AsylumMom

Life on the inside. I've been sentenced 18 years to life and The Wardens are doing their best to drive me even crazier.

Archive for the category “Recipes”

Saving Money and Stress – Homemade Cleaners

Here’s a post I’ve intended to do for a long time now and simply forgot. Often, I get asked about how we manage to save so much money on our monthly living expenses and one of the simple answers is on household cleaners. One of the reasons we switched was for cost effectiveness, but it’s come with added benefits such as not worrying about chemicals in my home and having a use for things that would have otherwise found their way to the trash can.

I have multiple recipes I follow for different purposes but for now I’ll stick to my all purpose cleaner. It’s my favorite and I use it for just about everything (except glass, it does NOT work on glass haha). When I say just about everything, I mean it. I’ll tell you one of my favorite stories here about how my natural cleaner is the lazy mom’s best friend:

It was left over spaghetti day in my house and Row had decided to try and wear some of it as a mustache. So as I am cleaning off his high chair, I take one look at him, decide it’s too big of a job for baby wipes, and simply sprayed some of my cleaner onto a paper towel and wiped his face off with it. The red blotchy stains on his skin and the sticky noodles came right off and I never even blinked at the thought of using a cleaner on his fair skin. The cleaner was made from organic ingredients that were present in a lot of his diet, I knew it wouldn’t hurt him.

 

I posted this story on my facebook page a while back and a friend of mine said she was so inspired that she immediately switched to homemade cleaners! She said that the fact that I wasn’t afraid for it to touch my son, and that she had recently caught her own baby on the verge of spraying himself with a bottle of bleach cleaner, made her a believer.

 

Sadly, I am not home to take pictures of the process but there’s not much to show anyway, so it’s not that vital.¬†I make two versions of this cleaner throughout the year, depending on the season. The two types are a basil cleaner and a citrus cleaner. They both have antibacterial properties and will clean like nobody’s business. I could go into detail about the differences in each one, but honestly I just change for the smell and abundance of ingredients. The variations aren’t all that noticeable anyway.

 

Cleaner 1: Citrus

In the summer and warmer months, my kids and I eat a lot of oranges and I like to make lemonade, so the citrus cleaner is used a lot in that time. When we eat the oranges, or make lemonade, I save the peels (and any rind/pulp/seeds that don’t get used) and put them in mason jars, cover with vinegar, and let them soak for at least two weeks, or up to a month. After they’re done soaking, i strain the citrus vinegar out of the jars, directly into my spray bottle, and then dilute with water. I usually guess at the amounts but it’s always about a 1/3 solution and 2/3 water ratio. I just give it a little shake in the bottle and I’m good to go! If a stain is really hard stuck, i sprinkle a little baking soda on it and spray with this cleaner, the acid activates the baking soda and that usually lifts it right off, even if it needs a little scrubbing.

 

Cleaner 2: Basil

The basil cleaner isn’t always as good on the tough stuff, there’s just something about that citrus that really eats at it. However, it still gets most of the grease and sticky spills up thanks to the vinegar. The vinegar is the main cleaning component in both of these recipes, with the differences being boosts of separate sorts. In this solution, I take about 3 cups of water and a handful of fresh basil leaves, and boil it for about a minute, turn off the heat, and let them steep until the water is cool. Then I scoop out the leaves, pour into my spray bottle, add about 1 cup of vinegar, and then fill with water the rest of the way.

 

Variations on both cleaners that I love include adding some essential oils to change the scent, or adding 1/2 cup of witch hazel to increase the antibacterial and antiviral capabilities, especially during flu season. All of this is completely safe around children! (Unless you decide to use peppermint oil, which can be a skin and eye irritant.)

 

So if you are like me and get a little lazy with the messy monsters around and don’t want to have to switch cleaners for every little mess, or have to spend money on all kinds of different cleaners for every surface, then try these homemade cleaners! They will save your wallet and your sanity all in one sweep, and they don’t smell half bad either!

Real Food: Beef and Bean Soup

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A few days ago, we had a cold snap. Any time it gets cold, I love to make soups, stews, and baked goods. There’s just something about having the smell of something cooking in your home, with the residual heat coming off of the stove, that just warms me from the outside right down to my soul. This time I opted for a classic in our family, beans. Everyone remembers growing up on beans. They were cheap and easy to make. However, I wanted to amp them up a little. I wanted them to taste good and familiar, but also have a little nutritional punch and be filling! Last time we ate beans, my husband didn’t really eat much, but this time he ate two bowls! And my precious B, who has been refusing almost all foods, ate two servings of his own! I was one proud mama!

So what made it so good? Maybe it’s that I used all ingredients from scratch, chopped and washed and seasoned with love… Perhaps it’s that it was slow cooked for several hours… Or maybe it’s the combination of those two things and the time of year. I don’t know, but it sure did the trick.

