Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Shopping Day!

I went shopping today at Safeway. This is my big "before Thanksgiving" trip, between now and Thanksgiving, I'll only get a few things, like milk and some fresh produce. I bought the turkey last week, a 15lb butterball for $9.99. It's snug in the freezer, waiting to be thawed and brined.

Today was a great shopping day. The total was $134.35 before coupons and card savings and $68.41 after, for a savings of 49%! There was so much good stuff on sale this week, from OJ to broccoli, to apples, to grapefruit. Baby carrots, which are much eaten in our house, are $1 a bag, so I got 3!

I loaded up on all the Thanksgiving food, too...stuffing mix, big bag of potatoes, olives, eggs, bacon, monkey bread (for the day after breakfast) green beans. Now, I'll only get a few fresh items, like milk and fruit and veggies between now and Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Today I'm baking bread. I love to bake bread and I don't do it often enough. I think that I shy away from baking in the summertime because it's warm and I don't want the oven on when it's warm. With fall here and the cooler weather that comes with it, I decided to bake bread today.

I wish I could say it's more economical but I don't know about that. My family tends to eat a whole loaf a day, when it's home made bread! But then, I can't seem to resist it, either.

It's really very simple, not at all complex, to bake bread. You just start the yeast with some sugar, let it activate and then mix it with a bit of oil and salt and a lot of flour. Then let it rest for an hour or so....then you have a great excuse to read or relax or surf the net for an hour!

Then punch it down and knead and bake.

I know my kids will be happily surprised when they get home from school to fresh baked bread. They've been asking when I'd bake bread again for a while and today is the day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don't you just love the internet?

I sure do! I like that I can get anything I want and I don't have to hunt around to find it.

Tomorrow is Rico's birthday. We are having a small family party on Sunday, but we always do something on a birthday to celebrate, too. So, I'm going to surprise Rico with Angry Bird cupcakes.

We don't own an iphone or an iPad, so Rico only gets to play Angry Birds when friends who have those devices come and visit. Maybe that's why it's such a special game, he can only play it now and then. Anyway, I saw another FB friend make angry bird cupcakes and knew that Rico would love them. So off to Amazon I went and viola! The toppers are plastic, they'll be toys he can play with after the cupcakes are gone.

I'm not a baker, but I think they turned out cute and that he'll like them.

They cost only a couple of dollars to make and that left me the extra money to buy the birds. Besides, with all the money I save on groceries, I can splurge for my kids now and then!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I buy the trout at COSTCO, it's gutted but with the head and tail on. I just cut the tail and head off, then freeze them each one in a single freezer bag. One trout is enough to feed a family of 4. And I mean good portions, not wimpy portions.

To cook the trout, I just heat some canola oil in a pan and then put the trout in and cover. Heat at medium heat for about 7-9 minutes, depending on the size of the fish then uncover and flip the whole thing over. Let cook covered for another 7 minutes or so.

Remove the fish from the pan onto a plate, then use 2 forks to pull the cooked fillet off the fish. It's actually pretty simple, the fish will just flake away from the middle bone. Just insert the fork into the middle of the fish and pull out.

I served the trout with peas and smashed potatoes. It's an esay dinner and not expensive at all. The trout was $15.00 for 4, so each trout is around $4, the peas , 1 can 89 cents on sale and the potatoes are $5.99 for a 10 lb bag and I used 2 potatoes, so about 50 cents.

Total for the dinner around $8.00, not bad.

I made a run to COSTCO today and bought my favorite, hearts of romaine. We'll be having salad with romaine for the next week. At $2.99 a bag, it's such a great deal, since there are 5 romaine hearts in a bag.

The other find I bought was cranberries. A 3 pound bag for $4.99. I took about a pound out and I'll make home made cranberry sauce to serve as a side this week, then freeze the rest. Cranberries freeze very well and you can pull out what you need and put the rest back in the freezer. I love cranberry muffins and cranberry bread, so that'll be coming up, as the weather gets cooler.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


With just the egg and oil in the pan:
Once I've added all the toppings, except the grated cheese:

A fritatta is a money saving cook's best friend. If you don't know what it is, now is the time to learn. It's an egg dish and it's very versitile.

My kids call it "egg pizza". I think of it as a quiche without a crust. At any rate, it's a super easy way to get rid of leftovers, while creating a delicious meal.

You start with a cast iron pan. Pour enough oil to cover the bottom, so it won't stick. Doesn't matter what kind of oil. Then whip up some eggs. I usually figure 3 eggs per person, more or less, so for a family of 4, you'd use about 10-12, depending on how hearty your eaters are. Pour the egg mixture into the warm pan.

