Sunday, August 28, 2011

Red, White and Green Sandwiches

I've been wanting to make these forever, and I finally had all of the ingredients at once to give it a shot! The sandwiches turned out really great! Everyone in my family ate every last bite. I served the girl's sandwiches to them "open faced," so they were a little easier to eat. I also didn't toast their bread, just warmed it through for the cheese to melt.


1 loaf of ciabatta
a few tablespoons of garlic butter
a few tablespoons of pesto
8 oz fresh mozzarella
a couple ounces of pepperoni
1 large tomato

Here's how I did it,

I toasted the ciabatta under the broiler in the oven. After the bread came out, I put a thin layer of garlic butter and a thin layer of pesto. Then, I layered on the pepperoni and the mozzarella cheese and warmed through in the oven on about 400 for 5 minutes. When the sandwiches came out, I topped with a layer of tomato. SO easy, and SO YUMMY! This was fairly inexpensive, very satisfying and healthy! A winner!

Getting in to a new groove...

My husband got his first paycheck at his new job yesterday. It was only for 1 week's pay, but it was nice to be able to trim a few things out of our budget and pay for most of the things we've been needing with cash that DIDN'T come from hard earned savings. Mostly, we trimmed out unnecessary spending money and dance tuition because dance hasn't started yet. No big deal.

I was a little bit disappointed with the sale ads this week. I think the stores must be gearing up for big Labor Day sales. The picture above is from Hy-Vee. It cost about $30. We also picked up a gallon of milk, a package of spinach tortellini, a loaf of ciabatta and a wheel of Laughing Cow cheese at Trader Joes. We made a quick stop after church at Price Chopper for salsa, shredded cheese and ice cream. We went about $5 over budget, but we'l manage.

Our menu plan is as follows,

Friday - red, white and green sandwiches
Saturday - cereal / McDonalds lunch out with coupons / macaroni and cheese and fruit
Sunday - smoothie popsicles / brats and our favorite bean dip / cold tuna noodle salad
Monday - cereal / brown bag lunches / chicken enchilada soup
Tuesday - smoothie popsicles / brown bag lunches / Papa Johns pizza to benefit school (Pizza didn't happen due to budget constraints. We had black bean and cheese nachos instead. Keepin' it real!)
Wednesday - 100% whole wheat cinnamon toast / brown bag lunches / spinach tortellini
Thursday - smoothie popsicles / brown bag lunches / grilled cheese and tomato soup
Friday - cereal / brown bag lunches / something from next week's groceries

Snacks and sides will be green salad, apples, cottage cheese,carrots and ranch, cereal bars, banana smoothies and whatever else we can dig up.

See more menu plans at

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trader Joes

Trader Joes opened in KC for the first time back in July. We went once to just sort of scope things out and get a feel for the prices. Since we decided to take some money from my husband's unemployment to supplement our $50 week grocery budget, we went to Trader Joes to add some different items to our pantry and fridge. Most of the things that we purchased were priced very  well, but we did splurge a little bit on a few things. Regardless, we were SO happy to add some things we haven't had before to our groceries for the week. Overall, I'm not certain that Trader Joes is as cost effective as everyone says, but I'll take the variety it offers. Since we're not eating out these days, we just really needed a change!

Our menu plan for the week is as follows,

Friday - spaghetti with Boboli garlic cheese bread
Saturday - banana peanut butter smoothies / BLTs / smorgasbord
Sunday - banana peanut butter smoothies / bacon tortellini alfredo and salad / smorgasbord
Monday - cereal / packed lunches / cheese enchiladas and veggies
Tuesday - cheesy eggs or cereal / packed lunches / calzones and veggies
Wednesday - cereal / packed lunches / breakfast burritos
Thursday - cheesy eggs or cereal / packed lunches / smorgasbord
Friday - cereal / packed lunches / something from next week's groceries

Snacks will include - whole wheat pumpkin muffins (if I can find the time to make them,) fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese and chips and dip.

For more meal plans, see

Bacon Tortellini Alfredo

I found this recipe via Pinterest, and, OH, it was GOOD!