So if you’re looking for a warm meal that will taste like your grandma just teleported into your kitchen, a meal that is so smooth and simple, yet exciting and new, with every flavor melded seamlessly together, then this is the recipe for you.

Did I mention that it’s EASY!?

Yep. It’s so easy that you’ll wonder why you haven’t tried it before.

Let’s start with the ingredients:

I took one chopped bell pepper, about 3 chopped mushrooms, some roasted garlic, sun dried tomatoes, about 2 strips of maple smoked bacon, some lovely ground beef, butter, seasonings, and my secret weapon (thanks to my husbands beast friend) a spoonful of pace picante sauce.

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I also had 1/2 of a chopped onion in a bag in my freezer. I like to keep onions chopped and ready for cooking, especially because I can buy in bulk, chop, and freeze!

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And then the most important ingredient! One pound of sorted and washed pinto beans! (Strained of course)

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I melt the butter in the saucepan and toss in the vegetables, stirring until they are soft, and then I add the bacon. After a minute or two, I pour in the beans, stirring to get them all mixed in. I pour in 2 cups of beef broth and 2 cups of water. Next I add the ground beef and seasonings.

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After I have stirred everything and I’m sure it’s all seasoned, I pop the lid on that pot and leave it alone! Only returning to stir on occasion and top it off with some water. After a few hours your house will smell amazing and you are ready to eat!
As a note, if you want a thicker recipe, just don’t add as much water when topping it off. The beans will absorb most of it and some will escape through steam. However, this recipe is already fairly thick. So if you wish it to be a more liquid soup, then add more water. It’s that easy!

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Recipe:

Ingredients
One pound dry pinto beans (sorted and rinsed)
One pound of lean ground beef
One green bell pepper, chopped
About 3 mushrooms, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp roasted garlic, minced
1/2 sun dried tomato, chopped fine
1 spoonful Pace picante sauce (optional)
2-3 strips maple bacon, chopped into small pieces
3-4 tbsp butter
2 C beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp basil
2 tsp paprika

Directions
In large pot, melt butter with roasted garlic over med high heat. Toss in chopped vegetables and cook until slightly soft. Add in the bacon and cook that just until the edges start to curl. Pour in the beans and stir until all ingredients are mixed well. Pour in 2 C beef broth and 2 C water. Allow it to warm up but not come to a boil yet. Once it’s warm, add the ground beef, chopping into manageable sizes and stirring in. Stir in seasonings. Bring the mix to a low boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to med low. Cover and allow to cook for a minimal of 3 hours but up 5. Stirring occasionally to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom. You may need to add some more water occasionally to keep the water level above the beans. Salt to taste and serve hot with bread.
Makes approximately 6 servings.

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Fluffy Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pancakes with Chia Seeds

These pancakes are so fluffy and yummy that you don’t even really NEED syrup for them. I don’t even have pictures because my kids were eating them as fast as I could make them up! I love pancakes. They’re fast and easy to make, the ingredients are common, and they can be made in a way that they’re almost healthy, but are at least a great source of fuel to start your day on! However, most recipes are too dense and too… Blah for my tastes. This morning I started to improvise on an old recipe and came up with these light and airy, sweet and yummy beauties! I think I will make them again tomorrow and I’ll try to snag some photos of them before they disappear down my munchkin’s bottomless pits. ūüėČ

Ingredients:
1 1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 heaping Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp chia seeds
1 1/2 C whipping cream – (a little less than two small cartons, shake a little first)
1 egg
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Directions

Put dry ingredients into medium mixing bowl, make sure there aren’t any lumps in the brown sugar! Mix to combine with whisk.

In another bowl, stir egg until its all mixed together, add the melted butter and vanilla and whisk. Slowly pour in whipping cream, whisking vigorously. When the mixture starts to thicken you are done. Add the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until fully combined into a batter.

Heat your flat top grill to 350. Use a ladle to pour out small rounds of batter. This mix takes longer than some recipes so be patient. Watch for bubbles to start coming through the batter. Wait for the bubbles to stop, if the sides are risen and cracked, you are ready, if they’re not, wait for them to rise. Then flip them over. And wait for the bottoms to brown up. When you lightly touch the center and it feels like a fluffy cake texture (or bounces back from your touch like a sponge) then the pancake is ready.

Move to a plate, top with syrup, and serve!! (Or just hand one dry to your child as he runs away from you!)

Update, as I was typing my son stopped to investigate with one of the pancakes in his hand so I actually caught a blurry picture before he ran off. Haha!

