Sunday, November 30, 2014

Task 8 - Shop "alternative" stores

Another great way to save money is to look to stores that you wouldn't normally shop. A great store to save you tons of money is Aldi. If you have one near you, I would encourage you to add it into your regular shopping routine. The closest one to me is quite out of the way, but it is on the way to my mother-in-law's, so I plan my trip accordingly. There are tons of Aldi shopping tutorials out on the web. Their best prices for me are on oats, spices, all dairy - including eggs, bottled water, canned goods, tortillas, and cheese.

If you use a lot of spices, like we do by cooking Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican dishes, you should look in your area for an Indo-Paki grocery. I buy spices in bulk usually at a 70% or more savings over a traditional grocery store. That can really add up over time. If you think you won't be able to use a larger amount, split the difference with a friend.

Meat is one of the biggest grocery expenses. Look for alternatives here, as well. I, personally, look to small independently run stores in more rural areas. For you locals, I stop by Country Mart in Taylorsville monthly or bi-monthly. They have cheaper meat prices overall and have a 10lb. meat sale monthly. You can also look at more rural butchers and Mexican groceries and/or butchers, as well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

I LOVE cabbage rolls! I had never eaten a cabbage roll in my life, or even heard of them for that matter, until I married my husband. His Slavic mother made these for a family dinner and that's where the love story began. I must have oohed and ahhed over them just enough, because she makes them for me every year for my birthday.
I asked for the recipe. It was so involved that I've never attempted them myself. Then I began to see recipes for deconstructed this or that. I decided to try it. The result is below. Now, I would never claim that it is as good as my mother-in-law's cabbage rolls. It's not. However for a quick, inexpensive, one skillet meal, it's pretty darn good!

1 medium onion, chopped
2lbs ground beef
1c uncooked rice
4c crushed tomatoes
1lb cabbage, chopped
1 can sauerkraut
1c water
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Place onion and beef in a large skillet over medium high, cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until meat is no longer pink and the onions have softened
  • Add rice, tomatoes, cabbage, sauerkraut, and water to skillet, stir to combine. Bring to a boil; cover and cook 30 minutes, until rice is cooked and cabbage has softened.
Price Breakdown
Onion - 35¢
Beef - $5
Rice - 10¢
Tomatoes 75¢
Cabbage 60¢
Sauerkraut 50¢
TOTAL $7.30
Price per serving (6 servings) $1.22

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Turkey Time!

I have broken my no spend streak. Our local Meijer had frozen turkeys on sale this week for 54¢/lb. with an additional $10 purchase. I priced matched that at Wal-Mart.
The cashier must not have known who he was up against when he explained to me that their turkeys are priced by unit, not per pound and that he couldn't honor the Meijer price. I explained that he absolutely could, that's why the sign over their turkeys read 88¢/lb. I even walked him through which keys he would need to push on his register to make that happen. Nope. It is just not their policy. I paid for the rest of my purchases and marched my penny-pinching tush right down to customer service. I explained. She rolled her eyes, guessed which cashier, and said she'd send the Customer Service Manager right down. Much to his embarrassment, she told him to do it exactly like I had. Kid just thought I'd give up that easily. Tsk. Tsk.
Anyway, while I was there, I noticed that their celery was only 74¢. Now, I can never get through a complete bunch of celery before it works. I know there are tricks to keep it crisp, but, truth be told, I only ever use celery in soups, stews, and pot pies anyway. So, I'm going to chop it up and freeze it in a Ziploc bag.
They also had sweet potatoes for 38¢/lb. We have eaten all of the sweet potatoes from our garden, so this was definitely stock up price! The great thing about sweet potatoes is that you can store them in a cardboard box in a cool, dry area - your basement or garage for several months. Eat any With scratches or bruises first. You can also boil, mash, and cool them, and freeze them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Make it yourself - Marinara

I believe that, for the most part, decisions regarding frugality usually come down to saving time or money. This is one of those situations where I do not believe you are saving enough time to justify spending the extra money. Spaghetti sauce - #1 the jarred stuff doesn't taste better & and it's loaded with chemical preservatives and #2 it can not save you more than 2-3 minutes over making your own. This is one of those items you should be making. I usually double the batch & use it for another meal or freeze it.
I buy the huge 6 pound, 6 ounce can of crushed tomatoes at Sam's for less than three dollars. It makes 12 one cup servings. I halved it in the recipe below. Boil a pound of pasta and you've got a meal for 6 for under $2.50! You can't beat that! When I made mine tonight I topped it with homemade mozzarella to the tune of $1.50, bringing the price of our meal to $4.23. I doubled my sauce recipe and will likely have baked pasta or meatball subs later in the week.


2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried basil
6 cups crushed tomatoes
Salt & pepper to taste

  • Heat oil in a pot over medium-high; Add garlic, cook until garlic is light golden brown, stirring; Add basil.
  • Add tomatoes to the pot; Stir to combine; Heat through, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes. Serve over hot, cooked pasta.

