created this.


2 cups Cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

2-3 tbsp. miracle whip

Juice of 1 lemon

6-10 basil leaves, chopped

1-2 tbsp. salsa (I used the salsa I prepared here)

Salt & Pepper to taste


Mix all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.

I have been eating this with Fritos and as a condiment on my turkey sandwich instead of mayo.  I think it would taste good on crackers, veggies or anything else that one would eat hummus with.  Please let me know if you like it!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Salsa Recipe

What you need:

couple tbsp olive oil

1-28 oz can of Diced Tomatoes

1-28 oz can of Rotel tomatoes with chiles

1 onion chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic minced

4 jalapenos with seeds minced

fresh cilantro (handful chopped)



Heat olive oil in stock pot.  Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, and tomatoes.  Cook down for about 5-8 minutes.  Add cilantro.  Put into blender and blend down until it is the consistency you want.  This allowed me to freeze about 5 containers of salsa. 

Caution: This is spicy!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shopping List June 14, 2009

My plan is to do a little grocery shopping today. These are the items that I plan to get. Obviously, with the freezer full, I am hoping to buy very little. The goal is to save much of my $100 weekly budget for food. Let’s see how I do:

Here’s my list:

Bag of Salad ($2.50)

Frozen Broccoli ($2.00)

Pineapple ($3.00)

Carrots ($1.00)

Bananas ($1.50)

Milk ($3.45)

Lactaid ($3.45)

Turkey Sandwich slices (3.50)

Apples ($3.50)

Paper Towels (?)

We shall see how well I keep to my list. ;) Also, I estimate my prices, but they are often over-estimated. My hope is that my bill is less.

June 2009 Menu

I have tried to keep a monthly menu before, but I never stayed to it.  Since I filled up my freezer, it was only natural to make a menu using the items in my freezer.  With that idea in mind, I decided to give a monthly menu a second try.  Here is what I came up with:

Week of June 7-13:

quesadillas with bacon, mozz cheese, chicken, mushrooms

tuna/fish sticks

steak, veggie, potato, & mushroom gravy

Hamburgers and Fries

This first week has been a little odd…we had kids over Wednesday, and our anniversary on Tuesday, and we ate leftovers last night…so we did not get through everything on the menu this week.  I suspect that this will happen, so I just circle what we don’t eat on my personal calendar so I can plan for eating it again.

Week of June 14-20:

Chicken Marsala, Pasta and Salad

Pizza with Mushroom and Cheese

Ramen and Noodles & Eggs

Barbeque Pork, Corn Bread and Pinto Beans

Tacos with Pinto beans

Chicken, Cheese, Broccoli, Rice Casserole

Week of June 21-June 27:

Marinated Chicken, Noodles, and Veggie

Hamburgers and Fries

Chicken Fajitas w/ Pinto Beans

Spaghetti and Bread

Chicken Marsala, Gravy and Mashed Potatoes & Veggies

Grilled Pork chops, Veggie and Mac and Cheese

Week of June 28-July 4:

Chicken Pot Pie

Nachos with Pinto Beans

Bacon and Egg Carbonara

Meatloaf, Veggies and Rolls


Grilled Chicken, Gravy, Veggies and Mashed Potatoes

Pan Fried Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy and Oven Potatoes

I made this the other night and scored an 8 out of 10 from the husband.  This score is almost unheard of sense it seems only Emeril himself could get a 10.  (yeah, I have never seen a 9 either)  I think this is a testament to his pickiness, but I am sure you will hear more of that as I post more recipes.  ;)

You will need:

For the Pork Chops

2 Pork Chops (prefer bone-in)

a couple tablespoons olive oil

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning



2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp butter (I used reduced calorie sticks)

1 cup beef broth (you could use chicken or pork)

fresh mushrooms sliced

For the Potatoes

3 Potatoes

1/4 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix

A couple tablespoons of olive oil



Cooking instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a square casserole dish with foil (for easy cleanup).  Peel and chop potatoes into bite size pieces.  Put into dish.  Add a couple tbsp. olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1/4 package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix.  Mix to coat.  Bake until potatoes are fork tender.  (you could leave the skin on too)