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The Very Best Peach Crumble Pie with Caramel Whiskey Sauce

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My poor dilapidated blog will be making a comeback! (Again?) starting with this amazing recipe! Do you like peach cobbler? Do you like whiskey? How about honey or dark brown sugar? Do you like pie? Well, welcome to heaven! Last Saturday I went grocery shopping and decided to check out a farmers market and surprised myself with a bunch of fresh peaches intending to make a cobbler! But after a while, I started to go another direction, thinking I’d like to add whiskey, then caramel, and make it a pie, but crunchy… My brain went around and around like that until I finally landed on a crumbly pie with a sauce. ūüôā I do have a favorite whiskey that this recipe was built on. Fresh peaches and whiskey were the founding stones of this pie and everything else was just designed to encase them in the best way possible. I apologize in advance for the photo quality here, my camera was dead and I didn’t realize it until I got started! So I just used my phone. ūüėõ Bust first, a shot of the lovely whiskey!

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Now, for the recipe!

For my pie crust, I used a recipe for a super flaky crust that I found here at completelydelicious.com, however, where the recipe calls for vodka, I used my honey whiskey instead. I was determined to squeeze that honey flavor in anywhere I could!

For my filling, I created my own recipe after looking over too many recipes that weren’t what I wanted.

Ingredients for the crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk, cold
1-2 tablespoons water, cold
1 large egg, beaten, for the egg wash
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top of pie

Ingredients for the peaches and sauce
6-10 large, ripe, fresh peaches (I prefer more peaches for a fuller pie, use 6 for basic, 10 for fuller)
1/2 C lemon juice
1+ C of American Honey Whiskey (71proof)
2 C packed dark brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C whipping cream
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Ingredients for the crumble
3/4 C all purpose flour
3/4 C brown sugar (dark or light, your choice)
1 stick unsalted butter, slightly salted
1 C old fashioned oats

You want to assemble the crust first! Once you reach the part of the recipe that calls for chilling for an hour, that is where you will begin to assemble to pie fillings! The instructions below are copied and pasted from the website, so remember the changes I made! Replace the vodka (or water) with whiskey!

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the cubed butter and toss to coat. Dump the mixture out onto a clean surface and use a rolling pin to roll the butter into thin sheets, combining it with the flour. Use a bench scraper to scrape the rolling pin and to bring the mixture back into a pile as necessary. Continue until all of the butter is incorporated into the flour. Mixture will be very flaky. Return mixture to the bowl and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill the butter.

Remove from freezer and add the buttermilk. Use a spoon and then your hands to stir the mixture until it comes together into a ball. If mixture is too dry, add the water a tablespoon at a time. Divide the dough in two and flatten into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

When ready to roll out, let the dough rest at room temperature for five minutes. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rough 13 inch circle. Dough should be about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer dough to pie dish. Fill pie with peach filling. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Cut dough to form the covering of your pie in the design that you wish.

Now that the crust is chilling you will want to begin assembling the fillings for the pie. First, rinse the peaches well. Cut each in half and peel the halves, removing the core. After they are peeled, slice the peaches into thin slices and place in a large tub. Pour the lemon juice and about 2-3 tbsp of whiskey over the peaches. Add cold water until the peaches are just covered. Set this aside while you prepare the sauce.

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In a large pot, pour 1C of whiskey and turn to med-hi heat. Bring the whiskey up to just before boiling, where a few bubbles are forming on the bottom, add in 1/2 C of the brown sugar, whisking constantly. When the mixture starts to foam and bubble, start adding in 3 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp at a time, allowing each to melt inbetween additions. Continue to whisk. Now add 1 more cup of the brown sugar and whisk! The sugar with foam furiously, whisking will keep it under control. After the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat to med and continue to gently whisk and stir for another 10 min. Now, slowly add 1 C of whipping cream, whisking it in until it is all an even color. Turn heat to med-low and let sit for 5 min, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is resting, strain the peaches. You want to lightly press them and move them around as to get as much of the lemon water off of them as possible. Once they are strained, add them into the sauce, stirring lightly to coat them all. Bring the peaches up to a med-hi heat. Add in the last 1/2 C of brown sugar, 2 tbsp of butter, and the nutmeg, stirring lightly until it is all dissolved and mixed well. Slowly allow the mixture to come to a slight boil then reduce the heat to low and let stew, uncovered, for 10 minutes gently stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and allow mixture to rest while you prepare the crumble.

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For the crumble, combine the flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Cut butter into flour and sugar mixture until crumbly. I used a fork to help break it all up! Now, use your hands and add in the oats until combined and you have a nice, evenly crumbly mixture!

Now that the peaches have settle, strain the sauce into a separate bowl, pressing peaches until all the sauce is out. Set sauce aside (it’s liquid heaven!!!) and allow peaches to stay in strainer, I placed it back over the now cooled pot so any left over sauce could drip out on its own.

At this point, I was ready to remove my pie crusts from the fridge and roll them out, following the instructions from the recipe above. Follow the link to her post for detailed photos of each step. It helped me a lot to have the photos for reference!

Once the pie crust is rolled into the pan, you are ready to assemble the pie! At this point, set your oven to 350F to preheat. This picks a layered pie. Starting with a layer of the crumble. Make sure you coat the entire bottom! No gaps!

