Week-end Wrap-up

Week-end Wrap-up

DH and I have been discussing what we still need to get to make sure we're set for the winter. Another large bag of flour, a can of ketchup, another large jug of Kikkoman, and a large can of baking powder are some of the things we discussed.  Fortunately, my lovely food bank gave us the exact baking powder I was thinking of!  (I use a lot to make my own bisquick mix, to fluff up my eggs, and of course for other baking recipes.)

Wednesday we signed up for the Good Food Box (which should come in next Wednesday).  I also took the time to chop and freeze 4 broccolis and a head of cauliflower.

Thursday I visited the food bank.  They gave me plenty of bread and milk (a bunch of 1 pint cartons, the kids love it), some fresh fruit and veggies, and another giant can of diced yellow peppers (among other things, of course).  I also chopped/sliced and froze 4 zucchinis (two I froze chopped for pastas and two in thin half-circle slices for veggie-fajitas).

Thursday night I made a simple lentil soup with the rest of the cabbage I had from the last Good Food Box.  I sauteed some onion, celery (chopped & frozen), carrot, and a bit of cumin... added cabbage, diced tomatoes (half the tomatoes, all the juice, saved the tomatoes for another meal), half a chicken bouillion cube, water, and a can of lentils.  The food bank gives me a can of lentils nearly every time I visit; perhaps I'll do an entire article on lentils ... or soups... or one of each.

Friday I made a variation of my mother's "chop suey." Instead of just onion, ground beef, macaroni, and tomato soup I added green peppers and zucchini, replaced the beef with sausage, and added the remaining diced tomatoes from Thursday.

Saturday I made this frittata (recipe coming soon).

Today is Sunday... spaghetti night. Sausage, frozen zucchini & mediterranean veggie mix

See you next week! Or... sooner? :)


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Hey! 6 months later and I'm back again!
Let's just say I was a bit busy this summer and just get right back into things!

We've reached the end of the first week of September (and the first true week of school)!  To celebrate the last day of school for the week, I will make one of the kids' favorites for dinner - fried potatoes and hot dogs!  I was inspired by this week's sale on potatoes at Maxi (and my little boy repeatedly asking for it).

Follow me to the recipe! (Hey, that rhymes...)


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Weekend Wrap-Up

March 11 - March 17

Monday - "Pizza-geddon" Pizza Casserole
       Leftover spaghetti sauce (with sausages!) with chopped onion, green pepper, pepperoni, tossed with pasta (penne this time) and covered with cheese. Baked until warm and melty!

Tuesday - "Brinner"
       Breakfast for dinner! Eggs, toast, ham, and hash browns.

Wednesday - Pork Chop Casserole
       Recipe & photos coming real soon.  Pork chops and green beans smothered in yummy sauce, topped with stuffing, served on noodles.

Thursday - Salmon Cakes
       Click above for the recipe. Made a larger batch than that old recipe, served with cauliflower, peas, and sauce (husband spiced up the sauce a bit, too).

Ideas for next week:
Eggs, eggs, eggs!


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Food Bank

This blog started out intending to be more about cooking, couponing, and general thriftiness.  However, we've unfortunately hit a bit of rough situation financially.  So for the next few months or so there will be very little talk about coupons and amazing grocery sales (though some fantastic ones will be noted).  There will also be a hold on those drool-worthy Good Food Box posts. Instead, there will likely be a lot more references to donated food and visits to the food bank. I will still try to estimate prices for the recipes, however. 


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Cheaper Shepherd's Pie

Ah, no pictures! I apologize in advance.

Now, my ideal shepherd's pie starts with leftover roast beef mixed with hamburger and some gravy from the roast juices. This is rare for me to have, since we rarely have roast beef anymore.  So I've learned to settle for hamburger and a dash of gravy mix.  I usually use a whole pound of ground hamburger for this. Not bad, but I'm trying to stretch the meat even further. I've made a few batches with just 1/2lb beef, they were small and just barely enough for the three of us (nights when the husband wasn't home for dinner). This last time, however, I was very hungry and Mr. Thrifty was home.  I thought I'd try something different.

