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One mom. One Mission. One dinner plate at a time.

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Summer sweetness

I love summer. The warm weather, the sunshine, the barbecues, and my personal favorite - the fruit! I don't think it's any accident that the sweeter, juicier harvests come when the thermometer rises. We've kind of spoiled ourselves over the years by becoming accustomed to year-round access to seasonal food, but the real frugalistas know that eating what's ACTUALLY in season is much better for your wallet - one of my coworkers called it "old fashioned shopping", I just call it smart.

Starting Friday, strawberries are on sale for $2 per 1 pound container at Stop & Shop! They are California strawberries, not exactly local fare just yet, but the harvest was good this year so we benefit in spite of the rising cost of transporting....i'm certainly not complaining!

Some fun strawberry facts from the California Strawberry Commission:

  • Strawberries are little powerhouses full of fiber, antioxidants and Vitamin C - they are rated the 2nd most antioxidant fruit AND one serving has more vitamin C than a whole orange!

  • Strawberries can also boast flavonoids (which help give them their red color), which are researched for their anticancer properties. Strawberry extract is showing promise in a Tufts University study for slowing the decline of brain function and may be helpful in holding off Alzheimers. The strawberry is even certified by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy food.

  • If you lined up all the strawberries grown in California end to end, they would wrap around the Earth 15 times. (that's a LOT of strawberry shortcake!)

The California Commission has a cute little website for the kiddies called Strawberryville that has lots of fun facts and games. And there are a TON of great strawberry recipes on the Commission's site as well. Here's one I found that will be easy to make ahead of time and use on waffles, pancakes, even chicken and fish!

Strawberry Breakfast Salsa
1/3 cup apricot jam

3 tbsp. water

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 pint baskets California strawberries, stemmed and cut into 1/4-inch diced

In medium bowl whisk jam, water and cinnamon, add strawberries. Toss gently to combine. Serve salsa over pancakes, waffles, French toast, hot cereal, or mix into plain yogurt. Makes 4 servings.

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Fabulous muffin recipe!

Muffins are my new favorite breakfast - cheap, easy and deelish. I've been scouring the boards to try and find THE perfect muffin recipe, and this one comes really close! It took me all of 10 minutes to put together and it's VERY versatile - the base recipe is for banana but I did two bananas and about a pint of strawberries. I splashed a little milk on it because it seemed a little dry, they came out perfectly and held up VERY well in the freezer. Read down the comments below her recipe post - there are great suggestions for other variations as well!

From Cat Can Cook

Banana Muffins

3 or 4 Large bananas, mashed (the more bananas the moister, so I use 4)
1/2 cup white sugar (original recipe calls for 1 cup, but I don’t like them too sweet)
1 slightly beaten egg
1/3 cup melted margarine or butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Mix the mashed banana, sugar, egg and margarine together. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Mix wet and dry ingredients all together, being careful not to over-stir! Pour into greased muffin tins, and bake in 350 degrees oven for approximately 20 minutes. Enjoy!

2 bananas - appx $0.75
Pint strawberries - $2.00
Sugar - appx $0.15
Egg - $0.18
Margarine - $0.25
Flour - appx $0.20

GRAND TOTAL - $3.53 for 6 big muffins, or $0.58 per muffin

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Making it last...and last

You've loaded your shopping cart with enough goods to get you through the next Ice Age. You've patted yourself on the back for your smart shopping...but what to do with all of this stuff once you get home? And as you make your way through your impressive stockpile, how can you make the most of your leftovers?

Catching a great sale on pantry goods, meat and produce feels like a victory against the rising cost of food, but it becomes a lost cause if things are stored improperly. We've all done battle with freezer burn. We all have the science experiment in the back of our fridge - you know, the one you're afraid will bite back if you remove it. But fear not - there are plenty of great resources out there to help preserve your findings!