Below is the version I modified from the original,

1 lb of frozen tortellini
4 oz bacon or pancetta, (about 4 strips bacon)*
3 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press or finely minced
2 Tbs flour
2 C milk
¾ tsp kosher salt
⅛ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry basil (I omitted accidentally.)
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (I omitted accidentally.)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 C loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
¾ C grated mozzarella cheese, divided
¾ C grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Heat 3 tablespoons of bacon grease and whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour. Warm thoroughly. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of milk. Stir in the garlic, salt, black pepper, basil, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, spinach and half of each kind of cheese. While the sauce is simmering, cook tortellini until it is warmed through. Then, add the tortellini to your sauce mixture. Pour in to a pan (I used 9x13, and it was plenty big.) and top with remaining cheese. Cover and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes! Enjoy!

For more recipes see

Saturday, August 20, 2011

$40 Edition

As I mentioned in my last grocery update, I only had $40 this week. I spent $8 at the bread store. This purchase wrapped up the rest of the $40 plus a few extra dollars. I didn't spend 10% of my budget on any one super cheap item because there just wasn't one this week! Regardless, I felt like I FINALLY at least got some decent food. We really spent the last week trying to scrape whatever we could together. It was not pretty! Obviously, we've made it for a very long time on a $50 budget, but when you're in crisis mode and every LAST bite of food is coming from the kitchen, resources reallllllllllllllllllly get exhausted.

We haven't broken out the $50 from my husband's unemployment to stock up a little, but we're planning on doing that this weekend. Honestly, we might make it $100 because we are just so low on everything. I'm planning on hitting Trader Joes for items that are well priced there (cereal bars and milk,) and we may also go to Sam's to try to get some school lunch items. I do typically think it's cheaper to shop at a major store on sale with a coupon, but it does limit your options to what is available to some extent.

I'll post our stock up trips and menu plans later today!

Friday, August 19, 2011


A friend of mine sent me this picture from my oldest's first day of school. This is her best friend from preschool, and they found each other in the crowd at an all school ceremony.

Can you feel the LOVE?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A few tips for shopping the bread outlet...

(Grand total, $8 even)

1. Check the "expiration" dates! Some items will just by chance be older than the others. Buy the freshest you can get for your $. It's worth it to have it not taste stale or go moldy the day after you buy it.

2. Don't  buy whole wheat bread from the super cheap table if you can help it. Yes, it's super cheap, but if you're buying whole wheat varieties, they REALLY ARE almost too stale too eat. Donuts, tortillas, etc. may be ok. It's sort of by trial and error! I typically don't buy from this table, but I'll take it if it's free!

3. Stock up while you're there! Immediately freeze what you won't eat in the next 3 or 4 days. Bread freezes beautifully.

4. Ask what else sells well. It's probably a good buy for the money! Today I was told syrup, which we actually really needed. I picked some up, and we'll try it out!

5. Ask if they have a punch card. My store punches for every dollar you spend. At $30, you get to pick a free baked good and a free bread item from the super cheap table.

6. Ask if there is a day where they run a special promotion. My location has a "double punch" day On double punch days you only have to spend $15 to pick up some free items. Go early on double punch days because the store is always more picked over!

7. Ask if they run coupons. If they do, ask what publication and how frequently. I see them occasionally in mailers!

8. Check for any free samples by the register. There is almost always something there.

To locate an Oroweat outlet near you, check this site:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten

Today was my sweet Evangeline's first day of Kindergarten! She was so brave, and amazingly, neither of us cried! I know she is going to have a great year filled sweet friends, tons of fun and lots of learning!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grocery Project - First Week of Kindergarten Edition!

I spent exactly $50.19 after taxes on groceries this week. It doesn't seem like that much, but the 7 packages of string cheese alone would have normally cost close to $30! They were out of the sale size, so the cashier generously offered to sell these to me for the sale price! I was floored. It's just one of those weird ways that God finds to meet our needs!

We are SO thankful and happy to report that unemployment is ALMOST behind us. My husband starts his new job on Monday! It is going to be somewhat of a painful switch for us because for the first 6 months he will be working normal business hours. We are used to having him home Monday and Tuesday, so it's going to be a little sad! After six months, he will be working Tuesday-Saturday. We're thankful he was able to find a job with A work day off, but we'll sure miss having two!

