Monday, September 12, 2016

9 Day Budget-Friendly Menu with Shopping List

So, here's the deal. I like menu-planning. I like grocery shopping. And my favorite part? That feeling when the cashier scans your Kroger card & coupons (at the end of scanning the groceries, duh!), and the total bill gets lower and lower and lower!


Because my job in our family is not to make money. My job is to SAVE our family money. My job is to be a good steward of the resources (food and money) that God provides. For us, that means menu planning. Sticking to a budget. And making things from scratch. Around here, every penny counts.

So, here is a sample menu for our family of 5 (2 adults, 3 boys ages 6, 4 & 13mo). It covers 9 days of meals, but could stretch longer if you make enough for  a night or two of leftovers.

Sunday: BBQ Chicken Pizza
Monday: Chicken Fajitas
Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie
Wednesday: Ham and Cheese Quiche
Thursday: Pasties (see pie crust blog link below!)
Friday: Pancakes and Hash
Saturday: Pork Loin, Broccoli, Rice
Sunday: Silly Soup
Monday: Meatless Stir-Fry and Rice

Sunday-Tuesday's meals do not need side dishes. You will use one rotisserie chicken for all 3 meals. The veggies from the pizza will be the veggies for the fajitas and the pot pie. You may need to buy a bag of frozen mixed veggies to supplement the pot pie.

I use the pie crust in this blog post (I use 2 cups of Criso instead of lard!) and use it for the Pot Pie, Quiche and Pasties (Tuesday-Thursday's meals). Any left over pastie filling from Thursday goes into the hash for Friday. MAKE THE PANCAKES FROM have the ingredients in your pantry. It's not hard. You can do it!

Saturday-Monday you're going to use a pork loin and a bunch of fresh veggies. Cook Saturday's meal and make sure you cook extra pork. For Silly Soup: Cook ramen noodles WITHOUT the flavor packet in chicken stock (that you MAKE YOURSELF from the chicken carcass from the rotisserie chicken earlier that week), top with RAW veggies sliced really thin. we like: mushrooms, red peppers, whole snap peas, carrots. Also top with hard boiled eggs and the leftover pork. We call it Silly Soup because my boys think the noodles are silly. Use the leftover veggies to make stir-fry and serve it over rice.

Some notes on making things from scratch:

I make bread every day. I have a recipe that allows me to mix it up when my boys go to bed and bake it in the morning. One loaf lasts us 1-2 days (depending on lunches) and a bag of bread flour lasts 1-1.5 weeks. That's $3-$6/week (depending on the type of bread flour you choose) for bread. Bread that is 4 ingredients instead of the 30+ in the store-bought loaves.

I grow thing, can things, and freeze things. If I can grow it, I do. And then some. When I can't grow something, I buy extra when it's in season and can/freeze it for the rest of the year. This includes making jam. Lots of jam.

I make our own seasonings. Taco, fajita, chili, name it, and you can find it on Pinterest.

All these things take a tiny bit of extra time, but the money it saves adds up to be pretty significant. The added bonus is that I feel better about what I'm putting into my family's bodies, and I don't feel bad a

I make our seasonings: taco, fajita, chili etc. 
All these little things take a tiny bit of time, and the money we save on each thing adds up to be significant. Bonus: I feel better about what I'm putting in my family's bodies and don't feel bad when we splurge on fast food!

Grocery List
Before shopping, cross off anything you already have enough of in your pantry!

ramen noodles (3-4 pkgs)

BBQ sauce

green pepper
red onion
frozen mixed veggies
red pepper (2)
snap peas/snow peas

rotisserie chicken
ham cubes/lunch meat
ground beef (1lb)
pork loin (1-2)

colby cheese
eggs (1 dozen)

I'd LOVE to hear if you try this menu out!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Blueberry Cardamom & Clove Jam -Pectin Free!

It's blueberry season. 

Earlier this week, I took the boys to our special spot to pick and we got a bucket full. We had enough for munching and enough for jam. Yes! 

So, today, I made jam. I wanted to try something different tho. I searched Pinterest and Google for recipes that sounded tasty, but none were quite what I wanted. So, in typical "me" fashion, I made it up. 

Here's what I know about blueberries: They are low in pectin. They congeal when mashed up. I don't like them too sweet.

