Thursday, July 30, 2009

Publix Bargain Meal July 30-August 5

Bargain Meal of the Week

This week has been a full one. I've been preparing for my inlaws to visit, a birthday party, and we've all battled a summer cold. Thankfully, everyone is on the upswing now, and we're on our way back to normal (well, as normal as we get).

During the school year (Sept-May), I'm involved in a local MOPS group. I enjoy it, very much. But, I totally see why my mother is reluctant to ever attend a covered dish. These folks have taken it on as their personal mission to totally burn each and every one of us out on covered dish. It's amazing the amount of food that they "suggest" we provide.

But.... the group is fun. And, at this point, the benefits outweigh the forty two bajillion requests for food. So far. We'll reassess in May.

A big consideration for me is the cost of all these dishes. My food budget is tight, and I'm not willing to have my family sacrifice to provide food for a bunch of women out for a good time, you know? But, on the other hand, MOPS is a great ministry, that I really feel is the right place for me at this point in my life. A quandry, for sure.

So, my ongoing task is to find dishes that I feel proud of sharing, as well as keeping the costs within my budget. I figure I have about $10 extra a month for MOPS, and I need, on average, about 3 dishes a month. Couponing helps that. Sometimes I can find crunchy snacks for less than 50 cents. I've already started a small stockpile of those. I got a frozen pie for 70 cents the other day that will work as well. But, for the others, I'm just going to be creative.

So, occasionally this year, my Publix bargain meal will be a covered dish special. And, that's what this week is all about. A fabulous Snickers salad. Did I forget to mention that my MOPS group is primarily Baptist and located in the fabulous sunny south?? We're not about health food here..

Snickers Salad
6 (2 1/4 ounce) Snickers candy bars, chill and chop--on sale 25/$7.50--$1.80
6 apples, cored and chopped into bite sized pieces--let's say 2 pounds, and I'll buy the 3 pound bag--we're mixing it with cool whip, folks; no need for organic here--$1
1 (12 ounce) container Cool Whip--approx $1
1 (5 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding or butterscotch pudding mix--$1

Total cost--$4.80

You jonesing for covered dish yet?? *smile*

And, if you are looking for inspiration, check out 5dollardinners, with a $5 meal every night and a weekly gathering of folks with inspiration from their ads.

Monday, July 27, 2009

date night

Saturday was a red letter day around here. Not only did I leave the boys overnight for the first time (I went to a planning retreat for my moms' gorup), but....

We had our first ripe tomato!!

And, of course, around here, that means celebration. We chose to have salsa. This is made with 4 types of tomatoes (pineapple, mortgage lifter, juliette grape, and chocolate cherry), plus 3 types of peppers (serrano, sweet banana, and cayenne).

Taco night is one of our favorites.

No special drink this week, as I was exhausted from staying up way past my bedtime Friday night. And poor Mike was exhausted from playing Mama for 24 hours. So, tacos it was, along with the last of the Sopranos (we're a bit behind in pop culture).

I was just happy to be home with him, though. We're lucky that we're both homebodies, and a quiet Saturday night is the best end of the week we can imagine.

Happy Birthday Mac!

What a great year this has been! We're spending the week getting ready for a Big Mac party this weekend. Pictures to come, for sure.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Publix Bargain Meal July 23-29

This week's Publix meal is an old favorite, tuna nicoise salad. Very simple, but delicious on a hot summer night.

The tuna in this recipe can be anything from regular ole' chunk light (what's on sale this week at Publix) to fancy imported tuna in olive oil. The more you spend, the better the dish will be. But, for a $5 meal, you have to do what you have to do. *wink* I usually buy solid white albacore, but it's a little bit more expensive than chunk light. Besides being cheaper, light tuna is also lower in mercury, so there is a definite benefit to those of us who are forever pregnant or nursing.

This recipe comes from my old friend, The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. The dressing is the best part of the whole dish. It's crazy good. Oh, and about the prices..I don't do all my shopping at Publix. I never buy produce there. So, most of these prices are approximate. If you come visit me, I'll take you to Super H, and you can buy produce at these prices for sure. And, if you do a bit of watering, we'll even gift you with a tomato or two!