To begin, you need the right tools. If you have a vacuum sealer, make the most of it! I have not invested in one just yet, but it is a fantastic, and proven, means for keeping food at its freshest. If this is one appliance NOT gathering dust in your closet, here's a short list of basic storage items:
- plastic wrap (Glad press & seal is great if you can splurge, but any basic Saran wrap is fine)
- Heavy duty aluminum foil - don't scrimp here, no thin cheap foil.
- Ziploc freezer bags in quart and gallon size
- airtight containers, several sizes and shapes - I personally prefer the Lock N Lock line - they open and close easily, are spillproof and completely airtight, everything safe, and virtually indestructible. I've found them at Wal Mart, Christmas Tree shops, sometimes Ocean State Job lot. Worth the extra cost. In a pinch, any Rubbermaid, Ziploc or Gladware container will do.
- a dry erase marker, or a Sharpie and masking tape

Let's start in the pantry....

Your dry goods need to be protected as much as your fresh goods. Rice, flour and sugar shouldn't be stored in their original bags, they should be put in airtight containers or canisters. To prevent weevils or other bugs, place a couple of bay leaves in the containers - the flavor won't be affected. If you bought flour in very large quantities, it can actually go in the freezer for a couple of months to extend its shelf life. For very large quantities, Home Depot actually sells small and medium paint buckets with lids that seal very tight, and direct from the store they are certainly clean enough to hold food.

Loaves of bread can be frozen, if you hit a good sale then go ahead and buy 3 or 4 loaves. You will want to leave the bread in its original bag and then put a SECOND bread bag around that. Extra wrapping will seal in the moisture and prevent drying. DO NOT thaw in the microwave, just put a loaf in the fridge with enough time for it to thaw completely.

Pasta that won't be used within a couple of weeks should also be stored out of the original box in a sealed container - this will prevent mold as well as over-drying.

Any canned goods that have been on the shelf for a while should be checked periodically for denting or expanding. Store them out of extreme temperatures, as canned goods that have frozen inside the can are not safe to eat.

Potatoes can be tricky - you want them to be stored AWAY from your onions, in a breathable bag (paper bag, burlap, or plastic with holes). Do NOT put them in the fridge, as they will sweeten. They should be put in a cool, dry place and only kept for a month or two. Onions should also be in a breathable bag and stored in a cool dry location. I read here about using a leg from pantyhose to hang onions - drop one in the toe, tie it off, drop one above that, tie off...etc until you have a onion daisy chain. Neat idea!

On to the freezer...

Freezer burn is not the end of the world, but while the meat is still edible it can be tough, dry and just not as good as fresh-from-the-store. This is where the vacuum sealers REALLY shine, but if you don't have one you can still keep the burn away. Meat should be double wrapped - first in plastic wrap then in foil to seal out moisture. Ziploc freezer bags work equally well, but I would still wrap in plastic wrap first. Clemson University actually has a very comprehensive guide to freezing meat and seafood that I have found VERY useful. Did you know that freezing your meat as quickly as possible actually PREVENTS ice from forming? The water doesn't have time to form the six-sided crystals. I use my chest freezer in the basement as the temperatures are much colder and more consistent than the freezer in the kitchen.

Muffins and quickbreads should also be double wrapped - I individually wrap muffins in plastic wrap and then put several of them in a gallon Ziploc bag so that I don't have to defrost the whole lot of them for one breakfast.

Veggies and fruits are temperamental little things in the freezer. If you don't prepare them properly, the expanded water in the cells will make them mushy once you thaw them. I am not overly ambitious about freezing produce just yet, but for those with the desire - check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation. No joke - they have a complete list of canning, freezing, drying and pickling techniques for a huge variety of foods. Very handy if you find a crazy sale at the market or local farmstand. If you buy your veggies already frozen, just make sure the bag is well sealed after each use - I keep a bunch of twist ties handy just for that purpose. And don't make the mistake of storing them in the door shelves of the freezer - the repeated opening and closing of the door causes enough thaw to create ice in the bag. The only thing I keep on the freezer door are ice packs for the lunch boxes.