Then, add whatever toppings you like. Really, whatever bits of leftovers you have. In this example, I used a bit of leftover pork tenderloin (I had one piece left over, not enough for anything else), some red bell pepper, some green oinions, and one tomato. But I could have used just about anything...bacon, mushrooms, cilantro, whatever you have on hand works.

Then leave it on the stove for about 5 minutes, just enough for the bottom to set. Top with some grated cheese and bake in a 350 oven for 35-40 minutes. Serve.

Easy, tasty and inexpensive! I'll add some bread and apple slices on the side and that's our dinner tonight!

It's Tuesday, Menu Planning Day!

I plan my menu around what's on sale any given week. I shop at Safeway, so that's where I look for bargains.

I'll shop on Friday, so I can take advantage of their Friday only specials.

Some of the good bargains at Safeway this week:

Chicken leg quarters for 69 cents a pound. You have to buy the value pack, but it's worth it. Break them up yourself (cut the drumstick from the thigh) and you save 30 cents a pound! Then freeze some in family size portions for future meals.

Red seedless grapes are 99 cents a pound and you can buy a 6 lb. bag of oranges for $5, so that will be our fruit this week.

Another Friday special is the $5 lb raw shrimp, I'll get some shrimp. A pound of shrimp can feed the whole family. If you're not sure how to cook the shrimp, here's a great recipe from 10 Dollar Dinners:

Safeway also has cereal on sale...Honey Nut Cheerios. Since this is Marielle's favorite, I'll buy 2 at the sale price, then slap on a coupon for save $1. on 2 and pay $1.47 for each box. By the way, this coupon is from more than a month ago. I only clip coupons on items I buy anyway, then I just sock them away and once a week, I look through and see if I have any match ups. It takes only minutes this way.

If you like smoked salmon and I do (this is a guity pleasure for me), it's on sale 2 packages for $4. So I'll buy a package of that, as well, and enjoy some lox and bagels for breakfast a couple of days next week.

I'll probably stop in on Monday and get some of the meatballs. They have a Monday only special of a bag of meatballs for $5. That's a get this deal, go through the quick check and get out of the store, type of buy for me. I like to pair the meatballs with cranberry sauce and chili sause in the crock pot for an easy meal. At $5 a 2 pound bag, that'll make a couple of meals and really inexpensive, too.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


On Sundays, in our house, I only cook 2 meals....brunch and dinner. It's a chance for me not to spend all day in the kitchen and the kids love brunch.

I usually make brunch around 11 am. If the kids are up early and hungry, I'll tell them to just munch on a piece of fruit until brunch.

Usually I'll make something like french toast or pancakes, sometimes a Dutch Baby and then eggs and bacon. If you have leftover sandwich bread that's kind of stale from the week, a great way to use it, is to make french toast. After dipping in a milk and egg wash and cooking, you just can't tell it's old bread.

So today I made, eggs, pancakes and bacon. The kids loved it. It wasn't difficult....I microwave the bacon, while making the pancakes and eggs. The pancakes I made from a mix (just add water).

So, total for brunch:

Pancakes $1.50
Eggs ($1.39 a dozen on sale, I used 6) 70 cents
Bacon ($2.99 a pound, I used half) $1.50

So, a great Sunday morning brunch, cost: $3.70

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Feed Your Whole Family with One Chicken Breast


2 tbs olive oil
1/4 chopped onion
1 boneless/skinless chicken breast
3 tbs flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 lb (or more, if you like) broccoli
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
3 tbs teriyaki glaze

Rice or noodles

Optional: parmasean cheese or parsely

One thing the Chinese have known forever, is that if you go low on protein and high on veggies, you can feed a lot of people for a little money.

So, with that in mind, last night I made a dish for the whole family, using one boneless, skinless chicken breast. I buy these in bulk at COSTCO and freeze them, then pull them out to use.

This is what I did:

In a skillet, heat 2 tbs olive oil. Add 1/4 diced onion. Let the onion wilt for a couple of minutes then turn up the heat.

While the onion is wilting, cut the chicken breast into cubes. Don't worry if they aren't all exact cubes.

Dredge the chicken in flour. (This is important as the flour will thicken the sauce.) Don't salt or pepper the chicken, the teriyaki and chicken broth will add enough salt.

Add the chicken to the now hot pan. Sear it on all sides.

Remove chicken to a plate.

Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the bits that are on the bottom (they are full of flavor)

Add 1/4 red bell pepper diced and 1 lb of broccoli cut into pieces. Throw the chicken back in, bring to a boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes. This will cook the chicken through and cook the veggies and reduce the sauce, all at the same time.

Turn off the heat and add 2-3 tablespoons of teriyaki glaze.

Serve over rice or pasta. Garnish with a bit of cheese and/or parsley.

This was a huge hit in my family. Everyone had a generous portion and then seconds, too!