Heat a skillet to Med-High and add a couple tablespoons olive oil.  Season pork chops with McCormick seasoning, salt and pepper.  Put seasoned side down in hot oil.  Season other side of pork chops.  Cook till browned and turn.  Cook for another couple minutes until pink is gone and second side is browned.  Take pork chops out of skillet and let them rest on a plate.  Turn heat down to Medium.  Add butter and flour.  Mix to make a thick paste.  Wisk in broth until the flour/butter mixture is completely blended and lump-free.  Really scrape the bottom of the pan and get all the bits and pieces from cooking the pork chops—it adds lots of flavor.  Add chopped mushrooms.  Turn down gravy to Low heat and let simmer with a lid on it.  After about 10 minutes, return the pork chops and let them simmer for another 5 minutes before serving. (warning: my cooking times are an estimate—use your judgment)

I served my Pork Chops and Potatoes with Salad.  You can get more creative.  This took me about 30 minutes start to finish.  It is important to start the potatoes first because they will cook longer.  Also keep in mind that you can decrease their cooking time by chopping them into smaller pieces.

Spicy Gouda Potato Bake

Using some leftovers I had for this week, I decided to try a potato casserole. It turned out to have great flavor—but mine was a little spicy. I used 4 jalapenos with no seeds, so I cut down the number to 2-3 jalapenos instead. This recipe could be altered in many ways, so experiment with it. My husband gave me a 7 on this one…but he was coughing and drinking coke all at the same time trying to get the spice to go away. Kind of funny, actually! ;)

Here is what you need:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 Jalapenos (no seeds—I used 4 with no seeds and it was a little spicy)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup smoked gouda cheese (this could really be altered either by increasing/decreasing amount or using another cheese—I like the smoky flavor that smoked gouda provides.)
  • 1 cup bacon bits (you could alter the amount here too—I had some leftover from making extra bacon bits a week ago)
  • 1 cup cooked chicken cubed (optional-I was cleaning out my fridge leftovers)
  • 4 baking potatoes (sliced thinly)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cheddar cheese (optional)

Here are the instructions:

  1. Melt butter in pan on medium heat. Add garlic and flour and make a paste. Add broth and wisk well until all lumps are gone. Add gouda cheese, jalapeno, bacon, salt and pepper. Let cook for about 5-10 minutes. Stir every couple minutes. Don’t let it boil or stick to the bottom.
  2. While the mixture is cooking, get your casserole dish ready by spraying it with nonstick spray. Then line your pan with a first layer of thinly sliced potatoes. Follow that with a layer of chicken.
  3. Once cheese sauce has thickened a little, add milk to it and stir a little more. Let it cook for another 5 minutes. Pour some over the potatoes. You want this mixture to last for at least 3 layers, so don’t use it all.
  4. Follow up by adding another layer of potatoes, then chicken, then sauce. Repeat a third time.
  5. Put the last bit of potatoes on top, and slide into a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake about 40 minutes.
  6. Take out, if potatoes are done, then you can put a layer of cheddar cheese on top and put back in for another 5 minutes until melted.
  7. Cool about 5-10 minutes to set and serve. Makes about 9 servings.

On a side note: I tried freezing some of the leftovers to see how it holds up. I have read that freezing potatoes does not always work. We shall see!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Freezer Cooking

About three years ago, I tried OAMC (Once a Month Cooking).  It didn’t work for me.  It took up too much time and I was tackling way too much in one sitting.  My back hurt, I was complaining…and most importantly, it took the fun out of cooking.

So, when I decided to start filling up my freezer this time around, I decided to avoid OAMC.  I didn’t want to fill it up all in one day.  I didn’t want to view this as work.  Instead, I wanted to slowly fill up my freezer over the course of a few weeks. 

What I decided to do was start cooking on Sunday, just the things we were having for the week.  I would prepare them so that getting them on the table each night would be effortless.  In addition, I would also make some extra stuff…but nothing too hard.  Granola bars and cookies and bread machine hamburger buns were the first thing I added. 

The first couple of weeks I started out with making lasagna and enchiladas.  I had some chicken stock left over and I also made some pinto beans to make into quick refried beans or pinto bean soup.  I soon discovered that making stuff like enchiladas is wonderful, but that it limited me if I wanted to change my menu. 

I started looking at more websites and getting more ideas.  My freezer initially started filling up a bit.  I invested some of my weekly grocery money into buying plastic reusable containers and freezer paper. 

