Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blueberry Buckle


I had a rare moment when my girls took naps at the same time AFTER I got home from work, so I decided to test out a blueberry buckle recipe. I'd actually never HAD blueberry buckle, but you know I love blueberries! I'd actually already spent some time scouting out a recipe since I have had blueberries in my freezer just waiting to be used for quite some time. I decided to use this one from allrecipes.com:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • TOPPING:
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup cold butter

Directions

  1. In a small mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Fold in the blueberries. Pour into greased 9-in. square baking pan.
  2. For topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over blueberry mixture. Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
***

It turned out really good -- like a big blueberry muffin with yummy cinnamon streusel topping! It's nice because it's not overly sweet, so it makes a good coffee cake. It could also be served warm with ice cream, which is how we ate it. (Remember all that ice cream I bought!!!???) The thing I would change in the future is that next time I would make it with half whole wheat pastry flour. I think it would actually improve the depth of flavor not to mention the adding some extra nutritional benefits!

See also Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A quick and green grocery shopping tip...

I used to make the statement that I didn't have enough hands to take my own grocery bags to the grocery store. I was already balancing a baby, a 3 year old, a coupon book and a purse. That's 4 things for two hands. I realize now the error in my ways. Have you tried using one BIG reusable bag and stuffing your purse, coupons and all of your other reusable bags in to it? It works like a dream, and now I get to save $.05 a bag too! Give it a try!

Works for Me!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells is hands down my husband's favorite meal. I usually opt for the less labor intensive cavatini and use the excuse that shell noodles don't typically go on sale when the smaller shapes do. This week, when I was able to catch shell noodles on sale, I figured I would make the time to make hubby's favorite meal!

Though filling the shells is slightly time consuming, it is somewhat of a show stopper. It's a great dish for company because it's inexpensive and pretty easy, but I think people think that it is more laborious and gourmet than it actually is!

Here is the recipe:

1 big tub of cottage cheese
1 8 oz bag Italian blend cheese
About a half cup of Parmesan cheese
1 cup of thawed spinach
A few shakes of parsley, garlic, oregano and basil, salt and pepper

Before I start filling the shells, I cover the bottom of a 9x13 pan with a layer of sauce and about a half cup of water. Because the noodles are dry, I really have to make sure there is enough moisture to cook the noodles. Once I've coated the bottom of the pan, I carefully fill the dry shells with cheese mixture using either a butter knife or a baby spoon. I line them up carefully. I can usually fit about 5 across and 7 longwise. Then, I top with a generous amount of sauce. (Usually, I would use a little more sauce on this, but I ended up squeezing in a second layer this time, so I saved the bulk of the sauce for the top layer. I'd never added a second layer before, but I had half a box of noodles on hand that I figured I could use up. When I ran out of cheese, I just threw some of the empty shells on top. It worked perfectly.)


After I added my second layer, I covered with about the same amount of sauce. (I used two jars of organic Ragu.) I also added about another cup of water. This needs to bake covered at about 350 for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes (or until bubbly in the middle.) I pulled mine out about when there was about 20 minutes left, and poured another half cup or so over some of the noodles that were still looking a little dry. Here is the finished product:


It looks a little bit "sloppier" than normal since I kind of pieced the second layer together where I had space, but it still tasted great! Daddy was thrilled!

For more recipes, see Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays, Tuesdays at the Table, LifeasMom, Joy of Desserts, Grocery Cart Challenge.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ice Cream Overload


It is quite possible that I overdid it on the ice cream. There was a deal running at Hy Vee where if you spent $12 on ice cream, you got a $4 catalina for $4 off your next purchase. I hadn't exactly budgeted for spending $12 on ice cream, but the Haagen Dasz caught me hook line and sinker. Did you see those flavors??? Midnight Cookies & Cream and Bananas Foster. (PS, Dear Haagen Dasz, please bring back Sticky Toffee Pudding!) I am SO not sharing those. Anyway, I immediately used my $4 catalina to pay for some pop to get us (me) through the week.