Brocolli is on sale right now at Safeway for 79 cents a pound. Red bells were on sale last week for $1 each. Chicken breast, 8 in a pack, at COSTCO for 15.00 Noodles, 1 entire package, 89 cents (from the pantry, were on sale a few weeks back at Safeway)

Total for dinner:

Brocolli 79 cents

Bell pepper 25 cents

Noodles 89 cents

Chicken $2.00

So, dinner for the family: Under $5.00

Full of flavor, tasty and healthy!

Side note: This recipe would work easily as well over rice. My kids are just on a pasta kick right now, so I used pasta. The cost would still be very low, as rice is about 30 cents a serving.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another "no cooking night"

So Wednesday, we had PTA meeting and that means get homework done, a little down time and then off to PTA. Since Marielle was behind in her reading, we had to sit together for about an hour to catch up and that put my schedule behind.

I had a coupon for $1.50 off new Buitoni frozen ravioli and it was on sale from $9.99 to $8.99 at Safeway last week, so I bought a couple of packages. I had tried the chicken and mushroom at Bunco and loved it. So I bought one of those and one of the lobster and shrimp ravioli dinner as well.

The package says dinner for two on it, but really ,this is easily dinner for 4. Just pair it with some garlic bread and a salad and you are good. Really, the amount is very generous, I cannot imagine 2 people eating all of it, well, maybe 2 teenage boys but for most families this is really easily made into dinner for 4.

I didn't have high expectations, really, because most products that say "shrimp and lobster" usually have this mush that you can't tell what it is inside the ravioli. But this had actual shrimp and pieces of lobster that you could tell was lobster. It was easy to make, just boil the pouch and ravioli and while that was cooking, I made a salad and some garlic bread.

It made a great easy, quick meal. The price was right (with the coupon, the cost of the ravioli was $7.49) a bargain for this quality product.

I'll definitely serve it again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fish and Weekly Safeway Deals

Fish is a very healthy food. I often hear, "But my kids don't eat fish. Well, maybe fish sticks."
If your kids don't eat fish, it's time to introduce them to it. They say you have to serve something 10 times or more, before many kids will accept it. So start serving more fish!

Fish isn't really expensive, either. We buy our fish at COSTCO, in the big size, then we break it into meal size portions and freeze the meal size portions in the freezer and pull them out when we are ready to prepare. Take it out the night before and leave it in the fridge and it will defrost by dinner time.

Another great thing about fish is that it's super fast to prepare. Last night we had talapia. I buy it in fillets. I just sauteed it in the pan with a bit of butter and some spices. I used paprika, seasoning salt and tumeric, but if your family isn't into spices, just use seasoning salt. It takes only about 3 minutes per side.

I made sauteed mushrooms to go with the fish...just sautee in a bit of butter and then just before they are done, I added 2 tablespoons of Greek salad dressing for a great flavor.

With that, I served baby carrots and Noodle Roni. Yes, you can make your dinner easier but adding one "semi-home-made" item.

Total cost for dinner: Fish $2.00, carrots 20 cents, mushrooms $2.00, NoodleRoni $.89
So dinner for us cost a little over $5.00

One way to cut down on costs for food is to make your protien serving smaller. We each had half a fillet. That came to about 5 ounces. Most Americans think you need huge portions of protien, but you don't. It's far healthier and much cheaper to eat more veggies and less protien. I assure you that none of us left the table hungry.


Deals this week at Safeway:

Broccoli is a great deal at 79 cents a enough for a couple nights dinners and don't be stingy, you can put lots of broccoli on the plate for pennies.

Apples, I think it's Gala apples, but not 100%, are on sale for 99 cents a kids will have apples in their lunch this week.

Bananas are 79 cents a pound, a good price. We'll have bananas as snacks this week.

Eggs are on sale for $2.49 for 18 eggs. Why not make breakfast for dinner one night this week? Eggs are one of the cheapest protiens you can get. Another idea with the eggs is a fritatta, one of my favorite ways to cook eggs.

Onions are on sale for 99 cents a pound. Carmelized onions are delicious and make a great side dish.

Last week, Safeway had a special that if you buy $75. in groceries, you got a $10 off coupon for future groceries. I took advantage of that and used my $10. off coupon this week.

Total cost for groceries for us this week: $47.82

One thing I try to do, is buy big one week and small the next. So this week I bought some staples like milk and eggs, but tried to keep my overall shopping small. We'll use things from the freezer and pantry, adding fresh items for the week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Soups make a delicious meal and they are budget friendly.

I make taco soup with stuff in the pantry. I buy the canned goods when they are on deep sale, like 89 cents a can.