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Then you add the strained peaches…

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Resist the urge to snack on them! Next, add almost all of the crumble, leaving about 1/4 cup (or less) for sprinkling on top of the pie for decoration.

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Sorry for the blurry photo! I was using my phone :P. next, you will take 1 1/2 cups of the caramel whiskey sauce and drizzle it over the crumble. Take the last 2 tbsp of your stick of butter from the sauce recipe, and cut it into little cubes to place all over the crumble.

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Next, I rolled out my remaining ball of pie crust and using a pastry cutter, cut out little hearts for my top layer of crust. You can do whatever design you like! Most peach pies traditionally have a lattice design, but I’m hopeless with those so I went another route ūüėČ

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Now, you will coat the crust dough with an egg wash (per the instructions from the pie recipe) and then sprinkle the remaining crumble on top for decoration!

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Now pop that baby in the oven! Let it bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is a deep amber brown. Don’t go golden! Golden isn’t done enough! This is a dark recipe with dark sugars! You want to let it bake until it reaches that secret spot where sugars seem to caramalize and darken and let out bits of heaven! ūüôā but, while it’s baking, take all that left over sauce and can it! You will want to pour some over each slice of pie you eat! But it makes a lot, so can it because it makes a great ice cream sauce too! Use it how you wish or just drink some of it (not that I did that or anything……)

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Heaven in a jar right there.
Now that the pie is done, stare at it while it cools a little! It needs to cool for about 30 minutes so it all settles. Trust me, it will still be plenty warm for a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream, but if you cut into right away, it won’t hold it’s form and you will have bits squishing out everywhere! Marvel at the glorious pie that you made! Marvel at it!

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Shopping Results and What to do The First Day – Month Under $300

I’m finally here! I know I’m late but I can finally take the time to write up this post. And prepare yourself, it’s going to be a doozy.

To start things off, my shopping trip yesterday. I have included my receipts below and I know the totals are higher than expected, but let me remind you, this bit is about¬†groceries. My receipt includes other¬†household¬†needs (like dish soap and toilet paper). Therefore, I have marked out the things that weren’t groceries but left the prices. Below each picture I will put how much I spent on food or food related items and then will give you my total. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I forgot to get the receipt for the gas but I spend $63.00. This amount would bring my total cost slightly above $300 for the day, but, it was well worth it.

First, I went to Walmart.

Walmart, trip one: $208.53

These trips costs also include the cost of formula for Row, and some snack items for B. Such as hot dog weenies, a box of packaged animal crackers, a box of packaged fruit snacks, and some Nutella to trick them into eating breakfast. There are also some extra veggies and fruits there to make baby food with. Those things weren’t on my shopping list from my previous post but I needed them for The Wardens. My total will still be under $300.

Sam’s, trip two: $66.09

After deducting the unrelated items, I added the two together to get a total of:

$274.62!

 

Now the fun part can begin!

After you get home with your groceries and you have taken the thirty minutes (or more if you have stairs or are alone) it takes to lug it all into your house, you can start putting things away or setting them aside. My trip lasted late yesterday so I simply put my meats on the bottom shelf of my fridge until morning. I put away the things that were already frozen and the dry or other cold goods. This morning, I got up and got ready to take care of the longest and most complicated day of this process. I promise the other days aren’t nearly this difficult!

A quick look at my tiny pantry trying to look organized without busting at the seams:

Teeny-tiny pantry

Teeny-tiny pantry

First, I got ready to¬†separate¬†and pre-prep the beef related meals. The bag meals for the Teriyaki Chicken and the Stew can be found in a link in yesterday’s post. I don’t have to explain those here. And you can scroll past the part where she talks about the shopping lists and such, we took care of that part already.

The other beef things called for certain amounts of beef per recipe. Because I want to save money, I buy my beef in the largest packages I can. Which just so happen to be 5lb rolls.

10lbs of beef

10lbs of beef

So, in order to get the meat I needed, I made a short list on a scrap piece of paper to take to the kitchen with me.

4lb – Goulash

2lb – Shepherd’s Pie

2lb – Spaghetti

2lb- Meatballs

Then I grab a sharpie, some gallon size freezer bags, plastic wrap, and get ready to go. (I use plastic wrap and plastic bags for several reasons; you can re-use the bags later, the wrap makes it easier to separate the meat, and double wrapping prevent freezer burn.)

First you need to label your bags. I only used three and labeled one “Goulash-4lb”, another with “Shepherd’s Pie-2lb and Spaghetti-2lb”, and the third with “Swedish¬†Meatballs-2lb”

Because I plan on prepping the meatballs, I don’t care how the meat is. And because I want to keep my beef easy to package, I want to others to stay in rolls. This means that I cut about 1lb (don’t worry about being exact! Just guess about a fifth of the roll) off of the end of one roll to create my 4lb package for my Goulash. Wrap that is plastic wrap and toss it in your labeled bag. Make sure to squeeze the air out. It’s easy, just roll it!