First layer:
Brown 1/2lb beef and chopped onions, drain fat, add gravy (or dry gravy mix, or add a small glob of concentrated beef bouillon with water and corn starch).  Now, here's the secret I discovered! Mix in cooked lentils! I mixed in about 1 cup of cooked lentils.  I made a little extra gravy to keep the layer tasting pretty beefy.

Layer 2:
Open 1 can corn niblets and 1 can creamed corn. Spread half of each on top of the beef (put remaining halves in a container and freeze for next time)!

Layer 3:
Mashed potatoes, top with some shredded cheese. I usually use moz, but cheddar (especially aged) is good, too.

I fit all this in a round pyrex dish (9-inches, I think).  The lentils add healthy fill and with all the beefy gravy, you'd hardly notice the difference.

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Weekend Wrap-Up

February 18 - February 24

Okay, so I forgot to keep track for awhile - we'll just skip over that last oneThis week was a bit tricky to balance. Our cupboards are getting a little low and we were extra short on cash at the beginning of the week.  Since I can only visit the food bank twice a month, I try to space it out at least two weeks apart. While I thought I would need to go earlier, I managed to put it off (I will definitely be going tomorrow, though).

Monday - Turkey Chili
Diced tomatoes, kidney beans, leftover frozen turkey, corn niblets, tomato sauce, garlic,

Tuesday - Hot Dogs "in a blanket"
Requested by my son! Hot dogs wrapped in pizza dough (with cheese). Baked. Dip in ketchup and/or mustard! 

Wednesday - Soup & ployes
Leftover soup - tossed in whatever. Homemade chicken stock, celery (getting wilty), onion, garlic, carrot, cabbage, lentils, etc... Served with ployes.

Thursday - Turkey Chilli casserole
Used leftovers from the turkey chili on Monday for a pasta bake. Mixed with extra sauce, green peppers, noodles, topped with cheese and baked. Deeeeelicious.

Friday - Cheeseburger Mac
Splurged on a brick of Velveeta this week.  Made a giant batch of my Cheeseburger Macaroni. Realized we were out of canned corn, so used a frozen combo of niblets & creamed corn. (I made shepherd's pie sometime last week. When I make shepherd's pie, if I can I prefer to use 50/50 niblets and creamed corn. I take the other half of each can and freeze it for the next shepherd's pie.)

Saturday -BBQ Pork & Rice

Sunday - Lentil Stew on Pasta
I found this recipe in a crockpot cookbook.  Diced tomatoes, lentils, onion, carrot, celery, green pepper, water, garlic, marjoram, chicken stock, stewed all day.  Recipe called for couscous, but since I'm out I thought rice or orzo would do.  I also didn't want to "waste" my last can of diced tomatoes on an experiment - fortunately I had a frozen container of them from some other dish.  I also added the rest of some red pepper pasta sauce (~1/4c) for a little extra tomato-flavor.

Extras this week:
  • Lots of pancakes!

Dinner ideas for next week:
         I will work this out after a visit to the food bank tomorrow. I do have the ingredients for chili, salmon cakes, more cheeseburger mac, more soups, more spaghetti...

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My Freezer, part 1

Well, I thought it's about time I get around to writing about what types of foods I find are necessary to keep in stock. I suppose a good start is my freezer.

Let's start with meat.

Meats I currently have in my freezer:
  • 3.5 lbs ground beef (in 1/2 lb portions)
  • 2 lbs ground pork (in 1/2 lb portions)
  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 whole chickens
  • 4 chicken legs
  • 2 slices of ham
  • small portion of sliced pepperoni
  • clams (from a can)
  • 1 lb sole fillets
  • 1 box breaded fish fillets
Now, let's go over these (and others I'm out of)

  • Ground beef is probably my number one frugal freezer filler.  There are so many things you can make with it and the only thing cheaper is pork (we'll get to that next).  I buy family-size packs when they are a good price (at $2/lb I will buy close to 10 lbs if possible)! We also occasionally purchase our ground beef from a local butcher. The meat is better, fresher, and still a good price (usually around $2.50/lb though last visit we got it for $2.10 when we mentioned local stores had it for $2/lb).
  • I occasionally splurge on a roast beef, but it rarely winds up in the freezer since it's so rare for us to have one nowadays. Usually we cook it up the day we bring it home.
  • Stew beef is also handy. Because it's often still too pricey for me, it's not exactly an essential lately. Though it is easy to freeze and I love to make a delicious beef stew. 

