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Category: From My Kitchen

Super Savings Saturday: This week’s $40 shopping trip and menu

Back by popular demand and because I actually went shopping this week, here’s what $40 total bought at CVS, Aldi, and Hen House:

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Our CVS deal is worth mentioning since it would work well for a newbie:

Bought 2 Children’s Advils at $5.79 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons
Bought 2 boxes SmartStart priced at $4.59, on sale B1G1, used 2 $1/1 coupons
Paid with $12 in ECBs and $0.59, Got $11.98 ECBs back!

(Read more about these deals and where to find the coupons here.)

Another deal I was excited about from Hen House: we got Kathrynne’s ultimate favorite yogurt Yoplait yogurt drinks for $0.48 per pack of six. (They were on sale for $1.98 and we used the $1.50 coupon here.)

Our combined three-store trip wasn’t anything incredible, but we got enough groceries to last us for the week, along with a few extra treats, and we spent right at $39!

Here’s the menu for this week:

BREAKFASTS
Cereal, fruit
Yogurt, fruit, homemade bread
Banana bread, fruit, yogurt smoothies
Fresh juice, English muffins, scrambled eggs
Homemade cinnamon rolls, fruit, yogurt
Breakfast burritos, fruit
Cereal, fruit

LUNCHES
PB&J, fruit, carrots
Cheese quesadillas, veggies
Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese
Leftovers x 2
Split peas, brown rice, cottage cheese
Yogurt, banana bread, veggies

DINNERS
Lasagna casserole, homemade bread, salad, green beans
Beef hot dogs, potato salad, veggies, fruit, icecream bars
Italian meatballs over rice, homemade breadsticks, salad, steamed veggies
Beef sausage and onions, scalloped potatoes, grapefruit, homemade bread
Burritos, salad, fruit, corn
Grilled chicken, salad, homemade bread, fruit
Leftovers or dinner out

SNACKS–Veggies, banana bread, yogurt, fruit, cereal, cheese quesadillas, toast, cheese

::::::::::::

How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and
bargains you were able to snag this week or other ways you saved money
on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and
leave your link below. **To make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post. Links
going to the homepage of your blog or any other part of your blog
besides the direct link to your Super Savings Saturday post will be deleted.**

Homemade Bread for Beginners

There is something about the smell of freshly-made bread wafting through the house which is so warm, comforting, and inviting!

I have made fond memories of baking bread with my mom and siblings growing up. We didn’t have a Bosch, so Mom had all of us participate in the kneading instead. She’d divvy up the big mound of bread dough into five separate smaller mounds of dough and then she would set the timer for ten minutes and we’d all roll up our sleeves and get to work. Our efforts paid off when later the bread came out of the oven and we all got to slice off a piece while it was still warm and slather it with honey and butter. Delicious!

With only two arms and two little ones right now, my bread-baking isn’t quite so ambitious. Instead of mixing it all up myself in the big silver bowl like my mom, I put all the ingredients in my bread machine. And instead of five loaves, I make one loaf. But, it’s still homemade bread and it’s still delicious. Best of all, it’s much better for you than store bought bread, it’s fresh, and it’s frugal!

Here’s our current favorite recipe, adapted from Tammy’s Recipes. I usually make it at least two or three times per week. It’s so good, our little family can eat a whole loaf in a day!

If you don’t have a bread machine, Tammy’s original recipe is here with directions for doing it by hand.

Oh and because I am often asked about my grain mill, my dad bought me this mill for Christmas. I really like it and have found the bread is so much better-tasting with freshly-milled flour. We buy our grain from Whole
Foods right now for $0.59/lb. That’s slightly more than I was paying for whole wheat flour at the store, but considering that it is organic and that freshly-milled flour is much fresher and higher in nutrition, it’s worth a bit of a higher cost to us.

Frugal breakfast recipe: Baked oatmeal

One way we save a lot of money is to make things from scratch.
Not only is it less expensive, but it also is better for you and tastes
yummy, too!