Tuna Nicoise Salad
2 cans tuna, drained and flaked--on sale 4/$2--$1
2 T lemon juice--approx. $0.20
1 T capers--$0.15
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 pound green beans, trimmed (use 1/2 pound for $ sake)--on sale $1.29/lb--$0.65
1 pound new potatoes, unpeeled and quartered--approx $0.60 (this is the farmers' market going price right now)
2 small purple onions, sliced and separated into rings (use 1)--approx. $0.25
1 pound plum tomatoes, quartered (use 1/2 pound for $ sake)--on sale $1.49/lb--$0.75
1 can black olives--leave these off for a $5 meal
1 head lettuce--approx $0.75 (super H price)
Garlic Vinagrette
2 hard cooked eggs, sliced--$0.20

Place tuna in a bowl. Drizzle lemon juice, capers, salt, and pepper over, and chill for 30 minutes to allow flavors to marry.

Cook grean beans for 5 minutes. Cook potatoes 15 minutes or until tender.

Arrange everything on a big ole' platter lined with lettuce leaves. Mound tuna in center. Drizzle the vinagrette over everything. Dig in!

Vinagrette (we'll call it $0.60 for the whole thing)
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 T lemon juice
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 T minced fresh oregano
1/2 t salt
1/2 t sugar

Combine all ingredients in a jar. Shake vigorously. Drink. (just kidding. Kind of)

Total price--$5.13

And, if you, like me, are looking at an ad and needing major inspiration, check out 5dollardinners, with a $5 meal every night and a weekly gathering of folks with inspiration from their ads.

Bargain Meal of the Week

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mushy zuchinni

The other morning, I opened my produce drawer and found a mushy zuchinni. Honestly, this time of year, it's probably to be expected. We have so many of them, that a few of the squash are just going to get overlooked.

No big deal. I threw it out, made sure that the mush wasn't on any of the other zuchinni, and all was well.
And, then, I checked facebook.
A friend had posted some great news. Fabulous news. And I wasn't happy for her.
I was jealous.
For a brief moment, I told myself that I was totally justified in my jealousy. Why, she had just gotten something that I really wanted. Well, I deserved it, too. She was no better than me. In fact, maybe she was worse than me! I really, really needed that thing. Really.
Let me just say. Mush doesn't look good if it's on zuchinni or if it's in your very own heart. Mush is never a good thing. And, luckily for me, God saw fit to reveal that particular mush on that day so that I could throw it out, make sure the mush was cleaned up, and move on. Now that is mercy. And I am so very thankful for it.
Every man's way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. Proverbs 21:2

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meal Plan, um, Tuesday

Friday: Asian chicken soup with dumplings

Saturday: leftovers (lunch), homemade pizza (supper)

Sunday: eggs and grits (brunch), okra gumbo (supper)

Monday: Alfredo with chicken and zuchinni, cucumber and tomato salad

Tuesday: Asian stir-fry

Wednesday: meatloaf, squash casserole, new potatoes, sliced tomatoes

Thursday: chili

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saturday Night

My preschooler starts every story with "one time", so that's how I'll start this one. One time, my husband begged me to make tea. It was a pain to make it every night (though I'd grown up with a fresh pitcher every night), so I told him I'd make him some tea on Friday night. After a few weeks, he started asking what drink I was making on Friday night. And, somewhere along the way, we started looking forward to "special drink Friday nights". During the week, we drink water or seltzer. Every once in a while, I splash some cranberry juice into seltzer. But, mostly water. Which is good and healthy and cheap, but boring. So special drinks made us smile.

And, he is a huge encourager of whatever crazy ideas I get up my sleeve. When I tell him to put his shoes on, we're driving an hour to buy a camper off craigslist right.that.very.minute, he puts his shoes on. If I spend all day on a recipe, he oohs and aahs appropriately. He even admires my cross stitch when I put it away every night.

So, that means that I have great motivation to come up with something new and different every week. Somewhere along the way, Friday nights turned into "they go to sleep early more easily on Saturday" date nights, and somewhere along the line, we decided it was just easier to eat at home than attempt to get take-out. But, the drinks have stood the test of time, and we have a lot of fun with them.