  • Pork is cheap. Very cheap.  Ground pork can be found for as low as $1/lb! When I spot this sale, I'll buy a big pack (usually about 6lbs) and freeze it in 1- or 1/2-lb portions like the beef. I don't often use the ground pork on it's own (except maybe for sloppy joes and yakisoba), but I often combine it with beef (meatballs, meatloaf) to stretch my dollar! 
  • Then you have roasts. Cheap, bone-in shoulder roasts can sometimes be found for $1/lb - they make for amazing pulled pork. Then there are the delicious tenderloins. If I can get pork tenderloin for $2/lb I'll stock up, though I won't mind spending $3/lb for a good one.  About once or twice a year our grocery store sells very large boneless pork tenderloin (around 7lbs) for just under $2/lb. I buy two, then cut them up into smaller roasts and pork chops.  So that leaves pork chops, if I can find those for around $2/lb I'm very happy.
  • Then there's ham. Occasionally I can get a nice little toupie ham for $5. They are probably 2.5lbs. I cut them into slices (ends are cut into cubes) and I freeze them in smaller portions.  If the slices are frozen seperately on a cookie sheet, then put into a freezer bag, they don't stick together.  I like to take a couple of slices out, defrost them, then fry them up with some pineapple for a quick dinner for the kids and I (the husband is NOT a fan of ham).  The diced pieces are great for pizzas or quiche or even omelettes perhaps.
  • I should also mention salt pork. I keep a small portion in my freezer for making delicious beans or pea soup.
  • Pepperoni. I buy a whole pepperoni (no name, about $3) and slice it myself. Lay out the slices on a cookie sheet and freeze them. When they're solid, dump them into a freezer bag and you're good to go! Great for pizzas, calzones/pockets, or to spice up a casserole.
  • Sausages. I love having sausages around. They make any pasta sauce amazing. They are also delicious in my stuffed green peppers, borscht, or good for a quick almost-jambalaya. I'm currently out, but I always stock up when I can get them for $2/lb. A family-sized package has 12 sausages, which I freeze in packs of 4, and costs about $6 or less at this price.
  • Finally, bacon. I am out of bacon. However, whenever we can scrape together the nearly $50 or so we buy a 10lb box from the local butcher. This is frozen into smaller portions and enjoyed for many many months.

  • I have a few basics with chicken. First, there's whole chicken. I grab them when they are 2/$10.  I freeze them separately and they can be easily thawed and roasted.  A roasted chicken is good for at least two, sometimes three meals.
  • Next, there's chicken breast. Boneless is becoming a bit of a luxury with us lately, as it is rarely below $3/lb.  However, when I can get some, I freeze them in 1-lb portions.  They are good for dozens of different recipes.  Of course, it is cheaper to get them with the back (this week, for example, I can get them for $1.76/lb - which is pretty amazing). 
  • Third, there are the bone-in chicken legs. I recently bought a large pack at $1/lb (got 8 legs for around $6).  They are very easily cooked in a crockpot and the meat can be used for a lot of different meals (you'd also end up with stock, but remember to skim off the extra fat). To save on freezer space it might be wise to cook the chicken legs, then freeze the meat.

  • We're trying to incorporate more fish into our diets.  Usually for fish we use canned tuna or salmon. However, last month I found plain fozen fillets for $2/lb.  
  • I also enjoy keeping fish sticks and assorted breaded fillets around for quick/lazy dinners.


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Weekend Wrap-Up

February 4 - February 10
Not an exciting week, really.

Monday - Pork Roast
BBQ pork tenderloin, rice, corn.

Tuesday - Borscht

Wednesday -Pizza

Thursday - Chicken Tacos
Well, soft tacos. Not exactly fajitas, though. Made with a mix of canned chicken and frozen cooked chicken, homemade taco seasoning, and homemade flour tortillas- plus toppings like cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream.

Friday - Spaghetti
With garlic bread!

Saturday - KD & Ham

Plus veggies & pineapple!

Sunday - Ham & Cheese "Hot Pockets"
Leftover ham, pineapple, and cheese stuffed inside homemade (whole wheat) pizza dough. Mixed veggies on the side!