I make my taco soup a bit differently than most recipes I've seen. I don't like the texture of ground beef in soup. So I substitute sausage. And that's a great thing to do...substitute! Don't be afraid to mess with recipes, leaving out things, changing things around, so that the recipe works for you and your family.

So, here's my recipe for taco soup:

2 sausages (I like chicken sausage), diced
1 can corn
1 can pinto beans
1 can pinquitos
1 can diced tomatoes (I like the kind with garlic and basil)
1/2 onion diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 packet dry taco seasoning
About 2 1/2 cups water

In a pot pour in the olive oil, heat and add the onions. Let the onions wilt on low heat for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, dice up the sausages. Add the sausages, then add all the other ingredients. Just dump the cans into the pot, no need to drain or rinse. Bring to a boil, stir and let simmer for 35-45 minutes. That's it.

I garnish mine with some chopped cilantro and some crushed tortilla chips. I'll add a side of bread and a piece of fruit and that's dinner!


1/2 package chicken sausage $2.00 (on sale for 4.99 with a $1 coupon)
1 can each: corn, pintos, pinquitos, tomatoes $3.60
Taco mix envelope: 89 cents on sale
Dry ranch dressing $1.10

Total for the soup: under $8.00

This easily feeds our family dinner with left overs, which I gladly eat as lunch one or two times more.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I know, I know, I hear it all the time, "My family won't eat leftovers". Well, if you are throwing out leftovers, you are throwing away money. It's that simple.

My family isn't keen on leftovers, too. So I re-invent them.

We had left over chicken from the salsa chicken sandwiches I'd made. So, rather than toss it out, I reinvented it as a pasta dish.

This is what I used:

I made half a box of pasta, per the instructions. Then, I added one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon sour cream to the pasta, after draining. I cut up the leftover chicken, then some red and yellow bell pepper. I threw in half a can of corn and half a can of olives. Then I added about a quarter cup of italian salad dressing (adjust for taste). I threw that in with the pasta and then topped with some fresh cilantro and viola, here's the dinner:

Now, does this look like leftovers to you?! Everyone loved it and ate it up!

My Shopping Trip Today

So today I went shopping. I try to shop only once a week. My last shopping trip was on October 1st and the total then was $54.00. I try to keep our total food budget under $400. per month, but usually it comes out to about $450.

So this trip, the some great things on sale were:

Bagged baby carrots (love these, so easy, great snack) $1 a bag
Pears (got the red kind, all kinds on sale) 99 cents a pound
Progresso light soup: 2 for $3.00 (added a $1 off 4 cans coupon)
Bertolli Meal soup, this is a new product, priced at $7.99, got it for $2.49 with card savings and coupon
Pastrami: $2.49 for half a pound
Bell peppers $1 each
Shrimp ring: $8.99 (I'll use this when the family comes over for Rico's birthday)
Yakisoba noodles: $1 each (These are great when you need a fast side dish to serve.)

So total was $ 190.33, after coupon and club savings, new total $120.84 Savings of $69.49
Plus I got a coupon for $10. off my next shopping trip!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I don't feel like cooking....

That's how I felt last night. It was a busy day and I just didn't feel like cooking. But, I won't fast food it. Too expensive...if I'm going to serve less than healthy, good food, well, I'll make it at home and pay pennies instead of $20 for a quick meal for us.

So, the kids chose Chef Boyardee mini raviolis and I had a Progresso hearty soup for dinner. We paired it with half a loaf of french bread and some fruit.

Mini raviolis, 1 can (the kids split it) 89 cents (on sale)
Bread, 1/2 a loaf 99 cents
Soup, Progresso (0n sale) $1.29
Fruit $2.00

Total cost for dinner for 3 of us, a little over $5.00

Side note on couponing: One way to get coupons for items you use all the time, is to "like" them on Facebook. Many manufacturer's will offer coupons to FB followers, that you can just print off your computer and save money on items you buy anyway.

Another thing you can do, is write the manufacturer, telling them that you like their product and requesting coupons. It takes only a little time, but you'll save money.

If you don't get a Sunday paper, you can also request that the coupons be mailed to you, if you go to the website of the company that makes the coupons. Many will allow you to print them directly from the computer, as well.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pork tenderloin with rosemary

This is how I most like to cook pork tenderloin. I start with a bed of thinly sliced onions. I use 1 whole onion. Then I wash and pat dry the tenderloin. I put a bit of olive oil on it and then put a rub of a mix of 1 tsp seasoning salt, 1 tsp paprika and 1 tbsp brown sugar. I chop up some rosemary and then roll it in the rosemary and set it on top of the onions.

I add 1/4 cup white wine and 1/2 cup chickn broth to the onions. Then I put the pan into the oven at 400 degrees and cook for 45-50 minutes.

It doesn't take long to prepare the tenderloin and it comes out moist and flavorful.