Here is what we got:

Barilla shell noodles
2 bags of Doritos
2 jars of generic unsweetened applesauce
2 cans of generic black beans ( I should invest in a black bean farm.)
2 boxes of Kraft mac and cheese
1 Old Orchard apple juice
1 V8 Fusion
1 package of Popumz
3 tubs of Edy's ice cream
2 pints of Haagen Dazs
1 Hormel Honey Ham
1 gallon of hormone free whole milk
2 bottles of Purex
1 10 oz brick of generic cheese
1 package of Kraft Singles
1 package of Kraft shredded cheese
1.85 lbs of green grapes

My pre-tax total came in at about $43.00. I'm, not sure how much I saved by purchasing only sale items, but it should be a significant amount. I only used two coupons today -- on the ham and on the V8. I just didn't have much luck matching up coupons this week. (Let's remember that I don't get the paper or have a printer!)

I'm a little worried that I don't have enough fruit to support my fruit eating bottomless pits of children. I have grapes, a few apples, a few strawberries on their last leg and some baby's favorite. I intended on saving a few dollars in case Target had some kind of berries on sale this upcoming week...............but the Haagen Dasz.................Mommy Fail. Really though, if we start to have a crisis, I'll pick something up with our family spending money this week.

I actually have several meals slated for this week. I currently have stuffed shells baking away in the oven. We'll be having a super delicious dinner of stuffed shell and green beans for dinner. And ice cream, of course. I'm also planning on making a crockpot of salsa soup to divide up for lunches this week. Later in the week, I'll throw together some apple juice chicken. Other than that, the family will be happy to have some of our usual quick eating favorites: ham sandwiches, grilled cheese, black bean and cheese quesadillas, cheese and crackers, and mac and cheese.

See this week's other purchase here.

$50 Budget Resumes


Good news! We came out on the other side of what I hoped would be a temporary reduction in our grocery budget! My husband's work schedule is still a little crazy, but for the moment it seems like they are pushing people to work 40 hours in 3 days instead of his (formerly) usual 45+ hours in 4 days. 40 hours in 3 days is fine with us because it afford him a whole extra day with his little people and means that even though we both work full-time we only need help with the girls twice a week. A good thing! So, we'll just keep being thankful for every paycheck that comes home in any amount and keep remember who our Source is.

I'm running a little behind on grocery shopping this week. I made one quick stop at Price Chopper on my way home. I signed up for their new card and got the above items. I can't find my receipt, but my total was just under $10 before tax. There was a great coupon on the bags of Snyder's tortilla chips for $1.50 off produce if you bought two bags at $1.99/ bag. It wasn't on my list, but I couldn't pass it up! I picked up 1.5 lbs of green beans for free! We enjoyed some chips with our family's favorite black bean dip last night for a snack and we'll love having fresh green beans with dinner tomorrow night!

See this week's other purchase here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Princess Naughtypants



Sunday, April 18, 2010

Paula Deen's Banana Pudding


A few weeks ago, one of my friend's made Paula Deen's banana pudding. It was AWESOME -- like really, really awesome. I intended on making the recipe as written, until I decided that I might need to double the batch since I had to feed 14 people. AND, my friend told me that it actually took her three packages of Chessman cookies in the single batch. I stood in front of the Chessman at the grocery store yesterday for a good 3 or 4 minutes -- $3.35 x 6 = $20.10. I couldn't do it. That's HALF of this week's grocery budget. Plus, I had to buy sweetened condensed milk. I knew we had Nilla wafers in our pantry, so Nilla wafers won that battle. It's kind of a bummer, but it's cookies, people. Not life or death.

Here is the recipe from Food Network:

Ingredients

  • 2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
  • 6 to 8 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

Directions

Line the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.

In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

***

I'm sure I'll be missing the Chessman cookies a little bit, but the others won't know! Maybe next time they'll get the real deal! And, as a final note, I don't think I really needed to double the batch. I had an INSANE amount of filling. If you're wanting to stretch the dish to feed a few more than 12, I'd probably just use more bananas than you normally would.

