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Frugal Friday

 

Last week, I posted about how stocking up can save you lots of money when you find great deals and also how important it is to shop the sales and check flyers

…well, I hit the Butter Jackpot!

By checking the sale flyers of local stores, I found out that Haggen was having an Easter weekend sale and was selling Tillamook Butter for $.99/pound!  Since Tillamook is a local and quality brand, Tillamook Butter is one of my “compromise foods” (foods that I would normally buy organic, but will skip the “organic” label if a quality brand is available cheaper).  Typically I find this particular brand at about $2.50/pound or about $1.70 or so if I find a great sale.  Needless to say, $.99/pound is phenomenal (better than even the really awful store brands!).  Of course, as with any good sale, the store limited you to 2 per customer per trip. 

Well, that didn’t stop me!  I went to Haggen once alone and picked up 2 pounds of butter.  Then Mark and I both went and picked up 2 pounds each….then Mark and I went again and picked up another 2 pounds each!  All totalled, we managed to get 10 pounds of butter for just shy of $10!  That is a savings of about $15 and now my freezer is completely stocked up with butter! 

Now, I fully admit that all of these trips took about 40 min to 1 hour of my time this week, but I think that, considering the savings, it was time well spent!

Yay for great sales!  Yay for freezer space!!  Yay for cooperative husbands!!!

Wow…just WOW…that is all there is to say about this wonderfully delicious cake!  Banana Whipped Cream cake is a traditional treat for birthdays in Mark’s family and this year, since we were just having his mom over (and there wasn’t any big family birthday party), I just couldn’t stand the idea of spending a whole bunch of money on a cake (and it is harder than you might think to find a banana whipped cream cake). So, I went onto good old allrecipes.com and found a recipe for banana cake and a recipe for whipped cream frosting (which I adapted to fit what I was looking for) and the final result was heavenly!  Please….please…if you like banana bread…make this cake!

Banana Cake:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 2 1/8 c. white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3 over-ripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275° F.  Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
  2. In a small bowl, mash bananas with the lemon juice and set aside. 
  3. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  4. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. 
  5. Into the creamed butter mixture, add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
  6. Stir in the banana mixture and pour into prepared pans.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30-45 min., or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (this could vary widely)
  8. Once cooked, remove cake from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 min. **

**The freezer step was part of the specific instructions found on allrecipes…I have no idea if it actually makes a moister final product.  I didn’t want to mess up the cake, so I did follow this step and I will say that the cake was nice and moist even after cooking so long. 

Whipped Cream Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1 1/8 c. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla.  Beat until smooth (the longer the better). Fold in the whipped cream. 

Note:  I kept the cake in the refrigerator once it was decorated with this frosting so that the whipped cream wouldn’t “deflate”.  I allowed the cake to sit at room temp. for about 20 min. prior to cutting and serving.

This recipe is DELICIOUS!  It is one that I found back in high school watching the food network…actually I think that the lady who originally made this recipe is off the air now!  Anyway, it is wonderful…the chicken stays deliciously moist as it simmers in the sauce!  Mark requested it for his birthday dinner and I couldn’t say no since it is one of my favorites as well.  I am thinking that it would freeze well so I might try that next time I make it for dinner!

Chicken Parmigiana:

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 c. flour
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 lbs. chicken breast halves
  • 7 c. tomato sauce (we use our Meaty Spaghetti Sauce), simmering hot
  • 1/2 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated
  • 1/2 c. Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Place flour in a large shallow bowl.
  3. Wisk eggs, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl.
  4. Place bread crumbs in a large shallow bowl.
  5. Dip chicken breasts in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
  6. Re-dip chicken in the egg and breadcrumbs, placing all chicken on a large plate or cutting board as you finish dipping.
  7. Once all chicken has been breaded, heat olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat.
  8. Brown chicken breasts for 3 min. on each side.  The chicken will not be completely cooked at this point.
  9. After chicken has been cooked 3 min on each side, remove from pan and onto paper towels.
  10. Pour 2 c. sauce into the bottom of a glass baking dish (9 X 13).  Place chicken breasts on top of sauce and cover with 1/2 or all remaining sauce**.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake for about 15 min. or until sauce and cheese are bubbling.
  11. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with hot pasta. 