As weeks have progressed, I have been experimenting more.  My current freezer inventory list contains the following:

  • chicken stock (3)
  • Chocolate Chip cookies (1)
  • Black Beans (1)
  • Chipotle in Adobo Sauce (3)
  • Chili (1)
  • Chicken Pot Pie (1)
  • Corn Puree (5)
  • Pear Puree (5)
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Chicken Whole (3)
  • Pork Chops
  • Bacon (1)
  • Roast (2)
  • Gouda Cheese (3)
  • Banana Bars
  • Pork Stock (1)
  • Cornbread muffins (4)
  • Cream of Chicken Soup (8)
  • Granola Bars (2)
  • Hamburgers (6)
  • Savory Chicken (1)
  • Tomato Sauce (1)
  • Haystacks (2)
  • Snickerdoodles (2)
  • Pinto Beans (2)
  • Pizza Crust (3)
  • Marinated Chicken (3)
  • Spaghetti Sauce (4)
  • Chicken Marsala (5)
  • Meatloaf (2)
  • Hamburger Buns (homemade)
  • French Bread (homemade) (1)
  • Rolls (homemade) (3)
  • Spicy Gouda Potato Bake (1)
  • Salsa (5)
  • Cooked hamburger meat (5)

The quantities are how many family servings are available.  For instance, there are 3 servings of homemade rolls in the freezer…and I packaged them as 5 rolls per package…so really I have about 15 rolls in my freezer.  I am packaging them so that I also maintain portion control for myself.  If I made a whole pan of rolls, none of them would get frozen.  I would eat them all.  I LOVE BREAD!

Since my freezer is fully stock right now, I am at a maintenance level.  This Sunday is a day off.  Next week I will assess how much space I still have in my freezer and whether I need to add anymore essentials (like french bread, pinto beans, hamburger patties, etc…) and then I will either make some, or I will have off again. 

Tomorrow I go shopping, but as you can see—I really shouldn’t need much.  My goal tomorrow is to only buy veggies and fruits and milk.  I might need diapers too…so we will see.  I would also like some more plastic containers…the smaller ones with screw-on lids.  I made salsa the other day, and smaller containers would have been handy.  The goal for the next couple of weeks is to use much less money per week than I have been on groceries.  We normally budget $100 a week.  I have managed to fill up my freezer using only a little more than that in the past 4 weeks.  We also budget 4 trips to Sam’s for meat each year.  I am trying to eliminate that extra bill and fit it into our $100 a week instead.  We will see how this goes.

Cooking Catastrophe

I love to cook.  I love to blog.

With that said, I thought it would be neat to share my kitchen experiences with others.  I am a married, work at home mom of 2 boys who won’t eat much.  They are both under 5 years of age.  If you have ever had kids, you probably ran into the problem of how to feed them.  I have, many times.  My boys are the pickiest boys ever.  The older one is getting better…but the youngest?  Whew!  I have tried everything and at this point, I just make whatever I make and they can eat it or go hungry. 

In addition to this, I have a wonderful husband who is sometimes hard to please when it comes to dinner.  He always appreciates my efforts, but it is hard to get a “winner” in his opinion.  My biggest challenge is to figure out a way to satisfy his food desires while maintaining my sanity.  I have my work cut out for me.  For this reason, we have a rating system in our home.  1-10, with 10 being the best.  I have never gotten a 10.  The highest I remember is an 8. (He’s a tough judge people!  I am almost convinced that Bobby Flay and Emeril couldn’t manage to get a 10 with this man—not that I am comparing myself at all to them).

In this day and age, most of us find that we must budget our grocery money.  I am not much of a coupon shopper.  I tried it, but then the coupons were just not that great anymore and I got bored with it.  I was doing more work than saving money.  I decided to attack managing my bill another way—using my freezer and minimizing the discarding of food from my fridge.  I developed my own little system 2 months ago.  So far, it works like a charm.  I have just finished getting my freezer completely full.  The system I am using is pretty common.  I keep a list of freezer items and refrigerated leftover items on my fridge.  I cross them off as I use them and keep dates on them so I know when they are going to be throwaways.  So far, so good!  I have decreased the amount of food that we are discarding ten-fold!!!  I am not throwing away money anymore!!  It rocks!!!  Oh, and big bonus?   No gross, green,  moldy growths in my fridge anymore.  (c’mon! admit it—you’ve grown science experiments in your fridge too).

Keep coming back!  Here are some things I have planned:

  • my freezer contents
  • my monthly menu
  • some recipes
  • and some bonus stuff…

Thanks for visiting!!