For more recipes, see Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays, Tuesdays at the Table, LifeasMom, Joy of Desserts, Grocery Cart Challenge.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

$20 at Hen House


(What a BAD picture. Sorry!)

We spent our remaining $20 at Hen House today. Here is what we got:

1 flat of strawberries (split with my mom)
2 cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 jar of Tostitos salsa
1 Tree Top apple cider
4 bags of Kraft cheddar cheese
3 16 oz tubs of cottage cheese
2 Palermo's frozen pizzas

My pre-tax total was $26.46. I saved 57%. I recouped $5 from my mom for the strawberries. And, on a final note, I'm a little bit bummed because my savings would have been much better, but I had to buy sweetened condensed milk at full price. (Oh the horror.) We're going over to my mother in laws tomorrow, and I promised I'd bring dessert. I thought I had everything I needed, but I was missing the milk. Darnit! Dessert recipe to follow some time tomorrow. It's a good one!

With this week's banana purchase, I see banana bread, banana smoothies AND banana pudding in our future. I also really love having a banana or an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter for breakfast or a snack. Could it get any healthier or cheaper??? (See this week's other purchase (with bananas) here.) I probably won't do a lot of serious meal preparation this week. We'll probably have at least one breakfast for dinner meal, and other than that, we'll do a lot of light dinners like PBJ, grilled cheese or black bean and cheese quesadillas with a side of fruit and cottage cheese. I have a few pizzas and a Wanchai Ferry dinner stashed for some easy lunches for the family while I am at work. There's plenty of yogurt and strawberries for smoothies. I'm not gonna lie -- the options are slimmer than usual, but I'm not going to sweat it. The new grocery week always rolls around more quickly than I expect!

Friday, April 16, 2010

$40/week budget revisited

Here we are at week 2 of the $40 budget. For some reason, I feel a little paralyzed by my missing $10. I am really thinking about things differently. Instead of thinking about what's super cheap and stocking up, I feel like I'm focusing more on what we're REALLY going to need/eat for the week. It's a little silly because we're only talking a $10 difference, but I also feel like this is a little more "real" of a situation. Like for once, I have a really small grocery budget due to need rather than due to choice. Now I know what it really feels like, and it sure isn't great. Unfortunately, we've had somewhat of a similar work situation this pay period too. I am not sure how our budget will break down quite yet, but it is possible than our $40 budget will persist for the upcoming two weeks as well. It's not just our grocery budget that has suffered. We've had to cut back on our 401Ks, college savings, our personal spending money, and our Christmas club budget -- basically anywhere where we could. College savings and Christmas club budgets have been nil since the first of the year, but reducing the 401K contributions, our grocery budget and our small amounts of personal money to the bare minimum has been a more recent change. We're really not suffering though. We have everything we need, and we trust that God knows what He's doing. It's just a little bit of a switch while we ride this out.

Here is what I got at Hy-Vee today --



1 gallon of Minute Maid OJ
1.4 lb deli ham
2 Yoplait smoothies
2 boxes of Mini Wheats
3 cans of generic black beans
1 single serving of banana Nesquik
1 bag of frozen cranberries (except the charged me for 2. Going to have to keep my receipt!)
15 lbs of bananas

My pre-tax total was $19.00. We'll make one other trip tomorrow.

See this week's other purchase here.

See last week here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cooking Dinner!



Aurelia and Daddy learn to make cavatini!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Banana Peanut Butter Frosty



I ran across this recipe from moneysavingmom.com about a year or so ago, and we lovvvvvvvve it. It is so simple, inexpensive and DELICIOUS. What I love about it is that it can serve as breakfast, lunch OR dinner in a pinch. Plus, the bananas give it enough sweetness that it can satisfy your sweet tooth instead of eating something much LESS healthy. (I've considered making it with chocolate milk, but that sort of defeats the "healthy" purpose!)

The recipe is the easiest thing ever,

1 cup of frozen bananas
1 cup of milk
1 (or two) tablespoons of PB
1 tsp ground flax seed
2 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips (optional)

Blend and serve! Thanks Money Saving Mom!