To go with it, I made potatoes. I just diced up the potatoes, then threw them into a ziplock bag with olive oil and a packet of dry italian dressing. (Sometimes I'll use dry ranch dressing, too, just depends on what mood I'm in, both turn out great.) Then I shake the bag to coat the potatoes and put them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven with the tenderloin. I'll turn the potatoes over once about half way through cooking.

I served them with baby carrots...easy and my kids like them (so do I). I like to dip mine in hummus, the kids will dip in ranch dressing. Baby carrots were on sale for 99 cents a bag a week ago at Safeway, so I picked up 3 bags.

I didn't realize until this morning that I took the picture of Rico's plate, which didn't have the onions on them. Darn. The onions are great...they carmelize with the juices from the pork and have great flavor. But Rico doesn't like onions, so I don't give him any, Marielle and I get to eat them all!

The pork tenderloin I got from Safeway on a $5 Friday special. We use half the tenderloin at a time, which gives 8 slices, 2 per person for our family. So the pork was $2.50. I used 4 potatoes, so about a pound, which would be about $1 for the whole dinner. Carrots were pennies. So the whole dinner cost about $5.50, factoring in the dip and the dressing packet and that's for 4 people. With only 3 of us eating, there are leftovers, which I'll use in the next couple of days.

Does this look like a "cheap" dinner to you? You can feed good meals and not spend a fortune at the supermarket!

Side note: I keep rosemary in the house almost always. It stays good for a long time (3-4 weeks) and is very flavorful. Some fresh herbs are expensive and I'll use dried, especially ones that don't keep long. But rosemary is almost always in the house fresh.


1/2 pork tenderloin

1 tsp seasoning salt

1 tsp paprika

1 tbsp brown sugar

couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary chopped

4 potatoes diced

1 packet italiain dry dressing mix

baby carrots (dips optional)

Couponing, Menu Planning

So the latest, greatest thing in saving money on groceries are coupons. Now don't get me wrong, I like coupons, but I'm not about extreme couponing at all.

Here's what I do with coupons....We get 2 Sunday papers. I go through the coupons and clip only those coupons for items I already use. The one exception is a new product, that I might like to try.

I think that too many people get sucked in by coupons and buy things they don't want, don't need or won't use.

I put the coupons in a folder, I don't sort them at all.

When the sale ad comes out on Tuesday for the upcoming week, I go over the sale ads and see what's on sale that we use. I make a list and start planning a menu. After that, I check my list against any coupons I might have. That way, I don't use coupons that are for things I don't really need.

One thing that is very important, though....get a "loyalty card" from the store or stores where you normally buy your groceries. In my case, I most often shop Safeway, so I have a Safeway Club Card. Next, go online and sign up with the online club, linked to your loyalty card. In Safeway's case, it's called "Just for U".

Every week they send me an email reminder and every week, I also check out these specials. They add unadvertised specials and also "just for you" specials....special prices that I get, based on prior purchases, for certain items. Load these onto your loyaty card. Load everything that you might possibly use, even if you don't think you will use it. It takes about 2 minutes and that way, if you do decide to pick up something off your list, maybe you'll get a better price anyway.

The loyalty card is a good way to save on produce, which doesn't often go on sale. For example, this week, gala apples are $1.79 a pound. But, using the online coupon from my club card, my price is 79 cents a pound. This is not advertised in the paper, this is not advertised in the store, it's something I can only get, using the club card, as an online deal.

Also, using the club card online, you don't have to play with paper coupons from the ads, so that makes it easier, too.

Whats on sale often determines how I plan my menu. For example, this week oranges are 99 cents a pound and so are green grapes. As mentioned above, I'm also getting gala apples for 79 cents a pound, so that's the fruit I bought. I'll use it for lunches and also with meals.

Meat, fish, chicken will come out of the freezer this week, since there are no great special prices in those departments. I also didn't find any great deals on sides, but Safeway does have a "buy 8, mix and match and save 50 cents" an item, so I did stock up on kraft mac and cheese, a favorite in my house. With the 50 cents off, it came to 69 cents a package, which is a good deal.

One other thing, with coupons. Normally you want to buy the biggest bag, biggest size, because it gives you the lowest per item price. For example, a 5 lb bag of potatoes are $3.99 at Safeway right now, but a 10lb bag is only $1 more or $4.99. So it makes sense to buy the bigger bag and get twice the amount for $1 more.

But, it if you have a good coupon, like a dollar off coupon, it often does better to put it on the smallest size available, because then you are saving more on the per item price. A dollar off the family size of triscuits, for example, might bring the price down from $4.99 to $3.99. But a dollar off the regular size might bring the price down from $2,99 to $1.99, making it a better bargain.