**We use about 4-5 cups of sauce in the baking dish and reserve the rest to serve alongside the food.

This is our go-to recipe for Spaghetti Sauce.  The amounts are rough estimates since each time I make it, I do it a little differently….this is our basic ingredient list and the general cooking directions….

Meaty Spaghetti Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 1 # Ground Beef
  • 1 # Italian Sausage (now that we try to avoid pork products, we use italian turkey sausage or just more beef)
  • 3 C. chopped onion
  • 1 C. chopped carrots
  • 1 C. chopped celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. dried basil
  • 2 T. dried parsley
  • 4 T. dried oregano
  • 4 (28 oz) cans of stewed tomatoes (I use 2 cans crushed and 2 cans diced)
  • tomato sauce/paste as necessary (for desired consistency)

Directions:

  1. Brown meat in large pot and drain fat and set aside.
  2. Saute onions, carrot, and celery until tender.  Add garlic and cook lightly.
  3. Add seasonings, cooked meat, and tomatoes to pot and stir together.
  4. Allow to boil and then simmer for several hours. 

Sound easy?  Well it is!  This recipe makes a pretty thick-style sauce.  Just add more tomatoes to thin it out…we like our sauce to be chunky and thick!  This is the recipe we use for making lasagna as well as chicken parmigana…yummy!

Last week I made the most wonderful macaroni and cheese in the world….lets just say that if I wasn’t trying to lose some weight AND if money wasn’t an issue I would be making it again and again for breakfast, lunch, and dinner EVERYDAY….but that isn’t exactly an option so I am out to try a few new dishes and enjoy some of our favorites!

Monday: Red Pepper and Chicken Stir-Fry with Rice Noodles and Broccoli

Tuesday: Black Bean Tortilla Casserole with Salad

Wednesday: Freezer Dish (probably Chicken Tetrazzini) and peas

Thursday:  Leftovers

Friday:  Homemade Black Bean Burgers, Oven Fries, Salad

Saturday:  Date Night!!!

Sunday:  Soup and Sandwich

Wow!  I can’t believe that I am already on my 14th verse for the year!  I have found the goal of about one/week to be an attainable goal and I am glad I didn’t overcommit myself! 

Here is the verse for this week:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

~John 15:4-5

Photo Credit

This is part two in a two-part series.  If you missed part one, check it out here!

6.  Eat Real Foods!

Ok, so this is a tip that can cause your budget to shrink or grow.  If you are not worried about consuming organic foods then this doesn’t necessary cause your budget to grow.  Real foods are simple foods in the more natural state.  Potatoes instead of potato chips…boneless, skinless chicken breasts rather than chicken nuggets…quick cooking oats rather than prepackaged sweetened oatmeal…

The basic idea here is that if you are buying processed or highly packaged foods, you are not only paying for the food, but the packaging, the workers at the factories, the physical building where the item is processed and the taxes the corporation must pay!  It all adds up and you end up paying way more than what the food is actually valued at! 

This tip also includes cutting out (or at least cutting back) things like soda and drink mixes.  Mark and I have stopped drinking soda (although he still gets one at work now and again) and this has definitely helped cut back our budget.

7.  Skip the meat!

We love meat and it is good for you too, but it can help your budget if you commit to just one or two meatless meals a week.  Typically, the meat in a dish is the most expensive item. 

We try to eat something like pasta with marinara sauce  or beans and rice at least once a week….it is simple and filling and you won’t even miss the meat if you use some yummy cheese or delicious vegetables!

 There are plenty of yummy vegetarian dishes out there!  I have a few on my recipes page like Black and White Bean ChiliSpinach, Brown Rice and Cheese CasseroleTortilla Casserole, and even my Beef and Veggie Soup with Lentils (just cut the beef)!  Have fun going vegetarian every once in a while!

8.  Stock up!

This is a really big budget saver!  There are so many things that can be easily frozen and stored for later that you really must take advantage of great deals!  Things like meat, tortillas and berries are things that I always stock up on and freeze when I see a great sale!  Thinks like canned goods and bottled beverages can always be stored in the garage or pantry for later use too!

