Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Money Saving Meals

I get asked a lot  how Jamie and I have a grocery budget with all the cooking and baking that I do!  The answer is that we don't.  There isn't a grocery budget in our house and we learned that that is a big big big problem!! One of our New Years Resolutions was to save money, and so far we have been very successfully except in the GROCERY department, so today I went on a money saving mission in my local grocer for a few low cost dinner options. 

Here are a few tips I learned over the past few years:
  1. Buy meat on sale!! Especially rump roast and chicken.  Even if it is not on your list you will be very thankful for those extra savings later.
  2. Don't buy more veggies than you need.  For example just because the tomatoes are on the vine doesn't mean you can't break the a part.
  3. Stock up on Non Perishables when they are on sale.
  4. Buy household goods somewhere other than the grocery store.
  5. Check the grocery ad before making your menu for the week.
  6. Plan as far in advance as possible.
  7. Look for recipes that use the same ingredients. For Example, if you need 16 oz of ricotta but it you can only find a 24 oz container you need to use the other 8 oz before they expire.
  9. Eating at home for 2 can be less expensive than dining out.
  10. Eating at home for 2 can be more expensive than dining out.

Those last two need a little further explanation.  The first one, eating at home can be less expensive than dining out, is very true! I can make pizza, a steak dinner and lunch much cheaper (you will see this later) than I can get it at a restaurant.  The last one, eating at home can be more expensive than dining out , is very true as well!! I can not make a Mexican dinner for 2 with all the fixings for the $16 or $18 dollars we can eat it at the restaurant I HAVE TRIED! Also let me address the notion of leftovers for a minute, my husband hates leftovers but sometimes if I want to make a great meal there will be leftovers and guess what we are going to have to start eating them!!

That brings me to my first MONEY SAVING MEAL! It is a money saver because it will feed 2 people twice or 4 people for $6.88 a serving and it is a delicious pot roast!

Here was my grocery list and the cost of the item:
Rump Roast ($17.18 on sale for $5.49 a pound)
Steam and Mash Potatoes ($2.50 on sale for 2/$5)
Onion ($.97)
Baby Carrots ($1.69 and will be left over for snacking)
Beef Consomme ($1.75)
Brown Gravy Mix ($.75)
Onion Soup Mix ($1.69 and there are two packets in the box)

The only other item needed is Cream of Mushroom which I had in my pantry and I purchased it on sale a few weeks ago for $.99.

TOTAL PER PERSON (2) FOR (2) MEALS: $6.88 (dinner Thurs and Lunch on Friday).

That to me is much better than a fast food combo meal for that same price and it is a crock pot meal so it is fast and easy.

ANOTHER MONEY SAVING MEAL: FRENCH BREAD PIZZAS, an alternative to delivery pizza, plus we can't get delivery where we live. There are some days when we work late, have had a big lunch or are just two plain tired to cook a big meal and that is where this recipe comes in.

Here was my grocery list and the cost of the item:
Pepperoni ($3.34 on sale 3/$10)
Mozzarella Cheese ($5.69, I was surprised that preshredded was cheaper than block)
Pizza Sauce ($1.79)
French Bread ($2.39)


And to me better than DELIVERY!!! Plus it is customizable, which is important to me because Jamie and I do not like the same toppings.

So those are two dinner ideas that are perfect for staying in your grocery budget, now lets look at lunch.

Here was what I bought and the cost of the item:
Bakery Bread ($3.99, we are willing to pay more for this item than regular bread)
Tomatoes ($5.11, should have taken one off the vine)
Cheese ($2.50)
Doritos ($2.50, they were on sale 2/$5)
Sandwich Meat ($5.99 for 1lb of ham and turkey mixed)


So brown bagging lunch is a much better option than eating out every day! I purchased a few other items that we needed such as deodorant and stove top cleanser.  Our favorite granola was on sale, I need breakfast sausage and gelato (we are giving up sugar next week) so my total grocery bill was $115.64, but just on 3 suppers (I left one recipe off because it was a freezer meal) and all my lunch stuff the total was $74.87.

And there you have it! My first step towards spending less on GROCERIES, but don't fret I will still whip up fabulous desserts and wonderful meals, but Money Saving Meals will be added to my menus to make those things possible. 

How much money should 2 people spend at the grocery every month anyway!?


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Light Lunch Thursday!!

I am often home 2-3 days a week and I enjoy cooking for myself and not having to go out for lunch or just eat a turkey sandwich! This is one of my favorite things! The pioneer woman's Bruschetta!

Start by heating 3 tablespoons of olive oils and 4 minced cloves of garlic in a small sauce pan until fragrant and golden!
Then pour this mixture into a mixing bowl.
Let this cool and add grape tomatoes in red and yellow (slice them in half) to the bowl.
Top with basil (as much or as little as you like), balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Then I toasted some French bread in the skillet I used for the garlic olive oil! Top the bread with the bruschetta and it is a great lunch! 