Whew, that was long!

All that to say, when I came across this book at the library, I needed to check it out and see what I could find. Drink recipes that are written specifically for non-alcoholic drinks tend to be really, really sweet. I like them that way, but Mike isn't a huge fan. I have better luck making drinks that are written for alcohol, then substituting seltzer for the alcohol. It almost always works.

This week's drink is called a rickshaw. First, you make simple syrup. It's just equal parts sugar and water (this is 1/2 cup of each).

And, because sugar and water don't naturally mix at room temperature, you have to do something about that. I microwave for 3 minutes.
Add basil, and you end up with this beautiful clear syrup flavored with basil.
Fresh squeezed lime juice (I got these on sale for $0.49/lb, which meant that 9 limes cost me $0.45!)
I used the same amount of juice as sugar and water. Half a cup of all three.
Add it to the basil syrup, and you have a really sweet concentrate.
I mixed the concentrate half and half with seltzer (from our seltzer machine). And, my preschooler and I had a little taste test. He approved of the choice! Doesn't sound like much, but he's a bit picky, so it was high praise.
Later on, for date night, I garnished with basil leaves, and we enjoyed it in wedding present glasses. While sitting on the deck admiring my husband's beautiful garden. A great night.
We finished the night with homemade pizza and a few episodes of the Sopranos from Netflix. I can't wait for next Saturday night!

Kroger Bargain Meal July 19-25

We had this week's Kroger bargain meal for breakfast today. It's one of our favorites, and it's perfect as the tomatoes start to come in. This is a meal I make pretty often, as we really like it. Several years ago, Rachael Ray had a show called $40 a Day. A dish from that show inspired this one. It's come a long way from there, though. The dish also sort of resembles migas. Around here, I just call it "eggs", because an under-described dish drives my husband nuts, and I find that hilarious first thing in the morning. You might need to find your own name for the dish.

You start with vegetables. This is half an onion, some hot banana peppers, and a cayenne pepper. Plus a big handful of tomatoes. These are Matt's wild cherry ones. Very tasty, but teeny tiny, so kind of a pain to cook with. Worth it, though. Oh, and some cheese. This is half cheddar and half pepper jack, but use whatever you like. I also added some sausage.

It needs salt, so I decided that Tony Cachere's was the way to go. Any salt will work, though.

You cook everything together. All the sausage (or bacon or no meat) and vegetables. Let it get soft and let any moisture cook out. Season pretty liberally with whatever salt you're using. Lots of veggies, lots of eggs. They need salt. (dude, I sound like a crazy salt woman. I promise my blood pressure is fine. I just like salt.)

You finish the dish by cooking some scrambled eggs right in the same pan, then topping with cheese. Even though the dish is egg-based, you still want most of the flavors to be veggies and sausage. So, I don't overdo the eggs. But, that's just how I like it.

And you end up with this plate of deliciousness. Not so beautiful, but very tasty.

For 4 servings, these are the quantities I'd use
8 eggs--on sale $0.59/dozen--$0.40
1 onion--$0.25
1 tomato, or whatever you have--$0.50
1 bell pepper, or whatever peppers you like--$0.50
1 cup cheese--on sale $1.49/8 oz--$0.75
1/2 pound sausage--on sale $1.69/lb--$0.85

Grits--approx $0.30
Milk (I make my grits with half water/half milk)--on sale $1.99/gal--$0.25
Toast--on sale $1/loaf--$0.50

Total cost--$4.30

As always, $5dinners has lots of good ideas for creating economical meals straight from your grocery store flyers.

Bargain Meal of the Week

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Park Number 12

In our quest to visit more parks this summer, this morning was number 12 on our list. It's always fun to have new places to climb and explore.

And these days, even the little one likes to crawl around and see where he can have fun.
These are a giant xylophone that "make noise!"

But, the classic slide still delights time and time again.
It was hot today! We went early, but we were still sweaty by the time we left. My husband would say that that was proof of time well spent. Me, I'm not so sure. I'm still campaigning for a mountain house to spend every summer!
Until then, we'll enjoy our parks and especially enjoy the thrill of AC when we head for home.