Organizing and Donation



I had about an hour of uninterrupted time this morning while the baby was sleeping and my big girl was out having fun with her grandpa. I decided to tackle a few organizing quick hits -- the girls closet, my linen closet and our pantry in the basement. I was able to get the big girl's winter clothes packed away until little girl was ready for them. I also weeded items out of the pantry and linen closet for donation or trash.

I haven't really touched on this before (that I can think of,) but I try to clean out our pantry of overstocked or nearly expired items about quarterly. We are very fortunate to have a food pantry and clothes closet about a mile from our house, so it's easy for me to take the items by when I am headed in that direction. It's been a really good exercise for me and the girls in remembering to think outside of ourselves. They love making trips to the food pantry to drop off food for the "hungry people." ("Hungry people" is not intended to sound condescending in any way. That is the best way I could think of to describe what we were doing when my oldest was very young. In that context, what we're doing makes perfect sense to her, and I love the innocence of it. When she was about 2.5, my mom took her to drop off some food. Some older volunteers from the church were leaving, and my sweet pea shouted to them, "Wait, we have your lunch!!!" So sweet.) I think it is especially though provoking (even for a four year old) because it causes you to realize that you sure don't have to go far to find people in need. We have people in great need in our very own neighborhood.

Friday, April 9, 2010

$40/week edition...

As I mentioned last week, things are a little tight around here this pay period. We had about a $300 shortfall in our budget for these two weeks, so we had to pull back a little (or a lot) in a several different areas. To be honest with you, I was feeling really bummed about having to cut our small budget at all, but it really didn't matter all that much in the end. The sales weren't great, and since my budget was limited, I skipped over the junk and stuck with the stuff that was truly nutritionally beneficial for my family. (Ok, except for the pizza.)

I made three trips to different stores this week.

Price Chopper:



My pre-tax total was $14.38. I saved $24.38.

Hy Vee -



I'm not quite sure what my exact total was at HV because I also bought air filters out of our household budget. I think it was just shy of $14.00.

At Hen House, I got:

2 dozen Land O'Lakes Eggs
2 Smart Balance butters
1 Peach Whole Fruit Sorbet

My total was $7.34 pre-tax. I saved $6.93.

Oh yeah, I also picked up a bag of SunChips and 2 Reese's PB Cups at CVS for free. Yay!

Quite honestly, I'm a little bored with our "usual" food. Since I'm not a big meat eater, we have a fairly limited dinner rotation, and I'm definitely growing weary of it. (If anyone has any great vegetarian recipes, I would LOVE to hear them.) Even still, I'll make a cavatini this week for sure. Other dinners will include, grilled cheese and tomato soup, pizza, baked potatoes and breakfast for dinner. We'll be snacking on yogurt, cottage cheese, banana smoothies, apples and peanut butter (my new favorite,) and tortillas with black beans and cheese. I'll also be sharing my family's favorite chocolate chip and oatmeal cookie recipe later this week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

World Food Programme...

I just joined Bloggers Against Hunger through the World Food Programme!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Olive Garden's Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip


A friend of mine made this recently for a wedding and for the baby shower we hosted last week. It is exceptionally good, but I didn't realize it was Olive Garden's recipe until I asked for the recipe. Here it is:

1 cup chopped artichokes
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 OZ. cream cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
dash pepper

In a small saucepan, boil artichokes and spinach in a cup of water for 10 minutes. Drain in colander. Heat cream cheese 1 minute in microwave or saucepan till hot. Then, stir all of the ingredients together. Reheat to serve if necessary!

For more recipes, see Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays, Tuesdays at the Table, LifeasMom, Joy of Desserts, Grocery Cart Challenge.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Sales...

I must be crazy because I went FOUR different places this week. Truth be told, my husband did not get very many hours at work this week. The bad news is, that will really hurt our payday next Friday. The good news is, it makes it easier for me to make a quick trip to the store ALONE or with just one child. I don't feel like that makes a huge difference in how much I save, but it makes a really huge difference in how much effort grocery shopping takes. I also finally got almost caught up on organizing my coupons, and that really helped too. We need all the help we can get right now! Adding Easter and the need for preschool snacks in to the budget just intensified my need to do a really good job!


