Yes this is the “day late and dollar short” version of 5 Things Friday. I will be the first to admit that the last couple of weeks have been very stressful and emotionally exhausting in addition to being financially straining.
Yesterday, was our first full paycheck for the month of February. The good news is that we were able to catch up from the snow week. I have a plan in place for both our tax returns and am very hopeful that this will allow us back on a slow but steady track to paying down our huge debit this year. We are working to reduce both our electric and water bills to a more normal level. Matt and I have already worked out a Menu plan for the month which means we should be able to keep the grocery bill on a lower than usual level. Another positive is that Matt has been selling vinyl decals on a very steady basis this month. This is definitely helpful as we have lots of unexpected expenses.
I am battling left-overs in our fridge. Our super bowl party is always fun but we end up with some interesting left-overs. This week, I made an effort to make meals of left-overs and strongly suggested that Matt and Lily eat left-overs for lunch. Today, I am repurposing left-overs, we had a bag of carrots, and a bunch of celery, several cups of rice and some pulled pork. I did a little bit of thinking and decided to make pork fried rice. I chopped up the pork and realized that we had over 4 cups left which is enough to make 2 full meals for us. I let Kendall help chop up the carrots and celery. I added some green peppers and onions and that became our veggies for the stir-fry. One set for dinner and a second set in the freezer for a crazy day of what is for dinner.
Zach has officially started taking piano. He has been asking for over a year but we really wanted him to wait until he was a strong reader before attempting. Kendall started teaching him this week for fun. He even practiced every day without being told. This is definitely an expense that I don’t mind adding.
I am so ready for spring, in fact I have already planned out our square foot garden and added several more containers. I am very hopefully that with a little extra work this year we will have a bumper crop. I purchased trees a couple of years ago to start work on a landscape line. The trees came with a 2 year guarantee. I received an email yesterday that a new peach tree is being shipped this week. My mother has also been growing several pecan trees in her flower bed. So we should be able to finish the border without spending any additional money!
Our busy schedule has returned. Some days, I am honestly thinking how do we actually do this. This week, Lily has practice for her play, 4 nights and a party the 5th night. Kendall has 2 days of extra curricular activities in addition to church on Wednesday night. Matt has also doubled his hours at work for this week. Yikes, better rest up today!
I have to admit that last week’s snow threw a wrench in my meal plan for the week. The good news is that I decided to cook and use items we already had on hand! This week our crazy normal schedule returns with at least 3 days of evening activities.
Breakfast- Saturday-Fried Bologna and scrambled eggs , Sunday- Cereal and milk , Monday-baked oatmeal, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday- Choice of cereal, eggs or left-overs, Thursday- breakfast burrito bowl.
Lunch- Saturday- pizza snacks , Sunday- meal at friends house , Monday- left over pizza for everyone. The kids are taking 2 day of sandwiches and 2 grab and go days. I plan to eat at work a couple of times this week as they have my favorite sandwich.
Dinner – Saturday- Pizza , Sunday- Chicken parmesan with spaghetti noodles Monday- Bacon Ranch Chicken casserole , Tuesday- Taco Tuesday, Wednesday-Left over night , Thursday- Pulled pork or pork chops , Friday- Hamburger and French Fries.
Back on a tight budget means back to menu planning for us! I was able to spend some time on Saturday and get a good idea of what foods we have in addition to doing some extra food prep that should come in handy when things get busy in the spring again. If you want to check out the new recipes I used you can!
Breakfast- Saturday- left-over pancakes and sausage balls from dinner on Thursday. Sunday- Bacon and Pimento cheese biscuits. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday- Leftovers (baked oatmeal or pancakes) or choices. Thursday- Omelet, Friday- Baked oatmeal.
Lunch- The kids have 2 sandwich days, 2 grab and go days and soup. I am taking left-overs each day. Lily has left-overs, mac and cheese or ramen noodles. Saturday lunch- left-over wings and pizza from Amanda. Sunday- Mexican rice and Chicken Enchiladas
Dinners- Saturday- Italian Cream Chicken, Sunday- Lazy Day beef Stew, Monday Spaghetti, Tuesday Salisbury Steak, glazed carrots and rice, Wednesday- Chicken Fried Rice and Friday- Pulled Pork.
So far so great on our grocery budget for the month, we have spent $21.61 which includes the purchase of a Sunday paper.
Today, I am saving time and money by cooking ahead! I am also sticking to items that I have in the pantry or freezer as I have a very small grocery budget this month. Today, I focused on using frozen chicken breast. I was very pleasantly surprised when my instapot was able to cook 10 breast from frozen to done in less than an hour (30 minutes actually pressure time). I shredded those in my kitchen aid and used for a Chicken Taco Casserole and Chicken Enchiladas. I also froze 2 packs of shredded chicken. The casserole is one of our quick easy items to use on a busy day. Chicken Enchiladas will be lunch tomorrow. While the instapot was working, I started dinner for tonight, which was Creamy Italian Chicken. This is a recipe that Amanda has made before so I knew that it was good. That is a total of 5 meals in less than 2 hours of total time.