Extras this week:
* Homemade doughnuts
* Blueberry muffins

Ideas for next week: 

* Bread pudding (with stale cinnamon-raisin bagels)
* Dinners: Turkey chili, shepherd's pie, salmon cakes, spaghetti, stuffed peppers, quiche, leftover soup


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Weekend Wrap-Up

January 27 - February 2
See, this is how my meal planning goes. Nothing like what I had suggested after last week's wrap-up. I only made two of my suggested meals, the two I knew I really wanted to make.  I did not have the option of hotdogs & potatoes because I did not pick up the large bags of potatoes on sale this week. Instead I found a better sale which began this Thursday. So I was out of potatoes until the weekend. I also went to the food bank on Monday which gave me some items I wanted to use up more quickly.

Also, probably once a week I wind up calling my Mom with a "dinner emergency" - either I'm out of time and I don't know what to do for dinner or I'm trying something new and not sure if I'm on the right track (last week it was about the lentil soup). This week it was Wednesday. I had no idea what to do and I was running out of time.  I usually have some backup meal ideas for nights like this, but this week my "backup" had been fried potatoes and hotdogs, which as I already explained I could not do. I also had the option of pasta or chop suey, but since I had just made cabbage rolls the night before it just seemed like too much tomato soup/sauce.  Tuna casserole is always a good backup, but it just doesn't seem to be enough for all four of us these days, and I knew the hubster would be home for dinner.  So, I called my "dinner doctor."  I named off some of the items I had around, some of my ideas and why they weren't working, and explained that everything (regarding meat) was still frozen.  Her genius idea: lo mein. She also makes a most delicious lo mein. I could never possibly make it as awesome as she does.  She really needs to be writing for us here. :)

Monday - Open-Face Chicken Sandwiches
Went to the food bank and (among many other things) got some delicious french bread and two legs and thighs of rotisserie chicken. Wanted to use them fast so I made open-faced sandwiches with chicken, tomatoes, and mozarella. Topped with a little fresh basil from my windowsill and put under the broiler to melt the cheese.  Served with the leftover mashed potatoes and peas from salmon night on Saturday. Finished off the rest of the pumpkin cake for desert.

Tuesday - Cabbage Rolls

Wednesday - Yakisoba
Now, I mentioned above that my dear mother recommended I make lo mein for dinner. Well, I was getting out all my ingredients and noticed right next to my chow mein noodles was a package of soba noodles! I picked them up awhile back and had forgotten all about them!  So I decided to make an old college favorite - yakisoba. Or, at least, my take on it.

Thursday - General Tao's Chicken & Eggrolls
Another recipe coming soon! (This is one of my favorite take-out meals. Since we can't afford take-out, I thought I should give it a try at home. Turns out really great! Better than some of our usual restaurants.)

Friday - Everything Soup
We were planning to do burgers & onion rings, but with all the fried food we had the night before we needed something not... greasy. So we made soup. My mother calls it "garbage soup" or "leftover soup."  It starts like my alphabet tomato soup but we add everything and anything that we might need to clear out of the fridge.  This time it included diced tomatoes, onions, carrot, celery, garlic (the base), then some frozen leftover turkey, chopped turnip, tiny leftover frozen spinach, frozen leek, leftover corn, and some other ingredients I can't remember at the moment. Also made cheddar biscuits.

Saturday - Mini Bagel Pizzas & KD

We got a bag of mini bagels from the food bank Monday. Sat. morning I met up with some couponing friends for a lovely morning. Among the conversation a friend pointed out that bagel bites were on sale - I love those! So I thought it'd be great to make mini pizzas with the mini bagels I had! Leftover tomato sauce, finely chopped pepperoni (I keep sliced pepperoni in the freezer for pizzas), and topped with mozarella. Baked until delicious!  Served it with KD and the rest of the leftover corn.

Sunday - Spaghetti & Sausage
It seems every week we do a spaghetti or pasta dish. Not a bad idea- it's cheap and I get plenty of pasta & sauce from the food bank.  Sometimes I'm lazy like last week and don't do anything special to it. Tonight I made my favorite - spaghetti & sausage. Chopped an onion, cooked with chopped sausage, added garlic, two cans of sauce, spices, simmer... Easy and delicious. Served with garlic bread (of course).