4lbs for Goulash!

Next, you take the other roll and do the same to the end of it! That gives us our second pound for the meatballs and leaves us with 4lbs. Now cut that in half. Wrap each of those rolls and put them in your Shepherd’s Pie/Spaghetti Bag. Easy-peasy!

The two 1lb ends for the meatballs.

The two 1lb ends for the meatballs.

Easy-peasy!

Easy-peasy!

Then comes the fun part. Take the two 1lb ends and dump them in a large bowl. Throw in some seasoning (whatever you like), some bread crumbs if you want, an egg, and anything else you think you might like.

It's not an exact science!

It’s not an exact science!

Then, mix it all up until it’s nice and even. I used my hands. (Yes, they were clean, I wash them before and after every handling because meat is¬†slimey.) You can use a spoon if you like but I’m from the south and here, cooking is hands on. Once it’s mixed well like this…

…we can start making our meatballs.

Meatballs! Meatballs!

Meatballs! Meatballs!

And yes, I used my hands for those, too. They aren’t perfectly round because I didn’t measure or use an ice-cream scooper. Just use your hands! It will all be fine! When we are done with this, we can put them in their own bag and place them in the freezer! Make sure to lay them flat first so they don’t get squished. But once they are frozen you can move them. When I’m ready to cook with them, since this recipe has been doubled, I can just break off half and thaw them and use the other half when I’m ready!

Freeze flat!

Freeze flat!

Finally! We can clean up our mess from the beef. Make sure you clean everything really well because we are working with the chicken next. However, because chicken is SO NASTY (in my opinion), I just got in and got out. I didn’t stop to wash my hands just to take a picture. So, unfortunately, I only have an end result for you. However, I will explain how I got there.

Once again, I made a list of what I needed for each bag.

4 breasts – Teriyaki

6-8 breasts – Spanish Chicken

6 chopped fine – Quesadillas

4 chopped – Alfredo

And once again, label the bags. I only used 4 bags (two for each of the Teriyaki and Spanish chicken) and used plastic containers for the chopped ones. You can go to the previous post for the Teriyaki recipe. The Spanish Chicken recipe is also in a link in the previous post, however, I made it a freezer meal so here is what I did:

First, I trimmed the breasts of any extra fat. Then I placed them flat in the bag (4 in each). I then poured the enchilada sauce, taco seasoning, and about a half a cup of shredded cheese¬†per bag. After that, I added in a half a can of drained and rinsed black beans to each bag and a half a can of whole kernel corn to each because I had some spare in my pantry. When I’m ready to cook it, I will thaw it about halfway and then dump it into my stew pot and cook on a medium heat while stirring (and adding a little water as needed) until almost fully cooked and then will turn the heat to low and allow it to sit until the chicken is easy to shred. This will then be served with soft tortillas and Spanish rice! (You can use your crock pot, this was originally a crock pot recipe. I don’t have a crock pot anymore/at the moment so I use a stew pot. Because I’m home all day, it’s fine. I just stir it more often.)

After that is done we can trim and chop the other breasts for the last two meals. Here are the end result containers of chopped chicken. Notice the two together are a darker color and chopped finer. This is because I seasoned them with cumin and paprika and a little season salt because they are going into my quesadillas and we like our tex-mex spicy in my house. The other container is for chicken alfredo, though, and therefore was seasoned much more lightly and chopped into larger pieces.

Tex-Mex Style

Tex-Mex Style

For the Alfredo

For the Alfredo

 

Whew! Finally! I can put this all away and go do something else! I had dinner with family tonight so I didn’t actually cook which means no recipe tonight, darlings. But, alas, I fear you might gladly accept that! A recipe added to all this mess would just be entirely too much. Tomorrow I have church and then possible lunch with Dad’s family that may even turn into dinner. If it’s late at night ¬†before you hear from me again then you can bet it was a good day. But I WILL¬†post again. I have to give my weekly roundup and weekend recap!

So until then, goodnight!

 

Menu, Shopping List, and Some Information – One Month of Food Under $300

The way I start my plan for the coming month is I sit down and make a list of meals that my family often likes or that anyone requests. After I have my list, I go through and weed out any that may require some special or random ingredient that could be more expensive, unless I have a reason for that certain meal (like company). I end up with list of meals that looks something like this: (P.S. this is my actual menu for the month of February)

1) Texas Goulash ‚Äď x2&Freeze (4)

4lb ground beef, 4 cans of corn, 4 cans ranch style beans, 4 boxes mac-n-cheese, 2 cans rotel.

