Sunday, February 26, 2012

Little Pantry Helpers

My girls have been big helpers with the Pantry Challenge. Earlier this week Naomi helped fill our cereal container using a blend of rolled oats and 5-grain cereal.
Eve helped out by getting rid of some little pizza packets of crushed red peppers. She cut each open and carefully added its contents to our spice jar.

We've been beefing up the chores around here and I was so pleased when the girls were eager to help with these jobs.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Menu Plan - 2 weeks!

I've been out of town for a couple days but got the shopping done before I left town and left meals for DH.

Here's what I've planned/he already ate for this round of 2 week dinners.

1. Sausage Chili (freezer)
2. Mexican Dip (freezer)
3. Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken (freezer)
4. Baked Potato Soup - clearance milk
5. Biscuits & Sausage Gravy - clearance milk
6. Pork Chops & Rice (freezer & pantry)
7. Macaronada with chicken (freezer & pantry)
8. Pancakes & Bacon (pantry & freezer)
9. Easy Turkey Pot Pie (freezer & pantry)
10. Dinner at church
11. Beef Stroganoff (freezer)
12. Date Night
13. Tuna Casserole (pantry)
14. Sausage Soup (freezer & pantry)

I'm also preparing for my meal swap in the next week or so by cooking three Foster Farms chickens. I'm making a casserole with organic farfalle, chicken, and a paste with butter, parmesan, artichoke hearts, and mayo. I have all the ingredients, but those chickens need to get cooked before assembly.

I am REALLY liking the shopping only once every two weeks. I love the time I'm saving!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2 week shopping - $53.59

Remember I'm still doing the pantry challenge so I'm trying to spend only $30/week on groceries in an effort to use what I already have on hand.

I got some sweet deals with markdowns this weekend! I bought 4 gallons of non-fat milk for $2.49 each and decided to use it to make potato soup and biscuits & gravy: two family favorites we usually avoid because the milk makes them expensive meals.

I also got B1G1 markdown Foster Farms chicken breast with panko breading. 14 oz. each package for $2.99 total!

I was pleased to find two packages of bacon for $1.99 each, too.

Even my standard two loaves of bread were on clearance for $.99 each.

My bill was so low (even with a big can of coffee!) that I splurged on some biscotti. Yummy treat for me!

I should note that my bill was helped out by the Fred Meyer rewards that arrived last week.


Friday, February 17, 2012

7th Generation & Organic Apples

I'm making my shopping list for this weekend and wanted to mention that Safeway has a great price on organic apples. Only $.99/lb for Pink Lady and Braeburn varieties!

Also, Fred Meyer has 7th Generation for 30% off. Stacked with coupons you could get some good prices.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pantry Challenge 2012 Progress Update

Well we're out of bananas and milk, but I'm stickin' to my guns.

I'm taking a break from coffee so I can use up some loose tea in my cupboard. I have many, many wonderful flavors to choose from - why not enjoy it? And freeing up cupboard space in the process is just a bonus. I don't know why I 'save' my loose tea for company. Most folks don't drink tea and if they do, they just choose a bag since I have a selection of about 50 kinds of tea between organic, conventional, herbal, & caffeinated. That is not an exaggeration. So I'm enjoying it. I've been finishing a tin of Darjeeling and a bag of Earl Gray Breakfast Blend #1.

I've also moved all the regular groceries off the floor of the pantry. Two cases of Annie's mac'n'cheese (32 boxes for $19.99!!!) are now emptied/put on the primary food shelf. The last bottles of juice were taken to church for a brunch. And the 8 boxes of Stovetop Stuffing are on the shelf now, too. Now it's just the bulk bins of sugar, white flour, whole wheat flour (2), oatmeal (2), 5-grain cereal, red beans and black beans.

I'm starting to think about my next two weeks starting Monday. I love to see Progress! And I'll try to post a progess picture on Monday so you can see it, too.



Monday, February 13, 2012

Cheap & Easy Pizza

This is one of quick & cheap meals I make once in a while. I had about 2/3 cups of pasta sauce left over from another dinner that I needed to use up. I thought I'd use it on these little pizzas and it turned out great. And certainly a can of pasta sauce is cheaper than a jar of pizza sauce.

I started with a package of whole wheat english muffins in the freezer I picked up for either $.59 on clearnace or $.99 on sale. I added 1 tablespoon each of the pasta sauce.
Next I added toppings. This is a half package of pepperoni that I regularly pick up at The Dollar Store. So $.50 of pepperoni, then some sliced olives, some feta and I put some diced onion on the non-kid ones. I just put anything on that I have, sometimes that last green onion, a bit of bell pepper, any bit of odd cheese, sometimes sausage if I don't have pepperoni, whatever.

I had a tiny, tiny bit of mozzarella but not nearly enough for this try full of mini-pizzas. So I just grated some jack and sprinkled a little parmesan on, too. Parmesan makes it smell great! Also, to help the toppings stay in place it's a good idea to sprinkle a little cheese as adhesive on the sauce before you add pepperoni.

Of course I forgot to take a picture as this was coming out of the oven, but here is a picture of the plate we set aside for Daddy. He loves olives and is a good sport about eating "kid food." He sure makes my life easy!

All told this costs about $3 for dinner and uses up lots of bits and pieces. If I don't feel like I've put many veggies on, I assuage my guilt with some canned fruit for dessert.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Monthly Wrap-Up January 2012

I used to be in the habit of setting goals here each month and reporting on our progress. I was reminded recently that cultivating a heart of contentment included being grateful for what I have. I realized I haven't been remembering all the Lord has done for us so I thought I'd start again here.