Extras this week:
* Made extra egg rolls to freeze
* Made my own bisquick mix
* Made flour tortillas
* Attempted corn tortillas
* Homemade chicken stock

Ideas for next week: turkey chili, hot dogs & potatoes (I WILL get those potatoes), chicken tacos (need lettuce), salmon cakes, borscht (maybe), pork chops, udon/ramen, stuffed peppers, pasta bake


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Cabbage Rolls

   You need:
  • 1lb Ground beef (or pork, probably)
  • 2 cans tomato soup
  • 1 cabbage
  • 1 egg
  • cinnamon
  • (onion is optional, I did not use it this time)
  • tomato juice (or veg. juice like v8) - helpful
  • diced tomatoes optional

Weekend Wrap-Up

So, many blogs regarding budget cooking like to post weekly meal plans.
I'm not good at meal planning, really. I usually have a list of about 10 possible meals I can cook for the week - I pick 2 or 3 recipes I will definitely make, then I fill in the blanks with whatever I'm in the mood for.  So instead of sharing what I WILL do for the week, which I'm never entirely sure of, I will share what we DID do. (I also considered daily updates but since I'm not so good at the posting-everyday routine I thought this would be more convenient.)

Sunday - Butter Chicken
I had a 4-pk of bone-in chicken breast. I cut 3 breasts from the bone, put the remaining breast & all bones in a freezer bag (plan to use later for chicken stew).  Chopped the 3 into cubes, cooked in pan, added broccoli, added sauce, simmered... (all as per instructions on jar of butter chicken sauce). Served with jasmine rice and homemade naan.

Monday - Chili
Was planning to do turkey chili, but didn't get around to starting early. Turkey chili is better if it can sit all day in a crockpot. So instead I did my usual beef & kidney beans combo.  I also made my favorite cornbread - easy and delicious.

Tuesday - Cheeseburgers
Well, there's not much to this one. I made the buns, made some hamburger patties, put it all together. :) Served with a baked potato & a broccoli.

Wednesday - Sloppy Joes
Decided to spice up my usual sloppy joes with pepperoni. Served with green beans.

Thursday - Lentil Soup
My first attempt at lentil soup. It came out alright. I used lentils, canned diced tomato, onions, collard greens (got some in the good food box), cabbage, quinoa, chicken stock...  Served with ployes!

Friday - Spaghetti
Lazy night. I just heated a jar of pasta sauce with zucchini.

Saturday - Salmon Cakes

It's been a loooooooong time since I made these. I forgot how delicious they are!! I have a recipe posted here, but I had to do it a little different this time. I didn't have bread, so I used breadcrumbs (mostly from a very stale baguette). I also used one large (keta salmon) and one small can (sockeye) of salmon, and an entire small onion.  Also, instead of baking, I fried them in a little margarine on the stove. Served with mashed potatoes, peas, and white sauce!

Sunday - Pizza
Tonight we'll be making pizza. Just regular old pepperoni pizza. I don't have any regular pizza sauce left, so I will probably use the leftover pasta sauce from this week. (I opened the jar of zucchini sauce for spaghetti and a can of plain thick sauce for chili and sloppy joes. I mixed them together into the zucchini jar in the fridge.)

Looking back, I realize this was kind of a lazy week for me. The most work I did was making hamburger buns and lentil soup. Even the salmon cakes I had my husband helping in the kitchen. Maybe next week will get more complicated.

Ideas for next week include: taco soup (never tried this before!), cabbage rolls, borscht, fried hot dogs & potatoes, and general tao's chicken (and eggrolls?).  Other options include meatloaf, chicken stew, or pork roast.


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Ah, oatmeal. Such an economical and healthy food.  Go ahead, look up the nutrition facts. Low in fat, high in vitamins and minerals, good source of healthy carbs. Yes, it's all good for you. Now let's pile on the sugar and have some breakfast.

Oatmeal is cheaper than cereal. Far, far cheaper. It keeps us full longer, and even though I add lots of sugar, I'm sure it can't be worse than the typical cereals we eat. Well, even if it is - at least we stay full longer.