Baked oatmeal one of our very favorite breakfast
recipes. It makes a big pan so we refrigerate the leftovers and use it
for the following few days’ breakfasts! Just reheat in the microwave or
oven. We often just spoon out in individual bowls and reheat in the
microwave. Be sure to top with butter, brown sugar, and milk. Delicious!

Baked Oatmeal               

1 cup oil (can substitute butter or applesauce)
1 ½ cups sugar (can reduce)
4 eggs
6 cups oats
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups milk

Combine
all ingredients in order listed. Pour into greased 9×13-inch pan. Bake
at 375° for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned. Can refrigerate
overnight before baking. Serve topped with butter, brown sugar, and
milk.

Yields: Approximately 8-10 servings

What are some of your favorite frugal breakfast ideas?

The two-week menu for this week and last week

I’m a little late in getting this posted (only a few more days and we start on a new menu!) but I guess that means this menu is also more accurate since it’s more what we actually ate, not what we planned to eat!

To see our $76 grocery trip, go here. I kept things really simple for these two weeks as we had a lot of things going on and I was feeling the need to keep things simple.

Here’s the menu:

BREAKFASTS (I try to shoot for a combination of two servings of
whole-grains, one serving of protein, and one to two servings of fruit
for all of our breakfast menus.)

Cereal, fruit x 6 (We usually have more variety but since I bought 15 boxes of cereal on our shopping trip? We’re lots of it right now. And did I mention how easy cereal is to serve for breakfast?!)
Juice, English muffins, yogurt
Strawberry smoothies, toast
Blueberry cream muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
English muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Orange/carrot juice (made in our juicer), toast, yogurt
Whole-wheat waffles, yogurt, fruit

LUNCHES (I try to have a combination of a serving of protein,
one to two servings of whole grain/complex carbohydrates, and two
servings of veggies/fruit for our lunch menus.)

Chicken fingers, apples, rolls
Split peas, brown rice, cottage cheese
PB&J, oranges, broccoli
Leftovers
Turkey sandwiches, mixed vegetables
Quesadillas, carrots
Burritos, veggies
Scrambled eggs, spinach, mashed potatoes
Tuna sandwiches, carrots, apples, Chex Mix
Salad, homemade bread
Split peas, brown rice, fruit salad
Spinach/cheese/rice casserole, fruit
Leftovers
PB&J, apples, carrots
Turkey sandwiches, mixed veggies
Chicken fingers, bananas, mixed veggies, whole-wheat toast

DINNERS (Dinners are similar to lunches in that I try to have a
combination of one to two servings of protein, one to two servings of
whole grains/complex carbohydrates, and at least two servings of
fruit/veggies.)

Homemade mac and cheese, broccoli, homemade bread
Haystacks, rice
Waffles, fresh juice (we often have this on Sunday evenings and I make up extra waffles to use for breakfast and snack s throughout the week)
Lasagna casserole, green beans, bread
Hamburger mashed potato casserole, homemade bread
Leftovers
Italian chicken over brown rice
Dinner out (we had a gift card)
BBQ meatballs, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, mixed veggies
Dinner at friends’ home (bring bread and fruit)
Hamburgers, mashed potatoes with basil, grilled onions, corn-on-the-cob
Lasagna casserole, toast, green beans
Beef hot dogs, fruit, pasta salad
Dinner out

SNACKS (We usually have at least two snacks per day–the fact
that I’m still nursing Kaitlynn means I’m often hungry and three meals
per day just doesn’t cut it for me! I try to serve at least one healthy
snack a day and then one snack is usually something less healthy like
Chex Mix or cookies.)