Matt made a batch of homemade pimento cheese that we will use for breakfast in the morning . I also pulled out the ingredients for a beef stew for dinner tomorrow night. This recipe is from Zach’s calendar so he is excited to try it.
The best part of all these meals is cost today is $0! We used all the ingredients from the pantry and freezer. First week of January behind us with a total of $20 spent in groceries!
Menu Planning has taken on a new level and meaning this week. I “forgot” to record the paying of a bill last week. This mistake meant that we were not able to make our huge restocking trip to Costco on Thursday as we had originally planned. Instead, we scaled way back and spent less than $100 to purchase meat and several other items that we were completely out of. This week, the plan is to shop on Saturday. I know this is not the smartest thing we could do but it will be easier this Saturday as opposed to next Thursday prior to Christmas. This weeks menu plan is simple and uses what we have or were able to purchase last week.
Breakfast- Saturday- Cereal and milk. Sunday-Big Breakfast ( eggs, bacon, grits and toast), Monday thru Thursday Choices or cereal and milk, . Friday- Baked oatmeal-Choices of eggs, fried bologna, grits, French toast or toast.
Saturday- Kids ate at Amanda’s, Matt had Burger King and I had Biscuit King (both Matt and I ended up working) Sunday- Baked Potato Soup in Instapot. I am so excited that this worked and turned out awesome! Lunch are planned out with a special treat on Thursday of IHOP since everyone has doctor appointments and we have a gift card left over from our trip!
Dinner- Saturday- Chili from crock-pot. Sunday- Burger King (total of $5 after gift card), Monday- Pork Chops with stuffing and green beans. Tuesday- Spaghetti Wednesday- Salisbury Steak, rice and fruit. Thursday- not sure yet but it may just be left-overs. Friday- Church dinner!
The first way I am saving is the easiest and I have blogged about it several times. I am staying at home. Even if I decide to run out just to grab one item, I am 100 times more likely to spend money than if I simply stay at home. I should also add that I am avoiding online shopping as well. Unless I find a deal that is below stock up price I simply do not shop.
I am saving time and money both my cooking ahead. This morning, since we are at home. I made a batch of Breakfast Burrito bowls. Totally cost for at least 3 mornings of breakfast for all of us $4. I was able to use green pepper from the garden which helped reduce the cost. The kids love Banana Chip Bites. These are basically milk and bananas blend and frozen in muffin tins. They also add chocolate chips to make them special. My using bananas that were previously frozen, this makes a really cheap breakfast or desert. Some of our other favorite for cooking ahead right now are meatloaf muffins and chicken enchiladas.
The final way I am saving money this Saturday is by shopping my pantry and freezers. I am trying to dramatically reduce our grocery budget over the last several month of this year. In order to accomplish this I am trying to make sure I use what is in our freezers and pantry. I headed out to the building this morning to bring up stew beef, cubed steak, roast, ground beef, chicken and chicken fried rice. We have a menu plan but I usually don’t plan ahead for weekends or Thursdays. This gives us a chance to eat up leftovers or be a little bit more creative, the only problem is that I forget what we actually have in the freezers. This morning I brought up several items that are not on the plan but that I can use to create a meal. I also made sure to restock our snack drawers and found three additional boxes of pasta that can be used over the next several months. I know myself well enough to realize that if my freezer’s are full than I won’t “think” I need to go shopping even if that is really not the case. At least for the next week or so, I know we have plenty of food so I will continue to try and use what we have to make meals.
I was so excited and pleased when Amanda purchased me a electric pressure cooker for my birthday and even let me start playing with it early. I have been watching for about a year and it was on my list of things I wanted but could not justify. I was planning to LOVE it! But I have waited a full two weeks before writing this post because I really don’t love it. I am not even sure I like it. I am also thinking that once I learn this appliance and find the right uses for it I will LOVE it. For the present here are some things I have learned.
- When reading a recipe I really wish that it would say, Allow 30 minutes to pressurize. This is major reason that I am not in love with it. I have been searching out recipes and reading where it says Cook for 15 minutes. So my brain says ok I can make this in less than an hour. Nope hold up, I need to add 30 minutes to my time in order for the pot to pressurize.
- BBQ Chicken legs will be the bomb. I even cooked chicken wings today without unthawing so this will be a great thing to remember when I have not laid out meat to unthaw and need a good meal in an hour.
- Cheesecake is the bomb in the pressure cooker. I can’t wait to try this desert again.
- Sunday Soups are going to be much easier especially beef stew. I made a trial run on Sunday and it was easy and really good!