Here's where the marker comes in handy. A pile of neatly wrapped packages in the freezer is great, but it would be helpful to know what's inside. Label and date everything you store, not only so you know what you're thawing, but when it was put in there - it's probably not a good idea to cook up that lost chicken thigh if you vaguely remember buying chicken thighs in 2007.

The fridge is where you want to make the most of the plastic storage containers. I actually have a system in my fridge - most of the leftovers are stored on the right side of the fridge with main dishes on the bottom, side dishes on the middle shelf. I use a dry-erase marker to write the contents and the date on the side of the container. And I put the newest leftovers toward the back, so that I'm always using the older stuff first. Leftovers never last more than a week in my house but this system keeps me from serving the same dish twice in a row, and ensures that I don't end up with a new species of animal growing in a dark corner of the fridge.

The FDA has posted these food storage guidelines that detail how long certain foods can be stored in the fridge. Our friends at Clemson University have also made a great reference tool for storing leftovers - you have to scroll down a bit to get to the timeline grid.

It might seem like a lot of unnecessary work, but if it means holding onto your savings instead of having to replace food because it spoiled, it's well worth it!

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Sour Cream Muffins

Still trying out some muffin recipes - this one grew from a need to get rid of half a container of sour cream before it turned, and a realization that I still have too many frozen strawberries in the freezer. I didn't need to alter this one much at all, other than subbing the strawberries for the blueberries. This muffin was VERY tasty - rich, slightly sweet, and loaded with berries. I ended up with 9 large muffins, that is probably because I used a LOT of strawberries. I did find the strawberries made the inside a little mushy, I don't usually use muffin liners but these would benefit from a little more support. They froze well but the outsides were a wee bit tough after reheating. Will definitely make again though!

From Allrecipes.com (which actually has a "search by ingredients" feature!)


1/4 cup applesauce
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup nonfat sour cream
1 cup fresh blueberries (or any berry or chopped fruit)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a medium bowl, stir together the applesauce, sugar and eggs. Combine the flour and baking soda, add to the wet mixture and mix well. Stir in the sour cream, then fold in the berries. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Cups should be at least 3/4 full.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until muffins spring back when touched lightly.


Applesauce - $0.13

Sugar - $0.15

Eggs - $0.24

Flour - $0.17

Sour cream - $0.50

Strawberries - $2.00

GRAND TOTAL: $3.19, or $0.35 per muffin

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Chinese Beef with Broccoli

Still had a couple of those london broil steaks in the freezer...I did the crock pot thing, I broiled it in the oven....but I wanted to expand my horizons a bit. It's an inexpensive cut of meat that I am sure will grace my freezer many times in the coming months, so I don't want to be stuck doing the same dance with it every time. This recipe was from Cooks.com, and it provided a tasty alternative to the other dishes I tried. I also had almost 3 full servings of leftovers. You can stretch this dish a little further by adding more veggies too.

Two things: First, it is best to slice the meat while it is still partially frozen - you can cut it thinner and it holds together better. Second, I added a soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder and ginger marinade - it really added to the taste and the meat stayed pretty tender in spite of the long cooking.


2 c. steak or London Broil (sliced thin)

1 lg. can mushrooms, pieces & stems (one 15 oz can, drained)

2 pkgs. frozen chopped broccoli (one 20 oz bag frozen broccoli)

Soy sauce (appx 1 cup for marinade, to taste in the pan)

2 pkgs. brown gravy mix

(Marinade steak pieces at least 3 hrs up to overnight in the following: 1 cup soy sauce, 1-1/2 tbsp ground ginger, 2 tbsp garlic powder, 2 tbsp onion powder, about 3/4 cup water or until the meat is mostly covered.)

In a large frying pan quick fry meat, adding soy sauce to taste. You may add garlic powder if desired. Add broccoli and mushrooms, stir constantly. If mixture is dry, add water. Continue cooking on a low flame until heated (about 15 minutes). Add both packages of brown gravy mix. Stir until thickened. Serve over noodles or rice.