Oatmeal is cheaper if you don't fall for those pre-packaged instant packets. I know, they're easy and perfect and delicious. But they're not cheap.  A 1kg bag of oats costs $4 for a name-brand not on sale. I typically find the same size for $2 or less by waiting for sales, using coupons, or buying no-name.  The same brand oatmeal, but packaged as instant packets, costs $4.29 for a 10-pack box. While they do often go on sale for $2.50 (or did when I used to buy them), they still contain less than half the amount of oatmeal you can get from the larger bags. (The box contains about 15oz/430g - the bag contains 1kg which is more than twice as much - 2.3 to be more accurate.)

So, perhaps you're standing in the oatmeal aisle looking at these large bags of oats. Asking "can I eat all of that? Which kind should I get?" These are important questions.

First, yes you will eat all of that. You can use oats not only in oatmeal, but you can use them for great cookies, bread, homemade granola, and even my version of never-dry meatloaf. (Recipes coming... eventually.)

Second, let's talk about types of oatmeal. You will see labels like "rolled" "old-fashioned" or "large" oats - they're all the same. (Sometimes even called "regular.") They are steamed, flattened, large oats.  You can do anything with these.
You will also see "quick" - this one can also be used for most anything. "Quick" oats are just large oats that have been chopped smaller, which is something you can do yourself in a food processor.  However, if you aren't careful you may end up with oat flour (which is still useable for baking things like bread or thickening your oatmeal - don't toss it). "Regular" and "Quick" oats are pretty much interchangeable in recipes, too. 
Then there is "instant" - great if you only want to use it for breakfast.  If you chop your "regular" or "quick" oats even smaller, you can make your own "instant."
If you're really not sure what to choose, start with "quick." If you have a little confidence in your food-processor, go ahead and get the large.  I started out buying quick, it can be used for all five of my favorite uses. (Though large would make better granola and chewier cookies.)
(For info on different types of oats from Quaker Canada)

How much cheaper is oatmeal than cereal?

Well, for one, you can get 1kg for $2. Cereal costs nearly $4 for 500g - that would be 4x the cost of oatmeal!  Now, 1/3c dry oatmeal weighs around 38g (1.3oz) - 38g of cereal (I tested Cheerios) is about a cup. Both are the equivalent of 1 serving. Not considering milk, cereal costs .30/serving, one serving of oatmeal costs $.08. That's right, 8 cents. Sure, I haven't counted the cost of sugar - though I can't imagining that adding more than a couple cents unless you're a real sugar fiend. Still, 8 cents!! And this serving size is enough to fill me, an adult, for the morning. For me to feel the same way with cereal, I would need to eat at least two cups of cereal and I would STILL not be quite as full.  Also, buying the large bags of oatmeal is cheaper than the packets - which if bought on sale for $2.50 cost $.25/serving (still less than cereal)!

So, now you have a large bag of oats. Well, this seems like an inconvenient breakfast. Cooking on the stove-top is probably better, but I'm used to the easy microwaveable kind of oatmeal. I also want to be able to cook one serving at a time. This is why instant packets are so tempting (that and their delicious little dried apple bits....which is a DIY I'd like to try someday).

So here's what I do. I make a large batch of my own "instant mix."  I keep this mix in a canister above my microwave. I scoop 1/4 or 1/3 cup mix and two scoops  of water/milk to the bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Then I check it, stir it, taste it, add stuff if it needs it, cook it another minute if needed. I like 2 parts liquid (milk/water) to 1 part oatmeal mix. However, some might like more or less thick.

Now the exact recipe itself is still something I'm working on. You can browse the web for other versions, but you still might find yourself tweaking them to your own taste.  

Here's my latest attempt:

I had 3 cups oats (large). I took one of those cups and put it in the magic bullet and pulsed it a bit to make some powder (good for getting a nice thick oatmeal).  Then I added about 3 tbsp sugar. I only had white, though brown would probably be better. (I could have MADE some brown but I was feeling a little lazy. I will share how to do this in another post.)  I also added about half a tbsp of cinnamon and about 1 tsp salt. After breakfast (this mix tasted fine, but I did add more sugar and a bit of syrup to my bowl) I found a nearly-empty bag of "quick oats." There was only 1 cup, so I added it to the mix. I also added another tbsp sugar, half a tbsp cinnamon, and a dash of salt.