Sunday, February 2, 2014

Stay at Home Anniversary Part 3

This post is about our anniversary dessert!!! Since we were celebrating on a Monday there wasn't a lot of time after work to whip up a fancy cake or creme brûlée so I opted for something made with store bought ingredients.

This is what I created!! Chocolate Covered Strawberry Napoleon!

First I sliced the strawberries.
Then let them soak in in 2 tablespoons sugar and a splash of vanilla.
I did this before I made dinner and then I melted some chocolate and dipped some of the extra strawberries for garnish.
Then after dinner. I sliced up the most wonderful frozen pound cake made by Sara Lee!
I also made a chocolate ganach buy melting 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons of half and half.
Then I microwaved it for 15 seconds and stirred till melted through. Once the chocolate sauce is done you can assembly your dessert!

First the cake:
Then a smear of chocolate sauce:
Then a few strawberry slices:
Then another slice of cake:
Another smear of chocolate:
Then some sugar fee whipped topping:
Then top with strawberries and garnish with the chocolate covered strawberries!
Jamie dug in immediately!!!


Stay at Home Anniversary Part 2

Sorry for the epic delay between blogs, the snow days messed up my whole schedule! 

In the previous blog I told you how I created a romantic restaurant atmosphere in my kitchen, now I am going to tell you about the meal!!!

When I first moved back to AU, Jamie introduced me to the crab cakes at Christine's in Moore's Mill. They truly were the best crab cakes I had ever eaten! But now that she is closed, I have to fend for myself! I am almost positive that Jamie and I have shared a meal of crab cakes on many anniversaries and that was my inspiration for this recipe!! I took several crab cake recipes and came up with this one, it is most similar to the original Old Bay Crab Cake recipe!

So hear ya go!
You are going to need 1 pound of lump crab meat. This isn't cheap so I opted out of the Jumbo Lump! You need to pour both of the containers into a large bowl and run your fingers through it just in case their are any leftover shells hanging around.
Once this is done you are going to add all your seasoning and bindings.
In here I have. 1 tablespoon of dried parsley, 1 tablespoon of mayo, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of hot sauce, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of worchestershire, 1 teaspoon of old bay and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Combine well.
Then add one egg.

Then here is where I forgot to take a picture because Jamie and I were discussing a work issue! You need to toast two pieces of white sandwich bread. Then crumble in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of milk. Stir and then stir into crab mixture! Form into four equal cakes.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and when hot place all four cakes in the skillet.
Flip after 4 minutes.
Then pop it into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Check and make sure they are warmed through and serve!

I served with a twice baked potato and a creamy pre-packaged roumalade sauce!



Monday, January 27, 2014

Stay at Home Anniversary Part 1

This will be a three part blog about Jamie and I's at home anniversary. Tomorrow is our two year wedding anniversary and 5 years that we have been together! We celebrated while we were in Vegas with a fancy dinner out but I couldn't just let the real day go by unnoticed! I love to cook nice meals at home and have a candlelight meal and make it feel special!! 

So that was my goal today! We were having our meal a night early because Jamie was headed out of town tomorrow until the big snow storm was forecasted! But anyway, I want to help you have a fancy dinner at home for just the cost of groceries!!!

Step one: atmosphere and table setting!!!  I always shop World Market for table runners and cloth napkins! Last trip I stumbled upon a huge stack of runners for 40% off. Now I didn't need them but I knew I could always use them in the future. So I bought two full price $29.99 on sale for $14 each. 

Normally our kitchen table is a catch all for mail my purse and the dog leash so I love when it looks like this:
Here is the place setting:
I love these monogrammed napkins that were a gift from my mother in law. Wicker chargers from Pier 1, square glass plates from World Market and gold sequined napkin rings from Pier 1. All things I have collected over the years and all on sale!
My candle holders are part of my thanksgiving tablescape and they came from Kirklands. 

This is simple and makes a huge difference to a meal. After we ate, I just added two more chargers And my table looks great sans the purse, mail and dog leash.

Moral of the story: if you find it on clearance buy it and a table runner and a charger can put a normal meal over the top. 

Tomorrow: crab cakes!!!

Have fun decorating!


Note: someone asked where my table and chairs were from. Table is Ballard designs and chairs are restoration hardware.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Jamie, my husband, loves to keep me busy in the kitchen! He is my number one fan, my number one motivator and my number one food requester! For this weekends hunting camp trip it was chocolate chip cookies. The exact request was no oats because I am not a horse. And then I asked if I could put in pecans and it was a strong NO! So basic delicious chocolate chip cookies were on my Thursday afternoon/evening agenda! 