London Broil: $2.70
Can mushroom pieces: $0.60
Frozen Broccoli: $1.00
Gravy: $0.40
Rice: $0.50


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Who said Friday the 13th was unlucky?

Just got home from the store - I took my late-week shopping lesson from a few days ago, and when I checked out the sale listings on Couponmom I made special note of the items that were deeply discounted - anything over 60 percent off. Those would be the most likely to clear out before the end of the weekend, and since I don't know if I'll get to the store again before next week I didn't want to take any chances.

Boy did I make out well. I was already pretty well stocked for high-need items (produce, milk, eggs, etc) so this was really just a trip to load up the pantry and the freezer. I picked up split chicken breasts for 99 cents a pound, kielbasa was BOGO, ears of corn were 29 cents each, and I have enough Hamburger helper to carry me on plenty of nights when I just don't feel like working too hard in the kitchen. Between the meat purchases on Thursday and today, I have enough in the freezer now for about 3 weeks worth of dinners.

I giggled when I read the receipts from this trip:

Spent: $39.73

Saved: $63.09

That's no typo - I got over $100 worth of food for a little under 40 bucks.

Dinner tonight will consist of the corn (I'll cook it all but half will be scraped off the ear and frozen for another night) some chicken drumsticks, and homemade buttermilk biscuits. That's $0.75 for the corn, $0.50 for the biscuits, and about $1.80 for the chicken. Not a bad Friday night dinner for $3.25.

I'm so much more aware of how much we spend each week - and more aware of how completely in the dark I was about our actual grocery "budget" before this (I use that term VERY loosely!). I don't think I ever actually tracked our weekly spending, let alone restricted our budget. I just used the "only buy what's on sale" strategy as much as I could, but without any real plan. Planning meals ahead of time is still something I struggle with, though in all the reading I have done it is ALWAYS one of the key components of living frugally across many different writers and bloggers. A woman at work made a good point the other day as well, about cooking the "old fashioned" way - as in, only using what is in season locally instead of relying on imports from other states and countries to fill the fridge. With gas prices getting worse, I think I could sacrifice my Florida oranges if it means I can load up on apples from the orchard down the road for half the price.

If the schedule allows, I hope to post some more specific meal planning tools in the next week, as well as the promised food storage tips. In the meantime, happy Father's day weekend!

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Week 3 and a half

I was finally able to get to the store for stuff other than dire needs. It was a good learning experience in end-of-sale shopping, and I got a little coupon haggling in too :)

For starters, I did remarkably well - only a couple of the things I had set out to buy were sold out, and those things were really just padding the pantry and not total necessities. I did miss a really good sale on pasta, and they were out of the whole roaster chickens I had hoped to pick up. Loss leaders like those WILL sell out, so they are worth going early for. I had to hit 3 stores, but the final tallies looked like this:

Amount spent: $29.77
Amount saved: $36.51

I got about 12 pounds of meat, 18 eggs, fruit, pasta sauce, batteries, butter spread, canned tuna, and toothpaste. Plenty to keep us going for a few weeks! My biggest victory was on the butter spread - it was also a lesson in making sure you FULLY understand what your coupon covers and what the sales are. The smaller tubs of Shedds Spread were 4/$5 - not a bad deal, but not spectacular. EXCEPT the store flyer had a coupon - buy 2 tubs, get $2 off eggs, AND Couponmom reminded me of a $1 off 2 tubs coupon from a couple of weeks ago. So the 2 tubs were $2.50 total, and the 18 eggs would have been $2.79. Less the $2 eggs coupon and the $1 spread coupon, and I paid $2.29 for ALL THREE! WOO!

Lesson learned - KNOW what your coupons say and how the sale should work. When I handed the clerk my coupons, she rang in the $2 eggs coupon and then told me I couldn't use the coupon for the spread. I reminded her that the store coupon was for the eggs, not the spread. THEN she tried to point out that the coupon was only for the Country Crock Omega spread. I pointed out to her that it clearly stated "Good for Country Crock spreads OR Omega". She insisted it couldn't be used, so I asked her to call a manager over. Long story short, they accepted the coupon - but if I hadn't read carefully, I probably would have trusted her and taken the coupon back. Unless SPECIFICALLY STATED (i.e. "cannot be combined with any other offer") you can ALWAYS use manufacturer coupons together with store sales. And don't be afraid to stand up for your savings!