(This version is a little on the chewy side because I used large oats. If I had processed them all a bit, it might have made it a little better. Or maybe I just need to cook it longer. It was still delicious, however. )

Anyway, once the mix is ready it's just as easy and fast as the instant oat packets and at a fraction of the price!


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Sloppy Joes

I've completely skipped my post on pulled pork sandwiches - but I will get to that soon. Instead, I will share tonight's magical creation - Pizza Joes!

Sloppy Joes are easy and cheap to make. All you need is some ground meat, tomato sauce, seasonings, and a bun/bread to put it on. You can use ground beef, ground pork, or any combination of the two (probably even ground chicken/turkey, though I haven't tried this).  You can use any kind of bread you think can hold it, but my favorite is my homemade hamburger buns. You can use any kind of tomato sauce and spice it up with whatever you have around. Tonight it was pizza-themed.

This is what I did tonight:

Step 1:  Defrost 1/2 lb ground pork in micro (well, it was actually 9oz), while this is defrosting finely chop half an onion, half a green pepper, and a few pepperonis (5 or 6 1-in rounds).
Step 2:  Brown meat, veggies, and pepperoni in a skillet on med/med-hi.  When everything's cooked, drain the grease/liquids.
Step 3:  Add tomato sauce to cover. I used plain, thick pasta sauce.  You just want enough to coat everything. If it's too runny you'll have quite a mess on your hands... in your hands... on your shirt... in your lap...
Step 4:  Let it simmer a little while - let it thicken a bit and let flavors distribute. You know... just a bit. Cover it if your sauce is thick enough, or leave it uncovered if you want to thicken it.
Step 5:  Put that stuff on a bun! I carefully placed a couple large spoonfuls onto a bun and topped it with a little mozarella. Deeeeelicious.

Of course, you don't need the cheese. You don't need the pepperoni. You don't even need the green pepper. You can use beef or pork. You can add basil/oregano or red chili flakes. Or your favorite hotsauce. You can do whatever you like to this, really. Whatever tastes good to you. And it's cheap, here's a breakdown:

Cost Breakdown (For a plain Sloppy Joe, not the pizza version)
Buns                               $1.25
Ground Pork  (1/2lb)      $0.50
Tomato Sauce                $0.60
Total:                   $2.35
(Made 5)

This price breakdown is based on using 5 buns purchased at $2 for 8 (though I used my homemade version, this is what I would pay at the store for buns), ground pork $1/lb using 1/2 lb, tomato sauce $1.25 for a can using 1/2 of a can at most.  
My pizza version also used cheese and pepperonis - a very small amount of each.  We bought a pepperoni for $3 which we sliced and froze - it filled a med. ziploc bag... I only used 5 slices.  Cheese was purchased at $4.25 for 900g and I used maybe 50g? So, maybe $.25 in cheese and $.15 for pepperoni (this is a wild guess). So, guessing about $.40-$.50 more for the pizza version. Still under $3 total.  Don't forget to serve with some veggies!

Hamburger Buns

Make your own hamburger buns!

Okay, so sometimes it might actually be cheaper to buy some buns from the store - but I guarantee these are better. And it only takes ingredients you (should) already have on hand. It also really doesn't take all that much time and effort.

I've been through a few different recipes, but I sort of fell in love with these 40-minute hamburger buns from Taste of Home.  However, I cringe at using so much yeast. Really, 2tbsp is a LOT! So, instead of 40-minute buns, I use less yeast and take my time. 

I simply put the following ingredients in my bread machine on the dough setting and let it do it's work: 
1 tablespoons yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar 
1 egg 
1 teaspoon salt 
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Then, I follow the recipe's instructions - seperate dough into 12 equal sized balls, set on baking sheet, and I let them rise some more. Sometimes I'll brush the tops with oil or melted butter, it makes them a little prettier and keeps them from drying out on top.  Then I bake them at 425 for about 10 minutes.

And bam, you have 12 delicious hamburger buns. I *should* be able to get 3 meals out of this, but my husband and son both love snacking on them - plus, sometimes one delicious BBQ pork sandwich just isn't enough. 

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Zucchini Casserole

This is amazing. Really one of my number-one favorites ever. Even better as leftovers (if there's any left!!!).