Publix Bargain Meal July 16-22

This week's ad doesn't excite me. Ever have weeks like that? You look at the ad and think, "what in the world is this going to make??" Of course, this week, I have zuchinni to fall back on.

But, even if you don't have zuchinni, you can always fall back on a classic cheap meal. Clam spaghetti. It's perfect this time of year, because it tastes better with fresh parsley. It's one of those meals where you can tell that parsley really does have flavor, and it's not just meant to make the plate prettier.

I make this very simply. Clams, olive oil, garlic, wine, and parsley. Similar to this recipe, but let's get real. I use 2 cans of clams. Maybe one day, I'll be all about steaming my clams and turning them into spaghetti. But, if I'm lucky enough to have clams in the shell, we're just eating those suckers straight. They are a rare treat, and they aren't going to become spaghetti. Just sayin'.

½ pound spaghetti--approx $0.50
2 cans clams--minced is fine here--approx $2
2 tablespoons olive oi--$0.20
4 cloves garlic, minced--$0.10
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 cup dry white wine (anything, so long as it's not pink)--I'm a fan of Trader Joes Two Buck Chuck, but just find a $3 wine, and you're good--$0.60
fresh-ground pepper
1 or 2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, chopped--free, from your garden, right??
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated--I leave this off a lot of the time or just add a little. It's okay, but it doesn't add a whole lot to the flavor, and it's one more thing to buy

And that's it. It's a very simple meal.

Total cost--$3.40

Add half a loaf of bread (on sale $2.50)--$1.25--and some cut up peaches for dessert--on sale $0.88--and, you're all set.

Total cost for the meal--$5.53

And, if you, like me, are looking at an ad and needing major inspiration, check out 5dollardinners, with a $5 meal every night and a weekly gathering of folks with inspiration from their ads.

Bargain Meal of the Week

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kroger Bargain Meal July 12-18

Bargain Meal of the Week

Ever have a Monday? A Monday that makes you think that it's been going on for 2 or 3 or 10 days? That kind of Monday?

As I write this, my husband is sitting at the mechanic's shop with not one, but BOTH of our cars. The radiator hose busted on his car yesterday while I was driving it. That was not fun. But, I was able to limp his car home, and a loverly tow truck came and got it this morning (cause not only did the hose bust, but the entire assembly that attaches the hose to the actual radiator).

So, my dear, sweet, beloved husband drove my car to work today. He takes his lunch everyday, but today, he forgot it. It's the second time he's forgotten his lunch in the last year. Yep, definitely a Monday. He had to run out for lunch, and when he did, he let the window down to go through a drive through. And, it wouldn't go back up. It's supposed to rain tonight. Yep, definitely a Monday.

So, he drove over to our buddy Nilton's place, and Nilton is going to try to fix at least one of our cars quickly. I'm praying for God to give Nilton speedy fingers and amazing car fixing wisdom.

All that to say.... sometimes blogging can be a nice diversion from, well, Monday. So, I am going to think of a great meal of the week, and I'm not going to think about cars one little bit.

This week Kroger has cheese on sale. English muffins, too. So, the best meal to make is mini pizzas, of course! My children love these, and truth be told, my husband and I do, too. They are an easy weekend meal for us, and if there are leftovers, they pack well in a lunch box. I make mini pizzas very, very simply. Half an English muffin, topped with tomato paste, sprinkled with seasoning (instead of seasoning the paste/sauce all at once), then topped with cheese and whatever else you like. I prefer hamburger, onions, and bell pepper.

Usually, a recipe for 4 feeds us supper, and we eat leftovers for lunch the next day. We love these, so even with 2 little tiny people with tiny appetites, we can put away all 12 in one meal. So make more than you think you need.

English muffins--on sale--$1
Tomato paste--$0.50
Italian seasoning
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
Cheese--on sale--$1.49
Onions--on sale $0.79/lb--$0.40
Ground beef--on sale $1.79/lb--$0.90
Bell pepper--use half--$0.25

Total cost--$4.54

Erin at 5dollardinners has lots of meals for right around $5. Check them out for more ideas!