Friday, September 30, 2011

An Easy Recipe

Last night for dinner, I made pulled chicken sandwiches with french fries. The chicken is very easy, though it does take some time. I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk and then freeze them in single meal sizes (which for us is 2 in a freezer bag). I let it defrost overnight in the fridge. This recipe takes about 45 minutes to make, but the prep work is minimal.

In a frying pan, heat some olive oil, then add the chicken breasts. Sear until brown on both sides. Add chicken broth until it's half way up the side of the chicken. Bring to a boil and let simmer, in a covered pan for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, I just warmed up the oven and took a bag of french fries out of the freezer. The fries were on sale a couple of weeks ago at Safeway. Make the fries according to direction.

After 20 minutes, turn the breasts over. Uncover for the last 5 minutes to let the broth reduce a bit. Then I removed the chicken and used 2 forks to pull the meat apart. Lastly, I returned the chicken to the pan and dumped half a jar of salsa on it. That's it. Then I spooned chicken onto hamburger buns (which I got a few weeks ago on sale for 99 cents a bag and froze).

The finished result: It got thumbs up all around the table!

I served it with a salad of hearts of romain (COSTCO, 6 for $2.99), a bit of chopped cilantro and diced yellow and red peppers (on sale last week at Safeway for $1 each).

What's needed to make this dinner:

Boneless skinless chicken breast

Chicken broth

Half a can of salsa

Hamburger buns

French fries

For the salad:

Hearts of Romain lettuce

Bit of chopped cilantro

Red and yellow bell peppers

I would imagine you could make this same sandwich using a slow cooker. Just sear the chicken, throw it in the crock pot with the chicken broth, cook low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours, then pull apart and dump the salsa on it. I haven't tried it, but I bet it would work.

Side note: The hearts of romain at COSTCO is a great'll get 6 hearts of romain for $2.99. Most stores will sell 2-3 at the same price. I don't make special trips to COSTCO for the romain, but if I'm there, I always pick up a package. Six romain may sound like a lot, but it does stay good for over a week, so in our family we can use it up before it spoils.

So, a very tasty dinner and not a lot of money. This is one I'll make again...everyone loved it!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I can't stress this enough. The bottom line, in providing good, wholesome meals for your family is to know when the price on an item is a good price and when it's a great price and you should stock up.

A carton of eggs, is a carton of eggs, you can easily tell if a dozen eggs is on sale at a good price. (I find them for 99 cents on sale.) But what about cheese? What about a jar of peanut butter? What is a great price on those items?

My first piece of advice is take a calculator with you shopping. You can find them on sale for a dollar at Target when they have the school supplies on sale. It's the best dollar investment you'll make. You need to know the per item price...per ounce, per pound, per serving. And for that you need a calculator.

See, most manufacturers know that most folks are grabbed by the overall price of the item....hey, rice on sale for $1.99 a package, what a great deal! But it may not be a great deal. What is the total weight of the package and what is the per ounce price? You may find that you are paying more to buy that "sale item" than if you bought another brand at regular price. But you can't know unless you can compare per ounce prices, and for that you need a calculator.

One of the tricks that many manufacturers have been using since the recession started, is to make packages smaller, but leave the price the same, thus driving up the per ounce price. Most people won't notice that the "new and improved" packaging also comes with 4 ounces less orange juice than it did before.

Have you noticed this? Sugar used to be sold in 5 lb packages, but now, almost all the packages are 4lb packages. So, even if the price remained the same for a package of sugar, you are paying more, per ounce.

Really, really pay attention to the staple items your family uses on a regular basis. We all don't eat the same things, so the price of a bottle of hot sauce may not be important to me, but if you use it on almost all your food, it's important to you. Really get to know the prices on the foods that your family uses most.

Look at the per pound price for meat, chicken and fish. Try using a cheaper cut of meat and cooking it differently to save money. I'll be posting some recipes in the future that can be used to make "cheap meat" taste great.

Lastly, be open to what are called "Manager Specials". These are items in the store that are on sale but not advertised. They can be produce, milk, meat and chicken, frozen foods or bakery items. There is usually one place in the store that has each of these items on "Manager's Special". Get to know your store and find this place.

These are often:

Meat: Meat that has an expiration date that is one or 2 days away. It's still perfectly fine. It's often anywhere from 30% to 50% off. Buy it. Freeze it. You can use it to make a meal and save money.

Dairy: This might be overstock or again, things with quick expiration dates. Know your family and if you can use it before the date. Milk will stay good, if kept refridgerated, for at least 7 days from the "sell by" date. If you have kids like mine, you won't have to worry about the milk going bad, it'll be gone in a couple of days.