What you need:
* Box of Stuffing
* Sour Cream  (one cup)
* Cream of chicken soup (or make your own - I did this time and it came out great)
* Zucchini (about 3 should do - chopped into bite-size chunks. As you see pictured I have frozen zucchini that I had blanched and frozen back in the fall.)
* Carrots (Shredded - Two is probably enough, three if they're smallish)
* Ground Beef (only need about a pound - obviously more is pictured)

Step 1: Brown beef. (You can add onions if you like. This time I did not.) Add to first layer of casserole dish. While beef is cooking you may want to boil water for your zucchini. In this case, my zucchini was already cooked, just frozen. So I rinsed it under some water to partially de-frost it and remove extra ice.

Step 2:
After zucchini is par-boiled use the hot water to mix stuffing in a seperate bowl using the box's instructions. (Or just make stuffing with hot water.) Mix about half the stuffing mix in with the beef in the dish.

Step 3: In another bowl, mix together zucchini, carrot, 1c sour cream and 1 can (or 1 cup homemade) cream of chicken soup. Add more sour cream if needed. (You want more than enough to cover all veggies - you want it goopy). Layer on top of beef/stuffing.

Step 4: Sprinkle remaining stuffing over the top! Bake until bubbly and stuffing looks browned/crispy. (350 for maybe 45 minutes. I really can't remember. All ingredients are cooked - you just want it nice and bubbly with a crispy top.)

Voila! The best yummiest delicious spectacular zucchini dish ever.

Price Breakdown:
Beef (1lb)                  $2
Stuffing                      $2
Cream of Chicken     $0.79
Sour Cream              $1.15
Zucchini                    $1.5
Carrot                       $0.18
Total:                        $7.62
(Could serve 6 - but 4 of us stuffed our faces.)

(This price breakdown is based on: $2/lb ground beef, stuffing was donated but I wouldn't normally spend more than $2, cream of chicken was homemade but I usually would spend .79/can, sour cream was 50%off but regular price is around $2.30 and I only used about half, zucchini I try to get for $.99/lb or less although this batch was in my csa box - I have no idea how much this would have weighed but definitely no more than 1.5lbs so we can safely assume $1.5 or less for zucchini, for carrots see borscht recipe for price. )

Homemade Laundry Detergent

DIY Laundry Detergent, everybody's doing it! Well, I'm seeing a lot of it on pinterest these days. We were down to our last jug of regular ol' liquid laundry soap and thought we'd give this a try instead. We bought borax (about $5 for 2kg), washing soda (about $7 for 3kg), and Jergens bar soap ($1.25 - okay, we actually already had this on hand), and I used a free sample of scent booster for, well, scent boosting.

Step 1: Grate a bar of soap. I just used the large cheese side of my cheese grater, I will process it further in my blender in step 3.
Step 2: Measure into a bowl/bucket 1 cup each borax and washing soda. Mix (stir, shake, whatever).
Step 3: Further grate the soap by blending in a blender. I put this as step 3 as I like to add some of the borax/soda mix to help with the blending process. Just blend until the soap is in little bits and it looks like, well, powdered laundry detergent.
Step 4 is optional! I realized the soap didn't smell like much. I found I had some free samples of this scent booster stuff - I added about half the sample (2tbsp). For the first batch I left the little bits whole. This second batch I put some back in the blender to help better distribute the scent. I think either way works fine. You can use more or less scent stuff, depending on what you like. You could also add essential oils instead, or so I've read. :)

Voila! You have laundry soap. First batch I kept in a giant empty ice cream tub, this time I found a nice jar that one batch fits nicely into.  I use about 1-2 tbsp per load, I got 37 tbsp from this batch (yes, I measured as I filled up my jar).

I've estimated at least 13c washing soda and at least 8c borax per box.  If this is true, then it would cost about $15 for 8 batches, or 296 loads. That's 5 cents a load. The last liquid detergent I bought was about $4 for 40 loads, which is 10 cents per load. So, this is saving at least half the cost!

Per batch break-down
1 bar of soap:             $0.42
1 cup borax:               $0..57
1 cup washing soda:    $0.55
Batch total:       $1.54 for 36 loads

Of course, keep in mind I know many people can find borax and washing soda and even the soap for less than I did. Especially any readers in the States. But still, the savings are clear. :)

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