Meal Plan Monday

A little late this week, but you knew I had one....

Friday: tacos (with the first homemade pico de gallo of the season!)

Saturday: out (lunch), Trader Joes frozen chicken, frozen dumplings (supper)

Sunday: ramen (lunch), grilled chicken thighs, grilled zuchinni, corn on the cob, cucumber tomato salad (supper)

Monday: okra, corn, and tomatoes over rice, cucumbers in vinegar

Tuesday: Asian dumpling soup, cabbage/ramen salad with chicken added

Wednesday: grits and grillades, sauteed bok choy or zuchinni (we'll see what needs eating worse)

Thursday: chili (I saw a recipe somewhere that added zuchinni in the chili; I'm trying to work up courage to try that)

As always, orgjunkie has hudreds of meal plans to browse and get lost in. Check them out!

Random thoughts

There is nothing better than the smell of cucumbers in vinegar. I like to make a bowl early in the day at naptime, then stick them in the fridge for supper. When I open the freezer, I get this whiff of cold vinegar travelling up through the fridge. It smells just like my Mamama's house. Isn't it funny how smells hold such memories?

Last week, I cut off and froze 110 ears of corn. That's a lot of corn. A whole lot.

One year ago today, I was only a mere day overdue, and I knew this baby would come anytime. He waited another 11 days to come! But, here we are, almost celebrating his first birthday. He's a cutie for sure.

If you spill half a bottle of vegetable oil on the kitchen floor, you'll discover a new appreciation for your mop. This is my new mop with a removable microfiber head. I've had it 3 weeks now, and I still love it. It works great, and there is no messy wringing out of mop water. Pretty cool.

I love a good bargain. This week, it was 60 packages of cheese for $42. We have enough cheese for a long time. My step-dad stockpiles MREs and water filtration devices. I stockpile cheese.

If you asked me if I was competitive, I'd tell you "no." But, throw out the prospect of ribbons at the fair, and a different side of me comes out. I'm working on finishing this cross stitch by September for our local fair. Embarrassingly, it was begun in 1987. Yes, that's twenty-two years ago, folks. It's getting done if it kills me.

If your local 4th of July parade involves a man sticking his head in a toilet on a trailer, you might be.... well, you might be us.

And, if that isn't enough, this particular parade includes no less than 3 septic tank trucks. Folks around here are proud of their clean septic tanks, I tell ya. Proud.

We will do many things for free food. Including dress up like cows at Chick-fil-A. I've been waiting for my children to get big enough for Cow Appreciation Day! It was all that.

My husband loved fire engines as a little boy, and somehow, it's in the blood of our firstborn. He isn't really interested in the firemen, though, just the trucks and all their gear.

Thanks for visiting our house this week!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The "I'm worn out" date night

My mom and I had a girls' day out yesterday. We had a great time!

My sweet husband stayed with out boys. Which meant that, for Saturday night, my plans of him grilling supper went out the window. Those boys wore him out. Muhahahaha.
Lucky for us, we had treats in the freezer. Tasty Korean dumplings.

Trader Joe's Orange Chicken (this is good stuff!)

And, if you are going to have orange chicken, what better to have with it that orange soda?? This is an experiment made with a thick syrup made out of orange KoolAid. It's not perfect, but it was pretty good. With a bit of tweaking, it'll be really good. (The seltzer/soda machine I bought for Mike from The Soda Club is one of our best purchases ever. It is so fun, and I don't have to lug annoying seltzer bottles home from the store anymore. Total win/win.)

The best part? A really tired husband is a husband that very much appreciates what I do day to day. Now that is perfect.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Publix Bargain Meal July 9-15

Bargain Meal of the Week

I think everyone has their own repertoire of budget meals. One of my husband's coworkers eats Ramen once a week. They aren't college students. And, our fallback is and always has been breakfast for supper. Like I've said before, I usually make breakfast for supper on Sunday nights. Even though I love to cook, and I love to feed my family, by Sunday night, I am over cooking. Way over it. And, before I wised up and accepted this, we ate a lot of, well, Ramen on Sunday nights. Breakfast is just as easy, but tastier.