A chocolate chip cookie shouldn't be a complicated thing. I mean you do need the the perfect ratio of chips and cookie, the perfect height, the perfect size and it has to be delicious! To me there is no better recipe than the original Toll House recipe! 
So first I will go through the recipe and then I am going to share a little baking mat experiment that I did!

Start with two sticks of butter, 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 3/4 a cup of packed brown sugar and cream on medium in your stand mixer. 
When the sugars and the butter are creamed add two eggs one at a time.
Yummy!!! Smells great already!
Add about a teaspoon of vanilla! Then you will add your dry ingredients. While everything was mixing I combined them in a separate container!
2 1/4 cups AP Flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Combine and then gradually add to the mixer. Once the flour is incorporated remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in 2 cups of Toll house chocolate chips!
Now this isn't in the recipe! I cover and refrigerate the dough while my oven preheats, atleast for 20 minutes.

During this time I thought, I need three half sheet pans and I have three different non stick baking options so let's see what the best one is.
Here are the three options. Parchment, my Pampered Chef baking mat and my silpat.

After the dough was chilled, I used my medium scoop to place 6 cookies on each sheet. I baked at 375 degrees for 12 minutes!

First the SILPAT:
The SILPAT was good, cookies didn't get golden on top, they didn't spread much from my original shape and they browned nicely on the bottom.

Next was the Pampered Chef Baking Mat:
Pampered chef mat was great! The cookies spread, golden on top and golden on the bottoms.

Next Parchment Paper:
Parchment was good, the cookies didn't spread and were slightly golden top and perfect on the bottom.

Here all three together:



In my opinion, there was not that big of difference in the three baking mats. But the pampered chef cookies spread more so the cookie was slightly larger! The main reason for my experiment is that I am going to a Pampered Chef Party this week and was unsure if I wanted to buy another mat! I will definitely compare the price of the SILPAT and the pampered chef mat.

All in all this recipe is a win, Jamie said it was the best cookie I have ever made and I have to agree. Great cookie!!!



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fake out Take out for under $15

One of our many New Years Resolutions was to save money!! One of the places we spend the most money is the grocery store. I cook sometimes 3 meals a day not to mention snacks and baking experiments. This causes our grocery bill every month to be outrageously high, I think a family of 4 could eat comfortably on what I spend at the grocery store. But, in saving money I am not willing to give up making great food, baking, cutting out processed food, lowering sugar and in general eating healthy! So there are a few tips that I have learned in researching food cost savings that I feel apply to us!

1: Find meat on sale or buy in bulk! I refuse to pay over $2 a pound for chicken. We like beef and beef is expense! I have learned to buy on sale and freeze!!
2: Have a stocked pantry. The recipe I am about to share only cost me $9 at the store yesterday because I had everything but one item in my pantry.
3: Go to multiple stores. I shop Kroger and Publix because let's get real Publix is outrageous on some items for example their rotissiere chicken is $7 and is half the size of the $5 one at Kroger. I don't go to two stores weekly but I do big shopping at Kroger weekly and small trips inbetween I go to Publix. Also our cereal is $3.29 at Kroger but $4.29 at Publix.
4: Buy fresh vegatables from a farmers market or local grower. We use Blooming Colors and the AG market at the university. Also try to make your menu around what is in season.
5: Make a menu! And try to use the same ingredient multiple times in one week. For example if you need 1 cup of chicken broth for a recipe try to use the rest of the container in another recipe that week to avoid waste. When I analyzed my fridge I noticed we have a lot of waste, leftovers, extra stuff and just sometimes I buy too much.

I am going to try these tips for a month and see what happens!!!! The recipe I am going to share with you today is an inexpensive homemade version of A Chinese takeout favorite: Beef and Broccoli! Jamie said it was the best meal I had made in a while and one of his new favorites!! 
Yummy! Here are the ingredients:
I had all of these in my pantry and only had to buy the chuck roast! And this is a slow cooker recipe so you can start it before work! Also I used the Splenda brown sugar blend because Jamie is diabetic but you can use brown sugar if you would like. First you need to make the sauce in the crockpot.
1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 can of Beef Consommé, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Whisk together and prepare your meat!!
Here is my $18 chuck roast, last minute recipe decision so I couldn't find one on sale! I cut it in half and froze the other half to use later, maybe next week since Jamie loved this!! The. I sliced it very think using a super sharp meat clever.
Then put it in the crock pot and toss I the sauce. Set it in low for four hours!! After the four hours you will need to make a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce!! 
Take 4 tablespoons of the cooking liquid and whisk with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
Then pour into the crock pot and stir. Also pour in your frozen broccoli, as much or as little as you like.
Stir to combine and then let cook on low for 30 minutes. In the meantime make brown or white rice (with chicken broth for extra flavor). 
Then serve it up! It really was really good and easy.