Sunday, January 14, 2018

Meal Planning on a Budget - Take 2

This past week was the first full week of sticking to a strict food budget. And it was mostly successful-my toddler may have sabotaged me just a bit by getting his own milk (i.e. pouring a full gallon on the floor) and giving the dogs a box of crackers.

By cooking from scratch, and using some of what was already in my pantry, I was able to feed 2 adults and 2 kids for under $150 for 21 meals, 7 snacks, and 7 desserts! My husband might argue that "there's nothing in the house to eat" but he will slowly adjust to the lack of processed, pre-made junk. We by no means went hungry, although it took almost the entire week to break the habit of walking into the pantry to find the quick and easy foods. Well it took the week for me, my poor husband hasn't adjusted as quickly.

After posting in a few foodie groups I belong to on Facebook, I realized that many people struggle with meal planning or find it too complicated to start. I would like to share my past week of yummy eats, my shopping list, and the prices at my local store. 

Let's start with my favorite meal...BREAKFAST!
1. Pancakes with blueberries
2. Oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, and real maple syrup
3. Scrambled eggs with sausage, tomatoes, and cheese. Served with 1/2 a grapefruit. 
4. Dutch Baby Pancake with real maple syrup. Served with "Cuties" (i.e. the baby oranges/tangerines)
7. Fried eggs, toast, and sausage

Lunches were fairly simple, sandwiches, fresh fruits and veggies, and a small treat. 
1. Grilled Cheddar Cheese sandwiches served with pickles, and a small handful of potato chips
2. Yogurt, cheese & crackers, carrots and celery with peanut butter, Cuties
3. Left over sausage ragu, french bread and butter
4. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, celery with peanut butter, Cuties
5. Turkey sandwiches with mayo, tomatoes, and lettuce; handful of potato chips, orange slices
6. simple tuna salad, crackers, sliced tomatoes
7. Yogurt, turkey lunch meat on crackers with cheese, apple slices with peanut butter, 

And for the delicious dinners...
1. Brown Sugar glazed Salmon, fried white rice with peas
2. Sausage Ragu with Pappardelle pasta, french/italian bread & butter
3. All Most Hands-Free Risotto with Chicken and Herbs
4. Left Over Sausage Ragu
5. Cast Iron Chicago Style Pizza
6. Sausage, Rapini/Broccoli Rabe, and White Beans , corn bread
7. Left Overs Clean Up 

Dessert all week was a double batch of Molasses Spice Cookies that made just under 4 dozen cookies

I love that this worked out so well that there are no leftovers sticking around my fridge at the end of the week. (Except for a few cookies in the freezer). Everything that was cooked has been consumed, so no "science experiments" get lost at the back of the fridge. (This is a HUGE win in my life. I have a very large fridge and over the last year have frequently "lost" food in there.) One of the biggest wastes of money is throwing away food that gets forgotten or goes bad. 

Here is my shopping list from this past week. Eventually all these recipes will be up on my blog, however a simple Google search will give you the results for all of these recipes. 

I have posted the shopping list and prices at my local store below. The ingredients came out to a total of $203.06 but that is if you have to buy everything from the store and do not have anything in your pantry. At the end of the week you will still have the flour, sugar, spices, and a few other pantry staples remaining.

Grocery List 
1 bulb garlic 0.69
5 tomatoes 2.49
2 grapefruit 1.98
5lb bag of cuties 6.47
4 oranges 3
fennel bulb 2
celery 1
carrots 1.98
4 apples 2.5
head of lettuce (I prefer romaine) 2.28
1 lemon 0.5
1 onion 1
rapini 2.48
2 lb Sweet Italian Sausage (bulk) 5
1 lb Milk Italian Sausage (bulk) 2.5
2 bone in, skin on chicken breast 6.46
4 pieces of salmon 16
breakfast sausage patties (I prefer Swaggerty's) 7.98
1/2 lb turkey lunch meat 4
1 loaf French/Italian bread  1
2 loaves sandwich bread (I prefer Pepperidge Farms) 3.99
1 jar sweet pickles 1.98
mayo 2.48
soy sauce 2.48
peanut butter 1.98
grape jelly 1.93
1 15oz can cannellini (white kideny) beans 0.58
canned whole tomatoes 2
tomota paste 1
white rice 0.98
arborio rice 2.79
2 lb pappardelle pasta 4.96
triscuit-thins crackers 2.36
2 cans of tuna 2.26
pepperoni 2.48
bag of potato chips 2.48
vegetable oil 1.93
olive oil 4.12
salt 0.4
crushed red pepper 0.97
pepper 2.68
oregano 1
parsley flakes 1
fennel seeds 2.71
ground cinnamon 1.98
ground ginger 1.98
ground allspice 2.98
vanilla extract 4.98
molasses 2.98
baking soda 0.52
baking powder 1
yeast 1.34
sugar 1.58
dark brown sugar 1.06
flour 1.08
cornmeal 1.44
raisins 2.87
pizza sauce (I used a pasta sauce) 0.99
Better than Bouillion, Chicken flavored 3.48
oatmeal 2.33
pure maple syrup 6.98
dry red wine 3.46
dry white wine 3.46
8 oz mozzarella cheese 1.72
3 oz parmesan cheese 3.98
16oz cheddar cheese 3.42
8 yogurts 2.74
1 gallon of milk 2.5
2 lb of butter 4.72
frozen blueberries 9.64
frozen peas 1
2 dozen eggs 4

Add in a box of K-Cups, a box of tea bags, a bottle of apple juice, a bag of Tostitos, and a jar of salsa and you have my entire shopping list for the week. I managed to stick to my $150 budget because I already had the flour, sugars, spices, other baking staples, blueberries (fresh picked and frozen from the summer), the wines, and a few other ingredients that I always have on hand. Even if you're starting from scratch with your pantry, there are still over $70 of ingredients you won't have to buy again for the remainder of the month, some for multiple months.