Funny thing, I just found this article on the Couponmom website: Overcoming Coupon Rejection
by Stephanie Nelson
. A smart shopper is an informed shopper!

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and cheese gets a bad rap. If all you've experienced is the kind that comes in the blue box, fear not! You don't need to be drowned in orange cheese food to enjoy this tasty, and cheap, dinner! The below recipe is from BetterBudgeting.com, I used a quarter cup of BBQ sauce instead of the Worcestershire for a little more zing and a different flavor. This made enough to feed all 3 of us twice.

Homemade Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Copyright © 2002 by Michelle Jones, editor of Better Budgeting

This is a recipe for traditional baked macaroni and cheese, and has a custard like texture (because of the eggs). You can also add more cheese if desired (and even several types), and some butter! When you find a good sale on cheese at your grocery story, just try several different variations until you discover your favorite. And if you'd prefer a creamier (and quicker) macaroni and cheese, view my recipe for Creamy Macaroni and Cheese.


8 ounces macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
8 ounces grated cheese (2 cups), reduced-fat if desired
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
Worcestershire sauce (I used 1/4 cup BBQ sauce)
2 c. milk (half & half can be used for a richer variation, and skim milk is okay but the sauce won't be as thick)


Beat eggs, salt and Worcestershire sauce (BBQ sauce) together in a medium sized bowl, add milk and mix thoroughly.

Layer macaroni and grated cheese (3 layers of each) in a casserole dish.

Pour egg mixture over macaroni and cheese and bake at 350 degrees until set and lightly browned on top. About 45-50 minutes.

Cost for this dish, with a full round of leftovers:
Macaroni elbows $0.50 (half a box)
Grated cheddar cheese $1.50 (half a 16 oz bag)
Eggs $0.24
BBQ sauce $0.50
Milk $0.36


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A couple of good articles

It's Monday, and I find myself without much new to share - we had a rough week last week financially and I haven't been able to get to the store other than to hit the "need" list - I should be able to do a little shopping either Wednesday or Thursday, and I'll be sure to share my findings! It will be interesting to see how different the availability of sale items is later in the week - I usually shop within a day or two of the sale start date but I have read some sites that use late-week shopping as part of their saving strategy, so I'll see whether that changes anything. At least I know that I can get rain checks from the drugstores if they run out of things I want!

The two articles below are from CNN.com and Boston.com and were shared by a friend of mine who has been following my misadventures...they are good barometers for where you are in the frugality spectrum and do offer some additional saving ideas.

Stretching your food budget with healthy choices

A look at 3 households

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Friday Fun!

TGIF has a whole new meaning to me now....the circulars come in the mail on Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning is when Couponmom updates - and the hunt begins! I have started bringing my circulars to work and browsing through the deals to see if I can pick out the big hitters - it's silly, but I get giddy on Thursday nights now!

I am sitting right now with circulars in one hand, and Couponmom and my spreadsheets open on the computer. This week I have a LOT of flexibility - the grand total for groceries on the "need" list this week was all of $20....That means in 3 weeks I have spent less than $200 on groceries and paper goods, with stuff in the stockpile to spare! There's no pressure to buy anything, but if I see wild deals I can stock up as much as I'm willing to!

A side note: according to the USDA website Briefing room, 10.5 percent of US households in 2006 experienced food insecurity - that's 35.5 million people who either didn't have enough to eat or were afraid they wouldn't be able to feed their family. I can definitely count myself in those numbers. So it's a very big deal to go through an entire month (including one of those mega-bills weeks where everything seems to come due) and not worry about whether I'd be able to get everything I needed into the pantry for the week.