2) Chicken Spaghetti ‚Äď x2&Freeze (4)

1 whole chicken(or 6-8 chicken breasts), 2 can cream of chicken, 1 small box velveeta, 2 cans rotel, spaghetti noodles shredded cheese

3) Stew ‚Äď Freezer Bag (2)

1 green bell pepper, 2 onions, 2 cans corn, 1 bag baby carrots, minced garlic, 3 lbs beef stew meat, 2 6oz can tomato paste, paprika (noodles)

4) Teriyaki Chicken ‚Äď Freezer Bag (2)

1 bag baby carrots, 1 red onion, minced garlic, 4 chicken breasts, 1 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (served with rice)

5) Spanish Chicken ‚Äďx2 Freezer Bag (4)

6-8 chicken breasts, 2 cans enchilada sauce, 1 bag taco seasoning, shredded cheese (served with tortillas and Spanish rice)

6) Shepherd‚Äôs Pie ‚Äď x2&Freeze (4)

2lb ground beef, 2 cans green beans, 2 cans corn, 1lb potatoes, 2 cans ranch style beans, shredded cheese

7) Swedish Meatballs ‚Äď Pre-prep Meat (2)

1lb ground beef, 2 cans mushroom soup, 1/2lb potatoes

8) Spaghetti ‚Äď x2 for lunch (2)

2lb ground beef, spaghetti noodles, 2 jars spaghetti sauce

9) Quesadillas ‚Äď x2&Pre-prep Meat (2)

6 chicken breasts, 1 can rotel, 1 can cream of chicken, shredded cheese, tortillas

10) Chicken Alfredo ‚Äď Pre-prep Meat (2)

4 chicken breasts, noodles, 1 jar alfredo sauce

11) CrockPot Corn Chowder ‚Äď x2&Freeze (4)

6-8 potatoes ,1 Can cream corn, 1 Can whole kernel corn, 2 Cups chicken broth, 4 chicken breasts, 1 onion, 1/4 Cups butter, 2 cups half and half

12) Frozen Pizza ‚Äď 2 (2)

13) Chicken Strips ‚Äď David‚Äôs (10)

I know that looks a little daunting but I will decode it in a moment. First, I need to give you some links! A few of these recipes have come from other blogs.

The Stew and Teriyaki Chicken come from the Melissa Fallis Test Kitchen where I tried all 5 of the recipes last month. The only one I personally didn’t like was the BBQ chicken. I’m only using two this month but they were really good and she gives amazingly detailed¬†instructions!

The Spanish Chicken was something I stumbled upon on pinterest and I have hopes of adapting it to a freeze and dump meal just like the Stew and Teriyaki Chicken. The link is from a blog called “Healthy Food”. It doesn’t really show a recipe, but like I said, I’m just going to wing this one. I cook with chicken a lot so I’m sure this will be pretty easy to pull off.

Finally, the Crock Pot Corn Chowder was another I found on pinterest (most of my newer recipes are) and I haven’t tried it yet. This one is entirely new to me so be prepared for updated comments after I make it! The recipe comes from a website called “CrockinGirls” and since it’s something new, I haven’t yet explored their site, but the food looks great so I have high hopes!

Now, to decode my list (that is, if you haven’t figured it out already). I’ll use an example below:

2) Chicken Spaghetti ‚Äď x2&Freeze (4)

1 whole chicken(or 6-8 chicken breasts), 2 can cream of chicken, 1 small box velveeta, 2 cans rotel, spaghetti noodles shredded cheese

On top, where it says “x2&freeze”- that’s where what I mentioned yesterday comes in. This simply means that I double the recipe and freeze half. Simple enough right? Now the number out to the side means how many meals this will last my family¬†total. Therefor, My chicken spaghetti will have half in the oven and half in the freezer. When I pull the one out of the oven, Dad, myself, and B will all eat it for supper(and Row will share with me because he doesn’t eat very much). Then, it will get covered, and reheated as lunch the next day. Totaling 2 meals (Supper and Lunch) from 1/2 of the recipe. The second half will be the same way when I decide to use it again. Am I making sense? Ok. After that is pretty self¬†explanatory¬† It’s how I compile my shopping list! I write out what I need to make the meal below each one so that when I’m ready to make my list I don’t have to try and remember everything, I just count it up!

After I have completed that step, I take a break. Ha! Seriously though, it makes your hand hurt! When I’m done with my break, I count everything up and make my shopping list. It’s¬†really long but don’t let it scare you, remember, it is going to last me the¬†entire month. And to make it as clear as possible, I mean I don’t ever go back for “something fresh” or whatever. I will have everything I need for every recipe. I don’t put spices down in my list unless I know for sure that I don’t have it and if the recipe calls for a lot or if it’s vital. Many spices I just fake with what I have because the recipe is still good if I use “Italian Season Blend” instead of “fresh cilantro” and “fresh basil”. I promise. It’s fine. In my grocery list below, I actually have quite a few of the ingredients on hand and therefor they won’t be on my¬†receipt¬†tomorrow, but I’m putting them on this list for you anyway.

