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Category: From My Kitchen

Baking Day – Part 1

One of the ways we save a lot of money on our grocery bill is by cooking and baking from scratch. However, lest you think I spend hours every day slaving in the kitchen, let me tell you, I don't. Instead, I like to take one day every few weeks and bake/cook up a bunch of stuff to freeze.

In half a day or less, I can cook/bake up enough goods to last us for two weeks or more–saving us a lot of time and money in the process. And it's so nice to have our freezer stocked and ready for use at a moment's notice to pull off a quick and easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Today, just for fun, I thought I'd let you peek in on a somewhat-typical baking day at our house. I'll be sharing pictures and recipes

First off, I start out with a plan. I took inventory of what we already have on hand and made a list of things I could make based upon that. The goal here is to save money, so it's all about creatively using what I already have on hand.

I went through our cupboards and refrigerator last night and came up with this simple list which I've posted up on the refrigerator:


If I have extra energy, there are a few more things I'd like to make, but we'll see how the day progresses.

Our $40 menu for this week


After weeks of living in survival mode with our move and my morning sickness, I am so happy to be settled down a bit, feeling almost 50% myself again most days, and to be 
ready to start cooking, baking, and menu-planning in earnest again.

Since I'm pregnant and nursing, I'm especially taking care to eat well and get in lots of nutrition–especially when it comes to fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein. The challenge is to come up with a creative, balanced menu that meets all of my nutritional requirements on $40 per week. It's a fun new adventure!

Here's what I came up with for this week:

Whole-wheat griddlecakes with pear butter, oranges, milk
Eggs, whole-wheat toast, grapes, milk
Homemade granola over yogurt, fruit, orange juice
Whole-wheat waffles, oranges, milk
Fruited oatmeal with yogurt, bananas, orange juice
Bran muffins, cottage cheese, fruit, orange juice
Banana muffins, yogurt, fruit

Tuna salad on whole wheat toast, steamed veggies
Mixed greens sprinked with chopped hard-boiled eggs and grated cheese, whole wheat toast
Baked potatoes with cheese and cottage cheese, steamed veggies
Beans and brown rice with cheese, steamed veggies
Turkey sandwiches on whole wheat toast, steamed veggies
PB&J on whole wheat toast, fresh veggies

Chicken enchiladas, steamed veggies, mixed greens salad
Meatloaf, baked potatoes, mixed green salad
Chicken and brown rice in the crockpot, steamed veggies
Homemad mac and cheese with ground beef and onions, steamed veggies
Chicken and veggie pizza, mixed green salad
Dinner out
Leftovers (Sunday evening)

Bran muffins
Banana muffins
Granola over yogurt with fruit

To see more menu inspiration for this week, visit Organizing Junkie.

Guest Post: Dinner for Four for $4.55!

Guest Post by Erin from 5DollarDinners  

For a long
time, I thought it would be more expensive to make meals that used all
natural and “raw” ingredients, as opposed to cooking with just processed
“box” foods and canned goods. However, earlier this year,
I challenged myself to try and feed our family of four for $5 or less every night. I decided I might as well try and prove to myself and others that it is possible to make frugal and wholesome meals! And I’ve learned it’s very possible; in fact, it’s become a fun challenge that I’m chronicling every night on my blog, 5DollarDinners

Here is a sample dinner
that I recently made for less than $5:


Pork and Apples
with Asparagus

1 lb. Pork Roast–$1.90 (Click here to see the deal I got on this
Water or broth
2-3 apples, peeled and sliced ($0.75–apples will be inexpensive throughout
the fall!)

1 tsp. cinnamon–$0.05
2 Tbsp. brown sugar–$0.05
2 Tbsp. lemon juice–$0.10
1/2 onion, chopped–$0.20
1/2 bunch asparagus–$1
2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil–$0.20
1 cup rice–$0.30

1. Place 1/2-inch water or broth in base of crock pot. Place roast into
crock pot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add onions around the roast.

2. In bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Toss
well. Pour over roast in crock pot. Cook on low 8-10 hours.