So WOW...this could be a really good stock up week....Crest toothpaste for 50 cents! Deodorant for 83% off! Mueller's pasta for 50 cents a box! LOTS of BOGO deals on meat. And that's just at Shaws! Some of these deals are with store card, some with additonal coupons. Stop and Shop's deals aren't quite as prolific, but I see more meat deals that might be worth picking up, though not really going for broke. Tuna for 66 cents a can, and a really good deal on Shedd's Spread that includes a dozen eggs - sweet! Surprisingly, CVS has some pretty good deals - I can get some toothbrushes practically free, and there are some makeup deals worth checking out. CVS deals usually include Extra bucks - I have to get better about saving those. Some unexpected good deals at Walgreens, but I definitely need to dig up the circular from last week. Rite Aid doesn't have anything spectacular, but I flagged a few items that i saw on other store lists for comparison.

I've copied and pasted the most appealing deals into my handy-dandy spreadsheet, sometimes the same item is on sale at multiple stores so I definitely want to try for the lowest price I can get :) Tonight I'll go through and make up my potential shopping list and get the coupons clipped...tomorrow is shopping day!!!

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Breakfast adventures

I'm working on rekindling some of those old home-ec roots. Breakfast is one of those meals that tends to be all-or-nothing...either we do a big breakfast (pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc) or hardly anything at all. That strategy has proved neither healthy nor economical - when we DO eat, we tend to go for fattier foods or pricier cereals.

Hubby's cholesterol came back a little high last time he was tested, and since he's diabetic we want to make sure that doesn't become a bigger issue. Sadly for him, that meant less eggs for breakfast and snacks, and more of the dreaded "F" word.....Fiber.

We added oatmeal to the roster and that has fared pretty well - at Price Rite the 31-serving canister costs $1.69 - add a cup of milk and that works out to about $0.23 per serving....even with added fruit that's a hearty breakfast for under $0.50! But I wanted a little variety and an option that traveled a little better.

Muffins seemed to be the way to go - they travel well, freeze well, and I can work the add-ins around whatever is on sale or already handy. And a single homemade jumbo muffin will average between $0.35 and $0.45 per muffin (when an entire recipe makes 6 large muffins - if you make 12 smaller muffins, have two!) Now, before you scoff at the idea, this is NOT a time consuming endeavor. It took me all of 15 minutes to mix up the ingredients, and 25 minutes in the oven. I made breakfast for the next 6 mornings before my son had completely fallen asleep for his nap.

I have tried two batches so far, one blueberry and one banana - I am using half white and half wheat flour, that seems to make them a bit more substantial. I have found some recipes that will call for leftover oatmeal in place of some of the flour, and I can use Splenda instead of sugar so that hubby can partake as well. I am still searching for a good universal mix recipe, I have found a few online but haven't tested them out yet. The recipe below is one I found on HillbillyHousewife.com for a basic freezer muffin that was pretty good, though I found it came out more bread-like than cake-like. I used the whole egg instead of just the whites, and I substituted applesauce for the oil to reduce fat. After combining the wet and dry ingredients I added my filling, so far I've tried 1 pint frozen blueberries, and 1 1/2 mashed large bananas. I'll keep you posted on my experiments as I search out the perfect muffin!!!

Basic Freezer Muffin

2 C all purpose flour
1/3 C sugar
1 T baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 C canola oil
2 egg whites
1 C skim milk (from milk powder is fine)

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.Blend all the ingredients together well.
In a separate bowl blend the oil, egg whites and milk until blended completely together.
Pour into the dry mixture.Mix just until everything is moistened.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Prepare a muffin tin with a non stick cooking spray.
Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full of batter.Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a couple of muffins comes out clean.

**A note on freezing - These freeze REALLY easily, if you have a FoodSaver or other vacuum device use that method, but I just use a regular Ziploc Quart sized freezer bag. Put the muffin in, seal the bag ALMOST all the way, then fold the bag around the muffin and squeeze out the excess air. This makes a pretty good vacuum seal as well!

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Week three...and my list is SOOO short!