Item #
ground beef 9lb
canned corn 10
ranch style beans 6
mac-n-cheese 4
rotel 5
whole chicken 1
cream of chicken 3
velveeta 1
shredded cheese 3
green bell pepper 1
onions 5
bags baby carrots 3
minced garlic 1
beef stew meat 3lb
6oz tomato paste 2
paprika 1
chicken breasts 26-28
teriyaki sauce 1
rice 2
canned enchilada sauce 2
bag taco seasoning 1
large soft tortillas 20
spanish rice 2
frozen green beans 1
potatoes 3lb
cream of mushroom 2
spaghetti noodles 2
spaghetti sauce 2
penne noodles 1
alfredo sauce 2
cream corn 2
chicken broth box 1
stick butter 1
half and half 4
Digorno frozen pizza 2
box of frozen chicken strips 1

I am cheating a little with the last two items. Those are for lunches on days when things are busy or Sunday dinners because we are often not home until late on Sundays. But I promise, it’s not going to hurt my budget! Also, I need to add that there are more things on my actual shopping list but they aren’t relevant to this segment about the cooking. They are just household items everyone needs. I will be “editing” my¬†receipt¬†to exclude those items from my total tomorrow, however, I will be including my cost in gas, just to prove that this one trip is well worth it.

Also, yes, you saw that correctly, I’m buying 9 lbs of ground beef and nearly 30 individual chicken breasts. These are things I often buy in bulk at Sam’s and I¬†separate¬†and¬†freeze¬†them at home. Because I like to do a lot of my meat prep¬†before I freeze it, this works just fine for me. For instance, in my menu you will see next to “Chicken Alfredo” that it says “pre-prep meat”. This simply means that I will take the chicken breasts, clean and trim them, then dice them to size for the recipe and put them in a bag or container, then I will season them with a few things before I freeze them. This means that when I am ready to cook, I can thaw it out in the fridge over night and dump it right into the pan without ever having to actually touch the meat more than once. I¬†hate handling chicken so I like cooking like this much better.

 

Okay. Now for the shopping trip.

As I mentioned yesterday, I get a babysitter for this, and yes, it is absolutely necessary. I have two kids under the age of two and I’m going shopping for a month’s worth of food. I’ve tried to take them before. It was a disaster. It took me nearly five hours and by the end of it Row was screaming at me and B was trying to eat all the packaged food. There was not enough room for both of them in the cart so I had to carry Row with one arm while using to other to¬†simultaneously¬†push the cart, grab items, and keep B out of the products. So, I repeat,¬†Babysitter.¬†After I drop The Wardens off with their grandparents, I load my cooler up in the back of my suburban (we have a really large cooler and I still don’t have enough room sometimes), fill up with gas and off I go! Once I get where I’m going I make two stops. I usually shop at Walmart and Sam’s. (Please don’t judge me for this! They are my best options where I am.) I go to Walmart first, since the majority of my Sam’s purchase is usually cold or frozen. I use a shopping list app on my phone (ShopListFree for iPhone) that sorts my grocery list into categories. This makes it easier once I’m in the store to know where I need to go and to get everything in one trip without walking around like a chicken with its head cut off. All of this is very important so that the trip takes a minimal amount of time and I don’t miss anything. Remember, I won’t be going back. Getting everything is important. If you are doing this because of your schedule and not your location, then it may not be as big of a deal, but I know there are many people that live in rural areas like I do and have to shop this way.¬†Lists are important.

It usually takes me about and an hour and a half to two hours¬†just for my Walmart run.¬†And after I check out, I take everything back to my car and arrange it so that none of it can slide or break, putting the cold or frozen goods in the cooler with a bag of ice. Don’t forget the cooler if you have to drive as far as I do. Trust me. After you finish your second run for the bulk items, then you can finally go home! I usually stop and get myself a reward from a fast-food place, because we don’t have any at home, and enjoy it on my trip back.

 

I hope that this wasn’t entirely too confusing for any of you! I know it’s a lot of information to take in, but I promise it will be easier to understand once I start posting the recipes as I make them instead of all at once. You will see just how truly easy it is!

I can’t wait to post tomorrow with the proof that this really works!

P.S. I almost always have food left over at the end of the month just because of those random meals out with my parents or Dad’s family that come around! Yay!

Intro to: “Feeding my Family of 4 for a Month Under $300” (Also D6 & D7)

Today will be short because it’s only an¬†introduction¬†to something I will be working on over the next week or so.

If you have read my “about” page, you have seen that I live in a tiny town with no options for shopping (at least not within a limited budget) and I might add, we live an hour from any other decently-sized civilization. If you haven’t read my “about” page, go now!

Did you go? Good, now we can really start. All of this may leave you wondering, “Well, how do you afford the gas to go grocery shopping? Wouldn’t that break your budget?”, to which my answer would be, “Yes, it would, especially since I drive a Suburban. But I don’t go grocery shopping often enough to cost me too much in gas.”. At this point you are staring at me like I’ve lost my ever-loving mind. I mean, really, how the hell do I not go grocery shopping!? I’ve got kids to feed!