Happy Cooking! 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sausage Ragu with Pappardelle

This sounds like a fancy recipe but it's really simple. And best of all, it comes out to under $2.50 a serving! I saw this recipe in an older copy of Cook's Country Magazine, from October of 2016.

I live in a remote area and had a little trouble sourcing a fresh fennel bulb for the recipe, but it was definitely worth the effort to locate this wonderful ingredient. Fennel is the slight anise-like flavor used in Italian sausage. My picky-eater of a husband loved this, as did both my boys.

With the original recipe calling for either using 2 lb of pasta or freezing half the sauce for a later date, I decided to go ahead and pick up extra pasta. Once the sauce was finished however, I realized that I wouldn't need 2 lb of pasta since we like our pasta pretty saucy.



Sunday, January 7, 2018

Meal Planning on a Budget - Take 1

Meal planning. It seems simple enough. Find yummy food and cook it. So why is it such a complicated task?

I used to sit down once a month and dig through cooking magazines, food blogs, and a massive pile of cook books. I would scribble out recipes on a note pad, clip things from magazines, and bookmark a ton of links on my computer. Then I married a man who doesn't eat most foods and I had 2 babies back to back. I got out of the habit.

2018 is the time to get back on track and back on budget.



Thursday, January 4, 2018

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Toasted Pecans and Dried Cherries

One of my New Year's resolutions is to make sure that my family is eating less processed foods this year. I admit it, I have fallen into a bad habit of buying convenience foods in the last 2 years. As a new mom and then a mom of two under two, it was just so much simpler. But I am determined to rid my house of prepackaged cookies, skillet meals, and frozen pizza.

Much to my husband's dismay, the junk will NOT be getting replaced in my pantry. Once it is gone, it's gone. Not only will the processed foods be vanishing from our home, I am also committing myself to a $500/month food budget.

As my family dives head-first into this healthier eating plan on a budget, I will be sharing my meal planning and any helpful tricks and tips that I come across.

As we have finished off the last of the Christmas cookies and my fridge is still stuffed full of leftovers from various family holiday celebrations, my first recipe to share is cookies.

I also needed an excuse to test out my new Nordic Ware baking sheets (http://amzn.to/2qiksCx) that are highly recommended in several cooking communities as being the best for even heating/browning. After years of using Wilton baking sheets, one batch of cookies on these beauties and I'm sold! (As an added benefit, these also have an optional lid that will be extra useful!)

These are one of my favorite cookies, packed full of good things that are even relatively good for you. The recipe was sent in an email from America's Test Kitchen quite a while ago. I've changed it just a bit to suit my personal preferences. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Toasted Pecans and Dried Cherries
Modified to America's Test Kitchen
Makes Approx 3 dozen cookies


3/4 cup chopped pecans
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped, or chocolate chips

1 1/4 cup dried cherries (I use unsweetened to avoid the added sugar)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; preheat oven 350.

2. Toast pecans. Set aside.

3. In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugar at medium speed. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated. With mixer still running on low, gradually add dry ingredients; mix until just incorporated. Gentle fold in
pecans, cherries and chocolate chunks.

4. Using dinner spoon place blobs of dough on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 11 minutes for chewy cookies or 13 minutes for more crisp cookies at 350. The cookies will not be brown when done, but will have flattened out and may be a tad shiny yet. 

5. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It's been too long...

It has been over 2 years since I have updated this blog. Life has thrown a lot of curve balls my way and it's time to get back on track.

I lost my mom to cancer in the fall of 2015, had my first baby in the spring of 2016, built a small garage apartment for our family's living arrangements until we can build our dream house, fired 6 contractors, finished building my temporary home myself while 8 months pregnant, had my second baby in the spring of 2017, and have just been struggling to catch up with life for the remainder of the year. Hoping 2018 brings about a lot of positive changes, including the ability to get the remainder of the down payment needed to begin construction on my forever home.

In learning to adjust to my new normal, I have struggled with adapting to a TINY kitchen, a ninja toddler, a second baby, my husband's new job that takes him away from us 50% of the time, and life in general has just kicked my ass.

Since November, I have finally found a happy balance and have started cooking real food again. I've got a legitimate work from home job to supplement our income to help make our dream home a reality that much sooner.

My goal for 2018 is to give you, my awesome readers, at least 4 new recipes a month, posts filled with helpful kitchen tips and advice, and some product reviews as I slowly upgrade and replace much of my 10 year old kitchen utensils.

Best wishes to all for 2018!