3. Snap ends off asparagus. In another bowl, drizzle olive oil over asparagus.
Let sit 30 minutes or so. Then saute for 5-7 minutes until tender, yet

4. In saucepan, boil 2 cups water. Add rice. Bring to boil, then cover
and simmer 20 minutes.


Serve pork and apples over rice with asparagus on the side. Delicious!

Cost $4.55

After the meal, I decided
to strain the pork broth to use in my Sweet Potato and Apple
Soup recipe. I have never saved pork broth, but I thought this sweet and cinnamon-y
broth would be perfect for that soup!


Saving your broth not only
saves you money, but it’s also free of preservatives and you know
how much salt you used! I’ll take free broth any day!

While you might not be able to get exactly the same prices I did on everything or you might have a larger family or different food preferences, I hope this meal inspires you to think of ways you can make the most of what you have. And perhaps you’ll even join me in setting a dollar amount for your family’s dinners every night?

Visit Erin over at her blog,, to see what she’s cooking up for $5 or less for dinners this week!

Ask the Readers: Do you use your crock pot?


Patti emailed in:

I would like to buy a new crock pot, especially since there is a terrific
coupon in the October All You magazine, but I have not been successful
in finding recipes that my family enjoys and I hate to make such large amounts
of food only to discover they hate it. Do you or any of your readers have
other uses for their slow cookers such as cooking up meats or beans for use in
other meals? Or recipes that are not so full of fat and carbs?  Any
ideas would be greatly appreciated as I ponder this purchase.

When I'm not in the middle of morning sickness and pretty much avoiding the kitchen (!), I'm an avid fan of the crock pot. Since I'm more of an "experimental cook", I love to make up a pot of soup in it by just throwing in some veggies, cooked beans, potatoes, onions, spices, salt, pepper, garlic, and cover with water and cook on low all day long. Or we often make beef sausage, onions, potatoes, and carrots in it. Another favorite use for our crockpot is making applesauce in it. So easy and so good!

I've also made Mexican dishes, lasagna, oatmeal, breakfast casseroles, and even cake in my crockpot! There are thousands of recipes out there and many of your family favorite can be adapted to be made in the crock pot. I'd encourage you to check out the Fix-It and Forget-It recipe book series or other similar crock pot recipe books from your library for some inspiration.

I also highly recommend the blog: A Year of Crockpotting. The blog's author is using her crock pot everyday in 2008 and her recipes and ideas are mouth-watering. If you weren't a fan of the crock pot before reading her blog, you'll likely be motivated to pull it out and try using it after a visit there!

What about the rest of you? Do you use your crock pot on a regular basis? If so, what are some of your favorite ways to use it? Any scrumptious recipes to pass along? (If you've posted them on your blog, feel free to leave your links in the comments section.)

Guest Post: Dinner on a Budget–Mexican Tortilla Skillet

Guest Post from Meal Planning Mommies

This recipe is one of our new favorites. Not only is it simple to make, but it is absolutely delicious. Plus, it won’t bust
your budget–and who doesn’t love that?

Mexican Tortilla Skillet
Serves: 4
Cost: Approx. $1.25/serving (if ingredients are purchased at Aldi)
Prep. Time: Less than 30 minutes

Ingredients needed:

1 lb. browned ground beef
1 can tomato soup
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup salsa
12 flour tortillas (burrito size)
1/4 cup water

Place tortillas on a cutting board. Use a pizza cutter to cut tortillas into 1-inch strips.

Rotate cutting board and cut tortillas again so that you have 1-inch square tortilla pieces.

Combine all
of the ingredients into a skillet and cook for 5 minutes over medium
heat. Sprinkle cheese on top and let cook until the cheese melts.

This meal
is perfect for a quick, frugal family night dinner. Instead of begging
for dessert, our kids beg for more! We like to serve this dish alongside applesauce and corn.

Visit Meal Planning Mommies for weekly meal plan ideas and frugal recipes with step-by-step pictures.