Olive oil - 15¢
Garlic - 10¢
Basil - 5¢
Crushed tomatoes - $1.43

TOTAL - $1.73
Price per serving (6 servings) - 29¢

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Eat What You Have - days 25-37

I promise I'm still here and my Eat What You Have challenge is chugging right along over here! I have bought more milk and bananas. I also bought my husband a $6 pack of deli meat today. He has been such a champ about playing along as the cabinets, fridge, and freezer empty. It's the least I can do.
Here is what we have been eating:
Day 25 - Roasted pork chops with Apple's and sweet potatoes
Day 26 - Beef & bean nachos
Day 27 - Leftovers
Day 28 - Sunday Pizza
Day 29 - Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls
Day 30 - Date night...We ate cereal...
Day 31 - Spicy potatoes with peas and chicken
Day 32 - Spaghetti
Day 33 - Dinner at a friend's (yummy French toast)
Day 34 - Beer braised sausages and mashed potatoes
Day 35 - Sunday Pizza
Day 36 - Zupa di Fagioli
Day 37 - Leftovers

Monday, November 10, 2014

Biscuit Topped Chicken Pot Pie

Here is my kitchen confession: I am terrible at pie crusts. I've tried. I've come close, but it usually ends with me a pie crust...hardly worth it. I usually either buy my pie crusts, which I hate doing or come up with an alternative. That is the case with this recipe. It's basically a chicken pot pie with no yelling at the dough.


1 - 1 ½lbs chicken breast cut into ½ inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1½ Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp butter
¼c flour
1 ½c milk
1lb bag frozen mixed vegetables
Salt & pepper to taste

For biscuits:
½c butter (1 stick)
2c flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
¾c buttermilk

  • Preheat oven to 425°
  • Melt the oil and butter in a large skillet; add onion, cooking until they begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add chicken, salt & pepper, cook until cooked through.
  • Sprinkle flour over the onion & oil, stir to coat. Add milk. Cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbly. Add frozen vegetables, stir to combine, cook until softened.
  • For biscuits, cut the cold butter into pats in a large bowl. Add the next three ingredients; cut with a biscuit cutter or two forks until the mixture resembles a coarse crumble. Add the buttermilk, stir to until a dough forms. Knead several times. Divide into 8 flattened biscuits.
Full disclosure here. I don't buy buttermilk. Anytime a recipe calls for buttermilk, I use slightly less milk and add a tablespoon or two (depending on the amount of milk) of lemon juice, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then add it to the recipe.
  • Pour the chicken and vegetable mixture into a greased 8½ x 11 pan. Top with biscuits. Bake at 425° for 25-30 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

Price Breakdown

Chicken $1.79
Oil/butter 65¢
Onion 35¢
Flour 55¢
Milk 45¢
Mixed vegetables $1
Spices/baking powder 10¢

Total $4.89
Price per serving (8 servings) 62¢

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Eat What You Have days 11-24

I just realized I haven't been keeping you posted on our Eat What You Have challenge. I haven't updated in a couple of weeks. In those 2 weeks we've had my birthday, Halloween, and our annual Reformation Feast at our church. I'll admit, we ate out TWICE for my birthday - the night before and the day of. Of course, and I should have specified this up front, Sunday is always our feasting day. We typically pick up take-and-bake pizza (using a coupon), pile up on the couch, watch a movie, and eat pizza. We also had one night where our dear neighbor brought me a pot of soup as a birthday gift. So sweet and so welcome, as I had a cold! So far, I have only had to go buy milk. So, here is our list of meals for the past two weeks.

Day 11- Biscuit topped chicken pot pie
Day 12- Jambalaya
Day 13- Mexican take-out
Day 14- Pizza
Day 15- Leftovers
Day 16- Chicken Curry
Day 17- Sausage Strata
Day 18- Zombie meatloaf
Day 19- Leftovers
Day 20- Feast
Day 21- Feast
Day 22- Chicken vegetable soup
Day 23- Kebabs
Day 24- Roasted sausage and potatoes

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Task 7 - Make your own cleaners

When I first began really evaluating our grocery budget, cleaners were one of those things that were either taking way too big a chunk of the pie or I felt like we're only affordable if I were chasing coupons and playing the drug store "game". I decided to start looking into homemade cleaners. Pinterest has made this SO much easier! I now make all of my own cleaners except dish soap and dishwasher tabs. I just have yet to come a across recipes for those that I'm satisfied with.
Another huge bonus to making your own cleaners, as if saving lots of money weren't enough, is that you are eliminating so many harmful chemicals from your home. Win, win!
Below are the links to my favorite cleaner recipes. Enjoy!

All-purpose cleaner - I use this one all the time, even on my hardwood floors!

Cleaning wipes

Shower & tub cleaner - Shameless, I know, to link to my own blog on a blog post, but I have yet to see anyone else use anything but the original recipe with only Dawn detergent. That just seems wasteful to me.

Citrus cleaner - This one not only uses up kitchen scraps that would otherwise end up in the trash, it works wonders on grease!

Glass cleaner

Laundry detergent - I often substitute the less expensive Sun Oxy powder in this one. Putting the bar soap in the microwave revolutionized my detergent making! Just be prepared to give the microwave a once over with some vinegar or it will smell like soap for a week!

You can save literally hundreds of dollars annually by making your own cleaners. Try some out and watch your grocery bill dwindle!