My daughter also starts Kindergarten on Wednesday! (You can bet you'll be seeing a picture of that!) I am soooo excited for her. She's a great kid, and I know she's going to be a fantastic year.

All of this being said, our meal plan and grocery shopping is looking a little bit weird! We did finally at least get my husband's unemployment check, and we have another week coming (more on that in a minute,) but we don't know how long it will be until his first paycheck! That being said, we are STILL functioning with ZERO eating out, snacks out, etc. unless it is FREE! We've done it for six weeks, so I figure we can do it for 2-3 more. The problem I am having now is the need for brown bag lunches! Both my husband and my daughter will be needing them this week!

Along with that, the last few weeks I have been practicing the idea of stockpiling by spending 10% of your budget on items that are reduced to under $1. Three weeks ago, I got yogurt. Last week I got mac and cheese. This week, I got yogurt again! Being unemployed has given me a new appreciation for the idea of stocking piling, and I will tell you that our stock pile is looking SAD, SAD, SAD! We decided that it is going to be necessary to take an extra $50 from my husband's unemployment to try to bulk up the food we have in the house at the moment, and I'm going to try to continue this 10% stock piling practice. I have to say, at the moment, I'm not overly impressed because in three weeks I've already had to buy the same thing twice, but I know I need to give it a longer shot than that!

Our meal plan for the week....

Saturday - yogurt / lunch at a family birthday party (I took cantaloupe.) / homemade mozzarella sticks and frozen veggies

Sunday - pancakes and eggs / snacks at grandma's / frozen pizza with carrots and ranch

Monday - leftover pancakes / leftovers or PBJ / possibly a celebration dinner out

Tuesday - leftover pancakes / leftovers or PBJ / fish sticks and grapes

Wednesday - yogurt or whole wheat pumpkin muffins / leftovers or brown bag lunches / beans and rice with cheese and cantaloupe

Thursday - yogurt or whole wheat pumpkin muffins / leftovers or brown bag lunch / spaghetti with marinara and frozen vegetables

Friday - yogurt or whole wheat pumpkin muffins / leftovers or brown bag lunch / something from next week's shopping trip

It is DEFINITELY a "bare bones" kind of week. Unfortunately when I did our budget for these upcoming two weeks, I came up about $200 short. (This is why we HAVE to be a two income family. We're not both working for "extra money," like people like to think.) We'll make up what difference we have to from unemployment, but it still only left me with $40 for groceries for next week. I think I'll start praying now!

For more meal planning, see

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guacamole Taco Rolls

If there is one thing we love around here, it is GUACAMOLE! A friend of mine at work bought a bag of avocados that she knew she wouldn't finish, so she very generously gave us two. With avocado prices so high, you can bet I wasn't willing to let those go to waste! I sent my husband to the store to get the rest of the ingredients that we needed for guacamole and an extra bag of tortillas, so we could make these for dinner! They were worth EVERY PENNY of those $4 from our dwindling spending money. They were SO good, and the recipe (even with only 2 avocados) made TWELVE taco rolls. We were even able to share some with my dad while my mom was out of town. I'm always so happy when we can share on our tight budget.

The guacamole recipe alone is to die for! I will never just mash up some avocados with some stuff that sounds "right" again. Here is the recipe,

-       3 ripe Mexican avocados (slightly squishy, but with some firmness)
-       1 medium size red onion (~ ½ cup), diced
-       1 medium size tomato (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes– it’s all I had), diced
-       2 tsp lime juice
-       3 gloves of garlic (or more, up to you), minced
-       ½ jalapeƱo, finely chopped (less or more; again, up to you)
-       ½ tsp cumin powder
-       ¼ tsp ground cardamom
-       ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
-       1 tbsp sour cream (optional, but adds to the creamy-ness)
-       salt + pepper to taste
-       10 flour or corn tortillas
-       2 cups of oil for frying

  1. In a deep and heavy pan bring the oil to 350’F.  (More deep frying tips here)
  2. Carefully cut the avocado in half, length wise, and pit the core. Using a spoon, scoop out the avocado, and dice neatly.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, fold all the ingredients together. I like my guacamole to be slightly chunky—stir to the consistency you prefer. 
  4. Place 1 tbsp of guacamole in the center of a flour tortilla, fold the outer edges in, and tightly roll. Secure the tortilla rolls with toothpicks. 
  5. Fry the tortilla-guacamole rolls for 90 seconds on each side, or until golden brown. Carefully remove the rolls from the oil, and allow to cool slightly on a paper towel lined cookie sheet. (We sprinkled generously with salt.) Serve alongside sour cream, and pico de gallo.