Fruit (apples/bananas)
Raw veggies (carrot sticks)
Cheese
Quesadillas
Popcorn
Chex Mix
Animal crackers
Cereal
Blueberry muffins
Homemade bread
Whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies
Ice cream

Q&A: The Menu Edition

Whenever I post one of our weekly menus, I seem to get an onslaught of questions. Rather than try and answer all the questions left on this week’s menu post in the comments section of the post, I’m answering some of them here:

Do you ever have to mix up your menus? Like when you forget to take the
meat out of the freezer? Do you just substitute another meal that you
planned for later in the week? I guess what I am asking is: is this a
*plan* or a *guide* for your meals?

Do I ever mix up the menus? Um, actually, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a menu completely accurately. That would be boring, you know. Just as I rarely ever follow a recipe to a tee and cannot–for the life of me–stick on a strict schedule, I also love to mix things up when it comes to menus.

The menu serves as my guide, not a rigid, must-follow-exactly taskmaster. I know that I have a plan in place for the week and enough food to carry out this plan but if another idea strikes my fancy, I can always change course in the middle of the week and make substitutions where needed.

I know that this method would drive some people batty, but it works well for highly-distracted "creative" people like me.

Your menus sound really yummy and healthy- do your kids eat the same as
you and your husband? I don’t see very much meat at all- what else are
you counting as a protein besides eggs?

We pretty much all eat the same; I’m not into making four different kinds of dinners–too much work for a simple person like me! I cook to please my husband primarily so I’ve tried to encourage my girls to learn to "eat what’s set before them". They don’t always eat everything but I do have them try everything and most of the time, require them to eat at least a bite or two of those items they aren’t very fond of.

I know that our menu might look shockingly protein-bare to the average American who has been raised that protein is only found in meat and eggs. In actuality, there is protein in a wide variety of food groups–even in fruit, believe it or not!

Since meat is expensive and many of the types out there are not that healthy anyway (hormone-laden, MSG-laden, etc.), we’ve opted to derive our protein from a variety of sources including cheese and dairy products, eggs, legumes, and vegetables.

We have at least one meat-heavy meal per week: hamburgers, beef hot dogs, barbecue meatballs, etc. We normally have one or two meatless meals per week (often lasagna, spaghetti casserole, or a Mexican dish–we just omit the meat and no one notices!). The rest of our dinners have some meat in them but it’s usually not in large quantities.

When we were first married, we were living on so little (less than $1000/month many months!) that we couldn’t afford much meat at all. We bought a bag of chicken from Aldi for $6.99 and this had to last us for two weeks. We didn’t buy beef at all for two years unless I could get it on some incredible mark-down price. We were willing to make these sacrifices because we wanted to stay out of debt through law school.

Now that our income has increased, we’ve been able to afford more meat, but we still have limited it as this helps keep our grocery bill lower. However, we are planning to purchase a freezer and a fourth of a cow from a local farm whenever our tax stimulus check decides to mosey it’s way to our mailbox. Since we’ll have a freezer full of hormone-free, organic beef, I’m guessing meat might make its way into more of our meals. We’ll see!

I am curious, how do you afford to eat dinner out once per week on your budget??

Our eating out budget is separate from our grocery budget. I know this really throws some people off, but it’s just the way we roll.

We like to go out to eat and since we’re currently living on almost less than half of our income, it’s a splurge we’ve decided to allow ourselves.

That said, when we go out to eat, we do it the frugal way: we use coupons, we go to inexpensive restaurants, we hit the free birthday dinners and other free restaurant deals, we order water, we split entrees, and so forth.

For some, going out to eat is a $40 or more affair. For us, we can often get in and out for less than $20 (or less than $10 if it’s fast food).

We don’t always go out to eat once per week, but I would say that we usually go out at least once a week–sometimes for dinner, sometimes for lunch or breakfast on the weekends, or sometimes for dessert if our eating out budget is almost maxed out for the month!

Where is the meat from your menu plan coming from? (BBQ Beef Pizza,
hamburgers, taco salad, etc.). Are you pulling that from previous
stock-ups? How much of your 2-week menu plan is leveraged from stock
vs. this 2-week trip?