Here's what I came up with: 
Blueberry Cardamom & Clove Jam

Here's how I did it:

-8 cups of blueberries (whole, unmashed)
-3 cups of brown sugar
-2 lemons
-a squirt of vanilla
-a generous sprinkle of cardamom
-a generous sprinkle of clove
***those last 3 ingredients can be omitted, decreased or increased based on your tastes!***

Mix washed blueberries, brown sugar, juice of the lemons into a pot and get 'em boiling. Add the vanilla and spices whenever you want to. My opinion is that the later you add the vanilla, the more you taste it, but the earlier you add the spices the more time they have to do their magic! My best advice...experiment! ;)
Once this is boiling, lower it to a steady simmer until the mixture is reduced by about half. 
***While it's simmering and reducing, prep your jars and lids! I used 3 1/4 pint jars (4oz each), 1 pint jar and had about a quarter pint left plan on 2 pints.
When it has reduced by about half, fill the jars, leaving about a 1/4" of head space. Can them in a water bath (about 10 minutes).  
Listen for that ever-satisfying "POP", and enjoy that leftover little bit on some fresh bread! 

Monday, June 6, 2016

I'm Thankful for Eggs and Bread

Lately, my depression has been sneaking up on me. Instead of a rapid attack, Satan used the slowing down of life at the end of May to ease me into a state of apathy and…how to describe it…fuzziness. Now that life is at a slower pace, I am out of survival mode. There’s nowhere to be. No homework to do. No games to attend or practices to be on time for. It’s a relief, really. April and most of May were exhausting.

So here I am. A few weeks into summer break. The new house is looking good; there’s nothing pressing or overtly ugly to fix. The kids are home all day; for better or worse. We only leave the house when we WANT to; playdates & errands, usually. And Satan is trying to use this idle time against me. This time that I was so looking forward to is being clouded with fuzziness and a distinct lack of motivation. Well, suck.

Then, this morning happened. I got up to feed the baby at 5:45 (the fact that he still wakes up for feedings at 10 months is a whole other post!), and stayed awake. I made coffee. I did a short yoga sequence. I drank hot coffee and studied the Bible. This is not a new routine for me. This is a routine I have had for the past year, but has been interrupted lately for a variety of reasons. But, this is a routine that gives me life. More about that another time though. J

After my morning routine of “me” time, I made breakfast for my family. This particular breakfast brought with it a renewed sense of gratitude. You see, I made French toast. With homemade cinnamon sugar raisin bread and eggs from our chickens. In the past few days, when the cloud of depression has been looming dark and low, I pushed through and made bread for my family. I took care of the chickens. In these particular moments of bread making and chicken tending, these things were chores; not particularly enjoyable and requiring an extraordinary amount of motivation…something I’ve been lacking lately. However, this morning, I saw a break in the clouds. A sliver of light shining through when I found satisfaction in feeding my family with my own hands. The bread I made. The eggs I collected. When I was sad, unfocused and would have rather been hiding in a dark hole…or at least binge watching Army Wives on Netflix ;)

Glory to God, y'all. (I’m still trying that word out. Yankee to my core, apparently!) Praise be to God for fighting for me. When I could hardly function under the cloud, Jesus said, “Screw you, Satan! You can’t have her!” Seriously!? The God of the universe fights for ME! What an incredible love I feel from my Jesus. The One who saved me! The One who continues to save me every. Single. Day. Glory to God.

So, today, I’ll find the small things to be grateful for. Eggs. Bread. Blanket forts. A fat baby who finally rolls (God help me!), PBS kids, sunshine, and on and on and on. But, I’ll also look for where God is moving, and be thankful for those things too. His providence. His protection. His grace. His mercy. His love. Definitely His love.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Pectin Free Strawberry Jam & How to Can it: A Photo Guide

Strawberry season is upon us…ok, it’s almost over. BUT there’s still time to get your hands on some tasty little red morsels of goodness! Many people have asked me to teach them how to make jam and also how to can it. I WISH I could go to everyone’s home and teach them how to make jam and can it. I would also die with glee if I could host a jam making/canning class in my home. Alas, I am only one woman. One woman with a mess of crazies running around & not enough time or space to accommodate.

I can’t give individual lessons to everyone, but I CAN show you thru pictures! Stick with me here and I’ll walk you through how I make pectin-free strawberry jam and how to can it.