January is always a difficult month for me. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's several annual bills that are due in Dec, Jan, & Feb, or maybe it's just the busyness of travel and the looming taxes in February. I don't think it's coincidence that my postpartum depression was diagnosed in January last year!

Last January we started paying on DH's student loans. We had borrowed to pay for half of his BA back in 2004 & 2005. DH's MBA was later paid for by his employer. It worked out perfectly for DH to work on the MBA part-time since his employer only paid tuition up to a certain amount. It took just over 3 years, but it was 100% paid for.

During 2011 we managed to pay off just over 50% of the student loan debt. We are really proud of our progress! But this January was even more exciting because we paid off another 21%! DH had some Microsoft stock that we were able to sell when the price was up a few weeks ago. We only have 29% left and hope to keep hammering away at it and hopefully wiping a big piece out with our tax refund. DH has also been teaching an illustration class and just finished editing a book so those funds will help a great deal, too. Hooray!

I also am so thankful for a visit with DH's family in January and the savings we had in our electric bill, water bill, and grocery bill since we were gone 10 days! I also was given a bag of the yummiest coffee ever from my friend. We used it for two weeks and I'm so thankful because coffee can sure get expensive!

For February my goals are to file our business taxes, our personal taxes, and get the garden starts growing. To that end, if anyone local has 2 liter bottles they are discarding I'd love to get them from you! They will work as nice little greenhouses for my baby plants!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pantry Challenge 2012 Update & Recipe Request

I'm over a week into February and my pantry doesn't even look dented! I know I'm using stuff and the bulk bins are getting lower, but the eye-level shelf doesn't seem to be moving.

My freezer is slightly better, but not as good as I had hoped. A big turkey taken out was exciting but then I put in a bunch of containers full of turkey broth! I'll keep at it. I'm loving the extra spending money when I only spend $30/week on groceries, though I should probably be setting it aside for all the fruit I buy in the summer to can/freeze.

I also used up 4 nearly empty bottles of salad dressing so now all the bottles fit in the door. Hooray! Next up: a lemon chicken marinade bottle and those spray dressings that just sit there. I WILL have a leaner fridge.

We had dinner with good friends the other night and she had a pan of really yummy brownies with marshmallow creme in them. My ears perked right up - Marshmallow Creme? I have some of that hanging around my pantry. She sent me the recipe and I was even more excited to see it also called for sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter chips! Those are also in my pantry. I'm especially pleased to use that milk because it sits there all year long until Christmastime.

Does anyone have a good scratch recipe for spaghetti sauce? I have a couple gallons of diced tomatoes in my freezer and lots of pasta in the pantry. I'm perfectly happy to simmer something all day, but I don't know where to start.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weekend Shopping & 2 Week Meal Plan

I did all my shopping at Fred Meyer this weekend. Once Saturday morning, the last day of the weekly sales and then on Sunday night, the first day of the new weekly sales.

I spent $49.96 which is well within my goal of $30/week during the pantry challenge. I also have $10 leftover if something comes up - like running out of milk.

I was also able to splurge on one of my favorite treats, hummus and pita! I ALWAYS check for hummus markdowns and was delighted to find some this weekend. You can't see it in the photo, but it's under one of the yogurt cups.

I also strategically bought only non-vanilla yogurt cups for DH's lunches. One of my kiddos only eats vanilla but resists the big tubs. Since I still have 2 tubs left from the last shopping weekend, this forces her to eat the bulk. Bwahaha.

Finally, I bought plain half & half for my own coffee. It's cheaper than the flavored stuff and a teaspoon of sugar does the trick for me.

Two Weeks of Dinners

1. Roast Chicken - From freezer
2. Turkey/Sausage Chili - From freezer
3. Dinner at church
4. "Stone Soup" - Beef bone from freezer, various produce from pantry & fridge
5. Dinner at Small group - providing dessert using canned milk & marshmallow creme from pantry.
6. Macaronada - leftover chicken, pasta from pantry
7. Baked Orzo with chicken, spinach, tomato, & corn - From freezer
8. French Toast - bread in freezer, daddy gone
9. Sour Cream Chicken - Rice from pantry, chicken & broth from freezer
10. Turkey Pot Pie - stuffing from pantry, turkey & veggies from freezer
11. Sausage Soup - broth & sausage from freezer
12. Mexican Dip - from freezer
13. Pineapple Chicken Teriyaki - from freezer
14. Leftovers

The girls and I are going out of town for a couple days so I'm hoping we have lots of leftovers for Daddy!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Pantry Challenge 2012 - Powdered Milk

So we've survived the 2 week menu and haven't been grocery shopping. Here's what I've learned:

1. We need more than 2 gallons of milk per week if I plan to use ANY for cooking.
2. The kids will drink powdered milk if they're thirsty enough (DD#4) or haven't had cold cereal in 4 days (DD#2).
3. I am willing to make powdered milk after 4 days of whining kids.

We also ran out of bananas several days ago and have been using our canned peaches, pears, and applesauce at breakfast. I miss having fresh fruit!

Finally, a friend gave me some excellent coffee. DH usually drinks coffee, but I'm a tea girl at heart. But this coffee is really yummy and I've used most of DH's creamer. Whoops!

I'm going to try the 2 week menu again. I'll post that Monday.