(Combined Target and Price Chopper)

I started my shopping on Wednesday at Target. I got:

3 boxes of Jello
6 bricks of Cream cheese
1 package of Recycled Reynolds foil

Pretax total was $4.30. I saved $9.78. Off to a good start!

After that, I went to Price Chopper. I got:

1 Betty Crocker cake mix
1 Betty Crocker frosting
1 package of Mission tortillas
1 can of Eagle Brand
1 can of artichoke hearts
2 boxes of Wheat Thins
1 box of Triscuits
2 boxes of Quaker Maple oatmeal squares
1 lb of generic butter
3 bricks of Kraft cheese
1 bag of Kraft cheese
1 bag of frozen spinach
2 2 lb packages of Strawberries

My pre-tax total was $24.09. I saved $36.06.

On Thursday over lunch, I ran to Hen House. I apologize because the picture turned out very bad. This is what I picked up:

1 package of Bumblebee Lemon Pepper tuna
2 64 oz containers of Tree Top apple juice
2 Aunt Jemima syrups
1 box of Quaker Hazelnut Latte oatmeal
1 dozen Eggland's Best eggs
1 gallon of Robert's hormone free whole milk
1 Jimmy Dean breakfast skillet

My pre-tax total was $14.96. I saved $16.00. (My quarterly store savings total came out at $177.09. Pretty good since I don't do much shopping there!)

And FINALLY, I took the girls to Hy-Vee. We went because I THOUGHT the big cans of mandarin oranges were on sale, but it was the little cans. We didn't even get any! We ended up with a few other things and a serious eye injury. It wasn't the best trip, but what's a mom to do?

Here is what we got:

1 package of unsalted butter
1 package of SunMaid raisins
4 Coke 12 packs
2 Cara Cara oranges (Expensive little buggers!)
3 lb bag of organic oranges

My tax total after $10 credit was $8.40. Definitely not my best trip ever. We might have been better of had we just NOT made this trip.

We're having Easter dinner at my mother in law's house tomorrow. I am making key lime pie and Olive Garden's hot spinach dip. Both recipes should be making an appearance today or tomorrow! I also pre made cranberry orange scone dough, so we can have warm scones for breakfast. The rest of the week is going to take some thinking on!

Happy Easter!

See also LifeAsMom.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A day in the life of...

Let's see...a recap of my last 30ish hours...

5:00 last night, little girl kicks already not feeling well big girl in eye at grocery store
7:00, Daddy gets home from work, and I take big girl to ER
11:00, diagnosis of double bacterial pink eye, double ear infection, upper respiratory infection, and yes a scratched cornea
11:30, 24 hour CVS
12:30, bedtime
5:30, alarm goes off
7:30-3:30, work
4:00-5:30, a few minutes at home + dinner
5:45 - 7:15, ballet + acrobatics class

AND FINALLY....

A very tired attempt at freezer cooking...


I made a double batch of my new seriously awesome cranberry orange scone recipe. I'm going to give one to my parents, so they can have fresh scones on Easter morning, and we'll have some too. (I'm going to try to start providing more Holiday morning surprises for my parents. I always WANT to, and I never get around to it. Time to start thinking about Mother's Day!) I threw the second batch in the freezer, so I can take them to work for a potluck we're having next Friday at work. I'm always happy when someone brings breakfast, so I figured I'd be that person this time!

Secondly, I cut up three lbs of organic onions that I got on sale this week. I LOVE having diced, frozen onions. It is SO convenient when I'm trying to whip up a recipe that calls for onions. This might be my single most favorite time and money saving cooking tip. Give it try! While I was at it, I finely minced a white onion for the Olive Garden's Spinach and Artichoke dip recipe that I will be debuting tomorrow. It's awesome. Really awesome.

And now...

10:45, bedtime

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