So, this week's Publix meal is breakfast for supper. French toast with blueberry syrup. French toast also freezes very well. I make it on an electric griddle (still going strong from my childhood--and we trash picked it way back then!), so it's no big deal to make up the whole loaf. That way we have weekday breakfasts in the freezer. I'm not a very good morning person. Trust me on that one.

Bread--on sale $1.75/loaf--$1.75
Milk--on sale $2.25/gallon--use 3 cups--$0.42
Eggs (3)--$0.30
Blueberries--on sale $1.67/pint
1/3 cup sugar--$0.20

Total cost--$4.34

As an aside, this is the way the meal would work best for us. If you have different preferences, you could always use maple syrup or homemade sugar syrup instead of the blueberries and add sausages (on sale for $1.25) to still bring you in under $5. My children aren't huge meat eaters, so I tend to spend my money on fruits and vegetables instead.

For more bargain meals based on supermarket flyers, check out $5 dinners' bargain meal of the week!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

What's for supper??

I think it'll be very obvious from this week's menu that we are knee deep in cucumber and zuchinni season. Every time we have cucumbers, I cut up 3 or 4, so it's not that I'm eeking out a paltry amount. My mother's vines are insane. Our garden is a bit shadier, and my husband is a bit of a late planter, so our plants look good, but no cucumbers yet. We have had zuchinni from our plants, though, and it was fabulous! We're still waiting on the first red tomato, but it should be soon. There are tons of beautiful green ones all on the vines. Last night, I was joking that it looked like a tomato jungle out there, and it really does. We also have tomatillos that are looking good, so we'll have those pretty soon.

Our lettuce is gone, as is the spinach. We're harvesting the Chinese cabbage, bok choy, and mustard this week.

Friday: squash dressing, cucumbers (dh also had leftover chicken salad)--and yes, this is so good that all I ate was squash casserole. LOL

Saturday: onion rings--I know that sounds crazy, but they were from the Varsity and really, really good(lunch), hamburgers, potato salad, corn (supper)

Sunday: corn chowder (lunch), zuchinni cakes, pasta, cucumbers (supper)

Monday: soup with black eyed peas, corn, zuchinni, mustard greens, and tomatoes; cornbread croutons (inspired by a weekly special from this fancy restaurant)

Tuesday: stuffed patty pan squash, cucumber salad, stir-fried bok choy

Wednesday: lasagna tart

Thursday: grits and grillades, zuchinni

As always, there are hundreds of other menus for inspiration over at orgjunkie. You're sure to find something that will whet your whistle!

Kroger Bargain Meal July 5-11

Bargain Meal of the Week

Erin, over at 5dollardinners, thinks of a $5 meal every night. If you need inspiration--check it out! She also hosts a gathering of tons of folks all over the internet who are making $5 meals from their local sales flyers. I'm always blown away by the creativity shown.

This week's meal is actually what we ate for supper last night. It's one of those meals that I tend to make a couple of times a year, all close together. It's really good, and we'll be on a roll, but as the zuchinni fever dies down, this recipe drops out of my mind, only to emerge next year as we are inundated with the beautiful green squash.

If you've got more zuchinni that you know what to do with, this is the recipe for you. It sounds weird, but it's actually really good. The recipe calls them mock crab cakes, but that just sounds weird to me, so I call them zuchinni fritters. Whatever you call them, they are good.

2 cups coarsely grated zucchini, unpeeled (I used 2 zukes)--on sale $0.99/lb--$1
1 cup Italian bread crumbs--free (I use heels of bread)
1 onion, finely chopped (we grated it also)--$0.25
1 tablespoon mayonnaise--$0.05
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 egg, beaten--$0.09
oil (for frying)--$0.50

Serve with pasta with butter and parm cheese, dill sauce (sour cream, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper), and cucumbers.

pasta--approx $0.50
parm cheese--$0.50
cucumbers--on sale $0.49/each--$0.98
sour cream--on sale $1.77/24 oz--$0.30

Total cost for this awesome summer meal--$4.48