Well here I sit in Week 3 of my grocery mission. And believe it or not, my shopping needs list is only slightly longer than last week. I still have some london broil steaks, chicken, kielbasa and pork in the freezer downstairs...so dinners are pretty well covered for a while. All I truly need is the usual milk, eggs, fruit and veggies, and some lunch meat for the hubby's work week. Add a package of paper towels and my "needs" list should have a grand total somewhere around $25-$30. Which means in three weeks, my total grocery bill is just about at the $200 mark! Should I be getting excited about hitting my goal limit with 1 week still left? YES!!!! Because already my grocery bill for the month will be over $100 less than I was used to spending. That's HUGE progress!!!

The timing couldn't be better - with DH making a job transition and a few unexpected expenses that reared their heads, we were looking at having to scrimp and scrape to get by the next few weeks. But because I was able to stock up in Week 1, of all the worries I may have, feeding my family is not one of them!

Dinner this evening was easy enough - I did up a london broil steak in the crock pot as per the below recipe from Cooks.com:

London Broil
2 tbsp. oil
1 env. onion mushroom soup mix
flour and water

Heat oil in Dutch oven on medium/low heat. Put meat in to brown. Sprinkle pepper on top. Turn over when brown on bottom. Brown top. Sprinkle soup mix on top. Turn heat to low. Put lid on; simmer for 2 hours. Turn over after 1 hour. When fork tender, remove from pot; keep warm.
Make gravy: Mix flour and water in a cup to form a paste. Add 1 cup water to pan to heat up. Blend in paste, stirring constantly to blend into gravy.

I made a double portion of rice, served half and put the other half in the fridge for dinner later in the week. I also have a nice tub of leftover gravy that I can use for breakfast or dinner dressing. Add a side dish of frozen veggies, and this meal tallied up as such:

London Broil steak: $2.70
Onion soup packet: $0.25
Rice: $0.50
Frozen mixed veggies: $1.00

Grand total (with leftover rice, gravy and veggies): $4.45

My game plan for this week is to add some storage containers to my list - I can make up Jello and pudding cups, and preportion larger jars of applesauce for the kiddo if I have some 4- and 6-ounce storage containers. I also want to start pricing out larger airtight containers for homemade baking mix - I have been trolling the frugal sites for a good universal muffin recipe and have found some great ideas for homemade baking mix, but the cost savings will be better if I can do large batches. I'm also finding some good articles on bulk meal preparation - which will not only save money but time as well! I'll post recipes as I try them out and test their success!

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Italian Chicken Skillet

This is a great recipe from the book Diabetes Meal Planning on $7 a Day -- Or Less! by Patti Geil and Tami Ross. This recipe includes great meal-stretching ideas like cutting meat and veggies into small bite sized pieces, and thinning sauce out with water (or milk, depending on the topping) to help it go further.

Italian Chicken Skillet

Cooking spray

1 tsp corn oil

1 tsp (or 1 clove) minced garlic

¼ cup diced onion

1 8-oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces

1 7-oz can mushroom stems and pieces, drained and rinsed

1 or 2 small zucchini squash (approximately 3 oz), quartered lengthwise and diced into bite-sized pieces

1 14-oz jar reduced-sodium spaghetti sauce

½ cup water

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

2 2/3 cups cooked pasta, cooked without added salt or oil

Preparation Instructions
Prepare pasta according to package instructions

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add oil and warm over medium heat. Add garlic and onion. Cook until onion turns clear (about 3 minutes), stirring frequently.
Add chicken and cook until no longer pink (about 7 minutes). Stir in mushrooms, zucchini, spaghetti sauce, water, and red pepper flakes.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring periodically. Serve over hot pasta.

My total cost for this meal:

Onion - $0.15 (about half a small onion)

Chicken - $2.00

Zucchini - $0.45

Can mushrooms - $0.40

Pasta sauce - $0.75 (about half a large jar)

Pasta - $0.60 (about 2/3 package)

Grand total (with leftovers) $4.35

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