I will use the example of seasonal berries…here in Oregon, you can pick no-spray blueberries for a buck a pound during the late summer months.  So last year, we picked close to 40 pounds of blueberries for a mere $40.  We use them in breads and, of course, Green Smoothies.  If I had bought the equivalent in blueberries at Costco (the best on-going price for frozen blueberries around here), I would have paid $10 for a 5 pound bag…that means I would have paid $80 for my blueberries rather than $40…that’s a savings of $40 just on blueberries for a year!

Also, when meat goes on sale, I clear out a shelf on the freezer and stock up big.  Recently New Seasons was having a sale on meat…they had Boneless Skinless Chicken for $4/pound, Ground Lean Sirloin for $3/lb and Ground Turkey for $3/lb.  I know that those sound like outrageous prices to pay for meat, but since switching to free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic free meats we normally pay $6-$7/lb for chicken and $5/lb for beef and turkey.  Anyway, since meat was so cheap (relatively speaking), I bought up about 40 pounds of chicken breasts and 10 pounds each of sirloin and turkey.  In order to have everything stay nice and fresh, I called the meat department and had them wrap it all in meal sized portions (1.5 lbs of chicken breasts/package and 1 pound of ground meat/package)!  If you aren’t particular about your meat, this might mean stocking up when chicken breasts are on sale at $1.90/pound or ground beef is at $1/pound (my old “stock up” prices).

When things like tomatoes are on sale, you can buy them up and make marinara sauce or salsa and can it to keep for the rest of the year!  If you don’t can (one of my goals for the year is to learn how to), you can easily freeze marinara sauce too (and someone once told me it is easy to freeze tomatoes whole!)!  Or make up a few lasagnas and freeze the whole lasagna for a hassle free meal on night!

9.  Make it Homemade!

You would be amazed at how much money you can save if you make your foods yourself!  Things like bread, tortillas, rolls, muffins, and waffles are SO easy to make yourself (and most freeze beautifully)!  If you want to challenge yourself, try making your own kefir, yogurt, or even cheese.

We make our own pizza dough for pizza night as well as our own “chicken tenders” from bread crumbs and boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

If you are the type of person who buys lots of frozen meals (lasagna, enchiladas, macaroni and cheese, etc.), try making those dishes homemade and freezing them for later use.  I tend to make a double batch of anything freezable.  Before cooking, I put anything that will not be eating that night into the freezer with instructions for how to cook and leave it for another night.  This allows me to save money by buying bulk ingredients when on sale as well as using homemade ingredients AND it saves me time later on!

Check out my Soaked Granola Recipe as well as my Basic Whole Wheat Bread Recipe for a few homemade recipes to help cut your budget!

10.  Never throw it out!

Ok…if it is rotten you can go ahead and thow it out…

However, if you have a jar of spaghetti sauce sitting in the fridge with a mere 1/4 of sauce left, don’t trash it-dump it into a container and stick it in the freezer.  Everytime you have some leftover tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, or tomato paste-add those to the container.  Next time you are making up some yummy marinara sauce (or a lasagna), just thaw your tomato “extras” and dump them into the pan with the rest of the sauce. 

If you have just a tiny amount of meat or beans left after dinner, save them and make up a quesadilla the next day!…Leftover cooked veggies??  Save them and add to your morning eggs!…You get the idea here right?

If you try a new product and don’t like it, first find out if your store will take it back…stores like Costco and Trader Joes (and I believe New Seasons) will gladly take a product back and let you find something different!  If your store doesn’t accept returns, try repurposing the product!  For example….I bought some BBQ sauce awhile back that wasn’t my cup of tea for baking chicken in, so I mixed it with a little tomato sauce and added a few spices and herbs and used it as my sauce on a BBQ chicken pizza….once there was some pineapple, chicken, and pepper on the pizza, the sauce was hardly noticed and the flavor was enjoyable!

Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to return OR repurpose a product.  In this case, I encourage you to see if any close friends or family would like it…if you can’t cut your budget back, might as well help a friends!

 *******

Aside from couponing (which can help ANY budget) and growing your own produce/raising your own meat & eggs, these are some simple steps to shrink your grocery budget!  I hope that they were helpful!