Freezer: These are often products that the store may no longer be selling or that will soon change packaging. So, if a manufacturer is going to roll out a new look, they'll put the remaining stock of the old look on sale, often up to 50% off. I don't often use frozen meals, but it is a good way to have a couple of super quick, no cook meals around.

There is usually one area (sometimes 2) that have seasonal items that are on sale because they are past the season (like Easter items or Christmas items) as well as other canned or boxed items on sale. Check this area out, every time you shop. You never know what you might find and if it's a good price, buy it.

An example of this: Last week, I found about 40 different spices on sale 50% off. This was an unadvertised manager special. I use spices in my cooking and bought 4 spices at a great price! It also gave me the chance to try a spice I've been wanting to mix into my cooking but just couldn't bring myself to buy...garam masala. But at 50% off, it was worth it to buy it and try it in a couple of new recipes.

One note on the manager specials......Is this really something you will use? Really? If so, buy it. If not, well, you are just spending money you don't need to spend. Use that as your guide.

Cooking and Recipes

I think it's really important, if you want to save money, to have some fast, easy, weeknight dinner recipes. Some good places I've found these, are with those Food Network folks, Rachel Ray and Melissa D'Arabian. They both often have quick, easy meals. Melissa's show is 10 Dollar Dinners and well worth DVRing and watching.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few of my "go to" meals, for a fast, easy, hectic weeknight dinner. Disclaimer: I cook by sight and don't really measure, so my measurements are not exact. Play around with the recipe, if you like it, add more, take out some...

Polenta with Chili and Cheese

This one is super simple and tastes good.

Make polenta according to directions on label. (Now I do change this up a bit. If it says to make it with water, I'll delete the salt and throw a couple of bullion cubes in the water while boiling, before adding the polenta. Then I use 1/2 cup less water and add 1/2 cup of milk instead, to make the polenta creamier). A lot of folks think polenta is hard to make. It isn't. It's just ground corn meal and it only takes minutes.

When the polenta is cooked, pour it into a casserole pan.

Open a can of chili. Any type, whatever you like and spoon that on top of the polenta.

Get some grated cheese and sprinkle liberally on top. Sometimes I'll grate the cheese, sometimes I'll buy it pre-grated...doesn't matter. I'd say I use about half a cup, but I never measure.

Pop it into a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Serve.

I add a side of veggies (like the canned peas) or a fresh salad and that's dinner.


Pasta with Whatever and bacon or sausage (like that name?)

Pasta is can get it on sale for 88 cents a package and it's easy to make, just throw it in boiling water. But what to do with it, after it's cooked????

Be creative and use what you have in the house. One of my favorite ways to serve it is with bacon or sausage and tomatoes, olives and onions.

Here's what I do:

In a pan, pour about a tablespoon of olive oil and heat up....add half a chopped onion and let it sweat for a minute or 2. Add sausage at this point, if you are using it and cook through. If I use bacon, I'll pre-cook the bacon in the microwave for 3-4 minutes then dice it up and throw it in to finish in the pan. Then I chop up a couple of fresh tomatoes (we grow these so often have them in the house), I chop up cilantro or parseley (whatever you have that's a fresh herb) and open a can of sliced olives. All of these I throw in. Then I add some salad dressing. I'll add what I'm in the mood for....italian dressing tastes good, but so does greek or honey mustard. I'll add about 1/4 cup of the dressing and turn off the heat. Pour all of that over the pasta and serve. That's it. That's dinner. It's fast, inexpensive and tastes good.

You can serve it with fresh fruit, if you like, or some bread on the side but you don't have to.

Both of these recipes are so much cheaper than stopping for fast food and I have the ingredients in the house. It's ok to be creative, too. Don't have tomatoes? No problem...add half a can of diced tomatoes. Don't like olives? No problem, leave them out or use some capers to add flavor.

Build up your pantry, so you have items you can use for quick, easy meals. Watch for the bacon to go on sale, buy it and freeze it, it does fine. Watch for canned, diced tomatoes to go on sale ( you can get them for less than a dollar a can), same with olives.

Side note: You can easily cook with frozen bacon. Just open the package and cut 1/4 inch all the way across the end of the bacon...there you go, bacon bits. Throw those right into the pan and cook them up. They add great flavor. Put the rest of the frozen bacon in a freezer bag, pop back into the freezer and use the next time you need to add quick flavor to a meal.

You can do a similar type of thing with breakfast type sausage. Just pull out 1 or 2 frozen sausages, cut them frozen and throw them into the pan. Put the rest back into the freezer in a freezer bag for future use.

I find bacon on sale for $2.99 a pound and buy 2. Then I keep it frozen and cut off bits as I need it. NO WASTE!!!!