If you want to use pectin, you can still follow the canning directions below. Pectin will yield a thicker jam. The following recipe is thinner, but uses no boxed pectin…and it tastes like strawberry lemonade! Yum!
What you’ll need for JAM:
2-3 lemons (zest of one, 1/2c juice)
4 quarts of strawberries (washed and with the caps off)
5 cups of sugar

Once your strawberries are washed and uncapped, blend them to the chunkiness you want your jam to be. I like mine to be kind of chunky, so that’s what the pictures will show. Put your strawberry mash into a large pot.

Add the sugar to the strawberry mash.

Add the zest of one lemon
Let this mixture sit for 2 hours.

This is the perfect time to gather your canning supplies! This recipe will make 3-4 pints, OR 6-8 half pints, OR a combination of both. I usually get one jar that is not full and use that one right away. You will need rings and lids for the jars also. You will need tongs or some other way to get the jars in/out of the boiling water (I suggest the canning tongs. Worth it!). And you’ll need a large stock pot with enough water to cover the tallest jar. There should be an inch of water over the tallest jar. If you have a canning funnel, you’ll want it. If you don’t have one, you’ll want one.

When 2 hours is up, turn your stove on medium heat to get the berry mixture to boil. (When you start boiling your jam, start boiling the water in your stock pot.)

Boil for 5 minutes. Stir regularly. (A boil means that when you stir the mixture, it does not stop bubbling. This is when you start your timer.)

While your jam is heating up, put your jars in the sink and fill them with boiling water. This will sterilize them and prepare them for the hot jam.

Also, put your lids and rings in a bowl and fill with boiling water.

After your jam has boiled for 5 minutes, add the lemon juice. Boil an additional 5 minutes.

Lay a dish towel on the counter next to the jam pot. Put your empty jars on the towel.
Turn off the heat. Fill the jars. Leave about a 1/4 inch of headspace. That looks like this:
Wipe the top of the jars with a clean damp cloth to get any residue/jam off the rim. Cover with a hot lid and tighten with a ring.

When your jars are all full, put them into the boiling water in your stock pot.

Set timer for 10 minutes. When the water is at a rolling boil, start the timer. 

When the time is up, remove the pot from heat. Remove the jars and put them on the towel. (No need to put them upside down.)

Now, you’re going to listen for the most satisfying sound you’ll hear all day…a sucking POP! That is the sound of your jars sealing!

I know it’s tempting to tilt the jars to see how thick your jam is, but DON’T! Let them sit overnight.

Woohoo! You did it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thoughts From a 3am Feeding

Hi baby. Stop crying. I need to buy marshmallows. Add it to the list. How the heck do I make a turkey? Like a whole chicken? Mmmm...lemon & herb turkey. Buy lemons. Cut rosemary. Do I have a pan big enough to roast the turkey? How big is it? 15lbs. Buy roaster. Marshmallows, lemons, roaster. Keep eating baby. I should pray for my baby. *praying* I should pray for ALL my kids! *praying* DON'T FORGET THE LIST! Marshmallows, lemons, roaster. *more praying* WAKE UP! I'll get the list at Walmart. Then I can pick up ribbon. Add ribbon to list. What time should I go to Walmart? Oldest has Thanksgiving feast tomorrow. Need to send in cookies and spoons. Put cookies in tupperware so they don't smoosh. Add spoons to list. Marshmallows, lemons, roaster. Gotta prep Thanksgiving dinner. What will fit in fridge? Green bean casserole. How do I make that?! Hope I got the right soup. Creamed corn. Marshmallows, lemons, roaster. Do I have a pan big enough for creamed corn? I'll have to make sweet potatoes on the stove. Not enough room in oven. Marshmallows for sure. Marshmallows, lemons, roaster. Add pan for creamed corn...nah. I'll make it work. Hi baby. Hurry up and eat. I'm tired. I love this kid. Mmmm socks. It's cold. I'm warm tho. Glad I wore socks to bed. Should I pee? I'm thirsty. Can I make it until the next feeding if I don't pee? I can pee and get a drink. One trip to the bathroom. Efficient. Marshmallows, lemons, roaster. I should write this all down. *typing on phone* What the heck am I doing?! It's 3:30am. I'll put it on my blog. Some mom out there will relate...