- Frozen ground beef is easier to unthaw and fry in large batches or even small batches and makes less of a mess than trying to use the electric pressure cooker.
I guess in the end, I prefer my Crock pot for the ease, clean up and convenience.
I am continuing to try and find ways to love my instant pot. On Friday, I read that you could brown ground beef using frozen meat, so I gave it a try. I will have to say that honestly it was more work than it was worth. I did have success with beef stew on Sunday so at least I can make a new delicious Sunday lunch now.
Our other really good food news of the week is that our garden is continuing to produce, not huge amounts but just enough. I have already frozen what I hope is enough diced tomatoes for the winter. My goal over the next couple of weeks is to collect enough tomatoes to make a batch of spaghetti sauce a week, this means I need to collect 8 pounds of tomatoes. We are also eating tomatoes on a daily basis, if I cant collect the 8 pounds I will continue to freeze half cup packages for the winter. Matt harvest pimentos and made an awesome homemade pimento cheese but my favorite still remains the watermelon we are getting.
Finally in food news, we are continue to plan and eat out of the pantry and freezer, I currently have a meal plan until September but with school starting we may have to make some small changes to this.
Breakfast– Saturday-Biscuit King-treat before the swim meet. Sunday- French toast with a freezer stash made as well. Monday-Choice Tuesday- Sausage biscuits and gravy Wednesday- Choices . Thursday- Pancakes . Friday- Baked Oatmeal with blueberries?. Choices include : eggs, grits, left-overs , toast or cereal, pop-tarts
Lunch- This week sandwiches and left overs make the list for lunch. No special plans at all.
Dinner- Saturday-Lunch-Pasta salad . Dinner- -Pizza from gift card
Sunday- Lunch-Beef stew in instapot . Dinner- left-overs
Monday- Hamburger helper and fresh green beans
Tuesday- Taco Tuesday
Wednesday- Breakfast casserole
Thursday- Coconut shrimp if I am home.
Friday- Pulled pork and glazed carrots.
As hard as I try not to think it and dare not speak it, my life continues, I know that I will continue to mourn and miss my dad forever but time does not stand still so I keep praying and stepping out in faith. We have our typical busy week going on with four evening of multiple activities this week and most likely a cheer competition on Saturday. Menu planning is the only way we can function.
Breakfast– Saturday-French toast. Sunday- Cereal for kids and baked oatmeal for me. Monday-Baked oatmeal for everyone Tuesday- Choices Wednesday- choices. Thursday- Scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits. Friday- Choices. Choices include : baked oatmeal, eggs, grits, French toast, toast or cereal.
Lunch- Zach and Kendall have chicken and stars soup, chicken nuggets, , homemade lunchable and chips w/salsa. I am taking left-overs this week. Zach has decided he wants to purchase lunch at school this week, he will be using his own money as well. We did limit it to one time per week.
Dinner- Saturday- lunch chicken wings, fried pickle chips and cheese sticks. Dinner- Grilled chicken
Sunday- Lunch- Panda Panda (local Chinese place) Dinner- choice of left-overs
Monday- Rice Creole
Tuesday-Steak and baked sweet potato
Wednesday- Roast in crock pot
Thursday- Corn dogs (Sonic has for $0.50)
Friday- Spinach Ravioli .
Do you have your plans made?
Today is Snow Day #2 for us. The kids school has already been cancelled for tomorrow and I would bet a delay or closure again on Tuesday. I have a really short day at work tomorrow to begin with so even if I go regular schedule, we should still enjoy another day with extra time at home. I feel very confident and satisfied with our breakfast choices. I am also extremely hopefully to keep our grocery budget less than $100 this month as we have finally completed a plan for the month. You will notice more elaborate, read time consuming, meals at the beginning of the week.
Breakfast– Saturday- pancakes. Sunday- French toast Monday-Egg muffins Tuesday- baked oatmeal Wednesday- choices. Thursday- Choices Friday- Choices. Saturday- Pancakes Choices include : pancakes, baked oatmeal, eggs, grits, French toast, toast or cereal.
Lunch- Zach and Kendall have chicken and stars soup, chicken nuggets, ham and cheese roll up, homemade lunchable and chips w/salsa. I am taking left-overs this week.
Dinner- Saturday- Chicken Stew Dinner- Chicken Stew.
Sunday- Lunch- personal pizza on bread Dinner- shoulder roast with carrots and potatoes, deviled eggs and broccoli corn bread.
Monday- Copy cat lettuce wraps
Tuesday- Alice Springs chicken with sweet potatoes and pineapple
Wednesday- Sloppy joes and FF
Thursday- Stuffed green peppers
Friday- Leftovers or pizza.
Matt will be going to pick up buns for our sloppy joes along with eggs this week before our local Aldi closes for remodeling.