I use salad dressing to add flavor to meals often. The premade kind, you can find on sale and often add a coupon on top of it, getting a good deal. For example, about a month ago, Ken's Steakhouse brand salad dressing was on sale for $2.00 a bottle and I had a save $1 off 1 I paid $1 for each bottle of dressing. I bought Honey Mustard and Greek dressing and both add good flavor to a dish like this. It also keeps it from getting boring...changing the flavor of the dressing changes the flavor of the whole dish.

Blogging Again

Ok, so it's been a long time since I've blogged, mostly because I couldn't figure out exactly what to write about. I had a hip replacement and a knee replacement and those just aren't fun things to write about.

But, I keep getting asked by friends about money saving shopping tips. Since I've been asked over and over again, I thought I'd write about that and maybe just things that are happening in our lives at the same time.

I didn't just decide out of the blue to start saving money when grocery (and other) shopping. My husband was laid off and out of work for 16 months. In between those 16 months, he did work 2 temp jobs, both up in Alaska, once for 3 months and once for 5 months. He finally landed a full time, permanent gig, but alas, in a state 2500 miles away from us. So, now he's working full time, but until he can find something close to home, we are supporting 2 households on one income. Yes, it's a juggling act. So, I had to batten down the hatches and try and save money where ever I could.

The most obvious was our food bill. Now, let me start by saying that we aren't a junk food junkie type of family. Yeah, sure, like everyone, I'll make a frozen pizza now and then to just get the kids fed, but most of the time, I put wholesome, good tasting food on the table. I try to keep the grocery bill down and this is where I'll post my thoughts on how to do it.

Yes, I do coupon...but only for things I use anyway. I might try something new, if there's a good price and a good coupon, but if you are going to coupon, stay away from processed foods. They are more expensive, no matter how you cut it. Even if you can get that granola bar for a dollar off, it's not nearly as good for you or the kids as eggs for breakfast, which cost a heck of a lot less.

Yes, I'm a stay at home mom and not all the suggestions I have will work, especially if you are a work away from home mom. Here's my's my JOB, as a stay at home mom, to do all those things that work away from home moms don't have time for. I get it. I used to work full time and I know that some of the things I write about just aren't possible if you are working away from home. But some will work, too.

So, the first few tips...

Number one is know your prices. What is a good price to pay for chicken? What's a great sale price? It's really important to know if a sale price is 2 cents off or 80 cents off per pound. So, start by knowing your prices. It may sound daunting, but it really isn't.

If you get a newspaper, check the sale ads. If you do nothing else, watch the prices over a period of time. That same cheese that's "on sale" this week for $2.49 a package was just on sale last week for $1.89 a package. I would highly recommend subscribing to your local newspaper, if for nothing else, the sale pages from the local stores. You'll make your money back, in the long run.

Now, some people run store to store, but I don't for the most part. I like to do most all my shopping in one place and get it over with. Sometimes I'll run to a different store, if there is something outstanding and if I'm going to be nearby anyway. But most of the time, it's once a week and out.

For staples, like milk, eggs, butter, bread, etc., it's really important to know when a price is good and when it's great. When it's good, buy one, if you need to, to tide you over. When it's great, stock up. Eggs last a long time, so does bread, if you freeze it. Just put the whole loaf in a freezer bag before you put it in the freezer to keep it fresh. When the bread goes on sale for 99 cents a loaf, I buy 3-4 loaves and use one and freeze the others.

When canned veggies go on sale for 88 cents a can, I'm that crazy lady, loading 10 cans of peas and 10 cans of corn and 10 cans of green beans into the cart. Why not? That means I'm paying pennies a serving and serving healthy stuff. Now, here's another tip....when serving canned veggies...add a tablespoon of butter, then microwave, then chop up some fresh herbs and throw them in. So, for example, if you are making a can of peas, add butter, nuke and then chop up some fresh parseley and throw it in. It will freshen up the dish and make the presentation better, too. Takes only a minute, but makes a big difference. plan and make a list. This is really important. You don't want to go into the store and wander the'll grab this and that and spend too much. Take out the sale ad and see what's on sale and use the sale things to make menu decisions. It's not as hard as you think.

So, say that a store has grapes and apples on sale this week, at a good price, then that means that my kids will have grapes and apples in their lunches. See, it's simple.

Start with the simple stuff and go from there. Even if you shave $10 off your bill, buying only fruit that is on sale, well, you've saved $10.!

Watch for the super sales....plan your menu around them. So, if pork tenderloin is a $5 Friday special, pick up pork tenderlion, better yet, pick up 4, use one and freeze 3. Pork tenderloin is usually around $10-11 a piece, so you are saving 50% and you want to stock up.

A caution....when you first begin, you might actually not save that much money, as you build your pantry and freezer. But, you'll soon see that using those items from your pantry and freezer and just buying a few, fresh things will save you a ton of money!