Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My monthly menu board

For those who are curious what my monthly menu looks like, here it is. This is the product of me taking inventory of what is in the house, looking at our past menu items, and planning it out for the month. It is just a dollar store frame with the cardboard removed and a sheet of scrapbook paper inserted.

This will be our menu from December 10-January 12. Each time we eat something, I just wipe it off so I know what is left. I try to stay pretty true to the order, but there are always times when I've forgotten to thaw a meat or something else comes up. Doing the menu on a dry erase board keeps me from having to rewrite the whole menu if things get juggled around a bit.

I always keep frozen chicken breasts and we have a handful of chicken recipes that get rotated through. As you can see I try to use big and either inexpensive or on sale cuts of meat for several meals, saving both time and money. This month, it's pork shoulder and a spiral sliced ham that was on sale for the holidays. As per usual, beans make a few appearances monthly, as do breakfast foods. Leftover nights are planned in and I try to have a dessert on those nights as an incentive to clear out the fridge.

We pick up take and bake pizza (using a coupon) nearly every Sunday, so those days aren't included on the menu. We will also have Christmas Eve with my parents and Christmas dinner with Anthony's mom, so I don't have to worry about those days, either.

This is just what I have found has worked for me over the years. This is not the first "system" I've used, but it seems to be the most practical and the easiest.  It also helps to keep our grocery budget low, because I use what I already have, know what I'll be cooking from night to night, and uses up leftover food before it has a chance to go bad.

In case  you were wondering, yes, that is a tub of Lincoln Logs and an IKEA kiddie stool in the picture. I cropped out the Animals of the World encyclopedia and A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass, as well as a stack of coupons waiting for me to clip them. It's pretty real over here guys!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Eat What You Have Days 28-49

OK, so I've waited so long to post what we've been having that I've forgtten what we even had for a few days. Boo.

Day 28- Leftovers
Day 29- Dinner at a friend's
Day 30- Burritos
Day 31-?
Day 32-?
Day 33- Pizza
Day 34- ?
Day 35- Spaghetti
Day 36- Thanksgiving with my family
Day 37- Thanksgiving with his family
Day 38- Chili Friday
Day 39- Leftovers
Day 40- Pizza
Day 41- Parpadelle with carmelized onions
Day 42- Salsa chicken with beans and rice
Day 43- Pizza (Mama was sick)
Day 44- Breakfast
Day 45- Turkey and sides
Day 46- Leftovers
Day 47- Birthday dinner for the twins at Nana's
Day 48- Turkey and dumplings
Day 49- Turkey burgers

So, I finally went for a grocery trip after 49 days. I still have about 10 meals in the house, though, in the effort of warding off a mutiny, I gave in. Gotta keep the family happy. Usually, after my annual Eat What You Have Challenge, I end up spending $100 or so more than I usually do. This year, I was actually $50 UNDER my monthly budget of $400! It can only help that I was able to make a stop at Aldi's.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Easy jambalaya

This is recipe that comes togther quickly and is cheap and tasty. Confession: I usually make this on a day when I haven't thought ahead and thawed some meat. I just boil the chicken from frozen and pop the sausage in the microwave for a minute and it's ready to go. Add more or less seasoning depending on how hot you like your Cajun food. This is one recipe where I don't mix my own seasonings, though I've shown what you would need to do so. We use Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning instead. This is also another recipe where I use rice that I've cooked and frozen ahead of time as a time saver.


2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1lb chicken breast
1pkg smoked sausage, cut into ½ inch rounds
1 ½c rice, cooked according to package directions
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning -
     1tsp ground red pepper
     ½tsp salt
     ½tsp chili powder
     ¼tsp garlic powder
     ¼tsp onion powder
     ¼tsp black pepper
     ¼tsp oregano

  • Place the chicken in a small saucepan, cover with salted water, boil until cooked through, coarsely chop; reserve cooking liquid.
  • Heat the oil in a pot over medium high heat; add onion, pepper, and garlic, cook until slightly softened; add chicken, sausage, and 1-2 cups of reserved liquid; add seasoning, cook until warmed through.
  • Add rice to meat & vegetables, stir to combine; serve hot with extra Cajun seasoning.
Price breakdown
Oil - 30¢
Onion - 35¢
Green pepper - 50¢
Garlic - 10¢
Chicken - $1.79
Sausage - $2
Rice - 15¢
Seasoning - 5¢
TOTAL - $4.24
Price per serving (6 servings) - 71¢