When there is a good deal on meat, I usually try to buy enough to last for at least two weeks (provided I can wing it in our $40/week budget). Since not every kind of meat is on sale every week, this ensures more variety and it usually means that we have at least some beef and some chicken to work with each week.

You can see what we bought at the store for this two-week trip here. I already had 2 pounds of ground beef in the freezer, taco salad meat made up and frozen, plus some lunch meat on hand. In addition, I bought two packages of chicken and a package of beef hot dogs. At the rate we’re going, we’ll still have some of this left to use for next week since we’ve ended up with more leftovers this week than I was counting on (better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, right?). 

The Two-Week Grocery Experiment: Menu

After determining to try a two-week shopping trip, planning a rough menu based upon the store sales and what I already had on hand, and then taking a few hours to make the big (or so it seemed to me!) $76 shopping trip, I then sat down and made out a detailed two-week menu. I decided to plan a little more than we usually would eat each week, just to be sure we had plenty since this whole two-week shopping thing is completely new territory for me.

Here’s the menu:

BREAKFASTS (I try to shoot for a combination of two servings of whole-grains, one serving of protein, and one to two servings of fruit for all of our breakfast menus.)

Cereal, fruit
Strawberry/banana/pineapple/flaxseed smoothie, toast
Blueberry cream muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Bagels, yogurt, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
Blueberry/pineapple/flaxseed smoothies, toast
English muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Orange/carrot/pineapple juice (made in our juicer), toast, yogurt
Cereal, fruit
Whole-wheat waffles, yogurt, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
French toast, scrambled eggs, fruit
Oatmeal in the crockpot, fruit
Strawberry/banana/flaxseed smoothie, whole wheat waffles

LUNCHES (I try to have a combination of a serving of protein, one to two servings of whole grain/complex carbohydrates, and two servings of veggies/fruit for our lunch menus.)

Chicken fingers, apple slices, peas, whole-wheat toast
Vegetable stirfry over brown rice with flaxseeds
Split peas, brown rice, fruit
PB&J, oranges, broccoli
Leftovers
Turkey/cheese sandwiches, mixed vegetables
Quesadillas, carrots
Salad, homemade bread
Split peas, brown rice, fruit salad
Leftovers
PB&J, apples, carrots
Turkey/cheese sandwiches, mixed veggies
Burritos, carrots, apples
Chicken fingers, bananas, mixed veggies, whole-wheat toast

DINNERS (Dinners are similar to lunches in that I try to have a combination of one to two servings of protein, one to two servings of whole grains/complex carbohydrates, and at least two servings of fruit/veggies.)

Build-your-own burritos, wild rice mix, southwest corn, fruit salad
French toast, scrambled eggs, strawberry/pineapple/banana smoothies
Taco salad, homemade bread, fruit
Beef hot dogs, corn on the cob, pasta salad, fruit
Homemade BBQ beef pizza, fruit, veggies
Hamburgers, wild rice mix, green beans, corn on the cob 
Dinner out
Homemade mac and cheese with veggies, peas, fruit salad
Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese sauce, homemade bread, fruit
Homemade BBQ beef pizza, fruit, veggies
Haystacks (build-your-own Mexican platter: Mexican beans, lettuce, tomato, corn chips, cheese, sour cream, salsa), corn
Spaghetti casserole, Italian cheese bread, green beans, grapefruit,
Chicken broccoli rice casserole, homemade bread, fruit,
Dinner out

SNACKS (We usually have at least two snacks per day–the fact that I’m still nursing Kaitlynn means I’m often hungry and three meals per day just doesn’t cut it for me! I try to serve at least one healthy snack a day and then one snack is usually something less healthy like Chex Mix or cookies.)

Fruit (apples/bananas)
Raw veggies (carrot sticks)
Cheese slices
Popcorn
Chex Mix
Animal crackers
PB&J
Cereal
Blueberry muffins
Homemade bread
Banana bread
Cookies

See more menus for this week here.