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Category: From My Kitchen

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.

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:


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:

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

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

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.