Okay, let me clear things up. I said I don’t go grocery shopping¬†often. Not that I¬†never go. I go once a month.

That’s right! One day a month, I get a babysitter (yes, it’s necessary), put my big ass cooler in the back of my suburban, ¬†grab my shopping list, and off I go to do my grocery shopping for that entire month. In fact, this introduction is coming right now because I’m going for the month of February on Friday! Yay! Isn’t that just perfect timing? It’s almost like I planned it…

How do I do this? Well, I buy everything I need for the entire month in one trip (the only thing I don’t buy is milk because we get that at the convenience store as needed) and that means I need to have the entire month planned out, to the day, to the meal, to the second!….Right?

WRONG

Wrong? Yep. I don’t have my menu planned for each and every day. I do, however, have a menu. This is what I will be posting tomorrow as well as my shopping list. I make a list of meals that my family likes. I then double or triple them as needed. I do a lot of freezer meals but I’m pretty lazy so that means I like to do things the easy way. I use easy recipes and easy methods. I figure up how many times one batch of food can feed us (I do a lot of leftovers for lunch) and shop accordingly.

One of my favorite¬†examples¬†is when I make chicken spaghetti, I double my¬†ingredients¬† then I¬†assemble¬†one in my 9×9 baking dish and another in a foil catering dish (I bought 20 of them with 20 lids for around $10 at Sam’s). Then I place one in the oven, and cover the other and put it in the freezer! It’s that easy. When I’m ready to eat it, I get it out the morning of, place it in the cold oven (so it’s not taking space on my¬†counter tops) and by the time I’m ready to bake it, it’s thawed out! Easy-peasy.

With that in mind, you can come back tomorrow to find my menu for this month as well as my shopping list for Friday. Then, Friday evening, I will post a copy of my receipt so you can see the proof! After that, I will be posting the recipes as I make them (screw that cooking once a month thing, I go with the flow!) and I will be posting the instructions on how I save them for later and how I go about re-heating them! This should be fun!

As a side note, I’ve been doing things this way for about 4 months now. I looked into many variations before I kind of stumbled into this method that works well for me. I understand that most people don’t live this far from a grocery store and that’s fine. But I do. And I have to keep my family on a VERY tight budget. This was the best way for me to do it. Another way this would help someone is any parent with a schedule too busy to shop often or think about meals every day could easily chose one day a month to shop and spread the work out accordingly. It really is a flexible plan!

 

Now! For D6 and D7!

D6 said “from some place low”….

A shot of my son's toy shelves in his room.

A shot of my son’s toy shelves in his room.

D7 said to take a picture of fruit… this will have to do.

I didn't have any fresh fruit (or fake for that matter) on hand so my smoothie raspberries would just have to be good enough.

I didn’t have any fresh fruit (or fake for that matter) on hand so my smoothie raspberries would just have to be good enough.

Baby Friendly Recipe (That My 2-Year Old Also Loved!)

The other day my friend, Joanne, posted a recipe on facebook that caught my interest. It seemed easy enough and was really open to adaptations. Here is my version of what she made based on what I had left over in my freezer and pantry.

Fast and Light Baby/Toddler Meal

Ingredients:

*You don’t have to be exact on these and you can¬†substitute¬†just about anything! Have fun with it!

5-6 baby carrots- cut either into small rounds or thin slices (I did slices)

1 1/2 c baby twist noodles

frozen vegetables of choice (I had about 1/8 c of mixed veggies and some sweet peas that I used)

a pinch of salt

2 tbsp olive oil (or butter)

1 tsp cilantro (her original recipe called for pesto but season it however you want!)

1/4 c Orange-Ginger marinade or sauce

about 2 c water

Get out a small saucepan. Add water, salt, and olive oil/butter to pan and bring to a boil. Throw in the carrots and set the timer for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes are up, add the frozen vegetables (I ended up adding around 1/2 c total) and the baby twists. Set the timer for 5 minutes. When the timer is done, remove the pot from the heat, add cilantro, cover, and let stand for 5-10 more minutes or until everything is soft. Drain and rinse with cool water twice. Gently stir in the Orange-Ginger sauce. Serve!

This recipe made enough for me to feed both B and Row as well as store two more small bowls in the fridge for later.

Warden-Approved!

Warden-Approved!

Give it a whirl! My kids loved it and it was so easy to make. I made it according to what I had on hand and to¬†accommodate¬†B’s lactose intolerance. Joanne’s original recipe called for pesto and a soft cheese in place of the cilantro and the¬†marinade. She also used corn instead of peas. But really the idea is the same: carrots, noodles, small frozen vegetable, seasoning, sauce, and you’re rolling! Tell me what you thought or variations you tried!

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