For more fun recipes see balancingbeautyandbedlam.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Unemployment Week 5

We're going in to the 5th week of unemployment, and I'm tired. And feeling a little defeated. My husband did at least get his official letter saying he qualifies for unemployment benefits. Finally. We might even see some money here eventually.

I ran around like a crazy person trying to get groceries yesterday, and I did not take a SINGLE picture. I hit the Oroweat outlet, where I got 3 loaves of bread, a bag of blueberry bagel thins and a small bag of donuts for $6. I called Hen House ahead of time, and they held some expiring milk for me. I picked up a gallon of milk, a few boxes of cereal, 8 boxes of macaroni and cheese and a few other things I can't remember at the moment. After work, we hit Wal-Mart to price match Aldi's strawberries. I got 8 lbs of strawberries, a few lbs of bananas, some saran wrap and a bag of cotton balls. THEN, Archer and I went to Price Chopper, where I picked up several bags of cheese, some chicken, a few packages of hot dogs, a couple boxes of Bakers chocolate and again, I can't remember what else.

So yes, I'm feeling defeated because I am fresh out of cash, and I have a whole bunch of stuff that I can't really do much with. I did save a lot of money at least. That counts for something. It was just a rough week of catching up on the basics, I guess.

Oh yeah, and I'm also feeling defeated because after ALL of that, I got home, and the main line drain to our house was backed up. Thankfully, Roto Rooter came and fixed it at 11 o'clock last night. Bye, bye $175.

Our meal plan for the week will be a little interesting. Here's what I've got planned,

Saturday - Our Bible study provided lunch for our local Ronald McDonald house (I made chocolate covered strawberries.) We got to share in a really delicious lunch of pulled pork, baked beans and some other deliciousness. Dinner is grilled cheese with tomato soup

Sunday - cereal / a new recipe for chicken buffalo wraps and strawberries / PBJ at the pool, leftover pulled pork sandwiches from Saturday's lunch

Daddy has one more week off work. He will be in charge of lunches at home. I will be eating leftovers, or my favorite no effort lunch, PBJ on 100% whole wheat Wheat Thins. We will all be eating cereal for breakfast. 

Dinners will include,

Monday - cheese enchiladas and veggies
Tuesday - free pizza from Papa Johns
Wednesday - cavatini
Thursday - tuna noodle salad
Friday - macaroni and cheese

Snacks will include yogurt, red hot jello, bagel thins with butter, cheese and crackers, etc.

I know it's a bit of a sad menu plan! We are trying to avoid taking money out of savings for consumables, so as long as we are hanging in there ok, we will stick with what we've got. I'm hoping to take a chunk out of my husband's unemployment (maybe $100 or so) to rebuild our stock pile. We should be ok for a week or two until we see that cash.

For more meal planning, visit

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crockpot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Yes, it's the hottest day in Kansas City since I was 3. This is what my car thermometer said today at 3:05.

(I know. Can you believe it??!!??)

And yes, we had soup on the hottest day EVER. It was a preventative measure in order to avoid turning on the oven. And OH BOY, it was GOOD. My husband made it, and he was STOKED. It is a great dish to inspire a budding hubby-chef, and the entire pot cost less than $5!

Here is the recipe

4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package of Rice-a-Roni long grain and wild rice
1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper (plus more to taste)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
2 cups half and half (I used 2% milk.)
1 cup grated carrots (I diced mine.)
1 cup diced celery


Combine broth, water, carrots, celery, chicken and rice (along with seasoning packet) in a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Take out chicken and shred with two forks and then add back into slow cooker. In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, and flour. In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour mixture by tablespoon to form a roux. Whisk in cream, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Stir cream mixture into slow cooker and then let cook on low for 15 more minutes. 

For more recipes, see